Surat An-Naĥl

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. 16

    Merits of the Surah
    Sayyid Qutb’s passionate words might be difficult to translate, but, in keeping with the Arabic proverb, ‘What cannot be had in its whole, may not be missed in its sum and substance,’ we make an attempt: “Like most other Makkan chapters, this one also deals with important articles of faith: Divinity, revelation and resurrection. It also touches on related topics e.g., concept of Divine Oneness - which is the main link that connects the religion of Ibrahim with that of Muhammad (peace on them both) .. It also touches on Allah’s will, and men’s attitudes concerning belief, unbelief, guidance, misguidance... As it also deals with the mission of the Prophets and Allah’s ways with the rejecters ... It further deals with the question of the lawful and the unlawful and the pagan misconceptions regarding these issues... It deals with Hijrah in Allah’s path, Muslims’ tribulations in this path, renunciation of faith after its acceptance, and Allah’s retribution for these acts. Thereafter, it turns to issues pertaining to human actions and interactions: justice, being good, expending in the way of Allah, being true to the word of promise - and other related topics. Thus the chapter is filled with a variety of subjects.
    “As for the framework and background in which it deals with these issues, and the wide scope in which it operates ... it is that of the heavens and the earth, waters pouring down, trees growing, the night and the day, the sun, the moon and the stars, seas and mountains, waymarks, paths and rivers - it is the world, whole of it, with its events and movements which forms the background, and yet, there is another: that of values and perceptions, that of the Unknown with all that goes with it, and its reach into the depth of souls and space.
    “It is in this background that the contents of the chapter are embedded: one massive strike to turn men’s direction, to impress on the soul, to awaken the mind and conscience ... an unobtrusive but sustained attack. Yet, it plays on various chords, and despite its mildness, strikes at every impulse, provokes every mind, while it touches upon instincts. It coaxes the eye that it may see, the ear that it may hear, the senses that they may become conscious, and the intellect that it may consider. To achieve this end the Surah mobilizes the whole of the world: its heavens and its earth, its sun and moon, its day and night, its mountains, seas, narrow gorges, rivers, shadows, retreats, plants and fruits, animals and birds, as it also draws upon the present world and the next, its known and the unknown. With all these instruments it strikes at the chords of the heart and mind - varied strikes: that no soul can refuse to be affected by, unless it were a closed mind, a lifeless heart and a muddled perception.”

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ أَتَىٰ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَسْتَعْجِلُوهُ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (1)

    16|1| Commeth Allah’s command,3 so seek not to hasten it.4 Glorified is He above that which they associate (with Him).5


    1. The chapter is also known by the name “Al-Ni`am” (“Favors”), from the number of blessings mentioned in it (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    2. Except for a couple of verses, said to have been revealed on the way to Madinah, the rest of the Surah is Makkan by common consensus.
    3. Jalaluddin Suyuti has said: Consider how the previous chapter is connected with this one. The previous chapter ended with the words, “And worship your Lord until death comes to you,” while this one starts with, “Commeth Allah’s commandment” (Alusi).
    As regards immediate context, this verse addressed the Makkans who often demanded to know when the Hour would strike. Nadr b. al-Harith in fact said (8: 32), “O God. If this be true from You, then rain down stones upon us” (Au.).
    In Yusuf Ali’s tender words, “This is an answer to the taunts of the Pagans, who said, ‘If there is a god, the One true God, as you say, with unified control, why does He not punish the wrong-doers at once?’ The answer is: ‘The decree of Allah will inevitably come to pass; it will come soon enough; when it comes, you will wish it were delayed; how foolish of you to wish even to cut off your last hope of forgiveness?’”
    4. According to some of the Salaf, the “amr” of the text alludes to “the Hour” and, the two events being so close, also to the raising of the Final Messenger. Ibn ‘Abbas said that when Jibril was sent with the first message to the Prophet, he remarked, “Allah is Great. The Hour has arrived” (Qurtubi).
    Mawdudi has an opinion worth consideration. For ease we shall use sentences from him, mixing with ours: Since this chapter was revealed during the last days of the Prophet’s stay at Makka, a few days before his migration to Madinah, and since the pith of the Makkan argument against him was, ‘Muhammad (peace be on him) claims that we have deviated from the truth. He also claims to be a Prophet designated by God. If both these statements are true, we should by now have been seized by God’s scourge’... in view of above ‘the judgment’ (command in our rendering: au.) refers to Prophet’s Muhammad’s migration from Makkah.
    Shabbir however understands “amr” as command alone, which here alludes to the command by which the Muslims would ultimately gain upper hand, emerge triumphant, and the unbelievers routed. The time is close for it. Nor is it too far from the Hour of Resurrection, so, what’s the point in seeking to hasten it?
    5. Many commentators have said that those who are warned of the Hereafter, usually rely on someone who will save them - if the promised Hereafter really comes through. So Allah (swt) warned them, “Glorified is He above that which they associate (with Him).”

    يُنَزِّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةَ بِالرُّوحِ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ عَلَىٰ مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ أَنْ أَنْذِرُوا أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاتَّقُونِ (2)

    16|2| He sends down angels with the Revelation6 by His command upon whom He will of His slaves (saying):7 ‘Warn that there is no God except I. Therefore, fear Me.’


    6. Ibn ‘Abbas has said that the textual “Al-ruh” refers to revelation. Qatadah cites both “revelation” as well as “mercy” in explanation of the term (Ibn Jarir).
    Revelation has been called “Al-ruh” (spirit, soul, or life) because therewith is the life of the hearts (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    Razi cites an instance in the Qur’an where the word “ruh” is used in the sense of revelation. Allah said (42: 52),


    وَكَذَلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ رُوحًا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا [الشورى : 52]


    “That is how We have revealed to you, a “ruh” (revelation) by Our command.”
    He also said (40: 15),


    يُلْقِي الرُّوحَ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ عَلَى مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ [غافر : 15]


    “He casts His “ruh” (revelation) by His command on whomsoever of His slaves He will.”
    Mawdudi expands: “The ‘spirit’ (revelation in our rendering: Au.) mentioned here is the spirit of prophecy. The Messenger is infused with it, and it animates all that he says or does. Revelation and the spirit of prophecy have the same significance in man’s moral life as does the ‘soul’ in the physical life. Hence, the Qur’an has used the term ‘spirit’ for it. Since the Christians were unable to grasp this, they were led to believe in the Holy Ghost and to make him one of the three persons constituting a Trinity.”
    7. Mawdudi comments: “The unbelievers took strong exception to the choice of Muhammad (peace be on him), .. for this divine assignment. How could he be so appointed when there were outstanding scions in the leading families of Makka and Ta’if who, in their view, were much better suited for such a position.”

    خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ تَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (3)

    16|3| He created the heavens and the earth in truth.8 Exalted is He above that they associate (with Him).


    8. That is, everything in the universe attests to the great Truth that it has a single Originator and Sustainer and that there is no room for false gods as proposed by the polytheists. Had there been more than one God, an ordered universe would have never come into existence, instead, chaotic fragments would have been flying about (Au.).

    خَلَقَ الْإِنْسَانَ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ فَإِذَا هُوَ خَصِيمٌ مُبِينٌ (4)

    16|4| He created man from a sperm-drop. And lo, (there) he is, an open disputer.9


    9. Most of the commentators understand the verse as translated above. Nonetheless, Ibn Jarir understands the textual word “mubin” as meaning someone capable of expressing himself skillfully and rationally. Zamakhshari also sees the same possibility. Asad has worded it thus: “.. after having been a [mere] drop of sperm, a particle of matter without consciousness or motion, man becomes highly articulate (mintiq), able to argue on his own [for or against a proposition], courageously facing disputes, and clearly formulating his arguments: [and herein lies] an indication of God’s creative power.”
    Another meaning is also possible: Although man has such a lowly origin, he grows so arrogant with time that he challenges his very Creator. With this meaning in view, Shabbir quotes another verse (36: 77-78):


    أَوَلَمْ يَرَ الْإِنْسَانُ أَنَّا خَلَقْنَاهُ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ فَإِذَا هُوَ خَصِيمٌ مُبِينٌ (77) وَضَرَبَ لَنَا مَثَلًا وَنَسِيَ خَلْقَهُ قَالَ مَنْ يُحْيِي الْعِظَامَ وَهِيَ رَمِيمٌ [يس : 77 ، 78]


    “Has man not considered that we created him from a sperm-drop, and then, lo, he is an open disputer. He strikes examples for Us, forgetting his creation, he says, ‘Who will quicken the bones when they are dust?’”

    وَالْأَنْعَامَ خَلَقَهَا ۗ لَكُمْ فِيهَا دِفْءٌ وَمَنَافِعُ وَمِنْهَا تَأْكُلُونَ (5)

    16|5| And the cattle - He created them for you. In them is warmth10 and (various other) uses, and of them you eat.


    10. The allusion by “dif’un” is to warm clothes made from animal hide, wool, or fur (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari).
    The above point is of course obvious. But could the allusion also be to the common knowledge that animals’ flesh gives warmth to human body? (Au.).

    وَلَكُمْ فِيهَا جَمَالٌ حِينَ تُرِيحُونَ وَحِينَ تَسْرَحُونَ (6)

    16|6| And there is beauty in them for you when you drive them home in the evening and take them to pasture in the morning.11


    11. Only those can appreciate this verse who have seen in the natural surroundings the beauty of a flock driven back by the evening or being taken out into the fields in the morning. And it is only he who has made a keen observation that will appreciate why the Qur’an spoke first of the cattle being driven back: fed, fat, quiet, slow and playful, the shepherd shooing-shaa-ing from the rear, to control them, while in the morning, lean, heads down, bleating, hurrying to the pasture grounds, in submission, the shepherd simply following them. Further, the evening return is more visible than the early morning quick march.
    And, in the beauty of the scene is the evidence of Allah’s existence. One can somehow explain away the creation, but can he ignore the beauty noticeable in every creation? Who is the creator of this beauty? (Au.).

    وَتَحْمِلُ أَثْقَالَكُمْ إِلَىٰ بَلَدٍ لَمْ تَكُونُوا بَالِغِيهِ إِلَّا بِشِقِّ الْأَنْفُسِ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكُمْ لَرَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ (7)

    16|7| And they bear your burden unto places you could not have reached but with great difficulty to the souls. Verily, your Lord is Most Kind, Most Merciful.


    وَالْخَيْلَ وَالْبِغَالَ وَالْحَمِيرَ لِتَرْكَبُوهَا وَزِينَةً ۚ وَيَخْلُقُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (8)

    16|8| And (He created) horses, mules, and donkeys, for you to ride,12 and for adornment.13 And He creates what you know not.14


    12. In view of the use stated here, of these three kinds of animals: horses, mules and donkeys, viz., “for ride,” in contrast to the use stated for cattle, viz., “of them you eat,” Ibn ‘Abbas disapproved of their meat. Some went so far as to declare horse’s meat as unlawful. However, scholars like Aswad and Ibrahim did not treat horse’s meat as unlawful. Jabir reported, “We used to eat horse’s meat during the time of the Prophet.” He was asked, “What about mules?” He answered, “Mules, no.” As for donkey’s meat, there is no difference in opinion that the flesh of the domesticated ones is prohibited. There are clear ahadith to this effect (Ibn Jarir). In fact Jabir has reported a hadith, preserved in the Sahihayn which says,


    نَهَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَوْمَ خَيْبَرَ عَنْ لُحُومِ الْحُمُرِ الْأَهْلِيَّةِ وَأَذِنَ فِي لُحُومِ الْخَيْلِ

     


    “On the day of Khayber, the Prophet prohibited us flesh of domestic donkeys but allowed horse’s meat.”
    Muslim has a report coming from Asma’ bint Abi Bakr which says,


    نَحَرْنَا فَرَسًا عَلَى عَهْدِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَنَحْنُ بِالْمَدِينَةِ فَأَكَلْنَاهُ


    “In Madinah we slaughtered a horse during the time of the Prophet, and we all ate thereof.”
    (A similar report in Tabarani has the additional words, “(we slaughtered the horse) as it was about to die”: Qurtubi).
    As for mules, the Prophet rode them because they were available, otherwise he disapproved of crossing donkeys with horses (Ibn Kathir).
    Imam Abu Hanifah was with `Abbas in saying that horse’s meat is makruh (Qurtubi, Shafi`).
    13. Whether it is a horse, a camel, or a car, man has always been proud of them and their beauty (Au.).
    Thanwi writes that in view of the words, “And there is beauty in them,” and in the words, “(He created) horses, mules, and donkeys ... an adornment” there is nothing wrong in indulging in the good things of life if the aim is to counter inferiority complex, or simply to please one’s inner self, but if one can avoid the pitfall of pride.
    14. Shafi`, Asad and others have pointed out the shift in the form of the verb: from “khalaqa” (He created: in the past) to “yakhluqu” (He creates, or will create), to include all future creations of vehicles and means of transport. In Asad’s words, “The use, in this context, of the aorist yakhluqu implies the future tense (“He will create”) in contrast with the past tense khalaqa employed in the preceding passages. Since this reference to God’s continuing creation comes immediately after a mention of primitive means of transport (i.e., animals domesticated by man to this end), it obviously relates to other - as yet unknown - things of the same category: that is to say, to new means of transport which God unceasingly creates through the instrumentality of the inventiveness with which He has endowed man’s mind. Inasmuch as every successive stage of human development bears witness to new, previously undreamed-of inventions in the realm of transport, the Qur’anic statement that `He will yet create things of which [today] you have no knowledge’ is valid for every period - past, present and future - of man’s history.”

    وَعَلَى اللَّهِ قَصْدُ السَّبِيلِ وَمِنْهَا جَائِرٌ ۚ وَلَوْ شَاءَ لَهَدَاكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (9)

    16|9| And upon Allah is the description of the path15 while some (of them) swerve away.16 Had He willed, he would have guided you all together.


    15. The translation follows the understanding of Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah, Dahhak and others as in Ibn Jarir. This is how Razi and Qurtubi understand it. Shawkani notes another possibility: “Upon Allah is the guidance of him who seeks the path of guidance.” But Mujahid thought it meant that the path of truth leads to Allah (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Kathir thinks Mujahid’s interpretation is more plausible.
    16. That is, not all paths lead to Him. In fact, most of the paths skirt off and lead away from Him (Ibn Jarir). However, if we are to follow Mujahid’s opinion then Ibn Mas`ud’s commentary fits well the context who explained the last part of the verse as, “yet there are some who swerve away from it” (Zamakhshari). In fact, ‘Ali read the original as “minkum ja’ir” that is, some of you swerve away (Shawkani).

    هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً ۖ لَكُمْ مِنْهُ شَرَابٌ وَمِنْهُ شَجَرٌ فِيهِ تُسِيمُونَ (10)

    16|10| It is He who sends down to you out of heaven water: for you a drink thereof, by which the trees (grow) and wherewith you pasture (the flock).17


    17. The translation reflects the understanding of Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Ikrimah, Dahhak, Qatadah and others as in Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani and others.
    18. Everything that Allah has provided of His bounty such as, animals, plants and minerals, with all their varieties, is included in the verse (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    يُنْبِتُ لَكُمْ بِهِ الزَّرْعَ وَالزَّيْتُونَ وَالنَّخِيلَ وَالْأَعْنَابَ وَمِنْ كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (11)

    16|11| He causes to grow for you thereby: crops, olives, date-palm, grapes and all manner of fruit. Surely, in that is a sign for those who reflect.


    وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ ۖ وَالنُّجُومُ مُسَخَّرَاتٌ بِأَمْرِهِ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ (12)

    16|12| And He subjected to you the night and the day, the sun and the moon. And the stars are subjected to His command. Surely, in that are signs for a people who reason.


    وَمَا ذَرَأَ لَكُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ مُخْتَلِفًا أَلْوَانُهُ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِقَوْمٍ يَذَّكَّرُونَ (13)

    16|13| And in what He spread out in the earth, in various hues.18 Surely, in that is a sign for a people who remember.19


    19. Note the sequence. Allah first spoke of the creation of the heavens and the earth (verse 3), man (verse 4), animals (verse 5-8), plants (verse 11), laws of nature (verse 12), and, finally, just about everything else that He created (verse 13) - Au.

    وَهُوَ الَّذِي سَخَّرَ الْبَحْرَ لِتَأْكُلُوا مِنْهُ لَحْمًا طَرِيًّا وَتَسْتَخْرِجُوا مِنْهُ حِلْيَةً تَلْبَسُونَهَا وَتَرَى الْفُلْكَ مَوَاخِرَ فِيهِ وَلِتَبْتَغُوا مِنْ فَضْلِهِ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ (14)

    16|14| And it is He who subjected the seas20 so that you may eat out of it tender meat and seek from it ornaments that you wear.21 And you see the ships ploughing through it,22 so that you may seek His bounty and haply you will give thanks.


    20. For man to be able to ride over the seas and make uses of them in a variety of ways is his subjection of it (Qurtubi).
    21. That is, ‘your womenfolk.’
    Shanqiti writes: As Ibn Hajr has written in Futh, it is not allowed for men to wear clothes adorned with pearls and rich stones in view of the hadith which prohibits that men and women adopt dresses specific to the other gender and thus look alike.
    However, a piece or two, of pearls or rich stones, should not matter, since (a) that cannot be termed an imitation of women, which is disapproved, (b), the above Qur’anic verse is unconditional, that is, it does not exclude men, (c) there is no hadith prohibiting it, as there are ahadith prohibiting gold for men and (d) there is no consensus among the fuqaha’ over its prohibition (Au.).
    22. “Mawakhir” has its root in “makhr” which is for cleaving through, or splitting something, as the boat splits water and air while it moves forward.

    وَأَلْقَىٰ فِي الْأَرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَنْ تَمِيدَ بِكُمْ وَأَنْهَارًا وَسُبُلًا لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ (15)

    16|15| And He cast in the earth mountains, lest it shakes with you,23 as (He also placed) rivers, and paths, so that you might be guided.


    23. Qays b. ‘Ibad and Hasan said that when the earth was created, it was very unstable. Angels remarked that no one could live on it. So Allah pitched the pegs and it became stable (Ibn Jarir). ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib however added, “Now it is stable, (but only) as stable as a piece of trembling flesh” (Ibn Kathir). It might be noted how close the description comes to what modern geologists say in connection with the theory of Plate Tectonic, viz., that the upper crust consisting of some seven plates is in slow motion, whose friction against each other causes earthquakes as well as creates mountains (Au.).

    وَعَلَامَاتٍ ۚ وَبِالنَّجْمِ هُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ (16)

    16|16| And waymarks. And by the stars they are guided.24


    24. In the country side waymarks help in locomotion. What about deserts and the seas? The answer is, stars serve that function.

    أَفَمَنْ يَخْلُقُ كَمَنْ لَا يَخْلُقُ ۗ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ (17)

    16|17| Is He then who creates, like him who does not create? Will you not receive admonition?


    وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (18)

    16|18| And, if you were to count His blessings, you will not number them. Verily, Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Kind.25


    25. That is, since you will not be able to number Allah’s blessings, you will not be able to thank for them, but Allah is Most Forgiving, if you fail to do that, Most Kind (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari).
    In general terms, man owes to Allah profound thanks for the countless favors He bestows on him, every moment of his existence. But, instead, he shows stubborn ingratitude and crosses all limits by attributing the favors to someone other than Him. In consequence, he deserves to be destroyed. But if he is alive, and thriving, it is because Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Kind (Au.).

    وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تُسِرُّونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ (19)

    16|19| And Allah knows what you conceal and what you reveal.26


    26. That is, if punishment does not follow the rebellion, it is not because Allah is unaware of what’s going on in the earth. Equal unto him are the concealed thoughts and the revealed acts. But He grants respite.

    وَالَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ لَا يَخْلُقُونَ شَيْئًا وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ (20)

    16|20| As for those they invoke besides Allah, they do not create anything. In fact, they themselves are created.


    أَمْوَاتٌ غَيْرُ أَحْيَاءٍ ۖ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ أَيَّانَ يُبْعَثُونَ (21)

    16|21| Dead. Not alive;27 and know not when they will be resurrected.


    27. Those to whom the people devote themselves are either lifeless idols carved from wood, mud or stone, in short, inanimate objects, or saints and religious figures who are also dead, long reduced to dust. What is the point in worshiping either? (Shabbir, Mawdudi).

    إِلَٰهُكُمْ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۚ فَالَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ مُنْكِرَةٌ وَهُمْ مُسْتَكْبِرُونَ (22)

    16|22| Your God is one God. As for those who do not believe in the Hereafter, their hearts are in refusal,28 and they wax proud.29


    28. That is, their hearts are committed to refusal of Allah, His Oneness, His bounties, life after death, and of the fact that worship is due to Him alone (Ibn Jarir).
    29. Alusi writes that every failure of the people can be concealed, but not arrogance. The arrogant can be exposed, to which Thanwi adds that, arrogance is the root cause of disbelief.
    It is interesting to note that Prince Charles, the British queen’s son, has said in a recent statement that “arrogance is the root cause of the insurmountable moral, social and ecological problems that the Western peoples face.”
    But, is there anyone ready to listen any better than the Quraysh did?
    Majid quotes: “‘The monotheistic idea,’ says Palmer, ‘was not new to the Arabs but it was distasteful, and particularly so to the Quraish, whose supremacy over the other tribes, and whose worldly prosperity arose from the fact that they were the hereditary guardians of the national collection of idols kept in the sanctuary at Mecca.’ And the cry of Islam therefore naturally ‘sounded like a revolutionary watch word, a radical-party cry, which the conservative Meccans could not afford to despise and which they combated very energetically’ (Palmer, The Qur’an, Intro. p. xIix).”

    لَا جَرَمَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا يُسِرُّونَ وَمَا يُعْلِنُونَ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْتَكْبِرِينَ (23)

    16|23| There is no doubt about it that Allah knows what they conceal and what they reveal.30 Surely, He does not approve of those who wax proud.31


    30. That is, you might cleverly conceal your pride and arrogance with the help of outward humility. But Allah sees beyond the smoke screen (Au.).
    31. It is reported of Hasan b. ‘Ali that he would sit in the company of the poor and the humble and say, “Allah does not approve of those who wax proud” (Ibn Jarir).

    وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ مَاذَا أَنْزَلَ رَبُّكُمْ ۙ قَالُوا أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (24)

    16|24| When they are asked, ‘What has your Lord sent down?’ they answer, ‘Tales of the ancients.’32


    32. This is the answer Quraysh leaders gave to the pilgrims and visitors to Makkah, when they wished to know their opinion about the Qur’an (Kashshaf).
    Sayyid writes: “Those of the pagans who waxed proud, whose hearts were filled with refusal and rejection, did not think it necessary that when asked by their compatriots, ‘What has your Lord revealed?’ they should reply in a most natural manner. They could in reply recite a few verses that they knew, or quote their substance, and honestly tell the inquirer what the content of the message was, whether they believed in it or not. But an honest response was not in their nature. So they said, ‘Tales of the ancients.’ And tales of the ancients are filled with myths, fantasies and superstitions. So, that’s how they described a Qur’an which cures sick hearts, deals with life’s problems, people’s behavior, matters pertaining to social interactions with reference to human condition in the past, present and the future!”

    لِيَحْمِلُوا أَوْزَارَهُمْ كَامِلَةً يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۙ وَمِنْ أَوْزَارِ الَّذِينَ يُضِلُّونَهُمْ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ ۗ أَلَا سَاءَ مَا يَزِرُونَ (25)

    16|25| So that they may bear, on the Day of Judgment, their own burdens in full, as well as some of the burdens of those they misled33 without knowledge.34 Lo! Evil is that which they shall bear.35


    33. A report from the Prophet (preserved by Abu Da’ud, Ibn Majah and Musnad Ahmad: H. B. Ibrahim) helps us understand this verse,


    مَنْ دَعَا إِلَى هُدًى كَانَ لَهُ مِنَ الأَجْرِ مِثْلُ أُجُورِ مَنْ تَبِعَهُ لاَ يَنْقُصُ ذَلِكَ مِنْ أُجُورِهِمْ شَيْئًا وَمَنْ دَعَا إِلَى ضَلاَلَةٍ كَانَ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الإِثْمِ مِثْلُ آثَامِ مَنْ تَبِعَهُ لاَ يَنْقُصُ ذَلِكَ مِنْ آثَامِهِمْ شَيْئًا


    “Whoever invited to a righteous thing will have the rewards equal to the rewards of those who followed him, without their rewards being reduced. And whoever invited to an error will bear the sins of all those who followed him, without their burdens being lessened” (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Ibn Kathir). That is because it was binding upon everyone to make his own inquiry about the truth of the matter and reach his own conclusions, instead of blindly following other people’s opinions (Zamakhshari).
    34. A possibility exists that the term “without knowledge” is the attribute of those who are led to error: the blind followers. It is their ignorance that makes them vulnerable (Kashshaf, Alusi).
    35. For an illustration of how the burdens would be borne on the Judgment Day, see Al-An`am, note 50 of this work.

