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Towards Understanding the Quran
With kind permission: Islamic Foundation UK
Introduction to Tafheem | Glossary | Verbs
Other resources: Maarif | Dawat 

 Surah Al-Hadid 57:20-25 [3/4]
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Verse Summary -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ٱلْحَيَوٲةُthe life
ٱلدُّنْيَا(of) the world
لَعِبٌ(is) play
وَلَهْوٌand amusement
وَزِينَةٌand adornment
وَتَفَاخُرُۢand boasting
بَيْنَكُمْamong you
وَتَكَاثُرٌand competition in increase
ٱلْأَمْوَٲلِthe wealth
وَٱلْأَوْلَـٰدِ‌ۖand the children,
كَمَثَلِlike (the) example
غَيْثٍ(of) a rain,
ٱلْكُفَّارَthe tillers
نَبَاتُهُۥits growth;
يَهِيجُit dries
فَتَرَٮٰهُand you see it
مُصْفَرًّاturning yellow;
وَفِىAnd in
ٱلْأَخِرَةِthe Hereafter
عَذَابٌ(is) a punishment
وَمَغْفِرَةٌand forgiveness
وَرِضْوَٲنٌ‌ۚand Pleasure.
وَمَاBut not
ٱلْحَيَوٲةُ(is) the life
ٱلدُّنْيَآ(of) the world
مَتَـٰعُ(the) enjoyment
ٱلْغُرُورِ(of) delusion.
مَغْفِرَةٍ(the) forgiveness
رَّبِّكُمْyour Lord,
وَجَنَّةٍand a Garden
عَرْضُهَاits width
كَعَرْضِ(is) like (the) width
ٱلسَّمَآءِ(of) the heaven
وَٱلْأَرْضِand the earth,
لِلَّذِينَfor those who
بِٱللَّهِin Allah
وَرُسُلِهِۦ‌ۚand His Messengers.
فَضْلُ(is the) Bounty
ٱللَّهِ(of) Allah,
يُؤْتِيهِHe gives
مَن(to) whom
يَشَآءُ‌ۚHe wills.
وَٱللَّهُAnd Allah
ذُو ٱلْفَضْلِ(is) the Possessor of Bounty,
ٱلْعَظِيمِthe Great.
ٱلْأَرْضِthe earth
وَلَاand not
كِتَـٰبٍa Register
مِّن قَبْلِbefore
نَّبْرَأَهَآ‌ۚWe bring it into existence.
يَسِيرٌ(is) easy.
لِّكَيْلَاSo that you may not
فَاتَكُمْhas escaped you,
وَلَاand (do) not
بِمَآat what
ءَاتَـٰكُمْ‌ۗHe has given you.
وَٱللَّهُAnd Allah
لَا(does) not
ٱلَّذِينَThose who
يَبْخَلُونَare stingy
وَيَأْمُرُونَand enjoin
ٱلنَّاسَ(on) the people
وَمَنAnd whoever
يَتَوَلَّturns away,
فَإِنَّthen indeed,
ٱلْغَنِىُّ(is) Free of need,
ٱلْحَمِيدُthe Praiseworthy.
أَرْسَلْنَاWe sent
رُسُلَنَاOur Messengers
بِٱلْبَيِّنَـٰتِwith clear proofs
وَأَنزَلْنَاand We sent down
مَعَهُمُwith them
ٱلْكِتَـٰبَthe Scripture
وَٱلْمِيزَانَand the Balance
لِيَقُومَthat may establish
ٱلنَّاسُthe people
وَأَنزَلْنَاAnd We sent down
ٱلْحَدِيدَ[the] iron,
بَأْسٌ(is) power
وَمَنَـٰفِعُand benefits
لِلنَّاسِfor the people,
وَلِيَعْلَمَ ٱللَّهُand so that Allah may make evident
مَن(he) who
يَنصُرُهُۥhelps Him
وَرُسُلَهُۥand His Messengers,
قَوِىٌّ(is) All-Strong

