Sura XVI — The Bee

by Rev. G. Margoliouth, M.A.

Mecca — 128 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

THE doom of God cometh to pass. Then hasten it not. Glory be to Him! High let Him be exalted above the gods whom they join with Him!

By his own behest will He cause the angels to descend with the Spirit on whom he pleaseth among his servants, bidding them, "Warn that there is no God but me; therefore fear me."

He hath created the Heavens and the Earth to set forth his truth;[540] high let Him be exalted above the gods they join with Him!

Man hath He created from a moist germ;[541] yet lo! man is an open caviller.

And the cattle! for you hath He created them: in them ye have warm garments and gainful uses; and of them ye eat:

And they beseem you well[542] when ye fetch them home and when ye drive them forth to pasture:

And they carry your burdens to lands which ye could not else reach but with travail of soul: truly your Lord is full of goodness, and merciful:

And He hath given you horses, mules, and asses, that ye may ride them, and for your ornament: and things of which ye have no knowledge hath he created.

Of God it is to point out "the Way." Some turn aside from it: but had He pleased, He had guided you all aright.

It is He who sendeth down rain out of Heaven: from it is your drink; and from it are the plants by which ye pasture.

By it He causeth the corn, and the olives, and the palm-trees, and the grapes to spring forth for you, and all kinds of fruits: verily, in this are signs for those who ponder.

And He hath subjected to you the night and the day; the sun and the moon and the stars too are subjected to you by his behest; verily, in this are signs for those who understand:

And all of varied hues that He hath created for you over the earth: verily, in this are signs for those who remember.

And He it is who hath subjected the sea to you, that ye may eat of its fresh fish, and take forth from it ornaments to wear—thou seest the ships ploughing its billows—and that ye may go in quest of his bounties, and that ye might give thanks.

And He hath thrown firm mountains on the earth, least it move with you; and rivers and paths for your guidance,

And way marks. By the stars too are men guided.

Shall He then who hath created be as he who hath not created? Will ye not consider?

And if ye would reckon up the favours of God, ye could not count them. Aye! God is right Gracious, Merciful!

And God knoweth what ye conceal, and what ye bring to light,

While the gods whom they call on beside God, create nothing, but are themselves created:

Dead are they, lifeless! and they know not

When they shall be raised!

Your God is the one God: and they who believe not in a future life, have hearts given to denial, and are men of pride:—

Beyond a doubt God knoweth what they conceal and what they manifest:—

He truly loveth not the men of pride.

For when it is said to them, "What is this your Lord hath sent down?" they say, "Fables of the ancients,"—

That on the day of resurrection they may bear their own entire burden, and the burden of those whom they, in their ignorance, misled. Shall it not be a grievous burden for them?

They who were before them did plot of old. But God attacked their building at its foundation the roof fell on them from above; and, whence they looked not for it, punishment overtook them:[543]

On the day of resurrection, too, will He shame them. He will say, "Where are the gods ye associated with me, the subjects of your disputes?" They to whom "the knowledge" hath been given will say, Verily, this day shall shame and evil fall upon the infidels.

The sinners against their own souls whom the angels shall cause to die will proffer the submission, "No evil have we done." Nay! God knoweth what ye have wrought:

Enter ye therefore the gates of Hell to remain therein for ever: and horrid the abiding place of the haughty ones!

But to those who have feared God it shall be said, "What is this that your Lord hath awarded?" They shall say, "That which is best. To those who do good, a good reward in this present world; but better the mansion of the next, and right pleasant the abode of the God-fearing!"

Gardens of Eden into which they shall enter; rivers shall flow beneath their shades; all they wish for shall they find therein! Thus God rewardeth those who fear Him;

To whom, as righteous persons, the angels shall say, when they receive their souls, "Peace be on you! Enter Paradise as the meed of your labours."

What can the infidels expect but that the angels of death come upon them, or that a sentence of thy Lord take effect? Thus did they who flourished before them. God was not unjust to them, but to their ownselves were they unjust;

And the ill which they had done recoiled upon them, and that which they had scoffed at encompassed them round about.

