Surat Al-Ĥijr

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. 15

    Merits of the Surah
    1. Except for a few verses, over whose identity there is no agreement, the whole chapter is Makkan (Alusi).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ وَقُرْآنٍ مُبِينٍ (1)

    15|1| Alif. Lam. Ra. These are verses of a Book2 and a clear Recitation.

    2. That is, these are magnificent, noble verses of a Book which alone, because of its qualities, deserves to be referred to as “the Book (worth its name)” - Shabbir.

    رُبَمَا يَوَدُّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْ كَانُوا مُسْلِمِينَ (2)

    15|2| Much3 will those who disbelieved wish (one day) they were Muslims4

    3. The word “rubba” is used with various conjunctions to yield a variety of meanings. The linguists agree that although at this point the meaning is of “sometimes” or “a few times”, the hidden implication is “quite often” or, as we have rendered, “much” (Razi). Qurtubi says the word is used in both the senses, although less in the sense of “quite often.”
    4. According to Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn ‘Abbas, Abu Musa and others, this will happen when, condemned to the Fire, sinning Muslims and unbelievers alike, will be in Hell and the unbelievers will taunt the Muslims: ‘So it doesn’t look like your faith in Allah did you any good to you,’ until Allah will be provoked to anger. He will allow the intercessors to intercede for the unbelievers and they will begin to leave one after another. When the last of them is gone, the lid will be finally laid over the Hellfire and sealed. It is then that the unbelievers will say, “O that we were believers” (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    According to one report in Ibn Marduwayh and Tabarani, and of trustworthy chain of narration, the Prophet (saws) recited this verse after making the above statement (Alusi).
    Dahhak and Qatadah said that such wishes will be expressed from the time angels appear before the unbeliever at death, and at every stage thereafter (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi).
    There are in fact at least four ahadith that explain this verse in this way (although all are not very trustworthy, but one strengthening the other: Au.). According to one of them the sinning believers will stay in Hell for varying lengths of time in accordance with the seriousness of their sins, some a day, others a year, and some others for as long as the age of the universe, from the day of its creation to the day of destruction (Ibn Kathir).
    Majid comments: “In a minor degree one finds a similar feeling experienced in this very world. ‘Renan said that he never entered a mosque without a lively emotion, or even without a certain regret at not being a Muslim’ (Arnold, Islamic Faith, p. 29).”

    ذَرْهُمْ يَأْكُلُوا وَيَتَمَتَّعُوا وَيُلْهِهِمُ الْأَمَلُ ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَعْلَمُونَ (3)

    15|3| Leave them alone: eating and enjoying themselves,5 hope distracting them.6 But soon they will know.7

    5. This is Allah’s mercy and justice. If the unbelievers use their faculty of reasoning to choose to deny some hard facts of life and death, and devote themselves madly to building this world, then, why should they be denied the fruits of their works? (Au.)
    Razi writes: The verse should lead us to believer that overwhelming indulgence in worldly affairs should be avoided by an intelligent Muslim.
    6. The Prophet has said,


    نجا أول هذه الامة باليقين والزهد ويهلك آخرها بالبخل والامل


    “The first generation Muslims succeeded by faith and renunciation, and the last of them will be destroyed by parsimony and vain hopes.”
    The above hadith is from Jami` al-Sagheer and is Sahih (Au.).
    He also said,


    أَرْبَعَة من الشَّقَاء : جمود الْعين ، وقساوة الْقلب ، وَطول الأمل ، والحرص على الدُّنْيَا


    “Four things are a sign of bad luck: inability to cry, hardness of the heart, vain hopes and greed of this world” (Qurtubi). The hadith is in Bazzar, reported by Anas (Shafi`).
    According to Haythami, one of the narrators of the above hadith was not trustworthy (Au.).
    7. It is worth quoting here Yusuf Ali’s soothing words: “The foolish and the wicked set great store by the pleasures of this world. In their pride they think they have all knowledge. In the fullness of knowledge they will see how wrong they were. Meanwhile those who have received the Light should not for a single moment wonder at the apparent prosperity of the ungodly in this world. They should leave them alone, confident in the goodness and justice of Allah.”

    وَمَا أَهْلَكْنَا مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ إِلَّا وَلَهَا كِتَابٌ مَعْلُومٌ (4)

    15|4| We did not destroy a people but they had a known decree.8

    8. The unbelievers usually taunt the believers: ‘If we are wrong, why do we prosper? Why are we not destroyed?’ The answer is in this verse: “We did not destroy a people but they had a known decree.” There is a time for prosperity and there is a term for destruction (Au., with a point from Thanwi).

    مَا تَسْبِقُ مِنْ أُمَّةٍ أَجَلَهَا وَمَا يَسْتَأْخِرُونَ (5)

    15|5| We did not destroy a people but they had a known decree.9

    9. Asad comments: “I.e., every community - and, in the widest sense of this term, every civilization - has a God-willed, organic span of life resembling in this respect all other living organisms, destined to grow, to reach maturity and ultimately to decay.”
    Yusuf Ali has a more detailed note. He writes, “There are many shades of meaning implied. (1) For every people, as for every individual, there is a definite Term assigned: their faculty of choice gives them the opportunity of moulding their will according to Allah’s Will, and thus identifying themselves with Allah’s Universal Law. During that Term they will be given plenty of rope; after that Term is past, there will be no opportunity for repentance. (2) Neither the righteous nor the ungodly can hasten or delay the doom: Allah’s will must prevail, and he is All-Wise. (3) The destruction of a people is not an arbitrary punishment from Allah: the people bring it upon themselves by their own choice; for the fixed Law or Decree of Allah is always made known to them beforehand, and in many ways.”

    وَقَالُوا يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِي نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ الذِّكْرُ إِنَّكَ لَمَجْنُونٌ (6)

    15|6| They say, ‘O ye, to whom the Reminder has been revealed, surely, you are mad.10

    10. There can be two implications. Either, they took the physical effects of Revelation coming down upon the Prophet, when it appeared to them as if he was in a trance, as signs of madness; or, they thought it impossible that anyone in the world should receive revelations from Allah, and so, to explain the phenomenon, they had to say that he was possessed, which is another meaning of the textual word “majnun” (Razi).
    Yusuf Ali sheds light on another aspect: “Al-Mustafa was accused by the ungodly of being mad or possessed, because he spoke of higher things than they knew, and acted from motives purer and nobler than they could understand. So, in a minor degree, is the lot of all the righteous in the presence of an ungodly world. Their motives, actions, words, hopes, and aspirations are unintelligible to their fellows, and they are accused of being mad or out of their senses. But they know that they are on the right path, and it is the ungodly who are really acting against their own best interests.”
    Alusi has another implication of the verse to offer: Another plausible meaning of the verse is that one may not deny the validity or authenticity of esoteric knowledge or “states” that the Sufiya claim or evince, a denial in the manner of those ignorant Muslims who attribute some of their actions or words to madness. However, in our mind are the true masters, learned Sufis, who closely follow the Shari`ah, and not the pseudo-Sufis, friends of the devil, teeming in today’s world, compared to whom the corrupt and atheistic Muslims are Islamically less sinful.

    لَوْ مَا تَأْتِينَا بِالْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (7)

    15|7| Why do you not bring angels to us, if you be of the truthful?’

    مَا نُنَزِّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةَ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَمَا كَانُوا إِذًا مُنْظَرِينَ (8)

    15|8| (But) We do not send down angels except in truth.11 And then, they would not be given respite.

    11. That is, angels are not sent down but for a true purpose: either with a message to a Prophet, or with the command to destroy a nation (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ (9)

    15|9| Indeed, it is We who have revealed the Reminder, and it is indeed We who will be its Guardian.12

