Surah Al Ala (Arabic: الأعلى‎) is the 87th Surah of the Quran and is classified as a Meccan Surah meaning it’s revelation was before Muhammad (ﷺ) migrated from Mecca to Medina. The English meaning of Al a’la is “The Most High”, “The All Highest”, “Glory to your Lord in the Highest”. It is composed of 19 ayat (verses).

The main theme or lesson we can take from Surah Al-Ala is to reminds us Muslims that Allah knows all. There is nothing that can be hidden or kept in secrecy from him.

One of the goals of the My Islam site is to make it easy to read and understand the Qur’an. After every ayat you’ll find transliteration to make it easy to read Arabic text and the Sahih International English translation to make it easy to understand. At the end of the Surah we’ve included different hadiths which mentions this Surah as well as four different tafseer for those looking to learn more deeply about this Surah.

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Read Surah Al-A’la Transliteration and Tranlsation

Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful

Sabbihisma Rabbikal A’laa
1. Exalt the name of your Lord, the Most High,

Allathee khalaqa fasawwa
2. Who created and proportioned

Wallathee qaddara fahada
3. And Who destined and [then] guided

Wallazeee akhrajal mar’aa
4. And who brings out the pasture

FajaAAalahu ghuthaan ahwa
5. And [then] makes it black stubble.

Sanuqri’uka falaa tansaaa
6. We will make you recite, [O Muhammad], and you will not forget,

Illa ma shaa Allahuinnahu yaAAlamu aljahra wama yakhfa
7. Except what Allah should will. Indeed, He knows what is declared and what is hidden.

Wa nu-yassiruka lilyusraa
8. And We will ease you toward ease.

Fathakkir in nafaAAati aththikra
9. So remind, if the reminder should benefit;

Sa yazzakkaru maiyakhshaa
10. He who fears [ Allah ] will be reminded.

Wayatajannabuha al-ashqa
11. But the wretched one will avoid it –

Allazee yaslan Naaral kubraa
12. [He] who will [enter and] burn in the greatest Fire,

Thumma la yamootu feeha walayahya
13. Neither dying therein nor living.

Qad aflaha man tazakkaa
14. He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself

Wathakara isma rabbihi fasalla
15. And mentions the name of his Lord and prays.

Bal tu’siroonal hayaatad dunyaa
16. But you prefer the worldly life,

Wal-akhiratu khayrun waabqa
17. While the Hereafter is better and more enduring.

Inna haazaa lafis suhu fil oolaa
18. Indeed, this is in the former scriptures,

Suhufi ibraheema wamoosa
19. The scriptures of Abraham and Moses.

Surah Al Ala Hadith:

It was narrated from Ibn Abbas that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to perform Witr and recite: “Glorify the Name of your Lord the Most High,” [Al-A’la (87)] “Say: O you disbelievers!” (Surah Al-Kafirun – 109] and ‘Say: Allah is One.”. [Surah Al-Ikhlas – 112] ‏Grade: Sahih (Darussalam) Sunan Ibn Majah Hadith 1172

It was narrated from Abu ‘Inabah Al-Khawlani that the Prophet (ﷺ) used to recite “Glorify the Name of your Lord the Most High” and “Has there come to you the narration of the overwhelming (i.e., the Day of Resurrection)? [Surah Al-A’la (87) and Surah Al-Ghashiyah (88)] on Friday. Grade: Sahih (Darussalam) Sunan Ibn Majah Hadith 1120

Nu’man b. Bashir reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to recite on two ‘Ids and in Friday prayer: ” Glorify The name of Thy Lord, the Most High” (87:1), and:” Has there come to thee the news of the overwhelming event” (88:1). And when the ‘Id and Jumu’a combined on a day he recited these two (surah) in both the prayers. Sahih Muslim 878 a

Tafsir of Surah Al Asr

It is one thing to read the Qur’an in Arabic, it’s a completely different experience in making it a study. We’ve provided four different sources for tafsir of Surah Ala for those looking to gain a deeper understanding into this Surah, it’s benefits, purpose of revelation, and historical context.

Tafsir by Ibn Kathir of Surah Ala

Which was revealed in Makkah
The Virtues of Surat Al-A`la

This Surah was revealed in Makkah before the migration to Al-Madinah. The proof of this is what Al-Bukhari recorded from Al-Bara’ bin `Azib, that he said, “The first people to come to us (in Al-Madinah) from the Companions of the Prophet were Mus`ab bin `Umayr and Ibn Umm Maktum, who taught us the Qur’an; then `Ammar, Bilal and Sa`d came. Then `Umar bin Al-Khattab came with a group of twenty people, after which the Prophet came. I have not seen the people of Al-Madinah happier with anything more than their happiness with his coming (to Al-Madinah). This was reached to such an extent that I saw the children and little ones saying, `This is the Messenger of Allah who has come.’ Thus, he came, but he did not come until after I had already recited (i.e., learned how to recite)

﴿سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الاّعْلَى ﴾


(Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Most High.) (87:1) as well as other Surahs similar to it.” It has been confirmed in the Two Sahihs that the Messenger of Allah said to Mu`adh,

«هَلَّا صَلَّيْتَ بِــ


﴿سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الاّعْلَى ﴾


﴿وَالشَّمْسِ وَضُحَـهَا ﴾


﴿وَالَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَى ﴾»


(Why didn’t you recite “Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Most High,”; “By the sun and its brightness,” and “By the night when it envelopes.”) Imam Ahmad recorded from An-Nu`man bin Bashir that the Messenger of Allah recited

﴿سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الاّعْلَى ﴾


﴿هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ الْغَـشِيَةِ ﴾

Surat Al-A`la (chapter 87) and Surat Al-Ghashiyh (chapter 88) in the two `Id prayers. If the `Id prayer fell on Friday, he would recite them in both prayers (`Id and Salat Al-Jumu`ah). Muslim also recorded this in his Sahih, as well as Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah. The wording of Muslim and the Sunan compilers says, “He used to recite

﴿سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الاّعْلَى ﴾


﴿هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ الْغَـشِيَةِ ﴾


Surat Al-A`la (chapter 87) and Surat Al-Ghashiyh (chapter 88) for the two `Ids and Jumu`ah. If they occurred on the same day, he would recite them in both of them.” In his Musnad, Imam Ahmad recorded on the authority of Ubayy bin Ka`b, Abdullah bin `Abbas, `Abdur-Rahman bin Abza, and the Mother of the believers, `A’ishah, that the Messenger of Allah used to recite

﴿سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الاّعْلَى ﴾


﴿قُلْ يأَيُّهَا الْكَـفِرُونَ ﴾


﴿قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ ﴾

(Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Most High.) and (Say: `O you who disbelieve.’) and (Say: `He is Allah, the One.’) `A’ishah added in her version that he would also recite the Mu`awwidhatayn (Al-Falaq and An-Nas).

﴿بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيم

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.


The Command to pronounce Tasbih and its Response

Imam Ahmad recorded from Ibn `Abbas that whenever the Messenger of Allah would recite

﴿سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الاّعْلَى ﴾


(Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Most High.) he would say,

«سُبْحَانَ رَبِّيَ الْأَعْلَى»


(Glory to my Lord, the Most High.) Ibn Jarir recorded from Ibn Ishaq Al-Hamdani that whenever Ibn `Abbas would recite

﴿سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الاّعْلَى ﴾


(Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Most High.) he would say, “Glory to my Lord, the Most High,” and whenever he would recite

﴿لاَ أُقْسِمُ بِيَوْمِ الْقِيَـمَةِ ﴾


(I swear by the Day of Resurrection.) (75:1) and then reach the end of it

﴿أَلَيْسَ ذَلِكَ بِقَـدِرٍ عَلَى أَن يُحْيِىَ الْمَوْتَى ﴾


(Is not He able to give life to the dead) (75:40) he would say, “Glory to You, of course.” Qatadah said,

﴿سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الاّعْلَى ﴾


(Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Most High.) “It has been mentioned to us that whenever the Prophet of Allah used to recite it he would say,

«سُبْحَانَ رَبِّيَ الْأَعْلَى»


(Glory to my Lord, the Most High.)”

The Creation, the Decree, and the bringing forth of Vegetation

Allah says,

﴿الَّذِى خَلَقَ فَسَوَّى ﴾


(Who has created, and then proportioned it.) meaning, He created that which has been created, and He fashioned every creation in the best of forms. Then Allah says,

﴿وَالَّذِى قَدَّرَ فَهَدَى ﴾


(And Who has measured; and then guided.) Mujahid said, “He guided man to distress and happiness, and he guided the cattle to their pastures.” This Ayah is similar to what Allah has said about Musa’s statement to Fir`awn,

﴿رَبُّنَا الَّذِى أَعْطَى كُلَّ شَىءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَى﴾


(Our Lord is He Who gave to each thing its form and nature, then guided it aright.) (20:50) meaning, He decreed a set measure and guided the creation to it. This is just as is confirmed in Sahih Muslim on the authority of `Abdullah bin `Amr that the Messenger of Allah said,

«إِنَّ اللهَ قَدَّرَ مَقَادِيرَ الْخَلَائِقِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَخْلُقَ السَّمَواتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بِخَمْسِينَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاء»


(Verily, Allah ordained the measure of all creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth, and His Throne was over the water.) Concerning Allah’s statement,

﴿وَالَّذِى أَخْرَجَ الْمَرْعَى ﴾


(And Who brings out the pasturage,) meaning, all types of vegetation and crops.

﴿فَجَعَلَهُ غُثَآءً أَحْوَى ﴾


(And then makes it dark stubble.) Ibn `Abbas said, “Dried up and altered.” It has been narrated that Mujahid, Qatadah and Ibn Zayd, all made similar statements.

The Prophet does not forget the Revelation

Allah says,



(We shall make you to recite,) meaning, `O Muhammad.’

﴿فَلاَ تَنسَى﴾


(so you shall not forget (it),) This is Allah informing and promising him (the Prophet ) that He will teach him a recitation that he will not forget.

﴿إِلاَّ مَا شَآءَ اللَّهُ﴾


(Except what Allah may will.) Qatadah said, “The Prophet did not forget anything except what Allah willed.” It has been said that the meaning of Allah’s statement,

﴿فَلاَ تَنسَى﴾


(so you shall not forget,) is, “do not forget” and that which would be abrogated, is merely an exception to this. Meaning, `do not forget what We teach you to recite, except what Allah wills, which He removes and there is no sin on your leaving it off (not retaining it).’ Concerning Allah’s statement,

﴿إِنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ الْجَهْرَ وَمَا يَخْفَى﴾


(He knows what is apparent and what is hidden.) meaning, He knows what the creatures do openly and what they hide, whether it be statements or deeds. None of that is hidden from Him. Then Allah says,

﴿وَنُيَسِّرُكَ لِلْيُسْرَى ﴾


(And We shall make easy for you the easy.) meaning, `We will make good deeds and statements easy for you, and We will legislate such Law for you that is easy, tolerant, straight and just, with no crookedness, difficulty or hardship in it.’

The Command to remind

Allah then says,

﴿فَذَكِّرْ إِن نَّفَعَتِ الذِّكْرَى ﴾


(Therefore remind in case the reminder profits.) meaning, remind where reminding is beneficial. From here we get the etiquette of spreading knowledge, that it should not be wasted upon those who are not suitable or worthy of it. The Commander of the believers, `Ali said, “You do not tell people any statement that their intellects do not grasp except that it will be a Fitnah (trial) for some of them.” He also said, “Tell people that which they know. Would you like for Allah and His Messenger to be rejected” Allah said:

﴿سَيَذَّكَّرُ مَن يَخْشَى ﴾


(The reminder will be received by him who fears,) meaning, `he whose heart fears Allah and who knows that he is going to meet Him, will receive admonition from what you convey to him, O Muhammad.’

