Chapter Scripts

Surah Ya’sin: 36:11-20

36:11 Thou canst [truly] warn only him who is willing to take the reminder to heart, and who stands in awe of the Most Gracious although He is beyond the reach of human perception, unto such, then, give the glad tiding of [God’s] forgiveness and of a most excellent reward.

Explanation

Cf. 6:91 “no true understanding of God have they when they say, ‘Never has God revealed anything unto man.'” See also 34:31 and the corresponding note 38. Both these passages, as well as the one above, alluding to people who like to think of themselves as “believing” in God without, however, allowing their “belief” to interfere in the practical concerns of their lives: and this they justify by conceding to religion no more than a vaguely emotional role, and by refusing to admit the fact of objective revelation for the concept of revelation invariably implies promulgation, by God, of absolute moral values and, thus, a demand for one’s self~surrender to them.

36:12 Verily, We shall indeed bring the dead back to life, and We shall record whatever [deeds] they have sent ahead, and the traces [of good and evil] which they have left behind: for of all things do We take account in a record clear.

Explanation

For an explanation of the phrase tat ayyania bikum, see surah 7, note 95.

36:13 And set forth unto them a parable – [the story of how] the people of a township [behaved] when [Our] Message Bearers came unto them.

Explanation

Cf. 17:13 “every human being’s destiny (ta-‘ir) have We tied to his neck” and the corresponding note 17.

34:14 Lo! We sent unto them two [apostles], and they gave the lie to both; and so, We strengthened [the two] with a third; and thereupon they said, “Behold, we have been sent unto you [by God]!”

Explanation

For this rendering of musrifan (sing. musrif), see note 21 on the last sentence of 10:12.

36:15 [The others] answered “You are nothing but mortal men like ourselves; moreover, the Most Gracious has never bestowed aught [of revelation] from on high. You do nothing but lie!

Explanation

i.e., by the apostles or, more probably (in view of the allegorical character of this story), by his own insight. The intervention of the man who “came running from the farthest end of the city” is evidently a parable of the truly believing minority in every religion, and of their desperate, mostly unavailing endeavors to convince their erring fellow-men that God-consciousness alone can save human life from futility.

36:16 Said [the apostles] “Our Sustainer knows that we have indeed been sent unto you.

Explanation

Lit., “Oh, the regrets upon the bondmen” (al-‘ibad) – since all human beings, good or bad, are God’s “bondmen”. This phrase alludes to the Day of Judgment – which is described in 19:39 as ‘the Day of Regrets” as well as to the fact, repeatedly stressed in the Qur’an, that most human beings choose to remain deaf to the voice of truth, and thus condemn themselves to spiritual death.

36:17 But we are not bound to do more than clearly deliver the message [entrusted to us].”

Explanation

i.e., to the people now living. As in many other Qur’anic passages, the term qarn, which literally signifies a “generation” or “people living at the same period”, has in this context the wider meaning of “society” or “civilization” in the historical connotation of these terms. Thus, the downfall and utter disappearance of past societies and civilizations is here linked to their spiritual frivolity and consequent moral failure. A further lesson to be drawn from this parable is the implied conclusion that the majority of people in every society, at all times (our own included), refuse to be guided by moral considerations, regarding them as opposed to their conventional mode of life and their pursuit of materialistic values – with the result that “never has an apostle come to them without their deriding him”.

36:18 Said [the others] “Truly, we augur evil from you! Indeed, if you desist not, we will surely stone you, and grievous suffering is bound to befall you at our hands!”

Explanation

Lit., “who has created all the pairs out of whatever the earth produces, and out of themselves, and out of that of which they have no knowledge”: a reference to the polarity evident in all creation, both animate and inanimate, which expresses itself in the existence of antithetic and yet complementary forces, like the sexuality in human beings, animals and plants, light and darkness, heat and cold,  positive and negative magnetism and electricity, the positive and negative charges (protons and electrons) in the structure of the atom, and so forth. (It is to be borne in mind that the noun zawj denotes both “a pair” and “one of a pair”, as explained in note 7 on 13:3.) The mention of “that of which they have no knowledge” evidently relates to things or phenomena not yet understood by man but potentially within the range of his comprehension: hence my interpolation, between brackets, of the words “as yet”.

36:19 [The apostles] replied “Your destiny, good or evil, is [bound up] with yourselves! [Does it seem evil to you] if you are told to take [the truth] to heart? Nay, but you are people who have wasted their own selves!”

Explanation

In the generally-accepted reading, this phrase is spelled li-mustaqarrin laha, which may be rendered as above or, more conventionally, as “to its point of rest”, i.e., the time (or point) of the daily sunset (Razi). However, ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud is reliably reported to have read these words as la mustaqarra laha (Zamakhshari), which gives us the meaning of “it runs [on its course] without having any rest”, i.e., unceasingly

36:20 At that, a man came running from the farthest end of the city, [and] exclaimed “O my people! Follow these message-bearers!

Explanation

This is, in a condensed form, the meaning of the noun ‘urjan – the raceme of the date-palm, which, when old and dry, becomes slender and curves like a crescent (cf. Lane V, 1997).

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