Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Quran: Surah 34 - Saba - Sheba


[Author's note] This is the 34th Surah of the Qur'an. It has 54 verses. Queen Bilqis of the Kingdom of Sheba had a strong and prosperous Empire but they worshiped the sun along with smaller deities, hence, their social system was not without inequities. They also liked to invade other lands. King Solomon, the Prophet, subdued the hostility of her Kingdom without a fight and she saw the Divine Truth. That was around 950 B.C. Sheba is the name of the Kingdom that once prospered in today's Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia. This impoverished region of today was the wealthiest Kingdom at its zenith, which was the time of Queen Bilqis of Sheba. For a little more account of their history, please see Surah 27, An-Naml. After Bilqis, the Kingdom of Sheba lasted, with ups and downs, until 115 B.C. when they were over-run by a Southern warrior people Bihair. This Surah mentions the history of this Kingdom shortly before their annihilation in 115 B.C. As usual the Surah touches upon diverse concepts. The Qur'an being a Book of Guidance refers to history only enough to provide us with lessons. It is worth noting that the Qur'an describes especially the stories of David, Solomon and Sheba in allegorical terms since the Arab poetry and folklore spoke of them as such and the allegorical expression of the Qur'an instantly struck a chord with the initial addressees.

With the Glorious Name of Allah, the Instant and Sustaining Source of all Mercy and Kindness. 34:1 All Praise is due to Allah to Whom belong all things in the heavens and all things in the earth. The entire Universe manifests His Praise in its design, action, discipline and splendor. And for Him is the Praise in the Hereafter, and He is the Wise, the Aware. 34:2 He knows all that enters the earth, and all that comes out of it, and that which descends from the high atmosphere and that which ascends to it. And He is Merciful, Forgiving. (He nourishes the entire Cosmos and absolves imperfections). 34:3 And yet the disbelievers say, "Never will the Hour come upon us." Say, "Nay, by my Lord, it is coming to you. By the Knower of the Unseen, it will most certainly come upon you. (The Great Revolution in this world and the Hour of Resurrection are bound to come). Not an atom's weight in the heavens and the earth, escapes His Knowledge, nor is hidden anything smaller or larger, but it is recorded in a Clear Record. 34:4 That He may reward those who attain belief and serve others with wealth and person, and thus grow their own personality. For them is the protection of forgiveness and honorable provision of mind and body." 34:5 Whereas those who strive against Our Revelations trying to defeat their purpose, theirs will be a suffering of painful anxiety. 34:6 Those who make use of the perceptual and conceptual knowledge that they have been given, see that the Revelation to you (O Prophet) from your Lord, is the Truth. And that it leads to the Path of the Almighty, the Owner of Praise. 34:7 But those who are bent upon denying, say, "May we show you a man who says that after you are dispersed in dust completely - lo and behold! - You will be created anew?" 34:8 "Has he invented a lie against Allah or is he a madman?" Nay, but those who disbelieve in the life to come are wandering in the wilderness of thought and in a profound error. 34:9 Have they not observed the heaven and the earth however little lies open before them, and however much is hidden from them? If We so Willed, We could have caused the earth to swallow them, or caused masses from the sky fall down upon them. Therein, behold, is a Sign for every servant who turns to his Lord. 34:10 We bestowed upon David bounties from Us, and commanded thus, "O Tribes of the Mountains! Join him in establishing My Glory on earth." And so were commanded the fierce riders of the Taer Tribe. And We made the iron soft for him. (David mastered iron technology (21:79), (27:15-16)). 34:11 (And We said to him), "Set up means for making coats of armor, and design a strong defense (with infantry and cavalry) linked in command. And (O People of David) you all shall use this power to serve humanity. Verily, whatever you do, I am Seer thereof." 34:12 And unto Solomon, We committed the wind at his disposal. (He mastered the science of sailing and his ships sailed much faster than the others). They sailed one month going and one month coming back. And We gave him abundance in mining of copper and minerals and subdued for him the Wild Tribes who worked for him by his Lord's leave. (Solomon established the Divine System such that) whoever turned aside from Our Command, We made him taste a severe punishment (21:82), (38:37). 