Surat Ash-Shu`arā'

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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


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


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


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


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


  • Surah No. 26

    Merits of the Surah

    Asad writes: “The main purport of the this surah lies in its stress on the unchangeable character of man’s weakness and proneness to self-deception, which explains why the great majority of people, at all times in all communities, so readily reject the truth – whether it be the truth of God’s messages or of what is commonly described as ‘glory’, as well as a mindless acceptance of slogans and prevailing fashions of thought.”
    Sayyid Qutb summarises the chapter in the following words: “The subject matter of this chapter is the same as the subject matter of all Makkan chapters: faith. Its main characteristics are, Oneness of Allah: ‘Therefore, evoke not along with Allah another deity or you will be of the chastised (213).’ Fear of the Hereafter: ‘And do not humiliate me on the Day they will be raised, the Day neither wealth nor progeny will profit, except for him who came with a healthy heart (88).’ Testimony of Messengership: ‘And indeed, it is the sending down of the Lord of the worlds (that) Jibril has come down with, on your heart in order that you might be of those who warned (193).’ Then the threat of dire consequences in the form either of an immediate punishment that would annihilate the unbelievers, or the chastisement of the Hereafter that awaits the unbelievers: ‘They have denied, so soon the tidings of that which they use to mock at (6: 5).’”
    Mawdudi has an elaborated prefatory which we reduce to few paragraphs: “The background of the Surah is that the disbelievers of Makkah were persistently refusing, on one pretext or the other, to accept the message of Islam. Sometimes they said he did not show them any sign to convince them of his Prophet-hood; sometimes they branded him as a poet or a sorcerer and mock his message; and sometimes they ridiculed his Mission, saying that his followers were either a few foolish young men, or those of the lower strata of the society whereas, they argued, if his Mission had a substantial message, the nobles and the elders would have been the first to accept it. Thus, the disbelievers were never tired of stubborn defiance in ever new form (and the Prophet was ever afraid of Allah’s scourge seizing them: Au.). This state of affairs was causing great anguish and grief to the Holy Prophet.
    “It is in these conditions that this Surah was revealed. After this introduction, till verse 191, one and the same theme has been presented continuously, and it is said: The whole earth abounds in such Signs as can guide a seeker after truth to Reality, but the stubborn and misguided people have never believed in the past even after witnessing the Signs, whether these were the Signs of the natural phenomena or the miracles of the Prophets. Those wretched people stubbornly adhered to their erroneous creeds till the Divine scourge actually overtook them. It is to illustrate this that the history of seven of the ancient nations has been told, who persisted in disbelief just like the disbelievers of Makkah. In this connection, the following point, among others, has been stressed: The mentality of the disbeliever has been the same throughout the ages; their arguments and their objections, and their excuses and subterfuges for not believing have been similar and ultimately the fates that they met have also been the same.
    “Finally, the discussion has been summed up, saying: ‘O disbelievers, if at all you want to see the Signs, why don't you look into the Qur'an which is being presented in your own language? Why can’t you see and judge Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and mercy) and his Companions? Can the revelations of the Qur'an be the work of a Satan or Jinn? Does the recipient of the Qur'an appear to be a sorcerer? Are Muhammad and his Companions no different from a poet and his admirers? Why don't you give up obduracy and search your hearts for the answers? When in the heart of your hearts you believe that the Revelations of the Qur'an have nothing in common with sorcery and poetry, then you should know that you are being cruel and unjust in rejecting it, and will certainly meet the end that awaits the cruel and the unjust.’”
    1. Except for the ending passage starting with the verse, “As for the poets, they are followed by..”, the chapter is Makkah (Zamakhshari, Razi), which report comes to us from Ibn `Abbas, `Ata’ and Qatadah (Alusi).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ طسم (1)

    26|1| Ta Sin Mim2

    2. To repeat the repeated, writes Ibn Jarir, is to say that several opinions have been offered over these letters. For example Ibn `Abbas has said that Taa Seen Meem are Allah’s names which He used here to swear. On the other hand, Qatadah said they are one of the several names of the Qur’an. Some others have said that it is the name of this Surah.
    Imam Razi breaks the line to say, taa is for tarb (rapture of the Gnostics, seen for the suroor (delight) of the lovers, and meem for the munaajaah (secret talk) of the seekers (of Allah).
    There are a few other opinions too (Alusi).

    تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ (2)

    26|2| These are verses of a clear Book.3

    3. Or, the Book that makes (things) clear. Ibn Kathir combines both the meanings, Asad being close to it.
    Mawdudi elaborates: “That is, the verses of this surah are from a clear and lucid Book. Everyone who reads or listens to this Book can understand, without any difficulty, what it is calling people to: what it enjoins and what it forbids; what it regards as Truth and what it condemns as falsehood. To believe or not to believe is a different matter, but no one has any valid excuse to say that he cannot understand the teachings of the Book or cannot ascertain what that Book would like him to follow and what it urges him to give up.
    “To call the Qur’an a clear Book has another aspect too: that it is abundantly clear that the Qur’an is a Divine Book. Its language and diction, its subject matter and themes, the truth that it expounds and the circumstances in which it was revealed, all these testify that it is indeed the Book of the Lord of the Universe.”

    لَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَفْسَكَ أَلَّا يَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ (3)

    26|3| Perhaps you will grieve yourself to death4 that they will not be believers.5

    4. The textual word baakhi` is for killing oneself out of grief. It is rooted in al-bakh` which is for reaching up to the neck-bone (al-bikhaa`) with the knife during the slaughter of an animal (Zamakhshari, Razi, Alusi). Also see Al-Kahf, note 5 for another connotation.
    The above explains the depth of the Prophet’s anguish at the refusal of the Makkans to heed. He went beyond the limits of empathy and compassion to evoke these words from Allah (Au.).
    5. Majid comments, “Tinged as it is, by antipathy and hostility, the testimony of a Christian writer is remarkable: ‘In the materialistic commercial town of Mecca, where lust of gain reigned supreme, where women, wine and gambling filled up the leisure time, where might was right, and widows, orphans, and the feeble were treated as superfluous ballast, an unfortunate being Muhammad, if his constitution were sensitive, must have experienced most painful emotions..’”
    It might be noted how accurately the above describes the state of the Western, and now close on heal the Eastern world of today (Au.).

    إِنْ نَشَأْ نُنَزِّلْ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ آيَةً فَظَلَّتْ أَعْنَاقُهُمْ لَهَا خَاضِعِينَ (4)

    26|4| Had We so willed, We could have sent down to them a sign out of heaven, so that their necks would stay humbled to it.6

    6. If Allah did not do it, it is because, He wished that people choose to believe rather than be forced to do it (Ibn Kathir), “(which) would make them automata” (Majid).
    The translation expresses the connotation forwarded by Ibn Zayd, otherwise, as Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ibn Jurayj, and others said, ‘they would hang their necks (and not commit any sin).’ Yet others have understood a`naaq in the sense of the “chiefs (of the Quraysh)” [i.e., not an allusion, but as the meaning of the word].
    Ibn Jarir quotes several poetic pieces followed by detailed discussions why the feminine form has been employed in zallat, and if, by a`naaq the allusion is to necks, then why khade`een is masculine. Zamakhshari, Imam Razi, Qurtubi and Alusi also discuss the issue on similar lines quite lengthy to reproduce.
    Verses of this kind spread over the Qur’an also imply that Truth will never be manifested in such a manner as to leave no room for any doubt, which would mean no role for the free play of human will, and no trial of his inner good or evil. Thus, an element of doubt will always remain, for man to match this element with the mass of truth and reach rightful conclusions – if he stays honest. This is applicable to the whole message in question, as well as to its parts (Au.).

    وَمَا يَأْتِيهِمْ مِنْ ذِكْرٍ مِنَ الرَّحْمَٰنِ مُحْدَثٍ إِلَّا كَانُوا عَنْهُ مُعْرِضِينَ (5)

    26|5| But7 there comes not to them a fresh reminder from the All-merciful, except that they remain turning away from it.8

    7. That is, since We do not force the people to believe, “there does not come ...”
    8. The allusion is to the passages of revelations sent down to the Prophet following short or long intervals. But every fresh revelation was treated as cursorily and heedlessly as the previous one (Ibn Jarir, Razi). Ibn Kathir however believes that the address is to the humankind that whenever a new Messenger was raised and a new message given, people rejected (in the old manner).

    فَقَدْ كَذَّبُوا فَسَيَأْتِيهِمْ أَنْبَاءُ مَا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ (6)

    26|6| They have already cried lies,9 therefore, soon there will come to them the tidings of that they were mocking at.10

    9. That is, in a manner similar to the habits of the past, mankind has cried lies to this message also (based on Asad).
    10. Imam Razi draws our attention to various levels of disbelief. It starts with “turning away in heedlessness,” (v. 5) grows into “denial” (v. 6), which develops into outright “mocking” (also v. 6).

    أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَى الْأَرْضِ كَمْ أَنْبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِنْ كُلِّ زَوْجٍ كَرِيمٍ (7)

    26|7| Have they not considered the earth, how many of every kind11 of beautiful12 (vegetation) We have caused to grow therein?13

    11. Zawj is (not necessarily for pairs but: Au.) for kinds and classes too (Alusi).
    12. The textual kareem rendered as beautiful here has the backing of Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari and Qurtubi who cite examples of such usage in the Arabic language.
    13. Sha`bi assumed the meaning of kareem as noble and commented: People are of the earth’s product. He who entered Paradise is kareem (noble), while he who entered Hellfire is la’eem (ignoble) – Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir.
    The implied meaning is, adds Alusi, man is included in the allusion to “what Allah causes the earth to grow.”

    إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً ۖ وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (8)

    26|8| Surely, in that is a sign. But most of them were not to be believers.14

    14. That is because, even before any revelation, they had already decided not to accept anything that would morally bind them and restrain their freedom. So, rejection was a foregone decision (Au.)

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ (9)

    26|9| Surely your Lord - He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-compassionate.15

    15. That is, as Ibn Jurayj said, He is All-mighty who destroyed the past rebellious nations and All-compassionate who rescued the believers in Him (Ibn Jarir).
    Asad adds a note to verses 8 and 9: “The above two verses appear eight times in this surah. Apart from the present instance, they conclude, like a refrain, each of the subsequent seven stories of earlier prophets, which – by means of their, in places, almost identical phrasing – are meant to stress the essential identity of the ethical teachings of all the prophets, as well as to illustrate the statement, in verse 5, that a rejection of God’s message is a recurrent phenomenon in the history of mankind despite the fact that His existence is clearly manifested in all living creatures.”

    وَإِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبُّكَ مُوسَىٰ أَنِ ائْتِ الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ (10)

    26|10| And (recall) when your Lord called to Musa (saying), ‘Go to the wrongdoing people.

    قَوْمَ فِرْعَوْنَ ۚ أَلَا يَتَّقُونَ (11)

    26|11| The folks of Fir`awn.’ Will they not fear?

    قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَنْ يُكَذِّبُونِ (12)

    26|12| He said, ‘My Lord! I strongly fear they will cry me lies.

    وَيَضِيقُ صَدْرِي وَلَا يَنْطَلِقُ لِسَانِي فَأَرْسِلْ إِلَىٰ هَارُونَ (13)

    26|13| And my breast will be constricted and my tongue will not move (fluently).16 So, make a Messenger of Harun.17

    16. That is, if they cry lies to me, my breast would be straitened and my tongue will not move fluently (out of anger) – Razi and others.
    However, reminds Qurtubi, we have noted in Surah Taa Haa that Musa had some kind of (eloquence) impairment (20: 22). He could be referring to it (rather than failure to communicate well because of anger).
    17. Although literally “Send to Harun,” a more appropriate meaning is, “Raise Harun as a Messenger” (Kashshaf, Razi, Alusi, Thanwi). He sought Harun’s help and was not at all seeking excuse from the responsibility being placed on him (Qurtubi).
    The Torah alleges (see Exodus ch.3) that Musa refused altogether to accept the responsibility of Messengership to the extent of evoking God’s anger (Au.).

    وَلَهُمْ عَلَيَّ ذَنْبٌ فَأَخَافُ أَنْ يَقْتُلُونِ (14)

    26|14| Besides, they have a crime against me,18 and so I fear they will kill me (instantly).’19

    18. He was referring to the inadvertent killing of a Copt at his hand at the time he was living among the Fir`awn royalties. It is described in detail in Surah Qasas (28: 15-20).
    19. That is, even before I have delivered the message (Kashshaf, Alusi and others).

    قَالَ كَلَّا ۖ فَاذْهَبَا بِآيَاتِنَا ۖ إِنَّا مَعَكُمْ مُسْتَمِعُونَ (15)

    26|15| He said, ‘By no means. Proceed, both of you, with Our Signs. Surely We are with you – listening.20

    20. That is, Our help and support is at close quarters (Alusi), which will spring to action with the first word of threat pronounced against you (Au.).

    فَأْتِيَا فِرْعَوْنَ فَقُولَا إِنَّا رَسُولُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (16)

    26|16| So, go to Fir`awn and say, “We are indeed Messenger(s)21 of the Lord of the worlds.22

    21. Although the word rasool is singular, (because it has been used here as a masdar: Alusi), it covers the two: Musa and Harun (Au.). Alternatively, the expression could be translated as, “Each of us is a Messenger” (Alusi).
    22. Fir`awn knew them as Musa and Harun; so they introduced themselves as Messengers of Allah, placing their personalities in the background (Au.).

    أَنْ أَرْسِلْ مَعَنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (17)

    26|17| (With the message) that (says), ‘Send forth with us the Children of Israel.’”

    قَالَ أَلَمْ نُرَبِّكَ فِينَا وَلِيدًا وَلَبِثْتَ فِينَا مِنْ عُمُرِكَ سِنِينَ (18)

    26|18| He (Fir`awn) said, ‘Did we not raise you amongst us as a child,23 and you stayed with us many years of your life?24

    23. In these words Fir`awn mixed taunt with derision (Qurtubi).
    Yusuf Ali adds: “There is a little play of wit on the part of Pharaoh. When Moses speaks of the (Lord of the worlds), Pharaoh says: “Who cherished you? Did we not bring you up as a child?” (That is, who was your Lord then, if not we?)
    24. It is said that Musa left Egypt when he was thirty, and was given Messengership when forty (Alusi).

    وَفَعَلْتَ فَعْلَتَكَ الَّتِي فَعَلْتَ وَأَنْتَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ (19)

    26|19| ‘And you committed a deed of yours that you committed,25 and you are of the ungrateful.’26

    25. The allusion was of course to the accidental killing of a Copt: a taunt Musa had well anticipated. Yusuf Ali adds: “Pharaoh .. taunts him, ‘You are not only a murderer: you are an ungrateful wretch .. to have killed one of the race that brought you up.’”
    26. Min al-kafirin: Most commentators have explained that Fir`awn had no idea of what kufr is. He meant ‘you were ungrateful that although we brought you up in our royal quarters, you killed one of our men.’
    Nonetheless, some commentators have thought that it could mean, ‘you aided one of your men, murdering one of ours – because,’ as Hasan has said, writes Alusi: ‘all along you had remained an unbeliever in our religion.’

    قَالَ فَعَلْتُهَا إِذًا وَأَنَا مِنَ الضَّالِّينَ (20)

    26|20| He replied, ‘I did it then while I was of the unguided.’27

    27. The translation tries to closely represent the text. But Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others have said that it means, “I was of the ignorant” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Another meaning forwarded is, “I had forgotten” which is another connotation of the word “dalla.”

    فَفَرَرْتُ مِنْكُمْ لَمَّا خِفْتُكُمْ فَوَهَبَ لِي رَبِّي حُكْمًا وَجَعَلَنِي مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (21)

    26|21| So I fled from you when I feared you.28 But (now) Allah has granted me the Judgment,29 and made me of the Messengers.

    28. That is, ‘I was apprehensive that you’d punish me for the man’s death while I did not deserve such a retaliation since I had never intended to kill him nor does anybody die of a single punch’ (Razi).
    Shabbir has another point. Musa intended to say, “Look! At one point I was so fearful that I fled. But now, here I am, right before you without any fear. Why? It is because now I am a Messenger.”
    29. With the backing of Suddi, Ibn Jarir believes that hukm is equivalent of nubuwwah (Prophethood).
    What Musa meant is, ‘While you were planning to kill me, my Lord was so kind as to appoint me His envoy’ (Razi).

    وَتِلْكَ نِعْمَةٌ تَمُنُّهَا عَلَيَّ أَنْ عَبَّدْتَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (22)

    26|22| And, (is) this the favor that you taunt me with (as the reason) that you have enslaved the Children of Israel!?’30

    30. That is, ‘Do you enslave a whole nation, tyrannizing them, and taunt me that you brought me up – a mere individual? To what purpose? And, how can you taunt me when it was your tyrannical system of killing the Israeli male children that brought me to your palace (Kashshaf, Alusi, Thanwi – with the backing of Qatadah).
    Shabbir has the same point in slightly different words. Musa was trying to tell him, “It is true that you brought me up. But what kind of taunting is it? Wasn’t such upbringing a result of your persecution of the Israelites? If you hadn’t persecuted them, my mother wouldn’t have been forced to sail me across in a basket to be picked up by your women!”

    قَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ وَمَا رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ (23)

    26|23| Fir`awn asked, ‘Alright! What is (this) Lord of the worlds?’31

    31. Unable to get any result out of the loose talk, a habit of all ignorant people, Fir`awn finally gets serious. They said they were “Messengers of the Lord of the Worlds.” So he asked, “Whoever is this your Lord of the worlds?” (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir has a meaning in mind that other commentators do not seem to subscribe: Fir`awn was not asking about the reality of the Supreme Deity, as to what He is made up of. But rather, when Musa said that he was sent by the Lord of the worlds, Fir`awn said, in effect, ‘A deity other than me is not recognized in this part of the world, so what other God is it that you are talking of?’ (Paraphrased).
    Razi, Alusi and Thanwi however believe he was asking about the reality of the Supreme Deity; and Musa answered him that whenever He is described, it will be with the help of His Attributes and Works of creation.

