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Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
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The Qurʾan What is This? A current English-language version of the Qur'an, published in 2004
Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

68. The Pen (1 – 33)

An early Meccan sura that deals with the accusation that Muhammad was not God's Messenger but merely mad (verses 2–6). The arrogance of those who assume that, because they have some of the good things in this life, they can reject the Revelation, is rebutted (verses 10–16). Examples are given of those who came to regret their arrogance (verses 17–33). The Prophet is urged to remain steadfast (verses 48–52).

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy

1Nun

By the pen! By all they write!a This could refer to the angels and what they write down of people's deeds or to the generic pen and what people write, thus swearing by the ability to write with which God endowed human beings. Cf. 96: 4–5. 2Your Lord's graceb Receiving God's revelation. See esp. 15: 6 for the accusation of madness, which occurs countless times with reference to various prophets in the Qurʾan. Another interpretation is ‘by God's grace . . .’. does not make you [Prophet] a madman: 3you will have a never-ending reward— 4truly you have a strong character—5and soon you will see, as will they,6which of you is afflicted with madness. 7Your Lord knows best who strays from His path and who is rightly guided. 8So do not yield to those who deny the truth—9they want you to compromise with them and then they will compromise with you—10do not yield to any contemptible swearer, 11to any backbiter, slander-monger, 12or hinderer of good, to anyone who is sinful, aggressive, 13coarse, and on top of all that, an imposter.c This is said to refer to al-Walid ibn al-Mughira, a staunch opponent of the Prophet. 14Just because he has wealth and sons, 15when our revelations are recited to him, he says, ‘These are just ancient fables.’ 16We shall brand him on the snout!

17We have tried them as We tried the owners of a certain garden, who swore that they would harvest its fruits in the morning 18and made no allowance [for the Will of God]:d Or ‘[for the poor]’. 19a disaster from your Lord struck the garden as they slept 20and by morning it was stripped bare, a desolate land. 21Still they called each other at day break, 22‘Go early to your field if you wish to gather all its fruits,‘ 23and went off, whispering, 24‘Make sure no poor person enters the garden today!‘—25they left early, bent on their purpose—26but when they saw the garden, they said, ‘We must have lost our way! 27No— we are ruined!’ 28The wisest of them said, ’Did I not say to you, “Will you not glorify God?” ’—29they said, ‘Glory be to God, Our Lord! Truly, we were doing wrong!’—30and then they turned to each other in mutual reproach. 31They said, ‘Alas for us! We have done terrible wrong, 32but maybe our Lord will give us something better in its place: we truly turn to Him in hope.’ 33Such is the punishment [in this life], but greater still is the punishment in the Hereafter, if only they knew.

Notes:

a This could refer to the angels and what they write down of people's deeds or to the generic pen and what people write, thus swearing by the ability to write with which God endowed human beings. Cf. 96: 4–5.

b Receiving God's revelation. See esp. 15: 6 for the accusation of madness, which occurs countless times with reference to various prophets in the Qurʾan. Another interpretation is ‘by God's grace . . .’.

c This is said to refer to al-Walid ibn al-Mughira, a staunch opponent of the Prophet.

d Or ‘[for the poor]’.

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