﴿وَيَتَجَنَّبُهَا الاٌّشْقَى – الَّذِى يَصْلَى النَّارَ الْكُبْرَى – ثُمَّ لاَ يَمُوتُ فِيهَا وَلاَ يَحْيَا ﴾


(But it will be avoided by the wretched, who will enter the great Fire. There he will neither die nor live.) meaning, he will not die and thus be allowed to rest, nor will he live a life that is beneficial to him. Instead, his life will be harmful to him, because it will be the cause of his feeling of the pain of torment and various types of punishments what he is being punished with. Imam Ahmad recorded from Abu Sa`id that the Messenger of Allah said,

«أَمَّا أَهْلُ النَّارِ الَّذِينَ هُمْ أَهْلُهَا لَا يَمُوتُونَ وَلَا يَحْيَوْنَ، وَأَمَّا أُنَاسٌ يُرِيدُ اللهُ بِهِمُ الرَّحْمَةَ فَيُمِيتُهُمْ فِي النَّارِ فَيَدْخُلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الشُّفَعَاءُ فَيَأْخُذُ الرَّجُلُ الضِّبَارَةَ فَيُنْبِتُهُمْ أو قال: يَنْبُتُونَ فِي نَهْرِ الْحَيَا، أو قال: الْحَيَاةِ، أو قال: الْحَيَوَانِ أو قال: نَهْرِ الْجَنَّةِ فَيَنْبُتُونَ نَبَاتَ الْحِبَّةِ فِي حَمِيلِ السَّيْل»


(Concerning the people of the Fire who are deserving of it, they will not die nor will they live. Regarding the people that Allah wants mercy for, He will cause them to die in the Fire. Then He will allow the intercessors to come to them, and a man will take his groups of supporters and plant them (or he said (they will be planted) in the River of Al-Haya (or he said (Al-Hayah, or Al-Hayawan, or Nahr Al-Jannah). Then they will sprout up like the sprouting of the seed on the moist bank of a flowing stream.) Then the Prophet said,

«أَمَا تَرَوْنَ الشَّجَرَةَ تَكُونُ خَضْرَاءَ، ثُمَّ تَكُونُ صَفْرَاءَ، ثُمَّ تَكُونُ خَضْرَاءَ؟»


(Haven’t you all seen the tree that is green, then it turns yellow, then it turns green (again)) Abu Sa`id then said that some of those present said, “It is as if the Prophet used to live in the desert wilderness (i.e., due to his parables of nature).” Ahmad also recorded from Abu Sa`id that the Messenger of Allah said,

«أَمَّا أَهْلُ النَّارِ الَّذِينَ هُمْ أَهْلُهَا فَإِنَّهُمْ لَا يَمُوتُونَ فِيهَا وَلَا يَحْيَوْنَ، وَلَــكِنْ أُنَاسٌ أو كما قال تُصِيبُهُمُ النَّارُ بِذُنُوبِهِمْ أو قال: بِخَطَايَاهُمْ فَيُمِيتُهُمْ إِمَاتَةً حَتْى إِذَا صَارُوا فَحْمًا أُذِنَ فِي الشَّفَاعَةِ، فَجِيءَ بِهِمْ ضَبَائِرَ ضَبَائِرَ فَبُثُّوا عَلى أَنْهَارِ الْجَنَّةِ فَيُقَالُ:يَا أَهْلَ الْجَنَّةِ أَفِيضُوا عَلَيْهِمْ، فَيَنْبُتُونَ نَبَاتَ الْحِبَّةِ تَكُونُ فِي حَمِيلِ السَّيْل»


(Concerning the people of the Fire who will be dwellers of it, they will not die in it nor will they live. However, there will be a group of people – or as he said -( whom the Fire will burn due to their sins – or he said – (their wrongdoings. So, He will cause them to die until they become burnt coal. Then the intercession will be allowed and they will be brought group after group, and they will be scattered over the rivers of Paradise. Then it will be said: “O people of Paradise! Pour down upon them.” Then they will sprout like the growing of the seed that is upon the moist bank of the flowing stream.” Then, a man from among the people present said, “It is as if the Messenger of Allah used to live in the desert wilderness.” Muslim also recorded this Hadith.

A Statement concerning the People of Success

Allah says,

﴿قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى ﴾


(Indeed whosoever purifies himself shall achieve success.) meaning, he purifies himself from despised characteristics and he follows what Allah has revealed to the Messenger .

﴿وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى ﴾


(And remembers the Name of his Lord, and performs Salah.) meaning, he establishes the prayer in its appointed time, seeking the pleasure of Allah, obedience to His command, and implementation of His Law. We have already reported from the Commander of the believers, `Umar bin `Abdul-`Aziz, that he used to command the people to give the Sadaqat Al-Fitr, and he would recite this Ayah:

﴿قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى – وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى ﴾


(Indeed whosoever purifies himself shall achieve success. And remembers the Name of his Lord, and performs Salah.) Abu Al-Ahwas said, “If someone comes to any of you begging, and he wants to pray, then he should give charity (Zakah) before he prays. For verily, Allah the Exalted says,

﴿قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى – وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى ﴾


(Indeed whosoever purifies himself shall achieve success. And remembers the Name of his Lord, and performs Salah.)” Qatadah said concerning this Ayah,

﴿قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى – وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى ﴾


(Indeed whosoever purifies himself shall achieve success. And remembers the Name of his Lord, and performs Salah (Fasalla).) “He purifies his wealth and pleases his Creator.”

This World is Worthless in Comparison to the Hereafter

Then Allah says,

﴿بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَيَوةَ الدُّنْيَا ﴾


(Rather you prefer the life of this world.) meaning, `you give it precedence over the matter of the Hereafter, and you prefer it because of what it contains of usefulness and benefit for you in livelihood, and your returns (i.e., income, profitable gain).’

﴿وَالاٌّخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى ﴾


(Although the Hereafter is better and more lasting.) meaning, the reward of the final abode is better than the worldly life, and it is more lasting. For indeed, this worldly life is lowly and temporal, whereas the Hereafter is noble and eternal. Thus, how can an intelligent person prefer that which is short-lived over that which is eternal. How can he give importance to that which will soon pass away from him, while ignoring the importance of the abode of eternity and infinity. Imam Ahmad recorded from Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari that the Messenger of Allah said,

«مَنْ أَحَبَّ دُنْيَاهُ أَضَرَّ بِآخِرَتِهِ، وَمَنْ أَحَبَّ آخِرَتَهُ أَضَرَّ بِدُنْيَاهُ، فَآثِرُوا مَا يَبْقَى عَلَى مَا يَفْنَى»


(Whoever loves his worldly life, will suffer in his Hereafter, and whoever loves his worldly life, will suffer in his Hereafter, and whoever loves his Hereafter, will suffer in his worldly life. Therefore, chose that which is everlasting over that which is temporal.) Ahmad was alone in recording this Hadith.

The Scriptures of Ibrahim and Musa

Allah then says,

﴿إِنَّ هَـذَا لَفِى الصُّحُفِ الاٍّولَى – صُحُفِ إِبْرَهِيمَ وَمُوسَى ﴾


(Verily, this is in the former Scriptures — the Scriptures of Ibrahim and Musa.) This Ayah is similar to Allah’s statement in Surat An-Najm,

﴿أَمْ لَمْ يُنَبَّأْ بِمَا فِى صُحُفِ مُوسَى – وَإِبْرَهِيمَ الَّذِى وَفَّى – أَلاَّ تَزِرُ وَزِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى – وَأَن لَّيْسَ لِلإِنسَـنِ إِلاَّ مَا سَعَى – وَأَنَّ سَعْيَهُ سَوْفَ يُرَى – ثُمَّ يُجْزَاهُ الْجَزَآءَ الأَوْفَى – وَأَنَّ إِلَى رَبِّكَ الْمُنتَهَى ﴾


(Or is he not informed with what is in the Scriptures of Musa. And of Ibrahim who fulfilled (or conveyed) all that (Allah ordered him to do or convey): that no burdened person (with sins) shall bear the burden (sins) of another. And that man can have nothing but what he does. And that his deeds will be seen. Then he will be recompensed with a full and the best recompense. And that to your Lord is the End (Return of everything).) (53:36-42) And so forth, until the end of these Ayat. Abu `Aliyah said, “The story of this Surah is in the earlier Scriptures.” Ibn Jarir preferred the view that the meaning of Allah’s statement,

﴿إِنَّ هَذَآ﴾


(Verily, this) is referring to His previous statement,

﴿قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى – وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى – بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَيَوةَ الدُّنْيَا – وَالاٌّخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى ﴾


(Indeed whosoever purifies himself shall achieve success. And remembers the Name of his Lord, and offers Salah. Rather you prefer the life of this world. Although the Hereafter is better and more lasting.) Then Allah says,

﴿إِنَّ هَذَآ﴾


(Verily, this) meaning, the content of this discussion,

﴿إِنَّ هَـذَا لَفِى الصُّحُفِ الاٍّولَى – صُحُفِ إِبْرَهِيمَ وَمُوسَى ﴾


(in the former Scriptures, the Scriptures of Ibrahim and Musa.) This view that he (At-Tabari) has chosen is good and strong. Similar to it has been reported from Qatadah and Ibn Zayd. And Allah knows best.


This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Al-A`la (Sabbih). All praise and blessings are due to Allah, and He is the Giver of success and protection from error.


[87:1] Pronounce the purity of the name of your Most Exalted Lord,

Ruling [1]

Scholars have ruled that when anyone recites the verse: سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الْأَعْلَى (Pronounce the purity of the name of your most exalted Lord…87:1) it is commendable to say: سُبحانَ رَبِِّیَ الْأَعْلَى I pronounce the purity of my most exalted Lord.’

This was the practice of all the noble Companions, like Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn ` Abbaa, Ibn ` Umar, Ibn Zubair, Abu Musa and ` Abdullah Ibn Masud ؓ Whenever they started reciting the Surah, they would recite: سُبحانَ رَبِِّیَ الْأَعْلَى ‘I pronounce the purity of my most exalted Lord.’ [Qurtubi].

It should be noted that the desirability of reciting this is outside of the prayer.

Ruling [2]
Sayyidna ‘Uqbah Ibn ` Amir Al-Juhani ؓ narrates that when the Surah Al-A` la was revealed, the Holy Prophet ﷺ instructed:

اجعلوا فی سجودکم
‘Say this (SubhanaRabbiyal-A` 1a) in your sujud [prostrations] ‘

سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الْأَعْلَى (Pronounce the purity of the name of your Most exalted Lord.) The word tasbih means ‘to pronounce the purity’ and سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ signifies to ‘honour the name of your Lord’. When the name of Allah is pronounced, it should be done with utmost humility and respect.

His name should be kept pure and free from anything that is unbecoming to His sublime status. Allah should be called by the names He Himself has stated or taught the Holy Prophet ﷺ . It is not permitted to call Him by any other name.

Ruling [3]
Besides, it is also included in the above imperative that there are some names exclusively meant for Allah; calling human beings or any other creation by those specific names is contrary to declaring the purity of Allah. Therefore, it is not permissible. [Qurtubi]. Nowadays, people are not particular about names like ` Abdur Rahman, ` Abdur Razzaq, ` Abdul Ghaffar and ` Abdul Quddus. They call the persons bearing these names ‘Rahman’, ‘Razzaq’, ‘Ghaffar’, ‘Quddus’ and so on, for short. People have got into the habit of shortening such names without realising that the speakers as well as the listeners are committing a sin. People commit this joyless sin day and night without any reason.

