Surat Hūd

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. 11

    Merits of the Surah

    Asad more or less paraphrases Alusi's note on the chapter except for adding a sentence of his own at the end: “Revealed very shortly after the tenth Surah (Yunus) that is, during the last year of the Prophet's sojourn in Mecca Hud bears a great resemblance to the former, both in method and subject matter. As in Yunus, the main theme is the revelation of God's will through His prophets and the manifestation of prophethood as such. Some of the stories of earlier Prophets mentioned in Yunus are developed in the present Surah in greater detail, and are illuminated from various angles, with a particular stress on just dealings between man and man. Paramount in this connection is verse 117, which states that Anever would thy Sustainer destroy a community for wrong (beliefs alone) so long as its people behave righteously (towards one another).”
    Tirmidhi has a report which says that Abu Bakr told the Prophet, “You seem to have grown old.” He answered,

    شَيَّبَتْنِي هُودٌ وَالْوَاقِعَةُ وَالْمُرْسَلَاتُ وَعَمَّ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ وَإِذَا الشَّمْسُ كُوِّرَتْ

    “Chapters Hud, al Waqi`ah (no. 56), al Mursalat (no. 77), `Amma Yatasa'alun (78), and AWhen the sun is..” (al Shams, no.99) hastened old age on me.
    Hafiz Abu Ya`ala, Hakim and others have similar reports (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    Tirmidhi, whose version is quoted above, declared it as weak. But Haythami treated the following as carrying trustworthy chain of narrators:

    شَيَّبَتْنِي هُودٌ وأَخَوَاتُهَا

    “Hud and its sisters have hastened old-age on me.”

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الر ۚ كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِنْ لَدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ (1)

    11|1| Alif. Lam. Ra. A Book whose verses have been set clear2 and, moreover,3 explained in detail4 by One (who is) All wise, All aware,5

    2. Uhkimat: Lit. “well established”, “well founded,” that is, free of defect; like a well built structure that does not require further modification (Zamakhshari, Razi).
    Imam Razi summarizes the reasons why the Qur'anic verses have been called Amuhkamat” (void of ambiguity: Penrice): There are several qualities of the Qur'anic revelations to allow for the usage of the word Amuhkamat” (sing. muhkam). First, the concepts they deal with such as Tawhid, Prophethood, the Hereafter, the final Judgment, etc.: the nature of these concepts is such that they are not subject to abrogation or alteration, and hence they are muhkamat. Second, the injunctions and commandments that they contain do not suffer from any contradiction between themselves. Contradiction is the antithesis of ihkam (being well set, well-established, un-abrogated). Third the language that is employed achieves the very acme of rhetorical beauty, eloquence of high order, and literary perfection. Nothing can be compared to it. Fourth, religious knowledge is either theoretical or practical. The theoretical part is concerned with the concepts of Divinity, angels, revelations, messengers and the Hereafter. This Book deals with these concepts in such a manner as to leave out no essential detail un-discussed. As regards the practical aspect, they are either concerned with the reformation and betterment of the external aspect (of the humans), termed as fiqh, or those that are concerned with the internal aspect, better known as spiritual purification. (Both these human needs are thoroughly attended to). There is no other book under the sky that deals with what has been delineated above to such perfection. This explains, though partially, the usage of the term “muhkamat” for the verses of the Qur’an.
    3. This is how Zamakhshari understands the “thumma” of the text. Asad writes: “According to Zamakhshari and Razi, the conjunction thumma at the beginning of the clause thumma fussilat.. does not denote a sequence in time, rather, a co ordination of qualities or conditions..”
    4. There are several opinions about the allusions that this expression carries. One coming from Hasan says that the term “uhkimat” (from “ihkam”, lit. “well-established, or, as translated here, “set clear” or, “unambiguous of meaning,” etc.), alludes to the commandments and prohibitions, while the following term “fussilat” (from “tafsil” translated here as “explained in detail”) alludes to the promises of rewards and punishments. Nonetheless, from Hasan we also have an explanation that reverses the meanings.
    A second opinion originates with Qatadah and is of Ibn Jarir's preference viz., “The verses are guarded (uhkimat) against corruptions, and then explained (fussilat) with commandments and prohibitions.”
    Imam Razi adds: The evidences for tawhid, prophethood, commandments, and episodes of the past, could also be termed as being explained (fussilat). Another opinion is that the term refers to division of the Qur'an into chapters and verses. Yet another opinion is that “fussilat” is in the sense of “furriqat”, that is, revealed gradually, part by part and not as one whole.
    Again, fussilat would also refer to ‘turning about;’ that is, state the same text in a variety of ways until all aspects of the meaning are opened up. Finally, “fassala” also means to separate out. The Qur’anic verses separate out the truth from untruth (Au.).
    One can see that one needs to integrate all these meanings in his mind to arrive at the correct perception (Au.).
    5. Zamakhshari points to a subtle connection between the opening part of the verse and the concluding part of it. It is as if being said, the verses of this Qur'an have been uhkimat (well set) by a Hakim (the All wise) and fussilat (well explained) by a Khabir (the All aware).
    That is, the two Qur'nic qualities have Divine Qualities as their source (Au.).

    لَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّنِي لَكُمْ مِنْهُ نَذِيرٌ وَبَشِيرٌ (2)

    11|2| ‘That you should not worship but Allah;6 (and that) I am for you a warner and a bearer of glad tidings from Him.

    6. Connecting this clause with the previous clause, what the revelation seems to be telling us is, points Razi, that the revelation has been Awell set” (uhkimat) and then Awell explained” (fussilat) in order that you devote yourselves to none but Allah. That is the prime objective of revelation. If someone spent his entire life over other aspects of this revelation, but without this prime objective in his view, he would have wasted his life-time efforts.

    وَأَنِ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ يُمَتِّعْكُمْ مَتَاعًا حَسَنًا إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى وَيُؤْتِ كُلَّ ذِي فَضْلٍ فَضْلَهُ ۖ وَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ كَبِيرٍ (3)

    11|3| And that you should seek forgiveness of your Lord, and turn to Him (in repentance);7 He will grant you a fair enjoyment until a fixed term,8 and bestow on every man of grace9 His grace.10 However, if you turn away, then, I fear for you the punishment of a Great Day.

    7. That is, seek forgiveness for the past sins of Association and disobedience, and turn to Him anew with good deeds devoting yourself to none but Him (Ibn Jarir).
    Alusi draws distinction between istighfar and tawbah - although, literally, istighfar is to seek to be covered, or concealed; and, on the other hand, tawbah is to return - one feels inclined to believe that at this point istighfar alludes to sincere repentance and tawbah to remain true to it.
    8. That is, He will let you live a life free of excruciating worries, a fairly enjoyable one in every sense, material as well as spiritual, until your death. Is that not something that seems today as far away from man's reach as the planet Pluto? (Au.).
    Asad writes: “ is only reasonable to assume as Rashid Rida does in Manar xii, 7ff. that Athe goodly enjoyment of life” (i.e., in this world) promised in the above sentence relates to the community of the believers as a whole, and not necessarily to individuals.”
    Imam Razi raises a question and then answers it. Does not the hadith literature inform us that Athis world is like a prison for the believer and paradise for the unbeliever?” And, “The most tested (with hardships) of the people are prophets, then those closest to them and then those closest to them?” How do we reconcile with this verse saying, “He will grant you a fair enjoyment until a fixed term?” Then he answers in what can be freely rendered as: Whoever is in love with a thing, he cannot bear to part with it. He feels himself in bliss so long as he is engaged with the object of his love. Now, since a believer is in love with Allah, he cuts himself off anything that is apart from Allah, viz., this world. And so, to him this world simply ceases to be of any concern. The more he devotes himself to Allah, the greater internal bliss he enjoys and is happy with himself, within himself. (For the truly devoted, even afflictions taste like blessings: Alusi). As against them, those devoted to this world might possess all the riches of the world, but, unable to predict when the material objects will be taken away from them, or they themselves be seized by sudden death, are driven into a state of anxiety, pressure, and tension robbing them of their peace, throwing cold water on their pleasures and enjoyments. Therefore, being limited of action and possession (Aimprisoned”, as in the hadith), causes no serious loss and no worries to the true believers and reduces none of their happiness.
    9. By the textual word “dhu fadl,” (rendered here as Aman of grace”) the allusion is to anyone who does better than the averagely required when fulfilling religious obligations (Au.).
    10. The explanation coming from Ibn Mas`ud is as follows. Whoever did an evil deed will have one evil deed written in his account. Whereas, whoever did a good deed will have ten good deeds written in his account. Now, if he is punished for his evil deed in this world, he is left with ten good deeds (because of the one he did). If he is not, then out of the ten, one will be struck off in the Hereafter; so that he is left with nine. Therefore, Ibn Mas`ud concluded, “Destroyed will be he whose singles overcame his tens” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    لَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (4)

    11|4| To Allah is your return. And He has power over all things.'

    أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ يَثْنُونَ صُدُورَهُمْ لِيَسْتَخْفُوا مِنْهُ ۚ أَلَا حِينَ يَسْتَغْشُونَ ثِيَابَهُمْ يَعْلَمُ مَا يُسِرُّونَ وَمَا يُعْلِنُونَ ۚ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ (5)

    11|5| Lo, they fold their breasts11 that they may hide from Him.12 Lo! When they wrap up their clothes (around them) He knows what they conceal and what they reveal. Verily, He is Aware of what the breasts hold.

    11. Literally, “thana sadrahu `an al shayy'“ (he folded his breast from something) is used for turning away from something, or showing disinclination to it (Zamakhshari).
    The most plausible explanation of the terms “yathnuna sudurahum” is that (the unbelievers) covered their hearts because they “harbored great doubts about the Qur'an.” That is how Mujahid understood it. Another opinion is that the words refer to the unbelievers' practice of bending their heads down while passing by the Prophet in order not to hear the Qur'an, while the reference by the words, “When they fold up their clothes” is to their act of folding their cloaks tight around their bodies, once again, to avoid hearing the Prophet (Ibn Jarir).
    Bukhari however has another explanation coming from Ibn `Abbas. It says that the Muslims felt uncomfortable at the time of sexual intercourse, especially, when lying down and facing the heaven naked. The first part of the verse refers to it. As for the second part, his opinion, also in Bukhari, is that it refers to the people's doubts and skepticism concerning Allah and concerning evil deeds. In further explanation he, as well as Mujahid, Hasan and others have said that the reference is to the unbelievers' act of covering their heads hoping to conceal their words or deeds from Allah (Ibn Kathir).
    12. According to Mujahid, the pronoun “Him” refers to Allah. That is, the unbelievers thought they could conceal themselves from Allah by simply treating the revelation brought by the Prophet with doubt (Ibn Jarir).
    Asad puts it coherently: “Since the people referred to in this verse obviously do not believe in the divine origin of Muhammad's message, their ‘hiding from God’ can have, in this context, only one meaning namely, that of a metaphor for their unwillingness to listen to the truth which emanates from Him: and this also explains the statement that they are ‘enshrouding their heart’ (lit. “bosoms”, as at the end of the verse), i.e., are allowing their hearts and minds to remain wrapped up in prejudices, thus making them impervious to spiritual perception.”

    وَمَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا عَلَى اللَّهِ رِزْقُهَا وَيَعْلَمُ مُسْتَقَرَّهَا وَمُسْتَوْدَعَهَا ۚ كُلٌّ فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ (6)

    11|6| And, there is not a moving creature13 in the earth but its provision is on Allah.14 He knows its longer place of residence as well as its shorter place of residence.15 All is in a clear Record.

    13. “Daabbah” is any moving creature of the animal kingdom; anything that walks, creeps, or crawls upon the earth (Majid with slight modification).
    Actually, an exact translation of the word is difficult since dabbah in its verb form has its root in “dabba” which is used for a very slight and slow movement such as that of an infant on all its fours, or that of an old person, or that of a crawling insect. Hence, “daabbah” is any living creature that moves on the earth including fish in water, birds in the air, and, of course, human beings (based on Manar).
    14. So that it might well die out of hunger but the provision comes, and it comes from no other quarter but Allah's (Ibn Jarir).
    15. The translations for the textual words “mustaqarr” and “mustawda’” as adopted here are literal. But Ibn `Abbas explained them as the point of return by the evening, and the place where one dies respectively. There are other explanations too (Ibn Jarir).
    The above opinion of Ibn `Abbas has Al Farra', the grammarian's support. Ibn Mas`ud has said in a trustworthy report in Hakim and others that the former refers to the womb while the latter to where it dies (Shawkani). In simpler words, Allah takes care of the provision from conception in the womb until death (Au.).
    Alusi adds: There is no contradiction between trust (tawakkul) in Allah's promise as the Provider, and efforts to obtain one's share of the world, because Allah is the Mover of the means. It is dependence on the means that goes counter to trust in Allah. One might resort to means, but without the belief that one's share can never be obtained without the means. The heart should be with Allah and the belief that ‘what He willed happened, and what He did not, did not,’ should override all other thoughts.

    وَهُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۗ وَلَئِنْ قُلْتَ إِنَّكُمْ مَبْعُوثُونَ مِنْ بَعْدِ الْمَوْتِ لَيَقُولَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ مُبِينٌ (7)

    11|7| And He it is who created the heavens and the earth in six aeons.16 His `Arsh was then on water17 so that He might test you (as to) which of you is best in deed. Yet, if you tell them that ‘you will be raised after death,' the unbelievers will surely say, ‘This is only18 a manifest sorcery.'19

    16. Ibn Jarir repeats at this point the narrations that speak of creation in six days. Ka`b, Dahhak and others have said that Allah began the creation on Sunday and ended on Friday, creating man in its last hours. And, they add, every day at that time was of the length of a thousand years. He also reports the following: “The Prophet (saws) addressed Banu Tamim saying

    « اقْبَلُوا الْبُشْرَى يَا بَنِى تَمِيمٍ ». قَالُوا قَدْ بَشَّرْتَنَا فَأَعْطِنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ. قَالَ : فَدَخَلَ عَلَيْهِ أُنَاسٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْيَمَنِ فَقَالَ :« اقْبَلُوا الْبُشْرَى يَا أَهْلَ الْيَمَنِ إِذْ لَمْ يَقْبَلْهَا بَنُو تَمِيمٍ ». قَالُوا : قَدْ قَبِلْنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ جِئْنَا لِنَتَفَقَّهَ فِى الدِّينِ وَنَسْأَلَكَ عَنْ أَوَّلِ هَذَا الأَمْرِ مَا كَانَ قَالَ :« كَانَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ شَىْءٌ قَبْلَهُ وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ ثُمَّ خَلَقَ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ وَكَتَبَ فِى الذِّكْرِ كُلَّ شَىْء »


    ‘Accept the good news.' They said, ‘You have given us enough good news. Now give us (some material help).' The Prophet then turned to the group of people that had come from Yemen and said, ‘Accept the good news O people of Yemen.' They said, ‘We accept. So, tell us about the beginning of this affair as to what it was like?' He replied, ‘Allah was there before anything else. His `Arsh was on water. Then He wrote everything (that was to be) in the Tablet.'
    But just then a man came up to the narrator ‘Imran b. Hussain, and said,

    يَا عِمْرَانَ بْنَ حُصَيْنٍ رَاحِلَتُكَ أَدْرِكْ نَاقَتَكَ فَقَدْ ذَهَبَتْ. فَانْطَلَقْتُ فِى طَلَبِهَا فَإِذَا السَّرَابُ يَنْقَطِعُ دُونَهَا وَايْمُ اللَّهِ لَوَدِدْتُ أَنَّهَا ذَهَبَتْ وَأَنِّى لَمْ أَقُمْ

    ‘`Imran, your camel has broken loose.' I ran after it and the mirage seems to have cut her (from view), and by Allah, I wish she was lost and I hadn’t stood up.”
    The hadith is in Bukhari, Muslim and other collections in varying words.
    Ibn Jarir has a narrative coming from Wahab b. Munabbih (who is known for reporting from the Scriptures of old). He said, “`Arsh was in existence before the heavens and the earth were created. Allah took a handful of clear water and opened his Hand. And lo! Smoke spread out. Thereafter He made them seven heavens in two days. After that he took some dust and placed it where the Ka`bah is. Then He spread the earth around it. (If we are to follow Hejazi dialect the translation should go as, “He gave it a spherical shape around it: Au.). Then He created the provisions in another two days. He created the seven heavens in two days and the earth in two days. He finished His work of creation by the evening of the seventh day.”
    The above is not a hadith (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir adds: Muslim has a hadith coming through `Abdullah b. ‘Amr. The Prophet said,

    كَتَبَ اللَّهُ مَقَادِيرَ الْخَلاَئِقِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَخْلُقَ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ بِخَمْسِينَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ - قَالَ - وَعَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ

    “Allah determined the measures (quality and quantity) of everything that He was to create fifty thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth. And His `Arsh was on water.”
    Imam Bukhari records another hadith in explanation of this verse. Abu Hurayrah reports,

    قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنْفِقْ أُنْفِقْ عَلَيْكَ وَقَالَ يَدُ اللَّهِ مَلْأَى لَا تَغِيضُهَا نَفَقَةٌ سَحَّاءُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ وَقَالَ أَرَأَيْتُمْ مَا أَنْفَقَ مُنْذُ خَلَقَ السَّمَاءَ وَالْأَرْضَ فَإِنَّهُ لَمْ يَغِضْ مَا فِي يَدِهِ وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ وَبِيَدِهِ الْمِيزَانُ يَخْفِضُ وَيَرْفَعُ

    “Allah Most High said, ‘Spend and I shall spend on you.' Then the Prophet added, ‘Allah's hands are full. Spending during the day and the night does not empty them.” He also said, “Consider this. His spending since the day He created the heavens and the earth has not exhausted what is in His hand. And His `Arsh was on water. The Scale is in His hand. He raises and lowers.”
    17. Reports coming from Ibn `Abbas and others say that the water itself was on currents of air (Ibn Jarir). Thus, before the creation of the heaven and earth, `Arsh, water, and if we are to accept the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, air, were already in existence (Au.).
    The Bible has a statement that is akin to the Qur'anic statement but with a blasphemy added as salt. Majid quotes: “And the earth was without form and void: and darkness was upon the face of the earth. And the spirit of God waved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis, 1: 2).
    For further discussions on `Arsh refer Surah Yunus note 9.
    Sayyid reminds however, that we do not know what water it was, where, and in what form and condition; nor do we know the manner of the `Arsh resting on it. We have no way to answer these questions. It is impossible to add a note to the text for lack of a reliable source of knowledge. It would not be right either, to try and reconcile scientific theories with Qur'anic statements in which the truth is embodied. Scientific theories, after all, are subject to alterations. They are constructed on a set of data with the help of a few hypothetical ideas: themselves deduced from results of experiments. Whenever new experiments lead to different results, the hypothesis and theories undergo alterations. Hence all scientific theories are subject to change. It would be wrong then to explain the Qur'anic truths in the light of scientific findings.
    He further warns: “To search for concurrence of the Qur'anic truths in scientific statements is betrayal of seriousness in one's faith in the Qur'an as the revelation of Allah something that is beyond any doubt. This kind of attempt is the result of over rating scientific achievements and according it a position higher than what it deserves a position so high that nothing would be accepted or rejected but in its light. The faith that depends on confirmation coming from scientific fields deserves a fresh look for its existence. The Qur'an is the true basis. Whether scientific hypothesis and theories agree with it or not is secondary. As for research involving scientific experimentation, they have a different field of action. The Qur'an has allowed human intellect complete freedom to engage itself in such pursuits and reach conclusions that are not swayed by prejudices, superstitions, and fetishes. (Its findings do not directly affect the faith). Hence we see that the Qur'an does not directly deal with scientific truths. It makes references to them only in passing, such as, e.g., all living beings are created out of water, or, every living creature, including the plants, come in pairs of male and female, etc.”
    The cautionary note well placed in our system of thought, it might yet be pointed out that with the astonishing scientific advancements, especially those of the second half of the last century, and the more astonishing confirmation of their truths by the Qur'an, which has led many non Muslim to Islam, and which has as well helped many Muslims to win back their lost faith, the above cautionary note from Sayyid Qutub needs to be qualified, especially in the light of the Qur'anic statement (41: 53), “Soon We shall show them Our signs in the heavens and in their own selves, until it becomes clear that it (the Qur'an) is the Truth from their Lord.”
    Sayyid's main point is that faith ought not to depend on scientific knowledge, waiting for confirmation from it before acceptance or rejection of Qur'anic truths. He could not have assumed that faith can be altogether isolated, and completely unaffected by human discoveries that prove the veracity of those Qur'anic statements that had hitherto remained enigmatic, or which proved capable of giving out new meanings and interpretation. Sayyid himself had clarified this point earlier while discussing verse 189 of Surah al Baqarah. He wrote there: “The central theme of the Qur'anic message is man himself: his inner self and his life. It endeavors to give a general understanding of his own being and his relationship with his Creator, and to establish, on the basis of this relationship, a system and order of life that will allow man to use all his inherent powers, including the power of knowledge to his benefit. This power itself, however, has been properly humanized and civilized, to work within the limits imposed, to reach conclusions through hypotheses and deductions, but which, whatever else, are not to be treated as final truths.
    “What is disconcerting to note,” Sayyid points out, “is that some simple minded people should try to work out certain scientific details that sound like additions to the Qur'an, attributing to it what it did not intend, as if they think they can cause an increase thereby to its glory.
    AThat said, one might add that so long as there is no dependence on scientific knowledge to confirm the Qur'anic knowledge, there is no harm in their pursuit and in benefiting from modern findings. For instance, the Qur'an says (25: 2), “He created everything and then gave it its (due) measure.” Now, man discovers that all the distances in the planetary system are well proportioned: between the earth and the sun, between the earth and the moon, between one planet and another, between the respective sizes of the sun, the earth, the moon and other planets, between the motion of one and the other all measurements seem to be well proportioned and well balanced, without which the planetary system could not have come to exist. Facts of this kind of course help us to understand better the meaning of the Qur'anic verses better.
    “But, on the other hand, the Qur'an says (23: 12), ‘He created man from a quintessence of clay,' and we find some scientists postulating that the first living cell perhaps came into being in slimy conditions, and that, since then it has been evolving to arrive at the final shape of man. Now, if this postulation is referred to while explaining the above Qur'anic verse, then, obviously, we have to point out that this is not what the Qur'an intended. That is because, first of all, scientists have no definite proof that the first living cell came into being in slimy conditions, nor do we accept the theory that is subsequently built on that hypothesis. Both the hypothesis (of appearance of life in slimy conditions) and the theory (of evolution) are only conjectural, subject to change, whereas the Qur'anic statement is fundamental, final, unalterable.”
    18. Literally, the textual “in hadha illa” is better rendered as Athis is only” (Au.).
    19. “The term sihr, which is often used in the sense of ‘sorcery’ or ‘magic’, denotes, primarily, “the turning of something from its proper [i.e., its natural] condition into another condition (Taj al `Arus); hence signifies any act which causes something that is false or unreal to assume the appearance of reality” (Asad).

