Surat Maryam

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
by
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير

PREPARATORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015

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References, abbreviations, and technical terms

Clue to References
Ahmad: Musnad by Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (d. 241 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, Muhammad Nasiruddin Albani, (d. 1420 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da`eefah wa al-Mawdu`ah, Muhammad Nasirudding Albani, , Al-Maktab al-Islami.
Alusi/Ruh: Ruh al Ma`ani Fi Tafsir Qur’an al `Azim Wa al Sab` al Mathani by Shihab al Din Sayyid Mahmood Alusi (d.1291 A.H.)
`Aqidah: `Aqidah Tahawiyyah, commentary Ibn Abi al-`Izz, (tr. By Syed Iqbal Zaheer, as Funamentals of Islamic Creed), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
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Hussain: Tafsir ibn Kathir, Hussain b. Ibrahim Zahran, ed.
Ibn Is-haq: Sirah Rasulullah, by Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 151 A.H.).
Ibn Jarir/Tabari: Jami` al Bayan Fi Tafsir al Qur’an by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310 A.H.)
Ibn Kathir: Tafsir al Qur’an al `Azim by `Imad al Din Abul Fida Isma`il ibn `Amr ibn Kathir (d.774 A.H.)
Ibn Majah, Sunan, Muhammad b. Yazid al-Qazwini, Maktabah al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut.
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Jami` Saghir: Fayd al-Qadir Sharh Jami` Saghir (of Jalaluddin Suyuti) by Muhammad `Abdul Ra’uf al-Munawi.
Kabir al: Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir, tafsir notes of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 A.H) collected by Dr. `Abdul Rahman `Umayrah.
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Ma`arif /Shafi`: Ma`arif al Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi` Deobandi (d. 1396 A.H.).
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Mughni al, Ibn Qudamah, al-Maqdisi, Ri’asat al-Idaratu al-Buuth al-`Ilmiyyah, Saudi Arabia.
Mulhim: Fath al-Mulhim, Shabbir Ahmad `Uthmani, and, Takmilatu Fath al-Mulhim, Taqiuddin `Uthmani, Dar al-Ulum, Karachi.
Muwatta’: Muwatta’ by Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 A.H.).
Nasa’i, Ahmad b. Shu`ayb, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Dar al-Rayyan li al-Turath, Cairo.
Nawawi: Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Sharfuddin al-Nawawi (d. 261 A.H.)
Penrice: A Dictionary and Glossary of the Qur’an, John Penrice, Gaurav Publishing House, 187
Qurtubi: Al-Jam`i Li ‘l Ahkam al Qur’an by Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al Ansari al Qurtubi (d.671 A.H.)
Raghib: Mu`jam Mufradat al-Qur’an by al-Raghib al-Asfahani (d. 503 A.H.)
Rawa‘e`: Rawa‘e` al-Bayan Tafsir Ayat al-Ahkam by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Razi: Tafsir al Fakhr al Razi by Muhammad al-Razi Fakhr al Din ibn Dia al Din `Umar (d.604 A.H.)
Sabuni: Safwatu al Tafasir by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Sahih ibn Hibban bi-Tarteeb Ibn Balban, `Ala’uddin `Ali b. Balban, , Mu’assasah al-Risalah, Beirut.
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Se`di: Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman, fir Tafsir al-Mannan, `Abdul Rahman b. Nasir Se`id.
Shawkani: Al-Fut-h al-Qadir by Muhammad ibn `Ali Shawkani (d.1255 A.H.)
S. Ibrahim: Ed. Al-Fath al-Qadir, by Shawkani
Sihah: Taj al-Lugha wa Sihah al-`Arabiyyah, Isma`il b. Nasr Hammad al-Jawhari, 393 A.H.
Sirah: Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah fi Daw Masadir al-Athliyyah, Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, Saudi Arabia 1992.
Sayyid Qutb/Qutb/Zilal: Fi Zilal al Qur’an by Sayyid Qutb (d.1386 A.H.).
Thanwi/Bayan: Bayan al Qur’an by Ashraf `Ali Thanwi (d.1361 A.H.)
Tuhfah: Tuhfah al-Ahwazi bi Sharh Jami` al-Tirmidhi by Muhammad ibn `Abdul Rahman Mubarakpuri.
Yusuf Ali: The Glorious Qur’an, Meaning and Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (d. 1953 A.H.).
Zafar Ahmad `Uthmani, I`la al-Sunan, Idaratu al-Islam wa `Ulum al-Islamiyyah, Karachi, Pakistan.
Zamakhshari/Kashshaf: Haqa’iq al- Tanzil Wa `Uyun al-Aqawil Fi Wujuh at-Ta‘wil by Abu al-Qasim Jarallah Mahmood b.`Umar al-Zamakhshari (d.538 A.H.).
Zarkashi: Al-Burhan Fi `Ulum al-Qur’an by Badruddin Muhammad bin `Abdullah al-Zarkashi (d. 794 A.H.), Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Note: The list above is not a complete bibliography, but rather books sort of more often referred.

________________________

Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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

_______________________

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

_______________________

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

________________________

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

______________________

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

______________________

  • Surah No. 19

    Merits of the Surah
    1. `A’isha, Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Zubayr have said that this chapter is Makkan, to which Muqatil has added that the Prostration verse 58 was revealed in Madinah. Suyuti has said in his Itqan that another verse 71 is also Madinan. As for the connection between this and the previous chapter, it may be pointed out that the previous one mentioned some wondrous phenomena, such as that of the Companions of the Cave. This one also mentions the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ. It is also said that the Companions of the Cave will once again wake up and perform Hajj with `Isa ibn Maryam. So, if this report is true, then this is another connecting thematic link (Alusi). Thanwi adds: The chapter primarily deals with Tawhid, Risalah and Ma`ad (Oneness of Allah, Messengership and the Hereafter).
    Ibn Is-haq has stated that Ja`far ibn abi Talib had read out the opening verses of this chapter in Najashi’s court when he asked the Muslims to explain their position vis a vis `Isa ibn Maryam (Ibn Kathir).
    That was in the fifth year of the Holy Prophet’s advent (Majid); when Najashi heard what the Qur’an had to say about `Isa ibn Maryam, he cried until his beard was wet (Qurtubi, Shawkani).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ كهيعص (1)

    19|1| Kaf. Ha. Ya. `Ayn. Sad.

    ذِكْرُ رَحْمَتِ رَبِّكَ عَبْدَهُ زَكَرِيَّا (2)

    19|2| (This is) an account of your Lord’s mercy on His slave Zakariyyah.2

    2. Zakariyyah (asws): An Israeli Prophet about whom Bukhari’s report tells us that he was a carpenter by profession (Ibn Kathir); but not much is known of him through trustworthy sources. Mawdudi uses Israeli sources to write the following about his office: “Zechariah .. was from the family of Aaron.. After their occupation in Palestine, the Israelites entrusted the government of the land to the twelve tribes, all descended from the Prophet Jacob (peace be on him) by dividing the functions of the government between them; whereas, the religious duties were assigned to the thirteenth tribe, the Levites. Even among the Levites though, the house that was set apart to ‘sanctify the most holy things..’ and to ‘burn incense before the Lord’, was the house of Aaron. Other Levites were permitted to enter the Temple, but their duties were ‘to assist the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy, and any work for the service of the house of God ..’ (I Chronicle 23: 28). The were also required to ‘.. stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening, and whenever burnt offerings are offered to the Lord on Sabbath, new moons, and feast days ..’ (I Chronicle 23: 30-1).
    “The descendents of Aaron comprised 24 houses, and these performed their duties in turn. One of these was the house of Abijah whose chief was Zechariah. Whenever it was his house’s turn to serve the Temple, it was Zechariah’s duty to go there and burn the incense.”
    (The above is, for what it is, a Biblical account. We have only quoted for interest. Otherwise, it should go without saying that any conclusions based on the above would have a question mark before it: Au.).

    إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ نِدَاءً خَفِيًّا (3)

    19|3| When He called upon his Lord – a secret call.3


    3. There could be several reasons why he supplicated secretly, e.g., because he was supplicating in the depth of night and did not wish to disturb others, or because keeping the voice low in supplication is a sign of sincerity. Another is, maybe he feared that the people around him might taunt him for seeking a child in such an advanced age (Razi, Qurtubi).
    In any case, adds the Sufi commentator Thanwi, the verse demonstrates that “Dhikr al-Khafiyy” (sub-vocal Dhikr) is the preferred way of remembrance (as against the Jahri – vocal - of the Sufis: Au.). This can be supported by another Qur’anic statement (7: 55),


    ادْعُوا رَبَّكُمْ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً [الأعراف : 55]


    “Call upon your Lord in humility and in secret.”

    قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي وَهَنَ الْعَظْمُ مِنِّي وَاشْتَعَلَ الرَّأْسُ شَيْبًا وَلَمْ أَكُنْ بِدُعَائِكَ رَبِّ شَقِيًّا (4)

    19|4| He said, ‘My Lord! Verily, the bones within me have become fragile, the head glistens gray with old age;4 yet, never have I been in my supplication to You, My Lord, unblessed.5

    4. It is said that Zakariyyah was then seventy years old (Ibn Jarir).
    5. That is, I have been granted whenever I supplicated (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    The manner of prayer suggests that it is desirable to first mention one’s own weakness during supplication and acknowledge Allah’s various blessings before stating one’s own needs (Qurtubi, Shafi` and others).

    وَإِنِّي خِفْتُ الْمَوَالِيَ مِنْ وَرَائِي وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَتِي عَاقِرًا فَهَبْ لِي مِنْ لَدُنْكَ وَلِيًّا (5)

    19|5| And I am apprehensive of my kinsfolk after me;6 and my wife is barren; so grant me from Yourself a kinsman.7

    6. That is, he was very unsure of his kinsmen carrying out the religious duties after him, and be mindful of what the House of Ya`qub stood for (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). In Yusuf Ali’s words, “This preface shows the fervent faith of Zakariya. Zakariya was a prophet of the Most High Allah. His office was in the Temple, and his relatives were his colleagues. But he found in them no true spirit of the service to Allah and man. He was filled with anxiety as to who would uphold the godly ideas he had in mind, which were strange to his worldly colleagues.”
    7. The textual word “waliyy” is used in several senses. One of them is “cousins” or those related through the father, such as paternal uncle. However, here it must be interpreted as “a heir” or “a progeny” in view of another of Zakariyyah’s supplication noted in the Qur’an which said (3: 38),


    رَبِّ هَبْ لِي مِنْ لَدُنْكَ ذُرِّيَّةً طَيِّبَةً [آل عمران : 38]


    “My Lord! Grant me by Your grace a progeny pure” (Alusi).
    And the implication of the words, “the bones within me are fragile, the head glistens gray with old age..” and “my wife is barren ..” is that there is no limit to what one can ask of Allah (Thanwi).

    يَرِثُنِي وَيَرِثُ مِنْ آلِ يَعْقُوبَ ۖ وَاجْعَلْهُ رَبِّ رَضِيًّا (6)

    19|6| Who shall inherit me and inherit from the House of Ya`qub;8 and make him, My Lord, well-pleasing.’9

    8. That is, Mujahid, Hasan, Abu Saleh and others explain, he may inherit Messengership from me and knowledge (of the past revelations) from the House of Ya`qub. Our Prophet (saws) said while passing over this verse, “May Allah show mercy to Zakariyyah, he possessed no wealth for anyone to inherit” (Ibn Jarir). Ibn Kathir adds: Although the above is a truncated report (mursal), it does not contradict any trustworthy tradition in meaning.
    Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir also wrote: It could not have been wealth which Zakariyyah wanted his progeny to inherit because, firstly he was a mere carpenter, secondly, Prophets are other-worldly, and thirdly, our own Prophet has said,


    إِنَّا مَعْشَرَ الْأَنْبِيَاءِ لَا نُورَثُ


    “We the brotherhood of Prophets are not inherited.” Fourthly, Thanwi and Shafi` add, the House of Ya`qub did not leave, and could not have left, any wealth for Yahya (asws) to inherit several generations down the line. In fact, Thanwi argues, Zakariyyah did not need a son to inherit his wealth, if there was any. The whole extended family was already there to inherit it.
    On the subject of inheritance, Alusi deals with the important question over which the Shi`ah split from the Sunnis. He writes: This hadith quoted above is also found in the most important of Shi`ah works, “Al-Kafiyy” of Kulayni. Their scholars accept it as trustworthy, and, therefore, they have no basis for their claim that the first caliph denied Fatimah her share in the Prophet’s inheritance. Kulayni has another report which says, “Sulayman inherited Da’ud and our Prophet inherited Sulayman,” which makes it obvious that the allusion is not to wealth (Alusi). But perhaps their scholars do not mention the hadith before their laity in Muharram when they shed lakes of tears over this and other such fabricated political issues (Au.).
    Zamakhshari wrote: Allah (swt) said, “Inherit me, and inherit from the House of Ya`qub”, that is, He added “from the House ..” That is because, not everyone in the House of Ya`qub was a Prophet from whom (knowledge) could be inherited.
    Alusi also adds: Some reports say that Zakariyyah (asws) died before Yahya (asws) grew up. That does not in any way affect Yahya inheriting the knowledge, or good qualities of his father. Further (although the Qur’an did not state specifically whether Zakariyyah belonged to the House of Ya`qub by blood or not: Au.), there are differences in opinion over his exact lineage. Some say he was a son of Maathaan, and `Imran – Maryam’s father - was his brother.
    9. That is someone pleasant and acceptable to all: his Lord, as well His creations (Ibn Jarir).

