This Meccan sûrah takes its name from the ornaments mentioned in verse 35. The pagans are scorned for following their forefathers blindly, labelling the angels as Allāh's daughters, claiming that Muḥammad ( ﷺ ) is not worthy to receive revelations because he is not rich, and for associating idols with Allāh in worship, although they admit that He is the sole Creator of the heavens and the earth. Similar to the next sûrah, the pagans are warned of a horrifying punishment in Hell and the believers are promised a great reward in Paradise.
Details from Tafheem-ul-Qurʾān
NameIt is derived from the word zukhruf-an which occurs in verse 33 of this Surah.
Period of RevelationIt could not be known from any authentic tradition, but a study of its subject matter shows that this Surah also was sent down in the same period in which the Surahs Al Mumin, As Sajdah and Ash Shura, were sent down. It appears that the revelation of this series of the Surahs began when the disbelievers of Makkah were planning to put an end to the Holy Prophet's life. Day and night they were holding consultations in their assemblies as how to eliminate him, and even an attack on his life also had been made as has been clearly referred to in vv. 79-80.
Theme and TopicsIn this Surah a forceful and severe criticism has been made of the Quraish and the common Arabs creeds and superstitions of ignorance in which they persisted, and their stubbornness has been exposed in a firm and effective way, so that every member of the society, who was reasonable in some degree, should be made to consider the evils in which the community was involved and its tyrannical treatment of the person who was trying to redeem it.
The discourse starts in a way as if to say: "You, by means of your mischiefs, want that the revelation of this Book should be stopped, but Allāh has never withheld the appointment of His Prophets and the revelation of His Books because of the mischief of the people, but has destroyed the wicked people, who obstructed the way of His guidance. The same He will do again. A little further in vv. 41-43 and 79-80 the same thing has been reiterated. Though the people who were plotting against his life are meant, the Holy Prophet has been addressed to the effect: "whether you remain alive or not, We will certainly punish the wicked," and the people themselves have been plainly warned to the effect: "If you have decided to take an action against Our Prophet, We too will take a decisive action."
Then, it has been told what is the reality of the religion that the people are following so devotedly and what are the arguments on whose strength they are resisting Muḥammad (upon whom be Allāh's peace and Blessings).
They themselves admit that the Creator of the earth and heavens and of themselves and their deities is only Allāh. They also know and admit that the blessings they are benefiting from, have been bestowed by Allāh; yet they insist on making others associates of Allāh in His Godhead. They regard the servants as the children of Allāh, and that too daughters, whom they regard as disgraceful for themselves.
They believe that the angels are goddesses; they have carved their images as females; they adorn them with female dresses and ornaments, and call them daughters of Allāh: they worship them and invoke them for the fulfilment of their needs. How did they know that the angels were female?
When they are rebuked for these superstitions, they present the pretence of destiny and say: "Had Allāh disapproved of these our practices, we could not have worshipped these images, whereas the means of finding out whether Allāh had approved of something or not, are His Books and not those things which are happening in the world according to His Will. For under His Will not only idol worship but crimes like theft and adultery, robbery, murder, etc. also are being committed. Can this argument be used to justify as right and proper this commission of every crime and evil in the world?
When it is asked:Have you any other authority, apart from this wrong argument, for the polytheism of yours? They reply, "The same has been the practice since the time of our forefathers." In other words, this in their opinion is a strong enough argument for a creed's being right and true, whereas the Prophet Ibrahim, descent from whom is the only basis of their pride and distinction, had rejected the religion of his elders and left his home, and he had discarded every such blind imitation of his forefathers, which did not have the support of any rational argument. Then, if these people had to follow their elders only, for this also they selected their most ignorant elders and abandoned their most illustrious elders like the Prophets Abraham and Ishmael (on whom be peace).
When they are asked: "Has ever a Prophet or a Book sent down by God also given this teaching that others beside Allāh too are worthy of worship? they present this practice of the Christians as an argument that they took Jesus son of Mary as son of God and worshipped him; whereas the question was not whether the community of a Prophet had committed shirk or not, but whether a Prophet had himself taught shirk. Jesus son of Mary had never said that he was son of God and that the people should worship him. His own was the same teaching which every other Prophet had given: "My Lord as well as your Lord is Allāh: so worship Him alone."
They were disinclined to believe in the Prophethood of the Holy Prophet because he was neither a rich man nor a person of high worldly position and rank. They said "Had Allāh willed to appoint a prophet among us, He would have appointed one of the great men of our two cities (Makkah and Taif). On that very basis, Pharaoh also had looked down upon the Prophet Moses and said: "If Allāh, the King of the heavens, had to send a messenger to me, the king of the earth, He would have sent him with bracelets of gold and a company of angels in attendance. Wherefrom has this mendicant appeared? I am superior to him, for the kingdom of Egypt belongs to me, and the canals of the River Nile are flowing under my control. What is the status of this man as against me? He has neither wealth nor authority."
Thus, after criticising each practice of ignorance of the disbelievers and rejecting it with rational arguments, it has been pointed out: "Neither has God any offspring, nor are there separate gods of the earth and heavens, nor is there any intercessor who may be able to protect from His punishment those who adopt deviation knowingly. Allāh is far above this that He should have children. He alone is the God of the whole Universe: all others are His servants and not associates in His attributes and powers, and only such men can intercede with Him, who are themselves followers of the Truth and they also can intercede only for those who may have adopted obedience of the Truth in the world."