    12. The first part of the verse makes a claim: “We have revealed this Reminder.” The second part offers a proof: “We shall be its Guardian” (Thanwi).
    And the meaning of the second half is: We shall prevent any distortion, addition, deletion or the loss of the revelational text of the Qur’an - a promise that has given the Qur’an the unique position of being the only revelation around that has escaped corruption at man’s hand (Au.).
    Shabbir adds: Just think about it. A ten-year old Indian boy, who cannot memorize a few pages in his own language, memorizes the whole of the lengthy Arabic Qur’an, interspersed in hundreds of places with similar words, phrases and sentences, and then recites like a machine, without a break, and, in fact, who will offer correction to an elderly renowned scholar, if he quotes the Qur’an wrong, and not only he, but, several voices intolerant of even a minor error will impatiently correct his error in an assembly! Is this not a manifestation of Allah’s promise that He will guard this Revelation?
    This writer once had the occasion to test a young Indian lad, about ten year old, who had memorized the Qur’an. I tested the boy by asking him to start reciting from where I asked, and, to my amazement, the boy would start off from wherever I would ask: a feat only those are capable of, who have devoted the best years of their lives to mastering the Qur’an.
    Sayyid has a few points here: “Times came upon the Qur’an when there were many factions, divisions, disagreements and uprisings. Every group sought support from the Qur’an and prophetic sayings. The uprisings were supported by the ever trouble-creating Jews and pushed along by the so-called ‘people’s’ movements. These divisive groups were able to introduce into the hadith literature material which they could argue their points with: a pollution that took the scholars decades to weed out. The factions also tried to give new meanings to Qur’anic verses.
    “Then came upon the Muslims a time, through which we are now passing, when they weakened in the defense of their religion, their faith, and their system of life. In fact they became too weak to be able to defend their lands, their wealth, their morals and values. They could not even defend their minds and intellect. Their enemies overcame them and changed every good thing to evil. Beliefs, ideologies, values of life, morals, conduct, systems, laws - just about everything underwent changes. In fact, their enemies beautified for them their downfall and pushed them to a life little better than those of animals, making them accept every mean thing in the name of 'advancement', 'improvement', 'secularism', 'enlightenment', 'scientific and technological development', 'forward march', 'freedom', 'removal of the chains', 'revolution' ... and the rest of the balderdash. The Muslims were transformed into Muslims in name alone, with nothing of the religion of Islam remaining with them as their share, converted to scum which is good for nothing except that it could be used as fuel for the fire, yet, fuel of little worth.
    “Their enemies, spearheaded by the Jews, a people with their four thousand years of experience of corrupting the nations, laid for them many traps and were able to execute several plans. They were able to give new meanings to the Sunnah of the Prophet, new interpretations to the events of their history, even inventing events that never took place, and planting among them individuals from outside, managing to give them new set of heroes who could destroy the Muslims and their religion from within.
    “Over the centuries, the enemies of Islam achieved all these things. But, although the Muslims lost the power to defend the Qur’an, even abandoned it, casting it behind their backs as if it did not exist, yet, one thing the enemies of Islam could not accomplish was to corrupt the Holy Book or introduce a single verse into it. This is the manifestation and fulfillment of the promise, ‘Indeed, We have revealed the Qur’an, and We shall be its Guardian.’”
    Majid compares: “The Bible in particular makes no such claims ... The Bible is the work of a large number of poets, prophets, statesmen, and lawgivers, extending over a vast period of time and incorporates within itself other and earlier, and often conflicting documents” (Bosworth Smith, p. 19).
    To the above we might add the following from the Church-approved, St. Jerome Biblical Commentary, produced by some fifty highly qualified scholars selected from Catholic, Protestant and other denominations: “Although God is the author of the Sacred Scripture, it is also true that human beings made their own genuine contribution to the production of the sacred books - a point firmly stated by Pius XII in Divine Afflante Spiritu (EB 556), when he remarked that the human writers employ their faculties and powers in the composition of Scripture.”
    A little below: “That a human factor stands at the origin of Scripture has never been doubted.”
    Further down again: “The real creativity of the human writers is also suggested in the few scenes that the Bible provides showing the sacred writers at work on their documents. Thus in the Foreword to Sir (Sirach) the writer states that he developed pains and labor to the composition of his book and begs indulgence for any imperfections that may exist in the finished work… (Similarly), In the NT (New Testament) Luke (I: 14-16) writes of the personal research that he has incorporated into the composition of his Gospel.”
    A little further down: “Hence in contemporary Catholic thought great stress is placed on the Bible as truly the word of God expressed in words that are truly the product of human minds, as though two ‘artists’ composed the book of Scripture: God and man.” (St. Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice-Hall inc., Ind. publication, 1980, Vol. II, pp. 503, 504) – Au.
    And, with reference to the last paragraph above, may we point out that the “contemporary”, “great stress” on Bible as “(in part a) product of human minds” coincided with the manufacture of printing presses and publication of the Bible, which allowed common Christians to read the scripture themselves, until then banned by the Church. Maybe there is a connection between the “open admission” by the Church (after the lapse of several centuries), and the Christian laity beginning to read the Bible themselves (Au.).
    What about the Jewish Scriptures? The Jewish religion has two foundation principles: Yahweh is the racial god of the Jews, and Palestine is the land promised to them. Nothing else matters for them. And these principles are laid down in the Torah. But how trustworthy is the Torah, which portrays a Prophet as getting excessively drunk and lying naked (Genesis, 9: 20) another as having intercourse with his daughters (Gen., 20: 30-38), and a third as indulging in idol-worship (1kings, 11: 1-8)? What do the Jews themselves think about this Holy Scripture? Let us hear a Jew. Max I. Dimont, the well known Jewish scholar of the modern times who writes in his famous work, Jews, God and History: “The final fusion of the first five books of Moses, called Pentateuch, (the Torah: au.), occurred around 450 B.C. - in other words, eight to sixteen hundred years after some of the events narrated in them took place.”
    The same author, who idolizes the Jews in his works, writes: “Biblical scholars have conjectured that the Old Testament is composed of four narratives, the ‘J,’ ‘E,’ ‘JE,’ and ‘P’ documents woven in one. The ‘J’ documents are so named because in them God is always referred to as ‘Jehovah.’ They are the oldest, written around the ninth century B.C. in the southern kingdom of Judah. The ‘E’ documents, so called because in them God is referred to as ‘Elohim,’ were written a hundred years after the ‘J’ documents in the eighth century in the northern kingdom of Israel. Scholars assume the ‘P,’ or ‘Priestly,’ documents were composed some two hundred years or so after the ‘E,’ about 600 B.C. In the fifth century, Jewish priests combined portions of the ‘J’ and ‘E’ documents, adding a little handiwork of their own (known as pious fraud), which are referred to as ‘JE’ documents, since God in these passages is referred to as ‘Jehovah Elohim’ (translated as ‘Lord God.’) - Jews, God and History, Signet classic pub., 1962, p. 40. The words in brackets are Dimont’s (Au.).
    A question arises about the Qur’an. ‘Why did the Companions compile it, after the promise that it will be guarded?’ The answer is, their compilation was one of the means that Allah (swt) adopted for guarding it (Razi).
    That the Qur’an has been preserved as it was revealed is widely accepted in scholarly circles. Majid produces the testimony of, (in his words), “a few such unwilling witnesses”:
    (i) ‘The text of the Qur’an is the purest of all the works of a like antiquity’ (Wherry, Commentary on the Qur’an, I., p. 349).
    (ii) ‘Othman’s recension has remained the authorized text ... from the time it was made until the present day’ (Palmer, ‘The Qur’an’, Intro. P. LIX).
    (iii) ‘The text of this recension substantially corresponds to the actual utterances of Muhammad himself’ (Arnold, Islamic Faith, p. 9).
    (iv) ‘All sects and parties have the same text of the Qur’an’ (Hurgronje, Mohammadenism, p. 18).
    (v) ‘It is an immense merit in the Qur’an that there is no doubt as to its genuineness ... That very word we can now read with full confidence that it has remained unchanged through nearly thirteen hundred years’ (Lane-Pool, SLK, Intro. P. C).
    (vi) ‘The recension of ‘Othman has been handed down to us unaltered ... There is probably in the world no other work which has remained twelve centuries with so pure a text’ (Muir, op. cit. Intro. pp. xxii).
    (vii) ‘In the Qur’an we have, beyond reasonable doubt, the exact words of Mohammad without subtraction and without addition’ (Bosworth Smith, op. cit. p. 22).
    (viii) ‘The Koran ... lies before us practically unchanged from the form which he himself (Muhammad) gave it’ (Torrey, Jewish Foundations of Islam, p. 2).
    (ix) “Modern critics agree that the copies current today are almost exact replicas of the original mother-text as compiled by Zayd (some ten years after the Prophet at the time of the third caliph ‘Uthman: Au.), and that, on the whole, the text of the Koran today is as Muhammad produced it.” (Hitti, op. cit. p. 123).
    To the above, this author might add the following quotes:
    “Apart from certain orthographical modifications of the originally somewhat primitive method of writing, intended to render unambiguous and easy the task of reading and recitation, the Koran as printed in the twentieth century is identical with the Koran as authorized by ‘Uthman more than 1300 years ago” (A.J. Araberry, The Koran Interpreted, Foreword).
    “The Koranic revelation followed each other at brief intervals and were at first committed to memory… During Mohammad’s life-time verses were written on palm-leaves, stones, and any material that came to hand. Their collection was completed during the caliphate of Omar, the second caliph, and an authorized version was established during the caliphate of Othman, his successor (644-56 A.D.). To this day this version remains as the authoritative word of God” (The Koran, translated with notes by N.J. Dawood [a Jew], Foreword, Penguin Publications, 1976).
    Qurtubi narrates the following anecdote: The following was read in the presence of the famous Shaikha, the learned, pride of womenfolk, Shahda the daughter of Abu Nasr, in her own house. Yahya b. Ukthum said, “Once when Ma’mun was conducting his court, a smart looking, well-dressed Jew came in. He spoke in a well-polished language. As he was leaving, Ma’mun (d. 218 A.H.) asked him, ‘Are you a Jew?’ He said yes. Ma’mun suggested that he embrace Islam and he would offer him such and such things (or posts) as gifts. The man said, ‘I think I will hold on to my religion.’ Then he left. It should so happen that the man re-appeared in the court after a year - this time as a Muslim. When he was about to leave Ma’mun asked him, ‘Are you not the one who was here last year?’ He said, ‘Yes, indeed.’ Ma’mun asked him what made him embrace Islam. He said, ‘After I left you, I said to myself, “Let me check on these three religions.” So, I prepared three copies of the Torah, adding and deleting verses of my own. After that I went around and offered them to the Synagogues. They bought them with no complaints. Next I did the same thing with the New Testament and sold the copies to the Church authorities. They too purchased without a comment. Finally, I did the same thing with the Qur’an and offered for sale to Muslim (book sellers). They examined them at length and then threw them away, refusing to buy, saying that the Book had been altered. That led me to believe that the Qur’an is a revealed text that has been well preserved.’”
    When Sufyan b. ‘Uyayna learned of the story, he remarked: The safeguarding of the earlier scriptures was left to the humans (but they corrupted them) so Allah took it upon Himself to guard the Final revelation. When asked how he could prove the statement that previous nations were charged to safeguard their revelations, he quoted the verse (5: 44):


    إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَا التَّوْرَاةَ فِيهَا هُدًى وَنُورٌ يَحْكُمُ بِهَا النَّبِيُّونَ الَّذِينَ أَسْلَمُوا لِلَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ بِمَا اسْتُحْفِظُوا مِنْ كِتَابِ اللَّهِ وَكَانُوا عَلَيْهِ شُهَدَاءَ [المائدة : 44]


    “Surely, We sent down the Tawrah wherein was guidance and a Light. The Prophets who had surrendered themselves gave judgment thereby for those of the Jewry (who believed in it), as did the godly men and the scholars, following what of Allah’s Book they were charged to preserve - and they were witnesses to it...”
    It might be explained with reference to the above story that Ma’mun was the first Caliph in Islam who set up academies of study and translation. He collected together thousands of scholars in Baghdad and conducted special sessions, presided by himself. Any learned man could participate in those sessions. (See Shibli’s Urdu work Al-Ma’mun). Further, in those days books were hand-written. Copyists produced them, often on demand, but, pressed by economic needs, would do it on their own too. They then offered their produce to the booksellers. The bookseller would normally ask the man to leave his work for evaluation. The book was examined for its content, oftentimes compared with previous copies, either in stock, or in the personal library of a scholar, and then, depending on the ink, paper, style of writing, size of the work, etc., a price was offered. Many of the booksellers employed editors who checked the texts for accuracy (Au.).
    Shafi` adds: It must be understood that what we know as “the Qur’an” is the name of two elements: the words and the meaning. Neither the words are the Qur’an, nor the meanings are the Qur’an; but rather, when both are brought together. For example, if somebody pieces together a few disparate phrases taken from the Qur’an, patching them up with his own words in between, it does not become “the Qur’an” because of the foreign words. Many religious books have passages of this sort. Similarly, merely expression of the meaning does not make a piece of writing the Qur’an. For example, a translation of the Qur’an is not the Qur’an since no translation can express the true meaning of the Qur’an, and that is how it should be referred to, i.e., meaning of the Qur’an, and not the Qur’an.
    Further, it is agreed by the scholars, that the Qur’an should not be quoted in meaning, sense, substance, or with the addition of the words, “to this effect.” Rather, the original words themselves should be quoted, even in conversations, or not at all. At best, if one cannot recall the actual words, he might say, “I think there is something about the topic at hand in the Qur’an” (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ فِي شِيَعِ الْأَوَّلِينَ (10)

    15|10| We sent (Messengers) before you (O Muhammad) among the factions13 of the past.

    13. “The term ‘Shi`ah’ denotes a distinct group of people having in common the same persuasion or adhering to the same principles of behaviour, and is sometimes (though not here) used in the sense of ‘sect’” (Asad).
    Yusuf Ali offers another, more subtle, understanding in words that the modern day Muslim preachers could place on their desks in bold letters, as should also the non-believing thinkers, philosophers, social workers and all those to whom this life is a baffling assembly of unconnected truths: “Mankind sees fragments of Truth at a time, and is apt to fall into fragments and divisions. All true messengers of Allah come to reconcile these fragments or divisions, for they preach the true Gospels of Unity.”
    In other words, Prophet Muhammad offered an organized whole that integrates the parts that mankind see on their own, but are not able to make much of, not knowing their place in a workable system. Nor do they know their quantitative values, or results of their interactions: factors without which the data cannot be used for constructing a harmonized working system. The following illustration might help. A well-designed, efficient system runs a large manufacturing industry. An outsider sees a few cards, stationary, charts & graphs, and observes some people at work in various departments. He appreciates the functional beauty of the charts & data, and the efficiency of the men. But, does he understand the system that brings the end-product neatly packed at one end, after the raw material was fed at another? Can he ever formulate the system with the help of those cards, stationary and charts alone? Or, from observation of men at work? Modern man has a million pieces of fragmented truths that he presumes he can assemble to yield a meaningful shape. But time and again he fails. Beyond that, he thinks if he had all the bits and pieces of data, he could also come up with the same results as the Messenger of Allah produced. From the start he is doomed to fail. Reductionism (the principle that to understand something, it must be broken down into its component parts) is considered as a tool that can work this wonder. But reductionism might work very well in the physical world, and help in successfully unraveling physical laws. But it can never succeed in generating a system that can so govern life as to produce good individuals, and a peaceful world (Au.).

    وَمَا يَأْتِيهِمْ مِنْ رَسُولٍ إِلَّا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ (11)

    15|11| But no Messenger went to them but they made fun of him.

    كَذَٰلِكَ نَسْلُكُهُ فِي قُلُوبِ الْمُجْرِمِينَ (12)

    15|12| That is how we make a way for it in the hearts of the criminals.14

    14. According to Hasan and others, the article “it” refers to disbelief, Association, etc., which Allah (swt) lets creep into the hearts of a people when they have made up their minds to deny clear truths (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Jarir).
    Razi however strongly feels that the reference by “it” is to the Qur’an which Allah runs through the hearts of the unbelievers, even though they do not wish to know anything about it, and even though they have no desire to accept its message.

    لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ ۖ وَقَدْ خَلَتْ سُنَّةُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (13)

    15|13| They do not believe in it; and the ways of the past peoples have already been.

    وَلَوْ فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ بَابًا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَظَلُّوا فِيهِ يَعْرُجُونَ (14)

    15|14| If we opened a door for them in the heaven, and they spent the day15 climbing through it,

    15. “Zalla” of the original text has the sense of doing something during the day. Thanwi and Majid have taken note of this in their translations.