    يَا زَكَرِيَّا إِنَّا نُبَشِّرُكَ بِغُلَامٍ اسْمُهُ يَحْيَىٰ لَمْ نَجْعَلْ لَهُ مِنْ قَبْلُ سَمِيًّا (7)

    19|7| (He was answered), ‘O Zakariyyah. We give you the glad tiding of a boy. His name is Yahya; a name We did not assign to anyone earlier.’10

    10. The apparent meaning expressed in the translation is supported by Mujahid and Qatadah, (meaning, Allah did not name anyone as Yahya [John of the Bible: Au.] before him, even if humans did it: Au.). However, Ibn `Abbas thought the meaning is: no barren woman of the sort his mother was ever gave birth to a son like him. A third possible meaning expressed by Mujahid is that the textual term “samiyya” is for “shabiha” meaning, “similar” or “equal” (Ibn Jarir). He derived this meaning from another verse of this chapter itself which said (no. 65)


    رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا فَاعْبُدْهُ وَاصْطَبِرْ لِعِبَادَتِهِ هَلْ تَعْلَمُ لَهُ سَمِيًّا [مريم : 65]


    “(He is) the Lord of the heavens and earth. Therefore, worship Him, and persevere in devotion to Him. Do you know anyone of a (similar) name as He?” (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    قَالَ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي غُلَامٌ وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَتِي عَاقِرًا وَقَدْ بَلَغْتُ مِنَ الْكِبَرِ عِتِيًّا (8)

    19|8| He said, ‘My Lord! How shall I have a boy seeing my woman has been barren and I have attained to extreme old age?’11

    11. Ibn Jarir explains that when Zakariyyah asked, “How will I have a son?” he did not mean to express his doubt, but rather to ask for details concerning the process; e.g., would he have to take another wife, or the present one would conceive, and, whether regenerative power would be restored, or, the conception would be entirely miraculous?

    قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ رَبُّكَ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ وَقَدْ خَلَقْتُكَ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَلَمْ تَكُ شَيْئًا (9)

    19|9| Said He, ‘Even so,’12 your Lord has said, ‘Easy it is unto Me. Indeed, I created you earlier while you were nothing.’

    12. The meaning is, “Presently, this might be the situation: your wife is barren and you are an old worn out man (but things will happen despite all this)” - Ibn Jarir. Ibn Kathir adds: There was an element of surprise hidden in the manner the news was received. In contrast, Ibrahim was less surprised since, after all, he had a son earlier, also granted in old age.

    قَالَ رَبِّ اجْعَلْ لِي آيَةً ۚ قَالَ آيَتُكَ أَلَّا تُكَلِّمَ النَّاسَ ثَلَاثَ لَيَالٍ سَوِيًّا (10)

    19|10| He said, ‘My Lord, appoint to me a sign.’13 Said He, ‘Your sign is that you shall not speak to the people for three nights, (although) sound and healthy.’14

    13. That is, a sign of pregnancy (Thanwi).
    14. Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Mujahid and others said that he felt tongue-tied but without becoming dumb. Ibn Zayd said that he was able to do his adhkar, but unable to speak out aloud. (Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn al-Mundhir have this report: Shawkani). Another interpretation however, of the word “sawiyya” as offered by Ibn `Abbas is: continually. That is, for three continuous days he would not be able to speak (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    (The present day New Testament supports the Qur’anic statement): “And when he came out, he could not speak unto them.. He beckoned unto them and remained speechless.” (Lk. 1: 20) – Majid.

    فَخَرَجَ عَلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ مِنَ الْمِحْرَابِ فَأَوْحَىٰ إِلَيْهِمْ أَنْ سَبِّحُوا بُكْرَةً وَعَشِيًّا (11)

    19|11| So he went out to his people from the Prayer-niche15 and signaled to them16 that (they should), ‘Sing glory morning and evening.’17

    15. The textual word “mihrab” has its origin in “harb” (to fight) and refers to that corner of a house which is reserved for devotional acts – a place where one fights Shaytan (Alusi).
    16. The translation reflects the understanding of the majority. Mujahid and Suddi have said however that by the word “awha” the allusion is to writing. That is, he wrote to them (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    17. Such is the level of keenness of Prophets to bring people closer to their Creator. When Zakariyyah could not speak, he used signals to convey to the people that in the final analysis what mattered most was how close they were to their Lord (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali makes a short study in contrast to teach us how far we need to go to understand the Qur’an, and in this case, variations in Qur’anic statements. He compares the verses as here with those of Surah Al-`Imran, number 41. Here it said: “Your sign is that you shall not speak to the people for three nights, (although) sound and healthy.’ So he went out to his people from the Prayer-niche and signaled to them, ‘Sing glory unto Him morning and evening.’” Verse 41 of Al-`Imran said, “He prayed, ‘My Lord! Appoint to me a sign. He said, ‘Your sign is that you shall not speak to the people for three days, save by signs. Therefore, remember your Lord much in the evening and in the morning.’” Yusuf Ali then writes, “Compare this verse with verse 3: 41. The variations are interesting. Here it is ‘for three nights’; there it is ‘for three days.’ The meaning is the same, for a day is a period of 24 hours. But the point of view is different in each case. There it was from the point of view of the Ummat or Congregation, among whom he worked by day; here the point of view is that of his individual soul, which spent the night in prayers and praise. Notice again that at the end of the next verse, we have here, ‘In the morning and in the evening’, and at the end of 3: 41, “In the evening and in the morning’ – showing again that the point of view is reversed.”

    يَا يَحْيَىٰ خُذِ الْكِتَابَ بِقُوَّةٍ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ الْحُكْمَ صَبِيًّا (12)

    19|12| (We said), ‘O Yahya,18 hold the Book firmly.’19 And We granted him judgment (although still) a boy.20

    18. So the supplication was granted and a new Prophet was raised. However, the Israelites did not treat him as a gift from Allah. The Gospels tell us that he was put to death by the Israeli ruler Herod. The story as told in Matthew is as follows: “.. Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because John said to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ And the king was sorry; but because of his oath and his guests he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. (Matthew 14: 3-11)” – Mawdudi.
    19. That is, learn it well (Ibn Kathir).
    20. The textual “hukm” could also be understood to mean knowledge. (Or wisdom: Alusi). It is said that once some children invited Yahya to join them in their play. He spurned the idea, saying, “I have not been created for games” (Ibn Jarir), or, “We have not been created for games” (Zamakhshari, Razi). Abu Nu`aym, Ibn Marduwayh and Daylami have a report which says that he was given knowledge and understanding, and became a devout child at the age of seven (Alusi).
    Yusuf Ali lays emphasis on accuracy of meaning. He writes, “Hukm, translated Wisdom, implies something more than Wisdom; it is the Wisdom or Judgment that is entitled to judge and command, as in the matter of denouncing sin.”

    وَحَنَانًا مِنْ لَدُنَّا وَزَكَاةً ۖ وَكَانَ تَقِيًّا (13)

    19|13| And a tenderness from Us21 and purity, and he was godfearing.


    21. Another meaning that the textual “hanan” affords is, love. That is, he was made lovable (`Ikrimah: Alusi).

    وَبَرًّا بِوَالِدَيْهِ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ جَبَّارًا عَصِيًّا (14)

    19|14| Dutiful to his parents, and not at all a sinful tyrant.22

    22. A future Prophet is not expected to be a sinful tyrant. Why then did Allah say these words? Shah `Abdul Qadir has a pointed remark: Most sons granted after great entreaties are spoilt ones (Shabbir).
    Thanwi writes: The words, “We granted him judgment (although still) a boy, a tenderness from Us, purity, and he was godfearing,” speak of the inner behavior, while the words, “Dutiful to his parents, and he was not at all a sinful tyrant,” speak of external behavior.

    وَسَلَامٌ عَلَيْهِ يَوْمَ وُلِدَ وَيَوْمَ يَمُوتُ وَيَوْمَ يُبْعَثُ حَيًّا (15)

    19|15| Peace unto him the day he was born, the day he dies, and the day he is raised up alive.23

    23. Ibn `Atiyyah has said that there are three moments in a man’s life when he cannot escape suffering: birth, death, resurrection. Allah saved Yahya from the suffering of all three occasions (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مَرْيَمَ إِذِ انْتَبَذَتْ مِنْ أَهْلِهَا مَكَانًا شَرْقِيًّا (16)

    19|16| And narrate in the Book (the story of) Maryam.24 When she withdrew from her folks to a place toward the east.25

    24. Allah follows up the story of Yahya’s miraculous birth with that of Jesus Christ to impress on the Christians that a miraculous birth was nothing new in the family of `Imran (Au.).
    25. Bayhaqi, Ibn `Asakir and Hakim, who declared it Sahih, report that according to Ibn Mas`ud and Ibn `Abbas, it was the need to cleanse herself after menstruation that had driven Maryam to a spot toward the east (Shawkani).

    فَاتَّخَذَتْ مِنْ دُونِهِمْ حِجَابًا فَأَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهَا رُوحَنَا فَتَمَثَّلَ لَهَا بَشَرًا سَوِيًّا (17)

    19|17| She took against them a curtain. Then We sent to her Our Spirit.26 He appeared before her as a man in all respects.

    26. That is, Jibril (Ibn Jarir from the Companions and Followers). A possible explanation as to why he was called “Our Spirit” is that he happens to be very close to Allah (Zamakhshari).

    قَالَتْ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِالرَّحْمَٰنِ مِنْكَ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَقِيًّا (18)

    19|18| She said, ‘I seek refuge in the Merciful from you – if you be godfearing.’

    قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَنَا رَسُولُ رَبِّكِ لِأَهَبَ لَكِ غُلَامًا زَكِيًّا (19)

    19|19| He said, ‘I am but a Messenger from your Lord to give you a boy most pure.’

    قَالَتْ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي غُلَامٌ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِي بَشَرٌ وَلَمْ أَكُ بَغِيًّا (20)

    19|20| She exclaimed, ‘How can I have a son seeing no man has ever touched me, nor am I an harlot?’27

    27. Why did she have to say that she was not an adulteress? Imam Razi (and Qurtubi) answer that one possibility is that when she said, “No man has touched me,” she meant “I am not married.” Accordingly, she had to add that neither is she an adulteress.

    قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ قَالَ رَبُّكِ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ ۖ وَلِنَجْعَلَهُ آيَةً لِلنَّاسِ وَرَحْمَةً مِنَّا ۚ وَكَانَ أَمْرًا مَقْضِيًّا (21)

    19|21| He said, ‘Even so, your Lord has said, “Easy it is unto Me; that We may appoint him a sign unto mankind and a mercy from Us: it was an affair (long) decreed.”’

    فَحَمَلَتْهُ فَانْتَبَذَتْ بِهِ مَكَانًا قَصِيًّا (22)

    19|22| So she conceived him,28 and retired with him to a remote place.29

    28. Both the believing, as well as non-believing classes have wondered how a woman could conceive without a male. The non-believing class has an excuse. But what excuse the religious class – Jews – could have? Do they not believe that Adam was created without a male and female? Hawwa from a male? And wasn’t Yahya, an Israeli Prophet whose mother was barren and father decrepit, the result of a miraculous conception? As for the non-believing class, at least by our times they have no excuse for their skepticism. There are several species of reptiles that conceive without a male. Recently scientists were amazed to discover that a female shark became pregnant in a pool that had only females. The said shark had been brought in at a time she was a baby and had all her life lived among females alone. Allah has power over all things is a refrain little believed in (Au.).
    29. Wahab b. Munabbih has said that when Maryam had conceived `Isa and the signs of pregnancy began to show, she retired to Bayt al-Lahm (Bethlehem) in order to be away from the eyes of the people. And Majid points out that it could as well have been another obscure little village of the same name, now some 7 km from Nazareth.
    Pregnancy itself might not have been visible until late months. Some women are reported to have carried without they themselves knowing for as many as eight months (Au.).

    فَأَجَاءَهَا الْمَخَاضُ إِلَىٰ جِذْعِ النَّخْلَةِ قَالَتْ يَا لَيْتَنِي مِتُّ قَبْلَ هَٰذَا وَكُنْتُ نَسْيًا مَنْسِيًّا (23)

    19|23| And the birth pangs drove her30 to the trunk of a (date) palm-tree. She cried (in anguish), ‘O that I had died before this and become forgotten, lost in oblivion.’31

    30. Another possible connotation that the textual “aja’aha” suggest is that the birth pangs took her by surprise at the palm-tree (Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    31. Zamakhshari writes that linguistically “nasyu” is something too insignificant to be remembered.

