Surat Al-'Isrā'

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. 17

    Merits of the Surah

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ (1)

    17|1| Glorified is He3 who carried His slave4 by night5 from the Sacred Mosque6 to the Farthest Mosque,7 whose surroundings We have blessed8 - in order to show him of Our signs.9 He is indeed the Hearing, the Seeing.


    1. The Surah is also known by the name “Banu Isra’il”. According to a report of `A’isha in Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and Ahmad, the Prophet (saws) used to recite it every night in his prayer (Asad). Indeed, `A’isha’s narration names two chapters that the Prophet recited every night: this one and Al-Zumar (Alusi and others). Tirmidhi however evaluated the hadith as hasan, (a kind of weak report) - Shawkani.
    2. Except for two verses, this is a Makkan revelation. These two verses (numbered 76 and 80), in fact, were also revealed in Makkah, but, after its fall; to be precise, at the time the Thaqif delegation had arrived seeking peace with the Prophet (Razi). Qurtubi on the other hand says that three verses are Madinan: 76, 80 & 107. Alusi quotes Hasan’s opinion as five verses, and Qatadah’s as eight.
    3. “Sub-hana” has its root in “sabaha” which affords several meanings, the primary being,
    a) “free and fast movement through water or air, such as, e.g., [21: 33) 


    كُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ [الأنبياء : 33]


    “Everyone is swimming in its orbit.” A few other connotations are:
    (b) “distancing, or separating one (from another)” as in verse (73: 7),


    إِنَّ لَكَ فِي النَّهَارِ سَبْحًا طَوِيلًا [المزمل : 7]


    “Indeed, by day you have a prolonged occupation (which distances you from your Lord).”
    (c) “prayers (and devotional acts)” as in verse (37: 143),


    فَلَوْلَا أَنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُسَبِّحِينَ [الصافات : 143]


    “If only he had been one of those who prayed”;
    (d) “exception”, i.e., to say, ‘except that Allah wills’ (in sha Allah), as in verse (68: 28),


    قَالَ أَوْسَطُهُمْ أَلَمْ أَقُلْ لَكُمْ لَوْلَا تُسَبِّحُونَ [القلم : 28]


    “The moderate one said, ‘Did I not say to you, if only you would (say) ‘If Allah will.’”
    (e), “Nur (light)” as in a hadith of Muslim:


    حِجَابُهُ النُّورُ، وَلَوْ كَشَفَهُ لأَحْرَقَتْ سُبُحَاتُ وَجْهِهِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ أَدْرَكَهُ بَصَرُهُ


    “..(Light [Nur] is His veil; if He were to remove it, the Light of His Face would burn down everything, to the extent of His Sight” (Razi and Raghib).
    At this point, however, the meaning is to declare Allah (swt) free of any error or shortcoming (that humans can think of) - Qurtubi.
    4. It is unanimously agreed by the scholars that the highest position one can occupy in the sight of Allah, is to be referred by Him as a slave. Further, add Alusi and Thanwi, to mention the Prophet by this epithet, at this point, when he reached great heights, was perhaps meant to cure the Muslims of their habit of committing excesses in reverence of the Prophet. Finally, the journey helped the Prophet achieve perfect ma`rifah” And someone who achieved “ma`rifah” should better be designated an `abd. This is in view of another verse which says (51: 56),


    وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ [الذاريات : 56]


    “We have not created the Jinn and mankind but that they should worship Me,” where the phrase “li-ya`budun” has been explained by Ibn `Abbas as “li-ya`rifun” (i.e., they know Me).
    5. The original word “Asra” has its root in “Sara” meaning, “he traveled by night.” Asra therefore would mean, “he made (someone) travel by night.”
    “Why did Allah add laylan (a night),” - Zamakhshari raises a question, “when Asra itself means ‘He carried (him) by night?’” and answers that it is to emphasize that the journey, although normally of several months duration, started and ended by the same night, in a part of it.
    Majid therefore adds, quoting from Lane Poole’s Lexicon: “Laylan is here used instead of laylatan because they say asra laylatan meaning, he spent the whole night journeying,” (while laylan means a part of the night: Au.).
    That is, the journey did not occupy the whole night (Au.).
    6. Masjid al-Haram is so named because a few acts that are lawful elsewhere are forbidden (haraam) in this Mosque, such as, e.g., hunting or uprooting grass. A proper rendering in English therefore would be, as done by Marmaduke Pickthal, “The Inviolable House of Worship.” Further, although in a narrow sense the term Masjid al-Haraam is used for the mosque built around the Ka`bah, the term in its true sense, is applicable to the whole of the Haram area, which has been demarcated around the Grand Mosque (Au.).
    7. The allusion is to Bayt al-Maqdis in Jerusalem. It has been called the Furthest Mosque because, of the three mosques that the Muslims are allowed to travel to for a visit, this one happens to be the furthest after those of Makkah and Madinah (Ibn Jarir). Moreover, Thanwi points out, by the term “masjid” it is the land that is meant, (i.e., the plot of land), since, properly speaking, when we say masjid, the reference is not to the building but to the piece of land.
    Was there a mosque when the Prophet visited the site? Ibn Jarir Tabari’s “History” tells us that although the site had been converted into a garbage dumping area by the Romans, a part of the ruins of the original construction was still standing (Thanwi).
    Asad adds: “The juxtaposition of the two sacred temples is meant to show that the Qur’an does not inaugurate a ‘new’ religion but represents a continuation and the ultimate development of the same divine message which was preached by prophets of old.”
    Ahadith tell us that it was built forty years after the construction of the Ka`bah. As stated above, it is one of those three mosques to which one could journey, specifically, for Prayers. The other two, according to a hadith in Muwatta’, are the Prophet’s own mosque and the Masjid al-Haram. In view of this hadith, scholars have ruled that if someone vows to Pray in a particular mosque, but that requires him to journey to it, then he might not take up the journey, rather, Pray in any mosque. However, if he vows that he will pray in one of these three mosques, he must travel to them to fulfill his vow (Qurtubi).
    A Prayer in this mosque is equal to a thousand Prayers in other mosques. The report to this effect is in Ahmad, Abu Da’ud and Ibn Majah (Alusi).
    Yusuf Ali gives us a short history: “.. the Temple of Solomon (was) on the hill of Moriah. The chief dates in connection with the Temple are: it was finished by (started by David) Solomon about B.C. 1004; destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar about 586 B.C.; rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah about 515 B.C.; turned into a heathen idol-temple by one of Alexander’s successors Antiochus Epiphanes, 167 B.C.; restored by Herod, B.C. 17 to A.D. 29; and completely razed to the ground by the Emperor Titus in A.D. 70.”
    (Presently there is no trace of the Temple. It was perhaps completely wiped out of existence by Titus. According to Tabari the present Masjid al-‘Umar is the original site of the Temple. Near this Masjid al-‘Umar stands the Dome of the Rock: - presently, the building with the yellow dome. It is so named because directly under the Dome is the rock from where, according to common belief, the Prophet took off for the heavens during his Nocturnal Journey: Au.).
    Accurately speaking, Masjid Al-Aqsa refers neither to the Dome of the Rock, nor to the Masjid al-‘Umar (the latter completed by `Abdul Malik in A.H. 68). It is the name of a plot of land, several acres in area, over which stand the Masjid al-‘Umar, and, facing it, the Dome of the Rock. On one of the peripheries is a wall, known as the Wailing Wall, because the Jews come here to weep for the lost Temple. However, contrary to some people’s belief, there is no proof that this wall is a part of the defunct Solomon Temple. All the diggings around and under Masjid al-Aqsa have not given the Jews any clue about where the former Temple stood. And, tragically, without being certain of the site, their Temple cannot be built. Perhaps Divine Hand prevents Jews from re-building the Temple, destroyed when they rejected their Final Prophet - Jesus Christ - signifying that the spiritual leadership of the world is lost to them forever (Au.).
    Al-Isra’ wa al-Mi`raj (The Nocturnal Journey and Ascension)
    Ibn Kathir takes the pain to collect together all the ahadith that are found, anywhere in Hadith literature on this topic. Running into 35 pages, he presents, long and short, some forty reports, of various grades, trustworthy as well as otherwise. Shawkani is at the other extreme. He expresses his unhappiness over the method adopted by Ibn Kathir, and himself does not narrate any of them, advising the reader to go to biography works. Now, since every narration has some features that are not found in others, we shall, as usual, present a single, combined report relying on trustworthy narrations. Biographical works, such as that of Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, have also been used as source.
    The word mi`raj is constructed on the same pattern as mif`al, and yields the meaning of a “device for ascending.” Functionally, it is similar to a ladder. But it is not clear what exactly the mi`raj of the Prophet was.
    Most narrations lead us to believe that the event took place after the tenth year of the Prophet’s commissioning. Musa b. `Uqbah has narrated on the authority of Zuhri and `Urwah ibn Zubayr, that the journey took place a year before the Prophet’s migration to Madinah.
    This event followed the death of the Prophet’s uncle (who had all along protected him from his enemies), the death of his wife (who gave him tremendous moral support), and after he had received in Makkah and Ta’if tortures and afflictions of the worst kind ever.
    It was in Allah’s mercy to show a sign to the unbelievers before they could be condemned and punished. For Allah’s message is not such that when it is sent through a prophet, it may or may not be accepted by the people without serious consequences arising from the responses. When it is sent, it must be taken seriously. Therefore, before the condemnation and punishment of those who cried lies, Allah showed a very convincing sign. It was by way of the Prophet’s journey from Makkah to Jerusalem, from there to the Heavens and then back to Makkah, all within one night and with sufficient proofs for the most skeptic.
    The journey started from Umm Hani’s house where the Prophet (saws) was sleeping that night. Umm Hani was Abu Talib’s daughter, his cousin. (Her real name was Fakhita: Alusi). She narrates: “The Prophet wasn’t taken into his nocturnal journey but from my house. He did his night-prayers and then everyone went to bed. The next day we did the morning Prayer behind him. When it was over he said, “O Umm Hani. I did my night Prayer with you, as you saw me. Then I went up to Bayt al-Maqdis and Prayed in it. And then I did my morning Prayer along with you as you can see me now” (Ibn Jarir).
    Other reports lead us to believe that he was not taken to the journey directly from Umm Hani’s house. He was first taken to the Grand Mosque. Anas b. Malik narrates a report preserved by Bukhari. It says, “One night three angels came down to him while he was sleeping in the Mosque. (That was before he was commissioned). The first of the three asked, ‘Which one is he?’ The middle one replied, ‘He is the best of them.’ And the last one said, ‘Take the best one.’ The Prophet next saw them only when they came to him that night (the night of the mi`raj journey). He was in a state in which the heart sees while the eyes sleep. That is how the Prophets are: their eyes sleep but their hearts are awake. They did not speak to him. They carried him to the Zamzam well where Jibril took over.
    According to another report in Bukhari, the Prophet said, “The roof of my house was opened while I was in Makkah. Jibril came down ... I was in the Hatim" - or he said: “while I was in Hijr, lying down, when someone appeared and slit open (the breast: Au.).” He (Qatadah, the narrator) said, ‘I heard him say,’ “he cut open from here to here;” I (Qatadah) asked Jarud (a listener) who happened to be by my side, ‘What does he mean?’ He said, ‘From the cavity in the neck down until the navel.’ I also heard him say, ‘From the breastbone up to the navel’ - “He removed my heart. Then a golden tray filled with faith was produced. My heart was washed and filled with the contents of the tray. (Other reports say the breast was filled with faith and wisdom). Then a beast was brought: bigger than a mule, smaller than a horse - white.” Jarud asked, `Was that Buraq, O Abu Hamzah?’ Anas replied, ‘Yes.’ It placed its (one foot on the ground, and another) foot where the sight ended (at the horizon). (It was saddled). According to a report in Bayhaqi, the Prophet said, “Prophets before me had also used it.” I was asked to mount it. Jibril started off with me until we reached Bayt al-Maqdis (in Jerusalem). [The Prophet rode upon it with Jibril holding the stirrup and Mika’il the reins: Alusi].
    Bayhaqi’s report adds: “As I was traveling, a man called me from the right side, ‘Here, Muhammad, I want to talk to you.’ I did not answer. Then (a little further) another man called me from the left side, ‘Here , Muhammad, I want to talk to you.’ I paid no attention to him. And, as I traveled further up, I saw a woman, well dressed and with all kinds of jewelry on. She said, ‘Here, Muhammad, I wish to speak to you.’ But I paid no attention.” It was later explained by Jibril that the first was a Jew and the second a Christian. They both wished to distract him. As for the woman, she was the world. If the Prophet had paid any attention to her, his ummah would have fallen for the world preferring it over the Hereafter.
    “I tied it by the ring used by earlier Prophets. Then I entered the Mosque and offered two cycles of Prayer. As I came out Jibril brought me two bowls: one filled with wine and the other with milk. I chose milk. Jibril told me: ‘Your choice fell on nature.’ Then he took me up to the heavens.” Other reports suggest that he Prayed with the previous Prophets before he ascended. Adam (asws) and all those Prophets who came after him had assembled for him to lead in the Prayers.
    Then he ascended together with Jibril until they reached the heaven nearest to this world. (An angel called Isma`il is its keeper: Bayhaqi). Jibril asked to be let in. It was inquired: ‘Who is it?’
    He replied: ‘Jibril.’
    It was asked: ‘Who is with you?’
    He replied: ‘Muhammad.’
    It was asked: ‘Has he been invited?’
    He replied: ‘Yes.’
    It was said: ‘Welcome to him. The best one ever to be invited has arrived.’
    So it was opened. As I entered I came across Adam. Jibril told me: ‘This is your father. Greet him.’ So I greeted him. He returned the greetings and said: ‘Welcome to a righteous son and a righteous Prophet.’"
    According to other reports, he saw Adam with a multitude on his right and a multitude on his left. When he looked at those at his right he smiled; and when he looked at those at his left, he wept. Jibril explained that the multitudes on his right and left were the souls of his progeny. Those at the right were the people of Paradise and those at the left the people of Hell.
    “Then he ascended,” (continues the transmitter), “until he reached the second heaven and sought it to be opened. It was inquired: ‘Who is it?’
    He replied: ‘Jibril.’
    It was asked: ‘Who is with you?’
    He replied: ‘Muhammad.’
    It was asked: ‘Has he been invited?’
    He replied: ‘Yes.’
    It was said: ‘Welcome to him. The best one ever to be invited has arrived.’
    As I entered, I encountered Yahya and `Isa. They were cousins. (Other reports add: “`Urwah ibn Mas`ud is closest to `Isa in appearance. He was middle-sized, fair complexioned, with curly hair and of a sharp gaze).
    Jibril said: ‘These are Yahya and `Isa. Greet them.’ I greeted them and they returned the greetings. They said: ‘Welcome to a righteous brother and a righteous Prophet.’"
    “Then he ascended,” (continues the transmitter), “until he reached the third heaven and sought it to be opened. It was inquired: ‘Who is it?’
    He replied: ‘Jibril.’
    It was asked: ‘Who is with you?’
    He replied: ‘Muhammad.’
    It was asked: ‘Has he been invited?’
    He replied: ‘Yes.’
    It was said: ‘Welcome to him. The best one ever to be invited has arrived.’
    As I entered, I met Yusuf.
    Jibril said: ‘This is Yusuf. Greet him.’ I greeted him. He returned the greetings and said: ‘Welcome to a righteous brother and a righteous Prophet.’"
    “Then he ascended,” (continues the transmitter), “until he reached the fourth heaven and Jibril sought it to be opened. It was inquired: ‘Who is it?’
    He replied: ‘Jibril.’
    It was asked: ‘Who is with you?’
    He replied: ‘Muhammad.’
    It was asked: ‘Has he been invited?’
    He replied: ‘Yes.’
    It was said: ‘Welcome to him. The best one ever to be invited has arrived.’
    As I entered, I met Idris.
    Jibril said: ‘This is Idris. Greet him.’ I greeted him. He returned the greetings and said: ‘Welcome to a righteous brother and a righteous Prophet.’"
    “Then he ascended,” (continues the transmitter), “until he reached the fifth heaven and Jibril sought it to be opened. It was inquired: ‘Who is it?’
    He replied: ‘Jibril.’
    It was asked: ‘Who is with you?’
    He replied: ‘Muhammad.’
    It was asked: ‘Has he been invited?’
    He replied: ‘Yes.’
    It was said: ‘Welcome to him. The best one ever to be invited has arrived.’
    As I entered, I came upon Harun. He had a long beard almost extending up to his navel.
    Jibril said: ‘This is Harun. Greet him.’ I greeted him. He returned the greetings and said: ‘Welcome to a righteous brother and a righteous Prophet.’"
    “Then he ascended,” (continues the transmitter), “until he reached the sixth heaven and Jibril sought it to be opened. It was inquired: ‘Who is it?’
    He replied: ‘Jibril.’
    It was inquired: ‘Who is with you?’
    He replied: ‘Muhammad.’
    It was asked: ‘Has he been invited?’
    He replied: ‘Yes.’
    It was said: ‘Welcome to him. The best one ever to be invited has arrived.’
    As I entered, I came across Musa. He was a huge dark man. His body thickly covered with hair.
    Jibril said: ‘This is Musa. Greet him.’ I greeted him. He returned the greetings and said: ‘Welcome to a righteous brother and a righteous Prophet.’"
    As I left him behind he began to weep. He was asked: ‘What makes you cry?’ He replied: ‘I cry because a young man sent after me will have greater number of followers entering Paradise than from my followers.’
    “Then he ascended,” (continues the transmitter), “until he reached the seventh heaven and Jibril sought it to be opened. It was inquired: ‘Who is it?’
    He replied: ‘Jibril.’
    It was asked: ‘Who is with you?’
    He replied: ‘Muhammad.’
    It was asked: ‘Has he been invited?’
    He replied: ‘Yes.’
    It was said: ‘Welcome to him. The best one ever to be invited has arrived.’
    As I entered, I came upon Ibrahim. (Another report adds, “He was closest to me in appearance).” Jibril said: ‘This is your father. Greet him.’ I greeted him. He returned the greetings and said: ‘Welcome to a righteous son and a righteous Prophet.’"
    (According to another report, Ibrahim was found resting against the Bayt al-Ma’mur (the Much-frequented House). Everyday 70,000 angels enter into it, and never have the chance to come back to it.
    Then I was taken up further until I reached the Lote Tree at the farthest end (Sidratu al-Muntaha). I found its fruit (as large as) that of Hijr (a place in the north of Hijaz); and its leaves as large as the ears of an elephant. He told me: ‘This is the Lote Tree at the Farthest End.’ I found four rivers (springing out from) there: two internal and two external. I asked: ‘What are these Jibril?’ He replied: ‘The internal ones are the rivers of Paradise, and the external ones are Nile and Euphrates.’
    Then I was taken up to the Bayt al-Ma`mur. There I was presented with a cup of wine, a cup of milk and a cup of honey. I chose milk. Jibril remarked: ‘That’s the natural thing (you did). You and your followers shall follow it.’
    Then fifty Prayers a day were declared obligatory for me. I returned and came across Musa. He asked: ‘What have you been ordered?’ I replied: ‘I have been ordered fifty Prayers a day.’ He said: ‘Your followers will not be able to do fifty Prayers a day. By Allah, I tested the people before you, and bore great pains with the Children of Isra’il. Return to your Lord and seek concession for your followers.’
    I returned. Allah took off ten of them from me. I returned to Musa. He repeated what he had said earlier. So I returned. Allah took off ten more of them from me. I returned to Musa and he told me what he had told me earlier. So I returned and Allah took off another ten from me. I returned to Musa and he repeated what he had said earlier. So I returned and I was ordered ten Prayers a day. I returned but Musa said the same thing. So I went back and Allah ordered me five Prayers a day. I returned to Musa and he asked: ‘What have you been ordered?’ I said: ‘I have been ordered five Prayers a day.’ He said: ‘Your followers will not be able to do five Prayers a day. I have tested the people before you, and bore great pains with the Children of Isra’il. Return to you Lord and seek further concession.’
    “The Prophet replied to him,” (continues the narrator): ‘I have made requests to my Lord to the point of being reduced to shame. I would rather be satisfied and submit.’
    (According to the version in Bukhari, he was told at one point, “O Muhammad. My Words do not change. That is how it has been written for you in the Umm al-Kitab (Mother of the Book): Every good deed will be rewarded with ten of its like. These are fifty in the Umm al-Kitab, and they are five for you.”
    “The Prophet continued,” says the narrator, “When I crossed (the heaven) a caller called out: ‘I have kept my Word and have granted a decrease to My slaves.’”
    Other reports offer us some more details. Such as, the Prophet’s words, “On the night that I was taken on to my Night Journey, I passed by Musa. He stood in Prayer in his grave (Muslim).” Another narration reports the Prophet’s words that when he ascended to the seventh heaven, he was taken up to a point from where he could hear the movement of the Pens. He also saw four rivers there: two hidden and two visible. He was told by Jibril, “The two hidden rivers are those of Paradise, while the two visible ones are Nile and Euphrates.” Thereafter he spoke about the Prayers being made obligatory. “Then,” he continued, “He took me further up until we reached the end of the Lote Tree. It was engulfed in indescribable colors. After that I entered into Paradise and lo, it was all domes and the ground all musk.”
    According to reports in Abu Da’ud and Ahmad, the Prophet passed by a people who had nails of copper with which they were scratching (their flesh out) from their faces and breasts. He asked who they were. Jibril told him, “These are those who ate the flesh of the people (i.e., committed back-biting) and slandered their honor.” He also passed by a people who had before them good meat. But they chose to eat from the most foul-smelling, putrid, rotten meat. On enquiry he was told that those were a people who used to prefer the unlawful over the lawful in the life of the world. He also passed by a people who were eating red hot coals that they put in their mouths which came out through their anuses. He was told that these were people who devoured the wealth of the orphans. Allah said about them in the Qur’an (4: 10), “Surely, those who devour the property of the orphans, are filling their bellies with nothing but fire.” He also came across women hung by their breasts. They were the adulterers. And, he came across men who had huge bellies, so huge that they were hampered in their movements. A horde of the Fir`awn’s folk trampled them morning and evening (as they were driven to the Fire, morning and evening). The people with big bellies were those who devoured usury.
    It is also reported that the Prophet heard some noise. He asked what it was. Jibril replied, “This is Bilal’s footsteps.” He also noticed a very tall, red blue man. On inquiry he was told that he was the man who had slaughtered Salih’s camel. He also saw Dajjal. He was very tall, broad, with a fair complexion. One of his eyes stood out like a shining star. The hair on his head looked like branches of a tree.
    Reports give us to believe that the return journey was also via Bayt al-Maqdis. Tirmidhi recorded on the authority of Shaddad b. Aws, “... Then we moved on and passed by a Quraysh camel in such and such a place. Their camel had strayed away. So and so was in charge of them. I greeted them. Some of them remarked, ‘This is Muhammad’s voice.’ Then I returned to my homefolk before dawn.”
    Buraq was the means of travel for the journey from Makkah to Bayt al-Maqdis and then back to Makkah. Whereas, for the journey up, to the heavens, the Prophet always used the words, “I was raised up” (`urija bi) without mentioning the means. Some reports say, “A ladder was set up” which he used for ascension. For sure, Buraq was not used for going up.
    As it should happen, as the Prophet went out, he met Abu Jahl. He asked him mockingly, “Any news?” The Prophet told him about his journey. Abu Jahl did not wish to express his disbelief in fear of the Prophet retracting his story. So he asked him, “Supposing I gathered the people, will you repeat the story before them?” When the Prophet said yes, he hurried away to gather the people. When they came and the Prophet told them all that had happened, they greeted him with skepticism. Someone who had been to Jerusalem (while it was known that the Prophet had never been there) asked him to describe what Bayt al-Maqdis looked like. Allah brought it before his eyes so that he was able to see and describe the details they wanted. They said, “So far as the description goes, he is right.” Nevertheless, they refused to believe on grounds that he could not go to Syria and come back within a single night when they took two months to do it. In fact, many Muslims also apostatized on that ground.
    When Abu Bakr was told of the story, he said, “By Allah, if he claims that, it must be true. Why should you be in doubt about it? Does he not say that he receives news from the heavens at any time of the night or day? Is that not more miraculous?” Then he went up to the Prophet and asked him to describe the places. When he had done that, he said, “I testify that you are Allah’s Messenger.” The Prophet told him, “You are Siddiq.” And from that day Abu Bakr came to be known as the Siddiq.
    Nature of the Journey
    Qadi `Ayad has written: “Scholars have differed between themselves over the Prophet’s Nocturnal Journey and Ascension. It has been said that all of it took place in sleep. (‘A’isha, Hasan al-Busri and Mu`awiyyah are said to have held this opinion: Au.). But the truth on which the people are, along with most of the earliest scholars, most of those who followed them, jurists, traditionists and scholastics, is that it was a physical journey. Most narratives point to this. Varied opinions require evidence..”
    Ibn Hajr said, “The Nocturnal Journey and Ascension took place in the state of wakefulness, with the body and soul, after the Prophet had been commissioned. This is the opinion of the great majority of scholars, traditionists, jurists and scholastics. All evidences point to this. It is not right to differ from this opinion. Reason plays no role in it for one to resort to interpretations.”
    `Urjun has said, “This ummah is one in this - except for a few varied opinions which in fact have not come to us through trustworthy reports such as those of `A’isha, Mu`awiyyah and Hasan al-Busri. Allah opened the chapter (Al-Isra’) with the words of glorification to symbolically express His Powers and to emphasize that nothing is greater than His Power .. Any opening with the mention of the words of glorification is not employed (in the Qur’an) except for events extraordinary, such as those that the reason does not easily accept...” Then he added, “The word `Abd in the starting verse is not used in the Arabic language but for body and soul together. So also, the words, ‘The eye did not deviate nor did it transcend’ also speak of someone with body and soul. Now, Hasan al-Busri’s narration was unknown during the time of the Companions. It is an entirely new opinion. As for `A’isha, she was not yet the Prophet’s wife, (Qurtubi wrote: Au.), she was too young at the time of the event. (At least less than 9 years old: Au.). She does not quote other people’s opinion on which her own opinion rests. In other words, this is not a hadith. Moreover, Khifaji has shown that the chain of narrators has Muhammad ibn Is-haq in it who was treated as a weak narrator by scholars like Imam Malik and others. In contrast, the narrations to the opposite view are stronger...” Zarqani has said, “A careful study of her words shows that she too was inclined to believe that the Ascension was with body and soul. For, she denied that Muhammad saw his Lord with his eyes. If she had been of the opinion that the Prophet was in his sleep, she would not have had to deny the Vision. (What she would have said is, “there is no point in discussing the Beatific Vision, since, to begin with, it was the soul that had ascended: Au.). As regards Mu`awiyyah’s opinion, it was expressed after the opinion had been reached by consensus that the Journey was with the body and soul. (Therefore, attention cannot be paid to it: Au.). It is another thing that Mu`awiyyah’s opinion lacks a strong chain of narration, coming down as it does, through Ibn Is-haq. Even if it is demonstrated that it was truly his opinion, it would not be of much weight since it is a personal opinion formed after the consensus of the Companions had already been reached. And, such an opinion cannot cancel out the consensus. (In fact, he was an unbeliever at the time the event took place: Qurtubi). As for Hasan, two opinions have been reported as his. One of them says the Prophet was then awake.”
    Again, if the Nocturnal Journey and Ascension took place during his sleep, there was no reason for the Quraysh to deny, nor would have some of the Muslims apostatized. What was the problem in accepting that the Prophet’s soul ascended? Finally, the manner and presentation of the incident in the chapter Al-Isra’ is strongly suggestive of the Journey in wakefulness, in body and soul as `Urjun and others have maintained” (Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah).
    Moreover, “the act of seeing” or “transgression” alluded to in verse 17 of Surah Al-Najm: “And the sight did not err, nor did it transgress,” are not applicable to souls (Qurtubi).
    Further, some reports say that the Prophet’s bed was still warm. Why did they have to say that it was still warm if the body never left the bed? (Au.)
    Finally, some people are misled by the words of a hadith in which Shurayk ended the narration by reporting the Prophet’s words, “then I woke up.” This has led some people to think that perhaps the journey took place during his sleep. But there are several other narrations, passed on to us by more reliable narrators who emphasized the opposite. One way perhaps, of reconciling the two opinions, concerning the body and soul could be as follows: the journey took place several times, or, at least, more than once. Many scholars have expressed this opinion. Variant reports also suggest this. Therefore, we can say that it is possible that Allah first took his soul alone to the heavens, in order for him to be mentally prepared for the next journey with body and soul together (Thanwi).
    The words, “Then I woke up” could also refer to the sleep after the journey had ended (Au.).
    To continue: The next morning when the Prophet spoke of his journey to his aunt, she, although a believer, strongly urged him not to announce this to the Quraysh, to whom, she feared, this might become another point of ridicule. But the Prophet pulled his shirt off her clutching hands and left saying, “By God, I shall tell them.”
    Umm Hani’s fears were true. The Quraysh had a good laugh. In fact even some Muslims, weak in faith, turned apostate. The strong in faith were led by Abu Bakr who, when questioned if he still believed in the Prophet, said, “Why not! I believe in greater wonders. I believe that an angel comes down to him revealing the Qur’an.” Wary of him and the likes of him, the Quraysh turned to the Prophet. They asked him both serious as well as absurd questions to which he replied in his usual calm manner. Finally they said: “Alright. You say you have been to Jerusalem. Agreed. Tell us what Jerusalem looks like.” Now all the journeys that the Prophet had made to Syria prior to his prophethood were in the company of Quraysh. They were aware that he had never been into Jerusalem. So they thought that at last they had caught him on the wrong foot. But to their surprise he described the city in such detail as if it was before his eyes. In fact, it was then before his eyes, as he himself explained later. For, when they asked details, which only a person who had visited the city several times could answer, Allah brought the city before his eyes, so that he looked into it and answered them to their satisfaction.
    He also told them that while on his way back from Jerusalem a camel belonging to a caravan, passing through such and such a glen, had bolted away “and I showed them where it stood.” Also, on the way back to Makkah, he passed by a caravan that had kept some water in a pitcher during the night halt. He had drunk out of it and replaced the lid. The caravan was advancing towards Makkah and was headed by a camel loaded with such and such goods. To the amazement of the Quraysh the caravan did arrive headed by the same kind of camel as described by the Prophet, and its people admitted that the water pitcher was found empty despite the lid. Later, when the other caravan was also back they inquired about the camel that had bolted away, and they said, “Quite right. A camel had bolted away and we heard a man calling us to it so that we were able to recover it!”
    In the other chapter, Al-Najm, Allah spoke of the Ascension to the heavens and the benefits thereof. He said (v. 13-18),


