Chapter Scripts

Surah Az-Zumar 39:41-50

39:41 Behold, from on high have We bestowed upon thee this divine writ, setting forth the truth for [the benefit of all] mankind. And whoever chooses to be guided [thereby], does so for his own good, and whoever chooses to go astray, goes but astray to his own hurt; and thou hast not the power to determine their fate.

Explanation

See note 23 on 31:25.

39:42 It is God [alone that has this power – He] who causes all human beings to die at the time of their [bodily] death, and [causes to be as dead], during their sleep, those that have not yet died, thus, He withholds [from life] those upon whom He has decreed death, and lets the others go free for a term set [by Him]. In [all] this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think!

Explanation

Lit., “suffering (‘adhab) that will disgrace him”: implying that surrender to false values inevitably leads to man’s spiritual decay and, if persisted in by many, to social catastrophes and widespread suffering.

39:43 And yet, they choose [to worship], side by side with God, [imaginary] intercessors! Say, “Why – even though they have no power over anything and no understanding?”

Explanation

Or: “thou art not responsible for their conduct” (see note 4 on 17:2).

39:44 Say “God’s alone is [the power to bestow the right of] intercession, His [alone] is the dominion over the heavens and the earth; and, in the end, unto Him, you will all be brought back.”

Explanation

According to Razi, this passage connects allegorically with the preceding – the light of guidance being likened to life, and man’s going astray, to death or, if it is not permanent, to death-like sleep followed by awakening. Beyond this, however, we have here a reminder – in tune with the subsequent passages – of God’s almightiness, and especially of His exclusive power to create and to withdraw life. As to the operative verb yatawaffa; it primarily denotes “He takes [something] away in full”; and because death is characterized by a disappearance of all vital impulses (the “soul”) from the once-living body – their being “taken away in full”, as it were – this form of the verb has been used tropically, since time immemorial, in the sense of “causing to die”, and (in its intransitive form) “dying” or (as a noun) “death”: a usage invariably adhered to in the Qur’an. The traditional likening of sleep to death is due to the fact that in both cases the body appears to be devoid of consciousness, partially and temporarily in the former case, and completely and permanently in the latter. (The popular translation of anfus – p1. of nafs – as “souls” is certainly inappropriate in the above context, since, according to the fundamental teaching of the Qur’an, man’s soul does not “die” at the time of his bodily death but, on the contrary, lives on indefinitely. Hence, the term anfus must be rendered here as “human beings”.)

39:45 And yet, whenever God alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who will not believe in the life to come contract with bitter aversion – whereas, when those [imaginary powers] are mentioned side by side with Him, lo, they rejoice!

Explanation

This is the meaning of the particle am in this context (Zamakhshari), implying that despite all the evidence of God’s almightiness, many people tend to disregard it.

39:46 Say “O God! The originator of the heavens and the earth! Knower of all that is beyond the reach of a created being’s perception, as well as of all that can be witnessed by a creature’s senses or mind! It is Thou who wilt judge between Thy servants [on Resurrection Day] with regard to all on which they were wont to differ!”

Explanation

i.e., intercessors who could act as such independently of God’s permission – an assumption which the Qur’an categorically denies (see surah 10, note 7).

39:47 But if those who are bent on evildoing possessed all that is on earth, and twice as much, they would surely offer it as ransom from the awful suffering [that will befall them] on the Day of Resurrection, for, something with which they had not reckoned before will [by then] have been made obvious to them by God.

Explanation

A reference to the adoration of dead saints or their tombs or relics. as well as of inanimate representations of saints, of imaginary deities, etc.

39:48 And obvious to them will have become the evil that they had wrought [in life], and thus shall they be overwhelmed by the very truth which they were wont to deride.

Explanation

Regarding the problem of intercession as such, see note 7 on 10:3.

39:49 Now [thus it is] when an affliction befalls man, he cries out unto Us for help; but when We bestow upon him a boon by Our grace, he says [to himself], “I have been given [all] this by virtue of [my own] wisdom !” Nay, this [Bestowal of Grace] is a trial, but most of them understand it not!

Explanation

Since a cognition of God must have a sense of moral responsibility as its correlate, the godless shrink from it, and joyfully turn to the “worship” – real or metaphoric – of imaginary powers which make no such moral demand.

39:50 The same did say [to themselves many of] those who lived before their time, but of no avail to them was all that they had ever achieved.

Explanation

See surah 6, note 65.

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