Surat Al-Kahf

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


What is the Qur'an About?
The Qur'an is the Word of Allah and a Book of Guidance. It can be asked, guidance to what? The answer is: “Guidance to Allah Most High, His Attributes, His Will, and the way in which one may conduct oneself to obtain that approval (rida) of Allah after which there is no anger." Imam Shafe`i perhaps had the first part of this statement in mind when he said:

"All that (the scholars of) the Ummah have to say is nothing but the exposition of the Sunnah. All that is in the Sunnah is the exposition of the Qur'an. And the whole of the Qur'an is nothing but the exposition of the Names and Attributes of Allah" (Zarkashi: Al‑Burhan Fi `Ulum al‑Qur'an).

This guidance to Allah, the knowledge of His Attributes and Will, and the guidance to right conduct cannot be obtained by any means other than the Qur'an and its complementary, the Sunnah, (the sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him).
The Qur'an is also the only source of guidance. Someone who is unaware of its existence, but is a seeker of Truth, (on account of his innate faith in God and disillusionment with the world), will be led to this Book, one way or the other. The Qur'an says (29: 69): "Those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them unto Our paths."

What is Guidance?
From another angle, it might be said that being on the guidance is to know, acknowledge, and, live by the Truth. In the context of this life, it is
a) the knowledge of what one is required to do, in the right measure, at any particular moment, and
b) the will to live by that knowledge.
In one sense, then, Guidance is knowledge, and in another, the will to act by it. The ‘will to act' is not the same as the ‘power to act.' That is because man has been granted will (or the freedom of choice) in a limited framework, while all power is Allah's. The power, or ability to act ‑ referred to as tawfiq in Islamic terminology ‑ is granted when willingness is demonstrated.
Further, since there is no such thing as half‑guidance, both are essential for salvation: knowledge without the will to act is only an evidence against one's self (hujjah), and deeds (however pretty their appearance), are grains thrown in the sand if they go without the acknowledgement of the Truth.
The Qur'an guides in both the senses. It bestows knowledge (or 'ilm wa 'irfan), giving the seeker the proper concept of the truth, as well as the will‑power and the moral courage to produce a living model of that concept in his own person, overcoming the obstacles he might encounter from within or without.
No other book, writing, philosophy, or person can achieve this. There should be no doubt about it; for any ambiguity in this regard can deprive one of the fruits of study and application.
The above definition illustrates and emphasizes the external, physical, and ephemeral aspect. Guidance has an esoteric, transcendent, and eternal meaning also, which is the fruit and essence of the external aspect. It is that state of mind and soul in which the other world becomes dearer than this one, in which, one eagerly awaits to be transported to the other world in order to heal that pain in the heart, and quench that thirst of the soul which only the company of those on High can heal and quench.
It is when one begins to ‘wait for the next salah after the last one,' when one ‘remembers Allah in his seclusion and the remembrance brings tears to his eyes,' when Allah becomes so dear that one begins to ‘love for Allah and hate for Allah,' and, when ‘the state of sabr and shukr become one and the same,' then it is that a person can said to be, in the words of the Qur'an, "on a guidance from his Lord."

The Path of Knowledge
A hadith of the Prophet (saws) says: "I am leaving behind me two things. So long as you hold fast unto them, you will not be misguided: they are Allah's Book and my practices." Nevertheless, this oft‑quoted hadith is rarely treated seriously. People apply themselves with great fervor to books, writings, speeches and ideologies presented by the scholars of Islam, but not as often do they leave them and their influences aside to turn directly to the Qur'an in complete seriousness. They do not seem to realize that they are not guided by those books and writings but to the extent that they themselves contain the Qur'an and the Sunnah in their pure form and unadulterated meaning.
Further, even when the Qur'an is studied, it is mostly done through the eyes, minds, and explanations of the scholars. The knowledge derived is, therefore, at best second‑hand, vicarious, and not wholly trustworthy. Again, a study of the Qur'an after a lot of other literature has been read has the disadvantage of the earlier readings embossing on the mind impressions that do not allow for the new ones to take place in their pristine form. The result is a jumble of concepts, true, half true, and false.
Alternatively, the Qur'an is read with pre‑conceived ideas. Human ideas are then taken for Divine ideas with citation of Qur’anic verses as evidences.
There are a few other characteristics that distinguish the Qur'an from all other kinds of writings. Firstly, the knowledge that the Qur'an imparts is the true and infallible knowledge. Secondly, the Qur'an succeeds in communicating the ideas it holds. That is, the reader cannot miss the meaning that it intends to communicate. Provided one is sincere, no one can miss its guidance, or, led to a meaning and understanding not intended. That happens with writings other than the Divine; humans say one thing, and the audience understand another thing. Moreover, through its intricate sequencing of the texts, the Qur’an answers to the doubts that arise, so to say, on the spot, and registers its meaning and message without adulteration of doubts menacing the mind, or skeptical notes lying beneath like snakes in the grass.
Therefore, to obtain true knowledge and right guidance from the Qur'an the requirement is to do away with preconceived ideas and study it with the firm intention to live by the meaning as it unfolds itself. With that kind of intention, the student is qualified to receive the true meaning. The meaning obtained is also accompanied by an urge to live by it, which then is the next requirement. That accomplished, that is, the meaning translated into action, the reader demonstrates purity of intention. In consequence, he qualifies to receive a fresh set of true meaning which unfolds themselves with further reading. This goes on until the student reaches that state which has been described in a hadith by Allah (swt) Himself in words, “I become the hands of the slave with which he grips, the feet of the slave with which he walks ... (to the end of the hadith).” But if he fails, that is, he is not true to himself at any given phase, or discontinues the process, then the tawfiq is held back until he amends his ways. The Qur’an has said (7: 146):

{سَأَصْرِفُ عَنْ آيَاتِيَ الَّذِينَ يَتَكَبَّرُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَإِنْ يَرَوْا كُلَّ آيَةٍ لَا يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الرُّشْدِ لَا يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الْغَيِّ يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَكَانُوا عَنْهَا غَافِلِينَ} [الأعراف: 146]

“I shall turn away from My signs those who wax proud in the land without cause. If they witnessed all the signs, they will not believe in them, and, if they see the path of righteousness, they will not accept it as a path. But if they see the deviated path, they will accept it as a path. That, because they gave a lie to Our signs and were heedless of them.”

How to Obtain the Right Verbal Meaning?
It is to seek guidance, in the sense delineated above, that one should read the Qur'an. That should be the intention in every session with it.
Dr. Muhammad Iqbal's father well illustrated this point when he asked his son, who was reciting the Qur'an, as to what he was reading. The young son, knowing that the father was aware what he was reading, responded with an indifferent answer. “Who was it revealed to?” was the next question. The embarrassed son replied that it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace). “This way, my son,” said the father, “you will never profit from the Qur'an. You will only if you read with the belief that the Revelation has just come down, that it has been sent down specifically for you, and that it is you who has been addressed. It is only then that this Book will open itself to you.”
In other words, one should take it as a message unto himself, and allow each verse of the Qur'an free and unhindered access to the mind and heart with the will to be led where it will lead.

In contrast to other revealed Books and religious literatures, in whatever form and language they may exist, the Qur'an should not only be read by oneself, directly, but also in its own language ‑ Arabic. No commentary, however comprehensive, and no exegete, however erudite, can impart what the Qur'an itself can. The following reasons will illustrate the point.

The Miraculous nature of the Qur'an
It is well known that the Qur'an is a miracle. In fact, it is a living miracle; although the true nature of the miracle is not always understood. We cannot elaborate on this point extensively at this juncture. But it might be pointed out that the miracle expresses itself both in its form as well in its content. Both are powerful, unique to the Qur'an, which defy translation. The Prophet said: "Every prophet before me was given a miracle. I have been given the Qur'an. And I hope to have a greater following by its virtue than any prophet of the past."
Consequently, thousands of people from all over the globe are led to Islam every year through their study of the Qur'an. When a non‑Muslim asks a Muslim about Islam, all that he does in most cases is to hand him over a copy of the Qur'an. Invariably, even that mangled thing called ‘the translation of the Qur'an' leads the person to Islam. That is the miracle of the Qur'an. And of course, miracles cannot be translated.
Let us look into a few reasons that make impossible to communicate what the Qur'an itself communicates.

The Qur'an is in Arabic. It is neither in prose nor in verse but a unique combination of both, unsurpassed in its effect on the mind and soul by any other writing. In the words of John Alden Williams:

"...the Arabic of the Qur'an is by turns striking, soaring, vivid, terrible, tender, and breathtaking ... It is meaningless to apply adjectives such as ‘beautiful' or ‘persuasive' to the Qur'an; its flashing images and inexorable measures go directly to the brain and intoxicate it.
It is not surprising, then, that a skilled reciter of the Qur'an can reduce an Arabic‑speaking audience to helpless tears" (Islam: p.2, Washington Square Press '69).

In the words of Arberry:

"... to produce something which might be accepted as echoing however faintly the sublime rhetoric of the Arabic Koran, I have been at pains to study the intricate and richly varied rhythms which ‑ apart from the message itself ‑ constitute the Koran's undeniable claim to rank amongst the greatest literary masterpieces of mankind" (The Koran Interpreted, Intr. p. x, Oxford Univ. Press '64).

It is this inimitable beauty that challenges mankind to produce its equivalent: in sublimity of language, its instructions, and its sublime effect on the mind and soul. The Qur'anic challenge has remained unanswered by the humans (2: 23, 24):

"O People! If you are in any doubt concerning what We have sent down on Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a piece similar to it (in all its merits). And call (to your aid) your witnesses apart from Allah, if you are true (in your allegation that it is the work of Muhammad). But if you cannot do it ‑ and you can never do it ‑ then beware of the Fire whose fuel is human beings and rocks: prepared for the unbelievers."

The Qur'an then is inimitable and, therefore, untranslatable. Any translation, however accurately done, and however close to the original, cannot reproduce the sense and beauty of the original. Therefore, when one is reading a translation, he is not reading the Qur'an per se. No surprise then that the best effects are lost. No wonder also that the scholars of old would not allow translation of the Qur'an. This is also Ibn Taymiyyah's opinion. In fact there is a consensus of opinion among the scholars that the Qur'an should not be quoted in ‘sense' or ‘meaning' but always in its original textual words. How can then one be allowed to translate the Qur'an and call it the Qur'an?
Accordingly, if permission to translate the Qur'an has been granted due to modern exigencies, it is on condition that sufficient notes are supplied to overcome the deficiencies arising out of the translation. Further, it is required that the new work be called "interpretative translation of the Qur'an" (tarjumah tafsiriyyah), or, "the translation of the meaning of the Qur'an," rather than "the translation of the Qur'an" or, what would be more audacious, "the meaning of the Qur'an," since none of these are within human power (Manahil al `Irfan, Zarqani).

Linguistic Difficulties
There are many linguistic difficulties that make the Qur'an untranslatable. In Arabic one expresses sense rather than meaning. A beautiful Arabic sentence that can enrapture the mind and touch the soul becomes insipid in another language. Not only sentences or words, even single consonant letters are hard to translate. For example, the "fi" of Arabic has a depth that is lacking in the "in" of English. One needs a whole ugly, terse, and unmusical word in English to translate mere letters such as:

و ف إنَّ

Obviously, the complications with the words are far greater than those with the letters. Arabic is a language in which words are based on consonantal roots, from which are derived scores of words in various forms giving out various meanings but remaining, even if loosely and distantly, connected in sense and letter‑content to the root. `Ayn for instance can mean: an eye, a spring, a spy, a group of people, evil‑eye, honor, a flag, a girl, etc. `Afw stands for effacement, obliteration, elimination, forgiveness, amnesty, boon, kindness, favor, surplus, and others. The translated word must on the one hand give out the basic meaning and, on the other, convey several nuances the original carries. Obviously, to achieve that is well‑nigh impossible.
Let us take an example (4: 4):

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

"Give the women their dowries (as a gift) spontaneous,"
In this example, the word saduqat is derived from the root sadaqa ( صَدَقَ ) which means, with the addition of various suffixes or prefixes: ‘to speak the truth, to be sincere, to prove to be true, to come true, to fulfill one's promise,' and so on. Now, a true translation of the derived term saduqa, (plural: saduqat صَدُقات ), should carry in its overtones the sense of truth and sincerity. That is, ‘a gift that is offered (by the groom to the bride), as an expression of his sincerity toward her and the relationship he is proposing.' To render it as dowry, with the connotation that the language and culture of the readers carry, is to mutilate it.
In addition to the problem of words that yield several meanings, the complex structure of the Qur'anic verses admit of many interpretations (well described by Muhammad Asad as unfolding of "layer upon layer of meaning") from which the translator can choose but one, without necessarily being right in his choice. This means that, granted the translator did not err, the translation conveyed only one meaning out of the several contained in the Qur'an.
As another example, the following is speaking of the unbelievers (11: 20):

يُضَاعَفُ لَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ مَا كَانُوا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ السَّمْعَ وَمَا كَانُوا يُبْصِرُونَ [هود : 20]

"For them the chastisement shall be doubled; (for) they could not hear, neither did they see."
It can be translated in at least six different ways, three of them depending on how the letter "maa" is treated: whether of the same meaning as "lamu kayy," ( لامُ كَي ); as a synonym of "ila," ( إلى ); or as a negative "maa". Obviously such possibilities, which occur quite often, can leave the translator baffled as to his own choice during translation.
Another linguistic difficulty is that many Arabic and Qur'anic terms do not have proper equivalents in other languages, especially the languages of the occident. Allah, al‑Rahman, al‑Rahim, jihad, salah, zakah, sadaqah, `ibadah, al‑ghayb, kufr, nur, fisq, taghut, nabiyy, rasul, ghaniyy, are a few examples from a long list.
If, to the above are added the difficulties of `ijaz (ellipticism), rhetoric, alliteration, resonance and rhythm (all of them present in the Qur'an in their most excellent forms and in the highest degree of expression), then the job of translation becomes a hopeless task.
But the impaired meaning is not the only casualty. The loss in terms of beauty, charm, appeal, elation and the ecstasy that a reader feels on reading the Qur'an in its original is immeasurable.
Therefore, it can be safely said of a person who has always read the Qur'an through translations alone, that he did not read the Qur'an once.

Trying to understand the Qur'an with the help of commentaries is no less hazardous. Some reasons are as follows.
Essentially, commentaries are of two kinds. Those that are based on the Qur'an itself, supported by the hadith and opinions of the Companions, or their next‑generation Followers (tabe`iyyun). These are known as al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur ( التفسير بالمأثور ) i.e., interpretation based on report or tradition.
The other category is the one in which the commentator offers an interpretation, based not on a specific accepted source ‑ a Qur'anic verse, a hadith, or a remark of a Companion or one of their Followers ‑ but his personal opinion based on his intellect, knowledge or intuition. This kind of commentary is known as al‑tafsir bi 'l ra'yi ( التفسير بالرأي ). al‑tafsir 'l‑ishari [ التفسير الإشاري ] falls under the same category).
As for the first kind of tafsir, i.e., al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur, it can be fully appreciated only when read in Arabic. Many concepts and ideas of the Qur'an are closely tied up with the Arabic language. Further, those concepts and ideas are so subtle that their explanations fall flat and lose their import in another language. The commentaries of Ibn Jarir or Ibn Kathir, for example (which are good examples of the al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur) fail to have their impact on the reader in their translated version. Besides, some basic knowledge of hadith classification, fiqh and other disciplines, which in turn require knowledge of Arabic, is necessary to appreciate this kind of commentary.
In short al-tafsir bi ‘l ma’thur does not help much in understanding the core meanings of the Qur’anic texts. The profound part is often missed.
On the other hand, if one tries to understand the Qur'an with the help of the other kind of tafsir, viz. al‑tafsir bi 'l ra'yi, he faces the following hazards.
Firstly, to be able to correctly comment on the Qur'an, one has to have, in addition to the Revealed texts, a thorough knowledge of all the physical and metaphysical sciences and disciplines that have been developed by the humans. The Qur'an deals with history, law, social affairs, morality, worship, economy, psychology, state affairs, spiritual development, eschatology, divinity, and many other disciplines ‑ all in one go. Obviously, since it is beyond one man's capacity to master so many disciplines in a life‑time, it is beyond him also to write a commentary of the Qur'an that conveys the true intent of the Qur’an.
Further, every commentator is a product of his own age, genre, intellectual atmosphere, and cultural background. His problems are the problems of his time ‑ not necessarily of all times. His view of life is from a certain angle ‑ not necessarily the ecumenical and transcendental view of the Qur'an. (So, we often hear from such commentators that “the Qur’an lays down the way of life”: which immediately reduces its message to mundane level. Had they said it lays down the ways to moral and spiritual life, they would have been closer to truth). Such commentators are led, and cannot help but be led, by their personal predispositions and bent of mind, appealing to those of similar dispositions, and not necessarily reaching out to all the inquisitive minds and thirsty souls. Finally, whatever a commentator’s caliber, he remains subjective. True objectivity is not the share of man.
For example, if he is of a sufi bent of mind he detects suggestions that may or may not exist. If he subscribes to a certain philosophy, he may emphasize a certain point, which might be there in the text, but might not be it focal point. Thereby he distorts the overall view. Or, if his interpretation of life is materialistic and earthly, he is quite likely to rush through verses that are, so to say, mawarid al zam'an (watering places for the thirsty), and the hovering grounds of the restless soul, concentrating instead on the wonderful capabilities of Islam to promote material growth and development on earth and bring back to the Muslim Ummah its lost glory!
In short, he is a human dealing with the Word of Allah. To do justice to it is not in his power.
Finally, it is agreed by the scholars of Islam that there are two aspects to the meaning of the Qur'an: the external and the internal. The external or the obvious meaning is that which has come down from the authorities: the hadith, the opinions of the Companions, their next‑generation Followers and the meaning unanimously accepted by the scholars of Islam through and through the ages. The internal, hidden or the secret meaning of the Qur'an comes from deep reflection and a sustained exercise of the mind and soul coupled with righteous living. To take an example, it is reported that the verse (5: 3): "This day I have perfected your religion for you and completed My favor unto you, and have chosen for you as religion al‑Islam," brought tears into the eyes of `Umar ibn al-Khattab The Prophet asked him the reason. He replied: "So far we were witnessing a continuous rise of Islam. Now that it has been completed (i.e. it has reached its zenith), it can only follow a downward direction, as it happens with anything that has achieved its zenith." The Prophet (saws) agreed with him.
Imam Ghazali writes in his eighth book of Ihya' `Ulum 'l‑Din:

"The truth is that to everything pertaining to reflective and intellectual matters, which have become ambiguous to men of reflection, and in which people have differed, there are indications and implications in the Qur'an which can be observed by men of understanding. How can these indications and implications be completely conveyed by translations of its outward meanings and its (outward) exegesis?"

Further down he writes:

"The man who imagines that the Qur'an has no meaning except that which the outward exegesis has translated (and described), is acknowledging his own limitations; he is right in his acknowledgement (because he knows only this measure and is not aware of that which lies beyond this), but is wrong in his judgment which places all other people on the same footing as himself." (The Recitation and Interpretation of the Qur'an: Al-Ghazali's Theory by Muhammad Abdul Quasem, p. 87, 88).

Nevertheless, the scholars are also in agreement that the internal meaning can be attained only after a complete mastery of the external has been achieved. Zarkashi writes:

"The Book of Allah: it is the bottomless sea, whose meaning cannot be unfathomed but by the well-versed in (religious) knowledge; he who fears Allah in open and secret, and gives due esteem to Him in places where he comes across the ambiguous. Its subtleties and truths cannot be grasped but by one who (as the Qur’an said) ‘lends his ear and is attentive...'"

He adds a little further,

"All knowledge can be summed up as that of the ‘Acts' and ‘Attributes' of Allah. The Qur'an contains the knowledge of the Acts, Attributes, and the Essence of the Supreme Being. This fact leads us to another, viz., the field of knowledge is immensely vast. There is room for much more than what is obvious to the mind. The exegesis therefore, that has been passed on to us (by the authorities) do not lay down limits for the attainment of knowledge. Yet, it is not possible to jump over to the hidden without mastery of the obvious. Indeed, the knowledge of the external is absolutely essential to step into the internal and the hidden. Whoever claims to have knowledge of the secret part of the Qur'an while lacking a proper understanding of the external and the obvious, is like he who claims manhood at the threshold of his house (to which he has just crawled) although he has not yet stepped out of the door."

In brief, the Qur'an has two levels of meaning: the external and the internal. It should be obvious, therefore, how difficult it can be for a person to get to the second level, while his first level of understanding is suspect due to his ignorance of the language which leads him to take the words of men for the words of God.
These are some of the reasons why neither a translation nor a commentary can be substituted for the original.
It should not be surprising therefore to note that according to Imam Shafe`i, learning of the Arabic language is obligatory on every Muslim. Imam Abu Yousuf and Zufar, both students of Imam Abu Hanifah, went a step further. They stated that it is makruh (undesirable) for two Muslims who can manage some Arabic, to speak with each other in another language. Ibn Taymiyyah is also of the opinion that learning Arabic is a religious requirement since what is necessary to realize an obligation (wajib) is itself obligatory (wajib).

Pre‑conceived Ideas
In contrast, neglect of the language and study and reliance upon a single commentary of the al-tafsir bi 'l‑ra'yi type, can lead a student of the Qur'an to hold questionable opinions despite long study and painful application. Many of those who could become connoisseurs ended up dilettantes. Imam Ghazali writes about this class of people:

"The sufis have said that knowledge (`ilm) is a veil (between man and God), and by this knowledge they have meant those beliefs (`aqa'id) which most people have been firmly holding either by dogmatically following an authority or by mere reliance on casuistic sentences written by zealots of schools of thought and delivered to them. As for the real knowledge which is the uncovering of the actual condition of the thing known and which is a vision by the light of spiritual insight, how can it be a veil, seeing that it is the ultimate object of desire?
Pure dogmatic following of an authority is sometimes false (in itself) and is, therefore, an obstacle to the understanding of the meaning (of the Qur'an). An example of this is a man who has a (purely dogmatic) belief in Allah's istawa' on the Throne as His being settled on it physically. Then in the case of (the divine name) ‘the Holy One' (al-Quddus), for example, there comes to his mind the meaning that He is pure from all that is ascribable to His creation: but that purely dogmatic belief of his does not make it possible for this meaning to be firmly implanted in his mind. Had it become strengthened in his mind it would have led to a second meaning and a third, which could be inter-connected. But he hastens to drive this meaning away from his mind, because it contradicts his false belief which is held purely dogmatically.
Sometimes purely dogmatic following of an authority is true (in itself), but it too becomes an obstacle to understanding (the meaning of the Qur'an) and to unveiling of them. The truth in which man is obliged to believe has stages and grades, and it has an external beginning and an internal end. Concentration of man's nature on the external aspect prevents him from reading the internal end" (source cited above, p.70, 71).

Finally, every commentator is influenced by the ideas of his time that seem to be so powerful, and therefore of great consequence, which could be so during a particular epoch, but prove not to be so with the passage of time. Moved by those ideas or forces, a commentator might try to give the verses of the Qur'an a new meaning, sometimes at the expense of certain basic and universal truths. This can seriously affect the way in which his readers understand the Qur'an.
The conclusion therefore is that anyone who has not done a course of study in the tafsir of the approved type, but, instead, applies himself to the other type ‑ the tafsir bi 'l‑ra'yi ‑ runs the great risk of ending up with ideas that might not be true, half true or altogether wrong.
Therefore, every serious student of the Qur'an must learn enough Arabic to be able to read the Qur'an himself, directly, and without dependence on a translation to an extraordinary degree. It is only after he has spent sufficient time with the Qur'an (and, in addition, the Sunnah), that he can turn his attention to the translations and commentaries as further aids. It is only those for whom it is beyond their capacity to learn the language that might resort to dependence on translations and commentaries alone, although, to remain in consultation with the scholars is a necessary requirement for not getting misled on concepts.

Al-Tafsir bi 'l Ma'thur
The safest way to derive the right meaning of any part of the Qur'an is to seek its explanation within the Qur'an itself. What is stated in brief at one place is detailed at another, and what is ambiguous at one point is supplemented with elaborations elsewhere. Also, the Qur'an deals with a subject in a variety of ways, at different points, and with emphasis on different aspects in different contexts. The complete meaning can only be obtained by collecting together, either on paper or in the mind, all relevant verses, seeking connections that become apparent with contemplation. The Qur'an then should be understood in the first instance with the Qur'an itself.

The Hadith
Next, one should turn to the hadith. The ahadith are in reality a commentary on the Qur'an. Allah (swt) not only revealed the Word to the Prophet but also its meaning. A verse (4:105) says, "Surely We have sent down a Book to you (O Muhammad) with Truth so that you may judge between the people by what Allah shows you (as its true meaning)."
But it is not only the meaning as expressed in the words of the Prophet (saws) that has to be learnt. It is also the meaning as expressed in his actions that should be applied to one’s own life, to gain an understanding of the Qur'an. The Prophet lived according to the Message he received, not deviating from it in the least. In other words his life was the Qur'an interpreted: "Have you not read the Qur'an?!" was the answer given by `A'isha (ra) when asked about the Prophet's conduct in everyday life.
An example will illustrate how well the Prophet understood and lived by the Qur'an.
The Qur'an uses the term rih (in the sense of ‘winds') in two ways. In some places in the singular form as rih, and in others in the plural form as riyah. In all, it has used these terms on 29 occasions. Now a careful study reveals that when the occasion is the announcement of a punishment or chastisement from Allah, the word is used in its singular form (rih). In contrast, when the context is announcement of a glad tiding, it is the plural form that is chosen (riyah). [The odd deviation from the rule can be explained].
Now, keep the Qur'anic rule in mind and consider the prayer‑words of the Prophet, who, with every stormy weather supplicated in the words:

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

"O Lord! Make it winds (riyah) for us and not wind (rih)."
Another example can be cited. The Qur'an said (9: 103): "Accept (O Muhammad) of their wealth a free-will offering, to purify them and to cleanse them." This injunction came after the declaration that the free-will offering of the hypocrites was not acceptable; and the reference is to the zakah on wealth. The free-will offering, of course, is collected by the State and is distributed following another injunction (9: 60) that cites eight categories of people as the deserving recipients.
However, following the clue that zakah (and sadaqat by implication) purify and cleanse the people ("to purify them and cleanse them"), and, reasoning that the purifying agent cannot itself be clean after its purifying operation (another example is ablution water dropping down a man), the Prophet declared his kinsfolk as undeserving of a share in the zakah (and sadaqat) funds. He told them that the zakah funds were a dirt of the hand and hence unsuitable for them.
The above stray examples demonstrate not only how well the Prophet understood the Qur'an and the extent to which he applied it to himself, but also, how important it is for a reader to gain mastery over the two: the Qur'an and the Sunnah texts, to understand either.

