Surah al-An‘aam


'The Livestock'

Sent down at Makka and at Madina, its portents 165.

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

A beginning in the name of the God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, who mercies the slaves and bestows upon them.

As the previous surah concluded with the dominion of the heavens and the earth being Allah’s, so this surah begins in the same way as that conclusion:

Praise be Allah’s, who created the heavens and the earth

and set the darknesses and the light,

thereupon those who disbelieve in their Master



Praise be Allah’s, who created the heavens and the earth… ‘Praise’ is given for al-hamd, literally ‘the praise’, meaning that all praise is Allah’s, since all praises return ultimately to Him. ‘The heavens’ (al-samawaat) normally comes in plural form, whereas ‘the earth’ come sin the singular. This shows that the heavens are so many more than the earths, for otherwise there are also seven earths – as He says, glorified be He, ‘…and the earth the same as them.’ (65:13).

…and set the darknesses and the light,… That is, He made their existence. Darkness is the non-existence of a quality (‘adam malaka) so that its creation is the creation of non-existence, yet those things that efface a quality have a share in existence, the philosophers say. ‘Darknesses’ (zulumaat) comes in the plural in conformity with the previous ‘heavens and the earth’. Perhaps the plural is on account of how darkness divides around light, for light splits the path of darkness which is then divided. Or perhaps it is on account of how darkness has different qualities, in that the nearer it is to the light, the less dense it becomes.

Allah, glorified be He, then expresses indignation at those who take rivals instead of Allah, when all things belong to Allah, glorified be He:    

…thereupon those who disbelieve… Despite all these portents and proofs.

…in their Master equate. That is, they equate Him to other than Him, and put Him as an equivalent, a partner, a likeness of other things, although they have no signs and created nothing. (1)

Because the general current of this surah revolves around beliefs in the Origin and the Return, and the existential things that He has created, glorified be He, the portents of this surah turn from belief to belief, and from creation to creation:

He it is who created ye from earth,

then decreed a term,

and a named term is alongside Him,

thereupon ye,

ye are in doubt.


He it is who created ye from earth,… Either as the sons of Adam, wellbeing be upon him, or as far as every human being is created from earth and water, for the human is created from sperm, which derives from animal and vegetable, both of which are from earth and water.

…then decreed a term,… A period for man in general, until the world is ended; or for each individual there is an allotted life span which he cannot exceed.

…and a named term is alongside Him,…  This is a complete, sufficient phrase. Either it adds detail to the previous ‘decreed a term’, so that it means that it is Allah who is the origin of the term named for every person, and all others can do is journey through their terms; or the meaning is that the resurrection, which concludes the term and the period of human existence in the world alive and dead, is alongside Him – that is, in His hands is the commencement of the Hour.

…thereupon ye,… Ye, O human beings.  

…ye are in doubt.  Ye doubt about Allah, glorified be He, and ye doubt that creation, death and the resurrection are in the hands of none but Him. (2)

How can ye doubt about Him and take others as His partners, given that:

And He is Allah

in the heavens and the earth.

He knows the hidden of ye

and the open of ye,

and He knows what ye earn.


And He is Allah… There is no god other than Him.

…in the heavens and the earth…. The creator and disposer of all of existence is none but Allah, as opposed to those who designate a god for the sky, and another for the earth. The adverb ‘in’ is metaphorical, for Allah, glorified be He, is located in no place, for a place would mean Him having a limit, which would mean Him having parts, and these are the attributes of the created, not of the Creator.

…He knows the secret of ye…  Hidden, concealed, whether kept secret or simply concealed in the breast.

…and the open of ye,… It means all the things that people are open about, the opposite of both the above meanings.

