Al-A’raf is an Arabic word (ٱلأعراف), which means ‘The Heights’. Surah Al-A’raf is the 7th surah of Quran. Name of this Surah comes from its 46th and 47th Verse.

وَبَيْنَهُمَا حِجَابٌۭ ۚ وَعَلَى ٱلْأَعْرَافِ رِجَالٌۭ يَعْرِفُونَ كُلًّۢا بِسِيمَىٰهُمْ ۚ وَنَادَوْا۟ أَصْحَـٰبَ ٱلْجَنَّةِ أَن سَلَـٰمٌ عَلَيْكُمْ ۚ لَمْ يَدْخُلُوهَا وَهُمْ يَطْمَعُونَ

وَإِذَا صُرِفَتْ أَبْصَـٰرُهُمْ تِلْقَآءَ أَصْحَـٰبِ ٱلنَّارِ قَالُوا۟ رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا مَعَ ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

Translation

There will be a barrier between Paradise and Hell. And on the heights ˹of that barrier˺ will be people who will recognize ˹the residents of˺ both by their appearance. They will call out to the residents of Paradise, “Peace be upon you!” They will have not yet entered Paradise, but eagerly hope to.

When their eyes will turn towards the residents of Hell, they will pray, “Our Lord! Do not join us with the wrongdoing people.”

Ayat-e-Sajda (Verse of Prostration)

There are 14 verses in the Quran, situated in different Surahs, where the reader is required to offer Sajda. According to the Shafi school of thought, number of such verses is 15. Surah Al-A’raf happens to be the first Surah in the Quran, having the Verse of Prostration (Ayat-e-Sajda-e-Tilawat). It is the 206th (last verse) of this Surah, where the reciter has to prostrate, commonly known as the Sajda-e-Tilawat.

Translation

Surely those ˹angels˺ nearest to your Lord are not too proud to worship Him. They glorify Him. And to Him they prostrate

Statistics – Surah Al-A’raf

No. of Ayats No. of Words No. of Letters No. of Rukus Type of Surah Situated in Para Tarteeb-e-Nazool Tarteeb-e-Tilawat
206 3341 14435 24 Makki 8 and 9 39 7

Period of Revelation

Surah Al-A’raf is the second consecutive Makki Surah in the order of recitation. As with most of the Makki Surahs, its revelation period and other relevant details cannot be determined with precision. However, most of the Quran Commentators and Scholars are of the view that Surah Al-A’raf was revealed in the same period as Surah Al-An’am was revealed, which is most probably the last year of the stay of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in Mecca. The subject matter and content of this Surah also support this viewpoint.

Shaan e Nazool (Purpose of Revelation) – Surah Al-A’raf

Almost 11 to 12 years lapsed since the Prophet-Hood of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and he has been inviting the Meccans, especially the Quraysh tribe, towards Islam. But their response was cold, rather oppressive towards the Prophet and the message of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. Hence it was the time for the Prophet to be commanded by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى to expand his preaching to other people as well. The time of migration to Medina was closing in. But before that, it was necessary to invite the Meccans, once again, to the Message of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى and simultaneously warn them strictly to be ready to face the consequences, as was the destiny of the previous nations, if they do not follow the Islamic way of life.

On the other hand, the new audience, the Jews of Medina, also had to be addressed directly, inviting them to embrace Islam. The behavior of the Jews was quite deceptive. They pretended to be the followers of the Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, but practically, they were far away from his teachings. Hence, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had to deal with them as well by inviting them to the right path and warning them of the consequences in case they negated the invitation.

Those were the circumstances and events that necessitated the revelation of this Surah at a time very close to the historical event of the migration of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ from Mecca to Medina. On the one hand, it was addressed to the Mushrikeen-e-Mecca, giving them a strict warning, and on the other hand, it was also addressed to the upcoming audience, the Jews of Medina. In fact, this was the beginning of spreading the Message of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى to the whole of mankind, which was previously restricted to the Meccans.

The message of this Surah is further explained by giving examples of the previous Prophets and Messengers of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى such as the Prophets Adam, Nuh, Lut, Hud, Saleh, Shouaib, Musa and Haroon عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ.

Summary of Surah Al-A’raf

The basic theme of the Surah can be expressed as “the invitation to the Divine Message.” The subject matter of the Surah deals with various aspects of this Divine Message in a beautiful and inspiring way. The message and content of this Surah can be bifurcated into different sections for better understanding which are as follows:

· Verses 1 to 10

This section is a sort of an introductory passage. Here the disbelievers are again invited to the Divine Message sent through the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The Prophet has been inviting the Meccans to the concept of monotheism for the last 11-12 years, but they did not pay attention to it. Hence, in this part of the surah, they are also warned that if they do not accept the Message, they are set to face the consequences.

· Verses 11 to 25

These verses tell the story of the Prophet Adam عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and his wife Hawwah (Eve). It is explained how Satan misled them. The purpose of narrating this story is to warn the people against the evil of Satan, who is always there to distract and mislead them. So, they are warned to stay alert of the evils of Satan.

