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Surah al-Ghafir, Chapter 40, Verses 1 - 22

Surah al-Ghafir or Surah al-Mu’min
(The Forgiver/The Believer)

Section (juz’ 24)

Number of Verses: 85

General Overview of the Chapter

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

This Chapter has eighty five Verses and it was revealed in Mecca. The title Ghafir derives from the third Verse in which God Almighty is mentioned as the Oft-Forgiver of sin (Ghafir al-dhanb).

The other title of the Chapter is Mu’min alluding to the person who was at the service of Pharaoh and concealed his faith so as to render support to Moses.

The account of the person in question, known as the believer among Pharaoh’s people (mu’min al Fir’awn) may be found in Verses 28 ff. besides the accounts of Moses, Noah, ‘Ad, and Thamud, the Chapter treats of Divine Unity, Resurrection, and Divine Wisdom.

There are approximately twenty Verses concerning the believer among Pharaoh’s people which are not attested elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an.

There are seven consecutive Qur’anic Verses opening with Ha Mim; the Chapter in question is the first one in the series termed as Hawamim and the rest are: Fussilat, Shura, Zukhruf, Dukhan, Jathiya, and Ahqaf.

According to a Prophetic tradition Hawamim constitute the gist of the Holy Qur’an. The series is the crown of the Holy Qur’an and its fragrant flowers. God bestows His Bounties upon the reciter of these Verses as well as his neighbors, relatives, and friends and Divine Throne ask for his forgiveness.1

Surah al-Ghafir - Verses 1 - 3

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

حم

تَنْزِيلُ الْكِتَابِ مِنَ اللَّهِ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ

غَافِرِ الذَّنْبِ وَقَابِلِ التَّوْبِ شَدِيدِ الْعِقَابِ ذِي الطَّوْلِ لا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ إِلَيْهِ الْمَصِيرُ

1. Ha Mim.
2. The Revelation of the Book is from Allah, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient.
3. The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in chastisement, the Bestower [of many a Bounty]. There is no god but Allah, to Him is the final return [of all].

As per a number of traditions, the interpretation of the detached letters is solely known by God Almighty.2

However, according to some other traditions and taking into account that following these letters which concern the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an, God Almighty tells disbelievers that Divine Revelation is composed of the same letters of alphabet available to them and challenges them to produce similar Verses.

It is worthy of note that many a discussion are to be found in the openings of a number of foregoing Chapters, e.g. Baqara, Al ‘Imran, and A’raf.

Furthermore, according to a number of traditions and many a words of its exeget, the first two letters of the opening of the Chapter in question are interpreted as Divine Names beginning with these two letters. As per a tradition narrated from Imam Sadiq (as), the twain letters in question are interpreted as Hamid (“Praiseworthy”) and Majid (“All-Glorious”).3

Some exegets have also interpreted “H” as Divine Names like Hamid (“the Praiseworthy”), Halim (“the Clement”), and Hannan (“the Most Compassionate”) and “M” as those like Malik (“the Sovereign”), Malik (“the Lord”), and Majid (“All-Glorious”).

“H” and “M” might as well allude to Divine Hakimiyya (“Sovereignty”) and Malikiyyat (“Lordship”). It is narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas that Ha Mim is one of the Most Beautiful Divine Names.4

It is evident that these interpretations are not inconsistent and the contextual meaning of the Verse in question may designate them all.

The Qur’anic Verses opening with the phrase

“Revelation of the Book” (tanzil al-kitab)

make mention of Divine Names and Attributes among which mention may be made of the following:

The Revelation of the Book is from Allah, the Omnipotent, the All-Wise5;
The Revelation of the Book is from Allah, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient6;
The Revelation from [Allah], the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful7;
The Revelation [is] sent down by the Omnipotent, the Most Merciful8;
[It is] sent down by the All-Wise, Worthy of all praise9;
A Revelation from the Lord of the worlds10.

Thus, the origin of Revelation is the Possessor of Omnipotence, Wisdom, Mercy, Lordship, and worthy of all praise and glorification.

According the Holy Qur’an, Divine Forgiveness is bestowed upon believers for a number of reasons, including:

Faith:

(“We have believed in our Lord that He may forgive us,”11);

Fearing God Almighty:

(“If you fear Allah, He will forgive you,”12);

Following Prophets:

(“If you follow me, He will forgive you,”13);

Pardoning and forgiving people:

(“Let them pardon and forgive… and Allah will forgive you,”14);

Lending interest free loan to people:

(“If you lend Allah a loan… He will forgive you,”15);

Jihad:

(“… you fight in the Cause of Allah… He will forgive you… ,16);

Worship:

(“If you worship Allah… He will forgive you,”17);

Avoiding grave sins:

(“If you avoid grave sins… We shall expiate from you your sins,”18);

Invoking God Almighty, asking for forgiveness, repentance:

(“… I have wronged myself… then He forgave him,”19);

Saints’ invocations to God Almighty for man:

(“O our father! Ask forgiveness [from Allah] for our sins,”20).

The Revelation of the Book, Divine Warning and Forgiveness all aim at man’s perfection. The Book, the Law, Reckoning, Chastisement, and Forgiveness are all due in their own right.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 4

مَا يُجَادِلُ فِي آيَاتِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَلا يَغْرُرْكَ تَقَلُّبُهُمْ فِي الْبِلادِ

4. None disputes in the Ayat (Verses, Signs) of Allah but those who disbelieve. Therefore, let not their ability of going about here and there through the land deceive you.

The Arabic word jadal literally designates “twisting a rope” but it is figuratively applied to disputations in which the parties attempt to defeat the other party through twisting in disputes. It is better avoided in scholarly and doctrinal issues unless the parties make use of proper arguments.

Following making reference to the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an by God Almighty and making mention of Divine Attributes that arouse fear and hope, the blessed Verse in question treats of those who resort to disputation and aggression against Divine Verses thus depicting their fate:

“Non disputes in the Ayat (Verses, Signs) of Allah but those who disbelieve.”

