Surat Al-'Anbyā'

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. 21

    Merits of the Surah

    1. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud has said in a report in Bukhari, “Al-Kahf, Maryam, Ta-ha and Al-Anbiya’ are the earliest (of revelations) and they are my earliest acquisitions” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). In fact, writes Alusi, there is no difference in opinion that this is a Makkan chapter except for a verse or two such as no. 44.

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ اقْتَرَبَ لِلنَّاسِ حِسَابُهُمْ وَهُمْ فِي غَفْلَةٍ مُعْرِضُونَ (1)

    21|1| People’s Reckoning has drawn close,2, but they turn away in heedlessness.3

    2. Imam Razi raises a question and then answers it. How can the Reckoning be close when several centuries have passed since the promise? The answer is, this is a relative statement. That is, being close is in reference to the total time span since creation. A very long time has already passed. What remains is an extremely short span in relation to what has passed. Therefore, the Day is close.
    3. Thanwi’s sharp sight does not miss to note that it is the “turning away” that makes the “heedlessness” blameworthy. Otherwise, are we not all heedless to some extent or the other?
    Other commentators have reported instances of “living the Qur’an” from the lives of early Muslims. It is reported that `Amir b. Rabi`ah treated someone very generously while hosting him. Impressed, the man, who had recently received a valley as gift from the Prophet (saws), expressed his wish to cut a part of it for him saying. “It will come in handy for you and your offspring.” `Amir replied, “I do not think I stand in any need of your piece of land. It has just been revealed, ‘People’s Reckoning has drawn close, yet they turn away in their heedlessness. This chapter has taken our minds off this world” (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani, Alusi).
    It is also reported of a Companion that he was building a wall. Another passed by. He asked him, “What has been revealed lately?” He replied, ‘People’s Reckoning has drawn close, yet they turn away in their heedlessness.’ The Companion gave up the construction saying, “I will not resume when Allah says that people’s Reckoning has drawn close” (Qurtubi).

    مَا يَأْتِيهِمْ مِنْ ذِكْرٍ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ مُحْدَثٍ إِلَّا اسْتَمَعُوهُ وَهُمْ يَلْعَبُونَ (2)

    21|2| No new reminder4 comes to them from their Lord but they listen to it in sport.5

    4. The Qur’anic revelation is the latest and will ever remain fresh. Ibn `Abbas has said, as reported by Bukhari, “What’s wrong with you that you seek to know about what they posses (of the Scriptures) when they have altered it, added to it and deleted from it, while you possess latest of the revelations that will never become old?!” (Ibn Kathir).
    5. Majid presents the Arab situation, which was no better than what prevails in our contemporary world: “The entire lack of interest in other-world conditions, among the pagan Arabs, arising from their sceptical outlook is a well-known fact of history. Reckless, sceptical, materialistic in their outlook, ‘a great majority believed in no future life nor in a reckoning-day of good and evil’ (LSK, Intro. P. xxxiii).”
    As corollary Sayyid Qutb writes: “The people thus described by the Qur’an treated Qur’anic revelation - being sent down as a complete code of life, a comprehensive practical system, and a law for all kinds of interactions - as no more than sport. They responded to the closeness of the Day of Reckoning with total heedlessness! And people of this sort have been there throughout the ages. Whenever a person is bereft of meaning, purposefulness, and spirituality, then this is what it becomes: as sick as the Qur’an has portrayed. Such of them treat the whole life as a jest and a meaningless affair that has no aim and no purpose.
    “On the other hand, those who treated the Qur’anic message with seriousness, responded to it in a manner described above, it is portrayed in the story of ‘ Amir who refused a plot of land on grounds that the Reckoning had drawn close.”

    لَاهِيَةً قُلُوبُهُمْ ۗ وَأَسَرُّوا النَّجْوَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا هَلْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ ۖ أَفَتَأْتُونَ السِّحْرَ وَأَنْتُمْ تُبْصِرُونَ (3)

    21|3| Their hearts (toying with) trifles. And the evildoers kept secret their whispering to one another,6 ‘Is he any more than a man like you? Will you go for magic while you are seeing?’

    6. Zamakhshari raises the question: every whisper is done in secret, why then did Allah say, they keep secret their whispering?” - and then answers that it is to express their great anxiety to conceal their secret discourses, as they asked each other by way of consultation: “Shall we respond to this revelation by calling it a magical feat, or shall we think of something else?”
    Although Asad’s emphasis is on a different point, we can pick out from him a sentence of our profit. He writes, “… by rejecting the message of the Qur’an on the specious plea that Muhammad is but a human being endowed with ‘spellbinding eloquence’, the opponents of the Qur’anic doctrine in reality ‘conceal their innermost thoughts’: for, their rejection is due not so much to any pertinent criticism of the doctrines as such, rather, to their instinctive, deep-set unwillingness to submit to the moral and spiritual disciplines, which the acceptance of the Prophet’s call would entail.”

    قَالَ رَبِّي يَعْلَمُ الْقَوْلَ فِي السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ (4)

    21|4| He (the Messenger) said,7 ‘My Lord knows every word (spoken) in the heavens and the earth. He is the Hearing, the Knowing.’8

    7. The present reading of the text as “qala” follows the reading of Hafs of Kufa. The Busri reading however is “qul” meaning, in the imperative, “say.”
    8. “... so He knows well the secret plots against Islam and the Prophet, and will punish every culprit accordingly (Majid).

    بَلْ قَالُوا أَضْغَاثُ أَحْلَامٍ بَلِ افْتَرَاهُ بَلْ هُوَ شَاعِرٌ فَلْيَأْتِنَا بِآيَةٍ كَمَا أُرْسِلَ الْأَوَّلُونَ (5)

    21|5| Nay, but they said, ‘Medley of dreams. Nay, he has forged it. Nay, he is a poet.9 So let him bring us a sign even as the Messengers of the past were sent (with signs and miracles).’10

    9. Just like the Orientalists, Western scholars and the modern-day media, the Quraysh contemporary to the Prophet were also in a state of confusion. How should they counter the Prophet’s growing influence? In Mawdudi’s words: “The Prophet’s sphere of influence was continuing to expand and this prompted the Makkan leaders to mutual consultation so as to decide the lines along which a propaganda campaign could be launched against him.
    “… A number of people were assigned to visit the pilgrims’ camps to poison the visitors’ ears against the Prophet (peace be upon him). A variety of notions were put before these pilgrims. At times they were told that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a sorcerer. At times they were told that the Qur’an had in fact been composed by Muhammad himself and was falsely attributed to God. At times the Qur’an was dismissed as a series of insane outbursts, as a conglomerate of incoherent ideas. On other occasions the Qur’an was condemned as a piece of poetic imagination, a collection of rhymed discourses falsely ascribed to God.
    “In short, a variety of things were said but with just one purpose in mind – to mislead people about Islam. The Quraysh were not the least concerned with considerations of truth or veracity and hence they made no attempt to formulate and express a well-considered and definitive opinion on any matter. All this false propaganda, however, had one redeeming effect – it carried the name of the Prophet (peace be on him) to all parts of Arabia and made him known far and wide. The Muslims would not have been able to give the Prophet (peace be on him) and Islam the same amount of publicity as the hostile propaganda campaign launched by the Quraysh generated in a very short span of time.
    A few lines down, Mawdudi continues, “Another report narrated by Ibn Is-haq, indicates that the Quraysh leaders themselves conceded that their propaganda campaign against the Prophet (peace be on him) was totally false. According to Ibn Ishaq, Nadr b. al-Harith once addressed the Quraysh, saying: ‘The way you have been trying to confront Muhammad will be of no avail. As a youth he was the best mannered among you. He was regarded as one most truthful and most trustworthy. Now that his hair is graying, you have taken to branding him as a magician, a soothsayer, a poet and a lunatic. By God, he is not a magician. We have seen magicians and we are fully conversant with their craft. By God, he is not a soothsayer. We have listened to their feigned utterances and their enigmatic sayings. By God, he is not a poet either. We are aware of all genres of poetry but his discourse does not fall into any of those categories. By God, he is not a mad person either. Are we not aware of the condition of a mad person, and of the stupid things he says? O leaders of the Quraysh, think again. What confronts you today is far too serious to be met with (such) recourse…”
    10. Shabbir and Sayyid comment in effect: “The Quraysh could not decide and hold on to a single opinion because at heart they knew that every opinion they thought of, held no ground. So from one, they switched to another, and then to another - confused and unsure. Ultimately they thought they would get out of the hopeless situation by crying out: ‘So let him bring us a sign even as the Messengers of the past were sent (with signs and miracles).’”
    The Qur’an said elsewhere about their inability to get out of their conundrum (17: 48),


    انْظُرْ كَيْفَ ضَرَبُوا لَكَ الْأَمْثَالَ فَضَلُّوا فَلَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ سَبِيلًا [الإسراء : 48]


    “So, see how they strike examples for you. Thus they lost (the truth) and find no way out” (Shabbir).

    مَا آمَنَتْ قَبْلَهُمْ مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ أَهْلَكْنَاهَا ۖ أَفَهُمْ يُؤْمِنُونَ (6)

    21|6| No town that We destroyed before them believed.11 So, will these (people) believe?12

    11. That is, signs and miracles were shown to earlier nations. But, did they believe? (Ibn Kathir)
    12. The apparent meaning is, “So, will these people believe in this message?” But Mujahid thought the meaning is “Will these people accept that the earlier ones were destroyed because of their refusal to believe?” (Ibn Jarir)

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ ۖ فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (7)

    21|7| We did not send before you (O Muhammad) but men to whom We revealed.13 Ask then the people of Remembrance, if you do not know.14

    13. This is the answer to the objection raised by the unbelievers as stated in verse 3, “Is he any more than a man like you?” Messengers have always been humans (Razi).
    Sayyid comments: “Those who suggested during the time of the Prophet that Messengers should have been angels, were similar to those of our times who think that a Messenger should be above human senses, feelings and passions. This kind of people have always been unmindful of the fact that firstly, angels cannot live the life of human beings. They are beings of a different nature altogether. They can never feel like the humans can, who are constitutionally so different from them. On the other hand it was important for the Messengers to have been endowed with the capacity to feel like the humans do, to have the same inner urges, and be affected in the same manner - physically, emotionally and spiritually - as the humans, in order for them to offer workable solutions to their problems.
    “Secondly, if Messengers were to be of the angels, they could never evoke among their followers the desire to follow them in their ways and practices being a different species, and of different nature from them.
    “Thirdly, those who suggest that Messengers ought to be angels, do not accord as much respect to Man as he deserves and are unaware of the honorable position he occupies with his Lord. (They do not believe humans are worthy of being given revelations).
    “Therefore, it has been Allah’s way that He should select human beings for Messengership - such humans as who took birth and died, ate, drank and married, bore hopes and fear, and were affected by other emotions exactly in the manner of the humans. And then Allah made the greatest of His Messenger and the final one, the best of examples in everything that the humans attempt to remain an ideal for them up to the end of time.”
    14. The general opinion is that the allusion by the “people of Remembrance” is to the Jews and Christians. ‘Ali’s opinion however is that it is Muslims, “people of the Qur’an” who are intended. Ibn Zayd was also of the same opinion who said, “We are ‘the people of Remembrance.’ Allah (swt) has referred to this revelation as ‘Dhikr’ in several places in the Qur’an (e.g.15: 9: ‘Indeed, We have revealed this Dhikr, and We shall surely guard it (from corruption); and we happen to carriers of the Dhikr.’” (Ibn Jarir).
    Imam Razi however thinks that since the argument is about the Prophet, his followers - being one of the party - cannot be asked about his authenticity. Therefore, it is the People of the Book who can be identified as the people of Remembrance.
    In either case, it should be clear that the people of Remembrance are to be asked a simple question: were the Prophets of the past humans or not? Their opinion is not to be sought on other religious truths which some people think the present verse allows. This verse is a repetition of verse 43 of Surah al-Nahl where too the suggestion is, ask the people of Remembrance whether Prophets of past were men or not (Au.).
    The meaning and application however, adds Qurtubi, is general, and leads us to the rule that following opinions of a scholar (taqlid) is a necessity for common men. It is not allowable for a non-specialist to deliver rulings as he is ignorant of the principles of law, following which something becomes lawful while another unlawful.

    وَمَا جَعَلْنَاهُمْ جَسَدًا لَا يَأْكُلُونَ الطَّعَامَ وَمَا كَانُوا خَالِدِينَ (8)

    21|8| Nor did We fashion them as bodies that did not eat,15 neither were they immortal.

    15. The Sufi Thanwi writes that the implication of the words, “We did not fashion them as bodies that did not eat,” is that abstaining from food is not a sign of sainthood as imagined by most of the unknowledgeable people, and some of the knowledgeable ones too.

    ثُمَّ صَدَقْنَاهُمُ الْوَعْدَ فَأَنْجَيْنَاهُمْ وَمَنْ نَشَاءُ وَأَهْلَكْنَا الْمُسْرِفِينَ (9)

    21|9| Then We made true the promise to them and rescued them and those We wished, and destroyed the transgressors.

    لَقَدْ أَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكُمْ كِتَابًا فِيهِ ذِكْرُكُمْ ۖ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ (10)

    21|10| Indeed, We have now sent a Book to you wherein is your mention.16 Will you not think?

    16. Mujahid believed in the meaning expressed in the translation. But Sufyan (ibn `Uyaynah) thought – to which meaning Ibn Jarir is inclined – that the term “dhikr” here alludes to “honor”. That is, it is a revelation that promises to ennoble those who follow and live by it (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi), as Allah said, adds Zamakhshari (43: 44),


    وَإِنَّهُ لَذِكْرٌ لَكَ وَلِقَوْمِكَ وَسَوْفَ تُسْأَلُونَ [الزخرف : 44]


    Surely, it (the Qur’an) is a (thing of) honor: for you and your people.”
    Sufyan ibn `Uyayna also explained, as in his biography, “The Qur’an was revealed to a people who regarded qualities such as good neighborliness, fulfilling oaths, truthfulness, trustworthiness, etc., as noble qualities and which they themselves tried to live by. The Qur’an reminded them that by promoting the same values it was mentioning them” (Au.).
    Hasan however understood the term “dhikr” of this occurrence as “religion (Ibn Kathir).
    Asad’s commentary is on the same lines, “..the above phrase contains, apart from the concept of ‘reminder’, an indirect allusion to the dignity and happiness to which man may attain by following spiritual and social precepts laid down in the Qur’an.”
    If we take the standard meaning, then Mawdudi’s comment explains what the verse means, “What was so exotic about the Qur’an which drove its opponents to hold such a collection of mutually conflicting opinions about it (as expressed in verse 5 above: au.)? The Qur’an should have been familiar material to them for its discourses centered on the human psyche and on human affairs; on man’s nature, man’s beginning and end.”

    وَكَمْ قَصَمْنَا مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ كَانَتْ ظَالِمَةً وَأَنْشَأْنَا بَعْدَهَا قَوْمًا آخَرِينَ (11)

    21|11| How many towns We destroyed that were transgressors, and brought forth after them another people?

    فَلَمَّا أَحَسُّوا بَأْسَنَا إِذَا هُمْ مِنْهَا يَرْكُضُونَ (12)

    21|12| When they felt Our chastisement (coming) they began to run away from it.17

    17. The textual word “yarkudun” is richer in meaning than simply running away. Zamakhshari points out that the word “rakada” is used for spurring a riding beast with the heels, in an effort to make it gallop. At another place Allah used the word in the sense of “rubbing.” He said (38: 42)


    ارْكُضْ بِرِجْلِكَ [ص : 42]


    “Rub (the ground) with your foot.”

    لَا تَرْكُضُوا وَارْجِعُوا إِلَىٰ مَا أُتْرِفْتُمْ فِيهِ وَمَسَاكِنِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُسْأَلُونَ (13)

    21|13| ‘Do not run, return to the luxuries you were in, and to your homes, perhaps you will be questioned.’18

    18. This is a satirical suggestion meaning, ‘perhaps you will be asked whether the promise made to you was true’ (Au).
    Another possible explanation, as in Kashshaf, Razi, Qurtubi, Alusi and others is: Maybe your attendants and dependents will seek to know your opinion about what to do and how to do in everyday affairs, as you were wont to be consulted in ordinary times. Or maybe they will ask you for orders to do things pleasing to your majesties.

    قَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ (14)

    21|14| They said, ‘Woe unto us. We had been transgressors.’

    فَمَا زَالَتْ تِلْكَ دَعْوَاهُمْ حَتَّىٰ جَعَلْنَاهُمْ حَصِيدًا خَامِدِينَ (15)

    21|15| That remained their claim until We rendered them as mowed down (fields),19 burnt out (coals)

    19. That is, they were lying dead, like corn plants cut from the roots.

    وَمَا خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاءَ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا لَاعِبِينَ (16)

    21|16| Nor have We created the heaven and the earth and what is between them in sport.20

    20. Yusuf Ali comments: “The Hindu doctrine of Lila, that all things were created for sport, is here negatived. But more, with Allah we must not associate any ideas but those of Truth, Righteousness, Mercy, Justice, and other attributes implied in His Beautiful Names. He does not jest or play with His creatures.”
    One might be confused by the Qur’anic statements such as (6: 32),


    وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ [الأنعام : 32]


    “And this life is nothing but game and sport.”
    Or (57: 20),


    اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَزِينَةٌ [الحديد : 20]


    “Be aware that the life of this world is game and sport and some adornment.
    There is no contradiction between these verses and the present verse. These verses are speaking of the nature of man’s life on earth: an ephemeral, dream-like microsecond-stay, in comparison to the eternal life, the truly real everlasting one of the Hereafter. All the pleasures and pains of this world, the relationships of love and hatred between the humans, the quarrels between nations over the resources of the world, and all the great events that shook the world, would appear from the Next World like episodes of a short dream. Nevertheless, all this does not reduce the seriousness of this life or its importance even in mundane affairs as they have no important bearing on the life to come (Au.).

    لَوْ أَرَدْنَا أَنْ نَتَّخِذَ لَهْوًا لَاتَّخَذْنَاهُ مِنْ لَدُنَّا إِنْ كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ (17)

    21|17| Had We wished to take a sport,21 We would have surely taken it from within Ourselves,22 if We were to do that.23

    21. Mujahid, Qatadah, Hasan and others have said that in one of the several Yemeni dialects, “lahw” stood for a wife (Tabari, Ibn Kathir).
    22. “From within Ourselves!” what does it mean? Thanwi answers, “That is, ‘One of Our Perfect Attributes’ that are eternal and hence worthy of projection.”
    23. Asad throws further light on this difficult passage: “..meaning that, had God ever willed to ‘indulge in a pastime’ (which, being almighty and self-sufficient, He has no need to do), He could have found it within His Own Self, without any necessity to create a universe which would embody His hypothetical – and logically inconceivable – will to ‘please Himself’, and would thus represent a ‘projection’, as it were, of His Own Being. In the elliptic manner of the Qur’an, the above passage amounts to a statement of God’s transcendence.”

    بَلْ نَقْذِفُ بِالْحَقِّ عَلَى الْبَاطِلِ فَيَدْمَغُهُ فَإِذَا هُوَ زَاهِقٌ ۚ وَلَكُمُ الْوَيْلُ مِمَّا تَصِفُونَ (18)

    21|18| But rather We hurl the Truth against falsehood,24 and it smashes (its brains),25 and lo! it is vanished.26 And woe unto you for what you ascribe.27

    24. Asad again, and in line with the previous comment, “I.e., the truth of God’s transcendence against the false idea of His existential immanence in, or co-existence with, the created universe.”
    25. “Damgh” is used for a blow on the head that smashes the brain (Ibn Jarir and others).
    26. The following from Asad may be read in conjunction with the above two comments. He comes close to what Thanwi wrote half a century earlier (but which Asad would have been unaware of): “The obvious fact that everything in the created universe is finite and perishable effectively refutes the claim that it could be a projection’ of the Creator, who is infinite and eternal.”
    27. And, finally, this comes in logical sequence from Asad, which, while connecting the two verses 17 and 18, also removes a misconception held by many intellectuals including Muslims. He writes: “Lit., ‘for all that you attribute [to God] by way of description’ or ‘of definition’ .. implying that the idea of God’s ‘immanence’ in His creation is equivalent to an attempt to define His Being.”

    وَلَهُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ وَمَنْ عِنْدَهُ لَا يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِهِ وَلَا يَسْتَحْسِرُونَ (19)

    21|19| And to Him belong those in the heavens and the earth. And those that are with Him28 do not wax proud against His worship, nor do they grow weary.


    28. Since Allah is in His limitlessness beyond space and time, what does the word ‘near’ Him mean? Asad takes the explanation from Zamakhshari and Razi, “.. their ‘being with Him’ is a metaphorical indication of their spiritual eminence and place of honor in God’s sight, and does not bear any spatial connotation of ‘nearness’.

