Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Qalam 68:11-20

68:11 [Or to] the slanderer that goes about with defaming tales. 

Explanation

i.e., by bestowing on them affluence out of all proportion to their moral deserts.

68:12 [Or] the withholder of good, [or] the sinful aggressor.

Explanation

i.e., they resolved upon their objective without the reservation, “if God so wills”; which points to the first lesson to be derived from this parable, as well as to its connection with the rhetorical question in verses 14-15 above.

68:13 [Or] one who is cruel, by greed, possessed, and, in addition to all this, utterly useless [to his fellow-men].

Explanation

Ever since Biblical times, it has been understood that the poor have a right to a share in the harvest of the fields and gardens owned by their more fortunate fellow-men (cf. 6:141 – “give [unto the poor] their due on harvest-day”). The determination of the “owners of the garden” to deprive the poor of this right is the second type of sin to which the above parable points: and inasmuch as it is a social sin, it connects with verses 10-13.

68:14 Is it because he is possessed of worldly goods and children. 

Explanation

This is obviously a reference to their failure to realize that nothing can come about unless the Almighty so wills (verse 18).

68:15 That, whenever Our messages are conveyed to him, such a one says, “Fables of ancient times”?

Explanation

Namely, His forgiveness.

68:16 [For this] We shall brand him with indelible disgrace!

Explanation

This connects with the first clause of verse 17 above, which, in its turn, contains an allusion to the mentality spoken of in verses 14-15.

68:17 [As for such sinners] Behold, We [but] try them as We tried the owners of a certain garden who vowed that they would surely harvest its fruit on the morrow.

Explanation

This is the earliest occurrence of the term muslimun (sing. muslim) in the history of Qur’anic revelation. Throughout this work, I have translated the terms Muslim and Islam in accordance with their original connotations, namely, “one who surrenders [or “has surrendered”] himself to God”, and “man’s self-surrender to God”; the same holds good of all forms of the verb aslama occurring in the ‘Qur’an. It should be borne in mind that the “institutionalized” use of these terms – that is, their exclusive application to the followers of the Prophet Muhammad – represents a definitely post-Qur’anic development and, hence, must be avoided in a translation.

68:18 And made no allowance [for the will of God].

Explanation

Sc., “O you sinners”.

68:19 Whereupon a visitation for thy Sustainer came upon that [garden] while they were asleep. 

Explanation

Lit., “so that in it you [may] have all that you choose [to have]” – i.e., a moral justification of the claim that whatever is considered “expedient”.

68:20 So that by the morrow it became barren and bleak.

Explanation

Lit., “Or have they any associates?” – i.e., wise people (‘uqala) who would share their views and their way of life (Zamakhshari and Razi). Accordingly, the expression shuraka’uhum in the next sentence has been rendered as “those supporters of theirs”.

President

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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