Exposition of the Holy Quran – 23 Surah Al-Mu’minoon (G A Parwez)

Surah 23: Al-Mu’minoon
(The Believers)

(1) (Let Us tell you now about the people whose efforts will bear fruit and attain all-encompassing success in this world as well as in the hereafter.) These are the people who accept the truth of Our laws, and the implementation of which they make the ultimate aim and mission of their lives.
(2) And they keep on following these laws with complete submission. In other words they willingly carry out the duties assigned to them according to these laws (4:65).
(3) They make sure that their efforts are not wasted on unproductive work. They also abstain from frivolous absurdities and from anything else which could prevent them from following the Qur’an (41:26).
(4) They follow a programme which ensures that the means of development are continuously available for mankind.
(5-6) And they preserve their sexual energies only for their wives or slave maids (who were in their possession before the Qur’anic injunctions prohibiting slavery were revealed – 47:4; and who after being duly married had been given a status equal to that of other wives); there is no blame in having sexual relations with them.
(7) Whoever resorts to any other form of sexual relation is transgressing the divine limits (which are a serious offence – 24:2).
(8) And they guard their trust and uphold their promises (4:58);
(9) (Briefly speaking) Success and prosperity will accrue only to those who always stand by the Nizam-us-Sala (Qur’anic system) ordained by Allah. They follow the divine law in every walk of life (24:41).
(10) These are the very people who are the real inheritors of success and prosperity in life;
(11) (In other words) They will have the pleasant things and inherit a life of abundance, in this world and in the hereafter, where they will stay forever (7:43, 43:72).
(These are the distinctive attributes of the momineen, who shall live a successful life – 70:23-34.)
(12) (This is so because human life is not like that of animals. The status of human life has been achieved after successfully passing through various stages of animal life; and it will continue to pass through various other stages of development.)
As regards the various stages of animal life, We initiated its creation from the quintessence of clay (inorganic matter – 22:5).
(13) (Thereafter our system of creation reached a stage when further procreation continued by conception.) We caused it to be a drop of semen which was deposited in the female ovum (in the womb).
(14) Thereafter, out of the drop of semen, We created a suspended zygote (like a leech). From the zygote We created an embryonic lump. Next We fashioned the bones, which We then clothed with flesh.
(Up to this point all stages are accomplished like normal animal life. But) Thereafter, We infuse a speck of divine energy into it (32:7-9) and cause it to emerge as an entirely new creation (71:14). This new creation, which is totally different from other animals, is the human being.
(15) Just think of the great possibilities which Allah’s law of creation has. (Although man also creates various things, there is a world of difference between his creations and those of Allah.)
Allah’s creation carries the best by way of proportion and balance, and it is a unique embodiment of beauty and grace. He certainly is the best of creators (15:16).
(16) However, you all have to die one day. (Does this mean that with the disintegration of your physical body, your self also perishes? This concept would be true if you were comprised of a physical body only. But as has been mentioned before, a human being has something more than a physical body. That something more is the human self, which does not perish with death. It endures and proceeds further. Therefore,) after your death you will all be raised on the day of resurrection (84:19).
(17) (Furthermore, Our system of creation is not such that after creating the universe We have become oblivious to it.) We have created above you (in outer space) several celestial bodies which follow one another. We also keep on adding new things to Our creations (35:11). (Not only do we add, but we also continue to provide them with means of nourishment. Before you were settled on this planet, We had made very good arrangements for the resources necessary for your sustenance.)
(18) For this We send down water from the clouds according to a set measure and store it on earth (in various forms as needed). Furthermore We surely have the absolute power to evaporate it, just as We brought it down from the clouds. However, We do not do so. Rather, We keep it stored in the ground so that it remains available for your development.
(19) And from this water We bring forth for you orchards of date palm and vineyards, which yield abundant fruits for you to eat (and utilize in other ways).
(20) Similarly, trees (olive) grow in the valley of Sinai yielding oil which you all relish in food.
(21) Likewise, if you ponder over the lives of animals, you will find some strange things which will open many vistas of thought for you. Do you know what happens in their bellies (16:66)? (Is there anything in their bellies which can be called pleasant or amiable? Yet) We produce (milk) for you to drink. You derive many other uses from these animals, and you eat the flesh of some of them.
