Surat Al-Mu'minūn

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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


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


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


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


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


  • Surah No. 23

    Merits of the Surah

    Several commentators have quoted `Umar’s words in Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, and Hakim (who said it is Sahih: Alusi) that he said, “When revelation came down to the Prophet we could hear a humming sound like that of the bees. One day it started to come down, so we waited for a while. When he became his self, he faced the Qiblah, raised his hands and supplicated in words,

    اللَّهمَّ زِدْنَا وَلاَ تُنْقِصنْاَ وَأكْرِمْناَ وَلاَ تُهِنَّا وَأعطِنَا وَلاَ تَحْرِمنا وآثِرنا ولاَ تُؤْثِرْ عَلَيْنا وَأرْضِناَ وَارضَ عَنَّا.

    ‘O Allah, grant us increase and do not decrease, honor us and do not dishonor us, give us and do not hold back, give us preference and do not prefer over us, grant us satisfaction (and be satisfied with us)’ - then he said, ‘Today ten verses have been revealed to me, that whoever took good care of, entered Paradise;’ and recited the first ten verses of this chapter.’”
    2. Except for a few verses, the Surah is Makkan, and most probably belongs to the end of the period, if not the last ones to be revealed there.

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ (1)

    23|1| IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE KIND, THE COMPASSIONATE.Succeeded indeed the believers.3

    3. The textual “qad” (translated as “indeed”) also gives the sense of an event already taken place. Taking cue from this, Zamakhshari points out that the verse carried good news for the believers who were expecting such an assurance to come from Allah. He also points out that to say “aflaha” is to mean, “he entered into success” (“and will remain there”) – Razi.
    ‘Now,’ adds Shafi`, ‘since “falaah” signifies achieving total bliss, one which is not punctured by any inconvenience of any sort, physical, mental, moral or spiritual, it is unattainable in this world. Whether it is ordinary men, or Prophets and Messengers, they will all attain “falaah” in the next world alone.’
    While Tabari reports Qatadah, Mujahid and Maysarah as their own statement, Ibn Kathir traces a few reports in Tabarani and Bazzaar that attribute the following to the Prophet: “When Allah had created Paradise, one sliver brick upon a gold brick cemented with musk, He asked it to speak. It said, ‘Successful indeed are the believers.’” Ibn Kathir however remarks that all the reports of this nature happen to be weak.

    الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ (2)

    23|2| Those who are humble and tranquil4 in their Prayers.

    4. The textual root “khasha`a” literally means to humble, and lower oneself. Since that mental state in the Prayers leads to tranquility and immobility of the body, “khushuu`” has been widely defined as the motionless state when the head is bent forward, eyes look downward, and concentration is kept high (Au.).
    Mujahid, Zuhri and others defined “khushu`” in Prayers as motionlessness. `Ali said, “Do not pay attention to anything else during your Prayers.” Hasan and Ibrahim said that “khushu`” is a state of the heart, while that of the body is to be motionless. `Ataa’ in fact, as well as a few others, report that the Prophet used to look sideways and towards the front until this verse was revealed, after which he was never seen in Prayers but his gaze fixed downward (Ibn Jarir).
    One might be reminded however, that the above report about the Prophet is a truncated one (Ibn Kathir).
    In fact, Ibn Seereen said that they used to say, “Let not the sight travel beyond the prayer mat. If it habitually goes beyond that, then one might close the eyes” (Ibn Kathir from Ibn Abi Hatim).
    Nevertheless, Ibn `Abbas, Hasan and others have interpreted the term as that “fear of heart” which leads to the neglect of everything else besides the Prayers (Ibn Jarir).
    Qurtubi writes: Scholars have differed over khushu`, whether it is obligatory or an additional adornment. `Abdul Wahid b. Zayd, as in Nisapuri’s commentary, claimed that there is consensus over its obligatory nature.
    To substantiate the view that khushu’ is obligatory, Razi presents the following verses of the Qur’an: First

    أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ [محمد : 24]

    “Do they not ponder over the Qur’an?” (Muhammad: 24).
    Now pondering cannot be obtained without realizing the meaning of what is recited.

    وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي [طه : 14]

    “Establish the Prayers for My remembrance,” (Taa-haa: 14).
    Absent mindedness is the opposite of remembrance.

    حَتَّى تَعْلَمُوا مَا تَقُولُونَ [النساء : 43]

    “Until you know what you are saying,” (Al-Nisaa’: 43).
    Imam Ghazali has argued, adds Razi, that the Prayers have been referred to one’s private whispering with Allah. And a talk in which one’s mind is not present is no talk at all. Further, he writes, if we removed “khushu`” from Prayers, we remove the reason why it tops the list of rituals and is a mark of distinction between a believer and an unbeliever.
    In any case, “khushu`” has to show itself in a man’s manner of conducting the Prayers. Not to dress up properly, to play with one’s clothes during the Prayers, to think of something else other than the Prayer, to yawn etc., are all indicative of the lack of “khushu`”. It is reported of the Prophet that he saw a man fiddling with his beard during the Prayers. He remarked,

    لَوْ خَشَعَ قَلْبُ هَذَا خَشَعَتْ جَوَارِحُهُ.

    “Had this man’s heart been in ‘khushu`’, his limbs would have also been in ‘khushu`’” (Zamakhshari). But the report is weak (Alusi).
    The actual report comes as a statement of Sa`id b. al-Musayyib found in Tabarani as follows (Au.):

    وَرُوِّينَا عَنْ سَعِيدِ بْنِ الْمُسَيَّبِ : أَنَّهُ رَأَى رَجُلاً يَعْبَثُ بِالْحَصَى فَقَالَ : لَوْ خَشَعَ قَلْبُ هَذَا خَشَعَتْ جَوَارِحُهُ.

    However Alusi adds that we have another report in Bukhari, Abu Da’ud and Nasa’i, which says that the Prophet was asked by `A’isha about diversion of attention away during the Prayers. He answered, “That is a seizure that Satan snatches off from the Prayer of a believer.” We also have a report in Ibn Abi Shaybah, in Ahmad’s Kitab al-Zuhd, and in Hakim who termed it Sahih that Abu Hudhayfah said, “The first thing you will miss in your religion is ‘khushu`’ and the last thing the Prayers” (shortened).

    وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ (3)

    23|3| Those who shun the vain.5

    5. ‘Sin,’ ‘unreal things,’ and ‘falsehood’ are some of the meanings that have come down from Ibn `Abbas and Hasan as the explanation of the textual word “laghw” (Ibn Jarir). Commonly, it is applied to anything, whether a word of mouth, or an action, that is of no profit in this world or the hereafter (Au.), and includes indulgence in anything that is against “muru’ah” (a combination of qualities [in the humans] that includes nobility, magnanimity, courage and generosity) - Zamakhshari.

    وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَاةِ فَاعِلُونَ (4)

    23|4| Those who are active at almsgiving.6

    6. We could end with Thanwi’s observation: Since this Surah is Makkan, the verse maybe interpreted as alluding to common charity, which was declared obligatory in Makkah itself. But a specified amount (or percentage), over a certain amount of wealth, after a specified period, was instituted in Madinah alone. In fact, the Ayah (6: 141), “And pay off its due on the day of its harvest,” is also Makkan (Ibn Kathir).
    A second meaning of “zakah” has also been considered as possible by many commentators, viz., purification. That is, those who are active at purifying themselves.
    Mawdudi further elaborates: “(The) .. expression used here, li al-zakati fa`ilun (indicates that) the matter does not end with their giving away a part of their wealth, rather it embraces a whole range of acts including purification of one’s self, purification of one’s morality, purification of one’s wealth; in sum, the purification of virtually everything.”

    وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَافِظُونَ (5)

    23|5| And those who guard their private parts.

    إِلَّا عَلَىٰ أَزْوَاجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ (6)

    23|6| Except with their wives, or what their right hands own,7 for they are the unblameworthy.8

    7. That is, (legal) slave-girls (Ibn Jarir), who can only be taken in battle-fields, it being part of an institution discouraged by Islam, and now abolished by consensus of mankind (Au.).
    Sayyid writes: “Islam came at a time when slavery was an institution that was prevalent all over the world. Enslavement of the prisoners of war was common and universally recognized. It was not possible for Islam, which was engaged in a death struggle against powers that stood in its way, to abolish the system unilaterally. Had it attempted that, Muslim prisoners would have remained slaves in enemy lands while the enemy prisoners would have had to be set free. Therefore, (as an immediate remedy) Islam dried all the sources of slavery – except those taken in war – hoping that one day or the other the institution would be abolished by international consensus. But in those days prisoners of war came as slaves .. and Islam allowed sexual relationship between female slaves and their masters – and masters alone, to the exclusion of all – until the time they could win their freedom for which Islam had opened several ways.
    “Perhaps, one of the factors in allowing such relationship was a need of the slave girls themselves. They could, in its absence, find other ways of gratification of natural instincts creating a moral chaos as it happens in our times, when, slave taking is disallowed (but sexual exploitation is ignored). But Islam cannot approve of unclean practices. So, the situation remained, until freedom was gained. And a woman gained her freedom by several means; e.g., if she gave birth to a child through her master, and he died. Or he freed her either as an act of piety, or in redemption of a wrong he committed, or if she entered into an agreement by which she paid a sum and freed herself, or if the master struck her on the face and she gained her freedom thereby.”
    8. Most commentators have pointed out that while all the verses of this passage address both men and women, this particular verse addresses only men. That is because it is not allowable for women to have sex with their slaves. (The story of a free woman who had sex with her slave during the time of `Umar, is weak). Similarly, Alusi points out, a woman cannot allow her husband to have sex with one of her own slave-girls. If she so wishes, she might first sell the slave-girl to her husband after which alone she is lawful to him. It is reported that Ibn `Abbas allowed it, and hence the Shi`ah use the ruling, but it appears the attribution to Ibn `Abbas is incorrect.
    Some contemporary writers have used another verse to prove that a Muslim cannot have sex with a slave girl he owns. The verse of their reference is (4: 25):

    وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ مِنْكُمْ طَوْلًا أَنْ يَنْكِحَ الْمُحْصَنَاتِ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ فَمِنْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ مِنْ فَتَيَاتِكُمُ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ [النساء : 25]

    “And he of you who cannot afford to marry free believing women may marry such believing women as whom your right hands posses.”
    That is, if sex was allowed, there was no need to marry the slave girls. Mawdudi points out that the reference is to the slave-girls owned by others. This is stated further in the same verse as quoted above, but which, somehow, the modern writers fail to quote in full. And the missing part of the above verse (4: 25) is,

    فَانْكِحُوهُنَّ بِإِذْنِ أَهْلِهِنَّ وَآتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ [النساء : 25]

    “Marry them, then, with the leave of their guardians and give them their bridal due in fair manner.”
    (This part makes it clear that the slave-girls in question belong to other than him: Au.).
    Majid comments on legality of sex in Islam: “Regular exercise of sexual function on the part of men, like all other natural functions, within lawful bounds and in relation to women whose rights and dues they duly observe, is in Islam absolutely above reproach and wanton abstinence is viewed not as a sign of spirituality but as an aberration. In fact it is the primary purpose of marriage, biologically viewed. Compare and contrast with this the attitude of Christianity which holds that sexual intercourse, even in wedlock, is something of a handicap in the scheme of salvation, and implies that even the permitted sex behaviour is not altogether approved. See Mt. 22: 30, 1 Co. 7: 32-34. ‘Christianity,’ writes an English student of sociology, ‘being an advocate of eternal life, very logically preaches that sex is to be deplored, to be avoided, and, if possible, negatived. And the Puritan, who may be regarded as the extreme Christian, is notorious for his implacable loathing of sex.’”

    فَمَنِ ابْتَغَىٰ وَرَاءَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْعَادُونَ (7)

    23|7| But whoever sought beyond that, they indeed are the transgressors.9

    9. The allusion is to fornicators and adulterers (Ibn Jarir).
    Majid comments: “Thus every form of gratifying sexual passions (out of wedlock) is criminal, and the law of Islam categorically interdicts all forms of extramarital sexual relations, whether of normal or abnormal variety, that have been so rampant both in ancient and modern nations, often even under the cloak of respectability and approval.. In ancient Rome and Greece homosexualism was rampant .. Sodomy, pederasty, and tribalism were all practiced extensively and openly. Similarly in ancient Egypt, Persia, India and China .. The rise of civilization and great extension in the practice and development of sexual vice; .. and likewise the appearance of new forms .. and old vices elaborated and given new names .. These abnormalities have been restricted to no one country and class.’ (Forbate, Love, Marriage and Jealousy, p. 110).
    “Note the effects of this teaching on the general conduct of the Muslim society as observed by a much-traveled learned Christian in the eightees of the nineteenth century:- ‘The Muhammadans have no towers, gaming-houses, or brothels, nor have they any idea of legalizing prostitution; and as regards their general conversation it is infinitely more decent, as a rule, than that of most Europeans. I have seen young Muhammadan fellows at school and college, and their conduct and talk are far better than is the case among English young men; indeed the talk of the latter is often such as would incur punishment in Muhammadan land.’(Dr. G. W. Leitner, ex-Director of Public Instruction, Punjab).”
    As regards the absolute sexual chaos now prevalent in the West, it is beyond words and belief to describe. Reports that come in at regular pace, each confirming the credibility of the previous, stretch one’s credulity to the limits (Au.).
    Imam Shafe`i has used this verse to argue that masturbation is unlawful. A hadith is also cited in this connection in which the Prophet declared that Allah will not look at seven (men) on the Day of Judgment, nor purify them, nor let them into the company of the workers (of good deeds). One of the seven counted in this hadith is he who masturbates. However, this hadith is weak (Ibn Kathir). According to the majority, writes Alusi, it is prohibited. But Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal allowed it saying that the excessive amount of semen is similar to body waste which could be removed at need, like excess blood. (While to the Malikiyyah it is prohibited, some of the Hanafiyyah have allowed it to purge a strong urge. Fat-h and Tuhfah - Au.). Ibn al-Humam has said that ordinarily it is prohibited, but in situations when one is overcome by sexual desires, it is hoped that the affair will be overlooked.
    Another question, can the verse be used as evidence of, or against the practice of muta`ah? The answer is, neither can be used for such purposes. Mutu`ah has been disallowed by hadith in unequivocal terms. And, stray opinion of a Companion or two does not outweigh the opinion of the great majority of the Salaf and later scholars. For detailed discussions one might see Alusi at this point (Au.).

    وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِأَمَانَاتِهِمْ وَعَهْدِهِمْ رَاعُونَ (8)

    23|8| And those who are mindful of their trusts and covenant.10

    10. Note that while “amaanaat” is in plural, “`ahd” is in the singular (Ibn Jarir); perhaps because the allusion is to the primordial covenant that each of us has made with Allah to the effect that we shall believe in Him (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali remarks: “Trusts may be express or implied. Express trusts are those where property is entrusted or duties are assigned by someone to some other whom he trusts, to carry out either immediately or in specified contingencies. Implied trusts arise out of power, or position, or opportunity; e.g., a king holds his kingdom on trust from Allah for his subjects.. Covenants create obligations, and express implied trusts and covenants taken together cover the whole field of obligations.”
    Sayyid adds: “There are several covenants to which mankind is bound, individually and collectively. The first and foremost covenant binding upon every individual is to the effect that they will believe in God as one God and obey Him. This is implanted in man’s very nature. All other covenants follow this principal covenant. Every other promise that a man enters into, has this first covenant as the overarching principle. Similarly, a Muslim social group is bound by its various covenants, once again with the main covenant between itself and Allah as the guiding principle and which gives rise to several other covenants, bindings and responsibilities.
    “Further, fulfilling the covenants is a way of life of a believer who is always conscious of his various bindings. A successful, peaceful, collective life cannot be generated and organized but by those who are mindful of their promises and covenants.”

    وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَوَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ (9)

    23|9| And those who (diligently) guard their Prayers.11

    11. According to Masruq it means to do the Prayers on time. But Ibrahim thought it meant doing them regularly (Ibn Jarir). Ibn Mas`ud, Abu al-Duha, `Alqamah b. Qays, Sa`id b. Jubayr and `Ikrimah also explained the verse as doing the Prayers on time (Ibn Kathir).
    But Zamakhshari, taking note of the plural form here (“salawaat”) points out that in addition to the above, it could imply doing all the Prayers, obligatory and non-obligatory, such as, the five daily Prayers, Friday Prayers, `Eid Prayers, Rain Prayers, Eclipse Prayers, etc.

    أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْوَارِثُونَ (10)

    23|10| They indeed, they are the inheritors.12

    12. This verse is explained by a hadith that is reported by Abu Hurayrah. The Prophet said,

    مَا مِنْكُمْ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا لَهُ مَنْزِلَانِ مَنْزِلٌ فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَمَنْزِلٌ فِي النَّارِ فَإِذَا مَاتَ فَدَخَلَ النَّارَ وَرِثَ أَهْلُ الْجَنَّةِ مَنْزِلَهُ فَذَلِكَ قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى أُولَئِكَ هُمْ الْوَارِثُونَ

    “There is none among you but he has two abodes (reserved for him): an abode in Paradise and an abode in the Fire. When he dies and enters the Fire, the inhabitants of Paradise become heirs of his abode in Paradise. Hence Allah said, ‘They indeed are the inheritors.’” (The report is Sahih: Qurtubi).
    Abu Hurayrah further explained that those who entered Paradise will inherit their own abodes as well as the abodes of those in the Fire; to which Mujahid added that the believer builds his abode in Paradise and destroys the one in Hellfire, while the unbeliever destroys his abode in Paradise and builds his in Hellfire (Ibn Jarir).
    The report about two abodes is in Ibn Abi Hatim and the verse then can be seen in the same vein as another (19: 63),

    تِلْكَ الْجَنَّةُ الَّتِي نُورِثُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا مَنْ كَانَ تَقِيًّا [مريم : 63]

    “That is the Paradise that We shall let those of Our slaves inherit who were god-conscious.”
    And a hadith in Muslim says,

    يَجِىءُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ نَاسٌ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ بِذُنُوبٍ أَمْثَالِ الْجِبَالِ فَيَغْفِرُهَا اللَّهُ لَهُمْ وَيَضَعُهَا عَلَى الْيَهُودِ وَالنَّصَارَى

    “Some of the Muslims will come on the Day of Judgment burdened with sins the size of mountains. Allah will forgive them and place their load of sins on Jews and Christians.”
    The words of another report, also in Muslim are,

    إِذَا كَانَ يَوْمُ الْقِيَامَةِ دَفَعَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ إِلَى كُلِّ مُسْلِمٍ يَهُودِيًّا أَوْ نَصْرَانِيًّا فَيَقُولُ هَذَا فَكَاكُكَ مِنَ النَّارِ

    “Allah will, on the Day of Judgment, ransom a Muslim with a Christian or a Jew. It will be said, ‘This is your ransom from the Fire.’”
    `Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz made Abu Bardah swear thrice in the name of Allah that his father narrated it in these words from the Prophet himself (Ibn Kathir).

    الَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ الْفِرْدَوْسَ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ (11)

    23|11| Who will inherit Firdaws,13 abiding therein forever.

    13. Some of the Salaf have thought that Firdaws is a Roman word for a garden. However, it is a special kind of Garden within the Garden, i.e., Paradise. Qatadah reports that Haritha was killed in the battle of Badr. His mother said (to the Prophet),

    يَا نَبِيَّ اللَّهِ .. فَإِنْ كَانَ فِي الْجَنَّةِ صَبَرْتُ وَإِنْ كَانَ غَيْرَ ذَلِكَ اجْتَهَدْتُ عَلَيْهِ فِي الْبُكَاءِ قَالَ يَا أُمَّ حَارِثَةَ إِنَّهَا جِنَانٌ فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَإِنَّ ابْنَكِ أَصَابَ الْفِرْدَوْسَ الْأَعْلَى

    “If my son is of the people of Paradise, I shall observe patience. But if it is otherwise, I will weep my heart out.” He answered, “O Haritha’s mother. There are two Gardens in Paradise. Your son has obtained Al-Firdaws, the top most (portion) of Paradise” (Ibn Jarir).
    The report is in Tirmidhi who gave it the status of Hasan Sahih Gharib (Alusi).
    Firdaws in any case is the best part of Paradise. This is confirmed by another hadith. The Prophet said (Bukhari),

    فَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُ اللَّهَ فَاسْأَلُوهُ الْفِرْدَوْسَ فَإِنَّهُ أَوْسَطُ الْجَنَّةِ وَأَعْلَى الْجَنَّةِ أُرَاهُ فَوْقَهُ عَرْشُ الرَّحْمَنِ

    “When you ask, ask for Firdaws, for it is the best part of Paradise, the top-most part of Paradise and, as I was shown, above it is Al-Rahman’s `Arsh.
    It has also been said, Ibn Kathir adds, that a garden is not referred to as Firdaws without grapevine in it.
    Mawdudi lists words for Paradise in other languages: In Sanskrit Pardisha, in ancient Chaldian Pardisa, in ancient Persian Pairidaisa, in Hebrew Pardis, in Armenian Pardiz, in Syriac Fardisw, in Greek Paradaisus and in Latin Paradisus.

    وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ مِنْ سُلَالَةٍ مِنْ طِينٍ (12)

    23|12| Surely, We created man from the quintessence of clay.14

    14. “Extract” is the literal meaning of the textual “sulaalah.” However here it means, precisely, (as in Ibn Jarir), an extract that had residuals of all kinds of dust taken from the earth, hence quintessence (Au.).
    Hence the Prophet’s words, in various books including Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi who rated it Hasan Sahih,

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَلَقَ آدَمَ مِنْ قَبْضَةٍ قَبَضَهَا مِنْ جَمِيعِ الأَرْضِ فَجَاءَ بَنُو آدَمَ عَلَى قَدْرِ الأَرْضِ جَاءَ مِنْهُمُ الأَحْمَرُ وَالأَبْيَضُ وَالأَسْوَدُ وَبَيْنَ ذَلِكَ وَالسَّهْلُ وَالْحَزْنُ وَالْخَبِيثُ وَالطَّيِّب

    “Allah created man from a handful that He took from the whole of the earth. So his progeny came out in accordance with the earth: some red, others white, yet others black, some in between them; and some good, some evil” (Ibn Kathir).
    However, “sulaalah” could also mean, depending on usage, “semen drop” (Ibn Kathir).
    Asad adds: “The frequent Qur’anic reference to man’s being ‘created out of clay,’ .. point to the fact that his body is composed of various organic and inorganic substances existing on or in the earth, as well as to the continuous transmutation of those substances, through the intake of earth-grown food, into reproductive cells (Razi) – thus stressing man’s humble origin, and hence the debt of gratitude which he owes to God for having endowed him with a conscious soul.”

    ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاهُ نُطْفَةً فِي قَرَارٍ مَكِينٍ (13)

    23|13| Then We placed him as a sperm drop in a safe lodging.

    ثُمَّ خَلَقْنَا النُّطْفَةَ عَلَقَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْعَلَقَةَ مُضْغَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْمُضْغَةَ عِظَامًا فَكَسَوْنَا الْعِظَامَ لَحْمًا ثُمَّ أَنْشَأْنَاهُ خَلْقًا آخَرَ ۚ فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِينَ (14)

    23|14| Then We fashioned the sperm drop into a leech-like structure, then of that leech-like structure We made a chewed-like substance. Then out of the chewed-like substance We created the bones.15 Then We clothed the bones with flesh.16 Then We developed him into a new creation.17 So, blessed is Allah, the Best of creators.18

    15. Ibn `Abbas has said that the allusion by “bones” is to the backbone. A Sahih hadith says,

    كُلُّ ابْنِ آدَمَ يَأْكُلُهُ التُّرَابُ إِلاَّ عَجْبَ الذَّنَبِ مِنْهُ خُلِقَ وَفِيهِ يُرَكَّبُ

    “Every bone of Adam’s son is destroyed except for the tailbone. He is created from it and will be resurrected from it” (Ibn Kathir).
    The hadith is another proof of the Prophet’s authenticity. Today’s embryology confirms that the first bone to develop in the fetus is the tailbone. As for resurrection from the tail bone, other reports from the Prophet specify it as an atom of that bone from which resurrection will take place (Au.).
    16. This single verse is enough to prove the authenticity of this revelation. At a time when the general belief was that the mail deposited a tiny baby in the womb, which grew into a child – a belief that remained current until some 200 years ago - there is no way the Prophet could have obtained the information stated herein. It was left to modern science, armed with most modern microscopes and other research equipments, to confirm, after a thousand and two hundred years, that the information is accurate. For details see note 9 of Surah al-Hajj (Au.).
    17. The Salaf such as Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Sha`bi and others are in agreement that the words, “then We developed it into a new creation” allude to the blowing of the spirit. However, a second opinion of more or less the same authorities as above is that the allusion is to subsequent development: infancy, childhood, teenage, youth, etc. (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    18. Many commentators report that `Abdullah b. Sa`id b. ibn Abi Sarh was one of those whom the Prophet used for writing down the revelation as it came. When Allah revealed,

    ثُمَّ أَنشَأْنَاهُ خَلْقًا آخَرَ

    Ibn Abi Sarh interjected at this point

    فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِينَ

    The Prophet said, “Yes, that is how it is revealed.” That led Ibn Abi Sarh to believe that if Muhammad received revelation, he too could receive. He apostatized and fled to Makkah. Many scholars say he entered into Islam again at the fall of Makkah, but a few say he died an unbeliever. Most commentators however, discount the story since this chapter is Makkan while revelations were written down only in Madinah. The story therefore, stands discredited.
    Asad comments on the term ‘best of creators’: “As Tabari points out, the Arabs apply the designation ‘creator’ to every artisan (saani`) – a usage also current in European languages with reference to the ‘creation’ of works of art and imagination.”

    ثُمَّ إِنَّكُمْ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ لَمَيِّتُونَ (15)

    23|15| Then, after that, at length you will die.

    ثُمَّ إِنَّكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ تُبْعَثُونَ (16)

    23|16| Finally, on the Day of Judgment you will be raised again.

    وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا فَوْقَكُمْ سَبْعَ طَرَائِقَ وَمَا كُنَّا عَنِ الْخَلْقِ غَافِلِينَ (17)

    23|17| And We have indeed created above you seven paths.19 And We were not heedless of creation.20

    19. Ibn Kathir points out that often in the Qur’an when Allah mentions the creation of man, He also mentions the creation of the heavens and the earth.
    As for the word “taraa’iq”, ‘paths’ is only one of the several possible meanings. Ibn Zayd interpreted it as “heavens.” That is, the seven heavens (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). The linguist Abu `Ubaydah has said: “taaraqta as-shayy” means you placed some of a thing over others. The heavens have been called “tara’iq” since they are one upon another in layers. But the possibility exists that it is ‘paths’ that is meant (Qurtubi). Zamakhshari is divided between “layers” and “paths.”
    An additional implication is that by “taraa’iq” the allusion is to the paths of the cosmological objects (Alusi).
    20. That is, He is aware of what goes in or what goes out. The seven layers do not prevent Him from knowing what goes on anywhere within or without them (based on Ibn Kathir).

    وَأَنْزَلْنَا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً بِقَدَرٍ فَأَسْكَنَّاهُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ وَإِنَّا عَلَىٰ ذَهَابٍ بِهِ لَقَادِرُونَ (18)

    23|18| And We sent down out of heaven water21 (according) to a measure. Then We lodged it in the earth, while We are easily22 capable of taking it away.23

    21. Although he was in the 13th Christian century, Imam Razi knew that water from the seas rises above into the atmosphere (leaving behind the impurities), where, with time, it condenses, and then as it gets weightier is brought down as rain.
    From across the continent (Spain) Qurtubi had the same statements to make.
    22. The “laam” of “la-qadirun” is laam al-ta’keed. Here it has been expressed with “easily” – in effort to express, in an indirect manner, Allah’s Power (Au.).
    23. Allah is capable of taking away the rain itself to other areas, or the rain water to flow away entirely instead of staying on the surface of the earth, or go down deep for man to be able to reach (Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali elaborates on the rain cycle: “Normally the rain comes well distributed; it soaks into the soil; the moisture is retained for a long time in all high grounds; it soaks and penetrates through many layers of soil and forms the architecture of physical geography; the retentive powers of higher soil enables rivers to flow perennially even where, as in India, the rainfall is seasonal and confined to a few months in the year. Another form in which water comes down from the sky according to due measure is in snow and hail: these also have their place in the economy of air and soil. Were it not for snow and glaciers in the higher mountain regions, some of the rivers would fail in their abundant flow. As wonderful as the supply of water and moisture is its drainage. It returns to the sea and air in all sorts of ways, and the formation of mist and clouds repeats the cycle. Were it not for the drainage and the clearance of the waters, we should have floods and water logging, as happens when the normal process of nature is temporarily obstructed. The same thing happens when the rain comes down and in other than due measure. These abnormal conditions also have their value. But how grateful should man be for Allah’s gifts in the ceaseless process of nature on such an enormous scale!”
    In our times (2010) so much rain fell within a day or two in Pakistan that an area equal to Britain was under water for several weeks. It was followed by rains in Australia where an area equal to France and Germany combined together was under water for a couple of weeks.

    فَأَنْشَأْنَا لَكُمْ بِهِ جَنَّاتٍ مِنْ نَخِيلٍ وَأَعْنَابٍ لَكُمْ فِيهَا فَوَاكِهُ كَثِيرَةٌ وَمِنْهَا تَأْكُلُونَ (19)

    23|19| Then We brought forth for you therewith gardens of date-palm and vines24 wherein are many fruits for you, of which you eat.

    24. The two trees, of dates and grapes, have been chosen for mention because the Arabs of that time were familiar with them, and accorded them preference over most other fruits (Ibn Jarir).

    وَشَجَرَةً تَخْرُجُ مِنْ طُورِ سَيْنَاءَ تَنْبُتُ بِالدُّهْنِ وَصِبْغٍ لِلْآكِلِينَ (20)

    23|20| And (We brought out) a tree25 which springs forth from Mount Sainaa’26; it produces oil and seasoning27 for those who eat.28

    25. The allusion is to the olive tree (Ibn Jarir).
    26. “And (We brought out) a tree which springs forth from Mount Sainaa’”: This is another way of saying, “issues forth from a mountain which gives forth trees.” Further, (Sinai of English) is pronounced both as Sainaa’ as well as Seenaa’ in Arabic (as also “Seeneen”: Zamakhshari). And, some, like Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid, have thought that at this point the allusion by the word “Saina’” is to the blessed nature of the Mount. There have been other interpretations too (Ibn Jarir). According to Ibn Zayd, Tur is the name of a chain of mountains that extends from Egypt to Ayla (`Aqaba) – Qurtubi.
    It is also thought that the textual “toor” stands for a mountain that is covered by trees. If it is entirely rocky supporting no plant life then it is known as “jabal” (Ibn Kathir).
    27. The textual word “sibgh” lends several connotations. When it is said, “sabagha-at-ta`aama” it would mean he rendered the food savory; or, he colored it; or, offered something as seasoning for the food presented, e.g., sauce or vinegar. Tropically, as E.W. Lane has pointed, it meant to the Arabs ‘altering of a thing.’ Thus, with a single word, the Qur’an alluded to various uses of the olive (Au.).
    28. In a report preserved by Ahmad, the Prophet has recommended the consumption of olive oil and its use for cooking purposes for, as he said, “It is from a blessed tree” (Ibn Kathir).
    Medically it is quite well established that olive oil produces less cholesterol in the body and hence causes less heart attacks. People of the geographical area where it is consumed report less occurrence of cancer also. A thorough research is still due (Au.).
    Mawdudi writes: “(Olive oil is) the most popular product in all the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The olive tree lasts for one and a half to two thousand years. (Older commentators say “several thousand years”: au.). Olive trees live for so long that on the basis of the height and breadth of some in Palestine it is estimated that they date back to the days of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him).
    The olive tree is mentioned here in association with Mount Sinai. This is presumably because the original habitat of the olive tree is Mount Sinai which in turn is the most prominent place in that region.”
    It might also be noted here that that the present day Israeli government, mercilessly uproots olive trees in occupied Palestine, and prevents the Palestinians – through a variety of governmental decrees - from planting new ones, right at a time the West hypocritically sheds tears at the uprooting of any tree anywhere in the world. Such is their hatred of Islam and Muslims. At the moment (2011), they are almost going nuts from the fear of Islam and Muslims (Au.).

    وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ فِي الْأَنْعَامِ لَعِبْرَةً ۖ نُسْقِيكُمْ مِمَّا فِي بُطُونِهَا وَلَكُمْ فِيهَا مَنَافِعُ كَثِيرَةٌ وَمِنْهَا تَأْكُلُونَ (21)

    23|21| And, surely there is for you an instructive example in the cattle. We give you as drink from that which is in their bellies; there are in them numerous (other) benefits for you, and of them you eat.29

    29. Mechanized life cuts some people off the natural world of realities. Yusuf Ali reminds them about Allah’s favors through the cattle: “From cattle we get milk and meat, also from their skins we make leather for shoes, boots, straps, saddlery, and numerous other uses; from camel’s hair and sheep’s wool we weave cloth, hangings, carpets, etc.; from the horns of cattle we make cups and articles of ornament or use; and camels, horses, donkeys, mule etc., are used for riding, carrying loads, and drawing vehicles.”

    وَعَلَيْهَا وَعَلَى الْفُلْكِ تُحْمَلُونَ (22)

    23|22| And on them and on the ships, you are borne.

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ فَقَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۖ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ (23)

    23|23| And We did send Nuh to his people.30 He said, ‘O my people! Worship Allah. You have no god other than He. Will you not then fear?’

    30. Yusuf Ali shows the connection between the earlier passage and this new one, “The material gifts having been mentioned, which we receive from a Wise and Kindly Provider, our attention is now directed to Allah’s Providence in spiritual matters. He sent Teachers to instruct and guide us, and though they were mocked, rejected, and accused of falsehood and selfishness, they were protected by Allah, and Allah’s Truth at length prevailed.”

    فَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ قَوْمِهِ مَا هَٰذَا إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ يُرِيدُ أَنْ يَتَفَضَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَأَنْزَلَ مَلَائِكَةً مَا سَمِعْنَا بِهَٰذَا فِي آبَائِنَا الْأَوَّلِينَ (24)

    23|24| Said the chiefs of the unbelievers of his people, ‘This is no more than a man like yourselves who seeks to gain superiority over you.31 Had Allah willed, He could have surely sent down angels.32 We have never heard of this33 among our ancestors of old.

