Surat Ar-Ra`d

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. 13

    Merits of the Surah

    This is a chapter of indescribable beauty. Apart from its powerfully expressed message, it has music and an inner rhythm unique to itself and not repeated elsewhere in the Qur’an. Although Sayyid normally expands on every verse, in this chapter he is clearly at a loss, overpowered by the text and hardly able to expand on it or its content, rather contents himself with a kind of a translation, putting the meaning in a simpler language: in one place he admits his inability to add anything by way of explanation.
    It is also a chapter of contrasts. Its another specialty is that it mentions two of Allah’s Attributes (Muta`aal and Shadeed al-Mihal: Au.) that have not been mentioned elsewhere in the Qur’an. Further, it has only two types of rhymes. Those ending with a “nun” in verses 1-5 and those whose second last letter is alif or its sound, running through the rest of the Surah.

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ المر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ ۗ وَالَّذِي أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ الْحَقُّ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ (1)

    13|1| Alif. Lam. Mim. Ra. These are verses of the Book.2 And that which has been sent down unto you by your Lord3 is the truth; but most people do not believe.

    1. Except for a few verses that are spread all over the Surah, this is a Makkan chapter (Qurtubi, Alusi).
    2. The allusion is to previous revelations such as Tawrah, Zabur and Injil (Qatadah, Mujahid: Ibn Jarir).
    3. Another possibility however, writes Shafi`, is that the allusion by the opening words, “These are verses of the Book” is to the Qur’an, and by the words, “and that which has been sent down unto you from your Lord”, it is to the Prophetic Sunnah which is another kind of Revelation.

    اللَّهُ الَّذِي رَفَعَ السَّمَاوَاتِ بِغَيْرِ عَمَدٍ تَرَوْنَهَا ۖ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ ۖ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى ۚ يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ يُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ بِلِقَاءِ رَبِّكُمْ تُوقِنُونَ (2)

    13|2| Allah it is who raised the heavens without any pillar that you can see.4 Then He assumed Istawa’ on the `Arsh.5 And He subjected the sun and the moon (to a law),6 each one running to an appointed term. He directs the affair, explains the verses, so that you may believe in the encounter with your Lord.

    4. Led perhaps by the contextual words, “without any pillar that you can see,” Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah and others were of the view that the heaven rests on supports or columns, but the humans cannot see them (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Kathir remarks: Allah (swt) said v (22: 65),

    وَيُمْسِكُ السَّمَاءَ أَنْ تَقَعَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِ [الحج : 65]

    “He holds the heaven that it should fall on the earth except by His leave.”
    He adds: The heaven closest to the earth is at a distance of 500 years of travel from the earth. It covers it from all sides. Similarly the second heaven surrounds the first at a distance of five hundred years of distance, and so on until the ‘Arsh which is on top of all. The Kursiyy comes below the ‘Arsh. The seven heavens are like a ring in a desert in comparison to the Kursiyy and the Kursiyy like a ring before the ‘Arsh.
    Imam Razi and Qurtubi add that the invisible supports are none other than Allah’s Power.
    Looked at scientifically, the verse allows for another interpretation. Our solar system has the sun in the center with 10 planets, dozens of their moons, and a belt of meteors endlessly orbiting at constant pace and at constant distances. What keeps them in their places and not fall into each other, or, escape away into empty space? Similarly, what keeps galactic stars in place, revolving in the Galaxy, not falling into each other, or the sun sucked in by the more massive galactic center? These are questions that had puzzled the scientists for long. The answer is in two terms: force, and movement. The sun for example, holds its planets into an orbital movement around itself (not letting them drift away into space) because of its gravitational pull. But, why do the planets not crash into it, because of its pull? The answer is, the circular (or elliptical) movement prevents it. Their onward movement (creating a centrifugal force) cancels out the inward gravitational pull of the sun, and so they remain in place. If they ever went nearer to the sun, they would only increase their orbital speed and still remain orbiting around the sun and not fall into it. Nevertheless, even the possibility of a movement closer to the sun is ruled out. Why? It is because the planets exercise their own pulls on each other. Their respective gravitational pulls on each other, at any position (which changes from moment to moment), their respective speeds of orbital movement, and, finally, the gravitational pull of the sun on its planets, are all forces that are so finely balanced in the system that they cancel out each other to give it stability. By stability of course, what is meant is constant speeds at constant (although varying) distances. This stable, unchanging situation prevailing in the system, despite the several movements, is referred to as the “dynamic equilibrium.” Indeed, this fact is so amazing that if the solar system did not exist, nobody could have imagined that such a thing was possible. An earthly model, for instance, is just out of the question. It is likely that it is this dynamic equilibrium, the perfect canceling out of various forces, to give stability to the system, but keeping it in movement, that has been alluded to by the words “pillars that you cannot see.”
    To be sure, what is true of the planetary system, is true of the Galactic system also. The same forces and the same movements explain the prevalent stability. Allah said v (30: 25):

    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ تَقُومَ السَّمَاءُ وَالْأَرْضُ بِأَمْرِهِ [الروم : 25]

    “And of His signs is that the heaven and earth stand (firm and stable) by His command.”
    The gravitational force is itself quite mysterious. How does it function? Some scientists believe that there must be sub-atomic particles that carry the force. They even call the supposed particles gravitons. The idea is old, but unproven. Obviously, if their existence is proven, it will only add to the mystery. So, perhaps, believing that Allah holds the earth and the heavens together by His Power, is not so unscientific (Au.).
    5. For explanation see Surah al-A`raf, verse 54, note 82 of this work.
    6. Majid comments: “So these awe-inspiring luminaries are mere helpless creatures, and there are no such absurd things as solar and lunar ‘gods’, whose cult has been common among polytheistic nations. ‘It is no exaggeration to say,’ observes Sir William Jones and Dr. E. B. Taylor, ‘that one great fountain of all idolatry in the four quarters of the globe was the veneration paid by men to the sun.’ (PC. II. p. 286). ‘Moon-worship, naturally ranking below sun-worship in importance, ranges through nearly the same district of culture’ (p. 299).”

    وَهُوَ الَّذِي مَدَّ الْأَرْضَ وَجَعَلَ فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنْهَارًا ۖ وَمِنْ كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ جَعَلَ فِيهَا زَوْجَيْنِ اثْنَيْنِ ۖ يُغْشِي اللَّيْلَ النَّهَارَ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (3)

    13|3| And He it is who stretched out the earth7 and placed thereon pegs8 and rivers.9 And of every fruit He placed there - in pairs of two.10 He covers the night with the day. Surely, in that are signs for a people who reflect.

    7. After having spoken of the world above man, Allah now speaks of the world below him: that of the earth (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Imam Razi remarks: Anything that is extended in a manner that the eye cannot circumscribe it, would be referred to as having been stretched.
    Alusi adds that during his time there were two schools of thought. One believed that the earth was flat while the other that it was spherical. Alusi’s own opinion is that it is spherical. He judges by the fact that to the eye it appears spherical; that in some parts of the world, the sun would have set but not in other parts, as also the fact that the heaven that covers the earth appears spherical. However, since the diameter is very large, to all appearances the surface of the earth appears stretched.
    8. Since the commentary on the thirtieth part of the Qur’an came to be written earlier than these chapters, the full significance of the Qur’anic usage of the term “rawasiyy” (sing.: ra’siyah) in place of the simple “mountain” can be seen in Surah Al-Naba’, note no. 4 (Au.).
    9. Majid comments, “‘Rivers are often worshipped as such - e.g., by the Celts who regard them as divine or as fertile mothers, while in Egypt the Nile was worshiped as a man’ (ERE, IX, p. 204). In India the cult of the Ganges, the Jamuna, the Sarju, the Bhagrithi, the Nerbada, and other rivers is too well known to need description.”
    10. Some classical commentators have speculated that Allah created two pairs of each fruit, each pair consisting of a male and a female, altogether four (Ibn Jarir).
    That said, one wonders if the allusion is to two pairs of primary tastes, totally four: salty, sour, sweet and bitter - in which case “thamarat” could be understood as every thing that Allah has created for human sustenance (Au.).

    وَفِي الْأَرْضِ قِطَعٌ مُتَجَاوِرَاتٌ وَجَنَّاتٌ مِنْ أَعْنَابٍ وَزَرْعٌ وَنَخِيلٌ صِنْوَانٌ وَغَيْرُ صِنْوَانٍ يُسْقَىٰ بِمَاءٍ وَاحِدٍ وَنُفَضِّلُ بَعْضَهَا عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ فِي الْأُكُلِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ (4)

    13|4| And in the earth (there are) neighboring tracts,11 vineyards, sown fields, and (several) palm trees growing out of a single root or otherwise12 (although), watered with one water.13 And We make some of them more delicious than others to eat. Verily, in these are signs for a people who think.

    11. That is, there is a great sign in the fact that two tracts of land, although neighboring, can be so different from each other in their constituents, that they yield entirely different kinds of crops (Ibn Jarir).
    Mawdudi elaborates, “God has caused the various regions of the world to differ from one another despite their contiguity. These regions differ in many respects - in their configuration, in their color, in their component elements, in their characteristics, properties and potentialities, in the produce which they yield and in the chemical and mineral deposits which are hidden under their surface. The variation and diversity thus found abounds in wisdom and leads to countless benefits. Let us disregard for a moment the benefits inherent in the diversity in respect of other species of creation and simply consider the benefits which accrue to human beings. In this regard it will be noted that there is a close correspondence between the diverse interests and purposes of man and the diversity which characterizes the different regions of the world. The result of all this manifest in the growth of an efflorescence of human culture and civilization.”
    12. Sometimes several trunks grow out of a single root. Each of the trunks in such a tree is “sinwun” to the other trunks, while the tree itself is known as “sinwaan.” Hence the Prophet’s statement, “A man’s uncle is the “sinwun” of his father” (Razi and others).

    وَإِنْ تَعْجَبْ فَعَجَبٌ قَوْلُهُمْ أَإِذَا كُنَّا تُرَابًا أَإِنَّا لَفِي خَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ ۗ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ الْأَغْلَالُ فِي أَعْنَاقِهِمْ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ (5)

    13|5| And, if you are amazed (at their disbelief) then, (truly) amazing is their saying, ‘When we have become dust, shall we be (brought out) in a renewed creation?’ These are a people who have denied their Lord, and these (are a people) with fetters on their necks.14 They are the companions of the Fire, abiding therein forever.

    13. Hasan has said that the allegorical allusion is to different kinds of men, like different kinds of soils. They are all watered with the same water: the revelation. But, some of them draw benefits from it, while others do not. Then he added, “By Allah no one sat with the Qur’an but rose up either with profit or loss” and recited the verse (17: 82):

    وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلَا يَزِيدُ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارًا [الإسراء : 82]

    “And We send down of the Qur’an what is a cure and a mercy to the believers. And the wrongdoers increase in nothing but loss” (Ibn Jarir).
    Thanwi mentions the difficulty that mentors face in producing men of their desire: “Thus, differences in potentialities and natural dispositions, despite commonality of the influencing factors, result in the production of variant kinds of men. There is nothing that a mentor can do about it.”
    14. Most of the classical scholars have understood the verse to mean that the deniers of truth shall have fetters in their necks in Hell-fire. But a few have believed that it refers to their self-adopted, self-shackling attitudes. Yusuf Ali combines the two meanings: “Aghlaal, yokes (of servitude): The punishment may be conceived of in two stages: yokes of servitude to superstition, falsehood, etc., as against the freedom in Faith; and finally, the Fire which burns the very soul.”

    وَيَسْتَعْجِلُونَكَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ قَبْلَ الْحَسَنَةِ وَقَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمُ الْمَثُلَاتُ ۗ وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَذُو مَغْفِرَةٍ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَىٰ ظُلْمِهِمْ ۖ وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَشَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ (6)

    13|6| And, they would have you (O Muhammad) hasten the evil before the good;15 yet exemplary (punishments) have preceded them.16 Surely, your Lord is full of forgiveness for mankind for their wrong-doing,17 but your Lord is also severe of chastisement.