34:13 They worked for him as he desired, making forts, sculptures and images, pools, and boilers well-dug into the ground. We said, "Labor O Children of David, in gratitude for what you have been given. Few of My servants are truly grateful in practice." 34:14 When We decreed death for him (Solomon), nothing showed his death to the Wild Tribes until a creature of the earth ate away the strength he had mustered. When the power base fell, the Wild Tribes rebelled regretting that they should have done it sooner only if they knew the new unjust King. (The 'creature of the earth' was the highly incompetent son Rehoboam, and successor of Solomon 38:34. Historically, ten of the Israelite Tribes also broke away from the Kingdom at that point). 34:15 The People of Sheba had a homeland that was a marvel indeed, with gardens everywhere on the right and the left (Yemen-Somalia-Abyssinia). "Enjoy what your Sustainer has provided for you, and render thanks to Him - a goodly land and a Sustainer Absolver of imperfections." 34:16 But they turned away from Divine Values and We sent on them the Flood of the 'Arim' released from water dams. And We turned their Gardens into 'gardens' producing wild bitter fruit, and a thorny Lote-tree here and a tree there. [The ruins of the greatest of these dams 'Maarib' exist in Yemen indicating that it was at least two miles long and 120 ft. high] 34:17 This was Our Requital for their ingratitude. Do We ever punish anyone but the ungrateful? (Ingratitude = Refusing to share Allah's bounties in equity. It appears that in the Kingdom of Sheba people were divided into two classes, the very rich and the very poor). 34:18 And We had set, between them and the towns We had blessed (Syria-Palestine), many oases with townships within sight of one another, and thus We had made traveling easy, "Travel safely in this land by night or by day." [Before the destruction of the Sheba Empire, there were beautiful oases and towns from Ethiopia-Somalia-Yemen to Syria-Palestine, and business flourished through the highways and international trade through land and sea. Journey had been made easy for them with secured rest areas day and night. On the highway from Yemen to Jerusalem they had built 700 luxurious rest areas for the busy caravan route. Their trade extended to India in the East, Egypt-Sudan in the West, Kenya-Uganda in the South and Syria-Palestine in the North.] 34:19 But now, their ungrateful attitude was saying, "Our Lord! Make our journey-stages longer." (Make the trade route insecure, unprofitable and deserted). They wronged people and thus harmed themselves. Consequently, We made them history, and We scattered them utterly. Herein, behold, are Signs indeed for individuals and nations who would patiently draw lessons from history and learn to be practically grateful.[The population of Maarib, the capital, and the whole of Yemen, the Center of their Empire, got dispersed as wandering tribes Northward in the Arabian Peninsula and Southward in Africa.]34:20 And indeed, Iblis found them meeting his expectations. All of them followed their selfish desire - barring a few who had remained believers in the Divine Values. (7:17), (17:62). 34:21 And yet he (Iblis) had no power at all over them (15:38-41). But We thus distinguish between those who believe in the life to come from those who keep doubting it. And your Lord is Watcher over all things. (Those who deny the Law of Requital easily succumb to their desires). 34:22 Say, "Call upon those whom you imagine beside Allah! They have not an atom's weight of power either in the heavens or in the earth, nor have they any share in either, nor does He need any of them as a helper." 34:23 No intercession is of any avail with Him except that one stands up as a witness of Law in His Court. When their hearts are calmed down, they will ask, "What did your Lord decide?" The witnesses will say, "The decisive Truth." He is the Most High, Most Great. 34:24 Say, "Who grants you provision from the heavens and the earth?" Say, "Allah" and see for yourself who is rightly guided and who is in error, we or you?" (You wish to keep the God-given resources unto yourselves and we insist on an equitable distribution). 34:25 Say, "You will not be asked of our wrongs, nor shall we be called to account for what you are doing." 34:26 Say, "Our Lord will bring us all together, then He will lay open the Truth between us. Verily, He is the Exponent of truth, All-Knowing." 34:27 Say, "Point out to me those whom you associate with Him as partners. Nay - nay, but He alone is God, the Almighty, the Wise." 34:28 Now (O Messenger) We have sent you as a bringer of glad news and a Warner to mankind at large, but most people are (at this time) unaware of this fact. 34:29 They keep saying, "When will the promise be fulfilled, if you believers are men of truth?" 