Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Surah Al Ahqaf - The Wind Curved Sand Dunes: Exegesis / Tafseer of 46th Chapter of Holy Quran

Sūrah Al-Aḥqāf is the forty sixth surah with 35 ayahs with four rukus, part of the 26th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The surah takes its name from verse 21, where Prophet Hud (peace be upon him) is said to have warned his people "by the sand dunes" (fi al-Ahqaf).

Sūrah Al-Aḥqāf  is the last of the seven consecutive surahs of the Holy Quran which are affixed the Letters Ha-Meem " حٰمٓ ". Chronologically they all belong to the same Makkan Period, and they immediately follow the last Sürah in time. These seven surahs that begin with same dis-joined words are:
The Verse 15 dwells on a legal matter pertaining to period of Fetal Viability / gestation (the process or period of developing inside the womb between conception and birth) and breastfeeding. It must be read carefully to understand the legal implications.

The time period of revelation of this surah is determined by an event that has been mentioned in verses 29-32. This incident of the visit of the jinn and their going back after listening to the Qur'an had occurred, according to agreed traditions of the Hadith and biographical literature, at the time when the Holy Prophet had halted at Makkah during his return journey from Ta'if to Makkah. And according to all authentic historical traditions he had gone to Ta'if three years before the Hijrah; therefore it is determined that this Surah was sent down towards the end of the 10th year or in the early part of the 11th year of the Prophethood.

The time of the revelation of this surah was a time in the life of the Prophet of Allah when he was passing through extreme persecution and distress. Some of the telling events were:
  • The boycott of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and his family and literally besieging them to a place called "Shi'b Abi Talib" by the Quraish of Makkah for three long years. Devoid of food and water, these three years were the most torturous of the time th Prophet of Allah and his family had suffered at the hands of the pagans of Makkah. They were only allowed to buy food and other supplies during the Hajj season. But even at that time whenever Abu Lahab, an uncle of the Prophet of Allah but deadly against him for preaching a faith other than the one his family had followed since generations,  found any of them approaching the market place he would call out to the merchants exhorting them to announce forbidding rates of their articles for them, and would pledge that he himself would buy those articles so that they did not suffer any loss. This boycott which continued uninterrupted for three years had broken the back of the Muslims and the Bani Hashim; so much so that at times they were even forced to eat grass and the leaves of trees.
  • However, the Prophet of Allah was struck with griefs one after the other. The first setback was death of Abu Talib, the caring uncle of the Prophet of Allah, who had so far been shielding his nephew for almost ten years from the furious disbelievers. And soon thereafter, Lady Khadija, the beloved wife of the Prophet, who had been a source of peace and consolation for him ever since the beginning of the call, also passed away. Because of these tragic incidents, the Holy Prophet used to refer to this year as the year of sorrow and grief, for these left Prophet of Allah very fragile and unprotected and thus the disbelievers of Makkah became even more hostile towards the Holy Prophet. 
  • In order to muster support from other tribes, the Holy Prophet left for Ta'if to invite the Bani Thaqif to Islam. He did not have the facility of any conveyance at that time, and traveled all the way to Ta'if on foot. However, he was treated even more harshly by the the chiefs and nobles of the Bani Thaqif who refused to listen to him. When he was leaving the city, the chiefs of Tha'if set their slaves and scoundrels behind him, who abused and stoned him for a long way from either side of the road till he became broken down with wounds and his shoes were filled with blood. Wearied and exhausted he took shelter in the shade of the wall of a garden outside Ta'if, and prayed:
"O God, to Thee I complain of my weakness, little resource, and lowliness before men. O Most Merciful, Thou art the Lord of the weak, and Thou art my Lord. To whom wilt Thou confide me? To one afar who will misuse me?Or to an enemy to whom Thou hast given power over me?If Thou art not angry with me I care not. Thy favor is more wide for me. I take refuge in the light of Thy countenance by which the darkness is illumined, and the things of this world and the next are rightly ordered, lest Thy anger descend upon me or Thy wrath light upon me. It is for Thee to be satisfied until Thou art well pleased. There is no power and no might save in Thee." (Ibn Hisham:A. Guillaume's Translation, p. 193).
  • Utterly disappointed, an exceedingly bleeding Prophet of Allah left Taif with a very low morale for he seemed to have lost hope that disbelievers would one day turn to Islam.  When he reached a placed called Qarn al-Manazil, he saw Gabriel in front of him, who called out:"Allah has heard the way your people have responded. He has, therefore, sent this angel in charge of the mountains. You may command him as you please." Then the angel of the mountains greeted him and submitted :"If you like I would overturn the mountains from either side upon these people." The Holy Prophet replied : "No, but I expect that Allah will create from their seed those who will worship none but Allah, the One."  (The incident has been quoted in the Hadith books of Bukhari, Dhikr al Mala'ikah; Muslim: Kitab al-Maghazi; Nasa'i :Al-Bauth). 
  • Only a prophet of Allah could be that forgiving and hopeful for no taking a revenge from those who hurt him and discarded him, and surely Allah rewarded him for suffering yet not losing hope. At Makkah, one night when he was reciting the Qur'an, a group of the jinn happened to pass by and listened to the Qur'an, believed in it, and returned to their people to preach Islam. Thus, Allah gave His Prophet the good news that if the men were running away from his invitation, there were many of the jinn, who had become its believers, and they were spreading his message among their own kind.
The Surah thus centers on to warn the disbelievers of their arrogance and condemning the Prophet of Allah who was trying to redeem them of their living a life and thought they were answerable to none even if they defied the invitation to Islam. They thought that invitation to Islam was false and stuck to the belief that their own deities were actually the associates of Allah. Instead, they had a erroneous concept of apostleship on the basis of which they were proposing strange criteria of judging the Holy Prophet's claim to it. In their estimation one great proof of Islam's not being based on the truth was that their elders and important chiefs of the tribes and so called leaders of their nation were not accepting it and only a few young men, and some poor folks and some slaves had affirmed faith in it. They thought that Resurrection and life after death and the rewards and punishments of the Hereafter were fabrications whose occurrence was absolutely out of the question. 