    قَالَ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا ۖ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُوقِنِينَ (24)

    26|24| He replied, ‘Lord of the heavens and the earth, and what is between them,32 if you would be convinced.’33

    32. Thus Musa answered him two questions. Who is the Lord? It is the Owner and Sustainer of all that there is. Next, what are these “worlds?” The answer is: all and everything that falls within the heavens and the earth (Au.).
    33. The textual address is in plural, because, although Musa was talking to Fir`awn, he had his courtiers and attendants in mind (Au.).

    قَالَ لِمَنْ حَوْلَهُ أَلَا تَسْتَمِعُونَ (25)

    26|25| He said to those around him, ‘Do you not hear?’34

    34. That is, does not (this outlandish) talk amaze you? (Ibn Kathir)?

    قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ وَرَبُّ آبَائِكُمُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (26)

    26|26| He (Musa) added, ‘(He is) your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers of old.’35

    35. Thus, when Fir`awn made another attempt at digression by saying, “Do you not hear him?” – Musa tried to drag him back to the main point by saying, “(He is) your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers of old.”
    It is our appreciation at the sub-conscious level of the intellectual wrestling between the two that makes this short conversation enjoyable (Au.).

    قَالَ إِنَّ رَسُولَكُمُ الَّذِي أُرْسِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ لَمَجْنُونٌ (27)

    26|27| He said, ‘Verily, the Messenger who has been sent to you is truly mad.’36

    36. Fir`awn used the word “Messenger” out of utter derision and to press his point that Musa seems to be unable to talk intelligently in that, ‘I say one thing, and he says another’ (Alusi).
    This was yet another attempt to divert the minds and change the topic. Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to talk to a little Fir`awn will realize how the conversation here mirrors that which is experienced with this class of people (Au.).

    قَالَ رَبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا ۖ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ (28)

    26|28| He said, ‘The Lord of the east and the west and what is between them,37 if you would think.’38

    37. So Musa holds on to his own point. He will not be side-tracked. He tells him that Allah’s kingdom extends beyond his little kingdom (Au.).
    Thus Musa implied that even if Egypt belonged to Fir`awn where he could implement his command, and so, in a way he owned it, to whom belonged the East and the West where, and between which, appeared great many creations, in the earth and the heavens? (Ibn Kathir).
    38. That is, why can’t you use the brains you are so proud of? A question one might ask every atheist of every age (Au.).
    Aren’t you closer to being mad yourselves? (Alusi).

    قَالَ لَئِنِ اتَّخَذْتَ إِلَٰهًا غَيْرِي لَأَجْعَلَنَّكَ مِنَ الْمَسْجُونِينَ (29)

    26|29| He said, ‘If you took a deity other than me,39 I shall surely place you among the imprisoned (ones).’40

    39. Majid offers us results of his vast readings: “Moses and Aaron ‘had to present themselves before a king, who, by the long-established usage of the country, was looked upon as “a good god,” and “the great god,” and who inherited from his father the idea that he was actually on a par with the greatest of the recognized divinities.’(Rawlinson, Moses: His Life and Times, p. 88). ‘Egypt is remarkable for the extraordinary realistic way in which it depicted the dogma that the Pharaoh was the visible-god, begotten by the god, and the divine begetter of his wife’s children.’(UHW.I.p. 646). ‘As the great Pharaonic State arose, the impressive figure of the sovereign profoundly influenced religion; the forms of the State passed over into human conceptions of the gods, and the Sun-gods, the greatest of them all, was received as a Pharaoh ruling other divinities.’ (EBr. XII, p. 77). ‘The Pharaoh was a god upon earth. Like the Incas of Pras, he belonged to the solar race, and the blood which flowed in his vein was the ichor of the gods .. The supreme sovereign, the Pharaoh .. was veritable god on earth. To his subjects he was the source, not only of material benefits but of spiritual blessings as well. He was “the good god,” the beneficent dispenser of all good things. The power of life and death was in his hands, and rebellion against him was rebellion against the gods.’ (Sayce, pp. 42,44).”
    40. When challenged to use reason, unwittingly Fir`awn threw away his gauntlet. At heart he knew that if he carried on, his shallow intellectual reasoning – at bottom mere non-sense - would not stand its ground. Furthermore, his threat was not only directed at Musa, but at his courtiers too, whose faces must have been reflecting the change of minds (Au.).
    Defeated on the intellectual platform, Fir`awn, like tyrants of all times, threatened to use force (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    Thus, at the intellectual level Musa won out. That is only possible if a caller stays cool and intellectually alert. It might also be noticed that the whole conversation is conducted by Musa alone, without a word from Harun, in fulfillment of Allah’s promise when He said, “By no means” (verse 15) in reply to Musa’s apprehensions that his anger might get the better of him and he would not be able to express himself powerfully if Fir`awn rejected the call (Au.).

    قَالَ أَوَلَوْ جِئْتُكَ بِشَيْءٍ مُبِينٍ (30)

    26|30| He asked, ‘Even if I brought you something clear (and convincing)?’41

    41. Musa’s magnanimity and kindness will not allow him lose hope. He will try with his miracles (with a point from Qurtubi).

    قَالَ فَأْتِ بِهِ إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (31)

    26|31| He said, ‘Produce it then,42 if you are of the truthful.’

    42. Fir`awn has found a straw: “Produce it,” he says (with a point from Alusi).

    فَأَلْقَىٰ عَصَاهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ ثُعْبَانٌ مُبِينٌ (32)

    26|32| So he threw his staff, and lo, it was a serpent, manifest.’43

    43. That is, it was not a make-believe kind of thing - like those produced later by the magicians - but a very real serpent for anyone to be in any doubt thereof (with a point from Alusi).

    وَنَزَعَ يَدَهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ بَيْضَاءُ لِلنَّاظِرِينَ (33)

    26|33| And he drew out his hand and lo, it was white to the beholders.44

    44. That is, the onlookers were not repelled by the white spot on the palm. It did not resemble a leprous hand, but rather, something that caught the eyes of the beholders – like the face of the moon (Kashshaf and Alusi rephrased).

    قَالَ لِلْمَلَإِ حَوْلَهُ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَسَاحِرٌ عَلِيمٌ (34)

    26|34| He said to the eminent ones around him, ‘This indeed is a skilled magician.

    يُرِيدُ أَنْ يُخْرِجَكُمْ مِنْ أَرْضِكُمْ بِسِحْرِهِ فَمَاذَا تَأْمُرُونَ (35)

    26|35| He plans to drive you out of your land by his magic.45 So, what is it then that you would advise?’46

    45. That is, he will deprive you of your political power (Ibn Kathir).
    The verse also throws hint that the ruling Syksos were foreigners in the land, colonizers of Egypt (Au.).
    46. The textual word allows for two possible meanings: one, as in translation (from mu’aamarah), another, command (Kashshaf).
    Fir`awn wasn’t of course waiting for a command from them or for advice. Perhaps by using such terms he aimed at beefing up their ego. He needed all of it to fight out Musa’s influence (Au.).

    قَالُوا أَرْجِهْ وَأَخَاهُ وَابْعَثْ فِي الْمَدَائِنِ حَاشِرِينَ (36)

    26|36| They said, ‘Put him and his brother off (for a while), and send in the cities musterers -

    يَأْتُوكَ بِكُلِّ سَحَّارٍ عَلِيمٍ (37)

    26|37| To bring you every accomplished skilled magician.’47

    47. The qualifying noun “every” (and “accomplished”: Au.) was meant to attenuate the emperor’s anxiety (Kashshaf).

    فَجُمِعَ السَّحَرَةُ لِمِيقَاتِ يَوْمٍ مَعْلُومٍ (38)

    26|38| So the magicians were assembled at the appointed time48 of a day well-known.49

    48. The textual word “meeqat” covers both time and place of appointment, hence mawaaqit of ihraam which are for time as well as place (Kashshaf, Razi, Alusi).
    49. The “well-known” day was the day of festivities (Zamakhshari).
    It was actually Musa himself who had suggested that the appointed day be the day of festivities, as stated in Taa Haa, verse 59. And, initially, Fir`awn was hesitant about it but accepted in fond hope that his sorcerers will win out. Yusuf Ali wrote at that point: “Pharaoh was apparently taken aback at Moses appointing a solemn day of public Festival, when there would be a large concourse and there would sure to be some people not in the Court clique, who might be critical of Pharaoh's own sorcerers. But probably there was something more in their dark counsels, something unfair and wicked, to which Moses refers in his speech in the next verse (which said, ‘So Fir`awn withdrew, got together his tricks and then came back:’ Au.)‏”

    وَقِيلَ لِلنَّاسِ هَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُجْتَمِعُونَ (39)

    26|39| And the people were asked, ‘Will you assemble?!50

    50. “(to witness the glory of State religion and the discomfiture of these pretenders)” – Majid.
    Yusuf Ali adds: “.. the object was to get together as large a concourse of people as possible. It was confidently expected that the Egyptian sorcerers with all their organization will win with their tricks against those amateur Israelites, and so the State cult of the worship of Pharaoh would be fastened on the necks of the people more firmly than ever.”

    لَعَلَّنَا نَتَّبِعُ السَّحَرَةَ إِنْ كَانُوا هُمُ الْغَالِبِينَ (40)

    26|40| Haply we shall follow the magicians if they are the ones who overcome.’

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَ السَّحَرَةُ قَالُوا لِفِرْعَوْنَ أَئِنَّ لَنَا لَأَجْرًا إِنْ كُنَّا نَحْنُ الْغَالِبِينَ (41)

    26|41| Then, when the magicians arrived they asked Fir`awn, ‘Shall we indeed have a reward if we are the winners?’51

    51. “There was no such thing as pure loyalty to an exploiting ruler like this Pharaoh. The sorcerers, who were probably also priests, were venal, and they hoped to establish their own hold on both king and people by the further enrichment of themselves and their order” (Yusuf Ali).

    قَالَ نَعَمْ وَإِنَّكُمْ إِذًا لَمِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ (42)

    26|42| He said, ‘Of course. And, in that case, you shall surely be of those brought nigh.’

    قَالَ لَهُمْ مُوسَىٰ أَلْقُوا مَا أَنْتُمْ مُلْقُونَ (43)

    26|43| Musa told them, ‘Throw down, whatever you are going to throw.’

    فَأَلْقَوْا حِبَالَهُمْ وَعِصِيَّهُمْ وَقَالُوا بِعِزَّةِ فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّا لَنَحْنُ الْغَالِبُونَ (44)

    26|44| So they threw down their ropes and their staffs, and said, ‘By the might of Fir`awn,52 it is we who will be the ones to overcome.’

    52. It was an oath (Kashshaf, Alusi). Ibn `Atiyyah however (as well as a few others) have thought that it was for the purpose of drawing benediction (barakah), and a way to honor their earthly deity Fir`awn (Alusi).

    فَأَلْقَىٰ مُوسَىٰ عَصَاهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ تَلْقَفُ مَا يَأْفِكُونَ (45)

    26|45| Then Musa threw his staff53 and lo, there she was swallowing54 what they had devised.

    53. Majid comments: “The Bible, wrong and muddled as usual, attributes this miracle instead of Moses to Aaron. (Ex. 7: 9,10).”
    54. The textual talqafu has the connotation of quick swallowing (Alusi).

    فَأُلْقِيَ السَّحَرَةُ سَاجِدِينَ (46)

    26|46| Consequently, the magicians were thrown prostrate.55

    55. The belief and involuntary prostration was due to the fact that the magicians – being skilled as they were, and masters of their time - knew better than anyone else that what had nullified their magic was not any magic, but a true miracle. Also, they must have guessed that if what Musa presented was also magic, their own staffs and ropes would not have disappeared altogether. And the lesson is, expert knowledge serves you sometime, in some place (Razi and Alusi paraphrased).
    Perhaps since the news of the nature of Musa’s miracle had spread far and wide before the actual encounter, the magicians had come prepared with the same kind of magic in order to fitfully refute him. They hadn’t brought, for example, apples that could become rabbits or rabbits to become bananas. So, when their only tools of magic: staffs and ropes, disappeared, they were left with nothing on hand to try something else. Their helplessness would have affected them to consider Musa’s feat seriously, which, along with Allah’s tawfiq, led them to declare their change of heart (Au.).

    قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (47)

    26|47| Saying, ‘We believe in the Lord of the worlds.56

    56. This demonstrates that Musa’s message and mission were fairly well propagated by that time and so they knew what he stood for (Au.).

    رَبِّ مُوسَىٰ وَهَارُونَ (48)

    26|48| Lord of Musa and Harun.’57

    57. They added these words to disqualify Fir`awn (Kashshaf) who claimed Lordship, and to dispel any doubt about the identity of the Deity they had believed in (Au.).

    قَالَ آمَنْتُمْ لَهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ آذَنَ لَكُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَكَبِيرُكُمُ الَّذِي عَلَّمَكُمُ السِّحْرَ فَلَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ ۚ لَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍ وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (49)

    26|49| Said he, ‘Have you believed before I granted you permission!? Why, he is your chief who taught you magic,58 so you shall presently know. I will indeed cut off your hands and feet on the opposite sides and shall crucify you all.’

    58. Although Musa had been out of the kingdom for a decade, and hadn’t had the chance to travel through the land teaching the sorcerers magic, Fir`awn knew this ploy would still work, for, such is the mental disposition of the masses. In our own times, the American leaders work similar ploys on their masses with good success (Au.).

    قَالُوا لَا ضَيْرَ ۖ إِنَّا إِلَىٰ رَبِّنَا مُنْقَلِبُونَ (50)

    26|50| They said, ‘No harm.59 To our Lord indeed we are to return.

    59. They did not mean that they could not or would not be put to any harm, but rather that the harm they would face was nothing in comparison with the blessings of the Hereafter (Razi).

    إِنَّا نَطْمَعُ أَنْ يَغْفِرَ لَنَا رَبُّنَا خَطَايَانَا أَنْ كُنَّا أَوَّلَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (51)

    26|51| We do hope that our Lord will forgive us our errors for that we were first of the believers.’60

    60. That is, as a group from among the Copts.

    وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ أَنْ أَسْرِ بِعِبَادِي إِنَّكُمْ مُتَّبَعُونَ (52)

    26|52| And We inspired Musa,61 ‘Travel with My servants by night. You will surely be pursued.’62

    61. That was said when Fir`awn and his people’s intransigency showed no sign of change in opinion with regard to Musa and his Message (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    62. Mawdudi notes: “The change in the Exodus story does not imply that right after the contest Moses was commanded to take the Israelites out of Egypt. The details of these years are mentioned (elsewhere in the Qur’an).”

    فَأَرْسَلَ فِرْعَوْنُ فِي الْمَدَائِنِ حَاشِرِينَ (53)

    26|53| Then Fir`awn sent musterers to the cities.

    إِنَّ هَٰؤُلَاءِ لَشِرْذِمَةٌ قَلِيلُونَ (54)

    26|54| ‘These are but a small band.63

    63. The term “shirzimah” itself is for a small band, to which “qaleel” was added by Fir`awn to belittle Israelite efforts to escape (Razi).

    وَإِنَّهُمْ لَنَا لَغَائِظُونَ (55)

    26|55| And they are surely enraging us.64

    64. That is, no time passes but they do things that makes our anger rise more and more against them (Razi, Ibn Kathir).

    وَإِنَّا لَجَمِيعٌ حَاذِرُونَ (56)

    26|56| But we are a vigilant multitude.’65

    65. Some scholars have understood it as meaning, “We are ready with our arms and armies to destroy them all” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    فَأَخْرَجْنَاهُمْ مِنْ جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ (57)

    26|57| Thus We brought them out of orchards66 and springs.67

    66. It is said that throughout Egypt both sides of the river Nile were adorned with orchards and cultivated fields (Qurtubi, Alusi).
    67. With reference to the use of the word springs, Qurtubi presents quite some detail about river Nile. He explains that the taxing system depended on how high the Nile arose. The higher it arose, the higher were the taxes. It is recorded that after Egypt fell to Muslims, once the water did not rise at all. The local Copt population informed the Governor ‘Amr b. al ‘Aas that their custom in such circumstances was to offer a human sacrifice. In times past they used to seek volunteer parents who would offer a virgin daughter of theirs. She was brought forth in the best apparel and jewelry and thrown into the remaining water. Usually the Nile arose. ‘Amr disagreed saying Islam did away wrong practices of the past. And when the populations showed readiness to migrate, he wrote to `Umar. `Umar wrote back that he was sending a letter to the Nile which was to be thrown into the river in place of the virgin. The letter said, “From a slave of Allah, leader of the believers, `Umar to the Egyptian Nile: After praises to Allah. If you flow following your own command, then you may stop. But if it is Allah, the Almighty by whose command you flow then we beseech Him that He make you flow.” It was dipped in the Nile a day before the Copts had intended to dip the Cross (and the virgin). By the next day the Nile started rising. Qurtubi also quotes the hadith of Muslim which says, “Sayhaan, Jayhaan, Neel and Furaat are all springs of Paradise. The hadith of Isra’ (the Nocturnal Journey) says that the Prophet (saws) saw four rivers in Paradise from which sprang forth two apparent springs and two in-apparent springs. He asked Jibril about them who told him that the in-apparent springs were those of Paradise and the apparent ones were Neel and Furaat (Nile and Euphrates). According to a report in Bukhari, he was told that two rivers in Paradise were the constituents of Neel and Furaat.

    وَكُنُوزٍ وَمَقَامٍ كَرِيمٍ (58)

    26|58| Treasures and an honorable position.68

    68. Maqaam of the text is both masdar as well as “a noun of place” (Zarf Makan). According to Nuhhas it is for “a place” as well as Maqaamah (pl. Maqaamaat).

