Exposition of the Holy Quran – 16 Surah An-Nahl (G A Parwez)
Surah 16: An-Nahl
(1) Your opponents, time and again ask for the manifestation of what you warn them of. Tell them that it is sure to come. They believe that those whom they have set up as peers to Allah will protect them. This is a false belief. Allah is far above anyone standing in His way (29:54).
(2) According to His Law of Mashiyya, Allah sends revelation to whoever He chooses from among His servants through the malaika so that he may tell others that there is no authority in the universe except Allah, Whose laws should be adhered to.
(3) Mind that the universe which Allah has created is not an illusion. It exists in reality and has been created for a purpose. Allah is far above those who are set up as peers to Him [He does not need peers to control the universe].
(4) He has created man from a mere sperm and yet he stands before Him as a disputant.
(5) And Allah has created cattle to provide you with warm garments and for other beneficial purposes; and some of cattle you also eat.
(6) Apart from the utilisation aspect, there is also the aesthetic aspect. What a beautiful scene they present when you take them out in the morning to pasture and fetch them home in the evening after they have grazed! Could this be the result of a scheme devised for destructive purposes?
(7-8) These very cattle carry your heavy loads to distant towns which you cannot reach otherwise except with much discomfort. This shows how considerate and Raheem your Rabb is. He has also provided you with horses, mules and asses for you to ride and for adornment; Allah has created many other things of which you have no knowledge as yet.
(9) There is another important point to note. There are various ways of life open to these animals but each follows instinctively the way designed for it. If Allah had willed, O humankind, you could have also been made compelled to follow a particular way. But He has made a distinction between animals and human beings; the latter have been endowed with the capacity to choose their own way of life.
(10) Reverting to natural phenomena, Allah sends down water from above which you drink and by it grow the herbage on which you graze your cattle.
(11) It also causes crops and olives, date palms, grapes and all kinds of fruit to grow for you. In this system there is message for those who reflect.
(12) And He has marshalled to your service the night and the day, the sun and the moon, and the stars have also been made subservient by His command. They all function according to His laws. In these also there are signs for those who use their reason.
(13) And He has created for you in the earth varied kinds of things. In this also there is a sign for those who can appreciate Allah’s order.
(14) Allah has also subjected to you the sea so that, out of it, you may have fresh food and also what you use as your ornaments. You see how the ships plough through the sea carrying you forward in quest of His bounties so that your efforts may fructify.
(15) Allah has formed the earth in such a way that you may sit on it firmly while it revolves. He has also created mountains and rivers and land tracks so that you may reach your destination (21:31, 31:10).
(16) And He has created (various other) landmarks – also the stars to serve as sign-posts as guidance during your journey (during the night).
(17) Can One who creates and one who cannot, be placed on the same footing? Can you not reflect on this?
(18-19) These are only a few of Allah’s creations which have been mentioned. If you care to count all of them you can never do so. Allah is protector, and sustainer. He knows all that you hide as well as what you disclose.
(20-21) Those whom people set up as peers to Allah cannot create anything; rather they are themselves creations. They are dead – absolutely lifeless. They do not even know as to when they will be raised.
(22) All power and authority belongs to Allah alone. Those who do not believe in the hereafter, their hearts are full of false pride and they are too arrogant (to admit the truth).
(23) They will not accept it readily but Allah knows what they hide and what they disclose. He does not like those who are given to arrogance.
(24) When they are asked to ponder over what Allah has revealed, they say, “It is nothing but the fables of the people gone by.”
(25) They not only go astray themselves but also induce others to follow the wrong path. Therefore, on the day of reckoning, they will bear not only the full weight of their own burden, but also part of the burden of those ignorant ones whom they misled. How unbearable will be the burden they will have to bear (29:13)!