…and He knows what ye earn. That is: the actions ye do, for actions are among the things that people earn. In this portent is a refutation of those who say that the heavens and the earth are eternal, and secondly of those who claim two gods, one of light and one of darkness, and thirdly of the partnerists who assign partners to Him, glorified be He, and finally of those ignorant philosophers who hold that His knowledge or His power is not universal and all-comprehending, as well as of other deviated beliefs about the God of all existence. (3)

Thereupon He informs, glorified be He, about the disbelievers who were mentioned at the beginning of the surah:

And no portent comes to them

among the portents of their Master

save that from it

they turn away.


And no portent comes to them… ‘Portent’ (ayah) means miracle, evidence, proof, conclusive demonstration.

…among the portents of their Master … Demonstrating His existence and the genuineness of the message of Allah’s Messenger, may Allah condescend upon him and his House.

…save that from it they turn away. They refused to accept the clear evidences, not considering the matter fairly in a rational way. (4)

And they certainly belied the truth when it came to them,

so shortly shall come to them

the announcements of what they were ridiculing.


And they certainly belied the truth when it came to them,… The disbelievers belied the Quran and the Messenger and the other portents.

…so shortly… On the day of resurrection. Or it means in the world, when the Messenger was triumphant and His genuineness was clear through his pre-eminence and domination.

…shall come to them the announcements of what they were ridiculing. The truth. The portent is a warning, a threat. (5)

He then warns them, glorified be He, lest they be afflicted by that which afflicted the previous communities on account of their belying and disobedience and insolence regarding the affair of their Divine Master:

Have they not seen how many a generation before them

We have destroyed – 

We facilitated them in the earth with such

that We have not facilitated for ye.

And We sent down the heaven upon them in torrents,

and We set rivers flowing under them,

Then We destroyed them for their sins,

and after them We produced a generation, others.


Have they not seen how many a generation before them We have destroyed… ‘Seen’, here, has the meaning of ‘know’, that is: ‘Do they not know how many…’ The interrogative is a criticism and a reminder. ‘Generation’ is put for qarn, meaning the people of a particular period.

–We facilitated them in the earth… Those previous generations and communities were set up in that they were made rulers and leaders, with large numbers and extensive equipment and resources.

…with such that We have not facilitated for ye…. Their resources were more than those of the addressees. These seem to be the disbelievers of the time of the Messenger, may Allah condescend upon him and his House, in particular, in that the earlier generations had more resources than them. There is no room to say that the resources and possibilities of the former generations was more than all of those who come after, until the judgement day, which is what would lead from the address being general. On the contrary, it is clear from ‘have they not seen’ that the nations meant are those before the disbelievers in the age of the Messenger, may Allah condescend upon him and his House, for they had seen the reports of those nations, not those that came later.

…And We sent down the heaven upon them in torrents,… ‘Torrents’ is given for midrar, a superlative for heavy rain, so that they are endowed with goodness and blessings and wealth. ‘Sending down the heaven’ means ‘sending down rain’, an instance of a condition being given the name of the location of that condition, which is not unknown in Arabic literature.

…and We set rivers flowing under them,…That is, He created their waters that flow under their palaces and villas, and at the bottom of their gardens, below their shrubs and trees. Or it is ‘under’ in the sense that the water levels are generally lower than the land on which people walk. But all of this was of no use to their survival or renown.

…Then We destroyed them for their sins,… They were destroyed in that they had no personal survival, no traces of their identities were left, and no offspring and descendants. And this was on account of their disobedience and their disbelief, in contrast to the Prophets and the virtuous who have remained among the people until today, whose virtues and good deeds have preserved their traces, their renown and their actions.  

…and after them We produced a generation, others. After them, He created another nation, and a community of others. (6)

Then He explains, glorified be He, that the disbelievers cling stubbornly and obstinately to their disbelief, and that it is not that they do not know the truth:

And had We sent down upon thee a book in sheets,

for them to touch with their hands,

those who disbelieve would have said,

‘This is nothing but clear magic.’


And had We sent down upon thee… Upon Allah’s Messenger, may Allah condescend upon him and his House.

a book in sheets,… That is, written down on sheets of paper, testifying to his genuineness.

