Exposition of the Holy Quran – 29 Surah Al-Ankaboot (G A Parwez)
Surah 29: Al-Ankaboot
(1) Allah the all-knowing, the all-wise, says:
(2) (The clash between kufr and eiman has reached a stage where both groups have to be cautioned about the end result of their way of life. Take the first group, who accept the truth of Our laws.) Do they believe that merely by saying that they profess eiman in Allah, they will be left to themselves to do whatever they like? (If they are under such an impression, then) Tell them that they are wrong. (This is the belief in Christianity as practised today, that if one believes in the atonement of Christ, he would be saved; there is no need to do any work – 2:214, 3:141, 9:16, 33:10.)
(3) Even the earlier generations, who accepted the truth of Our laws, were not left free after their verbal admission. They were also put through a very serious struggle between good and evil, so that it would become evident as to who amongst them was true to his faith, and who was just making verbal claims without supporting them with deeds. (Tell them that success will come out of continuous struggle and for that tremendous sacrifice is required.)
(4) On the other hand, there are the people who create disorder and chaos in society by belying Our laws. They are under the false impression that they will escape Our grip. If they believe so then (tell them that) their belief is very wrong (and is based on self deception).
(5) From amongst the first group, consider those who are convinced that they have to eventually face the Law of Mukafat and that they are answerable to Allah Almighty for every action of theirs.
Tell them, that the day for which they are undergoing all the hardship is bound to come because it is so decreed by Allah, who is all-seeing, all-knowing.
(6) Also tell them that all they are striving for is but for their own good. It does not serve any purpose to Allah. Allah does not need anything in the entire universe and therefore He does not require human beings to do anything for Him.
(7) Because they are convinced of the truth of Our laws and do righteous deeds, they will be able to remove chaos from their personalities and from the society. And they shall be rewarded in the best way.
(8) (This is the basis on which the two groups are classified. There is no criterion of any caste, colour, creed or relationship. The closest relationship is that of parents and in this respect too) We have enjoined upon mankind to be kind and courteous to them; but if they try to force you to ascribe partners to Me then do not obey them, for such an attitude is based on sheer ignorance. The fact is that there is none in the entire universe who can share any authority with Allah (81:14-15). You are answerable to Allah for everything and only He will tell you the result of what you have done.
(9) We will admit all those people, who believe in divine laws without ascribing any partner to them and who do righteous deeds, to the category of those whose human abilities have been fully developed.
(10) Yet, there is another group which verbally professes that they believe in God but if they face suffering during the course of establishing the divine order, they consider persecution at the hands of opponents to be a chastisement from Allah. However, when they are victorious and successful (due to your Rabb) they say, “Behold! We have always been with you, in heart and soul.” (However, people who talk in such a deceitful manner) Don’t they know that the Almighty is fully aware of what is hidden in the hearts of all the people?
(11) (And how long can they keep their deceit hidden?) The moment they are faced with a difficult situation, reality will come to the surface as to who the true believers and who the hypocrites are.
(12) Those who oppose the divine order, say to the Momineen, “If you follow our way of life, we shall undertake the full responsibility for your shortcomings or omissions.” They are liars, for they will never take the responsibility of such omissions upon themselves.
(13) (How can they shoulder the burden of others?) The situation is that they are bearing their own burden, as well as some burden of those whom they have misled (16:25). Let the Day of Judgment come and most certainly they will be asked to account for their false assertions which they had used to mislead people.
(14) (However, there is nothing strange in what they are saying. Consider the history of the struggle between good and evil, starting from the times long gone. Firstly, you will notice that) We sent forth Noah unto his people and his era lasted for a period of nine hundred and fifty years (followed by the period of Abraham).(1) (His people opposed him strongly and) The result was that the deluge overtook them as indeed they were the zalimeen.
(15) They all drowned and We saved Noah and his companions who had boarded the ark with him. In this episode there are signs regarding the truth of the Law of
Mukafat, for all nations of the world. (It tells about the fate of people who are committed to aggression and are rebellious.)
