Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Nahl: 16:21-30

16:21 they are dead, not living, and they do not [even] know when they will be raised from the dead!


This is obviously a metaphor (Razi) describing the utter collapse of all endeavors – both individual and social – rooted in godlessness and false pride.

16:22 Your God is the One God: but because of their false pride, the hearts of those who do not believe in the life to come to refuse to admit this [truth].


i.e., finally and utterly – for, “only on the Day of Resurrection will you be requited in full for whatever you have done” (3:185). Since the pronoun “them” refers not only to the earlier sinners mentioned parenthetically in the preceding verse but also to those spoken of in verses 22-25, I have interpolated the word “all”.

16:23 Truly, God knows all that they keep secret as well as all that they bring into the open – [and] behold, He does not love those who are given to arrogance.


Lit., “those [alleged] partners of Mine”. Regarding the Qur’anic use of the term sharik (pl. shuraka’) in connection with religious beliefs, see surah 6, note 15.

16:24 and [who], whenever they are asked, “What is it that your Sustainer has bestowed from on high?” – are wont to answer, “Fables of ancient times!”


Or: “you were wont to contend [against My guidance]”. See in this connection surah 8, note 16.

16:25 Hence, on Resurrection Day they shall bear the full weight of their own burdens, as well as some of the burdens of those ignorant ones whom they have led astray: oh, how evil the load with which they shall be burdened!


i.e., those who had availed themselves of the knowledge of good and evil which God offers to mankind through His prophets.

16:26 Those who lived before them did, too, devise many a blasphemy- whereupon God visited with destruction all that they had ever built, [striking] at its very foundations so that the roof fell in upon them from above and suffering befell them without their having perceived whence it came.


Cf. 6:23 and the corresponding note, as well as 2:11

16:27 And then, on Resurrection Day, He will cover them [all] with ignominy, and will say: “Where, now, are those beings to whom you ascribed a share in My divinity, [and] for whose sake you cut yourselves off [from My guidance]?” [Whereupon] those who [in their lifetime] were endowed with knowledge will say: “Verily, ignominy and misery [have fallen] this day upon those who have been denying the truth-


Sc., “and He will judge you on the basis of your motivation” – implying that their plea of ignorance is rejected in view of the fact that they were offered God’s guidance through His revealed messages, which they deliberately scorned in their false pride and dismissed out of hand as “fables of ancient times” (see verses 22-24 above).

16:28 Those whom the angels have gathered in death while they were still sinning against themselves!” Then will they [who are thus arraigned] proffer their submission, [saying:] “We did not [mean to] do any evil!” [But they will be answered:] “Yea, verily, God has full knowledge of all that you were doing!


This “good fortune” (hasanah) does not necessarily signify, in this context, material benefits but refers, rather, to the spiritual satisfaction and the feeling of inner security resulting from genuine God-consciousness.

16:29 Hence, enter the gates of hell, therein to abide!” And evil, indeed, shall be the state of all who are given to false pride!


Lit., “for the angels to come to them, or for God’s judgment (amr) to come”- i.e., for the Day of Resurrection. The full meaning of this passage is forthcoming from 6:158, revealed at the same period as the present surah.

16:30 But [when] those who are conscious of God are asked, “What is it that your Sustainer has bestowed from on high?” – they answer, “Goodness supreme!” Good fortune awaits, in this world, all who persevere in doing good; but their ultimate state will be far better still: for, how excellent indeed will be the state of the God-conscious [in the life to come]!


See 6:10 and the corresponding note. Similar phrases occur in many places in the Qur’an, always with reference to the derision of divine messages and, particularly, of predictions relating to God’s chastisement of reprobate sinners. As so often, the Qur’an points out here that this “chastisement” or “suffering” (‘adhab) is but a natural, unavoidable consequence of deliberate wrongdoing: hence, he who becomes guilty of it is, in reality, “doing wrong to himself” or “sinning against himself” inasmuch as he destroys his own spiritual integrity and must subsequently suffer for it.


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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