In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
- By the fig and the olive!
- And Mount Sinai!
- And this City made secure!
- Certainly We created man in the best make.
- Then We render him the lowest of the low,
- Except those who believe and do good; so theirs is a reward
never to be cut off.
- So who can give the lie to thee after this about the Judgement?
- Is not Allah the Best of the Judges?
This chapter was revealed at Makkah.
In the previous chapter, Al-Inshirah (The Expansion),
Allah, Most High, had promised the Holy Prophet (pbuh) that his
reputation would become exalted. In this chapter, it is stated that
man is the best of all creatures, and by nature, he possesses the
highest talents and capabilities; and to get the best results, they
must be used in a measured manner. If proof is needed, we should
look at those people who nourish their natural potential according
to the commands of Allah and who maintain their true nature on the
principle of moderation and see how high they rise in life. These
are the ones upon whom Allah has bestowed His favours and who walk
along the straight path which is the way of the prophets and saints
of Allah. Thus, those who develop their God-given aptitudes and
abilities attain such a high rank that they are regarded with honour
both in this world and the next, and among them, the prophets Moses
(AS) and Jesus (AS) and the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have been specially
mentioned in this chapter and evidence of their being the best of
Allahís creation has been professed.
||By the fig and the olive!
|Wa turi sinin
||And Mount Sinai!
|Wa hadhal baladil amin
||And this City made secure!
|La qad khalaqual insana fi ahsani taqwim
||Certainly We created man in the best make.
Meaning of fig, olive, Mount Sinai, and City made secure
Tin means fig, and in Palestine a mountain is also named so.
Tur refers to Mount Sinai.
Baladil amin means a safe town or a town in which fidelity
to truth is always observed, and this refers, of course, to the
city of Makkah.
It is a fact that Tur Sina and baladil amin refer
to regions where prophets were raised to carry the message of Allah.
And so tin (fig) and zaitun (olive) necessarily refer
to those countries in which prophets appeared. At the time when
the Holy Quran was revealed, and even today, the fig and the olive
were fruits that were indigenous to Syria and Palestine, and in
abundance and quality, they still cannot be matched by any country
in the world. So if tin and zaitun can be symbolically
applied to any territory where prophets were raised, then they could
only refer to the region of Syria and Palestine where these fruits
However, some researchers consider tin and zaitun
to be two mountains in Palestine, the first of which was the refuge
of Prophet Abraham (AS) after he had fled his people and the second,
the place of the prophetic appointment of Prophet Jesus (AS). If
this is so, then it means that tin was that very mountain
where Prophet Jesus used to deliver his sermons and it must be here
that he delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount of which Christians
are very proud. It is in this sermon that he exhorted his disciples
to turn the other cheek; in other words, they must display utter
humility and meekness.
Prophecy in Bible
Zaitun (Mount Olive) was the place to which Prophet Jesus and
many other Israelite prophets often repaired for worshipping and preaching.
From this we can easily conclude that perhaps tin and zaitun
were parts of that mountain which has been prophetically mentioned
in the Torah as Seir concerning which it was written:
"The Lord came from Sinai and rose up from Seir unto them;
He shined forth from Mt. Paran, and he came with ten thousand saints;
from His right hand went forth a fiery law for them." Deuteronomy
The above quotation contains clear prophecies. For example, the coming
from Sinai refers to the appearance of Prophet Moses (AS) and
rising from Seir means the coming of Prophet Jesus (AS) and
shining forth from Mount Paran prophesies the advent of Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh). Paran or Faran is the mountain chain that encircles
the city of Makkah. The fiery law refers to the Shariíah
of the Holy Quran and when the Holy Prophet Muhammad conquered
Makkah he did so with ten thousand of his righteous companions, thus
fulfilling the prophecy: He came with ten thousand saints.
