Chapter Scripts

Surah Saba: 34:41-54

34:41 They will answer “Limitless art Thou in Thy glory! Thou [alone] art close unto us, not they! Nay, [when they thought that they were worshipping us] they were but [blindly] worshipping forces concealed from their senses, most of them believed in them.”

Explanation

i.e., always. The term makr (lit., “a scheme” or “scheming”) has here the connotation of “devising false arguments” against something that is true: in this case, as is shown in the first paragraph of verse 31 above, against God’s messages (cf. a similar use of this term in 10:21 and 35:43; see also 86: 15).

34:42 And [on that Day God will say] “None of you [created beings] has today any power to benefit or to harm another!” And [then] We shall say unto those who had been bent on evildoing “Taste [now] that suffering through fire which you were wont to call a lie!”

Explanation

Lit., “[that we should] give God compeers (andad)”. For an explanation of this phrase and my rendering of it, see surah 2, note 13.

34:43 For [thus it is] whenever Our messages are conveyed unto them in all their clarity, they [who are bent on denying the truth] say [to one another], “This [Muhammad] is nothing but a man who wants to turn you away from what your forefathers were wont to worship!” And they say, “This [Qur’an] is nothing but a falsehood invented [by man]!” And [finally] they who are bent on denying the truth speak thus of the truth when it comes to them “This is clearly nothing but spellbinding eloquence!”

Explanation

For a justification of this rendering of the phrase asarru ‘n-nadamah, see surah 10, note 77.

34:44 And yet, [O Muhammad] never have We vouchsafed them any revelations which they could quote, and neither have We sent unto them any warner before thee.

Explanation

As pointed out by several of the classical commentators (e.g., Zamakhshari, Razi, and Baydawi) in their explanations of similar phrases occurring in 13:5 and 36:8, the “shackles” (aghlal) which these sinners carry, as it were, “around their necks” in life, and will carry on Judgment Day, are a metaphor of the enslavement of their souls to the false values to which they had surrendered, and of the suffering which will be caused by that surrender.

34:45 Thus, too, gave the lie to the truth [many of] those who lived before them, and although those [earlier people] had not attained to even a tenth of [the evidence of the truth] which We have vouchsafed unto these [late successors of theirs], yet when they gave the lie to My apostles, how awesome was My rejection!

Explanation

The term mutraf denotes “one who indulges in the pursuit of pleasures”, i.e., to the exclusion of all moral considerations: cf. note 147 on 11:116.

34:46 Say “I counsel you one thing only, Be [everconscious of] standing before God, whether you are in the company of others or alone, and then bethink yourselves [that] there is no madness in [this prophet] your fellow-man, he is only a warner to you of suffering severe to come.”

Explanation

Implying, firstly, that the only thing that really counts in life is the enjoyment of material benefits; and, secondly, that a materially successful life is, by itself, evidence of one’s being “on the right way”.

34:47 Say “No reward have I ever asked of you (out of anything] that is yours: my reward rests with none but God, and He is witness unto everything!”

Explanation

Sc., “and foolishly regard riches and poverty as indications of God’s favor or disfavor”. Indirectly, this statement refutes the belief held by many people in the present as well as in the past that material prosperity is a justification of all human endeavors.

34:48 Say “Verily, my Sustainer hurls the truth (against all that is false] – He who fully knows all the things that are beyond the reach of a created being’s perception!”

Explanation

i.e., God’s promise to the righteous that they would attain happiness in the life to come neither precludes nor implies their being wealthy or poor in this world.

34:49 Say “The truth has now come [to light, and falsehood is bound to wither away] for, falsehood cannot bring forth anything new, nor can it bring back [what has passed away].”

Explanation

i.e., either with worldly goods, or with inner contentment, or with spiritual merit (Zamakhshari).

34:50 Say, Were I to go astray, I would but go astray [due to my own self, and] to the hurt of myself; but if I am on the right path, it is but by virtue of what my Sustainer reveals unto me, for, verily, He is All-Hearing, Ever-Near!”

Explanation

This allegorical “question” – allegorical, because God is omniscient and has no need to “ask” – implies that many of “those who deny the truth” of God’s messages delude themselves into believing that they are, nevertheless, worshipping spiritual forces, here comprised in the term “angels”.

34:51 If Thou couldst but see [how the deniers of the truth will fare on Resurrection Day] when they will shrink in terror, with nowhere to escape since they will have been seized from so close nearby. 

Explanation

Implying that they (the angels) would never have accepted that worship which is due to God alone.

34:52 And will cry, “We do [now] believe in it!” But how can they [hope to] attain [to salvation] from so far away.

Explanation

In this instance, I believe, the term jinn has its primary meaning of “that which is concealed from [man’s] senses” (see Appendix III), thus including all manner of unknown forces, both real and imaginary, believed to be inherent in what we describe as “nature”. Hence, the answer of the angels implies that the sinners’ alleged worship of them had never been more than a subconscious screen for their fear of the invisible forces of nature and, ultimately, of the yet deeper fear of the Unknown that fear which sooner or later engulfs all who refuse to believe in the existence of God and, hence, cannot see any meaning or purpose in human life. (See also the last sentence of 10:28 and the corresponding note 46).

34:53 Seeing that aforetime they had been bent on denying the truth, and had been wont to cast scorn, from far away, on something that was beyond the reach of human perception?

Explanation

Lit., “sorcery” or “magic” – a term frequently used in the sense of “spellbinding eloquence” (cf. 74:24, the earliest instance in the chronology of Qur’anic revelation).

34:54 And so, a barrier will be set between them and all that they had [ever] desired, as will be done to such of their kind as lived before their time: for, behold, they [too were lost in doubt amounting to suspicion.

Explanation

Lit., “which they could study”, i.e., in support of the blasphemous beliefs and practices inherited from their ancestors. Cf. 30:35, which expresses a similar idea.

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.
Back to top button