Surah An-Naml >> Currently viewing Surah An-Naml Ayat 21 (27:21)

Surah An-Naml Ayat 21 in Arabic Text

لَأُعَذِّبَنَّهُۥ عَذَابًۭا شَدِيدًا أَوْ لَأَا۟ذْبَحَنَّهُۥٓ أَوْ لَيَأْتِيَنِّى بِسُلْطَـٰنٍۢ مُّبِينٍۢ
La-u’azzibanahoo ‘azaaban shadeedan aw la azbahannahoo aw layaatiyannee bisultaanim mubeen

English Translation

Here you can read various translations of verse 21

Sahih International
I will surely punish him with a severe punishment or slaughter him unless he brings me clear authorization.”

Yusuf Ali
“I will certainly punish him with a severe penalty, or execute him, unless he bring me a clear reason (for absence).”

Abul Ala Maududi
I will inflict a severe punishment on him or maybe even slaughter him unless he comes forth with a convincing reason (for his absence).”

Muhsin Khan
“I will surely punish him with a severe torment, or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason.”

Pickthall
I verily will punish him with hard punishment or I verily will slay him, or he verily shall bring me a plain excuse.

Dr. Ghali
Indeed I will definitely torment him with a strict torment or indeed I will definitely slay him, or indeed he should definitely come up to me with an evident, all-binding authority.”

Abdel Haleem
I will punish him severely, or kill him, unless he brings me a convincing excuse for his absence.’

Quran 27 Verse 21 Explanation

For those looking for commentary to help with the understanding of Surah An-Naml ayat 21, we’ve provided two Tafseer works below. The first is the tafseer of Abul Ala Maududi, the second is of Ibn Kathir.

Ala-Maududi

(27:21) I will inflict a severe punishment on him or maybe even slaughter him unless he comes forth with a convincing reason (for his absence).”[28]


28. Some people of the modern time say that the hud-hud (hoopoe) does not mean the bird commonly known by this name, but is the name of a man who was an officer in the army of Solomon. This claim is not based on any historical research in which they might have found a person named hud-hud included in the list of the officers of the government of the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him), but they base their claim on the argument that the custom of naming human beings after animals is prevalent in Arabic as in other languages and was also found in Hebrew. Moreover, the work that has been ascribed to the hud-hud in the following verses and its conversation with the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) can, according to them, be only performed by a human being. But if one keeps in view the context in which this thing occurs in the Quran, it becomes evident that this is no commentary of the Quran but its distortion. After all, why should the Quran put the intellect and intelligence of man to the test by using enigmatic language? Why should it not clearly say that a soldier of the Prophet Solomon’s (peace be upon him) cavalry, or platoon, or communication department, was missing, whom he ordered to be searched out, and who came and gave this news and whom he dispatched on such and such a mission? Instead, it uses such language that the reader, from the beginning to the end, is compelled to regard it as a bird. Let us, in this connection, consider the parts in their sequence as presented in the Quran.

First of all, Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) expresses his gratitude to Allah for His this bounty: “We have been taught the speech of the birds.” In this sentence, firstly, the word tair has been used absolutely which every Arab and scholar of Arabic will take in the meaning of a bird, because there is nothing in the context that points to its being figurative; secondly, if tair implied a group of men and not a bird, the word language or tongue would have been used concerning it and not speech. Then, a person’s knowing the tongue of another people is not so extraordinary a thing that it should be specially mentioned. Today there are among us thousands of men and women, who can speak and understand many foreign languages. This is in no way an unusual achievement which may be mentioned as an extraordinary gift of God.

Then the Quran says, “For Solomon (peace be upon him) were gathered hosts of jinns and then and birds.” In this sentence, firstly, the words jinn and ins (men) and tair have been used as names for three well-known and distinct species denoted by these words in Arabic. Then they have been used absolutely and there is nothing in the context that may point to any of them being used metaphorically, or as a simile, because of which one may take them in another meaning than their well-known lexical meaning. Then the word ins has occurred between the words jinn and tair which does not allow taking it in the meaning that the jinn and the tair were, in tact, two groups included in the species of ins (men). Had this been meant the words would have been: ul jinn wat-tair min-al-ins and not min-al-jinn wal-ins wat-tair.

A little further on, the Quran says that the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) said this when during his review of the birds he found the hud-hud missing. If the tair were human beings and hud-hud also was the name of a man, a word or two should have been there to indicate this so that the poor reader should not have taken the word for a bird. When the group being mentioned is clearly of the birds and a member of it is called hud-hud, how can it be expected that the reader will of his own accord understand them to be human beings?

Then the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) says, “I will punish him severely, or even slaughter him, unless he presents before me a reasonable excuse.” A man is killed, or hanged, or sentenced to death, but never slaughtered. Some hard-hearted person may even slaughter another person out of vengeance, but it cannot be expected of a Prophet (peace be upon him) that he would sentence a soldier of his army to be slaughtered only for the offense of desertion, and Allah would mention this heinous act of the Prophet (peace be upon him) without a word of disapproval.

A little further on, we shall again see that the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) sends the same hud-hud with a letter to the queen of Sheba and tells him “to cast it before her”. Obviously, such an instruction can be given to a bird but not at all to a man when he is sent as an envoy or messenger. Only a foolish person will believe that a king would send his envoy with a letter to the queen of another country and tell him to cast or throw it before her. Should we suppose that the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) was not aware of the preliminary social etiquette which even common people like us also observe when we send our servant to a neighbor? Will a gentleman tell his servant to carry his letter to the other gentleman and throw it before him?

All these things show that the word hud-hud here has been used in its lexical meaning, showing that he was not a man but a bird. Now, if a person is not prepared to believe that a hud-hud can speak those things that have been ascribed to it in the Quran, he should frankly say that he does not believe in this narrative of the Quran. It is sheer hypocrisy to misconstrue plain and clear words of the Quran according to one’s own whims only in order to cover up one’s lack of faith in it.

Ibn-Kathir

The tafsir of Surah Naml verse 21 by Ibn Kathir is unavailable here.
Please refer to Surah Naml ayat 20 which provides the complete commentary from verse 20 through 21.

Quick navigation links

Surah An-Naml
1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6 . 7 . 8 . 9 . 10 . 11 . 12 . 13 . 14 . 15 . 16 . 17 . 18 . 19 . 20 . 21 . 22 . 23 . 24 . 25 . 26 . 27 . 28 . 29 . 30 . 31 . 32 . 33 . 34 . 35 . 36 . 37 . 38 . 39 . 40 . 41 . 42 . 43 . 44 . 45 . 46 . 47 . 48 . 49 . 50 . 51 . 52 . 53 . 54 . 55 . 56 . 57 . 58 . 59 . 60 . 61 . 62 . 63 . 64 . 65 . 66 . 67 . 68 . 69 . 70 . 71 . 72 . 73 . 74 . 75 . 76 . 77 . 78 . 79 . 80 . 81 . 82 . 83 . 84 . 85 . 86 . 87 . 88 . 89 . 90 . 91 . 92 . 93