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Surah Saff

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Surah Saff is the 61st surah in the Noble Quran, revealed in Medina, and located in juz 28. Surah Saff, meaning ranks, gets its name from the fourth verse, which talks about those who fight in Allah’s way in ranks. In this article on Islam4u, we will explore this surah in detail.

Facts About Surah Saff

Surah Saff is the 61st surah of the Quran. It has 14 verses, 226 words, and 966 letters. Surah Saff was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (s) in Medina. It is the 111th surah that was revealed to the Prophet (s). Surah Saff discusses a variety of topics. It glorifies and sanctifies Allah in the first verse, criticizes those whose speech is not in line with their action, mentions the ultimate victory of Allah’s religion and its becoming worldwide, even if the enemies try to prevent it, and encourages human beings to do jihad with their souls and wealth.

Arabic Text and Translation of Surah Saff


بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيم

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.

سَبَّحَ لِلَّهِ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَمَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ ‎﴿١﴾

Whatever there is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah, and He is the All-mighty, the All-wise.

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ ‎﴿٢﴾

O you who have faith! Why do you say what you do not do?

كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِندَ ٱللَّهِ أَن تَقُولُوا۟ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ ‎﴿٣﴾

It is greatly outrageous to Allah that you should say what you do not do.

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَٰتِلُونَ فِى سَبِيلِهِۦ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُم بُنْيَٰنٌ مَّرْصُوصٌ ‎﴿٤﴾

Indeed Allah loves those who fight in His way in ranks, as if they were a compact structure.

وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِۦ يَٰقَوْمِ لِمَ تُؤْذُونَنِى وَقَد تَّعْلَمُونَ أَنِّى رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا زَاغُوٓا۟ أَزَاغَ ٱللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلْفَٰسِقِينَ ‎﴿٥﴾‏

When Moses said to his people, ‘O my people! Why do you torment me, when you certainly know that I am Allah’s apostle to you?’ So when they swerved [from the right path], Allah made their hearts swerve, and Allah does not guide the transgressing lot.

وَإِذْ قَالَ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ يَٰبَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ إِنِّى رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ إِلَيْكُم مُّصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَىَّ مِنَ ٱلتَّوْرَىٰةِ وَمُبَشِّرَۢا بِرَسُولٍ يَأْتِى مِنۢ بَعْدِى ٱسْمُهُۥٓ أَحْمَدُ ۖ فَلَمَّا جَآءَهُم بِٱلْبَيِّنَٰتِ قَالُوا۟ هَٰذَا سِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ ‎﴿٦﴾

And when Jesus son of Mary said, ‘O Children of Israel! Indeed I am the apostle of Allah to you, to confirm what is before me of the Torah, and to give the good news of an apostle who will come after me, whose name is Ahmad.’ But when he brought them manifest proofs, they said, ‘This is plain magic.’

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ ٱفْتَرَىٰ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ ٱلْكَذِبَ وَهُوَ يُدْعَىٰٓ إِلَى ٱلْإِسْلَٰمِ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ ‎﴿٧﴾

Who is a greater wrongdoer than him who fabricates falsehoods against Allah, while he is being summoned to Islam? And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing lot.

يُرِيدُونَ لِيُطْفِـُٔوا۟ نُورَ ٱللَّهِ بِأَفْوَٰهِهِمْ وَٱللَّهُ مُتِمُّ نُورِهِۦ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ ٱلْكَٰفِرُونَ ‎﴿٨﴾

They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light though the faithless should be averse.

هُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُۥ بِٱلْهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ ٱلْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُۥ عَلَى ٱلدِّينِ كُلِّهِۦ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ ٱلْمُشْرِكُونَ ‎﴿٩﴾

It is He who has sent His Apostle with guidance and the true religion that He may make it prevail over all religions though the polytheists should be averse.

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ تِجَٰرَةٍ تُنجِيكُم مِّنْ عَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ ‎﴿١٠﴾

O you who have faith! Shall I show you a deal that will deliver you from a painful punishment?

تُؤْمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ وَتُجَٰهِدُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ بِأَمْوَٰلِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ ‎﴿١١﴾

Have faith in Allah and His Apostle, and wage jihad in the way of Allah with your persons and possessions. That is better for you, should you know.

يَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَيُدْخِلْكُمْ جَنَّٰتٍ تَجْرِى مِن تَحْتِهَا ٱلْأَنْهَٰرُ وَمَسَٰكِنَ طَيِّبَةً فِى جَنَّٰتِ عَدْنٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلْفَوْزُ ٱلْعَظِيمُ ‎﴿١٢﴾

He will forgive your sins and admit you into gardens with streams running in them, and into good dwellings in the Gardens of Eden; that is the great success.