…for them to touch with their hands,… Sensory, touchable by hand, so that they could be certain that it was not some jugglery or a trick of the eyes.

…those who disbelieve would have said, ‘This… That is, the book.

…is nothing but clear magic.’ Still they would not have corroborated it, but would have denounced it as plain magic, the clear tricks of a conjurer. It is said that they portent was sent down concerning a group of disbelievers said, ‘O Muhammad, we will not believe in you until you bring us a book from Allah and with it four angels testifying over it that it is from Allah and that you are His messenger.’ (7)

And they say, ‘Why was an angel not sent down upon him?’

And had We sent down an angel, the affair would have been decreed,

and thereupon they would not be regarded.(respited)


And they say, ‘Why was an angel not sent down upon him?’… The disbelievers asked why an angel from the heavens was not sent down with the Messenger, may Allah condescend upon him and his House, confirming him, for them too to confirm and corroborate him. Allah refutes their objection in His word:

…And had We sent down an angel,… In accordance to their churlish demand.

…the affair would have been decreed,… That is, their times would be up, their life-spans would be at an end.  

…and thereupon they would not be regarded. They would have perished, have died. That is because of how Allah’s norm flows: He only sends down an angel to those who stubbornly deny at the time of their deaths. Here it might be objected that this does not answer the disbelievers, for they could then say, ‘Let Allah change His norm and send down an angel and keep us alive until we believe.’ A second question here is: why does Allah’s norm flow in this way? Is not the guidance of the people the purpose of the creation? So why not add to the guidance by sending down an angel? The answer to the first is that the norm of Allah flows in such a way that death follows the sending down of an angel, just as it His norm that being burned follows being cast into a fire. And the disbelievers have no justification for this demand, for the Prophet could say, ‘Why do you want an angel to be sent down? Is it because of your own obstinacy? That is no reason for your request to be granted. Or is it because it would be a miracle, and producing miracles leads to confirmation and corroboration? But I have brought you miracles. Or is it because it is a particular miracle? But reasonable people will not find it necessary to confirm a particular miracle and reject others. It is like when a doctor produces some recommendation, and the patient tells him he wants the recommendation of the leader of the government. Such a thing would be considered idiocy by any one of reason. And as for the second set of questions, Allah knows their obduracy, and that the sending down of an angel would not profit them, as He explained in His word ‘And had We sent down upon thee a book…’. And what would stop them from saying that what they saw as an angel was itself a magical illusion? (8)

And We set him an angel,

We would have made him a man,

And We would have clothed over them as they are clothed.


And they certainly ridiculed the Messengers before thee,

and so that which they were ridiculing

enveloped those of them who rediculed.


Say: travel in the earth,

then look how was the consequence of the beliars.


Say: ‘Whose is that in the heavens and the earth?’

Say: ‘Allah’s – He has written upon Himself mercy

He shall certainly gather you unto the day of resurrection

 – no doubt in it.’

Those who are themselves in deficit,

so they do not believe.


And His is what is still in the night

and the day,

and He is the Hearing,

the Knowing.


Say: ‘Am I to take other than Allah as a Patron –

the Burster open of the heavens and the earth,

and He feeds but eats not?’

Say: ‘Indeed I am ordered to be the first of those submitting,

and be not of the partnerists.’


Say: Indeed I fear,

were I to disobey my Master,

the chastisement of a magnificent day.


Whoso it is turned from that day –

truly Allah has mercied him.

And that is the clear achievement.


And if Allah touches thee with a harm,

there is no lifter of it but Him.

And if He touches thee with a goodness –

He over all things is in power.


And He is the Irresistible over His slaves,

and He is the Wise,

the Informed.


Say: ‘What thing is a greater witnessing?’

Say: ‘Allah is a witness between me and ye,

and this Quran is revealed to me for me to warn ye of Him

and whoso it reaches.

Bear ye witness that along with Him

there are other gods?’

Say: ‘I do not testify.’

