Translation of Verses & Commentary from Surah `Ankabut (No. 29) [20 – 35]

[20] Say, ‘Journey in the land and see how He began the creation.’ Then Allah will produce the final producing.21 Surely, Allah has power over all things.


21. According to Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah, the allusion is to the resurrection after death. (IbnJarir)

[21] He punishes whom He will and shows mercy unto whom He will.22And to Him shall you be turned back.


22. It is another thing that Allah (swt) does not punish every defaulter, every time he commits an error, but rather offers reprieve, punishing only those who cross all limits. Otherwise, as Ibn Kathir quotes a hadith (from Abu Da’ud, IbnMajah and MusnadAhmad: H. Ibrahim), “Verily, if Allah (swt) punished all of his creations in the heavens and all of them in the earth, He could do it without being unjust.”

Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut judged the above as a strong report. (Au.)

The connection with the previous verse is obvious. There it was said that Allah (swt) will resurrect a final time. Now, resurrection will be for the purposes of judging the people, rewarding or punishing them, which is what this present verse says. (Au.)

[22] And you are not going to frustrate (Him) either in the earth or in the heaven.23And you have not, apart from Allah, a protector or helper.


23. That is, you will not be able to frustrate Allah’s designs either in the earth, or in the heavens if you happened to be there. (Ibn Jarir)

[23] As for those who rejected Allah’s revelations24 and the encounter with Him, it is they (who) are despaired of My mercy, and it is they for whom awaits a painful chastisement.

[24] But there was no answer of his people except that they said, ‘Kill him, or burn him.’ But Allah rescued him from the fire. Surely, in that there are signs for a people who believe.


24. The translation of the word ayah as ‘revelation,’ has the backing of Qurtubi. (Au.)

[25] And he said, ‘You have only taken to yourselves, other than Allah, idols as (bonds of) mutual love between you for the life of this world. But on the Day of Standing you will disown one another, and you will curse one another. Your abode will be the Fire, and you will have no helpers.’25


25. Yusuf Ali comments on high level of co-operation seen among those who reject the truth, but who will end in sorrow: “In sin and wickedness there is as much log-rolling as in politics. Evil men humor each other and support each other; they call each other’s vice by high-sounding names. They call it mutual regard or friendship or love; at the lowest, they call it toleration. Perhaps they flourish in this life by such arts. But they deceive themselves, and they deceive each other. What will be their relations in the Hereafter? They will disown each other when each has to answer on the principle of personal responsibility. Each will accuse the others of misleading him, and they will curse each other. But there will then be no help, and they must suffer in the Fire.‏”

In connection with “some helping others” on the Day of Judgment, IbnKathir has the following to report from Ibn Abi Hatim. Umm Haani, the sister of `Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) said,

“The Prophet told me, ‘Let me inform you that Allah (swt) is going to gather together whole of mankind in one field on the Day of Judgment. Then who knows the two ends?’ She said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said, ‘Then a caller will call out from below the `Arsh: “Ya Ahl al-Tawhid.” They will raise their heads. Then he will call out again, “Ya Ahl al-Tawhid.” Then he will call out a third time and say, “Allah has forgiven you.”’ The Prophet added, ‘Then some people (of the Ahl al-Tawhid) will remain who would be held back because of wrongs committed against others in the world. Then it will be announced, “Ya Ahl al-Tawhid, let you forgive each other, and Allah will recompense.”’

Al-Haythamiyy noted that Abu Hatim declared the above hadith as “Munkar” – a kind of quite weak a hadith. (Au.)

[26] But Lut believed in him.26 And he said, ‘I am emigrating toward my Lord.27 He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-wise.’


