Surat Al-Fātiĥah

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


What is the Qur'an About?
The Qur'an is the Word of Allah and a Book of Guidance. It can be asked, guidance to what? The answer is: “Guidance to Allah Most High, His Attributes, His Will, and the way in which one may conduct oneself to obtain that approval (rida) of Allah after which there is no anger." Imam Shafe`i perhaps had the first part of this statement in mind when he said:

"All that (the scholars of) the Ummah have to say is nothing but the exposition of the Sunnah. All that is in the Sunnah is the exposition of the Qur'an. And the whole of the Qur'an is nothing but the exposition of the Names and Attributes of Allah" (Zarkashi: Al‑Burhan Fi `Ulum al‑Qur'an).

This guidance to Allah, the knowledge of His Attributes and Will, and the guidance to right conduct cannot be obtained by any means other than the Qur'an and its complementary, the Sunnah, (the sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him).
The Qur'an is also the only source of guidance. Someone who is unaware of its existence, but is a seeker of Truth, (on account of his innate faith in God and disillusionment with the world), will be led to this Book, one way or the other. The Qur'an says (29: 69): "Those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them unto Our paths."

What is Guidance?
From another angle, it might be said that being on the guidance is to know, acknowledge, and, live by the Truth. In the context of this life, it is
a) the knowledge of what one is required to do, in the right measure, at any particular moment, and
b) the will to live by that knowledge.
In one sense, then, Guidance is knowledge, and in another, the will to act by it. The ‘will to act' is not the same as the ‘power to act.' That is because man has been granted will (or the freedom of choice) in a limited framework, while all power is Allah's. The power, or ability to act ‑ referred to as tawfiq in Islamic terminology ‑ is granted when willingness is demonstrated.
Further, since there is no such thing as half‑guidance, both are essential for salvation: knowledge without the will to act is only an evidence against one's self (hujjah), and deeds (however pretty their appearance), are grains thrown in the sand if they go without the acknowledgement of the Truth.
The Qur'an guides in both the senses. It bestows knowledge (or 'ilm wa 'irfan), giving the seeker the proper concept of the truth, as well as the will‑power and the moral courage to produce a living model of that concept in his own person, overcoming the obstacles he might encounter from within or without.
No other book, writing, philosophy, or person can achieve this. There should be no doubt about it; for any ambiguity in this regard can deprive one of the fruits of study and application.
The above definition illustrates and emphasizes the external, physical, and ephemeral aspect. Guidance has an esoteric, transcendent, and eternal meaning also, which is the fruit and essence of the external aspect. It is that state of mind and soul in which the other world becomes dearer than this one, in which, one eagerly awaits to be transported to the other world in order to heal that pain in the heart, and quench that thirst of the soul which only the company of those on High can heal and quench.
It is when one begins to ‘wait for the next salah after the last one,' when one ‘remembers Allah in his seclusion and the remembrance brings tears to his eyes,' when Allah becomes so dear that one begins to ‘love for Allah and hate for Allah,' and, when ‘the state of sabr and shukr become one and the same,' then it is that a person can said to be, in the words of the Qur'an, "on a guidance from his Lord."

The Path of Knowledge
A hadith of the Prophet (saws) says: "I am leaving behind me two things. So long as you hold fast unto them, you will not be misguided: they are Allah's Book and my practices." Nevertheless, this oft‑quoted hadith is rarely treated seriously. People apply themselves with great fervor to books, writings, speeches and ideologies presented by the scholars of Islam, but not as often do they leave them and their influences aside to turn directly to the Qur'an in complete seriousness. They do not seem to realize that they are not guided by those books and writings but to the extent that they themselves contain the Qur'an and the Sunnah in their pure form and unadulterated meaning.
Further, even when the Qur'an is studied, it is mostly done through the eyes, minds, and explanations of the scholars. The knowledge derived is, therefore, at best second‑hand, vicarious, and not wholly trustworthy. Again, a study of the Qur'an after a lot of other literature has been read has the disadvantage of the earlier readings embossing on the mind impressions that do not allow for the new ones to take place in their pristine form. The result is a jumble of concepts, true, half true, and false.
Alternatively, the Qur'an is read with pre‑conceived ideas. Human ideas are then taken for Divine ideas with citation of Qur’anic verses as evidences.
There are a few other characteristics that distinguish the Qur'an from all other kinds of writings. Firstly, the knowledge that the Qur'an imparts is the true and infallible knowledge. Secondly, the Qur'an succeeds in communicating the ideas it holds. That is, the reader cannot miss the meaning that it intends to communicate. Provided one is sincere, no one can miss its guidance, or, led to a meaning and understanding not intended. That happens with writings other than the Divine; humans say one thing, and the audience understand another thing. Moreover, through its intricate sequencing of the texts, the Qur’an answers to the doubts that arise, so to say, on the spot, and registers its meaning and message without adulteration of doubts menacing the mind, or skeptical notes lying beneath like snakes in the grass.
Therefore, to obtain true knowledge and right guidance from the Qur'an the requirement is to do away with preconceived ideas and study it with the firm intention to live by the meaning as it unfolds itself. With that kind of intention, the student is qualified to receive the true meaning. The meaning obtained is also accompanied by an urge to live by it, which then is the next requirement. That accomplished, that is, the meaning translated into action, the reader demonstrates purity of intention. In consequence, he qualifies to receive a fresh set of true meaning which unfolds themselves with further reading. This goes on until the student reaches that state which has been described in a hadith by Allah (swt) Himself in words, “I become the hands of the slave with which he grips, the feet of the slave with which he walks ... (to the end of the hadith).” But if he fails, that is, he is not true to himself at any given phase, or discontinues the process, then the tawfiq is held back until he amends his ways. The Qur’an has said (7: 146):

{سَأَصْرِفُ عَنْ آيَاتِيَ الَّذِينَ يَتَكَبَّرُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَإِنْ يَرَوْا كُلَّ آيَةٍ لَا يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الرُّشْدِ لَا يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الْغَيِّ يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَكَانُوا عَنْهَا غَافِلِينَ} [الأعراف: 146]

“I shall turn away from My signs those who wax proud in the land without cause. If they witnessed all the signs, they will not believe in them, and, if they see the path of righteousness, they will not accept it as a path. But if they see the deviated path, they will accept it as a path. That, because they gave a lie to Our signs and were heedless of them.”

How to Obtain the Right Verbal Meaning?
It is to seek guidance, in the sense delineated above, that one should read the Qur'an. That should be the intention in every session with it.
Dr. Muhammad Iqbal's father well illustrated this point when he asked his son, who was reciting the Qur'an, as to what he was reading. The young son, knowing that the father was aware what he was reading, responded with an indifferent answer. “Who was it revealed to?” was the next question. The embarrassed son replied that it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace). “This way, my son,” said the father, “you will never profit from the Qur'an. You will only if you read with the belief that the Revelation has just come down, that it has been sent down specifically for you, and that it is you who has been addressed. It is only then that this Book will open itself to you.”
In other words, one should take it as a message unto himself, and allow each verse of the Qur'an free and unhindered access to the mind and heart with the will to be led where it will lead.

In contrast to other revealed Books and religious literatures, in whatever form and language they may exist, the Qur'an should not only be read by oneself, directly, but also in its own language ‑ Arabic. No commentary, however comprehensive, and no exegete, however erudite, can impart what the Qur'an itself can. The following reasons will illustrate the point.

The Miraculous nature of the Qur'an
It is well known that the Qur'an is a miracle. In fact, it is a living miracle; although the true nature of the miracle is not always understood. We cannot elaborate on this point extensively at this juncture. But it might be pointed out that the miracle expresses itself both in its form as well in its content. Both are powerful, unique to the Qur'an, which defy translation. The Prophet said: "Every prophet before me was given a miracle. I have been given the Qur'an. And I hope to have a greater following by its virtue than any prophet of the past."
Consequently, thousands of people from all over the globe are led to Islam every year through their study of the Qur'an. When a non‑Muslim asks a Muslim about Islam, all that he does in most cases is to hand him over a copy of the Qur'an. Invariably, even that mangled thing called ‘the translation of the Qur'an' leads the person to Islam. That is the miracle of the Qur'an. And of course, miracles cannot be translated.
Let us look into a few reasons that make impossible to communicate what the Qur'an itself communicates.

The Qur'an is in Arabic. It is neither in prose nor in verse but a unique combination of both, unsurpassed in its effect on the mind and soul by any other writing. In the words of John Alden Williams:

"...the Arabic of the Qur'an is by turns striking, soaring, vivid, terrible, tender, and breathtaking ... It is meaningless to apply adjectives such as ‘beautiful' or ‘persuasive' to the Qur'an; its flashing images and inexorable measures go directly to the brain and intoxicate it.
It is not surprising, then, that a skilled reciter of the Qur'an can reduce an Arabic‑speaking audience to helpless tears" (Islam: p.2, Washington Square Press '69).

In the words of Arberry:

"... to produce something which might be accepted as echoing however faintly the sublime rhetoric of the Arabic Koran, I have been at pains to study the intricate and richly varied rhythms which ‑ apart from the message itself ‑ constitute the Koran's undeniable claim to rank amongst the greatest literary masterpieces of mankind" (The Koran Interpreted, Intr. p. x, Oxford Univ. Press '64).

It is this inimitable beauty that challenges mankind to produce its equivalent: in sublimity of language, its instructions, and its sublime effect on the mind and soul. The Qur'anic challenge has remained unanswered by the humans (2: 23, 24):

"O People! If you are in any doubt concerning what We have sent down on Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a piece similar to it (in all its merits). And call (to your aid) your witnesses apart from Allah, if you are true (in your allegation that it is the work of Muhammad). But if you cannot do it ‑ and you can never do it ‑ then beware of the Fire whose fuel is human beings and rocks: prepared for the unbelievers."

The Qur'an then is inimitable and, therefore, untranslatable. Any translation, however accurately done, and however close to the original, cannot reproduce the sense and beauty of the original. Therefore, when one is reading a translation, he is not reading the Qur'an per se. No surprise then that the best effects are lost. No wonder also that the scholars of old would not allow translation of the Qur'an. This is also Ibn Taymiyyah's opinion. In fact there is a consensus of opinion among the scholars that the Qur'an should not be quoted in ‘sense' or ‘meaning' but always in its original textual words. How can then one be allowed to translate the Qur'an and call it the Qur'an?
Accordingly, if permission to translate the Qur'an has been granted due to modern exigencies, it is on condition that sufficient notes are supplied to overcome the deficiencies arising out of the translation. Further, it is required that the new work be called "interpretative translation of the Qur'an" (tarjumah tafsiriyyah), or, "the translation of the meaning of the Qur'an," rather than "the translation of the Qur'an" or, what would be more audacious, "the meaning of the Qur'an," since none of these are within human power (Manahil al `Irfan, Zarqani).

Linguistic Difficulties
There are many linguistic difficulties that make the Qur'an untranslatable. In Arabic one expresses sense rather than meaning. A beautiful Arabic sentence that can enrapture the mind and touch the soul becomes insipid in another language. Not only sentences or words, even single consonant letters are hard to translate. For example, the "fi" of Arabic has a depth that is lacking in the "in" of English. One needs a whole ugly, terse, and unmusical word in English to translate mere letters such as:

و ف إنَّ

Obviously, the complications with the words are far greater than those with the letters. Arabic is a language in which words are based on consonantal roots, from which are derived scores of words in various forms giving out various meanings but remaining, even if loosely and distantly, connected in sense and letter‑content to the root. `Ayn for instance can mean: an eye, a spring, a spy, a group of people, evil‑eye, honor, a flag, a girl, etc. `Afw stands for effacement, obliteration, elimination, forgiveness, amnesty, boon, kindness, favor, surplus, and others. The translated word must on the one hand give out the basic meaning and, on the other, convey several nuances the original carries. Obviously, to achieve that is well‑nigh impossible.
Let us take an example (4: 4):

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

"Give the women their dowries (as a gift) spontaneous,"
In this example, the word saduqat is derived from the root sadaqa ( صَدَقَ ) which means, with the addition of various suffixes or prefixes: ‘to speak the truth, to be sincere, to prove to be true, to come true, to fulfill one's promise,' and so on. Now, a true translation of the derived term saduqa, (plural: saduqat صَدُقات ), should carry in its overtones the sense of truth and sincerity. That is, ‘a gift that is offered (by the groom to the bride), as an expression of his sincerity toward her and the relationship he is proposing.' To render it as dowry, with the connotation that the language and culture of the readers carry, is to mutilate it.
In addition to the problem of words that yield several meanings, the complex structure of the Qur'anic verses admit of many interpretations (well described by Muhammad Asad as unfolding of "layer upon layer of meaning") from which the translator can choose but one, without necessarily being right in his choice. This means that, granted the translator did not err, the translation conveyed only one meaning out of the several contained in the Qur'an.
As another example, the following is speaking of the unbelievers (11: 20):

يُضَاعَفُ لَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ مَا كَانُوا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ السَّمْعَ وَمَا كَانُوا يُبْصِرُونَ [هود : 20]

"For them the chastisement shall be doubled; (for) they could not hear, neither did they see."
It can be translated in at least six different ways, three of them depending on how the letter "maa" is treated: whether of the same meaning as "lamu kayy," ( لامُ كَي ); as a synonym of "ila," ( إلى ); or as a negative "maa". Obviously such possibilities, which occur quite often, can leave the translator baffled as to his own choice during translation.
Another linguistic difficulty is that many Arabic and Qur'anic terms do not have proper equivalents in other languages, especially the languages of the occident. Allah, al‑Rahman, al‑Rahim, jihad, salah, zakah, sadaqah, `ibadah, al‑ghayb, kufr, nur, fisq, taghut, nabiyy, rasul, ghaniyy, are a few examples from a long list.
If, to the above are added the difficulties of `ijaz (ellipticism), rhetoric, alliteration, resonance and rhythm (all of them present in the Qur'an in their most excellent forms and in the highest degree of expression), then the job of translation becomes a hopeless task.
But the impaired meaning is not the only casualty. The loss in terms of beauty, charm, appeal, elation and the ecstasy that a reader feels on reading the Qur'an in its original is immeasurable.
Therefore, it can be safely said of a person who has always read the Qur'an through translations alone, that he did not read the Qur'an once.