    يُسَبِّحُونَ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ لَا يَفْتُرُونَ (20)

    21|20| They glorify (Him) by night and day, and do not take a break.29

    29. ‘Abdullah ibn al-Harth says he asked Ka`b al-Ahbar about how the angels could be in the act of glorification day and night, without a break, when they also have to perform various duties such as, bring down the revelation? He replied, “Chanting out glory is like breathing unto them. Do you not go about eating, drinking and doing your works, while you keep breathing? In the like manner, they chant glory while going about their duties” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). But the allusion could be to those of the angels who do nothing but worship Allah, or sing his glory. For instance, as Ibn Jarir reports,


    بَيْنَمَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي أَصْحَابِهِ ، إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ : " تَسْمَعُونَ مَا أَسْمَعُ ؟ " قَالُوا : مَا نَسْمَعُ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ، قَالَ : " إِنِّي لأَسْمَعُ أَطِيطَ السَّمَاءِ ، وَمَا تُلامُ أَنْ تَئِطَّ ، وَمَا فِيهَا مَوْضِعُ شِبْرٍ إِلا وَعَلَيْهِ مَلَكٌ سَاجِدٌ أَوْ قَائِمٌ ".


    “While the Prophet (saws) was with men around him he asked, ‘Do you hear what I hear?’ They replied, ‘We hear nothing O Apostle of Allah.’ He said, ‘I can hear the heaven creaking. And it cannot be blamed for creaking when there is not an inch of space in it but with an angel either in prostration or standing (in Prayers).’”
    The report comes down through two chains of narrations preserved in Ibn Abi Hatim, but both weak (Ibn Kathir).
    The report is also in Ibn al-Mundhir, Abu al-Sheikh and Bayhaqi (Alusi).
    Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut judged its chain of narration as trustworthy (Au.).

    أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا آلِهَةً مِنَ الْأَرْضِ هُمْ يُنْشِرُونَ (21)

    21|21| Or, have they taken (for worship) earthly deities who will raise the dead?30

    30. Yusuf Ali comments, “.. the reference is to the gods of the earth, whether idols or local godlings, or deified heroes, or animals or trees or forces of the nature around us, (or rivers: Majid) which men have from time to time worshiped.”

    لَوْ كَانَ فِيهِمَا آلِهَةٌ إِلَّا اللَّهُ لَفَسَدَتَا ۚ فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَرْشِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ (22)

    21|22| (Why), had there been other gods besides Allah, surely the two (the heavens and the earth) would have been ruined.31 But glory to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Arsh, far above what they ascribe (unto Him).

    31. “After the false gods of the earth (verse 21), are mentioned the false gods in the heavens and the earth, like those in the Greek Pantheon (verse 22), who quarreled and fought and slandered each other and made their Olympus a perfect bear-garden (Yusuf Ali).
    Ibn Kathir comments: Allah said elsewhere (23: 91),


    مَا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ مِنْ وَلَدٍ وَمَا كَانَ مَعَهُ مِنْ إِلَهٍ إِذًا لَذَهَبَ كُلُّ إِلَهٍ بِمَا خَلَقَ وَلَعَلَا بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ [المؤمنون : 91]


    “Allah did not take a son and there is no other god along with Him, otherwise every god would have taken away what he created, and some would have tried to overcome others. Glory to Allah, far above what they ascribe (to Him).”
    To the above, Shabbir and Shafi` add: Had there been two gods, then either they would have been equal in powers or unequal. If unequal, there is no need to bow down to the weaker. If equal, then if one said it should rain, the other would have said, no. If one said it was time for appearance of the dawn, the other would have thought it could wait for a while. The two would have ruined this world. Further, if a state cannot have two rulers, without they fighting each other for control of territory, how can there be two gods in the universe?
    The argument, typically Qur’anic, is so simple. But the polytheists seem to be bereft of simple reasoning ability (Au.).

    لَا يُسْأَلُ عَمَّا يَفْعَلُ وَهُمْ يُسْأَلُونَ (23)

    21|23| He is not questioned for what He does, but they shall be questioned.32

    32. That is, He does what He will. At no point can He be questioned for what He does. In contrast, He has the right to question His slaves about anything that He likes. They cannot ask back a question in reply. The following is an interesting conversation between ‘Ali and another person. The man asked him, “Leader of the faithful! Does our Lord approve of it that He be disobeyed?” ‘Ali answered, “Is Our Lord disobeyed unwillingly? He asked, “Supposing He does not send me guidance, but instead, sends across the unsavory. Did He do me good or evil?” ‘Ali replied, “If He refused to give you your right then surely He did evil. But, instead, if He refused to bestow on you one of His blessings, then, obviously, it is His own blessing. He can bestow on whom He will. Then ‘Ali recited this verse, “He is not questioned for what He does but they shall be questioned” (Qurtubi).
    And, Alusi adds, the Prophet has quoted Allah’s words in the same context, “.. O My slaves, it is your deeds that I reckon and then reward you against them. So if someone finds good, let him praise Allah. But if someone finds it otherwise, let him not blame anyone but himself. (This is part of a long hadith in Muslim and Tirmidhi: Au.).
    By the first question the man tried to force `Ali to concede that the evil that men commit is by Allah’s own will. Ali countered him by saying that granted Allah enforces His will, but what answer do you have to another aspect, viz. when you disobey, do you do it willingly, well–pleased about it, or, are you displeased? If you are displeased, why do you do it in the first place? (Au.)
    We might at this point add a short treatise by Ibn Rushd who tried to reconcile free will with predetermination, in the hope of enriching our discussion which is spread over several volumes in this work. The discourse is from his Al-Kashf `an Manahij al-Adillah fi `Aqaid al-Millah (Exposition of the Methods of Argument in matters of the Doctrines of the Ummah) as translated by Ibrahim Najjar:
    “This question is one of the most difficult religious questions, for if the evidence of reported testimony supporting it is examined, it is found to be conflicting and the same is true of the evidence of rational arguments.
    “The conflict in the reported proof exists both in the Book and in the orthodox tradition (al-sunnah). In the Book, we find many verses that indicate that every thing is predestined and that man is determined to act; and at the same time we find many verses which indicate that man earns credit for his actions and that his actions are not determined.
    “The verse indicating that everything is necessary and predetermined include the saying of the Almighty [54: 49]:


    إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ [القمر : 49]


    ‘Indeed, We have created everything in measure,’ and His saying [13: 8]:


    وَكُلُّ شَيْءٍ عِنْدَهُ بِمِقْدَارٍ [الرعد : 8]


    ‘And everything with Him is by measures,’ And His saying [57: 22]:


    مَا أَصَابَ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي أَنْفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ نَبْرَأَهَا إِنَّ ذَلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ [الحديد : 22]


    ‘Not a disaster befalls in the earth or in yourselves but is in a Book, before We created it. That for Allah is an easy matter’. There are many verses indicating this notion.
    “However, the verses indicating that that man earns credit and that existing things are contingent and not necessary, include the saying of the Almighty [42: 34]:


    أَوْ يُوبِقْهُنَّ بِمَا كَسَبُوا وَيَعْفُ عَنْ كَثِيرٍ [الشورى : 34]


    ‘Or destroy them for what they have earned, while pardoning many,’ and His saying [42: 30]:


    وَمَا أَصَابَكُمْ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ [الشورى : 30]


    ‘[Whatever calamity might hit you] is due to what your hands have earned,’ and His saying [2: 286]:


    وَاتَّقُوا يَوْمًا تُرْجَعُونَ فِيهِ إِلَى اللَّهِ ثُمَّ تُوَفَّى كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَا كَسَبَتْ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ [البقرة : 281]


    ‘Fear a day when you will return to Allah; then each soul will be rewarded fully for what it has earned; and none shall be wronged’. And His saying [41: 17]:


    وَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ فَاسْتَحَبُّوا الْعَمَى عَلَى الْهُدَى فَأَخَذَتْهُمْ صَاعِقَةُ الْعَذَابِ الْهُونِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ [فصلت : 17]


    ‘But as for Thamud, we extended guidance to them; yet they preferred blindness to guidance.’
    “Sometimes in the same verse the conflict appears in this sense, as in the saying of the Almighty [3: 165]:


    أَوَلَمَّا أَصَابَتْكُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ قَدْ أَصَبْتُمْ مِثْلَيْهَا قُلْتُمْ أَنَّى هَذَا قُلْ هُوَ مِنْ عِنْدِ أَنْفُسِكُمْ [آل عمران : 165]


    ‘And when a misfortune befell you after you had inflicted twice as much, you said: ‘whence is this?’; say: ‘It is from yourselves.’ Then He says regarding this calamity itself, [3: 166]:


    وَمَا أَصَابَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْتَقَى الْجَمْعَانِ فَبِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ [آل عمران : 166]


    ‘And what befell you on the day the two armies met was by Allah’s leave,’ as well as His saying [4: 79]:


    مَا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ حَسَنَةٍ فَمِنَ اللَّهِ وَمَا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ سَيِّئَةٍ فَمِنْ نَفْسِكَ [النساء : 79]


    ‘Whatever good visits you, it is from Allah; and what ever evil befalls you, it is from yourself,’ and His saying: ‘Say, everything is from Allah’.
    “Likewise we find conflicting Prophetic traditions regarding this issue, such as his saying, God’s peace be on him:


    مَا مَوْلُودٌ يُولَدُ إِلا عَلَى الْفِطْرَةِ حَتَّى يَكُونَ أَبَوَاهُ يُهَوِّدَانِهِ وَيُنَصِّرَانِهِ


    ‘Everyone is born in the state of nature (fitra), but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian;’ and his saying:


    (إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ خَلَقَ آدَمَ ثُمَّ مَسَحَ ظَهْرَهُ بِيَمِينِهِ فَاسْتَخْرَجَ مِنْهُ ذُرِّيَّةً فَقَالَ) خَلَقْتُ هَؤُلاَءِ لِلْجَنَّةِ وَبِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ يَعْمَلُونَ (ثُمَّ مَسَحَ ظَهْرَهُ فَاسْتَخْرَجَ مِنْهُ ذُرِّيَّةً فَقَالَ) خَلَقْتُ هَؤُلاَءِ لِلنَّارِ وَبِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ النَّارِ يَعْمَلُونَ


    ‘I [Allah] made these for paradise, and thus they performed the actions of the people of paradise, and I made those for Hell and thus they performed the actions of the people of Hell.’
    "The first tradition indicates that the cause of unbelief is the person’s upbringing, and the cause of faith is man’s original nature; while the latter indicates that God creates disobedience and unbelief and that the servant’s action are predetermined.
    “That is why, the Muslim [community] split into two groups over this issue. One group, which is the Mu`tazilite, believed that man’s ‘earning’ is the cause of disobedience and good deeds, and it is for this reason that he is punished or rewarded. The other group, which is the Determinist, believes the opposite; namely, that man is predetermined in his action and is compelled to act.
    “The Ash`arites however wanted to come up with an intermediate position between the two position and said that, although man had the power to ‘earn’, what he earns thereby and the acts of earning are both created by God. But this is meaningless, because if God Almighty creates both the power to earn and what man earns, then the servant must necessarily be determined to earn it.”
    “This is one of the reasons for the disagreement on this issue. There is a reason other than tradition for the disagreement; namely the conflicting rational proofs. For if we assume that man is the originator of his actions and their creator, then there must exist certain actions that do not occur according to God’s will or His choice, in which case there will be a creator other than God. But they object that this is a [breach] of the consensus of Muslim that there is no creator other than God Almighty. However, if we assume that [man] is not free [to ‘earn’] his actions, then he must be compelled [to perform] them [because there is no intermediate position between determinism and earning. Then if man is compelled in his action] religious obligation is intolerable. For, if the human being is obliged to perform what he cannot tolerate, then there would be no difference between imposing an obligation on him and on inanimate objects, because inanimate objects do not have any capacity to act. Similarly man would have no capacity to do what he cannot tolerate. That is why the common people came to believe that capacity (istita`ah) is a precondition of obligation, exactly as reason is. We find Abu al Ma` ali saying in his [treatise], al-Nizamiah, that man earns his actions and he has the capacity to act, basing this on the impossibility of imposing what is intolerable, but not on the same ground precluded by the Mu`tazilites. However, the early Ash`arites permitted the imposition of what is intolerable in an attempt to escape admitting the principle upon which the Mu’tazilites denied it – namely it’s being rationally abhorrent-but the [Ash`arites] disagreed with them on this point.
    “Moreover, if man has no power to earn, then the order to make preparation for calamities that might occur would be meaningless; and likewise [the order] to seek good things. Thus, all the acts intended to bring about good things would be useless, like the art of agriculture and similar useful arts. The same applies to all the arts that aim at self-preservation and warding off harms, such as the arts of war, invigilation, medicine, and the like. But all this is beyond the grasp of human reason.
    "It may be asked: ‘If this is the case, then how can one reconcile the conflict between what is based on tradition and what is based on reason?’
    “We answer that it appears that the intention of the lawgiver is not to separate these two positions, but rather to reconcile them in an intermediate position, which is the true solution of this problem. For it seems that God, the Blessed and Exalted, has created for us the faculties by means of which we can choose between opposites. But since the choice of these things cannot be accomplished except through the propitiousness of the cause that God has made subservient to us from outside and after the removal of their impediments, then the actions imputed to us occur for both reasons. If this is the case then the actions imputed to us are performed through our will, together with the propitiousness of external forces, and that is what is referred to as God’s decree. These external causes that God has made subservient to us do not only complement or impede the action we want to do, they are also the cause of our choice of one of the two opposites. For the will is a desire that arises in us from imagining something or from believing something. This belief is not part of our choice, but is something that arises by virtue of the things that are external to us. An example of this is that if something desirable presented itself to us from outside, we would desire it necessarily without any choice, we would move towards it. Similarly, if something frightful descended on us from outside, we would necessarily hate it and run away from it. If this is the case, then our will is preserved by the things that comes from outside and is bound to them. [To] this is the reference in the saying of the Almighty [13: 11]:


    لَهُ مُعَقِّبَاتٌ مِنْ بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ يَحْفَظُونَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ [الرعد : 11]


    ‘There are guardian [angels] before him and behind him, guarding him by Allah’s command.’
    “However, since the external causes occur in accordance with a definite pattern and a well-planned order, without the slightest deviation from what the Creator has decreed for them; and since our will and our action are not accomplished, and do not even exist, as a whole, without the concurrence of external causes, it follows that our actions occur according to a definite pattern - they take place at specific times and in a determinate measure. This must be the case because our actions are effects of the external causes. Now every effect that results from specific and determinate causes must necessarily be specific and determinate. This connection is not found between our actions and their external causes only, but also between [our actions] and the causes that God Almighty has created within our bodies. The determinate order of the internal and the external causes (those that do not fail) is the decree and foreordination (al-qada’ wa al-qadar) that God has prescribed for His creatures; that is the preserved Tablet. God’s knowledge of these causes and of what results from them is the cause of the existence of these causes. That is why no one but God encompasses the knowledge of these causes. He alone is the true knower of the unseen, as He says [27: 65]:


    قُلْ لَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الْغَيْبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ [النمل : 65]


    ‘Say: ‘No one in the heavens or on the earth knows the Unseen except Allah.’ The knowledge of the causes is tantamount to the knowledge of the Unseen, because the Unseen is the knowledge of the existence of existing entities or their non-existence in the future.
    “Now since the disposition and order of the cause call for the existence of the thing or its non-existence at a certain time, it follows that the knowledge of the certain thing is equivalent to the knowledge of the existence of that thing or its non-existence at a certain time, and the knowledge of the cause absolutely is equivalent to the knowledge of what can exist or cease to exist from them at any particular time throughout all time. How marvelous is the One who encompasses all the causes of existing entities with His inventiveness and knowledge. These are the keys of the invisible world implied in His saying, [6: 59]:


    وَعِنْدَهُ مَفَاتِحُ الْغَيْبِ لَا يَعْلَمُهَا إِلَّا هُوَ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَمَا تَسْقُطُ مِنْ وَرَقَةٍ إِلَّا يَعْلَمُهَا وَلَا حَبَّةٍ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْأَرْضِ وَلَا رَطْبٍ وَلَا يَابِسٍ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ [الأنعام : 59]


    ‘With Him are the keys of the Unseen; only He knows them, and He knows what is on land or in the sea. Not a leaf fall but He knows it, and there is no grain in the dark bowels of the earth, nor anything green or dry, but is [recorded] in a clear Book.’
    “If all this is as we have explained, then it is evident to you how we earn the merit [of our action] and how all our earnings are foreordained. This combination is what religion has meant by those general verses and Traditions that are thought to contradict each other, but if their generality were specified in the [above] manner, their contradiction would vanish. Similarly, all the doubts urged in this regards by which I mean the conflicting rational arguments to the effect that all the things that result from our will, in fact come to be by virtue of both factors - our will and the external causes. If the actions are attributed absolutely to one of these two factors, the previously mentioned doubts will arise.” [Faith and Reason in Islam translated by Ibrahim Najjar published by Oneworld (Publishers), Oxford, 2001, p. 105-110]

    أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِهِ آلِهَةً ۖ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ ۖ هَٰذَا ذِكْرُ مَنْ مَعِيَ وَذِكْرُ مَنْ قَبْلِي ۗ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ الْحَقَّ ۖ فَهُمْ مُعْرِضُونَ (24)

    21|24| Or, have they taken gods other than Him? Say, ‘Bring your evidence.33 This is the Message34 for those with me and the Message of those before me.’ But most of them do not know the Truth, so they are turning away.

    33. Asad comments, Lit., ‘produce your evidence’, i.e., for the existence of deities other than God, as well as for the intellectual and moral justification of worshipping anything but Him.”
    Thanwi sees the verse as refuting any kind of Association. Allah has no equal in His greatness, then, how can there be any partner to Him in His Person.
    34. The translation of the textual “dhikr” as message follows the understanding of Razi and others who explain the word “dhikr” in this occurrence as “the Book.”

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ مِنْ رَسُولٍ إِلَّا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدُونِ (25)

    21|25| And We did not send before you a Messenger but We revealed to him that ‘there is no god but I, so worship Me.’35

    35. That is, the call to Oneness of God is nothing new. All previous Messengers raised the same call (Thanwi).

    وَقَالُوا اتَّخَذَ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وَلَدًا ۗ سُبْحَانَهُ ۚ بَلْ عِبَادٌ مُكْرَمُونَ (26)

    21|26| And they said, ‘The Most Merciful has taken a son.’ Glory to Him. But rather (angels are His) servants, raised to honor.36

    36. Qatadah has said that a few Jews and some others believed (like the Khuza`ah tribe: Razi) that God had reproduced the angels through intercourse with the Jinn. So Allah revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    Majid adds: “This particular blasphemy has been world-wide, the Semitics being no exception. ‘That the angels, as “sons of God”, form part of the old Semitic mythology, is clear from Gen. VI, 2,4 (Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 446).”

    لَا يَسْبِقُونَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ وَهُمْ بِأَمْرِهِ يَعْمَلُونَ (27)

    21|27| They outstrip Him not in speech37 and act by His command.

    37. That is, they do not speak without His leave (Qatadah: Ibn Jarir).

    يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلَا يَشْفَعُونَ إِلَّا لِمَنِ ارْتَضَىٰ وَهُمْ مِنْ خَشْيَتِهِ مُشْفِقُونَ (28)

    21|28| He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they intercede not except for those He approves of. Indeed, they tremble in awe of Him.38

    38. (In reference to people not esteeming Allah the way He should be esteemed) the Prophet said, (in a report accredited by Haythami: Au):


    أنه رأى جبريل عليه السلام ليلة المعراج ساقطاً كالحلس من خشية الله تعالى


    “During his Nocturnal Journey and Ascension he saw Jibril lay fallen, like a (wet) piece of cloth worn down from Allah’s fear” (Zamakhshari, Razi).
    Thanwi urges us to pay attention to the word “mushfiqun” rendered here as “in awe.” He says that the word promises pleasure rather than the pain of “fear” in His presence. (After all, to be awestruck is different from being in fear: Au.). This, Thanwi says, is the “fear” of the Near Ones.

    وَمَنْ يَقُلْ مِنْهُمْ إِنِّي إِلَٰهٌ مِنْ دُونِهِ فَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِيهِ جَهَنَّمَ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الظَّالِمِينَ (29)

    21|29| If any of them should say, ‘I am a god apart from Him,’ We shall reward him with Jahannum. That is how We requite the transgressors.39

    39. Mawdudi has the following comment at the previous verse, “The Arabian polytheists used to worship angels for two reasons. First, they believed them to be God’s offspring. Second, they wanted to ingratiate themselves with them by means of worship so that they might intercede for them with God: ‘They say: “These are our intercessors with God” (Yunus 10: 18).’ ‘But those who take for protectors others than God say: “We only serve them in order that they may bring us near to God” (Al-Zumar 39:3).’ The verses in this surah show that both reasons, however, are false.”