    15. This refers to the demand made on the Prophet (saws) by the pagans to bring down the chastisement he promised, as a punishment for disbelief. The allusion could also be refers to their own words (8: 32),

    اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كَانَ هَذَا هُوَ الْحَقَّ مِنْ عِنْدِكَ فَأَمْطِرْ عَلَيْنَا حِجَارَةً مِنَ السَّمَاءِ أَوِ ائْتِنَا بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ [الأنفال : 32]

    “O Allah. If this be true from You, then rain down upon us stones from the heaven, or bring us a painful chastisement” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and others).
    Imam Razi offers another possibility: the Prophet used to announce tidings of Allah’s help and succor to those who accepted his call, as well as deliver threats to those who rejected. The unbelievers rejected the “good” tidings, and, accepting the “evil” ones, demanded that they be brought down upon them. This explains Allah’s words, “And they would have you hasten the evil before the good.”
    16. That is, “(The examples) of the destruction of ancient infidel nations, (have gone before them) and this ought to serve as an eye-opener” (Majid).
    The translation of “mathulaath” follows the explanation offered by Qatadah, Mujahid and Sha`bi. They said that the previous nations were either visited by destructive chastisements, or were transformed into apes and pigs: those were the mathulaath (Ibn Jarir).
    17. Hafiz Ibn ‘Asaakir notes in the biography of Hasan b. ‘Uthman b. Abu Hassan al-Ramadi that he saw his Lord in a dream with the Prophet before Him interceding on behalf of one of his followers. The Lord told him, “Is it not enough for you that I revealed to you in Surah al-Ra`d the verse, ‘Surely, your Lord is full of forgiveness for the mankind for their wrong-doing?” Hasan said, “At that point I woke up” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ ۗ إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مُنْذِرٌ ۖ وَلِكُلِّ قَوْمٍ هَادٍ (7)

    13|7| And, those who have disbelieved say, ‘Why has a (miraculous) sign not been sent down unto him from his Lord?’18 Surely, you are but a warner.19 And, to every people is a guide.20

    18. That is, why does he not he produce a miracle?
    Majid writes: “A miracle, in Islamic phraseology, is an event deviating from the usual course of events, appearing at the hands of him who claims to be a prophet, as a challenge to those who deny him, of such nature that it makes it impossible for them to produce the like of it. It is God’s testimony to the truth of his prophets, but clearly an act of God, not of the prophets.”
    Mawdudi adds: “The expression ‘[miraculous] sign’ here signifies the sign that would persuade the unbelievers to have faith in Muhammad (peace be on him) as God’s Messenger. Such was their mentality that they were not willing to appreciate the truth of the Prophet’s teaching even though they found that it was supported by weighty arguments and persuasive proofs. They were also not prepared to consider the excellence of the Prophet’s character as a strong testimony in support of the truth of his teachings. Nor were they prepared to take into account the full significance of the moral transformation which the Prophet’s teaching had brought about in the lives of the Companions. Nor did they pay any heed to the weighty arguments set out in the Qur’an which showed the hollowness of their polytheistic beliefs and the glaring errors of the superstitions to which they subscribed. They turned a blind eye to all these and insisted that they would believe only if they came across a miracle that would indisputably prove that the Prophet’s claim to Prophethood was true.”
    19. Yusuf Ali sees beyond the plain words. He comments, “The last sentence of this verse has usually been interpreted to mean that the Prophet’s function was merely to warn, and that guidance was sent by Allah to every nation through Prophet. I think the following interpretation is equally possible: ‘it is itself a Sign that Al-Mustafa should warn and preach and produce the Qur’an..”

    اللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَحْمِلُ كُلُّ أُنْثَىٰ وَمَا تَغِيضُ الْأَرْحَامُ وَمَا تَزْدَادُ ۖ وَكُلُّ شَيْءٍ عِنْدَهُ بِمِقْدَارٍ (8)

    13|8| Allah knows what every female bears, what the wombs fall short of or exceed,21 and everything with Him is in a (well-defined) measure.22

    20. Ibn ‘Abbas has interpreted the textual “haad” as “a caller,” while there are other interpretations too. But, as regards the hadith about ‘Ali as the “haad” of this Ummah, it is untrustworthy (Ibn Kathir).
    As for Hakim’s declaration that it is a trustworthy report, Alusi writes that generally, his judgment stands in need of cross-examination; secondly, if that is so, it proves Ahl al-Sunnah’s point rather than that of the Shi`ah who claim that the hadith in question proves that ‘Ali should have been the immediate successor of the Prophet. The point of the Ahl al-Sunnah is that if the hadith about ‘Ali as the “guide of this Ummah” be trustworthy, then he proved to be so, by obeying the authority and accepting the choice of the Ummah and submitting himself to the three caliphs that preceded him (leaving behind example of good conduct: Au.).
    Shafi` leads to another aspect of the meaning: Every nation has had (and will have) a guide: either a Messenger, or, one of his deputies among the later generations.
    21. The rendition is following the preference of the great majority. However, another understanding of “taghidu” and “tazdaadu” would render the meaning as, “shrinking and swelling of the wombs.”
    But the preferred opinion is expressed as follows. Some wombs bring forth babies in nine months, others in less, yet others in more number of days. According to Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid and several others, the allusion is to this variation (Ibn Jarir).
    22. Jurists have differed over the period of pregnancy. Most of them agree that while minimum is six months, maximum is four years. This is because there was a woman, wife of Muhammad b. `Ajlaan, during the time of the Companions, who gave birth thrice in 12 years, each time carrying the child for four years. They used to call her “the elephant bearer” (perhaps because of oversized infants born to her: Au.). Several cases were reported during the time of ‘Umar of women carrying for two years. Dahhak, the often quoted commentator of the Qur’an was himself in his mother’s womb for two years. He was named Dahhak (the laughing one) because at birth he already had teeth in his mouth. There was another person Haram b. Hibban, who was carried by his mother for four years, and was so named (haram: old man) because he looked much older than an infant at birth (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi).
    One of the Roman emperors is also reported to have had teeth at birth. Sociologists have noted that in ancient Christian times children born with teeth were considered bad omen and murdered at birth (Au.).

    عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ الْكَبِيرُ الْمُتَعَالِ (9)

    13|9| Knower of the unseen and the visible, the Great, the Exalted.23

    23. The textual word “muta`aal” defies translation in a single word. Asad writes, “God’s attribute muta`aal, which occurs in the Qur’an only in this one instance, denotes His exaltedness above anything existing or potential; also, according to Zamakhshari, above anything that could be circumscribed by human definitions.”
    Yusuf Ali comments on the text, “A verse of matchless rhythm in Arabic.”

    سَوَاءٌ مِنْكُمْ مَنْ أَسَرَّ الْقَوْلَ وَمَنْ جَهَرَ بِهِ وَمَنْ هُوَ مُسْتَخْفٍ بِاللَّيْلِ وَسَارِبٌ بِالنَّهَارِ (10)

    13|10| Equal unto Him of you is he who conceals his speech and he who pronounces it, one who seeks to conceal himself by the night or walks forth freely by the day.

    لَهُ مُعَقِّبَاتٌ مِنْ بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ يَحْفَظُونَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ ۗ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ ۚ وَمَا لَهُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ مِنْ وَالٍ (11)

    13|11| For him there are attendant (angels),24 before him and behind him, guarding over him by Allah’s command.25 Verily, Allah changes not what is with a people until they change what is within themselves.26 When Allah intends evil for a people, there is no turning it away, and they do not have besides Him a protector.

    24. The textual word “mu`aqqibaat” bears several connotations. One is expressed in the following note. Another connotation would render the translation as “followers” since they follow men’s deeds and write them down meticulously (Alusi).
    25. The allusion is to the guardian angels attached to every soul guarding him or her from harm, unless Allah wills otherwise. According to a hadith in Abu Da’ud, these angels guard man from falling into potholes, slip down from top of walls, escape flying objects, etc., unless Allah wills otherwise. When He does, they move away. According to Ka`b, life would be impossible if Allah removed these angels (Alusi, Shafi`).
    One of the angels is positioned at the front while the other at the rear. They change their duties morning and evening. There are two others, one at the right hand side and another at the left. These two write down the deeds. The one on the right records good deeds while the other at left records evil deeds. Thus, every man has four angels with him at any time: four during the day, and four at night. Says a hadith of Bukhari,

    يَتَعَاقَبُونَ فِيكُمْ مَلَائِكَةٌ بِاللَّيْلِ وَمَلَائِكَةٌ بِالنَّهَارِ وَيَجْتَمِعُونَ فِي صَلَاةِ الْعَصْرِ وَصَلَاةِ الْفَجْرِ ثُمَّ يَعْرُجُ الَّذِينَ بَاتُوا فِيكُمْ فَيَسْأَلُهُمْ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِكُمْ فَيَقُولُ كَيْفَ تَرَكْتُمْ عِبَادِي فَيَقُولُونَ تَرَكْنَاهُمْ وَهُمْ يُصَلُّونَ وَأَتَيْنَاهُمْ وَهُمْ يُصَلُّونَ

    “Angels of morning and evening remain with you in succession. They get together at Fajr and ‘Asr Prayer-times. When those who were with you rise up to Him (Allah), He asks, although He knows, ‘In what state did you leave My slaves?’ They reply, ‘When we went to them, they were in Prayers. And when we left them they were in Prayers.’”
    Another hadith says,

    إياكم والتعري فإن معكم من لايفارقكم إلا عند الغائط وحين يفضي الرجل إلى أهله فاستحيوهم وأكرموهم

    “Do not get naked. With you are those who do not part company with you except when you are in the washroom or when a man goes into his wife. Therefore, feel shy of them and honor them” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above is in Tirmidhi who rated it as Hasan (Au.).
    Thanwi’s understanding of this passage (verses 9-11) could be paraphrased in the following manner: “Knower of the Unseen and the visible, the Great, the Exalted. Equal unto Him of you is he who conceals his speech and he who pronounces it, whether he lies concealed by the night or walks forth freely by the day.” [That is, he knows about everything, about every person; and, He also guards everyone, so that], “attached to him are successive (angels), in front of him and behind him, guarding over him by Allah’s command.” [But, Allah’s protection should not lead the people to believe that they can do as they wish. Rather, although it is true that Allah does not punish without crime, but when they rebel, the protection is withdrawn]. “Verily, Allah changes not what [of the good] is with a people until they change what is in themselves” [changing the good to evil. So that], “Whensoever Allah intends evil for a people, there is no turning it back, and they do not have besides Him a protector.” [Not even the guardian angels can do anything for them in that event].

    26. There is no difference in opinion among the commentators of the Qur’an that Allah does not withdraw a blessing in which a people find themselves until they change themselves towards the worse, by way of corruption and evil-doing (Razi).
    Mufti Shafi` warns against an error of understanding commonly spread in our times. He writes: The opposite of the principle enunciated in this verse has not been meant and is not always true.

    هُوَ الَّذِي يُرِيكُمُ الْبَرْقَ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَيُنْشِئُ السَّحَابَ الثِّقَالَ (12)

    13|12| He it is who shows you the lightning, driving fear and evoking hope, and generates the heavy clouds.

