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Surah Ahqaf: The Sand Field

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Surah Ahqaf is the first surah in juz 26 of the Quran. It is the 46th surah and was revealed in Mecca. Ahqaf, which means sand field, is a reference to the land of the people of ‘Ad. In this article featured on Islam4u, we will delve into the various concepts discussed in Surah Ahqaf.

Facts About Surah Ahqaf

Surah Ahqaf is the first surah in juz 26 of the Quran. This surah was revealed in Mecca. The name “Ahqaf” is derived from verse 21, which talks about the people of Prophet Hud, the people of ‘Ad who lived in “Ahqaf,” which means sand field. Surah Ahqaf has 35 verses, 648 words, and 2668 letters. The order of revelation of this surah is 66. In the current arrangement of surahs, it is the 46th surah.

The Gist of Surah Ahqaf

Surah Aqhqaf discusses various subjects including resurrection and the abode of believers and disbelievers in the hereafter. The surah advises us to be kind to our parents. It also mentions how the creation of the heavens and the earth is not in vain, and a God who has not been rendered helpless by creating them is able to revive the dead and retain the human soul. According to some exegetes, this surah has been revealed as a warning to the polytheists who rejected the invitation of the Prophet (s) to Allah, His Prophet, and belief in the resurrection.

The Sending Down of the Quran and the Creation of the Heavens and the Earth

Verses one to three of Surah Ahqaf read:

حمٓ ‎﴿١﴾‏ تَنزِيلُ ٱلْكِتَٰبِ مِنَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلْعَزِيزِ ٱلْحَكِيمِ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ مَا خَلَقْنَا ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَآ إِلَّا بِٱلْحَقِّ وَأَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى ۚ وَٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ عَمَّآ أُنذِرُوا۟ مُعْرِضُونَ ‎﴿٣﴾

Ha, Meem. (1) The [gradual] sending down of the Book is from Allah, the All-mighty, the All-wise. (2) We did not create the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them except with consummate wisdom and for a specified term. Yet the faithless are disregardful of what they are warned. (3)

Surah Ahqaf begins with disjoined letters (huruf al-muqatta‘a). Usually, Allah speaks about the Quran after mentioning the disjoined letters. Likewise, after Ha, Meem, Allah talks about the gradual sending down of the Quran by Allah, who is All-mighty and All-wise. In verse three, Allah says how He has created the heavens and the earth in truth and for a specified term. This is to mean that Allah has not created them in vain and everything He does is based on wisdom. By specified term, it means a specific time after which they will not exist, just as people have a specified term and life in this world. The verse continues to say that despite the marvelous creation of the heavens and the earth and knowing that they have a wise creator, the faithless are negligent of what they are warned. That is, they do not pay heed to the promises and threats of Allah and how He will punish the transgressors and reward the righteous.

A Few Questions Put to the Polytheists

Verses four to five of Surah Ahqaf read:

قُلْ أَرَءَيْتُم مَّا تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ أَرُونِى مَاذَا خَلَقُوا۟ مِنَ ٱلْأَرْضِ أَمْ لَهُمْ شِرْكٌ فِى ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ ۖ ٱئْتُونِى بِكِتَٰبٍ مِّن قَبْلِ هَٰذَآ أَوْ أَثَٰرَةٍ مِّنْ عِلْمٍ إِن كُنتُمْ صَٰدِقِينَ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ وَمَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّن يَدْعُوا۟ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ مَن لَّا يَسْتَجِيبُ لَهُۥٓ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ ٱلْقِيَٰمَةِ وَهُمْ عَن دُعَآئِهِمْ غَٰفِلُونَ ‎﴿٥﴾

Say, ‘Tell me about those you invoke besides Allah. Show me what [part] of the earth have they created. Do they have any share in the heavens? Bring me a scripture [revealed] before this, or some vestige of [divine] knowledge, if you are truthful.’ (4) Who is more astray than him who invokes besides Allah such [entities] as would not respond to him until the Day of Resurrection, and who are oblivious of their invocation? (5)

Allah calls into question the beliefs of the polytheists. Is it possible for idols, whether material or immaterial, to have created the heavens and the earth? Then Allah challenges them saying if they are truthful, they should bring a scripture similar to the Quran or knowledge of the divine. In verse four, Allah answers the questions posed in the previous verse with a rhetorical question saying that those idols will not respond to them even if it takes them until the Day of Resurrection.