(22) You also ride on them (on land) and travel in boats through water.
(23) (All these arrangements are for the development of your body. But it was also incumbent on Our Rabubiyya that We should provide for the development of your human aspects. It was beyond Our grace that on the one hand We should make you the best of creations and on the other not provide means for the development of human power (the human self). For this We arranged to send divine guidance through Our anbiya. The first one in this chain was Noah, whom We sent to his own people. He asked them, “O my people, you should only obey the divine laws. No one besides Him is worthy of obedience. Tell me if you are willing and ready to observe His laws.”
(24) The chieftains of his community, who were enjoying the bounties of life, refused to accept his message. They told their people, “This man (who is calling himself a messenger of Allah) is a human being like you. He simply wants to attain superiority over you. If Allah wanted to convey a message unto us, He would have surely sent malaika. (Why should He send an ordinary man like us? Moreover, whatever he says is very strange; and) We have never heard such a thing from our forefathers.
(25) “It appears as if he has lost his mind (so do not pay any heed to what this madman is saying). Just wait for a few days and see what his end will be.”
(26) (Noah did his best to make them understand and see reason, but all this was in vain. Whereupon,) He called out, “O my Rabb! They do not listen to me, and without listening and understanding they are denying me. Please help me against them.”
(27) So, We sent wahi to Noah (asking him) to build an ark under Our supervision and (according to) Our wahi. “When the time comes (as per Our programme) and water gushes forth in torrents (and floods form), place two pairs of every (necessary) thing on board. Also include your companions, except those who through their denial and opposition have already made it clear to you that they will never be members of your group.
And keep in mind that those who are keen upon transgression will all be drowned. Therefore do not ask Me about them.
(28) As soon as you and your companions are firmly settled in the ark, you should all proclaim, ‘All praise is for Allah Who saved us from the clutches of these zalimeen.’
(29) After this your invocation should be, ‘O my Rabb! Cause me to disembark at a place which will be the source of happiness and blessings, for You are the best at enabling us to disembark safely.’
(30) In this story of Noah there are signs showing the firmness of Our Law of Mukafat. It also shows how We turn around the condition of people by changing their circumstances.
(31) (It was as a result of this change that Noah’s community was destroyed, and) Then We set forth the era of other generations.
(32) Thereafter, We sent Our rasool (to the next generation) who repeated the same message that you should obey Allah alone. Besides Him there is no other authority worthy of obedience. Sovereignty belongs only to Allah. Therefore, tell me whether you are willing or not to abide by His laws. (If you do you will be saved from the doom which can befall you on account of your erroneous deeds.)
(33) But the community leaders who had adopted a rebellious attitude refused to acknowledge the truth of the divine laws. They were not convinced about the Law of Mukafat and the life hereafter. They had ease, comfort and luxuries of life and felt that the enforcement of the divine law was not in their interest. Thus they (stood up against it and) addressed their people, “This person (who claims to be a messenger of Allah) is an ordinary human being like you. He eats what you eat and drinks what you drink.
(34) “If you obey this man, who is just like you, you will surely be the losers. The man who is worthy of obedience ought to have supernatural powers and be a deity or shadow of Allah on earth. Obeying an ordinary mortal is useless. Moreover, the system which he intends to enforce, that of equality and dignity for all human beings, means total destruction for you.
(35) “(You have the wealth and authority to do whatever you like; there is no one to question you. But look at what he says! He says that no one can escape the seizure of the law of Mukafat, not even after death.) He continues to threaten that when you die and become dust and bones, you will be raised to life again (so that you can be held accountable and be punished for the misdeeds which you had committed in this world).
(36) “Just imagine how impossible the thing he speaks of is! It is such a farfetched phenomenon that no imagination or common sense can accept it. Yet he continues to threaten you.
(37) “(To come to life again after death is meaningless.) Life exists only in this world. (We see everyday that) People die and new ones are born. This happens in this world all the time, and so it is wrong to accept that we would be raised to life again after death.
(38) “This man does nothing but concoct false stories which he attributes to Allah. But we are never going to accept anything that he says.”