    فَنَادَاهَا مِنْ تَحْتِهَا أَلَّا تَحْزَنِي قَدْ جَعَلَ رَبُّكِ تَحْتَكِ سَرِيًّا (24)

    19|24| He called her from below her,32 ‘Grieve not. Your Lord has set below you a rivulet.

    32. Probably she was at a somewhat raised spot (Au.). Ibn `Abbas, `Amr b. Maymun, `Alqamah, Dahhak and others have said that it was Jibril who called out to her from below her. Nevertheless, Mujahid, Hasan, Wahab b. Munabbih, Sa`id b. Jubayr and others have thought that it was the new born child `Isa who called her (Ibn Jarir). The textual term “sariyy” in any case refers also to a great, noble man. Hasan has said, “`Isa ibn Maryam was a sariyy” among men (Qurtubi).

    وَهُزِّي إِلَيْكِ بِجِذْعِ النَّخْلَةِ تُسَاقِطْ عَلَيْكِ رُطَبًا جَنِيًّا (25)

    19|25| And shake toward yourself the trunk of the palm-tree.33 It will drop down on you dates fresh and ripe.

    33. The stem of a palm-tree is not something that can be shaken easily, especially by a woman, weakened by childbirth. Scholars have pointed out the importance of adopting means towards material ends. Although, dates could drop down by themselves, Maryam was required to shake the heavy trunk, to the best of her strength and not sit fingers crossed, waiting for Allah’s help to descend (based on Qurtubi).

    فَكُلِي وَاشْرَبِي وَقَرِّي عَيْنًا ۖ فَإِمَّا تَرَيِنَّ مِنَ الْبَشَرِ أَحَدًا فَقُولِي إِنِّي نَذَرْتُ لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ صَوْمًا فَلَنْ أُكَلِّمَ الْيَوْمَ إِنْسِيًّا (26)

    19|26| So, eat and drink and cool (your) eyes, and if you should see any mortal, say, “I have vowed a fast unto the Merciful.34 So, today I shall not speak to any man.”

    34. While some of the Salaf have interpreted the word “sawm” as meaning “samt” (silence, i.e., “a vow of silence”) others have said that some kinds of Jewish fasts required abstention from talk also – except for words of remembrance, (or a short sentence if need be). But others have said that Maryam was to inform of her fast through signs and tokens (Ibn Jarir and others). As for Islamic fasts, Qurtubi adds, it is only indecent talk that is prohibited.
    It is said that once Abu Bakr passed by a woman. They said she had vowed that she would not speak to anyone. He said, “Islam has annulled all that” (Alusi).

    فَأَتَتْ بِهِ قَوْمَهَا تَحْمِلُهُ ۖ قَالُوا يَا مَرْيَمُ لَقَدْ جِئْتِ شَيْئًا فَرِيًّا (27)

    19|27| At length she brought him to her folk carrying him. They said, ‘O Maryam! You have truly brought a thing unprecedented.

    يَا أُخْتَ هَارُونَ مَا كَانَ أَبُوكِ امْرَأَ سَوْءٍ وَمَا كَانَتْ أُمُّكِ بَغِيًّا (28)

    19|28| O sister of Harun!35 Your father was not a wicked man, nor was your mother an harlot.’

    35. Several of the Salaf have made it clear that the said Harun was not Musa’s brother. A few have said that all those devoted to Allah referred to themselves as Harun. In fact, Mughira ibn Sho`ba reports the following: “The Prophet sent me to Najran (a Christian area). They asked me, ‘Don’t you read (in the Qur’an), “O sister of Harun?’” I said yes. They said, ‘But you know that many generations have been there between `Isa and Musa!’ I said nothing and asked the Prophet when I returned. He said, ‘Why did you not tell them that they used to adopt the names of their prophets and righteous men?” (Ibn Jarir). The hadith is in Muslim and Tirmidhi (Qurtubi). Qatadah has said that at any time there used to be thousands among them called Harun (Alusi).
    Asad comments: “In ancient Semitic usage, a person’s name was often linked with that of a renowned ancestor or founder of the tribal line. Thus, for instance, a man of the tribe of Banu Tamim was sometimes addressed as ‘son of Tamim’ or ‘brother of Tamim.’ Since Mary belonged to the priestly caste, and hence descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses, she was called a ‘sister of Aaron’ (in the same way as her cousin Elisabeth, the wife of Zachariah, is spoken of in Luke i, 5, as one ‘of the daughters of Aaron.’”
    A fuller account of Asad’s quote from Luke is as follows: “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”
    In fact, Shabbir reminds us, the Qur’an itself has a similar usage. It referred to Hud (asws) as (46: 21) “`Ad’s brother” although `Ad was the great grand progenitor of Hud.

    فَأَشَارَتْ إِلَيْهِ ۖ قَالُوا كَيْفَ نُكَلِّمُ مَنْ كَانَ فِي الْمَهْدِ صَبِيًّا (29)

    19|29| She pointed to him.36 They said, ‘How shall we talk to someone in the cradle, a babe?’


    36. The words, “She pointed to him,” also give us to believe that all the while Maryam was speaking them in signs and tokens (Qurtubi).

    قَالَ إِنِّي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ آتَانِيَ الْكِتَابَ وَجَعَلَنِي نَبِيًّا (30)

    19|30| He spoke out, ‘I am indeed a servant of Allah. He has given me the Book and made me a Prophet.37

    37. That is, it has been predestined that I should be a prophet and receive a Book. This is how `Ikrimah has explained this verse (Ibn Jarir).

    وَجَعَلَنِي مُبَارَكًا أَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُ وَأَوْصَانِي بِالصَّلَاةِ وَالزَّكَاةِ مَا دُمْتُ حَيًّا (31)

    19|31| He has made me blessed wherever I be,38 and enjoined on me prayer and charity, so long as I live.

    38. Mujahid and Sufyan have explained “mubarak” as “mu`allim”. That is, someone who will preach the good word wherever he happened to be. Another connotation is: beneficent (Ibn Jarir and others).

    وَبَرًّا بِوَالِدَتِي وَلَمْ يَجْعَلْنِي جَبَّارًا شَقِيًّا (32)

    19|32| And dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant.39

    39. This verse, as well as several others of this kind, tells us that Prayers, charity and kindness toward the parents have been elements of all revealed religions (Qurtubi).
    Readers of the New Testament can be very surprised by Jesus’ behavior towards his mother. Majid throws light on this important aspect of the meaning held in the verse: “This refutes and contradicts the position implied in various passages of the NT that the attitude of Jesus towards his mother was cold and indifferent. See Mt. 12: 46-50; Mk. 3: 31-35; Lk. 8: 19-21.

    وَالسَّلَامُ عَلَيَّ يَوْمَ وُلِدْتُ وَيَوْمَ أَمُوتُ وَيَوْمَ أُبْعَثُ حَيًّا (33)

    19|33| Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die and the day I am raised up alive.’

    ذَٰلِكَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ ۚ قَوْلَ الْحَقِّ الَّذِي فِيهِ يَمْتَرُونَ (34)

    19|34| Such was `Isa son of Maryam, a word of truth wherein they are doubting.40

    40. People have always been in grave doubts regarding `Isa ibn Maryam and have, therefore, disputed between themselves. Some said, like the Jews, that he was a magician, a soothsayer and an illegitimate child. The Talmud consigns him to Hell, along with dogs. Others said, he was a Son of God; yet others that he was God himself; a few that he was one of a Trinity of gods. It was only a handful who believed in Christ’s own claim which can be found in today’s Gospels also that he was no more than a Messenger of Allah (Ibn Jarir with some additions).
    Some scholars have noted however, says Qurtubi, that it was only once that `Isa ibn Maryam spoke in infancy. Once Maryam’s chastity was established, he grew up as a normal child. Ibn `Abbas has said that his mother and Yusuf the carpenter took him away to Egypt fearing attempt on his life. They brought him back after 12 years, (and, to be sure, he immediately started preaching and making evoking enmity: Au.).
    Mawdudi’s comment touches on another aspect, “The thrust of the argument so far clearly reveals that the Christian belief in Jesus is false. Although John was born in a miraculous manner, this birth did not make him God’s son. Similarly, although Jesus too was born by means of another miracle, this in no way provided any reason for considering him to be God’s son. Jesus’ birth was no more miraculous than John’s and there are no grounds for referring to John as God’s son. Remember that according to reports which are accepted by Christians, both John and Jesus were born miraculously. In Luke, both miracles are described in terms which bear close resemblance to the Qur’anic version of the miracles.”

    مَا كَانَ لِلَّهِ أَنْ يَتَّخِذَ مِنْ وَلَدٍ ۖ سُبْحَانَهُ ۚ إِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ (35)

    19|35| It was not for Allah that He should take a son. Exalted is He. When He determines a thing, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.41

    41. Where is the need of a son for someone who creates what He wishes with a single command? (Alusi and others).

    وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُوهُ ۚ هَٰذَا صِرَاطٌ مُسْتَقِيمٌ (36)

    19|36| (Jesus too had said) ‘Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path.’42

    42. Yusuf Ali explains the positioning of the verse, “As opposed to the crooked superstitions which take refuge in all sorts of metaphysical sophistries to prove three in one and one in three; in the Qur’an there is no crookedness. Christ’s teaching was simple, like his life, but the Christians have made it crooked.”

    فَاخْتَلَفَ الْأَحْزَابُ مِنْ بَيْنِهِمْ ۖ فَوَيْلٌ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ مَشْهَدِ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ (37)

    19|37| But the factions differed between themselves. Woe then to the unbelievers for the scene of a dreadful Day.43

    43. That is, the Day of Judgment, when nothing will profit without the right sort of beliefs. A hadith of Bukhari and Muslim reports the Prophet,


    مَنْ شَهِدَ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَأَنَّ عِيسَى عَبْدُ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولُهُ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَى مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِنْهُ وَالْجَنَّةُ حَقٌّ وَالنَّارُ حَقٌّ أَدْخَلَهُ اللَّهُ الْجَنَّةَ عَلَى مَا كَانَ مِنْ الْعَمَلِ


    “Whoever testified that there is no deity save Allah the One, that He has no partners, that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, that `Isa is a slave, His Messenger, a Word that He cast upon Maryam, and a Spirit from Him, and that Heaven and Hell are real, Allah will admit him into Paradise regardless of his deeds” (Ibn Kathir).

    أَسْمِعْ بِهِمْ وَأَبْصِرْ يَوْمَ يَأْتُونَنَا ۖ لَٰكِنِ الظَّالِمُونَ الْيَوْمَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ (38)

    19|38| How plainly they will hear and see the Day they come to Us!? Yet the transgressors are in clear error today.

    وَأَنْذِرْهُمْ يَوْمَ الْحَسْرَةِ إِذْ قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ وَهُمْ فِي غَفْلَةٍ وَهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ (39)

    19|39| And warn them of the Day of regrets, when the affair will be judged,44 but they are heedless and (so) they are not believing.45

    44. Yusuf Ali explains the textual word “mash-had”: “.. (it) implies many things: (1) the time or place where evidence is taken, as in a Court of Judgment; (2) the time or place where people are produced (to be judged); and (3) the occasion for such production for the taking of evidence. A very expressive way for describing the Day of Judgment.”
    45. Abu Sa`id reported the Prophet as having said:


    يُؤْتَى بِالْمَوْتِ كَهَيْئَةِ كَبْشٍ أَمْلَحَ فَيُنَادِي مُنَادٍ يَا أَهْلَ الْجَنَّةِ فَيَشْرَئِبُّونَ وَيَنْظُرُونَ فَيَقُولُ هَلْ تَعْرِفُونَ هَذَا فَيَقُولُونَ نَعَمْ هَذَا الْمَوْتُ وَكُلُّهُمْ قَدْ رَآهُ ثُمَّ يُنَادِي يَا أَهْلَ النَّارِ فَيَشْرَئِبُّونَ وَيَنْظُرُونَ فَيَقُولُ هَلْ تَعْرِفُونَ هَذَا فَيَقُولُونَ نَعَمْ هَذَا الْمَوْتُ وَكُلُّهُمْ قَدْ رَآهُ فَيُذْبَحُ ثُمَّ يَقُولُ يَا أَهْلَ الْجَنَّةِ خُلُودٌ فَلَا مَوْتَ وَيَا أَهْلَ النَّارِ خُلُودٌ فَلَا مَوْتَ ثُمَّ قَرَأَ: وَأَنْذِرْهُمْ يَوْمَ الْحَسْرَةِ إِذْ قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ وَهُمْ فِي غَفْلَةٍ ..