    وَيُسَبِّحُ الرَّعْدُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ مِنْ خِيفَتِهِ وَيُرْسِلُ الصَّوَاعِقَ فَيُصِيبُ بِهَا مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَهُمْ يُجَادِلُونَ فِي اللَّهِ وَهُوَ شَدِيدُ الْمِحَالِ (13)

    13|13| The thunder27 extols His glory,28 and (so do) the angels in awe of Him. He sends the thunderbolts and strikes therewith whom He will, while they are disputing about Allah.29 And He is Mighty in Power.30

    27. A report in Tirmidhi, which he rated as Sahih, as well as in Nasa’i and Ahmad narrates the Prophet (saws) as having said that “Ra`d” is the name of an angel who drives the clouds. However, (since the Prophet did not refer specifically to this verse: Au.), the allusion here could either be to an angel, or to the literal meaning, viz., thunder (Alusi).
    Majid writes: “Compare and contrast the attitude of various polytheistic peoples. ‘Thunder was one of the great gods of the Germans.’ (Menziez, History of Religions, p. 29). ‘The place of the Thunder-god in polytheistic religion is similar to that of the Rain-god, in many cases even to entire coincidence. But his character is rather of wrath than of beneficence.’ (PC. II. p. 262).”
    How firmly and fully Islam did away with irrationalism can be judged from the following, although for fuller appreciation one might remember that a thousand years ago the world was steeped in ignorance, and, mythology was the mainstay of the people’s religion. No one knew anything about the cycle that brought rains, or had any idea what caused thunder and lightning. Yet, even at that time, the Muslims firmly rejected irrational ideas. Zamakhshari remarks at this point in his commentary, (not without sarcasm): “Among the innovations of the (ignorant) Sufis can be counted their belief that “Ra`d” is the roar of the angels, that lightning the panting of their hearts, and rains their tears!”
    28. One of the Banu Ghifaar who accompanied the Prophet said that he heard the Prophet say,

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

    “Verily, Allah generated the clouds so that they speak the best of speeches and laugh the best of laughter.” And, it is explained that by “speech” the Prophet meant their thunder, and by “laugh” he meant their lightning (Shawkani).
    The hadith is in Ahmad and in “Majma`” about which Haythami remarked that it is trustworthy (S. Ibrahim).
    It is reported of the Prophet, that when he heard the thunder, he would say,

    اللّهُمّ لا تَقْتُلْنَا بِغَضَبِكَ وَلا تُهْلِكْنَا بِعَذَابِكَ وعَافِنَا قَبْلَ ذَلِكَ.

    “O Allah, do not kill us out of Your anger, do not destroy us by Your chastisement, and protect us until then.”
    The report is in Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and in Bukhari’s Kitab al-Adab, (Adab al-Mufrad: Alusi) - Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir.
    Tirmidhi himself judged the above report as weak, but Hakim remarked that it has the chain of Sahih reports (Au.).
    A hadith in Ahmad reports the Prophet as having said,


    لَوْ أَنَّ عِبَادِي أَطَاعُونِي لَأَسْقَيْتُهُمْ الْمَطَرَ بِاللَّيْلِ وَأَطْلَعْتُ عَلَيْهِمْ الشَّمْسَ بِالنَّهَارِ وَلَمَا أَسْمَعْتُهُمْ صَوْتَ الرَّعْدِ

    “Your Lord says, ‘If My slaves were to obey Me, I would send the rains at night, expose them to the sun during the day, and never let them hear the sound of thunder.’”
    The above narrative is in Ahmad declared weak by Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut (Au.).
    29. Anas reports as immediate context of revelation that,

    بعث النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم مرة رجلا إلى رجل من فراعنة العرب أن ادعه لي قال يا رسول الله إنه أعتى من ذلك قال اذهب إليه فادعه قال فأتاه فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يدعوك قال أرسول الله وما الله أمن ذهب هو أم من فضة هو أمن نحاس هو فرجع إلى النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم فقال يا رسول الله قد أخبرتك أنه أعتى من ذلك وأخبر النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم بما قال قال فارجع إليه فادعه فرجع فأعاد عليه المقالة الأولى فرد عليه مثل الجواب فأتى النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم فأخبره فقال ارجع إليه فادعه فرجع إليه فبينما هما يتراجعان الكلام بينهما إذ بعث الله سحابة حيال رأسه فرعدت ووقعت منها صاعقة فذهبت بقحف رأسه وأنزل الله عز و جل { ويرسل الصواعق فيصيب بها من يشاء وهم يجادلون في الله }

    “The Prophet sent one of his men to one of the Pharaohs of the Arabs asking him to come to him. The man said, “Messenger of Allah, he is more arrogant than that.” The Prophet said, “Go and call him to me.” So he went and told him that the Prophet wished to see him. He replied, “Who is this Prophet of Allah? And who is Allah? Is He made of gold, or silver or copper?” The Prophet’s envoy returned and told him what had happened. The Prophet (saws) told him, “Go and call him to me.” So he went again. The man replied in the same manner. He went back and reported to the Prophet. He told him to go again and call him. So he went up to the man a third time. As the two stood exchanging words, Allah sent forth a piece of cloud with lightning. A thunderbolt struck the man on the head and killed him. Allah revealed, “He sends the thunder-bolts and strikes therewith whom He will, while they are disputing about Allah.”
    This report is in Sunan al-Nasa’i al-Kbra, Musnad Abu Ya`la and Tabarani with trustworthy chainS: Haythami (Au.).
    Another narration has it that two men Arbad and `Amir b. Dawsi went to the Prophet. `Amir asked, “Muhammad. Shall I become a Muslim on the condition that I should be the chief after you?” The Prophet refused. He asked, “Alright. You be the chief over the city dwellers and I over the desert dwellers.” The Prophet refused. `Amir said, “I will bring waves of `Amir riders on Madinah and destroy you.” Then the two tried to kill him treacherously, but the intended killer’s hand froze. They left him. On their way back, one of them, Arbad, was killed by a thunderbolt while the other by a boil in his body as big as a camel’s hump. And Allah revealed this verse. Some poems have also been said about the two (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir - shortened).
    Ibn Kathir recalls the Prophet’s prophecy as reported by Abu Sa`id al-Khudri and preserved by Ahmad,

    تَكْثُرُ الصَّوَاعِقُ عِنْدَ اقْتِرَابِ السَّاعَةِ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ الرَّجُلُ الْقَوْمَ فَيَقُولَ مَنْ صَعِقَ تِلْكُمْ الْغَدَاةَ فَيَقُولُونَ صَعِقَ فُلَانٌ وَفُلَانٌ

    “Thunderbolts will increase their frequency near the end of the world until a man visiting a people will ask, “Who was struck by the thunderbolt yesterday?” They will say, “So and so, and so and so were struck by it” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above hadith is, according to Arna’ut Sahih (Au.).
    30. The textual term “shadeed al-mihaal” has been understood variously. A variant meaning is suggested by Raaghib, as also by several commentators. In the words of Asad, “.. shadid al-mihal .. signifies ‘powerful in contriving, in a manner hidden from man, that wherein wisdom lies.’”

    لَهُ دَعْوَةُ الْحَقِّ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ لَا يَسْتَجِيبُونَ لَهُمْ بِشَيْءٍ إِلَّا كَبَاسِطِ كَفَّيْهِ إِلَى الْمَاءِ لِيَبْلُغَ فَاهُ وَمَا هُوَ بِبَالِغِهِ ۚ وَمَا دُعَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ إِلَّا فِي ضَلَالٍ (14)

    13|14| To Him in truth are devotions due. As for those they invoke besides Him, they do not respond to them with anything, except as one who stretches out his hands towards water so that it may reach his mouth; but it is not going to reach it. The invocations of the unbelievers is nothing but in vain.31

    31. Majid quotes from Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, “‘Belief in the one Deity, sovereign in the universe, carries with it a sense of security and of elevation which has an ennobling influence on thought and life. It makes man strong and free in the world. Here is the secret of the transformation which Islam effects from the African animist ... the monotheist ... lifts his face to heaven and gives his worship to the Supreme alone, and asks help from a Power which, he is assured, has no rival’ (X. p. 171).”

    وَلِلَّهِ يَسْجُدُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ طَوْعًا وَكَرْهًا وَظِلَالُهُمْ بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ ۩ (15)

    13|15| And, unto Allah prostrates itself everything that is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and (so do) their shadows mornings and evenings.32

    32. What is the manner of prostration of the animate and the inanimate objects? Muhammad Asad explains: “The expression yasjudu (‘prostrate himself’ or ‘prostrate themselves’) is a metonym for complete submission to His will (Zamakhshari), that is, to the natural laws decreed by Him with regard to everything that exists. According to most of the classical commentators, those who submit to God willingly (i.e., consciously) are the angels and the believers, whereas the deniers of the truth, who are ‘not willing’ to submit to Him, are nevertheless, without being conscious of it, subject to His will. However, in view of the subsequent references to ‘shadows’ it is logical to assume that the relative pronoun ‘man’ relates in this context not only to conscious beings but also to all other physical objects, whether animate or inanimate - i.e., to ‘all things and beings that are in the heavens and the earth.’”

    قُلْ مَنْ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ قُلِ اللَّهُ ۚ قُلْ أَفَاتَّخَذْتُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ لِأَنْفُسِهِمْ نَفْعًا وَلَا ضَرًّا ۚ قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الْأَعْمَىٰ وَالْبَصِيرُ أَمْ هَلْ تَسْتَوِي الظُّلُمَاتُ وَالنُّورُ ۗ أَمْ جَعَلُوا لِلَّهِ شُرَكَاءَ خَلَقُوا كَخَلْقِهِ فَتَشَابَهَ الْخَلْقُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ قُلِ اللَّهُ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ (16)

    13|16| Ask, ‘Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?’ Say, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘Have you then taken protectors other than Him - those who have no power of good or harm over their own selves?’ Say, ‘Are equal the blind and the seeing, or, are equal darkness and Light?’ Or, have they assigned partners to Allah who created the like of His creation, so that the creations are confusing to them? Say, ‘Allah is the Creator of all things and He is One, the Irresistible.’

    أَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَابِيًا ۚ وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَاءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِثْلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنْفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ (17)

    13|17| He sent down water from the heaven and the valleys flow according to their capacity,33 and the torrent carries rising scum.34 And from what they heat up on fire, seeking ornaments or ware, (there also rises up) scum in the like manner. That is how Allah coins (the similitude of) the truth and falsehood. As for the scum, it stays back as scum on the banks. But, as for what benefits the people, it abides in the earth. That is how Allah strikes similitudes.35

    33. That is, the valleys hold water according to their size, some less, some more (Razi, Qurtubi and others). Another possibility, and the more likely, is that Allah sends water to the valleys in quantities determined by Him (Alusi).
    34. The textual word “raabiya” is from “rabw” and has the connotation of something that has swelled to appear bigger than its true size (Ibn Jarir); hence the word “riba.” And, this is the reality of falsehood: puffed up, blown to an enormous size, but without substance (Au.).
    35. These are examples of truth and falsehood: one abiding, the other perishing. From Ibn `Abbas we have two interpretations. To paraphrase what he said, “He sends down water from the heaven and the valleys flow according to their capacity,” i.e., this is an example of the hearts and what of belief or skepticism that they hold within them, each in according to its measure. [That is, the “valleys” of the example are “hearts”]; and no deed is profitable when it is accompanied by doubts. It is pure belief alone that is beneficial to the people. “As for the scum, it vanishes, (being) cast out.” The scum here is equivalent of doubts and skepticism. “But, as for what profits the people, it abides in the earth:” that is, true faith abides. As metals are heated on the fire, for extraction of the pure and separation of the impure, in the like manner Allah accepts true faith and rejects that which is adulterated with doubts and skepticism.
    Another interpretation coming from him, (and of course, the two are reconcilable) is as follows: “He sends down water from the heaven and the valleys flow according to their capacity. The torrent carries the rising scum,” i.e., the torrents pick up the straws and pieces of trash and such other things on their way; “and from what they heat on fire,” such as gold, silver and other metals which also carry impurities with them, which are also as useless as the scum carried by the torrents is. “As for what profits the people:” just as water benefits the land, the good deeds of a believer are of profit to him; but evil deeds are washed away as scum is washed away. This is the example of the truth that has come from Allah. Whosoever lived by what Allah sent, will have it with him (on the Judgment Day), as water that remains behind in the valleys. Similarly, a knife, or a sword cannot be made until iron is heated on the fire for it to eat away its impurities, and, for the rest to emerge and last as the pure, useful. In the like manner, truth will last on the Day of Judgment, and its upholders will benefit from it, while falsehood will vanish with its upholders left in loss (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    The same point has been brought out through a hadith to be found in the Sahihayn. It reports the Prophet as saying,