The Companions and their Followers
Any clarification required after the first two sources have been exhausted, should be sought in the opinions of the Prophet's Companions; especially those who were close to him, received his special attention, and specialized in the Qur'an during his life‑time: such as the four khulafa', Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud, `Abdullah ibn `Umar, Ubayy b. Ka`ab and others, or those of the Followers who became the pupils of these Companions, such as: Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, Masruq, `Ata' ibn Rabah, Hassan al Busri, Sa`id ibn al Musayyib, Qatadah, Dahhak, Abu al `Aliyyah and others.
The differences in their opinions, however, should not disturb a student. For, as Ibn Taymiyyah has pointed out in his Muqaddimah fi Usul al Tafsir, in most cases they express the same meaning in different words. The word "hafadah" for instance, has been explained as "daughters" by Ibn Mas`ud and Sa`id b. Jubayr; as "grandsons" by Ibn `Abbas; as "in‑laws" by Ibn Mas`ud; while `Ikrimah, Mujahid, and Hasan al‑Basri say it stands for "servants." They are all of course expressing one or the other aspect of the meaning of the word. For "hafadah" is plural of "hafid" and in its singular form it means "he who is made to serve." At the time the verse was revealed, the word was used in all those senses in which it was adopted by different authorities.
Tafsir bi 'l ma'thur derives its basis from ‑ apart from others ‑ a hadith which says that when the Prophet was deputing Mu`adh ibn Jabal to Yemen he asked him how he was going to judge between the people. "With the Book of Allah," replied Mu`adh. "But what if you do not find (a lead) therein?" the Prophet asked. "With the Sunnah of Allah's Messenger," he replied. "But if you do not find (a lead) therein also?" he asked him. "Then," Mu`adh replied, "I will work out my own opinion." The Prophet expressed his approval (Muqaddimah, Ibn Taymiyyah).
A word of caution however, about this kind of tafsir should be in place. What is recommended is the methodology as enumerated above, and not the entire content of the books of tafasir that have followed this methodology. In some of these works massive amount of Jewish material and comments of the early exegetes have been included without verifications of their authenticity. If not read critically, these can have their own pitfalls. Naivety, for instance, can be perceived in those who rely on these alone and have failed to step into the modern age in intellectual terms.

Al-Tafsir bi al Ra'yi (Personal Opinions)
As stated above, sometimes a commentator uses his intelligence, knowledge, intuition or inspiration to bring out a point in language, history, law, etc. Some of such comments are acceptable, while others are not. Take for example verse (2: 102): "Sulayman blasphemed not, but the Satans blasphemed." A question arises. We know that a prophet does not blaspheme. Why then did the Qur'an have to say that Sulayman (asws) did not blaspheme? For an explanation we have to look into the Bible which alleges that Solomon became an idolater during the last days of his life (Majid). Though not based on an athar, it is a valid explanation and also corroborates with what details classical commentators (such as Ibn Kathir) have recorded as coming from Suddi and Sa`id b. Jubayr.
To take another example, the Qur'an says (2: 273): "(Alms are) for the poor who are restrained in the way of Allah, who can not journey in the land (for trade). The ignorant supposes them rich because of their restraint. You will know them by their mark. They do not beg of people with importunity. And whatsoever of good things that you spend, surely, Allah will know it."
Commenting on the verse, Thanwi says that the words, ‘(Alms are) for the poor who are restrained in the way of Allah,' are telling us that those who are working in the way of Allah deserve to receive first priority in aid. Further, the clause ‘who cannot journey in the land' signifies that it is desirable for those engaged in the path of Allah that they may suspend their efforts at livelihood, if need be, although there is no contradiction between the two (i.e. engagement in the path of Allah, and search for livelihood). Finally, the words ‘the ignorant supposes them rich,' implies that it is undesirable to put on appearances that will distinguish a man from the common people.
This is the kind of Tafsir bi 'l ra'yi that is acceptable since such statements can be corroborated in other ways also. What can be proved as valid either directly through deductions from the Qur'an, Sunnah, opinions of the Companions, their immediate Followers, or that which, in the least, does not contradict any of the above, in word or spirit, is valid and acceptable.
The permission for this kind of interpretation is based on the supplication (du`a) which the Prophet made for Ibn `Abbas. He said:

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

"O Allah, grant him knowledge of the Qur'an and teach him the interpretation."
Contrary to this is the unprincipled interpretation that has its basis neither in the sources cited above, nor does it agree with the spirit of Islam as understood by the scholars at large.
To explain, any opinion with reference to a Qur’anic text that contradicts with that of the Salaf, in matters involving the Shari`ah, values, morals or spiritual affairs, is Tafsir bi al-Ra’yi, and stands rejected outright. It is about such an interpretation that the Prophet remarked: "Whoever speaks about the Qur'an without knowledge, may seek his abode in the Fire."
The Companions and their Followers were quite careful about offering an interpretation that did not have a Qur'anic verse or hadith in its support. Abu Bakr (ra) used to say: "Which heaven will shelter me, and which earth will support me if I said about Allah's Book, that which I have no knowledge of." Abu Yezid said: "We used to ask Sa`id ibn al‑Musayyib about the ‘lawful' and the ‘unlawful' and would find him the most knowledgeable of men. But when we asked him about a verse of the Qur'an as to how it was to be understood, he would be quiet, turning a deaf ear to us."

Al-Tafsir 'l‑Ishari (Allegorical Interpretation)
By nature, man is awed by the mysterious. It is the inexplicable, the symbolical, and the mysterious that engage his attention. The obvious and the clear‑cut escape him. To seek a solution to a riddle or the meaning of an allegory is a task he undertakes with enthusiasm. The allegorical verses of the Qur'an have provided grist to the minds of its scholars and there have been several interpretations proffered to explain them. Some of these are not readily acceptable and raise controversies. The best course of action about them when they are authentically quoted, by authoritative people, but which seemingly contradicts ideas of the Salaf, is to make no judgment about their acceptance or rejection.
In this work the use of Tafsir 'l Ishari has been restricted. It is inadvisable to read them without the guidance of a specialist. Thanwi’s Masa'il al‑Suluk as footnotes to his Urdu Bayan al‑Qur'an, is of this class. So are Alusi’s notes under this heading.
Nevertheless, it should also be borne in mind that every passage whose meaning is not obvious is not necessarily of the allegorical type, nor is the Qur'an entirely without them. There are some portions of the Qur'an whose true meaning the human mind might never be able to unravel. Ibn `Abbas has said: "There are four kinds of meanings: a) that which is apparent to the Arabs because it is in their language, b) that whose meaning no one can deny on the pretext of ignorance, c) the meaning that is the share of the scholars alone, and, d) the meaning that no one knows save Allah and His Messenger."
Further, one may note that there are Qur’anic texts whose meanings would be understood at the time of death, or subsequent to it.

Following the Qur'anic method, we might end with what we started with. Application is part of the study. One will not travel much on the road if he failed to live by the instructions and inspirations that he received with the study. The Qur'an is the Word of Allah. It has been sent to guide the people. But it guides only those who are willing to be guided. As Rumi has said, the Qur’an is a closed book except for the true ardent seeker; to which we might add, ‘those who would care to apply.’
A further condition is to avoid sins of all kinds. The following is reported to have been said by Imam Shafe`i:

شكوت إلى وكيع سوء حفظى * فأرشدنى إلى ترك المعاصى
وأخـبرنى بـأن العـلم نور * ونور الله لايهدى لعاصى

I complained to Waki` of my forgetfulness
He guided me to give up sins
And taught me that knowledge is Light
And Allah’s Light is not shown to the sinner

The student of the Qur'an will have to develop his mind in such a way as to be skeptical of everything that the senses report, doubt every opinion that is formed by the intellect, and question every information that comes from non‑revealed sources. In the next step, he will have to test all of them against the Qur'an and reject any that contradicts it in word or spirit. Ibn Mas`ud (ra) said: "During the life-time of the Prophet, we used to take ten verses of the Qur'an for study and would not move on to the next ten until we had lived by those ten." It is reported of `Umar ibn al‑Khattab (ra) that he finished surah al‑Baqarah in seven years. According to a report he was so happy at its completion that he slaughtered a camel and invited his friends to a feast.
We can conclude with Zarkashi's remarks. He writes in Al‑Burhan fi `Ulum al‑Qur'an:

"In the final analysis, the derivation of the meaning of the Qur'an is largely dependent on a man's own thoughts and reflections. Let it be known, therefore, that the true meaning of the revelation and the secrets of the veiled knowledge will never be the share of a man whose heart is filled with innovations, or who insists on a sin, or in whose heart resides pride or base desires or love of the world, or that he be of an uncertain faith, or poor of discernment, or dependent on the opinions of a mufassir who has knowledge only of the externals (`ilm al-zahir), or gives precedence to his own thoughts and ideas (during the process of thinking). All these are veils and obstacles, some of which are of greater impedance than others.
"(In contrast), if the man pays full attention to the words of His Lord, is receptive to the meaning that the Attributes of the One addressing him unfold themselves, is always aware of His powers, abandons his own self-established conclusions based on reason and intellect, renounces his own powers and abilities, is ever mindful of the greatness of the Speaker, beseeching Him the grant of the meaning: and all this from a personal state of integrity, a good-natured heart, with the power of knowledge, of a calm disposition to gather the meaning, and to wait for the missed meaning seeking (Divine) help through Prayers and Supplications, (the supplications themselves) presented with the weakness (of the human against Powers of the Divine), and observing patience while waiting for the mind to be opened by Him who is the Opener, the Knowing; and he who strengthens these qualities with a recitation during which his mind is fully attentive to the verbal meaning and bears witness to the Attributes of the One addressing him by anxiously waiting for the promises (of the opening of the heart coming true), and fearing the calamities (that may befall him for his failings), and who warns forcefully .. such is the one who has a good voice for the Qur'an and it is about him that Allah Most High has said (2:121): ‘Those to whom we have given the Book, read it in the manner it should be read. It is these who believe in it'" (p. 180-81, vol.2).

The Methodology in this Work
It has been this writer's endeavor to present in this work, principally, the meaning of the Qur'an as understood by the classical scholars. That is, in the light of the Qur'an itself, traditions of the Prophet and statements of the Companions and their followers. To achieve this, the author first consulted Ibn Jarir Tabari. Since Ibn Jarir was a Muhaddith himself, he did not cite sources to the hadith, or to statements of the Companions that he quoted. Citing the sources was done by Ibn Kathir. Therefore, Ibn Kathir was next consulted. However, Ibn Kathir did not cite sources to the statements of the Salaf. This was done, to some degree, by Shawkani. So, he was consulted next. Although Ibn Kathir cited hadith sources, he did not state the authenticity-status of ahadith. In such cases, this author tried to search the opinion of Hadith Doctors, to add a note about their reliability. Further, if there were differences in opinions over the meaning of a certain verse, Ibn Kathir preferred to adopt the opinion of Ibn Jarir, which, this author indicated. Thus, a meaning emerged as of the Salaf. The translation of the verses reflects this meaning. The author suppressed his own opinion, for whose credibility he lacks the qualification, unless it was a scientific issue, historical, geographical or the like.
Thereunto, the author added the opinions of various other commentators, taking care of course, that such opinions did not clash with the opinions of the Salaf, for in matters of Law, morals (Akhlaq), and spiritual matters, the Salaf were the true authority. The way the first three generations understood the Qur’an, was never understood by any after them. It is they who changed the world, the way no generation could. If a headstrong person thinks that someone’s understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah, was, or is, as good as that of the Salaf, and as accurate, he might need a course on how `ilm is defined in Islam. Ibn Sirin, a prominent Tabe`i said, “Knowledge is gone. What’s left of it is bits and pieces, scattered among the scholars.” Hasan al-Basri, his contemporary, was told by someone that the “Fuqaha’ say so and so.” He corrected him, “Have you ever seen a Faqih?”

An additional note about the commentaries made by the Companions and their followers might be in order. The Prophet has said: "The best of epochs is my epoch, then that of the Followers, and then that of the Followers." He was referring to the epoch followed by his own, and that of the Companions and the Tabe`iyyun. There were many Companions of the Prophet who received his special attention and specialized in the Qur'an during his life‑time itself. In turn they tutored many among the Tabe`iyyun. The term Salaf applies mainly to these: i.e., the Companions and the two succeeding generations, plus the third (because of some reports). Their opinion is the approved opinion. If they agree over the meaning of a particular word, or a verse, and the issue is purely of a religious nature as indicated above, then any other opinion that contradicts it and cannot be reconciled with it, stands rejected. Of course, there is no such restriction when the subject concerned is of historical, geographical or scientific nature, for, these disciplines were developed after them. Some contemporary commentaries tend to give new meanings to some Qur’anic terms. If they clash with those of the Salaf, they must be ignored; for, the Salaf knew the ‘Arabic of the Qur’an,’ and not the Arabic of those who refer to dictionaries and literary works developed after them to argue their case. `Umar used to say, “If you are in doubt, refer to the Jahiliyy poetry. The Qur’an was revealed in that language.”

The opinions of the Salaf might sometimes surprise the reader. He might consider them as entirely out of context. But, it is the failure to understand the context that creates the confusion. "Jump the line" is a sentence in English that conveys different meanings to different people in different situations. To a sportsman it has one meaning. When spoken by a motorist complaining of the erratic behavior of another motorist it has another meaning. In contrast, to an electrician working on the power grid, the sentence carries a different sense altogether. What we have to realize about the Companions is that they did not merely understand the context; they were themselves the context, and often spoke from the transcendental level; not from the stand point of the misleading cliché of modern times: ‘reason and logic.’

If the reader wishes to make the most of this work, he or she should allocate an area in his mind wherein he stores information obtained from the Salaf, in this work. This is the principal, the most reliable meaning, and the basis on which he can build on further. He might highlight such passages for ease of later reference.

Nonetheless, in order to keep alive interest and help increase knowledge, I have also included material that has so far been the prerogative of the Arabic‑speaking readers: material without which the Qur'anic spectrum of legitimate meaning loses some of its color.
To the above I have added some useful material from commentaries in Urdu and English. But of course, while selecting material from contemporary works, a critical eye has been kept open for errors of the conceptual type and, to the extent possible, those that contradict with a meaning accepted by the Jumhur al‑Ummah (the great majority). Jumhur al‑Ummah is of course not the same thing as the Ijma` al‑Ummah (the consensus of opinion ‑ the research of which is a difficult task, well beyond the scope of this work). The opinions of the Jumhur give us some idea of how the Qur'an has been understood through the ages. When Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Thanwi or others consider a point from the previous exegetes as worth quoting, then surely that adds up to the weight of the comment.
I have not reproduced from, or cited reference to, the contemporary commentators if they have discussed those matters that the ancients have already done. In most cases the contemporary scholars have changed the form, picking out from the ancients what would suit them most. I have quoted them only if they have a new idea or a fresh point, with the condition, once again, that such ideas do not, in my limited knowledge, contradict a proven opinion held by the Salaf or Jumhu al-Ummah. Anecdotes, poetry, fiqh points, and comparative study material have been added to break the monotony.

A word about quotations from the Sufiya' would be in order. We all know that an unclean person in dirty clothes would hardly improve himself by applying perfume. He first needs to cleanse himself. How can it be any different in matters pertaining to the soul? A heart filled with pride or preferential love of this world will hardly improve through wisdom-words or supererogatory exercises. Something needs to be done first to remove the impurities. Sufism is all about this removal of impurities. This centrist position however, lies between two extremes. It should not be imagined that by quoting the Sufiya' we are approving the extreme positions, practices, or the so‑called "ways of the Gnostic" that have no basis in the Shari`ah.

Hadith Authenticity
The most difficult task has been to present only those ahadith or reports from the Companions or others that are authentic, since no noteworthy work has been done by the hadith experts on Qur'anic commentaries. Mahmud Shakir's attempt at Tabari has remained incomplete. Hussain b. Ibrahim and Sayyid Ibrahim have done some useful, although not exhaustive work on Ibn Kathir and Shawkani. Occasionally, I have either traced the ahadith to their sources, and when not in the Sahih works, have depended on works on the topic by Hadith experts. I have tried not to quote anything less than Hasan in status. If I have quoted some weak reports, it is only those that are not very weak or are strengthened by other, although weak, ahadith, or the personal opinions of the Companion or others.

Ideological Interpretations
Some readers might be surprised to note the lack of a single string of thought in this work, as it is also lacking in classical commentaries: one strand, so to say, that weaves into itself the "philosophy of the whole of the Qur'an." This is a naive idea. To speak of the Qur'an in such terms is to presume a certain meaning, a certain philosophy, a certain ideology, and reduce the Word of Allah to human definitions.
It is common knowledge that this terrestrial existence is too complex to be interpreted in terms of a single philosophy. Life cannot be reduced to equations. Even the inorganic does not render itself to such simplification. At this very moment, scientists at a billion dollar apiece Accelerators (commonly known as atom smashers) are at their wit’s end trying to determine if the building blocks of an atom (which were once thought to be electrons, protons, neutrons and a few other elementary particles) are quarks, those 300 subatomic particles visible for a fraction of a second when the nucleus is smashed with highly accelerated protons, or there is more to it. No one can say for sure if there will be an end to it!! The wave and particle function of the sub-atomic particles is another intriguing issue. If solid matter is proving so complex, what should one think of the uncreated ‘Word’ of Allah?
Moreover, such a demand betrays the failure to understand the very basics of life in terms of human fears, hopes, aspirations, creativity and interactions. At every moment of his existence a man has several options before him, only one of which is the optimum best for him. What can guide him to the right choice but a criterion backed by a vast set of concepts, data and ideas that have their own quality to fuse themselves, in a flash of a second, into one homogenized whole and present a single, synchronized, workable idea or a suggestion ‑ that the man may accept or reject!?
Again, the Qur'an is, from one angle, a long essay in the education of concepts: the divisions are for human convenience. No detail can be missed in any area but at the loss of a concept; sometimes it might be the most valuable concept acting as the central link to a maze of ideas, and, a powerful magnet to iron flakes flying by in every direction. Hence the presentation in the style I have adopted. The reader will have to pick up bits and pieces, and put them together into a homogenous meaningful whole that is pertinent to his situation, and would be useful perhaps to him alone.

Rarely has a work of such dimensions and a task so demanding been attempted by a man as poorly qualified as this author. Yet, no efforts were spared to locate material necessary to produce the "aid for understanding the Qur'an" that he has aimed at producing. Although, it must be admitted, that efforts are no substitute for abilities.
The author’s dependence, therefore, on those who are pioneers in similar efforts should be quite evident. In the rendering of the Qur'anic text into English for instance, A.J. Arberry's influence can be easily detected. Yusuf `Ali, Asad and Pickthall have been in constant reference. N.J. Dawood and several others have also been consulted. To make it easier for the beginners and non‑Muslims (and following the recommendation of the fuqaha'), words and phrases have been added in parenthesis while rendering the text into English. Such interpolations are, nonetheless, based on an accepted interpretation.
Without trying to be humble, it can be said with a fair amount of accuracy that for all that is good and useful in this work, the credit is due to someone else, while the shortcomings are the contributions of this author who seeks Allah's forgiveness, and the reader's help in overcoming them.

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

Clue to References
Ahmad: Musnad by Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (d. 241 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, Muhammad Nasiruddin Albani, (d. 1420 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da`eefah wa al-Mawdu`ah, Muhammad Nasirudding Albani, , Al-Maktab al-Islami.
Alusi/Ruh: Ruh al Ma`ani Fi Tafsir Qur’an al `Azim Wa al Sab` al Mathani by Shihab al Din Sayyid Mahmood Alusi (d.1291 A.H.)
`Aqidah: `Aqidah Tahawiyyah, commentary Ibn Abi al-`Izz, (tr. By Syed Iqbal Zaheer, as Funamentals of Islamic Creed), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Arba`ahal, Kitab al-Fiqh `ala Madhahib al-Arba`ah by Abdul Rahman al-Jaziri
Asad: The Message of the Qur’an by Muhammad Asad (d. 1412 A.H.)
`Awn al-Ma`bud: Sharh Sunan Abi Da’ud, Muhammad Shams al-Haq al-`Azimabadi.
`Ayni, `Umdatu al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Badruddin `Ayni, Ihya al-Turath al-Islami, Beirut.
Bada’i`: Bada’i` al-Tafsir, Al-Jami` al-Tafsir al-Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, collected by Yusri Sayyid Muhammad, Dar Ibn Jawzi, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 1993
E.I.: Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, Leiden 1991
Fath-h/Fath/Ibn Hajr: Fut-h al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, by Hafiz Ahmed b. Ali ibn Hajr al-`Asqalani (d.852 A.H.)
Haythami, , Majma`u al-Zawa’id wa Manba` al-Fawa’id, Nuruddin `Ali b. abi Bakr, Mu’assasatu al-Ma`arif, Beyrut.
Hussain: Tafsir ibn Kathir, Hussain b. Ibrahim Zahran, ed.
Ibn Is-haq: Sirah Rasulullah, by Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 151 A.H.).
Ibn Jarir/Tabari: Jami` al Bayan Fi Tafsir al Qur’an by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310 A.H.)
Ibn Kathir: Tafsir al Qur’an al `Azim by `Imad al Din Abul Fida Isma`il ibn `Amr ibn Kathir (d.774 A.H.)
Ibn Majah, Sunan, Muhammad b. Yazid al-Qazwini, Maktabah al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut.
Ibn Qayyim: Al-Tafsir Al-Qayyim, by Shamsuddin Muhammad b. Abi Bakr Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d.751 A.H.) collected by Muhammad Uways Al-Nadwi.
Jami` Saghir: Fayd al-Qadir Sharh Jami` Saghir (of Jalaluddin Suyuti) by Muhammad `Abdul Ra’uf al-Munawi.
Kabir al: Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir, tafsir notes of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 A.H) collected by Dr. `Abdul Rahman `Umayrah.
Kanz: Kanz al-`Ummal,by Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi.
Lane: An Arabic-English Lexicon, by Edward Willian Lane, Librarie Du Luban, 1968
Lisan: Lisan al-`Arab, Ibn Manzur, (d. 711 A.H.).
Lughat: Lughat al-Qur’an (Urdu) by Mawlana Abdul Rashid No`mani & Mawlana Sayyid Abdud-Da’im Al-Jalali.
Ma`arif /Shafi`: Ma`arif al Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi` Deobandi (d. 1396 A.H.).
Majid: Holy Qur’an Translation and Commentary (English) by `Abdul Majid Daryabadi (1397).
Majidi: Holy Qur’an Translation and Commentary by `Abdul Majid Daryabadi (Urdu).
Manar, Tafsir al-Manar, Rashid Rada Misri, Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Mawdudi/Tafhim: Tafhim al-Qur’an by Sayyid Abul A`la Mawdudi (d.1979 C.E.)
Mughni al, Ibn Qudamah, al-Maqdisi, Ri’asat al-Idaratu al-Buuth al-`Ilmiyyah, Saudi Arabia.
Mulhim: Fath al-Mulhim, Shabbir Ahmad `Uthmani, and, Takmilatu Fath al-Mulhim, Taqiuddin `Uthmani, Dar al-Ulum, Karachi.
Muwatta’: Muwatta’ by Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 A.H.).
Nasa’i, Ahmad b. Shu`ayb, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Dar al-Rayyan li al-Turath, Cairo.
Nawawi: Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Sharfuddin al-Nawawi (d. 261 A.H.)
Penrice: A Dictionary and Glossary of the Qur’an, John Penrice, Gaurav Publishing House, 187
Qurtubi: Al-Jam`i Li ‘l Ahkam al Qur’an by Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al Ansari al Qurtubi (d.671 A.H.)
Raghib: Mu`jam Mufradat al-Qur’an by al-Raghib al-Asfahani (d. 503 A.H.)
Rawa‘e`: Rawa‘e` al-Bayan Tafsir Ayat al-Ahkam by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Razi: Tafsir al Fakhr al Razi by Muhammad al-Razi Fakhr al Din ibn Dia al Din `Umar (d.604 A.H.)
Sabuni: Safwatu al Tafasir by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Sahih ibn Hibban bi-Tarteeb Ibn Balban, `Ala’uddin `Ali b. Balban, , Mu’assasah al-Risalah, Beirut.
Shabbir/`Uthmani: Al-Qur’an al-Karim, Commentary by Shabbir Ahmed `Uthmani (d. 1370 A.H.).
Shanqiti: Adwa‘ al-Bayan, Fi Idahi Al-Qur’an bi ‘l-Qur’an by Muhammad Al-Amin b.Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Jakani Al-Shanqiti.
Se`di: Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman, fir Tafsir al-Mannan, `Abdul Rahman b. Nasir Se`id.
Shawkani: Al-Fut-h al-Qadir by Muhammad ibn `Ali Shawkani (d.1255 A.H.)
S. Ibrahim: Ed. Al-Fath al-Qadir, by Shawkani
Sihah: Taj al-Lugha wa Sihah al-`Arabiyyah, Isma`il b. Nasr Hammad al-Jawhari, 393 A.H.
Sirah: Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah fi Daw Masadir al-Athliyyah, Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, Saudi Arabia 1992.
Sayyid Qutb/Qutb/Zilal: Fi Zilal al Qur’an by Sayyid Qutb (d.1386 A.H.).
Thanwi/Bayan: Bayan al Qur’an by Ashraf `Ali Thanwi (d.1361 A.H.)
Tuhfah: Tuhfah al-Ahwazi bi Sharh Jami` al-Tirmidhi by Muhammad ibn `Abdul Rahman Mubarakpuri.
Yusuf Ali: The Glorious Qur’an, Meaning and Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (d. 1953 A.H.).
Zafar Ahmad `Uthmani, I`la al-Sunan, Idaratu al-Islam wa `Ulum al-Islamiyyah, Karachi, Pakistan.
Zamakhshari/Kashshaf: Haqa’iq al- Tanzil Wa `Uyun al-Aqawil Fi Wujuh at-Ta‘wil by Abu al-Qasim Jarallah Mahmood b.`Umar al-Zamakhshari (d.538 A.H.).
Zarkashi: Al-Burhan Fi `Ulum al-Qur’an by Badruddin Muhammad bin `Abdullah al-Zarkashi (d. 794 A.H.), Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Note: The list above is not a complete bibliography, but rather books sort of more often referred.


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

Ac. = Acts of the Apostles.
Am. = Amos.
1. Ch. = The First Book of the Chronicles.
2. Ch. = The Second Book of the Chronicles.
1. Cor. = Paul’s First Epistle of the Apostles.
1. Ch. = The First Book of the Chronicles.
2. Ch. = The Second Book of the Chronicles.
1. Cor. = Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.
2. Cor. = Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
Dn. = The Book of Daniel.
Dt. = Deuteronomy: The Fifth Book of Moses.
Ex. = Exodus: The Second Book of Moses.
Ez. = Ezra.
Ezek. = The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.
Ga. = Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.
Ge. = Genesis: The First Book of Moses.
He. = Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews.
Ho. = Hosea.
Is. = Isiah.
Ja. = The General Epistle of James.
Jn. = Gospel according to St. John.
Jo. = Joel.
Job. = The Book of Job.
Jon. = The Book of Jonah.
Josh. = The Book of Joshua.
Judg. = The Book of Judges.
Je. = The Book of Jeremiah.
1. Ki. = The First Book of the Kings.
2. Ki. = The Second Book of the Kings.
La. The Lamentations of Jeremiah.
Lk. = The Gospel according to St. Luke.
Le. = Leviticus: The Third Book of Moses.
Mi. = Micah.
Mk. = Gospel according to St. Mark.
Mt. = Gospel according to St. Matthew.
Na. = Nahum.
Ne. = The Book of Nehemiah.
Nu. = Numbers: The Fourth Book of Moses.
1. Pe. = The First Epistle General of Peter.
2. Pe. = The Second Epistle General of Peter.
Ph. = Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.
Pr. = The Proverbs.
Ps. = The Book of Psalms.
Re. = The Revelation of St. John.
Ro. = Paul’s Epistle to the Romans
1. Sa. = The First Book of Samuel.
2. Sa. = The Second Book of Samuel.
So. = The Song of Solomon.
1. Thes. = Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
2. Thes. = Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
1. Ti. = Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy.
2. Ti. = Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy.
Tt. = Paul’s Epistle to Titus.
Ze. = Zechariah.

