Revealed at Makkah.


THE title of this chapter is taken from ver. 3. The occasion of its composition is mentioned in the first verse. One of the unbelievers at Makkah, whether one of those mentioned by Sale in his note on ver. I, or some other representative of the infidel Quraish, mockingly asked Muhammad to attest the proof of his prophetic claims by bringing upon them punishment of the judgment-day. In reply, we have a discourse at once suited to warn the unbelievers and to comfort the Prophet.

In this chapter we have probably the earliest rule of Muslim practice, vers. 22-34. A portion of this, however, vers. 29-34, seems to have been added at a later date, because the law regarding the marriage of Muslims, and especially their practice regarding "the slaves which their right hands possess," is referred to here with too much definiteness to comport with a Makkan revelation. Besides this, the statement in ver. 34 is a mere repetition of that of ver. 23, which is best accounted for by supposing these passages to have been originally separate, but brought together here by the compilers.

The attitude of Muhammad towards his townsmen here is that of despair for their conversion. He now calmly awaits the visitation of divine justice against their unbelief.

Probable Date of the Revelations.

NoŽldeke places this chapter immediately after chaps. lvi. and liii., probably because of the allusion of the first verse of this chapter to the beginning of chap lvi. Muir places it in about the same period of time. This would fix the date at about the fifth year of the call of Muhammad to preach. I would, however, except vers. 29-34, which I would assign to a period as late as A.H. 5.


Principal Subjects.

A man demanded that the day of judgment might come at once ...1
The day, whose space is fifty thousand years, will surely come 2-4
Muhammad to bear the insults of the infidels patiently, because judgment is near.. .5-14
Riches, children, and friends will not save the wicked from hell...12-18
The wicked are niggardly in health, but full of complaint when evil befalleth ...19-24
The character of true believers described . . . 25-35
Unbelievers need entertain no hope they shall escape destruction ...36-41
Muhammad counselled to permit the unbelieving Makkans to sport themselves, because their damnation is nigh ... 42-45


R 1/7.

(1) One demanded and called for vengeance to fall on the unbelievers: (2) there shall be none to avert the same (3) from being inflicted by GOD, the possessor of the steps (4) by which the angels ascend unto him, and the spirit Gabriel also, in a day whose space is fifty thousand years: (5) wherefore bear the insults of the Makkans with becoming patience: (6) for they see their punishment afar

(1) One demanded. . . vengeance. "The person here meant is generally supposed to have been al Nudar Ibn al Harith, who said, 'O God, if what Muhammad preaches be the truth from thee, rain down upon us a shower of stones, or send some dreadful judgment to punish us.' Others, however, think it was Abu Jahl, who challenged Muhammad to cause a fragment of heaven to fall on them. "- Sale, Baidhawi.

(3) The steps. "By which prayers and righteous actions ascend to heaven, or by which the angels ascend to receive the divine commands, or the believers will ascend to Paradise. Some understand thereby the different orders of angels, or the heavens, which rise gradually one above another."- Sale.

(4) Fifty thousand years. See note on chap. xxxii. 4. "This is supposed to be the space which would be required for their ascent from the lowest part of creation to the throne of God, if it were to be measured, or the time which it would take a man to perform that journey; and this is not contradictory to what is


off; (7) but we see it nigh at hand. (8) On a certain day the heaven shall become like molten brass, (9) and the mountains like wool of various colours scattered abroad by the wind: (10) and a friend shall not ask a friend concerning his condition, (11) although they see one another. The wicked shall wish to redeem himself from the punishment of that day by giving up his children, (12) and his wife, and his brother, (13) and his kindred, who showed kindness unto him, (14) and all who are in the earth; and that this might deliver him: (15) by no means: for hell-fire, (16) dragging them by their scalps, (17) shall call him who shall have turned his back, and fled from the faith, (18) and shall have amassed riches, and covetously hoarded them. (19) Verily man is created extremely impatient: (20) when evil toucheth him, he is full of complaint; (21) but when good befalleth him, he becometh niggardly: (22) except those who are devoutly given, (23) and who persevere in their prayers; (24) and those of whose substance a due and certain portion (25) is ready to be given unto him who asketh, and him who is forbidden by shame to ask: (26) and those who sincerely believe the day of judgment, (27) and who dread the punishment of their LORD: (28) (for there is none secure from the punishment

said elsewhere (chap. xxxii. 4), (if it be to be interpreted of the ascent of the angels), that the length of the day whereon they ascend is one thousand years, because that is meant only of their ascent from earth to the lower heaven, including also the time of their descent.

But the commentators generally take the day spoken of in both these passages to be the day of judgment, having recourse to several expedients to reconcile them, some of which we have mentioned in another place (Prelim. Disc., p. 137), and as both passages seem to contradict what the Muhammadan doctors teach, that GOD will judge all creatures in the space of half a day (Prelim. Disc., p. 144), they suppose those large number of years are designed to express the time of the previous attendance of those who are to be judged (Prelim. Disc., p. 141), or else to the space wherein God will judge the unbelieving nations, of which, they say, there will he fifty, the trial of each nation taking up one thousand years, though that of the true believers will be over in the short space above mentioned."- Sale, Zamakhshari.

(19) See note on chap. xvii. 12.


of their LORD:) (29) and who abstain from the carnal knowledge of women (30) other than their wives, or the slaves which their right hands possess: (for as to them they shall be blameless; (31) but whoever coveteth any woman besides these, they are transgressors).

R 2/8.

(32) And those who faithfully keep what they are intrusted with, and their covenant; (33) atid who are upright in their testimonies, (34) and who carefully observe the requisite rights in their prayers: (35) these shall dwell amidst gardens, highly honoured. (36) What aileth the unbelievers that they run before thee in companies, (37) on the right hand and on the left? (38) Doth every man of them wish to enter into a garden of delight? (39) By no means: verily we have created them of that which they know. (40) 1 swear by the LORD of the east and of the west, that we are able to destroy them, (41) and to substitute better than them in their room; neither are we to be prevented, if we shall please so to do. (42) Wherefore suffer them to wade in vain disputes, and to amuse themselves with sport, until they meet their day with which they have been threatened; (43) the day whereon they shall come forth hastily from their graves, as though they were troops hastening to their standard: (44) their looks shall be downcast; ignominy shall attend them. (45) This is the day with which they have been, threatened.

(29-31) See notes on chap. iv. 3. This passage clearly teaches that a Muslim is not limited to the four lawful wives, but may have as many slave girls as he pleases besides.

(39) Of that which they know, viz., "of filthy seed, which bears no relation or resemblance to holy beings : wherefore it is necessary for him who would hope to be an inhabitant of Paradise to perfect himself in faith and spiritual virtues, to fit himself for that place."- Sale, Baidhawi.

(40) I swear. "Or, I will not swear, &c."-Sale. See chap. lvi. 74, note.

The east and ... the west. "The original words are in the plural number, signify the different points of the horizon at which the sun rises and sets in the course of the year."-Sale.

See note on chap. xxxvii. 5.

(43) Troops hastening, &c. Comp. chap. xxxix. 71-73.

Table of Contents
Answering Islam Home Page