Disbelievers Will Antagonize Their Deities on Judgment Day

Verse six of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَإِذَا حُشِرَ ٱلنَّاسُ كَانُوا۟ لَهُمْ أَعْدَآءً وَكَانُوا۟ بِعِبَادَتِهِمْ كَٰفِرِينَ ‎﴿٦﴾‏

When mankind are mustered [on Judgement’s Day] they will be their enemies, and they will disavow their worship.

On the Day of Judgement, the truth will be revealed in such a way that people will have no doubts about it. Everyone will know that there is only one God, that they will be judged according to their deeds, and that heaven or hell will be their abode. On that day when all mankind will be gathered, the polytheists and idolaters will disavow what they used to worship. How can they not when it is now obvious that they had power over nothing and did not avail them in any way?

Are the Evident Signs of Allah “Plain Magic?”

Verse seven of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَإِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ ءَايَٰتُنَا بَيِّنَٰتٍ قَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ لِلْحَقِّ لَمَّا جَآءَهُمْ هَٰذَا سِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ ‎﴿٧﴾

When Our manifest signs are recited to them, the faithless say of the truth when it comes to them: ‘This is plain magic.’

The verses of the Quran are so eloquent, beautiful, and fascinating that the disbelievers who stubbornly do not want to accept the truth dismiss them as magic. In fact, they are admitting that these words cannot be spoken by an ordinary person. They admit that it is not the words of the Prophet (s), yet because they do not want to believe in him and the Quran, they say it is the work of a magician. This is not a new phenomenon, as the peoples of other prophets of Allah were also called magicians when they performed miracles to prove their truthfulness.

Did the Prophet (s) Fabricate the Quran?

Verse eight of Surah Ahqaf reads:

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ ٱفْتَرَىٰهُ ۖ قُلْ إِنِ ٱفْتَرَيْتُهُۥ فَلَا تَمْلِكُونَ لِى مِنَ ٱللَّهِ شَيْـًٔا ۖ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا تُفِيضُونَ فِيهِ ۖ كَفَىٰ بِهِۦ شَهِيدَۢا بَيْنِى وَبَيْنَكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ ‎﴿٨﴾

Or they say, ‘He has fabricated it.’ Say, ‘Should I have fabricated it, you would not avail me anything against Allah. He best knows what you gossip concerning it. He suffices as a witness between me and you, and He is the All-forgiving, the All-merciful.’

Some of the disbelievers in Islam would say, “The Prophet (s) fabricated the Quran and falsely attributed it to Allah.” Allah tells the Prophet (s) to say to them, “If I have fabricated it and falsely attributed it to Allah, you cannot ward off Allah’s punishment from me. Allah is more aware than you concerning the things you do. Allah suffices as a witness between me and you, and He is All-forgiving and All-merciful.”

In the following verse, Allah tells the Prophet (s) what else to say.

The Prophet (s) Is Not a Novelty Among Apostles

Verse nine of Surah Ahqaf reads:

قُلْ مَا كُنتُ بِدْعًا مِّنَ ٱلرُّسُلِ وَمَآ أَدْرِى مَا يُفْعَلُ بِى وَلَا بِكُمْ ۖ إِنْ أَتَّبِعُ إِلَّا مَا يُوحَىٰٓ إِلَىَّ وَمَآ أَنَا۠ إِلَّا نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ ‎﴿٩﴾‏

Say, ‘I am not a novelty among the apostles, nor do I know what will be done with me, or with you. I just follow whatever is revealed to me, and I am just a manifest warner.’

The Prophet of Islam (s) was a successor to all the previous prophets. Of course, he was the seal of the prophets, meaning he was the final prophet, and no prophet would come after him. Therefore, the messages he carried were similar to the previous prophets. Like other prophets, he received revelation from Allah and invited people to have faith in one God and to be mindful of their deeds and conduct because they would be brought to account on the Day of Judgment. At the end of the verse, Allah tells the Prophet to say to the disbelievers that he only follows whatever Allah reveals to him and that he has come to warn them of their dreadful fate should they not believe in Allah.

