Below you can read Surah Al-Bayyinah (in Arabic text: البينة). It is the 98th Surah of the Qur’an. It is Medinan Surah, meaning it’s revelation was after the Prophet (ﷺ) migrated from Mecca to Medinah.
The meaning is “The Clear Proof” or “Evidence” and is the 98th Surah of the Qur’an. It is a short surah consisting of 8 ayats.
This Surah address why it was necessary for Allah to send down His messenger with The Qur’an. It begins with an ayat discussing the polytheists of Arabia, as well as the People of the Book who had fallen into disbelief. They needed a ‘clear proof’ or ‘evidence’ which is what Allah had sent them.
Read Surah Bayyinah with Translation and Transliteration
Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful
Lam ya kunil lazeena kafaru min ahlil kitaabi wal mushri keena mun fak keena hattaa ta-tiya humul bayyinah
1. Those who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the polytheists were not to be parted [from misbelief] until there came to them clear evidence –
Rasoolum minal laahi yatlu suhufam mutahharah
2. A Messenger from Allah, reciting purified scriptures
Feeha kutubun qaiyimah
3. Within which are correct writings.
Wa maa tafarraqal lazeena ootul kitaaba il-la mim b’adi ma jaa-at humul baiyyinah
4. Nor did those who were given the Scripture become divided until after there had come to them clear evidence.
Wa maa umiroo il-la liy’abu dul laaha mukhliseena lahud-deena huna faa-a wa yuqeemus salaata wa yu-tuz zakaata; wa zaalika deenul qaiyimah
5. And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah. And that is the correct religion.
Innal lazeena kafaru min ahlil kitaabi wal mushri keena fee nari jahan nama khaali deena feeha; ulaa-ika hum shar rul ba reeyah
6. Indeed, they who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the polytheists will be in the fire of Hell, abiding eternally therein. Those are the worst of creatures.
Innal lazeena aamanu wa ‘amilus saalihaati ula-ika hum khairul bareey yah
7. Indeed, they who have believed and done righteous deeds – those are the best of creatures.
Jazaa-uhum inda rabbihim jan naatu ‘adnin tajree min tahtihal an haaru khalideena feeha abada; radiy-yallaahu ‘anhum wa ra du ‘an zaalika liman khashiya rabbah.
8. Their reward with Allah will be gardens of perpetual residence beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever, Allah being pleased with them and they with Him. That is for whoever has feared his Lord.
Tafseer of Surah Bayyinah
There’s great virtue and barakah in reading Surah Bayyinah and the Qur’an in general. You can also benefit from reading tafsir as you gain a better understanding and appreciation for this chapter of the Qur’an.
The tafsir provides historical context of when and why the Surah was revealed, the lessons that can be learned, and the significance of it’s revelation. We should go beyond just reading the Qur’an in Arabic and actually make it a study to understand it’s teaching and it’s message.
Surah Al Bayyinah Tafseer by Ibn Kathir
Imam Ahmad recorded from Anas bin Malik that the Messenger of Allah said to Ubayy bin Ka`b,
(Verily, Allah has commanded me to recite to you (Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Scripture.)) Ubayy said, “He (Allah) mentioned me by name to you” The Prophet replied,
(Yes.) So he (Ubayy) cried. Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i all recorded this Hadith from Shu`bah.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As for the People of the Scripture, they are the Jews and the Christians, and the idolators are the worshippers of idols and fire among the Arabs and the non-Arabs. Mujahid said, they are not going
(to leave) “Meaning, they will not be finished until the truth becomes clear to them.” Qatadah also said the same thing.
(until there came to them the Bayyinah.) meaning, this Qur’an. This is why Allah says,
(Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Scripture and idolators, were not going to leave until there came to them the Bayyinah.) Then He explains what the Bayyinah is by His saying,
(A Messenger from Allah, reciting purified pages.) meaning, Muhammad and the Magnificent Qur’an he recites, which is written down among the most high gathering in purified pages. This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(In Records held in honor. Exalted, purified, in the hands of scribes (angels). Honorable and obedient.) (80:13-16) Then Allah says,
(Wherein are upright Books.) Ibn Jarir said, “Meaning in the purified pages are Books from Allah that are upright, just and straight. They have no mistakes in them because they are from Allah, the Mighty and Majestic.”
(And the People of the Scripture differed not until after there came to them the Bayyinah.) This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(And be not as those who divided and differed among themselves after the Bayyinat came to them. It is they for whom there is an awful torment.) (3:105) This refers to the people of those divinely revealed Scriptures that were sent down to the nations that were before us. After Allah established the proofs and evidences against them, they divided and differed concerning that which Allah had intended in their Scriptures, and they had many differences. This is like what has been reported in a Hadith that has many routes of transmission,
(Verily, the Jews differed until they became seventy-one sects. And verily, the Christians differed until they became seventy-two sects. And this Ummah will divide into seventy-three sects, and all of them will be in the Fire except one.) They said, “Who are they, O Messenger of Allah” He replied,
((Those who are upon) what I and my Companions are upon.)
