68 - Al Qalam (The pen)

6 Tafsir(s) related to verse 68.1


Nūn, one of the letters of the alphabet: God knows best what He means by it. By the Pen, with which He has inscribed [the records of] all creatures in the Preserved Tablet, and what they inscribe, that is, the angels, of good and righteousness.


Nūn. By the Pen, and by what they inscribe!He said:"Al-Nūn" is one of the names of God, Exalted is He, for if the opening letters of the sūras, Alif Lām Rā, Ḥā Mīm and Nūn, are joined together they make up the name al-Raḥmān. Ibn ʿAbbās y said: "Al-Nūn is the ink-well (dawāt) from which the Reminder (dhikr) [the Qurʾān] was written, and the Pen is that with which the Wise Reminder was written."By what they inscribe " ⸢the Reminder which is written on the Preserved Tablet concerning the [divinely decreed] wretchedness (shaqāwa) or felicity (saʿāda) [of human beings].Ibn ʿAbbās has said in another report, "Nūn is the fish upon which rest the worlds (arḍūn),⸣ what they inscribe is the deeds of the children of Adam which the recording angels have written down." ʿUmar b. Wāṣil said:By what they inscribe means: By the writing (kitāba) [i.e. the scripture] which God has undertaken[to provide] for His servants, which contains benefits (manāfiʿ) for people, and things that are in the best interests (maṣāliḥ) of His servants and their lands.His words, Exalted is He:

Ibn Al Kathir


(Nun), is like Allah's saying,


(Sad), and Allah's saying,


(Qaf), and similar to them from the individual letters that appear at the beginning of Qur'anic chapters. This has been dis- cussed at length previously and there is no need to repeat it here.

The Explanation of the Pen Concerning

Allah's statement,


(By the pen) The apparent meaning is that this refers to the actual pen that is used to write. This is like Allah's saying,

اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الاٌّكْرَمُ - الَّذِى عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ - عَلَّمَ الإِنسَـنَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ

(Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not.) (96:3-5) Therefore, this statement is Allah's swearing and alerting His creatures to what He has favored them with by teaching them the skill of writing, through which knowledge is attained. Thus, Allah continues by saying,

وَمَا يَسْطُرُونَ

(and by what they Yastur.) Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Qatadah all said that this means, "what they write.'' As-Suddi said, "The angels and the deeds of the servants they record.'' Others said, "Rather, what is meant here is the pen which Allah caused to write the decree when He wrote the decrees of all creation, and this took place fifty-thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth.'' For this, they present Hadiths that have been reported about the Pen. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded from Al-Walid bin `Ubadah bin As-Samit that he said, "My father called for me when he was dying and he said to me: `Verily, I heard the Messenger of Allah say,

«إِنَّ أَوَّلَ مَا خَلَقَ اللهُ الْقَلَمُ فَقَالَ لَهُ: اكْتُبْ، قَالَ: يَا رَبِّ وَمَا أَكْتُبُ؟ قَالَ: اكْتُبِ الْقَدَرَ وَمَا هُوَ كَائِنٌ إِلَى الْأَبَد»

(Verily, the first of what Allah created was the Pen, and He said to it: "Write.'' The Pen said: "O my Lord, what shall I write'' He said: "Write the decree and whatever will throughout eternity.'')'' This Hadith has been recorded by Imam Ahmad through various routes of transmission. At-Tirmidhi also recorded it from a Hadith of Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi and he (At-Tirmidhi) said about it, "Hasan Sahih, Gharib.''

Swearing by the Pen refers to the Greatness of the Prophet

Allah says,

مَآ أَنتَ بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ بِمَجْنُونٍ

(You, by the grace of your Lord, are not insane.) meaning -- and all praise is due to Allah -- `you are not crazy as the ignorant among your people claim. They are those who deny the guidance and the clear truth that you have come with. Therefore, they attribute madness to you because of it.'

وَإِنَّ لَكَ لاّجْراً غَيْرَ مَمْنُونٍ

(And verily, for you will be reward that is not Mamnun.) meaning, `for you is the great reward, and abundant blessings which will never be cut off or perish, because you conveyed the Message of your Lord to creation, and you were patient with their abuse.' The meaning of:

غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

(not Mamnun) is that it will not be cut off. This is similar to Allah's statement,

عَطَآءً غَيْرَ مَجْذُوذٍ

(a gift without an end.) (11:108) and His statement,

فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

(Then they shall have a reward without end.) (95:6) Mujahid said,

غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

(Without Mamnun) means "Without reckoning.'' And this refers back to what we have said before.

The Explanation of the Statement: "Verily, You are on an Exalted Character.''