Through this Surah, Allah has warned those who reject the Quran, and reassures those who believe; it instructs Muslims to be virtuous towards their parents; it tells of the Prophet Hud (peace be upon him) and the punishment that befell his people; and it advises Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be patient in delivering his message of Islam.

Let us now read the translation and exegesis / tafseer in English of the Surah segmented into portions as per the subject matter. For Arabic Text, please refer to the references given at the end and may also listen to its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"
( 1 )   حٰمٓ ". Ha, Meem.
[These disjoined letters are one of the miracles of the Qur'an, and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings - see our earlier post for details: Understanding the Holy Quran: Huroof Muqatta’at - Disjoined Letters].

Ruku 1 (Verses 1-10)
In verses 2-6 it is explained how Allah has created the heavens, earth and all that lies between them to manifest the truth and Those deities to whom Mushrikin (disbelievers) invoke are not even aware that they are being invoked.

The previous chapter, Surah Al Jathiya,  ended with the Divine address that "To Allah belongs [all] praise - Lord of the heavens and Lord of the earth, Lord of the worlds, and that To Him belongs [all] grandeur within the heavens and the earth, and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise." And now the beginning of this Sarah is the continuation of the same message with witch the last surah ended:
(2)  The revelation of the Book is from Allah, the Exalted in Might, the Wise. 
(3)  We did not create the heavens and earth and what is between them except in truth and [for] a specified term. But those who disbelieve, from that of which they are warned, are turning away. 
The verse 3 clearly asserts that this universe is not a purposeless plaything but a purposeful, wise system in which the decisions regarding the good and the bad, the oppressor and the oppressed, will necessarily be based on justice. The present system of the universe is not permanent and eternal, but it has a fixed term appointed for it on the expiry of which it will inevitably come to an end. For the court of Allah also there is a settled time and it will certainly be established when the time for it reaches its term. But the people who have refused to believe in Allah’s Prophet (peace be upon him) and His Book, have an aversion to these truths. They are least mindful of this that a time has to come when they will have to render an account of their deeds. They think that the Messenger (peace be upon him) of Allah has done them a great wrong by warning them of these truths, whereas he has done them a great good by fore-warning them not only of the time when they will be subjected to accountability but also of what they will be questioned at that time so that they may prepare themselves accordingly.

