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Friday, December 14, 2018

Surah Al Qalam - The Pen: Summary of 68th Chapter of Holy Quran


Sūrat al-Qalam is the 68th surah with 52 ayats with two rukus, part of the 29th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. This Surah is called Nun as it begins with the letter Nun.

Like many surahs of the Holy Qur'an, Sūrat al-Qalam too is one of the earliest surahs to be revealed at Makkah, for its subject matter shows that it was sent down at the time when opposition to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) had grown very harsh and tyrannical.

The surah consists of three themes: (1) Replies to the opponents objections, (2) administration of warning and (3) admonition to them, and exhortation to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) to patience and constancy. 

Before proceeding to exegesis / tafsir of Sūrat al-Qalam, let us see a brief co-reference / relevance of subject matter of of Sūrat al-Qalam to that of the preceding and proceeding surahs of the Holy Qur'an: [1]
Surah Al-Mulk, the 67th chapter/surah and Sūrat al-Qalam form a pair with regard to their subject matter. Although there is no principal difference between the central themes and topics of the two, the difference lies in the style, nature of arguments and the tone adopted. In Surah Al Mulk, the Quraysh are warned of the Day of Judgement, while in Surah Qalam they are warned of the punishment which a people necessarily face if they deny their punishment of the Day of Judgement, similar is the warning sounded in this sūrah. However, this sūrah is more stern in its tone. Surah Al Mulk focused on believing in Allah, this Surah Al Qalam focuses on believing in His Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Surah Al-Haaqah (69) also deeply resembles Surah Al Qalam for both having same the central theme: substantiation of the Day of Judgement. As per Professor Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a Pakistani Muslim theologian, Quran scholar, exegete, and educationist, the nature of arguments differ. Just as the greatness and truth of the Qur'an are explained in the Surah Al Qalam and people are warned of the consequences of rejecting the Qur'an, similarly, in the next surah (Surah al Haaqah) this subject is discussed. The difference is that in Surah Al Qalam, it is discussed in the opening part while in Surah Al Haaqah it is in the concluding part. Near the end of surah Qalam, Allah says: “Then leave Me (to deal) with the one who rejects this Hadeeth/Statement.“ and in the beginning of surah Al-Haaqah, Allah tells how He dealt with previous nations (ʿĀd and Thamud) who rejected and oppressed the Messenger of Allah who came to them. Allah mentioned two groups of people briefly in Surah Al Qalam; i.e. in Ayah 38 He mentions the people of Paradise, and in ayah 42 He mentions people who will not be able to prostrate/sajdah to Allah. Allah talks about two groups of people who receive their books on Judgment Day, good and bad.

Let us now read explanation of the Surah segmented into portions as per the subject matter:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"


نٓ​ وَالۡقَلَمِ وَمَا يَسۡطُرُوۡنَۙ‏
1. Nun. By the pen and what the scribes write.
[These letters (Nun, etc.) are one of the miracles of the Qur'an, and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings]. Such words are known as Muqaṭṭaʿāt (Arabic: حُرُوف مُقَطَّعَات‎ ḥurūf muqaṭṭaʿāt, "disjointed letters" or "disconnected letters"; also "mysterious letters") which are combinations of between one and five Arabic letters figuring at the beginning of 29 out of the 114 chapters (surahs) of the Quran just after the Bismillah. The letters are also known as fawātiḥ (فَوَاتِح) or "openers" as they form the opening verse of their respective surahs. The original significance of the letters is unknown. Tafsir (exegesis) has interpreted them as abbreviations for either names or qualities of God or for the names or content of the respective surahs. 

The great commentator Mujahid says that by pen here is meant the Pen with which the Qur'an was being written down. From this it automatically follows that that which was being written implies the Holy Qur'an itself. There are other opinions about the pen as well. 