    إِنَّ مَثَلَ مَا بَعَثَنِى اللَّهُ بِهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ مِنَ الْهُدَى وَالْعِلْمِ كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَصَابَ أَرْضًا فَكَانَتْ مِنْهَا طَائِفَةٌ طَيِّبَةٌ قَبِلَتِ الْمَاءَ فَأَنْبَتَتِ الْكَلأَ وَالْعُشْبَ الْكَثِيرَ وَكَانَ مِنْهَا أَجَادِبُ أَمْسَكَتِ الْمَاءَ فَنَفَعَ اللَّهُ بِهَا النَّاسَ فَشَرِبُوا مِنْهَا وَسَقَوْا وَرَعَوْا وَأَصَابَ طَائِفَةً مِنْهَا أُخْرَى إِنَّمَا هِىَ قِيعَانٌ لاَ تُمْسِكُ مَاءً وَلاَ تُنْبِتُ كَلأً فَذَلِكَ مَثَلُ مَنْ فَقُهَ فِى دِينِ اللَّهِ وَنَفَعَهُ بِمَا بَعَثَنِى اللَّهُ بِهِ فَعَلِمَ وَعَلَّمَ وَمَثَلُ مَنْ لَمْ يَرْفَعْ بِذَلِكَ رَأْسًا وَلَمْ يَقْبَلْ هُدَى اللَّهِ الَّذِى أُرْسِلْتُ بِهِ

    “The example of the guidance and knowledge that Allah sent me with is like rain that fell on a tract of land. There was a tract that absorbed water and brought forth grass, shrubs and woods. Another tract was a hard patch. It held water which Allah proved beneficial for the people: they drank, watered their cattle and fields, and cultivated the land. Then there was a tract that was totally barren: it neither held water nor brought forth any vegetation. Such is the example of the one who acquired religious understanding and profited from what Allah sent me with. He proved himself of benefit to others: learning and teaching. It is also the example of him who did not lift his head and did not accept the guidance that Allah sent me with” (Ibn Kathir).
    Sayyid Qutb sheds light from another perspective: “This is the example of truth and falsehood in the life of this world. Falsehood rises up, swims, is puffed up, and in all appearances looks like growing and overshadowing everything. But, it remains what in reality it is: scum, impurity. It is not long before it dries up and is cast away. It has not a real existence and does not enjoy true hold. In contrast, truth is slow, cool and noiseless, so that, sometimes people get to feel that it has withdrawn itself, or has gone into hiding, or is lost, or is dead. But, it remains on the earth, just like life-giving water and useful minerals, benefiting the people: that is how Allah strikes similitudes.”
    Note a few contrasts drawn by the Qur’an in this passage (verses 1-17):
    Verses of the Book and that which has been sent down;
    raised the heavens, assumed Istawa’ on the ‘Arsh;
    the sun and the moon;
    directs the affair, explains the verses;
    (fixed) mountains, (flowing) rivers;
    (of every fruit) pairs of two;
    the night, the day;
    tracts neighboring;
    vine orchards, sown fields;
    (palm trees from a) single root and several;
    (if) amazed, (more) amazing;
    evil before the good;
    Forgiving, Severe of chastisement;
    a warner and a guide;
    (wombs) fall short of or exceed;
    the Unseen and the Seen;
    the Great, the Exalted.
    conceal (the speech or) pronounce (it);
    by the night, by the day;
    (successive angels), before him and behind him;
    He alters not until they alter;
    lightning: driving fear and evoking hope;
    thunder extols glory, as do the angels;
    prayers: worthy and in vain;
    the heavens and the earth;
    willingly or unwillingly;
    (shadows) mornings and evenings.
    Lord of the heavens, and the earth;
    (equal) the blind and the seeing;
    darkness and light;
    The Creator and those associated;
    The One, the Irresistible;
    water and scum;
    ornaments and ordinary ware;
    truth and falsehood.
    One may continue with the rest of the passages to further the list. Moreover, this is apparent to a cursory look; within the verses there are other beautifully drawn contrasts, all pointing to the inescapable conclusion that no human could have produced this Qur’an (Au., with a point from Sayyid).

    لِلَّذِينَ اسْتَجَابُوا لِرَبِّهِمُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ لَمْ يَسْتَجِيبُوا لَهُ لَوْ أَنَّ لَهُمْ مَا فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا وَمِثْلَهُ مَعَهُ لَافْتَدَوْا بِهِ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ سُوءُ الْحِسَابِ وَمَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ ۖ وَبِئْسَ الْمِهَادُ (18)

    13|18| For those who responded to their Lord, there are good (things). As regards those who did not respond to Him, if they possessed all that is in the earth, and the like of it along with it, they would surely (seek to) ransom themselves therewith. Those - theirs shall be an evil reckoning;36 their abode is Jahannum, an evil place of rest.

    36. Shahr b. Hawshab is reported to have said that an evil reckoning signifies that nothing of their evil deeds will be forgiven (Ibn Jarir). The same is reported of Ibrahim Nakha`i (Qurtubi).

    أَفَمَنْ يَعْلَمُ أَنَّمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ الْحَقُّ كَمَنْ هُوَ أَعْمَىٰ ۚ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ (19)

    13|19| Is he then who knows that what has been sent down to you by your Lord is the truth, the same as one who is blind? Surely, it is men of understanding who receive admonition.37

    37. Commenting on “it is men of understanding who receive admonition” Thanwi writes that Allah’s usage of the term “ulu al-albab” (which can also be rendered as, “men of intelligence”) leads us to believe that whosoever is endowed with qualities as stated here and in the verses that follow, is an “intelligent” man (in Allah’s sight), even if he does not happen to be very clever in worldly affairs. In contrast, those who lack these qualities are not intelligent, even if they are clever in worldly affairs.

    الَّذِينَ يُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِ اللَّهِ وَلَا يَنْقُضُونَ الْمِيثَاقَ (20)

    13|20| Those who fulfill Allah’s covenant38 and break not the compact.39

    38. Allah’s covenant! What is it? Imam Razi deals with it in some detail. He writes: Several explanations can be offered in connection with Allah’s words, “Those who fulfill Allah’s covenant.” First, as Ibn `Abbas has said, the allusion is to the covenant taken by Allah from the human souls before their creation while they were yet in Adam’s loins, asking them, “Am I not your Lord?” Second, the term “Allah’s covenant” includes every right thing (that the humans ought to be doing) following the demands of reason and good sense. Of this second kind, there are two types: 1) Those things that are so proved through intellectual reasoning. These do not accept abrogation or alteration. And 2) Those things that are so proved by Revelation. Allah’s covenant covers everything that has an unequivocal evidence in its favor: either rational or revelational. In fact, the word covenant is synonymous with evidence. And there is no covenant stronger than evidential proofs (that the humans are shown as Allah’s signs). In short, anything that an irrefutable evidence indicates as the right thing to do, is something the human beings are bound to do. This is the covenant of Allah in its fullest sense.
    Asad adds: “A covenant is, in this context, a general term embracing the spiritual obligations arising from one’s faith in God and the moral and social obligations, resulting from that faith, towards one’s fellow-men (Zamakhshari).
    Qurtubi takes up another issue, viz., avoiding violation of the covenant once entered into. `Awf b. Malik reports,

    كُنَّا عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- تِسْعَةً أَوْ ثَمَانِيَةً أَوْ سَبْعَةً فَقَالَ « أَلاَ تُبَايِعُونَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ » وَكُنَّا حَدِيثَ عَهْدٍ بِبَيْعَةٍ فَقُلْنَا قَدْ بَايَعْنَاكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ. ثُمَّ قَالَ « أَلاَ تُبَايِعُونَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ». فَقُلْنَا قَدْ بَايَعْنَاكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ. ثُمَّ قَالَ « أَلاَ تُبَايِعُونَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ». قَالَ فَبَسَطْنَا أَيْدِيَنَا وَقُلْنَا قَدْ بَايَعْنَاكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ فَعَلاَمَ نُبَايِعُكَ قَالَ « عَلَى أَنْ تَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلاَ تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا وَالصَّلَوَاتِ الْخَمْسِ وَتُطِيعُوا - وَأَسَرَّ كَلِمَةً خَفِيَّةً - وَلاَ تَسْأَلُوا النَّاسَ شَيْئًا »

    “Once some eight, or nine, or seven of us were sitting with the Prophet when he suggested, ‘Will you not enter into a compact with the Messenger of Allah?’ Since we had recently given our allegiance to him we said, ‘We have already entered into a compact with you.’ ِAfter a while he said, ‘Will you not enter into a compact with the Messenger of Allah?’ We said, ‘But we have already entered into allegiance with you. But again he said, ‘Will you not enter into a compact with the Messenger of Allah?’ So we stretched our hands and said, ‘We have already given our allegiance to you, so what is this new compact about?’ He said, ‘That you will worship Allah alone without associating aught with Him. That you shall pray five times, listen and obey - and, lowering his voice - you will not ask the people for anything.’”
    So, `Awf the narrator added, some of those who were there at that time, would not in their life ask anyone for anything to the extent that if he was riding a beast and his whip fell down, he would not ask anyone to pick it up for him. He would rather dismount to pick it up himself.
    When Abu Hamza the Khurasani - who was a man of great devotion - heard of this report he said, “O Allah. Those people saw the Prophet and entered into a compact with him. I give my word to You that I shall not ask anyone for anything.” Now, once he went for pilgrimage and as he had separated out from the rest near Syria, he fell into a well that had not been hedged. He was reminded of his promise and said to himself that he would not ask anyone for help. It should so happen that as some people were passing by, they saw the hole in the ground and said to each other that someone could fall into it. So they covered it with wooden planks. As they were working, Abu Hamza thought he should seek help but was reminded of his own resolve. They sealed the opening and went away. He blamed himself for not asking their help but decided firmly on faith in Allah. As he sat in there with no hopes, someone lowered a hand and said, ‘Here. Let me pull you out.’ However, when he came out he found no one there. Then he heard a voice saying, ‘How was the reward for placing trust in Allah?’”
    But when Ibn Jawzi heard the story he disagreed with Abu Hamza and remarked, “After all, the Prophet himself had sought help of the people in connection with his various affairs.” To abandon the means is not tawakkul. In fact, Sufyan Thawri has said that if someone was hungry, but did not ask until he died, he committed suicide. Ibn Jawzi also said that although the help (that came to Abu Hamza) cannot be denied, it can be explained as Allah’s rescue of an ignorant man. Following the rules, he was required to seek help when he was in the well. Not doing that, he was playing with his life which is a gift of Allah in man’s trust.
    Quotation from Qurtubi ends here.
    39. We have a hadith in this connection:
    لَا إِيمَانَ لِمَنْ لَا أَمَانَةَ لَهُ وَلَا دِينَ لِمَنْ لَا عَهْدَ لَهُ
    “He has no faith who is not trustworthy and he has no religion who does not keep promises.”
    The version above is from Ahmad, treated as trustworthy by Aran’aut (Au.).
    Imam Razi comments: To keep one’s promise has the backing of both reason as well as revelation. The Prophet has said, “Whoever gave a promise, and then betrayed, bears one of the traits of hypocrisy.” In another report brought to us by Abu Hurayrah (and preserved by Bukhari: Au.), he said,

    قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ : ثَلاثَةٌ أَنَا خَصْمُهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ، وَمَنْ كُنْتُ خَصْمُهُ خَصَمْتُهُ : رَجُلٌ أَعْطَى بِي ثُمَّ غَدَرَ ، وَرَجُلٌ بَاعَ حُرًّا فَأَكَلَ ثَمَنَهُ ، وَرَجُلٌ اسْتَأْجَرَ أَجِيرًا فَاسْتَوْفَى مِنْهُ وَلَمْ يُوفِهِ

    Allah Most Hight said, “There are three against whom I shall be disputing on the Judgment Day. And when I dispute against someone, he will be destroyed: A man who gave his word in My Name and then betrayed; a man who purchased a free man, then sold him as a slave and devoured the price; and a man who hired another, took his labor and then did not pay him in full.”
    It is reported that once Mu`awiyyah wished to break the implication of a treaty he had entered into with the Romans. But he was prevented by a Companion.
    See Surah Al-Anfal note 103 of this work (Au.).

