Surah Balad

Surah Balad

Table of Contents

Surah Balad (the city), revealed in Mecca, is the 90th surah of the Quran in Juz’ 30, with 20 verses and 82 words. It gets its name from the first verse, whereupon God swears to the honored city of Mecca, as it is the residing place of the prophet of mercy (S).

Going through this article, you will learn how Surah Balad narrates the story of all mankind in this world and the variables in man’s equations in life; how it mentions the divine blessings showered upon him including his ability of distinguishing evil from good; his choices when put at a crossroad, to go uphill or downhill, and doing such acts of virtue like helping the needy and feeding the hungry and the orphans.

Facts about Surah Balad

Going through this article, you will learn how Surah Balad narrates the story of all mankind in this world and the variables in man’s equations in life; how it mentions the divine blessings showered upon him including his ability of distinguishing evil from good; his choices when put at a crossroad, to go uphill or downhill, and doing such acts of virtue like helping the needy and feeding the hungry and the orphans.

90 Surah no.

Juz’ 30 Place

Makki Makki/Madani

35 Order of revelation

20 No. of verses

82 No. of words

343 No. of letters


Arabic Text and Translation of Surah Balad


بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيم

In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, most merciful

لَا أُقْسِمُ بهِاذَا الْبَلَدِ ﴿1﴾

I swear by this town,

وَ أَنتَ حِلُّ بهِاذَا الْبَلَدِ ﴿2﴾

as you reside in this town;

وَ وَالِدٍ وَ مَا وَلَدَ ﴿3﴾

by the father and him whom he begot:

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْانسَانَ فىِ كَبَدٍ ﴿4﴾

certainly We created man in travail.

أَ يحَسَبُ أَن لَّن يَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ أَحَدٌ ﴿5﴾

Does he suppose that no one will ever have power over him?

يَقُولُ أَهْلَكْتُ مَالًا لُّبَدًا ﴿6﴾

He says,” I have squandered immense wealth.”

أَ يحَسَبُ أَن لَّمْ يَرَهُ أَحَدٌ ﴿7﴾

Does he suppose that no one sees him?

أَ لَمْ نجَعَل لَّهُ عَيْنَينْ‏ ﴿8﴾

Have We not made for him two eyes,

وَ لِسَانًا وَ شَفَتَينْ‏ ﴿9﴾

a tongue, and two lips,

وَ هَدَيْنَاهُ النَّجْدَيْنِ ﴿10﴾

and shown him the two paths [of good and evil]?

فَلَا اقْتَحَمَ الْعَقَبَةَ ﴿11﴾

Yet he has not embarked upon the uphill task.

وَ مَا أَدْرَئكَ مَا الْعَقَبَةُ ﴿12﴾

And what will show you what is the uphill task?

فَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ ﴿13﴾

[It is] the freeing of a slave,

أَوْ إِطْعَامٌ فىِ يَوْمٍ ذِى مَسْغَبَةٍ ﴿14﴾

or feeding [the needy] on a day of starvation,

يَتِيمًا ذَا مَقْرَبَةٍ ﴿15﴾

or an orphan among relatives,

أَوْ مِسْكِينًا ذَا مَترْبَةٍ ﴿16﴾

or a needy man in desolation,

ثُمَّ كاَنَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَ تَوَاصَوْاْ بِالصَّبرْ وَ تَوَاصَوْاْ بِالْمَرْحَمَةِ ﴿17﴾

while being one of those who have faith and who enjoin one another to patience, and enjoin one another to compassion.

أُوْلَئكَ أَصحْابُ المْيْمَنَةِ ﴿18﴾

They are the People of the Right Hand.

وَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ بِايَاتِنَا هُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْمَشْمَةِ ﴿19﴾

But those who defy Our signs, they are the People of the Left Hand.

عَلَيهْمْ نَارٌ مُّؤْصَدَةُ ﴿20﴾

[Imposed] upon them will be a closed Fire.

Surah Balad at a glimpse

NO. OR VERSE EXPLANATION
1-4 Human beings are created in hardship.
The material world holds a mixture of pains and joys.
5 & 7 A supreme power is watching you.
8-10 He has given you blessings such as
• Eyes
• Tongue
• Lips
• Inner prophet
• Outer prophets
to reflect upon and choose the path of virtue or vice.
11-18 Path of virtue: the uphill task
What is it?
• Freeing of slave
• Feeding the needy on a day of starvation
• Helping your orphan relative
• Helping a desolate needy
Three conditions are required:
1. Faith in God
2. Enjoining to patience and
3. Enjoining to compassion
19 & 20 Path of vice: the downhill task
Those who defy blessings of God
Fire awaits them.

Surah Balad and the sanctity of Mecca

Surah Balad, meaning the city, starts with an oath, swearing to the town where the noble prophet (S) was born and raised.

لَا أُقْسِمُ بهِاذَا الْبَلَدِ ﴿1﴾

I swear by this town,

وَ أَنتَ حِلُّ بهِاذَا الْبَلَدِ ﴿2﴾

as you reside in this town;

The inhabitants of this town knew Muhammad as “the truthful” and Amin. However, the story changes once the apostle of Allah (S) commences to openly announce his mission to all.