(16) Likewise (is the story of) Abraham. He said to his people, “Obey the divine laws, and save yourselves from the destructive effects of disobeying them. If you use your intellect and reason, you will realize that whatever I am calling you to is by far the best for you.
(17) “Leaving aside Allah, you worship idols. (What a disgrace it is for human dignity that anyone should take as god a statue carved by his own hands.) Furthermore, you concoct stories about them (and spread them among your followers). However, it is a fact that these idols which you take as your gods, besides Allah, are not at all in a position to provide sustenance to you. (Instead of asking these idols) Seek sustenance according to the divine laws and keep obeying them. And (when you get sustenance according to these laws) you should be grateful to Him (who has saved you from the disgrace which befalls anyone who prostrates himself before idols).
“Remember that the results of all human actions are produced only according to the divine laws. Nothing in the universe is outside their control and every step of yours takes you towards Him; and you are answerable only to Him.
(18) “If you belie me, it is not because whatever you say or do is based on wisdom and that whatever I say is wrong! In fact you are doing it merely because you are following your ancestors. That is, because the nations before you had adopted this attitude, and you follow them as well. But I cannot be afraid of your opposition to me and give up my mission to convey the truth to you. It is the very duty of a rasool to clearly convey the divine laws to the people.
(19) “(I am only saying that complete authority and power rests with the Almighty and nobody else. Leaving aside the path of ancestors) If you ponder rationally, you will realize how Allah initiates the creation of anything (imagine its earliest form) and how, by passing it through various evolutionary stages, He brings it forth (until such time it reaches its destined form). All this happens so easily according to the divine laws”.
(20) (Then We asked Abraham to) Tell these people (if they still do not agree with you) to go out and see the world themselves and see how the creation of various things initially takes place; and then how (according to Allah’s Law of Rabubiyya) they take new and different life forms. All this happens according to set measures established by Allah.
(21) (This very law of development also governs human life. The difference is that all other things in the universe have no choice, whereas man is given full discretion. He is free to choose either the constructive way, or the one leading to destruction.) Therefore, whoever wants to develop his abilities, can do so by following the divine laws. As for the one who does not wish to do so and adopts an erroneous way of life, his abilities are wasted and he thus deprives himself of all the pleasant things of life.
All this happens according to divine Law of Mukafat, towards which you revert anyway. There is no escape from it.
(22) You can neither escape the divine laws, nor can you defeat these laws anywhere in the universe. You have none except Him who can protect you or bring any succour to you.
(23) These people who neither believe in Our law of development, nor expect they would ever face Our Law of Mukafat (and keep on doing whatever they like), are the ones who will be deprived of all the means of development. These can only be obtained by following the way of life ordained by Us. The resultant effect of such an attitude is that all their abilities are destroyed and grievous suffering is their end.
(24) (Abraham painstakingly explained all this to his nation but) The only reaction from his people was a call to arrest him, kill him or burn him alive.
(Such is normally the reply to wisdom and rationale from people who are intoxicated with power and) This was not an empty threat from them. They actually wanted to carry it out but We kept (Abraham) safe from the fire of their revenge (21:68, 37:96-97). In this episode too there are lessons for those who have faith in the truth of Our law.
(25) Abraham also told them, “You have chosen to worship idols instead of Allah, not because you actually consider them as your deities, for in reality you know the facts. In spite of all this, the only reason you keep on clinging to them is because this attitude of reverence unites your nation. This is the only bond between your people, and your worldly benefits are due to this bond.
But when the results of your erroneous way of life will confront you, you will oppose one another and this unity will break. At that time, you will have none to succour you; and far worse than the fire in which you wanted to throw me, will be the fire which will destroy you completely.”
(26) (In spite of Abraham’s warnings, it was only Lot who believed him. At that time Abraham had not been bestowed with nabuwwa.) When Abraham was fully convinced that these people were not going to listen to him, he moved aside and left them saying, “I am going in search of that
place where circumstances are favourable for the establishment of the divine order ordained by my Rabb. He alone is Almighty and truly wise.” (If the circumstances here are not conducive to my supremacy, logic tells me to move to another place which is better suited. My mission is to establish the divine order. If this piece of land is not suitable, let me find another – 37:99.)