  • One opinion is that it refers to the Pen of decree through which destinies of every creation has been written down till the end of times. 
  • Another opinion is that it refers to the pen of angels through which they record the deeds of the servants. 
  • One more opinion is that this refers to the pen that we use to write with. Elaborating this opinion, Ibn Katheer writes Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is alerting His creatures to what He has favored them with by teaching them the skill of writing through which knowledge is attained.

At the outset (verses 2-16), the Holy Prophet has been addressed, to the effect: "The disbelievers call you a madman whereas the Book that you are presenting and the sublime conduct that you practice, are by themselves sufficient to refute their false accusations. Soon they will see as to who was mad and who was sane; therefore, do not at all yield to the din of opposition being kicked up against you, for all this is actually meant to cow you and make you resort to a compromise with them."

Then, in order to enlighten the common people the character of a prominent man from among the opponents, whom the people of Makkah fully well recognized, has been presented, without naming him:At that time, the Holy Prophet's pure and sublime conduct was before them, and every discerning eye could also see what sort of character and morals were possessed by the chiefs of Makkah, who were leading the opposition against him.
2. You (O Muhammad ) are not, by the Grace of your Lord, a madman. 3. And verily, for you (O Muhammad ) will be an endless reward. 4. And verily, you (O Muhammad ) are on an exalted standard of character. 5. You will see, and they will see, 6. Which of you is afflicted with madness. 7. Verily, your Lord knows better, who (among men) has gone astray from His Path, and He knows better those who are guided. 8. So (O Muhammad ) obey not the deniers [(of Islamic Monotheism those who belie the Verses of Allah), the Oneness of Allah, and the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad ), etc.] 9. They wish that you should compromise (in religion out of courtesy) with them, so they (too) would compromise with you. 10. And obey not everyone who swears much, and is considered worthless, 11. A slanderer, going about with calumnies, 
In the verse 12, word Khayr is used which in Arabic is used both for wealth and for good. If it is taken in the meaning of wealth, the meaning would be that he is miserly and stingy; he would not even spend a farthing on anyone. And if khayr is taken in the meaning of goodness and virtue, it would mean that he creates a hindrance in every good work as well as that he is very active in hindering the people from accepting Islam.
12. Hinderer of the good, transgressor, sinful, 13. Cruel, after all that base-born (of illegitimate birth), 14. (He was so) because he had wealth and children. 15. When Our Verses (of the Qur'an) are recited to him, he says: "Tales of the men of old!" 16. We shall brand him over the nose!
In verses 17-33, the parable of the owners of a garden has been presented, who after having been blessed by Allah turned ungrateful to Him, and did not heed the admonition of the best man among them when it was given them. Consequently, they were deprived of the blessing and they realized this, when all they had lay devastated. With this parable the people of Makkah have been warned to the effect:"With the appointment of the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) to Prophethood, you, O people of Makkah, too, have been put to a test similar to the one to which the owners of the garden had been put. If you do not listen to him, you too will be afflicted with a punishment in the world, and the punishment of the Hereafter is far greater."
17. Verily, We have tried them as We tried the people of the garden, when they swore to pluck the fruits of the (garden) in the morning, 18. Without saying: Insha' Allah (If Allah will). 19. Then there passed by on the (garden) something (fire) from your Lord at night and burnt it while they were asleep. 20. So the (garden) became black by the morning, like a pitch dark night (in complete ruins). 21. Then they called out one to another as soon as the morning broke, 22. Saying: "Go to your tilth in the morning, if you would pluck the fruits." 23. So they departed, conversing in secret low tones (saying), 24. No Miskin (poor man) shall enter upon you into it today. 25. And they went in the morning with strong intention, thinking that they have power (to prevent the poor taking anything of the fruits therefrom). 26. But when they saw the (garden), they said: "Verily, we have gone astray," 27. (Then they said): "Nay! Indeed we are deprived of (the fruits)!" 28. The best among them said: "Did I not tell you: why do you not say: Insha' Allah (If Allah will)." 29. They said: "Glory to Our Lord! Verily, we have been Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.)." 30. Then they turned, one against another, in blaming. 31. They said: "Woe to us! Verily, we were Taghun (transgressors and disobedient, etc.) 32. We hope that our Lord will give us in exchange a better (garden) than this. Truly, we turn to our Lord (wishing for good that He may forgive our sins, and reward us in the Hereafter)." 33. Such is the punishment (in this life), but truly, the punishment of the Hereafter is greater, if they but knew.
