Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah 28: Al-Qasas (The Stories) [78-88]


[78] He boasted, ‘I was only given it by virtue of a knowledge that I have.’128What! Did he not know that Allah destroyed before him of the generations, him who was stronger than he in might, and greater in wealth?129 And the criminals will not be questioned about their sins.130


128. Several of the earliest commentators have said that the allusion by “knowledge” is to the knowledge of the Torah that Qarun had mastered.

Ibn Zayd has said that Qarun thought that ‘if Allah (swt) was not well-pleased with me, if He was not unaware of my superiority, and the fact that I deserved it all, He would not have bestowed this wealth on me.’ (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir)

The apparent meaning can be stated in Majid’s words: “i.e., what is this foolish talk about the grace and bounty of God? I have earned all this wealth on account of my own skill in the art of making money.”

129. That is, if wealth and material power were signs of Allah’s approval, why were nations and individuals of earlier times who were wealthier and stronger than him destroyed?

130. There are two possible meanings: one, as Qatadah has said, the unbelievers will be pushed into Hellfire without being questioned about their actions in the world. And two, the latter day unbelievers will not be questioned about the sins committed by earlier criminals. (Ibn Jarir)

Zamakhshari thinks, however, that the relationship is as follows: When Allah mentioned that there were many who were destroyed for their sins, He also stated that He did not need to question the unbelievers for their crimes. He had full knowledge of their doings.

[79] Then he strutted forth before his people in his pomp.131 Said those who aimed for the life of the world, ‘O would that we had the like of what Qarun has been given. Truly, he is (a man) of great fortune.’


131. That is, he appeared along with his huge retinue, exulting, and displaying his wealth and position. (Ibn Jarir)

“That Korah was joined by a large number of malcontents is borne out by the Jewish traditions: ‘Korah incited all the people against Moses, arguing that it was quite impossible to endure the laws instituted by the latter.’ (JE. VII p. 557)”

[80] But said those who were given knowledge, ‘Woe unto you, Allah’s reward is better for him who believes and works righteous deeds. But none is granted it except the patient (and persevering).’
[81] So We sank him and his dwelling into the earth.132 He had no party to help him against Allah, nor was he of those who could defend themselves.



132. In the absence of a trustworthy report, it is difficult to say what immediate cause led to the earth swallowing Qarun. A popular report as in IbnJarir, Kashshaf, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani and others can be summarised in the following manner:

When Qarun was asked by Musa to expend a meager amount of wealth in charity, it sounded like too much to him. So he thought he would rather cast aspersion on Musa and humiliate him before the elders of the Children of Israel rather than pay up. He prepared a harlot at good cost to allege that Musa had sex with her. As Musa visited Qarun to admonish him and his retinue, entourage, sycophants and supporters, he was confronted by Qarun who asked him whether what he preached about severing of the hand for theft, stoning to death for adultery and all that was equally applicable to him? (That is, to Musa). Musa said yes. At that point he accused him of adultery and the harlot was produced for testimony. But before the woman could speak out, Musa asked her to swear by all that was holy unto the Israelites before she made a statement. That drove fear into the woman and she decided to tell the truth viz., that Qarun had paid her to make the accusation against Musa. Musa went into prostration weeping, and supplicated that he be given command over the earth for a while. The supplication granted, he commanded the earth to swallow Qarun and his mansion, which it did. Qarun pleaded for mercy as he sank, but Musa paid no attention to him. After the sinking, Allah (swt) admonished Musa to the effect that had Qarun pleaded to Him for mercy, He would have responded to him. And, it is thought that his wealth was also sunk into the earth in order to remove any doubt that Musa wished to possess it.

Majid presents the Jewish traditions of this context: “The ground clave asunder that was under them. And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained Korah, and all their goods. They, and all appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation.’ (Nu. 16: 31-33). See also “Ant.” IV, 4: 3,4). ‘At the time of Kora’s engulfment, the earth became like a funnel, and everything that belonged to him, even linen that was the launderer’s and needle that had been borrowed by persons living at a distance from Korah, rolled till it fell into the chasm. According to the Rabbis, Korah himself underwent the double punishment of being burned and buried alive.’” (JE. VII. p. 557)

The description above of the earth becoming a funnel, if a reliable report, lends credence to the idea that he sank in the Sinai Desert. In our times, several caving in of the earth in the earth, have been reported, some, right in the middle of a town, and so large as to swallow houses and cars. (Au.)

There is no hadith that mentions Qarun’s end. But Bukhari has a report which says, “While a man was dragging his lower garment, he was swallowed by the earth and he will remain sinking in the earth until the Day of Standing.” Another report in Ahmad is slightly differently worded. It says, “While a man from of those before you came out in two green garments, strutting proudly and arrogantly, Allah ordered the earth to swallow him up. He will remain sinking into it until the Day of Judgment.” (Both these reports do not identify Qarun as the person).

And Hafiz ibn al-Mundhir has recorded in his `Aja’ib wa Ghara’ib the following from Nawfal b. Musahiq: “Once I encountered a young man in one of the mosques in Najran. I began to stare at him for his health, beauty and extremely well-balanced figure. He asked, ‘Why do you stare at me?’ I replied, ‘In wonder at your beauty and perfection.’ He said arrogantly, ‘Ah, even Allah wonders at me.’ Immediately he began to shrink in size until he became as small as about half a foot. One of his relatives picked him up, put him in his pocket and left.” (Ibn Kathir)

[82] And those who had longed for his position the previous day began to say by the morning,133 ‘Ah! It is Allah indeed who extends provision to whom He will of His slaves and constricts it.134Had not Allah been gracious to us, He would have sunk us (also). Ah!135 Surely the unbelievers never prosper.’