(27) (Consequently, he left his people and went to a place where he established a divine order as per Allah’s laws. There) We bestowed upon him (a son) Isaac and (a grandson) Jacob, and assured him of the continuance of nabuwwa and authority in his progeny (4:54).
And thus We rewarded him for his efforts in this world; and in the life hereafter he is counted among the righteous ones. In this way, both his present and future became pleasant.
(28) Likewise is the story of Lot who (after nabuwwa was bestowed on him) told his people, “Verily you commit abomination of the kind that has never been committed before in the world.
(29) “Such is your condition that you go to men [for sexual satisfaction, and not to women (7:80-81)]. In this way, you cut across the way (which nature has provided for procreation(2)). Moreover, you commit these shameful acts in your (open) assemblies.”
His nation had no reply to his admonitions, except to say, “If you are telling the truth that due to these actions of ours we will be punished, then bring that punishment upon us.”
(30) Thereafter, Lot prayed to his Rabb, “O my Rabb! Help me against these people, who are mufsideen.”
(31) (Another link of this episode is when) Our messengers came to Abraham with the glad tiding (of the birth of his son),
they also told him, “Behold! We are about to destroy Lot’s city as the people have become extremely wicked (zalimeen).”
(32) (Abraham exclaimed) “But Lot also lives there!” (Will you also destroy him along with the other inhabitants?) They answered, “We know full well who lives there. We shall certainly save him and his companions by taking them away, except for his wife, as she indeed is with the rebellious ones.”
(33) When Our messengers came to Lot, he was worried, considering the bad habits of his nation, about the treatment they could be given). But they said, “Have no fear or grief. We shall certainly save you and your followers by taking you away, except for your wife as she will indeed be among those who stay behind.
(34) “Verily, we shall bring down upon the people of this land, a horror from the skies. (This will be according to Allah’s Law of Mukafat, for they are gravely on the wrong path.)”
(35) (This nation was destroyed.) Also in this episode, We have left clear signs of the working of Allah’s Law of Mukafat for people who use their wisdom and think.
(36) (And likewise) We sent Shuaib (Jethro), who was one of their brethren, to the people of Midian. Shuaib said to them, “O my people, obey the divine laws (and do not consider this worldly wealth, which you keep on collecting by fair and foul means) as the sole purpose of life. Also desire the pleasant things of life in the hereafter; and for that do not create economic chaos in the society.”
(37) But they belied him and thereupon an earthquake struck them (and they lay lifeless in their homes.)
(38) And the tribes of Aad and Thamud were also similarly destroyed. The tales of their destruction are clear from the remains of their habitations. Their rebellious attitude made their evil deeds look attractive to them and thus barred them from the straight path. They did not go astray out of ignorance, for they were very well endowed with the ability to perceive the truth. (The problem is that when human beings are overcome by emotions, their wisdom and the ability to think is cut off. It is only the limits set by wahi that control human emotions from going astray. Intellect alone cannot achieve this. There are many nations who are marching towards their destruction in spite of having reached the peaks of knowledge and wisdom; and they are taking the rest of the world with them. This is exactly the situation which needs wahi.)
(39) Likewise are the stories of Qaroon (Korah), Pharaoh and Haman (who were the symbols of capitalism, dictatorship and priesthood, respectively, all of which destroyed the very roots of human dignity.) We sent Moses with clear, visible and convincing laws towards them, but they did not give up the arrogance and oppression which they had so widely spread in their country. However, in spite of their wealth, might and hordes, they could not escape the grip of Our Law of Mukafat. It eventually caught up with them.
(40) The synopsis of all this is that because of their crimes, We took all these previous nations to task. Upon some We showered stones (from volcanoes); some were seized by an earthquake; some We buried under the earth and some We drowned in the sea. It was not Allah who committed any zulm on them but their own deeds brought on their destruction.