The question may arise in the minds of readers: Instead of mentioning
the names of the prophets, why were the names of the places where
they appeared used? It is one of the rules of eloquence and rhetoric
that, in order to add force to a statement, sometimes the place
is used when the people are really meant. For example, look at what
the Mujaddid of the Age (Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) writes
concerning the martyrdom of Sahibzadah Abdul Latif: "God has
looked down contemptuously on Kabul." Here Kabul does not refer
to the city itself but to those people who took part in that horrendous
Similarly, these four names tin (fig), zaitun (olive),
tur sinin (Mount Sinai) and balodil amin (Makkah) refer
to the appearance of four great prophets to whom divine teachings
were revealed and who became paragons and exemplars of the highest
moral virtues. The words tin (fig) and zaitun (olive)
were applied to Prophet Jesus (AS) because he possessed a special
distinction in that his teachings and character represented the
beautific aspect of manís personality which it was his mission to
On the other hand, Mount Sinai is the place where Prophet Moses
(AS) was granted the Law which contained teachings and examples
geared to nurturing the glorious side of manís character.
However, Makkah is that place where the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
received the perfect guidance in the form of the Holy Quran which
comprises teachings and examples aimed at developing both aspects
of manís morals: the beatific and the glorious. In other words,
his teachings did not emphasize humility and meekness alone as the
Gospels did, neither did they concentrate only on stern measures
as was the case with the Torah.
In contrast, in order to perfect both aspects of our character,
the Holy Prophet Muhammad taught us to use gentleness or harshness
according to the demands of the situation and by his example, he
depicted the beatific and the glorious aspects of human nature to
the highest degree thus proving beyond doubt that man is the best
of Allahís creation.
Here, the point is worth remembering that in the prophecy of the
Torah: "The Lord came from Sinai and rose up from Seir unto
them, and He shined forth from Paran", Sinai is mentioned first
because Prophet Moses (AS) appeared first and Seir comes after because
Prophet Jesusí advent was later, for here attention was paid to
the chronological order of events. However, in the Holy Quran, the
order is reversed: Tin (fig) and zaitun (olive) which
is a part of Seir, are placed first and Sinai after. This is because
the period of Prophet Muhammadís (pbuh) beatific character in which
he bore a strong resemblance to Prophet Jesus (AS) came first in
his life at Makkah, while the glorious era of his personality in
which he resembled Prophet Moses (AS) came later in his sojourn
at Madinah. Therefore, the order of occurrence of the beatific and
glorious aspects of his character in which he resembled Prophet
Jesus (AS) and Prophet Moses (AS) respectively, was maintained in
this chapter. So if a person wants to look at the unfolding of the
beatific aspect of our Prophetís personality he should look to his
life in Makkah and conversely, if he wants a view of his glorious
manifestation, he should study his life at Madinah. In this order
of narration there is a hidden prophecy, for we must remember that
this chapter was revealed at Makkah.
In short, different prophets came at different times at different
places and each taught a different set of moral attributes thus
proving that if man really wishes to improve his inner self he can
excel all created things in virtue. But our Holy Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh), in nature and example, was a compendium of all moral virtues
and this proves that not only can man supersede all created beings
in moral excellence but can also become, like the Holy Prophet,
a compendium of all virtues and in this way human dignity can attain
the acme of perfection. Look how beautifully the poet eulogizes
the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):
Husni Yusuf dam-e Eesaa yade baida daari
Aanche khoobaan hama daarand too tanhaa daari
"The beauty of Joseph, the spirit of Jesus, the white
hand of Moses.
There is another explanation for tin (fig) and zaitun
(olive), which are well-known fruits. Olive oil has two very important
uses. It is eaten and it also serves as a fuel for lamps. Now, one
may well ask, what relationship is there in the fig and the olive
and manís being the noblest of Allahís creation. Here, we have to
understand that by way of simile and analogy tin (fig) and
zaitun (olive), besides their literal meaning, also bear a
metaphorical and figurative meaning. And this indeed is true for in
the Torah, the Prophet Mosesí light and his dispensation are likened
to the fig as we read in Jeremiah Chapter 24 of this dream which the
Each was resplendent beauty personified, But you and you alone are
the compendium of all beauties par excellence."