Concerning Allah's statement,

وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَى خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ

(And verily, you are on an exalted (standard of) character.) Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas, "Verily, you are on a great religion, and it is Islam.'' Likewise said Mujahid, Abu Malik, As-Suddi and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas. Ad-Dahhak and Ibn Zayd also said this. Sa`id bin Abi `Arubah reported from Qatadah that he said concerning Allah's statement,

وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَى خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ

(And verily, you are on an exalted (standard of) character.) "It has been mentioned to us that Sa`d bin Hisham asked `A'ishah about the character of the Messenger of Allah, so she replied: `Have you not read the Qur'an' Sa`d said: `Of course.' Then she said: `Verily, the character of the Messenger of Allah was the Qur'an.''' `Abdur-Razzaq recorded similar to this and Imam Muslim recorded it in his Sahih on the authority of Qatadah in its full length. This means that he would act according to the commands and the prohibition in the Qur'an. His nature and character were patterned according to the Qur'an, and he abandoned his natural disposition (i.e., the carnal nature). So whatever the Qur'an commanded, he did it, and whatever it forbade, he avoided it. Along with this, Allah gave him the exalted character, which included the qualities of modesty, kindness, bravery, pardoning, gentleness and every other good characteristic. This is like that which has been confirmed in the Two Sahihs that Anas said, "I served the Messenger of Allah for ten years, and he never said a word of displeasure to me (Uff), nor did he ever say to me concerning something I had done: `Why did you do that' And he never said to me concerning something I had not done: `Why didn't you do this' He had the best character, and I never touched any silk or anything else that was softer than the palm of the Messenger of Allah. And I never smelled any musk or perfume that had a better fragrance than the sweat of the Messenger of Allah.'' Imam Al-Bukhari recorded that Al-Bara' said, "The Messenger of Allah had the most handsome face of all the people, and he had the best behavior of all of the people. And he was not tall, nor was he short.'' The Hadiths concerning this matter are numerous. Abu `Isa At-Tirmidhi has a complete book on this subject called Kitab Ash-Shama'il. Imam Ahmad recorded that `A'ishah said, "The Messenger of Allah never struck a servant of his with his hand, nor did he ever hit a woman. He never hit anything with his hand, except for when he was fighting Jihad in the cause of Allah. And he was never given the option between two things except that the most beloved of the two to him was the easiest of them, as long as it did not involve sin. If it did involve sin, then he stayed farther away from sin than any of the people. He would not avenge himself concerning anything that was done to him, except if the limits of Allah were transgressed. Then, in that case he would avenge for the sake of Allah.'' Imam Ahmad also recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said,

«إِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُ لِأُتَمِّمَ صَالِحَ الْأَخْلَاق»

(I have only been sent to perfect righteous behavior.) Ahmad was alone in recording this Hadith. In reference to Allah's statement,

فَسَتُبْصِرُ وَيُبْصِرُونَ - بِأَيِّكُمُ الْمَفْتُونُ

(You will see, and they will see, which of you is afflicted with madness.) then it means, `you will know, O Muhammad -- and those who oppose you and reject you, will know -- who is insane and misguided among you.' This is like Allah's statement,

سَيَعْلَمُونَ غَداً مَّنِ الْكَذَّابُ الاٌّشِرُ

(Tomorrow they will come to know who is the liar, the insolent one!) (54:26) Allah also says,

وَإِنَّآ أَوْ إِيَّاكُمْ لَعَلَى هُدًى أَوْ فِى ضَلَـلٍ مُّبِينٍ

(And verily (either) we or you are rightly guided or in plain error.) (34:24) Ibn Jurayj reported from Ibn `Abbas, it means "You will know and they will know on the Day of Judgement.'' Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas;

بِأَيِّكُمُ الْمَفْتُونُ

(Which of you is Maftun (afflicted with madness) means which of you is crazy. This was also said by Mujahid and others as well. The literal meaning of Maftun is one who has been charmed or lured away from the truth and has strayed from it. Thus, the entire statement means, `so you will know and they will know,' or `you will be informed and they will be informed, as to which of you is afflicted with madness.' And Allah knows best. Then Allah says,

إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ

(Verily, your Lord is the best Knower of him who has gone astray from His path, and He is the best Knower of those who are guided.) meaning, `He knows which of the two groups are truly guided among you, and He knows the party that is astray from the truth.'

Kashf Al-Asrar

Nūn. By the Pen and what they inscribe.

