Chapter Scripts

Surah Fussilat 41:31-40

41:31 We are close unto you in the life of this world and [will be so] in the life to come, and in that [life to come] you shall have all that your souls may desire, and in it you shall have all that you ever prayed for. 

Explanation

See note 44 on 13:22. In the present instance, the injunction to “Repel [evil] with something that is better” relates to scurrilous objections to, and hostile criticism of, the Qur’an. The whole of this passage (verses 33 ff.) connects with verse 26.

41:32 As a ready welcome from Him who is Much-Forgiving, a Dispenser of Grace!”

Explanation

i.e., He alone sees what is in the hearts of men, and He alone understands the innermost motivations, of which they themselves are unconscious, of those who criticize the Qur’an adversely. – See 7:199-200 and the corresponding notes, especially note 164.

41:33 And who could be better of speech than he who calls [his fellow-men] unto God, and does what is just and right, and says, “Verily, I am of those who have surrendered themselves to God”?

Explanation

This, according to Razi, connects with the phrase “calling (one’s fellow-men] unto God” in verse 33 above. God is the sole cause and source of all that exists, and whatever exists is but a wondrous sign of His creative power. Hence, it is blasphemy – apart from being unreasonable – to ascribe real power (which is the meaning of “adoration” in this context) to anything created, whether it be a concrete phenomenon, or an abstract force of nature, or a set of circumstances, or even an idea.

41:34 But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou [evil] with something that is better – and lo! he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend!

Explanation

Although the allusion to the reviving earth often occurs in the Qur’an as a parable of man’s ultimate resurrection, in the present context (and in tune with the entire passage comprising verses 33-39) it appears to be an illustration of God’s power to bestow spiritual life upon hearts that have hitherto remained closed to the truth of His existence and omnipotence. Hence, it implies a call to the believer never to abandon the hope that “those who deny the truth” may one day grasp the truth of the Qur’anic message.

41:35 Yet [to achieve] this is not given to any but those who are wont to be patient in adversity, it is not given to any but those endowed with the greatest good fortune!

Explanation

Lit., “neither from between its hands nor from behind it”, i.e., it cannot be openly changed by means of additions or omissions (Razi), and neither surreptitiously, by hostile or deliberately confusing interpretations. The above is one of the Qur’anic passages on which the great commentator Abu Muslim al-Isfahani (as quoted by Razi) bases his absolute rejection of the theory of “abrogation” (for which see note 87 on 2:106). Since the “abrogation” of any Qur’an-verse would have amounted to its ibtal – that is, to an open or implied declaration that it was henceforth to be regarded as null and void – the verse in question would have to be considered “false” (batil) in the context of the Qur’an as it is before us: and this, as Abu Muslim points out, would clearly contradict the above statement that “no falsehood (batil) can ever attain to it”.

41:36 Hence, if it should happen that prompting from Satan stirs thee up [to blind anger], seek refuge with God, Behold, He alone is All-Hearing, All-Knowing!

Explanation

This is an allusion to the allegation of the Prophet’s opponents that he himself was the “author” of what he claimed to be a divine revelation, as well as to their demand that he should “prove” the truth of his prophetic mission by producing a miracle: a scornful attitude with which all the earlier prophets had been confronted at one time or another, and which is epitomized in the “saying” of the unbelievers mentioned in verse 5 of this surah.

41:37 Now among His signs are the night and the day, as well as the sun and the moon, [hence], adore not the sun or the moon, but prostrate yourselves in adoration before God, who has created them – if it is Him whom you [really] worship.

Explanation

Sc., “in a tongue which we can understand”. Since the Prophet was an Arab and lived in an Arabian environment, his message had to be expressed in the Arabic language, which the people to whom it was addressed in the first instance could understand: see in this connection note 72 on the first sentence of 13:37, as well as the first half of 14:4 – “never have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a message] in his own people’s tongue, so that he might make [the truth] clear unto them”. Had the message of the Qur’an been formulated in a language other than Arabic, the opponents of the Prophet would have been justified in saying, “between us and thee is a barrier” (verse 5 of this surah).

41:38 And though some be too proud [to listen to this call], they who [in their hearts] are with thy Sustainer extol His limitless glory by night and by day, and never grow weary [thereof].

Explanation

Lit., “from a far-off place”: i.e., they only hear the sound of the words, but cannot understand their meaning.

41:39 For among His signs is this: thou seest the earth lying desolate – and lo! when We send down water upon it, it stirs and swells [with life]! Verily, He who brings it to life can surely give life to the dead [of heart as well]: for, behold, He has the power to will anything.

Explanation

As was and is the case with the Qur’an, some people accepted the divine message revealed to Moses, and some rejected it (Zamakhshari, Razi), while others disagreed about the import and application of its tenets (Tabari).

41:40 Verily, they who distort the meaning of Our messages are not hidden from Us, Hence, which [of the two] will be in a better state – he that is [destined to be] cast into the fire, or he that shall come securely [before Us] on Resurrection Day?

Explanation

For an explanation of this passage, as well as of the above parallel between men’s attitudes towards the earlier scriptures and the Qur’an, see the second sentence of 10:19 and the corresponding note 29.

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