As-Saff is the 61st surah (chapter) of The Holy Qur’an. It consists of 14 ayat (verses) that were all revealed in Medina.
THE TITLE of this surah has been derived from the expression saffan (“in [solid] ranks”) occurring in verse 4. The central idea, first enunciated in verse 2 and developed in the subsequent passages, is “Why do you say one thing and do another?” Thus, it is essentially a call to unity between professed belief and actual behaviour. The date of revelation cannot be established with absolute certainty, but it is probable that it was revealed shortly after the neardefeat of the Muslims in the battle of Uhud—that is, towards the end of the year 3 or the beginning of 4 H.
بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
Surah As-Saff Ayat 1
سَبَّحَ لِلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
Sabbaha lillaahi maa fisamaawaati wa maa fil ardi wa huwal ‘Azeezul Hakeem
1. ALL THAT IS in the heavens and all that is on earth extols God’s limitless glory: for He alone is almighty, truly wise!
Surah As-Saff Ayat 2
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ
Yaa ayyuhal lazeena aamanoo lima taqooloona maa laa taf’aloon
2. O YOU who have attained to faith! Why do you say one thing and do another?1
1 Lit., “Why do you say what you do not do?” In the first instance, this may be an allusion to such of the Prophet’s Companions as had retreated in disorder from their battle stations at Uhud (see Surah Al ‘Imran , note 90) despite their previous assertions that they were ready to lay down their lives in the cause of God and His Apostle. In a wider sense, the passage is addressed to all those who claim that they are willing to live up to anything that the divine writ declares to be desirable, then fall short of this determination.
Surah As-Saff Ayat 3
كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَنْ تَقُولُوا مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ
Kabura maqtan ‘indal laahi an taqooloo maa laa taf’aloon
3. Most loathsome is it in the sight of God that you say what you do not do!
Surah As-Saff Ayat 4
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِهِ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُمْ بُنْيَانٌ مَرْصُوصٌ
Innal laaha yuhibbul lazeena yuqaatiloona fee sabeelihee saffan ka annahum bunyaanum marsoos
4. Verily, God loves [only] those who fight in His cause in [solid] ranks,2 as though they were a building firm and compact.
2 I.e., in unison, with their deeds corresponding to their assertions of faith. This moral necessity is further illustrated—by its opposite—in the subsequent reference to Moses and the recalcitrant among his followers.
Surah As-Saff Ayat 5
وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ يَا قَوْمِ لِمَ تُؤْذُونَنِي وَقَدْ تَعْلَمُونَ أَنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا زَاغُوا أَزَاغَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْفَاسِقِينَ
Wa iz qaala Moosa liqawmihee yaa qawmi lima tu’zoonanee wa qat ta’lamoona annee Rasoolul laahi ilaikum falammaa zaaghooo azaaghal laahu quloobahum; wallaahu laa yahdil qawmal faasiqeen
5. Now when Moses spoke to his people, [it was this same truth that he had in mind:] “O my people! Why do you cause me grief,3 the while you know that I am an apostle of God sent unto you?”
And so, when they swerved from the right way, God let their hearts swerve from the truth:4 for God does not bestow His guidance upon iniquitous folk.
3 Sc., “by admitting that I speak in the name of God, and acting contrary to this you assertion”: an allusion to the many instances of the contrariness and rebelliousness of the children of Israel evident from their own scriptures.
4 Thus, persistence in wrong actions is bound to react on man’s beliefs as well. As regards God’s “letting
their hearts swerve from the truth”, see Surah Ibrahim , note 4. Cf. also the oft-recurring reference to God’s “sealing” a sinner’s heart explained in note 7 on Surah Al-Baqarah : 7.
Surah As-Saff Ayat 6
وَإِذْ قَالَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيَّ مِنَ التَّوْرَاةِ وَمُبَشِّرًا بِرَسُولٍ يَأْتِي مِنْ بَعْدِي اسْمُهُ أَحْمَدُ ۖ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ قَالُوا هَٰذَا سِحْرٌ مُبِينٌ
Wa iz qaala ‘Eesab-nu-Maryama yaa Banee Israaa’eela innee Rasoolul laahi ilaikum musaddiqal limaa baina yadayya minat Tawraati wa mubashshiram bi Rasooliny yaatee mim ba’dis muhooo Ahmad; falammaa jaaa’ahum bil baiyinaati qaaloo haazaa sihrum mubeen
6. And [this happened, too,] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O children of Israel! Behold, I am an apostle of God unto you, [sent] to confirm the truth of whatever there still remains5 of the Torah, and to give [you] the glad tiding of an apostle who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.”6
But when he [whose coming Jesus had foretold] came unto them7 with all evidence of the truth, they said: “This [alleged message of his] is [nothing but] spellbinding eloquence!”8
