Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Nahl: 16:101-110

16:101 And now that We replace one message with another – since God is fully aware of what He bestows from on high, step by step – they [who deny the truth] are wont to say, “Thou but inventest it!” Nay, but most of them do not understand it!


According to Zamakhshari, their being “refused permission” to plead is a metonym for their having no valid argument or excuse to proffer. (Cf. also 77:35-36.)

16:102 Say: “Holy inspiration has brought it down from thy Sustainer by stages, setting forth the truth, so that it might give firmness unto those who have attained to faith, and provide guidance and a glad tiding unto all who have surrendered themselves to God.”


Cf. 6:22 and the corresponding note 15.

16:103 And, indeed, full well do We know that they say, “It is but a human being that imparts [all] this to him!” – [notwithstanding that] the tongue of him to whom they so maliciously point is wholly outlandish, whereas this is Arabic speech, clear [in itself] and clearly showing the truth [of its source].


The Qur’an states in many places that every sinner who dies without repentance will be endowed on Judgment Day with a clear, objectified vision of his sins, every one of which will have assumed for him the status of an independent reality bearing witness against him and forcing him to acknowledge his now irremediable guilt. It is to be remembered in this connection that the Qur’an describes every act of sinning – whether it be an offense against the concept of God’s oneness and uniqueness or a wrong done to any of His creatures – as, primarily, one’s “wronging oneself” or “sinning against oneself”.

16:104 Verily, as for those who will not believe in God’s messages, God does not guide them aright; and grievous suffering will be their lot [in the life to come].


Cf. 6:23-24 and the corresponding notes 16 and 17.

16:105 It is but they who will not believe in God’s messages that invent this falsehood; and it is they, they who are lying!


See note 100 above.

16:106 As for anyone who denies God after having once attained to faith – and this, to be sure, does not apply to one who does it under duress, the while his heart remains true to his faith, but [only, to] him who willingly opens up his heart to a denial of the truth -: upon all such [falls] God’s condemnation, and tremendous suffering awaits them. 


Although the Arabian contemporaries of the Prophet were, naturally, the first to whom his revelation was conveyed – a fact that gave particular weight to the manner in which they responded to it – the Qur’anic message as such is addressed to all mankind (see in this connection, in particular, 7:158 and 21:107, as well as the corresponding notes).

16:107 All this, because they hold this world’s life in greater esteem than the life to come, and because God does not bestow His guidance upon people who deny the truth.


i.e., everything that pertains to the knowledge of good and evil, in both the individual and social senses of these terms. – Regarding my rendering of nazzalna, it should be borne in mind that this particular grammatical form is often used in the Qur’an to bring out the fact that it was revealed gradually (“step by step”) over a considerable period of time, and not in one piece.

16:108 They whose hearts and whose hearing and whose sight God has sealed – it is they, they who are heedless! 


Lit., “the giving to [one’s] kinsfolk (dhu ‘l-qurba)”. The latter term usually denotes “relatives”, either by blood or by marriage; but since it occurs here in the context of a comprehensive ethical exhortation, it obviously alludes to man’s “kinsfolk” in the widest sense of the term, namely, to his “fellow-men”.

16:109 Truly it is they, they who in the life to come shall be the losers!


The term al-munkar (rendered by me in other places as “that which is wrong”) has here its original meaning of “that which the mind [or the moral sense] rejects”, respectively “ought to reject”. Zamakshari is more specific and explains this term as signifying in the above context “that which [men’s] intellects disown” or “declare to be untrue” (ma tunkiruhu al-‘uqul): in other words, all that runs counter to reason and good sense (which, obviously, must not be confused with that which is beyond man’s comprehension). This eminently convincing explanation relates not merely to intellectually unacceptable propositions (in the abstract sense of the term) but also to grossly unreasonable and, therefore, reprehensible actions or attitudes and is, thus, fully in tune with the rational approach of the Qur’an to questions of ethics as well as with its insistence on reasonableness and moderation in man’s behavior. Hence my rendering – of al-munkar, in this and in similar instances, as “all that runs counter to reason”.

16:110 And yet, behold, thy Sustainer [grants His forgiveness] unto those who forsake the domain of evil after having succumbed to its temptation, and who thenceforth strive hard [in God’s cause] and are patient in adversity: behold, after such [repentance] thy Sustainer is indeed much forgiving, a dispenser of grace!


Regarding the expression “bond with God” (‘ahd Allah), see surah 2, note 19. The clause “whenever you bind yourselves by a pledge” has a twofold meaning: in the first instance (as in 13:20) it refers to the spiritual, moral, and social obligations arising from one’s faith in God; and, secondly, it applies to all pledges or promises given by one person to another – for, as Razi points out, every pledge given by a man to man represents, in its essence, a pledge to God. It is to this second aspect of man’s “bond with God” that the sequence refers.


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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