(41) (They possessed plenty of wealth and equipment, but their power and strength was used to suppress the weak instead of helping and protecting them.) The condition of those who seek protection under man-made laws, instead of laws ordained by Allah, is like that of a spider which makes a web for itself and then traps those weaker than itself in it. However, when someone stronger comes along, its house is the most fragile.
Alas! We wish they knew that the power of any person (nation) who accepts the supremacy of anything other than Allah and who spends his life according to self-made ideologies in lieu of divine laws is no stronger than that of a cobweb.
(42) Allah Almighty knows the worth of the other law or authority which all those people accept, as compared to His laws. (When there is a clash between the two, then Allah’s law prevails. At times this happens merely by use of power and sometimes due to wise planning, because He alone is Almighty and truly wise.)
(43) We propound these parables for the people, but only those who use their knowledge and wisdom can understand them.
(44) (The one who uses his knowledge and wisdom, can clearly understand the fact that) Allah has created the heavens and the earth as an absolute reality with a definite purpose (not just as a plaything without any objective – 3:189-191).
For people who trust this fact, there are clear signs for them to reach the correct way of life. (Given the fact that the creation of the universe is not without purpose, they can deduce how human life without purpose would be. The human caravan also has a destination, and life on earth is the first stage of a long journey – 45:22; 53:31).
(45) (There are sets of divine laws or laws of nature, which are prevalent in the outer world. Others are revealed through wahi, and these provide guidance to mankind.)
(O Rasool!) Convey to the people the laws which have been revealed to you through wahi, and establish the Nizam-us-Sala accordingly. This system will certainly stop people from collecting everything for themselves, and from not caring about the welfare of others. And to further this selfish purpose their intellect keeps on suggesting various strange and crafty ways to them (70:21-27).
This system of sala can only be established when the supreme authority in human society is vested in the divine laws. And Allah Almighty knows full well what your self-made laws and systems can do.
(46) A big hurdle towards establishing the system will be the followers of earlier revealed books. They believe that since they already possess the revealed book, there is no need to follow another code or system (even if the revealed book they have is not in its original form, having gone through a lot of change). It is therefore advisable not to indulge in any argument with them but to discuss these matters in a very polite and kindly manner. However, those who are bent on open defiance have to be treated differently. Tell them, “Whatever your anbiya received from God (and which is not with you in its original form – 2:79), is now all contained in the Qur’an, together with something more. Thus, when we profess belief in the Qur’an, we also believe in the wahi that was given to you. You should also do likewise and proclaim with us that the absolute truth, authority and obedience is only for the One who is your and our Allah; and that this revealed code is from Him. Therefore it is to Him that we submit.”
(47) In any case this is the manner in which We have revealed the book to you. (In other words it validates and subsumes the true teaching of previous books – 5:48, and since it is the last of Allah’s books, the divine guidance has been completed with necessary additions.) So if all those (people of the book) consider this fact seriously, they will believe its truth. Besides them, some of the mushrikeen of Arabia will also profess eiman on it. The fact is that whoever ponders on the Qur’an with an open mind, will accept its truth. Only those people who have already made up their minds not to accept it under any circumstances will deny it. They desire that the divine teachings should remain hidden (because with the spread of its teachings, their exploits and deceit would be exposed).
(48) (As for the proof that this book has been revealed to you from Allah and not devised by you, everyone knows that) Before the revelation of this Qur’an, you did not know how to read or write with your (own) right hand(3).
If you had known how to read and write before the revelation of the Qur’an, then those who consider it to be false, could have had a reason to suspect that you yourself compiled it. (The fact that an unlettered person has produced a literary masterpiece, the like of which cannot be produced by any of your scholars, writers or poets – 2:23 is enough proof that the source of this book is beyond human knowledge and intellect.)
(49) The aforementioned was external evidence regarding the divinity of this book. Its internal evidence is its teachings. Whenever people of intellect and wisdom reflect on it, they realize that these divine laws are very clear and convincing and they feel as if the Qur’an is saying something which is from their own hearts. Only those people who are unjust, rebellious and stubborn and want to stay in the darkness due to their ignorance, would reject it.
