Test Page 1

Verses 1 – 10


(I swear) by those who stand in rows, [I] then by those who prevent firmly [2], then by those who recite the dhikr, [3] surely your God is but One, [4] the Lord of the heavens and the earth and what is between them, and Lord of the points of the sunrise. [5] Verily, We have decorated the nearest sky with an adornment, the stars, [6] and (have made them ) a security against every rebellious shaitan (satan). [7] They cannot listen to the Upper Realm and are hit from every side [8] to be driven off, and for them there is a lasting punishment, [9] however, if one snatches a little bit, he is pursued by a bright flame. [10]


Subjects of the Surah

This Surah is Makki, that is, it was revealed in Makkah. Like other Makki Surahs, matters of faith have been taken up as its essential subject. In it, beliefs about Divine Oneness, the mission of messengers and the certain eventuality of the Hereafter have been fortified with proofs presented in various ways. As a corollary, a refutation of the beliefs of Mushriks as well as the scenes of Paradise and Hell also appear in the Surah.

After providing rational support for beliefs that formed part of the call of the noble prophets (alayhis salaam) and after removing doubts and objections raised by disbelievers, the Surah describes how Allah Ta’ala dealt with those who embraced these beliefs in the past and what was the fate of those who opted to take the road to denial and disbelief. Accordingly, in this respect, events relating to Sayyidina Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, Harun, Ilyas, Lut and Yunus (alayhimus salaam) have been mentioned, briefly at some places and in detail at others.

The Mushriks of Makkah used to call angels: Daughters of God. Towards the end, this belief has been refuted in detail and an overall view of the Surah seems to indicate that the refutation of this particular kind of shirk (ascribing partners to the Divinity of Allah by declaring angels to be the daughters of God) has been kept in marked sight. Therefore, the Surah has been initiated with an oath taken in the name of angels combined with a declaration of the attributes of their servitude. (And Allah, who is Pure, knows best).

Tauhid: The Oneness of Allah is the first subject

The Surah has been initiated by a description of the belief in Tauhid, the Oneness of Allah and the real purpose of the first four verses is to state:

(surely your God is but One – 37:4).

But, before this is asserted, three oaths are sworn ahead of it. A simple literal translation of these oaths is given below:

“( I swear ) by those who stand in rows, [1] then by those who prevent firmly [2], then by those who recite the dhikr.” [3]

Who are these people identified as “those who stand in rows,” then, “those who prevent firmly” and then, “those who recite the dhikr?” There is no clarification in the words of the noble Qur’an about it. Therefore, different views have been expressed to explain it. Some respected commentators say that these refer to living warriors who come out to wage Jihad in the way of Allah and who stand in rows after rows, so that they prevent the aggression of the forces of falsehood, and even when they file in readiness for combat, even then, they remain engaged in dhikr, tasbih and the recitation of the Qur’an as well.

Some others have said that they mean the performers of prayers who stand in rows in the Masjid and prevent Satanic thoughts denying access to them by means of total concentration on dhikr and the recitation of the Qur’an (Tafsir Kabir and Qurtubi). Other than these, there are some explanations that do not bear much congruity with the actual words of the Qur’an.

But, the Tafsir or explanation which found the widest acceptance with the majority of commentators was that the reference here is to angels, and given here are three attributes credited to them:

1. The first attribute is: (those who stand in rows). This expression comes from the word: “Saff” and it means ‘to align some group on a straight line’ (Qurtubi). Thus, it means precisely as it has been translated above. That the angels stand in the formation of rows has also been mentioned later in this very Surah:

(and We, surely We are those who stand in rows – 37:165).

When are these rows formed? In answer to that, some respected commentators – such as, Sayyiduna lbn ‘Abbas, Hasan al-Basri and Qatadah – have said that angels are always standing in their rows in space awaiting the command of their Lord, and when it comes, they carry it out (Mazhari). Some others particularize it with the time of worship, that is, when the angels are engaged in ‘ibadah, dhikr and tasbih (worship, remembrance and glorification of Allah), they are in a row formation (Tafsir Kablr).

Discipline is desirable in Islam

From this verse, we learn that doing everything in an organized and disciplined manner and giving due consideration to order and skill in whatever we do is something expected of us and is certainly liked by Allah Ta’ala. It is obvious that the two objectives of the worship of Allah Ta’ala and the implementation of His command might have as well been achieved if the angels, rather than form rows, could have assembled in the form of a disorganized mob. But, instead of being subjected to something so haphazard, they were given the taufiq or ability to make rows. Then, by mentioning this very attribute first out of their good attributes in this verse, it was pointed out that Allah Ta’ala likes this style of propriety very much.