Surah An-Nahl Ayat 45-69

{45. Do then those who devise evil plots feel secure that Allah will not cause them to sink into the earth, or that torment will not seize them from where they do not perceive it?

46. Or that He may punish them in the midst of their going to and fro (in their livelihood), so that there be no escape for them (from Allah’s punishment)?

47. Or that He may punish them where they fear it most? Indeed, Your Lord is full of kindness, Most Merciful.}

How the Guilty can feel Secure

Allah informs us about His patience, and how He delays the punishment for the sinners who do evil things and call others to do likewise, plotting to call others to do evil – even though He is able to make the earth swallow them or to bring His wrath upon them. “from where they do not perceive it”, meaning in such a way that they do not know where it comes from. As Allah says: “Do you feel secure that He Who is over the heaven (Allah), will not cause you to sink into the earth, when it quakes? Or do you feel secure that He Who is over the heaven (Allah), will not send a storm of stones upon you? Then you shall know how My warning really is.” (67:16-17). “Or that He may punish them in the midst of their going to and fro” meaning, when they are busy with their daily business, travel, and other distracting activities. Qatadah and As-Suddi said: “Their going to and fro” means their journeys.” (At-Tabari 17:213) As Allah says: “Did the people of the towns feel secure against the coming of Our punishment by night while they were asleep? Or, did the people of the towns feel secure against the coming of Our punishment in the forenoon while they were playing?” (7:97-98) “so that there be no escape for them (from Allah’s punishment)” meaning, it is not impossible for Allah, no matter what their situation. “Or that He may punish them where they fear it most” meaning, or Allah will take from them what they most fear, which is even more frightening, because when the thing you most fear to happen does happen, this is even worse. Hence Al-Awfi reported that Ibn Abbas said that, “Or that He may punish them where they fear it most” means that Allah is saying: If I wish, I can take him after the death of his companion and after he has become frightened of that.’ (At-Tabari 17:214) This was also reported from Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah and others. (At-Tabari 17:215)

Then Allah says: “Indeed your Lord is full of kindness, Most Merciful.” meaning, because He does not hasten to punish, as was reported in the Two Sahihs:

“No one is more patient in the case of hearing offensive speech than Allah, for they attribute to Him a son, while He [alone] is giving them provision and good health.” (Fath Al-Bari 13:372, Muslim 4:2160)

And it is also recorded in Two Sahihs,

“Allah will let the wrongdoer continue until, when He begins to punish him, He will never let him go.”

Then the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, recited: “Such is the punishment of your Lord when He seizes the (population of) towns while they are doing wrong. Indeed, His punishment is painful, (and) severe” (11:102) (Fath Al-Bari 8:205, Muslim 4:1997)

And Allah says: “And many a township did I give respite while it was given to wrongdoing. Then I punished it. And to Me is the (final) return (of all).” (22:48)

{48. Have they not observed things that Allah has created: (how) their shadows shift from right to left, prostrating to Allah while they are humble? 

49. And to Allah prostrate all that are in the heavens and all that are in the earth, the moving creatures and the angels, and they are not proud [i.e. they worship their Lord (Allah) with humility.]

50. They fear their Lord above them, and they do what they are commanded.}

Everything prostrates toAllah

Allah informs us about His might, majesty and pride, meaning that all things submit themselves to Him and every created being – animate and inanimate, as well as the responsible – humans and Jinns, and the angels – all humble themselves before Him. He tells us that everything that has a shadow leaning to the right and the left, i.e., in the morning and the evening, is by its shadow, prostrating to Allah. Mujahid said, “When the sun passes its zenith, everything prostrates to Allah, may He be glorified.” (At-Tabari 17:217) This was also said by Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and others. (At-Tabari 17:217) “while they are humble” means, they are in a state of humility. Mujahid also said: “The prostration of every thing is its shadow”, (ibid) and he mentioned the mountains and said that their prostrations are their shadows. Abu Ghalib Ash-Shaybani said: “The waves of the sea are its prayers”. It is as if reason is attributed to these inanimate objects when they are described as prostrating, so Allah says: “And to Allah prostrate all that are in the heavens and all that are in the earth, of the moving creatures” As Allah says: “And to Allah (alone) all who are in the heavens and the earth fall in prostration, willingly or unwillingly, and so do their shadows in the mornings and in the afternoons.” (13:15) “and the angels, and they are not proud.” means, they prostrate to Allah and are not too proud to worship Him. “They fear their Lord above them” means, they prostrate out of fear of their Lord, may He be glorified. “and they do what they are commanded.” meaning they continually obey Allah, doing what He tells them to do and avoiding that which He forbids.