The Jew Who Believed in the Prophet (s)

Verse 10 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

قُلْ أَرَءَيْتُمْ إِن كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ ٱللَّهِ وَكَفَرْتُم بِهِۦ وَشَهِدَ شَاهِدٌ مِّنۢ بَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ عَلَىٰ مِثْلِهِۦ فَـَٔامَنَ وَٱسْتَكْبَرْتُمْ ۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ ‎﴿١٠﴾

Say, ‘Tell me, if it is from Allah and you disbelieve in it, and a witness from the Children of Israel has testified to its like and believed [in it], while you are disdainful [of it]?’ Indeed Allah does not guide the wrongdoing lot.

The context of this verse is about a Jewish man named Abdullah ibn Salam who had converted to Islam. He was originally a Jewish scholar who lived in Medina. He went to the Prophet (s) and said, “O Apostle of Allah, ask the Jews about me. They will say that I am the most knowledgeable among them. When you say this to them, tell them that the Torah proves your prophethood, and your characteristics have been clearly mentioned in the Torah. These are what they will say when you ask them of me.” When the Prophet asked the Jews about Abdullah ibn Salam and a few other questions, they responded in the exact same way that Abdullah had said. Then the Prophet (s) informed them of Abdullah’s faith in him. Contrary to what they had said a while ago, they said, “He is the worst of us and the son of the worst of us.”

What the Disbelievers Said About the Believers

Verse 11 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَقَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ لِلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَوْ كَانَ خَيْرًا مَّا سَبَقُونَآ إِلَيْهِ ۚ وَإِذْ لَمْ يَهْتَدُوا۟ بِهِۦ فَسَيَقُولُونَ هَٰذَآ إِفْكٌ قَدِيمٌ ‎﴿١١﴾

The faithless say about the faithful, ‘Had it been [anything] good, they would not have taken the lead over us toward [accepting] it.’ And since they could not find the way to it, they will say, ‘It is an ancient lie.’

The disbelievers used to say that if the Quran and Islam were good, then why have so many low-class people and the deprived people of society taken the lead over them in accepting Islam and the Quran? They would say, “We are better than them. If it was anything good, we would be the pioneers in accepting Islam.” The last part of the verse gives a solid answer to them by saying, “They are the ones who are not being guided by it and saying it is an ancient lie. Otherwise, the Quran’s guidance is well-founded and not deficient. Rather, their reasoning is flawed.”

The Quran Confirms the Previous Holy Scriptures

Verse 12 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَمِن قَبْلِهِۦ كِتَٰبُ مُوسَىٰٓ إِمَامًا وَرَحْمَةً ۚ وَهَٰذَا كِتَٰبٌ مُّصَدِّقٌ لِّسَانًا عَرَبِيًّا لِّيُنذِرَ ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا۟ وَبُشْرَىٰ لِلْمُحْسِنِينَ ‎﴿١٢﴾

Yet before it the Book of Moses was a guide and mercy, and this is a Book in the Arabic language, which confirms it, [sent] to warn the wrongdoers, and is a [bearer of] good news for the virtuous.

This verse completes the previous verse. How can they say it is an old lie when its content is in line with the Book of Moses, which was the truth, a guide, and mercy? This book is revealed in clear and eloquent Arabic so that it may warn those who do wrong and give good news to the righteous. This is the ultimate goal of the Quran’s revelation.

The Righteous Shall Not Grieve

Verses 13-14 of Surah Ahqaf read:

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ قَالُوا۟ رَبُّنَا ٱللَّهُ ثُمَّ ٱسْتَقَٰمُوا۟ فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ ‎﴿١٣﴾‏ أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ أَصْحَٰبُ ٱلْجَنَّةِ خَٰلِدِينَ فِيهَا جَزَآءَۢ بِمَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ ‎﴿١٤﴾

Those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ and then remain steadfast, they will have no fear, nor will they grieve. (13) They shall be the inhabitants of paradise, remaining in it [forever]—a reward for what they used to do. (14)

Verse 13 speaks of the importance of steadfastness in religion. When someone believes in Allah and confesses that He is their Lord, they must remain steadfast and act upon the commandments of Islam. If they do so, then they will have no fear. Allah will reward them with paradise for them to remain in it forever. These two verses have to do with the second goal of the Quran’s revelation that was mentioned in verse 12. That is, the Quran gives good news to those who firmly believe in Allah and perform good deeds.

