(Makkan Period)


The title of this surah is derived from the word `bee' which occurs in verse 68: `Your Lord inspired the bee . . .' Like other surahs, the title merely distinguishes one surah from another. It bears no reference to its contents.

Period of Revelation

There are several pieces of internal evidence which suggest the period of the surah's revelation. For instance, verse 41 reads: `Those who have forsaken their homes for the sake of Allah after enduring persecution...' This verse clearly indicates that the surah was revealed after the migration to Abyssinia.

Likewise, verse 106 makes a reference to `anyone who disbelieves in Allah after having had faith ...' This is also significant as it indicates that the believers have been under a state of persecution for a long time. As a result, the following question arose among their ranks: `How should one judge those who were coerced, under the pressure of unendurable persecution, into disbelieving?'

Verses 112-14 of the surah read: `Allah sets forth the parable of [the people of] a town who were secure and content and whose sustenance came in abundance from every quarter. But then the people of the town showed ingratitude towards Allah for His bounties, so Allah afflicted them with hunger and fear in punishment for their evil deeds. Most certainly a Messenger came to them from among them; but they rejected him, calling him a liar. Therefore, chastisement seized them while they engaged in wrongdoing. So eat out of the lawful and good sustenance that Allah has bestowed upon you, and thank Allah for His bounty, if it is Him that you serve.' These verses indicate the great famine of Makka which began after the designation of Muhammad (peace be on him) as the Messenger of God had ended before the surah was revealed.

There is also an allusion to verse 115 of this surah in verse 119 of al-An `am. Similarly, there is allusion to verse 118 of this surah in verse 146 of al-An am. Thus it appears that both surahs - al-Nahl and al-An `am were revealed around the same time

In light of the above pieces of internal evidence it may be deduced that this surah was revealed in the last phase of the period of the Prophet's life in Makka. The surah's contents also corroborate this point.

Major Themes

The surah is mainly concerned with the following purposes: to refute polytheism, to affirm God's unity, to warn people of the dire consequences of rejecting the call of the Prophets, and to reproach those who seek to oppose the truth.


The surah opens, without any preliminary remarks, and instead with a severe warning. The Makkan unbelievers asked the Prophet (peace be on him) why they had not been seized by God's scourge of which they had been warned earlier. They expressed curiosity as to why no scourge had struck them even though they had rejected the Prophet (peace be on him), had called him a liar, and were openly opposed to him. They made this statement thinking that it was a persuasive proof of the falsity of Muhammad's claim to be a Prophet. In response, the unbelievers were told that God's scourge was about to be let loose upon them. It was, therefore, foolish of them to constantly clamour for God's scourge to seize them. They should rather make good use of the time they still had to grasp the message and mend their ways accordingly.

This warning is followed by a discourse aimed at driving home to people the basic message of Islam. The following subjects are discussed one after the other:

The truth of monotheism and the falsity of polytheism are driven home to people with the help of persuasive arguments and by drawing attention to a myriad of signs in the universe as well as in man's own being.

The objections, doubts, pseudo-arguments and pretexts of the unbelievers are taken up, one by one, and repudiated.

The unbelievers are warned of the dreadful consequences of their persistence in falsehood and their arrogant rejection of the truth.

A blueprint of the reform that the Prophet's message seeks to bring about in human life - at both a moral and practical level is outlined in succinct and convincing terms. The polytheists, who claim to believe in God, are informed of the requisites of such a belief. Belief in God does not consist merely of verbally assenting to a set of metaphysical propositions; rather, it makes a number of demands which should be evident from a man's beliefs, his morals, and his practical life.

The Prophet (peace be on him) and his Companions are being consoled and encouraged. They are also being told how they should face the campaign of opposition and persecution launched by the unbelievers.

Surah 16. An-Nahl
                                                 Surah 16. An-Nahl
(16:1) Allah's judgement has (all but) come; do not, then, call for its speedy advent. Holy is He, and far above their associating others with Him in His divinity.

