Surah An-Nahl Ayat 1-25

Surah An-Nahl

(The Bees)

Chapter 16

Which was Revealed in Makkah

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

{1. The Event ordained by Allah has indeed come, so do not seek to hasten it. Glorified and Exalted be He above all that they associate as partners with Him.}

Warning about the approach of the Hour

Allah is informing about the approach of the Hour in the past tense [in Arabic] in order to confirm that it will undoubtedly come to pass. This is like the following Ayat, in which the verbs appear in the past tense in Arabic: “Mankind’s reckoning has drawn near them, while they turn away in heedlessness.” (21:1) ”The Hour has drawn near, and the moon has been cleft.” (54:1) “so do not seek to hasten it.” means, what was far is now near, so do not try to rush it. As Allah said, “And they ask you to hasten the torment (for them), and had it not been for a term appointed, the torment would certainly have come to them. And surely, it will come upon them suddenly while they are unaware! They ask you to hasten on the torment. And verily! Hell, of a surety, will encompass the disbelievers” (29:53-54). Ibn Abi Hatim reported from Uqbah bin Amir that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“When the Hour approaches, a black cloud resembling a shield will emerge upon from the west. It will continue rising in the sky, then a voice will call out, ‘O mankind!’ The people will say to one another, ‘Did you hear that?’ Some will say, ‘yes’, but others will doubt it. Then a second call will come, ‘O mankind!’ The people will say to one another, ‘Did you hear that?’ And they will say,’Yes.’ Then a third call will come, ‘O mankind!’ The Event ordained by Allah has indeed come, so do not seek to hasten it.”

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, two men will spread out a cloth, but will never refold it; a man will prepare his trough, but will never water his animals from it; and a man will milk his camel, but will never drink the milk.” Then he said, “The people will be distracted.” (Al-Hakim 4:539)

Then Allah tells us that He is free from their allegations of partners to their worship of idols, and making equals for Him. Glorified and exalted be He far above that. These are the people who deny the Hour, so He says: “Glorified and Exalted be He above all that they associate as partners with Him.”

{2. He sends down the angels with the Ruh (revelation) of His command to those servants of His whom He wills (saying): “Warn mankind that none has the right to be worshipped but I, so have Taqwa of Me.”}

Allah send Whomever He wills with the Message of Tawhid

“He sends down the angels with the Ruh” refers to the revelation. This is like the Ayat: “And thus We have sent to you a Ruh (revelation) by Our command. You knew not what is the Book, nor what is the faith. But We have made it a light by which We guide whomever We will among Our servants.” (43:52) “to those servants of His whom He wills” meaning the Prophets, as Allah says: “Allah best knows where to place His Message.” (6:124) “Allah chooses Messengers from angels and from men.” (22:75) “He sends the Ruh (revelation) by His command to whoever among His servants He wills to, that he may warn of the Day of Meeting. The Day when they will (all) come out, nothing about them will be hidden from Allah. Whose is the kingdom this Day: It is Allah’s, the One, the Irresistible!” (40:15-16) “(saying): “Warn…” meaning that they should alert them. “that none has the right to be worshipped but I, so have Taqwa of Me.” means, ‘fear My punishment, if you go against My commands and worship anything other than Me.’

{3. He has created the heavens and the earth with truth. High is He, Exalted above all that they associate as partners with Him. 

4. He has created man from a Nutfah, then behold, this same (man) becomes an open opponent.}

Allah is the One Who has created the Heavens, the Earth, and Man

Allah tells us about His creation of the upper realm, which is the heavens, and the lower realm, which is the earth, and everything in them. They have been created for a true purpose, not in vain, so that “He may requite those who do evil with that which they have done (i.e. punish them in Hell), and reward those who do good, with what is best (i.e. Paradise).” (53:31)

Then He declares Himself to be above the Shirk of those who worship others besides Him. He is independent of His creation, alone with no partner or associate. For this reason He deserves to be worshipped Alone, without partners. Then He mentions how man has been created from a Nutfah, i.e., something that is insignificant, weak and has no value – but when man becomes independent and is able to fend for himself – then he begins to dispute with his Lord, may He be exalted, and disbelieves in Him and fights His Messengers. But man was created to be a servant, not an opponent, as Allah says: “And it is He Who has created man from water, and gave him descendants, and made Him kindred by marriage, and your Lord is capable (of all things). And they worship besides Allah, that which can neither profit them nor harm them; and the disbeliever is ever a helper (of Shaytan) against his Lord” (25: 54-55). And; “Does not man see that We have created him from Nutfah? Yet, behold he stands as an open opponent. And he puts forth for Us a parable, and forgets his own creation. He says: “Who will give life to these bones after they are rotten and have become dust?” Say: “He will give life to them Who created them the first time! And He is the knower of every creature!” (36:77-79).