    “Death will be brought forth on the Day of Judgment in the form of a fat ram and placed between Heaven and Hell. Then a crier will call, ‘O inhabitants of Paradise.’ They will gaze around and look. He will ask, ‘Do you recognize it?’ They will reply, ‘Yes. This is death.’ And everyone would have seen it. Then the crier will call, ‘O inhabitants of the Fire.’ They will gaze around and look. He will ask, ‘Do you recognize it?” They will reply, ‘Yes. This is death.’ And everyone would have seen it. Following that it will be slaughtered and announced, ‘O inhabitants of Paradise, eternity and no more death. And O inhabitants of the Fire, eternity and no more death.’ Then the Prophet recited this verse, ‘And warn them of the Day of regrets, when the affair will be judged, but they are heedless and they do not believe.’ Then the Prophet signaled towards the earth (that is to say, ‘They are heedless in this world) - Ibn Jarir.
    Qurtubi writes that the hadith is also found in Muslim. However, Alusi writes, Ibn Zayd has said that there would be many situations of regret for the unbelievers on the Day of Judgment. In fact, even a righteous believer will regret that he was not more righteous.
    The above hadith, says Ibn Kathir, is in the Sahihayn as well as in Ibn Majah.

    إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَرِثُ الْأَرْضَ وَمَنْ عَلَيْهَا وَإِلَيْنَا يُرْجَعُونَ (40)

    19|40| Indeed, it is We who inherit the earth and all that are upon it, and it is to Us that they shall be returned.46

    46. Mawdudi writes, “..the discourse seeks to establish the fact that Islam teaches Muslims not to make any compromise in matters relating to truth. The religious fervor of (the) righteous Muslim migrants to Abyssinia is all the more remarkable since they expressed the true doctrinal position about Jesus before the court of a Christian Emperor at a time when the court was strongly inclined to accept a bribe to hand them over to their enemies. It was obvious to the Muslims that their forthright criticism of the Christian doctrine might enrage Negus and that as a result he might return them to the ruthless Makkan unbelievers. Notwithstanding the precariousness of the situation, they showed remarkable strength of faith and showed not even the slightest hesitation in speaking the truth.”

    وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَبِيًّا (41)

    19|41| And recall in the Book (the account of) Ibrahim. Surely he was a truthful man,47 a Prophet.

    47. Majid gives us the definition of Siddiq: “Siddiq is the intensive form of saduq ‘the truthful,’ and implies an invariable habit of veracity and imperishable love of truth.
    He was not simply a truthful man, but a man of truth, in the sense that he stayed true to his mission. In contrast, the Torah alleges that he was a liar (Au.).

    إِذْ قَالَ لِأَبِيهِ يَا أَبَتِ لِمَ تَعْبُدُ مَا لَا يَسْمَعُ وَلَا يُبْصِرُ وَلَا يُغْنِي عَنْكَ شَيْئًا (42)

    19|42| When he said to his father, ‘O my father! Why do you worship that which neither hears nor sees; nor avails you anything?48

    48. Majid comments: “The religion of Ur was a polytheism of the grossest type. ‘Written texts preserve for us the names of about five thousand Sumerian gods, great and small’ (Woolley, Abraham, p. 192).”

    يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي قَدْ جَاءَنِي مِنَ الْعِلْمِ مَا لَمْ يَأْتِكَ فَاتَّبِعْنِي أَهْدِكَ صِرَاطًا سَوِيًّا (43)

    19|43| O my father! To me has come a knowledge that has not come to you. Therefore, follow me, I will lead you to an even trail.

    يَا أَبَتِ لَا تَعْبُدِ الشَّيْطَانَ ۖ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ كَانَ لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ عَصِيًّا (44)

    19|44| O my father! Serve not Shaytan. Surely, Shaytan has ever been disobedient to the Most Merciful.

    يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَنْ يَمَسَّكَ عَذَابٌ مِنَ الرَّحْمَٰنِ فَتَكُونَ لِلشَّيْطَانِ وَلِيًّا (45)

    19|45| O my father! I fear that a chastisement from the Most Merciful strikes you,49 so that you become a friend of Shaytan.’

    49. Yusuf Ali has a nice point about why the epithet “the Most Merciful” has been placed here: “The rebellion is all the more heinous and inexcusable, considering that Allah is Most Just, Most Merciful, Most Gracious.”

    قَالَ أَرَاغِبٌ أَنْتَ عَنْ آلِهَتِي يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ ۖ لَئِنْ لَمْ تَنْتَهِ لَأَرْجُمَنَّكَ ۖ وَاهْجُرْنِي مَلِيًّا (46)

    19|46| He replied, ‘Are you averse to my gods O Ibrahim? If you do not give up I will stone you.50 Now leave me alone for a good while.’51

    50. The translation is literal. Otherwise, Suddi, Dahhak, Ibn Jurayj and others have said that what Ibrahim’s father meant to say is that he will stop talking to him (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    51. The translation reflects both the literal meaning as well as the understanding of Mujahid, Hasan, Suddi and others. Ibn `Abbas however, as well as Dahhak and Qatadah understood the term “maliyy” as meaning, “in good shape” or, “unharmed.” That is to say, “Leave me alone O Ibrahim, with yourself in good shape, unharmed – before I take some action against you” (Ibn Jarir). This latter interpretation of Ibn `Abbas is preserved in Ibn Abi Hatim (Shawkani).
    Many commentators have pointed out the difference in the tones of Ibrahim and his father. In Yusuf Ali’s words, “Note the gentle persuasive tone of Abraham in his speeches.. contrasted with the brusque and repellent tone of the father’s reply in this verse. The one was the outcome of the true Light which had come to Abraham from Allah, as the other was the outcome of Pagan ignorance and the worship of brute force.”

    قَالَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكَ ۖ سَأَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكَ رَبِّي ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِي حَفِيًّا (47)

    19|47| He said, ‘Peace be upon you.52 I shall seek forgiveness for you from my Lord.53 Surely, He has ever been Gracious unto me.

    52. That was Ibrahim’s reply in response to his father’s threat, meaning, “Although you threaten to attack me, I leave you in peace, out of respect due to a father.” The statement also reflects the general behavior of the believers, who, when confronted by course men respond in words (28: 55),


    وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا اللَّغْوَ أَعْرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَقَالُوا لَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ لَا نَبْتَغِي الْجَاهِلِينَ [القصص : 55]


    “When they hear useless talk, they withdraw from it and say, ‘To us our deeds and to you your deeds. Peace unto you. We seek not (the way of the) ignorant’” (Ibn Kathir).
    But it is obvious, Qurtubi writes, that these were Ibrahim’s parting words. For, greeting an unbeliever with an Islamic greeting is not desirable. We have a hadith of the Prophet in the Sahihayn. He said,


    لَا تَبْدَءُوا الْيَهُودَ وَلَا النَّصَارَى بِالسَّلَامِ فَإِذَا لَقِيتُمْ أَحَدَهُمْ فِي طَرِيقٍ فَاضْطَرُّوهُ إِلَى أَضْيَقِهِ


    “Do not initiate Salam with the people of the Book. And when you meet one of them in a lane, push them to the constricted sides.” (But perhaps this applies to those fighting against Islam for), some of the Salaf used to initiate the greeting when they passed by the people of the Book. Ibn Mas`ud himself greeted someone who was traveling in a caravan in his company. `Alqamah reminded him, “O Abu `Abdul Rahman, is it not undesirable to initiate Islamic greeting?” He replied, “Yes. But a co-traveler has his own rights.” Abu Umamah would not pass by a Muslim or a Christian but say Salam to him. Awza`i was asked about a Muslim who passes by an unbeliever. Should he greet him? He answered, “If you greet them, then the righteous people greeted them before you. But if you did not, then the righteous people before did not do before you.”
    53. (Following his promise, Ibrahim kept seeking his father’s forgiveness until it became clear that the man would not change). And so did the followers of the Prophet until the following Qur’anic statement prevented them. That is, until prevented, they supplicated for their pagan relations. The following verse in question is (9: 114):


    وَمَا كَانَ اسْتِغْفَارُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ إِلَّا عَنْ مَوْعِدَةٍ وَعَدَهَا إِيَّاهُ فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ أَنَّهُ عَدُوٌّ لِلَّهِ تَبَرَّأَ مِنْهُ إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لَأَوَّاهٌ حَلِيمٌ [التوبة : 114]


    “Ibrahim’s invocation for his father was only because of a promise that he had made to him. But when it became clear that he was Allah’s enemy, he disassociated himself from him. Surely, Ibrahim was very invocative, clement” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَأَعْتَزِلُكُمْ وَمَا تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَأَدْعُو رَبِّي عَسَىٰ أَلَّا أَكُونَ بِدُعَاءِ رَبِّي شَقِيًّا (48)

    19|48| And I renounce you all, and those that you call upon apart from Allah.54 And I shall supplicate my Lord. Perhaps I shall not be, in my supplications to my Lord, unblessed.’55

    54. Perhaps he was also announcing his departure from Chaldea (Iraq) to Syria and then to Palestine (Au.).
    55. The addition of “perhaps” at the beginning was by way of humbleness and to impress that answering a supplication is not an obligation on Allah, rather, a measure of mercy (Alusi).

    فَلَمَّا اعْتَزَلَهُمْ وَمَا يَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ ۖ وَكُلًّا جَعَلْنَا نَبِيًّا (49)

    19|49| Then, when he had abandoned them and what they worshipped apart from Allah, We bestowed on him Is-haq and Ya`qub,56 and each We made a Prophet.57

    56. Alusi explains that since Isma`il has been separately mentioned in the Qur’an, ref. (37: 101),


    فَبَشَّرْنَاهُ بِغُلَامٍ حَلِيمٍ [الصافات : 101]


    “So We gave him the glad tiding of a clement son,” his mention has been left out although first born. Yusuf Ali further elaborates: “Isaac and Issac’s son Jacob are mentioned here as carrying on one line of Abraham’s traditions. The other line was carried by Isma`Il, who is mentioned independently five verses lower down, as his line got special honour in the Holy Prophet of Islam. That is why his mention comes after that of Moses. Cf. xxi. 72.”
    In fact, whenever Isma`il and Is-haq have been mentioned together in the Qur’an in one verse, it is Isma`il who has been mentioned first, e.g., ref. 2: 136 and 4: 163.
    57. The implication hidden is: righteous progeny is the reward of righteous living. And, greater the commitment, more significant the reward. When Ibrahim had completely abandoned false gods and devoted himself wholeheartedly to one God, without any reservation whatsoever, the reward followed was also of the highest kind possible (Au.).

    وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُمْ مِنْ رَحْمَتِنَا وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُمْ لِسَانَ صِدْقٍ عَلِيًّا (50)

    19|50| And We bestowed of our mercy on them and granted them praise,58 lofty.59

    58. Ibn Jarir and Zamakhshari quote poetical lines to demonstrate that lisana sidqin is used in Arabic to mean “good praise.”
    59. That is, lofty praise on all tongues of the followers of great religions (Ibn Kathir).

    وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مُوسَىٰ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مُخْلَصًا وَكَانَ رَسُولًا نَبِيًّا (51)

    19|51| And recall in the Book (the account of) Musa. He was a chosen one,60 a Messenger and a Prophet.

    60. The textual “mukhlas” is also read as “mukhlis” meaning, sincere in his religion, sincere to his Lord (Ibn Jarir and others).

    وَنَادَيْنَاهُ مِنْ جَانِبِ الطُّورِ الْأَيْمَنِ وَقَرَّبْنَاهُ نَجِيًّا (52)

    19|52| We called him from the right side of (Mount) Tur,61 and drew him near for close communion.62

    61. Another understanding is that Musa heard the call made from his right hand side. The meaning however can be wider. In Asad’s words, “I.e., to the right side from the standpoint of Moses, as he was facing Mount Sinai (Tabari). However, it is much more probable that the term ‘right side’ has here, as elsewhere in the Qur’an the abstract connotation of ‘blessedness.’”
    62. The opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Abu al-`Aliyyah and others was that Allah took him so close that he heard the movement of the Pens (Tabari). That is, that of the Pens held by the angels writing down the Tawrah (Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    The report is in several collections and has been termed as Sahih by Hakim. But the reference in the hadith seems obviously to the time when Musa experienced Mi`raj which implies that it was not specific to our Prophet (saws) although most complete in his case (Alusi).

    وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ مِنْ رَحْمَتِنَا أَخَاهُ هَارُونَ نَبِيًّا (53)

    19|53| And in Our mercy bestowed on him his brother Harun, a Prophet.

    وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِسْمَاعِيلَ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صَادِقَ الْوَعْدِ وَكَانَ رَسُولًا نَبِيًّا (54)

    19|54| And recall in the Book (the account of) Isma`il. He was indeed true to his promise,63 a Messenger and a Prophet.64

    63. Being true to the promise is specifically mentioned as Isma`l’s quality because he stayed true to the promise he gave to his father that he will not flinch when the knife is applied to his throat. Otherwise, of course, all Prophets were endowed with this quality. Our own Prophet was particular about it even before he was chosen for the mission. `Abdullah ibn abi al-Hamsa’ says in a report of Abu Da’ud


    بَايَعْتُ النَّبِىَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِبَيْعٍ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُبْعَثَ وَبَقِيَتْ لَهُ بَقِيَّةٌ فَوَعَدْتُهُ أَنْ آتِيَهُ بِهَا فِى مَكَانِهِ فَنَسِيتُ ثُمَّ ذَكَرْتُ بَعْدَ ثَلاَثٍ فَجِئْتُ فَإِذَا هُوَ فِى مَكَانِهِ فَقَالَ يَا فَتَى لَقَدْ شَقَقْتَ عَلَىَّ أَنَا هَا هُنَا مُنْذُ ثَلاَثٍ أَنْتَظِرُكَ.