    وَلَقَدْ رَآهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَى (13) عِنْدَ سِدْرَةِ الْمُنْتَهَى (14) عِنْدَهَا جَنَّةُ الْمَأْوَى (15) إِذْ يَغْشَى السِّدْرَةَ مَا يَغْشَى (16) مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَى (17) لَقَدْ رَأَى مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَى [النجم : 13 - 18]


    “Surely he saw him (Arch-angel Jibril) a second time (in his original form), near the Farthest Lote Tree. Thereat is the Garden of Abode. When the Lote was covering what was covering. The eye did not deviate, nor did it transcend. Surely, he saw great signs of his Lord.”
    Differences have also prevailed between the Companions over whether the Prophet saw Allah with his physical eyes. The opinion of the majority is that he saw Him with his inner vision and not with the physical eyes. As for Allah’s words (53: 11-13),


    مَا كَذَبَ الْفُؤَادُ مَا رَأَى (11) أَفَتُمَارُونَهُ عَلَى مَا يَرَى (12) وَلَقَدْ رَآهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَى [النجم : 11 - 13]


    “The heart did not falsify what he saw. Will you then dispute what he saw? Indeed, he saw him at a second descent” - trustworthy reports coming from the Prophet tell us that the allusion here is to Jibril. The Prophet saw him twice in the form and shape in which he (Jibril) has been created. As for Allah’s words in verse 8 of chapter al-Najm:
    ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلَّى [النجم : 8]
    “Then he came near and hung suspended,” the words “near” and “hung suspended” are not related to the night journey at all. Also, they are speaking of Jibril who “neared” and who “hung suspended” as `A’isha and Ibn Mas`ud (maintained). Allah said (Al-Najm, 5-8):


    عَلَّمَهُ شَدِيدُ الْقُوَى (5) ذُو مِرَّةٍ فَاسْتَوَى (6) وَهُوَ بِالْأُفُقِ الْأَعْلَى (7) ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلَّى [النجم : 5 - 8]


    “He was taught by one mighty in power (i.e. Jibril), very strong, who stood poised, being on the upper horizon. Then he came near and hung suspended.”
    Furthermore, just as any other human being, a “slave” is composed of two elements: the body and the soul. This is common knowledge. The journey then had to be with the combination. Nor is it an impossible feat for the intellect. If it is impossible to think of a human being ascending to the heavens, it is impossible for the angels to descend down from there. Such an assumption will lead to the denial of Prophethood itself.
    Reports concerning the Prophet’s Nocturnal Journey and Ascension, reach tawatur status. They were narrated by several Companions including such figures as `Umar ibn al-Khattab, `Ali ibn Abi Talib, Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Malik b. Sa`sa`, Abu Dharr, Abu Hurayrah, Abu Sa`id, Shaddad b. Aws, Ubay b. Ka`b, Jabir, Hudhayfah, Buraydah, Abu Ayyub, Samurah b. Jundab, Umm Hani’, `A’isha, Asma’, and several others (Ibn Kathir and others).
    A mutawatir report reaches the status of a Qur’anic verse in terms of belief requirement. In other words, it is as necessary to believe in a mutawatir report as in a Qur’anic verse.
    Nonetheless, it might also be noted, says Alusi, that the Qur’an only mentions “Isra” (the Nocturnal Journey). It does not mention “Mi`raj” (except by implication in Surah Al-Najm), perhaps out of Allah’s mercy since the denial of an explicit statement entails disbelief (Thanwi).
    Majid writes: “Asin, the Madrid professor of Arabic, has traced the great influence this Islamic literature had on Dante and other Christians of the Middle Ages. ‘Embellished by later accretions, this miraculous trip still forms a favorite theme in mystic circles in Persia and Turkey, and a Spanish scholar considers it the original source of Dante’s Divine Comedy’ (Hitti, p. 114).”
    8. The allusion is both to material, such as fruits and vegetation, as well as spiritual blessings, viz. the place is the burial ground of several Prophets and Messengers (Razi). A hadith of the Prophet reports that Allah said,


    يا شام يدي عليك يا شام أنت صفوتي من بلادي أدخل فيك خيرتي من عبادي


    “O Syria. My hand is on you. You are the best of My lands and I shall drive the best of My slaves to you” (Qurtubi).
    Haythami remarked about the above report that it is fairly trustworthy (Au.).
    9. The exact implication of the words “min ayatina” is: “some of my signs,” or, in other words, “a few of my signs.” For example, the Prophet said that when he was there above the seventh heaven, he heard the sounds of Pens, which implies that he did not see the Pens themselves. Thus, he was shown “some signs.”

    وَآتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ وَجَعَلْنَاهُ هُدًى لِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَلَّا تَتَّخِذُوا مِنْ دُونِي وَكِيلًا (2)

    17|2| And We gave Musa the Book and made it a source of guidance for the children of Israel that: ‘take not unto yourselves a trustee besides Me.’10


    10. Asad explains the term wakil:: “The term ‘wakil’ denotes ‘one who is entrusted with the management of [another person’s] affairs’, or ‘is responsible for [another person’s] conduct.’ When applied to God, it is sometimes used in the sense of ‘guardian’ (e.g., in 3: 173), or ‘defender’ (e.g., in 4: 109), or - in combination with the phrase `ala kulli shay’in (as, e.g., in 6: 102 or 11: 12) - in the sense of ‘the one who has everything in His care.”
    11. The addition of “O” follows the understanding of many of the Salaf such as Mujahid (Qurtubi and others).

    ذُرِّيَّةَ مَنْ حَمَلْنَا مَعَ نُوحٍ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَبْدًا شَكُورًا (3)

    17|3| O11 descendants of those We bore with Nuh. Surely, He was a thankful servant.12


    12. That is, ‘O the descendants of those whom We saved and carried in the ship with Nuh, follow the footsteps of your forefather and thank Allah for the blessing as he thanked.’ Indeed, a hadith of the Prophet in Muslim says,


    إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَيَرْضَى عَنِ الْعَبْدِ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ الأَكْلَةَ فَيَحْمَدَهُ عَلَيْهَا أَوْ يَشْرَبَ الشَّرْبَةَ فَيَحْمَدَهُ عَلَيْهَا


    “Allah is pleased with a servant who, when he eats or drinks something, thanks Allah for it” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَقَضَيْنَا إِلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ فِي الْكِتَابِ لَتُفْسِدُنَّ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَّتَيْنِ وَلَتَعْلُنَّ عُلُوًّا كَبِيرًا (4)

    17|4| And We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Book13 that twice you will do mischief in the land,14 and you will rise exceedingly high (in arrogance).


    13. That is, it was revealed and written in the Scriptures given to the Israelites that twice they will spread great corruption in the land (Ibn Kathir), “.. probably applying to predictions contained in the Torah (Leviticus xxvi, 14-39 and Deuteronomy xxviii, 15-68) as well as prophesies of Isiah, Jeremiah, John and Jesus” (Asad).
    14. Since we know from the Qur’an itself that the Israelites had rebelled not twice but many times in the land, the allusion here therefore can only be to major rebellious acts, or, alternatively, as Asad put it, “to two distinct, extended periods of their history.”

    فَإِذَا جَاءَ وَعْدُ أُولَاهُمَا بَعَثْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ عِبَادًا لَنَا أُولِي بَأْسٍ شَدِيدٍ فَجَاسُوا خِلَالَ الدِّيَارِ ۚ وَكَانَ وَعْدًا مَفْعُولًا (5)

    17|5| So, when the promise of the first of the two came to pass,15 We sent upon you Our slaves16 - those of great military might; and they entered the inmost parts of the homes.17 That was a promise that came to pass.


    15. The earlier and the later scholars could not come to any agreement over the identification of the first or second group which prevailed over the Israelites (Ibn Kathir). Ibn `Abbas, (in one of his two opinions), as well as Sa`id b. Jubayr, Hasan and Qatadah have identified Nebuchadnezzar as the one who led the first destructive assault. He destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple, burned down every copy of the Torah, leaving not one word in writing, killed seventy thousand Israelites, and led away as prisoner-slaves a hundred thousand of them including such prominent personalities as Daniel, Ezra, and others (Ibn Jarir).
    The Israelites remained in slavery in Babylon for seventy years. It was a Persian attack on Babylon that freed them. They then returned to Jerusalem. And, apart from the general corruption among the Israelites, the Divine anger was provoked by the following incident. The Israeli ruler wished (Herodotus: Ibn Jarir’s history), to marry his niece which Yahya, the son of Zakariyyah, declared unlawful. Enraged, the niece got her paramour drunk and demanded that he order Yahya’s head be brought on a tray. He complied, which signaled the beginning of the assault (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali writes: “... it may be that the two occasions refer to (1) the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonean Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., when the Jews were carried off into captivity, and (2) the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in A.D. 70, after which the Temple was never rebuilt.”
    16. Majid writes: “In the Bible also the epithet ‘my servant’ is applied to Nebuchadnezzar (Je 25: 9).” It is also possible, writes Thanwi, that since Allah’s punishment was delivered at their hands, for a good purpose - removal of the corrupt from the lands - the attackers and destroyers were referred to as “Our slaves.” Nevertheless, note that as against `abdihi (His slave), Allah (swt) did not say ‘ibadina, rather, ‘ibadan-lana which gives a sort of a generic sense (Shafi`).
    Yusuf Ali further clarifies the surprise usage of the honorable term `ibad: “They were servants of Allah in the sense that they were instruments through which the wrath of Allah was poured out on the Jews..”
    17. “Jasu” affords several connotations. To go in and out of houses with the intention of destruction; to search; to go about looking if someone is left alive, etc., are the possible meanings, and, as Wahidi has said, the word could have been brought here to carry all these connotations (Razi).

    ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَا لَكُمُ الْكَرَّةَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَمْدَدْنَاكُمْ بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ أَكْثَرَ نَفِيرًا (6)

    17|6| Then We gave back to you the turn to prevail over them,18 and extended you with wealth and progeny and made you more numerous in manpower (than you ever were).19


    18. Asad comments, “.. apparently a reference to the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity in the last quarter of the sixth century B.C., the partial re-establishment of their state, and the building of a new temple in place of the one that had been destroyed.”
    19. These words draw special significance when we keep the fact before us that a large number of the Israelites were killed during the first major assault on them, greatly reducing their population (Au.).

    إِنْ أَحْسَنْتُمْ أَحْسَنْتُمْ لِأَنْفُسِكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ أَسَأْتُمْ فَلَهَا ۚ فَإِذَا جَاءَ وَعْدُ الْآخِرَةِ لِيَسُوءُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَلِيَدْخُلُوا الْمَسْجِدَ كَمَا دَخَلُوهُ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَلِيُتَبِّرُوا مَا عَلَوْا تَتْبِيرًا (7)

    17|7| If you did well, you did well for your yourselves; and if you did evil, then unto your own souls. Then, when the final promise came to pass .. (we set Our enemies upon you) to disfigure your faces20 and to enter the Mosque as they (their forerunners) entered it the first time,21 and to destroy all that they ascended to, in utter destruction.22


    20. That is because the effects of the pain on the body and mind disfigure the faces (Au.: with a point from Alusi). In Asad’s words, “Inasmuch as the face is the most prominent and expressive part of the human body, it is often used as a metonym for one’s whole being; hence ‘the evil done to one’s face’ is synonymous with ‘utter disgrace.’
    21. Thanwi notes from Tafsir Haqqani that history records several major episodes of the Israelites when they rebelled and received Divine punishment. The following six are outstanding ones that we reproduce more to demonstrate that our commentators were not unaware of history, rather than because they are accurate descriptions of the past events, if any such accurate description is possible:
    i) When the Israelite rulers as well as their subjects adopted irreligious attitudes after Sulayman (asws), an Egyptian ruler raided Jerusalem, pillaged the city, carrying away its gold and silver, but did not destroy the Temple or the city.
    ii) When, some four hundred years after that, the Jews began to worship idols, once again an Egyptian king descended, and destroyed part of the Temple and razed some buildings to the ground before retreating with the booty.
    iii) A few years after that, Nebuchadnezzar attacked the city and partially destroyed it. He installed a new ruler, from among the Israelites before leaving.
    iv) He came back when the new ruler rebelled against his authority. He killed a large number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and took away as prisoner-slaves the rest of them. They remained in Babylonian captivity for 70 years. They were released when the Persians attacked the Assyrians and overcame them. The new rulers allowed the Israelites to return to Palestine and, in fact, returned them much of their looted wealth.
    v) This happened when, after a while of righteous living, the Jews once again spread corruption in the land - some 170 years before the appearance of Jesus Christ. The king who had laid the foundations of Antioch, raided Jerusalem, caused wide scale destruction, killed some 40,000 Jews and enslaved as many. The newly built Temple was spared. However, the descendants of that king destroyed that Temple also while they attempted to wipe out the town. Finally, the city fell to the Romans who allowed the Jews to rebuild the Temple. Jesus Christ was born eight years after that.
    vi) This happened when the Jews rebelled against the Roman authority. Titus destroyed the town completely, and demolished the Temple.
    The question remains, adds Shafi`, as to which of the above six major events is the Qur’an referring to as the two very significant ones. It looks like the reference is to the fourth (involving Nebuchadnezzar) and sixth (involving Titus) incidents. The main point however is that the narration warns the Muslims that they would be treated in no better manner if they spread the kind of corruption the Israelites spread, for, Allah’s Sunnah does not change. A good case in point is the loss of Bayt al-Maqdis to an enemy hardly one tenth the Muslims in numbers and equipments. They will never get it back unless they return to Islam whole-heartedly.
    Quotation from Shafi` ends here.
    Majid quotes: “The raging flames, the infuriated soldiers, the groans of the wounded and the dying, all spoke with another voice. It was the judgment. The words of John the Baptist and of Jesus of Nazareth had come true. Thousands perished in the temple flames .. Then the wall fell their pride turned into helplessness and cowardice, and they sought to hide themselves in the subterranean passage. On the same day the Roman soldiers made their way through the Upper City, burning, plundering, and massacring’ (Ebi. C. 2285). ‘The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded those of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.’ (Milman, History of Jews, II. P. 93). ‘Titus crucified so many Jewish captives and fugitives during the siege of Jerusalem, that there was not sufficient room for the crosses nor sufficient crosses for the condemned’ (Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 349).”
    22. So, it is obvious that increase in wealth and progeny was neither appreciated and thanked for by the Israelites, nor did these favors serve them in any way when faced with Allah’s wrath (with a point from Alusi).

    عَسَىٰ رَبُّكُمْ أَنْ يَرْحَمَكُمْ ۚ وَإِنْ عُدْتُمْ عُدْنَا ۘ وَجَعَلْنَا جَهَنَّمَ لِلْكَافِرِينَ حَصِيرًا (8)

    17|8| It may be that your Lord will yet show you mercy. But if you revert (to sins), We shall revert (to punishment).23 And We have made Jahannum a prison-bed24 for the unbelievers.


    23. According to Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah the Israelites indeed returned with sins (by rejecting the Final Prophet: Alusi), and, in consequence, Allah put them to defeat and banishment from Arabia at the hands of the Muslims. (They had already been banned from setting their feet into Palestine by the Romans, some 500 years before Islam: Au.).
    24. The translation of the word “hasir” as prison-bed follows the understanding of the Salaf, some of whom said that the word stands for a place where one is confined, while to a few others it means a thing to rest on. Ibn Jarir preferred the second meaning.

    إِنَّ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ يَهْدِي لِلَّتِي هِيَ أَقْوَمُ وَيُبَشِّرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ أَجْرًا كَبِيرًا (9)

    17|9| Verily this Qur’an guides to that which is most straight25 and gives good tiding to the believers who do deeds of righteousness - that for them is a great reward.


    25. Yusuf Ali connects the theme: “The instability and crookedness of the Jewish soul having been mentioned, the healing balm which should have cured it is now pointed out. The Message of the Qur’an is for all. Those who have Faith and show that Faith in their conduct must reap their spiritual reward. But those who reject Faith cannot escape punishment. Apart from what is past, apart from the question of national or racial history, there is a Hope, - and a Danger - for every soul.”

    وَأَنَّ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ أَعْتَدْنَا لَهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا (10)

    17|10| And that those who do not believe in the Hereafter, We have prepared for them a painful chastisement.


    وَيَدْعُ الْإِنْسَانُ بِالشَّرِّ دُعَاءَهُ بِالْخَيْرِ ۖ وَكَانَ الْإِنْسَانُ عَجُولًا (11)

    17|11| Man prays for evil (in the manner of) his prayer for good.26 Surely, man is given to haste.27


    26. That is, man curses others, seeking Allah’s punishment on them, saying, (sometimes against his own children), “O Allah, destroy him,” or “send your wrath on him,” etc. But, if Allah were to grant him his prayers of evil, just as He grants prayers of good, man would be destroyed. This is how Dahhak, Qatadah and Mujahid understood this verse (Ibn Jarir).
    But the allusion could be to the call of self-destruction that the pagans made when the Prophet warned them of chastisement that would descend on them upon rejection (Zamakhshari).
    Accordingly, in a hadith of Muslim the Prophet said,


    لاَ تَدْعُوا عَلَى أَنْفُسِكُمْ وَلاَ تَدْعُوا عَلَى أَوْلاَدِكُمْ وَلاَ تَدْعُوا عَلَى أَمْوَالِكُمْ لاَ تُوَافِقُوا مِنَ اللَّهِ سَاعَةً يُسْأَلُ فِيهَا عَطَاءٌ فَيَسْتَجِيبُ لَكُمْ


    “Do not supplicate against yourself, nor against your children, nor against you wealth that you be in agreement with an hour in which Allah accepts supplications – and so you are answered” (Ibn Kathir).
    27. It is narrated by Salman Farsi and others that when the spirit was gradually entering into Adam (asws), it did not pass down but his body became bones, flesh and muscles. As the spirit entered into his head, he sneezed. Allah said in response, “May your Lord show you mercy.” It was afternoon before the spirit reached his navel. Adam bent down and his body pleased him. He tried to raise himself up but could not because the spirit had not yet reached his legs. He said, “O Allah hasten it to completion before sunset.” That was the first manifestation of the meaning of the words, “Surely, man is given to haste” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, with some variations). The report is in Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn `Asakir and Ibn Abi Hatim (Shawkani).
    The above is not a hadith (Au.).

    وَجَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ آيَتَيْنِ ۖ فَمَحَوْنَا آيَةَ اللَّيْلِ وَجَعَلْنَا آيَةَ النَّهَارِ مُبْصِرَةً لِتَبْتَغُوا فَضْلًا مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَلِتَعْلَمُوا عَدَدَ السِّنِينَ وَالْحِسَابَ ۚ وَكُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَصَّلْنَاهُ تَفْصِيلًا (12)

    17|12| We appointed the night and the day as two signs. Then We blotted out the sign of the night28 and made the sign of the day shining,29 that you may seek the bounty of your Lord, and that you may know the number of the years and the reckoning. And We have explained everything in detail.30


    28. Apparently, the moon is the sign of the night. According to `Ali ibn Abi Talib, and quite a few others of the Salaf, it is the dark spots on the moon that are alluded to by the words “We blotted out ..” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    And, in one of the most incredible reports, as in Tabari and Ibn Kathir, Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said that earlier the moon also used to shine just as the sun shines until Allah blotted out its shine. In fact, adds Qurtubi there is a hadith which says that once there were two suns. The report to this effect is in Bayhaqi and Ibn `Asakir (Shawkani). But it is weak of narrators (S. Ibrahim).
    Ibn Abbas’ notion is incredible because scientists have no explanation for the origin of the moon. Despite moon rock samples, they cannot determine how it came into orbit around the earth, or since when. One theory however, of our interest, is that the moon could have once been a burning body, like the sun, which cooled down (as the sun is also cooling down) and somehow wandered across the space for millions of years to get caught by the earth’s gravitational pull and remained in its orbit.
    29. “Shining” for mubsiratan is the understanding of Qatadah as in Ibn Abi Hatim (Shawkani).
    30. That is, everything pertaining to Allah’s oneness, evidences of the Prophet’s mission, of the need of the accountability, etc., have all been explained in detail (Razi).

    وَكُلَّ إِنْسَانٍ أَلْزَمْنَاهُ طَائِرَهُ فِي عُنُقِهِ ۖ وَنُخْرِجُ لَهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ كِتَابًا يَلْقَاهُ مَنْشُورًا (13)

    17|13| We have fastened every man’s fate to his own neck;31 and We shall bring forth for him, on the Day of Resurrection, a record that he will find wide open.


    31. The textual word “ta’ir” has been explained by Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ibn Jurayj and others as man’s deeds and destiny. And some have believed that this is the Book that will be brought forth on the Day of Resurrection (Ibn Jarir).
    Razi adds: Scholars have said that the neck is the most suitable place for anything to be hung around, whether it is something that honors a man or humiliates him. It is to the neck that a thing of shame is hung around as punishment, and it is around the neck that necklaces (as also medals, garlands: Au.) are hung around by way of decoration.
    Yusuf Ali offers further explanation: “Ta’ir, literally a bird, hence and omen, and evil omen... The Arabs, like the ancient Romans, sought to read the mysteries of human fate from the flight of birds... Our real fate does not depend upon birds or omens or stars. It depends on our deeds; good or evil, and they hang round our necks.”

    اقْرَأْ كِتَابَكَ كَفَىٰ بِنَفْسِكَ الْيَوْمَ عَلَيْكَ حَسِيبًا (14)

    17|14| Read your record. Sufficient is your own soul this day for reckoning against yourself.


    مَنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا (15)

    17|15| Whosoever receives guidance, receives it for his own benefit; and whosoever goes astray, does it to his own loss. No bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another. And We were not such as to punish until We had sent a Messenger.32


    32. The question that arises in view of this verse is, if Allah does not punish a people before a Messenger has been sent to them, which of course is a most reasonable thing, then, what about those who did not receive the Message? Abu Hurayrah’s opinion in this regard was that Allah will assemble together the souls of those who died between the advent of two Prophets, (and did not hear of the former), the insane, the dumb, deaf, the senile, and people of this class, and raise a messenger among them. He will command them to enter the Fire. They will retort, “How can we possibly do that when a Messenger never came to us?” By Allah, Abu Hurayrah added, if they entered they would find it pleasant and peaceful. Thus, those who would have obeyed him in this world, would obey him there also (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Kathir discusses the issue more in detail. First he deals with the hadith in Bukhari which ends with the following words,


    وَإِنَّهُ يُنْشِئُ لِلنَّارِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ فَيُلْقَوْنَ فِيهَا فَ {تَقُولُ هَلْ مِنْ مَزِيدٍ} ثَلَاثًا حَتَّى يَضَعَ فِيهَا قَدَمَهُ فَتَمْتَلِئُ وَيُرَدُّ بَعْضُهَا إِلَى بَعْضٍ وَتَقُولُ قَطْ قَطْ قَطْ


    “... Allah will create for the Fire a creation of the kind He will, that will be thrown therein. She will say, ‘Is there any more?’, three times until He will place His foot into it and it will get filled, some parts crushed against others and it will cry out, ‘Enough, enough, enough.’” This hadith seems to contradict, also in Bukhari, as well as in Muslim which says,


    لاَ تَزَالُ جَهَنَّمُ يُلْقَى فِيهَا وَتَقُولُ هَلْ مِنْ مَزِيدٍ حَتَّى يَضَعَ رَبُّ الْعِزَّةِ فِيهَا قَدَمَهُ فَيَنْزَوِى بَعْضُهَا إِلَى بَعْضٍ وَتَقُولُ قَطْ قَطْ بِعِزَّتِكَ وَكَرَمِكَ. وَلاَ يَزَالُ فِى الْجَنَّةِ فَضْلٌ حَتَّى يُنْشِئَ اللَّهُ لَهَا خَلْقًا فَيُسْكِنَهُمْ فَضْلَ الْجَنَّةِ


    “Hell will keep on receiving (dwellers of Hell) and keep asking, ‘Is there more,’ until the Lord places His foot into it and some of its part will get crushed against other and it will cry out, ‘Enough, enough by Your Power and Honor.’ And there will always remain space vacant in Paradise, until Allah will create a creation for it, placing them in the vacant spaces of Paradise.”
    Some scholars have thought therefore, says Ibn Kathir, that the narrator of the earlier of the two above ahadith mistakenly replaced the word “jannah” with “nar,” as in the latter hadith. (That is, Allah will not create a creation specifically to fill the Fire, rather, He will do that to fill Paradise: Au.).
    Apart from the above, there are a few ahadith that shed light on the issue of those who did not receive the message. One is in Ahmad. It reports the Prophet (saws) as having said,


    أربعة يحتجون يوم القيامة: رجل أصم لا يسمع شيئاً, ورجل أحمق, ورجل هرم, ورجل مات في فترة, فأما الأصم فيقول: رب قد جاء الإسلام وما أسمع شيئاً, وأما الأحمق فيقول: رب قد جاء الإسلام والصبيان يحذفوني بالبعر, وأما الهرم فيقول: رب لقد جاء الإسلام وما أعقل شيئاً, وأما الذي مات في الفترة فيقول: رب ما أتاني لك رسول. فيأخذ مواثيقهم ليطيعنه, فيرسل إليهم أن ادخلوا النار, فو الذي نفس محمد بيده, لو دخلوها لكانت عليهم برداً وسلاماً


    “Four classes of people will dispute on the Day of Judgment: a deaf who could not hear anything, an insane, a senile person and a man who died during the time off the absence of a Prophet (fatrah). The deaf will plead, “My Lord, Islam came while I could not hear anything.” The insane will plead, “My Lord, Islam came while children were stoning me with dung.” The senile person will plead, “My Lord, Islam came at a time of my life when I could not use my mind.” And the man during whose life no Prophet appeared will plead, “No Messenger of Yours ever came to me.” So He will take their pledge that they will obey Him. Then He will send word to them through a Messenger (raised among them) that they should enter the Fire.” Then the Prophet added, “By Him in whose hands is Muhammad’s life, if they obey, it would turn pleasant and peaceful.” According to another version, Abu Hurayrah said, “If they enter they would find it pleasant and peaceful. In contrast, he who refused will be dragged into it.”
    The report is in Ahmad, Ibn Is-haq, Rahwayh, and Bayhaqi, and has been evaluated as trustworthy.
    As for children, the Prophet said various things about them at different times. Once he said about pagan children who died before manhood that Allah knows what they were going to do when they grew up. The hadith to this effect is in the Sahihayn. (The report that they will be in the Fire is weak: Alusi). On another occasion, he said that pagan children will be servants of the people of Paradise. At another time he said they will be along with their parents. On yet another occasion he said, “The children of the pagans as well as of the Muslims are in Ibrahim’s care” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above last statement happens to be the opinion of the experts about those who died in childhood (Alusi).