The same concept has been asserted again and again in the Qur'an that God created the heavens and the earth 'in truth'. This covers a wide range of meanings. For explanation, see (Surah Al-Anaam, Ayat 73); (Surah Younus, Ayats 5-6); (Surah Ibrahim, Ayat 19); (Surah Al-Hijr, Ayat 85); (Surah An-Nahl, Ayat: 3); (Surah AI-Anbiya, Ayats 16-18); (Surah Al-Muminun, Ayat 115); (Surah Al-Ankabut, Ayats 44); (Surah Ar-Room, Ayat 8).
( 4 )   Say, [O Muhammad], "Have you considered that which you invoke besides Allah? Show me what they have created of the earth; or did they have partnership in [creation of] the heavens? Bring me a scripture [revealed] before this or a [remaining] trace of knowledge, if you should be truthful." 
Here the polytheists are being told the reality of the irrational creed in which they persisted. Along with acknowledging Allah as the Creator of the universe they had made many other beings their deities. They invoked them, regarded them as fulfiller of their needs and removers of hardships, and thought they had the powers of making and unmaking of their destinies. About the same beings, they are being asked: On what basis have you made them your deities? Obviously, there can be only two bases for regarding someone as an associate in worship along with Allah: (1) Either man himself should know through some means of knowledge that his deity too has a share in making the earth and heavens, (2) or Allah Himself may have stated that so and so also is His associate in the functions of Godhead. Now, if a polytheist can neither make the claim that he possesses direct knowledge of his deity’s being an associate of God, nor he can show in a Book sent by God that God Himself has appointed somebody as His associate, his creed would inevitably be baseless.
( 5 )   And who is more astray than he who invokes besides Allah those who will not respond to him until the Day of Resurrection, and they, of their invocation, are unaware. 
The verse make it very clear that the gods whom they call do not possess the powers by virtue of which they could give decisions on the prayers and petitions of their devotees. The these gods do not possess the powers by virtue of which they could give decisions on the prayers and petitions of their devotees. “Until the Day of Resurrection” means that as long as the world lasts they will get no answer to their supplications and prayers from their deities, but when Resurrection will have taken place, the deities will turn hostile to their worshipers themselves, as becomes explicit from the next verse.

Here, the beings whom the polytheists the world over have been invoking are divided into three categories: (1) Lifeless and inanimate creation,  (2) The pious men who have passed away, and (3) The wicked men who had themselves gone astray, and who misled others and passed away.

As for the first category of the deities they will naturally remain unaware of the supplications of their worshipers. As for the deities of the second kind, who were favorites with their God, there are two reasons of their remaining unaware: (a) They are in the presence of Allah in a state where human voices cannot reach them directly; and (b) even Allah and His angels do not inform them that the people whom they had been teaching to invoke Allah alone in the world, were invoking them instead, for no information could cause them a greater shock than this, and Allah does not at all like to vex the souls of His righteous servants.

As for the case of the third kind of the deities, there are two reasons of their remaining unaware: (1) That they have been placed in confinement as the accused, and no voice from the world can reach them; and (2) that even Allah and His angels do not convey to them the news that their mission is flourishing in the world, and the people have set them up as deities, for this news would be a happy news for them, and Allah does not like to make the wicked people happy.

In this connection, one should also understand that Allah conveys to His righteous servants the greetings of peace and prayers of mercy from the people of the world, for these things are a source of joy and pleasure for them. Likewise, He informs the culprits of the curses, censures and condemnations of the people of the world, as the disbelievers killed in the Battle of Badr were made to hear the curse of the Prophet (peace be upon him) according to a Hadith, for it is a cause of anguish for them. But anything which might cause distress to the righteous people and joy to the culprits is not conveyed to them. This explanation makes the truth about the question of hearing by the dead plain and easy to understand.
( 6 )   And when the people are gathered [that Day], they [who were invoked] will be enemies to them, and they will be deniers of their worship.
That is, they will say: We had neither told the people to invoke us for help, nor are we aware that they used to invoke us. They themselves had presumed that we could fulfill their needs and so had started invoking us.

