Surah Saba >> Currently viewing Surah Saba Ayat 13 (34:13)

Surah Saba Ayat 13 in Arabic Text

يَعۡمَلُونَ لَهُۥ مَا يَشَآءُ مِن مَّحَٰرِيبَ وَتَمَٰثِيلَ وَجِفَانٖ كَٱلۡجَوَابِ وَقُدُورٖ رَّاسِيَٰتٍۚ ٱعۡمَلُوٓاْ ءَالَ دَاوُۥدَ شُكۡرٗاۚ وَقَلِيلٞ مِّنۡ عِبَادِيَ ٱلشَّكُورُ
Ya’maloona lahoo ma yashaaa’u mim mahaareeba wa tamaaseela wa jifaanin kaljawaabi wa qudoorir raasiyaat; i’maloo aala Daawooda shukraa; wa qaleelum min ‘ibaadiyash shakoor

English Translation

Here you can read various translations of verse 13

Sahih International
They made for him what he willed of elevated chambers, statues, bowls like reservoirs, and stationary kettles. [We said], “Work, O family of David, in gratitude.” And few of My servants are grateful.

Yusuf Ali
They worked for him as he desired, (making) arches, images, basons as large as reservoirs, and (cooking) cauldrons fixed (in their places): “Work ye, sons of David, with thanks! but few of My servants are grateful!”

Abul Ala Maududi
They made for him whatever he would desire: stately buildings, images, basins like water-troughs and huge, built-in-cauldrons: “Work, O house of David, in thankfulness (to your Lord). Few of My servants are truly thankful.”

Muhsin Khan
They worked for him what he desired, (making) high rooms, images, basins as large as reservoirs, and (cooking) cauldrons fixed (in their places). “Work you, O family of Dawud (David), with thanks!” But few of My slaves are grateful.

They made for him what he willed: synagogues and statues, basins like wells and boilers built into the ground. Give thanks, O House of David! Few of My bondmen are thankful.

Dr. Ghali
Making (Literally: between) for him whatever he decided: chambers and statues, and bowls like water-troughs, and anchored cauldrons. “Do (righteousness), House of Dawû‍d, in thankfulness; and few of My bondmen are constantly thankful.”

Abdel Haleem
They made him whatever he wanted- palaces, statues, basins as large as water troughs, fixed cauldrons. We said, ‘Work thankfully, family of David, for few of my servants are truly thankful.’

Muhammad Junagarhi
جو کچھ سلیمان چاہتے وه جنات تیار کردیتے مثلا قلعے اور مجسمے اور حوضوں کے برابر لگن اور چولہوں پر جمی ہوئی مضبوط دیگیں، اے آل داؤد اس کے شکریہ میں نیک عمل کرو، میرے بندوں میں سے شکرگزار بندے کم ہی ہوتے ہیں

Quran 34 Verse 13 Explanation

For those looking for commentary to help with the understanding of Surah Saba ayat 13, we’ve provided two Tafseer works below. The first is the tafseer of Abul Ala Maududi, the second is of Ibn Kathir.


(34:13) They made for him whatever he would desire: stately buildings, images,[20] basins like water-troughs and huge, built-in-cauldrons:[21] “Work, O house of David, in thankfulness (to your Lord).[22] Few of My servants are truly thankful.”

20. The word tamatheel in the text is the plural of timthal, which in Arabic is used for every such thing as is made to resemble a natural thing, whether it is a human being, an animal, a tree, a flower, a river, or some inanimate object. Timthal is the name of every artificial thing which may have been made to resemble something made by God. (Lisan al-Arab). Timthal is every such picture which may have been made to resemble the likeness of something else, whether living or dead.” (The commentary, Al-Kashshaf). On this basis the statement of the Quran does not necessarily imply that the images made for the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) were the pictures or images of human beings and animals. They might have been floral designs or natural landscape or different kinds of decorations with which the Prophet Solomon might have decorated his buildings and works.