(50) These are the people who, instead of pondering over the realities of the Qur’an, insist on asking that if he really is Allah’s Rasool, then why he is not endowed with visible miracles? Tell them that there is no dearth of miracles with Allah. Every particle in the universe is a miracle in itself but, as has been explained earlier, the Qur’an is a code of life and my duty is to caution you, in no uncertain terms, about the results of following it and about what would happen if you defy it.
(51) Ask them, “Is it not enough that through you, the Almighty has revealed this code of life for them?” For the people who believe in its truth, the Qur’an will point to the sources of nourishment and rahma, and serve as a reminder to them about the direction they should take at every crucial cross-road of life.
(52) Tell them, “The tangible results of this divine code of life should be sufficient for them to decide between you and me (6:136). He knows what is happening in the universe and how by these activities positive results are produced for everything. Therefore, the people who reject the divine laws and consider their own way of life (which produces negative results) to be correct, shall soon see with their own eyes the destructive loss caused by their erroneous way of life.”
(53) After they have been told about this, they ask you to hasten the chastisement with which you threaten them. Had it not been for a period (of respite) set aside for the physical manifestation of the results of one’s deeds, the chastisement would certainly have come to them a long time back. It will certainly come after the period (of respite) and will overtake them so suddenly that they will be unable to perceive its source.
(54) Yes, they are in a hurry for the chastisement to come quickly. (If they only knew that) The chastisement (which they think to be a mere threat) has already engulfed them from all sides. (They are not hidden from it – 79:36, 82:16. That punishment will be the result of their own deeds, the results of which are being accrued all the time. The only difference is that they are hidden from view at present and will physically appear at the appropriate time, either in this life or in the life hereafter.)
(55) And when it appears to them in visible form, then it will engulf them from the top to the bottom (6:65). Allah Almighty will then tell them, “This is the result of your own deeds, so taste it (its fruit) now.”
(56) (That certainly will be their end. However, for the jama (group) which has to establish the divine order, the excuse that the opposite group was too strong for them will not suffice.) Tell them, “You trust the divine laws and have decided to lead a life according to them. Hence, if the circumstances here are not favourable, move to a place where you can find a conducive environment, because Allah’s earth is vast. The objective is not to stick to any particular place, but to live a life according to the divine laws, wherever possible; and to obey Him and no one else. Therefore go wherever it is possible to live such a life.”
(57) The worse that can ensue from this struggle is loss of life. In any case, who is going to live in this world forever? Every living being is moving towards death. Every living being has to die one day and has to be answerable before Us for their actions. So every step you take should lead you towards Our chosen destination. (Being answerable for one’s deeds means knowing that the consequences (of one’s actions) are being compiled as per God’s Law of Mukafat.)
(58) It is Our promise that We will get the group of Momineen who work according to our constructive suggested programme, out of a life of poverty and misery and bestow on them a life of comfort, dignity, grace and plenty. This life will never wane in its grandeur or freshness. They will stay evergreen (25:75).
See what an excellent reward We give to those who work for it.
(59) This refers to those who remain steadfast in the enforcement of the divine programme and have full trust in the firmness of the laws of their Rabb. (They have no doubt in their minds about what they would live on if they leave their homes in the cause of the divine system, or if they keep their hard earned income open for the nourishment of mankind.)
(60) (Tell those who have any such uncertainty to just look at the universe.) How many living beings are there (on the earth), which store their food or carry it on their backs? Every one of them gets its sustenance as per the universal divine law of nourishment (11:6). Accordingly, if you, too, establish a similar system in your society – and stop individual plunder or hoarding -, you will also get nourishment like this (6:152). This is because He hears all and is aware of everyone’s needs. No one is outside His view. (It is your own unjust system which has created such economic imbalances and disorders.)
(61) (But such is their state of mind that they accept the supremacy of divine laws in the outer universe, but want to keep human affairs outside its ambit. For instance) If you ask them about the creator of the heavens and the earth and about the maker of the laws to which the sun and the moon have been made subservient, they will agree that Allah is responsible for all this.
