Translation of Verses & Commentary from Surah `Ankabut (No. 29) [36 – 44]

 [36] And to Madyan (We sent) their brother Shu`ayb. He said, ‘O my people, worship Allah and look to the Last Day.38 And act not corruptly in the earth, spreading mischief.


38. That is, you should look forward to be rewarded for your good deeds in the Hereafter (IbnJarir). A few have thought that the meaning is “fear the Hereafter” (IbnJarir, IbnKathir, Qurtubi).

[37] But they lay the lie on him and so the earthquake seized them and by morning they lay prostrate in their dwelling.39


39. That is, they lay dead, piled upon each other (IbnJarir).

[38] And (remember) `Ad40 and Thamud – surely, it has become clear to you (what We did to them) from their homes (now in ruins). Shaytan decked out fair to them their deeds, and thus averted them from the Path, although they were (otherwise) quite sagacious.41


40. Asad comments: “As regards the tribe of `Aad, the above seems to be an allusion to their one-time capital, the legendary ‘Iram the many pillared’ (mentioned in the Qur’an only once, namely, in 89: 7). It has since been buried by the moving sand-dunes of Al-Ahqaf(a region between ‘Uman and Hadramawt, within the great South-Arabian desert of Rub al-Khali); it is said, however, that its traces are occasionally uncovered by strong winds.”

41. Alternative meanings are, “they were endued with sight” (Majid), or “were keen of sight.” Asad writes, “Thus, the Qur’an implies that it is man’s ‘ability to perceive the truth’ (istibsar) that makes him morally responsible for his doings and hence, for his failure to resist his own evil impulses..”

Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Qatadah said that they were quite sagacious in their religious affairs, doing what they did consciously; upon which Dahhak added that not only they knew well what they clung to as their religion, but were in fact sort of proud of it (IbnJarir). Another possible meaning is that they knew the error in their pagan religion, and were quite aware that the truth lay in the message brought by their Prophets, yet clung to paganism. Farra’s opinion on the other hand was that although they were a sagacious people, their sagacity served them not (when they decided to reject the messages).–Qurtubi

[39] And Qarun, Fir`awn and Haman – Musa did go to them with clear signs but they waxed proud in the earth, but they were not the overtakers (against Us).

[40] Wherefore We seized each one for his sin. Against some We loosed a storm of stones;42 some were seized by the Cry;43 some We sank in the earth;44 while some We drowned.45 And Allah was not such as to wrong them, but rather, they were wronging themselves.


42. The allusion is to `Aad and the nation of Lut.

The Arabs name every storm that carries sand, pebble, or hale, as `aasif. (IbnJarir)

43. The allusion is to Thamud and the inhabitants of Madyan.

44. Such as Qarun. Asad comments: “The common denominator between these two (Haman and Qarun: au.) and Pharaoh is their false pride (takabbur) and arrogance (istikbar), which caused them to become ‘archetype of evil’.. A similar attitude of mind is said to have been the characteristic of the tribes of `Aad and Thamud mentioned in the preceding verse.”

45. Such as the nations of Nuh, Fir`awn and his folks.

[41] The example of those who took protectors other than Allah is like the spider which takes (to itself) a house; but truly, the weakest of houses is the spider’s house;46 only if they knew.47

[42] Surely, Allah knows whatever aught they call upon other than Him. He is the All-mighty, the All-wise.


46. Yusuf Ali has a goodly note on the spider’s nest: “The Spider’s house is one of the wonderful Signs of Allah’s creation. It is made up of fine silk threads spun out of silk glands in the spider’s body. There are many kinds of spiders and many kinds of spider’s houses. Two main types of houses may be mentioned. There is the tubular nest or web, a silk-lined house or burrow with one or two trap-doors. This may be called his residential or family mansion. Then there is what is ordinarily called a spider’s web, consisting of a central point with radiating threads running in all directions and acting as tie-beams to the quasi-circular concentric threads that form the body of the web. This is his hunting box. The whole structure exemplifies economy in time, material, and strength. If an insect is caught in the net, the vibration set up in the radiating threads is at once communicated to the spider, who can come and kill his prey. In case the prey is powerful, the spider is furnished with poison glands with which to kill his prey. The spider sits either in the centre of the web or hides on the under-side of a leaf or in some crevice, but he always has a single thread connecting him with his web, to keep him in telephonic communication. The female spider is much bigger than the male, and in Arabic the generic gender of ‘Ankabut is feminine.”