    وَلَئِنْ أَخَّرْنَا عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابَ إِلَىٰ أُمَّةٍ مَعْدُودَةٍ لَيَقُولُنَّ مَا يَحْبِسُهُ ۗ أَلَا يَوْمَ يَأْتِيهِمْ لَيْسَ مَصْرُوفًا عَنْهُمْ وَحَاقَ بِهِمْ مَا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ (8)

    11|8| And, if We are to delay the punishment from them until a reckoned moment,20 they will surely ask, ‘What prevents it (from coming)?' Lo! The day it comes to them, it shall not be averted from them. Rather, that (very thing) will overwhelm them which they were mocking.21

    20. Authorities such as Ibn `Abbas, Dahhak, Mujahid and others have interpreted the term ummah of the text as “ajal”, i.e., “a reckoned moment.” Ibn Jarir then explains that since one ummah takes over after the previous ummah's term expires, the moment when the exchange takes place, has come to be identified as the ummah.
    Qurtubi explains that the word ummah, as used in the Qur'an and Sunnah, gives out several different meanings:
    i). A group of people. The Qur'an said (28: 23),

    وَجَدَ عَلَيْهِ أُمَّةً مِنَ النَّاسِ [القصص : 23]

    AHe found a group of people there.”
    ii). Anyone endowed with fine qualities, who can be cited as an example and followed. Allah said about Ibrahim (16: 120),

    إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ كَانَ أُمَّةً [النحل : 120]

    AIbrahim was a man of fine qualities, devout to Allah, upright.”
    iii). Religion or nation. The Qur'an said (43: 23),

    إِنَّا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا عَلَى أُمَّةٍ [الزخرف : 23]

    AWe found our forefathers on a religion.”
    iv). A moment in time, or a period of time; as in this present verse, and as also (12: 45),

    وَادَّكَرَ بَعْدَ أُمَّةٍ [يوسف : 45]

    AHe remembered after a while.”
    v). A singular man, alone on his religion, no one sharing the religion with him. The Prophet said about Zayd b. ‘Amr

    فَإِنَّهُ يُبْعَثُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أُمَّةً وَحْدَهُ

    AHe (Zayd b. ‘Amr b. Nufayl) will be raised up, alone, by himself."
    21. Asad comments on the use of the word “haqa bihim”: “According to almost all the commentators, the use of the past tense in the verb haqa, despite the fact that it refers to the future, has the syntactic value of a stress, implying the inevitability of the happening to which it relates.”

    وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ مِنَّا رَحْمَةً ثُمَّ نَزَعْنَاهَا مِنْهُ إِنَّهُ لَيَئُوسٌ كَفُورٌ (9)

    11|9| And, if We give man a taste of mercy from Us, and then withdraw it from him, lo, he is despairing, ungrateful.22

    22. Asad gets to the heart of the matter: “.. inasmuch as he attributes his past happy state to a merely accidental chain of causes and effects in short what is commonly regarded as ‘luck’ and not to God's grace. Hence, the term ya'us, in its Qur'anic usage, is indicative of spiritual nihilism.”

    وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَاهُ نَعْمَاءَ بَعْدَ ضَرَّاءَ مَسَّتْهُ لَيَقُولَنَّ ذَهَبَ السَّيِّئَاتُ عَنِّي ۚ إِنَّهُ لَفَرِحٌ فَخُورٌ (10)

    11|10| And if We let him taste prosperity after hardship had visited him, he will surely say, ‘Evils have gone from me (for good).' He is indeed exulting, boastful.23

    23. Literally, “very exulting” and “very boastful” (Au.).

    لَّا الَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ كَبِيرٌ (11)

    11|11| Except for those who are patient (in adversity)24 and work righteous deeds, for them is forgiveness and a great reward.

    24. Being patient and grateful are the special qualities of the believers. A hadith of Sahihayn says,

    عَجَبًا لأَمْرِ الْمُؤْمِنِ إِنَّ أَمْرَهُ كُلَّهُ خَيْرٌ وَلَيْسَ ذَاكَ لأَحَدٍ إِلاَّ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرَّاءُ شَكَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرَّاءُ صَبَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ

    “A believer’s every affair is wonderfully good. And this is not for anyone else except a believer. If he is struck with something good, he is grateful. That it is good for him. If he is visited by an evil, he observes patience. And that is good for him” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above version is from Muslim (Au.).

    فَلَعَلَّكَ تَارِكٌ بَعْضَ مَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيْكَ وَضَائِقٌ بِهِ صَدْرُكَ أَنْ يَقُولُوا لَوْلَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ كَنْزٌ أَوْ جَاءَ مَعَهُ مَلَكٌ ۚ إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ نَذِيرٌ ۚ وَاللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَكِيلٌ (12)

    11|12| Would you then possibly leave out (undelivered) some of what has been revealed to you and (may be) your heart is constricted therewith because they say, ‘Why has a treasure not been sent down to him, or an angel accompanied him?'25 Verily, you are only a warner. And Allah is the custodian over all things.

    25. That is, are you going not to convey the message in full in the hope of improving the response? (Ibn Jarir)
    The situation has to be both properly imagined as well as fully understood. In a sea of deities and a storm of false gods, the Prophet's was a single voice that condemned them outright. He was surrounded by the multitudes. One here ridiculed him; another there abused him, a third called him a magician, a fourth poked fun at him, and, if anyone could, took a step further and physically molested him. (Ahmad has recorded Anas as saying that one night Jibril visited the Prophet. He found him bleeding, sad. Some Makkans had beaten him up. Jibril asked him, “What happened?” The Prophet answered that so and so, and so and so had beaten him: Au.). Imagine the Prophet in that situation and imagine the courage of that Great Preacher. He is alone. He has no one to turn to. Finding himself up against a band of powerful enemies totally opposed to his message and his mission, and faced up with walls of hatred and rejection, he sits down in desperation every time he is too tired to carry on. He appeals to Allah. Allah consoles him. His consolation renews his energies. He rises up again to face the challenge of the waves of rejectionists. It is in such a situation, under those pressures, following the thoughts that any mind will suggest, that the above verse was revealed (expanded on a point from Shabbir).
    Yusuf `Ali has a sweetish way of solving a ticklish question that the verse may give rise to in some minds. He writes, “Every prophet of Allah, when he not only encounters opposition, but is actually accused of falsehood and those very evils which he is protesting against, may feel inclined, in his human weakness, to ask himself the question, ‘Supposing I omit this little point, will Allah's Truth then be accepted more readily?’ Or he may think to himself, ‘If I had only more money to organize my campaign, or something which will draw people's attention, like the company of an angel, how much better can I push my Message?’ He is told that truth must be delivered as it is revealed, even though portions of it may be unpalatable, and that, resources and other means to draw people to him are beside the point. He must use just such resources and opportunities as he has, and leave the rest to Allah.”
    The verse and Yusuf Ali's explanation might be kept in sight by every sincere, learned caller to Islam, speaker or writer, who discovers that in contrast to the material he presents, so accurately reflecting the truth, it is actually the peddlers of questionable ideas, under holy banners, that seem to score the hearing both of the audiences as well as the financiers. What they have to realize is that it is the Truth which has the upper hand, even if followed by a few. If an idea gains a quick popularity, its depth of commitment to the truth needs careful scrutiny (Au.).

    أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ ۖ قُلْ فَأْتُوا بِعَشْرِ سُوَرٍ مِثْلِهِ مُفْتَرَيَاتٍ وَادْعُوا مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (13)

    11|13| Or, do they say, ‘He has forged it?' Say, ‘Then bring ten chapters the like of it,26 forged, and call (to your aid) whomsoever you can apart from Allah, if you are true (in your allegation).'27

    26. Classical scholars have said that there was an order in the Qur'anic challenge. It first asked the unbelievers to produce something equal to the whole of the Qur'an. Then it reduced the quantity to ten chapters. Next it came down to one chapter. Many of the later generation commentators however have disagreed with them on grounds that the order of revelation does not allow for such an assumption. Alusi tried to explain that the challenge earlier (in Surah Yunus, v. 38) was to produce a single chapter. Here it is for ten chapters. It is probable that the demand was for one chapter equal to that of the Qur'an in the beauty of the language as well as in meaning. Then, when they failed to do it, they were challenged to produce ten chapters equal in beauty of language alone, without the requirement of the kind of meaning that the Qur'an carries. In simpler words, the earlier challenge was to produce one chapter equal in both the form as well as the content of the Qur'an. When they failed to produce, they were told to produce ten chapters equal to Qur'an in form alone, if not content.
    Incidentally, this challenge to produce ten chapters of its like, comes after ten chapters, this one being the eleventh; and, further to the challenge to produce one or ten chapters, the challenge was reduced to producing any amount, not necessarily a whole Surah. It said (52: 33, 34):

    أَمْ يَقُولُونَ تَقَوَّلَهُ بَلْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ (33) فَلْيَأْتُوا بِحَدِيثٍ مِثْلِهِ إِنْ كَانُوا صَادِقِينَ [الطور : 33 ، 34]

    “Or, do they say he has forged it? So, let them bring a speech similar to this if they are true” (Au.).
    Rashid Rida thought that the challenge to produce ten chapters was to produce similar stories as in the Qur'an. These stories numbered ten, counting in chapters revealed till the revelation of this Surah. Sayyid Qutb holds that there is no need for complicated explanations. Rather, the Qur'an was facing different situations at different times. In some situation it addressed its adversaries to produce a single chapter. At another time it was addressing a different set of people, in a situation different from the earlier situation and so challenged them to produce ten chapters. In another situation it challenged them simply to produce something equal to the Qur'an. In every case, the challenge was to produce the “kind” and not the “quantity.”
    27. Majid quotes, “The best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Qur'an” (Palmer, The Qur'an, Introduction, p. LV). And, “We find even so bigoted an opponent of Islam as Alvar acknowledging that the Qur'an was composed in such eloquent and beautiful language that even Christians could not help reading and admiring it.”

    فَإِلَّمْ يَسْتَجِيبُوا لَكُمْ فَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا أُنْزِلَ بِعِلْمِ اللَّهِ وَأَنْ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ (14)

    11|14| But if they do not respond to you, then be of knowledge (O unbelievers), that it was revealed by Allah's knowledge, and that there is no deity save He. Therefore, will you submit?

    مَنْ كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا وَزِينَتَهَا نُوَفِّ إِلَيْهِمْ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فِيهَا وَهُمْ فِيهَا لَا يُبْخَسُونَ (15)

    11|15| Whoever desires the life of this world and its splendors, We recompense them in full for their works therein28 and they are not wronged in that (by the least).29

    28. That is, whoever intends this worldly rewards, he is rewarded for his works in this world itself. There is nothing in store for them in the next. Many of the classical scholars have added that the rule also applies to the good deeds of a believer, which, either done with this world in sight, or done badly, are rewarded for in this world itself (Ibn Jarir).
    29. Shufay b. Maati` says he entered Madinah and found a man surrounded by a crowd. He asked, ‘Who is this man?' They said, ‘Abu Hurayrah.'

    فدنوت منه حتى قعدت بين يديه وهو يحدث الناس فلما سكت وخلا قلت له : أنشدك بحقي لما حدثتني حديثا سمعته عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم عقلته وعلمته فقال أبو هريرة : أفعل لأحدثنك حديثا حدثنيه رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم عقلته وعلمته ثم نشغ أبو هريرة نشغة فمكث قليلا ثم أفاق فقال : لأحدثنك حديثا حدثنيه رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم وأنا وهو في هذا البيت ما معنا أحد غيري وغيره ثم نشغ أبو هريرة نشغة أخرى فمكث كذلك ثم أفاق فمسح عن وجهه فقال : أفعل لأحدثنك حديثا حدثنيه رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم وأنا وهو في هذا البيت ما معه أحد غيري وغيره ثم نشغ نشغة شديدة ثم مال خارا على وجهه واشتد به طويلا ثم أفاق فقال : حدثني رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم : ( أن الله تبارك وتعالى إذا كان يوم القيامة ينزل إلى العباد ليقضي بينهم وكل أمة جاثية
    فأول من يدعو به رجل جمع القرآن ورجل يقتل في سبيل الله ورجل كثير المال فيقول الله تبارك وتعالى للقارىء : ألم أعلمك ما أنزلت على رسولي صلى الله عليه و سلم ؟ قال : بلى يا رب قال : فماذا عملت فيما علمت ؟ قال : كنت أقوم به آناء الليل وآناء النهار فيقول الله تبارك وتعالى له : كذبت وتقول له الملائكة : كذبت ويقول الله : بل أردت أن يقال : فلان قارىء فقد قيل ذاك
    ويؤتى بصاحب المال فيقول الله له : ألم أوسع عليك حتى لم أدعك تحتاج إلى أحد ؟ قال : بلى يا رب قال : فماذا عملت فيما آتيتك ؟ قال : كنت أصل الرحم وأتصدق ؟ فيقول الله له : كذبت وتقول الملائكة له : كذبت ويقول الله : بل إنما أردت أن يقال : فلان جواد فقد قيل ذاك
    ويؤتى بالذي قتل في سبيل الله فيقال له : في ماذا قتلت ؟ فيقول : أمرت الجهاد في سبيلك فقاتلت حتى قتلت فيقول الله له : كذبت وتقول له الملائكة : كذبت ويقول الله : بل أردت أن يقال : فلان جريء فقد قيل ذاك
    ثم ضرب رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم ركبتي فقال : يا أبا هريرة أولئك الثلاثة أول خلق الله تسعر بهم النار يوم القيامة

    ASo,” says Shufay, “I closed in on him and sat close to him. When the crowd had dispersed I said, ‘I implore you by the Truth, and by the Truth you spoke, narrate to me something that you heard directly from the Prophet and understood it well.' Abu Hurayrah said, ‘I will. I will narrate a hadith that I heard directly from the Prophet and understood it well enough.'
    But, before he could say anything he swooned. When he recovered in a short while, he said, ‘I will narrate you a narration that the Prophet spoke to me in this house when there was no one else around.' Then he swooned again. When he recovered, he said, ‘I will narrate you a narration that the Prophet spoke to me in this house when there was no one else around.' Then he swooned again and fell on his face. He was in that condition for a long while. When he recovered, he said, ‘The Prophet told me that when Allah would have gathered mankind on the Day of Judgment, He will come down to judge between them. And everyone will be on his knees. The firsts to be called will be: a man who had learnt the Qur'an, a man who was killed in the way of Allah, and a man given wealth.
    Allah will ask the Qur'anic scholar, ‘Did I not teach you what I revealed to My Messenger?' The man will reply, ‘Indeed, my Lord.' Allah will ask: ‘So, how did you use the knowledge of what you had learnt?' The man will reply, ‘Well, I stood reciting it the whole of the night and day.' Allah will say, ‘You have lied.' And the angels will say, ‘You have lied.' Allah will say, ‘Rather, you wished to hear that so and so is a scholar. And that has been said about you.'
    Then the man of wealth will be brought forth. Allah will ask him, ‘Did I not give you so much that you did not need to ask anyone?' He will reply, ‘Indeed, my Lord.' He will ask, ‘What did you do with what I gave you?' He will reply, ‘Well, I used to join the kin (by spending on them), and spend in charity.' Allah will say, ‘You have lied.' And the angels will say, ‘You have lied.' Allah will say, ‘You wished that you be called generous. And you have been called that.'
    Then the man who died in the way of Allah will be brought forth. Allah will ask him, ‘In what connection were you killed?' The man will reply, ‘You ordered me to fight in Your way. So I fought until I was killed.' He will be told, ‘You have lied.' And the angels will say, ‘You have lied.' Allah will say, ‘Rather you wished that it be said, so and so is so courageous.'
    At this point the Prophet (saws) hit me on my knee, continued Abu Hurayrah, and said, ‘Those three would be the first to be sent to the Fire as its fuel.'“
    Ibn Hibban followed with the following report (Au):

    قال أبو عثمان الوليد : وحدثني العلاء بن أبي حكيم أنه كان سيافا لمعاوية قال : فدخل عليه رجل فحدثه بهذا عن أبي هريرة فقال معاوية : قد فعل بهؤلاء مثل هذا فكيف بمن بقي من الناس ؟ ثم بكى معاوية بكاء شديدا حتى ظننا أنه هالك وقلنا : قد جاءنا هذا الرجل بشر ثم أفاق معاوية ومسح عن وجهه فقال : صدق الله ورسوله - من كان يريد الحياة الدنيا وزينتها نوف إليهم أعمالهم فيها وهم فيها لا يبخسون
    (صحيح ابن حبان بتحقيق الأرناؤوط - قال شعيب الأرنؤوط : إسناده صحيح)

    And `Ali b. Abu Hakim (who was Mu`awiyyah's sword bearer) reports that when this narration of Abu Hurayrah was narrated to him, Mu`awiyyah also almost swooned. When he recovered he said, “Allah spoke the truth. He said, “Whoever desires the life of this world and its splendors, We pay them in full for their works therein and they are not wronged in it (by a bit)'“ Ibn Jarir, Razi.
    The above is from the Sahih of Ibn Hibban about which Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut said that it is trustworthy.

    أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَيْسَ لَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ إِلَّا النَّارُ ۖ وَحَبِطَ مَا صَنَعُوا فِيهَا وَبَاطِلٌ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (16)

    11|16| Those are the ones for whom there is nothing but Fire in the Hereafter. What they manufactured therein collapsed (in a heap) and worthless the things they were doing.30

    30. Majid comments, “i.e., want of right belief has rendered all their good works fruitless, and what apparent merit these works possessed has faded away in the world of stern realities, where there is no more of sham and no more of make belief.”

    أَفَمَنْ كَانَ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّهِ وَيَتْلُوهُ شَاهِدٌ مِنْهُ وَمِنْ قَبْلِهِ كِتَابُ مُوسَىٰ إِمَامًا وَرَحْمَةً ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ ۚ وَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِهِ مِنَ الْأَحْزَابِ فَالنَّارُ مَوْعِدُهُ ۚ فَلَا تَكُ فِي مِرْيَةٍ مِنْهُ ۚ إِنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّكَ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ (17)

    11|17| Is he then who is on a clear evidence from His Lord, and a witness from Him recites it,31 and before it Musa's book a guide and a mercy (is he, or he who rejects it, better)? They believe in it. And whoever of the factions32 denies it, the Fire is his promised meeting place.33 So, be not in any doubt about it. It is the Truth from your Lord but most people believe not.

