English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 34: Al-Saba — The Saba (Revealed at Makkah: 6 sections, 54 verses)

Section 2 (Verses 34:10–34:21): Favours followed by Retribution

Translation:

وَ لَقَدۡ اٰتَیۡنَا دَاوٗدَ مِنَّا فَضۡلًا ؕ یٰجِبَالُ اَوِّبِیۡ مَعَہٗ وَ الطَّیۡرَ ۚ وَ اَلَنَّا لَہُ الۡحَدِیۡدَ ﴿ۙ۱۰﴾

34:10 And certainly We gave David abundance from Us: O mountains, repeat praises with him,1 and the birds, and We made iron pliant to him,2

اَنِ اعۡمَلۡ سٰبِغٰتٍ وَّ قَدِّرۡ فِی السَّرۡدِ وَ اعۡمَلُوۡا صَالِحًا ؕ اِنِّیۡ بِمَا تَعۡمَلُوۡنَ بَصِیۡرٌ ﴿۱۱﴾

34:11 saying: Make ample (coats of mail), and assign a time to the making of coats of mail and (O people) do good. Surely I am Seer of what you do.3

وَ لِسُلَیۡمٰنَ الرِّیۡحَ غُدُوُّہَا شَہۡرٌ وَّ رَوَاحُہَا شَہۡرٌ ۚ وَ اَسَلۡنَا لَہٗ عَیۡنَ الۡقِطۡرِ ؕ وَ مِنَ الۡجِنِّ مَنۡ یَّعۡمَلُ بَیۡنَ یَدَیۡہِ بِاِذۡنِ رَبِّہٖ ؕ وَ مَنۡ یَّزِغۡ مِنۡہُمۡ عَنۡ اَمۡرِنَا نُذِقۡہُ مِنۡ عَذَابِ السَّعِیۡرِ ﴿۱۲﴾

34:12 And (We made) the wind (subservient) to Solomon; it made a month’s journey in the morning and a month’s journey in the evening;4 and We made a fountain of molten brass to flow for him.5 And some of the jinn worked before him by the command of his Lord. And whoever turned aside from Our command from among them, We made him taste of the punishment of burning.6

یَعۡمَلُوۡنَ لَہٗ مَا یَشَآءُ مِنۡ مَّحَارِیۡبَ وَ تَمَاثِیۡلَ وَ جِفَانٍ کَالۡجَوَابِ وَ قُدُوۡرٍ رّٰسِیٰتٍ ؕ اِعۡمَلُوۡۤا اٰلَ دَاوٗدَ شُکۡرًا ؕ وَ قَلِیۡلٌ مِّنۡ عِبَادِیَ الشَّکُوۡرُ ﴿۱۳﴾

34:13 They made for him what he pleased, of synagogues and images, and bowls (large) as watering-troughs and fixed cooking-pots.7 Give thanks, O people of David! And very few of My servants are grateful.

فَلَمَّا قَضَیۡنَا عَلَیۡہِ الۡمَوۡتَ مَا دَلَّہُمۡ عَلٰی مَوۡتِہٖۤ اِلَّا دَآبَّۃُ الۡاَرۡضِ تَاۡکُلُ مِنۡسَاَتَہٗ ۚ فَلَمَّا خَرَّ تَبَیَّنَتِ الۡجِنُّ اَنۡ لَّوۡ کَانُوۡا یَعۡلَمُوۡنَ الۡغَیۡبَ مَا لَبِثُوۡا فِی الۡعَذَابِ الۡمُہِیۡنِ ﴿ؕ۱۴﴾

34:14 But when We decreed death for him, nothing showed them his death but a creature of the earth that ate away his staff. So when it fell down, the jinn saw clearly that, if they had known the unseen, they would not have remained in humiliating torment.8

لَقَدۡ کَانَ لِسَبَاٍ فِیۡ مَسۡکَنِہِمۡ اٰیَۃٌ ۚ جَنَّتٰنِ عَنۡ یَّمِیۡنٍ وَّ شِمَالٍ ۬ؕ کُلُوۡا مِنۡ رِّزۡقِ رَبِّکُمۡ وَ اشۡکُرُوۡا لَہٗ ؕ بَلۡدَۃٌ طَیِّبَۃٌ وَّ رَبٌّ غَفُوۡرٌ ﴿۱۵﴾

34:15 Certainly there was a sign for Saba in their abode — two gardens on the right and the left.9 Eat of the sustenance of your Lord and give thanks to Him. A good land and a Forgiving Lord!

فَاَعۡرَضُوۡا فَاَرۡسَلۡنَا عَلَیۡہِمۡ سَیۡلَ الۡعَرِمِ وَ بَدَّلۡنٰہُمۡ بِجَنَّتَیۡہِمۡ جَنَّتَیۡنِ ذَوَاتَیۡ اُکُلٍ خَمۡطٍ وَّ اَثۡلٍ وَّ شَیۡءٍ مِّنۡ سِدۡرٍ قَلِیۡلٍ ﴿۱۶﴾

34:16 But they turned aside, so We sent upon them a violent torrent,10 and in place of their two gardens We gave them two gardens yielding bitter fruit and (growing) tamarisk and a few lote-trees.

ذٰلِکَ جَزَیۡنٰہُمۡ بِمَا کَفَرُوۡا ؕ وَ ہَلۡ نُجٰزِیۡۤ اِلَّا الۡکَفُوۡرَ ﴿۱۷﴾

34:17 With this We recompensed them because they were ungrateful; and We punish none but the ungrateful.