"The Lord showed me, and behold, two baskets of fig
were set before the temple of the LordÖ.One basket had very good
figs and the other basket had very naughty figs."
Later on we are told that the good figs referred to the righteous
from among the Children of Israel whilst by the bad figs are
meant the evil ones from among them.
In addition, as a further argument in support of the above, we
read in Matthew Chapter 21 of the well-known incident of the fig
tree that the Prophet Jesus (AS) cursed. Referring to this occasion,
the Gospel says:
"Now in the morning, as he returned to the city,
he hungered. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he came to it
and found nothing thereon, but leaves only; and he said unto it:
ĎLet there be no fruit from thee henceforward forever.í And immediately
the fig tree withered away."
The question arises as to how can the Messiah be angry with the fig
tree for not having fruits when it was not the season for them. In
fact, this was either a vision or a metaphorical narration which the
literal-minded writers of the Gospel took as a real event. Here, the
fig tree stands for the nation of the Children of Israel: it had leaves
but no fruits. That is, on the outside, their deeds seemed beautiful,
but they were really devoid of sincerity and purity. So the curse
of the Messiah fell on them and that tree withered away henceforth
forever. This meant that the chain of prophethood and spirituality
was taken away from this nation. In the same way, the Holy Quran likens
the Muhammadi dispensation to the olive tree. This similarity is mentioned
in the Holy Quran in Chapter 24, An-Nur (The Light) where we
read that the Muhammadi light was lit by the oil of a blessed olive
tree. Thus the fig is a symbol of the Israelite people and the olive
tree, the dispensation of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and this symbolism
is explained in the expressions tur sina (Mount Sinai) and
baladil amin (Makkah), the former referring to the beginning
of the Mosaic dispensation on Mount Sinai and the latter being a reference
to Makkah where the Muhammadi dispensation was founded.
So this chapter presents a comparable history of both dispensations
in order to substantiate the fact that whatever divine teachings
descended on Mount Sinai and at Makkah, and whatever high morals
Prophet Moses (AS) and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) inculcated in themselves
and taught their respective communities, all serve to prove, without
doubt, that man can become the noblest of Allahís creation.
Man created in best make
In any case, whether tin (fig) and zaitun (olive) metaphorically
refer to the respective Mosaic and Muhammadi dispensations, or whether
they signify Palestine and Syria, where Prophet Jesus appeared in
his prophetic mission, it is clear that in both cases the intention
was to prove the assertion: La qad khalaqual insana fi ahsani taqwim
(We created man in the best make).
The purpose of manifesting this truth is to remove from man a misconception
in which he has fallen when he is confronted with the varying and
often contradictory actions of human beings. For when he looks at
the deeds of man Ė good and bad, honourable and dishonourable -
he draws the wrong conclusion that man is predestined by his nature
to goodness and evil and to greatness and abasement.
So, on account of his faulty reasoning, he cannot recognize his
true nature because he becomes blinded and lost in a welter of human
actions. In fact, when he observes his own actions, a great dichotomy
is created in him for he sees that in manís behaviour good and evil
are fighting for supremacy. If on the one hand the beautiful instincts
of virtue and nobility predominate in him, on the other hand, he
experiences the horror of beastly and inhuman promptings.
If, like the angels, he is prompted by feelings of love and goodness,
then like wolves and bears, he is gripped in the vice of greed and
selfishness and feels the urge to shed blood wantonly. He also observes
that man is sometimes ruler and sometimes subject, sometimes worshipper
sometimes god, sometimes learned, sometimes ignorant. He also sees
that if it is man who stands guard at night over houses so that
his fellow human beings may sleep safely inside, it is man, too,
who breaks into homes and steals, thus causing pain and damage to
his own kind. Again he observes that places of worship are filled
with men and not angels, and gangs of armed robbers do not consist
of wolves but of children of Adam.