    وَإِذَا أَرَدْنَا أَنْ نُهْلِكَ قَرْيَةً أَمَرْنَا مُتْرَفِيهَا فَفَسَقُوا فِيهَا فَحَقَّ عَلَيْهَا الْقَوْلُ فَدَمَّرْنَاهَا تَدْمِيرًا (16)

    17|16| When We wish to destroy a town, We command the affluent thereof to work corruption in it.33 Thus the word34 comes true against it and then We destroy it in utter destruction.35


    33. Two opinions have come down from Ibn `Abbas in this regard. One, the affluent ones were commanded to obey Allah, but they refused. So they became deserving of punishment. A second opinion is that the wicked affluent ones were allowed to prevail over others. They continued in their wickedness until Allah’s word was realized. Hasan al-Busri was of this opinion. Both the opinions (along with a few others) are in Ibn Jarir who himself prefers the first as correct. A third opinion also attributed to the Salaf is that “amara” is in the sense of “ak-thara”, as in pre-Islamic usage, meaning, “We multiplied the affluent (i.e., increased their numbers), but they (only) spread corruption..” (Ibn Jarir and ohers). Zamakhshari narrates an incident to corroborate this meaning. A pagan told the Prophet,


    إني أرى أمرك هذا حقيراً فقال ( صلى الله عليه وسلم ) : إنه سيأمر


    “I see this affair of yours as insignificant.” The Prophet replied, “It will grow.”
    In the above example, the Prophet used the word “amara” in the sense of “ak-thara”( أكثر ).
    The above report could not be traced in standard Hadith books (Au.).
    Thanwi notes from Alusi that just as nations, when Allah (swt) decides to destroy a man (for his past sins), he lets him run after his carnal desires. Ultimately he is destroyed by them.
    34. “Qawl (of the original) has the sense of word, order, law, charge framed against one under a definite law” (Yusuf Ali).
    35. There have been several explanations for the whole verse. One of them, that offered by Qaffal, as in Razi, is as follows: When Allah decides to destroy a town because of its sins, He does not hasten the punishment immediate to the appearance of corruptions. But rather, He commands the affluent class to give up their evil ways. When they fail, (and following them the others also persist), they are punished. They have been specifically mentioned because it is these people, more than any other class, that need to be grateful to their Lord for His blessings. In any case, after the initial warning, He allows them several reprieves. But, when they persist in sins, the word of punishment comes true and they are destroyed.
    Yusuf Ali’s plain words help us understand it better: “Allah’s Mercy gives every chance to the wicked to repent. When wickedness gets so rampant that punishment becomes inevitable, even then Allah’s Mercy and Justice act together. Those who are highly gifted from Allah - it may be with wealth or position, or it may be with talents and opportunities - are expected to understand and obey. They are given a definite order and warning. If they still transgress there is no further room for argument. They cannot plead that they are ignorant. The command of the Lord is proved against them, and its application is called for beyond doubt. Then it is that their punishment is completed.”

    وَكَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا مِنَ الْقُرُونِ مِنْ بَعْدِ نُوحٍ ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِرَبِّكَ بِذُنُوبِ عِبَادِهِ خَبِيرًا بَصِيرًا (17)

    17|17| How many generations36 We have destroyed after Nuh!? Sufficient is your Lord as One Aware and Observant of the sins of His slaves.37


    36. (The translation of “qarn” here as generations is for ease of understanding. Otherwise, in terms of a period, it is synonymous with a century) as in a hadith according to which the Prophet (saws) placed his hand over Bishr al-Mazini and said, “This boy will live up to a qarn.” And he lived for a hundred years (Ibn Jarir).
    37. That is, the criterion is sins, and Allah knows best when the sins reach the limits after which chastisement becomes necessary (based on Kashshaf).

    مَنْ كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعَاجِلَةَ عَجَّلْنَا لَهُ فِيهَا مَا نَشَاءُ لِمَنْ نُرِيدُ ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَا لَهُ جَهَنَّمَ يَصْلَاهَا مَذْمُومًا مَدْحُورًا (18)

    17|18| Whosoever covets the immediate (reward), We hasten whatsoever of it We will, unto whomsoever We will, and then We appoint for him Jahannum wherein he will rest, blamed and rejected.38


    38. In view of the words, “We hasten whatsoever of it We will, unto whomsoever We will,” (which do not promise a sure reward unto him who desires this world), it is more reasonable not to “desire” this world at all. For, if denied, then, one lives hankering after something not in his fate. The man’s life turns Hellish, before the Hell of the Hereafter (Zamakhshari).
    Thus, one might strive without allowing the desired things to become dear to the heart. If one achieves what he strove for, good. But if he did not, then, he might remove them from the mind to allow the inner self to rest in peace (Au.).

    وَمَنْ أَرَادَ الْآخِرَةَ وَسَعَىٰ لَهَا سَعْيَهَا وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَأُولَٰئِكَ كَانَ سَعْيُهُمْ مَشْكُورًا (19)

    17|19| On the other hand, whosoever coveted the Hereafter, and strove for it in the manner of its striving - and he is a believer - those, their striving is appreciated (by Allah).39


    39. Thus we have three conditions for acceptance of a deed: firm faith, correct intention, and right manner of doing it (Kashshaf).
    The Ahl al-Bid`ah, remarks Shafi`, may take note.
    As regards the exact measure of rewards, there is no limit to it. Abu Hurayrah was asked, “Have you heard the Prophet say that Allah could reward a man a million times for a good deed?” He replied, “Rather, Allah rewards a man two million times for a good deed” (Qurtubi).

    كُلًّا نُمِدُّ هَٰؤُلَاءِ وَهَٰؤُلَاءِ مِنْ عَطَاءِ رَبِّكَ ۚ وَمَا كَانَ عَطَاءُ رَبِّكَ مَحْظُورًا (20)

    17|20| (Unto) everyone - these as well as those40 - We extend (freely) the bounties of your Lord - and the bounties of your Lord are not such as to be denied (to anyone).


    40. That is, the obedient and the disobedient, the good and the evil, the believer and the unbeliever.

    انْظُرْ كَيْفَ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۚ وَلَلْآخِرَةُ أَكْبَرُ دَرَجَاتٍ وَأَكْبَرُ تَفْضِيلًا (21)

    17|21| See then how We give preference to some over others.41 But surely, the Hereafter is greater in rank and greater in excellence.42


    41. That is, in this world. The Prophet has said,


    الدُّنْيَا دَارُ مَنْ لَا دَارَ لَهُ وَمَالُ مَنْ لَا مَالَ لَهُ وَلَهَا يَجْمَعُ مَنْ لَا عَقْلَ لَهُ


    “This world is the abode of him who has not abode (in the Hereafter), wealth who has no wealth, and he saves for it who has no sense.”
    The above hadith of Ahmad and others has Haythami’s approval.
    42. It said that once a group of former Quraysh chiefs such as Abu Sufyan, Suhayl and others sought permission to enter into `Umar’s presence during his caliphate. Suhayb, Bilal and a few others of the earliest Muslims were also there. `Umar allowed Suhayb, Bilal and others to enter but left the former Quraysh chiefs waiting. Abu Sufyan remarked, “I have never seen a day like this in my life. The chiefs are left hanging around while the slaves have been allowed in.” Suhayl, who was the most intelligent of them said, “I see frown on your faces. But, if you are angry, then be angry with yourselves. When everyone was invited, they responded immediately while you delayed...” (Alusi).
    The version offered by Zamakhshari ends with the following words, “.. they were invited, and so were we. But they responded immediately while we delayed. Now, this is what is happening at `Umar’s door. What about when we are in the Hereafter? If you envy them today, then, you should know that what Allah has prepared for them in the Hereafter is greater.”

    لَا تَجْعَلْ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ فَتَقْعُدَ مَذْمُومًا مَخْذُولًا (22)

    17|22| Do not set up along with Allah, another god; or you will sit back (in the end), condemned and forsaken.43


    43. According to a Hasan Sahih Gharib report in Tirmidhi, which is also in Abu Da’ud, the Prophet said,


    مَنْ أَصَابَتْهُ فَاقَةٌ فَأَنْزَلَهَا بِالنَّاسِ لَمْ تُسَدَّ فَاقَتُهُ ، وَمَنْ أَنْزَلَهَا بِاللَّهِ أَوْشَكَ اللَّهُ لَهُ بِالْغِنَى إِمَّا بِمَوْتٍ عَاجِلٍ أَوْ غِنًى عَاجِلٍ


    “Whoever is reduced to hunger and takes the matter to the people, will never have his hunger removed from him. But whoever takes it to Allah, will have it removed either because of an early death, or wealth hastened” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا ۚ إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِنْدَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُلْ لَهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُلْ لَهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا (23)

    17|23| Your Lord has decreed44 that you shall worship none but Him,45 and (that you shall treat) the parents with kindness.46 Whether one or both of them attain old age with you,47 then, say not to them (even) an ‘Oof,’48 nor repel them, rather, speak to them noble words.


    44. Quite often in Arabic, Qada is used in the sense of “he commanded” (Ibn `Abbas and Hasan). Ibn Mas`ud however, along with Ubayy bin Ka`b and Dahhak have understood the word in the sense of admonition (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi writes: Qada has been used in the Qur’an in several senses:
    (1) command, as here,
    (2) creation, as in (41: 12)


    فَقَضَاهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ فِي يَوْمَيْنِ [فصلت : 12]


    “He created them into seven heavens,”
    (3) to pass judgment, as in (20: 72)


    فَاقْضِ مَا أَنْتَ قَاضٍ [طه : 72]


    “So, judge as you wish to judge,”
    (4) to decide, or, something accomplished as in (12: 41)


    قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ الَّذِي فِيهِ تَسْتَفْتِيَانِ [يوسف : 41]


    “The affair about which you inquire, has already been decided”, and (2: 200),


    فَإِذَا قَضَيْتُمْ مَنَاسِكَكُمْ [البقرة : 200]


    “When you are done with the hajj-rituals,”
    (5) intention, as in (2: 117)


    وَإِذَا قَضَى أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ [البقرة : 117]


    “When He intends an affair, He says, ‘Be’, and it is,” and,
    (6) covenant, as in (28: 44)


    وَمَا كُنْتَ بِجَانِبِ الْغَرْبِيِّ إِذْ قَضَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى الْأَمْرَ [القصص : 44]


    “And you were not by the western side when We took the covenant from Musa.”
    45. Mawdudi comments on the context and placement of these verses: “From here on, the basic principles which according to Islam ought to serve as the foundation of man’s life are expounded. Put differently, these principles constitute the manifesto of the Prophet’s mission. It is noteworthy that this manifesto was proclaimed at a highly appropriate moment - at a time when the Makkan period of the Prophet’s life was coming to an end, and when the Madinan period was about to begin. This meant making the intellectual, moral, cultural, economic and legal bases of the Islamic society and state of the future known to the world.”
    He also explains the verse: “The verse does not merely have a negative message - that we may not worship aught other than the One True God. It also has a positive message - that we should serve, worship and obey Him, and Him alone, and do so unreservedly. We should consider only His command as the command and only His law as the law that ought to be obeyed. We should recognize and submit to His sovereignty to the exclusion of any other sovereignty. This is at once a religious belief, a guidance for individual’s conduct, as well as the cornerstone of man’s entire life system encompassing moral conduct, political behavior and social relationship, a system that was to be established by the Prophet (peace be on him) in Madinah. The foundational concept of the new body-politic was nothing other than the principle that God alone is the Sovereign and Lord of the world, and that His law is the true law that ought to prevail.”
    46. Being kind to the parents would go to the extent of, Mujahid has said, cleaning their diapers just as they used to do when he or she was little (Mujahid: Ibn Jarir).
    47. The words “with you” have the hint concealed that if they be with you, under your care.
    48. Hussain b. `Ali is reported to have said that had there been a word smaller than “Oof”, Allah would have used it (Shawkani).

    وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُلْ رَبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا (24)

    17|24| Lower to them the wing of humbleness in mercy49 and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy upon them even as they raised me up (with care) when I was little.’


    49. That is, do everything possible to please them, except for seeking forgiveness for them if they be pagans (Ibn Jarir from the Salaf).
    Qurtubi quotes the following hadith in connection with kindness to parents. It is in Bukhari: `Abdullah (ibn Mas`ud) said,


    سَأَلْتُ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَيُّ الْعَمَلِ أَحَبُّ إِلَى اللَّهِ قَالَ الصَّلَاةُ عَلَى وَقْتِهَا قَالَ ثُمَّ أَيٌّ قَالَ ثُمَّ بِرُّ الْوَالِدَيْنِ قَالَ ثُمَّ أَيٌّ قَالَ الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ


    “I asked the Prophet. Which is the best of deeds in the sight of Allah?” He replied, “Prayers at their time.” I asked, “Which one after that?” He replied, “Treating the parents well.” I asked, “Which one after that?” He replied, “Fighting in the way of Allah.”
    Hence, adds Qurtubi, cursing one’s parents is one of the major sins. The Prophet said,


    إِنَّ مِنْ أَكْبَرِ الْكَبَائِرِ أَنْ يَلْعَنَ الرَّجُلُ وَالِدَيْهِ قِيلَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَكَيْفَ يَلْعَنُ الرَّجُلُ وَالِدَيْهِ قَالَ يَسُبُّ الرَّجُلُ أَبَا الرَّجُلِ فَيَسُبُّ أَبَاهُ وَيَسُبُّ أُمَّهُ


    “The greatest of great sins is for a man to curse his parents. It was asked, ‘Messenger of Allah. Can anyone curse his own parents?’ He replied, ‘Yes. He abuses other people’s parents, and in retaliation they abuse his parents.’”
    (The word in the original is “sabb” which is literary to call names, or abuse: Au.).
    Tirmidhi has reported `Abdullah ibn `Umar as saying,


    كَانَ تَحْتِي امْرَأَةٌ كَانَ عُمَرُ يَكْرَهُهَا فَقَالَ لِي أَبِي طَلِّقْهَا قُلْتُ لَا فَأَتَى رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَأَخْبَرَهُ فَدَعَانِي فَقَالَ عَبْدَ اللَّهِ طَلِّقْ امْرَأَتَكَ قَالَ فَطَلَّقْتُهَا


    “I had a wife that I was very fond of. But `Umar disliked her. So he my father told me to divorce her, but I refused. He spoke to the Prophet about it. He asked for me and said, ‘Divorce your woman.’ So I divorced her.”
    (It is obvious that `Umar, who had an eye that penetrated appearances, must have seen something in her that `Abdullah had not, apart from the fact that it did not become of a man like `Abdullah, a remarkably strong model in making for the second generation Muslims, to be in love with a woman: Au.).
    [The report is in all the Sahih works except the Sahihayn. It is also in Ibn Hibban. Tirmidhi rated it Hasan Sahih: Alusi].
    A fourth report says that a man asked the Prophet:


    مَنْ أَحَقُّ النَّاسِ بِحُسْنِ صَحَابَتِى قَالَ: أُمُّكَ. قَالَ: ثُمَّ مَنْ قَالَ: ثُمَّ أُمُّكَ. قَالَ: ثُمَّ مَنْ قَالَ: ثُمَّ أُمُّكَ. قَالَ: ثُمَّ مَنْ قَالَ: ثُمَّ أَبُوكَ.


    “Who deserves my attention most?” He replied, “Your mother.” He asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Your mother.” He asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Your mother.” He asked, (a fourth time), “Then who?” He replied, “Then your father.” And the scholars have noted, adds Qurtubi, that the mother has been preferred three times over the father because of three special cares that she takes of a child in which the father has no share: during pregnancy, delivery, and infancy. (Yet, one might try and balance the demand and care of the two parents). Imam Malik was asked, “My father is in Sudan and he writes to me that I join him there but my mother refuses.” He replied, “Obey your father but do not disobey your mother.” In fact, being good to them surpasses the religious persuasions. They must be treated well even if unbelievers, unless they were to be of a nation fighting Islam. This is following Allah’s commandments (60: 8):


    لَا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُمْ مِنْ دِيَارِكُمْ أَنْ تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ [الممتحنة : 8]


    “Allah does not prevent you that you should do good to a people who did not fight you, nor threw you out of your lands, that you should do them good and be fair to them.” Further, their needs override those of the sons or others. A report in Muslim says that a man sought to go out and join in the struggle (against the enemies).


    أَحَيُّ وَالِدَاكَ ؟ ، قَالَ : نَعَمْ قَالَ : فَفِيهِمَا فَجَاهِدْ


    The Prophet asked him, “Are your parents alive?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “Then struggle in them.” (Perhaps the Prophet actually knew how badly his parents needed his care, or the man seeking permission himself looked pretty old and hence the Prophet guessed that his parents must be older: Au.).
    Another hadith in Bukhari says that a man expressed his wish to migrate. (Perhaps from country side to Madinah: Au.). He added that he had left his parents weeping. The Prophet told him,


    ارجع إليهما وأضْحِكْهُما كما أبْكَيْتَهُما


    “Go back and make them laugh just as you made them weep.” Another report says that an Ansari went to the Prophet to ask if there was anything he could do for his parents after their death. He replied,


    نعم ، خصالٌ أربع : الدعاء لهما ، والاستغفار لهما ، وإنفاذ عهدها ، وإكرام صديقهما ، وصِلةُ الرَّحم التي لا رحمَ لك إلا من قِبَلِهما


    “Yes, four things: pray for them seeking their forgiveness, fulfill their promises, honor their friends and join those kin who are related to you through them. This is what is left of the good things that you can do after their death.”
    (The report is in Ahmad, Abu Da’ud and Ibn Majah. Ibn Hajr has remarked that meaning wise, the hadith is Sahih).
    Finally, a well-known hadith says that once the Prophet said “Amin” thrice on the mimber. He was asked the reason. He said, “Jibril came to me and said, ‘Woe unto a man before whom your name was taken but he did not send peace to you. Say, ‘Amin.’” So I said, ‘Amin.’ Then he said, “Woe unto a man upon whom the month of Ramadan entered and left, but he was not forgiven. Say, `Amin.’” So I said, ‘Amin.’ Then he said, “Woe unto a man who found one or two of his parents in old age, but they did not usher him into Paradise. Say, ‘Amin.’” So I said, ‘Amin.’” The hadith is in Muslim also.
    Indeed, Ibn Kathir adds, many reports have come down to us from the Prophet concerning kindly treatment of parents. A weak report in Bazzar says that a man was going around the Ka`bah with his mother on his shoulders. He asked the Prophet, “Have I done my duty to her?” He replied, “Not a bit.”
    With reference to the report about someone carrying his mother on his back, Zamakhshari says it was `Umar who had said those words to the man. Zamakhshari also narrates that someone went up to the Prophet (saws) and told him that he was doing to his parents what they had done for him when he was little, that is, even cleansing them. He asked, “Have I repaid them?” The Prophet said, “No. Because, when they did it (cleaning your diapers), they did in hope that you will live. In contrast, you are doing it while you hope that they will die soon.” (But this hadith could not be traced in any major work. Probably it is the statement of one of the Salaf: Au.). Hence, Zamakhshari adds, the scholars have said that a son might not enter with his unbelieving father into a temple or church, but if he asks him to take him there, he should do it. He should not offer him wine, but, after the father has drunk out of a cup, he might take it from his hand (to put it away). Abu Yusuf said, “If he (the non-Muslim father) asks him to lighten the fire under a pot which has pork, he should do it.” And Hudhayfah says he sought the Prophet’s permission to kill his father who was fighting alongside the pagans during a battle. He said, “Let someone else do it.”
    Islam stands alone in its insistence on kind treatment of parents. The Gospel notes Jesus’ rebuke to his mother (John 2: 1-4): “On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’” The Torah has a single line on parents (Deut., 5: 16): “Honor your father and your mother.” But little else. In fact, a modern day commentary of the entire Old and New Testament has two entries under the term “parents”, which deal with matters other than good treatment. Jews and Christians of today, therefore, promptly send the parents after their retirement to old-age homes. Imam Razi tells us about some people in his time who did not think their parents deserved kindness simply because they had fathered them. Was a son not a product and consequence of his parents’ search for sexual gratification? He mentions a man’s case who was beating his father and saying, “You are the one who brought me into this world of troubles.” Similar ideas are now current in the West and right at the level of lawmakers who do not see any difference between a son and a father, and allow no special status for a father in mutual rights against his son. The error is in imagining that the son is a by-product of carnal desire. Why is it supposed that a child is simply there because two people were looking for pleasure? Weren’t the parents free to have the pleasure but not the child? Weren’t the possibilities of abortion available to women throughout history? Weren’t the parents happy, distributing cakes and sweets at the arrival of the child? Were the kinsfolk happy at the new arrival and congratulating the parents? Or were they offering them condolence? How can it be said that a child is the product of pleasure? (Au.)

    رَبُّكُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا فِي نُفُوسِكُمْ ۚ إِنْ تَكُونُوا صَالِحِينَ فَإِنَّهُ كَانَ لِلْأَوَّابِينَ غَفُورًا (25)

    17|25| Your Lord knows what is in your hearts:50 if you be righteous,51 then He indeed is oft-forgiving to those who return (to Him in repentance).52


    50. (One implication of these words is), let not your respect for them be only an outward show, rather, it should be from your heart, for, your Lord knows what is in your hearts (Thanwi).
    51. That is, if you are good of intentions (Sa`id b. Jubayr - Ibn Jarir, Shawkani).
    52. In other words, if you are good of intentions, and do things well, yet commit a wrong to them inadvertently, then Allah is forgiving of those who seek repentance (Alusi).

    وَآتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَىٰ حَقَّهُ وَالْمِسْكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَلَا تُبَذِّرْ تَبْذِيرًا (26)

    17|26| And render the kinsman his right,53 and the meek and poor, and the wayfarer. And squander not squanderingly.54


    53. Rendering of rights to the kin should begin with the nearest, then reach out those who are farther, and so on. In a hadith of Bukhari and Muslim the Prophet said,


    مَنْ أَحَبَّ أَنْ يُبْسَطَ لَهُ فِي رِزْقِهِ وَيُنْسَأَ لَهُ فِي أَثَرِهِ فَلْيَصِلْ رَحِمَهُ


    “Whoever wishes that his provision be increased and his life prolonged, may join the kin (i.e., do good to them)” - Ibn Kathir.
    And, one ramification of the usage of the term “his right” (of the Qur’anic text) is that if a person happens to be disabled then, his cost of living will be divided between the well-to-do members of the extended family. If they all happen to be of equal economic strength, then the costs will be divided over them equally (Shafi`). In other words, in Islam it is not the state which is responsible for the disabled rather the family and tribe. If the state does it, then, that eases the situation, but the care of the sick and the permanently disabled is primarily the duty of the kin (Au.).
    54. The textual “tabdhir” has been explained as “israf” which is to spend, as Ibn Mas`ud and others have said, in wrong places and on wrong occasions, in short, in sinful affairs (Ibn Jarir). It is reported by `Abdullah ibn `Umar that the Prophet passed by Sa`d while he was making his ablution.


    مَا هَذَا السَّرَفُ يَا سَعْدُ قَالَ أَفِي الْوُضُوءِ سَرَفٌ قَالَ نَعَمْ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ عَلَى نَهْرٍ جَارٍ


    He remarked, “Why israf O Sa`d?” Sa`d asked, “Is there israf in ablution also?” He replied, “Yes, even if you are at a running spring” (Zamakhshari).
    The above hadith was evaluated weak by Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut (Au.).
    Nevertheless, Ibn `Abbas has said, if someone spent all his wealth in an affair that has Allah’s approval, it will not be considered as israf. But if he spent a handful on a wrong cause, it would be israf (Ibn Kathir).
    One of the Salaf was chided for spending heavily in a good cause. He was told, “There is no good in israf.” He replied, “There is no israf in good” (Zamakhshari).
    Qurtubi has another point to bring out. He says that the Prophet himself spent off all that he possessed, ending up tying stones to his stomach to support his back. Many of his Companions also followed his example and spent off all that they had in good causes. But the Prophet did not reproach them, although, apparently, the Qur’an recommends a middle course. That goes to show that the Qur’anic injunction is for ordinary men. Those who have the strength to spend away everything they posses, and bear the consequences patiently, can do it.
    Hence, Ibn Kathir adds, the hadith in the Sahihayn in which the Prophet instructed Asma’ bint Abi Bakr in words,


    أَنْفِقِي وَلَا تُحْصِي فَيُحْصِيَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكِ وَلَا تُوعِي فَيُوعِيَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكِ


    “Spend: this way and that way. Do not save back, or Allah will save back on you. And do not count, or Allah will count on you.” The Sahihayn have another report which says,


    مَا مِنْ يَوْمٍ يُصْبِحُ الْعِبَادُ فِيهِ إِلَّا مَلَكَانِ يَنْزِلَانِ فَيَقُولُ أَحَدُهُمَا اللَّهُمَّ أَعْطِ مُنْفِقًا خَلَفًا وَيَقُولُ الْآخَرُ اللَّهُمَّ أَعْطِ مُمْسِكًا تَلَفًا .


    “There is not a day in which the creation do their morning but two angels come down from the heaven, one of them saying, ‘O Allah. Bestow on the bestower.’ The other says, ‘O Allah. Destroy (the wealth of) the withholder.’”
    Yet another report in Bukhari says,


    مَثَلُ الْبَخِيلِ وَالْمُنْفِقِ كَمَثَلِ رَجُلَيْنِ عَلَيْهِمَا جُبَّتَانِ مِنْ حَدِيدٍ مِنْ لَدُنْ ثَدْيَيْهِمَا إِلَى تَرَاقِيهِمَا فَأَمَّا الْمُنْفِقُ فَلَا يُنْفِقُ شَيْئًا إِلَّا مَادَّتْ عَلَى جِلْدِهِ حَتَّى تُجِنَّ بَنَانَهُ وَتَعْفُوَ أَثَرَهُ وَأَمَّا الْبَخِيلُ فَلَا يُرِيدُ يُنْفِقُ إِلَّا لَزِمَتْ كُلُّ حَلْقَةٍ مَوْضِعَهَا فَهُوَ يُوسِعُهَا فَلَا تَتَّسِعُ وَيُشِيرُ بِإِصْبَعِهِ إِلَى حَلْقِهِ


    “The example of a miser and generous is like two men with two iron coats of mail from their breast covering up until the neck. As for the generous, he does not spend anything but the coat expands on his skin until it loosens up to his limbs and is dragged at the rear. As for the miser, he does not intend to expend but every link shrinks. He tries to expand but it does not expand.”

    إِنَّ الْمُبَذِّرِينَ كَانُوا إِخْوَانَ الشَّيَاطِينِ ۖ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِرَبِّهِ كَفُورًا (27)

    17|27| Verily, squanderers are brothers of the Satans; and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.55


    55. That is, to spend on wrong causes, or excessively on right causes when there is no need, is to be ungrateful to the Lord (Thanwi).

    وَإِمَّا تُعْرِضَنَّ عَنْهُمُ ابْتِغَاءَ رَحْمَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكَ تَرْجُوهَا فَقُلْ لَهُمْ قَوْلًا مَيْسُورًا (28)

    17|28| And even if you have to turn away from them, seeking your Lord’s mercy which you expect (to come by), then say to them gentle words.56


    56. Such as, to say, ‘I am hoping for something to come my way. When that happens maybe I will be able to help you’ (Ibn Jarir).
    Mawdudi elaborates on the spirit behind the injunction to spend: “The contents of (verses 26 and 27) above require that man should not consider his wealth to be exclusively meant for himself. Instead, after moderately meeting with his own needs he must spend it on his relatives, neighbors, and other human beings who are in need of it. Man’s social life should also be permeated with a spirit of sympathy and recognition of the rights of others and a spirit of mutual co-operation. Relatives should be specially helpful towards each other. The ‘haves’ should extend to the ‘have-nots’ whatever aid they may be in a position to provide. If a traveler arrives in a city, town or village, he should find himself in the midst of hospitable people who are ready to act as his host and entertain him. The concept of the rights of others should be so pervasive that a person should consider those among whom he lives to have claims against him and his resources.
    “If a person helps others, he should do so with a feeling that he is merely discharging the obligations he owes them rather than burdening them with a debt of gratitude. And whenever a person is unable to be of any service to someone who is in need of it, he should seek the latter’s indulgence at his inability to do so, and should pray to God to bless him with the means that will enable him to serve him.”

    وَلَا تَجْعَلْ يَدَكَ مَغْلُولَةً إِلَىٰ عُنُقِكَ وَلَا تَبْسُطْهَا كُلَّ الْبَسْطِ فَتَقْعُدَ مَلُومًا مَحْسُورًا (29)

    17|29| And neither let your hands tied to your neck, nor outspread them wholly, or you will sit back blamed and broken down.


    إِنَّ رَبَّكَ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَقْدِرُ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِعِبَادِهِ خَبِيرًا بَصِيرًا (30)

    17|30| Surely, your Lord outspreads providence unto whom He will or restricts; surely, He is well-knowing and well-seeing of His slaves.57


    57. That is, Allah bestows and withdraws His favors following His knowledge and wisdom. A hadith reports Allah (swt) as saying, “There are some among My salves to whom nothing suits but poverty. If I were to provide him, it will lead to destruction of his religion. While, among My slaves there are some whom nothing suits but affluence. If I impose poverty on him, it will lead to corruption in his religion” (Ibn Kathir).
    A hadith of similar meaning was declared weak by Ibn Jawzi (Au.).

    وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا (31)

    17|31| And slay not your children for fear of want: We shall provide for them and for you (as well); surely, slaying them was a major error.58


    58. Accordingly, the Sahihayn have a hadith which reports that `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud asked the Prophet,


    يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَيُّ الذَّنْبِ أَعْظَمُ قَالَ أَنْ تَجْعَلَ لِلَّهِ نِدًّا وَهُوَ خَلَقَكَ قَالَ قُلْتُ ثُمَّ مَاذَا قَالَ أَنْ تَقْتُلَ وَلَدَكَ خَشْيَةَ أَنْ يَطْعَمَ مَعَكَ قَالَ قُلْتُ ثُمَّ مَاذَا قَالَ أَنْ تَزْنِيَ بِحَلِيلَةِ جَارِكَ


    “Messenger of Allah. What sin is the most serious?” He replied, “That you should declare Allah’s equal while He created you.” He asked, “Which one after that?” He answered, “That you should kill your child out of fear that he will share your food.” He asked, “Which one after that?” He replied, “That you should commit fornication with the neighbor’s woman” (Ibn Kathir).
    59. “Zina” of the original is for any unlawful sex between a man and woman. It denotes both fornication as well as adultery (Au).

    وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَا ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وَسَاءَ سَبِيلًا (32)

    17|32| And go not near adultery;59 verily, it is an indecency, and an evil way.60


    60. Ibn Abi Dunya has a hadith which says,

     

    ما من ذنب بعد الشرك أعظم عند الله من نطفة وضعها رجل في رحم لا يحل له


    “There is no sin greater - after association with Allah - than the drop of semen that a man places in a womb that is not lawful to him.”
    The report is Mursal (Au.).
    And Imam Ahmad has a report (Sahih according to Arna’ut: Au.) that:


    عَنْ أَبِي أُمَامَةَ قَالَ إِنَّ فَتًى شَابًّا أَتَى النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ائْذَنْ لِي بِالزِّنَا فَأَقْبَلَ الْقَوْمُ عَلَيْهِ فَزَجَرُوهُ قَالُوا مَهْ مَهْ فَقَالَ ادْنُهْ فَدَنَا مِنْهُ قَرِيبًا قَالَ فَجَلَسَ قَالَ أَتُحِبُّهُ لِأُمِّكَ قَالَ لَا وَاللَّهِ جَعَلَنِي اللَّهُ فِدَاءَكَ قَالَ وَلَا النَّاسُ يُحِبُّونَهُ لِأُمَّهَاتِهِمْ قَالَ أَفَتُحِبُّهُ لِابْنَتِكَ قَالَ لَا وَاللَّهِ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ جَعَلَنِي اللَّهُ فِدَاءَكَ قَالَ وَلَا النَّاسُ يُحِبُّونَهُ لِبَنَاتِهِمْ قَالَ أَفَتُحِبُّهُ لِأُخْتِكَ قَالَ لَا وَاللَّهِ جَعَلَنِي اللَّهُ فِدَاءَكَ قَالَ وَلَا النَّاسُ يُحِبُّونَهُ لِأَخَوَاتِهِمْ قَالَ أَفَتُحِبُّهُ لِعَمَّتِكَ قَالَ لَا وَاللَّهِ جَعَلَنِي اللَّهُ فِدَاءَكَ قَالَ وَلَا النَّاسُ يُحِبُّونَهُ لِعَمَّاتِهِمْ قَالَ أَفَتُحِبُّهُ لِخَالَتِكَ قَالَ لَا وَاللَّهِ جَعَلَنِي اللَّهُ فِدَاءَكَ قَالَ وَلَا النَّاسُ يُحِبُّونَهُ لِخَالَاتِهِمْ قَالَ فَوَضَعَ يَدَهُ عَلَيْهِ وَقَالَ اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ ذَنْبَهُ وَطَهِّرْ قَلْبَهُ وَحَصِّنْ فَرْجَهُ فَلَمْ يَكُنْ بَعْدُ ذَلِكَ الْفَتَى يَلْتَفِتُ إِلَى شَيْءٍ


    Abu Umamah reported that once a young man went to the Prophet and asked that he be allowed fornication. The people began to reproach him. But the Prophet told him to get near. He made him sit before him and asked, “Do you approve of it for your mother?” He said, “No by Allah, Messenger of Allah, may I sacrifice my life for you.” He said, “Of course no one will approve of that for his mother. Will you then approve of it for your daughter?” He said, “No by Allah, Messenger of Allah, may I sacrifice my life for you.” He said, “Of course no one will approve of it for his daughter. Will you then approve of it for your sister?” He said, “No by Allah, Messenger of Allah, may I sacrifice my life for you.” He said, “Of course no one will approve of that for his sister. Will you then approve of it for your paternal aunt?” He said, “No by Allah, Messenger of Allah, may I sacrifice my life for you.” He said, “Of course no one will approve of that for his paternal aunt. Will you then approve of it for your maternal aunt?” He said, “No by Allah, Messenger of Allah, may I sacrifice my life for you.” He said, “Of course no one will approve of that for his maternal aunt.” Then he placed his hand on his breast and supplicated, “O Allah, forgive him his sins, cleanse his heart and protect his private parts.” The man returned. And it is reported that thereafter such a thought never occurred to him again (Ibn Kathir).

    وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۗ وَمَنْ قُتِلَ مَظْلُومًا فَقَدْ جَعَلْنَا لِوَلِيِّهِ سُلْطَانًا فَلَا يُسْرِفْ فِي الْقَتْلِ ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مَنْصُورًا (33)

    17|33| And slay not a soul that Allah has forbidden, save by right.61 Whoever is slain unjustly, surely we have given his heir an authority.62 But let him not exceed in slaying;63 surely, he is helped (by the law).64


    61. Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah and others have said that there are three “rights” by which a man’s life becomes lawful to be taken: i) deliberate murder, ii) unlawful sexual intercourse, and, iii) apostasy (Ibn Jarir). And a hadith says,


    لَزَوَالُ الدُّنْيَا أَهْوَنُ عَلَى اللَّهِ مِنْ قَتْلِ رَجُلٍ مُسْلِمٍ


    “The destruction of the world is lighter with Allah than the murder of a Muslim” (Ibn Kathir).
    The hadith is in Ibn Majah and others treated by Haythami as Sahih (Au.).
    62. The textual word is sultan. Ibn `Abbas, Dahhak and others, have understood it as the choice the closest of heir has between three options: life for life, blood-wit, or forgiveness. That is his sultan (Ibn Jarir).
    It might also be noted that he alone has the right, and no one else on his behalf. For example, if someone else murdered the murderer, the second murderer will face the law of retaliation, even if the heir (one who had the sultan) said that it was he who had asked the second murderer to murder the first murderer (Alusi).
    63. Who is meant by the words “let him not...?” The answer given by some of the Salaf is that since the revelation of this verse took place in Makkah, it was the Prophet who was meant, and, after him, his successors. They were not to allow retaliation except in just measure. However, a second opinion is that it is the heir who is meant by the words, “let him not.” That is because this Surah is Makkan. Muslims had no political power there, in fact, no power at all. They could be killed by Makkans at will. Naturally, they wished to retaliate. They were told that the heir had the authority. But he was not to exceed in slaying, or kill other than the murderer as they were wont to do in pre-Islamic times. (Also, they were not to torture the murderer before killing him). This was the opinion of Hasan, Dahhak and some others (Ibn Jarir, Shawkani).
    For laws pertaining to Qisas, (the law of just retribution) see note 365 of Surah al-Baqarah of this work.
    64. That is, the heir will be helped by the authorities in his efforts to seek justice. This is how Qatadah understood this part of the verse (Ibn Jarir).

    وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا مَالَ الْيَتِيمِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ حَتَّىٰ يَبْلُغَ أَشُدَّهُ ۚ وَأَوْفُوا بِالْعَهْدِ ۖ إِنَّ الْعَهْدَ كَانَ مَسْئُولًا (34)

    17|34| And go not near the wealth of the orphan save in a fair manner,65 until he attains his full strength.66 And fulfill the covenant; surely, (every) covenant will be questioned thereof.


    65. It is said that in view of this verse, the Companions were so careful about treatment of the orphans that they would not share their food, drink or mount, until Allah revealed verse 220 of Surah al-Baqarah. It said,


    وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْيَتَامَى قُلْ إِصْلَاحٌ لَهُمْ خَيْرٌ وَإِنْ تُخَالِطُوهُمْ فَإِخْوَانُكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ الْمُفْسِدَ مِنَ الْمُصْلِحِ [البقرة : 220]


    “And they ask you about the orphans. Say, ‘The best thing (for them) is (promotion of) their welfare. However, if you mingle (your food, drink and other things) with theirs, then, (that is alright, for) they are your brothers. And Allah knows the corrupt from the well-meaning’” (Ibn Jarir).
    The Prophet however had warned Abu Dharr against going near the orphan’s wealth. He told him,


    يَا أَبَا ذَرٍّ إِنِّى أَرَاكَ ضَعِيفًا وَإِنِّى أُحِبُّ لَكَ مَا أُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِى لاَ تَأَمَّرَنَّ عَلَى اثْنَيْنِ وَلاَ تَوَلَّيَنَّ مَالَ يَتِيمٍ


    “O Abu Dharr. I find you weak. And I wish for you what I wish for myself. Never be an amir over even two people. And never accept the charge of an orphan’s wealth” (Ibn Kathir).
    The report is from Muslim (Au.).
    66. For explanation of the term “ashudd”, see note 281 of Surah Al-An`am of this work.

    وَأَوْفُوا الْكَيْلَ إِذَا كِلْتُمْ وَزِنُوا بِالْقِسْطَاسِ الْمُسْتَقِيمِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلًا (35)

    17|35| And fill up the measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance. That is better and fairer in determination.67


    67. Ibn `Abbas used to say that he heard the Prophet say, “A man does not have power over an unlawful thing, yet avoids it merely in fear of Allah, - but Allah gives him in this world itself what is better for him than that” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi narrates it as a truncated report coming from Hasan.

    وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا (36)

    17|36| And do not indulge in what you have no knowledge of;68 indeed, the hearing, the sight, and the heart - all of them shall be questioned thereof.


    68. That is, do not say, “I saw” if you have not seen, or “I heard” when you have not heard (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). A Sahih hadith says,


    كَفَى بِالْمَرْءِ كَذِبًا أَنْ يُحَدِّثَ بِكُلِّ مَا سَمِعَ


    “It is enough of a lie for a man to should pass on all that he hears.” That is, one may not pass on what he hears without first checking its authenticity (Au.).

    Mawdudi adds: “The purpose of this Qur’anic verse is that people should be guided by knowledge rather than conjecture both in their individual and collective lives. In an Islamic society, this direction found its reflection in ethics and law, in politics and administration, and in arts, sciences and education; in short in all spheres of human life. The perspective ensured that human thought and action were made safe from the many evil consequences which ensue from relying on guess works and conjecture instead of knowledge.”

    وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّكَ لَنْ تَخْرِقَ الْأَرْضَ وَلَنْ تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولًا (37)

    17|37| And walk not in the earth exultingly;69 you will neither tear apart the earth, nor attain the mountains in height.


    69. Before acting proud, one might fear what happened to someone of a previous nation. The Prophet said in a hadith of Muslim,


    بَيْنَمَا رَجُلٌ يَجُرُّ إِزَارَهُ مِنْ الْخُيَلَاءِ خُسِفَ بِهِ فَهُوَ يَتَجَلْجَلُ فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ


    “While a man was strutting on the earth proud over a new mantle when the earth split and he went in. He shall be sinking until the Day of Judgment.”
    Another hadith says,


    من تواضع لله رفعه الله, فهو في نفسه حقير وعند الناس كبير, ومن استكبر وضعه الله فهو في نفسه كبير وعند الناس حقير, حتى لهو أبغض إليهم من الكلب والخنزير


    “Whoever humbled himself for Allah, will be raised by Him. He might be insignificant in his own eyes, but great in the eyes of the people. And whoever waxed proud, Allah will bring him down. He might be a great man in his own eyes, but worthless in the eyes of the people. Indeed, he might be more hateful to them than a dog or a swine.”
    (Suyuti declared a similar hadith Sahih in his Jami` but Munawi demonstrates that it is weak; while some scholars thought that the second part could be a fabrication: Au.).
    Bakhtari once saw a man of `Ali’s family wax proud in his walk. He told him, “Man. The one because of whom you receive respect, did not walk like that.” The man gave up. And Bazzar has a report which reports the Prophet as having said,


    إِذَا مَشَتْ أُمَّتِي الْمُطَيْطاءَ، وَخَدَمَتْهُمْ فَارِسُ وَالرُّومُ، سُلِّطَ بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ


    “When my ummah learns to walk proudly, and the Romans and Persians are its servants, then Allah will impose some of them over others (as tyrants)” - Ibn Kathir.
    The above tradition is in Sahih ibn Hibban (Au.).

    كُلُّ ذَٰلِكَ كَانَ سَيِّئُهُ عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ مَكْرُوهًا (38)

    17|38| All are of those things whose evil is detestable unto thy Lord.70


    70. The consequences of breaking Allah’s laws have not been stated here. The Hadith does it. For example, a hadith in Bayhaqi as well as in several other collections says,


    لَمْ تَظْهَرِ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي قَوْمٍ قَطُّ ، حَتَّى يُعْلِنُوا ، بِهَا إِلَّا فَشَا فِيهِمُ الطَّاعُونُ وَالْأَوْجَاعُ ، الَّتِي لَمْ تَكُنْ مَضَتْ فِي أَسْلَافِهِمُ الَّذِينَ مَضَوْا ، وَلَمْ يَنْقُصُوا الْمِكْيَالَ وَالْمِيزَانَ ، إِلَّا أُخِذُوا بِالسِّنِينَ ، وَشِدَّةِ الْمَئُونَةِ ، وَجَوْرِ السُّلْطَانِ عَلَيْهِمْ ، وَلَمْ يَمْنَعُوا زَكَاةَ أَمْوَالِهِمْ إِلَّا مُنِعُوا الْقَطْرَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ ، وَلَوْلَا الْبَهَائِمُ لَمْ يُمْطَرُوا وَلَمْ يَنْقُضُوا عَهْدَ اللَّهِ ، وَعَهْدَ رَسُولِهِ إِلَّا سَلَّطَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ عَدُوًّا مِنْ غَيْرِهِمْ


    “Indecency never appeared in a people, to the extent that they did it openly, but they were visited by plague and diseases unknown to their forefathers. They never cheated in weights and measures but they were overtaken by starvation, hunger and the tyranny of the rulers. They never refused to pay the zakah but rains were held back from the heavens. If not for animals they would not have received any rains. They never broke Allah’s and His Messenger’s covenant but Allah imposed their enemies on them” (Alusi).
    The hadith is in Ibn Majah treated Hasan by Albani (Au.).

    ذَٰلِكَ مِمَّا أَوْحَىٰ إِلَيْكَ رَبُّكَ مِنَ الْحِكْمَةِ ۗ وَلَا تَجْعَلْ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ فَتُلْقَىٰ فِي جَهَنَّمَ مَلُومًا مَدْحُورًا (39)

    17|39| This is of what Allah has revealed unto you of the wisdom. And set up not with Allah another deity or you will be hurled into Jahannum, blamed and rejected.


    أَفَأَصْفَاكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ بِالْبَنِينَ وَاتَّخَذَ مِنَ الْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنَاثًا ۚ إِنَّكُمْ لَتَقُولُونَ قَوْلًا عَظِيمًا (40)

    17|40| Has your Lord chosen you for males and of the angels He took (for Himself) females?71 Truly, you utter a dreadful thing.


    71. Asad comments: “.. an allusion to the pre-Islamic Arabian belief that the angels - conceived of as a kind of female sub-deities - were God’s “daughters”, and this despite the pagan Arab’s contempt of female offspring.”

    وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لِيَذَّكَّرُوا وَمَا يَزِيدُهُمْ إِلَّا نُفُورًا (41)

    17|41| We have indeed propounded variously72 in this Qur’an so that they might receive admonition; but it increases them not except in aversion.73


    72. The textual word “sarrafa” has the double sense of revealing little by little, as well as varying the revelation, i.e., presenting the reminder in a variety of ways (to gain hearing and acceptance) - Qurtubi.
    Yusuf Ali adds: “Things are explained in the Qur’an from all points of view, individual and national, by means of stories, parables, and figures of speech, and by way of categorical commands. But those who are evil, instead of profiting by such instruction, often go farther and farther away from the Truth.”
    73. The textual “Nufur” has “nafara” in its root which means to bolt away in aversion.

    قُلْ لَوْ كَانَ مَعَهُ آلِهَةٌ كَمَا يَقُولُونَ إِذًا لَابْتَغَوْا إِلَىٰ ذِي الْعَرْشِ سَبِيلًا (42)

    17|42| Say, ‘If there had been other gods along with Him, as they say, then, in that case, they would have sought a way to the Lord of the `Arsh.’74


    74. The meaning, as given by Qatadah is, if it is supposed, (although a far-fetched supposition, that there were deities besides Allah), then, surely, Allah, the True Deity’s powers are such that they would have unconditionally surrendered to Him (Ibn Jarir).
    A second meaning is, says Razi, the pagans justified their worship of deities other than Allah on grounds that (39: 3),


    لِيُقَرِّبُونَا إِلَى اللَّهِ زُلْفَى [الزمر : 3]


    “in order that they will take us nearer to Allah.” They are told that, if they could possibly take you nearer, then surely, they would seek nearness to Him for themselves.
    A third possible meaning, as in Shawkani, and worded by Majid is: “these minor gods, if endowed with power and will at all, would surely have endeavored to contend with God, and would have asserted their independence or executed their own will.”

    سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ عُلُوًّا كَبِيرًا (43)

    17|43| Glory be to Him! High indeed is He exalted above what they say.


    تُسَبِّحُ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَالْأَرْضُ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ ۚ وَإِنْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَلَٰكِنْ لَا تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حَلِيمًا غَفُورًا (44)

    17|44| The seven heavens, the earth, and whatever is within them, celebrate His glory. And, there is not a thing but celebrates His glory in praises. But you do not understand their glorification.75 Verily, He is ever Clement,76 ever Forgiving.77


    75. Qatadah has stated that every biological organism including the trees enjoy some form of life, and glorify Allah (Ibn Jarir).
    This is how the verse was generally understood by the Companions. (In fact, they believed that inanimate objects also glorified Allah). Ibn Mas`ud said,


    كُنَّا نَسْمَعُ تَسْبِيحَ الطَّعَامِ وَهُوَ يُؤْكَلُ


    “We used to hear the food glorifying Allah as we ate it.” The report is in Bukhari.
    Another well-known report is narrated by Abu Dharr that he, Abu Bakr, `Umar and `Uthman, all heard a handful of pebbles that the Prophet had picked up, sing Allah’s glory. According to a hadith in Ahmad, the Prophet once saw people chatting with each other while on their camels. He said,


    ارْكَبُوهَا سَالِمَةً، وانْزِلُوا عَنْهَا سَالِمَةً، وَلا تَتَّخِذُوهَا كَرَاسِيَّ لأَحَادِيثِكُمْ ومَجَالِسِكُمْ، فَلَرُبَّ مَرْكُوبَةٍ خَيْرٌ مِنْ رَاكِبِهَا وَأَكْثَرُ ذِكْرًا لِلَّهِ مِنْه


    “Ride them safely and come down safely. Do not make chairs of them to chat in the streets or (chat) sessions. Sometimes the one rode is better than its rider and remembers Allah more than he does.”
    Then, Nasa’i has a hadith which reports the Prophet as having said,


    لاَ تَقْتُلُوا الضَّفَادِعَ فَإِنَّ نَقِيقَهَا تَسْبِيحٌ


    “Do not kill frogs. Their croaking is their glorification (of Allah).” (The hadith is Sahih of status: S. Ibrahim).
    Some of the Salaf used to say that when water boils, it glorifies Allah, when the door creaks, it glorifies Allah.” However, when Hasan (al-Busri) was asked, “Does this dinner table glorify Allah?” He replied, “Once it used to.” What he meant perhaps is that when it was a green tree it used to glorify Allah. This is how many scholars have understood the famous hadith according to which once the Prophet (saws) planted two branches on two graves and said, “Maybe they will be relieved of punishment so long as the branches do not dry up.” That is, the branches, so long as green, will glorify Allah and will prevent punishment of those in the grave (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). Nonetheless, the important point is, it was the Prophet who planted them. He has not recommended that his followers should plant anything near the graves, or place flowers thereon (Au.).
    Qurtubi writes further: Some people have thought that the glorification here is in the allegorical sense. (In the words of Yusuf Ali: “[The praises of the inanimate is manifested] in the evidence which it furnishes of the unity and glory of Allah).” But several reports give us to believe, writes Qurtubi, that the glorification is in the real sense. That is, the inanimate objects sing glory vocally. The Qur’an tells us about a few inanimate objects that glorify Allah. It said (38: 17-18),


    وَاذْكُرْ عَبْدَنَا دَاوُودَ ذَا الْأَيْدِ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ (17) إِنَّا سَخَّرْنَا الْجِبَالَ مَعَهُ يُسَبِّحْنَ بِالْعَشِيِّ وَالْإِشْرَاقِ [ص : 17 ، 18]


    “And remember Our slave Da’ud, a man of strength. Surely, he was oft-turning (to his Lord). We subjected the mountains that sang Allah’s glory along with him in the evening and morning.”
    The Prophet has said,


    لاَ يَسْمَعُ مَدَى صَوْتِ الْمُؤَذِّنِ جِنٌّ وَلاَ إِنْسٌ وَلاَ شَىْءٌ إِلاَّ شَهِدَ لَهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ


    “Neither the Jinn, mankind, trees nor stones nor anything else hear the voice of the caller to Prayer but will bear witness for him on the Day of Judgment.”
    He also said, according to a hadith in Muslim,


    إِنِّي لأَعْرِفُ حَجَرًا كَانَ يُسَلِّمُ عَلَيَّ قَبْلَ أَنْ أُبْعَثَ


    “I know the stone in Makkah that used to greet me before I was commissioned.”
    Further, had the glorification been in the allegorical sense, Allah would not have added the words, “But you do not understand their glorification.”
    Again there is, adds Shawkani, the hadith of Bukhari which speaks of the date palm stem breaking down into sobs (when the Prophet abandoned it for the newly made mimber). There is another hadith in the Sahihayn involving ants and a Prophet of the past. It reports that the Prophet said,


    أَنَّ نَمْلَةً قَرَصَتْ نَبِيًّا مِنَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ فَأَمَرَ بِقَرْيَةِ النَّمْلِ فَأُحْرِقَتْ فَأَوْحَى اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ أَفِى أَنْ قَرَصَتْكَ نَمْلَةٌ أَهْلَكْتَ أُمَّةً مِنَ الأُمَمِ تُسَبِّحُ


    “An ant stung one of the Prophets of the past. He ordered that the ant-hill be burnt down. Allah revealed to him, ‘Did you, for the reasons of a single ant, burn down a whole colony of ants, that, after all, is one of the Umam that sing Allah’s glory?’”
    Finally, Alusi points out, with Thanwi seconding him, such glorification on the part of the inanimate objects does not imply that they have souls, or intellect, or are capable of senses as other animate and living objects are. But rather, they might possess some sort of a low order consciousness.
    76. Majid comments: “.. so that He does not seize you with His vengeance immediately” (despite your rejection).
    77. Majid again: “.. so that He shall forgive you, if even now you repent and mend your ways.”

    وَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ جَعَلْنَا بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ حِجَابًا مَسْتُورًا (45)

    17|45| And when you recite the Qur’an, We place between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter, a veil obstructing.78


    78. In Qatadah’s opinion, Allah (swt) creates a barrier between unbelievers and the meaning of the Qur’an so that they are unable to understand it. They may hear, but will understand nothing. It is the direct result of their obedience of Satan (Ibn Jarir).
    In fact, the Makkan pagans were a people who were proud of the barriers between them and the call to truth. They used to proudly say, in the words of the Qur’an (41: 5),


    وَقَالُوا قُلُوبُنَا فِي أَكِنَّةٍ مِمَّا تَدْعُونَا إِلَيْهِ وَفِي آذَانِنَا وَقْرٌ وَمِنْ بَيْنِنَا وَبَيْنِكَ حِجَابٌ فَاعْمَلْ إِنَّنَا عَامِلُونَ [فصلت : 5]


    “They said, ‘Our hearts are within coverings from that to which you invite us, and in our ears is deafness, and between you and us is a screen; so work, indeed we are also working’” (Zamakhshari, Shabbir).
    Sa`id b. Jubayr has reported that once, after the revelation of the chapter on Abu Lahab, the Prophet was sitting with Abu Bakar when Abu Lahab’s wife started walking down towards them,


    يا رسول الله إنها امرأة بذية وأخاف أن تؤذيك فلو قمت فقال : إنها لن تراني فقالت : يا أبا بكر صاحبك هجاني قال : وما يقول الشعر قالت : أنت عندي مصدق وانصرفت فقلت : يا رسول الله لم ترك قال : لم يزل ملك يسترني منها بجناحه


    Abu Bakr said, “Messenger of Allah, this is a vile woman. I am afraid she will annoy you, so if you could move off.” the Prophet said, “She will not be able to see me.” (When she got close she demanded to know), “Abu Bakr! Is it true that your companion has slandered me?” Abu Bakr assured her that the Prophet had done no such thing and that he never said any poetry. She said, “I believe in you.” After she was gone Abu Bakr said to the Prophet, “It seems she did not see you.” The Prophet replied, “Yes, an angel placed a wing between me and her” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    The report is in Abu Ya`la, Ibn Abi Hatim, and Hakim who declared it Sahih (Shawkani).
    According to other versions the Prophet began to recite this verse (17: 45) because of which she could not see him:


    وَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرآنَ جَعَلْنَا بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بالآخرة حِجَاباً مّسْتُوراً


    Qurtubi has a few other instances to report of the inability of the unbelievers to sight a Muslim they were looking for because of his recitation of the Qur’an. He reports Ka`b as saying, “I taught a man in Syria the verses the Prophet used to recite for concealing himself from the unbelievers. He happened to travel to the Roman territories where he tarried for a while. But then he had to flee. They were after him in hot pursuit. When they got close, he began to recite the verses (I had taught). He reports that although they even walked by to him, they did not see him.”
    And, Tha`labi reported that having learnt the verses from Ka`b, he too taught them someone in Rayy. It should so happen that the man was taken prisoner in Daylam, and remained in custody for a long time. Finally he escaped. They went after him. He began to recite the verses. At one point they came so close that his clothes touched theirs. But they did not see him at all.”
    As regards the verses in question, Ka`b reports: “The Prophet used to conceal himself from the pagans through the recitation of three verses. First, the second part of the 57th verse of Surah al-Kahf which says:


    إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ أَكِنَّةً أَنْ يَفْقَهُوهُ وَفِي آذَانِهِمْ وَقْرًا [الكهف : 57]


    “Indeed We have placed a covering on their hearts that they should understand it, and in their ears a plug.”
    Second, verse 108 of Surah al-Nahl. It says:


    أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ وَسَمْعِهِمْ وَأَبْصَارِهِمْ [النحل : 108]


    “They are the ones that Allah has a set a seal on their hearts, ears and eyes.”
    And third, verse 23 of Surah al-Jathiyyah which says,


    أَفَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَهَهُ هَوَاهُ وَأَضَلَّهُ اللَّهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ وَخَتَمَ عَلَى سَمْعِهِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَجَعَلَ عَلَى بَصَرِهِ غِشَاوَةً [الجاثية : 23]


    “Have you considered him who took as his god, his own desires. Allah led him astray on knowledge, and set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and placed a veil over his vision?”
    “To the above, Qurtubi continues, we might add the first nine verses of Surah Yasin. They say,


    يس (1) وَالْقُرْآنِ الْحَكِيمِ (2) إِنَّكَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (3) عَلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ (4) تَنْزِيلَ الْعَزِيزِ الرَّحِيمِ (5) لِتُنْذِرَ قَوْمًا مَا أُنْذِرَ آبَاؤُهُمْ فَهُمْ غَافِلُونَ (6) لَقَدْ حَقَّ الْقَوْلُ عَلَى أَكْثَرِهِمْ فَهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ (7) إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا فِي أَعْنَاقِهِمْ أَغْلَالًا فَهِيَ إِلَى الْأَذْقَانِ فَهُمْ مُقْمَحُونَ (8) وَجَعَلْنَا مِنْ بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ سَدًّا وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ سَدًّا فَأَغْشَيْنَاهُمْ فَهُمْ لَا يُبْصِرُونَ [يس : 1 - 9]


    “Ya Sin. By the wise Qur’an. Indeed, you are (O Muhammad) from among the messengers - on a straight path. A revelation of the Mighty, the Merciful, that you may warn a people whose forefathers were not warned, so they are unaware. Surely, the Word has become true on most of them, so they do not believe. Indeed, We have put shackles on their necks, which are to their chins, so that they are with their heads held aloft. And We have placed before them a barrier and covered them, so they do not see.”
    “These are the verses that the Prophet had recited while leaving his house in Makkah on the day the pagans stood by the door to assassinate him. He asked `Ali to take his place on the bed and came out reciting these nine verses. He went by them, throwing dust onto everyone’s head, but none of them was able to see him.
    “I might, Qurtubi continues, narrate my own story. It happened during the siege of the Manthur Fort in Qurtuba (Cordova, Spain). I escaped from the enemy, and ran (into the open field). But in a short while two of their horsemen came after me. Now, I was in the open and nothing to conceal me. So I began to recite these verses of Surah Yasin along with a few from other parts of the Qur’an. They passed by me. Then, as they returned, one of them remarked, ‘This is a Daybalah,’ which meant a Devil in their language. Allah blinded their eyes and so they failed to see me.”
    Hussain Ahmad Madani has reported a similar incident involving Imdadullah Muhajir Makki. The British were after him for his part in the insurrection against them during their rule in India. He had gone underground and they got wind that he was in a certain town. One of Makki’s followers - a Nawab - concealed him in his stable. When the British soldiers came he of course denied that Makki was around. The British insisted on searching the place. After they had done the main house, they noticed the stable. “That’s only a stable,” the Nawab said in apprehension. The officer began to stroll toward the stable with a jerky Nawab in his company. They found a prayer mat spread on the floor and a pitcher of water, but no human being.” The Englishman asked, “What about this prayer-mat?” The Nawab answered, “You see, in our religion, we are required to conceal our non-obligatory prayers from others. So, I do them here.” The man was not very satisfied, but there was nothing he could say since there wasn’t any soul around. After the soldiers had left, the Nawab went back to the stable, and, for sure Muhajir Makki was there. He asked him where was he a while ago. “Right here; never left the place for a moment,” he replied (from Aseer-e-Malta).
    Strange are Allah’s ways however. A common, but committed Muslim, confided to this writer that he escaped notice by non-Muslim officials at an Indian airport, simply by reciting the above mentioned Qur’anic verses. Although it was a minor issue, but that the official failed to see someone right before him was, according to him, simply amazing. Similar stories have emerged from Mujahidin in Iraq. Every Muslim ought to memorize these verses (Au.).