    31. Of the several opinions available regarding the identification of the Awitness” the one nearest to being correct is that it is Jibril, although some others have said that it is Prophet Muhammad himself (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Nakha`i, Dahhak, `Ikrimah, Abu Saleh and Sa`id b. Jubayr were of the opinion that the allusion is to Jibril (Baghawi). They also maintained that the “bayyinah” of the text is for the Qur'an itself (Alusi).
    Razi reports (while Shawkani traces it to Ibn al Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Tabarani in Awsat and Abu al Sheikh) that Muhammad b. `Ali asked `Ali ibn abi Talib, “I hear that you are the one who is the witness, is that correct?” `Ali replied, “I wish I was. But it is the Prophet.”
    32. The reference, apart from the Arab heathens, is to the Jews and Christians.
    33. Sa`id ibn Jubayr said, “I have never came across a hadith of the Prophet but found its equivalent in Allah's Book. When I heard him say,

    وَالَّذِى نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ لاَ يَسْمَعُ بِى أَحَدٌ مِنْ هَذِهِ الأُمَّةِ يَهُودِىٌّ وَلاَ نَصْرَانِىٌّ ثُمَّ يَمُوتُ وَلَمْ يُؤْمِنْ بِالَّذِى أُرْسِلْتُ بِهِ إِلاَّ كَانَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّارِ

    ‘No one of this Ummah who heard of me, neither a Jew nor Christian, and then did not believe in what I have been sent with, but he will enter the Fire,' when I heard this narration, I asked myself, now, where is this in Allah's Book? Until when I came across this verse saying, ‘As for those who deny it of the factions, the Fire is their promised meeting place'“ (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    The text quoted above is in Muslim (Au.).

    وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ يُعْرَضُونَ عَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ وَيَقُولُ الْأَشْهَادُ هَٰؤُلَاءِ الَّذِينَ كَذَبُوا عَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ ۚ أَلَا لَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ (18)

    11|18| And who can do greater wrong that he who forged a lie on Allah? Such of them will be presented to their Lord and the witnesses will say, ‘these are the ones who lied against their Lord.'34 Behold. Allah's curse upon the wrong doers35

    34. It has been reported through several sources such as Ibn `Umar, that Allah (swt) will conceal a believer's sin from others. As for the unbelievers and hypocrites, it will be announced over the heads of the witnesses, ‘Lo. These are the ones who lied against their Lord. Lo. Allah's curse upon the wrong doers' (Ibn Jarir).
    35. Since, for the want of a suitable word in English, the term “curse” is employed for expressing the word la`nah of Arabic, Asad offers a useful point, “The term la`nah which is usually, but inexactly, translated as “curse” is in its primary meaning, synonymous with ib`ad (“alienation”, “estrangement” or “banishment”) in the moral sense; hence it denotes Arejection from all that is good” (Lisan al `Arab) and, with reference to God, the sinner's “exclusion from His grace” (Manar ii, 50).”

    الَّذِينَ يَصُدُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَيَبْغُونَهَا عِوَجًا وَهُمْ بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ (19)

    11|19| Those who bar from Allah's path desiring to make it crooked; and they are unbelievers in the Hereafter.

    أُولَٰئِكَ لَمْ يَكُونُوا مُعْجِزِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا كَانَ لَهُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مِنْ أَوْلِيَاءَ ۘ يُضَاعَفُ لَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ ۚ مَا كَانُوا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ السَّمْعَ وَمَا كَانُوا يُبْصِرُونَ (20)

    11|20| They were not such as to frustrate (Us) in the land and they do not have any allies apart from Allah. The chastisement will be doubled for them. They were incapable of hearing and they were not seeing.

    أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ وَضَلَّ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ (21)

    11|21| They are the people who squandered their souls and lost from them what they were forging.36

    36. Asad offers a deeper than obvious meaning, which relates the verse to the modern situation too. He comments on Awhat they were forging” in words: “..a phrase which implies not merely false imaginings regarding the existence of any real ‘power’ apart from God (i.e., the existence of supposedly divine or semi divine beings) but also deceptive ideas and ‘glittering half truths meant to delude the mind’ .. such as luck, wealth, personal power, nationalism, deterministic materialism, etc. all of which cause men to lose sight of spiritual values and thus to ‘squander their own selves.’”

    لَا جَرَمَ أَنَّهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ هُمُ الْأَخْسَرُونَ (22)

    11|22| No doubt about it that they will be the greatest losers in the Hereafter.

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَأَخْبَتُوا إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ أُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ (23)

    11|23| (In contrast), those who believed and did righteous deeds and humbled themselves before their Lord,37 they are the inhabitants of the Garden, abiding therein forever.

    37. The textual word “akhbata ila rabbihi” is literally for someone who has found repose in his Lord having cut himself of every encumbrance that acts as a barrier to his devotion to Him - in submission and humility (Zamakhshari). Other meanings that have been given are, “to be satisfied” (Mujahid), and “humble devotion” (Qatadah) Ibn Jarir.
    Yusuf Ali offers us his usual balancing act: “Note that the humility is to be ‘before their Lord,’ i.e., in Allah's sight. There is no virtue, quite the contrary, in rubbing our noses to the ground before men. We are not to be arrogant even before men because we are humble as in Allah's sight. Nor does true humility lose self confidence; for that self confidence arises from confidence in the support and help of Allah.”

    مَثَلُ الْفَرِيقَيْنِ كَالْأَعْمَىٰ وَالْأَصَمِّ وَالْبَصِيرِ وَالسَّمِيعِ ۚ هَلْ يَسْتَوِيَانِ مَثَلًا ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ (24)

    11|24| The likeness of the two groups is like the blind and the deaf, and the seeing and the hearing. Are they equal in likeness? Will you not be admonished?

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ إِنِّي لَكُمْ نَذِيرٌ مُبِينٌ (25)

    11|25| Indeed We sent Nuh to his people (saying), ‘I am indeed for you a clear warner.'

    أَنْ لَا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا اللَّهَ ۖ إِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ أَلِيمٍ (26)

    11|26| That you worship not any but Allah.38 Verily, I fear for you the chastisement of a painful day.'

    38. And give up the worship of false deities such as Wadd, Suwa`, Yaghuth, Ya`uq and Nasr (Thanwi).

    فَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ قَوْمِهِ مَا نَرَاكَ إِلَّا بَشَرًا مِثْلَنَا وَمَا نَرَاكَ اتَّبَعَكَ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ هُمْ أَرَاذِلُنَا بَادِيَ الرَّأْيِ وَمَا نَرَىٰ لَكُمْ عَلَيْنَا مِنْ فَضْلٍ بَلْ نَظُنُّكُمْ كَاذِبِينَ (27)

    11|27| Thereupon the chiefs of those who disbelieved among his people said, ‘We do not see you but a human being like ourselves. And we do not see you followed except by the meanest of us,39 (men) of superficial opinion;40 nor do we perceive in you any superiority over us. In fact, we think you are all liars.'41

    39. Such as carpenters, weavers, barbers and small time traders. This has been always the case. Modestly placed people always embrace the truth first. Accordingly, when Abu Sufyan met Heraclius, he asked him about what kind of people believed in the man who claims to be a Messenger. When Abu Sufyan said they were the lowly ones, Heraclius remarked, “That is how it is with all Prophets. It is the lowly who follow them first” (Ibn Kathir).
    40. Although some of the Salaf have suggested that the term “baadiyar ra'yi” means, “in the first suggestion” or, “apparently” (Ibn Jarir, Shawkani), Ibn Kathir, who has the backing of Zamakhshari, thinks that the meaning is, ‘people of low or poor opinion who fall onto something without much consideration and preceding thought.’ Then he adds that to think of a people low of opinion simply because they accept the Truth in the first instance, is itself a low opinion. Nuh's adversaries judged the Truth by who had accepted it rather than judging the people by ‘who among them had accepted the Truth.’ Those who accepted the Truth were the noble ones, even if financially badly off, in contrast to those who rejected it, who were the meanest of people, even though financially well off. Truth in fact demands immediate acceptance. What's there to think and ponder when Truth becomes apparent? The truly intelligent and the pure of heart will go for it in the first go. Accordingly, we find our Prophet telling us, “There was not anyone to whom I offered Islam, but he hesitated (for a short or long time) except Abu Bakr. He did not hesitate for a moment.”
    Zamakhshari asks: Is it not this the situation with most of those who claim to be Muslims is the same? They judge a man and treat him honoring him or belittling him by the criteria of how much material means he possesses. They forget that worldly possessions do not take them nearer to Allah. In fact, in most cases, worldly possessions deviate them away from Him. Prophets did not build the world. Just the opposite. They treated it with scorn and neglect.
    41. Yusuf Ali summarizes a long story into a short passage: “The unbelievers were impelled by three powerful human motives of evil to resist Grace. (1) jealousy of other men; they said, ‘Why, you are no better than ourselves,' half perceiving the Prophet's superiority, and half ignoring it; (2) contempt of the weak and lowly, who are often better intellectually, morally, and spiritually; they said, ‘We cannot believe or do what these fellows, our inferiors in social rank, believe or do!'; (3) arrogance and self sufficiency, which is a vice cognate to (2), looked at from a different angle; they said, “We are really better than the lot of you!' Now the claim made on behalf of Allah's Message attacked all these three attitudes. And all they could say against it was to abuse impatiently, and call it a lie.”

    قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّي وَآتَانِي رَحْمَةً مِنْ عِنْدِهِ فَعُمِّيَتْ عَلَيْكُمْ أَنُلْزِمُكُمُوهَا وَأَنْتُمْ لَهَا كَارِهُونَ (28)

    11|28| He said, ‘My people! Have you considered? If I happen to be on a clear (truth) from my Lord, and He accorded me mercy from Himself, but it has been obscured unto you, shall we then force it on you, while you are averse to it?'42

    42. Yusuf Ali carries on: “Noah's answer (like that of the Prophet of Allah who spoke in later ages in Makkah and Madinah), is a pattern in of humility, gentleness, firmness, persuasiveness, truth and love for his own people. First, he meekly (not exultingly) informs them that he has got a Message from Allah. Secondly, he tells them that it is a Message of Mercy even in its warning, though in their arrogance the Mercy may be hidden from them. Thirdly, he tells them plainly that there can be no compulsion in Religion: but will they not accept with goodwill what is for their own benefit? He pleads with them as one of them.”

    وَيَا قَوْمِ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مَالًا ۖ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ وَمَا أَنَا بِطَارِدِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ۚ إِنَّهُمْ مُلَاقُو رَبِّهِمْ وَلَٰكِنِّي أَرَاكُمْ قَوْمًا تَجْهَلُونَ (29)

    11|29| ‘My people! I do not ask of you any material benefits for this (message). My wage is only upon Allah. And, I am not going to drive away those who have believed. They are to meet their Lord.43 But rather, I see you as a people ignorant.'

    43. What Nuh meant by saying, “They are to meet their Lord” is: “The reason you cite for me to drive them away is not well established. You say they are a people of poor opinion who have embraced my faith in haste. But, I can not split open their breasts to look into them for the reason behind their acceptance. It is only Allah who knows that for sure. They will meet their Lord, and He will make the judgment” (Alusi).

    وَيَا قَوْمِ مَنْ يَنْصُرُنِي مِنَ اللَّهِ إِنْ طَرَدْتُهُمْ ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ (30)

    11|30| ‘My people! Who will help me against Allah if I drove them away? Will you not then be admonished?'

    وَلَا أَقُولُ لَكُمْ عِنْدِي خَزَائِنُ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ وَلَا أَقُولُ إِنِّي مَلَكٌ وَلَا أَقُولُ لِلَّذِينَ تَزْدَرِي أَعْيُنُكُمْ لَنْ يُؤْتِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ خَيْرًا ۖ اللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ ۖ إِنِّي إِذًا لَمِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ (31)

    11|31| ‘And I do not say to you that I posses Allah's treasures, nor (do I claim that) I know the Unseen.44 I do not say either that I am an angel. Nor would I say about those whom your eyes hold in contempt, that Allah will not grant them any good. Allah knows best what is in their hearts. (If I said that then) Surely, I would be (counted) among the wrong doers.

    44. Those ignorant ones were of belief that a Messenger of Allah should necessarily have access to the Unseen (Thanwi).

    قَالُوا يَا نُوحُ قَدْ جَادَلْتَنَا فَأَكْثَرْتَ جِدَالَنَا فَأْتِنَا بِمَا تَعِدُنَا إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (32)

    11|32| They replied, ‘O Nuh! You have argued with us and have exceeded in argument with us. Now bring on upon us that which you threaten us with, if you are of the truthful.'45

    45. “To Noah's address the worldly chiefs give a characteristic reply. In its aggressive spirit it is the very antithesis of the gentle remonstrance of Noah. Because he had gently and patiently argued with them, they impatiently accuse him of ‘disputing with them’ and ‘prolonging the dispute.’ They are unable to deal with his points. So they arrogantly throw out their challenge, which is a compound of hectoring insolence, unreasoning skepticism, and biting irony. ‘You foretell disaster to us if we do not mend our ways! Let us see you bring it on! Now, if you please! Or shall we have to call you a liar?'” (Yusuf Ali).

    قَالَ إِنَّمَا يَأْتِيكُمْ بِهِ اللَّهُ إِنْ شَاءَ وَمَا أَنْتُمْ بِمُعْجِزِينَ (33)

    11|33| He said, ‘Surely, it is Allah who will bring it to you if He will. And you will not be able to frustrate (Him).

    وَلَا يَنْفَعُكُمْ نُصْحِي إِنْ أَرَدْتُ أَنْ أَنْصَحَ لَكُمْ إِنْ كَانَ اللَّهُ يُرِيدُ أَنْ يُغْوِيَكُمْ ۚ هُوَ رَبُّكُمْ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ (34)

    11|34| And, (it seems) my sincere counsel will do you no good, even if I wish (to offer you) good counsel, if it be that Allah wishes to destroy you.46 He is your Lord and to Him you will be returned.'

    46. The original “yughwiya kum” (with its root in “ghawa” lit. to be lost, and hence aghwa, i.e., misguided: Au.) is also used in the sense of destruction. Allah said, (19: 59),

    فَسَوْفَ يَلْقَوْنَ غَيًّا [مريم : 59]

    “Soon they shall meet with destruction” (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Kathir mentions this meaning also, along with the literal: “misguide you.”

    أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ ۖ قُلْ إِنِ افْتَرَيْتُهُ فَعَلَيَّ إِجْرَامِي وَأَنَا بَرِيءٌ مِمَّا تُجْرِمُونَ (35)

    11|35| Do they say, ‘He has forged it?' Say, ‘If I forged it then the crime is on me. And I am quit of the crimes you commit.'47

    47. The abrupt break from the past to the present, from Nuh's times to those of Muhammad, is apparent. Yusuf Ali comments: “The fine narrative of dramatic power is here interrupted by a verse which shows that the story of Noah is also a Parable for the time and the ministry of Muhammad the Prophet. The wonderful force and aptness of the story cannot be denied. The enemy therefore turns and says, ‘Oh! But you invented it!’ The answer is, ‘No! But it is Allah's own truth! You may be accustomed to dealing in falsehoods, but I protest that I am free from such things.’”

    وَأُوحِيَ إِلَىٰ نُوحٍ أَنَّهُ لَنْ يُؤْمِنَ مِنْ قَوْمِكَ إِلَّا مَنْ قَدْ آمَنَ فَلَا تَبْتَئِسْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ (36)

    11|36| Then it was revealed to Nuh that, ‘No one will believe of your people (any further) except for he who has already believed. So, do not be distressed by what they are doing.

    وَاصْنَعِ الْفُلْكَ بِأَعْيُنِنَا وَوَحْيِنَا وَلَا تُخَاطِبْنِي فِي الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا ۚ إِنَّهُمْ مُغْرَقُونَ (37)

    11|37| And build the boat under Our supervision and instruction,48 and speak not to me about the wrong doers. They are to be drowned.'

    48. Ibn `Abbas and others have said that Nuh did not know how to build a ship. Therefore he was ordered to build following Allah's direction and supervision (Ibn Jarir).

    وَيَصْنَعُ الْفُلْكَ وَكُلَّمَا مَرَّ عَلَيْهِ مَلَأٌ مِنْ قَوْمِهِ سَخِرُوا مِنْهُ ۚ قَالَ إِنْ تَسْخَرُوا مِنَّا فَإِنَّا نَسْخَرُ مِنْكُمْ كَمَا تَسْخَرُونَ (38)

    11|38| So, he set himself to building the boat. Now, whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they poked fun at him. He said, ‘If you poke fun at us today, then, surely, we are soon to poke fun at you the way you are poking fun (at us now).49

    49. It was a large boat and took several years to build. Whenever the chiefs of the town passed by, they made fun of him. Someone would say, “So, now you have become a carpenter after you were a Prophet?!” Another would say, “So, you are making a boat. Are you? But where is it going to sail? In the sands?” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari).

    فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ مَنْ يَأْتِيهِ عَذَابٌ يُخْزِيهِ وَيَحِلُّ عَلَيْهِ عَذَابٌ مُقِيمٌ (39)

    11|39| Soon you shall know to whom comes the chastisement disgracing him and on whom will be loosened a lasting punishment.'

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا وَفَارَ التَّنُّورُ قُلْنَا احْمِلْ فِيهَا مِنْ كُلٍّ زَوْجَيْنِ اثْنَيْنِ وَأَهْلَكَ إِلَّا مَنْ سَبَقَ عَلَيْهِ الْقَوْلُ وَمَنْ آمَنَ ۚ وَمَا آمَنَ مَعَهُ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ (40)

    11|40| At length when Our command came and the oven50 gushed forth, We directed, ‘Load into it two of every (kind of animal) male and female, as also your family, and those who have believed, except for him about whom the word has preceded. And, (the truth is), believed not with him but a few.

    50. Although there have been minority opinions saying that “tannur” is the face of the earth, and a second opinion is that it is the break of the dawn, the great majority of the Salaf believed that the allusion is to the fire pit made in the earth for baking bread (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).

    وَقَالَ ارْكَبُوا فِيهَا بِسْمِ اللَّهِ مَجْرَاهَا وَمُرْسَاهَا ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (41)

    11|41| So he (Nuh) said (to his followers), ‘Embark on to it. In Allah's name is its sailing and its anchoring. Verily, my Lord is Very Forgiving, Very Kind.'

    وَهِيَ تَجْرِي بِهِمْ فِي مَوْجٍ كَالْجِبَالِ وَنَادَىٰ نُوحٌ ابْنَهُ وَكَانَ فِي مَعْزِلٍ يَا بُنَيَّ ارْكَبْ مَعَنَا وَلَا تَكُنْ مَعَ الْكَافِرِينَ (42)

    11|42| And it was sailing with them amidst mountain like waves.51 And Nuh called out to his son who was at another place ‘My son. Embark with us and be not among the infidels.'

    51. This is no exaggeration. The tallest recorded waves measured 112 feet (Random House Encyclopedia, 1990 ed., p. 226).

    قَالَ سَآوِي إِلَىٰ جَبَلٍ يَعْصِمُنِي مِنَ الْمَاءِ ۚ قَالَ لَا عَاصِمَ الْيَوْمَ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا مَنْ رَحِمَ ۚ وَحَالَ بَيْنَهُمَا الْمَوْجُ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْمُغْرَقِينَ (43)

    11|43| He replied, ‘I shall take refuge on a mountain. That will save me from the water.' Said (Nuh), ‘There is no savior this day from Allah's decree, except for him whom He showed mercy.' And a wave came in between the two and he was of the drowned.

    وَقِيلَ يَا أَرْضُ ابْلَعِي مَاءَكِ وَيَا سَمَاءُ أَقْلِعِي وَغِيضَ الْمَاءُ وَقُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ وَاسْتَوَتْ عَلَى الْجُودِيِّ ۖ وَقِيلَ بُعْدًا لِلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ (44)

    11|44| It was said, ‘O earth, swallow your water, and O heavens withhold.'52 So the water abated, the affair ended, and it berthed on Judiyy.53 And it was said, ‘Away with a wrongdoing people.'