Imam Ahmad and Ibn Majah reported that Busr bin Jahhash said: “The Messenger of Allah spat in his palm, then he said,

“Allah, may He be exalted, says: “O son of Adam, how could you be more powerful than I when I have created you from something like this, and when I have fashioned you perfectly and made you complete, you walk wearing your two garments and the earth makes a sound (beneath your feet). You collect money but do not give anything to anyone, then when the soul of a dying person reaches the throat, you say, ‘I want to give in charity’, but it is too late for charity.” (Ahmad 2:410, Ibn Majah 2:903)

{5. And the cattle, He has created them for you; in them there is warmth (warm clothing), and numerous benefits, and you eat from them. 

6. And there is beauty in them for you, when you bring them home in the evening, and as you lead them forth to pasture (in the morning). 

7. And they carry your loads to a land that you could not reach yourselves except with great trouble. Truly, your Lord is full of kindness, Most Merciful.}

The Cattle are part of the Creation of Allah and a Blessing from Him

Allah reminds His servants of the blessing in His creation of Anam, this term includes camels, cows and sheep, as was explained in detail in Surat Al-Anam where the “eight pairs” are mentioned. [See Tafsir of Surat Al-Anam 6:143-144] The blessings include the benefits derived from their wool and hair, from which clothes and furnishings are made, from their milk which is drunk, and their young which are eaten. Their beauty is a kind of adornment, thus Allah says, “And there is beauty in them for you, when you bring them home in the evening.” which is when they are brought back from the pasture in the evening. This is a reference to how their flanks become fat, their udders fill with milk and their humps become bigger. “and as you lead them forth to pasture (in the morning).” meaning when you send them out to the pasture in the morning. “And they carry your loads” meaning the heavy burdens that you cannot move or carry by yourselves “to a land that you could not reach except with great trouble to yourselves” meaning journeys for Hajj, Umrah, military campaigns, and journeys for the purpose of trading, and so on. They use these animals for all kinds of purposes, for riding and for carrying loads, as Allah says: “And verily, there is indeed a lesson for you in the An’am (cattle). We give you to drink (milk) of that which is in their bellies. And there are numerous (other) benefits in them for you. Of them you eat, and on them and on ships you are carried.” (23:21-22) “Allah, it is He Who has made cattle for you, so that some you may ride, and some you may eat. And you find (many other) benefits in them; you may reach by their means a desire that is in your breasts (i.e. carry your goods, loads), and on them and on ships you are carried. And He shows you His Ayat. Which, then of the Ayat of Allah do you deny” (40:79-81).

Thus here Allah says, after enumerating these blessings, “Truly, your Lord is full of kindness, Most Merciful.” meaning, your Lord is the One Who has subjugated the Anam (cattle) to you. This is like the Ayat: “Do they not see, that of what Our Hands have created, We created the An’am (cattle) for them, so that they may own them, and We subdued them so that they may ride some and they may eat some.” (36:71-72). “And He made mounts for you out of ships and cattle. In order that you may ride on their backs, and may then remember the favor of your Lord when you mount upon them, and say: “Glory be to the One Who subjected this to us, and we could never have it (by our efforts). And verily, to Our Lord we indeed are to return!” (43:12-14) Ibn Abbas said, “In them there is warmth” refers to clothing; “and numerous benefits” refers to the ways in which they derive the benefits of food and drink from them.” (At-Tabari 17:168)

{8. And (He has created) horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride, and as an adornment. And He creates (other) things of which you have no knowledge.}

This refers to another category of animals that Allah has created as a blessings for His servant; horses, mules and donkeys, all of which He made for riding and adornment. This is the main purpose for which these animals were created. It was reported in the Two Sahihs that Jabir bin Abdullah said: “The Messenger of Allah forbade us to eat the meat of domestic donkeys, but he allowed us to eat the meat of horses.” (Fath Al-Bari 9:570, Muslim 3:1541)

Imam Ahmad and Abu Dawud reported with two chains of narration, each of which meet the conditions of Muslim, that Jabir said: “On the day of Khaybar we slaughtered horses, mules and donkeys. The Messenger of Allah forbade us from eating the mules and donkeys, but he did not forbid us from eating the horses.” (Ahmad 3:356, 362, Abu Dawud 4:149, 151)

According to Sahih Muslim, Asma bint Abi Bakr (may Allah be pleased with them both) said: “At the time of the Messenger of Allah we slaughtered a horse and ate it when we were in Al-Madinah.” (Muslim 3:1541)