“Ant.” = Josephus’ ‘Antiquities of the Jews.’ (Routledge London).
Aq. = Shah Abdul Qadir Dehlavi (D. 1241 A.H./1826 C.E.). Urdu translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
ASB. = Asad’s English Translation of Sahih al-Bukhari.
AV. = Authorized Version of the Bible.
AYA. = `Abdullah Yusuf `Ali. English translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
Bdh. = Nasir-ud-Din `Abdullah Baidhavi (D. 685 A.H./1282 C.E.). Commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
BK. = ‘Book of Knowledge,’ 4 Vols. (Educational Book Co., London)
CD. = Pallen and Wynne’s ‘New Catholic Dictionary.’ (New York).
CE. = McDannell’s ‘Concise Encyclopedia,’ 8 Vols. (New York).
C.E. = Christian Era.
DB. = Hastings’ ‘Dictionary of the Bible,’ 5 Vols. (Clarke, London).
DCA. = Smith and Cheetham’s ‘Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,’ 2 Vols. (Murray, London).
DV. = Douay Version of the Bible.
EBi. = Cheyne and Black’s ‘Encyclopedia Biblica,’ 4 Vols. (Black, London).
EBr. = ‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ 29 Vols. 11th Edition. (London).
Encyclopedia Britannica,’ 24 Vols. 14th Edition. (London and New York). Where no edition is specified, the reference is to 14th edition.
EI. = Houtsma and Wensink’s ‘Encyclopedia of Islam,’ 5 Vols. (Luzac, London).
EMK. = Hammerton’s ‘Encyclopedia of Modern Knowledge,’ 5 Vols. (Waverly, New York).
ERE. = Hastings’ ‘Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics,’ 13 Vols. (Clarke, London).
ESS. = Seligman’s ‘Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences,’ 15 Vols. (Macmillan, London).
FWN = Frazer’s ‘Worship of Nature,’ 2 Vols. (Macmillan, London).
GB. = Ragg’s ‘The Gospel of Barnabas.’ (Oxford).
GRE. = Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ 7 Vols. (Methuen, London).
HHW. = ‘Historians’ History of the World,’ 25 Vols. (The Times, London).
HJ. = The Hibbert Journal. (Constable, London).
IA. = Hadhrat `Abdullah Ibn-i-`Abbas. (D. 68 A.H./688 C.E.) (A companion and cousin of the Holy Prophet).
IQ. = Ibn-i-Qutaiba. (D. 276 A.H./890 C.E.) Author of ‘Arabic Glossary of the Holy Qur’an.
JE. = ‘The Jewish Encyclopedia,’ 12 Vols. (Funk and Wagnalls, New York).
LL. = Lane’s ‘Arabic-English Lexicon,’ 8 Vols. (Williams and Norgate, London).
LSK. = Lane and Lane-Poole’s ‘Selections from the Kuran.” (Trubner, London).
M.A. = Maulana Mohammad `Ali: (D. 1349 A.H./1931 C.E.) Indian Muslim leader. (Not to be confused with his namesake of Lahore and a translator of the Qur’an). The references are to his unpublished work, ‘Islam: The Kingdom of God’ (since published as ‘My Life – A Fragment’ by Sh. M. Ashraf, Lahore).
NSD. = ‘New Standard Dictionary of the English Language,’ 4 Vols. (Funk and Wagnalls, New York).
NT. = The New Testament.
OT. = The Old Testament.
PC. = Tyler’s ‘Primitive Culture,’ 2 Vols. (Murray, London).
RV. = Revised Version of the Bible.
RZ. = Imam Fakhruddin Razi. (D. 659 A.H./1209 C.E.). Well-know commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
SOED. = ‘Shorter Oxford English Dictionary,’ 2 Vols. (Oxfor).
SPD. = Sale’s ‘Preliminary Discourse to the Translation of the Kuran,’ prefixed as Introduction to Wherry’s ‘Commentary on the Kuran,’ 4 Vols. (Trubner, London)
Th. = Maulana Ashraf `Ali Thanvi. (B. 1280 A.H./1864 C.E.). Translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an
UHW. = Hammerton’s ‘Universal History of the World,’ 8 Vols. (New York).
VJE. = Vallentine’s ‘One Volume Jewish Encyclopedia.’ (London).
WGAL. = Wright’s ‘Grammar of the Arabic Language,’ 2 Vols. (Cambridge).
Zm. = Jar-ul-lah Zamakhsari (D. 538 A.H./1144 C.E.). Commentator of the Holy Qur’an.


Abbreviations - General
asws: `Alayhi al‑Salat wa al‑Salam (on him be peace and blessing).
ra: Radi Allahu `anhu/`anha (may Allah be pleased with him/her).
Au.: Author.
Sahihayn: Bukhari and Muslim.
saws: Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam (May Allah send peace and blessing upon him).
swt: Subhanahu wa Ta`ala (glorified be He, the Exalted).


Technical Terms
Da`if: A weak report but not a fabricated one nor entirely untrustworthy. It has some weakness in its text or in its isnad. A kind of hadith, therefore, before which one can place a question mark.
Gharib: That report in which the isnad has a single narrator after the Companion.
Hasan: A da`if report but above in strength over the one classified as da`if. Several da`if versions (unless too weak) render a hadith hasan.
Isnad: Chain of narrators.
Mawquf: A report whose chain of narration stops at a Companion.
Munkar: A kind of da`if hadith that has no other report through any other chain of narrators for a double check.
Mursal: A hadith which has been transmitted directly from the Prophet (saws) by a tabe`i, without a Companion in between Mutawatir: A report by such a large number of narrators whose agreement upon a lie is inconceivable.
Sahih: A trustworthy report.


The transliteration method used in this work neither conforms to the international standards, nor it has been applied extensively. It is only where it was thought that some confusion might occur that a few marks have been added. However, the method is as follows:
( ث ) is transliterated as "tha" ; ( ح ) as "ha" ; ( ذ ) as "dhal" ; ( ز ) and ( ظ ) both as "za" ; ( ص ) as "sad" ; ( ض ) as "dad" ; ( ع ) as "`ayn" ; and hamza ( ه ) as “ ' “ e.g. Jibra’il.


Vowels have been expressed in the following manner
( ا ) is expressed as "a", so that ( باب ) is written as "bab" ; (و ) is expressed with "u" , as for example ( نون ) is written as "nun"; ( ي ) is expressed with "i", as in the word (سين ) which is written as "sin".


  • Surah No. 18

    Merits of the Surah
    The Sahihayn report that,

    (عن) الْبَرَاءَ بْنَ عَازِبٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَرَأَ رَجُلٌ الْكَهْفَ وَفِي الدَّارِ الدَّابَّةُ فَجَعَلَتْ تَنْفِرُ فَسَلَّمَ فَإِذَا ضَبَابَةٌ أَوْ سَحَابَةٌ غَشِيَتْهُ فَذَكَرَهُ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ اقْرَأْ فُلَانُ فَإِنَّهَا السَّكِينَةُ نَزَلَتْ لِلْقُرْآنِ أَوْ تَنَزَّلَتْ لِلْقُرْآنِ

    “A man was reciting Surah al-Kahf with a beast nearby in the house. It began to behave unruly. He terminated (the prayer, and looked up to see) a piece of mist or cloud that had covered him. He mentioned this to the Prophet (saws) who said, ‘O so and so, keep reading. It was sechina that had descended for the Qur’an.
    The man was identified as Usayd b. Hudayr.
    Muslim, Abu Da’ud, Nasa’i and Tirmidhi have a narrative which reports the Prophet (saws) as having said,

    من حَفظ عَشْرَ آيات من أول سورة الكهف، عُصِم من الدجال

    “Whoever memorized the first ten verses of Surah al-Kahf will be saved from Dajjal.”
    Tirmidhi’s words are,

    من حفظ الثلاث الآيات من أول الكهف

    “Whoever memorized first three verses..” He termed the hadith Hasan Sahih. Another report, however, of Muslim and Nasa’i, specifies the ending lines of the chapter as to be read. It says,

    من قرأ العشر الأواخر من سورة الكهف عُصِم من فتنة الدجال

    “Whoever recited the last ten verses of Surah al-Kahf, will be saved from trial at Dajjal’s hands” (Ibn Kathir).
    The words of a report in Hakim, who declared it Sahih (Haythamiyy also declared it Sahih: S. Ibrahim) are,

    من قرأ سورة الكهف كما أنزلت كانت له نورا يوم القيامة من مقامه إلى مكة و من قرأ عشر آيات من آخرها ثم خرج الدجال لم يسلط عليه

    “Whoever recited Surah al-Kahf will have Nur spread out for him from his place to Makkah. And whoever recited its last ten verses, will not be overpowered by Dajjal if he appears then” (Shawkani).
    Another report in Nasa’i is not specific about any part of the chapter. Its words are,

    من قرأ العشر الأواخر من سورة الكهف عُصِم من فتنة الدجال

    “Whoever recited ten verses of Al-Kahf..”
    Hakim’s report which he thought was of Sahih status, as well as of Diya’ Maqdisi, fix the day for recitation as Friday (Ibn Kathir).
    Another report in Muslim says,

    فَمَنْ أَدْرَكَهُ مِنْكُمْ فَلْيَقْرَأْ عَلَيْهِ فَوَاتِحَ سُورَةِ الْكَهْفِ

    “Whoever encountered him (that is, Dajjal) might recite the beginning portion of Surah al-Kahf”(Qurtubi).
    Context of Revelation
    Ibn Is-haq has reported that once the Quraysh sent a few men to Madinah to find out from the Jews - people of Torah - what they thought of the Prophet. The Jewish rabbis told them, “Ask him about three things. If he replies rightly, he is the sent one, otherwise deal with him as you wish. Ask him: (a) about a group of youth of the ancient times who left their homes, for theirs is an extraordinary story; (b) about a man who went from one end of the earth to another, and (c) about the human soul.” When they returned and told the Quraysh how they had been instructed, they in turn went up to the Prophet and asked him about these three things. The Prophet told them, “I shall let you know tomorrow.” But he did not say, “Allah willing.” They went away. But the next day passed and nothing happened. And then another, and another, but Jibra’il did not appear; until, to his great mortification, the Quraysh began to cast doubts on his mission and Makkah seemed to be in commotion. Finally, after full fifteen days of absence Jibra’il appeared to reveal the relevant verses of this chapter (Ibn Jarir).
    Qurtubi adds, also from Ibn Is-haq, that the Prophet (saws) said, “I had begun to have my own fears.” Jibra’il answered with a Qur’anic verse [when he asked him why he hadn’t come earlier],

    وَمَا نَتَنَزَّلُ إِلا بِأَمْرِ رَبِّكَ لَهُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِينَا وَمَا خَلْفَنَا وَمَا بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ وَمَا كَانَ رَبُّكَ نَسِيًّا [مريم : 64]

    “We do not descend except by the command of your Lord. He owns what is before us, what is behind us, and what is between them. And your Lord was not such as to forget” (19: 64). Hence Allah began the Surah with praise for revealing unto His slave and Messenger, which the Quraysh had begun to doubt because of the late response.
    1. That this chapter is Makkan is the opinion of most of the commentators (Qurtubi), but not of all (Shawkani).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ عِوَجًا ۜ (1)

    18|1| Praise to Allah who sent down upon His slave the Book, and has not placed any crookedness therein.2

    2. That is, there is neither any contradiction within it, nor anything that does not agree with what is sound and reasonable (Zamakhshari, Razi). In Asad’s words, “The above phrase is meant to establish the direct, unambiguous character of the Qur’an and to stress its freedom from obscurities and internal contradictions..”
    Yusuf Ali has an improved comment: “Some people’s idea of a Sacred Book is that it should be full of mysteries - dark corners, ambiguous expressions, words so far removed from human speech that they cover anything or nothing. Pagan oracles were couched in language which suggested one meaning to the hearer and claimed to have the very opposite meaning in the light of events which actually happened subsequently. They were distinctly crooked, not straight.”

    قَيِّمًا لِيُنْذِرَ بَأْسًا شَدِيدًا مِنْ لَدُنْهُ وَيُبَشِّرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ أَجْرًا حَسَنًا (2)

    18|2| (A writ) setting right,3 that it may warn of a severe chastisement from Him, and give good tidings unto the faithful who work righteous deeds, that theirs will be a goodly reward.

    3. That is, one that straightens up others; in other words, one that leads to the straight path of Divine guidance (Razi). That it is a guardian over other revealed scriptures, is another possible connotation (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi).
    Thus, the lack of “`iwaj” speaks of its internal perfection, while “qayyim” speaks of its quality of perfecting others, or straightening them up - Razi.
    Ibn ‘Abbas (Ibn Jarir) however gave the meaning as reflected in the present translation.

    مَاكِثِينَ فِيهِ أَبَدًا (3)

    18|3| Remaining therein forever.

    وَيُنْذِرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ وَلَدًا (4)

    18|4| And to warn those who say, ‘God has taken an offspring.’4

    4. All three classes of people contemporary to the Prophet had attributed progenies to their Lord: Jews, who said, God had taken Ezra as His son; Christians, who declared Jesus as His son; and pagans, who said angels were Allah’s daughters (Razi, Qurtubi).
    Majid adds: “The reference is .. especially to the Adoptionists, ‘who held that Christ was a mere man miraculously conceived indeed, but adopted as the Son of God only by the supreme degree in which he had been filled with the divine wisdom and power’ (EMK, IV, p. 1998).”

    مَا لَهُمْ بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ وَلَا لِآبَائِهِمْ ۚ كَبُرَتْ كَلِمَةً تَخْرُجُ مِنْ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ ۚ إِنْ يَقُولُونَ إِلَّا كَذِبًا (5)

    18|5| They have no knowledge of it (whatsoever), nor had their fathers; a monstrous word issuing forth of their mouths. They utter not but a lie.

    فَلَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَفْسَكَ عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمْ إِنْ لَمْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَٰذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَسَفًا (6)

    18|6| Perhaps you will, (O Muhammad), destroy yourself5 in grief over them if they do not believe in this (new) discourse.6

    5. The textual word “bakhi`” has, according to the experts such as Akhfash and Farra’, the sense of doing one’s utmost for a task. Hence ‘A’ishi’s words about ‘Umar
    “He did his utmost to wrest control of the lands (from the former rulers)” - Razi.
    6. This refers to the Prophet’s inner condition at the time of the revelation. He was fearful that the Makkan rejection would cause Divine wrath to descend on them (Au.).
    Asad expounds: “The rhetorical question is addressed, in the first instance, to the Prophet, who was deeply distressed by the hostility which his message aroused among the pagan Meccans, and suffered agonies of apprehension regarding their spiritual fate. Beyond that, however, it applies to everyone who, having become convinced of the truth of an ethical proposition, is dismayed at the indifference with which his social environment reacts to it.”
    Although the following hadith of Muslim quoted by Mawdudi was perhaps uttered during the Madinan era, it reflects the Prophet’s great concern of the Ummah. He said, “The analogy of me and of the people is something like this: a man lit a fire which illuminated the area around him, but this caused moths and other insects which (are inclined to) fall into fire to fall into it. The man tries to somehow pull them away (from the fire), but they overpower him and plunge into the fire. My position is that I seek to restrain you from the fire but you plunge into it.”

    إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا مَا عَلَى الْأَرْضِ زِينَةً لَهَا لِنَبْلُوَهُمْ أَيُّهُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا (7)

    18|7| We have indeed placed all that there is on the earth a glittering show for it,7 in order that We may try as to which of them is the best in conduct.8

    7. Ibn ‘Abbas has said in reference to the textual “zinatan” that the scholars are the ornaments of the earth. Hasan (al-Busri) has identified them as those who spend their time in obedience of Allah (Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    Asad comments: “.. this passage implies that the real motive underlying men’s refusal to believe in God’s spiritual message (see preceding verse) is almost always their excessive, blind attachment to the goods of this world, combined with a false pride in what they regard as their own achievements.”
    8. The trial is not for Allah’s knowledge, who has foreknowledge of all things anyway, but in order that everyone learns about himself as to where he himself stands (Shawkani).
    The Prophet has also warned us against falling prey to the world’s glitter. Said he,

    إِنَّ الدُّنْيَا حُلْوَةٌ خَضِرَةٌ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ مُسْتَخْلِفُكُمْ فِيهَا فَيَنْظُرُ كَيْفَ تَعْمَلُونَ فَاتَّقُوا الدُّنْيَا وَاتَّقُوا النِّسَاءَ

    “The world is green, sweet. Allah will surely give you sway thereover and see how you behave. Therefore, fear Allah and fear (falling into the trial involving) women” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    The report is in Muslim (H. bin Ibrahim).

    وَإِنَّا لَجَاعِلُونَ مَا عَلَيْهَا صَعِيدًا جُرُزًا (8)

    18|8| We shall indeed reduce all that is thereon to barren dust.9

    9. That is, without any vegetation, grass or plant, devoid of anything supportive of any kind of biological life (Au.).
    While the word “sa`id” has the sense of a flat infertile land, “juruz”, gives the sense of a barren patch (Razi, Qurtubi).

    أَمْ حَسِبْتَ أَنَّ أَصْحَابَ الْكَهْفِ وَالرَّقِيمِ كَانُوا مِنْ آيَاتِنَا عَجَبًا (9)

    18|9| Or, do you think that the Companions of the Cave10 and the Inscription11 were among Our signs a wonder?12

    10. An ordinary cave is “ghar” in Arabic, while “kahf” is used for a large one (Razi).
    11. In explanation of “Raqim” various opinions have been expressed by the Salaf: the name of a valley, a village to which the youths belonged, the mountain range in which the cave was located, a book, the dog that followed them, etc. Ibn Jarir adopts “inscription” or, “a tablet with a writing on it” as the most likely intended meaning which was the opinion of Sa`id b. Jubayr and Mujahid. It draws its support from the Qur’an (83: 9) which used the word “marqum” for a written record. It is said, adds Imam Razi, that the tablet had the story of the young men inscribed on it. But, (according to a report in Ibn al-Mundhir: Shawkani) Ibn Jurayj’s opinion was that the tablet had dates inscribed on it of the young men falling into sleep and rising from it (Qurtubi).
    12. That is, do you think the episode was a great wonder when there are so many other greater wonders in the heavens and the earth? (Ibn Jarir and others).

    إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا (10)

    18|10| When the youths retreated to the Cave saying, ‘Our Lord! Bestow on us mercy from Yourself, and prepare for us a way (out) of our affair.

    فَضَرَبْنَا عَلَىٰ آذَانِهِمْ فِي الْكَهْفِ سِنِينَ عَدَدًا (11)

    18|11| So We cast (a cover of sleep) over their ears13 in the Cave for a (good) number of years.

    13. That is, He cast a heavy sleep on them, of a kind in which the sleeper hears nothing of the sounds around (Kashshaf).

    ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَاهُمْ لِنَعْلَمَ أَيُّ الْحِزْبَيْنِ أَحْصَىٰ لِمَا لَبِثُوا أَمَدًا (12)

    18|12| Then We roused them that We might know which of the two parties kept the record of the period they tarried.14

    14. Although one or two of the old experts have accepted the superlative meaning, Zamakhshari - the Arabic language expert - does not believe that the textual “ahsa” is in the sense expressing comparative or superlative degrees. (That is, it does not mean: “which of the two groups kept the record better, [or best]”). He thinks it is a (quadrilateral: Qurtubi) word, on the pattern of “a`da” or “aflasa” (meaning: “he understood” or “comprehended”). Most commentators with a penchant for language have agreed with him and our translation reflects this understanding.

    نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ نَبَأَهُمْ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ فِتْيَةٌ آمَنُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ وَزِدْنَاهُمْ هُدًى (13)

    18|13| We narrate to you their story in truth. They were youths15 who believed in their Lord16 and We increased them in guidance.

    15. Linguistically, the use of the term “fityatun” indicates that they were less than ten in number (Se`di).
    16. We see the trend repeated. It were mostly young men who had initially believed in the Prophet while the older men of the Quraysh remained adamant, unmoved (Ibn Kathir).

    وَرَبَطْنَا عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ إِذْ قَامُوا فَقَالُوا رَبُّنَا رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَنْ نَدْعُوَ مِنْ دُونِهِ إِلَٰهًا ۖ لَقَدْ قُلْنَا إِذًا شَطَطًا (14)

    18|14| We strengthened their hearts when they stood up17 and proclaimed, ‘Our Lord - the Lord of the heavens and earth - We shall never invoke any god other than Him; if (we did) we would have spoken an outrage.

    17. Some misguided Sufis seek justification for their “standing” (in circles) from the words of Allah here, “They stood up and said..” But the two “standings” are entirely different. That of the youths was that of ‘taking a stand’ (a matter of resolve). What it has to do with the physical standing in circles, singing, dancing and whirling, as some of the Sufis do? In fact, many of the rightly guided Sufis have condemned the singing and dancing (based on Qurtubi).

    هَٰؤُلَاءِ قَوْمُنَا اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِهِ آلِهَةً ۖ لَوْلَا يَأْتُونَ عَلَيْهِمْ بِسُلْطَانٍ بَيِّنٍ ۖ فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا (15)

    18|15| These, our people, have taken gods besides Him. Why do they not bring forward a clear authority regarding them? Who can do greater wrong than he who fastened a lie on Allah?18

    18. Mawdudi writes in his introduction to the Surah, “It was pointed out (to the Makkans) that the people of the Cave believed in the same monotheism which was being expounded by the Qur’an. Also, the situation of the People of the Cave was no different from the Makkan Muslims who were then being subjected to severe persecution. Likewise, the attitude towards the People of the Cave by their own people was quite similar to the attitude displayed by the Quraysh unbelievers toward the Prophet (peace be on him) and his followers.”
    Sayyid has a few other things in mind. He writes: “These, our people, have taken gods besides Him. Why do they not bring forward a clear authority regarding them?”: ‘This then is the way in matters of faith and beliefs: that a man should follow clear, dependable evidences. Evidences have their own grip on the mind. But, if there is no evidence, then it is a dirty lie; for, it is a lie against Allah: And who can do greater wrong that he who fastened a lie on Allah?
    “We also recognize here the stand taken by the youths: a clear, definite stand that is not overshadowed or weakened by any amount of diffidence.
    “It is also noteworthy that they are young men: strong of body, strong of faith, and courageous in rejecting what their people clung to.
    “Two approaches, two different methods come to light, and the two do not meet, nor go in company with each other in life; (i.e., that of the youths and that of their people).
    “There is no choice for them but to escape with their faith. For, they are not Messengers of Allah sent to their people, who can, therefore, face the consequences while they invite them to the right beliefs. These are merely a group of young men to whom true guidance became evident while they lived among the unbelieving oppressors. If they openly profess their faith, they would not be allowed to live in peace. Neither can they escape from (the eyes) of their people, nor their people can from their eyes. Nor yet it is possible for them to worship their nation’s deities outwardly and conceal their personal prayers to Allah. The text leads us to believe that they had already been discovered. Therefore, there was no choice for them but to escape with their belief, and choose to live in a cave against the ease and pleasures of town life.
    “At this point, they appear as having already made that decision, and hence their words as they meet in secret, ‘So, when you have dissociated yourselves from them and what they worship other than Allah, retreat to the cave.’
    “And their decision tells us something about the amazing state of a believer’s heart.”

    وَإِذِ اعْتَزَلْتُمُوهُمْ وَمَا يَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ فَأْوُوا إِلَى الْكَهْفِ يَنْشُرْ لَكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ مِنْ رَحْمَتِهِ وَيُهَيِّئْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مِرْفَقًا (16)

    18|16| So, when you have dissociated yourselves from them and what they worship other than Allah, then retreat to the cave.19 Your Lord will spread out for you of His mercy and prepare for your affair an easy disposal.’20

    19. Qurtubi has a long discourse here on retreat to the caves when fearing religious persecution, or threat to life, honor, wealth or property. The Prophet himself had, in his effort to escape persecution, sought retreat into cave. The escape thus, is a Sunnah of the Anbiya’ and Awliya’. However, seeking retreat need not necessarily be in caves. It can be on top of mountains, in the depth of valleys, on the borders, and even within one’s home; as the Prophet said,

    إِذَا كَانَتِ الْفِتْنَةُ فَأَخْفِ مَكَانَكَ وَكُفَّ لِسَانَكَ

    “When you fear tribulation, restrict yourselves to your homes and control your tongue.”
    The above hadith is on the authority of Qurtubi and could not be traced in any major collection (Au.).
    Another hadith of Bukhari says,

    يَأْتِي عَلَى النَّاسِ زَمَانٌ خَيْرُ مَالِ الرَّجُلِ الْمُسْلِمِ الْغَنَمُ يَتْبَعُ بِهَا شَعَفَ الْجِبَالِ وَمَوَاقِعَ الْقَطْرِ يَفِرُّ بِدِينِهِ مِنَ الْفِتَنِ

    “A time will come on the people when the best wealth of a Muslim would be a few goats following them from one hill top to another, and to places of rain, fleeing (the towns) from religious persecution.”
    Another of Hasan’s report (one of his Marasil: Au.) says,

    يَأْتِي عَلَى النَّاسِ زَمَانٌ لَا يَسْلَمُ لِذِي دِينٍ دِينُهُ إِلَّا مَنْ فَرَّ بِدِينِهِ مِنْ شَاهِقٍ إِلَى شَاهِقٍ أَوْ حَجَرٍ إِلَى حَجَرٍ فَإِذَا كَانَ ذَلِكَ لَمْ تُنَلِ الْمَعِيشَةُ إِلا بِمَعْصِيَةِ اللَّهِ فَإِذَا كَانَ ذَلِكَ حَلَّتِ الْعُزْبَةُ". قَالُوا: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، كَيْفَ تَحِلُّ الْعُزْبَةُ وَأَنْتَ تَأْمُرُنَا بِالتَّزْوِيجِ؟ قَالَ: " إِذَا كَانَ ذَلِكَ كَانَ فَسَادُ الرَّجُلِ عَلَى يَدَيْ أَبَوَيْهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ أَبَوَانِ كَانَ هَلاكُهُ عَلَى يَدَيْ زَوْجَتِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ لَهُ زَوْجَةٌ كَانَ هَلَاكُهُ عَلَى يَدَيْ وَلَدِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ وَلَدٌ كَانَ هَلَاكُهُ عَلَى يَدَيِ الْقَرَابَاتِ وَالْجِيرَانِ". قَالُوا: وَكَيْفَ ذَلِكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ؟ قَالَ: " يُعَيِّرُونَهُ بِضِيقِ الْمَعِيشَةِ وَيُكَلِّفُونَهُ مَا لا يُطِيقُ فَعِنْدَ ذَلِكَ يُورِدُ نَفْسَهُ الْمَوَارِدَ الَّتِي يَهْلِكُ فِيهَا".

    “A time will come upon the people when no one will be safe in his religion except he who moved from mountain to mountain, one place of refuge to another. He will encounter a situation in which he will not be able to earn his livelihood but in Allah’s disobedience. When that is the situation, then fleeing away is allowed to him.” They asked, “How can fleeing (into wilderness) be allowed when you recommend that we marry women (and settle down)?” He replied, “In the situation (I am speaking of) a man’s problems will be because of his parents. If he has no parents then his destruction will be at the hands of his wife. If he has no wife, it will be at the hands of his children. If he has no children, it will be at the hands of his friends and neighbors.” They asked, “How will that be, Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “They will rebuke him for his poor financial status and make demands on him greater than what he will be able to bear. In that situation a man will do things that will destroy him.”
    The above report is in Bayhaqi and few other minor collections. It is primarily on Qurtubi’s authority (Au.).
    The minimum, the scholars have said, in terms of seclusion and isolation is to isolate oneself from other people’s evils. That is, a man remains with the people, but accepting their company in good affairs alone, away from them in evil matters. This is following the Prophet’s words declared authentic,

    الْمُؤْمِنُ الَّذِي يُخَالِطُ النَّاسَ وَيَصْبِرُ عَلَى أَذَاهُمْ أَعْظَمُ أَجْرًا مِنْ الَّذِي لَا يُخَالِطُهُمْ وَلَا يَصْبِرُ عَلَى أَذَاهُمْ

    “A believer who mixes and interacts with the people, in patience, is better than he who does not mix, does not observe patience.”
    Accordingly, Badri Companions retreated to their homes after the murder of ‘Uthman, leaving the houses only for their graves.
    20. The textual word “mirfaq” is, ‘literally a thing by which one profits, or gains advantage or benefit’ (LL) - Majid.