    52. The earth had been ordered to throw out its underground water and the sky was ordered to empty itself. A verse in another part of the Qur'an says (54: 11, 12),

    فَفَتَحْنَا أَبْوَابَ السَّمَاءِ بِمَاءٍ مُنْهَمِرٍ (11) وَفَجَّرْنَا الْأَرْضَ عُيُونًا فَالْتَقَى الْمَاءُ عَلَى أَمْرٍ قَدْ قُدِرَ [القمر : 11 ، 12]

    “Then We opened up the doors of heaven with water and we caused the earth to gush forth with springs” (Shawkani).
    53. There is nothing in the hadith literature neither sahih nor da`if identifying Judiyy. Therefore, opinions have varied among the classical commentators with each opinion as indeterminate as the other (Au.).
    Although what the so called modern research concludes is quite inconclusive, we may note what Asad has to say at this point, ‘This mountain, known in ancient times as Qardu, is situated in the regions of Lake Van, almost twenty five miles north east of the town of Jazirat Ibn `Umar, capital of the modern Syrian district of Al Jazirah.’ It ‘owes its fame to the Mesopotamian tradition which identifies it, and not Mount Ararat, with the mountain on which Noah's ark rested...This localization of the ark's resting place ... is certainly based on Babylonian tradition’ (Encyclopedia of Islam I, 1059). We should, however, remember that the designation Ararat (the Assyrian Uratu) at one time included the whole area to the south of Lake Van, in which Jabal Judi is situated: this might explain the Biblical statement that ‘the ark rested ... upon the mountains of Ararat’ (Genesis, viii, 4).”

    وَنَادَىٰ نُوحٌ رَبَّهُ فَقَالَ رَبِّ إِنَّ ابْنِي مِنْ أَهْلِي وَإِنَّ وَعْدَكَ الْحَقُّ وَأَنْتَ أَحْكَمُ الْحَاكِمِينَ (45)

    11|45| And Nuh cried out to his Lord saying, ‘O my Lord! My son is of my family and surely, Your promise is true. However, You are the Most Just of the judges.

    قَالَ يَا نُوحُ إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ مِنْ أَهْلِكَ ۖ إِنَّهُ عَمَلٌ غَيْرُ صَالِحٍ ۖ فَلَا تَسْأَلْنِ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۖ إِنِّي أَعِظُكَ أَنْ تَكُونَ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ (46)

    11|46| He said, ‘O Nuh! Surely, he is not of your family.54 He is an unrighteous deed.55 Therefore, ask me not about which you have no knowledge. I admonish you not to be of the ignorant (ones).'56

    54. Moved by the words, “He is not of your family,” and “He is an unrighteous deed”, and the words in Surah al Tahrim (66: 10), “the two of them were dishonest to their husbands”, some of the classical commentators have expressed the opinion that the son mentioned here was not truly Nuh's progeny, rather his wife's son, born of adultery. It could be a report of Israeli origin. But Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Dahhak, Maymun b. Mahran, and many others have strongly opposed this opinion. They have said that no Prophet's wife ever committed adultery. Ibn `Abbas has explained the words “He is an unrighteous deed,” as meaning, he was different from his father in deeds and intentions. As for the words, “he is not of your family” the meaning is, “he is not of those of your family that We had promised to rescue from the punishment (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    55. A second opinion that has come down from Ibn `Abbas is that the words following words should be translated as,

    إِنَّهُ عَمَلٌ غَيْرُ صَالِحٍ [هود : 46]

    “that indeed is an unrighteous deed,” meaning, “Your request that We save your son from drowning, although you are aware that he is an unbeliever, is not a righteous deed.” Mujahid was also of this opinion (Ibn Jarir).
    56. It is reasonable to believe that Nuh (asws) was not too sure of his son, whether he was a believer or not, either because the son had not opened up with his father, as it happens in many father son relationships, or, he acted hypocritically all the time to leave the father in doubt (Au.).

    قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أَسْأَلَكَ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۖ وَإِلَّا تَغْفِرْ لِي وَتَرْحَمْنِي أَكُنْ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ (47)

    11|47| He said: ‘My Lord, I seek Your refuge that I should ask You about what I have no knowledge. And, unless You forgive me and show me mercy, surely, I will be of the losers.'

    قِيلَ يَا نُوحُ اهْبِطْ بِسَلَامٍ مِنَّا وَبَرَكَاتٍ عَلَيْكَ وَعَلَىٰ أُمَمٍ مِمَّنْ مَعَكَ ۚ وَأُمَمٌ سَنُمَتِّعُهُمْ ثُمَّ يَمَسُّهُمْ مِنَّا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (48)

    11|48| It was said, ‘O Nuh. Disembark in peace from Us and blessings be on you and on the people with you;57 and nations whom We shall grant provision for a while, and then a painful chastisement shall strike them.58

    57. The construction of the phrase allows for the meaning that peace will be upon those who were with Nuh in the boat as well as with their progeny. Ka’b al Qurazi, Ibn Jurayj, Ibn Zayd and others were inclined to this meaning, and is preferred by Ibn Jarir.
    58. In view of this verse, there was general agreement among the earliest commentators that today's entire mankind is the progeny of those who were with Nuh on that boat. This view is supported by another verse (69: 11), “When the waters rose We took you onto the boat.” Ibn `Abbas in fact is reported to have said (Qurtubi) that Nuh was second Adam (asws). That implies that the flood was universal, drowning everyone except those in the boat. If the flood was local, how does one account for mountain like waves? That is either possible if the boat was set adrift by high waters into the sea, or, alternatively, a powerful tsunami had struck.
    As regards the difficulties in accepting the universality of the flood, the following might be noted.
    First, the period of Nuh's advent is unknown. It could have been millions of years ago. Scientific evidences that are now emerging which suggest that man might have inhabited the earth as early as ten million years ago. But, there is no reason why man should not have been there prior to that. Lack of evidence does not rule out the possibility. In fact, hard evidences are impossible to obtain beyond a million years. The earth destroys everything. If fossil evidences of other life forms many million years older are available, it could be because those life forms were so common then. Out of millions, a few fossils survived. In contrast, early humans could not have been but a few thousand in numbers if not a few hundred.
    Secondly, it is possible that humankind occupied only a specific area of the total land mass then above water. Another possibility is that all continents were then no more than just one land mass. (The scientists believe [The McGraw Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, art., Evolution of Continents] that it was some 200 million years ago that the continents started to split from a single land mass. But, there is no firm evidence yet). At all events, if the land mass was one, then the flood was universal.
    Thirdly, with regard to the question as to what was the sin of the rest of the world to be destroyed by a universal flood, the commentators have said that if Allah wished He could destroy everyone on the earth whether falling in Nuh's jurisdiction or not. Why can not one who creates, destroy his creation at will?
    Fourthly, it is possible that the people whom Nuh did not address directly, were as criminally disposed to truth, or more, as Nuh's own nation.
    Finally, as to the question, where did all the water come from, the answer is as follows. Firstly, the earth has been losing water molecules into space. Although an infinitesimally tiny amount every year, but how much has it lost over millions of years is beyond assessment now. If that water is put back on the earth's surface, surely, the ocean levels would rise high submerging much part of land. In fact, scientists believe that millions of years ago, when all the waters were in the skies (Asimov's New Guide to Science, p. 229), at one time it rained continuously for hundreds of years at a stretch. Secondly, the present depth of the oceans varies from 3.7 km. (average) to 11 km. (maximum). In comparison, the land surface is only about less than a kilometer above the sea level. How and when did the land under the sea sink to the present level? If the depth of the oceans was not always the same as now, then, the land mass above water would have been much less. In that case several weeks of heavy down pour, plus the bursting out of water from below due to geological reasons, accompanied by a powerful tsunami, would have brought enough water on the surface to sink the entire land mass except for the mountains over one of which the boat anchored.
    Having said that, we might also point out that there is no consensus of opinion among the Muslim scholars over the issue of universality of the flood. That is because, although asserted by the Bible, the Qur'an does not state this in categorical terms. We have presented a few points only to demonstrate that for it to have happened, several possibilities could have existed. While Sheikh Muhammad `Abduh believed that the floods were universal, and Rashid Rida said that the land mass must have been one, Alusi was inclined to believe that the floods were not universal, and Nuh was ordered to carry with him just those animals in the boat that he and his followers would have needed for immediate survival after leaving the boat.
    The fact that Nuh could not have possibly taken all the animals of the planet on to his boat, is also indicative that the flood was perhaps not universal (Au.).

    تِلْكَ مِنْ أَنْبَاءِ الْغَيْبِ نُوحِيهَا إِلَيْكَ ۖ مَا كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُهَا أَنْتَ وَلَا قَوْمُكَ مِنْ قَبْلِ هَٰذَا ۖ فَاصْبِرْ ۖ إِنَّ الْعَاقِبَةَ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ (49)

    11|49| These are tidings of the Unseen that We reveal unto you. You did not know about it, nor your people, before this.59 So observe patience. Surely the (good) end is for the godfearing.

    59. Asad notes: “Although the story of Noah had been vaguely known to the Arabs even before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad, they and the Prophet with them were entirely unaware of the details as narrated in the preceding Qur'anic account (Razi)...In this connection it should be remembered and it cannot be stressed too often that Anarrative” as such is never the purpose of the Qur'an. Whenever it relates the stories of the earlier prophets, or alludes to ancient legends or historical events that took place before the advent of Islam or during the lifetime of the Prophet, the aim is, invariably, a moral lesson; and since one and the same event, or even legend, has usually many facets revealing as many moral implications, the Qur'an reverts again and again to the same stories, but every time with a slight variation of stress on this or that aspect of the fundamental truths underlying the Qur'anic revelation as a whole.”

    وَإِلَىٰ عَادٍ أَخَاهُمْ هُودًا ۚ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۖ إِنْ أَنْتُمْ إِلَّا مُفْتَرُونَ (50)

    11|50| And to ‘Ad60 (We sent) their brother Hud.61 He said, ‘My people! Worship Allah. You have no other god besides He. Surely, you are but fabricators (of false gods).

    60. Majid comments: “(The ‘Ad were) the ancient Arab tribe which inhabited Yaman and Hadramaut, extending from the coasts of the Persian Gulf to the borders of Mesopotamia.”
    61. “In the province of Hadramaut, at some distance from east of Qasm, there still ‘stands the shrine of Nabi Hud.' (Ebr. XI, p. 62)” Majid.

    يَا قَوْمِ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا ۖ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَى الَّذِي فَطَرَنِي ۚ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ (51)

    11|51| My people! I do not ask you any material benefits for this (message). My wage is upon Him alone who originated me. Do you not reflect?

    وَيَا قَوْمِ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاءَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِدْرَارًا وَيَزِدْكُمْ قُوَّةً إِلَىٰ قُوَّتِكُمْ وَلَا تَتَوَلَّوْا مُجْرِمِينَ (52)

    11|52| And O my people! Seek forgiveness of your Lord and then turn to him (in repentance). He will open up the sky in torrents upon you (pouring rain);62 and will grant you strength over your strength. And do not turn back criminals.'

    62. Durr al Mansur and others have a report that the rains were held back from the people of ‘Ad for three years.
    Ibn Kathir comments: Whoever is endowed with the qualities stated here will have Allah bring his sustenance easily to him. His affairs will be smoothened, and he will be saved from nagging problems of life. A hadith of the Prophet (saws) is in the same vein. It says, (as recorded in Abu Da'ud and Ibn Majah: H. Ibrahim),

    مَنْ لَزِمَ الاِسْتِغْفَارَ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَهُ مِنْ كُلِّ هَمٍّ فَرَجًا ، وَمِنْ كُلِّ ضِيقٍ مَخْرَجًا وَرَزَقَهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لاَ يَحْتَسِبُ

    AWhoever sought forgiveness of Allah often, will have Allah make for him an opening out of every nagging problem, an easy way out of every tight situation, and will feed him from quarters he did not reckon.”
    The above hadith however, has been declared as of Hasan status (Au.).

    قَالُوا يَا هُودُ مَا جِئْتَنَا بِبَيِّنَةٍ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِتَارِكِي آلِهَتِنَا عَنْ قَوْلِكَ وَمَا نَحْنُ لَكَ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ (53)

    11|53| They replied, ‘O Hud! You have not brought us a clear (sign) and we are not going to abandon our deities because of your word. Nor are we gong to believe in you (anytime in the future).

    إِنْ نَقُولُ إِلَّا اعْتَرَاكَ بَعْضُ آلِهَتِنَا بِسُوءٍ ۗ قَالَ إِنِّي أُشْهِدُ اللَّهَ وَاشْهَدُوا أَنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِمَّا تُشْرِكُونَ (54)

    11|54| In fact, we believe some of our deities have smitten you with some evil.'63 He said, ‘I call Allah to witness. You (too) bear witness that I am quit of those you associate

    63. The mentality of the idol worshipers does not change over time. When a slave girl went blind after she embraced Islam, the Makkan pagans told her that it was a curse of their deities that had descended on her. And, probably because the belief was so powerfully prevalent among them that it needed a miraculous refutation. The Prophet prayed for her and she regained her sight (Ibn Is haq and Sirah al Nabawiyyah, Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, p. 191). This, and similar kind of superstitions still prevail among the polytheists of today (Au.).

    مِنْ دُونِهِ ۖ فَكِيدُونِي جَمِيعًا ثُمَّ لَا تُنْظِرُونِ (55)

    11|55| apart from Him. Therefore, plot against me, all together, and allow me no respite.64

    64. What Hud (asws) meant is that “I have not kept my disdain for your deities in secret. If you believe any of them has smitten me, then, let me tell you point blank that I am quit of them.” Then he added salt to injury by challenging them to bring on him whatever they and their deities could; and added, “Let you be quick about it. Indeed, far from doing me any harm, you are not even free to act as you wish in other affairs of your life. You are all held by your fore lock by none other than your Lord” (Thanwi - paraphrased).
    Sayyid adds: “(For a fuller understanding, the background has to be kept in mind. When Hud challenged them in those words, it was not addressed to a people who could not be counted as nobody. That was a mighty nation at whom Hud had recklessly thrown that challenge). The Qur'an told us about them elsewhere (26: 123 138),

    كَذَّبَتْ عَادٌ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (123) إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ هُودٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ (124) إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ (125) فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ (126) وَمَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَى رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (127) أَتَبْنُونَ بِكُلِّ رِيعٍ آيَةً تَعْبَثُونَ (128) وَتَتَّخِذُونَ مَصَانِعَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَخْلُدُونَ (129) وَإِذَا بَطَشْتُمْ بَطَشْتُمْ جَبَّارِينَ (130) فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ (131) وَاتَّقُوا الَّذِي أَمَدَّكُمْ بِمَا تَعْلَمُونَ (132) أَمَدَّكُمْ بِأَنْعَامٍ وَبَنِينَ (133) وَجَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ (134) إِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ (135) قَالُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْنَا أَوَعَظْتَ أَمْ لَمْ تَكُنْ مِنَ الْوَاعِظِينَ (136) إِنْ هَذَا إِلَّا خُلُقُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (137) وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمُعَذَّبِينَ [الشعراء : 123 ، 138]

    “‘Ad gave a lie to the Messengers. When their brother Hud told them, ‘Do you not fear? I am a trustworthy Messenger to you. Therefore, fear Allah and follow me. And, I have not asked you wages over this. My wages are upon Allah, the Lord of the worlds. Do you build in every prime place a landmark in vain? And you construct palatial structures as if you will live for ever. And, when you seize, you seize in the manner of tyrants. Therefore, fear Allah and follow me. Fear the God who extended you with what you know very well. He extended you with cattle and children; and orchards and springs. Indeed, I fear a mighty chastisement for you.' They said, ‘It is the same to us whether you admonished us or you were not of the admonishers. This is nothing but a custom of the past. Surely, we are not going to be subjected to chastisement.'” (It was this kind of people, strong, rich, confident, merciless tyrants at whom Hud had flung the challenge). Obviously, Hud could not have done it without full confidence in Allah and strong faith in His Powers.”

    إِنِّي تَوَكَّلْتُ عَلَى اللَّهِ رَبِّي وَرَبِّكُمْ ۚ مَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ إِلَّا هُوَ آخِذٌ بِنَاصِيَتِهَا ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي عَلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ (56)

    11|56| Verily, I have placed my trust in Allah: my Lord and your Lord. There is not a moving creature but He holds it by its fore lock.65 Surely, my Lord is (to be found) on the straight path.

    65. Asad explains, “When describing a person's humility and subjection to another person, the ancient Arabs used to say, ‘The forelock of so and so is in the hand of so and so.'”
    And it has been their practice that when a criminal is to be presented to the authorities he is pulled by his fore lock (Au.).

    فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَقَدْ أَبْلَغْتُكُمْ مَا أُرْسِلْتُ بِهِ إِلَيْكُمْ ۚ وَيَسْتَخْلِفُ رَبِّي قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ وَلَا تَضُرُّونَهُ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَفِيظٌ (57)

    11|57| But if you turn away66 then, surely, I have conveyed to you what I was sent with unto you. My Lord will replace you with a people other than you. And you will not be able to harm Him in the least. Verily, my Lord is a Guardian over all things.'

    66. The textual “tawallaw,” was originally “tatawallaw” of which one “ta” has been dropped out for the reason of two “tas” coming together, hence the meaning is (if) “you turned away” and not “if they turn away” (Qurtubi).

    وَلَمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا نَجَّيْنَا هُودًا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ بِرَحْمَةٍ مِنَّا وَنَجَّيْنَاهُمْ مِنْ عَذَابٍ غَلِيظٍ (58)

    11|58| At length when Our command came, We delivered Hud and those who had believed with him by a grace from Us.67 Indeed, We delivered them from a severe chastisement.

    67. Commentators have clarified, at this point and elsewhere, that in the normal circumstances when Allah's scourge comes down, both the believers as well as the unbelievers can be affected. In that event, the believers are rewarded in the Hereafter for the pain they bore. But when it happens because of the rejection of a Prophet, then the believers are saved because if they were also punished, the Prophet of the time would lose credit. In fact, it could lead people to believe that it makes no difference whether you believed in a Prophet or you do not – when the time comes, you get destroyed all the same (Au.).

    وَتِلْكَ عَادٌ ۖ جَحَدُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ وَعَصَوْا رُسُلَهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا أَمْرَ كُلِّ جَبَّارٍ عَنِيدٍ (59)

    11|59| That was ‘Ad.68 They disputed the signs of their Lord and disobeyed their Messengers, but rather followed the bidding of every tyrant, obstinate transgressor.

    68. Majid has a historical note: “In an Himyaric inscription discovered in 1834 in the ruins of Hisn Ghurab occurs the following:
    1. We dwelt at ease for ages within the court of the castle. A life without strait, and above wants...
    2. Kings reigned over us, far removed from baseness. And vehement against the people of perfidy and fraud...
    3. They sanctioned for us, from the religion of Hud, right law. And we believed in miracles, the resurrection, and the resurrection of the dead by the breath of God... (Forster, Historical Geography of Arabia, II. p. 93).
    This establishes, in the first place, the historical personality of the Prophet Hud, and secondly, the fact that his followers were the only people of the tribe of ‘Ad, who survived the Divine catastrophe.”

    وَأُتْبِعُوا فِي هَٰذِهِ الدُّنْيَا لَعْنَةً وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۗ أَلَا إِنَّ عَادًا كَفَرُوا رَبَّهُمْ ۗ أَلَا بُعْدًا لِعَادٍ قَوْمِ هُودٍ (60)

    11|60| They were pursued by a curse in this world and (so will it be) on the Day of Judgment. Lo! Surely ‘Ad rejected their Lord. Lo! Away with ‘Ad, the people of Hud.69

    69. They had to be qualified as A‘Ad, the people of Hud,” because there were two nations called ‘Ad: this one to whom Hud was sent, and the other one named as the ‘Ad of Iram (Zamakhshari).

    وَإِلَىٰ ثَمُودَ أَخَاهُمْ صَالِحًا ۚ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۖ هُوَ أَنْشَأَكُمْ مِنَ الْأَرْضِ وَاسْتَعْمَرَكُمْ فِيهَا فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي قَرِيبٌ مُجِيبٌ (61)

    11|61| And (We sent) to Thamud their brother Salih. He said, ‘My people. Worship Allah. You have no other god besides He. It is He who brought you out of the earth and granted you a long life in it.70 Therefore, seek His forgiveness and then turn to Him in repentance. Surely, my Lord is Near, Responsive.'