(And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, making religion purely for Him alone,) This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(And We did not send any Messenger before you but We revealed to him: La ilaha illa Ana.) (21:25) Thus, Allah says,
(Hunafa’) meaning, avoiding Shirk and being truly devout to Tawhid. This is like Allah’s statement,
(And Verily, We have sent among every Ummah a Messenger (proclaiming): “Worship Allah, and avoid the Taghut (false deities).”) (16:36) A discussion of the word Hanif has already been mentioned previously and in Surat Al-An`am, so there is no need to repeat it here.
(and perform Salah) And this is the best of the physical forms of worship.
(and give Zakah,) This is doing good to the poor and the needy.
(and that is the right religion.) meaning, the upright and just religion, or the nation that is straight and balanced.
Allah informs of what will happen to the wicked disbelievers among the People of the Scripture and the idolators who oppose the Allah’s divinely revealed Books and the Prophets whom He sent. He says that they will be in the fire of Hell on the Day of Judgement and they will abide therein forever. This means that they will remain in it and they will have no way out of it and they will not cease being in it.
(They are the worst of creatures.) meaning, they are the worst creation that Allah has fashioned and created. Then Allah informs about the situation of the righteous people who believed in their hearts and performed righteous deeds with their bodies. He says that they are the best of creation. Abu Hurayrah and a group of the scholars have used this Ayah as a proof that the believers have a status among the creatures that is better than the angels. This is because Allah says,
(They are the best of creatures.) Then Allah says,
(Their reward with their Lord) meaning, on the Day of Judgement.
(is Eternal Gardens underneath which rivers flow. They will abide therein forever,) meaning, having no end, no break and no conclusion.
(Allah will be pleased with them, and they well-pleased with Him.) The condition of Him being pleased with them is more illustri- ous than all of the everlasting delights that they will be given.
(and they well-pleased with Him.) Due to the comprehensive favors He has given them. Then Allah says,
(That is for him who fears his Lord.) meaning, this is the reward that will be attained by those who revere Allah and fear Him as He deserves to be feared. This is the person who worships Allah as if he sees Him, and he knows that even though he does not see Him, indeed Allah sees him. Imam Ahmad recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Shall I not inform you of the best of creation) They said, “Of course, O Messenger of Allah!” He said,
(A man who takes the reins of his horse in the way of Allah, and whenever there is a fearful cry from the enemy, he climbs upon it. Shall I not inform you of the best of creation) They said, “Of course, O Messenger of Allah!” He said,
(A man who has a flock of sheep and he establishes the prayer and gives the obligatory charity. Shall I not inform you of the worst of creation) They said, “Of course.” He said,
(The person who is asked by Allah and he does not give by Him.)
This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Lam Yakun (Al-Bayyinah), and all praise and thanks are due to Allah.
Situation of the People of the Book and of the Pagan Arabs before the advent of the Final Messenger of Allah ﷺ
Verse [98:1] draws attention to the situation of the world before the advent of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ : The entire world was sunk deeply in the darkness of ignorance, superstition, corruption, disbelief and paganism. When the whole world was so benighted, the infinite grace, mercy and wisdom of the Lord of the worlds bubbled up to dispel the darkness, to cure the obnoxious diseases and to dissipate the universally prevailing calamities. The moral and spiritual maladies were acute, excruciating, serious and severe. As a result, there was a need for an effective, expert and a competent healer who would be able to cure them. Such a healer was raised in the person of the Final Messenger of Allah ﷺ ، who is described as al-Bayyinah ‘The Clear Proof. The healer came with a Book. Now follows some of the important characteristics of the Holy Qur’an.
Verses [98:2-3] يَتْلُو صُحُفًا مُّطَهَّرَةً فِيهَا كُتُبٌ قَيِّمَةٌ (a messenger from Allah who recites the purified scrolls containing [right and ] straight writings. – 98:2, 3] The verb yatlu is derived from the infinitive tilawah, meaning ‘to read out or to recite’. However, not every reading or reciting is tilawah, but only the one that is very closely followed according to the teacher’s instruction. Probably, this is the reason why the word tilawah is specifically used, in common idiom, for ‘the recitation of the noble Qur’an’. The word suhuf is the plural of sahifah and it refers to ‘a leaf or a page of a book or some leaves of paper on which something is written’. The word kutub is the plural of kitab and it may mean:  a leaf or page of a book or some leaves of paper on which something is written. From this point of view, the words kutub and suhuf are synonyms; or  now and then the word kitab [pl. kutub] is used in the sense of a ‘writ as in [8:68] لَّوْلَا كِتَابٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ سَبَقَ “Had there not been a writ from Allah which came earlier…” the word kitab is used in the sense of a ‘writ’. In this context, the second sense seems to fit in more appropriately because if it is taken in the first sense, the words kutub and suhuf, being synonyms, the prepositional phrase fiha is rendered meaningless. The pronoun -ha in the phrase refers to suhuf, and the two statements would mean: ‘reciting purified written pages in which are true written pages’. This is not in keeping with the lofty rules and principles of Qur’anic eloquence.