Some commentators interpret the word ‘ism’ does not mean ‘name’ in this verse. Instead, they say, it is referring to the Dhat or the ‘Being’ of Allah. According to the Arabic expressions, this interpretation is not unlikely, and the Qur’an has used the word ‘ism’ in that sense also. The Hadith that instructs us to recite the tasbih in sajdah [prostration] is not “I pronounce the purity of the name of my most exalted Lord, but “I pronounce the purity of my most exalted Lord”. This indicates that in this context ‘ism’ is not used in the sense of ‘name’ but it refers to the Being of Allah Himself. [Qurtubi]

[87:2] who created (everything), then made (it) well,

Subtle and Profound Wisdom in the Creation of the Universe

الَّذِي خَلَقَ فَسَوَّىٰ وَالَّذِي قَدَّرَ فَهَدَىٰ (who created [everything], then made [it] well, and who determined a measure [for everything], then guided [it]…87:2, 3). All these are the attributes of the ‘Most Exalted Lord’. The first attribute is khalaqa which does not simply mean ‘to make’ or ‘manufacture’. It has a deeper significance: ‘to bring out something from pure non-existence into the realm of existence without the help of any pre-existing matter’. (This is the correct meaning of ‘creation’. If something is made with the help of some pre-existing matter, it cannot be called ‘creation’ in its original sense.) This is not within the power of anyone else. Only the perfect power of Allah can bring things into existence, whenever He wills, without the help of any pre-existing matter.

The second attribute, which is connected with takhliq (creation), is sawwa. This word is derived from taswiyah, and it literally means ‘to make well or equal’. The verse signifies that Allah made the constitution of everything symmetrical or made it congruously consistent in its several parts, the body structure, shape and size, limbs and organs. Man and every other animal is adapted to the requirements of wisdom. The hands and legs, the tips of the fingers and toes have joints with different types of springy connective tissues that make it possible to bend and fold in different ways. If we look at another limb or organ of human body, its symmetry and balance baffles our imagination and is sufficient for us to believe in the consummate wisdom and power of the Creator of the universe.

The third attribute is qaddara which is derived from taqdir and it means ‘to determine; to measure; to balance; to design symmetrically; to decree/decide’. The word is used in the last sense here. The verse purports to say that things in the world have not been created without purpose. Everything has been created for a specific purpose, and has been endowed with natural capacities to fit its function. If we look carefully, the principle does not apply only to specific species. Every member of the universe has been assigned a specific function to perform. We witness the manifestation of the assignments in the sky, the stars, lightning, rain, humans, animals, vegetation and minerals.

Maulana Rumi رحمۃ علیہ says:

خاک و باد و آب و آتش بندہ اند بامن و تو مردہ باحق زندہ اند
‘The earth, the wind, the water and the fire all of them are slaves of Allah.
According to me and you, they are senseless, but according to Allah, all of them are alive and sensible.

Allah has especially geared man and every species of animals to do particular works and they perform them according to their natural inclination, and their predisposition pivots around their respective tasks.

ہری کے رابہر کارے ساختند میل اور ادردلش اند اختند
Allah has created everything for a particular purpose And has filled its heart with inclination towards it.

The fourth attribute of Allah is fa-hada ‘then guided it’. In other words, The Creator of the universe did not create things and left them to their own mercy to perform their particular function as they like, but they are shown the way in which they should be performed. As a matter of fact, He guided the entire creation by equipping each member of it with suitable nature to function for which it was created, whether the member is the sky or celestial creation, or it is the earth or the earthly creation. They all possess a special type of sense, though it is of a lower than that of man. The Qur’an says:

رَبُّنَا الَّذِي أَعْطَىٰ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَىٰ
‘Our Lord is He Who gave to each thing its form and nature, then guided it aright. [20:50] ‘

As a result, since the inception of their creation, the skies, the earth, the stars and planets, mountains and oceans are all performing their functions accurately, without any failure or deviation. Humans and animals, in particular, whose intellect and sensibility can be observed easily, have been invested with capabilities of fulfilling their minute needs and repelling harmful things in a way that baffles the one who thinks about it. Since man possesses sense and intelligence of a higher degree, his capabilities may not be so much surprising, but let us look into wild animals, ferocious animals or beasts of prey, birds and insects. Each and everyone of them is able to obtain its necessities of life. They are able to find their habitats. They have not acquired the skills of fulfilling their individual and communal needs through a teacher that may educate or train them, nor did they need any school or college to acquire this knowledge and skill. Their education and training comes directly from the Creator of the universe. It is this divine guidance that has been referred to in the Holy Qur’an by saying,

رَبُّنَا الَّذِي أَعْطَىٰ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَىٰ
‘Our Lord is He Who gave to each thing its form and nature, then guided it aright. [20:50] ‘

and in this Surah thus:
وَالَّذِي قَدَّرَ فَهَدَىٰ
‘and who determined a measure (for everything), then guided (it), [3] ‘

The Knowledge of Science is a Divine Gift to Man

Allah has equipped man with the higher order of intelligence and sense. The entire universe is made subservient to him, the earth, mountains and oceans and everything created therein are made to serve man and created for his benefit. However, full advantage of them is not possible unless man acquires knowledge and skill to put various things together and produce a new item. Nature has provided man with intelligence and understanding to excavate mountains and dive into the oceans to obtain minerals and marine objects. He composes certain items like wood, iron, steel, copper, brass and so on and makes new items of his need. This knowledge and technology is not dependent on scientific research and college or university education. Even illiterate people have been doing this since the inception of human existence. This is intrinsic science that Allah has endowed upon man as a natural gift. Later, man developed the capability of doing technical and scientific research. He thus made progress in various fields of science and technology. The capability to do this is also a Divine gift.

Obviously, science and technology does not create anything, but it merely shows the way to use the created things. The initial knowledge about their use is taught by Allah, but there is a wide scope to make progress in it by the capabilities Allah has bestowed to man, the manifestation of which we are witnessing in this scientific age day by day, and what further range of these abilities and talents will manifest in future is unknown. All this is the interpretation of hada ‘[He] guided (it), [3] In other words, Allah has placed in them potentials and capabilities to perform their natural functions. But alas! the scientists are getting more and more negligent, rather blind to these realities day by day.

[87:3] and who determined a measure (for everything), then guided (it),

[87:4] and who brought forth pasturage,

وَالَّذِي أَخْرَجَ الْمَرْعَىٰ ﴿4﴾ فَجَعَلَهُ غُثَاءً أَحْوَىٰ (and who brought forth pasturage, then turned it into a blackening stubble….87:4, 5)

The word مَرْعَىٰ ma’ ra means ‘pasturage’. This is the land that has grass growing on it, and that is used for animals to graze. The word ghutha’ غُثَا refers to ‘stubble, and scum borne upon the surface of a torrent’. The word أَحْوَىٰ ahwa is derived from the root huwwah which refers to ‘a kind of black colour that comes upon a dense vegetation’. The verse purports to depict the Divine power and wisdom related to herbage and vegetation. He grows the green vegetation and then He gradually turns it into black colour, and it loses its freshness. This directs man’s attention also to his end. His body radiating with health, beauty, smartness and alertness is a Divine gift, but its tenure of life is limited. Eventually it will come to an end.

[87:5] then turned it into blackening stubble.

[87:6] We will make you recite, then you will not forget

سَنُقْرِئُكَ فَلَا تَنسَىٰ ۔ إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ اللَّـهُ (We will make you recite, then you will not forget, except that which Allah wills. Indeed He knows what is manifest and what is hidden….87:6-7). In the preceding verses, Allah depicted the manifestation of His Omnipotence and [profound] wisdom. Thereafter, a few guidelines are given to the Holy Prophet ﷺ regarding his prophetic obligation. Before putting forth the guidelines, he is given the cheerful news of making his task easier. When the Qur’an was revealed initially, and as Jibra’il (علیہ السلام) began to recite, the Holy Prophet ﷺ made haste to repeat, lest any word or sentence should be lost. He was, therefore, told not to make haste with it, and to wait until the angel had delivered the whole message, and then to repeat the words of the revelation, being assured that it was a Divine arrangement, and that nothing would be lost. On this occasion, he is still more plainly told: ‘then you will not forget, except that which Allah wills.’

While Allah made the Holy Prophet ﷺ remember all of the Qur’an, there were certain verses which Allah made him forget, because they had been abrogated. This was done by Allah’s command, and is not done without reason. There are several ways in which this is done. One way of doing this is that a second clear injunction is revealed contrary to the first injunction. Another way of abrogating a particular verse is to obliterate a verse from the memory of the Holy Prophet ﷺ and the memory of all other Muslims, as stated in:

مَا نَنسَخ مِن آیَتٍ اَو نُنسِھَا
‘Whenever We abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten. [2:106] ‘

Some scholars interpret the exceptive sentence ‘except that which Allah wills’ differently. They say that for some reason Allah blots out temporarily a verse from Holy Prophet’s ﷺ memory, but he may remember it again, in support of which the following narrative may be adduced: One day the Holy Prophet ﷺ recited a Surah, but omitted one of the verses. Sayyidna Ubayy Ibn Ka` b ؓ ، one of the Prophet’s scribes, was present. He thought it might have been abrogated. On inquiry, the Holy Prophet said that it was not abrogated, but that it was omitted by mistake. [Qurtubi]. In this interpretation, it may be summarised that forgetting a verse temporarily, and then remembering it again, does not go against the promise made in this verse. [In fact, it is an exception from this promise.] Allah knows best!

[87:7] except that which Allah wills. Indeed He knows what is manifest and what is hidden.

[87:8] And We will facilitate for you (to reach) the easiest way.

وَنُيَسِّرُكَ لِلْيُسْرَىٰ (And We will facilitate for you [to reach] the easiest way….87:8). The phrase the easiest way’ refers to the sacred laws of Islam. Apparently, according to the demand of the context, it should have been stated ‘We will make the Shari’ah easy for you’. But the Qur’an chose, instead, to state ‘And We will facilitate for you (to reach) the easiest way. [8] ‘. The reason for that, probably, is to indicate that Allah will predispose him to the sacred laws, so that they will become part of his nature, and he will become an embodiment of Shari’ah.

[87:9] So, extend advice (to people) if advice is useful.

فَذَكِّرْ إِن نَّفَعَتِ الذِّكْرَىٰ (So, extend advice [to people] if advice is useful….87:9) The preceding verses described the facilities created by Allah for the Holy Prophet in performing his Prophetic obligation. This verse commands him to perform his obligation. The verse contains the conditional particle ‘in’ (if) that apparently makes the sentence a conditional statement. But, in fact, the command is not intended to be made conditional. It is rather an emphatic statement. This is similar to the grammatical phenomenon in many languages. The particle ‘if’ is sometimes used when something is always true. It is used for introducing a situation that always has the same meaning, result or effect. For example: “If you are a ‘man’ [obviously he is a man], then you will have to do this work;” In neither of such sentences, the particle ‘if is conditional, but rather emphatic. Likewise, the verse purports to say that preaching truth and righteousness is certainly useful. Therefore, the beneficial thing should never be abandoned at anytime.

[87:10] The one who fears (Allah) will take to the advice,

[87:11] and it will be avoided by the most wretched

[87:12] who will enter the Biggest Fire,

[87:13] then he will neither die therein, nor live (a life worth mentioning).

