Surat Ţāhā

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. 20

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ طه (1)

    20|1| Ta-Ha.2


    1. According to a report in Daraqutni and Sirah Ibn Is-haq, it is the opening verses of this chapter that ‘Umar read in his sister’s house in the incident which ultimately led to his conversion to Islam (Qurtubi).
    It was the 6th year after the Prophet’s commissioning when ‘Umar started out with the intention to kill him and do away with the source of the problem. On the way he met someone and confided his intention in him. He (a Muslim) told him that the right point of start would be his own house: ‘Umar’s sister and brother-in-law who had turned Muslims. So ‘Umar changed his direction. Just then his sister Fatimah and her husband Sa`id b. Zayd (one of the ten who received glad tiding of Paradise) were receiving instructions in the Qur’an from Khabbab b. al-Art (a slave and an earlier Muslim). As `Umar knocked, they hid the parchment that carried the Revelation. Khabbab went under the bed. ‘Umar had heard the recitation. He inquired about what they were reading and, had they, by any chance, abandoned their old time-honored pagan religion? Upon receiving a denial about any written material, he assaulted his brother-in-law. When his sister intervened, he transferred a bit of his rage on her face with a powerful blow. She began to bleed but said defiantly, “Yes! You may do what you will, `Umar; but we shall never give up our new religion.” The blood and the sister’s confidence helped bring down `Umar’s rage. “Alrigh. But let me see what you were reading,” he said, half sheepish, half arrogant. However, in that heat also they would not forget the sanctimony of the Scroll and asked him to wash himself first. Was he not unclean? As ‘Umar washed the rest of his arrogance, Khabbab appeared from down under the bed. Images seemed to be flashing around, as he seemed to be more excited rather than apprehensive. “`Umar,” he said, “I have heard the Prophet ask Allah to lead one of the two `Umars (he, or Abu Jahl) to Islam.” How could ‘Umar have avoided feeling honored? As they stretched out the scroll, lo, it contained Surah Ta-Ha. A few minutes of intent reading, and `Umar was ready to see the Prophet (Au.).
    Alusi quotes a few ahadith on the virtues of this Surah. One is in Darami, Ibn Khuzaymah (in his Kitab al-Tawhid, Tabarani (in his Awsat) and Bayhaqi (in his Shu`ab), which Ibn Kathir also quotes, but distrusting it. It says,


    إِنَّ اللهَ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى قَرَأَ : (طه) و (يس) قَبْلَ أَنْ يَخْلُقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ بِأَلْفِ عَامٍ ، فَلَمَّا سَمِعْتِ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ الْقُرْآنَ ، قَالَتْ : طُوبَى لأُمَّةٍ يَنْزِلُ هَذَا عَلَيْهَا ، وَطُوبَى لأَجْوَافٍ تَحْمِلُ هَذَا ، وَطُوبَى لأَلْسِنَةٍ تَتَكَلَّمُ بِهَذَا.


    “Allah recited Ta-ha and Ya-sin a thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth. When the angels heard the recitation, ‘Goodness for a people upon whom they will be revealed, goodness for a people who carry them in their hearts, and goodness for a people whose tongues recite them.’”
    Haythamiyy said: While Bukhari distrusted one of the narrators, Ibn Ma`in (one of his masters) trusted him (Au.).
    And Ibn Marduwayh has a narration coming down from Abu Umamah. The Prophet (saws) said,


    ترفع قراءة القرآن عن أهل الجنة غير طه ويس


    “Recitation of the Qur’an will be taken away from the people of Paradise except for the chapters Ta-ha and Ya-sin.”
    We have traced this hadith to Hilyatu al-Awliyah. Its authenticity could not be established (Au.).
    Apart from these there are several other reports on the topic.
    As noted by some commentators, the reports quoted, or alluded to by Alusi and others on the virtues of this chapter are weak. But their combined strength must be made note of (Au.).


    2. According to the earliest commentators, Ta-ha is a word of Nabatean origin meaning, “O man.” Tabari quotes poetical lines to demonstrate that in the classic Arabic also the word was used in this sense. An ancient dialect of a Yemeni tribe known as `Akk, also used it in the same sense. Another possible meaning is, “Rest assured.” Imam Razi offers several other possibilities without stating his own preference.

    مَا أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْقُرْآنَ لِتَشْقَىٰ (2)

    20|2| We have not sent down the Qur’an upon you that you should be distressed.3


    3. Mujahid said that (in early Islam) the Prophet used to stand long hours in vigil as well as some of his Companions. Sometimes they stood so long that they needed to tie ropes to themselves (to prevent falling off during the Prayers). It was proving very stressful so Allah revealed, “We have not sent down the Qur’an that you be distressed.” In other words of the Qur’an itself (73: 20),


    فَاقْرَءُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنْهُ [المزمل : 20]


    “So recite of it (in the Prayers) what is easily possible” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    The report however is not wholly reliable. It was declared weak by Suyuti (Shawkani).
    Another possibility is that the allusion is to the distress the Prophet felt for the Makkans for not accepting his message and this verse was revealed to console him (Qurtubi).
    Taking cue from this verse, Ibn Kathir quotes a hadith which should be a great source of consolation for scholars. It is preserved by Tabarani which Ibn Kathir thinks is fairly reliable. The Prophet said,


    يَقُولُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لِلْعُلَمَاءِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ، إِذَا قَعَدَ عَلَى كُرْسِيِّهِ لِقَضَاءِ عِبَادِهِ : إِنِّي لَمْ أَجْعَلْ عِلْمِي ، وحُكْمِي فِيكُمْ ، إِلا وَأَنَا أُرِيدُ أَنْ أَغْفِرَ لَكُمْ ، عَلَى مَا كَانَ فِيكُمْ ، وَلا أُبَالِي.


    “On the Day of Judgment when Allah would have taken His place for judgment He will address the scholars and say, ‘I did not place the knowledge from Me, nor My wisdom in you except that I wished to forgive you, whatever the state in which you were, and I do not care.’”
    Yet another possible reason for the revelation of this verse is that the Makkans were taunting the early Muslims that since the Revelation had begun coming down, they appeared to be in great distress, what with lengthy Prayers at nights and several restrictions in everyday life (Ma`arif). Asad answers their objection. He writes, “I.e., the ethical discipline imposed upon man by the teachings of the Qur’an is not meant to narrow down his feel of life, but on the contrary, to enhance it by deepening his consciousness of right and wrong.”

    إِلَّا تَذْكِرَةً لِمَنْ يَخْشَىٰ (3)

    20|3| But only an exhortation to him who fears.


    تَنْزِيلًا مِمَّنْ خَلَقَ الْأَرْضَ وَالسَّمَاوَاتِ الْعُلَى (4)

    20|4| A revelation from Him who created the earth and the high heavens.


    الرَّحْمَٰنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَىٰ (5)

    20|5| (By) the Most Merciful who assumed Istawa’ on the ‘Arsh.4


    4. Imam Razi once again stresses on the point that “istawa `ala `l-`Arsh” should not be taken in the sense of “being seated on the `Arsh”: for three reasons. One, there was a time when there was no `Arsh until Allah created it. Second, the earth is spherical. What is up for some is down for others. `Arsh has to be in some direction. But Allah is not in any one direction. Third, we read in Surah Al-Haqqah verse 17,


    وَيَحْمِلُ عَرْشَ رَبِّكَ فَوْقَهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ ثَمَانِيَةٌ [الحاقة : 17]


    “Eight will be bearing the `Arsh on that Day.” Obviously, the created cannot bear the Creator.” Therefore the meaning of being seated has to be shelved. For further discussion see Chapter 7, note 82 of this work.
    We might also ask ourselves, if not for the introduction of such enigmatic words how will challenge-hungry minds spend their research energies? (Au.)
    Alusi also takes up the subject to show how difficult it is to deal with it. He quotes the hadith from Abu Da’ud which says,


    أُذِنَ لِى أَنْ أُحَدِّثَ عَنْ مَلَكٍ مِنْ مَلاَئِكَةِ اللَّهِ مِنْ حَمَلَةِ الْعَرْشِ إِنَّ مَا بَيْنَ شَحْمَةِ أُذُنِهِ إِلَى عَاتِقِهِ مَسِيرَةُ سَبْعِمِائَةِ عَامٍ


    “I have been allowed to say that one of those angels that carry the `Arsh (is so large) that between his earlobe and the shoulder is a distance of seven hundred years.”
    According to Albani, the hadith is Sahih (Au.).
    The Prophet has also said that the `Arsh is above the seven heavens in the form of a dome. Another report of Abu Da’ud tells us that once a Bedouin went up to the Prophet and said,


    يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ جَهِدَتِ الأَنْفُسُ ، وَضَاعَ الْعِيَالُ ، وَهَلَكَتِ الأَمْوَالُ ، وَنَهَكَتِ الأَنْعَامُ ، فَاسْتَسْقِ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لَنَا ، فَإِنَّا نَسْتَشْفِعُ بِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ ، وَنَسْتَشْفِعُ بِاللَّهِ عَلَيْكَ ، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : وَيْحَكَ تَدْرِي مَا تَقُولُ ؟ ، فَسَبَّحَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، فَمَا زَالَ يُسَبِّحُ ، حَتَّى عَرَفَ ذَلِكَ فِي وُجُوهِ أَصْحَابِهِ ، ثُمَّ قَالَ : وَيْحَكَ لا يُسْتَشْفَعُ بِاللَّهِ عَلَى أَحَدٍ ، مِنْ خَلْقِهِ ، شَأْنُ اللَّهِ أَعْظَمُ مِنْ ذَلِكَ ، وَيْحَكَ تَدْرِي مَا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ؟ إِنَّ عَرْشَهُ عَلَى سَمَاوَاتِهِ ، وَأَرْضِهِ هَكَذَا ، وَقَالَ بِإِصْبَعَيْهِ : مِثْلُ الْقُبَّةِ ، وَإِنَّهُ لَيَئِطُّ بِهِ أَطِيطَ الرَّحْلِ بِالرَّاكِبِ.


    “People are suffering, folks are lost, properties are destroyed, cattle is dying, so ask Allah for rains. We seek that you intercede with Allah, and seek that Allah intercede with you..” The Prophet remonstrated, “Woe unto you man. Do you realize what you are saying?” Then he began to say “Glory to Allah, glory to Allah,” again and again. Then he said, “Woe unto you man. Allah cannot be asked to intercede with anyone of His creation. Allah is Greater than that. Do you realize Allah’s Greatness? He is above His `Arsh, the `Arsh is above the heavens.” Then using his fingers he made a dome-like figure to indicate its shape. Then he added, “It makes a noise similar to the noise of a rider on a new leather saddle.”
    The hadith was declared Sahih by Abu Da’ud himself.
    The difficulty of the topic has led many scholars of great repute to leave the verse where it is without any interpretation, explanation, or further clarification. Imam Abu Hanifah held the opinion that, “It is not right of anyone to speak out anything about Allah’s Essence. Rather, one should ascribe to Him what He ascribed unto Himself, without adding anything over and above what He said.” This was also the opinion of Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad, Imam Shafe`i, Muhammad b. al-Hasan, Mirwazi, Ibn Mubarak, Is-haq b. Rahwayh, Bukhari, Tirmidhi and Abu Da’ud. This is more or less what the Sufiya have said, viz., people do not need any interpretation unless they forget the fact, already there in a corner of their mind, that Allah is different from anything that their minds can imagine.
    Nevertheless, some scholars have understood the term “istawa”, continues Alusi, in the sense of “istila” meaning, “He overcame, or overpowered.” This of course may not be a satisfactory explanation to some. But we should not be oblivious of the fact that the Qur’an is in the Arabic language, addressing Arabs, and their minds look for meaning. In view of this fact, and since “istawa” cannot be understood in the sense of “He sat,” or “squatted,” or “positioned Himself,” there should be room to understand it in the sense of “istila” since an Arab reader will have to choose between the two. He cannot be told to draw no meaning whatsoever. What Ibn `Abidin al-Shami has written in Radd al-Muhtar is very reasonable that taking the meaning as “istila” should be allowable for the common people, since they have to understand the verse one way or the other, although, such a meaning cannot be declared correct in the absolute sense.
    Alusi concludes that it is best not to speak of the topic at all, but rather, leave it to everyone to form an opinion that his knowledge allows him, and not insist that one version is correct and another incorrect.

    لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا وَمَا تَحْتَ الثَّرَىٰ (6)

    20|6| To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth, what is between them, and what is beneath the wet soil.5


    5. Linguistically, the word “thara” is used for wet soil (that one encounters as he digs). But many have accepted the meaning at this point as simply the soil. That is, Allah knows what is below the soil. Our translation is literal and exact. Muhammad b. Ka`b however said that it meant “the seven earths.” That is, Allah knows what is below the seven earths (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Majid’s study of other religions yields fruit. He writes: “The under-world has been supposed by many polytheistic nations to be ruled by a God of its own. ‘The divinity who reigns over the under-world is frequently a personification of the region itself, and this is more particularly the case where, e.g., the Earth and Under-earth are conceived as personified in one being. The earth-goddess is also the ruler of souls, with the under-earth people as her subjects’ (ERE XII, p. 518).”
    The verse could also be considered as a prediction by the Qur’an that nobody will ever know what is below the wet soil. Centuries of research has yielded some results about what is below the surface of the earth. It is a world teeming with life forms. Yet details of which is impossible to determine. Bacteria has been found several kilometers deep. But, and significantly, the Qur’an is not speaking of the wet layer of soil. It is speaking of what is below the wet layer: as if to send across the hint that at best you will only know (at best something) about the wet layer, and not any further. On a diameter of 12,000 kilometer man has been able to drill through no more than a few kilometers and the rest remains a complete mystery. The division and description of several layers by the geologists, which ends with a hot liquid core, is, at best, sketchy, conjectural, and, of little information value. Only Allah knows what is beneath the wet soil (Au.).

    وَإِنْ تَجْهَرْ بِالْقَوْلِ فَإِنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ السِّرَّ وَأَخْفَى (7)

    20|7| And, whether you speak aloud in speech (or not), He knows the secret and what is more hidden.6


    6. What can be “hidden and less than that”, or more secretive than the secretive? Imam Baqir and Ja`far Sadiq (as also others: Au.), said that “sirr” is what one conceals in his heart, whereas “lesser than that” is the passing thought which a man is unable to control and recollect afterward (Alusi).
    At this point Alusi also takes up the question of “Dhikr Jahri” (vocal remembrance) and states that there are above twenty ahadith that speak of the Prophet remembering Allah in a loud voice. We know of the famous incident when the Companions were making dhikr in a loud voice, in chorus, invoking the Prophet to say, “Be kind upon your souls, you are not calling upon someone who is deaf, nor someone away, but rather someone Who is the Hearing, the Near.” (That is, his objection was to the shouting. He did not say, do not raise your voice at all: Au.). As for the report that when Ibn Mas`ud encountered some people in a mosque doing dhikr aloud he remarked, “I do not see except that you are innovators” - and then he got them sent out. Well, this report is not trustworthy. In fact, Imam Nawawi thought that dhikr in a raised voice is better than the sub-vocal one (because it helps drive away other thoughts). So was the opinion of Imam Shafe`i and which seems to be the opinion of Imam Ahmad also.
    See Surah Al-an`am, note no. 286 for some more details.
    Although the main point of discussion above may have its merits, we might point out that according to Hussain Saleem Asad the narration concerning Ibn Mas`ud has a sound chain (Au).
    At all events, it is scientifically proven that sound waves leave their effects on the mind, either positively or negatively: “The science seems to suggest that there is a relationship between sound waves and brainwaves and that sound waves can alter brainwaves in positive ways. In the conclusion of a study, ‘A Comprehensive Review of the Psychological Effects of Brainwave Entrainment,’ 2008, by Tina L. Huang, PhD., she says that findings suggest that Brainwave Entrainment is an effective therapeutic tool, but that more studies needed to be conducted. Her studies showed that people suffering from cognitive functioning deficits, stress, pain, headaches/migraines, PMS and behavioral problems benefited from Brainwave Entrainment.” (What Type of Sound Waves Are Best For Brain Entrainment? – by A. Mullen) – Au.

    اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ (8)

    20|8| Allah, there is no god save He. His are the Names Most Beautiful.


    وَهَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ مُوسَىٰ (9)

    20|9| And, have you received the story of Musa?7


    7. Imam Razi expresses the possibility that among the Makkan revelations this was the first time the Qur’an was narrating Musa’s story and hence it started with words, “Have you received the story of Musa?”

