MECCA. 20 Verses.1
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
O THOU ENFOLDED in thy mantle,
Stand up all night, except a small portion of it, for prayer:
Half; or curtail the half a little,-
Or add to it: And with measured tone intone the Koran,2
For we shall devolve on thee weighty words.
Verily, at the oncoming of night are devout impressions strongest, and words are most collected;3
But in the day time thou hast continual employ-
And commemorate the name of thy Lord, and devote thyself to Him with entire devotion.
Lord of the East and of the West! No God is there but He! Take Him for thy protector,
And endure what they say with patience, and depart from them with a decorous departure.
And let Me alone with the gainsayers, rich in the pleasures of this life; and bear thou with them yet a little while:
For with Us are strong fetters, and a flaming fire,
And food that choketh, and a sore torment.
The day cometh when the earth and the mountains shall be shaken; and the mountains shall become a loose sand heap.
Verily, we have sent you an Apostle to witness against you, even as we sent an Apostle to Pharaoh:
But Pharaoh rebelled against the Apostle, and we therefore laid hold on him with a severe chastisement.
And how, if ye believe not, will you screen yourselves from the day that shall turn children greyheaded?
The very heaven shall be reft asunder by it: this threat shall be carried into effect.
Lo! this is a warning. Let him then who will, take the way to his Lord.
Of a truth,4 thy Lord knoweth that thou prayest almost two-thirds, or half, or a third of the night, as do a part of thy followers. But God measureth the night and the day: He knoweth that ye cannot count its hours aright, and therefore, turneth to you mercifully. Recite then so much of the Koran as may be easy to you. He knoweth that there will be some among you sick, while others travel through the earth in quest of the bounties of God; and others do battle in his cause. Recite therefore so much of it as may be easy. And observe the Prayers and pay the legal Alms,5 and lend God a liberal loan: for whatever good works ye send on before for your own behoof, ye shall find with God. This will be best and richest in the recompense. And seek the forgiveness of God: verily, God is forgiving, Merciful.
1 From the first line of this Sura, and its expressions concerning the Koran, Prayer, and Future Punishment: from the similarity of the tradition with regard to its having been preceded by a vision of Gabriel (Beidh., etc.), it seems to belong to, or at least to describe, a period, perhaps immediately succeeding the Fatrah, during which the hours of night were spent by Muhammad in devotion and in the labour of working up his materials in rhythmical and rhyming Suras, and in preparation for the public assumption of the prophetic office. Comp. especially verses 11, 19, 20, at the end, with 11, 54, 55, of the preceding Sura.
2 Singe den Koran laut. H.v.P. Psalle Alcoranum psallendo. Mar. Singe den Koran mit singender und lauter Stimme ab. Ullm.
3 Lit. most firm, perhaps, distinct.
4 This verse, according to a tradition of Ayesha, was revealed one year later than the previous part of the Sura. Nöldeke says it is "offenbar ein Medinischer."
5 The reader will not be surprised to find in the very outset of Muhammad's career a frequent mention of Alms, Prayer, Heaven, Hell, Judgment, Apostles, etc., in their usual sense, when he remembers that Judaism was extensively naturalised in Arabia, and Christianity, also, although to a smaller extent. The words and phrases of these religions were doubtless familiar to the Meccans, especially to that numerous body who were anxiously searching after some better religion than the idolatries of their fathers (v. on Sura iii. 19, 60), and provided Muhammad with a copious fund from which to draw.