Thus when he observes the diverse actions of man and the mixture
of light and darkness in him, he comes to the wrong belief that
if there is duality in a creatureís behaviour, then that is so because
of its nature. For example, if manís behaviour reflects goodness
and evil, honour and debasement, then these propensities also reside
in his nature. So he thinks having seen the actions of man, he makes
a pronouncement concerning his nature and having observed the behaviour
of a few individuals, he has stereotyped the whole species. This
error has led him to the wrong thought and belief that we, human
beings, are not created only for goodness and evil as we observe
in some people, but we are also fated to suffer abasement and humiliation
as we can see in the lot of some individuals. The result of this
belief was that goodness and evil were not thought to be part of
every human beingís nature, but instead, certain people were believed
to be predestined to do good while others were inherently conditioned
to do evil, and that false belief threw people into a pit of despair
and lethargy. This led to the death of manís courage and determination
to rise higher in life as he accepted his lot without complaint.
This erroneous belief killed his initiative, and thinking that abasement
and evil were really the result of his nature, he fell into a false
feeling of resignation.
Thus to summarize this whole argument, it can be said that man
fell into error in his understanding of the reality of human nature
and of the origin of goodness and nobility. This came about because
when he contemplated the combination of good and evil and greatness
and abasement in man, he came to the conclusion that these attributes
were embedded in his very nature and thus committed the error of
postulating the quality of manís nature from the kinds of actions
he saw in a few individuals. So this misconception led him to a
misguided acceptance of his lot for he began to think that if goodness
and evil were ingrained in his nature, then why should he feel guilty
if goodness was absent from him, and why should he strive to change
In order to remove this destructive error from the mind of man,
Allah, Most High, has announced in several verses of the Holy Quran
that He has fashioned manís nature good and pure and created him
to attain honour and dignity. This announcement is repeated here
in clear and unmistakable terms in this verse of the chapter under
discussion: La qad khalaqnal insana fi ahsani taqwim, We
have created man in the best constitution (inner and outer).
As man in his search for the reality of his nature had fallen into
error by looking at evil people and inferring from their conduct
that his nature was evil, therefore Allah, Most High, has presented
in this chapter the example of people who rose high in life by establishing
the purity of their nature. Indeed it is to these people that the
expressions fig, olive, Mount Sinai and Makkah refer. These are
the ones on whom Allah has bestowed His favours Ė those who chose
the religion of nature (Islam) and walked along the straight path,
the secret of which was taught to them in the opening chapter of
the Holy Quran, the Fatihah, in the verse: The path of
those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours, that is, the
path of the prophets, the saints, the truthful ones and the martyrs.
In short, in this chapter Allah, Most High, in order to establish
the honour and dignity, the goodness and justice of manís nature,
has put before us the examples of those people who did not allow
their basic constitution to degenerate but acted according to the
yearnings of their inner self and made progress and advancement
in life. And to underline this point, He asks the following question:
Why do you look at the state of those who have fallen and deduce
from this that your nature is low? Instead of letting your eyes
rest on those who have deteriorated, why donít you lift your gaze
to those who are exalted and dignified?
Man, He continues, does not fall into abasement because his nature
is bad. On the contrary, his nature is based on righteousness and
justice as is evident from the fruitful endeavours of those who
did not allow their pure nature to fall into degeneration, but instead
developed their natural talents and hidden capabilities along the
straight path and so became the inheritors of human dignity, advancement
It is true that if man chooses the wrong path in life and corrupts
his just and righteous nature, and falls into vile behaviour, then
just as his nature is the highest of the high, so because of his
evil conduct, he brings himself down to the lowest of the low to
such an extent that the essence of his humanity deteriorates and
he becomes worse than wild beasts. When man contemplates this depraved
condition of some people, he mistakenly feels that this is due to
manís inherently evil nature. But he does not realize that this
evil does not originate from within but comes from outside as a
result of unrighteous conduct.