    لَقَالُوا إِنَّمَا سُكِّرَتْ أَبْصَارُنَا بَلْ نَحْنُ قَوْمٌ مَسْحُورُونَ (15)

    15|15| They would only say, ‘Our eyes have been intoxicated. Nay, we are a people bewitched.’16

    16. Ibn ‘Abbas, Dahhak and Hasan have said that such is the adamancy of the unbelievers, that even if a door to heaven was opened, and they saw angels passing through them, in and out, they would only say that either they were drunk or bewitched (Ibn Jarir). Another possible meaning is that if a door was opened and the unbelievers ascended to the heavens through it, they would still say ... (Zamakhshari, Razi).
    Asad adds: “The confusing of revealed truths with illusory ‘enchantment’ or ‘sorcery’ is often pointed out in the Qur’an as characteristic of the attitude of a people who a priori refuse to accept the idea of revelation and, thus, of prophethood.”
    Yusuf Ali once again takes us to a higher plain of understanding. He writes “The spiritual kingdom is open to all to enter. But the entrance is not a mere matter of physical movement. It is a question of a total change of heart. Evil must cease to be evil, before it can see or enjoy Good. If we could suppose Evil, like Bottom the weaver, to be “translated” or in some way carried up to heaven, it would only think that the Truth was an illusion, and the reality was mere witchery. The taint is in its very nature, which must be purified and rendered fit for the reception of light, truth and bliss.”
    Sayyid relates the verse to the modern context: “This attitude is illustrated here as an example of the audacious attitude of the deniers of all times. It is not specific to the past ages, nor is the product of a culture of a certain phase of human existence. It is the example of human responses when their natures are corrupted and vision is restricted; when they are cut off from the real world.
    “In our times, this attitude can be seen among the atheists who deny Allah’s existence and construct their lives on this denial and on the assumption that this world came into existence by itself, without the aid of an outside agency; that it is self-subsistent and self-supportive; it has ever been there, and will ever be there: without a Creator, without a Sustainer and without a meaningful end. The various social, economic and political systems created by them are based on these principles, although the fact is, signs that lead to opposite conclusions, are more numerous and much weightier than they would be if they could ascend to the heavens.
    “To say that this world came into existence by itself along with all the numerous laws that help in its sustenance, as also the factors that produced life and sustain it, is an idea that human reason and the deep-rooted nature within him refuse to accept. Says a professor of a German university, ‘Several ideas have been offered to explain the origin of biological life; from viruses, to proteins, to several other theories have been suggested. To the common people these suggestions fill the huge gulf that divides the animate world from the inanimate. But the truth is that the gulf is not bridged by the least and the origin of life remains a great mystery which inexorably leads to the existence of an outside Power that created it.’ This person did not start off from a position of belief in God. His inquiry was simple and objective. He arrived at a truth at which anyone will arrive who starts with an unprejudiced mind.
    “But those who begin from a position of denial of a Deity, oppose every logic and every reasoning. They have given a holiday to their capacity to see and acknowledge the truth whenever it becomes obvious. They are the blind ones the Qur’an referred to when it said (13: 19):


    أَفَمَنْ يَعْلَمُ أَنَّمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ الْحَقُّ كَمَنْ هُوَ أَعْمَى [الرعد : 19]


    ‘Is he who knows that what is revealed to you by your Lord is truth, equal to someone who is blind?’
    “Obviously, if this happens to be the truth of the matter, then what respect can we have for the systems of thought and life that the deniers have developed? How trustworthy are their opinions and ideas about this world, the life in it, human history therein, etc.? It should be obvious that their ideas should be treated as no more than a confused package, prepared by blind men. It does not behoove a Muslim that he should accept the ideas about life and society as advanced by them, or, what would be more disastrous, build his life and society on ideas promoted by them.”

    وَلَقَدْ جَعَلْنَا فِي السَّمَاءِ بُرُوجًا وَزَيَّنَّاهَا لِلنَّاظِرِينَ (16)

    15|16| Indeed We have set constellations17 in the heaven, and have beautified it for the onlookers.

    17. The textual word “buruj” (sing, burj) has been explained as stars by Mujahid and Qatadah (Ibn Jarir). But others of the Salaf have said that the allusion is to sun and moon orbits (Ibn Kathir). Many others explained it as the twelve constellations which stood for twelve spheres of the zodiac (Razi and Alusi). On the other hand Taj al-`Arus offers the meaning as “great constellation.” Baghawi, Baydawi and (even) Ibn Kathir are with him (Asad).
    Until the development of modern cosmology, the term “buruj” referred to groups of stars in various parts of the cosmos, some twelve of them.

    وَحَفِظْنَاهَا مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْطَانٍ رَجِيمٍ (17)

    15|17| And We have guarded it from every accursed Satan.

    إِلَّا مَنِ اسْتَرَقَ السَّمْعَ فَأَتْبَعَهُ شِهَابٌ مُبِينٌ (18)

    15|18| Excepting such as one who steals a hearing, and is pursued by a bright fiery object.18

    18. Bukhari has a hadith explaining this verse. Reported by Abu Hurayrah it says, “When Allah decrees an affair in the heavens, angels flutter their wings at His Command. That makes a noise similar to the noise of (an iron) chain struck against a rock. When they are out of fright they ask, ‘What did your Lord say?’ Others reply, ‘He spoke the truth. He is the Most High, the Most Great.’ Those (of the Satans) who try to steal a hearing also try to hear. They pile themselves upon one another (rising to the heaven). A fiery flame is shot at the one on top. Sometimes it burns him, at others it misses him, and he is able to pass on the word to the one next, until the news is brought down to the earth. There it is passed on to one of the soothsayers who add a hundred lies (and spreads it among the people); so that, when something comes true, it is said (by the people), ‘Did he not tell us that on such and such a day, such and such a thing will come to pass? It has come true and confirms the news we received from the heavens,” (shortened) - Ibn Kathir.
    The descending of Allah’s word of command, adds Shabbir, happens in stages, from heaven to heaven, downward. It is at the bottom-most heaven, the one closest to the earth, (in fact, according to one report in Bukhari, in the clouds), that the devils try to eavesdrop, in the fashion of secret agencies trying to eavesdrop on (electronic) messages exchanged by the humans.
    To the question, “can anyone with the littlest intelligence, ever attempt to steal a hearing when he knows that he might get burned?” The answer is, can anyone with the littlest intelligence ever attempt to be high on drugs when he knows that it will burn out his body and mind? How do we explain the millions in our times who pay no heed? Or, can we explain people climbing high mountains, with fifty percent chance of losing their lives? Who can say what fun or pleasure the eavesdropping has for the Satans? Further, in common usage the textual word “shihab” is for (i) a bright flame, (ii) a bright burning piece of wood, and (iii) asteroids and meteorites. The allusion here is only to the first meaning, viz., “a bright flame.” Nor, should it be assumed that every bright flame visible in the constellation is the “shihab” of the Qur’an. In fact, the “shihab” aimed at the Jinn might not be visible to us at all, just as the Jinn are not visible to us, although made of flame (Au.).

    وَالْأَرْضَ مَدَدْنَاهَا وَأَلْقَيْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنْبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مَوْزُونٍ (19)

    15|19| And the earth - We have stretched it out wide,19 and placed thereon pegs20 and caused to grow therein all kinds of things in due proportion.

    19. Although round, for all practical purposes the earth is stretched out flat for us human beings. However, Qatadah has said that Makkah is the “umm al-qura” (mother of all towns) starting from where the rest of the earth was stretched (Alusi and others). The textual word of Qatadah’s usage “duhiyat”, has the linguistic connotation of being “folded in” to a round shape. That is, with Makkah as the starting point, the rest of the earth was created in a round shape, stretched around it.
    But there is the spiritual aspect. Every town is infested with Shirk barring Makkah which is kept free of it. If Shirk enters this town, it will be a sign of end of the world (Au.).
    20. The textual “rasiyat” is literally pegs, and the reference is to mountains, with the clear allusion to the fact that the mountains are pitched into the surface of the earth, just as pegs (of a tent, for example). In fact, just as pegs are more inside the ground than out, greater part of the mountains are also, according to latest findings, inside the earth. For more details, see Surah Al-Naba’, note 4 of this work (Au.).

    وَجَعَلْنَا لَكُمْ فِيهَا مَعَايِشَ وَمَنْ لَسْتُمْ لَهُ بِرَازِقِينَ (20)

    15|20| And We have placed therein the means of living for you, and for those for whom you are not the providers.21

    21. The second part of the verse could also mean, “We also provided you with those that you do not provide for; such as, your dependents. You think you provide them. But you do not. It is We who do” (Zamakshari and others).
    Two notes of Yusuf Ali could be combined together: “And every kind of thing is produced on the earth in due balance and measure. The mineral kingdom supports the vegetable and they in their turn support the animal, and there is a link of mutual dependence between them. Excess is eliminated. The waste of one is made the food of another, and vice versa. And this is a chain of gradation and inter-dependence... ‘We provide sustenance of every kind, physical, mental, spiritual, etc., for you. But We do more. We provide for everyone of Our creatures. And there are those of which mankind is not even cognizant. We provide for them also. There are those who may at first sight appear hostile to man, or whom man may consider hostile, such as wild and noxious animals. They are Our creatures, and We provide for them also, as they are Our creatures. But there is due order and balance in the economy of Our universal Plan.’”

    وَإِنْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا عِنْدَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ وَمَا نُنَزِّلُهُ إِلَّا بِقَدَرٍ مَعْلُومٍ (21)

    15|21| And, there is not a thing but We have treasures thereof, but send it not except in a known measure.22

    22. As Allah (swt) said elsewhere (42: 27),


    وَلَوْ بَسَطَ اللَّهُ الرِّزْقَ لِعِبَادِهِ لَبَغَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَكِنْ يُنَزِّلُ بِقَدَرٍ مَا يَشَاءُ إِنَّهُ بِعِبَادِهِ خَبِيرٌ بَصِيرٌ [الشورى : 27]


    “If Allah were to extend the provision (excessively) for His slaves, surely they would commit tyranny in the land. But rather He sends down in measures as He will” (Shawkani).
    ‘Abdullah ibn Mas`ud said, “There is not any land that receives greater amount of rain than another, but Allah sends it down in known measures,” then he recited this verse, “And, there is not a thing but We have treasures of it, sending it not but in known measure.” The words in another version are, “No year it rains more than the previous year. But Allah spreads it around, sometimes in one region, and at others in other regions” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Also, Ibn ‘Abbas has said, in a report preserved by Ibn al-Mundhir and Ibn Abi Hatim, “Rains have not decreased since the time Allah sent them down for the first time, rather, sometimes it rains more in a place than in another” (Shawkani).
    Scientifically correct, the above statement leaves one curious about the source of such knowledge in those antiquated times (Au.).

    وَأَرْسَلْنَا الرِّيَاحَ لَوَاقِحَ فَأَنْزَلْنَا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَسْقَيْنَاكُمُوهُ وَمَا أَنْتُمْ لَهُ بِخَازِنِينَ (22)

    15|22| And We send the winds, impregnating;23 and then, send down water from the heaven, providing it to you for drink. And you are not its treasurers.

    23. “Lawaqih” is the plural of “laqih” (from laqaha: to impregnate), since “riyah” is plural. One meaning is that the allusion is to such winds as are productive and fruitful, as against those that are unproductive (‘aqim), mentioned elsewhere in the Qur’an. Another is that the word is in the sense of impregnator, or fertilizer. The winds impregnate both the clouds as well as trees. That is how ‘Abdullah ibn Mas`ud understood it. However, Ibn ‘Abbas, Dahhak and others thought that the allusion is to the seeding of the clouds (Zamkhshari, Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Kathir adds: ‘Ubayd b. ‘Umary al-Laythi said, “Allah sends the winds. They sweep the earth in a thoroughgoing fashion. Then He sends them as stirrers that stir up clouds. Then He sends those winds that help in cloud formation. Then He sends the impregnators that impregnate (the cloud) and the trees.”
    Once again, the description, a millennium and a half years old, comes so close to modern scientific description that it leaves us wondering about the source of knowledge. After all, those were days when followers of other religions thought that God had buckets of water that He threw down on the earth as rains (Au.).

    وَإِنَّا لَنَحْنُ نُحْيِي وَنُمِيتُ وَنَحْنُ الْوَارِثُونَ (23)

    15|23| And, surely, it is We who give life and deal death, and We are the Inheritors.24

    24. A metaphorical usage meaning that He is the true Owner and Possessor to whom things return after His creations have used them (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْنَا الْمُسْتَقْدِمِينَ مِنْكُمْ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْنَا الْمُسْتَأْخِرِينَ (24)

    15|24| And, surely, to Us are known those who preceded you, and those who will follow.25

    25. That is, He knows those who have passed away as well as those who are yet in their father’s loins (Ibn ‘Abbas and others). However, in a second opinion, Ibn ‘Abbas thought the immediate reference was to those who prayed in the last of the male rows in order to look at an extremely beautiful woman in the first row for women. There were others who prayed in the front row in order to avoid seeing her. In other words, there was an immediate reference, and a general meaning (of preceding and following nations), which fits into the context (Ibn Jarir). Ibn Kathir points out that the report about the beautiful woman is in Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah, but he is not comfortable with the chain of narrators, (although trusted by Ahmad and Abu Da’ud, but not so by Yahya b. Abi Ma`in), and, therefore, prefers the general meaning. In any case, writes Alusi, a rule of Qur’anic exposition says, ‘the general meaning overrides the immediate reference.’ Therefore, adds ‘Uthmani, the allusion could as well be to both of the above expressed interpretations, as well as to a third meaning, viz., ‘those who overtake others in good deeds and those who lag behind.’

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ يَحْشُرُهُمْ ۚ إِنَّهُ حَكِيمٌ عَلِيمٌ (25)

    15|25| Surely, your Lord will gather them together. He is indeed All-wise, All-knowing.

    وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ مِنْ صَلْصَالٍ مِنْ حَمَإٍ مَسْنُونٍ (26)

    15|26| We created man from a clay26 of (stinking) transmuted slime.27

    26. The textual word “salsal” is used for dried clay that has not been fired in the oven. When knocked, it emits sound. (After it is fired, it is known as “fakhkhar” - Zamakhshari).
    Ibn ‘Abbas has said that man was made from three elements: (i) an unadulterated sticking clay (al-tin al-lazib), (ii) the kind of clay from which pottery is made (salsal), and (iii) a mud which has some sludge in it (hama’ masnun). Some others have said that “salsal” is a clay that stinks (Ibn Jarir).
    27. “Hama’” (sing.: ham`atun) of the textual “hama’i’masnun” is for dark wet clay. “Masnun” has several connotations: (i) fetid, putrid, stinking, (ii) changed, altered, [or transmuted, as Asad put it], (iii) fashioned, patterned, shaped, etc. (Ibn Jarir); as well as (iv) smooth (Ibn Kathir).
    In short, the process was something like this: to begin with, it was dust (turab) composed of various elements. Then it was wetted. It became adhesive clay (tin). Then it was left to itself until it became (transmuted) putrid slime (hama’i’masnun). Finally, it was left to dry and it became “salsal” (Qurtubi).
    Life:
    Qur’anic verses are unambiguous about creation of man at Allah’s Hand. A hadith says that when Allah (swt) blew the spirit into Adam (asws), the first thing that happened to him was that he sneezed. Thus, we are left in no doubt about the creation: he was human in the complete sense. But science has other theories. We propose to demonstrate here that those theories do not rest on any solid ground.
    Firstly, science has not one, rather several theories about the origin of life. But, although every theory is supported with evidence, they all lack credibility because they do not explain the process fully. In addition, every theory raises a few questions for which there are no satisfactory answers. In any case, before looking into the question of the origin of life, we need to first determine what life is. Or, to be more specific, what according to the non-Muslim mind, life is? Encyclopedia Britannica (Macropedia) states under the article on ‘Life’ that: “There is no generally accepted definition of life.” Then it goes on to define it in five ways.

    “Physiological: For many years a physiological definition of life was popular. Life was defined as any system capable of performing a number of such functions as eating, metabolizing, excreting, breathing, moving, growing, reproducing and being responsive to external stimuli. But many such properties are either present in machines that nobody is willing to call alive, or absent from organisms that everybody is willing to call alive.”
    “Metabolic: It describes a living object as an object with definite boundary, continually exchanging some of its materials with its surroundings, but without altering its general properties, at least over some period of time. But again there are exceptions. There are seeds and spores that remain, so far as is known, perfectly dormant and totally without metabolic activity at low temperatures for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years but that can revive perfectly well upon being subjected to more clement conditions.”
    “Biochemical: A biochemical or molecular biological definition see living organisms as systems that contain reproductive hereditary information coded in nucleic acid molecules and that metabolize by controlling the rate of chemical reactions ... In many respects this is more satisfying .. (but) .. there are, even here, hints of counterexamples.”
    “Genetic: A genetic definition of life would be: a system capable of evolution by natural selection.”
    “Thermodynamic: (According to this), Living systems might be defined as localized regions where there is a continuous increase in disorder.”

    The divergence in definitions should tell us something about the confusion. It stems from refusal to recognize the soul as the life-giving property. That results in the inability to differentiate between different kinds of lives: higher and lower, human and non-human. The recognition would have led them to a proper definition of life.
    Mystery also surrounds the question regarding the origin of life. There is no satisfactory explanation as to how it arose. There are several hypotheses. To quote Britannica again:

    1. The origin of life is a result of a supernatural event: that is, one permanently beyond the descriptive powers of physics and chemistry.
    2. Life - particularly the simple form - spontaneously and readily arises from nonliving matter in short periods of time, today as in the past.
    3. Life is co-eternal with matter and has no beginning; life arrived on the Earth at the time of the origin of the earth or shortly thereafter.
    4. Life arose on the early earth by a series of progressive chemical reactions requiring highly improbable chemical reactions. Such reactions may have been likely or may have required one or more highly improbable chemical events” (Encyclopedia Britannica, art.: ‘Life’).

    In view of the failure to ascertain the origin of life, confusion prevails in every department of biological science. To be sure, there are many scientists who would rather avoid discussing the question altogether. Darwin too, showed his frustration, and tried to dismiss the question by saying: “It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter.” This of course is a defeatist attitude. The question will not go away by such means.
    Attempts at explanation, therefore, go on. Some say that “life is written into the laws of nature.” That is, it is in the fitness of things that life should originate and evolve. Obviously, by the use of words “laws of nature,” the scientists avoid any reference to a Supernatural Being who originated it. They would rather have us believe: “nature did it.” And nature is nobody! It is not surprising, therefore, that a recent scientific work called “Our Place in the Cosmos,” (by Fred Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, Phoenix pub. 1996) has the first chapter entitled, “On the tendency of human societies to depart indefinitely from the objective of truth!”).
    Nevertheless, since the question persists, there are a few fresh conjectures. In the words of a scientist: “It now appears that the first organisms lived deep underground, entombed within geothermally heated rocks in pressure-cooker conditions. Only later did they migrate to the surface. Astonishingly, descendants of these primordial microbes are still there, kilometers beneath our feet.” (Paul Davies, “The 5th Miracle”, Preface, Touchstone Books, 1999).
    Yet others believe that life came from Mars. Examination of meteorites on the earth, presumably of Martian origin, has led to the discovery of traces of “remnants” of microbes (and not microbes themselves). Some scientists believe life evolved twice, once on the earth and a second time on planet Mars. But, the latter notion defeats the evolutionary theory, because, if life originated in Mars, why has it firmly refused to evolve into higher life forms? Some other scientists, therefore, pooh-pooh the idea of life originating in Mars and landing on earth from there. Another suggestion is that it originated somewhere deep in space and must have been brought to earth by a comet!
    Some scientists maintain that “life is a freak accident of chemistry, unique to earth, and that the subsequent emergence of complex organisms, including conscious beings, is likewise purely the chance outcome of a gigantic cosmic lottery.” (Davies, “Our place in the Universe,” preface). Obviously, the statement is of philosophical nature, rather than scientific.
    The above demonstrates the confusion in which the scientists are about the central issue of what life is, and how it arose. Next is the question of how man appeared on earth. This is because, those who could neither define life nor determine its origin assert, that it evolved from the simplest to develop into the complex, the chain ending with humans. In other words, and according to the evolutionary hypothesis, single celled animals gave rise to multiple celled animals, invertebrates to aquatic vertebrates, i.e. fishes, which evolved into amphibians, which gave rise to reptiles. Over a long period of time, some reptiles evolved into birds, while others evolved into mammals culminating in the appearance of man. The theory is simple, catchy and speciously logical. But is it true?
    This of course is not the place to refute the theory. Volumes have been written to defend it and volumes have been written to refute it. (It is noticeable though, that the more that is written in favor of evolution, the weaker the theory gets). On our part, we shall adopt a simpler method to demonstrate that life could have neither emerged accidentally, nor is the theory of evolution a tenable one. For that, we present a few details to demonstrate how complex life is. Complexity rules out chance occurrence.
    Humans are made up of limbs and parts: hands, feet, heart, kidney, bones, etc. In the final analysis, the limbs and parts are made of specialized cells. The cells are a microscopic entity, invisible to the eye, made from some two dozen elements only, (although more than 100 exist in the natural state). A cell wall, thousands of inner machinery (known as organelles, which can also be referred to as different kinds of proteins), a nucleus containing the DNA molecule, (46 chromosomes that carry the genetic code), a nucleolus, (a nucleus within the nucleus, whose functions are not well-understood), are in short the constituents of every cell. The cell is covered with a cell wall (Plasma membrane), with pores through which, chemical gate-passes are required, for in and out flow of material.
    Within the cell, commands are issued, material mobilized, manufacturing undertaken, quality tests carried out, and final products transported across to various parts of the cell. The movement of the material along the various pathways of a cell is analogous to the movement of trucks carrying different types of cargo along the various arteries of a city. But the difference is that the cell is sort of spherical and transport arteries run across in every direction without getting entangled with one another: a miracle by itself. Several types of transports require definite traffic patterns to ensure that materials destined for different locations are accurately delivered to the appropriate sites. Great advances have been made in the study of these traffic patterns. Vesicles and their protein cargo are directed to their proper destination by specific targeting signals that are carried by the proteins themselves. To imagine the complication, one of the thousands of organelles of an invisible cell is mitochondria. Each organelle has different functions. Mitochondria convert chemical energy into power, and are likened to power houses. Now, there are some 1500 of mitochondria in every cell!
    The DNA of every cell consists of 46 double helical strands. Each strand is studded with a tiny molecule called ‘nucleotide base’ that number, altogether, 3 billion. If all the DNA, of all the human cells were stretched out, the string will reach the moon and back 8,000 times. The DNA molecule has been estimated to have information content of around 1,000,000,000,000 (one thousand billion) bits, comparable to about hundred million pages of Encyclopedia Britannica. It is the blue print of life and is contained in each and every one of the 100 trillion cells from which an average human body is made. These blue prints tell everything about a man: from the size of the body, to the color of the eyes, to the diseases he carries, to finally, by implication, even his likes and dislikes. (Some scientists are looking for a gene for intelligence, while others have found a "God Gene"!) It also has the message about where each of the hundred trillion cells will be located in a body. The cells can be likened to bricks of a vast, massively built sky-scraper city. Every brick of every building contains a blue print of the entire city, neatly folded and placed in the center of the brick, containing every little detail thinkable, so that, if the building collapsed, a single brick would be enough to re-build the building, and if the city was destroyed, a single brick would be enough to re-create the information and re-build the city as it was before destruction.
    But the similarity is incomplete. A cell has the amazing ability to absorb material, swell in size, and, in a couple of hours or days, split into two: with each of the daughter cells being exact replication of the mother cell, and each of the two daughter cells with the blue print for the whole body within their nucleus! Millions of cells are made in the body each minute. Some take a few hours to be replaced, others a few days, while some longer. In about four months, most of the cells would have been replaced, and a man is, in chemical sense, a new person.
    Thus, the cell is like a chemical industry, which, if humans were to attempt to imitate, would be spread over a few square kilometers. But, this industry of human imitation will not split into two, replicating all its inner components, functioning independently, doing everything that the mother industry was doing.
    The DNA (the blue print) which is sited in the nucleus, is the most amazing part of the system. Operating from within its inner walls, a sort of dark room, well protected from any outside intruder, as no fort was ever protected, it sends commands, and issues virtual blue prints to manufacture various cellular components. It is capable of making thousands of different kinds of proteins, even the while it is busy replicating itself. More strangely, since duplication is a time consuming affair, the long DNA strand can, to cut on time, start duplicating itself at several places at the same time, while it is also issuing commands for making proteins or other organelles.
    These proteins require 1000-2000 different enzymes for their manufacture. Their structure is so unique, and the complication so great that the famous British scientist Hoyle has estimated that whereas the probability of the chance assembly of a single protein is one in 10160 over 1048 years, the probability of a thousand enzymes coming the right way to form one living cell has the staggering chance of one in 1040,000. Impossible is too weak a word to describe the above in terms of chance.
    Proteins in turn are made of amino-acids. A biologist writes: “There is obviously an immense variety of possible amino-acids, but it is a startling fact that only some twenty are found in proteins...” (J.Z. Young, An Introduction to the Study of Man, Oxford, 1979, p. 31).
    Finally, amino-acids themselves are made from natural elements, and a living body uses only 16 to 24 of the total of a large number available in nature. Young writes, “This is a very small selection, and certainly neither a random one nor one based upon the relative frequency of the elements outside the living world. Hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen are, it is true, among the commonest elements of the universe, but they are present on earth in proportions very different from those in living organisms” (Ibid, p. 21). The author then proceeds to show that those elements that are abundant on the earth are used sparingly by the living bodies, whereas those that are rare, have been used generously by living organisms, leading to the conclusion that there had been a choice. Chance could not hare played a role in the selection.
    What about the DNA? Could it have come into existence by itself?
    The Encyclopedia Britannica states: “The number of possible ways of putting nucleotides together in a chromosome is enormous. The renowned geneticist H.J. Muller estimated that in a human chromosome there are about 4 x 109 base pairs. Each base pair position could be filled by any one of four possible bases; accordingly, the number of possible varieties of human chromosome is 44x109, an inconceivably large number... Thus a human being is an extraordinary improbable object” (art., ‘Life’).
    (Note: the last figure above is 4 to the power of 4 to the power of 109, which the author’s computer is incapable of showing).
    Yet, the scientists hang on to the belief that life came into being by itself, only once, some 4 billion years ago. They also assert that because of changed conditions, the feat cannot be repeated. That is, all present life being replication of previous life, new life can never come into existence. Attempts are being made to construct a short DNA strand and insert in a bacteria cell, in an operation called "Creation of Synthetic Life." Since molecules carry hidden messages in them (in this case stolen from Nature, so to say), and since these molecules are assured the "body" of the bacteria (less its original DNA) in which it will grow, there is good chance of a new species of bacteria coming into existence. The scientists are not sure how this half real, half artificial bacterial will affect other living bodies. They are assuring anyhow, that this monster will not be allowed to escape the labs.
    The confusion in which the scientists are, as a result of their intransigence and refusal to acknowledge facts of existence, is well reflected in the following from a leading evolutionist biologists who is talking about one of the most essential enzymes for life. He writes: “The probability of the formation of a Cytochrome-C sequence is as likely as zero. That is, if life requires a certain sequence, it can be said that this has a probability likely to be realized once in the whole universe. Otherwise, some metaphysical powers beyond our definition should have acted in its formation. To accept the latter is not appropriate to the goals of science. We therefore have to look into the first hypothesis.”
    Obviously, it is hopeless to change the opinion of blind men fanatically clinging to fanciful ideas. The above details, much simplified and shortened for a general reader, are enough to demonstrate that to rule out a chance creation of life is scientifically the more accurate thing to do. As for the similarities visible in various biological organisms, they in fact, instead of leading to an evolutionary theory, tell us that the Creator used the same primary ideas for His various creations: similar parts, limbs, cells and genetic codes, but different species, each according to the environment (Au.).