Trying to understand the Qur'an with the help of commentaries is no less hazardous. Some reasons are as follows.
Essentially, commentaries are of two kinds. Those that are based on the Qur'an itself, supported by the hadith and opinions of the Companions, or their next‑generation Followers (tabe`iyyun). These are known as al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur ( التفسير بالمأثور ) i.e., interpretation based on report or tradition.
The other category is the one in which the commentator offers an interpretation, based not on a specific accepted source ‑ a Qur'anic verse, a hadith, or a remark of a Companion or one of their Followers ‑ but his personal opinion based on his intellect, knowledge or intuition. This kind of commentary is known as al‑tafsir bi 'l ra'yi ( التفسير بالرأي ). al‑tafsir 'l‑ishari [ التفسير الإشاري ] falls under the same category).
As for the first kind of tafsir, i.e., al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur, it can be fully appreciated only when read in Arabic. Many concepts and ideas of the Qur'an are closely tied up with the Arabic language. Further, those concepts and ideas are so subtle that their explanations fall flat and lose their import in another language. The commentaries of Ibn Jarir or Ibn Kathir, for example (which are good examples of the al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur) fail to have their impact on the reader in their translated version. Besides, some basic knowledge of hadith classification, fiqh and other disciplines, which in turn require knowledge of Arabic, is necessary to appreciate this kind of commentary.
In short al-tafsir bi ‘l ma’thur does not help much in understanding the core meanings of the Qur’anic texts. The profound part is often missed.
On the other hand, if one tries to understand the Qur'an with the help of the other kind of tafsir, viz. al‑tafsir bi 'l ra'yi, he faces the following hazards.
Firstly, to be able to correctly comment on the Qur'an, one has to have, in addition to the Revealed texts, a thorough knowledge of all the physical and metaphysical sciences and disciplines that have been developed by the humans. The Qur'an deals with history, law, social affairs, morality, worship, economy, psychology, state affairs, spiritual development, eschatology, divinity, and many other disciplines ‑ all in one go. Obviously, since it is beyond one man's capacity to master so many disciplines in a life‑time, it is beyond him also to write a commentary of the Qur'an that conveys the true intent of the Qur’an.
Further, every commentator is a product of his own age, genre, intellectual atmosphere, and cultural background. His problems are the problems of his time ‑ not necessarily of all times. His view of life is from a certain angle ‑ not necessarily the ecumenical and transcendental view of the Qur'an. (So, we often hear from such commentators that “the Qur’an lays down the way of life”: which immediately reduces its message to mundane level. Had they said it lays down the ways to moral and spiritual life, they would have been closer to truth). Such commentators are led, and cannot help but be led, by their personal predispositions and bent of mind, appealing to those of similar dispositions, and not necessarily reaching out to all the inquisitive minds and thirsty souls. Finally, whatever a commentator’s caliber, he remains subjective. True objectivity is not the share of man.
For example, if he is of a sufi bent of mind he detects suggestions that may or may not exist. If he subscribes to a certain philosophy, he may emphasize a certain point, which might be there in the text, but might not be it focal point. Thereby he distorts the overall view. Or, if his interpretation of life is materialistic and earthly, he is quite likely to rush through verses that are, so to say, mawarid al zam'an (watering places for the thirsty), and the hovering grounds of the restless soul, concentrating instead on the wonderful capabilities of Islam to promote material growth and development on earth and bring back to the Muslim Ummah its lost glory!
In short, he is a human dealing with the Word of Allah. To do justice to it is not in his power.
Finally, it is agreed by the scholars of Islam that there are two aspects to the meaning of the Qur'an: the external and the internal. The external or the obvious meaning is that which has come down from the authorities: the hadith, the opinions of the Companions, their next‑generation Followers and the meaning unanimously accepted by the scholars of Islam through and through the ages. The internal, hidden or the secret meaning of the Qur'an comes from deep reflection and a sustained exercise of the mind and soul coupled with righteous living. To take an example, it is reported that the verse (5: 3): "This day I have perfected your religion for you and completed My favor unto you, and have chosen for you as religion al‑Islam," brought tears into the eyes of `Umar ibn al-Khattab The Prophet asked him the reason. He replied: "So far we were witnessing a continuous rise of Islam. Now that it has been completed (i.e. it has reached its zenith), it can only follow a downward direction, as it happens with anything that has achieved its zenith." The Prophet (saws) agreed with him.
Imam Ghazali writes in his eighth book of Ihya' `Ulum 'l‑Din:

"The truth is that to everything pertaining to reflective and intellectual matters, which have become ambiguous to men of reflection, and in which people have differed, there are indications and implications in the Qur'an which can be observed by men of understanding. How can these indications and implications be completely conveyed by translations of its outward meanings and its (outward) exegesis?"

Further down he writes:

"The man who imagines that the Qur'an has no meaning except that which the outward exegesis has translated (and described), is acknowledging his own limitations; he is right in his acknowledgement (because he knows only this measure and is not aware of that which lies beyond this), but is wrong in his judgment which places all other people on the same footing as himself." (The Recitation and Interpretation of the Qur'an: Al-Ghazali's Theory by Muhammad Abdul Quasem, p. 87, 88).

Nevertheless, the scholars are also in agreement that the internal meaning can be attained only after a complete mastery of the external has been achieved. Zarkashi writes:

"The Book of Allah: it is the bottomless sea, whose meaning cannot be unfathomed but by the well-versed in (religious) knowledge; he who fears Allah in open and secret, and gives due esteem to Him in places where he comes across the ambiguous. Its subtleties and truths cannot be grasped but by one who (as the Qur’an said) ‘lends his ear and is attentive...'"

He adds a little further,

"All knowledge can be summed up as that of the ‘Acts' and ‘Attributes' of Allah. The Qur'an contains the knowledge of the Acts, Attributes, and the Essence of the Supreme Being. This fact leads us to another, viz., the field of knowledge is immensely vast. There is room for much more than what is obvious to the mind. The exegesis therefore, that has been passed on to us (by the authorities) do not lay down limits for the attainment of knowledge. Yet, it is not possible to jump over to the hidden without mastery of the obvious. Indeed, the knowledge of the external is absolutely essential to step into the internal and the hidden. Whoever claims to have knowledge of the secret part of the Qur'an while lacking a proper understanding of the external and the obvious, is like he who claims manhood at the threshold of his house (to which he has just crawled) although he has not yet stepped out of the door."

In brief, the Qur'an has two levels of meaning: the external and the internal. It should be obvious, therefore, how difficult it can be for a person to get to the second level, while his first level of understanding is suspect due to his ignorance of the language which leads him to take the words of men for the words of God.
These are some of the reasons why neither a translation nor a commentary can be substituted for the original.
It should not be surprising therefore to note that according to Imam Shafe`i, learning of the Arabic language is obligatory on every Muslim. Imam Abu Yousuf and Zufar, both students of Imam Abu Hanifah, went a step further. They stated that it is makruh (undesirable) for two Muslims who can manage some Arabic, to speak with each other in another language. Ibn Taymiyyah is also of the opinion that learning Arabic is a religious requirement since what is necessary to realize an obligation (wajib) is itself obligatory (wajib).

Pre‑conceived Ideas
In contrast, neglect of the language and study and reliance upon a single commentary of the al-tafsir bi 'l‑ra'yi type, can lead a student of the Qur'an to hold questionable opinions despite long study and painful application. Many of those who could become connoisseurs ended up dilettantes. Imam Ghazali writes about this class of people:

"The sufis have said that knowledge (`ilm) is a veil (between man and God), and by this knowledge they have meant those beliefs (`aqa'id) which most people have been firmly holding either by dogmatically following an authority or by mere reliance on casuistic sentences written by zealots of schools of thought and delivered to them. As for the real knowledge which is the uncovering of the actual condition of the thing known and which is a vision by the light of spiritual insight, how can it be a veil, seeing that it is the ultimate object of desire?
Pure dogmatic following of an authority is sometimes false (in itself) and is, therefore, an obstacle to the understanding of the meaning (of the Qur'an). An example of this is a man who has a (purely dogmatic) belief in Allah's istawa' on the Throne as His being settled on it physically. Then in the case of (the divine name) ‘the Holy One' (al-Quddus), for example, there comes to his mind the meaning that He is pure from all that is ascribable to His creation: but that purely dogmatic belief of his does not make it possible for this meaning to be firmly implanted in his mind. Had it become strengthened in his mind it would have led to a second meaning and a third, which could be inter-connected. But he hastens to drive this meaning away from his mind, because it contradicts his false belief which is held purely dogmatically.
Sometimes purely dogmatic following of an authority is true (in itself), but it too becomes an obstacle to understanding (the meaning of the Qur'an) and to unveiling of them. The truth in which man is obliged to believe has stages and grades, and it has an external beginning and an internal end. Concentration of man's nature on the external aspect prevents him from reading the internal end" (source cited above, p.70, 71).

Finally, every commentator is influenced by the ideas of his time that seem to be so powerful, and therefore of great consequence, which could be so during a particular epoch, but prove not to be so with the passage of time. Moved by those ideas or forces, a commentator might try to give the verses of the Qur'an a new meaning, sometimes at the expense of certain basic and universal truths. This can seriously affect the way in which his readers understand the Qur'an.
The conclusion therefore is that anyone who has not done a course of study in the tafsir of the approved type, but, instead, applies himself to the other type ‑ the tafsir bi 'l‑ra'yi ‑ runs the great risk of ending up with ideas that might not be true, half true or altogether wrong.
Therefore, every serious student of the Qur'an must learn enough Arabic to be able to read the Qur'an himself, directly, and without dependence on a translation to an extraordinary degree. It is only after he has spent sufficient time with the Qur'an (and, in addition, the Sunnah), that he can turn his attention to the translations and commentaries as further aids. It is only those for whom it is beyond their capacity to learn the language that might resort to dependence on translations and commentaries alone, although, to remain in consultation with the scholars is a necessary requirement for not getting misled on concepts.

Al-Tafsir bi 'l Ma'thur
The safest way to derive the right meaning of any part of the Qur'an is to seek its explanation within the Qur'an itself. What is stated in brief at one place is detailed at another, and what is ambiguous at one point is supplemented with elaborations elsewhere. Also, the Qur'an deals with a subject in a variety of ways, at different points, and with emphasis on different aspects in different contexts. The complete meaning can only be obtained by collecting together, either on paper or in the mind, all relevant verses, seeking connections that become apparent with contemplation. The Qur'an then should be understood in the first instance with the Qur'an itself.

The Hadith
Next, one should turn to the hadith. The ahadith are in reality a commentary on the Qur'an. Allah (swt) not only revealed the Word to the Prophet but also its meaning. A verse (4:105) says, "Surely We have sent down a Book to you (O Muhammad) with Truth so that you may judge between the people by what Allah shows you (as its true meaning)."
But it is not only the meaning as expressed in the words of the Prophet (saws) that has to be learnt. It is also the meaning as expressed in his actions that should be applied to one’s own life, to gain an understanding of the Qur'an. The Prophet lived according to the Message he received, not deviating from it in the least. In other words his life was the Qur'an interpreted: "Have you not read the Qur'an?!" was the answer given by `A'isha (ra) when asked about the Prophet's conduct in everyday life.
An example will illustrate how well the Prophet understood and lived by the Qur'an.
The Qur'an uses the term rih (in the sense of ‘winds') in two ways. In some places in the singular form as rih, and in others in the plural form as riyah. In all, it has used these terms on 29 occasions. Now a careful study reveals that when the occasion is the announcement of a punishment or chastisement from Allah, the word is used in its singular form (rih). In contrast, when the context is announcement of a glad tiding, it is the plural form that is chosen (riyah). [The odd deviation from the rule can be explained].
Now, keep the Qur'anic rule in mind and consider the prayer‑words of the Prophet, who, with every stormy weather supplicated in the words:

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

"O Lord! Make it winds (riyah) for us and not wind (rih)."
Another example can be cited. The Qur'an said (9: 103): "Accept (O Muhammad) of their wealth a free-will offering, to purify them and to cleanse them." This injunction came after the declaration that the free-will offering of the hypocrites was not acceptable; and the reference is to the zakah on wealth. The free-will offering, of course, is collected by the State and is distributed following another injunction (9: 60) that cites eight categories of people as the deserving recipients.
However, following the clue that zakah (and sadaqat by implication) purify and cleanse the people ("to purify them and cleanse them"), and, reasoning that the purifying agent cannot itself be clean after its purifying operation (another example is ablution water dropping down a man), the Prophet declared his kinsfolk as undeserving of a share in the zakah (and sadaqat) funds. He told them that the zakah funds were a dirt of the hand and hence unsuitable for them.
The above stray examples demonstrate not only how well the Prophet understood the Qur'an and the extent to which he applied it to himself, but also, how important it is for a reader to gain mastery over the two: the Qur'an and the Sunnah texts, to understand either.