The misunderstanding has been created by some commentators who have stated that the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) had gotten the pictures of the Prophets and the angels made for himself. They took such things from the Israelite traditions and then explained them saying that in the former Shariahs it was not forbidden to make the pictures. But while accepting and citing these traditions without question, these scholars did not keep in mind the fact that the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) was a follower of the Mosaic law and in that law making of the pictures and images of human beings and animals was also forbidden as it is in the Shariah of Muhammad (peace be upon him). And they also did not remember that because of the enmity which a section of the Israelites bore against the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him), they have accused him of crimes like polytheism, idolatry, sorcery and adultery. Therefore. one should not place reliance on the Israelite traditions and accept anything about this great Prophet, which might contradict any Shariah enjoined by God. Everyone knows that all the Prophets who came after the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) till the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) among the Israelites were the followers of the Torah, and none of them had brought forth a new law, which might have abrogated the law of the Torah. Now the Torah clearly enjoins repeatedly that making of the pictures and images of human beings and animals is absolutely forbidden.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Exod. 20: 4) “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, nor rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it.” (Levit. 26: 1).

“Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female. The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air. The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth.” (Deut. 4: 16-18).

“Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place.” (Deut. 27: 15).

In the face of these clear and express injunctions how can it be accepted that the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) might have employed the jinns to make pictures and images of the Prophets and the angels for him? And how can this thing be admitted on the authority of the statements of the Jews who accuse the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) of idolatry due to his love for polytheistic wives? (Kings, oh. 11).

However, the Muslim commentators, while citing the Israelite traditions, had made it clear that in the Shariah of Muhammad (peace be upon him) this thing is forbidden; therefore, it is no more lawful for anybody to make pictures and images in imitation of the Prophet Solomon. But some people of the modern time, who want to make photography and carving of idols lawful in imitation of the West, took this verse of the Quran as an argument for themselves. They argue like this: “When a Prophet of Allah has done this and Allah Himself has mentioned this act of the Prophet in His Book, and has expressed no disapproval of it either, it must be lawful.”

This argument of these followers of the West is wrong for two reasons. First, the word tamatheel that has been used in the Quran does not explicitly give the meaning of the human and animal pictures, but it applies to the pictures of lifeless things as well. Therefore, only on the basis of this word, it cannot be concluded that it is lawful to make the human and animal pictures according to the Quran. Secondly, it is established by a large number of the Ahadith, which have been reported through authentic chains of transmitters, and commonly reported by many authorities, that the Prophet (peace be upon him) absolutely forbade the making and keeping of the pictures of the living things. In this connection, we reproduce below the authentic traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the verdicts given by the eminent companions:

(1) Mother of the faithful, Aishah has reported that Umm Habibah and Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with them all) had seen a church in Habash, which had pictures in it. When they mentioned this before the Prophet (peace be upon him), he said: “The custom among those people was that when a pious man from among them died, they would build a house of worship at his grave and would make his pictures in it. On the Day of Resurrection, these people will be among the most wretched creatures in the sight of Allah.” (Bukhari: Kitab as-Salat, Muslim: Kitab al- Masajid; Nasai: Kitab al-Masajid).

(2) Abu Huzaifah has reported that the messenger (peace be upon him) of Allah has cursed the maker of pictures. (Bukhari: Kitab al-Buyu, Kitab at-Talaq, Kitab al-Libas).

(3) Abu Zurah says, “Once when I entered a house along with Abu Hurairah, I saw that a painter was making pictures at the top. Thereupon, Abu Hurairah said, “I have heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say: Allah says who could be more wicked than the one who tries to create a thing like My creation? Let them, if they can, create a seed or an ant.” (Bukhari: Kitab al-Libas; Musnad Ahmad. According to the tradition in Muslim, this was the house of Marwan).

(4) Abu Muhammad Hudhali has reported on the authority of Ali (may Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet (peace be upon him) was present at a funeral prayer when he said: “Who from among you would go to Al-Madinah and demolish every idol that he sees, and level down every grave that he sees, and blot out every picture that he sees.” A man said that he would go. So he went but came back without carrying out the task due to fear of the people of Al-Madinah. Then Ali submitted that he would go, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) allowed him to go. Ali went, then came back and said: I have demolished every idol and leveled down every grave and blotted out every picture. Thereupon the Prophet said: “Now if any one made any of these things, he would be denying the teaching sent down on Muhammad (peace be upon him).” (Musnad Ahmad; Muslim: Kitab al-Janaiz; Nasai: Kitab al-Janiz also contain a tradition on the same subject).

(5) Ibn Abbas has reported: “And he who made a picture would be chastised and compelled to breathe the soul into it, which he will not be able to do.” (Bukhari: Kitab al-Ta bir, Tirmidhi: Abwab al-Libas; Nasai: Kitab az-Zinah; Musnad Ahmad).