So, in order to manifest this truth, Allah says:
5-6. Thumma radadnahu asfala safilin
Allah says that He created man in the best make on a foundation of
virtue and nobility. However, in order to nurture his inherent faculties
and capabilities so that he might attain spiritual progress and perfection
of his inner self for which reason he was called the vicegerent
of Allah in another verse of the Holy Quran, it was necessary
for Allah in His perfect and complete knowledge to show him the straight
path so that he might walk along it and become the recipient of Divine
gifts and so gain admission to that blessed group, that is, those
upon whom Allah has bestowed His favours.
illal-ladhina amanu was Ďamilus-salihati,
falahum ajrun ghairu mamnun
"Then we render him the lowest of the low, except those who believe
and do good. For them is a reward never to be cut off."
Thus, if man believes in the divine revelation which came down
through the prophets and of which the Holy Quran is the most complete
and authentic example and if he obeys that revelation and acts righteously,
then his natural talents, which were created on the principle of
moderation and comprise goodness and dignity, will steadily improve
and he will be the embodiment of the highest morals and from this
he will be able to acquire a true estimate of the essence of manís
nature. For example, a seed contains the potential of a whole tree
and if that seed is sown and watered it will develop and disclose
to the world its true form. Similarly, the cultivation and watering
of human nature too, depends on divine revelation and obedience
and submission to it. If a child drinks from this water of divine
revelation, it will receive nourishment and so manifest those lofty
moral qualities which will unveil to the world the true features
of manís ethos.
We must bear in mind that just as a seed bears fruit, so too every
action of man has a consequence. For example, if a person drinks
poison, he will most likely die and if he commits a sin, punishment
is the result. Thus every action has its sequel. So, if manís actions
are patterned on Allahís religion which He has bestowed on him for
the express purpose of aiding, guarding and nurturing his pure nature,
then man will not allow it to go to waste. Instead, his soul will
receive the correct nourishment and thus manifest its hidden greatness
and righteousness. But if he deviates from the straight path, he
will destroy his inborn purity and end up becoming worse than any
beast on earth. So just as those talents that man has received from
on high, and which comprise the most exalted qualities, are calculated
to enable him to seek the loftiest peaks of goodness so that he
can excel all creation in dignity and excellence to the extent that
the angels will submit to him, similarly if he misapplies those
inbred powers, and takes the path of evil he will descent to the
lowest depths of degradation.
How man falls
In the verse: We render him the lowest of the low Allah says
that it is He Who does so, but one should not misunderstand the statement.
The fact is that in the Holy Quran, Allah has always attributed to
Himself the results of manís actions which really fall under His laws
of cause and effect for He indeed is the only Creator of laws as well
as means. For example, if we close the door of a room then the room
will become dark. The closing of the door is the action and the darkness
is the result. If we use our own words to explain this incident, we
may say something like this: "When we closed the door, it became
However, in the terminology of the Holy Quran, if Allah speaks
of the same incident it will read like this: "When the man
closed the door, We made the room dark." In other words, if
there is to be light, then the door should be kept open and if we
close the door then darkness is the consequence. But Allah ascribes
the resulting darkness to Himself because it came about in obedience
to one of His laws.
To summarize, Allah says that those people who destroy the purity
of their nature by unrighteous conduct fall from the pedestal of
humanity. But those people who believe and choose to do good deeds,
and add to the resplendence of their inner light, attain the summit
of human dignity and honour. These are the blessed ones whose reward,
Allah promises, will never be cut off.
It is very clear that this chapter emphatically asserts that man
has been blessed with a pure nature from the Almighty and if he
establishes it on a firm footing of justice and moderation, he will
become the deserving recipient of the highest elevation and honour,
and a garden will be prepared for him.
