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Sura XXI — The Prophets

by Rev. G. Margoliouth, M.A.

Mecca — 112 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

THIS people's reckoning hath drawn nigh, yet, sunk in carelessness, they turn aside.

Every fresh warning that cometh to them from their Lord they only hear to mock it,—

Their hearts set on lusts: and they who have done this wrong say in secret discourse, "Is He more than a man like yourselves? What! will ye, with your eyes open,[400] accede to sorcery?"

SAY: "My Lord knoweth what is spoken in the heaven and on the earth: He is the Hearer, the Knower."

"Nay," say they, "it is the medley of dreams: nay, he hath forged it: nay, he is a poet: let him come to us with a sign as the prophets of old were sent."

Before their time, none of the cities which we have destroyed, believed: will these men, then, believe?

And we sent none, previous to thee, but men to whom we had revealed ourselves. Ask ye the people who are warned by Scriptures,[401] if ye know it not.

We gave them not bodies which could dispense with food: and they were not to live for ever.

Then made we good our promise to them; and we delivered them and whom we pleased, and we destroyed the transgressors.

And now have we sent down to you "the book," in which is your warning: What, will ye not then understand?

And how many a guilty city have we broken down, and raised up after it other peoples:

And when they felt our vengeance, lo! they fled from it.

"Flee not," said the angels in mockery, "but come back to that wherein ye revelled, and to your abodes! Questions will haply be put to you."

They said, "Oh, woe to us! Verily we have been evil doers."

And this ceased not to be their cry, until we made them like reaped corn, extinct.

We created not the heaven and the earth, and what is between them, for sport:

Had it been our wish to find a pastime, we had surely found it in ourselves;— if to do so had been our will.

Nay, we will hurl the truth at falsehood, and it shall smite it, and lo! it shall vanish. But woe be to you for what ye utter of God!

All beings in the heaven and on the earth are His: and they who are in his presence disdain not his service, neither are they wearied:

They praise Him night and day: they rest not.[402]

Have they taken gods from the earth who can quicken the dead?

Had there been in either heaven or earth gods besides God, both surely had gone to ruin. But glory be to God, the Lord of the throne, beyond what they utter!

He shall not be asked of his doings, but they shall be asked.

Have they taken other gods beside Him? SAY; Bring forth your proofs that they are gods. This is the warning of those who are with me, and the warning of those who were before me: but most of them know not the truth, and turn aside.

No apostle have we sent before thee to whom we did not reveal that "Verily there is no God beside me: therefore worship me."

Yet they say, "The God of Mercy hath begotten issue from the angels." Glory be to Him! Nay, they are but His honoured servants:

They speak not till He hath spoken;[403] and they do His bidding.

He knoweth what is before them and what is behind them; and no plea shall they offer

Save for whom He pleaseth; and they tremble for fear of Him.

And that angel among them who saith "I am a god beside Him," will we recompense with hell: in such sort will we recompense the offenders.

Do not the infidels see that the heavens and the earth were both a solid mass, and that we clave them asunder, and that by means of water we give life to everything? Will they not then believe?

And we set mountains on the earth lest it should move with them, and we made on it broad passages between them as routes for their guidance;

And we made the heaven a roof strongly upholden; yet turn they away from its signs.

And He it is who hath created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, each moving swiftly in its sphere.

At no time[404] have we granted to man a life that shall last for ever: if thou then die, shall they live for ever?

Every soul shall taste of death:[405] and for trial will we prove you with evil and with good; and unto Us shall ye be brought back.

And when the infidels see thee they receive thee only with scoffs:—"What! is this he who maketh such mention of your gods?" Yet when mention is made to them of the God of Mercy, they believe not.

"Man," say they, "is made up of haste."[406] But I will shew you my signs:[407] desire them not then to be hastened.

They say, "When will this threat be made good? Tell us, if ye be men of truth?"

Did the infidels but know the time when they shall not be able to keep the fire of hell from their faces or from their backs, neither shall they be helped!

But it shall come on them suddenly and shall confound them; and they shall not be able to put it back, neither shall they be respited.