(16:2) He sends down this spirit [of prophecy] by His command through His angels on any of His servants whom He wills, [directing them:] 'Warn people that there is no deity but Me; so hold Me alone in fear.'

(16:3) He created the heavens and the earth with truth. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Allah in His divinity.

(16:4) He created man out of a mere drop of fluid, and Lo! He turned into an open wrangler.

(16:5) He created the cattle. They are sources of clothing and food and also a variety of other benefits for you.

(16:6) And you find beauty in them as you drive them to pasture in the morning and us you drive them back home in the evening;

(16:7) And they carry your loads to many a place, which you would be unable to reach without much hardship. Surely your Lord is much hardship. Surely your Lord is Much-Living, Most-Merciful.

(16:8) And He created horses and mules and asses for you to ride, and also for your adornment. And He creates many things (for you) that you do not even know about.

(16:9) It rests with Allah alone to show you the right way, even when there are many crooked ways. Had He so willed, He would have [perforce] guided you all aright.

(16:10) He it is Who sends down water for you from the sky out of which you drink out of which grow the plants on which you pasture your cattle,

(16:11) And by virtue of which He causes crops and olives and date-palms and grapes and all kinds of fruit to grow for you. Surely in this there is a great sign for those who reflect.

(16:12) He has subjected for you the night and the day and the sun and the moon for you, and the stars have also been made subservient by His command. Surely there are signs in this for those who use their reason.

(16:13) And there also signs for those who take heed in the numerous things of various colours that He has created for you on earth.

(16:14) And He it is Who has subjected the sea that you may eat fresh fish from it and brings forth ornaments from it that you can wear. And you see ships ploughing their course through it so that you may go forth seeking His bounty and be grateful to Him.

(16:15) And He has placed firm mountains on the earth lest it should move away from you, and has made rivers and tracks that you may find your way,

(16:16) And He has set other landmarks in the earth. And by the stars too do people find their way.

(16:17) Is then the One Who creates like the one who does not create? Will you not, then, take heed?

(16:18) For, were you to compute the favours of Allah, you will not be able to compute them. Surely Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.

(16:19) Allah know Allah that you conceal and all that you disclose.

(16:20) Those whom they call upon beside Allah have created nothing; rather, they themselves were created;

(16:21) They are dead, not living. They do not even know when they will be resurrected.

(16:22) Your God is the One God. But the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter are steeped in rejection of the truth; and they are given to arrogance.

(16:23) Surely Allah know all that they conceal and all that they disclose. He certainly does not love those who are steeped in arrogance.

(16:24) When they are asked: 'What is it that your Lord has revealed?' They answer: 'They are merely tales of olden times!'

(16:25) [They say so] that they may bear the full weight of their burdens on the Day of Resurrection and also of the burdens of those whom they misled on account of their ignorance. What a heavy burden do they bear!

(16:26) Surely many people before them had plotted in a similar manner to [vanquish the truth], but Allah uprooted the whole structure of their plot from its foundations so that the roof fell in upon them, and the chastisement [of Allah] visited them from unknown directions.

(16:27) And again, on the Day of Resurrection, He will bring them to disgrace, and say: 'Tell Me, now, where are those to whom you ascribed share in My Divinity, and for whose sake you disputed [with the upholders of the truth]?' Those who were endowed with knowledge [in the world] will say: 'Surely today humiliation and misery shall be the lot of the unbelievers';

(16:28) The same believers who, when the angels seize them and cause them to die while they are engaged in wronging, they will proffer their submission saying: 'We were engaged in no evil. [The angels answer them:]. 'Surely Allah knows well all that you did.

(16:29) Go now, and enter the gate of Hell, and abide in it forever.' Evil indeed is the abode of the arrogant.