It is true that they may possess force and power, but:

“Let not their ability of going about here and there through the land deceive you.”

They may have pomp and hue and cry for a few days, but they shall tread the road to perdition like bubbles or ashes against gale.

It is worthy of note that the word mujadala does not connote a pejorative sense at all times, but it is worthy of praise in case it is applied within the context of following the path of Truth substantiated by sensibility for expressing realities and guiding the ignorant.

Nevertheless, it is evil in case it happens to rely on false arguments stemming from prejudice, ignorance, and vanity aiming at deceiving people. It would be of interest to say that it is employed in the Holy Qur’an in both senses.

It is once used in 16:125:

“And argue with them in a way that is better.”

It is also employed in its pejorative sense in the Verse in question and elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an.

The Arabic word taqallub derives from q-l-b “change, alter, transform,” but the former is employed ad hoc in the sense of dominance and conquest of lands and regions and also frequentation in them.

The blessed Verse in question suggests that the Noble Prophet (S) and early Muslims the majority of whom were from the deprived stratum of the society are not supposed to attribute to tyrant disbelievers their financial, political, and social power and influence as tokens of their truthfulness or real might since the passage of time reveals that such people have been so weak against Divine chastisement like withered leaves against autumn gale.

Arrogant and tyrant disbelievers today try to intimidate the oppressed and the deprived of the world through resorting to a series of attempts, political visits, propaganda, conferences, military maneuvers, pacts and contracts with their allies so as to create the requisite atmosphere for achieving their vicious goals.

However, believers are supposed to be aware of their plots rather than being deceived by such stratagems nor are they supposed to be intimidated by them.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 5

كَذَّبَتْ قَبْلَهُمْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ وَالْأَحْزَابُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ وَهَمَّتْ كُلُّ أُمَّةٍ بِرَسُولِهِمْ لِيَأْخُذُوهُ وَجَادَلُوا بِالْبَاطِلِ لِيُدْحِضُوا بِهِ الْحَقَّ فَأَخَذْتُهُمْ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عِقَابِ

5. [Meccan disbelievers and also] the people Noah and the Confederates after them denied [their Prophets] before these; and every nation plotted against their Messenger to seize him and disputed by means of falsehood to refute therewith the Truth. Therefore, I seized them [by My Wrath] and [behold] how My Chastisement was!

In their confrontations with Divinely appointed Prophets all disbelieving opponents shared the same goal but they were ignorant of Prophets’ Divine Support;

([behold] how My Chastisement was!).

The fate of a number of peoples of old who were astray and wrong doing are thus mentioned in terse but decisive clause:

“the people Noah and the Confederates after them belied [their Prophets] before these.”

The word Confederate (ahzab) alludes to the peoples of ‘Ad, Thamud, Pharaoh, Lot, and the like alluded to in 38:12-13:

“Before them the people of Noah, ‘Ad, and Pharaoh the man of stakes, and Thamud and the people of Lot and the Dwellers of the Wood: such ere the confederates.”

The confederates cooperated with each other to belie the Divinely appointed Prophets whose Calls were inconsistent with the confederates’ illicit interests, lusts, and passions.

They were not content with these but:

“Every nation plotted against their Messenger to seize him.”

They even stepped further and resorted to falsehood to cast a veil over Truth and persisted in misleading people:

(“and disputed by means of falsehood to refute therewith the Truth”).

The Arabic verbal form yudhidu derives from d-h-d (“disprove, refute, obliterate”). However, their stratagems did not last since God Almighty seized them in time and chastised them.

Behold Divine torment:

(“I seized them [by My Wrath] and [behold] how My Chastisement was!”).

The ruins of their cities are visible on your routes and their evil fate is recorded in historical books and the hearts of the pious. Behold and take lessons. These Meccan tyrant disbelievers and Arab wrong doing polytheists will not have a better fate in store for them unless they change their course and think twice about their beliefs and conducts.

The Verse in question presents a summary of the stratagems of the rebellious Confederates: belying, denial, conspiracy against men of Truth, making attempts to slay them, incessant propaganda for misleading the masses.

Arab polytheists resorted to the same stratagems against the Noble Prophet of Islam (S) hence there is no wonder that the Holy Qur’an warns them against entanglement with the fate of ancient people.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 6

وَكَذَلِكَ حَقَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ عَلَی الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ

6. Thus [the Confederates were chastised in this world] has the Word of your Lord been justified against those who disbelieved that they will be the dwellers of the Fire.

The following Verse makes mention of this worldly and otherworldly chastisements saying:

“Thus [the Confederates were chastised in this world] has the Word of your Lord been justified against those who disbelieved that they will be the dwellers of the Fire.”

The outward meaning of the Verse is broad in scope encompassing obdurate disbelievers from every people. It is not as a number of exegets have deemed a particular reference to Meccan disbelievers.

It is evident that the justification of Divine Command regarding this people is consequent to their incessant willful commitment of sins and faults.

It is surprising that some exegets like Fakhr Razi maintain that the Verse in question serves as an argument for the preordained fate of different peoples and divesting them of free choice whereas if sectarian biases could be removed, they could evidently and conveniently notice that God Almighty preordains such dire fate for them when they commit all kinds of wrong and crime.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 7

الَّذِينَ يَحْمِلُونَ الْعَرْشَ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهُ يُسَبِّحُونَ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ وَيُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُونَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا رَبَّنَا وَسِعْتَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ رَحْمَةً وَعِلْماً فَاغْفِرْ لِلَّذِينَ تَابُوا وَاتَّبَعُوا سَبِيلَكَ وَقِهِمْ عَذَابَ الْجَحِيمِ

7. Those who bear the Throne and those around it glorify the praises of their Lord and believe in Him and ask forgiveness [of God] for those who believe [saying]: “Our Lord! You comprehend all things in Mercy and Knowledge, so forgive those who repent and follow Your Path and save them from the torment of Fire!