26. That is, he believed in Ibrahim the moment he presented his call, and accepted all that he had brought as true. (Alusi)

Lut was a nephew of Prophet Ibrahim. (Qurtubi from Ibn Is-haq)

27. It is Ibrahim who said this (Ibn Jarir from the Salaf). Qatadah however said that both he and Lut emigrated (along with Ibrahim’s wife Sarah) from Kutha (a place near Kufa) to Syria. He also said that we used to hear that the Prophet had said,

“There will be hijrah after hijrah. In droves peoples of the earth will go to the places Ibrahim migrated. Only the worst kind of people will be left in the earth, their lands will throw them out, Allah will disapprove of them, until Allah will send upon them the fire that will collect them along with monkeys and swine.”

The report is in Abu Da’ud also. (IbnKathir)

But Albani declared it weak; although meaning-wise there are other reports of trustworthy nature (Au.).

IbnJurayj however said that Lut first migrated to Harran. Then he was ordered to move to the Syrian region (IbnJarir).

It has been thought by some scholars however, that the words are those of Lut (asws). In this context Anas b. Malik reported that `Uthman b. `Affan left with Ruqayyah – the Prophet’s daughter – to the Abyssinian lands. For sometime no news reached the Prophet about them, until a Qurayshi woman, who had just come back from a journey, told him: “I saw your son-in-law with your daughter.” He asked, “In what state did you find them?” She said, “I saw him having mounted his wife on a lean donkey, while he led it on.” The Prophet said,

“`Uthman is the first after Lut, to migrate along with his family.” (Qurtubi)

Asad comments on the term “Muhajir”: “In the present instance this term is obviously used in both its physical and spiritual senses, analogous to the early allusion (in 19: 48-49) to Abraham’s ‘withdrawal’ (i`tizal) from his evil, native environment and to his physical emigration to Harran (in northern Mesopotamia), and thence to Syria and Palestine.”

[27] Then We bestowed on him Is-haq and Ya`qub28 and appointed Prophethood and the Book to be among his progeny;29 and We gave him his reward in this world,30 and in the world to come he shall surely be among the righteous.


28. That is, a son Is-haq, and a grandson Ya`qub. It is in this sense that Ibn `Abbas meant to say when he said that the two were sons of Ibrahim (IbnKathir).

29. So that, writes IbnKathir, every Prophet who came after Ibrahim (asws) was raised from his progeny.

30. It is said that Mujahid sent someone to `Ikrimah to find out what was the ‘this-worldly’ reward that Ibrahim was given. He told him, his ‘this-worldly’ reward was that all the nations of the world love to own him as theirs. When the man returned with the answer to Mujahid he remarked, “He is correct.” This is the opinion of Ibn `Abbas and others who added that another of the rewards of this world granted to him was righteous progeny. (IbnJarir)

[28] And (recall) Lut when he said to his people, ‘Verily, you commit a lewdness that no one has preceded with before you in the worlds.31


31. `Amr b. Dinar used to say that no one in the world ever committed homosexuality before the people of Lut (IbnJarir); perhaps he meant as a nation. (Au.)

[29] What, do you approach men, cut off the highway,32 and commit abomination in your assembly?’33 But there was no answer of his people except that they said, ‘Bring us Allah’s chastisement if you are of the truthful.’

[30] He said, ‘O my Lord. Help me against the corrupting people.’


32. Ibn Zayd has said that the allusion is to their habit of waylaying passers-by and forcing anal sex on them. (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi)

Another connotation of “taqta`una al-sabil” is, as offered by Hasan and quoted by Zamakhshari: “to cut across the way (of nature).” And, as noted by Asad, “Imam Razi adopts it exclusively and without reservation.”

33. While a report from `A’isha said that the allusion is to wind-passing contests in their assemblies; Umm Haani says she was told by the Prophet that they squatted on the roads, threw pebbles at the passers-by, (especially women: Qurtubi), and made fun of them. (IbnJarir)

Umm Hani’s report is in Tirmidhi also, but who declared it not so reliable. The report is also in Hakim who declared it trustworthy (Alusi). The allusion could in general be to all sorts of indecencies that they committed in their assemblies. (Ma`arif)

The report about throwing pebbles etc., is in Abu Da’udTayaalisi, Nuhhas, Tha`labi, Mahdawi and Mawardi. As regards reports about passing winds, it also comes from Ibn `Abbas and Qasim b. AbiBazzah. Several other indecencies are reported of them, including lesbianism (Qurtubi), such as, as one coming from Ibn `Abbas which says that the allusion is to finger-joints crackling, chewing gum, rubbing miswak in public, removing clothes before others, calling names, and indecency in jokes. (Zamakhshari)

The above report has not been authenticated. We have presented it to give some idea of what our ancestors disapproved of, some of which have entered into Muslim society of our times. (Au.)