    Companions of the Cave
    We do not have any trustworthy report directly from the Prophet (saws) detailing this story. Those narrated by the Companions seem to originate from Jewish and Christian sources. Their version of the story can be traced back to the first century after Jesus Christ, involving a few youths, of the elitist class, who embraced the new Christian religion and were persecuted. But, Ibn Kathir is rightly skeptic about the youths being early Christians. For, it were the Jews who sent across the inquiry through the Quraysh to the Prophet about the young men. They were of course not interested in any story involving Christ, whom they cursed, and the Christians whom they persecuted, whenever possible. Asad is in agreement with Ibn Kathir. He writes, “It seems, however, that the Christian formulation of this theme is a later development of a much older oral tradition - a tradition which, in fact, goes back to pre-Christian, Jewish sources. This is evident from several well-authenticated ahadith (mentioned by all classical commentators), according to which it was the Jewish rabbis (ahbar) of Medina who induced the Meccan opponents of Muhammad to ‘test his veracity’ by asking him to explain, among other problems, the story of the Men of the Cave.”
    Yusuf Ali, Majid, Mawdudi and Asad point out (in the words of Mawdudi), “the earliest reference to the story is found in the Sermons of the Christian priest James of Sarug, a work which is in Syriac. He was born in .. 452 C.E. .. and the youths had woken up in 447 C.E. in the time of the emperor Theodosius the Second..”
    But, an event so amazing that took place so close in time and space (just 200 years earlier) could not have remained unknown to the Arabs, the collectors of stories and anecdotes. Further, the two accounts, the Qur’anic and of the Christian sources differ in so many respects that it led Gibbon (who reproduced the story entitled “The Seven Sleepers” in his “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”) to “dub the Prophet,” in Mawdudi’s words, “ignorant” – which of course Gibbon stated out of his own ignorance.
    The Christian account dates the story as in the time of King Decius, a persecutor of the Christian faith, who died in 251 C.E. If the event truly happened during his reign, then, according to Qur’anic estimates the youths perhaps woke up in 551 C.E, 19 years before the birth of the Prophet in 570 C.E.! Could an event of such close occurrence be unknown to the Prophet, that he should be tested to unravel? Orientalists, the honest tribe, which is respected for its erudition, are inclined to believe in the Syriac account, although, it is common knowledge that there is not a single account in the Bible which is trustworthy for its dates or, for that matter, its contents. But it is a curious habit of the Orientalists to accept any Biblical account as true, if it can discredit the Prophet in any way.
    In any case, the story goes that somewhere, sometime in the ancient world, a few young men of a kingdom had embraced the true religion of the time. But the king was on the old time-honored pagan religion. He had sanctioned the worship of such idols alone as he approved: the great, venerable national gods. The people were to also slaughter their animals in their names. But, saying, ‘Our Lord - the Lord of the heavens and earth - We shall never invoke any god other than He; if (we did) we would have spoken an outrage,’ the youths refused, and broke away from the multitude. When faced with persecution (they must have been called unpatriotic) at the king’s command who soon came to know about them, and who had given them 24 hours to think about it or face the gallows, they left town for mountains seeking retreat in a cave. They were followed by a dog which belonged to one of them. In the cave, Allah put them and their dog to sleep; and aroused them after several centuries. When they arose, they felt that they had slept for a day or a night. Hungry, they sent one of them to purchase food. As he entered the town, he observed that everything had changed: the people, their attire, language, culture, buildings, and everything. He tried to buy some food anyway. But when he thrust forward a coin, the trader recognized that it was ancient money – and the boy no less ancient, or his language. He suspected the lad had found a treasure. The lad insisted he had it on him since yesterday. A crowd gathered. Finally, they took him to the king. This man was a Muslim. After hearing the boy’s story, he ordered old records checked and found that yes, at one time a few young men had been persecuted and had left the town. He asked the boy to lead them to his cave. He agreed. But as he entered, he and his companions died. Some people suggested, “Let us build a mosque here” (Au.).
    Mawdudi throws light on the purpose - or one of many - of the narration in the Qur’an: “The story also dispels a serious misconception. At times people are led to the false belief that the apparent complex of causal relationships, which they call the laws of nature, are absolutely inalterable. What we call laws of nature are in fact the usual ways in which God lets thing happen. He is not, however, bound by any such laws and has the power to set aside or alter these so-called ‘laws’ and to do whatever He will, in flagrant contravention of the usual ways in which things happen.”

    وَتَرَى الشَّمْسَ إِذَا طَلَعَتْ تَزَاوَرُ عَنْ كَهْفِهِمْ ذَاتَ الْيَمِينِ وَإِذَا غَرَبَتْ تَقْرِضُهُمْ ذَاتَ الشِّمَالِ وَهُمْ فِي فَجْوَةٍ مِنْهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ ۗ مَنْ يَهْدِ اللَّهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِ ۖ وَمَنْ يُضْلِلْ فَلَنْ تَجِدَ لَهُ وَلِيًّا مُرْشِدًا (17)

    18|17| You would have seen the sun as it rose, veering away from their cave on the right, and, as it went down, cut itself across their left side,21 while they (lay) in its spacious (area).22 That was one of the signs of Allah.23 He whom Allah guides, is the rightly guided, while he whom He left unguided, you will never find for him a friend guiding aright.

    21. That is, the cave was so situated that they were saved from the sun’s beat throughout the year (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi). They would have thus been also saved from the observation of a passer-by (Mawdudi).
    22. “Fajwah” is a wide, open space within a cave or between two cliffs (No`mani).
    23. “That was one of the signs of Allah:” that is, the fact that Allah led them to the right kind of cave. When Allah guides someone, He guides him through and through (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir remarks that Allah mentioned the position of the cave with reference to the sun. The position avoided its harmful effects. But He said nothing about where the cave was located. Hence there is no point in trying to locate the cave after this lapse of time. All the more so because such far and wide places have been suggested: [Aylah (Ibn ‘Abbas), Nineveh (Ibn Is-haq), Roman territory, Spain (Qurtubi), Qumran Caves in Jordan (Asad) - Au.].
    The question remains, what if we knew the place? If its knowledge had been of any profit, surely Allah would not have held it back from us. The Prophet has said, “There is nothing that can take you closer to Paradise but I have informed you about it, and there is nothing that will take you away from the Fire but I have informed you about it.”
    Mawdudi writes, (under verse 22), “(The main point is Allah has power to resurrect). But instead of taking note of this, people often get embroiled in trivial and far-fetched questions. They ask, for example, what was the total number of the People of the Cave? What were their names? What was the color of their dog? Such questions can only be of interest to those who concern themselves with the husk rather than with the kernel..”
    We do not know who wished to know the color of their dog. But, a word thrown here, or a hint thrown there in the Qur’an – that, going by the rule of “what is not profitable”, apparently are functionless - seem to provide challenges to the inquisitive human minds. They immediately accept the challenge and begin to investigate to unravel the mystery. It is the desire to uncover mysteries that accounts as an important factor in the progression of knowledge (Au.).

    وَتَحْسَبُهُمْ أَيْقَاظًا وَهُمْ رُقُودٌ ۚ وَنُقَلِّبُهُمْ ذَاتَ الْيَمِينِ وَذَاتَ الشِّمَالِ ۖ وَكَلْبُهُمْ بَاسِطٌ ذِرَاعَيْهِ بِالْوَصِيدِ ۚ لَوِ اطَّلَعْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ لَوَلَّيْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِرَارًا وَلَمُلِئْتَ مِنْهُمْ رُعْبًا (18)

    18|18| You would have thought them awake although they were asleep,24 while We kept turning them over to the right and left.25 And their dog lay with its forelegs sprawled over the threshold.26 Had you looked at them, surely you would have turned away fleeing and would have been filled with terror of them.

    24. It has been suggested that while they slept their eyes were open which made them a fearful sight (Qurtubi).
    25. Ibn `Abbas has said that if the sun had directly shined upon them, it would have burnt them, and had Allah not been turning them from side to side, the earth would have eaten them (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    26. It is not known to which of them the dog belonged. Apart from that, as far as we Muslims are concerned, we are prohibited from keeping dogs unless there is a need. Says a Sahih hadith: “Whoever kept a dog, except for hunting or for the flock, or for the farm, will have a Qayrat (or two Qayrats: a weighing measure) removed from his rewards everyday.” Also, some scholars have not failed to notice that even an ordinary dog can find mention in the Qur’an for simply having been with the righteous. A Muslim too should seek their company and keep the righteous dear to himself (Qurtubi).

    وَكَذَٰلِكَ بَعَثْنَاهُمْ لِيَتَسَاءَلُوا بَيْنَهُمْ ۚ قَالَ قَائِلٌ مِنْهُمْ كَمْ لَبِثْتُمْ ۖ قَالُوا لَبِثْنَا يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ ۚ قَالُوا رَبُّكُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا لَبِثْتُمْ فَابْعَثُوا أَحَدَكُمْ بِوَرِقِكُمْ هَٰذِهِ إِلَى الْمَدِينَةِ فَلْيَنْظُرْ أَيُّهَا أَزْكَىٰ طَعَامًا فَلْيَأْتِكُمْ بِرِزْقٍ مِنْهُ وَلْيَتَلَطَّفْ وَلَا يُشْعِرَنَّ بِكُمْ أَحَدًا (19)

    18|19| And, that is how We raised them up27 that28 they might (be able to) question one another.. One of them who spoke asked,, ‘How long did you remain?’ They answered, ‘We remained maybe a day or a part of a day.’29 They concluded, ‘Your Lord knows best how long you remained. Now send one of you with this money of yours30 to the town to see what food is the purest; let him bring you a provision thereof. And, let him be cautious and let him not inform anyone about you.

    27. That is, just as We put them to sleep for such a long spell by Our power, We also awakened them once again by Our power.
    28. The “lam” of “li-yatasa’alu” is not “lam al-sababiyyah”, but rather “lam al-sayrurah” which is a kind of “lam al-‘aqibah”, (best rendered in the present context as “that”: Au.). That is, they were not raised for the sake of questioning (Qurtubi).
    29. That is because they had gone into the Cave in the morning and woke up - after a long spell - in an evening. Yet there were signs that told them that they must have slept longer than usual. Some commentators have said that they became suspicious from the growth of their nails and hair. But that does not seem very likely since, in three hundred years these things must have grown very long indeed. That could be the reason why many prominent commentators did not mention this (Au.).
    30. The word “waraq” has been commonly used in the ahadith for silver. Zamakhshari quotes a hadith to show that the term “waraqah” was also used in ancient times in the sense of silver, whether it was beaten into the shape of a note of currency or not. The hadith of his reference says, “A man had made an artificial nose from silver (“waraqah”) but it began to emit foul smell, so the Prophet allowed him to replace it with one made of gold.” Alusi doubts if the “waraqah” of the above hadith meant silver since silver does not emit foul smell although there is the possibility that the metal was adulterated and so got rusted.
    In any case, there is another hadith in Kanz al-‘Ummal, chp. Riba wa Ahkamih, where the term “waraqah” has been employed in the sense of currency or coin (Au.).

    إِنَّهُمْ إِنْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَيْكُمْ يَرْجُمُوكُمْ أَوْ يُعِيدُوكُمْ فِي مِلَّتِهِمْ وَلَنْ تُفْلِحُوا إِذًا أَبَدًا (20)

    18|20| For, if they come to know of you, they will stone you (to death) or force you back to their religion, in which case you will never prosper.’

    وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَعْثَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ لِيَعْلَمُوا أَنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَأَنَّ السَّاعَةَ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهَا إِذْ يَتَنَازَعُونَ بَيْنَهُمْ أَمْرَهُمْ ۖ فَقَالُوا ابْنُوا عَلَيْهِمْ بُنْيَانًا ۖ رَبُّهُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِهِمْ ۚ قَالَ الَّذِينَ غَلَبُوا عَلَىٰ أَمْرِهِمْ لَنَتَّخِذَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ مَسْجِدًا (21)

    18|21| Thus We disclosed them so that they know that Allah’s promise is true and that the Hour - there is no doubt about it.31 When they were disputing their affair between themselves; they said, ‘Construct a building over them.’ Allah knows them best. But those who prevailed over their affair said, ‘We shall surely build a place of worship over them.’32

    31. Yusuf Ali comments: “Thus: in this way, by these means, i.e., by the sending out of one of the Sleepers with the old money to the town to buy provision. His old-fashioned dress, appearance, and speech, and the old un-current money which he brought, at once drew the attention of people to him. When they learnt his story, they realized that Allah, Who can protect His servants thus and raise them up from sleep after such long time, has power to raise up men for the Resurrection, and that His promise of goodness and mercy to those who serve Him is true and was exemplified in this striking way. On the other hand, to the men of the Cave themselves, it became clear that Allah can change the situation before we are aware, and our hope in Him is not futile, and that even when we are on the brink of despair, a revolution is surely working in the world before the world itself realizes it.”
    It is said that those very days the people of the town - who had all become believers - were hotly disputing among themselves over the nature of Resurrection: whether it will be only the soul that would be raised, or, both body and soul - seeing that the body is eaten by the earth. Allah Most High raised the youths and said, “Thus We disclosed them so that they know that Allah’s promise is true and that there is no doubt about the Hereafter” (Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    32. Yusuf Ali remarks: “The perversity of man is such that as soon as ever a glimpse of truth becomes manifest, men fall into controversies about it.”
    The Qur’an does not offer any detail about the place of worship that was built, whether it was built at all or not, and if built, exactly at what spot (Au.).
    In any case, in our Shari`ah it is disallowed to build a mosque that encloses a grave, or is built over it. The Prophet (saws) said during his last sickness, as in a report of the Sahihayn, “Allah cursed the Jews and Christians who took the graves of their Prophets as places of worship.” In fact, it is even prohibited - following a hadith in Tirmidhi which he rated Hasan Sahih - to plaster a grave, or that it be given a concrete hump, it be sat upon, or a tomb be built over it. At best a muddy hump may be raised by a hand, or, alternatively, as Imam Abu Hanifah has said, a stone may be placed for recognition. It is reported that Fatimah, the Prophet’s daughter used to visit Hamza’s grave every Friday and had got a stone placed over it for recognition.
    On this topic, it might also be said that where the earth is very soft (and it is feared that animals will attack the corpse: Au.) it is allowed to use a coffin (Qurtubi). What about those graves that have already been raised? The answer is, if there is no fear of commotion, riots or feuds, they might be demolished (Au.).
    Muslim has a report from Abul Hayaj al-Asadi. He said,

    قَالَ لِي عَلِيٌّ أَبْعَثُكَ عَلَى مَا بَعَثَنِي عَلَيْهِ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنْ لَا تَدَعَ تِمْثَالًا إِلَّا طَمَسْتَهُ وَلَا قَبْرًا مُشْرِفًا إِلَّا سَوَّيْتَهُ

    “`Ali told me, ‘I would like to send you to do what the Prophet had sent me to do, viz., his instruction to the effect: “you will not find an image but obliterate it, and will not find a raised grave but level it off’” (Alusi).
    The above is Ahmad’s version (Au.)

    سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَاثَةٌ رَابِعُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمْسَةٌ سَادِسُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ رَجْمًا بِالْغَيْبِ ۖ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ ۚ قُلْ رَبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِعِدَّتِهِمْ مَا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ ۗ فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيهِمْ إِلَّا مِرَاءً ظَاهِرًا وَلَا تَسْتَفْتِ فِيهِمْ مِنْهُمْ أَحَدًا (22)

    18|22| They will say, ‘(They were) three; their fourth their dog.’ And they will say, ‘(They were) five; their sixth their dog’ - guesswork at the unknown. Yet others will say, ‘Seven, their eighth their dog.’ Say, ‘My Lord knows best their number.’ None knows them except a few.33 Therefore, dispute not over them, except in superficial terms, passingly,34 and seek not a pronouncement about them from any of them.35

    33. Ibn ‘Abbas used to say, ‘I am of those few (that the Qur’an mentioned here) and I can say with confidence that they were seven, with their dog their eighth’ (Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf, Qurtubi). The statement of Ibn `Abbas is trustworthy (Ibn Kathir).
    34. The opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others was that such superficial argument should also be based on information that the Qur’an has supplied. That’s the meaning of the present instruction to the Prophet (Ibn Jarir).
    35. The implied lesson is, do not seek knowledge (of the truth) from non-Muslims (Qurtubi).

    وَلَا تَقُولَنَّ لِشَيْءٍ إِنِّي فَاعِلٌ ذَٰلِكَ غَدًا (23)

    18|23| And never say about a thing, ‘I am going to do it tomorrow.’

    إِلَّا أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ ۚ وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ إِذَا نَسِيتَ وَقُلْ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَهْدِيَنِ رَبِّي لِأَقْرَبَ مِنْ هَٰذَا رَشَدًا (24)

    18|24| Except (to add) ‘if Allah so wills.’ And remember your Lord whenever you forget,36 and say, ‘It may be that my Lord will guide me ever closer than this to the right course.’37

    36. Forgetfulness is from Satan. So when a man remembers Allah, Satan departs. The person is then, in that situation, less likely to forget (Razi).
    Commentators have said that if one forgets to say, “Allah willing,” he might do it whenever he remembers; while others have said, which seems to be more correct, that the persuasion is to remember Allah. Ibn ‘Abbas in fact said that if someone swore (to do something) but remembered that he did not say in-sha-Allah, he might do it later, even if it is after a year (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). That is, he might break his oath without atonement due. Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir however believe that what Ibn ‘Abbas meant was that the Sunnah of saying in-sha-Allah be done by saying it whenever one remembered, but that does not mean one can break his oath.
    In any case, the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifah in matters concerning human interactions was that an “in-sha-Allah” that is added afterwards (al-istithna’ al-munfasal), is invalid. According to him in-sha-Allah, must be uttered at the moment of the deal on the spot. Uttering the word later renders it null and void. (That is, by saying in sha-Allah later, one cannot make the deal vague). Mansur (the Abbasid Caliph) came to know of his opinion (and thought that for once he had caught him on the wrong foot). So he ordered him to appear in the court for explanation. But when he came, Abu Hanifah turned the table on him. He asked him, “Do you agree that when the people enter into allegiance with you here in the court (promising to obey you), then go back home, and uttering in-sha-Allah, break their oaths?” Mansur had no answer (Kashshaf).
    Ibn Kathir reminds of an incident involving another Prophet who forgot to say in-sha-Allah and so things went awry for him. The report - in the Sahihayn - says, “Sulayman b. Da’ud said, ‘I shall go into all my wives tonight, about a hundred, each of whom will bear a son who will fight in Allah’s cause.’ He was told, ‘Say In-sha-Allah.’ But he did not. So, although he went into all his wives none of them gave birth to anything except one of them, and she too brought a mangled child. The Prophet added, ‘Had he said in-sha-Allah, he would not have had to brake his oath, but would have achieved his objective.”
    Sayyid Qutb is aware of the prevalent misuse of the words, and the misconceptions that accompany it. He writes: “This does not mean that (after saying ‘Allah willing’) a man should sit back doing nothing, neither planning his future, nor preparing for it. Or that he should live, moments after moments, day after day, in idleness. Or that he should not survey his past and compare it with his present (to draw the obvious lessons). Of course not. But rather it means that he should take account of the Unknown and the Unseen while he plans his course of action. He might resolve to do whatever he wishes, but he should seek the help of Allah’s Will over what he resolves. He should be conscious of Allah’s Hand over his own. It can never be ruled out that Allah’s resolve might be different from his own. If Allah guides him to accomplish what he wishes to accomplish, well and good. But if Allah’s Will does not correspond to his will, then, there need be no grief and no despair. The affair is, after all, Allah’s - at the beginning, and at the end.
    “So, let man think and plan whatever he wishes to accomplish. But, he should realize that what he thinks can only come true if Allah smoothens the way for him and that, what he plans is also by Allah’s own Will. Further, he should also realize that he is incapable of accomplishing anything except that which is Allah’s own resolve and Will. This, of course, should not lead him to laziness or procrastination, weakness, or inefficiency. In fact, contrarily, he should go forward with his endeavor in full strength, confidence, trust, self-assurance and strong resolve. However, if the veils from that which is in the Unseen are removed, and things do not appear the way he had planned, imagined and thought, then, he should accept Allah’s decree cheerfully and submit himself completely..
    “This is the spirit and approach that Islam approvingly places in the heart of a believer. A believer is never beset by doubts and uncertainties while he plans his affairs. Neither is he arrogant and self-assuring when he succeeds, nor is he in despair when he fails. Instead, in all cases he remains on good terms with Allah, drawing strength from Him, trusting Him, remaining grateful to Him, submitted to His decree: neither proudly optimistic, nor despairingly pessimistic.”
    37. Yusuf Ali has an interesting illustration to offer: “In geometry the perfect circle is an ideal. Any given circle that we draw is not so perfect that we cannot draw one closer to the ideal. So in our life, there is always the hope of drawing closer and closer to Allah.”

    وَلَبِثُوا فِي كَهْفِهِمْ ثَلَاثَ مِائَةٍ سِنِينَ وَازْدَادُوا تِسْعًا (25)

    18|25| And they remained in their cave for three hundred years and added nine.38

    38. Some people have suggested that since the number of years the young men tarried were 300 by the sun-calendar, it works out to 300 and 9 by the lunar calendar (Qurtubi).

    قُلِ اللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا لَبِثُوا ۖ لَهُ غَيْبُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ أَبْصِرْ بِهِ وَأَسْمِعْ ۚ مَا لَهُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ مِنْ وَلِيٍّ وَلَا يُشْرِكُ فِي حُكْمِهِ أَحَدًا (26)

    18|26| Say, ‘Allah knows best how long they remained.39 To Him belongs the Unknown of the heavens and the earth. How well observing, how well hearing!’ They have no protector apart from Him, nor does He share anyone in His command.

    39. Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn ‘Abbas (who put it quite strongly: Au.), Qatadah and others have said that the meaning is, “it was being said by the people that they remained in their cave for three centuries and nine years, but Allah knows best how long they remained.” That is, the statement about the length of the period came from the people. Nevertheless, Mujahid, Dahhak and others have thought that it is Allah who is informing us that they remained three centuries and nine years in the cave, ending all speculations about how long they remained there (Ibn Jarir, Shawkani). The latter statement acquires strength from another statement of Ibn ‘Abbas (in Ibn Marduwayh: Shawkani) that first it was only revealed, “and they stayed in their cave three hundred;” so the people asked, “Days, months or years, O Messenger of Allah?” So Allah revealed, “.. years and added on nine” (Au.).

    وَاتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ كِتَابِ رَبِّكَ ۖ لَا مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ مِنْ دُونِهِ مُلْتَحَدًا (27)

    18|27| Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book of your Lord. There is no one to change His words,40 and never will you find a refuge in other than Him.41

    40. The meaning is: Recite, O Muhammad, the Qur’an and follow its commandments, for there is no changing its words (of command and instruction) – Razi.
    41. “Refuge”: This is how Mujahid and Qatadah understood the word “multahada”. The word has its root in “lahad” which means to incline; hence also a “lahad” grave: one that inclines to the side, (in an L-shape: Au.) - Ibn Jarir, Razi and others.

    وَاصْبِرْ نَفْسَكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ بِالْغَدَاةِ وَالْعَشِيِّ يُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَهُ ۖ وَلَا تَعْدُ عَيْنَاكَ عَنْهُمْ تُرِيدُ زِينَةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَا تُطِعْ مَنْ أَغْفَلْنَا قَلْبَهُ عَنْ ذِكْرِنَا وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ وَكَانَ أَمْرُهُ فُرُطًا (28)

    18|28| And patiently bear your person42 with those who call upon their Lord morning and evening, seeking His countenance.43 And let not your eyes stray beyond them in search of the glitter of the life of this world.44 Further, obey not him whose heart We have made heedless to Our remembrance,45 so that he follows his base desires and whose affair is ever in excess.46

    42. The translation of “Isbir nafsaka” above is literal. It could also be rendered as “retain yourself” or “restrain yourself” which is one of the meanings of “sabara” (Alusi and others), as e.g., “qutila sabran” meaning, “he was killed while in captivity” (Au.).
    43. Sayyid comments: “(Allah is saying): Restrain yourself with these people (O Prophet), seek their company, spend time with them, and teach them. For, goodness is with them. It is the like of them who are the power base of the Call. The Call is not served by those who accept it because it is likely to prevail; nor by those who accept it in order to play a leading role; or those who have their own interests to serve; or those who will use it as a merchandise that they can buy and sell in the markets. But rather, the power base of the Call are such men as whose hearts are turned to Allah in sincerity, seeking neither position, nor wealth, nor any other advantage. All they seek is Allah’s countenance and His approval.”
    44. (The Prophet was never in search of glitter of the life of this world). The allusion here then is to his hope that Islam would be strengthened if the rich and powerful Quraysh embraced it (Thanwi).
    Sahl b. Hunayf reports that the Prophet was in one of his houses when this verse was revealed. He came out looking for those whose company he should seek. He found some of his Companions huddled together, busy in remembrance of their Lord. Of them some had disheveled hair, others dried skins and yet others clad in a single piece of cloth. He sat down among them and remarked, “Allah be praised who placed among my followers such as those He commanded me to seek their company” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Tabarani has this report and according to Haythami, it is trustworthy (S. Ibrahim).
    The above would imply that although the Surah is Makkan, this particular verse is Madinan, of which we have many examples (Alusi).
    45. Razi and Qurtubi point out that the construction “aghfalna qalbahu” can also lend the meaning of “We found him heedless”. Examples of this kind can be found in classical literature.
    Nonetheless, the direction is rather not to seek the company of the rich, powerful, and leading men of the Quraysh. One of them, ‘Uyayna b. Hisn had told the Prophet, “Salman Farsi’s smell is repulsive to us. So, appoint a day for us free of them, when we can sit down and talk to you” (Ibn Jarir).
    46. Mawdudi explains the dangers in following those who commit excesses: “The lives of all those who become slaves to their base desires as a result of relegating God to oblivion become devoid of balance and proportion. To obey such a person means that one should abandon one’s own sense of proportion and indulge in immoderation and stumble in all directions in one’s effort to follow leaders who are not bound by any limits.”

