Overview - Surah 39: az-Zumar (The Groups)

Surah Introduction

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The Surah talks about the true religion. It is to serve Allah sincerely and to avoid Shirk.  Tawhid brings the blessings of Allah, while Shirk has terrible consequences.  The Believers are told not to despair and lose heart.  If it is difficult for them to practice their religion in one place, they can migrate from that land.  The unbelievers are told that they can do whatever they wish, but they cannot turn the Believers away from the path of faith.


  1. To Allah belongs the pure and sincere religion. The principle of Tawhid and its benefits.  The evil of Shirk and its consequences.
  2. The reward of those who are steadfast in their faith.
  3. The perfect guidance of the Qur'an.  It is straight without any crookedness.
  4. Allah is sufficient for the Prophet.  The rejecters will be abased.
  5. The futility of Shirk and its evil consequences.
  6. Allah's mercy is available for all.
  7. You ignorant people, do you invite me to worship someone other than Allah?  The Judgment of Allah.
  8. The reward of Believers and the punishment of the unbelievers.

The Surah takes its name from the mention of 'az-Zumar' in (39:71) and (39:73). These are the only mention of the words zumar in the whole Qur'an. 

There are 88 Ayat in this Surah.


Total Ayat75
Total Words *1172
Root Words *253
Unique Root Words *0
Makki / MadaniMakki
Chronological Order* 59th (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 9th year of Prophethood
Events during/before this Surah*
Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 3, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 2, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 1, 2nd Migration to Abyssinia, 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*
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 (not burdened with another’s burden) , Adversity (patience during) , God (knows that beyond comprehension) , Angels, Astronomy (celestial mechanics) (solar and lunar orbits), Botany, Cattle, Death, Disbelievers, Disbelievers (God’s promise to) , Earth, Earth (condition of at the time of resurrection) , Earth (creation and recreation of) , Earth (rotation of) , Hell, Humankind (creation of) , Hydrology, Judgement (Day) , Knowledge, Knowledge (obligation upon man to obtain and impart) , Prayer (prostration) , Prayer (standing) , Pregnancy, Prophet (people who are false prophets are wicked) , Qur’an, Qur’an (revealed in Arabic) , Religion, Resurrection (Day) , Resurrection (of soul) , Revelation, Sin, Weather (rain)

Central Theme

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Theme 1: Tawhid al-Khalis [Pure Monotheism]

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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  • With Truth بِالْحَقِّ - In the beginning, it is mentioned that the Qur'an was revealed with Truth and the last Ayat it will be said that people will have been judged with Truth - إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ فَاعْبُدِ اللَّـهَ مُخْلِصًا لَّهُ الدِّينَ "Indeed, We have sent down to you the Book, [O Muhammad], in truth. So worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion." (39:2)
    وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْحَقِّ وَقِيلَ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ "...And it will be judged between them in truth, and it will be said, "[All] praise to Allah, Lord of the worlds." (39:75)

Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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  • In the end of Surat Sad, Allah says: "It is but a reminder to the worlds." (37:87). In the beginning of Surat Az-Zumar He says: "The revelation of the Qur'an is from Allah, the Exalted in Might, the Wise." (39:1). It is as if it is being said: 'this reminder is a revelation', such is the connection that if the 'Basmallah' in Surat Az-Zumar was removed, the ending of Sad with seemlessly connect to the beginning of Az-Zumar. (Ref: Asraar Tarteeb al Qur'aan, Al Suyuti 16/1).

The Virtues of the Surah

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  • Aishah [ra] reports قَالَ قَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم لاَ يَنَامُ عَلَى فِرَاشِهِ حَتَّى يَقْرَأَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَالزُّمَرَ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ غَرِيبٌ ‏.‏ "The Prophet (ﷺ) would not sleep until he recited Surat Bani Isra'il and Az-Zumar." [Tirmidhee no. 2920]

Special Features of the Surah

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  • The people of Hell will be under layers ontop of layers of Hell (39:16), whilst the people of Paradise will be in lofty mansions built one storey ontop of another (39:20).