(16:30) And when the God-fearing are asked: 'What has your Lord revealed?' they answer: 'Something excellent!' Thus good fortune in this world awaits those who do good; and certainly the abode of the Hereafter is even better for them. How excellent is the abode of the God-fearing:

(16:31) Everlasting gardens that they shall enter; the gardens beneath which rivers shall flow, and where everything shall be as they desire. Thus does Allah reward the God-fearing;

(16:32) Those whose souls the angels seize while they are in a state of purity, saying: 'Peace be upon you. Enter Paradise as a reward for your deeds.'

(16:33) (O Muhammad!) Are they waiting for anything else than that the angels should appear before them, or that your Lord's judgement should come. Many before them acted with similar temerity. And then what happened with them was not Allah's wrong-doing; they rather wronged themselves.

(16:34) The evil consequences of their misdeeds over took them and what they mocked at overwhelmed them.

(16:35) Those who associate other with Allah in His divinity say: 'Were Allah to will so, neither we nor our forefathers would have worshipped any other than Him, nor would we have prohibited anything without His command.' Their predecessors proffered similar excuses. Do the Messengers have any other duty but to plainly convey the Message?

(16:36) We raised Messenger in every community (to tell them): 'Serve Allah and shun the Evil One.' Thereafter Allah guided some of them while others were overtaken by error. Go about the earth, then, and observe what was the end of those who rejected the Messengers, calling them liars.

(16:37) (O Muhammad!) Howsoever eager you may be to show them the right way, Allah does not bestow His guidance on those whom He lets go astray; and in fact none will be able to help them.

(16:38) They swear most solemnly in the name of Allah and say: 'Allah shall not raise to life any who dies.' [He will certainly raise men to life for] that is a promise by which He is bound, even though most men do not know that.

(16:39) [That is bound to happen in order that] He may make clear to them the reality regarding the matters on which they differ and that the unbelievers may realize that they were liars.

(16:40) [As for the possibility of resurrection bear in mind that] whenever We do will something, We have to do no more than say: 'Be', and it is.

(16:41) As for those who have forsaken their homes for the sake of Allah after enduring persecution, We shall certainly grant them a good abode in this world; and surely the reward of the Hereafter is much greater. If they could but know [what an excellent end awaits]

(16:42) Those who remain steadfast and put their trust in their Lord.

(16:43) (O Muhammad!) Whenever We raised any Messengers before you, they were no more than human beings; [except that] to them We sent revelation. So ask those who possess knowledge if you do not know.

(16:44) We raised earlier Messengers with clear signs and Divine Books, and We have now sent down this Reminder upon you that you may elucidate to people the teaching that has been sent down for them, and that the people may themselves reflect.

(16:45) Do those who have been devising evil plans [against the mission of the Messenger] feel secure that Allah will not cause the earth to swallow them up or that chastisement will not come upon them from a direction that they will not even be able to imagine;

(16:46) Or that He will not suddenly seize them while they are going about to and fro and they will be unable to frustrate His design,

(16:47) Or that He will not seize them when they are apprehensive of the impending calamity? Surely your Lord is Most-Compassionate, Most-Merciful.

(16:48) Do the people not see how the objects Allah has created cast their shadows right and left prostration themselves in utter submission to Allah?

(16:49) All living creatures and all angels in the heavens and on the earth are in prostration before Allah; and never do they behave in arrogant defiance.

(16:50) They hold their Lord, Who is above them, in fear, and do as they are bidden.

(16:51) Allah has commanded: 'Do not take two gods; for He is but One God. So fear Me alone.'

(16:52) His is whatever is in the heavens and on the earth, and obedience to Him inevitably pervades the whole universe. Will you, then, hold in awe any other than Allah.

(16:53) Every bounty that you enjoy is from Allah; and whenever any misfortune strikes you, it is to Him that you cry for the removal of your distress.

(16:54) But as soon as He removes the distress from you, some of you associate others with their Lord in giving thanks,

(16:55) That they may show ingratitude for the bounties We bestowed upon them. So enjoy yourselves for a while, soon you will come to know (the truth).