It is a recurrent Qur’anic theme that deprived believers should never conceive that the opportunities available to wrong doing, tyrant, and disbelieving individuals and groups indicate their final felicity or victory.

To expose the falsity of such conception maintained by narrow minded people as per which they regard material opportunities as their spiritual truth, the Holy Qur’an alludes to the accounts of former peoples and makes reference to evident instances such as the powerful people of Pharaoh in Egypt, people of Nimrod in Babylon, and peoples of Noah, ‘Ad, and Thamud in Iraq, Hijaz, and Sham lest deprived and destitute believers feel weak and deficient and be intimidated and weak by faithless tyrants’ pomp and apparent power.

God Almighty does not immediately chastise anyone committing sins as it is mentioned elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an:

“And We appointed a fixed time for their destruction”21;
“So give a respite to the disbelievers; deal gently with them for a while”22;
“We postpone the chastisement only so that they may increase in sinfulness, and for them is a disgracing torment”23.

In short, such respites aim to give ultimatum to disbelievers, test believers, and increasing of sins by those who have blocked all their ways of return.

A similar sense of humiliation against tyrant and materially powerful governments may be perceived by some materially underdeveloped believing nations.

The aforementioned Qur’anic arguments may decisively serve against such false conceptions. Furthermore, it should be explained to them that their deprived state mainly stems from those tyrants’ oppression and if they sever the fetters and shackles of bondage and oppression they may strive hard to compensate their underdevelopment.

“Those who bear the Throne and those around it glorify the praises of their Lord and believe in Him and ask forgiveness [of God] for those who believe.”

The tone of the preceding Verses indicate that they were revealed when Muslims constituted a deprived minority and their enemies were at the zenith of power and dominance and enjoyed many opportunities.

The occasion of the Revelation of the Verses in question is to bear glad tidings to true believers that they are never alone, they should not feel estranged since the bearers of Divine Throne, the Arch-Angels, support you and always invoke God Almighty to make you victorious in this world and the Hereafter and it is the best support for believers in this world and the world to come.

They say:

“Our Lord! You comprehend all things in Mercy and Knowledge [i.e., you are aware of Your servants’ sins and You are compassionate toward them], so forgive those who repent and follow Your Path and save them from the torment of Fire!”

On the one hand, they say unto believers that you who worship God and glorify Him are not alone since before you, the Arch-Angels who are closest to God Almighty, bear His Throne, circumambulate It, and glorify Him.

On the other hand, it warns disbelievers that their belief or disbelief is of no significance since God Almighty is Needless of others. So many angels glorify him that even their glorification may not be imagined by anyone; however, He is Needless of their glorification.

It also enlightens believers that they are not alone in this world. Inasmuch as you happen to constitute a minority, the Most Omnipotent of the Invisible Powers of the world and the bearers of Divine Throne render you support.

The bearers of the Throne invoke God Almighty at all times to comprehend you in His Infinite Mercy and Compassion, absolve you of your sins, and keep you from the torments of Hell.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verses 8 - 9

رَبَّنَا وَأَدْخِلْهُمْ جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ الَّتِي وَعَدْتَهُمْ وَمَنْ صَلَحَ مِنْ آبَائِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجِهِمْ وَذُرِّيَّاتِهِمْ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

وَقِهِمُ السَّيِّئَاتِ وَمَنْ تَقِ السَّيِّئَاتِ يَوْمَئِذٍ فَقَدْ رَحِمْتَهُ وَذَلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

8. “Our Lord! And make them enter the abodes in gardens which you have promised them and to the righteous among their fathers, their wives, and their offspring! Indeed, You are the Omnipotent, the All-Wise.
9. “And [O Lord!] save them from the sins [and the recompense of their evil deeds], and whomsoever You save from the sins that Day, him indeed, You have taken into Mercy.” And that is the supreme deliverance.

Deliverance does not lie in mundane welfare rather in fear of God Almighty.

“And whomsoever You save from the sins that Day, him indeed, You have taken into Mercy. And that is the supreme deliverance.”

Resuming the invocations of the bearers of Divine Throne, the blessed Verse says:

“Our Lord! And make them enter the abodes in gardens which you have promised them and to the righteous among their fathers, their wives, and their offspring! Indeed, You are the Omnipotent, the All-Wise.”

The Verse opens with:

“Our Lord!”

which indicates the humble request of the bearers of the Throne and the Arch-Angels who are closest to God Almighty. To invoke him to comprehend believers in His Boundless Mercy, they lay emphasis on His Lordship.

They not only invoke God Almighty to save believers from Hell but also ask Him to make them as well as their fathers, spouses, and offspring enter the everlasting gardens of Paradise. The Divine Promise mentioned in these Verses is recurrently declared by Prophets to people.

Division of believers into two groups indicates that some of them stand foremost and make every effort to obey Divine Commands. The other group on a par with the aforesaid ones but owing to their relative adherence to the first group and their attribution thereof will be taken into Divine Mercy as invoked by angels.

In their fourth invocation, the angels ask God Almighty:

“Save them from the sins and whomsoever You save from the sins that Day, him indeed, You have taken into Mercy.”

Thus they end their invocations:

“This is the supreme deliverance.”

The supreme deliverance is that sins are absolved from man, torment and evils are kept away from him, he is taken into Divine Mercy, he enters everlasting Paradise in which he is accompanied by his beloved relatives.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 10

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يُنَادَوْنَ لَمَقْتُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ مِنْ مَقْتِكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ إِذْ تُدْعَوْنَ إِلَی الْأِيمَانِ فَتَكْفُرُونَ

10. Those who disbelieve will be addressed [in Hell]: “Allah’s Wrath [against you] was greater towards you than your aversion towards one another when you were called to the Faith but you used to refuse.”

The verbal for yunadun is attested twice in the Holy Qur’an both of which are employed for humiliating the people of Hell, the other instance is:

“They are those who are called from a remote place,”24.

The blessed Verse in question treats of the manner of Divine Wrath against disbelievers so as to shed further light through symmetrical juxtaposition.