Other apostles have been scoffed at before thee: but that doom at which they mocked encompassed the scoffers.

SAY: Who shall protect you by night and by day from the God of Mercy? Yet turn they away from the warning of their Lord.

Have they gods beside Us who can defend them? For their own succour have they no power; neither shall the gods they join with God screen them from Us.

Yes! we have given these men and their fathers enjoyments so long as their life lasted. What! see they not that we come to a land and straiten its borders[408] Is it they who are the conquerors?

SAY: I only warn you of what hath been revealed to me: but the deaf will not hear the call, whenever they are warned;

Yet if a breath of thy Lord's chastisement touch them, they will assuredly say, "Oh! woe to us! we have indeed been offenders."

Just balances will we set up for the day of the resurrection, neither shall any soul be wronged in aught; though, were a work but the weight of a grain of mustard seed, we would bring it forth to be weighed: and our reckoning will suffice.

We gave of old to Moses and Aaron the illumination,[409] and a light and a warning for the God-fearing,

Who dread their Lord in secret, and who tremble for "the Hour."

And this Koran which we have sent down is a blessed warning: will ye then disown it?

Of old we gave unto Abraham his direction,[410] for we knew him worthy.

When he said to his Father and to his people, "What are these images to which ye are devoted?"

They said, "We found our fathers worshipping them."

He said, "Truly ye and your fathers have been in a plain mistake."

They said, "Hast thou come unto us in earnest? or art thou of those who jest?"

He said, "Nay, your Lord is Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth, who hath created them both; and to this am I one of those who witness:

—And, by God, I will certainly lay a plot against your idols, after ye shall have retired and turned your backs."

So, he broke them all in pieces, except the chief of them, that to it they might return, inquiring.

They said, "Who hath done this to our gods? Verily he is one of the unjust."

They said, "We heard a youth make mention of them: they call him Abraham."

They said, "Then bring him before the people's eyes, that they may witness against him."

They said, "Hast thou done this to our gods, O Abraham?"

He said, "Nay, that their chief hath done it: but ask ye them, if they can speak."

So they turned their thoughts upon themselves, and said, "Ye truly are the impious persons:"

Then became headstrong in their former error[411] and exclaimed,"Thou knowest that these speak not."

He said, "What! do ye then worship, instead of God, that which doth not profit you at all, nor injure you? Fie on you and on that ye worship instead of God! What! do ye not then understand?"

They said:[412] "Burn him, and come to the succour of your gods: if ye will do anything at all."

We said, "O fire! be thou cold, and to Abraham a safety!"[413]

And they sought to lay a plot against him, but we made them the sufferers.

And we brought him and Lot in safety to the land which we have blessed for all human beings:

And we gave him Isaac and Jacob as a farther gift, and we made all of them righteous:

We also made them models who should guide others by our command, and we inspired them with good deeds and constancy in prayer and almsgiving, and they worshipped us.

And unto Lot we gave wisdom, and knowledge; and we rescued him from the city which wrought filthiness; for they were a people, evil, perverse:

And we caused him to enter into our mercy, for he was of the righteous.

And remember Noah when aforetime he cried to us and we heard him, and delivered him and his family from the great calamity;

And we helped him against the people who treated our signs as impostures. An evil people verily were they, and we drowned them all.

And David and Solomon; when they gave judgment concerning a field when some people's sheep had caused a waste therein; and we were witnesses of their judgment.

And we gave Solomon insight into the affair; and on both of them we bestowed wisdom and knowledge. And we constrained the mountains and the birds to join with David in our praise: Our doing was it!

And we taught David the art of making mail[414] for you, to defend you from each other's violence: will ye therefore be thankful?

And to Solomon we subjected we subjected the strongly blowing wind; it sped at his bidding to the land we had blessed; for we know all things:

And sundry Satans[415] who should dive for him and perform other work beside: and we kept watch over them.

And remember Job: When he cried to his Lord, "Truly evil hath touched me: but thou art the most merciful of those who shew mercy."