    أَوَلَمْ يَرَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا ۖ وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ ۖ أَفَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ (30)

    21|30| Have not the unbelievers seen that the heavens and the earth were once united,40 then We split them asunder.41 And from water We made every living thing.42 Will they not believe?

    40. Asad comments, “It is, as a rule futile to make an explanation of the Qur’an dependent on ‘scientific findings’ which appear true today, but may equally well be disproved tomorrow by new findings. Nevertheless, the above unmistakable reference to the unitary origin of the universe – metonymically described in the Qur’an as ‘the heaven and earth’ – strikingly anticipates the view of almost all modern astrophysicists that the universe has originated as one entity from one single element .. which became subsequently consolidated through gravity and then separated into individual nebulae, galaxies and solar systems..”
    41. Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, Suddi, Abu Saleh and others have explained that the heavens and the earth were once united into one body until Allah split them asunder. Mujahid added details by saying that there were no seven earths then, nor seven heavens until Allah broke them apart and created the seven heavens and the seven earths positioning them where they are now. Ibn `Atiyyah added that when the earth and the heavens were one, neither did the heavens rain down water nor did the earth grow anything until Allah created life out of water (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Commentaries of the Salaf came so close to the modern finding that one wonders if theirs words had inspirational origin?
    Nevertheless, it might be pointed out that it is scientifically erroneous to use this ayah as evidence to prove that the so-called Big Bang theory is correct, or that the Qur’an confirms it, or that the Qur’an had predicted the scientific theory a millennium and a half ago.
    All that the above ayah is saying is that at one point of time the heavens and the earth were one, until Allah split them asunder. But what point of time was it, is not stated. In contrast, what the Big Bang theory claims is that at one point of time (10-43 seconds after the Big Bang event, when the temperature was supposed to be 1032K, and density 1097 kg. m-3). What did the universe then constitute of? The answer is: it was energy. Thus, the Big Ban theory is talking of ‘energy’ at the time of the bang, while the Qur’an is talking of ‘matter’ at the time of the spilt.
    Further, according to the Big Bang theory, the earth is a part of the heaven and there has been no splitting between the two. In fact, there has been no splitting of matter at any time in the entire history of the universe to create two entities: heaven and earth. The earth still remains part of the heaven. The situation – according to science - has been just the opposite, that is, matter has been coalescing – i.e. coming together (and not splitting asunder). From the state of energy, matter coalesced to become atoms, to molecules, to galaxies, to stars, to planets, etc. But, according to the Qur’anic ayah, the earth and the heavens are two distinct entities that were once one, which split asunder. Science maintains that the earth was perhaps first in the form of a cloud of gas, which coalesced, and due to cooling and gravitational inward pull, the gas became a ball, which, with further cooling, solidified the earth; although no scientist will place his best bet on the process.
    At all events, the Big Bang theory also maintains that at the start, the universe was pure energy, while the Qur’an tells us that at the start of the affair there were the heavens, rolled up like the scrolls which made up books in former times, and that it will be returned to that state:


    {يَوْمَ نَطْوِي السَّمَاءَ كَطَيِّ السِّجِلِّ لِلْكُتُبِ كَمَا بَدَأْنَا أَوَّلَ خَلْقٍ نُعِيدُهُ وَعْدًا عَلَيْنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ} [الأنبياء: 104]


    “The Day We shall roll the heaven, like the rolling of scrolls to make books. As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it: a promise upon Us, We shall be surely doing it.”
    That is how the affair began. What was there before that? The Qur’an is silent. But the hadith fills us the gap. It says that at the beginning it was water.


    فَدَخَلَ نَاسٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْيَمَنِ فَقَالَ اقْبَلُوا الْبُشْرَى يَا أَهْلَ الْيَمَنِ إِذْ لَمْ يَقْبَلْهَا بَنُو تَمِيمٍ قَالُوا قَبِلْنَا جِئْنَاكَ لِنَتَفَقَّهَ فِي الدِّينِ وَلِنَسْأَلَكَ عَنْ أَوَّلِ هَذَا الْأَمْرِ مَا كَانَ قَالَ كَانَ اللَّهُ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ شَيْءٌ قَبْلَهُ وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ ثُمَّ خَلَقَ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ (صحيح البخاري)


    Some people from the Yemen entered upon him (the Prophet). He said, “Accept the glad tidings, O people of Yemen, for, the Banu Tameem would not accept it.” They answered, “We accept. We have come to you to understand the religion, and to ask you about the beginning of the affair: what was there?” He replied, “There was Allah, and nothing before Him. His `Arsh was on water. Then He created the heavens and the earth.”
    Obviously, the above Qur’anic ayah and the hadith do not lay down clearly the process of creation, to afford, what the scientists would call as, ‘a rigorous theory.’ But neither does the statements make it all clear which says that the heavens and the earth were one until they split; especially in view of the astronomical fact that the earth is still within the heaven, or what Islam would say, as the first heaven.
    As regards the Big Bang theory itself, it remains, even among the scientists, a theory to this date, because it does not explain itself in the fullest sense. Every fresh modification raises newest unanswerable questions. Time and again we shall be touching upon this topic –Allah willing - as we proceed with this work (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir turns our minds around to what is rather more of benefit than theorizing about the heavens and the earth. Ahmad and Ibn Abi Hatim have a report which meets the requirements of the two Sahih works. It says that Abu Hurayrah told the Prophet,


    يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنِّي إِذَا رَأَيْتُكَ طَابَتْ نَفْسِي وَقَرَّتْ عَيْنِي فَأَنْبِئْنِي عَنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ فَقَالَ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ خُلِقَ مِنْ مَاءٍ قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَنْبِئْنِي عَنْ أَمْرٍ إِذَا أَخَذْتُ بِهِ دَخَلْتُ الْجَنَّةَ قَالَ أَفْشِ السَّلَامَ وَأَطْعِمْ الطَّعَامَ وَصِلْ الْأَرْحَامَ وَقُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّاسُ نِيَامٌ ثُمَّ ادْخُلْ الْجَنَّةَ بِسَلَامٍ


    “Messenger of Allah! When I see you, I feel good, and my eyes feel cool. Let me know about every thing.” The Prophet told him, “Every thing was created out of water.” I asked, “Messenger of Allah, tell me about a deed which if I did will usher me into Paradise.” He answered, “Spread Salam, feed (the people) with food, help the kindred, and stand in Prayers while the people are asleep, and enter Paradise in peace.”
    42. It must not be imagined, says Ibn Jarir, that the term living refers to those alone that have a soul. But rather, everything that enjoys some kind of life could be included. And, apart from the apparent meaning, some of the Salaf have thought that the term “maa’” alludes to “spermatic fluid.”
    This latter meaning is also scientifically correct. Even bacterium is noted to copulate and exchange genetic material through the medium of a liquid (Au.).
    One question, haven’t the angels and Jinn been created out of Light and Fire? The answer is, firstly, is it not the unbelievers who have been addressed here? Have they known that the angels and Jinn have been created out of other than water? Secondly, every rule has an exception. When rules are stated in general terms, the exception is ignored (Razi, Shanqiti). But the plain answer is, Allah was referring to the kind of life that humans encounter.
    Asad adds: “The statement that God ‘made out of water every living thing’ expresses most concisely a truth nowadays universally accepted by science. It has a threefold meaning: (1) Water – and, specifically the sea - was the environment within which the prototype of all living matter originated; (2) among all other innumerable – existing or conceivable – liquids, only water has the peculiar properties necessary for the emergence and development of life; and (3) the protoplasm, which is the physical basis of every living cell – whether in plants or in animals – and represents the only form of matter in which the phenomenon of life are manifested, consists overwhelmingly of water, and is, thus, utterly dependent on it. Read together with the preceding statement, which alludes to the unitary origin of the physical universe, the emergence of life-form, and within an equally unitary element, points to the existence of a unitary plan underlying all creation and, hence, to the existence and oneness of the Creator. This accent on the oneness of God and the unity of His creation is taken up again in verse 92 below.”
    It might be pointed out that in the above statement it is only the sea as the first place of origin that has been questioned by some scientists, but not water as the primary constituent of all living beings. In any case, we might at this point add a few scientific facts about water as the matrix of life:
    Water
    Oxygen and hydrogen are the constituents of water: both are gases. But when the two are mixed in the ratio of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms, a miracle happens. That miracle is water. And the bonding is pretty strong. Water will need to be heated to 2,0000 C, to break the bond and separate apart the oxygen and hydrogen atoms. However, when heated beyond 100 deg. C., the mixture evaporates. And it evaporates as water molecules. The oxygen and hydrogen atoms do not separate out. Had the bond broken when heated, we would be in serious trouble not knowing how to combine them together to get back water.
    Water has properties that are so unique to it that it deserves to be called a miracle. It is the only element that is present on the earth as solid, liquid, and gas. No other substance appears in these three states within the earth’s normal range of temperature.
    That water is liquid has made possible the appearance of life on earth. No other substance is liquid at ordinary temperatures. In fact, the temperatures at which water is a liquid are unusual. Water is a liquid between 0 deg. C, its freezing point, and 100 deg. C, its boiling point. But other substances with a structure similar to that of water are not liquid in this temperature range. These substances include gases that contain two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of other elements. E.g., tellurium, selenium, or sulfur. These substances, H2Te, H2Se, or H2S, although so close to water, are not found in liquid form on the earth at normal temperatures. If water behaved like these close relatives, it would be a liquid between about -100 deg. C and -90 deg. C. In that case, there would be no liquid water on earth because the earth’s temperatures are far higher than –100 deg. C.
    One of water’s properties is its ability to climb up a surface against the pull of gravity. This property helps it circulate through soil, and up through the roots and stems of plants. It also helps circulate blood, which is mostly water, throughout our bodies, since blood has to climb up from the feet to the heart and further up to the head.
    Another of water’s qualities is that it is a good solvent. It dissolves and carries nutrients in the soil to plants and to the cells within plants. Water also dissolves the food that people and animals eat, and then carries this food to the cells. If the substances did not dissolve in water, like they do not in honey, then the stomach would have been unable to send the digested food to the cells of the body.
    Yet, strangely, when substances dissolve into water, water molecules do not hold them into strong bonds. But rather, in very weak bonds that separate out whenever need arises. E.g., water is the medium through which materials are transported from one compartment of the cell to another. However, once the material reaches the destination, magically, water is separated out from the nutrients and dismissed. Without water as the solvent and carrier, cells would not function. If water did not make weak bonds with the material it dissolves, the dissolved material would have risen with water molecules when they rise up as vapors. For example, sea-water has about 1% of salts dissolved in water. There are other chemicals too. But, when water rises up, it breaks away from the other materials to escape as water molecule alone: without any impurity whatsoever. This property assures supply of pure water.
    Yet, water, although such a great solvent and also reactive with many agents, is the least reactive liquid compared to many alkalis and acids, which react very strongly and dissolve anything that gets in touch with them rendering them irrecoverable. Sulfur-dioxide for example, reacts strongly. It will make a hole if a quantity of it is poured on a human palm.
    Water stands apart from every other substance in one of its strange qualities. It contracts as it cools until just before freezing point, after which it expands until it becomes ice. This is a unique property of water among all liquids. (And it seems it violates nature’s laws). Most substances contract as they grow colder. Water also contracts when cooled. But that is only up to 40 C. If cooled further, to say less than 40 C, it expands. At 00 when it becomes ice it occupies more space than same amount of liquid water since it has expanded. For this reason it floats over liquid water. This is absolutely essential for all life on earth. If ice contracted, it would sink and settle at the bottom. That means, each winter more and more of ice would accumulate at the bottom and slowly the entire water system would turn solid. What would remain is a thin sheet of water, at the surface, and that also only in summer but the rest of it ice. In winter it will be all ice and water cycle would stop to function. The thin sheet of water would have absorbed the heat preventing the ice at the bottom from becoming liquid. But, because ice expands in volume, it floats at top so as to prevent the cooling of water below the surface. In laboratory experiments, the upper part of a container of water with ice at bottom was heated from above to boiling temperature, but ice did not melt at bottom.
    The latent heat of frozen water is again one of the highest of all known liquids. If not for this property, (a) the climate would be subject to far more rapid changes. Small lakes and rivers would vanish and reappear constantly. (b) Warm-blooded animals would have a far harder time ridding their bodies of heat. Actually, as Denton points out, the large heat capacity, high latent heat of evaporation, heat conductivity, and low viscosity (of water) conspire to serve the end of temperature regulation in a large organism like a man.
    Water is different from all other substances in one another quality: specific heat. The thermal capacity or specific heat of water, (which is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of water one degree centigrade) is higher than most other liquids. If not for this, the difference between summer and winter would be extreme and weather patterns would be less stable. It takes in lots of heat before boiling. It boils at 100 deg. C. Had it boiled at lower temperatures, the earth, whose temperature is largely controlled by the watery sea, would have had very different weather conditions. We might quote Asimov: “In general, the greater the molecular weight, the higher the boiling point. Water, with a molecular weight of only 18, boils at 100 deg. C., whereas propane, with more than twice this molecular weight (44), boils at much lower temperature of -42 deg. C.” (Asimov’s New Guide to Science, Isaac Asimov, Penguins Pub., 1984, p. 476). This is another quality that is essential for life’s survival.
    The thermal conductivity of water, (which is the capacity to conduct heat), is four times greater than any other common liquid. Without this, it would be harder for cells which cannot use convection currents to distribute heat evenly throughout the cell. The thermal conductivities of ice and snow are low. If they were high, the survival of many forms of life in the higher latitudes would be lost. Also, water would cool more rapidly and small lakes would be more likely to freeze completely.
    Again, water has a very high surface tension: the higher than any liquid except selenium. This helps draw the water up through the soil within the reach of the roots and assists its rise from the roots to branches in tall trees. If surface tension of water was the same as most other liquids, tall trees would not have received water at the top branches.
    The viscosity of tar, olive oil, or sulfuric acid, are 10 billion times, one hundred times and twenty-five times that of water. Water’s viscosity is almost the lowest among the liquids. If it was higher, marine life would have been either extremely difficult, or impossible. Living bodies couldn’t move in water. If viscosity was slightly lower, any movement of material within the cell would be impossible. In fact, the cells themselves wouldn’t have been able to replicate, or move about. Blood circulation through extremely tiny capillaries would have been impossible if the viscosity of water was any higher. And, strangely, if the viscosity was lower, blood circulation would yet be more difficult.
    The density of water is one gram per cubic centimeter. This plays an important role in marine life. If water was denser all the living organisms in the sea would have been possible only at the top surface. There would be no life at the bottom of the sea. And if it was a fraction less dense, all marine life would sink to the bottom of the sea, without the possibility of any life at the upper level.
    Life, therefore, depends entirely on the strange properties of water. Protoplasm is the basis of all living matter, and the vital power of protoplasm depends on the constant presence of water. Also, replication is the key to the propagation of life. But no replication would be possible without water. Indeed, it is hard to even think of life except in a liquid state. A little consideration tells us that gases cannot be the ingredients of a living body. For, atoms in a gas are volatile, always moving about, jutting into each other, and bouncing away. How can we create a cell with complicated machinery inside it with the help of atoms floating around? Or, consider solids. Each atom in a solid is tightly held and is under compression from all sides. How could we make cells from it and make them replicate?
    We might quote Michael J. Denton here, “.. Water gives appearance of being uniquely fit for the type of carbon-based life that exists on earth. Every one of its chemical and physical properties seems maximally fit not only for microscopic life but also for large warm-blooded organisms such as mammals.. If the properties of water were not almost precisely what they are, carbon-based life would in all probability be impossible.. If the thermal properties of water were even slightly different, the maintenance of stable body temperatures in warm-blooded organisms would be problematical. No other liquid comes close to water as the ideal medium for carbon-based life.” (Nature’s Destiny, The Free Press, 1998, p.19).
    The statement that all life is from water should come as a surprise to the unbelievers. For, it is science of the modern times that informs us that not only all life is water, but it is impossible to have life, as we know it, without water. In fact, not only life is impossible without water, but water is the major component of all life: A human is 60-65% water. An elephant is about 70% water, a potato 80% and tomato 95%. If our body loses 20% of its water, we will die in a short time. That is true of all living bodies. We all live in water as much as fishes do.
    The question that an unbeliever in the Qur’an as a revelation of God can ask himself is, how did Prophet Muhammad make this statement, if we assume that he is the author of the Qur’an?
    J.Z. Young wrote: “It has been suggested that ammonia might substitute for water in life-like systems elsewhere in the universe. But ammonia is liquid only between -77 deg. C and -33 deg. C. A further serious disadvantage is that solid ammonia is denser than the liquid, whereas ice floats. Furthermore, if ammonia was split by organisms as water is by photosynthesis, it would presumably produce nitrogen, which would never have filled the place that oxygen has in making energy available for life.” (An Introduction to the Study of Man, J.Z. Young, ELBS pub., 1979, p. 25).
    In conclusion we could reproduce Denton’s remark again, “There is indeed no other fluid which is remotely competitive with water as the medium for carbon-based life. If water did not exist, it would have to be invented.” (Nature’s Destiny, p. 46).
    We might add that not only water seems to be the medium through which messages are sent across from organelle to organelle within the cells, but also that a recent discovery is that water (even outside a living cell) seems to have memory. This is the property that homeopathy seems to use to its advantage. However, what is more stunning is that even though diluted to such degree that it would hold not a single atom of a foreign element that was once in it, water retains the memory of that element, and chemically behaves as if that element is still there.
    And, as if mysteries of water are not exhaustible, another newly discovered property of water is that each of its molecule has a magnetic polarity. In the words of John Gribbin (The Reason Why, Allen Lane, England, 2011, p.80, “The second most important property of water for life is that each molecule has a magnetic polarity. In other words, one end of a water molecule behaves like a very weak magnetic north pole, and the other end like a very weak south pole. This is an almost unique property in the world of molecules. This polarity encourages not only water molecules but molecules dissolved in water to line up in certain ways, and this is one factor in determining the shape of the amino acid molecules that are crucial for life” (Au.).

    وَجَعَلْنَا فِي الْأَرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَنْ تَمِيدَ بِهِمْ وَجَعَلْنَا فِيهَا فِجَاجًا سُبُلًا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ (31)

    21|31| And We have placed in the earth pegs lest it should vibrate with them and have placed therein highways to serve as passes so that they may find the way.43

    43. That is, neither the mountains are there by accident, as the geologists would have us believe, nor is their placement in the manner they are placed, by accident. The whole of the earth has been designed to its minutest detail to support and propagate life (Au.).

    وَجَعَلْنَا السَّمَاءَ سَقْفًا مَحْفُوظًا ۖ وَهُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِهَا مُعْرِضُونَ (32)

    21|32| And We have made the sky as a roof well protected.44 But they remain heedless to its signs.

    44. That is, well protected from falling off its place (Razi, Qurtubi), which is the meaning most of the Salaf have derived, although minor opinions also prevail (Au.).

    وَهُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ ۖ كُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ (33)

    21|33| He it is who created the night and the day, the sun and the moon. Each one of them swims along45 in an orbit.46

    45. Some people have imagined that space must be filled with water for Allah (swt) to use the word swimming”, says Razi, but that is not necessary. Is not the word “sabih” used for (smoothly galloping) horses?
    46. The translation reflects the understanding of Qatadah, Ibn Zayd and some others. But of the classical scholars, some, like Mujahid, Dahhak and others have understood the term “falak” not as “orbits” but as “axis” comparing it to the central steel pin of the grinding stone. That is, these celestial objects rotate around their own axis. A third opinion was that of Hasan. He said the whole universe rotated around an axis. One or all of the three, writes Ibn Jarir, could be true and at the same time. Imam Razi conjectures that any one of the three opinions could be correct: (a) space is stationary, celestial bodies move through it, (b) space moves while the celestial bodies are stationary, (c) both space and celestial bodies are moving in different directions.
    That the Milky Way galaxy is slowly rotating around its own axis is quite well known, but the idea that the Universe could be rotating around its axis is not a far-fetched idea in modern cosmology (Au.).

    وَمَا جَعَلْنَا لِبَشَرٍ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ الْخُلْدَ ۖ أَفَإِنْ مِتَّ فَهُمُ الْخَالِدُونَ (34)

    21|34| And We granted not any human eternity before you. If you died, will they live forever?47


    47. Unable to stop the Prophet’s progress the pagans sometimes said, in the language of the Qur’an (52: 30),


    أَمْ يَقُولُونَ شَاعِرٌ نَتَرَبَّصُ بِهِ رَيْبَ الْمَنُونِ [الطور : 30]


    “Or, do they say, ‘A poet for whom we await a misfortune of time!’” So, Allah asked them, “If he died, will they live forever?” (Qurtubi).

    كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَنَبْلُوكُمْ بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً ۖ وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ (35)

    21|35| Every soul shall taste death.48 We try you with evil and good for a testing.49 Then to Us you shall be returned.

    48. The use of the word “taste” in the statement, “every soul shall taste death” is indicative of the fact that death is a difficult process (of transfer from one world to another) – Shafi`.
    49. “We try you with evil and good for a testing”: Thus both the situations, of evil as well as good, are for trying out man. Now, which of the two is easier? The answer is, to bear out with patience when passing through difficulties is easier, in comparison to remaining thankful and obedient in times of affluence. Hence ‘Umar said, “We were tested with difficulties and we showed patience. Then we were tested with ease and comfort, but we did not exhibit patience (Shafi`).

    وَإِذَا رَآكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِنْ يَتَّخِذُونَكَ إِلَّا هُزُوًا أَهَٰذَا الَّذِي يَذْكُرُ آلِهَتَكُمْ وَهُمْ بِذِكْرِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ (36)

    21|36| When the unbelievers see you, they treat you not but in mockery: ‘Is this the one who mentions your gods (contemptuously)?’ While they are, at the mention of the Most Merciful, unbelievers.50

    50. That is, they argued in favor of earthen idols, but never would they say anything in favor of their One Lord, the Most Merciful. How foolish?! (Qurtubi). They mock at you O Prophet, adds, Thanwi, but they need to mock at themselves (for not paying respects to the Lord of the universe but paying respects to idols).

    خُلِقَ الْإِنْسَانُ مِنْ عَجَلٍ ۚ سَأُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِي فَلَا تَسْتَعْجِلُونِ (37)

    21|37| Man has been created hasty.51 Soon shall I show you My signs, so do not seek Me to hasten (them).52

    51. Man has been hasty right from his first few minutes of existence. It is reported by Suddi that during the process of creation of Adam in the final hours of the day, when the soul had reached upper half, while the lower lay in clay, he tried to rise and said, “O Allah, hasten the creation before sunset” (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi). Ibn Abi Hatim also has a report to this effect (Shawkani).
    The Arabic text, as in Ibn Abi Shaybah and others is as follows, but it must be noted that these are the words of, depending on source, the words of Salman al-Farsi, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid or others, and not a hadith. Shanqiti thinks this is an Israeli report (Au.).

    أول ما خلق الله من آدم رأسه فجعل ينظر وهو يخلق ، قال : وبقيت رجلاه ، فلما كان بعد العصر قال : يا رب عجل قبل الليل

    Should man be blamed then for being hasty? Shanqiti asks. The answer is, yes, because he can control his haste, placed in him for testing him.
    52. Ibn Kathir attempts to provide the connection with the previous verse. He writes, ‘When some people read about how the Prophet was ridiculed, they conclude in haste that the detractors ought to have been punished. So Allah added, “Man has been created hasty.” Rather, the rule is that every one of the human beings is given enough time to think, consider and adopt the right course. He is forgiven several times. Finally, when all hopes are lost, there comes the punishment, which cannot be averted.’
    Mawdudi has more or less the same to say, “The unbelievers derided the very notion of God’s punishment, of the Hereafter, and of Hell. They accepted that the Prophet (peace be on him) had warned them that if they rejected his call, they would be seized by God’s punishment, would be called to account on the Day of Judgment and would suffer the agonies of His Hell-fire. However, they contended that even though they heard the Prophet’s warnings and had rejected his teachings, they nevertheless continued to flourish. God’s punishment, they argued, was not forthcoming nor did it appear as if the Day of Judgment was imminent. This verse then is in response to such statements from the unbelievers.”

    وَيَقُولُونَ مَتَىٰ هَٰذَا الْوَعْدُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (38)

    21|38| They ask, ‘When will this promise come to pass, if you are true?’

    لَوْ يَعْلَمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا حِينَ لَا يَكُفُّونَ عَنْ وُجُوهِهِمُ النَّارَ وَلَا عَنْ ظُهُورِهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يُنْصَرُونَ (39)

    21|39| If only the unbelievers knew (the time) when they will not be able to ward off the Fire from their faces, nor from their backs, neither shall they be helped.

    بَلْ تَأْتِيهِمْ بَغْتَةً فَتَبْهَتُهُمْ فَلَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ رَدَّهَا وَلَا هُمْ يُنْظَرُونَ (40)

    21|40| Rather, it will come to them all of a sudden, leaving them bewildered, so that they shall not be able to avert it nor shall they be given respite.

    وَلَقَدِ اسْتُهْزِئَ بِرُسُلٍ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ فَحَاقَ بِالَّذِينَ سَخِرُوا مِنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ (41)

    21|41| Messengers were indeed mocked before you. But those who mocked them, were hemmed by the very thing they were mocking.

    قُلْ مَنْ يَكْلَؤُكُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ مِنَ الرَّحْمَٰنِ ۗ بَلْ هُمْ عَنْ ذِكْرِ رَبِّهِمْ مُعْرِضُونَ (42)

    21|42| Say, ‘Who protects you by the night and the day from the All-Merciful?’53 Yet from the remembrance of their Lord they are turning away.

    53. As Zarkashi has pointed out (Al-Burhan) a second meaning of Al-Rahman is “the Most Powerful.” It seems it has been used here in this sense (Au.).
    However, if we go by the standard meaning then we might note Asad’s explanation, “.. in this context, as the Most Gracious (ar-Rahman) is meant to bring out the fact that He – and He alone – is the protector of all creation.”
    And, by way of connection it may be stated that when Allah (swt) said in a previous verse (no. 39) that the unbelievers will not be able to ward off the Fire from their faces in the Next World, they are now being told that in this world too they have no protectors. If it was not for Allah’s protection from natural calamities they could not have lived in peace on the earth (Razi).

    أَمْ لَهُمْ آلِهَةٌ تَمْنَعُهُمْ مِنْ دُونِنَا ۚ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ نَصْرَ أَنْفُسِهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ مِنَّا يُصْحَبُونَ (43)

    21|43| Or, have they gods apart from Us who will defend them? They are not capable of helping themselves, nor will they be protected from Us.54

    54. Lit., “La yus-habun” should be rendered as “they will not be allowed (Our) company” which Ibn `Abbas explained as meaning, “they will not be given (Our) protection” (Ibn Jarir). That is because, Al-Mazini has said, when you say in Arabic “Asbahta al-rajul”, it means, “you prevented him” (Razi). However, most commentators have understood the terms as expressed in the translation since, as Yusuf Ali pointed out, “.. with ‘an or min it has also the meaning of defend or remove from someone.”
    Alternatively, as Majid rendered it, “and against Us they cannot be kept company with.” Then? he explains with a sentence in Arabic picked up from R aghib: “That is, they shall not enjoy from Us what will accompany them of peace, tranquility and the impulse to do good works, the kind of blessings that accompany Allah’s Friends.”

    بَلْ مَتَّعْنَا هَٰؤُلَاءِ وَآبَاءَهُمْ حَتَّىٰ طَالَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْعُمُرُ ۗ أَفَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَنَّا نَأْتِي الْأَرْضَ نَنْقُصُهَا مِنْ أَطْرَافِهَا ۚ أَفَهُمُ الْغَالِبُونَ (44)

    21|44| Nay, We generously provided these people and their forefathers, until a great length of time passed over them.55 Do they not notice that We set upon the land, decreasing it at its borders?56 Then, is it they who will prevail?

    55. “Lit., ‘until their lives (`umur) grew long’ - i.e., until they grew accustomed to the thought that their prosperity will last forever” (Asad from Zamakhshari).
    56. The allusion is, Hasan al-Busri said, to Islam’s triumph over unbelief (Ibn Kathir). Its expansion into Kufr territory is another shade of meaning (Zamakhshari).
    Yusuf Ali has some words that the Islamic Da`wah workers over the world, especially in the West, will do well to remember, “The particular significance is that Islam spread from the outer borders, social and geographical, gradually inwards. The social fringe was the humbler people, such as slaves and poor men. The geographical reference is to Madinah and tribes away from the Makkan center. The proud and unbelieving Quraish were the last to come in when the circle was gradually drawn tighter around them. The general signification applies to all times. Allah’s truth makes its way first among the poor and the lowly, those whose minds are unsoiled by prejudice of false pride or false knowledge, but it gradually hems in the obstinate, until it prevails in the world.”
    Also See surah Al-Ra`ad, note 78 for further explanation.

    قُلْ إِنَّمَا أُنْذِرُكُمْ بِالْوَحْيِ ۚ وَلَا يَسْمَعُ الصُّمُّ الدُّعَاءَ إِذَا مَا يُنْذَرُونَ (45)

    21|45| Say, ‘I only warn you by the Revelation.’ But the deaf do not hear the call when they are warned.57

    57. The words “But the deaf do not hear the call when they are warned” could be intriguing to some. How can they hear the call when they are deaf? A sentence from Yusuf Ali clears the doubt, “According to the English saying, “none is so deaf as those who will not hear.”

    وَلَئِنْ مَسَّتْهُمْ نَفْحَةٌ مِنْ عَذَابِ رَبِّكَ لَيَقُولُنَّ يَا وَيْلَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ (46)

    21|46| But if a whiff of the punishment of your Lord should touch them, they will surely say, ‘Alas for us! We indeed were the transgressors.’58

    58. “This refers to God’s punishment which the unbelievers sarcastically requested should strike them” (Mawdudi).

    وَنَضَعُ الْمَوَازِينَ الْقِسْطَ لِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ فَلَا تُظْلَمُ نَفْسٌ شَيْئًا ۖ وَإِنْ كَانَ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ أَتَيْنَا بِهَا ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِنَا حَاسِبِينَ (47)

    21|47| And We shall set up the Just Scales for the Day of Resurrection, so that no soul shall be wronged in the least.59 And, even if it were to be the weight of a mustard seed, We shall bring it forth; although, sufficient are We as reckoners.60

    59. We cannot be sure of the nature of the Scales. But hadith literature speaks of pans. Mawdudi adds, “This much, however, is certain: that it will weigh good and bad deeds and thereby indicate precisely the moral worth of every person.”
    Basing on the usage here in plural (not meezaan, but mawaazeen), it has been speculated that either there could be a Scale for everyone of those whose deeds will be weighed, or, there could be several kinds of Scales to weight different kinds of deeds (Qurtubi).
    Accordingly, some men will be weighed as stated in ahadith. (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir states here the oft-quoted hadith of Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, although weak, but which gathers strength from other directions:


    إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَيُخَلِّصُ رَجُلا مِنْ أُمَّتِي لَهُ تِسْعٌ وَتِسْعُونَ سِجِّلا كُلُّ سِجِلٍّ مَدُّ الْبَصَرِ، فَيَقُولُ لَهُ: أَتُنْكِرُ مِنْ هَذَا شَيْئًا؟ أَظَلَمَكَ كَتَبَتِي الْحَافِظُونَ؟ فَيَقُولُ: لا يَا رَبِّ، فَيَقُولُ: بَلَى، إِنَّ لَكَ عِنْدِي حَسَنَةً، وَإِنَّهُ لا ظُلْمَ عَلَيْكَ الْيَوْمَ، فَيُخْرِجُ لَهُ بِطَاقَةً، فِيهَا أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لا إِلَهَ إِلا اللَّهُ، وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ ورَسُولُهُ فَيَقُولُ: احْضُرْ وَزْنَكَ، فَيَقُولُ: مَا هَذِهِ الْبِطَاقَةُ مَعَ هَذِهِ السِّجِلاتِ؟ فَتَثْقُلُ الْبِطَاقَةُ، وَلا يَثْقُلُ مَعَ اسْمِ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا


    A man will be brought in front of the entire humanity on the Judgment Day. Ninety-nine account books will be opened up before him, every book reaching the extent of the sight. He will be asked, “Do you deny any of it? Did My scribers do you any wrong?” He will reply, “No, my Lord.” He will be asked, “Do you have an excuse? Or a good deed?” The (awestruck man) will reply, “No my Lord.” Allah will say, “Rather, you have a good deed. No wronging today.” At that, a piece of paper will be brought out saying, “I bear witness that there is no deity save Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger.” He will say, “Come forward to (witness) your weighing.” The man will say, “My Lord! What will this piece of paper do against these books?” But the piece of paper weigh down (against the other). Nothing can be heavier against Allah’s name.
    Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir cite another report, also in Ahmad. It says that one of the Companions of the Prophet came in and sat before him. He said,


    يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّ لِي مَمْلُوكِينَ يُكَذِّبُونَنِي وَيَخُونُونَنِي وَيَعْصُونَنِي وَأَضْرِبُهُمْ وَأَسُبُّهُمْ فَكَيْفَ أَنَا مِنْهُمْ فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِحَسْبِ مَا خَانُوكَ وَعَصَوْكَ وَيُكَذِّبُونَكَ وَعِقَابُكَ إِيَّاهُمْ إِنْ كَانَ دُونَ ذُنُوبِهِمْ كَانَ فَضْلًا لَكَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَإِنْ كَانَ عِقَابُكَ إِيَّاهُمْ بِقَدْرِ ذُنُوبِهِمْ كَانَ كَفَافًا لَا لَكَ وَلَا عَلَيْكَ وَإِنْ كَانَ عِقَابُكَ إِيَّاهُمْ فَوْقَ ذُنُوبِهِمْ اقْتُصَّ لَهُمْ مِنْكَ الْفَضْلُ الَّذِي بَقِيَ قِبَلَكَ فَجَعَلَ الرَّجُلُ يَبْكِي بَيْنَ يَدَيْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَيَهْتِفُ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَا لَهُ مَا يَقْرَأُ كِتَابَ اللَّهِ {وَنَضَعُ الْمَوَازِينَ الْقِسْطَ لِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ فَلَا تُظْلَمُ نَفْسٌ شَيْئًا وَإِنْ كَانَ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ أَتَيْنَا بِهَا وَكَفَى بِنَا حَاسِبِينَ} فَقَالَ الرَّجُلُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ مَا أَجِدُ شَيْئًا خَيْرًا مِنْ فِرَاقِ هَؤُلَاءِ يَعْنِي عَبِيدَهُ إِنِّي أُشْهِدُكَ أَنَّهُمْ أَحْرَارٌ كُلُّهُمْ


    “Messenger of Allah! I have two slaves. They lay the lie on me, deceive me, and disobey me. So I beat them and abuse them. What will be my situation with them?” He answered, Their deceptions, disobedience and laying lies on you will be measured against your punishments. If your punishments happen to be exactly equal to their wrongdoing, there will be nothing on you nor on them. But, if your punishments prove to be lesser than their wrongdoing, you will have the surplus. On the other hand, if your punishments prove to be in excess of their wrongdoing, they will be compensated for it (from your good deeds) in proportion to the excess. At that the man started to weep and murmur right there before them. The Prophet remarked, “What’s wrong with this man? Does he not read in the Qur’an, ‘And We shall set up the Just Scales for the Day of Resurrection, so that no soul shall be wronged in the least?’” The man said, “Messenger of Allah! I do not think there is anything better than that I should free them. So, be a witness that I have freed them all.”
    The above narrative is from Tirmidhi who evaluated it as Hasan Gharib, but Albani thought it was Sahih (Au.).
    And Shafi` adds from Maz-hari a report originating from Hakim, Bayhaqi and Ajuri.


    عَنْ عَائِشَةَ : أَنَّهَا ذَكَرَتِ النَّارَ فَبَكَتْ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- : « مَا يُبْكِيكِ ». قَالَتْ : ذَكَرْتُ النَّارَ فَبَكَيْتُ فَهَلْ تَذْكُرُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- : « أَمَّا فِى ثَلاَثَةِ مَوَاطِنَ فَلاَ يَذْكُرُ أَحَدٌ أَحَدًا : عِنْدَ الْمِيزَانِ حَتَّى يَعْلَمَ أَيَخِفُّ مِيزَانُهُ أَوْ يَثْقُلُ وَعِنْدَ الْكِتَابِ حِينَ يُقَالُ (هَاؤُمُ اقْرَءُوا كِتَابِيَهْ) حَتَّى يَعْلَمَ أَيْنَ يَقَعُ كِتَابُهُ أَفِى يَمِينِهِ أَمْ فِى شِمَالِهِ أَمْ مِنْ وَرَاءِ ظَهْرِهِ وَعِنْدَ الصِّرَاطِ إِذَا وُضِعَ بَيْنَ ظَهْرَىْ جَهَنَّمَ »


    Once `A’isha wept. Upon asking why, she asked, “I thought of the Fire which brought me to tears. Will you remember us, your family folks, on the Day of Judgment?” He answered, “There will be three points at which no one will remember anyone else. One, when the Scales are set up, until a man knows whether the pan of good deeds will outweigh the pan of evil deeds. Second, when the Books of Deed when it will be said, ‘Here, read my book) until it is known whether it will be received by the right hand or left or left, or from the rear. And three, when the Bridge is laid on Jahannum.”
    According to Hakim, the chain of narration meets with the requirements of the Sheikhayn (Au.).
    60. Yusuf Ali has a comment on Western learning and integrity, “The literalism of Sale (a famous translator of the Qur’an: Au.) has here excelled itself: he translates, ‘and there will be sufficient accountants with us’”! And anyone who doubts the intentional errors of this sort has no idea of the depth of dishonesty of the Western scholars (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَىٰ وَهَارُونَ الْفُرْقَانَ وَضِيَاءً وَذِكْرًا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ (48)

    21|48| Surely, We granted61 Musa and Harun the Criterion,62 a Light, and an Admonition63 for the Godfearing64 _

    61. Mawdudi gives us an overall view of the passage that follows: “From here on the Prophets form the subject matter of the discourse. References – both cursory and detailed – are made to the lives of several of them. The context in which these references are made emphasizes the following points:
    (1) That all Prophets were human beings, they did not belong to any other species..
    (2) That the earlier Prophets were also raised for the same purpose for which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was raised..
    (3) That God treated the Prophets in a special way in so far as they were subjected to great hardships for long periods of time. They not only suffered difficulties of a personal nature but also encountered difficulties created for them by their enemies. Eventually, however, God came to their rescue, blessed them with His grace and favor, answered their prayers and removed their difficulties..
    (4) That even though the Prophets enjoyed God’s special favour and were endowed with extraordinary powers by Him, they were, nevertheless, still human beings and were, like other creatures, His servants. None of them was invested with divinity.”
    62. Asad renders the term “al-furqan” as “the standard by which to discern the true from the false” and then comments that it has here “twofold implication: firstly, it alludes to the Qur’anic doctrine .. of the historical continuity in all divine revelation, and, secondly, it stresses the fact that revelation – and revelation alone – provides an absolute criterion of all moral valuation. Since the Mosaic dispensation as such was binding on the children of Israel alone and remained valid only within a particular historical and cultural context, the term al-furqan relates here not to the Mosaic Law as such, but to the fundamental ethical truths contained in the Torah and common to all divine revelation.”
    63. “The three words – ‘criterion’, ‘light’, and ‘admonition’ – are used to characterize the Jewish Torah. The Torah was a criterion for distinguishing between truth and falsehood; a light to show man the right way and an admonition to call attention to their forgotten lesson” (Mawdudi).
    64. “Although Torah was meant for all .. only those endowed with a certain set of qualities could in fact benefit from it” (Mawdudi, with some modification).

    الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ بِالْغَيْبِ وَهُمْ مِنَ السَّاعَةِ مُشْفِقُونَ (49)

    21|49| Those who fear their Lord in the Unseen and who hold the Hour in awe.65

    65. The term “mushfiqun” has special significance. Yusuf Ali explains: “Note the three kinds of fear mentioned in xxi. 48-49. (“godfearing, fear and awe” in our rendering: Au.). Taqwa is the fear of running counter to the will of Allah; it is akin to the love of Him; for we fear to offend those we love; it results in right conduct, and those who entertain are ‘those who would do right.’ Then there is khashiyat, the fear of Allah, lest the person who entertains it may be found, in his inmost thoughts, to be short of the standard which Allah wishes for him; this is also righteous but in a less high degree than Taqwa which is akin to love. And thirdly, there is the fear of consequences on the Day of Judgment (ishfaq); this also may lead to righteousness, but is on a still lower plane. Perhaps the three correspond to the Criterion, the Light and the Message (or Warning) of the last verse.”