    31. (While this was said partly in earnest), partly it was to provoke the people to anger (Alusi).
    Mawdudi comments: “The enemies of the truth have always been wont to charge that the activity of reformers is actuated by their hunger for power. This very charge was leveled by Pharaoh against Moses and Aaron and was phrased in the form of the following question ‘Have you come to turn us away from the way of our forefathers that the two of you might become supreme in the land?’ (Yunus 10: 78). The Prophet Jesus (peace be on him) was also subjected to a similar accusation: that he was striving to become the king of the Jews..
    “It is inconceivable for those who ceaselessly hanker after worldly benefits, after pomp and glory, to appreciate that anyone can strive simply for the good of mankind, and that all such striving be absolutely sincere and selfless. Such people are wont to come up, every now and then, with catchy slogans and lay false claims to be working for the common welfare of all. They do so even though the true purpose of their effort is nothing else but to achieve power and influence. Furthermore, they regard craftiness and deception as absolutely natural. No wonder then that they tend to believe that no one can call for reform sincerely and altruistically. If someone does call for reform, he must inevitably be prompted, like them, by some ulterior motive. For example, as a subterfuge for the realization of his own selfish designs.
    “It is also interesting that accusation of hungering after power are always hurled at reformers by those who have been able to entrench themselves in power or by their sycophantic cronies. They seem to believe that the power they enjoy is their birth-right. Hence, if they strive to wrest power from others and to perpetuate their hold on it, all is viewed as perfectly legitimate. But it becomes altogether objectionable if anyone else, someone who has no birth-right to enjoy power, shows the least sign of hungering for it.”
    32. Zamakhshari remarks: “Consider the wonders of error and ignorance. They were prepared to accept stones as gods, but were not prepared to grant messengership to a human!”
    33. “This” of the text refers to the call that Nuh was making, viz., worship Allah alone (Ibn Jarir). And, either no Messenger had appeared among them for a long time, or, alternatively, the unbelievers were so engrossed in the life of the world that they never had time to learn about messengers and messages of the past (Kashshaf).

    إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا رَجُلٌ بِهِ جِنَّةٌ فَتَرَبَّصُوا بِهِ حَتَّىٰ حِينٍ (25)

    23|25| Surely, he is naught but a man bedeviled; so wait on him for a while.’34

    34. What they meant is, wait for a while, maybe he will be cured of his madness, but if he is not, then we shall take him out through assasination (Kashshaf).

    قَالَ رَبِّ انْصُرْنِي بِمَا كَذَّبُونِ (26)

    23|26| He said, ‘My Lord! Help me for that they give me the lie.’

    فَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْهِ أَنِ اصْنَعِ الْفُلْكَ بِأَعْيُنِنَا وَوَحْيِنَا فَإِذَا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا وَفَارَ التَّنُّورُ ۙ فَاسْلُكْ فِيهَا مِنْ كُلٍّ زَوْجَيْنِ اثْنَيْنِ وَأَهْلَكَ إِلَّا مَنْ سَبَقَ عَلَيْهِ الْقَوْلُ مِنْهُمْ ۖ وَلَا تُخَاطِبْنِي فِي الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا ۖ إِنَّهُمْ مُغْرَقُونَ (27)

    23|27| So We revealed to him (to the effect), ‘Construct the boat under Our sight and Our instruction.35 Then, when Our command comes, and the oven gushes forth,36 take on board37 of every pair two,38 as well as your family, except for him of them against whom the Word has preceded; and address Me not concerning the wrongdoers; they are to be drowned.

    35. The rendering of “wah-yinaa” as “instruction” is influenced by Tabari’s understanding (Au.), and the implication is, Allah Himself supervised the work in order that defects may not remain in it (Zamakhshari). For, soon there was going to be no land to allow for any repair or improvement (Au.).
    36. In common language, “tannur” is an oven. It is a hole in the ground, about a meter deep, lined up with baked clay. Coal or firewood is placed at the bottom. The rising heat cooks the bread lined up on the walls. It was in the past perhaps the fastest and the most economic way of making bread in large quantities. The method is still in use in eastern countries and the bread thus made is considered a delicacy. Of the word, however, as used here, several interpretations have been reported from the Salaf. But, as Imam Razi points out, there is no need to look for allegorical meanings if the apparent meaning, viz., ‘oven,’ is possible. So, Nuh was told that he was to wait for water to gush forth from a place most unlikely to yield water: an oven. When that happened, he was to board the boat (Au.).
    For other explanations refer to Huud, verse 40.
    37. Since “aslaka” gives the sense of insertion, one can venture to guess that the ship had a door at the side through which the unwilling animals had to be virtually pushed through, or, inserted (Au.).
    38. “Zawjayn” refers to male and female of every species, whereas “two” is “zaa’idah”, added for emphasis (Zamakhshari, Razi). Yusuf Ali wrote at an earlier occurrence (10: 40), “Zaujain: the dual number refers to the individuals in each pair of opposite sexes. Some of the authoritative commentators (e.g., Imam Razi) construe in this sense, though others construe it to mean two pairs of each species.”

    فَإِذَا اسْتَوَيْتَ أَنْتَ وَمَنْ مَعَكَ عَلَى الْفُلْكِ فَقُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي نَجَّانَا مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ (28)

    23|28| Then, when you are settled - you and those with you on the boat - say, ‘All praise for Allah who delivered us from a people given to wrongdoing.’

    وَقُلْ رَبِّ أَنْزِلْنِي مُنْزَلًا مُبَارَكًا وَأَنْتَ خَيْرُ الْمُنْزِلِينَ (29)

    23|29| And say, ‘My Lord! Enable me to land a blessed landing, and indeed You are the best of those who enable to land.’

    إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ وَإِنْ كُنَّا لَمُبْتَلِينَ (30)

    23|30| Verily, in that are signs; and indeed We were determined to test.39

    39. Yusuf Ali again, “Noah’s contemporaries had all sorts of chances and warning. But they refused to believe and perished. But Allah’s Truth survived, and it went to the next and succeeding generations. Will not mankind understand?”

    ثُمَّ أَنْشَأْنَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ قَرْنًا آخَرِينَ (31)

    23|31| Then We raised after them another generation.

    فَأَرْسَلْنَا فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِنْهُمْ أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۖ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ (32)

    23|32| And We sent among them a Messenger from themselves (commanding), ‘Worship Allah. You have no god other than He. Will you not then observe precaution?’

    وَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ مِنْ قَوْمِهِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَكَذَّبُوا بِلِقَاءِ الْآخِرَةِ وَأَتْرَفْنَاهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا مَا هَٰذَا إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ يَأْكُلُ مِمَّا تَأْكُلُونَ مِنْهُ وَيَشْرَبُ مِمَّا تَشْرَبُونَ (33)

    23|33| But said those of the chiefs who had disbelieved and denied the Meeting of the Hereafter, and whom We had luxuriated in the life of the world,40 ‘This is naught but a man like yourselves (who) eats of what you eat, and drinks of what drink.

    40. Mawdudi analyses the minds and the situation: “This characterization of the opponents is significant. The ringleaders opposing the Prophet (peace be on him) were those who held the leadership of their people. The error into which all of them had fallen was their denial of Life after Death. Hence, they had no notion of being accountable or answerable to God. This, in turn, was because of their excessive infatuation with worldly life and their refusal to believe in any value above material well-being. The fact that at that time they enjoyed a considerable degree of prosperity totally swamped them in this erroneous belief. They were so deeply engrossed in worldliness that they considered themselves to be right merely because they thrived materially. They were, thus, in no mood to accept their beliefs, morality and way of life, which they thought to be the main cause of their success in this world, could be mistaken. Human history has repeatedly provided evidence of the fact that the opponents of the truth have always held these three features common. Little wonder, then, that the same scenario obtained in Makkah at the time when the Prophet (peace be on him) embarked on his reform movement.”
    Never before were the evils of luxury as evident as in today’s contemporary world: pornography, nudism, homosexuality, lesbianism, pedophilia, incest, group sex, exchange of wives, sex with animals, drug and alcohol consumption, gambling, lottery, obscene music, individualism, break up of the families, et al .. humans have crossed all bounds of decency because of a single factor: affluence. As every lamp flares up before going off, the decline after which there will be no recovery, as say the experts, specialists and thinkers, has begun. A huge struggle is about to begin for the remaining resources of the world, especially in the Middle-east. Western powers are prowling around like hungry wolves (Au.).

    وَلَئِنْ أَطَعْتُمْ بَشَرًا مِثْلَكُمْ إِنَّكُمْ إِذًا لَخَاسِرُونَ (34)

    23|34| If you obeyed a man like yourselves, in that case, surely you will be the losers.41

    41. “I.e., you will be following a very foolish course indeed if you were to obey a mere mortal” (Majid).
    Yusuf Ali has a slightly different comment, “The type of narrow Syberite, who enjoys the good things of this life, denies a future life, and is jealous of any one who presumes to widen his horizon, is here described in a few masterly strokes. He is bored by any mention of the serious things beyond his ken. What good is it, he says, to talk about the future? Enjoy the present. The gain is all in the present: the loss is all in the future.”

    أَيَعِدُكُمْ أَنَّكُمْ إِذَا مِتُّمْ وَكُنْتُمْ تُرَابًا وَعِظَامًا أَنَّكُمْ مُخْرَجُونَ (35)

    23|35| Does he promise you that when you are dead, and have become dust and bones,42 that you will be brought forth (again)?

    42. Their allusion was to the bones that are left after the flesh and muscle turn dust (Tabari).

    هَيْهَاتَ هَيْهَاتَ لِمَا تُوعَدُونَ (36)

    23|36| Far-fetched, far-fetched indeed is what you are being promised.

    إِنْ هِيَ إِلَّا حَيَاتُنَا الدُّنْيَا نَمُوتُ وَنَحْيَا وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَبْعُوثِينَ (37)

    23|37| It is none other but this our present life: (in which) we die and live,43 and we shall never be raised up (again).

    43. That is, one generation dies while another takes birth, one goes, another comes, just like crops, one is harvested while another begins to appear in the field (Tabari).
    In Yusuf Ali’s words: “They seem to say, ‘There is no future life: that we shall die is certain; that we have this life is certain: some die, some are born, some live; and so the cycle continues; but how can dead men be raised to life?’”

    إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا رَجُلٌ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا وَمَا نَحْنُ لَهُ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ (38)

    23|38| He is no more but a man who has fastened a lie on Allah; and surely, we are not going to believe in him.’

    قَالَ رَبِّ انْصُرْنِي بِمَا كَذَّبُونِ (39)

    23|39| He said, ‘My Lord! Help me for that they cry me lies.’

    قَالَ عَمَّا قَلِيلٍ لَيُصْبِحُنَّ نَادِمِينَ (40)

    23|40| He (Allah) said, ‘In but a little while they are sure to turn regretful.’

    فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ الصَّيْحَةُ بِالْحَقِّ فَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ غُثَاءً ۚ فَبُعْدًا لِلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ (41)

    23|41| So a Cry seized them justly and We reduced them to scum. So, away with a wrongdoing people.

    ثُمَّ أَنْشَأْنَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ قُرُونًا آخَرِينَ (42)

    23|42| Thereafter We brought forth after them other generations.44

    44. “Qarn” is literally an epoch or a phase in the history of a people (Au.).

    مَا تَسْبِقُ مِنْ أُمَّةٍ أَجَلَهَا وَمَا يَسْتَأْخِرُونَ (43)

    23|43| No nation can hasten its term, nor delay (it).

    ثُمَّ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا تَتْرَىٰ ۖ كُلَّ مَا جَاءَ أُمَّةً رَسُولُهَا كَذَّبُوهُ ۚ فَأَتْبَعْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ بَعْضًا وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَحَادِيثَ ۚ فَبُعْدًا لِقَوْمٍ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ (44)

    23|44| Thereafter We sent Our Messengers in succession. Every time its Messenger came to a people, they cried him lies. So, we made some of them follow others,45 and made them as but tales.46 So away with a people who would not believe.47

    45. That is, We made some of them succeed others in destruction (Tabari).
    46. Another possible connotation is that they became subjects of talk (Tabari) or topics that evoked wonder (Razi).
    Yusuf Ali comments: “Their habitations and their organizations have been wiped out. What remains is merely a vague story of their existence, a tale that is told. Where their name remains, which is not always the case, it is only a by-word, suggesting all that is unstable and ephemeral,- ‘to point a moral and adorn a tale.’”
    47. It was our Lord’s kindness that He did away with the unbelieving, corrupt, and incorrigible nations of the past. Even without there being any trace of that scum today, life is almost unlivable because of the overwhelming filth of unbelief and moral depravity prevalent among those who followed them. One can imagine what today’s life would be like if Allah had allowed every new generation inherit collective perversions of the past (Au.).

    ثُمَّ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَىٰ وَأَخَاهُ هَارُونَ بِآيَاتِنَا وَسُلْطَانٍ مُبِينٍ (45)

    23|45| Then We sent Musa and his brother Harun with Our signs and a manifest Authority.48

    48. “Sultan” of the text is difficult to render in English. Primarily it denotes might, force, power, authority, etc. No interpretation of the word is reported of the Salaf at this point. The one nearest to being satisfactory has been advanced by Zamakhshari who said that the allusion is perhaps to Musa’s staff, which was the greatest and most manifest of signs. It turned into a snake on command and swallowed all the snakes of the charmers. It was the same staff that was used to strike a rock that gave out water in the form of gushing springs. It was the same staff that Musa had used to part the sea.

    إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا وَكَانُوا قَوْمًا عَالِينَ (46)

    23|46| To Fir`awn and his chiefs. But they waxed proud, in fact, they were a people high-and-mighty.

    فَقَالُوا أَنُؤْمِنُ لِبَشَرَيْنِ مِثْلِنَا وَقَوْمُهُمَا لَنَا عَابِدُونَ (47)

    23|47| So they said, ‘Should we believe in two men like ourselves, while their people are subject to us?’49

    49. “I.e., how can we acknowledge their spiritual greatness when they belong to a subject nation of which we are the rulers” (Majid).

    فَكَذَّبُوهُمَا فَكَانُوا مِنَ الْمُهْلَكِينَ (48)

    23|48| Thus they rejected the two, and thus were of those destroyed.

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ (49)

    23|49| Indeed, We gave Musa the Book haply that they would be guided.50

    50. The obvious reference is to the Israelites, who received their two most important Messengers in half belief, half rejection. And hence too, the mention of `Isa ibn Maryam later in the passage (Au.).
    In Yusuf Ali’s words: “Moses and Aaron had a twofold mission: (1) to Pharaoh and his Court, which failed because of Egyptian arrogance; (2) to the Israelites, for whom the Law was received on Mount Sinai, but they repeatedly rebelled against Allah. In both cases there were miracles (‘clear signs’) and other proofs which showed that they came at Allah’s command, and were inspired by His Authority.”

    وَجَعَلْنَا ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَأُمَّهُ آيَةً وَآوَيْنَاهُمَا إِلَىٰ رَبْوَةٍ ذَاتِ قَرَارٍ وَمَعِينٍ (50)

    23|50| And We made Maryam’s son and his mother a sign51 and We sheltered the two on high ground:52 a place of rest and furnished with a flowing spring.53

    51. Maryam was born to a barren mother and a father far past child producing age, while Jesus Christ was created entirely without a father. Thus both were great signs of Allah (Au.).
    52. Some of the classical interpreters, such as Abu Hurayrah, have said that the textual “rabwah” alludes to the whole of Palestine. Egypt, Dimashq, are other explanations (Tabari). But Ibn `Abbas thought it meant “a high ground” (Ibn Kathir).
    A few modern commentators are inclined to believe that the allusion is to Egypt to which Maryam fled with her child to escape from Herod, “an oppressive and despotic tetrarch of Palestine.” Majid quotes, “Egypt was the only place of refuge easily reached from Bethlehem. It was outside the dominion of Herod, under Roman government, and contained a population of at least a million Jews, who were more wealthy and enlightened than those of Palestine.”
    Alusi and Thanwi are also inclined to this opinion. But Yusuf Ali thinks we do not need to look far. It has already been mentioned (in 19: 22-24):

    فَحَمَلَتْهُ فَانْتَبَذَتْ بِهِ مَكَانًا قَصِيًّا (22) فَأَجَاءَهَا الْمَخَاضُ إِلَى جِذْعِ النَّخْلَةِ قَالَتْ يَا لَيْتَنِي مِتُّ قَبْلَ هَذَا وَكُنْتُ نَسْيًا مَنْسِيًّا (23) فَنَادَاهَا مِنْ تَحْتِهَا أَلَّا تَحْزَنِي قَدْ جَعَلَ رَبُّكِ تَحْتَكِ سَرِيًّا [مريم : 22 – 24[

    “So she conceived him and retired with him to a remote place. And the birth pangs drove her to the trunk of (date) palm-tree. She cried, ‘O that I had died before this and become forgotten, lost in oblivion.’ He called her from below her, ‘Grieve not. Your Lord has set below thee a rivulet.” However, this does not seem to be the most plausible explanation because of the usage of the word “aawayna-huma” in this present verse, which suggests providing a shelter to a mother afraid on account of her child. The two, who according to historical accounts, mysteriously disappeared from Palestine, were once again reported seen in Jerusalem only when Jesus Christ was twelve. A fair guess is that they had gone to Egypt. The present day Gospels also supports this. Ref. Matt. 2: 13-15 (Au.).
    53. The translation of “ma`een” reflects the understanding of Ibn `Abbas as in Tabari.