The word مُطَھَّرَۃً mutahharatan [purified] is an adjective qualifying the noun suhuf [pages/scrolls]. According to Ibn ` Abbas ؓ ، the Scriptures are completely free from all possible flaws, forgeries, doubt, hypocrisy and deviations. The word qayyimah is used in the sense of ‘straight’, and is the adjective of the noun kutub, and it means its laws, ordinances and injunctions are upright, straight, just and balanced. It could also mean ‘lasting and permanent’. In this instance, the phrase would signify that the Divine injunctions of the Holy Qur’an will last permanently till the Day of Judgment. The verse thus purports to say that the sending of the Holy Prophet Muhammad ﷺ [as the Clear Proof] was essential to the transformation of the people of earlier revelations and the pagans who had ended up in disbelief and could not have departed from their erring ways without the help of his ﷺ Prophetic mission. His mission was to recite the pure scrolls to them which contained clear Divine injunctions. Initially he did not recite from the Scriptures but from his memory, but the sense here is that he recited to them a discourse that was later written and preserved in scrolls. The Qur’an [as the Clear Proof] is the compendium of all that is good, lasting and immutable teachings.
[98:3] containing (right and) straight writings.
Verse [98:4] وَمَا تَفَرَّقَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَةُ (And those who were given the Book did not disagree but after the Clear Proof came to them.) The verb tafarraqa here means ‘to deny, reject or differ and disagree’. The verse means to say that the People of the Book had eagerly awaited the advent of a great Holy Prophet ﷺ about whom clear prophecies were found in their Scriptures, clear description of the Holy Prophet ﷺ was given, in that the Qur’an would descend upon him and it would be compulsory for them to obey and follow him, but when he appeared in fact, then instead of accepting him, they rejected him. The Qur’an points out that there was a complete agreement among the Jews and the Christians that the Final Messenger t will make his appearance, as in [2:89] وَكَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ يَسْتَفْتِحُونَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا “…while earlier, they used to seek help against those who disbelieved…” That is, the Torah had in several places foretold the coming of the Holy Prophet ﷺ . In fact, the Jews themselves used to tell the pagan Arabs that a new Prophet was soon to come who will vanquish them, and the Jews claimed that they would be with him, so they would be victorious. Further in [2:89] the Qur’an states فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُم مَّا عَرَفُوا كَفَرُوا بِهِ “…yet when there came to them that they did identify, they denied it… “. The phrase ‘that they did identify’ could refer to the ‘Final Messenger’ ﷺ or the ‘new Divine Book [the Qur’an] ‘ or the ‘religion of Truth’. The same theme runs through the verse under comment: Many people accepted the new Prophet ﷺ ، the new Book and the new religion in terms of the prophecies made in their revealed Scriptures, but a large number, especially the Christians, rejected them. It is a strange phenomenon that before his advent they believed in him without a single dissenting voice, but when he appeared as the Clear Proof, dissention arose and a large number rejected him while a small number believed in him.
Since this phenomenon was restricted to the People of the Book, it did not include the pagans, unlike verse  which includes the pagans also. Allah knows best!
Verse  وَذَٰلِكَ دِينُ الْقَيِّمَةِ (And that is the way of the straight religion.) The word qayyimah [the straight] is apparently the qualifier of the noun kutub [Books] which occurred earlier. Some treat the adjective as qualifying the noun millah [religion]. The verse purports to say that Allah commanded the People of the former Scriptures that they should render full and sincere obedience to Divine commandments, that is, to worship Allah alone. They should also establish the regular prayers and pay the obligatory alms. Then the Qur’an reminds them that this is not their distinctive feature exclusively. All former religions that are upright and received Books from Allah have the same features. This is the true religion of all the Prophets (علیہم السلام) that they preached to their respective people. It would appear that the phrase hutubun qayyimah [(right and) straight writings], contextually, refers to the Qur’anic ordinances and injunctions. From this point of view, the verse would signify that the ordinances and injunctions of the Shari` ah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad ﷺ are exactly the same as those that were given to them in their revealed Scriptures. They were not divergent so that they could find a pretext to oppose.
Verse [ 8] ` رَّضِيَ اللَّـهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَنْ خَشِيَ رَبَّهُ (Allah is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him; that is for him who fears his Lord.) This verse points to the highest stage of spiritual development of the inmates of Paradise, that is, the Divine pleasure with no danger of Divine displeasure. This is the greatest reward with which the people of faith will be blessed. The God-fearing people are well-pleased with Him because of the comprehensive favours He has given them. Sayyidna Abu Said Khudri ؓ narrates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
“Undoubtedly, Allah shall address the inmates of Paradise: یَا اَھلَ الجَنَّۃِ ‘0 Inmates of Paradise!'”
They will reply: لَبَّیکَ رَبَّنَا وَ سَعدَیکَ و الخَیرُ کُلُّہ، فِی یَدَیکَ Our Lord, we are present and ready to carry out Your orders. All good is in Your control.’
