This Surah is entitled Ar Rahman, the word with which it begins. This title,
however, deeply relates to the subject matter of the Surah too, for in it, from
the beginning to the end, the manifestations and fruits of Allah's attribute of
mercy and grace have been mentioned.
Period of Revelation
The commentators generally hold
the view that this is a Makki Surah, though according to some traditions which
have been cited on the authority of Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas, Ikrimah and
Qatadah, it was revealed at Madinah. But, firstly, there are also some other
traditions from these very authorities, which contradict this view; secondly,
its subject matter bears a closer resemblance with the Makki Surahs than with
the Madani Surahs; rather it appears to belong to the very early Makkah period.
However, there are several authentic traditions which testify that it had been
revealed in Makkah itself many years before the hijrah.
contains a tradition from Hadarat Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr (may Allah bless
them both), to the effect: "I saw the Messenger of Allah offering his Prayers in
the sacred precincts of the Ka'bah facing the corner in which the "Black Stone"
is fixed. This relates to the time when the Divine Command, fasda bi-ma tumar
("So, proclaim publicly, O Prophet, what you are being commanded") had not yet
been revealed. The polytheists at that time were hearing the words, Fa-biayyi
alaa'i Rabbi kuma tukadhdhi ban, being recited by him in the Prayer." This shows
than this Surah had been sent down even before Surah Al-Hijr.
Ibn Jarir, Ibn Al- Mundhir, Daraqutni (in Al Afrad), Ibn Marduyah and Ibn Al
Khatib (in Al- Tarikh) have related, on the authority of Hadrat Abdullah bin
Umar, that once the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
recited Surah Ar-Rahman himself, or heard it recited before him : then he said
to the people: How is it that I am not hearing from you the kind of good answer
that the jinn had given to their Lord?When the people asked what it was he
replied: "As I recited the Divine Words, Fa bi- ayyi alaa'i Rabbi-kuma
tukadhdhiban, the jinn in response would repeat the words La bi shai'in min
ni'mati Rabbi- na nukadhdhib: "We do not deny any of our Lord's blessings."
A similar theme has been related by Tirmidhi, Hakim and Hafiz Abu Bakr al-Bazzar
from Hadrat Jabir bin Abdullah. Their tradition contains these words: "When the
people kept silent on hearing the Surah Ar-Rahman, the Holy Prophet said 'I
recited this very Surah before the jinn in the night when they had gathered
together to hear the Qur'an. They responded to it better than you have. As I
recited the Divine Words, Fa bi ayyi alaa'i Rabbikuma tukadhdhiban ("O jinn and
men, which blessings of your Lord will you deny?") they would respond to it,
saying: O our Lord, do not deny any of your blessings Praise is for You alone'!"
This tradition indicates that on the occasion of the incident that bas been
related in Surah Al Ahqaf(vv. 29- 32) of the jinn's hearing the Qur'an from the
Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) he was reciting Surah Ar
Rahman in the Prayer. This happened in the 10th year of the Prophethood when the
Holy Prophet had halted at Makkah on his way back from Ta'if. Although in some
other traditions it has been reported that the Holy Prophet did not know then
that the jinn were hearing him recite the Qur'an, but afterwards Allah had
informed him of this, it is not unreasonable to suppose that just as Allah had
informed him of the jinn's hearing the Qur'an so also Allah Himself might have
told him as to what answer they were giving on hearing Surah Ar Rahman.
These traditions only indicate that Surah Ar Rahman had been revealed even
before Surahs Al-Hijr and Al-Ahqaf. Besides, we come across another tradition
which shows that it is one of those Surahs which were the earliest Revelations
at Makkah. Ibn Ishaq has related this on the authority of Hadrat Urwah bin
Zubair: The Companions one day said to one another: "The Quraish have never
heard any one recite the Qur'an publicly to them, and who would read out the
Divine Word aloud to them Hadrat Abdullah bin Masud said that he would. The
Companions expressed the apprehension that he might be subjected to a harsh
treatment and said that it should better be done by a person of a powerful
family, who would protect him if the Quraish tried to subject him to violence.
Hadrat Abdullah said: 'Let me alone : my Protector is Allah.' So early next
morning he went to the Ka'bah while the Quraish chiefs were sitting in their
respective conferences. Hadrat Abdullah arrived at the Maqam (station of
Abraham) and began to recite Surah Ar- Rahman raising his voice as he did so.
