Chapter Scripts

Surah An-Najm 53:31-40

53:31 Indeed, unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, and so He will reward those who do evil in accordance with what they did, and will reward those who do good with ultimate good.


This basic ethical law appears in the Qur’an five times – in 6:164, 17:15, 35:18, 39:7, as well as in the above instance, which is the oldest in the chronology of revelation. Its implication is threefold: firstly, it expresses a categorical rejection of the Christian doctrine of the “original sin” with which every human being is allegedly burdened from birth; secondly, it refutes the idea that a person’s sins could be “atoned for” by a saint’s or a prophet’s redemptive sacrifice (as evidenced, for instance, in the Christian doctrine of Jesus’ vicarious atonement for mankind’s sinfulness, or in the earlier, Persian doctrine of man’s vicarious redemption by Mithras); and, thirdly, it denies, by implication, the possibility of any “mediation” between the sinner and God.

53:32 As for those who avoid the [truly] grave sins and shameful deeds even though they may sometimes stumble – behold, thy Sustainer is abounding in forgiveness. He is fully aware of you when He brings you into being out of the dust, and when you are still hidden in your mothers’ wombs: do not, then, consider yourselves pure – [for] He knows best as to who is conscious of Him.


Cf. the basic, extremely well-authenticated saying of the Prophet, “Actions will be [judged] only according to the conscious intentions [which prompted them]; and unto everyone will be accounted only what he consciously intended”, i.e., while doing whatever he did. This Tradition is quoted by Bukhari in seven places the first one as a kind of introduction to his Sahi~ – as well as by Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abn Da’ud, Nasa’i (in four places), Ibn Majah, Ibn Hanbal, and several other compilations. In this connection, it is to be noted that in the ethics of the Qur’an, the term “action” (‘amal) comprises also a deliberate omission of actions, whether good or bad, as well as a deliberate voicing of beliefs, both righteous and sinful: in short, everything that man consciously aims at and expresses by word or deed.

53:33 Hast Thou, then, ever considered him who turns away [from remembering Us and cares for no more than the life of this world]. 


Lit., “his striving will be seen”, i.e., on the Day of Judgment, when – as the Qur’an states in many places – God “will make you [truly] understand all that you were doing [in life]”.

53:34 And gives so little [of himself for the good of his soul], and so grudgingly?


Lit., “the utmost limit” or “goal”, circumscribing the beginning and the end of the universe both in time and in space, as well as the source from which everything proceeds and to which everything must return.

53:35 Does he [claim to] have knowledge of something that is beyond the reach of human perception, so that he can see [it clearly]?


Lit., “that upon Him rests the other [or “second”] coming to life (nash’ah)”, i.e., resurrection.

53:36 Or has he never yet been told of what was [said) in the revelations of Moses. 


Lit., “who is the Sustainer of Sirius (ash-shi’ra)”, a star of the first magnitude, belonging to the constellation Canis Major. Because it is the brightest star in the heavens, it was widely worshipped in pre-Islamic Arabia. Idiomatically, the phrase rabb ash-shi’ra is used as a metonym for the Creator and Upholder of the universe.

53:37 And of Abraham, who to his trust was true.


For the story of the tribe of ‘Ad, see the second half of note 48 on 7:65; for that of the Thamud, note 56 on 7:73.

53:38 That no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden.


Lit., “so that there covered them that which covered”: a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities of “Lot’s people” (see, in particular, 11:77-83).

53:39 And that naught shall be accounted unto man but what he is striving for.


This rhetorical question is evidently addressed to the type of man spoken of in verses 33-35. – For the reason of my rendering of ala’ (ht., “blessings” or “bounties”) as “powers”, see the second half of note 4 on 55:13.

53:40 And that in time [the nature of] all his striving will be shown [to him in its true light].

Lit., “a warning of [or “from among”] the warnings of old” – implying that the revelation granted to Muhammad does not aim at establishing a “new” religion but, on the contrary, continues and confirms the basic message entrusted to the earlier prophets – in this particular instance alluding to the certainty of the coming of the Last Hour and of God’s ultimate judgment.


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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