{9. And it is up to Allah to show the right way. But there are ways that stray. And had He willed, He would have guided you all.}

Explanation of the Different Religious Paths

When Allah mentioned the animals which may be used for the purpose of physical journeys, He also referred to the moral, religious routes that people may follow. Often in the Qur’an there is a shift from physical or tangible things to beneficial spiritual and religious matters, as when Allah says, “And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best provision is Taqwa (piety, righteousness).” (2:197) And, “O Children of Adam! We have granted clothing for you to cover yourselves, as well as for adornment; but the raiment of righteousness, that is better.” (7:26)

Since Allah mentioned cattle and other such animals in this Surah, all of which are ridden or can be used in any way necessary, carrying people’s necessities for them to distant places and on difficult journeys – then He mentions the ways which people follow to try to reach Him, and explains that the right way is the one that does reach Him. He says: “And it is up to Allah to show the right way.” This is like the Ayat, “And verily, this is My straight path, so follow it, and do not follow the (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His path.” (6:153) and, “(Allah) said: “This is the way which will lead straight to Me.” (15:41) “And it is up to Allah to show the right way.” Mujahid said: “The true way is up to Allah.” (At-Tabari 17:175)

“And it is up to Allah to show the right way.” Al-Awfi said that Ibn Abbas said: “It is up to Allah to clarify, to explain the guidance and misguidance.” This was also reported by Ali bin Abi Talhah, and was also the opinion of Qatadah and Ad-Dahhak.

Hence Allah said: “But there are ways that stray.” (At-Tabari 17:176) meaning they deviate from the truth. Ibn Abbas and others said: “These are the different ways,” (At-Tabari 17:176) and various opinions and whims, such as Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. Ibn Masud recited it as “But among you are those who stray. ” (At-Tabari 17:176)

Then Allah tells us that all of that happens by His will and decree. He says: “And had He willed, He would have guided you all.”

And Allah says: “If your Lord had willed, then all who are in the earth would have believed.” (10:99)

“And if your Lord had so willed, He could surely, have made humanity one Ummah, but they will not stop disagreeing. Except those for whom your Lord has granted mercy. And it is for this that He did create them; and the Word of your Lord has been fulfilled (i.e. His saying): “Surely, I shall fill Hell with Jinn and men all together.” (11:118-119).

{10. He it is Who sends water down from the sky; from it you drink and from it (grows) the vegetation on which you send your cattle to pasture.  

11. With it He causes crops to grow for you, the olives, the date palms, the grapes, and every kind of fruit. Verily, in this there is indeed an evident proof and a manifest sign for people who give thought.}

The Blessings of rain, and explaining how it is one of the Signs

When Allah mentions the blessings of cattle and other animals that He has granted mankind, He then mentions how He has blessed them by sending rain down from the sky above, which has been fulfilling the needs and bringing joy to people and their cattle. Allah says: “from it you drink” meaning, He made it fresh and pure so that they can drink it, not salty and undrinkable. “and from it (grows) the vegetation on which you send your cattle to pasture.” meaning, from it He raised plants on which your cattle graze. Ibn Abbas, Ikrimah, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah and Ibn Zayd, all said that this refers to grazing animals including camels. (At-Tabari 17:178)  “With it He causes crops to grow for you, olives, date palms, grapes, and every kind of fruit.” meaning, with this one kind of water, He makes the earth sprout plants with different tastes, colors, scents and shapes. For this reason He says, “Verily, in this there is indeed an evident proof and a manifest sign for people who give thought.” meaning, this is a sign and a proof that there is no god besides Allah, as He says: “Is not He (better than your gods) Who created the heavens and the earth, and sends water down for you from the sky, from which We cause wonderful gardens full of beauty and delight to grow? You are not able to cause the growth of their trees. Is there any ilah (god) with Allah Nay, but they are a people who make equals (to Him)!” (27:60).

{12. And He has subjected the night and the day for you, and the sun and the moon; and the stars are subjected by His command. Surely, in this are proofs for people who understand. 

13. And all He has created of varying colors on the earth for you. Verily, in this is a sign for people who reflect.}

Signs in the Subjection of Night and day, the Sun and the Moon, and in that which grows on Earth

Allah mentions the mighty signs and immense blessings to be found in His subjection of night and day, which follow one another; the sun and moon, which revolve; the stars, both fixed and moving through the skies, offering light by which people may find their way in the darkness. Each of (these heavenly bodies) travels in its own orbit, which Allah has ordained for it, and travels in the manner prescribed for it, without deviating in any way. All of them are under His subjugation, His control and His decree, as Allah says: “Indeed, your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in Six Days, and then He rose (Istawa) over the Throne. He brings the night as a cover over the day, seeking it rapidly, and (He created) the sun, the moon, the stars (all) subjected to His command. Surely, His is the creation and commandment. Blessed is Allah, the Lord of all that exists!” (7:54)

Thus Allah says; “Surely, in this are proofs for people who understand.” meaning, they are indications of His immense power and might, for those who think about Allah and understand His signs. “And whatsoever He has created of varying colors on the earth for you.”