    يَا أَيُّهَا الرُّسُلُ كُلُوا مِنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَاعْمَلُوا صَالِحًا ۖ إِنِّي بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ عَلِيمٌ (51)

    23|51| ‘O Messengers.54 Eat of the good (and pure) things55 and work righteousness;56 surely I am Knowing of what you do.57

    54. Mawdudi explains: “Quite obviously this does not mean that all Messengers were assembled together at one particular place and addressed collectively. Rather, this manner of address simply signifies that the same directive was given to all Messengers who were raised at different times and in different places. In this sense, the Messengers represent a single group that had been entrusted with an identical Message.”
    Although rusul is in plural, the intended meaning is that individual Messengers were addressed at their own times to this effect (Alusi and others).
    55. That is, eat of the lawful things. Hence all Prophets were very specific about consuming only the lawful. Once Umm `Abdullah b. Shaddad sent across a bowl of milk to the Prophet. He returned it with a question, “Where did you get a goat from?” It is only when she explained that she had bought one, that he drank from it. He remarked at that time, “Messengers have been instructed to partake of only the lawful” (Razi). The report is in Ibn Abi Hatim (Ibn Kathir).
    Zamakhshari adds: It is said that the “good and the pure” things should have three qualities: lawful, clean, and invigorating. Lawful is that by which Allah has not been disobeyed; pure, that which does not lead to man’s forgetfulness of Allah; and strength-giving that which holds together the body and safeguards the mind.
    Majid writes: “God’s apostleship is not at all identical with asceticism. The passage may well imply the condemnation of the abstemious practices of the Christian monks.”
    Muhammad Asad has another line of approach. He writes: “This rhetorical apostrophe to all of God’s apostles is meant to stress their humanness and mortality, and thus to refute the argument of the unbelievers that God could not have chosen ‘a mortal like ourselves’ to be His message-bearer: an argument which overlooks the fact that only human beings who themselves ‘partake of the good things of life’ are able to understand the needs and motives of their fellow-men and, thus, to guide them in their spiritual and social concerns.”
    56. This implies that pure and lawful food helps generate righteous deeds (Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    Mawdudi strikes another note: “The word at-tayyibat used in the Qur’an signifies things that are at once clean in themselves and which are obtained through clean and lawful means.
    “The directive to partake clean things strikes at the two extremes of monasticism and Epicureanism and brings into relief the moderate and balanced approach which characterizes Islam. A Muslim should neither deny himself lawful things, nor should he hanker after everything of the world without distinguishing between that which is lawful and that which is not.
    “It is also significant that the directive to partake of the clean things precedes the directive to act righteously. This suggests that righteous behavior becomes absolutely meaningless if it is not accompanied with the lawfulness of what one eats and the lawfulness of the earning that enables that eating. The very first condition of being righteous is that man should subsist on what is lawful.”
    According to a hadith, the Prophet said,

    أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ طَيِّبٌ لَا يَقْبَلُ إِلَّا طَيِّبًا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ أَمَرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ بِمَا أَمَرَ بِهِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ فَقَالَ { يَا أَيُّهَا الرُّسُلُ كُلُوا مِنْ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَاعْمَلُوا صَالِحًا إِنِّي بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ عَلِيمٌ } .. ثُمَّ ذَكَرَ الرَّجُلَ يُطِيلُ السَّفَرَ أَشْعَثَ أَغْبَرَ ثُمَّ يَمُدُّ يَدَيْهِ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ يَا رَبِّ يَا رَبِّ وَمَطْعَمُهُ حَرَامٌ وَمَشْرَبُهُ حَرَامٌ وَمَلْبَسُهُ حَرَامٌ وَغُذِّيَ بِالْحَرَامِ فَأَنَّى يُسْتَجَابُ لِذَلِكَ

    “People. Allah is pure and likes pure things.” He followed this statement by reciting the above verse and then added: “A person undertakes a long journey. His clothes are soiled and his hair is disheveled. But the food that he eats is unlawful, the drink that he drinks is unlawful, the dress that he wears is unlawful, and his body has been nourished on what is unlawful. He raises his hands to the sky and prays: ‘O my Lord! O My Lord!’ How can his prayer be answered?”(Ibn Kathir, Mawdudi).
    57. This verse could be linked to the previous one where Jesus and Maryam were mentioned. This particular one seems to be saying, “(We informed the two that Our command to previous Messengers was of the same nature viz., “O Messenger! Eat of the good and pure things and work righteous deeds.”

    وَإِنَّ هَٰذِهِ أُمَّتُكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَأَنَا رَبُّكُمْ فَاتَّقُونِ (52)

    23|52| And surely this Ummah of yours is one Ummah,58 and I am your Lord; so fear Me.’59

    58. The textual Ummah of both the occurrences has been interpreted as “religion” by Ibn Jurayj as in Ibn Jarir.
    However, the possibility remains that it is “nation” that is meant. That is, “O Messengers, these your nations were one nation which believed in Allah’s Oneness and worshipped Him alone.”
    59. Asad comments: “As in 21: 92, the above verse is addressed to all who truly believe in God, whatever their historical denomination. By the preceding reference to all of God’s apostles the Qur’an clearly implies that all of them were inspired by, and preached, the same fundamental truths, notwithstanding all the differences of the time and the social development of their followers.”

    فَتَقَطَّعُوا أَمْرَهُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ زُبُرًا ۖ كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ (53)

    23|53| But their ( followers) split up their affair between themselves into segments60: every faction rejoicing in what was with them.61

    60. The textual word “zubur” (sing. zabarah) is for pieces, or, as done above, segments (Alusi); or perhaps sects (Au.).
    Mujahid and Qatadah are reported to have said that the textual word “zubur” is to be understood as books or scriptures. That is, each group had a book of its own (cut out of the original: Au.), relied on it, used it as a source of doctrine and Law, in place of the original text, believing not (adds Ibn Jarir), that the Truth is one, even if (add other commentators), laws, especially the derived ones, were different.
    61. Qurtubi cautions that the verse applies to the principal matters of faith and not to derivatives or details of Law. (That is, it is disagreement over fundamental issues which leads to the formation of sects. As for details, either those related to doctrines, or to the Law, there have been differences, but such differences do not make sects). Allah Himself said (5: 48),

    لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنْكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا [المائدة : 48]

    “For every one of you We have prescribed a Law and a Way.”
    Asad expounds: “In the first instance, this verse refers to the various religious groups as such: that is to say, to the followers of one or another of the earlier revelations who, in their course of time, consolidated themselves within different ‘denominations’, each of them jealously guarding its own set of tenets, dogmas and rituals and intensely intolerant to all other ways of worship (manasik, see 22: 67). In the second instance, however, the above condemnation applies to the breach of unity within each of the established religious group; and since it applies to the followers of all the prophets, it includes the latter-day followers of Muhammad as well, and thus constitutes a prediction and condemnation of the doctrinal disunity prevailing in the world of Islam in our times – cf. the well-authenticated saying of the Prophet quoted by Ibn Hanbal, Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi and Darimi: “The Jews have been split up into seventy-one sects, the Christians into seventy-two sects, whereas my community will be split up into seventy-three sects.” (It should be remembered that in classical Arabic usage the umber ‘seventy’ often stands for ‘many’ – just as ‘seven’ stands for ‘several’ or ‘various’ – and does not necessarily denote an actual figure; hence what the Prophet meant to say was that the sects and divisions among the Muslims of later days would become many, and even more numerous than those among the Jews and the Christians.”

    فَذَرْهُمْ فِي غَمْرَتِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ حِينٍ (54)

    23|54| So leave them in their bewilderment62 for a while.

    62. (The textual term “ghamrah” is a bit difficult to translate). Literally, it is for water of such depth as sufficient to drown a man (Shafi and others). Thus the word is used for what covers. Here it means bewilderment, confusion, heedlessness, and misguidance all put together (Qurtubi).

    أَيَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّمَا نُمِدُّهُمْ بِهِ مِنْ مَالٍ وَبَنِينَ (55)

    23|55| Do they think that by the wealth and offspring,63 with which We extend them,

    63. Note the order: “wealth” and then “offspring.” That is the order of preference by the people in general. They first vie for wealth. Satisfied on that, they go for children. However, if they fear that the children will come in the way of gathering wealth, then, they postpone having children, or cut down their number (Au.).

    نُسَارِعُ لَهُمْ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ ۚ بَلْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (56)

    23|56| We are hastening to them the good things? Nay, they perceive not.64

    64. To paraphrase the last few verses, “Do those people who have split their religion into sects (each fundamentally different from another), imagine that it is because of this that the good things are being hastened to them? Rather not. They are being tried, and are led to further intransigence and heedlessness thereby, but they do not perceive the plan” (Au.).
    Allah said elsewhere (6: 178):

    إِنَّمَا نُمْلِي لَهُمْ لِيَزْدَادُوا إِثْمًا [آل عمران : 178[

    “We give them respite so that they may increase in sinfulness.”
    And (68: 44):

    فَذَرْنِي وَمَنْ يُكَذِّبُ بِهَذَا الْحَدِيثِ سَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ [القلم : 44 ، 45]

    “So, leave Me alone with such as deny this speech. We shall gradually lead them (to their destruction) in a manner they will not know.”
    We also have a report in Ahmad in this context. The Prophet said,

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَسَمَ بَيْنَكُمْ أَخْلَاقَكُمْ كَمَا قَسَمَ بَيْنَكُمْ أَرْزَاقَكُمْ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يُعْطِي الدُّنْيَا مَنْ يُحِبُّ وَمَنْ لَا يُحِبُّ وَلَا يُعْطِي الدِّينَ إِلَّا لِمَنْ أَحَبَّ فَمَنْ أَعْطَاهُ اللَّهُ الدِّينَ فَقَدْ أَحَبَّهُ وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَا يُسْلِمُ عَبْدٌ حَتَّى يَسْلَمَ قَلْبُهُ وَلِسَانُهُ وَلَا يُؤْمِنُ حَتَّى يَأْمَنَ جَارُهُ بَوَائِقَهُ قَالُوا وَمَا بَوَائِقُهُ يَا نَبِيَّ اللَّهِ قَالَ غَشْمُهُ وَظُلْمُهُ وَلَا يَكْسِبُ عَبْدٌ مَالًا مِنْ حَرَامٍ فَيُنْفِقَ مِنْهُ فَيُبَارَكَ لَهُ فِيهِ وَلَا يَتَصَدَّقُ بِهِ فَيُقْبَلَ مِنْهُ وَلَا يَتْرُكُ خَلْفَ ظَهْرِهِ إِلَّا كَانَ زَادَهُ إِلَى النَّارِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لَا يَمْحُو السَّيِّئَ بِالسَّيِّئِ وَلَكِنْ يَمْحُو السَّيِّئَ بِالْحَسَنِ إِنَّ الْخَبِيثَ لَا يَمْحُو الْخَبِيث

    “Allah has distributed between you good conduct as He has distributed among you provision. Indeed Allah bestows this world upon him He loves and Him He does not. But He does not bestow faith and practice except upon him He loves. So, whomsoever He led to religion, loved him. And, by Him in whose hands is Muhammad’s life, a man does not become a Muslim until his heart and tongue become Muslim. And, that person has not believed from whose harm his neighbors are not at peace.” They asked him, “What do you mean by the harm?” He answered, "His wrongdoing and misbehavior.” Then he continued, “And, a man does not earn wealth by unlawful means, and then spends it, to be blessed in it. Nor is his charity accepted if he offered it; and he does not leave it behind him but is his provision for (the journey) to the Fire. Verily, Allah does not wipe out evil with evil, but rather, wipes out evil with the good. Surely, the impure does not wipe out the impure” (Ibn Kathir).
    Asad remarks: “(the verse) implies, firstly, that worldly prosperity is not the ultimate good, and secondly, that the breach of the unity spoken of in the preceding passage was, more often than not, an outcome of mere worldly greed and of factional striving after power.”
    In simpler lines of Mawdudi, “.. it needs to be emphasized that the present life is meant essentially to test man rather than to recompense him for his works. As far as man’s moral acts are concerned, even if there is a recompense for them during this worldly life, the recompense is on a very limited scale and is highly imperfect. Additionally, in the recompense itself there is an ingrained element of test and trial. It would be a misconception of the highest magnitude, rather a folly, if we were to disregard the above and believe that whatever good a person receives here is in reward for his goodness, and that receiving such a reward is an index of the recipient being right, righteous, loved and favored by God. Likewise, the disposition to regard anyone who is hit by misfortunes as one who is necessarily under ‘punishment’, is in the wrong, unrighteous, and among those who are disapproved of by God is quite unjustified.”

    نَّ الَّذِينَ هُمْ مِنْ خَشْيَةِ رَبِّهِمْ مُشْفِقُونَ (57)

    23|57| Verily those who for fear of their Lord are in awe.

    وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ يُؤْمِنُونَ (58)

    23|58| And those who believe in the revelations of their Lord.65

    65. Mention of “belief in Allah’s revelations,” comes after the mention of fear of the Lord. We have to look for a meaning, then, other than the apparent. And that possibly is, ‘these people ponder over the revelations even now, and then and freshly believe in them as the Truth from their Lord.’ That implies new understanding and newest application (based on Alusi).

    وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ بِرَبِّهِمْ لَا يُشْرِكُونَ (59)

    23|59| And those who associate not (aught) with their Lord.66

    66. It should be obvious that since the passage is speaking of believers, this verse is talking not of open association, such as of belief in pagan deities, but rather, of hidden and subtle association such as, e.g., showing off (riyaa’) or dependence on other than Allah (based on Alusi).

    وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْتُونَ مَا آتَوْا وَقُلُوبُهُمْ وَجِلَةٌ أَنَّهُمْ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ رَاجِعُونَ (60)

    23|60| And those who give whatsoever they give while their hearts are in fear, that to their Lord they are to return.67

    67. Hasan has said: That is, although they are constant in performing deeds of charity, they are not sure such deeds will be enough to rescue them from the punishment of the Hereafter. Others of the Salaf are close to this meaning. `A’isha in fact asked the Prophet in reference to this verse, “Is it those who commit wrong and so are in fear?” He replied,

    هو الذي يذنب الذنب وهو وجل منه؟ فقال: لا وَلَكِنْ مَنْ يَصُومُ وَيُصَلِّي وَيَتَصَدَّقُ وَهُوَ وَجِلٌ

    “Rather not. But a man fasts, prays, and gives in charity but is fearful that it might not be accepted” (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi).
    That is because they fear they might be short on the requirements or on purity of intention (Au.).
    `A’isha’s report has been declared trustworthy by Albani also (S. Ibrahim).
    Hasan al-Busri also said, “A believer gathers together ihsaan (good deeds and intentions) and apprehensions, while the hypocrite gathers together evil (deeds) and false hopes (Ibn Jarir, Shabbir and others). Hasan is also reported to have said, “We have met people (i.e., the Companions) who were more fearful on the score of their good deeds than you are on the score of your evil deeds (Qurtubi).

    أُولَٰئِكَ يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَهُمْ لَهَا سَابِقُونَ (61)

    23|61| They (are the ones) who are hastening on to good, and they are outracing to them.68

    68. That is, they hasten to the good deeds (Se`di).

    وَلَا نُكَلِّفُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا ۖ وَلَدَيْنَا كِتَابٌ يَنْطِقُ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ (62)

    23|62| And We charge not any soul save to its capacity. And with Us is a Book that speaks the Truth,69 and they shall not be wronged.70

    Another affordable interpretation is that of Ibn `Abbas who said, ‘good luck has preceded them’ (Ibn Jarir).
    69. The allusion is to the Record of deeds (Ibn Jarir).
    70. Majid comments: “(the wicked receiving never more than their due, and the virtuous receiving never less than their due).”

    بَلْ قُلُوبُهُمْ فِي غَمْرَةٍ مِنْ هَٰذَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْمَالٌ مِنْ دُونِ ذَٰلِكَ هُمْ لَهَا عَامِلُونَ (63)

    23|63| Nay, but their hearts are (covered) in bewilderment over this,71 and they have deeds besides that, of which they are workers.72

    71. “Over this,” i.e., over the Qur’an, whether it is a revelation or not (Ibn Jarir).
    72. That is, apart from their disbelief in Allah and doubts over the Qur’an, they have other evil deeds with which they carry on. That is how Mujahid, Abu al-`Aaliyyah and others have explained it. They also expressed the possibility that there are other (evil) deeds that they are yet to perform, and which they will necessarily attempt (Qurtubi, Ibn Jarir).
    Nonetheless, Abu Muslim’s opinion was that the pronoun in “lahum” is for those who hasten in good deeds: i.e., those who are believers, do good deeds, but are in fear that their efforts might not be acceptable after all. It is these who have “deeds other than that,” i.e., supererogatory good deeds that they put forward in hope of winning salvation; in which case, Razi adds, “ghamrah” (rendered as covered here) would be interpreted as (hearts of the believers) “covered in thoughts and apprehensions.” Alusi’s own opinion is that this is not an interpretation that one can feel comfortable with.

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَخَذْنَا مُتْرَفِيهِمْ بِالْعَذَابِ إِذَا هُمْ يَجْأَرُونَ (64)

    23|64| Till, when We seize their affluent ones with chastisement, at once they are groaning (in supplication).73

    73. Apart from groaning, the root word “ja’ara” carries several other connotations such as the oxen’s low, raising of the voice in supplication, submission and humility, or, vocally pleading, seeking help, etc. And, as Ibn Zayd, Ibn Jurayj and others have pointed out, that happened at Badr (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari).
    According to Ibn Jurayj, the allusion by “those who were seized” was to those that died at Badr, while by “ja’ara” it is to those that were left in Makkah to moan, lament, and cry out their grief. Historians tell us that the Makkans mourned the loss at Badr for weeks during which their women would throw cloaks on the horses of the dead and parade them around in the city. But, adds Alusi, it seems more likely that the allusion is to what is going to happen in the Hereafter.