(39) The rasool then said to his God, “O my Rabb! These people do not listen to me and are out to belie me, so help me against them.”
(40) God replied, “The period of their respite is going to end and they will shortly see the result of their misdeeds. They will feel ashamed of themselves.”
(41) (Not long thereafter) A violent commotion, justifiably and unavoidably, overtook them, and We caused them to turn into a heap of dead leaves (because they had become hindrances to our constructive programme – 11:68). So see, how people who tread the path of oppression and tyranny are deprived of the successes and pleasures of life. (This is Our unchangeable law which has been in force since the beginning and is based on equity and justice.)
(42) Then We gave rise to other generations.
(43) (They too perished on account of their misdeeds.) Keep in mind that according to Our Law of Mukafat, neither can a community be destroyed before the manifestation of results, nor can it survive after that time. (There can be no reduction or extension in it – 7:34, 13:38, 15:5.)
(44) (Different nations thus came and went and We continued to send Our rusul, one after the other with intervals as needed. But these nations also followed the same path, in that) Whenever a rasool came to them they belied his message and teachings. As a result they were ruined, one after the other. They were so completely destroyed that only their tales were left behind.
The history of these nations is clear evidence of the fact that those who denied the truth of Our message and stubbornly stuck to their erroneous stand, were deprived of the comforts and luxuries of life. This is our immutable law, and the history of previous nations stands testimony to that effect.
(45) According to this programme, We sent Moses and his brother Aaron with Our laws and clear and candid reasoning (which explained the truth and firmness of these laws).
(46) We sent them to the Pharaoh and the leaders of his nation. (Both brothers presented Our true deen but) The Pharaoh and the leaders of his nation behaved with extreme arrogance, for they were a conceited lot.
(47) (Instead of pondering over the truth of what was presented to them) They said, “Should we believe those who are ordinary human beings like us (and are not superhuman)? As far as their status is concerned, they belong to the community who are our slaves. (How can a subordinate nation possess intellect and dare teach us, their rulers? For us to accept what they say will be humiliating.)”
(48) So they belied both of them, as a result of which they too fell in the category of doomed nations. (As has been said before, nations which deviate from the correct principles of life will be doomed.)
(49) Although these people could have avoided their doom through the guidance of the divine code We had given Moses.
(50) [The clash between good and evil continued till We sent Jesus with Our message. The Jews opposed Jesus because he was calling them towards the correct divine path, and they also opposed his mother Mary, (just as she had opposed the self-made code of priestly conduct)]. We made both of them symbols for the salvation as well as the destruction of the Jews. (In other words if the Jews had abandoned their opposition, and given regard and respect to the divine laws presented by Jesus and had adopted them, then their doom would have been averted. But if they persisted in their opposition they were bound to be destroyed. However, they severely opposed Jesus and Mary, till) We protected them by taking them away from the reach of the Jews. We provided both of them an abode in a lofty place which was very suitable for them, and where springs of clear and clean water flowed (making the land fertile and lush green).
(51) (This was a brief account of some of Our rusul.) We had planned a programme for them that told them that they should enjoy life by partaking of everything that was permissible and by working for the betterment of mankind. Surely, Our Law of Mukafat is well aware of all that you do.
(52) (O Rasool!) This community of yours is one community of anbiya (21:92). Although its members appeared at different times, in different countries, and among different nations, it remained one community because the anbiya taught one ideology and concept of life: that there is only one Sustainer (Rabb) for all, Allah. The mission of each one of them was to be watchful about His laws and implement them (and because of this unity of thought and action, they all belonged to one community).
(53) (So it seems logical that because the manifesto and teaching of the anbiya were the same, their followers too should be one entity. However, this is not the case. The followers of these anbiya differed from one another; and after the rasool went away the followers forgot the real message and started practicing their self-made laws.) As such, they split into factions and different sects appeared. The logical result was sectarianism, whereupon each sect adopted its own way of thinking and was convinced that they alone were on the right path, while all the others were wrong (30:32).
(54) (Presently, O Rasool, the followers of earlier anbiya are divided into sects and they oppose the deen you are presenting. There appears little chance of them listening to you at the moment. So there is nothing you can do except) Leave them alone for they are lost in ignorance. (When your deen is established in a visible form, the results of the system will speak for themselves and show who was on the right path – 22:17, 22:55-57.)