A Verse in Honor of Imam al-Hussain (a)

Verse 15 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَوَصَّيْنَا ٱلْإِنسَٰنَ بِوَٰلِدَيْهِ إِحْسَٰنًا ۖ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُۥ كُرْهًا وَوَضَعَتْهُ كُرْهًا ۖ وَحَمْلُهُۥ وَفِصَٰلُهُۥ ثَلَٰثُونَ شَهْرًا ۚ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُۥ وَبَلَغَ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً قَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِىٓ أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ ٱلَّتِىٓ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَىَّ وَعَلَىٰ وَٰلِدَىَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَٰلِحًا تَرْضَىٰهُ وَأَصْلِحْ لِى فِى ذُرِّيَّتِىٓ ۖ إِنِّى تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَإِنِّى مِنَ ٱلْمُسْلِمِينَ ‎﴿١٥﴾

We have enjoined man to be kind to his parents. His mother has carried him in travail, and bore him in travail, and his gestation and weaning take thirty months. When he comes of age and reaches forty years, he says, ‘My Lord! Inspire me to give thanks for Your blessing with which You have blessed me and my parents, and that I may do righteous deeds which please You, and invest my descendants with righteousness. Indeed I have turned to you in penitence, and I am one of the Muslims.’ 

There is a narration from Imam al-Sadiq (a) stating that verse 15 of Surah Ahqaf has been revealed in honor of Imam al-Hussain (a). When Lady Fatima (a), the honorable daughter of Prophet Muhammad (s) and mother of Imam al-Hussain (a) heard the news of his son’s martyrdom at the hands of a group of people among the nation of her father, she carried and gave birth to Imam al-Hussain (a) with much hardship. Moreover, the verse mentions that the time a woman bears a child until his weaning is thirty months. This supposes that a woman’s pregnancy takes six months and weaning twenty-four months. Interestingly, Imam al-Hussain (a) was born in six months. The Quran wants to say that the least amount of time between gestation and weaning is thirty months, although it could be three months more if a child is born in nine months.

The verse continues by saying that when this child reaches the age of forty, he thanks Allah for the blessings He has given him and his parents, and that Allah may give him the opportunity to do good deeds, and prays to Allah to grant him righteous descendants. These are things that usually very righteous people, such as prophets say. In fact, in one of the verses of Surah Naml, Prophet Solomon says almost the same thing.[1]

The True Promise

Verse 16 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ نَتَقَبَّلُ عَنْهُمْ أَحْسَنَ مَا عَمِلُوا۟ وَنَتَجَاوَزُ عَن سَيِّـَٔاتِهِمْ فِىٓ أَصْحَٰبِ ٱلْجَنَّةِ ۖ وَعْدَ ٱلصِّدْقِ ٱلَّذِى كَانُوا۟ يُوعَدُونَ ‎﴿١٦﴾

Such are the ones from whom We accept the best of what they do, and overlook their misdeeds, [who will be] among the inhabitants of paradise—a true promise which they had been given.

This verse continues the previous one and states how such people’s good deeds will be accepted and their sins will be forgiven. They will go to heaven. This is a promise that Allah is giving them, and Allah never breaks His promise.

The Disbelieving Son

Verse 17 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَٱلَّذِى قَالَ لِوَٰلِدَيْهِ أُفٍّ لَّكُمَآ أَتَعِدَانِنِىٓ أَنْ أُخْرَجَ وَقَدْ خَلَتِ ٱلْقُرُونُ مِن قَبْلِى وَهُمَا يَسْتَغِيثَانِ ٱللَّهَ وَيْلَكَ ءَامِنْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ ٱللَّهِ حَقٌّ فَيَقُولُ مَا هَٰذَآ إِلَّآ أَسَٰطِيرُ ٱلْأَوَّلِينَ ‎﴿١٧﴾

As for him who says to his parents, ‘Fie on you! Do you promise me that I shall be raised [from the dead] when generations have passed away before me?’ And they invoke Allah’s help [and say]: ‘Woe to you! Believe! Indeed Allah’s promise is true.’ But he says, ‘These are nothing but myths of the ancients.’

This verse is about a man who tells his parents why they believe in God and Resurrection. He said that why should he believe in the raising of the dead when so many people in the past have died and not risen again? However, the parents of this obstinate son did not submit to him and told him to believe because Allah’s promise is true. However, he was too stubborn and instead said that the things that they believe in are nothing but tales of the ancients.

