Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah 28: Al-Qasas (The Stories) [57-77]


[57] They said, ‘If we were to follow the guidance with you, we will be snatched away from our land.’102 Have We not established for them a secure Sanctuary, to which are brought fruits of every manner, as provision from Ourselves?103 But most of them realize not.104


102. That is because in pre-Islamic times the territories around the Makkans were unsafe. People who could not protect themselves through an alliance could be looted, kidnapped, enslaved, or even murdered, except for the Makkans, who were treated with respect for the virtue of they being the custodians of the Ka`ba. It was Harth b. `Amir b. Nawfal who said, “We know that what you have brought is true. But, we are prevented by the thought that we will be snatched off the land – meaning, war will be declared on us (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi).

103. The purport of the ayah is that when the unbelievers said that they were afraid of losing worldly benefits if they declared their belief in the new message, Allah answered, in effect, that insistence upon rejection of the truth in fact endangers worldly blessings (Razi).

104. That is, they do not know that just as the security provided to them by Allah was by virtue of Him having declared the city a Sanctuary, the fruits of all manner that are brought to it are also by Allah’s power and command.

[58] And, how many of the towns We destroyed that exulted in their manner of life? Yonder there are their dwellings that were not dwelt in after them, except briefly;105 it is We who were the inheritors.


105. The textual words “illaqalila” afford two meanings. One, those dwellings were not inhabited but by a few of the remnants, and two, they were not dwelt in at all after their inhabitants were destroyed, save for an occasional passer-by who spent a night or so. This is the meaning that Ibn `Abbas preferred as noted by several commentators.

[59] And, your Lord was not a destroyer of the towns until He had sent to its central (town) a Messenger reciting upon them Our revelations.106 And We were not to be the destroyers unless its inhabitants were evildoers.107



106. Allah (swt) sent Messengers to the main towns because, one, (for cultural reason) the message is understood better in the main towns and, two because propagation of the call is easier from there than from minor towns. (Thanwi)

107. That is, Allah (swt) would not destroy a town even after it had received His Messenger until confirmed rejection of its inhabitants proved true through several respites.

[60] And, whatever of the things you are given, is but this world’s transitory (means of) enjoyment and its glitter. But that which is with Allah, is better and longer lasting. Will you not then reason?108



108. Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said, “Allah (swt) created the world and made its people of three kinds: believer, hypocrite and unbeliever. The believer prepares for the Hereafter, the hypocrite goes for the glitter, and the unbeliever for fleeing enjoyments.”

[61] Is he then, whom We have promised a good promise, and so he will meet it, like he whom We gave this world’s transitory (means of) enjoyment but who will be of those arraigned on the Day of Standing?109

[62] And that day He will call them, ‘Where are My partners that you were alleging?’



109. That is, he will be brought forth and made to appear in Allah’s Court of Justice as a criminal on the Day of Judgment (Au.).

[63] Those for whom the word (of punishment) will prove true will say, ‘O our Lord! These are the ones whom we led astray. We led them astray, even as we (ourselves) went astray.110 We disassociate ourselves (from them) to You. It is not us they were worshipping.’



110. What they would try to say is that ‘we are not truly responsible for misguiding them. We were ourselves misguided and they, those we are supposed to have misguided, went astray by their own volition. For, all that we did by way of leading them astray is to make suggestions. Yet, if we had invited them to disbelief, they were invited by Allah to belief through a voice that spoke from within, the voice of reason and conscience, to which was added the voice of the Messengers sent to them.’

This is what Shaytan will say on the Day of Judgment (14: 22): “And Satan will say when the matter is concluded, ‘Allah promised you a true promise, and I too promised. But I failed in my promise. And I had no power over you except that I invited you and you responded to me.  Therefore, do not blame me, blame your own selves. I cannot come to your aid now nor can you come to my aid. I disown your earlier (act of) associating me (with Allah).’ Surely, a painful chastisement (awaits) the wrongdoers.” (Zamakhshari, Razi)

[64] And it will be said, ‘Call upon your partners.’ So they will call upon them, but they will not respond to them. And they will see the chastisement – would that they had received the guidance.111



111. Zajjaj has said that the consequence of “would that” has not been stated. The implication is, “had we believed, we would have escaped the punishment today.” (Qurtubi)

[65] And that day He will call them and say, ‘What did you answer the Messengers?’112



112. After being questioned about tawhid, they will next be questioned about risalah to be asked in effect, ‘If you could not use your own reason to arrive at tawhid, you could have at least listened to the voice of the Messengers. How did you answer them?’ (Shabbir)

[66]But that day their arguments will be lost to them, and they will not ask each other.113



113. That is, they will not ask each other for help, as people normally do when they face difficulties (Zamakhshari, Razi). Qurtubi thinks they will not seek each other’s advice over how they should answer to construct a good case.

