THE FOLLOWING chapter is arranged in twelve sections and consist of 110 Meccan verses. However verse 28 and verses 83-101 on Double Horns (XI) date from the Madinese period. It was revealed after The Pall 88 and before Bees 16, and it forms a series of narratives in the manner of Joseph's story in Chapter 12 and Stories 28.
The chief narration concerns the so-called "Sleepers in the Cave" who are mentioned in Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (ch. XXXIII, end) which that historian calls a legend. These sleepers were young men who were persecuted because they did not want to become associators or to worship other deities or idols. It is clear this is an allegory and that their number does not matter. It apparently refers to the difficulties of belief within the Christian church during its early centuries. This story is important since it shows how religions previous to Islam had become corrupted, and how some early Christians resisted such ideas.
Towards the end, Moses' mystic journey after Truth is related (IX-X). Double Horns may give the story of Alexander the Great which interested the Middle East as much as it did medieval Europe (XI), Most of this is allegorical, as we are clearly told at the end of the story of the Sleepers, and it should not be taken too literally; the collection of tales merely provides us with a running commentary on significant events.
Other sections deal with the sin of association, the virtue of tolerance, Hell and Heaven (IV), and charming parables like the Grateful and Ungrateful Farmers (V); Rain from Heaven (VI); and Diabolis' meeting with Adam (VIL). It ends with the little gem called "The Words of the Lord" (XII). As a whole the style resembles that of Chapter 71 on Noah (SEE Introduction to Chapter 72 Sprites on the allegorical style). Pickthall's explanation in his introduction to this chapter is also clear and easy to read.
In the name of God, the Mercy-giving, the Merciful!
(I)* Praise be to God, Who has sent down the Book for His servants and has placed no distortion in it; * [it is] straightforward, so He may warn about serious violence from Himself and give good news to believers who perform honorable deeds. they will have a handsome wage, * to bask in it for ever and ever.
* He warns those who say: "God has adopted a son." ** They have no knowledge about it, nor did their forefathers have any either. It is too serious a statement to come out of their mouths: they are merely telling a lie! * Perhaps you will fret yourself to death checking up on them, worrying lest they will not believe this report. * We have placed whatever is on earth as an ornament for it so We may test them as to which one is best in action; * and We shall turn anything on it into a barren wasteland.
The Sleepers in the Cave
* Have you considered how the Companions in the Cave and with the Tablet were such marvellous signs of Ours? ** Thus the youths sought shelter in the Cave, and said: "Our Lord, grant us mercy from Your presence and furnish us with some direction in our affair." * We struck them with drowsiness in the Cave for several years; * then We awakened them again so We might know which of the two parties would best calculate how long a stretch they had remained [there].
(II) * We shall relate their story to you correctly:
They were young men who believed in their Lord, and We gave them extra guidance. * We strengthened their hearts when they stood up and said: "Our Lord is Lord of Heaven and Earth. We will never appeal to any deity except Him; should we say [such a thing], then it would be an outrage. ** These people of ours have adopted other gods besides Him. If they would only bring some clear authority to support them!"
Who is more in the wrong than someone who invents a lie about God? * When you withdraw from them and whatever they serve instead of God, then seek shelter in the Cave. Your Lord will spread some of His mercy over you and make fitting arrangements for you in your affair.
* You should have seen how the sun as it rose, swerved away from their Cave toward the right; and as it set, slanted off toward the left of them, while they lay in a space in between. That was one of God's signs. Anyone whom God guides, remains guided; while anyone He lets go astray will never find any patron to set him straight.
(III) * You would reckon they were awake, while they [really] lay there asleep. We turned them over on the right and on the left, while their dog lay stretched out with his forepaws over the threshold. If you had chanced upon them, you would have turned and fled from them; you would have been filled with awe of them!