    كَذَٰلِكَ وَأَوْرَثْنَاهَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (59)

    26|59| Even so, and We bequeathed them upon the Children of Israel.69

    69. That is, Fir`awn and his folks left these things – orchards, springs, treasure and lofty positions – behind them in this world and Allah bequeathed these favors upon the Israelites. As Allah said (7: 137),

    {وَأَوْرَثْنَا الْقَوْمَ الَّذِينَ كَانُوا يُسْتَضْعَفُونَ مَشَارِقَ الْأَرْضِ وَمَغَارِبَهَا الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا} [الأعراف: 137]

    “And We made those who were reduced weak by them inherit the easts of the earth and its wests in which we laid Our blessings” (Ibn Kathir).
    Hasan and others have said however, that the Israelites returned to Egypt after the destruction of Fir`awn and his army (Qurtubi). Mawardi expressed similar opinion. It has also been said by some that not all of them went back to Egypt. Some did while the main party proceeded to Syrian lands along with Musa (Alusi). Western sources, after laughing their heart out for a thousand years at the seeming Qur’anic error, have finally admitted that a section of the Israelites did go back to Egypt, although not recorded in the infallible Torah. Majid quotes: “’When the national life of Israel in Palestine ceased, an important section of the people, carrying with them the prophet Jeremiah, wandered back to Egypt. Thus, for the second time, Egypt became the home of the Jewish race, and much of later Jewish history was upon its soil. To what importance the Jews attained here can best be inferred from legends concerning them, originating in other countries. An Ethiopic apocryphal book contains a legend respecting Jeremiah which narrates that in answer to a prayer of prophet Jeremiah, the reptiles of the dry lands and the crocodiles of the rivers were exterminated.’ (JE., I.p. 255). ‘Egypt, according to the testimony of Philo, was inhabited, as far as the borders of Libya and Ethiopia, by Jews whose numbers were estimated at a million.’ (p. 226) During a still later period Egypt had become, as it were, a second holy land for Judaism.’ (p. 227).”
    See note 191, Surah Al-A`raf for further discussions (Au.).

    فَأَتْبَعُوهُمْ مُشْرِقِينَ (60)

    26|60| So they pursued them at sunrise.70

    70. The words “at sunrise,” should not lead us to believe that Fir`awn and his forces caught up with the Israelites on the day which followed the night they had departed. But rather, as Thanwi has pointed out, since Fir`awn had sent musterers to the cities, it would have taken them a couple of days to gather together their forces before starting on the chase.
    Musa (asws) had started off with the Israelites by night. But, he was reminded of Yusuf’s will that his bones should be carried back to Syria. But the problem was no one knew where his grave was, except for an old woman, who took her price for the information. They dug his grave and carried his coffin-box with them (which delayed them) – Ibn Jarir.
    Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir narrate the whole story, as in Ibn Abi Hatim. It says that once the Prophet Muhammad alighted at a Bedouin’s place. He proved a good host. So the Prophet suggested that the two enter into a covenant with each other. So the Bedouin came and the Prophet asked, “What’s your need.” The man said, “A camel with its paraphernalia and a few goats that my wife can milk.” The Prophet replied, “Are you weaker than that you should be like the old Israeli woman?” The Companions asked, “What’s the story of the old Israeli woman, Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “When Musa left with the Israelites he lost the way. He asked the Israelites, ‘What’s going on?’ The Israelite scholars said, ‘Let us tell you that when Yusuf’s death approached him he took a promise from us that we shall not leave Egypt without his coffin.’ Musa asked them, ‘So which of you can lead us to Yusuf’s grave?’ They said, ‘No one knows about it except an old woman of the Children of Israel.’ So he sent for her and asked her to guide them to Yusuf’s grave. She said, ‘By God, I’ll not do it until you have met with my demand.’ He asked what it was. She replied that she should be in Paradise with him. Now, it looked as if that was a bit difficult for Musa. So he was told by his companions, ‘Give her what she asks.’ (He gave her that promise) and she took them to a swampy pond. She asked them to remove its water. When they had done that she asked them to dig. When they dug they arrived at Yusuf’s grave. As soon as they carried him with them, when, lo, the pathway was like during the day.”
    After quoting the Hadith Ibn Kathir rules that this is a Munkar report. Albani however declared it trustworthy in his Al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, H. no. 313, vol.1. Albani also points out that some versions use the word “bones” in place of “coffin” which he explains through similar usage in another Hadith as meaning the whole body – since the body of the Prophets are not consumed by the earth (Au.).

    فَلَمَّا تَرَاءَى الْجَمْعَانِ قَالَ أَصْحَابُ مُوسَىٰ إِنَّا لَمُدْرَكُونَ (61)

    26|61| And when the two groups sighted each other, said Musa’s Companions, ‘We will surely be caught up.’

    قَالَ كَلَّا ۖ إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ (62)

    26|62| He said, ‘No way. Surely, with me is my Lord. He will presently guide me (out).’71

    71. Note the words “No way. Surely, with me is my Lord. He will presently guide me,” in which Musa spoke in singular (i.e., instead, “With us is our Lord,” and “He will show us the way”). It is perhaps because the others had betrayed lack of trust in Allah when they said, “We will surely be caught up’” (Alusi).

    فَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ أَنِ اضْرِبْ بِعَصَاكَ الْبَحْرَ ۖ فَانْفَلَقَ فَكَانَ كُلُّ فِرْقٍ كَالطَّوْدِ الْعَظِيمِ (63)

    26|63| So We inspired Musa, ‘Strike the sea with your staff.’ So it split and each part was like a towering mount.72

    72. Qurtubi demonstrates through pre-Islamic poetry that tawd of the text was used in the sense adopted here.

    وَأَزْلَفْنَا ثَمَّ الْآخَرِينَ (64)

    26|64| And there We brought the others on.

    وَأَنْجَيْنَا مُوسَىٰ وَمَنْ مَعَهُ أَجْمَعِينَ (65)

    26|65| And We delivered Musa and those with him all together.

    ثُمَّ أَغْرَقْنَا الْآخَرِينَ (66)

    26|66| Then We drowned the others.

    إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً ۖ وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (67)

    26|67| Surely, in that is a sign. But most of them were not to be believers.

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ (68)

    26|68| Surely your Lord - He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-compassionate.73

    73. Allah is All-Powerful in dealing with the unbelievers and All-merciful in dealing with the believers (Zamakhshari).
    “Thus we can see,” writes Sayyid, “that although Musa’s story has been narrated at several places in the Qur’an, e.g., in Surah al-Baqarah, al-Ma’idah, al-A’raf, Yunus, al-Isra, al-Kahf and Taha, each time the theme was different and the narration suited the context in which the story was narrated.
    “The theme at this point is that of the Message, its denial and, consequences of the denial. The story as narrated here has several scenes as they unfold themselves: altogether seven: (in brief: Au.) first, that of the Call, second Musa’s encounter with Fir`awn, third, the contest between Musa’s truth and the magic of the sorcerers, fourth, the sorcerers’ efforts to seek assurance if they are to be successful, fifth, the contest, the belief of the sorcerers and confrontation with Fir`awn, sixth: this has two parts, first the revelation to Musa to leave by night and second Fir`awn sending across musterers, and seventh their coming together at the shore, Israelites crossing through, and the drowning of Fir`awn.
    “Thus we notice that there is no repetition in the story of Musa despite its several occurrence in the Qur’an. Everywhere it is a different context, following different themes, and hence filled with different details."

    وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (69)

    26|69| And recite to them the tiding of Ibrahim.74

    74. That is, not the story of Ibrahim, but rather, the tiding, important news. This is how we are invited to look at the narratives of the past Prophets (Au.).
    Sayyid Qutb looks at the previous mentions of Ibrahim to trace the various themes at different points: “The passage that touches upon Ibrahim’s life at this point deals with his message to his people and his discussions with them the questions of faith and belief. He disowns their several deities, invites them to the worship of one God, and reminds them of the Day of Judgment. This is followed by a scene fully representing the Day of Judgment when they will disown the false deities and regret over the Association with Allah that brought them to where they find themselves. Thereon the talk shifts to a discussion of the constituents and formative elements of tawhid, decadence of polytheism and the destiny of the Associators on Judgment Day. These were the central points, which were dealt with in brief leaving out the detailed discussions for other occasions.
    “Passages touching upon Ibrahim’s stories have appeared earlier in al-Baqarah, al-An`am, Hud, Ibrahim, al-Hijr, Maryam, al-Anbiya’, and al-Hajj. At every point those aspects were touched upon that the various contexts demanded, presenting what of his life and struggle fitted the theme of the Surah.
    “In al-Baqarah, the Qur’an presented such details as which dealt with the construction of the House at his and Isam`il’s hands. It mentioned there his supplication to Allah to make it a place of peace; his announcement that the inheritance and custody of the House will be for those who had submitted to Allah: those who would follow his religion – of submission – and will not be for those who merely claimed lineage to him. This was done in the backdrop of rejection of the true religion of the Israelites, and, as a result, their rejection by Allah and their consignment to a curse.
    “The chapter al-Baqarah also presented the story of his encounter with a tyrant and debate over the powers of the true Deity: one who gives life and deals death, who brings the sun from the east. It ended when Ibrahim challenging the tyrant to bring it from the west, which left the unbeliever stunned.
    “The Qur’an also presented the story of Ibrahim’s request that he be shown how the dead will be resurrected. He was asked to slaughter four birds, place their parts on several mountains and witness them coming to him in speed, alive when beckoned.
    “The chapter al-An`am presents us a few scenes from his search to find his Lord and ultimate guidance unto Him after some speculating thoughts on stars, the moon and the sun, and a few other natural phenomena. This was in a chapter that primarily dealt with faith and its tenets, Allah’s signs in the cosmos and the evidences therein of a Creator only One, with no partners.
    “Surah Hud spoke of glad tidings to him of a son Is-haq. This was during the course of Lut’s story, the stopping over of the angels at Ibrahim’s house on the way to the destruction of the towns inhabited by the Sodomites.
    “Surah Ibrahim presented us the scenes of his supplications while settling his progeny in the uncultivable valley. He is also seen there thanking his Lord for bestowing on him, despite his old age, Isma`il and Is-haq. He is also seen supplicating that he and his progeny be made those who establish the Prayers; that his supplications be accepted; and that he, his parents and all those who submit to Allah be forgiven on the Day of Judgment. The whole of this Surah dealt with a single aspect of the message brought by the Messengers: Oneness of Allah. The unbelievers too reacted in a similar fashion: a long chain of rejection. The image was as if the Message was but a single tree that offered shadows in a wide expanse of desert.
    “Passages in Surah al-Hijr were of the same genre as those in Hud, except for the additions of a few details. The theme was Allah’s compassion towards the believers and His chastisement of the rejecters.
    “Surah Maryam portrayed his compassion for his father, while, in contrast, his father's harshness in dealing with him. It also showed his severance of all relationship with his father and his people. It also mentions the bestowal of Isma`il and Is-haq. It was in the background of Allah’s special treatment of those of His slaves that He chose. The Surah had the atmosphere of compassion, love and lenience.
    “In Surah Al-Anbiya’, another scene of his call unto his father and his people was unveiled. It also presents us his denouncement of the deities and smashing of the idols. We are presented with another scene of his being flung into the fire which was ordered to cool down to offer peace and comfort to him. It told us about his and his nephew’s escape from his people to a land in which Allah placed His blessing: the Syrian lands.”

    إِذْ قَالَ لِأَبِيهِ وَقَوْمِهِ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ (70)

    26|70| When he said to his father and his people, ‘What do you worship?’75

    75. The question was not raised for eliciting information. Ibrahim knew well what they worshipped. It was rather meant to point out their folly, for he knew how they would answer (Alusi).

    قَالُوا نَعْبُدُ أَصْنَامًا فَنَظَلُّ لَهَا عَاكِفِينَ (71)

    26|71| They said, ‘We worship idols and shall remain cleaving to them.’76

    76. They could have simply said, “We worship idols.” But their addition, “We shall remain cleaving to them,” speaks of their intransigence, and pride in their deities (Zamakhshari, Razi, Alusi and others).
    It has also been said that they used the word “nazallu” (which is for an action during the day), because they worshipped the idols during the day and stars and celestial objects at night (Zamakhshari and others).

    قَالَ هَلْ يَسْمَعُونَكُمْ إِذْ تَدْعُونَ (72)

    26|72| He asked, ‘Do they hear you when you supplicate?

    أَوْ يَنْفَعُونَكُمْ أَوْ يَضُرُّونَ (73)

    26|73| Or, do they benefit you, or do harm?’

    قَالُوا بَلْ وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا كَذَٰلِكَ يَفْعَلُونَ (74)

    26|74| They said, ‘Nay, but we found our forefathers so doing.’77

    77. They thus tacitly admitted that their deities were powerless and that they had no other reason for being devoted to them except that their forefathers had clung to them (Ibn Kathir, reworded). In Shabbir’s words, “We don’t care a bit for the rationale of it. We have a reason stronger than a hundred reasons: our forefathers worshipped them. Were they fools?”
    Asad comments: “The particle bal at the beginning of the sentence expresses astonishment. Thus, evading a direct answer to Abraham’s criticism of idol-worship, his people merely stress in antiquity, forgetting – as Zamakhshari points out – that ‘ancient usage and precedence in time are no proof of [a concept’s] soundness.’ Razi, for his part, states that the above verse represents ‘one of the strongest [Qur’anic] indications of the immorality (fasad) inherent in [the principle of Taqlid]’ i.e., the blind, unquestioning adoption of religious concepts or practices on the basis of one’s uncritical faith in no more than the ‘authority of a scholar or religious leader.”

    قَالَ أَفَرَأَيْتُمْ مَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْبُدُونَ (75)

    26|75| He said, ‘Have you then considered what you have been worshipping (all along)?78

    78. That is, Majid writes, “have they reflected on their nature, properties and attributes?”

    أَنْتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُمُ الْأَقْدَمُونَ (76)

    26|76| You and your earliest forefathers?79

    79. By adding “your earliest forefathers,” Ibrahim meant to say that falsehood is falsehood, no matter how ancient its history or how modern, and no matter how many are devoted to it, whether few or large number of people (Razi).

    فَإِنَّهُمْ عَدُوٌّ لِي إِلَّا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ (77)

    26|77| Indeed, they are enemies to me, except the Lord of the worlds.80

    80. Ibrahim meant to send across the message that if they believed their deities were capable of benefiting or harming them, then, here he was, declaring his enmity to them. Let them cause him some harm (Shabbir).
    This phrase tells us that the list of deities that the pagans of Ibrahim’s times clung to, also included the Supreme deity, Allah. Ibrahim’s words that he was enemy to all they were devoted to except for one Allah is indicative of this (Au.).

    الَّذِي خَلَقَنِي فَهُوَ يَهْدِينِ (78)

    26|78| Who created me, and therefore, it is He who guides me.

    وَالَّذِي هُوَ يُطْعِمُنِي وَيَسْقِينِ (79)

    26|79| He who feeds me and gives me drink.81

    81. Through his supplicatory words, “He it is who feeds me and gives me drink,” Ibrahim demonstrated that just as we depend on Allah for religious guidance, we also depend, totally and entirely, on Him for our worldly needs, small or big, and, therefore, belittling the worldly blessings, or to show dispensability of them, as do some of the ignorant Sufis, is to act against the spirit of Islam (Thanwi).

    وَإِذَا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ (80)

    26|80| And when I fall sick, it is He who cures me.82

    82. Majid writes, “(and not any healing-god). Many polytheist peoples, like Greeks, have believed in the existence of a separate God of healing. For the religion of Asclepious see UHW. II. p. 1370.”
    Note that Ibrahim (asws) attributes his illness to himself: “And when I fall sick,” while he attributes the cure to Allah: “it is He who cures me.” This is, comment, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi and others, out of reverence for Allah. Hence, Musa’s companion said (18: 63), “And I was not made to forget but by Shaytan” (and not, “Allah caused me to forget it”: Au.).
    It is in the same vein that we do not attribute to Allah His anger when we say in Surah al-Fatiha, “and not of those that were angered upon” (and not “those You were angry with”). Or, the words of the Jinn (72: 10), “And, we do not know whether evil is meant for those on the earth, or their Lord has intended good for them,” where evil is not directly attributed to Allah (Ibn Kathir).
    Also, adds Zamakhshari, illness ought to be attributed to human beings alone because it is they who resort to extremes (in food and drink) and in consequence, suffer disorders. Medical men say that most sicknesses are caused by overeating.
    Today, obesity is the major cause of illness in the world (Au.).
    Alusi adds: Ibrahim took care not to attribute illness to Allah, out of reverence. That logic does not apply to death which he directly attributed to Allah. That is because it is commonly understood that none deals death except Allah and that there is no escape from it. Sickness in fact can sometimes be more difficult to bear. How many terminally ill persons are not there who prefer death to life? Further, death cannot be treated as a kind of punishment because everyone has to face it. On the other hand, illness is not the lot of everyone and hence, to attribute it to Allah would be a kind of impudence.

    وَالَّذِي يُمِيتُنِي ثُمَّ يُحْيِينِ (81)

    26|81| He who will deal me death, and then bring me back to life.

    وَالَّذِي أَطْمَعُ أَنْ يَغْفِرَ لِي خَطِيئَتِي يَوْمَ الدِّينِ (82)

    26|82| He, on whom I fasten hope, that He will forgive me my faults on the Day of Reckoning.’83

    83. He was referring to the three incidents of his life viz., his words, 1) “I am unwell,” 2) “Their chief did it” and, 3) “this is my sister” (Ibn Jarir from Mujahid, `Ikrimah and others). Zajjaj has said, adds Qurtubi,that Prophets and Messengers being humans, there remains the possibility of them committing errors or minor sins, but never a major sin. The “khati’ah” in his case was, explains Thanwi, the choice of the best of the two when confronted with two options.
    See al-Anbiya’, note 77 for a detailed discussion.
    But why did Ibrahim seek the forgiveness relating it to the day of Judgment? The answer is, say Zamakhshari and Razi, the natural consequences of errors in this world will appear in the Hereafter. In this world they are hidden.
    Further, Razi adds, it might be noticed that Ibrahim starts his supplications (that follow from here) after praises for his Lord. This is because the souls and the spirits of the humans are of the same origins as those of the angels. Therefore, the more a man’s engagements in activities pertaining to the cognizance of Allah and His love, the closer he is to the world of Spirits; and more cognizant of the angelic spirit. He will also attain greater spiritual powers in this world. On the other hand, the closer a man to the activities pertaining to this world, and the more he dips into the darknesses of the material world, the closer he gets to animal spirit. Consequently, he will cause lesser impact on this world. Therefore, whoever wishes to supplicate, he must predicate his supplications with the praises of Allah, and His glory, in order to get closer to Allah, and closer to the angelic powers (Reworded).

