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CHAPTER XXXIV.

ENTITLED SURAT US SABA (SABA).

Revealed at Makkah.

INTRODUCTION.


This chapter owes its title to the mention (ver. 14) of a country of that name in Arabia Felix, the fate of whose inhabitants is presented as a warning to the unbelieving Quraish.

As to its contents, this chapter differs little from other Makkan revelations of the earlier stages of Muhammad's ministry. The Prophet rebukes his townsmen on account of their idolatry and unbelief. He assures them that God will bring them into judgment and punish their obstinate infidelity. He tells them that their deities will be helpless to save them, that the angels, whom they worshipped as intercessors, would reject them as the followers of devils, and that the rich and influential idolaters of Makkah, while denying their evil deeds, would be reproached by their weak-minded followers as the cause of their destruction. Finally, he tells them they should repent at last, saying, "We believe in him," but all too late to be of any avail.

The attitude of the people of Makkah at the time this chapter was enunciated was that of determined opposition to the claims of Muhammad. Certain Jews had professed to believe in the Quran (ver. 6), but this fact, while affording to Muhammad an occasion for alluding to certain Jewish traditions respecting David and Solomon illustrating God's favour to his prophets, seems to have aroused still stronger opposition to himself among the leaders of the idolaters in Makkah. They accused him of forgery, and imposture, and madness, and defied him to hasten the judgments of God he had threatened against them. In reply to these accusations Muhammad protested his innocence and declared himself to be a warner, whose God would judge between him and his calumniators.


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Probable Date of the Revelations.

That this whole chapter belongs to an early period in Muhammad's ministry is evident from the character of its contents and the attitude of the unbelievers as revealed therein. It is, however, impossible to do more than fix an approximate date, which, according to Muir, is about the third stage of the ministry at Makkah. Rodwell, following NoŽldeke, seems to place it a little later.

Principal Subjects.

Praise to the All-wise and Sovereign God . . . 1, 2
Unbelievers shall not escape the judgment-day . . . 3
The reward of believers and the punishment of infidels sure ... 4,5
Certain Jews accept the Quran as the word of God .. . 6
The Quraish scoff at the doctrine of the resurrection .. . 7
Muhammad accused of being a forger of the Quran and a madman . . .8
Divine judgments threatened against the unbelievers .. . 8, 9
David received blessing and knowledge from God . .. 10
Solomon received dominion over the winds and the genii .. . 11
The palaces, statues of Solomon, &c., constructed by genii .. . 12
Solomon's death concealed from the genii . . . 13
The people of Saba rebel against God and are punished .. . 14-16
They are dispersed on account of covetousness . . . 17, 18
All but a few believers follow Iblis . . . 19, 20
The idolaters worship imaginary deities . . . 21
Only those who are permitted shall intercede on the judgment-day . . .22
The bountiful God will judge between true believers and the infidels . . .23-26
Muhammad sent to man as a warner . . . 27
The infidels will feel God's threatened punishment in the judgment-day . . .28, 29
Mutual enmity of the idolaters and their leaders on the day of judgment . . .30-32
God's prophets have always been opposed by the affluent.. . 33
The Makkans boast in their riches in vain . . . 34, 35
The righteous only shall be saved . . . 36
Muhammad's adversaries shall be punished. . . 37
The Lord will reward the almsgivers . . . 38
The angels shall repudiate their worshippers . . . 39,40
Idolaters shall be unable to help one another in the judgment . . .41


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The unbelievers call Muhammad a forger of the Quran and blasphemer ... 42
Rejecting their Prophet as did those before them, the Makkans shall receive like punishment... 43,44
Muhammad protests the truth of his claims . . . 45-49
Unbelievers shall repent when too late to avail...50-54


IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.

R 1/7.

(1) Praise be unto GOD, unto whom belongeth whatever is in the heavens and on earth: and unto him be praise in the world to come; for he is wise and intelligent. (2) He knoweth whatsoever entereth into the earth and whatsoever cometh out of the same, and whatsoever descendeth from heaven, and whatsoever ascendeth thereto: and he is merciful and ready to forgive. (3) The unbelievers say, The hour of judgment will not come unto us. Answer, Yea, by my LORD, it will surely come unto you; it is he who knoweth the hidden secret: the weight of an ant, either in heaven or in earth, is not absent from him, nor anything lesser than this or greater, but the same is written in the perspicuous book of his decrees; (4) that he may recompense those who shall have believed and wrought righteousness: they shall receive pardon and an honourable provision. (5) But they who endeavour to render our signs of none effect shall receive a punishment of painful torment. (6) Those unto whom knowledge hath been given, see that the book which hath been revealed unto thee from thy LORD is the

(2) Whatsoever entereth into the earth. "As the rain, hidden treasures, the dead, &c."-Sale.