    “I made a deal with the Prophet in pre-Islamic days. I paid him partly and told him to wait at the spot for the rest. However, as I went off to fetch, I entirely forgot about it. I happened to pass by the place after three days and found him right there. He remarked, “Young man, you put me into hardship. I am waiting for you here since three days” (Qurtubi).
    But the hadith has been declared not quite trustworthy by some authorities, while Ibn Kathir evinces some confidence (Au.).
    64. Ibn Kathir points out here that while mentioning Is-haq, Allah qualified him as a Prophet, while mentioning Isma`il, he qualified him both as Prophet and a Messenger. This demonstrates the superiority of Isma`il over Is-haq. This is strengthened by a Prophetic statement which says, “Indeed, of the sons of Ibrahim, Allah chose Isma`il..”
    There is a lack of clarity about the exact functions of a Prophet (nabiyy). This rises from the simple fact that we do not know enough about the anbiya’ of the past. Previous nations have not preserved their history to any degree of credibility. In fact, the term nabiyy itself has been variously understood. In the words of Mawdudi, “Lexicographers disagree as to the exact meaning of the word nabi. Some consider it to be the derivative of the term naba’ and denotes ‘to give news and hence the word nabi means someone who brings news. Others consider it to be derived from nabu, meaning height and elevation.. Accordingly, nabi is a person who holds a high, elevated position.”
    What in any case, is the difference between a Prophet and a Messenger? Mujahid answered in very simple terms. He said, as in Ibn Abi Hatim, “Prophets are those who are revealed to, but not sent to a people. In contrast, Messengers are those who are given revelations, and, in addition, are sent to a people” (Shawkani).
    Alusi adds: However, a Messenger need not carry a new Shari`ah altogether. According to one opinion, sometimes he is sent with the Shari`ah of a previous Messenger, to a people who had not received a revealed Shari`ah earlier. This is the case with Isma`il. A new Shari`ah was not revealed to him. But rather, he carried the Shari`ah of Ibrahim to a people – in this case the Jurham tribe – who had not received any Shari`ah through any earlier Messenger.
    Yusuf Ali simplifies it while writing about Musa: “.. he was a prophet (nabi), in that he received inspiration; and he was a messenger (rasul) in that he had a Book of Revelation, and an Ummat or organized community, for which he instituted laws.”

    وَكَانَ يَأْمُرُ أَهْلَهُ بِالصَّلَاةِ وَالزَّكَاةِ وَكَانَ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِ مَرْضِيًّا (55)

    19|55| He enjoined his people Prayers65 and charity; and He was pleasing to His Lord.

    65. Ibn Kathir writes: Allah (swt) has also said about Prayers (66: 6):


    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ عَلَيْهَا مَلَائِكَةٌ غِلَاظٌ شِدَادٌ لَا يَعْصُونَ اللَّهَ مَا أَمَرَهُمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ [التحريم : 6]


    “Believers! Save yourselves and your homefolk from a Fire whose fuel is men and stones. It is in charge of such angels as are harsh, tough, who do not disobey Allah, but rather do as they are ordered.”
    And the Prophet has said,


    رَحِمَ اللَّهُ رَجُلا قَامَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَصَلَّى وَأَيْقَظَ امْرَأَتَهُ ، فَإِنْ أَبَتْ نَضَحَ فِي وَجْهِهَا الْمَاءَ ، رَحِمَ اللَّهُ امْرَأَةً قَامَتْ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَصَلَّتْ وَأَيْقَظَتْ زَوْجَهَا ، فَإِنْ أَبَى نَضَحَتْ فِي وَجْهِهِ الْمَاءَ


    “May Allah show mercy to a man who got up in the depth of the night and Prayed, and woke up his wife. If she did not respond, he sprinkled water on her face. May Allah show mercy to the woman who got up in the depth of night, Prayed, and woke her husband up. If he did not respond, she sprinkled water on his face.” The hadith is in Abu Da’ud and Ibn Majah.
    It was declared as of strong chain by Al-Arna’ut (Au.).

    وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِدْرِيسَ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَبِيًّا (56)

    19|56| And recall in the Book (the account of) Idris.66 He was a man of truth67 and a Prophet.

    66. In the absence of a hadith, opinions vary about Idris. But many see him as the first Messenger (rasul) after Adam, being a grand grandfather of Nuh. He was given 30 scriptures (Alusi). Ibn Mas`ud however thought that Idris and Ilyas were one and the same person (Alusi, Shawkani).
    Majid adds: “(He is) Probably the Enoch of the Bible .. who lived for 365 years (Ge. 5: 18-21). But Yusuf Ali rightly expresses his doubts. He writes, “Idris is mentioned twice in the Qur’an, viz., here and in xxi. 85, where he is mentioned among those who patiently persevered. His identification with the Biblical Enoch, who ‘walked with God’ (Gen. v. 21-24), may or not be correct. Nor are we justified in interpreting verse 57 here as meaning the same thing as in Gen. v. 24 (‘God took him’), that he was taken up without passing through the portals of death.”
    67. “This is perhaps to refute the opinion held by a section of the Jews that Enoch was ‘inconsistent in his piety (JE. V. p. 178),’ or that ‘he was light-minded and inclined to sin again’ (Rashi, On Genesis, p. 93)” – Majid.

    وَرَفَعْنَاهُ مَكَانًا عَلِيًّا (57)

    19|57| We raised him to a high station.68

    68. Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Dahhak and others have said that Idris was raised up to the fourth or sixth heaven, where he died. Our Prophet had met him in the fourth heaven when he himself had gone there during his Mi`raj journey (Tabari, Ibn Kathir). Many of those who believe that he was taken up to the heavens think that he went up alive (Alusi). However, there is no hadith to this effect and the earliest commentators seem to have been, as pointed out by Majid, influenced by Jewish traditions (Au.).

    أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ النَّبِيِّينَ مِنْ ذُرِّيَّةِ آدَمَ وَمِمَّنْ حَمَلْنَا مَعَ نُوحٍ وَمِنْ ذُرِّيَّةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْرَائِيلَ وَمِمَّنْ هَدَيْنَا وَاجْتَبَيْنَا ۚ إِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ خَرُّوا سُجَّدًا وَبُكِيًّا ۩ (58)

    19|58| Those were some of the Prophets whom Allah favored, from the seed of Adam and of those We carried (in the boat) with Nuh; and of the seed of Ibrahim and Isra’il69 - of those We guided and chose. When verses of the Most Merciful were recited to them they fell down prostrate, crying.70

    69. The commentators have used this verse to conclude that Idris appeared before Nuh. For, in the words of Mawdudi, (with the modification of names), “Of the Messengers mentioned here, Yahya, `Isa and Musa are descendants of Ya`qub and Isma`il; Is-haq and Ya`qub are descendants of Ibrahim, and Ibrahim is a descendant of Nuh. This leaves only Idris and it is to him alone that the expression ‘descendant of Adam’ might be applied.”
    70. It is reported that once ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab recited this chapter, prostrated himself at this point and remarked, “Here is the prostration, but where is the crying?!” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Majah, Is-haq b. Rahwayh and Bazzar have a report coming down through Sa`id b. Waqqas. The Prophet said,

    اتلوا القرآن وابكوا فان لم تبكوا فتباكوا

    “Recite the Qur’an and cry. If you can not, then attempt to cry” (Alusi).
    According to some scholars, the above report does not meet with the strict conditions of acceptance. But Haythami expressed some confidence in it (Au.).

    فَخَلَفَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ أَضَاعُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَاتَّبَعُوا الشَّهَوَاتِ ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَلْقَوْنَ غَيًّا (59)

    19|59| Then came after them a posterity71 who wasted away the Prayer72 and followed lusts;73 so they will soon meet with destruction.74

    71. The allusion is to the evil posterity of every nation: Jews, Christians, Muslims etc. (Ibn Jarir and others). Mujahid has said that this class of people will emerge near the end of the world (Qurtubi).
    72. Although stray opinions say that the allusion by “wasting away of the Prayers” is to delaying or neglecting them, the preferred opinion is that the allusion is to not Praying at all (Ibn Jarir). The opinion of Ibn Mas`ud, Nakha`i, Qasim, Mujahid and ‘Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz was that delaying the Prayers beyond the sanctioned time is to be “wasting it.” Some have said that to pray at home is also to waste it (Shafi`).
    In other words, the opinion of the Salaf is split between interpreting it as “not praying at all,” and “doing the prayers badly.”
    Ibn Mas`ud said that not doing the prayers on time is to “waste it.” He was told, “But we thought not doing it at all was to be wasting it.” He replied, “That’s kufr.”
    Abu Sa`id al-Khudri reports a hadith preserved by Ahmad wherein the Prophet (saws) said,


    يكون خلف بعد ستين سنة، أضاعوا الصلاة واتبعوا الشهوات، فسوف يلقون غيا. ثم يكون خلف يقرءون القرآن لا يعدو تراقيهم. ويقرأ القرآن ثلاثة: مؤمن، ومنافق، وفاجر". قال بشير (3) : قلت للوليد: ما هؤلاء الثلاثة؟ قال: المؤمن مؤمن به، والمنافق كافر به، والفاجر يأكل به


    “An evil set of followers will appear after sixty years. They will waste away the Prayers and follow lust. They will meet with their destruction. They will be followed by successors worse than them. They will recite the Qur’an but it will not go beyond their throats. And the Qur’an is read by three kinds of people: believers, hypocrites and the corrupt (fasiq).” The narrator was asked about the three. What exactly did the Prophet mean? He replied, “A believer who believes in it. An hypocrite who disbelieves in it. And a corrupt person who makes money out of it” (Ibn Kathir).
    The earlier part of the hadith is in Hakim who declared it Sahih (Shawkani). Hakim’s opinion is seconded by Dhahabi. As such the report is also in Ibn Hibban and Ahmad (S. Ibrahim).
    Qurtubi discusses the question of Salah in detail. He quotes ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab as saying, “Whoever neglected the Prayers will neglect everything else all the more.” Hudhayfa saw a man doing his Prayers badly. He asked him, “Since how long have you been Praying?” The man answered, “Forty years.” Hudhayfa said, “If you died Praying the way you did just now, you will die on a religion other than that of Muhammad.” The Prophet (saws) has said in reports coming down from several sources that the first thing to be accounted for is Prayers. If one gets through it, he will get through the rest of the deeds also. According to a report in Abu Da’ud, the Prophet said, “If a man’s Prayers are wanting in quality or quantity, Allah will command the angels to look into his Nawafil (supererogatory). If the shortage is met, good. It is after that, that other deeds will be looked into.”
    73. `Ali is reported to have said that to construct palatial houses or use such vehicles or put on such clothes as which attract attention of the people, constitutes “following the lust” (Qurtubi, Shafi`).
    Mujahid remarked that the allusion is to those of the Ummah (near the end of the world) who will leap on each other in the streets like the cattle and donkey, neither fearing the One in the heavens, nor shying from the people on the earth (Ibn Kathir).
    The above is now taking place in the non-Muslim world, which is not likely to be curbed, but could spread to Muslims (Au.).
    74. The translation of “ghayy” as destruction is more or less literal. Some of the earliest commentators however, have thought that “ghayy” is the name of a valley in Hell where pus, blood, vomit and refuse of the inhabitants is collected. A hadith is also quoted in support (Tabari), but it has been judged Da`if by the experts (S. Ibrahim). The prevalent meaning has been that of destruction (Alusi).

    إِلَّا مَنْ تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَأُولَٰئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا (60)

    19|60| Except for him who repented, believed and worked righteousness. Such of them will indeed enter Paradise and will not be wronged in the least.

    جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ الَّتِي وَعَدَ الرَّحْمَٰنُ عِبَادَهُ بِالْغَيْبِ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ وَعْدُهُ مَأْتِيًّا (61)

    19|61| Gardens of Eden that the Most Merciful has promised His slave in the Unseen.75 Indeed, His promise has to come to pass.