    رَبِّ هَبْ لِي حُكْمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِينَ (83)

    26|83| ‘O my Lord! Grant me wisdom84 and join me with the righteous.85

    84. The textual hukm has been variously interpreted as knowledge (Ibn `Abbas), intellect (`Ikrimah), Scripture (Mujahid), and Prophethood (Suddi) – Ibn Kathir.
    85. What Ibrahim meant was, “guide me to such deeds as create good relationship with the righteous” (Kashshaf).
    Thanwi however believes that Ibrahim, already a righteous person, was rather seeking close company of the righteous in this world. Another implication is: make me one of those whose example is followed by posterity, such as would cause increase in my reward.
    Our own Prophet’s words at the time of death were,

    اللَّهُمَّ الرَّفِيقَ الْأَعْلَى

    “O Allah, to the companions on high” – which, according to reports in the Sahihayn, he said three times (Ibn Kathir).
    Alusi comments: It is said that through these words (“join me with the righteous") Ibrahim sought the power of action, such as would him help in organizing the affairs of life in the company of those who avoid major and minor sins. This supplication was preceded by the one earlier (viz., “Grant me wisdom”), because power of knowledge precedes power of action. It is possible that one has knowledge but fails to act by its light, but the reverse is not possible. (That is, it is not possible that one does the right thing without possessing its knowledge). Knowledge is a quality of the soul while action belongs to the body. And, just as the soul is superior to the body, so is knowledge to action. However, I am personally inclined to believe, adds Alusi, that by the first (hukm) it is both the power of knowledge as well as action that is meant, while by the second (ilhaq bi al-saliheen), the supplication is for the same status with Allah, as of the exemplary righteous, amounting to, in final analysis, asking for both knowledge and action that are acceptable to Allah.

    وَاجْعَلْ لِي لِسَانَ صِدْقٍ فِي الْآخِرِينَ (84)

    26|84| Grant me a true reputation among posterity.86

    86. The translation here follows the understanding of Ibn Jarir who quotes `Ikrimah and Ibn Zayd of the same opinion. Accordingly, the Jews believed in Musa but not in `Isa or Muhammad. The Christians believed in `Isa and Musa, but not in Muhammad. But all of them, including the pagans believed in Ibrahim as the great Patriarch. Thus Ibrahim’s supplication was accepted. Allah however, severed the relationship of the Jews and Christians with Ibrahim because they refused to believe in Muhammad, but rather established his relationship with the followers of Muhammad by saying (3: 68),

    {إِنَّ أَوْلَى النَّاسِ بِإِبْرَاهِيمَ لَلَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُ وَهَذَا النَّبِيُّ وَالَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا وَاللَّهُ وَلِيُّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ} [آل عمران: 68]

    “Surely, the nearest of the people to Ibrahim are those who followed him (in the past in his unadulterated faith) and this Prophet (Muhammad), and those who believe (in this new Prophet). And Allah is the Protector of the believers.”
    Qurtubi and Alusi note (Imam) Malik’s opinion that there is nothing wrong in a man feeling happy if praised for his good deeds, so long as his intentions remain unadulterated, purely for Allah. After all, Allah has said (19: 96),

    {إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ سَيَجْعَلُ لَهُمُ الرَّحْمَنُ وُدًّا} [مريم: 96]

    “Surely those who believed and did good deeds, soon the Rahman will place for them love (in the hearts of the creations).” Ibn al-`Arabiyy said that the knowledgeable of the ascetics have said that there is no harm in coaxing the people to good deeds for reasons that people will refer to them in good terms.

    وَاجْعَلْنِي مِنْ وَرَثَةِ جَنَّةِ النَّعِيمِ (85)

    26|85| And place me among the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss.87

    87. This supplication rejects the attitude of some (ascetics) who say, “I ask neither for Paradise nor Hellfire” (Qurtubi).
    That is, they believe that the Gnostics should seek nothing but Allah, and no other reward such as Paradise, nor should they be driven by any fear, such as that of Hellfire. This is incorrect as we have here a great Messenger Ibrahim supplicating for Paradise (Au.).

    وَاغْفِرْ لِأَبِي إِنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الضَّالِّينَ (86)

    26|86| And forgive my father, he has been of those astray.88

    88. That is, forgive him his sin of initial rejection, and guide him to belief, as the rule that unbelievers will not enter Paradise, cannot be ignored in favor of anyone (based on Thanwi).
    Bukhari has recorded that Ibrahim will meet his father with a dusty darkened face and say,

    أَلَمْ أَقُلْ لَكَ لَا تَعْصِنِي فَيَقُولُ أَبُوهُ فَالْيَوْمَ لَا أَعْصِيكَ فَيَقُولُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ يَا رَبِّ إِنَّكَ وَعَدْتَنِي أَنْ لَا تُخْزِيَنِي يَوْمَ يُبْعَثُونَ فَأَيُّ خِزْيٍ أَخْزَى مِنْ أَبِي الْأَبْعَدِ فَيَقُولُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى إِنِّي حَرَّمْتُ الْجَنَّةَ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ ثُمَّ يُقَالُ يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ مَا تَحْتَ رِجْلَيْكَ فَيَنْظُرُ فَإِذَا هُوَ بِذِيخٍ مُلْتَطِخٍ فَيُؤْخَذُ بِقَوَائِمِهِ فَيُلْقَى فِي النَّارِ

    “Did I not tell you not to disobey me?” He will reply, “Today I shall not disobey you.” So Ibrahim will supplicate, “My Lord! You have promised me that You will not disgrace me on the day they are resurrected?” Allah will say, “I have forbidden Paradise unto the unbelievers.” Then He will say, “Ibrahim, look down at your feet.” He will look down and find a hyena-like dirty creature. It will be seized by its feet and flung into the Fire” (Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali comments at an earlier point: “Having shown clearly the distinction between the False and the True, Abraham now shows in the form of a Prayer what his inmost wishes are. (1) He wants his own soul enlightened with divine wisdom, and (2) his heart and life filled with righteousness; (3) he will not be content with working for himself or his own generation: his view extends to all future generations; (4) and of course he wishes to attain the goal of the righteous, the Garden of the Bliss of the Divine Countenance; but he is not content with this; for (5) he wants his father and relatives to share in his spiritual joy, so that he can proudly see all whom he can reach, in an honourable station (contrasted with disgrace) on the Day of Judgment.”

    وَلَا تُخْزِنِي يَوْمَ يُبْعَثُونَ (87)

    26|87| And disgrace me not on the Day they are raised up.89

    89. What is being of sound heart (qalbin saleem)? Generally speaking, it is a heart which is not sick as said Allah (2: 10),

    {فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ} [البقرة: 10]

    “In their hearts is a sickness” – that is, of hypocrisy and disbelief (Qurtubi and others).
    Muhammad b. Sirin said: A sound heart is that which knows that Allah is the Truth, that the Hour is approaching and that Allah will raise up those in the graves. Muslim reports the Prophet as having said,

    يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ أَقْوَامٌ أَفْئِدَتُهُمْ مِثْلُ أَفْئِدَةِ الطَّيْرِ

    “Some people will enter Paradise whose hearts would be like the hearts of the birds.”
    He meant – although Allah knows best – that the hearts will be as clear of sins as the hearts of the birds, without any defect and such as those who have no experience in the affairs of the world. Another trustworthy report of the Prophet says that,

    أكثر أهل الجنَّة البُلْهُ

    “Most of the inhabitants of Paradise will be al-bulh.” And bulh has been explained by Azhari as someone who is on the nature (on which he was created) completely unaware of evil (Qurtubi).
    Qatadah said that it is a heart free of shirk, while Mujahid said that the allusion is to a heart that is free of any doubt. Ibn Zayd added that sins have no role (in determining the state of the heart), since there isn’t anyone who does not sin (Tabari, Ibn Kathir). In short, write Zamakhshari and Razi, it is a heart that freed itself (salima) of shirk, achieved peace (aslama), is at peace with others (saalama), and has submitted to Allah (istaslama).

    يَوْمَ لَا يَنْفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ (88)

    26|88| The day when neither wealth nor children shall profit.

    إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ (89)

    26|89| Except for one who comes with a sound heart.’80

    وَأُزْلِفَتِ الْجَنَّةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ (90)

    26|90| And Paradise shall be brought near to the righteous.90

    90. Since Paradise is already created, and cannot be moved from its place, it has been conjectured that perhaps the allusion is to the dwellers of Paradise being taken near to it, as the pilgrims say, e.g., “Makkah has neared,” (although it is they who have neared), or, alternatively, it could mean that the veils covering it would be removed and Paradise will appear close, just as stars appear close, although they are at great distances from us (Alusi).

    وَبُرِّزَتِ الْجَحِيمُ لِلْغَاوِينَ (91)

    26|91| And Hellfire advanced for the deviants.91

    91. Qatadah expressed the opinion that by the textual term ghaawoon the allusion is to the Shayateen (Ibn Jarir).
    It is a difficult term to explain, for it is loaded with several connotations. Primarily, as Raghib explains, ghawa is for “ignorance (jahl) springing from erroneous beliefs.” Another is, “corruption of one’s mode of life.” “Deviation from that which is right,” “to err,” “failure to achieve one’s desires,” “to labor in vain,” “ignorant conduct,” etc., are several other connotations offered by Lane.

    وَقِيلَ لَهُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْبُدُونَ (92)

    26|92| And it shall be said to them, ‘Where are those you were worshiping?92

    92. Asad comments: “Whenever the relative pronoun ma (‘that which’ or ‘all that which’) is used in the Qur’an with reference to false objects of worship, it indicates not merely inanimate things (like idols, fetishes, supposedly ‘holy’ relics, etc.) or false deified saints, dead or alive, but also forces of nature, real or imaginary, as well as man’s ‘worship’ of wealth, power, social position, etc.”

    مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ هَلْ يَنْصُرُونَكُمْ أَوْ يَنْتَصِرُونَ (93)

    26|93| Other than Allah? Can they help you or help themselves?’

    فَكُبْكِبُوا فِيهَا هُمْ وَالْغَاوُونَ (94)

    26|94| Then they will be flung headlong therein93 – they and the deviant ones,

    93. The word in the text is kubkibu. Its origin is kubb and the present pattern (in which an additional kaaf has been inserted) suggests repetitive kubb, i.e., repetitive dipping or flinging into the Fire (Zamakhshari, Razi and others).

    وَجُنُودُ إِبْلِيسَ أَجْمَعُونَ (95)

    26|95| And the forces of Iblis,94 all together.95

    94. Everyone who follows Iblis, whether of his progeny, or of Adam, belongs to “the forces of Iblis” (Zamakhshari, Ibn Jarir and others).
    95. “The false gods, being devils or personified false fancies, will be all involved in the punishment of Hell, together with their worshippers, and the ultimate sources of evil, the hosts of Iblis or Satan" (Yusuf Ali).

    قَالُوا وَهُمْ فِيهَا يَخْتَصِمُونَ (96)

    26|96| They will say, as they dispute therein,

    تَاللَّهِ إِنْ كُنَّا لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ (97)

    26|97| ‘By Allah! We were definitely in manifest error –

    إِذْ نُسَوِّيكُمْ بِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (98)

    26|98| When we held you as equal to the Lord of the worlds.

    وَمَا أَضَلَّنَا إِلَّا الْمُجْرِمُونَ (99)

    26|99| And, none led us astray but the criminals.96

    96. Those, that laid the foundations of disbelief and played major role in misleading the common people (Thanwi, in effect).
    “They now see that the people who seduced them were themselves evil and subject to the penalties of evil, and their seductions were frauds. They feel that they ought to have seen it before. For who would deliberately follow the paths of those condemned to misery and punishment? How simple they were not to see the true character of their seducers, though they had been warned again and again against them! It was their own folly that made them accept such obviously false guidance!" (Yusuf Ali).

    فَمَا لَنَا مِنْ شَافِعِينَ (100)

    26|100| So now we have no intercessors,97

    97. This the unbelievers will say in all regret when they see believers being pulled out of Hellfire into Paradise through the intercession of the intercessors (Zamakhshari, Razi).

    وَلَا صَدِيقٍ حَمِيمٍ (101)

    26|101| Nor a loyal friend.98

    98. Friends have been specifically mentioned, explain Zamakhshari, Razi and Qurtubi, because the unbelievers will see friends of the believers helping out each other, whereas they themselves will be friendless; as Allah said (43: 67),

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

    “Some of the close friends that day, will be enemies unto others, except the pious.”
    As to who is a loyal friend, it is answered that he is one whose concerns are the concerns of his friend.

    فَلَوْ أَنَّ لَنَا كَرَّةً فَنَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (102)

    26|102| So, would that there was for us a second (chance into the world), we shall be of the believers.

    إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً ۖ وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (103)

    26|103| Surely, in that is a sign. But most of them were not to be believers.

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ (104)

    26|104| Surely your Lord - He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-compassionate.

    كَذَّبَتْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (105)

    26|105| Nuh’s people rejected the Messengers.99

    99. Mawdudi explains, “True, they had rejected only one Messenger. But such rejection, in the sight of God, amounts to the rejection of all Messengers, for all of them brought the same message from God. This is a very important message that is stated at various parts of the Qur’an in a variety of ways: that those who do not believe in one Messenger of God, even though they might believe in other Messengers, are unbelievers. (See Al-Baqarah 2: 285). This is so because anyone who believes in the Message of the Messengers is also bound to believe in all those who brought that message. Now if someone does not believe in one Messenger but believes in all others, he possibly does so either because of chauvinistic affiliations with the collective entity to which those Messengers belong, or else does so for no other reason than the blind imitation of the customs and traditions of his people.”

    إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ نُوحٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ (106)

    26|106| When their brother Nuh said to them, ‘Will you not fear?

    إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ (107)

    26|107| Verily, I am to you a trustworthy Messenger.100

    100. “Amin is one to whom a trust has been given, with several shades of meaning implied: e.g., (1) worthy of trust, (2) bound to deliver his trust, as a prophet is bound to deliver his Message, (3) bound to act entirely as directed by the trust, as a prophet is bound to give only the Message of Allah, and not add anything of his own, and (4) not seeking any interest of his own" (Yusuf Ali).

    فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ (108)

    26|108| Therefore, fear Allah and follow me.

    وَمَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ ۖ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (109)

    26|109| I do not ask you any wage for it. My wage falls only upon the Lord of the worlds.

    فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ (110)

    26|110| Fear Allah then, and follow me.’

    قَالُوا أَنُؤْمِنُ لَكَ وَاتَّبَعَكَ الْأَرْذَلُونَ (111)

    26|111| They said, ‘Should we believe you even though the lowest (of us) have followed you?’101

    101. “One of the arguments they advanced against Noah was that had there been any truth in Noah’s claim, the chiefs, the notables, the religious leaders, the scholars and the wise men of the nation would have followed him. But none of them had accepted Noah’s claim. Only a few people from the lower classes had become his followers. How, then, could people belonging to the upper strata of the society join the company of those lowly people?” (Mawdudi)

    قَالَ وَمَا عِلْمِي بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (112)

    26|112| He said, ‘What knowledge have I of what they do?’

    إِنْ حِسَابُهُمْ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ رَبِّي ۖ لَوْ تَشْعُرُونَ (113)

    26|113| Their account is upon my Lord alone, if you realize.102

    102. That is, I take them on face value. If someone is good in his appearances, I accept him as good; if evil, then evil. As for the realities behind their appearances, it is for Allah to judge. Can you not see the reasonableness of this kind of attitude? (Tabari).
    In Yusuf Ali’s words, “The leaders of the people are speaking, as the Quraish leaders spoke in the time of the holy Prophet. ‘We know that thou hast been trustworthy in thy life. But look at the 'tag rag and bob tail' that follow thee! Dost thou expect us to be Eke them or to be classed with them?" His answer was: "I know nothing against them; if they have done any wrong, or are only hypocrites, they are answerable to Allah; how can I drive them away from me, seeing that I am expressly sent to admonish all people?’”

    وَمَا أَنَا بِطَارِدِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (114)

    26|114| And I am not going to drive away the believers.103

    103. Yusuf Ali: "All people who have faith have the right to come and listen to Allah's Word and receive Allah's Mercy, whether they are publicans and sinners, ‘Harijans’ and low-caste men, men of ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’ races. The Prophet of Allah welcomes them all, as His Message has to shine before the whole world.”
    In addition to the generally accepted meaning that the so-called elites suffered superiority complex, and could not come round to accepting people of lower ststus equalized with them in faith, Asad has another pointer: "This is obviously a retort to the unbelievers’ suggestion (elliptically implied here) that those ‘abject’ followers of Noah had declared faith in him, not out of conviction, but only in order to gain some material advantages. Noah’s answer embodies a cardinal principle of Qur’anic ethics and, hence, of Islamic Law: No human has the right to sit in judgment on another person’s faith or hidden motives; whereas God knows what is in the hearts of men, society may judge only by external evidences (az-zahir), which comprises a person’s words as well as deeds. Thus, if anyone says, ‘I am a believer,’ and does not act or speak in a manner contradicting his professed faith, the community must consider him a believer.”

    إِنْ أَنَا إِلَّا نَذِيرٌ مُبِينٌ (115)

    26|115| I am naught, but a plain warner.’

    قَالُوا لَئِنْ لَمْ تَنْتَهِ يَا نُوحُ لَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمَرْجُومِينَ (116)

    26|116| They said, ‘If you do not desist O Nuh, you shall surely be of those stoned (to death).’104

    104. The translation represents the primary meaning. But rajm has other derived connotations such as, “to curse, revile, address with evil speech, the act of driving away, expelling, cutting off from friendly communion,” etc. (Lane). Ibn Jarir says it means here, “we will address you in a coarse manner.”

    قَالَ رَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي كَذَّبُونِ (117)

    26|117| He said, ‘My Lord! Surely, my people have cried me lies.

    فَافْتَحْ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَهُمْ فَتْحًا وَنَجِّنِي وَمَنْ مَعِيَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (118)

    26|118| Therefore judge between me and them, a decisive judgment;105 and deliver me and the believers that are with me.’

    105. For this rendering we have the support of Qatadah, Ibn Zayd and others, as in Ibn Jarir.
    Thanwi points out that to supplicate against a people who cause harm to Allah’s religion, is not against sabr and hilm (patience and forbearance).

    فَأَنْجَيْنَاهُ وَمَنْ مَعَهُ فِي الْفُلْكِ الْمَشْحُونِ (119)

    26|119| So We delivered him, and those with him, in the laden ship.

    ثُمَّ أَغْرَقْنَا بَعْدُ الْبَاقِينَ (120)

    26|120| Then We drowned thereafter the rest.

    إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً ۖ وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (121)

    26|121| Surely, in that is a sign. But most of them were not to be believers.

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ (122)

    26|122| Surely, your Lord - He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-compassionate.

    كَذَّبَتْ عَادٌ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (123)

    26|123| Aad rejected the Messengers.

    إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ هُودٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ (124)

    26|124| When their brother Hud said to them, ‘Will you not fear?

    إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ (125)

    26|125| Verily, I am to you a trustworthy Messenger.

    فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ (126)

    26|126| Therefore, fear Allah and follow me.

    وَمَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ ۖ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (127)

    26|127| I do not ask you any wage for it. My wage falls only upon the Lord of the worlds.

    أَتَبْنُونَ بِكُلِّ رِيعٍ آيَةً تَعْبَثُونَ (128)

    26|128| Do you build on every elevation106 a monument, committing vanity?107

    106. The translation of “ri`” as elevation expresses one aspect of its meaning. It covers every place which catches the eye because of its prominence, whether a high place, or low (Mujahid), whether a main road (Qatadah) or a mountain pass (`Ikrimah and Mujahid) – Ibn Jarir.
    107. That is, writes Alusi, monuments and landmarks that they stood in no need of, but erected for show, pride and beautification. `Abath is an act that is of no material or spiritual benefit. It is prohibited in our religion also.
    Mawdudi writes: “Hud chided his people for constructing grand buildings which had no utility, which fulfilled no genuine need and which were designed only to make a spectacular display of their affluence and grandeur.”
    Yusuf Ali points at the futility in another way: “Any merely material civilization prides itself on show and parade. Its votaries scatter monuments for all sorts of things in conspicuous places-monuments which commemorate deeds and events which are forgotten in a few enerations! Cf. Shelley's poem on Ozymandias: "I am Ozymandias, King of Kings! Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! .... Boundless and bare the lonely and level sands stretch far away!"‏

    وَتَتَّخِذُونَ مَصَانِعَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَخْلُدُونَ (129)

    26|129| And do you take buildings for yourselves,108 as though you will abide forever!109

    108. Masaani` is from sana`a which stands for a making which requires some effort. Here it has been explained as 'well-built houses and palaces' by Mujahid. Some others have interpreted the word as meaning “wells” (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    109. That is, your lofty monuments and colossal mansions seem to be built on the supposition that you will abide in the this earth for ever (Thanwi). The prohibition of course, wrote Alusi, might be extended to anything attempted which betrays belief in permanence. It is in this light that one might look at some of the utterances of the Prophet or some of the Sufis.
    It is said that when the Muslims began to build houses and plant trees in Ghota (Syria), Abu Darda' stood up in their mosque and called out, “O people of Dimashq!” When they gathered he addressed them saying (after praises to Allah), “Are you not ashamed? Are you not ashamed? Do you gather together what you do not eat, build what you will not live in, fasten hopes that you will not attain. There were generations before you who gathered together and hoarded, built on hopes of living in them, fastened hopes and prolonged them. But their hopes turned into deceptions, their savings into destruction, and their houses into graves. Lo! `Aad possessed the area between `Adn and `Umman, horse riders and footmen. But who will buy from me today for two Dirhams what they left behind them?” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَإِذَا بَطَشْتُمْ بَطَشْتُمْ جَبَّارِينَ (130)

    26|130| And when you seize, you seize like tyrants.110

    110. Asad explains, “The term jabbar, when applied to man, as a rule denotes one who is haughty, overbearing, exorbitant and cruel, and does not submit to any moral restraints in his dealings with those who are weaker than himself. Sometimes (as, e.g., in 11: 59 or 14: 15) this term is used to describe a person’s negative ethical attitude, and in that case it may be rendered as ‘enemy of truth.’ In the present instance, however, stress is laid on the tyrannical behaviour of the tribe `Aad, evidently relating to their warlike conflicts with other people...”

    فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ (131)

    26|131| Fear Allah then, and follow me.

    وَاتَّقُوا الَّذِي أَمَدَّكُمْ بِمَا تَعْلَمُونَ (132)

    26|132| Fear Him who has helped you with what you know.111

    111. “The gifts are described generally, immaterial and material. 'All that ye know' includes not only material things, but knowledge and the faculties by which knowledge may be used for human well-being, all that makes life beautiful and refined. 'Cattle' means wealth generally, and 'sons' means population and man-power. 'Gardens and Springs' are things that contribute to the delight and pleasure of man" (Yusuf Ali).

    أَمَدَّكُمْ بِأَنْعَامٍ وَبَنِينَ (133)

    26|133| Helped you with livestock and offspring.

    وَجَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ (134)

    26|134| Gardens and springs.

    إِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ (135)

    26|135| Verily, I fear for you the chastisement of a Great Day.’

    قَالُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْنَا أَوَعَظْتَ أَمْ لَمْ تَكُنْ مِنَ الْوَاعِظِينَ (136)

    26|136| They said, ‘It is equal unto us whether you admonish us, or be not of those who admonish.112

    112. “The form of the words implies,” writes Majid, “We have had plenty of admonishers like you.”

    إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا خُلُقُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (137)

    26|137| This is naught but the custom of the ancients.113

    113. Explanations for the textual khuluq have varied. Ibn `Abbas understood it as “deen”, while Qatadah said it meant the “ways of the ancients who lived and died in similar manner.” 'Tales of the ancients' is another interpretation that has come down from Ibn Ibn `Abbas. Ibn Jarir quotes one or two others but thinks “custom” comes closest. Imam Razi points out that the word also has the connotation of fictitious tales.
    Asad comments: “The noun khuluq denotes one’s ‘nature’ in the sense of ‘innate disposition’ (tabi`ah) or moral character (Taj al-`Arus); hence the use of the term to describe ‘that to which one clings’, i.e., one’s ‘innate habit’ or ‘custom’, and, in a specific sense, one’s religion (ibid).”
    Mawdudi adds: “This statement can be interpreted in two ways: (i) that in their view there was nothing new in what they were doing; their forefathers had done the same for centuries. Their religion, their culture and moral values were all the same, and yet their ancestors had not been subjected to any calamitous punishment. Why should they fear, then, that they would be severely chastised? How could they be punished when their predecessors had not? Had their been anything too wrong with their way of life, they contended, God’s Wrath and punishment, with which they were being constantly threatened, would have seized them long ago. (ii) That regardless of what was being said to them then, it was appropriate to remember that many religious fanatics and moral purists had earlier said much the same. Yet the world had gone on as ever before. As far as they were concerned, just because some were overly obsessed with morality, this did not mean that the world would come to a standstill or suffer a monumental disaster.”

    وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمُعَذَّبِينَ (138)

    26|138| And we shall never be chastised.’

    فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَأَهْلَكْنَاهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً ۖ وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (139)

    26|139| Thus they rejected him. So We destroyed them. Surely, in that is a sign.114 But most of them were not to be believers.

    114. Asad writes, “The message (or sign: Au.) referred to here is contained in verses 128-130, which point out the three cardinal sins resulting from man’s inordinate striving for power: worship of anything apart from God, self-admiring search for ‘glory’, and cruelty or harshness towards one’s fellow-men.”

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ (140)

    26|140| Surely, your Lord - He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-compassionate.

    كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (141)

    26|141| Thamud rejected the Messengers.

    إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ صَالِحٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ (142)

    26|142| When their brother Saleh said to them, ‘Will you not fear?

    إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ (143)

    26|143| Verily, I am to you a trustworthy Messenger.

    فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ (144)

    26|144| Therefore, fear Allah and follow me.

    وَمَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ ۖ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (145)

    26|145| I do not ask you any wage for it. My wage falls only upon the Lord of the worlds.

    أَتُتْرَكُونَ فِي مَا هَاهُنَا آمِنِينَ (146)

    26|146| Will you be left in peace amid what is here?

    فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ (147)

    26|147| In gardens and springs?

    وَزُرُوعٍ وَنَخْلٍ طَلْعُهَا هَضِيمٌ (148)

    26|148| Sown fields and date palms with tender swathes.115

    115. “Tender swathes” is how Mujahid understood the terms “talhuha hadim” where “tender” is for “hadim” and “swathes” for “talh” (Ibn Jarir), or, “ripe and rich” as expressed by Ibn `Abbas (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir), or, “near breaking point” because of its being heavily laden, as interpreted by Dahhak and as preferred by Ibn Jarir.
    Yusuf Ali comments: “The date palm flowers on a long spathe: when the flowers develop into fruit, the heavy ones hang with the load of fruit. The Thamud evidently were proud of their skill in producing corn and fruit and in hewing fine dwellings out of rocks, like the later dwellings of Roman times in the town of Petra.”

    وَتَنْحِتُونَ مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا فَارِهِينَ (149)

    26|149| And, do you skillfully116 hew houses out of mountains?

    116. The rendering reflects the understanding of Ibn `Abbas and Dahhak. Another opinion that came down from Ibn `Abbas is that the textual “fareheen” stands for “artfully” or “with artistic skill”. Suddi said it meant “through coercion” or “with forced labor.” Of course, the different meanings are reconcilable (Ibn Jarir).
    Mawdudi offers the following, “Some of the buildings of the Thamud are still intact, and I did, indeed had the opportunity to see them for myself in December 1959. The place itself is located between Tabuk and Madina, lying a few miles to the north of al-`Ula (called Wadi al-Qura at the time of the Prophet – peace upon him). Nowadays, this is known as al-Hijr and Mada’in Salih. As far as al-`Ula is concerned, it is still located in lush green surroundings in the midst of springs and orchards. An ominous atmosphere, however, surrounds al-Hijr. Not only is it very sparsely populated, but it is a ruined place which gives a feeling of doom and decay. The few who live there do so in an area devoid of greenery and vegetation. Of the few wells that remain, one is identified by the local populace as that from which Salih’s she-camel used to drink. Now, this well is inside a former military barracks dating back to the Turkish period, and is dry…
    “We also saw buildings of the type constructed by the Thamud at al-Hijr in Midian along the Gulf of `Aqabah and at Petra in Jordan. As regards Petra, the buildings of the Thamud and the Nabateans stand side by side; their carvings and designs are do dissimilar that even a layman can positively say that they belong to two different periods and to two different nations. The English Orientalist Charles Doughty (d. 1926), the author of Travels in Arabia Deserta (published in 1888), attempted to prove that the Qur’an was false on the grounds of his theory that the buildings at al-Hijr were not constructed by the Thamud but rather by the Nabateans. However, the difference between the architectural design of the people of Thamud and Nabateans is so clear that only someone who is altogether blind could suggest such a theory.”

    فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ (150)

    26|150| Therefore, fear Allah and follow me.

    وَلَا تُطِيعُوا أَمْرَ الْمُسْرِفِينَ (151)

    26|151| And follow not the bidding of the boundary exceeders.117

    117. “They are told: 'All your skill is very well; but cultivate virtue and do not follow the ways of those who put forward extravagant claims for men's powers and material resources, or who lead lives of extravagance in luxury and self-indulgence; that makes mischief: but the door of repentance is open: will you repent?'"‏ - Yusuf Ali.
    Another possibility, says Shabbir, is that he was addressing the common folk, warning them against blind following of the elites: they are a corrupt lot.

    الَّذِينَ يُفْسِدُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا يُصْلِحُونَ (152)

    26|152| Those who spread corruption in the land, and carry out no reform.’

    قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مِنَ الْمُسَحَّرِينَ (153)

    26|153| They said, ‘You are only one (of those) that are bewitched.118

    118. The translation is the common understanding of the word “musahharin.” Ibn `Abbas however was of the opinion that the meaning is: “created.” That is, they meant to say, “You are one of the created, who eats and drinks like us.” Ibn Jarir prefers this opinion and presents a verse by Labid in support.
    Razi adds: “Sahr” is for the upper part of the stomach; and, according to Farra’, everything that has a stomach is “musahhar.”

    مَا أَنْتَ إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُنَا فَأْتِ بِآيَةٍ إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (154)

    26|154| You are naught but a man like ourselves. So bring forth a sign, if you are of the truthful.’

    قَالَ هَٰذِهِ نَاقَةٌ لَهَا شِرْبٌ وَلَكُمْ شِرْبُ يَوْمٍ مَعْلُومٍ (155)

    26|155| He said, ‘Here is a she-camel: to her a drink and to you a drink, on a day appointed.119

    119. That is, each had an appointed day for drink: a day for the camel, another for the people. The day the camel drank, the people were not supposed to draw water, and the day they drew, the camel was not given a drink from the well (Ibn Jarir).

    وَلَا تَمَسُّوهَا بِسُوءٍ فَيَأْخُذَكُمْ عَذَابُ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ (156)

    26|156| And touch her not with malice, lest the chastisement of a Great Day seizes you.’

    فَعَقَرُوهَا فَأَصْبَحُوا نَادِمِينَ (157)

    26|157| But they hamstrung her; and then became regretful.120

    120. But, once a people have seen the chastisement approaching them, their remorse is not worthy of acceptance (Zamakhshari, Razi and others).
    Feelings of regret and remorse are natural feelings arising out of wrong actions. They are automatically generated by the inner self. Of value in the sight of Allah are acts of true repentance. But the Thamud showed no sign of these, they remained disbelieving to the end (Alusi and Thanwi, reworded).
    Yusuf Ali further clarifies the issue: “Their regrets were too late. They had themselves asked for a Sign. The Sign had been given to them in the she-camel, which their prophet Salih had put forward as a test-case. Would they, through that symbol, respect the law' of equity by which all people had rights in water and in the gifts of nature? They refused to respect that law, and committed sacrilege by deliberately killing the she-camel. They themselves came to an evil end.‏”

    فَأَخَذَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً ۖ وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (158)

    26|158| So the chastisement seized them. Surely, in that is a sign. But most of them were not to be believers.

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ (159)

    26|159| Surely, your Lord - He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-compassionate.

    كَذَّبَتْ قَوْمُ لُوطٍ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (160)

    26|160| The people of Lut rejected the Messengers.

    إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ لُوطٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ (161)

    26|161| When their brother Lut said to them, ‘Will you not fear?

    إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ (162)

    26|162| Verily, I am to you a trustworthy Messenger.

    فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ (163)

    26|163| Therefore, fear Allah and follow me.

    وَمَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ ۖ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (164)

    26|164| I do not ask you any wage for it. My wage falls only upon the Lord of the worlds.

    أَتَأْتُونَ الذُّكْرَانَ مِنَ الْعَالَمِينَ (165)

    26|165| Of all (people) do you approach males of the world121

    121. The textual construction offers two possible meanings. One, “Of the people of the world, you are the only ones to commit this crime;” two, “you have opted for the males of the world to commit this crime” (Razi).

    وَتَذَرُونَ مَا خَلَقَ لَكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ مِنْ أَزْوَاجِكُمْ ۚ بَلْ أَنْتُمْ قَوْمٌ عَادُونَ (166)

    26|166| And leave what your Lord created for you of your mates.122 Nay, you are a people transgressing (all limits).’

    122. Mujahid said that the implication hidden in the words as in the Qur’an (lit., “do you leave that of your women which your Lord created for you”) is that the nation of Lut sodomized their women also (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi).

    قَالُوا لَئِنْ لَمْ تَنْتَهِ يَا لُوطُ لَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُخْرَجِينَ (167)

    26|167| They said, ‘If you desist not O Lut, you shall be of those driven out.’123

    123. Majid quotes, “Banishment … is the punishment of expelling an offender from his native land … the easiest way, short of summary execution, to rid the state of an evil-doer was to expel him from its boundaries. We find the recurrence of this in the record of all nations.” (ERE. II. p. 346).
    But Yusuf Ali has another view. He writes, “Their threat to cast him out has a grim significance in what actually happened. They were destroyed where they were, and he was glad to escape the dreadful Punishment according to the warning he had received.‏”

    قَالَ إِنِّي لِعَمَلِكُمْ مِنَ الْقَالِينَ (168)

    26|168| He said, ‘I am indeed a detester of your deed.’124

    124. "He was only among them from a stem sense of duty. The whole atmosphere there was detestable to him, and he was glad to escape when duty no longer demanded his presence there. He prayed for deliverance from such surroundings" (Yusuf Ali).

    رَبِّ نَجِّنِي وَأَهْلِي مِمَّا يَعْمَلُونَ (169)

    26|169| ‘My Lord! Deliver me and my family from the things they do.’

    فَنَجَّيْنَاهُ وَأَهْلَهُ أَجْمَعِينَ (170)

    26|170| So we delivered him and his family all together.

    إِلَّا عَجُوزًا فِي الْغَابِرِينَ (171)

    26|171| Except for an old woman – among those who lingered.125

    125. Another possible meaning, as said by Shawkani, is: “of those who remained in the punishment.”
    Asad explains: “… the old woman was Lot’s wife – a native of Sodom – who chose to remain with her own people instead of accompanying her husband, whom she thus betrayed (cf. also 66: 10).”

    ثُمَّ دَمَّرْنَا الْآخَرِينَ (172)

    26|172| Then We destroyed the others.

    وَأَمْطَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ مَطَرًا ۖ فَسَاءَ مَطَرُ الْمُنْذَرِينَ (173)

    26|173| And showered upon them a shower. So, evil was the shower of those that were warned.

    إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً ۖ وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (174)

    26|174| Surely, in that is a sign. But most of them were not to be believers.

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ (175)

    26|175| Surely, your Lord - He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-compassionate.

    كَذَّبَ أَصْحَابُ الْأَيْكَةِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (176)

    26|176| The dwellers of the Thicket126 rejected the Messengers.