Verse 7-10 dwell on the truth that Quran is the word of Allah, not the Prophet, for the Prophet is but a plain Warner
( 7 )   And when Our verses are recited to them as clear evidences, those who disbelieve say of the truth when it has come to them, "This is obvious magic."
When the revelations of the Quran were recited before the disbelievers of Makkah, they realized that the Qur'an was far superior to human speech. The compositions of their greatest poets, orators and literary men were no match with the un-paralleled eloquence, enchanting oratory, sublime themes and heart-moving style of the Quran. Even the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) own words and speech were not comparable with the discourses that were being sent down to him by Allah. Those who had known him since childhood knew well the vast difference that was there between his language and words and the words of the Quran, and it was not possible for them to believe that a man who had been living day and night among them for forty years would suddenly one day forge a speech whose diction and style would bear no resemblance with his familiar and known manner of speech and style. This thing made the truth plain before them, but since they were bent upon denial, they would say: This is plain magic, instead of acknowledging it as divine word after witnessing this manifest sign.
( 8 )   Or do they say, "He has invented it?" Say, "If I have invented it, you will not possess for me [the power of protection] from Allah at all. He is most knowing of that in which you are involved. Sufficient is He as Witness between me and you, and He is the Forgiving the Merciful."
This interrogative tone expresses great surprise and amazement. It means to say: Are these people so shameless that they accuse Muhammad (peace be upon him) of fabricating the Quran himself? Whereas they know that it cannot be his word and their calling it magic is by itself an express proof that they regard it as an extraordinary word, which cannot be of human composition even according to themselves.
( 9 )   Say, "I am not something original among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am not but a clear warner."
To understand verse 9, we need to know the background: When the Prophet (peace be upon him) presented himself as Allah’s Messenger, the people of Makkah raised different kinds of objections against it. They said: What kind of a Messenger he is who has a family, who moves about in the streets, eats and drinks and lives a common man’s life. There is nothing special about him, which might distinguish him above the other people and therefore we may know that Allah has specially made this man His Messenger. Then they said: Had he ban appointed a Messenger by God, He would have sent an angel as an attendant with him who would have announced that he was God’s Messenger, and would have punished with a scourge every such person who had behaved insolently towards him. How strange that God should appoint a person as His Messenger and then should leave him alone to roam the streets of Makkah and suffer every kind of humiliation. If nothing else Allah should at least have created a magnificent palace and a blooming garden for His Messenger. He should not have been left to depend on his wife’s resources. Besides, these people demanded different kinds of miracles from him and asked news of the unseen. They thought that a person’s being God’s Messenger meant that he should possess supernatural powers to turn deserts at once turn into green fields. He should have the knowledge of the past and the future events and of everything hidden from others.

An answer to the same has been given in these sentences, and each sentence contains a world of meaning:
  • First, it is said: Tell them, I am not a novel Messenger. That is, my being appointed as a Messenger is not a novel event of its kind in the world so that you may have some confusion about the characteristics of a Messenger. Many Messengers have come to the world before me, and I am not any different from them. Never has a Messenger come who did not live a common man’s life. Never has an angel descended as an attendant with a Messenger, heralding his prophet-hood and carrying a whip before him. Never have gardens and palaces been created for a Messenger and never has a Messenger been spared of the hardships which I am suffering. Never has a Messenger shown a miracle by his own power, or known everything by his own knowledge. Then, how is it that you are bringing forth these strange criteria only to judge my Prophethood?
  • Then it is said: Tell them also, I do not know what shall befall you tomorrow nor what shall befall me. I am not a knower of the unseen so that everything of the past and present and future should be known to me, and I should have the knowledge of everything in the world. Not to speak of your future, I do not even know my own future. I only know that of which I am given knowledge by revelation. It is not a Messenger’s job to tell the whereabouts of the lost articles, or tell whether a pregnant woman will deliver a boy or a girl, or whether a sick patient will live or die. 
  • In conclusion, it is said: Say to them, I am no more than a plain warner. That is, I do not possess divine powers so that I may show you the wonderful miracles that you demand from me every next day. My only mission is that I should present the right way before the people, and should warn of an evil end those who do not accept it. 
( 10 )   Say, "Have you considered: if the Qur'an was from Allah, and you disbelieved in it while a witness from the Children of Israel has testified to something similar and believed while you were arrogant...?" Indeed, Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.
There are many explanations of the verse about the mention of the witness. Without going into discussion on each, the majority of commentators agree that here, by a witness is not meant any particular person but a common Israelite. The meaning is this: The teachings that the Quran is presenting before you are not new so that you could deny them by offering the excuse that they were novel teachings which had never been presented before man in the past. Before this these very teachings have been similarly revealed and exist with the Israelites in the form of the Torah and other scriptures, and a common Israelite has already believed in them, and also admitted that Allah’s revelation is a means of the coming down of these teachings. Therefore, you cannot make the claim that revelation and these teachings are incomprehensible. The only thing that hinders you from believing is your arrogance and baseless conceit.