(26-27) O Rasool, it is not your opponents alone who devise such stratagems. Those who lived before them devised similarly. Allah’s Law of Mukafat shook their schemes from their foundation and the roof came down upon them. This chastisement came upon them so suddenly that they could hardly realise whence it came. And on the day of reckoning they will be humiliated and asked, “Where are they whom you had set up as peers to Allah and for whose sake you used to oppose the believers?” Those endowed with true knowledge will say, “Distress and disgrace is today for the unbelievers (6:22).”
(28-29) When malaika cause death to those who wronged their own selves, they will offer submission and say, “We never did wrong.” Allah knows well what they did. They will be asked to enter jahannam which is a horrible abode for the arrogant.
(30-32) The unbelievers ask those who believe, “What is it that your Rabb has sent down to you?” They will reply, “That which is all good – those who do good will lead a very happy and prosperous life in this world and a still better one in the hereafter. How blessed will be the final abode of the muttaqeen – evergreen gardens underneath which flow streams, wherein they will find all that they desire. This is how Allah will requite muttaqeen. Even at a time when death overcomes these people and they are in a state of purity, the malaika will say to them, “Glad tidings of peace and blessings are with you. Enter jannat for what you did (2:105, 10:26).”
(33-34) Those who do not believe despite clear evidence, what is it that they are waiting for? They are perhaps waiting for the malaika to come to them or for the decree of your Rabb to take effect. This is how the people before them had acted and the inevitable overtook them. Certainly Allah was not unjust to them; in fact, they were unjust to themselves. Their wrong-deeds recoiled upon them and what they had scoffed at engulfed them.
(35) The mushrikeen (polytheists) say that if it had not been Allah’s will neither they nor their ancestors would have set up peers to Allah or declared anything to be haram (prohibited) other than by His command. Those who went before them had a similar attitude (6:149, 36:47, 43:20). Our rusul would not compel them to take the right path. Their responsibility was only to convey Our message clearly to them and this they did. (This was also the excuse offered by Satan – 7:16.)
(36) To every people We have sent a rasool enjoining, “Obey only Allah’s laws and keep away from everything ungodly.” Some of them took the right path and others (denied the truth) and thus inevitably went astray. So go about the land and see for yourself what the end of those who discredited the truth was (18:29).
(37) O Rasool! We know that you ardently desire that these people should take the right path (18:6, 28:56). Those who deliberately go astray cannot be compelled to follow the right path. They shall have to face the consequences of their actions and no one will be able to help them.
(38-40) These people do not believe in the Law of Mukafat and therefore swear vehemently that there will be no life after death. But they do not know that this is Allah’s promise which He will certainly fulfil in order to make clear that what they have differed about, so that the unbelievers should know that they had lied. The unbelievers wonder how Allah will cause the dead to rise. (They do not know Allah’s powers.) When We desire to create something, We only have to say, “Be” and thereafter the process of its initiation takes place simultaneously and it does take place (2:117, 3:47, 19:35, 36:82).
(41-42) Those who leave their homes due to persecution, Allah will surely provide them with a better place in this world and a greater reward in the hereafter if only they could realise this. They are the people who faced their trials steadfastly and had full trust in their Rabb.
(43) Time and again, the unbelievers ask why a human being has been sent as a rasool. Tell them, O Rasool, that the rusul sent before you were all human beings and endowed with revelation. If your opponents do not know this, let them ask for corroboration from the Ahl-ul-Kitab (12:109, 21:7).
(44) We had sent those rusul with clear arguments and scriptures. In the same way, We have given you, O Rasool, a book – the Qur’an – so you may explain to them clearly what has been sent for them, so that they may reflect.
(45) Do those who lay down evil plans, feel assured that Allah will not abase them in the earth or that chastisement will not come to them from sources of which they are unaware,
(46) or that they will not be seized while they are engrossed in making their schemes successful or that they will not be consumed slowly (6:65, 7:182)?
(47) They cannot resist Allah’s plans. It is only Allah’s Law of Mukafat which has given them respite so that they might make amends. Most certainly it is your Rabb who is clement and Raheem.