The blessed Verse says:

“Those who disbelieve will be addressed [in Hell]: ‘Allah’s Wrath [against you] was greater towards you than your aversion towards one another when you were called to the Faith but you used to refuse’.”

Who is calling them in this manner? The angels responsible for inflicting torment upon disbelievers are apparently calling them thus to reproach and disgrace them whereas angels of Mercy are at all times prepared to pay homage and respect to the believing pious.

Some exegets have maintained that some disbelievers call their like; however, the first interpretation sounds more appropriate. It is worthy of note that the call shall be voiced on the Day of Resurrection as the following Verses evidently bear witness to the same.

The word maqt literally designates “hatred, detestation, aversion.” The blessed Verse indicates that inasmuch as faithless people severely detest themselves, Divine Wrath shall be beyond their aversion.

What is intended by disbelievers’ aversion and enmity against themselves? There are two interpretations for it.

According to the first interpretation, they have been their most bitter enemies of themselves since they turned away from those who called them to believe in Divine Unity. They not only turned away from the Lights of Divine Guidance but they also shattered them.

Is there any enmity more severe than blocking for oneself the path to everlasting bliss in exchange for following concupiscence and enjoying the transient mundane life?

As per the present interpretation, the clause:

“when you were called to the Faith but you used to refuse”

reflects the manner of their wrath and enmity against themselves.

According to the other interpretation, their enmity and wrath comprehends them on the Day of Resurrection, since they perceive the consequences of their acts there which will lead to their regret and repentance.

They will cry out biting their hands out of sorrow and regret saying:

“The Day when the wrong doer will bite at his hands”25
“and the disbeliever will say: ‘Woe to me! Would that I were dust!’”
“And sharp is the sight of this Day”26,
“The Day when all the secrets will be examined”27,
“And when the pages of deeds of every person are laid open”28,
“You yourself are sufficient as a reckoner against you this Day”29.

Thus they condemn themselves decisively and turn away in detestation and flee from themselves.

Now it is called:

“Allah’s Wrath [against you] was greater towards you than your aversion towards one another when you were called to the Faith but you used to refuse.”

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 11

قَالُوا رَبَّنَا أَمَتَّنَا اثْنَتَيْنِ وَأَحْيَيْتَنَا اثْنَتَيْنِ فَاعْتَرَفْنَا بِذُنُوبِنَا فَهَلْ إِلَی خُرُوجٍ مِنْ سَبِيلٍ

11. They will say: “Our Lord! You have made us to die twice and You have given us life twice! Now we confess to our sins, then is there any way to get out [of Hell]?”

Dying twice apparently refers to death at the end of mundane life and the one at the end of Purgatory. Likewise, giving life twice indicates those in Purgatory and on the Day of Resurrection.

It is worthy of note that upon observation of the circumstances on the Day of Resurrection as well as Divine against them, sinners awake from their long sleep of neglect and reflect upon finding a way out, saying:

“O Lord! You made us to die twice and gave us life twice! Now we comprehend everything following death and coming to life again. Now we confess to our sins. Is there any way out of the Hell and returning to the world for compensating past errors and mistakes?”

All veils of vanity and neglect will be cast away and man will perceive the truth and will have no alternative but to confess to his sins.

In their mundane life, they persisted in their denial of Resurrection, mocking Prophets who called them to believing in God Almighty. There will be no room for denial when they see their consecutive death and life.

Their emphasis on the consecutiveness of death and life may make a reference to the view as per which they say:

“O Lord! You are the Owner of death and life, You are Able to return us to the world so that we may compensate for our past misdeeds.”

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 12

ذَلِكُمْ بِأَنَّهُ إِذَا دُعِيَ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ كَفَرْتُمْ وَإِنْ يُشْرَكْ بِهِ تُؤْمِنُوا فَالْحُكْمُ لِلَّهِ الْعَلِيِّ الْكَبِيرِ

12. “This [torment] is because when Allah Alone was invoked [as the One God] you disbelieved, but when partners were associated with Him, you believed! Therefore, [now] the judgment is only with Allah, the Most High, the Most Great!”

To make such ignorant disbelievers and polytheists lose their hope for ever, the closes with:

“Therefore, [now] the judgment is only with Allah, the Most High, the Most Great!”

There is no other judge at the Tribunal, since He is the Most High, the Most Great. He will not be subjugated by anyone, nor will He be affected by any recommendation. Offering ransom, indemnity, or support may not alter His Decision.

He is the Absolute Sovereign and all beings submit to His Command. There will be no way out against His Decree.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verses 13 - 14

هُوَ الَّذِي يُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُنَزِّلُ لَكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ رِزْقاً وَمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ إِلَّا مَنْ يُنِيبُ

فَادْعُوا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْكَافِرُونَ

13. It is He Who shows you His Ayat (Verses, Signs) and sends down provision for you from the sky. And none remembers but those who turn in repentance.
14. Therefore, call you upon Allah making [your] faith pure for Him; however much the disbelievers may dislike [it].

The world of existence abounds in tokens of Divine Unity. Why should man turn to other beings besides God Almighty? In these blessed Verses people are called to believe in Divine Unity saying that merely those who turn in repentance remember God Almighty.

The clause:

“However much the disbelievers may dislike [it]”

is attested thrice and the clauses

“However much the polytheists may dislike [it]”

and

“However much the sinners may dislike [it]”

are to be found twice. Such attestations indicate that we are not supposed to satisfy disbelievers, polytheists, and sinners and desist from carrying out our duties for the sake of their displeasure.

It is noteworthy that the last two blessed Verses serve as arguments substantiating the issues suggested in the form of admonitions and warnings in the foregoing Verse. They serve as arguments for Divine Unity and Lordship and refutation of polytheism and idolatry.

Verse 13 opens thus:

“It is He Who shows you His Ayat (Verses, Signs).”
“The judgment is only with Allah, the Most High, the Most Great!”

In this blessed Verse, an argument is produced against declining disbelievers request as to getting out of Hell and returning to the world.