Ruku 2 (Verse 11-20)
In verses 11-14 it is said that Al-Quran conforms the revelation of Torah given to Prophet Musa (Moses, peace be upon him):
( 11 )   And those who disbelieve say of those who believe, "If it had [truly] been good, they would not have preceded us to it." And when they are not guided by it, they will say, "This is an ancient falsehood."
This is one of those arguments that the chiefs of the Quraish employed to beguile and mislead the common people against the Prophet (peace be upon him). They said: If the Quran were really based on the truth and Muhammad (peace be upon him) were inviting towards a right thing, the chiefs and the elders and the noblemen of the community would have been in the forefront to accept it. How could it be that a few young boys and mean slaves only should accept a reasonable thing but the distinguished men of the nation, who are wise and experienced, and who have been held as reliable by others, would reject it? This was the deceptive reasoning by which they tried to make the common people believe that there was something wrong with the new message; that is why the elders of the people were not believing it. Therefore, they also should avoid it.

That is, they regard themselves as a criterion of the truth and falsehood. They think that whatever (guidance) they reject must be falsehood. But accepting them since thousands of years also were devoid of wisdom and knowledge, and the whole wisdom has now become these people’s monopoly.
( 12 )   And before it was the scripture of Moses to lead and as a mercy. And this is a confirming Book in an Arabic tongue to warn those who have wronged and as good tidings to the doers of good.
( 13 )   Indeed, those who have said, "Our Lord is Allah," and then remained on a right course - there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.
That is, they did not call Allah their Lord merely incidentally, nor were they involved in the error to regard Allah as their Lord and at the same time others as well as their lords, but they embraced the faith sincerely and stood by it steadfastly: neither adopted a creed contrary to it later nor mixed it up with a false creed, but they fulfilled the demands of the doctrine of Tauhid in their practical lives as well.

“Then remain upright or on the right course” has been explained by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his close and eminent companions:
  • Anas has reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Many people called Allah their Lord, but most of them became disbelievers. Firm and steadfast is he who remained firm on this creed till his death. (Ibn Jarir, Nasai, Ibn Abi Hatim).
  • Abu Bakr Siddiq has explained it thus: Then he did not associate another with Allah: did not attend to any other deity beside Him. (Ibn Jarir).
  • Umar once recited this verse on the pulpit and said: By God, the steadfast are those who remained firm on obedience to Allah: did not run about from place to place like foxes. (Ibn Jarir).
( 14 )   Those are the companions of Paradise, abiding eternally therein as reward for what they used to do.
Verses 15-20 make a mention of those who treat their parents with kindness shall be rewarded and those who rebuke their parents shall be punished
( 15 )   And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months. [He grows] until, when he reaches maturity and reaches [the age of] forty years, he says, "My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to work righteousness of which You will approve and make righteous for me my offspring. Indeed, I have repented to You, and indeed, I am of the Muslims."
As mentioned in the introduction, the verse 15 is a very important verse and its right or wrong interpretation may effect the married life of a husband and a wife. Here only a gist of the details is being presented, while details and its legal implications will be presented in a separate post to better understand the concept.

This verse tells that although the children should serve both the mother and the father, the mother’s right is greater in importance on the ground that she undergoes greater hardships for the sake of the children. The same is borne out by a Hadith, which has been related with a little variation in wording in Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Musnad Ahmad, and in Adab al- Mufrad of Imam Bukhari, to the effect that a person asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): Who has got a greater right to my service? The Prophet replied (peace be upon him): Your mother. He asked: Who after her? He replied: Your mother. He asked: Who after her? He replied: Your mother. He asked: Who after her? He replied: Your father. This Hadith precisely explains this verse, for in it also allusion has been made to the triple right of the mother: (1) His mother bore him with hardship. (2) She gave him birth with hardship. (3) His bearing and his weaning took thirty months.