5 Lit., “whatever there is between my hands”—a phrase explained in Surah Al ‘Imran , note 3.
6 This prediction is supported by several references in the Gospel of St. John to the Parakletos (usually rendered as “Comforter”) who was to come after Jesus. This designation is almost certainly a corruption
of Periklytos (“the Much-Praised”), an exact Greek translation of the Aramaic term or name Mawhamana.
(It is to be borne in mind that Aramaic was the language used in Palestine at the time of, and for some
centuries after, Jesus, and was thus undoubtedly the language in which the original—now lost—texts of the Gospels were composed.) In view of the phonetic closeness of Periklytos and Parakletos it is easy to understand how the translator—or, more probably, a later scribe—confused these two expressions. It is significant that both the Aramaic Mawhamana and the Greek Periklytos have the same meaning as the two names of the Last Prophet, Muhammad and Ahmad, both of which are derived from the verb hamida
(“he praised”) and the noun hamd (“praise”). An even more unequivocal prediction of the advent of the
Prophet Muhammad—mentioned by name, in its Arabic form—is said to be forthcoming from the so-called Gospel of St. Barnabas, which, though now regarded as apocryphal, was accepted as authentic and
was read in the churches until the year 496 of the Christian era, when it was banned as “heretical” by a decree of Pope Gelasius. However, since the original text of that Gospel is not available (having come
down to us only in an Italian translation dating from the late sixteenth century), its authenticity cannot be established with certainty.
7 I.e., to the later followers of the Bible.
8 Alluding to the Qur’an (see Surah Al-Muddathir : 24-25 and the corresponding note 12).
Surah As-Saff Ayat 7
وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ وَهُوَ يُدْعَىٰ إِلَى الْإِسْلَامِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ
Wa man azlamu mimma nif taraa ‘alal laahil kaziba wa huwa yad’aaa ilal Islaam; wallaahu laa yahdil qawmaz zaalimeen
7. And who could be more wicked than one who invents [such] a lie about [a message from] God, seeing that he is [but] being called to self-surrender unto Him?
But God does not bestow His guidance upon evil-doing folk.
Surah As-Saff Ayat 8
يُرِيدُونَ لِيُطْفِئُوا نُورَ اللَّهِ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَاللَّهُ مُتِمُّ نُورِهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْكَافِرُونَ
Yureedoona liyutfi’oo nooral laahi bi afwaahihim wallaahu mutimmu noorihee wa law karihal kaafiroon
8. They aim to extinguish God’s light with their utterances:9 but God has willed to spread His light in all its fullness, however hateful this may be to all who deny the truth.
9 Lit., “with their mouths”—i.e., by describing God’s message as “nothing but spellbinding eloquence” on the part of Muhammad.
Surah As-Saff Ayat 9
هُوَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْمُشْرِكُونَ
Huwal lazee arsala Rasoolahoo bilhudaa wa deenil haqqi liyuzhirahoo ‘alad deeni kullihee wa law karihal mushrikoon
9. He it is who has sent forth His Apostle with [the task of] spreading guidance and the religion of truth, to the end that He make it prevail over all [false] religion,10 however hateful this may be to those who ascribe divinity to aught but God.
10 Cf. Surah Al ‘Imran : 19—”the only [true] religion in the sight of God is [man’s] self surrender unto Him”.
Surah As-Saff Ayat 10
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ تِجَارَةٍ تُنْجِيكُمْ مِنْ عَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ
Yaaa ayyuhal lazeena aamanoo hal adullukum ‘alaa tijaaratin tunjeekum min ‘azaabin aleem
10. O YOU who have attained to faith! Shall I point out to you a bargain that will save you from grievous suffering [in this world and in the life to come]?11
11 Cf. Surah At-Tawbah : 111—”God has bought of the believers their lives and their possessions, romising them paradise in return”—which explains the metaphor of a “bargain” (tijarah). My interpolation, between brackets, of the phrase “in this world and in the life to come” is justified by the subsequent verses 12 and 13, one of which relates to the hereafter, and the other to this world.