    وَهَٰذَا ذِكْرٌ مُبَارَكٌ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ ۚ أَفَأَنْتُمْ لَهُ مُنْكِرُونَ (50)

    21|50| And this a blessed Reminder that We have sent down, will you then reject it?

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ رُشْدَهُ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا بِهِ عَالِمِينَ (51)

    21|51| We had certainly granted Ibrahim his rectitude earlier,66 for We were of him well-knowing.67

    66. “Min-qabl” of the text has been understood by Mujahid, Qatadah and others as referring to Ibrahim’s youth. That is, he was given at a very young age. An alternative meaning is, “We gave Ibrahim his rectitude before Musa” (Tabari, Razi, Qurtubi and others).
    Asad comments, “The possessive pronoun ‘his’ affixed to the noun rushd (which, in this context, has the meaning of ‘consciousness of what is right’) emphasizes the highly personal, intellectual quality of Abraham’s progressive realization of God’s almightiness and uniqueness (cf. 6: 74-79); while the expression min qabl – rendered by me as ‘long before [the time of Moses]’ – stresses, once again, the element of continuity in man’s religious insight and experience.”
    67. That is, Allah knew Ibrahim’s (moral and spiritual) condition to declare him a Messenger and His Friend. In Mawdudi’s words: “(The words) signify that God’s favour was not arbitrary. He knew well what kind of man Abraham was and so He lavished His favours on him in consideration of that merit.”

    إِذْ قَالَ لِأَبِيهِ وَقَوْمِهِ مَا هَٰذِهِ التَّمَاثِيلُ الَّتِي أَنْتُمْ لَهَا عَاكِفُونَ (52)

    21|52| When he said to his father and his people, ‘What are these idols unto which you are cleaving?’68


    68. Majid comments: “Images and idols are looked upon by the idolaters not only as visible symbols and representation of some higher beings but as tenements or veritable ‘bodies’ of their gods and fraught with divinity.”
    Thanwi clears a misconception: “Sheikh Shaheed Dehlavi (perhaps Sheikh Isma`il: Au.) has cited this verse to criticize the practice or efforts at ‘Sheikh-imagery’ recommended by certain extreme-going Sufis. (It is to imagine, on the part of a novice, the presence of the Sheikh before himself; and in a few extreme cases, even during prayers: Au.). However, if that happens without volition, and is not cloven to, then it is similar to other passing thoughts that could be forgiven.”

    قَالُوا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا لَهَا عَابِدِينَ (53)

    21|53| They said, ‘We found our forefathers worshipping them.’

    قَالَ لَقَدْ كُنْتُمْ أَنْتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُمْ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ (54)

    21|54| He said, ‘Surely, you and your forefathers have been in clear error.’69

    69. In simple words Ibrahim pointed out to an error which pagans of all times fail to see: a practice does not become valid if previous generations adopted it, and, secondly, as Razi put it, the acceptance by a large number of people does not convert a false idea into a true one.

    قَالُوا أَجِئْتَنَا بِالْحَقِّ أَمْ أَنْتَ مِنَ اللَّاعِبِينَ (55)

    21|55| They asked, ‘Have you brought us the truth, or are you of those in jest?’70

    70. “Abraham looked at life with a serious eye, and his people took it light-heartedly. He was devoted to Truth, and they cared more for ancestral custom. In the conflict he seemed to be in their power. But he was fearless, and he triumphed by Allah’s Grace” (Yusuf Ali).

    قَالَ بَلْ رَبُّكُمْ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الَّذِي فَطَرَهُنَّ وَأَنَا عَلَىٰ ذَٰلِكُمْ مِنَ الشَّاهِدِينَ (56)

    21|56| He replied, ‘Rather, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth - He who originated them. And I am to you of those who bear witness.71

    71. What he meant to say is that it was not an idle statement that he was making, but rather, he could offer sufficient proofs (Razi).

    وَتَاللَّهِ لَأَكِيدَنَّ أَصْنَامَكُمْ بَعْدَ أَنْ تُوَلُّوا مُدْبِرِينَ (57)

    21|57| And, by Allah, I will surely plan against your idols after you have turned and gone away.’72

    72. Qatadah said, “I believe Ibrahim said the words, ‘I will plan against your idols after you have turned and gone away,’ actually after they had turned and gone away.” Some reports suggest a keeper who had delayed departure heard the words from him (Ibn Jarir).
    Yusuf Ali has another opinion: “He wants to convince them the powerlessness of their idols. But he does not do it underhand. He tells them that he is going to do something when once they are gone and their backs are turned to the idols, - as much as to say that the idols are dependent on their care and attention. Apparently the people are amused and want to see what he does. So they leave him to his own devices.

    فَجَعَلَهُمْ جُذَاذًا إِلَّا كَبِيرًا لَهُمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ إِلَيْهِ يَرْجِعُونَ (58)

    21|58| So he rendered them to pieces,73 except the largest among them,74 that they may return to him.75

    73. Before leaving for their religious festival outside the town, the pagans had left food items in the hands of the idols hoping to receive blessing by the time they returned. So Ibrahim said, sarcastically, as they left (37: 91), “Why do you not eat?” Then he added (37: 92), “What is the matter with you? Why do not you talk?” and (37: 93) “.. began to strike them with his right hand.” Done with them, he hung the axe by the neck of the chief idol (Ibn Jarir).
    74. The words “kabirul lahum” has also the indication of “the most important among them” as Ibn `Abbas understood it (Ibn Jarir).
    75. Tabari understands the pronoun in “ilay-hi” as alluding to Ibrahim meaning, “hopefully they would return to him and to his message.” Others however, such as Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir and others see the possibility that the allusion is to the chief idol. That is, they might return to him and realize that idols have no power over anything.
    Yusuf Ali again, “He was enacting a scene, to make the people ashamed of worshipping senseless stocks and stones. He left the biggest idol untouched and broke the others to pieces, as if a fight had taken place between the idols, and the biggest had smashed the others. Would they turn to the surviving idol and ask him how it all happened?”

    قَالُوا مَنْ فَعَلَ هَٰذَا بِآلِهَتِنَا إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ (59)

    21|59| They exclaimed, ‘Who has done this to our gods? Surely, he is of the wrongdoers.’

    قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا فَتًى يَذْكُرُهُمْ يُقَالُ لَهُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ (60)

    21|60| They said, ‘We heard a youth mention them (contemptuously). He is called Ibrahim.’

    قَالُوا فَأْتُوا بِهِ عَلَىٰ أَعْيُنِ النَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْهَدُونَ (61)

    21|61| They said, ‘Bring him before the people’s eyes so that they may bear witness.’76

    76. Yusuf Ali provides the missing links that some people have difficulty inserting: “Different groups of people are speaking. Those who were not present at Abraham’s speech in verse 57 ask, ‘who has done this?’ Those who were, at once name him, whereupon a formal council of the people was held, and Abraham was arraigned.
    (Although convinced of his crime) they did not wish to punish Ibrahim without due trial held in public (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالُوا أَأَنْتَ فَعَلْتَ هَٰذَا بِآلِهَتِنَا يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ (62)

    21|62| They asked, ‘Are you the one who did this with our gods, O Ibrahim?’

    قَالَ بَلْ فَعَلَهُ كَبِيرُهُمْ هَٰذَا فَاسْأَلُوهُمْ إِنْ كَانُوا يَنْطِقُونَ (63)

    21|63| He replied, ‘Rather, it is this – the chief one - who did it.77 Ask them if they can speak.’

    77. Yusuf Ali writes: “(This was happening in) a place – known as Ur of the Chaldees – on the lower reaches of the Euphrates, not a hundred miles from the Persian Gulf. This was the cradle, or one of the cradles of human civilization. Astronomy was studied here in very ancient times, and (along with idol-worship: Au.) the worship of the sun, moon and stars was the prevailing form of religion .. Nimrod’s capital was in Assyria, near Nineveh (near modern Mosul), we may suppose that either the king’s rule extended over the whole of Mesopotamia, or that Abraham wandered north through Babylonia to Assyria."
    Ibn Jarir reports Ibn Is-haq’s explanation, “They presented Ibrahim to Nimrod the king of the land. The king sought confirmation that it was he who broke them. Ibrahim said that it was the biggest of them who did it. He (the chief idol) was angry that although it was the biggest, the little ones were still being worshipped. So he broke them (Ibn Jarir).
    In Yusuf Ali’s words, “They asked him the formal question. There was no mystery about it. He had already openly threatened to do something to the idols, and people who had heard his threats were there. He now continues his ironic taunt to the idol-worshippers. ‘You ask me! Why don’t you ask the idols? Doesn’t it look as if this big fellow has smashed the smaller ones in quarrel?’ If they do not ask the idols, they confess that the idols have no intelligence enough to answer! This argument is developed in verse 64-67. Note that while the false worshippers laughed at his earnestness, he pays them out by a grim joke, which at the same time advances the cause of Truth.”
    The above stated, Ibn Jarir protests that those who do not like to accept the reports that have come down from the elders, hold that what Ibrahim meant is that if the idols were capable of speech, then the big one broke them. In other words, since the idols are not capable of speech, the big one did not break them. This they say because they think Ibrahim could not have spoken a lie. But the rationalists forget that this is in the same vein as the words of Yusuf’s caller who accused the caravan by saying, “O caravan! Indeed you are thieves” – although they were not. They also forget the hadith which says that Ibrahim did not lie but on three occasions, and all of them were for the sake of Allah. First, when he said, “Nay, it is this – the chief one - who did it,” second, when he said (37: 89), “Indeed I am unwell,” and third, about his wife to the ruler of a land that she was his sister.
    The hadith of above reference, reported by Abu Hurayrah, is in the Sahihayn as well as Tirmidhi (Qurtubi).
    But the Sahihayn version is slightly differently worded (Au.). The Prophet (saws) said,


    لَمْ يَكْذِبْ إِبْرَاهِيمُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام إِلَّا ثَلَاثَ كَذَبَاتٍ ثِنْتَيْنِ مِنْهُنَّ فِي ذَاتِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ قَوْلُهُ {إِنِّي سَقِيمٌ} وَقَوْلُهُ {بَلْ فَعَلَهُ كَبِيرُهُمْ هَذَا} وَقَالَ بَيْنَا هُوَ ذَاتَ يَوْمٍ وَسَارَةُ إِذْ أَتَى عَلَى جَبَّارٍ مِنْ الْجَبَابِرَةِ فَقِيلَ لَهُ إِنَّ هَا هُنَا رَجُلًا مَعَهُ امْرَأَةٌ مِنْ أَحْسَنِ النَّاسِ فَأَرْسَلَ إِلَيْهِ فَسَأَلَهُ عَنْهَا فَقَالَ مَنْ هَذِهِ قَالَ أُخْتِي فَأَتَى سَارَةَ قَالَ يَا سَارَةُ لَيْسَ عَلَى وَجْهِ الْأَرْضِ مُؤْمِنٌ غَيْرِي وَغَيْرَكِ وَإِنَّ هَذَا سَأَلَنِي فَأَخْبَرْتُهُ أَنَّكِ أُخْتِي فَلَا تُكَذِّبِينِي فَأَرْسَلَ إِلَيْهَا فَلَمَّا دَخَلَتْ عَلَيْهِ ذَهَبَ يَتَنَاوَلُهَا بِيَدِهِ فَأُخِذَ فَقَالَ ادْعِي اللَّهَ لِي وَلَا أَضُرُّكِ فَدَعَتْ اللَّهَ فَأُطْلِقَ ثُمَّ تَنَاوَلَهَا الثَّانِيَةَ فَأُخِذَ مِثْلَهَا أَوْ أَشَدَّ فَقَالَ ادْعِي اللَّهَ لِي وَلَا أَضُرُّكِ فَدَعَتْ فَأُطْلِقَ فَدَعَا بَعْضَ حَجَبَتِهِ فَقَالَ إِنَّكُمْ لَمْ تَأْتُونِي بِإِنْسَانٍ إِنَّمَا أَتَيْتُمُونِي بِشَيْطَانٍ فَأَخْدَمَهَا هَاجَرَ فَأَتَتْهُ وَهُوَ قَائِمٌ يُصَلِّي فَأَوْمَأَ بِيَدِهِ مَهْيَا قَالَتْ رَدَّ اللَّهُ كَيْدَ الْكَافِرِ أَوْ الْفَاجِرِ فِي نَحْرِهِ وَأَخْدَمَ هَاجَرَ قَالَ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ تِلْكَ أُمُّكُمْ يَا بَنِي مَاءِ السَّمَاءِ


    “Ibrahim did not lie but thrice. Twice of them about Allah, the Mighty, the Honorable. (First), when he said, ‘Indeed, I am unwell;’ (second), when he said, ‘Nay, it is this – the chief one - who did it.’ (Third), one day he and Sarah passed by a tyrant – one of a dynasty of tyrants. A man told him (the tyrant), ‘A man (has broken his journey in your land who) has an extremely beautiful woman in his company.’ So he sent to him (Ibrahim) and asked him about her as to who she is?’ He said, ‘My sister.’ He went to Sarah and told her, ‘O Sarah. There is no believer on the face of the earth except me and you. This man (the tyrant) asked me about you and I said that you are my sister. Therefore, do not lay the lie on me.
    “He (the tyrant) sent for her. When she entered upon him, he desired after her and tried to take hold of her. But he was seized, strongly. He said, ‘Pray to Allah for me and I shall do you no harm.’ She prayed for him. He was released but again desired her and again tried to take hold of her. But he was again seized, strongly, or even more. He pleaded, ‘Pray to Allah and I will do you no harm.’ She prayed and he was released. He called in his attendant and told him, ‘You haven’t brought me a human. It’s a devil. Send her away. He gave her Hajar (as a gift).’
    She came back to him (Ibrahim). He was in Prayers. He signaled with his hand – ‘what happened?’ She said, ‘Allah proved sufficient against the mischief of the unbelieving tyrant, and he gave me Hajar for services.’”
    Abu Hurayrah said, ‘That was your mother O men of the heavenly waters’” (Ibn Kathir).
    (Note: As pointed out by some scholars, the rule that the tyrants followed was that when one of them desired after a woman, and she was married, he killed her husband before seizing her: Au.).
    Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-`Arabiyy has a point worthy of note. The Prophet said that Ibrahim did not lie but thrice and twice it was in Allah’s path. He did not count his statement about Sarah as a lie in Allah’s path, for, after all, it was for her and his own sake. A deed is truly in Allah’s path when it is not affected by any worldly consideration whatsoever. If it was we who had been involved, it could be referred to as being in the way of Allah. But, considering Ibrahim’s high position, for him, no (Qurtubi).
    Among the commentators of old, Imam Razi does not accept the above report – even though in Bukhari and Muslim - as trustworthy since it attributes lies to a Prophet. He thinks it is easier to attribute a lie to the narrators rather than to a Prophet. One or two Qur’anic commentators of our times have followed suit. But others have pointed out that firstly, rejection of the hadith that speaks of Ibrahim’s lies, leads up to another dilemma. There is another report, which confirms its trustworthiness. It is found in all major works and is none other than the famous Hadith al-Shafa`ah which speaks of mankind going from one Prophet to another on the Day of Judgment seeking their intercession with Allah to start off the Reckoning. They will all refuse referring to one of their errors of the past life. Ibrahim will cite his lies as the reason why he would not be able to help. And this one is a mutawatir report. (Mutawatir is a report, which is narrated by so many that their consensus to lie could not have been achieved: Au.).
    Incidentally, it is overlooked that rejecting the hadith is tantamount to rejecting the above Qur’anic verse, which states first of the three lies (Au.).
    Secondly, the scholars say that the hadith concerning Ibrahim’s lies has not been understood properly. For although the hadith uses the word “lie” it does not state anything that we can ordinarily consider as lies. Can any of the three lies be treated as lies? Aren’t they of the allegorical nature? When Ibrahim said that the chief idol broke the rest, did he think they would buy that from him? Was he doing anymore than demonstrating the powerlessness of their hand-carved deities? When he said he was unwell, was he perfectly hale and hearty? Is not the word “saqeem” used for feelings of depression, distress, anxiety, and sadness as well? Or, when he said Sarah was his sister, was he absolutely wrong? Isn’t it reported that she was his cousin? Even today, don’t the people refer to an uncle’s daughter as “my sister,” adding up “a cousin” only when asked if she is a real sister?
    What then is the meaning of the term “lies” as used in the hadith? Well, we must once again recall that great men enjoy high status with Allah. And high status demands moral rectitude of an extremely high order. A minor error coming from such men is major in the sight of Allah. Hasn’t Allah reproached our own Prophet in very strong terms for his minor errors? (This writer felt amused when – in a different context - a Hindu began to actually defend our Prophet over his attitude with Ibn Umm Maktum. That is, he thought the error was too minor for rebuke). [Hasn’t Adam’s minor error been referred to as “`Asa” and “Ghawa” in the Qur’an: Shafi`]? In short, although the three statements of Prophet Ibrahim were no lies at all, the term was used because of the status he held following the rule:


    حسنات الأبرار سيئات المقربين


    “Good deeds of the pious are evil deeds of those brought nigh (Au.).
    Finally, warns Shafi’, it is worthwhile reminding that although Allah or his Messenger used strong terms against Prophets, such as, in this instance, “kadhib” (lies), Muslims are not allowed to use similar terms when referring to the Prophets of Allah. They might directly quote a Qur’anic verse or hadith but never attribute any such thing to them himself.

    فَرَجَعُوا إِلَىٰ أَنْفُسِهِمْ فَقَالُوا إِنَّكُمْ أَنْتُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ (64)

    21|64| So they turned to themselves and said (to each other), ‘Surely, you are the ones who are in the wrong.’78

    78. Yusuf Ali comments: “Abraham’s biting irony cut them to the quick. What could they say? They turned to each other. Some among them thought he had the best of the argument. They were not keen on idolatry, and they told their fellows that it was useless arguing with Abraham. They all hung their heads in shame. But presently they thought they would face out Abraham, and take his words literally. They said, ‘You know quite well that idols do not speak!’ This was precisely what Abraham wanted them to say, and he delivered his first blow!”

    ثُمَّ نُكِسُوا عَلَىٰ رُءُوسِهِمْ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتَ مَا هَٰؤُلَاءِ يَنْطِقُونَ (65)

    21|65| Then they were thrown into confusion.79 (They said), ‘You know very well that these do not speak?!’

    79. The translation of “nukisu `ala ru’usihim” expresses the understanding of the Salaf. Nakasa implies ‘to turn around,’ ‘turn upside down,’ etc. Of course, it was not they who had turned upside down, but instead, it was their argument that was turned upside down by Ibrahim, to which in truth is the allusion here. In Yusuf Ali’s words, it denotes their “mental somersault.”
    Another possible meaning is, “Then they reverted to their folly and belligerent ways of old" (Qurtubi).

    قَالَ أَفَتَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنْفَعُكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَضُرُّكُمْ (66)

    21|66| He said, ‘Do you then worship other than Allah that which is neither of any profit to you nor of any harm?

    أُفٍّ لَكُمْ وَلِمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ ۖ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ (67)

    21|67| Fie upon you and upon what you worship other than Allah. Will you not use reason?’

    قَالُوا حَرِّقُوهُ وَانْصُرُوا آلِهَتَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ فَاعِلِينَ (68)

    21|68| They said, ‘Burn him and protect your gods, if you are to act.’

    قُلْنَا يَا نَارُ كُونِي بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (69)

    21|69| We said, ‘O fire! Be cool and safe for Ibrahim.’80

    80. The story goes that they dug a huge pit and filled it with fire. The fire was so intense that a bird flying over would fall dead. It is said that it was lit for several weeks. Of the animals it was only chameleon that was blowing at the fire to intensify it. Hence the Prophet has asked us to kill it. (The report about the chameleon is in Ahmad, Ibn Hibban and Ibn Majah, declared Sahih by Albani: S. Ibrahim). Then Ibrahim was hoisted on a tall structure. (The Qur’an said, “They said, ‘Build for him a building and then throw him into the blazing fire’”: Alusi). Thereafter he was hurled in with the help of a catapult.