{51. And Allah said “Do not worship two gods. Indeed, He (Allah) is only One God. Then fear Me Alone. 

52. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth and the religion. Will you then fear any other than Allah? 

53. And whatever of blessings and good things you have, it is from Allah. Then, when harm touches you, unto Him you cry aloud for help. 

54. Then, when He has removed the harm from you, Behold! some of you associate others in worship with their Lord (Allah). 

55. So they are ungrateful for that which We have given them! Then enjoy yourselves but you will soon come to know.}

Allah Alone is Deserving of Worship

Allah tells us that there is no god but He, and that no one else should be worshipped except Him, alone, without partners, for He is the Sovereign, Creator, and Lord of all things. “His is the religion Wasiba” Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Ikrimah, Maymun bin Mahran, As-Suddi, Qatadah and others said that this means forever. (At-Tabari 17:222) It was also reported that Ibn Abbas said, “It means obligatory.” (At-Tabari 17:223) Mujahid said: “It means purely for Him,” i.e., worship is due to Him Alone, from whoever is in the heavens and on earth. As Allah says: “Do they seek other than the religion of Allah, while to Him submitted all creatures in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly. And to Him shall they all be returned.” (3:83)

This is in accordance with the opinion of Ibn Abbas and Ikrimah, which is that this Ayah is merely stating the case. According to the opinion of Mujahid, it is by way of instruction, i.e., it is saying: You had better fear associating partners in worship with Me, and be sincere in your obedience to Me. As Allah says: “Surely, the pure religion (sincere devotion) is for Allah only.” (39:3)

Then Allah tells us that He is the One Who has the power to benefit and harm, and that the provisions, blessings, good health and help, His servants enjoy are from His bounty and graciousness towards them. “Then, when harm touches you, to Him you cry aloud for help.” meaning because you know that none has the power to remove that harm except for Him, so when you are harmed, you turn to ask Him for help and beg Him for aid. As Allah says: “And when harm touches you at sea, those that you call upon vanish, except for Him. But when He brings you safe to land, you turn away. And man is ever ungrateful.” (17:67) Here, Allah tells us: “Then, when He has removed the harm from you, behold! some of you associate others in worship with their Lord (Allah). So they are ungrateful for that which We have given them!” (16:54-55)

It was said that the Lam here (translated as “So”) is an indicator of sequence, or that it serves an explanatory function, meaning, ‘We decreed that they would conceal the truth and deny the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon them. He is the One Who bestows blessings and the One Who removes distress.’ Then Allah threatens them, saying: “Then enjoy yourselves”  meaning, do what you like and enjoy what you have for a little while. “but you will soon come to know.” meaning the consequences of that.

{56. And they assign a portion of that which We have provided them with, to what they have no knowledge of (false deities). By Allah, you shall certainly be questioned about (all) that you used to fabricate. 

57. And they assign daughters to Allah! Glorified (and Exalted) is He (above all that they associate with Him!). And for themselves (they assign) what they desire; 

58. And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inner grief! 

59. He hides himself from the people because of the evil of what he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision. 

60. For those who do not believe in the Hereafter is an evil description, and for Allah is the highest description. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.}

Among the behaviour of the idolators was vowing to Things that Allah had provided for Them and Their gods

Allah tells us about some of the heinous deeds of those who used to perform baseless worship of other gods besides Him, such as idols and statues, with no grounds for doing so. They gave their idols a share of that which Allah had provided for them, “They say: “This is for Allah,” according to their claim, “and this is for our partners.” But the share of their “partners” is not directed to Allah, while the share of Allah is directed to their “partners”! How evil is that with which they judge” (6:136)

That is they assigned a share for their idols as well as Allah, but they gave preference to their gods over Him, so Allah swore by His Almighty Self to question them about these lies and fabrications. He will most certainly call them to account for it and give them the unrelenting punishment in the fire of Hell. So He says, “By Allah, you shall certainly be questioned about (all) that you used to fabricate.”

