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Sura 37
Aya 1

Chapter 37

The Ranged Onesal-Ṣaffāt ( الصافات )

182 verses • revealed at Meccan

»The surah that opens with the oath of the Divine One swearing by the angels arrayed before Him in devotional ranks, The Ranged Ones—thereafter, by other angels propelling the clouds, dispelling evil, and reciting God’s praise. It takes its name from verse 1, which refers to a gropu of angels as “those ranged (ṣāffāt) in ranks”. The central point of this surah is the unity of God (verse 4 and verse 180 ff.) and the refutation of the pagan belief that the angels were daughters of God and worthy of worship. The angels themselves are quoted to refute this (verse 164 ff.). The prophethood of Muḥammad, is affirmed, as is the Hereafter. There are two supporting sections: the scenes in the Hereafter (verse 19 ff.) and the stories of earlier prophets (verse 75 ff.).«

The surah is also known as Devotional Ranks, Drawn Up In Ranks, Ranged in Order, Ranged in Rows, The Rangers, The Ranks, Those Ranged in Ranks, Those in Ranks, Who Stand Arrayed in Rows

بِسمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحمٰنِ الرَّحيمِ

Muhammad Asad: In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace:

وَالصّافّاتِ صَفًّا

Muhammad Asad

ALL authorities agree in that this surah was revealed in its entirety in Mecca, most probably about the middle of that period. Like the preceding surah, this one deals mainly with the prospect of resurrection and, hence, the certainty that all human beings will have to answer before God for what they have done on earth. Since man is apt to err (cf. yerse 71 - "most of the people of old went astray"), he is in constant need of prophetic guidance: and this explains the renewed reference (in verses 75-148) to the stories of some of the earlier prophets, as well as the frequent allusions to the message of the Qur'an itself, which centres in the tenet that "your God is One" (verse 4), "above anything that men may devise by way of definition" (verses 159 and 180).
CONSIDER these [messages] ranged in serried ranks,1
  • Regarding the adjurative particle wa and my rendering it as "Consider", see first half of note 23 on 74:32. - Most of the classical commentators assume that verses 1-3 refer to angels - an assumption which Abu Muslim al-Isfahani (as quoted by Razi) rejects, stating that the passage refers to the true believers among human beings. However, Razi advances yet another (and, to my mind, most convincing) interpretation, suggesting that what is meant here are the messages (ayat) of the Qur'an, which - in the commentator's words - "deal with various subjects, some speaking of the evidence of God's oneness or of the evidence of His omniscience, omnipotence and wisdom, and some setting forth the evidence of [the truth of] prophetic revelation or of resurrection, while some deal with man's duties and the laws [relating thereto], and yet others are devoted to the teaching of high moral principles; and these messages are arranged in accordance with a coherent system above all [need of] change or alteration, so that they resemble beings or things standing 'in serried ranks'."