    كَانَ آخِرَ قَوْلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حِينَ أُلْقِيَ فِي النَّارِ حَسْبِيَ اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ


    Ibrahim’s last words before he was hurled into the Fire were, “Enough for me Allah, an excellent Trustee”. When he was hurled in, it was said,


    يَا نَارُ كُونِي بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ [الأنبياء : 69]


    “O fire. Be cool and safe for Ibrahim.” If the words, “safe for Ibrahim” were not added, the fire would have frozen him. He came out unhurt. He was then sixteen. (Al-Mawardi has said that he was twenty-six: Qurtubi).
    It is reported that he stayed in the fire for several days or weeks. When they found that Ibrahim was safe in the pit, one of the men claimed that it was he who had overpowered the fire with his magic. So they threw him in to test his claim. He was reduced to ashes (Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf, Alusi).
    The report about Ibrahim saying My Trustee is Allah, and excellent Trustee He is, is in Bukhari (Ibn Kathir).
    As to the doubt concerning how Ibrahim could escape unhurt, Zamakhshari answers that one probability is that his skin was turned fireproof, like the skins of the Keepers of Hellfire.
    Alusi adds that except for what is reported in the hadith, most other parts of the story as mentioned above come through the Salaf. Only that can be fully trusted which happens to be in the Qur’an or hadith. He also deals with the juggling of the con-sufis. He writes, As regards the feats performed by the followers of Sheikh Rifa`i, it must be noted that they are not preformed by the true followers of the Sheikh - such of them as who adhere to the Qur’an and the Sunnah. But rather, by those who are closer to kufr than Islam because of their corrupt lives. “I have seen,” writes Alusi, “one of them enter into fire, sit there coolly sipping wine, and emerge unscratched.” Apparently, these are magical feats or what is known as Istidraj. Sheikh Rif a`i himself, or his true followers never entered into fires, nor played with snakes, nor rode upon ferocious beasts.

    وَأَرَادُوا بِهِ كَيْدًا فَجَعَلْنَاهُمُ الْأَخْسَرِينَ (70)

    21|70| And they intended a (secret) plan against him. But We made them the greater losers.81

    81. Probably Ibrahim did not leave the town immediately and so some other methods of getting rid of him were devised but which failed. In Yusuf ‘Ali’s words, “As they could not get rid of him by open punishment, they tried secret plans, but were foiled throughout. It was not he that lost, but they. On the contrary he left them and prospered and became the progenitor of great peoples.”

    وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ وَلُوطًا إِلَى الْأَرْضِ الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا لِلْعَالَمِينَ (71)

    21|71| We delivered him, and Lut,82 unto the land in which We have placed blessing for all beings.83

    82. Lut (asws) was his nephew. The two, along with Ibrahim’s wife Sarah left Iraq for Syria.
    83. There are a few varying minor opinions about the identity of the region, but most scholars such as `Ubayy b. Ka`b, Qatadah, Hasan and others have said that the allusion is to Syria (which, in its widest connotation includes present day Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon, a region which has been, as Yusuf Ali put it, “a bone of contention between all the great kingdoms and empires (Au.).
    Qatadah has a rather intriguing remark about the area: “Syria is known as the pillar (`amud) of emigration. The earth is not reduced from any part of the world but is added to Syria, and no part is reduced from Syria but is added to Palestine. Syria is also the place where people will be gathered, the place where Resurrection will take place, where `Isa ibn Maryam will descend, and where Dajjal will be destroyed. The Prophet has said,


    رَأَيْتُ عَمُودَ الْكِتَابِ انْتُزِعَ مِنْ تَحْتِ وِسَادَتِي، فَأَتْبَعْتُهُ بَصَرِي، فَإِذَا هُوَ نُورٌ سَاطِعٌ حَتَّى ظَنَنْتُ أَنَّهُ قَدْ هَوَى بِهِ، فَعُمِدَ بِهِ إِلَى الشَّامِ، وَإِنِّي أَوَّلْتُ أَنَّ الْفِتَنَ إِذَا وَقَعَتْ أَنَّ الإِيمَانَ بِالشَّامِ


    “I saw in a dream that the mainstay (`amud) of the Book was being withdrawn from underneath my pillow. I followed it with my eyes, and lo, it was a bright Light; until I thought it might be taken away. It was planted in Syria. I interpret it as meaning that faith (iman) will be in Syria at the time tribulations descend.”
    The report is in Ahmad and others, treated Sahih by Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut (Au.).
    Accordingly, when ‘Umar wrote to Ka`b, “O Ka`b, why should you not come and live in Madinah? It is the place to which the Prophet migrated, and where his grave lies?” Ka`b replied, “O leader of the faithful. I read in the Book that Syria is Allah’s treasure on earth and His slaves are treasured here” (Ibn Jarir).
    According to another report, in Tirmidhi, the Prophet said,


    طُوبَى لِلشَّامِ قِيلَ وَلِمَ ذَلِكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ إِنَّ مَلَائِكَةَ الرَّحْمَنِ بَاسِطَةٌ أَجْنِحَتَهَا عَلَيْهَا


    “Blessedness is for the people of Syria.” We asked, “Why is that O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Because the angels of the Most Merciful have spread their wings over it” (Alusi).
    The tradition is in Musnad Ahmad and other collections, declared trustworthy (Au.).

    وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ نَافِلَةً ۖ وَكُلًّا جَعَلْنَا صَالِحِينَ (72)

    21|72| And We bestowed on him Is-haq and, in addition,84 Ya`qub.85 And We made all of them righteous.86

    84. Scholars such as Mujahid, `Ata’ and others have understood the term “nafilah” as “bestowal” (Ibn Jarir). And since Isma`il is not mentioned here, there are stray opinions that perhaps it was Is-haq who was sacrificed by Ibrahim.
    But Yusuf Ali has a good explanation why Isma`il’s mention was left out. He writes: “Nafilat has many meanings: (1) booty; (2) extra work or prayer; (3) extra or additional gift; (4) grandson. The two last significations are implied here. Not only was Abraham given a son in his old age .. but several sons, the chief being Isma`il and Isaac, who both joined in burying him (Gen. xxv. 9); and he also saw grandsons. Isma`il is specially mentioned later (xxi. 85) apart from Isaac’s line, on account of his special importance for Islam.”
    In any case, that Isma`il was first-born can be substantiated from the Qur’an itself. It said in (37: 102-112),


    فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَى فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَى قَالَ يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ سَتَجِدُنِي إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ (102) فَلَمَّا أَسْلَمَا وَتَلَّهُ لِلْجَبِينِ (103) وَنَادَيْنَاهُ أَنْ يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ (104) قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّؤْيَا إِنَّا كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ (105) إِنَّ هَذَا لَهُوَ الْبَلَاءُ الْمُبِينُ (106) وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ (107) وَتَرَكْنَا عَلَيْهِ فِي الْآخِرِينَ (108) سَلَامٌ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ (109) كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ (110) إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (111) وَبَشَّرْنَاهُ بِإِسْحَاقَ نَبِيًّا مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ [الصافات : 101 - 112]


    “Then, when he was of age of exertion with him, he said, ‘O my little son! I see indeed, in my sleep that I am slaughtering you. So consider, what is your view!’ He said, ‘O my father! Do as you are ordered. You shall find me, Allah willing, of the steadfast.’ So, when the two had submitted, and he had laid him down on his forehead, We called out to him, ‘O Ibrahim ,you have fulfilled the (purpose of the) vision. Thus indeed We reward those who do well. Surely, this indeed was a clear test.’ And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice; and left for him (a good word) among the later folk. Peace upon Ibrahim. Thus indeed We reward those who do things well. He was surely (one) of Our believing slaves. And We gave him the glad tiding of Is-haq: a Prophet, one of the righteous.”
    Thus, Is-haq was not yet born until time of the sacrifice. Further, the Qur’an never mentioned the two together, but mentioned first Isma`il and then Is-haq. For example, 2: 136, 3: 84, 4: 163 and 14: 39 (Au.).
    85. It is said that Ibrahim asked for a single righteous descendant when he prayed in words (37: 100), “O my Lord! Grant me of the righteous” but he was granted two: One his son Is-haq and second his grandson Ya`qub (Ibn Jarir).
    86. This reminder was necessary in view of the extremely grave charges of immorality brought against these Prophets by the Israeli holy literature (Au.).

    وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْهِمْ فِعْلَ الْخَيْرَاتِ وَإِقَامَ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيتَاءَ الزَّكَاةِ ۖ وَكَانُوا لَنَا عَابِدِينَ (73)

    21|73| And We made them leaders87 guiding by Our command. And We inspired to them doing of good deeds, proper performance of Prayer and giving of charity. And they were devoted to Us.88

    87. Majid comments: “i.e., exemplars; objects of imitation to the people. So these prophets of God were, the Qur’an expressly and repeatedly affirms, models of religion and piety, and pre-eminently virtuous and holy, not mere diviners or interpreters of the Law to their people.”
    88. Compare the contrasting conditions of the two, the Prophets and their people. The former were “devoted to Our worship” while the latter “given to abominations” (Au.).

    وَلُوطًا آتَيْنَاهُ حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْقَرْيَةِ الَّتِي كَانَتْ تَعْمَلُ الْخَبَائِثَ ۗ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمَ سَوْءٍ فَاسِقِينَ (74)

    21|74| And Lut: We gave him Judgment and knowledge, and We delivered him from the township that had been practicing abomination.89 Truly, they were an evil people given to wickedness.

    89. Sodomy was of course the great abomination. What were others? We have a hadith in Alusi listing others. It comes down through Hasan as the first narrator. But the credentials of the narrative could not be traced and therefore, we have dropped them (Au.).

    وَأَدْخَلْنَاهُ فِي رَحْمَتِنَا ۖ إِنَّهُ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ (75)

    21|75| And We admitted him into Our mercy. Surely, he was of the righteous.90

    90. “This clear, powerful vindication of Lot’s saintly character was all the more needed to contradict and repudiate the most atrocious charge – of incest – brought against him in the Bible. (Gen. 19: 30-38) The rabbis, not to be outdone by the Bible, maintained that ‘he was given over to lust; therefore he chose Sodom as his residence’ (JE. VIII, p. 186).”
    Mawdudi demonstrates the discrepancies between the Qur’anic account and those in the Biblical sources: “According to the Qur’an, Abraham’s idolatrous father played a leading role in the perpetration of wrongs and excesses against Abraham. The Bible, however, refers to Abraham’s father as among those who migrated to Haran along with his sons, grandsons and daughters-in-law (Genesis 11: 27-32)..
    “The Talmud, however, contains most of the details mentioned in the Qur’an regarding Abraham’s conduct during his Mesopotamia days. When one compares the Qur’anic and Talmudic versions, however, one notes a distinct difference in their thrust. The Talmudic account of Abraham is conspicuously incoherent and full of incredible incidents. In sharp contrast, the Qur’an presents the important details of Abraham’s life, creating the image of a person whose life is far from all those absurdities that might disfigure his personality. For illustrative purpose only, the gist of Talmudic version of Abraham’s life is given below. This will also serve to show how wrong it is to believe that the Qur’an is derived from either Christian or Judaic sources. The Talmudic version is as follows:
    ‘The wise men saw a large star in the sky on the night Abraham was born and they advised Nimrod to kill the child born in the house of Therach. The king decided to kill the child but Therach hid his child and had the child of one of his servant’s son killed instead. Therach thereupon hid his wife and child in a cave where they lived for ten years. In the 11th year Abraham was taken by Therach to Noah where he lived under the guidance of Noah and his Shem for thirty-nine years. During these years Abraham married his niece, Sarah, who was 42 years his younger.
    ‘Abraham left Noah after the age of 50 and returned to his father. There he found that his father was an idolater and had twelve idols in the house representing the twelve months of the year. He tried to preach to his father against idolatry but when the latter did not listen to him, Abraham then broke all the idols in the house. Seeing this Therach went straight to Nimrod and advised him that this was the son who the wise men had advised Nimrod to kill on the day of his birth. Therach said that the babies had been switched at Haran’s instigation. (Haran being Abraham’s brother.) Nimrod accordingly let Therach go but threw Haran into the fire along with Abraham. Haran was consumed by it, but Abraham walked through the flames unscathed. When Nimrod witnessed this with his own eyes, he cried out, “Servant of the God of Heaven, come forth from the fire and stand before me. Thereupon Abraham walked out of the fire and furnace and stood before the king who bowed before Abraham making him a gift of many valuable objects.
    ‘Thereafter, Abraham stayed in Iraq for another two years. Meanwhile, Nimrod had a dreadful dream which the astrologers said came through Abraham and that he should, therefore, put Abraham to death. Although Nimrod sent people to kill Abraham, but Abraham came to know of the plot before-hand through Eleazer, a slave presented to him by Nimrod himself. Abraham accordingly fled and took refuge with Noah where Therach also met him secretly on a number of occasions. At last both father and son decided to leave the country and Noah and his son Shem also approved of their plan. Accordingly, Therach, along with his son Abraham and his grandson Lot and his granddaughter and Abraham’s wife Sarah left and went to Haran (The Talmudic Selections, pp. 30-42).”

    وَنُوحًا إِذْ نَادَىٰ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ فَنَجَّيْنَاهُ وَأَهْلَهُ مِنَ الْكَرْبِ الْعَظِيمِ (76)

    21|76| And Nuh - when he cried (to Us) aforetime. So We responded to him and delivered him and his family91 from the great distress.

    91. (Although the term “ahl” is for one’s family), here the allusion is to those who believed and followed Nuh (Razi, Qurtubi).

    وَنَصَرْنَاهُ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا ۚ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمَ سَوْءٍ فَأَغْرَقْنَاهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (77)

    21|77| And We helped him against the people who cried lies to Our signs; truly, they were an evil people. So We drowned them all together.

    وَدَاوُودَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ إِذْ يَحْكُمَانِ فِي الْحَرْثِ إِذْ نَفَشَتْ فِيهِ غَنَمُ الْقَوْمِ وَكُنَّا لِحُكْمِهِمْ شَاهِدِينَ (78)

    21|78| And Da’ud, and Sulayman - when they were judging concerning the field, when the sheep of a people strayed there at night. And We were witnesses to their judgment.92

    92. Ibn Mas`ud said in explanation of the verse that a man’s sheep entered into another’s field (or vineyard) and damaged the crop. The matter was referred to Da’ud (asws). He judged that the sheep be given away to the owner of the field in compensation of his loss. Sulayman (asws) suggested instead that the shepherd should be asked to work on the farm until the damage was recovered. And, until the recovery, the flock of sheep be handed over to the owner of the orchard to look after and to make use of their milk, wool, or sell off the offspring. (In his good grace and wisdom, Da’ud accepted the suggestion even though, as Yusuf Ali put it, “it came from a little boy : Au.). Accordingly, when Bara’ b. `Azib’s camel entered into an Ansari’s orchard by night and wrought some damage, the Prophet (saws) recited this verse and ordered that the damage be repaired. Then he added, “It is upon the owner of an orchard to see that stray cattle is kept out, and upon the owner of the cattle during the night to keep them away of orchards” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    Suhnun however has said, adds Qurtubi, that the Prophetic judgment varying for day and night is because the orchards in Madinah had boundary walls. Therefore, if there are no boundaries to orchards or fields, as in many parts of the world, the owner of the flock will be charged for damage whether it happens by day or by night. Imam Abu Hanifah however has ruled that if a shepherd is accompanying the flock, then the damages are payable, otherwise not. This is in view of the hadith in the Sahihayn that says, “Damage (caused) by animals do not entail compensation.” This is a much stronger report than that involving Bara’ (Alusi, Shafi`). For greater details one might profitably look into Qurtubi.
    Further, it might be noticed that although Sulayman has been praised here, Da’ud was not censored (Ibn Jarir). It is possible, adds Zamakhshari, that the value of the flock was equal to the damage that was done to the crop and so Da’ud judged that they be given away in compensation. Thus, writes Thanwi, both the judgments were correct, hence Allah’s words, “and to each We gave Judgment and knowledge.”
    In Asad’s words, “.. the fact that Solomon’s judgment was more profound did not disprove the intrinsic justice of David’s original judgment or deprive it of its merit.”
    In fact, even if one wished, he will find it hard to judge which judgment was better. Could the loss of the orchard owner be greater than the value of the sheep? Or, alternatively, when given charge of the sheep, could he have recovered all his losses by the time his orchard was restored to the original condition? And, when restored, would it have fetched the same price as last year’s crop? These are open questions and it is possible, as Mufti Shafi` has suggested, that Sulayman’s judgment was more of the nature of a “mutual agreement that also salvaged the relationship between the two parties, than an effort to render absolute justice” (Au.).
    Report concerning Bara’ b. `Azib’s case is in Ahmad, Abu Da’ud and Ibn Majah, but may not be very strong (Ibn Kathir). Nevertheless, because of a few other supporting evidences, most jurists have accepted it as trustworthy and used it for legal purposes. As for Allah not censoring Da’ud, we also have a hadith in Bukhari which says that when a judge does his best and judges correctly, he gets double the reward. But when he does his best, yet commits an error, then he gets a single reward. And the essential point to be noted is, “when he (the judge) does his best, that is, to uncover the facts and dig out the truth” (Qurtubi).
    Furthermore, close to the story of Sulayman above is another reported in Muslim (also in Musnad Ahmad – narrated by Abu Hurayrah: Ibn Kathir). The Prophet said,


    بَيْنَمَا امْرَأَتَانِ مَعَهُمَا ابْنَاهُمَا جَاءَ الذِّئْبُ فَذَهَبَ بِابْنِ إِحْدَاهُمَا فَقَالَتْ هَذِهِ لِصَاحِبَتِهَا إِنَّمَا ذَهَبَ بِابْنِكِ وَقَالَتِ الأُخْرَى إِنَّمَا ذَهَبَ بِابْنِكِ فَتَحَاكَمَتَا إِلَى دَاوُدَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ فَقَضَى بِهِ لِلْكُبْرَى فَخَرَجَتَا عَلَى سُلَيْمَانَ بْنِ دَاوُدَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ فَأَخْبَرَتَاهُ فَقَالَ ائْتُونِى بِالسِّكِّينِ أَشُقَّهُ بَيْنَهُمَا فَقَالَتِ الصُّغْرَى لاَ تَفْعَلْ يَرْحَمُكَ اللَّهُ هُوَ ابْنُهَا فَقَضَى بِهِ لِلصُّغْرَى


    “Two women had an infant each. A wolf snatched away one. (Both claimed the remaining one). So they appealed to Da’ud. He judged in favor of the elder woman. Then they went to Sulayman. He said, ‘Get me a knife. I’ll divide the child between the two.’ At that one the younger woman cried out, ‘No. Don’t do that – may Allah show you mercy. Let the child be given to her.’ So, Sulayman judged in favor of the younger woman (Qurtubi).
    The above is Bukhari’s version (Au.).

    فَفَهَّمْنَاهَا سُلَيْمَانَ ۚ وَكُلًّا آتَيْنَا حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا ۚ وَسَخَّرْنَا مَعَ دَاوُودَ الْجِبَالَ يُسَبِّحْنَ وَالطَّيْرَ ۚ وَكُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ (79)

    21|79| We gave Sulayman the insight thereof93 and to each We gave Judgment and knowledge. And We subdued the mountains and birds to hymn praises along with Da’ud94 - We were the Doers.

    93. That is, Allah (swt) bestowed on Sulayman in that particular case an understanding that He did not bestow on Da’ud (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    94. It is reported that when Da’ud recited Zabur, birds gathered around to listen. When our own Prophet Muhammad passed by Abu Musa al-Ash`ari reciting the Qur’an, he stood by listening to him. Then he remarked,

    لَقَدْ أُوتِيتَ مِزْمَارًا مِنْ مَزَامِيرِ آلِ دَاوُدَ

    “Surely, you have been given a melody from the melodies of Da’ud’s kinsfolk.”
    And Abu `Uthman al-Nahdi said, “I have never heard any melody as sweet as that of Abu Musa al-Ash`ari. Yet and, despite that, the Prophet said about him, ‘Surely, he has been given a melody from the melodies of Da’ud’s kinsfolk". (That is, one can imagine the power and beauty of Da’ud’s melodies if Abu Musa’s was of such order that the Prophet stood by to listen: Au.).

    وَعَلَّمْنَاهُ صَنْعَةَ لَبُوسٍ لَكُمْ لِتُحْصِنَكُمْ مِنْ بَأْسِكُمْ ۖ فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ شَاكِرُونَ (80)

    21|80| And We taught him the fashioning of the coats of mail for you to save you from each other’s violence.95 Will you then be grateful?