اِعۡلَمُوۡۤا اَنَّمَا الۡحَيٰوةُ الدُّنۡيَا لَعِبٌ وَّلَهۡوٌ وَّزِيۡنَةٌ وَّتَفَاخُرٌۢ بَيۡنَكُمۡ وَتَكَاثُرٌ فِى الۡاَمۡوَالِ وَالۡاَوۡلَادِ​ؕ كَمَثَلِ غَيۡثٍ اَعۡجَبَ الۡكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهٗ ثُمَّ يَهِيۡجُ فَتَرٰٮهُ مُصۡفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَكُوۡنُ حُطٰمًا​ؕ وَفِى الۡاٰخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ شَدِيۡدٌ ۙ وَّمَغۡفِرَةٌ مِّنَ اللّٰهِ وَرِضۡوَانٌ​ؕ وَمَا الۡحَيٰوةُ الدُّنۡيَاۤ اِلَّا مَتَاعُ الۡغُرُوۡرِ‏  سَابِقُوۡۤا اِلٰى مَغۡفِرَةٍ مِّنۡ رَّبِّكُمۡ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرۡضُهَا كَعَرۡضِ السَّمَآءِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِۙ اُعِدَّتۡ لِلَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا بِاللّٰهِ وَرُسُلِهٖ​ؕ ذٰلِكَ فَضۡلُ اللّٰهِ يُؤۡتِيۡهِ مَنۡ يَّشَآءُ​ؕ وَاللّٰهُ ذُو الۡفَضۡلِ الۡعَظِيۡمِ‏   مَاۤ اَصَابَ مِنۡ مُّصِيۡبَةٍ فِى الۡاَرۡضِ وَلَا فِىۡۤ اَنۡفُسِكُمۡ اِلَّا فِىۡ كِتٰبٍ مِّنۡ قَبۡلِ اَنۡ نَّبۡـرَاَهَا ؕ اِنَّ ذٰ لِكَ عَلَى اللّٰهِ يَسِيۡرٌۚ  ۖ‏  لِّـكَيۡلَا تَاۡسَوۡا عَلٰى مَا فَاتَكُمۡ وَلَا تَفۡرَحُوۡا بِمَاۤ اٰتٰٮكُمۡ​ؕ وَاللّٰهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخۡتَالٍ فَخُوۡرِۙ‏  اۨلَّذِيۡنَ يَبۡخَلُوۡنَ وَيَاۡمُرُوۡنَ النَّاسَ بِالۡبُخۡلِ​ؕ وَمَنۡ يَّتَوَلَّ فَاِنَّ اللّٰهَ هُوَ الۡغَنِىُّ الۡحَمِيۡدُ‏  لَـقَدۡ اَرۡسَلۡنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالۡبَيِّنٰتِ وَاَنۡزَلۡنَا مَعَهُمُ الۡكِتٰبَ وَالۡمِيۡزَانَ لِيَقُوۡمَ النَّاسُ بِالۡقِسۡطِ​ۚ وَاَنۡزَلۡنَا الۡحَـدِيۡدَ فِيۡهِ بَاۡسٌ شَدِيۡدٌ وَّمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَلِيَـعۡلَمَ اللّٰهُ مَنۡ يَّنۡصُرُهٗ وَ رُسُلَهٗ بِالۡغَيۡبِ​ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ قَوِىٌّ عَزِيۡزٌ‏ 
(57:20) Know well that the life of this world is merely sport and diversion and adornment and an object of your boasting with one another, and a rivalry in the multiplication of riches and children. Its likeness is that of rain: when it produces vegetation it delights the tillers. But then it withers and you see it turn yellow, and then it crumbles away. In the Hereafter there is (either) grievous chastisement (or) forgiveness from Allah and (His) good pleasure. The life of this world is nothing but delusion.36 (57:21) So vie with one another37 in seeking to attain your Lord's forgiveness and a Garden whose width is as the width of the heaven and the earth,38 one which has been prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers. That is Allah's bounty which He bestows upon those whom He pleases. Allah is the Lord of abounding bounty. (57:22) No misfortune ever befalls on earth, nor on yourselves but We have inscribed it in the Book39 before We make it manifest.40 Surely that is easy for Allah.41 (57:23) (We do so) that you may not grieve over42 the loss you suffer, nor exult over what He gave you. Allah does not love the vainglorious, the boastful, (57:24) those who are niggardly and bid others to be niggardly.43 And he who turns away, (should know that) Allah is Self-Sufficient, Immensely Praiseworthy.44 (57:25) Indeed We sent Our Messengers with Clear Signs, and sent down with them the Book and the Balance that people may uphold justice.45 And We sent down iron, wherein there is awesome power and many benefits for people,46 so that Allah may know who, without even having seen Him, helps Him and His Messengers. Surely Allah is Most Strong, Most Mighty.47

