Chapter Scripts

Surah Ghafir 40:31-40

40:31 The like of what happened to Noah’s people, and to [the tribes of] ‘Ad and Thamud and those who came after them! And, withal, God does not will any wrong for His creatures.


i.e., of which they had been warned, day-in and day-out, by prophets and believers like the one spoken of in this passage.

40:32 “And, O my people, I fear for you [the coming of] that Day of [Judgment – the Day when you will be] calling unto one another [in distress].


Cf. 14: 21 and the corresponding notes 28 and 29.

40:33 The Day when you will [wish to] turn your backs and flee, having none to defend you against God, for he whom God lets go astray can never find any guide.


i.e., the angelic forces that are to watch over the suffering of the sinners in the hereafter: perhaps an allegory of the belated awakening of the latters’ conscience.

40:34 “And [remember] it was to you that Joseph came aforetime with all evidence of the truth, but you never ceased to throw doubt on all [the messages] that he brought you – so much so that when he died, you said, ‘Never will God send any apostle [even] after him!’ “In this way, God lets go astray such as waste their own selves by throwing suspicion [on His revelations]. 


According to the classical commentators, this answer implies no more than a refusal on the part of the “keepers of hell” to intercede for the doomed sinners, telling them, as it were, “Pray yourselves if you can.” It seems to me, however, that we have here an indirect allusion to the sinners erstwhile, blasphemous devotion to false objects of worship and false values the meaning being, “Pray now to those imaginary powers to which you were wont to ascribe a share in God’s divinity, and see whether they can help you!” This interpretation finds support in the next sentence, which speaks of the delusion (dalal) inherent in the prayers of “those who deny the truth”, i.e., during their life on earth – for, obviously, on the Day of Judgment all such delusions will have disappeared.

40:35 Such as would call God’s messages in question without having any evidence therefore, [a sin] exceedingly loathsome in the sight of God and of those who have attained to faith. It is in this way that God sets a seal on every arrogant, self-exalting heart.”


See note 71 on 39:69.

40:36 But Pharaoh said “O Haman! Build me a lofty tower, that haply I may attain to the [right] means.


Lit., “the evil of the [otherworldly] abode”. As regards the term 1a~nah, its primary significance is “estrangement” or “rejection”; in Qur’anic terminology, it denotes “rejection from all that is good” (Lisan al-‘Arab) and, specifically, “estrangement from God’s grace” (Zamakhshari).

40:37 The means of approach to the heavens – and that [thus] I may have a look at the god of Moses, for, behold, I am indeed certain that he is a liar!” And thus, goodly seemed unto Pharaoh the evil of his own doings, and so he was barred from the path [of truth] and Pharaoh’s guile did not lead to aught but ruin.


Sc., “and thus, too, have We bestowed Our revelation upon Muhammad”. This connects with the opening words of verse 51, “We shall indeed succor Our apostles and those who have attained to faith”, thus explaining the purport of the preceding story of the believer who stood up for Moses. The reference to “those [of the children of Israel] who were endowed with insight” and therefore could benefit from the message of Moses, is undoubtedly meant to remind the followers of the Qur’an that this divine writ, too, is for “those who are endowed with insight” (ulu ‘l-albab), for “people who think” (qawm yatafakkarun), and “people who use their reason” (qawm ya’qilun).

40:38 Still, the man who had attained to faith went on. “O my people! Follow me, I shall guide you onto the path of rectitude!


According to all classical commentators, the above passage is addressed in the first instance to the Prophet and, through him, to every believer. As regards the Prophet himself, see note 41 on the last sentence of 24:31.

40:39 O my people! This worldly life is but a brief enjoyment, whereas, behold, the life to come is the home abiding.


See note 25 above.

40:40 [There] anyone who has done a bad deed will be required with no more than the like thereof, whereas anyone, be it man or woman, who has done righteous deeds and is a believer withal – all such will enter paradise, wherein they shall be blest with good beyond all reckoning!


Lit., “which they will never [be able to] reach” or “fulfill”. This is a reference to the conceit which makes many agnostics think that man is “self-sufficient” and that, therefore, there are no limits to what he may yet achieve, and no need to assume that he is responsible to a Higher Power. Cf. in this connection 96:6-7, which is one of the earliest Qur’anic revelations: “Nay, verily, man becomes grossly overweening whenever he believes himself to be self-sufficient.” And since this “self-sufficiency” is entirely illusory, those who build their world-view on it “will never be able to satisfy their overweening conceit”. (Cf. also the reference to “arrogant, self-exalting hearts” in verse 35 above).


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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