(48-50) To realise how powerful Allah’s laws are, they should see how they work in the outer universe or even look at things of daily life. For instance, how the shadows of everything turn about right and left in absolute submission to Allah in the humblest manner. In fact, everything in the universe, whether animate or forces of nature, submit to His laws without false pride. They know fully well how strong the grip of these laws which are imposed on them is. They, therefore, obey them submissively.
(51) Allah (whose absolute law is in operation in the entire universe with perfect order and discipline) says that they (mankind) too should enforce only His law in their affairs – they should not accept two authorities; Allah in the outer universe and some other man-made laws in their own world (or two laws side by side – one man-made and the other that of Allah).
(52) Everything in the universe is busy in the accomplishment of His plan. Human beings should, therefore, also obey His laws ceaselessly. Ask them if in the face of so much clear evidence they would still believe in laws other than that of Allah.
(53) Have you ever reflected that all means of sustenance as well as the capacity to acquire them have been created and endowed by Allah, and this is why when any trouble befalls you, you turn to Allah for help? A logical corollary to this is that all means of nurture should be utilized according to Allah’s directives (16:71).
(54) But what actually happens is that when the trouble is over, some of you set up peers to their Rabb (and do not utilise the sources according to His directives – 41:10),
(55) in order to keep hidden what We had granted them. For a while you may take advantage but ultimately you will know the consequences of following such a course.
(56) They (the mushrikeen), however, for their satisfaction, ascribe a portion of the provisions to those (whom they set up as peers to Allah) who have no knowledge about it. By Allah! You will all be most certainly asked about the authority for your false beliefs.
(57-59) They regard their goddesses as daughters of Allah. How abominable is this belief! Allah is far above it. And for themselves they would like to have sons. When the news of the birth of a daughter is conveyed to one of them, his face darkens and he chokes inwardly. He hides himself from his people due to shame because of these ill-tidings. He begins to think whether he should keep her as a symbol of disgrace or bury her in the earth (42:49, 43:17, 81:8).O how vile is their line of thought!
(60) Those who do not believe in the next world, their life is a living example of wretchedness but the life of those who live in accordance with the directives of Allah is an example of loftiness. Indeed Allah is mighty and wise (30:27).
(61) If Allah had seized human beings for their wrong-doings instantaneously, there would not have remained any living being on the face of the earth (35:45), but that is not His way. He gives them respite for an appropriate term and when that term comes to an end, they are not able to delay or advance it by a moment (7:34, 10:49).
(62) They attribute to Allah what they loathe themselves and they utter incessantly that all good things are for them in this life as well as in the hereafter (41:50). But this is a lie. They are the ones who lag behind in the struggle of evolution and jahannam waits for them (56:10, 83:26).
(63) Verily We sent rusul to people gone before you, O Rasool, but Satan made their wrong deeds seem fair to them. Similarly, he will be the friend of your opponents for whom there will be a severe chastisement.
(64) And We have sent this book to you, O Rasool, so that you may clearly state the matters in which they differ and that it may be a means of guidance and rahma for those who believe in it.
(65) A similar procedure of Allah operates in the outer universe. He sends water from above whereby He revives the earth after it has been dead. In it there is meaning for those who pay heed.
(66) Even cattle can offer you reason for reflection! From what is within their bellies, between excretion and blood, We give you to drink pure milk – a pleasant beverage for those who drink it (23:28).
(67) Likewise, from the fruits of the date palm and the vine, you produce intoxicating drink and healthful nutrients. In this too there is a message for those who try to understand.
(68-69) And just look at the bee which instinctively makes its dwelling in the mountains and in the trees and in what human beings build. Then it collects nectar from various fruits and flowers and pursues assiduously the ways prescribed for it by Allah. From its belly comes a fluid of diverse hues (i.e., honey) which has health-giving properties. In this system followed by the bee there is a message for those who think.
(70) Allah has created you and takes you to mature age where human faculties are fully developed. Thereafter, some of you reach old age which is a feeble age when memory of things once known does not help you to recollect them. Allah has knowingly devised measures for all things (22:5).
