English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 32: Al-Sajdah — The Adoration (Revealed at Makkah: 3 sections, 30 verses)

Section 2 (Verses 32:12–32:22): Believers and Disbelievers — a Comparison

Translation:

32:12 And if only you could see when the guilty hang their heads before their Lord: Our Lord, we have seen and heard, so send us back, we will do good; we are (now) certain.
32:13 And if We had pleased, We could have given every soul its guidance, but the word from Me was just: I will certainly fill hell with jinn and people, all together.1
32:14 So taste, because you forgot the meeting of this Day of yours; surely We forsake you; and taste the abiding punishment for what you did.
32:15 Only they believe in Our messages who, when they are reminded of them, fall down prostrate and celebrate the praise of their Lord, and they are not proud.Prostration
32:16 They forsake (their) beds, calling upon their Lord in fear and in hope, and spend (on good works) out of what We have given them.2
32:17 So no soul knows what joy of the eyes is hidden for them: a reward for what they did.3
32:18 Is he then, who is a believer, like him who is a transgressor? They are not equal.
32:19 As for those who believe and do good deeds, for them are Gardens, a refuge — an entertainment for what they did.
32:20 And as for those who transgress, their refuge is the Fire. Whenever they desire to go forth from it, they are brought back into it, and it is said to them: Taste the punishment of the Fire, which you called a lie.
32:21 And certainly We will make them taste the nearer punishment before the greater punishment, that perhaps they may turn.4
32:22 And who is more unjust than he who is reminded of the messages of his Lord, then he turns away from them? Surely We exact retribution from the guilty.

Commentary:

  1. God’s word, as the Quran says so often, is that the right way has been pointed out to man but he is given the choice to accept or reject it, and that those who rejected that word and did not forsake evil ways would go to hell. The reference in if We had pleased is to the fact that man is not compelled to submit to the Divine law. His superiority lies in the fact that he has been given a choice. If he exercises that choice rightly, he attains to eminence; if he exercises it wrongly, he must taste the evil consequences of his deeds.
  2. The literal significance of the original words for they forsake is their sides draw away from, showing that they are restless in their beds. These are the foundations of the culture of Islam, passing part of the night in remembering Allah, and passing the day in earning wealth to spend in the way of Allah for the benefit of humanity.
  3. This is a true description of what the blessings of paradise are: No soul knows what joy of the eyes is hidden for them. These blessings are hidden from the physical eye of man, and therefore their description in words which convey an idea of the blessings of this life is metaphorical. Words cannot reveal to us the real nature of those blessings. The Holy Prophet’s own comment on these words shows this, for he is reported to have said: “Allah says, I have pre­pared for My righteous servants that which no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and which the heart of man cannot conceive” (Bukhari, 59:8).
  4. By the nearer punishment is meant the earthly punishment, which might serve as a warning against the greater punishment of the Hereafter. The opponents of Truth are thus told that they must taste a punishment in this life, too, and the description of it given in the previous verse — whenever they desire to go forth from it, they are brought back into it — manifestly applies to modern world conditions, when materialism has taken hold of the minds of people. The wars raging in the world are the fire of this life, and, however much the warring nations may desire to get out of them, they are brought back into them.

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