Another legal point also is derived from this verse and ( verse 14 of Surah Luqman) and( verse 233 of Surah Al- Baqarah), which was pointed out by Ali and Ibn Abbas in a law case and made Uthman change his decision. The story goes that during the caliphate of Uthman, a person married a woman from the Juhainah tribe, and just six months after the marriage she gave birth to a healthy and sound child. The man took the case before Uthman, who declared the woman to be an adulteress and ordered that she be stoned to death. On hearing this Ali immediately came to Uthman and asked: What sort of a decision have you given? He replied: She has given birth to a sound child six months after marriage. Is it not a clear proof of her being an adulteress? Ali did not agree, and recited the three above mentioned verses in their sequence. In Surah Al-Baqarah Allah says: The mothers shall suckle their children for two whole years, if the fathers desire the suckling to be completed. In Surah Luqman it is said: And his weaning took two years, and in Surah Al-Ahqaf: And his bearing and his weaning took thirty months. Now, if two years of suckling are taken away from 30 months, six months of bearing remain. This shows that the minimum period of pregnancy in which a sound child can be born is six months. Therefore, the woman who has given birth to a child six months after the marriage cannot be declared an adulteress. On hearing this reasoning of Ali, Uthman admitted that he had not considered that thing at all. Then he recalled the woman and changed his decision. According to another tradition,
( 16 )   Those are the ones from whom We will accept the best of what they did and overlook their misdeeds, [their being] among the companions of Paradise. [That is] the promise of truth which they had been promised.
That is, their ranks in the Hereafter will be determined by the best deeds they would have done in the world, and their lapses and weaknesses and errors will be overlooked. It is just like a generous and appreciative master who determines the worth of his loyal and obedient servant not by the petty services that he renders but by some work of merit that he might accomplish or a feat of devotion and dedication that he might perform. He will not call his servant to account for his minor shortcomings and overlook his major services.
( 17 )   But one who says to his parents, "Uff to you; do you promise me that I will be brought forth [from the earth] when generations before me have already passed on [into oblivion]?" while they call to Allah for help [and to their son], "Woe to you! Believe! Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth." But he says, "This is not but legends of the former people"
( 18 )   Those are the ones upon whom the word has come into effect, [who will be] among nations which had passed on before them of jinn and men. Indeed, they [all] were losers.
Here, two types of the character have been placed side by side and the listeners are asked the silent question as to which of them is better. At that time both these types of character practically existed in the society, and it was not at all difficult for the people to know where they could find the first type of the character and where the second. This is the answer to this saying of the chiefs of the Quraish: If it had been any good to believe in this Book, these few youngsters and slaves would not have believed in it before they did. In the light of this answer everyone could see for himself as to what was the character of the believers and what of the unbelievers.
( 19 )   And for all there are degrees [of reward and punishment] for what they have done, and [it is] so that He may fully compensate them for their deeds, and they will not be wronged.
That is, neither will the good deeds and sacrifices of the good people be lost, nor the evildoers will be awarded a greater punishment than what they will actually deserve. If a good man is deprived of his reward and receives a lesser reward than what is actually his due, it is injustice. Likewise, if an evildoer is not punished appropriately for his evil deeds, or receives a greater punishment than deserved, it is also injustice.
( 20 )   And the Day those who disbelieved are exposed to the Fire [it will be said], "You exhausted your pleasures during your worldly life and enjoyed them, so this Day you will be awarded the punishment of [extreme] humiliation because you were arrogant upon the earth without right and because you were defiantly disobedient."
Ruku 3 (Verse 21-26)
Verses 21-26 recount the fate of Nation of A'd rejected Allah's message, as a result it faced destruction:

وَاذۡكُرۡ اَخَا عَادٍؕ اِذۡ اَنۡذَرَ قَوۡمَهٗ بِالۡاَحۡقَافِ وَقَدۡ خَلَتِ النُّذُرُ مِنۡۢ بَيۡنِ يَدَيۡهِ وَمِنۡ خَلۡفِهٖۤ اَلَّا تَعۡبُدُوۡۤا اِلَّا اللّٰهَ ؕ اِنِّىۡۤ اَخَافُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ عَذَابَ يَوۡمٍ عَظِيۡمٍ‏ 
( 21 )   Recount to them the story of (Hud), the brother of (the tribe of) 'Ad. Hud warned his people beside the sand-dunes and there have been other warners before him and since his time saying: “Serve none but Allah. Verily I fear that the chastisement of an awesome day shall come upon you.”
Literally, Ahqaf (plural. of hiqf) are long dunes of sand less in height than mountains, but technically it is a name given to the southern-western part of the Arabian desert (Ar- Rubul-khali) which is wholly un-inhabited.

