Central Theme of the Sūrah and the Nature of its Relationship with the Group
The Makkan sūrahs of this group ended on the previous sūrah: Sūrah Ahqāf. The next three sūrahs are Madīnan. After Sūrah Ahqāf, this sūrah begins without any introductory passage. It is as if it expresses the practical manifestation of the warning sounded to the disbelievers in the last verse of Sūrah Ahqāf. Readers have seen that in the previous sūrahs it has been explained at length that the evil to support which the Quraysh and its allies are fighting has no basis neither in the world around man and that inside him nor in the established norms of sense and human nature. The history of the prophets as well as divine scriptures are also devoid of it. It is a tree which has shallow roots and has occupied space merely because there is no one to uproot it. Now in this and the next sūrah, it has been explained that God has created the means to uproot this evil and that the unassailable verdict of fate has been pronounced as per which all the efforts of the disbelievers which they have launched to stop people from going towards God will end up in vain. At the same time, the believers are given glad tidings that their efforts shall bear fruit not only in this world but also they alone will succeed in the Hereafter on the condition that they come forward to discharge their obligations with full resolve and determination. In this regard, a warning is sounded to the Hypocrites who did lay claim to faith bur their sympathies were with the disbelievers. They are informed that if they did not wholly and fully support God and His Prophet (sws) by leaving aside hypocrisy, their fate will be the same as the one that is destined for the disbelievers and the Idolaters.
Analysis of the Discourse
Verses (1-3):A declaration of the decision that since the disbelievers have spent all their efforts in following and supporting evil, hence they will end up in vain. On the other hand, since the believers have followed the truth that has come to them from their Lord and have also made many sacrifices in this regard, the Almighty will make their efforts bear fruit both in this world and in the Hereafter.
Verses (4-12):The believers are encouraged that if circumstances arise that they have to wage war against the disbelievers, they should not be over-awed by them. They are frail and baseless. They should be routed in war. They should be rendered so powerless that they are released from captivity as a favour to them by the Muslims or through ransom. Muslims should remember that God is sufficient to deal with them; He, however, wants to test them and that is why He is directing them to do so. If Muslims come forward to help God, God will help them and their enemies will be humiliated and trounced. History bears witness that before this too God destroyed nations which opposed the truth. The same fate will befall the enemies of the Muslims.
Verses (13-15): The pride and conceit which the Quraysh have on their power and might is totally baseless. History bears witness that the Almighty destroyed so many nations who were superior to them in all respects. This is a requisite of God's justice and wisdom. How can those who lead their lives in the light of reason and argument be equal to those who spend their lives while blindly following their desires. It is necessary that their fates be different. The fate of the former is Paradise which will offer various favours to them and that of the latter is Hell which will inflict them with a grievous fate. The atmosphere and surroundings of Paradise and Hell are then depicted.
Verses (16-19):A reference is made to the hidden enemy of the Muslims: the Hypocrites. These people do apparently listen to what the Prophet (sws) says but understand nothing. Things which are instrumental in enhancing the faith and piety of the believers are instrumental in enhancing their hypocrisy. They await the time of judgement though after the coming of the Messenger its conditions have been fulfilled. If that time suddenly arrives, then how will they have the chance to benefit from this counsel revealed by God? The Prophet (sws) is directed to seek God's forgiveness for himself and his companions – who knows the punishment could be hovering near.
Verses (20-31): The inner personality and clandestine conspiracies of the Hypocrites are referred to: they are men who can only talk; initially, they enthusiastically demanded why the directive of jihād is not given to them; however, when this directive was given they were seized by deathly unconsciousness. These people have in fact turned away from religion and have connived with the enemies of Islam. They are assuring these enemies that they will support them. God is well aware of their hypocrisy and their conspiracies. If He wanted, He could have asked their foreheads to bear witness against them and everyone would have recognized them; However, He is granting them respite but will, nevertheless, put them through such tests which will highlight all the evils hidden in them.
Verses (32-38):This is the concluding part of the sūrah in which the subject with which it began is reminded of. After that, Muslims in general and the Hypocrites in particular are warned to obey every directive of God and His Prophet (sws). If they show slackness in this, their good deeds will bear no fruit. There is no strength left in the disbelievers; so those who are trying to compromise with them are seeking refuge in a frail shelter. Muslims are urged and encouraged to prove equal to the task; they are destined to win; God is with them. They should not desist from spending in the way of God by being lured away by the pleasures of this world. This is not a non-profitable deal. God will reward each and every penny they spend. He is not asking Muslims to spend all their wealth so that they should evade this call. Had He given such a call, people who have hypocrisy and envy in their hearts would have been completely exposed. They should remember that he who is stingy with God is in fact stingy with his own self. God is not in need of anyone. He is self-sufficient. However, people need Him; He is testing them. If theyfail in this exam, God will bring others in their place who will not prove to be worthless like them.
