Surat 'Ibrāhīm

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
by
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير

PREPARATORY

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?
Intention
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.

Language
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.

Translations
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.

Commentaries
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.

Interpretations
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.

Application
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.

Acknowledgment
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

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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
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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.
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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.
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Ma`arif /Shafi`: Ma`arif al Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi` Deobandi (d. 1396 A.H.).
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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.
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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

(1) BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
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.

(2) GENERAL
“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.

________________________

Transliteration
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
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. 14

    Merits of the Surah

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الر ۚ كِتَابٌ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ لِتُخْرِجَ النَّاسَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطِ الْعَزِيزِ الْحَمِيدِ (1)

    14|1| Alif. Lam. Ra. A Book We have sent down to you that you may bring forth mankind from darknesses to Light, by the leave of their Lord2 - to the path of the Mighty, the Praiseworthy.

    1. There is no difference in opinion that this chapter is Makkan, except that a variant opinion is that a few verses are Madinan (Qurtubi, Alusi). Verses thought to be Madinan are 28-30. Imam Razi adds that so long as there is no abrogation, it does not matter whether a chapter is Makkan or Madinan.
    2. Ibn Jarir explains the words “By the leave of their Lord,” as, ‘with the help of Divine inducement’ or ‘grant of ability’ (tawfiq).
    This verse proves that the knowledge of Allah (ma`rifatu-Allah) can only be gained through Prophetic teachings.
    Yusuf Ali writes: “It is insisted on that every Prophet speaks not from himself but from Allah. His leading into the light is but by the grace and mercy of Allah, not by any power of his own, or by any merit of those who hear him.”

    اللَّهِ الَّذِي لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَوَيْلٌ لِلْكَافِرِينَ مِنْ عَذَابٍ شَدِيدٍ (2)

    14|2| (The path) of Allah to whom belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth.3 And woe unto the unbelievers for a severe chastisement.


    3. Imam Razi points out that Allah (swt) cannot be said to be in a particular direction. If He was, let us say above the heavens, then, since anything above is “sama’” in Arabic, His person would be included when Allah said that ‘His is the dominion of the heavens and the earth’. That would mean He owns Himself. Therefore, He cannot be said to be in the direction above the heavens.
    It has been answered however that, firstly, what does not exist in any of the six directions, does not exist, and, secondly, “above” is used in the sense of `over and above.’ When it is said, “The man could not have said these words, he is above that,” then, in this sentence “above” is used in the sense of a distinguished existence. Thus, the word ‘above’ can have so many meanings (Au.).

    الَّذِينَ يَسْتَحِبُّونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا عَلَى الْآخِرَةِ وَيَصُدُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَيَبْغُونَهَا عِوَجًا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ فِي ضَلَالٍ بَعِيدٍ (3)

    14|3| Those who prefer the life of this world over the next,4 and hinder from the path of Allah, desiring to make it crooked. They are in a distant error.5


    4. This part of the verse proves that he who preferred the life of this world over the next is a misguided person (Razi).
    5. The error has been called a “distant error” because, not to believe is itself an error. And, to prevent others from the path of guidance by trying to make it look crooked is a greater error (Razi).
    Shabbir comments: “This world is, all in all, for the unbelievers. They prefer the present one over the next, spending their days and nights in obtaining it. (Since anyone not following their ways threatens to harm their world: Au.), they want others too to also fall in love with the material world and abandon the path that leads to Allah’s approval. They keep striving to show defects in Allah’s religion and prove how the straight path is crooked. It is only when they are struck by Allah’s harsh chastisement that they might open their eyes.”

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ رَسُولٍ إِلَّا بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ لِيُبَيِّنَ لَهُمْ ۖ فَيُضِلُّ اللَّهُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (4)

    14|4| And We sent not a Messenger but in the tongue of his people so that he could expound to them.6 Then Allah leads astray whomsoever He will and guides whomsoever He will.7 And He is the All-powerful, All-wise.


    6. The Prophet (saws) has said,


    أرسل كل نبي إلى أمته بلسانها وأرسلني الله إلى كل أحمر وأسود من خلقه


    “Every Messenger was sent to his people speaking the language of his people. But Allah sent me to every fair and dark of His creation.”
    Although meaning-wise this hadith is in several collections, but in words as above.
    He also said,


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


    “By Him in whose hand is my life, not a Jew or Christian of this ummah heard of me, yet did not believe in me, but will be a dweller in the Fire” (Qurtubi).
    The above hadith is from Muslim.
    This verse carries two messages. One, the Messenger raised among a people was of them, spoke their language and brought the Divine message in their language. Second, Messengers previous to the Final Messenger were for a particular people, of a geographical region. It is another thing that, anyone belonging to any other people who heard of him was bound to accept his Message since truth is to be accepted regardless of its origin (Au.).
    Shabbir writes: “Since a Prophet addresses those people first among whom he is raised, Allah sent them Messages in their language. Now, our Prophet’s Ummah is whole of the mankind as well as the Jinn. (Either as Ummah al-Da`wah [those to be invited], or Ummah al-Ijabah [those who have responded]: Au.). However, since Arabic was the language of the people among whom he was raised and who were the first to be addressed, he was given a revelation in Arabic. That made it easy for the first generation Muslims to understand and obtain the Message in complete accuracy and fullest scope and to be able to pass it on to the next generation Muslims. Accordingly, after the Prophet, they spread in every direction to spread the Message. Then, with the acceptance of the Message, such a powerful urge was created among the non-Arab Muslims, that they did not simply learn the language of the Qur’an but acquired mastery in it. In fact, they gained such mastery in the language and in several Qur’anic disciplines, that they surpassed the Arabs.”
    Soon, the non-Arabs became experts of the language, and, consequently, although at the time of revelation Arabic was a local vernacular spoken by a small number of people, it became an international language within a short time. It began to decline with decline in interests in religious disciplines. It continues to shrink in its influence: there being interest neither on the part of the Arabs to return to their religious roots, nor on the part of the non-Arabs. The present situation is that there is a sizable number of educated Arabs who cannot fully comprehend the Qur’an when recited before them, not to speak of non-Arab intellectuals who cannot understand a syllable of the language, and who, therefore, repeat Western ideas in a parrot-like manner without knowing how their ideas are conflict with the Qur’an. This situation will only change with the revival of true religious interests (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali adds: “If the object of a Message is to make things clear, it must be delivered in the language current among the people to whom the Messenger is sent. Through them it can reach all mankind. There is even a wider meaning for ‘language.’ It is not merely a question of alphabets, letters, or words. Each age or people - or world in a psychological sense - casts its thoughts in a certain mould or form. Allah’s Message - being universal - can be expressed in all moulds and forms, and is equally valid and necessary for all grades of humanity, and must therefore be explained to each according to his or her capacity or receptivity. In this respect the Qur’an is marvelous. It is for the simplest as well as the most advanced.”
    7. Probably dismayed by the widespread fatalism in the Islamic world, Asad, preceded in his ideas by Zamakhshari, writes the following: “All Qur’anic references to God’s ‘letting man go astray’ must be understood against the background of 2: 26-27 - ‘none does He cause to go astray save the iniquitous, who break their bond with God; that is to say, man’s ‘going astray’ is a consequence of his own attitudes and inclinations and not a result of an arbitrary ‘predestination’ in the popular sense of this word. In his commentary on the above verse, Zamakhshari stresses this aspect of free choice on the part of man and points out that ‘God does not cause anyone to go astray except one who, as He knows, will never attain to faith; and He does not guide anyone aright except one who, as He knows, will attain to faith. Hence, the [expression] ‘causing to go astray’ denotes [God’s] leaving [one] alone (takhliyah) and depriving [him] of all favour, whereas [the expression] ‘guidance’ denotes [His] grant of fulfillment [tawfiq] and favour .... Thus, He does not forsake anyone except those who deserve to be forsaken, and does not bestow His favour upon anyone except those who deserve to be favored.’ Commenting on the identical phrase occurring in 16: 93, Zamakhshari states: ‘[God] forsakes him who, as He knows, will [consciously] choose to deny the truth and will persevere in this [denial]; and ... He bestows His favour upon him who, as He knows, will choose faith: which means that He makes the issue dependent on [man’s] free choice [al-ikhtiyar], and thus on his deserving either [God’s] favour or the withdrawal of [His] aid ... and does not make it dependent on compulsion [i.e., predestination], which would rule out [man’s] deserving anything of above.”

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَىٰ بِآيَاتِنَا أَنْ أَخْرِجْ قَوْمَكَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ وَذَكِّرْهُمْ بِأَيَّامِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ (5)

    14|5| Surely, We sent Musa with Our signs, that ‘You bring forth your people from darknesses to Light. And remind them of the days of Allah.’8 Verily, in that is a sign for everyone firm in patience, constantly grateful.9


    8. (The textual term “ayyam” is used for a period of glorious events, or for memorable years of a nation, such as, e.g., “ayyam al-`Arab” which will refer to the glorious days of early Islam: Au.). Majid’s rendering is: ‘annals of Allah.’
    Mujhaid, Sa`id b. Jubayr and Qatadah have understood “ayyamu`Allah” as blessings of Allah (or days of Allah’s great blessings, or trials: Razi). Ubayy has reported a hadith to this effect. (The hadith referred to by Ibn Jarir is in Musnad of Ahmad: Ibn Kathir). However, Ibn Zayd has understood it to mean ‘the days when Allah punished the sinning nations of the past’ (Ibn Jarir).
    Alternatively, “ayyamu`Allah” could be referring to the Hereafter, in particular the Day of Judgment. This is the opinion of some commentators.
    9. Since “ayyamu`Allah” can either be days of blessings, during which a believer should be grateful, or those of trials and tribulations, when he is required to be patiently persevering, Allah mentioned these two qualities of the believer here and said, “a sign for everyone firm in patience, constantly grateful.” Further, since it is the faithful who see Allah’s hand behind all events, they are the ones to whom the days carry signs, the unbelievers being totally incognizant of them (Razi).
    A hadith of Muslim’s collection says,


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


    “A believer’s affairs are amazing. Every of his affair is good for him, which is for none else: if he is struck by a good fortune, he gives thanks, which is good for him. But if he is struck by an evil, he observes patience, and that is good for him” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ أَنْجَاكُمْ مِنْ آلِ فِرْعَوْنَ يَسُومُونَكُمْ سُوءَ الْعَذَابِ وَيُذَبِّحُونَ أَبْنَاءَكُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيُونَ نِسَاءَكُمْ ۚ وَفِي ذَٰلِكُمْ بَلَاءٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ عَظِيمٌ (6)

    14|6| And (recall) when Musa said to his people, ‘Recall Allah’s favors upon you when He rescued you from Fir`awn’s folk. They were subjecting you to severe ordeal, slaughtering your sons and letting your women live; and in that was a great trial from your Lord.


    وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ ۖ وَلَئِنْ كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ (7)

    14|7| And when your Lord proclaimed, “If you are grateful,10 surely I will add (more favors) to you; but if you show ingratitude11 (then) surely, My chastisement is severe.”’12


    10. When asked, some pious men answered that being grateful means ‘not to be encouraged to commit sins’ (Qurtubi).
    Razi speaks the language of the Sufis: Allah’s blessings are many and come in various forms: material, moral, spiritual, etc. Someone grateful about them should keep reminding himself of them, as often as he can. If he does that over a period, he is bound to learn to keep less in view the bestowals, and more in view the Bestower Himself. As time passes, he might become totally unmindful of the bestowals, falling so deeply in love with the Bestower.
    11. Ibn Kathir understands the “ingratitude” of the original as alluding to sins against Allah. He quotes the famous hadith,


    إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيُحْرَمُ الرِّزْقَ ، بِالذَّنْبِ يُصِيبُهُ


    “Sometimes a man misses out on his providence because of a sin he commits.”
    (The hadith is in Ibn Abi Hatim).
    12. A hadith preserved by Muslim says,


    يَا عِبادي لَو أنَّ أَولَكُم وآخِرَكُم وإِنسَكُم وجِنَّكُم كَانُوا عَلى قَلب أَتقَى عَبدٍ مِنكُم لَم يَزد ذَلك فِي مُلكِي شَيئاً ، ولَو كَانُوا عَلى أَفجَر قَلبِ رَجُلٍ لَم يَنقُص ذَلك مِن مُلكِي شَيئاً ، ولَو اجتَمَعُوا فِي صَعيدٍ واحدٍ فَسألُونِي فَأعطيتُ كُلَّ إِنسانٍ مِنهُم مَا سَألَ لَم يَنقُص ذَلك مِن مُلكِي شَيئاً إِلا كَما يَنقُصُ البَحرُ أَنْ يَغمِس فِيه المَخِيطُ غمسةً واحدةً


    “O My slaves! If the first and the last, the men and the Jinn of you were to have hearts as pious as the most pious of you, that will not cause increase in My kingdom by the least. O My slaves! If the first and the last, the men and the Jinn of you were to have a heart as wicked as the most wicked of you, that will not diminish My kingdom by the least. O My slaves! If the first and the last, the men and the Jinn stood on a flat patch of land and asked, and I granted everyone what he asked, that will not decrease from My kingdom anything except by what a needle causes to decrease when it is dipped into the sea” - Ibn Kathir.

    وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ إِنْ تَكْفُرُوا أَنْتُمْ وَمَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ (8)

    14|8| Musa also said, `If you should disbelieve, you and whoever is in the earth, altogether, then, surely, Allah is the All-sufficient the All-laudable.’


    أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ نَبَأُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ وَعَادٍ وَثَمُودَ ۛ وَالَّذِينَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ ۛ لَا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۚ جَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَرَدُّوا أَيْدِيَهُمْ فِي أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَقَالُوا إِنَّا كَفَرْنَا بِمَا أُرْسِلْتُمْ بِهِ وَإِنَّا لَفِي شَكٍّ مِمَّا تَدْعُونَنَا إِلَيْهِ مُرِيبٍ (9)

    14|9| Has not the news of those before you reached you? Of the people of Nuh13, `Aad14 and Thamood?15 And of those (that came) after them? No one knows them except Allah.16 Messengers came to them with clear signs. But they thrust their hands into their mouths17 and said, ‘We certainly disbelieve in what you have been sent with. Indeed we are in a doubt concerning that to which you invite us - in a disquieting suspicion.’18


    13. See Surah Hud, verses 25-48 for a detailed account.
    14. See Surah Hud, verses 50-60 for a detailed account.
    15. See Surah Hud, verses 61-68 for a detailed account.
    16. In the light of this verse Ibn Mas`ud has said that all genealogists have lied. That is, adds Zamakhshari, they traced men’s genealogy right up to Adam while Allah said that “no one knows them except Allah.”
    17. There have been several interpretations; but the closest to truth seems to be what is widely reported of `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud. He said that the reference is to the unbelievers placing the edges of their fingers into their mouths (between the teeth) out of rage at the Messengers (Ibn Jarir).
    Another opinion is expressed by Asad in the following words, “An idiomatic phrase indicating one’s inability to refute a reasonable proposition by cogent, logical counter-arguments: for the out-of-hand rejection of the Prophet’s message by their recalcitrant compatriots cannot by any means be regarded as an ‘argument.’”
    18. The textual words “shakk” and “rayb” draw the following comment from Yusuf Ali: “Shakk is intellectual doubt, a doubt as to fact: is it so, or is it not? Rayb is something more than intellectual doubt; a suspicion that there is fraud or deception; something that upsets your moral belief and causes kind of disquiet in your soul.”

