This chapter consisting of 34 verses is named for its central character, the wise man Luqman. The majority of scholars agree that Luqman was not a prophet but a sage whose wisdom and exemplary lifestyle was known to the pre-Islamic Arabs. He is said to have been an Abyssinian or possibly Nubian slave. His wise counsel to his son is outlined in this chapter revealed in Mecca. It was sent down at a time when the persecution of the new Muslims was beginning to enter a malicious phase. Families were torn apart and those who chose the message of Islam often had to go against the wishes of their fathers. It deals with relationships between parents and their offspring and condemns those who try to lead others away from guidance.
Verses 1 – 9 A book of wisdom
We are reminded that the Quran is a book of guidance and a mercy for those who choose righteousness, establish the prayer, give charity and believe with certainty in the Hereafter. Those who mislead others in an attempt to lead them away from the straight path will suffer a humiliating punishment. When the verses are recited to those who ridicule Islam they turn away from the message with arrogance and pride. They will suffer a painful torment while those who follow the right path will dwell in Paradise.
Verses 10 – 11 Everything is for the benefit of humankind
God calls attention to the miraculous nature of the universe. The heavens stay above us without pillars; what holds the planets in their orbits or the stars in the sky? The mountains are set firmly into the earth and God dispersed all manner of creatures across our planet, He created vegetation and watered it with rain. All the diverse eco systems are for the benefit of humankind. What have the other gods that the disbelievers worship created? They (the disbelievers) are clearly astray, drifted from the right path.
Verses 12 – 15 Luqman’s advice to his son
Luqman was endowed with wisdom. He counselled others to be grateful to God. Luqman advised his son not to attribute partners to God. He pointed out that this was a terrible wrong, an injustice to God. At this point God commands that people be good to their parents, their mothers carry their offspring with great difficulty and usually feed them from their own bodies for two years. God associates gratitude towards Him with gratitude towards parents. He says be grateful and obey them but stresses not to obey them when they ask you to commit the greatest sin of associating others with God. We should not obey them in matters that go against the commandments of God, and do what is right, but at the same time we are expected to treat our parents with care and respect.
Verses 16 – 19 How to behave and interact with others
Nothing can escape God’s knowledge says Luqman to his son. Even if it is as small as a mustard seed, or hidden inside a rock or is a minute speck in a vast universe, God can see it clearly and is able to expose it. Luqman then advises his son to lead a moral and upstanding life and tells him how; establish the prayer, enjoin the good, forbid the evil and bear the trials and afflictions of life with patience. Do not turn your nose up at people contemptuously; do not walk about the land arrogantly for God does not like the boastful. Thus walk at a moderate pace and talk in a low voice because God does not like harsh voices like the braying of donkeys. This is all sage advice for moral behaviour and interaction between people.
Verses 20 – 22 Blind following
God asks, do you not see that everything in the heavens and earth is for the benefit of humankind. It is self-evident but there are still those who would argue about it. When they are told to follow God’s guidance they respond by saying that they will not but will instead follow the path trodden by their forefathers. They say this even when Satan is inviting them to step into the Fire. Those who submit to the will of God and live a righteous life have grasped the most trustworthy handhold, because the outcome of every matter is with God.
Verses 23 – 27 Use your common sense
The next verse is addressed to the Prophet Muhammad. God tells him not to be upset when some refuse to submit and follow the straight path because in the end they will return to God and God will tell them what they have done. God says that He grants them enjoyment for a short while but that they will eventually face a severe punishment. People do not use their common sense. If they were asked who created the heavens and the earth they would say ‘God’, yet they worship besides Him those they know cannot be created by themselves and are subjugated to Him. Even if every single human on earth denied God, it would not decrease His glory in any way; to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. If all the trees on earth were pens and all the seas were ink, replenished by seven more seas, God’s words would still not run out.
Verses 28 – 31 The signs of God’s greatness are clear to the grateful
For God creating and resurrecting all of humankind is as easy as creating and resurrecting a single soul. God merges the day into the night and then the night into the day. How they alternate from one to the other is evidence that the sun and the moon are part of an intricate system. God is the Truth and what is called upon besides Him is nothing but falsehood. He is the Most High. Ships sail through the sea by God’s favour bestowed on humankind but signs like these are seen only by the grateful and the steadfast. When the waves loom over them they pray to God, but when they are delivered safely back to land some of them waver between belief and unbelief. Only the thankless and the treacherous refuse to acknowledge the signs.
Verses 32 – 34 Fear the Day of Resurrection and a warning against Satan’s deception
In the closing verses God address all of humankind. Oh humankind He says, fear God and fear the Day of Resurrection, when no parent can take the place of their child and no child can take the place of their parent. The promise of God is true therefore do not let the life of this earthly world deceive you and do not be deceived by the ultimate deceiver, Satan. Only God knows when the fateful Hour will descend, He is the One who sends the rain and the One who knows what is in the wombs. No soul knows what he will earn tomorrow nor do they know the place in which they will die. God is the All-Knowing and is aware of everything.