No matter how much the caring parents of this son tried to save their son from the punishment of Allah, he willfully insisted on disbelief in Allah and the Resurrection. Consequently, his parents left him to his own devices.

The Losers

Verse 18 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ حَقَّ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلْقَوْلُ فِىٓ أُمَمٍ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِم مِّنَ ٱلْجِنِّ وَٱلْإِنسِ ۖ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا۟ خَٰسِرِينَ ‎﴿١٨﴾

Such are the ones against whom the word has become due, along with the nations of jinn and humans that have passed away before them. They were the losers.

Just as the previous verses stated the rewards of the righteous, here the fate of the obstinate disbelievers are stated. The word becoming due for them means Allah’s punishment has become definite for them. These people will suffer the worst of punishments owing to their disbelief.

Degrees of Merit

Verse 19 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَلِكُلٍّ دَرَجَٰتٌ مِّمَّا عَمِلُوا۟ ۖ وَلِيُوَفِّيَهُمْ أَعْمَٰلَهُمْ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ ‎﴿١٩﴾‏

For everyone there are degrees [of merit] pertaining to what he has done: He will recompense them fully for their works, and they will not be wronged.

It is not the case that all of those who go to heaven or hell are at the same level. Rather, proportional to their deeds, sincerity, and understanding, they will have different degrees. This is all due to Allah’s justice. Would it be fair that a person who has done more good deeds with a more sincere intention to be at the same level as one who has done less? Allah in this verse states that everyone will be recompensed based on the quantity and quality of their deeds.

The Disbelievers Meet the Fire

Verse 20 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَيَوْمَ يُعْرَضُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ عَلَى ٱلنَّارِ أَذْهَبْتُمْ طَيِّبَٰتِكُمْ فِى حَيَاتِكُمُ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَٱسْتَمْتَعْتُم بِهَا فَٱلْيَوْمَ تُجْزَوْنَ عَذَابَ ٱلْهُونِ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَسْتَكْبِرُونَ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ ٱلْحَقِّ وَبِمَا كُنتُمْ تَفْسُقُونَ ‎﴿٢٠﴾‏

The day when the faithless are exposed to the Fire, [they will be told,] ‘You have exhausted your good things in the life of the world and enjoyed them. So today you will be requited with a humiliating punishment for your acting arrogantly in the earth unduly, and because you used to transgress.’

Allah in this verse says to the disbelievers, “You made use of the pure blessings that you were given for the sake of your worldly life. You could have used it for improving your life in the hereafter. Instead, you enjoyed them only for this world (without a good intention). Therefore, today, owing to your unjust arrogance on the earth and your continuous disobedience, you shall taste the punishment of humiliation and torment.”

The Land of Ahqaf: The Sand Field

Verse 21 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَٱذْكُرْ أَخَا عَادٍ إِذْ أَنذَرَ قَوْمَهُۥ بِٱلْأَحْقَافِ وَقَدْ خَلَتِ ٱلنُّذُرُ مِنۢ بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِۦٓ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوٓا۟ إِلَّا ٱللَّهَ إِنِّىٓ أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ ‎﴿٢١﴾

And mention [Hud] the brother of ‘Ad, when he warned his people at Ahqaf—and warners have passed away before and after him—saying, ‘Do not worship anyone but Allah. Indeed I fear for you the punishment of a tremendous day.’

The people of Prophet Hud were known as the people of ‘Ad. They lived in a place called Ahqaf, which translates into sand field. They were strong, tall, and skilled architects who used to build houses by carving mountains. They were idolaters and Prophet Hud had come to invite them to monotheism and warn them of a painful punishment should they not believe in Allah. Their story continues in the verses that follow.

The Punishment of the People of ‘Ad

Verses 22-26 of Surah Ahqaf read:

