The name of this Surah is composed of two words, Ha-Mim and
As-Sajdah, which implies that it is a Surah which begins with
Ha-Mim and in which a verse requiring the performance of sajdah
(prostration) has occurred.
Period of Revelation
According to authentic Traditions, it was sent down after the
affirmation of the Faith by Hadrat Hamzah and before the affirmation
of the Faith by Hadrat Umar. Muhammad bin Ishaq, the earliest
biographer of the Holy Prophet, has related on the authority
of Muhammad bin Ka'b al-Qurzi, the famous follower of the Companions,
that one day some of the Quraish chiefs were sitting in their
assembly in the Masjid al-Haram, while in another corner of
the Mosque there was the Holy Prophet sitting by himself.
This was the time when Hadrat Hamzah had already embraced Islam
and the people of the Quraish were feeling upset at the growing
numbers of the Muslims. On this occasion, Utbah bin Rabi'ah
(the father-in-law of Abu Sufyan) said to the Quraish chiefs: "Gentlemen,
if you like I would go and speak to Muhammad (upon whom be
Allah's peace and blessings) and put before him some proposals;
maybe that he accepts one of them, to which we may also agree,
and so he stops opposing us."
They all agreed to this, and Utbah went and sat by the Holy
Prophet. When the Holy Prophet turned to him, he said: "Nephew,
you know the high status that you enjoy in the community by
virtue of your ancestry and family relations, but you have
put your people to great trouble: you have created divisions
among them and you consider them to be fools: you talk ill
of their religion and gods, and say things as though all our
forefathers were pagans. Now listen to me and I shall make
Consider them well: maybe that you accept one of them." The
Holy Prophet said: "Abul Walid, say what you want to say and
I shall listen to you." He said, "Nephew, if by what you are
doing, you want wealth, we will give you enough of it so that
you will be the richest man among us; if you want to became
an important man, we will make you our chief and will never
decide a matter without you; if you want to be a king, we will
accept you as our king; and if you are visited by a jinn, whom
you cannot get rid of by your own power, we will arrange the
best physicians and have you treated at our own expense."
'Utbah went on speaking in this strain and the Holy Prophet
went on listening to him quietly. Then he said, "Have you said,
O Abul Walid, what you had to say?" He replied that he had.
The Holy Prophet said: "Well, now listen to me."Then pronouncing
Bismilah ir Rehman-ir-Raihm he began to recite this very Surah,
and Utbah kept on listening to it, putting his hands behind
his back and leaning on them as he listened.
Coming to the verse of prostration (v. 38) the Holy Prophet
prostrated himself; then raising his head, said, "This was
my reply, O Abul Walid, now you may act as you please." then
Utbah arose and walked back towards the chiefs, the people
saw him from afar, and said: "By God! Utbab's face is changed.
He does not look the same man that he was when he went from
here." Then, when he came back and sat down, the people asked, "What
have you heard?" He replied, "By God! I have heard something
the like of which I had never heard before.
By God, it's neither poetry, nor sorcery, nor magic. O chiefs
of the Quraish, listen to what I say and leave this man to
himself. I think what he recites is going to have its effect.
If the other Arabs overcome him, you will be saved from raising
your band against your brother, and the others will deal with
him. But if he overcame Arabia, his sovereignty would be your
sovereignty and his honor your honor." Hearing this the chiefs
spoke out:"You too, O father of Walid, have been bewitched
by his tongue."Utbah replied, "I have given you my opinion;
now you may act as you please." (Ibn Hisham, vol. I, pp. 313-314).
This story has been narrated by several other traditionists
also on the authority of Hadrat Jabir bin Abdullah in different
ways, with a little variation in wording. In some traditions
it has also been related that when during the recitation the
Holy Prophet had come to verse 13, viz."If they turn away,
say to them: I warn you of a thunderbolt the like of which
had visited the Ad and the Thamud,"Utbah had spontaneously
placed his hand on the Holy Prophet's mouth, and said: "For
God's sake, have mercy on your people." Afterwards he justified
his action before the Quraish chiefs, saying: "You know that
whatever Muhammad says is always fulfilled; therefore, I feared
lest a torment should descend on us." (For details, see Tafsir
Ibn Kathir, vol. IV, pp. 90- 91; Al Bidayah wan-Nihayah, vol.
III, p. 62).
Theme and Subject Matter
In the discourse that Allah sent down in response to what Utbah
said, no attention whatever was paid to the absurd proposals
that he had made to the Holy Prophet. For what he had said
was, in fact, an attack on the Holy Prophet's intention and
his intellect. His assumption was that as there was no possibility
of his being a Prophet and the Quran being Allah's Revelation,
inevitably the motive of his invitation must either be the
desire to obtain wealth and political power, or, God forbid,
he had lost his reason.
In the first case, he wanted to make a bargain with the Holy
Prophet; in the second, he was insulting him when he said that
the Quraish chiefs would have been cured of his madness at
their own expense. Obviously, when the opponents come down
to such absurd things, no gentleman would like to answer them,
but would ignore them and say what he himself had to say.