    وَقُلِ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ ۖ فَمَنْ شَاءَ فَلْيُؤْمِنْ وَمَنْ شَاءَ فَلْيَكْفُرْ ۚ إِنَّا أَعْتَدْنَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ نَارًا أَحَاطَ بِهِمْ سُرَادِقُهَا ۚ وَإِنْ يَسْتَغِيثُوا يُغَاثُوا بِمَاءٍ كَالْمُهْلِ يَشْوِي الْوُجُوهَ ۚ بِئْسَ الشَّرَابُ وَسَاءَتْ مُرْتَفَقًا (29)

    18|29| And say, ‘The truth is from your Lord. Therefore, let him who will believe, and let him who will disbelieve.’47 Surely, We have prepared for the unbelievers a Fire whose tent (of flames) has hemmed them in.48 If they implore relief, they will be helped with water like murky hot liquid:49 it will scald their faces - an evil drink and an evil place of rest.50

    47. This is a threat in the guise of freedom to choose (Ibn Jarir).
    48. “Suradiq” is a canopied tent or an awning (Au.). Darraj Abu Samh has reported the Prophet as having said,

    لِسُرَادِقِ النَّارِ أَرْبَعُ جُدُرٍ كُثُفٍ كُلُّ جِدَارٍ مَسِيرَةُ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً


    “The “suradiq” of the Fire of Hell has four walls. Each wall’s thickness is equal to forty years distance” (Ibn Jarir).
    The hadith is also in Tirmidhi who rated it Hasan, Sahih, Gharib: Qurtubi (meaning, trustworthy: Au.).
    That is, Hell-fire is surrounded by four layers of wall, one after another (Au.).
    Hakim also declared it trustworthy (Shawkani).
    And Ya`la bin Umayyah reported that the Prophet said,

    الْبَحْرُ هُوَ جَهَنَّمُ- ثُمَّ تَلَا- نَارًا أَحَاطَ بِهِمْ سرادقها

    “The sea is Jahannum” and then recitedHe was asked, “How’s that?” In response he recited this verse, “a Fire whose tent (of flames) has hemmed them in” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Haythami has treated this report as trustworthy.
    `Ajluni however, has written the opinion of some of the Salaf (Kashful Khifa’, no. 883) that Jahannum is under the seventh earth. There are other opinions too, but all of them have something to do with the sea. We will have more to write under chapter 52, verse 6, Allah willing (Au.).
    49. The translation reflects one of the several possible meanings of the term “muhl” which refers to what rises to the surface of any molten liquid - brass, copper, gold - heated to its boiling point (Ibn Jarir).
    50. The term “irtifaq” originally meant to rest. Hence we have “mirfaq” for elbow and it is said “bata mirtafaqan” meaning, “He spent the night reclining on his elbow” (Alusi).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ إِنَّا لَا نُضِيعُ أَجْرَ مَنْ أَحْسَنَ عَمَلًا (30)

    18|30| Verily, those who believed and worked righteous deeds, surely, We shall not waste away the reward of anyone who did a good work.

    أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهِمُ الْأَنْهَارُ يُحَلَّوْنَ فِيهَا مِنْ أَسَاوِرَ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ وَيَلْبَسُونَ ثِيَابًا خُضْرًا مِنْ سُنْدُسٍ وَإِسْتَبْرَقٍ مُتَّكِئِينَ فِيهَا عَلَى الْأَرَائِكِ ۚ نِعْمَ الثَّوَابُ وَحَسُنَتْ مُرْتَفَقًا (31)

    18|31| For them are gardens of Eden,51 beneath whom rivers flow. They will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold52 and wear green garments53 of silk and brocade: reclining therein upon canopied couches.54 How good a reward and how good a resting place!

    51. For explanation see Surah al-Tawbah, note 154 and al-Ra`d, note 45 of this work.
    52. Muslim reports the Prophet as having said, “A believer’s jewelry will reach up to the extent his ablution (water) reaches” (Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    It was fashionable for the kings of the past to wear jewelry. Allah promises that the inhabitants of Paradise will be treated like kings (Qurtubi).
    `Ikrimah has been reported as saying that the people of Paradise will be adorned with gold, silver and pearl bracelets. Yet they will not be heavy on them since they will be made of “Nur” (Alusi). Qur’anic verses support ‘Ikrimah’s statement about the kinds of jewelry (though not about its material). It said

    (22: 23),

    { يُحَلَّوْنَ فِيهَا مِنْ أَسَاوِرَ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ وَلُؤْلُؤًا} [الحج: 23]

    “They will be adorned with bracelets of gold and pearls”,
    and (76: 21),

    {وَحُلُّوا أَسَاوِرَ مِنْ فِضَّةٍ} [الإنسان: 21]

    “And they will be adorned with bracelets of silver” (Qurtubi).
    The allusion could as well be to women’s adornment in Paradise (Au.).
    53. Green garments symbolize ever freshness of life in Paradise (Au., with a phrase from Asad).
    54. When a bed or couch is covered with a canopy then it is referred to as “arikah” pl. “ara’ik” (Ibn Jarir, Shawkani).

    وَاضْرِبْ لَهُمْ مَثَلًا رَجُلَيْنِ جَعَلْنَا لِأَحَدِهِمَا جَنَّتَيْنِ مِنْ أَعْنَابٍ وَحَفَفْنَاهُمَا بِنَخْلٍ وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمَا زَرْعًا (32)

    18|32| Strike for them a similitude of two men: To one of them We provided two orchards of grapevines, and surrounded them with palm-trees. And We set amidst the two, sown field.

    كِلْتَا الْجَنَّتَيْنِ آتَتْ أُكُلَهَا وَلَمْ تَظْلِمْ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا ۚ وَفَجَّرْنَا خِلَالَهُمَا نَهَرًا (33)

    18|33| Each of the two orchards yielded its produce, failing not thereof in the least. And We caused a spring to gush forth within them.

    وَكَانَ لَهُ ثَمَرٌ فَقَالَ لِصَاحِبِهِ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ أَنَا أَكْثَرُ مِنْكَ مَالًا وَأَعَزُّ نَفَرًا (34)

    18|34| So he had fruit.55 He said to his companion, as he was conversing with him,56 ‘I am more of wealth than you and larger in numbers.’

    55. Some scholars of classical times, such as Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid and Qatadah, have read the word “thamar” (meaning fruit) as “thumur” (meaning varieties of wealth). Ibn Jarir prefers this variant reading. But, Ibn Kathir believes “fruit” is a better understanding.
    56. Some linguists have expressed the opinion that the construction of the sentence lends a sense of argument. That is, the two were discussing a subject, albeit somewhat heatedly, or, arguing over something, probably this life and the nature of its trials.

    وَدَخَلَ جَنَّتَهُ وَهُوَ ظَالِمٌ لِنَفْسِهِ قَالَ مَا أَظُنُّ أَنْ تَبِيدَ هَٰذِهِ أَبَدًا (35)

    18|35| He went into his orchard wronging himself.57 He said, ‘I do not think this will ever perish. And I do not reckon the Hour will strike.

    57. That is, he went into the orchard puffed up with pride and vanity (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali writes: “It was not wealth that ruined him, but the attitude of his mind. He was unjust, not so much to his neighbor (i.e., companion), as to his own soul. In his love of the material, he forgot or openly defied the spiritual. As verse 37 shows, he took his companion with him, to impress him with his own importance, but the companion was unmoved.”

    وَمَا أَظُنُّ السَّاعَةَ قَائِمَةً وَلَئِنْ رُدِدْتُ إِلَىٰ رَبِّي لَأَجِدَنَّ خَيْرًا مِنْهَا مُنْقَلَبًا (36)

    18|36| And, even if I am returned to my Lord, I shall surely find better than this as a retreat.’58

    58. What he meant is: “I deserve my affluence. It is a sign of my Lord’s approval of me. Accordingly, when I return - if I ever have to - then, there should be a better deal waiting for me there in the new habitat also” (Au.).

    قَالَ لَهُ صَاحِبُهُ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ أَكَفَرْتَ بِالَّذِي خَلَقَكَ مِنْ تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ ثُمَّ سَوَّاكَ رَجُلًا (37)

    18|37| His companion said to him, as he carried on the conversation with him, ‘Do you deny Him who59 created you from dust, then from a sperm-drop, and then fashioned you into a man?’60

    59. Majid comments: “The man fondly imagined that his affluence was solely due to his merit and not to any beneficence on the part of God.”
    60. The human body is composed of some 100 trillion cells (100,000,000,000,000). Pregnancy starts with the fusion of two microscopic cells that become one. However, in no time the resultant single cell splits into two: each daughter cell being an exact replica of the mother cell. Each of the two daughter cells again split to become four: with each new daughter cell an exact replica of the two mother cells. Then the four split to become eight, and so on. Initially, every new cell of the billions is a replica of the first cell. But after a while, variations start showing up: variations that are essential if the cells are to become the component parts of a variety of organs – hands, feet, nerves, heart, brain, etc. But this is amazing, something very unusual. For, every new cell has the same set of DNA: the coded chemical message that determine the size, shape, function, and life of the parts of the body. With the variation, (which affects only the outer structure, the nucleus housing the DNA carrying coded messages remaining unchanged), various organs start taking shape in different parts of the embryo: first the tip of the back bone, the heart, and later, the limbs, eyes, ears, and so on. This phenomenon almost gives the freedom to the cell to determine its future course of development, e.g., whether it will become part of the backbone, or the toe. The situation becomes more complicated when we realize that since the brain is still not in place, and billions of cells are deciding their own fate, apparently, each by itself, there has to be some kind of communication between the trillions of them to determine the division of position and work. But, if there is, then, the question is, what central organ is there that controls the communication so that a brain cell does not become a heart cell or vice a versa. This is only one of the problems within the developing embryo. A study reveals that there are several such phenomenon explained very poorly by the biologists, in vague terms, with lots of holes in the arguments, studded with plenty of ‘perhaps’es’, ‘probably’s’, and ‘maybes’ which force us to pay greater attention to the verse at hand (Au.).

    لَٰكِنَّا هُوَ اللَّهُ رَبِّي وَلَا أُشْرِكُ بِرَبِّي أَحَدًا (38)

    18|38| But, for my part, Allah is my Lord, and I shall never associate anyone with my Lord.

    وَلَوْلَا إِذْ دَخَلْتَ جَنَّتَكَ قُلْتَ مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ ۚ إِنْ تَرَنِ أَنَا أَقَلَّ مِنْكَ مَالًا وَوَلَدًا (39)

    18|39| What if, when you entered your orchard, had said, “What Allah willed! There is no power except in Allah.”61 If you see me that I am less than you in wealth and progeny,

    61. Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others write: The Sahihayn report that the Prophet said to Abu Hurayrah, “May I not lead you to a treasure from the treasures of Paradise? It is to say,

    لا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله

    “There is no force nor any power save with Allah.’

    فَعَسَىٰ رَبِّي أَنْ يُؤْتِيَنِ خَيْرًا مِنْ جَنَّتِكَ وَيُرْسِلَ عَلَيْهَا حُسْبَانًا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَتُصْبِحَ صَعِيدًا زَلَقًا (40)

    18|40| Then, it may be that my Lord will grant me better than your orchard62 and loosen upon it a thunderbolt out of heaven,63 so that it is rendered a dusty slippery ground.

    62. That is, in the Hereafter (Ibn Kathir).
    63. Although literally, “accounting”, but according to Ibn ‘Abbas, Dahhak and Ibn Zayd, the textual word “husban” has been used here in the sense of a scourge (from the heaven: Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). In fact, writes Zamakhshari, literally also the word can mean scourge.

    أَوْ يُصْبِحَ مَاؤُهَا غَوْرًا فَلَنْ تَسْتَطِيعَ لَهُ طَلَبًا (41)

    18|41| Or its water gets sunk deep underground, so that you are never able to seek it.’

    وَأُحِيطَ بِثَمَرِهِ فَأَصْبَحَ يُقَلِّبُ كَفَّيْهِ عَلَىٰ مَا أَنْفَقَ فِيهَا وَهِيَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَىٰ عُرُوشِهَا وَيَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أُشْرِكْ بِرَبِّي أَحَدًا (42)

    18|42| And its fruit was encompassed64 so that by morning he was wringing his hands over what he had spent on it, while it lay fallen on its trellises, he muttering, ‘Woe unto me. Would that I had not associated anyone with my Lord.’65

    64. That is, it was destroyed by a scourge that descended on it by night (Qurtubi).
    65. Mawdudi writes against an earlier verse, “The person concerned did not deny the existence of God.. (for) kufr does not merely consist in denying the existence of God. In addition, pride, arrogance, vainglory and denial of the Hereafter also constitute kufr of God; for the faith required of man does not merely consist of affirming God’s existence; it also requires affirming Him as the Master, the Lord, and the Sovereign. Whosoever focuses his attention exclusively upon himself, who considers his attainments, his wealth and his high social standing not as gifts from God but the result of his own ability and effort, who thinks that his wealth will endure and that none has the power to deprive him of it, and who thinks that he is accountable to no one - such a person in fact does not believe in God in the sense in which he is required to..”

    وَلَمْ تَكُنْ لَهُ فِئَةٌ يَنْصُرُونَهُ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَمَا كَانَ مُنْتَصِرًا (43)

    18|43| And there was not a band for him to help him apart from Allah,66 nor could he defend himself.

    66. That is, the manpower he had boasted of earlier, failed to protect his orchards (Ibn Kathir).

    هُنَالِكَ الْوَلَايَةُ لِلَّهِ الْحَقِّ ۚ هُوَ خَيْرٌ ثَوَابًا وَخَيْرٌ عُقْبًا (44)

    18|44| There! Protective power belongs to Allah alone: the True One.67 He is the best in reward and the best in outcome.

    67. There have been at least four interpretations of the word “walayah”, of which of course only one could be chosen for translation.

    وَاضْرِبْ لَهُمْ مَثَلَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْضِ فَأَصْبَحَ هَشِيمًا تَذْرُوهُ الرِّيَاحُ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُقْتَدِرًا (45)

    18|45| And strike for them the similitude of the life of the world: like water that We sent down out of heaven.68 The earth’s vegetation mingled with it. Then it became straw that the winds scattered around. And Allah is ever Omnipotent over all things.

    68. Water has often been cited as illustrative of the life of this world. Why? Qurtubi transmits what the hukama’ had to say: Several similarities can be noticed between water and this world, such as, water does not stay in one place. It keeps moving. So is this world. It keeps moving. Water never lasts. It disappears. So will this world. No one can enter into water without wetting himself. Similarly, no one can enter into this world without polluting himself. Finally, so long as water is in proper measure, it is beneficial and under control. But when it increases in quantity, it acquires destructive properties. That is also the situation with this world. A measured quantity is beneficial. But its large portions are destructive. In a hadith of Muslim, the Prophet said,

    قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ أَسْلَمَ وَرُزِقَ كَفَافًا وَقَنَّعَهُ اللَّهُ بِمَا أَتَاهُ

    “He succeeded who became a Muslim, and was given just enough and was content with what was given him.”

    الْمَالُ وَالْبَنُونَ زِينَةُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَالْبَاقِيَاتُ الصَّالِحَاتُ خَيْرٌ عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ ثَوَابًا وَخَيْرٌ أَمَلًا (46)

    18|46| Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of the world, but the things that endure, the righteous (deeds),69 are better with your Lord in rewards and better in (good) hope.70

    69. Al-Baqiyat al-Salihat: Is it a general term or has it a specific meaning? The opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas, Sa`id b, Jubayr, Ibrahim and others was that the allusion is to five daily Prayers. However, in a second opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, ‘Ata ibn abi Rabah, and many others, the allusion is to the words:

    سبحان الله, والحمد لله, ولا إله إلا الله, والله أكبر

    In fact, Abu Hurayrah reported a hadith to this effect. Nevertheless, `Uthman b. `Affan, Muhammad b. Ka`b al-Qurazi and others included a few other words to the above words to say, al-Baqiyat al-Salihat are the following:

    لا إله إلا الله, وسبحان الله, والحمد لله, والله أكبر, ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله العلي العظيم

    The above words are confirmed by a report in Tabarani, Ibn Shahin, and Ibn Marduwayh (Shawkani) about which Haythami said that except for one narrator, the rest are trustworthy (S. Ibrahim).
    Nevertheless, Nasa’i has another report, declared Sahih by Hakim, which says that the Prophet said,

    خذوا جنتكم قيل يا رسول الله من أي عدو قد حضر ؟ قال : بل جنتكم من النار قول سبحان الله والحمد لله ولا إله إلا الله والله أكبر فإنهن يأتين يوم القيامة مقدمات معقبات ومجنبات وهي الباقيات الصالحات

    “Release your Paradise.” He was asked, “From what enemy that has showed up?” He replied, “Rather, your Paradise from the Fire, the words:

    سبحان الله والحمد لله ولا إله إلا الله والله أكبر

    “for,” the Prophet continued, “on the Day of Judgment they will come as vanguards, rearguards and the protecting ones. They are the al-baqiyat al-Salihat” (Shawkani).
    The above report has been declared Sahih by Albani also (S. Ibrahim).
    But, in a third opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas, seconded by Ibn Zayd, every good deed is al-Baqiyat al-Salihat.
    Now, Ibn Jarir writes, if it is asked, which statement is correct, the answer is, is there a contradiction between them?
    With reference to the above words, viz., al-Baqiyat al-Salihat, Imam Razi mentions Imam Ghazali’s remarks, which we present here in a modified form:
    Saying Subhana Allah means to express that Allah is free of all defects that a mind can imagine, or above any suggestion made that is unbecoming of Him. Al-hamdulillah means to express that He is the source of all that is good and beautiful, and hence, He must be praised. Saying la ilaha illa Allah is to acknowledge that the One who is the source of all that there is, is the “only” source of it. Finally, saying Allahu Akbar is to acknowledge that He is greater than that He could be understood by reason alone.
    70. Wealth promises continuity of good life, and children. But, to fasten hope on rewards in the Hereafter is nearer to realizing one’s dreams, than fastening hopes on wealth and children in this world. For, one might achieve wealth and children but not the satisfaction that was hoped for (with a point from Thanwi).

    وَيَوْمَ نُسَيِّرُ الْجِبَالَ وَتَرَى الْأَرْضَ بَارِزَةً وَحَشَرْنَاهُمْ فَلَمْ نُغَادِرْ مِنْهُمْ أَحَدًا (47)

    18|47| The day We shall set the mountains in motion, you will see the earth levelled,71 and We shall gather them all together, leaving out none of them.

    71. The allusion by the word “barizatun” is, according to the classical commentators, to the earth being rendered flat, barren, featureless and without a place for anyone to hide behind.

    وَعُرِضُوا عَلَىٰ رَبِّكَ صَفًّا لَقَدْ جِئْتُمُونَا كَمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ ۚ بَلْ زَعَمْتُمْ أَلَّنْ نَجْعَلَ لَكُمْ مَوْعِدًا (48)

    18|48| They will be presented to their Lord in rows: ‘You have come to Us, just as We created you the first time.72 But you thought We shall never appoint for you a tryst.’

    72. That is, you have come to Us today in a lonely state, without the worldly belongings that you were proud to possess, even as We created you at first: naked, un-circumcised, without a headgear or footwear (Alusi and Asad combined).

    وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ فَتَرَى الْمُجْرِمِينَ مُشْفِقِينَ مِمَّا فِيهِ وَيَقُولُونَ يَا وَيْلَتَنَا مَالِ هَٰذَا الْكِتَابِ لَا يُغَادِرُ صَغِيرَةً وَلَا كَبِيرَةً إِلَّا أَحْصَاهَا ۚ وَوَجَدُوا مَا عَمِلُوا حَاضِرًا ۗ وَلَا يَظْلِمُ رَبُّكَ أَحَدًا (49)

    18|49| Then the Book will be placed,73 and you will see the criminals greatly alarmed at what it contains, saying, ‘Alas for us! What’s with this Book that it leaves out nothing - neither small74 nor big - but has computed it.’ They will find all that they did placed before them, and your Lord shall not wrong anyone.

    73. Most scholars have, on the strength of another verse, said that the allusion is to the Master Book of Records, in which the deeds of the creation are entered, even as they are entered in individual Record books. But a few have thought that the allusion is to the Records of the individuals that will be placed in the right or left hand of the people on the Day of Judgment.
    74. Ibn ‘Abbas said: Even such insignificant acts as a laugh would be found recorded in the Book of Deeds (Ibn Jarir). Ibn abi Hatim has, however, another report from Ibn ‘Abbas. He said, “A smile at a believer out of mockery or out of derision is the small thing referred to here, and a laugh in his ridicule the big one” (Alusi, Shawkani). When someone laughed when a man passed wind in the presence of the Prophet, he asked in exasperation, “Why should one of you laugh at something that another does?” (Alsui)

    وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ كَانَ مِنَ الْجِنِّ فَفَسَقَ عَنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّهِ ۗ أَفَتَتَّخِذُونَهُ وَذُرِّيَّتَهُ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِي وَهُمْ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ ۚ بِئْسَ لِلظَّالِمِينَ بَدَلًا (50)

    18|50| Behold, when We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves to Adam.’ They prostrated themselves save Iblis. He was of the Jinn75 and transgressed his Lord’s command. Do you then take him and his progeny as allies other than Me, while they are enemy to you?76 Evil is the exchange for the wrongdoers.

    75. There have been many theories about Iblis, his nature and origin, and they are at variance with each other since none of them is supported by a hadith (Au.). The most we have is a hadith of Muslim which puts it most clearly. ‘A’isha reports that the Prophet (saws) said, “Angels were created from Nur, Iblis from smokeless fire, and Adam from that which has been described to you (i.e., dust).” Iblis used to live with the angels, resembling them greatly in devotion, until he began to be counted as one of them and hence included in the command addressed to them to prostrate themselves to Adam. A few of the scholars have thought that actually he belonged to one of the families of the angels known as the Jinn. Yet others have thought he was of the angels and a treasurer for the Jinn and so came to be known as one of them. Hasan al-Busri on the other hand vehemently maintained that Iblis was never an angel, not even for a moment. According to him he was the originator of the Jinn as Adam was of mankind (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others).
    There is also a difference in opinion over the question whether Satan’s offspring have been sired by him. Sha`bi said, “A man asked me if Iblis has a wife? I replied, ‘That is a marriage that I did not attend.’ But then I remembered this verse, ‘Do you take him and his offspring ..?’ and realized that without a wife he couldn’t have had offspring, and so I said, ‘Yes, he does have a wife.” Some others have said that Satans are his offspring and assistants. And a third opinion is that he is self-reproducing (i.e., without a spouse), and lays eggs. This last opinion draws its strength from a hadith in the Musnad of Al-Barqani, which recorded the Prophet as having said,

    عَنْ سَلْمَانَ، قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: "لا تَكُنْ أَوَّلَ مَنْ يَدْخُلُ السُّوقَ، وَلا آخِرَ مَنْ يَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا، فَفِيهَا بَاضَ الشَّيْطَانُ وفَرَّخَ"

    Salman reported the Prophet: “Do not be the first to enter into the market, nor be the last to leave it, for, Satan laid his eggs there, and it is there that the eggs were hatched” (Qurtubi).
    The above hadith could better be translated perhaps as: “..For, Satan lays his eggs there, and it is there that his eggs are hatched” (Au.).
    The strength of the above hadith could not be established (Au.).
    However, there is a hadith in Muslim and others close to the above:

    عَنْ سَلْمَانَ قَالَ لاَ تَكُونَنَّ إِنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ أَوَّلَ مَنْ يَدْخُلُ السُّوقَ وَلاَ آخِرَ مَنْ يَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا فَإِنَّهَا مَعْرَكَةُ الشَّيْطَانِ وَبِهَا يَنْصِبُ رَايَتَهُ

    “Do not be, if you can do it, the first to enter the market nor the last to leave it, for it is Satan’s battle and it is there that he pitches his flag.”
    See also Al-Baqarah, note 5 of this work for further details.
    76. If it is asked, why have Satans remained enemies to mankind after that original incident that took place so long back in time? One answer would be: take the example of Jews whose hatred of Muslims is proverbial. They may point out the defeats they suffered at Muslim hands early in the history of Islam as the cause. But, why has the enmity lasted so long? Further, for centuries when the Christian world persecuted them, they found good hosts in Muslims in Syria, Spain, Turkey, Yemen, Iraq, and North Africa. In fact, the golden period of their entire history, since the time of Moses is counted as those under Muslim rule in Spain and then later in Turkey. Thus if we can account for their unremitting one thousand five hundred year old hatred, we can account for Satan’s hatred of mankind (Au.).

    مَا أَشْهَدْتُهُمْ خَلْقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَا خَلْقَ أَنْفُسِهِمْ وَمَا كُنْتُ مُتَّخِذَ الْمُضِلِّينَ عَضُدًا (51)

    18|51| I did not call them to witness the creation of the heavens and the earth nor their own creation. It was not for Me to take the misguiding ones as assistants.

    وَيَوْمَ يَقُولُ نَادُوا شُرَكَائِيَ الَّذِينَ زَعَمْتُمْ فَدَعَوْهُمْ فَلَمْ يَسْتَجِيبُوا لَهُمْ وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمْ مَوْبِقًا (52)

    18|52| The day He will say, ‘Call on those you alleged as My partners.’ They will call on them, but they will not respond to them, for We would have placed a (valley of) destruction between them.77

    77. “Mawbiqa” has been variously interpreted as gulf, perdition, a valley, etc., but of course pointing to the same reality. Asad adds: “.. an allusion to the wide gulf of unreality that separates those sinners from the blasphemous figments of their imagination or, more probably, the gulf that separates them from the saintly persons whom they were wont to worship despite the fact that the latter had never made any claim to divine status.”

    وَرَأَى الْمُجْرِمُونَ النَّارَ فَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُمْ مُوَاقِعُوهَا وَلَمْ يَجِدُوا عَنْهَا مَصْرِفًا (53)

    18|53| The criminals will see the Fire and will be fearful that they are about to fall into it.78 They will find no escape from it.

    78. A hadith in Ahmed says the unbelievers will see Hell-fire on the Day of Judgment from a distance of forty years (Ibn Kathir and others). Hakim has declared the report Sahih (Alusi).

    وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لِلنَّاسِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ ۚ وَكَانَ الْإِنْسَانُ أَكْثَرَ شَيْءٍ جَدَلًا (54)

    18|54| In this Qur’an We have propounded for the people every kind of similitude, but man is ever contentious in most things.79

    79. “Man is ever contentious in most things,” Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir illustrate this rhetorical remark with an incident involving `Ali b. abi Talib and recorded in Muslim. He himself reports that once the Prophet came to visit him and Fatimah at night. When let in he asked, “Will you two not Pray in this night (i.e., tahajjud)?” `Ali replied, “Messenger of Allah. Our souls are in Allah’s power. If He wills, He will wake us up.” Obviously, the Prophet was taken aback by the answer. He retreated without a word. `Ali says, “I heard him slap his thigh as he walked back, saying, ‘Man is ever contentious in most things.’”

    وَمَا مَنَعَ النَّاسَ أَنْ يُؤْمِنُوا إِذْ جَاءَهُمُ الْهُدَىٰ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّهُمْ إِلَّا أَنْ تَأْتِيَهُمْ سُنَّةُ الْأَوَّلِينَ أَوْ يَأْتِيَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ قُبُلًا (55)

    18|55| And nothing prevented the people from believing when guidance reached them, and seek their Lord’s forgiveness, except that the way of the predecessors overtook them80 or that the punishment should be brought to them face to face.

    80. That is, they followed the arrogant and intransigent ways of the past nations in rejecting Allah’s Message.

    وَمَا نُرْسِلُ الْمُرْسَلِينَ إِلَّا مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنْذِرِينَ ۚ وَيُجَادِلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِالْبَاطِلِ لِيُدْحِضُوا بِهِ الْحَقَّ ۖ وَاتَّخَذُوا آيَاتِي وَمَا أُنْذِرُوا هُزُوًا (56)

    18|56| We send not the Messengers except as giving glad tidings and delivering warnings. But those who disbelieve contend with the help of falsehood so as to defeat the truth thereby. They took My signs and what they were warned about as jest.

    وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنْ ذُكِّرَ بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِ فَأَعْرَضَ عَنْهَا وَنَسِيَ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ ۚ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ أَكِنَّةً أَنْ يَفْقَهُوهُ وَفِي آذَانِهِمْ وَقْرًا ۖ وَإِنْ تَدْعُهُمْ إِلَى الْهُدَىٰ فَلَنْ يَهْتَدُوا إِذًا أَبَدًا (57)

    18|57| And who can do greater wrong than he who is reminded of the revelations of his Lord but he turns away from them, and forgets what his hands have forwarded? Indeed, We have placed coverings over their hearts lest they should understand it, and in their ears, deafness. So that if you call them to guidance they will never attain to guidance.

    وَرَبُّكَ الْغَفُورُ ذُو الرَّحْمَةِ ۖ لَوْ يُؤَاخِذُهُمْ بِمَا كَسَبُوا لَعَجَّلَ لَهُمُ الْعَذَابَ ۚ بَلْ لَهُمْ مَوْعِدٌ لَنْ يَجِدُوا مِنْ دُونِهِ مَوْئِلًا (58)

    18|58| Yet your Lord is the All-Forgiving, Lord of Mercy. If He were to call them to account for their doings, surely, He would hasten the punishment on them. But rather, they have an appointed time, and they will not find beyond that a refuge

    وَتِلْكَ الْقُرَىٰ أَهْلَكْنَاهُمْ لَمَّا ظَلَمُوا وَجَعَلْنَا لِمَهْلِكِهِمْ مَوْعِدًا (59)

    18|59| Those towns, We destroyed them when they transgressed, and We had appointed an hour for their destruction.81

    81. The second half of the verse could alternatively mean, “And, for the destruction of these, [i.e., the newest rejecters], is an appointed hour” (Au.). Asad comments: “The “time-limit” [maw`id] signifies, in this context, the end of the sinners’ life on earth or - as in the next verse - the “point of no return” beyond which God does not allow them to sin with impunity.”

    وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِفَتَاهُ لَا أَبْرَحُ حَتَّىٰ أَبْلُغَ مَجْمَعَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ أَوْ أَمْضِيَ حُقُبًا (60)

    18|60| And when Musa said to his (attendant) lad,82 ‘I will not cease until I reach the junction of the two seas,83 or I shall keep going for ages.’84

    82. Musa was asked to seek a Servant of Allah who would instruct him in such knowledge as he did not possess. “This episode .. is meant to illustrate four points. (1) Moses was learned in (wisdom) .. Even so that wisdom did not comprehend everything, even as the whole stock of the knowledge of the present day, in the sciences and the arts, and in literature, (if it could be supposed to be gathered in one individual), does not include all knowledge. Divine knowledge .. is unlimited. Even after Moses received his divine mission, his knowledge was not so perfect that it could not receive further additions. (2) Constant effort is necessary to keep our knowledge square with the march of time, and such effort Moses is shown to be making. (3) The mysterious man he meets .. to whom Tradition assigns the name of Khidr .. has the type of that knowledge which is ever in contact with life as it is actually lived. (4) There are paradoxes in life; apparent loss may be real gain; apparent cruelty may be real mercy; returning good for evil may really be justice and not charity.. Allah’s wisdom transcends all human calculation (Yusuf Ali).
    83. There is no consensus in opinion over the place. Majid writes, “The most probable geographical location .. is where the two arms of the Red Sea join together, viz., the Gulf of Aqabah and the Gulf of Suez. They enclose the Sinai Peninsula, in which Moses and the Israelites spent many years in their wanderings (AYA).”

    فَلَمَّا بَلَغَا مَجْمَعَ بَيْنِهِمَا نَسِيَا حُوتَهُمَا فَاتَّخَذَ سَبِيلَهُ فِي الْبَحْرِ سَرَبًا (61)

    18|61| But when they reached the junction between them, they forgot their fish85 which took its way into the river, burrowing.86

    84. Although there are varied opinions about the period that “huqbah” (pl. huqub, ahqab) covers, from one to eighty years, Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah and Ibn Zayd have said that it is used for a very long period, or maybe something running into eternity (Tabari, Ibn Kathir).
    85. The construction of the earlier part of the verse is a beautiful way of putting together two sentences in one. It implies that Musa forgot to ask his companion about the fish and his companion forgot to mention its mysterious disappearance (Au.).
    86. Ibn ‘Abbas explained the term “saraba” as meaning the fish left a trace of itself as it went into the water (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    فَلَمَّا جَاوَزَا قَالَ لِفَتَاهُ آتِنَا غَدَاءَنَا لَقَدْ لَقِينَا مِنْ سَفَرِنَا هَٰذَا نَصَبًا (62)

    18|62| When the two had passed over, he said to his lad, ‘Bring out our morning-meal. We have indeed encountered hardship from this our journey.’

    قَالَ أَرَأَيْتَ إِذْ أَوَيْنَا إِلَى الصَّخْرَةِ فَإِنِّي نَسِيتُ الْحُوتَ وَمَا أَنْسَانِيهُ إِلَّا الشَّيْطَانُ أَنْ أَذْكُرَهُ ۚ وَاتَّخَذَ سَبِيلَهُ فِي الْبَحْرِ عَجَبًا (63)

    18|63| He replied, ‘Did you see?! When we took shelter at the rock, I forgot about the fish, and none but Shaytan made me forget that I should mention it. It took its way into the sea in an amazing manner.87

    87. Someone may ask, how could Yusha` forget such an important incident, that of fish coming alive and jumping into the river? Zamakhshari answers: We should not forget he was in the company of a great Prophet. How many strange occurrences he might not have been noticing in his company, all the while?

    قَالَ ذَٰلِكَ مَا كُنَّا نَبْغِ ۚ فَارْتَدَّا عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمَا قَصَصًا (64)

    18|64| He said, ‘That was what we were seeking after.’ So they returned, tracing back their footsteps.88

    88. In all that preceded, it seems the hidden message is that knowledge requires some struggle to acquire. Allah could as well have arranged for Khadir to see Musa at the place he was. But rather, he was asked to travel to the junction of the two waters, at a precise point where his fish would disappear. But, after he reached the place, both he and his companion forgot about it. So, they moved on in their quest, until Musa felt truly fatigued. Yet, when they discovered the fish missing, they had to travel back, another cause of fatigue and the lesson that knowledge has its price (Mufti Shafi`, slightly modified).

    فَوَجَدَا عَبْدًا مِنْ عِبَادِنَا آتَيْنَاهُ رَحْمَةً مِنْ عِنْدِنَا وَعَلَّمْنَاهُ مِنْ لَدُنَّا عِلْمًا (65)

    18|65| They found a slave from among Our slaves89 on whom we had bestowed mercy from Us, and had taught him knowledge proceeding from Us.90

    89. That was Al-Khadir, (or, as some would say Khidr) meaning , “the Green One,” (implying, [according to popular legend] that his wisdom was ever-fresh: Asad). He was lying asleep, under a cloak covering himself from head to foot. He was given some knowledge of the hidden, unknown, and the unseen (Tabari, Zamakhshari).
    According to a hadith in Bukhari narrated by Abu Hurayrah, Khadir was so named because once he sat down on a dry grassy belt and it became green by his touch (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    90. Alusi speaks on the new term introduced here in the Qur’an: “`ilm al-ladunni.” He points out that in truth there is no mystery about it. Al-Khadir was given a special knowledge through “wahyu ilham” (“revelation through inspiration,” or “revelation through the blow”) which can be experienced both by Prophets as well as non-prophets. In this kind of revelation, an angel does not appear to the eyes. He does not speak out words, remains concealed, but inspires the recipient with whatever Allah wishes to send across of knowledge. Our Prophet also occasionally experienced this kind of revelation. For example, he said, “The Ruh al-Quds (Jibril) blew into my heart that no soul will die without having obtained its share of provision. Therefore, fear Allah and employ fair means to obtain (it).” This too is “`ilm al-ladunni.” It is also known by the term “`ilm al-batin” (the hidden or esoteric knowledge) by which term it is merely meant to contrast it with “`ilm-azzahir” - the apparent or exoteric knowledge – which is so called because it is obtained by open means (such as study of books). In sharp contrast, “`ilm al-batin” requires practice of what one knows, which opens doors to gates of knowledge hitherto closed. Sheikh ‘Abdul Wahhab Sha`rani has written in his “Al-Durar al-Manthurah” the following: The special knowledge that the Sufis possess, is obtained by no other means than by putting into practice what one learns of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Since Sufis do this diligently and spiritedly, they are able to obtain an in-depth knowledge, of which they speak out, saying things that another cannot say. For, the closer one gets to Allah, the more difficult the transmission of knowledge that one has of this nature, and all the more difficult for those to understand who do not have similar footing in the field.”
    Also see Surah Al-Ma’idah, note187 for related discussions.

    قَالَ لَهُ مُوسَىٰ هَلْ أَتَّبِعُكَ عَلَىٰ أَنْ تُعَلِّمَنِ مِمَّا عُلِّمْتَ رُشْدًا (66)

    18|66| Musa asked him, ‘May I follow you on condition that you teach me of what higher knowledge you have been taught?’91

    91. If it is admitted that Khadir was a Waliyy, then, does it imply that a Waliyy can be more knowledgeable than a Nabiyy, as some Sufis claim? The answer is, says Alusi, such an implication is incorrect. For Khadir might have had greater knowledge than Musa in a certain department, but Musa’s knowledge exceeded Khadir’s in every other department. Also, Alusi warns, do not read too much in Musa’s exemplary humble attitude towards Kkadir. (That is how students must behave towards their masters: Razi).

    قَالَ إِنَّكَ لَنْ تَسْتَطِيعَ مَعِيَ صَبْرًا (67)

    18|67| He answered, ‘Assuredly, you will never be able to have patience with me.

    وَكَيْفَ تَصْبِرُ عَلَىٰ مَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ خُبْرًا (68)

    18|68| How can you show patience over what you do not encompass in knowledge?’

    قَالَ سَتَجِدُنِي إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ صَابِرًا وَلَا أَعْصِي لَكَ أَمْرًا (69)

    18|69| He said, ‘You will find me, Allah willing, patient; and I shall not disobey you in any command.’

    قَالَ فَإِنِ اتَّبَعْتَنِي فَلَا تَسْأَلْنِي عَنْ شَيْءٍ حَتَّىٰ أُحْدِثَ لَكَ مِنْهُ ذِكْرًا (70)

    18|70| Said he, ‘If you follow me, then do not ask me about anything until I myself speak to you about it.’

    فَانْطَلَقَا حَتَّىٰ إِذَا رَكِبَا فِي السَّفِينَةِ خَرَقَهَا ۖ قَالَ أَخَرَقْتَهَا لِتُغْرِقَ أَهْلَهَا لَقَدْ جِئْتَ شَيْئًا إِمْرًا (71)

    18|71| So the two set out until when they climbed into a boat, he made a hole in it. He said, ‘Did you make a hole in it so as to drown its people? Surely, you have come up with something very strange.’

    قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُلْ إِنَّكَ لَنْ تَسْتَطِيعَ مَعِيَ صَبْرًا (72)

    18|72| He replied, ‘Did I not say that you can never have patience with me?’

    قَالَ لَا تُؤَاخِذْنِي بِمَا نَسِيتُ وَلَا تُرْهِقْنِي مِنْ أَمْرِي عُسْرًا (73)

    18|73| He answered, ‘Do not take me to task for what I forgot and do not make my affair difficult.’

    فَانْطَلَقَا حَتَّىٰ إِذَا لَقِيَا غُلَامًا فَقَتَلَهُ قَالَ أَقَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا زَكِيَّةً بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ لَقَدْ جِئْتَ شَيْئًا نُكْرًا (74)

    18|74| So the two set out until when they met a boy, he slew him. He said, ‘Have you murdered an innocent soul without (retaliation) for another? Surely, you have come up with a deplorable act.’92

    92. The word Musa used at this point is “nukra” which is stronger in disapproval than the word he used earlier, “imra” (Alusi and others). Further, points out Shafi`, Musa’s objection was entirely in order because it is not allowed for someone who knows the Shari`ah laws to remain silent when he sees them violated.
    Another point of note: With this as precedence, some ignorant Sufis claim that just as a Khadir’s act of murder of an innocent soul was lawful unto him, the Awliya’ reach a stage in spiritual development when the Shari`ah is no more binding on them. They need not, e.g., do the five daily prayers. Their Tariqah requirements supersede the Shari`ah requirements. Not only they are wrong in this but also in asserting that Shari`ah and Tariqah are two different realities. They are not. Even if there is some difference, Tariqah always remains subjected to Shari`ah whose laws are entirely inviolable (Alusi, Ma`arif).

    قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُلْ لَكَ إِنَّكَ لَنْ تَسْتَطِيعَ مَعِيَ صَبْرًا (75)

    18|75| He replied, ‘Did I not tell you that you can never have patience with me?’93

    93. Notice that Khadir used the same sentence as he did earlier, but this time he added “laka” (you) to impress on Musa a slightly stronger exasperation on his part (Zamakhshari).

    قَالَ إِنْ سَأَلْتُكَ عَنْ شَيْءٍ بَعْدَهَا فَلَا تُصَاحِبْنِي ۖ قَدْ بَلَغْتَ مِنْ لَدُنِّي عُذْرًا (76)

    18|76| He answered, ‘If I ever ask you about anything after this, keep me not in your company anymore. You have indeed obtained an excuse from me.’

    فَانْطَلَقَا حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَتَيَا أَهْلَ قَرْيَةٍ اسْتَطْعَمَا أَهْلَهَا فَأَبَوْا أَنْ يُضَيِّفُوهُمَا فَوَجَدَا فِيهَا جِدَارًا يُرِيدُ أَنْ يَنْقَضَّ فَأَقَامَهُ ۖ قَالَ لَوْ شِئْتَ لَاتَّخَذْتَ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا (77)

    18|77| So the two set out until when they came to the inhabitants of a town, they asked the town’s people for food. But they refused that they should host the two.94 The two found a wall there about to collapse. He set it up aright.95 He suggested, ‘Had you wished, you could have taken some wages for it.’

    94. According to moral notions prevalent at a time when there were no eating shops, the town’s people were obliged to host these strangers. Far from that, they refused to provide food even when asked. Hence Musa’s indignation: you could have at least taken wages from these uncouth men, even if we did not need the money! (Au.)
    95. According to a report in Bukhari, Khadir merely touched the wall and it became upright. (If this is correct then) in this is the proof of the possibility of miracles at the hands of the Awliya’ (Thanwi).
    Yusuf Ali remarks: “As they were refused hospitality, they should, as self-respecting men, have shaken the dust of the town off their feet, or shown their indignation in some way. Instead of that, Khidhr actually goes and does a benevolent act. He rebuilds for them a falling wall.”
    Musa (asws) and Khadir:
    A hadith (in Bukhari: Ibn Kathir) gives us the whole story of Musa and Khadir. Ubayy bin Ka`b and others narrate (in several ahadith combined herewith): “Once Musa stood up to deliver a sermon among the Israelites. His speech brought tears into their eyes. Someone asked, ‘Who is the most learned of men?’ He replied, ‘I.’ Allah admonished Musa for failing to attribute (absolute) knowledge to Him. So He revealed to him, ‘I have a slave at the junction of the two seas who is more knowledgeable than you.’ He asked, ‘How am I to find him?’ He was told, ‘Take a fish with you, and put it in a (large) basket. Wherever you lose the fish, that is the place you will find him.’ So Musa took a fish, put it in a (large) basket and set out along with his attendant lad, Yusha` b. Nun (perhaps Joshua of the Bible), until when they reached the rock, they laid their heads on it and slept. Meanwhile, the fished wriggled out of the basket and betook its way into the river, burrowing (its way through). Allah held the water around the fish’s passage as if it was a tunnel. [Or perhaps the river water had freezed into ice due to cold weather: Zamakhshari]. (According to another report, also in Bukhari, there was a spring at the rock, called “The Spring of Life.” Its water touched nothing but gave it life. A few drops fell on the fish and it became alive). When they woke up, Musa’s companion forgot to tell him about the fish’ disappearance. They moved on journeying through the day and the following night, until when it was the next day, Musa said to his attendant, “‘Bring out our lunch. We have indeed encountered hardship from this our journey.’ “In fact, Musa did not feel fatigued until he had passed over the place which he was told to look out for. His attendant told him, ‘Did you see?! When we took shelter at the rock, I forgot about the fish, and none but Shaytan made me forget that I should mention it. It took its way into the sea in an amazing manner.’ [Note that Allah used the word sarab (a burrow) for the trace the fish left, but for Musa and his companion ‘ajab (an amazing thing)].’ Moreover, this part implies that Musa’s lad was awake when the fish jumped out.
    Musa said, ‘That is the place we were seeking after.’ So they returned tracing their footsteps.’
    They traveled back until they reached the rock. They encountered a man there, lying on the rock, covered with a cloak. Musa greeted him. Khadir asked in reply, ‘Is there such a greeting in our land?’ Musa said, ‘I am Musa.’ He inquired, ‘Musa of the Israelites?’ Musa answered in the affirmative and added, ‘I have come to you so that you may teach me what you have been taught of the higher knowledge.’ Khadir replied, “Assuredly, you will never be able to have patience with me. O Musa! I have some knowledge from Allah which He has taught me and which you do not have, while you have some knowledge which Allah has taught you but which I do not have.’ Musa said, ‘You will find me, Allah willing, patient; and I shall not disobey you in anything.’ Khadir said, ‘If you follow me, then do not ask me about anything until I myself speak to you about it.’ So both of them set out walking along the seashore. A boat passed by and they requested the boat crew to take them on board. The crew knew Khadir and let them climb in without charge. Khadir wasted no time but began to work on one of the planks from the bow side and tore it out. (Alusi adds from the scholars: ‘Eyes don’t see Khadir’). Musa objected, ‘Look! These people gave us a free ride but you broke their boat to drown its people? Surely, you have come up with something very strange. He replied, ‘Did I not say that you can never have patience with me?’ He answered, ‘Do not take me to task for what I forgot and do not make my affair difficult.’
    So, Musa’s first (interruption) was because of forgetfulness, second conditional, and third intentional. (Another opinion is that the first was from forgetfulness, second intentional and third for parting ways: Alusi). Then a sparrow came and perched on the edge of the boat. It dipped its beak once or twice in the sea. Khadir said: `Musa! My knowledge and your knowledge have not decreased Allah’s knowledge except as much as this sparrow has decreased the water of the sea with its beak.’ (Some reports say that the bird incident took place while the two were still at the river where they had met first).
    In any case, they left the boat. And as they were walking by the shore, Khadir spotted a boy playing with a few other kids. (Ghulam of the text is used for a teenager also). He took hold of the boy’s head and severed it off (its neck). [According to other reports, laid him down and slit his throat]. Musa protested, ‘Have you murdered an innocent soul without (retaliation) for another? Surely, you have come up with a deplorable act.’ He replied, ‘Haven’t I told you that you will never have patience with me?’ Musa said (to himself), ‘This was a stronger (reproach) than the earlier one, and added, ‘If I ever ask you about anything after this, keep me not in your company anymore. You have indeed obtained an excuse from me.’ Then they set forth until when they came to the inhabitants of a town, they asked them for food. But they refused that they should host the two. The two found there a wall about to collapse. That is, it was leaning on one side. Khadir set it up aright. Musa spoke up, ‘a people we went to, but they did not feed us nor hosted us. Had you wished, you could have taken some wages for it. He answered, ‘This is the parting between me and you. Now I will tell you the truth of that you could not bear patiently.
    “The Prophet then added, ‘We wish Musa had shown patience so that we had learnt more from the two” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir and others).
    With his usual thoroughness Alusi deals with the question of Khadir over a number of pages. Was he a Messenger, a Prophet, or a Waliyy? Quite a few scholars have believed that he was a Prophet but not a Messenger. As for whether he is still alive, some are of opinion that he is not, although he seems to have been alive at the time of the Companions. Imam Bukhari was asked about him and Ilyas, whether they were alive. He replied, “How can they be alive when the Prophet said a little before his own death, ‘Of those present now, none will remain alive after a century?’” Muslim’s version is, “There is not a breathing soul that will have a hundred years pass over it while it is alive.” Ibn Taymiyyah and a few others were also of the same opinion. Another contention of these scholars is that the affair is of such important nature that if he was to remain alive until the end of the world, surely, the Qur’an and Sunnah would not have failed to mention it. With reference to a few ahadith about Khadir’s life, Ibn Qayyim has stated that none of them is trustworthy.
    Nonetheless, majority of scholars believe he is alive and is between us, although normally invisible. This is also the opinion of the Sufiya who say that he will remain alive until the end of all life on earth. Among those who said that the majority of scholars believe that he is alive, one is Nawawi. Ibn Salah (the famous author of Principles of Hadith Criticism) also stated that according to most scholars he is alive. Those who believe in his life reply to the hadith of the “hundred years” that it speaks of those on the land while Khadir could have been on water; though Alusi does not accept this argument as very strong. As for Ibn Taymiyyah’s argument that if he was alive he would have gone to the Prophet to embrace Islam, (since he said that even if Musa was alive he would have followed his Shari`ah), it has been replied that if we do not know that he did not go, we cannot conclude that in fact he did not go. In conclusion Alusi quotes a passage from Sheikh al-Akbar, (Muhiyyuddin Ibn al-`Arabiyy) from his “Futuhat al-Makkiyyah.” The Sufi and philosophical technicalities of the passage defy its successful rendition into English. Its sum and substance is that there are several realms of knowledge, Spirit, and existence. In the world of human existence (which itself has several layers of realms), the Messengers occupy the highest position. They are the Aqtab (sing. Qutb, poles), the Imams, and the Pegs of this religion, and in turn by whose virtue the world of the humans remains in existence. One of these Messengers has to always remain on earth, (in one realm or the other) throughout, until the end of the world. He is body and soul. At the moment it is our Prophet. Apart from him, three other great spiritual figures: Ilyas, ‘Isa and Khadir, have been kept alive, although in a different world within our own. (In fact, the entire world in existence is so small that, within it, the beginning and eternity are merely a point away from each other). These four command different functions and hold different statuses. Our Prophet holds the highest status ever, in any existence, any realm. By these four and through them Allah keeps alive and in existence the four pillars of the religion of Islam: Risalah, Nubuwwah, Wilayah and Iman (faith). In making these statements, Ibn al-`Arabiyy speaks from a knowledge special to him, which, as he claims, even most Sufis are denied. Not only that, he would not ever speak of it, if he did not have the signal from on High. Therefore, Ibn al-`Arabiyy says, the reader may thank Allah for having allowed him to look into a secret otherwise closely held, “accept it, and do not reject it, for if you did that, you will lose the benefit.” (He does not say what the nature of benefit is that we stand to lose! Or at least Alusi does not quote or explain).
    Nevertheless, although Alusi himself believes in the life of Khadir, as also he gives credence to what he quotes of the Sheikh al-Akbar, he allows room for the skeptics by saying that the reader is free to accept or reject the above statements, since, after all, he will be questioned for his own honest judgment and not about what others had to state of their personal experiences. Hasn’t `Ali said, “Look at what is said, and not at who said”? But, a fair manner is not to deny altogether since one will be then denying something that neither he experiences, nor would allow others the ability to experience.
    We may also point out that Ibn al-`Arabiyy’s claims are based on his kashf. But kash enjoys no authority in the religion of Islam (Au.).
    The above said, Alusi also warns that most claims of people, especially the pseudo Sufis, to the effect that they have seen or met Khadir, are incredulous. They claim, “Khadir told me this..,” “Khadir came to me..,” “Khadir admonished me in words..” and so on. They forget that Khadir was quick to part ways with Musa. Will he part Kaleemullah’s company, and prefer the company of these ignorant misguided guys whose company no one covets but the Devil?!
    Khadir and Orientalists
    Mawdudi has a few words for this honest tribe: “The Orientalists, true to their ilk, have attempted to explore the possible sources of this Qur’anic story as well. After strenuous efforts, they identify three possible sources from which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) may have composed the story and ascribed it to God’s revelation. These sources are Gilgamesh epic, the Alexandrian romance in Syriac, and the Talmudic report..
    “It is obvious that Orientalists share a common attitude: that one may be open to all assumptions except that the Qur’an is a revelation from God. That being definitely excluded, these scholars embark on this grand mission to dissect whatever was presented in the Qur’an (which, in their view, was definitely the work of Muhammad [peace be on him] rather than God) and to show how each fragment had some external source. They pursue this line of inquiry so brazenly and go to such absurd lengths that one feels instinctively repelled. Ironically, they term their bigoted pursuit scholarly research. If such biased inquiry can be called knowledge or research, one might as well do without it.
    “The true nature of their bigoted research would become fully evident if they were asked to answer the following four questions:
    “Firstly, granted that there are similarities in the contents of the Qur’an and the contents of several ancient texts, one might, nevertheless, ask: Is there any positive evidence to suggest that this similarity of content is the result of the Qur’anic account having been taken from other sources?
    “Secondly, the sources mentioned as the material for the Qur’anic stories are quite numerous. Were all such sources to be added up, they would be so numerous to make a full-fledged catalogue of a fairly good library. Did any such library exist in Makka at the time of the Prophet (peace be on him)? And even if there had been an abundance of sources from which he might have drawn his material, is there any evidence to indicate that there existed a large team of translators available to the Prophet (peace be on him) whereby this wealth of information might have been brought to his knowledge? Now, since that is quite certainly not the case, the allegations of borrowing simply rest on the two or three trade journeys which the Prophet (peace be on him) took to lands outside Arabia; journeys which were made a few years before his designation as a Prophet. In this respect, it is pertinent to ask: Did the Prophet memorize whole libraries during those journeys? Additionally, how does one explain that before being designated a Prophet, Muhammad (peace be on him) never displayed any such knowledge?
    “Thirdly, the Makkan unbelievers as well as the Jews and Christians were always on the look-out to identify possible sources of the Prophet’s statements. Yet the Prophet’s contemporaries were unable to point to any definite source for the Prophet’s alleged plagiarism. The Qur’an frequently challenges them by emphatically stating that the Qur’an is from God alone, that its only source is revelation from God. The Qur’an repeatedly asks its detractors to come forth with whatever proof they have to show that the Qur’an is the product of the human mind. This challenge struck at the very root of their contention, and yet they failed to point to any plausible human source for the Qur’an. Not only were they totally unable to point, in a persuasive manner, to any specific source from which the Qur’an might have been derived, they could not produce as much as a shred of evidence that would create any reasonable doubt about the matter. It is ironic that while the Prophet’s contemporaries failed to point to any plausible source of the Qur’an, some pseudo-scholars of our times, animated by inveterate hostility to Islam, have the temerity to claim – a thousand and several hundred years after the Prophet’s time – the so-called sources from which the contents of the Qur’an were derived!
    “The last point to consider is the following. It is not possible for anybody to deny that there exists at least the logical possibility that the Qur’an might be the revealed word of God. It is logically possible that the information the Qur’an provides about past events might indeed be true whereas those reports commonly available to us about the past might be the distorted versions of oral reports of events over centuries, and hence unreliable. It should be noted that this possibility was arbitrarily ruled out without any valid reason whatsoever.”
    Mawdudi’s comments end here. It might also be pointed out that if we assume that the Prophet had taken the story from the sources alluded to, then the question that arises is, why did the Jews or Makkan pagans had to ask him about Dhu al-Qarnayn and others? They would have better known the stories than the Prophet. But the problem with the Orientalists is that their research ends at the point truth begins to dawn (Au.).
    Up to here in Dec. 2010

    قَالَ هَٰذَا فِرَاقُ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنِكَ ۚ سَأُنَبِّئُكَ بِتَأْوِيلِ مَا لَمْ تَسْتَطِعْ عَلَيْهِ صَبْرًا (78)

    18|78| He answered, ‘This is the parting between me and you. Now I will tell you the truth of that you could not bear patiently.