133. By the morning because, writes Alusi, the sinking took place at night.

134. Wealth and well-being are no signs of Allah’s approval. A hadith speaks of the principle behind Allah’s division of wealth and other things. It says, as reported by IbnMas`ud, “Allah (swt) has divided good character amongst you as he has divided wealth. Indeed, Allah (swt) gives wealth unto him He loves, and unto him He does not love. But He does not bestow Iman (faith) except on him He loves.” (IbnKathir)

135. “Ah” is a very poor equivalent of “wayka-annahu.” In Arabic, it carries several connotations such as: “Have you not seen that?”, “Do you not see that?”, “Have you not known?”, etc., which is the meaning preferred by Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir.

[83] That home of the Hereafter We appoint it for those who seek not self-exaltation in the land, nor corruption.136 And the (good) end is for the godfearing.137
[84] Whosoever brings a good (deed), then, for him is better than it. While he who brought an evil, then those who worked evil will not be recompensed but for what they were doing.



136. What constitutes “`uluww fi’l ard”? Ibn Kathir writes that it is arrogant treatment of the people. The Prophet has said, “It has been revealed to me that you should be humble, so that none of you waxes proud against another and no one mistreats another.” The report is in Muslim and Abu Da’ud: Hussain b. Ibrahim.

And `Ali (ibn Abi Talib) has said that if a man wishes that his shoe-lace should be better than his brother’s, then this verse is applicable to him (Kashshaf). That however, adds IbnKathir, if it is out of pride and show of insolence; otherwise not. A Sahih report says that a man asked the Prophet, “A man likes that his clothes be good, and shoes beautiful. Does that constitute pride?” He answered, “No. Allah (swt) is beautiful and He approves of the beautiful.”

Qurtubi adds the following from Tabarani who narrates through Ahmad b. Hanbal: It is reported that once Hasan b. `Ali passed by a group of poor folks who were having their lunch over pieces of bread. He greeted them and they invited him to join in. Hasan recited this Ayah: “That home of the Hereafter We appoint it for those who seek not self-exaltation in the land, nor corruption.” Then he got down from his beast and joined them. When they had finished he said, “I responded to your invitation, now you should respond to mine.” He took them home, fed them and gifted them things.

And it is reported that when `Adiyy b. Hatim entered upon the Prophet for the first time, he spread a cushion for `Adiyy to sit on. But `Adiyy preferred to sit on the bare ground. The Prophet told him, “I testify that you are of those who do not seek self-exaltation in the earth nor corruption.” Not surprisingly, `Adiyy embraced Islam in that session.

And it is reported of `Ali, at the time he happened to be the Caliph, that he would visit the markets, help the lost one to find his way, assist the weak, pass by the grocery and vegetable-sellers and remind them by the Qur’an. All the while he would be repeating, “That home of the Hereafter We appoint it for those who seek not self-exaltation in the land, nor corruption.(Alusi)

137. “This verse was recited by the Prophet at the end of his last public address.” (Majid)

[85] Surely He who ordained the Qur’an upon you, will surely bring you back to the place of return.138 Say, ‘My Lord knows very well who has brought the guidance, and who it is that is in manifest error.’
[86] And you were not expecting that the Book will be cast unto you, except that it is a mercy from your Lord. Do not then, ever be a supporter to the unbelievers.



138. Linguistically, the construction “ma`ad” is for “a place of return.” To what is the allusion? According to Ibn `Abbas, Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, Mujahid, `Ikrimah and Sa`id b. Jubayr, it is to Paradise. However, `Ikrimah, Mujahid and Hasan also mentioned it as being an allusion to the Day of Judgment. Ibn `Abbas and Sa`id b. Jubayr offered another opinion. They said that the allusion was to the Prophet’s death. And a fourth opinion is that the allusion was to Makkah. This was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid (IbnJarir). This last opinion of Ibn `Abbas is in Bukhari, Nasa’i and others. (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani)

Thus Ibn `Abbas figures in all the opinions, perhaps because he had different aspects and implications in mind when making several statements on different occasions. And of course, reconciliation is easily possible, there being no contradiction between the various opinions. Dahhak on the other hand is reported to have said (Kashshaf) that when the Prophet (saws) had reached Juhfah during his Hijrah-journey, he felt nostalgic about Makkah. So to comfort him, Allah (swt) revealed this verse promising him that one day He will take him back to it. (Ibn Kathir)

Qurtubi also reports the above opinions as well as the statement of Ibn `Abbas which imply that this verse is neither Makkan nor Madinan.

[87] And never let them avert you away from Allah’s revelations after they have been sent down to you. Invite to your Lord; and never be of the polytheists.
[88] And do not invoke with Allah, another deity. There is no deity save He. Everything will perish except His Face.139 His is the command,140 and to Him you will be returned.



139. Wajhahu”, literally, ‘His countenance’ signifies ‘His self’ or ‘Him.’” (Majid)

Alusi points out that according to the Salaf, “Wajh” is one of the Attributes of Allah which cannot be qualified or quantified. Some of the Salaf believed that the sentence is purporting to say, “Everything will perish, except such deeds as performed for the sake of His Face – that is, for the sake of Allah’s Pleasure.” (Bada’e Uthmani, Shafi`)

Ibn Kathir traces this opinion to Mujahid and Thawri as in Bukhari who himself obviously agrees with the meaning. Ibn Jarir quotes a poetical verse to show similar use by the ancients.

140. That is, it is His command alone that is executed in His creation. (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir)

Also see note 117 above.

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