وَأُخْرَىٰ تُحِبُّونَهَا ۖ نَصْرٌ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَفَتْحٌ قَرِيبٌ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ‎﴿١٣﴾

And other [blessings] you cherish: help from Allah and a victory near at hand, and give good news to the faithful.

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُونُوٓا۟ أَنصَارَ ٱللَّهِ كَمَا قَالَ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ لِلْحَوَارِيِّـۧنَ مَنْ أَنصَارِىٓ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ ٱلْحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحْنُ أَنصَارُ ٱللَّهِ ۖ فَـَٔامَنَت طَّآئِفَةٌ مِّنۢ بَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ وَكَفَرَت طَّآئِفَةٌ ۖ فَأَيَّدْنَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ عَلَىٰ عَدُوِّهِمْ فَأَصْبَحُوا۟ ظَٰهِرِينَ ‎﴿١٤﴾‏

O you who have faith! Be Allah’s helpers, just as Jesus son of Mary said to his disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers for Allah’s sake?’ The Disciples said, ‘We will be Allah’s helpers!’ So a group of the Children of Israel believed, and a group disbelieved. Then We strengthened the faithful against their enemies, and they came to prevail [over them].

The Naming of Surah Saff

Saff means ranks. The word saff is mentioned in verse four of this surah:

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَٰتِلُونَ فِى سَبِيلِهِۦ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُم بُنْيَٰنٌ مَّرْصُوصٌ ‎﴿٤﴾

Indeed Allah loves those who fight in His way in ranks, as if they were a compact structure. (4) [All translations are by Qarai]

This surah also has another name, Hawariyyun (Disciples), which it gets from the last verse (14) of the surah, which is about the disciples of Jesus (a):

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُونُوٓا۟ أَنصَارَ ٱللَّهِ كَمَا قَالَ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ لِلْحَوَارِيِّـۧنَ مَنْ أَنصَارِىٓ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ ٱلْحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحْنُ أَنصَارُ ٱللَّهِ ۖ فَـَٔامَنَت طَّآئِفَةٌ مِّنۢ بَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ وَكَفَرَت طَّآئِفَةٌ ۖ فَأَيَّدْنَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ عَلَىٰ عَدُوِّهِمْ فَأَصْبَحُوا۟ ظَٰهِرِينَ ‎﴿١٤﴾‏

O you who have faith! Be Allah’s helpers, just as Jesus son of Mary said to his disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers for Allah’s sake?’ The Disciples said, ‘We will be Allah’s helpers!’ So a group of the Children of Israel believed, and a group disbelieved. Then We strengthened the faithful against their enemies, and they came to prevail [over them]. (14)

Glorification of Allah in Surah Saff

Surah Saff begins by glorifying Allah:

بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

سَبَّحَ لِلَّهِ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَمَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ ‎﴿١﴾

Whatever there is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah, and He is the All-mighty, the All-wise.

Certain surahs begin with glorifying Allah. They are called “Al-Musabbihat” (the glorifiers). Surah Saff is one of these surahs. Glorification in Arabic terms means declaring that Allah is free and immaculate from anything that can be falsely attributed to Him. For example, He is immune from having a son or partner in His lordship.

Do Not Say What You Do Not Do

Verses two and three of Surah Saff read:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِندَ ٱللَّهِ أَن تَقُولُوا۟ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ ‎﴿٣﴾

O you who have faith! Why do you say what you do not do? (2) It is greatly outrageous to Allah that you should say what you do not do. (3)

Our actions must be in line with our words. A person who says things they do not do has been greatly censured in these two verses. As they say, one must practice what one preaches. If a smoker tells someone not to smoke while they themself do so, their word would not be very effective. Likewise, if someone says that they would do something but do not do it, they are lying. Therefore, saying something and not doing it is a sin we must all avoid.

Invitation to Jihad in Surah Saff

Verse four of Surah Saff reads:

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَٰتِلُونَ فِى سَبِيلِهِۦ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُم بُنْيَٰنٌ مَّرْصُوصٌ ‎﴿٤﴾

Indeed Allah loves those who fight in His way in ranks, as if they were a compact structure. (4)

The verse emphasizes the importance of jihad, that is, fighting in the way of Allah with one’s soul and wealth. The verse alludes to the issue of Muslims’ being united and fighting alongside each other. We can understand this point by the word “saff,” which means ranks. When a group of people are together for a single cause, they will be like a solid and stable structure that cannot be easily destroyed. Allah says that he loves those Muslims who fight next to each other.

