Overview - Surah 30: ar-Rum (The Romans)

Surah Introduction

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The Surah reminds us that Allah is in control of everything. Those who are short sighted they see only what is apparent but they do not realize that there is a Creator and Master of this whole universe and it is He who is governing everything. Final decision is in Allah's hand.  The Akhirah will take place and the truth will prevail. 

Sections:

  1. The defeat of the Romans and then later their victory is foretold.
  2. Creation and Resurrection belong to Allah.  Glorify Allah at different times of the day.
  3. The signs of Allah in nature.
  4. The true religion corresponds and enhances the nature.  Teachings of the religion of nature: tawhid, care of the family and relatives, economic justice and charity.
  5. Corruption caused by human beings. Evidence of corruption in history.  Evidence of resurrection in nature.
  6. The Day of Resurrection.

This Surah is named after the 'Romans' - The word 'Roman' is mentioned only in this Surah in the Qur'an.

There are 60 Ayat in this Surah.

Overview

Total Ayat60
Total Words *817
Root Words *202
Unique Root Words *1
Makki / MadaniMakki
Chronological Order* 84th (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 5th year of Prophethood
Events during/before this Surah*
Physical beating and torture of some Muslims - 1st Migration of Muslims to Abyssinia, Public Invitation to Islam - Persecution of Muslims; antagonism - ridicule - derision - accusation - abuse and false propaganda., Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam
Events during/after still to occur*
2nd Migration to Abyssinia,Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 1,Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 2,Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 3,Death of Abu Talib - Death of Khadijah - Stoning at Ta'if - al-Isra wal Mi'raj - Night Journey,1st Pledge of Aqabah,2nd Pledge of Aqabah,,Migration from Makkah to Madinah - Building of Masjid Nabi in Madinah - Treaty with Jews of Madinah - Marriage of Prophet to Aishah,Change of Qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah - Battle of Badr,Battle of Uhud,,Battle of Ahzab - Expedition of Banu Quraydhah,Treaty of Hudaiybiyah - Letters to Kings and Rulers,,Conquest of Makkah - Battle of Hunain,Hajj led by Abu Bakr - Expedition of Tabuk,Farewell Hajj by Prophet - Death of Prophet - End of Divine Revelation
Names of Prophets Mentioned
No Prophets names are mentioned in this Surah
Surah Index
Adversity (patience during) , Ageing, Byzantines, Charity, Corruption, Diversity (of humans) , Earth, Humankind (creation of) (from dust), Humankind (diversity in) , Humankind (mates of your own kind) , Judgement (Day) , Knowledge, Knowledge (obligation upon man to obtain and impart) , Language (diversity in) , Life (diversity) , Marriage (love and tenderness) , Pollution, Prayer (times of day of) , Qur’an, Religion, Religious (sects) , Resurrection, Resurrection (Day) , Resurrection (of humans) , Resurrection (of soul) , Sea, Ships, Slaves, Usury, Weather (clouds) , Weather (lifting) , Weather (lightning) , Weather (rain) , Weather (wind)

Central Theme

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Theme 1: Yaqin [certainty] in the Revelation

Theme 2: Cycles of change. One of the themes that run throughout the Surah is the concept of the "cycles of change" which inevitably lead to certain point  like wheels on a bus that lead us to a certain destination.

Theme 3: This Surah is a study of the Sunan [ways] of God in how He deals with nations and conflicts.

The discourse begins with the theme that the Romans have been overcome and the people believed that the empire is about to collapse, but the fact is that within a few years the tables will be turned and the vanquished will again become victorious.

This introductory theme contains the great truth that a person is only accustomed to seeing what is apparent and visible. Often, this habit can lead to misunderstandings and miscalculations. This is where a person is liable to make wrong judgements and what a great error to place your trust only upon that which is visible and apparent in this world.

Then, from the question of the conflict between Byzantium and Persia, the direction of the discourse turns to the theme of the Hereafter. Upto verse 27, God explains that the Hereafter is possible as well as rational and necessary; For man to have a stable and balanced system of life it is necessary to live the present life based on your faith in the Hereafter; otherwise you will continue to commit grievous errors as a result of placing your trust upon what is apparent to you.