    قَالَتْ رُسُلُهُمْ أَفِي اللَّهِ شَكٌّ فَاطِرِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ يَدْعُوكُمْ لِيَغْفِرَ لَكُمْ مِنْ ذُنُوبِكُمْ وَيُؤَخِّرَكُمْ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى ۚ قَالُوا إِنْ أَنْتُمْ إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُنَا تُرِيدُونَ أَنْ تَصُدُّونَا عَمَّا كَانَ يَعْبُدُ آبَاؤُنَا فَأْتُونَا بِسُلْطَانٍ مُبِينٍ (10)

    14|10| Their Messengers said, ‘Is there any doubt regarding Allah, the Originator of the heavens and the earth?19 He invites you so that He may forgive you of your sins, and allow you respite until an appointed term.’ They answered, ‘You are no more than mortals like us, wishing to prevent us from what our forefathers worshiped; then bring us a clear authority.’20


    19. That is, Allah’s oneness is such a natural, logical thing to recognize, that if the Divine message had not spoken of it, it would still be binding on the human beings to believe in it (Thanwi).
    Imam Razi has a brilliant point: It is said that a single slap to a child suffices to prove that this world has a creator, that the Hereafter is a necessity and that there have to be Prophets. When a child is slapped, he knows that there is a person behind that slap who chose to slap him. The slap would not have happened by itself. Next, the child, if innocent, will not forgive the slap. He will demand retribution. And, since there is no retribution in this world, there has to be another world for it. Thirdly, when the child demands retribution, there has to be another, a third person, to judge the measure and quantity of retribution (shortened).
    Yusuf Ali adds: “Infidelity is illogical and argues in a circle. If the Prophet speaks of Allah (swt), the unbeliever says, “You are only a man!” “But I speak from Allah!” “Oh well! Our ancestral ways of worship are good enough for us!” “What if they are wrong?” “What authority have you for saying so?” “The highest authority, is that from Allah!” And so we come back a full circle! Then the wicked rely on violence, but it recoils on them, and they perish.”
    20. “Sultanum-mubin”: that is, an authoritative, irrefutable proof of Messengership (Au.).

    قَالَتْ لَهُمْ رُسُلُهُمْ إِنْ نَحْنُ إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَمُنُّ عَلَىٰ مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لَنَا أَنْ نَأْتِيَكُمْ بِسُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ (11)

    14|11| Their Messengers said to them, ‘We are but mortals like yourselves. But Allah grants grace (of Messengership) unto whom of His slaves He will. (At all events) It is not for us to bring you an authority except by Allah’s leave. And in Allah should the believers place their trust.


    وَمَا لَنَا أَلَّا نَتَوَكَّلَ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَقَدْ هَدَانَا سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَلَنَصْبِرَنَّ عَلَىٰ مَا آذَيْتُمُونَا ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ (12)

    14|12| And what is with us that we should not trust in Allah seeing that He has guided us in our ways. And we shall surely endure in patience the hurt you cause us, and in Allah should those who trust, place their trust.’


    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِرُسُلِهِمْ لَنُخْرِجَنَّكُمْ مِنْ أَرْضِنَا أَوْ لَتَعُودُنَّ فِي مِلَّتِنَا ۖ فَأَوْحَىٰ إِلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ لَنُهْلِكَنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ (13)

    14|13| The unbelievers said to their Messengers, ‘We shall assuredly expel you from our land,21 or you will return to our religion.’22 So their Lord revealed unto them, ‘We shall surely destroy the transgressors?


    21. Yusuf Ali makes a confident prediction: “.. Infidelity looks upon arguments merely as an amusement. Its chief weapon is physical force. As its only belief is materialism, it thinks that threats of force will put down the righteous. It offers the choice between exile and violence against conformity to its own standards of evil, which it thinks to be good. But faith is not to be cowed down by Force. Its source of strength is Allah, and it receives the assurance that violence will perish ultimately by violence, and that Faith and Good must stand and be established.”
    22. Since at no time Prophets of Allah worshipped idols, or committed association of any sort, the explanation of the verse is that the unbelievers simply assumed that before prophethood, they – the Prophets - must have subscribed to their pagan religious views and hence they said, "You will have to revert to your (ancestral) religion (Au.).
    Mawdudi explains: “In fact, the verse can be fully appreciated if we bear in mind that before designation to their office, Prophets live a relatively quiet life. For prior to that designation, they preach no specific religious doctrines. Nor do they engage in refuting the religious doctrines that are generally accepted by their people. As a result, people are commonly inclined to think that they too are an integral part of their religious fold. Hence, when Prophets embark on teaching true religious doctrines, they are charged by their people as renouncing their ancestral faith.”

    وَلَنُسْكِنَنَّكُمُ الْأَرْضَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَنْ خَافَ مَقَامِي وَخَافَ وَعِيدِ (14)

    14|14| And We shall make you dwell in the land after them; that - for him who fears the standing before Me, and feared My warning.’


    وَاسْتَفْتَحُوا وَخَابَ كُلُّ جَبَّارٍ عَنِيدٍ (15)

    14|15| They sought the judgement,23 and (then) every deviant tyrant24 was frustrated.


    23. Literally, the textual word “istaftahu” means to seek victory (Au). And the meaning that the majority of scholars have derived is, (having lost all hopes of acceptance) the Messengers sought judgment and victory over their unbelieving nations (Ibn Jarir). But a minority opinion is that it is the unbelievers who sought the judgment. Shabbir combines the two. He writes: The Messengers sought Allah’s intervention. Nuh had said (26: 118),


    {فَافْتَحْ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَهُمْ فَتْحًا وَنَجِّنِي وَمَنْ مَعِيَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ} [الشعراء: 118]


    “So, judge between me and them: a decisive judgment - and save me and those of the believers with me.”
    Lut had said (26: 169),


    {رَبِّ نَجِّنِي وَأَهْلِي مِمَّا يَعْمَلُونَ} [الشعراء: 169]


    “O Allah, deliver me and my family from what they are doing.”
    Shu`ayb had said (7: 89),


    {رَبَّنَا افْتَحْ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَ قَوْمِنَا بِالْحَقِّ} [الأعراف: 89]


    “O Allah, deliver Your judgment between us and our people in truth.”
    And Musa had said (10: 88),


    { رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ آَتَيْتَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَأَهُ زِينَةً وَأَمْوَالًا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا رَبَّنَا لِيُضِلُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِكَ رَبَّنَا اطْمِسْ عَلَى أَمْوَالِهِمْ} [يونس: 88]


    “O Allah, You have bestowed on Fir`awn and his folk splendor and wealth in the worldly life, our Lord, that they may lead (people) astray from Your way. Our Lord, obliterate their wealth ...”
    On the other hand, the people addressed by the Prophets also got weary of them. How long would it be that they’ll receive threats of punishment? Nuh’s people had said (38: 16),


    {رَبَّنَا عَجِّلْ لَنَا قِطَّنَا قَبْلَ يَوْمِ الْحِسَابِ } [ص: 16]


    “Our Lord, hasten for us our share (of punishment) before the Day of Account.”
    Some others said (8: 32),


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


    “O Allah. If this should be the truth from You, then rain down upon us stones from the sky or bring us a painful punishment.”
    Nuh’s nation said (7: 70),


    {فَأْتِنَا بِمَا تَعِدُنَا} [الأعراف: 70]


    “Therefore, bring us what you have been threatening us with.”
    Shu`ayb’s people said (26: 187),


    {فَأَسْقِطْ عَلَيْنَا كِسَفًا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ} [الشعراء: 187]


    “Therefore, bring down upon us a piece of the sky.”
    Thus, weary of each other, both, the Prophets as well as their nations, sought Allah’s a final judgment.
    24. The textual word “jabbaar” (literally: compeller) draws the following comment from Qurtubi: When used for a human being, jabbaar is for that haughty man who does not believe that anyone has any right on him.

    مِنْ وَرَائِهِ جَهَنَّمُ وَيُسْقَىٰ مِنْ مَاءٍ صَدِيدٍ (16)

    14|16| Jahannum, beyond him,25 and he will be given a drink of pussy liquid.26


    25. Linguists have said that “wara’” has a dual meaning: both “in front” as well as “behind” (Ibn Jarir).
    26. The textual word “sadeed” is a common noun for vomit, pus and blood or any putrid liquid oozing out from a wound (Ibn Jarir).

    يَتَجَرَّعُهُ وَلَا يَكَادُ يُسِيغُهُ وَيَأْتِيهِ الْمَوْتُ مِنْ كُلِّ مَكَانٍ وَمَا هُوَ بِمَيِّتٍ ۖ وَمِنْ وَرَائِهِ عَذَابٌ غَلِيظٌ (17)

    14|17| He will take it in mouthfulls, yet hardly able to swallow it;27 death coming upon him from every quarter, but he will not die;28 and behind him is a rude punishment.29


    27. The Arabs used the textual word “yakaadu” (root: kaada) both for an act attempted, but not accomplished, as well as attempted and accomplished. Here, the usage has been in the sense of actually drinking the liquid. This is confirmed by a hadith. The Prophet (saws) said in reference to Allah's words, “He will take it in mouth-fulls and gulp it down,” that


    " قَطَّع أمعاءَه حتى يخرج من دُبُره"


    “As he swallows it, it will cut his intestine into pieces that will emerge from his rear” (Ibn Jarir).
    Another hadith further elaborates it. Transmitted by Abu Umamah, and preserved in Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nas a`i and Hakim, who declared it as Sahih, it says,


    يُقَرَّبُ إِلَى فِيهِ فَيَكْرَهُهُ فَإِذَا أُدْنِىَ مِنْهُ شَوَى وَجْهَهُ وَوَقَعَتْ فَرْوَةُ رَأْسِهِ فَإِذَا شَرِبَهُ قَطَّعَ أَمْعَاءَهُ حَتَّى يَخْرُجَ مِنْ دُبُرِهِ


    “It (the drink) will be brought to him. (Initially) he will reject it. As it is brought closer, it will burn his face and the scalp will fall off. Finally, when he drinks it, it will cut his intestine to pieces until it passes out through his anus” (Alusi).
    The Qur’an has also stated (47: 15),


    {وَسُقُوا مَاءً حَمِيمًا فَقَطَّعَ أَمْعَاءَهُمْ } [محمد: 15]


    “And they will be given a boiling drink that will cut their intestines.”
    And (18: 29),


    {وَإِنْ يَسْتَغِيثُوا يُغَاثُوا بِمَاءٍ كَالْمُهْلِ يَشْوِي الْوُجُوهَ} [الكهف: 29]


    “And, if they call for relief, they will be relieved with water like murky oil which will scald their faces” (Ibn Kathir, Shabbir and others).
    28. Apart from the generally understood meaning as embodied in the translation, another interpretation that has come down from Mujahid as in Ibn Jarir, is that death will advance on the man in Hell from every quarter of his body - even from the roots of every hair on his skin - but, in the end, will get stuck in his throat (choking him). Thus he will neither be able to die, nor live in peace.
    29. That is, other, and more severe kinds of torture would be in wait for the man (Ibn Jarir).

    مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ ۖ أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَرَمَادٍ اشْتَدَّتْ بِهِ الرِّيحُ فِي يَوْمٍ عَاصِفٍ ۖ لَا يَقْدِرُونَ مِمَّا كَسَبُوا عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الضَّلَالُ الْبَعِيدُ (18)

    14|18| The likeness of those who disbelieved in their Lord (is that): their deeds are like ashes, over which the wind blew strong on a stormy day;30 they have no power whatsoever over what they earned.31 That indeed is the distant error.32


    30. By the words “stormy day” the allusion is to the Day of Judgment (Ibn Jarir, from Ibn `Abbas).
    Are the material achievements, tall buildings, large parks, wide roads, industries, universities, research centers and seats of learning, banks and commercial centers, high rise towers and historical monuments, arts, science and literary heritage, the glittering civilization and gorgeous culture, in short, results of centuries of human endeavor and intensive hard work any more than ashes for the storms of the next morn? (Au.)
    31. Since it is only deeds performed for Allah's sake alone, and done strictly following the requirements of the Shari`ah, that are any worth, the deeds of the unbelievers will not pay off on the Day of Judgment or earn them any rewards (Ibn al-Qayyim).
    32. Yusuf Ali comments: “Note the fullness of the parable. The works of the ungodly are in themselves light and unsubstantial like ashes; they are the useless rubbish that remains out of the faculties and opportunities which they have misused by burning them up. Further, the ashes are blown about hither and thither by the wind: the ungodly have no compass, direction, or purpose that can stand. The wind, too, which blows on them is no ordinary wind, nor the day on which they seek to enjoy the fruits of their labours an ordinary tranquil day; a furious gale is blowing, for such is the Wrath of Allah. They have neither internal peace nor external gain. In the scattering of the ashes they lose control even of such things as they might have earned but for their misdeeds. Their whole nature is contaminated. All their wishes go astray. They are carried so far, far away than what was in their minds. What did they aim at, and what did they achieve?”

    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ إِنْ يَشَأْ يُذْهِبْكُمْ وَيَأْتِ بِخَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ (19)

    14|19| Have you not observed that Allah has created the heavens and the earth in truth?33 If He wished, He could put you away and bring a new creation (in your place).


    33. That is, on principles following a set of laws that are equally applicable anywhere in the universe and which allow for an ordered world to come into existence, the forces themselves balanced so precisely and precariously, that one-millionth variation in any of them would render the existence of the world impossible. The impeccable design and the efficient system speak of a purpose behind them (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali writes: “Haqq: Truth, Right, Righteousness, True proportions, Reality. Allah’s creation is not to be trifled with. It is built on righteousness, and those who do not obey its laws must give place to others who do.”

    وَمَا ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ بِعَزِيزٍ (20)

    14|20| That indeed is not at all difficult for Allah.


    وَبَرَزُوا لِلَّهِ جَمِيعًا فَقَالَ الضُّعَفَاءُ لِلَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا إِنَّا كُنَّا لَكُمْ تَبَعًا فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُغْنُونَ عَنَّا مِنْ عَذَابِ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ۚ قَالُوا لَوْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ لَهَدَيْنَاكُمْ ۖ سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْنَا أَجَزِعْنَا أَمْ صَبَرْنَا مَا لَنَا مِنْ مَحِيصٍ (21)

    14|21| And they will appear before Allah, all together. Then the weak ones34 will say to those who waxed proud,35 ‘We were your followers, therefore, can you prevail against any of Allah’s chastisement (now)?’ They will reply, ‘Had Allah guided us, surely we would have guided you.36 It is the same for us (now) whether we refuse to endure or observe patience.37 There is no place of escape for us.’