    126. Literally, “the Companions of the Wood.”
    Commenting on the story of Shu`ayb and his people, Asad wrote at 7:85, “The region of Madyan – the Midian of the Bible – extended from the present-day Gulf of Aqabah westward deep into the Sinai Peninsula and to the mountains of Moab east of the Dead Sea; its inhabitants were Arabs of the Amorite group of tribes.”
    The textual “aykah” is in singular and means a thick, tangled tree. Its plural is “ayk” (Ibn Jarir).
    Majid writes, “Aykah signifies ‘The thicket, or collection of tangled trees, or the tangles of luxuriant, or abundant and dense trees.”
    However, a report coming from Ibn `Abbas tells us that he thought “aykah” was for wood, or woods, (i.e., a forest: Au). He also said that by “as-hab al-aykah,” the allusion is to the people of Madyan. Some have read it as “laykah” (Ibn Jarir).
    Nafi`, Ibn Kathir (not the commentator: Au.) and Ibn `Amir were among those who read it as “laykah.” Some others have thought that “Laykah” was the name of a town, but which sounds doubtful (Shawkani). Qurtubi also doubts the opinion.
    Earlier, while discussing v.85 of Al-A`raf, Shawkani reported Suddi and `Ikrimah of opinion that Shu`ayb was indeed sent to two different peoples, one after another. Their opinions have been preserved by Ibn `Asakir and Ibn Is-haq.
    Ibn Kathir reports some authorities as of opinion that Aykah and Madyan were two different places, and that Shu`ayb was an exception in that he was sent to two different peoples. In fact, `Abdullah b. `Amr even reports a hadith to this effect. But, in Ibn Kathir’s opinion, the hadith is weak, and is perhaps `Abdullah b. `Amr’s own statement. According to such scholars, Shu`ayb, was first sent to Madyan, to whom he belonged. Its inhabitants refused and were destroyed by a huge cry. Thereafter he was sent to the people of Aykah – to whom he did not belong. Nevertheless, they too rejected and were destroyed under the shadow of a cloud. But Ibn Kathir differs with this opinion and thinks the two nations were one, who lived in Madyan. They worshipped a Tree to which they were attributed when it was said “As-hab al-Aykah,” and which is the reason why Allah did not refer to Shu`ayb as their brother. Although their brother, because he was one of them, Shu`ayb was not referred in those words (as against, “their brother Hud, their brother `Aad, etc.: Au.), because Allah chose to refer to his people as the “Tree-worshippers.” (In contrast, when Allah did not mention Shu`ayb in reference to their worship of the Tree, he referred to Shu`ayb as their brother, as in al-A`raf: 85 – Au.).
    However, there does not seem to be an agreement between the commentators over the issue. For further discussions see notes under verse 85 of al-A`raf.

    إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ شُعَيْبٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ (177)

    26|177| When Shu`ayb said to them, ‘Will you not fear?

    إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ (178)

    26|178| Verily, I am to you a trustworthy Messenger.

    فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ (179)

    26|179| Therefore, fear Allah and follow me.

    وَمَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ ۖ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (180)

    26|180| I do not ask you any wage for it. My wage falls only upon the Lord of the worlds.

    أَوْفُوا الْكَيْلَ وَلَا تَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُخْسِرِينَ (181)

    26|181| Give full measure and be not of those who cause loss.127

    127. That is, there are three ways of weighing: justly balanced, the scale tilting down in favor of the buyer, and, third, the scale tilting down in favor of the seller. With the words, “And weigh with an even balance,” Allah exhorted them to weigh evenly, and with the words, “And diminish not the goods of the people,” He exhorted them that if they could not tilt the balance in favor of the buyer, then, they should not at least tilt it in their own favor. The hidden implication of the passage that follows is that if somebody did not tilt down in favor of the buyer, but rather, balanced justly, he committed no sin (Zamakhshari, Razi).

    وَزِنُوا بِالْقِسْطَاسِ الْمُسْتَقِيمِ (182)

    26|182| And weigh with an even balance.128

    128. Alternatively, weigh justly, because Mujahid and Qatadah were of opinion that “qistas” is a word of Roman origin meaning just, or justice (Ibn Kathir).

    وَلَا تَبْخَسُوا النَّاسَ أَشْيَاءَهُمْ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ (183)

    26|183| And defraud not the people of their commodities,129 nor act corruptly in the earth, spreading mischief.130

    129. A literal rendition would be, “And diminish not the goods of the people.” See note 125 of Surah all-A`raf, and note 105 of Surah Hud for various implications of the term bakhs.
    130. The allusion is to highway robbery which they committed (Ibn Kathir). For other implications see notes 127, 128 and 129 of al-A`raf of this work.
    Asad refers to the earlier discussion of a similar passages at Hud, ayah 84, where he wrote: “Some commentators assume that the people of Madyan were of a particularly commercial bent of mind, and given to fraudulent dealings. It is obvious, however, that the purport of this passage and of its sequence goes far beyond anything that might be construed by a purely ‘historical’ interpretation. What this version of Shu`ayb’s story aims at is – as always in the Qur’an – the enunciation of a generally applicable principle of ethics: namely, the impossibility of one’s being righteous with regard to God unless one is righteous – in both the moral and social sense of this word – in the realm of human relationships as well. This explains the insistence with which the above prohibition is re-stated in a positive form, as an injunction, in the next verse.”

    وَاتَّقُوا الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالْجِبِلَّةَ الْأَوَّلِينَ (184)

    26|184| And fear Him who created you and the earlier peoples.’131

    131. Our translation of “jibillah” as peoples (or, alternatively, creations or generations) has the support of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Ibn Zayd as in Tabari. Suddi, Sufyan b. `Uyaynah and Zayd b. Aslam were also of the same opinion (Ibn Kathir).

    قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مِنَ الْمُسَحَّرِينَ (185)

    26|185| They said, ‘You are only one (of those) that are bewitched.

    وَمَا أَنْتَ إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُنَا وَإِنْ نَظُنُّكَ لَمِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ (186)

    26|186| You are naught but a man like ourselves. Indeed, we think you are of the liars.

    فَأَسْقِطْ عَلَيْنَا كِسَفًا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (187)

    26|187| So cause to fall upon us fragments of the sky, if you are of the truthful.’132

    132. Lit., sadiqeen means men of truth, or in simpler words, truth-tellers.

    قَالَ رَبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ (188)

    26|188| He said, ‘My Lord knows best what you are doing.’133

    133. Shu`ayb purported to say in reply to their demand for fragments to fall on them, that Allah knows best your deeds. If they cross a certain level of tolerance that He has determined, He might punish you. I on my part do not have that knowledge and hence cannot predict whether the punishment will follow or not (Zamakhshari, in effect).

    فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَأَخَذَهُمْ عَذَابُ يَوْمِ الظُّلَّةِ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ (189)

    26|189| But they gave him the lie.134 So the punishment of an overshadowing day seized them.135 That indeed was a chastisement of a dreadful day.

    134. That is, they continued to reject him and give him the lie (Alusi).
    135. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Dahhak, Qatadah, Ibn Zayd and others have explained that the allusion by “zullah” (overshadowing) is to the cloud that overshadowed them after a few hot days. The people of Aykah (Madyan) assembled under the cloud seeking relief from the blazing heat. As they were drowsing, a huge noise overtook them and they all lay dead. (Although Ibn `Abbas figures as one of those who held the above opinion), he is also reported to have said that whosoever of the scholars explained what the punishment of the Zullah was, could be given the lie (Ibn Jarir).
    We ca not be sure in exactly what sense Ibn `Abbas made the above statement. But he used an uncommon word: `Ulama’ (scholars). Since the learned of his time were not referred to as `Ulama’, one wonders if he was alluding to the Jewish scholars (Au.).
    According to some others, a fire descended and burned them all to ashes. The two statements are reconciled by Qatadah who said that the people of Aykah were destroyed by the Zullah while those of Madyan by a terrific noise produced by Jibril (Qurtubi).
    Thus, Zamakhshari and Ibn Kathir add, they had asked for a piece of the heaven to fall upon them, and a piece of the heaven they were given. And, (according to a report in Durr al-Manthur, Muhammad b. Ka`b al-Qurazi said (Ibn Kathir), that three elements were used to destroy them. First a quake shook them so that they all came out of their homes. Then Allah let loose intense heat upon them. When that had sufficiently roasted them, He sent a piece of cloud (that hung over their fields). It offered them such cool that everyone gathered under its shade. A huge cry overtook them and they all lay dead (Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani, and others).

    إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً ۖ وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (190)

    26|190| But they gave him the lie.134 So the punishment of an overshadowing day seized them.136 That indeed was a chastisement of a dreadful day.

    136. In this particular case, the complete annihilation of a great power of the time carries a sign for the posterity (Au.).

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ (191)

    26|191| Surely, your Lord - He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-compassionate.137

    137. Asad comments, “With this refrain ends the cycle of seven stories showing that spiritual truth in all its manifestations – whether it relates to an intellectual realization of God’s existence, to a refusal to regard power, wealth or fame as real values, or to the virtues of compassion and kindness towards all that lives on earth – has at all times been unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of mankind, and has always been submerged under the average man’s blindness and deafness of heart. The very repetition of phrases, sentences and situations in all of the above stories – or, rather, in the above versions of these oft-narrated stories – tends to bring home to us the fact that the human situation as such never really changes, and that, in consequence, those who preach the truth must always struggle against human greed, power-hunger and proneness to self-adulation.”

    وَإِنَّهُ لَتَنْزِيلُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (192)

    26|192| This indeed is a Revelation of the Lord of the worlds.

    نَزَلَ بِهِ الرُّوحُ الْأَمِينُ (193)

    26|193| Brought down by the Trustworthy Spirit.138

    138. Authorities like Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, Ibn Jurayj and Dahhak have explained the textual Ruh al-Ameen as alluding to Jibril (Ibn Jarir). In fact, there is no difference in opinion among the scholars that Ruh al-Ameen is Jibril (Ibn Kathir).
    Asad, who has his point to add, however, sums up the classical view: “According to almost all the classical commentators, the expression ar-ruh al-amin (lit., ‘the faithful [or ‘trustworthy’] spirit’) is a designation of Gabriel, the Angel of Revelation, who, by virtue of his purely spiritual, functional nature, is incapable of sinning and cannot, therefore, be other than utterly faithful to the trust reposed in him by God.”

    عَلَىٰ قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُنْذِرِينَ (194)

    26|194| Upon your heart,139 so that you might be of the warners.

    139. What is the difference between sadr, fu’ad and qalb. Imam Razi writes: Sadr is obvious. It is the chest that houses the fu’ad and qalb. Fu’ad is for the whole of the heart: its main part, arteries and all. Qalb in contrast is that part which can be called as the seat of emotions, affections, memory and understanding.
    The point is, the Qur’an was first revealed to a trustworthy angel Jibril. He brought it down to reveal and leave an imprint directly on the heart of Prophet Muhammad, so that there was never a chance of corruption during the process of revelation (Au.).

    بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِيٍّ مُبِينٍ (195)

    26|195| In a clear, Arabic tongue.

    وَإِنَّهُ لَفِي زُبُرِ الْأَوَّلِينَ (196)

    26|196| Truly, it is in the (revealed) Books of the earlier (peoples).140

    140. What is in the revealed Books of the ancients? Imam Razi answers that the allusion could be to any of the following: the news, the Qur’an, the Prophet’s mention, as well as, the warning.
    How could the Qur’an be in the holy writ of the ancients, seeing that it is in the language of the Arabs, Arabic? It will be surprising to those who have been carried away by the Jewish propaganda that as against the propaganda, Hebrew is actually of a later origin than Arabic, and has its root in Arabic (Au.).
    Majid writes, “Which (i.e., Arabic) has also been the language of the holy patriarchs and of the ancient Hebrews. ‘One might, assume, as some scholars have done, that the Israelites’ language in patriarchal times was Aramaic. Hommet maintains that Aramaic was but an Arabic dialect; and that originally the Israelites spoke Arabic.’ (JE.VI. p. 307). ‘The Arabic language is upon the whole nearest the primitive Semitic speech as it is by far the oldest and purest of all living tongues and its speakers in Arabia belong to the oldest and purest of races.’ (DB. V. p. 87)
    Asad adds: “That the message of the Qur’an is, nevertheless, universal and has been stressed in many of its verses (e.g., 7: 128 or 25: 1). The other prophets mentioned in the Qur’an who ‘preached in the Arabic tongue’ were Ishmael, Hud, Salih and Shu`ayb, all of them Arabians. In addition, if we bear in mind that Hebrew and Aramaic are but ancient Arabic dialects, all the Hebrew prophets may be included among ‘those who preached in the Arabic tongue.’”
    Some commentators, such as Zamakhshari, Alusi, and others have pointed that Imam Abu Hanifah used this verse to adduce that recitation of the translation of the Qur’an in the Prayers, by someone who does not know Arabic should suffice in lieu of its obligatory recitation in Arabic. But there seems to be some confusion over the issue. At all events, it is reported that the Imam faced the question of tens of thousands of men and women (especially in the Persian region) who had become Muslims but neither knew Arabic, nor any part of the Qur’an. What were they to do in their Prayers? So, he allowed it as a temporary measure, but withdrew when Arabic learning caught on (Au.).

    أَوَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُمْ آيَةً أَنْ يَعْلَمَهُ عُلَمَاءُ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (197)

    26|197| And, has it not been a sign to them that the learned among the Children of Israel recognize it?141

    141. According to Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others, the allusion by “the learned of the Children of Israel” was to scholars such as `Abdullah b. Salam and others (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali offers the rejoinder that Mukhayriq was also a Jewish scholar and a man of property who left his wealth for Islam.
    Asad adds: “.. for instance, ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam, Ka`b ibn Malik and other learned Jews of Medina in the lifetime of the Prophet. Ka`b al-Ahbar the Yemenite and a number of his compatriots during the reign of `Umar, and countless others throughout the world who embraced Islam in the course of centuries.”
    A great enemy of Islam and the Prophet, Muir admits that the scholars of the Children of Israel knew that Muhammad could not have been but a Prophet. Majid comments and quotes him: “Some amongst the Jews not only encouraged the Prophet ‘in the idea that he might be’ but ‘even affirmed that he was that Prophet whom the Lord their God should raise up unto them of their brethren.’ (Muir, op. cit. p. 98).”
    One might ask: Does the drawing of evidence from the Scriptures of old mean that they are authentic and trustworthy? Thanwi answers that the fact that mention of this Scripture and he who brought it remains in their Scriptures, despite their alterations, only strengthens the argument.
    The statement here that the “learned of the Children of Israel know it” is a self-evident and unconditional one. The learned of the Children of Israel were mentioned in particular because it is they alone in those times who knew the holy writs. Their own common folk were as ignorant of their literature as the Arabs were of Judeo-Christian literature. With the dawn of the modern times, the holy literature that was so carefully concealed from the masses for centuries has come to be exposed through mass publication. Today, anyone can gain mastery over them and be referred to as the learned of the Scriptures of the Children of Israel. Any and any such person will testify that the Qur’an adds on to the good things stated in the holy writs, but is without any of the foul, and even filthy, material that adorn them (Au.).

    وَلَوْ نَزَّلْنَاهُ عَلَىٰ بَعْضِ الْأَعْجَمِينَ (198)

    26|198| And, had We sent it down upon one of the non-Arabs,

    فَقَرَأَهُ عَلَيْهِمْ مَا كَانُوا بِهِ مُؤْمِنِينَ (199)

    26|199| And he recited it upon them, they would not have been believers in it.142

    142. That is, had this Qur’an, which is at the highest level of eloquence, been revealed to one of the non-Arabs, and so a self-evident miracle in that a non-Arab should be able to recite a highly rhetoric and eloquent Qur’an, even then the Makkans would not have believed in it. Such was the level of their intransigence (Thanwi, Shabbir).
    Another possible meaning is that had the Qur’an been revealed in the tongue of one of the non-Arabs, the Makkans would have rejected it outright, no matter what qualities it bore. Another hidden implication is that a non-Arab would have only conveyed the voice, that is, the words and sentences as pronounced. But you, O Prophet, you are able to appreciate it fully, being an eloquent Arab yourself and at the same wave-length, so to say, at the heart-level, as your countrymen (Razi).
    Who is an `ajamiyy anyway? Is it any non-Arab? The answer is, generally speaking yes. But strictly speaking it is for anyone who does not have proficiency in the Arabic language, even if he is an Arab (Ibn Jarir). Qurtubi states that an Arab who does not speak pure Arabic can be referred to as an `ajamiyy, while a non-Arab is always an `ajamiyy, even if he can speak pure Arabic. (In all cases, it is not a derogatory term, although many of the `ajam among the Arabs use it that way: Au.).
    Another meaning of a`jamiyy is animal. Hence `Abdullah b. Muti` once pointed to his camel and said, “Had it come down upon this camel of mine, and, had it recited it upon the Quraysh, they would have still not believed in it because of their extreme aversion to Islam” (Ibn Jarir). According to other reports, it was `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud who said that pointing to his camel (Alusi).

    كَذَٰلِكَ سَلَكْنَاهُ فِي قُلُوبِ الْمُجْرِمِينَ (200)

    26|200| That is how We have threaded it into the hearts of the criminals.143

    143. What does the article “it” stand for? The answer is, it is for denial. In other words Allah means to say, “That is how We have made the denial (disbelief, or polytheism) enter into the hearts of the criminals.” That is how Hasan explained it (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi). That is, when those people made a firm decision about never acknowledging the truth, then, in consequence, Allah drove it down their heart to reside their for good (Au.). In Asad’s words, “As regards God’s ‘causing’ this to happen, see Surah 2, note 7..” And which we reproduce herewith, “a reference to the natural law instituted by God, whereby a person who persistently adheres to false beliefs and refuses to listen to the voice of truth gradually loses the ability to perceive the truth, ‘so that finally, as it were, a seal is set upon his heart.’”

    لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ حَتَّىٰ يَرَوُا الْعَذَابَ الْأَلِيمَ (201)

    26|201| They will not believe in it, until they see have seen a painful chastisement.

    فَيَأْتِيَهُمْ بَغْتَةً وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (202)

    26|202| But it will come upon them suddenly, while they perceive not.

    فَيَقُولُوا هَلْ نَحْنُ مُنْظَرُونَ (203)

    26|203| Then they will say, ‘Shall we be respited?’

    أَفَبِعَذَابِنَا يَسْتَعْجِلُونَ (204)

    26|204| What, do they seek to hasten Our chastisement?

    أَفَرَأَيْتَ إِنْ مَتَّعْنَاهُمْ سِنِينَ (205)

    26|205| Do you see then? If We gave them enjoyment for years!

    ثُمَّ جَاءَهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يُوعَدُونَ (206)

    26|206| Then came to them that which they were promised!