(6) Saeed bin al-Hasan says: “I was sitting with Ibn Abbas when a man came and said: O Ibn Abbas, I am a man who earns his living with his hand, and my profession is to make these pictures. Ibn Abbas replied: I shall say to you the same that I have heard from the Prophet (peace be upon him). I have heard this from him that Allah will chastise the one who makes pictures, and will not leave him till he breathes the soul into it, and he will never be able to breathe the soul into it. At this the man was much upset and his face turned pale. Ibn Abbas said: “Well, if you have to make the pictures, make of this tree, or of something which is lifeless.” (Bukhari: Kitab al-Buyu; Muslim: Kitab al-Libas; Nasai: Kitabal-Zinah; Musnad Ahmad).

(7) Abdullah bin Masud has reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “On the Day of Resurrection the ones to be most severely punished by Allah would be the painters of the pictures.” (Bukhari: Kitab al-Libas; Muslim: Kitab al-Libas; Nasai; Kitab al-Zinah; Musnad Ahmad).

(8) Abdullah bin Umar has reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Those who paint the pictures will be punished on the Day of Resurrection. They will be asked to put life into what they have made. (Bukhari: Kitab al- Libas; Muslim: Kitab al-Libas; Nasai; Kitab al-Zinah; Musnad Ahmad).

(9) Aishah says that she bought a cushion in which pictures had been painted. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) came and stood at the door and did not enter. I said: “I repent before God of any sin that I may have committed.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked: “What is this cushion for?” I said: “This is here so that you may sit and may recline on it.” He said: “The painters of these pictures will be chastised on the Day of Resurrection: they will be asked to put life into what they have made; and the angels (i.e. the angels of mercy) do not enter a house which has pictures in it.” (Bukhari: Kitab al-Libas; Muslim: Kitab al- Libas; Nasai: Kitab az-Zinah; Ibn Majah: Kitab at- Tajarat; Muwatta: Kitabal-Istidhan).

(10) Aishah says: “Once the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to my house, and I had hung a curtain which had pictures on it. The color of his face changed.” Then he took hold of the curtain and tore it and said: “Those who try to create like the creation of Allah will be among those who will be severely punished by Allah on the Day of Resurrection.” (Muslim: Kitab al-Libas; Bukhari: Kitab al- Libas; Nasai: Kitab az-Zinah).

(11) Aishah says: “Once the Prophet (peace be upon him) came back; from a journey and I had hung a curtain at my door, which had the pictures of winged horses on it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded me to remove it and I removed it.” (Muslim: Kitab al-Libas, Nasai: Kitab al-Zinah).

(12) Jabir bin Abdullah says: The Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited keeping of the pictures in the house and also forbade that somebody should make pictures. (Tirmidhi: Abwab al-Libas). (13) Ibn Abbas has related on the authority of Abu Talhah Ansari: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that the angels (i.e. of mercy) do not enter a house where there is a dog, nor where there is a picture. (Bukhari: Kitabal-Libas).

(14) Abdullah bin Umar says: Once Gabriel promised to pay the Prophet (peace be upon him) a visit, but the time passed and he did not come. The Prophet (peace be upon him) felt troubled and came out of his house and met him. When he complained to him, he (Gabriel) replied: “We do not enter a house where there is a dog or a picture.” (Bukhari: Kitab al-Libas). Several Traditions on this subject have been related by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Nasai, Ibn Majah, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad on the authority of several companions.

As against these, there are some other traditions which allow some exceptions regarding the pictures. For example, according to a tradition of Abu Talhah Ansari, it is permissible to hang the curtain of a cloth which has pictures embroidered on it. (Bukhari: Kitab al-Libas); and according to Aishah’s tradition, when she tore a cloth having pictures on it and made a cushion from it to be spread on the floor, the Prophet did not forbid it. (Muslim: Kitab al-Libas); and Salim bin Abdullah bin Umar’s tradition that the prohibition is of the picture which is displayed and installed prominently and not of the one which is used as a carpet: (Musnad Ahmad). But none of these traditions contradicts the traditions which have been cited above. None of these sanctions the making and painting of the pictures. They only tell that if a person has a piece of cloth having pictures on it, how he should use it. In this regard, the tradition of Abu Talhah Ansari cannot at all be accepted because it contradicts many other authentic traditions in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) not only forbade use of cloth having pictures on it as a curtain but even tore it into pieces. Moreover, Abu Talhah Ansari’s own practice that has been reported in Tirmidhi and Muwatta, in this regard, was that he did not even like to use a piece of cloth which had pictures on it, as a carpet, not to speak of hanging it as a curtain.