    وَالَّذِينَ يَصِلُونَ مَا أَمَرَ اللَّهُ بِهِ أَنْ يُوصَلَ وَيَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ وَيَخَافُونَ سُوءَ الْحِسَابِ (21)

    13|21| Those who unite what Allah has commanded be united,40 fear their Lord,41 and dread an evil reckoning.

    40. Ibn Jurayj reported,

    إذا لم تمش إلى ذي رحمك برجلك ولم تعطه من مالك فقد قطعته

    “We have been told that the Prophet said, ‘If you did not walk with your feet to your kinsfolk, and did not share your wealth with them, then, you snapped ties with them’” (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Jurayj was not a Companion, and his report could not be traced in any Hadith collection (Au.)
    Zamakhshari expands on the issue of ties and bonds. In the words of Asad: “This refers to all ties arising from human relationships - e.g., the bonds of the family, responsibility for the orphans and the poor, the mutual rights and duties of neighbors - as well as the spiritual and practical bonds which ought to exist between all who belong to the brotherhood of Islam. In its widest sense, the phrase ‘what God has bidden to be joined’ applies to the spiritual obligation, on the part of man, to remain conscious of the unity of purpose underlying God’s creation, and hence - according to Razi - man’s moral duty to treat all living beings with love and compassion.”
    Razi wrote, “It includes the duty to those related by blood as well as those related by spiritual bonds: Allah said, ‘Believers are brothers unto each other.’ In practical term it would imply helping the needy, preventing harms that threaten to strike them - such as those that are within one’s means - visiting the sick, attending funerals, spreading Salam among the Muslims, smiling in their faces, and being good to animals. It is said that,

    وعن / الفضيل بن عياض رحمه الله أن جماعة دخلوا عليه بمكة فقال: من أين أنتم ؟ قالوا: من خراسان. فقال: اتقوا الله وكونوا من حيث شئتم، واعلموا أن العبد لو أحسن كل الإحسان وكان له دجاجة فأساء إليها لم يكن من المحسنين

    Some people entered upon Fudayl b. `Iyad in Makkah. He asked them, “Where are you from?” They said, “We are from Khurasan.” He said, “Fear Allah, and then you can live where you will. Remember, if a man was good towards everyone to the extreme limits, but did not treat well the chickens that he owns, he will not be counted among those who ‘do good.’”
    41. What is the difference between “khashyah” and “khawf” both of which are translated as “fear”? “Khashyah” has an element of love, respect and admiration concealed in the primary meaning of fear that the word lends, but which the word “khawf” lacks (Shafi`).
    Khawf sounds more brutal than khashyah which, in contrast, carries some subtlety (Au.).

    وَالَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا ابْتِغَاءَ وَجْهِ رَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنْفَقُوا مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ سِرًّا وَعَلَانِيَةً وَيَدْرَءُونَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ السَّيِّئَةَ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ (22)

    13|22| And, those who patiently persevere seeking their Lord’s countenance,42 attend to the Prayers, expend out of what We have provided them, secretly and openly, and ward off evil with good;43 they, for them is the Ultimate Abode.44

    42. Imam Razi writes: It is reported that Shaqiq b. Ibrahim the Balthami visited `Abdullah ibn Mubarak without revealing his identity. He inquired, “Where are you from?” He replied, “From Balkh.” Ibn Mubarak asked, “Do you happen to know Shaqiq?” He said, “Yes.” He asked, “How do you find his disciples?” Shaqiq replied, “Well, when they are denied, they observe patience, and when they are bestowed, they give thanks.” Ibn Mubarak remarked, “This is the quality of our dogs. Perfect are those who, when denied, give thanks, and when bestowed, give preference (and pass on) to others.”
    43. Yusuf Ali has a nice comment on this passage: “In this section the contrast between Faith and Righteousness on the one hand and Infidelity and Evil on the other is set out. The righteous man is known as one who
    (1) receives admonition;
    (2) is true to his covenants;
    (3) follows the universal Religion of Faith and Practice joined together;
    (4) is patient and persevering in seeking Allah; and in practical matters he is known to be;
    (5) regular in prayer;
    (6) generous in true charity, whether open or secret; and
    (7) not revengeful, but anxious to turn off evil with good, thus breaking the chain of evil which tends to perpetuate itself.”
    44. This can have two explanations. One, these are a people who, when they commit an evil, immediately follow up with a virtuous act. The Prophet (saws) told Mua`adh,
    أَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ تَمْحُهَا
    “And follow up an evil deed with a virtuous one, it will erase it.”
    Second, they do not retaliate evil with evil, rather, respond to evil with what is good (Razi and others).
    Mawdudi expands on the theme, “The conduct of the believers has been aptly portrayed in the following saying of the Prophet (peace be on him): ‘Do not follow the ways of the others, saying, “If they do good, we will also do good to them; but if others wrong us, we will also wrong them.” Discipline yourself to a principle. If people do good to you, do good to them; and if they mistreat you, [still] refrain from being unjust’ (Tirmidhi).
    “Of similar import,” continues Mawdudi, “is the tradition in which the Prophet (peace be on him) mentions that his Lord had enjoined nine commands. Four of those commands are as follows: ‘That I should speak with justice in anger and happiness; that I should render the right of him who deprives me; that I should give him who denies me; that I should forgive him who wrongs me.’ Another tradition expresses the same idea in another saying of the Prophet (peace be on him): ‘Do not betray him who betrays you’ (Tirmidhi).”
    Shabbir points out that forgiving the evil-doer should only be practiced when it is not feared that forgiving will lead to further wrongdoing.

    جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ يَدْخُلُونَهَا وَمَنْ صَلَحَ مِنْ آبَائِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجِهِمْ وَذُرِّيَّاتِهِمْ ۖ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ يَدْخُلُونَ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ كُلِّ بَابٍ (23)

    13|23| Gardens of perpetual bliss45 which they shall enter - they and those who were righteous from among their parents, spouses and offspring.46 And the angels entering upon them by every portal.

    45. Dahhak has said that ‘Adn is a city in Paradise wherein Messengers, Prophets, martyrs and those who guided to righteousness will dwell. There would be paradises around them in which other people would dwell (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). There have been other interpretations too. See Al-Tawbah, note 154 of this work.
    46. That is, parents, spouses and the offspring, although righteous, might not deserve the same rank and level of Paradise, but in honor of this exemplary soul, would be allowed into the same rank and level. In fact, Ibn `Abbas has said that they could be very ordinary believers. Wahidi has pointed out that if they happen to be believers of the same quality as he, then their entry would be on their own merits and cannot be considered a favor shown to him. Therefore, they would have to be of lower status granted a Paradise of higher rank, for the pleasure of the higher rank of the person in discussion. Further, as Razi has pointed out, the rule is both for man and woman, husband and wife: whoever is of higher rank will have the other with him or her in Paradise in honor of his or her true faith and righteous deeds (Alusi and others).
    The opinion of Ibn `Abbas can be corroborated with another Qur’anic verse. It says (52: 21),

    وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَاتَّبَعَتْهُمْ ذُرِّيَّتُهُمْ بِإِيمَانٍ أَلْحَقْنَا بِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ [الطور : 21]

    “As for those who believed, and their progeny followed them in faith, We shall join them with their progeny.”
    However, (putting together the two verses) the meaning that can be derived is that faith and righteous deeds are essential requirements for entry into Paradise. Then, by Allah’s grace, they might go up to higher levels (Shabbir).

    سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ بِمَا صَبَرْتُمْ ۚ فَنِعْمَ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ (24)

    13|24| ‘Peace upon you for that you patiently endured.’47 How excellent then, the Ultimate Abode!48

    47. The allusion is to both types of “sabr”: what are known as “sabr ‘ala al-ta`at” (patience in the observation of the obligations) and “sabr ‘an al-ma`asi” (patience against sins) - Shafi`.
    48. The textual words for Ultimate Abode are “‘uqbat-dar”. Imam Ahmad has a hadith in explanation, reported by ‘Abdullah ibn `Amr. The Prophet said,

    هَلْ تَدْرُونَ أَوَّلَ مَنْ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مِنْ خَلْقِ اللَّهِ قَالُوا اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَعْلَمُ قَالَ أَوَّلُ مَنْ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مِنْ خَلْقِ اللَّهِ الْفُقَرَاءُ وَالْمُهَاجِرُونَ الَّذِينَ تُسَدُّ بِهِمْ الثُّغُورُ وَيُتَّقَى بِهِمْ الْمَكَارِهُ وَيَمُوتُ أَحَدُهُمْ وَحَاجَتُهُ فِي صَدْرِهِ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُ لَهَا قَضَاءً فَيَقُولُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ مَلَائِكَتِهِ ائْتُوهُمْ فَحَيُّوهُمْ فَتَقُولُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ نَحْنُ سُكَّانُ سَمَائِكَ وَخِيرَتُكَ مِنْ خَلْقِكَ أَفَتَأْمُرُنَا أَنْ نَأْتِيَ هَؤُلَاءِ فَنُسَلِّمَ عَلَيْهِمْ قَالَ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا عِبَادًا يَعْبُدُونِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا وَتُسَدُّ بِهِمْ الثُّغُورُ وَيُتَّقَى بِهِمْ الْمَكَارِهُ وَيَمُوتُ أَحَدُهُمْ وَحَاجَتُهُ فِي صَدْرِهِ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُ لَهَا قَضَاءً قَالَ فَتَأْتِيهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ عِنْدَ ذَلِكَ فَيَدْخُلُونَ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ كُلِّ بَابٍ {سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ بِمَا صَبَرْتُمْ فَنِعْمَ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ}

    (The Prophet asked), “Do you know who of Allah’s creation will enter Paradise first?” They answered, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “The first of Allah’s creation to enter Paradise will be the poor Immigrants: those by whom the borders are secured, and calamities are warded off. One of them dies while a need is still in his breast, unable to fulfill it. Allah will say to whom He will of the angels, ‘Go up to them and greet them.’ They will ask, ‘We are the dwellers of Your heaven and Your choicest creation. Do You ask us to go to these people and greet them?’ He will say, ‘They were such of My slaves who worshiped Me alone, associating none with Me. By them the outposts were secured and calamities warded off. One of them would die with a need in his heart, unable to fulfill it.” So the angels will go to them, entering upon them from every portal saying, ‘Peace on you for that you patiently endured. How excellent then, the Ultimate Abode?!’” (Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi deduces from the above hadith that angels are superior to mankind.
    The report is, according to Arna’ut, quite trustworthy (Au.).

    وَالَّذِينَ يَنْقُضُونَ عَهْدَ اللَّهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ مِيثَاقِهِ وَيَقْطَعُونَ مَا أَمَرَ اللَّهُ بِهِ أَنْ يُوصَلَ وَيُفْسِدُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۙ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمُ اللَّعْنَةُ وَلَهُمْ سُوءُ الدَّارِ (25)

    13|25| As for those who break Allah’s covenant after its ratification,49 snap what Allah has commanded to be joined, and work corruption in the land: they, theirs shall be the Curse50 and for them an evil abode.

    49. “This may refer to,” Majid writes, “the religious instinct innate in every human being.”
    50. For the lack of suitable alternative, the term “la`nah” has been rendered as “curse.” But, as Asad has written, “The Qur’anic term la`nah - usually but inexactly translated as “curse” (and popularly used in this sense in post-classical Arabic parlance) - denotes “banishment” or “alienation” (ib-`ad), i.e., from all that is good (Lisan al-`Arab). Whenever it is attributed in the Qur’an to God with reference to a sinner, it signifies the latter’s “exclusion from God’s grace” or his “rejection by God.”