Section I: Verses (1-15)
Text and Translation
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَن سَبِيلِ اللهِ أَضَلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (1) وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَآمَنُوا بِمَا نُزِّلَ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَهُوَ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ كَفَّرَ عَنْهُمْ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ وَأَصْلَحَ بَالَهُمْ (2) ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا اتَّبَعُوا الْبَاطِلَ وَأَنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّبَعُوا الْحَقَّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ كَذَلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللهُ لِلنَّاسِ أَمْثَالَهُمْ (3) فَإِذا لَقِيتُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَضَرْبَ الرِّقَابِ حَتَّى إِذَا أَثْخَنتُمُوهُمْ فَشُدُّوا الْوَثَاقَ فَإِمَّا مَنًّا بَعْدُ وَإِمَّا فِدَاء حَتَّى تَضَعَ الْحَرْبُ أَوْزَارَهَا ذَلِكَ وَلَوْ يَشَاء اللهُ لَانتَصَرَ مِنْهُمْ وَلَكِن لِّيَبْلُوَ بَعْضَكُم بِبَعْضٍ وَالَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ فَلَن يُضِلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (4) سَيَهْدِيهِمْ وَيُصْلِحُ بَالَهُمْ (5) وَيُدْخِلُهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ عَرَّفَهَا لَهُمْ (6) يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن تَنصُرُوا اللهَ يَنصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ (7) وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَتَعْسًا لَّهُمْ وَأَضَلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (8) ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَرِهُوا مَا أَنزَلَ اللهُ فَأَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (9) أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ دَمَّرَ اللهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ أَمْثَالُهَا (10) ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللهَ مَوْلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَأَنَّ الْكَافِرِينَ لَا مَوْلَى لَهُمْ (11) إِنَّ اللهَ يُدْخِلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَتَمَتَّعُونَ وَيَأْكُلُونَ كَمَا تَأْكُلُ الْأَنْعَامُ وَالنَّارُ مَثْوًى لَّهُمْ (12) وَكَأَيِّن مِّن قَرْيَةٍ هِيَ أَشَدُّ قُوَّةً مِّن قَرْيَتِكَ الَّتِي أَخْرَجَتْكَ أَهْلَكْنَاهُمْ فَلَا نَاصِرَ لَهُمْ (13) أَفَمَن كَانَ عَلَى بَيِّنَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّهِ كَمَن زُيِّنَ لَهُ سُوءُ عَمَلِهِ وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءهُمْ (14) مَثَلُ الْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي وُعِدَ الْمُتَّقُونَ فِيهَا أَنْهَارٌ مِّن مَّاء غَيْرِ آسِنٍ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِن لَّبَنٍ لَّمْ يَتَغَيَّرْ طَعْمُهُ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِّنْ خَمْرٍ لَّذَّةٍ لِّلشَّارِبِينَ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِّنْ عَسَلٍ مُّصَفًّى وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ كَمَنْ هُوَ خَالِدٌ فِي النَّارِ وَسُقُوا مَاء حَمِيمًا فَقَطَّعَ أَمْعَاءهُمْ (15)
God has brought to nothing all the deeds of those who committed disbelief and stopped others from His path. As for those who professed faith and did good deeds and professed faith in what has been revealed to Muhammad – and which is the Truth from their Lord – God forgave them their sins and bettered their state. This was because the disbelievers follow falsehood, while the believers followed the truth that came from their Lord. In this manner, God is citing examples for people. (1-3)
So when you face the disbelievers strike off their heads until when you have routed them, bind them firmly. Then liberate them as a favour or by taking ransom from them until war shall lay down its weapons. This is what you should do. And had God willed, He could have taken revenge from them Himself; but He directed you to do so that He might test one of you by the other. And those who have been slain in the cause of God, He will surely not allow their deeds to go waste. He will guide them to their destination and better their state and will admit them to the Paradise He has made known to them. (4-6)
Believers! If you help God, God will help you and firmly plant your feet. As for those who have disbelieved, they shall be destroyed and God brought their deeds to nothing. This is because they disliked what He revealed to them. So God brought their deeds to nothing. (7-9)
Have they never walked about in the land so that they could see the fate of those before them? God totally destroyed them. And before these disbelievers too are their examples. This is because God is the helper of the believers and the disbelievers have no helper. (10-11)
Indeed, God will admit those who embraced faith and did good deeds to gardens watered by running streams. And the disbelievers, they are indulging in pleasure and eating as cattle eat. Hell is their abode. (12)