Whatsoever cometh out. "As animals, plants, metals, spring-water, &c."- Sale.

Descendeth, &c. "As the angels, Scriptures, decrees of God, rain, thunder and lightning, &c."- Sale.

Ascendeth, &c. "As the angels, men's works, vapours, smoke, &c." - Sale.

(6) Those . . . see that the book, &c. See note on chap. vi. 20.


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truth, and directeth into the glorious and landable way.(7) The unbelievers say to one another, Shall we show you a man who shall prophesy unto you, that when ye shall have been dispersed with a total dispersion, ye shall be raised a new creature? (8) He hath forged a lie concerning GOD, or rather he is distracted. But they who believe not in the life to come shall fall into punishment and a wide error. (9) Have they not therefore considered what is before them, and what is behind them, of the heaven and the earth ? If we please, we will cause the earth to open and swallow them up, or will cause a piece of the heaven to fall upon them: verily herein is a sign unto every servant who turneth unto God.

R 2/8.

(10) We heretofore bestowed on David excellence from us, and we said, O mountains, sing alternate praises with him, and we obliged the birds also to join therein. And we softened the iron for him, saying, Make thereof complete coats of mail, and rightly dispose the small plates which compose the same, and work ye righteousness, O family of David, for I see that which ye do. (11) And we made the wind subject unto Solomon; it blew in the morning for a month, and in the evening for a month. And we made a fountain of molten brass to flow for him. And some of the genii were obliged to work in his presence, by the will of his LORD; and whoever of them turned aside from our command we will cause him to taste the pain of

(8) He hath forged a lie, &c. See notes on chaps. iii. 137, 185, vi.48, 94, vii. 203, xvi. 105, xxi. 5, and xxvi. 26.

(9) Compare chap. xxviii. 76.

(10) See notes on chaps. xxi. 79 and xxvii. 16-45.

Coats of mail. See note on chap. xxi. 80.

(11) The wind. See notes on chap. xxi. 81 and xxvii. 16-45.

A fountain of molten brass. "This fountain, the say, was in Yaman, and flowed three days in a month."- Sale, Jalaluddin.

We caused him to taste, &c. "Or, as some expound the words, 'We caused him to taste the pain of burning,' by which they understand the correction the disobedient genli received at the hands of the angel Bet over them, who whipped them with a whip of fire."- Sale.


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hell-fire. (12) They made for him whatever he pleased of palaces and statues, and large dishes like fish-ponds, and cauldrons standing firm on their trevets; and we said,Work righteousness, O family of David, with thanksgiving, for few of my servants are thankful. (13) And when we had decreed that Solomon should die, nothing discovered his death unto them except the creeping thing of the earth which gnawed his staff. And when his body fell

(12) Statues. "Some suppose these were images of the angels and prophets, and that the making of them was not then forbidden, or else that they were not such images as were forbidden by the law. Some say these spirits made him two lions, which were placed at the foot of his throne and two eagles, which were set above it, and that when he mounted it the lions stretched out their paws, and when he sat down the eagles shaded him with their wings."- Sale, Baidhawi, Jalaluddin.

Dishes. "Being so 'monstrously large that a thousand men might eat out of each of them at once."- Sale.

Cauldrons. "These cauldrons, they say, were cut out of the mountains of Yaman, and were so vastly big that they could not be moved, and the people went up to them by steps."- Sale, Baidhawi.

(13) The creeping thing, &c. "The commentators to explain this passage tell us that David having laid the foundations of the temple of Jerusalem, which was to be in lieu of the tabernacle of Moses, when he died left it to be finished by his son Solomon, who employed the genii in the work; that Solomon, before the edifice was quite completed, perceiving his end drew nigh, begged of God that his death might be concealed from the genii till they had entirely finished it; that God therefore so ordered it that Solomon died as he stood at his prayers, leaning on his staff, which supported the body in that position a full year; and the genii, supposing him to be alive, continued their work during that term, at the expiration were of the temple being perfectly completed, a worm, which had gotten into the staff, ate it through, and the corpse fell to the ground and discovered the king's death.

"Possibly this fable of the temple's being built by genii and not by men might take its rise from what is mentioned in Scripture, that 'the house was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither, so that there was neither hammer, nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was building' (I Kings vi. 7). The Rabbins indeed tell us of a worm which might assist the workmen, its virtue being such as to cause the rocks and stones to fly in sunder (Kinchi, in loc., Buxt. Lex. Talm., p. 2456). Whether the worm which gnawed Solomon's staff were of the same breed with this other I know not, but the story has perfectly the air of a Jewish invention." - Sale.