[67]Then, as for he who had repented, believed, and did righteous deeds, then haply114 he will be of the successful.



114. When `asa (haply) is used by Allah (as a possibility from Him), it actually stands for certainty. (Ibn Jarir)

[68] And your Lord creates what He will, and chooses.115 Not for them was the choice. Glory to Allah, high above that they associate (with Him).
[69] And your Lord knows what their breasts conceal and what they publish.



115. Bazzar has a trustworthy report which says, “Allah (swt) chose my Companions over the peoples of the world, except the Messengers and Prophets. Then of my Companions He chose for me four: Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman and `Ali. He made them my Companions. To be sure, there is some good in every one of my Companions. And He chose my Ummah over the rest of the nations, and of my Ummah, he chose four centuries: the first, the second, the third and the fourth.” (Qurtubi)

Haythamiyy declared that the above report could be trusted except that some differences in opinion have occurred over a few of the narrators. (Au.)

Qurtubi follows up with some details about Salah al-Istikharah. It is not right for a believer that he should decide on any (important) affair without asking His Lord to help him choose the right course. Bukhari has a report that the Prophet (saws) used to teach his Companions to seek Allah’s guidance (through Salah al-Istikharah) in every affair. He paid as much attention to it, as he would when teaching them a chapter of the Qur’an. One must offer two rak`ah of Prayers, apart from other supererogatory Prayers and recite after Al-Fatiha, Surah number 109 in the first rak`ah, and number 112 in the second rak`ah. Some scholars have said, adds Qurtubi, that in the first rak`ah one might recite the verse under discussion, and in the second raka`ah (33: 36) which says, “It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should have any choice in their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, has surely strayed into clear error.

After finishing the Prayer he should supplicate to Allah (swt) in the following words: “O Allah! I seek Your help, by Your knowledge, and invoke Your Might through Your Power; ask of Your great bounty; for You have power and I have no power; You know and I do not know; and You are the Knower of the Unseen. O Allah! If You know that there is good for me in this affair, in my religion and in my life, and my affairs of the hereafter” – or he said, “the immediate of my affairs or the ultimate” – then, give me power for it and make it easy for me. Then, bless me in it. But if You know that this affair bodes evil for me, in my religion or life and in my affairs of the hereafter,” – or he said, “the immediate of the affairs and the ultimate” – then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and give me power over good, wherever it might be, and then render it acceptable to me.” After these words the man might name his need. And `A’isha reports from Abu Bakr who reports from the Prophet that when the Prophet wished to do something he would say, “O Allah! Make a choice for me.” It is also reported that he told Anas, “O Anas, when you wish to do something, seek the right course from your Lord seven times, then see what establishes itself in your heart, for the good is in it.”

The scholars have said that before seeking Allah’s help, one should first empty his heart of any choice without being inclined to any particular side. Then seek Allah’s help in that state of neutrality and do according to the heart’s inclination, for the good is in it.

Quote from Qurtubi ends here.

[70] And He is Allah, there is no deity save He. Unto Him is the praise,116 at the first and at the last. His is the command,117 and to Him you will be returned.



116. The praise of this mention is the “praise of delight” (hamd al-ladhdhah) and not the obligatory praise (hamd al-kulfah). It is about this class that the Prophet said, “They (the inhabitants of Paradise) will be inspired with glorifications and exaltations (of Allah).” – Zamakhshari

117. Imam Razi traces the sources of morality to Allah’s will and command: “If not for His command,” he writes, “there would have been no command on the earth. A child would not have obeyed his parents, a wife would not have obeyed her husband, neither subjects their rulers, nor a people their Messenger. It is Allah’s command that established the command of these people.”

[71] Say, ‘Have you considered, were Allah to make the night perpetual upon you till the Day of Standing, what god is there besides Allah who could bring you light?118 Do you not then hearken?’