How many settlements are there which were mightier than yours which turned you out? We destroyed them. Thus no one was able to help them. (13)
Can they who are on a clear evidence from their Lord become like those whose evil deeds have been made dear to them and they have followed their desires? Such is the Paradise which the righteous have been promised: therein shall flow rivers of water undefiled, and rivers of milk whose taste will never change and rivers of wine delectable to those who drink it and rivers of pure honey. And there will be fruits of all kinds and also forgiveness from their Lord. Will these people who receive these favours be like those who shall abide in Hell forever, and who will be made to drink boiling water; thus it will tear apart their bowels? (14-15)
الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَن سَبِيلِ اللهِ أَضَلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (1)
This sūrah has begun without any introductory verses right after the note of warning for the disbelievers on which Sūrah Ahqāf ended – as if this sūrah is the practical manifestation of that warning. The verse says that the deeds of people who disbelieved and debarred people from the path of God have been rendered into nothingness by God. This obviously is a reference to the Idolaters of Arabia. The details of this can be seen in verse twenty five of Sūrah Fath. The word أَعْمَالٌ (deeds) refers to the efforts undertaken by them to stop people from professing faith and doing good deeds. The word إِضْلاَل used here has the same meaning as the word تَضْلِيْل used in Sūrah Fīl thus: أَلَمْ يَجْعَلْ كَيْدَهُمْ فِي تَضْلِيلٍ(1:105) (Did We not destroy their scheme? (105:1))
This topic will also be brought up in verse four, thirty two and thirty three of this very sūrah.
Here, an important point worthy of note is that though this warning relates to the future because at the time of revelation of this sūrah the Quraysh were ruling Makkah yet it is stated in the past tense. I have been pointing out the reason for this at various places in this tafsīr: it is as if what has been decided by God and what is bound to happen has already happened because no one can change the decisions of God. In order to express this certainty the promises and threats of the Almighty are mentioned in the Qur'ān in the past tense. This style is present in every language and its advantages are very evident.
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَآمَنُوا بِمَا نُزِّلَ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَهُوَ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ كَفَّرَ عَنْهُمْ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ وَأَصْلَحَ بَالَهُمْ (2)
The manner and extent in which warning and threat is sounded to the disbelievers in the previous verse, in the same manner and extent in this verse, believers are given glad tidings of success in both this world and the next. The verse says that God has brushed away the sins of those who professed faith and also did righteous deeds and has set right all their circumstances.
Just as the past tense was employed to express certainty in the warning sounded to the disbelievers, in a similar manner the glad tidings for the believers are expressed in the past tense.
The words وَآمَنُوا بِمَا نُزِّلَ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَهُوَ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ of this verse are especially worthy of consideration. It was not merely said that God will deal in this manner with those who professed faith and did righteous deeds; it was further specified that they were the ones who believed in what was revealed to Muhammad (sws). It was specified still further that now this is the truth from God. This clarification was necessary because in those times a group had come into being which wanted a compromise between Islam and disbelief. Their point of view was that it is not right on the part of the Muslims to insist on their individual status and that they should be flexible and give some room to others as well. There was a group among the People of the Book which would say that they were believers and what difference would it make if they did not profess faith in Muhammad (sws). The Qur'ān has tried to refute such wrong ideologies in the previous sūrahs as well. Here also, the way it has specified the verse has negated this concept. It has emphasized that the only way to faith and guidance is the one to which Muhammad (sws) is calling people. No other way is acceptable.
The word بَالَ in the expression وَأَصْلَحَ بَالَهُمْ is a comprehensive one. It encompasses both the outer and inner circumstances. Thus, this expression would mean that God will set right their inner and outer affairs as well as all those of this world and the next.
ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا اتَّبَعُوا الْبَاطِلَ وَأَنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّبَعُوا الْحَقَّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ كَذَلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللهُ لِلنَّاسِ أَمْثَالَهُمْ (3)
This verse states the reason why the deeds of the disbelievers will end up in vain and why the believers will succeed in their efforts. The verse says that this will happen because the disbelievers followed the evil which Satan taught them, while the believers followed the truth which came to them from their Lord. There is no place for evil in their inner-selves and nature. Its example is that of a bush which, taking advantage of the lack of attention of a farmer, grows of its own accord in his land. If it is not uprooted, it finds firm roots in the ground, and if it is uprooted it can be easily done so. Since now the believers have got up to encounter the disbelievers, it is certain that it will be destroyed. At another place, the words of the Qur'ān are: جَاء الْحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ الْبَاطِلُ إِنَّ الْبَاطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوقًا (81:17) (The truth has come and falsehood has been routed; indeed, falsehood was bound to be routed, (17:81)).
On the other hand, the believers have followed the truth which came to them from their Lord. Stability and strength is the very nature of the truth. The reason for this is that the Creator of this Universe is a truth and He has created this world as a truth. His real temperament is nurturing the truth and not evil and now that the truth has arrived it will destroy this evil which has wrapped itself around the truth like a creeper. It is evident from this that the real power and force is not in the means and resources but the truth itself. If the confrontation is between two evils, the decisive role is played by means and resources but if this is between truth and evil, then the decisive role played by the truth; means and resources will only play a secondary role.
The fate of the believers and disbelievers just spelled out was since at that moment in the form of prediction and had yet to materialize hence the words كَذَلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللهُ لِلنَّاسِ أَمْثَالَهُمْ refer to it as an example. The word لِلنَّاسِ (for people) here refers to these very believers and disbelievers just mentioned. The implication is that the Almighty has stated the parable of the fate of both these groups and soon this parable will practically manifest itself.
فَإِذا لَقِيتُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَضَرْبَ الرِّقَابِ حَتَّى إِذَا أَثْخَنتُمُوهُمْ فَشُدُّوا الْوَثَاقَ فَإِمَّا مَنًّا بَعْدُ وَإِمَّا فِدَاء حَتَّى تَضَعَ الْحَرْبُ أَوْزَارَهَا ذَلِكَ وَلَوْ يَشَاء اللهُ لَانتَصَرَ مِنْهُمْ وَلَكِن لِّيَبْلُوَ بَعْضَكُم بِبَعْضٍ وَالَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ فَلَن يُضِلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (4)
Muslims are exhorted here that the disbelievers are devoid of the support of the truth; it is as if they are a body without a spinal chord; so when they face the disbelievers in battle, they should totally decimate them; God will make them their prey and an easy target for their swords. In Sūrah Anfāl, the words used are:
فَاضْرِبُواْ فَوْقَ الأَعْنَاقِ وَاضْرِبُواْ مِنْهُمْ كُلَّ بَنَانٍ (12:8)
(Thus strike at their necks and strike off all the joints and the very tips of their fingers! (8:12)).
Consider next the expression: حَتَّى إِذَا أَثْخَنتُمُوهُمْ فَشُدُّوا الْوَثَاقَ. The word إِثْخَان means to inflict heavy casualties and وَثَاقَmeans "straps meant for fastening". The implication is that once after inflicting heavy casualties, the disbelievers are routed, Muslims should fasten tight the remaining ones; they will not be able to put up any resistance.
The words فَإِمَّا مَنًّا بَعْدُ وَإِمَّا فِدَاء حَتَّى تَضَعَ الْحَرْبُ أَوْزَارَهَا refer to the fact that after being tied up, if these captives are to be liberated by the Muslims, then they should follow only two options: either as a favour or through ransom, and this dealing should continue with these disbelievers until the will to wage war turns cold in them and they lay down their weapons before the Muslims. At another place, the words used are: وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لاَ تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ كُلُّهُ لِلهِ (39:8) (And wagewar on them until persecution ceases in this land and God's religion shall reign supreme, (8:39)).