(71) Different individuals possess different capacity for work. Every programme or project requires the cooperation of all for its accomplishment (43:32). The divine Nizam-e-Rabubiyya requires that the produce should be distributed amongst all according to their needs. Those who possess greater capability (or power) generally do not adhere to this nizam (system), thinking that according to this arrangement all will be equal and they, therefore, take more than the others (30:28). They thus assert that the means of production and the capacity to earn are not endowed by Allah (16:53, 24:33, 28:78, 39:49).
(72-73) If they would reflect upon the system which they follow in their home life, they would realise that the universal Nizam-e-Rabubiyya is an extension of the same system. A family consists of husband, wife, sons and grandsons and some workers. Just reflect on how provision is distributed amongst them. Assuredly it is according to their needs and not according to the capacity to earn. If you do not adhere to this system in society at large, this would mean that you follow an unjust system and discredit or conceal the bounties of Allah and do not use them properly. You obey the orders of those who have no authority to provide you any sustenance whatsoever, anywhere from heaven or the earth. And they do not possess any power to do so (29:66-67).
(74) (In order to justify your wrong system) Do not give a wrong similitude about Allah, for Allah knows the reality and you do not.
(75) The most appropriate example is given by Allah; there is a slave possessed by his master having no control over anything and a free man whom Allah has given the best of provisions which he gives out to others both secretly and openly according to his discretion. Are the two to be held equal? The course adopted by such a free man is worthy of Allah’s hamd, but those who look at things superficially, do not understand this.
(76) Allah strikes another comparison between two men. One is dumb (or dull-witted) unable to do anything of his own accord and is thus a burden on his master, and whenever sent on any errand does not bring any good news. The other has the capability to decide matters justly and according to his own choice and follows the straight path. Could the two be held equal?
(77) O Rasool! Continue to explain these realities to these people. If they do not accept them despite your efforts, do not worry as to when the promised end will come. Allah knows when it will come. That hour will be but the twinkling of an eye or even less. Allah has devised measures for all things (20:15, 53:31).
(78) To appreciate how Allah’s plans reach their fulfilment gradually, look upon your own life. At the time of your birth you know nothing. Allah provides you with the capacity to hear, to see and to judge. It is through these faculties that your efforts bring forth fruit.
(79) Similarly, look at the outer world and see how birds fly in the air securely. What can sustain them in the atmosphere other than the laws of Allah? In this, too, there are signs for those who believe in these laws.
(80) Look at the bounties of Allah provided for your physical life. He has caused dwellings to be built for your rest and tents to be built with the skins of cattle which are light enough to carry on your journeys and may be pitched whenever you halt. He has provided you with their wool, fur and hair to make garments, and other means of comfort to utilise for a while.
(81) From what Allah has created He has provided shade for you, made places of shelter in the mountains, clothes to protect you from the heat, equipment like coats of arms to afford protection in war. This is how He completes His bounties according to His measures so that you may utilise them in accordance with His directives (16:53, 71).
(82) O Rasool! If notwithstanding all such clear directives, they still turn away, you should not feel aggrieved; your responsibility is only to communicate to them Our revelation clearly.
(83) They are fully aware that all these bounties have been bestowed by Allah, nonetheless they refuse to acknowledge them and most of them disregard His laws while utilizing them.
(84-85) The present state of affairs will not continue indefinitely. A change is sure to come. People will not come from outside to bring it about but some from amongst them will bear witness to the truth of the divine system. Those who oppose it will not be permitted to offer excuses nor shall they have an opportunity to make amends. Their chastisement will not be made lighter nor shall they be granted any respite.
(86) On that day those who set up peers to Allah will come face to face with these peers. They will say, “O our Rabb! These are they whom we had set up as peers to You.” The peers will retort, “Surely you are liars.”
(87) On that day these unbelievers will offer submission to Allah. All that they had fabricated will be of no avail to them.
(88) They had discredited Allah’s laws and also turned others away from His way. Their chastisement will be intensified because they used to create fasad (disorder).