    لَا تَجْأَرُوا الْيَوْمَ ۖ إِنَّكُمْ مِنَّا لَا تُنْصَرُونَ (65)

    23|65| Groan not today; you shall certainly not be helped by Us.

    قَدْ كَانَتْ آيَاتِي تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْكُمْ فَكُنْتُمْ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِكُمْ تَنْكِصُونَ (66)

    23|66| Indeed, My revelations74 used to be recited upon you, but you would turn away on your heels,

    74. The translations of “aayaat” as revelations reflects the understanding of several commentators such as Qurtubi (Au.).

    مُسْتَكْبِرِينَ بِهِ سَامِرًا تَهْجُرُونَ (67)

    23|67| Waxing proud against it,75 uttering non-sense76 in nightly sessions.77

    75. “Against it:” to what is the allusion by “it?” Ibn `Abbas, Hasan, Qatadah and Dahhak – as in Ibn Jarir - have said that the allusion is to the Haram. That is, by virtue of it. In other words, the Makkans waxed proud because of the Haram around which they lived.
    Other commentators also mention the above possibility.
    76. “Uttering nonsense” is the translation of “tahjuruun” (textually occurring at the end of the verse). Its second possible meaning is, “they abandon” or “ignore” (the Truth) - Ibn Jarir and others. A third meaning is, points out Alusi, “obscenity.”
    77. The translation of “saamiran” as nightly conversation follows the understanding of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Sa`eed ibn Jubayr. A second interpretation is that the word lends the meaning of “being at peace.” That is, they were at peace that by virtue of they being custodians of the Grand Mosque, they would not be chastised (Ibn Jarir).
    Literally, “samara” is for moonlit night. It is in such nights that the people sat down in groups gossiping away their time (Shafi` and others).
    Asad adds: “In combination with the phrase kuntum … tahjuruun, this expression indicates the pursuit of endless, fruitless discussions divorced from all reality, or a mere play with words leading nowhere.”
    Depending on where a comma is placed in the verse, it could have different meanings. The present translation places it after “bihi”. But, if it is placed earlier, then the rendering will be, “Waxing proud, uttering non-sense thereof in nightly sessions,” in which case two other interpretations can be offered (Au.). One, the allusion by the preceding “bihi” is to the Haram. That is, they defile the Haram by conducting their nightly sessions there, talking nonsense. And two, the allusion is to the Prophet about whom they uttered all kinds of baloney in their nightly conversations (Ibn Kathir).
    In view of this verse Ibn `Abbas has thought, according to a report declared trustworthy by Hakim, that it is undesirable to spend time in nightly gossips (Shawkani).
    Qurtubi adds: A report preserved in Muslim says that the Prophet used to delay the `Ishaa Prayer until the first third part of the night and disapproved of sleep before and gossip after it. The disapproval of sleep before the Prayers was because of the fear of one missing it. As for gossip after it, it was disapproved because one might talk of the disapproved things and sleep over it as the last deed of the day. One should rather terminate the day with a good deed. After all, Allah has created the night for rest. He said (25: 47):

    {وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ لِبَاسًا وَالنَّوْمَ سُبَاتًا وَجَعَلَ النَّهَارَ نُشُورًا} [الفرقان: 47]

    “It is He who made for you the night a means of cover, the sleep (a means of) rest and made the day for spreading about.”
    Nonetheless, if one stays awake at night seeking knowledge, then there is no harm. Several reports from the Prophet and early Muslims lead to this opinion.

    أَفَلَمْ يَدَّبَّرُوا الْقَوْلَ أَمْ جَاءَهُمْ مَا لَمْ يَأْتِ آبَاءَهُمُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (68)

    23|68| Have they not reflected over the Word, or78 there has come to them what came not to their fathers of old?79

    78. Ibn `Abbas treated the textual “am” as “bal.” That reverses the meaning of the verse which would then read as, “Nay, there has come to them what came not to their fathers of old” (Ibn Jarir).
    79. (The good qualities of the Prophet were never hidden from the Quraysh. He was not simply one of them, but rather someone who was from one of their core families). Historians have preserved a sound report which says that the day he married Khadijah (fifteen years before he was commissioned), his uncle Abu Talib addressed the marriage party comprised of Quraysh and Mudar tribes in the following words: “Praise to God who made us the offspring of Ibrahim, the seeds of Isma`il, the stock of Ma`add, the race of Mudar, the guardians of His House, the custodians of His Haram, who provided us a home that is visited for pilgrimage, a sanctuary of peace, placing us over the common people as their rulers. As for this son of my brother, Muhammad, the son of Abdullah, he cannot be weighed against anyone but will be found weightier. As for the fact that he is a man of poor means, (I might remind that) wealth after all is one of those things that slip away fast. Now Muhammad, being of those whose family connections you know well, has asked Khadijah’s hand – the daughter of Khuwaylid - offering her as mahr, part paid out in cash, and part pending, out of my wealth. And, by God, I believe he has a good future before him” (Alusi).

    أَمْ لَمْ يَعْرِفُوا رَسُولَهُمْ فَهُمْ لَهُ مُنْكِرُونَ (69)

    23|69| Or, did they not recognize their Messenger, that they are (of) him deniers?80

    80. The allusion is to the fact that the Arabs contemporary to the Prophet were not unfamiliar with stories and traditions of the Middle-eastern Prophets who had in the past brought the message of God’s Oneness. They were also familiar with the Peninsula Messengers such as Hud, Salih and Shu`ayb, whose accounts they had received, even if sketchily, from their elders. Finally, they greatly revered Ibrahim and Isma`il, whom they regarded as their own Prophets (Au.: with the substance from Mawdudi).
    Shabbir adds: This verse seemingly contradicts another verse (36: 6) which says,

    {لِتُنْذِرَ قَوْمًا مَا أُنْذِرَ آَبَاؤُهُمْ فَهُمْ غَافِلُونَ} [يس: 6]

    “In order that you might warn a people whose forefathers were not warned.”
    But that is not correct. For, the present verse is speaking of the distant forefathers, whereas that of Surah Yaa Seen is speaking of the immediate forefathers.

    أَمْ يَقُولُونَ بِهِ جِنَّةٌ ۚ بَلْ جَاءَهُمْ بِالْحَقِّ وَأَكْثَرُهُمْ لِلْحَقِّ كَارِهُونَ (70)

    23|70| Or, do they say he is possessed?81 Nay, he has brought them the Truth but most of them are averse to Truth.82

    81. Majid remarks: “Note a reverberation of the old pagan priggishness in the dictum of a modern Christian: ‘The fundamental thing in him was that he was a pathological case.’ (MacDonald, Aspects of Islam, p. 63).”
    82. “I.e., they hate to admit the truth: the reason being – as the sequence shows – that the world-view propounded by the Qur’an is not in accord with their own likes and dislikes or preconceived notions” (Asad).
    Ibn Kathir reports Qatadah as having said, “It was reported to us that the Prophet met a man and told him, ‘Come to believe.’ He replied, ‘You invite me to a thing that I have an aversion to.’ The Prophet told him, ‘Even if you are averse to it.’ It is also reported that he told another man, ‘Come to believe.’ But it distressed him (to hear) and he thought himself above it. The Prophet told him, ‘Consider. If you were on a rugged and toilsome path and then met a man whom you know by face and by family, and he invites you to an easier path, will you follow him?’ The man replied, ‘Yes.’ He told him, ‘By Him in whose hands is Muhammad’s life, you are in a most rugged path if you remained on it, and I am inviting you to a path easier than it if you followed it.’ It is also reported to us that the Prophet once told a man ‘Come to believe.’ But it distressed him too. So he asked him, ‘Consider. If you knew two young men: one of them when he speaks, speaks the truth, and when you trust him with something he keeps the trust. Would he be preferable to you or he who, when he speaks he lies, and when trusted, fails?’ The man replied, ‘Of course the man who, when he speaks, speaks the truth, and when trusted, fulfills the trust.’ So the Prophet told him, ‘That is how you are in relation to your Lord.’”

    وَلَوِ اتَّبَعَ الْحَقُّ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ لَفَسَدَتِ السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ ۚ بَلْ أَتَيْنَاهُمْ بِذِكْرِهِمْ فَهُمْ عَنْ ذِكْرِهِمْ مُعْرِضُونَ (71)

    23|71| Had the Truth83 followed their caprices, surely the heavens and the earth and all those within them would have been ruined.84 Nay, We have brought them their admonition, but they are turning away from their admonition.

    83. Suddi, Abu Saleh and Ibn Jurayj have said that by “Haq” at this point, the allusion is to Allah. That is, “Had Allah followed…” (Ibn Jarir). Such as, for example, their suggestion (43: 31),

    {لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ هَذَا الْقُرْآَنُ عَلَى رَجُلٍ مِنَ الْقَرْيَتَيْنِ عَظِيمٍ} [الزخرف: 31]

    “Why has not this Qur’an sent down upon a man from the two great townships?” (Ibn Kathir).
    84. Far from the entire universe, even if a village should be subjected to whimsical desires, it will meet with its destruction (Shabbir).
    Sayyid Qutb comments: “`And, had the Truth followed their caprices, surely the heavens and the earth and all those within them would have been corrupted,’ for Truth is one, a single entity, whereas caprices are many and changeable. It is by one Truth that the world – the whole of it – can be successfully run. Its laws do not deviate (from their course) following someone’s caprice. Its ways do not change following casual suggestions. Had the Truth followed all that deviated, capricious thoughts, or casual suggestions advocate, all would be destroyed: moral values, rules, principles, in fact, the humankind itself. Scales and standards of judgment would have become a potpourri, and the whole of it would have swung between anger and pleasure, dislike and grudge, fear and hope, activity and passivity, and the rest of caprices, emotions, agitations and other influencing factors. Whereas, the nature of the existing universe, and its movement in the direction of a destination both require firmness, constancy and continuity on a firm principle, and a designed path, that neither alters nor swings in different directions, nor deviates (even momentarily).
    “Following the above model adopted for the construction and running of the universe, Islam made human life and its law a part of the above principle – the whole being looked after by Him who takes care of the whole universe as well as its component parts. Man then is a single component, a small part, of a universe that is submitted to the laws laid down for the whole. It is right and proper that He alone should lay down the laws for man who lays down the laws for the universe and runs both in wonderful coherence. Hence, the laws governing the world cannot bend down to man’s will, which would simply destroy the whole.”
    Mawdudi has another point to bring to our notice: “.. how can facts constantly conform to a myriad of mutually conflicting wishes? Foolish people fail to appreciate that if there is any discordance between their wishful thinking and reality, then it is their wishful thinking that is to blame rather than reality. In denying reality, such people cause no harm to it per se, instead they only harm themselves.
    “This immense system of the universe is based on well-established realities and inalterable laws. Living in the framework of such a universe, it is imperative that man strive to bring his thoughts, wishes and conduct in conformity with reality. He should constantly apply himself, with the help of rational argument, experience and observation, to what reality indeed is. It is only the puerile who, at both mental and practical levels, adamantly cling to their preconceptions, wishes and biases and who attempt to show those realities as conforming to their preconceived ideas.”

    أَمْ تَسْأَلُهُمْ خَرْجًا فَخَرَاجُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ ۖ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ (72)

    23|72| Or do you ask them for tribute? But your Lord’s tribute is better,85 and He is the best of providers.

    85. As Allah said elsewhere (34: 47),

    {قُلْ مَا سَأَلْتُكُمْ مِنْ أَجْرٍ فَهُوَ لَكُمْ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَى اللَّهِ} [سبأ: 47]

    “Say, ‘Whatever I have asked of the wage is yours. My wage is upon Allah alone.’”
    And (42: 23),

    {قُلْ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَى} [الشورى: 23]

    “Say, ‘I do not ask for it any wage, except for kin-love’” (Ibn Kathir).
    Zamakhshari points out – with Razi seconding him - that two terms have been used here: kharj and kharaaj. It is said that kharj is used for that donation that is voluntarily made, whereas kharaaj for that which a man is forced to hand out. However, by implication the word kharj lends the meaning of “a little sum” while kharaaj of “a great reward.”
    Mawdudi elaborates: “Before embarking on his mission as the Message-bearer of Islam, he (the Prophet) was a fairly prosperous trader. After becoming involved in Islam, he began to face want and privation. Before he was designated as God’s Messenger, he was held in high esteem by his people. Thereafter, however, he was subjected to both verbal abuse and physical hurt, and even his life was at risk. In the past, he had lived a happy life with his family, but thanks to his mission, he became engaged in a struggle which left him little time for rest or peace. Moreover, the cause that he was [espousing] yielded no advantage to him directly. On the contrary, it antagonized virtually every element of his people so much so that his own kith and kin seemed bent on the utmost hostility towards him. In view of all this, who in the right mind would say that the work of the Prophet (peace be on him) was that of a self-seeker?
    “Self-seekers are wont to come forward as champions of tribal and national chauvinism. They use their ability and craftiness in a manner that enables them to assume the leadership of their people. Self-seekers are never advocates of unpopular causes; they are never the proponents of an idea that would frontally challenge the chauvinistic biases and prejudices of their people, let alone espouse an idea that negates the very foundation on which the tribal pre-eminence of the Makkan unbelievers rested.”

    وَإِنَّكَ لَتَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ (73)

    23|73| Indeed, you are inviting them to a Straight Path.86

    86. Majid writes, “A fact apparent even to the Prophet’s modern critics. ‘Mohammad’s bearing towards his followers, no less than towards his opponents, exhibits the assurance of being the vicegerent of God and the exponent of His will’ (Muir, p. 126).”

    وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ عَنِ الصِّرَاطِ لَنَاكِبُونَ (74)

    23|74| But surely those who do not believe in the Hereafter, are deviating from the Path.87

    87. Ibn Kathir repeats an earlier quoted report from Imam Ahmad that reflects the truth about the Prophet’s followers of this day.

    أَنّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ:أَتَاهُ فِيمَا يَرَى النَّائِمُ الْمَلَكَانِ , فَقَعَدَ أَحَدُهُمَا عِنْدَ رِجْلَيْهِ , وَالآخَرُ عِنْدَ رَأْسِهِ , فَقَالَ الَّذِي عِنْدَ رِجْلَيْهِ لِلَّذِي عِنْدَ رَأْسِهِ: اضْرِبْ مَثَلَ هَذَا وَمَثَلَ أُمَّتِهِ , قَالَ: إِنَّ مَثَلَ هَذَا وَمَثَلَ أُمَّتِهِ كَمَثَلِ قَوْمٍ سَفْرٍ انْتَهَوْا إِلَى رَأْسِ مَفَازَةٍ , فَلَمْ يَكُنْ مَعَهُمْ مِنَ الزَّادِ مَا يَقْطَعُونَ بِهِ الْمَفَازَةَ , وَلا مَا يَرْجِعُونَ بِهِ , فَبَيْنَمَا هُمْ كَذَلِكَ إِذْ أَتَاهُمْ رَجُلٌ عَلَيْهِ حُلَّةٌ حِبَرَةٌ , فَقَالَ: أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ وَرَدْتُ بِكُمْ رِيَاضًا مُعْشِبَةً , وَحِيَاضًا رَوَاءً أَتَتَّبِعُونِي؟ قَالُوا: نَعَمْ , فَانْطَلَقَ بِهِمْ فَأَوْرَدَهُمْ رِيَاضًا مُعْشِبَةً , وَحِيَاضًا رَوَاءً , فَأَكَلُوا , وَشَرِبُوا , وَأَسْمَنُوا , فَقَالَ لَهُمْ: أَلَمْ أَلْفَكُمْ عَلَى تِلْكَ الْحَالِ؟ قَالُوا: بَلَى , فَجَعَلْتُمْ إِنْ وَرَدْتُ بِكُمْ رِيَاضًا مُعْشِبَةً , وَحِيَاضًا رَوَاءً أَنْ تَتَّبِعُونِي؟ قَالُوا: نَعَمْ , فَقَالَتْ طَائِفَةٌ مِنْهُمْ: صَدَقَ وَاللَّهِ لَنَتَّبِعَنَّهُ , وَقَالَتْ طَائِفَةٌ مِنْهُمْ: قَدْ رَضِينَاهَا نُقِيمُ عَلَيْهَا.