· Verses 26 to 53

In this part of the Surah, mankind is again warned against the evils of Satan by giving a comparison of the Divine instructions and the misleading temptations of Satan. The results of adopting Allah’s Message are explained, which are all beneficial for the believers. Side by side, the consequences of following Satan’s temptations are also narrated so that people may follow the correct and right path.

· Verses 54 to 58

These verses emphasize that the right path is to obey the instructions sent down by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى through His Messenger. It is also emphasized that Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى is the creator of this whole universe, including the heavens and the Earth and all the things in between. So, mankind is instructed to follow the teachings of Islam as it is just like the rain, which gives life to the Earth.

· Verses 59 to 171

This section of the Surah Al-A’raf is quite significant in the sense that the stories of the most prominent Prophets are narrated here. These include Prophets Nuh, Hud, Saleh, Lut, Shoaib and Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. These stories are meant to warn the disbelievers about the consequences of non-acceptance of Allah’s Message, which the people of these Prophets faced. So, the disbelievers are encouraged to follow the Islamic way of life, as preached by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ so that they may not have to face the consequences, which were the destiny of the disbelievers of the previous Prophets.

· Verses 172 to 174

Here, mankind is reminded of the Covenant made when the Prophet Adam عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was made the Vicegerent of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. So, it is instructed by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى to the whole of mankind to accept the Divine Message sent down to them through the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

· Verses 175 to 179

An example is given here about a person who had knowledge about the Divine Message but did not obey it. Giving this example, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى clearly warned those who do not believe in His Message will receive the punishment and their destiny is the Hell, hence they are urged to accept the Message.

· Verses 180 to 198

Those who do not try to understand the Divine Message are addressed in this part of the Surah, admonishing and warning them of the outcome of their wrong attitude.

· Verses 199 to 206

The last and concluding part of the Surah is addressed to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his companions and followers, instructing them on how they should deal with those who do not accept the Message and those who deviate from the Divine Message. The last verse is the verse on prostration; hence, the receivers of this verse are required to perform Sajda.

Benefits and Virtues of Surah Al-A’raf

As per the pattern of the Quran, Surah Al-A’raf comprises of various messages and lessons for the benefit of mankind. Some of these benefits are explained here:

· Stories of Different Prophets

This surah comprises stories of some of the most prominent Prophets. The purpose of narrating the details of their life and struggle is to warn mankind about the results of disobedience of the Prophets. The stories of the Prophets such as Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, Prophet Lut عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and others tell us that the consequences of rejecting the teachings sent down by Allah are very serious and inevitable. Hence, we need to follow the teachings of Islam to avoid the company of those disbelievers on the Day of Judgment.

· Concept of Accountability

Accountability is one of the basic teachings of Islam. A person is destined to have the outcome on the Day of Judgment of the acts and deeds he commits in this life. This Surah emphasizes the concept of accountability. So, the reader of this Surah gets a clear message about the accountability he will have to face on the Day of Resurrection.

· The Guidance

This surah describes the difference between the ones who seek guidance from Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى and those who don’t; rather willfully follow the wrong path of misguidance. The guidance from Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى is for all, but the choice of accepting or not accepting it is mainly on the individual himself. This Surah provides the necessary encouragement to the believers so that they may stand firm on the right path.

· The Patience

Stories of different Prophets narrated in this Surah tell us the importance and power of patience. The Prophets firmly stood along their trust in Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى despite all sorts of disappointing behavior of their community amidst all difficulties. So, that is the lesson for the reciters to keep patience in all difficult moments of life and leave the outcome on the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

· The Importance of Supplication

The stories of Prophets in this Surah are also highlighted with their consistent appeals and requests to Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى for the accomplishment of their assigned mission. That tells us the importance and strength of supplication. The supplication is a sort of direct connection between the mankind and their Creator, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

· The Impact of Arrogance

Narrating the story of the Prophet Adam عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَام and Satan is a glaring example of the impact of arrogance. The Iblis refused to bow in front of Adam due to his arrogance of being superior to Adam. The result is a strong lesson for the arrogant people and for those who refuse to accept the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

· The Consequences

Surah Al-A’raf also contains strict warnings to those who are disbelievers. The consequences of rejecting the invitation of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ towards the Message of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى is elaborately narrated in this Surah. So, again the choice rests with the individual whether to choose the right path or deviate from it. The consequences of deviation are severe, which the non-believers will have to face on the Day of Judgment.

· Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى is the Most Merciful

This surah repeatedly narrates that Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى is the Most Merciful, always willing to forgive those who repent at any time during his life. That gives hope and provides a golden opportunity for everyone to get the benefit of the mercy of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. So, whatever has been done wrong by anyone can be forgiven if he accepts his sins and seeks the mercy of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

· Rewards of Reciting the Quran

Reciting or listening to any surah or verse of the Quran is itself a kind of worship. The rewards of reciting any part of the Quran are countless. Hence, reading or listening to Surah Al-A’raf is equally beneficial for getting rewards not only in this world but also on the Day of Judgment.

So, keep reading this Surah along with other surahs of the Quran, try to understand its meanings, and implement them in your life.