    70. By the particle “it” the reference is not to the earth as a whole, rather to the Thamud lands (Au).

    قَالُوا يَا صَالِحُ قَدْ كُنْتَ فِينَا مَرْجُوًّا قَبْلَ هَٰذَا ۖ أَتَنْهَانَا أَنْ نَعْبُدَ مَا يَعْبُدُ آبَاؤُنَا وَإِنَّنَا لَفِي شَكٍّ مِمَّا تَدْعُونَا إِلَيْهِ مُرِيبٍ (62)

    11|62| They said, ‘O Salih! You have been amongst us a promising man before this.71 Do you forbid us that we worship what our forefathers worshiped? Indeed, we are in doubt concerning what you invite us to in (grave) disquiet.

    71. Majid reproduces the mournful cry of another bleeding heart, prefacing it with his own comment: “With the sense of regret, curiously similar, and a sentiment almost identical, over what might have been does a modern Christian speak of the holy Prophet: ‘Had Muhammad, stern to his early convictions, followed the leading of Jewish and Christian truth, and inculcated upon himself their simple doctrine, there might have been a ‘saint Muhammad,’ more likely a ‘Muhammad the Martyr,’ laying the foundation stone of the ‘Arabian Church.' (Muir, op. cit. Intro. p. xcviii).”

    قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّي وَآتَانِي مِنْهُ رَحْمَةً فَمَنْ يَنْصُرُنِي مِنَ اللَّهِ إِنْ عَصَيْتُهُ ۖ فَمَا تَزِيدُونَنِي غَيْرَ تَخْسِيرٍ (63)

    11|63| He replied, ‘My people! Have you considered? If I happen to be on a clear (path) from my Lord, and He accorded me mercy from Himself, who will then defend me against Allah if I disobeyed Him? You will, therefore, cause me increase in nothing except loss.72

    72. Asad has something quite pertinent to say, not so much for the unbelievers, as the believers: “Although this dialogue is related in the context of the story of Salih (asws) and the leaders of the Thamud, its implications have as is always the case with Qur'anic stories and parables a universal, timeless import. The stress here is on the intrinsic impossibility of reconciling belief in the One God, whose omniscience and omnipotence embraces all that exists, with an attribution of divine or semi divine qualities and functions to anyone or anything else. The subtly veiled suggestion of the Thamud .. and its rejection by Salih has a bearing on all religious attitudes based on a desire to ‘bring God closer to man’ through the interpretation of alleged ‘mediators’ between Him and man. In primitive religions, this interposition led the deification of various forces of nature and, subsequently, to the invention of imaginary deities which were thought to act against the background of an undefined, dimly perceived Supreme Power (for instance, the Moira of the ancient Greeks). In higher religious concepts, this need for mediation assumes the form of personified manifestations of God through subordinate deities (as is the case, in Hindus, with personifications of the Absolute Brahma of the Upanishads and the Vedanta in the forms of Vishnu or Shiva), or in His supposed incarnation in human form (as represented in the Christian idea of Jesus as ‘God's son’ and the Second Person of the Trinity). And, lastly, God is supposedly ‘brought closer to man’ by the interposition of hierarchy of saints, living or dead, whose intercession is sought even by people who consider themselves to be ‘monotheists’ and this includes many misguided Muslims who do not realize that their belief in saints as ‘mediators’ between man and God conflicts with the very essence of Islam. The ever recurring Qur'anic stress on the oneness and uniqueness of God, and the categorical denial of the idea that anyone or anything whether it be a concrete being or an abstract force could have the least share in God's qualities or the least influence on the manner in which He governs the universe aims at freeing man from the self imposed servitude to an imaginary hierarchy of ‘mediating powers’, and at making him realize that ‘wherever you turn, there is God's countenance’ (2: 115), and that God is ‘[always} near, [to the call of whosoever calls unto Him]’ (2: 186; also, in a condensed form, in verse 61 of this Surah).”

    وَيَا قَوْمِ هَٰذِهِ نَاقَةُ اللَّهِ لَكُمْ آيَةً فَذَرُوهَا تَأْكُلْ فِي أَرْضِ اللَّهِ وَلَا تَمَسُّوهَا بِسُوءٍ فَيَأْخُذَكُمْ عَذَابٌ قَرِيبٌ (64)

    11|64| And O my people! This is Allah's she camel: for you a sign.73 So, let her alone to feed on Allah's earth (freely). Do not touch her with evil, or a swift punishment will overtake you.'

    73. She bore a number of signs: She was brought out of a rock, she was pregnant without the touch of a male, she alone drank off all the water of a well, and, she yielded a very large amount of milk (Razi).

    فَعَقَرُوهَا فَقَالَ تَمَتَّعُوا فِي دَارِكُمْ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ ۖ ذَٰلِكَ وَعْدٌ غَيْرُ مَكْذُوبٍ (65)

    11|65| But they hamstrung her. So he said, ‘Enjoy yourself in your dwellings for three days. This is a promise that will not be proven false.'

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا نَجَّيْنَا صَالِحًا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ بِرَحْمَةٍ مِنَّا وَمِنْ خِزْيِ يَوْمِئِذٍ ۗ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ الْقَوِيُّ الْعَزِيزُ (66)

    11|66| So, when Our command came, We rescued Salih and those who had believed with him by Our grace - (as also) from the humiliation of that day. Surely, your Lord is Strong, Mighty.74

    74. Jarir b. `Abdullah has said that when the Prophet passed by the Hijr area (where the Thamud dwelt) he said,

    لا تسألوا الآيات فقد سألها قوم صالح فكانت - يعني الناقة - ترد من هذا الفج وتصدر من هذا الفج فعتوا عن أمر ربهم فعقروها وكانت تشرب ماءهم يوماً ويشربون لبنها يوماً فعقروها فأخذتهم صيحة أهمد الله من تحت أديم السماء منهم إلا رجلاً واحداً كان في حرم الله" فقالوا: من هو يا رسول الله ؟ قال: "أبو رغال فلما خرج من الحرم أصابه ما أصاب قومه" وهذا الحديث ليس في شيء من الكتب الستة وهو على شرط مسلم (ابن كثير)

    ADo not ask your Messenger for signs. Salih's people asked for a sign, so Allah sent them a camel. It used to come from this glen and go out from that glen. But they rebelled against the command of their Lord and hamstrung her. She used to drink their water one day and they used to drink its milk another day. When they hamstrung her, a Cry seized them which destroyed everyone under their sky except for a single man who was in the Haram.” They asked, “Who was he, Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “That was Abu Rughal. When he came out of the Haram, he was struck by what his people had been struck.”
    Ibn Kathir remarks that although this hadith is not in any of the six hadith collections, it meets with the conditions set by Muslim.
    Another report coming through Ibn `Umar transmits him as saying,

    لَا تَدْخُلُوا مَسَاكِنَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونُوا بَاكِينَ أَنْ يُصِيبَكُمْ مِثْلُ مَا أَصَابَهُمْ

    “Do not enter the dwellings of those who wrong their own souls, unless you are weeping, lest that befalls you what befell them” (Ibn Jarir).
    The above is in Bukhari (Au.).

    وَأَخَذَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا الصَّيْحَةُ فَأَصْبَحُوا فِي دِيَارِهِمْ جَاثِمِينَ (67)

    11|67| And a (mighty) cry seized those who had wronged,75 so that by morning (they lay) in their homes fallen dead.

    75. At another place the Qur'an has said that they were seized by a massive quake (7: 78).

    {فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ الرَّجْفَةُ فَأَصْبَحُوا فِي دَارِهِمْ جَاثِمِينَ} [الأعراف: 78]

    Perhaps a massive earthquake accompanied by a huge blast was the cause of their destruction (Ma`arif). According to modern scholars, the “rajfah” of the text refers to the shaking caused by sound waves. It might be noted that bombs actually release high energy at high frequency – turned into sound waves, which demolish building far away, as in the case of atomic bombs (Au.).

    كَأَنْ لَمْ يَغْنَوْا فِيهَا ۗ أَلَا إِنَّ ثَمُودَ كَفَرُوا رَبَّهُمْ ۗ أَلَا بُعْدًا لِثَمُودَ (68)

    11|68| As if they never dwelt there. Lo! Thamud surely disbelieved in their Lord. Lo! Away with Thamud.

    وَلَقَدْ جَاءَتْ رُسُلُنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ بِالْبُشْرَىٰ قَالُوا سَلَامًا ۖ قَالَ سَلَامٌ ۖ فَمَا لَبِثَ أَنْ جَاءَ بِعِجْلٍ حَنِيذٍ (69)

    11|69| Surely, Our envoys went to Ibrahim with the good news.76 They said, ‘Peace.' He answered, ‘Peace.' And he did not tarry long before he brought in a roasted calf.

    76. Asad has a significant point especially in the second half of the passage which has been overlooked by most, if not all commentators: “The reason for prefacing the story of Lot with an episode from Abraham's life lies in the latter's subsequent pleading in behalf of the sinful people of Sodom (verses 74 76) and also, possibly, in God's earlier promise to him, ‘Behold I shall make thee a leader of men’ (see 2: 124), which must have imbued him with an enhanced sense of moral responsibility not only for his own family but also for the people with whom he was indirectly connected through his nephew Lot (Lut in Arabic).”
    Yusuf Ali adds: “According to the sequence of Surah vii, the next reference should be to the story of Lut,.. but it is introduced by a brief reference to an episode in the life of his uncle Abraham, from whose seed sprang the peoples to whom Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad Al Mustafa were sent with the major Revelations. Abraham had by this time passed through the fire of persecutions in the Mesopotamian valleys: he had left behind him the ancestral idolatry of Ur of the Chaldees; he had been tried and he had triumphed over the persecution of Nimrud: he had now taken up his residence in Canaan, from which his nephew Lot (Lut) was called to preach to the wicked Cities of the Plain east of the Dead sea which is itself called Bahr Lut. Thus prepared and sanctified, he was now ready to receive the Message that he was chosen to be the progenitor of a great line of Prophets, and that Message is now referred to.”

    فَلَمَّا رَأَىٰ أَيْدِيَهُمْ لَا تَصِلُ إِلَيْهِ نَكِرَهُمْ وَأَوْجَسَ مِنْهُمْ خِيفَةً ۚ قَالُوا لَا تَخَفْ إِنَّا أُرْسِلْنَا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِ لُوطٍ (70)

    11|70| But when he saw their hands not reaching for it,77 he felt wary of them and felt some apprehension on their account.78 They said, ‘Fear not. We have been sent to the people of Lut.'

    77. Majid points out a Biblical error: “This corrects the Biblical mis statement that ‘they did eat' (Gen. 19: 7 8).”
    78. Qatadah has said that among the Arabs, if the guests did not eat from the food presented to them, it signaled an ill foreboding (Ibn Jarir).
    Asad paraphrases the summary of interpretations at this point: “... since in the Arabian tradition of hospitality, a stranger's refusal to partake of the food offered him is an indication of unfriendly intent, Abraham who until then had not realized that his guests were angels became apprehensive of possible hostility on their part.”
    Thanwi adds: In fact, Ibrahim had not only felt some fear, he frankly expressed it as elsewhere in the Qur'an. He said (15: 52), “We are apprehensive of you.” Also, his penetrating eye told him that the good tiding could not have been the ultimate objective. They must have another errand on hand. Hence he asked them, as at another place in the Qur'an (15: 57): “So, what's your mission?”

    وَامْرَأَتُهُ قَائِمَةٌ فَضَحِكَتْ فَبَشَّرْنَاهَا بِإِسْحَاقَ وَمِنْ وَرَاءِ إِسْحَاقَ يَعْقُوبَ (71)

    11|71| His woman was standing by.79 She laughed.80 So We gave her the good tidings of Is haq and after Is haq, Ya`qub.81

    79. That was Sarah (some say Sarrah: meaning ‘one who brings happiness,’ or ‘the happy one’), standing behind the curtains. Another opinion is that she was serving the guests while Ibrahim sat with them (Ibn Jarir).
    80. Suddi has said that she smiled at the funny scene: the sight of Ibrahim who did the roasting and the connected works in great haste, brought them the food, but they would not eat .. and, Ibrahim in fear...! (Ibn Jarir). Another possibility is that she felt relieved when she realized that the angels had not come with an ill intent directly affecting them, and so, she laughed (Au.).

    “Dahika” is literally to show the teeth (in happiness). However, it is also applicable to turning a bright face. You will say, “I visited someone and he was dahikan” i.e., he was bright faced. Hence a hadith which says,

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يُنْشِئُ السَّحَابَ فَيَنْطِقُ أَحْسَنَ الْمَنْطِقِ وَيَضْحَكُ أَحْسَنَ الضَّحِكُُُُِ

    “Allah sends clouds and they speak out in a beautiful manner and shine out in a beautiful manner.”
    (The hadith is in Musnad Ahmad and Sahih; and note the usage of the word dahika: Au.).
    Mujahid and `Ikrimah have, however, thought that the allusion is to she suffered period. They support their opinion with examples from Arabic literature (Baghawi). Ibn `Abbas held the same opinion (Ibn Kathir).
    81. That is, a grandson, Ya’qub (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالَتْ يَا وَيْلَتَىٰ أَأَلِدُ وَأَنَا عَجُوزٌ وَهَٰذَا بَعْلِي شَيْخًا ۖ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَشَيْءٌ عَجِيبٌ (72)

    11|72| She said, ‘Woe unto me. Will I bear a child, seeing that I am an old (woman) and this my husband is of an advanced age?!82 This indeed is something amazing.'

    82. It is said that she was then in her nineties while Ibrahim was a hundred and two scores.

    قَالُوا أَتَعْجَبِينَ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ ۖ رَحْمَتُ اللَّهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ عَلَيْكُمْ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ ۚ إِنَّهُ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ (73)

    11|73| They said, ‘Are you amazed at your Lord's ways? Allah's mercy and grace is upon you (O) people of the House. Surely, He is worthy of all praise and full of glory.'83

    83. This demonstrates that the angels can speak to other than Prophets (Thanwi).

    فَلَمَّا ذَهَبَ عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الرَّوْعُ وَجَاءَتْهُ الْبُشْرَىٰ يُجَادِلُنَا فِي قَوْمِ لُوطٍ (74)

    11|74| When the awe had left Ibrahim and good tidings came to him, (he began to) dispute with us concerning the people of Lut.84

    84. It should be obvious that Ibrahim could not have argued with his Lord, seeing that it involved the exchange of a series of questions and answers. It must have been angels with whom he would have argued. The pronoun “us” therefore refers to the angels. It is also reported that he began to ask them how they could destroy a nation when there were so many believers among them. The angels told him that obviously they would not, if there were so many believers in the towns. At the end Ibrahim learnt that there were no believers there at tall except Lut and his two daughters. So he asked (29: 33) “But Lut is among them.” The answer was (29: 33), “We know better who are in there. Surely, we shall save him and his home folk except his woman: she is the one to stay behind” (Ibn Jarir).
    Shawkani adds, “Similar reports are in `Abdur Razzaq and Abu al Sheikh in reference to Surah al Mujadalah.
    Another possibility is that to argue with the angels carrying a commandment of Allah was tantamount to disputing with His command, hence the pronoun “Us”, referring to Allah (Au.).

    إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لَحَلِيمٌ أَوَّاهٌ مُنِيبٌ (75)

    11|75| Surely, Ibrahim was slow to anger, given to pleading and oft returning.85

    85. “Like Al Mustafa, Abraham had three qualities in a pre eminent degree, which are here mentioned: (1) he was long suffering with other people's faults; (2) his sympathies and compassion were very wide; and (3) for every difficulty or trouble he turned to Allah and sought Him in prayer” (Yusuf Ali)

    يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ أَعْرِضْ عَنْ هَٰذَا ۖ إِنَّهُ قَدْ جَاءَ أَمْرُ رَبِّكَ ۖ وَإِنَّهُمْ آتِيهِمْ عَذَابٌ غَيْرُ مَرْدُودٍ (76)

    11|76| (We said), ‘O Ibrahim, leave this alone.86 Your Lord's command has already come. Surely, a punishment is coming upon them that cannot be averted.

    86. Although, apparently Ibrahim seemed to be pleading for Lut, (by saying, “But Lut is among them”), Allah knew that his name was taken as a pretext. The true objective was to try and save the nation of Lut. Therefore, he had to be told, “Ibrahim, leave this (matter) alone” (Thanwi).

    وَلَمَّا جَاءَتْ رُسُلُنَا لُوطًا سِيءَ بِهِمْ وَضَاقَ بِهِمْ ذَرْعًا وَقَالَ هَٰذَا يَوْمٌ عَصِيبٌ (77)

    11|77| When Our Messengers came to Lut, he was anguished on their account,87 felt distressed because of them and said, ‘This is a difficult day.'88

    87. Lut felt anguished because, after leaving Ibrahim, the angels had come to him in the form of handsome young men. A few reports say that he had already warned them that his people were one of the most pervert people on the face of the earth (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    88. The rendering here of “‘asib” with the addition of the remark in parenthesis combines the explanation of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others as in Ibn Jarir.

    وَجَاءَهُ قَوْمُهُ يُهْرَعُونَ إِلَيْهِ وَمِنْ قَبْلُ كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ ۚ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ هَٰؤُلَاءِ بَنَاتِي هُنَّ أَطْهَرُ لَكُمْ ۖ فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُخْزُونِ فِي ضَيْفِي ۖ أَلَيْسَ مِنْكُمْ رَجُلٌ رَشِيدٌ (78)

    11|78| His people came to him rushing towards him.89 And from earlier times they had been committing vices.90 He pleaded, ‘My people. These are my daughters.91 They are purer for you. Fear Allah and do not humiliate me over my guests.92 Is not there a single decent man among you?'

    89. Kisa'i, Farra' and other linguists have said that “ahra`a” (from which is derived “yuhra`un) is never used but to express the act of running with excitement (Shawkani).
    90. The allusion is to homosexuality.
    91. The allusion was to their women. The women of a Prophet's nation are his daughters he being the father of his nation and his (believing) wives being their mothers (as in verse 6 of al Ahzab, no. 33) which says,

    النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنْفُسِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجُهُ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ [الأحزاب : 6]

    AThe Prophet has precedence over them (in all affairs) and his wives are their mothers” Qatadah, Mujahid, Sa`id b. Jubayr and others (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    92. The word “dayf” is used both in singular as well as plural (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالُوا لَقَدْ عَلِمْتَ مَا لَنَا فِي بَنَاتِكَ مِنْ حَقٍّ وَإِنَّكَ لَتَعْلَمُ مَا نُرِيدُ (79)

    11|79| They said, ‘O Lut. You know that we have no right to your daughters.93 And surely, you know what we are looking for.'

    93. It is possible that although they knew that Lut was referring to their women when he said Amy daughters,” they punned on his word and, to make fun of him, took it literally to say, “we have no right over your daughters” (Au.).

    قَالَ لَوْ أَنَّ لِي بِكُمْ قُوَّةً أَوْ آوِي إِلَىٰ رُكْنٍ شَدِيدٍ (80)

    11|80| He said, ‘Would that I had a power against you or take refuge in a strong corner.'94

    94. He meant a tribe that could offer him help and support against them Qatadah, Hasan and others. And the Prophet said,

    ورَحمَةُ الله عَلى لُوط إنْ كَان لَيأوي إِلى رُكنٍ شَديد

    “May Allah show Lut mercy. He was seeking a strong corner for support” [Ibn Jarir through Hasan, Sa`id ibn al Musayyib and others].
    Tabari's footnote says in explanation that “He sought people's help while Allah was the best to help.”

    But another hadith, (as in Tuhfah: H. Ibrahim) says,

    رحمة الله على لوط لقد كان يأوي إِلى ركن شديد ـ يعني الله عز وجل ـ فما بعث الله بعده من نبي إِلا في ثروة من قومه

    “May Allah show mercy to Lut. He sought a strong support, that is, of Allah, and hence no Prophet has been raised after Lut but in a powerful and numerous family” (Ibn Kathir).
    The hadith has been declared Hasan (Au.).
    Bukhari and Muslim have only the following words: “May Allah show mercy to Lut. He sought a strong support” (Shawkani).
    What it would mean in the light of the report (in Bukhari) is that Lut (asws) did well by seeking Allah's support. In which case the rendering would be: ‘Would that I had a power against you or, (maybe) I should take refuge in a strong corner (i.e., Allah) Razi.