    Ibn `Abbas says that two angels came to the Prophet in his dream. One of them stood near the head while another at the feet. Said he at the feet to the one at the head, “Strike a similitude for him and his followers.” The other said, “His example and that of his followers is like a people in journey who ended at the head of a place promising destruction. They did not have enough provision to either carry on further, or to return back. While they were in that fix there came to them a man in an expensive cloak. He asked them, ‘Do you think you will follow me if I showed you a garden thick and green and an overflowing pond?’ They answered, ‘Of course yes.’ So he led them to a thick green garden with an overflowing pond. They ate and drank to fatness. At that point he asked them, ‘Did I not find you in that place in that (dire) situation, and I took a promise from you that if you followed me I would lead you to a thick green garden and an overflowing pond?’ They said, ‘Surely you did.’ He asked, ‘Now. Right ahead of you is a garden thicker than this and a pond overflowing better than this one. So, follow me.’ So, a group said, ‘By God he spoke the truth and we shall follow him.’ But another group said, ‘We are satisfied with this and shall remain here.’”
    Another report from Abu Ya`la says,

    إني ممسك بحجزكم: هَلُمَّ عن النار، هلم عن النار، وتغلبوني وتقاحمون فيها تَقَاحُم الفراش والجنادب، فأوشك أن أرسل حجزكم وأنا فَرَطكم على الحوض، فتردون علي معا وأشتاتا، أعرفكم بسيماكم وأسمائكم، كما يعرف الرجل الغريب من الإبل في إبله، فيُذْهَب بكم ذات اليمين وذات الشمال، فأناشد فيكم رب العالمين: أي رب، قومي، أي رب أمتي. فيقال: يا محمد، إنك لا تدري ما أحدثوا بعدك، إنهم كانوا يمشون بعدك القهقرى على أعقابهم، فلأعرفن أحدكم يأتي يوم القيامة يحمل شاة لها ثغاء، ينادي: يا محمد، يا محمد. فأقول: لا أملك لك شيئا. قد بلغت، ولأعرفن أحدكم يأتي يوم القيامة يحمل بعيرا له رُغَاء، ينادي: يا محمد، يا محمد. فأقول: لا أملك شيئا، قد بلغت، ولأعرفن أحدكم يأتي يوم القيامة يحمل فرسا لها حمحمة، فينادي: يا محمد، يا محمد، فأقول: لا أملك لك شيئا، قد بلغت، ولأعرفن أحدكم يأتي يوم القيامة يحمل سقاء من أدم، ينادي: يا محمد، يا محمد: فأقول: لا أملك لك شيئا قد بلغت

    “I am holding you by your clothes saying ‘Away from the Fire, away from the Fire.’ But you overcome me falling into it like the insects fall into it. It is possible that I might release you of your clothes, while I precede you at the Pond. So you will come to me in groups and individually. I would know you from your looks and by your names, just like a man know his camel among a herd. You will be taken to the left and the right. So I will plead to the Lord of the worlds, ‘My people, O my Lord. My people, O my Lord.’ It will be said, ‘O Muhammad. You do not know what they did after you. They turned back on their heels.’ I will know one of you on the Day of Judgment carrying a goat bleating, (and the man) pleading to me, ‘O Muhammad, O Muhammad,’ and I replying, ‘I have no power for you against Allah. I have already conveyed the message.’ And, I will know one of you appear on the Day of Judgment carrying a camel growling and appealing to me, ‘O Muhammad, O Muhammad,’ and I replying, ‘I have no power for you against Allah. I have already conveyed the message.’ And, I will know one of you appear on the Day of Judgment carrying a horse neighing and appealing to me, ‘O Muhammad, O Muhammad,’ and I replying, ‘I have no power for you against Allah. I have already conveyed the message.’ And, I will know one of you appear on the Day of Judgment carrying a leather bottle pleading to me, ‘O Muhammad, O Muhammad,’ and I replying, ‘I have no power for you against Allah. I have already conveyed the message.’”
    The above report, says Ibn Kathir, has been doubted for its authenticity because of one of the narrators. But Nasa’i and Ibn Hibban have passed a favorable judgment about him. (The collector of Kanz al-`Ummal also declared that the narrators are trustworthy (Au.).

    وَلَوْ رَحِمْنَاهُمْ وَكَشَفْنَا مَا بِهِمْ مِنْ ضُرٍّ لَلَجُّوا فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ (75)

    23|75| And, if We showed them mercy, and removed what is upon them of affliction,88 surely, they would obstinately persist in their rebellion, wandering blindly.

    88. The allusion is to the hardships of dry weather and hunger that the Makkans were then experiencing (Ibn Jarir). The Prophet had prayed against them, as reports of the Sahihayn say, that they be given the taste of seven years (of drought) like the seven years of Yusuf. Another cause of Makkan starvation was that Thumamah b. Uthaal had embraced Islam and cut off the Makkan trade routes (Ibn Kathir).
    Alusi adds: According to some reports the Prophet had prayed against them while he was still in Makkah. And then repeated his prayers (for one whole month) at Madinah. When he raised himself from the second cycle (raka`ah) bow during the Fajr Prayers, he would say, “O Allah. Rescue Walid b. Walid, Salamah b. Hisham, `Ayaash b. Rabi`ah, and other weak Muslims (detained at Makkah). O Allah tighten Your hold on Mudar. O Allah send upon them years like the years of Yusuf.” Sometimes he prayed in the above manner after the ruku` of the last cycle of the `Isha Prayers. Those very days Thumamah b. Uthaal (leader of the Banu Bakr tribe) was captured and brought to Madinah. After three days of hesitation he declared his Islam and straightaway went to Makkah to perform `Umrah. When he said “Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk” in the Islamic manner the Makkans smelt trouble. They asked him, “Have you turned a Saabi?” He replied, “Rather not. I have become a Muslim.” Then in reply to their rude gestures he threatened, “By Allah not a grain will reach you at Makkah without the Prophet’s leave.” The above two – the supplications and Thumaamah’s resolve - led Makkans to starvation and according to one report the Quraysh wrote to the Prophet, (to pray for their relief) or as another narration says, sent Abu Sufyan, which happened a little before the fall of Makkah.

    وَلَقَدْ أَخَذْنَاهُمْ بِالْعَذَابِ فَمَا اسْتَكَانُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَمَا يَتَضَرَّعُونَ (76)

    23|76| We had (earlier) seized them in punishment,89 but they did not yield to their Lord, nor did they entreat (submissively).90

    89. Ibn `Abbas reports that during the drought Abu Sufyan went to the Prophet and said, “I beseech you by Allah, and by the rights of blood. We have been reduced to eating blood and animal hair” (which they cooked with blood: Qurtubi). Allah revealed this verse. According to another report Abu Sufyan came down to Madinah and said, “You killed our fathers with the sword and their children with hunger” (Ibn Jarir).
    90. That is exactly what happened with the Makkans. The Prophet prayed for the removal of the drought, but it made no difference to their intransigence and arrogance.
    An implied meaning of what Hasan said is that tribulations seem like coming from Shaytan if one does not take them in true Islamic spirit. “So, treat them as having been sent by Allah,” he said, “by humbling yourselves and seeking His forgiveness” (Ibn Jarir).
    Accordingly, once Wahab b. Munabbih was imprisoned. When he came out someone said, “Shall we not sing some poetry for you O Abu `Abdullah?” He replied, “I am at the other end of Allah’s punishment.” Allah has said, ‘We have already seized them in punishment, but they did not yield to their Lord, nor did they submissively entreat (Him).’” Then he fasted for three days. He was asked, “What was that fast for?” He replied, “Something happened to us, so something had to be done.” That is, he was imprisoned, so he had to demonstrate his submission (Ibn Kathir).

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ بَابًا ذَا عَذَابٍ شَدِيدٍ إِذَا هُمْ فِيهِ مُبْلِسُونَ (77)

    23|77| Until, when We opened on them a door to severe chastisement, behold, they are despairing therein.91

    91. The allusion is to further intensification of the dry season, accompanying hunger and starvation (Ibn Jarir from the Salaf).

    وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنْشَأَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۚ قَلِيلًا مَا تَشْكُرُونَ (78)

    23|78| It is He who produced for you (the faculties of) hearing,92 sights93 and hearts;94 little do you give thanks.95

    92. Everywhere in the Qur’an, hearing comes in singular form while other faculties come in plural. Alusi thinks that perhaps it is because “sam`” is masdar and hence can be brought in singular form alone. Another modern explanation is that it is because one can only hear and make sense of sound one at a time, whereas the eye can see a lot of things at one time (Au.).
    93. The following should be an interesting reading on the eye:
    The Eye
    In construction, the eye is one of the most complicated and marvelous organs of the body. Although the actual process of seeing is performed by the brain rather than by the eye, the function of the eye is to translate the electromagnetic vibrations of light into patterns of nerve impulses to transmit to the brain for further processing. Without the eye in place, the brain can see nothing. But of course, we might also remind ourselves that it is neither the brain which sees nor the eye. Both are nothing but cells and cells cannot see. It is another reality that sees.
    Outwardly, the eye consists of an eyelid and an eyeball. But hidden behind is a huge complexity. The eyeball consists of a lens covered at top and bottom with Iris diaphragm and both covered with a transparent liquid. The batting of the eyelids replaces the liquid. The liquid helps catch any dust that could damage the lens. The Iris diaphragm closes in bright light, decreasing the lens exposure, or opens in dim light, increasing the exposure. In other words it serves the function of constantly varying the aperture.
    Six muscles move the eyeball upward, downward, to the left, to the right, and obliquely. It is estimated that the eyes can focus on no less than 100,000 distinct points in the visual field. The muscles of the two eyes, working together, also serve the important function of converging the sight on any point being observed, so that the images of the two eyes coincide.
    The whole of the eyeball is not the lens. It is only a thin convex layer in the front. The rest of the eyeball is transparent jelly. The light, (which is nothing but packets of photons) released by a shining body, is sent through the lens, where the image is inverted, through the whole of the eyeball (transparent jelly) and hits the inner spherical screen known as the retina.
    The retina has several layers. At the surface are wire-like fibers that pass through a single hole (known as the blind spot) to become what are known as the optical nerves, and which end up at the brain. The rest of the retina consists of several layers of material. It is the first layer which acts as the electronic interface to the brain. The incoming photons of light pass through it, and through other layers performing several functions to reach what are known as the Photocells. These are very special cells, in the shape of rods as against the roughly spherical cells of others parts of the body. The rod has a round head in front, a thin neck followed by the rod shaped body: placed vertical to the retina (horizontal to the body) and closely packed like match sticks in a box. There are about 125 million rod cells in each retina. The round head of the Photocell has in front a ball shaped nucleus which, like every one of the 100 trillion body cells, carries the DNA). Behind the head is the neck after which are the mitochondria. Known as power houses, the mitochondria are found in every single cell in thousands. Their function is to release energy for cellular operations while processing some 700 different kinds of chemicals. Behind this layer of mitochondria lies a layer of folded material meant for catching photons. The layered and folded form helps catch every photon that ever enters into the eye. Otherwise, the photons are small enough to pass through a single layer and emerge on the other side unscathed. This area then, which lies at the back of the retina, and at the back of the horizontally placed cells, actually is the light gathering structure that traps the photons, to send back information to the front portion for processing and then forwarding the message to the brain through the nerve cells placed at the outer face of the retina. Thus, light first goes all the way to the end, where it is processed, then it is forwarded back to the frontally placed Electronic interface layer, to be finally sent to the brain through nerves: a very complicated arrangement but extremely efficient.
    The whole of the back layer of the retina however is not lined up with rod shaped photocells. Somewhere in the centre is a small area, known as the fovea which has cone-shaped photocells which are less sensitive than the rest of the rod area. Thus the visual field of the eye is composed of a small central area of great sharpness (the fovea) somewhere at the center of the retina, surrounded by a larger area of lesser sharpness. In the latter area the sensitivity to light is great. As a result, dim objects can be seen at night on the peripheral part of the retina when they are invisible to the central part.
    (The largest eye ever recorded is a colossal 370 mm in diameter belonging to a giant squid with 10 meter-tentacles. The size is intriguing because a 20 mm eye can perform the same functions as efficiently, and even an elephant has an eye ten times smaller).
    We have given the details above to prove the point that the eye happens to be a very difficult organ to explain in evolutionary terms. For, evolutionists believe in gradual selection of slight but useful variations through millions of years before an organ can evolve to perfection. But the eye requires a whole apparatus, consisting of very specialized parts, designed and manufactured for specific functions, before it can start seeing anything. One of those parts could be explained away, somehow - say the Electronic data processing unit. But it has no function if the photocells are not in place. So, why should the body place millions of the processing unit, without the data to process? And so on. Every part fits well in a scheme. But, singly, none of it is of any use. An evolving eye would have been working in several directions, with several parts, in several places, to develop the final machinery, capable of seeing. Darwin, therefore, confessed, ‘To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances, for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of the spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.’???
    Recent findings about the variety it takes in design has further weakened the “blind watch-maker” theory. There certainly is a design behind the eye. Lobsters for example, have been discovered, to the embarrassment of the blind followers of Darwin, to have eyes whose facets are perfect squares. Now, curves, oblong shapes, and circles can be explained. But how to explain squares? Writes Michael J Denton, “One of the most striking features of the lobster eye which is obvious even on superficial inspection is that the facets of the eye are perfect squares. It is very unusual to meet with perfect square structures in biology. As one astronomer commented in Science (magazine): ‘The lobster is the most unrectangular animal I’ve ever seen. But under the microscope a lobster’s eye looks like perfect graph paper’” (Nature’s Destiny, The Press Books, 1998, p.354). Surely, the eye seems to be a clear case of, in the words of Denton, “directed evolution,” if there was any.
    Looking at the development of the eye from another angle, one can say that it offers us an undeniable proof of a Creator’s Hand. The eye depends on the light to see. But for the eye to see, it must be able to detect a particular type of radiation to be able to form an image. The sun sends out various kinds of energies: the Ultra Violet rays, the X-ray, the Gamma ray, the Light ray, the Infra red, the Radio waves, etc. Of these, it is only the Light rays, which have a convenient wavelength of only 0.5 microns, that are suitable for a clear vision. The UV, X-ray, or Gamma rays are highly destructive. They would destroy the biological lens (the sensitive retina) if allowed into it in large quantities.
    Moreover, had the eye had been developed to see the Infra Red or Radio waves, it would have had to be several times the present size. In such an event, it would have lost the clarity of close vision, reducing the field of vision. Hence, Radio telescopes have to be very large to be able to form images. And they cannot spot objects close at hand. A human eye using Radio waves, (which have a wavelength of 100 centimeters), would have had to be of diameter 10 kilometers to perform the same function as the present eye. Even microwaves of 1 cm. wavelength would require an eye of diameter 10 meters to see with the same resolution.
    It is only the Light ray which offers an image of high resolution. And the eye is very suitable to see them. Further, if the eyes had developed the capacity to see the UV, X-ray, or Gamma rays, it would have been too small and incapable of functioning. It is another thing that such an idea is entirely hypothetical. An eye capable of seeing these rays would need human cells in far smaller size, such as those that cannot have sub-cellular organisms.
    Yet, the eye is capable of seeing what Radio telescopes can. This it has achieved by reducing the size of the photoreceptor cells to a mere 2 microns. (In fact, no vertebrate’s eye is known to have a photoreceptor cell less than 2 microns in size). So that, although the amount of light falling on the retina from a distant star is 1 trillion (1012) less than that from brightly lit snowfield, it can see both. Michael J. Denton writes, “Consideration of the many conflicting criteria which must be satisfied in attempting to optimize resolution of a camera-type eye utilizing light of a wavelength of about 0.5 microns, including minimizing diffraction, maximizing illumination, maximizing field of view, minimizing spherical and chromatic aberration, etc., suggest that all-high resolution optical devices will necessarily be of the same design and dimensions. Each will consist of a small lightproof hollow rounded structure between 1 and 6 centimeter in diameter, containing at the front an aperture or “pupil” through which the light can enter, capable of varying from about 1 to 8 millimeters in diameter, and a lens through which the light can be focused onto a light-sensitive plate. In fact, all high resolution vertebrate eyes and high-quality modern cameras approximate this design” (Nature’s Destiny, The Free Press, 1998, p. 63-64).
    However, one need not be armed with the above scientific information, to reach the conclusion that the eye could not have evolved, but could have only been created in one go. From a common man’s point of view there are two simple arguments against the evolutionary explanation with reference to the eye. First, how could the eye evolve without the biological organism knowing that there is something out there to see and that it will need a very complex apparatus to perform that function? Second, how did the biological organisms know that the objects outside were colorful in order to develop an eye capable of seeing colors? Surely, they could have gone on seeing objects in black and white without realizing that the world is colorful.
    That there is an external Power acting on us, is brought to light by an amazing phenomenon revealed by modern research. If a special spectacle is placed before the eye, which blinds the eye to the rest of the world, but which has a lens that inverts the images going into the eye, then the person sees an inverted image of everything. He sees, e.g., that the sky is below and the earth above. He has great difficulty moving about or picking up a thing. However, this is for a short period of about 15 days. If the spectacle is worn continuously for more than that period, one fine day the eye inverts the images, so that everything becomes normal for the person, as if the spectacle is not there. And, when the special spectacle worn for several weeks is removed, the eye once again sees everything upside down: the earth above and the sky below. It needs another 15 days or so to once again invert the images to see the earth below and the sky above. Who tells the eye or the brain of the spectacles’ special effect, if they are no more than electronic data processing machinery? (Au.)
    94. Yusuf Ali comments, “As elsewhere, ‘heart’ is to be understood as the seat both of feeling and intelligence. ‘All means by which knowledge can be gathered, judgement formed, and goodness cultivated, are provided for you by Allah. If you are grateful, you would use those in His service, which is expressed in your service to your fellow men. But instead you ignore these gifts, question Allah’s Providence, and blaspheme against Him.’”
    Also see note 90 of Surah Al-Hajj.
    95. Commenting on “little do you give thanks” Abu Muslim has said that the meaning is not that you thank little, but rather you do not thank at all. It is similar to what is said about an ungrateful, argumentative man, “How little he thanks!” (Razi)

    وَهُوَ الَّذِي ذَرَأَكُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَإِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ (79)

    23|79| And it is He who scattered you in the earth, and to Him shall you be gathered back.

    وَهُوَ الَّذِي يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ وَلَهُ اخْتِلَافُ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ ۚ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ (80)

    23|80| And, it is He who gives life and deals death, and His is the alternation of the night and day. Will you not then reason?

    بَلْ قَالُوا مِثْلَ مَا قَالَ الْأَوَّلُونَ (81)

    23|81| Nay, but they said the like of what the earlier ones said.