This same point is explained in another verse of the Holy Quran
by the expression: Qalu bala (They, the souls, said: "Yes"
- 7:172). That is, when Allah, Most High, created the souls he asked
them: "Am I not your Lord?" They replied: "Yes, we
bear witness" (that You are our Lord), and this is compelling
evidence of manís true inner nature which Allah has bestowed on
him. If anyone should deny the truth of Allahís Lordship, then this
rejection would not be the voice of his inner self but rather an
unnatural and contrived belief which has come about through external
In another place in the Holy Quran this pure God-given nature of
man is referred to as qalb salim (a sound heart). Concerning
Prophet Abraham (AS) it is said: man ata-al laaha bi qalbin salim
(who comes to his Lord with a sound heart, that is, a pure heart,
free from pollution - 26:89). Now everyone knows that Prophet Abraham
possessed such a sinless heart that not even the greatest show of
pomp and glory could overawe him. In fact, it was the light of this
pure heart that cried to Allah in complete submission thus: "Surely
I have turned myself, being upright, wholly to Him Who originated
the heavens and the earth, and I am not of the polytheists"
The grand task of Allahís revelation and religion is that man should
expunge from his inner self all artificial and extraneous forms
of misguidance which cover the heart with rust, so that his real
nature may shine forth in full resplendence.
It is for this reason that the Holy Quran has used the word dhikr
(remembrance) to refer to Divine guidance, and deviation from the
right path is called nisyan (forgetfulness). Dhikr has
several meanings: preservation or guarding, remembrance, honour,
greatness, eminence, and nisyan means forgetfulness, because
man is apt to forget his true nature with the result that he swerves
from the path of rectitude. It is for this reason that nisyan
(forgetfulness) is called dalalat (deviation from the right
way) and hidayat (guidance) is so called because it causes
man to remember his real nature which he has forgotten. That is
why it is called dhikr (remembrance). In the other meanings
of dhikr, that is, honour and eminence, there is a subtle
hint that if man remembers the forgotten purpose of his nature and
acts righteously he will be rewarded with greatness and dignity.
It is this very forgetfulness that gives birth to heedlessness
which the Holy Quran regards as the utmost limit of deviation, as
They have hearts wherewith they understand not, and
they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith
they hear not. They are as cattle; nay, they are more astray. These
are the heedless ones (7:179).
And referring to nisyan (forgetfulness) again, the Holy Quran
And be not like those who forget Allah, so He makes
them forget their own souls (59:19).
Here, by forgetting their own souls is meant the forgetting of the
inborn purity of their nature and the purpose of its creation. So,
according to the laws of Allah, when they forgot Him, the result was
that they forgot their own souls; that is, they deviated from the
religion of nature.
7. Fa ma yukadh-dhibu ba Ďdu bid-din
If we look at what manís actions lead him to, that is, either elevation
or degradation, who can deny that deeds carry their own consequences
of reward and punishment? And why should we not receive requital for
our actions when Allahís power encompasses the heavens and the earth?
Furthermore, if obedience or disobedience to a mere earthly judge
entails certain repercussions, then how much more far-reaching will
be the consequences of an acceptance or rejection of the laws of Allah
Who is Judge par excellence.
"And who can give the lie to thee after (this) about the Judgement?"
8. Alaisal-Lahu bi Ahkamil hakimin
According to Abu Hurairah, whenever the above verse was recited, the
companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) used to answer: "Indeed!
And we are witnesses of it." And their assertion was based on
factual evidence, for the truthfulness of Allahís claim to being the
Best of all judges is not limited only to intellectual arguments
and to what is explained in this chapter, but He has also demonstrated
those arguments through the evidence of the life of the Holy Prophet
Muhammad, thus manifesting with such clarity and purity that glory
of His being the Best of all judges that the companions spontaneously
acquiesced. They followed the guidance of Allah with avid devotion
and reverence and they emulated the high morals and righteous deeds
of His Messenger and by walking along the straight path they removed
the veils of ignorance and barbarity that shrouded their pure nature.
They so nurtured their inner selves that they were transformed from
wild and ignorant savages to cultured and civilized human beings and
not only did they advance in high morals but they became veritable
men of God.
"Isnít Allah the Best of all judges?"