Surah Qalam: The Pen

Good Character

1. Nun. By the Pen and the (Record) which (men) write,- 2. Thou art not, by the Grace of thy Lord, mad or possessed. 3. Nay, verily for thee is a Reward unfailing: 4. And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character. 5. Soon wilt thou see, and they will see, 6. Which of you is afflicted with madness. 7. Verily it is thy Lord that knoweth best, which (among men) hath strayed from His Path: and He knoweth best those who receive (true) Guidance. 8. So hearken not to those who deny (the Truth). 9. Their desire is that thou shouldst be pliant: so would they be pliant. 10. Heed not the type of despicable men,- ready with oaths, 11. A slanderer, going about with calumnies, 12. (Habitually) hindering (all) good, transgressing beyond bounds, deep in sin, 13. Violent (and cruel),- with all that, base-born,- 14. Because he possesses wealth and (numerous) sons. 15. When to him are rehearsed Our Signs, “Tales of the ancients”, he cries! 16. Soon shall We brand (the beast) on the snout! 17. Verily We have tried them as We tried the People of the Garden, when they resolved to gather the fruits of the (garden) in the morning. 18. But made no reservation, (“If it be Allah.s Will”). 19. Then there came on the (garden) a visitation from thy Lord, (which swept away) all around, while they were asleep. 20. So the (garden) became, by the morning, like a dark and desolate spot, (whose fruit had been gathered). 21. As the morning broke, they called out, one to another,- 22. “Go ye to your tilth (betimes) in the morning, if ye would gather the fruits.” 23. So they departed, conversing in secret low tones, (saying)- 24. “Let not a single indigent person break in upon you into the (garden) this day.” 25. And they opened the morning, strong in an (unjust) resolve. 26. But when they saw the (garden), they said: “We have surely lost our way: 27. “Indeed we are shut out (of the fruits of our labour)!” 28. Said one of them, more just (than the rest): “Did I not say to you, ‘Why not glorify ((Allah))?'” 29. They said: “Glory to our Lord! Verily we have been doing wrong!” 30. Then they turned, one against another, in reproach. 31. They said: “Alas for us! We have indeed transgressed! 32. “It may be that our Lord will give us in exchange a better (garden) than this: for we do turn to Him (in repentance)!” 33. Such is the Punishment (in this life); but greater is the Punishment in the Hereafter,- if only they knew! 34. Verily, for the Righteous, are Gardens of Delight, in the Presence of their Lord

Surah Qalam 1-34.

(take from Yusuf Ali’s Translation).

This beautiful passage highlights the Messengers outstanding character – branding it as Khuloqin – Azeem, sublime character. Free from any conceivable taint, any shortcoming or wrong. The Quran pays a tribute to his gentleness, kindness, forgiveness, patience, humility, modesty, justice, courage and love for humanity. God almighty himself praises his beloved Prophet and emboldens him to declare, ‘I have been sent to perfect moral character’. That is my mission.

This passage contracts this sublime character with the wretchedness of a wealthy Makkan leader – Waleed Ibn Magheera – Just read the long list of evil traits: Mischief making, slanderer, enemy of good, wicked transgressor, a bully.

The Glorious Quran then compares him with the greedy, selfish and uncharitable owners of the orchard. The story of ‘The owners of the orchard’ is told few times in the Quran. There was a wealthy farmer who had fertile large orchard. He was very generous and at harvest time he would give generously to the poor. However, after his death, his children decided abandon the practice of their father’s generosity. They decided amongst themselves they will not give anything to the beggars, this was their hard earned fruit – it will not be shared with the poor. They were nasty with the needy people so much so that they were convinced they had driven them away.

However, the Divine plan was very different. The next morning when they went to harvest they found it had been burnt to ashes! The meanness of their souls and their miserliness had caused this. They then realised, ‘we have been wrong we are utterly ruined’ (Verse 27).

The moral lesson is that those who selfishly plan bad things for others ultimately end up at the receiving end. This episode emphasizes the need to be good to others; this can only happen if we develop good character. The Messenger (saws) said, ‘ you cannot be a believer until you like for your brother what you like for yourself’ (Bukhari).