It designates that when they were called to believe in Divine Unity, they denied the call and persisted in their disbelief, but whenever some people associated partners with Him, they submitted to them and believed in their polytheistic beliefs.

It is to say that they frowned upon whoever made mention of Divine Unity, purity, fearing God, and submission to Divine Will, but they rejoiced at polytheism and impurity. Consequently, they may have no better fate.

Now a question may be raised here as to the nexus between the reply and returning to the world. However, the contextual meaning of the Verse demonstrates that such deeds of theirs were not sporadic and transient rather they were likewise at all times.

Consequently, if they returned they would resume their misdeeds and such faith and submission on the Day of Judgment are out of necessity rather than being genuine. Furthermore, their past disbelief, misdeeds and evil intentions necessitate their everlasting dwelling in Hell. Thus their return to the world would be impossible.

It is worthy of note that that such is the circumstance of those in whose hearts disbelief, polytheism and committing sins are deeply rooted. They are those who were disgusted at hearing the Name of the One God and rejoiced at hearing the names of Idols.

“And when Allah Alone is mentioned the hearts of those who believe not in the Hereafter are filled with disgust and when besides Hi are mentioned, behold they rejoice!”30.

Such circumstances are not restricted to the time of the Noble Prophet (S) rather there are ignorant in our time who turn away from faith, Divine Unity, and fearing God and whenever they hear disbelief, discord, and corruption, they turn to them.

Thus, according to a number traditions narrated from Ahl al-Bayt (as), the Verse in question is interpreted as referring to the question of guardianship (wilaya) at which some people are disgusted rather they rejoice at hearing the names of its opponents.

It goes without saying that the interpretation in question makes mention of a number of instances rather than referring to all the instances of the blessed Verse in question.

It makes also a reference to the signs upon the horizon and those upon the soul abounding in the world of existence. It alludes to the wonderful images found in the world of existence and whoever does not reflect upon such images will resemble one of the same.

Mention is then made of one of these signs:

“He sends down provision for you from the sky.”

The life giving rain drops, the invigorating sunshine giving life to all beings, and the air which enlivens all plants and animals are all sent down from the sky. We know that these are the main means of life and other means are secondary to them.

The Verse thus closes: despite all the signs abounding in the world of existence, blind eyes and the hearts over which a veil is cast fail to perceive anything:

“only those who turn toward God in repentance may remember”

and absolve their hearts and souls from impurities.

The following Verse concludes that now that you comprehend the circumstances,

“call you upon Allah making [your] faith pure for Him.”

Believers are encouraged herein to arise and erase polytheists’ idols through your faith and remove them from your thought, culture, and society.

It is to note that such act will disgust biased and obdurate disbelievers, but believers are supposed to have heart and purify their faith

“however much the disbelievers may dislike [it].”

In an environment in which idolaters constitute the majority, Divine Unity sounds disgusting to them like sunrise among bats; however, believers are supposed to ignore such ill-mannered and transient reactions, proceed decisively, and raise the banner of Divine Unity and sincere devotion everywhere.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verses 15 - 16

رَفِيعُ الدَّرَجَاتِ ذُو الْعَرْشِ يُلْقِي الرُّوحَ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ عَلَی مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ لِيُنْذِرَ يَوْمَ التَّلاقِ

يَوْمَ هُمْ بَارِزُونَ لا يَخْفَی عَلَی اللَّهِ مِنْهُمْ شَيْءٌ لِمَنِ الْمُلْكُ الْيَوْمَ لِلَّهِ الْوَاحِدِ الْقَهَّارِ

15. [He is] the Owner of High Ranks and Degrees, the Owner of the Throne. He sends the angel of Revelation [Faithful Spirit, Gabriel] by His Command to any of His servants He wills that he may warn [people] of the Day of Mutual Meeting [and Resurrection].
16. The Day when they will come out, nothing of them will be concealed from Allah. [It shall be called:] “Whose is the sovereignty of this Day?” [A call shall answer:] “It is Allah’s, the One, the All-Subjugator!”

Exaltation and owning high ranks fall into two types:

1. Spatial, as in:

“And when Abraham… raised the foundations of the House [of Ka’ba]… ”31,

2. In terms of station, as in:

“Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe”32.

The preceding Verse called people to sincere devotion in matters of faith, but the present Verse is saying that God Almighty will exalt you in proportion to your degree of sincere devotion. He is the Owner of High Ranks and Degrees.

This interpretation assumes that the word rafi’ designates “promoter, exalter.” However, a number of Qur’anic exegets maintain that the word in question indicates

“exalted.”

Consequently, rafi’ al-darajat makes a reference to Divine Exalted Ranks and Degrees. He is Exalted in His Omniscience and Omnipotence. All His Perfect Attributes are so Exalted that they defy man’s limited knowledge and intellect.

The blessed Verse adds:

“He is the Owner of the Throne,”

i.e., He wields His Sway over all the world of existence. He has no rival in His Sovereignty which bears testimony to the fact that determination of His servants’ ranks are as per their merits and they rest within His Control.

The contextual meaning of Throne was treated in the preceding Verse and there is no need to reiterate the exposition.

The third Divine Attribute is that:

“He sends the angel of Revelation [Faithful Spirit, Gabriel] by His Command to any of His servants He wills.”

The Spirit in question is the Holy Qur’an and the rank of prophethood and Revelation that invigorates hearts and resembles human soul and body. His Omnipotence and Owning High Ranks and Degrees necessitate that He informs men of their duties.

The expression is of interest as per which Revelation is likened to the Spirit that engenders life, motion, jihad, and development.

Qur’anic exegets have presented different interpretations for

“Spirit”

herein, but the contextual meaning of the word in this Verse and elsewhere, i.e.:

“He sends down the angels with the Spirit of His Command to whom of His servants He wills [saying]: ‘Warn mankind that there is no god but Allah, so fear Me,’”33

and

“Thus We have sent to you the Spirit of Our Command, you knew not what is the Book, nor what is faith?”34

addressed to the Noble Prophet of Islam (S), all bear testimony to the fact that the word

“Spirit”

ad hoc designates Revelation, the Holy Qur’an, and Divine obligations.