    وَالْجَانَّ خَلَقْنَاهُ مِنْ قَبْلُ مِنْ نَارِ السَّمُومِ (27)

    15|27| And the Jinn - We created them earlier from a scorching fire.28

    28. According to the Salaf, the textual “samum” is used for an extremely hot fire. Ibn ‘Abbas said that Iblis was originally a tribe of the larger angel-kind (Ibn Jarir).

    وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِنْ صَلْصَالٍ مِنْ حَمَإٍ مَسْنُونٍ (28)

    15|28| And when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am to create a human being from a clay of (stinking) transmuted slime.

    فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ (29)

    15|29| When I have proportioned him and blown into Him of My Spirit,29 fall into prostration before him.30

    29. The translation is literal. But the meaning is not. The words “My spirit,” is by way of honor, just as in this Qur’an itself, “Allah’s House”, “Allah’s camel,” etc., or (Nisa’, 17), “And a spirit from Him” (Qurtubi, Shawkani). Asad explains: “God’s breathing of His spirit” into man is obviously a metaphor for His endowing him with life and consciousness: that is, with a soul.” There is no room, ‘Uthmani quotes from Imam Razi, to imagine “hulul wa itthihad (interfusion and unison).”
    The word "ruh" has also been used by the Qur'an in the sense of "light of guidance", as in verse 22 of Surah Al-Mujadalah. It says

    ,
    لَا تَجِدُ قَوْمًا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ يُوَادُّونَ مَنْ حَادَّ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلَوْ كَانُوا آبَاءَهُمْ أَوْ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ أَوْ إِخْوَانَهُمْ أَوْ عَشِيرَتَهُمْ أُولَئِكَ كَتَبَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَأَيَّدَهُمْ بِرُوحٍ مِنْهُ [المجادلة : 22]


    "You will not find a people who believe in Allah and the Last Day having affection for those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even if they are their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. Those, He has inscribed faith upon their hearts, and has strengthened them with a Spirit from Himself" (Au.).
    This being the first occurrence of the word “ruh”, Alsui discusses its nature over several pages, but without any substance. He picks up Munawi’s statement which is perhaps worth quoting here: Many individual scholars and schools of thought have spent their goodly energies trying to resolve this issue. But no one has been able to say anything convincing. Of the thousand or so opinions concerning the nature of the soul, none is more trustworthy than another because every one of them is based on sheer conjecture.
    30. A report in Muslims says,


    لَمَّا صَوَّرَ اللَّهُ آدَمَ فِى الْجَنَّةِ تَرَكَهُ مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَتْرُكَهُ فَجَعَلَ إِبْلِيسُ يُطِيفُ بِهِ يَنْظُرُ مَا هُوَ فَلَمَّا رَآهُ أَجْوَفَ عَرَفَ أَنَّهُ خُلِقَ خَلْقًا لاَ يَتَمَالَكُ


    “When Allah had fashioned Adam in Paradise, He left him to himself for a while. Iblis circled around him several times trying to figure out what it is. When he found him hollow, he knew that this is a creation that will not be able to control itself (against desires) - Qurtubi.

    فَسَجَدَ الْمَلَائِكَةُ كُلُّهُمْ أَجْمَعُونَ (30)

    15|30| So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together.

    إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَىٰ أَنْ يَكُونَ مَعَ السَّاجِدِينَ (31)

    15|31| Except Iblis.31 He refused that he should be with those who prostrate themselves.

    31. “Iblis: the name has in it the root-idea of desperation or rebellion” (Yusuf Ali).

    قَالَ يَا إِبْلِيسُ مَا لَكَ أَلَّا تَكُونَ مَعَ السَّاجِدِينَ (32)

    15|32| He asked, ‘What ails you, O Iblis, that you are not among those who prostrated themselves?’32

    32. Either he was originally of the angels, as some scholars have thought, or was included among those that were commanded, because Iblis lived among them (Kashshaf, Razi, Qurtubi and others).

    قَالَ لَمْ أَكُنْ لِأَسْجُدَ لِبَشَرٍ خَلَقْتَهُ مِنْ صَلْصَالٍ مِنْ حَمَإٍ مَسْنُونٍ (33)

    15|33| He replied, ‘I am not one to prostrate myself unto a human You created from a clay of (stinking) transmuted slime.33

    33. His true reason was given in Al-A`raf, verse 12, where he said,


    أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِنْ نَارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِنْ طِينٍ [الأعراف : 12]


    “I am better than he. You created me from Fire, while You created him from slime” (Shawkani).

    قَالَ فَاخْرُجْ مِنْهَا فَإِنَّكَ رَجِيمٌ (34)

    15|34| He ordered, ‘Then get out of here, for you are accursed.

    وَإِنَّ عَلَيْكَ اللَّعْنَةَ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ (35)

    15|35| And the curse will rest on you until the Day of Judgement.’34

    34. Yusuf Ali comments: “The curse on Iblis remained, i.e., he was deprived of Allah’s grace and became in the spiritual world what an outlaw is in a political kingdom.”

    قَالَ رَبِّ فَأَنْظِرْنِي إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ (36)

    15|36| He pleaded, ‘My Lord! Allow me respite until the Day they are resurrected.’

    قَالَ فَإِنَّكَ مِنَ الْمُنْظَرِينَ (37)

    15|37| He replied, ‘You shall be of those allowed respite.

    إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْوَقْتِ الْمَعْلُومِ (38)

    15|38| Until a known time.’35

    35. Imam Razi thinks that when Iblis said, “Allow me respite until the Judgment-day”, his intention was that he should not be allowed to die until then. And, if he did not die until then, he would not die at all, since no one is going to die after the Judgment-day. Therefore, Allah said that he is allowed respite until a known day. And that “known day” is, according to the prevalent opinion, the day when the Trumpet is blown for the first time.
    However, in view of the ayah 35, the curse will remain on him through the Day of Judgment also, that is, after death and resurrection too (Au.).

    قَالَ رَبِّ بِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لَأُزَيِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَأُغْوِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (39)

    15|39| He said, ‘My Lord! For Your putting me into error,36 I shall deck (sins)37 fair unto them in the earth, and surely I shall put them all into error.38

    36. What Iblis meant is: ‘Since You put me to the test, in which I failed, You are the cause of My error’ (Zamakhshari).
    Yusuf Ali adds: “Satan cannot be straight or truthful even before Allah. By his own arrogance and rebellion he fell; he attributes this to Allah.”
    37. The word in parenthesis is following the explanation as in Ibn Jarir.
    38. “Iblis is powerless against Allah. He turns therefore against man” (Yusuf Ali).
    “Thus, the Qur’an makes it clear that despite his ostensible ‘rebellion’ against his Creator, Satan fulfils a definite function in God’s plan: he is the eternal tempter who enables man to exercise his God-given freedom of choice between good and evil and, thus, to become a being endowed with moral free will” (Asad).

    إِلَّا عِبَادَكَ مِنْهُمُ الْمُخْلَصِينَ (40)

    15|40| Excepting Your chosen servants among them.’39

    39. Dahhak has said that the allusion by the words “the chosen servants” is to the faithful (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالَ هَٰذَا صِرَاطٌ عَلَيَّ مُسْتَقِيمٌ (41)

    15|41| He said, ‘This is a path unto Me, straight.40

    40. The translation herewith follows the understanding of Mujahid, Hasan and others as recorded by Ibn Jarir.

    إِنَّ عِبَادِي لَيْسَ لَكَ عَلَيْهِمْ سُلْطَانٌ إِلَّا مَنِ اتَّبَعَكَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ (42)

    15|42| Surely, My own servants, you have no power over them except those who follow you of the deviators.41

    41. What the verse means is that Allah does not allow His chosen slaves (those who chose Him over Satan: Au.), to be wholly captured by Satan and His prompting. An error here, an error there, is not ruled out, as in the case of Adam and many others (Qurtubi, Ma`arif).
    Asad adds: “.. Satan will thus address his erstwhile followers on Judgment Day, ‘I had no power at all over you: I but called you - and you responded unto me.’”

    وَإِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ لَمَوْعِدُهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (43)

    15|43| And indeed, Jahannum is the place promised: for them all.

    لَهَا سَبْعَةُ أَبْوَابٍ لِكُلِّ بَابٍ مِنْهُمْ جُزْءٌ مَقْسُومٌ (44)

    15|44| It has seven gates.42 For each of the gates is a class of them assigned.’43

    42. ‘Ali, ‘Ikrimah and others have said that there are seven Hells, one upon another. Ibn Jurayj has named them as, Jahannum (hell), as the top most, then Laza (raging flame), Al-Hutamah (the Crusher), Al-Sa`ir (the blazing flame), Al-Saqar (hell-fire), Al-Jahim (the blazing fire), and Al-Haawiyyah, which is the bottom most. Abu Jahl is in Al-Jahim (Ibn Jarir). A similar statement has come down from Ibn ‘Abbas also, but, his ordering is different, and he did not mention Abu Jahl (Ibn Kathir). Qurtubi thinks that the bottom most is Jahim (Qurtubi); and Jahannum is a common name, applicable to anyone of them, as well as to all (Uthmani).
    Some other commentators have said that the reference is to seven doors of Jahannum (Thanwi and others).
    43. That is, every one of the unbelievers will be assigned to a specific Hell in accordance with his deeds (Ibn Jarir from Qatadah). The Prophet said in a hadith of Muslim:


    إِنَّ مِنْهُمْ مَنْ تَأْخُذُهُ النَّارُ إِلَى كَعْبَيْهِ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ تَأْخُذُهُ إِلَى حُجْزَتِهِ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ تَأْخُذُهُ إِلَى عُنُقِهِ


    “Some will have the Fire up to their ankles, others will have it up to their waist, and yet others will have it up to their necks” (Ibn Kathir).

    إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ (45)

    15|45| Surely, the godfearing shall be amidst gardens44 and spring.

    44. Imam Razi points out that everyone in Paradise will get four gardens (in the least) as recorded in Surah Al-Rahman where it is said (verse 46),


    وَلِمَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ جَنَّتَانِ [الرحمن : 46]


    “And for him who feared his Lord, there will be two gardens”, and (verse 62),


    وَمِنْ دُونِهِمَا جَنَّتَانِ [الرحمن : 62]


    “And, besides them, two more gardens.” And so will be the springs that everyone will have, at least four: of wine, milk, honey and water.

    ادْخُلُوهَا بِسَلَامٍ آمِنِينَ (46)

    15|46| ‘Enter here in peace, secure.’

    وَنَزَعْنَا مَا فِي صُدُورِهِمْ مِنْ غِلٍّ إِخْوَانًا عَلَىٰ سُرُرٍ مُتَقَابِلِينَ (47)

    15|47| We shall remove any rancor that is there in their breasts:45 (like) brothers, on couches46 facing each other.