قَالُوٓا۟ أَجِئْتَنَا لِتَأْفِكَنَا عَنْ ءَالِهَتِنَا فَأْتِنَا بِمَا تَعِدُنَآ إِن كُنتَ مِنَ ٱلصَّٰدِقِينَ ‎﴿٢٢﴾‏ قَالَ إِنَّمَا ٱلْعِلْمُ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ وَأُبَلِّغُكُم مَّآ أُرْسِلْتُ بِهِۦ وَلَٰكِنِّىٓ أَرَىٰكُمْ قَوْمًا تَجْهَلُونَ ‎﴿٢٣﴾‏ فَلَمَّا رَأَوْهُ عَارِضًا مُّسْتَقْبِلَ أَوْدِيَتِهِمْ قَالُوا۟ هَٰذَا عَارِضٌ مُّمْطِرُنَا ۚ بَلْ هُوَ مَا ٱسْتَعْجَلْتُم بِهِۦ ۖ رِيحٌ فِيهَا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ ‎﴿٢٤﴾‏ تُدَمِّرُ كُلَّ شَىْءِۭ بِأَمْرِ رَبِّهَا فَأَصْبَحُوا۟ لَا يُرَىٰٓ إِلَّا مَسَٰكِنُهُمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلْمُجْرِمِينَ ‎﴿٢٥﴾‏ وَلَقَدْ مَكَّنَّٰهُمْ فِيمَآ إِن مَّكَّنَّٰكُمْ فِيهِ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُمْ سَمْعًا وَأَبْصَٰرًا وَأَفْـِٔدَةً فَمَآ أَغْنَىٰ عَنْهُمْ سَمْعُهُمْ وَلَآ أَبْصَٰرُهُمْ وَلَآ أَفْـِٔدَتُهُم مِّن شَىْءٍ إِذْ كَانُوا۟ يَجْحَدُونَ بِـَٔايَٰتِ ٱللَّهِ وَحَاقَ بِهِم مَّا كَانُوا۟ بِهِۦ يَسْتَهْزِءُونَ ‎﴿٢٦﴾‏

They said, ‘Have you come to turn us away from our gods? Then bring us what you threaten us with, if you are truthful. (22) He said, ‘The knowledge [of when that threat will be carried out] is with Allah alone. I communicate to you what I have been sent with. But I see that you are a senseless lot.’ (23) When they saw it as a cloud advancing toward their valleys, they said, ‘This cloud brings us rain.’ ‘No, it is what you sought to hasten: a hurricane carrying a painful punishment, (24) destroying everything by its Lord’s command.’ So they became such that nothing could be seen except their dwellings. Thus do We requite the guilty lot. (25) Certainly We had granted them power in respects that We have not granted you, and We had vested them with hearing and sight and hearts. But neither their hearing availed them in any way nor did their sight, nor their hearts when they used to impugn the signs of Allah. So they were besieged by what they used to deride. (26)

The people of ‘Ad themselves asked Prophet Hud to bring Allah’s punishment if he is truthful. Then the day came when they saw a cloud approaching their town. They thought to themselves that it is a rain cloud. However, it was a cloud that would unleash a hurricane as a punishment for their evil deeds. Therefore, the people of ‘Ad were punished and nothing remained of them but the ruins of their homes. Allah in verse 26 says how He had granted them enormous power and might, such that He had not given the Prophet (s) and his nation. Nevertheless, they did not make good use of their power and instead rejected the signs of Allah. That is why they were punished for what they used to ridicule.

The Destroyed Towns

Verse 27 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَلَقَدْ أَهْلَكْنَا مَا حَوْلَكُم مِّنَ ٱلْقُرَىٰ وَصَرَّفْنَا ٱلْـَٔايَٰتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ ‎﴿٢٧﴾

Certainly We have destroyed the towns that were around you, and We have variously paraphrased the signs so that they may come back.

The verse aims to emphasize the content of the previous verse and admonish the polytheists of Mecca by saying that not only did Allah destroy the people of ‘Ad but also destroyed the towns that were not too far from your town. The verse ends by saying that Allah clarified His signs for them so that they may return and let go of their disbelief.

The Deities Who Forsook Their Worshippers

Verse 28 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

فَلَوْلَا نَصَرَهُمُ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّخَذُوا۟ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ قُرْبَانًا ءَالِهَةَۢ ۖ بَلْ ضَلُّوا۟ عَنْهُمْ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ إِفْكُهُمْ وَمَا كَانُوا۟ يَفْتَرُونَ ‎﴿٢٨﴾‏

So why did not those [fake deities] help them whom they had taken as gods besides Allah, as a means of nearness [to Him]? Indeed, they forsook them; that was their lie and what they used to fabricate.

If they were truthful, how come their deities did not come to their aid during difficult times? They had taken them as gods besides Allah in order to seek nearness to Allah. How was it that these fake deities did not save their worshippers from the punishment of Allah? How would these deities deserve worship? The verse ends by saying how those people had lied and this perdition was the outcome of their falsification.