As the chiefs of the Quraish had a false pride of their superiority and exulted in their wealth and prosperity, the story of Aad is being related to them about whom it was well known that they had been the mightiest people in Arabia.

Ibn Ishaq says that the territory of Aad extended from Oman to Yemen, and the Qur'an tells us that they actually belonged to Al- Ahqaf from where they spread to the adjoining lands and subdued weak nations. 125 miles to the north of the present-day city of Makkah there is a place in Hadramaut, where the people have built a tomb to the Prophet Houd (Hud, peace be upon him), and the place is well known as the grave of Prophet Houd. Even today, there are several ruins in Hadramaut which the natives still call by the name of Dar-Aad (Abode of Aad).

From the present condition of Al-Ahqaf, no one can even imagine that this land might have been the home of a mighty people boasting of magnificent civilization. Probably it was a green and fertile land thousands of years ago, and then the change of climate might have turned it into a sandy desert. Today it is a vast, wind-swept desert, and no one can dare go into its interior. In 1843 A.D. a Bavarian soldier was able to reach its southern edge. He says that if one looks down from the northern plateau of Hadramaut one can see this desert about a thousand feet in the depression. The Arab Bedouins fear this land and are never willing to step into it at any cost. Once when the Bedouins were not ready to take him there, he went by himself. He says that the sand there is very fine powder, and when he threw a plummet into it from a distance, it sank into it within five minutes and the end of the line to which it was attached, also decayed.
 ( 22 )   They said, "Have you come to delude us away from our gods? Then bring us what you promise us, if you should be of the truthful."( 23 )   He said, "Knowledge [of its time] is only with Allah, and I convey to you that with which I was sent; but I see you [to be] a people behaving ignorantly."( 24 )   And when they saw it as a cloud approaching their valleys, they said, "This is a cloud bringing us rain!" Rather, it is that for which you were impatient: a wind, within it a painful punishment,
( 25 )   Destroying everything by command of its Lord. And they became so that nothing was seen [of them] except their dwellings. Thus do We recompense the criminal people.
For the details of the story of Aad, see (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayats 65-72); (Surah Houd, Ayats 50-60); (Surah Al- Muminun, Ayats 31-41); (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayats 123-140); (Surah Al-Ankabut, Ayat 40); (Surah Ha Mim Ayats 15-16).
( 26 )   And We had certainly established them in such as We have not established you, and We made for them hearing and vision and hearts. But their hearing and vision and hearts availed them not from anything [of the punishment] when they were [continually] rejecting the signs of Allah; and they were enveloped by what they used to ridicule.
An important truth has been stated in this brief sentence. It is only the revelations of Allah which give the right knowledge and understanding of the truth and reality to man. If man has this understanding and knowledge he sees the right thing with his eyes, hears the right thing with his ears, thinks the right thing with his mind and intellect and takes the right decisions. But when he refuses to believe in the revelations of Allah, he fails to see the truth in spite of the eyes, becomes deaf to every word of admonition in spite of the ears, and misuses the blessings of the mind and intellect that God has granted him, and goes on drawing wrong conclusions one after the other, so much so that he starts using all his capabilities for his own destruction.

Ruku 4 (Verse 27-35)
In verses 27-28 it is stressed upon the fact that no deity can save people from the wrath of Allah:
( 27 )   And We have already destroyed what surrounds you of [those] cities, and We have diversified the signs [or verses] that perhaps they might return [from disbelief].
( 28 )   Then why did those they took besides Allah as deities by which to approach [Him] not aid them? But they had strayed from them. And that was their falsehood and what they were inventing.
Here, there is no indication as to who gave them this answer. However, the style shows explicitly that this was the answer they were given by the existing conditions. They thought it was a cloud which was coming to give rain to their valleys, but in reality it was a windstorm that was coming on to completely exterminate them.