Except Antarctica, spiders are found everywhere. A few of them are aquatic, that is, live under water. There are about 30,000 known species of them. Their average sizes vary from a few millimeters to 9 cm. body length. Feet included, they can be as large as 30 cm. (a foot). The bird-eating spider weighs 120 gm. and is capable of hunting down little birds.

Spiders have eight legs and eight simple eyes. In some species the eyes are so arranged as to allow all around view. They can see ahead, behind, above, and to the sides, all at the same time. The lower part of the abdomen produces the silk gland. They live for about a year and are predators; they bite their prey releasing a powerful poison which causes paralysis. The poison also produces digestive juices in the body of the prey which the spider sucks along with other juicy parts of the body. To humans, their bite is not fatal although can cause severe pain. Occasionally, they may cause death.

Usually they use their nets to trap insects. Some species however lasso them as they come within range. The famous Tarantula variety lives in burrows and is large enough to pound on the prey rather than use a net.

The main wonder of the spiders is the silk they produce. Initially, it is a fluid which contains a protein called fibroin. It solidifies into an insoluble thread when the proteins rearrange themselves under tension as the silk is drawn out of the spider’s body. Spiders have several glands to produce several types of silk. Spider silk is up to 200 times finer than the finest human hair and is highly elastic. It can be stretched to over 20% of its length and retains its elasticity at temperatures as low as – 40 º C. It is one of the strongest natural substances known. A single thread of it can be stretched by nearly a third without snapping, and would have to be about 80 km long to break purely under its own weight. It is said that an inch thick of pure spider silk net can stop a flying jetliner in the air.

Mating occurs by the force of nature, otherwise, it is the end of the male which is either eaten off by the female, or dies off, immediately after the mating is over. Once mature, the male spider stops feeding and spends all the time and energy trying to find a female to mate with. In some cases the female starts eating off the male even as mating is going on. Strangely, in such cases mating actions continue despite the male having lost its head to the female.

Spiders are oviparous, i.e., they lay eggs. The mother sometimes carries the eggs on her back, or conceals them somewhere, preserving them in silk cocoons. When they hatch, the young ones ride on their mother’s back until they are big enough to fend for themselves. Among the Wolf spiders, when two female spiders carrying young meet, they fight to the death of one of them. When that happens, the spiderlings from both will climb onto the back of the victorious mother who carries them around as if they are her own.

47. Yusuf Ali tells us why people fail to learn in life: “Parables seem simple things, but their profound meaning and application can only be understood by those who seek knowledge and by Allah’s grace attain it.‏” And, “Most of the facts in the last note can be read into the Parable. For their thickness the spider’s threads are very strong from the point of view of relativity, but in our actual world they are flimsy, especially the threads of the gossamer spider floating in the air. So is the house and strength of the man who relies on material resources however fine or beautiful relatively; before the eternal Reality they are as nothing. The spider’s most cunning architecture cannot stand against a wave of a man’s hand. His poison glands are like the hidden poison in our beautiful worldly plans which may take various shapes but have seeds of death in them.‏”

[43] And We strike these similitudes for the people, but ponder not except the knowledgeable.

[44] Allah created the heavens and the earth in truth.48Surely in that is a sign for the believers.


48. “I.e., endowed with meaning and purpose.. In other words, belief in the existence of a meaning and purpose underlying the creation of the universe is a logical corollary of one’s belief in God” (Asad).



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