Allah shall ask them: ھَل رَضِیتُم Are you happy?’
They will submit: ‘How can we not be happy when You have given us what You have not bestowed on any of Your creation? ‘ Allah will tell them: ‘Shall I not grant you something superior to all of this?’
They will exclaim: ‘What can be superior to this?’
Allah will reply: ‘I shall grant you My pleasure, and I will never be angry with you in the future’. [Transmitted by al-Bukhari vide Mazhari].
It should be noted here that there are two types of rida’ [pleasure]: one in general sense; and second in specific or higher sense. In the general sense, rida’ bil-qadr (i.e. to be pleased with every decree of Allah) is part of the obligations of a servant of Allah. A consummated slave is only ever satisfied and content with Allah Himself, and thus sincerely accepts the Divine decree. However, here the word is used in the higher sense, that is, Allah bestows upon a slave all his specific wishes and ambitions without leaving out any of them as in [93:5] وَلَسَوْفَ يُعْطِيكَ رَبُّكَ فَتَرْضَىٰ (And of course, your Lord will give you so much that you will be pleased.) Here also the word rida’ means the fulfillment of every wish of the Holy Prophet ﷺ . When this verse was revealed, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ expressed his wish and ambition that he would not be pleased until every single believer is taken out of Hell. [Mazhari]
[98:7] As for those who believed and did righteous deeds, they are the best of all human beings.
Verse [98:8 – the concluding phrase] ذَٰلِكَ لِمَنْ خَشِيَ رَبَّهُ (…That is for him who has awe of his Lord.) The word ‘fear’ or ‘awe’ here is not used in the sense of an ‘agitated, disturbed or perturbed feeling’ which we naturally have for an enemy, a beast, a ferocious animal or an obnoxious thing that might harm us. ‘Khashyatullah’ (Allah’s awe) is, on the contrary, a feeling of deep, reverential awe that leads man to Allah’s obedience. It is the awe of Allah’s Majesty and His Incomparability that makes the perfect slave do every work under every circumstance to attain the Divine pleasure and evade every occasion of His displeasure. This is the axis on which rotates the religious perfection and all bounties of the Hereafter.
The Commentary on
As stated in our copies of the Qur’an and according to the greater number of reports, this surah is a Madinan revelation. There are, however, some reports which classify it as Makkan. Although its classification as a Madinan revelation carries more weight in view of these reports and its mode of expression and style, yet the possibility of its being Makkan cannot be ruled out. The fact that it mentions zakat, i.e. the obligatory charity, and the people of earlier revelations is not a clear-cut argument against the Makkan possibility. Some surahs which are indisputably Makkan mention the people of earlier revelations. Furthermore, there were some Makkans, a few, who followed earlier divine religions. Some of these adopted Islam but others did not. Moreover the Christians from Najran came to the Prophet when he was still in Makkah, and they accepted the Islamic faith, as it is well-known. Moreover, zakat is mentioned in some surahs that were indisputably revealed in Makkah.
This surah deals in a positive manner with a number of facts relating to history and faith. The first fact is that the sending of God’s Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him), was essential to the transformation of people of earlier revelations and idolaters, who had found their way into disbelief. They could not leave their erring ways behind without the Prophet’s mission: “It is inconceivable that the unbelievers among the people of the earlier revelations and the idolaters could have ever changed their ways until there had come to them the clear evidence of the truth: a Messenger from God reciting revelations blest with purity, wherein are sound decrees of high value.” (Verses 1-3)
Secondly, religious discord and conflict among the people of earlier revelations did not arise out of ignorance of their own religion, or from any obscurity or ambiguity in it. On the contrary, they ran into discord after they had received true knowledge and clear proof: “Nor did the people given revelations in the past break up their unity until after such clear evidence of the truth had been given to them.” (Verse 4)
Thirdly, with regard to its origin, divine faith is one. Its fundamentals are simple and clear and do not, by themselves and by their plain and easy nature, make for division or conflict: “Yet they were ordered to do nothing more than to serve God, to worship Him alone with sincere dedication and purity of faith, to attend to their prayers and to pay their zakat. That is surely the right religion, pure and straight.” (Verse 5)
Fourthly, those who disbelieved after receiving clear proof are the worst creatures of all, while those who believe and do good deeds are the best. Hence the two receive totally different rewards: “The unbelievers among the people of the earlier revelations and the idolaters will be in the fire of hell, where they will abide. They are the worst of all creatures. But those who believe and do righteous deeds are the best of all creatures. Their reward [awaits them] with their Lord: the gardens of Eden through which running waters flow, in which they will abide forever. God is well pleased with them and they with Him. This is for him who is God- fearing.” (Verses 6-8)
Need for a Divine Message
It is inconceivable that the unbelievers among the people of the earlier revelations and the idolaters could have ever changed their ways until there had come to them the clear evidence of the truth: a Messenger from God reciting revelations blest with purity, wherein are sound decrees of high value. (Verses 1-3)
The world was desperately in need of a new message. Corruption was so widespread that reform could not come about except by means of a new message, a new method of orientation and a new movement. Disbelief had become the characteristic of the followers of all creeds and doctrines, whether pagan or earlier divine revelations [i.e. the Jews and the Christians]. They could only turn away from disbelief by means of this new message and at the hands of a messenger who would himself be the proof, clear, unmistakable and specific. “A Messenger from God reciting revelations blest with purity;” that is, purified of all idolatry and disbelief, “wherein are sound decrees of high value.” The Arabic term kutub, which in modern usage means ‘books’, is given in our translation as ‘sound decrees’. In the past, it was normally used in reference to the subject under discussion and its instructions or obligations. These pure revelations are indeed the Qur’an which contains valuable and important directives. Hence the message delivered by the Prophet came at a most suitable time. The new revelations, with all that they included of themes and decrees, were vouchsafed so that they could bring about a far-reaching reform of this world. As to how badly the world needed this message, let us content ourselves with some inspiring remarks from Sayyid Abū’l Hasan `Alī Nadwī:
The sixth century of the Christian era, it is generally agreed, represented the darkest phase in the history of our race. Humanity had reached the edge of the precipice, towards which it had been tragically proceeding for centuries, and there appeared to be no agency or power in the whole world which could come to its rescue and save it from crashing into the abyss of destruction.