They who have joined other gods with God say, "Had He pleased, neither we nor our fathers had worshipped aught but him; nor should we, apart from him, have forbidden aught." Thus acted they who were before them. Yet is the duty of the apostles other than public preaching?

And to every people have we sent an apostle saying:—Worship God and turn away from Taghout.[544] Some of them there were whom God guided, and there were others decreed to err. But go through the land and see what hath been the end of those who treated my apostles as liars!

If thou art anxious for their guidance, know that God will not guide him whom He would lead astray, neither shall they have any helpers.

And they swear by God with their most sacred oath that "God will never raise him who once is dead." Nay, but on Him is a promise binding, though most men know it not,—

That He may clear up to them the subject of their disputes, and that the infidels may know that they are liars.

Our word to a thing when we will it, is but to say, "Be," and it is.[545]

And as to those who when oppressed have fled their country for the sake of God, we will surely provide them a goodly abode in this world, but greater the reward of the next life, did they but know it

They who bear ills with patience and put their trust in the Lord!

None have we sent before thee but men inspired ask of those who have Books of Monition,[546] if ye know it not—

With proofs of their mission and Scriptures: and to thee have we sent down this Book of Monition that thou mayest make clear to men what hath been sent down to them, and that they may ponder it.

What! Are they then who have plotted mischiefs, sure that God will not cause the earth to cleave under them? or that a chastisement will not come upon them whence they looked not for it?

Or that He will not seize upon them in their comings and goings, while they shall not be able to resist him?

Or that he will not seize them with some slowly wasting scourge? But verily your Lord is Good, Gracious.

Have they not seen how everything which God hath created turneth its shadow right and left, prostrating itself before God in all abasement?

And all in the Heavens and all on the Earth, each thing that moveth, and the very angels, prostrate them in adoration before God, and are free from pride;

They fear their Lord who is above them, and do what they are bidden:

For God hath said, "Take not to yourselves two gods, for He is one God: me, therefore! yea, me revere!

All in the Heavens and in the Earth is His! His due unceasing service! Will ye then fear any other than God?

And all your blessings are assuredly from God: then, when trouble befalleth you, to Him ye turn for help:

Then when He relieveth you of the trouble, lo! some of you join associates with your Lord:—

To prove how thankless are they for our gifts! Enjoy yourselves then: but in the end ye shall know the truth.

And for idols, of which they know nothing, they set apart a share of our bounties! By God ye shall be called to account for your devices!

And they ascribe daughters unto God! Glory be to Him! But they desire them not for themselves:[547]

For when the birth of a daughter is announced to any one of them, dark shadows settle on his face, and he is sad:

He hideth him from the people because of the ill tidings: shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it in the dust?[548] Are not their judgments wrong?

To whatever is evil may they be likened who believe not in a future life;[549] but God is to be likened to whatever is loftiest: for He is the Mighty, the Wise.

Should God punish men for their perverse doings, he would not leave on earth a moving thing! but to an appointed term doth He respite them; and when their term is come, they shall not delay or advance it an hour.

Yet what they loathe themselves do they assign to God; and their tongues utter the lie, that theirs shall be a goodly lot. But beyond a doubt is it that the fire awaiteth them, and that they shall be the first sent into it.

By God we have sent Apostles to nations before thee, but Satan prepared their work for them, and this day is he their liege; and a woeful punishment doth await them.

And we have sent down the Book to thee only, that thou mightest clear up to them the subject of their wranglings, and as a guidance and a mercy to those who believe.

And God sendeth down water from Heaven, and by it giveth life to the Earth after it hath been dead: verily, in this is a sign to those who hearken.

Ye have also teaching from the cattle. We give you drink of the pure milk, between dregs and blood, which is in their bellies; the pleasant beverage of them that quaff it.

And among fruits ye have the palm and the vine, from which ye get wine and healthful nutriment: in this, verily, are signs for those who reflect.