Surah As-Saff Ayat 11
تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِأَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنْفُسِكُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
Tu’minoona billaahi wa Rasoolihee wa tujaahidoona fee sabeelil laahi bi amwaalikum wa anfusikum; zaalikum khairul lakum in kuntum ta’lamoon
11. You are to believe in God and His Apostle, and to strive hard in God’s cause with your possessions and your lives: this is for your own good—if you but knew it!
Surah As-Saff Ayat 12
يَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَيُدْخِلْكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ وَمَسَاكِنَ طَيِّبَةً فِي جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
Yaghfir lakum zunoobakum wa yudkhilkum Jannaatin tajree min tahtihal anhaaru wa masaakina taiyibatan fee Jannaati ‘Adn; zaalikal fawzul ‘Azeem
12. [If you do so,] He will forgive you your sins, and [in the life to come] will admit you into gardens through which running waters flow, and into goodly mansions in [those] gardens of perpetual bliss:12 that [will be] the triumph supreme!
12 For this rendering of ‘adn, see note 45 on Surah Sad : 50.
Surah As-Saff Ayat 13
وَأُخْرَىٰ تُحِبُّونَهَا ۖ نَصْرٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَفَتْحٌ قَرِيبٌ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
Wa ukhraa tuhibboonahaa nasrum minal laahi wa fat hun qareeb; wa bashshiril mu ‘mineen
13. And [withal, He will grant you] yet another thing that you dearly love: succour from God [in this world], and a victory soon to come:13 and [thereof, O Prophet,] give thou a glad tiding to all who believe.
13 Some of the commentators see in this promise of victory a prediction of actual, warlike conquests by
the Muslims. It is, however, much more probable that it relates to a spiritual victory of the Qur’anic message, and its spread among people who had not previously understood it.
Surah As-Saff Ayat 14
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا أَنْصَارَ اللَّهِ كَمَا قَالَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ لِلْحَوَارِيِّينَ مَنْ أَنْصَارِي إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ الْحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحْنُ أَنْصَارُ اللَّهِ ۖ فَآمَنَتْ طَائِفَةٌ مِنْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَكَفَرَتْ طَائِفَةٌ ۖ فَأَيَّدْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَىٰ عَدُوِّهِمْ فَأَصْبَحُوا ظَاهِرِينَ
Yaaa ayyuhal lazeena aamanoo koonooo ansaaral laahi kamaa qaala ‘Eesab-nu-Maryama lil Hawaariyyeena man ansaareee ilal laah; qaalal Hawaariyyoona nahnu ansaa rul laahi fa aamanat taaa’ifatum mim Banee Israaa’eela wa kafarat taaa’ifatun fa ayyadnal lazeena aamanoo ‘alaa ‘aduwwihim fa asbahoo zaahireen
14. O YOU who have attained to faith! Be helpers [in the cause of God—even as Jesus, the son of Mary, said unto the white-garbed ones,14 “Who will be my helpers in God’s cause?”—whereupon the white-garbed [disciples] replied, “We shall be [thy] helpers [in the cause] of God!”
And so [it happened that] some of the children of Israel came to believe [in the apostleship of Jesus], whereas others denied the truth.15 But [now] We have given strength against their foes unto those who have [truly] attained to faith:16 and they have become the ones that shall prevail.
14 For this rendering of al-hawariyyun, see Surah Al ‘Imran , note 42.
15 I.e., some of them recognized him as a prophet—and, therefore, as no more than a created, human being—whereas others denied this truth in the course of time by regarding him as “the son of God”—and, therefore, as “God incarnate”—while still others rejected him and his message altogether. The fact that the earliest followers of Jesus regarded him as purely human is evident from the many theological controversies which persisted during the first three or four centuries of the Christian era. Thus, some renowned theologians, like Theodotus of Byzantium, who lived towards the end of the second century, and his followers—among them Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch in the year 260—maintained that the “sonship of God” mentioned in the then-existing texts of the Gospels was purely symbolic, denoting no more than that Jesus was a human being exalted by God. The originally widespread teachings of Bishop Arius (280-326) centred in the concept of Jesus as a mortal man chosen by God for a specific task, and in the concept of God as absolutely One, unknowable, and separate from every created being; this doctrine, however, was ultimately condemned by the Councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381), and gradually ceased to have any influence on the Christian masses.
16 I.e., all who truly believe in Jesus as God’s Apostle and thus, as a forerunner of the Last Prophet, Muhammad, whose message confirms and expands the true message of Jesus.
Source: The Message of the Quran by Muhammad Asad