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My interpretation of the verse in which the balance is mentioned in the chapter of al- Hadid (Iron):

My interpretation of the verse in which the balance is mentioned in the chapter of al- Hadid (Iron):

Indeed We sent Our Messengers with Clear Signs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance that people may uphold justice. And We sent down iron, wherein there is awesome power and many benefits for people, so that Allah may know who, without even having seen Him, helps Him and His Messengers. Surely Allah is Most Strong, Most Mighty﴿ (Holy Quran 57: 25).36

I do believe that the Almighty said these verses to explain the elements of empowerment, justice, civilization, and goodness for mankind. These elements include:

① Belief in Allah, the Strong and Powerful, and working hard and having hopes for prosperity in all fields of life. Firm belief, hard work, and high morale are essential for a good life.

② Revealing the truth to people, supported with evidence and clear proofs. This is closely related to fruitful and well-disciplined freedom in society. Thus, individuals are free to embrace Islam. This also proves that there can never be absolute goodness, justice, and civilization if people are subject to injustice, oppression, terrorism, and dictatorship.

③ The need for a standard reference that all believers adhere to. This is called the Book – a standard constitution that defines Muslims’ rights and obligations. The Book includes the Holy Quran and the Holy Sunnah that explains the Quran.

④ The need for established principles and criteria for interpreting the Book, and identifying people’s rights and obligations as explicated therein. These principles also help distinguish between truth that is beyond doubt, such as the fundamentals of faith and sound human nature, and controversial issues that are open to discussion and reflect the spirit of diversity and civilization.

⑤ Achieving equality and justice, one of the most important reasons why the Almighty revealed the Book and sent His messengers.

⑥ Having all types of power – economic, moral, military, scientific, and technical power – as Muslims may utilize iron to accomplish two essential goals. First, iron may be used for weapons to compose a strategic power of deterrence to protect the Ummah against enemies, and second, iron may be used in construction and infrastructure, building technology, industry, and economy to ensure prosperity and civilization.

Let us consider how the balance enables this great system of empowerment.

Imam al-Razi expounded a great deal upon this verse in his exegesis. The following is an extract of that valuable commentary:

So why are the Book, the Balance, and iron concomitant in these verses? There are many reasons.

First, there are two types of divine commands: things that people are required to do, and things that required not to do.

The first type of orders are part of Allah’s divine design. They are the reason Allah has created humans. If they had not been created, no one would have done the things that we are required to do. We are ordered to do things that relate to the self, such as learning, and our bodies – our actions. The Book is meant to be a means of performing orders that relate to the self because it distinguishes between truth and falsehood, and evidence and doubts. The Balance is the standard for executing the commands that relate to the body, as most strict commands relate to interactions. The Balance is the standard that helps distinguish justice from injustice, and good deeds from bad ones. However, iron is a means of awesome power and a deterrent against doing forbidden things.

Thus, the Book represents the power of theory, the Balance represents the power of practice, and iron protects from harm. The three elements are arranged in order of importance. Spiritual aspects are mentioned first because caring for the self is essential, followed by caring for the body, and, then deterrence from harm.

Second, these verses detail several essential relationships. The Book details our relationship with the Creator. The Balance represents the scale by which we should measure our relationships with Allah’s creation. And iron is a means of defending ourselves from our enemies.

Accordingly, people fall into three categories. The forerunners are those who adhere to the teachings of the Book in their interactions with people. They treat all people justly, as they do not seek justice for selfish interests, and, they do not get involved in doubtful matters.

The straight are those who deal with people justly and seek justice for selfish interests, so they need to use the balance as a criterion for judgement.

And the third group is the unjust: those who seek justice for selfish interests, and they do not deal with people justly. Therefore, they need to be rebuked and deterred with iron.

The fourth note on these verses notes that humans belong to several groups. The class of the truthful are those who have souls at peace, and they are closest to Allah. Their souls find tranquility in prayer and submission to Allah and the teachings of the Book, as Allah says ﴾Surely, it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find peace﴿ (Holy Quran 13: 28).