Nūn is one of the letters of the alphabet. The alphabet's letters are the roots of words, the connec- tors of phrases, and the separators of verses. All indicate generosity and bounty, some in brief and some in detail. They allude to gentleness, the good news of love, expiation of offenses, and the plundering of the hearts of the friends. They are the foundation of words and the adornment of speakers. Understanding them is the mark of those who conform. They are burdens on the neck of the enemies and thorns in the eyes of the innovators. It is the belief of the faithful that these letters are the speech of the Lord of the world. He is a Lord who has knowledge and power. His knowledge is without reflective thought and His power without tools. His kingship is without end, His solicitude without bribery, His bestowal without obligation. He is a Lord who is the artisan of the universe and the protector of creation, the keeper of enemies and the companion of friends. He is in everyone's eyes through artisanry and settled down in the hearts of His lovers, the hard cash of every hope and enough for every assurance. Though the servant be heavily burdened by offenses, He is clement and forbearing.

The Pir of the Tariqah said in his whispered prayers, "O God, no matter how sinful we are, You are forgiving. No matter how ugly our deeds, You are the concealer. O King, You have the treasure of bounty, without equal or help. It is worthy that You pass over our disloyal acts."

Nūn. By the Pen. Nūn is the inkwell, and the Pen is a pen of light. The writer is the Forgiving Lord. He wrote with the Pen in the emerald Tablet, He wrote with the ink of light, He wrote on the notebook of carnelian, He wrote the story and the deeds of the created things. He wrote the heart of the recognizer with the Pen of generosity, He wrote with the ink of bounty, He wrote on the notebook of gentleness, He wrote the attribute and description of the honorable: He wrote faith in their hearts [58:22]. He wrote in the Tablet, and He wrote it all for you.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

The great commentator Mujahid says that by pen here is meant the Pen with which the Qur'an was being written down. From this it automatically follows that that which was being written implies the Holy Qur'an itself.

That is for which an oath has been sworn by the Pen and by the Book. It means that this Qur'an which is being inscribed by the hands of the writers of Revelation, is by itself enough to refute the slander of the disbelievers who say that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) is, God forbid, a madman, Before his claim to the Prophethood, the people of Makkah looked upon him as the best of their men and trusted his honesty, intelligence and sagacity. But when he started reciting the Qur'an before them they began to call him a madman. This meant that the Qur'an itself in their sight was the cause because of which they accused him of madness; Therefore, it was said: "The Qur'an by itself is a sufficient proof for the refutation of this slander. The presentation of this highly eloquent Revelation which consists of sublime themes, is an argument which proves that Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) has been especially favored by Allah, and nor an argument which might be used to prove that he has, God forbid, gone mad." Here, one should remember that although the address apparently is directed to the Holy Prophet, yet the real object is to nail the calumny of the disbelievers. Therefore, no one should have the doubt that this verse was sent down only to assure the Holy Prophet that he was not mad. Obviously, the Holy Prophet himself had no such doubt for removing which he might have stood in need of such an assurance. The object was to tell the disbelievers, as if to say: "The Qur'an because of which you-are calling the one presenting it a madman, is by itself an argument that your accusation is false." (For further explanation' see E.N. 22 of Surah At-Tur)

That is, "You will get an unlimited and continuous reward, for although you have to hear discouraging and disturbing things in response to the efforts that you are making for the instruction and guidance of the people, yet you are steadfastly performing your Mission of calling them to the Right Way."

Here, this sentence gives two meanings:

(1) "That you stand exalted to a high and noble character; that is why you are enduring all these hardships in your mission of guiding the people to the Right Way, otherwise a man of weak character could not have done so;" and

(2) "that besides the Qur'an, your high and noble character also is a clear proof that the accusation of madness that the disbelievers bring against you is absolutely false, for high morals and madness cannot co-exist in one and the same person. "

A madman is he whose balance of mind is upset, who has lost his temperamental equilibrium. Contrary to this, the high morals of a person testify that he is a right-minded and sound-natured person, who possesses perfect temperamental equilibrium. The people of Makkah were not unaware of the morals and character possessed by the Holy Messenger of Allah. Therefore, it was enough just to make a reference to them so that every reasonable man of Makkah was made to think how shameless were those people who were calling a man of such sublime morals and character a madman. Their absurd conduct was not at all harmful for the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) but for themselves, for maddened in their craze for opposition they were saying such a thing about him which could not be regarded as credible by any man of understanding. The same also is the case with those men of knowledge and scholarship, who in the modern time are accusing the Holy prophet (upon whom be peace) of having fits of madness and epilepsy. The Qur'an is available everywhere in the world and the Holy Prophet's life also exists in the written form in entire detail. Every person can see it for himself what a foolish and meaningless thing is being uttered in their blind enmity by those who regard the man who brought this unique and matchless Book and who possessed such sublime morals and character as a mentally deranged person.