The expression:

“by His Command”

indicates that if the angel of Revelation responsible for proclamation is this Spirit, it is imparting Divine Word rather than its own.

The expression

“to any of His servants He wills”

does not indicate that He vests the Bounty of Revelation to anyone without due measure, since Divine Will is the same as His Omniscience.

The point is that He vests Revelation with the one whom He regards worthy of such state, as the same is reflected elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an:

“Allah knows best with whom to place His Message”35.

As per a number of traditions narrated from Ahl al-Bayt (as), the word

“Spirit”

in the Verse in question is interpreted as “The Holy Spirit” as belonging to the Noble Prophet (S) and the Infallible Imams (as); however, this interpretation is not inconsistent with the above since the Holy Spirit is the same sacred Spirit and the exalted spiritual rank vested perfectly in Prophets and the Infallible Imams (as) whose manifestations are many a time found in other people and whenever the manifestation of the Holy Spirit renders them aid, they may utter extraordinary words and carry out deeds of significance.

It is worthy of note that the preceding Verses treated of sending down rain and mundane provisions but the Verses in question make mention of sending down Revelation and spiritual sustenance.

Now let us proceed to the question of the goal of sending down the Holy Spirit upon prophets. Why do they tread the long path which entails many vicissitudes?

The answer is to be found at the end of the blessed Verse in question:

“that he may warn [people] of the Day of Mutual Meeting [and Resurrection].”

It is the Day on which servants meet their Lord through inward intuition, when the past and future generations, the oppressed and the oppressors, the wrong doers and the wronged, and men and angels meet.

It shall be on this Day that man shall stand at Divine Tribunal with his acts, words, and deeds. The goal of sending down all Scriptures and Divine plans is to warn servants against the Day of great meeting.

It is noteworthy that the unusual name

“day of meeting”

is employed in this Verse to designate the Day of Resurrection. Verse 16 provides further exposition for such a Day.

The last two Verses treat of a number of characteristics of Resurrection each of which is more moving than the others.

Verse 16 opens with the clause:

“The Day when they will come out.”

It is on this Day that all veils will be removed. All material obstacles like mountains shall be removed and according to a Qur’anic expression, the earth shall be:

“a level smooth plain”36.

All men shall leave their graves.

It is a:

“Day when all secrets will be manifest”37

and

“When the earth throws out its burdens”38.

It is a Day:

“When the pages [of deeds of everyone] are laid open”39.

It is:

“the Day when man will see that [the deeds] which his hands have sent forth”40.
“Nay, it has become manifest to them what they had been concealing before”41.

On that Day human organs and even the earth on which deeds were taken place

“will declare its information [about all that happened over it of good or evil]”42.

In short, all men with all his being and identity shall appear on that great scene and nothing shall remain concealed:

“they all shall appear before Allah”43.

In order to grasp what will happen on that Day, it would suffice to imagine such scene in this world, when nothing will be concealed from others. What chaos will prevail among people? How will the ties of relationship be severed?

The blessed Verse further adds that:

“nothing of them will be concealed from Allah.”

In this mundane world nothing is concealed from God, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient. The One Whose Existence is Boundless is not restricted by any impediment in His Pure Essence and apparent and concealed and visible and invisible are on a par to Him.

The other point is Divine Absolute Sovereignty as reflected in this blessed Verse:

“[It shall be called:] “Whose is the sovereignty of this Day?”

The answer to the question is thus provided:

“It is Allah’s, the One, the All-Subjugator!”

Who asks the question? A number of Qur’anic exegets main that it is God Almighty Who asks the question and all believers and disbelievers answer.44 Some also hold that God Almighty both asks the question and answers to it.45 A number of exegets also believe that the Divine Caller asks the question and produces the reply.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 17

الْيَوْمَ تُجْزَی كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ لا ظُلْمَ الْيَوْمَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ

17. This Day shall every person be recompensed for what he earned. This Day no injustice [shall be done to anybody]. Verily, Allah is Swift in reckoning.

All mankind shall be subject to reckoning on the Day of Resurrection and the recompense shall be based on deeds.

The blessed Verse in question treats of the fourth characteristic of the Day of Recompense saying that each and every person shall be recompensed for what he earned. Divine Omniscience, Omnipotence, Lordship, and All-Subjugation all explicitly indicate this awe and hope inspiring truth.

The fifth characteristic is that:

“This Day no injustice [shall be done to anybody].”

How may injustice be done to any one since it stems from either ignorance or impotence, but He is Omniscient, Lord, and All-Subjugator. Consequently no wrong shall be done on the Day of Resurrection which is the Day of Divine Judgment.

The sixth and the last characteristic is the swiftness in reckoning the deeds of servants as mentioned at the end of the blessed Verse in question:

“Allah is Swift in reckoning.”

He is so swift in reckoning that as per a tradition:

“Verily, Allah reckons all His servants’ recompenses in the twinkling of an eye.”

Having admitted to the embodiment of human acts and the traces of good and evil deeds, the question of reckoning is already solved. Do the reckoning technological systems of this world require time to produce the results?

The repetition of the expression:

“swift in reckoning”

in different Qur’anic Verses may suggest that some satanic disbelievers may tempt simple people that the reckoning of the deeds of all mankind down the millennia is not so facile. Furthermore, the expression warns all mankind that no respite shall be granted to anyone in the manner that extended respites may be granted to criminals to examine their records.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verses 18 - 19

وَأَنْذِرْهُمْ يَوْمَ الْآزِفَةِ إِذِ الْقُلُوبُ لَدَی الْحَنَاجِرِ كَاظِمِينَ مَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ حَمِيمٍ وَلا شَفِيعٍ يُطَاعُ

يَعْلَمُ خَائِنَةَ الْأَعْيُنِ وَمَا تُخْفِي الصُّدُورُ

18. [O Prophet!] warn them of the Day [of Resurrection] that is drawing near, when the hearts [out of intensity of fear] will be choking the throats and they can neither return them to their chests nor can they throw [them] out. [On that Day] there will be no friend, nor an intercessor for the wrong-doers who could be given heed to.
19. Allah knows the fraud of the eyes and all that the breasts conceal.