And thy Lord hath taught the BEE, saying: "Provide thee houses in the mountains, and in the trees, and in the hives which men do build thee:

Feed, moreover, on every kind of fruit, and walk the beaten paths of thy Lord." From its belly cometh forth a fluid of varying hues,[550] which yieldeth medicine to man. Verily in this is a sign for those who consider.

And God hath created you; by and bye will he take you to himself; and some among you will he carry on to abject old age, when all that once was known is known no longer. Aye, God is Knowing, Powerful.

And God hath abounded to some of you more than to others in the supplies of life; yet they to whom He hath abounded, impart not thereof to the slaves whom their right hands possess, so that they may share alike. What! will they deny, then, that these boons are from God?

God, too, hath given you wives of your own race, and from your wives hath He given you sons and grandsons, and with good things hath he supplied you. What, will they then believe in vain idols? For God's boons they are ungrateful!

And they worship beside God those who neither out of the Heavens or Earth can provide them a particle of food, and have no power in themselves!

Make no comparisons, therefore, with God.[551] Verily, God hath knowledge, but ye have not.

God maketh comparison between a slave[552] the property of his lord, who hath no power over anything, and a free man whom we have ourselves supplies, and who giveth alms therefrom both in secret and openly. Shall they be held equal? No: praise be to God! But most men know it not.

God setteth forth also a comparison between two men, one of whom is dumb from his birth, and hath no power over anything, and is a burden to his lord: send him where he will, he cometh not back with success. Shall he and the man who enjoineth what is just, and keepeth in the straight path, be held equal?

God's are the secrets of the Heavens and of the Earth! and the business of the last hour will be but as the twinkling of an eye, or even less. Yes! for all things is God Potent.

God hath brought you out of your mothers' wombs devoid of all knowledge; but hath given you hearing, and sight, and heart, that haply ye might render thanks.

Have they never looked up at the birds subjected to Him in Heaven's vault? None holdeth them in hand but God! In this are signs for those who believe.

And God hath given you tents to dwell in: and He hath given you the skins of beasts for tents, that ye may find them light when ye shift your quarters, or when ye halt; and from their wool and soft fur and hair, hath He supplied you with furniture and goods for temporary use.

And from the things which He hath created, hath God provided shade for you, and hath given you the mountains for places of shelter, and hath given you garments to defend you from the heat, and garments to defend you in your wars. Thus doth He fill up the measure of His goodness towards you, that you may resign yourselves to Him.

But if they turn their backs, still thy office is only plain spoken preaching.

They own the goodness of God—then they disown it—and most of them are infidels.

But one day, we will raise up a witness out of every nation: them shall the infidels have no permission to make excuses, and they shall find no favour.

And when they who have acted thus wrongly shall behold their torment, it shall not be made light to them, nor will God deign to look upon them.

And when they who had joined associates with God shall see those their associate-gods, they shall say, "O our Lord! these are our associate-gods whom we called upon beside Thee." But they shall retort on them, "Verily, ye are liars."

And on that day shall they proffer submission to God; and the deities of their own invention shall vanish from them.

As for those who were infidels and turned others aside from the way of God, to them we will add punishment on punishment for their corrupt doings.

And one day we will summon up in every people a witness against them from among themselves; and we will bring thee up as a witness against these Meccans: for to thee have we sent down the Book which cleareth up everything, a guidance, and mercy, and glad tidings to those who resign themselves to God (to Muslims).

Verily, God enjoineth justice and the doing of good and gifts to kindred, and he forbiddeth wickedness and wrong and oppression. He warneth you that haply ye may be mindful.

Be faithful in the covenant of God when ye have covenanted, and break not your oaths after ye have pledged them: for now have ye made God to stand surety for you. Verily, God hath knowledge of what ye do.

And, because you are a more numerous people than some other people, be not like her who unravelleth the thread which she had strongly spun, by taking your oaths with mutual perfidy. God is making trial of you in this: and in the day of resurrection he will assuredly clear up to you that concerning which ye are now at variance.

Had God pleased, He could have made you one people: but He causeth whom He will to err, and whom He will He guideth: and ye shall assuredly be called to account for your doings.