[87:14] Success is surely achieved by him who purifies himself,

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ (Success is surely achieved by him who purifies himself,..87:14) The word tazakka is derived from zakah, the primitive meaning of which is ‘to purify’. The zakah of wealth is so called because it purifies the rest of man’s wealth for him. In this context, the word tazakka is used in a general sense, which comprehends the purity of faith and character, and purity of wealth.

وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّىٰ (and pronounces the name of his Lord, then offers prayer….87:15). This covers all categories of prayer, obligatory as well as supererogatory. Some commentators say that it refers especially to Id prayers. This interpretation too can fall under the preceding category.

بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا (But you prefer the worldly life,…87:16). Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn Masud ؓ says that people generally prefer the worldly blessings and comforts to the blessings and comforts of the Hereafter, because the former is visible and readily available, while the latter is invisible and unavailable readily. People unaware of reality preferred the visible to the invisible, which became the cause of eternal loss. In order to spare them the eternal loss, Allah, through His Messengers ﷺ and Books, described to them the blessings and comforts of the Hereafter so clearly as if they can perceive them [through their sense organs]. It has been made plain to them that what they think is readily available and preferred, is actually fragile and will very soon perish. It is unwise to put one’s heart into, or faith in, it and waste one’s energy on it. Thus the Qur’an says:

وَالْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ (while the Hereafter is much better and much more durable…87:17). The verse purports to warn those who prefer this life to the Hereafter that they should use their intelligence to find out what they have preferred and what they have abandoned. They are, first of all, made to realise that the highest degree of comfort and pleasure in this life is not free from the mixture of grief and hardship. In the second place, it is not permanent. We experience in our daily life that a king of today becomes a pauper tomorrow. A vigorous youth of today becomes old tomorrow. In the Hereafter, on the other hand, there will be freedom from both these defects. All its blessings and comforts will be ‘much better’ and they cannot be compared to the blessings and comforts of this life. Most importantly, it is abqa ‘much more durable’.

Let us consider the following scenario: It is said to a person that there are two houses in front of him, one of which is a magnificent mansion, fully furnished and another an ordinary, substandard house, not properly furnished. He has the choice to take the mansion, but only for a month or two. Thereafter, he will have to vacate the mansion. Or he may take the underdeveloped house that he will own permanently. Which of the two houses a wise person will prefer? The answer is obvious that he will prefer the second option. On this analogy, one should prefer the blessings of the Hereafter even if, for argument’s sake, they are substandard, because they are permanent and eternal. But the fact is that they are not only permanent, but also much better and far more superior to the worldly comforts. In this situation only an unfortunate fool will prefer the blessings of this life to the bounties of the Hereafter.

[87:15] and pronounces the name of his Lord, then offers prayer.

[87:16] But you prefer the worldly life,

[87:17] while the Hereafter is much better and much more durable.

[87:18] Indeed this is (written) in the earlier divine scripts,

إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَفِي الصُّحُفِ الْأُولَىٰ صُحُفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمُوسَىٰ (Indeed this is [written] in the earlier divine scripts, the scripts of Ibrahim and Musa….87:18, 19] In other words, either all the themes of this Surah or its last theme, that the Hereafter is much better and much more durable than this life, was written in the earlier Divine scriptures. It is further explicated that this theme was written in the scriptures of Prophets Ibrahim and Musa (علیہما السلام) . Probably, it refers to other scriptures that were given to Prophet Musa (علیہ السلام) before Torah. It is also possible that it refers to Torah itself.

Themes of the Scripts of Prophet Ibrahim (علیہ السلام)
Ajurri transmits a narration from Sayyidna Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari ؓ that he inquired from the Prophet ﷺ as to the contents of the scripts of Prophet Ibrahim (علیہ السلام) and the Holy Prophet ﷺ replied that they contained educating parables . A story is told in it about a tyrant king where he is addressed and told: You haughty, arrogant and oppressive ruler! I did not give you kingdom so that you may amass wealth, but I had given you power so that you may let the supplication of the oppressed against the oppressor reach me, because my law does not reject the supplication of an oppressed, even though it may be uttered by an unbeliever.

Another parable addresses the general public thus: A wise person should divide his time into three parts. One part should be reserved for the worship of his Lord and supplication to Him. The second part should be reserved for self-assessment of his deeds, and reflection on the Omnipotence and creation of Allah. The third part should be allocated for acquisition of livelihood and fulfilling the natural needs. It further imparts that a wise person should keep himself abreast of the circumstances of his time, and keep himself busy in performing his intended work. He should take care of his tongue. He who takes speech as one of his works, his speech will be confined only to the things of real need.

Themes of the Scripts of Prophet Musa (علیہ السلام)
Sayyidna Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari ؓ says that he then inquired from the Holy Prophet ﷺ as to the contents of the scripts of Prophet Musa (علیہ السلام) and the Holy Prophet ﷺ replied
that they contained lessons of wisdom. Some of them are as follows:

I am surprised at the person who believes that he will certainly die, and yet he lives happily.
I am surprised at the person who believes in Divine destiny, and yet he is despondent and aggrieved.
I am surprised at the person who experiences the vicissitudes of life and rise and fall of nations, and yet he is content with the world.
I am surprised at the person who believes in the Reckoning of the Hereafter, and yet he abandons [good] deeds.

Sayyidna Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari ؓ says that he asked the Holy Prophet ﷺ whether anything from these scriptures was revealed to him, he replied in the affirmative and asked Sayyidna Abu Dharr Ghifari ؓ to recite verses 14-19 of this Surah. [Qurtubi]

[87:19] the scripts of Ibrahim and Musa.

The Commentary on
Surah Al-A` la
Ends here


Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal relates on the authority of Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and Companion, that the Prophet loved this surah. The famous Hadith anthologist, Muslim, also relates that the Prophet used to read this surah and Surah 88, The Enveloper, in `Id prayers and also in Friday prayers. If one of the festivals fell on a Friday, the Prophet would be sure to read these two surahs in the prayers.

The Prophet is right to love this surah as it turns the whole universe into a temple whose four corners echo the praises and glorification of God, the Sublime. “Extol the limitless glory of the name of your Lord, the Most High, who creates and proportions well, who determines and guides, who brings forth the pasturage, then turns it to withered grass.” (Verses 1-5) The rhythm of the surah, characterized by the long vowels with which each of its verses ends, imparts a feeling of the praises echoed everywhere in the universe.

The Prophet is also right to love this surah as it brings him good news. As God charges him with the double task of delivering His message and warning people, He promises him: “We shall teach you and you shall not forget, except what God wills. He knows what is manifest and what is kept hidden. And We shall smooth your way to perfect ease. Give warning, therefore, [regardless of] whether such warning is of use.” (Verses 6-9) o God takes upon Himself the responsibility of making His Messenger not forget anything of the Qur’an. He also promises that his path will be smoothed in all his affairs, whether they are personal or concerned with his message. This is certainly a great favour.

Again, the Prophet is right to love this surah as it includes the basic ingredients of the Islamic concept of life and existence: the oneness of the Creator; the reality of divine revelation; and the certainty of the life to come with the reward and punishment it involves. The surah also affirms that these basic principles have wellestablished roots in earlier divine messages. “All this has indeed been stated in the earlier revelations; the scriptures of Abraham and Moses.” (Verses 18-19) All this is in addition to the impression it imparts of the easy nature of the Islamic ideology, the Messenger who conveys it, and the nation it builds.

Glorifying the Creator

Extol the limitless glory of the name of your Lord, the Most High, who creates and proportions well, who determines and guides, who brings forth the pasturage, then turns it to withered grass.” (Verses 1-5) The surah opens with an order to praise the Lord, which means to glorify Him, recognize His supremacy and infallibility in everything, and remember His divine attributes. It is much more than verbal repetition of the phrase ‘Subhan Allah’, which we normally translate as ‘limitless is God in His glory.’ It is a genuine feeling of the sublimity of His attributes.

As the surah inspires us with the splendour of a life based on constant appreciation of divine attributes, we experience a feeling which is very real and very difficult to describe at the same time.

The two immediately presented attributes are Lordship and Highness. The “Lord” or the Arabic equivalent, Rabb, is the one who tends and nurtures. The connotations  of this attribute fit in very well with the general atmosphere of the surah, the happy news it brings and its easy rhythm. The ‘Highness’ attribute prompts one to look up to endless horizons. Having a genuinely vivid feeling of this attribute is indeed the essential purpose of praising God and glorifying Him.

The surah opens with an order addressed by God to the Prophet in the first instance: “Extol the limitless glory of the name of your Lord, the Most High.” (Verse 1) The order is given with an air of friendliness and compassion almost beyond description.

Whenever the Prophet read this surah he used to fulfil this order promptly by stopping after the first verse to say: “Limitless in his glory is my Lord, the Most High”. Thus, he would receive the order, carry it out promptly and read on. When this surah was revealed the Prophet told the Muslims to fulfil the divine order as they prostrated themselves in their daily prayers. Similarly he told them to carry out the other order to ‘Extol the limitless glory of the name of your Lord, the Most Great,’ (56: 96) as they bowed in prayer. These praises, warm with life, have been included in the prayers as a direct response to a direct order, or more precisely to a direct permission. For God’s permission to His servants to praise Him is one of the favours He has bestowed on them. It is a permission to them to be in contact with Him in a way, given their limited abilities, they can appreciate. He, out of His grace, has permitted them to do this so that they may know Him and His attributes as best they can.

“Extol the limitless glory of the name of your Lord, the Most High, who creates and proportions well, who determines and guides.” (Verses 1-3) Everything God has created is well proportioned and perfected. Every creature is assigned its own role and given guidance so that it may know its role and play it. It is told the purpose of its creation, given what it needs for sustenance and guided to it. This is clearly visible in everything around us, large or small, important or trivial. For everything is well perfected and guided to fulfil the purpose of its creation. Furthermore, all things are also collectively perfected so that they may fulfil their role together.

The Perfection of God’s Creation

A single atom is well balanced between its electrons and protons, to the same degree as the solar system, its sun, planets and satellites are well balanced. Each of the two knows the way it is assigned to travel and fulfils its role. A single living cell is also perfect and well equipped to do everything it is asked to do, in the same measure as the most advanced and complex species. This perfect balance, in the individual and collective sense, is easily noticed in every one of the countless types of creation that fill the gap between the single atom and the solar system or between the single cell and the most advanced living creature.

This basic fact, evidenced by everything in the universe, is well recognized by the human heart as it contemplates what is in the universe. This sort of inspiration and recognition is within the reach of every man in every age, regardless of his standard of education. All that is required is an open mind which contemplates and responds. Increased knowledge then endorses and emphasizes, with numerous examples, what inspiration has already proven at first glance. The results of study and research endorse, within their limited scope, this basic truth which applies to everything in the universe.

The American scientist, A. Cressy Morrison, Head of the Science Academy in New York, says in his book Man Does Not Stand Alone:

Birds have the homing instinct. The robin that nested at your door may go south in the autumn, but will come back to his old nest the next spring. In September, flocks of many of our birds fly south, often over a thousand miles of open sea, but they do not lose their way. The homing pigeon, confused by new sounds on a long journey in a closed box, circles for a moment then heads almost unerringly for home. The bee finds its hive while the wind waving the grasses and trees blots out every visible guide to its whereabouts. This homing sense is slightly developed in man, but he supplements his meagre equipment with instruments of navigation. We need this instinct and our brain provides the answer. The tiny insects must have microscopic eyes, how perfect we do not know, and the hawks, the eagle and the condor must have telescopic vision. Here again man surpasses them with his mechanical instruments. With his telescope he can see a nebula so faint that it requires two million times his vision, and with the electron microscope he can see hitherto invisible bacteria and, so to speak, the little bugs that bite them.

