Surah Anbiya (سورة الأنبياء) is the 21st surah of the Quran that Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad in the city of Mecca. The surah has been named Anbiya, meaning prophets because the name of fourteen prophets have been mentioned in this surah. In this article on Islam4u, the following topics will be discussed:
- Facts About Surah Anbiya
- Benefits of Reciting Surah Anbiya
- The Gist of Surah Anbiya
- Stories of Prophets in Surah Anbiya
- The Other Prophets in Surah Anbiya
- Famous Verses of Surah Anbiya
Facts About Surah Anbiya
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|No. of verses||112|
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Benefits of Reciting Surah Anbiya
- Easy reckoning of deeds and all the prophets shaking hands with him: The Noble Prophet has said, “Whoever recites surah Anbiya, Allah will be easy on him in reckoning his deeds, and all the prophets whose names have been mentioned in the Quran will shake hands with him and salute him on the Day of Judgment.1
- Seeing sweet dreams: The Noble Prophet has said, “Whoever writes surah Anbiya on the skin of a deer and puts it next to himself while sleeping, he will see pleasant things in his dreams by which he will become happy.2
- A cure for insomnia: Abu Abdullah Ja‘far ibn Muhammad has said, “Whoever writes surah Anbiya on the skin of a deer and places it next to his bed, he will not wake up as long as that writing is there.” This prescription is good for the sick and those who cannot go to sleep owing to disturbing thoughts or fear. With Allah’s leave, they will feel better.3
- Being relieved of thigh pain: For curing thigh pain, Ali ibn Abi Talib has said, “Sit in a big container filled with warm water and put your hand on the part of your thigh that hurts, and then recite verse 30 of surah Anbiya.”4
- Relief from stomachache: Sa‘d ibn Sa‘d narrates from Musa ibn Ja‘far al-Kāẓim that one day he said to one of his companions who was suffering from stomachache, “Get some water and recite the following verses to it. Say three times یُریدُ اللهُ بِکُمُ الْیُسْرَ وَ لا یُریدُ بکُمُ الْعُسْرَ and then recite verse 30 of surah Anbiya. Then drink that water and rub your hand over your stomach. Inshā Allah you will feel well.”5
The Gist of Surah Anbiya
The topics discussed in surah Anbiya can be summarized in the following way:
- The issue of prophethood as the main subject of the surah as well as the issue of tawḥīd (unity of Allah) and resurrection (مَعاد)
- The nearness of Qiyamah and people’s negligence of it
- Making fun of the prophets and the Prophet of Islam and calling him a poet and a hallucinating individual by the disbelievers
- Briefly mentioning the story of certain prophets to prove the truth and reject the claim of disbelievers
- Once again mentioning the topic of Qiyamah and the punishment of the criminals and reward of the pious
- Allah’s righteous servants inheriting the earth and the good fate of the pious
- The victory of the truth over falsehood, tawḥīd over polytheism, and the army of justice over the army of Satan
- The reason behind the disbelievers’ rejection of prophethood
- Deployment of argument concerning the issue of tawḥīd.6
Stories of Prophets in Surah Anbiya
As the name of surah Anbiya suggests, the surah tells the story of some of Allah’s prophets. Of course, some prophets have only been briefly mentioned while the stories of others are told in more detail. For sake of brevity, we will only mention the story of Prophet Ibrahim.
The Story of Prophet Ibrahim in Surah Anbiya
Verses 51-69 of surah Anbiya tell the story of Prophet Ibrahim and how he told his people not to worship idols [All the translations except verses 62-63 are by Foroutan]:
وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ رُشْدَهُ مِن قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا بِهِ عَالِمِينَ ﴿٥١﴾ إِذْ قَالَ لِأَبِيهِ وَقَوْمِهِ مَا هَٰذِهِ التَّمَاثِيلُ الَّتِي أَنتُمْ لَهَا عَاكِفُونَ ﴿٥٢﴾
And indeed, We provided Abraham with his righteousness and We knew him. When he said to his father and his people, “What are these statues to which you adhere?”
It is important to note that father here means uncle. In Arabic, the word ab (أَب) has more than one meaning. It means father, paternal uncle, and father-in-law. The reason it is said that that man who worshipped idols and raised Prophet Ibrahim cannot be Prophet Ibrahim’s real father is that we have many authentic narrations that state that all of the ancestors of Prophet Muhammad were monotheists. So Prophet Ibrahim in these verses of surah Anbiya asks his people why they worship these lifeless pieces of stone? They said:
قَالُوا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا لَهَا عَابِدِينَ ﴿٥٣﴾
They replied, “We saw that our fathers used to worship them.”