The Prophets of Allah Mentioned in Surah Saff

Surah Saff begins talking about Prophet Musa (a), one of the greatest of Allah’s prophets in verse four:

وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِۦ يَٰقَوْمِ لِمَ تُؤْذُونَنِى وَقَد تَّعْلَمُونَ أَنِّى رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا زَاغُوٓا۟ أَزَاغَ ٱللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلْفَٰسِقِينَ ‎﴿٥﴾‏

When Moses said to his people, ‘O my people! Why do you torment me, when you certainly know that I am Allah’s apostle to you?’ So when they swerved [from the right path], Allah made their hearts swerve, and Allah does not guide the transgressing lot. (5)

The verse establishes the position of a messenger and apostle of Allah. Moses (a) was a “rasul,” meaning an apostle who has a scripture and religion. He was one of the five great prophets, known as “Ulul ‘Azm,” meaning the ones with strong resolves. One must not bother a person that they acknowledge as their apostle, such as Moses. By revealing this verse, Allah wants Muslims to relate to their own Prophet (s). The Prophet (s) is also an apostle like Moses. Therefore, Muslims must not bother him with their words and actions.

Prophet Isa in Surah Saff

Then, the verse speaks about another great Prophet who was also an apostle: Prophet Isa (Jesus):

وَإِذْ قَالَ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ يَٰبَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ إِنِّى رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ إِلَيْكُم مُّصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَىَّ مِنَ ٱلتَّوْرَىٰةِ وَمُبَشِّرَۢا بِرَسُولٍ يَأْتِى مِنۢ بَعْدِى ٱسْمُهُۥٓ أَحْمَدُ ۖ فَلَمَّا جَآءَهُم بِٱلْبَيِّنَٰتِ قَالُوا۟ هَٰذَا سِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ ‎﴿٦﴾

And when Jesus son of Mary said, ‘O Children of Israel! Indeed I am the apostle of Allah to you, to confirm what is before me of the Torah, and to give the good news of an apostle who will come after me, whose name is Ahmad.’ But when he brought them manifest proofs, they said, ‘This is plain magic.’ (6)

Jesus was not the son of God, as most Christians believe. In this verse, Jesus introduces himself as a “rasul” or apostle of Allah, not the son of God. He says how he confirms the religion of the prophet before him (Moses) and gives the good news of an apostle that will come after him whose name is Ahmad (the admirable one). Ahmad is one of the famous names of Prophet Muhammad (s). Jesus showed the people of his time many signs of Allah and performed many miracles. However, many of them denied him and said he was a magician. Likewise, when the Prophet of Islam (s) read the verses of the Quran to his people, some denied him, and due to the eloquence of the Quran, they said he was a magician.

The Fabricators of Lies Against Allah Are the Worst of Wrongdoers

Allah says in Surah Saff verse seven:

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ ٱفْتَرَىٰ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ ٱلْكَذِبَ وَهُوَ يُدْعَىٰٓ إِلَى ٱلْإِسْلَٰمِ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ ‎﴿٧﴾

Who is a greater wrongdoer than him who fabricates falsehoods against Allah, while he is being summoned to Islam? And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing lot. (7)

A person who is invited to Islam and is presented with sound reasoning yet falsifies it and fabricates lies about it is the worst of wrongdoers according to the Quran. Indeed, those who belie the invitation of the Prophet (s), say that his miracles are magic, and say his religion is false are the worst of all wrongdoers. These people will never be guided, and their fate is eternal punishment.

The Light of Allah Cannot Be Put Out

Verses eight to nine of Surah Saff read:

يُرِيدُونَ لِيُطْفِـُٔوا۟ نُورَ ٱللَّهِ بِأَفْوَٰهِهِمْ وَٱللَّهُ مُتِمُّ نُورِهِۦ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ ٱلْكَٰفِرُونَ ‎﴿٨﴾‏ هُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُۥ بِٱلْهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ ٱلْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُۥ عَلَى ٱلدِّينِ كُلِّهِۦ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ ٱلْمُشْرِكُونَ ‎﴿٩﴾

They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light though the faithless should be averse. (8) It is He who has sent His Apostle with guidance and the true religion that He may make it prevail over all religions though the polytheists should be averse. (9)

Allah compares His religion to a light that is so strong and bright that no one can put it out. The disbelievers try to put out the light of Allah. However, their efforts are like trying to put out a great light, such as the sun, with their mouths. Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (s), His final prophet and apostle, to make his religion prevail over all other religions. Islam is the perfect religion legislated by Allah, and no other religion can come after it.

