Sūra al-An'ām (Arabic: سورة الأنعام) is the sixth sura of the Qur'an. It is a Makki sura located in seventh and eighth juz's thereof. It is called "al-An'am" (grazing livestock) because such livestock are mentioned in fifteen verses of the sura. Central themes of the sura are principles of religious beliefs, that is, monotheism, prophethood, and resurrection. The sura has a reference to a debate and dialogue between Abraham (a) and disbelievers over worshiping stars and the sun.
One of the well-known verses of the sura is its verse twenty, according to which People of the Book already knew the Prophet Muhammad (s)'s characteristics and features before his prophethood. Other well-known verses include al-Wizr Verse (or the Verse of Burden), according to which every person only bears his own burdens, and the verse 160 according to which God gives ten times of rewards for every good deed. In some verses of the sura, jurisprudential rulings of certain deeds are mentioned, including the forbiddance of murder, the forbiddance of cursing the disbelievers, the forbiddance of attributing falsities to God and the Prophet (s), and the forbiddance of earing the meat of an animal which was not slaughtered in the name of God.
According to hadiths from Ahl al-Bayt (a), this sura was revealed to the Prophet at once by seventy thousand exalting angels, and if one recites the sura, those angels will exalt on his behalf until the day of resurrection. Full recitation of Sura al-An'am in one sitting (or Khatm al-An'am) is a popular gathering in Iran, in which Sura al-An'am is fully recited with the intention of one's needs being fulfilled by God.
The sura is called "al-An'am" (grazing livestock) because fifteen verses of it (verses 136-150) talk about livestock. The word, "al-an'am," appears six times in the sura.
- Place and Order of Revelation
Sura al-An'am is a Makki sura of the Qur'an. In the order of revelation, it is the fifty fifth sura revealed to the Prophet (s). In the present order of compilation, it is the sixth sura, located in seventh and eighth juz's of the Qur'an.
- Number of Verses and Other Features
Sura al-An'am has 165 verses and 3055 words. With regard to size, it is one of the Sab' Tiwal (seven long) suras, which amount to over one juz' of the Qur'an. Sura al-An'am is one of the Jami'i al-nauzul (suddenly revealed) suras, because according to hadiths, all of its verses were revealed to the Prophet (s) all at once. Also, it counts as one of the Hamidat suras because it opens with the praise (hamd) of God.
According to 'Allama Tabataba'i, the main theme of this sura consists in, just like other Makki suras, the principles of religious beliefs, that is, monotheism, prophethood, and resurrection. The sura particularly highlights the worship of God alone. According to al-Mizan, the majority of its verses suggest arguments against polytheists regarding monotheism, prophethood, and resurrection. The sura also refers to some jurisprudential rulings, particularly religiously forbidden things.
Narrations and Stories
- The dialogue between Abraham (a) and Azar
- Abraham's debate with polytheists over the worship of stars, the sun, and the moon.
الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَاءَهُمُ
Those whom We have given the Book recognize him just as they recognize their sons...
|— Qur'an 6:20|
This verse is repeated in the verse 146 of Qur'an 2 as well. It is a reply to polytheists who claimed that People of the Book never testify for the rightfulness of the Prophet (s). In this verse, the Qur'an implies that not only were People of the Book aware of the emergence and the call of the Prophet (s), but were also aware of his characteristics, details, and exact signs, just as 'Abd Allah b. Salam, a Jewish scholar who converted to Islam, was quoted as saying about the Prophet (s) that: "I know him better than I know my child."
وَلَا رَطْبٍ وَلَا يَابِسٍ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ
Nor anything fresh or withered but it is in a manifest Book.
|— Qur'an 6:59|
"Moist" and "dry" in the verse are said to be metaphors of everything, implying a generality. There is a disagreement among exegetes as to what "clear record [or book]" means. According to al-Mizan, the clear book whatever it is does not consist in this world, which includes creatures. Instead, it is a book in which the programs of all creatures are recorded, is prior to those creatures, and will survive after their destruction. According to Tafsir-i nimuna, most probably the "clear book" seems to refer to the knowledge of God; that is to say, all creatures are recorded in God's infinite knowledge. The interpretation of the "clear book" as the Preserved Tablet (al-Lawh al-Mahfuz) can also match this latter exegesis, since the Preserved Tablet is probably identical to God's knowledge.
مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا ۖ وَمَن جَاءَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَىٰ إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ
Whoever brings virtue shall receive [a reward] ten times its like; but whoever brings vice shall not be requited except with its like, and they will not be wronged.
|— Qur'an 6:160|
Many Shiite and Sunni hadiths are cited concerning this verse. According to some hadiths, when the verse, "Whoever comes [at Judgement] with a good deed will have better than it," was revealed, the Prophet (s) asked God for more reward. In response, this verse was revealed: "Whoever comes [on the Day of Judgement] with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof." Once again, the Prophet asked for more rewards from God. Then the following verse was revealed: "Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over?"
وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ
No bearer shall bear another’s burden
|— Qur'an 6:164|
According to exegetes, this verse displays God's justice in the punishment of wrongdoers, saying that no one will be punished for someone else's sins. According to Quranic verses 37-38 of Qur'an 53, the same ruling existed in other religions as well. As to the relation between this verse and verse 25 of Qur'an 16, it is said that the reason why misleaders bear part of the burden of sins is that they have misled others, and so they indeed bear the burden of their own sins.
More than fifteen verses of Sura al-An'am have been considered as jurisprudential verses, including verse twenty first which allegedly implies the forbiddance of attributing falsity to God, and verse seventy two which commands the saying of prayers, and thus, implies the obligation of saying the prayer. Verse 108 is said to imply the forbiddance of cursing the disbelievers. Verse 121 prohibits the eating of the meat of an animal which is not slaughtered in the name of God; verse 141 states the ruling of zakat, and verse 151 forbids murder. Moreover, verses 162-163 are said to imply the forbiddance of pretense in worships.
Gathering of Khatm al-An'am
In Iran, there are gatherings in people's homes, in which people recite the whole of Sura al-An'am with the intention of their needs being fulfilled by God. They sometimes recite certain supplications and dhikrs in intervals between recitations of verses of Sura al-An'am as well. These gatherings are ornamented with a food service known as "sufra khatm-i an'am."
Merits and Benefits
In hadiths, a high value is assigned to Sura al-An'am. In Nur al-Thaqalayn, Imam al-Rida (a) is quoted as saying that Sura al-An'am was revealed all at once by seventy thousand angels who reiterated the exaltation and tahlil (there is no might, nor power except in Allah) and takbir (God is the Greatest). If one recites this sura, those angels will exalt God on his behalf until the day of resurrection. A similar hadith was cited from the Prophet (s) as well.
Moreover, in Thawab al-a'mal, Imam al-Sadiq (a) is quoted as saying that Sura al-An'am was revealed to Muhammad (s) all at once by seventy thousand angels. So, celebrate it and honor it. For God's greatest name appears in seventy places of this sura, and if people knew what lies within this sura, they never abandoned its recitation.
|For the full text, see text:Sura al-An'am.|
- Khurramshāhī, "Sura-yi An'ām," p. 1237.
- Maʿrifat, Āmūzish-i ʿulūm Qurʾān, p. 166.
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- The content of this verse mentioned in other verses like Qur'an 7:157, Qur'an 48:29, Qur'an 26:197, (Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 7, p. 41.
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- [with the result] that they will bear the full weight of their own burden on the Day of Resurrection, along with part of the burden of those whom they mislead without any knowledge. Behold! Evil is what they bear!
- Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 6, p. 65; Qirā'atī, Tafsīr-i nūr, vol. 3, p. 397.
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- It was a common tradition among people and already is practiced.
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- The National Center for Answering Religious Questions
- Khatm-i An'am Procession