Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Hujurat 49:11-20

49:11 O You who have attained to faith! No men shall deride [other] men, it may well be that those [whom they deride] are better than themselves, and no women [shall deride other] women, it may well be that those [whom they deride] are better than themselves. And neither shall you defame one another, nor insult one another by [opprobrious] epithets, evil is all imputation of iniquity after [one has attained to] faith, and they who [become guilty thereof and] do not repent – it is they, they who are evildoers!


The plural noun ikhwah (“brethren” or “brotherhood”) has here, of course, a purely ideological connotation, comprising men and women alike; the same applies to the subsequent mention of “your two brethren”.

49:12 O you who have attained to faith! Avoid most guesswork [about one another – for, behold, some of [such] guesswork is [in itself] a sin, and do not spy upon one another, and neither allow yourselves to speak ill of one another behind your backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would loathe it! And be conscious of God. Verily, God is an Acceptor of Repentance, a Dispenser of Grace!


The implication is that believers, whether men or women, shall never deride one another (Zamakhshari, Baydawi).

49:13 O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.


This applies no less to the faith of the one who insults than to that of the insulted (Razi): cf. 6:82 – “[those who have not obscured their faith by wrongdoing”.

49:14 The bedouin said “We have attained to faith.” Say [unto them, O Muhammad] “You have not [yet] attained to faith, you should [rather] say, ‘We have [outwardly] surrendered’ – for [true] faith has not yet entered your hearts. But if you [truly] pay heed unto God and His Apostle, He will not let the least of your deeds go to waste, For, Behold, God is Much-Forgiving, a Dispenser of Grace.”


i.e., guesswork that may lead to unfounded suspicion of another person’s motives: see note 22 on 24:19.

49:15 [Know that true] believers are only those who have attained to faith in God and His Apostle and have left all doubt behind, and who strive hard in God’s cause with their possessions and their lives: it is they, they who are true to their word!


i.e., “We have created every one of you out of a father and a mother” (Zamakhsharl, Razi, Baydiwl) – implying that this equality of biological origin is reflected in the equality of the human dignity common to all.

49:16 Say “Do you, perchance, [want to] inform God of [the nature of] your faith – although God knows all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth? Indeed, God has full knowledge of everything!”


i.e., know that all belong to one human family, without any inherent superiority of one over another (Zamakhshari). This connects with the exhortation, in the preceding two verses, to respect and safeguard each other’s dignity. In other words, men’s evolution into “nations and tribes” is meant to foster rather than to diminish their mutual desire to understand and appreciate the essential human oneness underlying their outward differentiation; and, correspondingly, all racial, national or tribal prejudice (‘as abiyyah) is condemned – implicitly in the Qur’an, and most explicitly by the Prophet (see the second half of note 15 on 28:15). in addition, speaking of people’s boasting of their national or tribal past, the Prophet said: “Behold, God has removed from you the arrogance of pagan ignorance (1ahiliyyah) with its boast of ancestral glories. Man is but a God-conscious believer or an unfortunate sinner. All
people are children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust.” (Fragment of a hadith quoted by Tirmidhi and Abu Da’ud, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah).

49:17 Many people think that they have bestowed favor upon thee [O Prophet] by having surrendered [to thee], Say thou “Deem not your surrender a favor unto me, nay, but it is God who bestows a favor upon you by showing you the way to faith – if you are true to your word!”


Inasmuch as this is evidently an allusion to the intense tribalism of the bedouin and their “pride of descent” (Razi), the above verse connects with the preceding condemnation of all tribal preferences and prejudices, and with the call for their abandonment as a prerequisite of true faith. Primarily, this relates to the bedouin contemporaries of the Prophet, but its import is general and timeless.

49:18 Verily, God knows the hidden reality of the heavens and the earth, and God sees all that you do.


i.e., “your own deeds, in distinction from the supposed ‘glorious deeds’ of your ancestors, which count for nothing in His sight”.

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