Important key and unique words of the Surah

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  • Zumar - This word only occurs in this Surah. It appears twice - (39:71) and (39:73).
  • Ya Ibad -'O My Servants....' (39:10) (39:53) - Expression of sympathy with the creation.  

Period of Revelation

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In Ayat 10 (…and the earth of God is spacious…) there is abundant evidence that this Surah was sent down before the migration to Abyssinia. Some hadith provide the explanation that this verse was sent down in respect of Ja’far bin Abi Talib and his companions when they made up their mind to emigrate to Abyssinia.

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ ۚ لِلَّذِينَ أَحْسَنُوا فِي هَـٰذِهِ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةٌ ۗ وَأَرْضُ اللَّـهِ وَاسِعَةٌ ۗ إِنَّمَا يُوَفَّى الصَّابِرُونَ أَجْرَهُم بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ  "Say, "O My servants who have believed, fear your Lord. For those who do good in this world is good, and the earth of Allah is spacious. Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account." (39:10) 

In Surah al-Ankabut (29) -  there is a similar Ayat, يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّ أَرْضِي وَاسِعَةٌ فَإِيَّايَ فَاعْبُدُونِ "O My servants who have believed, indeed My earth is spacious, so worship only Me." (29:56)

Background Reasons for Revelation

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The entire Surah is a most eloquent and effective address which was given some time before the emigration to Abyssinia, in an environment filled with tyranny and persecution, ill-will and antagonism, at Makkah. It is a sermon whose addresses mainly are the unbelieving Quraysh, although here and there the believers also have been addressed. In it the real aim of the invitation of Muhammad is this: Man should adopt God’s servitude sincerely, and should not pollute his worship with the service of any other. Presenting this cardinal principle in different ways over and over again, the truth of Monotheism (Tawhid) and the excellent results of accepting it, and the falsehood of polytheism (shirk) and the evil consequences of following it, have been explained in a most forceful way, and the people exhorted to give up their wrong way of life and return to the mercy of their Lord. In this very connection, the believers have been instructed, as if to say: “If a place has become narrow for the worship and service of God, His earth is vast: you may emigrate to some other place in order to save your faith: God will reward you for your patience.” On the other hand, the Prophet has been encouraged, so as to say: “Tell the disbelievers plainly that they may do whatever they like, but their persecutions and tyrannies will never deter you from the way of Islam; that they may go on doing their utmost to obstruct your way, but you will continue to perform your mission in spite of the adverse conditions and circumstances.”

Relevant Hadith

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  • The mushrikin try to justify their worship of saints saying: "It brings us closer to Allah."
  • On the Day of Judgement no one shall bear the burden of others.
  • Believers who cannot practice their faith should migrate to other place where they can.
  • The real losers are those who lose their souls and families on the Day of Judgement.
  • No one can rescue the one against whom the sentence of punishment has been decreed.
  • Al-Qur'an is consistent yet it repeats the teachings in different ways.
  • Allah has cited every kind of example in Al-Qur'an so that people may learn a lesson.
  • Who can be more wicked than the one who invents a lie against Allah.
  • Those who have transgressed against their souls should not despair of Allah's mercy, they should repent while they can.
  • On the Day of Judgement everyone's Book of Deeds shall be laid open and justice shall be done with all fairness.

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Miscellaneous Issues

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Scientific References

يُكَوِّرُ اللَّيْلَ عَلَى النَّهَارِ وَيُكَوِّرُ النَّهَارَ عَلَى اللَّيْلِ "...He wraps the night over the day and wraps the day over the night..." (39:5)

The Arabic word for “wrap” is “yukowir” The word is used to depict the act of wrapping a turban around someone’s head. This word was also used in the sense of overlapping of the night and day and vice versa. The reason for the day’s turning into night and the night’s turning into day is due to the spheroid form of the earth.

God also says, وَالْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ دَحَاهَا  “And after that He spread the earth.” (79:30) The Arabic word “dahw” means to ‘spread’ or ‘spread out giving something  a round shape’, i.e. like that of the ostrich’s egg.  Many ancient cultures, including the Greek, Indian and Chinese, held the belief that the Earth is flat. The Europeans did not alter their view until the Middle ages.