If you let old Dobbin alone he will keep to the road in the blackest night. He can see, dimly perhaps, but he notes the difference in temperature of the road and the sides with eyes that are slightly affected by the infra-red rays of the road. The owl can see the nice warm mouse as he runs in the cooler grass in the blackest night. We turn night into day by creating radiation in that short octave we call light. [12]

The honey-bee workers make chambers of different sizes in the comb used for breeding. Small chambers are constructed for the workers, larger ones for the drones, and special chambers for the prospective queens. The queen bee lays unfertilized eggs in the cells designed for males, but lays fertilized eggs in the proper chambers for the female workers and the possible queens. The workers, who are the modified females, having long since anticipated the coming of the new generation, are also prepared to furnish food for the young bees by chewing and predigesting honey and pollen. They discontinue the process of chewing, including the predigesting, at a certain stage of the development of the males and females, and feed only honey and pollen. The females so treated become the workers.

For the females in the queen chambers the diet of chewed and pre-digested food is continued. These specially treated females develop into queen bees, which alone produce fertile eggs. This process of reproduction involves special chambers, special eggs, and the marvellous effect of a change of diet. This means anticipation, discretion, and the application of a discovery of the effect of diet. These changes apply particularly to a community life and seem necessary to its existence. The knowledge and skills required must have been evolved after the beginnings of this community life, and are not necessarily inherent in the structure or the survival of the honey bee as such. The bee, therefore, seems to have outstripped man in knowledge of the effects of diet under certain conditions.

The dog with an inquiring nose can sense the animal that has passed. No instrument of human invention has added to our inferior sense of smell, and we hardly know where to begin to investigate its extension. Yet even our sense of smell is so highly developed that it can detect ultra-microscopic particles. How do we know that we all get the same reaction from any single odour? The fact is that we do not. Taste also gives a very different sensation to each of us. How strange that these differences in perception are hereditary. All animals hear sounds, many of which are outside our range of vibration, with an acuteness that far surpasses our limited sense of hearing. Man by his devices can now hear a fly walking miles away as though it was on his eardrums, and with like instruments record the impact of a cosmic ray. [13]

One of the water spiders fashions a balloon-shaped nest of cobweb filaments and attaches it to some object under water. Then she ingeniously entangles an air bubble in the hairs of her under-body, carries it into the water, and releases it under the nest. This performance is repeated until the nest is inflated, when she proceeds to bring forth and raise her young safe from attack by air. Here we have a synthesis of the web, engineering, construction, and aeronautics. Chance perhaps, but that still leaves the spider unexplained.

The young salmon spends years at sea, then comes back to his own river, and, what is more, he travels up the side of the river into which flows the tributary in which he was born. The laws of the States on one side of the dividing.  stream may be strict and the other side not, but these laws affect only the fish which may be said to belong to each side. What brings them back so definitely? If a salmon going up a river is transferred to another tributary he will at once realize he is not in the right tributary and will fight his way down to the main stream and then turn up against the current to finish his destiny. There is, however, a much more difficult reverse problem to solve in the case of the eel. These amazing creatures migrate at maturity from all the ponds and rivers everywhere, those from Europe across thousands of miles of ocean, all go to the abysmal deeps south of Bermuda. There they breed and die. The little ones, with no apparent means of knowing anything except that they are in a wilderness of water, start back and find their way to the shore from which their parents came and thence to every river, lake and little pond, so that each body of water is always populated with eels. They have braved the mighty currents, storms and tides, and have conquered the beating waves on every shore. They can now grow and when they are mature, they will, by some mysterious law, go back through it all to complete the cycle. Where does the directing impulse originate? No American eel has ever been caught in European waters and no European eel has ever been caught in American waters. Nature has also delayed the maturity of the European eel by a year or more to make up for its much greater journey. Do atoms and molecules when combined in an eel have a sense of direction and willpower to exercise it? [14]

A female moth placed in your attic by the open window will send out some subtle signal. Over an unbelievable area, the male moths of the same species will catch the message and respond in spite of your attempts to produce laboratory odours to disconcert them. Has the little creature a broadcasting station, and has the male moth a mental radio set beside his antennae? Does she shake the ether and does he catch the vibration? The cricket rubs its legs or wings together, and on a still night can be heard half a mile away. It shakes six hundred tons of air and calls its mate. Miss Moth, working in a different realm of physics and, in apparent silence, calls quite as effectively. Before the radio was discovered, scientists decided it was odour that attracted the male moth. It was a miracle either way, because the odour would have to travel in all directions, with or without the wind. The male moth would have to be able to detect a molecule and sense the direction from whence it came. By a vast mechanism, we are developing the same ability to communicate, and the day will come when a young man may call his loved one from a distance and without mechanical medium and she will answer. No lock or bars will stop them. Our telephone and radio are instrumental wonders and give us means of almost instant communication, but we are tied to a wire and a place. The moth is still ahead of us, and we can only envy her until our brain evolves an individual radio. Then, in a sense, we will have telepathy.

Vegetation makes subtle use of involuntary agents to carry on its existence — insects to carry pollen from flower to flower and the winds and everything that flies or walks to distribute seed. At last, vegetation has trapped masterful man. He has improved nature, and she generously rewards him. But he has multiplied so prodigiously that he is now chained to the plough. He must sow, reap, and store; breed and cross-breed; prune and graft. Should he neglect these tasks starvation would be his lot, civilization would crumble, and earth return to her pristine state. [15]

Many animals are like a lobster, which, having lost a claw, will by some restimulation of the cells and the reactivation of the genes discover that a part of the body is missing and restore it. When the work is complete, the cells stop work, for in some way they know it is quitting time. A fresh-water polyp divided into halves can reform itself out of one of these halves. Cut off an angle worm’s head and he will soon create a new one. We can stimulate healing but when will our surgeons, if ever, know how to stimulate the cells to produce a new arm, flesh, bones, nails, and activating nerves? [16] An extraordinary fact throws some light on this mystery of recreation. If cells in the early stages of development are separated each has the ability to create a complete animal. Therefore, if the original cell divides into two and they are separated, two individuals will be developed. This may account for identical twins but it means much more — each cell at first is in detail potentially a complete individual. There can be no doubt then, that you are you in every cell and fibre. [17]

An acorn falls to the ground — its tough brown shell holds it safe. It rolls into some earthy crevice. In the spring the germ awakes, the shell bursts, food is provided by the egg-like kernel in which the genes were hidden. They send roots into the earth, and behold a sprout, a sapling, and in years a tree. The germ with its genes has multiplied by trillions and made the trunk, bark and every leaf and acorn identical with that of the oak which gave it birth. For hundreds of years in each of the countless acorns is preserved the exact arrangement of atoms that produced the first oak tree millions of years ago. [18]

The author says in another chapter:

Every cell that is produced in any living creature must adapt itself to be part of the flesh, to sacrifice itself as a part of the skin, which will soon be worn off. It must deposit the enamel of teeth, produce the transparent liquid in an eye, or become a nose or an ear. Each cell must then adapt itself in shape and every other characteristic necessary to fulfil its function. It is hard to think of a cell as right-handed or left-handed, but one becomes part of a right ear, the other becomes part of the left ear. Some crystals that are chemically identical turn the rays of light to the left, others to the right. There seems to be such a tendency in the cells. In the exact place where they belong, they become a part of the right ear or the left ear and your two ears are opposite each other on your head, and not as in the case of a cricket, on your elbows. Their curves are opposite, and when complete, they are so much alike you cannot tell them apart. Hundreds of thousands of cells seem impelled to do the right thing at the right time in the right place. [19]

Elsewhere in his book Morrison says:

In the melee of creation many creatures have come to exhibit a high degree of certain forms of instinct, intelligence, or what not. The wasp catches the grasshopper, digs a hole in the earth, stings the grasshopper in exactly the right place so that he becomes unconscious but lives as a form of preserved meat. The wasp lays her eggs exactly in the right place, perhaps not knowing that when they hatch, her children can eat without killing the insect on which they feed, which would be fatal to them. The wasp must have done all this right the first and every time, or there would be no wasps of this species. Science cannot explain this mystery, and yet it cannot be attributed to chance. The wasp covers a hole in the earth, departs cheerfully, and dies. Neither she nor her ancestors have reasoned out the process, nor does she know what happens to her offspring. She doesn’t even know that she has worked and lived her life for the preservation of the race. [20]

In the same book we also read:

In some species, the workers bring in little seeds to feed the other ants through the winter. The ants establish what is known as the grinding room, in which those which have developed gigantic jaws especially built for grinding, prepare the food for the colony. This is their sole occupation. When the autumn comes and the seeds are all ground, ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ requires that the food supply be conserved and as there will be plenty of grinders in the new generation, the soldier ants kill off the grinders, satisfying their entomological conscience by believing perhaps that the grinders had had reward enough in having had first chance at the food while they ground.

Certain ants, by means of instinct or reasoning (choose which you prefer), cultivate mushrooms for food in what may be called mushroom gardens, and capture certain caterpillars and aphids (plant lice). These creatures are the ants’ cows and goats, from which they take certain exudations of a honey-like nature for food. Ants capture and keep slaves. Some ants, when they make their nests, cut the leaves to size, and while certain workers hold the edges in place, use their babies, which in the larval stage are capable of spinning silk, as shuttles to sew them together. The poor baby may be bereft of the opportunity of making a cocoon for himself, but he has served his community.

How do the inanimate atoms and molecules of matter composing an ant set these complicated processes in motion? There must be Intelligence somewhere. [21]

True, there must be a Creator who guides these and other creatures, large and small. He is the One “who creates and proportions well, who determines and guides.” (Verses 2-3)

The examples we have quoted above are but a few of the large number of remarkable aspects science has recorded in the worlds of plants, insects, birds and animals. But all these aspects reflect only a part of the import of the two verses: “who creates and proportions well, who determines and guides.” (Verses 2-3) For our knowledge covers only a scanty part of what is in the visible universe, beyond which extends a whole world of which we know nothing apart from the few hints God has chosen to drop us, as befits our limited abilities.

Having fired such a great volley of praises to God, resounding in even the remotest corners of the universe, the surah complements this with an inspiring insight from the realm of plants: “who brings forth the pasturage, then turns it to withered grass.” (Verses 4-5) The pasturage, as used here, refers to all plants. Every plant is suitable for one sort of species or another. The term then has a much wider sense than the familiar pastures where cattle feed. God has created this planet and provided on it enough food to nourish every single living creature which walks, swims, flies or hides itself underground.

The pasturage is green when it first shoots forth, but it withers away and blackens. It may be used for feeding when green, after it blackens and withers, or in between. Thus, it is useful in every condition, and it serves a purpose according to the elaborate planning of the One who creates, proportions, determines and guides.

The reference here to the life of plants carries also an implicit connotation that all plants are reaped and harvested. Similarly, every living being will come to its appointed end. This connotation fits in well with the reference to the two worlds of man: “Yet you prefer this present life, while the life to come is better and longer lasting.” (Verses 16-17) This life is a pasture which comes to its end when it withers away and blackens, while the life to come is the one which lasts.

Happy News for the Prophet

As the beginning of the surah opens up this limitless horizon, it provides a framework for the fundamental facts tackled in this surah to be related to the whole universe. This framework is especially suitable, for it is in perfect harmony with the atmosphere of the surah, its rhythm and shades of meaning.

