English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 23: Al-Muminun — The Believers (Revealed at Makkah: 6 sections, 118 verses)

Section 1 (Verses 23:1–23:22): Success of the Faithful

Translation:

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

Part 1823:1 Successful indeed are the believers,
23:2 who are humble in their prayers,
23:3 and who shun what is vain,
23:4 and who act for the sake of purity,1
23:5 and who restrain their sexual passions2
23:6 except in the presence of their spouses or those whom their right hands possess, for such surely are not to be blamed,3
23:7 but whoever seeks to go beyond that, these are the transgressors —
23:8 and those who are faithful to their trusts and their covenant,
23:9 and those who keep a guard on their prayers.
23:10 These are the heirs,
23:11 who inherit Paradise. In it they will abide.
23:12 And certainly We create man of an extract of clay,4
23:13 then We make him a small life-germ in a firm resting-place,
23:14 then We make the life-germ a clot, then We make the clot a lump of flesh, then We make (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothe the bones with flesh, then We cause it to grow into another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators!5
23:15 Then after that you certainly die.
23:16 Then on the day of Resurrection you will surely be raised up.
23:17 And indeed We have made above you seven ways — and never are We heedless of creation.6
23:18 And We send down water from the cloud according to a measure, then We cause it to settle in the earth, and We are indeed Able to carry it away.
23:19 Then with it We cause to grow gardens of palm-trees and grapes for you. You have therein many fruits, of which you eat;
23:20 and a tree that grows out of Mount Sinai, which produces oil and relish for the eaters.7
23:21 And surely there is a lesson for you in the cattle. We make you to drink of what is in their bellies, and you have in them many advantages and of them you eat,
23:22 and on them and on the ships you are borne.

Commentary:

  1. The words li-l-zakāt mean for the sake of purity or to attain purity. The word zakāt means originally purity, as in 19:13, while zakāt in the sense of due charity is spoken of as being paid or given.
  2. This expression, lit. guard their private parts, means the restraining of sexual passions.
  3. The words mā malakat aimānu-hum, literally “those whom their right hands possess”, usually indicate slaves. It should be noted that this chapter was revealed at Makkah, and the conditions under which slave-girls could be taken as wives were given later at Madinah; see 4:25. If the reference here is to sexual rela­­tions, the permission regarding those whom their right hands possess must be read subject to the conditions of 4:25. It may, however, be added that the ex­pres­sion used in v. 5 means in a wider sense the covering of parts of the body which it is indecent to expose, and in this connection it must be borne in mind that, accord­ing to Islamic rules of decency, the exposure of such parts of the body, as are generally exposed at evening entertainment venues, is disallowed, but a cer­tain degree of freedom is allowed to women in the presence of their husbands and female servants and to men in the presence of their wives and male servants.
  4. The creation of man is here traced back to earth, for the life-germ in sperma is an extract of food, which is drawn from earth in whatever form it may be. While the first eleven verses speak of the spiritual growth of man, his physical growth is here spoken of, and thus a comparison may be established between the physical and the spiritual growth. Though described in the past tense, it is a gene­ral law of the creation of man that is spoken of here. The addition of the words, then We cause it to grow into another creation (v. 14), is to show that man’s creation does not end with the completion of the different stages of physical growth, as in the case of other animals, but he is endowed with certain other faculties — the reference being to the moral and spiritual side of man’s growth.
  5. The several stages in the growth of the human child, as given here, and unknown then, are quite in accordance with scientific investigation. It should be borne in mind that the word fa, meaning then, as used in then We clothe the bones… does not always imply order. This is clear from the context, which states that there is first a lump of flesh, and the nucleus of the bones is generated in this flesh.
  6. Instead of the seven heavens, here we have the seven ways, which may be the orbits of the seven members of the solar system, excluding the earth, as shown by the words above you.
  7. In the tree that grows out of Mount Sinai, and which produces oil, there seems to be reference to the blessed olive tree of 24:35, as representing the Muslim nation.

Top