English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 21: Al-Anbiya — The Prophets (Revealed at Makkah: 7 sections, 112 verses)

Section 1 (Verses 21:1–21:10): Judgment Approaches

Translation:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Part 1721:1 Their reckoning draws near to people, and they turn away in heedlessness.
21:2 No new Reminder comes to them from their Lord but they hear it while they play,
21:3 their hearts trifling. And they — the wrongdoers — counsel in secret: He is nothing but a mortal like yourselves; will you then yield to enchantment while you see?
21:4 He said: My Lord knows (every) utterance in the heaven and the earth, and He is the Hearer, the Knower.
21:5 Indeed, say they: Confused dreams! Rather, he has forged it! Rather, he is a poet! so let him bring us a sign such as the former (prophets) were sent (with).1
21:6 Not a town believed before them which We destroyed: will they then believe?2
21:7 And We did not send before you any but men to whom We sent revelation; so ask the followers of the Reminder if you do not know.
21:8 Nor did We give them bodies not eating food, nor did they live forever.3
21:9 Then We made Our promise good to them; so We delivered them and whom We pleased, and We destroyed the extravagant.
21:10 Certainly We have revealed to you a Book which will give you eminence. Do you not then understand?4

Commentary:

  1. The Quraish were quite puzzled, and hostile critics of the Quran are still puzzled, what they could liken the Quran to. They first call it siḥr, i.e., skilful eloquence, because, despite their opposition to it, it had an attraction for them. But then there are prophecies which mere eloquence cannot produce, so they call it confused dreams or medleys of dreams. Then they think that there is a settled purpose in it, by reason of its asserting the Prophet’s triumph and the discomfiture of his powerful enemies, so they call it an intentional forgery; and lastly, as if to devise one word combining all these, they call him a poet. Then they demand a sign like one given to the former prophets, meaning their destruction, because the Quran had repeatedly called their attention to the fate of those who had rejected the truth before them.
  2. They are told in reply that persistence in wickedness and disbelief has always been punished with destruction.
  3. Thus every prophet had a mortal body needing food for its support, and every one of them tasted of death. Therefore Jesus also must have had a body which stood in need of food and must have tasted of death. The idea that he is alive is clearly opposed to this verse.
  4. Whenever the opponents demand that the threatened punishment should come, the reply always is that the Quran is a blessing and a mercy for them. The same truth is expressed here. They are told that the Quran has been revealed to make them a great and eminent nation in the world. Dhikr means emi­nence, fame, renown, honour as well as reminder. Also see 2:152 footnote.

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