The Companions and their Followers
Any clarification required after the first two sources have been exhausted, should be sought in the opinions of the Prophet's Companions; especially those who were close to him, received his special attention, and specialized in the Qur'an during his life‑time: such as the four khulafa', Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud, `Abdullah ibn `Umar, Ubayy b. Ka`ab and others, or those of the Followers who became the pupils of these Companions, such as: Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, Masruq, `Ata' ibn Rabah, Hassan al Busri, Sa`id ibn al Musayyib, Qatadah, Dahhak, Abu al `Aliyyah and others.
The differences in their opinions, however, should not disturb a student. For, as Ibn Taymiyyah has pointed out in his Muqaddimah fi Usul al Tafsir, in most cases they express the same meaning in different words. The word "hafadah" for instance, has been explained as "daughters" by Ibn Mas`ud and Sa`id b. Jubayr; as "grandsons" by Ibn `Abbas; as "in‑laws" by Ibn Mas`ud; while `Ikrimah, Mujahid, and Hasan al‑Basri say it stands for "servants." They are all of course expressing one or the other aspect of the meaning of the word. For "hafadah" is plural of "hafid" and in its singular form it means "he who is made to serve." At the time the verse was revealed, the word was used in all those senses in which it was adopted by different authorities.
Tafsir bi 'l ma'thur derives its basis from ‑ apart from others ‑ a hadith which says that when the Prophet was deputing Mu`adh ibn Jabal to Yemen he asked him how he was going to judge between the people. "With the Book of Allah," replied Mu`adh. "But what if you do not find (a lead) therein?" the Prophet asked. "With the Sunnah of Allah's Messenger," he replied. "But if you do not find (a lead) therein also?" he asked him. "Then," Mu`adh replied, "I will work out my own opinion." The Prophet expressed his approval (Muqaddimah, Ibn Taymiyyah).
A word of caution however, about this kind of tafsir should be in place. What is recommended is the methodology as enumerated above, and not the entire content of the books of tafasir that have followed this methodology. In some of these works massive amount of Jewish material and comments of the early exegetes have been included without verifications of their authenticity. If not read critically, these can have their own pitfalls. Naivety, for instance, can be perceived in those who rely on these alone and have failed to step into the modern age in intellectual terms.

Al-Tafsir bi al Ra'yi (Personal Opinions)
As stated above, sometimes a commentator uses his intelligence, knowledge, intuition or inspiration to bring out a point in language, history, law, etc. Some of such comments are acceptable, while others are not. Take for example verse (2: 102): "Sulayman blasphemed not, but the Satans blasphemed." A question arises. We know that a prophet does not blaspheme. Why then did the Qur'an have to say that Sulayman (asws) did not blaspheme? For an explanation we have to look into the Bible which alleges that Solomon became an idolater during the last days of his life (Majid). Though not based on an athar, it is a valid explanation and also corroborates with what details classical commentators (such as Ibn Kathir) have recorded as coming from Suddi and Sa`id b. Jubayr.
To take another example, the Qur'an says (2: 273): "(Alms are) for the poor who are restrained in the way of Allah, who can not journey in the land (for trade). The ignorant supposes them rich because of their restraint. You will know them by their mark. They do not beg of people with importunity. And whatsoever of good things that you spend, surely, Allah will know it."
Commenting on the verse, Thanwi says that the words, ‘(Alms are) for the poor who are restrained in the way of Allah,' are telling us that those who are working in the way of Allah deserve to receive first priority in aid. Further, the clause ‘who cannot journey in the land' signifies that it is desirable for those engaged in the path of Allah that they may suspend their efforts at livelihood, if need be, although there is no contradiction between the two (i.e. engagement in the path of Allah, and search for livelihood). Finally, the words ‘the ignorant supposes them rich,' implies that it is undesirable to put on appearances that will distinguish a man from the common people.
This is the kind of Tafsir bi 'l ra'yi that is acceptable since such statements can be corroborated in other ways also. What can be proved as valid either directly through deductions from the Qur'an, Sunnah, opinions of the Companions, their immediate Followers, or that which, in the least, does not contradict any of the above, in word or spirit, is valid and acceptable.
The permission for this kind of interpretation is based on the supplication (du`a) which the Prophet made for Ibn `Abbas. He said:

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

"O Allah, grant him knowledge of the Qur'an and teach him the interpretation."
Contrary to this is the unprincipled interpretation that has its basis neither in the sources cited above, nor does it agree with the spirit of Islam as understood by the scholars at large.
To explain, any opinion with reference to a Qur’anic text that contradicts with that of the Salaf, in matters involving the Shari`ah, values, morals or spiritual affairs, is Tafsir bi al-Ra’yi, and stands rejected outright. It is about such an interpretation that the Prophet remarked: "Whoever speaks about the Qur'an without knowledge, may seek his abode in the Fire."
The Companions and their Followers were quite careful about offering an interpretation that did not have a Qur'anic verse or hadith in its support. Abu Bakr (ra) used to say: "Which heaven will shelter me, and which earth will support me if I said about Allah's Book, that which I have no knowledge of." Abu Yezid said: "We used to ask Sa`id ibn al‑Musayyib about the ‘lawful' and the ‘unlawful' and would find him the most knowledgeable of men. But when we asked him about a verse of the Qur'an as to how it was to be understood, he would be quiet, turning a deaf ear to us."

Al-Tafsir 'l‑Ishari (Allegorical Interpretation)
By nature, man is awed by the mysterious. It is the inexplicable, the symbolical, and the mysterious that engage his attention. The obvious and the clear‑cut escape him. To seek a solution to a riddle or the meaning of an allegory is a task he undertakes with enthusiasm. The allegorical verses of the Qur'an have provided grist to the minds of its scholars and there have been several interpretations proffered to explain them. Some of these are not readily acceptable and raise controversies. The best course of action about them when they are authentically quoted, by authoritative people, but which seemingly contradicts ideas of the Salaf, is to make no judgment about their acceptance or rejection.
In this work the use of Tafsir 'l Ishari has been restricted. It is inadvisable to read them without the guidance of a specialist. Thanwi’s Masa'il al‑Suluk as footnotes to his Urdu Bayan al‑Qur'an, is of this class. So are Alusi’s notes under this heading.
Nevertheless, it should also be borne in mind that every passage whose meaning is not obvious is not necessarily of the allegorical type, nor is the Qur'an entirely without them. There are some portions of the Qur'an whose true meaning the human mind might never be able to unravel. Ibn `Abbas has said: "There are four kinds of meanings: a) that which is apparent to the Arabs because it is in their language, b) that whose meaning no one can deny on the pretext of ignorance, c) the meaning that is the share of the scholars alone, and, d) the meaning that no one knows save Allah and His Messenger."
Further, one may note that there are Qur’anic texts whose meanings would be understood at the time of death, or subsequent to it.

Following the Qur'anic method, we might end with what we started with. Application is part of the study. One will not travel much on the road if he failed to live by the instructions and inspirations that he received with the study. The Qur'an is the Word of Allah. It has been sent to guide the people. But it guides only those who are willing to be guided. As Rumi has said, the Qur’an is a closed book except for the true ardent seeker; to which we might add, ‘those who would care to apply.’
A further condition is to avoid sins of all kinds. The following is reported to have been said by Imam Shafe`i:

شكوت إلى وكيع سوء حفظى * فأرشدنى إلى ترك المعاصى
وأخـبرنى بـأن العـلم نور * ونور الله لايهدى لعاصى

I complained to Waki` of my forgetfulness
He guided me to give up sins
And taught me that knowledge is Light
And Allah’s Light is not shown to the sinner

The student of the Qur'an will have to develop his mind in such a way as to be skeptical of everything that the senses report, doubt every opinion that is formed by the intellect, and question every information that comes from non‑revealed sources. In the next step, he will have to test all of them against the Qur'an and reject any that contradicts it in word or spirit. Ibn Mas`ud (ra) said: "During the life-time of the Prophet, we used to take ten verses of the Qur'an for study and would not move on to the next ten until we had lived by those ten." It is reported of `Umar ibn al‑Khattab (ra) that he finished surah al‑Baqarah in seven years. According to a report he was so happy at its completion that he slaughtered a camel and invited his friends to a feast.
We can conclude with Zarkashi's remarks. He writes in Al‑Burhan fi `Ulum al‑Qur'an:

"In the final analysis, the derivation of the meaning of the Qur'an is largely dependent on a man's own thoughts and reflections. Let it be known, therefore, that the true meaning of the revelation and the secrets of the veiled knowledge will never be the share of a man whose heart is filled with innovations, or who insists on a sin, or in whose heart resides pride or base desires or love of the world, or that he be of an uncertain faith, or poor of discernment, or dependent on the opinions of a mufassir who has knowledge only of the externals (`ilm al-zahir), or gives precedence to his own thoughts and ideas (during the process of thinking). All these are veils and obstacles, some of which are of greater impedance than others.
"(In contrast), if the man pays full attention to the words of His Lord, is receptive to the meaning that the Attributes of the One addressing him unfold themselves, is always aware of His powers, abandons his own self-established conclusions based on reason and intellect, renounces his own powers and abilities, is ever mindful of the greatness of the Speaker, beseeching Him the grant of the meaning: and all this from a personal state of integrity, a good-natured heart, with the power of knowledge, of a calm disposition to gather the meaning, and to wait for the missed meaning seeking (Divine) help through Prayers and Supplications, (the supplications themselves) presented with the weakness (of the human against Powers of the Divine), and observing patience while waiting for the mind to be opened by Him who is the Opener, the Knowing; and he who strengthens these qualities with a recitation during which his mind is fully attentive to the verbal meaning and bears witness to the Attributes of the One addressing him by anxiously waiting for the promises (of the opening of the heart coming true), and fearing the calamities (that may befall him for his failings), and who warns forcefully .. such is the one who has a good voice for the Qur'an and it is about him that Allah Most High has said (2:121): ‘Those to whom we have given the Book, read it in the manner it should be read. It is these who believe in it'" (p. 180-81, vol.2).

The Methodology in this Work
It has been this writer's endeavor to present in this work, principally, the meaning of the Qur'an as understood by the classical scholars. That is, in the light of the Qur'an itself, traditions of the Prophet and statements of the Companions and their followers. To achieve this, the author first consulted Ibn Jarir Tabari. Since Ibn Jarir was a Muhaddith himself, he did not cite sources to the hadith, or to statements of the Companions that he quoted. Citing the sources was done by Ibn Kathir. Therefore, Ibn Kathir was next consulted. However, Ibn Kathir did not cite sources to the statements of the Salaf. This was done, to some degree, by Shawkani. So, he was consulted next. Although Ibn Kathir cited hadith sources, he did not state the authenticity-status of ahadith. In such cases, this author tried to search the opinion of Hadith Doctors, to add a note about their reliability. Further, if there were differences in opinions over the meaning of a certain verse, Ibn Kathir preferred to adopt the opinion of Ibn Jarir, which, this author indicated. Thus, a meaning emerged as of the Salaf. The translation of the verses reflects this meaning. The author suppressed his own opinion, for whose credibility he lacks the qualification, unless it was a scientific issue, historical, geographical or the like.
Thereunto, the author added the opinions of various other commentators, taking care of course, that such opinions did not clash with the opinions of the Salaf, for in matters of Law, morals (Akhlaq), and spiritual matters, the Salaf were the true authority. The way the first three generations understood the Qur’an, was never understood by any after them. It is they who changed the world, the way no generation could. If a headstrong person thinks that someone’s understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah, was, or is, as good as that of the Salaf, and as accurate, he might need a course on how `ilm is defined in Islam. Ibn Sirin, a prominent Tabe`i said, “Knowledge is gone. What’s left of it is bits and pieces, scattered among the scholars.” Hasan al-Basri, his contemporary, was told by someone that the “Fuqaha’ say so and so.” He corrected him, “Have you ever seen a Faqih?”

An additional note about the commentaries made by the Companions and their followers might be in order. The Prophet has said: "The best of epochs is my epoch, then that of the Followers, and then that of the Followers." He was referring to the epoch followed by his own, and that of the Companions and the Tabe`iyyun. There were many Companions of the Prophet who received his special attention and specialized in the Qur'an during his life‑time itself. In turn they tutored many among the Tabe`iyyun. The term Salaf applies mainly to these: i.e., the Companions and the two succeeding generations, plus the third (because of some reports). Their opinion is the approved opinion. If they agree over the meaning of a particular word, or a verse, and the issue is purely of a religious nature as indicated above, then any other opinion that contradicts it and cannot be reconciled with it, stands rejected. Of course, there is no such restriction when the subject concerned is of historical, geographical or scientific nature, for, these disciplines were developed after them. Some contemporary commentaries tend to give new meanings to some Qur’anic terms. If they clash with those of the Salaf, they must be ignored; for, the Salaf knew the ‘Arabic of the Qur’an,’ and not the Arabic of those who refer to dictionaries and literary works developed after them to argue their case. `Umar used to say, “If you are in doubt, refer to the Jahiliyy poetry. The Qur’an was revealed in that language.”

The opinions of the Salaf might sometimes surprise the reader. He might consider them as entirely out of context. But, it is the failure to understand the context that creates the confusion. "Jump the line" is a sentence in English that conveys different meanings to different people in different situations. To a sportsman it has one meaning. When spoken by a motorist complaining of the erratic behavior of another motorist it has another meaning. In contrast, to an electrician working on the power grid, the sentence carries a different sense altogether. What we have to realize about the Companions is that they did not merely understand the context; they were themselves the context, and often spoke from the transcendental level; not from the stand point of the misleading cliché of modern times: ‘reason and logic.’

If the reader wishes to make the most of this work, he or she should allocate an area in his mind wherein he stores information obtained from the Salaf, in this work. This is the principal, the most reliable meaning, and the basis on which he can build on further. He might highlight such passages for ease of later reference.