Then Allah tells us how they used to regard the angels, who are servants of the Most Merciful, as being female, and that they considered them to be Allah’s daughters, and they worshipped them with Him. In all of the above, they made very serious errors. They attributed offspring to Him when He has no offspring, then they assigned Him the kind of offspring they regarded as inferior, namely daughters, which they did not even want for themselves, as He said: “Are the males for you and the females for Him That is indeed an unfair division!” (53:21-22)

And Allah says here: “And they assign daughters unto Allah! Glorified (and Exalted) is He.” meaning, above their claims and fabrications. “But no! It is from their falsehood that they say: “Allah has begotten.” They are certainly liars! Has He (then) chosen daughters rather than sons/ What is the matter with you? How do you decide?” (37:151-154) “And for themselves, what they desire” meaning they choose the males for themselves, rejecting the daughters that they assign to Allah. Exalted be Allah far above what they say!

The Idolators’ Abhorrence for Daughters

“And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark” meaning with distress and grief. “and he is filled with inner grief!” meaning he is silent because of the intensity of the grief he feels. “He hides himself from the people” meaning he does not want anyone to see him. “because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth” meaning should he keep her, humiliating her, not letting her inherit from him and not taking care of her, preferring his male children over her “or bury her in the earth” meaning bury her alive, as they used to do during the days of ignorance. How could they dislike something so intensely, yet attribute it to Allah “Certainly, evil is their decision.” meaning how evil are the words they say, the way they want to share things out and the things they attribute to Him. As Allah says: “And if one of them is informed of the news of (the birth of a girl) that which he sets forth as a parable to the Most Gracious (Allah), his face becomes dark, and he is filled with grief!” (43:17). Here, Allah says: “For those who do not believe in the Hereafter there is an evil description” meaning, only imperfection is to be attributed to “and for Allah is the highest description” meaning He is absolutely perfect in all ways and this absolute perfection is His Alone. “And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.”

{61. And if Allah were to punish (all) mankind for their wrongdoing, He would not leave on it (the earth) a single moving creature, but He defers them to an appointed term; and when their term comes, they can neither delay nor advance it an hour (or a moment). 

62. They assign to Allah that which they dislike (for themselves), and their tongues assert the lie that the better things will be theirs. No doubt the Fire is for them, and they will be forsaken.}

Allah does not immediately punish for Disobedience

Allah tells us about His patience with His creatures, even though they do wrong. If He were to punish them for what they have done, there would be no living creature left on the face of the earth, i.e., He would have destroyed every animal on earth after destroying the sons of Adam. But the Lord – magnificent is His glory – is forbearing and He covers people’s faults. He waits until the appointed time, i.e., He does not rush to punish them. If He did, then there would be no one left. Ibn Jarir reported that Abu Salamah said: “Abu Hurayrah heard a man saying, ‘The wrongdoer harms no one but himself.’ He turned to him and said, ‘That is not true, by Allah! Even the buzzard dies in its nest because of the sins of the wrongdoer.” (At-Tabari 17:231)

They Attribute to Allah what They Themselves dislike

“They assign to Allah that which they dislike (for themselves),” meaning, daughters, and partners, who are merely His servants, yet none of them would like to have someone sharing in his wealth. “and their tongues assert the lie that the better things will be theirs.” This is a denunciation of their claims that better things will be theirs in this world, and in the Hereafter. Allah tells us about what some of them said, as in the Ayat: “And if We give man a taste of mercy from Us, and then take it from him, verily! He is hopelessly, ungrateful. But if We let him taste of goodness after harm has touched him, he is sure to say: “Ills have departed from me.” Surely, he is cheerful, and boastful (ungrateful to Allah).” (11:9-10) “And if We give him a taste of mercy from Us, after some adversity has touched him, he is sure to say: “This is due to me; I do not think that the Hour will occur. But if I am brought back to my Lord, then, with Him, there will surely be the best for me.” Then, We will certainly show the disbelievers what they have done, and We shall make them taste severe torment.” (41:50) “Have you seen the one who disbelieved in Our Ayat and said: “I shall certainly be given wealth and children (if I came back to life).” (19:77) Allah tells us about one of the two men: “He went into his garden while wronging himself. He said: “I do not think that this will ever perish. And I do not think that the Hour will ever come, and if indeed I am brought back to my Lord, (on the Day of Resurrection), then surely, I shall find better than this when I return to Him.” (18:35-36) These people combined bad deeds with the false hopes of being rewarded with good for those bad deeds, which is impossible.

Thus Allah refuted their false hopes, when He said: “No doubt”, meaning, truly it is inevitable that “for them is the Fire”, meaning, on the Day of Resurrection. “and they will be forsaken”. Mujahid, Said bin Jubayr, Qatadah and others said: “This means they will be forgotten and neglected there.” (At-Tabari 17:233) This is like the Ayah: “So today We forget them just as they forgot meeting on this day of theirs.” (7:51).

