English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 80: Abasa — He Frowned (Revealed at Makkah: 42 verses)

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Introduction:

Opening with a touching incident as to how a blind man interrupted the Holy Prophet’s conversation with some of the chiefs of the Quraish, and how the Prophet frowned at this interruption, this chapter, to which the incident gives its title, really states that the poor and the humble who accepted the Truth would be raised to eminence, and therefore the Prophet should not be anxious if eminent men did not listen to his message. The chapter thus speaks of the greatness to which the Quran would raise its followers, and of its conquests in the far future. It is one of the very early revelations.

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Translation:

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

80:1 He frowned and turned away,
80:2 because the blind man came to him.1
80:3 And what would make you know that he might purify himself,
80:4 or be mindful, so the Reminder should benefit him?
80:5 As for him who considers himself free from need,
80:6 to him you do attend.
80:7 And no blame is on you, if he does not purify himself.2
80:8 And as to him who comes to you striving hard,
80:9 and he fears —
80:10 to him you pay no regard.
80:11 No! surely it is a Reminder.
80:12 So whoever wishes, let him be mindful of it.
80:13 In honoured books,
80:14 exalted, purified,
80:15 in the hands of scribes,
80:16 noble, virtuous.3
80:17 Woe to man! How ungrateful is he!
80:18 Of what thing did He create him?
80:19 Of a small life-germ. He creates him, then proportions him,4
80:20 then makes the way easy for him,
80:21 then He causes him to die, then assigns to him a grave,
80:22 then, when He will, He raises him to life again.
80:23 No, but he does not fulfil what He commands him.
80:24 Then let man look at his food —
80:25 how We pour down abundant water,
80:26 then split the earth, splitting (it) apart,
80:27 then cause the grain to grow in it,
80:28 and grapes and clover,
80:29 and the olive and the palm,
80:30 and thick gardens,
80:31 and fruits and vegetation —
80:32 a provision for you and your cattle.
80:33 But when the deafening cry comes,5
80:34 the day when a man flees from his brother,
80:35 and his mother and his father,
80:36 and his spouse and his sons.
80:37 Every man of them, that day, will have concern enough to make him indifferent to others.
80:38 Faces on that day will be bright,
80:39 laughing, joyous.
80:40 And faces on that day will have dust on them,
80:41 darkness covering them.6
80:42 Those are the disbelievers, the wicked.

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Commentary:

  1. A blind man came to the Holy Prophet while he was explaining the doctrines of Islam to an assembly of the leaders of the Quraish and, interrupting, asked to be taught what Allah had revealed to him. The Holy Prophet took this untimely interruption ill — he frowned and did not pay any attention to his ques­tion; on which he received this revelation. This incident shows that the source of the Holy Prophet’s revelation was other than his own mind. It may be noted that the Prophet’s inattention to an intruder, while he had not yet finished his conver­sation, was quite natural. He did not chide the intruder for his interruption, but only disliked it and gave him no answer. An individual would himself be the last person to give permanence to a reproval for his own act. Hence the source from which the Holy Prophet received his revela­tion was outside his own heart or his own inclinations. It may be noted that the chief trait of the Holy Prophet’s character was his great regard for the poor. There are numerous incidents on record showing his service of the poor. He not only loved the poor from the time that he was an ordinary citizen to the time that he became the ruler of the whole of Arabia, but he himself chose to be classed among the poor in his life as well as in his death. Even when the wealth of Arabia lay at his feet, and his wives claimed share in that wealth, he showed his readiness to sacrifice every comfort, but not the honour of remaining a poor man.
  2. If the Quraish leaders would not come out of the impurities of sin, the Prophet was not to blame for it, so that on their account he should neglect the poor who came to him earnestly desirous to be delivered from the bondage of sin.
  3. The six verses from 11 to 16 are really a comfort to the Holy Prophet for the hint contained in the first ten is that the leaders would not heed his warn­ing or accept his message, and that therefore he must apply himself to the poor, who would be raised to eminence by the Quran. These verses tell him that the Quran is a tadhkirah, a reminder, a source of eminence (see also 2:152, 7:2, 38:1). Verses 15 and 16 clearly state that the scribes of the Quran will be virtuous men, who will be honoured in the world. Not only was this true of men like Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, who were among the first scribes of the Holy Quran, but even in its later history great rulers of empires earned their livelihood by writing copies of the Quran. Hence the prophecy was given as a comfort to the Holy Prophet that he should not be grieved because the rich and the leaders did not accept him, for the poor who accepted him would be raised to eminence through the Quran.
  4. The word qaddara ordinarily signifies he made a thing according to a measure, or proportioned it, the significance being that God has allotted to man a certain sphere in which he can make progress. But this word sometimes carries the same significance as aqdara, meaning to empower or enable someone. The meaning in this case would be that Allah has not only created man, but he has also given him power and ability, so that he can make progress, if he likes.
  5. The word used signifies a cry that deafens by its vehemence. Hence it is made to apply to the day of Resurrection; but it also means any calamity or mis­fortune, or a severe calamity.
  6. The brightness of the faces spoken of here indicates their joy; their being covered by darkness indicates sorrow or gloom.

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