Verses from Surah al-Mu’minun (21 – 41)

[21] And, surely there is for you an instructive example in the cattle. We give you as drink from that which is in their bellies; there are in them numerous (other) benefits for you, and of them you eat.29


29. Mechanized life cuts some people off the natural world of realities. Yusuf Ali reminds them about Allah’s favors through the cattle: “From cattle we get milk and meat, also from their skins we make leather for shoes, boots, straps, saddlery, and numerous other uses; from camel’s hair and sheep’s wool we weave cloth, hangings, carpets, etc.; from the horns of cattle we make cups and articles of ornament or use; and camels, horses, donkeys, mule etc., are used for riding, carrying loads, and drawing vehicles.”

[22] And on them and on the ships, you are borne.

[23] And We did send Nuh to his people.30 He said, ‘O my people! Worship Allah. You have no god other than He. Will you not then fear?’ 


30. Yusuf Ali shows the connection between the earlier passage and this new one, “The material gifts having been mentioned, which we receive from a Wise and Kindly Provider, our attention is now directed to Allah’s Providence in spiritual matters. He sent Teachers to instruct and guide us, and though they were mocked, rejected, and accused of falsehood and selfishness, they were protected by Allah, and Allah’s Truth at length prevailed.”

[24] Said the chiefs of the unbelievers of his people, ‘This is no more than a man like yourselves who seeks to gain superiority over you.31 Had Allah willed, He could have surely sent down angels.32 We have never heard of this33 among our ancestors of old. 


31. (While this was said partly in earnest), partly it was to provoke the people to anger (Alusi).

Mawdudi comments: “The enemies of the truth have always been wont to charge that the activity of reformers is actuated by their hunger for power. This very charge was leveled by Pharaoh against Moses and Aaron and was phrased in the form of the following question ‘Have you come to turn us away from the way of our forefathers that the two of you might become supreme in the land?’ (Yunus 10: 78). The Prophet Jesus (peace be on him) was also subjected to a similar accusation: that he was striving to become the king of the Jews.

“It is inconceivable for those who ceaselessly hanker after worldly benefits, after pomp and glory, to appreciate that anyone can strive simply for the good of mankind, and that all such striving be absolutely sincere and selfless. Such people are wont to come up, every now and then, with catchy slogans and lay false claims to be working for the common welfare of all. They do so even though the true purpose of their effort is nothing else but to achieve power and influence. Furthermore, they regard craftiness and deception as absolutely natural. No wonder then that they tend to believe that no one can call for reform sincerely and altruistically. If someone does call for reform, he must inevitably be prompted, like them, by some ulterior motive. For example, as a subterfuge for the realization of his own selfish designs.

“It is also interesting that accusation of hungering after power are always hurled at reformers by those who have been able to entrench themselves in power or by their sycophantic cronies. They seem to believe that the power they enjoy is their birth-right. Hence, if they strive to wrest power from others and to perpetuate their hold on it, all is viewed as perfectly legitimate. But it becomes altogether objectionable if anyone else, someone who has no birth-right to enjoy power, shows the least sign of hungering for it.”

32. Zamakhshari remarks: “Consider the wonders of error and ignorance. They were prepared to accept stones as gods, but were not prepared to grant messengership to a human!”

33. “This” of the text refers to the call that Nuh was making, viz., worship Allah alone (Ibn Jarir). And, either no Messenger had appeared among them for a long time, or, alternatively, the unbelievers were so engrossed in the life of the world that they never had time to learn about messengers and messages of the past (Kashshaf).

[25] Surely, he is naught but a man bedeviled; so wait on him for a while.’34

[26] He said, ‘My Lord! Help me for that they give me the lie.’


34. What they meant is, wait for a while, maybe he will be cured of his madness, but if he is not, then we shall take him out through assassination (Kashshaf).

[27] So We revealed to him (to the effect), ‘Construct the boat under Our sight and Our instruction.35 Then, when Our command comes, and the oven gushes forth,36 take on board37 of every pair two,38 as well as your family, except for him of them against whom the Word has preceded; and address Me not concerning the wrongdoers; they are to be drowned. 


35. The rendering of “wah-yinaa” as “instruction” is influenced by Tabari’s understanding (Au.), and the implication is, Allah Himself supervised the work in order that defects may not remain in it (Zamakhshari). For, soon there was going to be no land to allow for any repair or improvement (Au.).

36. In common language, “tannur” is an oven. It is a hole in the ground, about a meter deep, lined up with baked clay. Coal or firewood is placed at the bottom. The rising heat cooks the bread lined up on the walls. It was in the past perhaps the fastest and the most economic way of making bread in large quantities. The method is still in use in eastern countries and the bread thus made is considered a delicacy. Of the word, however, as used here, several interpretations have been reported from the Salaf. But, as Imam Razi points out, there is no need to look for allegorical meanings if the apparent meaning, viz., ‘oven,’ is possible. So, Nuh was told that he was to wait for water to gush forth from a place most unlikely to yield water: an oven. When that happened, he was to board the boat (Au.).