    قَالُوا أَإِذَا مِتْنَا وَكُنَّا تُرَابًا وَعِظَامًا أَإِنَّا لَمَبْعُوثُونَ (82)

    23|82| They said, ‘What, when We are dead and have become dust and bones, are we indeed to be raised up again?

    لَقَدْ وُعِدْنَا نَحْنُ وَآبَاؤُنَا هَٰذَا مِنْ قَبْلُ إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (83)

    23|83| Surely, this we were promised, we and our forefathers, earlier (also). This is nothing but tales of the ancients.’

    قُلْ لِمَنِ الْأَرْضُ وَمَنْ فِيهَا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (84)

    23|84| Say, ‘Whose is the earth and whoso thereon, if you know?’

    سَيَقُولُونَ لِلَّهِ ۚ قُلْ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ (85)

    23|85| They will surely say, ‘Allah’s.’ Say, ‘Will you not then heed?’96

    96. Yusuf Ali tries to clear modern man’s mind, answer a recurring question, and exhorts to belief, “If their argument is that such things about the future life cannot be known or proved, they are referred to the things which are actually before them. The tangible things of the earth – can they postulate their order or government except by a Power or Force or Energy outside them? They will admit that there is such a Power or Force or Energy. We call it Allah. Go a step further. We see a sublime Universe in the heavens above, stretching far beyond our ken. They will admit its existence and its grandeur. We ask them to entertain a feeling of reverence for the Power behind it, and to understand their own feeling and their dependence upon that Power.”

    قُلْ مَنْ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ السَّبْعِ وَرَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ (86)

    23|86| Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the seven heavens and Lord of the Great `Arsh?’97

    97. As says a well-known hadith:

    ما السموات السبع مع الكرسي إلا كحلقة ملقاة بأرض فلاة وفضل العرش على الكرسي كفضل الفلاة على الحلقة

    “The seven heavens and seven earths are no more than a ring thrown into the desert when compared to the Kursiyy. And the Kursiyy is similarly comparable to the `Arsh.” And Dahhak reports Ibn `Abbas as saying that the `Arsh has been so named because of its great height (Ibn Kathir).

    سَيَقُولُونَ لِلَّهِ ۚ قُلْ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ (87)

    23|87| They will surely say, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘Will you not then fear?’98

    98. On the same note as the previous one, Yusuf Ali continues, “If this great and glorious Universe inspires you with awe, surely the Power behind is more worthy of your awe, especially if you compare your dependence and its dependence upon Him.”

    قُلْ مَنْ بِيَدِهِ مَلَكُوتُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ يُجِيرُ وَلَا يُجَارُ عَلَيْهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (88)

    23|88| Say, ‘In whose hand is the sovereignty of all things99 - who protects but is not protected, if you know?’

    99. The textual “malakut”, (lit. dominion, sovereignty: Au.), has been understood by Mujahid as meaning treasures (Ibn Jarir).
    (That should explain the Qur’anic answer to the question about malakut as “lillah” [Allah’s] – Au.

    سَيَقُولُونَ لِلَّهِ ۚ قُلْ فَأَنَّىٰ تُسْحَرُونَ (89)

    23|89| They will surely say, ‘Allah’s.’ How then are you bewitched?100

    100. “Sahar is not only ‘bewitched’ but also ‘be turned away from his course or way’” (Majid). That is, it is also used in the sense of ‘khad`’ (deception) - Au.
    And Yusuf Ali once again, “The order and unity of purpose in the Universe argue unity of design and goodness in its Maker. Is it not then sheer madness for you to run after fancies and fail to understand and obey His Will? It is delusion in you to seek other than Allah.”

    بَلْ أَتَيْنَاهُمْ بِالْحَقِّ وَإِنَّهُمْ لَكَاذِبُونَ (90)

    23|90| Nay, but we have conveyed them the Truth and indeed they are liars.101

    101. Asad explains the verse and shows the connection with the next, “Lit., ‘they are liars’ - i.e., they deceive themselves by asserting that they believe in God and, at the same time, rejecting the idea of a life after death, which – in view of the fact that many wrongdoers prosper in this world while many righteous lead a life of suffering – is insolubly bound up with the concept of divine justice. Apart from this, a denial of the possibility of resurrection implies a doubt as to God’s unlimited power and, thus, of His Godhead in the true sense of this concept. This latter doubt often finds its expression in the mystic belief in a multiplicity of divine powers: and it is to this erroneous belief that the next verse alludes.”

    مَا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ مِنْ وَلَدٍ وَمَا كَانَ مَعَهُ مِنْ إِلَٰهٍ ۚ إِذًا لَذَهَبَ كُلُّ إِلَٰهٍ بِمَا خَلَقَ وَلَعَلَا بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۚ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ (91)

    23|91| Allah did not take to Himself any son102 and there never was any god with Him; else each god would have carried off what He created,103 and some of them would have risen against the others.104 Glory to Allah, above what they ascribe.105

    102. “The Arab polytheists of the time also claimed that their deities were God’s offspring” (Mawdudi).
    103. “.. implying that in such a hypothetical case (of several gods), each of the gods would have been concerned only with his own sector of creation, thus causing complete confusion in the universe” (Asad).
    104. Ibn Rushd discusses the question of Allah’s Oneness in his Faith and Reason in Islam (which is a translation of three of his treatises, “Al-Kashf ‘an Manahij al-Adillah fi `Aqa’id al-Milla, Fasl al-Maqal and Al-Damimah). He presents the Ash`ari method of argument, which happens to be the argument forwarded by most Muslim philosophers (mutakallimun) of the past and adopted by quite a few commentators including Ibn al-Qayyim (Badae`). In Ibn Rushd’s words, “(The Ash`arites maintain that] ‘If there were two [gods] or more, it would be possible for them to disagree, and if they disagree, their [disagreement] would involve only three alternatives: (1) either they would all accomplish what they desired, or (2) no one would attain what he desires, or (3) only one of them would accomplish what he desires but not the other.’ They add that it is impossible that none of them could accomplish what he desires, for if this were the case then the world neither be existing nor non-existing. Moreover, it is impossible for what they both want to come to be, for the world would then be existing and non-existing at the same time. Thus, the only alternative left is that what one of them wishes will be accomplished, while what the other desires will be thwarted. Accordingly, the one whose will is not fulfilled is impotent, and the impotent cannot be a god.”
    However, Ibn Rushd finds the above method inadequate on philosophical grounds and offers his own argument. He writes: “… As for denying the divinity to any other than He, the religious method in this regard is the one that God Almighty has spoken of in His Precious Book in three verses. The first is the saying of the Almighty: ‘Were there in them both [heaven and earth] other gods than Allah, they would surely have been ruined.’ (21: 22) The second is the saying of the Almighty, ‘Allah did not take to Himself a child and there was never any god with Him; or else each god would have carried off what He created, and some of them would have risen against the others. Exalted be Allah above what they ascribe.’ (23: 91) The third is the saying of the Almighty, ‘Say, “If there were other gods with Him, as they say, then surely they would have sought access to the Lord of the Throne.”’ (17: 42)
    “The meaning of the first verse is implanted in the instincts [of man] by nature. It is self-evident that if there are two kings, the actions of each one being the same as those of the other, it would not be possible [for them] to manage the same city, for there cannot result from agents of the same kind one and the same action. It follows necessarily that if they acted together, the city would be ruined, unless one of them acted while the other remained inactive, and this is incompatible with the attributes of divinity. When two actions of the same kind converge on one substratum, that substratum is corrupted necessarily. [This] is the meaning of the saying of the Almighty: ‘Were there in them both [heaven and earth] other gods than Allah, they would have surely been ruined.’” (Faith and Reason in Islam, p.39-41, tr. by Ibrahim Najjar, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, 2001).
    Yusuf Ali summarizes the argument, “The multiplicity of gods is intellectually indefensible, considering the unity of Design and Purpose in His wonderful Universe.”
    We might add here that apart from theory, the created world itself offers convincing proofs of Allah’s oneness. Two aspects may be noted. First: an amazing phenomenon is that in whatever direction the observatories are turned, they report back that the universe is more or less just the same all around; that is, there is an almost uniform pattern of distribution of stars, galaxies, nebulae and other cosmic material. Technically known as ‘homogeneity’ it has defied explanation. If the ‘Big Bang’ theory, including its Inflationary version, is correct, then how is homogeneity to be explained? The consequence of the Big Bang would have been that matter would be found unevenly distributed in space. Uniform distribution points to a Hand in its making. A second noteworthy phenomenon is that the whole observable universe is run by a single set of physical laws, which in fact can be reduced to the four fundamental Forces of Nature: the weak force, the strong force, the electromagnetic force and the gravitational force. If that had not been the case, we would not have been able to receive data from the cosmos, analyze it and form meaningful conclusions. Thus, the unity of the created world, and unity of laws lead to the unity of the Creator, or His Oneness (Au.).
    105. “To suppose that Allah has a son or family or partners or companions is to have a low idea of Allah, Who is high above all such relationships. He is the One True God and there can be none to compare with Him” (Yusuf Ali).

    عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ فَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (92)

    23|92| Knower of the Unseen and the seen, far above what they associate (with Him).

    قُلْ رَبِّ إِمَّا تُرِيَنِّي مَا يُوعَدُونَ (93)

    23|93| Say, ‘My Lord! If you should show me that with which they are threatened,

    رَبِّ فَلَا تَجْعَلْنِي فِي الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ (94)

    23|94| Then, my Lord! Place me not among the wrongdoing people.’106

    106. This, of course, does not mean that there was any danger that the Prophet (peace on him) would suffer the same fate as the evildoers if Allah’s chastisement descended. But, rather, the chastisement – if sent down - would be of such nature that even those who have no fear of it should better seek not to witness it. It also emphasizes, by allusion, to the notice of the believers, that when Allah’s punishment comes upon a people as retribution for their collective misdeeds, there is some likelihood of the righteous being affected by it (with a point from Alusi).
    Accordingly, one of the Prophet’s words of supplication – in Tirmidhi and Ahmad and trustworthy - runs on the same line. It says:

    وإذا أردتَ بعبادكَ فتْنَةً فاقبضْني إليكَ غيرَ مفتون

    “If You wish to try a people (i.e., chastise them), then, take me back unto You untried” (Ibn Kathir).
    Zamakhshari offers another explanation: One might supplicate to gain what one knows as sure to come from Allah, as well as seek His refuge from what he knows is not going to strike him, for reasons of obedience, humbleness - and offer readiness to submit to whatever comes. The Prophet used to seek Allah’s forgiveness seventy times during a session, not because he was a sinner, but to demonstrate his humbleness and self-abasement before the Creator. How nice Hassan’s comment on Abu Bakr’s statement who said when installed as a Khalifah, “I have been made in charge although I am not the best of you.” Hasan remarked, “Of course he knew that he was the best of them, but he was being humble.”
    Yusuf Ali draws the obvious conclusion: “In other words, we must eschew the society of evil ones.”

    وَإِنَّا عَلَىٰ أَنْ نُرِيَكَ مَا نَعِدُهُمْ لَقَادِرُونَ (95)

    23|95| Although verily, to show you wherewith We threaten them, We are surely Able.

    ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ السَّيِّئَةَ ۚ نَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَصِفُونَ (96)

    23|96| Repel the evil with that which is better.107 We are most knowing of what they attribute (to you).

    107. Ibn Abi Hatim and Abu Nu`aym (in his Hilyah) have recorded Anas as saying (in explanation of this verse): “If someone points out a defect in his brother, which he does not have, then let him say, ‘If what you say is untrue, then I pray to Allah that He forgive you. But if you are true then I seek from Allah that He forgive me’” (Alusi).

    وَقُلْ رَبِّ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ هَمَزَاتِ الشَّيَاطِينِ (97)

    23|97| And say, ‘My Lord! I seek refuge in You from the whisperings of the Satans.108

    108. “Hamaza” is to prod (or prick, which Ibn Abbas explained as suggestions, incitement from the Satans: Ibn al-Qayyim [Badaae`]). E.g., the iron piece that is fixed on to the heel of a shoe to prod the riding animal is called “mahmaaz.” Satans prod men to sin in a similar fashion (so that they jump to evil deeds) - Alusi. It has also been said, adds Ibn al-Qayyim, that “hamaza” refers to general Satanic suggestions or provocation, while “nafakha” (or “nafatha”) are for specific suggestions, i.e., suggestions to specific purposes. It may also be noted that evil can have Satanic as well as human sources. The previous verse instructs that human evil be thwarted by returning with what is better, whereas Allah’s help is to be sought for evils of Satanic origin.
    Ibn Kathir adds: Hence the Prophet’s Prayer-words,

    اللهم إني أعوذ بك من الشيطان الرجيم من همزه ونفخه ونفثه

    “O Allah I seek Your protection against Satan the outcast – from his urgings, suggestions, and blows.”
    The hadith is in Ahmad which Hakim declared Sahih (Au.).

    وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ رَبِّ أَنْ يَحْضُرُونِ (98)

    23|98| And I seek refuge in You, my Lord, lest they should attend me.’109

    109. Accordingly, Jabir reported: I heard Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) say: “Satan is present with everyone of you in everything he does. He is present even when a man eats. So if any one of you drops a mouthful he should remove away anything dirty and eat the rest and not leave it for the devil; and when he finishes (food) he should lick his fingers, for he does not know in what portion of his food the blessing lies.‏”
    Ibn Kathir adds: The Prophet has, therefore, instructed us that we spell Allah’s name at the start of every act. One of his Prayer-words preserved by Abu Da’ud says,

    اللهم إني أعُوذُ بك من الهدم، وأعوذ بك من التَّرَدِّي، وأعوذ بك من الغرق، والحرق والهرم، وأعوذ بك أن يتخبطني الشيطان عند الموت، وأعوذ بك أن أموتَ في سبيلك مدبراً، وأعوذ بك أن أموت لديغاً

    “O Allah! I seek Your refuge from collapsing, I seek Your refuge from falling down (from a height), I seek Your refuge from drowning, burning, and extreme old age. I seek Your refuge that Shaytan should confuse me at the time of death, and I seek Your refuge that I should die fleeing from the battle field, and I seek Your refuge that I should die bitten” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above hadith is also found slightly differently worded in Al-Jami` as-Saghir of Suyuti, and is presumed to be of good strength (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir also reproduces a report of Ahmad that says, “The Prophet used to teach us words of supplication that were to be said at bedtime if in a fearful state:

    أعُوذُ بِكَلِمَاتِ الله التّامات مِنْ غَضَبِهِ وَعِقَابِهِ وشَرّ عِبَادِهِ، ومِنْ هَمَزَاتِ الشّيَاطِينِ وأَنْ يَحْضُرُونِ

    “I seek refuge in Allah’s complete words from His anger, punishment, and from the evil of His bondsmen; and from the prompting of the Satans and that they should come near me.”
    The reporter added, “`Abdullah ibn `Amr (b. al-`Aas) used to teach his mature children these words to be said at bedtime. As for those who were too young to say it meaningfully, he would write down for them on a piece of paper and hang it by their necks.”
    This report is also in Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi and Nasa’i. However, Tirmidhi gave the hadith a Hasan Gharib tag.
    Muhammad b. `Abdul Rahman states that the report is declared Sahih by Hakim. (But, Hakim added the words that there is difference in opinion over the hadith: Au.).
    Accordingly, Shah Abdul Haq has thought that wearing of amulets is allowed in Islam. But this is disputed. However, what is not disputed is that the use of amulets that have pagan words in them. They are outlawed (Tuhfah).
    Shamsul Haq Azeemabadi notes that according to Jazari too, use of amulets is allowed although the matter is disputed. Nevertheless, Ahmad and others have few other reports which say that the Prophet taught these words for insomnia and other sleep disorders (`Awn al-Ma`bood). That is, a second set of reports do not have the statement about `Abdullah ibn `Amr hung the words by the neck of the children.

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ رَبِّ ارْجِعُونِ (99)

    23|99| Till, when death comes to one of them he says, ‘My Lord! Send me back,110

    110. (The textual “irji`uni” is in plural addressing a group. But the word is preceded by “Rabbi” meaning, “My Lord” – in singular: Au.). It seems the unbelievers are addressing both Allah as well as the angels through one short sentence: “My Lord! Send me back.” (Ibn Jarir). Or, to put it differently, “O Lord [and O angels] send me back” (Mawdudi). But it could be a plural of respect (Majid), addressing one who is worthy of it (Mawdudi), a usage that can be demonstrated with a couplet (Zamakhshari and Razi); although, “such a plural is not ordinarily used in addressing Allah” (Yusuf Ali). A third possibility is to express recurrence. That is, the unbeliever will recurrently say, ‘Send me back, send me back’ (Qurtubi, Asad).

    لَعَلِّي أَعْمَلُ صَالِحًا فِيمَا تَرَكْتُ ۚ كَلَّا ۚ إِنَّهَا كَلِمَةٌ هُوَ قَائِلُهَا ۖ وَمِنْ وَرَائِهِمْ بَرْزَخٌ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ (100)

    23|100| Haply I could work righteousness in that I left (behind).’ By no means! It is but a word that he utters;111 and ahead of them is Barzakh112 until the Day they shall be raised.

    111. It would be futile to send them back, for, in that case, there can be two situations, (1) the memory of life on earth, that of the grave, and that of the Resurrection and accounting is retained. In this situation, they will not undergo any trial and will lose the right to choose by their free will. Alternatively (2), the entire memory is erased for them to step into the world, once again, as they did before: infants, not knowing anything. But, given the long experience of receiving the Truth but rejecting it out of pride, despite having recognized it as the truth, the attitudes would be repeated and the exercise futile (Au., with a point from Mawdudi) – although, in actual fact, the whole human life-cycle will have to be repeated to test them (Au.).