34:30 Say, "The promise of the Day that you can neither postpone nor hasten by an hour, is yours." 34:31 And the rejecters say, "We will not believe in this Qur'an, nor in the previous Scriptures." If you could only see these transgressors when they are made to stand before their Lord, how they blame one another. The followers will tell their proud leaders, "If it were not for you, we would have been believers." 34:32 The leaders will say to the weak commoners, "Why - did we drive you away from the Guidance when it had come to you? Nay, it is you who were guilty (of blind following)." 34:33 The commoners will say to their leaders, "Nay, you were the ones who schemed night and day to set up systems that we were forced to follow, instead of Allah. It is you who set up (yourselves as) rivals against Him." Both parties will then be ashamed when they see the Requital. We will put shackles around the necks of all those who rejected the Truth. Is their retribution anything but what they earned with their own actions? 34:34 Whenever We sent a Warner to any community its rich elite declared, "Behold, we reject the message you are sent with." 34:35 And they further said, "We are more than you in wealth and children and party and we cannot be made to suffer." 34:36 Say, "Behold, my Lord enlarges and narrows the provision to people according to His Laws (and hence, you see the change in fortunes). But most people are not aware (that the Divine System ensures prosperity for all). " 34:37 And it is not your wealth nor your children and party that will bring you closer to Us, but he who truly believes and helps others. Such people will have a twofold reward for their deeds. It is they who will dwell in secure mansions. (25:75). 34:38 Whereas those who strive against Our Revelations trying to make them ineffective, will be given over to retribution. 34:39 Say, "Behold, my Lord enlarges or narrows provision for His servants according to His Laws. (20:124). Whatever you spend on others, He replaces it. (2:261). For, He is the Best of providers." 34:40 The Day He gathers all people He will ask the angels, "Did they worship you?" (Did they think that the forces of Nature randomly ran the Universe)? 34:41 They will answer, "Glory is Yours! You are our Master, not them. Nay, they used to worship the invisible guises of their selfish desire. Most of them were believers therein." (Jinns = Hidden from sight. Generally this term in the Qur'an applies to nomads rarely appearing in townships. It is also used to describe rebellious desire, emotions and fiery temperament like Satan (6:101), (18:50), (37:158), (55:15). 34:42 That Day you will have no power to help or harm one another and We will tell the transgressors, "Taste the doom of Fire which you used to deny." 34:43 When Our Verses are conveyed to them in all clarity, they say, "This is only a man who wants to divert you from what your ancestors used to worship." And they say, "This is nothing but an invented lie." Those who disbelieve say of the Truth when it reaches them, "This is nothing but an obvious magic." 34:44 But We never gave them any Scriptures that they study, nor did We send unto them before you any Warner. 34:45 Thus too, nations before them had rejected the Message. These people have not received a tenth of the power and wealth that We had bestowed upon them. Yet, when they denied My Messengers, (see) how awesome was My rejection! 34:46 Say, "I ask you to do just one thing: For Allah's sake! Stand up in pairs and singly - and then think! There is no madness in your companion. He is only a Warner unto you in the face of a terrible doom." 34:47 Say, "Whatever reward do I ask you, it is yours. My reward rests with none but Allah, and He is Witness unto everything." 34:48 Say, "Verily, my Lord makes the Truth prevail - He Who is the Profound Knower of the Unseen." (Of all True and False that may not be evident to you). 34:49 Say, "The Truth has now come to light and falsehood will hide its face, nor shall (the Days of Ignorance) come back." 34:50 Say, "When I was searching for the Truth, I was searching for the Truth for myself. And now I am rightly guided because of that which my Lord has revealed unto me (93:7). He is the Hearer, Ever-Near." 34:51 If you could but see, when they will be terrified with no escape and seized at a place nearby. 34:52 And will cry, "We now attain faith." 34:53 They adamantly rejected the Truth before and they kept shooting the arrows of conjecture from faraway. 34:54 As a result, a barrier will be set between them and what they desired, as will be done for people of their kind of older times. For, behold, they too were lost in doubt, suspicion.

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