Assalamualaikum, we begin with a short introduction of Surah Al Balad. The English meaning of this surah is “The City” and it’s the 90th chapter of the Quran. It is a Meccan surah consisting of 20 ayats or verses.
The main subject or theme of this chapter is to show the two paths Muslims can take. They are given the choice to drive either on the highway of good or evil. Allah has given them the ability and intelligence to judge right from wrong and they will ultimately reap their own destiny. Allah also mentions the right path is a difficult one for people, it is a test of one’s character and discipline. The difficult path includes “freeing of a slave”, “feeding on a day of severe hunger”, helping “an orphan of near relationship”, “or a needy person in misery”. It’s also of having good character traits like showing sabr or being “patient” and “compassionate”.
You can read complete surah Al Balad with transliteration and translation below. After that you will find the Tafsir given by Ibn Kathir if you want to learn and understand hadith behind this surah in depth.
Read Surah Al Balad Transliteration
Bismillah hir rahman nir raheem
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful
Laaa uqsimu bihaazal balad
1. I swear by this city, Makkah –
Wa anta hillum bihaazal balad
2. And you, [O Muhammad], are free of restriction in this city –
Wawalidin wama walad
3. And [by] the father and that which was born [of him],
Laqad khalaqna al-insana feekabad
4. We have certainly created man into hardship.
Ayahsabu an lan yaqdira AAalayhi ahad
5. Does he think that never will anyone overcome him?
Yaqoolu ahlaktu maalal lubadaa
6. He says, “I have spent wealth in abundance.”
Ayahsabu al lam yarahooo ahad
7. Does he think that no one has seen him?
Alam najAAal lahu AAaynayn
8. Have We not made for him two eyes?
Wa lisaananw wa shafatayn
9. And a tongue and two lips?
Wa hadaynaahun najdayn
10. And have shown him the two ways?
Fala iqtahama alAAaqaba
11. But he has not broken through the difficult pass.
Wama adraka maalAAaqaba
12. And what can make you know what is [breaking through] the difficult pass?
13. It is the freeing of a slave
Aw it’aamun fee yawmin zee masghabah
14. Or feeding on a day of severe hunger
Yateeman zaa maqrabah
15. An orphan of near relationship
Aw miskeenan zaa matrabah
16. Or a needy person in misery
Thumma kana mina allatheena amanoowatawasaw bissabri watawasaw bilmarhama
17. And then being among those who believed and advised one another to patience and advised one another to compassion.
18. Those are the companions of the right.
Wallatheena kafaroo bi-ayatinahum as-habu almash-ama
19. But they who disbelieved in Our signs – those are the companions of the left.
Alaihim naarum mu’sadah
20. Over them will be fire closed in.
Tafsir and Benefits of Surah Al Balad
It’s important we learn from scholars that are reputable and intelligent. This Tafsir is by Ibn Kathir, a famous Mufassir (commentator of Quran). He is well known and respected for his keen memory and a highly regarded scholar of tafsir. The Tafsir of Ibn Kathir is known by many Muslims as a complete thorough explanation of The Quran and is often cited by many scholars in their research.
His books became popular during his lifetime, and since his death have benefited many people.
Which was revealed in Makkah
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
(1. Nay! I swear by this city;)
(2. And you are free in this city.)
(3. And by the begetter and that which he begot.)
(4. Verily, We have created man in Kabad.)
(5. Does he think that none can overcome him)
(6. He says: “I have wasted wealth in abundance!”)
(7. Does he think that none sees him)
(8. Have We not made for him two eyes)
(9. And a tongue and two lips)
(10. And shown him the two ways)
Swearing by the Sanctity of Mecca and Other Things that Man was created in Hardship
Here Allah has sworn by Makkah, the Mother of the Towns, addressing its resident (during the non-sacred months,) free in this city in order to draw his attention to the significance of its sanctity when its people are in the state of sanctity.
Khusayf reported from Mujahid; (Nay! I swear by this city;) “The word “La” (Nay) refers to the refutation against them (Quraish). I swear by this city.” Shabib bin Bishr narrated from `Ikrimah, from Ibn `Abbas that he said, (Nay! I swear by this city;) “This means Makkah.”
Concerning the Ayah: (And you are free in this city.) he (Ibn `Abbas) said, “O Muhammad! It is permissable for you to fight in it.” Similar was reported from Sa`id bin Jubayr, Abu Salih, `Atiyah, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, As-Suddi and Ibn Zayd. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “Allah made it lawful (to fight in) for him (the Prophet ) for one hour of a day.”
The meaning of what they have said was mentioned in a Hadith that is agreed- upon as being authentic. In it the Prophet said, (Verily, Allah made this city sacred on the Day that He created the heavens and the earth. Therefore, it is sacred by the sanctity of Allah until the Day of Judgement.