    وَجَعَلْنَا عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ أَكِنَّةً أَنْ يَفْقَهُوهُ وَفِي آذَانِهِمْ وَقْرًا ۚ وَإِذَا ذَكَرْتَ رَبَّكَ فِي الْقُرْآنِ وَحْدَهُ وَلَّوْا عَلَىٰ أَدْبَارِهِمْ نُفُورًا (46)

    17|46| And We have placed a covering over their hearts - lest they understand it - and in their ears deafness;79 so that when you speak of your Lord alone - as in the Qur’an - they turn back in aversion.80


    79. The covering and deafness were because of their own asking. A verse of a previously revealed chapter says (41: 5),


    وَقَالُوا قُلُوبُنَا فِي أَكِنَّةٍ مِمَّا تَدْعُونَا إِلَيْهِ وَفِي آذَانِنَا وَقْرٌ وَمِنْ بَيْنِنَا وَبَيْنِكَ حِجَابٌ [فصلت : 5]


    “And they said, ‘Our hearts are in a covering against what you invite us to, and in our ears a deafness; and between us and you is a veil” (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali comments: “The invisible veil being put against the ungodly on account of their deliberate rejection of Truth, the result is that their minds are fogged so that they cannot understand and their ears are clogged so that they cannot hear. In other words the effects of Evil become cumulative in shutting out Allah’s grace.”
    The Bible is not without similar rebuke and punishment. Majid quotes: “Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see indeed, but perceive not. Make the hearts of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and convert, and be healed (Is. 6: 9,10).”
    80. That is, they hate to hear of Allah if He alone is mentioned. But, if their deities are mentioned along with Him, then they are happy to hear them mentioned. The Qur’an said at another place (39: 45),


    وَإِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ اشْمَأَزَّتْ قُلُوبُ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ وَإِذَا ذُكِرَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ دُونِهِ إِذَا هُمْ يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ [الزمر : 45]


    “When Allah alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink with aversion, but when those other than Him are mentioned, immediately they rejoice” (Shabbir).

    نَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَسْتَمِعُونَ بِهِ إِذْ يَسْتَمِعُونَ إِلَيْكَ وَإِذْ هُمْ نَجْوَىٰ إِذْ يَقُولُ الظَّالِمُونَ إِنْ تَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا رَجُلًا مَسْحُورًا (47)

    17|47| We know very well how they listen, when they listen to you (O Muhammad),81 and when they conspire, when the evil-doers say, ‘Surely, you are following not but a bewitched man.’82


    81. Ibn Is-haq has the following story as the context of revelation. It is said that one night Abu Sufyan, Abu Jahl and Akhnas b. Shurayq concealed themselves around the Prophet’s house to listen to his recitation of the Qur’an in his night-prayer. Each of them took up his position unaware of others. By dawn when the Prophet had terminated his Prayer, and they began to disperse, they came across each other in the street. They reproached each other. But by the next night they were all back to their positions. Once again they met in the street, to reproach each other. When it was the third time, they promised each other that they would never do it again. Next day Akhnas went to Abu Sufyan and asked him what his opinion was about what Muhammad was reciting. He said, “Frankly, I heard things that I understood and things that I did not.” Akhnas agreed with him. Next he went to Abu Jahl and asked him what he thought of the Prophet’s recitation. Abu Jahl said, “Look. We and the Banu `Abd Manaf competed with each other. They fed the people, we fed. They provided, and we provided. They gave, and we gave. We were neck to neck, like race horses. Now they say, ‘We have a Prophet who receives revelations from the heaven.’ When shall we be able to say this? By God, we shall never believe in him.”
    82. Mawdudi comments: “This is an allusion to conversations between the Makkan unbelievers. They were wont, surreptitiously, to listen to the Qur’an and then consult with one another as to how they could effectively refute it. At times they suspected that some among their ranks were gradually succumbing to the spell of the Qur’an. Whenever they became aware of this they approached the persons concerned and tried to dissuade them from taking the Prophet (peace be on him) seriously, arguing that he was under a magical spell and thus was given to saying crazy things.”

    انْظُرْ كَيْفَ ضَرَبُوا لَكَ الْأَمْثَالَ فَضَلُّوا فَلَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ سَبِيلًا (48)

    17|48| Behold, how they strike examples for you.83 Thus they go astray and can never find the way.84


    83. Mawdudi writes again, “It is pointed out here that the Makkan opponents were not of one opinion. From time to time they made statements that were not only different but even mutually contradictory. At times they alleged that the Prophet (peace be on him) was himself a magician. On other occasions, they claimed that he was under the spell of someone else’s magic. They also variously labeled him a poet and a lunatic.”
    84. Yusuf Ali points out that the word used is “sabilan” meaning “a way” and not “the way.” That is, “In going astray, they have lost the way; but never can they find any means of getting back to that way..”

    وَقَالُوا أَإِذَا كُنَّا عِظَامًا وَرُفَاتًا أَإِنَّا لَمَبْعُوثُونَ خَلْقًا جَدِيدًا (49)

    17|49| And they said, ‘When we shall be bones and crumbled pieces, shall we be raised a new creation?’


    قُلْ كُونُوا حِجَارَةً أَوْ حَدِيدًا (50)

    17|50| Say, ‘Let you be stones or iron.


    أَوْ خَلْقًا مِمَّا يَكْبُرُ فِي صُدُورِكُمْ ۚ فَسَيَقُولُونَ مَنْ يُعِيدُنَا ۖ قُلِ الَّذِي فَطَرَكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ ۚ فَسَيُنْغِضُونَ إِلَيْكَ رُءُوسَهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ مَتَىٰ هُوَ ۖ قُلْ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُونَ قَرِيبًا (51)

    17|51| Or a creation bigger in your minds.’85 They will then ask, ‘Who will restore us?’ Say, ‘He who originated you in the first instance.’ They will nod86 their heads at you and say, ‘When will that be?’ Say, ‘Maybe it will happen soon.


    85. The earliest scholars such as Ibn `Abbas, Ibn `Umar, Hasan, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Dahhak and many others were of opinion that by the words “or a creation bigger in your minds” the allusion is to death. That is, if the pagans had some other creation, such as death itself in their minds, as what they could become to avoid being resurrected, they would still be resurrected since even death will also be resurrected and meet with its own death on the Day of Resurrection. On that day, it would be brought forth in the form of a fat ram and slaughtered. But Qatadah and Mujahid were of the opinion that the allusion is to some other creation that cannot be resurrected such as the heavens or the earth (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    86. The textual yunghiduna implies an upward and downward shaking of the head (Ibn Jarir). One must appreciate the accuracy of the Qur’an. In English they would say in such a situation, “he shook his head.” But that implies a sideward shaking of the head, usually in refusal or denial. Whereas, an upward and downward movement is done to express, as Zamakhshari has said, wonder, disbelief, or mockery, which is the perfect image portrayed here with the help of a simple accurate word (Au.).

    يَوْمَ يَدْعُوكُمْ فَتَسْتَجِيبُونَ بِحَمْدِهِ وَتَظُنُّونَ إِنْ لَبِثْتُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا (52)

    17|52| The day when We shall call you and you will answer with praise to Him87 and think that you had not stayed but for a little while.’88


    87. A report of Ibn abi Hatim narrates the Prophet having said,


    وليس على أهل لا إله إلا الله وحشة في قبورهم ولا منشرهم وكأني أنظر إلى أهل لا إله إلا الله وهم ينفضون التراب عن رؤوسهم ويقولون الحمد لله الذي أذهب عنا الحزن


    “People of the testimony: ‘there is no deity except Allah,’ will not feel any desolation: neither in their graves nor in the Field of Resurrection. Indeed, I can as if see the people of the testimony: ‘there is no deity except Allah,’ shaking off dirt from their heads saying, ‘Praise be to the One who removed from us all worry’” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    The report is also in Tabarani, which has, according to Haythami, some problems in the chain of narrators.
    Asad writes: “.. the reference to the erstwhile deniers of the possibility of resurrection as ‘answering God’s call by praising Him’ implies that as soon as they are resurrected they will become fully aware of His existence and almightiness.”
    88. It is said that there will be an interval of forty years between the two blows of the Trumpet. Those punished in the grave will have the punishment removed from them and will fall asleep. When the second blow is sounded, they will rise up saying (36: 52),


    قَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا مَنْ بَعَثَنَا مِنْ مَرْقَدِنَا هَذَا مَا وَعَدَ الرَّحْمَنُ وَصَدَقَ الْمُرْسَلُونَ [يس : 52]


    “Who resurrected us from our places of rest?” It is then that they will think that they tarried (in the grave) but for a few moments” (Qurtubi).
    Asad adds: “Man’s life on earth will appear to him ‘but as a little while’ in comparison with the unlimited duration of life in the hereafter (Tabari, Zamakhshari). A further implication is that man’s concept of ‘time’ is earthbound and, hence, has no meaning in the context of the ultimate reality.”

    وَقُلْ لِعِبَادِي يَقُولُوا الَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَنْزَغُ بَيْنَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ كَانَ لِلْإِنْسَانِ عَدُوًّا مُبِينًا (53)

    17|53| Say to My servants that they should say that which is best.89 Verily Satan provokes discord between them. And Satan is ever to man an open enemy.90


    89. Mawdudi expounds: “In their discussions with the unbelievers and polytheists, in fact with all opponents of their faith, Muslims should restrain from losing their temper. Additionally, they should not resort to exaggerated and extremist statements. Even in the face of provocation from their opponents, Muslims should not utter even a word that is contrary to the truth; nor should they lose their temper at the vulgarities which are flung at them by their opponents, nor should they be provoked to the point of paying back their opponents in the latter’s own coins. Instead, they should keep their composure and say only that which is balanced and true, and is in keeping with the grace and dignity of the faith which they seek to uphold.”
    90. That is, do not be harsh while arguing with the unbelievers. That will have the opposite effect of raising tempers and creating hatred for the good word, killing the cause viz., the deliverance of the message (based on Alusi).
    Tha`labi, Mawardi, Ibn `Atiyyah and Wahidi have reported as context of revelation that one of the pagans insulted `Umar ibn al-Khattab (of course at Makkah) and he intended to kill him. But that would have led to turbulence, so Allah revealed this verse (Qurtubi).
    Yusuf Ali sums up: “The command refers to two situations. (1) Even to your enemies and the enemies of Allah you should speak fair: who are you to judge others? Judgement belongs to Allah alone, for He knows you (i.e., all mankind) best, and your personal knowledge is at best imperfect. And Satan is always trying to divide mankind. (2) Amongst yourselves, also you should not entertain suspicions, but speak politely according to the best standards of human speech. A false or unkind word may destroy all your efforts at building up unity, because the forces of disruption are more numerous than the forces of unity.”

    رَبُّكُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِكُمْ ۖ إِنْ يَشَأْ يَرْحَمْكُمْ أَوْ إِنْ يَشَأْ يُعَذِّبْكُمْ ۚ وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَكِيلًا (54)

    17|54| Your Lord knows you very well. If He will, He will show you mercy, or if He will, He will chastise you.91 We have sent you not (O Muhammad) a custodian over them.92


    91. That is, Allah knows the condition of your hearts. If He wished He would show you light, or, leave you on your own and punish you for your disbelief. As regards the Prophet, he cannot do any more than deliver the message. He is not a guardian over you to force you to believe (based on Ibn Jurayj’s understanding as in Ibn Jarir). That is, the verse addresses the unbelievers.
    Zamakhshari also connects this verse with the previous one and understands that this is Allah’s admonition to the unbelievers. The believers should tell them that which is good. They may also tell the antagonists, “Your Lord knows you very well. If He will, He will show you mercy, or if He will, He will chastise you.”
    An outside chance exists that it is the believers who are addressed by the words: “If He will..” In that case Mawdudi’s explanation comes in handy. He writes, “The believers should never go about bragging that they are going to enter Paradise, or cockily name other persons or groups as the ones destined to enter Hell. For it is God alone who has the authority to decide on such matters.”
    Other commentators have pointed out that an unbeliever cannot be categorically judged as of the Fire until it is ascertained that he died on unbelief (Au.).
    92. “Wakil” of the original has various connotations ranging from someone relied upon, trusted, a guide, a support, to someone to whom affairs are entrusted.

    وَرَبُّكَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۗ وَلَقَدْ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَ النَّبِيِّينَ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۖ وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُورًا (55)

    17|55| Your Lord knows very well all those who are in the heavens and in the earth. And We preferred some Prophets over others, and gave Da’ud the Zabur.93


    93. That is, explains Alusi, some of the Messengers were preferred over others in spiritual matters and not in material things (while the unbelievers think that material favor is all that matters: Au.).
    Ibrahim (asws) was made a Khalil, Musa (asws) was directly spoken to, Da’ud (asws) was given a revelation that did not have any commandments, Sulayman (asws) was given a kingdom that no one else was ever given, `Isa (asws) was created with the word kun, and our Prophet’s earlier and later sins were forgiven. Further, he was sent to the entire mankind. Thus, every Prophet was singled out for a favor, and in that respect preferred over others (Qatada and Ibn Jurayj: Ibn Jarir).

    قُلِ ادْعُوا الَّذِينَ زَعَمْتُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ فَلَا يَمْلِكُونَ كَشْفَ الضُّرِّ عَنْكُمْ وَلَا تَحْوِيلًا (56)

    17|56| Say, ‘Call those besides Him whom you fancy.94 They have neither the power to remove afflictions from you, nor to turn (them) away.


    94. Referring to the textual word “za`ama”, often translated as “to fancy, allege, maintain, claim” etc., Alusi demonstrates, with the help of several examples, some of which from the hadith, that “za`ama” need not necessarily be in the sense of “fancy, allege” etc. Quite often, especially in history works, it is commonly used in the sense of “belief, assertion or free of doubt.” Thus Alusi precedes in answering the allegations of the Orientalists that since Ibn Is-haq often uses the term “za`ama” while narrating traditions concerning life of the Prophet, the reports have a question mark before them. For example, A. Guillaume writes in his foreword to the “Sirah:” “A word that very frequently precedes a statement is za`ama or za`amu, ‘he (they) alleged’. It carries with it more than a hint that the statement may not be true..” (Life of Muhammad). This is how the Orientalists managed to plant doubts in the hearts of the Western educated Muslims. This also tells us that even translations of Islamic text by non-Muslims, especially Western scholars, may not be accorded acceptance without a proper review (Au.).

    أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ يَبْتَغُونَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمُ الْوَسِيلَةَ أَيُّهُمْ أَقْرَبُ وَيَرْجُونَ رَحْمَتَهُ وَيَخَافُونَ عَذَابَهُ ۚ إِنَّ عَذَابَ رَبِّكَ كَانَ مَحْذُورًا (57)

    17|57| Those that they call upon, they (themselves) seek means of access to their Lord as to which of them shall be nearest (to Him).95 They hope for His mercy and fear His chastisement.’96 Verily, the chastisement of Your Lord is worth taking heed.


    95. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud is widely reported to have said, as also Qatadah, that the allusion is to some of the Jinn that the pagan Arabs worshipped. Those Jinn became Muslims, and began to seek Allah’s nearness, while their foolish followers remained worshiping them. This, says Ibn Jarir, is the correct opinion. Qurtubi points out that Ibn Mas`ud’s statement is in Muslim. In fact, adds Ibn Kathir, differently worded, it is in Bukhari also.
    96. Commenting on the words, “They hope for His mercy and fear His chastisement,” Alusi points out that a believer’s faith should be well balanced between the two: hope and fear, throughout his life. However, with the approach of death, hope should become predominant. Alusi brings out another brilliant point here. He writes that it is reported of some of the devoted the words, “I do not worship Allah in the hope of Paradise or in fear of Hell-fire.” People have divided themselves over the statement into critics and eulogists. The explanation is as follows. If someone said these words expressing his freedom from the need of Allah’s bounty, then, he is in error and an unbeliever. But if he said it in belief that Allah deserves to be worshipped, for His own sake, even if there was no Paradise and no Hell-fire, then, such a person is a true gnostic, an `arif.

    وَإِنْ مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ إِلَّا نَحْنُ مُهْلِكُوهَا قَبْلَ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ أَوْ مُعَذِّبُوهَا عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا ۚ كَانَ ذَٰلِكَ فِي الْكِتَابِ مَسْطُورًا (58)

    17|58| And there is not a town but We shall annihilate it before the Day of Judgment, or shall chastise it with a terrible chastisement.97 This is written in the Book.98


    97. Asad expresses the opinion that the allusion by the textual “qaryah” (lit. village) could be to communities but some commentators have believed that the allusion is to the towns of the unbelievers. But others have believed that both believing and non-believing towns are alluded to. That is, if the town is of the believers, it will be destroyed because of the natural death of its inhabitants, but if it is inhabited by the unbelievers, then, through chastisement.
    Shabbir explains that one need not be disturbed by the use of the word “halaka” in reference to the believers. For, the word has been used in the sense of natural death in the Qur’an itself. Allah (swt) said (40: 34):


    حَتَّى إِذَا هَلَكَ قُلْتُمْ لَنْ يَبْعَثَ اللَّهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ رَسُولًا [غافر : 34]


    “Until, when he was dead you said, ‘Allah will never send a Messenger after him.’” And, in a hadith the Prophet (saws) said,


    كُلَّمَا هَلَكَ نَبِيٌّ خَلَفَهُ نَبِيٌّ


    “Whenever a Prophet died, another Prophet followed him.”
    Alusi writes: Maqatil has reported that he saw in Dahhak b. Muzahim’s book the following entry as explanation of this verse: Makkah will be destroyed by the Abyssinians, Madinah through starvation, Busra through flood, Kufa by the Turks, mountains through earthquakes and Khurasan through tremors. He also mentioned several other cities.
    Wahab b. Munabbih on the other hand said that Mesopotamia will be in peace from destruction until Armenia is destroyed, and Armenia until Egypt, Egypt until Kufa. And the Great War (Armageddon) will not come by until Kufa is destroyed. After the Armageddon, Constantinople will be (re-)conquered by a man of the Banu Hashim. (He also said that) Spain will be destroyed by the white race, Africa by Spain, Egypt because of being cut off from river Nile and due to differences among its armies, Iraq out of hunger, Ayla (Palestine) from the siege laid around the land and the sea, Rayy by the Daylam, Khurasan at the hands of the Nebatians, Nebatians at the hands of China, India and Yemen because of locusts and (poor) rulers. In fact, Alusi adds, Abu Hurayrah has reported through trustworthy sources the Prophet’s words that “Madinah will be the last of the Muslim town to be destroyed.” The above has been recorded by Abu Sa`ud.
    However, with reference to the above a few points may be noted. Firstly, it is not a hadith. Secondly, and as Alusi himself has said, Wahab’s reports are not always reliable (Au.).
    Further, Alusi adds, it is not confirmed that Madinah will be destroyed because of starvation. A trustworthy report says wild beasts and vultures will destroy it. But the report that Makkah will be destroyed by the Abyssinian could be trusted since a report in the Sahihayn says that an Abyssinian will pull down the Ka`bah, stone by stone. According to yet another report (Alusi does not state the source) he and his companions will then transport the stones hand by hand and throw them into the sea. It will never be circumambulated thereafter as no one would be left believing in Allah. With reference to Wahab’s report, Alusi also writes that the implication of saying that Egypt will only be destroyed after Kufah, is that Kufah will be re-established, since by his time (Alusi’s), Kufah already stood destroyed. Buni and others have predicted, relying on Sheikh al-Akbar’s statements, that Kufah will be rehabilitated by the end of the 13th Islamic century. (Alusi died in 1270 A.H. but Kufah is still no more than a couple of huts while we are in the 15th Islamic century: Au.). Finally, Alusi continues, it might also be remembered that reliable reports say that after `Isa’s death, the earth will be visited by a cold blast of wind coming from the Syrian side, that will kill everyone with an atom of faith in him. Thereafter, only evil people will inhabit the globe over whom the Day of Judgment will be called.
    98. The allusion by “the Book” is to the Lawh al-Mahfuz (Ibn Jarir).

    وَمَا مَنَعَنَا أَنْ نُرْسِلَ بِالْآيَاتِ إِلَّا أَنْ كَذَّبَ بِهَا الْأَوَّلُونَ ۚ وَآتَيْنَا ثَمُودَ النَّاقَةَ مُبْصِرَةً فَظَلَمُوا بِهَا ۚ وَمَا نُرْسِلُ بِالْآيَاتِ إِلَّا تَخْوِيفًا (59)

    17|59| And nothing prevented us that We should send signs, except that the earlier ones rejected them.99 Indeed, We granted Thamud the she-camel as a clear (sign), but they did her wrong. And We send not signs except to frighten.100


    99. The pagans said to the Prophet: “Muhammad. You admit there have been prophets before you. One of them had power over the winds. Another quickened the dead. So, if it pleases you that we should believe in you, then, transform Safa Mount into that of gold so that we can irrigate the place.” In response, Allah revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir from Sa`id b. Jubayr and others).
    And the meaning is, Qurtubi states, if Allah did not send down signs as they wished, it was because if they did not believe even after the signs, they would have to be necessarily destroyed; just like Thamud who rejected the camel that emerged from a rock on their demand. In the present case, it was known to Allah that there will be Muslims from among the Makkans - as well as from their progeny. The tree was therefore saved for the sake of its branches.
    Miracles, therefore, began to be shown at a time when they were believed in as miracles, that is, during the Madinan period. The only miracle that the Makkans were shown, something everyone could check (apart from the Qur’an), was that of the nocturnal journey to Jerusalem (Au.).
    According to a report in Nasa’i and Ahmad, the Prophet was given a choice. If he wished Allah would show the sign they demanded. But if they did not believe they would be destroyed. Alternatively, they could be given reprieve. The Prophet preferred reprieve for them (Ibn Kathir).
    The report is in Ahmad and Hakim who declared it Sahih. Dhahabi agrees with Hakim. Haythami also felt satisfied with the chain of narrators (S. Ibrahim).
    100. Qurtubi writes that with reference to the words, “And We send not signs except to frighten,” five connotations are possible. First, the allusion is to the miracles that the Messengers perform, to warn the unbelievers and drive fear into them. Second, verses threatening punishments to prevent the sinners. Third, the allusion is to the changes in a person’s life: from childhood to youth to manhood and old age, so that people draw the lesson: this is Ibn Hanbal’s opinion. Fourth, the allusion by “the verses” is the to Qur’an. And fifth, sudden death (Qurtubi).
    101. E.g., the verse in Surah al-Buruj which said (85: 19-20):


    بَلِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فِي تَكْذِيبٍ (19) وَاللَّهُ مِنْ وَرَائِهِمْ مُحِيطٌ [البروج : 19 ، 20]


    “The unbelievers are in a state of denial, but Allah is encompassing them from behind them.”
    102. In the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Hasan, Masruq, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Abu Malik and others, the reference is to the vision that the Prophet enjoyed when he was taken from Makkah to Bayt al-Maqdis and from there to the heavens. Ibn `Abbas was very specific. He said, “It was the vision of the eyes and not a dream.” The report is in Bukhari and Tirmidhi (Qurtubi), as also in Nasa’i and others (Shawkani).
    Qurtubi adds that if it had been a dream, and not a vision of the eye, it could not have become a means of trial for the people which the verse states was the purport.
    Hasan al-Busri said, “The Prophet was taken to Bayt al-Maqdis where he prayed, and Allah showed him the signs that He willed, then he did his morning in Makkah. When he informed the people that he had been taken to Bayt al-Maqdis they replied, ‘Muhammad. What’s the matter with you? You did your evening here in Makkah. Then by morning you are telling us that you had been to Bayt al-Maqdis by night, traveling the distance of two months in a single night?’ They were skeptically surprised. In fact, some (of the Muslims) apostatized. (Hence Allah’s words, ‘And the vision that We showed you and the tree accursed in this Qur’an, was not but a trial for the people’) - Ibn Jarir.
    In contrast, Abu Bakr took a rational line. When told about the Prophet’s claim, he remarked, “Well, if he says so, I believe in him.” He was asked, “Do you believe in him before you have heard from him first hand?” He replied, “Where are your senses? I believe in him when he says he receives revelations from the heaven. Why I should I not believe in him when he says he had been to Jerusalem which is so close when compared to the heavens?” (Qurtubi).
    In this connection, it may be noted that all the ahadith that have been narrated in explanation of the vision, to the effect that the Prophet saw Banu Umayyah in his vision as defiling his (prophetic) mission, are, according to commentators, untrustworthy. It is another thing that they were, as Alusi has stated, the first to bring corruption into the body politic of Islam. `A’isha is also reported to have made some adverse statements about them, before one of them.
    103. Ibn `Abbas, Masruq, Hasan and others have said that the allusion by the accursed tree is to the Zaqqum tree. According to Hasan the pagans said, “Is not Ibn Abi Kabsha (Prophet Muhammad) lying when he says that stones will be fuel of Hell-fire, and in the same breath that there will be a tree there called Zaqqum?” (Ibn Jarir). That is, how can a tree flourish in Fire? Thus it became a test for them. Will they believe, because Allah says so in His revelation, or will they trust their own minds and limited knowledge?
    A tree is a hardy thing. There might be some cure for the rationalist’s skepticism in the information that “viable bacteria have been recovered in the interior of an operating nuclear reactor, having survived intense fluxes of ionizing reaction.” That is, a place where they should be disintegrated within seconds. Again, another finding that has sent the scientists home in amazement is that “bacteria can survive after exposures to pressures as high as 10 tonnes per square meter, and after flash heating under dry conditions at temperatures of up to 6000 deg. C.” (Our Place in the Cosmos, Fred Hoyle and C. Wickramasinghe, Phoenix, p. 4). In view of this information, a tree in Hell seems to be a small-time story (Au.).
    But, although mentioned in two other places, where has the tree been accursed in the Qur’an? Zamakhshari answers that “la`nah” in Arabic is denial of Allah’s mercy. Now, since Zaqqum tree will be in the Fire, far from Allah’s mercy, the word “mal`un” has been employed. Another connotation, he adds, comes from the Arab usage who were wont to refer to any distasteful, harmful eatable thing as “mal`un.”
    The Lexicon writer Abdul Rashid No`mani writes under the entry Zaqqum that the Prophet (saws) said in a hadith, which Tirmidhi rated Hasan Sahih,


    اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلاَ تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّاوَأَنْتُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ ، فَقَالَ : لَوْ أَنَّ قَطْرَةً مِنَ الزَّقُّومِ قُطِرَتْ فِي بِحَارِ الدُّنْيَا أَفْسَدَتْ عَلَى أَهْلِ الدُّنْيَا مَعَايِشَهُمْ


    “Fear Allah in the manner that Allah should be feared and die not but as Muslims.” Then he added, “If a drop of Zaqqum were to be dropped into the seas of the earth, it would destroy the life of the peoples of the world” (Lughat al-Qur’an).
    The above is from Hakim’s Mustadrak and has Dhahabi’s approval (Au.).
    104. When the pagans were threatened with Hell-fire and a fruit that they would eat therein, about whose tree Allah revealed (37: 64-65),


    إِنَّهَا شَجَرَةٌ تَخْرُجُ فِي أَصْلِ الْجَحِيمِ (64) طَلْعُهَا كَأَنَّهُ رُءُوسُ الشَّيَاطِينِ [الصافات : 64 ، 65]


    “Lo! It is a tree that sprouts from the bottom of Hell. Its emergent fruits like the heads of the Devils,” - when these words were revealed, Abu Jahl (in a report of Ahmad: Ibn Kathir), asked for some dates and butter and said, “Eat. This is the only Zaqqum that we know of.” (In the Yemeni dialect dates [when taken] with butter was termed Zaqqum: Qurtubi). In response, Allah said, “We drive fear into them. But it increases them only in great rebellion” (Ibn Jarir).

    وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ قَالَ أَأَسْجُدُ لِمَنْ خَلَقْتَ طِينًا (61)

    17|61| And when We said to the angels,105 ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam.’ They all prostrated themselves, except Iblis. He said, ‘Should I prostrate myself before someone You created out of clay?’


    105. Imam Razi’s explanation of the connection can be reduced to as follows: the Prophet was facing hard times with the pagans in Makkah. He and his message stood rejected. (There were a variety of reasons). But two elements were obvious: pride and envy. These two elements prevented the pagans from accepting the prophetic message. So the Prophet was told that he ought to in fact expect it and, be unmindful of it, and should hold on to his good work. The very first man, Adam also faced difficulties in his life because of pride and envy.

    قَالَ أَرَأَيْتَكَ هَٰذَا الَّذِي كَرَّمْتَ عَلَيَّ لَئِنْ أَخَّرْتَنِ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ لَأَحْتَنِكَنَّ ذُرِّيَّتَهُ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا (62)

    17|62| He also said, ‘See You?! The one You honored above me - if You grant me reprieve until the Day of Judgment, I shall surely bring his descendants under my sway,106 all but a few.’


    106. One of the connotations of the “ihtinak” of the original is to put a rope around the lower jaw of an animal in order to lead it (Razi). Another connotation is destruction. The Arabs say,


    احتنك الجراد الزرع


    “The locusts destroyed the crops.”

    قَالَ اذْهَبْ فَمَنْ تَبِعَكَ مِنْهُمْ فَإِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ جَزَاؤُكُمْ جَزَاءً مَوْفُورًا (63)

    17|63| He replied, ‘Go ahead.107 Whosoever of them followed you, surely Johanna shall be your recompense - an ample reward.


    107. The translation of the word “idh-hab” as “go ahead” reflects the understanding of Imam Razi.

    وَاسْتَفْزِزْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ مِنْهُمْ بِصَوْتِكَ وَأَجْلِبْ عَلَيْهِمْ بِخَيْلِكَ وَرَجِلِكَ وَشَارِكْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَوْلَادِ وَعِدْهُمْ ۚ وَمَا يَعِدُهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ إِلَّا غُرُورًا (64)

    17|64| And fool them gradually whomsoever of them you can with your voice,108 and rally against them with your horse and foot soldiers,109 and share with them in their wealth110 and progeny,111 and promise them.’ But Satan promises them not but delusion.112


    108. The allusion by “voice” is to idle entertainment, songs and music. That was the opinion of Mujahid. Ibn `Abbas however said that the allusion is to any call to Allah’s disobedience (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Thus, by implication, music is forbidden in Islam. (Qurtubi).
    Zamakhshari writes that the meaning is: Satan will bring on his forces against those who accept his influence, pulling them out of their homes and resorts, with little regard or respect for their defenses, in short, with ease.
    109. While Mujahid said that Satan actually has foot and mounted soldiers from men and Jinn, Ibn `Abbas said that the allusion is to everyone, on foot or mounted, who walks in the way of sin. In a second opinion Mujahid said the same thing (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    110. In the opinion of the earliest scholars, anything spent in a cause disapproved by Allah, is the share of Iblis (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    111. The allusion, according to Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Dahhak and others, is to children born out of sin. Hasan and Qatadah however felt that the allusion is to the parents baptizing their children in a false religion. Mujahid’s opinion was that every child sacrificed at the altar, or killed from fear of poverty, or buried alive out of shame, is the share of Iblis (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    (Sins committed under Shaytan’s evil influence are also, in a way, his share in a man’s life: Au.). It is in this vein that, according to a report in the Sahihayn, the Prophet taught us that: “When one of you wishes to go into his wife he may say,


    بِاسْمِ اللَّهِ اللَّهُمَّ جَنِّبْنِي الشَّيْطَانَ وَجَنِّبْ الشَّيْطَانَ مَا رَزَقْتَنَا ثُمَّ قُدِّرَ بَيْنَهُمَا فِي ذَلِكَ أَوْ قُضِيَ وَلَدٌ لَمْ يَضُرَّهُ شَيْطَانٌ أَبَدًا


    ‘In the name of Allah. O Allah, keep us away from Satan and keep Satan away from what You will bestow us (of the progeny).’ (That will assure the Prophet continued) that if a child has been decreed, Satan shall never be able to harm it” (Ibn Kathir).
    112. “Satan does not promise them but delusions:” a self-evident truth that has echoed throughout the ages in the lives of individuals and nations, but few have been that would heed. Modern Western world is one of the best examples. In pursuance of their dreams, men and women have been working day and night, like ants around a dead cockroach, offering everything they can in sacrifice: time, energy, family-life, moral values, and the soul’s yearning. But, and despite the amazing material developments, they are yet to experience a single day of peace and true happiness. Far from that, the cogs in the machine rarely experience a single day of relaxation. If not for drugs, wine and music, a large number of people would have gone mad from the relentless pressure on them. As it is, in America every week or so someone shoots a couple of innocent people to death and then commits suicide, to leave those spared pursue Satan’s delusions (Au.).

    إِنَّ عِبَادِي لَيْسَ لَكَ عَلَيْهِمْ سُلْطَانٌ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِرَبِّكَ وَكِيلًا (65)

    17|65| ‘As for My slaves, you shall have no power over them.’ And suffices Your Lord as a guardian.113


    113. The implication of the words “And suffices Your Lord as a guardian” is that sinless is he who is preserved by Allah. Otherwise, it is not possible for a man to save himself from falling into sin. Allah said therefore that He suffices. He did not say, “the (good) men suffice for themselves” (Alusi).

    رَبُّكُمُ الَّذِي يُزْجِي لَكُمُ الْفُلْكَ فِي الْبَحْرِ لِتَبْتَغُوا مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا (66)

    17|66| Your Lord it is who drives for you the ships in the sea, that you may seek of His bounty. Verily, He is ever Merciful unto you.


    وَإِذَا مَسَّكُمُ الضُّرُّ فِي الْبَحْرِ ضَلَّ مَنْ تَدْعُونَ إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ ۖ فَلَمَّا نَجَّاكُمْ إِلَى الْبَرِّ أَعْرَضْتُمْ ۚ وَكَانَ الْإِنْسَانُ كَفُورًا (67)

    17|67| When affliction visits you upon the sea, then those you call upon disappear except for He. But as soon as He has brought you safe ashore, you turn away. Surely, man is ever ungrateful.114


    114. Someone said to a scholar, “Give me a proof of Allah’s existence; but not that of the contingencies.” He asked him whether he had ever been into the sea. He said yes. Then he asked him if he ever faced a storm that threatened to drown everyone. The man said yes. Then he asked if he had lost hopes in those in the boat, or anyone on the land of being able to rescue him. The man replied that yes such a situation had occurred. He asked him, “Did your heart then, in that moment of despair, when you lost hope in everything, cling to hope in something, someone, coming to your rescue?” When he replied with a yes he said, “That something is Allah.” The man felt satisfied with the answer.

    أَفَأَمِنْتُمْ أَنْ يَخْسِفَ بِكُمْ جَانِبَ الْبَرِّ أَوْ يُرْسِلَ عَلَيْكُمْ حَاصِبًا ثُمَّ لَا تَجِدُوا لَكُمْ وَكِيلًا (68)

    17|68| Do you then feel secure that He should not cause you to be swallowed up by a tract of land115 or let loose against you a pebble storm? Then you will not find for yourself a protector.


    115. The commentators have explained that “janib al-barr” (lit. earth-side) has been used to contrast it with the “janib al-bahr” (sea-side). That is, if you escape from one side, that of the sea, how can you be in peace from your Lord’s scourge on the other side, the land?

    أَمْ أَمِنْتُمْ أَنْ يُعِيدَكُمْ فِيهِ تَارَةً أُخْرَىٰ فَيُرْسِلَ عَلَيْكُمْ قَاصِفًا مِنَ الرِّيحِ فَيُغْرِقَكُمْ بِمَا كَفَرْتُمْ ۙ ثُمَّ لَا تَجِدُوا لَكُمْ عَلَيْنَا بِهِ تَبِيعًا (69)

    17|69| Or do you feel secure that He should not return you to it a second time, and let loose against you a hurricane of wind and drown you for your rejection? Then you will not find for yourself against us anyone to follow up (the affair).116


    116. The textual “tabi`a” lends several connotations: someone who could follow up the affair of the drowning to find out as to who holds the responsibility for the event, demand compensation, or sue the party that caused it, and so on. Alternatively it could mean someone who would avenge the action. Ibn `Abbas (as in Ibn Jarir) simply rendered it as “helper” (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُمْ مِنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَىٰ كَثِيرٍ مِمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلًا (70)

    17|70| Lo! We have honored Adam’s progeny, borne them on the land and the sea, provided them with good things and preferred them greatly over many of those We created.117


    117. Yusuf Ali comments: “The distinction and honor conferred by Allah on man are recounted in order to enforce the corresponding duties and responsibilities of man.”
    Nobody ever disputes the fact of man’s superiority over all other organic organisms. But whom does the credit go to? Here comes the denial. However a few have refuted some wild denials. Majid quotes: “In the language of modern anthropology, ‘the great superiority of man’s mental manifestations over those of all other animals is too patent to be called in question by any serious worker in the field of anthropology. Indeed, according to some eminent psychologists, the gap between them cannot be bridged over by the doctrine of organic evolution’ (ERE, I. P. 569). ‘The attempt to minimize this remarkable disparity between man and brute has not met with much support from any class of investigation.’ (ib.).”
    It might be noted however, that Allah said that He favored man above most of His creations. He did not say He favored them above all creatures. Hence, and although the present verse does not lend help, the commentators have judged that: (i) Common but committed believers are superior to common angels. (ii) Messengers from among the humans are superior to the messengers from among the angels. (iii) Messengers from among the angels are superior to all common angels as well as committed believers. And (iv) Common angels are superior to common men (Alusi, Shabbir, Shafi`).

    يَوْمَ نَدْعُو كُلَّ أُنَاسٍ بِإِمَامِهِمْ ۖ فَمَنْ أُوتِيَ كِتَابَهُ بِيَمِينِهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ يَقْرَءُونَ كِتَابَهُمْ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ فَتِيلًا (71)

    17|71| On the day when We shall call all men with their record,118 then whoso is given his book in his right hand - those shall read their book (with pleasure); and they shall not be wronged by a thread.119


    118. “Imam” is anyone who is followed. So the Prophet is our Imam, the Qur’an is our Imam, and the followers of every religion have their own Imam. The Qur’an itself has used the word “imam” in the sense of a book. It said (36: 12),


    وَكُلَّ شَيْءٍ أَحْصَيْنَاهُ فِي إِمَامٍ مُبِينٍ [يس : 12]


    “And everything We have recorded in a clear book” (Razi).
    Mujahid and Qatadah were of the opinion that by the textual term “imam” the allusion is to the Messengers sent to the nations. But Ibn `Abbas, Hasan and Dahhak thought the allusion is to the Book of Deeds (Ibn Jarir).
    A second opinion of Ibn `Abbas as in Ibn Marduwayh, Ibn abi Shaybah, Ibn al-Munddhir and Ibn abi Hatim agrees with the earlier opinion that the allusion is to Messengers (Shawkani).
    Qurtubi writes the opinion of Abu `Ubaydah that the allusion could well be to the religious denominations (madhahib, in which people take pride and deride each other). They might be called as, “(Come forward), O Hanafiyy, O Shafe`i, etc.”
    Zamakhshari notes (while Razi and Alusi reproduce from him) that the Shi`a have interpreted “imam” as the plural of Umm (meaning mother). In the light of this meaning they explain that on the Day of Judgment the people will be referred to by the names of their mothers. They also say that the wisdom behind this is that Jesus Christ could then be called by his mother’s name, Hasan and Hussain by their mother’s name as well as a man out of adultery by his mother’s name. Zamakhshari then throws the punch, “I don’t know which of the two statements is more ridiculous: the interpretation itself or the wisdom cited.”
    Alusi notes that `Uqayli has a report coming from Anas that he said, “The records (of deeds) are stored under the `Arsh. On Judgment Day Allah will send across a (powerful) wind that will fly the records into either the right hands or left hands of the people. The first line in it would read (17: 14),


    اقْرَأْ كِتَابَكَ كَفَى بِنَفْسِكَ الْيَوْمَ عَلَيْكَ حَسِيبًا [الإسراء : 14]


    ‘Read your record. Sufficient is your own soul this day for reckoning against yourself.’” 

    Alusi is not too sure of the authenticity of this report but feels that it is supported by another in Ahmad brought to us by `A’isha. She asked, “Messenger of Allah. Will a lover remember his beloved on the Judgment Day?” He answered, “On three occasions, no.” (The third occasion he mentioned as), “When the Records fly.”
    Incidentally, the Qur’an or Sunnah are not specific about angels handing over the Book of Records to the people (Au.).
    119. “Fatil” is that little thread which is found in the cleft (central split portion) of date seed.

    وَمَنْ كَانَ فِي هَٰذِهِ أَعْمَىٰ فَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ أَعْمَىٰ وَأَضَلُّ سَبِيلًا (72)

    17|72| And whosoever is blind in this (world),120 shall be blind in the Hereafter and more lost of the way.121


    120. That is, blind to truth.
    121. When asked by someone coming from Yemen, Ibn `Abbas explained that a man who is blind to Allah’s signs in this world – to those signs that are spread around him - will be more so in affairs concerning the Hereafter (Ibn Jarir, Razi).
    Another meaning is that those who are blind to Allah’s signs in this world will be blind to the ways leading to Paradise in the Hereafter. But the reference could as well be to actual blindness in the Hereafter as in the verse (20: 124-126),


    وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَنْ ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنْكًا وَنَحْشُرُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَعْمَى (124) قَالَ رَبِّ لِمَ حَشَرْتَنِي أَعْمَى وَقَدْ كُنْتُ بَصِيرًا (125) قَالَ كَذَلِكَ أَتَتْكَ آيَاتُنَا فَنَسِيتَهَا وَكَذَلِكَ الْيَوْمَ تُنْسَى [طه : 124-126]


    “And whoever turns away from My Reminder, shall have a livelihood of hardships, and We shall raise him up in the Hereafter blind. He will cry out, ‘My Lord. Why have you raised me blind when I was seeing?’ He will reply, ‘That is how Our signs came to you but you forgot all about them. That is how you will be forgotten today’” (Razi).

    وَإِنْ كَادُوا لَيَفْتِنُونَكَ عَنِ الَّذِي أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ لِتَفْتَرِيَ عَلَيْنَا غَيْرَهُ ۖ وَإِذًا لَاتَّخَذُوكَ خَلِيلًا (73)

    17|73| And indeed,122 they were close to tempting you away (O Muhammad) from that which We have revealed unto you so that you fasten upon Us something other than it. In that event they would have taken you as a close ally.123


    122. “In” here is a short form of “inna.” It is called the lightened “in,” and is usually without government (Majid).
    123. As context of revelation Ibn `Abbas said that once the Thaqif tribesmen came to the Prophet and said, “Give us a year to receive the gifts that our idols receive. Thereafter we shall abandon them and embrace your religion.” The Prophet was wondering whether he should allow them the reprieve when Allah revealed this and the next verse (Ibn Jarir).
    Sayyid adds: “The allusion is perhaps to several efforts made by the Quraysh to soften the Prophet. On one occasion they asked him to give up criticizing their deities, in return of which they would include Allah in their worship. On another occasion they said that he should appoint a time when their chiefs and the honored ones could see him: a time when the lowly ones were not around. And so on.
    “Those were efforts at a compromise of the kind that those in power of every age try to work out between themselves and the callers to Islam. The objective is to deflect them - a little to start with. Sometimes a caller is deceived by the offer, imagining that he is after all making a small concession. For, those in power do not ask that he give up the call altogether. They ask for minor adjustments that might make it possible for both of them to meet at a midpoint between the two ways: theirs and his. In consequence, the caller is most tempted, especially in view of what he sees as some advantages to the call. But a minor deviation at the beginning of the path leads to a total deviation at the end of it. The caller is unable to retrieve back what he surrendered, (and the list grows), adding to his weakness. In fact, his own willingness to give in, increases with every new compromise deal that he strikes.
    “Indeed, the question is that of the caller’s own faith in his call. He who compromises, even though a little, and is silent about something that is wrong, even if apparently minor, does not have full faith in what he offers to others. Does he truly believe in the goodness and benefit of his call? For a true believer, every part of the whole is like any other part: neither less important nor more. There isn’t anything that is redundant. So, how can he give up anything? On the other hand, those in power first try to buy off a little. The process, once started, ends with a sell out of the whole.”

    وَلَوْلَا أَنْ ثَبَّتْنَاكَ لَقَدْ كِدْتَ تَرْكَنُ إِلَيْهِمْ شَيْئًا قَلِيلًا (74)

    17|74| And, had We not strengthened you, you were about to tilt towards them a little.124


    124. The addition of the word “a little” at the end of the verse implies that the Prophet did not incline to them even a little (Au.). Hence his prayer-words:


    اللهمَّ لا تَكِلْنِي إلى نَفْسِي طَرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ


    “O Allah, do not hand me over to myself even for a moment” (Qatadah - Ibn Jarir).
    The hadith meets with the requirements of the Sheikhayn (Hakim: Au.).

    إِذًا لَأَذَقْنَاكَ ضِعْفَ الْحَيَاةِ وَضِعْفَ الْمَمَاتِ ثُمَّ لَا تَجِدُ لَكَ عَلَيْنَا نَصِيرًا (75)

    17|75| In that case We would have surely made you taste double (the chastisement) in life and double in death,125 and you would not have found against Us a helper.


    125. The promise of double the punishment is to impress on us that the punishment from Allah is proportionate to the level of elevation: the more is one elevated in Islam, the greater the punishment for him (Zamakhshari).
    Qurtubi adds, “Hence we have the verse (33: 30),


    يَا نِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ مَنْ يَأْتِ مِنْكُنَّ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُبَيِّنَةٍ يُضَاعَفْ لَهَا الْعَذَابُ ضِعْفَيْنِ [الأحزاب : 30]


    ‘O womenfolk of the Prophet. If anyone of you comes with a clear indecency, the chastisement will be doubled for her.’”

    وَإِنْ كَادُوا لَيَسْتَفِزُّونَكَ مِنَ الْأَرْضِ لِيُخْرِجُوكَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَإِذًا لَا يَلْبَثُونَ خِلَافَكَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا (76)

    17|76| And they were close to scaring you from the land, to expel you from it. But then they would not remain after you except for a little.126


    126. The Quraysh in fact did not enjoy a long stay in Makkah after they had forced the Prophet out. They were destroyed at Badr (Ibn Jarir).
    And the Makkans escaped with this lighter punishment because they did not exactly exile the Prophet, but rather, forced him out (Razi).

    سُنَّةَ مَنْ قَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ مِنْ رُسُلِنَا ۖ وَلَا تَجِدُ لِسُنَّتِنَا تَحْوِيلًا (77)

    17|77| The way of those We sent before you of Our Messengers. You will not find any change in Our way.


    أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ إِلَىٰ غَسَقِ اللَّيْلِ وَقُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا (78)

    17|78| Establish the Prayer127 at the sun’s decline128 until the darkness of the night129 - and recital of the dawn.130 Indeed, recital of the dawn is witnessed.131


    127. Commentators have pointed out the relationship of Prayers with hardships. In Mawdudi’s words, “Reference to these (above) difficulties and hardships is followed by the command to establish Prayers. In a subtle way, this draws our attention to the fact that the patience and steadfastness required of a believer in times of such adversity can only be obtained by establishing Prayer.”
    128. Although several earliest authorities, notably `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, have thought that the textual “duluk” refers to sunset, most others, including Ibn Mas`ud in a second opinion, have believed that the allusion is to the decline of the sun from the zenith. Indeed, the Prophet himself is reported to have used the word in the latter sense. In effect, the allusion is to the Zuhr Prayers (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi and Razi add: Authorities have disagreed over the meaning of the term “duluk”. Some say it is the time when the sun starts declining. Others have said that it is applicable to the sunset. Ibn `Atiyyah has said that “duluk” is for decline, therefore, applicable both to the decline beginning with the noon as well as to sunset. The word will thus cover the Zuhr, `Asr and Maghrib Prayers.
    129. There is no difference in opinion among the scholars of the past that the allusion by “ghasaq” is to the period between sunset and appearance of the stars, that is, when darkness of the night takes hold (Ibn Jarir). Thus, if we accept the meaning of “duluk” as sun’s decline, and “ghasaq” as the early part of the night, then the four Prayers, Zuhr, `Asr, Maghrib and `Isha, are covered by the two terms (Qurtubi, Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    130. The consensus of opinion is that by “the recitation of the dawn” the allusion is to Qur’anic recitation in the Fajr Prayers (Ibn Jarir).
    And the two, the recital of the Qur’an and the Prayers have been equated to express the importance of recitation during the Prayers in general and the dawn Prayers in particular when it should be lengthened (Zamakhshari).
    131. To the question, witnessed by whom?, the answer is, by the angels. According to a hadith reported by Abu Hurayrah, the angels of the night and of the day change their duties at this time and are thus, in Abu Hurayrah’s opinion, witnesses to the Qur’anic recitation in dawn Prayers (Ibn Jarir).
    The hadith of Abu Hurayrah is in Bukhari which reports the Prophet as having said,

     

    فَضْلُ صَلَاةِ الْجَمِيعِ عَلَى صَلَاةِ الْوَاحِدِ خَمْسٌ وَعِشْرُونَ دَرَجَةً وَتَجْتَمِعُ مَلَائِكَةُ اللَّيْلِ وَمَلَائِكَةُ النَّهَارِ فِي صَلَاةِ الصُّبْحِ يَقُولُ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ اقْرَءُوا إِنْ شِئْتُمْ {وَقُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا}


    “A Prayer offered in congregation is worthier twenty-five times compared to that offered singly. And the angels of the night and day get together at the time of dawn Prayers.” Abu Hurayrah added, “Read if you wish, ‘And the recital of the dawn. Indeed, the recital of the dawn is witnessed’” (Qurtubi).
    The above hadith is in Bukhari.
    In fact, versions in Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and others report Abu Hurayra’s ending remark as the words of the Prophet. Another hadith in the Sahihayn says,


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


    “Angels follow you day and night. They meet each other during the Fajr and `Asr Prayers. As those who spent the night among you ascend their Lord asks them, although He knows, ‘In what state did you leave My slaves?’ They reply, ‘When we went to them they were Praying, and when we left them they were Praying’” (Ibn Kathir).
    Imam Razi and Alusi discuss the best time for Fajr prayers. The evidences either for doing them in darkness or in brightness of the dawn are, apparently, inconclusive. A Sahih report of `A’isha says,


    إِنْ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَيُصَلِّي الصُّبْحَ فَيَنْصَرِفُ النِّسَاءُ مُتَلَفِّعَاتٍ بِمُرُوطِهِنَّ مَا يُعْرَفْنَ مِنْ الْغَلَسِ


    “The Prophet used to do his dawn prayer in darkness. Women also came in for the congregation wrapped in their veiling clothes and returned to their homes without being recognized because of darkness.”
    On the other hand, Tirmidhi has a Hasan Sahih report which says,


    أَسْفِرُوا بِالْفَجْرِ فَإِنَّهُ أَعْظَمُ لِلأَجْرِ


    “Do your (Fajr) prayer in the brightness of the dawn, for, it is more rewarding.”
    It is also reported through a trustworthy chain of narration that Ibrhaim said, “The Prophet’s Companions never agreed on anything like they agreed on doing the Fajr in the brightness of the dawn.”

    وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَكَ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَحْمُودًا (79)

    17|79| As for the night, keep vigil in a part of it: an additional (prayer) for you.132 It may be that your Lord will raise you to a Station of Praise.133


    132. Linguistically, tahajjud has its root in “hajada” which lends the meaning both of “sleep” as well as “wakefulness.” The word “nafl” on the other hand means an addition. In this context it means that the nocturnal prayer (tahajjud) [performed during the last third part of the night], was an additional obligation on the Prophet, while for his followers it was supererogatory (Ibn Jarir from Ibn `Abbas, Razi, Alusi).
    On the contrary Mujahid has said that tahajjud was declared an “additional” prayer for the Prophet because his past and future sins were forgiven. They were then, additional to him, and not for atonement of sins. In contrast, his followers needed to seek forgiveness for their sins. Therefore, tahajjud prayers are not “additional” prayers for them, rather a necessary means of atonement, (although not declared obligatory by Allah). Ibn Jarir, however, prefers Ibn `Abbas’ opinion as more correct.
    133. “Station of Praise:” What station is it? Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Hasan, Qatadah and many others have said that the reference is to the grand intercession that the Prophet will be granted on the Day of Judgment. Naked, barefoot, unable to speak to one another, mankind will be awaiting the start of the Reckoning. Ultimately, after a long wait, the Prophet (saws) will be allowed by Allah to intercede with Him. That will be the Station of Praise. Indeed there is a hadith to this effect transmitted by Abu Hurayrah. It says,

     

    يُبْعَثُ النَّاسُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ، فَأَكُونُ أَنَا وَأُمَّتِي عَلَى تَلٍّ وَيَكْسُونِي رَبِّي عَزَّ وَجَلَّ حُلَّةً حَمْرَاءَ، ثُمَّ يُؤْذَنُ لِي فَأَقُولُ مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ أَنْ أَقُولَ، فَذَلِكَ الْمَقَامُ الْمَحْمُودُ


    “People will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment. I and my followers will be the first on a hill top. My Lord will clothe me with a green mantle. Then I will be allowed (to intercede). I will say what Allah wills (of His praise). That then is the Station of Praise. According to other reports, the Prophet would be the last one to be approached for intercession after other Prophets would have refused (Ibn Jarir).
    The above report is in Ahmad also. Further, ahadith similar in meaning are to be found in Bukhari. Muslim has a hadith which says, “Whoever said after the Prayer-call:


    اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّ هَذِهِ الدَّعْوَةِ التَّامَّةِ وَالصَّلاَةِ الْقَائِمَةِ آتِ مُحَمَّدًا الْوَسِيلَةَ وَالْفَضِيلَةَ وَابْعَثْهُ مَقَامًا مَحْمُودًا الَّذِى وَعَدْتَهُ إِلاَّ حَلَّتْ لَهُ الشَّفَاعَةُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ


    ‘O Allah, the Lord of this complete call, and of the Prayers about to be established, bestow on Muhammad the means of access and the bounty; and raise him to the Station of Praise that you have promised’ - whoever said that - will have my intercession on the Day of Judgment.” Tirmidhi has another hadith, termed “Hasan Sahih” by him, which has the Prophet himself answering when asked about the Station of Praise, that the allusion is to intercession (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    On the topic, it might be well to narrate a long hadith that is found in the Sahihayn transmitted by Abu Hurayrah. It says, “Some meat was brought to the Prophet. He lifted an arm, his favorite, and took a bite. Then he said, ‘I will lead mankind on the Judgment Day. Do you know why? Allah will gather the first and the last on that Day. They will hear a caller’s call, and all eyes will see. The sun will close down on them and misery will become unbearable. Some will say to others, ‘You can see how people are suffering. Why do you not find someone to intercede for you with your Lord?’ (That is, to begin the accounting). They will suggest, ‘Go to Adam.’
    “They will go to Adam and tell him, ‘O Adam. You are mankind’s progenitor. Allah created you with His own hand and breathed into you a spirit from Him. He ordered the angels to prostrate themselves to you. Intercede, therefore with your Lord. Do you not see what we are in? Do you not see how we are suffering?’ Adam (asws) will reply, ‘My Lord is so angry today as He never was in the past and will never be so in future. Further, He had forbidden me the tree but I disobeyed. So this day, myself, myself. Go to someone else apart from me. Go to Nuh.’
    “So they will go to Nuh (asws) and say, ‘O Nuh. You were the first of the Messengers to the people on the earth. Allah named you “the Grateful Slave.” Intercede for us with your Lord. Do you not see what we are in? Do you not see how we are suffering?’ Nuh (asws) will reply, ‘My Lord is so angry today as He never was in the past and will never be so in future. Further, I was granted the acceptance of a single Prayer, which I have used against my people. Myself, myself, myself. Go to someone else. Go to Ibrahim.’
    “So they will go to Ibrahim (asws) and say, ‘O Ibrahim, you are Allah’s Prophet, His Khalil from the peoples of the earth. Intercede with your Lord for us. Do you not see what we are in? Do you not see how we are suffering?’ He will reply, ‘My Lord is so angry today as He has never been in the past, and will never be so in future. Then he will recall his lies (and say), myself, myself, myself. Go to someone else. Go to Musa.’
    “Next they will go to Musa and say, ‘O Musa. You are Allah’s Messenger. He chose you for His messages and for talk with you apart from others of the mankind. Intercede for us with your Lord. Do you not see what we are in? Do you not see how we suffer?’ He will reply, ‘My Lord is so angry today as He never was in the past and will never be so in future. Moreover, I killed a man that I was not allowed to. Myself, myself, myself. Go to someone else. Go to `Isa.’
    “Next they will go to `Isa (asws) and say, ‘O `Isa, you are a Messenger of Allah, a Word that He blew into Maryam, and a Spirit from Him. You spoke to the people from your cradle although an infant. So, intercede for us with your Lord. Do you not see what we are in? Do you not see how we suffer?’ He will say, ‘My Lord is so angry today as He never was in the past and will never be so in future. (However, he will not mention any of his sin, but say), myself, myself, myself. Go to someone else. Go to Muhammad.’
    “Finally, they will go to Muhammad and say, ‘Muhammad! You are a Messenger of Allah, and the seal of the Prophets. Allah has forgiven your past and future sins. So, intercede for us with your Lord. Do you not see what we are in? Do you not see how we suffer?’ So I will rise, take a position under the `Arsh and fall into prostration before my Lord, the Mighty, the Exalted. Allah will open (my heart) and inspire me with words of praise and exaltation that no one was ever inspired with before. Then it will be said, ‘Muhammad, raise your head. Ask, you will be granted. Intercede, your intercession will be accepted.’ So I will raise my head and say, ‘My people O my Lord, my people O my Lord, my people O my Lord.’ It will be said, ‘Muhammad, take those of your followers who are not required to undergo accounting by the right door of Paradise.’ The rest of them will share with other nations other doors. Then he added, ‘By Him in whose Hands is Muhammad’s soul, the distance between two wings of the doors of Paradise is equal to the distance between Makkah and Hijr, or Makkah and Busra’” (Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi adds: In all, the Prophet will exercise intercession on five occasions. First, the general intercession (referred to in the above tradition, for the Reckoning to begin); second, leading a group of people to Paradise before the reckoning begins; third, in favor of those believers in Allah’s Oneness who would deserve the Fire for their sins - he will be able to save some of them from the punishment (this is the intercession that the Khawarij and Mu`tazilah denied); fourth, in favor of those who would have entered the Fire. They will be rescued by the Prophets, angels and brother Muslims; and, fifth, for obtaining higher status in Paradise after entry into it.
    The above said, there are other interpretations to the words “Station of Praise.” One comes from Mujahid. He said it refers to Allah (swt) giving the Prophet a place on the `Arsh on the Day of Judgment (Ibn Jarir).
    Qurtubi adds that some scholars have not accepted two of Mujahid’s interpretations. First, this one, and the second, his interpretation of the verse (75: 23), “Faces that Day will be shining; looking at their Lord,” which Mujahid interpreted as “Faces that Day will be shining; waiting for their Lord.” Mujahid stood alone in understanding “Nadira” as “waiting” instead of the commonly understood “looking.” Nevertheless, some have accepted his opinion (about the Prophet being placed on `Arsh) arguing that it is in fact a hadith - and of such strength that Naqqash reported from Abu Da’ud Sijistani that, “Whoever rejects this hadith is, according to us, himself untrustworthy. The traditionists have through and through reported this as a hadith.”
    Nevertheless, although Ibn Jarir is disinclined to accept Mujahid’s interpretation (it is said that the public stoned Tabari’s door for maintaining that: Au.), many of the classical scholars did not see anything wrong in the statement that the Station of Praise refers to the Prophet given a place on the `Arsh. Ibn Jarir himself writes that with reference to Allah and His creation, the general opinion is that once Allah existed and there was nothing in existence. Then He brought things into existence. However, after their creation He remained “apart from them.” Nothing being in contact with Him. (He being in another realm altogether). Another school of thought says that it is true that all things are “apart from” Allah, and that they do not touch Him or come into (physical) contact with Him, but after Allah created `Arsh for Himself, He is in touch with it (in what sense, they do not explain: Au.), though He is “apart from” it. Now, whatever opinion we go by, Mujahid’s opinion that Allah will give our Prophet a seat on the `Arsh is not impossible. Whether he will sit on a mimber of nur (as Sahih reports say), or on `Arsh, or on the earth, is all the same. He does not “come in contact with Allah.” But rather, remains a slave.
    Qurtubi also agrees that there is no ground to reject Mujahid’s interpretation. Allah is “apart from” and “out of (physical) contact” with His creations. Their existence or non-existence does not make any difference to Him. He creates what He will. He created the `Arsh and chose it for His “Istawa’.” This “istawa’” is in keeping with His greatness and should be interpreted as what behoves Him. He is definitely not sitting on it, occupying a part or whole of it. For, He is “apart from it” and other creations.. Therefore, His placing Muhammad on the `Arsh does not affect Him in anyway, and cannot be said to be impossible. If some reports say that “He will make him sit with Him,” then the “ma`” (with) of the text should be understood in the same sense as (29: 69),


    وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ [العنكبوت : 69]

     

    “Surely, Allah is with those who do good.”
    Alusi is also more or less with Qurtubi in the above interpretation.
    It might be remembered here that Biblical sources say that on the Day of Judgment Jesus Christ will occupy a chair on the right hand side of God (The Bible, 40: 022: 044)

    وَقُلْ رَبِّ أَدْخِلْنِي مُدْخَلَ صِدْقٍ وَأَخْرِجْنِي مُخْرَجَ صِدْقٍ وَاجْعَلْ لِي مِنْ لَدُنْكَ سُلْطَانًا نَصِيرًا (80)

    17|80| And say, ‘My Lord! Allow me to enter a true entry, and allow me to exit a true exit.134 And grant me from Yourself an authority to help.’135


    134. The verse was revealed just before the Prophet’s emigration to Madinah. Qatadah and Ibn Zayd have said that by true entry it is “into Madinah” that is intended, and by true exit it is “from Makkah” that is intended. Ibn `Abbas on the other hand thought that the allusion is to death and resurrection. (That is, Razi explains, ‘allow me a good entry into the grave and a good exit out of it’). A third opinion, that of Mujahid, is that the allusion is to true entry into and exit from the affair of his Prophetic mission. Ibn Jarir prefers the first opinion as true, while there have been a few others apart from those we have mentioned.
    135. The authority was (material) help from Allah, for without His help, it would have been impossible for the Prophet to overcome the opposition to His call. He himself has said,


    إن الله لَيَزَع بالسلطان ما لا يَزَعُ بالقرآن


    “Allah eradicates by means of authority, what he does not eradicate by means of the Qur’an” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above is a Mawquf hadith (Au.).
    Mawdudi adds: “This shows that the reform which Islam seeks to bring about cannot be accomplished merely by preaching and by sermons. Accomplishment of that reform also requires the use of political power and authority. Now, since God Himself taught the Prophet (peace be on him) to pray for such authority, it is quite evident that to seek governmental power and to strive for its acquisition so as to make the true faith prevail in human life, and so as to implement the Shari`ah and to enforce the punishments laid down in God’s Law is not only lawful but is also both required and desirable.”

    وَقُلْ جَاءَ الْحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ الْبَاطِلُ ۚ إِنَّ الْبَاطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوقًا (81)

    17|81| And say, ‘The truth has come, and falsehood has vanished. Surely, falsehood was bound to vanish.’136


    136. When these words were revealed, they sounded like a tall order: given the weakness of the Muslims in the Makkan phase. But it was not a few years but the Prophet had entered Makkah victorious and reciting this verse, breaking the idols placed around the Ka`bah. The reference by “the truth” is to Islam while, by “falsehood,” it is to all that stands against Islam (Ibn Jarir and Mawdudi combined).
    The report is in the Sahihyan which adds that the Prophet had a cane in his hand with which he poked into the eyes of the idols cemented to the ground. They fell back, one after another. Then he ordered them broken (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi adds: This verse is the basis of the rule that pagan idols and deities must be destroyed when Muslims overpower them, including such articles as are not used for any other purpose in Allah’s disobedience, e.g., musical instruments. `Isa (asws) will do the same thing when he arrives a second time. He will break the cross, slaughter the swine and will not accept tribute. (That is, he will allow no other alternative between Islam and another religion, as presently Islam does. It will be either Islam or death: Au.).

    وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۙ وَلَا يَزِيدُ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارًا (82)

    17|82| And We send down gradually of the Qur’an that which is a healing137 and a mercy to the faithful. But to the unjust it causes not but increase in loss.


    137. The reference could be both to moral, social, spiritual, as well as to the physical healing. Some of its verses are well-known for their healing qualities and have been successfully used for treating physical illnesses (Razi, Shawkani, Alusi).
    A recent experiment conducted in Europe on hospital patients involving several scriptures, revealed that the recitation of the Qur’an, although on unbelievers who had no idea what was being recited to them, had a soothing effect on them (Au.).
    Qurtubi discusses this aspect quite at length, as does Alusi. The incident involving a Companion’s treatment of a pagan chief stung by a scorpion is well known. The Prophet asked the Companion when the party returned to Madinah, “How did you know that (Surah al-Fatiha) is a charm (ruqyah)?” The Companion replied, “It just occurred to me.” Bukhari has narrated that the Prophet used to recite the last two chapters of the Qur’an, blow on his two hands, and wipe his body therewith. As for what is known as “Nashrah”, which is to write down either a few of Allah’s Names, or some of the Qur’an, wash it with water and then either drunk by the ill or his body wiped with it, Sa`id b. al-Musayyib allowed it. `A’isha used to recite the last two chapters of the Qur’an, blow them on a bowl of water and ask the ill to be washed therewith. However, Hasan and Ibrahim Nakha`i were opposed to it. They reported a hadith disapproving of it. But the hadith is weak. If proven true, it could be prohibiting a “Nashrah” in which other than the Qur’an is used. Indeed, a hadith (of Muslim) says,


    لاَ بَأْسَ بِالرُّقَى مَا لَمْ يَكُنْ فِيهِ شِرْكٌ


    “There is no sin in charms so long as words of Association (shirk) are not spelled.”
    According to another report in Muslim, some people said:


    يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ كَانَتْ عِنْدَنَا رُقْيَةٌ نَرْقِى بِهَا مِنَ الْعَقْرَبِ وَإِنَّكَ نَهَيْتَ عَنِ الرُّقَى. قَالَ فَعَرَضُوهَا عَلَيْهِ. فَقَالَ : مَا أَرَى بَأْسًا مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْكُمْ أَنْ يَنْفَعَ أَخَاهُ فَلْيَنْفَعْهُ


    “Messenger of Allah, we have a charm whereby we treat those stung by scorpions; but it seems you have prohibited charms.” And they recited (the charm) before him. He said, “I do not see anything wrong (in it); whoever of you knows, if he can help his brother, let him.”

    In fact, Qurtubi continues, “Imam Malik has allowed that something be hung around the neck which has a few of Allah’s Names inscribed, if the intention is to obtain benediction (barakah). It is prohibited if it is meant to combat evil eye. In other words, the “ta`widh” (amulet) should not be hung before the evil eye has struck, but rather, after it has struck, as a means of removal, which, Qurtubi adds, is not different from medication. `A’isha herself is reported to have said that what is hung in the necks after an evil has struck is not of the (prohibited) “ta`widh.” Nonethless, a group of scholars have allowed that a “ta`widh” be hung if it does not contain other than the Qur’an. The “ta`widh” that Ibn Mas`ud tore off his wife’s neck was other than the Qur’an. Nor is that hadith applicable to it which says, “Whoever hung a thing is left to hang by it,” (that is, is entrusted to it); since, when one hangs verses of the Qur’an, then he is hanging by Allah and His Speech. What’s wrong with that? How does that become equivalent of Association (shirk)? Dahhak and Ibn Sirin also did not see anything wrong in a “ta`widh” containing Qur’anic verses, so long as it is removed before intercourse and when one goes to the washroom.
    Notes from Qurtubi end here, to which Alusi adds, “this has been the practice of the Muslims since ancient times.”
    Those who declare ta`widh as prohibited have a point. They fear that it opens the door for “deeds and beliefs of Association.” Experience tells us that. But on the other hand, who can prevent the parents of a child ill with an unknown disease that the best of doctors have, over the years, failed to diagnose, for trying a ta`widh of the approved type?! (Au.).

    وَإِذَا أَنْعَمْنَا عَلَى الْإِنْسَانِ أَعْرَضَ وَنَأَىٰ بِجَانِبِهِ ۖ وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ كَانَ يَئُوسًا (83)

    17|83| And when We bestow Our favors upon man, He turns away and draws aside. But when he is touched by evil, he is ever (so) despairing.


    قُلْ كُلٌّ يَعْمَلُ عَلَىٰ شَاكِلَتِهِ فَرَبُّكُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ هُوَ أَهْدَىٰ سَبِيلًا (84)

    17|84| Say, ‘Everyone works according to his manner. Your Lord knows well who it is that is best guided to the way.’


    وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الرُّوحِ ۖ قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوتِيتُمْ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا (85)

    17|85| They ask you about the soul. Say, ‘The soul is of a command of my Lord.138 And you have not been given of knowledge but a little.’139


    138. To what is the allusion is by the term “Ruh” here, at this point? The answer has varied. According to a report from Ibn `Abbas, the allusion is to an angel. Another tradition, (though weak: Ibn Kathir) reports him as transmitting from the Prophet that the angel is so large that he could swallow the heavens and the earth in one gulp. A similar report has come down from `Ali who said that this angel has “seventy thousand heads ..” (Ibn Jarir).
    Nevertheless, in a second opinion of Ibn `Abbas, and one that most commentators have adopted, is that it is the human soul that is meant. Several reports have come down from `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud. Here is one,


    عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ قَالَ بَيْنَمَا أَنَا أَمْشِى مَعَ النَّبِىِّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- فِى حَرْثٍ وَهُوَ مُتَّكِئٌ عَلَى عَسِيبٍ إِذْ مَرَّ بِنَفَرٍ مِنَ الْيَهُودِ فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ سَلُوهُ عَنِ الرُّوحِ فَقَالُوا مَا رَابَكُمْ إِلَيْهِ لاَ يَسْتَقْبِلُكُمْ بِشَىْءٍ تَكْرَهُونَهُ. فَقَالُوا سَلُوهُ فَقَامَ إِلَيْهِ بَعْضُهُمْ فَسَأَلَهُ عَنِ الرُّوحِ - قَالَ - فَأَسْكَتَ النَّبِىُّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- فَلَمْ يَرُدَّ عَلَيْهِ شَيْئًا فَعَلِمْتُ أَنَّهُ يُوحَى إِلَيْهِ - قَالَ - فَقُمْتُ مَكَانِى فَلَمَّا نَزَلَ الْوَحْىُ قَالَ (وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الرُّوحِ قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّى وَمَا أُوتِيتُمْ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً)


    “While I was walking with the Prophet through a field and he was resting by a date palm branch when a group of Jews passed by. One of them said to others, ‘Ask him about the soul.’ Someone said, ‘Are you in doubt that you should be asking him?’ Others said, ‘Do not let him answer you with something that will displease you.’ Finally they decided, ‘Ask him.’ So they asked him about the soul. The Prophet made no reply. (At that moment) it became obvious that the revelation was about to come down. So I stood by. In a while it was revealed, ‘They ask you about the soul..’” (Ibn Jarir).
    The hadith is in Bukhari and Muslim (Ibn Kathir and others).
    Another version from Ibn `Abbas tells us that the Prophet was asked about the nature of the soul, as to what it is and how it could be punished while residing in a physical body (Ibn Jarir).
    The report would imply that this verse is Madinan. But that is not correct. A report in Ahmad says that the Quraysh had asked the Jews to give them something by which they could defeat the Prophet’s purposes. They told them to ask about the soul (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). The report is in Tirmidhi (who declared it Sahih), Nasa’i, Ahmad, Hakim (who declared it trustworthy) and Ibn Hibban (Alusi, Shawkani). It is likely that the Prophet was asked a second time at Madinah, by a different set of people (Ibn Kathir).
    A contemporary commentary claims that the Polytheists had asked the Prophet: “What is the source of the Qur’an?” But commentaries of old do not have any such narration to this effect. He also claims that Ibn `Abbas understood “Ruh” as “revelation” and that he used to conceal this opinion. He traces the report to Ibn Jarir. But Ibn Jarir has no such statement. Rather, Ibn Jarir reports that Qatadah understood “Ruh” to mean “Jibr’il” (and not revelation). Qatadah then adds that Ibn `Abbas used to conceal this opinion. (But we do not know what exactly Qatadah means by “concealment.” For, other narrators freely report that Ibn `Abbas felt it was an angel who was alluded to. In other words, it is one thing to say Ibn `Abbas used to conceal [while he did not] and another to say [as Ibn Jarir has stated] that Qatadah thought Ibn `Abbas used to conceal).
    Nevertheless, in another opinion, also in Ibn Jarir, Ibn `Abbas thought they were a special kind of creation not known to anyone. The great majority in any case believed, as Alusi has stated and which is apparent from discussions in “tafsir” works, that the reference is to “the soul” (Au.).
    As regards the nature of the soul, Ibn Kathir writes that the term “nafs” is the basic subtle ingredient, like water in the plants, that, when it occupies a body is referred to as the soul.
    Sayyid Qutb sees no point in discussing things that are of no practical benefit: “Discussion over the soul is a journey into the abyss and a waste of energies bestowed by Allah for better purposes. The soul is beyond human perception and understanding, one of the secrets of Allah, and man’s knowledge is limited, not comprehensive. Just enough of it has been given, nor more, no less, that will suffice the needs of khilafah on the earth.”
    Majid comments and quotes: “This repudiates the position of those polytheistic religions which hold the spirit or soul of man to be an independent self-subsisting entity, co-eternal with God. In several Indian creeds the fundamental principle is ‘the dualism of prakrati and purusa, “matter” and soul” .. The result is a kind of trinity consisting of God, soul (or souls) and matter, each category of being having independent self-existence. God is eternal; so also is each soul; so also is matter (ERE, II, P. 60). The Greeks, and as their disciples, the early Christian Fathers, also shared the belief in the uncreated nature of the soul. ‘Belief in the pre-existence of the soul prevailed widely among the Greeks from an early date, and at the later time became a theory of their philosophers. The influence of Greek thought in this respect was strongly felt in the early Christian Church, and is still apparent to some extent throughout the whole of Western Civilization (x. p. 236).”
    139. Far from being able to explain the spiritual existence of man, modern science has failed to explain even the physical existence. A.J. Thomson was forced to admit, “The more we learn about nature, the more do we become aware of our own ignorance. Every problem that is solved, opens a fresh series of problems not hitherto thought of. The sphere of the Unknown is infinite. The sphere of the Known maybe be expanding, but is always finite. We are no nearer to ultimate solutions than Thales or Pythagoras; the quest for ultimate solution is merely the symptom of a disordered mind (UHW, VIII, p. 5012)” - Majid.
    In the field of biology men went from limbs, to parts, to cells, to the DNA in the nucleus, to the nucleotide base pairs, to end up staring at atoms with disbelief. Here is the central command, contained in lifeless atoms, getting such complicated things done, to such precision, as to defy illustration. The process of cell operations is so amazing and singular that nothing else in the universe can be cited as an example. The scientists always had the benefit of denying an effect by pointing to its cause. But here they are, looking at the atoms in the cell, not knowing which is the cause and which the effect in the highly complicated system.
    As for physics, all there was to be discovered has been discovered, except for the answers to the perennial questions, where did the laws of nature come from? Why does the matter behave the way it does? Why, for example, an electron is 1836 times lighter than the proton, and so on. The worst scenario, and the best illustration to the words, “And you have not given of knowledge but a little,” is that as the Universe expands at the edges at speeds near equal to that of light, humans will never know what lies there, or how big is the world they live in. This is because, physical laws do not allow for the humans on the earth to receive the news of any body traveling away at near the speed of light. Light emanating from it will eternally travel in the direction of the observer on earth, without reaching it, denying us the knowledge of what lies out there. This is the final nail in the coffin of human limits to knowledge (Au.).
    Another point of discussion among the commentators is as follows: That humans do not know the nature of the soul, is evident; but is it unknowable? Ibn Abi Hatim has reported `Abdullah b. Buraydah’s opinion that, “The Prophet died without knowing the nature of the soul.” Alusi disagrees with this statement in view of the famous “Hadith al-Manam” (a trustworthy report) which says,


    صَلَّيْتُ اللَّيْلَةَ مَا قُضِيَ لِي، وَوَضَعْتُ جَنْبِي فِي الْمَسْجِدِ، فَأَتَانِي رَبِّي فِي أَحْسَنِ صُورَةٍ، فَقَالَ: يَا مُحَمَّدُ، أَتَدْرِي فِيمَ يَخْتَصِمُ الْمَلأُ الأَعْلَى؟ فَقُلْتُ: لا يَا رَبِّ، قَالَهَا ثَلاثَ مَرَّاتٍ، قُلْتُ: لا يَا رَبِّ، فَوَضَعَ يَدَهُ بَيْنَ كَتِفَيَّ فَوَجَدْتُ بَرْدَهَا بَيْنَ ثَدْيَيَّ، فَتَجَلَّى لِي كُلُّ شَيْءٍ وَعَرَفْتُهُ


    “This morning I rose up after the night and Prayed as much as I was destined to. Then I dozed off in my Prayers, until I felt heavy. And lo! I was in the presence of my Lord, the Exalted, the Supreme - in the best form. He asked, ‘Muhammad! What are the angels of the upper-most constellation disputing over?’ I said, ‘I do not know, my Lord!’ That happened three times. Then He placed His palm between my shoulders until I felt the coldness of His fingers over my breast, and everything became clear to me. And I knew..” (The words “I knew..” have been interpreted to mean that he knew everything pertaining to the spiritual world: Au.). In other words, the Prophet had learnt the nature of the soul, apart from other things, following the dream. Further, Alusi and others write, since the verse does not suggest that no one can ever know the nature of the soul there is every possibility that a few others - apart from him - could know.
    It is another thing, that perhaps being a thing of the other world, subtle and incorporeal, even if some people knew what it is, they would not be able to describe what exactly they know it as, except in abstract terms rendering the description vague and unintelligible. Hence the inadequate explanations presented by Razi and Alusi in their commentaries and Ibn Qayyim in his “Kitab al-Ruh” (Au.).
    Notwithstanding that, the above three scholars have, apart from its nature, discussed various aspects of the Spirit, but, as one would fear, despite lengthy discourses they remain, for want of substance, little more than theoretical exercises. A few aspects discussed are: what exactly constitutes life? Does the soul die? Is it eternal or created? Does it undergo changes? Whether one is distinguishable from another or not? Etc. Another thing discussed is the difference between “Nafs” and “Ruh.” The Sufi opinion, as in Alusi, is that “Nafs” is the primary element in a body (that gives it life). When it brightens up with Allah’s remembrance, contemplation, and ascetic living, it is transformed into “Ruh.” (This too, however, goes without any substantiation: Au.).
    To be sure, as to the question, where do the souls go after death, evidences are not lacking. Qurtubi, Ibn al-Qayyim, and Alusi agree on the following: The souls of the Prophets and Messengers are in the upper most zone of “`Illiyun.” When the Prophet said, before his death, “O Allah, to those on High”, that is the place he meant. Souls of the martyr are in Paradise, in birds that feed on fruits, seeking repose by the lamps hanging by the `Arsh. Something similar has been stated about the souls of the Muslim children. A report of Ka`b leads us to believe that the souls of martyrs other than those who fell in battles, such as those who died of plague, of stomach problems, or were drowned, etc., are in the form of green birds that are fed from Paradise morning and evening. Imam Shafe`i believed that the souls of the believers are in Paradise. Ka`b b. Malik, as reported by Imam Malik reported that the believers’ souls are in the body of birds that live on the trees of Paradise. This report is in Ahmad, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah. On the other hand, souls of the unbelievers are in Sijjin. Umm Bishr’s report tells us that the souls of the unbelievers are in the form of black birds in cages that eat of the Fire and repose in a nest in the Fire. They say, “Our Lord. Let not our brothers join us, and do not grant us what You have promised us.” Ibn Hazm has spoken about the general body of the Ahl al-Hadith that the souls of the dead are in the graves. They draw strength from the Prophet’s hadith which says, “When one of you dies, his place is shown to him morning and evening. If he is to be of the people of Paradise, then Paradise, but if he is to be of the people of the Fire, then the Fire. It is said to him, ‘This is your place until Allah raises you.’” And when the Prophet visited the graveyard, he said, “Peace upon you: the place of the believers.” But Ibn `Abdul Barr has pointed out that the above applies to ordinary believers. The souls of martyrs are in Paradise.
    Perhaps all the above can be reconciled as in the book “Al-Ifsah” by saying that there are kinds and varieties of souls, treated variously. Some of them are in the form of birds in Paradise, others in cages of green birds, some take repose by the lamps under the `Arsh, others are in cages of white birds, some in the form of starlings in cages, others is other forms given in Paradise, some in shapes given to them in accordance with their deeds, others move around and visit their (earthly) bodies, some are in the care of Mika’il, others in that of Adam, while yet others in the care of Ibrahim.

    وَلَئِنْ شِئْنَا لَنَذْهَبَنَّ بِالَّذِي أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ ثُمَّ لَا تَجِدُ لَكَ بِهِ عَلَيْنَا وَكِيلًا (86)

    17|86| If We wished, We could take away that which We have revealed unto you;140 then you would not find any thereover to plead against Us.


    140. Ibn Mas`ud explained that a time will come when a wind will blow from the Syrian region after which nothing will be left of the Qur’an neither in print nor in the breasts. In support of his words, Ibn Mas`ud recited this verse (Ibn Jarir). This report is trustworthy (Qurtubi). The report is in Sa`id b. Mansur, Ibn Abi Shaybah, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Tabarani, Hakim, (who declared it Sahih), Ibn Marduwayh and in Bayhaqi’s “Shu`ab al-Iman”. (Dhahabi agreed with Hakim in ruling it as trustworthy: S. Ibrahim). The report has also come through Mu`adh b. Jabal, through Abu Hurayrah in Ibn Abi Hatim and Hakim who rated it Sahih, and through Hudhayfah b. al-Yaman in the collection of Abu al-Sheikh, Daylami and Ibn Marduwayh (Shawkani).
    The report of Hudhaifah says,


    قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَدْرُسُ الْإِسْلَامُ كَمَا يَدْرُسُ وَشْيُ الثَّوْبِ حَتَّى لَا يُدْرَى مَا صِيَامٌ وَلَا صَلَاةٌ وَلَا نُسُكٌ وَلَا صَدَقَةٌ وَلَيُسْرَى عَلَى كِتَابِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فِي لَيْلَةٍ فَلَا يَبْقَى فِي الْأَرْضِ مِنْهُ آيَةٌ وَتَبْقَى طَوَائِفُ مِنْ النَّاسِ الشَّيْخُ الْكَبِيرُ وَالْعَجُوزُ يَقُولُونَ أَدْرَكْنَا آبَاءَنَا عَلَى هَذِهِ الْكَلِمَةِ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ فَنَحْنُ نَقُولُهَا فَقَالَ لَهُ صِلَةُ مَا تُغْنِي عَنْهُمْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَهُمْ لَا يَدْرُونَ مَا صَلَاةٌ وَلَا صِيَامٌ وَلَا نُسُكٌ وَلَا صَدَقَةٌ فَأَعْرَضَ عَنْهُ حُذَيْفَةُ ثُمَّ رَدَّهَا عَلَيْهِ ثَلَاثًا كُلَّ ذَلِكَ يُعْرِضُ عَنْهُ حُذَيْفَةُ ثُمَّ أَقْبَلَ عَلَيْهِ فِي الثَّالِثَةِ فَقَالَ يَا صِلَةُ تُنْجِيهِمْ مِنْ النَّارِ ثَلَاثً


    “The Qur’an will get worn as the print on a cloth (gets worn) until a time will come when people will not know what is fasting, or Prayers, or Hajj, or charity. In that phase a time will come to pass on Allah’s Book a night after which not a verse will remain on the earth. Thereafter, very old men and women will say, ‘We found our forefathers saying these words: “there is no god save Allah.” They would not know what is Prayer, or fast, or Hajj, or charity.” At that Sila (b. Zufar) asked, “Of what benefit will the words ‘there is no god save Allah’ be to them?” Hudhayfah ignored the question. He asked him three times. Hudhayfah finally turned to him and said, ‘O Sila. It will rescue them from the Fire.’ He said it three times” (Qurtubi).