* Even so We raised them up again so they might question one another. One of them spoke up and said: "How long have you stayed [here]?" They said: "We have stayed a day, or part of a day." They said: "Your Lord is quite Aware of how long you have stayed [here], so send one of your men to the city with this coin of yours. Let him see which food is the most suitable and bring you [back] a supply of it. Let him act discreetly and not make anyone aware of you. ** If they should find out about you, they will stone you or make you turn back to their sect. You would never succeed then!" * Thus We disclosed things to them so they might know that God's promise has come true and there is no doubt about the Hour.
So [people] debated their case among themselves, and they said: "Build a monument over them. Their Lord is quite Aware of them." Those who won out in the end said: "Let us erect a shrine for them," * They will say: "[They were] three, the fourth of them being their dog;" while [others] will say: "Five, the sixth of them is their dog," guessing at the Unseen. [Still others] say: "Seven, and the eighth of them is their dog."
SAY: "My Lord is quite Aware as to how many they were. Only a few know about them." Do not discuss them except in a discussion that is obvious, nor seek anyone else's opinion about them.
On Trusting God
(IV)* (Do not say about anything: "I am doing that tomorrow," * unless [you add]: "Should God so wish!" Remember your Lord whenever you might forget, and SAY: 'Perhaps my Lord will guide me even closer than this to proper behavior.")
** And they stayed in their Cave for three hundred years plus nine more. * SAY: "God is quite Aware as to how long they stayed [there]. He holds the Unseen in Heaven and Earth; He is quite Observant of it, quite Alert as well. They have no patron besides Him, nor does He let anyone else share in His discretion."
* Quote whatever has been revealed to you from your Lord's book: there is no one who may change His words, nor will you ever find any sanctuary except in Him. * Restrain yourself concerning those who appeal to their Lord in the morning and evening, wanting His presence; yet do not let your eyes wander too far from them, desiring the attraction of worldly life. Do not obey anyone whose heart We allow to neglect remembering Us, so he pursues his own whim. His case results in dissipation. *SAY: "Truth comes from your Lord. Let anyone who wishes to, believe, and anyone who wishes to, disbelieve."
We have reserved a fire for wrongdoers whose sheets will hem them in. If they should ask for some relief, then water like molten brass will be showered on them to scorch their faces. How awful such a drink will and how evil is such a couch! ** As for those who believe and perform honorable deeds, well We shall not waste the earnings of anyone whose action has been kind. * Those shall have the gardens of Eden through which rivers will flow. They will be decked out with gold bracelets the and wear green silk clothing and brocade, as they lean back on sofas in it.
How superb will such a recompense be and how handsome is the couch!
The Grateful and Ungrateful Farmer
(V) * Set forth a comparison between two men for them: We granted two vineyards to one of them, and bordered them with datepalms and planted field crops in between. * Each garden produced its food and did not fail to yield its best; We even caused a river to spring forth in the midst of them.
Pride a Sin
* One man had fruit and told his companion while he was discussing things with him: "I am wealthier than you are, and have a bigger following!" ** He entered his garden while he was thus harming his own soul. He said: "I do not think that this will ever disappear! * I do no think the Hour is at hand; if I am ever sent back to my Lord, I shall find something better than it in exchange."
* His companion told him while he was discussing things with him: "Have you disbelieved in the One Who created you from dust, then from a drop of semen; then fashioned you into a man? * However so far as we are concerned, He is God my Lord, and I do not associate anyone with my Lord! * Why, as you entered your garden, did you not say: "Whatever God may wish; there is no strength except through God [Alone]? Even if you see how I am less wealthy than you are and have fewer children, ** perhaps my Lord will still give me something better than your garden and send a reckoning down from Heaven on it, so it will eventually become a bald hilltop, * or its water will sink down some morning and you will never manage to find it again."
Punishment for Disbelief and Association
* He was caught short with his fruit, and one morning he began to wring his hands over what he had spent on it, since it had tumbled down from its trellisses. He kept saying: "It's too bad for me; I should never have associated anyone with my Lord!" * He had no party to support him against God, so he was not supported. * That is how patronage lies with the True God. He is Best as a recompense and Best in results.