    إِذْ رَأَىٰ نَارًا فَقَالَ لِأَهْلِهِ امْكُثُوا إِنِّي آنَسْتُ نَارًا لَعَلِّي آتِيكُمْ مِنْهَا بِقَبَسٍ أَوْ أَجِدُ عَلَى النَّارِ هُدًى (10)

    20|10| When he saw a fire,8 and said to his family, ‘Stay here.9 I can perceive a fire. Perhaps I can bring you back a burning brand from it, or find guidance at the fire.’10


    8. We are at a point in Musa’s story when, having completed his term with his father-in-law, Musa (asws) was heading back to Egypt, with his wife. It was a cold wintry night and Musa had lost his way (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others).


    9. The form is plural, leading us to believe that it was a small caravan comprising of a wife, a child, or more (Au.).


    10. That is, guidance to the path Musa had lost that would lead him to Egypt (Ibn Kathir from Ibn `Abbas).

    فَلَمَّا أَتَاهَا نُودِيَ يَا مُوسَىٰ (11)

    20|11| When he came to it, he was called, ‘O Musa!


    إِنِّي أَنَا رَبُّكَ فَاخْلَعْ نَعْلَيْكَ ۖ إِنَّكَ بِالْوَادِ الْمُقَدَّسِ طُوًى (12)

    20|12| Surely I, I am your Lord! So put off your shoes;11 you are in the sacred valley Tuwa.12


    11. Majid quotes: “Among the Hebrews, ‘it was a mark of reverence to cast off the shoes on approaching a sacred person or place’ (ERE. XII. p. 149).”
    The earliest scholars differed between themselves over why Musa was asked to remove his shoes. Quite a few said that they were made of a dead donkey’s leather and so unclean. But Ibn Jarir distrusts the Prophetic report in this regard and prefers the reason that Musa was asked to do so for his feet to draw spiritual blessing (barakah) by touching the soil of the Holy Valley.
    Qurtubi adds: Musa (asws) was possibly asked to remove his shoes for reasons of humility due at the time of devotional acts. The Salaf used to remove their shoes while circumambulating the house. Indeed, Imam Malik would not ride upon a camel within Madinah out of respect for the Prophet’s body buried there. Nevertheless, it is allowed in our Shari`ah to Pray with the shoes on. In fact, someone has said that it is preferable to do so in view of Allah’s instruction (7: 31), “Put on your adornment at every Prayer.” But the condition is that they should be free of filth. It is reported that:


    بَيْنَمَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- يُصَلِّى بِأَصْحَابِهِ إِذْ خَلَعَ نَعْلَيْهِ فَوَضَعَهُمَا عَنْ يَسَارِهِ فَلَمَّا رَأَى ذَلِكَ الْقَوْمُ أَلْقَوْا نِعَالَهُمْ فَلَمَّا قَضَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- صَلاَتَهُ قَالَ « مَا حَمَلَكُمْ عَلَى إِلْقَائِكُمْ نِعَالَكُمْ ». قَالُوا رَأَيْنَاكَ أَلْقَيْتَ نَعْلَيْكَ فَأَلْقَيْنَا نِعَالَنَا. فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « إِنَّ جِبْرِيلَ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- أَتَانِى فَأَخْبَرَنِى أَنَّ فِيهِمَا قَذَرًا ». وَقَالَ « إِذَا جَاءَ أَحَدُكُمْ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ فَلْيَنْظُرْ فَإِنْ رَأَى فِى نَعْلَيْهِ قَذَرًا أَوْ أَذًى فَلْيَمْسَحْهُ وَلْيُصَلِّ فِيهِمَا ».


    Once the Prophet removed his footwear, placed them on the left hand side and then entered into Prayers. The Companions behind him followed him. After the Prayers he asked them why they had done that. They said they did in his imitation. He said, “Jibril came to me to say that my footwear was unclean.” Then he added, “When one of you comes to the Prayers, let him look at his shoes. If unclean, let him rub off the dirt and then Pray in them.”
    Abu Da’ud narrated this hadith and Muhammad Abdul Haq rated it as Sahih.
    In fact, Ibrahim al-Nakha`i used to say, “I would like to see the shoes of those who Pray without them taken away by a needy person!” However, according to a report in Nasa’i, the Prophet himself was seen on the day he entered Makkah triumphant removing his shoes and placing them on the left side before Prayers. He placed them on the left side because he was the Imam. As for others, they should put them in a place where they do not inconvenience others. Further, if the dirt is say urine, excrement, etc., then, according to most scholars, rubbing them off is not sufficient. They must be washed. According to Abu Hanifah, if the impurity is dry it may be rubbed off, but if wet, the shoes must be washed.
    Qurtubi’s commentary ends here.
    Finally, the fact must not be lost sight of that Arabia is a dry place, sandy, craggy, and rocky, with no rains and no mud. There is little or nothing to dirty one’s shoes in complete contrast with wet places, where streams, open sewages, and pools of water dotting the landscape help spread the dirt by feet. Thus, what is applicable to Arabia is not applicable to every other place (Au.).


    12. Commentators are divided between the majority accepting Tuwa as the name of the valley and a minority, as meaning “twice,” i.e., a valley twice blessed.

    وَأَنَا اخْتَرْتُكَ فَاسْتَمِعْ لِمَا يُوحَىٰ (13)

    20|13| I have chosen you; therefore give ear to what is to be revealed.13


    13. That is, listen carefully. Sufyan b. ‘Uyayna has said that the first step towards gaining knowledge is to hear carefully, intently. Then memorize it, then put it to practice and finally, spread it (Qurtubi).

    إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي (14)

    20|14| Verily I, I am Allah. There is no god but I; therefore worship Me, and perform the Prayers for My remembrance.14


    14. “Thus, the conscious remembrance of God and of His oneness and uniqueness is declared to be the innermost purpose, as well as the intellectual justification, of all true prayer” (Asad).
    The translation represents the general understanding. However, another possible meaning is, “offer the Prayers whenever you remember” (Ibn Jarir). This draws its strength from a hadith in Ahmad. It says,


    إِذَا رَقَدَ أَحَدُكُمْ عَنِ الصَّلاَةِ أَوْ غَفَلَ عَنْهَا فَلْيُصَلِّهَا إِذَا ذَكَرَهَا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَقُولُ أَقِمِ الصَّلاَةَ لِذِكْرِى


    “When one of you sleeps off his Prayer, or forgets to do it, then let him do it when he remembers, for Allah said, ‘Perform the Prayers for My remembrance’” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Similar reports are in the Sahihayn (Shawkani).
    The text however, writes Qurtubi, allows for both the interpretations. In its extended meaning, hadith literature tells us that if someone did not do his Prayers intentionally, he might do it when he repents. This is the opinion of almost all scholars except that of Da’ud (Zahiri) and one or two minor scholars. The situation is the same as with fasts. Whoever did not do Ramadan fasts is, by consensus, required to do them later. So also Prayers. Those who said against, perhaps said it to impress the importance of the Prayers, and not to discourage people from not Praying at all later, if in the first instance, they did not do it intentionally.

    إِنَّ السَّاعَةَ آتِيَةٌ أَكَادُ أُخْفِيهَا لِتُجْزَىٰ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا تَسْعَىٰ (15)

    20|15| Surely, the Hour is to come that I would well-nigh conceal it,15 so that every soul be requited for its labors.


    15. The literal translation of “akadu” as “almost” is the understanding of Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, Abu Saleh and others who said that the meaning is, “I would almost conceal it from Myself, it being an affair of such suddenness” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    However, some have understood “akadu” in the sense of “I wish (to conceal)”, i.e., from the creations. Ibn Jarir and others quote poetical lines to show that classical Arabic has examples of such usage, although he himself accepts the former interpretation as most likely intended. Further, the word “ukhfi-ha” changes its meaning if read as “akhfi-ha” which some have done. In that case it would mean, “I will show” or, “manifest”, and the whole verse would mean, “The Hour is coming and I am about to show it.” But this is not a popular understanding (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and others).

    فَلَا يَصُدَّنَّكَ عَنْهَا مَنْ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِهَا وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ فَتَرْدَىٰ (16)

    20|16| So let him not avert you from it who does not believe in it but follows his lust, lest you perish.


    وَمَا تِلْكَ بِيَمِينِكَ يَا مُوسَىٰ (17)

    20|17| And what is it in your right hand, O Musa?’16


    16. Some scholars have said that the question was asked about an obvious thing in order to draw Musa’s attention to the fact that it was after all a wooden rod that he held in his hand (and which he will see undergo a transformation) - Ibn Kathir.

    قَالَ هِيَ عَصَايَ أَتَوَكَّأُ عَلَيْهَا وَأَهُشُّ بِهَا عَلَىٰ غَنَمِي وَلِيَ فِيهَا مَآرِبُ أُخْرَىٰ (18)

    20|18| He answered, ‘It is my staff. I lean on it, beat down therewith leaves for my sheep, and I have other uses thereof.’17


    17. The lengthy answer by Musa (asws) to a short and simple question leads us to believe, writes Qurtubi, that one may answer more than asked. We have similar examples in the hadith. When the Prophet (saws) was asked about sea water he replied, “Its water is clean, and its dead lawful.” And, when a little girl was raised up and asked, “Can she perform Hajj?” he answered, “Yes. And you will get the reward.” Many such examples can be quoted from the hadith.
    The ahl al-qalb of course have not missed to note Musa’s anxiety to prolong his conversation with His Lord.
    Qurtubi also devotes more than a page to the use of a staff and is inclined to believe that every believer should carry one, whether old or young. He quotes Maymun b. Mahran as saying: “Carrying a staff is a Sunnah of the Prophets of all times, and a sign of a believer.” Hasan al-Busri said, “There are six points involved in a staff: a Sunnah of Prophets, adornment for the righteous, a weapon against enemies, a supporter for the weak, hateful to the hypocrites and an increase in obedience.” Our Prophet too carried one. (Of course not because he was too old: Au.). He used it for several purposes. One was to use it as a barrier (Sutra) during Prayers in the open. During Tawaf he used it for pointing to the Hajr al-Aswad in lieu of a kiss. He also leaned on it during his sermons. In fact, there is consensus that the Khateeb should lean on it during the sermons. During tarawih Prayers ordered by ‘Umar, some Companions used to support themselves with staffs because of the lengthy recitation.
    The above said, we may point out that although several ahadith quoted on the virtues of carrying a staff (although Qurtubi does not quote any), are, according to Albani untrustworthy (see Ahadith al-Da`ifah wa al-Mawdu`ah, hadith no. 536); none the less, we know that the staff was commonly used by the Companions. We also know that apart from our own Prophet, Musa (asws) carried a staff, and that Sulayman (asws) died while leaning on one. We also have a hadith in Tabarani, declared trustworthy by Ibn abi Hatim, to the effect that on the Day of Judgment all the Prophets will be carrying a staff (Haythami, Kitab al-Ba`th). In fact, other reports imply that a few others will be carrying staffs on that Day. A report (Hasan according to Ibn Hajr) says that when `Abdullah b. Unays had completed his mission successfully, the Prophet gave him a staff in reward and told him to preserve it for he will be carrying it on a Day when few will be carrying anything to support themselves with. Following his instructions, it was buried with him when he died (Au.).

    قَالَ أَلْقِهَا يَا مُوسَىٰ (19)

    20|19| He said, ‘Cast it down O Musa.’


    فَأَلْقَاهَا فَإِذَا هِيَ حَيَّةٌ تَسْعَىٰ (20)

    20|20| He cast it and behold, it was a snake,18 moving swiftly.


    18. The textual word “hayyah” is a generic word meaning “snake.” In other places the Qur’an referred to the staff-turned-snake as “jann” which is for a thin swift moving snake as against “thu`ban” – also used in the Qur’an – which is for a python. Perhaps the staff took different shapes at different times. Some have conjectured that although it became like a large python, it moved as fast as a thin snake which made it all the more fearful, and hence the two names (Au.).
    Majid adds: “This miracle of the rod had a special significance in Egypt, where snake was deified and worshipped as a sacred deity. ‘Of all the animals’ that were the real gods of Egypt, ‘none were so numerous or were so universally feared and venerated as the snake’ (Syce, Religion of Ancient Egypt, p. 208).”
    Some of the crowns of ancient Egyptian rulers were decorated with snake figures (Au.).

    قَالَ خُذْهَا وَلَا تَخَفْ ۖ سَنُعِيدُهَا سِيرَتَهَا الْأُولَىٰ (21)

    20|21| He said, ‘Grasp it and fear not.19 We shall restore it to its former state.


    19. Majid once again, “Moses was subject to the primary human emotion of fear as much as any other mortal, and there is absolutely nothing derogatory to him in that he got frightened at the wonderful ‘freak of nature’. Cf, the OT: ‘And the Lord said unto him, what is that in thine hand? And he said, a rod. And He said, cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled before it’ (Ex. 4: 2-3).”

    وَاضْمُمْ يَدَكَ إِلَىٰ جَنَاحِكَ تَخْرُجْ بَيْضَاءَ مِنْ غَيْرِ سُوءٍ آيَةً أُخْرَىٰ (22)

    20|22| And press your hand to your side, it will come forth white without blemish20 – an additional sign.


    20. That is, without any similarity with the hand of a leprous person (Ibn Jarir).
    Majid explains why this phrase was added: “The import of the phrase.. is to correct the derogatory misstatement of the Bible that Moses’ ‘hand was leprous as snow’ (Ex. 4: 6) and also a story quoted by Josephus (an ancient Jewish historian: Au.) that ‘Moses was a leper, and was expelled from Heliopolis on this account’ (DB. II. p. 96).”

    لِنُرِيَكَ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا الْكُبْرَى (23)

    20|23| In order that We may show you (some) of Our great signs.


    اذْهَبْ إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَىٰ (24)

    20|24| Go to Fir`awn. He has indeed transgressed (all bounds).’21


    21. The Fir`awn in question, (which was a title), is generally identified as Rameses II. Majid writes: “Rameses II the generally acknowledged oppressor of Israel, ‘was inordinately vain’ (Breasted, History of Egypt, p. 461).

    قَالَ رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي (25)

    20|25| He said, ‘O my Lord, open my heart for me.22


    22. Musa knew that destined to receive Revelation, he will need a large heart to accommodate its secrets and subtleties (Alusi).
    Imam Razi has a commentary on this verse which runs into several pages but we drop it out because of its philosophical nature.

    وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي (26)

    20|26| Ease up my task unto me.


    وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي (27)

    20|27| And untie a knot on my tongue.23


    23. In the absence of a hadith, it is not clear what the verse means, especially in view of the explanation offered by Sa`id b. Jubayr, Mujahid and Suddi, that prevents us from accepting the literal meaning. They explained, as in Tabari, and obviously relying on Jewish accounts, that once Fir`awn picked up the infant Musa. He tore off a few hairs from his beard. In rage, he wanted to kill him off then and there. But his wife pleaded saying “after all he is a child and does not know the difference between diamond and live coal.” Fir`awn caught on that, and ordered that diamond and burning coals be brought and placed before Musa. Musa picked up live coal and put it in his mouth, which left a knot on his tongue, unable to speak out properly when he grew up. Suddi’s version says it was Jibril who put the burning coal into Musa’s hand.
    But of course, the story does not sound true, apart from the fact that it is perhaps of Jewish origin (Au.).
    At all events, Muhammad b. Ka`b al-Qurazi, who was of Jewish origin, seemed to have understood the verse in its apparent sense. Somebody once remarked to him that he sounded poor in Arabic. Ka`b asked him in return, “Are you not able to follow my speech?” (That is, can you understand what I say or can you not?) The he added, “I hope you will understand what I am about to say. Listen. Musa asked his Lord to remove a knot on his tongue in order that the Israelites are able to understand his speech..” Ka`b stopped short at that. The meaning then is, Allah removed just enough of the knot on Musa’s tongue for him to be able to communicate his ideas to others (Ibn Kathir).
    In other words, the terms “a knot on my tongue” implies a part removal of some kind of impediment in reference to eloquent speech that Musa suffered (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani and others).
    Later, in verse 52 of Surah 43, we will come across Fir`awn’s objection to Musa that he was not clear in presenting his argument. But that was a political gimmick. Fir`awn understood everything that Musa said, but he wished to pretend ignorance for the sake of his courtiers. Otherwise, one may look at Musa’s presentations and arguments in Fir`awn’s court. They are at the highest level of eloquence with no ambiguity surrounding them (Au.).

    يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي (28)

    20|28| That they understand my speech.24


    24. This piece further strengthens the opinion that it was simply the ability to successfully communicate his ideas to others that Musa had requested when he had asked for the removal of a knot on the tongue. He did not suffer any physical impediment (Au.). Present day Bible supports this meaning. It says, “And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent .. but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” (Ex. 4: 10) – Majid.

    وَاجْعَلْ لِي وَزِيرًا مِنْ أَهْلِي (29)

    20|29| And appoint for me a helper25 from my family.


    25. The primary meaning of the term “wazir” is “burden-carrier” (from wizr meaning a “burden”).. “hence its later – post-classical - application to government ministers (Asad).

    هَارُونَ أَخِي (30)

    20|30| Harun, my brother.26


    26. Musa’s supplication in favor of his brother leads us to believe that he had remained in touch with him, was aware of his good qualities, and had good faith in him (Au.).

    اشْدُدْ بِهِ أَزْرِي (31)

    20|31| Strengthen me by him.27


    27. Literally, the translation should be, “strengthen my back with him.”

    وَأَشْرِكْهُ فِي أَمْرِي (32)

    20|32| Let him associate with me in my task.


    كَيْ نُسَبِّحَكَ كَثِيرًا (33)

    20|33| So that we glorify you much.


    وَنَذْكُرَكَ كَثِيرًا (34)

    20|34| And remember You greatly.


    إِنَّكَ كُنْتَ بِنَا بَصِيرًا (35)

    20|35| Surely, You are ever seeing of us.’28


    28. Of several possible explanations, one is that Musa meant to say, “I have asked for an assistant to help me out in the affairs entrusted to me. However, whether I need one or not is, O Lord, best known to You. After all, you are seeing of us” (Razi).

    قَالَ قَدْ أُوتِيتَ سُؤْلَكَ يَا مُوسَىٰ (36)

    20|36| He said, ‘You have been granted your requests O Musa.29


    29. In all, Musa made eight requests and was granted all of them with no modifications, and no strings to them. This is how His slaves have to behave when dealing with one another: ever ready to give when asked. Our Prophet never said ‘no’ to anyone who asked. When he did not have anything to give, he promised he would give when he had (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ مَنَنَّا عَلَيْكَ مَرَّةً أُخْرَىٰ (37)

    20|37| Indeed, We conferred a favor on you another time.30


    30. Razi raises a question and then answers. Why did Allah say at this point, “We conferred a favor on you another time?” Why did He have to remind Him of a favor done? The answer is, (firstly, it was in order that Allah’s blessings may not be taken for granted. One has to be conscious of them. And that needs a reminder: Au.). Secondly, Musa needed the reminder that he did not earn those blessings: they were entirely bestowals from His Lord.
    Sayyid adds that perhaps it was to remind Musa that he wasn’t being sent unprepared. It was a long plan, executed by Allah and not an accidental event that Musa was there receiving the command to proceed and warn Fir`awn.
    Imam Razi further points out that earlier also Allah (swt) had bestowed eight favors on Musa (asws) – from birth until he came looking for fire in the valley of Tuwa.

    إِذْ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ أُمِّكَ مَا يُوحَىٰ (38)

    20|38| When We inspired your mother with what was inspired.31


    31. The translation of “awhayna” (lit., We revealed) as “We inspired” reflects the unanimous understanding of the commentators that Musa’s mother was not a Prophetess.
    Thanwi points out that this verse is the basis, apart from others, of the statement that non-Prophets can receive inspiration.

    أَنِ اقْذِفِيهِ فِي التَّابُوتِ فَاقْذِفِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ فَلْيُلْقِهِ الْيَمُّ بِالسَّاحِلِ يَأْخُذْهُ عَدُوٌّ لِي وَعَدُوٌّ لَهُ ۚ وَأَلْقَيْتُ عَلَيْكَ مَحَبَّةً مِنِّي وَلِتُصْنَعَ عَلَىٰ عَيْنِي (39)

    20|39| (To the effect) that, “Place him in a chest and then cast it into the rive - that the river may cast him ashore, to be picked up by one who is an enemy to Me and an enemy to him.” And I cast upon you love from Me, that you be brought up under My sight.32


    32. That is, under special care. Majid writes: “`Ala `Ayn is said in this instance to refer to ‘honouring and protecting.’”

    إِذْ تَمْشِي أُخْتُكَ فَتَقُولُ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ مَنْ يَكْفُلُهُ ۖ فَرَجَعْنَاكَ إِلَىٰ أُمِّكَ كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا وَلَا تَحْزَنَ ۚ وَقَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا فَنَجَّيْنَاكَ مِنَ الْغَمِّ وَفَتَنَّاكَ فُتُونًا ۚ فَلَبِثْتَ سِنِينَ فِي أَهْلِ مَدْيَنَ ثُمَّ جِئْتَ عَلَىٰ قَدَرٍ يَا مُوسَىٰ (40)

    20|40| When your sister walked along and said, “Shall I lead you to someone who will take charge of him?’” Thus We returned you to your mother so that she may cool her eyes and not grieve33. Then you killed a man,34 and We rescued you from distress35 and tried you with many trials.36 Then you remained several years with the people of Madyan. Finally you have arrived (here) according to a decree, O Musa.37


    33. Understanding these verses requires the background story that the Qur’an unfolds in other chapters. A few points can be offered here drawing some details from sources other than the Qur’an. Fearing the advent of a Prophet among the Israelites, Fir`awn and his advisors decided that they should better kill every new-born Israeli male child. But, subsequently, fearing serious shortage of labor, they decided to kill the male offspring every alternate year. Harun (asws) was born the year they decided to spare them, but Musa in the year they were killing. Inspired to the action, his mother put him in a casket, and cast it into the river Nile. The casket however was held by a rope tied to a peg. She pulled it ashore to feed the child whenever she felt free of the dangers of Copt informers and inspectors. But one day the rope slipped off her hand and the casket floated away in good cheer. She sent her daughter behind it to find out what happened to it. Meanwhile the casket was picked up by the Royal household. But the child, despite its heart-rending cries refused to be fed by anyone. His sister somehow came to know of him. (According to some reports, the news spread around that Fir`awn’s folks had picked up a child who was not accepting anyone’s breast: Alusi). She managed to speak to someone of importance and said (that although she knew nothing about who the child belonged to) she could lead them to someone, very decent, who could nurse him. (Perhaps any doubt about she being the true mother could have been removed from the color of the parents: Musa was dark, while his parents were perhaps as fair as the Semites: Au.). Thus the child was ultimately returned to the mother, who insisted she would rather take the child into her house instead of she herself moving into the palace: what with her another son Harun to be looked after?! Finally, they agreed to it, and paid her handsomely for the services to her son (Au.).
    An account more in detail is available in Nasa’i and has been quoted by Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir and others.


    34. The story behind the incident will appear in detail - in sha Allah - in Surah al-Qasas. In short, an Israeli sought Musa’s help against a Copt. Musa punched the Copt and he fell dead. Next day he found the same Israeli quarrelling with another Copt. As he advanced to help, the Israeli thought it was he who was about to receive the punch and revealed the other day’s happening. The previous accidental killing uncovered, Musa had to leave Egypt and seek refuge in Madyan.
    Ibn Jarir presents a hadith which says that the Copt that Musa had killed was never intended to be killed yet Allah said, “Then you killed a man, and We rescued you ..”


    35. The allusion is to the removal of the distress caused by the accidental killing of a man in Egypt (Mujahid, Qatadah: Ibn Jarir).


    36. To the question, were the trials to which Musa was subjected, a favor that His Lord mentioned here? Imam Razi and Qurtubi answer that yes, they helped cleanse him and led to his selection for Messengership.
    When Sa`id b. Jubayr asked Ibn `Abbas the explanation of the trials, he narrated to him the entire story of Musa, from the beginning of the affair until he came to the Tuwa valley pointing out several trials that he was subjected to (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Alusi and others).


    37. That is, it is not an accident that you came here, O Musa, to collect fire, but are receiving Messengership. The whole affair had been designed long past in time (Shabbir).

    وَاصْطَنَعْتُكَ لِنَفْسِي (41)

    20|41| And I have prepared you for Myself.


    اذْهَبْ أَنْتَ وَأَخُوكَ بِآيَاتِي وَلَا تَنِيَا فِي ذِكْرِي (42)

    20|42| Go then, you and your brother, with My signs. And slacken not in My remembrance.38


    38. It is said that here onward the verses were revealed to Musa in Egypt (Alusi and others).
    Thanwi adds: This verse is the basis of the opinion that for full profit of the efforts to spread knowledge, a teacher must engage himself in plenty of dhikr.

    اذْهَبَا إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَىٰ (43)

    20|43| Go to Fir`awn (the two of you), indeed he has rebelled.


    فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَيِّنًا لَعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَىٰ (44)

    20|44| But say to him soft words,39 that he might be reminded, or perchance fear.’40


    39. It is said that one of the latter day Khulafa’ was doing his Tawaf when a scholar reproached him harshly. The Khalifah protested, “Look! Neither I am worse than Fir`awn nor you better than Musa. Allah said, ‘But say to him, the two of you, soft words.’” That said, there is nothing wrong in acting tough with the proud (Au.).


    40. Asad comments, “.. obviously (this) does not imply any ‘doubt’ on God’s part as to Pharaoh’s future reaction: it implies no more than His command to the bearer of His message to address the sinner with a view to the latter’s bethinking himself; in other words, it relates to the intention or hope with which the message-bearer should approach his task (Razi).”

    قَالَا رَبَّنَا إِنَّنَا نَخَافُ أَنْ يَفْرُطَ عَلَيْنَا أَوْ أَنْ يَطْغَىٰ (45)

    20|45| They said, ‘Our Lord. We are afraid lest he will over-react with us or he should transgress.’41


    41. That is, they feared that Fir`awn might hasten his punishment on them even before they had finished relaying the message to him or before they show him their miracles (Alusi and others).

    قَالَ لَا تَخَافَا ۖ إِنَّنِي مَعَكُمَا أَسْمَعُ وَأَرَىٰ (46)

    20|46| ‘Fear not,’ He said, ‘I am with you indeed. I hear and I see.


    فَأْتِيَاهُ فَقُولَا إِنَّا رَسُولَا رَبِّكَ فَأَرْسِلْ مَعَنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَلَا تُعَذِّبْهُمْ ۖ قَدْ جِئْنَاكَ بِآيَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكَ ۖ وَالسَّلَامُ عَلَىٰ مَنِ اتَّبَعَ الْهُدَىٰ (47)

    20|47| So go to him and say, “Verily, we two are the Messengers of your Lord. Send forth, therefore, the Children of Israel with us and persecute them not.42 We have indeed brought you a sign from your Lord. And peace upon him who followed the guidance.43


    42. The allusion is to the tough tasks and meanly works that were imposed on the Israelites. In addition, their new-born male children were slaughtered and women let live for labor.


    43. Ibn Kathir points out that these were also the words that our Prophet used when he addressed kings and rulers. For example, the letter he wrote to Heraclius the Roman Emperor ran as follows:

    “In the name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Compassionate.
    From Muhammad the Messenger of Allah,
    To Heraclius, the Emperor of Rome.
    Peace be upon him who followed the guidance.
    After that, I invite you by the word of Islam. Embrace Islam, you will be in peace and Allah will give you twice the reward.”

    إِنَّا قَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْنَا أَنَّ الْعَذَابَ عَلَىٰ مَنْ كَذَّبَ وَتَوَلَّىٰ (48)

    20|48| Indeed, it has been revealed to us that chastisement shall be upon him who laid the lie and turned away.”’44

    44. Several accounts in the Bible are similar to those in the Qur’an; but, only in sketchy terms. Otherwise, the two accounts are seas apart. However, that has been enough for honest professors and the erudite in the Western Universities and Research Centers, deeply sunk in their books since last five hundred years, to conclude, not hastily, but very deliberately, with mountains of evidential material, that the Prophet committed plagiarism. Mawdudi answers to the absurd allegations. He writes, “The Qur’anic account of the incident should be read in conjunction with those accounts in the Bible and the Talmud. (Talmud is a sort of a commentary on the Old Testament which, in modern times of effulgence of information, no Jew, but the very specialist, has in possession; others having never seen it: Au.). This comparative study will clearly reveal the differences in the images of the Prophets as portrayed in the Qur’an and in the Jewish religious tradition. According to the Bible, God told Moses, ‘Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God: ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ (Exodus 3: 10-11). Subsequently, even though God tried at length to persuade Moses of the same, encouraged him, and endowed him with miracles, Moses still said: ‘Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person’ (Exodus 4: 13).
    “The Talmudic account goes a step further. It states that the argument between God and Moses continued for seven days. God insisted on Moses accepting the prophetic mission whereas Moses declined to do so on the grounds of his speech impediment. Finally, God said that it was his will that Moses become a Prophet. To this Moses replied that God had sent angels to save Lot, had assigned five angels when Hagar left the house of Sarah, so why was He, then, asking him to leave Egypt along with His favorite children (the Israelites)? This so enraged God that He made Aaron (Harun: Au.) a party to Moses’ prophetic office, and denied priesthood to the house of Moses by transferring it to the descendants of Aaron. (See The Talmudic Selections, p. 142 ff. – Dr. Z. Is-haq).”
    Thanwi points out that the manner of phrasing the words, “it has been revealed to us that chastisement shall be upon him who cried lies and turned away,” are the first application of the command in the earlier verse which instructed, “but speak to him in soft words.” It did not say, “chastisement shall be upon you.”

    قَالَ فَمَنْ رَبُّكُمَا يَا مُوسَىٰ (49)

    20|49| He (Fir`awn) asked,45 ‘Who then is the Lord of you two, O Musa?’46


    45. “Here the Qur’an omits certain details of the story: in particular, how Moses arrived at Pharaoh’s court and how he explained his teachings to him. These details are mentioned earlier in al-A`raf 7: 108; and can also be found in al-Shu`ara’ 26: 10-33; al-Qasas 28: 28-40 and al-Nazi`at 79: 15-36” (Mawdudi).


    46. Mawdudi comments on Fir`awn’s true concerns: “The purpose of the question posed by Pharaoh was to emphasize the fact that since he was sovereign of Egypt and its people, Moses had no business setting up anyone other than him as their Lord.. We have already noted that Pharaoh’s claim to be the sovereign was grounded in his belief that he was the incarnation of the sun-god Ra.
    “It has also been established historically that the national cult of the Egyptians consisted of the worship of many gods and goddesses. Hence, in point of fact, Pharaoh did not claim to be the ‘only object of worship’. He rather claimed, on a practical level, divine political lordship over the people of Egypt, and on a theoretical level, divine political lordship over all mankind.. What he could not accept, however, was that God should have any authority to interfere with his political overlordship, or that any of God’s Messengers should claim the right to command him.”

    قَالَ رَبُّنَا الَّذِي أَعْطَىٰ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَىٰ (50)

    20|50| He answered, ‘Our Lord is the One who gave everything its form and then guided (it).’47


    47. That is, after giving His organic creations their varying forms and shapes, Allah guided them to their means of sustenance, methods of obtaining them, and ways by which they could live in communities and multiply their numbers: all instinctively (Ibn Jarir from the Salaf).
    In the words of Mawdudi, “Now God did not simply create each thing on a certain pattern and leave it at that; rather, He taught each created being how it should function and fulfill the purpose for which it has been created. It is God who taught the fish how to swim and the birds to fly, the plants to blossom and the soil to produce vegetation..
    “In the above sentence, which is crisp, pithy and rich, Moses not only mentions God Who is the object of his worship, but also explains why he accepted Him as his Lord and why none else could be acknowledged to be so. The statement embodies both the thesis and its supporting argument.”
    Asad adds: “In the original, this sentence appears in the past sense (“has given” and “has guided”); but as it obviously relates to the continuous process of God’s creation, it is independent of the concept of time and denotes, as in so many other places in the Qur’an, an unceasing present. The term khalq signifies in this context not merely the inner nature of a created thing or being but also the outward form in which this nature manifests itself..”
    Fir`awn’s manner of asking suggested that he wanted Musa to give him the address of the Lord God. Musa told him in effect, “Our Lord God is not a physical being (who can be met across the street: Au.). He can only be known through His Qualities and Attributes: ‘Our Lord is the One who gave everyone its form and then guided (it) – Qurtubi.