    فَإِذَا نُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَلَا أَنْسَابَ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ وَلَا يَتَسَاءَلُونَ (101)

    23|101| Then, when the Trumpet is blown, that Day there will be no ties of relationship between them anymore,113 nor will they ask after one another.114

    112. Literally, Barzakh is for a barrier. Here it stands for, according to Ibn Jarir, the barrier that makes it impossible for the unbelievers from returning to past life on earth. In general, adds Ibn Jarir, the word also stands for the world in between the two worlds: this present world and the Hereafter. Abu Umamah was in a funeral. When the dead body was placed in the grave he remarked, “This is the Barzakh until the day they will be resurrected.” Mujahid, Ibn Zayd, Dahhak, and others held the same opinion.
    Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir have similar comments to make.
    Majid quotes Dr. Iqbal, “(Barzakh) … a state of consciousness characterized by a change in the ego’s attitude towards time and space … a state in which the ego catches a glimpse of fresh aspects of Reality, and prepares himself for adjustment to these aspects (Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam).
    To escape from the allegorical, one might modify the above by saying, “… a state of consciousness (in the grave) characterized by ..” (Au.).
    113. Thanwi cautions us that the breaking up of the ties will not be absolute. It will be experienced by the unbelievers and wrongdoers. The Qur’an said (43: 67),

    {الْأَخِلَّاءُ يَوْمَئِذٍ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ إِلَّا الْمُتَّقِينَ} [الزخرف: 67]

    “(Close) friends that day will be enemy unto each other – but for the pious.”
    As for the true believers (although they will forget each other when the Trumpet is given the first blow), their ties will remain on Judgment Day. The Qur’an said (52: 21),

    {وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَاتَّبَعَتْهُمْ ذُرِّيَّتُهُمْ بِإِيمَانٍ أَلْحَقْنَا بِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ} [الطور: 21]

    “As for those who believed and their offspring followed them in faith, We shall join them with their offspring.”
    Further, there are reports that the Prophet is an exception. Blood ties with him will not be broken. He said in a hadith,

    فاطمة بضعة مني يقبضني ما يقبضها و يبسطني ما يبسطها و إن الأنساب يوم القيامة تنقطع غير نسبي و سببى و صهري

    “Fatimah is a part of me. That angers me which angers her, and that pleases me, which pleases her. And all blood ties will be severed on the Day of Judgment except for my blood ties, my connection and my wedlock ties.” (Haythami declared it Sahih: S. Ibrahim). The first part of the hadith, (i.e., about Fatimah) is in the Sahihayn in slightly different words.
    He also said, as recorded by Ahmad,

    ما بال رجال يقولون إن رحم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لا تنفع قومه ؟ بلى والله إن رحمي موصولة في الدنيا والآخرة, وإني أيها الناس فرط لكم إذا جئتم، قال رجل: يا رسول الله أنا فلان بن فلان, فأقول لهم: أما النسب فقد عرفت ولكنكم أحدثتم بعدي وارتددتم القهقرى

    “What’s the matter with men who say that the blood ties of the Apostle of Allah will not be of any profit to anyone. Why not? My blood ties are connected in this world and in the Hereafter. And I will, O people, precede you (at the Pond). A man will (come and) say, ‘Messenger of Allah. I am so and so, son of so and so.’ I will tell them, ‘As for the lineage, I recognize it. But you did things after me and turned back on your heels.’”
    We also have on record ‘Umar’s words, who said when he married ‘Ali’s daughter Umm Kulthum, “By Allah, I have no other objective (behind this marriage) except that I heard the Prophet say,

    كل سبب ونسب فإنه منقطع يوم القيامة إلا سببي ونسبي

    ‘Every instrument and blood tie will be severed except for my instrument and my blood tie.’” It is said that he offered her 40,000 as her Mahr, in her honor. There are other reports confirming that the lineage with the Prophet will not be severed on the Day of Judgment.
    Most of the above reports have been reproduced by Shawkani. His editor S. Ibrahim adds that ‘Umar’s words that he heard the Prophet say, “Every instrument ..” up to “blood tie” are trustworthy in Albani’s opinion.
    114. “And when the Trumpet is blown … nor will they ask after one another”: which blow of the Trumpet is it? Ibn `Abbas has explained that this will be at the first blow when all ties of relationship will be forgotten and no soul will inquire after another. It is only after the second blow of the Trumpet that some of them might seek to know about others. The Qur’anic verse of Surah Al-Saaffat numbered 27 is referring to that. It says,

    {وَأَقْبَلَ بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ} [الصافات: 27]

    “Then some of them will come forward asking after the others.”

    فَمَنْ ثَقُلَتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ (102)

    23|102| Then, he whose scales are heavy,115 those then, they are the prosperers.

    115. The translation of “mawaazeen” as “scales” is far from accurate and has been adopted for convenience, for, as Zamakhshari has pointed out, “mawaazeen” is the plural of “mawzoon” which is for a thing which has been weighed. Here, it means those deeds that are weighty, as Ibn `Abbas explained.

    وَمَنْ خَفَّتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ فِي جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدُونَ (103)

    23|103| While he whose scales are light, they are the ones who lost their souls, dwelling in Jahannum forever.

    تَلْفَحُ وُجُوهَهُمُ النَّارُ وَهُمْ فِيهَا كَالِحُونَ (104)

    23|104| The Fire will smite their faces, and they will be (grinning) therein with curled lips.116

    116. The translation is figurative, otherwise “kalaha” is to curl lips exposing the teeth. When Ibn Mas`ud was asked for explanation, he said, “Haven’t you seen a burnt (animal) head with curled back lips and exposed teeth?” A hadith is reported in Tirmidhi, who accredited it, (as well as in Hakim who rated it Sahih: Au.), that the Prophet said in explanation of this verse:

    تَشْويه النار فَتَقَلَّصُ شفته العليا حتى تبلغ وَسَطَ رأسه، وتسترخي شفته السفلى حتى تَضْرب سُرَّته

    “The Fire of Hell will burn their lips so that the upper lip will shrink back to cover half of his head while the lower lip will fall down to his navel” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    أَلَمْ تَكُنْ آيَاتِي تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْكُمْ فَكُنْتُمْ بِهَا تُكَذِّبُونَ (105)

    23|105| Were not My revelations recited upon you but you cried them lies?

    قَالُوا رَبَّنَا غَلَبَتْ عَلَيْنَا شِقْوَتُنَا وَكُنَّا قَوْمًا ضَالِّينَ (106)

    23|106| They will say, ‘Our Lord! Our wretchedness prevailed over us;117 and we were a people astray.118

    117. “(This dialogue … is meant to bring out the futile excuse characteristic of so many sinners who attribute their failings to an abstract ‘bad luck’ … and thus, indirectly, it stresses the element of free will – and, therefore, of responsibility – in man’s action and behavior” (Asad).
    118. “And we were a people astray” – perhaps the unbelievers will add this phrase that day in hope that sometimes admission of errors helps in winning forgiveness (Thanwi).

    رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا مِنْهَا فَإِنْ عُدْنَا فَإِنَّا ظَالِمُونَ (107)

    23|107| Our Lord! Remove us from out of it. Then, if we returned (to evil), we shall indeed be wrongdoers.’

    قَالَ اخْسَئُوا فِيهَا وَلَا تُكَلِّمُونِ (108)

    23|108| He will say, ‘Remain despised therein, and speak not unto Me.119

    119. Ibn Jarir pieces together (at verse 105) several reports coming from Muhammad ibn Ka`b and others to give us an account of various conversations that will take place between the people of the Fire and others. (A shortened version was reported by Qurtubi earlier. See Ibrahim, verse 44, who repeats it here. Ibn Kathir and Razi also present in a shorter form):
    They (the reporters) were told that the people of the Fire will plead the guardians of Hell for help saying (40: 49),

    {ادْعُوا رَبَّكُمْ يُخَفِّفْ عَنَّا يَوْمًا مِنَ الْعَذَابِ} [غافر: 49]

    “Pray to your Lord that He may reduce from us a day of the torture.”
    They will reply in words Allah used (i.e., [40: 50],

    {فَادْعُوا وَمَا دُعَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ إِلَّا فِي ضَلَالٍ} [غافر: 50]

    “Pray yourself. And the prayers of the unbelievers will be not but lost in vain).”
    Having lost hope with them they will next address the Keeper of Hell (43: 77)

    {لِيَقْضِ عَلَيْنَا رَبُّكَ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ مَاكِثُونَ} [الزخرف: 77]

    “Let your Lord deal us death.”
    He will not reply to them for 80,000 years of the Hereafter and then turn to them to say (43: 77),

    {إِنَّكُمْ مَاكِثُونَ} [الزخرف: 77]

    “You will stay (therein).”
    When they get the answer they will say to each other, “Let us bear in patience, as the inhabitants of Paradise remained steadfast in Allah’s obedience.” So they will remain bearing the torments patiently until their patience will be up. They will cry out in exasperation (14: 21),

    {سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْنَا أَجَزِعْنَا أَمْ صَبَرْنَا مَا لَنَا مِنْ مَحِيصٍ} [إبراهيم: 21]

    “It is all the same for us whether we refuse to endure or observe patience. There is no place of escape for us.”
    At that point Iblis will intervene as in the verse (14: 22),

    {وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدْتُكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ} [إبراهيم: 22]

    “And Satan will say when the matter is concluded, ‘Allah promised you a true promise, and I too promised. But I failed in my promise.”
    At that they will begin to hate themselves.
    They will be told (40: 10),

    {لَمَقْتُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ مِنْ مَقْتِكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ إِذْ تُدْعَوْنَ إِلَى الْإِيمَانِ فَتَكْفُرُونَ} [غافر: 10]

    “Surely, Allah’s hatred of you was greater than your hatred of yourselves, when you were invited to faith but you refused.
    They will say (40: 11),

    {قَالُوا رَبَّنَا أَمَتَّنَا اثْنَتَيْنِ وَأَحْيَيْتَنَا اثْنَتَيْنِ فَاعْتَرَفْنَا بِذُنُوبِنَا فَهَلْ إِلَى خُرُوجٍ مِنْ سَبِيلٍ} [غافر: 11]

    “Our Lord! You gave us death twice and brought us to life twice. Now, we admit our sins. So, is there a way out?”
    They will be told (40: 12),

    {ذَلِكُمْ بِأَنَّهُ إِذَا دُعِيَ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ كَفَرْتُمْ وَإِنْ يُشْرَكْ بِهِ تُؤْمِنُوا فَالْحُكْمُ لِلَّهِ الْعَلِيِّ الْكَبِيرِ} [غافر: 12]

    “That, because when you were invited to Allah alone, you disbelieved. But if He was associated with, you believed. So the judgement is for the Most High, the Great.”
    They will feel downcast, but will call again saying (32: 12),

    {رَبَّنَا أَبْصَرْنَا وَسَمِعْنَا فَارْجِعْنَا نَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا إِنَّا مُوقِنُونَ} [السجدة: 12]

    “O our Lord! We have seen and heard. So send us back so that we can do righteous deeds, we are now believers.”
    He will answer (32: 14),

    {فَذُوقُوا بِمَا نَسِيتُمْ لِقَاءَ يَوْمِكُمْ هَذَا إِنَّا نَسِينَاكُمْ وَذُوقُوا عَذَابَ الْخُلْدِ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ} [السجدة: 14]

    “Taste then because you forgot this day’s meeting. We have also forgotten you. Taste the everlasting punishment for what you were doing.”
    Then they will ask (14: 44),

    {رَبَّنَا أَخِّرْنَا إِلَى أَجَلٍ قَرِيبٍ نُجِبْ دَعْوَتَكَ وَنَتَّبِعِ الرُّسُلَ} [إبراهيم: 44]

    “O our Lord! Defer us to a near term. We shall respond to Your call and follow the Messengers.”
    They will be told (14: 44),

    { أَوَلَمْ تَكُونُوا أَقْسَمْتُمْ مِنْ قَبْلُ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ زَوَالٍ} [إبراهيم: 44]

    “Were you not the ones who swore aforetime that you will not have to move (to the next world)?”
    At that they will be further disappointed but will again ask (35: 37),

    {رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا نَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا غَيْرَ الَّذِي كُنَّا نَعْمَلُ} [فاطر: 37]

    “O our Lord! Remove us (from here) so that we can do righteous deeds.”
    Allah (swt) will answer them (35: 37),

    { أَوَلَمْ نُعَمِّرْكُمْ مَا يَتَذَكَّرُ فِيهِ مَنْ تَذَكَّرَ وَجَاءَكُمُ النَّذِيرُ} [فاطر: 37]

    “Did we not lengthen your life, that he might remember who wished to remember; and a warner came to you? So, taste (the punishment), there is no helper for the wrongdoers.”
    Thereafter He will leave them un-addressed for a while, and then say (23: 105),

    {أَلَمْ تَكُنْ آيَاتِي تُتْلَى عَلَيْكُمْ فَكُنْتُمْ بِهَا تُكَذِّبُونَ} [المؤمنون: 105]

    “Were not My revelations recited upon you, but you would cry them lies?”
    When they hear that, they will see a ray of hope and will say, “May be He will show us mercy.” So, they will say (23: 106),

    {رَبَّنَا غَلَبَتْ عَلَيْنَا شِقْوَتُنَا وَكُنَّا قَوْمًا ضَالِّينَ } [المؤمنون: 106]

    “O our Lord! Our wretchedness got the better of us. We were a misguided people.”
    Allah will reply (23: 108),

    {قَالَ اخْسَئُوا فِيهَا وَلَا تُكَلِّمُونِ} [المؤمنون: 108]

    “Remain despised therein, and don’t speak to Me (any further).”
    Thereafter, they will never address Him again, but only howl and bark at each other and the lid will be laid over them and sealed.
    Zmakhshari has a shorter report but attributes it to Ibn `Abbas. Alusi too has a shorter version whose original sources include Bayhaqi and Hakim, who accredited the report, although Alusi is not so convinced of the accreditation. In any case, this is not a hadith (Au.).

    إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِنْ عِبَادِي يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا آمَنَّا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا وَأَنْتَ خَيْرُ الرَّاحِمِينَ (109)

    23|109| There surely was a group from among My slaves who used to say, “Our Lord! We have believed; therefore forgive us, and have mercy on us, surely, You are the best of the merciful.”

    فَاتَّخَذْتُمُوهُمْ سِخْرِيًّا حَتَّىٰ أَنْسَوْكُمْ ذِكْرِي وَكُنْتُمْ مِنْهُمْ تَضْحَكُونَ (110)

    23|110| But you took them in jest, to the point that they made you forget My remembrance; and you remained making fun of them.

    إِنِّي جَزَيْتُهُمُ الْيَوْمَ بِمَا صَبَرُوا أَنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْفَائِزُونَ (111)

    23|111| I have indeed rewarded them this Day for their patient endurance, that they – they are the triumphant.’120

    120. With reference to the words, “I have indeed rewarded them this Day for their patient endurance, that they - they are the triumphant” – it should not be thought that the reason stated here is all the reason for the reward, but rather, one of the many reasons (Thanwi).

    قَالَ كَمْ لَبِثْتُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ عَدَدَ سِنِينَ (112)

    23|112| He will ask, ‘How long did you tarry in the earth – by number of years?’

    قَالُوا لَبِثْنَا يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ فَاسْأَلِ الْعَادِّينَ (113)

    23|113| They will answer, ‘We tarried a day or part of a day, so ask those who keep count.’121

    121. The allusion could both be to the angels as well as humans who keep account of events (such as the historians) – Ibn Jarir.
    Asad adds: “The disappearance, upon resurrection, of man’s earth-bound concept of time is indicated by the helpless answer, (‘ask those who keep count’).”

    قَالَ إِنْ لَبِثْتُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا ۖ لَوْ أَنَّكُمْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (114)

    23|114| He will say, ‘Indeed you tarried not, but a little; if you had but known.

    أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ عَبَثًا وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا تُرْجَعُونَ (115)

    23|115| Did you think we created you only for sport122 and that to Us you would not be returned?’

    122. That is, if not for the Judgment in the Hereafter, the sinner and the obedient, the pious and the rapscallion, would all be on par and equal, reducing this life to a mere farce (Razi).

    فَتَعَالَى اللَّهُ الْمَلِكُ الْحَقُّ ۖ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْكَرِيمِ (116)

    23|116| Exalted is Allah, the (Ultimate) Sovereign, the (Ultimate) Truth.123 There is no god but He, Lord of the noble `Arsh.

    123. Alusi understands the combination of the two Attributes as (al-haqeequ bil-malikiyyati: “The True Sovereign,” or, “[the One to whom] sovereignty truly [belongs].”

    وَمَنْ يَدْعُ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ لَا بُرْهَانَ لَهُ بِهِ فَإِنَّمَا حِسَابُهُ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الْكَافِرُونَ (117)

    23|117| And whosoever invokes another god along with Allah, whereof he has no evidence, assuredly, his reckoning is with His Lord. Surely the unbelievers shall not prosper.124

    124. Note that the Surah started on the note: “Succeeded indeed the believers”, and ends on the note, “Surely the unbelievers shall not prosper” (Zamakhshari).

    وَقُلْ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ وَارْحَمْ وَأَنْتَ خَيْرُ الرَّاحِمِينَ (118)

    23|118| And say, ‘My Lord! Forgive and show mercy, and You are the best of the merciful.’