It should be kept in mind that as far as the Idolaters of Arabia or in other words the Idolaters of the Ishmaelites are concerned, the Almighty has sent to them a Messenger from amongst themselves and conclusively communicated the truth to them through him. Thus like other non-Muslims they could not be treated with concession of living as dhimmīs or mu'āhids in an Islamic state or that they be kept as slaves. They had two options only: either to embrace Islam or to face death. I have given the reasons for this in detail in my tafsīr of Sūrah Tawbah. These captives could be released in ransom for a Muslim captive or in ransom consisting of cash or kind or as a favour without taking any sort of ransom. Similarly, if anyone among them wanted to seek refuge to reflect on his own attitude, he could be granted refuge. However, war was to continue with them as a group until the land of Arabia was cleansed of every speck of disbelief and polytheism. The differences of opinion which exist in this issue cause a lot of confusion. I have explained them in the tafsīr of Sūrah Tawbah. Same is the case with the Idolaters of the Ishmaelites under discussion. Other non-Muslims are not discussed here. In the opinion of Imām Abū Hanīfah, the permission to free captives as a favour as in ransom had been revoked in the case of the Idolaters of Arabia; they could either be executed or made slaves. In my view, this part of his view is correct that the concession with the Idolaters of Arabia was time barred and ended on the conquest of Makkah but his view that they can be made slaves is not correct in my view. The Idolaters of Arabia could neither be made slaves nor dhimmīs nor mu'āhids.
In the opinion of Imām Shāfi'ī, the ruler of the Muslims has four options regarding such captives and he can choose either keeping in view the welfare of the Muslims: he can have them executed, make them slaves, free them as favour, free them for ransom. In my opinion, this view of Imām Shāfi'ī is true as far as common non-Muslims are concerned; however, this is not true regarding the Idolaters of Arabia. They could not be made dhimmīs or slaves. Here, it is not appropriate to delve into the details of this issue. Those who want to study the details should read the chapter Islāmī riyāsat mayn ghayr muslimu kay huqūq (Rights of Non-Muslims in an Islamic State) in my book, Islāmī riyāsat (Islamic State).
In ذَلِكَ وَلَوْ يَشَاء اللهُ لَانتَصَرَ مِنْهُمْ وَلَكِن لِّيَبْلُوَ بَعْضَكُم بِبَعْضٍ the word ذَلِكَ is a substitute of a whole sentence: a few examples of this usage can be seen in the earlier sūrahs. Its obvious meaning would be: "this is what you should do," or "this is what you should strive for," or "this is what you have been directed to do." The benefit of such brevity is that it encompasses all these details and at the same time incorporates emphasis in the sentence.
The words وَلَوْ يَشَاء اللهُ لَانتَصَرَ مِنْهُمْ وَلَكِن لِّيَبْلُوَ بَعْضَكُم بِبَعْضٍ imply that if God is asking the Muslims to wage war against them, then this does not mean that He is dependent on them or others for this task. Had He willed, He would have destroyed them Himself by sending a disaster from the heavens or from within the earth. Before them, many nations have been destroyed by His torment in the blink of any eye. He could have similarly routed them as well. However, He has asked the Muslims to wage war against these disbelievers to try both them and the disbelievers. As a result of this trial, the zeal and enthusiasm the disbelievers have to support evil will become apparent and the sincerity and commitment to die for the truth Muslims have will also become evident. It will also become apparent as to how many among the Muslims are sincere and righteous and how many have hypocritically joined their ranks for their vested interests.
Here the practice of God should be kept in mind that if very few profess faith in their messenger, He asks the messenger and his companions to migrate and all His rejecters are destroyed through natural disasters; however, if the number professing faith in their messenger is sizeable, then they are directed to wage jihād and God avenges the enemy from through their hands. It was this latter situation that arose in case of Muhammad (sws). Before him too, prophets and messengers waged jihād. The Almighty helped Moses and the Israelites against the Pharaoh through a sea-storm. After crossing the river, the Israelites had to wage many battles which became a means of their trial. They could not succeed in most trials for which they had to face punishments as well.
The wordsوَالَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ فَلَن يُضِلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ say that people who are martyred in this jihād should rest assured that the Almighty will not let their efforts end up in vain; in fact, He will fully recompense them for their sacrifice. The words فَلَن يُضِلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ have been said keeping in consideration the view of the Hypocrites whose detailed mention is coming up. Since these people did not believe in the Hereafter, every sacrifice which did not produce immediate reward was to them a non-profitable deal. These words refute this view of theirs. Similarly, when it was said that people who are martyred in the way of God should not be regarded as dead; they are alive, then this too was said to negate their views.
The past tense instead of the future used in وَالَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا is to make these glad tidings extend to people who were martyred in the way of God in the past.
