In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent and Merciful
Ha. Mim. By the Book that makes things clear! We have made the Qur’an a discourse in Arabic so that you may understand. It originates in the source of revelation kept with Us; it is indeed sublime, full of wisdom. (Gold; Al-Zukhruf: 43: 1-4)
This surah presents a detailed picture of problems, arguments and objections which the Islamic message encountered. It also shows how the Qur’an dealt with these and their effects on people, establishing at the same time its own truth in place of old, false, ignorant superstitions and values that had taken hold of people’s minds at the time. In fact, some people, everywhere, continue to hold elements of these as valid.
Followers of pagan beliefs used to claim that the cattle, God has created for the benefit of mankind are divided between God and their own alleged deities: “Out of the produce and the cattle He has created, they assign a portion to God, saying: ‘This is for God’ or so they pretend ‘and this is for the partners we associate (with Him).’ Whatever they assign to their partners never reaches God, but that which is assigned to God does reach their partners.” (6: 136)
In fact, they believed in many legends and superstitions concerning cattle, and these were all the result of deviant practices. In this way, they claimed that they were forbidden to ride some animals, while others were considered unlawful to eat: “They say: ‘Such cattle and crops are forbidden. None may eat of them save those whom we permit’ so they falsely claim. Other cattle they declare to be forbidden to burden their backs; and there are cattle over which they do not pronounce God’s name, inventing (in all this) a lie against Him.” (6: 138)
This surah discusses such deviant beliefs putting forward the original truth and demonstrating that cattle are God’s creatures, representing an aspect of life that is closely related to the creation of the heavens and the earth. God has made cattle subservient to man so that people can express their gratitude and give thanks to Him for such a blessing. They must neither attribute false partners to Him nor enact for themselves legislation that is at variance with what pleases God, when they recognize Him as the Creator. How absurd that they discard the natural result of this truth, which they acknowledge, allowing superstition to get the better of them: “Yet if you ask them, ‘Who created the heavens and the earth?’ they are sure to answer, ‘The Almighty, the All-Knowing created them.’ It is He who has smoothed out the earth for you and has traced on it paths for you so that you can find your way. And He it is who sends down water from the sky in due measure. With it, We raise dead land to life; and thus you will be raised from the dead. And He it is who created all living things in pairs, and provided for you the ships and animals on which you ride, so that when you are seated on their backs you remember your Lord’s blessings and say: “Limitless in His glory is He who has made all this subservient to our use. We could not have done by ourselves. To our Lord we shall most certainly return.”
Ignorant paganism used to claim that angels were God’s daughters. Although they hated daughters being born to themselves, they nonetheless attributed daughters to God and worshipped these instead of Him. They alleged that they worshipped them by God’s will. Had He willed otherwise, they would not have worshipped them. Again, this was nothing but a legend arising from deviant beliefs.
The surah uses the unbelievers’ own logic as well as the logic of sound human nature to refute this baseless legend. When they were told that they were only worshipping statues, idols and trees, and that everyone who worships anything other than God will be thrown into hell together with the object of their worship, they twisted this clear statement making it a subject of dispute. They also claimed that they followed Abraham’s faith and, as such, were best guided, yet all the while, they were immersed in pagan ignorance. The surah outlines the true nature of Abraham’s faith, based on God’s absolute oneness. This principle continued and will continue among Abraham’s descendants. Muhammad (Pbuh), God’s Messenger, came to them with the same principle, but they received him with other than what Abraham’s offspring should give.
They could not understand God’s wisdom in choosing His messenger. Their earthly values, the basis of the status they assigned to people, contributed to their unwillingness to accept him. The surah reports what they said in this respect, presenting the true values that should be upheld in comparison to their trivial ones.
The surah then recounts an episode from Moses’ life history, one that reflects Pharaoh’s similarly false values. This account demonstrates how both these values and Pharaoh himself were unworthy. It tells us of the fate that awaits him and all those with similar attitudes: “When they incurred Our anger, We inflicted Our retribution on them and drowned them all; and so We made them a thing of the past and an example for later generations.”