In his melancholy progress from God-forgetfulness to self- forgetting, man had lost his moorings. He had grown indifferent to his destiny. The teachings of the prophets had been forgotten: the lamps that they had kindled either had been put out by the storms of moral anarchy or the light they shed had become so feeble that it could illumine the hearts of but a few men, most of whom had sought refuge in passivity and resignation. Having been vanquished in the battle between spiritualism and materialism, they had shut themselves up in monasteries or gone into the wilderness. Such of them as were still left in the whirlpool of life had aligned themselves with the ruling classes of their lands. They helped them in the satisfaction of their sensual desires and in the maintenance of unjust political and economic systems and cooperated with them in reaping unlawful benefits out of the wealth of the people…
Great religions became playthings in the hands of debased ecclesiastics who corrupted and twisted them beyond recognition, so much so that if it were possible for their founders to return to the physical life, they could not have recognized them. In consequence of the moral debasement of the great centres of civilization and general disorder and unrest, people everywhere got entangled in their internal problems. They had no message to offer to the world. The world had become hollow from within; its life-springs had dried up. It possessed neither the light of religious guidance for their personal conduct nor any abiding and rational principles for running a state. 
This outlines briefly the condition of mankind and religions just before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Qur’an refers in various parts to the aspects of disbelief which spread among the people of the earlier revelations as well as the idolaters. Among these references to the Jews and Christians are: “The Jews say: Ezra is the son of God,’ while the Christians say: ‘The Christ is the son of God.’“ (9: 30) “The Jews say the Christians have no basis for their faith and the Christians say the Jews have no basis for their faith.” (2: 113) The Qur’an also refers to the Jews as follows: “The Jews say, ‘God’s hand is shackled.’ It is their own hands that are shackled. Rejected [by God] are they for what they say. Indeed, both His hands are outstretched. He bestows [His bounty] as He wills.” (5: 64) It says about the Christians: “Unbelievers indeed are those who say: ‘God is the Christ, son of Mary’” (5: 72) And: “Unbelievers indeed are those who say: ‘God is the third of a trinity’“ (5: 73) The Qur’an also speaks about the idolaters: ‘Say: ‘Unbelievers! I do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship what I worship. I shall never worship what you worship, nor will you ever worship what I worship. You have your own religion and I have mine.’” (109: 1-6) There are many other statements in the Qur’an which support this view.
In addition to such disbelief, there were backwardness, division, ruin as well as other evil spread throughout the world.
There was, briefly, not a single nation in the whole world of the sixth century of the Christian era that could be called healthy in temperament, not a single society that was imbued with high ethical ideas, nor a single State that was based on principles of justice, equity and fairness, nor yet a leadership that possessed knowledge and wisdom, nor a religion that represented the pure teachings of the Prophets of God. 
Hence, the divine grace extended to mankind required that a messenger be sent by God to recite purified scriptures containing valuable and important themes. There was no other way of putting an end to such widespread corruption except by sending a messenger, who would deliver mankind from their misery and provide them with divine guidance.
Internal Division and Hostility
Having made this fact clear at the outset, the surah goes on to state that the people of earlier revelations in particular did not experience religious conflict and division as a result of ignorance, on their part, or confusion or complication on the part of their religion. Instead, their divisions occurred after true knowledge and clear signs were delivered to them through God’s messengers: “Nor did the people given revelations in the past break up their unity until after such clear evidence of the truth had been given to them.” (Verse 4)
The first division occurred among the Jews who split into sects and groups before the advent of the Prophet Jesus. Although their prophet was Moses and the Torah was their book, they divided into five main sects, namely, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Asians, the Extremists and the Samaritans. Each had their own characteristics and their own ways. Later on a division between the Jews and Christians took place in spite of the fact that Jesus was the last prophet sent to the Children of Israel. He came to endorse the Torah and confirm it. Nevertheless, the quarrel between the Jews and Christians reached a high level of violent enmity and hatred. History tells us about the horrifying massacres that took place between the two parties.