    قَالُوا يَا لُوطُ إِنَّا رُسُلُ رَبِّكَ لَنْ يَصِلُوا إِلَيْكَ ۖ فَأَسْرِ بِأَهْلِكَ بِقِطْعٍ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ وَلَا يَلْتَفِتْ مِنْكُمْ أَحَدٌ إِلَّا امْرَأَتَكَ ۖ إِنَّهُ مُصِيبُهَا مَا أَصَابَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّ مَوْعِدَهُمُ الصُّبْحُ ۚ أَلَيْسَ الصُّبْحُ بِقَرِيبٍ (81)

    11|81| They (the angels) broke in, ‘O Lut. We are messengers of your Lord. They will never get at you.95 Move out with your family during a (late) portion of the night96 and let not any of you look back. Except for your wife,97 (she may not be taken along).98 She will be struck by that which will strike them. Early morning is their appointed hour.99 Is not the morning close?'100

    95. It is said that as Lut stood at his door, trying to convince them into returning, and they trying to convince him that he should not stand in the way leaving them with no choice but to force their entry, Jibril appeared at the door and blinded them all, so that they spent the rest of the night bumping into walls, doors and obstacles (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    96. Opinions vary over what exactly is meant by “qita’am min al layl” : any part of the night (Qatadah), midnight (qit’ah: half), and late night, almost at dawn (Ibn `Abbas) Razi, Qurtubi.
    97. She had sneaked out to tell her people that Lut had guests of such beautiful features as never seen before (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    98. The words in parenthesis are in relation to the present diacritical mark of the textual word “imra'atak” (your woman) which, being in the accusative which connects it with the words “move out,” to yield the meaning, “You may move out but not your woman.” A variant, but unpopular opinion reads it as “imra'atuk” which would mean, “Let none turn, except for your wife (who will turn)” Ibn Jarir.
    99. Sa`id b. Musayyib, Suddi and others are reported of opinion that when the angels said they had come down to destroy the nation, Lut told them to go ahead and do it, then and there, without delay. They told him that the morning was the appointed hour, and was not the morning close?
    100. It is widely reported that they were blinded before the punishment came. Allah said (54: 37),


    وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدُوهُ عَنْ ضَيْفِهِ فَطَمَسْنَا أَعْيُنَهُمْ [القمر : 37]

    “Surely, they desired his guests. So we blinded their eyes” (Ibn Jarir).

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا جَعَلْنَا عَالِيَهَا سَافِلَهَا وَأَمْطَرْنَا عَلَيْهَا حِجَارَةً مِنْ سِجِّيلٍ مَنْضُودٍ (82)

    11|82| So, when Our command came, we made its uppermost the bottom most,101 and rained on it stones of baked clay, layer upon layer.

    101. It is said that Jibril swept them with his wing, scooped them up with it, everyone and everything, men and the buildings, including their animals, lifted them to the heavens, so high that the dwellers of the heavens heard the barking of their dogs, turned them upside down and then banged them down sending them crashing against the earth’s crest. That was followed by stones raining down on them from the heavens (Ibn Jarir).
    The above, not originating from Prophetic statements (not even from the Companions, but a few Followers: Manar), seems to have Israeli reports at its root. Accordingly, Shawkani is skeptic about it. This has led some contemporary commentators to reject them. They offer their own theory that it was after all an earthquake accompanied by a volcanic shower of stones. But they fail to offer a proper explanation for the turning upside down of the dwellings. Further, not all the details that are given by the early commentators are found in the present day Bible. (See Genesis ch. 19). Although, the Biblical narrative, comes close to the Qur'anic narration. However, the Biblical story ends shamefully by alleging that after escaping from the punishment that struck his people, Lut committed a crime worse than what his people were destroyed for. Let the Bible speak:

    “Now Lot went up out of Zo'ar, and dwelt in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to dwell in Zo'ar; so he dwelt in a cave with his two daughters. And the first born said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring through our father. So they made their father drink wine that night; and the first born went in, and lay with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. And on the next day the first born said to the young, “Behold, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring though our father. So they made their father drink wine that night also; and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he did not know when she lay down and when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. The first born bore a son, and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son, and called his name Ben ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites to this day.”

    Bible commentators accept the incest story as true, and defend it. One of the commentaries mentions it as,
    “… the valliant attempt of Lot’s daughters to continue the human race at all costs.” The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall, 1968).
    The story speaks of the purity of minds of those who put it in the Holy Scripture as God's own revelation, every word of it! It also reflects the state of mind of those who would like the story remain in the Bible. How could any sane mind believe that a Prophet could get so heavily drunk as to be unable to know that he was having sex with his own daughters? How could the daughters be so sure of success in getting him heavily drunk twice unless they knew that their father was a heavy drinker? How could the two be so sure that just one session would definitely load them with the sin and that too of a male issue? Did not the grotesqueness of the story strike those who forged it? But, evil motives blind men's hearts. The Israelites were and are desperate to prove that the people around them, Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese ... were, and are, the progeny of illegitimate progenitors while they themselves are of noble stock. The following is from Encyclopedia Judaica:

    The present form of the Lot narrative leaves an unmistakable impression of Israelite ascendancy over Ammon and Moab: Haran, Lot’s father and the grandfather of Ammon and Moab, was the youngest of Terah’s sons, while Abraham was the oldest; Lot was continually in need of Abraham’s protection and help; the incestuous union between Lot and his daughters disgraces their offspring, the Ammonites and Moabites.

    To add salt to injury, Bible believers have taken the pains to produce obscene bright-color paintings depicting Lot in a cave getting drunk on wine served by his half-clad daughters (Au.).

    مُسَوَّمَةً عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ ۖ وَمَا هِيَ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ بِبَعِيدٍ (83)

    11|83| Marked by your Lord.102 And it is not far from the (Makkan) transgressors.

    102. While the people of the towns were destroyed in the above manner, those that were out for one reason or another, and spread over a wide area, the stones were targeted at them. It is said that one of them would be somewhere (in another village) talking to people when a stone would crash on him and flatten him down (Ibn Kathir).

    وَإِلَىٰ مَدْيَنَ أَخَاهُمْ شُعَيْبًا ۚ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۖ وَلَا تَنْقُصُوا الْمِكْيَالَ وَالْمِيزَانَ ۚ إِنِّي أَرَاكُمْ بِخَيْرٍ وَإِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ مُحِيطٍ (84)

    11|84| And to Madyan (We sent) their brother Shu’ayb. He said, ‘My people! Worship Allah, you have no god other than He. And, do not short measure or weigh. In fact, I see you in prosperity. And indeed, I fear for you a chastisement of an encompassing day.

    وَيَا قَوْمِ أَوْفُوا الْمِكْيَالَ وَالْمِيزَانَ بِالْقِسْطِ ۖ وَلَا تَبْخَسُوا النَّاسَ أَشْيَاءَهُمْ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ (85)

    11|85| And, my people. Give full measure and weight in all fairness, and do not defraud the people of their goods.103 And commit not mischief in the land spreading corruption.

    103. The repetition, almost thrice, was because of the wide prevalence of the practice of weighing less and measuring short (Razi).

    بَقِيَّتُ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ ۚ وَمَا أَنَا عَلَيْكُمْ بِحَفِيظٍ (86)

    11|86| Allah's remainder is better for you104 if you are believers. And I am not over you a guardian.'

    104. Ibn Jarir reports Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others as saying that the allusion by “baqiyyyatu Allah” is to His obedience. But his own preference is that the allusion is, “what remains after you have given away to the people that which is rightfully theirs, is better than what you amass by defrauding them.” So, what is given away is “baqiyyatu Allah” (Au.).

    قَالُوا يَا شُعَيْبُ أَصَلَاتُكَ تَأْمُرُكَ أَنْ نَتْرُكَ مَا يَعْبُدُ آبَاؤُنَا أَوْ أَنْ نَفْعَلَ فِي أَمْوَالِنَا مَا نَشَاءُ ۖ إِنَّكَ لَأَنْتَ الْحَلِيمُ الرَّشِيدُ (87)

    11|87| They replied, ‘Does your Prayer command you that we abandon what our forefathers worshiped or, do as we will with our wealth?105 Surely, you are much forbearing, decent-minded.'106

    105. The allusion was to their habit of cutting off a piece of the silver coins, or adulterating them with other minerals: Ibn Ka’b al Qurazi, Ibn Zayd (Ibn Jarir). But Ibn Kathir reports Thawri as of opinion that the allusion is to the refusal to pay Zakah.
    Mawdudi comments on another aspect: “This is a full blooded expression of the world view of Ignorance (Jahiliyyah) as distinguished from that of Islam. The Islamic view is that all worship except that of God is erroneous. It is erroneous because worshiping any other than the One True God is supported by nothing neither reason, knowledge, nor revelation. Moreover, God should not only be worshiped in the limited sphere of life called ‘religion.' God's worship should extend to all aspects of life social, cultural, economic and political. For all that man has in the world belongs only to God. Man, therefore, has no right to consider any aspect of his life to be independent of God's guidance.
    “The contrary to this is Jahiliyyah. According to this view, man ought to observe the customs and usages he inherits from his ancestors, and he ought to do so merely because they come down from the past. This world view considers religion to be confined to the domain of ritual: the ritual of worship.
    AIt is thus clear that there is nothing so ‘modern' about the tendency of driving a wedge between the religious and secular spheres of life. For some three and half thousand years ago the nation of Shu’ayb was so emphatically insistent on bifurcating life into two water tight compartments the secular and the religious as Western and their Eastern disciples of our time are wont to do. There seems little justification, therefore, to categorize the attitude that has emerged in modern times as a result of the cumulative intellectual progress of mankind. Far from it, the new fangled ideology which is being played up everywhere for its freshness and newness is, in fact, the same stale, old fashioned obscurantism which characterized Jahiliyyah several thousand years ago.”
    106. Most of the commentators have said that these words were said half in sarcasm, half in mockery. But Shabbir reports Shah Abdul Qadir of the opinion that they were earnest about it, meaning, "You are a reasonable man. Why can you not agree on the principle, ‘to you your religion and to us ours?'"

    قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّي وَرَزَقَنِي مِنْهُ رِزْقًا حَسَنًا ۚ وَمَا أُرِيدُ أَنْ أُخَالِفَكُمْ إِلَىٰ مَا أَنْهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ ۚ إِنْ أُرِيدُ إِلَّا الْإِصْلَاحَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ ۚ وَمَا تَوْفِيقِي إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ ۚ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ أُنِيبُ (88)

    11|88| He said, ‘My people. Have you considered? If I am upon a clear sign from my Lord, and He has provided me from Him a good provision? Further, I do not wish to do against what I forbid you. I only wish a betterment so far as it is in my power while my own good-guidance is up to Allah. I have put my trust in Him and I turn to Him (in repentance).107

    107. Ibn Kathir writes: It has come to us that whenever `Umar ibn `Abd al ‘Aziz wrote a letter to his governors he ended with these words:

    وَمَا تَوْفِيقِي إِلا بِاللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ أُنِيبُ

    وَيَا قَوْمِ لَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شِقَاقِي أَنْ يُصِيبَكُمْ مِثْلُ مَا أَصَابَ قَوْمَ نُوحٍ أَوْ قَوْمَ هُودٍ أَوْ قَوْمَ صَالِحٍ ۚ وَمَا قَوْمُ لُوطٍ مِنْكُمْ بِبَعِيدٍ (89)

    11|89| And, O my people! Let not your breach with me lead you to be struck with what the people of Nuh, or of Hud or of Salih were struck with.108 And, the people of Lut are not far away from you.109

    108. It is reported that when ‘Uthman (ra) was besieged in his house, once he peeped from above his house and recited this verse (Ibn Kathir).
    109. The allusion could either be to time or place. That is, either to the nation of Lut who were not far away in time, or to their dwellings that were not far away in space (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    وَاسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي رَحِيمٌ وَدُودٌ (90)

    11|90| Rather seek forgiveness of your Lord and then turn to Him (in repentance). Surely my Lord is Kind, Affectionate.'110

    110. Rashid Rida points out that linguistically Aloving” might not accurately reflect the meaning of “wadud.” The difference being, “wadud” is someone who demonstrates his love through action while “mawaddah” (love) does not require it.

    قَالُوا يَا شُعَيْبُ مَا نَفْقَهُ كَثِيرًا مِمَّا تَقُولُ وَإِنَّا لَنَرَاكَ فِينَا ضَعِيفًا ۖ وَلَوْلَا رَهْطُكَ لَرَجَمْنَاكَ ۖ وَمَا أَنْتَ عَلَيْنَا بِعَزِيزٍ (91)

    11|91| They replied, ‘O Shu`ayb. We do not comprehend much of what you say.111 Indeed, we perceive you as weak amongst us.112 In fact, were it not for your family, we would have stoned you, considering that you are not great in esteem in our sight.'

    111. Mawdudi comments: “When Shu’ayb's people stated that they did not understand much of what Shu’ayb said, they did not say so because Shu’ayb (peace be upon him) spoke in some foreign language, or because he talked in an ambiguous or complicated manner... The difficulty in understanding Shu’ayb's teachings arose from the fact that his people had become simply too perverse to grasp it.
    AIt is always the case that when some people become fully seized by their prejudice, are overpowered by their lusts, or begin to move vehemently in one particular intellectual direction, they hardly have the patience to give ear to any idea which is different from their own. But even if they were to listen to any unfamiliar idea, it would only sound to them as gibberish, as something coming to them from some other planet.”
    112. A narration in Hakim declared sahih by him, reports Ibn `Abbas as of opinion that “da’if” here is synonymous of “darir” meaning blind. (In Himyari dialect, “da’if” is “darir”). That is, either Shu’ayb (asws) was blind, or had temporarily gone blind. Alusi draws our attention to the fact that not all reports declared sahih by Hakim are truly so. He was as quick at declaring reports sahih, in contrast to Ibn Jawzi, who was quick in declaring them da’if. The addition of the words, “amongst us” also does not lend credence to the story of blindness.

    قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَرَهْطِي أَعَزُّ عَلَيْكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَاتَّخَذْتُمُوهُ وَرَاءَكُمْ ظِهْرِيًّا ۖ إِنَّ رَبِّي بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ مُحِيطٌ (92)

    11|92| asked, ‘My people! Do you hold my folk in greater esteem than Allah? You have cast Him behind your backs! Surely, my Lord encompasses the things you do.

    وَيَا قَوْمِ اعْمَلُوا عَلَىٰ مَكَانَتِكُمْ إِنِّي عَامِلٌ ۖ سَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ مَنْ يَأْتِيهِ عَذَابٌ يُخْزِيهِ وَمَنْ هُوَ كَاذِبٌ ۖ وَارْتَقِبُوا إِنِّي مَعَكُمْ رَقِيبٌ (93)

    11|93| And, O my people! Keep working in your place. I am also working. Soon you shall know to whom comes a chastisement that humiliates him, and who is a liar. Watch then. I am also a watcher along with you.'

    وَلَمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا نَجَّيْنَا شُعَيْبًا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ بِرَحْمَةٍ مِنَّا وَأَخَذَتِ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا الصَّيْحَةُ فَأَصْبَحُوا فِي دِيَارِهِمْ جَاثِمِينَ (94)

    11|94| So when Our command came, We delivered Shu’ayb and those who believed with him by a mercy from Us, and a huge cry seized those who wronged (themselves), so that by morning (they lay) in their homes fallen on their faces .

    كَأَنْ لَمْ يَغْنَوْا فِيهَا ۗ أَلَا بُعْدًا لِمَدْيَنَ كَمَا بَعِدَتْ ثَمُودُ (95)

    11|95| As if they never flourished therein. Lo! Away with the Madyanites as the Thamud remained away (from mercy).

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَىٰ بِآيَاتِنَا وَسُلْطَانٍ مُبِينٍ (96)

    11|96| Indeed, We sent Musa with our signs and a clear authority.113

    113. Alternatively, the textual word “sultan” could be rendered as arguments or proofs (Razi).

    إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ فَاتَّبَعُوا أَمْرَ فِرْعَوْنَ ۖ وَمَا أَمْرُ فِرْعَوْنَ بِرَشِيدٍ (97)

    11|97| To Fir’awn and His chiefs. But they followed Fir’awns's bidding. And Fir’awn's bidding was not rightly guided.

    يَقْدُمُ قَوْمَهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَأَوْرَدَهُمُ النَّارَ ۖ وَبِئْسَ الْوِرْدُ الْمَوْرُودُ (98)

    11|98| He will head his nation on the Day of Judgment and lead them to the Fire114 an evil coming to an evil destination.

    114. Yusuf Ali writes: “Awrada = to lead, as cattle, down to their watering place. The metaphor is apt. The true herdsman is trusted by his normal flock, and he leads them in the heat of the day down to pleasant and cool watering places in order that they may slake their thirst and be happy! And yet men sin against their own intelligence, and follow the false leader like cattle without intelligence!”
    Ibn Kathir writes that the application of the verse is not specific to Fir`awn. Anyone who led in disbelief here in this world, will be a leader of those who preferred to follow him, there in the Hereafter too. Says a hadith in Ahmad reported by Abu Hurayrah,

    امْرُؤُ الْقَيْسِ صَاحِبُ لِوَاءِ الشُّعَرَاءِ إِلَى النَّارِ

    “Imra ‘l Qays will be the bearer of the banner of the pre Islamic poets leading them to the Fire.”
    Haythamiyy remarked that except for one narrator who is unknown, the rest are trustworthy.

    وَأُتْبِعُوا فِي هَٰذِهِ لَعْنَةً وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۚ بِئْسَ الرِّفْدُ الْمَرْفُودُ (99)

    11|99| They were pursued by a curse in this (life), and so (will it be) on the Judgment day: an evil rewarding unto an evil one receiving it.115

    115. Asad has an insightful passage here: “The short passage dealing with Pharaoh and his followers (verses 96 99) connects with, and amplifies, the reference to the tribe of ‘Ad, who ‘followed the bidding of every arrogant enemy of truth’ (verse 59 of this Surah). Thus, the main point of the passage is the problem of immoral leadership and, arising from it, the problem of man's individual, moral responsibility for wrongs committed in obedience of a ‘higher authority’. The Qur'an answers this question emphatically in the affirmative: the leader and the led are equally guilty, and none can be absolved of responsibility on the plea that he was but blindly following orders given by those above him. The indirect allusion is to man's relative free will i.e., his freedom of choice between right and wrong fittingly concludes the stories of the earlier prophets and their wrongdoing communities narrated in this Surah.”

    ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ أَنْبَاءِ الْقُرَىٰ نَقُصُّهُ عَلَيْكَ ۖ مِنْهَا قَائِمٌ وَحَصِيدٌ (100)

    11|100| Those are some of the tidings of the towns that We narrate you.116 Of them, some are existent, others have been harvested (by the sickle of chastisement).117

    116. These are some and not all of the stories of the Prophets narrated in the Qur'an in keeping with the needs and Athe purpose being,” in the words of Asad, “as always in the Qur'an, the illustration of an ethical principle or principles, and of men's varying reaction to the guidance which God offers them directly through His prophets and indirectly through the observable phenomena of His creation.”
    117. The terms “qa'im” (existent), has been explained by Qatadah as meaning Athose that are visible as ruins” while “hasid” (harvested) is explained as Athose that have left no mark on the earth” (Qurtubi). Our rendering as above is following the explanation offered by Ibn `Abbas who declared that “qa'im” are those that are still inhabited (such as Egypt: Shafi’), and “hasid” those that are in ruins (such as Hijr) Ibn Jarir.

    وَمَا ظَلَمْنَاهُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ ظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ ۖ فَمَا أَغْنَتْ عَنْهُمْ آلِهَتُهُمُ الَّتِي يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ لَمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُ رَبِّكَ ۖ وَمَا زَادُوهُمْ غَيْرَ تَتْبِيبٍ (101)

    11|101| And We did them no wrong. But rather, they wronged themselves. Their deities that they worshiped apart from Allah availed them not in the least when Your Lord's command came to pass. In fact, they did not add anything to their lot but ruin.

    وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَخْذُ رَبِّكَ إِذَا أَخَذَ الْقُرَىٰ وَهِيَ ظَالِمَةٌ ۚ إِنَّ أَخْذَهُ أَلِيمٌ شَدِيدٌ (102)

    11|102| Such is your Lord's seizing when He seizes the towns while it is transgressing.118 Indeed, His seizing is painful, severe.

    118. A hadith of the Sahihayn confirms this. It says,

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَيُمْلِي لِلظَّالِمِ حَتَّى إِذَا أَخَذَهُ لَمْ يُفْلِتْهُ

    “Allah lends reprieve to a transgressor, until, when He seizes, He does not allow him any respite” (Ibn Kathir).

    إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِمَنْ خَافَ عَذَابَ الْآخِرَةِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ يَوْمٌ مَجْمُوعٌ لَهُ النَّاسُ وَذَٰلِكَ يَوْمٌ مَشْهُودٌ (103)

    11|103| Surely, in that is a sign for him who fears the chastisement of the Hereafter. That is a Day mankind are to be gathered to. And that is a Day which will be witnessed.119

    119. A Day which will be widely witnessed, by the angels, men and jinn, so there is no possibility of anyone not being there to witness the proceedings (Ibn Kathir and others).

    وَمَا نُؤَخِّرُهُ إِلَّا لِأَجَلٍ مَعْدُودٍ (104)

    11|104| We delay it not, but for a reckoned moment.

    يَوْمَ يَأْتِ لَا تَكَلَّمُ نَفْسٌ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِ ۚ فَمِنْهُمْ شَقِيٌّ وَسَعِيدٌ (105)

    11|105| The day it comes, no soul shall speak except by His leave.120 Then, of them some will be wretched while (others) blessed.121

    120. Yusuf Ali explains comprehensibly and forcefully: “Speak, i.e., either in self defense or in accusation of others or to intercede for others, or to enter into conversation or to ask questions, one with another. It will be a solemn Day, before the Great Judge of all, to whom everything will be known and whose authority will be unquestioned. There will be no room for quibbling or equivocation or subterfuge of any kind, nor can any one lay the blame on another or take the responsibility of another. Personal responsibility will be enforced strictly.”
    Prophetic emphasis in this regard comes through Ibn Kathir. The Prophet said,

    وَلَا يَتَكَلَّمُ يَوْمَئِذٍ أَحَدٌ إِلَّا الرُّسُلُ وَكَلَامُ الرُّسُلِ يَوْمَئِذٍ اللَّهُمَّ سَلِّمْ سَلِّمْ

    “No one will speak on that Day except for the Messengers. And the Messengers will be supplicating, ‘O Allah. Rescue (us), rescue (us).”
    (The above hadith is in the Sahihayn: H. Ibrahim).
    121. It is reported of `Umar (ra) that when this verse was revealed he went to the Prophet to ask,

    يَا نَبِيَّ اللَّهِ فَعَلَى مَا نَعْمَلُ عَلَى شَيْءٍ قَدْ فُرِغَ مِنْهُ أَوْ عَلَى شَيْءٍ لَمْ يُفْرَغْ مِنْهُ قَالَ بَلْ عَلَى شَيْءٍ قَدْ فُرِغَ مِنْهُ وَجَرَتْ بِهِ الْأَقْلَامُ يَا عُمَرُ وَلَكِنْ كُلٌّ مُيَسَّرٌ لِمَا خُلِقَ لَهُ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ غَرِيبٌ

    “Prophet of Allah. With what view should we work: following something that (is written) and done with, or something not done with? He answered, “But rather, something that is done with (i.e. pre determined), and the Pens have run (their course), O `Umar. Indeed, every soul runs the course for which it has been created” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    The hadith is in Tirmidhi who classified it as hasan gharib (Qurtubi). That is, it is a kind of weak report (Au.).

    فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ شَقُوا فَفِي النَّارِ لَهُمْ فِيهَا زَفِيرٌ وَشَهِيقٌ (106)

    11|106| Then, as for those who were wretched, they will be in the Fire. Theirs shall be panting and roaring therein,122

    122. According to Layth the linguist, zafir is for a grievous inhaling of a deep breath without letting it out while shahiq is used for letting it out, (i.e., violent inhaling and exhaling: Au.). Zafir and shahiq are also used in another sense. Zafir is used for the powerful first noise emerging from a donkey's throat when it starts to bray, while shahiq is for the final weak noise that emerges from its chest (Ibn Jarir, Razi, from Ibn `Abbas, “Abu al `Aliyyah and others).

    خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا مَا دَامَتِ السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ رَبُّكَ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ فَعَّالٌ لِمَا يُرِيدُ (107)

    11|107| Abiding therein forever, so long as the heavens and the earth abide:123 except as Your Lord will.124 Surely, Your Lord is the Doer of what He will.

    123. Tabari's interpretation may be presented here in Asad's words. He said that “in ancient Arabic usage the expression ‘as long as the heavens and the earth endure’, or ‘as long as night and day alternate’, etc., were used metonymically in the sense of Atime beyond count (abad).”
    However, Hasan al Busri has expressed the opinion that it is the heavens and the earth of the next world that are meant since, according to the Qur'an the present earth and heavens will not last: (“the Day when the earth will be replaced with another earth, and the heavens [too]”: 14: 48), Further, there was wide agreement among the Salaf that the verse applies to those who will initially enter the Hell fire, but shall come out later, sooner: if their evil deeds were not many, but much later, after eons provided they bore faith in Allah even if it happened to be the size of an atom (Ibn Kathir).
    124. Qurtubi demonstrates that these words could, in this context, lend ten different meanings depending on how they are treated grammatically: none of them easy to appreciate, even if successfully rendered into English, so we should rather leave it unattempted (Au.).
    The commentators, both modern as well as classical, are almost unanimous that those who entered the Fire, as unbelievers in Allah or attributing partners unto Him, will remain in the Fire forever. According to them, the exception in this verse refers to the sinning believers who would initially enter the Fire but shall be removed from it ultimately. Shawkani is the only commentator who mentions the opinions of `Umar (ibn al Khattab), Abu Hurayrah, Ibrahim, Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, `Abdullah bin ‘Amr, Jabir, Abu Sa`id, Abu Mijlaz and `Abdul Rahman ibn Zayd, that a time will come when the Fire will be destroyed and its dwellers relieved, even if takes (in modern terms) billions of years. There are two more verses which hold out this hope. One of them says (6: 128):

    قَالَ النَّارُ مَثْوَاكُمْ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ [الأنعام : 128]

    “He will say, ‘The Fire is your abode, abiding therein forever, except as Allah will.”
    The second verse is (78: 21 23):

    إِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ كَانَتْ مِرْصَادًا (21) لِلطَّاغِينَ مَآبًا (22) لَابِثِينَ فِيهَا أَحْقَابًا [النبأ : 21 - 23]

    “Verily, Jahannum will be (a place of) ambush; for the rebels a resort; to abide therein for ages” (Au.).
    We might also cite here passages on this topic from `Ali ibn abi al ‘Izz's commentary on A‘Aqidah Tahawiyyah” discussing the eternity of the Fire:
    ANevertheless, insofar as the eternity of the Fire goes, there are various opinions. There are some who have believed in its ultimate destruction. Such as, `Umar, Ibn Mas`ud, Abu Hurayrah, Abu Sa`id al Khudri and others. They said that Fire is the manifestation of Allah's anger, whereas Paradise is the manifestation of His mercy. And the Prophet has said: ‘When Allah had created His creations, He inscribed a writing, which is with Him above the `Arsh, (in words), “My mercy shall prevail over My anger."' These are the words of Bukhari. Further, Allah has told us about the Fire that it would be the punishment of ‘a great day,' or, of ‘a painful day,' or, of ‘a barren day.' But He did not use the words ‘of a day' even in one instance while describing the blessings of Paradise. In contrast, He said: ‘(That's) My punishment wherewith I shall punish whom I will. And My mercy has encompassed everything' (Al A’raf, 156).
    “It is indispensable therefore, that His mercy should be the share of those subjected to chastisement. If they remain in the Fire, forever, without His mercy ever touching them, then His mercy could not be said to encompass everything. Further, there is no wisdom in the Ultimate Sovereign creating a creation for no other purpose than to torture them forever. In contrast, if He creates beings for no other purpose than to do them good and bless them forever, then, surely, that is entirely in tune with His mercy. The people who hold this opinion have also explained that whatever has been reported of those in the Fire remaining therein forever, and never coming out, is also true. There are no two opinions about that. The texts demand that this is how the words about their eternity in the Fire be understood, viz., so long as the Fire itself remains in existence. The monotheists would be removed from it during its existence. Thus, there is a difference between him who will be removed from the prison, while the prison remains in existence, and him whose prison term will be annulled because of the destruction of the prison itself.”
    Quote from Ibn Abi al ‘Izz ends here.

    وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ سُعِدُوا فَفِي الْجَنَّةِ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا مَا دَامَتِ السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ رَبُّكَ ۖ عَطَاءً غَيْرَ مَجْذُوذٍ (108)

    11|108| As for those who were blessed, they shall be in the Garden, abiding therein forever, so long as the heavens and the earth abide: except as Your Lord will a bestowal uninturrupted.125

    125. Although the abiding in Paradise seems to have been made conditional to the abiding of the heavens and the earth, the addition of the words “a bestowal unbroken” suggests that the abiding therein would be forever by Allah's will (Ibn Jarir).
    Ahadith offer further elucidation. One hadith in the Sahihayn says,

    يُؤْتَى بِالْمَوْتِ كَهَيْئَةِ كَبْشٍ أَمْلَحَ فَيُنَادِي مُنَادٍ يَا أَهْلَ الْجَنَّةِ فَيَشْرَئِبُّونَ وَيَنْظُرُونَ فَيَقُولُ هَلْ تَعْرِفُونَ هَذَا فَيَقُولُونَ نَعَمْ هَذَا الْمَوْتُ وَكُلُّهُمْ قَدْ رَآهُ ثُمَّ يُنَادِي يَا أَهْلَ النَّارِ فَيَشْرَئِبُّونَ وَيَنْظُرُونَ فَيَقُولُ هَلْ تَعْرِفُونَ هَذَا فَيَقُولُونَ نَعَمْ هَذَا الْمَوْتُ وَكُلُّهُمْ قَدْ رَآهُ فَيُذْبَحُ ثُمَّ يَقُولُ يَا أَهْلَ الْجَنَّةِ خُلُودٌ فَلَا مَوْتَ وَيَا أَهْلَ النَّارِ خُلُودٌ فَلَا مَوْتَ ثُمَّ قَرَأَ

    “Death will be brought forth in the form of a brownish lamb and a caller will call, ‘O dwellers of Paradise.’ They will stretch their necks and look. He will ask, ‘Do you know this?’ They will say, ‘Yes. This is death.’ Every one of them had seen it. Then the caller will call, ‘People of the Fire?’ They will stretch their necks and see. He will ask, ‘Do you know this?’ They will say, ‘Yes. This is death.’ Every one of them had seen it. Then it will be slaughtered and it will be said, ‘O people of Paradise, you will abide forever without tasting death. And, O people of the Fire, you will abide forever without tasting death'” (Ibn Kathir).

    فَلَا تَكُ فِي مِرْيَةٍ مِمَّا يَعْبُدُ هَٰؤُلَاءِ ۚ مَا يَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا كَمَا يَعْبُدُ آبَاؤُهُمْ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۚ وَإِنَّا لَمُوَفُّوهُمْ نَصِيبَهُمْ غَيْرَ مَنْقُوصٍ (109)

    11|109| Therefore, be not thou in any doubt about what these (people) worship.126 They worship not except as (blindly) as their forefathers worshiped before (them). Surely, We shall award them in full their share (of punishment), undiminished.127

    126. Mawdudi explains: “This does not mean that the Prophet (peace be on him) entertained any ‘doubt' concerning the deities whom the unbelievers associated with God in His divinity. Though this verse is ostensibly addressed to the Prophet (peace be on him), it is really aimed at conveying a message to the people of Makka. The thrust of the verse is that no sensible person should entertain the notion that those who worship false gods and pray to them have any plausible grounds for doing so and for expecting some benefit from such worship.”
    In Asad's words, “I.e., do not think that their beliefs are based on reason”: a reference primarily to the pagan Arabs who like all wrongdoers spoken of in the preceding passages rejected God's message on the plea that it conflicted with their ancestral beliefs; and, more generally, to all people who are accustomed to worship (in the widest sense of the word) false values handed down from their ancestors who, consequently, observe false standards of morality; an attitude which must unavoidably as the last sentence of this verse shows results in future suffering, be it in this world or in the hereafter, or in both.”
    127. Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid have said that the allusion is to the destined good or evil that the unbelievers would receive in this world: they shall receive them in full measure without any deduction. But Ibn Zayd's opinion was that the reference is to the punishment in the Hereafter (Ibn Jarir).

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ فَاخْتُلِفَ فِيهِ ۚ وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِنْ رَبِّكَ لَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ ۚ وَإِنَّهُمْ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِنْهُ مُرِيبٍ (110)

    11|110| Surely, We gave Musa the Book. But it was differed with. And, were not for a word (of command) that had preceded from Your Lord, surely, (the affair) would have been settled between them. In fact, they (themselves) are in doubt concerning it, full of suspicion.128

    128. That is, Musa (asws) was given a Scripture, but, some believed in it while others did not. Those who did not, remained in great doubt about its source and authenticity (Ibn Jarir).

    وَإِنَّ كُلًّا لَمَّا لَيُوَفِّيَنَّهُمْ رَبُّكَ أَعْمَالَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ (111)

    11|111| Surely, to everyone will your Lord give (the wage) of their deeds in full. Surely, He is well Aware of what they do.

    فَاسْتَقِمْ كَمَا أُمِرْتَ وَمَنْ تَابَ مَعَكَ وَلَا تَطْغَوْا ۚ إِنَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ (112)

    11|112| Pursue, then (O Muhammad) the right course, as you have been commanded,129 (as also) those who turned (to Allah) with you, and transgress not.130 Surely He sees well what you do.

    129. Imam Razi says that when the Prophet said that (Surah) Hud and its sisters hastened old age on him, it was perhaps this verse that he had in mind. Then he goes on to explain through an example why it could have been so. Look at a shadow on the earth. There is a line at which the blackness of the shadow and the brightness of the light meet. Now, try to draw a line exactly at the point the two meet and you will realize how difficult it is to do so. Similar is the case with religious concepts and commandments. You have got to tread the middle of the way: without ever straying into the forbidden on either side. That's what has been ordered in the verse, “Pursue then the right course as you have been commanded”: meaning follow firmly the middle path of the religion of Islam without inclining towards the two extremes. (Hence the next verse: “And incline not towards those who do wrong”: Au.).
    130. That is, do not cross the boundaries of the lawful committing excesses therein, be they Prayers, or be they pleasurable things (based on Shawkani).
    Sufyan b. `Abdullah Thaqafi asked Ibn `Abbas to admonish him. He told him, “be always conscious of Allah, pursue the right course, follow (the predecessors) and do not commit innovations” (Qurtubi, Ma’arif).

    وَلَا تَرْكَنُوا إِلَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا فَتَمَسَّكُمُ النَّارُ وَمَا لَكُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مِنْ أَوْلِيَاءَ ثُمَّ لَا تُنْصَرُونَ (113)

    11|113| And incline not131 towards those who do wrong, lest the Fire touches you, and you will not have any protectors, apart from Allah. And you will not be helped.

    131. The word “rukun” (done as “inclination” here) that has been forbidden here is to approve the transgressions of the tyrants, show consent to their ways, express approval before them or others, and to co operate with them in their affairs of wrong doing, befriending them, visiting them, and putting on appearances like them (Zamakhshari, Razi, Shawkani).
    Further, to the question, who exactly is alluded to by the term Athe wrong doers” whether the non believers or the believers?, the answer by Ibn `Abbas is that the allusion is to both for, (in understanding the Qur'an) what is of consideration is the generality of the application and not the specificity of the occasion (Shawkani).
    “Just think,” Zamakhshari adds: “Mere inclination is disapproved!!” He also writes that once Muwaffaq (the caliph) was praying behind an Imam who recited this verse. He swooned. When asked he said, “Allah threatened those who incline towards those who do wrong. What about the wrong doers then?”
    Visiting the Rulers
    Zamakhshari gives this verse some serious attention. He reports Sufyan (Thawri) as saying, “There is a valley in Hell where none will live but the scholars who visited the rulers.” Awza’i has said, “There is nothing more hateful to Allah than a scholar visiting the rulers.” Muhammad b. Maslamah has said, “A fly sitting on the excrement is better than one knocking at the doors of these people.” Sufyan (Thawri) was once asked about a tyrant who was close to death in a desert. Could he be given water? He replied, “No.” He was told, “He might die.” He answered, “Let him die.” It is said, Zamakhshari continues, that when Zuhri began to visit the rulers, one of his well wishers wrote to him: “May Allah protect us and you, O Zuhri. You have entered a state in which it is right that those who know you should pray for Allah's mercy for you. You have grown into old age in a state that Allah has made you weighty with the knowledge of the Qur'an and Sunnah. But what you are doing now is not what Allah has taken the compact for, from the scholars. Allah has said, ‘So that you may make it plain to the people and not conceal it.' You should know that the least that you have done and the least that you have borne the burden of. is that you have lessened the uneasiness of the transgressors making it easier for them to continue in their wrongful ways. This is because your getting close to one of them was not for the sake of administering justice or giving up a wrong when he took you close to himself. They have taken you as a pole to use you as the axis of their wrongs and as a bridge to go over you to their iniquities, and a ladder to climb over you to their errors. Through you they will now place a question mark on other scholars and misguide the commoners by you. Whatever they gave you is much less than what they destroyed in you. They took away from you more of your religion than they gave you. Be not then in peace from the verse which said (19: 59), ‘Then came after them a posterity who missed the Prayers and followed their lust. So soon they will meet with destruction.' For, you are dealing with One who is not ignorant, and are making Him remember who does not forget. So, look for a cure, for, disease has entered your religion and prepare your provision, for, the long journey is about to begin ‘and not hidden from Allah is anything in the earth or the heavens' wassalam.”
    Razi clarifies, and Shawkani seconds him strongly, that so far as dealing with them (the ruling class) in order to avoid a harm feared of them, or to draw a quick rightful advantage is concerned, there is no harm in that and it would not amount to the inclination that is forbidden.
    Hasan al Busri has said that our religion is between the two “las” of “la tatghaw” and “la tarkanu” (Zamakhshari). That is, do not exceed the limits (of the lawful) and incline not towards the wrong and the wrong doers. It is also reported of him that a tailor asked him, “I stitch the clothes of the ruling class. Will I be counted as ‘those inclined towards them?' Hasan replied, “No. You will not be counted among those who inclined towards them. Rather, you are one of them” (Au.).

    وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ طَرَفَيِ النَّهَارِ وَزُلَفًا مِنَ اللَّيْلِ ۚ إِنَّ الْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ (114)

    11|114| And perform the Prayers (properly) at the two ends of the day132 and at the approach of the night.133 Surely, good deeds drive away the evil deeds.134 That is a reminder unto those who (wish to) remember.