    34. The textual term “du`afaa’” does not, at this point refer to those who were economically, socially or politically weak, but rather to those who were morally and intellectually so, and hence preferred to follow not their own, but opinions of others (Au.).
    Asad might be quoted: “I.e., those who had sinned out of moral weakness and self-indulgence, relying on the supposedly superior wisdom of the so-called “leaders of thought”, who are described in the sequence as having “gloried in their arrogance” (istakbaru) inasmuch as they refused to pay heed to God’s messages.”
    Sayyid writes: “Who are the ‘weak ones?’ Well, the truly ‘weak ones’ are those who relinquished one of the most important blessings of their Lord in favor of others. Our reference is to their personal freedom ... the freedom to think, to believe and to choose a direction. But the ‘weak ones’ preferred to follow arrogant and rebellious men of their own kind. They sought closeness to Allah’s creations, in preference of Allah’s, opting to take religion from them rather than from Him.
    “Show of weakness is no virtue nor does it offer any excuse. It is a crime. Allah did not wish anyone to be weak. He invites the people to seek strength through Him - and all might is His. He does not wish that someone should forego his share of strength and, instead, spend his life in servility of others. Strength in fact, is something of a special, honor-giving quality that comes directly from the Lord, and cannot be taken away with ease from anyone. Material strength on the other hand, whatever its magnitude, is not enough by itself to enslave a people wishing to be free. It cannot imprison man’s nobility. The most that brutal, material strength can do is to own bodies, which it can imprison, torture and punish. As for conscience ... as for the soul ... as for the intellect ... these, no one can rob these things of another, unless the owner himself wishes to relinquish them, in humiliation.
    “Who has the power to force these ‘weak ones’ to follow the arrogant ones in matters of faith, ideas and attitudes, but the weak ones themselves? What made these people seek a religion other than Allah’s? - when it is in common knowledge that Allah is their Creator, Sustainer, and Custodian, with none sharing these qualities with Him? Surely, no one forced them, except that their own souls chose that course. They are the ‘weak ones’ not because they possess lesser material strength than the arrogant ones, or are materially poorer, or in lower positions. These are all external traits and qualities that have nothing to do with the internal weaknesses of the ‘weak ones.’ They are weak because there is weakness in their spirits, souls, and minds. (It is the weakness of faith).”
    35. Those are meant who, because they were followed, became proud of themselves for their capacity to prevail upon others and give the lead. They over-estimated their capacities, crossed their boundaries, and prevailed upon the people to treat them as providers, withholders and, therefore, law-giving authorities: quite similar to deities of the past (Au.).
    36. So, the arrogant ones felt themselves free in the world to oppress the people, take away their rights, including their right of choice, and spread corruption in the land by setting precedence of a life of debauchery, but did not feel themselves free enough to treat the Message of Allah, as something deserving consideration. Did they have the freedom for evil but not for good? Is that what they will mean when they will say, “Had Allah guided us, surely we would have guided you?” Or, is it that their dishonest habits will continue in the pit of Fire, where they would try to lay the blame on Allah? (Au.)
    Zamakhshari’s explanation however is that since they themselves missed the guidance, they could not have guided those who were under their influence.
    37. It is said that those in Fire will say to each other, “Those in Paradise seem to have obtained their position by their weeping, and by their long supplications during the life of the world, so let us also cry and supplicate until we are forgiven.” So they will cry for a long period which will be of no avail. They will say, “We have cried but got nothing out of it. Those in Paradise seem to have gained their present position from being patient. So, let us also endure in patience. Maybe we will be forgiven.” But, after a long period of patient endurance, they will find that it does not alter their situation. So they will say, “We have tried crying, and we have tried enduring in patience, but neither seems to prevail anything against the torture. It seems we have no place we could escape to” (Ibn Jarir).
    Some narrators have attributed the above report to the Prophet. But, those reports are not trustworthy (Shawkani, S. Ibrahim).

    وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدْتُكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَنْ دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ ۖ مَا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنْتُمْ بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (22)

    14|22| And Satan will say when the matter is concluded,38 ‘Allah promised you a true promise, and I too promised. But I failed in my promise.39 And I had no power over you except that I invited you and you responded to me.40 Therefore, do not blame me, blame your own selves.41 I cannot come to your aid, nor can you come to my aid. I disown your former (act of) associating me (with Allah).’42 Surely, a painful chastisement (awaits) the wrongdoers.


    38. `Uqbah b. `Aamir reports in a long hadith, the Prophet said,


    فيأذن الله لي أن أقوم إليه فيثور [من] مجلسي من أطيب ريح شمها أحد قط، حتى آتي ربي فيشفعني، ويجعل لي نورا من شعر رأسي إلى ظفر قدمي، ثم يقول الكافرون هذا: قد وجد المؤمنون من يشفع لهم، فمن يشفع لنا؟ ما هو إلا إبليس هو الذي أضلنا، فيأتون إبليس فيقولون: قد وجد المؤمنون من يشفع لهم، فقم أنت فاشفع لنا، فإنك أنت أضللتنا. فيقوم فيثور من مجلسه من أنتن ريح شمها أحد قط، ثم يعظم نحيبهم وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الأمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدْتُكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ وَمَا كَانَ لِي عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ إِلا أَنْ دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي فَلا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ


    “... then Allah will allow me (to seek permission to intercede). I will rise up. At that point, a massive amount of fragrance will issue forth from my assembly: the best kind of fragrance anyone has ever smelled. I will go to my Lord and He will allow me to intercede and give me a Light that will cover me from the top of my head to the nails of my toes. At that the unbelievers will say, ‘There! The believers have found someone to intercede for them. Rise now, (O Shaytan) and intercede for us. Was it not you who led us to error?’ He will rise, and along with him will rise up a massive amount of worst possible smell one has ever smelled. He will only increase their lamenting by saying, 'Allah promised you a true promise, and I too promised. But I failed in my promise ...’ to the end of the verse.”
    Hasan and Muhammad b. Ka`b have the same thing to say, but as their own statements (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    39. What Satan means to say perhaps is that he promised them so many things: a beautiful life, unending material progress, unimaginable comforts, peace, prosperity, and unceasing pleasures - if his advice was followed. But nations after nations, and generations after generations tried out his suggestions and found that he never delivered his promise. At best, there was material progress, but, due to unjust distribution of the fruits of progress, conflicts arose robbing the peace of the people. Imbalanced material life devoted to physical pleasures, destroyed personal peace. And, material progress took a heavy toll of energies, resulting in very uncomfortable life. This happened so many times over and over, with so many of his followers, that it should have opened their eyes. But mankind refused to learn any lesson. So, why should they blame him on the Day of Judgment? (Au.)
    40. That is, “I only suggested. Acceptance or rejection was your discretion and your choice” (Au.).
    With reference to Satan’s words, that he had no power over the people save to suggest and induce them to evil, some scholars have pointed out that this negates the opinion that Satans can physically harm the people. But Alusi points out that, this is not the purport of the verse in question. What Satan means here is that he only suggested and could not have forced them to doing evil. Otherwise, physical harm at the hands of Satans are possible and have been experienced. It is another thing, adds Thanwi, that the good and the pious are prevented from his harms by the attendant angels.
    41. “(Satan’s) answer is frank, cynical and brutal” (Yusuf Ali).
    In contrast to the fatalists who hold that Allah misguides the people, the rationalists have pointed out that Satan’s speech works against their position with clarity. Satan did not say, “Well, neither I nor you are responsible for the present situation. It is by Allah’s will.” The Ahl al-Sunnah however, take the position that the truth lies in between. Man chooses, and Allah makes easy the path he chooses (Au.).
    42. That is, “I now declare myself clear of you having obeyed me in preference to God, and your worshipping me as His co-partner” (Majid).
    Asad adds his note: “The implication is that Satan, while endeavoring to lead men astray, never claims to be God’s ‘equal’ (cf. 7: 20, where he speaks of God, to Adam and Eve, as ‘your Sustainer’, or 15: 36 and 39, where he addresses Him as ‘my Sustainer’, or 8: 48 and 59: 16, where he says, ‘behold I fear God’) but, rather, tries to make men’s sinful doings ‘seem goodly to them (cf. 6: 43, 8: 48, 16: 63, 27: 24, 29: 38), i.e., persuades them that it is morally justifiable to follow one’s fancies and selfish desires without any restraint. But while Satan himself does not make any claim to equality with God, the sinner who submits to Satan’s blandishments attributes to him thereby, as it were, 'A share in God’s divinity.’”
    In Mawdudi’s simpler words, “This verse provides another instance of polytheism at the level of human actions as distinct from polytheism at the level of doctrine and belief. For, obviously no one professes, at the doctrinal level, that Satan is a partner of God in His divinity. Nor does anyone worship Satan. In fact, so far as verbal expressions go, people generally curse Satan. Ironically, the same people who curse him, also follow his ways, at times consciously, and at other times unconsciously. It is precisely this which has been termed as associating Satan with God in His divinity. (This is strengthened by other verses. E.g., “Did I not enjoin you, O children of Adam, that you should not worship Satan” (Ya Sin, 60).
    “... polytheism does not merely assume one form viz., associating others with God in matters of belief. There is also another form which consists of exalting someone to a position where it becomes imperative to follow him without any sanction for it from God, or even in opposition to God’s command. Such an act, according to the Qur’an, is tantamount to setting up a partner to God in His godhead. A person who follows someone in this unreserved fashion is guilty of setting up a partner to God even if he keeps on abusing and cursing him.”

    وَأُدْخِلَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ ۖ تَحِيَّتُهُمْ فِيهَا سَلَامٌ (23)

    14|23| As for those who believed and did righteous deeds, they shall be admitted to gardens underneath which rivers flow, abiding therein forever, by their Lord’s leave. Their greeting43 therein: Salam.


    43. (The textual word for greeting) “tahiyyah” literally means wishing someone to have a long life (Mawdudi).

    أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَةً كَشَجَرَةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْعُهَا فِي السَّمَاءِ (24)

    14|24| Have you considered how Allah sets forth the parable of a good Word?44 (It is) like a good tree.45 Its roots are firmly rooted, while its branches (high up) in the sky.


    44. Good Word: To what is the allusion? Ibn `Abbas has said that the allusion is to the believer’s faith - kalimah shahadah. He lives on earth while his words and deeds are carried up to the heavens (Ibn Jarir).
    45. By “the good tree” the allusion is to the believer (Ibn Kathir).
    Which is the earthly good tree referred to in this similitude? Mujahid says in explanation,


    صحبتُ ابنَ عمر إلى المدينة ، فلم أسمعه يُحدِّث عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إلا حديثًا واحدًا قال ، كنّا عند النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فأتي بجُمَّار فقال: من الشَّجر شجرةٌ مَثَلُها مثلُ الرَّجُل المسلم. فأردت أن أقول " هي النخلة" ، فإذا أنا أصغرُ القوم ، فسكتُّ ، [فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : هي النخلة]


    “Once I accompanied Ibn `Umar to Madinah. He did not narrate any hadith on the way except one. And the one he narrated was the following. The Prophet was brought a bunch of dates. He remarked, 'Of the trees there is one which Allah likened to a believer.' Now, I wished to say that it was date palm tree, but I was the youngest of those present and so kept quiet.’ But the Prophet said, 'It is the date palm tree.'"
    According to other reports, he knew it was the date-palm tree but men like Abu Bakr and `Umar were present and so he did not speak out (Ibn Jarir).
    In various words, the hadith is in Bukhari and others (Au.);
    Zamakhshari points out however, that it can be any tree which gives its fruits in every season such as grapes, fig, pomegranate, etc. Razi goes one step further and says that it makes little difference whether it is date-palm tree or some other. The similitude encourages a Muslim to live a life endowed with qualities as described of the good tree, irrespective of the question whether such a tree exists in the real world or not.
    46. The “heen” of the original has been interpreted by Ibn `Abbas, when applied to the tree, as a period of “six months” or may be “a year”. But `Ikrimah and Sa`id b. Jubayr have said that it is “six months alone.” However, when applied to the believer (as bringing forth fruit every “heen”), this “heen” is interpreted as “morning and evening,” or, in simpler words, “at all times.” In the Qur’an “heen” has been used both in the sense of a term known, as well as in the sense of an indefinite term, e.g., in 38: 88):


    وَلَتَعْلَمُنَّ نَبَأَهُ بَعْدَ حِينٍ


    “You will surely get its news after a while (i.e., the news of the Hour of Doom).”
    Or, (76: 1):


    هَلْ أَتَى عَلَى الْإِنسَانِ حِينٌ مِّنَ الدَّهْرِ لَمْ يَكُن شَيْئًا مَّذْكُورًا


    “Did a time (“heen”) pass over man when he was not a thing to be mentioned?”
    In both these instances, the term “heen” is an indefinite term (Ibn Jarir).
    Alusi adds: The term “heen” is used in the language in the sense of a moment, six months, forty years or even eternity. What is meant here is that the tree yields its fruit faithfully, on time, whenever its season arrives.

    تُؤْتِي أُكُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينٍ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهَا ۗ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ (25)

    14|25| It yields its fruits in every season46 by the leave of its Lord. And Allah strikes parables for the people, haply that they will be admonished.47


    47. Yusuf Ali writes: “The goodly tree is known for: (1) its beauty: it gives pleasure to all who see it; (2) its stability: it remains firm and unshaken in storms, because its roots are firmly fixed in the earth; (3) its wide compass: its branches reach high, and it catches all the sunshine from heaven, and gives shade to countless birds in its branches and men and animals beneath it; and (4) its abundant fruit: which it yields at all times. So is the Good Word. It is as beautiful as it is true. It abides in all the changes and chances of this life, and even beyond (see verse 27 below); it is never shaken by sorrow or what seems to us calamity; its roots are deep down in the bed-rock facts of life. Its reach is universal, above, around, below; it is illuminated by the divine light from heaven, and its consolation reaches countless beings of all grades of life. Its fruits - the enjoyment of its blessings - is not confined to one season or one set of circumstances; furthermore the fortunate man who is the vehicle of that word has no self-pride; he attributes all its goodness, and his act in spreading it to the Will and Leave of Allah.”
    Ibn al-Qayyim comments: There has to be a good amount of similarity between a tree on the one hand and belief on the other, for it to have been chosen for the simile. Firstly, a tree should have to have a root, a stem, branches, leaves and fruits. So is the tree of faith: a strong belief in Allah is its root; sincerity is its stem, virtuous deeds are its branches and good conduct its fruits. Secondly, a tree cannot live and thrive without some sustaining material poured onto it. If that sustaining material is denied, it goes dry. So is the tree of faith in the heart. If useful knowledge and righteous deeds, remembrance of Allah, and pondering over His signs are not poured onto it, it goes dry. Again, it is of the ways of the nature that a tree should have weeds and parasites growing around it. If they are not checked and rooted out, from to time, it is likely that they will take over and kill the mother tree. (Similarly, the tree of faith must be cleared of the weeds of hypocrisy and innovation).
    48. The “evil word” of the original stands for Association with Allah (shirk) - Ibn Jarir. It can be any word that Allah disapproves (Alusi).

    وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ اجْتُثَّتْ مِنْ فَوْقِ الْأَرْضِ مَا لَهَا مِنْ قَرَارٍ (26)

    14|26| And the parable of an evil Word48 is like an evil tree,49 which is uprooted from the surface of the earth: it has no stability.50


    49. Hasan is widely reported as having said that the allusion by the “evil tree” is to “hanzal tree” (Ibn Jarir). Zamakhshari adds once again that it can be any tree which is not firmly rooted in the ground and does not yield any fruit.
    50. Ibn `Abbas said: This is the example of the unbeliever’s life and works. He is not firmly established in the earth and his deeds do not rise up to the heavens in acceptance. Rabi` b. Anas said that the unbeliever’s deeds neither rise to the heaven, nor do they find a root in the earth. “So,” he was asked, “where will their deeds be (on Judgment-day)?” He answered, “They will carry their deeds on their backs” (Ibn Jarir).
    Though not as beautifully stated, the similitude has its precedence in the OT. Majid writes, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he doth shall prosper (Ps. 1: 3).”

    يُثَبِّتُ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِالْقَوْلِ الثَّابِتِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ ۖ وَيُضِلُّ اللَّهُ الظَّالِمِينَ ۚ وَيَفْعَلُ اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاءُ (27)

    14|27| Allah grants firmness to those who believe, by the firm Word,51 in the life of this world52 as well as in the next.53 And Allah leads the evildoers to error.54 Allah does what He will.


    51. The “firm Word” has been interpreted as the kalimah shahadah (Ibn Jarir).
    52. That is, Allah keeps them firm on their faith and good deeds in this world (Ibn Jarir). Zamakhshari gives the example of the As-hab al-Ukhdud (people of the trenches, Qur’an, surah no. 85, Al-Buruj), and those who were split with saws: they stayed firm in their religion until their last breath.
    Ibn al-Qayyim points out that if Messengers needed to be granted firmness, how much more not the ordinary believers? Allah said about the Prophet, (17: 74):


    {وَلَوْلَا أَنْ ثَبَّتْنَاكَ لَقَدْ كِدْتَ تَرْكَنُ إِلَيْهِمْ شَيْئًا قَلِيلًا } [الإسراء: 74]


    “Had we not firmed you up, you had begun to incline towards them a little.” And, (11: 120):


    {وَكُلًّا نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنْبَاءِ الرُّسُلِ مَا نُثَبِّتُ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ} [هود: 120]


    “And We recite unto you every news of the (previous) Messengers wherewith We firm up your heart.”
    This “firming up” originates from the good word and virtuous deeds. Allah said (4: 66)


    {وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ فَعَلُوا مَا يُوعَظُونَ بِهِ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ وَأَشَدَّ تَثْبِيتًا} [النساء: 66]


    “Had they done what We were admonishing them, it would have been better for them and more firmly rooted.”
    53. Several traditions have come down from the Prophet in explanation of the words, “Allah grants firmness to those who believe by the firm word, during the life of this world as well as in the Hereafter.” They are in major Sihah works. We shall combine a few. Bara’ b. `Azib reported:


    حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ حَدَّثَنِى أَبِى حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو مُعَاوِيَةَ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا الأَعْمَشُ عَنْ مِنْهَالِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو عَنْ زَاذَانَ عَنِ الْبَرَاءِ بْنِ عَازِبٍ قَالَ خَرَجْنَا مَعَ النَّبِىِّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- فِى جَنَازَةِ رَجُلٍ مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ فَانْتَهَيْنَا إِلَى الْقَبْرِ وَلَمَّا يُلْحَدْ فَجَلَسَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- وَجَلَسْنَا حَوْلَهُ كَأَنَّ عَلَى رُءُوسِنَا الطَّيْرَ وَفِى يَدِهِ عُودٌ يَنْكُتُ بِهِ فِى الأَرْضِ فَرَفَعَ رَأْسَهُ
    فَقَالَ «اسْتَعِيذُوا بِاللَّهِ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ». مَرَّتَيْنِ أَوْ ثَلاَثاً ثُمَّ قَالَ «إِنَّ الْعَبْدَ الْمُؤْمِنَ إِذَا كَانَ فِى انْقِطَاعٍ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا وَإِقْبَالٍ مِنَ الآخِرَةِ نَزَلَ إِلَيْهِ مَلاَئِكَةٌ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ بِيضُ الْوُجُوهِ كَأَنَّ وُجُوهَهُمُ الشَّمْسُ مَعَهُمْ كَفَنٌ مِنْ أَكْفَانِ الْجَنَّةِ وَحَنُوطٌ مِنْ حَنُوطِ الْجَنَّةِ حَتَّى يَجْلِسُوا مِنْهُ مَدَّ الْبَصَرِ ثُمَّ يَجِىءُ مَلَكُ الْمَوْتِ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ حَتَّى يَجْلِسَ عِنْدَ رَأْسِهِ فَيَقُولُ أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الطَّيِّبَةُ اخْرُجِى إِلَى مَغْفِرَةٍ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانٍ - قَالَ - فَتَخْرُجُ تَسِيلُ كَمَا تَسِيلُ الْقَطْرَةُ مِنْ فِى السِّقَاءِ فَيَأْخُذُهَا فَإِذَا أَخَذَهَا لَمْ يَدَعُوهَا فِى يَدِهِ طَرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ حَتَّى يَأْخُذُوهَا فَيَجْعَلُوهَا فِى ذَلِكَ الْكَفَنِ وَفِى ذَلِكَ الْحَنُوطِ وَيَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا كَأَطْيَبِ نَفْحَةِ مِسْكٍ وُجِدَتْ عَلَى وَجْهِ الأَرْضِ –
    قَالَ - فَيَصْعَدُونَ بِهَا فَلاَ يَمُرُّونَ - يَعْنِى بِهَا - عَلَى مَلأٍ مِنَ الْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِلاَّ قَالُوا مَا هَذَا الرُّوحُ الطَّيِّبُ فَيَقُولُونَ فُلاَنُ بْنُ فُلاَنٍ بِأَحْسَنِ أَسْمَائِهِ الَّتِى كَانُوا يُسَمُّونَهُ بِهَا فِى الدُّنْيَا حَتَّى يَنْتَهُوا بِهَا إِلَى السَّمَاءِ الدُّنْيَا فَيَسْتَفْتِحُونَ لَهُ فَيُفْتَحُ لَهُمْ فَيُشَيِّعُهُ مِنْ كُلِّ سَمَاءٍ مُقَرَّبُوهَا إِلَى السَّمَاءِ الَّتِى تَلِيهَا حَتَّى يُنْتَهَى بِهِ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ السَّابِعَةِ فَيَقُولُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ اكْتُبُوا كِتَابَ عَبْدِى فِى عِلِّيِّينَ وَأَعِيدُوهُ إِلَى الأَرْضِ فَإِنِّى مِنْهَا خَلَقْتُهُمْ وَفِيهَا أُعِيدُهُمْ وَمِنْهَا أُخْرِجُهُمْ تَارَةً أُخْرَى –
    قَالَ - فَتُعَادُ رُوحُهُ فِى جَسَدِهِ فَيَأْتِيهِ مَلَكَانِ فَيُجْلِسَانِهِ فَيَقُولاَنَ لَهُ مَنْ رَبُّكَ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّىَ اللَّهُ. فَيَقُولاَنِ لَهُ مَا دِينُكَ فَيَقُولُ دِينِىَ الإِسْلاَمُ. فَيَقُولاَنِ لَهُ مَا هَذَا الرَّجُلُ الَّذِى بُعِثَ فِيكُمْ فَيَقُولُ هُوَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ. فَيَقُولاَنِ لَهُ وَمَا عِلْمُكَ فَيَقُولُ قَرَأْتُ كِتَابَ اللَّهِ فَآمَنْتُ بِهِ وَصَدَّقْتُ. فَيُنَادِى مُنَادٍ فِى السَّمَاءِ أَنْ صَدَقَ عَبْدِى فَأَفْرِشُوهُ مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ وَأَلْبِسُوهُ مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ وَافْتَحُوا لَهُ بَاباً إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ - قَالَ - فَيَأْتِيهِ مِنْ رَوْحِهَا وَطِيبِهَا وَيُفْسَحُ لَهُ فِى قَبْرِهِ مَدَّ بَصَرِهِ –
    قَالَ - وَيَأْتِيهِ رَجُلٌ حَسَنُ الْوَجْهِ حَسَنُ الثِّيَابِ طَيِّبُ الرِّيحِ فَيَقُولُ أَبْشِرْ بِالَّذِى يَسُرُّكَ هَذَا يَوْمُكَ الَّذِى كُنْتَ تُوعَدُ فَيَقُولُ لَهُ مَنْ أَنْتَ فَوَجْهُكَ الْوَجْهُ يَجِىءُ بِالْخَيْرِ فَيَقُولُ أَنَا عَمَلُكَ الصَّالِحُ. فَيَقُولُ رَبِّ أَقِمِ السَّاعَةَ حَتَّى أَرْجِعَ إِلَى أَهْلِى وَمَالِى.
    قَالَ وَإِنَّ الْعَبْدَ الْكَافِرَ إِذَا كَانَ فِى انْقِطَاعٍ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا وَإِقْبَالٍ مِنَ الآخِرَةِ نَزَلَ إِلَيْهِ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَلاَئِكَةٌ سُودُ الْوُجُوهِ مَعَهُمُ الْمُسُوحُ فَيَجْلِسُونَ مِنْهُ مَدَّ الْبَصَرِ ثُمَّ يَجِىءُ مَلَكُ الْمَوْتِ حَتَّى يَجْلِسَ عِنْدَ رَأْسِهِ فَيَقُولُ أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْخَبِيثَةُ اخْرُجِى إِلَى سَخَطٍ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَغَضَبٍ –
    قَالَ - فَتُفَرَّقُ فِى جَسَدِهِ فَيَنْتَزِعُهَا كَمَا يُنْتَزَعُ السَّفُّودُ مِنَ الصُّوفِ الْمَبْلُولِ فَيَأْخُذُهَا فَإِذَا أَخَذَهَا لَمْ يَدَعُوهَا فِى يَدِهِ طَرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ حَتَّى يَجْعَلُوهَا فِى تِلْكَ الْمُسُوحِ وَيَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا كَأَنْتَنِ رِيحِ جِيفَةٍ وُجِدَتْ عَلَى وَجْهِ الأَرْضِ فَيَصْعَدُونَ بِهَا فَلاَ يَمُرُّونَ بِهَا عَلَى مَلأٍ مِنَ الْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِلاَّ قَالُوا مَا هَذَا الرُّوحُ الْخَبِيثُ فَيَقُولُونَ فُلاَنُ بْنُ فُلاَنٍ بِأَقْبَحِ أَسْمَائِهِ الَّتِى كَانَ يُسَمَّى بِهَا فِى الدُّنْيَا حَتَّى يُنْتَهَى بِهِ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ الدُّنْيَا فَيُسْتَفْتَحُ لَهُ فَلاَ يُفْتَحُ لَهُ». ثُمَّ قَرَأَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- (لاَ تُفَتَّحُ لَهُمْ أَبْوَابُ السَّمَاءِ وَلاَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ حَتَّى يَلِجَ الْجَمَلُ فِى سَمِّ الْخِيَاطِ) «فَيَقُولُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ اكْتُبُوا كِتَابَهُ فِى سِجِّينٍ فِى الأَرْضِ السُّفْلَى فَتُطْرَحُ رُوحُهُ طَرْحاً». ثُمَّ قَرَأَ (وَمَنْ يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَكَأَنَّمَا خَرَّ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَتَخْطَفُهُ الطَّيْرُ أَوْ تَهْوِى بِهِ الرِّيحُ فِى مَكَانٍ سَحِيقٍ)
    «فَتُعَادُ رُوحُهُ فِى جَسَدِهِ وَيَأْتِيهِ مَلَكَانِ فَيُجْلِسَانِهِ فَيَقُولاَنِ لَهُ مَنْ رَبُّكَ فَيَقُولُ هَاهْ هَاهْ لاَ أَدْرِى. فَيَقُولاَنِ لَهُ مَا دِينُكَ فَيَقُولُ هَاهْ هَاهْ لاَ أَدْرِى. فَيَقُولاَنِ لَهُ مَا هَذَا الرَّجُلُ الَّذِى بُعِثَ فِيكُمْ فَيَقُولُ هَاهْ هَاهْ لاَ أَدْرِى. فَيُنَادِى مُنَادٍ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ أَنْ كَذَبَ فَافْرِشُوا لَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ وَافْتَحُوا لَهُ بَاباً إِلَى النَّارِ فَيَأْتِيهِ مِنْ حَرِّهَا وَسَمُومِهَا وَيُضَيَّقُ عَلَيْهِ قَبْرُهُ حَتَّى تَخْتَلِفَ فِيهِ أَضْلاَعُهُ وَيَأْتِيهِ رَجُلٌ قَبِيحُ الْوَجْهِ قَبِيحُ الثِّيَابِ مُنْتِنُ الرِّيحِ فَيَقُولُ أَبْشِرْ بِالَّذِى يَسُوءُكَ هَذَا يَوْمُكَ الَّذِى كُنْتَ تُوعَدُ. فَيَقُولُ مَنْ أَنْتَ فَوَجْهُكَ الْوَجْهُ يَجِىءُ بِالشَّرِّ فَيَقُولُ أَنَا عَمَلُكَ الْخَبِيثُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّ لاَ تُقِمِ السَّاعَةَ