In this connection, the Signs of the universe which have been presented as evidence to prove the doctrine of the Hereafter are precisely the same which support the doctrine of Monotheism (Tawhid). Therefore from verse 28 onwards, the discourse turns to the affirmation of Monotheism and the refutation of polytheism (Shirk), and it is stressed that the natural way of life for a person is none else but to serve One God exclusively. Polytheism is opposed to the nature of the universe in the sense that there could only be One Creator and Lord presiding over it.  Similarly, Polytheism is adverse to the innate nature of man. Therefore, whenever man adopts this deviation, corruption appears.

In conclusion, a parable has been presented that just as the dead earth comes back to life by a shower of rain, so is the case with God giving life to the dead. When God sends a shower of His mercy in the form of Revelation and Prophethood, it also gives a new life to humankind and causes them to grow, develop and flourish.

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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Allah Almighty ends this Surah saying, فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّـهِ حَقٌّ "So be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allah is true...." (30:60). The prediction of what will happen to the Romans after their defeat to the Persian Empire is a way of demonstrating that He knows the future and the Believer should be rest assured that if He promises something, He will, without doubt, fulfill His promise.

Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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  • The promise of Allah is mentioned in the beginning and the end of the Surah. Allah says وَعْدَ اللَّـهِ ۖ لَا يُخْلِفُ اللَّـهُ وَعْدَهُ "[It is] the promise of Allah. Allah does not fail in His promise..." [30:6] and the last Ayat of the Surah is فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّـهِ حَقٌّ "So be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allah is true...." [30:60]

Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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  • Surah 29, 30, 31 and 32 all begin with ALIF-LAM-MEEM - The same huruf muqatiat [disjointed letters]

The Virtues of the Surah

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Special Features of the Surah

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Important key and unique words of the Surah

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  • The word 'RUM' -Roman - only occurs in this Surah
  • an-Nas - Katheer and akhthar - vast majority 
  • Aqibah - study the outcome of the 
  • Kayfa - reflect on how and why....
  • "from His Ayat" - 
  • Min Qabl and Ba'd
  • (30:9) is the longest Ayat of this Surah with 32 words,

    أَوَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ كَانُوا أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً وَأَثَارُوا الْأَرْضَ وَعَمَرُوهَا أَكْثَرَ مِمَّا عَمَرُوهَا وَجَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُم بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ۖ فَمَا كَانَ اللَّـهُ لِيَظْلِمَهُمْ وَلَـٰكِن كَانُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ "Have they not traveled through the earth and observed how was the end of those before them? They were greater than them in power, and they plowed the earth and built it up more than they have built it up, and their messengers came to them with clear evidences. And Allah would not ever have wronged them, but they were wronging themselves. " (30:9)
 
Total Word Count per Ayat (shows how many words per Ayat) *

Unique Root Words to this Surah only


1 unique root words that do not appear in any other Surah *

Top 10 Most Frequent Root Words used in this Surah

Root Word Frequency
in Surah
Frequency
in Qur'an
أ ل ه 24 2851
ٱلَّذِى 21 1464
ك و ن 17 1390
أ ي ي 17 382
ق و م 15 660
أ ر ض 14 461
ع ل م 10 854
خ ل ق 10 261
إِذَا 9 409
س م و 9 381

Period of Revelation

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The period of the revelation of this Surah is determined absolutely by the historical event mentioned at the outset of this Surah. It says: “The Romans have been defeated in the neighbouring land.” In those days the Byzantine occupied territories adjacent to Arabia were Jordan, Syria and Palestine and in these territories the Romans were completely overpowered by the Persians in 615 C.E. Therefore it can be said with absolute certainty that this Surah was sent down in the same year and this was the year in which the migration to Abyssinia took place.

Background Reasons for Revelation

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The prediction made in the initial verses of this Surah is one of the most outstanding evidences of the Qur’an’s being the Word of God and the Prophet Muhammad’s being a true Messenger of God. Let us have a look at the historical background relevant to the verses.

Eight years before the Prophet’s advent as a Prophet the Byzantine Emperor Maurice was overthrown by Phocus who captured the throne and became king. Phocus first executed the Emperor’s five sons in front of the Emperor and then had the Emperor executed as well. Their heads were put on display on a public road in Constantinople. A few days after this he had the Empress and her three daughters also put to death. The event provided Khusrau Parvez the Sassanid king of Persia; a good moral excuse to attack Byzantium. For Emperor Maurice had been his benefactor; with his help he had got the throne of Persia. Therefore he declared that he would avenge his godfather’s and his children’s murder upon Phocus the usurper. So he started war against Byzantium in 603 C.E. Within a few years of putting the Phocus armies to rout in succession he reached Edessa (modern Urfa) in Asia Minor on the one front and Aleppo and Antioch in Syria on the other. When the Byzantine ministers saw that Phocus could not save the country they sought the African governor’s help who sent his son Heraclius to Constantinople with a strong fleet. Phocus was immediately deposed and Heraclius made emperor. He treated Phocus as he had treated Maurice. This happened in 610 C.E. the year the Prophet was appointed to Prophethood.

