Chapter Scripts

Surah Luqman: 31:11-20

31:11 [All] this is God’s creation, show Me, then, what others than He may have created! Nay, but the evildoers are obviously lost in error!

Explanation

Sc., “who ascribe divine powers to beings or things other than God”.

31:12 And, Indeed, We granted this wisdom unto Luqman “Be grateful unto God – for he who is grateful [unto Him] is but grateful for the good of his own self; whereas he who chooses to be ungrateful [ought to know that], verily, God is self-sufficient, ever to be praised!”

Explanation

Popularly (though without sufficient justification) identified with Aesop, Luqman is a legendary figure firmly established in ancient Arabian tradition as a prototype of the sage who disdains worldly honors or benefits and strives for inner perfection. Celebrated in a poem by Ziyad ibn Mu’awiyah (better known under his pen-name Nibighah adh-Dhubyani), who lived in the sixth century of the Christian era, the person of Luqman had become, long before the advent of Islam, a focal point of innumerable legends, stories and parables expressive of wisdom and spiritual maturity: and it is for this reason that the Qur’an uses this mythical figure – as it uses the equally mythical figure of Al-Khidr in surah 18 – as a vehicle for some of its admonitions bearing upon the manner in which man ought to behave.

31:13 And, lo, Luqman spoke thus unto his son, admonishing him: “O my dear son! Do not ascribe divine powers to aught beside God: for, behold, such [a false] ascribing of divinity is indeed an awesome wrong!

Explanation

Lit., “O my little son” – a diminutive idiomatically expressive of endearment irrespective of whether the son is a child or a grown man.

31:14 And [God says] We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: his mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his utter dependence on her lasted two years, [Hence, O man] be grateful towards Me and towards thy parents, (and remember that] with Me is all journeys’ end.

Explanation

Lit., “his weaning is [or “takes place”] within two years”. According to some philologists, the term fisal circumscribes the entire period of conception, gestation, birth, and earliest infancy (Taj al-‘Arus): in brief, the period of a child’s utter dependence on its mother.

31:15 ‘[Revere thy parents] yet should they endeavor to make thee ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something which thy mind cannot accept [as of divine], obey them not, but (even then] bear them company in this world’s life with kindness and follow the path of those who turn towards Me. In the end, unto Me you all must return, and thereupon I shall make you [truly] understand all that you were doing [in life].’

Explanation

Thus, gratitude towards parents, who were instrumental in one’s coming to life, is here stipulated as a concomitant to man’s gratitude towards God, who is the ultimate cause and source of his existence (cf. 17:23-24).

31:16 “O my dear son” [continued Luqman] “Verily, though there be aught of but the weight of a mustard-seed, and though it be [hidden] in a rock, or in the skies, or in the earth, God will bring it to light, for, behold, God is unfathomable [in His wisdom], All-Aware.

Explanation

Lit., “something of which thou hast no knowledge”, i.e., “something which is contrary to thy knowledge that divine qualities are God’s alone” (cf. 29:8).

31:17 “O my dear son! Be constant in prayer, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and bear in patience whatever [ill] may befall thee, this, behold, is something to set one’s heart upon!”

Explanation

For my rendering of latif as “unfathomable”, see surah 6, note 89.

31:18 “And turn not thy cheek away from people in (false] pride, and walk not haughtily on earth, for, behold, God does not love anyone who, out of self-conceit, acts in a boastful manner.”

Explanation

i.e., “has enabled you to derive benefit from all …”, etc. (Cf. note 46 on 14:32-33.) 19 I.e.; both visible and invisible benefits, as well as both physical and intellectual (or spiritual) endowments.

31:19 “Hence, be modest in thy bearing, and lower thy voice: for, Behold, the ugliest of all voices is the [loud] voice of asses….”

Explanation

i.e.; both visible and invisible benefits, as well as both physical and intellectual (or spiritual) endowments.

31:20 Are you not aware that God has made subservient to you all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, and has lavished upon you His blessings, both outward and inward? And yet, among men, there is many a one that argues about God without having any knowledge [of Him], without any guidance, and without any light-giving revelation.

Explanation

Regarding the implications of the term “Satan” in this context, see note 10 on 2:14 and note 16 on 15:17. As in many other places in the Qur’an, the above verse expresses an oblique condemnation of the principle and practice of taqlid (see Razi’s observations quoted in note 38 on 26:74).

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