So we heard him, and lightened the burden of his woe; and we gave him back his family, and as many more with them,—a mercy from us, and a memorial for those who serve us:

And Ismael, and Edris[416] and Dhoulkefl[417]—all steadfast in patience.

And we caused them to enter into our mercy; for they were of the righteous:

And Dhoulnoun;[418] when he went on his way in anger, and thought that we had no power over him. But in the darkness he cried "There is no God but thou: Glory be unto Thee! Verily, I have been one of the evil doers:"

So we heard him and rescued him from misery: for thus rescue we the faithful:

And Zacharias; when he called upon his Lord saying, "O my Lord, leave me not childless: but there is no better heir than Thyself."[419]

So we heard him, and gave him John, and we made his wife fit for child-bearing. Verily, these vied in goodness, and called upon us with love and fear, and humbled themselves before us:

And her who kept her maidenhood, and into whom[420] we breathed of our spirit, and made her and her son a sign to all creatures.

Of a truth, this, your religion, is the one[421] Religion, and I your Lord; therefore serve me:

But they have rent asunder this their great concern among themselves into sects. All of them shall return to us.

And whoso shall do the things that are right, and be a believer, his efforts shall not be disowned: and surely will we write them down for him.

There is a ban on every city which we shall have destroyed, that they shall not rise again,

Until a way is opened for Gog and Magog,[422] and they shall hasten from every high land,

And this sure promise shall draw on. And lo! the eyes of the infidels shall stare amazedly; and they shall say, "Oh, our misery! of this were we careless! yea, we were impious persons."

Verily, ye, and what ye worship beside God,[423] shall be fuel for hell: ye shall go down into it.

Were these gods, they would not go down into it; but they shall all abide in it for ever.

Therein shall they groan; but nought therein shall they hear to comfort them.

But they for whom we have before ordained good things, shall be far away from it:

Its slightest sound they shall not hear: in what their souls longed for, they shall abide for ever:

The great terror shall not trouble them; and the angel shall meet them with, "This is your day which ye were promised."

On that day we will roll up the heaven as one rolleth up[424] written scrolls. As we made the first creation, so will we bring it forth again. This promise bindeth us; verily, we will perform it.

And now, since the Law was given, have we written in the Psalms that "my servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth."[425]

Verily, in this Koran is teaching for those who serve God.

We have not sent thee otherwise than as mercy unto all creatures.

SAY: Verily it hath been revealed to me that your God is one God; are ye then resigned to Him? (Muslims.)

But if they turn their backs, then SAY: I have warned you all alike; but I know not whether that with which ye are threatened be nigh or distant.

God truly knoweth what is spoken aloud, and He also knoweth that which ye hide.

And I know not whether haply this delay be not for your trial, and that ye may enjoy yourselves for a time.

My Lord saith: Judge ye with truth; for our Lord is the God of Mercy—whose help is to be sought against what ye utter.



[400] Lit. while ye see it to be such.

[401] Lit. the people or family of the admonition. Itq. 34 considers this verse to have been revealed at Medina.

[402] 3 Or, they invent not (concerning Him). Comp. Rev. iv. 8.

[403] Lit. they precede him not in speech.

[404] Lit. before thee, which might seem to imply that the grant of immortality had been made to Muhammad. I have therefore rendered, as in the text, to avoid the ambiguity. Comp. Suras [xcvii.] iii. 182; [lxxxi.] xxix. 57, and Weil's Life of Mohammad, p. 350.

[405] Comp. Matt. xvi. 28; Heb. ii. 9. Hist. Josephi Fabr. Lign. c. 22 at the end.

[406] See the index under the word Man. The Rabbins teach that man was created with innate evil propensities. See Schr der's Talm. Rabb.- Judenthum, p. 378.

[407] That is, my teaching as to the future lot of the infidels, etc.

[408] Muhammad appeals to the rapid progress of Islam as a proof of his divine mission.