However, ask them why they do not establish human society according to the divine laws and they start vacillating on reaching this point (21:20-22, 23:84-88, 31:25, 43:9).
(62) (Remember! Just as the divine law is functioning in the outer universe, it is similarly doing so in the human world.) His law prevails whether it grants abundance of nourishment, or lack of it. Therefore any person (or nation) who wants abundance of nourishment has to work according to His laws; and the one who wants to deprive himself of nourishment, can leave this law and his sustenance will be restricted. Allah has full knowledge of everything. (This universe is not being run indiscriminately, but is controlled according to Allah’s laws and discipline.)
(63) As an example, just ask them “Who sends down water from the clouds, thereby giving new life to the dead earth?” They will surely reply that it is Allah who does this and does it most perfectly.
Ask them, “When you acknowledge that wherever the divine law of Rabubiyya is in force, it receives appreciation and praise from all around, then why don’t you introduce the same law in your own society?” At this point their selfish passions will overpower their analytical mind and they will not use their intellect and reason.
(64) Although, if they were to use their intellect and wisdom, it would become amply clear to them that if life means breathing only, and that its stoppage would put an end to life, then there would be no high ideal or objective before man. As such, living would mean only the satisfaction of physical desires and be nothing but a passing delight or a play.
If they analyze logically they will realize that real life means ‘living at a human level’. Life at a human level goes on even beyond death. (Life that ends with death is that of the ‘animal level’; which is the physical body of the human being.)
(65) When the objective of life is reduced only to nourishment and preservation of the human body, then a person does not have any higher goal for which he has to observe permanent values and follow established laws. His condition is like that of someone who, when in danger, is ready to accept any condition whatsoever; and when he is out of danger forgets everything and reverts to his previous way of life. To appreciate this scenario, just visualize a boat: when people on board are surrounded by a storm, they cry out to the Almighty in utmost sincerity as if all their obedience and submission are exclusively for Him; but when they are out of danger and safely back on shore, they again start ascribing a share to other powers besides Allah.
(66) All this is because they want to keep hidden whatever means of nourishment We have vouchsafed them, and to restrict them for their own use, without allowing anyone else to have a share in it. (This is not possible when you obey the divine laws only.)
Very soon they will come to know the result of such an attitude.
(67) (If they want to see how peacefully people live in places where Our laws are respected, even in the worst of times, then) Take the example of the vicinity of the Ka’bah. Anyone who reaches there finds the place to be safe and secure, while all around such lawlessness prevails that men are being carried away in broad daylight.
Ask them whether they still want to continue following their own false and vain lifestyle, despite such a sound and visible example? Such a lifestyle will result in nothing but destruction, as opposed to the pleasant things which would accrue by following Our laws.
(68) After explaining all this, ask them, “Who else can be more rebellious and wicked than the one who attributes his own fabrications to Allah; or who belies the truth when it is revealed unto him? Don’t you believe that the final abode of those who deny the truth would be the place where all their life’s achievements will be destroyed and burnt to ashes?”
(69) On the other hand, the results of the efforts of those who strive hard for the attainment of the objective which We have earmarked for them, will be that new avenues of life will open for them. Each avenue will lead them to the straight path and thus all their efforts will be directed towards the programme determined by Us.
Remember, that all people who live a balanced and disciplined life according to the divine laws are provided help and assistance from Allah.
(1) This can also mean that his age was two hundred years. (The word sana is also used for the four parts of the year.) This would mean that thousand parts would amount to two hundred and fifty years. If you remove fifty years, it would leave two hundred years. It could also mean that his age was two hundred and fifty years out of which the first fifty years (prior to nabuwwat) were the period of rest. After that, the period of difficulties started. However, these are all conjectures. The true, plausible meaning of the verse will be clear one day, when historical research will become conclusive.
(2) qata’as-sabeel literally, ‘cutting the path,’ is also used in the sense of ‘highway robbery.
(3) This shows that after the revelation, Rasoolullah did learn to read and write.
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