Rain from Heaven
(VI) ** Set forth an example for them about worldly life being like water We send down from the sky, The plants on the earth swell up with it; yet some morning they will become dry weeds which the winds will blow away. God is Competent to do everything!
* Wealth and children are an attraction during worldly life. Yet honorable deeds that last for ever are better as a recompense from your Lord and even better to hope for.
The Appointment on Doomsday
Some day We shall set the mountains travelling along and you will see the earth lying exposed. We will summon them and not one of them shall We omit; * I they will be marshalled in ranks before your Lord: "You have come to Us just as We created you in the first place even though you claimed We would never make any appointment for you."
The Doomsday Book
* The Book will be produced and you will see criminals apprehensive about its contents. They will say: "It's too late for us! What does this book mean for me? It omits nothing either small nor large unless it is accounted for." They will find whatever they have done presented there, even though your Lord will not harm anyone.
Diabolis and Adam
(VII) ** When We told the angels: "Bow down on your knees before Adam," they [all] knelt down except for Diabolis; he was a sprite and acted contrary to his Lord's command. Will you (all) adopt him and his offspring as patrons instead of Myself? They are enemies of yours! How wretched is such an alternative for wrongdoers.
* I did not have them as witnesses at the creation of Heaven and Earth, nor even at their own creation. I am not about to adopt those who lead [others] astray as [My] attendants.
* Some day He will say: "Call on My associates whom you claim to have, and appeal to them." They will not respond to them, while We shall place a chasm between them. * Criminals will see the Fire and think they are falling into it. They will not find any way to avert it.
Man the Quibbler
(VIII) * We have spelled out every sort of example for mankind in this Quran yet everyman uses it just for argument in most cases. ** What has prevented men from believing and seeking forgiveness from their Lord, once guidance has come to them, except [they may wish] that the practice of primitive people should come along with them, or that torment come face to face with them. * We have sent emissaries merely as heralds and warners while those who disbelieve idly argue away so they may refute the Truth by means of it. They treat My signs and what they are warned of as a joke!
* Who is more in the wrong than someone who has been reminded about his Lord's signs and then avoids them, and forgets anything his hands may have sent on ahead? We have placed wrappings over their hearts and dullness in their ears lest they understand it. Even if you called them to guidance, they still would never consent to be guided.
* Your Lord is the Forgiving, the Possessor of Mercy. If He were to take them to task for what they have earned, He would hasten torment for them; instead they have their appointment from which they will never find any asylum. * Such towns have We destroyed whenever they did wrong, and We fixed the time for their destruction.
Moses' Mystic Journey
(IX)** And so Moses told his young man: "I shall not give up until I reach the place where both seas meet, even though I spend ages doing so." * So when they reached the place where they had met, they forgot their fish, which took its way to the sea as if it went out through a drain.
* When they had gone still further, he told his young man: 'Bring us our lunch; we have experienced so much strain along our journey." * He said: "Did you see when we were resting by the rock, that I forgot the fish? Unless it was Satan who made me forget it so I did not remember it. It took its way through the sea like something marvellous!" * He said: "That is just what we've been searching for."
So they retraced their steps the way they had come. ** They found one of Our servants to whom We had given mercy from Ourself and taught him knowledge from Our very presence. * Moses said to him: "May I follow you so you may teach me some of the common sense you have been taught?" * He said: "You will never have any patience with me! * How can you show any patience with something that is beyond your experience?"
* He said: "You will find me patient, if God so wishes, I will not disobey you in any matter." ** He said: "If you follow me, do not ask me about anything until I tell you something to remember it by."
(X) * So they both started out until, as they boarded the ship, he bored a hole in her. He said: "Have you scuttled her to drown her crew? You have done such a weird thing!"
* He said: "Didnt I say that you would not manage to show any patience with me?" * He said: "Do not take me to task for what I have forgotten, nor weigh me down by making my case too difficult for me."
* They journeyed on until when they met a youth, he killed him. He said: "Have you killed an innocent soul without any previous murder [on his part]? You have committed such a horrible deed!"