    أَمَّا السَّفِينَةُ فَكَانَتْ لِمَسَاكِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ فِي الْبَحْرِ فَأَرَدْتُ أَنْ أَعِيبَهَا وَكَانَ وَرَاءَهُمْ مَلِكٌ يَأْخُذُ كُلَّ سَفِينَةٍ غَصْبًا (79)

    18|79| As for the boat, it belonged to a poor humble people96 who worked at sea. I wished to damage it. Behind them97 was a king seizing away every boat by brute force.98

    96. Imam Shafe`i has used this verse to arrive at the conclusion that a faqir is worse off than a miskin, since although the people of this instance owned a boat, Allah referred to them as masakin (Razi).
    97. The word “amam” has the connotation both of behind as well as in front (Ibn Jarir).
    98. That is, the king was confiscating every well-maintained boat but ignored this one because it was broken.

    وَأَمَّا الْغُلَامُ فَكَانَ أَبَوَاهُ مُؤْمِنَيْنِ فَخَشِينَا أَنْ يُرْهِقَهُمَا طُغْيَانًا وَكُفْرًا (80)

    18|80| As for the boy, his parents were believers. We feared that he would overburden them with rebellion and disbelief.99

    99. An alternative rendering can be, “impose upon them rebellion and disbelief.”
    Ahmed has a report that Najdah Hirawi (a Haruri [Khariji sect: Au.]: Alusi) wrote ibn ‘Abbas a letter asking him if he could kill some boys (captured after a battle). He wrote back, “If you are a Khadir, capable of differentiating between a believer and an unbeliever, then you might.” According to another version in Ibn abi Shaybah, the reply also said, “.. but you are not. Indeed, the Prophet has forbidden their killing, therefore, free them.” And, according to a report in Muslim, Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi, the Prophet said, “The boy that Khadir killed was created, the day he was created, an unbeliever. Had he reached his age of puberty, he would have only confronted his parents with rebellion and unbelief” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani and others, under verse 74).

    فَأَرَدْنَا أَنْ يُبْدِلَهُمَا رَبُّهُمَا خَيْرًا مِنْهُ زَكَاةً وَأَقْرَبَ رُحْمًا (81)

    18|81| So we desired that their Lord give them in exchange (someone) better than he in purity and closer in tenderness.100

    100. While Sa`id b. Jubayr and a few of the Followers thought Allah replaced the boy with a girl by next delivery, Qatadah and Ibn Jurayj believed it was a boy again (Ibn Jarir).

    وَأَمَّا الْجِدَارُ فَكَانَ لِغُلَامَيْنِ يَتِيمَيْنِ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ وَكَانَ تَحْتَهُ كَنْزٌ لَهُمَا وَكَانَ أَبُوهُمَا صَالِحًا فَأَرَادَ رَبُّكَ أَنْ يَبْلُغَا أَشُدَّهُمَا وَيَسْتَخْرِجَا كَنْزَهُمَا رَحْمَةً مِنْ رَبِّكَ ۚ وَمَا فَعَلْتُهُ عَنْ أَمْرِي ۚ ذَٰلِكَ تَأْوِيلُ مَا لَمْ تَسْطِعْ عَلَيْهِ صَبْرًا (82)

    18|82| As for the wall, well, it belonged to two orphan boys of the town. Beneath it was a treasure belonging to them.101 Their father was a righteous man.102 Your Lord willed that they should come of age and extract their treasure: a mercy from your Lord. And I did not do it on my own. This is the truth of that which you could not bear in patience.’103

    101. Although some have reported that the treasure that Khadir spoke of was nothing more than a piece of writing containing a two-line advice, there are reports from ‘Ikrimah that it was some gold and silver” (Ibn Jarir). There is in fact, a report from the Prophet (saws) himself to this effect. It is in Bukhari’s Tarikh as well as in Tirmidhi, (who evaluated it as Hasan), Bazzar, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn abi Hatim, Tabarani and Hakim who said it is Sahih (Shawkani).
    In addition, there are several ahadith, (although none in the Sihah works, with a few not agreeing with the others: Au.), to the effect that the treasure was in the form of a golden plate over which some words of admonition were inscribed (Ibn Kathir).
    Nevertheless, Ibn Kathir expresses his doubts about the authenticity of these reports. Shawkani ignores them altogether (Au.).
    102. Ibn ‘Abbas has pointed out that Allah (swt) spoke of the righteousness of the father, but said nothing about the sons (Ibn Jarir); implying that piety-effects travel downward and not upward (Au.).
    103. Sufi Thanwi comments: The meaning the verse lends us is that knowledge of the ‘hidden causes’ and Divine wisdom behind the apparent events, revealed to some by means of kashf (mystic insight) are not of the kind that can be termed as the “core knowledge,” the “essence” or the “ultimate truth.” Had it been so, Musa (asws), although superior to Khadir, would not have been denied it in the first place.
    Pseudo Sufis exploit Khadir’s episode to lay claim to knowledge of the hidden, and, to escape from the obligations of the Shari`ah in the light of such knowledge. Sufi commentator Alusi takes up the issue for discussion. First he points out that the knowledge that Khadir drew on, obtained either through Wahiyy or Ilham (whatever the case), which allowed him, for example, to kill an innocent soul, was valid for him alone, not for others. In fact, not even for Musa, who was required to follow the Shari`ah laws (which would not allow for the killing of the boy: hence his protest). Therefore, whoever claimed knowledge by Ilham (Divine inspiration sans words) but which goes against the Shari`ah, spoke a lie. So that, if somebody claimed to receive knowledge by Ilham – rightly or wrongly – of a similar nature as Khadir, then killing of a boy, for example, will not be allowable to him. One of those who rejected the claim that knowledge by Ilham can nullify or supersede a Shari`ah law, was the Sufi Sha`rani. He said many people have gone astray and misled others over the issue, since no such thing is possible. Sheikh al-Akbar Mohiuddin ibn al-Arabiyy wrote in one of his works: “When we talk about Ilham as an angelic inspiration, we do not mean to say that it is brought to us by an angel. Not at all. In fact, inspiration and revelation, with the angels as the medium, is specifically the right of Prophets and Messengers. With the termination of Messengership, the possibility of inspiration through revelation has also terminated. Neither can anyone claim, nor has ever claimed, that knowledge comes to him directly from Allah. If anyone ever felt that, then the explanation is that it is a kind of Satanic fraud upon him. If at all there is some ‘opening of the heart, for a ‘special kind of knowledge’, it can never be of the kind of do’s or don’t do’s, the lawful and the unlawful. But rather, either of a hidden wisdom, or maybe a hint about what kind of event can be expected next.”
    Imam Rabbani, Mujaddid Alf-Thani, continues Alusi, has also clearly stated in his “Letters” that Ilham cannot cancel out a Shari`ah law. It is possible, he stated, that when someone is high in a “state” or “trance,” he may hear, or utter things of that sort. But, back to sobriety, he can never utter any such thing. The state of sobriety melts off all those wild thoughts. He also wrote that Shari`ah is the name of three elements: knowledge, deeds, and sincerity. Whoever fell short in any of these, fell short on Shari`ah. But if he observed them wholly, he earns Allah’s approval, which is better than anything in the heavens or earth, including what is claimed as the haqiqah behind the Shari`ah. Indeed, the tariqah and haqiqah that the Sufis speak of are in the service of Shari`ah by strengthening the third of its elements as stated above, viz., Ikhlas (sincerity). In short, the best and the easiest way of gaining closeness to Allah is to follow the Shari`ah as revealed to the Prophet. The Qur’an said (12: 108), “Say, ‘This is my way, I invite you on a knowledge - I and my followers.’” And (3: 31), “Say, ‘If you love Allah, follow me, Allah will love you.’” And (10: 32), “What is left after untruth but error?” The Imam also wrote elsewhere, “You should know that in the final analysis, the knowledge of the Sufis is the knowledge of the scholars, not something else in sum and substance. Yes, as they travel on the path, they experience some kind of esoteric knowledge, (not comprehended by others). But in no way does it contradict the Shari`ah. The difference in the kinds of knowledge that the ascetics gain, and that which the traditional scholars posses, is that the latter’s is of the deductive type, supported by evidences, worked out with the help of reason and logic. In contrast, that in which the Sufis specialize is obtained through kashf (vision of the realities). He also wrote, “You must know that Shari`ah and Haqiqah are in their reality one and the same things. If there is any difference between the two, it is in that of details, manner of deduction, and that one has the backing of vision while the other relies entirely on derivation, or at worse, one could be theoretical, while the other a practical experience. Further, if the knowledge through vision contradicts the knowledge through deduction, even by a grain, then, it is the sign of its rejection from on High.
    On the subject, we might note that Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani has said that the Awliya’ depend not on anything but the Qur’an and Sunnah. Junayd in fact has said that all the paths are closed, save that of the Sunan of the Prophet. Indeed, he said that he who did not memorize the Qur’an and does not write the Hadith, may not be followed at all. Sirri al-Saqti has said that whoever claimed hidden, secret knowledge, that clashes with the Shari`ah is in error. Abu al-`Abbas al-Daynuri said, “If you see someone in a state which the Shari`ah does not approve, you may criticize him.” Imam Ghazali wrote: “Whoever claimed that he is on a very special footing with his Lord, so that He has abrogated, say Prayers, or has allowed him to drink wine, or things of that sort, deserves to be killed. In fact, slaying him is better than slaying a hundred unbelievers, for the evil in him is greater.”
    Nor, Alusi continues, kashf, or miracles, and things of this nature that some of the Sufiya are able to perform, are signs of true greatness. It is said that once Hasan al-Busri was waiting for a boat when Habib al-‘Ajami happened to pass by. When he learnt that Hasan was waiting for a boat to take him to the other shore, he asked, “Don’t you have faith?” Hasan replied, “Don’t you have knowledge?” Habib in any case walked over the water to the other shore. Yet, Hasan was far superior to Habib by virtue of knowledge and wisdom. He had mastered both the knowledge of the truth (‘ilm al-yaqin), as well as the truth of truths (‘ayn al-yaqin). In contrast, Habib was merely spiritually drunk. So, when he placed his foot on water in trust and good faith, physical laws were held in abeyance for him. (But that did not raise his esteem in the sight of Allah). This in fact is the secret behind why few thaumaturgies are reported of the Companions. They were people of great knowledge and high degree of faith. Imam Rabbani has aptly said that “the high point of Uways al-Qarni’s faith was the low point of Wahshi’s faith.” (Wahshi was Hamza’s killer, but counted a Companion). How will you then compare those whose quality of faith is not of the level of Uways with those (of the Companions) whose quality of faith was not that of Wahshi?
    Away from the above discussion, the scholars have also pointed out that the following can be learnt from Musa-Khadir episode:
    • The desirability to travel for knowledge.
    • It is a virtue to seek it.
    • The desirability to show respect to a teacher.
    • Not to object or criticize the masters.
    • Attempt to reconcile the inexplicable of their acts.
    • Carrying one’s provision with him in a journey is not against trust in Allah.
    • Scholar needs to show patience to the student.
    • Forgetfulness is from Shaytan.
    • Lawfulness of wages for one’s works.
    • A miskin can own property.
    • It is allowable to conceal treasure.
    Quote from Alusi ends here, and Thanwi adds to the list his own that knowledge requires deeds and actions. Knowledge is not “the word” alone.

    وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنْ ذِي الْقَرْنَيْنِ ۖ قُلْ سَأَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْهُ ذِكْرًا (83)

    18|83| And they ask you concerning Dhu al-Qarnayn.104 Say, ‘I shall presently recite to you about him a report.’

    104. Ibn Jarir writes that there is no definite report about why Dhu al-Qarnayn (“the Two-Horned One”) was so named. Some people have said that he had two bumps on his head and so won the nickname. (Others have said that he wore a crown, out of which protruded two horns: Zamakhshari). Yet others have said that he let his long hair hang down in two plaits. Asad expresses the possibility that he could have belonged to two epochs since Qarn is also used for epoch. Majid comments and quotes: “Horn in the Bible is ‘a symbol of strength’, and ‘is frequently mentioned to signify power and glory’ (CD p. 457). In Hebrew usage ‘raising the horn of a people or an individual signifies victory or pride, ‘breaking it’ signifies ‘defeat.’ (ERE. VI, p.792). Even Moses, (peace be on him) was represented with horns. ‘It has become a widespread belief that Moses, when he came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of Law, had two horns on his forehead.’ (JE, VI, p. 463).”
    His identity is also covered in obscurity. Reports of Jewish or Christian origin say he was a conqueror who subdued Rome and Persia. (Hence perhaps “the controller of two horns”: Au.). Ibn Jarir reports a few other conjectures. Another report from Wahab b. Munabbih, also of Jewish and Christian origin, says he was a Roman. ‘Ali’s opinion was that he was not a Prophet, merely a righteous man.
    Shawkani says that a few have thought he was an Egyptian; others that he was one of the sons of Kahlan b. Saba’ (of the Yemen). Qurtubi records Suhayli that perhaps there were two of them involved, one at the time of ‘Isa b. Maryam and the other at the times of Ibrahim (asws). Razi is inclined to believe that the allusion is to the Macedonian Alexander. However, he thinks there is a hitch. Alexander was a student of Aristotle but a student who was far from being a righteous man. Ibn Kathir also believes there were two: one of the times of Ibrahim, and the other, the Macedonian Alexander. He thinks that the one Qur’an spoke of here, was of the times of Ibrahim. Ibn Kathir strongly refutes the idea that Alexander the Macedonian could have been Dhu al-Qarnayn. Alusi says that some scholars have identified him with Faridun b. Ithfiyan, one of the Persian emperors (Cyrus), while Abu Rayhan al-Bayruni thought that the allusion was to a Himyari (Yemeni) ruler of the past who had conquered vast areas of land. He quoted a few classical poetical pieces to prove his point. In short, he could not be identified.
    Muhammad Asad has a useful remark, “ is precisely the Qur’anic stress on his faith in God that makes it impossible to identify Dhu al-Qarnayn, .. with Alexander the Great (who is represented on some of his coins with two horns on his head) or one another of pre-Islamic, Himyarite kings of Yemen. All those historical personages were pagans and worshipped a plurality of deities as a matter of course, whereas our Dhu al-Qarnayn is depicted as a firm believer in the One God..”
    Commentary books then have as many suggestions about Dhu al-Qarnayn’s identity as there are commentators. Ibn Kathir has ruled them all as unworthy of serious consideration. Only a few of them say that according to Jewish and Christian sources the allusion is to Alexander the Macedonian. No one has ever reported it as a statement of the Prophet.

    إِنَّا مَكَّنَّا لَهُ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَآتَيْنَاهُ مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ سَبَبًا (84)

    18|84| Verily, We established him in the land and bestowed on him means to all things.105

    105. The textual “sabab” of the first occurrence here has been interpreted by Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah, Dahhak, Ibn Zayd and others as “knowledge” (of means) while the latter three occurrences have been interpreted as “target” or “way through the lands” (or “course”) - Ibn Jarir.
    The meaning adopted by us at this point (as “means”) is the understanding of later day commentators (Au.). Ibn Kathir thinks the allusion is to the usual means of power provided to kings viz., a large army, weapons, siege equipment, et al.

    فَأَتْبَعَ سَبَبًا (85)

    18|85| So he followed a course.

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغْرِبَ الشَّمْسِ وَجَدَهَا تَغْرُبُ فِي عَيْنٍ حَمِئَةٍ وَوَجَدَ عِنْدَهَا قَوْمًا ۗ قُلْنَا يَا ذَا الْقَرْنَيْنِ إِمَّا أَنْ تُعَذِّبَ وَإِمَّا أَنْ تَتَّخِذَ فِيهِمْ حُسْنًا (86)

    18|86| Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring.106 And he found a people there. We said, ‘O Dhu al-Qarnayn, either you punish them or adopt towards them a graceful (attitude).’107

    106. “Muddy (pool)” is the commonly accepted meaning. But a second opinion about “hami’ah” of the original, coming down from Ibn ‘Abbas and Hasan, is that it means “warm (waters).” Both could be right, one and at the same time (Ibn Jarir). As for what place it was, Ibn Jarir has no report. But Ibn Kathir points out that anyone who travelled to the edge of a land will find the sun setting in a pool of water. Ibn Kathir also points out that the hadith as in Ahmed and other books that when the sun sets it dips into waters, is an untrustworthy one (Au.).
    Asad adds: “..Razi and Ibn Kathir, both .. point out that we have here a metaphor based on the common optical illusion of the sun’s “disappearing into the sea;” and Razi explains this, correctly, by the fact that the earth is spherical. (It is interesting to note that, according to him, this explanation was already advanced in the – now lost – Qur’an commentary of Abu `Ali Jiba’i, the famous Mu`tazili scholar who died in 303 A.H., which corresponds to 916 or 916 of the Christian era).”
    In other words, ancient Muslim scholars believed in the sphericity of the earth, although controversy remained to Razi’s days (d. 604 AH) who himself seemed to have been a believer in its sphericity (Au.).
    107. That is, after you have over-powered them (Au.).
    Asad once again explains, “This divine permission to choose between two possible courses of action is not only a metonymic statement of freedom of will accorded by God to man, but establishes also the important legal principle of istihsan (social or moral preference) open to a ruler or government in deciding as to what might be conducive to the greatest good (maslaha) of the community as a whole: and this is the first “lesson” of the parable of Dhu al-Qarnayn.”
    It is educating to know how preconceived ideas lead to error after error.
    A contemporary commentator first spends a good amount of energy to prove that Cyrus was definitely the Dhu al-Qarnayn of the Qur’an. But, since Cyrus neither received revelation, nor ilham, he had to assume that Dhu al-Qarnayn also did not receive either. Hence in reference to Allah’s words, “We said, ‘O Dhu al-Qarnayn..’, he adds the commentary, “It is quite possible that no actual communication took place ..”!
    Perhaps the above does not need any criticism.

    قَالَ أَمَّا مَنْ ظَلَمَ فَسَوْفَ نُعَذِّبُهُ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِ فَيُعَذِّبُهُ عَذَابًا نُكْرًا (87)

    18|87| He said, ‘As for him who transgresses,108 we shall indeed punish him,109 and then he will be returned to his Lord who will punish him with a terrible punishment.

    108. That is, if they insist on remaining pagans, associating with Allah (Ibn Jarir).
    109. Qatadah thought the meaning is “we shall exterminate him” (Ibn Jarir).

    وَأَمَّا مَنْ آمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُ جَزَاءً الْحُسْنَىٰ ۖ وَسَنَقُولُ لَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِنَا يُسْرًا (88)

    18|88| But whosoever believed and worked righteous deeds, for him will be a goodly reward. And we shall order him, of our task, (something) easy.’110

    110. The translation reflects a literal understanding. But Mujahid’s opinion was, as in Ibn Jarir, “we shall teach him, within our humble capacity, what will take him nearer to his Lord.”

    ثُمَّ أَتْبَعَ سَبَبًا (89)

    18|89| Then he followed a course.

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَطْلِعَ الشَّمْسِ وَجَدَهَا تَطْلُعُ عَلَىٰ قَوْمٍ لَمْ نَجْعَلْ لَهُمْ مِنْ دُونِهَا سِتْرًا (90)

    18|90| Until, when he reached the rising of the sun, he found it rising upon a people for whom We had provided no shield against it.111

    111. Once again there is no definite opinion about the people or their place, except for personal opinions. Probably they were desert-dwellers. Some have conjectured that they lived in a barren land in which they had dug burrows to shield themselves from the sun. If so, it must have been quite a primitive tribe.

    كَذَٰلِكَ وَقَدْ أَحَطْنَا بِمَا لَدَيْهِ خُبْرًا (91)

    18|91| That is how,112 and We encompassed in knowledge what was with him.

    112. Asad notes that “..kadhalika [refers] the (implied) fact that Dhu al-Qarnayn left them as he had found them, being mindful not to upset their mode of life and thus to cause them misery.”

    ثُمَّ أَتْبَعَ سَبَبًا (92)

    18|92| Then again he followed a course.

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ بَيْنَ السَّدَّيْنِ وَجَدَ مِنْ دُونِهِمَا قَوْمًا لَا يَكَادُونَ يَفْقَهُونَ قَوْلًا (93)

    18|93| Until, when he reached between the two barriers,113 he found beside them a people who hardly understood a word.114

    113. Although according to Ibn ‘Abbas the allusion by the two barriers is to the mountain ranges of Armenia and Azerbaijan (Ibn Jarir), there is no hadith to this effect.
    114. That is, they did not understand Dhu al-Qarnayn’s language (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالُوا يَا ذَا الْقَرْنَيْنِ إِنَّ يَأْجُوجَ وَمَأْجُوجَ مُفْسِدُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَهَلْ نَجْعَلُ لَكَ خَرْجًا عَلَىٰ أَنْ تَجْعَلَ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَهُمْ سَدًّا (94)

    18|94| They said, ‘O Dhu al-Qarnayn. Ya’juj and Ma’juj cause chaos in the land.115 So, shall we offer you tribute on the understanding that you erect a barrier between us and them?’

    115. The Qur’an did not speak of these people but at two places. The second instance being (21: 96),

    وَهُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ حَدَبٍ يَنْسِلُونَ [الأنبياء : 96]

    “And they will descend from every elevation.” Hadith literature gives us quite some details. They are as follows.
    Ya’juj and Ma’juj
    Ibn Kathir writes: They have not been identified, but are definitely sons of Adam. A hadith of Sunan al-Kubra of Nasa’i says,

    إن يأجوج ومأجوج لهم نساء يجامعون ما شاؤوا وشجر يلقحون ما شاؤوا فلا يموت منهم رجل إلا ترك من ذريته ألفا فصاعدا

    “Ya’juj and Ma’juj have women with whom they have intercourse as they wish, have trees that they cross-pollinate as they wish, and, one of their men does not die but leaves a thousand or more behind him.”
    Where are they now? This is also not certain. However, many scholars have thought that they are somewhere behind the Caucuses region of Central Asia. A hadith runs like this: “Allah will address Adam. He will say, ‘Here I am O Lord.’ He will say, ‘Separate out those of the Fire.’ He will ask, ‘Who are those of the Fire?” He will reply, ‘Nine hundred and ninety-nine from every thousand to the Fire, and one to Paradise.’ It is then that that when a child will turn grey (will become old) and every pregnant will suffer miscarriage.’ [The Companions were frightened]. They asked in anguish, ‘Who that one will be from amongst us meant for Paradise?’ He replied, “Do not worry, you will be like one against a thousand of the Ya’juj and Ma’juj. Then he added, ‘Among you will be two communities that will not come to a thing but will overwhelm it: Ya’juj and Ma’juj.”
    The first part of the hadith (up to ‘who that one will be ..’) is in Bukhari, but the latter part is from Abu Ya`la’s Musnad which, according to Husayn Saleem, is weak.
    In any case, wherever they are now, they are behind a barrier unable to breach it. Ibn ‘Abbas is reported by Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn abi Hatim and Hakim (who declared the report Sahih), as saying that although sons of Adam, they will measure in height no more than the span of a hand or two. The tallest of them will measure maybe three hand spans (Shawkani).
    The above is not a hadith (Au.).
    A hadith (in Ahmed, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, declared Sahih by Albani: S. Ibrahim) says,

    لَيَحْفِرُونَ السَّدَّ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ حَتَّى إِذَا كَادُوا يَرَوْنَ شُعَاعَ الشَّمْسِ قَالَ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِمْ ارْجِعُوا فَسَتَحْفِرُونَهُ غَدًا فَيَعُودُونَ إِلَيْهِ كَأَشَدِّ مَا كَانَ حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغَتْ مُدَّتُهُمْ وَأَرَادَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنْ يَبْعَثَهُمْ إِلَى النَّاسِ حَفَرُوا حَتَّى إِذَا كَادُوا يَرَوْنَ شُعَاعَ الشَّمْسِ قَالَ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِمْ ارْجِعُوا فَسَتَحْفِرُونَهُ غَدًا إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ وَيَسْتَثْنِي فَيَعُودُونَ إِلَيْهِ وَهُوَ كَهَيْئَتِهِ حِينَ تَرَكُوهُ فَيَحْفِرُونَهُ وَيَخْرُجُونَ عَلَى النَّاسِ

    “They make a hole in the barrier everyday, until they are almost able to see sunlight through it. Their overseer tells them, ‘Enough for today. Tomorrow we shall open it.’ But when they come back the next day, they find it plugged more strongly; until, when the time comes for their release, and Allah wishes to release them against the people, they will dig and are almost able to see the sunlight. Their overseer says, ‘Let us return, tomorrow we shall open it, Allah willing.’ Thus he leaves it to Allah’s will. Then they return to it, and it is like they left it the previous day. They will complete the digging and come out against the people.”
    Ibn Hajr has shown that the hadith has good narrators.
    Ibn al-‘Arabiyy has pointed out that their saying, “If Allah wills” demonstrates that Prophets would have been raised among them but could have been rejected except for a few of them (leaving behind practices such as saying “If Allah wills”).
    After quoting Ibn al-Arabiyy, Mufti Shafi` adds that some scholars think that the opening in the barrier referred to above could be symbolical. In fact, it is possible that the barrier has already been rendered severely weak, to come down completely anytime. It has also been conjectured that a party of them might have already been let loose, who could be, at the moment, a civilized people. At some time in future the rest of the great mass will be released. As for how is it that explorers have not been able to find the barrier? The answer is, Some Muslim historians have mentioned that a delegation sent by the Abbasids three hundred years after the Prophet actually saw it. But they have nothing in evidence, and therefore Qur’anic verse cannot be said to be definitely referring to it. Sheikh Anwar Shah Kashmiri, the Indian Sheikh al-Hadith, has suggested that perhaps the barrier got hidden within newly appearing mountain ranges.
    According to some reports, they will breach the barrier only after ‘Isa b. Maryam will have finished off Dajjal. He will be told, “I am releasing a creation that no one can withstand.” So ‘Isa (asws) will take his followers and withdraw to Mount Tur. Ya’juj and Ma’juj will raid the people and subdue them all. They will drink off waters of the earth until some of them will pass by a lake and drink off its water leaving it dry. Someone passing by after them will say, ‘Once there used to be a lake here.’ People will withdraw into their cities and forts taking away their flock with them. When they run out of provision, a bull’s head will be worth a hundred Dinar. Ya’juj and Ma’juj will shoot an arrow or one of their weapons towards the sky. It will come back laced with blood. They will say, ‘We have subdued those on the earth and those in the heaven.’ The people will finally complain to ‘Isa of their hardship. He will pray to Allah who will release an insect (bacteria?) into their necks, which will kill them all. They will lie motionless in the fields.” According to another report in Ibn Jarir, “Muslims will say, ‘Will not someone risk his life for us and find out what happened to them?’ So one of them will volunteer to go, but quite sure that he will lose his life. He will find them all dead, piled up, one upon another. He will cry out, ‘O Muslims! Rejoice. Allah has delivered you from their evil.’ So the Muslims will come out with their cattle. And their cattle will have nothing but their flesh to feed on. And, by Allah, they will fatten on their flesh, like they never fattened on grass ever before.” According to other reports, people will go to ‘Isa to complain of the stink of their corpses. He will pray to Allah. He will send huge birds whose necks will be similar to camel’s neck. They will pick up their corpses and dump them away.
    Some narratives say that heavy rains will follow and the lands will be rendered clean. Allah will then command the earth to throw out its produce. It will, and in those times a pomegranate will be so large as to suffice a group of people. A goat’s milk will be enough for a whole family. That situation of plenty will prevail for forty years. Then Allah will send a wind that will cause some kind of sickness to the believers and they will all die. Thereafter, the worst of creatures will remain in the land who will intercourse in the streets. It is upon them that the Hour will be called.
    The above combines more than one report. The following from Muslim covers most of the above text but not all:

