Surah al-An`am (The Cattle) 6 : 151
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
Having challenged the unbelievers to produce their witnesses and rejected their claims concerning what they considered as forbidden, the surah gives a detailed outline of what God has truly forbidden. Side by side with the list of prohibitions, we find some positive commandments that must be observed. Failure to act on these is also forbidden. The list begins with the most important prohibition of all, namely, associating partners with God. Indeed, the first article of faith which establishes the principle of God’s oneness provides the foundation for all prohibitions.
When we reflect on these commandments, we find that they provide an outline of our religion as a whole. They form the most essential element in the life of the human conscience as they establish the principle of God’s oneness. They are also most essential for the life of the human family and human community since they ensure mutual security within society and make cleanliness an important quality of all social transactions. They are indeed pivotal for human life, since they guarantee the rights of every individual, linking them to the need to fulfil the covenant that exists between God and His servants. This keeps these commandments on the right course outlined by the starting principle of believing in God’s oneness. When we look at the comment made at the end of these commandments, we find that God, limitless is He in His glory, states that they constitute the right path leading to Him. All other routes and tracks are deviant, leading away from Him.
“Say: ‘Come, let me tell you what your Lord has forbidden to you.’” The Prophet is here instructed to speak to people and tell them what their Lord has forbidden to them, not what they allege to have been forbidden. It is their Lord who has made the following items forbidden, because His alone is the position of Lordship which includes the aspects of fostering and directing, as well as issuing legislation. Hence, He is only exercising His authority, because He is the Lord. God alone is the one who enjoys all rights of Lordship.
“Do not associate partners with Him.” This is the foundation upon which the structure of faith is built. It is to this rule that all duties and obligations should refer and from which all rights and privileges are derived. It must be properly established before any discussion of commandments, prohibitions, obligations, systems and laws can take place. The first and most important requirement is that people should acknowledge that God is their Lord who governs their lives in the same way as they believe in His oneness. No partner can be associated with Him either as a deity or as a Lord. People must acknowledge that God alone controls the universe and conducts its affairs, as He indeed holds them accountable on the Day of Judgement for what they have done in this life and rewards them accordingly. They must also acknowledge at the same time and in the same measure that He alone has the authority to provide the law which human beings must administer and enforce.
“Be kind to your parents; do not kill your children because of your poverty —We provide for you and for them.” This highlights the family tie between human generations. God knows that He is more kind and compassionate to human beings than their parents or children. Hence, He enjoins upon children to be kind to their parents and on parents to be kind to their children. He links this commandment to the recognition of His absolute Godhead and the acknowledgement of His unique Lordship. He tells them that He alone provides for their sustenance. Hence, they must not impose any severe conditions on parents in their old age or on children in their tender years. They must not fear poverty, because God provides sustenance for parents and children alike.
“Do not commit any shameful deed, whether open or secret.” Since God has urged His servants to take good care of their families, He has also impressed upon them the need to maintain the family foundation, which is also the basis of society. This equates with purity, decency and chastity. Hence, they are forbidden to commit all types of indecency, whether openly or secretly. This prohibition is then closely related to the commandment immediately preceding it and to the first commandment. No family can survive and no community can prosper if they sink into shameful indecency, whether open or secret. Purity, cleanliness and chastity are the basic essentials for the healthy living of both the family and the community. Those who like to see indecency spread throughout the community are the ones who try to weaken the structure of the family and to bring about society’s collapse.
“Do not take any human being’s life — which God has made sacred, except in the course of justice.” These three offences, associating partners with God, adultery and murder are frequently mentioned in the Qur’an in quick succession as things to avoid. This is because they are, in a sense, crimes of murder. The first, associating partners with God, murders sound human nature, while the second, adultery, is a murder of the community, and the third is a murder of individuals. When human nature is not nurtured by belief in God’s oneness, it becomes dead.
Killing children by reason of poverty has already been forbidden. This is now followed by a prohibition of killing any human being. The way this prohibition is phrased suggests that every individual crime of murder seeks to kill the human soul in general. This is supported by the verse in the preceding surah which states: “If anyone slays a human being, for anything other than in punishment of murder or for spreading corruption on earth, it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; and if anyone saves a human life, it shall be as though he had saved all mankind.” (5: 32) The aggression used in killing is against the right to life and against humanity in general. It is on the basis of this rule that God has guaranteed that human life shall always be considered sacred. In addition, the Muslim community feels safe and secure in the land of Islam. Every individual in that community feels secure as he works and contributes to the life of that community. He is exposed to no risk except by the dictates of justice. Such justice which allows a human being to be killed is clearly explained in God’s law. This is not left to anyone’s decision or interpretation. Furthermore, its detailed explanation only became law after the Muslim state was established and had acquired enough power to be able to implement its laws.
Before continuing with the list of prohibitions and commandments, the surah separates what has already been mentioned from what is to come by highlighting God’s directives and commandments: “This He has enjoined upon you so that you may use your reason.” This comment is given in accordance with the Qur’anic method which makes it clear that every instruction and every prohibition is given by God. This serves to enhance the impression that the authority which bids and forbids in human life belongs to God alone. This adds much weight to the effectiveness of these instructions and prohibitions. There is also a reference here to using our reason. Indeed, it is only logical that this authority is the only one to whom people submit. We have already mentioned that this authority belongs to God, the Creator, who provides sustenance and who controls every aspect in human life and in the life of the universe.
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
6. Frequency of the word[ edit ]
7. Period of Revelation[ edit ]
According to Ibn Abbas, the whole of the Surah was revealed at one sitting at Makkah [during the night]. Asma bint Yazid says, ‘During the revelation of this Surah the Prophet was riding on a she-camel and I was holding her nose-string. The she-camel began to feel the weight so heavily that it seemed as if her bones would break under it.’ We also learn from other narrations that it was revealed during the last year before the migration (Hijrah) and that the Prophet dictated the whole of the Surah the same night that it was revealed. [Mawdudi]
8. Reasons for Revelation[ edit ]
After determining the period of its revelation it is easier to visualize the background of the Surah. Twelve years had passed since the Prophet had been inviting the people to Islam. The antagonism and persecution by the Quraysh had become most savage and brutal and the majority of the Muslims had to migrate to Abyssinia. Additionally, the two great supporters of the Prophet, Abu Talib and his wife Khadijah were no longer there to help him, so he was deprived of all worldly support. In spite of this he carried on his mission. As a result of this all the good people of Makkah and the surrounding clans gradually began to accept Islam but there the community as a whole was still bent on obstinacy and rejection. Therefore if anyone showed an inclination towards Islam they were subjected to taunts and derision, physical violence and social boycott.
It was in these dark circumstances that a ray of hope gleamed from Yathrib, where Islam began to spread freely by the efforts of some influential people of the tribes of Aws and Khazraj, who had embraced Islam at Makkah. At that time, none but God knew the great hidden potential in this.
To a casual observer it appeared as if Islam was a weak movement, with no material backing, except for some limited support from the Prophet's own family and a few poor followers. Obviously the latter could not give much help because they themselves were being persecuted.