    قَالَ فَمَا بَالُ الْقُرُونِ الْأُولَىٰ (51)

    20|51| He asked, ‘Then what about the previous generations?’48


    48. What Fir`awn meant to say is, if there is a God Lord who created and gave every creation its guidance, why then the previous nations did not worship Him? Why did they miss the guidance? (“Are they, in thy view, irretrievably doomed?”: Asad). But Musa avoided this deviation from the main topic, gave a short answer about Allah’s all-comprehensive knowledge, and brought the conversation back to the main track about who their Lord - Musa’s, Fir`awn’s and everyone’s - was (Razi).
    “At the same time, it is quite possible that Pharaoh’s intent in making the above statement was to incite people against Moses by appealing to their natural feelings of love and veneration for their ancestors. This weapon has frequently been used by the opponents of truth. At the time when these Qur’anic verses were revealed, this very weapon was being constantly employed against Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him)” – Mawdudi.

    قَالَ عِلْمُهَا عِنْدَ رَبِّي فِي كِتَابٍ ۖ لَا يَضِلُّ رَبِّي وَلَا يَنْسَى (52)

    20|52| He replied, ‘Knowledge about them rests with my Lord, (preserved) in a Book. My Lord neither errs, nor does He forget.’49


    49. That is, Allah does not err, nor does He forget as you do, O claimant to godhead (Zamakhshari).
    Asad adds the explanation, “I.e., He alone decrees their destiny in the life to come, for He alone knows their motives and understands the cause of their errors, and He alone can appreciate their spiritual merits and demerits.”

    الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ مَهْدًا وَسَلَكَ لَكُمْ فِيهَا سُبُلًا وَأَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِنْ نَبَاتٍ شَتَّىٰ (53)

    20|53| He who made the earth a cradle for you, threaded therein paths for you, and sent down water out of heaven – and then We brought forth50 thereby many species of diverse plants


    50. Mawdudi offers an explanation to the change in the form of address: “The Qur’an is full of instances where statements are made about past incidents or about future events. Such statements are followed either by a few sentence of exhortation to piety and righteousness, or by explanation or elaboration of those sentences. The style of the text, on such occasions, indicates whether the statement in question was made by a human being or by God.”

    كُلُوا وَارْعَوْا أَنْعَامَكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِأُولِي النُّهَىٰ (54)

    20|54| Eat and pasture your cattle. Surely in that are signs for men of understanding.51


    51. Allah’s signs are spread all around. But why is it that the people are not guided by them? There are several reasons. One of them is people’s uncaring attitudes to anything serious in life. A sign is a kind of a signpost. You read it and move forward in the direction it shows. But, if you have nowhere to go, no paths to tread, no goals to reach, then the signposts are useless (Au.).

    مِنْهَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ وَفِيهَا نُعِيدُكُمْ وَمِنْهَا نُخْرِجُكُمْ تَارَةً أُخْرَىٰ (55)

    20|55| From it We have created you, to it We shall return you, and from it We shall bring you out a second time.52


    52. It is reported that once when a coffin had been placed in the grave, the Prophet threw in a handful of dust and said, “From it We have created you.” Then he threw in a second handful and said, “To it We shall return you.” Then he threw in a handful and said, “And from it We shall bring you out a second time” (Ibn Kathir).
    Albani however thought that the hadith is weak (S. Ibrhim).
    Refer Surah An`am, ayah, note 2 and the notes that follow for details concerning man’s origin from the dust and his return to the place from where the dust was taken.

    وَلَقَدْ أَرَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا كُلَّهَا فَكَذَّبَ وَأَبَىٰ (56)

    20|56| Indeed, We showed him all Our signs but he gave the lie and refused.


    قَالَ أَجِئْتَنَا لِتُخْرِجَنَا مِنْ أَرْضِنَا بِسِحْرِكَ يَا مُوسَىٰ (57)

    20|57| He said, ‘Have you come to us to drive us out of our land by your magic, O Musa?53


    53. This question indicates that Fir`awn was completely convinced that Musa and the Message he had brought were truly of an extraordinary nature, and that, if he did not employ his best means of defense, he was very likely to lose out everything to Musa. If for a moment he had believed that Musa was a mere magician, he would have ceased to pay him any attention (Zamakhshari).
    But perhaps like the unbelievers of all times he too was a victim of skepticism and fought against the rising conviction in his heart until he met with his destruction (Au.).
    Mawdudi touches upon other aspects, “It would also appear that at this stage Pharaoh had begun to seriously believe that both his courtiers and common people of his realm were being favorably impressed by Moses. He, therefore, had to resort to lies and fraudulent practices in an attempt to arouse his people’s latent prejudices. He, therefore, argued that what Moses had demonstrated were simply magical feats rather than miracles; tricks which any magician of his realm could perform – transmuting a rod into a serpent. He also attempted to incite his people’s anger against Moses by saying in effect, ‘Look, Moses brands your ancestors to be ill-guided; as those who deserve to be cast into Hell-Fire. Beware of him! He is no Prophet, but merely hungers for power. He merely wants the Israelites to be able to seize power from the Copts and rule over this country as in the time of Joseph..’
    “At this point it is also worth mentioning that the ruling classes, throughout all times, have maligned the votaries of truth, accusing them of hungering for power, misconstruing all their activities as being directed to that sole objective.”

    فَلَنَأْتِيَنَّكَ بِسِحْرٍ مِثْلِهِ فَاجْعَلْ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكَ مَوْعِدًا لَا نُخْلِفُهُ نَحْنُ وَلَا أَنْتَ مَكَانًا سُوًى (58)

    20|58| We shall indeed produce a magic similar to it. Therefore, appoint between us a time that we shall not fail to keep – neither we nor you – (at) a place mutually agreeable.’54


    54. Other possible meanings of “makanan suwa” are, as Yusuf Ali put it, “(1) a place equally distant from both sides, a central place, or (2) equally convenient to both sides, or (3) an open level plain, where people can collect with ease” as also, in Razi’s words “a prominent place, visible to all.”

    قَالَ مَوْعِدُكُمْ يَوْمُ الزِّينَةِ وَأَنْ يُحْشَرَ النَّاسُ ضُحًى (59)

    20|59| He said, ‘Your appointed time is the day of adornment55 and let the people be gathered when the sun is well up.’


    55. That is, a day of festivities. Majid writes: “There were two great festivals of the Egyptians when thousands of people gathered, one of 20 days in March, and another of 27 days in August.. And there was a yet greater festival named after Sed held on the occasion of the king being deified as Osiris.. After his 30th year Rameses repeated it every third year.”

    فَتَوَلَّىٰ فِرْعَوْنُ فَجَمَعَ كَيْدَهُ ثُمَّ أَتَىٰ (60)

    20|60| So Fir`awn withdrew, got together his tricks and then came back.56


    56. That is, he prepared a stratagem and then reappeared on the day of appointment (Au.).
    Mawdudi adds: “Pharaoh and his courtiers considered this encounter to be of crucial importance. Messengers were sent to all parts of the country to summon all skilled magicians to the capital. Likewise, efforts were made to attract the maximum number of people in order that they might witness the magicians’ feats. It was hoped that the people’s minds would thus be disabused of the favorable impression that had been formed by Moses on account of his magic.”

    قَالَ لَهُمْ مُوسَىٰ وَيْلَكُمْ لَا تَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا فَيُسْحِتَكُمْ بِعَذَابٍ ۖ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنِ افْتَرَىٰ (61)

    20|61| Musa told them, ‘Woe unto you! Forge not a lie on Allah, lest He exterminate you with a chastisement. And surely, he who forged a lie will suffer failure.’


    فَتَنَازَعُوا أَمْرَهُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ وَأَسَرُّوا النَّجْوَىٰ (62)

    20|62| So they debated their affair between themselves,57 but kept their counsel secret.


    57. It is said that they said to each other that if Musa were to be a mere magician, they will have no problem defeating him. But, against all expectations if he defeated them then surely, that would be a sign of his Messengership. The verse is alluding to the debate that ensued (Tabari). Another possibility is that having heard Musa’s words ringing with truth, some of them might have remarked that those were not the words of a magician (Razi, Ibn Kathir). After all, they knew the vocabulary of the magicians better than anyone else. Did Musa’s words match with their own vocabulary? (Au.).

    قَالُوا إِنْ هَٰذَانِ لَسَاحِرَانِ يُرِيدَانِ أَنْ يُخْرِجَاكُمْ مِنْ أَرْضِكُمْ بِسِحْرِهِمَا وَيَذْهَبَا بِطَرِيقَتِكُمُ الْمُثْلَىٰ (63)

    20|63| Saying (among themselves), ‘These two are58 no more than magicians who wish to drive you out of your land by their magic, and do away with your time-honored way of life.59


    58. Several commentators have devoted several pages discussing whether “in hadhayni” should be read as “inna hadhayni” which happens to be a second variant reading. But most have defended the present reading, viz., “in hadhayni” as linguistically quite correct.


    59. What they meant is that Musa’s victory would mean (in Mawdudi’s words), “the downfall of and extinction of their splendid way of life.. that Moses’ rise to power would sound the death-knell of their own culture; their arts, their attractive civilization, their varied entertainments.. in sum all the essentials of a life in pursuit of pleasure, would be destroyed. What would be left would be a life of cold and stark piety; a life so insufferable that it would be preferable for men of good taste to die rather than continue living.”

    فَأَجْمِعُوا كَيْدَكُمْ ثُمَّ ائْتُوا صَفًّا ۚ وَقَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْيَوْمَ مَنِ اسْتَعْلَىٰ (64)

    20|64| So, resolve60 upon your plan and then come forward as one (united) body.61 Surely, today he will prosper who prevailed.’


    60. In Arabic when you say, “ajmi`u ala al-amr” it means, “prepare yourself for an affair,” or “resolve upon it” (Tabari).


    61. Lit. “come forward in rows” (Au.).

    قَالُوا يَا مُوسَىٰ إِمَّا أَنْ تُلْقِيَ وَإِمَّا أَنْ نَكُونَ أَوَّلَ مَنْ أَلْقَىٰ (65)

    20|65| They said,62 ‘O Musa, either you cast, or let us be the first to cast.’


    62. Although some have stated the number of the magicians as running in thousands, a conservative estimate is that they were nine hundred (Ibn Jarir). Ibn `Abbas however said that they were only seventy (Ibn Kathir).

    قَالَ بَلْ أَلْقُوا ۖ فَإِذَا حِبَالُهُمْ وَعِصِيُّهُمْ يُخَيَّلُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ سِحْرِهِمْ أَنَّهَا تَسْعَىٰ (66)

    20|66| He said, ‘Rather you cast.’ Then behold, their ropes and their staffs appeared to him on account of their magic63 as if they were moving swiftly.


    63. This writer can recall witnessing a street charmer in India slit the throat of a companion lad, and then, after the final rounds of money collection, remove the cloak from his body to recover him alive.

    فَأَوْجَسَ فِي نَفْسِهِ خِيفَةً مُوسَىٰ (67)

    20|67| Musa felt a fear within him.64


    64. That is, Musa feared that the magicians might sway the people’s opinion in their favor by their mighty magical feat (Qurtubi). That is because, until he actually threw, Musa perhaps did not know what his own staff, which normally turned into snake, would do. If it just slithered around, along with other make-belief snakes, would the masses know the difference? (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali applies the verse to life’s situations: “The concerted attack of evil is sometimes so well contrived from all points that falsehood appears and is acclaimed as the truth. The believer of truth is isolated, and a sort of moral dizziness creeps over his mind. But by Allah’s grace Faith asserts itself, gives him confidence, and points out the specific truth which will dissipate and destroy the teeming brood of falsehood.”

    قُلْنَا لَا تَخَفْ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْأَعْلَىٰ (68)

    20|68| We said, ‘Fear not. You will have the upper hand.


    وَأَلْقِ مَا فِي يَمِينِكَ تَلْقَفْ مَا صَنَعُوا ۖ إِنَّمَا صَنَعُوا كَيْدُ سَاحِرٍ ۖ وَلَا يُفْلِحُ السَّاحِرُ حَيْثُ أَتَىٰ (69)

    20|69| Cast down what is in your right hand, it will swallow what they have faked. Indeed, what they have faked is a magician’s tricks. And a magician will not prosper, howsoever he comes.’65


    65. Asad writes, “The above statement implies a categorical condemnation of all endeavours which fall under the heading of ‘magic’, whatever the intention of the person who devotes himself to it.”
    According to a hadith in Ibn Abi Hatim as well as in Tirmidhi, the Prophet said,


    إذا أخذتم الساحر فاقتلوه ، ثم قرأ : ولا يفلح الساحر حيث أتى


    “If you overpower a magician, kill him.” Then he recited this verse, “And a magician will prosper not, howsoever he comes” (Ibn Kathir).
    Although Ibn Kathir attributes it to Tirmidhi, the report could not be located in it (Au.).

    فَأُلْقِيَ السَّحَرَةُ سُجَّدًا قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِرَبِّ هَارُونَ وَمُوسَىٰ (70)

    20|70| Then the magicians were thrown into (an involuntary) prostration. They said, ‘We have believed in the Lord of Harun and Musa.’


    قَالَ آمَنْتُمْ لَهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ آذَنَ لَكُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَكَبِيرُكُمُ الَّذِي عَلَّمَكُمُ السِّحْرَ ۖ فَلَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍ وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ فِي جُذُوعِ النَّخْلِ وَلَتَعْلَمُنَّ أَيُّنَا أَشَدُّ عَذَابًا وَأَبْقَىٰ (71)

    20|71| He (Fir`awn) said, ‘Have you believed in him before I gave you leave? Surely, he is your chief who taught you magic. I shall surely sever your hands and feet from opposite sides66 and then shall crucify you by the trunks of the palm-tree67 and you will surely learn which of us is more severe in punishment and more abiding.’


    66. That is, right hand and left foot, or the other way round.


    67. He carried out his threat so that they were magicians by morning and martyrs by evening (Ibn `Abbas: Ibn Jarir).
    In ancient times crucifixion consisted in nailing a victim’s spread out hands to a cross bar while he was hoisted on a vertical wooden pole with a foot rest. The feet were also nailed. The victim was then left to die a slow death. In case of the former magicians a palm-trunk tree was used, to which a cross bar would have been added (Au.).

    قَالُوا لَنْ نُؤْثِرَكَ عَلَىٰ مَا جَاءَنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالَّذِي فَطَرَنَا ۖ فَاقْضِ مَا أَنْتَ قَاضٍ ۖ إِنَّمَا تَقْضِي هَٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا (72)

    20|72| They asserted, ‘We shall never prefer you over that which has come to us of the signs, nor over Him who originated us. So, go ahead and do your doing. Indeed you can only decree concerning the life of this world.


    إِنَّا آمَنَّا بِرَبِّنَا لِيَغْفِرَ لَنَا خَطَايَانَا وَمَا أَكْرَهْتَنَا عَلَيْهِ مِنَ السِّحْرِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ (73)

    20|73| We have believed in our Lord that He might forgive us our sins, and what you compelled us to perform of magic.68 And, Allah is better and more abiding.’


    68. Ibn `Abbas has said that the allusion is to the fact that they were employed as instructors (in an institute set up) at a place called Firman. Fir`awn himself used to send talented young men to learn magic under them (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    Asad has another explanation to add, “Pharaoh (a title borne by every indigenous ruler of Egypt) was considered to be a “god-king” and, thus, the embodiment of the Egyptian religion, in which occult practices and magic played a very important role; hence, every one of his subjects was duty-bound to accept magic as an integral part of the scheme of life.”

    إِنَّهُ مَنْ يَأْتِ رَبَّهُ مُجْرِمًا فَإِنَّ لَهُ جَهَنَّمَ لَا يَمُوتُ فِيهَا وَلَا يَحْيَىٰ (74)

    20|74| Surely, whoever came to his Lord as a criminal, for him shall be Jahannum, dying not therein nor living.69


    69. The verse seems to be applicable to unbelievers. That is how Ibn `Abbas understood it. It can be substantiated with a hadith reported in Muslim, Ahmad, Ibn abi Hatim and Ibn Marduwayh. It says that once the Prophet was delivering a sermon. When he reached this verse he said,


    أَمَّا أَهْلُ النَّارِ الَّذِينَ هُمْ أَهْلُهَا فَإِنَّهُمْ لاَ يَمُوتُونَ فِيهَا وَلاَ يَحْيَوْنَ وَلَكِنْ نَاسٌ أَصَابَتْهُمُ النَّارُ بِذُنُوبِهِمْ - أَوْ قَالَ بِخَطَايَاهُمْ - فَأَمَاتَهُمْ إِمَاتَةً حَتَّى إِذَا كَانُوا فَحْمًا أُذِنَ بِالشَّفَاعَةِ فَجِىءَ بِهِمْ ضَبَائِرَ ضَبَائِرَ فَبُثُّوا عَلَى أَنْهَارِ الْجَنَّةِ ثُمَّ قِيلَ يَا أَهْلَ الْجَنَّةِ أَفِيضُوا عَلَيْهِمْ. فَيَنْبُتُونَ نَبَاتَ الْحِبَّةِ تَكُونُ فِى حَمِيلِ السَّيْلِ ». فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ كَأَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- قَدْ كَانَ بِالْبَادِيَةِ.