The moral excuse for which Khusrau Parvez had started the war was no more valid after the deposition and death of Phocus. Had the object of his war really been to avenge the murder of his ally Phocus for his cruelty he would have come to terms with the new Emperor after the death of Phocus. However he continued the war and proclaimed it as a battle between Zoroastrianism and Christianity. The sympathies of the Christian sects (i.e. Nestorians and Jacobians etc.) which had been excommunicated by the Roman ecclesiastical authority and tyrannized for years also went with the Magian (Zoroastrian) invaders and the Jews also joined hands with them; so much so that the number of the Jews who enlisted in Khusrau’s army rose up to 26,000.

Heraclius could not stop this storm. The very first news that he received from the East after ascending the throne was that of the Persian occupation of Antioch. After this Damascus fell in 613 C.E. Then in 614 C.E. the Persians occupying Jerusalem played havoc with the Christian world. Ninety thousand Christians were massacred and the Holy Sepulchre was desecrated. The Original Cross on which according to the Christian belief Jesus had died was seized and carried to Mada’in. The chief priest Zacharia was taken prisoner and all the important churches of the city were destroyed. How puffed up was Khusrau Parvez at this victory can be judged from the letter that he wrote to Heraclius from Jerusalem. He wrote: “From Khusrau the greatest of all gods, the master of the whole world: To Heraclius his most wretched and most stupid servant: ‘You say that you have trust in your Lord. Why didn’t then your Lord save Jerusalem from me?’”

Within a year after this victory the Persian armies over-ran Jordan, Palestine and the whole of the Sinai Peninsula and reached the frontiers of Egypt. In those very days another conflict of a far greater historical consequence was going on in Makkah. The believers in One God under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad were fighting for their existence against the followers of polytheism (Shirk) under the command of the chiefs of the Quraysh and the conflict had reached such a stage that in 615 C.E. a substantial number of the Muslims had to leave their homes and take refuge with the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia which was an ally of the Byzantine Empire. In those days the Sassanid victories against Byzantium were the talk of the town, and the pagans of Makkah were delighted and were taunting the Muslims to the effect: “Look the fire worshipers of Persia are winning victories and the Christian believers in Revelation and Prophethood are being routed everywhere. Likewise, we, the idol worshipers of Arabia, will exterminate you and your religion.”

These were the conditions when this Surah of the Qur’an was revealed, and in it a prediction was made, saying: “The Byzantines have been defeated. In the nearest land. But they, after their defeat, will overcome. Within three to nine years. To God belongs the command before and after. And that day the believers will rejoice. In the victory of God. He gives victory to whom He wills, and He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.” It contained not one but two predictions: First, the Romans shall be Victorious; and second, the Muslims also shall win a victory at the same time. Apparently, there was not a remote chance of the fulfilment of the either prediction in the next few years. On the one hand, there were a handful of the Muslims, who were being beaten and tortured in Makkah, and even after eight years of this prediction being made there appeared no chance of their victory and domination. On the contary, the Romans were losing more and more ground every next day. By 619 C.E. the whole of Egypt had passed into Sassanid hands and the Magian armies had reached as far as Tripoli. In Asia Minor they beat and pushed back the Romans to Bosporus, and in 617 C.E. they captured Chalcedon (modern, Kadikoy) just opposite Constantinople. The Emperor sent an envoy to Khusrau, praying that he was ready to have peace on any terms, however he replied, “I shall not give protection to the emperor until he is brought in chains before me and gives up obedience to his crucified god and adopts submission to the fire god.” At last, the Emperor became so depressed by defeat that he decided to leave Constantinople and shift to Carthage (modern, Tunis). The conditions were such that no one could even imagine that the Byzantine Empire would ever gain an upper hand over Persia. Not to speak of gaining domination, no one could hope that the Empire, under the circumstances, would even survive.