Verses 29-34 make a mention when a group of jinns embraced Islam after hearing Al-Quran and became the preachers to their folk:
( 29 )   And [mention, O Muhammad], when We directed to you a few of the jinn, listening to the Qur'an. And when they attended it, they said, "Listen quietly." And when it was concluded, they went back to their people as warners.
Most commentators concur that this incident of the first visit of the jinns, which has been mentioned in this verse, had occurred in the valley of Nakhlah. And this incident occurred during the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) return journey from Taif to Makkah. On the way, when he halted at Nakhlah, and was reciting the Quran in the Isha or the Fajr or the Tahajjud Prayer, a group of the jinns happened to pass by and stopped to listen to him. In this connection, all the traditions agree that on this occasion the jinns did not appear before the Prophet (peace be upon him), nor did he feel their presence, but Allah informed him afterwards by revelation that they had come and listened to the Quranic recitation.

The place where this incident took place was either Az- Zaimah or AsSayl-ul-Kabir, for both these places are situated in the valley of Nakhlah and at both water is available and are green; if the travelers from Taif have to halt in this valley, they can halt at either of the places.
( 30 )   They said, "O our people, indeed we have heard a [recited] Book revealed after Moses confirming what was before it which guides to the truth and to a straight path.
This shows that these jinns had already had faith in the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and in the divine Books. After hearing the Quran they felt that it gave the same teachings as the former Prophets had been preaching. Therefore, they believed in this Book forthwith and also in the Prophet (peace be upon him) who had brought it.
( 31 )   O our people, respond to the Messenger of Allah and believe in him; Allah will forgive for you your sins and protect you from a painful punishment.
Authentic traditions show that after this several deputations of the jinns visited the Prophet (peace be upon him), one after the other, and met him face to face. When all the traditions related in the collections of Hadith on this subject are read together, it appears that at least six deputations had visited him in Makkah before the Hijrah.

About one of these deputations, Abdullah bin Masud relates: One day the Prophet (peace be upon him) remained missing from Makkah for the whole night. We could not know his whereabouts and feared he might have been attacked by somebody. Early in the morning we saw him coming from the direction of Hira. On inquiring he said that a jinn had come to invite him and he had accompanied him and recited the Quran to a gathering of them there. (Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud).

Abdullah bin Masud has related another tradition, saying: Once the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked his companions in Makkah as to which of them would accompany him that night to meet the jinns. I became ready to go with him. At a place in the upper quarters of Makkah the Prophet (peace be upon him) drew a line and told me not to cross it. Then he went forward and stood and began to recite the Quran. I saw that a number of the people had gathered around him and they stood between me and him.
( 32 )   But he who does not respond to the Caller of Allah will not cause failure [to Him] upon earth, and he will not have besides Him any protectors. Those are in manifest error."
This sentence might also be a part of the saying of the jinns, or it might be an addition by Allah to their saying. In view of the context the second view seems to be more reasonable.
( 33 )   Do they not see that Allah, who created the heavens and earth and did not fail in their creation, is able to give life to the dead? Yes. Indeed, He is over all things competent.( 34 )   And the Day those who disbelieved are exposed to the Fire [it will be said], "Is this not the truth?" They will say, "Yes, by our Lord." He will say, "Then taste the punishment because you used to disbelieve."
The concluding verse stress upon the believers to keep on passing the message of Allah and bear the disbelievers with patience
( 35 ) So be patient, [O Muhammad], as were those of determination among the messengers and do not be impatient for them. It will be - on the Day they see that which they are promised - as though they had not remained [in the world] except an hour of a day. [This is] notification. And will [any] be destroyed except the defiantly disobedient people?
That is, just as the Prophets before you went on enduring with patience and ceaseless struggle the indifference, opposition, resistance and persecutions of their people for years, so should you also do the same, and do not entertain the idea that either the people should believe in you immediately or if they do not believe, Allah should visit them with His torment.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Surah Al-Aḥqāf with English subtitles:

You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary / exegesis 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 |
An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic souses and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. However, the exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran are basically based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites. 

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