    “As for its dwellers of the Fire, they are its inhabitants: they will neither live therein nor die. But as regards those people who entered the Fire because of their sins, it will deal them death of a kind; until, when they have become coals, intercession will be allowed. They will be brought like burnt out coals at the springs of Paradise. Then the inhabitants of Paradise will be asked to throw water at them. They will start growing there like plants that sprout forth in channels through which flood water has run.” One of those men around remarked, “As if the Prophet was brought up in the deserts” (Alusi).

    وَمَنْ يَأْتِهِ مُؤْمِنًا قَدْ عَمِلَ الصَّالِحَاتِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمُ الدَّرَجَاتُ الْعُلَىٰ (75)

    20|75| While he who came to Him a believer, having done righteous deeds, such, for them are ranks high.70


    70. A hadith in the Sahihayn and ibn Abi Hatim gives us some details about the ‘high ranks.’ It says,


    إن أهل عليين ليراهم من هو أسفل منهم، كما ترون النجوم أو الكوكب الدري في السماء


    “Those of the `Illiyyun will be seen by those below them like you see the stars in the horizons of the sky.” The Companions asked, “Messenger of Allah! Are those the dwelling places of the Prophets?” He replied, “Rather, by Him in whose Hands is my soul, they are for people who believed in Allah and testified to the Messengers.” According to a version in other collections, the Prophet added, “Abu Bakr and ‘Umar are of them.” (Ibn Kathir).
    Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut thought that the report is Sahih li-Ghayrihi (Au.).

    جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ مَنْ تَزَكَّىٰ (76)

    20|76| Gardens of Eden underneath which rivers flow, abiding therein forever. That is the reward of one who purifies (himself).’71


    71. That is, purified himself by obeying Allah’s commandments and abstaining from what He forbade (Ibn Jarir).
    Sayyid Qutb is inclined to believe that the speech of the magicians ends here. And, therefore, he comments on the differences between true faith and ornamental faith, “The believers’ heart scoffed at the threats of the tyrant’s outburst and confronted him with a pure, deep and strong faith. Thus history lowered another curtain on a scene depicting the freedom of the heart from the bindings of the earth and earthly powers, and supremacy of faith in rewards of the hereafter over that of earthly, material rewards. This is something that no heart can pronounce except in the shades of faith.
    “With this the curtain is brought down, to be raised over another scene, and over a new episode in the unfolding story.
    “It is a scene that depicts the victory of truth and faith in a living, thriving world. It came after the truth and faith had been victorious in the arena of thoughts and beliefs. After the victory of the miracle of the staff over magic, the victory of faith in the hearts of the magicians over trickery, the victory of faith in their hearts over rewards and punishments, threats and promises - after all those victories - truth now overcomes falsehood, guidance over error, and firm faith over tyranny of the living world. And the last of the victories is related to the first of the series of victories. For, the victory of the physical world does not manifest itself before victory at the level of conscience. The holders of truth will never rise up in the open, visible world, without the truth first overcoming falsehood in the hearts. Truth and faith possess a reality of such order that when they take hold of the sensory organs of the body, they rise up further to manifest themselves at the material, physical level. This, in order that the people can be witness to it. On the other hand, if faith happens to be simply an external ornament, it never takes hold of the inner self; and tyranny and falsehood easily overcome it. For they possess a power that is real and material: something that ornamental faith cannot confront. Therefore, it is necessary to establish true faith in the heart. It is this which proves stronger than the material powers and overcomes falsehood and tyranny.”

    وَلَقَدْ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ أَنْ أَسْرِ بِعِبَادِي فَاضْرِبْ لَهُمْ طَرِيقًا فِي الْبَحْرِ يَبَسًا لَا تَخَافُ دَرَكًا وَلَا تَخْشَىٰ (77)

    20|77| And We revealed unto Musa that, ‘Depart with My slaves by night, and strike for them a dry path in the sea,72 fearing not to be overtaken, nor be afraid.’73


    72. This refers to the situation when Musa and his followers had reached the sea shore. Fir`awn was behind them. Musa’s weak-hearted followers cried out in apprehension (26: 61-62),
    إِنَّا لَمُدْرَكُونَ (61) قَالَ كَلَّا إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ [الشعراء : 61 ، 62]
    “`We will be overtaken.’ He said, ‘Never. My Lord is with me, He will guide me.’”
    Musa was then told to strike the sea with his staff. It split into two with dry land in between for Musa and his followers to pass through (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).


    73. That is, do not be afraid of getting drowned (Ibn Jarir).

    فَأَتْبَعَهُمْ فِرْعَوْنُ بِجُنُودِهِ فَغَشِيَهُمْ مِنَ الْيَمِّ مَا غَشِيَهُمْ (78)

    20|78| Then Fir`awn pursued them with his forces. Then that overwhelmed them of the sea which overwhelmed them.74


    74. That is, when the Israelites had crossed, Fir`awn and his forces followed them into the dry bed. But, while in the middle, the two waters met and they all drowned.
    Mawdudi comments: “The manner in which the Qur’an mentions this event leaves no doubt that it is a miracle. The Qur’anic description provides no justification for those who claim that the event was caused by wind storm or by the ebb and flow of the tide. This was clearly not the case. For neither a wind storm nor the recession of the tide would cause the water to stand in the form of high walls; nor does wind storm or recession of the tide cause a dry road to emerge in the midst of the sea by the splitting of water into two parts.”

    وَأَضَلَّ فِرْعَوْنُ قَوْمَهُ وَمَا هَدَىٰ (79)

    20|79| Fir`awn led his people to error and did not guide them aright.75


    75. Fir`awn had assured his courtiers earlier (40: 29),
    مَا أُرِيكُمْ إِلَّا مَا أَرَى وَمَا أَهْدِيكُمْ إِلَّا سَبِيلَ الرَّشَادِ [غافر : 29]
    “I am not leading you but to the right course;” and, in the Hereafter too he will lead their entry into the Fire (Thanwi).

    يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ قَدْ أَنْجَيْنَاكُمْ مِنْ عَدُوِّكُمْ وَوَاعَدْنَاكُمْ جَانِبَ الطُّورِ الْأَيْمَنَ وَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَنَّ وَالسَّلْوَىٰ (80)

    20|80| O children of Israel! Indeed, We delivered you from your enemy, and took a covenant from you by the right side of (Mount) Tur,76 and sent down unto you Manna and quails.77


    76. The allusion is to the covenant taken from the representatives of the Israelites, by the right side of (Mount) Tur to the effect that when revealed, the Law of Torah will be followed by one and all in good spirit (Au.).
    Another possible rendering of the second half of the verse however is, “When We gave you an appointment by the right side of (Mount) Tur” – the allusion being to the permission given to Musa to bring seventy of the Israelites along with him to witness the coming down of Revelation. Further, the textual “right side of the Tur” alludes to the situation of the Mount Tur when Musa reached it, that is, as he arrived, the Mount was on his right side (Qurtubi).


    77. Asad has a useful note here. He writes: “According to Arab philologists, the term manna denotes not only the sweet, resinous substance .. but also to everything that is ‘bestowed as a favor’, i.e., without any effort on the part of the recipient. Similarly, the term salwa signifies not merely ‘quail’ or ‘quails’, but also “all that makes man content and happy after privation (Qamus). Hence the combination of these two term denotes, metonymically, the gift of sustenance freely bestowed by God upon the followers of Moses.”

    كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَلَا تَطْغَوْا فِيهِ فَيَحِلَّ عَلَيْكُمْ غَضَبِي ۖ وَمَنْ يَحْلِلْ عَلَيْهِ غَضَبِي فَقَدْ هَوَىٰ (81)

    20|81| Eat of the good things We have provided you, and commit not excesses therewith lest My anger should alight on you. And on whomsoever My anger alighted, he is lost.


    وَإِنِّي لَغَفَّارٌ لِمَنْ تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا ثُمَّ اهْتَدَىٰ (82)

    20|82| Indeed, I am very Forgiving unto him who repented, believed and did righteous deeds and then remained guided.78


    78. The translation of “ihtada” as here reflects the understanding of Ibn `Abbas, as in Razi. However, Imam Razi adds other possible meanings, such as, attending to the purification of the heart and soul.

    وَمَا أَعْجَلَكَ عَنْ قَوْمِكَ يَا مُوسَىٰ (83)

    20|83| ‘And what has hastened you from your people O Musa?’


    قَالَ هُمْ أُولَاءِ عَلَىٰ أَثَرِي وَعَجِلْتُ إِلَيْكَ رَبِّ لِتَرْضَىٰ (84)

    20|84| He said, ‘They are on my footsteps,79 and I hastened to You, O my Lord, that You be pleased.’80


    79. There have been at least two opinions regarding the words “they are on my footsteps.” One, which is adopted by most commentators, “they (the promised seventy) are just a little way off behind me.” And second, the term “they” refers not to the seventy at the foot of the mountain, but to the general Israeli public back in the tents; in which case the meaning is, as was the opinion of Hasan, “I have hastened to You O my Lord because the general public of the Israelites follows me closely in guidance.” Hence Allah said, “(That is not the case, but rather), they have been put to test after you).”
    Asad sees the second meaning more plausible and comments: “This passage relates to the time of Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai, mentioned in 2: 51 and 7: 142. (The statement here implies) that he should not have left them alone, without his personal guidance, at so early a stage in their freedom. In this inimitable elliptic manner the Qur’an alludes to the psychological fact that a community which attains to political and social freedom after centuries of bondage remains for a long time subject to the demoralizing influences of its past, and cannot all at once develop a spiritual and social discipline of its own.”

    قَالَ فَإِنَّا قَدْ فَتَنَّا قَوْمَكَ مِنْ بَعْدِكَ وَأَضَلَّهُمُ السَّامِرِيُّ (85)

    20|85| He said, ‘We have tested your people in your absence - and the Samiri81 has led them into error.’82


    80. It is said that Musa (asws) was to bring seventy of his followers to Mount Tur to witness the coming down of the revelation. However, it appears that although Musa started with the seventy, he left them a little behind him and hastened his own presence (Razi and others).
    Qurtubi opts for the first meaning expressed in the last note and adds his own Sufistic comment: It seems the people with him were a bit slow. But Musa lost control of himself and, out of love, hastened to present himself to his Lord. So that, when asked why he had hastened, he had no answer except to say that “they are right behind me.” Why should Musa have not hastened, when we are told of our Prophet that when it rained, he would bare his upper body and stand in the open receiving the downpour saying, “This is fresh from my Lord?” And, it is reported of `A’isha that when going to bed she would sometimes say, “Pass the Book (the Qur’an) to me.” She would place it upon her breast, drawing comfort from it.


    81. As regards Samiri’s identification, although the opinion of Ibn `Abbas was that he was not an Israeli, but rather an outsider whose tribe used to worship the cow, and who somehow attached himself to them. The opinion of others was that he was in fact an Israelite of a tribe called Samirah (Razi). Alusi adds that there is a tribe in Syria even until his time which is called as the Samiri tribe. But Asad rules out that the Samiri belonged to the Samiri tribe. He prefers the opinion of Ibn `Abbas who held that he was one of the Egyptians who believed in Musa and joined the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt. “In which case,” writes Asad, “the designation samiri might be connected with the ancient Egyptian shemer, ‘a foreigner’ or ‘stranger.’ This surmise is strengthened by his introduction of the worship of the golden calf, undoubtedly an echo of the Egyptian cult of Apis.”
    Mawdudi attends to the problem of Orientalists’ scholarship: “Al-Samiri was not the proper name of that person. The last letter ya of the word clearly indicates an affiliation, either to a race, a tribe, or to a place. Moreover, the prefix al here indicates that the person referred to was one particular Samiri, implying that there were many other people bearing that appellation because of their particular tribal, racial or habital affiliation – and that it was only he from among the Israelites who was responsible for the spread of calf-worship.
    “In order to explain what the Qur’an says here no further information seems to be required. However, this particular matter has been deemed to be of great significance by Christian missionaries and especially by some Orientalists who have gone to great lengths to cast aspersions on the Qur’an. According to them, what is said here betrays – God forbid – the grievous ignorance of the Qur’an’s author.
    “They contend that Samaria, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Israel, was built in 925 B.C., several centuries after this event, [implying, thereby, that the world al-Samiri is an anachronism]. Moreover, several centuries after this a hybrid people – a cross breed of Israelites and non-Israelites – appeared on the scene and were named Samaritans. The critics point out that along with other polytheistic innovations, worship of the golden calf was in vogue among the Samaritans. They claim that the Prophet (peace be on him) got wind of it from the Jews, and linked it with the time of the Prophet Moses (peace be on him), but invented the story that the worship of the golden calf was introduced by a Samaritan.
    “They level similar charges against Haman whom the Qur’an mentions as one of Pharaoh’s ministers. Both Christian missionaries and Orientalists identify Haman as a courtier of the Persian King, Cyrus, who did indeed share the same name. Using this assumption, they argue that the current Qur’anic statement is further proof of the ignorance of the Qur’an’s author. Such a contention can only be sustained if one were to believe that in olden times there existed only one person, tribe or place, with a particular name; if that were indeed the case, the possibility of there being two or more people, tribes or places bearing the same name, is altogether excluded.
    “The fact, however, is that the Samaritans were a well-known ancient nation who held sway over Iraq and the areas surrounding it during the time of Abraham (peace on him). It seems quite likely then for people belonging to this nation, or to any branch of it, to have been known as Samiris in Egypt during the time of Moses (peace be on him).”


    82. In Islamic literature the Jews are sometimes referred to as the “enemies of the Prophets.” This is one instance of their enmity. The Bible attributes the calf-making to Harun (asws). Exodus, ch. 32, verses 1-5 say,
    “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamations and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.’ (Au.).

    فَرَجَعَ مُوسَىٰ إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ غَضْبَانَ أَسِفًا ۚ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَلَمْ يَعِدْكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ وَعْدًا حَسَنًا ۚ أَفَطَالَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْعَهْدُ أَمْ أَرَدْتُمْ أَنْ يَحِلَّ عَلَيْكُمْ غَضَبٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُمْ مَوْعِدِي (86)

    20|86| So Musa returned to his people angry and grieved. He said, ‘My people. Has not your Lord made you good promises? Or, did the promise seem to you long (in coming)? Or, did you want your Lord’s anger should strike you, that you broke your promise to me?’


    قَالُوا مَا أَخْلَفْنَا مَوْعِدَكَ بِمَلْكِنَا وَلَٰكِنَّا حُمِّلْنَا أَوْزَارًا مِنْ زِينَةِ الْقَوْمِ فَقَذَفْنَاهَا فَكَذَٰلِكَ أَلْقَى السَّامِرِيُّ (87)

    20|87| They said, ‘We did not break our promise to you by our will. But we were burdened with the weight of the people’s ornaments which we cast;83 and thus did the Samiri cast.’84


    83. Although not a hadith but some of the Salaf have said that when the Israelites were ready to leave Egypt, Musa (asws) suggested to them to borrow ornaments and jewelries from the Egyptians which would come handy as booty. It were these ornaments to which they were referring, which they cast into the fire, on Samiri’s bidding (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    Others have felt that Musa never ordered the Israelites to borrow the jewelry. They did it on their own. Mufti Shafi` is also inclined to this belief and points out that when the Prophet (saws) was leaving Makkah, the “Dar al-Harb” he did not take away with him the trust money he had in his possession. He left behind `Ali and instructed him to return them to the rightful owners.