    95. The words, “for you” denote that when the intention is to serve the people then learning of a trade or skill has promises of rewards in the Hereafter, whatever the worldly advantages (Shafi`).
    Qatadah has said that earlier to Da’ud’s manufacture, coats of mail used to be in one piece-sheet. He was the who first molded the chain-mails.
    Mawdudi comments: “This point is further elaborated upon in Surah Saba’:

    وَأَلَنَّا لَهُ الْحَدِيدَ (10) أَنِ اعْمَلْ سَابِغَاتٍ وَقَدِّرْ فِي السَّرْدِ [سبأ : 10 ، 11]

    ‘We made the iron soft for him (David) and commanded him: make coats of mail, balancing well the rings of the chain armor’ (Saba’ 34: 10-11). Thus we learn that God granted David complete mastery over iron, especially for military purposes.
    “In the light of the historical and archaeological information these verses can be explained as follows: The Iron Age began somewhere between 1200 B.C. and 1000 B.C. which was the time of the Prophet David. The Hittites, inhabitants of Syria and Asia Minor, who had their hey-day during the period 2000 B.C. to 1200 B.C., were the first to invent techniques for melting and manufacturing iron; an expertise which they kept a closely-guarded secret. The iron that was thus made was, however, extremely expensive – like gold and silver – and consequently the requisite techniques were not widely used. Later on, the Philistines also acquired this knowledge but they too kept it a closely-guarded secret. Before Saul’s ascension to the throne, the Hittites and Philistines had continually defeated the Israelites and had almost driven them out of Palestine. According to the Bible, one of the factors which had ensured their superiority was their use of chariots and other weapons manufactured from iron (Joshua 17: 16; Judges 1: 19 and 4: 2-3). When Saul, under God’s command became ruler in 1020 B.C., he crushed the Hittites and Philistines and recovered a major portion of Palestine. The Prophet David (1004 B.C.-965 B.C.) extended the Israelite domain to the rest of Palestine to Transjordan and a major part of Syria.
    “It was during this period that smelting technique, thus far only known to the Hittites and Philistines, were disclosed. Within a short period of time, other techniques of iron-manufacturing produced inexpensive iron, as a result of which iron products were manufactured and commonly used. Edom, in the southern part of Palestine, is immensely rich in iron ore. Recent archaeological excavations show at several places remnants of furnaces obviously used for melting and moulding iron. Indeed a furnace excavated near Ezion-Geber, a port on the Gulf of Aqaba in the days of the Prophet Solomon, appears to have been built on the very same principles which are employed to this day in blast furnaces. Quite naturally, David would have used this discovery of iron for military purposes since it was armour manufactured from this metal which in the then recent past, had created such difficulties for the Israelites.”

    وَلِسُلَيْمَانَ الرِّيحَ عَاصِفَةً تَجْرِي بِأَمْرِهِ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا ۚ وَكُنَّا بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَالِمِينَ (81)

    21|81| And for Sulayman (did We tame) the wind, blowing forcefully,96 flowing to his order unto the land in which We had placed Our blessings.97 And We were ever aware of all things.

    96. It seems Sulayman had complete control over the winds so that when he desired they moved forcefully, or mildly as said in the verse (38: 36),


    فَسَخَّرْنَا لَهُ الرِّيحَ تَجْرِي بِأَمْرِهِ رُخَاءً حَيْثُ أَصَابَ [ص : 36]


    “We subjected to him the wind, it blew gently by his order whithersoever he wished” (Razi). Another possibility is that they moved as fast as high winds do, but remained mild in their effects (Alusi).
    97. Commentators report that Sulayman was a great warrior too. The winds helped him up the sea voyage to a month’s distance, and back in another month. Hence Allah’s words, ‘And We subjected the wind to Solomon: its morning stride was a month’s journey, and the evening stride a month’s journey’ (Qurtubi).

    وَمِنَ الشَّيَاطِينِ مَنْ يَغُوصُونَ لَهُ وَيَعْمَلُونَ عَمَلًا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ ۖ وَكُنَّا لَهُمْ حَافِظِينَ (82)

    21|82| And of the Shayatin (We had tamed those)98 who dived for him and did works other than that.99 And We were of them guardians.100

    98. The use of the term Shayatin in place of Jinn, contains the hint that they were unbelieving Jinn (Razi).
    99. That is, the Jinn dived for him into the sea for pearls, and help build buildings and monuments (Ibn Jarir).
    Mawdudi explains, “The furnace which Solomon had built at Ezion-Geber for melting and moulding iron ore was substantial – no other furnace of like size has been so far discovered anywhere in Eastern Asia or the Middle East. Archaeologists believe that the ore used in this furnace was brought from the iron and copper mines of ‘Araban in Edom. The iron and copper melted in this furnace was used for ship-building and for other purposes. This would thus explain the meaning of the Qur’anic verse:


    وَأَسَلْنَا لَهُ عَيْنَ الْقِطْرِ [سبأ : 12]


    ‘And We caused molten copper to flow for Solomon’ (Saba’, 34: 12).”
    He also writes, “The point is thus elaborated in Surah Saba’:


    وَمِنَ الْجِنِّ مَنْ يَعْمَلُ بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِ وَمَنْ يَزِغْ مِنْهُمْ عَنْ أَمْرِنَا نُذِقْهُ مِنْ عَذَابِ السَّعِيرِ (12) يَعْمَلُونَ لَهُ مَا يَشَاءُ مِنْ مَحَارِيبَ وَتَمَاثِيلَ وَجِفَانٍ كَالْجَوَابِ وَقُدُورٍ رَاسِيَاتٍ [سبأ : 12 ، 13]


    ‘There were jinns that worked in front of him by the permission of his Lord and if any of them turned aside from God’s command, God made him taste the penalty of the Blazing Fire. They worked for him as he desired, making arches, images, basins as large as reservoirs, and cooking cauldrons fixed in their places.”
    100. Lest the Devils got out of control (Qurtubi and others).

    وَأَيُّوبَ إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنْتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ (83)

    21|83| And (remember) Ayyub when he called unto his Lord, ‘Truly, I am touched by distress,101 and You are the Most Merciful of the mercifuls.’102

    101. Majid comments and quotes the Bible, “(He suffered sudden loss of wealth property and family). He had seven sons and three daughters, all of whom suddenly died in a house collapse (Job. 1: 2,9).”
    However, as Mawdudi has pointed out, the account of Job in the Biblical Book of Job cannot be reconciled with the concept of Prophethood as presented by the Qur’an, and hence it cannot be stated with any certainty that the two are speaking of the same person.
    102. (It is possible that some people will miss the subtlety of the prayer. An illustrative example from the early Muslims might help). A woman complained to Sa`d b. Mu`adh that her house had no rats. He ordered that she be supplied with some good amount of bread, butter and meat (Alusi).
    Sa`d understood that she had no provisions at home for rats to visit (Au.).

    فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ فَكَشَفْنَا مَا بِهِ مِنْ ضُرٍّ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ أَهْلَهُ وَمِثْلَهُمْ مَعَهُمْ رَحْمَةً مِنْ عِنْدِنَا وَذِكْرَىٰ لِلْعَابِدِينَ (84)

    21|84| So We responded to him and removed that which was upon him of distress. And We restored to him his family, and the like thereof along with them:103 a mercy from Us and a reminder to those who serve (Us).

    103. In the absence of reports coming from the Prophet or the Companions, it is difficult to establish Ayyub’s identity (Wahab b. Munabbih thought he was an Israelite). It is also not clear as to what trials Ayyub was subjected to. The authenticity of what is reported – in great detail – by some early commentators and narrators cannot be established. All the same, in sum it is as follows: Ayyub (asws) was subjected to trials affecting his wealth, crops, livestock, and children until he was left with nothing but a wife. She served him faithfully during his prolonged sickness and even worked outside to earn the living while Ayyub lay in bed. Notwithstanding the troubles, he stayed firm, not losing hope in Allah’s mercy. The period of trials over, he was given back all that he had lost, twice over. A report of Abu Hurayrah, preserved by Ibn Abi Hatim, whose sum and substance is in Bukhari, says,


    لَمَّا عَافَى اللَّهُ أَيُّوبَ أَمْطَرَ عَلَيْهِ جَرَادًا مِنْ ذَهَبٍ، فَجَعَلَ يَأْخُذُهُ بِيَدِهِ وَيَجْعَلُهُ فِي ثَوْبِهِ، فَقِيلَ لَهُ: يَا أَيُّوبُ، أَمَا تَشْبَعُ؟ فَقَالَ: وَمَنْ يَشْبَعُ مِنْ رَحْمَتِكَ


    “When Allah cured Ayyub, he sent a shower upon him of golden locusts. He began to collect them together in his garment. He was asked, ‘Ayyub, have you not had enough?’ He replied, ‘Sure, my Lord. But who can claim to have had enough of Your mercy?’” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi in passing and Shawkani in full report the following hadith of Hakim, who declared it creditable, which is also in the Sahih of Ibn Hibban (declared trustworthy by Haythami: S.Ibrahim): Anas reports the Prophet (saws) as having said,


    إِن نَبِي الله أَيُّوب صلى الله عَلَيْهِ لبث فِي بلائه ثَمَان [عشرَة] سنة فرفضه الْقَرِيب والبعيد إِلَّا رجلَيْنِ من إخوانه كَانَا من أخص إخوانه كَانَا يغدوان إِلَيْهِ ويروحان ، فَقَالَ أَحدهمَا لصَاحبه : تعلم وَالله لقد أذْنب ذَنبا مَا أذنبه أحد من الْعَالمين . فَقَالَ لَهُ صَاحبه : وَمَا ذَاك ؟ قَالَ : قد أَصَابَهُ مُنْذُ ثَمَان [عشرَة] سنة لم يرحمه الله فَيكْشف مَا بِهِ . فَلَمَّا رَاحا إِلَيْهِ لم يصبر الرجل حَتَّى ذكر ذَلِك فَقَالَ أَيُّوب : لَا أَدْرِي مَا يَقُول ، غير أَن الله يعلم مَتى أَنِّي كنت أَمر على الرجلَيْن ينازعان فيذكران الله ، فأرجع إِلَى بَيْتِي فَأكفر عَنْهُمَا كَرَاهِيَة أَن يذكرُوا الله إِلَّا فِي حق . وَكَانَ يخرج إِلَى الْحَاجة فَإِذا قَضَاهَا أَمْسَكت امْرَأَته بِيَدِهِ حَتَّى يبلغ ، فَلَمَّا كَانَ ذَات يَوْم أَبْطَأت عَنهُ وأوحي إِلَى أَيُّوب فِي مَكَانَهُ أَن {اركض برجلك هَذَا مغتسل بَارِد وشراب} قَالَ : فاستبطأته امْرَأَته فَتَلَقَّتْهُ تنظر ، وَأَقْبل عَلَيْهَا قد أذهب الله مَا بِهِ من الْبلَاء وَهُوَ أحسن مَا كَانَ ، فَلَمَّا رَأَتْهُ قَالَت : أَي بَارك الله فِيك ، هَل رَأَيْت نَبِي الله هَذَا الْمُبْتَلى ، وَالله على ذَلِك مَا رَأَيْت أحدا أشبه بِهِ مِنْك إِذا كَانَ صَحِيحا ؟ قَالَ : فَإِنِّي أَنا هُوَ . قَالَ : وَكَانَ لَهُ أندران أندر للقمح وأندر للشعير ، فَبعث الله - تبَارك وَتَعَالَى - سحابتين فَلَمَّا كَانَت إِحْدَاهمَا على أندر الْقَمْح أفرغت فِيهِ الذَّهَب حَتَّى فاض ، وأفرغت الْأُخْرَى فِي أندر الشّعير الْوَرق حَتَّى فاض


    “Ayyub remained under trial for 18 years. His friends, relatives, just everyone abandoned him except for two men who were his close brotherly companions. They used to visit him morning and evening. One day one of them remarked to the other, ‘Ayyub must have committed some grave sin for Allah not to have forgiven him for 18 years.’ The other mentioned it to Ayyub. He replied, ‘I don’t know what they are talking about. But Allah knows that I used to pass by two people arguing (and swearing in Allah’s name). I would come to my house and expiate for them as I did not like that Allah’s name be thus desecrated (through false oaths).’
    “In any case,” the Prophet continued, “Ayyub used to go out to attend to the nature’s call. His wife would hold him by hand and help him return. One day she delayed in coming and Allah revealed to him at that place (Sad, 42), ‘Strike with your foot. This is good for a bath – cold, and (good for) drink.’ By the time she arrived, Allah had removed his affliction and he had become as good looking as he ever was. As she came close she asked him, ‘Did you happen to see Allah’s Prophet, the one who has been put to test? And, by Allah, he was almost like you, before he was afflicted.’ He assured her, ‘I am he.’ He had two large bottles, one for wheat storage, and the other for barley. Allah sent two patches of clouds. One of them poured gold into the wheat bottle to its fill and the other filled his barley bottle with silver.” (Free translation, with explanation from Qurtubi).
    Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut treated this narration found in Sahih of Ibn Hibban as meeting with the requirements of Muslim (Au.).
    It can be guessed in explanation of the above report that when Prophet Ayyub said, ‘I used to pass by two people arguing ..’ that he was speaking of those very two persons one of whom conjectured that ‘he (Ayyub) must have committed a grave sin..’ In other words, he subtly complained, in effect, ‘if that was my way with you – that I prayed for you in secret – this is your way with me, that you send across taunts to me!’ Thus, this hadith should be enough to reject Ayyub’s identity with Job of the Bible, which heaps upon him innumerable blasphemies and statements unbecoming of a Prophet. E.g., (Job, 10: 2-3), “I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why thou thus contend against me? Does it seem good to oppress, to despise the work of thy hands, and favor the design of the wicked?” (Au.).

    وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِدْرِيسَ وَذَا الْكِفْلِ ۖ كُلٌّ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ (85)

    21|85| And (remember) Isma`il,104 Idris and Dhu al-Kifl;105 all were of the patient.106

    104. Yusuf Ali comments, “Isma`il is mentioned specially, apart from the line which descended through Isaac (xxi, 72), as he was the founder of a separate and greater Ummat.” Then he follows up to bring to light what most commentators have missed out, “His suffering began in infancy .. but his steady constancy and submission to the will of Allah were specially shown when he earned the title of ‘Sacrifice to Allah’ .. That was the peculiar quality of his constancy and patience.”
    105. Opinions have varied among the earliest scholars whether Dhu al-Kifl, was a Prophet or merely a pious person (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). But the company in which he has been mentioned here leads us to the opinion that perhaps he was a Prophet (Thanwi).
    Majid offers us some information, although it cannot be wholly trusted for its veracity, since towns and people with identical names have always existed. His comments run as follows: “(Dhu al-Kifl is) Probably an Arabicized form of Ezekiel. ‘He was among the aristocracy whom Nebuchadnazzar (597 B.C.), after the first capture of Jerusalem, carried off to be in exile in Babylonia .. His prophecies extended over twenty-two years (JE. V. 313). ‘The traditional burial-place of the prophet Ezekiel, .. is shown at Kefil near Bira Nimrud: for centuries it has been a favorite place of pilgrimage for Mohammedans as well as for Jews’ (p. 316). Speaking of the ruins of Babylon, says an explorer and traveler of the last century:- ‘To the south-west, in the extreme distance, rose the palm trees of Kefil, casting their scanty shade over a small dome, covering the tomb of Ezkiel. To this spot flock in crowds, as their forefathers have done for centuries, the Jews of Baghdad, Hillah and other cities of Chaldea the descendants of the captives of Jerusalem, who still linger in the land of their exile’ (Layard, Nineveh and Babylon p. 281).”
    106. “I.e., steadfast in faith” (Majid).

    وَأَدْخَلْنَاهُمْ فِي رَحْمَتِنَا ۖ إِنَّهُمْ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ (86)

    21|86| We admitted them into Our mercy. They were indeed of the righteous.

    وَذَا النُّونِ إِذْ ذَهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا فَظَنَّ أَنْ لَنْ نَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ أَنْ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ (87)

    21|87| And (remember) the man of the fish,107 when he went off in anger,108 and thought that We would had no power over him.109 But he cried out through the depths of darknesses,110 ‘There is no God but You. Glory to You. I was indeed of the wrongdoers.’111

    107. Lit., man of the fish, the allusion is to Yunus bin Matta of Nineveh (a town in the area of Mosul in northern Iraq), so called because he remained imprisoned in a fish’s stomach for some time.
    Yusuf Ali writes: “He was the Prophet raised to warn the Assyrian capital Nineveh .. When his first warning was unheeded by his people, he denounced Allah’s wrath on them. But they repented and Allah forgave them for the time being. Jonah meanwhile, departed in wrath, discouraged at the apparent failure of his mission. He should have remained in the most discouraging circumstances, and relied on the power of Allah; for Allah had power both over Nineveh and over the Messenger He had sent to Nineveh. He went away to the sea and took a ship, but apparently the sailors threw him out as a man of bad omen in a storm. He was swallowed by a big Fish (or Whale), but in the depth of darkness, he cried to Allah and confessed his weakness.. Allah Most High forgave him. He was cast ashore, he was given the shelter of a plant in his state of mental and physical lassitude. He was refreshed and strengthened, and the work of his mission prospered.”
    108. Whom was he angry with? One of the answers is, for the sake of Allah. He was angry with his people, for not having believed in Allah’s message. There are other explanations coming down from the past commentators, but none from the well-known experts such as Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud, or their students. For details see Surah Yunus, note 138-140 of this work.
    109. The translation is literal. But the literal meaning, although coming down from Hasan al-Busri, stands, according to almost all ancient commentators, rejected since it is unbecoming of Prophets to think in those terms (Alusi, Shawkani). Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others have explained the meaning as, ‘He (Yunus) thought he would not be taken to task (for having left his people).’ That is, he left the town and his people before he was specifically commanded by Allah to do so, (thus making an error in judgment) [Zamakhshari]. A few other lesser class of commentators have offered one or two other explanations, but Ibn Jarir prefers the above as correct as does Ibn Kathir and others. Qurtubi also mentions this as one of the possible meanings and most of them quote the following verse in evidence (65: 7):


    وَمَنْ قُدِرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقُهُ فَلْيُنْفِقْ مِمَّا آتَاهُ اللَّهُ [الطلاق : 7]


    “But he whose resources are restricted, may spend according to what Allah has bestowed on him.”
    It may be noted that in the above verse the word “qudira” has not been used in the sense of “power” but in sense of “restriction. The well-known hadith about the fearful man who instructed his corpse burnt and ashes spread into the sea, also uses the word “qadira” in more or less the same sense.
    110. The textual word is “zulumat” i.e., darkness in plural. What darknesses were they? The answer given, although uncertain is: darkness of the night, darkness of the seas, and darkness of the whale’s belly (Ibn Jarir). This is reported of several of the earliest commentators (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    111. Majid comments, “The forgiveness he craves is for the error of judgment, and not for any sin. The Prophets of God are the very first to own and acknowledge their mistakes, however unintentional or trivial they may have been.”
    A hadith (of Ahmad, Abu Da’ud, and Nas a’i [in Yawm wa Laylah]: Ibn Kathir) reports the Prophet as having said that no Muslim uttered these words:


    لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ


    in his prayer for anything, but Allah responded (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi).

    فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْغَمِّ ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نُنْجِي الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (88)

    21|88| So We responded to him and delivered him from distress. Thus do We deliver the believers.

    وَزَكَرِيَّا إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ رَبِّ لَا تَذَرْنِي فَرْدًا وَأَنْتَ خَيْرُ الْوَارِثِينَ (89)

    21|89| And (remember) Zakariyyah when he called unto his Lord, ‘My Lord! Leave me not solitary, though You are the best of inheritors.’112

    112. Yusuf Ali once again, “It is not that I crave a personal heir to myself: all things go back to Thee, and Thou art the best of inheritors: but I see no one around me sincere enough to carry out my work for Thee; wilt Thou give me one whom I can train?

    فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ يَحْيَىٰ وَأَصْلَحْنَا لَهُ زَوْجَهُ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَيَدْعُونَنَا رَغَبًا وَرَهَبًا ۖ وَكَانُوا لَنَا خَاشِعِينَ (90)

    21|90| So we responded to him and bestowed on him Yahya and cured his wife for him.113 They ever hastened to good (deeds) and supplicated Us in hope and fear. And they were humble to Us.

    113. That is, cured her of her sterility. Another reported explanation is that she was loose-tongued and Allah cured her (Qurtubi, Shawkani).

    وَالَّتِي أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهَا مِنْ رُوحِنَا وَجَعَلْنَاهَا وَابْنَهَا آيَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ (91)

    21|91| And (remember) her who guarded her chastity,114 so We blew into her of Our spirit115 and made her and her son a sign unto the worlds.

    114. Asad comments, “..the expression allati ahsanat farjaha occurring in the above verse .. (is) rejection of the calumny (referred to in 4: 156 and obliquely alluded to in 19: 27-28) that the birth of Jesus was the result of an ‘illicit union.’”
    115. The use of the phrase “of My spirit” draws the following from Asad, “This allegorical expression, used here with reference to Mary’s conception of Jesus, has been widely – and erroneously – interpreted as relating specifically to his birth. As a matter of fact, the Qur’an uses the same expression in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general – namely in 15: 29 and 38: 72, ‘when I have formed him .. and breathed into him of My spirit’; and in 32: 9, ‘and thereupon He forms [lit., ‘formed’] him fully and breathes [lit., breathed] into him of His spirit.’ In particular, the passage of which the last-quoted phrase is a part (i.e., 32: 7-9) make it abundantly and explicitly clear that God ‘breathes of His spirit’ into every human being. Commenting on the verse under consideration, Zamakhshari states that ‘the breathing of the spirit [of God] into a body signifies the endowing it with life’: an expression with which Razi concurs.”