This story of the commentators, like the text, contradicts the. Scrip-


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down, the genii plainly perceived that if they had known that which is secret they had not continued in a vile punishment (14) The descendants of Saba' had heretofore a sign in their dwelling, namely, two gardens on the right hand and on the left, and it was said unto them, Eat ye of the provision of your LORD, and give thanks unto him, ye have a good country and a gracious LORD (15) But they turned aside from what we had commanded them, wherefore we sent against them the inundation of al Aram, and we changed their two gardens for them into two gardens producing bitter fruit, and tamarisks, and some little fruit

ture. Solomon lived twenty-five years after the temple was built. Comp. 2 Chron. iii. 2, ix. 30, and I Kings vi. 38.

They had not continued, &c., i.e., "they had not continued in servile subjection to the command of Solomon, nor had gone on with the work of the temple."- Sale.

(14) Saba. Situated in Arabia Felix, about thirty miles from Sanaa, and important as a trade emporium.

Sale says "Saba was the son of Yashhab, the son of Yarab, the son of Qahtan, whose posterity dwelt in Yaman, in the city of Marib, called also Saba, about three days' journey from Sanaa."

Muir regards "the tribe of Saba" as equivalent to "the inhabitants of Yemen," who were dispersed to the north by the political and mercantile changes of the times.- Life of Mahomet, vol. i. p. cxl. Two gardens. "That is, two tracts of land, one on this side their city, and the other on that, planted with trees and made into gardens, which lay so thick and close together that each tract seemed to be one continued garden; or, it may be, every house had a garden on each hand of it."- Sale, Baidhawi.

(15) The inundation of al Aram. "The commentators set down several significations of the word al Aram which are scarce worth mentioning. It most properly signifies mounds or dams for the stopping or containing of water, and is here used for that stupendous mound or building which formed the vast reservoir above the city of Saba, described in another place (Prelim. Disc., p.27), and which, for the great impiety, pride, and insolence of the inhabitants, was broken down in the night by a mighty flood and occasioned a terrible destruction. Al Baidhawi supposes this mound was the work of Queen Balqis, and that the above-mentioned catastrophe happened after the time of Jesus Christ, wherein he seems to be mistaken."- Sale.

Tamarisks. "A low shrub bearing no fruit, and delighting in saltish and barren ground" (Sale) whence the commentators say that wherever the waters of the inundation of Aram went the land was impregnated with saltpetre and became barren. See Tafsir-i-Raufi in loco.


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of the lote-tree. (16) This we gave them in reward because they were ungrateful: is any thus rewarded except the ungrateful? (17) And we placed between them and the cities which we have blessed cities situated near each other, and we made the journey easy between them, saying, Travel through the same by night and by day in security. (18) But they said, O LORD, put a greater distance between our journey, and they were unjust unto themselves; and we made them the subject of discourse, and dispersed them with a total dispersion. Verily herein are signs unto every patient, grateful person. (19) And Iblis found his opinion of them to be true, and they followed him, except a party of the true believers; (20) and

(l'7) The cities which we have blessed, viz., the cities of Syria, with which the people of Yaman traded.

We made the journey easy. "By reason of their near distance, so that during the whole journey a traveller might rest in one town dun.ng~ the heat of the day and in another at night; nor was he obliged to carry provisions with him."- Sale, Baidhawi.

(18) A greater distance. "This petition they made out of covetousness, that the poor being obliged to be longer on the road they might make greater advantages in letting out their cattle and furnishing the travellers with provision; and God was pleased to punish them by granting them their wish and permitting most of the cities which were between Saba and Syria to be ruined and abandoned." - Sale.

The object of lengthening the journey was to lessen expense of travel, and so lower rates of transportation in hope of competing with the shippers in the carrying trade. See Prelim. Disc., p.27, note 2.

We . . . dispersed them. "For the neighbouring nations justly wondered at so sudden and unforeseen a revolution in the affairs of this once flourishing people, whence it became a proverbial saying to express a total dispersion that 'they were gone and scattered like Saba.'

"Of the descendants of Saba who quitted their country and sought new settlements on this inundation, the tribe of Ghassan went into Syria, the tribe of Anmar to Yathrib, the tribe of Jodham to Tahamah, the tribe of al Azd Oman, the tribe of Tay to Najd, the tribe of Khudhaah to Batan Marr, near Makkah, Banu Amila to a mountain, thence called the Mountain of Amila; near Damascus, and others went to Hira in Irak, &c."- Sale.