    84. When Musa had left for Mount Tur, the Samiri took charge of the plebian class. He must have been a charismatic figure with previous influences on the Children of Israel still in his stock. He got the gold ornaments they had brought from the Copts collected together, threw in a handful of dust that he had picked up from the hoof-marks of Jibril’s horse, and molded a body in the shape of a calf. It produced a lowing sound and he induced the Israelites to worship it. According to other reports Harun had got the ornaments collected together and got them buried in ground saying that booty was unlawful for the Israelites and which the Samiri dug out (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi).
    The last sentence of the above would imply that it could not have been Musa who suggested to the Israelites to borrow ornaments from the Copts (Au.).
    The report about the dust from the horse’s hoof-mark comes from `Ali, and, according to Hakim, is trustworthy (Shawkani).
    Asad writes (a little earlier), “It is mentioned in Exodus xii, 35 that, immediately before their departure from Egypt, the Israelites ‘borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver and gold’. This ‘borrowing’ was obviously done under false pretences, without the intention on the part of the Israelites to return the jewelry to its rightful owner..”
    Razi quotes that once a Jew told `Ali, “Your Prophet had not yet been buried that differences surfaced between you.” He answered, “We differed after him (i.e., as to who will succeed him) and not about him (i.e., whether he was a Prophet or not); whereas your feet were still not dry from the sea water that you began to clamor, “Musa! Make for us a deity as these tribal people have their deities (of mud and stone).”
    In any case, the doubt remains as to how could the Israelites fall prey to Samiri’s gimmicks. The answer given is that the Samiri must have been working on the spread of his personal beliefs even the while Musa (asws) was between them in Egypt (Alusi).

    فَأَخْرَجَ لَهُمْ عِجْلًا جَسَدًا لَهُ خُوَارٌ فَقَالُوا هَٰذَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ وَإِلَٰهُ مُوسَىٰ فَنَسِيَ (88)

    20|88| He brought out for them a calf: a body with a low. They said (to one another), ‘This is your Lord and Musa’s Lord, but he forgot.’85


    85. Of the several opinions that have been offered, one, as reported of Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, Mujahid and others, is that this word (fa-nasiya) is from the Samiri who meant to say, effectively, “Musa forgot the place he should have looked into to meet and discover his deity, the molten image – the deity you should devote yourselves to” (Ibn Jarir, Razi). Yet another possible meaning offered by Asad is, “Musa has forgotten his past.”

    أَفَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَلَّا يَرْجِعُ إِلَيْهِمْ قَوْلًا وَلَا يَمْلِكُ لَهُمْ ضَرًّا وَلَا نَفْعًا (89)

    20|89| Did they not see that it could not reply to them a word,86 and it did not have power for harm or good to them?


    86. That is, was the lowing of the calf enough for the Israelites to conclude that it had divine powers? Could they not see that beyond lowing it could do nothing else? Did it answer any of their questions? Did it utter a word? Did it send Revelation? (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ قَالَ لَهُمْ هَارُونُ مِنْ قَبْلُ يَا قَوْمِ إِنَّمَا فُتِنْتُمْ بِهِ ۖ وَإِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ فَاتَّبِعُونِي وَأَطِيعُوا أَمْرِي (90)

    20|90| Indeed, Harun had told them earlier, ‘My people you have been put into a trial therewith, and surely your Lord is the Most Merciful; therefore, follow me and obey my command.’87


    87. Although short, this sentence is rich in meaning. Harun first criticized the Israelites for their calf-worship by saying, “My people! You have been put into a trial therewith”; then he invited them to know and understand their Lord God by saying, “and surely your Lord is the Most Merciful”; then, thirdly, invited them to ponder over his own Prophethood by saying, “therefore, follow me”; and, finally, invited them to follow the Law by saying, “and obey my command.”
    We may remind at this point that the epithet “Al-Rahman” has another meaning of “Al-Aziz”, (the Most Powerful) which seems better suited to this verse (Au.).

    قَالُوا لَنْ نَبْرَحَ عَلَيْهِ عَاكِفِينَ حَتَّىٰ يَرْجِعَ إِلَيْنَا مُوسَىٰ (91)

    20|91| They said, ‘We shall remain squatted around it until Musa returns to us.’88


    88. That is, “We shall wait and see what Musa has to say about it when he returns. Maybe he too will adopt its worship” (Qurtubi,Alusi).

    قَالَ يَا هَارُونُ مَا مَنَعَكَ إِذْ رَأَيْتَهُمْ ضَلُّوا (92)

    20|92| He asked, ‘O Harun! What prevented you when you saw them going astray?


    أَلَّا تَتَّبِعَنِ ۖ أَفَعَصَيْتَ أَمْرِي (93)

    20|93| That you should not follow me?89 Have you then disobeyed my order?’90


    89. The words, “That you should not follow me” have been understood in two ways: one, “Why did you not, O Harun, collect together all those who did not accept calf-worship and come away to me?” This is how Ibn `Abbas and Sa`id b. Zayd understood the verse. This corroborates well with Harun’s reply who said, “I feared that you would say, ‘You caused division among the children of Israel.’” That is, by breaking away with a party of them you caused division. However, Ibn Jurayj understood the words as meaning, “Why did you not, O Harun, follow my ways and prevent them from calf-worship?” (Ibn Jarir).


    90. Harun was referring to Musa’s advice that he had said while leaving for Mount Tur. In Mawdudi’s words, “.. refers to Moses’ directives to Aaron when he delegated the leadership of the Israelites to Aaron in his absence as he headed to the Mount. According to the Qur’an, ‘And Moses said to Aaron, his brother: “Take my place among my people, act righteously and do not follow the path of those who create mischief”’ (Al-A`raf, 142).”

    قَالَ يَا ابْنَ أُمَّ لَا تَأْخُذْ بِلِحْيَتِي وَلَا بِرَأْسِي ۖ إِنِّي خَشِيتُ أَنْ تَقُولَ فَرَّقْتَ بَيْنَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَلَمْ تَرْقُبْ قَوْلِي (94)

    20|94| He replied, ‘O my mother’s son. Do not seize me by my beard or by my head. I feared that you would say, “You caused division among the Children of Israel and you did not observe my word.”’91


    91. Although it amounts to the same thing, yet Mawdudi points out that it was not national unity that Harun was trying to preserve, but rather avoiding a civil strife among the Israelites who would all but murder him if he had forcefully tried to prevent the calf-worship. The Qur’an recorded Harun’s words elsewhere (7: 150), “My mother’s son, the people overpowered me and almost killed me.”
    Had Harun acted forcefully, the initial division of the Israelites would have ultimately resulted in the appearance of a sect with die-hard members at its core. Therefore, Harun let things run their course until Musa’s return and hence his words to him, “I feared you would say, ‘You caused division among the Children of Israel’” (Au., with a point from Shafi`).

    قَالَ فَمَا خَطْبُكَ يَا سَامِرِيُّ (95)

    20|95| He asked, ‘What then is your case, O Samiri?’


    قَالَ بَصُرْتُ بِمَا لَمْ يَبْصُرُوا بِهِ فَقَبَضْتُ قَبْضَةً مِنْ أَثَرِ الرَّسُولِ فَنَبَذْتُهَا وَكَذَٰلِكَ سَوَّلَتْ لِي نَفْسِي (96)

    20|96| He replied, ‘I saw what they did not see. So I took a handful of the prints of the Messenger and cast it.92 That is what my inner self suggested to me.’93


    92. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others have said that the Samiri saw Jibril and picked up a handful of dust from the hoof-prints of his horse. He threw it into the gold that was being melted saying, ‘Be a calf with a low,’ and then molded the calf (Ibn Jarir). There are reports from `Ali which say that the Samiri saw Jibril and his horse when he had come down to inform Musa of his appointment with his Lord (Alusi).
    It might be worth noting that a similar “vision” was “experienced” by Shybah b. ‘Uthman at Hunayn. He himself reports that when the Muslims fled with the initial onslaught, exposing the Prophet to the enemy, it occurred to him (although in the Prophet’s army as a new-Muslim) that he could avenge the deaths of his father and uncle killed at Badr. But as he neared the Prophet he saw flames between himself and him, resembling lightning. He feared for his life and covering his eyes with his hands, traced his steps backward. The Prophet turned towards him and asked him to get near. When he got closer he said, “O Allah, drive Satan away from him” and asked him to go forward and fight the unbelievers. Shaybah said, “Messenger of Allah. I see a beautiful horse.” The Prophet replied, “O Shaybah. No one but an unbeliever sees it.” Then he placed his hand on his breast and said, three times, “O Allah, guide Shaybah.” With that his hatred for the Prophet changed to love. Earlier at Badr too a Bedouin onlooker had died of heart attack when he saw angels descending from the heaven. These “visions” should help us look at the so-called “Kashf” of the Sufis from a proper perspective (Au.).
    In fact, the Sufi commentator Thanwi states that Kashf is not a prerogative of the Ahl al-Haq at all.
    Another interpretation advanced by Abu Muslim as in Razi and in Asad’s words is as follows: “.. athar (literally “vestige” or “trace” [is]) in its topical sense of the “practices and sayings” or – collectively – the teachings of any person, and particularly of a Prophet; thus, he makes it clear that the phrase qabadtu qabdatan min athari ‘r-rasul fa-nabadhtuha signifies “I took hold of a handful [i.e., “something”] of the teachings of the Apostle and discarded it”: it being understood that “the Apostle” referred to by the Samaritan in the third person is Moses himself.”
    In simpler words, the Samiri said that he had discarded a handful of the ways and practices of Musa. But there are two obvious problems in this interpretation. One, “athar” (in singular) is not used in the sense of “practices and sayings.” It is its plural “aathaar” that is used in the above sense. Second, since the Samiri was speaking to Musa he should have said “I took a handful of your practices and sayings and discarded them” and not “I took a handful of the Apostle’s practices and sayings and discarded them” (Au.). It is another thing, adds Alusi, that the construction of the sentence does not allow for such far-fetched meaning and interpretation.
    As regards several doubts that might arise about the Samiri and his feat, Alusi sets himself to answer them but which we ignore since anyone who has not placed a limit to his mind and thought, can easily work out the answers by himself (Au.).


    93. What the Samiri meant to say by these words is, “It was my inner self’s suggestion that if I threw the handful of dust taken from the hoof-marks of the horse, the molded calf would produce the lowing sound.” This is in the same report of Ibn `Abbas in Durr al-Manthur from which the story of Jibril’s horse has been taken.

    َالَ فَاذْهَبْ فَإِنَّ لَكَ فِي الْحَيَاةِ أَنْ تَقُولَ لَا مِسَاسَ ۖ وَإِنَّ لَكَ مَوْعِدًا لَنْ تُخْلَفَهُ ۖ وَانْظُرْ إِلَىٰ إِلَٰهِكَ الَّذِي ظَلْتَ عَلَيْهِ عَاكِفًا ۖ لَنُحَرِّقَنَّهُ ثُمَّ لَنَنْسِفَنَّهُ فِي الْيَمِّ نَسْفًا (97)

    20|97| He said, ‘Begone then. It shall be your lot in this life that you should say, “No touching.”94 And you have a promise that you will not fail you.95 Now look at your deity to which you remained devoted. We shall burn it down96 and then scatter it in the sea as dust.97


    94. Qatadah said that the Samiri was one of the great figures of the Israelites until they crossed the sea. But, thereafter he preferred to be a hypocrite. The punishment that Musa prescribed for him was that he should be boycotted at every level of interaction, to the extent that he was not even to touch anybody, nor anyone touch him (Ibn Jarir).
    Yet the above does not make clear why the Samiri should have been saying to everyone who came close to him, “No touching.” Perhaps Musa’s words brought on him some kind of disease that caused him pain on human touch (Au.).
    In fact Mufti Shafi` reports that the commentary work “Al-Ma`alim” has a narration that Musa had supplicated against the Samiri which brought a disease on him with the result that when he touched someone or someone touched him, both he and the other person suffered high fever.


    95. The allusion is to the Day of Judgment (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).


    96. A variant reading would render the meaning of “la-nuharri-qannahu” as “we shall reduce it to dust” (Kashshaf, Razi).
    In fact, that is how Ibn `Abbas used to read and explained that since gold and silver cannot be burnt directly, the calf was first powdered and then burnt to ashes (Shawkani).


    97. Yusuf Ali places his last word on the Samiri here. He writes: “Thus ends the Samiri’s story.. It may be interesting to pursue the transformation of the word Samiri in later times.. Whether the root of Samir was originally Egyptian or Hebrew does not affect the later history. Four facts may be noted. (1) There was a man bearing a name of that kind at the time of Moses, and he led a revolt against Moses and was cursed by Moses. (2) In the time of King Omri (903-896 B.C.) of the northern kingdom of Israel, there was a man called Shemer, from whom, according to the Bible, was bought a hill on which was built the new capital of the kingdom, the town of Samaria. (3) The name of the hill was Shomer (= watchman, vigilant guardian), and that form of the name also appears as the name of a man (see II Kings xii. 21); some authorities think the town was called after the hill and not after the man (Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics), but this is for our present purposes immaterial. (4) There was and is a dissenting community of Israelites called Samaritans, who have their own separate Pentateuch and Targum, who claim to be the true Children of Israel, and who hold the Orthodox Jews in contempt as the latter hold them in contempt; they claim to be the true guardians (Shomerim) of the Law, and that is probably the true origin of the name Samaritan, which may go further back in time than the foundation of the town Samaria. I think it probable that the schism originated from the time of Moses, and that the curse of Moses on the Samiri explains the position.”

    إِنَّمَا إِلَٰهُكُمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ وَسِعَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ عِلْمًا (98)

    20|98| Surely, your God is Allah, besides whom there is no god but He. He circumscribes everything with His knowledge.’


    كَذَٰلِكَ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنْبَاءِ مَا قَدْ سَبَقَ ۚ وَقَدْ آتَيْنَاكَ مِنْ لَدُنَّا ذِكْرًا (99)

    20|99| Thus We narrate to you some of the stories of what has been in the past, and thus We have given you a reminder from Us.


    مَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَنْهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَحْمِلُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وِزْرًا (100)

    20|100| Whoever turned away from it, indeed, he will carry a burden on the Day of Judgment.


    خَالِدِينَ فِيهِ ۖ وَسَاءَ لَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ حِمْلًا (101)

    20|101| Abiding therein forever - an evil burden for them on the Day of Judgment.


    يَوْمَ يُنْفَخُ فِي الصُّورِ ۚ وَنَحْشُرُ الْمُجْرِمِينَ يَوْمَئِذٍ زُرْقًا (102)

    20|102| The Day when the Trumpet is blown; and We shall gather together that Day the criminals (all) blue.98


    98. The translation reflects the understanding of Alusi. Linguistically though, “zurqan” has been understood as “blue-eyed”, meaning perhaps, that eyes would have turned blue due to fear. Other suggested meanings are “blind” and “thirsty” (Au.).

    يَتَخَافَتُونَ بَيْنَهُمْ إِنْ لَبِثْتُمْ إِلَّا عَشْرًا (103)

    20|103| Whispering to one another, ‘You lived not but ten (days).’


    نَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَقُولُونَ إِذْ يَقُولُ أَمْثَلُهُمْ طَرِيقَةً إِنْ لَبِثْتُمْ إِلَّا يَوْمًا (104)

    20|104| We know best what they will say when the best among them in ways will say, ‘You lived not but a day.’99


    99. At another place it is said in the Qur’an (79: 46),


    كَأَنَّهُمْ يَوْمَ يَرَوْنَهَا لَمْ يَلْبَثُوا إِلَّا عَشِيَّةً أَوْ ضُحَاهَا [النازعات : 46]


    “The Day they see it they will think they did not tarry but an evening or a morning.”
    In yet another place it said, (30: 55),


    وَيَوْمَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ يُقْسِمُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ مَا لَبِثُوا غَيْرَ سَاعَةٍ [الروم : 55]


    “The Day when the Hour is called, the sinners will swear (that) they did not tarry (in the world) but for an hour.”
    Scientists say that our universe is around 15 billion years old while humans have been on the earth for no more than 10 million years, no matter how generous the counting parameters. The ratio then of human stay versus the life of the universe works out to 1: 1,500,000 years. It works out that the so-called “modern age” is no more than a second in comparison to the age of the universe (Au.).

    وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْجِبَالِ فَقُلْ يَنْسِفُهَا رَبِّي نَسْفًا (105)

    20|105| And they ask you about the mountains. Say, ‘Allah will scatter them as dust far and wide.100


    100. Probably, wrote Razi, when the Makkan pagans heard of the Day of Judgment, they asked the Prophet how it could be brought about seeing that there were no signs of destruction in the world. What they meant is that some kind of process has to start to bring about decay and ultimately end with total destruction. For example, mountains. How can such solid and massive objects be moved out of place? This in fact, Razi adds, was a doubt that Galenos (the Greek physician) had also expressed who said that the heavens and the earth will never meet with their destruction, for no signs of that are presently visible. Therefore Allah (swt) informed them that He will, by His Power, render the mountains to dust and scatter them about.
    The above is a good example of how people’s mind has been working throughout the ages: from the time of the Greek civilization, to the Arabs of the Prophet’s time, to the modern man. The question of the origin and hence destruction of the world is one over which not only the best minds have spoken, but schools of thoughts have been developed. Fred Hoyle and a few others have held that the universe has always been as it is and will remain in existence as it is. This school refers to this cosmos as the “Steady-State Universe.” Others have held that since the expansion of the universe is well proved, it means once it was smaller, and before that smaller and so on, until you arrive at a point no more than 10-23 cm across, at terribly high temperature and higher pressure. At that point it burst and the phenomenon is known in common parlance as the Big Bang. Obviously, since the burst and scattering of the material, the universe has been cooling, losing the original pressure and, therefore, slowing down in its rate of expansion. But, what happens when the initial force of expansion is lost and the cosmos stops expanding at some point of time in future? It is envisaged that the universe will then begin to contract and collapse upon itself – what is known as the Big Crunch - to ultimately end up being what it was at the time of the Big Bang. At that point the cycle of Big Bang, expansion, cooling, contraction and Big Crunch will again begin. The cycle will go on for ever!
    But the scientist were left completely out of their wits when they discovered through data collected by the Hubble telescope operating in the space that the Universe is accelerating in expansion. That is, the speed of expansion is increasing. This has come as a bomb shell suggesting a mysterious force operating upon matter pushing it afar. The Big Bang-Big Cruch-cycle therefore, will not work. So, what’s the scenario now? Well, it looks like the universe will keep on expanding, and, obviously, matter will disperse far and wide and lose complete contact with each other for ever.
    The Qur’an of course does not reject or confirm any of the above except to agree on two points: that once all matter was together (21: 30) and that the universe is expanding (51: 47) and to disagree on two points, viz., at the start the universe was not a tiny dot, but was in the form similar to rolled scriptural material (21: 104), and that the cycle will not go on forever - Au.

    فَيَذَرُهَا قَاعًا صَفْصَفًا (106)

    20|106| And leave it plain, smooth.


    لَا تَرَىٰ فِيهَا عِوَجًا وَلَا أَمْتًا (107)

    20|107| You will not see therein a depression or elevation.’101


    101. The translation – as “depression” and “elevation” - reflects the understanding of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ibn Zayd and others as in Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Baghawi and others.

    يَوْمَئِذٍ يَتَّبِعُونَ الدَّاعِيَ لَا عِوَجَ لَهُ ۖ وَخَشَعَتِ الْأَصْوَاتُ لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ فَلَا تَسْمَعُ إِلَّا هَمْسًا (108)

    20|108| On that Day everyone will follow the Summoner, with no deviation in him.102 Voices will be hushed to the Most Merciful, so that you will hear not but the shuffle of footsteps.103


    102. A possible meaning is, the follower of the Summoner will follow him without any deviation (Qurtubi).


    103. This is how Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Hasan and others have understood the word “hams.” But Mujahid thought it referred to a whispering voice (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    يَوْمَئِذٍ لَا تَنْفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وَرَضِيَ لَهُ قَوْلًا (109)

    20|109| The Day, when intercession will not profit, except for whom the Most Merciful allows, and whose word He approves.


    يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِهِ عِلْمًا (110)

    20|110| He knows what is before them and what is behind them while they comprehend it not by knowledge.104


    104. That is, He knows what they have before them of the Day of Judgment when they will be punished, and what they will leave behind them of this worldly life where they disobey His commands (Ibn Jarir).
    Alternatively, they cannot comprehend Him (Allah) by knowledge (Baghawi).
    Thanwi, `Uthmani and Mawdudi connect this verse with the previous one, but which seems to be possible only in a limited sense. In Mawdudi’s words: “This (verse) explains the reasons for placing restrictions on intercession. Regardless of whether someone is an angel, or a Messenger, or a saint, nobody knows – indeed nobody – the full record of another person’s deeds, of those activities which kept them preoccupied during their lives. No one fully knows what is truly creditable about a person or what makes him blameworthy. God, however, has full knowledge of the past records as well as the present state of all beings. He knows precisely the extent of goodness of those who are good. Likewise, He knows the wickedness of those who are wicked. Only He knows whether someone deserves to be pardoned, and if so, whether fully or in part. Neither angels nor Prophets nor any saints can be given a free hand to intercede on behalf of those they might like to.”

    وَعَنَتِ الْوُجُوهُ لِلْحَيِّ الْقَيُّومِ ۖ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ حَمَلَ ظُلْمًا (111)

    20|111| Faces will be humbled105 before the Living, the One by Whom all sustain. And surely, undone will be he who carried the burden of a transgression.


    105. The textual word “`anat” also reflects the meaning of “surrender” (Razi, Qurtubi).

    وَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِنَ الصَّالِحَاتِ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَا يَخَافُ ظُلْمًا وَلَا هَضْمًا (112)

    20|112| (In contrast) He who did righteous deeds and is a believer, he shall not fear an injustice nor deprivation.106


    106. Literally, “hadm” is reduction or diminution in the wages that someone deserves to receive (Ibn Jarir from Mujahid). It is also used for wrongdoing and oppression (Qurtubi).

    وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا وَصَرَّفْنَا فِيهِ مِنَ الْوَعِيدِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ أَوْ يُحْدِثُ لَهُمْ ذِكْرًا (113)

    20|113| Thus We have sent it down - an Arabic recital107 - and have diversified therein all manner of warnings that haply they may fear, or that it give rise to a new awareness in them.108


    107. “Arabic recital” is a literal translation, otherwise, as Majid notes, the meaning is, a clearly worded recital, “The main idea underlying the word `arabiyyan is clearness of the precepts of the Qur’an and their intelligibility. A`raba, like afsaha, means, ‘he spoke clearly, plainly, distinctly or intelligibly (LL)” - Majid.


    108. Literally, “dhikr” is remembrance, but Asad’s rendering as “awareness” seems to be more appropriate here (Au.).

    فَتَعَالَى اللَّهُ الْمَلِكُ الْحَقُّ ۗ وَلَا تَعْجَلْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يُقْضَىٰ إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُ ۖ وَقُلْ رَبِّ زِدْنِي عِلْمًا (114)

    20|114| So, exalted is Allah, the (true) Sovereign, the (Ultimate) Truth. And do not hasten with the Qur’an before its revelation is completed to you.109 And say, ‘My Lord, increase me in knowledge.’110


    109. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and Ibn Jurayj understood the verse as meaning, “Do not recite the revelation to your followers, O Muhammad, until We have made clear its meaning to you” (Ibn Jarir).
    Razi, Ibn Kathir and others have pointed out that initially the Prophet (saws) used to repeat the words of revelation, even as the revelation was in process, in fear of forgetting it. Verse 16-17 of Surah al-Qiyamah promised him that he will not forget what was revealed to him. This present verse instructed him not to be in a hurry to recite them to others either.
    Another interpretation is that the Prophet was told not to pass on the revelations to others until they had been explained to him. Hasan has said that once a woman came to him seeking retaliation for a slap from her husband. The Prophet told her that she had the right of retaliation. But Allah (swt) revealed (4: 34), “Men are the protectors and managers (of the affairs) of women..” and the Prophet took back his decision (Kashshaf, Qurtubi). The above report is in Al-Faryabi, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Marduwayh (Shawkani).
    Asad relates the verse to other than the Prophet. He writes: “Although .. this exhortation was in the first instance addressed to the Prophet Muhammad, there is no doubt that it applies to every person, at all times, who reads the Qur’an. The idea underlying the above verse may be summed up thus: Since the Qur’an is the Word of God, all its component parts – phrases, sentences, verses and surahs – form one integral, co-ordinated whole.. Hence, if one is really intent on understanding the Qur’anic message, one must beware of a ‘hasty approach’ – that is to say, of drawing hasty conclusions from isolated verses or sentences taken out of their context – but should, rather, allow the whole of the Qur’an to be revealed to one’s mind before attempting to interpret a single aspect of its message.”
    Thus, in the light of interpretation of the Salaf, the verses here are not a repeat reminder of what had already been revealed in Surah al-Qiyamah which said (75: 16), “Do not move your tongue to hasten therewith.”
    In contrast, a contemporary commentator wrote: “The previous subject ended with the statement: ‘Exalted is Allah, the True King’. Thereafter, the angel, before departing, apprises the Prophet (peace be on him) of something he had noted in the course of communicating the revealed message to the Prophet (peace on him). Presumably the angel did not wish to disturb him while he was in the process of receiving this revelation. Once the task had been completed, the angel drew the Prophet’s attention to what he had noticed.”
    The above implies that this verse is from the angel: a notion as bizarre as wrong. Indeed, we do not have any report in the hadith literature which says that the angel ever apprised the Prophet of what he had noticed of him, except during Isra’ wa Me`raj journey. At the time they bring a revelation, the angels speak not to Messengers except what they are commanded by Allah, and then when they speak, they speak out only words chosen from on High. Surely, if they were allowed to speak out their own words, confusion would arise over their words, and those of Allah (Au.).


    110. It is noteworthy, writes Zamakhshari, that the Prophet was never asked to seek increase in anything except in knowledge.

    وَلَقَدْ عَهِدْنَا إِلَىٰ آدَمَ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَنَسِيَ وَلَمْ نَجِدْ لَهُ عَزْمًا (115)

    20|115| Indeed, We had already taken a promise from Adam earlier, but he forgot.111 We did not find in him a firm resolve.112


    111. Mawdudi comments on the repetition of Adam’s story here. He writes: “Although the story of Adam (peace be upon him) was narrated earlier in al-Baqarah, al-A`raf, al-Hijr, Bani Isra’il and al-Kahf, it is resumed once again in this surah. This, in fact, is the seventh occasion that Adam’s story is narrated in the Qur’an. On each occasion the story has a different context; accordingly, the details of each story have been set out in a different fashion. We find in certain instances that details incidental to the story but which are directly related to the theme of the Surah are described in one place but omitted at another. Likewise, the style varies from place to place. For a full understanding of the story and its meaning, one should recall the entire narrative as documented in different places throughout the Qur’an.”


    112.
    The verse draws the following comment from Muhammad Asad: “.. the faculty of conceptual thinking is man’s outstanding endowment, his ‘forgetting’ God’s commandments – resulting from a lack of ‘firmness of purpose’ in the domain of ethics – is an evidence of the moral weakness characteristic of the human race (cf. 4: 28 – ‘man has been created weak’): and this, in turn, explains man’s dependence on unceasing divine guidance, as pointed out in verse 113 above.”
    The verse implies that some weaknesses are no sign of imperfection. They are but natural. A further implication is that the perfect man too can sometimes commit errors (Thanwi).

    وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَىٰ (116)

    20|116| When We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves to Adam.’ They fell prostrate except for Iblis: he refused.


    فَقُلْنَا يَا آدَمُ إِنَّ هَٰذَا عَدُوٌّ لَكَ وَلِزَوْجِكَ فَلَا يُخْرِجَنَّكُمَا مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ فَتَشْقَىٰ (117)

    20|117| So We said, ‘O Adam. Surely this is an enemy to you and to your wife. So let him not drive the two of you out of Paradise, lest you suffer.113


    113. Allah said, “So let him not remove you both from Paradise,” In contrast, He did not say, “Lest you both suffer,” but rather, “Lest you suffer,” i.e., in singular dropping out the reference to Hawwa.’ This implies that the male will have to work harder than the female (Ibn Jarir, Thanwi). According to Sa`id, immediately upon reaching the earth, Adam (asws) was given an oxen to till the land. But it is possible, adds Ibn Jarir, that Hawwa’s mention was left out because her inclusion is understood.
    Nevertheless, adds Qurtubi, the implication is there, that a woman’s livelihood is the husband’s responsibility. And that the responsibility covers four items mentioned here: food, drinks, clothes and shelter (Ma`arif).
    Although the root word is same, the “shaqawah” of this verse, is not that “shaqawah” which implies being wretched, or away from the mercy of our Lord, either in this world or the next. But rather, according to Farra’, “shaqawah” of this occurrence is to be made to earn one’s living at the expense of one’s best energies (Qurtubi, Ma`arif).

    إِنَّ لَكَ أَلَّا تَجُوعَ فِيهَا وَلَا تَعْرَىٰ (118)

    20|118| It is for you that you should not be hungry therein nor go unclothed.


    وَأَنَّكَ لَا تَظْمَأُ فِيهَا وَلَا تَضْحَىٰ (119)

    20|119| And that you should not be thirsty therein nor face the sun’s heat.’


    فَوَسْوَسَ إِلَيْهِ الشَّيْطَانُ قَالَ يَا آدَمُ هَلْ أَدُلُّكَ عَلَىٰ شَجَرَةِ الْخُلْدِ وَمُلْكٍ لَا يَبْلَىٰ (120)

    20|120| But Shaytan whispered to him saying, ‘O Adam. Shall I lead you to the Tree of Eternity,114 and a kingdom that will never decay?’


    114. Obviously, Satan deceived them. The tree was not the Tree of Eternity. But the question remains, what tree “Shajaratu ‘l Khuld is?” Hadith literature is silent about it. There is just one hadith in Ahmad as well as in Abu Da’ud Tayalisi’s collection which says, “Paradise has a tree under whose shade a rider can ride for a hundred years but will not be able to overtake it. It is the Khuld Tree.” But this report is of unknown status (Ibn Kathir). Bukhari has a similar report but without the addition of the words, “It is the Khuld Tree.”
    In any case, it is interesting to note that throughout history, mankind’s single obsession and the ultimate goal of developmental efforts has been to attain eternal life, and a kingdom which will not decay. And, by implication, the Biblical explanation of the tree as “the tree of life” or, “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2: 9) is entirely inadequate. It does not convey the eternal human quest (Au.).

    فَأَكَلَا مِنْهَا فَبَدَتْ لَهُمَا سَوْآتُهُمَا وَطَفِقَا يَخْصِفَانِ عَلَيْهِمَا مِنْ وَرَقِ الْجَنَّةِ ۚ وَعَصَىٰ آدَمُ رَبَّهُ فَغَوَىٰ (121)

    20|121| So the two ate of it and consequently, their shameful parts became visible to them; and the two began to fasten upon themselves leaves of Paradise. Thus Adam disobeyed his Lord and fell into error.115


    115. According to Qushayri, “ghawa” has two meanings. One, to commit an error. Two, to run into problems that render life unpleasant. It is the second of the two meanings that is applicable here. A question arises: What kind of sin was it that Adam committed: major or minor? The answer is, it was minor from our point of view, but, because of his high status in the sight of Allah, a major one for him. Junayd has said,


    حسنات الأبرار سيئات المقربين


    “Good deeds of the righteous are evil deeds for those who are closer” (Qurtubi, Ma`arif).
    Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi and others write: A hadith in Bukhari says,


    حَاجَّ مُوسَى آدَمَ فَقَالَ لَهُ أَنْتَ الَّذِي أَخْرَجْتَ النَّاسَ مِنْ الْجَنَّةِ بِذَنْبِكَ وَأَشْقَيْتَهُمْ قَالَ قَالَ آدَمُ يَا مُوسَى أَنْتَ الَّذِي اصْطَفَاكَ اللَّهُ بِرِسَالَتِهِ وَبِكَلَامِهِ أَتَلُومُنِي عَلَى أَمْرٍ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيَّ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَخْلُقَنِي أَوْ قَدَّرَهُ عَلَيَّ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَخْلُقَنِي قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَحَجَّ آدَمُ مُوسَى


    “Musa argued with Adam. He told him, ‘Are you the one who got mankind expelled from Paradise because of your sin, bringing wretchedness upon them?’ Adam replied, ‘Musa! Are you the one Allah chose for His Messages and (direct) talk? Do you blame me for something that Allah had decreed for me even before He had created me?’ Thus Adam overcame Musa in argument.”
    According to other reports, added Ibn Hajr in Fat-h, Adam asked Musa, ‘What was the period before my creation that you found written in the Torah as when I would do what I did?’ Musa replied, ‘Forty years.’ Adam asked, ‘Do you blame me for what was written I’ll be doing forty years before my creation?’
    Hence Qadi Abu Bakr Hanafiyy has written in his Ahkam al-Qur’an that it is not allowed for any of us to say, e.g., “Adam sinned,” or “Adam committed an error,” unless by way of quoting the Qur’an or a hadith in which case he might quote the original words without attributing the words to himself. In fact, it is not allowed to speak ill of ordinary dead Muslims. How then, when the person involved is a Prophet and our progenitor? (Qurtubi, Shafi`).