Nonetheless, in order to keep alive interest and help increase knowledge, I have also included material that has so far been the prerogative of the Arabic‑speaking readers: material without which the Qur'anic spectrum of legitimate meaning loses some of its color.
To the above I have added some useful material from commentaries in Urdu and English. But of course, while selecting material from contemporary works, a critical eye has been kept open for errors of the conceptual type and, to the extent possible, those that contradict with a meaning accepted by the Jumhur al‑Ummah (the great majority). Jumhur al‑Ummah is of course not the same thing as the Ijma` al‑Ummah (the consensus of opinion ‑ the research of which is a difficult task, well beyond the scope of this work). The opinions of the Jumhur give us some idea of how the Qur'an has been understood through the ages. When Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Thanwi or others consider a point from the previous exegetes as worth quoting, then surely that adds up to the weight of the comment.
I have not reproduced from, or cited reference to, the contemporary commentators if they have discussed those matters that the ancients have already done. In most cases the contemporary scholars have changed the form, picking out from the ancients what would suit them most. I have quoted them only if they have a new idea or a fresh point, with the condition, once again, that such ideas do not, in my limited knowledge, contradict a proven opinion held by the Salaf or Jumhu al-Ummah. Anecdotes, poetry, fiqh points, and comparative study material have been added to break the monotony.

A word about quotations from the Sufiya' would be in order. We all know that an unclean person in dirty clothes would hardly improve himself by applying perfume. He first needs to cleanse himself. How can it be any different in matters pertaining to the soul? A heart filled with pride or preferential love of this world will hardly improve through wisdom-words or supererogatory exercises. Something needs to be done first to remove the impurities. Sufism is all about this removal of impurities. This centrist position however, lies between two extremes. It should not be imagined that by quoting the Sufiya' we are approving the extreme positions, practices, or the so‑called "ways of the Gnostic" that have no basis in the Shari`ah.

Hadith Authenticity
The most difficult task has been to present only those ahadith or reports from the Companions or others that are authentic, since no noteworthy work has been done by the hadith experts on Qur'anic commentaries. Mahmud Shakir's attempt at Tabari has remained incomplete. Hussain b. Ibrahim and Sayyid Ibrahim have done some useful, although not exhaustive work on Ibn Kathir and Shawkani. Occasionally, I have either traced the ahadith to their sources, and when not in the Sahih works, have depended on works on the topic by Hadith experts. I have tried not to quote anything less than Hasan in status. If I have quoted some weak reports, it is only those that are not very weak or are strengthened by other, although weak, ahadith, or the personal opinions of the Companion or others.

Ideological Interpretations
Some readers might be surprised to note the lack of a single string of thought in this work, as it is also lacking in classical commentaries: one strand, so to say, that weaves into itself the "philosophy of the whole of the Qur'an." This is a naive idea. To speak of the Qur'an in such terms is to presume a certain meaning, a certain philosophy, a certain ideology, and reduce the Word of Allah to human definitions.
It is common knowledge that this terrestrial existence is too complex to be interpreted in terms of a single philosophy. Life cannot be reduced to equations. Even the inorganic does not render itself to such simplification. At this very moment, scientists at a billion dollar apiece Accelerators (commonly known as atom smashers) are at their wit’s end trying to determine if the building blocks of an atom (which were once thought to be electrons, protons, neutrons and a few other elementary particles) are quarks, those 300 subatomic particles visible for a fraction of a second when the nucleus is smashed with highly accelerated protons, or there is more to it. No one can say for sure if there will be an end to it!! The wave and particle function of the sub-atomic particles is another intriguing issue. If solid matter is proving so complex, what should one think of the uncreated ‘Word’ of Allah?
Moreover, such a demand betrays the failure to understand the very basics of life in terms of human fears, hopes, aspirations, creativity and interactions. At every moment of his existence a man has several options before him, only one of which is the optimum best for him. What can guide him to the right choice but a criterion backed by a vast set of concepts, data and ideas that have their own quality to fuse themselves, in a flash of a second, into one homogenized whole and present a single, synchronized, workable idea or a suggestion ‑ that the man may accept or reject!?
Again, the Qur'an is, from one angle, a long essay in the education of concepts: the divisions are for human convenience. No detail can be missed in any area but at the loss of a concept; sometimes it might be the most valuable concept acting as the central link to a maze of ideas, and, a powerful magnet to iron flakes flying by in every direction. Hence the presentation in the style I have adopted. The reader will have to pick up bits and pieces, and put them together into a homogenous meaningful whole that is pertinent to his situation, and would be useful perhaps to him alone.

Rarely has a work of such dimensions and a task so demanding been attempted by a man as poorly qualified as this author. Yet, no efforts were spared to locate material necessary to produce the "aid for understanding the Qur'an" that he has aimed at producing. Although, it must be admitted, that efforts are no substitute for abilities.
The author’s dependence, therefore, on those who are pioneers in similar efforts should be quite evident. In the rendering of the Qur'anic text into English for instance, A.J. Arberry's influence can be easily detected. Yusuf `Ali, Asad and Pickthall have been in constant reference. N.J. Dawood and several others have also been consulted. To make it easier for the beginners and non‑Muslims (and following the recommendation of the fuqaha'), words and phrases have been added in parenthesis while rendering the text into English. Such interpolations are, nonetheless, based on an accepted interpretation.
Without trying to be humble, it can be said with a fair amount of accuracy that for all that is good and useful in this work, the credit is due to someone else, while the shortcomings are the contributions of this author who seeks Allah's forgiveness, and the reader's help in overcoming them.

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

Clue to References
Ahmad: Musnad by Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (d. 241 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, Muhammad Nasiruddin Albani, (d. 1420 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da`eefah wa al-Mawdu`ah, Muhammad Nasirudding Albani, , Al-Maktab al-Islami.
Alusi/Ruh: Ruh al Ma`ani Fi Tafsir Qur’an al `Azim Wa al Sab` al Mathani by Shihab al Din Sayyid Mahmood Alusi (d.1291 A.H.)
`Aqidah: `Aqidah Tahawiyyah, commentary Ibn Abi al-`Izz, (tr. By Syed Iqbal Zaheer, as Funamentals of Islamic Creed), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Arba`ahal, Kitab al-Fiqh `ala Madhahib al-Arba`ah by Abdul Rahman al-Jaziri
Asad: The Message of the Qur’an by Muhammad Asad (d. 1412 A.H.)
`Awn al-Ma`bud: Sharh Sunan Abi Da’ud, Muhammad Shams al-Haq al-`Azimabadi.
`Ayni, `Umdatu al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Badruddin `Ayni, Ihya al-Turath al-Islami, Beirut.
Bada’i`: Bada’i` al-Tafsir, Al-Jami` al-Tafsir al-Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, collected by Yusri Sayyid Muhammad, Dar Ibn Jawzi, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 1993
E.I.: Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, Leiden 1991
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Haythami, , Majma`u al-Zawa’id wa Manba` al-Fawa’id, Nuruddin `Ali b. abi Bakr, Mu’assasatu al-Ma`arif, Beyrut.
Hussain: Tafsir ibn Kathir, Hussain b. Ibrahim Zahran, ed.
Ibn Is-haq: Sirah Rasulullah, by Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 151 A.H.).
Ibn Jarir/Tabari: Jami` al Bayan Fi Tafsir al Qur’an by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310 A.H.)
Ibn Kathir: Tafsir al Qur’an al `Azim by `Imad al Din Abul Fida Isma`il ibn `Amr ibn Kathir (d.774 A.H.)
Ibn Majah, Sunan, Muhammad b. Yazid al-Qazwini, Maktabah al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut.
Ibn Qayyim: Al-Tafsir Al-Qayyim, by Shamsuddin Muhammad b. Abi Bakr Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d.751 A.H.) collected by Muhammad Uways Al-Nadwi.
Jami` Saghir: Fayd al-Qadir Sharh Jami` Saghir (of Jalaluddin Suyuti) by Muhammad `Abdul Ra’uf al-Munawi.
Kabir al: Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir, tafsir notes of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 A.H) collected by Dr. `Abdul Rahman `Umayrah.
Kanz: Kanz al-`Ummal,by Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi.
Lane: An Arabic-English Lexicon, by Edward Willian Lane, Librarie Du Luban, 1968
Lisan: Lisan al-`Arab, Ibn Manzur, (d. 711 A.H.).
Lughat: Lughat al-Qur’an (Urdu) by Mawlana Abdul Rashid No`mani & Mawlana Sayyid Abdud-Da’im Al-Jalali.
Ma`arif /Shafi`: Ma`arif al Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi` Deobandi (d. 1396 A.H.).
Majid: Holy Qur’an Translation and Commentary (English) by `Abdul Majid Daryabadi (1397).
Majidi: Holy Qur’an Translation and Commentary by `Abdul Majid Daryabadi (Urdu).
Manar, Tafsir al-Manar, Rashid Rada Misri, Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Mawdudi/Tafhim: Tafhim al-Qur’an by Sayyid Abul A`la Mawdudi (d.1979 C.E.)
Mughni al, Ibn Qudamah, al-Maqdisi, Ri’asat al-Idaratu al-Buuth al-`Ilmiyyah, Saudi Arabia.
Mulhim: Fath al-Mulhim, Shabbir Ahmad `Uthmani, and, Takmilatu Fath al-Mulhim, Taqiuddin `Uthmani, Dar al-Ulum, Karachi.
Muwatta’: Muwatta’ by Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 A.H.).
Nasa’i, Ahmad b. Shu`ayb, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Dar al-Rayyan li al-Turath, Cairo.
Nawawi: Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Sharfuddin al-Nawawi (d. 261 A.H.)
Penrice: A Dictionary and Glossary of the Qur’an, John Penrice, Gaurav Publishing House, 187
Qurtubi: Al-Jam`i Li ‘l Ahkam al Qur’an by Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al Ansari al Qurtubi (d.671 A.H.)
Raghib: Mu`jam Mufradat al-Qur’an by al-Raghib al-Asfahani (d. 503 A.H.)
Rawa‘e`: Rawa‘e` al-Bayan Tafsir Ayat al-Ahkam by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Razi: Tafsir al Fakhr al Razi by Muhammad al-Razi Fakhr al Din ibn Dia al Din `Umar (d.604 A.H.)
Sabuni: Safwatu al Tafasir by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Sahih ibn Hibban bi-Tarteeb Ibn Balban, `Ala’uddin `Ali b. Balban, , Mu’assasah al-Risalah, Beirut.
Shabbir/`Uthmani: Al-Qur’an al-Karim, Commentary by Shabbir Ahmed `Uthmani (d. 1370 A.H.).
Shanqiti: Adwa‘ al-Bayan, Fi Idahi Al-Qur’an bi ‘l-Qur’an by Muhammad Al-Amin b.Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Jakani Al-Shanqiti.
Se`di: Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman, fir Tafsir al-Mannan, `Abdul Rahman b. Nasir Se`id.
Shawkani: Al-Fut-h al-Qadir by Muhammad ibn `Ali Shawkani (d.1255 A.H.)
S. Ibrahim: Ed. Al-Fath al-Qadir, by Shawkani
Sihah: Taj al-Lugha wa Sihah al-`Arabiyyah, Isma`il b. Nasr Hammad al-Jawhari, 393 A.H.
Sirah: Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah fi Daw Masadir al-Athliyyah, Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, Saudi Arabia 1992.
Sayyid Qutb/Qutb/Zilal: Fi Zilal al Qur’an by Sayyid Qutb (d.1386 A.H.).
Thanwi/Bayan: Bayan al Qur’an by Ashraf `Ali Thanwi (d.1361 A.H.)
Tuhfah: Tuhfah al-Ahwazi bi Sharh Jami` al-Tirmidhi by Muhammad ibn `Abdul Rahman Mubarakpuri.
Yusuf Ali: The Glorious Qur’an, Meaning and Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (d. 1953 A.H.).
Zafar Ahmad `Uthmani, I`la al-Sunan, Idaratu al-Islam wa `Ulum al-Islamiyyah, Karachi, Pakistan.
Zamakhshari/Kashshaf: Haqa’iq al- Tanzil Wa `Uyun al-Aqawil Fi Wujuh at-Ta‘wil by Abu al-Qasim Jarallah Mahmood b.`Umar al-Zamakhshari (d.538 A.H.).
Zarkashi: Al-Burhan Fi `Ulum al-Qur’an by Badruddin Muhammad bin `Abdullah al-Zarkashi (d. 794 A.H.), Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Note: The list above is not a complete bibliography, but rather books sort of more often referred.


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

Ac. = Acts of the Apostles.
Am. = Amos.
1. Ch. = The First Book of the Chronicles.
2. Ch. = The Second Book of the Chronicles.
1. Cor. = Paul’s First Epistle of the Apostles.
1. Ch. = The First Book of the Chronicles.
2. Ch. = The Second Book of the Chronicles.
1. Cor. = Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.
2. Cor. = Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
Dn. = The Book of Daniel.
Dt. = Deuteronomy: The Fifth Book of Moses.
Ex. = Exodus: The Second Book of Moses.
Ez. = Ezra.
Ezek. = The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.
Ga. = Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.
Ge. = Genesis: The First Book of Moses.
He. = Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews.
Ho. = Hosea.
Is. = Isiah.
Ja. = The General Epistle of James.
Jn. = Gospel according to St. John.
Jo. = Joel.
Job. = The Book of Job.
Jon. = The Book of Jonah.
Josh. = The Book of Joshua.
Judg. = The Book of Judges.
Je. = The Book of Jeremiah.
1. Ki. = The First Book of the Kings.
2. Ki. = The Second Book of the Kings.
La. The Lamentations of Jeremiah.
Lk. = The Gospel according to St. Luke.
Le. = Leviticus: The Third Book of Moses.
Mi. = Micah.
Mk. = Gospel according to St. Mark.
Mt. = Gospel according to St. Matthew.
Na. = Nahum.
Ne. = The Book of Nehemiah.
Nu. = Numbers: The Fourth Book of Moses.
1. Pe. = The First Epistle General of Peter.
2. Pe. = The Second Epistle General of Peter.
Ph. = Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.
Pr. = The Proverbs.
Ps. = The Book of Psalms.
Re. = The Revelation of St. John.
Ro. = Paul’s Epistle to the Romans
1. Sa. = The First Book of Samuel.
2. Sa. = The Second Book of Samuel.
So. = The Song of Solomon.
1. Thes. = Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
2. Thes. = Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
1. Ti. = Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy.
2. Ti. = Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy.
Tt. = Paul’s Epistle to Titus.
Ze. = Zechariah.