    قَدْ مَكَرَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ فَأَتَى اللَّهُ بُنْيَانَهُمْ مِنَ الْقَوَاعِدِ فَخَرَّ عَلَيْهِمُ السَّقْفُ مِنْ فَوْقِهِمْ وَأَتَاهُمُ الْعَذَابُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (26)

    16|26| Those who went before them did also plot.36 So Allah came to their buildings from the foundations,37 the roof fell down on them from above them38 and the punishment came from a quarter they did not perceive.39


    36. That is, past nations also tried similar plots to thwart the entry and growth of truth in the hearts of the people. But Allah failed them and destroyed them by striking at their foundations (Au.).
    37. In the Arabic language the idiom, “He came to their buildings from the foundations” refers to a complete destruction (Ibn Jarir).
    38. When a roof falls, it falls from above. Why then did Allah say, “and the roof fell down on them from above them?” That is because, Razi and Qurtubi explain, in Arabic they will say, “The roof fell upon us” whether the speakers were under the roof or not when it fell. But if it fell when they were under it, then they will say “the roof fell down on us from above us.”
    39. Asad comments: “This is obviously a metaphor (Razi) describing the utter collapse of all endeavors - both individual and social - rooted in godlessness and false pride.”

    ثُمَّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُخْزِيهِمْ وَيَقُولُ أَيْنَ شُرَكَائِيَ الَّذِينَ كُنْتُمْ تُشَاقُّونَ فِيهِمْ ۚ قَالَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ إِنَّ الْخِزْيَ الْيَوْمَ وَالسُّوءَ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ (27)

    16|27| Then, on the Day of Judgment He will humiliate them, and ask them, ‘Where are those that you associated with Me, concerning whom you would vehemently dispute?’40 Those who were given knowledge41 will speak out, ‘Assuredly, this day humiliation and the (accompanying) evil is upon the unbelievers.’


    40. “Shaqqa” of the original denotes (acrimonious: Alusi) argumentation between two individuals or parties (Ibn Jarir).
    41. Those are meant who, in the words of Asad, “availed themselves of the knowledge of good and evil, which God offers to mankind through His prophets.”

    الَّذِينَ تَتَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ ۖ فَأَلْقَوُا السَّلَمَ مَا كُنَّا نَعْمَلُ مِنْ سُوءٍ ۚ بَلَىٰ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (28)

    16|28| Those, whose lives the angels took while they were wronging themselves, they offered surrender (saying), ‘We were doing no evil.’42 (They were told), ‘Nay, Allah is aware of what you were doing.43


    42. ‘Ikrimah has said that the (immediate) application at the time of revelation was to those who had embraced Islam in Makkah but did not migrate. They were dragged into the battle of Badr, although quite unwilling, and got killed there. Allah revealed about them (16: 28), “Those whose lives the angels took while they were wronging themselves. They offered surrender (saying), ‘We were doing no evil’” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    43. Asad writes: “Implying that their plea of ignorance is rejected in view of the fact that they were offered God’s guidance through His revealed messages, which they deliberately scorned in their false pride and dismissed out of hand a ‘fable of ancient times.’”

    فَادْخُلُوا أَبْوَابَ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۖ فَلَبِئْسَ مَثْوَى الْمُتَكَبِّرِينَ (29)

    16|29| Enter then the doors to Jahannum to abide therein forever. Surely, evil is the abode of those who wax proud.’


    وَقِيلَ لِلَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا مَاذَا أَنْزَلَ رَبُّكُمْ ۚ قَالُوا خَيْرًا ۗ لِلَّذِينَ أَحْسَنُوا فِي هَٰذِهِ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةٌ ۚ وَلَدَارُ الْآخِرَةِ خَيْرٌ ۚ وَلَنِعْمَ دَارُ الْمُتَّقِينَ (30)

    16|30| While, (when) the godfearing are asked,44 ‘What has your Lord sent down?’ they reply, ‘(All that is) good.’45 For those who do good in this world, there will be good. But the abode of the Hereafter is better, and surely, excellent (is the) abode of the godfearing.


    44. Although Razi’s own opinion is that the term “righteous” (ittaqaw of the original) is applicable to every Muslim who bore the Islamic testimony, he reports Qadi as of opinion that the term is applicable only to those who lived by every obligation of Islam, and shunned everything forbidden by it. Only such as those who do that are true believers and to whom the term “muttaqi” is applicable.
    45. Ibn Abi Hatim narrates through Suddi, “The Quraysh got together and said, ‘Muhammad has a sweet tongue. When he speaks to someone, the man loses his head. Look for well connected men and send them to stand at every entrance to the town, for a day or two to send back anyone coming in to see him.’ So they stood guard at every entrance. Whenever someone showed up, sent by his tribe to find the truth about Muhammad, the man at the passage would say, ‘I am so and so. Let me tell you what Muhammad is. He is a liar. None but the dregs of the society, fools or slaves have followed him. As for the chieftains, they have distanced themselves away from him.’ So the delegated man would return. Hence Allah said, “When they are asked, ‘What has your Lord sent down?’ they answer, ‘Tales of the ancients.’” However, if the envoy that was sent happened to be someone Allah had decided to guide, and they said to him what they said to everyone, he would say, ‘An evil messenger I would be if, after a day’s travel, I should return without having met the man himself, hear what he has to say, and relay the information to my people.’ So he will enter Makkah, ask a believer if he met one, ‘What does Muhammad say?’ He would be told, ‘(All that is) good...’” (Sayyid).

    جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ يَدْخُلُونَهَا تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ ۖ لَهُمْ فِيهَا مَا يَشَاءُونَ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَجْزِي اللَّهُ الْمُتَّقِينَ (31)

    16|31| Eternal gardens that they will enter, underneath which rivers flow. For them therein, whatever they wish. That is how Allah rewards the godfearing.


    الَّذِينَ تَتَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ طَيِّبِينَ ۙ يَقُولُونَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمُ ادْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (32)

    16|32| Those whose lives the angels take while they are good (and pure), saying, ‘Peace upon you; enter Paradise for what you were doing.’46


    46. The reference could be to the soul’s entry into Paradise immediately with death - final, bodily entry into it to take place only after the Resurrection and Reckoning (Thanwi).

    هَلْ يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَّا أَنْ تَأْتِيَهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَوْ يَأْتِيَ أَمْرُ رَبِّكَ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ فَعَلَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ وَمَا ظَلَمَهُمُ اللَّهُ وَلَٰكِنْ كَانُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ (33)

    16|33| Are they waiting except that the angels should come to them or your Lord’s command should come?47 So did those who went before them. And, Allah wronged them not, but rather, they were wronging their own souls.


    47. But, writes Thanwi, embracing faith then, at that time, would be of no avail.

    فَأَصَابَهُمْ سَيِّئَاتُ مَا عَمِلُوا وَحَاقَ بِهِمْ مَا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ (34)

    16|34| Therefore, the evil results of what they did struck them, and that hemmed them, which they were mocking.


    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا لَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ مَا عَبَدْنَا مِنْ دُونِهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ نَحْنُ وَلَا آبَاؤُنَا وَلَا حَرَّمْنَا مِنْ دُونِهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ فَعَلَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ فَهَلْ عَلَى الرُّسُلِ إِلَّا الْبَلَاغُ الْمُبِينُ (35)

    16|35| Said those who associated (others with Allah), ‘If Allah had willed, we would not have worshiped anything other than Him, neither we, nor our forefathers, nor would we have forbidden anything through other than Him.’48 Thus did those who went before them.49 So, is there anything upon the Messengers beyond manifest deliverance?50


    48. This they said, writes Shawkani, although they did not believe in it, to only escape from being labeled as irrational. They knew they had no rational grounds to defend their idol-worship. So they tried to turn the table on the Prophet. They argued that ‘if all that happens in the world is, as you say O Muhammad, by Allah’s will, and that nothing can escape His decree, then it follows that we have His approval for doing what we do, viz., worship of the idols, or declaration of this or that as unlawful.’
    49. Majid shows the fallacy in the argument: “The fallacy, which the pagans’ argument involved, lay in their confusion of the ‘will’ of God - the liberty He has allowed mankind in the choice of their actions - with His pleasure or command; in not distinguishing between the physical laws of God’s universe from His moral law. Because He in His grand Plan, has created venomous reptiles, it does not follow that He approves of men being stung by the snakes. Because He has endowed men with power to steal and capacity to kill, it does not follow that He is pleased with house-breaking and murder.”
    50. The message is clear (Mubin) “in three senses; (1) a Message clear and unambiguous, (2) one that makes all things clear to those who try to understand, because it accords with their own nature as created by Allah, (3) one preached openly and to everyone” (Yusuf Ali).
    The scientists are fond of saying that, “The most amazing thing about this universe is that it can be understood” (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَسُولًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ ۖ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ هَدَى اللَّهُ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ حَقَّتْ عَلَيْهِ الضَّلَالَةُ ۚ فَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَانْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ (36)

    16|36| Indeed, We raised a Messenger in every nation51 (with the proclamation) that, ‘Worship Allah alone and shun the Taghut.’52 Then, among them there were some whom Allah guided, while there were others among them, for whom error became inevitable.53 Go about therefore, in the land and see what was the end of those who cried lies.


    51. On the question of Messengers sent to every nation, see Surah Yunus, note 76 of this work.
    52. For the meaning of this term, see Surah Al-Baqarah, note 553 and Al-Nisa’, notes 172 and 189 of this work.
    53. Error became inevitable for them, by the decree of Allah because He found them insisting on it, incapable of, and disinclined to any good (Zamakhshari). Shawkani thinks however, presenting an argument from Zajjaj, that although Allah ordered the people to believe in His messages, He did not will that everyone should accept.
    In other words, Razi adds, Allah’s “command” (amr) and will (mashi`ah) are two different things. He may “command” but only that happens which He wills. So, He commanded belief in Him, but for some He willed that they shall believe while for others that they should not.
    Qada’ and Qadr
    What Razi wrote is the standard viewpoint of the Ahl al-Sunnah. For some it can be intriguing because people mix up two issues. The issue of Allah sending His Messages wishing mankind to seek salvation through it, and leaving it entirely to the choice of men to either accept or reject the Message. Men have been given the power of intellect and various senses to employ, as well as the ability to choose between one and the other and act in full freedom. This is one issue.
    The second issue is that of Qada’ and Qadr. In everyday life, the second issue comes up only after people have made their choice - and not before. Whatever they choose, whether to accept or reject, is, they are told, by Allah’s Will, since, ultimately, it is His Will that prevails. Now, they cannot see how Allah’s Will could prevail, since they are, apparently, in full control of their destiny. Consequently, since this is something of an unsolvable mystery to them, they are told to simply believe in it. Hence, Qada’ and Qadr are a matter of faith. No action is demanded in consequence.
    In other words, the concept of Qada’ (Divine decree) and Qadr (fore-ordainment) are only brought into picture after a man has made his choice and not before. To further simplify: people are free to choose in their affairs any of the several options available to them. All the same, once they have made their choice, have acted according to it, and have seen the consequences, they are told that whatever happened, was by Qada’ and Qadr. But the misguided ones reverse the order, keep doing what they wish, but place the responsibility on Divine Decree.
    Nevertheless, since the unbelievers do not see Allah’s will getting the better of them, nor do they believe in any such mysterious hand working against them, the responsibility cannot be shifted to Allah. They were absolutely free to choose either of the two courses: submission to Him or rebellion against Him. It is only when they had made the choice that a new aspect of thought, and not of action, was introduced: that of Allah’s Will. But men should not be unduly disturbed by this concept because they are absolutely sure they made the choice following their own good judgment.
    Further, the issue does not end there. If someone believes that he made the wrong choice because God’s Will influenced him, then, he might remember that he is still free to tilt the scale back into his favor. He can say to himself that he shall act against God’s Will, and reverse his decision, after the first choice, to embrace the right course rather than the wrong one in keeping with the demands of his second opinion. After all, he hasn’t lost his freedom to retreat his steps. Has he? Now, if he does not do that, then should he not bear the responsibility for his choice, no matter what he learns from the believers in Islam about Qada’ and Qadr? (Au.)
    All the same, Imam Razi also reports Ka`bi, of opinion that the “word” of misguidance came true on some people by Allah’s decree because they chose to go off the course. Alusi is also inclined to this meaning. In his words: “One opinion is that Allah does not ‘create’ guidance and force it on a person while he chooses to create misguidance in himself .”
    Sayyid is clear about this issue: “Allah the Most High does not intend that anyone should worship other than Him, or forbid unto oneself of the good things that He has not forbidden, nor does He approve of any such thing, when they are done. This is made manifest through a variety of means, primarily through Prophets raised to preach His Oneness. Allah said, ‘Indeed, We raised a Messenger in every nation (with the proclamation) that, ‘Worship Allah alone and shun the Taghut.’ This was His command and this was His intention. Allah will not order a thing carried out by anyone when He knows that they have no power to do it. His disapproval of this is proved by the verse, ‘Go about therefore, in the land and see what was the end of those who cried lies.’
    “Allah willed that He should create the human race with the intrinsic capacity for both right and wrong and left it entirely to their will to choose between either one, or the other. He endowed them with intelligence in order that they could weigh out the pros and cons of both. In addition, He spread in the world such signs of truth as the eye, the ear, the mind, the heart and the senses can observe - all about them, in every direction, visible by the day and by the night. Further, Allah did not wish that the intellect He endowed to the human beings be left alone to operate. He sent down His guidance to function as a criterion against which the human mind could always balance its own decisions whenever in doubt. He did not send the Messengers as tyrants to impose His guidance upon the people. Yet, He sent them as the conveyers of the truth.”
    Se`di also tries to clear the picture: “The pagans laid blame on Allah’s will for their idol-worship: a false argument. Had it been true, Allah would not have chastised them. Allah commanded them (tawhid) and prohibited them (the idols). He gave them powers to choose and act. And, this is something that every human being has a natural cognizance of: that he indeed has the power to do something if he wills it. There is no difference in opinion over this issue at all. So, they used the issue of “Qada’ and Qadr” only to argue out the Muslims and defeat the truth that the Messengers brought. But, once the Messengers had delivered the message, no excuse remained valid. Messengers were not there but to deliver, which they did. Hence, in face of their persistent intransigent behavior, Allah said (16: 35),


    فَهَلْ عَلَى الرُّسُلِ إِلَّا الْبَلَاغُ الْمُبِينُ [النحل : 35]


    “So is there anything upon the Messengers beyond manifest deliverance?”

    إِنْ تَحْرِصْ عَلَىٰ هُدَاهُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ يُضِلُّ ۖ وَمَا لَهُمْ مِنْ نَاصِرِينَ (37)

    16|37| If you eagerly covet their guidance, then (you may know that) Allah does not guide one whom He sends astray.54 And they have no helpers.


    54. The translation follows the preference of Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir. However, some of the Salaf understood the verse as meaning, “Allah does not guide those who choose to go astray.”

    وَأَقْسَمُوا بِاللَّهِ جَهْدَ أَيْمَانِهِمْ ۙ لَا يَبْعَثُ اللَّهُ مَنْ يَمُوتُ ۚ بَلَىٰ وَعْدًا عَلَيْهِ حَقًّا وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (38)

    16|38| And they swore by Allah stubbornly, ‘Allah will never raise up those who die.’55 Nay, it is a promise (binding) upon Him, in truth, but most people know not.56


    55. That is, such were the characteristics of the people that the Prophet wanted to show guidance but they denied vehemently that Allah will be able to resurrect them. Therefore Allah led them astray (Au.).
    Asad has a good piece of commentary that relates to the modern situation. He writes: “This categorical denial of resurrection - implying as it does of God’s ultimate judgment of good and evil - is characteristic of a mental attitude which refuses to admit the reality, or even possibility, of anything that lies beyond the range of man’s actual or potential observation. Since such an attitude is an outcome of an intrinsically materialistic outlook on life and the ‘false pride’ referred to in verse 22-23 above, it is anti-religious in the deepest sense of the word even if it is accompanied by a vague - because non-consequential - belief in the existence of God.”
    56. In this context goes the hadith reported by Abu Hurayrah:


    قال الله: سبني ابن آدم، ولم يكن ينبغي له أن يسبني، وكذّبني ولم يكن ينبغي له أن يكذّبني فأما تكذيبه إياي ، فقال ( وَأَقْسَمُوا بِاللَّهِ جَهْدَ أَيْمَانِهِمْ لا يَبْعَثُ اللَّهُ مَنْ يَمُوتُ ) قال: قلت ( بَلَى وَعْدًا عَلَيْهِ حَقًّا ) وأما سبه إياي ، فقال: ( إِنَّ اللَّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلاثَةٍ ) وقلت ( قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ )


    “Son of Adam insults Me - which he has no right to do - and he cries lies to Me - which he has no right to do. As for his crying lies to me, he says (in the words of the Qur’an 6: 109), ‘And they swore by Allah their strongest oath, that He will never resurrect the dead,’ whereas I have said (16: 38), ‘Nay, a promise upon Us, in truth.’ As for his insulting Me, he says, ‘Allah is the third of the three’, while I have said, ‘Say, He, Allah, is One. Allah, the Eternal. He beget not, nor was He begotten. And there is none comparable to Him’” (Ibn Jarir). The hadith is also in the Sahih works but differently worded (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn ‘Abbas was told that some people from Iraq held the opinion that ‘Ali will be raised before the Judgment-day, and they cite this verse in evidence. (That is, they argued that the verse refers to ‘Ali). Ibn ‘Abbas said, “They lie. The verse is of general meaning. By my own life, if ‘Ali was expected to come back we would not have married his wives and distributed his wealth amongst ourselves” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Also see Al-Baqarah, note 205 of this work, for previous occurrence of this narration with a few other details.

    لِيُبَيِّنَ لَهُمُ الَّذِي يَخْتَلِفُونَ فِيهِ وَلِيَعْلَمَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا كَاذِبِينَ (39)

    16|39| So that He may make clear unto those who differed thereon, and so that the unbelievers realize that they were liars.57


    57. Mawdudi writes: “Life-after-Death, ... is also a moral requirement. A great many people have been party to differences... Some of them were oppressors and wrong-doers while others were victims of oppression and wrong-doing. Some people made sacrifices while others subjected them to these sacrifices. In addition, everyone adopted according to his likes, a moral philosophy and attitude which affects - for good or bad - the lives of billions, even trillions of other human beings. Now, a time must come when the moral consequences of these attitudes should be visible in the form of reward or punishment. If the present world is not so constituted that the true and full moral consequences of man’s actions can become apparent, then there must be another world to ensure that this is so.”

    إِنَّمَا قَوْلُنَا لِشَيْءٍ إِذَا أَرَدْنَاهُ أَنْ نَقُولَ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ (40)

    16|40| Indeed, Our word to a thing, when We wish it, is that We say to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.58


    58. That is, the unbelievers deny the resurrection because in their imagination it is so difficult a feat that the God of their imagination cannot accomplish it. But it is easy for the One, the sole Lord of the universe, who, when He wishes to create a thing, brings it into existence instantly (Au.).
    The verse emphasizes the quick pace of creation when Allah wills a thing, and not that He has to say the word “kun” (Au.). “There is no interposition of Time or Condition between His Will and its consequences, for He is the ultimate Reality. He is independent of the proximate or material causes, for He Himself creates them and establishes their laws as He pleases” (Yusuf Ali).

    وَالَّذِينَ هَاجَرُوا فِي اللَّهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا ظُلِمُوا لَنُبَوِّئَنَّهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً ۖ وَلَأَجْرُ الْآخِرَةِ أَكْبَرُ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ (41)

    16|41| Those who emigrated in Allah’s cause,59 after they were wronged, We shall surely lodge them in this world in a goodly (lodging),60 but, truly, the rewards of the Hereafter are greater,61 if they knew.62


    59. Although a literal translation should be “in Allah”, but Alusi explains, with an example from hadith usage, that in this kind of construction the meaning would be “in Allah’s cause.”
    60. The allusion is to the emigration to Madinah, escaping persecution at Makkah (Ibn ‘Abbas and Qatadah: Ibn Jarir). But it could as well be to the earlier emigration to Abyssinia. Some eighty men and women, including the Prophet’s own daughter Ruqayyah and son in law ‘Uthman and his other relatives such as Ja`far b. Abi Talib - the Siddiqun and the Siddiqat of this Ummah - migrated when staying in Makkah became impossible for them. Allah’s promise came true and they became “leaders of the pious” (Ibn Kathir).
    61. It is widely reported that during his caliphate when ‘Umar distributed wealth from the state treasury he would say to the emigrants, “Here take it. This is what Allah had promised you as rewards of this world. As for what is in store for you in the world to come, it will be much more” (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    62. The verse might be addressing those who had already emigrated, or were in the process of making up their minds (Au.).
    Thanwi extends the rule contained in the verse: “In the like manner of those who abandon their homes for the sake of Allah, those will also be rewarded in both the worlds who abandoned things prohibited by Him.”

    الَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ (42)

    16|42| (It were) Those who observed patience63 and placed their trust in their Lord.64


    63. That is, those Makkan Muslims who bore oppression patiently.
    64. Shafi` takes us back to Qurtubi’s discussion under verse 100 of Surah Nisa’. He wrote there that there are several kinds of Hijrah:

    • (i) From the land of the unbelievers to the land of Islam; this becomes obligatory when it is not possible to follow Islam even in important affairs.
    • (ii) From the land of innovations (dar al-bid`ah). Imam Malik has written that it is not allowed to live in a place where pious scholars of the past are insulted following the rule that if you cannot remove wrongs, remove yourself from the wrongs.
    • (iii) From a place where the unlawful is overwhelmingly prevalent.
    • (iv) To escape persecution
    • (v) For reasons of health
    • (vi) To save one’s wealth - if it is threatened.

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ ۚ فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (43)

    16|43| And, We did not send before you except men,65 revealing unto them. Ask then the people of Remembrance - if you do not know.66


    65. When the pagans said that Allah could not choose a man to be a Messenger, rather, he should have been one of the angels, Allah revealed this verse (Kashshaf, Ibn Kathir). In fact, Jiba’i has said that Allah did not send angels to the Prophets, carrying His commandments, except in the form of human beings (Razi, Shawakani).
    As regards the question of women raised as Prophets refer to Surah Yusuf, note 153.
    66. That is, the pagans could get over their skepticism by referring to the People of the Book (Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid and other others: Ibn Jarir). Zajjaj however has removed all doubts that accompany the question whether the People of the Book could be consulted (Au.), by saying, ‘ask anyone who will reply in the light of knowledge and research’ (Razi).
    Yusuf Ali’s explanation further clarifies: “If the Pagan Arabs, who were ignorant of religious and other history, wondered how a man from themselves could receive inspiration and bring a Message from Allah, let them ask the Jews, who had also received Allah’s Message earlier through Moses, whether Moses was a man, or an angel, or a god. They would learn that Moses was a man like themselves, but inspired by Allah.” (It could) “also mean any men of wisdom, who were qualified to have an opinion in such matters.”
    Taqlid
    (Although it is a matter of common sense, but it needs to be reiterated because of people’s habit to lose sight of some basic principles in religious affairs: Au.). A wider implication of the verse is that, there is no alternative for the common man but to follow a reputed scholar (mujtahid). Apart from other, several reasons, the following verse (no. 44) gives the guideline:


    وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ [النحل : 44]


    “We have sent down unto you (O Muhammad) the Remembrance, that you may make clear unto the people what has been sent down for them.”
    So, the people needed Prophetic words to explain to them Allah’s revelation. Now, further down the line of argument, who will explain to the people the utterances of the Prophet? Or those statements of the Qur’an that pertain to the Law? Obviously, not everyone can do it unto himself. We know what will happen if the constitution of a country was published in newspapers, and people told to follow ‘the laws of the land,’ as best as they understood. There would be less injury to the body if laymen prescribed drugs for themselves, instead of the doctors, than there would be to their souls if they worked out the law by themselves, without referring to the scholars. Alusi writes, “Jalaluddin Syuti has said in his ‘Iklil’ that the common people should follow the scholars in fru`at (minor details). But, the condition of ‘fru`at’ is unwarranted. For, the verse itself is unconditional. The truth is, as is reported of the other Jalal (Jalal al-Mahalli, the co-writer of Tafsir Jalalayn along with Jalaluddin al-Suyuti: Au.) that a mujtahid maybe followed in all matters: in principles as well as details, in law as well as in creed, whether the mujtahid be dead or alive. Jalal as well as others have also stated that a non-mujtahid may not be followed. Hafiz ibn Hajr has added another condition: the madh-hab (school of fiqh) of the mujtahid being followed has to be a well documented and preserved one, that meets the conditions of trustworthiness, and not such of those as Imam Al-Awza`i, Thawri or Ibn Abi Layla and others (whose rulings do not meet these conditions). Further, if a school other than the four well-known ones is followed, then that should only be in one’s own private affairs. As for offering religious rulings in its light, that would not be correct. That should be done in the light of the four schools of law alone. This last condition, states Alusi, is only a precautionary step.
    Razi advances another step and says that even a mujtahid should follow a more knowledgeable mujtahid when in doubt. This, he adds, is, if not obligatory, then, to say the least, certainly permissible.

    بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالزُّبُرِ ۗ وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (44)

    16|44| (We sent them) with clear signs and Scriptures. And (similarly) We have sent down unto you (O Muhammad) the Remembrance,67 that you may make clear unto the people what has been sent down for them,68 that haply they may reflect.


    67. That is, this Qur’an (Ibn Jarir).
    68. The Qur’an consists of two kinds of verses: the muhkam and the mujmal. Muhkam (those whose meaning is well established) explain themselves. The mujmal (synoptic) were explained by the Prophet (Razi).

    أَفَأَمِنَ الَّذِينَ مَكَرُوا السَّيِّئَاتِ أَنْ يَخْسِفَ اللَّهُ بِهِمُ الْأَرْضَ أَوْ يَأْتِيَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (45)

    16|45| Do those then who plot evils,69 feel secure that Allah will not cause the earth to swallow them, or chastisement comes to them from quarters they did not reckon?


    69. The direct allusion is to Makkan pagans who plotted against the spread of Allah’s message (Ibn Jarir). It could also be to the assassination they were plotting after they had begun to suspect that the Prophet might emigrate to another place (Au.).
    Asad writes: “To my mind, by ‘evil schemes’ are meant here systems of God-denying philosophy and of perverted morality.”

    أَوْ يَأْخُذَهُمْ فِي تَقَلُّبِهِمْ فَمَا هُمْ بِمُعْجِزِينَ (46)

    16|46| Or He might seize them in (the midst of) their to and fro movements, and they will not be able to frustrate (Him)?


    أَوْ يَأْخُذَهُمْ عَلَىٰ تَخَوُّفٍ فَإِنَّ رَبَّكُمْ لَرَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ (47)

    16|47| Or He might seize them little by little (through gradual depletion)?70 Indeed, your Lord is All-clement, All-compassionate.71


    70. “Takhawwuf” of the text expresses gradualism, to which Farra’ (the famous grammarian) added that it implies taking away (something) from borders and edges (Ibn Jarir). Thus, a beautiful term that expresses first the pagan’s territorial losses that were to come over the next ten years at the hands of the Prophet, and then the rest of the world’s losses in another twenty years at the hands of his followers (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir however prefers the meaning involving fear. That is, seize them while they are in fear, or dreadful, or apprehensive, that they’d be seized. But, since this implies foreknowledge of the descending chastisement, Zamakhshari and Shawkani do not approve of this meaning in view of the words of the passage which said, “from quarters that they did not reckon.”
    Zamakhshari in fact narrates that once ‘Umar asked the people how they understood the term “takhawwuf.” Nobody answered except for an old man of the Hudhayl tribe. He said his tribe would understand it as meaning gradualism. ‘Umar asked him if he could support it with a poetical piece. When the man did, ‘Umar remarked, “People. Do not neglect pre-Islamic poetry, for therein lies the meaning of the Qur’an.”
    71. These words were both the statement of a fact as well as a promise that, since ‘your Lord is All-clement, All-compassionate’ He will allow the second option to prevail, that of gradual annihilation, which proved to be less painful, than a one-stroke destruction threatened in the earlier two verses (with a point from Ibn Jarir).

    أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَىٰ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ مِنْ شَيْءٍ يَتَفَيَّأُ ظِلَالُهُ عَنِ الْيَمِينِ وَالشَّمَائِلِ سُجَّدًا لِلَّهِ وَهُمْ دَاخِرُونَ (48)

    16|48| Do they not see that all things72 that Allah has created, how their shadows incline towards right and left,73 in prostration to Allah,74 and they are humbly submitted?


    72. Asad clarifies, “In view of the separate mention, in the next verse, of animals and angels, the ‘things’ referred to here apparently denote inanimate objects and perhaps also living organisms like plants.”
    73. The textual word is in plural (lit., “lefts”). Ibn Jarir quotes some poetical pieces to show that usage of this kind was not uncommon in earlier times. In fact, Shawkani says, it is right there in the Qur’an also. It said (Al-Baqarah, 7),


    خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ [البقرة : 7]


    “Allah has sealed their hearts, and their hearing” where “hearts” in the original is in plural, but “hearing” in singular.
    Imam Razi quotes other examples from the Qur’an, for e.g. (54: 45)


    وَيُوَلُّونَ الدُّبُرَ [القمر : 45]


    “They will show their back” (instead of backs, adbar).
    74. The accepted meaning is that the shadows of all things prostrate to Allah, and their prostration is manifested by their movement from left to right as the sun rises and then sets throwing shadow of everything from one extreme (left) to another extreme (right) - Ibn Jarir.
    In other words, add Zamakhshari and Razi, “yesjudu” of the text implies submission. In Asad’s words, “... is obviously a symbolism expressing the intrinsic subjection of all created beings and things to God’s will.”

    وَلِلَّهِ يَسْجُدُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِنْ دَابَّةٍ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ وَهُمْ لَا يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ (49)

    16|49| And to Allah prostrates whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth of the moving creatures,75 and (so do) the angels - and they do not wax proud.


    75. The textual word “dabbah” draws the following comment from Asad, “The term dabbah denotes any sentient, corporeal being capable of spontaneous movement, and is contrasted here with the non-corporeal, spiritual beings designated as angels.”

    يَخَافُونَ رَبَّهُمْ مِنْ فَوْقِهِمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ ۩ (50)

    16|50| They fear their Lord above them76 and do as they are ordered.


    76. The translation of the words “min fawqihim” is literal. Another possible meaning, as Zajjaj has said, is that this is for exaltation (ijlal), just as in verse (Al-An`am, 18),


    وَهُوَ الْقَاهِرُ فَوْقَ عِبَادِهِ وَهُوَ الْحَكِيمُ الْخَبِيرُ [الأنعام : 18]


    “And He is the Irresistible, above His slaves.”
    Or (Al-A`raf, 127),


    وَإِنَّا فَوْقَهُمْ قَاهِرُونَ [الأعراف : 127]


    “We are above them, irresistible” (Kashshaf, Shawkani).
    Imam Razi refutes here the idea of some of the anthropomorphists that the fawqiyyah (above-ness) is in the physical sense. Rather, the “fawqa” of the text is the “fawqiyyah” of rank, honor, power and irresistibility (Razi).
    This kind of usage is common in every language. We say, “He has officers above him,” which does not mean they sit above him in the upper floor (Au.).
    Also see note 8 and 29 of Surah Al-An`am for further explanation.
    77. Majid has a note missed out by most other commentators, and touched upon it in passing even by the contemporary ones. But, seeing how ideas and religious beliefs have a habit of recurrence, it is important to note. He writes: “This repudiates ‘dualism’ in all its forms and shades, especially the Zoroastrian doctrine of two gods or two ultimate principles, Ahriman and Ormazd. ‘At the beginning of things there existed the two spirits who represented good and evil. Both spirits possess creative power, which manifests itself positively in the one and negatively in the other.’ (Ebr. XXII, p. 98). Dualism, however, is not confined to the Zoroastrian religion. Its ‘rudimentary forms ... the antagonism of a Good and Evil deity are well known among the lower races of mankind.’ (PC, II, p. 316). ‘Now, in earlier ages mankind has been found believing in many gods, or in two original spiritual principles or gods, the one good and the other evil, which are at conflict in the universe. The latter belief, which we call dualism, is so congruous with part of our experience, both within ourselves and without ourselves, that it is always reviving. Nevertheless, I think that, like polytheism properly so-called, it is rationally impossible for us today. The science of nature has demonstrated the absolute unity of nature. Good and evil, as we know them in experience, mind and matter, the world of moral purpose and the world of material things, are not the product of two separate original forces. They are knit into one another as phases in one whole, results of one force, one system of interconnected law. The universal material and spiritual is, as Spinonza said, one and (in some sense) of one substance: and God, if there be a God, in part manifest and in part concealed nature, is one only.’ (Gore, Belief in God, p. 53).”
    In the same vein, one might add that the physicists are now of opinion that the four forces of nature, the electro-magnetic, the gravitational, the weak and the strong nuclear forces, are manifestations of a single, Super force. They believe a theory of physics is possible (called as Grand Unification Theory, or GUT) which will express the various forces in one formula. Some advances have already been made. Weinberg-Salam theory demonstrates that electromagnetic and the weak force are in fact two parts of a single force. Thus, we will arrive at the “oneness” of physical laws that rule the world (Au.).

    وَقَالَ اللَّهُ لَا تَتَّخِذُوا إِلَٰهَيْنِ اثْنَيْنِ ۖ إِنَّمَا هُوَ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ فَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ (51)

    16|51| And Allah said, ‘Take not (for worship) two gods.77 He is the One and only God. So, stand in awe of Me, Me alone.’78


    78. Asad comments: “This is a striking example of the fluctuation to which personal pronouns are subjected in the Qur’an whenever they refer to God. As already pointed out ... such abrupt changes of pronoun (“He”, “I”, “Us”, “Me”, etc.) indicate that God is limitless and, therefore, beyond the range of definition implied in the use of ‘personal’ pronouns.”

    وَلَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَهُ الدِّينُ وَاصِبًا ۚ أَفَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ تَتَّقُونَ (52)

    16|52| To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. His is the religion for ever.79 Will you then, fear other than Allah?80


    79. The translation reflects the understanding of Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Ikrimah, Mujahid and others as in Ibn Jarir. The Qur’an said (37: 9):


    وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ وَاصِبٌ [الصافات : 9]


    “And for them will be eternal punishment.”
    Two other meanings of “wasib” have also been reported of the Salaf: (i) “obligatory” and (ii) “sincerity.”
    80. Majid once again, “It should be borne in mind that a good many pagan nations while believing in One Supreme Being have also offered worship to the Evil One through the motives of fear. The practice is ‘familiar to many barbaric races.’ There is still a ‘numerous though oppressed people in Mesopotamia and adjacent countries’ known as Yazidis or Devil-worshippers. ‘This remarkable sect is distinguished by a special form of dualism. While recognizing the existence of a Supreme Being, their peculiar reverence is given to Satan, chief of the angelic host, who now has the means of doing evil to mankind, and in his restoration will base the power of rewarding them’ (PC, II, p. 329).”

    وَمَا بِكُمْ مِنْ نِعْمَةٍ فَمِنَ اللَّهِ ۖ ثُمَّ إِذَا مَسَّكُمُ الضُّرُّ فَإِلَيْهِ تَجْأَرُونَ (53)

    16|53| Whatever good thing you have, is from Allah. When an adversity touches you, then, unto Him it is that you groan.81


    81. That is, the unbelievers, although deny One, true God, turn to Allah alone when they are faced with serious threats to life and property, pleading, groaning and crying in supplications (Ibn Jarir).

    ثُمَّ إِذَا كَشَفَ الضُّرَّ عَنْكُمْ إِذَا فَرِيقٌ مِنْكُمْ بِرَبِّهِمْ يُشْرِكُونَ (54)

    16|54| Then, when He removes the adversity from you, lo, a party of you begins to associate others with their Lord.


    لِيَكْفُرُوا بِمَا آتَيْنَاهُمْ ۚ فَتَمَتَّعُوا ۖ فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ (55)

    16|55| To show ingratitude for what He gave them. So, enjoy yourself (a little), in time you will come to know.


    وَيَجْعَلُونَ لِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُونَ نَصِيبًا مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ ۗ تَاللَّهِ لَتُسْأَلُنَّ عَمَّا كُنْتُمْ تَفْتَرُونَ (56)

    16|56| And they assign to things they do not even know, a share out of what We provide them.82 By Allah, you will be questioned for what you were fabricating.


    82. That is, the pagans assign a share from what Allah bestows on them to their deities about whom they do not even know whether they will be rewarded for, or not (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Zamakhshari).
    Another possible meaning is, ‘the idols do not even know that the pagans are ascribing divinity to them (Razi).
    Asad relates the verse to a wider context: “... (the verse) bears a wider, more general meaning: It connects directly with the three preceding verses of this surah - namely, with the attribution of a share (nasib) in God’s creativeness - and thus of a decisive influence on one’s life - to ‘causes’ or ‘powers’ other than Him. This view has also been advanced by Razi (with a special reference to astrological speculations).”

    وَيَجْعَلُونَ لِلَّهِ الْبَنَاتِ سُبْحَانَهُ ۙ وَلَهُمْ مَا يَشْتَهُونَ (57)

    16|57| And they assign to Allah daughters - Glory to Him - and for themselves what they desire.83


    83. The allusion is to the pagan suggestion that the angels are female and daughters of Allah, while they preferred sons for themselves (Au.). They ascribed “feminism” to them perhaps because they were not visible, like women, who stay in the inner quarters, invisible to the outsiders (Razi). “The tribes of Khuza`ah .. in particular used to call angels the daughters of God” (Majid).

    وَإِذَا بُشِّرَ أَحَدُهُمْ بِالْأُنْثَىٰ ظَلَّ وَجْهُهُ مُسْوَدًّا وَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ (58)

    16|58| When one of them is given the good news of a female, his face turns dark as he suppresses (his anger).


    يَتَوَارَىٰ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ مِنْ سُوءِ مَا بُشِّرَ بِهِ ۚ أَيُمْسِكُهُ عَلَىٰ هُونٍ أَمْ يَدُسُّهُ فِي التُّرَابِ ۗ أَلَا سَاءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ (59)

    16|59| Hiding from the people because of the ill of which he was informed:84 (debating within himself) should he preserve it in humiliation or should he bury it in the ground?85 Lo! Evil is that they decide.86


    84. He did not wish to face the people because his wife had given birth to a female.
    85. There were several ways in which the pre-Islamic Arabs disposed off their new-born female children. Some of them dug a hole in the ground and buried the infant alive. Others threw them down a cliff, yet others slit their throat, etc. Qays b. ‘Asim told the Prophet, “Messenger of Allah. I buried eight female infants in pre-Islamic times.” He replied, “Free a slave for each one of them now” (Razi).
    According to Qatadah, it were the Mudar and Khuda`ah tribes that regularly buried their female infants - the Tamim tribe being the severest. But their world knew of some kind-hearted men also. Sa`sa`ah b. Najiyyah, Farazdaq’s uncle, was one of those who bought off the lives of those destined to die in return for camels (Qurtubi).
    All polytheistic religions, whether Indian, African, or some other variety, evince similar characteristics. Newspapers have reported that in 2000, some 7 million abortions were carried out in India, majority of them because the fetus was female (Au.).
    86. “Evil is that they decide”: That is, although they hate daughters for themselves, to the point of burying them alive, in an evil judgment, they attribute them to Allah as His daughters (Thanwi, Shafi`).
    Asad thinks of another possibility. He writes, “I.e., either of these alternatives is evil: to keep the child as an object of perpetual contempt, or to bury it alive.” And Alusi writes that a Muslim should feel happier at the birth of a daughter, if nothing else, then, in opposition to the pagans.

    لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ مَثَلُ السَّوْءِ ۖ وَلِلَّهِ الْمَثَلُ الْأَعْلَىٰ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (60)

    16|60| Those who do not believe in the Hereafter, theirs is an evil similitude while the loftiest similitude is for Allah. He is the Most Powerful, Most wise.


    وَلَوْ يُؤَاخِذُ اللَّهُ النَّاسَ بِظُلْمِهِمْ مَا تَرَكَ عَلَيْهَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ وَلَٰكِنْ يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى ۖ فَإِذَا جَاءَ أَجَلُهُمْ لَا يَسْتَأْخِرُونَ سَاعَةً ۖ وَلَا يَسْتَقْدِمُونَ (61)

    16|61| And, if Allah were to seize the people for their wrongdoing, He would not have left thereon a single creature.87 But, He rather gives them respite until a stated term. Then, when their term arrives, they will not be able to delay for a moment nor hasten up.


    87. The textual word “dabbah” is applicable to every living body that moves or creeps, although originally meant for large animals. (See note 75 above).
    The translation as “animal” or as, “insects” would still fit the verse since many animals commit wrongs on others - by which we are not referring to larger animals killing smaller ones for food, following the instinct placed in them. Rather, to wrongs done to their own kind and species.
    Abu Salamah says once Abu Hurayrah heard someone say that a transgressor wrongs no one but himself. Abu Hurayrah turned to him and said, “Rather, the transgression of the transgressor can sometimes kill the hawk in its nest” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi). The report is preserved by Bayhaqi, ‘Abd b. Humayd, Ibn Abi Dunya and others (Shawkani).
    So, one might ask, why should animals be punished? The answer is given by Shabbir and others, viz., if, for example, rains are held back because of men’s sins, will not the animals be destroyed in their nests?

    وَيَجْعَلُونَ لِلَّهِ مَا يَكْرَهُونَ وَتَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُهُمُ الْكَذِبَ أَنَّ لَهُمُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۖ لَا جَرَمَ أَنَّ لَهُمُ النَّارَ وَأَنَّهُمْ مُفْرَطُونَ (62)

    16|62| And they attribute to Allah what they dislike (for themselves); and their tongues ascribe lies that the good is for them.88 No doubt that theirs is the Fire, and that they will be left there and forgotten.89


    88. Mujahid, Qatadah and others have thought that the term “al-husna” of the text alludes to sons. The pagans assigned daughters to Allah and unto themselves sons (Ibn Jarir).
    But a more general meaning possible is: the unbelievers think they will have a good life here on this earth, and, if there happens to be a Hereafter, a good life there also. In the like manner of the orchard owner mentioned in Surah al-Kahf who said (verse 35-36),


    مَا أَظُنُّ أَنْ تَبِيدَ هَذِهِ أَبَدًا (35) وَمَا أَظُنُّ السَّاعَةَ قَائِمَةً وَلَئِنْ رُدِدْتُ إِلَى رَبِّي لَأَجِدَنَّ خَيْرًا مِنْهَا مُنْقَلَبًا [الكهف : 35 ، 36]


    “I do not think that this will ever perish. And I do not think that the Hour will ever strike. If indeed I am brought back to my Lord, then surely, I shall find (for myself) better than this when I return to Him” (Kashshaf [who quotes another example], Ibn Kathir).
    Asad adds: “... (this) connects logically with the statement in the next verse that ‘Satan had made their own doings seem goodly to them.’”
    89. The translation of the term “mufratun” as “left and forgotten” has the backing of Sa`id b. Jubayr, Mujahid, Qatadah and others. Another connotation of the term is, “to be hastened on (to something).” A hadith says,


    أَنَا فَرَطُكُمْ عَلَى الْحَوْضِ


    “I shall precede you at the Pond” (Ibn Jarir, Shawkani).
    The hadith is in Bukhari and others (Au.).
    But, obviously, reconciliation is possible. They will be hastened into the Fire and then forgotten there (Ibn Kathir).
    Another possible meaning is, ‘they are being hastened to the Hell-fire, even now, as the days pass by’ (Shabbir).

    تَاللَّهِ لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَىٰ أُمَمٍ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ فَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَهُوَ وَلِيُّهُمُ الْيَوْمَ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (63)

    16|63| By Allah, We surely sent to nations before you. But Satan decked out fair to them their deeds. So He is their ally today90 and for them is a painful chastisement.


    90. “Today,” that is, now, in this world (Ibn Jarir). Some others have said that the allusion is to the Day of Resurrection, when those who befriended Satan in the world will be taunted by him (Razi, Qurtubi). Alusi writes that the allusion is to the day when Satan decks out fair evil deeds to them and misguides them.

    وَمَا أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا لِتُبَيِّنَ لَهُمُ الَّذِي اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ ۙ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (64)

    16|64| And We did not send down to you the Book but that you might make clear to them that in which they differ - and a guide and a (source of) mercy for a people who believe.


    وَاللَّهُ أَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِقَوْمٍ يَسْمَعُونَ (65)

    16|65| It is Allah who sends down out of heaven water. Then He quickens the earth thereby after its death.91 Surely, in that is a sign for a people who listen.92


    91. Just as He sent down water, which gives life to the earth, Allah (swt) has now sent down the Qur’an as a drink for the thirsty souls (Au.).
    92. Mawdudi elucidates: “Man witnesses an instructive spectacle every year. He observes that during the course of each year a time comes when the earth turns altogether barren, becoming bereft of every sign of life and fertility. One does not even see a blade of grass, nor plants nor leaves, nor vines nor flowers, nor even insects. Then suddenly the rainy season sets in. The very first shower causes life to well up from the depths of the earth. Innumerable roots that lay crushed under layer upon layer of earth are suddenly revived, causing the plants which had appeared on the surface a year ago and had then withered away, to make their appearance once again. Likewise, innumerable insects, every trace of which had been destroyed by the heat of summer, make their reappearance. Men observe this spectacle year after year - that life is followed by death and death by life.
    “Despite all this, when the Prophet (peace be on him) tells that God will restore people to life after death, they are struck with surprise. This reaction clearly indicates that their observation of the phenomenon of life following death is one akin to the observation of irrational brutes who can hardly make any intelligent sense of what they see.”

    وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ فِي الْأَنْعَامِ لَعِبْرَةً ۖ نُسْقِيكُمْ مِمَّا فِي بُطُونِهِ مِنْ بَيْنِ فَرْثٍ وَدَمٍ لَبَنًا خَالِصًا سَائِغًا لِلشَّارِبِينَ (66)

    16|66| And, verily, in the cattle (too) there is a lesson for you.93 We give you to drink94 of what is in its bellies,95 from between digested fodder96 and blood, milk: pure and easy-flowing97 for the drinkers.98


    93. The word “`ibrah” has its root in “`abar” which means, to move over, to cross over, etc. The connotation therefore is that “`ibrah” is a movement from ignorance to knowledge, from heedlessness to heedfulness (Alusi).
    94. Ibn Jarir points out, with Razi seconding him, the difference between “asqaynakum” (the normal way of putting it) and “nusqikum” which is the occurrence here. In contrast to the former, the latter, has the connotation of permanence: a continued act, a recurring bestowal.
    95. Once again, linguistically it is allowed, as Ibn Jarir demonstrates with the help of pre-Islamic poetry, that the pronoun be in singular while the noun is in plural, or noun feminine while its pronoun masculine. (But the latter case is only allowable for non-humans: Razi). Or, perhaps, the allusion by the article “it,” (instead of “their”) is to the “cattle” as a species (Zamakhshari and others).
    The meaning, moreover, Ibn Jarir further explains, of the words “mimma fi butunihi” is that, “We give you for drink through those of them that yield milk, since, not every cattle yields milk.” In other words, the translation of the words “mimma fi butunihi,” as, “out of what is in their bellies”, (as in the verbal translation above because of complications in expression), is, according to Ibn Jarir, not very accurate. Differently stated, according to the ancients, “mimma fi butunihi” should be understood to mean, “out of those that (carry milk) in their bellies.”
    96. For want of another, more suitable word, the translators have used the word “excretion,” as we shall also employ it or its synonyms in notes that follow. Otherwise, the textual word “farth” is different from “rawth.” The latter is for animal dropping, discharge, faeces, or dung. “Farth” on the other hand, is the material which would have left the animal intestine, but not yet excreted. After excretion, it is not referred to as “farth” anymore, rather, as “rawth.” Many modern commentators seem to have missed the difference, pointed out by the Salaf.
    Ibn ‘Abbas described the formation of the three: blood, milk and farth, in the following order: with the fodder entering the animal’s intestine, the first to form is blood, then milk, and then “farth” (which is finally ousted out as “rawth”) - Razi, Qurtubi.
    One wonders at Ibn Abbas’ source of the correct statement of this sequence (Au.)>
    Imam Razi is not far behind in his concepts. He states that blood enters by many veins into the udders where it is converted into white, wholesome milk.
    What does the statement milk “from between excretion and blood” mean? Imam Razi explains that it simply means that of three things involved: the fodder consumed, the blood produced, and, finally, the farth.
    To put it briefly from a scientific point of view, once the fodder is consumed and digested, the blood collects and transports the substance so formed to various organs, including to mammary glands. Blood comes into contact with the contents of the intestine, on their walls. Of course, part of the digested food is absorbed by the intestines themselves, but a part is taken to mammary glands where milk is formed.
    The interesting point is that the Qur’an used a perfectly scientific term for the digested substance, i.e., farth (from which milk is extracted), and not rawth (animal droppings), which is the waste ejected. Thus, a simple sentence becomes scientific (Au.).
    97. Here again, the meaning of the ancients is different from the meaning apparent to today’s reader. Ibn Jarir states that the meaning of “sa’igh” is “pure” and of the whole sentence, “We give you for drink, milk that happens to be ‘pure’ - with no traces of dung or blood in it.”
    However, “easy-flowing”, “easy to swallow” are other connotations of the word “sa’iqh” that have been mentioned by several commentators.
    Zamakhshari adds: This verse is the basis of some jurists’ opinion that semen is not impure: it has no traces of either blood or urine, just like milk that has no trace of either.
    98. That is, it does not choke the drinkers, as food chokes them. It is said that nobody was ever choked on milk (Ibn Jarir). Another possible connotation of the term “sa’igh” is that the glands in the udder that secrete milk, have many other kinds of liquid secretions. But, upon suction by the infant, it is milk alone that secretes out, without any adulteration and hence flowing easily out of the glands (Au.).