As for the traditions related by Aishah and Salim bin Abdullah, they only permit that if a picture is not placed prominently out of respect and esteem but is used as a carpet disrespectfully and is trodden under the feet, it could be tolerable. After all, how can these traditions be cited for obtaining sanction for the culture which regards the art of painting and portrait making and sculpture as an enviable achievement of the human civilization, and wants to popularize it among the Muslims?

The code of practice that the Prophet (peace be upon him) left for his Ummah with regard to the pictures can be seen from the conduct and practice of the eminent companions, which they adopted in this regard. The admitted principle of law in Islam is that the authentic and reliable Islamic law is that which the Prophet (peace be upon him) enjoined during the latter part of his life after it had passed through gradual and preliminary injunctions and exceptions. And after the Prophet (peace be upon him) the eminent companions’ practice and persistence on a particular way is a proof that he left the Ummah on that way. Now let us see how these holy and pious people treated and regarded the pictures.

Umar said to the Christians: “We do not enter your churches because there are pictures in them.” (Bukhari: Kitab as-Salat).

Ibn Abbas would sometimes offer his Prayer in the church, but not in a church which had pictures in it. (Bukhari; Kitab as-Salam).

Abu al-Hayyaj al-Asadi says: Ali said to me: “Should I not send yon on the same mission on which the Prophet (peace be upon him) had sent me? And it is this that you should not leave any idol that you should not break, and you should not leave any grave that you should not level down, and you should not leave any picture that you should not blot out.” (Muslim: Kitab al-Janaiz; Nasai: Kitab al- Janeiz).

Hanash al-Kinani says: Ali said to his chief of the police: “Do you know on what mission I am going to send you? On the mission on which the Prophet (peace be upon him) had sent me, that you should blot out every picture and level down every grave.” (Musnad Ahmad).

This very established law of Islam has been accepted and acknowledged by the jurists of Islam and regarded as an article of the Islamic law. Thus, Allama Badruddin Aini writes with reference to Tauhid.

“Our elders (i.e. the Hanifite jurists) and other jurists say that making the pictures of a living thing is not only unlawful but strictly forbidden and a major sin, whether the maker has made it for a purpose where it would be held with contempt or for some other use and purpose. The making and painting of the picture anyway is unlawful, because it is an attempt to create like the creation of Allah. Likewise. The making of pictures whether on the cloth, or on the carpet, or on a coin, or on a utensil, or on a wall, is in any case unlawful. However, making the pictures of something else, for instance, of a tree, etc. is not forbidden. Whether the picture casts a shadow or not is immaterial. The same is the opinion of Imam Malik, Sufyan Thauri, Imam Abu Hanifah, and other scholars. Qadi Iyad says that the dolls of girls are an exception, but Imam Malik; disapproved of even buying them.” (Umdat al-Qari vol. xxii p. 70). Imam Nawawi has elucidated this same view in greater detail in his commentary of Muslim. Please refer to Sharh Nawawi, Egyptian Ed., vol. xiv, pp. 81-82).

This is then the injunction about the making of pictures. As regards the use of the pictures made by others, Allama Ibn Hajar has cited the views of the jurists of Islam as follows:

“Ibn Arabi, the Malikite jurist, says that the consensus of opinion is that the picture that casts a shadow is unlawful, whether it is regarded with contempt or not. Only the dolls of girls are an exception.” Ibn Arab; also says that the picture which does not cast a shadow but which persists (as in the printed form, unlike the reflection of a mirror) is also unlawful, whether it is regarded with contempt or not. However, if its head is cut off, or its limbs or parts are separated, it may be used. Imam al-Harmayn has cited a verdict according to which a curtain or a cushion having pictures on it may be used, but the picture hung on the wall or ceiling is forbidden, for it would show respect and esteem for it, while the picture on the curtain or cushion, on the contrary, would be held with contempt. Ibn Abi Shaibah has related on the authority of Ikrimah that the scholars among the immediate followers of the companions held the opinion that the picture’s being on the carpet or cushion is disgraceful for it; they also opined that the picture hung prominently is unlawful, but the one trodden under the feet is permissible. The same opinion has been cited from Ibn Sirin, Salim bin Abdullah, Ikrimah bin Khalid and Said bin Jubair.” (Fath al-Bari, vol. X, p. 300).