Seeing their power and position in danger, the people of Quraysh initially endeavor to silence Muhammad with promises of gold and silver but to no avail. The next step is to torture and pressure Muhammad and the new Muslims. But why? What were they thinking?

That is what Surah Balad is all about…

Surah Balad and the story of mankind in the world

Human beings have been in search of power and possessions all though history in hope of lasting peace and a comfortable life. Nevertheless, no joy ever stays long. There are days of health and sickness; moments of sorrow and delight, so many ups and downs in life. That is the quality of the material world; hence, Allah says in Surah Balad:

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْانسَانَ فىِ كَبَدٍ ﴿4﴾

certainly We created man in travail.

Surah Balad and the variables in man’s equations in life

The doctrine of humanism has taught people that many matters in a human’s life are simply the result of one’s plans and thoughts. There is no room for God in man’s life equations. However, there is an enlightening saying that’s says, “العبد یدبر والله یقدر”. “The servant thinks and plans yet God wills the final decree”.

There is a beautiful hadith from Imam Hadi (AS) that reads,

الْمَقَادِیرُ تُرِیکَ مَا لَمْ یَخْطُرْ بِبَالِکَ، النَّاسُ فِی الدُّنْیَا بِالْأَمْوَالِ وَ فِی الْآخِرَةِ بِالْأَعْمَالِ

The decrees of God (SWT) for you is that which might not even occur to your imagination. In the world, people are with their wealth and in the Hereafter with their deeds. 1

That is why God says in Surah Balad:

أَ يحَسَبُ أَن لَّن يَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ أَحَدٌ ﴿5﴾

Does he suppose that no one will ever have power over him?

أَ يحَسَبُ أَن لَّمْ يَرَهُ أَحَدٌ ﴿7﴾

Does he suppose that no one sees him?

The Quran mentions different instances of tribes and influential figures like the Pharaoh and Qarun (قارون) who were annihilated with a blink of an eye and disappeared from the face of the earth.

Does man not see the divine blessings mentioned in surah Balad?

In numerous verses of the glorious Quran, mankind has been invited to look inside and outside himself, find the divine gifts bestowed upon him and to contemplate upon them.

Surah Balad also draws man’s attention to the beauties and intricacies of the blessings of God such as the eyes, lips, tongues and the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

The eye 2

أَ لَمْ نجَعَل لَّهُ عَيْنَينْ‏ ﴿8﴾

Have We not made for him two eyes,

The eyes are one of the most astonishing organs of the visual system with multiple functions:

  • Expressing emotions such as happiness, anger, love, astonishment etc.,
  • Easiest means of exchanging scientific and cultural information;
  • Powerful means of communication with the outer world,
  • Recognizing and Influencing others.

In other words, God has gifted two cameras to mankind which

  • Are light in weight,
  • Can see near and far,
  • Take colored pictures and
  • Lasts for decades.

The fascinating creation of the eyes, these lumps of fatty substance, astound the thoughtful.

  1. They are protected by:
    1. the eyelashes
    2. The eyelids
    3. The eyebrows
    4. The salty liquid in the eye
  2. Eyeballs are placed in a cavity inside the skull.
  3. Lines of forehead prevent the sweat on the head to drop into the eyes.

With these same gifts we commit sins.

The tongue

وَ لِسَانًا …. ﴿9﴾

a tongue…

The tongue and lips work like a bolt and nut.

We use our tongue for multiple purposes everyday without even consciously being aware of what we do and what great help our tongue is to us. Surah Balad makes us pause for a moment and think about the benefits of the tongue:

  • It acts as an inspector in the mouth; in case something sharp like a bone enters the mouth, it quickly inspects it;
  • Our saliva is not salty like our tears and helps with food digestion;
  • It cleans inside and outside the mouth;
  • It Distributes the food on the teeth to be chewed, yet it is not chewed itself;
  • The size, color, moistness and flexibility of the tongue has carefully been designed;
  • It can taste different flavors

The lips

….. وَ شَفَتَينْ‏ ﴿9﴾

….. and two lips,

Surah Balad invites the reader to contemplate on a seemingly trivial organ, the lips.

  • Lips are beautiful in their color and curves.
  • They are soft and not rigid.
  • With the lips one talks.
  • The baby sucks on its mother’s breasts with them.
  • One can kiss and blew with ones lips.
  • One can breathe through them.

With these same lips we sin, refuse to say the truth and pray to God.

Surah Balad and the inner prophet

It is believed that the face of the earth has never been empty of proofs and messengers of God, striving to lead people to monotheism and the path of righteousness.

In addition to that, the soul of the human being has been created and fashioned in a way to discern between good and evil. This is what is referred to as “the inner prophet” or one’s intellect. In surah ash-Shams you read:

فَأَلْهَمَها فُجُورَها وَ تَقْواها ﴿8﴾

and inspired it with [discernment between] its virtues and vices: 3

The same concept has been reflected in surah Balad:

وَ هَدَيْنَاهُ النَّجْدَيْنِ ﴿10﴾

and shown him the two paths [of good and evil]?