[31] When Our messengers came to Ibrahim with the good news,34 they said, ‘Indeed We are about to destroy the inhabitants of this township. Verily, its inhabitants have been evildoers.’


34. When Lut (asws) prayed to Allah (swt) for help against the evildoers, Allah (swt) responded by sending angels of destruction. They passed by Ibrahim (asws) but first gave him the glad tiding of a son and a grandson in order to comfort him at the impending destruction of the people of Lut. (IbnKathir)

[32] He said, ‘But surely Lut is in it.’35 They said, ‘We know very well who is in it. Assuredly we shall save him and his family – except his wife: she has been of those who lag behind.’


35. Ibrahim was not informing the angels about Lut’s presence in the township (Au.), but rather he meant to express his wonder over how could a people be destroyed when there happened to be a Prophet among them (Razi); so, primarily he was concerned with Lut. (Au.)

[33] And when Our messengers came to Lut, he was troubled on their account and felt himself powerless for them.36 They said, ‘Fear not, nor grieve. We shall save you and your family, except your wife – she has been of those who lag behind.

[34] Indeed, we are about to bring down upon the inhabitants of this township a scourge from the heaven because they have been doing corruption.’


36. Their arrival, and the nefarious intentions of the inhabitants of his town, made Lut distressful, (Qatadah: IbnJarir), especially so because he felt himself powerless against the corrupt folk (Razi). According to details given in Hud, al-Hijr and al-Qamar, the townsmen visited Lut to demand his guests. He cried out in anguish (10: 80), “Would that I had a power against you or take refuge in a strong corner’” (Mawdudi).

[35] Indeed, We left thereof a clear sign for a people who reason.37


37. That is, a lasting sign and unforgettable lesson was left in them, in the town, and in the punishment which was meted out to them (Ibn Jarir, reworded). When the Arabs of the Prophet’s time visited the Syrian region, they passed by the Dead Sea and learned from the local populations that the nation of Lut was buried in there (Au.). Allah (swt) said about their main town under the sea (15: 76-77): “And it is right on the high-road. Surely, in that is a sign for those who believe.”

Asad adds: “This is an allusion to the Dead Sea – known to this day as Bahr Lut (“The Sea of Lot”) – which covers most of the region in which Sodom and Gomorrah were once situated. Its waters contain so high a percentage of sulphur and potash that no fish or plants can live in them.”

Majid adds: “The sea itself has certain very curious peculiarities. ‘Ocean water contains on an average 4-6% of salts. Dead Sea water contains 25% … Owing principally to the large proportion of chloride and bromide of magnesia, no animal life can exist in its water. Fish… die in a very short time if introduced into the main waters of the lake.’ (EBr. VII. p. 879, 11thed.)

‘The water of the Dead Sea is intensely saline… The Chlorides of magnesium, largely held in solution, gives water its nauseous taste… No animal life can exist in its waters… The recent (1924) joint expedition of the Xenio seminary and the American School of Oriental Research sent out to locate the Cities of the Plain are convinced that three of them, Sodom, Gomorrah and Zoar, stood in the south-east corner of the Dead Sea … but now of course beneath the area.’ (EBr. VII, pp. 99-100).”

Yusuf Ali has his usual poignant remark: “The whole tract on the east side of the Dead Sea (where the Cities were situated) is covered with sulphureous salts and is deadly to animal and plant life. The Dead Sea itself is called in Arabic the Bahr Lut (the Sea of Lot). It is a scene of utter desolation that should stand as a Symbol of the Destruction that awaits Sin.”



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