[409] Ar. furquan—a derived by Muhammad from the Jews, constantly used in the Talmud, and meaning as in Syr. and Æth. deliverance, liberation. Thus, Sura viii. 29, 42, and hence, illumination, revelation, generally. The usual interpretation here and in other passages is the distinction, i.e. between good and evil, lawful and unlawful. The title is applied to the Koran and Pentateuch alike.

[410] This story is taken in part verbatim from Midr. Rabbah on Gen. par. 17. See also Schalscheleth Hakabala, 2; Maimon de Idol. ch. 1; and Yad Hachazakah, vii. 6, who makes Abraham—in his 40th year—renounce star-worship, break images, escape the wrath of the king by a miracle, and preach that there is one God of the whole universe.

[411] Lit. sie neigten sich nach ihren Kopfen. They were turned down upon their heads. Ullm. and Sale in notes. But Ullm. in the text, verfielen sie wieder in ihren Aberglauben.

[412] The Rabbins make Nimrod to have been the persecutor of Abraham. Comp. Targ. Jon. on Gen. xv. 7. Tr. Bava Bathra, fol. 91 a. Maimon. More Nevochim, iii. 29. Weil, Legenden, p. 74.

[413] Or, let peace be upon Abraham. Comp. Targ. Jon. on Gen. xi. 28, from the mistranslation of which this legend took its rise, the word ur in Heb. meaning fire. See also Targ. Jon. on. Gen. xv. 7. The legend was adopted by some of the Eastern Christians; and commemorated in the Syrian Calendar on Jan. 29. (Hyde de Rel. V. Pers. 74). Comp. the Abyssinian Calendar on Jan. 25. (Ludolf. Hist. p. 409).

[414] It has been observed that the blacksmith has ever been looked upon with awe by barbarians on the same principle that made Vulcan a deity. In Abyssinia all artisans are Budah, sorcerers, especially the blacksmith, and he is a social outcast, as among the Somal; Throughout the rest of El-Islam, the blacksmith is respected as treading in the path of David, the father of the craft. Burton. First Footsteps in E. Africa, p. 33. The numerous wars in which David was engaged, may have given rise to the myth of his being the inventor of mail.

[415] See Sura xxxviii. 37, p. 127.

[416] See Sura xix. 55, 6, p. 121.

[417] The man of the lot or portion. Or, of care, support. According to some Elias, as others say, Isaiah. It is more probable, however, that he is he Obadiah of 1 Kings xviii. 4, who supported 100 prophets in the cave, or Ezechiel, who is called Kephil by the Arabs. See Niebuhr, Travels, ii. 265.

[418] The man of the fish—Jonah.

[419] See Suras [xcvii.] iii. 33; xix. p. 117, for the story of Zacharias in full. The concluding sentence of this clause is obscure. It probably means that even if no heir were vouchsafed to Zacharias, yet since God will be the heir of all things he would take Zacharias to himself and thus abundantly recompense him. See Sura [lxxix.] xxviii. 58.

[420] See Sura [cix.] lxvi. 12. It is quite clear from these two passages that Muhammad believed in the Immaculate and miraculous conception of Jesus.

[421] That is, identical with that of the previous prophets, etc.

[422] See Sura [lxix.] xviii. 93. Thus, the ancient Jewish and Christian legend connects Gog and Magog with the end of the world. Rev. xx. 8. Pseudojon on Lev. xxvi. 44. Comp. Numb. xi. 27. Gog, however, is probably the mountain Ghef or Ghogh (see Reinegg's Beschreib. der Caucasus, ii. 79) and the syllable Ma in Magog, the Sanscrit mah, maha great.

[423] "Whenever a people is punished (for idolatry) the beings honoured by them as gods, shall also be punished, for so it is written, on all the gods also of Egypt will I inflict judgments." (Sakkah, 29.)

[424] Ar. Sidjill, which is supposed by some to be the name of the angel who writes down the actions of every man's life upon a scroll, which is rolled up at his death (comp. Isai. xxxiv. 4); by others, to be the name of one of Muhammad's secretaries.

[425] Ps. xxxvii. 29. This is the only text quoted in the Koran.

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