Say: ‘He is the One God,

and I am renouncing what you partnerise.’


Those to whom We have given the book recognise him

like they recognise their sons –

those whose selves are in deficit,

and so they believe not.


And who is more wrongful

than whoso forges unto Allah a lie

or belies His portents,

indeed the wrongful thrive not.


The day We muster them,

all together,

then We say to those who partnerised,

‘Where are your partners you were alleging?’


Thereupon their tribulation will be no more than that they say,

‘By Allah, our (Divine) Master,

we were not partnerists.’

Look how they lie against themselves,

and what they forged has strayed from them.


And among them is whoso listens to thee,

though We have set a wrapping over their hearts

lest they understand it,

and in their ears a cavity,

so that though they see every portent,

they do not believe in it

 until when they come to thee wrangling against thee,

those who disbelieve say, ‘This is naught but the fables of the ancients.’


And them, they forbid from him,

and they keep away from him,

while they destroy none but themselves,

and they discern not.


And were thou to see,

when they are set before the fire,

they will say, ‘Would that we be returned

and not belie the portents of our (Divine) Master,

and be among the believers.’


Nay, what they were concealing has manifested,

and were they returned they would revert to what they were forbidden from,

indeed they are the liars.


And they say, ‘This is nought but the worldly life,

and we are not to be raised.’


And were thou to see,

when they are set before their (Divine) Master,

He shall say, ‘Is this not the truth?’

They say, for sure, by our (Divine) Master!’

He says, ‘So taste the chastisement,

for your having been lying.’


Losing are those who belie the meeting with Allah,

until when the Hour comes to them of a sudden,

they say, ‘Anguish is ours, for our neglect in it!’

And they carry their burden on their backs.

Be aware: evil is what they carry.


The worldly life is nought but play and distraction,

but the realm of the hereafter is better

for those who are guardful.

Will ye not reflect?


Truly We know that what they say sorrows thee;

they belie thee not,

nay, the wrongful deny the portents of Allah.


And truly the prophets before thee were belied,

so be restrained at their lying

and their annoying

until Our succour comes to them.

There is no substitutor of Allah’s word,

truly the announcements of the Messengers

have come to thee.


And if their turning away is grievous for thee,

then if thou can reach for a tunnel in the earth

of a ladder in the sky,

so bring them a portent.

And had Allah willed He would have gathered them on the guidance.

So be not of the ignorant.


They alone will answer who hear;

and the dead, Allah raises them,

thereupon to Him they return.


And they say, ‘Why was not a portent

sent down to him from his (Divine) Master?’

Say: ‘Allah is able to send down a portent.’

But most of them know not.


And there is no animal in the earth

and no flyer flying with its wings,

save as nations like yourselves.

We have neglected nothing in the book.

Thereupon unto their (Divine) Master they are mustered.


And those who belie our portents,

are deaf and dumb in darkness.

Whomso Allah wills – He makes him stray;

and whomso He wills – He places him upon a straight road.


Say: ‘Have thou seen if Allah’s chastisement

should come to ye,

or the Hour was to come to ye,

would ye call to other than Allah,

if ye are truthful.


Nay, Him ye would call – and He would

lift that for which ye called,

if He willed – and ye would forget your partnerising.


And truly We sent unto nations before thee

so We took them

with violence and hardship,

that they be humbled.


Would that they were humble

when Our violence came to them;

but their hearts were hardened,

and the devil adorned what they were doing.


So when they forgot what they had been reminded of,

We opened for them the doors of all things,

so that when they were rejoicing

at what they had been given,

We took them suddenly,

and at once they were in despair.


And the remnant of the tribe who wronged was cut –

and praise be Allah’s,

(Divine) Master of the worlds.


Say: ‘Have ye considered,

if Allah were to take your hearing and your sight,

and sealed over your hearts,

who is the god other than Allah who would restore it for ye?

Look how We display the portents;

thereafter them, they shun.


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