The surah then gives the Prophet, and the Muslim nation in general, a very welcome tiding: “We shall teach you and you shall not forget, except what God wills. He knows what is manifest and what is kept hidden. And We shall smooth your way to perfect ease. Give warning, therefore, [regardless of] whether such warning is of use.” (Verses 6-9) The happy news starts with sparing the Prophet the trouble of memorizing the Qur’an. All he needs to do is to read as he is taught and God will ensure that he will never forget any part of it. “We shall teach you and you shall not forget.” (Verse 6) So keen to keep the Qur’an in his memory, the Prophet used to repeat it after Gabriel, the angel, delivered it to him. He felt that it was part of his responsibility to keep it registered in his mind. But God decided that He would look after this task. The promise is also a happy one for the Islamic community, since it is a reassurance that the faith the Prophet preaches is authentic. It is from God and He looks after it. This is part of God’s grace. It shows how weighty the question of purity of faith is in His scales.

Every time the Qur’an states a definite promise or constant law, it follows it with a statement implying that divine will is free of all limitations and restrictions, even those based on a promise or law from God. For His will is absolute. Here, the surah emphasizes this principle after the promise is made to the Prophet that he will never forget any part of the Qur’an: “except what God wills.” (Verse 7) The two are  complementary in the sense that the promise is within divine will. So we look forward to God’s fulfilment of what He has willed to promise.

He knows what is manifest and what is kept hidden.” (Verse 7) This is stated here by way of giving a reason for all that has passed: teaching to read, freedom from forgetfulness and the exception made to it. Everything is decided according to the wisdom of the One who knows the secret and the manifest. He views everything from all angles and makes His decisions on the basis of His unfailing knowledge.

Then follows another promise, happy and all-embracing: “And We shall smooth your way to perfect ease.” (Verse 8) This is again happy news for the Prophet personally and for the Muslim community at large. It is furthermore a statement of the nature of Islam, its role in human life and in the universe. This verse, which is rendered in Arabic in no more than two words, states one of the most fundamental principles of faith and existence. It provides a link between the nature of the Prophet and the nature of Islam on the one hand and the nature of the whole universe on the other. It is a universe created by God with ease; it follows its appointed way with ease and draws nearer its final objective with ease. Thus it is an inspiration lighting limitless horizons.

If God smooths a certain person’s path, he finds ease in everything in his life. For he will move along his way to God with the universe, which is characterized by its harmony of construction, movement and direction. Hence he does not clash with those who digress, for these are of no importance, compared with the vast universe. Ease will pervade his whole life. It will be evident in his hand, tongue, movement, work, concepts, way of thinking and in the way he conducts all affairs and tackles all matters. Ease will be the main feature of how he carries himself and how he deals with others as well.

A Life Characterized by Ease

Such was the Prophet in all affairs. His wife, `A’ishah, reports that “whenever faced with a choice, the Prophet would always choose the easier of the two alternatives.” [Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.] She also reports: “Whenever the Prophet was alone with his family at home, he was the easiest of men, always smiling and laughing.” Al-Bukhari also relates: “Any woman would take the Prophet by the hand to take him wherever she wished.” His guidance in matters of clothing, food, household furniture and other matters of day to day life pointed to a preference for what is easy.

Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah speaks in his book, Zad al-Ma`ad, of the Prophet’s guidance concerning what to wear:  He had a turban which he gave to `Ali as a gift, but he used to wear it over a cap. But he also wore either the turban or the cap separately. When he wore the turban, however, he used to leave the end part of it hanging between his shoulders. This is related by Muslim in his Şahih anthology of authentic ahadith, on the authority of `Umar ibn Harith, who said, ‘I saw the Prophet speaking on the platform of the mosque, wearing a black turban with its end hanging between his shoulders’. Muslim also relates on the authority of Jabir ibn `Abdullah that the Prophet entered Makkah wearing a black turban, but nothing is mentioned here about his leaving its end part hanging. This signifies that the Prophet did not always leave the tail of his turban hanging between his shoulders. It is also said that the Prophet entered Makkah wearing his fighting attire, with a helmet on his head, which suggests that he used to wear what suited the occasion. [22]

The best method, it is true, is that followed by the Prophet and which he encouraged his Companions to adopt. His guidance regarding clothes is, in short, that he used to wear whatever was available, whether woollen, cotton, linen or other types of material. He used Yemeni gowns and had a green gown. He also used different types of dress such as overcoat, long robe, shirts, trousers, top gown, sandals and shoes. He left the end of his turban hanging between his shoulders on occasions, and not on other occasions. [23]

On food, the Prophet’s guidance gives a similar message:

The Prophet never refused what was available at home, nor did he ever go out of his way to get what was not. He would eat whatever was served of good food and he never slighted any sort of food whatsoever. If he did not like something he would simply not eat it, but would not forbid it. An example of his attitude is the case of lizard, which he would not eat without forbidding others to eat it. On the contrary, he was present when others ate it at his own table.

He liked sweets and honey, used to eat dates, fresh and preserved… drank milk, pure and mixed, added water to ice and honey and drank a drink made from dates. He also ate khazirah, which is a thick soup made of milk and flour. He ate cucumber with fresh dates, butter, dates with bread, bread with vinegar, bread with meat, dried meat, a dish called dubba’ (which was one of his favourites), boiled meat, rice and meat cooked with fat, cheese, bread with oil, water melon with fresh dates, and he used to like dates cooked with butter. In short, he never refused good food, nor did he go to any trouble to get it. His guidance was to eat what was available. If he did not have anything to eat, he would simply go hungry, etc. [24]

As for the Prophet’s example regarding sleep:

He used to sleep sometimes on a mattress, sometimes on a simple animal skin. Occasionally he would sleep on a rough mat, or on the cold earth with nothing under him. He sometimes used a bed; a plain one at times and covered with a black bedspread at other times. [25]

The Prophet’s traditions urging the adoption of an easy, gentle and tolerant attitude in all matters, especially those which concern religious duties are numerous. By way of example we may quote: “This religion is of an easy nature. Anyone who pulls hard against it shall be the loser.” [Related by al-Bukhari.] “Do not be hard on yourselves lest it should be made hard for you. A former community chose to be hard and it was made harder for them.” [Related by Abu Dawud.] “A rider driving hard neither reaches his destination nor keeps his transport.” [Related by al-Bukhari.] “Make it easy, not difficult, for others.” [Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.] Concerning social dealings, the Prophet says: “May God have mercy on any person who is tolerant when he buys, sells and asks for his rights.” [Related by al-Bukhari.] “A believer is gentle and friendly.” [Related by al-Bayhaqi.] “A believer gets on well with others and is easy to get on well with.” [Related by al-Daraquţni.] “The type of man God dislikes most is the quarrelsome one who does not budge.” [Related by alBukhari and Muslim.]

A highly significant feature of his character is that he hated hardness even in names and physical features. This shows how God moulded his nature and smoothed even his temperament. Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib reports that the Prophet asked his father what his name was, since al-Musayyib was his nickname. He answered, Hazn, [which means rough and difficult]. The Prophet said, “No, you are Sahl [i.e. plain and easy].” [26] The man said, “I will never change a name given to me by my father.” Sa`id comments, “As a result, we have always had a trace of hardness in our characters.” [Related by al-Bukhari.] Ibn `Umar reports that the Prophet changed the name of a woman from `Aşiyah [meaning disobedient] to Jamilah [meaning pretty].” [Related by Muslim.] He also said: “It is part of kindness to receive your brother with a smiling face.” [Related by al-Tirmidhi.] Thus we realize how refined and gentle the Prophet was, disliking even names and features which smacked of roughness and trying to substitute for them what related to gentility and kindness.

Ease in Practice

The Prophet’s life story is composed of pages of gentility, ease, tolerance and understanding in all affairs. Let us quote here an incident which reveals his method of dealing with people of difficult temperament: “Once a bedouin came to the Prophet asking something. The Prophet granted his request then said, ‘Have I treated you well?’ The bedouin said, ‘No, and you have not been kind either!’ The Prophet’s Companions present felt very angry and wanted to punish the man. The Prophet, however, motioned them to leave him alone. He then went into his house, sent for the man and gave him something over and above his original request. He then asked him: ‘Have I treated you well?’ The man said: ‘Yes, indeed. May God reward you well for you are a good kinsman and a good tribesman.’ The Prophet then said to him: ‘When you said what you said you made my Companions feel angry with you. Would you now like to tell them what you have just told me so that they hold nothing against you.’ The man said: ‘I will.’ The following day he came and the Prophet said: ‘This bedouin said yesterday what you heard. We gave him more and he claimed that he was satisfied. Is that so?’ The bedouin said: ‘Yes indeed! May God reward you well, for you are a good kinsman and a good tribesman.’ The Prophet then said to his Companions: ‘My affair with this bedouin is similar to that of a man who had a she-camel which ran loose. Other people rushed to try to catch her but they managed only to make her run wild. The owner then appealed to them to let him alone with his she-camel as he was gentler to her and knew her temperament. The owner then went towards her, having picked something to feed her with. He approached her gently until she responded and sat down. He then saddled her and mounted her back. Had I left you alone when the man said what he said, you would probably have killed him and he would have gone to hell.”

So gentle, simple and compassionate was the Prophet’s attitude towards any person of rough nature. Examples of this attitude abound in the records of his life. These examples are practical manifestations of how his path was smoothed for him to achieve perfect ease in every aspect of life. He was given a tolerant, understanding nature so that he might carry out his mission as God’s Messenger to mankind. In this way his nature and the nature of Islam, the message he carried and delivered, are alike. He was able, with God’s grace, to fulfil the great task with which he was entrusted. For when his path was smoothed, the heavy burden of his mission became an enjoyable sport.

The Qur’an carries descriptions of Muhammad, God’s Messenger, and the role assigned to him: “We have sent you forth only as a mercy to mankind.” (21: 107) “Those  who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet whom they shall find described in the Torah and the Gospel that are with them. He commands them to do what is right and forbids them to do what is wrong, and makes lawful to them the good things of life and forbids them all that is foul. He lifts from them their burdens and the shackles that weigh upon them.” (7: 157) As the Qur’an states, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a messenger bringing mercy to mankind, lifting their burdens which were imposed on them when they sought to make things hard.

The Qur’an also describes the message the Prophet delivered in statements of like import: “We have made the Qur’an easy for warning: but will any take heed?” (54: 22) “He has laid on you no hardships in the observance of your religion.” (22: 78) “God does not charge a soul with more than it can bear.” (2: 286) “God does not want to impose any hardship on you, but He wants to purify you.” (5: 6) The message of Islam is made easy for people to follow since it takes into consideration the limitations of human abilities. It imposes no burdens which are too heavy. This easy nature of Islam is readily identifiable in its spirit as well as in its commandments: “Follow the upright nature God has endowed mankind with.” (30: 30)

When we look carefully through this religion we find that care has been taken to make it easy for people to follow, without overstraining themselves. It takes into consideration the different situations man finds himself in, and the conditions he faces in different environments. The faith itself is based on concepts which are easy to grasp: a single deity; none like Him; He has created everything; He has guided everything to realize the purpose of its existence; He has also sent messengers to remind people of their role in life and to call them back to their Lord who created them. All obligations imposed by this faith fit perfectly together: there are no conflicts, no contradictions. People have to fulfil these obligations according to their abilities. There need be no overstraining, no heavy burdens. The Prophet teaches us: “When I give you an order, fulfil it as much as you can; but leave off what I forbid you.” [Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.] Prohibition may also be relaxed “He has clearly spelled out to you what He has forbidden you [to eat] unless you are driven to do so by sheer necessity.” (6: 119) These basic principles provide the limits within which the Islamic commandments and principles operate.