36. To understand this theme fully one should keep the following verses of the Quran in mind: (Surah Aal-Imran, Ayats 14-15); (Surah Younus, Ayats 24-25); (Surah Ibrahim, Ayat 18); (Surah Al-Kahf, Ayats 45-46); (Surah An-Noor, Ayat 39). In all these verses the truth that has been impressed on the mind is: The life of this world is a temporary life: its spring as well as its autumn is temporary. There is much here to allure man. But this, in fact, consists of base and insignificant things which man because of his shallowness of mind regards as great and splendid and is deluded into thinking that in attaining them lies supreme success. The truth however is that the highest benefits and means of pleasure and enjoyment that one can possibly attain in the world, are indeed short and insignificant and confined to a few years of temporary life and can be destroyed by just one turn of fate. Contrary to this, the life in Hereafter is a splendid and eternal life. Its benefits are great and permanent and its losses too are great and permanent. The one who attains Allah’s forgiveness and His goodwill there, will indeed have attained the everlasting bliss beside which the entire wealth of the world and its kingdom become pale and insignificant. And the one who is seized in God’s torment there, will come to know that he had made a bad bargain even if he had attained all that he regarded as great and splendid in the world.

37. Musabaqat (from which sabiqu of the original is derived) means to compete and vie with each other in order to excel. The meaning is: Give up your rivalries with one another for amassing wealth, and pleasures and benefits of the world and instead make the forgiveness of your Lord and Paradise the object of your struggle and rivalries.

38. Some commentators have taken the word ard in arduha ka-ardis-samai wal-ard in the sense of breadth, but actually this word has been used here in the meaning of spaciousness and extensiveness. In Arabic the word ard is not only used for breadth, as a counterpart of length, but also for spaciousness, as it has been used in( Surah HaMim As-Sajdah, Ayat 51): fadhu dua in arid: Then he is full of long supplications. Besides, one should also understand that the object here is not to foretell the area or extent of Paradise, but to give an idea of its vastness and extensiveness. Here its vastness has been described as the vastness of the heaven and earth, and in Surah Aal-Imran it has been said: Hasten to follow the path that leads to your Lord’s forgiveness and to Paradise whose vastness is that of the universe, which has been prepared for the righteous (verse 133). When both these verses are read together, one gets the idea that the gardens and palaces man will receive in Paradise will only serve as his dwellingplace but the entire universe will be his home. He will not be restricted to one place as he is in this world, where just for reaching the moon, his nearest neighbor in space, he has had to struggle hard for years and expend excessive resources only to overcome the difficulties of a short journey. There the whole universe will be accessible to him. He will be able to see whatever he would desire from his station and be able to visit whichever place he would like easily.

39. A Book: the writ of destiny.

40. Here, “it” may be referring to the affliction as well as to the earth, or the self of man, or in view of the context, to all the creatures.

41. That is, it is not at all difficult for Allah to pre-ordain the destiny of each and every one of His creatures.

42. In order to understand why this has been said in that context, one should keep in mind the conditions through which the Muslims were passing at the time this Surah was revealed. An ever present danger of attack by the enemy, battles in quick succession, a state of constant siege, hardships caused by economic boycott by the disbelievers, persecution of the converts to Islam everywhere in Arabia, these were the conditions that the Muslims were confronted with at that time. The disbelievers looked upon these as a proof of the Muslims having been forsaken and rejected, and the hypocrites took these as a confirmation of their own suspicions and doubts. As for the sincere Muslims, they were facing these bravely and resolutely, yet the excess of hardship and suffering would sometimes become trying even for them. So, the Muslims are being consoled, as if to say: No affliction, God forbid, has befallen you without the knowledge of your Lord. Whatever you are experiencing is according to the pre-ordained scheme of Allah, which is already recorded in the writ of destiny. And you are being made to pass through these trials and tribulations for the sake of your own training for the great service that Allah wills to take from you. If you are made to attain to success without passing through these hardships, weaknesses will remain in your character due to which you will neither be able to digest power and authority nor withstand the tempests and furies of falsehood.

43. The allusion is to the trait of character that everyone could experience among the hypocrites in the Muslim society itself. As regards to the outward affirmation of the faith, they could not be distinguished from the true Muslims. But owing to lack of sincerity they were not receiving the sort of training that was being given to the sincere Muslims. Therefore, the little prosperity and leadership that they were enjoying in an ordinary town of Arabia, was causing them to be swollen with pride. As for their stinginess, not only were they themselves unwilling to give away anything in the cause of God Whom they professed to believe in and the Messenger (peace be upon him) whom they professed to follow and the faith which they professed to have accepted, but also tried to prevent others from making any contribution, for, they thought, it was a useless cause. Obviously, if there had been no trials and tribulations, these worthless people, who were of no use to Allah, could not be separated from the sincere and worthy believers, and without weeding them out a mixed crowd of sincere and insincere Muslims could not be entrusted with the high office of leadership of the world, the great blessings of which the world subsequently witnessed in the rightly-guided Caliphate.