(55-56) Are these people under the false presumption that the wealth and progeny which We have given them means that We are ignoring their evil deeds; that we will continue to bestow prosperity on them and augment it? Nay! The reality, which they know not, is different.
(57) (People who deserve the pleasures of life are different.) They are those who are fearful of the results of defying the laws of their Rabb
(58) And they have complete faith in the truth and firmness of the message of their Rabb.
(59) They only obey His laws and do not ascribe any partner to Him.
(60) And they continue contributing whatever they can afford (for the establishment of the divine order and the growth and development of mankind). At the same time their hearts tremble at the thought of taking any step that may take them away from the path which leads to their Rabb.
(61) They vie with one another in doing good deeds, and they outrun others in this path.
(62) They have complete faith in the fact that the restrictions imposed by the divine law are not to unnecessarily tie them down. These limitations are imposed only to broaden and develop one’s personality (2:286, 6:153, 7:42). (This is their firm conviction, on account of which they are prepared to give away everything for the betterment of mankind. They feel no burden because they believe that all this will ultimately result in the growth of their own self).
Their conviction is certainly correct, because We maintain accurate and up-to-date records of each and every individual’s deeds and no injustice is done to anyone.
(63) But the minds of the opponents are totally unaware of this fact, for they are deeply involved in pursuing their own selfish ends. That is why they do deeds which are far from the right path. And they will continue to do so,
(64) Till the time We apprehend and afflict the affluent section of their society, which is lost in luxury (23:33). You will then see how their arrogance comes crumbling down and they will groan and cry out in distress.
(65) They will be told in no uncertain terms, “There is no use of (such a belated) hue and cry; no help whatsoever shall come from Us. (You will have to face the consequences of your own misdeeds.)
(66-67) (Do you not remember that) When Our laws were conveyed to you, time and again you were not ready even to listen to them? And you turned back on your heels.
Then, with sheer arrogance, you made this (code of laws) your favourite topic for gossip and annoyance, endlessly pursuing fruitless talk.
(68) (One wonders why they should reject such a vivid and clear message.) Could the reason be that they do not apply their minds seriously; or is it something strange, which had never come to their ancestors (Ahlul-Kitab – people of the scriptures) (46:9)?
(69) They could not comprehend (in view of his previous life) whether the Rasool was truthful or a liar; and therefore they rejected his claim to risala (prophethood) – (10:6)?
(70) Or, did they think that he had gone mad? No, this was not the case. The fact is that the Rasool presented the truth before them. But because most of them detested the truth they wanted some compromise to be agreed upon, by making changes which suited their interests (10:15, 11:13, 17:74, 68:9).
(71) Tell them that if the truth was to follow the desires and whims of people, there would be chaos in the universe. Nothing would stay in its proper place and everything would turn topsy-turvy. (Just consider their thinking!) We gave them a manifesto which ensures them dignity, grandeur, excellence, elevation in status and honour, yet they are turning away from all this (7:176, 21:10-24, 43:43).
(72) (O Rasool!) Do these people think that you are asking them for financial recompense? (Tell them that you do not need anything from them.) Any sustenance you get from your Rabb is far better, since He is the best of providers.
(73-74) You are inviting them towards the right path (without asking for anything in return). But people who do not believe in a future life are continuing to deviate from this path.
(75) (A slight jolt had been given to them but it made no difference.) Therefore even now, if We are lenient and compassionate and remove the distress afflicting them, they will persist in their overwhelming arrogance and continue on their path.
(76) (The proof of this is that, as mentioned above) When We punished them with suffering, neither did they bow before the law of their Rabb nor did they have even an iota of humility.
(77) Now, when We open the gates of severe chastisement upon them (which will overcome them like a tornado), they will be completely depressed.
(78) (Tell them that His punishment does not come suddenly.) He has given you ears to listen with, eyes to see with and a mind to think with (so that you may bring all your faculties to work before taking a decision). However, there are very few of you who utilize these faculties to arrive at a correct decision. (They either follow their own desires; or blindly follow others. In their obstinacy they do not apply any reason or intellect.)