    “We were attending the funeral service of an Ansari. The grave was being dug. The Prophet sat down and so did we around him, quiet and arrested as if we had birds on our heads. He had a twig in his hand with which he began to scratch the ground. Then he raised his head and said, ‘Seek Allah’s refuge from the punishment in the grave – he said that twice or thrice. When a believer is about to leave this world and about to enter the next, bright faced angels come down from the heavens; their faces as radiant as the sun. They carry a shroud with them from Paradise covered with a perfume from Paradise. They sit down in front of him. They are followed by the Angel of Death, who sits down at his head. He says, ‘O good soul, come out to Allah’s forgiveness and His approval.’ It flows out, like water from the mouth of a water bag. He collects it and no sooner has he collected it when the others take it away from him enwrapping him in the shroud and the perfume (they had brought). It emits the best of fragrance ever possible on the face of the earth. Then they ascend to the heavens along with it and do not pass by them, that is, any group of angels, but they exclaim, ‘What good soul is this?’ They reply, ‘So and so, son of so and so,’ naming him by the best of names that he was known by in the world, until they arrive at the heaven nearest to the earth. They seek the opening of its door. In every heaven those of its inhabitants that are the closest (to Allah) greet him and see him to the next heaven until he reaches the seventh heaven. There, Allah says, ‘Place My slave’s book (of deeds) in the `Illiyyun (a place somewhere in the cosmos) and return him to the earth, for, therewith I have created them, thereunto I shall return them and therefrom I shall resurrect them a second time.’ So his soul is returned to his body.
    “Then two angels arrive and make him sit up. They ask, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He replies, `Allah is my Lord.’ They ask, ‘What’s your religion?’ He replies, `Islam is my religion.’ They ask him, ‘What have you to say about this man who was sent to you?’ He replies, ‘He is Allah’s Messenger.’ Then they ask, ‘What’s your knowledge?’ He replies, ‘I read Allah’s book and believed in it.’ At that a caller calls out from the heaven, ‘My slave has spoken the truth. So spread out a bed for him from Paradise, give him a dress from Paradise, and open up for him a door to Paradise.’ So, (when the door is opened) tranquility and perfumes come to him from Paradise and his grave is expanded to the reach of the sight. And then comes to him a man: of beautiful face, beautiful dress, and clothed in pleasant fragrance. He says, ‘Receive the glad tidings. This is the day you were being promised.’ He asks, ‘Who are you? Your face is of the kind that cannot but bring good.’ He replies, 'I’m your good deeds.’ He begins to say, ‘My Lord, call the Hour, call the Hour, so that I can return to my kinsfolk and to my property.’
    “In contrast, when an evil person is about to leave the world, and enter into the Hereafter, Allah sends towards him angels from the heaven, of dark faces, with coarse leather (pieces) in their hands. They sit down in front of him. They are followed by the Angel of death who sits down at his head. He says, ‘Come out O filthy soul. Come out to Allah’s anger and displeasure.’ The soul spreads itself out in the body (resisting to come out). So he pulls it out like a thorny branch (entangled) in a (ball) of wet wool. He takes it but not a minute is wasted before they place it in that thick leather piece. It leaves the body covered in such a filthy smell as never experienced on the face of the earth. Then they ascend to the heavens with it. They do not pass by a group of angels but they remark, ‘Whose stinking soul is this?’ They reply, `It is that of so and so, son of so and so,’ naming it by the worst of names that he was known by in the life of this world. Until, when they reach the heaven nearest to the earth, they seek the door to be opened, but they are refused entry.”
    “At that point the Prophet recited the verse (7: 40), ‘The doors to the heaven will not be opened for them and they will not enter Paradise until a camel passes through a needle’s eye.’ Allah says at that point, ‘Place his book (of deeds) in the Sijjin in the lowest earth.’ So his soul is flung away (into Sijjin). The Prophet then recited (22: 31), `And whosoever associated with Allah is as if cast away from the heaven whom the birds have snatched him away, or the wind blows it away to a distant place.’
    “Then his soul is returned to the body. After that two angels arrive. They make him sit up and ask, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He replies, ‘Ha, ha, I have no idea.’ They ask, ‘What’s your religion?’ He answers, ‘Ha, ha, I have no idea.’ They ask, ‘Who is the man who was sent to you?’ He replies, ‘Ha, ha. I have no idea.’ Then someone cries out from the heaven, ‘My slave has lied. So spread out a bed for him from the Fire, and open up a door on him from the Fire.’ Its heat and poison reach him and his grave is squeezed on him until his ribs cross each other. Then a man with a dreadful face, in dreadful attire, and smelling horribly, arrives. He says, ‘Be of good cheer about something that will prove evil to you. This is the day you were warned of.’ He asks, 'Who are you? The face you have, can only bring evil.’ He replies, 'I am your evil deeds.’ The man cries out, ‘My Lord, do not call for the Hour.’” (The hadith is in Ahmad, Abu Da’ud, Nasa`i and Ibn Majah).
    According to other versions, “When a dead man is placed in the grave, and his companions turn away, while he hears the retreating noise of their footsteps, two angels come down and ask...” Tirmidhi’s version names the angels as Munkar and Nakir, and that, if he succeeds in answering the questions correctly, his grave is filled with light (nur) and he is told, ‘Sleep.’ He says, ‘Let me go back to my family and tell them (what happened).’ They say, ‘Sleep, the sleep of a bridegroom who is not awakened but by the dearest of the family.’ But, if it is a hypocrite, and he is asked the questions, he says, 'I used to hear the people say (some things about faith and beliefs) and I used to utter the same things. (Otherwise) I know nothing.’ The earth is told, ‘Squeeze him from all sides.’ It closes in on him from all around until his rib bones cross each other. He remains enduring torture until the Day of Judgment.”
    There is yet another report which records Abu Hurayrah as having said,


    عن أبي هريرة قال، إن الميت ليسمعَ خَفْقَ نِعالهم حين يُوَلُّون عنه مدبرين. فإذا كان مؤمنًا، كانت الصلاة عند رأسه، والزكاةُ عن يمينه، وكان الصيام عن يساره، وكان فِعْلُ الخيرات من الصّدقة والصِّلة والمعروف والإحسان إلى الناس عند رجليه، فيؤتَى من عند رأسه فتقول الصلاة: ما قِبَلي مَدخلٌ. فيؤتى عن يمينه فتقول الزكاة: ما قِبَلي مَدخلٌ. فيؤتي عن يساره فيقول الصيام: ما قِبَلي مَدخلٌ. فيؤتى من عند رجليه فيقول فعل الخيرات من الصَّدقة والصِّلة والمعروف والإحسان إلى الناس: ما قِبَلي مدخلٌ.
    فيقال له: اجلسْ. فيجلسُ، قد تمثّلتْ له الشمس قد دنت للغروب، فيقال له: أخبرنَا عمَّا نسألك. فيقول: دعُوني حتى أصلِّي. فيقال: إنك ستفعل، فأخبرنا عما نسألك عنه! فيقول: وعمَّ تسألون؟ فيقال: أرأيت هذا الرجل الذي كان فِيكم، ماذا تقول فيه، وماذا تشهد به عليه؟ فيقول: أمحمد؟ فيقال له: نعم. فيقول أشهد أنَّه رسول الله، وأنه جَاء بالبينات من عند الله، فصدّقناه. فيقال له: على ذلك حَييتَ، وعلى ذلك مِتَّ، وعلى ذلك تُبْعث إن شاء الله. ثم يُفْسح له في قبره سبعون ذراعًا ويُنوَّر له فيه، ثم يُفْتح له باب إلى الجنة فيقال له: انظر إلى ما أعدّ الله لك فيها، فيزداد غِبْطَةً وسرورًا، ثم يفتح له باب إلى النار فيقال له: انظر ما صَرَف الله عنك لو عصيتَه! فيزداد غبْطةً وسرورًا. ثمّ يجعل نَسَمُه في النَّسَم الطَّيب، وهي طيْرٌ خُضْرٌ تُعَلَّق بشجر الجنة، ويعاد جسده إلى ما بُدئ منه من التراب، وذلك قول الله تعالى: يثبت الله الذين آمنوا بالقول الثابت في الحياة الدنيا وفي الآخرة.


    “The dead man hears the sounds of their footsteps as they (the burial crowd) recede. Now, if he was a believer, Prayers take position at his head, Zakah on his right, fasts on his left and good deeds, charity, kin’s rights well observed, acts of charity to the people, (all of them) near his feet. He is sought access to from the side of his head. Prayers say, ‘There is no entrance from my side.’ He is approached from the right. Zakah says, ‘There is no entrance from my side.’ He is approached from his left. Fasts say, ‘There is no entrance from my side.’ He is approached from the side of his feet. Charity and good acts speak out, ‘There is no entrance from our side.’
    He is told, ‘Sit down.’ He sits up and it appears to him as if the sun is about to set. He is told, ‘Tell us about what we are about to ask.’ He says, ‘First, allow me to do my Prayers.’ He is told, ‘You will do that presently. But for the moment tell us about what we inquire.’ He asks, ‘What do you wish to ask?’ He is told, ‘What do you have to say about this man, who was among you? And what is your testimony about him?’ He asks, ‘Do you mean Muhammad?’ He is told, ‘Yes.’ He replies, `I testify that he was a Messenger of Allah and that he came from Allah with clear signs, and so we believed in him.’ He is told, ‘Upon this you lived, upon this you died, and upon this you will be raised, Allah willing.’ Then his grave is widened by seventy hand-measures and it is lightened. A door is opened to Paradise and he is told, ‘Look at what Allah has prepared for you therein.’ That increases his joy and delight. Then a door is opened to Hell and he is told, 'Look, this is what you have been saved from, had you disobeyed Him.' That increases his joy and delight. Then his soul is placed among the good souls, residing in green birds hanging by the trees of Paradise. As for the body, it is returned to its origins in the earth. And this explains Allah's words, 'Allah grants firmness to those who believe, by the firm Word, in the life of this world as well as in the next” (Ibn Jarir).
    This hadith is also in Ibn Hibban, with some additions (Ibn Kathir).
    Its first few lines are in Muslim, while the rest in various other collections.
    In connection with the questioning in the grave, Qurtubi reports two stories of confidence. Sahar b. `Ammar said: “I saw Yazid b. Harun after his death. I asked him, ‘How did Allah treat you?’ He replied, ‘Two tough looking, tough acting angels came to me. They asked, “What’s your religion, who is your Lord and who is your prophet?” I held my white beard in my hand and said, “Is that what you ask of a man of my kind? And I had been teaching people answers to your questions for eighty years.” So they went away.’” And `Umar ibn al-Khattab enquired the Prophet about the situation in the grave, “Will I be able to use my mind?” He replied, “Yes.” `Umar remarked, “I think I know how I’ll deal with them.”
    And Bazzar has a report coming from `A`isha. When she heard about the questioning in the grave, she asked the Prophet, “How can I deal with them, Messenger of Allah, seeing that I am after all a woman (with all my weaknesses)?” He replied with this verse, “Allah makes firm those who believe by the firm word, during the life of this world as well as in the Hereafter” (Shawkani).
    54. That is, Allah creates error in the heart of the unbeliever following his will and choice (Alusi).
    The words, “And Allah leads the evildoers to error,” refer to the situation of the hypocrite in the grave, who, when asked about the Prophet as to who he was, replies, “I heard people say some things and I repeated. Otherwise, I know nothing.” It is Allah who makes him forget the right answers and hence His words, “Allah leads the evildoers to error” (Ibn Jarir).

    أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ بَدَّلُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ كُفْرًا وَأَحَلُّوا قَوْمَهُمْ دَارَ الْبَوَارِ (28)

    14|28| Have you considered those who exchanged Allah’s blessings with disbelief and led their people to the abode of ruin?55


    55. The immediate reference at the time of revelation was, according to the widely reportedly opinions of `Ali ibn Abi Talib, Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id b. Jubayr and others, to the leaders of the Quraysh who led their people to destruction at Badr and to the everlasting punishment in Hell-fire (Ibn Jarir).
    The report is also in Bukhari (Shawkani).
    However, it is also reported of `Umar ibn al-Khattab, `Ali, Ibn `Umar and Ibn `Abbas that the allusion is to the two corrupt Quraysh clans: Banu al-Mughira and Banu Umayyah (Ibn Jarir). `Umar said, “As for Banu al-Mughira, you took care of them at Badr. As regards Banu Umayyah, they have been given respite.” The reports are in Bukhari’s “Tarikh” (not the Sahih collection), Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Marduwayh, Ibn Abi Hatim, Tabarani in his Awsat and Hakim, who declared it as trustworthy (Alusi, Shawkani).

    جَهَنَّمَ يَصْلَوْنَهَا ۖ وَبِئْسَ الْقَرَارُ (29)

    14|29| Jahannum, where they will burn, an evil resting place.


    وَجَعَلُوا لِلَّهِ أَنْدَادًا لِيُضِلُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ ۗ قُلْ تَمَتَّعُوا فَإِنَّ مَصِيرَكُمْ إِلَى النَّارِ (30)

    14|30| And they set up Allah’s equal so as to lead away from His path. Say, ‘Enjoy yourselves briefly, your destination is the Fire.’


    قُلْ لِعِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُنْفِقُوا مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ سِرًّا وَعَلَانِيَةً مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَأْتِيَ يَوْمٌ لَا بَيْعٌ فِيهِ وَلَا خِلَالٌ (31)

    14|31| Say to those of My slaves who have believed that they (should) perform the Prayers (regularly and properly), expend out of what We have provided them secretly and openly, before a day comes when there will be neither trading nor mutual befriending.


    اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَأَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ رِزْقًا لَكُمْ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الْفُلْكَ لِتَجْرِيَ فِي الْبَحْرِ بِأَمْرِهِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الْأَنْهَارَ (32)

    14|32| Allah it is who created the heavens and the earth and sent down out of heaven water. He brought forth thereby fruits for your sustenance. And He subjected the ships to you that sail in the seas by His command. And He subjected to you the rivers.


    وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ دَائِبَيْنِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ (33)

    14|33| And He subjected to you the sun and the moon constantly pursuing (their courses); and He subjected to you the night and the day.56


    56. Ibn Kathir writes: Allah mentioned some of the favors He showed to mankind, such as, He made the sky a protective ceiling, earth a bed, brought forth vegetation in the aftermath of rains that yield fruits of different tastes and colors, as well as grain and grass. He also made ships to sail on the surface of water by His command, and rivers that help in irrigation and transport from one region to another. This is the meaning of making these things subservient.
    Asad comments: “Almost all classical commentators agree that God’s having made the natural phenomena “subservient” to man is a metaphor (majaz) for His having enabled man to derive lasting benefit from them.”
    Mawdudi elaborates: “Some (people) think that it means that the forces of nature have been placed under the control of man. Such an assumption leads people to develop a variety of odd ideas. Some even go so far as to say that to achieve mastery over the heavens and the earth is the true end of man’s existence. However, what the Qur’anic statement means by the subjection of the natural phenomena is simply that God has bound them to laws which are beneficial for mankind. Had sailing in the sea not been subject to any law, it would not have been possible for man to undertake sea voyages. Had the rivers not been subject to any laws, man could not have used them for irrigation. Likewise, had the sun, the moon, the day and the night not been regulated, there could have been no life on earth, let alone any flourishing human civilization.”

    وَآتَاكُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا ۗ إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ (34)

    14|34| And He gave you all that you asked Him.57 If you count Allah’s bounties, you will never number them.58 Verily, Man is given to much wrong-doing, much ingratitude.59


    57. Qadi Baydawi has said that the meaning is: Allah provided everything for you that you will ever need, whether you asked for it or not (Ma`arif).
    Some commentators have however understood the “min” of the text as meaning, “out of.” That is, He gave you something out of all that you asked Him, following His wisdom, withholding that alone which was harmful (Razi and others).
    58. Bayhaqi has reported Abu Darda’ as saying, “He who does not see Allah’s bounties except in his food and drinks, will be poor in the obedience of his Lord, and his punishment is close” (Shawkani). And a tradition in Bukhari reports that the Prophet used to say,


    الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ كَثِيرًا طَيِّبًا مُبَارَكًا فِيهِ ، غَيْرَ مَكْفِىٍّ ، وَلاَ مُوَدَّعٍ وَلاَ مُسْتَغْنًى عَنْهُ ، رَبَّنَا


    “Praises to Allah in great measure, goodly, blessed - of the kind that can never be sufficient, nor that which will be the last one, nor something we can feel self-sufficient about - O our Lord” (Ibn Kathir).
    It was either Abu `Ali Shibli or Ibn Ali Sina who reportedly belittled the blessing of this life in a poem, a part of which is reproduced here:
    Time scatters our years over here and there
    Like the leaves of a branch scattered around
    Whenever the world lays a new born
    It is devoured by the vicissitudes of the wet-nurse
    We are watched from the time earlier than we were born
    While any disagreement is in the mother’s womb cut down
    We only wait for misfortunes and calamities
    And thereafter? Ah, threats (of punishments) await us
    We leave, unwilling, as does the lizard leaves when forced out of its hole
    Why should we be taunted over our existence?
    When we had no choice to be or not to be?
    It would have been a better blessing if we were
    Consulted earlier, or given a choice
    This is a malady that has no cure
    This is a breaking down, that has no mending.
    (Alusi)
    Obviously, it is a cynic who sees the world as a clock-work, in which men are denied any role, awaiting only calamities as life’s events unfold themselves: a view which is somewhat different from the real world, in which every living being wishes to live as long as possible, obviously not out of grief. That apart, we are sure the poet must have been well pleased with his lines, as will all those be, who are, for some reason or the other, of similar skeptic temperament. They will pass these lines around in delight, to men of similar dispositions. But, ignoring other things, can they deny that the life’s pains are worth the pleasure which these lines offer: to the writer and those of similar disposition? After all, rocks do not say poetry. Would a man choose to be a rock, rather than someone who enjoys reading and writing poetry? As regards not having been consulted before creation, let us suppose a piece of rock is consulted: “Do you wish to come alive?” We all know what the answer would be. Life itself is a reward and a blessing (Au.).
    59. Man is given to “much wrong-doing,” (zalum), making noise and complaining to everyone he comes across when he faces hard times, and is given to “much ingratitude” (kaffar), amassing and refusing to share with others when bestowed with bounties (Zamakhshari).
    (Accordingly) a report in Ibn Abi Hatim has `Umar saying, “O Allah, forgive me my zulm and my kufr.” He was asked, “Zulm, yes. But what about kufr?” He replied, “Allah said, ‘Surely man is zalum, kaffar’” (Shawkani).

    وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَٰذَا الْبَلَدَ آمِنًا وَاجْنُبْنِي وَبَنِيَّ أَنْ نَعْبُدَ الْأَصْنَامَ (35)

    14|35| (Recall)60 when Ibrahim said,61 ‘My Lord! Make this a land of peace,62 and preserve me and my offspring that we should worship idols.63


    60. Asad seeks a connection with the preceding passages: “The whole of this passage (verse 35-41) - from which the title of this surah is derived - represents a parenthetic reminder, in the form of Abraham’s prayer, of the only way to righteousness, in the deepest sense of the word, open to man: namely, recognition of God’s existence, oneness and uniqueness and, hence, a rejection of all belief in 'other powers' supposedly co-existent with Him (cf. verse 30 above). Inasmuch as this prayer implies a realization of, and gratitude for, God’s infinite bounty, it connects directly with the preceding verse 34 and the subsequent verse 42."
    Shabbir `Uthmani and Mawdudi look at the passage from another angle. In Mawdudi’s words, “After mentioning God’s favours to all mankind, reference is made here to the favours which were specially bestowed on the Quraysh. The Quraysh are told that when their ancestor, Abraham (peace be on him), settled in Makka with the robust hope that his descendants would live in obedience to their Lord, God lavished a great variety of favours upon them in response to Abraham’s prayer. But in return for all those favours, the Quraysh acted in brazen disregard of Abraham’s expectations of them, embraced erroneous doctrines and engaged in every kind of misdeed.”
    61. Although himself a Sufi, Thanwi warns that the lesson that some extremist Sufis have derived from this verse, that, following Ibrahim’s example, wife and children can be abandoned to Allah’s care, is wrong. Ibrahim did it on Allah’s command, which Hajar too ascertained by demanding to know, “Is this by Allah’s command?”
    62. By ordering its territory as sacred and inviolate, Allah made Makkah and its surrounding areas, sitting as an island in a sea of violence, debauchery and immorality, a place of peace and security, that has no second to its unique position on the planet (Au.).
    63. The question that arises is whether Ibrahim feared that he or his children would worship idols? Majid says that the reference here is to his immediate progeny, and not to his entire race. Imam Razi considers various answers and then concludes that one of the plausible answers is that he supplicated against what the Sufis call as the “shirk al-khafiyy,”( minor and unobvious form of Association) which consists in the heart’s attachment, in any degree, to anyone other than Allah.
    Alusi is not satisfied with the answer. He has a different explanation: “I believe the state and status of the unsinfulness of the prophets is not a natural physical quality that they are endowed with and by virtue of which they remain sinless. It is by Divine Will, and a blessing on them from Allah.” In that sense, it is continuation of the grace which was sought by Ibrahim.
    Asad adds: “The term `Idols’ (asnam, sing., sanam) does not apply exclusively to actual, concrete representation of false ‘deities’: for shirk - that is, an attribution of divine powers or qualities to anyone or anything beside God - may consist also, as Razi points out, in a worshipful devotion to all manner of ‘causative agencies and outward means to an end’ - an obvious allusion to wealth, power, luck, people’s favor or disfavor, and so forth - ‘whereas genuine faith in the oneness and uniqueness of God (at-tawhid al-mahd) consists in divesting oneself of all inner attachment to [such] causative agencies and in being convinced that there exists no real directing power apart from God.’”
    Thanwi does not miss out another implication. He writes: “The verse shows that even Prophets did not feel themselves safe from Satan’s contriving. Should lower men, however perfect, ever feel secure?”

    رَبِّ إِنَّهُنَّ أَضْلَلْنَ كَثِيرًا مِنَ النَّاسِ ۖ فَمَنْ تَبِعَنِي فَإِنَّهُ مِنِّي ۖ وَمَنْ عَصَانِي فَإِنَّكَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (36)

    14|36| My Lord! They64 have indeed led astray many of the mankind.65 Then whoso followed me is of me and whoso disobeyed me - but, surely, You are the Most Forgiving, the Most Kind.66


    64. “They:” “That is, idols and images which are to the idolatrous people visible representation of God or gods and fraught with Divine glory and majesty” (Majid).
    65. Majid comments and quotes: “The name of the idolatrous peoples both ancient and modern, is legion; and nations after nations, not all of them of the lowest savagery, are known to have succumbed to the influence of idolatry. `Its tendency to revive ethnographically is embarrassing ... The modern Brahmans, professed followers of Vedic doctrine, are among the greatest idolaters of the world. Early Christianity by no means abrogated the Jewish law against image-worship, yet image-worship became and still remains widely spread and deeply rooted in Christendom.’ (PC. II. p. 168).”
    66. Qatadah used to say, “Listen people, what was it that Ibrahim have to say (about his pagan people). He did not curse them nor called them names.”
    And, it is reported of the Prophet that,


    عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بن عَمْرٍو، أَنّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ تَلا قَوْلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ: فَمَنْ تَبِعَنِي فَإِنَّهُ مِنِّي وَمَنْ عَصَانِي فَإِنَّكَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ، وَقَوْلَ عِيسَى: إِنْ تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ وَإِنْ تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ، فَرَفَعَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَدَهُ، ثُمَّ قَالَ:"اللَّهُمَّ أُمَّتِي أُمَّتِي"، وَبَكَى، فَقَالَ اللَّهُ لِجِبْرِيلَ:"اذْهَبْ إِلَى مُحَمَّدٍ، وَرَبُّكَ أَعْلَمُ، وَاسْأَلْهُ مَا يُبْكِيكَ؟"، فَأَتَاهُ جِبْرِيلُ، فَسَأَلَهُ، فَأَخْبَرَهُ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، فَقَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لِجِبْرِيلَ:"اذْهَبْ إِلَى مُحَمَّدٍ، فَقُلْ لَهُ: إِنَّا سَنُرْضِيكَ فِي أُمَّتِكَ وَلا نَسُوءُكَ"


    "Once he recited this verse, “My Lord! They have indeed led astray many of the mankind. Then whoso followed me is of me and whoso disobeyed me - but, surely, You are the Most Forgiving, the Most Kind.” Thereafter he recited the words of `Isa ibn Maryam (5: 118): “If You punish them, then, surely they are Your slaves. But if You forgive them, then, surely, You are the All-mighty, the All-wise.” Then he raised his hands and supplicated, “O Allah, my Ummah. O Allah, my Ummah,” and cried. Allah said to Jibril, “Jibril! Go to Muhammad – and, although Allah knows - ask him, ‘What makes you cry?’ Jibril came down to him and asked him. The Prophet told him what made him cry. Allah said, “Jibril! Go to Muhammad and say to him, ‘We shall satisfy you in the matter of your Ummah, and shall not cause you any pain’” (Ibn Jarir).
    The above hadith is in the Sahih of Ibn Hibban and other books (Au.).

    رَبَّنَا إِنِّي أَسْكَنْتُ مِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِنْدَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ فَاجْعَلْ أَفْئِدَةً مِنَ النَّاسِ تَهْوِي إِلَيْهِمْ وَارْزُقْهُمْ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْكُرُونَ (37)

    14|37| Our Lord! I have settled some of my offspring by Your sacred House67 in a valley68 devoid of vegetation,69 O our Lord, that they may perform the Prayer.70 So make the hearts of some people incline towards them,71 and provide them with fruits,72 haply they will give thanks.73


    67. This confirms that the Sacred House was already there in existence, in some form or the other (Qurtubi).
    Another possibility is that the supplication was made after the construction, although, the place was marked for such a House, the day Allah created the heavens and the earth (Au.).
    68. Majid quotes various Western scholars, “‘The city lies in a hollow among the hills’ (Ebr. XV. p. 150). ‘Mecca lies in a valley imprisoned by stony hills, the last word of desolation’ (Lady Cobbold, Pilgrimage to Mecca, p. 139). It would be difficult to meet with a more forbidding site, even amongst the mixed rock-masses of Tihama, the lowest-lying and with desolate part of this stern province of Hijaz ... In the badly-ventilated corridor, scorched all through in endless summer by the pitiless sun of Arabia, without the shelter of a single palm-tree, the population in order to slake their thirst were reduced to the uncertain flow of Zamzam.’ (Lammen, Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, p. 16).”
    The honest Western scholars might note with some disappointment that the “uncertain flow of Zamzam” has never failed, right up to this day, when thousands of gallons of water is drawn from it every day with the help of several power-operated pumps (Au.).
    69. This supplication was made at the time when Ibrahim had left Hajar with Isma`il in her lap at the deserted spot, which was later to become Makkah. When he turned to go back Hajar followed him to some distance asking him whether he was leaving them there, and if so, was it by Allah’s command. He said yes without turning. Then, as they became out of sight, he turned and prayed in these words (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and others).
    However, the full content suggests that this is a collection of supplications that Ibrahim made on various occasions at various times (Au.). Ibn Kathir and Thanwi have also stated something to this effect.
    For details of Ibrahim’s journey from Syria to the deserted valley in Makkah, see Surah Al-Baqarah, note 253 of this work.
    The place is still as barren as it was four thousand years ago (Au.). No tree bears any fruit there. All the fruits found in the town are brought from outside (Ibn Kathir).
    Majid again comments and quotes: “‘The old geographers observe that the whole Haram area or sanctuary around the city is almost without cultivation or date-palms (Ebr. XV. p. 150). ‘For many miles around Mecca ... the general features are rugged rocks without a trace of foliage. Even at the present day ... Mecca can hardly boast a garden or cultivated field, and only here and there is a tree’ (Miur, op. cit. p.2). The city of Makkah, about forty-eight miles east of the Red Sea, lies in the world zone of maximum heat and dryness, and the whole tract, which is rainless, experiencing great extremes of heat in summer. ‘The thermometer in Makka can register almost unbearable heat’ (Hitti, op. cit. p. 104).”
    70. Imam Razi writes on the implication of this passage: This shows that once a man is free of worldly worries, he should busy himself with prayers and other rituals of worship.
    `Umar ibn al-Khattab is reported to have said during a Friday sermon, “Allah first granted custody of the House to the Tasm. But they violated its sanctity. So Allah destroyed them and gave it to the Jurham tribe. But in time they too violated its sanctity. So Allah destroyed them too and has given you the custody now, O Quraysh. So take care not to disobey its Lord, declare its lawful as unlawful, or neglect its rights. By Allah, one Prayer offered therein is dearer to me than a hundred elsewhere. And, you might know that sins therein are similarly treated” (Ibn Jarir).
    Qurtubi adds: Most of the scholars have considered prayers offered in the Sacred House as the most reward bearing, followed by those done in the mosque at Madinah. One of the traditions in this regard says,


    صَلاةٌ فِي مَسْجِدِي هَذَا أَفْضَلُ مِنْ أَلْفِ صَلاةٍ فِيمَا سِوَاهُ، إِلا الْمَسْجِدَ الْحَرَامَ، وَصَلاةٌ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ أَفْضَلُ مِنْ صَلاةٍ فِي مَسْجِدِي بِأَلْفِ صَلاةٍ


    “Prayers in my mosque are a thousand times more reward-bearing than in any other mosque except for the Sacred House at Makkah where the Prayers are a hundred times more reward bearing than Prayers in this mosque of mine.” Hence, many scholars say that Muslims may offer their ‘Eid Prayers anywhere in a town, but in Makkah, it must be offered in the Grand Mosque alone.
    The first part of the above hadith is in the Sahihayn while the whole is in several collections with Haythami declaring one version as trustworthy (Au.).
    71. Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah and Mujahid have said that as a result of the addition of article “min” before “al-nas”, (rendering the meaning as ‘some of the people’), it is only the Muslims who are inclined towards them. If all the people had been intended, peoples of the world would have crowded into the Holy Sanctuary (Ibn Jarir).
    72. Zamakhshari wrote: The supplication was accepted and, in consequence, we notice the amazing phenomenon that the shops are laden with fruits of all varieties, none of which are grown in Makkah, not at any particular time, but throughout the year.
    That was in the sixth century. And so has it been throughout the centuries. Whoever visited Makkah noticed this strange phenomenon (Au.).
    73. Apart from fruits, Allah provided them with water too: which is both water as well as diet. The Prophet said in a hadith in Dara Qutni,


    ماء زمزم لما شرب له إن شربته تشتفي به شفاك الله وإن شربته لشبعك أشبعك الله به وإن شربته لقطع ظمئك قطعه وهي هزمة جبريل وسقيا الله إسماعيل


    “Zamzam water is good for whatever it is drunk. If you seek to be cured, Allah will cure you. If you consider it as food, Allah will fill your stomach. If you drank it out of thirst, Allah will remove your thirst. It is by Jibril’s strike and Allah’s water to Isma`il.” Hence Ibn `Abbas used to say before drinking it, “O Allah! Grant me useful knowledge, wide sustenance and cure from every ailment.” And Ibn al-`Arabiyy has said, “This will last until the day of Judgment for him who has the right intention, not denying (its qualities) inwardly, nor drinking it by way of experiment; for, Allah is with those who trust Him, and He dispels the experimenters” (Qurtubi).
    Except for Hakim who gave it conditional approval, most Hadith Doctors have thought that the above hadith is weak, with the first part accepted by most (Au.).

    رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ تَعْلَمُ مَا نُخْفِي وَمَا نُعْلِنُ ۗ وَمَا يَخْفَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ (38)

    14|38| Our Lord! You know what we conceal and what we reveal,74 for nothing whatsoever is hidden from Allah, in the earth or in the heaven.75


    74. The allusion was perhaps to Ibrahim’s love and concern of Hajar and the child (Shawkani from Ibn Abi Hatim).
    75. That is, Allah knows what desires we conceal in our hearts, and so, in fact, there is no need for supplications. Nevertheless, we do it to demonstrate our humbleness (Zamakhshari).

    الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي وَهَبَ لِي عَلَى الْكِبَرِ إِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي لَسَمِيعُ الدُّعَاءِ (39)

    14|39| Praise be to Allah who bestowed upon me in my old age, Isma`il and Is-haq.76 Surely, my Lord is the Hearer of supplication.77


    76. Ibrahim (asws) was a centurion by the time he finally became a father.
    77. Allah (swt) of course is the Hearer. But the meaning here is, He responds to the supplications and meets with our needs (Zamakhshari).

    رَبِّ اجْعَلْنِي مُقِيمَ الصَّلَاةِ وَمِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِي ۚ رَبَّنَا وَتَقَبَّلْ دُعَاءِ (40)

    14|40| O my Lord! Make me a performer of Prayer, and of my offspring (too),78 O our Lord, and accept my supplication.


    78. Asad writes: “The particle ‘min’ (“[some] of”) preceding the word dhurriyati (‘my offspring) is obviously an allusion to 2: 124, where God says in answer to Abraham’s question about his descendants: ‘My covenant does not embrace the evildoers’ ... (and, by implication, extends) even to the unrighteous among the descendants of the Last Prophet, Muhammad.”

    رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَابُ (41)

    14|41| O our Lord! Forgive me,79 my parents, and the believers the Day the reckoning is established.’ 80


    79. Majid offers a very useful note here, especially for those who get confused over our own Prophet’s “ghufran” as stated, e.g., in verse 2 of surah Al-Fat-h: “‘Ghufr’ is only ‘to cover with Divine grace,’ and does not necessarily presuppose sinfulness on the part of one who asks for his ‘maghfirah.’” Hence “mighfar” for helmet, which covers the head (Au.).
    80. Apparently, this supplication of forgiveness, which includes Ibrahim’s parents, was made earlier to he disowning them.

    وَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ اللَّهَ غَافِلًا عَمَّا يَعْمَلُ الظَّالِمُونَ ۚ إِنَّمَا يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ لِيَوْمٍ تَشْخَصُ فِيهِ الْأَبْصَارُ (42)

    14|42| And think not that Allah is unaware of what the transgressors do. He is only deferring them to a Day when the eyes will be fixed in stare.


    مُهْطِعِينَ مُقْنِعِي رُءُوسِهِمْ لَا يَرْتَدُّ إِلَيْهِمْ طَرْفُهُمْ ۖ وَأَفْئِدَتُهُمْ هَوَاءٌ (43)

    14|43| Racing ahead,81 with heads erect, their gaze not returning towards them,82 and their hearts void.


    81. We have adopted one of the several connotations expressed by the earliest scholars. A second connotation contained in “muhti`” is that of someone staring hard ahead, not diverting the sight for a moment. A third is to bend one’s head down. Classical poets, as quoted by Ibn Jarir and others, have used the term in all these senses.
    However, the sense in this context seems to be that of a people rushing onward with their heads raised, looking upward towards the heaven in fearful apprehension (Shawkani).
    True believers however, would be free from any fear. The Qur’an said about them (21: 103),


    {لَا يَحْزُنُهُمُ الْفَزَعُ الْأَكْبَرُ وَتَتَلَقَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ هَذَا يَوْمُكُمُ الَّذِي كُنْتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ} [الأنبياء: 103]


    “They will not be grieved by the great fear. Rather, angels will meet with them (saying), ‘This is your day which you had been promised.’”
    82. The “shukhus” (rendered as fixed stare), allegorically expresses a stare filled with fear and horror. But it does not express continuance, or permanence. The purport of the latter part of the verse is to impress that the fear and horror will not cease to be the fate of the people. They will keep staring ahead in horror, their gaze not returning back (Razi).
    In fact, the term “tarf” is for the eyelid, meaning, eye-lids will not move, implying that the eyes would be staring hard ahead (Alusi).

    وَأَنْذِرِ النَّاسَ يَوْمَ يَأْتِيهِمُ الْعَذَابُ فَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا رَبَّنَا أَخِّرْنَا إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ قَرِيبٍ نُجِبْ دَعْوَتَكَ وَنَتَّبِعِ الرُّسُلَ ۗ أَوَلَمْ تَكُونُوا أَقْسَمْتُمْ مِنْ قَبْلُ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ زَوَالٍ (44)

    14|44| So warn the people of a Day when the punishment comes on them. Then will the transgressors plead, ‘Our Lord! Grant us respite for a short term, we shall answer your call and follow the Messengers.’ (They will be answered), ‘Were you not swearing aforetime that you will not have to move?83


    83. That is, you were sure that you will not move from the material world to the Next (Mujahid: Ibn Jarir, Razi, Ibn Kathir and others)... “a reference to many people’s refusal, often mentioned in the Qur’an, to believe in life after death and, hence, in God’s ultimate judgment” (Asad).
    Although most of the classical commentators have expressed the meaning as we have adopted above, another possible meaning (Alusi and others) is, “You deemed that you will not face material decline.”
    Qurtubi and Alusi quote Ka`b al-Qurazi that the dwellers of Hell-fire will ask Allah on five occasions. He will answer them on four occasions. When He would have answered them on the fifth occasion, they will ask no more. They will say (40: 11),


    قَالُوا رَبَّنَا أَمَتَّنَا اثْنَتَيْنِ وَأَحْيَيْتَنَا اثْنَتَيْنِ فَاعْتَرَفْنَا بِذُنُوبِنَا فَهَلْ إِلَى خُرُوجٍ مِنْ سَبِيلٍ [غافر : 11]


    “O our Lord! You gave us death twice and brought us to life twice. Now, we admit our sins. So, is there a way out?”
    He will answer (40: 12),


    ذَلِكُمْ بِأَنَّهُ إِذَا دُعِيَ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ كَفَرْتُمْ وَإِنْ يُشْرَكْ بِهِ تُؤْمِنُوا فَالْحُكْمُ لِلَّهِ الْعَلِيِّ الْكَبِيرِ [غافر : 12]


    “That, because when you were invited to Allah alone, you disbelieved. But if He was associated with, you believed. So the judgment is for the Most High, the Great.”

    Then they will ask (32: 12),


    رَبَّنَا أَبْصَرْنَا وَسَمِعْنَا فَارْجِعْنَا نَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا إِنَّا مُوقِنُونَ [السجدة : 12]


    “O our Lord! We have seen and heard. So send us back so that we can attempt righteous deeds, we are now believers.”
    He will answer (32: 14),


    فَذُوقُوا بِمَا نَسِيتُمْ لِقَاءَ يَوْمِكُمْ هَذَا إِنَّا نَسِينَاكُمْ وَذُوقُوا عَذَابَ الْخُلْدِ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ [السجدة : 14]


    “Taste then because you forgot this day’s meeting. We have also forgotten you. Taste the everlasting punishment for what you were doing.”
    Then they will ask (14: 44),


    رَبَّنَا أَخِّرْنَا إِلَى أَجَلٍ قَرِيبٍ نُجِبْ دَعْوَتَكَ وَنَتَّبِعِ الرُّسُلَ [إبراهيم : 44]


    “O our Lord! Defer us to a near term. We shall respond to Your call and follow the Messengers.”
    They will be told (14: 44),


    أَوَلَمْ تَكُونُوا أَقْسَمْتُمْ مِنْ قَبْلُ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ زَوَالٍ [إبراهيم : 44]


    “Were you not the ones who swore aforetime that you will not have to move?”
    Then they will ask (35: 37),


    رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا نَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا غَيْرَ الَّذِي كُنَّا نَعْمَلُ [فاطر : 37]


    “O our Lord! Remove us (from here) so that we can do righteous deeds, other than what we were doing.”
    Allah will answer them (35: 37),


    أَوَلَمْ نُعَمِّرْكُمْ مَا يَتَذَكَّرُ فِيهِ مَنْ تَذَكَّرَ وَجَاءَكُمُ النَّذِيرُ فَذُوقُوا فَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ نَصِيرٍ [فاطر : 37]


    “Did we not lengthen your life therein, that he might remember who wished to remember; and a warner came to you, so, taste (the punishment), there is no helper for the wrongdoers.”
    They will say in reply (23: 106),


    قَالُوا رَبَّنَا غَلَبَتْ عَلَيْنَا شِقْوَتُنَا وَكُنَّا قَوْمًا ضَالِّينَ [المؤمنون : 106]


    “O our Lord! Our wretchedness got the better of us. We were a misguided people.”
    Allah will reply (23: 108),


    قَالَ اخْسَئُوا فِيهَا وَلَا تُكَلِّمُونِ [المؤمنون : 108]


    “Remain despised therein, and do not speak to Me (any further).”
    Thereafter, they will never address Him again, but only howl and bark at each other. The lid will be laid over their heads and sealed.

    وَسَكَنْتُمْ فِي مَسَاكِنِ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ وَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمْ كَيْفَ فَعَلْنَا بِهِمْ وَضَرَبْنَا لَكُمُ الْأَمْثَالَ (45)

    14|45| And you dwelt in the dwelling-places of those who wronged themselves and it was obvious to you how We dealt with them,84 and We struck for you similitudes.’


    84. “That is, ‘you lived on the same earth, and in basically the same human environment, as those earlier generations who offended against all ethical values and thereby brought destruction upon themselves: hence, their tragic fate should have been a warning to you.’” (Asad).

    وَقَدْ مَكَرُوا مَكْرَهُمْ وَعِنْدَ اللَّهِ مَكْرُهُمْ وَإِنْ كَانَ مَكْرُهُمْ لِتَزُولَ مِنْهُ الْجِبَالُ (46)

    14|46| And they plotted their plot,85 and with Allah are (recorded) their plots,86 though their plot was such that the mountains could move thereby.87


    85. There can be several interpretations. Ibn Jarir thinks the allusion is to the blasphemous beliefs of the unbelievers.
    Mawdudi relates it with the past and the present: “... the nations of the past resorted to all sorts of contriving to evade the consequences of having denied God’s laws and to defeating the mission of God’s Messengers. But it is well known that just one move from God checkmated them. Despite this, the unbelievers have not ceased their contriving, fancying that their efforts will ultimately meet with success.”
    86. That is, their plots are recorded with Allah.
    87. One of the two interpretations considers the article “in” of the text as negative which renders the meaning as, “though their plot was not such as that would move the mountains.” This is how Ibn `Abbas, Hasan and Mujahid understood this passage (Ibn Jarir).
    The translation here however, follows the understanding of `Umar ibn al-Khattab, `Ali, `Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, Ubayy b. Ka`b and others as reported in Ibn Kathir. In fact, according to them “in kana” is actually “in kada” which supports the meaning as we have adopted.
    Some of the Salaf have said that the reference is to the story of a former king who used hawks to lift him off the ground and fly for a while in the air. That almost shook the mountains. But, since such a feat is impossible to achieve, we have dropped it (Au.).
    Ibn Mas`ud, Dahhak and Qatadah have said that the purport of the verse is the same as another which said (19: 90), “And they said, `Allah has taken a son.’ Surely, you have come up with an atrocious thing.”

    فَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ اللَّهَ مُخْلِفَ وَعْدِهِ رُسُلَهُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ ذُو انْتِقَامٍ (47)

    14|47| Never imagine that Allah will fail in His promise to His Messengers. Surely, Allah is All-mighty, Lord of Retribution.88


    88. Majid comments: “The God of Islam is not an abstraction, an impersonal and inert something. He is a living Personality, Just, Awful, Awarder of punishment to the guilty.”

    يَوْمَ تُبَدَّلُ الْأَرْضُ غَيْرَ الْأَرْضِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ ۖ وَبَرَزُوا لِلَّهِ الْوَاحِدِ الْقَهَّارِ (48)

    14|48| The Day when the earth will be replaced by another earth,89 and the heavens (as well).90 And they will sally forth unto Allah, the One, the Subduer.