    إِلَّا رَحْمَةً مِنْ رَبِّكَ ۚ إِنَّ فَضْلَهُ كَانَ عَلَيْكَ كَبِيرًا (87)

    17|87| Except for a mercy from your Lord. Surely, His bounty has ever been great upon you.


    قُلْ لَئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الْإِنْسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَىٰ أَنْ يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لَا يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا (88)

    17|88| Say, ‘If the men and Jinn gathered together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they will never produce its like, even if some of them were helpers unto others.141


    141. It is said that a group of Jews visited the Prophet and accused him that what he had brought of the Qur’an was not revelation. They demanded that he should bring a true one, or they will bring something equivalent of what he had brought. In response Allah revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir).

    وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِي هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ فَأَبَىٰ أَكْثَرُ النَّاسِ إِلَّا كُفُورًا (89)

    17|89| We have indeed variously expounded for the people in this Qur’an every (manner of) similitude, yet most people refuse except (that they should be) unbelievers.


    وَقَالُوا لَنْ نُؤْمِنَ لَكَ حَتَّىٰ تَفْجُرَ لَنَا مِنَ الْأَرْضِ يَنْبُوعًا (90)

    17|90| They said, ‘We shall never believe you until you break open for us a spring from the ground.


    أَوْ تَكُونَ لَكَ جَنَّةٌ مِنْ نَخِيلٍ وَعِنَبٍ فَتُفَجِّرَ الْأَنْهَارَ خِلَالَهَا تَفْجِيرًا (91)

    17|91| Or you have an orchard of date trees and grapes, and cause rivers to gush forth abundantly in its midst.


    أَوْ تُسْقِطَ السَّمَاءَ كَمَا زَعَمْتَ عَلَيْنَا كِسَفًا أَوْ تَأْتِيَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ قَبِيلًا (92)

    17|92| Or make the heaven fall upon us in fragments, as you claim (will happen),142 or bring God and the angels face to face (before us).


    142. They were referring to the Qur’anic statement (34: 9),


    إِنْ نَشَأْ نَخْسِفْ بِهِمُ الْأَرْضَ أَوْ نُسْقِطْ عَلَيْهِمْ كِسَفًا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ [سبأ : 9]


    “If We wished, We could make the earth swallow them, or let the heaven fall upon them in fragments” (Zamakshari).

    أَوْ يَكُونَ لَكَ بَيْتٌ مِنْ زُخْرُفٍ أَوْ تَرْقَىٰ فِي السَّمَاءِ وَلَنْ نُؤْمِنَ لِرُقِيِّكَ حَتَّىٰ تُنَزِّلَ عَلَيْنَا كِتَابًا نَقْرَؤُهُ ۗ قُلْ سُبْحَانَ رَبِّي هَلْ كُنْتُ إِلَّا بَشَرًا رَسُولًا (93)

    17|93| Or you have a house of gold,143 or go right up into the heaven. Yet, we shall never believe in your going up until you bring down on us a book that we can read.’144 Say, ‘Glory to my Lord. Am I anything but a human Messenger?’145


    143. Although “ornament” is the literal meaning of the textual “zukhruf”, most commentators, such as Ibn Mas`ud, Mujahid, Hasan, Qatadah have explained it as meaning “gold” (Tabari).
    144. As context of revelation, it is reported by Ibn Is-haq that once the Quraysh assembled in the Grand Mosque and decided that they should get Muhammad down there and persuade him give up his mission. When the Prophet was told that they wished to see him, he hurried down in hope that they might have at last made up their minds about embracing his message. But when he arrived, one of them said, “We do not know of any individual in our memory who brought such disaster to his own people. You have belittled our forefathers, found fault in our religion, insulted our reason, slandered our gods, and caused division, in short, left nothing that could be brought upon us of the evil. Now, if all that you are looking for by this thing that you have brought is wealth, well then, we shall pool up enough money to make you the richest of us. If leadership is your aim, we shall declare you a leader. If you have territorial ambition, we will declare you a king over us. But, if it is a Jinn which has overcome you we shall treat you thereof.”
    A disappointed Prophet told them, “None of it. What I have brought is neither to get some wealth, nor power. But rather, I am Allah’s Messenger sent to you. He has sent down a Book unto me and has commanded me to give glad tidings and warn. So, I have delivered the message. Now it is up to you to accept or reject. If you accept, that will be your good fortune in this world and the Hereafter. But if you reject, then I shall observe patience until Allah decides between me and you.”
    They said, “Look Muhammad. If you do not accept what we offer you, then, you are aware that ours is the most constricted land on the earth, the most poverty stricken, affording a life of great hardships. So, ask the Lord God who has sent you to remove the mountains, widen the valleys, and break forth rivers like in Syria and Iraq. Also, let Him resurrect for us our forefathers, among them, especially, Qusayy b. Kilab, who was a renowned, trustworthy man. We shall ask him about your message. If he says, ‘Yes, it is true,’ we will readily accept it. If you did what we ask, and the resurrected acknowledge you, we will know that you have truly been sent by the Lord and shall in that event believe in you.”
    The Prophet replied, “I haven’t been raised to perform things of this kind. I have been sent with a message. If you accept it, it will be your share in this world and the Hereafter. But if you reject, then I shall observe patience until Allah decides between me and you.”
    They said, “OK. If you cannot do that, then let the One who raised you send down an angel to attest your messengership. Further, let your Lord provide you with orchards, palaces and treasures to afford you a comfortable life and relieve you from going about in the market-place, which does not become of you.”
    The Prophet replied in more or less the same terms. Exasperated by his refusals, they said, “Alright then. Bring down the heaven upon us in fragments, just as you threaten.” The Prophet told them, “That is in Allah’s hands alone. If He wishes He will do it.” They replied, “Your Lord knows what we asked. If you can not do these things, then we shall never believe in you, rather, shall oppose you until either of us is destroyed.”
    So the Prophet left them. As he was returning `Abdullah b. Abu Umayyah - a cousin of his - followed him and told him, “Muhammad. Your people asked you several things. But you refused all. Listen. By God, I shall never believe in you even if you went up into the heavens and brought down an open book, returning in the company of four angels attesting that you are a Prophet. Nevertheless, even if you did all these things, I don’t think I’ll believe in you.” Then he left.
    Back in the assembly Abu Jahl said to others after the Prophet had departed, “Look, my people. Muhammad refused that he will stop insulting our deities. I promise you that if I see him around here prostrating himself, I shall throw a rock on his head” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi and others: slightly shortened).
    It might be amusing to note that the same `Abdullah b. Abu Umayyah later embraced Islam. After all, if a man is not fanatical, in the end reason prevails (Au.).
    145. The exclamation, “Glory to my Lord” is in response to the pagan demand to bring Allah before them, while the rest of the words, “Am I anything but a human messenger?” are in response to their other demands (Razi).
    Yusuf Ali has a nice comment, the last part of which can be neatly applied to many of today’s Muslims, who await for the final victory of Islam and Muslims to miraculously come about: “This ill-assorted and crude jumble of the sort of miracles which the Unbelievers wanted .. is throughout reminiscent of the materialistic imagination of Jewish sceptics, which was mainly responsible for the fall of the Jewish nation. For a thirsty people sojourning in a dry land, the finding of a spring of water as in the story of Moses or of the well of Zamzam is an appropriate miracle. But miracles are not for faithless crowds to gape at.”

    وَمَا مَنَعَ النَّاسَ أَنْ يُؤْمِنُوا إِذْ جَاءَهُمُ الْهُدَىٰ إِلَّا أَنْ قَالُوا أَبَعَثَ اللَّهُ بَشَرًا رَسُولًا (94)

    17|94| And nothing prevented the people from believing when guidance came to them, but that they said, ‘Has Allah sent forth a human as Messenger?’


    قُلْ لَوْ كَانَ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَلَائِكَةٌ يَمْشُونَ مُطْمَئِنِّينَ لَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَلَكًا رَسُولًا (95)

    17|95| Say, ‘If there were on the earth angels walking about peacefully, We would have surely sent down upon them an angel as a messenger.’146


    146. This does not contradict the fact that the Prophet was sent to the Jinn as well as the humans, since his capabilities were of such class that he was a model for both Jinn and humans. In fact, the Qur’an has expressed only the undesirability of sending an angel to humans as a Messenger, and not the impossibility. Although some scholars, such as, Bayhaqi of the Shafe`iyyah, Mahmood b. Hamza Kirmani of the Hanafiyyah, Zainuddin Iraqi, Razi and a few others, have thought otherwise, yet, scholars like Taqiuddin Subki of the Shafe`iyyah, Jalaluddin Mahalli, Ibn Taymiyyah of the Hanabilah, and Abdul Haq of the Malikiyyah were of the opinion that our Prophet was sent both to humankind as well as the Jinn. This view is supported by the Prophetic statement in Muslim, “I have been raised for the entire creation” (Alusi).

    قُلْ كَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ شَهِيدًا بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِعِبَادِهِ خَبِيرًا بَصِيرًا (96)

    17|96| Say, ‘Allah suffices as a Witness between me and you. He is, indeed, ever Aware of His slaves, ever Observant.’


    وَمَنْ يَهْدِ اللَّهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِ ۖ وَمَنْ يُضْلِلْ فَلَنْ تَجِدَ لَهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِهِ ۖ وَنَحْشُرُهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ عَلَىٰ وُجُوهِهِمْ عُمْيًا وَبُكْمًا وَصُمًّا ۖ مَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ ۖ كُلَّمَا خَبَتْ زِدْنَاهُمْ سَعِيرًا (97)

    17|97| Whomsoever Allah guides, is the rightly guided; and whomsoever He sent to error, you will never find for them protectors apart from Him.147 And We shall gather them on the Judgment Day on their faces,148 blind, dumb and deaf.149 Hell is their abode. Whenever it subsides, We shall increase for them the Blaze.


    147. Mawdudi comments: “If the door to guidance has been shut against someone by God on account of his love for error and adamant opposition to the truth, and if God has allowed him to proceed along the path of error and evil which he himself wanted to pursue in the first place, then it will be impossible for anyone else to bring him back to the right path. When someone turns away from the truth and feels satisfied with falsehood, God creates the circumstances which make it possible for his hatred for truth and his satisfaction with falsehood to mount. For God does not compel those who intentionally seek error to embrace the truth. Furthermore, it is beyond the power of anyone else to change their hearts.”
    148. Since their hearts and spirits were totally inclined towards the earth, it was right that they should be resurrected on their faces (Razi).
    How will people move on their faces? A report (in the Sahihayn: Ibn Kathir) says that somebody asked the Prophet himself. He answered, “The One who is able to move them on their feet is also able to move them on their faces.” Another hadith in Tirmidhi and Abu Da’ud narrates Abu Hurayrah as reporting the Prophet, “People will be resurrected as three kinds: walking, riding and on their faces (shortened).” Although this is a kind of weak report, it is strengthened by another coming from Abu Dharr of similar meaning and one declared Sahih by Hakim (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    Those who still wonder about how humans will move on their faces, may consider the snakes (Au.).
    149. In view of other Qur’anic verses, (18: 53),


    وَرَأَى الْمُجْرِمُونَ النَّارَ فَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُمْ مُوَاقِعُوهَا [الكهف : 53]


    “And the criminals will see the Fire and will know that they will fall into it”, or (25: 12),


    إِذَا رَأَتْهُمْ مِنْ مَكَانٍ بَعِيدٍ سَمِعُوا لَهَا تَغَيُّظًا وَزَفِيرًا -الفرقان : 12


    “When it (the Fire) will see them from a distance, they will hear its fury and roaring,” or (25: 13),


    دَعَوْا هُنَالِكَ ثُبُورًا [الفرقان : 13]


    “There they will call for death,” ‘Ibn `Abbas has said that what is meant by the verse in question is that the condemned ones will not see or hear anything pleasant, nor would they be allowed to make any excuses (and not that these powers will be taken away altogether). In a second report he said that they will suffer these disabilities at some stage or the other on the Day of Resurrection - Ibn Jarir, Razi.

    ذَٰلِكَ جَزَاؤُهُمْ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَقَالُوا أَإِذَا كُنَّا عِظَامًا وَرُفَاتًا أَإِنَّا لَمَبْعُوثُونَ خَلْقًا جَدِيدًا (98)

    17|98| That is their recompense because they disbelieved in Our signs and said, ‘Shall we, when we are bones and broken bits, be raised up again in a new creation?’


    أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّهَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ قَادِرٌ عَلَىٰ أَنْ يَخْلُقَ مِثْلَهُمْ وَجَعَلَ لَهُمْ أَجَلًا لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ فَأَبَى الظَّالِمُونَ إِلَّا كُفُورًا (99)

    17|99| Do they not see that Allah, who created the heavens and the earth, has the power to create the likes of them?150 He has appointed a term for them, there is no doubt about it; but the transgressors refuse except that they should reject.


    150. Seeing that the universe was created out of nothing, should it not be easier to resurrect man when he is reduced to dust? After all, whatever the form, the raw material is there in comparison to the heavens and earth for which there was no raw material? (Au.)
    A report of the Sahihayn says,


    كُلُّ ابْنِ آدَمَ يَبْلَى، إِلا عَجْبُ الذَّنَبِ، وَفِيهِ يُرَكَّبُ الْخَلْقُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ


    “There is nothing of men that does not become dust except the tail-piece of their back bone. It is from this that men will be resurrected on Judgment Day” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    Other reports add, “from an atom of the tail-piece” (Au.).

    قُلْ لَوْ أَنْتُمْ تَمْلِكُونَ خَزَائِنَ رَحْمَةِ رَبِّي إِذًا لَأَمْسَكْتُمْ خَشْيَةَ الْإِنْفَاقِ ۚ وَكَانَ الْإِنْسَانُ قَتُورًا (100)

    17|100| Say, ‘If you possessed the treasures of my Lord’s mercy,151 you would hold back in fear of poverty.152 Surely, man is ever so niggardly.153


    151. The allusion by the term “rahmah” is to blessings (Alusi).
    152. The translation of “infaq” as poverty reflects the understanding of Ibn `Abbas as in Ibn Jarir. Otherwise, literally the meaning is “expending.”
    153. The implied meaning seems to be that the economic discomforts and hardships that the Makkan claimed as the reason for asking what they asked the Prophet, do not have their reason in the constriction of the land, or lack of rivers, but rather, man’s refusal to expend. His holding back wealth gives rise to poverty. He is in fact so niggardly that had he the treasures of the heavens and earth in his possession, he would hold them back from fear of expending them off, and thus poverty would remain. A second implication is hidden in the words “treasures of your Lord’s mercy”, viz., “it is truly His mercy that must be coveted and not physical, material treasures” (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَىٰ تِسْعَ آيَاتٍ بَيِّنَاتٍ ۖ فَاسْأَلْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ إِذْ جَاءَهُمْ فَقَالَ لَهُ فِرْعَوْنُ إِنِّي لَأَظُنُّكَ يَا مُوسَىٰ مَسْحُورًا (101)

    17|101| Indeed, We gave Musa nine clear signs:154 ask the children of Israel, when he went to them and Fir`awn said to him, ‘Indeed I believe, O Musa, you are bewitched.’


    154. There has been difference in opinion over the nature of these signs. Some of the Salaf believed that the allusion is to the signs of the Book, i.e., its verses. Hence Tirmidhi and Nasa’i have a report by Safwan b. `Assal that a Jew said to another,


    عَنْ صَفْوَانَ بن عَسَّالٍ، أَنْ يَهُودِيَّيْنِ، قَالَ أَحَدُهُمَا لِصَاحِبِهِ: انْطَلِقْ بنا إِلَى هَذَا النَّبِيِّ، فَقَالَ: لا تَقُلْ لَهُ نَبِيٌّ، فَإِنَّهُ إِنْ سَمِعَكَ صَارَتْ لَهُ أَرْبَعَةُ أَعْيُنٍ، فَانْطَلَقَا إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمْ، فَسَأَلاهُ عَنْ قَوْلِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: "وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى تِسْعَ آيَاتٍ بَيِّنَاتٍ" [الإسراء 101]، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمْ:"لا تُشْرِكُوا بِاللَّهِ شَيْئًا، وَلا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلا بِالْحَقِّ، وَلا تَزْنُوا وَلا تَسْرِقُوا، وَلا تَمْشُوا بِبَرِيءٍ إِلَى سُلْطَانٍ لِيَقْتُلَهُ، وَلا تَأْكُلُوا الرِّبَا، وَلا تَقْذِفُوا الْمُحْصَنَةَ، وَلا تَفِرُّوا مِنَ الزَّحْفِ، وَعَلَيْكُمْ خَاصَّةً يَهُودُ أَنْ لا تَعْدُوا فِي السَّبْتِ"، فَقَبَّلُوا يَدَهُ، وَقَالُوا: نَشْهَدُ أَنَّكَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، قَالَ:"فَمَا يَمْنَعُكُمْ أَنْ تَتَّبِعُونِي؟"قَالُوا: إِنَّ دَاوُدَ دَعَا أَنْ لا يَزَالَ فِي ذُرِّيَّتِهِ نَبِيٌّ، وَإِنَّا نَخَافُ إِنِ اتَّبَعْنَاكَ أَنْ تَقْتُلَنَا يَهُودُ.


    “Let us go to this Prophet and ask him.” The other said, “Don’t utter the word Prophet. If he heard us he will develop four eyes.” They went to the Prophet and asked him about Allah’s words, “We gave Musa nine clear signs.” The Prophet replied, “That you do not associate aught with Allah, do not take away a life that Allah has forbidden except by right, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not get an innocent killed by the ruler, do not devour interest, do not slander a chaste woman, do not run away from the battle-field - and for you especially, O Jews - do not desecrate the Sabbath.” They kissed his hands a and said, “You are a Prophet - for sure.” He asked, “What prevents you from becoming Muslims?” They replied, “David had supplicated to the Lord that Prophethood should remain among his offspring. In addition, we are afraid that if we declared faith in you, the Jews will kill us.” Tirmidhi rated this as Hasan Sahih.
    Nevertheless, there have been others who thought that the allusion by the nine signs is to physical signs that appeared at the hands of Musa (asws). But there are differences over what they were. From Ibn `Abbas we have several opinions. However, he, along with Matr al-Warraq, `Ata’, Mujahid, Sha`bi and others believed that they were: His hand (which shone), the staff, the torrent, locusts, lice, frogs, blood, the years of drought, and destruction of crops (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).

    قَالَ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتَ مَا أَنْزَلَ هَٰؤُلَاءِ إِلَّا رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ بَصَائِرَ وَإِنِّي لَأَظُنُّكَ يَا فِرْعَوْنُ مَثْبُورًا (102)

    17|102| He replied, ‘You know very well that none has brought them down but the Lord of the heavens and the earth - eye openers. And indeed I consider you, O Fir`awn, doomed to destruction.’155


    155. “Doomed to destruction” is one understanding of the Salaf. Another is “accursed” and a third, “overcome” (Ibn Jarir). To be sure, Musa’s courage has not gone unnoticed by the earliest commentators. As if he was saying (Zamakhshari) that, “if you think I am mad, then, let me tell you what I think of you: you are accursed and doomed to destruction.” To say that to an emperor, before a full court, was possible only for a Prophet.

    فَأَرَادَ أَنْ يَسْتَفِزَّهُمْ مِنَ الْأَرْضِ فَأَغْرَقْنَاهُ وَمَنْ مَعَهُ جَمِيعًا (103)

    17|103| He tried to unsettle them in the land,156 so we drowned him and those with him, all together.157


    156. In view of the fact that Fir`awn and his subjects needed the Israeli labor, we might understand that either he tried to expel Musa and perhaps a few others along with him, or, unsettle the Israelites through harsh measures of persecution. The original “istifzaz” lends all these connotations.
    157. Mawdudi shows the connection, “It will be recalled that the unbelievers contended that their believing in the Prophet (peace be on him) was contingent upon the latter’s performance of certain miracles. In response, they are told that in the past Pharaoh witnessed no less than nine miracles in succession. But since he was bent upon not believing, he was unable to change his views even after witnessing all those miracles.”
    Further down he writes, “(Moreover) this brings out the true moral of the narrative. The Makkan polytheists were intent upon uprooting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) and the Muslims from Arabia. They are told that Pharaoh intended to do the same with the Prophet Moses (peace be on him) and the Israelites. However, what really happened was that while Pharaoh and his people were annihilated, Moses (peace on him) and his followers became firmly established in the land which was earlier under Pharaoh’s sway.”

    وَقُلْنَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِ لِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اسْكُنُوا الْأَرْضَ فَإِذَا جَاءَ وَعْدُ الْآخِرَةِ جِئْنَا بِكُمْ لَفِيفًا (104)

    17|104| We said after him to the Children of Israel, ‘Settle down in the land. When the promise of the Hereafter comes to pass, We shall bring you back as mixed crowds.’158


    158. “According to Razi, the expression lafif denotes a human crowd composed of innumerable heterogeneous elements, good and bad, strong and weak, fortunate and unfortunate: in short it characterizes mankind in all respects” (Asad).

    وَبِالْحَقِّ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ وَبِالْحَقِّ نَزَلَ ۗ وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا مُبَشِّرًا وَنَذِيرًا (105)

    17|105| And, with truth We have sent it down,159 and with truth it has come.160 And We have sent you not (O Muhammad) but a bearer of good tidings and a warner.


    159. That is, the Qur’an has been sent down containing the truth (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    160. That is, the message has been delivered without any addition or deletion (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    وَقُرْآنًا فَرَقْنَاهُ لِتَقْرَأَهُ عَلَى النَّاسِ عَلَىٰ مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَاهُ تَنْزِيلًا (106)

    17|106| A recitation that We have gradually unfolded so that you may recite to the people with deliberation;161 and We have sent it down progressively.


    161. Ibn `Abbas said that Allah sent down the Qur’an to the heaven closest to the earth, the whole of it, at once, in the night of Qadr and then gradually revealed to the Prophet over two decades. Ibn Zayd and Qatadah have also said something similar (Ibn Jarir).

    قُلْ آمِنُوا بِهِ أَوْ لَا تُؤْمِنُوا ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ إِذَا يُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ يَخِرُّونَ لِلْأَذْقَانِ سُجَّدًا (107)

    17|107| Say, ‘Believe in it or do not believe. Those who were given knowledge before it, when (it is) recited upon them, fall down on their faces162 in prostration.


    162. Some commentators have pointed out that the textual word “yakhirruna” gives the sense of involuntary, uncontrolled prostration.
    Further, the textual word “adhqan” literally means chin, and hence Hasan said that the meaning is they fell on their beards. Nevertheless, Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah understood the word as “face.”
    Razi adds: The word chin has been used perhaps to allude that when a man involuntarily falls - literally - into prostration, unable to control his emotions, then he rubs his whole face against the ground including the beard.
    On the topic, Alsusi adds a few lines on crying. He reports a hadith of Tirmidhi. The Prophet said,


    عَيْنَانِ لَا تَمَسُّهُمَا النَّارُ عَيْنٌ بَكَتْ مِنْ خَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ وَعَيْنٌ بَاتَتْ تَحْرُسُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ


    “Two eyes will not be touched by the Fire. An eye that cried in fear of Allah, and an eye that spent the night in guard (against the enemy).”
    Although Tirmidhi himself evaluated it Hasan, Albani thought it was Sahih.
    Nasa’i and Muslim have a narration which says,


    لَا يَلِجُ النَّارَ أَحَدٌ بَكَى مِنْ خَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ حَتَّى يَعُودَ اللَّبَنُ فِي الضَّرْعِ وَلَا يَجْتَمِعُ غُبَارٌ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَدُخَانُ جَهَنَّمَ فِي مَنْخِرَيْ امْرِئٍ أَبَدًا


    “Fire will not touch a man who cried in fear of Allah until milk goes back to the udders, and dust that fell on the way of Allah and the smoke of Hellfire will not come together in the nostrils of a man.” (According to another version, “in the nostrils of a Muslim”).

    وَيَقُولُونَ سُبْحَانَ رَبِّنَا إِنْ كَانَ وَعْدُ رَبِّنَا لَمَفْعُولًا (108)

    17|108| They say, “Glory to our Lord. The promise of our Lord had to come true.163


    163. What promise is it? The answer is that those who had received the previous revelations find in the Qur’an and in the Messenger who brought it, the promise of Allah fulfilled, viz., He will send His Final Messenger when its time arrives.

    وَيَخِرُّونَ لِلْأَذْقَانِ يَبْكُونَ وَيَزِيدُهُمْ خُشُوعًا ۩ (109)

    17|109| They fall down on their faces in tears,164 and it increases them in humble submission.’


    164. Accordingly, `Abdullah al-Taymiy has said that he who did not cry at the knowledge given him, perhaps never received it (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    قُلِ ادْعُوا اللَّهَ أَوِ ادْعُوا الرَّحْمَٰنَ ۖ أَيًّا مَا تَدْعُوا فَلَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ وَلَا تَجْهَرْ بِصَلَاتِكَ وَلَا تُخَافِتْ بِهَا وَابْتَغِ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ سَبِيلًا (110)

    17|110| Say, ‘Call upon Allah or call upon al-Rahman; by whichsoever (name) you call upon, to Him belong the beautiful Names.’165 And, be not loud in your supplication, nor do it in low tones, but rather, seek a way in between.166


    165. Ibn `Abbas, Mak-hul and Qatadah have said that the Prophet used to call on Allah in words, “Ya Rahman.” The pagans said he was addressing his prayers to a man in Yamamah who was called Rahman (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    166. `A’isha, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Mak-hul and others have understood the textual word “salat” as meaning supplication. [‘A’isha’s opinion is in the Sahihayn and others: Alusi]. However, in a second opinion of ‘Ibn `Abbas, Sa’id b. Jubayr and Dahhak, the allusion is to the Prophet’s loud recital of the Qur’an when he led in Prayers in the Haram area, which led the pagans to rebuke the revelation. He was told: “Be not loud in your Prayers” (so that the pagans do not hear), “nor do it in low tones” (so that the Muslims behind you do not miss to hear), “rather, take a way in between” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    وَقُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي لَمْ يَتَّخِذْ وَلَدًا وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ شَرِيكٌ فِي الْمُلْكِ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ وَلِيٌّ مِنَ الذُّلِّ ۖ وَكَبِّرْهُ تَكْبِيرًا (111)

    17|111| And say, ‘Praise to Allah who has not taken a son, has no partner in His kingdom, and who has none as His friend out of weakness.167 And magnify Him with magnification.’168


    167. Yusuf Ali has an appropriate comment: “A first step towards the understanding of Allah’s attributes is to clear our minds from superstition, such as that Allah begot a son, or that He has partners,” .. (or that He took friends because He needed protection: au.).
    Shabbir’s remark is worth reproducing: “Help can come from three quarters: “From the lower to the higher, like a son helping his father; from someone equal; or from a stronger to a weaker, which entails humiliation. The verse refutes absence of all three reasons. First by saying, “He did not take a son,” second by saying, “there is no partner in His kingdom,” and third by saying, “who has none as His friend out of weakness.” Incidentally, the verse also holds refutation of Christian, pagan and Jewish ideas. Of the Christians in words, “He did not take a son,” of the pagans in words, “there is no partner in His kingdom,” and of the Jews in words, “who has none as His friend out of weakness” because the Jews claim that God could not beat Jacob in a wrestling match.”
    Israel’s God is, in fact, in the words of Karen Armstrong “wedded” to Israel who laments when the Israelites pay homage to other deities (Au.).
    168. It might be observed that the chapter began with Allah’s glory and ends on the note to magnify Him for His greatness and glory.