(16:56) They set apart for those, whose reality they do not even know, a portion of the sustenance We have provided them. By Allah, you will surely be called to account for the lies that you have invented!

(16:57) They assign daughter to Allah glort6y Him- whereas they assign to themselves what they truly desire!

(16:58) When any of them is told about the birth of a female his face turns dark, and he is filled wit suppressed anger,

(16:59) And hides himself from people because of the bad news, thinking: should he keep the child despite disgrace, or should he bury it in dust? How evil is their estimate of Allah.

(16:60) Those who do not believe in the Hereafter deserve to be characterized with evil attributes whereas Allah's are the most excellent attributes. He is the Most-Mighty, the Most-Wise.

(16:61) Were Allah to take people to task for their wrong-doing, He would not have spared even a single living creature on the face of the earth. But He grants them respite until an appointed term. And when that term arrives, they have no power to delay it by a single moment, nor to hasten it.

(16:62) They assign to Allah what they dislike for themselves and their tongues utter a sheer lie in stating that a happy state awaits them. Without doubt the Fire awaits them and it is to it that they shall be hastened.

(16:63) By Allah (O Muhammad!) We sent Messengers to other communities before you but Satan made their evil deeds attractive to them (so they paid no heed to the call of the Messengers). The same Satan is their patron today and they are heading towards a painful chastisement.

(16:64) We have sent down the Book that you may explain to them the truth concerning what they are disputing and that the Book may serve ad a guidance and mercy for those who believe in it.

(16:65) Allah sends down water from the heaven, and thereby He instantly revives the earth after it lay dead. Verily in it there is a sign for those who have ears.

(16:66) Surely there is a lesson for you in the cattle: We provide you to drink out of that which is in their bellies between the faeces and the blood -pure milk which is a palatable drink for those who take it.

(16:67) And out of the fruits of date palms and grapes you derive intoxicants as well as wholesome sustenance. Surely there is a sign for those who use reason.

(16:68) Your Lord inspired the bee saying: 'Set up hives in the mountains and in the trees and in the trellises that people put up;

(16:69) Then suck the juice of every kind of fruit and keep treading the ways of your Lord, which have been made easy. There comes forth from their bellies a drink varied in colours, wherein there is healing for men. Verily there is a sing in this for those who reflect.

(16:70) Allah has created you, and then He causes you to die. Some of you have your lives prolonged to an object old age, when one loses all knowledge after having acquired it. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Powerful.

(16:71) Allah has favoured some of you with more worldly provisions than others. Then those who are more favoured do not give away their provisions to their slave so that they become equal sharers in it. Do they, then, deny the favour of Allah?

(16:72) And Allah has given you spouses from your kind, and has granted you through your spouses, sons and grandsons, and has provided you wholesome things as sustenance. [After knowing all this] do they still believe in falsehood and deny Allah's bounty.

(16:73) And instead of Allah, worship those helpless beings who have no control over providing them any sustenance from the heavens and the earth; do you worship those who have no power to do anything of this sort?

(16:74) So do not strike any similitudes to Allah, Allah knows whereas you do not know.

(16:75) Allah sets forth a parable: There is one who is a slave and is owned by another, and has no power over anything; and there is one whom We have granted good provision Ourselves, of which he spends both secretly and openly. Can they be equal? All praise be to Allah. But most of them do not even know (this simple fact).

(16:76) Allah sets fort another parable: There are tow men, one of whom is dumb and has no power over anything; he is a burden to his master, and wheresoever his master directs him, he fails to bring forth any good. Can such person be the equal of one who enjoins justice and himself follows the right way?

(16:77) Allah has full knowledge of the truths beyond the reach of human perception both in the heavens and the earth; and the coming of the Hour will take no more than the twinkling of an eye; it may take even less. Indeed Allah has power over everything.

(16:78) Allah has brought you forth from your mothers' wombs when you knew nothing, and then gave you hearing, and sight and thinking hearts so that you may give thanks.