44. That is, even if after hearing these words of admonition a person does not adopt the way of sincerity, faithfulness and sacrifice for the sake of Allah and His religion, and wishes to persist in his stubbornness, which Allah disapproves, then Allah has no use for him, for Allah is All- Sufficient and Independent of His creatures. He does not stand in need of their help in any way. And He is All- Praiseworthy. People of only good qualities are acceptable to Him. People of evil character cannot be entitled to receive any favor from Him.

45. In this brief sentence the whole essence of the mission of the Prophets bas been compressed, which one should clearly understand. It says that all the Messengers who came to the world from Allah, brought three things:

(1) Bayyenaat: manifest signs which clearly showed that they were really Allah’s Messengers, and were not impostors; convincing arguments which made it evident that what they were presenting as truth was really the truth, and what they condemned as falsehood was really falsehood. Clear instructions which told without any ambiguity what was the right way for the people in respect of beliefs, morals, acts of worship and dealings, which they should adopt, and what were the wrong ways which they should shun and avoid.

(2) Kitab: the Book which contained all the teachings required for the guidance of man so that people may turn to it for enlightenment.

(3) Mizan: the criterion of truth and falsehood which may precisely indicate, like a balance, the golden mean between two extremes in matters of thought, morals and dealings.

The object for which the Prophets were sent with these three things was that man’s conduct in the world and the system of human life, individually as well as collectively, should be established with justice. On the in hand, every man should precisely know the rights of God, the rights of his self and the rights of all those people with whom he may have to deal in any way, and should fulfill them faithfully. And on the other hand, the system of collective life should be built on such principles as should eliminate every kind of injustice from society, should safeguard every aspect of civilization and social life against extremism, should establish correct balance and equity in all spheres of collective life, so that all elements of society should receive their rights equitably and fulfill their obligations and duties responsibly.

In other words, the object of sending the prophets was to establish individual as well as collective justice. They wanted to establish justice in the personal life of each individual so as to bring about poise and equilibrium in his mind, his character, his conduct and his dealings. They also wanted to establish the whole system of human society on justice so that both the individual and the society should assist and cooperate with each other in their spiritual, moral and material well-being instead of being a hindrance and obstacle.

46. Sending down iron means creating iron in the earth just as in (Surah Az-Zumar, Ayat 6) it has been said: He sent down for you eight heads of cattle, male and female. As whatever exists in the earth, has come here by Allah’s command, and has not appeared by itself. Its being created has been expressed in the Quran as its being sent down. The mention of sending down iron which has great strength and other benefits for men immediately after stating the object of the mission of the Prophets by itself indicates that by iron here is meant political and military power. Thus the verse means: Allah did not raise His Prophets in the world just to present a scheme for the establishment of justice, but it was also a part of their mission to endeavor to enforce it practically, to collect necessary power to establish justice in all spheres of life, to punish those who might disrupt it and to break the power of those who might resist it.

47. That is, Allah does not need this help because He is weak and cannot use His power to accomplish this work, but He has adopted this method for the trial of men. Man can advance on the way of his progress and well-being only by passing through this trial. Allah indeed has the power to subdue all the disbelievers by one command whenever He wills and give to His Messengers complete dominance over them, but in that case the believers in the Messengers would have nothing to do for which they should become entitled to rewards. That is why Allah instead of accomplishing this mission through His dominant power adopted the method of sending His Messengers to human beings with the signs and the Book and the criterion, and enjoined them to present the way of justice before the people and exhort them to refrain and desist from wickedness sad injustice At the same time, He gave us full option to accept the message of the Messengers or to reject it. He summoned those who accepted the invitation to come forward and help Him and His Messengers to establish justice, and to exert their utmost against those who were bent upon retaining the unjust system. Thus, Allah wants to see who among us reject the invitation to justice, who exert with their lives in order to retain injustice as against justice, who shirk supporting struggling for the cause of the message of justice after they have accepted it, and who stake their lives and their possessions for the sake of unseen God to help the truth become dominant in the world. Only for those who emerge successful in this test will avenues to future progress be opened up.