    75. That is, the promised Gardens of Eden are at present beyond the ken of sense perception (Au.).

    لَا يَسْمَعُونَ فِيهَا لَغْوًا إِلَّا سَلَامًا ۖ وَلَهُمْ رِزْقُهُمْ فِيهَا بُكْرَةً وَعَشِيًّا (62)

    19|62| They will not hear any loose talk therein, except for peace.76 And for them is therein their provision morning and evening.77

    76. Yusuf Ali comments: “Salam, translated ‘Peace’, has a much wider significance. It includes (1) a sense of security and permanence, which is unknown in this life; (2) soundness, freedom from defects, perfection as in the word saleem; (3) preservation, salvation, deliverance, as in the word sallama; (4) salutation, accord with those around us; (5) resignation, in the sense that we are satisfied and not discontented; (6) the ordinary meaning of Peace, i.e., freedom from any jarring element. All these shades of meaning are implied in the word Islam.”
    77. Of the textual word “rizq”, the sense of providence is only one shade of the meaning. In Yusuf Ali’s words, “Rizq: literally sustenance or means of subsistence; the term covers all the means of perfect satisfaction of body and soul.”
    It is said that in pre-Islamic times very few people could afford both lunch and dinner. The few who could were thought to be a fortunate class. Hence the Qur’anic words “morning and evening” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi and others).
    Mujahid, Qatadah and Zuhayr b. Muhammad have said that there will be no morning or evening in Paradise. It is only the opening and closing of the Paradise doors or pulling aside of the curtains that will be indicative of passage of time in between. The allusion therefore, by morning and evening, is not to fixed hours for lunch and dinner, but rather, to the fact that the victuals will be in constant supply.
    Hasan al-Busri has said in this context that the doors of Paradise will be made of see-through material and will operate on command: when told ‘open’, they will open up, and when told ‘close’, they will close up (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Hasan Busri’s report about Paradise doors seems a step ahead of the present day sophisticated automatic glass doors, which are sensor-operated, and not sonar-operated. Indeed, sonar operated devices are still a distant dream, voice classification and recognition being a major hurdle (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir expands on the pleasures available in Paradise. The Prophet said in a report of the Sahihayn,


    أَوَّلُ زُمْرَةٍ تَلِجُ الْجَنَّةَ صُورَتُهُمْ عَلَى صُورَةِ الْقَمَرِ لَيْلَةَ الْبَدْرِ لَا يَبْصُقُونَ فِيهَا وَلَا يَمْتَخِطُونَ وَلَا يَتَغَوَّطُونَ آنِيَتُهُمْ فِيهَا الذَّهَبُ أَمْشَاطُهُمْ مِنْ الذَّهَبِ وَالْفِضَّةِ وَمَجَامِرُهُمْ الْأَلُوَّةُ وَرَشْحُهُمْ الْمِسْكُ وَلِكُلِّ وَاحِدٍ مِنْهُمْ زَوْجَتَانِ يُرَى مُخُّ سُوقِهِمَا مِنْ وَرَاءِ اللَّحْمِ مِنْ الْحُسْنِ لَا اخْتِلَافَ بَيْنَهُمْ وَلَا تَبَاغُضَ قُلُوبُهُمْ قَلْبٌ وَاحِدٌ يُسَبِّحُونَ اللَّهَ بُكْرَةً وَعَشِيًّا


    “The first group to enter Paradise will have faces like the full moon. They will not spit therein, or cleanse their noses, nor would they need to use water closets. Their crockery and combs will be of gold and silver. Their censers made of aloes wood. Their sweat like musk. Each of them will have two wives whose bone marrow of the shins will be visible through the flesh. Such will be their beauty. There will be no differences between them, nor any rancor: hearts united like the hearts of a single man. They will sing Allah’s glory morning and evening.”

    تِلْكَ الْجَنَّةُ الَّتِي نُورِثُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا مَنْ كَانَ تَقِيًّا (63)

    19|63| That is the Paradise We shall grant as inheritance to those of Our slaves who had been godfearing.

    وَمَا نَتَنَزَّلُ إِلَّا بِأَمْرِ رَبِّكَ ۖ لَهُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِينَا وَمَا خَلْفَنَا وَمَا بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ ۚ وَمَا كَانَ رَبُّكَ نَسِيًّا (64)

    19|64| And (the angels say) ‘We descend not but by the command of your Lord.78 To Him belongs all that is before us and behind us, and all that is between them.’79 And your Lord was not such as to forget.80

    78. It is widely reported that once Jibril did not appear for a long while. When the Prophet expressed his anxiety this verse was revealed (Ibn Jarir). But Bukhari reports the following as the context of revelation of this verse. Ibn `Abbas said, “The Prophet asked Jibra’il, ‘What prevents you from coming oftener?’” In response Allah (swt) revealed this verse (Qurtubi).
    The absence happened after the Prophet inquired Jibril about the people of the Cave and Dhu al-Qarnayn. His long absence evoked the pagans to allege that Muhammad’s God had abandoned him (Alusi and others).
    According to reports in Ibn Abi Hatim, Tabarani and Ahmad, Jibra’il once delayed in coming by several days (some say 12, some others say forty days). The Prophet asked him the reason. He replied,


    وكيف نأتيكم وأنتم لا تقصون أظفاركم ولا تنقون براجمكم ولا تستاكون


    “(How can we come) when you do not clean your teeth (with Miswak: Ibn Abi Hatim), do not clip your nails, do not clip your moustaches, and do not clean your finger joints”.
    The above report is from Ibn abi Shaybah’s collection, but its strength could not be established (Au.).
    (The Qur’an used the term “we” rather than “I” because there were a variety of angels who came to the Prophet). A hadith in Ahmad reports Umm Salamah (the Prophet’s wife) as saying,


    أَصْلِحِي لَنَا الْمَجْلِسَ فَإِنَّهُ يَنْزِلُ مَلَكٌ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ لَمْ يَنْزِلْ إِلَيْهَا قَطُّ


    “Once the Prophet (saws) told me, ‘Clean up the house for today an angel is coming down to the earth who has never been here earlier’” (Ibn Kathir).
    Shu`ab al-Arna’ut thought that the hadith is weak (Au.).
    79. According to some of the Salaf, the allusion is to this world, the Hereafter, and whatever is in between them. There have been other explanations too such as, the past, the future and the present (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). In short, all that is covered by space and time from eternity onwards (Thanwi).
    80. That is, if the angel did not come for a while it was not because Allah (swt) had forgotten to send him (Qurtubi). Everything that happens in the cosmos, is well attended after its creation. It should not be imagined that Allah forgot about a thing, or does not care about it (Au.)
    Ibn Kathir and Shawkani, quote a hadith from Ibn abi Hatim which brings out this point. The Prophet said,


    مَا أَحَلَّ اللَّهُ فِى كِتَابِهِ فَهُوَ حَلاَلٌ وَمَا حَرَّمَ فَهُو حَرَامٌ وَمَا سَكَتَ عَنْهُ فَهُوَ عَافِيَةٌ فَاقْبَلُوا مِنَ اللَّهِ عَافِيَتَهُ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمْ يَكُنْ نَسِيًّا


    “What Allah declared in His Book as lawful is lawful, and what He declared unlawful is unlawful. And whatever He did not speak about is out of deliberate overlooking. Therefore, accept from Allah what he deliberately overlooked. For, Allah was not such as to forget.” Then the Prophet recited this verse.
    The report is strong enough: Haythamiyy (Au.).

    رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا فَاعْبُدْهُ وَاصْطَبِرْ لِعِبَادَتِهِ ۚ هَلْ تَعْلَمُ لَهُ سَمِيًّا (65)

    19|65| Lord of the heavens and the earth and what is between them. Therefore, worship Him and forbear in His service.81 Do you know anyone of a (similar) Name as He?82


    81. That is, the requirement is not for the occasional type of devotion, but rather, through and through one’s life, on regular basis, without a break (Thanwi).
    82. The translation reflects a more or less literal meaning. Some commentators of old have said (as in Tabari, Ibn Kathir and others) that one of the meanings that “samiyyun” affords is someone who has no one “equal,” or “similar” to him.

    وَيَقُولُ الْإِنْسَانُ أَإِذَا مَا مِتُّ لَسَوْفَ أُخْرَجُ حَيًّا (66)

    19|66| Man says, ‘What, when I am dead, shall I be brought forth alive?’

    أَوَلَا يَذْكُرُ الْإِنْسَانُ أَنَّا خَلَقْنَاهُ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَلَمْ يَكُ شَيْئًا (67)

    19|67| Does not man consider that We created him earlier when he was nothing?

    فَوَرَبِّكَ لَنَحْشُرَنَّهُمْ وَالشَّيَاطِينَ ثُمَّ لَنُحْضِرَنَّهُمْ حَوْلَ جَهَنَّمَ جِثِيًّا (68)

    19|68| By your Lord, We shall surely gather them and the Shayatin, then, We shall collect them together around Hell-fire on their knees.

    ثُمَّ لَنَنْزِعَنَّ مِنْ كُلِّ شِيعَةٍ أَيُّهُمْ أَشَدُّ عَلَى الرَّحْمَٰنِ عِتِيًّا (69)

    19|69| Then We shall pull out from every faction whoever that was the most obstinate against the Most Merciful in rebellion.

    ثُمَّ لَنَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِالَّذِينَ هُمْ أَوْلَىٰ بِهَا صِلِيًّا (70)

    19|70| And We know best those who are most deserving to be roasted therein.

    وَإِنْ مِنْكُمْ إِلَّا وَارِدُهَا ۚ كَانَ عَلَىٰ رَبِّكَ حَتْمًا مَقْضِيًّا (71)

    19|71| And there is none of you but he shall pass over it;83 that is on your Lord a decree determined.

    83. Some of the ancient commentators such as Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas and others have understood the word “warid” as meaning “entry.” That is, there is none of the humankind but will initially enter the Fire. Later, the believers will be rescued by Allah. Nafi` (b. al-Azraq, who was a Kharijite: Qurtubi) in fact had an argument with Ibn `Abbas over the issue. To prove his point, Ibn `Abbas quoted two other Qur’anic verses that have used the word in this sense. One is (21: 98),


    إِنَّكُمْ وَمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ حَصَبُ جَهَنَّمَ أَنْتُمْ لَهَا وَارِدُونَ [الأنبياء : 98]


    “You indeed (O unbelievers), and those you worship apart from Allah are firewood of Hell. You are indeed going to enter into it.”
    And (11:98),


    يَقْدُمُ قَوْمَهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَأَوْرَدَهُمُ النَّارَ وَبِئْسَ الْوِرْدُ الْمَوْرُودُ [هود : 98]


    “He (Fir`awn) will lead his people on the Judgment Day and lead them to the Fire: an evil coming to an evil destination.”
    After quoting the above verses, Ibn `Abbas concluded, “For sure I and you will enter it. So let us see if we can get out or not. However, I don’t see how you can get out, seeing that you are denying the Qur’an.” Nafi` only laughed.
    Ibn Rawaha had a similar opinion. In fact, he was in tears at his death-bed. When his wife asked him why, he replied, “I know that we are to enter the Fire, but I do not know whether I’ll get out or not.” Hasan reported that a man said to a brother, “Have you received the information that you will enter the Fire?” He replied, “Yes.” He asked, “Have you received any information about getting out of it?” He replied, “No.” He asked him, “So, why do you laugh?” It is said that thereafter he was not seen laughing.
    The above said, continues Ibn Jarir, others have taken the meaning of “warid” as “to pass over.” This is not only the literal meaning, but also supported by a hadith. The Prophet (saws) said,


    إِنِّي لأَرْجُو أَنْ لا يَدْخُلَ النَّارَ أَحَدٌ إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ مِمَّنْ شَهِدَ بَدْرًا، وَالْحُدَيْبِيَةَ، قُلْتُ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، أَلَيْسَ قَدْ قَالَ اللَّهُ "وَإِنْ مِنْكُمْ إِلا وَارِدُهَا كَانَ عَلَى رَبِّكَ حَتْمًا مَقْضِيًّا"[مريم آية 71] ؟، قَالَ:أَوَلَمْ تَسْمَعِيهِ، يَقُولُ: "ثُمَّ نُنَجِّي الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا وَنَذَرُ الظَّالِمِينَ فِيهَا جِثِيًّا"


    “I hope that those who participated in the Badr and Hudaybiyyah encounters will not enter the Fire.” Hafsa (bint ‘Umar) asked, “Hasn’t Allah said, ‘And there is none of you but he shall pass over it’?” He replied, “Read after that, ‘Then We shall deliver those that were godfearing.’”
    A similar report is in Muslim (Au.).
    There is another, long hadith that supports this meaning. It is narrated by Abu Sa`id al-Khudri. The Prophet speaks in it about how the people will cross the Bridge laid over the Fire. Many will fall down into Hellfire. Subsequently, (after a long period) intercessors will intercede until no one will be left in whose heart there is the littlest of faith. The tradition, coming from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri is as follows: “Then the people will start crossing over. Some Muslims would get through unhurt but some will be injured by it. Some escaping, while some held back. Yet others will pile up therein. Until, when Allah will be finished with the accounting of His slaves, the believers will discover that they are missing believers who were with them in the world, doing their kind of Prayers, paying their kind of zakah, fasting their kind of fasts, making pilgrimage in their manner and making Jihad like theirs. So they would say, ‘Our Lord. Some slaves of Yours! They were with us in the world. They used to Pray like us, pay zakah like us, fast like us, perform pilgrimage with us and make Jihad with us: we do not see them now?!’ He will say, ‘Go to the Fire and whoever of them you find therein, remove them.’ They’ll find that the Fire would have eaten off them in proportion to their deeds. There would be some among them whom the Fire would have taken off up to their feet; others up to his shank; some up to their knees; some up to their breasts; some up to their necks but would not have touched their faces. So they’ll remove them from the Fire and dip them in the water of Life.” It was asked, “And what is the water of Life, Messenger of Allah?” He answered, “Waste water of the people of Paradise.”
    “So, they will start growing like the plants start growing in the flood passage. Then the Prophets will intercede in favor of everyone who sincerely bore witness that there is no god save Allah. They will remove them from it. Then Allah will show His mercy to whom He will so that none will be left therein who had a grain of faith in his heart but would have been removed” (Ibn Jarir).
    Those who have held the above opinion have argued with another verse of the Qur’an which says (21: 101),