    45. Abu Sa`id al-Khudri reports that the Prophet said,


    يَخْلُصُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ مِنْ النَّارِ فَيُحْبَسُونَ عَلَى قَنْطَرَةٍ بَيْنَ الْجَنَّةِ وَالنَّارِ فَيُقْتَصُّ لِبَعْضِهِمْ مِنْ بَعْضٍ مَظَالِمُ كَانَتْ بَيْنَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَتَّى إِذَا هُذِّبُوا وَنُقُّوا أُذِنَ لَهُمْ فِي دُخُولِ الْجَنَّةِ قَالَ فَوَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ لأَحَدُهُمْ أَهْدَى بِمَنزلِهِ فِي الْجَنَّةِ مِنْهُ بِمَنزلِهِ الَّذِي كَانَ فِي الدُّنْيَا


    “After the believers have crossed over the Fire, they will be held on a bridge between Heaven and Hell and left to deal with retaliation for wrongs committed against each other in the world. Thus cleansed, and past sense of injury obliterated, they will be allowed entry into Paradise. And,” the Prophet added, “one of you will find it easier to locate his place in Paradise than he does in this world” (Ibn Jarir). The earlier part of the hadith is in Bukhari (H. Ibrahim).
    And `Ali is widely reported as saying to Talha’s son, “I and Talha will be the first to whom this verse will be applied” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi and others). [Talha had sided with `A’isha against Ali during the Jamal battle: Au.].
    According to another report, once when Talha’s killer went to see ‘Ali, he kept him waiting for a long time, avoiding to see him. But the man persisted. Finally, when he was allowed in, ‘Ali he told him, “I and Talha hope to be of those about whom Allah said, “We shall remove any rancor that is there in their breasts: (like) brothers, on couches facing each other” (Ibn Kathir).
    46. One opinion is that the word “sarir” is derived from a couch that has been designed as a seat of pleasures. Hence majlis al-surur (an assembly for pleasantries) - Razi.

    لَا يَمَسُّهُمْ فِيهَا نَصَبٌ وَمَا هُمْ مِنْهَا بِمُخْرَجِينَ (48)

    15|48| No fatigue shall touch them there, nor shall they ever be expelled from there.

    نَبِّئْ عِبَادِي أَنِّي أَنَا الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ (49)

    15|49| Inform My slaves that I am the All-forgiving, the all-Compassionate.47

    47. The implication hidden in the word, “My slaves” is that whoever acknowledged His Lordship, shall have His forgiveness and Compassion, and whoever denied will receive chastisement (Razi).

    وَأَنَّ عَذَابِي هُوَ الْعَذَابُ الْأَلِيمُ (50)

    15|50| And that My chastisement is a painful chastisement.48

    48. That is, ‘Let him, who persist in sins and does not repent, know that My punishment is very severe indeed: of a kind that cannot be compared to anything’ (Ibn Jarir).
    Muslim has a hadith which runs as follows: the Prophet said,


    لَوْ يَعْلَمُ الْمُؤْمِنُ مَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ مِنَ الْعُقُوبَةِ مَا طَمِعَ بِجَنَّتِهِ أَحَدٌ وَلَوْ يَعْلَمُ الْكَافِرُ مَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ مَا قَنِطَ مِنْ جَنَّتِهِ أَحَدٌ


    “If a believer knew what Allah has in store of punishment, no one will ever hope to win His Paradise. And, if an unbeliever knew what Allah has in store of mercy, no one will ever lose hope of His mercy” (Qurtubi).
    And, ‘Ata’ has said that by implication the Prophet is being told that he should let his Ummah individuals to remain on the middle path of hope and fear (Ruh). However, Thanwi adds, if there is an excess of hope, out of love of Allah, and does not lead to weakness in deeds, then there is no harm in it (slightly modified).

    وَنَبِّئْهُمْ عَنْ ضَيْفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (51)

    15|51| And inform them about the guests of Ibrahim.

    إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا سَلَامًا قَالَ إِنَّا مِنْكُمْ وَجِلُونَ (52)

    15|52| When they entered upon him and said, ‘Peace.’ He said, ‘Behold. We are scared of you.’49

    49. He said that because when he offered them roasted calf, they refused to eat (Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir). See Hud, verses 69-73 for details.

    قَالُوا لَا تَوْجَلْ إِنَّا نُبَشِّرُكَ بِغُلَامٍ عَلِيمٍ (53)

    15|53| They said, ‘Be not scared. We give you the good news of a learned boy.’50

    50. Alusi, (following the statements of most of the commentators elsewhere) has said that it was Is-haq who was meant. However, unless there was a great age difference between Ism`il the first born, and Is-haq, one is inclined to prefer Mujahid’s lone opinion expressed in Qurtubi (Dhariyat, verse 28), to the effect that the allusion is to Isma`il. In that case we cannot allow ourselves to assume that the woman referred to in Dhariyat and other places was Sarah. It could have been Hajar. In any case, Arberry’s rendering, in his otherwise fairly accurate translation, of the word “‘alim” of this verse as “cunning,” should not be taken in the common sense but classic.

    قَالَ أَبَشَّرْتُمُونِي عَلَىٰ أَنْ مَسَّنِيَ الْكِبَرُ فَبِمَ تُبَشِّرُونَ (54)

    15|54| He said, ‘Do you give me the good news even though old age has seized me? Of what then do you give me the good news?!’51

    51. He was amazed to be promised a son when both he and his wife were in advanced years (Ibn Jarir).
    It is in human nature that when a man hears something entirely unexpected but delightful, the first reaction is expression of a joyful disbelief. When that happens the carrier repeats the news and leaves no doubt about what was heard on the first occasion, thus lengthening the joy that accompanies it (Shabbir, slightly modified).

    قَالُوا بَشَّرْنَاكَ بِالْحَقِّ فَلَا تَكُنْ مِنَ الْقَانِطِينَ (55)

    15|55| They said, ‘We give you the good news in truth.52 Be not of those who despair.'53

    52. To paraphrase the words using Asad’s rendering, “We have given you the glad news of something that is bound to come true.”
    53. Since Ibrahim’s first surprised reaction apparently sounded as if he had lost hope, the angels added this caution (Thanwi), which was a little out of place. In Ibrahim’s own words: “Who despairs of his Lord’s mercy except such as go astray” (Au.).

    قَالَ وَمَنْ يَقْنَطُ مِنْ رَحْمَةِ رَبِّهِ إِلَّا الضَّالُّونَ (56)

    15|56| He said, ‘Who despairs of his Lord’s mercy except such as go astray?’

    قَالَ فَمَا خَطْبُكُمْ أَيُّهَا الْمُرْسَلُونَ (57)

    15|57| He inquired, ‘So what is your errand O ye, envoys?’

    قَالُوا إِنَّا أُرْسِلْنَا إِلَىٰ قَوْمٍ مُجْرِمِينَ (58)

    15|58| They replied, ‘We have been sent to a people guilty.

    إِلَّا آلَ لُوطٍ إِنَّا لَمُنَجُّوهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (59)

    15|59| Except for Lut’s folk. We shall save them all.

    إِلَّا امْرَأَتَهُ قَدَّرْنَا ۙ إِنَّهَا لَمِنَ الْغَابِرِينَ (60)

    15|60| But not his woman. We have decreed54 that she will be among those who lag behind.’

    54. When the angels said, “We,” they were speaking on behalf of Allah (Razi). Asad further explains, “... qaddarna - which, in the sense of ‘We have ordained’ or ‘decreed’, is an act attributed in the Qur’an invariably, and exclusively to God. ... God’s ‘ordaining’ a sinner to commit a sin or His ‘decreeing’ that he should remain deaf to the voice of truth is metonym for the natural law instituted by Him (that the rejecters are not shown the truth: Au.).”

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَ آلَ لُوطٍ الْمُرْسَلُونَ (61)

    15|61| At length when the envoys came to Lut’s folk,

    قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ قَوْمٌ مُنْكَرُونَ (62)

    15|62| He said, ‘Behold! You are a folk unknown (here).’55

    55. The original “munkarun” carries the connotation of a slight distaste, as if Lut (asws) was not too happy with their visit. Qurtubi has something close to say.
    Another possible rendition is: “You are a strange people.” And Lut only said that when he did everything possible to save them from the city-men raiding his house, but he observed that the guests themselves sat out coolly, quite unconcerned and pretty well-composed. So, as if Lut told them, “You are a strange people. I am working so hard to avoid the crisis, but you sit there complacently?” They replied, “Do not worry, we are angels and have been sent to destroy the towns” (Shabbir).

    قَالُوا بَلْ جِئْنَاكَ بِمَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَمْتَرُونَ (63)

    15|63| They said, ‘Rather, we have brought you what they have been doubting.

    وَأَتَيْنَاكَ بِالْحَقِّ وَإِنَّا لَصَادِقُونَ (64)

    15|64| We have brought you the truth. And indeed we speak truly.56

    56. Perhaps Lut was finding it hard to reconcile himself to the fact that his people will be destroyed, root and branch (Au.).
    For greater details of the story, summarized here, see Hud, verses 77-83.

    فَأَسْرِ بِأَهْلِكَ بِقِطْعٍ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ وَاتَّبِعْ أَدْبَارَهُمْ وَلَا يَلْتَفِتْ مِنْكُمْ أَحَدٌ وَامْضُوا حَيْثُ تُؤْمَرُونَ (65)

    15|65| Therefore, set forth with your home-folk during a portion of the night, yourself following them in the rear.57 And let none of you turn around;58 keep going to where you are commanded.’

    57. That is, let none of you turn back when you hear the blast seize them (Ibn Kathir).
    Why were they commanded not to look back? Mawdudi explains, “This does not mean that as soon as they looked behind, they would be turned into pillars of salt, as the Bible says (Genesis, 19: 26). What was being asked was simply that they should not be prompted by the noise behind them to pause and see what was going on.”
    58. That is, ‘keep yourself at the rear as you set off, preventing anyone from falling out for any reason.

    وَقَضَيْنَا إِلَيْهِ ذَٰلِكَ الْأَمْرَ أَنَّ دَابِرَ هَٰؤُلَاءِ مَقْطُوعٌ مُصْبِحِينَ (66)

    15|66| And We decreed to him the affair that the roots of these people will be severed by the morning.

    وَجَاءَ أَهْلُ الْمَدِينَةِ يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ (67)

    15|67| And the town folk came rejoicing.59

    59. Majid remarks, “(They were pleased by) the news of the arrival of young and handsome strangers.”

    قَالَ إِنَّ هَٰؤُلَاءِ ضَيْفِي فَلَا تَفْضَحُونِ (68)

    15|68| He pleaded, ‘These are my guests. So put me not to shame.

    وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُخْزُونِ (69)

    15|69| Fear Allah, and disgrace me not.’60

    60. This happened earlier, before he knew that they were angels, but sequence is not important here (Ibn Kathir). Nevertheless, it is also possible that when Lut came to know that they were angels and sent to destroy his people, he went out to the men to plead for sensibility, for one and the last time. Who knows, they could avoid the punishment? (Au.)

    قَالُوا أَوَلَمْ نَنْهَكَ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ (70)

    15|70| They said, ‘Have we not forbidden you about all and sundry?’61

    61. They reminded him that they had instructed him never to accept guests (who were their own right for their own purposes: Au.) nor offer them protection (Qatadah and others: Ibn Jarir).

    قَالَ هَٰؤُلَاءِ بَنَاتِي إِنْ كُنْتُمْ فَاعِلِينَ (71)

    15|71| He said, ‘Here, these are my daughters, if you will be doing.’62

    62. He meant their own women, calling them his daughters because a Prophet is the father of his nation (Zamakhshari).

    لَعَمْرُكَ إِنَّهُمْ لَفِي سَكْرَتِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ (72)

    15|72| By your life,63 verily, in their drunkenness they were stumbling blindly.

    63. Qadi Abu Bakr b. `Arabiyy has said that the unanimous opinion of the commentators is that Allah swore by the life of our Prophet as a mark of honor, for, his own people, the Quraysh, were drunk in power, also stumbling blindly. However, Ibn al-`Arabiyy has added that there is no reason why Allah (swt) would not have sworn by the life of Lut. That of course will not reduce our own Prophet’s status (Qurtubi).
    Qurtubi also points out that according to Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal and Malik, for us humans to swear by the life of the Prophet is a sin, calling for expiation, to which Ibn Khuwayzmandad has added that unless the meaning were to be, “by the Lord of Muhammad” in which case it would be allowable.
    Majid comments on Allah swearing by the Prophet’s life, “It is the absolute purity of the holy Prophet’s life that is cited here as witness.”

    فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ الصَّيْحَةُ مُشْرِقِينَ (73)

    15|73| So a cry seized them by the sunrise.

    فَجَعَلْنَا عَالِيَهَا سَافِلَهَا وَأَمْطَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ حِجَارَةً مِنْ سِجِّيلٍ (74)

    15|74| And we turned its uppermost bottommost and rained on them stones of baked clay.

    إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِلْمُتَوَسِّمِينَ (75)

    15|75| Surely, in that are signs for those who mark.64

    64. It is akin to saying, ‘When you come across their story during your study of history, place a mark there’ (Au.).
    Asad comments: “In its full significance, the term mutawassimun denotes ‘one who applies his mind to the study of the outward appearance of a thing with a view to understanding its real nature and its inner characteristics’ (Zamakhshari and Razi).
    This is also the meaning given by the Salaf who said that it means, “mutafarrisin” meaning as given by Asad above. The Prophet (saws) has said in a hadith of Tirmidhi al-Hakeem,


    إن لله عز وجل عبادا يعرفون الناس بالتوسم


    “There are some slaves of Allah who know the people by (their) marks.” Another hadith says,


    اتَّقُوا فِرَاسَةَ الْمُؤْمِنِ، فَإِنَّهُ يَنْظُرُ بنورِ اللَّهِ


    “Beware of the believer’s sight of eye. He sees by the light of Allah” (Tirmidhi, who declared it weak).
    Ibn ‘Abbas said, “It never happened that someone asked me a question and I did not know whether the man is learned or not.”
    And, it is reported that once Imam Shafe`i and Muhammad b. al-Hasan (Abu Hanifa’s pupil) were in the Ka`bah yard when a man entered the Haram gate. One of them said, “I think he is a carpenter.” Another said, “Rather, I believe he is a blacksmith.” Someone who had heard their remarks went up and asked the man what he did for his living. He said, “I used to be a carpenter, but now I work as a blacksmith.” It is reported of ‘Umar that when the Madh-hij tribe visited him with Ashtar as one of them, he looked hard at him and remarked, “I see in this man tribulations for the Muslims.” (Ashtar later played his role in the martyrdom of Hasan).
    It is also reported that once Malik b. Anas passed by the market-place where he stared at a beautiful woman. When he entered upon ‘Uthman (b. ‘Affan) he remarked, “One of you enters upon me while he has marks of adultery in his eyes.” Malik remarked, “What! revelation after the Prophet?” He replied, “Rather not, but signs and penetrating eyes.” Many such incidents have been reported of the Salaf (Qurtubi).

    وَإِنَّهَا لَبِسَبِيلٍ مُقِيمٍ (76)

    15|76| And it65 is right on the high-road.66

    65. That is, the city of Sodom (Ibn Jarir).
    66. Now the city lies under the Dead Sea, as is in everybody’s knowledge (Ibn Kathir).
    Asad writes: “The existence of that road, which led from northern Hijaz to Syria, skirting the Dead Sea - to the north-east of which Sodom and Gomorrah were situated - has received startling confirmation through aerial photographs recently published by the American School of Oriental Research (New Haven, Connecticut). These photographs clearly show the ancient road as a dark streak winding northwards, more or less parallel with the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.”
    Yusuf Ali adds: “The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were utterly destroyed, and even their precise position cannot be identified. But the brimstone plain of the tract still exists, right on the highway, between Arabia and Syria. To the traveler in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea the whole locality presents a scene of dismal desolation which truly suggests the awful punishment for unspeakable crimes.”

    إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ (77)

    15|77| Surely, in that is a sign for those who believe.

    وَإِنْ كَانَ أَصْحَابُ الْأَيْكَةِ لَظَالِمِينَ (78)

    15|78| Certainly, the dwellers in the Thicket were inveterate evildoers.67

    67. The word ‘aykah is for an orchard thick with trees (Ibn Kathir). According to Qatadah, they were one of the two nations to whom Shu`ayb (asws) was sent, the other being Madyan. These people are referred to as the dwellers in the Thicket (As-hab al-`aykah) because they owned huge orchards and whose economy largely depended on fruit production. It is said that when Allah (swt) decided on their destruction, He sent upon them a scorching heat lasting for a week. Thereafter He sent a piece of cloud. They gathered under its shade. A fire came down from the cloud and they were all burned. Hence the Qur’anic reference to the punishment elsewhere as (26: 189), “punishment of the day of Shade” (Ibn Jarir).
    However, another opinion is that ‘Aykah was the name of a town (Shawkani).

    فَانْتَقَمْنَا مِنْهُمْ وَإِنَّهُمَا لَبِإِمَامٍ مُبِينٍ (79)

    15|79| So we inflicted Our retribution on them. And they both68 lie on a high-way, open.

    68. Although Ibn Jarir writes that the allusion by “the two” is to the cities of Lut and Shu`ayb (Au.), it could also be to the two cities of Shu`ayb: the Thicket City and Madyan (Kashshaf and Razi).

    وَلَقَدْ كَذَّبَ أَصْحَابُ الْحِجْرِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (80)

    15|80| The dwellers in Hijr69 also rejected the messengers.

    69. The reference is to the nation of Saleh, the Thamud. When the Prophet (saws) passed by their ruins on his way to Tabuk he instructed,


    لاَ تَدْخُلُوا مَسَاكِنَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ إِلاَّ أَنْ تَكُونُوا بَاكِينَ ، أَنْ يُصِيبَكُمْ مِثْلُ الَّذِى أَصَابَهُمْ


    “Do not enter the dwellings of those who wronged themselves except that you should be crying, and if you cannot cry then do not enter their dwellings at all, lest you are seized by what seized them.” Then the Prophet prodded his mount and hurried past the place until it was left behind. (The hadith is in Bukhari and Muslim: Shawkani).
    He also said,


    إِلَّا رَجُلًا وَاحِدًا كَانَ فِي حَرَمِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ قِيلَ مَنْ هُوَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ هُوَ أَبُو رِغَالٍ فَلَمَّا خَرَجَ مِنْ الْحَرَمِ أَصَابَهُ مَا أَصَابَ قَوْمَهُ


    “(These dwellings belonged to the nation of Saleh whom Allah destroyed) except for one of them who was in the Haram, saved from Allah’s wrath.” They asked him, “Who was it, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Abu Righal” (Ibn Jarir).
    Sheikh Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut said that the above hadith of the Musnad has a strong chain (Au.).
    In fact, a report in Bukhari coming through Ibn ‘Umar says that the Prophet advised his Companions to not even use water from their wells, rather, from the well which Saleh’s miraculous camel used to drink from. Some of them had already kneaded dough with water from the wells used by the Thamud. He instructed them to feed it to the cattle. The following few fiqh points therefore, says Qurtubi, have been derived:

    i. It is undesirable to enter the dwellings that have been destroyed by Allah, in chastisement of their rejection of a Prophet.
    ii. What is unlawful for humans, is not necessarily unlawful for animals. In this case, the Prophet allowed that the kneaded dough be fed to camels.
    iii. Prayers (Salah) are not allowed in such places.
    iv. Ablution with water from such places is also disallowed (i.e., when it is from the very wells that were used by the destroyed: Au.).

    وَآتَيْنَاهُمْ آيَاتِنَا فَكَانُوا عَنْهَا مُعْرِضِينَ (81)

    15|81| We gave them signs but they always turned away from them.

    وَكَانُوا يَنْحِتُونَ مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا آمِنِينَ (82)

    15|82| They hewed mountains for homes (to live) in peace.

    فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ الصَّيْحَةُ مُصْبِحِينَ (83)

    15|83| So the cry seized them at the morning.

    فَمَا أَغْنَىٰ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ (84)

    15|84| Of no avail to them was what they were earning.

    وَمَا خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۗ وَإِنَّ السَّاعَةَ لَآتِيَةٌ ۖ فَاصْفَحِ الصَّفْحَ الْجَمِيلَ (85)

    15|85| We have created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, save in truth. Verily, the Hour is coming. So forgive, with graceful forgiveness.70

    70. Dahhak has said that forgiving was to be the way during a certain stage of the Prophetic mission. Several verses of similar nature were sent to the Prophet in that phase. One of them said (43: 89),


    فَاصْفَحْ عَنْهُمْ وَقُلْ سَلَامٌ فَسَوْفَ يَعْلَمُونَ [الزخرف : 89]


    “Forgive them, and say, ‘Peace.’ Soon they shall know.” And (45: 14),

     

    قُلْ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يَغْفِرُوا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يَرْجُونَ أَيَّامَ اللَّهِ [الجاثية : 14]


    “Say to the believers that they forgive those who do not hope for Allah’s days.”
    The import contained in these verses was abrogated by the verse in Surah Tawbah which said (9: 5),

     

    فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدْتُمُوهُمْ وَخُذُوهُمْ وَاحْصُرُوهُمْ وَاقْعُدُوا لَهُمْ كُلَّ مَرْصَدٍ [التوبة : 5]


    “So seize them and besiege them, and sit in wait for them at every point of ambush.”
    Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah said that the verse under discussion, and others of similar nature, remained in force until a time when the Prophet said,


    أنا محمد وأحمد أنا رسول الرحمة أنا رسول الملحمة أنا المقفي والحاشر بعثت بالجهاد ولم أبعث بالزراع


    “I am Muhammad and Ahmad, I am the Prophet of mercy. I am the Prophet of slaughter (Nabiyyul Malhamah). I am Muqaffa (the last of the Prophets) and Hashir (Resurrector [after whom Resurrection will take place]). I have been sent to conduct Jihad, and not to cultivate (the lands)” - Ibn Jarir.
    The above hadith is in several collections, with the earlier part declared Sahih by Dhahabi in notes on Hakim (Au.).
    Nevertheless, how is “safhun jamil” (“graceful forgiveness”) to be understood? Alusi, and from him Thanwi, quotes Muhammad b. Hanafiyyah the words of ‘Ali that “safhun jamil” is “to forgive without reproach, without any feeling of rancor for the wrongdoer and a return to the relationship that prevailed before the wrong was committed.”

    إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ الْخَلَّاقُ الْعَلِيمُ (86)

    15|86| Surely, Your Lord is the Great Creator, All-knowing.

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَاكَ سَبْعًا مِنَ الْمَثَانِي وَالْقُرْآنَ الْعَظِيمَ (87)

    15|87| Indeed, We have given you seven of the oft-repeated,71 and the Mighty Qur’an.

    71. Exegetes such as Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn ‘Umar and Ibn ‘Abbas have said that the allusion by the words “oft-repeated seven” is to the seven long chapters of the Qur’an, (the Tiwal: the long ones): Al-Baqarah, Al-‘Imran, Al-Nisa’, Al-Ma’idah, Al-An`am, Al-A`raf, and Yunus. These contain most of the important legislative principles of Islam. Sa`id b. Jubayr, Mujahid and Dahhak are also widely reported of the same opinion. However, ‘Umar, ‘Ali, Ubay b. Ka`b, and in a second opinion of Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn ‘Abbas, as well as Hasan, Mujahid, Qatadah and several others, the allusion is to Sura al-Fateha. In fact, there is a hadith to this effect (Ibn Jarir). See Surah Al-Fateha, “Merits of the Surah.”
    However, there is no reason why, Ibn Kathir adds, that both the opinions cannot be true, as both are oft-repeated and both have several characteristics in common. A similar example is that of the two mosques, the Prophet’s in Madinah and the other in Quba. When asked, sometimes the Prophet said that the “mosque built on piety” was his mosque, while at other times he said it was the Quba mosque: because both share some qualities.

    لَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِنْهُمْ وَلَا تَحْزَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَاخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ (88)

    15|88| (Therefore), stretch not your eyes72 toward what We have bestowed on certain classes of them.73 And grieve not over them, and lower your wing unto the believers.74

    72. The message hidden is: after the priceless Qur’an you do not need any other wealth (Au.).
    Ibn ‘Uyaynah has explained this verse with the famous hadith of the Prophet which appears in Sahih works including a part of it in Bukhari as chapter-heading:

    ليس منا من لم يتغنى بالقرآن

    And the meaning, as understood by Ibn ‘Uyaynah is, “He is not of us who does not feel that the Qur’an is sufficient for him (in the face of material possessions)” (Ibn Jarir). This is the meaning Qurtubi derives. It is supported by many scholars of the past such as Anas, Sa`id b. Musayyib, Hasan, Ibn Sirin, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Nakha`i and others who disapproved that the Qur’an be sung out. However, Imam Shafe`i, a powerful linguist, believed that the meaning of the hadith is, “He is not of us who does not sing out the Qur’an.” The translation is literal. What is meant by “taghanni” is beautifying the recitation of the Qur’an with a good voice (while observing the rules of Tajwid) [‘Ayni, ‘Umdatul Qari, Fada’il al-Qur’an, hadith 42].
    The above does not appear as a hadith, but it is accepted as true of meaning in view of another hadith which appears in the Sahihayn and other books. It says,


    مَا أَذِنَ اللَّهُ لِشَيْءٍ مَا أَذِنَ لِلنَّبِيِّ أَنْ يَتَغَنَّى بِالْقُرْآنِ


    “Allah has not ordered the Prophet anything as He ordered that the Qur’an be sung out.”
    73. Most of the commentators have understood “azwaj” of the text as “asnaf”, i.e., “kinds,” or “classes” (Razi and others). Asad adds: “The philological authorities are unanimous in opinion in that the plural azwaj denotes here ‘kinds’ of people, or ‘some’ of them, and not - as certain modern translators of the Qur’an have assumed – ‘pairs.’”
    Ibn Abi Hatim reports from Abu Rafe` as context of revelation:


    أَضَافَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ضَيْفًا ، فَلَمْ يَلْقَ عِنْدَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَا يُصْلِحُهُ ، فَأَرْسَلَ إِلَى رَجُلٍ مِنَ الْيَهُودِ ، يَقُولُ لَكَ مُحَمَّدٌ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : أَسْلَفَنِي دَقِيقًا إِلَى هِلالِ رَجَبٍ ، قَالَ : لا إِلا بِرَهْنٍ ، فَأَتَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، فَأَخْبَرْتُهُ ، فَقَالَ : أَمْ وَاللَّهِ ، إِنِّي لأَمِينٌ فِي السَّمَاءِ أَمِينٌ فِي الأَرْضِ ، وَلَوْ أَسْلَفَنِي ، أَوْ بَاعَنِي لأَدَّيْتُ إِلَيْهِ ، فَلَمَّا خَرَجْتُ مِنْ عِنْدِهِ نَزَلَتْ هَذِهِ الآيَةُ : {وَلا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَى مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِنْهُمْ}


    “Once the Prophet had a guest. He did not have anything suitable to offer him. So he sent someone to a Jew asking him to lend some flour which he would return by the first of Rajab. The man said, ‘Only on mortgage.’ I (the narrator) brought back the message to the Prophet. He remarked, ‘By Allah, I am the trustworthy in the heavens and the trustworthy on the earth. Had he lent me, or sold me, I would have surely returned it.’ In response this verse was revealed: ‘Stretch not your eyes toward what we have bestowed on certain classes of them’” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above report was declared weak by Haythami. However, every Da`eef hadith is not rejectable simply because a distrusted narrator happens to fall in line. It is not unoften that internal evidence in a hadith speaks of its authenticity. Those who have abridged Ibn Kathir, removing the so-called Da`eef ahadith, have not done justice to scholarship (Au.).
    The implication of the verse is, says Qurtubi, that one ought not to be entirely engrossed in this world, or give it precedence over the demands of the Hereafter. After all, the Prophet himself said,


    حُبِّبَ إِلَيَّ مِنْ الدُّنْيَا النِّسَاءُ وَالطِّيبُ وَجُعِلَ قُرَّةُ عَيْنِي فِي الصَّلَاةِ


    “Of your world, women and perfume have been made dear to me, and the coolness of my eyes has been placed in Prayers.” (According to Al-Arna’ut, the hadith is Hasan: Au.). It is another thing that today the unlawful has so permeated everything that it is better, although asceticism is disapproved in Islam, to avoid indulging in the world. It is better to stay as far away from it as possible. The Prophet himself has said,


    يُوشِكُ أَنْ يَكُونَ خَيْرُ مَالِ الْمُسْلِمِ غَنَمًا يَتْبَعُ بِهَا شَعَفَ الْجِبَالِ وَمَوَاقِعَ الْقَطْرِ يَفِرُّ بِدِينِهِ مِنَ الْفِتَنِ


    “A time will come when the best of wealth for a believer would be to follow a few goats up the top mountains, and places of rain, escaping from the trials of the world.”
    We have brought in a hadith slightly different in word from that quoted by Qurtubi. This one is from Abu Da’ud, treated trustworthy by Arna’ut (Au.).
    74. “Khafada Janahayhi” means, to be gentle, to be easy to deal with, compliant, etc. Yusuf Ali writes: “The metaphor is from a bird who lowers her wing in tender solicitude for her little ones.”

    وَقُلْ إِنِّي أَنَا النَّذِيرُ الْمُبِينُ (89)

    15|89| And say, ‘Indeed I am a clear warner.’75

    75. That is, if you are gentle and easy to deal with O Prophet, your followers should not assume that they can treat their personal affairs with ease and comfort. Warn them that the questioning in the Hereafter will not be an easy affair (Au.).

    كَمَا أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَى الْمُقْتَسِمِينَ (90)

    15|90| As We sent down76 (revelations) on those who divided.77

    76. The elliptic beginning has the following words concelaed: “We have revealed to you this Qur’an, (just as We sent revelations to those who divided)” - Zamakhshari. Thanwi however believes the meaning is, “Say, indeed I am a clear warner (and I am told to convey from Allah, who says that He will surely send down), ‘as We sent down on those who divided.’”
    77. Ibn ‘Abbas is reported to have said that the allusion is to the People of the Book: Jews and Christians, (and the report is in Bukhari: Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). These people divided the Qur’an into parts, believing in some and rejecting others, saying, (Alusi adds), ‘this portion agrees with our Scriptures, and therefore, is true, but the other portion does not, and, therefore, it is false.’
    Ibn Jarir suggests however, that the reference is to the pagan Quraysh who gave different names to the Qur’an, some calling it poetry, others stories of old and yet others a soothsaying, which was also the opinion of Qatadah and some others.
    On the other hand, Mujahid’s opinion was that the textual “muqtasimin” is in the sense of “mutahalifin”, that is those who swore to each other that they will oppose the Prophet. The Qur’an said about them (16: 38),


    وَأَقْسَمُوا بِاللَّهِ جَهْدَ أَيْمَانِهِمْ لَا يَبْعَثُ اللَّهُ مَنْ يَمُوتُ [النحل : 38]


    “And they swore by Allah, their strongest oath, that Allah will never raise the dead.” 

    Another example of such usage, Ibn Kathir adds, is the Qur’anic verse (27: 49) about Saleh`s people,


    قَالُوا تَقَاسَمُوا بِاللَّهِ لَنُبَيِّتَنَّهُ وَأَهْلَهُ [النمل : 49]


    “They said, ‘Swear one to another by Allah that we shall strike him and his homefolk by the night.’”
    Zayd b. Aslam was also of this opinion (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Similar tendencies are noticeable among the secularly educated Muslims who divide the Qur’an into parts: parts acceptable, parts subjected to reinterpretation, i.e., rejected (Au.).

    لَّذِينَ جَعَلُوا الْقُرْآنَ عِضِينَ (91)

    15|91| Those, who have split the Qur’an into fragments.78

    78. The textual word “‘idin” is the plural of “‘udwun” which means parts. As noted above, Ibn ‘Abbas and some others have said that the allusion is to the Jews and Christians who divided the Qur’an, believing in a part of it and rejecting the rest. However, Ibn ‘Abbas is also reported by Ibn Is-haq that once Walid b. al-Mughira got the Quraysh together (sixteen of them: Alusi) and suggested that before the forthcoming Hajj they must agree on a single version of denial and not let every man air his own opinion. Some suggested they should say to the pilgrims that the Prophet (saws) is mad, others that he is a poet, yet others that he is a magician. A fourth opinion was that they should agree about him as a man possessed by the Jinn. A fifth opinion was that they should say he is a soothsayer. They disagreed with most of the opinions, while most of them agreed that they should refer to the Prophet as a mere poet and the Qur’an as a poetical production. So Allah revealed, “Those who have split the Qur’an into fragments.”
    Yet another opinion is that of ‘Ikrimah and Qatadah, who thought that the root word is “al-‘addah” meaning “magic.” That is, people have termed the Qur’an as a piece of magic (Ibn Jarir).

    فَوَرَبِّكَ لَنَسْأَلَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (92)

    15|92| By Your Lord, We shall surely call them to account, one and all.

    عَمَّا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (93)

    15|93| Concerning what they were doing.79

    79. The meaning and application is general: everybody will be questioned about faith, and about deeds after faith. A hadith in Ibn Abi Hatim records the Prophet as saying,


    يا معاذ إن المؤمن يسأل يوم القيامة عن جميع سعيه حتى عن كحل عينه


    “O Mu`adh. On the Day of Judgment a believer will be questioned about everything he did, including the kohl he applied into his eyes...” (Ibn Kathir).
    The evaluation of the hadith above could not be traced (Au.).
    This verse does not contradict the other verse which says (55: 39),


    فَيَوْمَئِذٍ لَا يُسْأَلُ عَنْ ذَنْبِهِ إِنْسٌ وَلَا جَانٌّ [الرحمن : 39]


    “That day neither men nor jinn will be questioned about their sins,” because, (i) men will pass through various stages in the Hereafter, until entry into Paradise. At some stages they will not be questioned, while at some they will be subjected to questioning, and (ii) the questioning of the present verse is of the nature of “Did you do, or did you not?” In contrast, the questioning that is denied is the nature of “Why did you do it? Could you not have avoided it?” This is the kind of questioning that the verse of Surah Al-Rahman denies. However, some scholars have expressed exactly the opposite meaning, viz., people will not be asked if they did a thing or not, they will only be asked, why they did it. The contradiction in any casem can be resolved (Au.).

    فَاصْدَعْ بِمَا تُؤْمَرُ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (94)

    15|94| So proclaim what you are commanded,80 and turn away from the idolaters.

    80. “So proclaim what you are commanded,” i.e., proclaim the Qur’an (Ibn Jarir from the Salaf).
    The implication is, Islamic truths are something that must be proclaimed and nothing should be concealed (Thanwi from Ruh).

    إِنَّا كَفَيْنَاكَ الْمُسْتَهْزِئِينَ (95)

    15|95| We are enough for you (against) the mockers.81

    81. Scholars like ‘Urwah b. Zubayr, ‘Ikrimah and Sa`id b. Jubayr have identified the foremost among the mockers as five: Walid b. al-Mughirah, ‘As b. Wa’il, Aswad b. ‘Abd Yaghus, Aswad b. al-Muttalib and Harith b. Qays (according to ‘Ikrimah: Harith b. Ghaytilah). They all died before the battle of Badr. (Although normally the Prophet did not supplicate against the Makkans, he felt so hurt from them that) he supplicated for their destruction. Ibn Is-haq says once they were circumambulating the Ka`bah when Jibril came and stood by with the Prophet’s side. As Aswad b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib passed by, Jibril threw a green leaf on his face. He became blind. Then, Aswad b. ‘Abd Yaghus passed by him. He pointed to his stomach which swelled and he died of dropsy. Next Walid b. al-Mughira appeared. He pointed at a wound he had received earlier in his heel. It opened up and he died of it. Then, as ‘As b. Wa’il passed by, he pointed at the hollow of his sole, and he was killed by a thorn that pricked into his sole, as he was going to Ta’if. Lastly, as Layth passed, he pointed at his head. It got filled with pus that killed him (Ibn Jarir). The story is also in Ibn Hisham and there are many versions about the number of people and the manner of their destruction.
    When Zuhri heard that Sa`id b. Jubayr named one of the five as Harith b. Ghaytilah, while ‘Ikrimah named him as Harith b. Qays, he remarked, “‘Ikrimah was right. The man was Harith b. Qays. Ghaytilah (some say Tulatilah) was the name of his mother (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    الَّذِينَ يَجْعَلُونَ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ ۚ فَسَوْفَ يَعْلَمُونَ (96)

    15|96| Those who set up along with Allah, another god. Soon they shall know.

    وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ يَضِيقُ صَدْرُكَ بِمَا يَقُولُونَ (97)

    15|97| And, certainly We are aware that your heart constricts at what they say.

    فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَكُنْ مِنَ السَّاجِدِينَ (98)

    15|98| Therefore,82 celebrate the praises of your Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves.

    82. That is, the hearts’ cure from constriction has to be searched for in prostration and prayers.

    وَاعْبُدْ رَبَّكَ حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَكَ الْيَقِينُ (99)

    15|99| And worship your Lord83 until the certainty comes to you.84

    83. Accordingly, whenever the Prophet faced a difficult situation, he resorted to Prayers (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari).
    84. The rendering of “yaqin” as death is following the understanding of Mujahid, Qatadah, Hasan and others. In fact, in a hadith the Prophet also used the word in this sense (Ibn Jarir).
    Allah (swt) said about the people of the Fire (74: 45),


    قَالُوا لَمْ نَكُ مِنَ الْمُصَلِّينَ (43) وَلَمْ نَكُ نُطْعِمُ الْمِسْكِينَ (44) وَكُنَّا نَخُوضُ مَعَ الْخَائِضِينَ (45) وَكُنَّا نُكَذِّبُ بِيَوْمِ الدِّينِ (46) حَتَّى أَتَانَا الْيَقِينُ [المدثر : 43 - 47]


    “They said, ‘We were not of those who Prayed, nor did we feed the poor. We used to indulge (in diatribe against Islam) along with those who indulged, and we used to cry lies to the Day of Judgement, until death came to us’.”
    The meaning, therefore, that the misguided people have derived, viz., “yaqin” is in the sense of “ma`rifah” is unacceptable. They say that one might Pray until he has acquired “ma`rifah.” Once he reaches the state of “ma`arifah” he need not attend to the obligations, which are for people of lower order. Apart from the fact that none of the classical scholars has derived such a meaning, nor does the Qur’an support it, but also, none of the Salaf, the highest in “ma`rifah”, the most knowledgeable after the prophets, ever claimed any such status for themselves. If anyone therefore, deserved that the obligations should be abrogated for him, then, the Prophet and the Companions should have been allowed that. But we find that they were the most devoted to acts and rituals of worship, even more than the ordinary people (Ibn Kathir, Alusi, Thanwi