Therefore take not your oaths with mutual fraud, lest your foot slip after it hath been firmly fixed, and ye taste of evil because ye have turned others aside from the way of God, and great be your punishment.

And barter not the covenant of God for a mean price; for with God is that which is better for you, if ye do but understand.

All that is with you passeth away, but that which is with God abideth. With a reward meet for their best deeds will we surely recompense those who have patiently endured.

Whoso doeth that which is right, whether male or female, if a believer, him will we surely quicken to a happy life, and recompense them with a reward meet for their best deeds.

When thou readest the Koran, have recourse to God for help against Satan the stoned,[553]

For no power hath he over those who believe, and put their trust in their Lord,

But only hath he power over those who turn away from God, and join other deities with Him.

And when we change one (sign) verse for another, and God knoweth best what He revealeth, they say, "Thou art only a fabricator." Nay! but most of them have no knowledge.

SAY: The Holy Spirit[554] hath brought it down with truth from thy Lord, that He may stablish those who have believed, and as guidance and glad tidings to the Muslims.

We also know that they say, "Surely a certain person teacheth him." But the tongue of him at whom they hint is foreign,[555] while this Koran is in the plain Arabic.

As for those who believe not in the signs of God, God will not guide them, and a sore torment doth await them.

Surely they invent a lie who believe not in the signs of God—and they are the liars.

Whoso, after he hath believed in God denieth him, if he were forced to it and if his heart remain steadfast in the faith, shall be guiltless:[556] but whoso openeth his breast to infidelity—on such shall be wrath from God, and a severe punishment awaiteth them.

This, because they have loved this present life beyond the next, and because God guideth not the unbelievers!

These are they whose hearts and ears and eyes God hath sealed up: these are the careless ones: in the next world shall they perish beyond a doubt.

To those also who after their trials fled their country,[557] then fought and endured with patience, verily, thy Lord will in the end be forgiving, gracious.

On a certain day shall every soul come to plead for itself, and every soul shall be repaid according to its deeds; and they shall not be wronged.

God proposeth the instance of a city,[558] secure and at ease, to which its supplies come in plenty from every side. But she was thankless for the boons of God; God therefore made her taste the woe[559] of famine and of fear, for what they had done.

Moreover, an apostle of their own people came to them, and they treated him as an impostor. So chastisement overtook them because they were evil doers.

Of what God hath supplied you eat the lawful and good, and be grateful for the favours of God, if ye are his worshippers.

Forbidden to you is that only which dieth of itself, and blood, and swine's flesh, and that which hath been slain in the name of any other than God: but if any be forced, and neither lust for it nor wilfully transgress, then verily God is forgiving, gracious.[560]

And say not with a lie upon your tongue, "This is lawful and this is forbidden:" for so will ye invent a lie concerning God: but they who invent a lie of God shall not prosper:

Brief their enjoyment, but sore their punishment!

To the Jews[561] we have forbidden that of which we before told thee; we injured them not, but they injured themselves.

To those who have done evil in ignorance, then afterwards have repented and amended, verily thy Lord is in the end right gracious, merciful.

Verily, Abraham was a leader in religion:[562] obedient to God, sound in faith:[563] he was not of those who join gods with God.

Grateful was he for His favours: God chose him and guided him into the straight way;

And we bestowed on him good things in this world: and in the world to come he shall be among the just.

We have moreover revealed to thee that thou follow the religion of Abraham, the sound in faith. He was not of those who join gods with God.

The Sabbath was only ordained for those who differed about it: and of a truth thy Lord will decide between them on the day of resurrection as to the subject of their disputes.

Summon thou to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and with kindly warning: dispute with them in the kindest manner: thy Lord best knoweth those who stray from his way, and He best knoweth those who have yielded to his guidance.

If ye make reprisals,[564] then make them to the same extent that ye were injured: but if ye can endure patiently, best will it be for the patiently enduring.

Endure then with patience. But thy patient endurance must be sought in none but God. And be not grieved about the infidels, and be not troubled at their devices; for God is with those who fear him and do good deeds.