The best description of the Holy Prophet's character has been given by Hadrat 'A'ishah in her statement: Kana khuluqu-hul-Qur an: the Qur'an was his character." Imam Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Da'ud. Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, Darimi and Ibn Jarir have cited, with a little variation in wording, this saying with several chains of transmitters. This means that the Holy Prophet had not merely presented the teaching of the Qur'an before the world but also given its practical demonstration by his personal example. Whatever was enjoined in the Qur'an was acted upon practically by himself in the first instance; whatever was forbidden in it was shunned and avoided by himself most of all. His own self was characterized most of all by the moral qualities which were declared as sublime by it, and his own self was most free from those qualities which were declared as abhorrent and reprehensible by it. In another tradition Hadrat 'A'ishah has stated: "The Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) never hit a servant, never raised his hand on a woman never used his hand to kill a person outside the battlefield, never avenged himself on anyone for an injury caused unless someone violated a sanctity enjoined by Allah and he avenged it for the sake of Allah. His practice was that whenever he had to choose between two things, he would choose the easier one unless it was a sin; and if it was a sin he would keep away from it most of all" (Musnad Ahmad). Hadrat Anas says: "I served the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) for ten years. He never did so much as express even a slight disgust over what I did or said: he never asked why I had done what I had done, and never inquired why I had not done what I had not done." (Bukhari, Muslim).

That is, "If you slackened a little in your propagation of Islam, they also would slacken in their opposition to you. Or, if you became inclined to effect some changes in your Faith to suit these people, they too would effect a compromise with you."

The word mahin is used for a contemptible, degraded and mean person. This is indeed a necessary quality of a person who swears many oaths. He swears an oath for every minor thing because he himself has the feeling that the people take him for a liar and would not believe him until he swore an oath. For this reason he is not only degraded in his own eyes but commands no respect in society either.

Khayr in Arabic is used both for wealth and for good. If it is taken in the meaning of wealth the, meaning would be that he is miserly and stingy; he would not even spend a farthing on anyone; and if khayr is taken in the meaning of goodness and virtue, it would mean that he creates a hindrance in every good work as well as that he is very active in hindering the people from accepting Islam.

The word `utul is used for a person who is stout and strong and greedy in eating and drinking and is also ill-mannered, quarrelsome and cruel at the same tune.

The word zanim is used to describe a person of illegitimate birth, who does not, in fact, belong to a family but has joined it. Sa`id bin Jubair and Sha`bi say that this word is used for a person who is notorious among the people for his evildoing.

The views of the commentators with regard to the person who has been described in these verses are different. Some one says it was Walid bin Mughirah; another one says it was Aswad bin `Abd-i Yaghuth, and still another has applied this description to Akhnas bin Shurayq, and some other people have pointed to some other persons. But the Qur'an has only described his attributes without naming him. This shows that in Makkah the man concerned was so notorious for his such qualities that there was no need to name him definitely. Hearing his description every person could understand who was being referred to.

This sentence may be connected with the preceding theme as well as with the following sentence. In the first case, it would mean: "Do not yield to the influence of such a person just because he has plenty of wealth and children." In the second: "He has become proud because he possesses abundance of wealth and children; so when Our Revelations are recited to him, he says, "These are tales of ancient times."

Because he thought he was a man of high prestige, his nose has been called a snout, and "branding him on the snout means disgracing him. That is, "We shall so disgrace him in the world and in the Hereafter that his mark of disgrace will become indelible."

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allah's saying (Nun): '(Nun) He says: Allah swears by the Nun, which is the whale that carries the earths on its back while in Water, and beneath which is the Bull and under the Bull is the Rock and under the Rock is the Dust and none knows what is under the Dust save Allah. The name of the whale is Liwash, and it is said its name is Lutiaya'; the name of the bull is Bahamut, and some say its name is Talhut or Liyona. The whale is in a sea called 'Adwad, and it is like a small bull in a huge sea. The sea is in a hollowed rock whereby there is 4,000 cracks, and from each crack water springs out to the earth. It is also said that Nun is one of the names of the Lord; it stands for the letter Nun in Allah's name al-Rahman (the Beneficent); and it is also said that a Nun is an inkwell. (By the pen) Allah swore by the pen. This pen is made of light and its height is equal to the distance between Heaven and earth. It is with this pen that the Wise Remembrance, i.e. the Guarded Tablet, was written. It is also said that the pen is one of the angels by whom Allah has sworn, (and that which they write (therewith)) and Allah also swore by what the angels write down of the works of the children of Adam,