The Team of Jinn

Verse 29 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَإِذْ صَرَفْنَآ إِلَيْكَ نَفَرًا مِّنَ ٱلْجِنِّ يَسْتَمِعُونَ ٱلْقُرْءَانَ فَلَمَّا حَضَرُوهُ قَالُوٓا۟ أَنصِتُوا۟ ۖ فَلَمَّا قُضِىَ وَلَّوْا۟ إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِم مُّنذِرِينَ ‎﴿٢٩﴾‏

When We dispatched toward you a team of jinn listening to the Quran, when they were in its presence, they said, ‘Be silent!’ When it was finished, they went back to their people as warners.

Jinn are creatures whom Allah has made from fire. Like humans, jinn have free will and can be either righteous or evil. In the above verse, Allah says how He dispatched a group of jinn toward the Prophet (s). They listened to the Quran keenly and even told each other to be silent so that they could hear the words of Allah as they were being articulated by the Noble Prophet (s). After they heard some parts of the Quran, they returned to their people to warn them. This shows that the jinn do not have prophets or Imams and they follow human prophets and Imams. This verse further highlights the fact that jinn, like humans, have free will because they went to warn their people. Warnings are only given to those who have a choice to do good or bad deeds. The following verses continue their story.

The Book That Guides to a Straight Path

Verse 30 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

قَالُوا۟ يَٰقَوْمَنَآ إِنَّا سَمِعْنَا كِتَٰبًا أُنزِلَ مِنۢ بَعْدِ مُوسَىٰ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ يَهْدِىٓ إِلَى ٱلْحَقِّ وَإِلَىٰ طَرِيقٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ ‎﴿٣٠﴾

They said, ‘O our people! Indeed, we have heard a Book, which has been sent down after Moses, confirming what was before it. It guides to the truth and to a straight path.

So the jinn returned to their people explaining what they had heard. They described the Quran as a holy book that came after the Book of Moses. It is a book that confirms the Book of Moses and guides people to the truth and a straight path. This shows that a group of jinn used to believe in Moses as Allah’s Prophet and had heard the Torah. Such verses show that mystical creatures such as jinn acknowledged that the Quran is the truth and guides to the straight path. Perhaps these jinn had such long lives that they had survived ever since the time of Prophet Moses and now they had heard the Quran. This further proves the veracity and truthfulness of the Quran.

Respond to Allah’s Summoner

Verse 31 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

يَٰقَوْمَنَآ أَجِيبُوا۟ دَاعِىَ ٱللَّهِ وَءَامِنُوا۟ بِهِۦ يَغْفِرْ لَكُم مِّن ذُنُوبِكُمْ وَيُجِرْكُم مِّنْ عَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ ‎﴿٣١﴾

O our people! Respond to Allah’s summoner and have faith in Him. He will forgive you some of your sins and shelter you from a painful punishment.’

The jinn are preaching to their people in these verses. Allah’s summoner, meaning the one who summons people to Allah here could mean the Noble Prophet (s). The jinn are inviting their people to believe in Allah. If they do so, Allah will forgive their sins and save them from the punishments of both worlds.

Those Who Antagonize Allah’s Summoner Are in Manifest Error

Verse 32 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَمَن لَّا يُجِبْ دَاعِىَ ٱللَّهِ فَلَيْسَ بِمُعْجِزٍ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَلَيْسَ لَهُۥ مِن دُونِهِۦٓ أَوْلِيَآءُ ۚ أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ فِى ضَلَٰلٍ مُّبِينٍ ‎﴿٣٢﴾

Those who do not respond to Allah’s summoner cannot frustrate [Allah] on the earth, and they will not find any protectors besides Him. They are in manifest error.

This verse quotes the last statement of the jinn to their people. Allah is needless of our actions and beliefs. If we believe in Him or do good deeds for His sake, it is not because He needs them. Instead, we are the ones who will benefit from believing in Allah and doing good deeds. Therefore, the jinn are saying to their people that they should not think that by not responding to Allah’s call, they can frustrate Allah and escape His wrath. There are no protectors besides Allah who can ward off punishment from them. Such people are in manifest error.