     


    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ سَبَقَتْ لَهُمْ مِنَّا الْحُسْنَى أُولَئِكَ عَنْهَا مُبْعَدُونَ [الأنبياء : 101]


    “As regards those about whom blessing has preceded from Us, they, such of them will be far removed from it (i.e., the Fire).”
    This being the case, Khalid b. Ma`dan said, “When the people of Paradise would have entered Paradise, they will say, ‘Did our Lord not promise that we shall surely enter it?’ It will be said, ‘You have already been into it. But you found it ashes’” (Qurtubi).
    This report is in `Abd b. Humayd, Ibn Abi Shaybah and others (Alusi).
    Ibn Kathir has more or less the same line of argument except to add another hadith of Bukhari. It says,


    لاَ يَمُوتُ لأَحَدٍ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ ثَلاَثَةٌ مِنَ الْوَلَدِ فَتَمَسَّهُ النَّارُ إِلاَّ تَحِلَّةَ الْقَسَمِ


    “Three of a man’s infants do not die but the Fire becomes forbidden unto him, except for the fulfillment of the oath.”
    A third opinion comes directly from the hadith, viz., entry into Hellfire will be made comfortable and pleasant. The Prophet is reported by Ibn Sumayyah as saying,


    الْوُرُودُ الدُّخُولُ لَا يَبْقَى بَرٌّ وَلَا فَاجِرٌ إِلَّا دَخَلَهَا فَتَكُونُ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِ بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا كَمَا كَانَتْ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَتَّى إِنَّ لِلنَّارِ أَوْ قَالَ لِجَهَنَّمَ ضَجِيجًا مِنْ بَرْدِهِمْ ثُمَّ يُنَجِّي اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا وَيَذَرُ الظَّالِمِينَ فِيهَا جِثِيًّا


    “Coming there is entry. No one, neither a corrupt person nor a pious believer will be left but will enter the Fire. But it will be as cool for the believers as it was for Ibrahim” (Shawkani). The report is in Hakim who declared it Sahih with Dhahabi agreeing with him. It is also in Ahmad, and Haythami thought that the narrators were trustworthy (S. Ibrahim).
    Majid traces out a similar statement in Christian liturgy. He writes: “Compare a teaching of Jesus, unrecorded in the canonized gospels, ‘Every one, be he who he may, must go into Hell. It is true, however, that the holy ones and prophets of God shall go there to behold, not suffering any punishment’ (GB. p. 317).”

    ثُمَّ نُنَجِّي الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا وَنَذَرُ الظَّالِمِينَ فِيهَا جِثِيًّا (72)

    19|72| Then We shall deliver those who were godfearing84 and leave the transgressors therein on their knees.

    84. That is, people will pass over the Bridge laid over the Fire of Hell. Those who pass through, will do at a pace proportional to their deeds. Many will fall. Later, intercessors will intercede for them: from among the believers, angels, Prophets. They will intercede in favor of those who committed Major sins. They will bring out a whole lot of people who will be burned to the core except for the prostration spot on the forehead. They will first remove those who had faith the size of a Dinar (coin). Then lesser, and then lesser, until they would have removed anyone with the minutest amount of faith possible. Thereafter, Allah will remove a people who would have merely pronounced the testimony, without doing anything good ever. After that only those will be left who deserve to abide in Hell (Ibn Kathir).

    وَإِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ قَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَيُّ الْفَرِيقَيْنِ خَيْرٌ مَقَامًا وَأَحْسَنُ نَدِيًّا (73)

    19|73| When Our revelations are recited to them as clear evidences, the wrongdoers say to the believers, ‘Which of the two groups is better placed and which one better in assembly?’85

    85. Sayyid Qutb comments: “So these are the prestigious clubs and important organizations from where the unbelievers issue their statements. Such statements as loaded with values and standards of judgment that are dear to the unbelievers of every corrupt epoch. On the other hand are the humble societies and modest associations that have nothing to show as their possessions except their faith: neither pomp nor glory, nor glittering ostentations, nothing. The two exist on the same planet, confronting each other.
    “The former stands with all its gorgeous temptations, grandeur, wealth, power and glory, while the latter is clothed in poverty, armed with humbleness. The latter is belittled for lack of wealth and possessions, mocked at for want of power and prestige. It invites the people to join its ranks, not in the name of luxuries it has acquired, advantages it has gained, or closeness to men of power and authority that it has earned. But rather, in the name of a faith that it offers without dressing it with shiny apparels, bereft of every glitter, seeking strength by Allah’s Power and of none else. Indeed it presents a faith that is accompanied by hardships, difficulties and humiliation. It possesses nothing with which it can compensate the losses of those who respond to its call, except for nearness to Allah and a wholesome reward in the Hereafter.
    “Here are the Quraysh chieftains – of the time of the Prophet – to whom Allah’s revelations were recited. They would turn to the weak Muslims and quip: ‘Which of the two groups is better placed and better in association?’ Which of the two: the powerful ones who wouldn’t believe in Muhammad, or the weak ones who surrounded him? Which of the two is better placed and better in association? Nadr b. al-Harith, `Amr b. Hisham, Walid b. al-Mughira and the other chieftains or Bilal, `Ammar, Khabbab and others of their brotherhood: those who held no rank in the society of the Quraysh and were of no importance at all? They met, when they had to, in the house of a poor, unemployed person like Khabbab to confront those of the prestigious clubs and important organizations, whose members held top positions in the society..”
    Asad delves deeper to look at the underlying meaning of an apparently simple Qur’anic statement. He writes: “This parabolic ‘saying’ of the unbelievers implies, in the garb of a rhetorical question, a superficially plausible but intrinsically fallacious argument in favor of the society which refused to submit to any absolute moral imperatives and is determined to obey the dictates of expediency alone. In such a social order, material success and power are usually seen as consequences of a more or less conscious rejection of all metaphysical considerations – and, in particular, of all that is comprised in the concept of God-willed standards of morality – on the assumption that they are but an obstacle in the path of man’s free, unlimited ‘development.’ It goes without saying that this attitude (which has reached its epitome in the modern statement that ‘religion is the opium for the people’) is diametrically opposed to the demand, voiced by every religion, that man’s social life, if it is to be a truly ‘good’ life, must be subordinated to definite higher ethical principles and restraints. By their very nature, these restraints inhibit them to achieve – without regard to the damage done to others, and, spiritually, to themselves – outward comforts and positions of strength in the shortest possible time: but precisely because they do act as a brake on man’s selfishness and power-hunger, it is these moral considerations and restraints – and they alone – that can free a community from the interminable, self-destructive inner tension and frustration to which materialistic societies are subject, and thus bring about a more enduring, because more organic, state of social well-being. This, in short, is the elliptically implied answer of the Qur’an to a rhetorical question placed in the mouths of ‘those who are bent on denying the truth.’”

    وَكَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا قَبْلَهُمْ مِنْ قَرْنٍ هُمْ أَحْسَنُ أَثَاثًا وَرِئْيًا (74)

    19|74| How many nations have We (not) destroyed before them who were better furnished and better in appearance?86

    86. If the root of the word “ri’ya” is sought in “ray”, then it would mean blessings and good things (Zamakhshari).

    قُلْ مَنْ كَانَ فِي الضَّلَالَةِ فَلْيَمْدُدْ لَهُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ مَدًّا ۚ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا رَأَوْا مَا يُوعَدُونَ إِمَّا الْعَذَابَ وَإِمَّا السَّاعَةَ فَسَيَعْلَمُونَ مَنْ هُوَ شَرٌّ مَكَانًا وَأَضْعَفُ جُنْدًا (75)

    19|75| Say, ‘Whoever is in error, let the Most Merciful extend (the rope) to him extensively,’87 until when they see that which they were being promised – either the chastisement, or the Hour - it is then that they will realize as to who is worse placed and weaker in forces.88

    87. That is, Allah (swt) allows him to carry on with his evil ways until the crime is proven beyond any doubt. And, one opinion is that the words, ‘let the Most Merciful extend (the rope) to him extensively’ are the Prophet’s words of supplication. Another opinion is that it is a threat (Qurtubi).
    88. Mawdudi comments: “This was a fallacious argument which the unbelievers often put forward, claiming that it was they rather than the believers upon whom God’s bounties were lavished. They audaciously asked: ‘Who has more stately houses to live in – the believers or we? Who enjoys higher standards of living – the believers or we? Whose assemblies are more splendid and grandiose – those of the believers or ours?’ How is it possible, they asked, that those who follow the truth suffer such a miserable lot whilst whose who follow falsehood – as you fancy – prosper?”
    Yusuf Ali adds on: “Allah’s warning is that every evil deed must have its punishment, and that there will be a Hereafter, the Day of Judgment, or the Hour, as it is frequently called. The punishment of evil often begins in this very life. For instance, over-indulgence and excesses of all kinds bring on their Nemesis quite often soon in this very life. But some subtler forms of selfishness and sin will be punished – as every evil deed will be punished – in its own good time, as the Hour approaches. In either case, the arrogant boasting sinner will realize that their taunt – who is best in position and in force? – is turned against themselves.”

    وَيَزِيدُ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا هُدًى ۗ وَالْبَاقِيَاتُ الصَّالِحَاتُ خَيْرٌ عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ ثَوَابًا وَخَيْرٌ مَرَدًّا (76)

    19|76| And Allah increases those who accept guidance with (further) guidance.89 And the abiding good things 90 are better with your Lord in reward and better in respect of returns.

    89. The verse can be explained in Asad’s words: “God endows those who avail themselves of [His] guidance with an ever deeper consciousness of the righteous way.”
    90. See Surah al-Kahf, note 69 for explanation of the terms “al-baqiyyat al-salihat.” In short, belief and righteous deeds are the baqiyyat al-salihat (Au.).

    أَفَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي كَفَرَ بِآيَاتِنَا وَقَالَ لَأُوتَيَنَّ مَالًا وَوَلَدًا (77)

    19|77| Have you considered him who rejected Our signs and said, ‘Assuredly, I shall be given wealth and children?’91

    91. A report (in Bukhari, Muslim: Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir) coming from Khabbab b. al-Art says,


    كُنْتُ قَيْنًا فِى الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ وَكَانَ لِى عَلَى الْعَاصِ بْنِ وَائِلٍ دَرَاهِمُ فَأَتَيْتُهُ أَتَقَاضَاهُ فَقَالَ : لاَ أَقْضِيكَ حَتَّى تَكْفُرَ بِمُحَمَّدٍ فَقُلْتُ : وَاللَّهِ لاَ أَكْفُرُ حَتَّى يُمِيتَكَ اللَّهُ ثُمَّ يَبْعَثَكَ قَالَ فَذَرْنِى حَتَّى أَمُوتَ ثُمَّ أُبْعَثَ فَأُوتَى مَالاً وَوَلَدًا فَأَقْضِيَكَ فَنَزَلَ ( أَفَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِى كَفَرَ بِآيَاتِنَا وَقَالَ لأُوتَيَنَّ مَالاً وَوَلَدًا)
    “I was a blacksmith in Makkah. `As b. Wa’il owed me some money (for some work I had done for him: Qurtubi). [According to some reports, `A owed several Muslims money: Ibn Kathir]. I went up to him and asked for it. He said, ‘By God, I’ll never give you until you denounce Muhammad.’ I replied, ‘By Allah, I shall never denounce Muhammad until you are dead and then are resurrected.’ He said, ‘If I die, am resurrected and you come to me and if I happen to have wealth and children, I may pay back to you.’ In response Allah revealed this verse” (Ibn Jarir, Razi).
    According to reports coming from Ibn `Abbas and others, `As said, “Surely, If ever I am resurrected, I shall be given wealth and children” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    أَطَّلَعَ الْغَيْبَ أَمِ اتَّخَذَ عِنْدَ الرَّحْمَٰنِ عَهْدًا (78)

    19|78| Has he looked into the Unseen, or has he concluded a covenant with the Most Merciful?92

    92. According to Ibn `Abbas and Muhammad b. Ka`b al-Qurazi, the allusion by the term “`ahd” is to the testimony “there is no god except Allah” (Ibn Kathir).
    That is, everyone who said the testimony entered into a covenant with Allah with the promise from Him that He will bestow him with blessings in the Hereafter (Au.).