سَيَهْدِيهِمْ وَيُصْلِحُ بَالَهُمْ (5) وَيُدْخِلُهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ عَرَّفَهَا لَهُمْ (6)
What is stated earlier in the negative sense by the words:
فَلَن يُضِلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ is stated here in the positive sense so that what is said becomes clear and reinforced. The verse says that the Almighty will guide them and improve their circumstances. Guidance here refers to guiding and admitting them to the real destination: Paradise. The word "guidance" is used at many places in the Qur'ān in this meaning. Examples can be seen not only in the previous sūrahs but also in the coming ones. Concealed in the sentence يُصْلِحُ بَالَهُمْ are all the details of the successes and accomplishments of the companions of Paradise as mentioned in the Qur'ān. In fact, this sentence bears a very subtle reference to the achievements mentioned by the words:فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَّا أُخْفِيَ لَهُم مِّن قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ (17:32) (Then no one knows what bliss has been kept hidden for him, (32:17)).
The words وَيُدْخِلُهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ represent the detail of the "guidance": God will admit them to Paradise. About this Paradise, it was said: عَرَّفَهَا لَهُمْ ie. God has fully identified Paradise for them. These details were required to dispel the notion that the promise of Paradise was a passing and ambiguous promise and nothing is known of its details. If the promise is ambiguous and details are not known, the weak party always remains uncertain about the reality. In order to shield His creatures from such speculations about Paradise, God has divulged all its details in the Qur'ān, and things which cannot be expressed because of the inability of words to state them are also referred so that people fully rest assured that what they are being promised in lieu of their lives and wealth is not something vague; on the contrary, all its details are known, and not only has God promised to grant all these things but has also committed to add to these favours. Although details about Paradise can be seen at various places in the Qur'ān; however, they are specially mentioned in this sūrah (verse 15). It should remain clear that the words عَرَّفَهَا لَهُمْ are not mentioned here as an attribute of Paradise; had this been the case the word Paradise would have occurred in the original Arabic as an undefined noun. On the contrary, its status is that of an independent sentence, and this status gives it the meaning that I have referred to earlier.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن تَنصُرُوا اللهَ يَنصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ (7) وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَتَعْسًا لَّهُمْ وَأَضَلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (8) ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَرِهُوا مَا أَنزَلَ اللهُ فَأَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (9)
These verses encourage the Muslims: what they should do is to help and support the religion of God; if they come forward with resolve and determination, the rest of the task will be accomplished by their God. He will help them and implant their feet so firmly on the ground that no one will be able to dislodge them. In other words, God only wants them to take the first step in His way. If they do so, then the majesty of God will manifest itself. His help does not come to those who wait for it sitting in their houses; it comes to those who take the initiative and embark upon the job and then wait for God's help.
The words وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَتَعْسًا لَّهُمْ depict the fate of the disbelievers. For them is the curse of God. All their deeds will end up in vain. Whatever respite they have is to try them and to conclusively communicate the truth to them. If Muslims now gear up to take them to task, they will see that all their efforts will end up in vain. The sentence فَتَعْسًا لَّهُمْ expresses curse and its use in this manner is common in Arabic.
The words ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَرِهُوا مَا أَنزَلَ اللهُ فَأَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالَهُمْ relate why these people have become hollow, worthless and accursed: they abhorred the very thing which the Almighty has revealed for their guidance and strongly adhered to religious innovations and erroneous concepts; the result was that the Almighty rendered fruitless all their deeds which they did in their own thinking for the cause of religion. This is a reference to those deeds which were pious but which ended up in vain because of the polytheistic creed they adhered to. The Qur'ān has referred to some of these deeds in Sūrah Tawbah. For example, managing the House of God and serving the needs of the pilgrims. The Idolaters were very proud of these deeds. However, all these deeds proved to hold no weight before God. Only those deeds are acceptable to God which are done on the condition that people do them realizing the fact that God is not in need of pious deeds so that in whatever way a person does them He accepts them as if a favour has been done to Him.
أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ دَمَّرَ اللهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ أَمْثَالُهَا (10)
This is an expression of sorrow on the thick-headedness and lack of vision of the Idolaters: have these people not roamed about in their land so that they could have observed the fate of nations before them. The Almighty totally routed them. It is evident from the style of the verse that these people did in fact move about in their land and continued to go out for various trade journeys; however, they never observed the cities in a manner that could have made them learn a lesson for they could very well see how settlements where great nations once lived were rendered into deserted lands. This is a reference to the nations whose anecdotes have been related earlier.
The words وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ أَمْثَالُهَا say that these nations should serve as an example to the Quraysh; in other words, if they reached this fate because of their disbelief and deliberate denial, there is no reason that the Quraysh too would not reach the same fate if they also adopted the same attitude. The law of God is the same for all. Readers may look up what I have written while earlier explaining the words: كَذَلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللهُ لِلنَّاسِ أَمْثَالَهُمْ of verse three.
ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللهَ مَوْلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَأَنَّ الْكَافِرِينَ لَا مَوْلَى لَهُمْ (11)
The implication of this verse is that the real helper and supporter of this universe is God and He is with the believers. So what power can the disbelievers who have no supporters wield. Those whom they are regarding to be their helpers will be of no avail to them, neither in this world nor in the next. In verse three earlier, this subject is discussed in a different style. That too should be kept in consideration.
إِنَّ اللهَ يُدْخِلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَتَمَتَّعُونَ وَيَأْكُلُونَ كَمَا تَأْكُلُ الْأَنْعَامُ وَالنَّارُ مَثْوًى لَّهُمْ (12)
This verse further explains how the deeds of the believers will bear fruit and the deeds of the disbelieverswillend up in vain. It also explains why these disbelievers dominantly roam about in this world if their deeds have no worth. The verse says that the Almighty will admit the believers in Paradise watered with streams. As far as these disbelievers are concerned, their abode is Hell. The respite they have been given in this world to make hey should not be regarded by them as something positive for themselves. Their enjoyment and merriment is like that of animals. They are totally foolish and silly and totally unaware of the obligations which God's favours require of them. So they can benefit from these favours for a few days. However, these favours will lead them to destruction and their final abode is Hell.
وَكَأَيِّن مِّن قَرْيَةٍ هِيَ أَشَدُّ قُوَّةً مِّن قَرْيَتِكَ الَّتِي أَخْرَجَتْكَ أَهْلَكْنَاهُمْ فَلَا نَاصِرَ لَهُمْ (13)
No one should remain in the misconception that if today the Quraysh wield power and ascendancy and that if they were able to turn out the Prophet (sws) and his companions from Makkah, then who can conquer such powerful people? The verse says that there were many cities greater in grandeur and majesty than that of the Quraysh but God destroyed them and no one was able to help them. This is a reference to the 'Ād and Thamūd etc whose anecdotes have been cited in the previous sūrahs and whose grandeur and majesty the Quraysh fully acknowledged. The expression فَلَا نَاصِرَ لَهُمْ not only refutes the worldly help they trusted and felt pride in but also the help of their self-claimed deities which they thought would help them against God.
أَفَمَن كَانَ عَلَى بَيِّنَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّهِ كَمَن زُيِّنَ لَهُ سُوءُ عَمَلِهِ وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءهُمْ (14)
The previous verses portray their worldly fate corroborated through historical examples. This verse portrays their fate in the Hereafter. Human intellect and nature are made to bear witness to it. The verse says that would people who are on a radiant sign from God and walk in its light be equal to those whose misdeeds have been endeared to them and who follow their whims? The implication is that this can never be. This is something absolutely against human intellect and nature. If this happens, then that would mean that this world is meaningless and purposeless and its Creator has created it for His recreation.
The word بَيِّنَةhas been explained in detail in Sūrah Yūnus. God has created a conclusive sign within man's nature and has further reinforced it by the radiance of His revelations. Both these combine to make a person's inner-self to be نُوْرٌ عَلَى نُوْرٌ (light upon light), as referred to by Sūrah Nūr. The brilliance of this light necessarily manifests in his outer-self. On the contrary, a person who blows out the candle found in his nature also deprives himself from the light provided by divine revelations. The result is that both his inner-self and outer-self are engulfed in pitch darkness. In other words, the verse says that how can the fate of two groups be equal in whose inner and outer selves there is a pronounced difference?
If this verse is deliberated upon, a person can see that while mentioning the believers only their inner-selves are referred to; their outer-selves are not; however, in case of the disbelievers, the situation is the opposite. When the voids are filled in the light of this parallel style whose examples I have been giving in this tafsīr only then the eloquence of the whole sentence will become evident.
In the verse, for مَنْthe antecedents and verbs are used both in the singular form and the plural form because it can be equally used for the feminine and masculine genders as well as for singular nouns and plural ones.