Then, in verses 34-47 continuously, the disbelievers have been admonished, in which the address sometimes turns to them directly and sometimes they are warned through the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace). A summary of what has been said in this regard, is this: Well being in the Hereafter inevitably belongs to those who spend their lives in the world in full consciousness of God. It is utterly against reason that the obedient servants should meet in the Hereafter the same fate as the guilty. There is absolutely no basis of the disbelievers misunderstanding that God will treat them in the manner they choose for themselves, whereas they have no guarantee for this. Those who are being called upon to bow before God in the world and they refuse to do so, would be unable to prostrate themselves on the Day of Resurrection even if they wanted to do so, and thus would stand disgraced and condemned. Having denied the Qur'an they cannot escape Divine punishment. The rein they are being given, has deluded them. They think that since they are not being punished in spite of their denial, they must be on the right path, whereas they are following the path of ruin. They have no reasonable ground for opposing the Messenger, for he is a preacher without any vested interest: he is not asking any reward of them for himself, and they cannot either make the claim that they know with certainty that he is not a true Messenger, nor that what he says is false.
34. Verily, for the Muttaqun (pious and righteous persons - see V.2:2) are Gardens of delight (Paradise) with their Lord. 35. Shall We then treat the (submitting) Muslims like the Mujrimun (criminals, polytheists and disbelievers, etc.)? 36. What is the matter with you? How judge you? 37. Or have you a Book through which you learn. 38. That you shall have all that you choose? 39. Or you have oaths from Us, reaching to the Day of Resurrection that yours will be what you judge. 40. Ask them, which of them will stand surety for that! 41. Or have they "partners"? Then let them bring their "partners" if they are truthful! 42. (Remember) the Day when the Shin shall be laid bare (i.e. the Day of Resurrection) and they shall be called to prostrate (to Allah), but they (hypocrites) shall not be able to do so, 43. Their eyes will be cast down, ignominy will cover them; they used to be called to prostrate (offer prayers), while they were healthy and good (in the life of the world, but they did not). 44. Then leave Me Alone with such as belie this Qur'an. We shall punish them gradually from directions they perceive not. 45. And I will grant them a respite. Verily, My Plan is strong. 46. Or is it that you (O Muhammad ) ask them a wage, so that they are heavily burdened with debt? 47. Or that the Ghaib (unseen here in this Verse it means Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz) is in their hands, so that they can write it down?
In conclusion, the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) has been exhorted to the effect:"Bear with patience the hardships that you may have to face in the way of preaching the Faith till Allah's judgment arrives, and avoid the impatience which caused suffering and affliction to the Prophet Jonah (peace be on him)."
48. So wait with patience for the Decision of your Lord, and be not like the Companion of the Fish, when he cried out (to Us) while he was in deep sorrow. (See the Qur'an, Verse 21:87). 49. Had not a Grace from his Lord reached him, he would indeed have been (left in the stomach of the fish, but We forgave him), so he was cast off on the naked shore, while he was to be blamed. 50. But his Lord chose him and made him of the righteous. 51. And verily, those who disbelieve would almost make you slip with their eyes through hatredness when they hear the Reminder (the Qur'an), and they say: "Verily, he (Muhammad ) is a madman!" 52. But it is nothing else than a Reminder to all the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).
You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sūrat al-Qalam with English subtitles:



You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Part backwards for chapters in 30th Part are shorter and easier to understand). 

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
An effort has been made to gather explanation of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic souses and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. However, those wanting detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to sites the references of which are given above.

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