For other explanations refer to Huud, verse 40.

37. Since “aslaka” gives the sense of insertion, one can venture to guess that the ship had a door at the side through which the unwilling animals had to be virtually pushed through, or, inserted (Au.).

38. “Zawjayn” refers to male and female of every species, whereas “two” is “zaa’idah”, added for emphasis (Zamakhshari, Razi). Yusuf Ali wrote at an earlier occurrence (10: 40), “Zaujain: the dual number refers to the individuals in each pair of opposite sexes. Some of the authoritative commentators (e.g., Imam Razi) construe in this sense, though others construe it to mean two pairs of each species.”

[28] Then, when you are settled – you and those with you on the boat – say, ‘All praise for Allah who delivered us from a people given to wrongdoing.’

[29] And say, ‘My Lord! Enable me to land a blessed landing, and indeed You are the best of those who enable to land.’

[30] Verily, in that are signs; and indeed We were determined to test.39


39. Yusuf Ali again, “Noah’s contemporaries had all sorts of chances and warning. But they refused to believe and perished. But Allah’s Truth survived, and it went to the next and succeeding generations. Will not mankind understand?”

[31] Then We raised after them another generation.

[32] And We sent among them a Messenger from themselves (commanding), ‘Worship Allah. You have no god other than He. Will you not then observe precaution?’

[33] But said those of the chiefs who had disbelieved and denied the Meeting of the Hereafter, and whom We had luxuriated in the life of the world,40 ‘This is naught but a man like yourselves (who) eats of what you eat, and drinks of what drink. 


40. Mawdudi analyses the minds and the situation: “This characterization of the opponents is significant. The ringleaders opposing the Prophet (peace be on him) were those who held the leadership of their people. The error into which all of them had fallen was their denial of Life after Death. Hence, they had no notion of being accountable or answerable to God. This, in turn, was because of their excessive infatuation with worldly life and their refusal to believe in any value above material well-being. The fact that at that time they enjoyed a considerable degree of prosperity totally swamped them in this erroneous belief. They were so deeply engrossed in worldliness that they considered themselves to be right merely because they thrived materially. They were, thus, in no mood to accept their beliefs, morality and way of life, which they thought to be the main cause of their success in this world, could be mistaken. Human history has repeatedly provided evidence of the fact that the opponents of the truth have always held these three features common. Little wonder, then, that the same scenario obtained in Makkah at the time when the Prophet (peace be on him) embarked on his reform movement.”

Never before were the evils of luxury as evident as in today’s contemporary world: pornography, nudism, homosexuality, lesbianism, pedophilia, incest, group sex, exchange of wives, sex with animals, drug and alcohol consumption, gambling, lottery, obscene music, individualism, break up of the families, et al .. humans have crossed all bounds of decency  because of a single factor: affluence. As every lamp flares up before going off, the decline after which there will be no recovery, as say the experts, specialists and thinkers, has begun. A huge struggle is about to begin for the remaining resources of the world, especially in the Middle-east. Western powers are prowling around like hungry wolves (Au.).

[34] If you obeyed a man like yourselves, in that case, surely you will be the losers.41


41. “I.e., you will be following a very foolish course indeed if you were to obey a mere mortal” (Majid).

Yusuf Ali has a slightly different comment, “The type of narrow Syberite, who enjoys the good things of this life, denies a future life, and is jealous of any one who presumes to widen his horizon, is here described in a few masterly strokes. He is bored by any mention of the serious things beyond his ken. What good is it, he says, to talk about the future? Enjoy the present. The gain is all in the present: the loss is all in the future.”

[35] Does he promise you that when you are dead, and have become dust and bones,42 that you will be brought forth (again)?

[36] Far-fetched, far-fetched indeed is what you are being promised. 


42. Their allusion was to the bones that are left after the flesh and muscle turn dust (Tabari).

[37] It is none other but this our present life: (in which) we die and live,43 and we shall never be raised up (again). [38] He is no more but a man who has fastened a lie on Allah; and surely, we are not going to believe in him.’

[39] He said, ‘My Lord! Help me for that they cry me lies.’

[40] He (Allah) said, ‘In but a little while they are sure to turn regretful.’

[41] So a Cry seized them justly and We reduced them to scum. So, away with a wrongdoing people.


43. That is, one generation dies while another takes birth, one goes, another comes, just like crops, one is harvested while another begins to appear in the field (Tabari).

In Yusuf Ali’s words: “They seem to say, ‘There is no future life: that we shall die is certain; that we have this life is certain: some die, some are born, some live; and so the cycle continues; but how can dead men be raised to life?’”

(To be continued)