(79) (If you apply intellect and rationale, it will become clear to you that) It is He Who has dispersed you all over the world (and made abundant nourishment available to you). This, however, does not mean that you can go away from the reach of His Law of Mukafat. You are being driven back to this law and every step of yours is taking you closer to it (67:24).
(80) Life and death (for individuals as well as nations) are determined according to God’s laws. One nation comes after the other just as night and day follow each other. Why don’t you use your intellect and reasoning?
(81) Had they really reasoned intelligently, they would never have gone on repeating whatever their forefathers used to say, without thinking about it.
(82) And in following (their ancestors) blindly, they say, “Is it so that, after we die and turn into a heap of dust and bones, we will be raised to life once again?
(83) (They further argue that) The concept of life after death was promised to our forefathers before us, but we have never seen a dead man come to life. As such, whatever we are being told now is nothing new, but old myths being repeated.”
(84) (It is no use debating with them on this issue any more. Talk to them only about their system of life. Ask them) “If you do know, tell me only this much: Who owns the earth and all that is in it?”
(85) They will admit that all this belongs to Allah. Then ask them why they cannot understand (a simple thing) that whatever belongs to Allah should stay for Allah and not come into the ownership of human beings?
(86) Then ask them, “Who is the Rabb of various celestial bodies (and whatever exists therein – 16:49, 42:29); and in whose hands does the supreme control of rabubiyya of each and everything in the universe rest?”
(87) They will concede that this and everything else is under Allah’s command and control. Then ask them, “Why do you want to keep your own control, instead of Allah’s? Are you not afraid of the consequences of this confrontation with Him? Do you not want to avoid the doom which is destined to come on account of your erroneous way of life?”
(88) Ask them, “Tell me (if you know), in Whose hands does absolute control over the entire universe rest? Such control that no one can harm the one who comes under His protection. And as for whoever rebels against His laws, no one can save him or help him anywhere in the universe.”
(89) (Again) They will concede that all this also belongs to Allah (29:61-63).
Now ask them, “What is it that deludes you into doubting that whatever I say is the truth?” (All I say is: That all means of nourishment which Allah has provided for humanity should be kept open for that purpose, and should only be controlled by the divine laws; and that no one has the right to keep others under his authority and to ask for their obedience. Sovereignty and authority rests with Allah alone.)
(90) (It is not that they are under some delusion; the fact is the same as has been narrated before – 23:70.) We have bestowed upon them the divine code which is the absolute truth. (But since this affects their self interest they refuse to accept it. They want to restrict the divine control to the outer universe, because in this way it would not harm their interests and Allah would have no control over their social lives – 21:20.) Keep in mind that such faith in Allah is meaningless. They are therefore liars claiming that they have faith in Allah.
(91) (Ask them under whose control, besides that of Allah, do they want to live?) He has not begotten any offspring. There has never been a deity besides Him (so that by abandoning one you may go to another’s domain). Tell them that had it been so, each god would surely have stood apart from the others. Along with their creations they would surely have tried to overrun one another (as is done by kings in this world). Anyway, Allah is far above, and free of, whatever concept they have about such gods.
(92) He knows all that is known to you as well as that which is yet beyond your perception. He is superior to all other forces to whom they ascribe a share in His divinity.
(93-94) (O Rasool! You should wish) “O my Rabb! If the punishment which You had warned them against comes during my lifetime, I pray that at that moment I should not be present amongst these rebellious people. (It may come at a time when I have left Makkah so that members of my group are not trapped in it.)
(95) (With all the above it should be clear that) We certainly have the power to bring about, during your lifetime, the punishment about which they are warned. (Yet it does not make any difference whether it occurs during your lifetime or after that. The decision in every case will be according to Our Law of Mukafat – 10:46, 13:40, 43:42.)
(96) (Thus, putting aside the question about when the destruction will come, you should work diligently to accomplish your programme and) With the best of conduct (and without deceit, fraud or foul play, since such an approach will not uproot the evil) keep negating the ups and downs created by them. You should proceed to establish a system which is based on equity, justice and fair play. The positive and constructive results produced by this system will block the evil avenues. While undertaking this task do not pay any heed to their comments, and We fully know everything they say.