When these verses of the Qur’an were sent down, the disbelievers of Makkah made great fun of them, and Ubayy bin Khalaf bet Abu Bakr ten camels if the Romans became victorious within three years. When the Prophet came to know of the bet, he said, “The Qur’an has used the words bid-i-sinin, and the word bid in Arabic applies to a number up to ten. Therefore, make the bet for ten years and increase the number of camels to a hundred.” So, Abu Bakr spoke to Ubayy again and bet a hundred camels for ten years.

In 622 C.E. as the Prophet migrated to Madinah, the Emperor Heraclius set off quietly for Trabzon from Constantinople via the Black Sea and started preparations to attack Persia from the rear. For this he asked the Church for money, Pope Sergius lent him the Church collections on interest, in a bid to save Christianity from Zoroastrianism. Heraclius started his counter attack in 623 C.E. from Armenia. The following year, in 624 C.E., he entered Azerbaijan and destroyed Clorumia, the birthplace of Zoroaster, and ravaged the principal fire temple of Persia. Great are the powers of God, this was the very year when the Muslims achieved a decisive victory at Badr for the first time against the polytheists. Thus both the predictions made in Surah Rum were fulfilled simultaneously within the stipulated period of ten years.

The Byzantine forces continued to press the Persians hard and in the decisive battle at Nineveh (627 C.E.) they dealt a severe blow. They captured the royal residence of Dastagerd, and then pressing forward reached right opposite to Ctesiphon, capital of Persia in those days. In 628 C.E. in an internal revolt, Khusrau Parvez was imprisoned and 18 of his sons were executed in front of him and a few days later he himself died in the prison. This was the year when the peace treaty of Hudaibiya was concluded, which the Qur’an has termed as “the supreme victory,” and in this very year Khusrau’s son, Qubad II, gave up all the occupied Roman territories and made peace with Byzantium.

After this no one could have any doubt about the truth of the prophecy of the Qur’an, with the result that most of the Arab polytheists accepted Islam. The heirs of Ubayy bin Khalaf lost their bet and had to give a hundred camels to Abu Bakr Siddiq. He took them before the Prophet, who ordered that they be given away in charity, because the bet had been made at a time when gambling had not yet been forbidden by the Shariah; now it was forbidden. Therefore, the bet was allowed to be accepted from the belligerent disbelievers, but instruction given that it should be given away in charity and should not be brought in personal use.

Relevant Hadith

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Lessons/Guidance/Major-Issues/Reflections

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  • The Roman's (Christian's) defeat at the hands of Persians (pagans) was considered by Makkans a sign of the Muslim's defeat at the hands of Arab unbelievers.
  • Prophecy of the Roman's victory against Persians and the Muslims victory against the disbelievers.
  • Within 30 years or so after the revelation of Surah ar-Rum - the Muslims had defeated both the Persian and Roman armies occupying many towns and cities
  • Allah has originated the creation and He will resurrect the dead for final judgement.
  • Sins are the reasons behind misfortunes and problems (30:41)
  • Creation of Man, his Consort, Heaven, Earth, Language, Colors, Sleep, Quest for work, Lightening, Rain and Growth of vegetation are all signs from Allah.
  • Wrongdoers are those who are lead by their own appetite without real knowledge.
  • True Faith Vs. Sects and shirk.
  • Commandment to give relatives their due and take care of the poor and travellers in need.
  • Mischief in the land is due to Man's own misdeeds.
  • Allah told the Prophet: "O Prophet! You can not make the dead hear you."

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Miscellaneous Issues

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Scientific References

فِي أَدْنَى الْأَرْضِ وَهُم مِّن بَعْدِ غَلَبِهِمْ سَيَغْلِبُونَ " In the nearest land. But they, after their defeat, will overcome." (30:3)

Indeed,  after around seven years following the revelation of these verses, against all the odds, the Byzantine Empire defeated the Persians and the lost territories were returned to them.  In the  verse, God describes the geographical location as ‘adna al-ardh.’ The word ‘adna’ can be translated as the ‘nearest’ or the ‘lowest’ land. Classic Islamic scholars opted to interpret the word to concord to the first meaning of ‘nearest’. However, recent geological studies have shown that the  lowest point on Earth [dry land], is indeed the region where the main battles took place - around the Dead Sea. It is now established that there is no land point on Earth with a lower altitude than the shoreline of the Dead Sea [which is approx 418m below sea level]. Is it a mere coincidence that region described by God as ‘adna al-ardh’ – is actually the lowest point on Earth?