Hence the Messenger and the message have in common this basic feature of easy nature. So does the Muslim community which is brought into being by Islam, the easy message: it is a ‘middle’ community, merciful, the recipient of divine mercy, easy natured, enjoying a life which is perfectly harmonious with the wider universe. The universe itself with its perfect harmony provides a true picture of how God’s creation moves easily and smoothly, without clash or crash. Millions and millions of stars move in their orbits in the great space God has provided, each with its own gravity, yet none moves out of step and none crashes into another. There are  countless millions of living creatures, each moving through life to its appointed aim, near or distant, according to a perfect plan. Each is given the abilities which make its aim easy to achieve. Endless millions of movements, events and conditions come together then go their separate ways; yet they are much the same as the sounds of the different instruments in an orchestra: so different but which combine together to produce beautiful harmonies.

In short, perfect harmony exists between the nature of the universe, the message, the Messenger and the Muslim community. They are all the creation of God, the One, the Most Wise.

The Prophet’s Great Task

Give warning, therefore, [regardless of] whether such warning is of use.” (Verse 9) God has taught the Prophet so as not to forget, smoothed his way to perfect ease so that he may be able to discharge his great task of warning mankind. For this he has been the subject of careful preparation. Hence, he is asked to warn whenever he has a chance to address people and to convey to them God’s message.

Regardless of whether such warning is of use.” Warning is always useful. There will always be, in every land and every generation, those who will listen to the reminders and warnings and will benefit by them, no matter how corrupt their society is and how hardened their people are.

If we ponder a little over the verses in this surah and their sequence, we realize how great the message entrusted to the Prophet is. To deliver it, and to give the warnings he is asked to give, he needs special equipment: a smooth way to perfect ease in everything, to be taught what to say, and God’s preservation of the message intact.

Once the Prophet has delivered his message, his task is fulfilled. Everyone is left to choose his way. Destinies differ according to the choice of ways people follow: “He who fears God will heed it, but the most hapless wretch will turn aside from it, who shall be cast into the great fire, in which he shall neither die nor remain alive. Successful will be he who purifies himself and glorifies the name of his Lord and prays.” (Verses 10-15) The Prophet is told here that his warnings will benefit those who fear God and dread to incur His displeasure. Any intelligent person will shudder when he learns that there is a Creator who proportions well, determines and guides. For he realizes that such a Creator must hold everyone responsible for their actions, good or evil, and will reward them accordingly. Hence they fear Him and heed the warnings they are given.

“But the most hapless wretch will turn aside from it.” (Verse 11) If a man does not  listen to the warning given, then he is absolutely “the most hapless wretch.” He lives in a void, uninspired by the facts surrounding him, turning a deaf ear and a senseless mind to the evidence they give. Such a person lives in constant worry, striving hard to attain the paltry pleasures of this world. Hence he is the most wretched in this life. But he is also the most wretched in the hereafter as he will there suffer endless torment: He “shall be cast into the great fire, in which he shall neither die nor remain alive.” (Verses 12-13) The great fire is that of hell. It is indeed the greatest of all fires in intensity, duration and size. He who suffers it finds it endless. He neither dies to rest from its torment, nor does he live in it a life of rest and security. It is an unending agony which makes the sufferer yearn for death as his greatest hope.

At the other end we find prosperity accompanied with self- purification and a heeding of warnings: “Successful will be he who purifies himself and glorifies the name of his Lord and prays.” (Verses 14-15) Purification is used here in the widest sense of the word: purification from everything filthy or sinful. The person who seeks to purify himself, glorifies his Lord, feels His power and majesty in his inmost soul and prays, [whether praying is taken in its general sense or its specific Islamic sense] will definitely be successful, as God states here. He will achieve success here in this life as he enjoys his relationship with God and the perfect bliss that results from his glorification of God. He will achieve even greater success in the hereafter as he escapes hell and is rewarded with perfect happiness in heaven. How different the two destinies are.

Having sketched the two different ends of the most wretched and the God-fearing, the surah points out to the addressees the real reason for their great wretchedness, the failure which drives them headlong into the great fire: “Yet you prefer this present life, while the life to come is better and longer lasting.” (Verses 16-17) This short-sighted preference is the real reason for every misery which befalls man. It is indeed the cause of man’s taking no heed of the warnings given to him. The Qur’an calls the present life dunia which connotes both contempt and easy access. The life to come is better in kind and duration. Only the foolish who are deprived of sound judgement would, in the circumstances, prefer the present life to the next.

In conclusion, the surah points out that the message of Islam is not new; its roots go back far deep in time. “All this has indeed been stated in the earlier revelations; the scriptures of Abraham and Moses.” (Verses 18-19) The basics of the grand faith contained in this surah are the same old basic facts outlined in the ancient scriptures of Abraham and Moses.

The truth is one and the faith is one. This results from the fact that their origin is one, God, whose will it was to send messengers to mankind. The messengers deliver basically the same message, the same simple truth. Details of the messages may differ according to local or temporal needs, but the basics are the same. They have one  origin: God, the Most High, who creates, proportions well, determines and guides.


  1. A. Cressy Morrison, Man Does Not Stand Alone, Morrison & Gibb Ltd., London, 1962, pp. 58-59.
  2. Ibid., pp. 61-63
  3. Ibid., pp. 64-65.

15 Ibid., pp. 66-67.

16 At the time when this book was published, such tasks seemed a long time coming. However, most of them now seem possible. Still, the argument is correct and the more advancements science makes the more amazing God’s creation appears to be. — Editor’s note.

17 A.C. Morrison, op. cit., p. 68.

18 Ibid., pp. 86-87.

19 Ibid., pp. 52-53.

20 Ibid., pp. 71-72.

21 Ibid., pp. 72-73.

22 Ibn al-Qayyim, Zad al-Ma`ad, Mu’assasat al-Risalah, and Maktabat al-Manar, Beirut and Kuwait, 1994, Vol. I, pp. 135-136.

23 Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 143.

24 Ibid., Vol. 1, pp. 147-148.

25 Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 155.

26 This was the Prophet’s way of changing a name which he did not approve of. — Editor’s note.

Tafseer Surah Ala by Abul A’la Maududi


The Surah takes its name from the word al-A`la in the very first verse.

Period of Revelation
The subject matter shows that this too is one of the earliest Surahs to be revealed, and the words: “We shall enable you to recite, then you shall never forget” of verse 6 also indicate that it was sent down in the period when the Holy Messenger (upon whom he Allah’s peace) was not yet fully accustomed to receive Revelation and at the time Revelation came down he feared lest he should forget its words. If this verse is read along with verse 114 of Surah Ta Ha and verses 16-19 of Al-Qiyamah and the three verses are also considered with regard to their styles and contexts, the sequence of events seems to be that first in this Surah the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) was reassured to the effect: “Do not at all worry: We shall enable you to recite this Word, then you shall not forget it.” Then after a lapse of time, on another occasion, when the Surah Al-Qiyamah was being revealed, the Holy Prophet involuntarily began to rehearse the words of the Revelation. Thereupon it was said: “O Prophet do not move your tongue to remember this Revelation hastily. It is for Us to have it remembered and read. Therefore when We are reciting it, listen to its recital carefully. Again, it is for Us to explain its meaning.”Last of all, on the occasion of the revelation of Surah Ta Ha, the Holy Prophet on account of human weakness, again became afraid lest his memory should fail to preserve some portion of the 113 verses which were continuously revealed at that time, and therefore, he began to memorize them. Thereupon, it was said: “And see that you do not hasten to recite the Quran before its revelation is completed to you.”After this, it never so happened that he felt any such danger, for apart form these three places, there is no other place in the Quran where there might be a reference to this matter.

Theme and Subject Matter
This short surah contains three themes: Tauhid, instructions to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) and the Hereafter.

In the first verse, the doctrine of Tauhid has been compressed into a single sentence, saying that Allah’s name should be glorified and exalted, i. e. He should not be remembered by any name which mighty reflect a deficiency, fault, weakness, or an aspect of likeness, with created beings, for the root of all false creeds in the world are wrong concepts about Allah, which assumed the form of an erroneous name for His glorious and exalted Being. Therefore, for the correction of the creed, the primary thing is that Allah Almighty should be remembered only by the beautiful names which suit and befit Him.

In the next three verses, it has been said: “Your Lord, glorification of Whose name is being enjoined, is He Who created everything in the Universe, proportioned it, set it a destiny, taught it to perform the function for which it is created, and you witness this manifestation of His power day and night that He creates vegetation on the earth as well as reduces it to mere rubbish. No other being has the power to bring about spring nor the power to prevent autumn.”

Then, in the following two verses, the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) his been consoled, as if to say: “Do not worry as to how you will remember word for word the Qur’an that is being revealed to you. It is for Us to preserve it in your memory, and its preservation is not in any way the result of any excellence in you but the result of Our bounty and favor, otherwise if We so will, We can cause you to forget it.”

Then, the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) has been told: “You have not been made responsible to bring everyone on to the right path; your only duty is to convey the truth, and the simplest way of conveying the truth is that admonition be given to him who is inclined to listen to the admonition and accept it, and the one who is not inclined to it, should not be pursued. The one who fears the evil consequences of deviation and falsehood, will listen to the truth and accept it, and the wretched one who avoids listening to and accepting it, will himself see his evil end.”‘

The discourse has been summed up, saying: “Success is only for those who adopt purity of belief, morals and deed, and remember the name of their Lord and perform the Prayer. But, on the contrary, the people are wholly lost in seeking the ease, benefits and pleasures of the world, whereas they should actually endeavor for their well being in the Hereafter, for the world is transitory and the Hereafter everlasting and the blessings of the Hereafter are far better than the blessings of the world. This truth has not been expressed only in the Qur’an but in the books of the Prophets Abraham and Moses too, it had been brought to the notice of man.

(87:1) Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High, [1] (87:2) Who created all things and fashioned them in good proportion; [2] (87:3) Who determined [3] and guided them,[4] (87:4) Who brought forth the pasture, [5] (87:5) and then made it into a blackish straw. [6] (87:6) We shall make you recite and then you will not forget, [7] (87:7) except what Allah should wish. [8] He knows all that is manifest and all that is hidden. [9] (87:8) We shall ease you to follow the way of Ease. (87:9) So render good counsel if good counsel will avail. [10] (87:10) He who fears (Allah) shall heed it, [11] (87:11) but the wretched will turn away from it. (87:12) He will be cast into the Great Fire. (87:13) Then he will neither die in it, nor live. [12] (87:14) He who purified himself shall prosper, [13] (87:15) remembering his Lord’s name [14] and praying.[15] (87:16) No; but you prefer the present life,[16] (87:17) whereas the Hereafter is better and more enduring. [17] (87:18) This, indeed, was in the ancient Scrolls, (87:19) the Scrolls of Abraham and Moses. [18]

1. Literally: “Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High.” This can have several meanings and all are implied:

(1) Allah should be remembered by the names which fit Him, and no such name should be used for His exalted Being which, with regard to its meaning and sense, does not fit Him, or which reflects some aspect of deficiency, lack of reverence, polytheism about Him, or which refers to some wrong belief in respect of His Being, attributes, or works. For this purpose, the safest way is that only such names be used for Allah, which He himself has mentioned in the Quran, or which are a correct translation of these names in other languages.

