Date, Context and Theme
This is a Meccan sura and the main theme is dealing with the pride of those who reject the belief in one God, in resurrection to judgement, the Qur’an and Muhammad as a prophet.
Those who were proud say unto those who were despised: Did we drive you away from the guidance after it had come unto you? Nay, but ye were guilty. 34:32
Say (unto them, O Muhammad): I exhort you unto one thing only: that ye awake, for Allah's sake, by twos and singly, and then reflect: There is no madness in your comrade. He is naught else than a warner unto you in face of a terrific doom. 34:46
vv. 1-9 Praise belongs to Allah so do not be proud. Accept that there is only one God, the resurrection unto judgement, the Qur’an and Muhammad.
Vv. 10-11, David received blessings from God and was thankful not proud.
Vv. 12-14, Solomon received blessings from God and was thankful and proud.
vv. 15-21, Saba received blessing from God but were not thankful and so were destroyed.
Vv. 22-54, A dialogue with the Meccans which discusses.
* There is only one God and your worship of partners, angels, jinn will not help you.
* There will be a the resurrection of the dead unto judgement.
* You have rejected the Qur’an as you rejected the other books.
* You have rejected Muhammad as you rejected the other prophets.
* Your problem is pride and that you are pampered.
What I found interesting.
1. Striving against the Qur’an.
But those who strive against Our revelations, challenging (Us), theirs will be a painful doom of wrath. 34:5, 38
I was expecting the word for “strive” here to be jihad as it was in 31:15, but it is not. It is saaiaou instead. This is important to note for those of us who want to know what the Qur’an says about striving/jihad. This idea is expressed in a variety of words and we need to consider all of them to understand the subject properly.
2. Meccan Objections.
Again there is a good description of the objections of the Meccans to Muhammad.
And those who disbelieve say: We believe not in this Qur'an nor in that which was before it; but oh, if thou couldst see, when the wrong-doers are brought up before their Lord, how they cast the blame one to another; how those who were despised (in the earth) say unto those who were proud: But for you, we should have been believers. 34:31
And if Our revelations are recited unto them in plain terms, they say: This is naught else than a man who would turn you away from what your fathers used to worship; and they say: This is naught else than an invented lie. Those who disbelieve say of the truth when it reacheth them: This is naught else than mere magic. 34:43
3. Set Answers
The start of each verse for 22-27 and 46-50 began with “say”. Say this ... Say this ... Say this ... etc. This really emphasises that the Qur’an was to be used by the Muslims to answer the objections of those who rejected Islam. The Qur’an originally provided the set answers for the early Muslim community.
Here is two examples.
Say: You will not be asked (by God) of what we committed, nor shall we be asked of what you do. 34:25
Say: The Truth hath come, and falsehood showeth not its face and will not return. 34:49
The reference to David was interesting. It included a reference to the Psalms and to him making chain mail armour.
And assuredly We gave David grace from Us, (saying): O ye hills and birds, echo his psalms of praise! And We made the iron supple unto him, Saying: Make thou long coats of mail and measure the links (thereof). And do ye right. Lo! I am Seer of what ye do. 34:10-11
The history I have read says that chain mail actually replaced metal scales sewn onto a vest as a means of armour around the year 400BC. David was 1000BC. It seems that the Qur’an has the wrong technology for the time of David.
In sura 27:17 we saw that the genies fought for Solomon. Here we see that they build for him whatever he wants. This is also the verse were the idea of travelling on a magic carpet comes from. The Islamic commentaries say that Solomon was carried by the wind on a carpet.
And unto Solomon (We gave) the wind, whereof the morning course was a month's journey and the evening course a month's journey, and We caused the fount of copper to gush forth for him, and (We gave him) certain of the jinn who worked before him by permission of his Lord. And such of them as deviated from Our command, them We caused to taste the punishment of flaming Fire. 34:12
It is interesting to see what the genies built for Solomon.
They made for him what he willed: synagogues and statues, basins like wells and boilers built into the ground. Give thanks, O House of David! Few of My bondmen are thankful. 34:13
It is true that Solomon built many things but what about the temple? Does the Qur’an realise that Solomon’s greatest building achievement was the temple in Jerusalem. The temple is mentioned in 17:7 (called a mosque) but does the Qur’an understand that Solomon built a temple? I will have to keep reading.
It seems that the Qur’ an is not opposed to all intercession before but just the wrong intercession before God.
No intercession availeth with Him save for him whom He permitteth. Yet, when fear is banished from their hearts, they say: What was it that your Lord said? They say: The Truth. And He is the Sublime, the Great. 34:23
They will say: Be Thou Glorified. Thou (alone) art our Guardian, not them! Nay, but they worshipped the jinn; most of them were believers in them. 34:41
8. While the Meccans may know about the scripture of Jews and Christians the Qur'an is clear that they have not received a scripture directly themselves.
And We have given them no scriptures which they study, nor sent We unto them, before thee, any warner. 34:44