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Quran Chapter 21 [part 1] - The Prophets - Accusations and Lies, Every Soul Will Taste Death

A Meccan sura which takes its name from the list of prophets mentioned from verse 48 to verse 91. It stresses that fact that Muhammad is a man like earlier prophets, and has been given the same message to declare the unity of God. It warns the disbelievers of the approaching Judgement from which there is no escape.

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

Accusations and Lies

1 Ever closer to people draws their reckoning, while they turn away, heedless. 2 Whenever any fresh revelation comes to them from their Lord, they listen to it playfully 3 with frivolous hearts. The evildoers conferred in secret: ‘Is this man anything but a mortal like yourselves? Are you going to fall under his spell with your eyes wide open?’ 4 He said, [a] ‘My Lord knows everything that is said in the heavens and the earth: He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing.’ 5 Some say, ‘Muddled dreams’; others, ‘He made it up’; yet others, ‘He is just a poet, let him show us a sign as previous messengers did.’ 6 But of the communities We destroyed before them not a single one believed. Will these now believe? 7 And even before your time [Prophet], all the messengers We sent were only men We inspired–– if you [disbelievers] do not know, ask people who know the Scripture–– 8 We did not give them bodies that ate no food, nor were they immortal. 9 We fulfilled Our promise to them in the end: We saved them and those We wished to save, and We destroyed those who exceeded all bounds.

Falsehood Blown Away

10 And now We have sent down to you [people] a Scripture to remind you. Will you not use your reason? 11 How many communities of evildoers We have destroyed! How many others We have raised up in their places! 12 When they felt Our might coming upon them, see how they tried to escape it! 13 ‘Do not try to escape. Go back to your homes and the pleasure you reveled in: you may be questioned.’ 14 They said, ‘Woe to us! We were wrong!’ 15 and that cry of theirs did not cease until We made them burnt-off stubble.

16 We did not create the heavens and the earth and everything between them playfully. 17 If We had wished for a pastime, We could have found it within Us– if We had wished for any such thing. 18 No! We hurl the truth against falsehood, and truth obliterates it– see how falsehood vanishes away! Woe to you [people] for the way you describe God! 19 Everyone in the heavens and earth belongs to Him, and those that are with Him are never too proud to worship Him, nor do they grow weary; 20 they glorify Him tirelessly night and day.

21 Have they chosen any gods from the earth who can give life to the dead? 22 If there had been in the heavens or earth any gods but Him, both heavens and earth would be in ruins: God, Lord of the Throne, is far above the things they say: 23 He cannot be called to account for anything He does, whereas they will be called to account. 24 Have they chosen to worship other gods instead of Him? Say, ‘Bring your proof. This is the Scripture for those who are with me and the Scripture for those who went before me.’ But most of them do not recognize the truth, so they pay no heed.

Every Soul Will Taste Death

25 We never sent any messenger before you [Muhammad] without revealing to him: ‘There is no god but Me, so serve Me.’ 26 And they say, ‘The Lord of Mercy has taken offspring for Himself.’ [b] May He be exalted! No! They are only His honored servants: 27 they do not speak before He speaks and they act by His command. 28 He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they cannot intercede without His permission [c] ––indeed they themselves stand in awe of Him. 29 If any of them were to claim, ‘I am a god beside Him,’ We would reward them with Hell: this is how We reward evildoers.

30 Are the disbelievers not aware that the heavens and the earth used to be joined together and that We ripped them apart, that We made every living thing from water? Will they not believe? 31 And We put firm mountains on the earth, lest it should sway under them, and set broad paths on it, so that they might follow the right direction, 32 and We made the sky a well-secured canopy– yet from its wonders they turn away. 33 It is He who created night and day, the sun and the moon, each floating in its orbit. 34 We have not granted everlasting life to any other human being before you either [Muhammad]– if you die, will [the disbelievers] live for ever?

35 Every soul is certain to taste death: We test you all through the bad and the good, and to Us you will all return. 36 When the disbelievers see you, they laugh at you: ‘Is this the one who talks about your gods?’ They reject any talk of the Lord of Mercy.

37 Man was created hasty: I will show you My signs soon, so do not ask Me to hasten them. 38 They say, ‘When will this promise be fulfilled, if what you say is true?’ 39 If the disbelievers only knew, the time will arrive when they will not be able to ward off the Fire from their faces or their backs, and they will get no help. 40 It will come upon them suddenly and stupefy them; they will be powerless to push it away; they will not be reprieved.

41 Messengers before you [Muhammad] were also ridiculed, but those who mocked them were overwhelmed in the end by the very thing they had mocked. 42 Say, ‘Who could protect you night and day from the Lord of Mercy?’ Yet they turn away when their Lord is mentioned. 43 Do they have gods who can defend them against Us? Their gods have no power to help themselves, nor can they be protected from Us. 44 We have allowed these sinners and their forefathers to enjoy life for a long time. But do they not see how We are shrinking their borders? Is it they who will prevail? 45 Say, ‘I warn you only through the Revelation.’ The deaf will not hear the warning call, 46 yet if a mere breath of your Lord’s punishment touches them, they will be sure to cry, ‘Woe to us! We were wrong!’ 47 We will set up scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection so that no one can be wronged in the least, and if there should be even the weight of a mustard seed, We shall bring it out– We take excellent account.


a. Here and in verse 112 an alternative reading is the imperative, qul (‘say’).

b. The Meccan polytheists claimed the angels were God’s daughters.

c. See 20: 109.

The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)

The Qur'an / a new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, copyright © 2004 Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press). Used by permission. All rights reserved.



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