Overview - Surah 68: al-Qalam (The Pen )

Surah Introduction

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The Surah tells us that the message of the Prophet is not the talk of a madman.  The writings of all scriptures bear testimony to the truth of this message.  It urges people to be charitable and help the poor and needy.  The story of the people of a garden is mentioned who wished to deny the charity to the poor and they suffered the consequence in losing everything. The Surah ends with the story of Prophet Jonah. It urges the Prophet and through him his followers to continue this mission and not to give up in frustration.  The mission of Islam is for the whole world.

Surah al-Qalam takes its name from the first Ayat, ن ۚ وَالْقَلَمِ وَمَا يَسْطُرُونَ "Nun. By the pen and what they inscribe," [68:1].

There are 52 Ayat in this Surah.


Total Ayat52
Total Words *300
Root Words *130
Unique Root Words *0
Makki / MadaniMakki
Chronological Order* 2nd (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 1st-3rd year of Prophethood
Events during/before this Surah*
Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam
Events during/after still to occur*
Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam ,Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam ,Public Invitation to Islam - Persecution of Muslims; antagonism - ridicule - derision - accusation - abuse and false propaganda.,Physical beating and torture of some Muslims - 1st Migration of Muslims to Abyssinia,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
Children, Jonah, Judgement (Day) , Materialism, Muhammad (not a madman) , Pen, Resurrection (Day)

Central Theme

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It consists of three themes: Replies to the objections of the opponents, warning and admonition to them, and exhortation to the Prophet to be patient and firm. At the outset, the Prophet has been consoled: “The disbelievers call you a madman whereas the Book that you are presenting and your magnificent conduct are in themselves sufficient to refute their accusations. Soon they will know as to who was mad and who was sane; therefore do not be affected by them, for they are only trying to intimidate you and make you compromise with them.”  Then, in order to enlighten the common people the character of a prominent man from among the opponents, whom the people of Makkah fully well recognised, has been presented, without naming him: At that time, the Prophet’s pure and sublime conduct was before them, and every discerning eye could also see what sort of character and morals were possessed by the chiefs of Makkah, who were leading the opposition against him. Then, in v. 17-33, the parable of the owners of a garden has been presented, who after having been blessed by God turned ungrateful to Him, and did not heed the admonition of the best man among them when it was given them. Consequently, they were deprived of the blessing and they realised this, when all they had lay devastated. With this parable the people of Makkah have been warned to the effect: “With the appointment of the Prophet to Prophethood, you, O people of Makkah, too, have been put to a test similar to the one to which the owners of the garden had been put. If you do not listen to him, you too will be afflicted with a punishment in the world and the punishment of the Hereafter is far greater.”

Then, in v. 34-47, the disbelievers have been admonished, in which they are addressed directly and sometimes through the Prophet. A summary of what has been said is: Well being in the Hereafter belongs to those who spend their lives in the world in full consciousness of God. It is utterly against reason that the obedient servants should meet in the Hereafter the same fate as the guilty. There is absolutely no basis of the disbelievers misunderstanding that God will treat them in the manner they choose for themselves, whereas they have no guarantee for this. Those who are being called upon to bow before God in the world and they refuse to do so, would be unable to prostrate themselves on the Day of Resurrection even if they wanted to do so, and thus would stand disgraced and condemned. Having denied the Qur’an they cannot escape Divine punishment. The rein they are being given, has deluded them. They think that since they are not being punished in spite of their denial, they must be on the right path, whereas they are following the path of ruin. They have no reasonable ground for opposing the Messenger, for he is a preacher without any vested interest: he is not asking any reward of them for himself, and they cannot either make the claim that they know with certainty that he is not a true Messenger, nor that what he says is false. In conclusion, the Prophet has been exhorted to bear with patience the hardships that you face in the way of preaching the Faith till God’s judgment arrives.

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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Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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  • Both Surah al-Qalam [68] and Surah al-Haqqah [69] have 52 Ayat.

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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Total Word Count per Ayat (shows how many words per Ayat) *

Period of Revelation

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This is one of the earliest Surahs to be revealed at Makkah and its subject matter shows that it was sent down at the time when opposition to the Prophet had grown very harsh and oppressive.

Background Reasons for Revelation

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Relevant Hadith

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  • Allah declared Muhammad (pbuh) to be of the highest moral character.
  • Allah Almighty swears by the pen, highlighting the importance of knowledge and writing. (68:1)
  • Commandment of not yielding to any disbelieving oath monger, slanderer and wicked person.
  • Example of the arrogant stingy owners of a garden who did not want to pay charity and as a result, their garden was destroyed.
  • Allah is not going to treat the Muslims as He will treat the guilty.
  • Those who do not believe in Allah's revelations are led step by step towards destruction.
  • Three important themes of this Surah:
  • Response to the opponents objections,
  • Warning and admonition to the disbelievers, and
  • Exhortation of patience to the Prophet (pbuh).

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Miscellaneous Issues

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External Links

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