    وَمِنْ ثَمَرَاتِ النَّخِيلِ وَالْأَعْنَابِ تَتَّخِذُونَ مِنْهُ سَكَرًا وَرِزْقًا حَسَنًا ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ (67)

    16|67| And of the fruits of the palm trees and vines, you extract therefrom strong drink and wholesome food.99 Surely, in that is a sign for a people who contemplate.


    99. Ibn ‘Abbas has been reported through a variety of sources, as well as Ibn Jubayr, Mujahid, Hasan and others, that the allusion by “sakar” is to intoxicants that were later declared unlawful, and by “rizqan hasanan” to dates and grapes that remained lawful. In other words, the first part of this Makkan verse was abrogated in Madinah. However, Sha`bi and Mujahid were of the preferable opinion, that by “sakar” the allusion is to “nabidh” (non-intoxicant but a bitter drink) and vinegar, since “intoxicant” is only one of the several connotations of the word “sakar” (Ibn Jarir). Treating, therefore, this verse as not abrogated, scholars like Ibrahim Nakha`i, Imam Tahawi, Sufyan Thawri and others have declared “nabidh” as lawful. The important qualification of such a drink is that it should be non-intoxicant, whether consumed in small or large quantity (Qurtubi).
    “Even if we accept the textual word ‘sakar’ as meaning ‘intoxicants,’ writes Mufti Shafi`, the hint that it is disapproved of, and that it will be banned later, is hidden in the adjective ‘good’ added to the noun ‘provision.’ In other words, the verse in discussion becomes the first in a series of steps towards the ultimate ban placed on wine.”
    In Yusuf Ali’s words, “If sakar is to be taken in the sense of fermented wine, it would refer to the time before intoxicants were prohibited, for this is a Makkan Sura and the prohibition came in Madinah. In such a case it would imply a subtle disapproval of the use of intoxicants and mark the first of a series of steps that in time culminated in total prohibition.”
    That non-intoxicant beer is lawful is proven by the hadith of Muslim which reports that the Prophet’s slave-girl used to leave raisins (dried grapes) into water overnight which the Prophet drank the next morning. When it became stronger by the second or third day, it was thrown away. It is also reported of ‘Umar that he sought the digestion of camel meat with the help of “nabidh.” Another report in Nasa’i, however, states that the “nabidh” that ‘Umar drank was merely water mixed with vinegar (Qurtubi).

    وَأَوْحَىٰ رَبُّكَ إِلَى النَّحْلِ أَنِ اتَّخِذِي مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا وَمِنَ الشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا يَعْرِشُونَ (68)

    16|68| And your Lord inspired the (female) bees100 that, ‘you take (unto yourselves) houses101 among the mountains, trees, and what they build.102


    100. Razi writes: A simple trigonometric exercise shows that no other shape works better than a hexagon, so far as space economy is concerned. This shape is built effortlessly, neatly, and to great accuracy, by the bees that make thousands of cells in the shape of hexagons in their hive. In contrast, human beings would need the help of several measuring instruments to achieve the same level of accuracy. Obviously the design and the working have been placed in the intuition of these insects, which seems to have been referred to as, literally, revelation to it. Another wonder is that one of them, the largest, performs the functions of a chieftain. It is noted that when the chief gets tired of the hive, it abandons it by flying off and the rest follow him to the new destination. However, when music is played near the hive, it returns to its old hive. These, and many others, are signs of Allah’s instructions embedded into the bee’s mind (Razi).
    The Sufis hold, however, that the textual “awha” is in the literal sense of “He revealed” since, in contrast to other class of scholars, they believe that insects are communities and have their own prophets, messages, law, and so forth. (Alusi).
    It is of interest to note that even Imam Razi, who is usually quite advanced on the contemporary scientific knowledge, as well as Alusi, employ masculine noun to describe the bee as well as the queen, whereas the Qur’an employs feminine form. But they can be excused. Even Shakespeare used masculine form for the bees. That, except for a couple of drones (which are male), the rest of the thousands in any hive are all females, led by a queen, is a piece of information that only recent research has yielded. Obviously, another proof that the Qur’an could not have been written by Prophet Muhammad (Au.).
    101. Majid quotes: “‘The apartments which the bee builds are here called “houses” because of their beautiful workmanship and admirable contrivance which no geometrician can excel’ (Bdh).”
    102. That is, what the humans build - a suggestion perhaps that the bees are primarily man friendly, building their hives right in the vision of the humans, in contrast to other insects that conceal their nests (Au.).

    ثُمَّ كُلِي مِنْ كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ فَاسْلُكِي سُبُلَ رَبِّكِ ذُلُلًا ۚ يَخْرُجُ مِنْ بُطُونِهَا شَرَابٌ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهُ فِيهِ شِفَاءٌ لِلنَّاسِ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (69)

    16|69| Then feed on all manner of fruit103 and tread the paths of your Lord made smooth.’104 There issues forth from its bellies105 a drink of diverse colors wherein is a relief for the people.106 Surely, in that is a sign for a people who reflect.107


    103. One of the lexical meanings of “thamar” is “trees” (Alusi).
    104. The allusion by the textual “zulal” ([the path) made easy, or smooth), is to the fact that the bee leaves its hive, flies through vast spaces of wilderness, crossing valleys and mountains (in search of flowers), and yet comes back to its hive without losing the way (Ibn Kathir).
    105. Imam Razi is of opinion that the bee regurgitates honey from its mouth. On the other hand, Qurtubi is not sure if the honey is regurgitated from the mouth or comes from its rear. He says that the ancient Greeks tried to ascertain by keeping the bees behind a glass, but then it refused to work. Modern research however, confirms that the Qur’an was right in using the term “stomach” (batan, pl. butun). The bee has two stomachs: one for normal food that goes through the intestine and is fully digested, and another, special one, which is like a pouch within the stomach where honey is collected, enzymes added, the flower nectar half digested, and then honey regurgitated into the comb cells for drying and storage.
    106. Allah did not say, “al-shifa’” rather, “shifa’un” which implies that it is a cure for some people, for some disorders, and not for all the people, for all kinds of disorders (Ibn Kathir).
    It is said that a man went to the Prophet and complained that his brother was suffering from diarrhea. The Prophet told him to administer him honey. The man came back saying it had increased. The Prophet told him to give him some more honey. The man came back to say that his diarrhea had worsened. The Prophet said, “Allah spoke the truth and your brother’s stomach has lied. Give him honey.” The man did it, and the person recovered (Ibn Jarir).
    The hadith is in Bukhari and Muslim. And the medical people have explained that perhaps the man had a lump of undigested food in his stomach, which the honey attacked and initially caused increase in diarrhea, but finally cured him of it (Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    Or, perhaps, the Prophet knew by revelation that the man would be cured by honey, otherwise, as we know, Imam Razi and others add, that honey is not good for diarrhea. In fact, its large quantity is known to cause diarrhea.
    The Sahihayn also report that the Prophet liked sweets and honey. Bukhari has another hadith which reports him as having said,


    إِنْ كَانَ فِي شَيْءٍ مِنْ أَدْوِيَتِكُمْ أَوْ يَكُونُ فِي شَيْءٍ مِنْ أَدْوِيَتِكُمْ خَيْرٌ فَفِي شَرْطَةِ مِحْجَمٍ أَوْ شَرْبَةِ عَسَلٍ أَوْ لَذْعَةٍ بِنَارٍ تُوَافِقُ الدَّاءَ وَمَا أُحِبُّ أَنْ أَكْتَوِيَ


    “If there was any (healing) in your medicines any good … then, in cupping, (removal of blood), a honey-drink, and branding with fire (cauterizing) [if they coincide with the disease], but I do not like to be cauterized.” Another report in Ibn Majah, of a good chain of narrators, names the Qur’an and honey as curing agents (Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi states that there were many of the Salaf who treated themselves with nothing but honey. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar was one of them. He applied honey even to wounds and swellings. And, many of them were cured thereby. So, how to explain when Allah Himself did not mean that honey is a cure for every ailment? The answer is, Qurtubi says, that a strong faith brings results that weak faith does not. (After all, modern medicine is quite aware of placebo effects: Au.). Ibn al-`Arabiyy has said, “He whose faith is weak and whose habits (of mind) overrule religious instructions, will follow the words of medical men.” Nevertheless, for ordinary men, the established fact remains that honey is not a cure for every ailment. Indeed, this is proven by no less than hadith itself. The Prophet said,


    لِكُلِّ دَاءٍ دَوَاءٌ ، فَإِذَا أَصَابَ الدَّوَاءُ الدَّاءَ بَرَأَ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ


    “Every ailment has a medicine. So, when the right medicine is administered, the victim is cured by Allah’s will.”
    The words of another hadith are:


    تَدَاوَوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمْ يَضَعْ دَاءً إِلاَّ وَضَعَ لَهُ دَوَاءً غَيْرَ وَاحِدٍ : الْهَرَمُ


    “People. Use medicine. Allah did not place a disease but also placed its medicine, except for one disease: old-age.”
    The above hadith is in Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi and others, which Tirmidhi declared trustworthy (Au.).
    There are several other ahadith that speak of this or that thing of the Prophet’s contemporary world as holding cure for the diseases of his time. In short, the Prophet spoke of things other than honey as curing agents. Indeed, Ibn ‘Umar himself used to give medicinal potions to his children when unwell, cauterized himself when struck by facial paralysis and blew charms on his ailing children.
    Commentary from Qurtubi ends here.
    The rest of the world too, ancient or modern, has not missed the point on the usefulness of honey. Majid quotes and comments: “‘To the ancients honey was of very great importance as an article of diet ... It was valued by them also for its medicinal virtues’ (Ebr. XI, p. 716). ‘Pliny gives a long list of bodily disorders for which it was believed to be an efficacious remedy. The Greeks regarded a diet in which honey was the chief element as especially efficacious in securing longevity’ (ERE, VI, p. 770).’ And to come from the ancients to the modern: ‘Vienna Dr. N. Zaiss, a leading physician here, says honey is the best healer of wounds and superior to all ointments. He has treated several thousand cases with honey, and has not had a single failure. It soothes pain, hastens healing, and acts as an antiseptic. It is also highly effective with burns and carbuncles’ (The Sunday Express, London 28th April, 1935).”
    On the lighter side, it is reported that one of the Shi`ah said to caliph Mahdi (d. 775 A.C.) that by the term “bee” the allusion is to Banu Hashim, from whose stomachs issues forth (“honey”, that is), knowledge. One of the exasperated courtiers quipped to a general laughter, “May Allah feed you on what issues forth from their stomachs” (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi).
    107. Apparently, there has not been “fruitful” reflection on the bee for, as Majid comments: “The bee, said Virgil, has in it something of the Divine nature; it was the sacred symbol of Ephesus, and was considered a type of goddess. ‘The priests of Ephesus Arteris were called “king bees”; the princesses of Develer, Prosperine, and the Great Mother were known as “bees” ... In European folklore the bee is everywhere sacrosanct.’ (ERE, I, p. 504).”
    The Bee
    While on the topic, we might as well say a few things about bees and their life.
    A bee can be of any size between the tiny 2 mm long one, to the 20 mm giant bee. There are some 20,000 species of them. Although there are exceptions, the bee is primarily a social insect. That is, it leads its life as a community, rather than individuals. Sometimes they can number a million in a single comb but a normal colony may consist of 40-60,000 bees. And they are highly organized. They are led by a queen, the largest of them. Every comb has a single queen. The queen’s function is no more than to lay eggs. She lives for about five years, mates only once in her lifetime and can lay as many as a million eggs. She lays as many as 2,000 eggs a day, about one every 43 seconds.
    The queen, however, is discreet about the gender and caste of her offspring. After mating, which happens in flight, (preceded by release of a smelly substance that attracts the drones), she keeps the sperm in a sack where the liquid can remain alive and viable in a fluid medium for several years. During the process of laying eggs, the queen determines the sex of the offspring. If she decides on a male (drone), she does not fertilize the egg. But, if she intends a worker bee, she fertilizes it with the sperm in store as the egg passes down the oviduct. She lays eggs one in a cell. Thereafter, the worker bees take charge of the cell and the developing young in it.
    The queen, who lives in special apartments, identifies herself in a hive by releasing what is called as the “queen substance.” This secretion is passed along by certain workers in minute portions to all hive inmates. This secretion gives every hive its identity by giving it a specific smell. Further, it inhibits ovary development in the young larvae. But when the queen gets old, or sick, or flies out for good, then in consequence the substance is no longer produced and substitute queens are immediately bred from the young larvae. If two or more queens emerge from the larvae, they will fight it out among themselves. These queen bees have a special curved sting which they use to kill each other. The one that manages to survive after the general fight, takes charge.
    The queen normally leaves the hive when it gets overcrowded. When she goes, she takes half of the worker bees with her. To make the task easier, all the departing workers are provided with honey as they move out. The old hive is relinquished to a newly hatched queen. Initially, the swarm moving out may crowd around a branch while the scouts search for a site for a new hive. When the scouts have located a suitable site, they come back and perform their dance to indicate the distance and direction of the site it has found to other scouts. The scouts then investigate one another’s sites. At a signal, the entire swarm travels to whichever site seems best. The queen follows.
    A colony consists mostly of female workers. Males are few and hang around doing nothing more than being fed by others. They do not have a long tongue like the female bees have and so cannot feed on flowers by themselves. Therefore, they depend on the female bees to feed them. Their only job is to mate with the queen when the time comes. Nonetheless, they might never mate with the queen in their hive. With the release of the pheromone by a queen bee, of any hive, they fly out hoping to mate. In autumn, when food becomes scarce, female bees stop feeding the drones and drive them out of the hive to die. Female worker bees attends to all tasks. That involves nest building (with the help of wax that they themselves secrete), feeding and brooding the young - from the time the egg is deposited into a cell to the day they emerge as adults. The feeding is done with a special substance produced by the bee called the royal jelly.
    From the day of deposit, until after 21 days, when the young finally emerges, the egg goes through various stages of larva and pupa. A specific area is allotted in the hive and cells are marked where the eggs are deposited and bred. However, in autumn, when the young have emerged, the same cells are cleaned and used for storing honey.
    The defense of the nest is also the job of female bee. And, of course, it is they who gather nectar and process it to make honey. They also attend to keeping the hive clean and tidy, and, on warm or cold days maintain a certain temperature. For example, on a hot day they might bring in drops of water, sprinkle all over the hive and fan across the place to keep it cool. Whatever the outside temperature, hive temperature is precisely regulated, otherwise the eggs would be lost. The female bee also act as guards at the entrances, identifying each bee with the help of a chemical that exudes a certain kind of odor, and let in only those that belong to the hive. Finally, they attend to the repair of the hive. For example, if cracks appear (because of weight), the bees produce a special glue (bee glue) with which they fill the crack.
    The division of labor between the female bees themselves is also done in a highly organized manner. Their age plays a fundamental role in what tasks will be assigned to them. The tasks match physiological changes in the bee’s body, as they grow after emergence from the larvae.
    Capable of seeing blue, yellow and ultraviolet rays, the bee can fly out to long distances in search of food, at an average speed of 20-25 km/hour. She can fly forward, sideways, backward and hover over a flower while it collects nectar. Her sorties can take her as much as 10 km from the hive. She uses perhaps both the sun and the earth’s gravitational force to determine her way up and back. Once a source of food is discovered, the scout-bee returns to the hive, loaded with the nectar, and passes the information about the source, the distance, the quantity and quality, with the help of the famous “bee dance.” The figure she makes during the dance, the direction she takes in the hive, the manner in which she wags her tail, and the sound she emits during it, communicate information to others about the new source. The others do not wander around as they leave the nest. They fly straightaway in the direction of the new source. While they collect the nectar, they also gather pollen in pollen sacks attached to their hind legs and deposit them into other flowers. They are thus the most important pollinating agent for the plants. The pollen is also consumed by the bees and is an important source of fats, proteins, vitamins etc. The nectar brought in is regurgitated and handed over to other bees, or deposited into a cell. The worker bees then add some enzymes to it to convert it into honey. The cell is left open for the water to escape, and the residue becomes thick honey. The cell is then sealed.
    Honey consists almost entirely of sugars, but it also contains a number of minerals, B-complex vitamins, and amino acids.
    Honey is easily assimilated in the human body because it has been predigested: bees temporarily store the nectar in a special part of their stomachs, where it is partially digested. The bees’ digestive fluids contain enzymes that transform the nectar into honey. Bees later regurgitate the honey into the cells of their honeycomb, where the honey dries and thickens. To produce about 1 pound (0.5 kilogram) of honey requires 25,000 trips between the hive and flowers. In its whole lifetime, a little less than a year, a bee collects about 45 gm of honey. A pound of honey contains the essence of about 2 million flowers.
    Finally, a bee performance! This writer was shown a couple of combs taken out recently from a bee farm in Saudi Arabia and preserved in the refrigerator. They were preserved because when honey was removed, everyone was amazed to see that the bees had carved the word Allah in Arabic. The letters were about 8 cm long, 1 cm wide and 5 mm deep. And, the script was so clear that a child would not have any difficulty in reading it as ‘Allah.’ Apart from the fact that the farm owner happened to be an extremely religious person, to an engineer’s eye it was apparent that, given the extreme brittleness of wax, it would have been impossible for any hand to achieve the engraving so absolutely neatly. In fact, slight touch with the finger was distorting the wax. How could any human have done it by hand or machine? (Au.).

    وَاللَّهُ خَلَقَكُمْ ثُمَّ يَتَوَفَّاكُمْ ۚ وَمِنْكُمْ مَنْ يُرَدُّ إِلَىٰ أَرْذَلِ الْعُمُرِ لِكَيْ لَا يَعْلَمَ بَعْدَ عِلْمٍ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ قَدِيرٌ (70)

    16|70| And Allah created you, then He deals you death; and, among you are some who are returned to the feeble age, so that he might not know anything after having known (much).108 Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-powerful.


    108. Hence the Prophetic supplication as recorded in Bukhari:


    اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْبُخْلِ وَالْكَسَلِ وَأَرْذَلِ الْعُمُرِ وَعَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ وَفِتْنَةِ الدَّجَّالِ وَفِتْنَةِ الْمَحْيَا وَالْمَمَاتِ


    “O Allah, I seek Your refuge from miserliness, dormancy, extreme old age, senility, punishment in the grave, tribulation at the hands of Dajjal and trials of life and death” (Ibn Kathir).
    In any case, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi and others point out that extreme senility does not seem to strike Muslim scholars.
    From another angle, loss of memory in old age is something inscrutable. Scientifically, there is no reason for it. The data is there in the mind, but man is unable to recall it at will, and remembers when reminded. There is no explanation for this except that Allah has willed it that way (Au.).
    As usual with a few universal phenomenon, science has no satisfactory explanation for old age. Writes a scientist: “Old-age is a disease of universal incidence. Nothing can stop the creeping enfeeblement, the increasing brittleness of the bones, the weakening of the muscles, the stiffening of the joints, the slowing of reflexes, the dimming of sight, the declining agility of the mind. The rate at which this happens is somewhat slower in some people than in others - but, fast or slow, the process is inexorable.”
    Further down, “What is old-age anyway? So far there are only speculations. Some have suggested that the body’s resistance to infections slowly decreases with age .. Others speculate that clinkers of one kind or another accumulate in the cells .. These supposed side products of normal cellular reactions, which the cell can neither destroy nor get rid of, slowly build up in the cell as the years pass, until they eventually interfere with the cells metabolism so seriously that it ceases to function. When enough cells are put out of action, so the theory goes, the body dies” (Issac Asimov, New Guide to Science, Penguin pub., 1987, p. 693).
    Although hectic research is going on in several biological fields, they all concentrate on delaying the ageing process and not on stopping it altogether. The most optimist is quite pessimistic about avoiding old-age altogether. However, there has been some noticeable progress in postponing old age. Although, people seem to be living longer in modern times, nobody knows for sure why. Another scientist writes, “Inspite of the tremendous progress by researchers studying cultured cells, free radicals, longevity determining genes and other promising avenues, the aging process in humans is still largely a black box” (Rick L. Rusting, Why Do We Age?, Scientific American, December 1992, p. 95).

    وَاللَّهُ فَضَّلَ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ فِي الرِّزْقِ ۚ فَمَا الَّذِينَ فُضِّلُوا بِرَادِّي رِزْقِهِمْ عَلَىٰ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ فَهُمْ فِيهِ سَوَاءٌ ۚ أَفَبِنِعْمَةِ اللَّهِ يَجْحَدُونَ (71)

    16|71| And Allah has favored some of you over others in provision.109 So, those who have been favored are not going to return their provision110 to those their right hands own, so that they are equal therein.111 So, will they dispute with Allah’s favors?112


    109. Since common observation reveals, Imam Razi comments, that many intelligent, efficient and hard-working people remain poor, despite their efforts, in contrast to the not-so-clever men, who possess wealth in abundance, it can be deduced that distribution of wealth is in the hands of Allah and has not much to do with intelligence and abilities.
    110. In the usage of the term “return,” instead of the plain “give,” is perhaps the hidden implication that the labor class makes a major contribution towards the creation of wealth, and hence, anything given to them, is being “given back” to them, or being returned (Au.).
    111. The message is: You do not like to associate your slaves with yourselves in your wealth, yet approve of association of other creations with Allah! So, you approve for Allah what you do not approve for yourselves? (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    As Allah said at another place (30: 28):


    ضَرَبَ لَكُمْ مَثَلًا مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ هَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ مِنْ شُرَكَاءَ فِي مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ فَأَنْتُمْ فِيهِ سَوَاءٌ تَخَافُونَهُمْ كَخِيفَتِكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ [الروم : 28]


    “Allah strikes for you an example from your own selves. Do you have partners from among your slaves that share in what We have bestowed on you, so that you are equal, and you fear them as you fear yourselves?” (Ibn Kathir).
    112. Mawdudi removes a misunderstanding. He writes, “According to ... (some) people (of the recent times), the true purpose of the verse is to tell those who have been granted ample worldly provisions to return them to their servants and slaves so as to make them equal sharers of those provisions. It is contended that if they fail to do so, they will be guilty of denying God’s favor.”
    “The point that is being emphasized here is that people know the basic difference between master and slave. They also maintain such a distinction between the two in their practical lives, and make an effort to keep the two apart. However, they seem to brush all this aside in God’s case. Instead, they insist on associating His creatures - those who are His born servants - with Him. They also insist on giving thanks to God’s creatures for the favours that He alone bestowed on them.”
    Mawdudi’s reference is to the ruling Muslim classes of the last century who, fired by initial successes of the socialist system in the Soviet block, were looking for its justification in the Qur’an, to counter the Islamists who disapproved of them and their political agenda. Indeed, this class of men was not even communist. These people were a bunch of bankrupt anti-Islamic materialists with no brains of their own. Having rejected Islam, and being unable to organize a modern state on healthy lines, more of show boys wearing show neck-ties - that they are down to this day - than efficient administrators, they adopted a system that allowed them tyranny as a tool for suppression, rather than a tool for equitable distribution of wealth and services. Hence, it is no surprise that they cling to the tyrannical system even after the fall of communism in the Soviet block. Some of them, in fact, chided the Russians for abandoning socialism and are sorrier for its demise than the true socialists themselves were.
    Nevertheless, while we accept Mawdudi’s criticism as valid, and reject the communistic theory as wrong, we may still point out that of the earliest commentators, Zamakhshari states, “Allah favored you by bestowing provision on you in greater measure than on the slaves you possess, although they are humans like you and are your brothers. It would have been becoming if you had returned your wealth to them and become equal with them in matters of food and clothing. It is reported of Abu Dharr that since he had heard the Prophetic words, ‘They (the slaves) are your brothers. Clothe them with what you clothe yourself with, and feed them with what you feed yourself with,’ his slaves were never seen in shirts and trousers any different from his own.” And the implication is, Alusi adds, that by way of thanks to Allah for having favored you over others, you ought to return excessive wealth unto the less fortunate so as to become equal to them in outward, material terms, (although some of you may remain superior to others in moral terms).

    وَاللَّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَزْوَاجِكُمْ بَنِينَ وَحَفَدَةً وَرَزَقَكُمْ مِنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ ۚ أَفَبِالْبَاطِلِ يُؤْمِنُونَ وَبِنِعْمَتِ اللَّهِ هُمْ يَكْفُرُونَ (72)

    16|72| And Allah has made for you of your own kind mates113 and from your mates produced for you children and grandchildren,114 and has provided for you sustenance from the good things. Then, in falsehood will they believe, and Allah’s favors deny?115


    113. According to some scholars the allusion is to the creation of first woman Hawwa, who was created out of Adam. But a better explanation is that the allusion is to the fact that the humankind’s spouses have been created from within their species, which is the prime cause of mutual love and understanding (Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf, Razi and others).
    In view of this verse the jurists have ruled that marriage between men and Jinns is not lawful. Several cases of men marrying Jinns in pre-Islamic times have been reported, including about Bilqis (Queen of Sheba) one of whose parents was widely reported to be a Jinn. Shanqiti however, examines all such narrations and concludes that none of the reports of humans marrying Jinns is wholly trustworthy.
    114. Ibn Jarir says that the term “hafadah” has been variously interpreted. ‘Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, Qatadah, Sa`id b. Jubayr and others have said that the allusion is to son-in-laws. Some others, such as ‘Ikrimah, Hasan, Mujahid and others have thought that the allusion is to servants. On the other hand, Ibn ‘Abbas is reported of both the opinions: grandchildren as well as son-in-laws. It is apparent that a general meaning fits the context. And a general meaning of “hafadah”, from “hafd” is, those who serve a man, be they his sons, servants, wives, or others. Hence the words of supplication prescribed for the Qunut Prayer:


    وَإِلَيْكَ نَسْعَى وَنَحْفِدُ


    “... and towards You do we strive, and (You) do we serve” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari).
    115. Mawdudi comments: “To charge the unbelievers that they ‘believe in falsehood’ means that they subscribe to beliefs which are totally baseless and devoid of all truth. They subscribe, for instance, to the belief that it is gods, goddesses, jinn, and saints of the past who have full powers to make or mar people’s destiny, to respond to their invocation, to bless them with offspring and the means for their livelihood, to effectively help them in any litigation and preventing them from falling prey to disease.”
    “The Makkan polytheists did not deny that they owe to God all the bounties which they had received. They also had no hesitation in gratefully acknowledging God’s favours. However, their mistake lay in the fact that, in addition to giving thanks to God for those favours, they also gave thanks to others whom they considered to be His partners. The Qur’an considers this to be tantamount to denying God’s favors... (Thus) the Qur’an enunciates another principle ... that any gratuitous assumption that the benefactor did not bestow favour out of his benevolence, but did so at the behest or intervention of someone else, also amounts to denying the favour of the true benefactor.”

    وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَمْلِكُ لَهُمْ رِزْقًا مِنَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ (73)

    16|73| And, (do) they worship besides Allah those that have no command over any sustenance for them in the heavens or in the earth, nor do they have any power?


    فَلَا تَضْرِبُوا لِلَّهِ الْأَمْثَالَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (74)

    16|74| Therefore, strike not similitudes for Allah.116 Verily, Allah knows while you know not.


    116. “Therefore, strike not similitudes for Allah”: To say for instance that, ‘Just as the earthly rulers, who need aides to rule over their kingdom, God also needs aides to rule over heaven and earth. Therefore, we worship these aides so that they might plead our case with Him’ (Shafi`). Asad puts it more elaborately. He writes, “‘Do not blaspheme against God by regarding anyone or anything as comparable with Him, or by trying to define Him in any terms whatsoever’ - since ‘definition’ is, in the last resort equivalent to delimitation of the qualities of the object thus to be defined in relation to, or in comparison with, another object or objects: God, however, is ‘sublimely exalted above anything that men may devise by way of definition.”

    ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا عَبْدًا مَمْلُوكًا لَا يَقْدِرُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَمَنْ رَزَقْنَاهُ مِنَّا رِزْقًا حَسَنًا فَهُوَ يُنْفِقُ مِنْهُ سِرًّا وَجَهْرًا ۖ هَلْ يَسْتَوُونَ ۚ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (75)

    16|75| Allah strikes the example of a slave, owned (by another), with no power over anything, and one whom We gave a goodly provision from Ourselves, so he expends (freely) thereof in open and secret - are they equal? All praise for Allah, but most of them know not.117


    117. Yusuf Ali explains, “The first parable of two men, one of whom is a slave completely under the dominion of another, with no powers of any sort, and another a free man, who is gifted in every way, and is most generous in bestowing out of his opulent wealth (material as well as intangible), privately and publicly, without let or hindrance; for he is his own master and owes no account to any one. The first is like the imaginary gods which men set up, - whether powers of nature, which have no independent existence but are manifestations of Allah, or deified heroes or men, who can do nothing of their own authority but are subject to the Will and Power of Allah; the second describes in a faint way the position of Allah, the Self-Subsistent, to Whom belongs the dominion of all that is in the heaven and the earth, and Who bestows freely of His gifts on all His creatures.”
    Mawdudi adds: “The unbelievers are fully aware of the difference between the powerful and the powerless among their fellow beings. Nor do they fail to distinguish between these two categories of people in their practical lives. So it is astonishing that when it comes to applying this reasonable distinction to Creator and created, they show utter foolishness and stupidity insofar as they fail to recognize the essential difference between the two.”

    وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا رَجُلَيْنِ أَحَدُهُمَا أَبْكَمُ لَا يَقْدِرُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ كَلٌّ عَلَىٰ مَوْلَاهُ أَيْنَمَا يُوَجِّهْهُ لَا يَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ ۖ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي هُوَ وَمَنْ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ ۙ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ (76)

    16|76| Allah strikes (another) example of two men: one of them dumb with no power over anything, and moreover, he is a (wearisome) burden on his master: wherever he is sent, he does not bring back any good.118 Is he then equal with one who bids to justice, and is (himself) on a straight path?


    118. That is, he is neither good for himself, nor for others (Shawkani); rather, a slave of his carnal, miserly self (Au.).

    وَلِلَّهِ غَيْبُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ وَمَا أَمْرُ السَّاعَةِ إِلَّا كَلَمْحِ الْبَصَرِ أَوْ هُوَ أَقْرَبُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (77)

    16|77| And to Allah belongs the Unseen of the heavens and the earth. And, the matter of the Hour is no more than a twinkling of the eye, or it might be closer.119 Verily, Allah has power over all things


    119. The apparent abrupt change in the subject draws the following note from Mawdudi, “The question of the After-life has been introduced with seeming abruptness in this discussion for a good reason. The purpose is to drive home to people that the choice between monotheism and polytheism is not just a theoretical issue. They should rather be conscious, quite conscious, that the Day of Judgment will suddenly overtake them and decide man’s success or failure in the Next Life. With this note of warning, the discourse on God’s unity is resumed.”
    Yusuf Ali comments: “Lures of this world and its fleeting pleasures often make man forget that the life hereafter is an imminent reality. Many of those who claim to believe in the life to come act and behave as if it belonged to a distant future, and had no relevance to their present activities and mode of living. The Qur’an repeatedly reminds man that the Hour of Reckoning is not a distant possibility, but very close to man, and could come to pass any moment. The wisest course for man, therefore, is to be always alert and watchful and steer clear of all forms of sin and impiety, for when the Promised Hour comes it will come all of a sudden and without any prior notice.”

    وَاللَّهُ أَخْرَجَكُمْ مِنْ بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۙ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ (78)

    16|78| Allah brought you out of the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He gave you the (power of) hearing, sight120 and hearts,121 that you might give thanks.


    120. Note once again, as everywhere in the Qur’an, the power of hearing always precedes that of sight, for without hearing, one cannot speak, and unable to speak, one is unable to learn, whereas being without the sight of eye is comparatively less disadvantageous. Again, hearing comes in singular but sight in plural, because in a wider view, one can see several things at a time, whereas one can never hear more than one voice: two complete sentences of fair length from two speakers, at one time (Au.).
    121. The allusion by the word “af’idah” of the original is to the spiritual-based intellect (Au.).

    أَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَى الطَّيْرِ مُسَخَّرَاتٍ فِي جَوِّ السَّمَاءِ مَا يُمْسِكُهُنَّ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (79)

    16|79| Have they not seen the birds poised in the middle of the heavenly air.122 No one holds them (from falling) except Allah. Surely, in that is a sign for a people who would believe.


    122. The addition of the words “heavenly air” suggests that the conditions that prevail in the atmosphere are different from those on the surface of the earth. The air is purer and more refreshing (Au.).

    وَاللَّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنْ بُيُوتِكُمْ سَكَنًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنْ جُلُودِ الْأَنْعَامِ بُيُوتًا تَسْتَخِفُّونَهَا يَوْمَ ظَعْنِكُمْ وَيَوْمَ إِقَامَتِكُمْ ۙ وَمِنْ أَصْوَافِهَا وَأَوْبَارِهَا وَأَشْعَارِهَا أَثَاثًا وَمَتَاعًا إِلَىٰ حِينٍ (80)

    16|80| And Allah has made for you out of your homes a repose, and made for you from the cattle’s skins houses that you find light (to handle) the day of your travel and the day of your encampment;123 and, of their wool, their fur, and their hair,124 furnishing125 - a provision for a while.


    123. Majid comments: “The reference is to the portable dwellings or tents, which formed an essential factor not only of the nomad life of the ancients but also play an important part in the camp-life of the moderns. Leaving aside the pastoral tribes of the interior of Asia, who have necessarily to be tent dwellers, ‘in Western countries tents are used chiefly in military encampments, by travelers and explorers, and for temporary ceremonial occasions and public gatherings’ (Ebr., xxvi, p. 634, 11th ed.).”
    The importance of tents does not need overemphasis. The removal of tents from everyday life on any given day, whether in the east or in the west, will cause unknown inconvenience to millions of people (Au.).
    124. Yusuf Ali writes: “Suf, wool, is what we get from sheep. Sha`r, hair, is what we get from goats or similar animals, for weaving into fabrics. Wabar is the soft camel’s hair of which, also, fabrics are woven; they may be considered intermediate between the other two; by extension and analogy the term may be applied to furs and such things, by way of illustration.”
    “Wabar” in fact, as Asad points out, “is the soft wool growing on the shoulders of camels (“camel-hair”) used in the weaving of fine cloth and sometimes also of bedouin tents.”
    125. Wealth, furniture and leather clothes are various interpretations of the textual word “athath” (Ibn Jarir). That is, carpets, clothes, articles of convenience and comfort, etc. (Ibn Kathir).

    وَاللَّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِمَّا خَلَقَ ظِلَالًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ الْجِبَالِ أَكْنَانًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ سَرَابِيلَ تَقِيكُمُ الْحَرَّ وَسَرَابِيلَ تَقِيكُمْ بَأْسَكُمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُتِمُّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُسْلِمُونَ (81)

    16|81| And Allah made for you out of what He created, shades,126 and made for you of the mountains shelters, and made for you garments that protect you from heat and garments that protect you from your own violence.127 Even so He perfects His blessing upon you, that haply you will submit.128


    126. Shades: such as of the trees.
    127. E.g., coats of mail of the past civilizations, and bullet proof vests of the modern times (Au.)
    128. “All these blessings, which have both a physical and (by promoting the good of man) a spiritual purpose, should teach us to rally to Allah and tune our will with His Universal Will, which is another name for Islam” (Yusuf Ali)
    `Ata al-Khurasani has said something worth reporting. He said, ‘Do you notice that Allah said, “And Allah made for you out of what He created, shades and made for you of the mountains, shelters,” although, what He provided the humankind as valleys is more and better. That is because the first to be addressed were people who lived among mountains. And, consider Allah’s words, “And ... of their wool, their fur, and their hair furnishing - a provision for a while,” although He has provided to mankind more of other materials than mentioned here. That is because the first to be addressed were people who depended heavily on wool and fur. Again, consider Allah’s words (24: 43), “And He sends down from the sky mountains (of clouds) in which is hail,” although snow and ice are greater wonders. But, rain and hail were sufficient means of wonder for the people addressed, who knew nothing about snow and ice. Again, see how Allah addressed them with words (16: 81), “clothes that protect you from the heat,” although clothes that protect mankind from cold are worthier. But Allah chose to mention clothes against heat because the first of those addressed were people who faced the harshness of heat and spared them of a talk that they would not have fully appreciated” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْكَ الْبَلَاغُ الْمُبِينُ (82)

    16|82| But, if they turn away then upon you is only a clear delivery (of the message).


    يَعْرِفُونَ نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يُنْكِرُونَهَا وَأَكْثَرُهُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ (83)

    16|83| They recognize Allah’s blessings, yet they deny them,129 and most of them are ungrateful.


    129. Another possible meaning, and of Ibn Jarir’s preference, as originally expressed by Mujahid, Suddi and others, is that they recognize that the Prophet (saws) is a Messenger of Allah, a great blessing unto them, yet they deny him.
    Ibn Abi Hatim has recorded,


    عن مجاهد؛ أن أعرابيًا أتى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فسأله، فقرأ عليه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: { وَاللَّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنْ بُيُوتِكُمْ سَكَنًا } قال الأعرابي: نعم. قال: { وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنْ جُلُودِ الأنْعَامِ بُيُوتًا تَسْتَخِفُّونَهَا يَوْمَ ظَعْنِكُمْ وَيَوْمَ إِقَامَتِكُمْ } قال الأعرابي: نعم. ثم قرأ عليه، كل ذلك يقول الأعرابي: نعم، حتى بلغ: { كَذَلِكَ يُتِمُّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُسْلِمُونَ } فولى الأعرابي، فأنزل الله: { يَعْرِفُونَ نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يُنْكِرُونَهَا وَأَكْثَرُهُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ

    }
    that once a bedouin came to the Prophet and inquired about Islam. The Prophet told him, “Allah made your homes a (means of) comfort?” He said, “Yes.” Then the Prophet recited, “And He made for you homes out of the skins of the cattle?” He replied, “Yes.” The Prophet recited the rest of the verses and the bedouin kept on saying yes, until when he recited, “That is how He completed his favors so that you may surrender,” the bedouin turned his back and went away. The Prophet then recited, “They recognize Allah’s favors and then deny them” (Ibn Kathir). But Alusi drops a hint that it might be a weak hadith.
    Durr al-Manthur has the hadith, but is Mursal (Au.).

    وَيَوْمَ نَبْعَثُ مِنْ كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ شَهِيدًا ثُمَّ لَا يُؤْذَنُ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَلَا هُمْ يُسْتَعْتَبُونَ (84)

    16|84| And (beware) the day We raise up a witness from every people130 - then, to the unbelievers no leave shall be granted (for excuses),131 nor shall they be allowed to make amends.


    130. Qatadah has said that the witnesses alluded to are the Prophets that were sent to the peoples of the past (Ibn Jarir). Majid writes: “God’s messenger (or messengers) to every nation will bear witness on the Day of Judgment that God’s message was conveyed in full to that particular people.” In Asad’s words, “An allusion to the Day of Judgment, when the prophets whom God has called forth within every community - or, in the wider sense of the term ummah, within every civilization or cultural period - will symbolically bear witness to the fact that they had delivered God’s message to their people and explained to them the meaning of right and wrong, thus depriving them of any subsequent excuse.”
    131. The addition of the word “excuses” in brackets is supported by another verse of the Qur’an which says (77: 36),


    وَلَا يُؤْذَنُ لَهُمْ فَيَعْتَذِرُونَ [المرسلات : 36]


    “Then they will not be allowed that they make excuses” (Shawkani), which implies, Alusi writes, that the condemned ones will seek permission to offer excuses but will be denied the opportunity. Another possibility is that they will seek to be returned to the world so that they could behave better, but they will not be allowed.
    According to Zamakhshari, but in the words of Asad, “... their being ‘refused permission’ to plead is a metonym for their having no valid argument or excuse to proffer.”

    وَإِذَا رَأَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا الْعَذَابَ فَلَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمْ وَلَا هُمْ يُنْظَرُونَ (85)

    16|85| And once the wrongdoers have seen the chastisement, it shall not be lightened for them, nor shall they be allowed respite.


    وَإِذَا رَأَى الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا شُرَكَاءَهُمْ قَالُوا رَبَّنَا هَٰؤُلَاءِ شُرَكَاؤُنَا الَّذِينَ كُنَّا نَدْعُو مِنْ دُونِكَ ۖ فَأَلْقَوْا إِلَيْهِمُ الْقَوْلَ إِنَّكُمْ لَكَاذِبُونَ (86)

    16|86| And when those who associated (others with Allah) will see those of their associate (gods), they will say, ‘Our Lord! These are our associate (gods) whom we invoked besides You.’ But they will fling back the statement at them (and say), ‘You are veritable liars.’132


    132. That is, those that the unbelievers had served in this world - men like them, devils, angels, or inanimate objects - will fling back the statement to their accusers denying that they ever invited the people to their own worship (Ibn Jarir).
    As Allah (swt) said elsewhere (46: 5-6),


    وَمَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّنْ يَدْعُو مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَنْ لَا يَسْتَجِيبُ لَهُ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ وَهُمْ عَنْ دُعَائِهِمْ غَافِلُونَ (5) وَإِذَا حُشِرَ النَّاسُ كَانُوا لَهُمْ أَعْدَاءً وَكَانُوا بِعِبَادَتِهِمْ كَافِرِينَ [الأحقاف : 5-6]


    “And who can be more misguided than he who calls upon those apart from Allah, who will not answer him until the Day of Judgment, and they are unaware of their invocation?. And, when the people are gathered, they will be their enemies, and will disown their worship” (Ibn Kathir).
    If the false gods were stones, trees, etc., then, obviously, they never knew how they were being treated by the humankind. But, if it were prophets and righteous men who were worshiped after them, then, they would surely disown their worshipers. As for the devils, although they will lie and accuse their worshipers of lies, they too would not want to own up that they were worshiped. Thus, the worshipers of false gods will be left totally devastated by disappointments and left in despair (based on a point from Shabbir).
    The conversation referred to in this verse will take place, Qurtubi writes, when, as in a hadith of Muslim, Allah will bring forth those that were deified or served. The people will be told to follow those they served in the world. They will follow them, and those they served will lead them to Hellfire. (It is there perhaps that this conversation will take place: Au.).

    وَأَلْقَوْا إِلَى اللَّهِ يَوْمَئِذٍ السَّلَمَ ۖ وَضَلَّ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ (87)

    16|87| On that day they will proffer their surrender to Allah, and lost from them will be what they had fabricated.


    الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ زِدْنَاهُمْ عَذَابًا فَوْقَ الْعَذَابِ بِمَا كَانُوا يُفْسِدُونَ (88)

    16|88| Those who disbelieved and prevented from Allah’s path, We shall add on to them chastisement upon chastisement,133 for that they used to spread corruption.


    133. According to a hadith in Ibn Marduwayh and Khatib, when the Prophet was asked about the words, “We shall add on to them chastisement upon chastisement”, he replied that they refer to


    عقارب أمثال النخل الطوال ينهشونهم في جهنم وروي نحوه الحاكم وصحه والبيهقي وغيره عن ابن مسعود


    “Scorpions as tall large as date palm trees that will be stinging them in the Hellfire.” (That would be in response to they seeking relief: Alusi).
    According to another report in Ibn Marduwayh, the allusion is to,


    خمسة أنهار تجري من تحت العرش على رؤوس أهل النار


    “Five rivers (of fire) that will be let loose on the inhabitants of Hell” (Shawkani).
    The earlier hadith is in Bayhaqi, Hakim and Haythami who declared it a trustworthy report of Tabarani, and the latter in Haythami who declared it a trustworthy report of Abu Ya`la (S. Ibrahim).

    وَيَوْمَ نَبْعَثُ فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ أَنْفُسِهِمْ ۖ وَجِئْنَا بِكَ شَهِيدًا عَلَىٰ هَٰؤُلَاءِ ۚ وَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ تِبْيَانًا لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً وَبُشْرَىٰ لِلْمُسْلِمِينَ (89)

    16|89| And, the day We raise up from every people a witness against them, from among themselves, and bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these.134 And, We have sent down to you a Book, making everything clear,135 a guide, a mercy, and a glad tiding to those who have surrendered.


    134. By the term “these” the allusion is to the Prophet’s own nation (Ibn Jarir). We have already presented Ibn Mas`ud’s report (see Nisa’ n. 147) which says that once the Prophet asked him to recite that Surah. When he reached verse 41 which says, “How will it be when we bring from every people a witness and bring you as a witness against these”, the Prophet said, “Enough”. When Ibn Mas`ud looked up, the Prophet’s eyes were filled with tears (Ibn Kathir).
    It is reported of some of the Companions that they said, “When you see someone committing a wrong, prevent him. If he listens, good. If he does not, you will be a witness against him on the Judgment-day.” It is also said that every age and epoch has its own witness (Alusi).
    135. “A Book making everything clear”: that is, everything pertaining to human guidance (Zamakhshari). Otherwise, when asked about the new moons, the revelation replied that they were for computing time (and did not explain the nature of the celestial body). And the Prophet said, in reference to a famous incident, “You know your worldly affairs better.” Further, that there are a few other sources of guidance is proven by the Qur’an itself, such as, its repeated instructions that the Prophet be followed, or that the consensus of the Muslims be followed when it said (4: 115),


    وَيَتَّبِعْ غَيْرَ سَبِيلِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ نُوَلِّهِ مَا تَوَلَّى وَنُصْلِهِ جَهَنَّمَ [النساء : 115]


    “Thereafter, he who followed a path other than that of the Muslims... (to the end of the verse).”
    In other words, the Qur’an is the primary source of guidance which approves of certain other sources of guidance (Alusi).
    That the religion of Islam has sources other than the Qur’an, is something over which the Companions did not have any difference among themselves. For example, when once Ibn Mas`ud said, “Allah has cursed those women who tattoo …” and a woman objected to the use of the word “cursed,” Ibn Mas`ud said, “Why should I not curse someone the Prophet cursed. Moreover, it is in the Book of Allah.” The woman said, “I have read the Qur’an cover to cover, but I haven’t found any such statement in it.” Ibn Ma`ud replied, “Had you read in the proper manner of recitation, you would not have missed it. Did you come across the verse (59: 7), ‘And take what the Messengers gives and shun what he prohibits?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “Then, know that the Prophet has cursed those women who tattoo” (Alusi).
    The hadith is in Bukhari as follows (Au.):


    عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ قَالَ لَعَنَ اللَّهُ الْوَاشِمَاتِ وَالْمُوتَشِمَاتِ وَالْمُتَنَمِّصَاتِ وَالْمُتَفَلِّجَاتِ لِلْحُسْنِ الْمُغَيِّرَاتِ خَلْقَ اللَّهِ فَبَلَغَ ذَلِكَ امْرَأَةً مِنْ بَنِي أَسَدٍ يُقَالُ لَهَا أُمُّ يَعْقُوبَ فَجَاءَتْ فَقَالَتْ إِنَّهُ بَلَغَنِي عَنْكَ أَنَّكَ لَعَنْتَ كَيْتَ وَكَيْتَ فَقَالَ وَمَا لِي أَلْعَنُ مَنْ لَعَنَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَمَنْ هُوَ فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ فَقَالَتْ لَقَدْ قَرَأْتُ مَا بَيْنَ اللَّوْحَيْنِ فَمَا وَجَدْتُ فِيهِ مَا تَقُولُ قَالَ لَئِنْ كُنْتِ قَرَأْتِيهِ لَقَدْ وَجَدْتِيهِ أَمَا قَرَأْتِ {وَمَا آتَاكُمْ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانْتَهُوا} قَالَتْ بَلَى قَالَ فَإِنَّهُ قَدْ نَهَى عَنْهُ

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ (90)

    16|90| Verily, Allah enjoins justice, good-doing,136 and giving to kin. And He forbids the indecent, evil137 and rebellion.138 He admonishes you that perhaps you will be mindful.139


    136. For someone wishing to know the mind, spirit, approach and priorities of the ancients, in contrast to that of their followers, then, perhaps the commentary on this verse is one of the best to compare. The gradual slide from “the other-worldliness” to “this worldliness”, as the centuries pass by, can be easily noticed (Au.).
    `Adl and Ihsan
    Ibn ‘Abbas has interpreted the textual word “‘adl” as the testimony (that there is no God, save Allah), and “ihsan” as “the Islamic commandments” (Ibn Jarir). Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah said that “‘adl” of the original refers to lack of contradiction between one’s public and private behavior and “ihsan” to the condition that one’s secret (acts) be better than his public (behavior). In contrast, “fahsha’” and “munkar” mean that one’s avoidance (of evil) in private should be more intensive than his avoidance of them in public (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Literally, adds Shawkani, “‘adl” is the middle path, i.e., a path in Islam that avoids the two extremes, while “ihsan” is to do better than simply following a rule. In a well-known hadith the Prophet (saws) said that “ihsan” is “to worship Allah, as if you can see Him, for, if you cannot see Him, He sees you.” Zamakhshari adds: Since it is impossible that a man maintain perfect “‘adl” in all his affairs, he should seek to achieve “ihsan” in a few other things in order to balance off as a whole.
    Imam Razi has a long comment, with many examples, to demonstrate that “‘adl”, the middle or the mean path, is a hallmark of Islam. He writes that it is applicable both to matters of belief, as well as practice. For example, to deny God, or to suggest associates are two extremes: to believe in one God is “‘adl.” Hence Ibn ‘Abbas’ explanation that “‘adl” is the testimony “there is no deity save Allah.” Again, between two extreme views: that He does not exist, and, on the other hand, that he has a body, parts or limbs, and is confined in a place, lies “‘adl” to believe that He exists without a body, parts and is not confined to a place. Or, to believe that God exists without attributes, or, that He acquires traits and undergoes changes are two extremes between which “‘adl” is to believe that He exists with permanent attributes that do not undergo changes. Similarly, to believe that one is free to do what he wants, or, alternatively, is completely bound, are two extremes. Between the two is the “‘adl” which is to believe that a man is free to do what he does but is dependent on the desire created in him by Allah. In the like manner, what applies to beliefs, also applies to acts and deeds, where the mean path is the best path. In fact, the physical world too seems to be following the path of “‘adl”. For example, the earth is situated at a certain distance from the sun. If this distance were to be increased by a margin, the earth would get too cold, and if decreased, too hot for life. Similarly, Razi continues, the various elements of the solar family seem to be at a precisely determined distances from each other and revolving at specific speeds. If any of the figures were altered, the system would collapse.
    [Once again, one wonders at Imam Razi’s sources that enabled him to make the above statement in the 11th century. For, the discovery of the gravitational force, and the laws of motion which keep the planets together revolving endlessly around the sun, came to be discovered only in the 16th century. Also, that changing the distance of the earth from the sun, even marginally, would mean destruction of all life on it, is a recent discovery (Au.)].
    Qurtubi expands on the meaning of “‘adl” as “justice.” He quotes Ibn al-‘Arabi: “Justice between a man and his Lord consists in that he should give his Lord preference over his own self, and prefer His approval over that of his base self. Allah said (79: 40),


    وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَى [النازعات : 40]


    ‘And restrained his self from base desires.’ It also means giving preference to the acts of obedience over fulfillment of the inner cravings, and to never give up being contented. On the other hand, justice between one’s self and other creations of Allah consists in being sincere towards them, not being dishonest to any extent, and to give them back everything due to them, not allowing oneself the liberty to do them evil to the slightest degree, neither in open nor in secret, and to bear with patience their ill-will, the humblest order of which consists in being just, and denying oneself any right of injury to them or others.”
    “Ihsan” on the other hand, continues Qurtubi, carries two connotations. One, to do everything that one does, well; and two, to be good to others. Both are meant in this verse. The famous hadith of Jibril (viz., “worship Him as if He sees you, for, if you do not see Him, then, He sees you”) is in the first sense and not the second. Again, “giving the kin” should be in material terms, especially if they are poor.
    Finally, here is an incident that will tell us how kings and the ruling classes of the past understood the Islamic concepts which the educated class of modern times does not seem to understand. It is said that a group of citizens went to Abu Ja`far al-Mansur, the Abbasid caliph (2nd. Islamic century) complaining against one of his governors. But they could not muster sufficient proof, so the governor was able to defeat them in their arguments and refute their charges. At that a young man stood up and said, “Leader of the faithful. Allah commands `adl’ and ‘ihsan.’ The Governor might have done ‘justice’ but he did not achieve ihsan.’” A surprised Mansur accepted the argument and removed the governor from his post.
    Alusi tries another angle of distinction between “‘adl” and “ihsan”: “‘Adl” is to do justice to others and seek justice from them, while “ihsan” is to do justice to others but not to seek justice from them.
    Mawdudi’s is more down to earth in his expansion on the concepts of “‘adl” and “ihsan.” He writes: “The directive which has been so succinctly expressed enjoins on people three principles which provide the basis for the sound ordering of human society. The first and foremost principle is ‘justice’ which comprises two independent truths. One, that there be balance and right proportion among human beings in respect of their rights. Two, that every person be granted his rights without distinction.
    “What justice really demands is balance and right proportion rather than absolute equality. True, in certain respects, equality among members of society, such as in respect of the rights of citizenship, is a requirement of justice. However, equality in certain other matters is diametrically opposed to the requirements of justice. For instance, it would be sheer injustice if we were to grant children equal rights with parents, or to equally compensate those who work hard and well and those who do not. Hence, what God has commanded is not equality in rights. He has rather commanded balance and right proportion. This requires that the moral, social, economic, legal, political and cultural rights to which a person is entitled should be granted to him with sincerity.
    “The second principle is benevolence (to be literal, ‘doing good’) which broadly embraces all such good acts as politeness, generosity, sympathy, tolerance, courtesy, forbearance, mutual accommodation, mutual consideration, giving to others what is more than what is their due, and being content for oneself with a little less than what one is entitled to. This principle goes a step further than justice, and is hence, in some respects, even more for man’s social life than justice. If justice is the foundation on which the structure of a society should rest, then benevolence represents the beauty and perfection of that structure. Justice wards off the bitterness of discord and disharmony from human life. Benevolence adds to it the elements of pleasure and sweetness. No society can be sustained merely on the principle that every member of it should be jealously watchful of, and insistent upon, receiving every bit of his right and be willing to grant others exactly what is their due, but absolutely no more. Perhaps such a cold and stark society might - thanks to the application of justice as above - be able to avoid internal conflicts. However, such a society will be utterly devoid of such life-giving and life-sustaining values as love and compassion, gratitude and magnanimity, and sacrifice and goodwill for others.
    “The third principle enunciated in the verse is liberality to kith and kin. This is a corollary of the former principle - ‘benevolence’ - when it is applied to one’s relatives. This consists not only of sharing one’s joys and sorrows with one’s kin, and in helping and supporting the fulfillment of their legitimate desires within permissible limits, but also that one should recognize that one’s wealth ought not to be spent exclusively on oneself and one’s immediate family. Other members of the family also have a share in it.”
    137. While “fahsha’” is everything that Islam frowns upon, “munkar” is a stronger term embracing those acts that Islam disapproves. Zamakhshari defined it as something that “a man’s good sense rejects or disowns” (ma tunkiruhu al-‘uqul); by which, of course, Zamakhshari meant the “‘uqul” of the believers. In Asad’s words, “all that runs counter to reason and good sense.”
    Qurtubi writes that every evil is “fahsha’” while munkar is anything that the Shari`ah frowns upon.
    138. According to Ibn ‘Abbas, by “baghyu” the allusion is to rebellion against Allah which manifests in disobedience (Ibn Jarir). But others have said that the allusion is to the oppression of the people. A hadith (of Ibn Majah: H. Ibrahim) says,


    مَا مِنْ ذَنْبٍ أَجْدَرُ أَنْ يُعَجِّلَ اللَّهُ لِصَاحِبِهِ الْعُقُوبَةَ فِى الدُّنْيَا مَعَ مَا يَدَّخِرُ لَهُ فِى الآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْبَغْىِ وَقَطِيعَةِ الرَّحِمِ


    “There is no sin better deserving of Allah’s retribution hastened in this world, in addition to it being punished for in the Hereafter, than oppression and severing off relations with the kin” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    The hadith in Hakim’s Mustadrak, apart from other collections. Dhahabi evaluated it as trustworthy.
    Shawkani adds that “fahsha’” is any unsavory addition to ones words or deeds, “munkar” anything that Allah and His Messenger have prohibited and “baghyu” is to commit excesses (which ultimately gives rise to pride, oppression, envy, etc.).
    Qurtubi also maintains that primarily “baghyu” (rebellion) is to cross the bounds, or, to do injustice to others. Reportedly, one of the previous revelation said that “if a mountain oppressed another, Allah would reduce the oppressor of the two to dust.” It is also used in the sense of causing agitation, or stirring trouble. Imam Bukhari, while explaining this verse, has recorded the hadith which speaks of magic spell cast on the Prophet. When he was cured, ‘A’isha suggested that he should punish Labid b. A`sam, the sorcerer. But the Prophet only said, “Well, Allah has cured me. Personally, I do not like to stir evil among the people.” In other words, “baghyu” would include any evil brought to a people.
    139. The verse is so rich in meaning that according to commentators, had Allah revealed only this one, in place of the whole Qur’an, it would have been sufficient for the mindful. Perhaps Yusuf Ali has the most comprehensive explanation, short but accurate. He writes: “Justice is a comprehensive term, and may include all the virtues of cold philosophy. But religion asks for something warmer and much more human, the doing good deeds even where perhaps they are not strictly demanded by justice, such as returning good for ill, or obliging those who in worldly language ‘have no claim’ on you; and of course a fortiori the fulfilling of the claims of those whose claims are recognized in social life. Similarly the opposites are to be avoided; everything that is recognized as shameful, and everything that is really unjust, and any inward rebellion against Allah’s Law or our own conscience in its most sensitive form.”
    According to a report in the Musnad of Ahmad, treated as trustworthy, (although narrated by Shahr b. Hawshab), the Prophet once moved his eyes up and down (as if following someone descending and ascending) and said, “Jibril came to me just now and told me to place this verse, in this Surah, at this point” (Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Mas`ud is reported of the opinion that this is the most comprehensive verse of the Qur’an (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    ‘Ali in fact was of the opinion that the famous “muru’ah” of the Arabs (a package of good qualities), has now been superseded by this all-comprehensive verse (Alusi and others).
    Accordingly, when ‘Umar b. ‘Abdul ‘Aziz ordered removal of the pronouncement of curse on ‘Ali that the Banu Umayyah had introduced in Friday sermons, he instructed that this verse be recited in place (Alusi).
    Qurtubi adds that it was this verse that the Prophet had recited before Walid b. al-Mughirah and which had prompted him to say those famous words, “Surely, it (i.e., the Qur’an) is steeped in sweetness and carries grace. Surely, its root has the branching ability, while its upper portion is fruit-bearing. Surely, it is no man’s words.” But, according to some other reports it was ‘Uthman b. Maz`un who had recited the verse to Walid.
    And Hafiz Abu Ya`la has a report which says that when Ukthum b. Sayfi received the news of the Prophet’s advent, he decided to go and see him. But his people told him not to humble himself, rather, send someone else. So two men were dispatched. They met the Prophet, told him that they were messengers of Ukthum b. Sayfi, and asked him who he was and what he was. He said, “As for who I am, well, I’m Muhammad, the son of ‘Abdullah. As for what I am, well, I am a Messenger of Allah.” Then he recited this verse, “Verily, Allah enjoins justice, good-doing, and giving to kin. And He forbids the indecent, evil and rebellion. He admonishes you that perhaps you will remember.” He made the two men commit it to memory. (Since the verse says, “perhaps you will remember: Au.). When they went back to Ukthum they reported, “Well, he was not very particular about saying who he was, but he did say what he had brought.” Then they recited this verse. Ukthum remarked, “He commands you the best of moral principles, so be the heads and not the tail-enders in accepting it” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِ اللَّهِ إِذَا عَاهَدْتُمْ وَلَا تَنْقُضُوا الْأَيْمَانَ بَعْدَ تَوْكِيدِهَا وَقَدْ جَعَلْتُمُ اللَّهَ عَلَيْكُمْ كَفِيلًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ (91)

    16|91| And fulfill Allah’s covenant when you have entered into it, and break not the oaths after their confirmation,140 when you have declared Allah your surety.141 Surely, Allah knows what you do.


    140. The addition of the words, “after their confirmation” is to exclude commonly blurted words of oath such as, “by Allah,” “I swear”, etc. These are not oaths proper (Au.).
    141. There is no contradiction between this verse and the report in Muslim which says,


    لا حِلْف في الإسلام، وأيما حلف كان في الجاهلية لم يزده الإسلام إلا شدة


    “There is no oath of alliance in Islam, and there is no oath made during the pre-Islamic times but Islam reinforces it.” What is meant is that there is no need for the people to enter into oaths (and promise that they will remain good), as they did in pre-Islamic times. Now, with the declaration of faith in Islam, (one is in any case required to lead a virtuous life), and Islam reinforces everything that was good in pre-Islamic times. Ahmad reports that when the people began to abandon Yezid b. Mu`awiyyah, Ibn ‘Umar gathered his family members in his house and told them, “We have entered into allegiance with this man in the name of Allah and His Messenger. And I have heard the Prophet say that,


    إِنَّ الْغَادِرَ يُنْصَبُ لَهُ لِوَاءٌ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَيُقَالُ هَذِهِ غَدْرَةُ فُلاَنٍ وَإِنَّ مِنْ أَعْظَمِ الْغَدْرِ بَعْدَ الإِشْرَاكِ بِاللَّهِ أَنْ يُبَايِعَ رَجُلٌ رَجُلاً عَلَى بَيْعِ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ثُمَّ يَنْكُثُ بَيْعَتَهُ


    “The betrayer of his allegiances and oaths will have a flag hoisted next to him and said, ‘This is the betrayal of so and so.’ And the worst of betrayal of oaths would be - after association with Allah - that one should back off after having taken oath on Allah and His Messenger.”
    Therefore, continued Ibn `Umar, “Let none of you do it now, or let him have nothing to do with me” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّتِي نَقَضَتْ غَزْلَهَا مِنْ بَعْدِ قُوَّةٍ أَنْكَاثًا تَتَّخِذُونَ أَيْمَانَكُمْ دَخَلًا بَيْنَكُمْ أَنْ تَكُونَ أُمَّةٌ هِيَ أَرْبَىٰ مِنْ أُمَّةٍ ۚ إِنَّمَا يَبْلُوكُمُ اللَّهُ بِهِ ۚ وَلَيُبَيِّنَنَّ لَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مَا كُنْتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ (92)

    16|92| And be not like the woman who untwists her strands after it was strong into shreds,142 taking your oaths as a means of mutual deceit, that a community should be more numerous than another community.143 Allah only tries you thereby.144 And, He will certainly make it clear to you on the Day of Judgment that wherein you were differing.


    142. It is said that there was a foolish woman in Makkah who used to spin yarn (during the morning), and then, when it thickened (expressed in the term “quwwah” of the text), undo it to shreds (by the evening) - Ibn Jarir.
    Majid adds: “In Greek mythology there is a lady known as Penelope who is credited with a similar feat.”
    Ibn Jarir further writes: This is the example of someone who entered into a covenant with Allah, and then broke it.
    143. Of the several interpretations, one is that the verse is warning the early Muslims not to break their allegiance to the Prophet because they should find the Quraysh a party larger, stronger, and a more likely winner in the struggle against the Prophet (Zamakhshari, Shawkani).
    144. This verse acquires special significance if we consider the fact that the Madinan Muslims were about to enter into a compact with the Prophet at ‘Aqabah, promising to protect him as they would their women and children, and the Prophet himself soon to migrate to Madinah and enter into several pacts with the adjoining tribes (Au.).

    وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَٰكِنْ يُضِلُّ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ وَلَتُسْأَلُنَّ عَمَّا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (93)

    16|93| Had Allah willed, He could have made you all one community. But, He leads astray whom He will145 and guides whom He will.146 And, you will certainly be questioned for what you were doing.


    145. Explaining the words, “Allah leads astray whom He will”: Alusi writes: by creating in him misguidance (dilal), following the man’s own choices, itself being influenced by his inner potentials.
    146. Explaining the words, “He guides whom He will”: Alusi writes: by creating guidance (hidayah) in him, following the person’s own choices, which themselves are influenced by his inner potentials, that in turn he trains on the right course of action.
    He also writes: The Mu`tazila deny that error, or misguidance is by Allah’s will. They maintain that Allah (swt) wished that everyone should enter into faith, but what resulted (from the choice given to the people) is that they chose something that Allah did not wish. Accordingly, Zamakhshari wrote, had Allah willed to force people to become one nation, then, surely, He had the power to do it. But, His wisdom demanded that He guide to error (or, in simpler words, lead them to error) those He knew would choose to remain in error and insist on it, and guide to righteousness those He knew would choose to be guided to it. In short, the issue has choice as the principal deciding factor, and the outcome depends on who deserves what. Allah has told us nothing about forcing a man do what he - the man - does not deserve. If men had no choice in the affair, forced either to error or to guidance, Allah would not say as He did in the words that follow, “And you shall certainly be questioned for what you were doing.”
    `Askari has a similar point to make. However, Alusi continues, the truth is, as written by one of the late scholars Kawrani (who wrote several treatises on this topic) that a man has effective, influencing power by the leave of Allah and not what is imagined, viz., he has no power at all to choose as the Jabriyyah say, nor a power to compare, but, for all practical purposes, ineffective, as the Ash`ariyyah have maintained, nor that he has effective and influencing power, above that of Allah’s will, as the Mu`tazilah say. Rather, he has the power (to choose and act) that itself he earns, following the demands of his potentials and inclinations that are in Allah’s knowledge. In other words, a man is both free as well as bound and is questionable for his choices in areas he was free to choose and act.

    وَلَا تَتَّخِذُوا أَيْمَانَكُمْ دَخَلًا بَيْنَكُمْ فَتَزِلَّ قَدَمٌ بَعْدَ ثُبُوتِهَا وَتَذُوقُوا السُّوءَ بِمَا صَدَدْتُمْ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۖ وَلَكُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ (94)

    16|94| And, do not take your oaths a means of mutual deceit lest a foot should slip after its firmness,147 and you taste the evil148 because you prevented from the path of Allah,149 and (consequently) you have a mighty chastisement.


    147. Zamakhshari raises the question, why did Allah say “foot” in singular, and then answers that it is to emphasize that not a single foot should slip in error.
    148. Asad has a useful comment on the words “taste the evil”: “... the breaking of pledges unavoidably leads to a gradual disappearance of all mutual trust and, thus, to the decomposition of the social fabric.”
    It is this “evil” that men immediately taste, here, in consequence of their dishonoring the trusts, before the other, final evil, that they will face in the Hereafter (Au.).
    149. What is the connection between breaking oaths and preventing people from the path of Allah? Alusi explains that when someone breaks oaths made in the name of Allah, then he sets a bad example to others of not heeding Allah’s calls. That example spreads and people get used to ignoring the truth, justice, and what is right. Thus the first man becomes the cause of preventing the people from the path of Allah.

    وَلَا تَشْتَرُوا بِعَهْدِ اللَّهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۚ إِنَّمَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ هُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (95)

    16|95| Nor barter away Allah’s covenant for a paltry price.150 Surely, what is with Allah - that is better for you, if you only knew.


    150. That was what the Quraysh offered - a paltry price - to those who would abandon the Prophet (Zamakhshari).

    مَا عِنْدَكُمْ يَنْفَدُ ۖ وَمَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ بَاقٍ ۗ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّ الَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا أَجْرَهُمْ بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (96)

    16|96| What you have will come to exhaust, but what is with Allah will abide. And, surely We shall recompense those who patiently persevered151 with better rewards than what they were doing.


    151. Mawdudi comments on ‘the patient and persevering’: “Those ... who adhere to truth and honesty in utter disregard of all temptations, desires, and lusts. They are the ones who endure all losses which accrue to them as a result of strictly confining themselves to fair and honest means and spurning all advantages which ensue from adopting unfair methods. Such persons are prepared to wait till the very end of their worldly life after which they will be able to observe the good consequences of their deeds.”

    مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (97)

    16|97| Whoever did a good thing - of the male or female152 - and is a believer, such of them We shall surely pave the way for them to lead a goodly life,153 and shall recompense them with better rewards than what they were doing.154


    152. Although the article “mun” (whoever) is inclusive of male and female, e.g., “if you say whoever is in the house” then, women will be included in the term “whoever,” yet, the addition of the words “male and female” here in this verse, is for emphasis, and to remove any doubt that the Qur’anic injunctions, although expressed in masculine, are for both men as well as women (Alusi).
    153. Opinions have varied over what constitutes “hayatun tayyibah” (a goodly life), although, the various opinions can all be reconciled. Ibn ‘Abbas said it means lawful provision. (Whoever enjoys it, enjoys a goodly life). Hasan al-Busri thought it is contentment (qana`ah) that is meant. In a second opinion he said that “a goodly life” is something that will be obtained in Paradise alone. Yet others said that the allusion is to the life in Paradise. Ibn Jarir thinks contentment is the best answer, since, whoever is given this quality, is given all. “Indeed,” adds Ibn Jarir, “our experience is that those who devote themselves to living a righteous life, are rarely well-off in this world. Without contentment such a life could not be characterized as a goodly life.”
    In fact, we have a hadith in Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Ahmad, which reports that the Prophet said

    ,
    قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ أَسْلَمَ وَرُزِقَ كَفَافًا وَقَنَّعَهُ اللَّهُ بِمَا آتَاهُ


    “Succeeded he who became a Muslim, was provided just enough (of the means of sustenance), and then Allah gave him contentment over what He gave him” (Shawkani).
    Zamakhshari writes: “A goodly life” is what a believer always enjoys, whether he is materially well-off or not. If he is well-off, then of course the case is clear. But if he is badly-off, then, he perseveres with patience and is content with what Allah has provided him. Thus, he is blissful and tranquil in every situation. In contrast, the life of a “fasiq” is miserable in every situation. When he is badly off, then the case is clear. But if he is well-off, then too, greed does not allow him to sit in peace. The desire for more and more keeps him restless so that he never truly enjoys the fruits of his labor.
    Ibn Kathir adds: Imam Ahmad and Muslim have a narration which says,


    إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَظْلِمُ مُؤْمِنًا حَسَنَةً يُعْطَى بِهَا فِى الدُّنْيَا وَيُجْزَى بِهَا فِى الآخِرَةِ وَأَمَّا الْكَافِرُ فَيُطْعَمُ بِحَسَنَاتِ مَا عَمِلَ بِهَا لِلَّهِ فِى الدُّنْيَا حَتَّى إِذَا أَفْضَى إِلَى الآخِرَةِ لَمْ تَكُنْ لَهُ حَسَنَةٌ يُجْزَى بِهَا


    “Allah does not wrong a believer. He is rewarded both in this world as well as the next. In contrast, an unbeliever is rewarded in this world itself because of his good deeds, but when he lands in the Hereafter, he will have no good deed left in his account to be rewarded for.”
    Alusi, however, after discussing various opinions at length expresses his readiness to accept Hasan al-Busri’s opinion that “a goodly life” will obtain, in the truest sense, in the Hereafter alone.
    154. That will happen in the Hereafter. The translations adopted for this and verse 96 above follow the understanding of Ibn ‘Abbas, as in Ibn Jarir. Nevertheless, some scholars have thought that the meaning of this part of the verse is, “according to the best of what they were doing.”

    فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ (98)

    16|98| When you recite the Qur’an, seek Allah’s refuge from Satan the outcast.155


    155. ‘Ata’, as in Shawkani, and Thawri as in Alusi, were in the minority to maintain that recitation of the ta`awwudh or isti`adhah is obligatory. That is, to say,


    أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ


    Otherwise, to the great majority, the seeking of Allah’s refuge with the help of this formula, before any recitation, is not obligatory. It is only recommended (Ibn Jarir). This is in view of the Prophet’s own practice, who sometimes recited the formula and sometimes did not. Even within the Prayers (Salah) it is at best mustahab to recite it (Shafi`).
    In any case, write Razi and Ibn Kathir, such seeking of refuge is meant to drive away Satanic whispering of the wrong meaning into the mind during the Qur’anic recitation (and after the recitation is over). Hence, some of the scholars, including Abu Hurayrah, Muhammad b. Sirin and Ibrahim Nakha`i, as noted by Nawawi, have said that the “isti`adha” should be done ‘after’ the recitation of the Qur’an (rather than before). The great majority however, believe that it must be said before the recitation.
    In any case, Shafi` introduces the rejoinder, it must be remembered that the refuge-formula is spelled out only prior to Qur’anic recitation and not before any other act. For all other acts, it is enough to recite the “basmalah” (i.e., “Bismillahir Rahman al-Rahim)
    Alusi comments: The standard words of “isti`adha” are as in this verse. The Prophet (saws) however used other words also. Bayhaqi has a hadith which says that when the Prophet brought ‘A’isha the good news of her acquittal in the famous case of slander, he preceded the recitation of the revelation with the “isti`adha” of words as follows:


    أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ السَّمِيعِ الْعَلِيمِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ


    “I seek the refuge of Allah, the Hearer, the Knower, from Satan the accursed.”
    Another hadith in the Sahihayn reports that “when the Prophet stood up for Prayers in the pre-dawn session, he began it by saying the ‘isti`adha’ in the above words. These reports prove that it is allowed to use this second version of “isti`adha.”

    إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ لَهُ سُلْطَانٌ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ (99)

    16|99| Indeed, he has no power over those who have believed, and in their Lord they trust.


    إِنَّمَا سُلْطَانُهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ يَتَوَلَّوْنَهُ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ بِهِ مُشْرِكُونَ (100)

    16|100| He has power over those alone who befriend him,156 and those who associate others with Him.157


    156. People befriend Satan by following his advice and prompting (Qurtubi).
    A doubt arises: We often notice that such people as those who do not befriend Satan fall into his trap. How is this to be explained? Alusi deals with this question in some detail. But we prefer to reproduce here Shabbir’s shorter note who writes that Satan’s power over the virtuous works only for a short while. He is never able to overpower them completely, which is the purpose of the verse here. If a righteous man slips, it is not too late that he pulls himself up. Another Qur’anic verse can be presented to substantiate this. It says (7: 201),


    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا إِذَا مَسَّهُمْ طَائِفٌ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ تَذَكَّرُوا فَإِذَا هُمْ مُبْصِرُونَ [الأعراف : 201]


    “Indeed, those who fear Allah - when an impulse touches them from Satan, they remember (Him) and at once they have insight.”
    157. The translation follows the preferred understanding of Mujahid (and Dahhak: Qurtubi). That is, the pronoun in “bihi” is for Allah although there have been other explanations (Ibn Jarir).