    اللَّهُ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَقْدِرُ ۚ وَفَرِحُوا بِالْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا فِي الْآخِرَةِ إِلَّا مَتَاعٌ (26)

    13|26| Allah enlarges upon the providence of whom He will, and constricts.51 They exult in the life of this world, although the life of this world is no more with reference to the Hereafter, but a passing comfort.52

    51. Since in common observance unbelievers are better off in terms of wealth and worldly possessions when compared to the believers, it is normally asked, “If they are not approved by Allah, why are they so well off?” Or, alternatively, “Isn’t their wealth and prosperity, a sign of their right behavior in life?” This verse answers the question. Allah bestows material bounties on whomsoever He will, whether qualified or not. It is after all of little worth, no matter how enormous. In contrast, guidance is a thing of great worth. It is not granted to someone who is not worthy of it, or did not strive for it (Thanwi and others).
    52. (The Prophet has expanded on this theme). In a report in Muslim he said,

    وَاللَّهِ مَا الدُّنْيَا فِى الآخِرَةِ إِلاَّ مِثْلُ مَا يَجْعَلُ أَحَدُكُمْ إِصْبَعَهُ هَذِهِ - وَأَشَارَ يَحْيَى بِالسَّبَّابَةِ - فِى الْيَمِّ فَلْيَنْظُرْ بِمَ يَرْجِعُ

    “By Allah, the world is no more in comparison to the Hereafter than that one of you should dip his finger in a sea – he pointed to his index finger. So, let him see what it returns with.” In another report, also in Muslim, he passed by the carcass of a sheep and remarked,

    فَوَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمِّدٍ بِيَدِهِ لَلدُّنْيَا أَهْوَنُ عَلَى اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ مِنْ هَذِهِ عَلَى أَهْلِهَا

    “By Him in whose hands is my life, the world is less worthy in the sight of Allah than this one was to its owners” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi).

    وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ ۗ قُلْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُضِلُّ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي إِلَيْهِ مَنْ أَنَابَ (27)

    13|27| And say those who have disbelieved, ‘Why has not a (miraculous) sign been sent upon him by his Lord?’53 Say, ‘Truly, Allah lets go astray whom He will54 and guides unto Himself any who turns (to Him) in penitence.55

    53. It is strange that the unbelievers kept asking for a sign. How else did they think thousands had embraced Islam before them (Au.)?
    54. Jiba’i has said that once they made a decision to reject, Allah led them to the course of rejection. That is the meaning of “Allah does not guide the unbelievers” (Razi).
    Mawdudi expands: “God does not forcibly direct to the right way those who, instead of turning to God for guidance, defiantly turn away from Him. God allows such people to stumble in the deviant ways of their choice. The same factors which direct those who seek God’s guidance to the right way are allowed to become the factors of misguidance in respect of those who seek error. Such persons are unable to benefit from the light which, rather than illuminating their path, merely serves to dazzle their vision. That is what is meant by saying that: ‘Allah lets go astray those whom He wills.’”
    55. Thus, turning to Allah in penitence is the way of life of a believer. Who can stay on the path of guidance for longer than a few minutes? We keep straying away. All we can do is to pull back as soon as we become conscious of the straying (Au.).

    الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُمْ بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ (28)

    13|28| Those who have believed, and whose hearts find comfort in Allah’s remembrance; and lo, in Allah’s remembrance do hearts find comfort.56

    56. Majid comments: “This state of serene tranquility and steady peace of mind, is clearly marked off from boisterous merriment the invariable concomitant of material pleasures to be inevitably followed by a sad reaction. The greater the communion of man with his Maker, the more contented, the more optimistic would he be in his outlook of life.”
    Alusi and Thanwi have elaborated on the cause of “comfort” (alternatively “rest”), as, “a Light (nur) coming from Allah and descending into the hearts following true and sincere faith in Him. This Light expels the inner restlessness (wahshah) and the fear of “other than Him,” calming it down. Further, Thanwi adds, this comfort can co-exist with the fear of Allah, (which is not similar to fear of dreadfully harmful things, rather, a fear out of awe, in other words, “khashyah” and not “khawf”).
    Alusi mentions a few reasons why the heart finds rest and comfort in the remembrance of Allah. When a heart remembers one of the things of the world, it wishes to indulge in it, maneuver it, and control it. That makes the heart restive. But since Allah is beyond indulgence, maneuvering, or control, the search ends with Him and the hearts find rest in Him. Again, when the heart thinks of something material, then, after a while, it wishes for something better, and, there always being something better, more attractive, the heart loses its peace. In contrast, Allah is the Ultimate Good. There is nothing better than Him to desire after. Hence the rest and comfort in remembrance of Him (slightly modified).
    We can add on to what has been stated above and say that by no other means can this restiveness and anxiety of the inner self, the heart and the soul, which occupy every heart, can be got rid off, except by renewing faith through the remembrance of Allah. The unbelievers resort to games, music, drugs, films, and similar diversions only keep the heart occupied until engaged in those activities. Once those diversions are removed, the hearts are back with the feeling of emptiness and anxiety of various sorts. Recent studies conducted in the United States of America say that the immediate after-effect of watching television programs is depression and feelings of loneliness. Most of the people are less happy after shutting down the TV than they were before. As for music, it leads to such feelings of depression and other psychological disorders that the producers and listeners have to often resort to hard drugs (Au.).

    الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ طُوبَىٰ لَهُمْ وَحُسْنُ مَآبٍ (29)

    13|29| Those who believed and worked righteous deeds, bliss57 for them, and a happy resort.

    57. The “tuba” of the text has been variously explained as, happiness, comfort, cool of the eye, joy, bliss, blessedness, and a tree in Paradise (Ibn Jarir). Imam Ahmad has a report coming through Abu Sa`id Khudri. Someone said to the Prophet, “Messenger of Allah, tuba (blessings) for him who saw you and believed in you.” He replied, “Tuba for him who saw me and believed in me. And tuba, and then tuba and then tuba for someone who believed in me without having seen me.” Someone asked, “What is tuba?” He replied, “It is a tree in Paradise which a rider will take a hundred years to cross. Clothes for the inhabitants of Paradise are produced from its bark” (Ibn Kathir).
    The hadith is Sahih of status and is in Ahmad, Ibn Hibban and Albani’s Sahih al-Jami` (S.Ibrhim).
    In other words, points out Shabbir, tuba as used here is a noun (a tree in Paradise) but also has other linguistic implications.

    كَذَٰلِكَ أَرْسَلْنَاكَ فِي أُمَّةٍ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهَا أُمَمٌ لِتَتْلُوَ عَلَيْهِمُ الَّذِي أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ وَهُمْ يَكْفُرُونَ بِالرَّحْمَٰنِ ۚ قُلْ هُوَ رَبِّي لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ مَتَابِ (30)

    13|30| Thus We have sent you among a people before whom many nations have passed, so that you may recite unto them that which We have revealed unto you, the while they are rejecting the Most Merciful.58 Say, ‘He is my Lord. There is no god save He. In Him I have placed my trust, and to Him is my return in penitence.’

    58. It is reported that when the Prophet’s writer began to pen the peace treaty at Hudaybiyyah, beginning with “In the name of Allah, Al-Rahman (the Kind), al-Rahim (the Merciful),” the pagans interjected saying, “Al-Rahman? Who is Al-Rahman? Rather, begin simply with, “In the name of Allah” (and drop the rest). The Prophet’s Companions said, “Let us instead fight these people O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet said, “Rather, write down as they say” (Ibn Jarir). The substance of the hadith is in Bukhari. And Muslim has a hadith that says that the most approved of names with Allah are: ‘Abdullah and ‘Abdul-Rahman” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَلَوْ أَنَّ قُرْآنًا سُيِّرَتْ بِهِ الْجِبَالُ أَوْ قُطِّعَتْ بِهِ الْأَرْضُ أَوْ كُلِّمَ بِهِ الْمَوْتَىٰ ۗ بَلْ لِلَّهِ الْأَمْرُ جَمِيعًا ۗ أَفَلَمْ يَيْأَسِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنْ لَوْ يَشَاءُ اللَّهُ لَهَدَى النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا ۗ وَلَا يَزَالُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا تُصِيبُهُمْ بِمَا صَنَعُوا قَارِعَةٌ أَوْ تَحُلُّ قَرِيبًا مِنْ دَارِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَ وَعْدُ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ (31)

    13|31| If there was a Qur’an59 whereby the mountains were moved, or whereby the earth cut asunder, or whereby the dead spoken to60 .. nay, but Allah’s is the affair altogether.61 Have the believers not given up hopes that, had Allah wished,62 He could have guided all the peoples (aright)?!63 But those who have disbelieved will always have a calamity strike them for their doing, or it will alight close to their dwellings, until Allah’s promise comes to pass; surely, Allah will not fail the tryst.64

    59. Linguistically, the word “qur’an” is for any piece of writing, or written material. The Prophet has used it in the sense of a scripture. He said in a hadith of Bukhari,

    خُفِّفَ عَلَى دَاوُدَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام الْقُرْآنُ فَكَانَ يَأْمُرُ بِدَوَابِّهِ فَتُسْرَجُ فَيَقْرَأُ الْقُرْآنَ قَبْلَ أَنْ تُسْرَجَ دَوَابُّهُ وَلَا يَأْكُلُ إِلَّا مِنْ عَمَلِ يَدِهِ

    “The Qur’an was made easy for Da’ud. He would order his mount readied, and would finish off his Qur’an before it could be saddled. And he never ate but from the earnings of his hands.” The allusion by the word “Qur’an” is to Zabur (Ibn Kathir).
    60. That is, if any writing could achieve that, then the Qur’an was better qualified to do it.
    This verse came in response to the suggestion by the pagans that they could believe in him only if he could widen their town by moving the mountains surrounding their city, make rives flow through the town, and bring back to life their ancestors. They were told that had in the past any other piece of writing moved the mountains, split the earth and quickened the dead, then this writing, the Qur’an, would have also done it (Ibn Jarir).
    61. That is, if He wished, Allah could do it. But if He did not, nobody can make Him do it (Razi).
    Alternatively, and in Asad’s words, “.. no ‘miraculous sign’ can ever convince those whose hearts God has ‘sealed’ in consequence of their ‘breaking their bond with Him.’”
    62. The translation is literal, the meaning and purport are clear in Arabic, but the construction is difficult to analyze. Hence several interpretations have been offered. According to ‘Ali, Ibn ‘Abbas and others, the meaning is, “Is it still not apparent to the believers..?” (Ibn Jarir).
    Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi and others offer poetical examples to demonstrate that the usage as in the verse was not uncommon in classical times.
    63. “The meaning is that God grants man the freedom to choose between right and wrong: ‘He guides unto Himself all who turn unto Him’ (verse 27 above) and ‘are true to their bond with God’ (verse 20); on the other hand, He withholds His guidance from ‘the iniquitous, who break their bond with God’ (2: 27-27)” - Asad.
    64. Our translation reflects the literal sense and Hasan’s opinion. Asad adds his comment in the same vein: “.. an unceasing succession of calamities and social catastrophes, fratricidal wars and mutual deprivation which, in consequence of their deliberate disregard of all spiritual values, will directly befall ‘those who are bent on denying the truth (alladhina kafaru),’ or will, indirectly, cause them to suffer by affecting their whole organic environment..”
    However, and more correctly, the opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Ikrimah, Mujahid and several others would render the meaning as, “One or the other Muslim raiding party (sent by the Prophet) will keep attacking the pagan positions, or You, (O Prophet) will (yourself) go down for an attack, until Allah’s promise of the fall of Makkah is fulfilled.” That is, they understood the “qari`ah” as alluding to a Muslim raiding party and not as calamity, and the pronoun in “tahullu” referring to the Prophet and not to the “qari`ah” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Alusi and others).
    A rough count shows that the Prophet had sent some 80-90 sorties, to various parts of the Arabian Peninsula in eight years after Hijrah, which works out to an average of one every month. Surely, that would have kept the pagans on their edge (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali writes: “Let not the unbelievers think that if they seem to prosper for a time, that is the end of the matter. They are warned of three things (1) their ill deeds must carry evil consequences for them all the time, though they may not perceive them for a certain time. (2) Their homes, their places of resort, the circles in which they move, will also be haunted by their ill deeds and their consequences. For evil makes a complex of its environment. The walls of Jericho, when they fall, must bring down all Jericho in its ruins. (3) The Ultimate Disaster, the final Reckoning, must come, for Allah never fails in His promise. True values must eventually be restored: the good to the good, and the evil to the evil.”