(89) On that day, We will call from among every people witnesses to testify against them, and you, O Rasool, as a witness against all of them (2:143, 4:41). Your evidence shall be that you had conveyed to them Our message which is contained in this book revealed to you, which clarifies everything and is a source of guidance, rahma and glad tidings to those who submit to it.
(90-91) The basic commandments in this book are:
1. Do justice to all;
2. Make good the deficiencies of others, beginning with those nearest to you whether relatives or others;
3. Avoid accumulating everything for your own self;
4. Avoid that which is not recognised by the Qur’an to be good.
5. Do not transgress the limits prescribed by Allah;
6. Fulfil the covenants after having confirmed them and particularly when you have made Allah a surety with you (9:111) and
7. Do not break oaths when you have cited Allah as a surety for them (17:34, 25:16).
These directives have been given by Allah Who is aware of everything you do.
(92) Do not be like a woman who undoes her yarn after she has spun it with great labour. You make your pledges a means of deceiving others so that you may supersede them in wealth and power (57:20). Mark! The position of a nation does not remain static: changes take place occasionally. On the day of reckoning, that wherein you were at variance, will be made clear to you (102:1-2).
(93) As stated earlier, if it had been Allah’s plan, He would have made all of you as one people. He, however, endowed human beings with free will to choose the right or the wrong path. This makes you responsible for all your doings and you will be questioned about them (18:29).
(94) Do not take oaths to deceive others so that your foot may not slip after it has been set firmly, and you are required to pay for having turned others away from the path of Allah – and your chastisement will be severe.
(95-97) Do not barter the covenant made with Allah for a petty gain (9:111), for the reward given by Allah will be far better than what you secure by breaking the covenant; if only you could appreciate this! All that you secure in this way will pass away and what is given by Allah will abide (8:53, 13:10, 38:54). This is how Allah will recompense those who endure the trials of life steadfastly. He surely gives the best of rewards worthy of the best deeds you have done. Our Law of Mukafat is that whoever – man or woman – believes in Allah’s laws and does good deeds will certainly live a most pleasant and good life as a reward for his actions.
(98) O Rasool! When you embark on your programme for the establishment of the Quranic order, be very careful of your opponents and procure every means of protection against their schemes (17:64-65).
(99-100) The satanic forces can have no power over those who believe in the laws of Allah and put their trust in Him. They overpower only those who seek their friendship and those who set up peers to Allah (2:85, 2:256-57, 13:37, 47:26).
(101-102) One of the objections raised by the Ahl-ul-Kitab is that if the Qur’an was from Allah why did it contain injunctions which were contrary to those in the earlier scriptures. The reason for this has been adequately explained in (2:106). Still they say that you are a manipulator of words. The difficulty is that most of them do not try to understand. Tell them that Gabriel has brought the revelation based upon truth from your Rabb and this is meant to strengthen the hearts of those who believe, giving guidance and glad tidings to those who submit to the laws of Allah (2:97, 26:193).
(103) They say, “The Qur’an is not a true revelation. Some human being comes and teaches him and he presents it as revelation from Allah.” While levelling such a baseless accusation they do not reflect upon the simple point that the language of the person at whom they hint is non-Arabic, while the Qur’an is in clear Arabic language.
(104) Those who have decided not to believe in the truth of the revelation cannot get the right guidance: for them awaits grievous chastisement.
(105) It is only they, who will not believe in Allah’s message (but have no courage to confess it openly, and in order to belie the others) invent such falsehood, and it is in fact they who are lying (16:103).
(106-109) This is about those who do not believe in the truth of the revelation at all. This does not apply to a true believer who is compelled to perform any act of kufr while he is steadfast in his eiman. But anyone who accepts kufr wholeheartedly will receive a very severe chastisement and will be deprived of the blessings of Allah. This is because he has preferred the life of this world to the hereafter. Such are the unbelievers who do not follow the right path. These are the people who lose the capacity to see, to hear and to think (4:55). They are heedless even of their own interest. They may acquire some advantages in this life but shall have to suffer in the hereafter.
