In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.
30:1 Alif Lam Mim.
See Appendix II.
30:2 Defeated have been the Byzantines.
Lit., “before and after”. The defeats and victories spoken of above relate to the last phases of the centuries-long struggle between the Byzantine and Persian Empires. During the early years of the seventh century, the Persians conquered parts of Syria and Anatolia, “the lands close-by”, i.e., near the heartland of the Byzantine Empire; in 613 they took Damascus, and in 614, Jerusalem; Egypt fell to them in 615-16, and at the same time they laid siege to Constantinople itself. At the time of the revelation of this surah – about the seventh year before the hijrah, corresponding to 615 or 616 of the Christian era – the total destruction of the Byzantine Empire seemed imminent. The few Muslims around the Prophet were despondent on hearing the news of the utter discomfiture of the Byzantines, who were Christians and, as such, believed in the One God. The pagan Quraysh, on the other hand, sympathized with Persians who, they thought, would vindicate their own opposition to the One-God idea. When Muhammad enunciated the above Qur’an verses predicting a Byzantine victory “within a few years”, this prophecy was received with derision by the Quraysh. Now the term bid’ (commonly rendered as “a few”) denotes any number between three and ten; and, as it happened, in 622 – i.e., six or seven years after the Qur’anic prediction – the tide turned in favor of the Byzantines. In that year, Emperor Heraclius succeeded in defeating the Persians at Issus, south of the Taurus Mountains, and subsequently drove them out of Asia Minor. By 624, he carried the war into Persian territory and thus put the enemy on the defensive; and at the beginning of December, 626, the Persian armies were completely routed by the Byzantines.
30:3 In the lands close-by, yet it is they who, notwithstanding this their defeat, shall be victorious.
This is a prediction of the battle of Badr, which was to take place eight or nine years later, in the month of Ramadan, 2 H. (corresponding to January, 624, of the Christian era), when the Muslims decisively defeated a very much superior force of pagan Quraysh (see introductory note to surah 8). The expression ‘on that day” has in this context the meaning of “at the same time”, for although the battle of Badr began and ended on one day, the victories of Heraclius over the Persians took some years to materialize.
30:4 Within a few years [for with God rests all power of decision, first and last. And on that day will the believers [too, have cause to] rejoice.
The term al-akhirah circumscribes, in this context, both the inner reality of this world’s life and the ultimate reality of the hereafter.
30:5 In God’s succor, [for] He gives succor to whomever He wills, since He Alone is Almighty, a Dispenser of Grace.
Lit., “Have they never thought within themselves?”
30:6 [This is] God’s promise. Never does God fail to fulfill His promise – but most people know [it] not.
i.e., in contrast to God, who is eternal and unlimited, everything created is limited and subject to change and termination. As regards my rendering of illa bi’l-haqq (lit., “otherwise than with [or “in”] truth”) as “without [an inner] truth”, see note 11 on the second sentence of 10:5.
30:7 They know but the outer surface of this world’s life, whereas of the ultimate things they are utterly unaware.
Lit., “more”. The phrase can also be rendered as “peopled it [or “dwelt in it”] in great numbers”.
30:8 Have they never learned to think for themselves? God has not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them without [an inner] truth and a term set [by Him]: and yet, behold, there are many people who stubbornly deny the truth that they are destined to meet their Sustainer!
For this particular rendering of thumma, see surah 6, note 31.
30:9 Have they, then, never journeyed about the earth and beheld what happened in the end to those [deniers of the truth] who lived before their time? Greater were they in power than they are, and they left a stronger impact on the earth, and built it up even better7 than these [are doing]; and to them [too] came their apostles with all evidence of the truth: and so, [when they rejected the truth and thereupon perished,] it was not God who wronged them, but it was they who had wronged themselves.
i.e., He will bring him forth anew: cf. 10:4 and the corresponding note 8. (A more general formulation of the same statement is found in verse 27 of this surah).
30:10 And once again: evil is bound to be the end of those who do evil by giving the lie to God’s messages and deriding them.
Lit., “among their [God] partners” (see surah 6, note 15).