“Ant.” = Josephus’ ‘Antiquities of the Jews.’ (Routledge London).
Aq. = Shah Abdul Qadir Dehlavi (D. 1241 A.H./1826 C.E.). Urdu translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
ASB. = Asad’s English Translation of Sahih al-Bukhari.
AV. = Authorized Version of the Bible.
AYA. = `Abdullah Yusuf `Ali. English translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
Bdh. = Nasir-ud-Din `Abdullah Baidhavi (D. 685 A.H./1282 C.E.). Commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
BK. = ‘Book of Knowledge,’ 4 Vols. (Educational Book Co., London)
CD. = Pallen and Wynne’s ‘New Catholic Dictionary.’ (New York).
CE. = McDannell’s ‘Concise Encyclopedia,’ 8 Vols. (New York).
C.E. = Christian Era.
DB. = Hastings’ ‘Dictionary of the Bible,’ 5 Vols. (Clarke, London).
DCA. = Smith and Cheetham’s ‘Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,’ 2 Vols. (Murray, London).
DV. = Douay Version of the Bible.
EBi. = Cheyne and Black’s ‘Encyclopedia Biblica,’ 4 Vols. (Black, London).
EBr. = ‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ 29 Vols. 11th Edition. (London).
Encyclopedia Britannica,’ 24 Vols. 14th Edition. (London and New York). Where no edition is specified, the reference is to 14th edition.
EI. = Houtsma and Wensink’s ‘Encyclopedia of Islam,’ 5 Vols. (Luzac, London).
EMK. = Hammerton’s ‘Encyclopedia of Modern Knowledge,’ 5 Vols. (Waverly, New York).
ERE. = Hastings’ ‘Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics,’ 13 Vols. (Clarke, London).
ESS. = Seligman’s ‘Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences,’ 15 Vols. (Macmillan, London).
FWN = Frazer’s ‘Worship of Nature,’ 2 Vols. (Macmillan, London).
GB. = Ragg’s ‘The Gospel of Barnabas.’ (Oxford).
GRE. = Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ 7 Vols. (Methuen, London).
HHW. = ‘Historians’ History of the World,’ 25 Vols. (The Times, London).
HJ. = The Hibbert Journal. (Constable, London).
IA. = Hadhrat `Abdullah Ibn-i-`Abbas. (D. 68 A.H./688 C.E.) (A companion and cousin of the Holy Prophet).
IQ. = Ibn-i-Qutaiba. (D. 276 A.H./890 C.E.) Author of ‘Arabic Glossary of the Holy Qur’an.
JE. = ‘The Jewish Encyclopedia,’ 12 Vols. (Funk and Wagnalls, New York).
LL. = Lane’s ‘Arabic-English Lexicon,’ 8 Vols. (Williams and Norgate, London).
LSK. = Lane and Lane-Poole’s ‘Selections from the Kuran.” (Trubner, London).
M.A. = Maulana Mohammad `Ali: (D. 1349 A.H./1931 C.E.) Indian Muslim leader. (Not to be confused with his namesake of Lahore and a translator of the Qur’an). The references are to his unpublished work, ‘Islam: The Kingdom of God’ (since published as ‘My Life – A Fragment’ by Sh. M. Ashraf, Lahore).
NSD. = ‘New Standard Dictionary of the English Language,’ 4 Vols. (Funk and Wagnalls, New York).
NT. = The New Testament.
OT. = The Old Testament.
PC. = Tyler’s ‘Primitive Culture,’ 2 Vols. (Murray, London).
RV. = Revised Version of the Bible.
RZ. = Imam Fakhruddin Razi. (D. 659 A.H./1209 C.E.). Well-know commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
SOED. = ‘Shorter Oxford English Dictionary,’ 2 Vols. (Oxfor).
SPD. = Sale’s ‘Preliminary Discourse to the Translation of the Kuran,’ prefixed as Introduction to Wherry’s ‘Commentary on the Kuran,’ 4 Vols. (Trubner, London)
Th. = Maulana Ashraf `Ali Thanvi. (B. 1280 A.H./1864 C.E.). Translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an
UHW. = Hammerton’s ‘Universal History of the World,’ 8 Vols. (New York).
VJE. = Vallentine’s ‘One Volume Jewish Encyclopedia.’ (London).
WGAL. = Wright’s ‘Grammar of the Arabic Language,’ 2 Vols. (Cambridge).
Zm. = Jar-ul-lah Zamakhsari (D. 538 A.H./1144 C.E.). Commentator of the Holy Qur’an.


Abbreviations - General
asws: `Alayhi al‑Salat wa al‑Salam (on him be peace and blessing).
ra: Radi Allahu `anhu/`anha (may Allah be pleased with him/her).
Au.: Author.
Sahihayn: Bukhari and Muslim.
saws: Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam (May Allah send peace and blessing upon him).
swt: Subhanahu wa Ta`ala (glorified be He, the Exalted).


Technical Terms
Da`if: A weak report but not a fabricated one nor entirely untrustworthy. It has some weakness in its text or in its isnad. A kind of hadith, therefore, before which one can place a question mark.
Gharib: That report in which the isnad has a single narrator after the Companion.
Hasan: A da`if report but above in strength over the one classified as da`if. Several da`if versions (unless too weak) render a hadith hasan.
Isnad: Chain of narrators.
Mawquf: A report whose chain of narration stops at a Companion.
Munkar: A kind of da`if hadith that has no other report through any other chain of narrators for a double check.
Mursal: A hadith which has been transmitted directly from the Prophet (saws) by a tabe`i, without a Companion in between Mutawatir: A report by such a large number of narrators whose agreement upon a lie is inconceivable.
Sahih: A trustworthy report.


The transliteration method used in this work neither conforms to the international standards, nor it has been applied extensively. It is only where it was thought that some confusion might occur that a few marks have been added. However, the method is as follows:
( ث ) is transliterated as "tha" ; ( ح ) as "ha" ; ( ذ ) as "dhal" ; ( ز ) and ( ظ ) both as "za" ; ( ص ) as "sad" ; ( ض ) as "dad" ; ( ع ) as "`ayn" ; and hamza ( ه ) as “ ' “ e.g. Jibra’il.


Vowels have been expressed in the following manner
( ا ) is expressed as "a", so that ( باب ) is written as "bab" ; (و ) is expressed with "u" , as for example ( نون ) is written as "nun"; ( ي ) is expressed with "i", as in the word (سين ) which is written as "sin".


  • Surah No. 1

    Merits of the Surah

    a) Abu Sa`id al Mu`alla reported, as in Bukhari:  
    عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدِ بْنِ الْمُعَلَّى قَالَ كُنْتُ أُصَلِّي فِي الْمَسْجِدِ فَدَعَانِي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَلَمْ أُجِبْهُ فَقُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنِّي كُنْتُ أُصَلِّي فَقَالَ أَلَمْ يَقُلْ اللَّهُ { اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ } ثُمَّ قَالَ لِي لأُعَلِّمَنَّكَ سُورَةً هِيَ أَعْظَمُ السُّوَرِ فِي الْقُرْآنِ قَبْلَ أَنْ تَخْرُجَ مِنْ الْمَسْجِدِ ثُمَّ أَخَذَ بِيَدِي فَلَمَّا أَرَادَ أَنْ يَخْرُجَ قُلْتُ لَهُ أَلَمْ تَقُلْ لأُعَلِّمَنَّكَ سُورَةً هِيَ أَعْظَمُ سُورَةٍ فِي الْقُرْآنِ قَالَ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ هِيَ السَّبْعُ الْمَثَانِي وَالْقُرْآنُ الْعَظِيمُ الَّذِي أُوتِيتُهُ

    "I was in Prayers when the Prophet called me. I did not reply. I went to him after I had finished praying. He asked me, 'What prevented you from answering me?' I said I was in Prayers. He said, 'Has not Allah said in the Qur'an (8: 24): 'Believers, respond to Allah and the Messenger when he calls you unto that which will give you life?' Then he said, '(Tarry along and) before you leave the mosque I will tell you about the most important surah of the Qur'an.' When he began to stroll out with his hand in mine, I reminded him of his promise. He said, 'Yes. It is the Al Hamd, the Sab' al Mathani, and the Qur'an al `Azim which I have been given.'"

    b) The following is in the Sahihayn:

    عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ قَالَ كُنَّا فِي مَسِيرٍ لَنَا فَنَزَلْنَا فَجَاءَتْ جَارِيَةٌ فَقَالَتْ إِنَّ سَيِّدَ الْحَيِّ سَلِيمٌ وَإِنَّ نَفَرَنَا غَيْبٌ فَهَلْ مِنْكُمْ رَاقٍ فَقَامَ مَعَهَا رَجُلٌ مَا كُنَّا نَأْبُنُهُ بِرُقْيَةٍ فَرَقَاهُ فَبَرَأَ فَأَمَرَ لَهُ بِثَلاثِينَ شَاةً وَسَقَانَا لَبَنًا فَلَمَّا رَجَعَ قُلْنَا لَهُ أَكُنْتَ تُحْسِنُ رُقْيَةً أَوْ كُنْتَ تَرْقِي قَالَ لا مَا رَقَيْتُ إِلا بِأُمِّ الْكِتَابِ قُلْنَا لا تُحْدِثُوا شَيْئًا حَتَّى نَأْتِيَ أَوْ نَسْأَلَ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَلَمَّا قَدِمْنَا الْمَدِينَةَ ذَكَرْنَاهُ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ وَمَا كَانَ يُدْرِيهِ أَنَّهَا رُقْيَةٌ اقْسِمُوا وَاضْرِبُوا لِي بِسَهْمٍ.

    Abu Sa`id al Khudri says: "A woman came to us when we halted at a place during a journey. She said: 'Our chief has been stung by a scorpion and our men are away. Is there anyone amongst you who can treat him with a charm?' One of our men about whom we did not know he worked with charms went up and treated the man with some spell words. He was cured and gifted us 30 goats. He also sent us some milk. When he returned, we asked the man (somewhat accusingly), 'Are you an expert at charms or are you are a practitioner?' He said, 'No, I merely treated him with the Umm al Kitab.' We said, 'Let us not talk about it until we have seen the Prophet or have asked him.' When we were back in Madinah and mentioned the affair to him he said, 'How did the man know that it works as a charm also? Divide the goats among yourselves and allot me a share.'" (Ibn Kathir)
    Abu Da'ud has another version which says that the man treated him with surah al Fatihah for three consecutive days, during which he would recite the surah on him and then, gathering his spittle, spit on him. (This author has witnessed a successful Muslim charmer spit powerfully, as if on a real visible enemy).
    The report also adds that when consulted, the Prophet (saws) said: "You earned (the goats) with a permissible charm."
    `Azim Abadi quotes from Mirqat al Qari: "This proves that it is allowed to charge fee for (Islamically legal: Au.) charms" (`Awn al Ma`bud).

    c) Imam Ahmad and Tirmidhi (who classified the report as hasan sahih), have recorded that when on one occasion Ubayy b. Ka`b read this surah to the Prophet he remarked:

    وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ مَا أُنْزِلَتْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَلا فِي الإِنْجِيلِ وَلا فِي الزَّبُورِ وَلا فِي الْفُرْقَانِ مِثْلُهَا

    "By Him in whose hands is my life, Tawrah, Injil, Zabur and Al Furqan, none of them have an equivalent of this Surah" (Ibn Kathir).

    Surah1 1

    1. In its origin, the word surah stands for height, elevation (Majidi). The present divisions or chapters of the Qur'an have been so called perhaps because they raise the reader from one stage (of knowledge and spiritual advancement) to another (higher) stage (Qurtubi).
    The word is also used for the walls or fortifications of a city which is perhaps another reason for this usage since each surah encompasses many ayat (verses of the Qur'an) within itself (Majidi), and guards them from spilling into other parts of the Qur'an. The Qur'an has 114 chapters and the present arrangement, obviously mechanical, is tawqifi ( تَوقيفي ), i.e., ordered by the Prophet himself, who was, in all such matters, acting under Divine guidance. The arrangement therefore cannot be altered. The 'suwar, (plural of surah), as also each verse with those that precede or follow, have a subtle relationship with each other in their present order and need a penetrating mind to unravel their interconnection. Imam Razi and Thanwi paid attention to explaining the relationship.

    Al-Fatihah2 (The Opening)

    2. The names of the chapters are also "tawqifi."
    This surah ‑ al‑Fatihah ‑ has many other names of which at least two are commonly mentioned: Umm al‑Qur'an, and Sab` al‑ Mathani.
    As for the names of the chapters, sometimes they bear relationship with the theme and contents of the chapters, but sometimes they do not. Often a word of the surah has been picked out as its name, e.g., Al‑Baqarah.