Prophet Ibrahim replied to them:
قَالَ لَقَدْ كُنتُمْ أَنتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُمْ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ ﴿٥٤﴾
He said, “Indeed, you and your fathers are in glaring error.”
In this way, Prophet Ibrahim begins his argument against his people.
قَالُوا أَجِئْتَنَا بِالْحَقِّ أَمْ أَنتَ مِنَ اللَّاعِبِينَ ﴿٥٥﴾ قَالَ بَل رَّبُّكُمْ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الَّذِي فَطَرَهُنَّ وَأَنَا عَلَىٰ ذَٰلِكُم مِّنَ الشَّاهِدِينَ ﴿٥٦﴾ وَتَاللَّهِ لَأَكِيدَنَّ أَصْنَامَكُم بَعْدَ أَن تُوَلُّوا مُدْبِرِينَ ﴿٥٧﴾
They said, “Have you brought us the truth or are you joking?” He said, “No [I am not joking], your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth who has originated them and I am a witness over them. And by God I will devise a plan against your idols after you have been away.”
Then, when his people were gone away to hold a celebration, Prophet Ibrahim went inside their temples and began breaking the idols.
فَجَعَلَهُمْ جُذَاذًا إِلَّا كَبِيرًا لَّهُمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ إِلَيْهِ يَرْجِعُونَ ﴿٥٨﴾
He broke them, except their biggest [idol] that they may return to it.
Prophet Ibrahim broke all the idols except the biggest one so that they may put the blame on the biggest idol and question it.
قَالُوا مَن فَعَلَ هَٰذَا بِآلِهَتِنَا إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿٥٩﴾ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا فَتًى يَذْكُرُهُمْ يُقَالُ لَهُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ ﴿٦٠﴾ قَالُوا فَأْتُوا بِهِ عَلَىٰ أَعْيُنِ النَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْهَدُونَ ﴿٦١﴾
[When they returned from their ceremony they found the idols broken and] said, “Who has done this to our deities? He is truly a wrongdoer.” They said, “We heard a young boy who is called Abraham speak about them.” They said, “Bring him before the eyes of the people that they may testify [against him].”
The Decree Is Issued: Prophet Ibrahim Is to Be Burned Alive
Now just see how Prophet Ibrahim argues with them in surah Anbiya verses 62-63:
قَالُوا أَأَنتَ فَعَلْتَ هَٰذَا بِآلِهَتِنَا يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ ﴿٦٢﴾ قَالَ بَلْ فَعَلَهُ كَبِيرُهُمْ هَٰذَا فَاسْأَلُوهُمْ إِن كَانُوا يَنطِقُونَ ﴿٦٣﴾
They said, ‘Was it you who did this to our gods, O Abraham?’ He said, ‘No, it was this biggest one of them who did it! Ask them, if they can speak.’7
At this moment, they came to themselves and said:
فَرَجَعُوا إِلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ فَقَالُوا إِنَّكُمْ أَنتُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ ﴿٦٤﴾ ثُمَّ نُكِسُوا عَلَىٰ رُءُوسِهِمْ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتَ مَا هَٰؤُلَاءِ يَنطِقُونَ ﴿٦٥﴾
So, they returned to themselves [and used reason and found that they are wrongdoers] so they said, “Indeed you yourself are wrongdoers.” Then they shook their head [in disbelief and said] “You know that they do not speak.”
So at first, they realized how they are wronging themselves, but a few minutes later, they once again said to Prophet Ibrahim that you well know that they cannot speak. Once again, they clung to their wrong beliefs. Prophet Ibrahim said to them:
قَالَ أَفَتَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَضُرُّكُمْ ﴿٦٦﴾ أُفٍّ لَّكُمْ وَلِمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ ۖ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ ﴿٦٧﴾
He replied “Did you worship [idols] beside God which do not bring profit to you nor do they cause harm to you. Woe to you and that which you worship instead of God. Do you not use reason?”
Then his people decided to burn him alive so that it would set an example for others not to ever break idols.
قَالُوا حَرِّقُوهُ وَانصُرُوا آلِهَتَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ فَاعِلِينَ ﴿٦٨﴾ قُلْنَا يَا نَارُ كُونِي بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ﴿٦٩﴾
They [angrily] said, “If you want to do anything, burn him and help your deities.” So, We said “O fire! Be cool and peaceful for Abraham.”