[540] See Sura [lxxxiv.] x. 5, n.

[541] Ex gutta spermatis. Pirke Aboth iii. Unde venisti? ex guttá foetidâ. This verse is said to be an allusion to a difficulty proposed by an idolatrous Arab, who brought a carious leg-bone to Muhammad, and asked whether it could be restored to life. Compare a similar argument for the Resurrection, Tr. Sanhedrin, fol. 91 a.

[542] Lit. there is beauty in them for you, i.e. they win you credit.

[543] In allusion to Gen. xi. 1-10.

[544] An Arabian idol.

[545] Ps. xxxv. 9.

[546] Lit. the family of the admonition, i.e. Jews and Christians versed in the Pentateuch and Gospel.

[547] The idolatrous Arabians regarded Angels as females and daughters of God. But their own preference was always for male offspring. Thus Rabbinism teaches that to be a woman is a great degradation. The modern Jew says in his Daily Prayers, fol. 5, 6, "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God! King of the Universe! who hath not made me a woman."

[548] See Sura lxxxi. 8, p. 45. It is said that the only occasion on which Othman ever shed a tear was when his little daughter, whom he was burying alive, wiped the dust of the grave-earth from his beard.

[549] Lit. the likeness of evil to those, etc.

[550] The Arabs are curious in and fond of honey: Mecca alone affords eight or nine varieties—green, white, red, and brown. Burton's Pilgr. iii. 110.

[551] Ex. xx. 4.

[552] The slave, and the dumb in verse following, are the idols.

[553] See Sura [xcvii.] iii. 34, and n. 1, p. 114.

[554] Gabriel.

[555] This passage has been supposed to refer to Salman the Persian. He did not, however, embrace Islam till a much later period, at Medina. Nöld. p. 110. Mr. Muir thinks that it may refer to Suheib, son of Sinan, "the first fruits of Greece," as Muhammad styled him, who, while yet a boy, had been carried off by some Greeks as a slave, from Mesopotamia to Syria, brought by a party of the Beni Kalb, and sold to Abdallah ibn Jodda'ân of Mecca. He became rich, and embraced Islam. Dr. Sprenger thinks the person alluded to may have been Addas, a monk of Nineveh, who had settled at Mecca. Life of M. p. 79.

[556] This is to be understood of the persecutions endured by the more humble and needy Muslims by their townspeople of Mecca.

[557] From Mecca to Medina, i.e. the Mohadjers, to whom also verse 43 refers. Both passages, therefore, are of a later date than the rest of this Sura. Thus Nöldeke. Sprenger, however (Life, p. 159), explains this passage of the seven slaves purchased and manumitted by Abu Bekr. They had been tortured for professing Islam, shortly after Muhammad assumed the Prophetic office.

[558] Mecca.

[559] Lit. the garment.

[560] Comp. Sura [lxxxix.] vi. 119.

[561] Comp. Sura [lxxxix.] vi. 147. This verse as well as the following, and verse 125, were probably added at Medina.

[562] Antistes. Maracci. Or the text may be literally rendered Abraham was a people, i.e. the people of Abraham; from whom the idolatrous Koreisch pretended to derive their origin.

[563] Ar. a Hanyf. According to a tradition in Waquidi, fol. 255, Zaid (who died only five years before Muhammad received his first inspiration, and undoubtedly prepared the way for many of his subsequent announcements) adopted this term at the instance of a Christian and a Jew, who exhorted him to become a Hanyf. Zaid having at this time renounced idolatry, and being unable to receive either Judaism or Christianity, "What," said he, "is a Hanyf?" They both told him, it was the religion of Abraham, who worshipped nothing but God. On this Zaid exclaimed, "O God, I bear witness that I follow the religion of Abraham." The root, whence Hanyf is derived, means generally to turn from good to bad, or vice versâ, and is equivalent to the verbs convert and pervert.

[564] All Muhammadan commentators explain this verse as a prohibition to avenge the death of Hamza on the Meccans with too great severity.