(19) Iblis found, &c. "Either his opinion of the Sabeans, when he saw them addicted to pride and ingratitude and the satisfy their lusts, or the opinion he entertained all mankind at the fall of Adam, or at his creation when he heard the angels say, 'Wilt


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he had no power. over them unless to tempt them, that we might know him who believed in the life to come from him who doubted thereof. Thy LORD observeth all things.

R 3/9.

(21) Say unto the idolaters, Call upon those whom ye imagine to be gods besides GOD; they are not masters of the weight of an ant in heaven or on earth, neither have they any share in the creation or government of the same, nor is any of them assistant to him therein. (22) No intercession will be of service in his presence except the intercession of him to whom he shall grant permission to intercede for others, and they shall wait in suspense until, when the terror shall be taken off from their hearts, they shall say to one another, What doth your LORD say? They shall answer, That which is just, and he is the high, the great God. (23) Say, Who provideth food for you from heaven and earth? Answer, GOD; and either we or ye follow the true direction, or are in a manifest error. (24) Say, ye shall not be examined concerning what we shall have committed, neither shall we be examined concerning what ye shall have done. (25) Say, Our LORD will assemble us together at the last day, then he will judge between us with truth: and he is the judge, the knowing.(26) Say, Show me those whom ye have joined as partners with him? Nay, rather he is the mighty, the wise GOD. (27) We have not sent thee otherwise than unto mankind

thou place in the earth one who will do evil therein and shed blood?" - Sale.

See notes on chaps. ii. 34 and vii. 11-15.

Except a party. "Who were saved from the common destruction." - Sale.

(22) "To intercession, &c. See note on ch ap. xx. 108.

Except by . . . permission. See note on chap. xix. 90.

When the terror, &c., i.e., "from the hearts of the intercessors and of those for whom God shall allow them to intercede by the permission which he shall then grant them; for no angel or prophet shall dare to speak at the last day without the divine leave."- Sale.

(27) This was Muhammad's claim at Makkah in answer to the demand of the Quraish that he should perform miracles, as other


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in general a bearer of good tidings and a denouncer of threats, but the greater part of men do not understand. (28) And they say, When will this threat be fuifilled, if ye speak truth? (29) Answer, A threat is denounced unto you of a day which ye shall not retard one hour, neither shall ye hasten.

R 4/10.

(30) The unbelievers say, We will by no means believe in this Quran, nor in that which hath been revealed before it But if thou couldest see when the unjust doers shall be set before their LORD! They will iterate dis course with one another: those who were esteemed weak shall say unto those who behaved themselves arrogantly, Had it not been for you, verily we had been true believers.

NISF.

(31) They who behaved themselves arrogantly shall say unto those who were esteemed weak, Did we turn you aside from the true direction after it had come unto you? On the contrary, ye acted wickedly of your own free choice. (32) And they who were esteemed weak shall say unto those who behaved with arrogance, Nay, but the crafty plot which ye devised by night and by day occasioned our ruin, when ye commanded us that we should not believe in GOD, and that we should set up other gods as equals unto him. And they shall conoeal their repentance, after they shall have seen the punishment prepared for them. And we will put yokes on the necks of those who shall have disbelieved: shall they be rewarded any otherwise than according to what they shall have wrought? (33) We have sent no warner unto any city, but the inhabit-

prophets did, in attestation of his prophetic claims. See chap. ii. 119

(30) We will by no means believe. "It is said that the infidels Makkah, having inquired of the Jews and Christians concerning the mission of Muhammad, were assured by them that they found him described as the prophet who should come, both in the Pentateuch and in the Gospel; at which they were very angry, and brake out into the words here recorded."- Sale, Baidhawi.

Arrogantly. See note on chap. xiv. 24.

(32) They shall conceal their repentance. See note on chap. x. 55.


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tants thereof who lived in affluence said, Verily we believe not that with which ye are sent. (34) And those of Makkah also say, We abound in riches and children more than ye, and we shall not be punished hereafter. (35) Answer, Verily my LORD will bestow provision in abundance unto whom he pleaseth, and will be sparing unto whom he pleaseth; but the greater part of men know not this.

R 5/11.