118. An important reality is concealed behind the simple statement, “who could bring you light” because all life on earth is dependent on photosynthesis of the plants which in turn depends entirely on the sun’s energy. (Au.)

[72] Say, ‘Have you considered, were Allah to make the day perpetual upon you till the Day of Standing, what god is there beside Allah who could bring you a night wherein you could repose?119 Do you not see (the truth)?’



119. We get light on all parts of the earth because it turns around on its axis completing one turn in about 24 hours, while orbiting the sun in about 365 days. Had the turn on its own axis been so arranged that when the earth completed, say one quarter of its orbit around the sun, then, during the same period, it also turned one fourth around its own axis, then the earth would be showing the same face to the sun. On and on, turning on its own axis, and orbiting the sun during the same time, the earth would always show its one face to the sun, the other half remaining in perpetual darkness.

As if to give us an example at close hand, Allah (swt) established this system between the earth and the moon. The moon turns around its axis in about 29 days, while it also completes an orbit around the earth in exactly the same time, and hence the inhabitants of the earth can never see the other face of the moon from the earth. This arrangement, according to the scientists, is by accident. But the problem is, the universe is filled with such accidental occurrences! (Au.)

[73] It is out of His mercy (that) He made for you the night and the day – so that you might rest therein and seek from His bounty120 – and that haply you will give thanks.
[74] And the day He will call unto them and say, ‘Where are My associates (in Divinity) that you were alleging?’



120. That is, writes Qurtubi, Allah (swt) made night and day, in both of which men can rest, whereas, He made the day specifically so that they may seek His provision.

Alternatively, the verse could be paraphrased as: “It is out of His mercy (that) He made for you night – so that you might rest therein – and the day – so that you may seek His bounty during it. (Au.)

[75] And We shall draw out a witness from every nation121 and say, ‘Produce your evidence.’122 Then shall they know that the truth belongs to Allah, and lost to them will be those that they were forging.



121. That is, Allah (swt) will draw out of every nation its Prophet or Messenger, who will testify that he had conveyed the message to them. (Mujahid: Ibn Jarir)

122. That is, present your evidences for worshipping false gods despite the Messengers delivering their message to you. (Mujahid: Ibn Jarir).

[76] Verily, Qarun was of the people of Musa,123 but he acted insolently towards them.124 And such were the treasures We had given him125 that their very keys would burden a body of strong men.126 Whereupon his people said to him, ‘Exult not; surely, Allah does not approve of the exultant.



123. According to Ibrahim, Qatadah and others, he was Musa’s cousin (Ibn Jarir). The report is in Ibn Abi Shaybah’sMusannaf, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Hakim (who declared it trustworthy), and Ibn Marduwayh. (Shawkani)

124. When bagha is used along with the suffix `alayhi, it adds the connotation of envy to the primary meaning of “rising against,” “acting insolently and arrogantly,” etc. Muslim sources say that Qarun was envious of Musa and Harun that they held all the ecclesiastical offices between themselves with none invested in him (Qurtubi and others). Further, Musa was demanding from Qarun payment of poor-due, which, at the rate of 0.1%. ButQarun did not feel it was a just demand and so he rebelled. The significance of the Qur’anic words is fully realized through Jewish literature – if trustworthy.

Majid comments and quotes: “Bagha `ala akhihi” is also, ‘He envied his brother; he wished that a blessing, or cause of happiness, or an excellence might become transferred from his brother to himself’ (LL). The Bible gives rather a meagre account of his ‘rising’ against Moses and Aron (on them be peace!).

“‘And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?’ (Nu. 16: 2,3).

“Josephus supplies some details: ‘Corah, an Hebrew of principal account, both by his family and by his wealth … saw that Moses was in an exceeding great dignity, and was uneasy at it, and envied him on that account, (he was of the same tribe with Moses and kin to him) being particularly grieved, because he thought he better deserved that honourable post on account of his great riches, and as not inferior to him in his birth. So he raised a clamour against him among the Levites, who were of the same tribe, and especially among his kindred that … if God had determined to bestow that honour on one of the tribes of Levi, I am more worthy of it than he is, I myself being equal to Moses by my family, and superior to him in riches, and in my age.’ (“Ant,” Iv., 2: 2).”