    إِنَّ هَٰذِهِ أُمَّتُكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَأَنَا رَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُونِ (92)

    21|92| Surely, this religion of yours is one religion116 and I am your Lord, therefore, worship Me (alone).

    116. The translation of the textual Ummah as religion follows the understanding of Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid as in Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir and others.
    The word has been used in this sense at another place in the Qur’an. Allah said (43: 23),


    إِنَّا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا عَلَى أُمَّةٍ [الزخرف : 23]


    “Indeed, we found our forefathers on a religion..” (Shawkani).
    Majid comments, “I.e., this way of life which is prescribed for you is the same as has been preached and practiced by all the prophets and holy men and women, howsoever widely divided by time and space; Islam is only a continuation of that old religion.”
    An off chance exists that the Ummah alludes to community or nation. Yusuf Ali might then be quoted, “Our attention has been drawn to people of very different temperament and virtues, widely different in time, race, language, surroundings, history, and work to be performed, but forming the closest brotherhood as being men and women united in the highest service to Allah. They pre-figure the final and perfected Brotherhood of Islam.”

    وَتَقَطَّعُوا أَمْرَهُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ ۖ كُلٌّ إِلَيْنَا رَاجِعُونَ (93)

    21|93| But they split up their affair between themselves.117 (Nonetheless) to Us will they all return.

    117. The textual “amr” refers to religion. That is, they split away from the true religion of One God, or differed between themselves to give rise to sectarianism (Ibn Jarir).

    فَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِنَ الصَّالِحَاتِ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَا كُفْرَانَ لِسَعْيِهِ وَإِنَّا لَهُ كَاتِبُونَ (94)

    21|94| Then, whosoever works deeds of righteousness118 – and he is a believer – there is no denying (the rewards of) his endeavor, and We - indeed - are its recorders for him.

    118. Considering that the textual “min” is “tab`idiyyah” (encampssing a part), the literal translation should be, “then whosoever works, whatever of good deeds..” (based on Qurtubi).

    وَحَرَامٌ عَلَىٰ قَرْيَةٍ أَهْلَكْنَاهَا أَنَّهُمْ لَا يَرْجِعُونَ (95)

    21|95| And it is forbidden unto a town We destroyed: that they should return.119

    119. Ibn `Abbas used to read the textual word “haram” as “hirmun” interpreting it as “azmun” (meaning, “it is decided, decreed, or determined”) Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir.
    However, some others have understood the term as meaning, “wajibun” (i.e., it is binding). Imam Razi quotes a poetical piece to prove the point. The verse would then mean, “It is binding upon every town which We destroyed, that they should not return (back to this world).” This is how Yusuf Ali rendered it.
    Or, as Majid did it, “A ban (is laid) on every town We destroyed that they shall not return.” However, another possible allusion by “laa yerji’un” could be that, “they will not return from Association (with Allah) and denial of the truth” (Razi); i.e., “laa yerji`una min shirkihim” (Au.)
    Another understanding – as pointed out by Ibn `Aashur - is that the “laa” of “laa yerji’un” is “laamu tawkeed.” That is, it does not mean, they will “not return” but rather “they should return.” Another opinion – that noted by Qurtubi - is that the “laa” of “laa yerji’un” is “laamu sila” meaning “that” (in Arabic “an yerji`un”, meaning, ‘that they should return’). This is the first meaning given by Baghawi.

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا فُتِحَتْ يَأْجُوجُ وَمَأْجُوجُ وَهُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ حَدَبٍ يَنْسِلُونَ (96)

    21|96| Till, when Ya’juj and Ma’juj are unloosed and they race down every hill.120

    120. They are two tribes, or hordes that will be let loose, breaching the barrier against them, in the Final Hours of life on earth. (Attempts to identify them have failed: Au.). It is said that if mankind is ten parts, they will be nine parts of it (Razi), but this is not a hadith.
    A hadith of Muslim and others says,


    « إِنَّهَا لَنْ تَقُومَ حَتَّى تَرَوْنَ قَبْلَهَا عَشْرَ آيَاتٍ ». فَذَكَرَ الدُّخَانَ وَالدَّجَّالَ وَالدَّابَّةَ وَطُلُوعَ الشَّمْسِ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا وَنُزُولَ عِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- وَيَأْجُوجَ وَمَأْجُوجَ وَثَلاَثَةَ خُسُوفٍ خَسْفٌ بِالْمَشْرِقِ وَخَسْفٌ بِالْمَغْرِبِ وَخَسْفٌ بِجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِ وَآخِرُ ذَلِكَ نَارٌ تَخْرُجُ مِنَ الْيَمَنِ تَطْرُدُ النَّاسَ إِلَى مَحْشَرِهِمْ.


    “Once as we were discussing the Doomsday when the Prophet (saws) happened to come out of his house. He said: ‘Doomsday will not arrive until you have witnessed ten signs: the Smoke, Dajjal, the Animal, sunrise from the West, `Isa ibn Maryam, Ya’juj and Ma’juj, three caving in of the earth: one in the East, one in the West and one in the Arabian Peninsula, and the fire that will start from Aden and drive the people to the Field of Resurrection”
    The hadith does not specify the sequence. Among the ten, and in the light of other ahadith, we can be sure of the sequence of five: Dajjal, `Isa ibn Maryam, Ya’juj Ma’juj, the rising of the sun from the West and the fire of Aden. (Qurtubi has pointed out that since repentance will not be acceptable after the sunrise from West, it has to be the second last). As for the Smoke, the Animal and the three caving in of the earth, we do not know in what sequence they will happen (Au.).
    For further details see note 115 under Surah al-Kahf.
    Ibn Kathir presents a relevant hadith here. It says,


    عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ لَيُحَجَّنَّ الْبَيْتُ وَلَيُعْتَمَرَنَّ بَعْدَ خُرُوجِ يَأْجُوجَ وَمَأْجُوجَ


    “Surely, this house will be visited for Hajj and Umarah even after Ya’juj and Ma’juj” (Bukhari).
    See Surah al-Kahf, note 115 of this work for details about Ya’juj and Ma’juj.

    وَاقْتَرَبَ الْوَعْدُ الْحَقُّ فَإِذَا هِيَ شَاخِصَةٌ أَبْصَارُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا قَدْ كُنَّا فِي غَفْلَةٍ مِنْ هَٰذَا بَلْ كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ (97)

    21|97| Then the true promise would draw nigh;121 and behold, the eyes of the unbelievers, fixedly staring (in terror - saying), ‘O our woe! We were unmindful of this. Rather, we were wrongdoers.’

    121. That is, the new promise concerning the Day of Judgment (Razi).

    إِنَّكُمْ وَمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ حَصَبُ جَهَنَّمَ أَنْتُمْ لَهَا وَارِدُونَ (98)

    21|98| Surely, you and what you worship other than Allah are the firewood of Jahannum. You shall go down to it.

    لَوْ كَانَ هَٰؤُلَاءِ آلِهَةً مَا وَرَدُوهَا ۖ وَكُلٌّ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ (99)

    21|99| If those had been gods, they would not have arrived at it. And they shall all abide therein forever.122

    122. That is, the worshippers as well as the worshipped.

    لَهُمْ فِيهَا زَفِيرٌ وَهُمْ فِيهَا لَا يَسْمَعُونَ (100)

    21|100| In it there will be heavy sighing for them, and they will not hear (anything) therein.123

    123. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud has said that those that will abide in the Fire will be placed in chests of fire. Then those chests will be placed in other chests of fire and nailed with nails of fire. Thereafter they will hear nothing and will imagine that there is no one who is being punished as severely as they (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ سَبَقَتْ لَهُمْ مِنَّا الْحُسْنَىٰ أُولَٰئِكَ عَنْهَا مُبْعَدُونَ (101)

    21|101| As for those about whom the good (word) had passed from Us, they shall be kept away from it.124

    124. The verse has been interpreted in two ways. One, the allusion by, “But as for those about whom the best had passed from Us, they shall be kept away from it,’ is to those about whom Allah’s decree has been that they will never enter Hellfire. Hence, it is reported of `Ali that he said, “Uthman and his colleagues are of them,” and then recited this verse.
    Another interpretation, coming down from many of the Salaf, is that those are alluded who were worshipped without their consent such as, e.g., Jesus Christ, angels or others. Ibn Is-haq has reported that once Waleed b. al-Mughira, Nadr b. al-Harith and other Quraysh men were sitting before the Prophet. He presented Islam to them and then warned them in the words of the Qur’an, “Surely, you and what you worship other than Allah are fuels of Jahannum. You shall go down to it. If those had been gods, they would not have arrived at it. And they shall all abide therein forever.” Thereafter he left them. After he had left, `Abdullah b. Zib`ara entered the gathering. They complained to him of the Prophet’s harsh words. He said, “O.K. This means what we worship: the angels, what the Jews worshipped: `Uzayr, and what the Christians worship: `Isa, will be in fire. Right!” They were pleased with the idea and went back to the Prophet with their triumphant argument. He explained, “Yes, all those who consented to being worshipped will be in Fire with those who worshipped them” (Ibn Jarir). As for the lifeless, such as dust, stone, or wooden idols, they will be used as fuel to burn the unbelievers as additional pain for them.
    The report is in Abu Da’ud, (in his Nasikh), Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Marduwayh and Tabarani (Alusi). Subsequently however, Ibn Kathir adds, `Abdullah b. Zib`ara embraced Islam.

    لَا يَسْمَعُونَ حَسِيسَهَا ۖ وَهُمْ فِي مَا اشْتَهَتْ أَنْفُسُهُمْ خَالِدُونَ (102)

    21|102| They shall not hear its slightest sound, and they shall be, in what their souls desire, dwelling forever.

    لَا يَحْزُنُهُمُ الْفَزَعُ الْأَكْبَرُ وَتَتَلَقَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ هَٰذَا يَوْمُكُمُ الَّذِي كُنْتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ (103)

    21|103| The Great terror shall not grieve them, but rather, the angels will receive them (saying), ‘This is your Day that you were promised.’

    يَوْمَ نَطْوِي السَّمَاءَ كَطَيِّ السِّجِلِّ لِلْكُتُبِ ۚ كَمَا بَدَأْنَا أَوَّلَ خَلْقٍ نُعِيدُهُ ۚ وَعْدًا عَلَيْنَا ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ (104)

    21|104| The Day when We shall roll up the heaven in the manner of rolling up scrolls125 - as We began the first creation, We shall repeat it.126 A promise binding on Us. We were indeed, wont to do it.

    125. Some have conjectured that “Sijil” was the name of one of the scribes of the Prophet. But such reports are not reliable (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir quote another verse of similar nature. It says (39: 67),


    وَمَا قَدَرُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ وَالْأَرْضُ جَمِيعًا قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ [الزمر : 67]


    “And they did not estimate Allah, the way He should be estimated. The earth, the whole of it, will be in the grip of His left hand on the Day of Judgment, and the heavens rolled

    up around His right hand. Glorified and Exalted is He above that they Associate with Him.”
    And a hadith of Bukhari says,


    يقبض الله الأرض ويطوي السماوات بيمينه


    “Allah will hold the earths (in one Hand), and the heavens will be in His right Hand.” Ibn Abi Hatim used the word, “seven earths.”
    Thus it can be noticed here that the Qur’anic description of the end of the world radically differs from what the scientists conjecture. They once believed (and the great majority of people still hold the same opinion) that the world began with a “Big Bang” and will end up with a “Big Crunch.” They thought that since the expansion of the universe was the result of an original explosion, it should be slowing down now and, at one time should stop expanding. When that happens, the gravitational pull of the matter within the universe would make it contract inward, which in turn would end up in one mass of matter, extremely hot and at extreme high pressures but of size less than the diameter of an atom.
    However, latest findings indicate that the expansion of the universe from all sides is not slowing down, but in fact, it is accelerating. This has put the scientists into confusion about how the world is likely to end.
    Granted that the older theory is correct, and the world starts contracting backward, it is likely to end as a dot, ready to burst (another Big Bang), and not in the shape of a scroll - the kind that was used for writing purposes in ancient times. Thus, both ways, the scientific theories are at variance with the Qur’an (Au.).
    126. While one opinion confirms the apparent meaning, viz., the world will be destroyed and recreated following the same process as of the first creation (Shawkani); others have explained this verse as meaning, “We shall create the human beings as they were created the first time.” That is, barefoot, naked and uncircumcised. This is the explanation (as in Bukhari: Ibn Kathir) that has come down from the Prophet (Ibn Jarir).

    وَلَقَدْ كَتَبْنَا فِي الزَّبُورِ مِنْ بَعْدِ الذِّكْرِ أَنَّ الْأَرْضَ يَرِثُهَا عِبَادِيَ الصَّالِحُونَ (105)

    21|105| Surely, earlier We had written in the Zabur127 after the admonition, that the land128 shall be inherited by My righteous slaves.129

    127. Although the term Zabur is applicable to the Scriptures that were revealed after Musa, preferable is the meaning given out by Sa`id b. Jubayr, Mujahid and others that here the word is equivalent of Zubr, meaning the Umm al-Kitab, (that is, the Lawh al-Mahfuz) – Ibn Jarir.
    Asad adds: “Zabur (lit., ‘scripture’ or ‘book’) is a generic term denoting any ‘book of wisdom’: hence, any and all of the divine Scriptures revealed by God to the prophets.”
    128. Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Mujahid, Abu al-`Aliyyah and others have said that by “`ard” the allusion is to Paradise. That is, Paradise will be inherited by the righteous. Ibn Zayd quoted another verse in evidence (40: 74):


    وَقَالُوا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي صَدَقَنَا وَعْدَهُ وَأَوْرَثَنَا الْأَرْضَ نَتَبَوَّأُ مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ حَيْثُ نَشَاءُ فَنِعْمَ أَجْرُ الْعَامِلِينَ [الزمر : 74]


    “And they will say, ‘All praise be to Allah who made true His promise and gave us the earth in inheritance. We dwell in Paradise where we wish. So, how well the reward of those who strove!” (Ibn Jarir).
    But the prevalent meaning is that (if it is this earth that is meant, then: Au) Allah gave the Companions of the Prophet the lands of the unbelievers in inheritance (Shawkani).
    Mawdudi clears some doubts concerning the inheritance of the earth: “This verse has been seriously misinterpreted by some people .. At the heart of (it) is the belief that it guarantees inheritance of the earth (i.e., governance of and control over the resources of the earth) only to the righteous.. This generalization is then used to derive further conclusions. Some, for example, inferring that the enjoyment of political power is the criterion of righteousness; that those who enjoy it are righteous; while those who do not have it are unrighteous. Such people even go a step further. They look around at those nations which have been ‘inheritors of the earth’ either in the past or currently so, and they note that unbelievers, polytheists, transgressors and sinners have all at one time or another enjoyed ‘inheritance of the earth.’”
    Then to refute a few other misconceptions he writes, “As for the inheritance of the land in this world, Qur’anic law is set forth in Surah al-A`raf: ‘The earth is Allah’s. He bestows it on those of His servants He chooses.’ In accordance with God’s will this inheritance is conferred on unbelievers as well as believers, and both the sinners and the righteous share it.. As it is, this inheritance is not everlasting.. Being a trial, conducted in accordance with God’s law, it is served on different communities in turn.”
    Nonetheless, if it is earthly dominance that is meant, then, obviously, it goes with the condition that is attached to it. Asad writes, “The statement that ‘My righteous servants shall inherit the earth’, is obviously an echo of the promise, ‘You are bound to rise high if you are [truly] believers’ (3: 139) – the implication being that it is only through faith in God and righteous behavior on earth that man can reach the heights envisaged for him by his Creator’s grace.”
    129. In what sense was the Prophet (saws) a mercy unto the worlds comprising of the believers as well as the unbelievers? One answer is that unbelieving nations previous to him were destroyed to non-existence, while, because of the Prophet, their immediate destruction was withheld during his tenure. Accordingly, Muslim has a hadith which says that it was suggested to the Prophet that he pray against the pagans. He replied,

    إِنِّى لَمْ أُبْعَثْ لَعَّانًا وَإِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُ رَحْمَةً

    “I have not been sent as one who curses, but rather as a mercy.”
    And a hadith in Ahmad reports the Prophet as having said,


    أَيُّمَا رَجُلٍ مِنْ أُمَّتِي سَبَبْتُهُ سَبَّةً فِي غَضَبِي أَوْ لَعَنْتُهُ لَعْنَةً فَإِنَّمَا أَنَا مِنْ وَلَدِ آدَمَ أَغْضَبُ كَمَا يَغْضَبُونَ وَإِنَّمَا بَعَثَنِي رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ فَاجْعَلْهَا صَلَاةً عَلَيْهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ


    “Whosoever I abused in my anger, or cursed him, (may note that) after all I am a son of Adam, who gets angry as one of you does. Whereas, Allah has sent me as a mercy for the worlds. Therefore, make it (O Allah), a peace blessing for and on him on the Day of Judgment” (Razi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi and others).
    The report was declared trustworthy by Al-Arna’ut (Au.).
    Another answer is that human life on this planet can only be organized on the basis of moral laws. The teachings of all previous Prophets gave place of prominence to moral laws that helped the earlier nations to organize their lives on their basis. But, after ‘Isa, the system suffered negligence and barbaric ways began to be adopted in the East and the West. That remained the situation until the appearance of the Final Prophet. He restored the moral laws as the central principles; and since then the rest of humankind borrowed from their previous as well as this new source brought by Muhammad (though they would not acknowledge it) and were able to organize their lives better than the barbaric nations of the past could do (Au.).
    Asad has another aspect in mind. He believes it is the universality of the Prophet’s message, and the fact that it will last till the end of the world, affecting a large number of people, which is the mercy to mankind. He writes, “The universality of the Qur’anic revelation arises from three factors: firstly, its appeal to all mankind irrespective of descent, race or cultural environment; secondly, the fact that it appeals exclusively to man’s reason and, hence, does not postulate any dogma that could be accepted on the basis of blind faith alone; and finally, the fact that contrary to all other sacred scriptures known to history – the Quran has remained entirely unchanged in its wording ever since its revelation fourteen centuries ago and will, because it is so widely recorded, forever remain so in accordance with the divine promise ‘it is We who shall truly guard it [from all corruptions](cf. 15: 9..). It is by virtue of these three factors that the Qur’an represents the final stage of all divine revelations, and that the Prophet through whom it has been conveyed to mankind is stated to have been the last (in the Qur’anic terminology, the seal) of all prophets (cf. 33:40).¡

    إِنَّ فِي هَٰذَا لَبَلَاغًا لِقَوْمٍ عَابِدِينَ (106)

    21|106| Surely in this is a Message for a people devoted (to Allah).

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ (107)

    21|107| And, We have not sent you (O Muhammad) but as a mercy to the worlds.130

    130. That is, although I can proclaim that it is going to happen, but, it is such a closely guarded secret that even I cannot say when it will happen (Au.).

    قُلْ إِنَّمَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ (108)

    21|108| Say, ‘Indeed, it is revealed unto me that your God is one God. Will you then submit?’

    فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَقُلْ آذَنْتُكُمْ عَلَىٰ سَوَاءٍ ۖ وَإِنْ أَدْرِي أَقَرِيبٌ أَمْ بَعِيدٌ مَا تُوعَدُونَ (109)

    21|109| But if they should turn away, then say, ‘I have proclaimed to you all equally, and I know not whether, what you are being promised, is near or far.131

    131. Asad has a useful note, “Lit., ‘against (`ala) all that you attribute [to Him] by way of description’ or ‘of definition: implying that only God’s grace can save man from the blasphemous attempts – prompted by inherent weakness – to bring God ‘closer’ to his own, human understanding by means of humanly conceived ‘definitions’ of Him who is transcendent, infinite and unfathomable.”

    إِنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ الْجَهْرَ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تَكْتُمُونَ (110)

    21|110| Surely, He knows the word (said) aloud, and He (also) knows what you conceal.

    وَإِنْ أَدْرِي لَعَلَّهُ فِتْنَةٌ لَكُمْ وَمَتَاعٌ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ (111)

    21|111| And, for all I know, it could be a trial for you and an enjoyment for a time.’

    قَالَ رَبِّ احْكُمْ بِالْحَقِّ ۗ وَرَبُّنَا الرَّحْمَٰنُ الْمُسْتَعَانُ عَلَىٰ مَا تَصِفُونَ (112)

    21|112| He said, ‘My Lord! Judge in truth.’ And our Lord is the Merciful whose assistance is sought against what you utter.’132