    كَلَّا ۚ سَنَكْتُبُ مَا يَقُولُ وَنَمُدُّ لَهُ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ مَدًّا (79)

    19|79| No indeed! We shall record what he says, and shall extend for him the chastisement extensively.

    وَنَرِثُهُ مَا يَقُولُ وَيَأْتِينَا فَرْدًا (80)

    19|80| We shall inherit from him what he says,93 and he will come to Us, alone.

    93. Ibn Mas`ud, Mujahid and Qatadah have said that the meaning is, “We shall inherit his wealth and children, and he shall come to Us alone, without them in his company” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    وَاتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ آلِهَةً لِيَكُونُوا لَهُمْ عِزًّا (81)

    19|81| And they have taken deities other than Allah so that they might be (a source) of power for them.

    كَلَّا ۚ سَيَكْفُرُونَ بِعِبَادَتِهِمْ وَيَكُونُونَ عَلَيْهِمْ ضِدًّا (82)

    19|82| By no means! Soon they will disavow their worship and become adversaries against them.94

    94. That is, those who were worshipped will deny that they were ever worshipped. In fact, they shall act as their adversaries (Au.). Allah said elsewhere (46: 5),


    وَمَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّنْ يَدْعُو مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَنْ لَا يَسْتَجِيبُ لَهُ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ وَهُمْ عَنْ دُعَائِهِمْ غَافِلُونَ [الأحقاف : 5]


    “And who can be more misguided than he who called upon someone besides Allah, who can never answer him until the Day of Judgment. In fact, they are unaware of their call. And when the people are gathered together (on the Judgment Day), they will be their enemies and will deny their worship” (Ibn Kathir).

    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا الشَّيَاطِينَ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ تَؤُزُّهُمْ أَزًّا (83)

    19|83| Have you not noticed that we have let loose Shayatin 95 upon the unbelievers to prick them incitingly?

    95. The meaning of the words, “We have let loose (lit. ‘sent’) Shayatin” is, “We gave them the freedom (to incite the humans)” – Qurtubi.

    فَلَا تَعْجَلْ عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ إِنَّمَا نَعُدُّ لَهُمْ عَدًّا (84)

    19|84| So hasten not against them. We are only counting out against them a (limited) number.

    يَوْمَ نَحْشُرُ الْمُتَّقِينَ إِلَى الرَّحْمَٰنِ وَفْدًا (85)

    19|85| The Day when We will gather the God-conscious unto the Most Merciful as honored delegates.96

    96. `Ali, Abu Hurayrah, Ibn `Abbas and Sufyan Thawri said that on Judgment Day the righteous will not be on their feet singly, but rather, in groups, on mounts (of Light) of such beauty as never seen before (Ibn Jarir). In fact, the term “wafd” is employed in Arabic for a delegation on mounts (Ibn Kathir). This does not contradict those reports in the Sahihayn that say that people will leave their graves barefoot, bareheaded, and naked. For, they might be clothed after leaving the graves (Qurtubi).
    We also have `Amr b. Qays al-Mula’i on record as having said, “As a believer leaves his grave he will encounter someone with the most beautiful countenance and the best of fragrance. He will ask, ‘Do you know me?’ The believer will reply, ‘No. But your fragrance is so pleasant and the countenance so beautiful.’ He will say, ‘That is how you were in the world. I am your good deeds of the life of the world. There I rode upon you, today you ride upon me.’” Then he recited this verse (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Abu Bakr Ibn al-`Arabiyy has said however – in his Siraj al-Muridin - that the report does not have a trustworthy chain of narrators (Qurtubi).
    The above hadith is in Ibn Abi Hatim (Ibn Kathir).

    وَنَسُوقُ الْمُجْرِمِينَ إِلَىٰ جَهَنَّمَ وِرْدًا (86)

    19|86| And drive the criminals to Hell-fire in thirst.97

    97. The translation of “wird” as “thirsty” follows the understanding of Ibn `Abbas, Abu Hurayrah, Hasan and others (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    لَا يَمْلِكُونَ الشَّفَاعَةَ إِلَّا مَنِ اتَّخَذَ عِنْدَ الرَّحْمَٰنِ عَهْدًا (87)

    19|87| None will have (the benefit) of intercession, save those who had concluded with the Most Merciful a covenant.98

    98. What covenant is it? Ibn `Abbas thought that it is faith itself. But Qatadah and Ibn Jurayj added that it is faith followed by righteous deeds. Qatadah said that they had learnt from their elders that the Prophet said,


    لَيَدْخُلَنَّ الْجَنَّةَ بِشَفَاعَةِ رَجُلٍ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أَكْثَرُ مِنْ بني تَمِيمٍ


    “There will be a man in my Ummah by whose intercession as many people will enter Islam as the tribe of Banu Tameem.” And, “we use to hear,” Qatadah continues, “that a martyr will intercede for seventy of his kinsfolk” (Tabari, Ibn Kathir).
    The report is, according to Dhahabi, trustworthy; and Hasan al-Busri is reported to have said that he believed the allusion was to Uways al-Qarni (Au.).

    وَقَالُوا اتَّخَذَ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وَلَدًا (88)

    19|88| And they said, ‘The Most Merciful has taken (unto himself) a son.’99

    99. Majid notes the Christian doctrine, “God the Son is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is the only Begotten and eternal son of the Father. He is co-substantial with the Father.’ (CD. p. 912).”

    لَقَدْ جِئْتُمْ شَيْئًا إِدًّا (89)

    19|89| Surely, you have advanced something most hideous.

    تَكَادُ السَّمَاوَاتُ يَتَفَطَّرْنَ مِنْهُ وَتَنْشَقُّ الْأَرْضُ وَتَخِرُّ الْجِبَالُ هَدًّا (90)

    19|90| The heavens could well-nigh explode thereby, the earth split asunder, and the mountains collapse into ruins.100

    100. So monstrous it is to attribute a son to the Lord Most High that the world could all but be destroyed. Hence the importance of belief in the Oneness of God. The Prophet said,


    لَقِّنُوا مَوْتَاكُمْ شَهَادَةَ أَنْ لا إِلَهَ إِلا اللَّهُ , فَمَنْ قَالَهَا عِنْدَ مَوْتِهِ وَجَبَتْ لَهُ الْجَنَّةُ, قَالُوا: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ , فَمَنْ قَالَهَا فِي صِحَّةٍ؟ قَالَ:تِلْكَ أَوْجَبُ وَأَوْجَبُ, ثُمَّ قَالَ:وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَوْ جِيءَ بِالسَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرَضِينَ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ وَمَا بَيْنَهُنَّ وَمَا تَحْتَهُنَّ , فَوُضِعَتْ فِي كِفَّةِ الْمِيزَانِ وَوُضِعَتْ شَهَادَةُ أَنْ لا إِلَهَ إِلا اللَّهُ فِي الْكِفَّةِ الأُخْرَى لَرَجَحَتْ بِهِنَّ


    “Let your dying say the testimony ‘There is no god save Allah’ for whoever said that at the time of his death will enter Paradise.” He was asked, “If so, then what about someone who said it in ordinary times?” He replied, “That would make it more certain, more certain.” Then he added, “By Him in whose hands is my life, if all that is there in the heavens and the earth were to be placed into one pan and the testimony ‘There is no god save Allah’ in another, the one with the testimony will weigh down” (Ibn Jarir).
    The above hadith draws strength from another which says that a slip of paper containing the testimony will weigh heavier in the Scale on the Day of Judgment than 99 books of evil deeds (Ibn Kathir).
    And, Ibn al-Mubarak, Sa`id b. Mansur, Ibn Abi Shaybah, Ahmad (in his “Al-Zuhd”), Ibn Abi Hatim, Abu al-Sheikh, Tabrani and Bayhaqi (in his Shu`ab) have reported Ibn Mas`ud as saying, “A mountain calls out to another mountain by its name, ‘O so and so. Did anyone pass by you who remembered Allah?’ It replies, ‘Yes. Be of good cheer’” (Shawkani).
    Qurtubi adds: Muhammad b. Ka`b has said that the statement about Allah taking a son is so heinous, that those who uttered it almost broke the Last Hour on us human beings. And, Ibn al-Arabiyy has said, “If not for the fact that Allah is neither affected by the disbelief of the disbeliever, nor is He elevated by the belief of the believer; neither the former decreases in His kingdom by aught, nor the latter increases it by aught, (if not for these facts) such a blasphemy would not have been allowed to roll on the tongues. But the thing is, Allah Most High takes no notice of what the misguided ones have to utter about Him.”
    Majid adds: “Compare a saying of Jesus himself, unrecorded in the ‘canonical’ gospels. ‘The crowd drew nigh, and when they knew him they began to cry out: Welcome to thee, O our God! And they began to do him reverence, as unto God. Whereupon Jesus gave a great groan, and said: Get ye from before me, O madmen, for I fear lest the earth should open and devour me with you for your abominable words.’ (GB. p. 213).”

    أَنْ دَعَوْا لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ وَلَدًا (91)

    19|91| That they should attributed to the Most Merciful a son.

    وَمَا يَنْبَغِي لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ أَنْ يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا (92)

    19|92| It behooves not the Most Merciful that He should take a son.

    إِنْ كُلُّ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ إِلَّا آتِي الرَّحْمَٰنِ عَبْدًا (93)

    19|93| None there is in the heavens and the earth but must come to the Most Merciful as a servant.

    لَقَدْ أَحْصَاهُمْ وَعَدَّهُمْ عَدًّا (94)

    19|94| Assuredly, He has full account of them and has numbered them exactly.

    وَكُلُّهُمْ آتِيهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَرْدًا (95)

    19|95| And every one of them is to come to Him on the Day of Judgment singly.

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ سَيَجْعَلُ لَهُمُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وُدًّا (96)

    19|96| Surely, those who attained to faith and did righteous deeds, the Most Merciful will surely assign them love.101

    101. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others have said in explanation that the allusion is to the place of love for the believers among the believers (Ibn Jarir).
    The above is confirmed by reports in the Sahihayn and other collections. The Prophet said,


    إِنَّ اللَّهَ إِذَا أَحَبَّ عَبْدًا دَعَا جِبْرِيلَ فَقَالَ إِنِّى أُحِبُّ فُلاَنًا فَأَحِبَّهُ - قَالَ - فَيُحِبُّهُ جِبْرِيلُ ثُمَّ يُنَادِى فِى السَّمَاءِ فَيَقُولُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ فُلاَنًا فَأَحِبُّوهُ. فَيُحِبُّهُ أَهْلُ السَّمَاءِ - قَالَ - ثُمَّ يُوضَعُ لَهُ الْقَبُولُ فِى الأَرْضِ. وَإِذَا أَبْغَضَ عَبْدًا دَعَا جِبْرِيلَ فَيَقُولُ إِنِّى أُبْغِضُ فُلاَنًا فَأَبْغِضْهُ - قَالَ - فَيُبْغِضُهُ جِبْرِيلُ ثُمَّ يُنَادِى فِى أَهْلِ السَّمَاءِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُبْغِضُ فُلاَنًا فَأَبْغِضُوهُ - قَالَ - فَيُبْغِضُونَهُ ثُمَّ تُوضَعُ لَهُ الْبَغْضَاءُ فِى الأَرْضِ.


    “When Allah loves a man He calls Jibril and tells him, ‘Jibril! I love so and so. So, you love him too.’ So, Jibril begins to love him. Thereafter it is announced among the inhabitants of the heavens: ‘Allah loves so and so. So, you too love him.’ So, the inhabitants of the heavens begin to love him. Then love is placed for him in the earth. In contrast, when Allah hates a man He calls Jibril and tells him, ‘Jibril! I hate so and so. So, you hate him too.’ So, Jibril begins to hate him. Thereafter it is announced among the inhabitants of the heavens, ‘Allah hates so and so. So, you too hate him.’ So, the inhabitants of the heavens begin to hate him. Then hatred is placed for him in the earth” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and Razi in brief).
    As for the popularity that we see some of the unbelievers gaining among themselves, or among misguided Muslims, most of the time, it is temporary (Au.).

    فَإِنَّمَا يَسَّرْنَاهُ بِلِسَانِكَ لِتُبَشِّرَ بِهِ الْمُتَّقِينَ وَتُنْذِرَ بِهِ قَوْمًا لُدًّا (97)

    19|97| Indeed We have made it easy (to understand) in your own tongue so that you might thereby give glad tiding to the believers and warn thereby a people contentious.

    وَكَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا قَبْلَهُمْ مِنْ قَرْنٍ هَلْ تُحِسُّ مِنْهُمْ مِنْ أَحَدٍ أَوْ تَسْمَعُ لَهُمْ رِكْزًا (98)

    19|98| How many nations 102 have We destroyed before them? Do you perceive anyone of them, or hear from them a whisper?103

    102. A literal translation of the word “qarn” is epoch. It can also be rendered as “civilization.”
    103. Ibn Jarir presents examples from poetry to demonstrate that although the textual “rikz” lends different meanings, primarily it stands for a low voice, or whisper.