    89. Ibn Mas`ud, Anas b. Malik, Mujahid and others have said that the new earth will be white, smooth, as if made of silver, on which no blood would have been shed and no sin committed. (This however is not a hadith. A hadith says something slightly different: Au.). The Prophet (saws) said, “On the day of Judgment, mankind will be gathered together on a white flat earth, like the wheat bread.” (The version in the Sahihayn ends with words, “with no recognizable features of any sort”: Ibn Kathir). However, there have been other opinions too. And a hadith reported by `A'isha says that she asked the Prophet, “When the earth is replaced by another, where will the people be?” He answered, “On the Bridge laid over Hell-fire” (Ibn Jarir). The report is in Bukhari. And, according to other reports, “when the earth will be stretched flat, with no ups and downs; then a cry will awaken men and there they will be, on the new earth” (Ibn Kathir).
    In this context another hadith could be quoted here. It is in Muslim reported by Thawban, the freed slave of the Prophet. He said,


    كُنْتُ قَائِمًا عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- فَجَاءَ حَبْرٌ مِنْ أَحْبَارِ الْيَهُودِ فَقَالَ السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ. فَدَفَعْتُهُ دَفْعَةً كَادَ يُصْرَعُ مِنْهَا فَقَالَ لِمَ تَدْفَعُنِى فَقُلْتُ أَلاَ تَقُولُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ. فَقَالَ الْيَهُودِىُّ إِنَّمَا نَدْعُوهُ بِاسْمِهِ الَّذِى سَمَّاهُ بِهِ أَهْلُهُ. فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « إِنَّ اسْمِى مُحَمَّدٌ الَّذِى سَمَّانِى بِهِ أَهْلِى ». فَقَالَ الْيَهُودِىُّ جِئْتُ أَسْأَلُكَ. فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « أَيَنْفَعُكَ شَىْءٌ إِنْ حَدَّثْتُكَ ». قَالَ أَسْمَعُ بِأُذُنَىَّ فَنَكَتَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- بِعُودٍ مَعَهُ. فَقَالَ « سَلْ ». فَقَالَ الْيَهُودِىُّ أَيْنَ يَكُونُ النَّاسُ يَوْمَ تُبَدَّلُ الأَرْضُ غَيْرَ الأَرْضِ وَالسَّمَوَاتُ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « هُمْ فِى الظُّلْمَةِ دُونَ الْجِسْرِ ». قَالَ فَمَنْ أَوَّلُ النَّاسِ إِجَازَةً قَالَ « فُقَرَاءُ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ ». قَالَ الْيَهُودِىُّ فَمَا تُحْفَتُهُمْ حِينَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ قَالَ « زِيَادَةُ كَبِدِ النُّونِ » قَالَ فَمَا غِذَاؤُهُمْ عَلَى إِثْرِهَا قَالَ « يُنْحَرُ لَهُمْ ثَوْرُ الْجَنَّةِ الَّذِى كَانَ يَأْكُلُ مِنْ أَطْرَافِهَا.
    قَالَ فَمَا شَرَابُهُمْ عَلَيْهِ قَالَ « مِنْ عَيْنٍ فِيهَا تُسَمَّى سَلْسَبِيلاً ». قَالَ صَدَقْتَ. قَالَ وَجِئْتُ أَسْأَلُكَ عَنْ شَىْءٍ لاَ يَعْلَمُهُ أَحَدٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الأَرْضِ إِلاَّ نَبِىٌّ أَوْ رَجُلٌ أَوْ رَجُلاَنِ. قَالَ « يَنْفَعُكَ إِنْ حَدَّثْتُكَ ». قَالَ أَسْمَعُ بِأُذُنَىَّ.
    قَالَ جِئْتُ أَسْأَلُكَ عَنِ الْوَلَدِ قَالَ « مَاءُ الرَّجُلِ أَبْيَضُ وَمَاءُ الْمَرْأَةِ أَصْفَرُ فَإِذَا اجْتَمَعَا فَعَلاَ مَنِىُّ الرَّجُلِ مَنِىَّ الْمَرْأَةِ أَذْكَرَا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَإِذَا عَلاَ مَنِىُّ الْمَرْأَةِ مَنِىَّ الرَّجُلِ آنَثَا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ». قَالَ الْيَهُودِىُّ لَقَدْ صَدَقْتَ وَإِنَّكَ لَنَبِىٌّ ثُمَّ انْصَرَفَ فَذَهَبَ. فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « لَقَدْ سَأَلَنِى هَذَا عَنِ الَّذِى سَأَلَنِى عَنْهُ وَمَا لِى عِلْمٌ بِشَىْءٍ مِنْهُ حَتَّى أَتَانِىَ اللَّهُ بِهِ.


    “I was standing with the Prophet when one of the Jewish rabbis came up. He said, ‘Peace be upon you, O Muhammad.’ I pushed the man so hard he almost fell down. He asked, ‘Why did you do that?’ I said, ‘Why did you not address him as the Messenger of Allah?’ He said, ‘I addressed him by the name that his family gave him.’ The Prophet (saws) interrupted, ‘Indeed, the name as given to me by my family is Muhammad.’ The Jew said, ‘I have come to ask you a few things.’ The Prophet asked, ‘Will it be of any profit to you if I spoke to you?’ He replied, 'I’ll hear it with my ears.’ (For a while) the Prophet scratched the ground with a stick he had in his hand and then said, 'Ask.’ He asked, ‘Where will the people be when the earth will be changed for another?’ He replied, ‘They will be in a dark area a little away from the Bridge.’ He asked, ‘Who will be the first to cross it?’ He replied, ‘The poor Immigrants.’ He asked, ‘What will they be gifted with as they enter Paradise?’ He replied, ‘The appendage of fish liver.’ The Jew asked, ‘What will they eat therein?’ The Prophet replied, ‘A Paradise oxen that used to feed around it would be slaughtered for them.’ He asked, ‘What will they drink over it?’ He replied, ‘From a spring called Salsabila.’ The man remarked, ‘You spoke the truth.’ Then he said, ‘I have come to ask you something that no one has the true answer for except for a Prophet, or one or two other persons.’ The Prophet asked, ‘Will it be of any profit to you if I gave the answer?’ He replied, ‘I will hear with my ears.’ Then he asked, 'I have come to ask you about the child.’ The Prophet said, 'A man’s liquid is white. That of the woman is yellowish. When they combine, then, if the man’s overcomes the woman’s, the child is a male by Allah’s leave. But if the woman’s overcomes that of man, the child is a female by Allah’s leave.’ The Jew said, ‘You spoke the truth, and you are indeed a Prophet.’ Then he went away. After he was gone, the Prophet said, 'I had no answers to the questions the man asked until Allah provided these to me” (Ibn Kathir).
    It might be noted however, Shabbir points out, that a study of other verses reveals that the earth and the heavens will undergo several changes before the Day of Judgment.
    90. Asad writes: “This is an allusion to the total, cataclysmic change, on the Last Day, of all natural phenomena, and thus of the universe as known to man.. Since that change will be beyond anything that man has ever experienced or what the humans mind can conceive, all the Qur’anic descriptions - in the next two verses as well as in many other places - of what is to happen on that Last Day are, of necessity, expressed in allegorical terms.”

    وَتَرَى الْمُجْرِمِينَ يَوْمَئِذٍ مُقَرَّنِينَ فِي الْأَصْفَادِ (49)

    14|49| And you will see the criminals that day, bound together in chains.91


    91. Two implications have been noticed: one, sinners will be bound with fetters, two, several of them will be bound together and, three, each of them will be bound to the accompanying devil (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Ibn Kathir and others).

    سَرَابِيلُهُمْ مِنْ قَطِرَانٍ وَتَغْشَىٰ وُجُوهَهُمُ النَّارُ (50)

    14|50| Their garments from tar92 and their faces covered by the Fire.


    92. In classical times “qatiran” was liquid pitch (now made from tar and turpentine but in earlier times from herbs and oil) that the Arabs used for rubbing on camels as a treatment against parasites. Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah have however interpreted “qatiran” as (liquid) brass. Some others have separated “qatirun” and “an” treating them as two words - where “qatirun” is brass and “an” (anything) heated to the highest degree, such as, e.g., in another usage of the word “an” (55: 44):


    يَطُوفُونَ بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَ حَمِيمٍ آنٍ [الرحمن : 44]


    “They shall move between it and between extremely hot water.”
    (Ibn Jarir and others).

    لِيَجْزِيَ اللَّهُ كُلَّ نَفْسٍ مَا كَسَبَتْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ (51)

    14|51| That Allah may requite each soul for what it earned. Surely, Allah is swift at reckoning.


    هَٰذَا بَلَاغٌ لِلنَّاسِ وَلِيُنْذَرُوا بِهِ وَلِيَعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا هُوَ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَلِيَذَّكَّرَ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ (52)

    14|52| This is a message for the mankind that they may be warned thereby, and they realize that He is indeed One God, and so that the men of understanding take heed.93


    93. Sayyid has a long comment which we summarize here: “It should be obvious that it is not merely the knowledge (of Allah’s oneness) that has been meant here. The objective is the establishment of a life with this piece of fact as its basis. Allah has to be accepted as the true Lord: One who commands, who owns, who sustains, who is worth addressing prayers to, and who alone dictates the rules that are to be followed in life. A life which has this principle as the basis will be completely different from a life that is established on the basis of the lordship of some men over others. The Islamic life covers every aspect and circumscribes every activity of the human life: faith, beliefs, ideologies, rituals of worship, everyday conduct, customs, practices, values, as well as political, economic and social principles. In short, this primary principle (of Allah’s Oneness) influences the entire life: of the individual as well as of the community and state.
    “The idols that Ibrahim sought to save his offspring from worshiping, were not those simple figures or statuettes that were then fashionable: of stones, mud, wood; or deities imagined in trees, animals, fire, stars or ghostly spirits. The restriction of the term ‘idols’ to these simple figures and objects prevents us from realizing those forms of Association that are more subtle and that have no end in a listing. Such imbecile thinking prevents us from recognizing the new partners and new associates of Allah in today’s modern, dark age...
    “Today, a person who relates himself to God in matters of faith and rituals, and believes in Him as the law-Giver in matters pertaining to cleanliness, ablution, prayers, fasts, Hajj and other rituals of worship, while at the same time, he is bent in prostration to other than God in matters pertaining to values, conduct, customs, practices ... and everything else, is, in actual fact, opposed to the truth expressed in the testimony: there is no deity save Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger. He commits ‘Shirk’ in an area of life that truly matters...
    “Idols and images - those simple figures of the past - were no more than symbols. They symbolized a Satanic system hidden behind them, and were carved to enslave people and to assure that they would, with them as the facade, remain bonded to a system of life designed for them by the masters who sat behind the scenes.
    “When it so happens that symbols and slogans of race, homeland, nation or class are handed down to a people, who devote themselves to worshiping them instead of Allah, sacrificing their lives, wealth, morals and even their honor in their way, spending their best energies for them, so that, whenever a clash occurs between these symbols and slogans on the one hand, and Allah’s religion, His teachings, and laws on the other, then the wishes of the symbols and slogans are carried out, or, to put it more precisely, the wishes of the rebellious devils concealing themselves behind them, are carried out - when that happens - then this in truth is the worship of idols other than Allah. It is not necessary that an idol should be in front of the devotee in a physical, material form. A way of life, symbols and slogans can also assume the position assumed by idols.
    “Islam has not come merely to destroy the material and physical idols. It has come to destroy these abstract and intangible objects of worship also. Islam has come to separate and demarcate the path of worship of Allah, in all matters and affairs, as distinguished from the ways of life run on un-Islamic principles.
    “Those who believe they are followers of the religion of Allah, simply because they utter the testimony of Allah’s divinity and the Prophet’s messengership, but restrict to follow His religion in matters of cleanliness, modes of worship, marriage and divorce, and a few rituals alone, while, apart from this little arena of private activity, devote themselves to other systems and follow other commands - those that Allah did not send - and spend their lives and energies, whether willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly, in devotion of these modern forms of paganism symbolized by new kinds of idols, such people, they are far away from the Islam of true definition.
    “Religion is not the name of the mockery that is played on Islam by those of the east and west who think they are Muslims. Allah’s religion is a complete way of life, for everyday living, with guidance on every detail. This is the ‘Islam’ besides which no other religion is acceptable to Allah. They must also realize that ‘shirk’ is not realized through belief in deities other than Allah alone. Rather, it is also realized by acceptance of commands from other than Allah. And that construction of alters for deities of stones and wood and devotion to them is not the only way of demonstrating devotion to them. This can also be realized by agreeing to meet with the demands and requirements of the modern day symbols and slogans.
    “Let the Muslims then, in every part of the world, consider as to for whom have they reserved the true place of honor ... for whom is their religion, in its entirety ... for whom is their submission and devotion? If all these things are for Allah, then they are on the Religion of Allah. But if they be for other than Him, in part or whole, then they are on the religion of the rebels and the devils:


    هَذَا بَلَاغٌ لِلنَّاسِ وَلِيُنْذَرُوا بِهِ وَلِيَعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا هُوَ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَلِيَذَّكَّرَ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ [إبراهيم : 52]


    “This is a message for the mankind that they may be warned thereby, and they realize that He is indeed One God, and so that the men of understanding take heed.”
    With statements of the above sort, to some Sayyid Qutb became someone in political struggle, desperate to get at the helms of power. To others he was being extreme. But today, the ills that he spoken of are the subjects of serious discussion among Western intellectual circles, except that they cannot relate themselves and their situation to the Qur’anic guidance. One may note in the following text the familiarity of thought. It is by a well-respected and well-meaning political analyst of the time Chris Hedges (Au.):
    The ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes spent his life battling the assault on democracy by tyrants. It is disheartening to be reminded that he lost. But he understood that the hardest struggle for humankind is often stating and understanding the obvious. Aristophanes, who had the temerity to portray the ruling Greek tyrant, Cleon, as a dog, is the perfect playwright to turn to in trying to grasp the danger posed to us by movements from the tea party to militias to the Christian right, as well as the bankrupt and corrupt power elite that no longer concerns itself with the needs of its citizens. He saw the same corruption 2,400 years ago. He feared correctly that it would extinguish Athenian democracy. And he struggled in vain to rouse Athenians from their slumber. ..
    The huge amount of taxpayer money doled out to Wall Street, investment banks, the oil and natural gas industry and the defense industry, along with the dismantling of our manufacturing sector, is why we are impoverished. It is why our houses are being foreclosed on. It is why some 45 million Americans are denied medical care. It is why our infrastructure, from public schools to bridges, is rotting. It is why many of us cannot find jobs. We are being fleeced. The flagrant theft of public funds and rise of an obscenely rich oligarchic class is masked by the tough talk of demagogues, themselves millionaires, who use fear and bombast to keep us afraid, confused and enslaved.
    Aristophanes saw the same psychological and political manipulation undermine the democratic state in ancient Athens. He repeatedly warned Athenians in plays such as “The Clouds,” “The Wasps,” “The Birds,” “The Frogs” and “Lysistrata” that permitting political leaders who shout “I shall never betray the Athenian!” or “I shall keep up the fight in defense of the people forever!” to get their hands on state funds and power would end with the citizens enslaved.
    “The truth is, they want you, you see, to be poor,” Aristophanes wrote in his play “The Wasps.” “If you don’t know the reason, I’ll tell you. It’s to train you to know who your tamer is. Then, whenever he gives you a whistle and sets you against an opponent of his, you jump out and tear them to pieces.” …
    All ideological, theological and political debates with the representatives of the corporate state, including the feckless and weak (leader), are useless. They cannot be reached. They do not want a dialogue. They care nothing for real reform or participatory democracy. They use the tricks and mirages of public relations to mask a steadily growing assault on our civil liberties, our inability to make a living and the loss of basic services from education to health care. Our gutless liberal class placates the enemies of democracy, hoping desperately to remain part of the ruling elite, rather than resist. And, in many ways, liberals, because they serve as a cover for these corporate extremists, are our greatest traitors (http://www.informationclearinghouse).
    (The word ‘leader’ in parenthesis is our placement in place of a president’s name, in order to remove the impression that any individual is the target of criticism: Au.).