(36) Neither your riches nor your children are the things which shall cause you to draw nigh unto us with a near approach: only whoever believeth and worketh righteousness, they shall receive a double reward for that which they shall have wrought; and they shall dwell in security in the upper apartments of Paradise. (37) But they who shall endeavour to render our signs of none effect shall be delivered up to punishment. (38) Say, Verily my LORD will bestow provision in abundance unto whom he pleaseth of his servants, and will be sparing unto whom he pleaseth: and whatever thing ye shall give in alms, he will return it; and he is the best provider of food. (39) On a certain day he shall gather them altogether: then shall he say unto the angels, Did these worship you? (40) And the angels shall answer, GOD forbid! thou art our friend, and not these: but they worshipped devils; the greater part of them believed in them. (41) On this day the one of you shall not be able either to profit or to hurt the other. And we will say unto those who have acted unjustly, Taste ye the pain of hell-fire, which ye rejected as a falsehood. (42) When our evident signs are read unto them, they say of thee, O Muhammad, this is no other than a man who seeketh to turn you aside from the gods which your fathers worshipped. And they say of the Quran, This is no other than a lie blasphemously forged. And the unbelievers say of the truth

(36) See note on chap. iii. 31, and references there.

(39-41) Compare chap. xxxviii. 61-66, and see notes there.

(42) A lie blasphemously forged. See above on ver. 8.


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when it is come unto them, This is no other than manifest sorcery: (43) yet we have given them no books of Scripture wherein to exercise themselves, nor have we sent unto them any warner before thee. (44) They who were before them in like manner accused their prophets of imposture: but these have not arrived unto the tenth part of the riches and strength which we had bestowed on the former: and they accused my apostles of imposture; and how severe was my vengeance!

R 6/12.

(45) Say, Verily I advise you unto one thing, namely, that ye stand before GOD by two and two and singly; and then consider seriously, and you will find that there is no madness in your companion Muhammad: he is no other than a warner unto you, sent before a severe punishment. (46) Say, I ask not of you any reward for my preaching; it is your own, either to give or not: my reward is to be expected from GOD alone; and he is witness over all

(43) Brinckman thinks this verse and others of a similar import contradict those verses where it is said, "There hath been no nation but a preacher hath in past times been conversant among them" (chap. xxxv. 22). But the contradiction is only apparent. The latter class of passages refer to the passages or generations, where the former class refers to the Arabians of Muhammad's own time, to whom Muhammad declares himself to have been sent.

(44) See notes on chaps. iii II vi 48 and int rod. to chap. vii.

(45) Two and two, and singly, i.e. "that ye set yourselves to deliberate and judge of me and my pretensions coolly and sincerely, as in the sight of God, without passion or prejudice. The reason why they are ordered to consider either alone, or by two and two at most together, is because in larger assemblies, where noise, passion, and prejudice generally prevail, men have not that freedom of judgment which they have in private."- Sale, Baidhawi.

(46) I ask not . . reward. "Muhammad having in the preceding words answered the imputation of madness or vain enthusiam by appealing to their cooler thoughts of him and his actions, endeavours by these to clear himself of the suspicion of any worldly view or interest, declaring that he desired no salary or support from them for executing his commission, but he expected his wages from God alone."- Sale.

These words are put in the mouths of the former prophets also. See chap. xxvi. 109, 127, 145,164, 180, where Noah, Hud, Salih, Lot, and Shuaib are represented as using these very words.

It is your own. Sale paraphrases, "to give or not," which I think


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things. (47) Say, Verily my LORD seudeth down the truth to his prophets: he is the knower of secrets. (48) Say, Truth is come, and falsehood is vanished, and shall not return any more. (49) Say, If I err, verily I shall err only against my own soul; but if I be rightly directed, it will be by that which my LORD revealeth unto me; for he is ready to hear, and nigh unto those who call upon him. (50) If thou couldest see when the unbelievers shall tremble, and shall find no refuge, and shall be taken from a near place, (51) and shall say, We believe in him! But how shall they receive the faith from a distant place, (52) since they had before denied him and reviled the mysteries of faith from a distant place? (53) And a bar shall be placed between them and that which they shall desire: (54) as it hath been done with those who behaved like them heretofore: because they have been in a doubt which hath caused scandal.

to be a mistake. The meaning is," I preach to you freely and voluntarily, neither asking nor desiring a reward, and what have given you is yours as a free gift."

(50) The unbelievers shall tremble, viz., "at their death, or the day of judgment, or the battle of Badr."- Sale, Baidhawi.

A near peace. "That is, from the outside of the earth to the inside thereof, or from before God's tribunal to hell-fire, or from the plain of Badr to the well into which the dead bodies of the slain were thrown."- Sale, Baidhawi.

(51) A distant place, i.e., "when they are in the other world; whereas faith is to be received in this."- Sale.

(53) A bar. See note on chap. xxiii. 99.


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