Death and the Day of Resurrection are drawing near. Let us prepare ourselves for them. These two Verses resume the depiction of Resurrection. The two Verses and the following Ones treat of other characteristics of Resurrection and awe inspiring incidents that make believers to deeply ponder.

Verse 18 opens with the clause:

“Warn them of the Day that is drawing near.”

The word azifa indicates “near.” What an unusual name!

It is used in lieu of

“Day of Resurrection”

so as the ignorant may not say:

“the Day of Resurrection is too far away. Do not preoccupy yourselves with such empty words.”

It is noteworthy that compared to the Resurrection, the life of the world is but a transient moment and since not specific date has been imparted to Prophets regarding the same, one has to be prepared for it at all times.

The other depiction is that:

“when the hearts [out of intensity of fear] will be choking the throats and they can neither return them to their chests nor can they throw [them] out.”

Confronting with dire straits, man may feel that his heart is being displaced, as if it will come out of his throat. The Arabic expression for the same is “the hearts will be choking the throats” (balaghat al-qulub al-hanajir).

The English equivalent would be “to reach the end of one’s tether.” The expression is quite figurative, though it literally designates that the heart which pumps blood in veins is displaced and reaches the throat.

The word

“heart”

may connote soul, that is the soul reaches the throat as if the soul gradually exits the body and a little of it is still there.

At any rate, the expression indicates that the fear and anxiety caused by Divine reckoning and fear of being disgraced among all people and entanglement with an excruciating pain from which there is no release inspires such awe in heart that it defies expression.

The third depiction illustrates that their being abounds in grief and sorrow but they may not express it. The word kasim is a present participle and derives from k-s-m which literally indicates tying a skin bag full of water but it is figuratively applied to people who are wrathful but owing to some reasons abstain from venting their wrath.

Afflicted with excruciating grieves and sorrows, one may cry out and alleviate the pain to some extent; but unfortunately there will be no such opportunity on that Day when all secrets will be exposed at Divine Tribunal and in the presence of all people. Will crying be of any avail then?

According to the fourth depiction,

“[On that Day] there will be no friend.”

All fair weather friends who used to pretend that they were faithful, sincere, and devoted friends will be preoccupied with their own affairs. There shall be no one on that Day to sympathize with anyone else.

As per the fifth depiction,

“nor [there will be] an intercessor for the wrong-doers who could be given heed to.”

The point is that true intercessors like Prophets and Saints shall intercede upon Divine Permission. Consequently, polytheists and idolaters may not expect their gods and idols to intercede on their behalf.

The sixth Divine Attribute is depicted in Verse 19 which also serves as a depiction of the manner of Resurrection, saying:

“Allah knows the fraud of the eyes and all that the breasts conceal.”

God Almighty is Aware of the surreptitious movement of eyes and the secrets of hearts and on that Day judges concerning man’s deeds. His Omniscience renders the days of sinners into shadows.

Upon being asked as to the meaning of the Verse in question, Imam Sadiq (as) said:

“Have you not seen that at times man looks at something but pretends that he is not looking at it? Such glances are surreptitious.”46

Looking at people’s honor, i.e., wives and daughters, or looking at other forbidden things may not be concealed from God Almighty:

“not even the weight of an atom or less than that or greater escapes His Omniscience in the heavens or in the earth”47.

According to a Prophetic tradition, one of his Companions sat in the presence of the Noble Prophet (S) beside one of the bitterest enemies of Islam.

When the latter obtained assurance of safety from the Noble Prophet of Islam (S) and left, the Companion inquired:

“Why did you not command us to behead him prior to his obtaining the assurance of safety from you?”

The Messenger of God (S) replied:

“Prophets never cast surreptitious looks.”48

It is needless to say that there are different types of surreptitious looks: at times, looks may be cast surreptitiously at women outside the circle of close kinship and at times it may aim at humiliating, finding faults, or hatching plots and satanic ruses.

If man knew that such precise reckoning will be carried out on the Day of Resurrection and even glances and thought will be all subject to scrutiny, utmost fear of God would be engendered in him and such faith in the Hereafter and Divine reckoning on the Day of Resurrection would affect the improvement of human souls.

It is said that following the completion of his studies at the hawza (“the educational religious institution”) of Najaf, an eminent scholar intended to return to his hometown. Upon bidding farewell to his professor, he asked for an admonition and the latter said:

“Following taking all these troubles, my last admonition is God’s Word. Never forget the Verse ‘Knows he not that Allah does see [what he does]’49?”

It is to note that from the viewpoint of a true believer, all the world is God’s audience. He does see everything. Remembering the same suffices man to abstain from committing sins.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 20

وَاللَّهُ يَقْضِي بِالْحَقِّ وَالَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ لا يَقْضُونَ بِشَيْءٍ إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

20. And Allah judges with truth while those to whom they invoke besides Him cannot judge anything. Certainly, Allah! He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.

Judging with truth is one of Divine Acts. The seventh depiction of Resurrection is mentioned in this Verse as one of Divine Attributes:

“Allah judges with truth while those to whom they invoke besides Him cannot judge anything.”

On that Day, God shall be the only Judge and he will not judge with untruth, since wrong judgment springs from ignorance but His Omniscience comprehends even the inward secrets of hearts. Wrong judgment may also stem from inability or need but He is Free from such incompetence.

It is worthy of note that the Verse in question also serves as an argument substantiating Divine Unity since One Who is Worthy of being worshipped shall be the Arbitrator but idols are devoid of any usefulness in this world nor will they be the arbitrators on the Day of Resurrection.

Thus, how could they be worthy of being worshipped? It is also noteworthy that Judgment with Truth embraces a wide range of meaning comprehending all the world of existence, becoming, and law making.