When you promise something to a child and do not keep your word, he/she becomes upset. Even a child understands the value of truthfulness and the ugliness of a lie.

When you are put at a crossroad

Surah Balad directs the attention of the reader to the bounties that a human being benefits from on a day to day basis. Then he/she is put at a crossroad to choose one of the two paths:

Surah Balad

The people who decide to go through the uphill task and endure hardship and many dangerous pass ways, get to spiritually grow and enjoy the beautiful scenery once they reach the mountain top.

أُوْلَئكَ أَصحْابُ المْيْمَنَةِ ﴿18﴾

They are the People of the Right Hand.

Surah Balad refers to them as the People of the Right Hand.

وَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ بِايَاتِنَا هُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْمَشْمَةِ ﴿19﴾

But those who defy Our signs, they are the People of the Left Hand.

Would you choose the difficult pass?

We are constantly making choices in our daily life between two or more options, one of which ends in the strength of our spirit and gets us closer to God’s satisfaction and the other to our weakness.

Making the right choice is not always easy. It entails sacrifice and generosity. Surah Balad mentions it as the difficult or uphill pass and provides certain instances for it:

The freeing of a slave:

فَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ ﴿13﴾

[It is] the freeing of a slave,

A slave could be a war captive or an individual who has fallen prey to one’s carnal whims and desires. Hence, guiding the misguided to the path of virtue could be an instance of this verse in surah Balad.

Feeding [the needy] on a day of starvation

أَوْ إِطْعَامٌ فىِ يَوْمٍ ذِى مَسْغَبَةٍ ﴿14﴾

or feeding [the needy] on a day of starvation,

Providing the needy with the essentials of life such as food is among the acts in surah Balad necessary for one’s individual growth, particularly on a day of starvation when you need the food as much. This would entail sacrifice, patience and compassion.

Feeding an orphan among relatives

يَتِيمًا ذَا مَقْرَبَةٍ ﴿15﴾

or an orphan among relatives,

Attending to the needs of the vulnerable sectors of a society has been brought under consideration in the teachings of Islam. In numerous verses in the noble Quran, the orphans have been highlighted.

The noble prophet (S) says:

كُنْ لِلْيَتِيمِ كَالْأَبِ الرَّحِيمِ وَ اعْلَمْ أَنَّكَ تَزْرَعُ كَذَلِكَ تَحْصُد

Be a kind father to an orphan and beware that you shall reap that which you sow. 4

Such a social duty would become more cherished in the eyes of God when the orphan is among the relatives.

Helping a needy man in desolation

أَوْ مِسْكِينًا ذَا مَترْبَةٍ ﴿16﴾

or a needy man in desolation,

There is a beautiful story in the Quran about a family who gave away their food at the time of breaking their fast to the needy, orphan and the captive, saying,

و يُطعِموُنَ الطَّعامَ عَلي حُبِّهِ مِسكيناً و يَتيماً و أسيراً ، إنَّما نُطعِمُكُم لِوَجهِ اللَّهِ لا نريدُ مِنكُم جَزاءً و لاشُكُور

‘We feed you only for the sake of Allah. We desire no reward from you, nor thanks.’

This was the family of the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (S).

Three important condition required

All such instances of social support and help would be valid only under three conditions:

ثُمَّ كاَنَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَ تَوَاصَوْاْ بِالصَّبرْ وَ تَوَاصَوْاْ بِالْمَرْحَمَةِ ﴿17﴾

while being one of those who have faith and who enjoin one another to patience, and enjoin one another to compassion.

  1. being one of those who have faith and
  2. who enjoin one another to patience,
  3. and enjoin one another to compassion. (17)

Rewards and benefits of reciting surah Balad

The holy Prophet (S) says in a narration regarding surah Balad:

مَنْ قَرَأَها أَعْطاهُ اللّهُ الأَمْنَ مِنْ غَضَبِهِ یَوْمَ الْقِیامَةِ

“Allah will make him who studies this Surah safe from His wrath on the Day of Judgement.” 5

A tradition from Imam Sadiq (as) says:

“The one who recites Surah Balad in his obligatory prayers will be known as a good-doer in this world, and in the Next World he will be included among those of rank and privilege with Allah, and he will be of the friends and companions of the prophets, martyrs, and the pious.” 6

Other benefits have also been mentioned for reciting surah Balad such as a remedy for illnesses of the respiratory system and making newborns immune from certain sicknesses.


References

  1. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 78, p. 368.
  2. Tafsir Noor, surah Balad.
  3. [91:8] Qarai translation.
  4. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 74, p. 171.
  5. Majma’-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 490.
  6. Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, vol. 5, p. 578.
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Radiyah Shameli
Radiyah Shameli
I am Radiyah Shameil. I write for the blog and am a team member in providing content for courses on “Family in the Quran”. I have a Ph.D. in Islamic studies and am a researcher in the field of women and family in Islam. I teach and research mostly in this area. Currently, I am working on the course “Family in the Quran” and “Parenting”

2 Responses

  1. Hi
    This is Ayesha from Scotland.
    I liked the part of the article where you mentioned how God simply describes the functions of eyes, nose and other body parts.

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