Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Nahl: 16:1-10

In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.

16:1 GOD’S JUDGMENT is [bound to] come: do not, therefore, call for its speedy advent! Limitless is He in His glory and sublimely exalted above anything to which men may ascribe a share in His divinity!


Regarding this allusion to the incredulous inquiry of the unbelievers, see 6:57-58, 8:32 and 10:50-51, as well as the corresponding notes.

16:2 He causes the angels to descend with this divine inspiration, [bestowed] at His behest upon whomever He wills of His servants: “Warn [all human beings] that there is no deity save Me: be, therefore, conscious of Me!”


The term ruh (lit., “spirit”, “soul” or “breath of life”) is often used in the Qur’an in the sense of “inspiration” – and, more particularly, “divine inspiration” – since, as Zamakhshari points out in connection with the above verse as well as with the first sentence of 42:52, “it gives life to hearts that were [as] dead in their ignorance, and has in religion the same function as a soul has in a body”. A very similar explanation is given by Razi in the same context. The earliest instance in which the term ruh has been used in this particular sense is 97:4.

16:3 He has created the heavens and the earth in accordance with [an inner] truth; sublimely exalted is He above anything to which men may ascribe a share in His divinity!


i.e., in accordance with a meaning and a purpose known only to Him. See also 10:5 and, in particular, the corresponding note 11.

16:4 He creates man out of a [mere] drop of sperm: and lo! this same being shows himself endowed with the power to think and to argue!


This repetition of part of verse 1 is meant to stress the uniqueness of God’s creative powers.

16:5 And He creates cattle: you derive warmth from them, and [various other] uses, and from them you obtain food. 


Lit., “he becomes an open contender in argument (khasim)”. According to Zamakhshari and Razi, the above phrase is liable to two interpretations:’ In the words of Zamakhshari, “one interpretation is that after having been a (mere] drop of sperm, a particle of matter without consciousness or motion, man becomes highly articulate (mintiq); able to argue on his own [for or against a proposition], courageously facing – disputes, and clearly formulating his arguments: [and herein lies] an indication of God’s creative power. The other – [interpretation] is that man is [prone to become] a contender in ‘argument against his Sustainer, refusing to acknowledge his [very] Creator.” Razi, on his part, gives his. unqualified. support to the first of these two interpretations, “because the above verses are meant to stress the evidence of the existence of a wise Creator, and not the fact of men’s insolence and their proneness to blasphemy and ingratitude”. However, in view of 36:77-78 (‘revealed at a considerably earlier period), I am of the opinion that the above two interpretations are not mutually exclusive but, rather, complementary, inasmuch as this passage is meant to bring out man’s unique quality as a rational being – a quality that may lead him to great heights of achievement, but may equally well lead him utterly astray: hence my free rendering of this profound elliptic phrase.

16:6 And you find beauty in them when you drive them home in the evenings and when you take them out to pasture in the mornings.


The use, in this context, of the aorist yakhluqu implies the future tense (“He will create”) in contrast with the past tense khalaqa employed, in the preceding passages. Since this reference to God’s continuing creation comes immediately after, a mention of primitive means of transport (i.e., of animals domesticated by man to this end), it-obviously relates to other – as yet unknown – things of the same category: that is to say, to new means of transport which God unceasingly creates through the instrumentality of the inventiveness with which He has endowed man’s mind (cf. 36:42). Inasmuch as every successive stage of human development bears witness to new, previously undreamt-of inventions in the realm of transport, the Qur’anic statement that “He will yet create things of which [today] you have no knowledge” is valid for every period – past, present and future – of man’s history.

16:7 And they carry your loads to [many] a place which [otherwise] you would be unable to reach without great hardship to yourselves. Verily, your Sustainer is most compassionate, a dispenser of grace!


Lit., “upon God rests the [showing of the] goal of the path” – i.e., the establishing of the goals of ethics and morality implied in the concept of the “right path”. In further analysis of this phrase, the expression “it rests upon God” (‘ala ‘llah) is similar in intent to the statement in 6:12 and 54 that He “has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy”: in other words, God invariably shows the right path to everyone who is willing to follow it.

16:8 And (it is He who creates] horses and mules and asses for you to ride, as well as for [their] beauty: and He will yet create things of which [today] you have no knowledge. 


Since the concept of morality is linked with man’s God-given freedom of choice between good and evil, God does not “impose” His guidance upon man but leaves it to him to accept or reject it.

16:9 And [because He is your Creator,] it rests with God alone to show you the right path: yet there is [many a one] who swerves from it. However, had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright.


See 14:33 and the corresponding note 46.

16:10 It is He who sends down water from the skies; you drink thereof, and thereof [drink] the plants upon which you pasture your beasts.


Lit., “thou seest”.


The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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