    فَبَيْنَمَا هُوَ كَذَلِكَ إِذْ أَوْحَى اللَّهُ إِلَى عِيسَى إِنِّى قَدْ أَخْرَجْتُ عِبَادًا لِى لاَ يَدَانِ لأَحَدٍ بِقِتَالِهِمْ فَحَرِّزْ عِبَادِى إِلَى الطُّورِ. وَيَبْعَثُ اللَّهُ يَأْجُوجَ وَمَأْجُوجَ وَهُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ حَدَبٍ يَنْسِلُونَ فَيَمُرُّ أَوَائِلُهُمْ عَلَى بُحَيْرَةِ طَبَرِيَّةَ فَيَشْرَبُونَ مَا فِيهَا وَيَمُرُّ آخِرُهُمْ فَيَقُولُونَ لَقَدْ كَانَ بِهَذِهِ مَرَّةً مَاءٌ. وَيُحْصَرُ نَبِىُّ اللَّهُ عِيسَى وَأَصْحَابُهُ حَتَّى يَكُونَ رَأْسُ الثَّوْرِ لأَحَدِهِمْ خَيْرًا مِنْ مِائَةِ دِينَارٍ لأَحَدِكُمُ الْيَوْمَ فَيَرْغَبُ نَبِىُّ اللَّهِ عِيسَى وَأَصْحَابُهُ فَيُرْسِلُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهُمُ النَّغَفَ فِى رِقَابِهِمْ فَيُصْبِحُونَ فَرْسَى كَمَوْتِ نَفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ ثُمَّ يَهْبِطُ نَبِىُّ اللَّهِ عِيسَى وَأَصْحَابُهُ إِلَى الأَرْضِ فَلاَ يَجِدُونَ فِى الأَرْضِ مَوْضِعَ شِبْرٍ إِلاَّ مَلأَهُ زَهَمُهُمْ وَنَتْنُهُمْ فَيَرْغَبُ نَبِىُّ اللَّهِ عِيسَى وَأَصْحَابُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ فَيُرْسِلُ اللَّهُ طَيْرًا كَأَعْنَاقِ الْبُخْتِ فَتَحْمِلُهُمْ فَتَطْرَحُهُمْ حَيْثُ شَاءَ اللَّهُ ثُمَّ يُرْسِلُ اللَّهُ مَطَرًا لاَ يَكُنُّ مِنْهُ بَيْتُ مَدَرٍ وَلاَ وَبَرٍ فَيَغْسِلُ الأَرْضَ حَتَّى يَتْرُكَهَا كَالزَّلَفَةِ ثُمَّ يُقَالُ لِلأَرْضِ أَنْبِتِى ثَمَرَتَكِ وَرُدِّى بَرَكَتَكِ.
    فَيَوْمَئِذٍ تَأْكُلُ الْعِصَابَةُ مِنَ الرُّمَّانَةِ وَيَسْتَظِلُّونَ بِقِحْفِهَا وَيُبَارَكُ فِى الرِّسْلِ حَتَّى أَنَّ اللِّقْحَةَ مِنَ الإِبِلِ لَتَكْفِى الْفِئَامَ مِنَ النَّاسِ وَاللِّقْحَةَ مِنَ الْبَقَرِ لَتَكْفِى الْقَبِيلَةَ مِنَ النَّاسِ وَاللِّقْحَةَ مِنَ الْغَنَمِ لَتَكْفِى الْفَخِذَ مِنَ النَّاسِ فَبَيْنَمَا هُمْ كَذَلِكَ إِذْ بَعَثَ اللَّهُ رِيحًا طَيِّبَةً فَتَأْخُذُهُمْ تَحْتَ آبَاطِهِمْ فَتَقْبِضُ رُوحَ كُلِّ مُؤْمِنٍ وَكُلِّ مُسْلِمٍ وَيَبْقَى شِرَارُ النَّاسِ يَتَهَارَجُونَ فِيهَا تَهَارُجَ الْحُمُرِ فَعَلَيْهِمْ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ
    A hadith in the Sahihayn says,

    اسْتَيْقَظَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- مِنْ نَوْمٍ وَهُوَ مُحْمَرٌّ وَجْهُهُ فَقَالَ :« لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَيْلٌ لِلْعَرَبِ مِنْ شَرٍّ قَدِ اقْتَرَبَ فُتِحَ الْيَوْمَ مِنْ رَدْمِ يَأْجُوجَ وَمَأْجُوجَ ». وَعَقَدَ تِسْعِينَ فَقُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَنَهْلِكُ وَفِينَا الصَّالِحُونَ فَقَالَ نَعَمْ إِذَا كَثُرَ الْخَبَثُ.

    “The Prophet woke up from a sleep with his face flushed red. He said, ‘There is no deity but Allah. Woe unto the Arabs from the evil that has drawn nigh. Today, a hole has been made in the barrier against Ya’juj and Ma’juj the size of this.’ He made a sign with his thumb and index finger. (Zaynab bint Jahsh the reporter says she asked him), ‘Messenger of Allah, shall we be destroyed while there are good men among us?’ He replied, ‘Yes, when the wicked are overwhelming’” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani, Shafi`).

    قَالَ مَا مَكَّنِّي فِيهِ رَبِّي خَيْرٌ فَأَعِينُونِي بِقُوَّةٍ أَجْعَلْ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُمْ رَدْمًا (95)

    18|95| He replied, ‘That over which my Lord has empowered me is better. Help me merely with some (man-)power and I shall erect a rampart116 between you and them.

    116. The textual “radm” is used for a barrier, but something stronger than a mere “sadd” (Ibn Jarir).
    Qurtubi points out that this verse helps derive the rule that those men whose evil is feared can be imprisoned. It can be also be deduced that providing safety to the people is the responsibility of a government. Further, the government should not levy taxes when not required. Although offered, Dhu al-Qarnayn refused tribute, but only sought what he was short of, i.e., manpower.

    آتُونِي زُبَرَ الْحَدِيدِ ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا سَاوَىٰ بَيْنَ الصَّدَفَيْنِ قَالَ انْفُخُوا ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَعَلَهُ نَارًا قَالَ آتُونِي أُفْرِغْ عَلَيْهِ قِطْرًا (96)

    18|96| Bring me sheets of iron.’117 At length, when he had filled the (space between the) two cliffs, he said, ‘Blow.’ Until, when he had made it red hot he said, ‘Bring me, that I may pour over it molten copper.’118

    117. “Zubar” is used both for pieces of iron as well as for sheets, and Dhu al-Qarnayn might have used both sheets as well as ingots. It is also likely that he would have first got rocks placed and then covered the wall with iron (Au.).
    118. Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, Dahhak and others have understood “qitr” as meaning molten copper (Ibn Jarir). Some others have said it is lead (Qurtubi and others).
    If it involves copper or brass, the process of welding the iron sheets together is technically known as brazing and it is the strongest way of joining two pieces of steel, having an advantage of strength over the simpler iron to iron welding (Au.).

    فَمَا اسْطَاعُوا أَنْ يَظْهَرُوهُ وَمَا اسْتَطَاعُوا لَهُ نَقْبًا (97)

    18|97| There! Neither they had the power to scale it, nor able to drill through.

    قَالَ هَٰذَا رَحْمَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّي ۖ فَإِذَا جَاءَ وَعْدُ رَبِّي جَعَلَهُ دَكَّاءَ ۖ وَكَانَ وَعْدُ رَبِّي حَقًّا (98)

    18|98| He said, ‘This is by the mercy of my Lord. But when my Lord’s promise comes to pass,119 He will make it level. Surely, my Lord’s promise is ever true.’120

    119. “When my Lord’s promise comes to pass” – when will that be? The prevailing opinion is that, “when the Lord’s command to release Ya’juj and Ma’juj is pronounced.”
    120. Ibn Mas`ud reported the Prophet:

    عَنْ ابْنِ مَسْعُودٍ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ لَقِيتُ لَيْلَةَ أُسْرِيَ بِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمُوسَى وَعِيسَى قَالَ فَتَذَاكَرُوا أَمْرَ السَّاعَةِ فَرَدُّوا أَمْرَهُمْ إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ فَقَالَ لَا عِلْمَ لِي بِهَا فَرَدُّوا الْأَمْرَ إِلَى مُوسَى فَقَالَ لَا عِلْمَ لِي بِهَا فَرَدُّوا الْأَمْرَ إِلَى عِيسَى فَقَالَ أَمَّا وَجْبَتُهَا فَلَا يَعْلَمُهَا أَحَدٌ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ذَلِكَ وَفِيمَا عَهِدَ إِلَيَّ رَبِّي عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنَّ الدَّجَّالَ خَارِجٌ قَالَ وَمَعِي قَضِيبَانِ فَإِذَا رَآنِي ذَابَ كَمَا يَذُوبُ الرَّصَاصُ قَالَ فَيُهْلِكُهُ اللَّهُ حَتَّى إِنَّ الْحَجَرَ وَالشَّجَرَ لَيَقُولُ يَا مُسْلِمُ إِنَّ تَحْتِي كَافِرًا فَتَعَالَ فَاقْتُلْهُ قَالَ فَيُهْلِكُهُمْ اللَّهُ ثُمَّ يَرْجِعُ النَّاسُ إِلَى بِلَادِهِمْ وَأَوْطَانِهِمْ قَالَ فَعِنْدَ ذَلِكَ يَخْرُجُ يَأْجُوجُ وَمَأْجُوجُ وَهُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ حَدَبٍ يَنْسِلُونَ فَيَطَئُونَ بِلَادَهُمْ لَا يَأْتُونَ عَلَى شَيْءٍ إِلَّا أَهْلَكُوهُ وَلَا يَمُرُّونَ عَلَى مَاءٍ إِلَّا شَرِبُوهُ ثُمَّ يَرْجِعُ النَّاسُ إِلَيَّ فَيَشْكُونَهُمْ فَأَدْعُو اللَّهَ عَلَيْهِمْ فَيُهْلِكُهُمْ اللَّهُ وَيُمِيتُهُمْ حَتَّى تَجْوَى الْأَرْضُ مِنْ نَتْنِ رِيحِهِمْ قَالَ فَيُنْزِلُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ الْمَطَرَ فَتَجْرُفُ أَجْسَادَهُمْ حَتَّى يَقْذِفَهُمْ فِي الْبَحْرِ قَالَ أَبِي ذَهَبَ عَلَيَّ هَاهُنَا شَيْءٌ لَمْ أَفْهَمْهُ كَأَدِيمٍ وَقَالَ يَزِيدُ يَعْنِي ابْنَ هَارُونَ ثُمَّ تُنْسَفُ الْجِبَالُ وَتُمَدُّ الْأَرْضُ مَدَّ الْأَدِيمِ ثُمَّ رَجَعَ إِلَى حَدِيثِ هُشَيْمٍ قَالَ فَفِيمَا عَهِدَ إِلَيَّ رَبِّي عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنَّ ذَلِكَ إِذَا كَانَ كَذَلِكَ فَإِنَّ السَّاعَةَ كَالْحَامِلِ الْمُتِمِّ الَّتِي لَا يَدْرِي أَهْلُهَا مَتَى تَفْجَؤُهُمْ بِوِلَادِهَا لَيْلًا أَوْ نَهَارًا

    “I met Ibrahim, Musa and ‘Isa the night I was raised up. They were discussing the Hour. Ibrahim was asked about it. He said, ‘I know nothing about it.’ Then Musa was asked. He too said he knew nothing about it. Then ‘Isa was asked. He said, ‘No one knows when the Hour will be struck. But my Lord has told me about things that will happen, without telling me when. He told me that Dajjal will appear. He will send me down to him. When he sees me, he will start dissolving like lead. Until, even rocks and trees will call out, “O Muslim, here is an unbeliever. Come and kill him.” Thus they will be destroyed and the people will return to their native lands. But then Ya’juj and Ma’juj will confront them, descending from every elevation. They will not pass by anything but eat it off and will not pass by any water but drink it off. So the people will come to me complaining of them. I will supplicate to Allah. He will destroy them until the earth will stink because of them. Then rains will come down and floods will carry their bodies to the seas. Then the mountains will be brought down, until the earth will be like a piece of leather spread out. This is my Lord’s promise to me. At that moment the world will be like a pregnant female that has completed the period of pregnancy so that people do not know when it will give birth, by evening or morning’” (Ibn Jarir).

    وَتَرَكْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَمُوجُ فِي بَعْضٍ ۖ وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَجَمَعْنَاهُمْ جَمْعًا (99)

    18|99| On that day We shall let some of them surge into others.121 And the Trumpet will be blown122 and We shall collect them all together.123

    121. Suddi’s opinion is that the allusion is to the time when the barrier will be breached and Ya’juj and Ma’juj will be let loose surging into mankind, destroying life and property – a little before the Last Hour is struck. Another Qur’anic verse says (21: 96),

    حَتَّى إِذَا فُتِحَتْ يَأْجُوجُ وَمَأْجُوجُ وَهُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ حَدَبٍ يَنْسِلُونَ (96) وَاقْتَرَبَ الْوَعْدُ الْحَقُّ [الأنبياء : 96 ، 97]

    “Until, when Ya’juj and Ma’juj are let loose, they will sweep down from every high place, and the True Promise will draw nigh” (Ibn Kathir).
    However, some others, including Ibn ‘Abbas have said that the allusion is to the Jinn and Mankind being let loose surging into each other before the Last Hour is struck (Qurtubi, Shawkani and others).
    122. The Prophet has said in a hadith of Tirmidhi (Tuhfah),

    كيف أنعم وصاحب القرن قد التقم القرن وحنى جبهته يسمع متى يؤمر ، [ فينفخ ] ، فقال أصحاب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم : كيف نقول ؟ قال : قولوا : حسبنا الله ونعم الوكيل على الله توكلنا

    “How can I relax when the one with the Trumpet has placed it on his lips, has bent down his head and is all attentive to the word of command (to blow).” They asked, “What shall we say O Messenger of Allah?” He answered, “Say: ‘Allah is sufficient for us, the best to rely on; in Him we place our trust.’” (Ibn Kathir).
    123. That is, collect them together for Reckoning.

    وَعَرَضْنَا جَهَنَّمَ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَرْضًا (100)

    18|100| We shall present Jahannum that Day to the unbelievers, on display.124

    124. That is, Jahannum will be brought close to the unbelievers. A hadith of Muslim says,

    يُؤْتَى بِجَهَنَّمَ يَوْمَئِذٍ لَهَا سَبْعُونَ أَلْفَ زِمَامٍ مَعَ كُلِّ زِمَامٍ سَبْعُونَ أَلْفَ مَلَكٍ يَجُرُّونَهَا

    “On Judgment-day Jahannum will be brought nigh pulled by seventy thousand reins, each rein pulled by seventy thousand angels (Ibn Kathir).

    الَّذِينَ كَانَتْ أَعْيُنُهُمْ فِي غِطَاءٍ عَنْ ذِكْرِي وَكَانُوا لَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ سَمْعًا (101)

    18|101| Those whose eyes had been under a veil from My admonishment, and (so) were not able to hear.125

    125. To say that they were not able to hear, rather than saying that they were deaf, bears greater eloquence, since the unbelievers were not deaf. In fact, they had heard, and known the truth. But, in their pride and insolence, they could not bear to hear a thing about the truth (Razi, Qurtubi, Shawkani).

    أَفَحَسِبَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنْ يَتَّخِذُوا عِبَادِي مِنْ دُونِي أَوْلِيَاءَ ۚ إِنَّا أَعْتَدْنَا جَهَنَّمَ لِلْكَافِرِينَ نُزُلًا (102)

    18|102| Do the unbelievers imagine then, that they can take My slaves as protectors besides me? Verily, We have prepared for the unbelievers Jahannum for hospitality.

    قُلْ هَلْ نُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِالْأَخْسَرِينَ أَعْمَالًا (103)

    18|103| Say, ‘Shall we tell you about those who lost most in respect to their efforts?

    الَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْعًا (104)

    18|104| Those whose efforts were misguided in the life of the world, while they thought they were doing well in performance.126

    126. `Ali was asked about exactly to whom was this verse applicable. He replied, “Those of the people of the Book whose earlier generations were on truth. But, their subsequent generations associated with Allah, imported innovations into their religion, worked in the service of Falsehood under the impression that they were serving Truth, who worked on error but thought they were rightly guided. Their efforts were lost in this world while they thought they were doing good.” According to other reports, he had their priestly and ascetic class in his mind, who strive hard but in vain (Tabari, Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    When Sa`d b. Waqqas was asked if it was applicable to the Haruriyyah (Khawarij), he said in his opinion the Haruriyyah were Fasiqun while the verse was applicable to the unbelievers from among the Jews and Christians (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    But of course, as several of the Salaf have said, the application is common to all kinds of deluded people who work with good intentions, employing right means, but for wrong causes, without first checking whether the causes they serve are legitimate. The textual words, “while they thought they were doing well in works” may not be missed for their accuracy. For, these people paid attention only to their “works” and thought they were serving humanity well. But they destroyed their relationship with their Creator, and cannot, therefore, receive any reward from Him (Au.).

    أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ وَلِقَائِهِ فَحَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ فَلَا نُقِيمُ لَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَزْنًا (105)

    18|105| They disbelieved in the revelations of their Lord and the encounter with Him.’ So their efforts have failed127 and We shall not assign any weight to them on the Day of Judgement.128

    127. Mawdudi comments: “No matter how great the unbelievers’ worldly attainments might be they are bound to come to an end with the end of the world itself. All that man is immensely proud of – his grand palaces and splendid mansions, his universities and libraries, his grand highways and wondrous vehicles of transportation, his great inventions and staggering industries, his magnificent arts and sciences, his impressive museums and art galleries – will all be left behind at the time of man’s death and will have absolutely no weight in God’s scale.”
    128. A hadith of the Prophet says,

    إِنَّهُ لَيَأْتِي الرَّجُلُ الْعَظِيمُ السَّمِينُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا يَزِنُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ جَنَاحَ بَعُوضَةٍ وَقَالَ اقْرَءُوا {فَلَا نُقِيمُ لَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَزْنًا}

    “A huge fat man will appear on the Day of Judgment. He will weigh no more than a fly’s wing. Read if you want: “We shall not assign any weight to them on the Day of Judgment” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). The report is in the Sahihayn (Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    Qurtubi adds: When Ibn Mas`ud once climbed a tree and some people laughed at his extraordinary thin legs, the Prophet remarked,

    مَا تَضْحَكُونَ لَرِجْلُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ أَثْقَلُ فِي الْمِيزَانِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مِنْ أُحُدٍ

    “You laugh at legs that will weigh out the deeds that will be heavier than Mount Uhud on the Day of Standing?” This shows that some people will be weighed.
    Obesity in any case, is something disapproved of in Islam. That is, of the type caused by overeating. The Prophet has said, “A fat scholar is the most hated of mankind in the sight of Allah.” (The hadith is in Abu Nu`aym, of unknown strength: Au.). Nonetheless, ‘Imran b. Hussain’s reports the Prophet as having said (in a hadith of Bukhari),

    خَيْرُ أُمَّتِي قَرْنِي ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ ... ثُمَّ إِنَّ بَعْدَكُمْ قَوْمًا يَشْهَدُونَ وَلَا يُسْتَشْهَدُونَ وَيَخُونُونَ وَلَا يُؤْتَمَنُونَ وَيَنْذُرُونَ وَلَا يَفُونَ وَيَظْهَرُ فِيهِمْ السِّمَنُ

    “The best of my followers are of my generation, then those that follow, then those that follow. Later, a people will come who will bear witness without being asked, who will be dishonest and never trusted, who will vow but never fulfill and in whom will appear obesity.”
    Indeed Allah has condemned overeating in the Qur’an itself. He said (47: 12),

    يَتَمَتَّعُونَ وَيَأْكُلُونَ كَمَا تَأْكُلُ الْأَنْعَامُ [محمد : 12]

    “As for those who have disbelieved, they indulge and eat as the animals eat. Fire is their destination.” Whoever ate and drank a lot will end up a greedy man, and at night he will be most lazy (to get up for Prayers). Such a man’s days will be spent in worries and nights in sleep.

    ذَٰلِكَ جَزَاؤُهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ بِمَا كَفَرُوا وَاتَّخَذُوا آيَاتِي وَرُسُلِي هُزُوًا (106)

    18|106| That is their reward - Jahannum – for what they denied and held My revelations and My Messengers in mockery.

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ كَانَتْ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتُ الْفِرْدَوْسِ نُزُلًا (107)

    18|107| Surely, those who believed and did righteous deeds: for them will be Gardens of Firdaws,129 in hospitality.

    129. ‘Ubadah b. Samit and others have reported the Prophet,

    إِنَّ فِي الْجَنَّةِ مِائَةَ دَرَجَةٍ أَعَدَّهَا اللَّهُ لِلْمُجَاهِدِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ مَا بَيْنَ الدَّرَجَتَيْنِ كَمَا بَيْنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ فَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُ اللَّهَ فَاسْأَلُوهُ الْفِرْدَوْسَ فَإِنَّهُ أَوْسَطُ الْجَنَّةِ وَأَعْلَى الْجَنَّةِ أُرَاهُ فَوْقَهُ عَرْشُ الرَّحْمَنِ وَمِنْهُ تَفَجَّرُ أَنْهَارُ الْجَنَّةِ

    “Paradise has a hundred levels that are prepared for the Mujahideen in His cause. Between each level the distance is like the distance between the heaven and earth. Therefore, when you supplicate Allah, supplicate for Firdaws. It is the highest and the best part of Paradise. As I see it, above it is the `Arsh of the Rahman. It is from here that the springs of Paradise sprout forth.” (The hadith is in the Sahih works: Ibn Kathir).
    Another report says that Umm Haritha came to inquire about her son Haritha ibn Suraqah who was struck by an arrow at Badr. He was a mere boy then. She asked the Prophet where her son would be on the Day of Judgment. The Prophet replied,

    يَا أُمَّ حَارِثَةَ إِنَّهَا جِنَانٌ فِى الْجَنَّةِ وَإِنَّ ابْنَكِ أَصَابَ الْفِرْدَوْسَ الأَعْلَى

    “O Umm Haritha. Paradise is several gardens. And your son has reached the highest level of Firdaws” (Tabari, Bukhari).

    خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا لَا يَبْغُونَ عَنْهَا حِوَلًا (108)

    18|108| Abiding therein forever, not wishing to move out from there.130

    130. The companions of Anas were heard saying, “The first to enter Paradise will say, ‘Perhaps I have been let in first because there is no one better than me.’ And the one to enter last will say, ‘My Lord allowed me in last because He did not bestow on anyone what He bestowed on me’” (Tabari). That is Paradise is an abode of such great beauty and blessings that everyone will think he received what no one received (Au.).

    قُلْ لَوْ كَانَ الْبَحْرُ مِدَادًا لِكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّي لَنَفِدَ الْبَحْرُ قَبْلَ أَنْ تَنْفَدَ كَلِمَاتُ رَبِّي وَلَوْ جِئْنَا بِمِثْلِهِ مَدَدًا (109)

    18|109| Say, ‘If the sea was ink for the words of my Lord, surely, the sea will be exhausted before the Words of my Lord are exhausted,’ even if We brought the like of it, in supplement.’

    قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ فَمَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاءَ رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا (110)

    18|110| Say, ‘I am only a mortal, the like of you (except that) it has been revealed unto me that your God is One God. So, let him, who desires to meet with his Lord, work righteous deeds and associate not anyone in the worship of his Lord.’131

    131. Mu`awiyyah b. Sufyan is reported (in Tabarani: Ibn Kathir) that this is the last of the verses to be revealed to the Prophet (Ibn Jarir). Probably he meant meaning-wise, and not chronologically, since this is a Makkan chapter (Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Jarir explains the verse with the following report. Somebody asked ‘Ubadah b. Samit, “I pray and fast a lot – for Allah. But I wish to be praised for it. What have you to say about it?” He answered, “They are all worthless. Allah has said, ‘I am the best of those associated with. If there be a deed in which another has a share, I give away my share also to the one associated.’”
    According to a narration in Hakim and Bayhaqi (judged Sahih by Albani: S. Ibrahim), someone asked the Prophet,

    أَرَأَيتَ رجلا غَزَا يلْتَمِسُ الأَجْرَ والذِّكْرَ، مَالَهُ ؟ فقال رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : لا شْيء له

    “What do you have to say about a man who takes part in a battle seeking the reward as well earning a name; what will he get!?” The Prophet answered, “He will get no rewards.” That sounded tough for the Companions. So the man asked the same question but got the same answer thrice, “He will get no rewards” (Alusi, Shwkani).
    Ahmed, Nasa’I, Ibn Hibban, Tabarani and Hakim (who declared it trustworthy) have reported the Prophet (saws) as having said,

    مَنْ غَزَا وَهُوَ لاَ يَنْوِي فِي غَزَاتِهِ إِلاَّ عِقَالا فَلَهُ مَا نَوَى

    “He who fought but did not intend except to get a piece of rope, then he will get what he intended” (Alusi).
    Several ahadith of more or less this meaning are to be found in Ahmed, Ibn Majah, Tirmidhi and other works with varying degrees of reliability. In a hadith preserved by Hafiz Abu Ya`la, the Prophet said,

    مَنْ صَلَّى يُرَائِي فَقَدْ أَشْرَكَ

    “Whoever did the Prayers for a show off, committed Association (shirk).”
    The above is a weak report (Au.).
    In fact, there is a hadith (of unknown strength: Au.) reported by Ibn Qays Khuza`i which says, “Whoever stood up making a show of himself, will have Allah angry with him until he sat down” (Ibn Kathir).
    Nevertheless, other ahadith make it clear that if one feels pleased at somebody praising him for a good act, then, that is of no harm. Muslim has a hadith which says that someone asked the Prophet,

    أَرَأَيْتَ الرَّجُلَ يَعْمَلُ الْعَمَلَ مِنَ الْخَيْرِ وَيَحْمَدُهُ النَّاسُ عَلَيْهِ قَالَ: تِلْكَ عَاجِلُ بُشْرَى الْمُؤْمِنِ (صحيح مسلم)

    “What have you to say about a person who does good for the sake of Allah. But people come to know and praise him for that?” He replied, “That is the immediate glad tiding for a believer.” There is another report of this nature in Tirmidhi. So, there is a difference between doing something to please other than Allah, and feeling pleased when praised for a good deed (Ma`arif).
    Qurtubi adds that Zirr b. Hubaysh said, “Whoever wishing to rise up for Qiyam al-Layl recited the last verse of this chapter will be helped in breaking his sleep.” ‘Abdah said, “We experimented and found that it works.” Qurtubi ends by quoting Ibn al-Arabiyy, who quoted his Master Turtushi who said, “Let not one of you spend all his time in the company of friends and relatives, while you know that Allah said, “So, let him, who desires to meet with his Lord, work righteous deeds and associate not anyone in the worship of his Lord.”