The mutual jealousy and hatred between Christians and Jews, which did not permit them to forego any opportunity of settling an old score, was brought to its climax towards the close of the sixth century. In 610 A.D. the Jews of Antioch rebelled against the Christians, and the Emperor Phocas sent his famous general, Bonosus, to put down the uprising. It was he who set about his business with such enthusiasm that the whole of the Jewish population was wiped out. Thousands of Jews perished by the sword, while hundreds more were either drowned, burnt alive or thrown to the wild beasts. 
Such atrocities were repeated again and again between the Jews and Christians. Al-Maqrīzī says in his book Al-Khiţaţ, “During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Phocas, Chosroes, the Shah of Persia, dispatched his armies to Syria and Egypt. They destroyed the churches of Jerusalem, Palestine and the rest of the Syrian land. They wiped out all the Christians and pursued them to Egypt, where they slaughtered them in large numbers and enslaved an unimaginable number. The Jews helped them in fighting the Christians and destroying their churches. They poured from all directions to help the Persians and came from Tiberia, the Mount of Galilee, Nazareth village and the City of Tyre and all around Jerusalem. They committed all sorts of atrocities against the Christians, organized ghastly massacres, destroyed two Christian churches in Jerusalem, burnt their places, stole a piece of the pillar of the Cross and captured the Patriarch of Jerusalem and a great many of his friends and companions…” Al-Maqrīzī goes on to relate the Persian conquest of Egypt; then he writes: “At that time, the Jews in the City of Tyre rebelled and sent messengers from among themselves to other cities and towns and all agreed to lay a trap for the Christians and kill them. A war broke out between the Jews and Christians in which the number of the Jews was around 20,000. They destroyed the Christian churches around Tyre. But the Christians surrounded them and raised much greater numbers, so the Jews suffered a ghastly defeat and a great number were killed. At the time Heraclius ascended to power in Constantinople. He defeated the Persians by setting a trap for the Shah, who left him eventually and went away. Then he marched from Constantinople to re-establish his authority over Syria and Egypt and to renew what the Persians had destroyed. The Jews from Tiberia and other places went out to meet him. They presented him with precious gifts and begged him to guarantee their security and to take an oath to this effect. He granted their request. He went on to Jerusalem where he was received by the Christian population holding up their Bibles, crosses, and incense, and burning candles. He was very much displeased at seeing the city and its churches destroyed. He expressed his sorrow to the local Christians who told him about the uprising by the Jews and their siding with the Persians, the massacre of the Christians and the destruction of their churches. They told Heraclius to level a blow to the Jews but he protested that he had already guaranteed their security and had taken an oath to that effect. Their monks, cardinals and priests gave their judgement that the killing of the Jews was justifiable on the grounds that they had played a trick in order to win that assurance from him before he knew what they had done. The clergy also pledged to atone for Heraclius’ oath by committing themselves and all Christians to fast a certain Friday every year for the rest of time. Thus he leaned to their argument and wreaked such a savage vengeance upon the Jews that in the Byzantine provinces of Syria and Egypt those alone could save themselves who could take to flight or go into hiding.
These reports give us an idea about the degree of savagery the two parties had reached, their watching for every chance to strike their enemy and heeding no rules in the process. 
Then divisions and differences broke out among the Christians themselves in spite of the fact that their book is one and their messenger is one. They were divided first in matters of faith; then they split up into hostile and warring factions. Their differences concerned the nature of Jesus and whether he had a divine or human nature, the nature of Mary, his mother, and also the nature of the Trinity which they claim constitutes God. The Qur’an relates two or three of their sayings on these issues: “Unbelievers indeed are those who say: ‘God is the Christ, son of Mary.” (5: 72) And: “Unbelievers indeed are those who say: ‘God is the third of a trinity.” (5: 73) And, “God will say: Jesus, son of Mary! Did you say to people, ‘Worship me and my mother as deities beside God?’ [Jesus] answered: ‘Limitless are You in Your glory! I could never have claimed what I have no right to [say]” (5: 116)
The most violent of doctrinal divisions was that which erupted between the Byzantine State and the Christians of Syria and the Christians of Egypt, or, in a more accurate definition, the Melkites and the Monophysites. The main dispute centred around the alleged combination of the divine and human natures in Jesus. The Melkite Christians of Syria held that he was both divine and human, while the Monophysites of Egypt insisted upon his being truly divine, the human part of his nature having lost itself in the divine as a drop of vinegar loses its identity in an ocean. The dispute between the two parties became so strong during the sixth and seventh centuries that it looked as if it were a ceaseless war between two rival religions, or a dispute between Jews and Christians. Each faction saying to the other that its stand was without foundation.