(16:79) Have they never noticed the birds how they are held under control in the middle of the sky, where none holds them [from falling] except Allah? Surely there are signs in this for those who believe.

(16:80) Allah has made your houses a repose, and has provided you with the skins of the cattle for your habitation which are light to handle both when you travel and when you camp; and out of their wool, and their fur and their hair He has given you furnishings and goods for use over a period of time.

(16:81) And allah has provided shade for you out of some of the things He has created; and has provided you with shelters in the mountains, and has given you coats that protect you from heat as well as coats that protect you in battle. Thus does He complete His favour upon you that you may submit to Him.

(16:82) But if they turn away, your only duty is to clearly deliver the message of the truth.

(16:83) They are aware of the favours of Allah, and yet refuse to acknowledge them. Most of them are determined not to accept the truth.

(16:84) (They are heedless of) the Day when We shall raise a witness from each community and then the unbelievers will neither be allowed to plead nor will they asked to repent and seek pardon.

(16:85) And once the wrong-doers have beheld the chastisement, neither will it be lightened for them nor will they be granted any respite.

(16:86) And when those who associated others with Allah in His Divinity will see those to whom they ascribed this share, they will say: 'Our Lord! These are the beings to whom we ascribed a share in Your Divinity and whom we called upon instead of You', whereupon those beings will fling at them the words: 'You are liars.'

(16:87) As for that Day they will offer their submission and all that they had fabricated will have vanished.

(16:88) As for those who disbelieved and barred others from the way of Allah, We shall add chastisement to their chastisement for all the mischief they did.

(16:89) (O Muhammad!) Wan them of the coming of a Day when We shall bring forth a witness against them from each community and We shall bring you forth as a witness against them all; (and it is for that purpose that) We sent down the Book to you which makes everything clear; and serves as a guidance and mercy and glad tidings to those who have submitted to Allah.

(16:90) Surely Allah enjoins justice, kindness and the doing of good, to kith and kin, and forbids all that is shameful, evil and oppressive. He exhorts you so that you may be mindful.

(16:91) And fulfil the covenant, which you have made with Allah and do not break your oaths after having firmly made them, and after having made Allah your witness. Surely Allah knows all that you do.

(16:92) And do not become like the woman who, after having painstakingly spun her yarn, caused it to disintegrate into pieces. You resort to oaths as instruments of mutual deceit so that one people might take greater advantage than another although Allah puts you to the best through this. Surely on the Day of Resurrection he will make clear the truth concerning the matters over which you differed.

(16:93) Had Allah so willed, He would have made you all one single community. However, He lets go astray whomsoever He wills and shows the right way to whomsoever He wills. Surely you shall be called to account regarding what you did.

(16:93) Do not make your oaths a means of deceiving one another or else your foot may slip after having been firm and you may suffer evil consequences because of hindering people from the way of Allah. A mighty chastisement awaits you.

(16:94) Do not barter away the covenant of Allah for a paltry gain. Verily that which is with Allah is for better for you, if you only knew.

(16:95) Whatever you have is bound to pass away and whatever is with Allah will last. And We shall surely grant those who have been patient their reward according to he best of what they did.

(16:96) Whosoever acts righteously whether a man or a woman and embraces belief, We will surely grant him a good life; and will surely grant such persons their reward according to the best of their deeds.

(16:97) Whenever you read the Qur'an seek refuge with Allah from Satan, the accursed.

(16:98) Surely he has no power over those who have faith and who place their trust in their Lord.

(16:99) He has power only over those who take him as their patron and who, under his influence, associate other with Allah in His Divinity.

(16:100) Whenever We replace one verse by another verse and Allah knows what He should reveal they are wont to say: 'Your are nothing but a fabricator [who has invented the Qur'an].' The fact is that most of them are ignorant of the truth.

(16:101) Tell them: 'It is the spirit of holiness that has brought it down, by stages, from your Lord, that it might bring firmness to those who believe, and guidance to the right way, and give glad tidings of felicity and success to those who submit to allah.'