When Allah points out the features of the skies, He also points out the wondrous things that He has created on earth, the variety of its animals, minerals, plants and inanimate features, all having different colors and shapes, benefits and qualities. “Verily, in this is a sign for people who reflect.” meaning (those who remember) the blessings of Allah and give thanks to Him for them.

{14. And He it is Who subjected the sea (to you), that you may eat from the fresh tender meat, and that you bring forth out of it ornaments to wear. And you see the ships plowing through it, that you may seek from His bounty and that you may perhaps be grateful. 

15. And He has driven firm standing mountains into the earth, lest it should shake with you; and rivers and roads, that you may guide yourselves. 

16. And (by the) landmarks; and by the stars, they guide themselves. 

17. Is then He Who creates the same as one who creates, not? Will you not then reflect? 

18. And if you would try to count the favors of Allah, you would never be able to count them. Truly, Allah is Forgiving, Most Merciful.}

Signs in the Oceans, Mountains, Rivers, Roads and Stars

Allah tells us how He has subjected the seas, with their waves lapping the shores, and how He blesses His servants by subjecting the seas for them so that they may travel on them, and by putting fish and whales in them, by making their flesh permissible to eat – whether they are caught alive or dead – at all times, including when people are in a state of Ihram. He has created pearls and precious jewels in the oceans, and made it easy for His servants to recover ornaments that they can wear from the ocean floor. He made the sea such that it carries the ships which plow through it. He is the One Who taught mankind to make ships, which is the inheritance of their forefather Nuh. He was the first one to travel by ship, he was taught how to make them, then people took this knowledge from him and passed it down from generation to generation through the centuries, so that they could travel from country to country and from place to place, bringing goods from here to there and from there to here. Thus Allah says: “that you may seek from His bounty and that you may perhaps be grateful.” – for His bounty and blessings.

Then Allah mentions the earth and how He placed in it mountains standing firm, which make it stable and keep it from shaking in such a manner that the creatures dwelling on it would not be able to live. Hence Allah says, “And the mountains He has fixed firmly.” (79: 32). “and rivers and roads” meaning He has made rivers which flow from one place to another, bringing provision for His servants. The rivers arise in one place, and bring provision to people living in another place. They flow through lands and fields and wildernesses, through mountains and hills, until they reach the land whose people they are meant to benefit. They meander across the land, left and right, north and south, east and west – rivers great and small – flowing sometimes and ceasing sometimes, flowing from their sources to the places where the water gathers, flowing rapidly or moving slowly, as decreed by Allah. There is no god besides Him and no Lord except Him. He also made roads or routes along which people travel from one land or city to another, and He even made gaps in the mountains so that there would be routes between them, as He says: “And We placed broad highways for them to pass through.” (21:31) “And landmarks” meaning, signs like great mountains and small hills, and so on, things that land and sea travelers use to find their way if they get lost. “and by the stars (during the night), they (mankind) guide themselves.” meaning, in the darkness of the night. This was the opinion of Ibn Abbas. (At-Tabari 17:185)

Worship is Allah’s Right

Then Allah tells us of His greatness, and that worship should be directed to Him alone, not to any of the idols which do not create but are rather themselves created. Thus He says “Is then He, Who creates, the same as one who does not create? Will you not then reflect?” (16:17). Then He shows His servants some of the many blessings He granted for them, and the many kinds of things that He has done for them. He says; “And if you would try to count the favors of Allah, you would never be able to count them. Truly, Allah is Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (16:18) meaning that He pardons and forgives them. If He were to ask you to thank Him for all of His blessings, you would not be able to do so, and if He were to command you to do so, you would be incapable of it. If He punishes you, He is never unjust in His punishment, but He is Forgiving and Most Merciful, He forgives much and rewards for little. Ibn Jarir said: “It means that Allah is Forgiving when you fail to thank Him properly, if you repent and turn to Him in obedience, and strive to do that which pleases Him. He is Merciful to you and does not punish you if you turn to Him and repent.” (At-Tabari 17:187)

{19. And Allah knows what you conceal and what you reveal.