Emperor Heraclius (610-641) tried after his victory over the Persians in 638 to reconcile the contending creeds in his state and to unite them by compromise. This compromise took the shape of a general ban on indulging in any argument on the nature of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and whether he had a single or dual nature. But everyone had to accept the doctrine of a single energy in Christ.  Agreement on this was established at the beginning of 631, and thus the Menothelian creed was declared the official creed of the state and all those of its populations who belonged to the Christian Church. Heraclius was determined to give the new creed overall supremacy, and he utilized all means to this end. But the Copts disputed his authority and declared their total rejection of this innovation and deviation. They took the opposing stand and sacrificed their all for the old faith. The Emperor tried once again to unite all the creeds and settle the differences. He was content that people should accept that there is a single will for Christ. ; As for the other issue, namely, the realization of that will by action, he deferred taking a stand on it altogether. He also banned all parties from indulging in arguments and debates on these issues. He included all this in an official message which he delivered to all parts of the Eastern world. But the message failed to end the storm. Instead, brutal persecution of a sort that would send a shiver through any mortal, was administered by the Emperor in Egypt for ten years. Men were savagely tortured before being drowned. Huge torches were lit and directed onto the miserable prisoners until the fat ran from both sides of their bodies to the floor. Prisoners were put in sacks which were then filled with sand and thrown into the sea. 
All these disputes among the people of earlier revelations took place after “clear evidence of the truth had been given to them.” (Verse 4) They were not lacking in knowledge and proof, but they were blindly driven by their desires into deviation.
Clear and Simple
Yet religion is clear in its original form and the faith is simple in its essence: “Yet they were ordered to do nothing more than to serve God, to worship Him alone with sincere dedication and purity of faith, to attend to their prayers and to pay their zakat. That is surely the right religion, pure and straight.” (Verse 5)
This is the basis of divine religion throughout history and in all its forms. It is simply the worship of God alone. A sincere and pure submission to Him, a detachment from polytheism in all its shapes and forms, the establishment of regular worship and the payment of the regular obligatory charity, or zakat: “That is surely the right religion, pure and straight.” (Verse 5) It is a pure and sincere faith that is firmly established in the heart, the worship of God alone which is a translation of this faith, and spending money for God’s cause as He has stated. He who fulfils these injunctions has met the requirements of faith, as the people of earlier revelations were commanded to do, and as these requirements are outlined in all forms of divine faith. It is one religion, the same faith in all the successive messages, as preached by the messengers of God. It is a religion free from all ambiguity and complication; a faith which gives no reason for division and dispute. It is very clear and very simple. How completely different this religion is from those complicated and confusing concepts and from those lengthy polemics. Since clear evidence was given to them formerly in their own religions through their own prophets, and since clear evidence was given to them again, full of life, in the form of a messenger from God reciting pure revelations, and offering them a clear and simple faith, then the true path becomes very clear. So does the destiny of unbelievers, as also that of believers: “The unbelievers among the people of the earlier revelations and the idolaters will be in the fire of hell, where they will abide. They are the worst of all creatures. But those who believe and do righteous deeds are the best of all creatures. Their reward [awaits them] with their Lord: the gardens of Eden through which running waters flow, in which they will abide forever. God is well pleased with them and they with Him. This is for him who is God-fearing.” (Verses 6-8)
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the last messenger, and Islam, which he preached, the final message. Messengers from God came successively every time corruption spread in human life. Their objective was to make mankind return to righteousness. Those who deviated from the right path had one chance after another to correct their behaviour. But now that God had willed to close His messages to earth by this final, comprehensive, perfect and accomplished message, then the last chance was also given. This entailed either the adoption of faith leading to salvation, or the denial of faith ending in destruction. For disbelief now is an established evidence of unlimited evil, while accepting the faith is proof of goodness which goes to its absolute end.
“The unbelievers among the people of the earlier revelations and the idolaters will be in the fire of hell, where they will abide. They are the worst of all creatures.” (Verse 6) It is a clear and absolute verdict which leaves no room for argument or dispute. It is applicable even if some of their actions, values or systems were good, since these were not based on believing in this final message and messenger. No appearance of goodness makes us entertain even the slightest doubt in this judgement, since apparent goodness is detached from the upright method of living laid down by God.
“But those who believe and do righteous deeds are the best of all creatures.” (Verse 7) This is also an absolute verdict that makes for no dispute or argument. Its condition is also clear, free from any ambiguity or deception. The condition is faith, not merely being born in a land which claims to be Islamic, or in a family which claims to belong to Islam. Nor is it a few words which one repeats again and again. It is the acceptance of faith which establishes its effects on actual life, “and do righteous deeds.” It is entirely different from the words that go no further than the lips. As for righteous deeds, these are everything God has commanded to be done in matters of worship, behaviour, action and day-to-day dealings. The first and most important of these righteous deeds is the establishment of God’s law on this planet, and the government of people according to what God has legislated. Those who act accordingly are the best creatures of all.