Then there are those of the straight path. They have souls which admonish towards good and are with those on the Right. They utilize the Balance to distinguish between good and bad deeds and remain moderate in their views, so that they can stay on the straight path.

Finally, there are those at odds with Allah and His guidance. Their souls enjoin towards evil, and their souls must be deterred by iron.

Fifth: Those who have enlightened minds and noble hearts need nothing but the Book. Those who seek evidence and proofs, however, need the Balance to find evidence. Those who are obstinate and seek fruitless discussions and wrongdoing must be punished with iron.

Sixth: Religion is based on major and minor principles. In other words, it includes matters of faith and actions. The former is derived from the Book, while the latter is related to the things that ensure justice and goodness. These are derived from the Balance, a means of upholding justice. However, iron represents the means of deterring those who would not adopt the course of the Book or the Balance.

Seventh: The Book represents the regulations established by Allah which are necessary for upholding justice. On the other hand, the Balance represents the way governors enforce adherence to these regulations, while iron is intended to refer to punishment inflicted on those who rebel against the regulations. This means that scholars, those who study the Book, are superior to governors, who are required to punish transgressors. In short, the Book, the balance, and iron can be associated with each other in many other ways, yet the ones mentioned above hint at all others.


The second issue: On sending down the balance and iron. There are two perspectives:

First: The Almighty sent them down to earth from heaven. It is narrated that Gabriel ﷺ brought the balance to Noah ﷺ and said, “Tell your people they are commanded to weigh things according to it.” It is also claimed that Ibn Abbas said, “When Adam was expelled from heaven, he brought with him five things made of iron: an anvil, tongs, a whetstone, a hammer, and a needle”.[1] There is evidence for this in the hadith narrated by Ibn Omar when he said, “The Almighty sent down four blessings from heaven to earth: iron, fire, water, and salt”.[2]


Second: In the context of the verse, “sent down” means created and bestowed. For example, the Almighty said in another verse, And sent down livestock for you—eight kinds in pairs﴿ (Holy Quran 39: 6). Katrab said, “In this verse, ‘sent down’ is intended to mean ‘prepared.’ Arabs say, ‘a prince sent down something good to someone’.”


The third issue: On the benefits of the balance:

  • Upholding justice:

In Arabic, qist and iqsat mean equality – the belief that all people deserve equal treatment. In Arabic muqsit means someone who treats people equally, as in the verse Allah loves the equitable (muqsiteen)﴿ (Holy Quran 60: 8). However, qasit means someone who treats people inequitably and unjustly, as in the verse But as for the unjust, they will be, for Hell, kindling﴿ (Holy Quran 72: 15).

Iron, on the other hand, has awesome power – as weapons are made of iron – and a multitude of benefits.

And We taught him how to make chainmail to protect you in battle﴿ (Holy Quran 21: 80).

The four major benefits derived directly from iron are farming, sewing, construction, and authority. Food, clothing, and shelter are basic human needs, respectively derived from farming, sewing, and construction. As man is sociable by nature, he cannot meet his needs unless he lives with a group of people where each individual excels at a particular vocation. That is how people benefit from each other. This naturally leads to competition. Therefore, there needs to be an authority in charge of protecting people from each other. Accordingly, people cannot live well without having these four benefits all derived from iron.[3]


[1] This narration lacks an authentic chain of transmitters. It is only mentioned in some books of exegesis, such as Tafsir al-Baghawi where only three things are mentioned. An anvil (an iron block on which pieces of metal are shaped); a hammer; Tongs (tool used for lifting up metal); See Lisan al-Arab, Al-Qamus al-Muhit and Al-Mu’jam al-Wasit.

[2] This is also mentioned only in some books of Quranic exegesis.

[3] Altafseer Alkabeer (vol.29, pp.240)

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