 20. Those whom they invoke besides Allah have not created anything, but are themselves created. 

21. (They are) dead, not alive; and they do not know when they will be resurrected.}

Allah tells us that He knows what is hidden in people’s hearts as well as what is apparent. He will reward or punish everyone for their deeds on the Day of Resurrection. If their deeds are good then they will be rewarded, and if their deeds are evil, then they will be punished.

The gods of the Idolaters are Created, they do not create

Then Allah tells us that the idols which people call on instead of Him cannot create anything, they are themselves created, as Al-Khalil (Ibrahim) said: “Do you worship that which you (yourselves) carve? While Allah has created you and what you make!” (37:-96). “(They are) dead, not alive” means, they are inanimate and lifeless, they do not hear, see, or think. “and they know not when they will be resurrected.” meaning, they do not know when the Hour will come, so how can anyone hope for any benefit or reward from these idols They should hope for it from the One Who knows all things and is the Creator of all things.

{22. Your god is one God. But for those who believe not in the Hereafter, their hearts are in denial, and they are proud. 

23. Certainly, Allah knows what they conceal and what they reveal. Truly, He does not like the proud. }

None is to be worshipped except Allah

Allah tells us that there is none to be worshipped besides Him, the One, the Unique, the Lone, the Self-Sufficient. He tells us that the hearts of the disbelievers deny that and are astonished by that: “Has he made the gods (all) into One God! Verily, this is a curious thing!” (38:5). “And when Allah alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter are filled with disgust, and when those besides Him are mentioned, behold, they rejoice!” (39:45). “and they are proud” meaning they are too proud to worship Allah, and their hearts reject the idea of singling Him out, as Allah says: “Verily! Those who scorn My worship they will surely enter Hell in humiliation!” (40:60) So here, Allah says; “Certainly”, meaning truly, “Allah knows what they conceal and what they reveal.” meaning He will requite them for that in full. “Truly, He does not like the proud.”

{24. And when it is said to them: “What is it that your Lord has revealed?” They say: “Tales of the men of old!” 

25. They will bear their own burdens in full on the Day of Resurrection, and also the burdens of those whom they misled without knowledge. Evil indeed is that which they shall bear!}

The Destruction of the Disbelievers and Intensification of their Punishment for rejecting the Revelation

Allah informs us that when it is said to those liars, “What is it that your Lord has revealed?” They say,” not wanting to answer, “Tales of the men of old!” meaning nothing is revealed to him, what he is reciting to us is just tales of the men of old, taken from the previous Books. As Allah says, “And they say: “Tales of the ancients, which he has written down, and they are dictated to him morning and afternoon.” (25:5) i.e., they tell lies against the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and say things contradicting one another, but all of it is false, as Allah says, “Look at the parables they make of you, so they have gone astray, and they are not able to find the right way.” (17:48)

Once they have gone beyond the bounds of the truth, whatever they say will be in error. They used to say that he (the Prophet) was a sorcerer, a poet, a soothsayer, or a madman, then they settled on an idea proposed by their leader, an individual known as Al-Walid bin Al-Mughirah Al-Makhzumi, when: “He thought, and plotted. So let him be cursed, how he plotted! And once more let him be cursed, how he plotted! Then he thought. Then he frowned and he looked in a bad tempered way; then he turned back, and was proud. Then he said: “This is nothing but the magic of old.’‘ (74:18-24) meaning something that had been transmitted and passed down. So they dispersed having agreed on this opinion, may Allah punish them. “They will bear their own burdens in full on the Day of Resurrection, and also of the burdens of those whom they misled without knowledge.” meaning, ‘We decreed that they would say that, so they will carry the burden of their own sins and some of the burden of those who followed them and agreed with them,’ i.e., they will be held guilty not only for going astray themselves, but also for tempting others and having them follow them. As it says in a Hadith:

“Whoever invites people to guidance, he will receive a reward like that of those who follow him, without diminishing their reward in the least. And whoever invites people to misguidance, he will bear a burden of sin like that of those who follow him, without diminishing their burden in the least.” (Muslim 4:2060)

Allah says; “They shall bear their own loads, and other loads besides their own; and they shall be questioned about their false allegations on the Day of Resurrection.” (29:13) Al-Awfi reported from Ibn Abbas that it is like the Ayah: “That they may bear their own burdens in full on the Day of Resurrection, and also of the burdens of those whom they misled without knowledge.” (16:25)

Allah says, “They shall bear their own loads, and other loads besides their own” (29:13). (At-Tabari 17:191) Mujahid said: “They will bear the burden of their own sins, and they will bear the sins of those who obeyed them, but that will not lessen the punishment of those who obeyed them at all.” (At-Tabari 17:190)

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Vol 5 Pages 429-449

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