It was also reported from Qatadah that, “they will be forsaken” means ‘they are hastened into the Fire.’ (At-Tabari 17:234) There is no contradiction between the two, because they will be hastened into the Fire on the Day of Resurrection, then they will be forgotten there, i.e., left to dwell there for eternity.

{63. By Allah, We indeed sent (Messengers) to the nations before you, but Shaytan made their deeds seeming fair to them. So today he is their helper, and theirs will be a painful torment.  

64. And We have not revealed the Book to you, except that you may clearly explain to them those things in which they differ, and (as) a guidance and a mercy for a people who believe. 

65. And Allah sends water down from the sky, then He revives the earth with it after its death. Surely that is a sign for people who listen.}

Finding Consolation in the Reminder of Those Who came before

Allah says, ‘He sent Messengers to the nations of the past, and they were rejected. You, O Muhammad, have an example in your brothers among the Messengers, so do not be distressed by your people’s rejection. As for the idolators’ rejection of the Messengers, the reason for this is that the Shaytan made their deeds attractive to them. ”So today he (Shaytan) is their helper” meaning they will be suffering punishment while Shaytan is their only helper, and he cannot save them, so they have no one to answer their calls for help, and theirs is a painful punishment.

The Reason why the Qur’an was Revelead

Then Allah says to His Messenger that He has revealed the Book to him to explain the truth to mankind in matters which they dispute over. So the Qur’an is a decisive arbitrator for every issue that they argue about. “and (as) a guidance” meaning, for their hearts. “and a mercy” meaning, for the one who adheres to it. “for a people who believe.” Just as Allah causes the Qur’an to bring life to hearts that were dead from disbelief, so He brings the earth to life after it has died, by sending down water from the sky. “Surely that is a sign for people who listen.” meaning those who understand the words and their meanings.

{66. And there is indeed a lesson for you in the An’am (cattle). We have made a drink for you out of what is in its belly, from between excretions and blood, pure milk; palatable to the drinkers. 

67. And from the fruits of date palms and grapes, you derive strong drink and a goodly provision. There is indeed a sign in this for those of reason.}

Lessons and Blessings in Cattle and the Fruit of the Date-palm and Grapevine

“there is for you” – O mankind – “in the cattle” – meaning camels, cows and sheep, “a lesson” meaning a sign and an evidence of the wisdom, power, mercy and kindness of the Creator. “We have made a drink for you out of what is in its belly” meaning its singular forms refers to one cattle, or it could refer to the whole species. For cattle are the creatures which provide a drink from what is in their bellies and in another Ayah it is ‘in their bellies.’ Either way is plausible. He said, “from between excretions and blood, pure milk” meaning it is free of blood, and is pure in its whiteness, taste and sweetness. It is between excrement and blood in the belly of the animal, but each of them goes its own way after the food has been fully digested in its stomach. The blood goes to the veins, the milk goes to the udder, the urine goes to the bladder and the feces goes to the anus. None of them gets mixed with another after separating, and none of them is affected by the other. “pure milk; palatable to the drinkers.” meaning nothing to cause one to choke on it.

When Allah mentions milk and how He has made it a palatable drink for mankind, He follows this with a reference to the drinks that people make from the fruits of the date palm and grapevine, and what they used to do with intoxicating Nabidh (drink made from dates) before it was forbidden. Thus He reminds them of His blessings, and says: “And from the fruits of date palms and grapes, you derive strong drink” This indicates that it was permissible to drink it before it was forbidden. It also indicates that strong drink (i.e., intoxicating drink) derived from dates is the same as strong drink derived from grapes. Also forbidden are strong drinks derived from wheat, barley, corn and honey, as is explained in detail in the Sunnah. “strong drink and a goodly provision.” Ibn Abbas said: “Strong drink is the product of these two fruits that is forbidden, and the good provision is what is permitted of them.” (At-Tabari 17:241) According to another report: “Strong drink is its unlawful, and the goodly provision is its lawful,” (At-Tabari 17:242) referring to the fruits when they are dried, like dates and raisins, or products derived from them such as molasses, vinegar and wine (of grapes, dates) which are permissible to drink before they become strong (becomes alcoholic), as was stated in the Sunnah. “There is indeed a sign in this for those of reason.”