    مَا أَغْنَىٰ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يُمَتَّعُونَ (207)

    26|207| Of what avail144 to them the enjoyment that they were given?145

    144. A few have understood the “maa” at the start of the verse as negative. But the majority understood it as interrogative.
    145. That is, if Allah extended them with all the luxuries of life, but followed them up with a chastisement, will those luxuries be of any profit? Would they be able to prevent the chastisement from descending, or allowed respite to enjoy the bestowals? A hadith in Musnad Ahmed says,

    يُؤْتَى بِأَنْعَمِ أَهْلِ الدُّنْيَا مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَيُقَالُ : اغْمِسُوهُ فِي النَّارِ غَمْسَة فَيُغْمَسُ فِيهَا ، ثُمَّ يُقَالُ لَهُ يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ ، هَلْ رَأَيْتَ خَيْرًا قَطُّ ؟ هَلْ مَرَّ بِكَ نَعِيمٌ قَطُّ ؟ فَيَقُولُ : لا وَاللَّهِ يَا رَبِّ مَا رَأَيْتُ خَيْرًا قَطُّ ، وَلا قُرَّةَ عَيْنٍ قَطُّ وَيُؤْتَى بِأَشَدِّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ضُرًّا وَبَلاءً كَانَ فِي الدُّنْيَا فَيُقَالُ : اغْمِسُوهُ غَمْسَةً فِي الْجَنَّةِ , فَيُغْمَسُ فِيهَا غَمْسَةً ، فَيُقَالُ لَهُ يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ ، هَلْ رَأَيْتَ بُؤْسًا قَطُّ ؟ هَلْ مَرَّ بِكَ شِدَّةٌ قَطُّ ؟ فَيَقُولُ : لا وَاللَّهِ يَا رَبِّ ، مَا مَرَّ بِي بُؤُسٌ قَطُّ ، وَلا رَأَيْتُ شِدَّةً قَطُّ

    “The most luxurious man of the world - destined to be in the Fire – will be brought on the Day of Judgment and said, ‘Dip him a single dip in the Fire.’ Then he will be asked, ‘Son of Adam. Have you ever experienced any good? Did any blessing pass by you?’ He will reply, ‘No, my Lord, I have never experienced any good, nor any cool of the eyes.’ And a believer who had left a most miserable life in the world will be brought and said, ‘Dip him into Paradise once.’ So he will be given a single dip into it and asked, ‘Son of Adam. Did you experience any hardship? Did any misery pass by you?’ He will reply, ‘No by my Lord. No misery ever pass by me, nor have I ever experienced any hardship’” (Ibn Kathir).
    A version close to this is in Muslim also (Au.).
    It is said that Maymun b. Mahran longed to see Hasan (al-Busri). He chanced upon him during a Tawaf. He requested him for admonition. Hasan recited these verses to him, “Do you see then? If We gave them enjoyment for years, then came to them that which they were promised; of what avail to them the enjoyment that they were given?” Maymun told him, “You couldn’t have advised me in better words (Zamakhshari). It is reported that every morning `Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz would hold his beard and recite these lines.

    وَمَا أَهْلَكْنَا مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ إِلَّا لَهَا مُنْذِرُونَ (208)

    26|208| And never did We destroy a town but it had warners.

    ذِكْرَىٰ وَمَا كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ (209)

    26|209| A reminder! And never have We been unjust.

    وَمَا تَنَزَّلَتْ بِهِ الشَّيَاطِينُ (210)

    26|210| The Devils have not brought it down.146

    146. Unable to explain the phenomenon of revelation, the Makkans said that probably a Jinn whispered these magical words into the Prophet’s ear. Early in his mission when revelation was delayed, a woman said to the Prophet, “Perhaps, your Devil has abandoned you” (Thanwi, Shabbir and others).
    In Asad’s words, “During the early years of his prophetic mission, some of Muhammad’s Meccan opponents tried to explain the rhetorical beauty and persuasiveness of the Qur’an by insinuating that he was a soothsayer (kahin) in communion with all manner of dark forces and evil spirits (shayateen).”
    Some scholars have assumed Hasan as erring when he said that the text must be read as Shayatoon, rather than Shayateen, since there is no causative agent to change Shayatoon to Shayateen. Shayateen, the critics have pointed out, is the plural of Shaytan just as Basateen is the plural of Bustan. But Qurtubi reports Yunus b. Habeeb hearing from a Bedouin:

    دَخَلْنَا بساتينَ منْ وَرَائِهَا بساتون

    Zamakhshari, Qurtubi and Alusi present one or two other reasons to demonstrate why reading the text Shayateen as Shayatoon could be justified.

    وَمَا يَنْبَغِي لَهُمْ وَمَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ (211)

    26|211| It does not behoove them, neither are they able.147

    147. “How is it possible that devils should have anything to do with a Book so lofty in its conception, so perfect in its execution, and so excellent in its teaching?” (Majid)
    Mawdudi expounds: “Did they (the Quraysh) ever hear that a Satan summoned people to God through a soothsayer? Or asked people not to worship idols? Or warned them about retribution in the Hereafter? Or asked them to stop being unjust and to mend their immoral behavior? Did any Satan ever call people to righteous deeds, to truthful and honest ways of living, to a fair and appropriate behavior with God’s creations? Clearly, all this goes against the very grain of every Satan’s nature. A Satan’s nature is to divide people against one another and to call them to evil deeds. Furthermore, people tend to go to those soothsayers whom they believe to have connections with Satans and not to learn about God and piety.”

    إِنَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّمْعِ لَمَعْزُولُونَ (212)

    26|212| Indeed, far from hearing are they removed.148

    148. Thus Allah gave three reasons why the Devils could not have brought down the Qur’an: They are unfit and inappropriate for the task for, they are of corrupt nature, misguided, and misguiding. In contrast, the Qur’an is noble, and guides to the noble prohibiting the wrong and enjoining the right. They are dark matter while the Qur’an is Light. The two then stand in contrast. Secondly, they are not capacitated to bear such a burden. It had to be a powerful personality, like that of Jibril, to carry it down. Finally, they were prohibited from listening to any part of it, in fact, from picking one of its words. Such measures were taken to safeguard the Qur’an to such perfect degree as to allow for no doubt about its purity to surface up. Allah reported to us the situation of the Shayatin just before the Qur’anic revelations were to begin in words (72: 8-10),

    {وَأَنَّا لَمَسْنَا السَّمَاءَ فَوَجَدْنَاهَا مُلِئَتْ حَرَسًا شَدِيدًا وَشُهُبًا (8) وَأَنَّا كُنَّا نَقْعُدُ مِنْهَا مَقَاعِدَ لِلسَّمْعِ فَمَنْ يَسْتَمِعِ الْآَنَ يَجِدْ لَهُ شِهَابًا رَصَدًا (9) وَأَنَّا لَا نَدْرِي أَشَرٌّ أُرِيدَ بِمَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَمْ أَرَادَ بِهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ رَشَدًا } [الجن: 8 - 10]

    “And we touched on the heaven but found it filled with powerful guards and burning flames. And, we used to sit there in positions to (steal) a hearing but whoever listens now will find a burning flame lying in wait for him. And we do not know whether evil is intended for those on the earth or whether their Lord intends for them a right course” (Ibn Kathir, reworded).
    Alusi however has his own arguments to demonstrate that when the Qur’an said, “Indeed, they are banished from (its) hearing,” it meant that the Devils are barred from evesdropping on what the angels talk between themselves. Following this interpretation, a reworded translation would be, “Indeed, they are banished from hearing.”

    فَلَا تَدْعُ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ فَتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُعَذَّبِينَ (213)

    26|213| So, invoke not along with Allah any (other) deity, lest you should be one of those chastised.

    وَأَنْذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِينَ (214)

    26|214| And warn your clan, the nearest kinsmen.149

    149. Al-`Asheerah (clan) falls last in the genealogical group-listing of the past Arab times, as understood by some scholars. The listing has six groups, each headed by a renounced figure, a male descendant of the group above, and a progenitor of the group below: Al-Sha`b (e.g., `Adnan, Qahtan, etc.), al-Qabeelah (e.g., Rabi`ah, Mudar, etc.), al-`Imarah (e.g., Quraysh, Kinanah, etc.), al-Batn (`Abd Munaf, `Abd Makhzun, etc.), al-Fakhz (Banu Hashim, Banu Umayyah, etc.), and al-Faseelah or al-`Asheerah (Banu `Abbas, Banu `Abd al-Muttalib, etc.). Below this is no grouping and no one is left except a man and his progeny (Alusi).
    The fact is not lost upon the non-Muslims that the Prophet was able to convert some of his nearest men and women to the faith he had brought while we know that the closest are the last to be impressed by any extraordinary person of theirs. Majid quotes, “What is very striking in the religious career of Muhammad, at the beginning of his activity, is that the first converts were among the members of his own family and relatives. I believe that he is the only founder of religion who had the privilege of gaining to his cause those nearest to him either through blood or through close connection. (Edouard Monter, quoted in Zaki Ali’s Islam in the World, p.5). ‘The missionary spirit of Islam is no after-thought in its history; it interpenentrates the religion from its beginning,’ says another Christian scholar. ‘As soon as the Prophet was convinced of his divine mission, his earliest efforts were directed towards persuading his own family of the truth of the new doctrine .. The first convert was his faithful wife Khadijah… Among the earliest believers were his adopted children Zayd and `Ali, and his bosom friend Abu Bakr.’ (Arnold, Preaching of Islam, pp. 11-12).”
    Hadith literature has several reports that tell us about how the Prophet reacted when he received these verses. One transmitted to us by Ibn `Abbas says that he climbed Mount Safa and called out,

    « يَا بَنِى فِهْرٍ ، يَا بَنِى عَدِىٍّ » . لِبُطُونِ قُرَيْشٍ حَتَّى اجْتَمَعُوا ، فَجَعَلَ الرَّجُلُ إِذَا لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ أَنْ يَخْرُجَ أَرْسَلَ رَسُولاً لِيَنْظُرَ مَا هُوَ ، فَجَاءَ أَبُو لَهَبٍ وَقُرَيْشٌ فَقَالَ « أَرَأَيْتَكُمْ لَوْ أَخْبَرْتُكُمْ أَنَّ خَيْلاً بِالْوَادِى تُرِيدُ أَنْ تُغِيرَ عَلَيْكُمْ ، أَكُنْتُمْ مُصَدِّقِىَّ » . قَالُوا نَعَمْ ، مَا جَرَّبْنَا عَلَيْكَ إِلاَّ صِدْقًا . قَالَ « فَإِنِّى نَذِيرٌ لَكُمْ بَيْنَ يَدَىْ عَذَابٍ شَدِيدٍ » . فَقَالَ أَبُو لَهَبٍ تَبًّا لَكَ سَائِرَ الْيَوْمِ ، أَلِهَذَا جَمَعْتَنَا فَنَزَلَتْ ( تَبَّتْ يَدَا أَبِى لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ

    “O the sons of Fihr, the sons of `Adiyy, calling out to the Quraysh” So the people gathered. Either a man came by himself or sent someone across to find out what the matter was. Some of the Quraysh, among them Abu Lahab came. The Prophet addressed them in words, “What will you say if I said that there is a cavalry at the foot of this mountain ready to launch an attack on you? Will you believe me?” They said, “Yes. We have not experienced a lie from you.” He said, “(Let me tell you that) I am a warner unto you in the face of a severe chastisement.” At that Abu Lahab said, “Perish be you the day long. Did you gather us just for this?” So Allah revealed, “Perished be the hands of Abu Lahab, and perish be he” (Ibn Jarir).
    The report is in in Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad (Ibn Kathir).
    Another narrative comes down through Abu Hurayrah. It says that when this verse “And warn your nearest kinsmen” was revealed, the Prophet invited the Quraysh, all of them, generally and specifically (to his house). He said,

    يَا بَنِى كَعْبِ بْنِ لُؤَىٍّ أَنْقِذُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ مِنَ النَّارِ يَا بَنِى مُرَّةَ بْنِ كَعْبٍ أَنْقِذُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ مِنَ النَّارِ يَا بَنِى عَبْدِ شَمْسٍ أَنْقِذُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ مِنَ النَّارِ يَا بَنِى عَبْدِ مَنَافٍ أَنْقِذُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ مِنَ النَّارِ يَا بَنِى هَاشِمٍ أَنْقِذُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ مِنَ النَّارِ يَا بَنِى عَبْدِ الْمُطَّلِبِ أَنْقِذُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ مِنَ النَّارِ يَا فَاطِمَةُ أَنْقِذِى نَفْسَكِ مِنَ النَّارِ فَإِنِّى لاَ أَمْلِكُ لَكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا غَيْرَ أَنَّ لَكُمْ رَحِمًا سَأَبُلُّهَا بِبَلاَلِهَا

    “O the sons of Ka`b b. Lu’ayy, save yourselves from the Fire. O the sons of Murra b. Ka`b, save yourselves from the Fire. O sons of `Abd Munaf, save yourselves from the Fire. O the sons of Hashim, save yourselves from the Fire. O sons of `Abd al-Muttalib, save yourselves from the Fire. O Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, save yourself from the Fire. By Allah, I cannot avail you at all against Allah except that you have kindred rights which I shall try to deliver you in full” (Ibn Jarir, Razi).
    Muslim has preserved this hadith (Qurtubi). It is also in Tirmidhi and Ahmad (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    Ibn Jarir has another long report narrated by `Ali that speaks of how the Prophet got prepared dinner for his kindred, (some thirty to forty of them) when a small amount of food sufficed them all, although, each of them a devourer of great amounts. But Abu Lahab cut short the Prophet’s effort to address them at the end of the dinner, saying, “The man has worked magic on you” – referring to a small amount of food proving sufficient for so many. So, he invited them a second time and then a third time when he succeeded in addressing them. He told them, “O sons of `Abd al-Muttalib, I do not know of any young man among the Arabs who brought them better than what he brought them. I have brought you the best of things of this and the next world. And I have been commanded to invite you to it. So, who will support me in this on promise that he will be my brother ..” No one responded except `Ali.
    Ibn Kathir however points out that the chain of narration has one name `Abd al-Ghaffar, about whom most scholars have distrusted while `Ali b. al-Madini accused him of lies. However, the report seems to echo in others of similar nature, although not as long. One is in Ahmad, transmitted by `Ali himself that “when the above verse was revealed, the Prophet got his clansmen gathered together in his own house over dinner. After they were well fed and drunk – but the food and drink as if they had not even been touched – he addressed them in words, ‘O children of `Abd al-Muttalib. I have been sent to you in particular and the people in general. You have heard of this verse. So, who will pledge his hand that he will be my companion in Paradise?’ No one stood up in response. So I stood up, although the youngest among them. He told me, ‘Sit down.’ He appealed three times and every time it was I alone who responded. He would say, ‘Sit down.’ Until, at the third time he struck his hand on mine.” (That is, took the pledge) – Ibn Kathir.
    It is a fair guess to say that the Prophet invited several of them at several times to warn them over the dinner.
    Way into the practical world, Ibn Kathir warns how sometimes a man’s kindred can be the last one’s to accept his message. `Abd al-Wahid Dimashqi reported, “Once I saw Abu Darda’ delivering lessons to the people and offering the questioners his judicial opinions. While that was going on, some members of his household (perhaps his others) were busy chatting among themselves in another corner of the mosque. I said, ‘What’s the matter that the people are eager to receive knowledge from you, but your own kith and kin are right here, engaged in pleasantries?' He replied, “That is because I have heard the Prophet say, ‘The most ascetic with reference to this world are the Prophets, and the most difficult on them are their kindred.’”

    وَاخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِمَنِ اتَّبَعَكَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (215)

    26|215| And lower your wings to those of the believers who follow you.150

    150. That is, treat them mildly (Ibn Jarir). To connect it with the previous verses: 'Warn thy kin; which would require some amount of plain speaking, or, as they would term, some harsh words, but once they have submitted to Allah, then, act kindly towards them.'
    Also see note 74 under Surah al-Hijr of this work (Au.).

    فَإِنْ عَصَوْكَ فَقُلْ إِنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ (216)

    26|216| But if they disobey you,151 say, ‘I am free of responsibility for what you do.

    151. That is, those of your kindred who refuse to obey you (Ibn Jarir).

    وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى الْعَزِيزِ الرَّحِيمِ (217)

    26|217| And place your trust152 in the All-Mighty, the All-Merciful.153

    152. What is tawakkul? Zamakhshari tries one-liners: It is said that tawakkul is “a man’s entrusting of an affair unto someone who has power over that affair and is able to harm or benefit.” [That is, he knows that the man he is trusting has the ability to harm or benefit him, yet, he trusts Allah more, and entrusts an affair to him, fearless of his ability to do harm: Au.]. Another definition is, “Mutawakkil is someone who when surprised by an affair, does not try to defend himself by means of that which is forbidden by Allah.” In other words, if a man is visited by a misfortune, and he asks someone to help him out, then he did not cross the boundaries of tawakkul, for he did not employ sinful ways to overcome it.
    153. That is, place your trust in One who is Mighty in dealing with His enemies, and Merciful towards those who turn to Him and do not disobey Him (Ibn Jarir).

    الَّذِي يَرَاكَ حِينَ تَقُومُ (218)

    26|218| Who sees you when you stand (in Prayer).154

    154. While Ibn `Abbas and Dahhak said the meaning is, “He sees you when you arise,” `Ikrimah and Qatadah said, “He sees you when you stand in Prayers.” Hasan (al-Busri) however thought it means, “He sees you when you are alone in Prayers, as He sees you when you are in a group.” This was also the opinion of `Ikrimah, `Ata al-Khurasani and Hasan al-Busri (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).