The Reviver of the Dead

Verse 33 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا۟ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ وَلَمْ يَعْىَ بِخَلْقِهِنَّ بِقَٰدِرٍ عَلَىٰٓ أَن يُحْـِۧىَ ٱلْمَوْتَىٰ ۚ بَلَىٰٓ إِنَّهُۥ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ‎﴿٣٣﴾

Do they not see that Allah, who created the heavens and the earth and [who] was not exhausted by their creation, is able to revive the dead? Yes, indeed He has power over all things.

Allah is All-powerful. He has the power to do anything in the universe. He is so powerful that He single-handedly created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in just six days. He was not tired from creating them in the least. Now, is not such a creator powerful enough to revive the dead if he wills it? As the verse says, yes. He has power over all things.

The Confession of the Disbelievers

Verse 34 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

وَيَوْمَ يُعْرَضُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ عَلَى ٱلنَّارِ أَلَيْسَ هَٰذَا بِٱلْحَقِّ ۖ قَالُوا۟ بَلَىٰ وَرَبِّنَا ۚ قَالَ فَذُوقُوا۟ ٱلْعَذَابَ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْفُرُونَ ‎﴿٣٤﴾

The day when the faithless are exposed to the Fire, [He will say,] ‘Is this not a fact?’ They will say, ‘Yes, by our Lord!’ He will say, ‘So taste the punishment because of what you used to disbelieve.’

Whatever Allah has promised is the truth. In the Quran, Allah has stated many facts about worldly and otherworldly phenomena. For example, He has clearly stated that the righteous will dwell in the gardens of paradise, and the wicked will be the inmates of hell. He has repeatedly mentioned the creation of heaven and hell in various verses and surahs. Yet, some people still deny them. On the Day of Judgment, the disbelievers will see hell with their own eyes. They will be asked, “Is this not true?” They will confess, “Yes by our Lord!” Then Allah will tell them to taste His punishment for they disbelieved in the words and signs of Allah.

The Proclamation

Verse 35 of Surah Ahqaf reads:

فَٱصْبِرْ كَمَا صَبَرَ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْعَزْمِ مِنَ ٱلرُّسُلِ وَلَا تَسْتَعْجِل لَّهُمْ ۚ كَأَنَّهُمْ يَوْمَ يَرَوْنَ مَا يُوعَدُونَ لَمْ يَلْبَثُوٓا۟ إِلَّا سَاعَةً مِّن نَّهَارِۭ ۚ بَلَٰغٌ ۚ فَهَلْ يُهْلَكُ إِلَّا ٱلْقَوْمُ ٱلْفَٰسِقُونَ ‎﴿٣٥﴾‏

So be patient just as the resolute among the apostles were patient, and do not seek to hasten [the punishment] for them. The day when they see what they are promised, [it will be] as though they had remained [in the world] only an hour of a day. This is a proclamation. So shall anyone be destroyed except the transgressing lot?

In the last verse of Surah Ahqaf, Allah gives an important order to the Prophet (s). He says, “O Muhammad. Have patience with these disbelieving people just as the four great and resolute prophets of Allah before you, meaning Nuh, Ibrahim, Moses, and Jesus were patient. Do not seek to hasten the punishment for them by cursing them and asking Allah’s punishment to befall them on this earth. No. On the Day of Judgment, when they are about to be punished, it would appear to them that only an hour of a day has passed since they lived in the world.” Then, the surah ends by saying that this surah and its content are a proclamation for those who pay heed to Allah’s commands. Only those who have wronged themselves and have transgressed shall be destroyed.

Conclusion

Surah Ahqaf, the 46th chapter of the Quran located in the 26th juz, discusses various enlightening topics. Some of the topics it discusses are the following:

  • The gradual sending down of the Quran from the All-mighty and All-wise
  • The creation of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them
  • The polytheists could not bring a scripture to prove their pagan beliefs.
  • The disbelievers call the signs of Allah magic.
  • Allah is the best witness for the Prophet (s).
  • The Quran confirms previous holy scriptures such as the Torah.
  • The God-fearing will enter paradise.
  • We must be kind to our parents.
  • People will be recompensed fully for their works.
  • Those who act arrogantly in this world will suffer a humiliating punishment.
  • The people of ‘Ad who lived in a place called Ahqaf were punished for their disbelief.
  • A team of jinn heard the Quran and went to their people preaching it.
  • The Prophet of love and mercy, Muhammad (s), is commanded not to seek to hasten the punishment of those who deny him.
  • It is only the transgressing lot who will perish.

References

[1] Cf. Quran 27:19.

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