(2) Allah should not be remembered by the names as are used generally for the created beings, or the created beings should not be called by names as are specifically meant for Allah. And if there are some attributive names which are not specifically meant for Allah, but may also be used for the created beings, such as Rauf (Kind), Rahim (Compassionate), Karim (Generous), Sami (Hearing), Basir (Seeing), etc. one should exercise due care not to use them for man as they are used for Allah.

(3) Allah should not be mentioned in a way or in a state which reflects lack of respect for Him; for example, to mention His name when engaged in mockery or jest, or when in the lavatory, or while committing a sinful act, or before the people who might behave insolently in response, or in assemblies where the people are engaged in absurd things and might laugh off His mention, or on an occasion when it is feared that the hearer will hear it disdainfully. About Imam Malik, it is related that when a beggar begged him for something and he did not have anything to give, he would not turn away the beggar, saying that Allah would help him, as is commonly done by the people, but he would excuse himself in some other way. When asked why he did so, he replied: When the beggar is not given anything and one makes an excuse, it inevitably displeases him. On such an occasion, I do not like to mention Allah’s name, for I do not like that somebody should hear His name in a state of annoyance and displeasure.

In the Hadith, it has been reported from Uqbah bin Amir Juhani that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had enjoined recitation of Subhana Rabbi yal-Aala in sajdah on the basis of this very verse, and the recitation of Subhana Rabbi yal- Adheem in ruku on the basis of the last verse of Surah Al- Waqiah, viz. Fa-sabhih bismi-Rabbi-kal-Adeem. (Musnad Ahmad, Abu Daud, lbn Majah, Ibn Hibban, Hakim, Ibn al- Mundhir).

2. That is, He created everything, from the earth to the heavens, in the universe, and gave whatever he created the right proportion and balance and gave every creature the best conceivable form and shape. The same thing has been expressed in Surah As-Sajdah, thus: Who gave everything He created the best form (verse 7) Thus, the creation of everything in the world giving it due order and proportion, is an express sign of the truth that some Wise Designer is its Creator. Had the creation of the countless things in the universe been the result of a chance accident, or the work of many creators, there could be no order and balance, no beauty and inner coherence among the many things existing in the world.

3. Set a destiny: Determined beforehand what would be the function of a certain thing in the world, and for that purpose what would be its size, its form and shape, its qualities, its place of location, and what opportunities and means should be provided for its survival, existence and functioning, when it should come into being, and when and how it should cease to be after completing its part of the work. Such a scheme for a thing is its destiny (taqdir). And this destiny Allah has set for everything in the universe and for the entire universe as a whole. This means that the creation has not come about without a pre-conceived plan, haphazardly, but for it the Creator had a full plan before Him, and everything is happening according to that plan. (For further explanation, see (E.Ns 13, 14 of Surah Al-Hijr); (E.N. 8 of Surah Al-Furqan); (E.N. 25 of Surah Al-Qamar). (E.N. 12 of Surah Abasa).

4. That is, nothing was just created and left to itself, but whatever was created to perform a certain function, it was also taught the method of performing that function. In other words, He is not merely the Creator but Guide too. He has taken the responsibility to give guidance to whatever He has created in a particular capacity to fit its nature and to guide it in the way suitable for it. One kind of guidance is for the earth, the moon, the sun, and the stars and planets, which they are following in performing their role. Another kind of guidance is for water, air, light and the solid and mineral elements, and they are performing the same services for which they have been created accordingly. Still another kind of guidance is for vegetables, according to which they take root and spread in the earth, sprout up from its layers, obtain food from wherever Allah has created it for them, produce stem, branches, leaves, blossom and fruit, and fulfill the function which has been appointed for each of them. Still another kind of guidance is for the countless species of animals of the land, and water, and for each member of the species, the wonderful manifestations of which are clearly visible in the life of the animals and in their works, so much so that even an atheist is compelled to concede that different kinds of animals possess some sort of inspirational knowledge which man cannot obtain even through his instruments, not to speak of his senses. Then, there are two different kinds of guidance for man, which correspond to his two different capacities. One kind of guidance is for his animal life, by which each child learns to suck milk spontaneously on birth, by which the eyes of man, his nose, ear, heart, brain, lungs, kidney, liver, stomach, intestines, nerves, veins and arteries, all are performing their respective functions, without man’s being conscious of it, or his will’s having anything to do with the functions of these organs. This is the guidance under which all physical and mental changes pertaining to childhood, maturity, youth and old age go on taking place in man, independent of his will, choice, even his consciousness. The second kind of guidance is for his intellectual and conscious life, the nature of which is absolutely different from the guidance for unconscious life, for in this sphere of life a kind of freedom has been transferred to man, for which the mode of guidance meant for voluntary life is not suitable. For turning away from this last kind of guidance, man may offer whatever arguments and excuses he may like, it is not credible that the Creator Who has arranged guidance for everything in this universe according to its capacity, might have set for man the destiny that he may appropriate numerous things in His world freely, but might not have made any arrangement to show what is the right way of using his choice and what is the wrong way. (For further explanation, see (E.Ns 9, 10,14, 56 of Surah An-Nahl); (E.N. 23 of Surah Ta-Ha), ( E.Ns 2, 3 of Surah Ar-Rahman); ( E.N. 5 of Surah Ad-Dhariyat).

5. The word maraa as used in the text means the fodder for animals but the context shows that here it does not imply mere fodder but every kind of vegetation that grows out of the soil.

6. That is, He does not only bring about spring but autumn as well. You witness both the manifestations of this power. On the one side, He causes lush green vegetation to grow, the freshness of which pleases the hearts and, on the other, He renders the same vegetation pale, dry and black rubbish, which is blown about by winds and swept away by floods. Therefore, no one here should be involved in the misunderstanding that he will only experience spring and will never see autumn. This same theme has been expressed at several other places in the Quran in other ways. For example see (Surah Yunus, Ayat 24); (Surah Al-Kahf, Ayat 45); (Surah Al-Hadid, Ayat 20).

7. Hakim has related from Saad bin Abi Waqqas and Ibn Marduyah from Abdullah bin Abbas that the Prophet (peace be upon him) repeated the words of the Quran for fear lest he should forget them. Mujahid and Kalbi say that even before Gabriel finished recitation of the revelation the Prophet (peace be upon him) would start repeating the initial verses lest he should forget them. On this very basis Allah assured him that he should listen quietly when the revelation was coming down, for, We shall enable you to recite it; then you will remember it forever. You should have no fear that you will forget any word of it. This is the third occasion where the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been taught the method of receiving the revelation. The first two occasions have been referred to in (Surah TaHa, Ayat 114) and (Surah Al-Qiyamah, Ayats 16-19). This verse proves that just as the Quran was sent down to the Prophet (peace be upon him) as a miracle, so also its each word was preserved in his memory as a miracle and no possibility was allowed to remain that he should forget anything of it, or that he should utter another synonymous word for any word of it.

8. This sentence can have two meanings: First, that the preservation of the entire Quran word for word in your memory is not a manifestation of your own power but the result of Allah Almighty’s bounty and grace; otherwise if Allah so willed, He could cause it to be forgotten. This same theme has been expressed at another place in the Quran, thus: O Muhammad! We may, if We so will, take back from you all of what We have revealed to you. (Surah Bani Israil, Ayat 86). Another meaning can also be: Your forgetting something temporarily, or your forgetting a verse or a word occasionally is an exception from this promise. What has been promised is: You will not forget any word of the Quran permanently. This meaning is confirmed by the following tradition of Bukhari: Once while leading the Fajr Prayer the Prophet (peace be upon him) happened to omit a verse during the recitation. After the Prayer Ubayy bin Kaab asked if the verse had been abrogated. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied that he had forgotten to recite it.

9. Although the words are general, and they mean that Allah knows everything, whether it is open or hidden, yet in the context in which they occur, they seem to mean: O Prophet, your reciting the Quran along with Gabriel is known to Allah and your fear for which you do so is also in Allah’s knowledge. Therefore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is being assured that he will not forget it.

10. Generally, the commentators take these as two separate sentences. They interpret the first sentence to mean: We are giving you a simple code of law, which is easy to practice and act upon, and the second sentence to mean: Admonish the people if admonishing be useful. but in our opinion, the word fa-dhakkir connects the two sentences in meaning, and the theme of the second sentence bears upon the theme of the first sentence. Therefore, we interpret these sentences to mean: O Prophet, We do not want to put you to any hardship concerning the preaching of Islam by demanding that you should make the deaf to hear and the blind to see the way, but We have appointed an easy way for you, which is this: Give admonition when you feel that the people are inclined to benefit by it. As to who is inclined to benefit by the admonition and who is not, this you can only know through general preaching. Therefore, you should continue your general preaching, but your object should be to search out those from among the people who will benefit by it and adopt the right way. Such people alone are worthy of your attention and you should pay full attention only to their instruction and training. You need not abandon them and pursue those about whom you find by experience that they are not inclined to accept any admonition. Almost this very theme has been expressed in Surah Abasa in another way, thus: As for him who is indifferent, to him you attend, though you would not be responsible if he does not reform. And the one who comes to you running, of his own will and fears, from him you turn away. By no means: This is but an Admonition. Let him who wills, accept it. (verses 5-12).

11. That is, only the one who has fear of God and of evil consequences, will consider whether or not he is following a wrong way, and he only will heed the admonition of the Servant of Allah, who is distinguishing guidance from misguidance for him and guiding him to true successes and piety.

12. That is, he will neither die so as to escape the punishment nor live as one truly lives so as to enjoy the pleasures of life. This punishment is for those who do not at all accept the admonition of Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) and persist in disbelief, polytheism and atheism till death. As for those who believe in their hearts but are cast into Hell because of their evil deeds, it has been said in the Hadith that when they will have undergone their punishment, Allah will give them death; then intercession on their behalf will be accepted, and their scorched bodies will be brought to the canals of Paradise, and the dwellers of Paradise will be asked to sprinkle water on them; then by that water they will come to life even as vegetation grows up when water is sprinkled on the earth. This theme has been reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Muslim on the authority of Abu Saeed Khudri and in Bazzar on the authority of Abu Hurairah.

13. Who purified himself: Who affirmed the faith giving up disbelief and polytheism, adopted good morals giving up evil morals, and performed good deeds giving up evil deeds. Success does not imply worldly prosperity, but true and real success whether worldly prosperity accompanies it or not. (For explanation, see (E.N. 23 of Surah Yunus), (E.Ns 1, 11, 50 of Surah Al-Mominoon ); (E.N. 4 of Surah Luqman).

14. To remember Allah signifies His remembrance in the heart as well as with the tongue.

15. That is, he did not remain content only with remembering Allah but proved by performing the Prayer that he is also practically prepared to obey God in Whom he has affirmed the faith, and will remember His name as long as he lives. In this verse mention has been made of two things respectively: First, to remember Allah, then to perform the Prayer. Accordingly, the method enjoined is that the Prayer be begun with Allahu Akbar. This is an evidence to prove that all the elements of the procedure that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has taught of performing the Prayer, are based on the allusions in the Quran. But, no one else, apart from the Messenger (peace be upon him) of Allah, could by combining these injunctions and allusions give the Prayer the form that it has.

16. That is, O man, all your thoughts and endeavors are only for the world, its ease and comforts, its benefits and enjoyments. You regard whatever you gain here as the real gain and whatever you lose here as your real loss.

17. That is, the Hereafter is preferable to the world for two reasons: First, that its comforts and pleasures are far superior to all the blessings of the world; second, that the world is transitory and the Hereafter everlasting.

18. This is the second place in the Quran where reference has been made to the teachings of the Books of the Prophets Abraham and Moses (peace be upon them). The first reference was made in section 3 of Surah An-Najm.