    132. Among a variety of opinions, that of Dahhak, Muhammad b. Ka’b and Hasan is widely reported that it is the fajr and ‘asr Prayers that are alluded to, falling at two ends of the day. However, Ibn `Abbas believed that it is fajr and maghrib Prayers (Ibn Jarir).
    Imam Razi points out that Abu Hanifa's opinion about the fajr and ‘asr Prayers was that they should be delayed to bring fajr as close to the beginning of the day as possible and the ‘asr as close to the end of it as possible – that is, when the shadow of a thing is twice its length. For, if fajr is done in complete darkness and ‘asr far earlier to the sun set, we would not have done them at the two ends of the day as the verse recommends here.
    133. Most of the opinions coming from the earliest scholars home in on maghrib and ‘isha'' Prayers as having been alluded to here. In fact, we have a hadith from the Prophet declaring that the allusion is to maghrib and ‘isha'’ Prayers (Ibn Jarir).
    Sa`id b. Mansur, Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Marduwayh and Bayhaqi in his Sunan have preserved that following this verse, Ibn `Abbas preferred to delay the ‘isha' Prayers (Shawkani).
    Commentators have pointed out however, that this chapter is Makkan of a time when five daily Prayers were not yet obligatory. It was during the Prophet's ascension, which took place later in his mission, that the five daily Prayers were promulgated (Au.).
    134. Although the generality of the meaning cannot be overlooked, there are reports coming from the Prophet suggesting that here the term “hasanat” refers to the five Prayers of the day. Al Harth, the freed slave of ‘Uthman reports that one day he was in an assembly of men around him when the caller called for Prayers. He asked for a little amount of water. He made his ablution with it and said, “I have seen the Prophet make his ablution in the manner I did today. After that he (the Prophet said),

    وَمَنْ تَوَضَّأَ وُضُوئِي ثُمَّ قَامَ فَصَلَّى صَلَاةَ الظُّهْرِ غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا كَانَ بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَ الصُّبْحِ ثُمَّ صَلَّى الْعَصْرَ غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَ صَلَاةِ الظُّهْرِ ثُمَّ صَلَّى الْمَغْرِبَ غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَ صَلَاةِ الْعَصْرِ ثُمَّ صَلَّى الْعِشَاءَ غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَ صَلَاةِ الْمَغْرِبِ ثُمَّ لَعَلَّهُ أَنْ يَبِيتَ يَتَمَرَّغُ لَيْلَتَهُ ثُمَّ إِنْ قَامَ فَتَوَضَّأَ وَصَلَّى الصُّبْحَ غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَ صَلَاةِ الْعِشَاءِ وَهُنَّ الْحَسَنَاتُ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ

    ‘Whoever made ablution in my manner of making ablution, stood up and did zuhr Prayer, then what was (of the sins) between fajr and zuhr Prayers would be forgiven. Then, when he does his `asr Prayer, he will be forgiven (the sins) between zuhr and `asr Prayers. Similarly, when he does his maghrib Prayer, he is forgiven (the sins) between `asr and maghrib Prayers. Likewise, when he does his `isha'’ Prayer, (the sins) between maghrib and `isha'' are forgiven. Thereafter, he might spend his night sleeping. Then when get he gets up, makes ablution, and does the fajr Prayer, he is forgiven the sins between `isha'' and fajr Prayers. They are the ones then, that drive the sins away.'” (Ibn Jarir)
    The report is in Ahmad (Ibn Kathir). It has been declared as of Hasan status by al-Arna’ut (Au.).
    There is another, shorter report in the Sahihayn which says that once `Uthman made wudu and then remarked that the Prophet made a similar wudu and said,

    مَنْ تَوَضَّأَ وُضُوئِي هَذَا ثُمَّ يُصَلِّي رَكْعَتَيْنِ لَا يُحَدِّثُ نَفْسَهُ فِيهِمَا بِشَيْءٍ إِلَّا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ

    “Whoever made a wudu the way I did and then offered two rak`ah of Prayer during which he did not think of anything, but his past sins are forgiven” (Ibn Kathir).
    Another report in Muslim’s collection says,

    الصَّلَوَاتُ الْخَمْسُ وَالْجُمُعَةُ إِلَى الْجُمُعَةِ وَرَمَضَانُ إِلَى رَمَضَانَ مُكَفِّرَاتٌ لِمَا بَيْنَهُنَّ مَا اجْتُنِبَتِ الْكَبَائِرُ

    “Five daily Prayers, Friday to Friday (Prayers), Ramadan to Ramadan (Prayers) expiate the sins, so long as major sins are avoided” (Ibn Kathir).
    Another report comes from ‘Uthman al Nahdi. He was with Salman when he shook the branch of a tree (in autumn). Leaves fell all around. He said, “Ask me why I did that.” I said, “Why did you do that? He said,

    هَكَذَا فَعَلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، كُنْتُ مَعَهُ تَحْتَ شَجَرَةٍ، فَأَخَذَ غُصْنًا مِنْ أَغْصَانِهَا يَابِسًا، فَهَزَّهُ حَتَّى تَحَاتَّ وَرَقُهُ، ثُمَّ قَالَ:"أَلا تَسْأَلُنِي لِمَ أَفْعَلُ هَذَا يَا سَلْمَانُ؟"فَقُلْتُ: وَلِمَ تَفْعَلُهُ؟ فَقَالَ:"إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمَ إِذَا تَوَضَّأَ، فَأَحْسَنَ الْوُضُوءَ، ثُمَّ صَلَّى الصَّلَوَاتِ الْخَمْسَ تَحَاتَّتْ خَطَايَاهُ، كَمَا تَحَاتَّ هَذَا الْوَرَقُ"، ثُمَّ تَلا هَذِهِ الآيَةَ: {أَقِمِ الصَّلاةَ طَرَفَيِ النَّهَارِ وَزُلَفًا مِنَ اللَّيْلِ إِنَّ الْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ

    “This is how the Prophet did. I was with him under a tree when he shook a branch and the dry leaves fell. He asked me, ‘Will you not ask me why I did that?' Salman asked, ‘Why did you do that?' The Prophet said, ‘When a Muslim does his ablution well and then does his five Prayers of the day, his sins fall off him just as these leaves fell down.' Then he recited this verse, ‘Offer the Prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night'” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above report is in Musnad Ahmad: H. Ibrahim).
    It has been declared da`if. But the general structure, content, and form do not suggest that it is fabricated (Au.).
    However, the meaning and application remain general. This is supported by several reports. One of them says that once a man came to the Prophet and said,

    إِنِّى عَالَجْتُ امْرَأَةً فِى أَقْصَى الْمَدِينَةِ وَإِنِّى أَصَبْتُ مِنْهَا مَا دُونَ أَنْ أَمَسَّهَا فَأَنَا هَذَا فَاقْضِ فِىَّ مَا شِئْتَ. فَقَالَ لَهُ عُمَرُ لَقَدْ سَتَرَكَ اللَّهُ لَوْ سَتَرْتَ نَفْسَكَ - قَالَ - فَلَمْ يَرُدَّ النَّبِىُّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- شَيْئًا فَقَامَ الرَّجُلُ فَانْطَلَقَ فَأَتْبَعَهُ النَّبِىُّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- رَجُلاً دَعَاهُ وَتَلاَ عَلَيْهِ هَذِهِ الآيَةَ (أَقِمِ الصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَىِ النَّهَارِ وَزُلَفًا مِنَ اللَّيْلِ إِنَّ الْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ ذَلِكَ ذِكْرَى لِلذَّاكِرِينَ ) فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ يَا نَبِىَّ اللَّهِ هَذَا لَهُ خَاصَّةً قَالَ: بَلْ لِلنَّاسِ كَافَّةً

    AI met a woman outside the town. I did to her everything except intercourse. So, here I am, punish me how you will.” `Umar said, “Allah concealed you and only if you had concealed yourself.” But the Prophet did not say anything. As the man began to leave he recalled him and recited this verse, “And establish the Prayers at the two ends of the day .. until the end of the verse. A man asked (according to some reports it was `Umar), “Is it for him alone O Messenger of Allah, or is it for everyone?” He replied, “It is for everyone.”
    The above version is from Muslim (Au.).
    Other reports say that the man had first gone to `Umar who had advised him not to expose himself but the man did not feel comfortable until he went to Abu Bakr. But Abu Bakr also advised him in the manner `Umar had. Still uncomfortable about it, he finally went to the Prophet (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Kathir adds: The above report is in Musnad Ahmad and, in varied and shorter forms, in Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and Nasa'i also.
    Sahih collections have yet another report. It says,

    أَرَأَيْتُمْ لَوْ أَنَّ نَهَرًا بِبَابِ أَحَدِكُمْ يَغْتَسِلُ فِيهِ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ خَمْسًا مَا تَقُولُ ذَلِكَ يُبْقِي مِنْ دَرَنِهِ قَالُوا لَا يُبْقِي مِنْ دَرَنِهِ شَيْئًا قَالَ فَذَلِكَ مِثْلُ الصَّلَوَاتِ الْخَمْسِ يَمْحُو اللَّهُ بِهِ الْخَطَايَا

    “Do you think if there was a spring at the door of one of you and he bathed himself therein every day five times? What is your opinion, will any dirt be left on him?” They answered, “No dirt will be left on him.” He said, “Such is the effect of the five daily Prayers. Allah erases the sins thereby.”
    The above is Bukhari’s version (Au.).
    Scholars have cautioned however that it is the minor sins that the verse is alluding to, and not major, which require proper repentance, atonement and retribution. The hadith of Muslim quoted above makes it clear: “Five daily Prayers .. are atonement for what is between them if major sins are avoided” (Au.).
    With reference to the words of the Qur’an: Surely, good deeds drive away evil deeds, the following report of Ahmad may be noted,

    إِن الله قسم بينكم أخلاقكم كما قسم بينكم أرزاقكم وإِن الله يعطي الدنيا من يحب ومن لا يحب ولا يعطي الدين إِلا من أحب فمن أعطاه الله الدين فقد أحبه والذي نفسي بيده لا يسلم عبد حتى يسلم قلبه ولسانه ولا يؤمن حتى يأمن جاره بوائقه" قال: قلنا: وما بوائقه يا نبي الله ؟ قال: "غشه وظلمه ولا يكسب عبد مالاً حراماً فينفق منه فيبارك له فيه ولا يتصدق فيقبل منه ولا يتركه خلف ظهره إِلا كان زاده إِلى النار إِن الله لا يمحو السيء بالسيء ولكن يمحو السيء بالحسن إِن الخبيث لا يمحو الخبيث

    “Allah has divided between you good qualities as He has divided between you provision. Indeed, Allah gives the (wealth of) this world to him He loves as well as to him He does not. But, He does not bestow the religion save on him whom He loves. So, whoever He gave religion, loved him. And, by Him in whom is my soul a man does not become a Muslim until his heart and tongue also become Muslims. And one of you is not a believer until his neighbor is in peace from his bawa'iq.” We asked, “Messenger of Allah, what are his bawa'iq?” He replied, “His deceit and aggression. And a man earns unlawful wealth, to spend out of it, but he is not blessed thereby; and he gives in charity but is not accepted of him; and he does not leave it behind him but is a provision for him to the Fire. Surely, Allah does not erase evil with evil. Rather, He erases sin with good deeds. Filth does not erase filth.”
    The Prophet also advised Abu Dharr in a report preserved by Imam Ahmad in words:

    اتق الله حيث كنت وأَتْبِعِ السَّيِّئَةَ الْحَسَنَةَ تَمْحُهَا، وَخَالِقِ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ

    “Fear Allah wherever you are. And follow up an evil deed with a good one. It will obliterate it. And, deal with the people following the best rules of conduct” (Ibn Kathir).
    Hakim said about the above report that it meets with the conditions set by the Shaykhayn; and Dhahabi agreed with him (Au.).

    وَاصْبِرْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (115)

    11|115| And observe patience. Surely, Allah does not waste away the wages of those who do good.

    فَلَوْلَا كَانَ مِنَ الْقُرُونِ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ أُولُو بَقِيَّةٍ يَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْفَسَادِ فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِمَّنْ أَنْجَيْنَا مِنْهُمْ ۗ وَاتَّبَعَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مَا أُتْرِفُوا فِيهِ وَكَانُوا مُجْرِمِينَ (116)

    11|116| So, why there were not135 some left overs136 of the generations (that went) before you, who would forbid corruption in the land,137 except for a few of those among them whom We rescued. As for the wrongdoers, they only pursued those (of the) luxuries they were given. They were in fact criminals.

    135. We have come across a similar usage of “law la” in Surah Yunus, verse 98. See note 138 there for explanation.
    136. (“Left overs” is the literal rendering of “ulu baqiyyatin”). The expression has another meaning: that of the best of a people. For instance, when you say, so and so is “ulu al qawm” it means he is the best of them (Zamakhshari, Razi).
    137. The Prophet has said in a sahih hadith of Tirmidhi,

    إِنَّ النَّاسَ إِذَا رَأَوْا الْمُنْكَرَ فَلَمْ يُنْكِرُوهُ أَوْشَكَ أَنْ يَعُمَّهُمْ اللَّهُ بِعِقَابِهِ

    “When the people see a censurable thing but do not prevent it, then it is feared that a common punishment will seize them” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    وَمَا كَانَ رَبُّكَ لِيُهْلِكَ الْقُرَىٰ بِظُلْمٍ وَأَهْلُهَا مُصْلِحُونَ (117)

    11|117| And your Lord is not such as to destroy the towns unjustly, while its inhabitants are righteous.138

    138. The verse also implies that Allah does not destroy a people, even if they associate in His divinity so long as their dealings between themselves are carried out in justice. It is only when they begin to wrong each other on a large scale that they meet with their destruction. Hence it is said that a dominion lasts despite disbelief but not despite injustice (Zamakhshari, Shawkani).
    Razi's commentary is better paraphrased by Asad: “‘God's chastisement does not afflict any people merely on account of their holding beliefs amounting to shirk or kufr, but afflicts them only if they persistently commit evil in their mutual dealings, and deliberately hurt [other human beings] and act tyrannically [towards them]. Hence those who are learned in Islamic Law (al fuqaha') hold that men's obligations towards God rest on the principle of [His] forgiveness and liberality, whereas the rights of man are of a stringent nature and must always be strictly observed' the obvious reason being (Asad adds), that God is almighty and needs no defender, whereas man is weak and needs protection.”
    Of course, excluded is the situation where a Prophet is raised among a people. When that happens, then they are destroyed for rejection, even if they are just among themselves (Au.).

    وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ لَجَعَلَ النَّاسَ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً ۖ وَلَا يَزَالُونَ مُخْتَلِفِينَ (118)

    11|118| And, had your Lord willed, surely He would have made mankind one community.139 But, they shall remain differing.140

    139. That is, they would have all become Muslims.
    Mawdudi elaborates this point: “.. God's will with regard to human beings does not consist of binding them to follow an inalterable course of conduct in the manner of plants, animals and other similar living beings who, as we know, have no choice except to follow the course determined for them either by the laws of nature or their instincts. Had such been the case, there would be no point in inviting human beings to believe, raise Prophets, to reveal the Scriptures. All human beings would have been born as ones who would believe and submit to God's command. However, it was God's will regarding man that he should be granted free will and be vested with the power to follow the ways of his choice. Thus, whatever one is able to acquire is the fruit of his own labour.
    “Now, the very scheme of man's creation consists of granting him free will and providing the opportunity to choose between belief and unbelief. In such a case it is simply inconceivable that a nation would willfully decide to go astray and God compel it to righteousness.”
    The notion expressed in the last sentence above is obviously true, but its opposite is not “always” true. Therefore, to the paragraph above we might offer a slight correction by re paraphrasing it in the following manner: “Now, the very scheme of man's creation consists of granting him free will and providing the opportunity to choose between belief and unbelief. In such a case it is simply inconceivable that a nation would willfully decide to go aright and God compel it to unrighteousness.” Further, the modification takes care of the Salaf's understanding that “man has been created so that Allah may show him mercy” (Au.).
    Asad however speaks from a higher intellectual plane in explaining this verse, which is partly based on the stance of Rashid Rida: “Thus, the Qur'an stresses once again that the unceasing differentiation in men's views and ideas is not incidental but represents a God willed basic factor of human existence. If God had willed that all human beings should be of one persuasion, all intellectual progress would have been ruled out, and ‘they would have been similar in their social life to the bees and the ants, while in their spiritual life they would have been like the angels, constrained by their nature always to believe in what is true and always to obey God” (Manar XII, 193) that is to say, devoid of that relative free will which enables man to choose between right and wrong and thus endows life its distinction from all other sentient beings with a moral meaning and a unique spiritual potential.”
    140. That is, divided into sects and following various false beliefs (Au).

    إِلَّا مَنْ رَحِمَ رَبُّكَ ۚ وَلِذَٰلِكَ خَلَقَهُمْ ۗ وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَةُ رَبِّكَ لَأَمْلَأَنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنَ الْجِنَّةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ (119)

    11|119| Except for him whom your Lord showed mercy.141 To this end He has created them.142 And the word of your Lord shall be fulfilled (that on rejection) ‘I shall fill Jahannum with Jinn and Men all together.'143

    141. That is, those who uphold the truth: the Muslims.
    142. Ibn `Abbas has said, “Allah created them as two groups. A group to whom He showed mercy. So they do not differ. And a group that He did not show mercy. So they differ. Others, such as Hasan, have said that (the humans have been created) in order that they might differ among themselves. (Apparently meaning that to differ is a quality that is embedded in their nature: Au.).
    However, according to Mujahid, Qatadah, `Ikrimah, Ta'us and Dahhak, the meaning of “To this end He has created them” is: it is to show mercy that He has created them. This in fact is a second opinion of Ibn `Abbas also who added that Allah did not create them for the purpose of chastising them (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Asad quotes: “According to Zamakhshari, it refers to the freedom of moral choice which characterizes man and is spoken of in the preceding passage: and since it is this freedom which constitutes God's special gift to man and raises him above all other created beings.”
    143. We have a relevant hadith in the Sahihayn. The Prophet said,

    اخْتَصَمَتْ الْجَنَّةُ وَالنَّارُ فَقَالَتْ الْجَنَّةُ أَيْ رَبِّ مَا لَهَا يَدْخُلُهَا ضُعَفَاءُ النَّاسِ وَسَقَطُهُمْ وَقَالَتْ النَّارُ يَا رَبِّ مَا لَهَا يَدْخُلُهَا الْجَبَّارُونَ وَالْمُتَكَبِّرُونَ قَالَ لِلْجَنَّةِ أَنْتِ رَحْمَتِي أُصِيبُ بِكِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ وَقَالَ لِلنَّارِ أَنْتِ عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ مِنْكِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ وَلِكُلِّ وَاحِدَةٍ مِنْكُنَّ مِلْؤُهَا قَالَ فَأَمَّا الْجَنَّةُ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لَا يَظْلِمُ مِنْ خَلْقِهِ أَحَدًا وَإِنَّهَا يُنْشَأُ لَهَا مِنْ خَلْقِهِ مَا شَاءَ وَأَمَّا النَّارُ فَيُلْقَوْنَ فِيهَا وَتَقُولُ { هَلْ مِنْ مَزِيدٍ } وَيُلْقَوْنَ فِيهَا وَتَقُولُ { هَلْ مِنْ مَزِيدٍ } حَتَّى يَضَعَ رَبُّنَا عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فِيهَا قَدَمَهُ فَهُنَالِكَ تَمْتَلِئُ وَيَنْزَوِي بَعْضُهَا إِلَى بَعْضٍ وَتَقُولُ قَطْ قَطْ

    “Heaven and Hell argued between themselves. The Heaven said, ‘What's the matter that none but the weak and lowly ones enter it?' The Fire said, ‘What’s the matter that the tyrants and the proud enter it.' Allah the Most High said to Paradise, ‘You are a manifestation of My mercy wherewith I show mercy unto whom I will.' And He said to the Fire, ‘You are My chastisement striking whomsoever I will. And each of you shall have your fill.' So, as for Paradise, Allah does not wrong any of His creation by the least. He will create a creation for it. As for the Fire, it will not cease asking after every entry (of people in it), ‘Is there some more?' until your Lord places His foot into it. It is then that it will gets filled up, and some of it spirals over other parts of it, and it will say, ‘Enough, enough’” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above is Ahmad’s version (Au.).

    وَكُلًّا نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنْبَاءِ الرُّسُلِ مَا نُثَبِّتُ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ ۚ وَجَاءَكَ فِي هَٰذِهِ الْحَقُّ وَمَوْعِظَةٌ وَذِكْرَىٰ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ (120)

    11|120| And, all that We convey to you144 of the tidings of the Messengers is to strengthen your heart.145 And the truth has come to you in this:146 an admonition, and a reminder for the believers.

    144. The difference between “qalb” and “fu’ad” is that the latter (which is used here) is for the depth of the heart. The Prophet used both the words together. He said,

    أَتاكُم أَهلُ اليَمَنِ هم أَرَقُّ قُلوباً ، وأَلْيَنُ أَفْئِدَةً

    The people of Yemen are arriving. They are tender of qulub (sing. qalb) and gentle of af’idah (sing. fu’ad) (Au.).
    145. AThe stories of the Prophets in the Qur'an are not mere narratives or histories; they involve three things:
    (1) they teach the highest Spiritual Truth;
    (2) they give advice, direction, warning, as to how we should govern our lives, and
    (3) they awaken our conscience and recall to us the working of Allah's Law in human affairs” (Yusuf Ali).
    146. The article “hadhihi” being in feminine, the explanation by Ibn `Abbas, Abu Musa, Mujahid and others is that it refers to this Surah. That is, the truth has been made manifest to you, O Muhammad, in this Surah (which has many stories of the previous Prophets and their denying nations) Ibn Jarir.

    End note:
    Imam Razi once again interrupts the work to say that he finished the commentary on this chapter before fajr of a Monday, Rajab, 601 A.H. He did it while his heart was on fire from the pain of losing his son, a righteous young man, who died in the prime of his youth. Allah be praised in all circumstances.

    وَقُلْ لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ اعْمَلُوا عَلَىٰ مَكَانَتِكُمْ إِنَّا عَامِلُونَ (121)

    11|121| And say to those who do not believe, ‘Keep working in your place. We are also at work.

    وَانْتَظِرُوا إِنَّا مُنْتَظِرُونَ (122)

    11|122| And, wait. We are also waiting.'

    وَلِلَّهِ غَيْبُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَإِلَيْهِ يُرْجَعُ الْأَمْرُ كُلُّهُ فَاعْبُدْهُ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَيْهِ ۚ وَمَا رَبُّكَ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ (123)

    11|123| To Allah belongs what is in the Unseen of the heavens and the earth. To Him return the affairs all of them. Therefore, worship Him and have trust in Him. Your Lord is not heedless of what you do.