    وَإِذَا بَدَّلْنَا آيَةً مَكَانَ آيَةٍ ۙ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يُنَزِّلُ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مُفْتَرٍ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (101)

    16|101| And when We substitute a verse in place of another verse158 - and Allah knows best what He should reveal159 - they say, ‘You are but a forger.’ Rather, most of them know not.160


    158. The reference is to abrogation, either of the text, or its meaning. That is, either a verse is taken away from memory so that people cannot recall it anymore, after having known it, or, Allah declares its meaning abrogated and replaces wtih another verse.
    159. That is, Allah knew the wisdom behind abrogation.
    There were several points of wisdom behind abrogation during early Islamic years. One, e.g., was to try out the earliest followers, and see if they remained true to their faith or, were they betaken by doubts when abrogation came. In this manner, a band of tested and purified men and women was created who submitted to everything that Allah and His Messenger decreed. By virtue of that they became a body that can be followed as an ideal by Muslims of the later generations. They can be emulated, but never overtaken in piety and obedience. Another reason was that for centuries human societies lived a certain kind of life: the most beastly kind. Their situation could only be changed gradually. That required allowing certain things in the early stages of change and development, to be disallowed later. Later generations would not need the same measures because, the individuals of later generations would open their eyes, or enter as new Muslims, into an already transformed society, in which they would not need to struggle against the rest of the world to follow Islam (Au.).
    160. It is stated in “Kashf” that Allah (swt) brought this verse immediately after instruction to seek refuge from Satan for the reason that to many readers of the Qur’an abrogation in early Islam is one of the sources of grave doubts (Alusi).

    قُلْ نَزَّلَهُ رُوحُ الْقُدُسِ مِنْ رَبِّكَ بِالْحَقِّ لِيُثَبِّتَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَهُدًى وَبُشْرَىٰ لِلْمُسْلِمِينَ (102)

    16|102| Say, the Holy Spirit161 brought it down from your Lord in truth,162 in order to make firm those who have believed,163 a guidance and good tidings to those who submit.


    161. `Amir Sha`bi’s following statement is transmitted on a trustworthy note, viz., for the first three years it was Mika’il who was entrusted with bringing down (non-Qur’anic: Au.) ‘words after words’ to our Prophet. Thereafter, it was Jibril who brought down the Qur’anic revelations to him. Further, we have a report in Muslim which says that Surah al-Fatihah was carried down by an angel who had never come down to earth earlier. Nevertheless, most of the commentators agree that it is Jibril who is meant by “Ruh al-Quds” at this point (Qurtubi).
    As to why Jibril was referred to by this title, rather than by his name, Mawdudi explains, “By preferring to use this appellation rather than his proper name, the Qur’an emphasizes that the message of the Qur’an has been conveyed through the spirit which is free from all human weaknesses and imperfections.”
    162. That is, tell them O Muhammad, it is not I who causes the abrogation. The whole thing is a revelation brought down by heavenly beings, by the command of Allah. I have no power to reveal or abrogate (Au.).
    163. Such as those who ponder over the reasons and the wisdom behind abrogation in early Islam. They are led to a better understanding of it and to a greater firmness in it (Alusi).

    وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّهُمْ يَقُولُونَ إِنَّمَا يُعَلِّمُهُ بَشَرٌ ۗ لِسَانُ الَّذِي يُلْحِدُونَ إِلَيْهِ أَعْجَمِيٌّ وَهَٰذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِيٌّ مُبِينٌ (103)

    16|103| We know indeed that they say, ‘A man teaches him.’ (But) the tongue of the one they refer to164 is non-Arabic,165 whereas this is a clear Arabic speech.


    164. The textual word is “yulhiduna” with its root in “lahada,” means, to incline, take sides, etc. Hence a “lahad grave”: one which has a side box in which the dead body is tucked (Razi), giving the grave the shape of an “L” (Au.); and hence “mulhid” for an atheist who turns away from every religion of the world (Razi).
    165. There is no consensus among the early commentators over the identity of the person whom the Quraysh alleged composed the Qur’an for our Prophet (Ibn Jarir and others). That was perhaps because the Prophet was on good, even if casual, terms with several of the Makkan, non-Arab slaves and laymen.
    Further, the textual word “‘ajami” is not necessarily for a non-Arabic, non-Arab, or foreigner alone. The allusion, therefore, could have been to any of the several, or all of the Arab or non-Arabs that the Makkans at one time or another alluded to. For example, one of those named was a hawker at Safa with whom the Prophet occasionally spent some time chatting. He was originally a Yemeni, and hence an “‘ajami” for two reasons: one, because he was not eloquent in the Arabic language and, two, he was a foreigner.
    They were obviously not of the kind that could teach the Prophet anything, let alone the eloquent Qur’an. Indeed, when one of those casual acquaintances of the Prophet was asked if he taught the Prophet, he replied, in all the simplicity of his class, “Rather, he teaches me” (Qurtubi).
    Imam Razi and Qurtubi also explain: The textual word “`ajami” has its root in “`ajama” which is to be unable to express oneself properly. Animals are, e.g., “`ajmaa’”, because they cannot express themselves. The word is thus applicable to anyone who is not eloquent in Arabic. In this sense, many Arabs are also “`ajami” since, although they can speak Arabic, they cannot explain themselves eloquently. This was the opinion of Farra’ and Ahmad b. Yahya. Further, it might be noted, Imam Razi writes, how short the Makkans must have been of reasons to reject the Prophet, that they had to rely on such silly allegations. Such doubts as they raised against the Prophet actually confirm his Prophethood rather than cast any doubt on it.
    Alsui writes that in his times (the 19th century), some (Syrian) Christians believed that the Prophet repaired to the Hira cave every now and then, only to learn the Qur’an from a pair of unknown Jew and Christian! How could it happen, Shabbir asks, that if another person wrote the Qur’an, a great author of his kind was completely neglected, while he who supposedly re-told it, was accepted by millions as a Messenger of Allah?
    Sayyid writes: A conference held by the Orientalists in Soviet Russia in 1945, concluded that it was unthinkable that Prophet Muhammad would have composed this Qur’an singly. There must have been a whole group of people helping him in this feat. In fact, it did not seem possible to the participants that the whole of the Qur’an was written in the Arabian Peninsula. Some of its parts must have been composed outside of it! (Because such wide and varied seem to be its sources, if it is assumed that the Qur’an is a human production: Au.)
    It is strange it did not occur to the Makkans, nor to their blind followers of the modern Western world, who raise similar doubts even today, that what could have prevented the other man (the original writer) from claiming the authorship of this wonderful, inimitable, masterly Qur’an? Have these clever Orientalists never considered that, as authors, did they ever contribute a sentence to a book without expecting its acknowledgment in the preface? The truth is, there is nothing that they can think of as a good reason to reject the Qur’an, but the Qur’an’s contents rejects it. This is one ramification of the words, “Falsehood will not enter into it: neither from the front nor from the rear.” That is, neither the earlier generations, nor the later generations can ever explain the Qur’an, but in one way: that it is a Revelation. Gary Miller (a new Canadian Muslim) quotes from a recent publication of Catholic Encyclopedia, to the effect: “All that has been said so far about the Qur’an, does not explain its origin to anyone’s satisfaction” (Au.).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ لَا يَهْدِيهِمُ اللَّهُ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (104)

    16|104| Surely, those who do not believe in Allah’s signs, Allah does not guide them aright,166 rather, for them awaits a painful chastisement.


    166. That is, because of their refusal to believe, Allah does not guide such people to Paradise (Razi).
    Ibn Kathir comments: Allah tells us that He does not guide those who are heedless to that which He revealed to His Messenger. This class of people will never be guided to faith by any of Allah’s other signs either.

    إِنَّمَا يَفْتَرِي الْكَذِبَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَاذِبُونَ (105)

    16|105| It is only those who do not believe in the signs of Allah that forge lies. It is they who are the liars.167


    167. That is, those who impute a lie to the Prophet, are themselves confirmed liars. This verse befits the Western scholars, writers and journalists, who float lies for their laymen, who blindly believe in them in such matters of high importance, while treating all else that they write, about worldly affairs, with extreme skepticism, if not disbelief. It is this class of people who are the subject of the next verse (Au.).

    مَنْ كَفَرَ بِاللَّهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ إِيمَانِهِ إِلَّا مَنْ أُكْرِهَ وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِالْإِيمَانِ وَلَٰكِنْ مَنْ شَرَحَ بِالْكُفْرِ صَدْرًا فَعَلَيْهِمْ غَضَبٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ (106)

    16|106| Whoever disbelieved in Allah, after his faith, except for he who was compelled, while his heart was firm in faith,168 but he, who opened up for disbelief at heart’s level,169 it is upon them that Allah’s anger rests, and theirs shall be a mighty chastisement.170


    168. The words, “while his heart was firm in faith,” is the basis of the opinion held by some that faith (iman) is the attestation of the heart and that, its verbal pronunciation is not a condition. However, it will be more precise to say that although verbal assertion is not part of faith, it is necessary as a sign and confirmation of what is in the heart (Alusi).
    169. Passing doubts, therefore, Thanwi points out, are not blameworthy (so long as not given permanent residence in the heart), since they are not the result of one’s free will.
    170. Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah and Abu Malik have said that the immediate reference was to ‘Ammar b. Yasir. He was severely tortured by the pagans until he spelt the words of disbelief that they were demanding from him. Later he reported to the Prophet (in tears: Zamakhshari).


    قَالَ : كَيْفَ تَجِدُ قَلْبَكَ؟ قَالَ : مُطْمَئِنًا بِالإِيمَانِ. قَالَ : إِنْ عَادُوا فَعُدْ.


    The Prophet asked him, “How do you find your heart?” He replied, “Firm in faith.” The Prophet told him, “If they repeat, you also repeat” (Ibn Jarir).
    But of course, Zamakhshari writes, the allusion could be to all those who suffered persecution, notably Bilal, Suhayb, Khabbab, Salim, Jabr al-Hadrami, and, `Ammar and his parents Yasir and Sumayyah. The brutality of the tortures can be gauged from the fact that the last named Sumayyah was tied to two camels and then Abu Jahl thrust a spear in her vagina until she died. Yasir was also killed: the first two to die in the cause of Islam. In fact, under extreme torture delivered by his master, Jabr renounced Islam. However, his master himself later became a Muslim, and the two, master and slave, migrated to Madinah (Zamakhshari). (How fast Islam changes relationships! (Au.)
    A narration in Bayhaqi says that unable to stand the tortures, `Ammar disowned the Prophet and praised their deities. Hence the scholars have ruled that whoever is put to severe tortures might opt for one of the two ways of escape: either outwardly disown his religion, or, stay firm unmindful of what happens to him. Bilal opted for the latter and despite rocks on his chest, laid on hot desert sands, adhered to saying, “Ahad, Ahad” (One, One) and refused to say one word that would please the torturers. Indeed he said, “By Allah. If I knew another word that would madden them more, I would have said it.” That is what Habib b. Zayd opted for when he and another Companion were caught (spying on Musaylimah the Liar: Shawkani). Musaylimah asked the other man if he testified that Muhammad was a Messenger of Allah. He said, “Yes.” Musaylimah next asked, “Do you testify that I am a messenger of Allah?” He said, “Yes.” So he freed him. But when he asked Habib, “Do you testify that Muhammad is a Messenger?” Habib replied, “I do.” He asked him next, “Do you testify that I am a messenger?” Habib said, “I do not hear you.” When Musaylimah ordered that his body be severed, limb by limb, Habib still kept on repeating those words at every time he was questioned. The severing went on with each question and answer, until he died. Thus, Habib opted for ‘azimah (firm resolve) - Ibn Kathir. But the Prophet did not censure the other person who escaped from Musaylimah the Liar (Zamakhshari). The report comes through Hasan al-Busri and is evaluated as Hasan (Shawkani).
    In fact, continues Ibn Kathir, we have another incident worth mentioning. This is from Ibn ‘Asakir who recorded it in the biography of `Abdullah b. Hudhafa al-Sahmi, a Companion. Once he was captured by the Byzantines. They took him to the king. He proposed, “Become a Christian and I’ll declare a share for you in my kingdom and give you my daughter in marriage.” `Abdullah replied, “If you gave me the whole of your kingdom, and the whole of the Arab kingdom, on condition that I abandon my religion, just for a moment, I would not do it.” The king threatened to kill him, got him fixed to the cross and ordered his men to shoot arrows around his hands and feet. He again offered him Christianity and again he refused. So the king got a large copper vessel filled with oil and heated up. Then one of the captured Muslims was brought and cast into it. `Abdullah stood there watching him as he was fried to scorched bones. But `Abdullah would not budge. So the king ordered that `Abdullah be thrown into the vessel. `Abdullah wept. The king thought `Abdullah had softened. He called him and offered that he become a Christian. `Abdullah said, “I only cried because I have command over only a single life. I wish I had as many lives as the hair on my body and each of them taken away in the path of Allah.” Finally, the king suggested, “Kiss my forehead and I’ll let you go?” `Abdullah asked, “Will you free every Muslim prisoner?” The king said yes. `Abdullah kissed his forehead and was freed along with all the Muslim prisoners. When he came back, `Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “It is `Abdullah’s right that everyone should kiss his forehead. And let me be the first to do it” (slightly shortened).
    Qurtubi also points out that the legal implication of the verse is that its principle is extendable to other affairs of lesser importance. (If someone is forced to do something wrong, on threat to his life, he cannot be blamed for his actions). In fact, there is a hadith to this effect, which although lacks a strong chain of narrators, is correct in its import. It says,


    إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَجَاوَزَ لِى عَنْ أُمَّتِى الْخَطَأَ وَالنِّسْيَانَ وَمَا اسْتُكْرِهُوا عَلَيْهِ


    “Accountability is removed off my Ummah for things done by mistake, forgetfulness or what they are forced to do.”
    Abu Muhammad Abdul Haq has said that from the point of view of its chain of narration also, the report is trustworthy. (Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut declared it as meeting with the conditions set by Bukhari and Muslim: Au.). In any case, the above does not apply to murder. Someone cannot murder another because his own life is under threat.
    As a jurist, Qurtubi goes into many cases of law to explain as to when “being forced” is acceptable as an excuse and when not - with or without a threat to one’s life. In today’s world where the Muslims are a target of repression, even in their own countries, a few examples given by Qurtubi could be used as guidelines. For instance, if someone knows that his words could harm an innocent Muslim, he can testify to a lie as did the Companion who, when asked by Musaylimah if he testified that he was a Messenger, said “Yes.” For example, in Tunis Abu Sa`id b. Ashras was asked by the ruler to swear that he had no idea where Malik was hiding. The king was, of course, after Malik’s life. The condition the ruler placed was that if ibn Ashras was lying his wife would stand irrevocably divorced. Ibn Ashras readily swore, although he knew very well where Malik was hiding. When he went home he asked his wife to go away to her parents. Then he journeyed to Qayrawan to meet with Bahlul and discuss the issue. Bahlul told him that although Malik himself had a different opinion, according to Hasan (al-Busri) he was not required to honor the oath. That is, the divorce was not effective. Anas b. Malik expressed the same opinion when he was asked whether a man could swear falsely to save another innocent man’s life. He answered, “As for me, I would rather swear false oaths seventy times than risk the life of a Muslim.” Similarly, it is reported that Walid b. `Abd al-Malik had a large force of secret servicemen spying on the people. Once, one of them participated in the lecture circle of the famous scholar R`ja’ b. Haywah. He heard one of the participants criticizing Walid and reported to him. Walid sent for R`ja’ and said, “I am criticized in your circles and you do not stop them.” Raja’ denied that he was ever criticized. Walid asked him to swear, and he swore. So Walid got the secret serviceman whipped. The man later came to Raja’ and complained, “O Raja’. You are used as the means of access (wasilah) for seeking rains, yet seventy stripes on my back?!” Raja’ answered, “That you should get whipped seventy times is better than that a Muslim be killed.” And, Qurtubi adds, in all such cases, one need not even offer expiation for the false oaths. In the same vein, if one can escape from an ill-consequence of what he had said, he might say, as Ibrahim Nakha`i said, “By Allah. If I had said any such thing, Allah would have known it.” The listener presumes that the man did not say, while he might have, yet he did not lie by swearing by Allah. A condition however is that one’s intention should not be to deceive anyone. When Ibrahim Nakha`i himself did not wish to see someone he would enter into his own little prayer-hall (masjid: place of prostration within the house) and tell his slave girl to say to the unwanted man, “By Allah. He is in the masjid.”
    Nevertheless, (lest the permission be misused) Imam Abu Hanifah has warned, that the hadith quoted above, is with reference to the accountability in the Hereafter. That is, forgetfulness, acting by error, or being forced to do something, could all prove to be acceptable excuses in the Hereafter. But, in the affairs of this world, they might not be sufficient. For example, if someone murdered another person by mistake, his plea will not release him from blood-wit. Similarly, if someone claimed that he did something because he was forced, the jurists will look into the surrounding conditions to determine the nature of the crime and nature of the forces acting on the man, and then pronounce the judgment (Shafi`).

    ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمُ اسْتَحَبُّوا الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا عَلَى الْآخِرَةِ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ (107)

    16|107| That is because they preferred the life of this world over the Next, and because Allah does not guide a disbelieving folk.


    أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَسَمْعِهِمْ وَأَبْصَارِهِمْ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ (108)

    16|108| These, Allah has set a seal upon their hearts, their hearing and their sight. They it is who are heedless.


    لَا جَرَمَ أَنَّهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ (109)

    16|109| Without doubt, in the Hereafter, it is they who are the losers.171


    171. The reference is to those people who made up their minds about what they wished to do vis a vis the new message. When they made up their minds, Allah allowed that they act, in words and deeds, in accordance with their intentions. When He allowed them to act, and they had acted, in words and deeds, as they had wished, then, in consequence of this second wrong (first being their evil intention), they were barred from receiving any guidance. Subsequently, as they continued in their disbelief, totally blind to the call of reason and the truth that dawned upon them from time to time, Allah set a seal upon their senses. So, although materially well off now, they will be total failures in the Hereafter (based on Thanwi).

    ثُمَّ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لِلَّذِينَ هَاجَرُوا مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا فُتِنُوا ثُمَّ جَاهَدُوا وَصَبَرُوا إِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِنْ بَعْدِهَا لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (110)

    16|110| But, verily your Lord, unto those who migrated, after they were persecuted, yet struggled thereafter, and persisted in patience .. after all that, Your Lord is (unto them) All-forgiving, All-kind.172


    172. According to some reports, this verse came down in connection with some people who had embraced Islam at Makkah but secretly. The pagans forced them out against the Muslims at Badr. Later, their well-wishing Madinan Muslims wrote to them the verse (4: 97),


    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ قَالُوا فِيمَ كُنْتُمْ قَالُوا كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَاسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُوا فِيهَا فَأُولَئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرًا [النساء : 97]


    “Indeed, those whom the angels take (in death) while wronging themselves, ask, ‘how were you in?’ They say, ‘We had been weakened in the earth.’ They say, ‘Was not Allah’s land vast so that you could migrate?’ So, these, their abode is Jahannum, an evil destination.” They wrote to them that they had no reason to stay back in Makkah. So a group of them left for Madinah. However, on their way they were caught up by the pagans. Fighting ensued. Some died, others escaped. Then another verse was revealed (29: 10),


    وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ فَإِذَا أُوذِيَ فِي اللَّهِ جَعَلَ فِتْنَةَ النَّاسِ كَعَذَابِ [العنكبوت : 10]


    “And of the people are some who say, ‘We believe in Allah.’ But when one of them is harmed for Allah, he considers the trial of the people as a punishment of Allah.” So, the Madinans again wrote to the remnants in Makkah and they came out intending Madinah, and this present verse was revealed. A few other reports offer other reasons for the revelation of this verse (Ibn Jarir).

    يَوْمَ تَأْتِي كُلُّ نَفْسٍ تُجَادِلُ عَنْ نَفْسِهَا وَتُوَفَّىٰ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَا عَمِلَتْ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ (111)

    16|111| (And recall) the Day when every soul shall come pleading for itself, when every soul shall be recompensed in full for what it did, and they shall not be wronged.173


    173. Tha`labi has said that the pleading will be of such order that even the body will argue for itself, against the soul, and the soul against the body. The body will say, “I acted on the soul’s command, otherwise I had no power over my hands, feet, etc. So I am innocent.” The soul will plead, “I had no hands, feet, etc. of my own to commit sins.” It was the body which did everything. They will be told, “Your example is that of a disabled person unable to stand on his legs, and another, blind: both involved in theft. They were unable to steal fruits, each by himself. So, the blind man lifted the disabled on his shoulders so that he could pluck the fruits. Which one of them deserves punishment? Obviously, both” (Qurtubi).

    وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا قَرْيَةً كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِنْ كُلِّ مَكَانٍ فَكَفَرَتْ بِأَنْعُمِ اللَّهِ فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ (112)

    16|112| And Allah strikes the parable of a town that was safe and secure, its provision coming to it in (ease and) abundance from every quarter. But it acted ungratefully for the favors of Allah.174 So, Allah made it taste the envelopment of hunger and fear,175 because of what they were doing.176


    Alusi cautions however that although some reports say that it was Ibn ‘Abbas who said the above, it is not likely that a scholar of his stature would have said it.
    174. The obvious reference is to Makkah (Ibn Jarir).
    As custodians of the House of Allah, they enjoyed a privileged status among the Arabs. By virtue of that they moved about freely in a land where otherwise chaos reigned supreme. The economic advantage of free movement brought them ample wealth. They were in fact so rich that they offered a hundred camels, (equivalent of a hundred automobiles today) to anyone who could bring them the Prophet (in his migration journey to Madinah) dead or alive. Further, by virtue of Prophet Ibrahim’s supplication, Makkah was well-supplied with fruits of all variety originating from various parts of the world. Finally, Allah preferred them over the peoples of the world by raising a Messenger among them. But they denied him and proved themselves unworthy of the favors. In consequence, they lost the position of leadership in piety, which went to the Ansar (originally from Yemen), and the Muhajirun, many of whom were non-Makkans, and subsequently, to anyone who followed them in good faith (Au.).
    175. That is, hunger and fear enveloped them as clothes envelope a man on every side (Razi and others).
    After the Prophet had migrated to Madinah, the Makkans were visited by drought and famine which lasted some seven years. During that period, they were reduced to eating carrion. And, on top of that, the peace that they had enjoyed in the land was lost when, (in retaliation to their raids: Au.) the Prophet responded with raiding parties of his own (Ibn Jarir).
    176. This refers to total Makkan opposition to the Prophetic message, persecution of his followers, the denial to the Prophet to carry forward his message, and, finally, attempts at his life (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ جَاءَهُمْ رَسُولٌ مِنْهُمْ فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَأَخَذَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَهُمْ ظَالِمُونَ (113)

    16|113| There came to them a Messenger from among themselves, but they gave him the lie. So a chastisement seized them, while they were transgressors.


    فَكُلُوا مِمَّا رَزَقَكُمُ اللَّهُ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَاشْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ (114)

    16|114| So eat of what Allah has provided you, lawful and good,177 and give thanks for Allah’s favors, if it is Him that you serve.


    177. A possible connection is that Allah is addressing the Makkan unbelievers, who were at that time passing through a phase of hunger and fear, that they could instead believe in Him and His Messenger and “eat of what Allah has provided you, lawful and good” (Razi).

    إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنْزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ ۖ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (115)

    16|115| He has only forbidden carrion, blood, swine’s flesh, and what has been hallowed to other than Allah.178 But whoever is driven (to it), neither desiring (it) nor transgressing, then, surely, (unto such) Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Kind.179


    178. That is, anything dedicated to, or hallowed for other than Allah, whether it is an animal, a food article, or something else. For example, in some parts of the Muslim world, a goat or ram is named after a Sheikh (peer), and sacrificed at his arrival to town or village. Now, they might spell Allah’s name while slaughtering the animal, but since it was hallowed for someone other than Allah, the jurists declare its meat as unlawful to the Muslims, as well as the act of hallowing (Au.).
    179. For commentary see Al-Baqarah, note 340, and Al-Ma’idah, note 24 of this work

    وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُونَ (116)

    16|116| And say not to what your tongues falsely describe, ‘This is lawful and that is unlawful,’ to fasten lies on Allah.180 Surely, those who fasten lies on Allah will never prosper.


    180. It is a serious thing to say “this is lawful” or, “that is unlawful.” Ibn Mas`ud has said, “Sometimes a man says, ‘Allah has commanded this,’ or, ‘He has prohibited this,’ but Allah says in reply, ‘You have lied.’ Or, a man says, ‘Allah has declared this lawful,’ or ‘declared that unlawful,’ but Allah says, ‘You have lied’” (Shawkani).
    The Salaf were, therefore, add Qurtubi and Alusi, very careful about the use of the words “lawful” and “unlawful.” It is only with reference to the prohibitions unambiguously stated in the Qur’an, that they would say with complete confidence that, “this is unlawful.” But, what was a derivative prohibition, or which relied on sources other than the Qur’an and hadith, they would rather use the word “undesirable” than the word “unlawful.”

    مَتَاعٌ قَلِيلٌ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (117)

    16|117| A little enjoyment, but for them (awaits) a painful chastisement.


    وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ هَادُوا حَرَّمْنَا مَا قَصَصْنَا عَلَيْكَ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۖ وَمَا ظَلَمْنَاهُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ كَانُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ (118)

    16|118| Unto those who Judized themselves, We had prohibited such things as We have narrated to you earlier.181 And We wronged them not but they were wronging themselves.182


    181. That was done in Surah al-An`am, in verse 146 which said,


    وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ هَادُوا حَرَّمْنَا كُلَّ ذِي ظُفُرٍ وَمِنَ الْبَقَرِ وَالْغَنَمِ حَرَّمْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ شُحُومَهُمَا إِلَّا مَا حَمَلَتْ ظُهُورُهُمَا أَوِ الْحَوَايَا أَوْ مَا اخْتَلَطَ بِعَظْمٍ ذَلِكَ جَزَيْنَاهُمْ بِبَغْيِهِمْ وَإِنَّا لَصَادِقُونَ [الأنعام : 146]


    “As for those who Judaized themselves, We forbade (the flesh of) every cloven-hoofed (animal). And of the cows and sheep, We forbade them their fat, except what clings to the backs or the entrails or that which adheres to the bones. That is how We recompensed them for their rebellion. Surely, We are True.”
    182. It means that no wrong was done to the Jews, but rather, they deserved that those things as referred to in the verse of Al-An`am be declared unlawful to them (Sayyid).

    ثُمَّ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لِلَّذِينَ عَمِلُوا السُّوءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ تَابُوا مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ وَأَصْلَحُوا إِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِنْ بَعْدِهَا لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (119)

    16|119| Nevertheless, surely your Lord, unto those who did evil deeds out of ignorance,183 but repented thereafter, and made amends .. surely your Lord is, after that, Most Forgiving, Most Kind.184


    183. It does not seem to be that by the term “ignorance,” (jahalah) the allusion is to the opposite of knowledge. Rather, it is to something that does not befit a man that he should do it. Alternatively, the allusion could be to crossing the bounds, acting savagely, dominating brutally, or tyrannize the people. The word has been used in this sense in the following hadith:

     


    اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّى أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أَضِلَّ أَوْ أُضَلَّ أَوْ أَزِلَّ أَوْ أُزَلَّ أَوْ أَظْلِمَ أَوْ أُظْلَمَ أَوْ أَجْهَلَ أَوْ يُجْهَلَ عَلَىَّ


    “O Allah I seek Your refuge that I should mislead or am misled, that I should slip or made to slip, tyrannize or am tyrannized, or act ignorantly, or that I should be treated ignorantly.”
    Although the above report of Abu Da’ud, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and others was evaluated by Albani as Sahih, Hathamiyy had declared it weak (Au.).
    And a Jahiliyy poet said,


    ألا، لا يجهَـلَنْ أحدٌ علـينا
    فنجهلَ، فوقَ جَهْلِ الجاهِلِيْنا


    Lo! Let no one act savagely towards us, or
    We shall act more savagely than the most savage of us
    (Alusi).
    184. That is, no matter how serious a man’s crime, that of disbelief, or that of declaring Allah’s lawful as unlawful, or vice versa; if a man repents and makes amends, Allah is always most ready to forgive him (Razi).

    إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ كَانَ أُمَّةً قَانِتًا لِلَّهِ حَنِيفًا وَلَمْ يَكُ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (120)

    16|120| Ibrahim185 was indeed a nation,186 devoted to Allah, (a man) of pure faith,187 and not (at all) of the idolaters.188


    185. Imam Razi writes on the connection: At various points this surah recounted false beliefs of the Makkan pagans, their allegations against the Prophets, unreasonable demands such as that the Messenger should have been one of the angels, declaration of what is lawful as unlawful and the unlawful as lawful, etc. Yet, they claimed allegiance to Ibrahim! So, in response, the surah ends with the reminder that Ibrahim (asws) was an uncompromising monotheists, strongly devoted to Allah, pure of faith, no idolater and a leader worth following (which is what the Final Prophet was doing).
    186. The translation as “nation” is literal. Several meanings have been suggested. In Majid’s words, “an exemplar, a model to be followed in true religion and piety. Ummah is also used, (as in Lane-Poole’s dictionary) in the sense of Imam.”
    It is reported that Abu ‘Abidayn went to Ibn Mas`ud and said, “If we do not ask you, then whom do we?” That humbled Ibn Mas`ud. Then the man asked, “Tell me about ummah.” Ibn Mas`ud replied, “Someone who teaches people good things.” On another occasion Ibn Nawfal heard Ibn Mas`ud say, “Mu`adh b. Jabal was an ummah, devoted to Allah, pure in faith.” Ibn Nawfal said to himself, “Wrong. It was Ibrahim who was an ummah ...” Ibn Mas`ud asked him, “Do you know what is an ummah, and what is a qanit?” I said, “Allah knows best.” He said, “Ummah is someone who teaches good and qanit someone who is obedient to Allah and His Messenger.” This report has reached us through a variety of chains (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir). Abu ‘Abidayn’s narration is in several books as well as in Hakim who declared it as trustworthy (Shawkani).
    Literally also, as Ibn al-A`rabi has said, ummah is used in the sense of a scholar. Ibn ‘Abbas however has stated that since there was none but Ibrahim alone, on the face of the earth, following the religion of Islam, he was referred to as a nation by himself (Shawkani). Zamakhshari suggests that it could be that he had combined in himself the qualities of a whole nation, and, therefore, a nation by himself. Hence, Imam Razi adds, the Prophet’s words about the well-known monotheists among the Makkans before his own advent, Zayd b. ‘Amr that, “Allah will raise him as an ummah.”
    Yusuf Ali adds other connotations: “Ummat: a model, pattern, example for imitation; but the idea that he was an Ummat in himself, standing alone against his world, should not be lost sight of.”
    187. A “hanif” is someone who turns away from all else to devote himself to Allah alone. Upright is another word that could be used (Au.).
    188. That is, he was not a pagan for the pagans of Makkah to claim allegiance to (Au.).

    شَاكِرًا لِأَنْعُمِهِ ۚ اجْتَبَاهُ وَهَدَاهُ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ (121)

    16|121| (He was) Very thankful for His favors. He chose him and guided him to a straight path.


    وَآتَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً ۖ وَإِنَّهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ (122)

    16|122| And We gave him Good in this world.189 And, in the Hereafter he shall be among the righteous.190


    189. That is, someone whose alliance is eagerly sought - Qatadah (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari).
    190. “Among the righteous” is a literal translation (Au.). The true meaning is, he is someone whose affairs would be made smooth in the Hereafter, who holds a high position with Allah, and who will treat him with great honor (Ibn Jarir). These words could be, Imam Razi adds, in response to Ibrahim’s own supplication (26: 83), “O Allah, grant me wisdom and join me with the righteous.”

    ثُمَّ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ أَنِ اتَّبِعْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا ۖ وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (123)

    16|123| Then191 We revealed unto you (O Muhammad) that ‘You follow the religion of Ibrahim, (a man) of pure faith, and not (at all) of the idolaters.’


    191. Asad voices the opinion of some commentators on the article “thumma”: “... this particle evidently alludes here to the climax of all revelation as manifested in the Qur’an..”

    إِنَّمَا جُعِلَ السَّبْتُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ ۚ وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَيَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فِيمَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ (124)

    16|124| The Sabbath was only appointed for those who differed over it.192 Surely, your Lord shall judge between them on the Day of Judgment concerning that over which they were differing.


    192. The Jews claimed to be on the religion of Ibrahim and that Sabbath observation was a part of the Ibrahimi religion. They were refuted by this verse (Alusi).
    Yusuf Ali writes: “If Abraham’s way was the right way, the Jews were ready with the taunt, ‘Why don’t you then observe the Sabbath?’ The answer is twofold. (1) The Sabbath has nothing to do with Abraham. It was instituted with the law of Moses because of Israel’s hardness of heart (ii. 74); for they constantly disputed with their Prophet Moses (ii. 108). (2) Which was the true Sabbath day? The Jews observe Saturday. The Christians, who include the Old Testament in their inspired Scripture, observe Sunday, and a sect among them (the Seventh Day Adventists) disagree, and observe Saturday. So there is disagreement among the people of the Book. Let them dispute among themselves. Their disputes will not be settled till the Day of Judgment. Meanwhile, Muslims are emancipated from such stringent restrictions. For them there is certainly the Day of United Prayer on Friday, but it is in no sense like the Jewish or the Scotch Sabbath!”
    What is implied by the words, “differed over it?” According to Qatadah, Suddi and Ibn Jubayr the allusion is to the fact that while some of the Jews accepted the Sabbath and its rules, others differed over it, and broke its rules (Ibn Jarir). Rather, Zamakhshari and Razi write, when instructed by Musa, a few of them accepted Friday as the day they would reserve for devotions, but the great majority differed and chose Saturday for themselves, on the grounds that God Himself rested on Saturday. Qadi `Ayad was also of this opinion (Alusi).
    The present day Bible confirms that God rested on the seventh day after His work of creation. It says (Gen., 2: 2-3): “And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his works which he had done” (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir writes: Allah had originally instructed Musa to treat Friday as the day when they should put on hold all worldly activities to free themselves for devotional acts. But the Jews changed it to Saturday. Indeed, there is a hadith in Muslim to this effect. It says,


    أَضَلَّ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عَن الْجُمُعَةِ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَنَا فَكَانَ لِلْيَهُودِ يَوْمُ السَّبْتِ وَكَانَ لِلنَّصَارَى يَوْمُ الْأَحَدِ فَجَاءَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ بِنَا فَهَدَانَا لِيَوْمِ الْجُمُعَةِ فَجَعَلَ الْجُمُعَةَ وَالسَّبْتَ وَالْأَحَدَ وَكَذَلِكَ هُمْ لَنَا تَبَعٌ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَنَحْنُ الْآخِرُونَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الدُّنْيَا وَالْأَوَّلُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ الْمَقْضِيُّ لَهُمْ قَبْلَ الْخَلَائِقِ


    “Allah did not guide others before us in the matter of Friday. So that Jews have Saturday and for Christians Sunday. Then Allah brought us out and guided us to Friday. So He made Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That is how they will follow us on the Day of Judgment. We are the last to appear in this world, but will be the first in the Next, and the first to be judged before anyone else of the creations.”
    A report close to this is in Bukhari also. Qurtubi however thinks that in view of the above hadith, (ref.: “Allah did not guide ...”) the Jews were not suggested any day. They

    ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُمْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ ضَلَّ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ ۖ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ (125)

    16|125| Call to the path of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation; and reason with them with that which is better.193 Indeed, your Lord knows very well those who have strayed away from the path as He knows well the rightly guided.194

    themselves chose and chose the wrong day: Saturday.
    193. The textual “ahsan” can be rendered both as “best” as well as “better.” Ibn Jarir understands it as “better.”
    What is the implication of the word anyway? Zamakhshari answers that it is that manner of ‘calling’ in which the well-meaning attitude and sincerity of the caller is plainly manifest. In Mawdudi’s words, “... (it consists in) counseling people in such a manner that one’s deep sympathy, compassion and concern for the people in question does not go unnoticed by them. One should be quite conscious of the fact that ‘counseling’ people should not be allowed to be misunderstood as an act emanating from the presumption of one’s own status, or of the inferior status of the audience.”
    Mawdudi also wrote, “Moreover, the arguments should appeal to good sense. Likewise, the statements made in the course of the discussion should be so couched as not to arouse obstinacy. In such discussions, one should try to express one’s viewpoint in a straightforward and elegant manner, taking good care not to arouse adamancy and egotistical feelings in the audience. However, as soon as one realizes that the other party has been so provoked as to cling, out of sheer obstinacy, to his viewpoint, one should put an end to the discussions. For continuing it any further might cause the other person to veer even further away from the truth.”
    We have a good example from the Imam of the callers of the last century: Mawlana Ilyas, founder of the Tablighi movement. While admonishing someone, he touched his hand. But the man, a coarse villager, reacted violently. He said, “How dare you touch my hand?” Mawlana Ilyas immediately caught his feet and said, “I am sure you will not be angry if I touched your feet.” The man of course crumbled and felt obliged to listen to his admonition. How many thousands did he not win on the strength of his sincerity alone!? (Au.)
    Imam Razi thinks, on good grounds of course, that broadly speaking there can be three kinds of people, each kind requiring a different approach from the caller: between wisdom (hikmah), goodly exhortation (maw`izatu al hasanah) to polemics (mujadalah). There is a kind of people that is of good knowledge, good nature. All that this class needs is a call blended with wisdom. A second kind is the corrupt, argumentative and incorrigible one: these people should be convinced with arguments better than theirs. Then there is a third kind, in between. They are neither scholarly, nor argumentative. They are the simple ones, on the nature on which they were created. They need to be addressed with goodly exhortation.
    But Alusi and others have emphasized that the message of the verse is to call to Allah’s path with words that penetrate the heart (hikmah), in the spirit of an admonition (maw`izah) said with extreme sincerity in an objective style (al-hasanah). And, if the discussion leads to debate, then, it should be conducted in a civilized manner, without hurting the opponent’s feelings (billati hiya ahsan).
    Mufti Shafi` has a long discourse on Da`wah. It needs attention at a time when there is sufficient proliferation of Da`wah works, but few seem to be doing it the right way. He remarks that although the field is filled with the callers, the results are not commensurable. There are several reasons for the ineffectiveness of the efforts. Firstly, the world is far too advanced in corruption, obscenity and hedonism to be ready to listen to voice of reason and piety. Secondly, those who are truly qualified to do the work do not seem to give as much time to this activity as the need is. (So, the cause is taken over by those who, although not qualified, have the great urge to spread the word of Islam: Au.). Thirdly, some of those who take up the task do it quite badly. More often than not, it is forgotten that this is a noble work, for Allah raised Messengers and Prophets for this noble task, whose guidelines alone should the caller keep before his eyes. For example, Musa and Harun (Allah’s peace on them) were instructed by Allah that as they go to Fir`awn, (20: 44),


    فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَيِّنًا لَعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَى [طه : 44]


    “Then say - the two of you - a soft word, haply he will accept admonition or will fear.”
    Today, the people a caller addresses are neither as bad as Fir`awn was, nor are they of the same status as the two Prophets. What right do ordinary mortals have then, to be harsh, criticize or taunt those whom he is supposed to reform? We might look at the conversations in the Qur’an between Prophets and their disbelieving nations. It is easy to see that in reply to the coarse talk, hurtful criticism, and vulgar taunts, the Prophets always responded with kind, considerate, and humble words. When the rejecters said, e.g. (7: 60),


    إِنَّا لَنَرَاكَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ [الأعراف : 60]


    “We see you clearly misguided,” they replied, in all earnest (7: 61),


    يَا قَوْمِ لَيْسَ بِي ضَلَالَةٌ وَلَكِنِّي رَسُولٌ مِنْ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ [الأعراف : 61]


    “My people! There is no error in me. Rather, I am a Messenger from the Lord of the worlds” Or, if they said (7: 66),


    إِنَّا لَنَرَاكَ فِي سَفَاهَةٍ وَإِنَّا لَنَظُنُّكَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ [الأعراف : 66]


    “We detect in you some foolishness. In fact, we suspect you to be one of the liars,” the undisturbed answer was (7: 67),


    يَا قَوْمِ لَيْسَ بِي سَفَاهَةٌ وَلَكِنِّي رَسُولٌ مِنْ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ [الأعراف : 67]


    “O my people! There is no foolishness in me. Rather I am a Messenger from the Lord of the worlds.” When Fir`awn asked in arrogant terms (26: 23),


    وَمَا رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ [الشعراء : 23]


    “And what is the Lord of the worlds?” Musa (asws) answered (26: 26),


    رَبُّكُمْ وَرَبُّ آبَائِكُمُ الْأَوَّلِينَ [الشعراء : 26]


    “Your Lord, and the Lord of your forefathers.” Fir`awn retorted angrily (26: 27),


    إِنَّ رَسُولَكُمُ الَّذِي أُرْسِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ لَمَجْنُونٌ [الشعراء : 27]


    “Indeed, the Messenger that has been sent to you is out of mind.” But Musa’s cool and collected answer was (26: 28),


    رَبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ [الشعراء : 28]


    “The Lord of the east and the west, and what is in between them, if you knew.”
    We see in these verses, whose citation can be multiplied, that a Prophet never responded to a taunt with a taunt. Our own Prophet observed decency in calling to Allah, and, in fact, never put anyone to shame, nor criticized in direct terms. When he observed any of his Companions doing wrong, he did not address him and did not name him during admonition. He would only say, “What is wrong with the people that they do such and such a thing.” (Although, he might have noticed only one person doing it).
    As for debates and polemics, Mufti Shafi` points out, they should not be, to begin, the first choice for a caller. He should resort to it only when forced by an opponent. And, when conducted, an important condition is that the objective should be to win the other man’s heart, and not create acrimony. As soon as it is discovered that the opponent is bent on obstinacy, he must be left alone to himself. For, if pressed further, it would only lead to hardened attitudes. On the other hand, the caller should examine himself. He should take care that as a consequence of a win over his opponent, (which is the only possible outcome, given the falsity of other religions: Au.), he should not be led to pride or arrogance, or self-conceit. These are major sins of the heart. Hence Imam Ghazali has said that just as wine is the mother of all external evils, to gain an upper hand in debates, and prove one’s mettle, for its own sake, is the mother of all internal evils. For, this leads to self-conceit, presumptuousness, arrogance, and happiness at other’s shortcomings. Imam Shafe`i has said, “Knowledge is a means of love and understanding between the scholars. But, those who have made a tool of hatred out of it, who call others simply to follow their own schools of thought, who only aim at defeating others in debates and talks, how can such people ever create love between themselves and those whom they call?” Imam Malik used to say, “Argumentation and debates chase away the light of knowledge from the heart.” He was asked, “A man has the knowledge of the Sunnah. Should he not argue with it?” He replied, “No. Let him merely let them know. If it is accepted, good. If not, then let him be silent.” Finally, the Prophet has said in a hadith of Ibn Majah:


    لَا تَعَلَّمُوا الْعِلْمَ لِتُبَاهُوا بِهِ الْعُلَمَاءَ وَلَا لِتُمَارُوا بِهِ السُّفَهَاءَ وَلَا تَخَيَّرُوا بِهِ الْمَجَالِسَ فَمَنْ فَعَلَ ذَلِكَ فَالنَّارُ النَّارُ


    “Do not learn in order to boast before scholars or to overwhelm the common people, nor seek a prominent place in the assemblies, (so as to turn people’s attention towards you). Whoever did that, then, Fire, Fire.” (The hadith is from the Sahih of Ibn Hibban).
    Quotation from Shafi` ends here.
    194. Yusuf Ali’s comment is quite pertinent. He writes, “It may be that the Preacher sometimes says to himself, ‘What is the use of teaching these people? They have made up their minds, or they are obstinate; or they are only trying to catch me out.’ Let him not yield to such a thought. Who knows how the seed of the Word of Allah may germinate in people’s minds? It is not for man to look for results. Man’s inner thoughts are better known to Allah.”
    There seems to be a message hidden here that while calling, a caller may not fall into the belief that he is superior to the one being called.: Your Lord knows very well those who have strayed away from the path as He knows well the rightly guide. Who knows the one called will overtake the caller sometime in your future? (Au.).

    وَإِنْ عَاقَبْتُمْ فَعَاقِبُوا بِمِثْلِ مَا عُوقِبْتُمْ بِهِ ۖ وَلَئِنْ صَبَرْتُمْ لَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لِلصَّابِرِينَ (126)

    16|126| And, if you retaliate, then retaliate with the like of which you were wronged. But, if you show patience, then, surely, that is better for the patient.195


    195. After reporting a variety of opinions, Ibn Jarir is inclined to believe that the meaning and purport of the verse is of a general nature: Muslims are instructed that whenever they retaliate, they should do in the same measure as they were wronged, although, to forgive would be better.
    The above general meaning seems to be more plausible if we consider the fact that soon after the revelation of these verses, the Muslims were to migrate to Madinah and were to be in a situation in which they could retaliate for wrongs done to them at Makkah (Au.).
    Nevertheless, Imam Ahmad has a hadith of Ubayy b. Ka`b which says that sixty of the Ansar and six of the Immigrants were killed on the day of Uhud. The Companions vowed that if they got a similar opportunity, they would disfigure the pagans as their dead had been disfigured. So, on the day of the fall of Makkah, someone remarked, “After this day the world will not know the Quraysh.” But, a crier cried out, “The Prophet has given the promise of peace to every black and white, except so and so, so and so” - naming them. Then Allah revealed, “And, if you retaliate, then retaliate with the like of which you were wronged. But, if you show patience, then, surely, that is better for the Patient.” And the Prophet said, “We shall endure with patience, and shall not retaliate” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above report is in Tirmidhi (to whom it was Hasan of status), ‘Abdullah b. Ahmad in Zawa’id, Nasa’i, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Khuzaymah in his Fawa’id, Ibn Hibban, Tabarani, Hakim (who declared it Sahih), Ibn Marduwayh, Bayhaqiyy in Dala’il, and Diya’ in Al-Mukhtar (Shawkani).
    Albani also declared it as Sahih as did Dhahabi earlier (S. Ibrahim). Ibn Is-haq has, as noted by several commentators, said that the last three verses of this chapter are Madinan, while the rest are Makkan (Au.).
    And the connection, between this and the last verse seems to be that the caller, who calls to Islam, will sometimes face situations as severely trying as the Prophet faced when he lost seventy of his men in one battle alone and his uncle Hamza’s body was disfigured. In such a situation, however, the most that is allowed is retaliation in equal measure, but, if he forgave it would be better for him (expanded on Alusi).

    وَاصْبِرْ وَمَا صَبْرُكَ إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ ۚ وَلَا تَحْزَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا تَكُ فِي ضَيْقٍ مِمَّا يَمْكُرُونَ (127)

    16|127| Endure then in patience;196 yet your patience is not but with (the help of) Allah.197 And do not grieve over them, nor be in any distress198 over what they plot.


    196. The earlier verse was for everyone. This verse specifically addresses the Prophet and all those who choose the higher order of moral principles, since observing patience in situations of severe trial, subdues the inner evil self (Thanwi and Ruh).
    197. Thanwi selected the following from Alusi’s Bab al-Isharah for his “Masa’il al-Suluk.” Those who know Arabic might better draw on the original: Of patience there are various kinds:

    (i) Patience for the sake of Allah (sabr li’Allah)
    This sabr is a necessary part of faith. This is to demonstrate stoic acceptance at the calamities, and at the loss of a dear thing. This is the lowest form of “sabr”;
    (ii) Patience in Allah (sabr fi’Allah):
    This is to stay firm on the true path of Allah - by forcing the inner self to submit, accept hardships and give up the pleasurable things;
    (iii) Patience with Allah (sabr ma`Allah):
    This is for the ahl al-kashf (those to whom some of the unknown is uncovered), who should take care not to be moved to an exceeding degree with the vision involving Allah’s Acts and Attributes. This kind of sabr is achieved by keeping the heart under control. It is tough on the soul but pleasing;
    (iv) Patience from Allah (sabr ‘ani’Allah):
    This is for those lovers, who, when they observe the Reality, are burnt in the fire of love, but, despite extreme desire for the repetition of the vision, do not lose their hold on patience and perseverance, and
    (v) Patience with the help of Allah (sabr bi’Allah):
    This is the highest form of “sabr.” It is for those whose persons Allah dissolved completely, leaving no trace of low-order traits, bestowing on them a new personality altogether from Himself. It is the share of the perfect, the Prophets, and Messengers, and is not possible of achievement without Allah’s own aid.

    198. The textual word is “dayq” which is a worrisome condition of heart, of order lower than “diq” (Zamakhshari), hence our translation as “distress” rather than “constriction” (Au.).

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ مُحْسِنُونَ (128)

    16|128| Verily, Allah is with those who are godfearing, and those who do (things) well.199


    199. It is reported that when Hayyan al-`Abdi was about to die people around him said, “Should you not leave a word of admonition and settle your will?” He replied, “I do not know what I should say or do. However, let me attempt. Sell my coat of mail and pay back my debts. If that is not enough, sell my horse. If that is also not enough, sell my slave. Finally, I admonish you with the ending verses of Al-Nahl, “Call to the path of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation; and reason with them with that which is better. Indeed, your Lord knows very well those who has strayed away from the path as He knows well the guided. And, if you retaliate, then retaliate to the extent to which you were wronged. But, if you show patience, then, surely, that is better for the patient. Endure then in patience; yet your patience is not but with (the help of) Allah. And do not grieve over them, nor be in any distress over what they plot. Verily, Allah is with those who are godfearing, and those who do (things) well” (Ibn Jarir).
    Yusuf Ali has an appropriate note: “... the Sura ends with the highest consolation which the religious can receive; the assurance that Allah is with them. A double qualification is indicated for so high an honor, - (1) that they should not yield to human passion or anger or impatience, and (2) that they should go on with constancy doing good all around them. To attain to the Presence of Allah in the sense of ‘I am with you’ is the culmination of the righteous man’s aspiration.” 