Therefore, ignoring what Utbah said, this Surah makes antagonism
its subject of discussion, which the unbelieving Quraish were
showing stubbornly and wickedly in order to defeat the message
of the Qur'an. They would say to tho Holy Prophet, "You may
try however hard you try: we would not listen to you. We have
put coverings on our hearts and we have closed our ears. There
is a wall between you and us, which would never let us meet
They had given a clear notice to the Holy Prophet to the effect: "You
may continue your mission of inviting the people to yourself,
but we would go on opposing you as hard as we can to frustrate
For this object they had devised the following plan: Whenever
the Holy Prophet or a follower of his would try to recite the
Qur'an before the people, they would at once raise such a hue
and cry that no one could bear anything.
They were desperately trying to misconstrue the verses of the
Qur'an and spread every kind of misunderstanding among the
people. They misconstrued everything and found fault even with
the straightforward things. They would isolate words and sentences
from their right context, from here and there, and would add
their own words in order to put new meanings on them so as
to mislead the people about the Quran and the Messenger who
They would raise strange objections a specimen of which has
been presented in this Surah. They said, "If an Arab presents
a discourse in Arabic, what could be the miracle in it? Arabic
is his mother tongue. Anyone could compose anything that he
pleased in his mother tongue and then make the claim that he
had received it from God. It would be a miracle if the person
would suddenly arise and make an eloquent speech in a foreign
tongue which he did not know. Then only could one say that
the discourse was not of his own composition but a revelation
Here is a resume of what has been said in answer to this deaf
and blind opposition:
The Qur'an is most certainly the Word of God, which He
has sent down in Arabic. The ignorant people do not find
any light of knowledge in the truths that have been presented
in it plainly and clearly, but the people of understanding
are seeing this light as well as benefiting by it. It is
surely Allah's mercy that He has sent down this Word for
the guidance of man. If a person regarded it as an affliction,
it would be his own misfortune. Good news is for those
who benefit by it and warning for those who turn away from
If you have put coverings on your hearts and have made
yourselves deaf, it is none of the Prophet's job to make
the one hear who does not want to hear, and the one who
does not want to understand understand forcibly. He is
a man like you; he can make only those to hear and understand,
who are inclined to hear and understand.
Whether you close down your eyes and ears and put coverings
on your hearts, the fact, however, is that your God is
only One God, and you are not the servant of any one else.
Your stubbornness cannot change this reality in any way.
If you accept this truth and correct your behavior accordingly
you will do good only to yourselves, and if you reject
it, you will only be preparing your own doom.
Do you have any understanding as to whom you disbelieve
and with whom you associate others in divinity? It is with
regard to that God Who has created this limitless universe,
Who is the Creator of the earth and heavens, from Whose
blessings you are benefiting on the earth, and on Whose
provisions you are being fed and sustained. You set up
His mean creatures as His associates and then you are made
to understand the truth you turn away in stubbornness.
If you still do not believe, then be aware that a sudden
torment is about to visit you, the like of which had visited
the Ad and the Thamud, and this torment also will not be
the final punishment of your crimes, but there is in addition
the accountability and the fire of Hell in the Hereafter.
Wretched is the man who gets as company such satans from
among men and jinn, who show him nothing but green and
pleasant, who make his follies seem fair to him, who neither
let him think aright himself nor let him hear right from
others. But on the Day of Reckoning when their doom overtakes
them, each one of them will say that if he happened to
get hold of those who had misled and deceived him in the
world, he would trample them under his foot.
This Quran is an unchangeable Book. You can not defeat
it by your machinations and falsehoods. Whether falsehood
comes from the front or makes a secret and indirect attack
from behind, it cannot succeed in refuting it.
Today when this Quran is being Presented
in your own language so that you may understand it, you
say that it should have been sent down in some foreign
tongue. But had We sent it in a foreign tongue for your
guidance, you would yourselves have called it a joke,
as if to say, "What
a strange thing! The Arabs are being given guidance in
a non- Arabic language, which nobody understands." This
means that you, in fact, have no desire to obtain guidance.
You are only inventing ever new excuses for not affirming
Have you ever considered that if it became established
that the Qur'an was really from Allah, then what fate you
would meet by denying it and opposing it so vehemently
as you do?
Today you do not believe but soon you will see with your
own eyes that the message of this Qur'an had pervaded the
whole world and you have yourselves been overwhelmed by
it. Then you will come to know that what you were being
told was the very truth.
Besides giving these answers to the opponents, attention has
been paid to the problems which the believers and the Holy
Prophet himself were facing in that environment of active resistance.
Not to speak of preaching the message to others, the believers
were even finding it difficult to follow the way of the Faith.
Any one about whom it became known that he had become a Muslim,
life would become an agony. As against the dreadful combination
of the enemy and its all pervading power, they were feeling
utterly helpless and powerless.
In this state, in the first place, they were consoled and
encouraged, as if to say: "You are not, in fact, helpless and powerless,
for any person who believes in God as his Lord and adheres
to this belief and way of life resolutely, God's angels descend
on him and help and support him at every stage, from the life
of this world till the Hereafter." Then they were encouraged
with the consolation: "The best man is be who does good,
invites others to God and proclaims firmly that he is a Muslim."
The question that was vexing the Holy Prophet at that time
was as to how be should carve out a way of pre- aching his
message when he had to face such heavy odds on every side.
The solution he was given to this question was: "Although
apparently the obstacles seem to be insurmountable, the weapon
of good morals and character can smash and melt them away.
Use this weapon patiently, and whenever Satan provokes you
and incites you to use some other device, seek refuge in