(16:103) Surely We know well that they say about you: 'It is only a human being who teaches him,' [notwithstanding] that he whom they maliciously hint at is of foreign tongue, while this [Qur'an] is plain Arabic speech

(16:104) Surely Allah will not enable those who do not believe in the signs of Allah to be directed to the right way, and a painful chastisement awaits them.

(16:105) [It is not the Prophet who invents lies], it is rather those who do not believe in the signs of Allah who invent lies. They are liars.

(16:106) Anyone who disbelieves in Allah after having had faith except he who does so under duress while his heart remains content with faith and as for one who opens his heart to disbelief they shall incur Allah's wrath. A mighty chastisement awaits them.

(16:107) That is because they love the life of this world more than the Hereafter; and Allah does not guide those who are ungrateful to Allah for His favours.

(16:108) They are the ones upon whose hearts and hearing and eyes Allah has set a seal. They are utterly steeped in heedlessness.

(16:109) No doubt they shall be losers in the Hereafter.

(16:110) And surly your Lord will be Ever-Forgiving and Most-Merciful towards those who left their homes after they were persecuted, and who thereafter struggled hard and remained constant.

(16:111) [Allah's judgement will come about them all] on the Day when every one shall come pleading in his defence, and every one shall be fully requited for his deeds and none shall be wronged in the least.

(16:112) Allah sets forth the parable of [the people of] a town who were secure and content and whose sustenance came in abundance from every quarter. But then the people of the town showed ingratitude towards Allah for His bounties, so Allah afflicted them with hunger and fear in punishment for their evil deeds.

(16:113) Most certainly a Messenger came to them from among them; but they rejected him, calling him a liar. Therefor chastisement seized them while they engaged in wrong doing.

(16:114) So eat out of the lawful and good sustenance that Allah has bestowed upon you, and thank Allah for His bounty, if it is Him that you serve.

(16:115) Allah has forbidden you only Carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine; also any animal over which the name of any other than Allah has been invoked. But whoever eats of them under compelling necessity neither desiring it nor exceeding the limit of absolute necessity surely for such action Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.

(16:116) And do not utter falsehoods by letting your tongues declare: 'This is lawful' and 'That is unlawful', thus fabricating lies against Allah. Surely those who fabricate lies against Allah never prosper.

(16:117) Brief is their enjoyment of the world, and thereafter they shall suffer a painful chastisement.

(16:118) We have already recounted to you what We prohibited to the Jews. In so doing We did not wrong them; it is they who wronged themselves.

(16:119) But to those who commit evil out of ignorance and then repent ant amend their ways, thereafter your Lord will be Much-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.

(16:120) Indeed Abraham was a whole community by himself, obedient to Allah, exclusively dovoted to Him. And he was never one of those who associated other with Allah in His Divinity.

(16:121) He rendered thanks to Allah for His bounties so that Allah chose him [for His favours] and directed him to the right way.

(16:122) We bestowed good upon him in this world, and in the Hereafter he shall certainly be among the righteous.

(16:123) Then We revealed to you: 'Follow the way of Abraham with exclusive devotion to Allah. He was not one of those who associated others with Allah in His Divinity.'

(16:124) As for the Sabbath, it was made incumbent only on those who differed about its laws. Certainly your Lord will judge on the Day of Resurrection between them regarding the matters they disputed.

(16:125) (O Prophet!) Call men to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and reason with them in the best manner possible. Surely your Lord knows best who has strayed away from His path and He also knows well those who are guided to the right way.

(16:126) If you take retribution, then do so in proportion to the wrong done to you. But if you can bear such conduct with patience, indeed that is best for the steadfast.

(16:127) (O Muhammad!) So bear with patience and your patience is only because of the help of Allah- and do not grieve over them, nor feel distressed by their evil plans.

(16:128) For surely Allah is with those who hold Him in fear and do good.