وَ جَعَلۡنَا بَیۡنَہُمۡ وَ بَیۡنَ الۡقُرَی الَّتِیۡ بٰرَکۡنَا فِیۡہَا قُرًی ظَاہِرَۃً وَّ قَدَّرۡنَا فِیۡہَا السَّیۡرَ ؕ سِیۡرُوۡا فِیۡہَا لَیَالِیَ وَ اَیَّامًا اٰمِنِیۡنَ ﴿۱۸﴾

34:18 And We made, between them and the towns which We had blessed, (other) towns within sight,11 and We determined the journey between them (to be easy): Travel through them nights and days, secure.

فَقَالُوۡا رَبَّنَا بٰعِدۡ بَیۡنَ اَسۡفَارِنَا وَ ظَلَمُوۡۤا اَنۡفُسَہُمۡ فَجَعَلۡنٰہُمۡ اَحَادِیۡثَ وَ مَزَّقۡنٰہُمۡ کُلَّ مُمَزَّقٍ ؕ اِنَّ فِیۡ ذٰلِکَ لَاٰیٰتٍ لِّکُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَکُوۡرٍ ﴿۱۹﴾

34:19 But (it was as if) they said: Our Lord, make longer stages between our journeys.12 And they wronged themselves; so We made them stories and scattered them a total scattering. Surely there are signs in this for every patient, grateful one.

وَ لَقَدۡ صَدَّقَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ اِبۡلِیۡسُ ظَنَّہٗ فَاتَّبَعُوۡہُ اِلَّا فَرِیۡقًا مِّنَ الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ ﴿۲۰﴾

34:20 And the devil indeed found true his conjecture about them, so they follow him, except a group of the believers.

وَ مَا کَانَ لَہٗ عَلَیۡہِمۡ مِّنۡ سُلۡطٰنٍ اِلَّا لِنَعۡلَمَ مَنۡ یُّؤۡمِنُ بِالۡاٰخِرَۃِ مِمَّنۡ ہُوَ مِنۡہَا فِیۡ شَکٍّ ؕ وَ رَبُّکَ عَلٰی کُلِّ شَیۡءٍ حَفِیۡظٌ ﴿٪۲۱﴾

34:21 And he has no authority over them, but that We may know him who believes in the Hereafter from him who is in doubt about it. And your Lord is the Preserver of all things.

Commentary:

  1. By the mountains repeating praises of Allah, some understand the praising of Allah in the sense in which all inanimate objects are spoken of in the Quran as glorifying God, while others think that the mountains’ echoing of David’s loud praises is meant. But the mention of birds, the attendants of a vic­torious army (see 16:79), and iron along with it shows that the reference is to the conquests of David; and the singing of praises by the mountains therefore carries the significance of those residing on mountains yielding to David.
  2. The making of iron pliant to him signifies the extensive use of iron by him in his battles, and so do the coats of mail in the next verse.
  3. David is enjoined to prepare himself and his army for severe battles, hence the necessity of coats of mail to save life. Some think that the command­ment signifies that David should not take anything from the treasury for his own livelihood, and that he should earn his livelihood by an industry, such as the mak­ing of coats of mail. According to one interpretation, assigning a time indi­cates that David is commanded not to employ his whole time in such occupations, for the real object is to do good.
  4. See 21:81. The significance is that Solomon’s ships were made to traverse a month’s journey in a day by favourable winds. For Solomon’s navy, see 1 Kings 9:26. But it should be noted that rīḥ (“wind”) means also power or dominance or conquest, and therefore the meaning may be that Solomon’s king­dom was so large that it was a month’s journey to the East and a month’s journey to the West.
  5. See 2 Chronicles, 4:2.
  6. These jinn were no other than the strangers whom Solomon sub­jected to his rule and forced into service. See 2 Chronicles, 2:17–18. Note that the jinn of this verse are the “devils” (shayāṭīn) of 38:37 — “(We subjected to Solomon) the devils, every builder and diver” — where the devils are explained by the Quran itself to be no others than the builders and divers whom Solomon had forced into labour.
  7. For the graving of cherubims on the walls, see 2 Chronicles, 3:7; for the casting of oxen, 2 Chronicles, 4:3; for the making of lavers, pots, basins, etc., 2 Chronicles, 4:11, 14.
  8. The reference in the creature of the earth that ate away his staff is to his son’s weak rule, under whom the kingdom of Solomon went to pieces. It appears that Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam, led a life of luxury and ease, and instead of acting on the advice of the older men, he yielded to the pleasure-seeking wishes of his companions (1 Kings 12:13), and it is to his luxurious habits and easy mode of life that the Quran refers when it calls him a creature of the earth. The eating away of his staff signifies the disruption of the kingdom. The jinn, as already remarked, mean the rebellious tribes who had been reduced to subjection by Solomon, and who remained in subjection to the Israelites for a time, until the kingdom was shattered. This instance, as well as the one following, contains a warning for the Muslims as to the result of falling into luxury and ease, by which, however, they benefited little; the ultimate fate of the respective king­doms of the Umayyads and Abbasides was the same as that of Solomon’s kingdom. See also 38:34.
  9. Saba’ was a city in Yaman, about three days’ journey from San‘a. Note that it is usual to speak of two gardens, for large cultivated areas were bounded by a garden on each side.
  10. The bursting of the dyke of this city and its destruction by a flood are historically known facts, and took place in about the first or second century C.E.
  11. The cities were so close to each other that one could be seen from the other, or they were conspicuous from the road. It is an indication of the great prosperity of the country. The blessed towns are the towns of Syria, with which they carried on trade.
  12. It is not necessary that they should have thus prayed in words. It is a description of their actual condition, i.e., they were not grateful for the blessings and fell into evil ways, which resulted in punishment overtaking them.

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