    قَالَ اهْبِطَا مِنْهَا جَمِيعًا ۖ بَعْضُكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ ۖ فَإِمَّا يَأْتِيَنَّكُمْ مِنِّي هُدًى فَمَنِ اتَّبَعَ هُدَايَ فَلَا يَضِلُّ وَلَا يَشْقَىٰ (123)

    20|123| He said, ‘Go down, the two of you from here, all together, some of you enemies to one another.116 Then, when there comes to you guidance from Me, then, whosoever followed My guidance, shall not go astray, nor shall he be wretched.117


    116. That is, some of the progeny of Adam will be enemy unto one another.


    117. That is, if you followed the guidance, you will neither be misguided in this world, nor be wretched in the next (Ibn Jarir).

    وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَنْ ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنْكًا وَنَحْشُرُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَعْمَىٰ (124)

    20|124| In contrast, whosoever turned away from My admonition, he shall indeed have a constricted existence,118 and on the Day of Judgment We shall raise him blind.’119


    118. According to the earliest scholars “ma`ishatan danka” is every earning that is earned in the disobedience of Allah, is accompanied by hardships and which does not bring to the earner, its true benefits viz., peace and comfort, but rather leaves him miserable. Some authorities however, such as Ibn Mas`ud, Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, Suddi and others have thought that the allusion is to the torture in the grave which will narrow down on the man to squeeze him until his ribs pass through one another (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    The opinion of Ibn Mas`ud is supported by a hadith in Bazzar – of fairly good chain of narrators (Hasan according to S. Ibrahim) - reported by Abu Hurayrah, which says that “danka” alludes to punishment in the grave (Ibn Kathir).


    119. There will be several situations on the Judgment Day. In certain situations the unbeliever will be raised blind, though seeing on other occasions (Thanwi and others).

    قَالَ رَبِّ لِمَ حَشَرْتَنِي أَعْمَىٰ وَقَدْ كُنْتُ بَصِيرًا (125)

    20|125| He will say, ‘My Lord. Why have You raised me blind when I was seeing (in past life)?’


    قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ أَتَتْكَ آيَاتُنَا فَنَسِيتَهَا ۖ وَكَذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمَ تُنْسَىٰ (126)

    20|126| He will say, ‘That is how Our revelations came to you, but you forgot (all about) them.120 And that is how you will be forgotten today.’121


    120. Although here the direct reference is to those unbelievers who forgot “all about the message sent to them,” Ibn Kathir reminds us that memorizing the Qur’an and then forgetting any part of it is no small a sin either. The Prophet said in more than one hadith recorded by Ahmad,


    مَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ يَقْرَأُ الْقُرْآنَ ، ثُمَّ يَنْسَاهُ ، إِلا لَقِيَ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ وَهُوَ أَجْذَمُ


    “No one read the Qur’an and then forgot it, but will meet Allah the Day he meets Him as a leper.”
    But Albani and others have declared the hadith weak (Au.).


    121. That is, he will be forgotten in the Fire (Mujahid: Ibn Jarir).

    وَكَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي مَنْ أَسْرَفَ وَلَمْ يُؤْمِنْ بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِ ۚ وَلَعَذَابُ الْآخِرَةِ أَشَدُّ وَأَبْقَىٰ (127)

    20|127| Thus do We requite him who crosses the limits and believes not in the revelations of his Lord. And the chastisement of the Hereafter is more terrible and more enduring.


    أَفَلَمْ يَهْدِ لَهُمْ كَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا قَبْلَهُمْ مِنَ الْقُرُونِ يَمْشُونَ فِي مَسَاكِنِهِمْ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِأُولِي النُّهَىٰ (128)

    20|128| Are they not guided (by the fact that) how many generations We have destroyed before them in whose (past) inhabitations they walk about? Indeed in this are signs for those who are endued with understanding.


    وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِنْ رَبِّكَ لَكَانَ لِزَامًا وَأَجَلٌ مُسَمًّى (129)

    20|129| And were it not for a word from your Lord preceding,122 and a term determined, it would have been a thing necessary.123


    122. What is the `word’ that has preceded? Ibn Kathir answers: It is the rule set by Our Lord that He shall not punish any nation before it has been warned.


    123. What would have become necessary? The answer is, ‘punishment.’

    فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ غُرُوبِهَا ۖ وَمِنْ آنَاءِ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْ وَأَطْرَافَ النَّهَارِ لَعَلَّكَ تَرْضَىٰ (130)

    20|130| Therefore, bear with patience what they say and glorify praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting. Also proclaim (His glory) during some hours124 of the night, and at the ends of the day,125 haply you will be satisfied.


    124. “Aana’” is the plural of “’ini” meaning, some or few. But which part of the night? According to Ibn `Abbas, the allusion is to whole of the night. (To remind, the term “aana’” is in plural). Another of his opinion is that the allusion is to the middle of the night. Hasan said the allusion by “aana’”, is to the beginning, the middle and the end (Ibn Jarir).


    125. The textual word “atraf” is the plural of “taraf”. It is not in the dual form “tarafayn” which would mean the two ends. So, what are the “atraf?” Ibn Jarir writes that according to some scholars the allusion could be both to morning and evening as well as mid-day, which is a “taraf” of the first half of the day. Yusuf Ali has a brilliant remark: “Taraf, plural atraf, may mean sides, ends, extremities. If the day be compared to a tubular figure standing erect, the top and bottom are clearly marked, but the sides are not so clearly marked: they would be atraf (plural), not tarafain (dual). Now the prayer before sunrise is clearly Fajr; that before sunset is `Asr: ‘part of the hours of the night’ would indicate Maghrib (early night, just after sunset), and ‘Isha, before going to bed. There is left Zuhr, which is in the indefinite side or middle of the day: it may be soon after the sun’s decline from noon, but there is considerable latitude about the precise hour. The majority of Commentators interpret in favor of the five Canonical prayers, and some include optional prayers. But I think the words are even more comprehensive. A good man’s life is all one sweet Song of Praise to Allah.”

    وَلَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِنْهُمْ زَهْرَةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا لِنَفْتِنَهُمْ فِيهِ ۚ وَرِزْقُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ (131)

    20|131| And do not stretch your eyes toward what We have bestowed on classes of them as splendor of this life so as to try them therein.126 The provision of your Lord is better and longer lasting.


    126. According to some reports the Prophet sought some food stuff on loan from a Jew. He refused except on mortgage. That mortified the Prophet and Allah (swt) revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir).
    The verse is the basis of a Sufi principle viz., stay away from those who are engaged in other than Allah (Thanwi).

    وَأْمُرْ أَهْلَكَ بِالصَّلَاةِ وَاصْطَبِرْ عَلَيْهَا ۖ لَا نَسْأَلُكَ رِزْقًا ۖ نَحْنُ نَرْزُقُكَ ۗ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ (132)

    20|132| Enjoin Prayer to your kinsfolk and be steadfast therein (yourself).127 We do not ask you of provision. It is We who provide you.128 And the good end is for the pious.12


    127. It is reported that whenever `Urwah (ibn Zubayr) saw wealth in the hands of some people he would go home and tell his homefolk, “Prayers, O my people, Prayers. May Allah show you mercy” (Ibn Jarir). Thabit has said, add Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, and others, that whenever Prophets of the past faced hard times, they turned to Prayers.


    128. Asad comments: “.. (Razi wrote) ‘God makes it clear that He has enjoined this [i.e., prayer] upon men for their own benefit alone, inasmuch as He Himself is sublimely exalted above any [need of] benefit.’ In other words, prayer must not be conceived as a kind of tribute to a ‘jealous God’ – as the Old Testament, in its present corrupted form, frequently describes Him – but solely as a spiritual benefit for the person who prays.”
    Our own Prophet has said in a hadith of Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah:


    يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ تَفَرَّغْ لِعِبَادَتِي أَمْلَأْ صَدْرَكَ غِنًى وَأَسُدَّ فَقْرَكَ وَإِلَّا تَفْعَلْ مَلَأْتُ صَدْرَكَ شُغْلًا وَلَمْ أَسُدَّ فَقْرَكَ


    “Son of Adam. Free yourself for My worship, I shall fill your heart with contentment and shall block your poverty. But if you do not, I shall fill your heart with multiple affairs and shall not block your poverty.” (That is, “fear of poverty will keep goading you on and on to more and more hard work: Ma`arif).
    Shu`ayb Arna’ut said the report is Hasan, Albani that it is Sahih, and Tirmidhi himself declared it Hasan Gharib (Au.).
    Ibn Majah has another tradition. The Prophet said,


    مَنْ جَعَلَ الْهُمُومَ هَمًّا وَاحِدًا هَمَّ الْمَعَادِ كَفَاهُ اللَّهُ هَمَّ دُنْيَاهُ وَمَنْ تَشَعَّبَتْ بِهِ الْهُمُومُ فِي أَحْوَالِ الدُّنْيَا لَمْ يُبَالِ اللَّهُ فِي أَيِّ أَوْدِيَتِهِ هَلَكَ


    “Whoever chose a single concern for himself out of several – that of the Hereafter – Allah will suffice for him this world’s concerns. In contrast, he whose several concerns are of this-worldly nature, Allah does not care in which valley of His he dies.”
    Albani declared the above report Hasan (Au.).
    And a third tradition, also in Ibn Majah says,


    عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، قَالَ: خَطَبَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي مَسْجِدِ الْخَيْفِ فَحَمِدَ اللَّهَ وَذَكَرَهُ بِمَا هُوَ أَهْلُهُ، ثُمَّ قَالَ:مَنْ كَانَتِ الآخِرَةُ هَمَّهُ، جَمَعَ اللَّهُ لَهُ شَمْلَهُ، وَجَعَلَ غِنَاهُ بَيْنَ عَيْنَيْهِ، وَأَتَتْهُ الدُّنْيَا وَهِيَ رَاغِمَةٌ، وَمَنْ كَانَتِ الدُّنْيَا هَمَّهُ، فَرَّقَ اللَّهُ شَمْلَهُ، وَجَعَلَ فَقْرَهُ بَيْنَ عَيْنَيْهِ، وَلَمْ يُؤْتِهِ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا إِلا مَا كُتِبَ.


    Ibn `Abbas reports that the Prophet addressed us in the Khayf Mosque, saying, after praises to Allah: “Whoever has the Hereafter as his concern, Allah organizes his affairs for him and contentment is placed in his heart, while the world comes to him subdued. In contrast, whoever
    treats this world as his main concern, Allah scatters his affairs and places his poverty before his eyes, although, of the world nothing comes to him but that which is in his fate” (Ibn Kathir).
    Haythamiyy treated this report as Sahih (Au.).


    129. What constitutes the “good end?” Ibn Kathir answers it as Paradise. A Sahih tradition (of Muslim: Au.) says,


    رَأَيْتُ ذَاتَ لَيْلَةٍ فِيمَا يَرَى النَّائِمُ كَأَنَّا فِى دَارِ عُقْبَةَ بْنِ رَافِعٍ فَأُتِينَا بِرُطَبٍ مِنْ رُطَبِ ابْنِ طَابٍ فَأَوَّلْتُ الرِّفْعَةَ لَنَا فِى الدُّنْيَا وَالْعَاقِبَةَ فِى الآخِرَةِ وَأَنَّ دِينَنَا قَدْ طَابَ


    “Last night I saw in a vision that we are in the house of ‘Uqbah b. Rafe` and that we are being presented with fresh Ibn Taab dates. I interpreted it to mean that the final outcome will be a lofty position in this world, the success in the Hereafter, and that our religion is Good.”

    وَقَالُوا لَوْلَا يَأْتِينَا بِآيَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّهِ ۚ أَوَلَمْ تَأْتِهِمْ بَيِّنَةُ مَا فِي الصُّحُفِ الْأُولَىٰ (133)

    20|133| And they said, ‘Why does he not bring us a sign from his Lord?’ Has there not come to them the clear sign of what was in the previous Scriptures?130


    130. Asad remarks, “I.e., ‘Does not the Qur’an express the same fundamental truths as were expressed in the revelations granted to the earlier prophets?’ Beyond this, the above rhetorical question contains an allusion to the predictions of the advent of Muhammad to be found in earlier scriptures, e.g., in Deuteronomy xviii, 15 and 18 .. or in John xiv, 16, xv, 26 and xvi, 7, where Jesus speaks of the ‘Comforter’ who is to come after him.”

    وَلَوْ أَنَّا أَهْلَكْنَاهُمْ بِعَذَابٍ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ لَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا لَوْلَا أَرْسَلْتَ إِلَيْنَا رَسُولًا فَنَتَّبِعَ آيَاتِكَ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ نَذِلَّ وَنَخْزَىٰ (134)

    20|134| Surely, had We destroyed them before him with a chastisement,131 they would have certainly said, ‘Our Lord, why did You not send a Messenger so that we followed Your revelations before We were humbled and disgraced?’132


    131. The personal pronoun in “qablihi” can either be for the Prophet, for the Message he brought, or for the warning of destruction the rejecters were given.


    132. Abu Sa`id al-Khudri reports the Prophet (saws) as having said,


    يَحْتَجُّ عَلى اللهِ يَوْمَ القيامَةِ ثَلاثَةٌ: الهَالِكُ فِي الفَتْرَةِ، والمَغْلُوبُ على عَقْلِه، والصَّبيُّ الصَّغيرُ، فَيَقُولُ المَغْلُوبُ عَلى عَقْلِهِ: لَمْ تَجْعَلْ لي عَقْلا أنْتَفِع بِهِ، وَيَقُولُ الهَالِكُ فِي الفتْرَةِ: لَمْ يأْتِني رَسُولٌ وَلا نَبيٌّ، ولَوْ أتانِي لَكَ رَسُولٌ أوْ نَبيّ لكُنْتُ أطْوَعَ خَلْقِكَ لَكَ وقرأ:( لَوْلا أَرْسَلْتَ إِلَيْنَا رَسُولا ) ويَقُولُ الصَّبِيُّ الصَّغِيرُ: كَنْتُ صَغِيرًا لا أعْقِلُ قال: فَتُرْفَعُ لَهُمْ نارٌ وَيُقالُ لَهُمْ: رِدُوها قال: فَيرِدُها مَنْ كَانَ فِي علْمِ اللهِ أنَّه سَعيدٌ، وَيَتَلَكَّأُ عَنْها مَنْ كانَ فِي عِلْمِ اللهِ أنَّهُ شَقِيّ، فَيَقُولُ: إيَّايَ عَصَيْتُمْ، فَكَيْفَ بِرُسُلي لَوْ أتَتْكُمْ؟


    “Three classes of men will contend with Allah (over their fate): those who died in a Prophet-less period (fatrah), the insane and children. The insane will say, ‘You never gave me enough intelligence to be able to comprehend.’ The man of Prophet-less period will say, ‘No Messenger came to me, nor a Prophet. Had a Messenger or a Prophet come to me, I would have been the most obedient of Your slaves.’ (The Prophet recited, ‘Only if You had sent us a Messenger?’) The child will say, ‘I was little, unable to use my mind.’ So the Fire will be brought forward and they will be ordered to walk into it. Now, he who would be the lucky one in Allah’s knowledge will walk in. But he who would be of the wretched ones in Allah’s knowledge will withhold himself. Allah will say, ‘You have disobeyed Me. So, how do you think you would have behaved if a Messenger had been sent to you?’” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    The authenticity of the above version could not be established (Au.).

    قُلْ كُلٌّ مُتَرَبِّصٌ فَتَرَبَّصُوا ۖ فَسَتَعْلَمُونَ مَنْ أَصْحَابُ الصِّرَاطِ السَّوِيِّ وَمَنِ اهْتَدَىٰ (135)

    20|135| Say, ‘Everyone is waiting, so wait. Soon you will know who are the people of the straight path, and who are rightly guided.’133


    133. Muhammad Asad points to a human fault: “I.e., human nature is such that no man, whatever his persuasion or condition, can never cease to hope that the way of life chosen by him will prove to have been the right way.”