(97) Your desire and efforts should be to take refuge in the divine laws against the evil and mischievous designs of your adversaries, which are meant to divide your party into sects. The only way to be safe from their evil designs is for your people to remain firmly associated, with sincerity and seriousness, with the divine laws.
(98) And these opponents shall have no courage even to come near you.
(99) They will, however, continue to implement their designs till death overtakes one of them. Then he will implore, “O my Rabb, let me return to life once more
(100) “so that I get back the opportunities I had lost in my earlier life, and now utilize them in doing righteous deeds.” “Nay! (The reply would be) Everything he says is of no use, as these are just meaningless words. It cannot happen now.” (There is no return or repetition in life. Just like overflowing water which cannot go back, there is an intervening barrier between them and their previous life. It is just not possible to turn back. Anyhow, when the people who are still behind reach the life after death, then both of them come together – 39:58.)
(101) On that day, when life is infused into these (lifeless) forms, neither will the ties of kinship prevail, nor will they care about one another.
(102) On that day, the decision will be made according to one’s own personal capabilities. Those whose capabilities are (developed and therefore) heavier, will succeed and be prosperous.
(103) And for those who are lighter, thereby showing a shortfall in the development of their self, they will be unable to proceed further and will abide in jahannam forever.
(104) Their faces will be scorched with flames and they will be scalded from within.
(105) (They will be questioned), “Is it not a fact that you ignored My laws which were presented before you?”
(106) They will say, “O our Rabb! (All this is correct, but what else can we say at this moment) except that our misfortune overwhelmed us and our party went astray (and we also went along with them).
(107) “(Now everything is clear to us. Therefore) Take us out of this suffering. If we revert to evil deeds, then indeed we should be the zalimeen.”
(108) They will be told, (The stage of life when something could be done or achieved is left far behind; it cannot come back.) “Now you will have to live a life of ignominy and there is no use making a hue and cry.”
(109) (Do you not remember that) There was a group among My people who had proclaimed, “O our Rabb! We have firm faith in the truth of Your laws. Protect us (from the evil designs and strategies of our opponents) and also make provision for our development, for there is no better provider and developer than You.”
(110) But you made them a target of ridicule and derision, to the point that you forgot all about My message.
(111) Although you kept on ridiculing them, they were steadfast in their efforts and in their mission. It is the result of their perseverance that today they are successful and have achieved their goal.
(112) They will be asked, “Do you remember how much time you spent on earth?”
(113) (Their level of consciousness and sense of time would have undergone so much change that) They will reply, “We have spent a day there, or maybe a part of a day. If you want to know the correct time, you may ask those who keep the count.”
(114) They will be told, “The time you have spent there was indeed very short compared to the life you have to live here. O, wish only that you had known the facts (and had done something to improve your lot in this life).”
(115) (O Rasool! After narrating these facts to them, ask the opponents) “Do you think that you have been created without any purpose or goal? (That you came into this world just by chance to spend a few days then revert to dust, and then the story of life is over?) That therefore you can go on doing whatever you like; that there will be no accountability; that there will be no seizure by Our Law of Mukafat; and that you will not come back to Us to answer for all that you have done?”
(116) (Remember that) Allah, Who employs His powers and authority to produce positive and constructive results, is far above such notions. He does not indulge in purposeless pursuits. (Whatever He does is based on absolute reality.) He is the ultimate sovereign in the universe, and there is no authority in the universe except Him. He is the Rabb who wields central command over the entire universe.”
(117) This claim is based on much knowledge and reason. Whosoever says anything against it and invokes another authority, will find no evidence to substantiate his claim. (In fact how can he find it when) The very reckoning of his own deeds will also be according to the divine law. Accordingly, those who deny His authority and control cannot attain success. (Success can only be achieved by people who have the qualities mentioned in the initial verses of this surah.)
(118) (In any case, whether these people accept the truth or not) You should continue to call “O My Rabb. According to your law of Rabubiyya, make arrangements for us not only to remain safe from the evil forces, but also to keep receiving provisions for nourishment. Most certainly, You are the best of all who provide nourishment.”
The materialistic concept of life is not a contrivance of our own age. It is a very old concept.

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