Its trees should not be uprooted, and its bushes and grasses should not be removed. And it was only made lawful for me (to fight in) for one hour of a day. Today its sanctity has been restored just as it was sacred yesterday.
So, let the one who is present inform those who are absent.) In another wording of this Hadith, he said, (So, if anyone tries to use the fighting of the Messenger (to conquer Makkah) as an excuse (to fight there), then tell him that Allah permitted it for His Messenger and He has not permitted it for you.)
Concerning Allah’s statement, (And by the begetter and that which he begot.) Mujahid, Abu Salih, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, Sufyan Ath-Thawri, Sa`id bin Jubayr, As-Suddi, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Khusayf, Shurahbil bin Sa`d and others have said, “Meaning, by the begetter, Adam, and that which he begot is his children.”
This view that Mujahid and his companions have chosen is good and strong. This is supported by the fact that Allah swears by the Mother of the Towns, which are dwellings. Then after it He swears by the dwellers therein, who is Adam, the father of mankind, and his children. Abu `Imran Al-Jawni said, “It refers to Ibrahim and his progeny.”
Ibn Jarir recorded this statement as did Ibn Abi Hatim. Ibn Jarir preferred the view that it is general and it refers to every father and his children. This meaning is also acceptable. Allah then says, (Verily, We have created man in Kabad.) Ibn Abi Najih and Jurayj reported from `Ata, from Ibn `Abbas concerning the phrase `in Kabad’, “He was created while in hardship. Don’t you see him” Then he mentioned his birth and the sprouting of his teeth. Mujahid said, (in Kabad.) “A drop of sperm, then a clot, then a lump of flesh, enduring in his creation.”
Mujahid then said, “This is similar to Allah’s statement, (His mother bears him with hardship. And she brings him forth with hardship.) (46:15) and she breast-feeds him with hardship, and his livelihood is a hardship. So he endures all of this.” Sa`id bin Jubayr said, (Verily, We have created man in Kabad.) “In hardship and seeking livelihood.” `Ikrimah said, “In hardship and long-suffering.” Qatadah said, “In difficulty.” It is reported from Al-Hasan that he said, “Enduring the hardships of the world by life and the severity of the Hereafter.’
Man is encompassed by Allah and His Bounties
Allah says, (Does he think that none can overcome him) Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, (Does he think that none can overcome him) “Meaning no one is able to take his wealth.”
Qatadah said, (Does he think that none can overcome him) “The Son of Adam thinks that he will not be asked about this wealth of his — how he earned and how he spent it.”
Allah said: (He says: “I have wasted wealth in abundance!”) This means, the Son of Adam says, “I spent an abundance of wealth.” Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, As-Suddi and others have said this. (Does he think that none sees him) Mujahid said, “Does he think that Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, does not see him.”
Others among the Salaf have said similar to this. Allah said; (Have We not made for him two eyes) meaning, for him to see with them. (And a tongue) meaning, for him to speak with, and so that he can express that which is inside of him. (and two lips) In order to help him with speaking, eating food, and beautifying his face and his mouth.
The Ability to distinguish between Good and Evil is also a Blessing
(And shown him the two ways) This refers to the two paths. Sufyan Ath-Thawri narrated from `Asim, from Zirr, from `Abdullah bin Mas`ud that he said, (And shown him the two ways) “The good and the evil.” Similar to this has been reported from `Ali, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Abu Wa’il, Abu Salih, Muhammad bin Ka`b, Ad-Dahhak, and `Ata’ Al-Khurasani among others.
Similar to this Ayah is Allah’s statement, (Verily, We have created man from Nutfah Amshaj, in order to try him: so We made him hearer and seer. Verily, We showed him the way, whether he be grateful or ungrateful.) (76:2-3)
Second Half Of The Tafsir of Surah Al-Balad
Second Half Of Tafsir – Verses 11-20:
(11. But he has not attempted to pass on the path that is steep.)
(12. And what will make you know the path that is steep)
(13. Freeing a neck) (14. Or giving food in a day full of Masghabah,)
(15. To an orphan near of kin.)
(16. Or to a Miskin cleaving to dust.)
(17. Then he became one of those who believed and recommended one another to patience, and recommended one another to compassion.)
(18. They are those on the Right,)
(19. But those who disbelieved in Our Ayat, they are those on the Left.)
(20. Upon them Fire will Mu’sadah.)
The Encouragement to traverse upon the Path of Goodness
Ibn Zayd said, (But he has not attempted to pass on the path that is steep.) “This means, will he not traverse upon the path which contains salvation and good Then He explains this path by his saying, (And what will make you know the path that is steep Freeing a neck, or giving food.)”
Imam Ahmad recorded from Sa`id bin Marjanah that he heard Abu Hurayrah saying that the Messenger of Allah said, (Whoever frees a believing slave, Allah will free for every limb (of the slave) one of his limbs from the Fire.