The details given above clearly show that the forbidding of the pictures is not a controversial or doubtful matter in Islam, but it is an established article of the law according to the express instructions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the practice of the companions and the unanimous verdicts of the jurists of Islam, which cannot be changed by the hairsplitting of the people influenced by the alien cultures.

In this connection, certain other things should also be understood so that there remains no misunderstanding in this regard.

Some people try to make a distinction between a photograph and a painting, whereas the Shariah forbids the picture itself and not any process or method of making pictures. There is no difference between a photograph and a painting: they are both pictures. Whatever difference is there between them is due to the method of making them, and in this regard the Shariah injunctions make no difference between them.

Some people give the argument that the picture was forbidden in Islam in order to put an end to idol worship. As there is no such danger now, this injunction should be annulled. But this argument is absolutely wrong. In the first place, nowhere in the traditions has it been said that the pictures have been made unlawful in order to avoid the danger of shirk and idol worship. Secondly, the assertion that shirk and idol worship have been eradicated from the world is also baseless. Today in the IndoPak subcontinent itself there are millions of idol worshippers and polytheists. Shirk is being practiced in different regions of the world in different ways. The Christian people of the Book also are worshipping the images and portraits of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) and Mary and other saints; so much so that even a large number of the Muslims also are involved in the evil of worshipping others than God.

Some people say that only those pictures which are polytheistic in nature should be forbidden, i.e. pictures and images of those persons who have been made gods. As for the other pictures and images there is no reason why they should be forbidden. But the people who argue like this, in fact, become their own law givers instead of deriving law from the commandments and instructions of the Law- Giver. They do not know that the picture does not become the cause of polytheism and idol worship only but has become the cause of many other mischief in the world, and is becoming so even today. The picture is one of those major means by which the aura of greatness of the kings, dictators and political leaders has been impressed upon the minds of the common people. The picture also has been used extensively for spreading obscenity and today this mischief has touched heights unknown to previous history. Pictures have also been used for sowing discord and hatred and for creating mischief between the nations and for misleading the masses in different ways. Therefore, the view that the Law-Giver forbade the picture only in order to eradicate idol worship is basically wrong. The LawGiver has absolutely forbidden pictures of the living things. If we are not our own law givers but are the followers of the Law-Giver, we should desist from this accordingly. It is not at all lawful for us that we should propose from ourselves a basis for a particular injunction and then, on the basis of it, should declare some pictures lawful and some as unlawful.

Some people refer to some apparently harmless kinds of pictures and say that there could be no danger from these: they could not cause the mischief of shirk, obscenity, political propaganda or other evils; therefore, they should not be forbidden. Here again the people commit the same error: they first propose a cause and a basis for an injunction, and then argue that when the cause is not found in a particular forbidden thing, it should not be forbidden. Furthermore, these people also do not understand the rule of the Islamic Shariah that it does not make vague and ambiguous boundaries between the lawful and the unlawful from which a man may not be able to judge when he is within the bounds and when he has crossed them; but it draws a clear line of demarcation which every person can see like the broad daylight. The demarcation in respect of the picture is absolutely clear: pictures of living things are unlawful and of the lifeless things lawful. This line of demarcation does not admit any ambiguity. The one who has to follow the injunctions can clearly know what is permissible for him and what is not. But, if some pictures of the living things had been declared lawful and some unlawful, no list of the two kinds of the pictures however extensive, would have made the boundary between the lawful and the unlawful clear, and the case of many pictures would still have remained ambiguous as to whether they were within the bounds of lawfulness or outside them. This is similar to the Islamic injunction about wine that one should completely abstain from it, and this marks a clear limit, But, if it had been said that one should abstain from such a quantity of wine as intoxicates, it would be impossible to demarcate between the lawful and the unlawful , and no one would have been able to decide what quantity of wine he could drink; and where he had to stop. (For a further discussion, see Rasail-o-Masail, Part 1, pp. 152-155).

21. This gives an idea of the generous and large scale hospitality practiced by the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him). Big bowls like troughs had been arranged to serve as containers of food for the guests and heavy cooking pots were meant for cooking food for thousands of the people at one and the same time.

22. “Grateful”: work like grateful servants. The mere verbal thankfulness of a person who acknowledges only verbally the favors done by the benefactor but uses them against his will is meaningless. The truly grateful person is he who acknowledges the favors with the tongue as well as uses and employs the favors according to the will of the benefactor.


The tafsir of Surah Saba verse 13 by Ibn Kathir is unavailable here.
Please refer to Surah Saba ayat 12 which provides the complete commentary from verse 12 through 13.

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