“Their reward [awaits them] with their Lord: the gardens of Eden through which running waters flow, in which they will abide forever.” (Verse 8) These gardens are a specially prepared, permanent and happy dwelling. Happiness is symbolized here by security against death and by a prevalent feeling of contentment as against anxiety which mars and disrupts all earthly comforts. It is also symbolized by the running waters flowing through these gardens; a picture which adds a sense of ease, life and beauty.
The surah then adds some refined touches to the picture it portrays of their perpetual happiness: “God is well pleased with them and they with Him.” (Verse 8) God’s pleasure with them is much more exalted and far more enjoyable than any happiness. Moreover, in their inmost souls they feel happy with their Lord. They are well pleased with the destiny He has set for them, delighted with the grace He has granted them, and enchanted by this relationship with their Lord: “God is well pleased with them and they with Him.”
“This is for him who is God-fearing.” (Verse 8) This is the final assertion. It stresses that all that has been said is dependent on the nature of the relationship between man’s heart and God. It also depends on man having a feeling of God which urges him to all sorts of good deeds and militates against all sorts of deviation. It is a feeling which removes barriers, lifts curtains and makes man’s heart stand bare before God, the One, the All-Powerful. Such a feeling helps make worship and submission to God pure and purges human actions from all elements of hypocrisy and idolatry. So he who truly fears his Lord cannot allow his heart to entertain the slightest shred of influence by any being other than God, the Creator of all. Such a person knows that God rejects any deed done for the sake of anyone other than Him. For God is in no need of partners. Every action must be purely for Him or else He rejects it.
37.Abu’l Hasan `Alī Nadwī, Islam and the World, Academy of Islamic Research Publications, Lucknow, 1980, pp. 13-14.
38. Ibid., pp. 43-44.
39. Ibid., pp. 17-18.
40. Abu’l Hasan ‘Alī Nadwī, Mādhā Khasir al-`Ālam binhiţāţ al-Muslimīn, which is the Arabic edition of Islam and the World, n.d., pp. 9-11.
41. The doctrine of a single energy in Christ was that the allegedly divine and human natures in Jesus had one active force.
42. The doctrine of a single energy was repudiated, and the doctrine of a single will (the Monothelete formula) was propounded in 638.
43. Nadwī, Mādhā Khasir al-`Ālam, pp. 3-5. This is summarized in the English edition, Islam and the World, p. 15.
The Surah is so designated after the word al-bayyinah occurring at the end of the first verse.
Period of Revelation
Where it was revealed, at Makkah or Madinah, is also disputed. Some commentators say it is a Makki revelation according to most scholars; others say it is a Madani revelation according to most scholars. Ibn Az Zubair and Ata bin Yasar hold the view that it is Madani. Ibn Abbas and Qatadah are reported to have held two views, first that it is Makki, second that it is Madani. Hadrat Aishah regards it as a Makki Surah. Abu Hayyan, author of Bahr al-Muhit, and Abdul Munim ibn al- Faras, author of Ahkam al-Quran, also have preferred to regard it as Makki. As for its contents, there is nothing in it to indicate whether it was revealed at Makkah or at Madinah.
Theme and Subject Matter
Its having been placed after Surahs Al-Alaq and Al-Qadr in the arrangement of the Quran is very meaningful. Surah Al-Alaq contains the very first revelation, while Surah Al-Qadr shows as to when it was revealed, and in this Surah it has been explained why it was necessary to send a Messenger along with this Holy Book.
First of all the need of sending a Messenger has been explained, saying: The people of the world, be they from among the followers of the earlier scriptures or from among the idolaters, could not possibly be freed from their state of unbelief, until a Messenger was sent whose appearance by itself should be a clear proof of his apostleship, and he should present the Book of God before the people in its original, pristine form, which should be free from every mixture of falsehood corrupting the earlier Divine Books; and which should comprise sound teachings.
Then, about the errors of the followers of the earlier Books it has been said that the cause of their straying into different creeds was not that Allah had not provided any guidance to them, but they strayed only after a clear statement of the Right Creed had come to them. From this it automatically follows that they themselves were responsible for their error and deviation. Now, if even after the coming of the clear statement through this Messenger, they continued to stray, their responsibility would further increase.
In this very connection, it has been stated that the Prophets who came from Allah and the, Books sent down by Him, did not enjoin anything but that the way of sincere and true service to Allah be adopted, apart from all other ways, no one else’s worship, service or obedience be mixed with His, the salat be established and the zakat be paid. This same has been the true religion since ever. From this also it automatically follows that the followers of the earlier scriptures, straying from this true religion, have added extraneous things to it, which are false, and Allah’s this Messenger has come to invite them back to, the same original faith.
In conclusion, it has been pointed out clearly that the followers of the earlier Books and the idolaters who would refuse to acknowledge this Messenger are the worst of creatures: their punishment is an everlasting Hell; and the people who would believe and act righteously, and would spend life in the world in awe of God, are the best of creatures: their reward is eternal Paradise wherein they will live for ever. Allah became well pleased with them and they became well pleased with Allah.