They set a huge fire, placed Prophet Ibrahim in a catapult, and threw him inside the fire. To everyone’s surprise, the fire did not burn him. Instead, the fire became cool. This was one of Prophet Ibrahim’s miracles to show people he is on the path of truth.
The Other Prophets in Surah Anbiya
Surah Anbiya mentions the names and stories of the prophets:
• Moses and Aaron in verse 48
• Lot in verses 73-75
• Noah in verses 76-77
• David and Solomon in verses 78-82
• Ayyub (Job) in verses 83-84
• Ismail , Idris (Enoch), and Dhul-Kifl in verses 85-86
• Jonah [by his title Dhu’l-Nūn meaning the one with the fish] in verses 87-88
• Zechariah and John in verses 89-90
Famous Verses of Surah Anbiya
Verse 22 of surah Anbiya is one of the famous verses of this surah that proves the oneness of Allah. The verse reads:
لَوْ كَانَ فِيهِمَا آلِهَةٌ إِلَّا اللَّهُ لَفَسَدَتَا ۚ فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَرْشِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ ﴿٢٢﴾
Had there been any gods in them other than Allah, they would surely have fallen apart. Clear is Allah, the Lord of the Throne, of what they allege [concerning Him].8
This harmony and order that we see in the world arise from the management of a single God, not multiple ones. The verse states that if there were more than one God, they would be corrupted and fallen into ruin because they would compete with one another. As a result, this world with all its order and harmony emanates from a single God who has created everything and manages everything.
Verses 87-88 of Surah Anbiya
Verses 87-88 of surah Anbiya are two of the most famous verses of this surah. These two verses, especially the last part of verse 87 is known as dhikr al-Yūnisiyyah because it comprises Jonah’s supplication to Allah when he was in the belly of the fish.
وَذَا النُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا فَظَنَّ أَن لَّن نَّقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ أَن لَّا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿٨٧﴾ فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْغَمِّ ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نُنجِي الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٨٨﴾
And Dhu’l-Nūn [Jonah] when he left angrily, he thought that We will not cause him hardship [but when he experienced it] he prayed [to his Lord] in the darkness, “There is no god beside You. You are glorified. Indeed, I have been a wrongdoer.” So, We responded to him and We saved him from grief, thus We save the believers.
The part of verse 87 of surah Anbiya that states, “There is no god beside You. You are glorified. Indeed, I have been a wrongdoer,” is known as dhikr al-Yūnisiyyah meaning the dhikr of Jonah. There are many spiritual and physical benefits for repeating this dhikr a specific number of times.
Verse 105 of Surah Anbiya
وَلَقَدْ كَتَبْنَا فِي الزَّبُورِ مِن بَعْدِ الذِّكْرِ أَنَّ الْأَرْضَ يَرِثُهَا عِبَادِيَ الصَّالِحُونَ ﴿١٠٥﴾
And indeed, We wrote in the Psalms, after the Reminder, that My righteous servants will inherit the earth.
This verse of surah Anbiya is about the people in the end times who shall inherit the earth, that is, they will rule over the world. This is one of the definite predictions of the Quran, that when the Mahdi comes, he will defeat all the oppressors and the righteous among his followers will inherit the earth. The reason for using the word inherit is that one easily receives a great deal of wealth when he inherits something from someone. Likewise, inheriting the earth means easily acquiring rulership over the earth.
Surah Anbiya is a surah that talks about a variety of topics including tawḥīd, prophethood, and resurrection. It tells the story of several prophets and mentions the names of other ones while praising them. A fragment of the story of Prophet Ibrahim is told where he breaks the idols and argues with his people over the oneness of Allah. He is cast into a fire but the fire turns cool and does not burn him. Surah Anbiya has many benefits. For example, according to the Prophet, whoever recites surah Anbiya, Allah will be easy on him in reckoning his deeds, and all the prophets whose names have been mentioned in the Quran will shake hands with him and salute him on the Day of Judgment. By reciting surah Anbiya and acting upon its teachings, we will insha Allah reap all of its benefits.
- Majma‘ al-Bayan, vol. 7, p. 70.
- Tafseer al-Burhān, vol. 3, p. 799.
- Ṭibb al-A’immah, p. 31.
- Ibid., p. 69.
- Al-Mīzān, 1390 AH, vol. 14, p. 244; Tafseer Nimūnah, vol. 13, p. 349.
- Quran 21:62-63 (Qara’i).
- Quran 21:22 (Qara’i).