The Lifesaving Deal in Surah Saff

Verses 10-13 of Surah Saff read:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ تِجَٰرَةٍ تُنجِيكُم مِّنْ عَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ ‎﴿١٠﴾‏ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ وَتُجَٰهِدُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ بِأَمْوَٰلِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ ‎﴿١١﴾‏ يَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَيُدْخِلْكُمْ جَنَّٰتٍ تَجْرِى مِن تَحْتِهَا ٱلْأَنْهَٰرُ وَمَسَٰكِنَ طَيِّبَةً فِى جَنَّٰتِ عَدْنٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلْفَوْزُ ٱلْعَظِيمُ ‎﴿١٢﴾‏ وَأُخْرَىٰ تُحِبُّونَهَا ۖ نَصْرٌ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَفَتْحٌ قَرِيبٌ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ‎﴿١٣﴾

O you who have faith! Shall I show you a deal that will deliver you from a painful punishment? (10) Have faith in Allah and His Apostle, and wage jihad in the way of Allah with your persons and possessions. That is better for you, should you know. (11) He will forgive your sins and admit you into gardens with streams running in them, and into good dwellings in the Gardens of Eden; that is the great success. (12) And other [blessings] you cherish: help from Allah and a victory near at hand, and give good news to the faithful. (13)

When you make a deal with someone, you promise them to do something in return for another thing, such as services, goods, funds, and so on. Allah in these verses tells the believers to make a deal with Allah to have faith only in Him and His Apostle. Furthermore, He tells the believers to do jihad with their souls and wealth. By souls, Allah means sacrificing one’s life for the sake of Allah. By wealth, Allah means spending a portion of their wealth in the way of Allah and in support of Islam. What will Allah give you in return? He will admit you into the gardens of paradise with all its bounties and rewards. He will also give you other blessings, such as giving you help and victory (e.g., the conquest of Mecca).

Help Allah and He Will Grant You Victory

The fourteenth and last verse of Surah Saff reads:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُونُوٓا۟ أَنصَارَ ٱللَّهِ كَمَا قَالَ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ لِلْحَوَارِيِّـۧنَ مَنْ أَنصَارِىٓ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ ٱلْحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحْنُ أَنصَارُ ٱللَّهِ ۖ فَـَٔامَنَت طَّآئِفَةٌ مِّنۢ بَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ وَكَفَرَت طَّآئِفَةٌ ۖ فَأَيَّدْنَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ عَلَىٰ عَدُوِّهِمْ فَأَصْبَحُوا۟ ظَٰهِرِينَ ‎﴿١٤﴾

O you who have faith! Be Allah’s helpers, just as Jesus son of Mary said to his disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers for Allah’s sake?’ The Disciples said, ‘We will be Allah’s helpers!’ So a group of the Children of Israel believed, and a group disbelieved. Then We strengthened the faithful against their enemies, and they came to prevail [over them]. (14)

Once again, Allah mentions an event that took occurred at the time of Jesus. Jesus asked his disciples who would help him for Allah’s sake. They said that they are his helpers. This is also a kind of jihad, a theme that is oft-repeated in this surah. Allah is saying that if you further His cause by following His commands and acting upon the laws of His religion, He will also help you and make you victorious over your enemies. The reason Allah is mentioning the disciples or Hawariyyun of Jesus is that Muslims can relate to them and answer the call of their own Prophet, Muhammad (s). Therefore, we, like the disciples of Jesus, should become the disciples of Prophet Muhammad (s). That is when Allah will help us overcome our enemies.

Benefits and Virtues of Reciting Surah Saff

  • The Prophet (s) has said, “Whoever recites the surah of Prophet Isa (Surah Saff), Prophet Isa will greet him so long as he is alive and will ask Allah to forgive them, and they shall be the companion and friend of Prophet Isa (a) on the Day of Qiyamah.[1]
  • Imam al-Baqir has said that whoever always recites Surah Saff in his obligatory and supererogatory prayers, Allah will place him in the ranks of the angels and prophets.[2]

Conclusion

Surah Saff, the 61st surah of the Quran, revealed in Medina, and located in juz 28 begins with the glorification of Allah. Then it talks about doing jihad in ranks, meaning side by side with our Muslim brethren. Surah Saff then mentions how we should not bother our Prophet (s) like how the Children of Israel bothered their Prophet. Then, it mentions how Prophet Muhammad (s) is the last Prophet who would come after Jesus and how his religion would prevail over all other religions. Surah Saff also talks about making a deal with Allah to believe in Him and wage jihad for His sake. Finally, the surah stresses the importance of helping Allah and His Apostle and how Allah would help the believers and make them victorious.


References

[1] Tabarsi, Majma‘ al-Bayan, vol. 9, p. 459.

[2] Sheikh Saduq, Thawab al-A‘mal, 1406 AH, p. 118.

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