The Quraish first tried for a while to understand what he was saying. Then,when
they realized that it was the Word that Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him) was representing as the Word of God, they fell upon him and began
to hit him in the face. But Hadrat Abdullah was not deterred : he continued to
receive the slaps and to read the Qur'an as long as he could, At last, when he
returned with a swollen face, the Companions said that they apprehended the
same. He replied: 'God's enemies were never so light for me as they were today.
If you say I'll recite the Qur'an to them again tomorrow.' They all said, 'No,
you have done enough; you have made them listen to what they didn't want to
bear.'" (Ibn Hisham, vol. 1, p. 336).
Theme and Subject Matter
This is the only Surah of
the Qur'an in which besides men the jinn also, who are the other creation of the
earth endowed with freedom of will and action, have been directly addressed, and
both men and jinn have been made to realize the wonders of Allah's power, His
countless blessings, their own helplessness and accountability before Him, and
have been warned of the evil consequences of His disobedience and made aware of
the best results of His obedience. Although at several other places in the
Qur'an there are clear pointers to show that like the men the jinn too are a
creation who have been endowed with freedom of will and action and are
accountable, who have been granted the freedom of belief and unbelief, of
obedience and disobedience, and among them too there are the believers and the
unbelievers, the obedient and the rebellious, as among human beings, and among
them too there exist such groups as have believed in the Prophets sent by God
and in the Divine Books, this Surah clearly points out that the message of the
Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the Qur'an is meant
both for men and for jinn and that his Prophethood is not restricted to human
Although in the beginning of the Surah the address is
directed only to human beings, for to them only belongs the vicegerency" of the
earth, among them only have the Messengers of Allah been raised, and in their
tongues only have the Divine Books been revealed, yet from verse 13 onward both
the men and the jinn have been addressed and one and the same invitation has
been extended to both.
The themes of the Surah have been couched in brief
sentences in a specific sequence:
In vv. 1-4 it has been stated that the
teaching of the Qur'an is from Allah Almighty and it is the very demand of His
mercy that He should provide guidance to mankind through this teaching, for it
is He Who has created man as a rational and intelligent being.
In vv. 5-6
it has been said that the whole system of the Universe is functioning under
Allah's Sovereignty and everything in the earth and heavens is subject to His
In vv. 7-9 another important truth that has been expressed
is that Allah has established the entire system of the Universe precisely and
equitably on justice, and the nature of this system requires that those who
dwell in it also should adhere to justice within the bounds of their authority
and should not disturb the balance.
In vv. 10-25 besides mentioning the
wonders and excellences of Allah's might, references have been made to His those
bounties from which the jinn and men are deriving benefit.
both the men and the jinn have been reminded of the truths that in this Universe
no one except One God is immortal and imperishable, and there is none, from the
lowest to the highest, who does not stand in need of God for his survival and
other requirements. Whatever is happening here, from the earth to the heavens,
is happening under His administration and control.
In vv. 31-36 both the
groups have been warned that the time is fast approaching when they will be
called to account, which they will not be able to avoid, for God's Kingdom is
encircling them from every side; it is not in their power to flee it; if they
are involved in the misunderstanding that they can, they may try to do so.
In vv. 37-38 it has been said that this accountability will be held on the
Day of Resurrection.
In vv. 39-45 the evil end of the guilty ones, from
among men and jinn, who have been disobeying Allah in the world has been
And from verse 46 to the end of the Surah mention has been
made of those rewards and blessings which will be granted to the righteous men
and jinn who have led pious lives in the world and lived with a clear
understanding that they will have to appear before their Lord one day and render
an account of their deeds and actions.
This whole discourse is couched in
oratorical language. It is a spirited and eloquent address in the course of
which after mentioning each of the wonders of Allah's great power, and each of
the blessings bestowed by Him, and each of the manifestations of His Sovereignty
and dominion, and each of the details of His punishment and rewards, the jinn
and men have been over and over again questioned: "Which then of the bounties
and favors of your Lord will you deny ?" Below we shall explain that alaa is a
word with many shades of meaning, which has been used in different senses at
different places in this discourse, and this question to the the jinn and men
bears its own special meaning at every place according to the context.