This is to such an extent that He (Allah) will free a hand for a hand, a leg for a leg, and a private part for a private part.) Ali bin Al-Husayn then said (to Sa`id), “Did you hear this from Abu Hurayrah” Sa`id replied, “Yes.” Then`Ali bin Al-Husayn said to a slave boy that he owned who was the swiftest of his servants, “Call Mutarrif!”
So when the slave was brought before him he said, “Go, for you are free for the Face of Allah.” Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i, all recorded this Hadith from Sa`id bin Marjanah. Imam Ahmad recorded from `Amr bin `Abasah that the Prophet said, (Whoever builds a Masjid so that Allah may be remembered in it, Allah will build a house for him in Paradise; and whoever frees a Muslim person, then it will be his ransom from Hell; and whoever grows grey in Islam, then it will be a light for him on the Day of Judgement.)
According to another route of transmission, Ahmad recorded from Abu Umamah, who reported from `Amr bin `Abasah that As-Sulami said to him, “Narrate a Hadith to us that you heard from the Messenger of Allah , without any deficiency or mistakes.”
He (`Amr) said, “I heard him saying, (Whoever has three children born to him in Islam, and they die before reaching the age of puberty, Allah will enter him into Paradise by virtue of His mercy to them. And whoever grows gray in the way of Allah (fighting Jihad), then it will be a light for him on the Day of Judgement. And whoever shoots an arrow in the way of Allah (fighting Jihad) that reaches the enemy, whether it hits or misses, he will get the reward of freeing a slave. And whoever frees a believing slave, then Allah will free each of his limbs from the Fire for every limb that the slave has. And whoever equipped two riding animals in the way of Allah (for fighting Jihad), then indeed Paradise has eight gates, and Allah will allow him to enter any of them he choses.)”
Ahmad recorded this Hadith from different routes of transmission that are good and strong, and all praise is due to Allah.Allah said, (Or giving food in a day full of Masghabah,) Ibn `Abbas said, “Of hunger.” `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah and others all said the same.
The word `Saghb’ means hunger. Then Allah says, (To an orphan) meaning, he gives food on a day like this to an orphan. (near of kin.) meaning, who is related to him. Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Ad-Dahhak and As-Suddi all said this.
This is similar to what was related in a Hadith that was collected by Imam Ahmad on the authority of Salman bin `Amir who said that he heard the Messenger of Allah say, (Charity given to the poor person is counted as one charity, while if it is given to a relative it is counted as two: charity and connecting the ties (of kinship).) At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i both recorded this Hadith and its chain of narration is authentic.
Then Allah says, (Or to a Miskin cleaving to dust (Dha Matrabah)). meaning, poor, miserable, and clinging to the dirt.
It means those who are in a state of destitution. Ibn `Abbas said, “Dha Matrabah is that who is dejected in the street and who has no house or anything else to protect him against the dirt.”
Allah said; (Then he became one of those who believed) meaning, then, along with these beautiful and pure characteristics, he was a believer in his heart, seeking the reward of that from Allah.
This is as Allah says, (And whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it, with the necessary effort due for it while he is believer, then such are the ones whose striving shall be appreciated.) (17:19)
Allah also says, (Whoever works righteousness – whether male or female – while being a true believer…) (16:97) Allah says, (and recommended one another to patience, and recommended one another to compassion.) meaning, he was from the believers who worked righteous deeds, and advised each other to be patient with the harms of the people, and to be merciful with them.
This is similar to what has been related in the noble Hadith, (The merciful people will be treated with mercy by the Most Merciful (Allah). Be merciful to those who are on the earth and He Who is above the heavens will be merciful to you.) In another Hadith he said, (Allah will not be merciful with whoever is not merciful with the people.)
Abu Dawud recorded from ‘Abdullah bin `Amr that he narrated (from the Prophet ), (Whoever does not show mercy to our children, nor does he recognize the right of our elders, then he is not of us.) Then Allah says, (They are those on the Right,) meaning, those who have these characteristics are the companions of the Right Hand.
Surah Al Balad: The Companions of the Left Hand and Their Recompense
Then Allah says, (But those who disbelieved in Our Ayat, they are those on the Left.) meaning, the companions of the Left Hand. (Upon them Fire will Mu’sadah.) meaning, it will be sealed over them and there will be no way for them to avoid it, nor will they have any way out. Abu Hurayrah, Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Mujahid, Muhammad bin Ka`b Al-Qurazi, `Atiyah Al-`Awfi, Al-Hasan, Qatadah and As-Suddi, all said, (Mu’sadah.) “This means shut.” Ibn `Abbas said, “Its doors will be closed.” Ad-Dahhak said, (Mu’sadah.) “It will be sealed over them and it will have no door.” Qatadah said, (Mu’sadah.) “It will be shut and there will be no light in it, no crevice (escape), and no way out of it forever.”
This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Al-Balad, and all praise and blessings are due to Allah.