Moses Jouney (cont'd)
(X cont'd) ** He said: "Did I not tell you that you would never manage to have any patience with me?" * He said: "If I ever ask you about anything after this, do not let me accompany you. You have found an excuse so far as I am concerned."
* They both proceeded further till when they came to the people of a [certain] town, they asked its inhabitants for some food, and they refused to treat either of them hospitably. They found a wall there which was about to tumble down, so he set it straight. He said: "If you had wished, you might have accepted some payment for it."
* He said: "This [means] a parting between you and me. Yet I shall inform you about the interpretation of what you had no patience for.
* "As for the ship, it belonged to some poor men who worked at sea. I wanted to damage it because there was a king behind them seizing every ship by force. ** The young man's parents were believers, and we dreaded lest he would burden them with arrogation and disbelief. * We wanted their Lord to replace him for them with someone better than him in purity and nearer to tenderness.
The Virtue of Patience
* "The well belonged to two orphan boys [living] in the city, and a treasure of theirs lay underneath it. Their father had been honorable, so your Lord wanted them to come of age and claim their treasure as a mercy from your Lord. I did not do it of my own accord. That is the interpretation of what you showed no patience for."
(XI) * They will ask you about Double Horns. SAY: "I shall render a account of him for you."
* We established things on earth for him, and gave him access to everything; ** so he followed a [certain] course * until when he reached the place where the sun sets, he found it setting in a mucky spring alongside which he (also) found some people. We said: "Double Horn either you will punish [them] or else act kindly towards them." * He said: "Anyone who has done wrong we shall punish; then he will be sent back to his Lord, and He will punish him with horrible torment. * Anyone who believes and acts honorably will have the finest reward and we will tell him gently about our command."
* Then he followed [another] course ** until when he reached the place where the sun rises, he found it rising on a folk whom We had not granted any protection against it. * That was how We controlled information about whatever lay before him.
* Then he followed [still another] course * until when he reached two barriers, he found a folk on the nearer side of them who scarcely understood any speech. * They said: "Double Horns, Gog and Magog are ravaging the earth. Shall we pay you tribute on condition that you place a barrier between us and them?" ** He said: "Whatever my Lord has empowered me to do is even better, so help me with some [man] power: I'll place a rampart between you and them. * Bring me blocks of iron. When he had levelled off [the space] between both cliffs, he said: "Blow on it!", until when he had built it up into a fire, he said: "Bring me molten brass so I may pour some over it." ** They neither managed to climb over nor were they able to tunnel through it. * He said: "This is a mercy from my Lord. Whenever my Lord's promise comes, he will make it crumble. My Lord's promise is true!"
* We will leave some of them surging over others on that day. The Trumpet shall be blown, and We will gather them all together. *** On that day We will spread Hell out on display for disbelievers * whose eyes have been under blinders against [seeing] My reminder. They have not even managed to hear!
Saints' Worship Condemned
(XII) * Do those who disbelieve reckon they will adopt My servants as patrons instead of Me? We have reserved Hell as a lodging for disbelievers!
* SAY: "Shall We announce to you those who have lost the most through [their] actions?" * Those whose effort led them astray during worldly life, while they reckoned they were producing something fine, ** are the ones who have disbelieved in their Lord's signs and about meeting Him; their actions will prove to be useless, and We shall set up no weighing-in for them on Resurrection Day. * Such will be their reward - Hell, because of how they have disbelieved and taken My signs and My messengers for a laughingstock. * Those who believe and perform honorable deeds will have the gardens of Paradise as a lodging * to live in for ever; they will never seek any transfer from it.
The Words of the Lord
* SAY: "If the sea were an inkwell
for the words of my Lord,
the sea would be drained
before my Lord's words would be spent
even though we brought the same
again to replenish it.
** SAY: "I am only a human being like yourselves; it has been revealed to me that your deity is God Alone. Anyone who is expecting to meet his Lord should act honorably and not associate anyone in the worship due his Lord."