    3. That is, it was revealed during the Makkan period and not necessarily in Makkah. There is no consensus among the scholars over many of the chapters whether they are Makkan or Madinan. Even when there is consensus, not the whole surah can be said to be certainly of this or that period. For, both the Makkan and Madinan chapters can contain a verse or more of the other period. Further, there are certain verses that were revealed twice: once during the Makkan and again during the Madinan period. There are possibilities of certain chapters also having been revealed twice. In fact, about this chapter itself, a second opinion is that it was revealed a second time at Madinah (Qurtubi).
    Marked differences in language, style, diction and subject matter can be noticed between those passages that were revealed before hijrah and those after. However one cannot work the other way round and treat the differences as criteria to decide if certain verses are Makkan or Madinan, or fix the meaning in their light: a mistake often committed by contemporary commentators. Only those parts of the Qur'an are for certain Makkan or Madinan that have an authentic report in support. Where such reports do not exist, it is anybody's guess. Further, even with a firm report about the period of revelation, it is very difficult to establish whether a particular portion was revealed during the 'early', 'middle' or 'last' days of the Makkan or Madinan period. Trying to fix up the period of revelation in such cases therefore can have its basis only in conjectures. However, since religion cannot be based on conjectures, it is best to avoid such exercises. Again, analogies such as: "Since the verses under discussion are Makkan, and since such and such 'are' the subject matter of the Qur'an of the Makkan period, this is the kind of meaning that can be deduced from these verses," are invalid. Where found, it can only betray pre‑conceived ideas (Au.).

    عدد الآيات 7
    7 verses4

    4. Ayah in the original (the smallest unit of a surah) stands for a sign or miracle: as if every verse of the Qur'an is a sign of Allah (swt) and a miracle in itself. A word of the original, for instance, forgotten by one who knows the whole verse by heart cannot be substituted with an equivalent word to complete the verse, without he himself feeling that it is unlike the original in structure and meaning.
    As the chapters, the present arrangement of the verses is also tawqifi. The Prophet (saws) used to dictate the verses in this order, recite them (in and out of Prayers) in this order, as well as recite the whole of the Qur'an once in a year to Jibril in the month of Ramadan in the same order (Au.).
    The total number of verses in the Qur'an is six thousand two hundred and odd: there being some differences over the count. (Manahil al‑`Irfan) Majid mentions on the authority of Al-Itqan fi `Uuom al-Qur'an that they total 6,616. Of words, he gives the total as 77,934, of the letters as 323,760, drawing attention to the pains the lovers of the Qur'an have borne with pleasure.

    أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم

    5. Shayatin are from the Jinn who are corporeal beings created from fire. They are endowed with reason. They multiply and grow in numbers just like other living creatures. Of the Jinn some have submitted to Allah (swt), others have not. Those that have not submitted are called Shayatin (sing. Shaytan). Although invisible to human eye, occasional contacts are not ruled out. According to one opinion (in `Umdatu al‑Qari ‑ Badruddin `Ayni), they can run through the human body. The opinion itself is based on a hadith (Au.).
    In common parlance everything that has a rebellious nature is called Shaytan. When `Umar (ra) was given a horse that he could not bring to control, he dismounted saying: 'You gave me a Shaytan' (Sabuni).
    Shayatin are man's eternal sworn enemies, vowed to preventing him from regaining his lost position with his Lord, and accepting no compromise or peace‑deal with him. Every individual has (at least) one Shaytan accompanying him. Even the Prophet, on whom be peace, had one accompanying him, but Allah had subdued him to him. It is their inducements, evil suggestions and physical harm that we are taught to seek refuge from. To pronounce this formula [al‑ta`awwudh ( التَّعَّوُّذ )] before every recitation of the Qur'an is, according to the majority of scholars, Sunnah (Ma`arif). It is also useful to say these words against every Satanic impulse or distraction. The following hadith may be noted:

    عَنْ أَبِي الْعَلاَءِ أَنّ عُثْمَانَ بْنَ أَبِي الْعَاصِ أَتَىَ النّبِيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ: "يَا رَسُولَ اللّهِ إِنّ الشّيْطَانَ قَدْ حَالَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ صَلاَتِي وَقِرَاءَتِي. يَلْبِسُهَا عَلَيّ. فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: "ذَاكَ شَيْطَانٌ يُقَالُ لَهُ خِنْزَبٌ. فَإِذَا أَحْسَسْتَهُ فَتَعَوّذْ بِاللّهِ مِنْهُ. وَاتْفِلْ عَلَىَ يَسَارِكَ ثَلاَثاً". قَالَ: فَفَعَلْتُ ذَلِكَ فَأَذْهَبَهُ اللّهُ عَنّي .

    `Uthman b. Abi al‑`'A's Thaqafi says that he complained to the Prophet: 'O Messenger of Allah, Satan intervenes between me and my Prayers confounding me in my prayer‑words.' The Prophet said, 'That is a Satan called Khinzab (also pronounced: Khanzab). When you feel his presence, seek Allah's refuge (i.e. say the ta`awwudh), and then spit three times on your left side.' `U­thman said, “I did that and Allah (swt) drove him away from me” (Muslim).
    A Muslim must treat the Shayatin and their spiritual and physical harm seriously. The Prophet has said as in Bukhari:

    عَنْ جَابِرٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ إِذَا اسْتَجْنَحَ اللَّيْلُ أَوْ قَالَ جُنْحُ اللَّيْلِ فَكُفُّوا صِبْيَانَكُمْ فَإِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ تَنْتَشِرُ حِينَئِذٍ فَإِذَا ذَهَبَ سَاعَةٌ مِنْ الْعِشَاءِ فَخَلُّوهُمْ وَأَغْلِقْ بَابَكَ وَاذْكُرْ اسْمَ اللَّهِ وَأَطْفِئْ مِصْبَاحَكَ وَاذْكُرْ اسْمَ اللَّهِ وَأَوْكِ سِقَاءَكَ وَاذْكُرْ اسْمَ اللَّهِ وَخَمِّرْ إِنَاءَكَ وَاذْكُرْ اسْمَ اللَّهِ وَلَوْ تَعْرُضُ عَلَيْهِ شَيْئًا.

    Jabir reports the Prophet: "When the night begins to spreads (its darkness) .. get your children indoors, for the Shayatin spread out at that time. But after the nightfall they may go out. And, when you close your door, remember Allah; when you put off the lamp, remember Allah; when you seal the water-skin, remember Allah; when you seal a jar, remember Allah – even if you have to place something on its mouth."
    Kalbi comments: "There are four things that distract a man from Allah: Satan, the self, the world, and the people. The defense against 'Satan' is in seeking Allah's refuge and in opposing every suggestion made by him; against the 'self' in treating it harshly; against the 'world' in indifference (to its pains and pleasures); and against the 'people' in withdrawal."
    The Bible has a curious formula for driving away the demons. It says (Tobit 6: 16, 17):
    "... you shall take live ashes of incense and lay upon them some of the heart and liver of the fish, so as to make a smoke. Then the demon will smell it and flee away, and will never again return" (Au.).

    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


    7. That this formula, known as the basmalah ( بَسْمَلَة ), is a verse of the Qur'an there can be no difference of opinion, in view of the verse 30 of al‑Namal. But whether it is part of every surah with which it opens (except for a solitary exception), is disputed. In any case, saying the basmalah before recitation of the Qur'an is Sunnah. Further, coming as it does, here at the beginning of the Qur'an it sets right man's relationship with Allah (Sayyid Qutb).
    Its meaning is: 'I begin (this act) in the name of Allah, dependent on Him, placing trust in His Mercy, seeking His help for its completion and aiming to win His approval.' A report as found in the Sahih of Muslim says:

    عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ أَبِى الْعَاصِ الثَّقَفِىِّ أَنَّهُ شَكَا إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- وَجَعًا يَجِدُهُ فِى جَسَدِهِ مُنْذُ أَسْلَمَ. فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « ضَعْ يَدَكَ عَلَى الَّذِى تَأَلَّمَ مِنْ جَسَدِكَ وَقُلْ بِاسْمِ اللَّهِ. ثَلاَثًا. وَقُلْ سَبْعَ مَرَّاتٍ أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ وَقُدْرَتِهِ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا أَجِدُ وَأُحَاذِرُ ».

    `Uthman b. Abi al‑`Aas complained of a pain he felt in his body since the day he embraced Islam, the Prophet (saws) told him: "Place a hand on the spot where you feel the pain and say 'bismillah' three times and then follow up by saying seven times:

    أَعوذُ بِعِزَّةِ اللهِ وقُدرَتِهِ مِنْ شَرِّ ما أَجِدُ وأُحاذِرُ.

    "I seek refuge with the Might and Power of Allah from what I find and what I am fearful of" (Qurtubi).
    Majid says: "Contrast with this unreservedly monotheistic introductory formula of Islam the glaringly polytheistic introductory formula of Christianity:‑ 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'"

    الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (1)

    1|1| (All) praise belongs to Allah8 the Sustainer9 of the Worlds,10

    8. Allah: "According to the best authorities is a proper noun par excellence without derivation, from which no plural can be formed. It denotes none but the One Unique God, the Absolute, Supreme, Tender, Mighty, Gracious, Benign and Compassionate" (Majid).
    He it is, with all His qualities and attributes, who is in the minds of two persons when they speak to each other about Him, even if they happen to be of different faiths and holding corrupt concepts about Him. A Christian may say that he believes in a God who is a third of the Trinity, or the atheist that there is no such reality as God. But when the two use the word, they both mean the One, the Supreme, who has no partners in his Being or in His attributes ‑ Allah of Arabic. In other words, Allah is in the subconscious of every human being and not 'God' of English or its equivalent in other languages. The word therefore cannot be translated, although it may be convenient to use the word 'God' atome places, especially when it is the unbelievers who speak out His name.
    9. "Al‑Rabb": Sustainer is a poor substitute for this word since in Arabic it signifies (Majidi), a being who creates a thing and then develops it gradually, in steps, until it has achieved its optimum development.
    Asad writes: "The Arabic expression rabb embraces a wide complex of meanings not easily expressed by a single term in another language. It comprises the ideas of having a just claim to the possession of anything and, consequently, authority over it, as well as of rearing, sustaining and fostering anything from its inception to its final completion."
    10. "`Alamun" is plural of the collective noun `alam, of which itself no singular form is available. It is derived from `alamah (which means a sign) since `alam signifies that there is a Creator who brought it in being (Sabuni).
    There are various opinions about the connotation of the term `alamun. But they all lead to the same meaning. The opinion of Ibn `Abbas' is that it is the worlds of the jinn and mankind that have been alluded to. Abu Sa`id al Khudri said: 'There are forty thousand worlds of Allah's creation. Our world, from one end to the other, is one of them.' Qatadah says: 'It includes all that there is apart from Allah' (Qurtubi). Yusuf `Ali says: 'There are many worlds ‑ astronomical and physical worlds, worlds of thought, spiritual worlds, and so on. In every one of them God is all in all.'
    Another possible allusion could be to the seven firmaments (or universes) that Allah has mentioned in the Qur'an.
    Finally, as we all know, everyone lives in a world of his own (Au.).
    Any praise that is ever sung, whether for Allah (swt) or for anyone else, belongs in reality to Allah. Who is it but He who makes the idea click in the mind of an inventor? Who is it but He who steers the brush‑strokes of a painter? Who is it but He who flashes the right word in the mind of a writer? And whose creation it is but His, the material that they use, the laws they follow and the beauty that they imitate? In practice, therefore, when anything strikes us as good and beautiful, it is Allah (swt) who must be remembered with gratitude and it is He who must be praised.
    `A'isha (ra) says that when a pleasant thing happened to the Prophet (saws) he would say (Ibn Majah):

    الْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ الَّذِي بِنِعْمَتِهِ تَتِمُّ الصَّالِحَاتُ

    'Praise be to Allah by whose favor good things come to an agreeable end.' But when it was unpleasant he would say:

    الْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ عَلَى كُلِّ حَالٍ . (في الزوائد: إسناده صحيح، ورجاله ثقات).

    'Praise be to Allah at all events.'
    A hadith (Ibn Majah) says that the best of dhikr is (the words):

    لا إِله إلا الله

    'There is no deity but Allah,' and the best of supplication (the words):

    الحمد لله

    'All praise to Allah.'
    In another hadith Rifa`ah b. Rafe` al‑Zuraqi reports (Bukhari, Muslim and others): "One day we were offering Prayers behind the Prophet. When he raised himself from the bow (ruku`) he said:

    سَمِعَ اللَّهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ

    ‘A praise (that is) lavish, good and blessed.'
    A man at the rear responded with:

    رَبَّنَا وَلَكَ الْحَمْدُ حَمْدًا كَثِيرًا طَيِّبًا مُبَارَكًا فِيهِ - فَلَمَّا انْصَرَفَ قَالَ مَنْ الْمُتَكَلِّمُ قَالَ أَنَا قَالَ رَأَيْتُ بِضْعَةً وَثَلاثِينَ مَلَكًا يَبْتَدِرُونَهَا أَيُّهُمْ يَكْتُبُهَا أَوَّلُ

    ‘O our Lord! To You is the praise due in words and measure that befit Your Glory and the greatness of (Your Power).'
    When the Prayer was over, the Prophet enquired who the man was. 'It was me,' the man said. The Prophet said: 'I saw upwards of thirty angels vying to write down those words before the others would.'"
    Another hadith (as in Musnad Ahmad) says the Prophet told them on that occasion that having taken it to the `Arsh, the two scribe‑angels were in confusion as to how to write down these words. Allah told them, "Write them down the way My slave said." (Ibn Kathir: Ibn Majah).
    "Lord of the Worlds": That is, the God of Islam is 'not a tribal deity, nor the national God of any specially favored race or people, nor yet the narrow 'Lord of the Hosts', or the anthropomorphic 'our Father in heaven' (Majid).
    He is not even the Lord of the Muslims in any specific sense, nor is He the Lord of those alone who believe in Him. He is the Lord of everyone and everything. He is the Creator, the Sustainer and the Nourisher of all: believers in Him and the unbelievers alike. He is the Lord, both of the worlds known to Man, as well as those not known to him. He is the Lord of the organic matter as well as the inorganic, of all times, past, present and future.
    Also, He is not the God of Aristotle who created the world but has lost interest in its affairs (Sayyid), letting it run on its own by the first motion that He gave it. Rather, He drives it ‑ the whole as well as its every element ‑ on to a designed course, following a certain Plan which itself is determined by His boundless Wisdom. At our level, what else can we do but to offer praises to Him for the intricacy of the design, the delicacy of the balance and the beauty of the execution?! It is only one Allah who can do that. If there were many, the universe would fall apart (Au.).
    Manazir Ahsan Geelani (an Indian scholar) has stated in his "The Spiritual Cosmos" that far from an actual world (of matter and spirit), even an imaginary one cannot remain intact without a sustainer paying constant attention to it. If you imagined, e.g., 'Australia' in your mind, with all its cities, people, mountains, lakes and deserts, then this Australia of your imagination will exist in your mind so long as you keep paying attention to it. If you did not, it will fall apart. What do you think of the actual world then? Can it last without a Rabb al‑ `aalamin?
    According to some scholars, this verse is of greater merit (afdal) than the kalimah since it embodies both the unity of Allah as well as His praise (Qurtubi).
    Qurtubi reports about Junayd that when someone said al‑hamdulillah before him he told him to complete it and say al‑hamdulillahi rabbi `al‑alamin. The man protested, "But (of) whatever (worth) is the`alamin that I should mention it along with the name of the Lord?" Junayd replied: "Brother! When both the created and the Creator are mentioned together, the 'created' will have no unwholesome effect on your heart."
    Razi writes, in effect: "If you pondered over the wonders of the living and the non‑living, (how they are interrelated and supported by each other), you will begin to see a little of the 'Compassion' of our Lord at work in His creation, and in the various forms His 'sustenance' takes. It is then that a drop from the ocean of the meaning of the phrase, 'All praise to Allah, the Lord of the worlds,' will you have obtained."
    "Strange it is," he adds a little further, "that Allah has other creations besides you. Whereas, you have no Sustainer besides Him. Yet He looks after you as if He has no other creation besides you; while you serve Him as if you have many other sustainers besides Him!"

    الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم (2)

    1|2| The Compassionate, the Merciful.11

    11. Thus, the primary relationship of man with his Lord is that of mercy from His side. A hadith of Muslim says,

    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنّ النّبِيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قالَ: "لَمّا خَلَقَ اللّهُ الْخَلْقَ، كَتَبَ فِي كِتَابِهِ، فَهُوَ عِنْدَهُ فَوْقَ الْعَرْشِ: إِنّ رَحْمَتِي تَغْلِبُ غَضَبِي ".

    “When Allah had brought the creation into existence, He wrote in His Book, which is with Him above the `Arsh, ‘Surely, My mercy shall overcome My anger’" (Au.).
    Both al‑Rahman and al‑Rahim have been derived from the same root rahmah and both can be translated as the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Kind, etc. Nevertheless, whatever word is chosen the translation will remain inaccurate. The words are intensive forms and, although the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, the Most Kind etc. would be more appropriate rendering; but, despite that, such a rendering will not be faithful to the original since the two can not be distinguished. For, although both are intensive forms, al‑Rahman follows the pattern that indicates intensity of a quality, but not necessarily its permanence, while al‑Rahim follows the pattern that indicates intensity as well as permanence.
    Kaslan (  كَسْلان   ), for instance means "very lazy," ta`ban (  تَعبان ) means "very tired," ghadban (  غَضبان ), "very angry," etc. But a person who is very lazy can become active, the very tired can regain his vigor, and the very angry will cool down to his normal temper. The forms do not promise permanence of qualities. This is applicable to the term "Al-Rahman" also.
    In contrast, the other form indicates permanence in the quality while also expressing intensity, though not of the same order  baligh (  بَليغ ) for instance is someone who is very eloquent and whose quality of eloquence is permanent. Shaji` (  شَجيع ), "courageous" is so called because his quality of courage is permanent. If it was not, he would not be called shaji`.
    Now, Allah (swt) is Al‑Rahman, the compassionate whose compassion is soaring. Yet, His being 'Al‑Rahman' does not mean that His compassion will come down to the state of not being compassionate at some time in the future; for He is also 'Al‑Rahim' whose quality of compassion will not suffer any decline. In other words, 'Al‑Rahman' indicates that He is One whose Mercy is in a state of eruption, while 'Al‑Rahim' indicates that this state is permanent.
    Shanqiti states an additional connotation: "Al‑Rahman expresses the quality of mercy that encompasses all creatures in this world: the believers as well as the unbelievers. In contrast, Al‑Rahim is a quality that will be manifest in the Hereafter in favor of the believers alone. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars. What is reported of Jesus Christ, on whom and on our Prophet be peace, also corroborates this meaning. He is reported to have said: "Rahman is the Rahman of the next world as well as of this. Rahim is the Rahiem of the Hereafter.
    (It might be noted however, that the above is not a hadith: Au.).
    The doubt over the terms Al‑Rahman and Al‑Rahim seem to be old. Al‑Tabari clarifies: "Now, if someone objects that if both Rahman and Rahim are derived from the same root rahmah, (and since both carry the same meaning), what was the point in the repetition? The answer is that the matter is not as he imagines. Rather, each of these two words has a specific connotation that is not carried by the other."
    Ibn al-Qayyim advances another explanation, as quoted in Manar I. 48 and cited by Asad: "The term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of Allah's Being, whereas rahim expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation ‑ in other words, an aspect of His activity."
    Sayyid Qutb comments: "The God of Islam does not pursue the humans of His creation with spite and anger, like the gods of Olympia in their violent outbursts, as portrayed by the Greek mythologists; nor does He play vengeful tricks on them as portrayed by the scribes of no less mythological Old Testament, an example of which is the story (of the Tower of Babel) narrated in the Torah."
    [The story of the Tower of Babel to which Sayyid Qutb refers is in Genesis, Chap. 11, verses 1‑9. It is as follows:
    "Now the whole earth had one language and few words, And, as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.' So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth": Au.].
    "In contrast, the presence of these attributes in the basmalah and at the beginning of the opening chapter sets right the relationship of man with God. Is God the Omnipotent Creator and man the weak creature who must quietly submit and suffer this life? Is God the Law‑Maker whose natural laws work blindly with regard to him, taking no account of his hopes, fears and aspirations? Is God the ruthless Judge who does not differentiate between the sinner and the rebellious? Yes, the God of Islam is the Omnipotent Creator, the Law‑Maker, the Judge. But He is, first and foremost, "The Kind and The Merciful." Says a well known 'hadith': "When Allah had brought into being His creations, He wrote down in His Book, which lies with Him on the '`Arsh: 'My Mercy will overcome My Anger.'"
    Sayyid's comment ends here.

    مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ (3)

    1|3| Lord of the Day of Judgement.12

    12. "Deen" has several meanings. That of: religion, civil laws, obedience, etc. Here it signifies "rewards and punishments, or simply retribution." The Qur'an says elsewhere (51:6):

    وَإِنَّ الدِّينَ لَوَاقِعٌ

    ‘The day of Reckoning is to befall indeed.'
    And a hadith – treated as Hasan by Tirmidhi - says:

    عَنْ شَدَّادِ بْنِ أَوْسٍ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ الْكَيِّسُ مَنْ دَانَ نَفْسَهُ وَعَمِلَ لِمَا بَعْدَ الْمَوْتِ وَالْعَاجِزُ مَنْ أَتْبَعَ نَفْسَهُ هَوَاهَا وَتَمَنَّى عَلَى اللَّهِ - قَالَ هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ (سنن الترمذي)  

    “Wise is the man who subjects himself to account (before he is questioned), and who works (now) to face what is to happen after death. And the truly incapacitated is one who follows his base desires while pinning good hope on Allah."
    Note the use of the word (  دان ) in this hadith.
    The statement that He is the Lord of the Day of Judgment does not of course imply that He is not (the whole and sole) Lord of the worlds now. The Day of Judgment has been specifically mentioned because His absolute lordship will be apparent to everyone that day when no one else will possess lordship besides Him to any degree. The Sahihayn report:

    (عن) عَبْد اللَّهِ بْنُ عُمَرَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَطْوِي اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ثُمَّ يَأْخُذُهُنَّ بِيَدِهِ الْيُمْنَى ثُمَّ يَقُولُ أَنَا الْمَلِكُ أَيْنَ الْجَبَّارُونَ أَيْنَ الْمُتَكَبِّرُونَ ثُمَّ يَطْوِي الْأَرَضِينَ بِشِمَالِهِ ثُمَّ يَقُولُ أَنَا الْمَلِكُ أَيْنَ الْجَبَّارُونَ أَيْنَ الْمُتَكَبِّرُونَ (صحيح مسلم)

    "On the day of Standing, Allah will fold the heavens and them take them by the right Hand and proclaim: 'I am the King. Where are the tyrants?' Then He will fold the earths in his left Hand and say, 'I am the King, where are the kings of the earth? Where are the tyrants? Where are the arrogant ones?'" (Ibn Kathir).
    Majid adds: "(It is on the Day of Judgment) when His sovereignty shall be more evident than ever, and manifest even to the worse scoffers. .... The verse completely repudiates the Christian doctrine that Christ, not God, would be judge: 'For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son' ‑ John 5:22".
    To mention the Day of Judgment after the attributes Al‑Rahman and Al‑Rahim is perhaps to remind man that although Allah is Kind and Merciful, He has also to be just with all of His creations. Accordingly, He has appointed a Day when everyone will have to recompense for the wrongs he committed to others and draw retribution for the wrongs he suffered at the hands of others (Au.).

    إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ (4)

    1|4| Thee alone do we worship,13 and Thy help alone do we seek.14

    13. "`Ibadah" in Arabic is any act that suggests extensive humility and self‑abasement (Sabuni). Accordingly, tariq mu`abbad is that path which is well‑trodden, and ba`eer mu`abbad is a tamed camel.
    In Islamic terminology it signifies deep feelings of love, humility, and fear. The meaning of the verse therefore is: 'We worship none but You, and place our trust in none but You.' The whole of the religion of Islam revolves around these two principles, the former negates any association with Allah (shirk) while the latter signifies trust and dependence on none other than Him (Ibn Kathir).
    14. The meaning attributed to Ibn `Abbas however is that 'We worship none but You, and seek Your help alone in the execution of our acts of obedience as well as in all our other activities' (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn al-Qayyim says that the first half of the verse is related to the uluhiyyah aspect of Allah (swt) while the second to the rububiyyah aspect. He defines "the best act of worship" at any particular moment as that activity which aims at pleasing Allah (swt) and is the precise demand of the moment. It can be jihad, Prayers, attending to guests ... it can be anything, depending on the circumstances in which one finds himself.
    Going back to the verse we can also say that it warns both of overt as well as covert association (shirk) with Allah. The first part: "We worship none but You," negates open association (shirk al‑jaliyy) such as to ascribe partners to Allah's Person; while the second: "We seek Your help," negates any secret association (shirk al‑khafiyy), such as to imagine that others also have a say in the affairs of the world (Au.).
    The use of plural forms in the verbs in this verse and in the following is suggestive of the fact that even if a Muslim is individually engaged in the acts of worship, he remains strongly tied to the bonds of the community (Majidi).

    اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ (5)

    1|5| Guide us15 unto the straight path,16

    15. After the praise and promise comes the supplication: "Guide us to the Straight Path." What is the meaning of the words 'Guide us' here, when said by those who already believe? It is: "Grant us steadfastness" (Ibn Jarir). A Muslim is, at all times and in all situations, in need of Allah's help in remaining steadfast on the Path of Allah (swt), in firmly establishing himself on it and in continuing with determination (Ibn Kathir).
    It includes an understanding (ma`rifah) of the Path and perseverance in it, since the two are fruits of Allah's guidance, His attention and His kindness (Sayyid).
    Ihdina has much wider significance than 'showing the way.' What the supplicant is asking for is not merely that the way be pointed out or verbally indicated to him, but that he may be, by the Divine grace, actually led on to his goal, ‑ the Guide, as if, accompanying the guided and leading him on and on' (Majid).
    Ibn Qayyim adds: "Hidayah has another function: It is to be led to Paradise on the Day of Judgment."
    In other words, it is tawfiq (divine inducement, or inclination to submit oneself to a greater degree and depth, and grant of power to do that), which is sought along with the delineation of the path that will finally lead to Paradise. It can be added that as a rule, when a man follows up with a good deed after the previous one, it is a sign that he has been granted tawfeeq, and (Thanwi, elsewhere), that the previous one was accepted by Allah.
    Imam Raghib al‑Asfahani has defined the term well in his 'Mufradat al‑Qur'an.' It can be rendered in modern terms in the following manner: There are four kinds and levels of guidance. One which has been given to all the creations of Allah: the inanimate objects (such as the mountains, rivers, stars, galaxies, atoms, radio waves, physical laws, etc.: Au.), beings incapable of reasoning (such as the animals, viruses, plants, organic matter, etc.), and the rational beings such as mankind and the jinn. All these obey Allah (swt) by doing what fulfills the purpose of their creation, following the laws to which they are bound, and (in the case of the living) following the instinct they have been given to preserve and multiply. In this sense they are all on a hidayah, although it is a low level of hidayah. The Qur'an says (87: 1‑3):

    سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الأَعْلَى الَّذِي خَلَقَ فَسَوَّى وَالَّذِي قَدَّرَ فَهَدَى

    "Magnify the Name of your Lord the Most High, who created and shaped. He who proportioned and then 'guided.'"
    At another place it said (20: 49, 50):

    قَالَ فَمَنْ رَبُّكُمَا يَا مُوسَى. قالَ رَبُّنَا الَّذِي أَعْطَى كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَى

    "(Fir`awn said), 'Who is the Lord of you two, O Musa?' He replied, 'Our Lord is the one who created everything and then guided it.'"
    In both the above examples it is the first level and basic degree of guidance that has been alluded to: a guidance that no one and nothing misses.
    The second kind of guidance is that which rational beings (mankind and jinn) are specially given through the Prophets in the form of the Revelations they bring from Allah (swt). Some accept this guidance, while others do not, since in this case there is no compulsion. However, if they reject it, they are not on hidayah of this second kind, though, obviously, they remain living by, and following the basic level of guidance.
    The third kind is that which can be described as the willingness to travel up the path, and the creation by Allah (swt) of the "means" that make it easy to act and live by His guidance. It is also known as tawfiq. It is obtained by accepting the guidance sent by Allah (swt) through the Prophets and making an effort to live by its dictates. The more one does that, the more of tawfiq does he or she draw, with no end to the spiritual development. Conversely, the less one responds to the Call, the less tawfiq one receives. Faith (the second level of guidance) is the minimum requirement for drawing tawfiq. It is this kind of guidance or tawfiq that is meant in the following verses (47: 17):

    وَالَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا زَادَهُمْ هُدًى وَآَتَاهُمْ تَقْوَاهُمْ

    "Those who are guided aright, He increases their 'guidance' and gives them their piety."
    And (29: 69):

    وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا

    "Those who struggle in Our cause, surely We shall 'guide' them to Our ways."
    This third kind of guidance has no limits. Each 'state' leads to the next and a higher one. It is in this sense that the Prophet (saws), who was himself a guide for others, was promised further guidance on the occasion of the fall of Makkah. The revelation that came down on that occasion said (48: 1-2):

    إِنَّا فَتَحْنَا لَكَ فَتْحًا مُبِينًا. لِيَغْفِرَ لَكَ اللَّهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِكَ وَمَا تَأَخَّرَ وَيُتِمَّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكَ وَيَهْدِيَكَ صِرَاطًا مُسْتَقِيمًا

    "Surely We have given you a manifest victory, that Allah may forgive you your former and your later faults, and complete His blessing upon you and 'guide' you on to a straight path."
    But if the guidance sent by Allah through His prophets, revelations, or through other guided men is rejected, then there can be no further guidance. That is, a jump from the first to the third levels of guidance is ruled out. The Qur'an says (64: 11):

    وَمَنْ يُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ يَهْدِ قَلْبَهُ

    "Whoever believed in Allah, He will 'guide' his heart."
    It is also said at several places (2: 64),

    وَاللَّهُ لا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ

    "Allah does not guide an unbelieving people."
    Finally, the fourth kind of hidayah is the one by which man will be ushered into Paradise. Allah said (7: 43),

    وَنَزَعْنَا مَا فِي صُدُورِهِمْ مِنْ غِلٍّ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهِمُ الْأَنْهَارُ وَقَالُوا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي هَدَانَا لِهَذَا

    "And We would have removed whatever was there in their hearts of ill-feeling – springs flowing beneath them – and they will say, 'Praise to Allah who guided us to this.'"
    Quote from Raghib ends here.
    16. "Sirat al‑Mustaqim": The consensus of the scholars is that it is "that straight path which has no twists and bends in it" (Ibn Jarir). But there are various opinions about its exact significance here, although all opinions lead to the same meaning. `Ali (ra) reported that the Prophet (saws) said, "it is the Qur'an" alluding to this verse. Ibn `Abbas said it is "Islam." Abu al‑`Aliyyah said that it is "(the ways of) the Prophet and his two companions, Abu Bakr and `Umar" (Ibn Jarir). Mujahid said it is "the truth" (Ibn Kathir). Ibn Jarir sums up and says: "I believe it means, 'Help us to be steadfast with what is acceptable to You (O Allah), and motivate us to come up (whether they be words or deeds) with what You motivated those whom You favored before us.' Whoever is induced by Allah to do what He guided His favored ones to do, such as the Prophets, the 'siddiqun', the martyrs, and the righteous, is the guided one."
    In a hadith reported by Al‑Nawas b. Sim`an the Prophet illustrated 'the Straight Path' in the following manner:

    عَنْ النَّوَّاسِ بْنِ سَمْعَانَ الأَنْصَارِيِّ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلا صِرَاطًا مُسْتَقِيمًا وَعَلَى جَنْبَتَيْ الصِّرَاطِ سُورَانِ فِيهِمَا أَبْوَابٌ مُفَتَّحَةٌ وَعَلَى الأَبْوَابِ سُتُورٌ مُرْخَاةٌ وَعَلَى بَابِ الصِّرَاطِ دَاعٍ يَقُولُ أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ ادْخُلُوا الصِّرَاطَ جَمِيعًا وَلا تَتَفَرَّجُوا وَدَاعٍ يَدْعُو مِنْ جَوْفِ الصِّرَاطِ فَإِذَا أَرَادَ يَفْتَحُ شَيْئًا مِنْ تِلْكَ الأَبْوَابِ قَالَ وَيْحَكَ لا تَفْتَحْهُ فَإِنَّكَ إِنْ تَفْتَحْهُ تَلِجْهُ وَالصِّرَاطُ الإِسْلامُ وَالسُّورَانِ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى وَالأَبْوَابُ الْمُفَتَّحَةُ مَحَارِمُ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى وَذَلِكَ الدَّاعِي عَلَى رَأْسِ الصِّرَاطِ كِتَابُ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ وَالدَّاعِي فَوْقَ الصِّرَاطِ وَاعِظُ اللَّهِ فِي قَلْبِ كُلِّ مُسْلِمٍ (مسند أحمد)

    "Allah has drawn a simile: A straight path with walls on both sides. Both walls have open doors with curtains hanging over them. At the entrance to the path is a caller, saying, 'People! Come straight along this path ‑ all of you ‑ and do not deviate.' At the other end of the path is another caller. Whenever a man tries to open any one of the doors, he cries out, 'Woe unto you man! Do not open that door. You will be lured into it and become obstinate.'
    "The path is Islam. The walls are the lines delineating the lawful and the unlawful. The open doors are prohibitions of Allah. The caller at the entrance to the path is Allah's Book. And the one calling out at the other end of the path is Allah's admonisher that resides in every believer's heart" (Ibn Kathir on the authority of Ahmed, Tirmidhi and Nasa'i).

    صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ (6)

    1|6| The path of those Thou has favored,17

    17. This qualifies the path that was sought earlier. And those who have been favored by Allah (swt) are the ones mentioned in (4: 69):

    وَمَنْ يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ فَأُولَئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِينَ وَحَسُنَ أُولَئِكَ رَفِيقًا

    "Whoever obeyed Allah (swt) and His Messenger, will be in the company of those that Allah favored: the Prophets, the Truthful, martyrs and the righteous. And a good company they are."
    The siddiqun of the above verse have been identified as those who are next only to the Prophets in righteousness and elevation, who remain absolutely true to their faith in every situation and on all occasions.
    Referring to this verse Ibn Jarir makes another point worth noting. He says, "In this verse is the clear evidence that the obedience that the faithful demonstrate, is not their own achievement. Rather, it is by Allah's leave, and the tawfeeq granted."
    Majid has another point to state: "By qualifying the straight path in the manner done here it is being hinted that the 'path' is not a hypothetical, imaginary or an ideal one. Rather it is a real and tangible one: one on which people have walked before and have met with success."
    Thanwi draws attention to yet another possibility: A subtle hint is hidden in the words to the effect that it is essential to seek the company of those who have been favored by Allah. Mere study of books might not be enough.
    The first half of this statement corroborates the stance of Shah Waliyyullah as in his Izaalatu al Khifa' (vol.1) ‑ Au.
    Ibn Qayyim makes his usual outstanding remark. He writes: "Since the one who is seeking the straight path is asking for a path from which many drop out, and since man loves company and fears loneliness, Allah (swt), while pointing out the path, has also indicated the company that he may keep. That company is no less than that of the Prophets, the Truthful, the martyrs and the righteous. And no ordinary people are these, but such as those whom Allah (swt) has favored. The company may be few in numbers but is great in worth as against the drop‑outs who might be great in numbers but are of little worth."

    غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ. (7)

    1|7| Not of those who earned Thy anger, nor of those who lost the way.18 (Amin)19

    18. If the previous verse qualified the "path" in positive terms, this last verse does it in negative terms. It is not the path of those who incurred anger, nor those who lost it. Who are they? The general consensus is that the allusion is to the Jews and Christians. The Qur'an says about the Jews (5: 60):

    مَنْ لَعَنَهُ اللَّهُ وَغَضِبَ عَلَيْهِ

    "He whom Allah cursed and with whom He is wroth."
    In another place it says about them (60: 13):

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا لا تَتَوَلَّوْا قَوْمًا غَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ

    "Believers. Do not befriend a people with whom Allah is angry."
    About the Christians the Qur'an says (5: 77):

    قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ وَلا تَتَّبِعُوا أَهْوَاءَ قَوْمٍ قَدْ ضَلُّوا مِنْ قَبْلُ وَأَضَلُّوا كَثِيرًا وَضَلُّوا عَنْ سَوَاءِ السَّبِيلِ

    "Tell them (O Muhammad), 'O people of the Book, stress not in your religion other than the truth and follow not the caprices of a people before you (i.e. the early Trinitarians) who erred before and led many astray, and erred from the right way.'"
    The same explanation has come down from the Prophet (saws).

    روي عن عدي بن حاتم أنه قال: سألت رسول اللّه صلى اللّه عليه وسلم عن قوله تعالى: {غير المغضوب عليهم} قال: هم اليهود {ولا الضالين} قال: النصارى (رواه أحمد والترمذي من طرق وله ألفاظ كثيرة)

    `Adiyy b. Hatim said: I asked the Prophet (saws), about "those who earned Allah's anger." He replied: "It is the Jews." And what about, "those who went astray?" He replied, "They are the Christians" (Ibn Kathir).
    Majid adds: "It is a timid philosophy that hesitates to hate and condemn the evil and the evildoer in the strongest terms."
    The strong condemnation herewith is nothing new for the Jews. The New Testament records Jesus (asws) addressing them in words: "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things."
    Ibn Qayyim again has some useful notes. He writes: "With respect to the knowledge of the Truth and deeds in its light, people can be divided into three categories: the 'favored ones' (mun`am `alayhim), those ‘who incurred anger’ (al-maghdubi `alayhim), and the 'misguided ones' (dallin). A man has either knowledge of the Truth, or he does not. Further, if he has the knowledge, either he lives by its demands or he does not. Thus you can have only three kinds of people and no more.
    "Now, he who has the knowledge and lives by its demands is the 'favored' one. He is the one who purifies his self (ego) with useful knowledge and righteous deeds. He will prosper (91:9): 'Prosperous is he who purifies it.' In contrast, he who has knowledge but follows his base desires is the one ‘who earned the anger;' while he who is ignorant of the Truth altogether (since he lost it), is the 'misguided' one.
    "It might also be noted that, 'those who earned the anger' are ‘the misguided ones’ too, as 'the misguided ones' are also those ‘who earned the anger.' Both ‘earned the anger' and both are 'misguided ones.' But the ones who refused to live by the guidance after they has received it are more deserving of anger than those who received it and then lost it. Hence the term ‘those who earned the anger’ has been used for the Jews, and the terms 'misguided ones' for the Christians."
    19. "'Amin" means, "Accept it O Lord." It is reported of the Prophet (saws) through Abu Hurayrah (ra), that whenever he reached the last verse of surah al‑Fatihah in the Prayers, he said "'amin" in a voice that could be heard by those in the first row (Ibn Kathir on the authority of Abu Da'ud and Ibn Majah). The latter adds the words, "and the mosque would reverberate with the sound" (of those in the congregation) - Sabuni.
    Abu Hurayrah (ra) also narrates a hadith al‑qudsi in which the Prophet said:

    "قَالَ الله تَعَالَى: قَسَمْتُ الصّلاَةَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي نِصْفَيْنِ. وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ. فَإِذَا قَالَ الْعَبْدُ: {الْحَمْدُ لله رَبّ الْعَالَمِينَ} قَالَ الله تَعَالَى: حَمِدَنِي عَبْدِي. وَإِذَا قَالَ: {الرّحْمَنِ الرّحِيمِ}. قَالَ الله تَعَالَى: أَثْنَىَ عَلَيّ عَبْدِي. وَإِذَا قَالَ: {مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدّينِ} قَالَ: مَجّدَنِي عَبْدِي (وَقَالَ مَرّةً: فَوّضَ إِلَيّ عَبْدِي) فَإِذَا قَالَ: {إِيّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ}. قَالَ: هَذَا بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ. فَإِذَا قَالَ: {اهْدِنَا الصّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ صِرَاطَ الّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضّالّينَ}. قَالَ: هَذَا لِعَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ ".

    "Allah (swt) says: 'I have divided the Prayers (salah) between Myself and My slave ‑ half and half; And My slave shall have what he asked. When he says:

    الْحَمْدُ لله رَبّ الْعَالَمِينَ

    Allah says, 'My slave has praised Me.' When he says:

    الرّحْمَنِ الرّحِيمِ

    Allah says, 'My slave has lauded Me.' When he says:

    مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدّينِ

    Allah says, 'My slave has glorified Me.' Then, when he says:

    إِيّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

    Allah says, 'This is between Me and My slave (i.e., My slave is making a promise. If he keeps it, the reward will be his). And for My slave is what he asked for.' So that when the man says:

    اهْدِنَا الصّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ صِرَاطَ الّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضّالّينَ

    Allah says, 'This is for My slave, and for My slave is what he asked for'" (Muslim).
    Tafsir Majidi draws a comparison of this chapter with the Christians' Lord's Prayer:

    Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
    Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
    And lead us not in our temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6: 8‑13).

    The emphasis in the supplication above is, it should be obvious, on the daily bread.