    وَلَقَدِ اسْتُهْزِئَ بِرُسُلٍ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ فَأَمْلَيْتُ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ثُمَّ أَخَذْتُهُمْ ۖ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عِقَابِ (32)

    13|32| Indeed, Messengers were scoffed at before you, but I granted respite to the unbelievers, and then seized them. So (see) how (awesome) was My retribution.

    أَفَمَنْ هُوَ قَائِمٌ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ ۗ وَجَعَلُوا لِلَّهِ شُرَكَاءَ قُلْ سَمُّوهُمْ ۚ أَمْ تُنَبِّئُونَهُ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَمْ بِظَاهِرٍ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ ۗ بَلْ زُيِّنَ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مَكْرُهُمْ وَصُدُّوا عَنِ السَّبِيلِ ۗ وَمَنْ يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ (33)

    13|33| Is He then who stands65 over every soul for what it earns - while they declare associates to Allah - say, ‘Name them.66 Or, will you tell Him what He knows not in the earth? Or, is it (a statement) with apparent words (and no meaning)?’67 Rather, decked out fair to the unbelievers is their scheming,68 and (so) they are prevented from the Path. And he whom Allah leaves unguided, will not have a guide.

    65. The textual word “qa’im” has been explained as, a guard, knowing, watcher, etc. (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    66. Asad remarks: “‘Name them!’ Most of the commentators explain this phrase as an expression of utter contempt for those allegedly ‘divine’ beings, i.e., ‘they are so unreal and meaningless as not to deserve even a name.’”
    Further, naming them would immediately demonstrate the hollowness of their claim, since, firstly, they would have to name hundreds, if not thousands, as those “divine” beings to whom they address their prayers and worship, and secondly, the exercise of naming “gods” is so shameful, that they will shy away from the undertaking. Thus, “Name them,” is a pithy, devastating remark (Au.).
    67. That is, do you follow and worship other than Allah, by merely following apparent words, without any meaning and substance?
    68. Mawdudi renders “makr” as foul contriving and then explains it thus under two notes: “The association of others with God in His divinity by the unbelievers has been branded as a ‘foul contriving.’ For the celestial bodies or angels or spirits or saints which are said to be God’s associates in His attributes, powers and rights, have never made any such claims. They do not ask the unbelievers to worship or bow down before them. It is merely a contriving of some unscrupulous human beings who, in order to establish their own control over ordinary people and usurp their earnings, have invented false gods and have misled people into becoming the devotees of those same false gods. This enables them to exploit the people under the claim that they were authorized representatives of gods.
    “Another reason for branding polytheism as a ‘foul contriving’ is that it is an act of self-deception. For it provides one with an opportunity to fully engross oneself in worldliness and in evading moral scruples. It also provides a moral rationale for total permissiveness and licentiousness.
    “Such is human nature that when a person prefers a certain course of action, he comes forward with arguments in support of it. He does so in order to satisfy his own conscience as well as to justify his choice to others. He has recourse to a variety of contrived arguments and specious rhetoric with a view to malign and degrade the course he has rejected. It is for this reason that it was pointed out that when the unbelievers made up their minds to deny the truth, in consonance with the law of their nature their ‘foul contriving’ was made attractive to them. It is in this sense that they were barred from finding the right path.”

    لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَعَذَابُ الْآخِرَةِ أَشَقُّ ۖ وَمَا لَهُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ وَاقٍ (34)

    13|34| For them is a chastisement in the life of this world, but the chastisement of the Hereafter is more severe, and they shall have none to shield them from Allah.

    مَثَلُ الْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي وُعِدَ الْمُتَّقُونَ ۖ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ ۖ أُكُلُهَا دَائِمٌ وَظِلُّهَا ۚ تِلْكَ عُقْبَى الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا ۖ وَعُقْبَى الْكَافِرِينَ النَّارُ (35)

    13|35| The likeness of the Gardens that the godfearing have been promised: beneath which rivers flow.69 Its fruits eternal, (and so) its shade. That is the requital of the godfearing. And the requital of the unbelievers is the Fire.

    69. The dwellers of Paradise will be able to make those rivers flow in the direction they wish. The following ahadith may be noted. Said the Prophet:

    إِنَّ أَهْلَ الْجَنَّةِ يَأْكُلُونَ فِيهَا وَيَشْرَبُونَ وَلاَ يَتْفُلُونَ وَلاَ يَبُولُونَ وَلاَ يَتَغَوَّطُونَ وَلاَ يَمْتَخِطُونَ ». قَالُوا فَمَا بَالُ الطَّعَامِ قَالَ: جُشَاءٌ وَرَشْحٌ كَرَشْحِ الْمِسْكِ يُلْهَمُونَ التَّسْبِيحَ وَالتَّحْمِيدَ كَمَا يُلْهَمُونَ النَّفَسَ

    “Dwellers of Paradise will eat and drink but will not spit, urinate, relieve themselves, nor will they clear their noses.” They asked him, “So, what would happen to the food?” He said, “Belch and sweating like the exuding of misk. They will be inspired with Allah’s glorification and His praises, like they are inspired with the breathing action (in this life).”
    According to a report in the Sahihayn,

    خَسَفَتْ الشَّمْسُ عَلَى عَهْدِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَصَلَّى قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ رَأَيْنَاكَ تَنَاوَلُ شَيْئًا فِي مَقَامِكَ ثُمَّ رَأَيْنَاكَ تَكَعْكَعْتَ قَالَ إِنِّي أُرِيتُ الْجَنَّةَ فَتَنَاوَلْتُ مِنْهَا عُنْقُودًا وَلَوْ أَخَذْتُهُ لَأَكَلْتُمْ مِنْهُ مَا بَقِيَتْ الدُّنْيَا

    During one of those solar eclipses, the Prophet led in Prayers. Those behind him said, “We saw you trying to reach out to something but then you retreated!” He answered, “I was shown Paradise and sought to take a bunch of grapes. Had I taken it, you would have eaten from it the rest of the life of this world.”

    And a hadith in Nasa’i and Ahmad says:

    عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ أَرْقَمَ قَالَ أَتَى النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ الْيَهُودِ فَقَالَ يَا أَبَا الْقَاسِمِ أَلَسْتَ تَزْعُمُ أَنَّ أَهْلَ الْجَنَّةِ يَأْكُلُونِ فِيهَا وَيَشْرَبُونَ وَقَالَ لِأَصْحَابِهِ إِنْ أَقَرَّ لِي بِهَذِهِ خَصَمْتُهُ قَالَ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بَلَى وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ إِنَّ أَحَدَهُمْ لَيُعْطَى قُوَّةَ مِائَةِ رَجُلٍ فِي الْمَطْعَمِ وَالْمَشْرَبِ وَالشَّهْوَةِ وَالْجِمَاعِ قَالَ فَقَالَ لَهُ الْيَهُودِيُّ فَإِنَّ الَّذِي يَأْكُلُ وَيَشْرَبُ تَكُونُ لَهُ الْحَاجَةُ قَالَ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حَاجَةُ أَحَدِهِمْ عَرَقٌ يَفِيضُ مِنْ جُلُودِهِمْ مِثْلُ رِيحِ الْمِسْكِ فَإِذَا الْبَطْنُ قَدْ ضَمُرَ

    A Jew came to the Prophet and said, “O Abul Qasim. Do you claim that the people of Paradise will eat and drink?” (He told his companions, “If he says yes, I will argue him out”). The Prophet replied, “Yes, by Him in whose hand is my life; someone there will be given the strength of a hundred men in matters of food, drink and sex.” The man questioned, “Someone who eats and drinks will obviously need to relieve himself?” He answered, “The relief of one of them will be from a fragrance that will exude from their skins; and lo, the stomach will be relieved” (Ibn Kathir).
    Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut declared it as worthy of trust (Au.).

    وَالَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَفْرَحُونَ بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ ۖ وَمِنَ الْأَحْزَابِ مَنْ يُنْكِرُ بَعْضَهُ ۚ قُلْ إِنَّمَا أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ وَلَا أُشْرِكَ بِهِ ۚ إِلَيْهِ أَدْعُو وَإِلَيْهِ مَآبِ (36)

    13|36| Those to whom We have given the Book rejoice in what has been sent down unto you (O Muhammad) while, among the factions there are some who reject a part of it.70 Say, ‘I have been ordered that I worship Allah and not associate (aught) with Him. To Him I invite, and to Him is my return.’

    70. There have been two interpretations. One, the allusion by “those who were given the Book,” is to the Companions of the Prophet, and by “the factions who rejected a part of it,” it is the Jews and Christians. This opinion is attributed to Qatadah and Mujahid. A second opinion, attributed to Ibn Zayd is that the allusion by “those who were given the Book” is to the early converts from among the Jews and Christians, while the allusion by “the factions who rejected a part of it” is to those among them who rejected it (Ibn Jarir).

    وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ حُكْمًا عَرَبِيًّا ۚ وَلَئِنِ اتَّبَعْتَ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ بَعْدَمَا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ مَا لَكَ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ وَلِيٍّ وَلَا وَاقٍ (37)

    13|37| And, thus We have revealed it as an ordinance71 in Arabic.72 But, if you were to follow their caprices after what has come to you of knowledge,73 then you will have no protector against Allah, nor anyone to shield you.

    71. The textual word “hukman”, literally meaning “judgment”, has been understood by Zamakhshari as “hikmah” (wisdom). The current translation, “ordinance”, picked up from Asad, seemed more appropriate to this author.
    72. Asad explains the connection with the previous verses, “i.e., by compromising with the followers of other creeds who, while accepting some of the fundamental verities of the Qur’an, are unwilling to accept the whole of it.”
    73. Arabic, being capable of such rhetoric, richness, subtleties, eloquence and internal organization, deserves to be called the Mother of the Languages, or the Queen of Languages (Shabbir). And, therefore, if it cannot be the universal language, it should be, in the least, the language of the elite of the world, the position once held by Latin. But who will tell them what they miss by not knowing Arabic? (Au.)
    Asad writes: “(The Qur’an has been revealed as an Arabic ordinance) .. so as to enable the Arabian Prophet to propound it to the people of his immediate environment and, through them, to the whole world.”

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلًا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُمْ أَزْوَاجًا وَذُرِّيَّةً ۚ وَمَا كَانَ لِرَسُولٍ أَنْ يَأْتِيَ بِآيَةٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۗ لِكُلِّ أَجَلٍ كِتَابٌ (38)

    13|38| We sent Messengers before you (also) and assigned to them wives and children.74 And it was not for a Messenger that he should produce a sign, except by Allah’s leave. For every term, there is an appointed hour.75

    74. Humans are subjected to certain needs that they cannot defy. Food, drink, sexual gratification all needs to which the humans are subject. How can satisfying these desires, enforced upon them, can be contrary to piety? (Au.).
    The Prophet said, as in a hadith of Muslim:

    لَكِنِّى أُصَلِّى وَأَنَامُ وَأَصُومُ وَأُفْطِرُ وَأَتَزَوَّجُ النِّسَاءَ فَمَنْ رَغِبَ عَنْ سُنَّتِى فَلَيْسَ مِنِّى

    “As for as I am concerned, I Pray (in the depth of night), sleep, fast and break fast, and marry women. So, whoever spurned my Sunnah, is not of me” (Ibn Kathir).
    Majid writes: “There is absolutely no contradiction between a family life and the dignity of the prophetic office; and there is nothing unholy or unclean about marriage and married life. This refutes and negatives the position of the Christians and others who have held that woman and the begetting of children were repugnant to spirituality. Influenced by the teachings of Paul, ‘the celibate life was exalted above that of marriage .. on the ground that there was in marriage and its relations something impure and defiling.’”
    75. That is, every term has been written down in the Book. However, Dahhak b. Muzahim had another explanation. According to him the meaning is, “Every book had its term.” That is, every revealed Book was destined to a term decreed by Allah after which it was replaced by a new one. This explains Allah’s words in the following verse, “Allah erases what He will, or confirms. And with Him is the Mother of the Book” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    يَمْحُو اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاءُ وَيُثْبِتُ ۖ وَعِنْدَهُ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ (39)

    13|39| Allah erases what He will, or confirms.76 And with Him is the Mother of the Book.77

    76. Several opinions have come down from the classical commentators. One opinion is that Allah erases anything from the Book of Divine Decree, or confirms anything except four things: life, death, whether one will be fortunate (sa`id) or wretched (shaqi). Another opinion is that there are two Books of the Divine Decree. Changes take place only in the second one. What is written in the Preserved Tablet (Al-Lawh al-Mahfuz) does not undergo any change. A third opinion is that the reference here is to those rules of law that Allah obliterates from the Book and replaces with others. That is, this verse carries the same meaning as verse 106 of Surah al-Baqarah, which says,

    مَا نَنْسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنْسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا [البقرة : 106]

    “We do not abrogate a verse or render it forgotten but bring one better than it, or similar to it.” 