125. Qurtubi points out that according to Farra,’ the explanation by some that Qarun’s wealth was due to his knowledge of ‘Alchemy’ is incorrect. Alchemy is pseudo-science with no basis in truth.

Ibn Kathir comments: Alchemy is no science for the simple reason that no one can alter the essence of things, such as ordinary metals to gold. A trustworthy narrative tells us that the Prophet said, “Allah (swt) says, ‘Who can be more wrong than he who claimed that he could create like I create. Let them then create an atom, let them create a barley seed.’”

This hadith is in reference to the prohibition against artwork involving humans. Now, if mere image-making invokes such response, then what about when somebody claims to alter the very nature of things? No one can ever transfer say, one metal into another, unless it is by karamah (thaumaturgy) of the Friends of Allah, where, it is Allah’s own power which is working and not that of the person involved. For example, we have the story of Haywah b. Shurayh the Egyptian, whom someone asked for help. He had nothing to offer, although he could see the pressing need of the man before him. So he took a few pebbles, shook them in his hand and then advanced them to the man. And Lo! They were pieces of gold. There are several reports of this kind that cannot be presented for reasons of length.

Ibn Kathir’s quote ends here.

126. That Qarun was fabulously rich is a Qur’anic testimony. According to Jewish sources (such as the Jewish Encyclopaedia), the keys to his treasures had to be carried on the back of three hundred mules. (Yusuf Ali traces a similar report from Jewish compilation called Midrashim). Muslim commentators seem to have been influenced by them. They have reported that the keys were carried not by three hundred, but by sixty mules. But, allowance made for Jewish hyperbole, we are still faced with the Qur’anic statement, “And such were the treasures We had given him that their very keys would burden a body of strong men.” There are three answers: one, the word “mafatih” has to be understood in the sense of “treasures.” This was the opinion of Abu Saleh.

Two, Dahhak thought that the allusion by “mafatih” is to “treasure-chests,” that were carried on forty mules. Three, the keys were made of leather which ended with wooden rods (that made them heavy). These three opinions are in Ibn Jarir. A fourth possibility is that since during that period technology was quite crude and cumbersome, the keys could have been made of massive sized wood, for special kinds of locks that the technology of that time could afford. Dozens of such keys would have required a band of men to take charge of material in the stockyards. (There is no consensus over the number that `usbah stands for. Opinions vary from 3-10 men to 40 men. Further, uli-quwwah could as well be referring to men experienced in accounts capable of handling large stocks of a variety of goods ranging from cloth, to arms, to spices). Finally, the Qur’an does not implicitly say that the keys were too heavy. A possible implication is that there were so many keys, (quite heavy in their own right), that the carrying, preserving and guarding of which was a heavy task upon a band of men (Au.).

One question may arise: The Israelites did not enter into Palestine for forty years after leaving Egypt. So, where were Qarun’s treasures? Yusuf Ali conjectures that perhaps he left his treasures in Egypt itself having brought with him only the keys. But that does not seem to be very likely, unless Qarun also went back to Egypt along with Musa after Fir`awn was drowned, as reported by Josephus (although Josephus does not name him). Alternatively, the episode might have taken place during the sojourn in Sinai, during which sojourn Qarun might have carried his treasure-chests on dozens of mules. That said, perhaps the explanation of Abu Saleh above is the most satisfactory, especially in view of the fact that the Qur’an has not made hyperbolic statements anywhere (Au.).

[77] But seek through what Allah has given you the Final Abode; and forget not your share of the world.127 And do good (to others) as Allah has done you good, and seek not corruption in the land. Surely, Allah does not approve of the corrupters.’



127. That is, do not give up working to please Allah (swt) in this world, through good deeds – Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others (Ibn Jarir).

After presenting the above opinions, Qurtubi adds that according to some the allusion is to his coffin. They meant to say, “Do not forget that in truth, your share of this world is the coffin-shroud in which you will be packed and dispatched into the Hereafter.” He quotes two poetical examples in support of this interpretation.

Another possible meaning is, do not forget to take your rightful share of this-worldly things such as victuals, clothes, articles of adornment, etc. For, your Lord has a right on you, your body has a right on you, your wife and children have their rights on you, your guest has a right on you, and so, give everyone his due. (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir)

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