Date, Context and Theme
This sura continues the theme of warning the Meccans against rejecting Muhammad and the word of Allah. The context seems to be addressing a time of suffering for the “fugatives” of Islam. These are those who have left their houses because of persecution. The sura is a call to endurance and righteous living, and the promise of hell and paradise. A Meccan sura.
vv. 1-2, Allah word will come to pass so serve him.
vv. 3-16, Allah has created many good things for you to enjoy and find useful.
vv. 17-18, Therefore serve him.
vv. 19-22, Polytheism is no help.
vv. 23-29, in fact they will be judged.
vv. 30-34, but those who serve Allah will go to paradise.
vv. 35-42, The polytheists defend themselves but are liars. Those who suffer for Allah go to paradise
vv. 43- 47 This is the true message.
Vv. 48-52 Observe how all creation worships Allah.
Vv. 53- 56 Don’t just cry out to Allah for help but worship him all the time.
Vv. 57- 64 The false teachings of the Meccans - the daughters of Allah, and the true of Allah.
Vv. 65- 83 Ponder Allah’s provision of rain, milk, date- palm, the bee and our very creation. Allah is not equal to others.
Vv. 84-117 The nature of the coming judgement of the nations. Live righteously while you wait.
vv. 120-127 Engaging with Jewish righteousness. Abraham is the model thankful worshipper.
What I found interesting.
1. Here is a good description of the inspiration of the Qur’an
He sendeth down the angels with the Spirit of His command unto whom He will of His bondmen, (saying): Warn mankind that there is no God save Me, so keep your duty unto Me. 16:2
2. The Meccans seem to be turning Muhammad’s arguments against him. He says that Allah is all sovereign and so they say,
And the idolaters say: Had Allah willed, we had not worshipped aught beside Him, we and our fathers, nor had we forbidden aught without (command from) Him. Even so did those before them. Are the messengers charged with aught save plain conveyance (of the message)? 16:35
Muhammad’s answer seems to be that he is just a messenger.
3. Here the Meccans and maybe Muhammad are asked to read the previous scriptures to see the truth of what Muhammad is saying.
And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired - Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not! - 16:43
4. It seems that all people are guilty before Allah and need his forgiveness before judgement day.
If Allah were to take mankind to task for their wrong-doing, he would not leave hereon a living creature, but He reprieveth them to an appointed term, and when their term cometh they cannot put (it) off an hour nor (yet) advance (it). 16:61
And (bethink you of) the day when we raise up of every nation a witness, then there is no leave for disbelievers, nor are they allowed to make amends. 16:84
And (bethink you of) the day when We raise in every nation a witness against them of their own folk, and We bring thee (Muhammad) as a witness against these. And We reveal the Scripture unto thee as an exposition of all things, and a guidance and a mercy and good tidings for those who have surrendered (to Allah). 16:89
Though Allah’s choice is regularly repeated.
Had Allah willed He could have made you (all) one nation, but He sendeth whom He will astray and guideth whom He will, and ye will indeed be asked of what ye used to do. 16:93
5. There is a strange understanding of where milk comes from
And lo! in the cattle there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, from betwixt the refuse and the blood, pure milk palatable to the drinkers. 16:66
6. Reciting the Qur’an drives away the Satan. I guess this is why you can recite it in Arabic and not have to understand. There is a blessing is just saying it whether you understand or not.
And when thou recitest the Qur'an, seek refuge in Allah from Satan the outcast. Lo! he hath no power over those who believe and put trust in their Lord. 16:98-99
7. Here are two reasons why the Meccans did not accept Muhammad and his answer to these objections.
And when We put a revelation in place of (another) revelation, - and Allah knoweth best what He revealeth - they say: Lo! thou art but inventing. Most of them know not. 16:101
And We know well that they say: Only a man teacheth him. The speech of him at whom they falsely hint is outlandish, and this is clear Arabic speech. 16:103
8. Islamic scholars say that this verse comes for the Medinan period and has been inserted into this sura.
Then lo! thy Lord - for those who became fugitives after they had been persecuted, and then fought and were steadfast - lo! thy Lord afterward is (for them) indeed Forgiving, Merciful. 16:110
The reason for saying this is that it refers to fighting in the Meccan period and according to Islamic tradition Muhammad did not fight until the Medinan period. The verse fits with the flow of the sura,
If ye punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith ye were afflicted. But if ye endure patiently, verily it is better for the patient. Endure thou patiently (O Muhammad). Thine endurance is only by (the help of) Allah. Grieve not for them, and be not in distress because of that which they devise. 16:126-127
and so there is not textual reason for saying that it was inserted here. It seems to me that the verse belongs here and that Islamic tradition may not have the whole story on Muhammad. I seems that he was fighting while he was in Mecca. This raises a whole range of questions.
9. This is a famous verse about how Muslims can deny that they are Muslims when under persecution.
Whoso disbelieveth in Allah after his belief - save him who is forced thereto and whose heart is still content with the Faith - but whoso findeth ease in disbelief: On them is wrath from Allah. Theirs will be an awful doom. 16:106
The other related verses are,
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. 4:101
Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security. ... 3:28
10. Abraham is the model for how to respond to Allah.
Lo! Abraham was a nation (model) obedient to Allah, by nature upright, and he was not of the idolaters; 16:120
11. There are many verses in the Qur'an which say that each person only bears their own load of deeds before Allah on judgement day (17:15), but here is a verse that says people share their load.
That they may bear their burdens undiminished on the Day of Resurrection, with somewhat of the burdens of those whom they mislead without knowledge. Ah! evil is that which they bear! 16:25
Here are some other references.
But they verily will bear their own loads and other loads beside their own, and they verily will be questioned on the Day of Resurrection concerning that which they invented. 29:13
Narrated Ibn Abbas: A man came to the Prophet and said, "O Allah's Apostle! My mother died and she ought to have fasted one month (for her missed Ramadan). Shall I fast on her behalf?" The Prophet replied in the affirmative and said, "Allah's debts have more right to be paid." ... (Sahih al-Bukhuri: vol. 3, bk. 31, no. 174, Khan)
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: A woman from the tribe of Juhaina came to the Prophet and said, "My mother had vowed to perform Hajj but she died before performing it. May I perform Hajj on my mother's behalf?" The Prophet replied, "Perform Hajj on her behalf. Had there been a debt on your mother, would you have paid it or not? So, pay Allah's debt as He has more right to be paid." (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 3, bk. 29, no. 77, Khan)
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The mother of Sad bin 'Ubada died in his absence. He said, "O Allah's Apostle! My mother died in my absence; will it be of any benefit for her if I give Sadaqa on her behalf?" The Prophet said, "Yes," Sad said, "I make you a witness that I gave my garden called Al Makhraf in charity on her behalf." (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 4, bk. 51, no. 19, Khan)
These references show that others can bear your load. The Islamic opposition to Jesus being unable to pay our debt could be challenged by these references.