    A fourth and the stronger opinion comes from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, Dahhak and Hassan. They held that Allah erases what He will from the Book and confirms what He will of what is already written, with no exception whatsoever. Accordingly, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab was heard weeping and saying during his circumambulation around the Ka`bah,

    اللهم، إن كنت كتبت علي شقوة أو ذنبًا فامحه، فإنك تمحو ما تشاء وتثبت، وعندك أم الكتاب، فاجعله سعادة ومغفرة

    “O Allah, if You have written me among the unfortunate ones, or a sin I have committed, then erase it; You erase what you will or confirm, and You have the Mother of the Book; and convert it to good fortune and forgiveness.”
    The above is on the authority of Ibn Jarir (Au.).
    Ka`b in fact once told ‘Umar, “If not for a verse in the Qur’an, I could have told you all that is going to happen.” ‘Umar asked, “What verse is it?” Ka`b recited this verse, ‘Allah erases what He will, or confirms. And with Him is the Mother of the Book.’” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    (A report in Ibn Abi Shaybah speaks for us the mind of the Salaf with complete clarity with regard to Allah’s intervention in the affairs of the world: Au.). In that report Ibn Mas`ud says, addressing a supplication to Allah, “...If you have written me in Your Mother of the Book as a wretched one, then, erase it ...” (Alusi). That is, Ibn Mas`ud believed that what is written in the Mother of the Book, is subject to change by Allah’s will and command (Au.).
    And Mujahid has said in confirmation of the above that when the Quraysh heard some of the verses of the Qur’an, they said, “We do not see you O Muhammad, except as (a helpless man) without power over anything. God seems to have been through with the affair.” So Allah revealed, “Allah erases what He will, or confirms. And with Him is the Mother of the Book.”(Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    The report is in Ibn al-Mundhir and Ibn Abi Hatim also (Shawkani).
    Ibn Kathir writes: “What the above means is that the earliest Muslims believed in the alteration in Allah’s decree. There are ahadith that support this. One of them is in Nasa’i and Ibn Majah. It says,

    إِن الرجل يحرم الرزق بالذنب يُصِيبهُ ، وَلَا يرد الْقدر إِلَّا الدُّعَاء ، وَلَا يزِيد فِي الْعُمر إِلَّا الْبر

    “A man destined to receive provision is denied because of sins. Nothing turns back the decree but supplication and nothing causes increase in life-span except doing good to others.”
    Hakim declared the above hadith as of good chain of narration (Au.).
    Another hadith says that supplication and heavenly punishment engage themselves with each other in conflict between the earth and the heavens.
    Qurtubi adds: The verse is clear in its meaning, viz., Allah erases what He will and confirms what He will, without any exception. Nothing else can be said about it by way of interpretation. Interpretations are disallowed when the apparent meaning is clearly expressed.
    77. The allusion is to Al-Lawh al-Mahfuz (Zamakhshari).

    وَإِنْ مَا نُرِيَنَّكَ بَعْضَ الَّذِي نَعِدُهُمْ أَوْ نَتَوَفَّيَنَّكَ فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْكَ الْبَلَاغُ وَعَلَيْنَا الْحِسَابُ (40)

    13|40| And, whether We show you (O Muhammad) some of what We are promising them, or cause you to die - (in both cases) there is no more upon you (than) delivery (of the message), and upon Us, the reckoning.

    أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّا نَأْتِي الْأَرْضَ نَنْقُصُهَا مِنْ أَطْرَافِهَا ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَحْكُمُ لَا مُعَقِّبَ لِحُكْمِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ (41)

    13|41| Have they not observed that We are reducing the earth from its edges?78 Allah commands; there is none to turn back His command, and He is swift at reckoning.

    78. The textual term “taraf” has several connotations: sides, extremities, borders, or outlying areas. The word is also used to describe ‘the best (of everything).’ Accordingly, there have been several interpretations. One of them is that if the word “taraf” is taken in the sense of “the best (of everything)”, the meaning of the verse is that Allah is gradually taking away good men from among the unbelievers and transferring them to the rank of the Muslims. This usage is not uncommon. We have a statement of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib who used “taraf” in this sense. He said,

    العلوم أودية في أي واد أخذت منها خسرت فخذوا من كل شيء طرفا

    “Knowledge is in several valleys. From whichever alone of the valleys you decide to take, (in exclusion of others) you will be a loser. Instead, take from everything, the best of it” - Alusi.
    By “valleys” he meant disciplines (Au.).
    Asad also derives the same meaning of the word “taraf” but gives its pronoun a wider meaning, translating the second half of the verse as, “We visit the earth [with Our punishment], gradually depriving it of all that is best thereon”, and then explains in a note below, “Thus in its widest sense, the phrase ‘gradually depriving it of all that is best in it’ may be taken to relate not merely to physical and social catastrophes but also to the loss of all ethical values - and, thus, to the loss of all worldly power - which ‘those that are bent on denying the truth’ are bound to suffer in the end.”
    But the popular opinion is that with the ever continuing conversion to Islam, the unbelievers have constantly been losing grounds to Muslims. A rough calculation shows that after his emigration to Madinah, the Prophet (saws) was wresting control of the lands that were formally ruled by the pagans, at the rate of about 500 sq. km a day.
    Yusuf Ali is close to this meaning when he writes: “In the Prophet’s ministry at Makkah, the most stiff-necked opposition came from the seat and center of power at Makkah. The humbler people - the fringe of Makkan society - came in readily, as also did some tribes around Makkah. After the Hijrat there was a hard struggle between Makkah and Madinah and at last the bloodless conquest of Makkah in A.H. 8 made the Pagan structure totally collapse, though it had already been shaken of its foundations. So, generally, Truth finds easiest entrance through the humble and lowly, and not in the beginning at the headquarter of power, but in the fullness of time it makes its way everywhere with irresistible force.”
    With the meaning of the term “taraf” assumed as “the best part (of anything), a couple of other modern interpretations are possible. The first is the further elaboration of Asad’s understanding. It can be said that not only the earth is losing its ethical values, but also, thinkers, scholars, and great leaders are disappearing from it. This is clearly noticeable in the non-Muslim world where, after a brief spurt during the last three centuries, now, since about half a century, there is a tremendous paucity of outstanding men in every field of thought and activity: literature, philosophy, fine arts, and even politics. Everywhere, substandard men seem to be occupying important positions while ordinary men and women have been converted into mules: who do not know right from wrong, truth from falsehood, treading the path of everyone who can trick them into believing that he is the man of the hour.
    Another possible, allusion could be to the massive exploitation of the earth’s natural resources at a maddening pace, despite the warnings issued by the scientists of the consequences resulting from the loss of “its best part.” Very soon the world is out to exhaust its valuable, non-replaceable resources to human greed. Sweet water, fossil fuels, essential minerals, everything is being used to manufacture products that have a short life, which are used and thrown away in a manner that it is not possible to recycle them. The allusion by the words, “Have they not observed that We are reducing the earth from its edges?” could as well be to referring to this situation, which, although is felt more acutely in our times, had actually begun with the dawn of the so-called iron-age.
    A third interpretation is that the allusion is to the physical reduction in the land mass on this planet. We do not know since when this began to happen. Measurement and records are only too recent. But that the land surface of the earth has been decreasing due to rise in sea levels is a fact. One of the reasons is the famous Green House effect. Fossil fuel burning gives rise to carbon dioxide emission which increases the temperature of the earth. It is said that during the past decades the temperature has risen by 1 degree centigrade. In one of its effects, it has led to the creation of a huge lake at the North Pole, where once there was no lake. If the lake further expands, its waters will join with the seas and increase its level all over, eating away land masses at the edge of the continents. It is further being predicted that in the coming decades the temperature of the earth might go up by as much as 3-6 degrees. That will cause millions of tons of ice at the poles to melt. One estimate says that in consequence the sea level will rise up by about 10 meters, swallowing millions of km of low lying areas at the edges of the continents while thousands of islands will go under the sea.
    There is another, and a strong reason that the sea level has to rise. Millions of tons of extraterrestrial material falls yearly on the planet from space in the form of meteorites. Sea area being larger than the land area, it receives more of them than the land area, and hence the sea level has to rise to encroach on the land mass.
    Another source is erosion of the land by the river waters. The waters drag down millions of tons of sand into the sea every year. That again causes the sea level to rise. The allusion by this verse could as well include this phenomenon.
    Finally, with morally superior men and women continuously joining the ranks of Islam in the non-Islamic world, the earth under the feet of the unbelievers is as if being liberated and handed over to Islam and Muslims.
    It might be noted that all the possible interpretations are close to the text, without the need to stretch the meaning, and are reconcilable with each other. This is the meaning of the Prophetic statement that the Qur’an will never run dry of its meaning (Au).

    وَقَدْ مَكَرَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ فَلِلَّهِ الْمَكْرُ جَمِيعًا ۖ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَكْسِبُ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ۗ وَسَيَعْلَمُ الْكُفَّارُ لِمَنْ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ (42)

    13|42| Surely, those also devised plots who went before them.79 But for Allah is the devising altogether. He knows what every soul earns, and soon the unbelievers will know whose will be the Ultimate Abode.80

    79. That is, past nations also plotted against the Messengers and their messages, but it was to no avail (Au.).
    80. Or, in the words of Asad (the unbelievers will soon know) “to whom the future belongs.”

    وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَسْتَ مُرْسَلًا ۚ قُلْ كَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ شَهِيدًا بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَكُمْ وَمَنْ عِنْدَهُ عِلْمُ الْكِتَابِ (43)

    13|43| And the unbelievers say, ‘You are not a sent one.’ Say, ‘Allah suffices as a witness between me and you, and (such as) those who possess knowledge of the Book.’81

    81. That is, those who have the knowledge of the Qur’an. In the words of Asad again, “.. implying that a true understanding of the Qur’an unavoidably leads to the conviction that it has been revealed by God.”
    Another opinion is that by the words, “one who has the knowledge of the Book” the allusion is to the people of past Scriptures, that is, Jews and Christians. When they compared their Scriptural knowledge with that of the Qur’an, they felt convinced that both should have had the same origin (Alusi and others).
    (Some others, who believe that this verse of the Surah is Madinan, have thought that although the application is general), the immediate reference was to men such as ‘Abdullah b. Salam, Salman al-Farsi, Tamim al-Dari and others of their class (Ibn Jarir). There were altogether 80 of them (Zamakhshari, Razi).
    We do not know Zamakhshari’s source, but surely men of this class were more numerous than that. For example, many of the Christian inhabitants of Najran, whose numbers ran into hundreds of thousands, converted to Islam. Quite a few others had converted in Abyssinia. Similarly, Yemen had a large population of Jews, most of whom converted to Islam, although of course, the conversion there was gradual, and not everyone in those places had embraced Islam during the life of the Prophet. Further, several tribes in the northern part, below the Syrian borders, were originally either Christian, or were heavily influenced by its traditions, all of whom converted to Islam. And, finally, conversion has not ended there. In every age Jews and Christians have been studying the Qur’an and embracing the faith. Muhammad Asad for instance, one of the commentators often quoted in this work, was formerly a Jew. It is estimated in our times that all over the world around 100,000 men and women embrace Islam every year, of whom Christians account for the largest numbers (Au.).