It is appropriate to mention reason here, because it is the noblest feature of man. Hence Allah forbade this Ummah from drinking intoxicants, in order to protect their ability to reason. Allah says: “And We placed gardens of date palms and grapes in it, and We caused springs of water to gush forth in it. So that they may eat of its fruit – while their hands did not make it. Will they not then give thanks Glory be to Him Who created all the pairs of that which the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind (male and female), and of that which they know not.” (36:34-36)

{68. And your Lord inspired the bee, saying: “Take you habitations in the mountains and in the trees and in what they (humans) erect.” 

69. “Then, eat of all fruits, and follow the routes that your Lord made easy (for you).” There comes forth from their bellies, a drink of varying colors, in which there is a cure for men. There is indeed a sign in that for people who reflect.}

In the Bee and its Honey there is Blessing and a Lesson

What is meant by inspiration here is guidance. The bee is guided to make its home in the mountains, in trees and in structures erected by man. The bee’s home is a solid structure, with its hexagonal shapes and interlocking forms there is no looseness in its combs. Then Allah decrees that the bee will have permission to eat from all fruits and to follow the ways which Allah has made easy for it, [The word translated here as “made easy” is Dhululan. This may be understood as meaning “made easy”, in which case it refers to the routes followed by the bees, or it may be understood as meaning “subjugated”, in which case it refers to the bees themselves. These two scholarly interpretations are the two opinions discussed here.] wherever it wants to go in the vast spaces of the wilderness, valleys and high mountains. Then each bee comes back to its hive without swerving to the right or left, it comes straight back to its home where its offspring and honey are. It makes wax from its wings, and regurgitates honey from its mouth, and lays eggs from its rear, then the next morning it goes out to the fields again. “and follow the routes of your Lord made easy (for you)”

Qatadah and Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said: “This means, in an obedient way” (At-Tabari 17:249) , understanding it to be a description of the route of migration. Ibn Zayd said that this is like the Ayah: “And We have subdued them for them so that some they may ride and some they may eat.” (36:72) (At-Tabari 17:249) He said: “Do you not see that they move the bees’ home from one land to another, and the bees follow them?” The first opinion is clearly the more likely, as it describes the routes that the bees follow, i.e., ‘follow these routes as they are easy for you.’ This was stated by Mujahid. Ibn Jarir said that both opinions are correct. (At-Tabari 17:249) “There comes forth from their bellies, a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men.” [meaning, honey, that is] white, yellow, red, or of other good colors, depending on the different things that the bees eat.“in which there is a cure for men.” meaning there is a cure in honey for diseases that people suffer from. Some of those who spoke about the study of Prophetic medicine said that if [Allah] had said, ‘in which there is the cure for men’, then it would be the remedy for all diseases, but He said, ‘in which there is a cure for men’, meaning that it is the right treatment for every “cold” disease, because it is “hot”, and a disease should be treated with its opposite.

Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded in their Sahihs from Qatadah from Abu Al-Mutawakkil Ali bin Dawud An-Naji from Abu Said Al-Khudri that a man came to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and said, “My brother is suffering from diarrhea”.

He said, “Give him honey to drink.”

The man went and gave him honey, then he came back and said, “O Messenger of Allah! I gave him honey to drink, and he only got worse.” The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“Go and give him honey to drink.”

So he went and gave him honey, then he came back and said, “O Messenger of Allah! it only made him worse. ” The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“Allah speaks the truth and your brother’s stomach is lying. Go and give him honey to drink.”

So he went and gave him honey, and he recovered.” (Fath Al-Bari 10:178, Muslim 4:1732)

It is reported in the Two Sahihs from A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, used to like sweet things and honey. (Fath Al-Bari 10:81, Muslim 2:1101)  This is the wording of Al-Bukhari, who also reported in his Sahih from Ibn Abbas that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Healing is to be found in three things: the cut made by the cupper, or drinking honey, or in branding with fire (cauterizing), but I have forbidden my Ummah to use branding.” (Fath Al-Bari 10:143)

“There is indeed a sign in that for people who reflect.” meaning in the fact that Allah inspires this weak little creature to travel through the vast fields and feed from every kind of fruit, then gather it for wax and honey, which are some of the best things, in this is a sign for people who think about the might and power of the bee’s Creator Who causes all of this to happen. From this they learn that He is the Initiator, the All-Powerful, the All-Wise, the All-Knowing, the Most Generous, the Most Merciful.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Vol 5 Pages 471-491

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