Likewise the expression:

“decree” (qada)

is employed in the Holy Qur’an in both senses:

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him”50.

It indicates His legislative judgment.

It is said elsewhere:

“When He has decreed something, He says to it only: ‘Be?’ and it is”51.

Finally, to lay emphasis on the foregoing points raised in the preceding Verses, the Verse in question closes thus:

“Certainly, Allah! He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.”

Seeing and hearing in the true and strict sense of the word indicates that He hears and sees everything and Omniscience solely belongs to His Pure Essence. It emphasizes his Omniscience and the fact that His Judgment is with truth since one who is not all-hearing and all-wise may not judge with truth.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 21

أَوَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ كَانُوا مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ كَانُوا هُمْ أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً وَآثَاراً فِي الْأَرْضِ فَأَخَذَهُمُ اللَّهُ بِذُنُوبِهِمْ وَمَا كَانَ لَهُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ وَاقٍ

21. Have they not traveled in the land and seen what was the end of those who were before them? They were superior to them in strength and in the traces in the land. But Allah seized them with chastisement [out of His Wrath] for their sins. And none had they to protect them from Allah [’s Wrath].

Man is supposed to take lessons from history rather than take pride in his power and traces in the land. It is needless to say that preservation of the monuments of ancient generations will be required for generations to take lessons. Disbelievers’ opposition to the Noble Prophet of Islam (S) was due to their vanity for their power.

Thus the Holy Qur’an says:

“We destroyed those who were superior to you in strength and in the traces in the land.”

The blessed Verse in question raises a question:

“Have they not traveled in the land and seen what the end of those who were before them was?”

This living history reminds men of the wrong doers’ ruins of palaces, the disaster stricken cities of the rebellious, the rotten bones of those asleep in dust, and the palaces buried in the earth. All these decisive words depict a true picture of the genuine history of ancient peoples.

Thus the Verse proceeds:

“They were superior to them in strength and in the traces in the land.”

The phrase:

“superior to them in strength”

indicates their political, military, economic, and possibly their scientific and technological power.

The phrase:

“in the traces in the land”

may demonstrate their great agricultural developments as it is attested elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an:

“Do they not travel in the land and see what the end of those before them was? They were superior to them in strength and they tilled the earth and populated it in greater numbers than these have done”52.

It may also make a reference to well founded and solid constructions by a number of ancient peoples in mountains and plains as it is reflected elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an regarding the people of ‘Ad:

“Do you build high palaces on every high place, while you do not live in them? And do you get for yourselves palaces as if you will live therein forever”53.

The dire fate of the rebellious people is expressed briefly:

“But Allah seized them with chastisement [out of His Wrath] for their sins. And none had they to protect them from Allah [’s Wrath].”

Neither their large number nor their power, nor glory, nor immense worldly possessions could impede Divine Chastisement.

The word:

“seize”

is recurrently employed in the Holy Qur’an in the sense of “chastise” since in order to inflict a severe punishment, the perpetrator is first seized and then they will be chastised.

Surah al-Ghafir - Verse 22

ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَانَتْ تَأْتِيهِمْ رُسُلُهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَكَفَرُوا فَأَخَذَهُمُ اللَّهُ إِنَّهُ قَوِيٌّ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ

22. That [Divine Wrath] was because there came to them their Messengers with clear proofs but they disbelieved. Therefore, Allah seized them. Indeed He is All-Strong, Severe in chastisement.

Sending Prophets is a Divine tradition recorded in the history of mankind since God Almighty never chastises anyone without having given him the ultimatum.

The blessed Verse in question tersely makes mention of the foregoing points by saying that such Divine excruciating chastisement was because there came to them their Messengers with clear proofs but they denied them all.

They were not seized unaware nor were their disbelief and sin without warning, since Messengers recurrently (kanat ta’tihim) came to them but they failed to submit to Divine Commands. They shattered the lights of guidance, turned away from their compassionate Messengers, and at times they slew them.

Then God seized and chastised them since He is All-Strong and Severe in Chastisement. He is both the Most Compassionate of all the compassionate; however, at the time of Wrath, He is the Severest in Chastisement.

  • 1. Tafsir Nimuna.
  • 2. Tafsir Majma’ al-Bayan.
  • 3. Ma’ani al-Akhbar by Saduq, p. 22, Chapter on the meaning of the detached letters opening the Qur’anic Chapters (Bab Ma’ni al-Huruf al-Muqatta’a fi Awa’il al-Suwar).
  • 4. Tafsir Qurtubi, under the blessed Verse in question.
  • 5. 39:1
  • 6. 40:2
  • 7. 41:3
  • 8. 36:5
  • 9. 41:42
  • 10. 57:80
  • 11. 20:73
  • 12. 8:29
  • 13. 3:31
  • 14. 24:22
  • 15. 64:17
  • 16. 61:11-12
  • 17. 71:3-4
  • 18. 4:31
  • 19. 28:16
  • 20. 12:97
  • 21. 18:59
  • 22. 86:17
  • 23. 3:178
  • 24. 41:44
  • 25. 25:27
  • 26. 50:22
  • 27. 86:9
  • 28. 81:10
  • 29. 17:14
  • 30. 39:45
  • 31. 2:127
  • 32. 58:11
  • 33. 16:2
  • 34. 43:52
  • 35. 6:124
  • 36. 20:106
  • 37. 86:9
  • 38. 99:2
  • 39. 81:10
  • 40. 78:40
  • 41. 6:28
  • 42. 99:4
  • 43. 14:21
  • 44. Majma’ al-Bayan, under the Verses in question.
  • 45. al-Mizan, under the Verses in question.
  • 46. Tafsir Safi, under the verse in question.
  • 47. 34:3
  • 48. Tafsir Qurtubi, vol. 8, p. 5747.
  • 49. 96:14
  • 50. 17:23
  • 51. 3:47
  • 52. 30:9
  • 53. 26:128-129

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