(110) Those who remain steadfast in their eiman confront various trials, suffer persecution, are forced to leave their homes, strive in the cause of Allah and endure all tribulations with perseverance – for them there is protection from their Rabb and His rahma.
(111) Every individual has been endowed with a nafs which takes a decision. The nafs has various aspects. If it is influenced by the aspect which represents Satanic forces, it takes the wrong decision to which the aspect which represents higher values takes objection. Thus a struggle ensues between the two aspects of the nafs. On the day of judgement everything will become clear. Each aspect of the nafs will present its own case before Allah Who will judge between them and recompense the individual concerned according to his deeds. None shall be dealt with unfairly (12:53, 75:2).
(112) To illustrate what happens when a wrong decision is taken, Allah sets forth the example of a city which enjoyed perfect peace and security, and means of sustenance were coming to it in abundance from every quarter. Instead of utilizing these means according to Allah’s directives, they used them according to their self-made laws with the result that fear and hunger encompassed them (6:44, 20:124, 21:11- 15).
(113) A rasool came to them from amongst themselves. They treated him as a liar so chastisement overtook them because they were zalimeen.
(114) O mankind! Learn from this example and utilize the means of sustenance given to you by Allah according to His directives. This would amount to paying thanks for Allah’s bounties. However, this would be possible only if you obey Allah’s laws strictly (2:21-22, 16:53, 71-72).
(115) Allah has declared the following things as haram:
2. Flowing blood;
3. The flesh of swine; and
4. that which has been dedicated to someone other than Allah.
However, if one is faced with a situation when he can find nothing else to eat, except the above-mentioned, and his life is threatened, he can partake of what has been declared to be haram provided he is driven to it by starvation and not out of greed or the desire to violate divine laws. In that case he will find Allah a protector and nourisher (6:146).
(116-117) Only these things have been declared by Allah to be haram. Do not pronounce things to be haram (prohibited) or halal (permissible) irresponsibly for that would be foisting a lie upon Allah. Those who do this will not prosper. Such people might acquire some worldly gain but their chastisement will be very severe.
(118) To the Jews We had forbidden what We have already told you earlier (6:147). We did no zulm to them but they wronged themselves.
(119) Strict restrictions were imposed on the Jews because they persistently and intentionally adopted the wrong course. Otherwise Allah’s Law of Mukafat is that a person, who commits a wrong in ignorance and thereafter makes amends and comes back to the right path, will find that Allah is Ghafoor and Raheem.
(120-123) The right course referred to in (16:114) was adopted by Abraham. He was not just an individual but a community in himself, exclusively obedient to the laws of Allah and did not set up peers to Him. This is why Allah selected him for high office, guided him to the straight path and bestowed on him everything that was good in this life, and in the life hereafter he would be ranked among the saliheen. This is why, O Rasool, We have asked you to follow the course adopted by Abraham who was not from amongst the mushrikeen (2:125).
(124) The Jews claim to be followers of Abraham but have, in fact, created many differences amongst themselves. For instance, Sabbath was ordained to promote a sense of self-discipline among them but they wrangled over it. Allah will decide between them on the day of judgement in regard to that wherein they differed (2:65, 4:47, 4:154, 7:163).
(125) O Rasool! Do not entangle yourself with them. Continue your programme of inviting people to the way of Allah with wisdom and kindly exhortation and discuss matters with them in the best possible manner. Allah knows best who is following the right path and who has gone astray (12:108).
(126) If they do you any harm and it becomes inevitable to take revenge, do so to the extent to which you have been harmed. But if you can endure the wrong with forbearance, it will produce better results at the end.
(127-128) In short, adhere to your programme steadfastly. This will be possible only through the help which you receive from Allah. Do not grieve about the unbelievers and do not worry about their schemes. Surely, Allah is with those who are muttaqeen (God-concious) and mohsineen (those who create harmony and balance in the society).
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