مَثَلُ الْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي وُعِدَ الْمُتَّقُونَ فِيهَا أَنْهَارٌ مِّن مَّاء غَيْرِ آسِنٍ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِن لَّبَنٍ لَّمْ يَتَغَيَّرْ طَعْمُهُ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِّنْ خَمْرٍ لَّذَّةٍ لِّلشَّارِبِينَ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِّنْ عَسَلٍ مُّصَفًّى وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ كَمَنْ هُوَ خَالِدٌ فِي النَّارِ وَسُقُوا مَاء حَمِيمًا فَقَطَّعَ أَمْعَاءهُمْ (15)
The implication of this verse is that when it is against the norms of sense and human nature that these two groups should reach the same fate, then it is essential that God bless with His mercy the one who led its life in the light of its pure nature and that of divine guidance, and the one who led its life in the light of whims and desires be accordingly punished. Thus both will meet the same fate. God has promised Paradise to His pious people whose parable is thus: it shall have pure and untainted water-canals and springs of milk whose taste will never change; it will also have streams of delicious wine which will not intoxicate its drinkers; similarly, it will have streams of unadulterated honey. Moreover, the dwellers of Paradise will also be given fruits of various kinds and will also be given glad tidings of permanent forgiveness from their Lord. On the other hand, the other group will always dwell in Hell and their very first entertainment will be of such seething water which will slice open their intestines.
Deliberation on this verse will show that the pure and impeccable nature of the favours of Paradise is specially highlighted. This is because the fountainhead of all favours is Paradise; however, when we receive them in this world, then since they pass through so many phases and stages, their form changes significantly, and their appearance is also totally distorted. Take, for example, water which is the most common thing. It reaches us after so many stages including the atmosphere, clouds, winds, seas, canals, streams and layers of the earth. Obviously, it is affected by every stage because of which its real taste undergoes a lot of change from its original one found in Paradise.
Similarly, take the example of milk. The stages through which it reaches us are mentioned in the Qur'ān thus:مِن بَيْنِ فَرْثٍ وَدَمٍ (66:16) (between the bowels and the blood-streams, (16:66)). One can conclude that how can a favour of Paradise remain in its original form and shape if it reached us after so many steps. For this reason, the milk and honey of this world are as different and distanced from the milk and honey of Paradise as the earth and sky are. We can have a vague idea of the favours of Paradise by viewing the favours of this world and God has blessed us with these favours so that we can have some idea of the real favours through these metaphorical ones, but the relationship between the two is that of reality and metaphor. We should not ignore this relationship.
If one deeply deliberates on the relationship of this verse with verse fourteen, it will become evident that the Almighty will bestow these favours on those of His creatures who keep their nature – which the Almighty has called: فِطْرَةَ اللهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا (30:30) (adhere to the nature that God created for mankind to embrace, (30:30)) – cleansed from all kinds of evil and return to their Lord with a sound heart. As far as those people are concerned who become slaves to their desires by distorting their natures, they will have no share in these favours. Whatever benefit they could have from them, they did in this world. In the Hereafter, punishment awaits them – punishment which is the obvious consequence of distorting one's nature.
After understanding the meaning of the verse, let us take a look at its words and at the structure of its sentences. The word آسِنٌ is used as an adjective for water whose colour and taste has changed. It should be kept in mind that the disturbance caused in the human body by contaminated water has no remedy.
About milk, it is said: لَّمْ يَتَغَيَّرْ طَعْمُهُ (its taste will not change). This refers to that change in taste which results because of its contamination. Since milk is a natural means of sustenance, any disorder in it will produce disorder.
The attribute لَّذَّةٍ of خَمْرٍ has an exaggeration and hyperbole in it. It is like saying زِيْدٌ عَدْلٌ (Zayd is justice). The implied meaning is that the wine will be at the pinnacle of its taste. Those who drink it will neither feel it to be bitter, unpleasant and intoxicating nor will it make them lose their senses.
The adjective مُّصَفًّى of عَسَلٌ shows that the honey found in this world is nevertheless produced by the bees and which cannot be devoid of their contamination they can cause. The honey of Paradise would be from its real source. No one would be able to censure it in any way.
The words وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ at the end refer to the greatest favour of Paradise. This is because it is the forgiveness of God which will be the reason for all the favours and will open the way to the higher levels of Paradise.
Words to the effect أٌفَمَنْ كَانَ لَهُ مَثَلُ هذِهِ الجَنَّةِ are suppressed before كَمَنْ هُوَ خَالِدٌ فِي النَّارِ because of linguistic indications. Such suppressions are common in interrogative and conditional sentences. Examples can be seen in the tafsīr of earlier sūrahs.
The words مَاءٌ حَمِيممٌ are mentioned as نُزُلٌ or the very first entertainment for the companions of Hell. The Qur'ān has mentioned at a number of places that the very first entertainment of the companions of Hell will be boiling water; after that, all kinds of torments will engulf them.