    وَتَقَلُّبَكَ فِي السَّاجِدِينَ (219)

    26|219| And your movements amongst the prostrate.155

    155. The meaning forwarded by Ibn `Abbas and `Ikrimah is that He sees your movements of standing, bowing down and prostrations in Prayers performed in the congregation, but Mujahid said that the implication is that the Prophet saw those who Prayed behind him, as he saw anyone in front of him. (This does not sound like a strong opinion: Qurtubi). A third meaning offered by Ibn `Abbas is that Allah sees the Prophet when he moves about among those devoted to His worship (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi).
    Mujahid’s interpretation is in the Sahihayn (though not in explanation of this verse: Au.). They report severally that the Prophet said,

    أقِيمُوا صفوفكم ؛ فَإِنِّي أَرَاكُم من وَرَاء ظَهْري

    “Straighten up your rows for I can see you from behind my back” (Ibn Kathir).
    A kind of esoteric interpretation comes from an unexpected quarter. Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir (the latter from Bazzar and Ibn Abi Hatim) report that Ibn `Abbas said in explanation of the words, “And your movements amongst those who prostrate themselves” that the allusion is to his (the Prophet’s) movements from the back of one Prophet to the back of another Prophet until He (Allah) brought him out as a Prophet. This report is also in Tabarani and Abu Nu`aym’s Dala’il (Shawkani). In other words, the term “sajideen” has been understood to be alluding to “Prophets.”
    Alusi adds that although some have used this verse to prove that the Prophet’s parents were believers, as is the position of most of the Ahl al-Sunnah, and although he fears kufr on the part of him who spoke of them disparagingly, yet, he does not think this verse can be used in evidence.
    Shabbir quotes Abu Hayyan from his Tafsir, that the interpretation of Ibn `Abbas about the belief of the Prophet’s parents is a fabrication of the Shi`ah. Yet he also reports the opinion of Ibn Hajr as in his Zawaajir that, “Allah honored our Prophet by raising his parents who declared their faith in him.” He quotes Ibn `Abideen explaining how this can be reconciled with the reports that speak of his father being in the Fire, or Allah’s refusal to supplicate for his mother. See Fath al-Mulhim, v.2, p. 535-6).
    Haythami says in Majma` that the attribution to Ibn `Abbas is trustworthy since all the narrators are those of the Sihah works, except for one who was trustworthy too (Au.).
    Although Zamakhshari does not state directly, but seems to imply that the allusion is to the Prophet’s eagerness to know how his followers were conducting themselves at the best time of devotion viz., the hours before dawn. It is reported that when Prayer in the depth of the night (tahajjud) was declared non-obligatory, he went around the houses in the following nights to check how they were conducting themselves. To his gladness, he found the houses buzzing like bee-hives, with supplications, prayers and recitation of the Qur’an.

    إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ (220)

    26|220| He indeed, He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing.

    هَلْ أُنَبِّئُكُمْ عَلَىٰ مَنْ تَنَزَّلُ الشَّيَاطِينُ (221)

    26|221| Shall I tell you upon whom the Devils descend?

    تَنَزَّلُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ أَفَّاكٍ أَثِيمٍ (222)

    26|222| They descend upon every sinful liar.156

    156. The word Ifk of the text is used for a dirty lie.

    يُلْقُونَ السَّمْعَ وَأَكْثَرُهُمْ كَاذِبُونَ (223)

    26|223| They give the ear,157 but most of them are liars.158

    157. The words yulqun as-sam`a have also been interpreted to mean, “they pass on the hearing” (Zamakhshari). The choice of words seems to lend both the meanings at a time. Hence, Mujahid has explained (as in Ibn Jarir) that the Devils drop what they pick up from the heaven into the ears of every sinful dirty liar. Ibn Kathir has similar explanation.
    158. `A’isha is reported to have said that the Devils add up to what they steal of the words, a hundred lies and pass on to every sinful liar (Ibn Jarir).
    `A’isha is also reported in Bukhari as transmitting,

    سَأَلَ أُنَاسٌ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَنْ الْكُهَّانِ فَقَالَ إِنَّهُمْ لَيْسُوا بِشَيْءٍ فَقَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ فَإِنَّهُمْ يُحَدِّثُونَ بِالشَّيْءِ يَكُونُ حَقًّا قَالَ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ تِلْكَ الْكَلِمَةُ مِنْ الْحَقِّ يَخْطَفُهَا الْجِنِّيُّ فَيُقَرْقِرُهَا فِي أُذُنِ وَلِيِّهِ كَقَرْقَرَةِ الدَّجَاجَةِ فَيَخْلِطُونَ فِيهِ أَكْثَرَ مِنْ مِائَةِ كَذْبَةٍ

    “The Prophet was asked about the fortune-tellers. He said, ‘They are worthless.’ They said, ‘Messenger of Allah, sometimes they say things that come out true.’ He replied, ‘That is the true word that a Jinni picks up which he then mutters, like the muttering of a hen, into the ears of his friends. They then add up to it more than a hundred lies.’”
    Bukhari also preserved a narrative of Abu Hurayrah which reports the Prophet as having said,

    إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ الْأَمْرَ فِي السَّمَاءِ ضَرَبَتْ الْمَلَائِكَةُ بِأَجْنِحَتِهَا خُضْعَانًا لِقَوْلِهِ كَأَنَّهُ سِلْسِلَةٌ عَلَى صَفْوَانٍ فَإِذَا {فُزِّعَ عَنْ قُلُوبِهِمْ قَالُوا مَاذَا قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ قَالُوا} لِلَّذِي قَالَ {الْحَقَّ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ} فَيَسْمَعُهَا مُسْتَرِقُ السَّمْعِ وَمُسْتَرِقُ السَّمْعِ هَكَذَا بَعْضُهُ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ وَوَصَفَ سُفْيَانُ بِكَفِّهِ فَحَرَفَهَا وَبَدَّدَ بَيْنَ أَصَابِعِهِ فَيَسْمَعُ الْكَلِمَةَ فَيُلْقِيهَا إِلَى مَنْ تَحْتَهُ ثُمَّ يُلْقِيهَا الْآخَرُ إِلَى مَنْ تَحْتَهُ حَتَّى يُلْقِيَهَا عَلَى لِسَانِ السَّاحِرِ أَوْ الْكَاهِنِ فَرُبَّمَا أَدْرَكَ الشِّهَابُ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُلْقِيَهَا وَرُبَّمَا أَلْقَاهَا قَبْلَ أَنْ يُدْرِكَهُ فَيَكْذِبُ مَعَهَا مِائَةَ كَذْبَةٍ فَيُقَالُ أَلَيْسَ قَدْ قَالَ لَنَا يَوْمَ كَذَا وَكَذَا كَذَا وَكَذَا فَيُصَدَّقُ بِتِلْكَ الْكَلِمَةِ الَّتِي سَمِعَ مِنْ السَّمَاءِ

    “When Allah decrees a thing in the heaven the angels beat their wings, like chains on rocks, in fear and humility to His command. When fear recedes from their hearts they ask, ‘What did your Lord say?’ They say, ‘The Truth. He is the Lofty, the Great.’ That is heard by those who try to steal a hearing: this way, one upon another – [Sufyan demonstrated with his hands by spreading the fingers of his hand and placing the other hand on them]. So he hears the word and passes it on to the one below him. The other passes it on to the one below him, until they put into the ears of a magician or soothsayer. Sometimes a flame strikes him before he can pass it on. At other times he is struck after he has passed it on. Then he (the magician or soothsayer) adulterates it with a hundred lies. Then it is said (when he predicts, and it comes out true), ‘Did he not say to us on such and such a day.’ He is testified became of the true word heard from the heaven.”
    Muslim also has a similar report. `A’isha also reports in Bukhari from the Prophet,

    الملائكة تُحدِّثُ في العَنانِ - والعَنَانُ : الغَمامُ - بالأمر يكون في السماء ، فتسمعُ الشياطينُ الكلمةَ ، فَتَقرُّها في أُذنِ الكاهن كما تَقُرُّ القَارُورَةُ ، فيزيدوُن معها مائة كذبة

    “The angles discuss between themselves in the clouds earthly affairs. The Shayateen pick up a word and pore it in the ears of a soothsayer – like (water poured into) a bottle. In turn they add a hundred lies to it” (Ibn Kathir).
    Alusi conjectures that it cannot be a matter of surprise that just as the Devils pick up a word, the soul of one of the righteous should occasionally picks up a true word (from the first firmament). His opinion is strengthened by his personal experience. When he was five, he was told to do some revision of his text-book. He told his mother he was not going to do any such thing because the Minister was to be killed tomorrow. No one of course took it serious – not even himself. But next morning the Minister was killed by his own retinue.
    Also see Surah al-Hijr, note 18 of this work for connected details (Au.)

    وَالشُّعَرَاءُ يَتَّبِعُهُمُ الْغَاوُونَ (224)

    26|224| As for the poets, it is the deviated ones who follow them.159

    159. This was in refutation of the allegation by the Quraysh that since there was rhyme and rhythm in many parts of the Qur’an, it was a poetic composition, and that the Prophet was a poet. But others have said that what they implied was that the Prophet had come up with some quite imaginative talk, in the manner of the poets (Alusi).
    To condemn the poets in such summary terms was only possible because it was Allah who revealed these verses. They held such power and influence in the pre-Islamic world, that to attack them was attacking scientists or journalists of today. Who could have after the European Renaissance condemned Homer and Virgil, Sophocles and Aeschylus, Dante and Milton, Keats and Shelley? Anyone who did that would be dismissed outright as a lunatic. But poets in Arabia enjoyed greater influence, and Revelation offers us its own tests. Majid offers us some quotes: “’The poets, when under inspiration, were believed to be under the power of Jinn. This gave them great distinctions. They were, before Islam, often the leaders and representatives of those tribes. Honour was accorded them not from appreciation of intellectual endowment or of artistic genius but because of their uncanny connection with the supernatural.’ (ERE. X. p. 135) The poets, in Arabia, ‘were the men of knowledge for their people. Their incantations held good as oracles, first of all for their several tribes, but no doubt extending their influence often beyond their own particular septs.’ (De Boer, History of Philosophy in Islam, p.2). ‘As his office developed the poet acquired a variety of functions. In battle his tongue was as effective as his people’s bravery. In peace he might prove a menace to public order by his fiery harangue. His poems might arouse a tribe to action in the same manner as tirades of a demagogue in a modern political campaign. As the press agent, the journalist, of his day his favour was sought by princely gifts, as the records of the courts of al-Hira and al-Ghassan show. He was at the time the moulder and the agent of public opinion. Qat` Al-lisan (cutting off the tongue) was the classical formula used for subsidizing the poet and thus avoiding his satires.’ (Hitti, op. cit., pp. 94-95).”

    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّهُمْ فِي كُلِّ وَادٍ يَهِيمُونَ (225)

    26|225| Have you not seen that they wander distracted in every valley?160

    160. That is, Ibn `Abbas explained, they indulge in every foolish talk. Mujahid said that the meaning is: they employ every art to bewitch others (Ibn Jarir). Ibn `Abbas said the same thing, who is also reported to have understood the verse to mean, “They engage in every kind of verbal art” (Ibn Kathir).
    Asad adds: “The idiomatic phrase hama fi widyan (lit. he wandered [or roamed] through valleys) is used, as most of the commentators point out, to describe a confused or aimless – and often self-contradictory – play with words and thoughts. In this context it is meant to stress the difference between the precision of the Qur’an, which is free from all inner contradictions … and the vagueness often inherent in poetry.”
    Majid further elaborates, “I.e., always indulging in fancies and phantasms divorced from real life. The Arab poets very often painted a vicious thing so vividly and alluringly as to excite passions and to darken the intellect. Poetry unless kept under control by reason or Revelation, is apt to lead to mental unbalance and hysteria, and is the fountain-head of false values.”
    Had Majid not named Arab poets, we would have thought he was taking about modern-day pop-music and the poetry that goes with it. These produce greater devastating effects on modern man (Au.).
    Mawdudi writes: “Arabic poetry at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave vent to lasciviousness and eroticism, wine-bibbing, tribal prejudice, pride and vanity, vituperation and eroticism, bragging and eulogy, sycophancy and obscenity, and polytheistic superstition.”
    It was such poetry that the Prophet censured (Au.).
    Ibn `Umar is preserved in Bukhari as reporting that the Prophet and a few Companions passed by a poet reciting poetry. The Prophet said,

    خذوا الشيطان - أو أمسكوا الشطان - لأَنْ يَمْتَلِئَ جَوْفُ الرَّجُلِ قَيْحًا يَرِيهِ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أَنْ يَمْتَلِئَ شِعْرًا

    “Seize your Devil, or, hold your Devil. It is better for a man to fill the inside of his body with puss than to fill it with poetry" (Ibn Kathir).
    The second part of the report is found in all the Sihah works as noted in Fayd al-Qadir. But obviously, it applied to the man perhaps because he did not qualify the next verse (Au.)
    Shawkani presents a report from Qurtubi which reports the Prophet as having said,

    الشِّعْرُ بِمَنْزِلَةِ الْكَلامِ، فَحَسَنُهُ كَحَسَنِ الْكَلامِ، وقَبِيحُهُ كَقَبيحِ الْكَلامِ

    “Good poetry is like good prose and bad poetry is like bad prose.”
    (The above report has been treated as Sahih by Albani: S. Ibrahim).
    Muslim has another report. `Amr bin Shareed reports his father:

    رَدِفْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- يَوْمًا فَقَالَ « هَلْ مَعَكَ مِنْ شِعْرِ أُمَيَّةَ بْنِ أَبِى الصَّلْتِ شَيْئًا ». قُلْتُ نَعَمْ قَالَ « هِيهِ ». فَأَنْشَدْتُهُ بَيْتًا فَقَالَ « هِيهِ ». ثُمَّ أَنْشَدْتُهُ بَيْتًا فَقَالَ « هِيهِ ». حَتَّى أَنْشَدْتُهُ مِائَةَ بَيْتٍ.

    “Once I shared a camel’s back with the Prophet. He asked, ‘Do you know any poetical works of Umayyah b. Salt?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Let’s have it.’ So I recited a verse. He said, ‘More.’ So I recited another. He said, ‘More,’ until I recited a hundred verses.
    Qurtubi thinks it was Shareed himself and not his father who shared the camel’s back with the Prophet; and that the Prophet listened to that length because Umayyah’s poetry was filled with wisdom.

    وَأَنَّهُمْ يَقُولُونَ مَا لَا يَفْعَلُونَ (226)

    26|226| And that they say what they do not do.161

    161. Abu Zayd has said that the allusion was to the unbelieving poets (Ibn Jarir).
    Mawdudi wrote: “This is another common trait of the poets … They might be eloquent about generosity but be utterly stingy themselves. They might lavish their rhetoric on courage but be cowardly themselves. They might extol dignified indifference to the rich, give expression to contentment with one’s portion in life and to feelings of self-respect and honour, but themselves be steeped in greed and avarice. They might also be critical of others though their own lives be a catalogue of serious misdeeds.”

    إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَذَكَرُوا اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَانْتَصَرُوا مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا ظُلِمُوا ۗ وَسَيَعْلَمُ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَيَّ مُنْقَلَبٍ يَنْقَلِبُونَ (227)

    26|227| Except those who believed and worked righteous works,162 remembered Allah much,163 and defended after they were wronged.164 And soon will the wronging ones know what vicissitude they will turn.165

    162. It is reported that when the verse condemning the poets was revealed, Hassan b. Thabit, `Abdullah b. Rawaha and Ka`b b. Malik went to the Prophet weeping. They said, “Allah had known when He revealed this verse that we are poets.” The Prophet replied with the verse that follows: “Except those who believed and worked righteous works, remembered Allah much, and defended themselves after they were wronged.” Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, `Ikrimah and many others believed that this verse “Except those who believed ..” offers an exception to the general indictment expressed in the earlier verse, “As for the poets, it is the deviated ones who follow them” (Ibn Jarir).
    163. That is, Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Zayd said, remembered Allah much in their poetry (Ibn Jarir).
    164. Whom did they defend? Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others have said that the allusion is to the defense of Islam against the poets.
    Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others quote from the Sahihayn and other works: The Prophet said to Hassan b. Thabit,

    اهْجُهُمْ فَإِنَّ جِبْرِيلَ مَعَكَ

    “Satirize them, Jibril is with you.” (In fact, he had got erected a platform for Hassan in his mosque, as reported by Ibn Hisham: Alusi).
    On the authority of Ka`b, as in Musnad of Ahmad, when Allah had revealed what He revealed in connection with the poets, the Prophet said,

    إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ يُجَاهِدُ بِسَيْفِهِ وَلِسَانِهِ وَالَّذِى نَفْسِى بِيَدِهِ لَكَأَنَّمَا تَرْمُونَهُمْ بِهِ نَضْحَ النَّبْلِ

    “A believer fights with his sword and with his tongue. And, by Him in whose Hands is my soul, as if what you shoot at them (of poetry) are showers of arrows” (Ibn Kathir).
    Haythami treated this report of Ahmad as Sahih (S. Ibrahim in Shawkani).
    Thus, writes Qurtubi, there is good poetry and there is bad poetry. It is bad poetry that is the object of criticism here. The Prophet never discouraged good poetry. How could he when he would hear it recited to him, and men like Abu Bakr said their own poetry? The reports that speak of it in disparaging terms are aimed at bad poets, like the Bedouin whom he called ‘the Devil’, who was probably singing some uncouth words. Throughout history scholars have never criticized poetry per se. Far above that, most of the renowned figures among the Companions either said poetry, quoted it, or heard and appreciated it. The Prophet is reported by Abu Hurayrah as saying on the pulpit of the mosque, “The most truthful of words – or he said poetry – that an Arab said was that of Labeed who said,

    أََلآ كلُّ شئٍ ما خلا اللهُ باطلُ

    “Lo! Everything, save Allah, is false.”
    Muslim added to the above version the following words of the Prophet,

    وَكَادَ أُمَيَّةُ بْنُ أَبِي الصَّلْتِ أَنْ يُسْلِمَ

    “Umayyah b. Abi Salt was very near to becoming a Muslim.”
    It is reported of Ibn Sirin sang out some poetry. Somebody from among the people around him protested, “Does a man like you recite poetry?” Ibn Sirin told him, “You silly man. Is poetry any different from prose? Both have the good and bad of them.”
    As example we could cite the words of `Abbas who said in praise of our Prophet,

    مِن قَبْلِها طِبْتَ في الظِّلالِ وفِي
    مُسْتَوْدَعٍ حيثُ يُخْصَفُ الوَرَقُ
    ثُمَّ هَبَطْتَ البِلادَ لا بَشَرٌ
    أَنتَ ولا مُضْغَةٌ ولا عَلَقُ
    بل نُطْفَةٌ تَرْكَبُ السَّفِينَ وقَدْ
    أَلْجَمَ نَسْراً وأَهْلَهُ الغَرَقُ
    تُنْقَلُ مِن صالِبٍ إِلى رَحِمٍ
    إِذا مَضى عالَمٌ بدَا طَبَقُ

    Earlier you had stayed pure in darknesses and in the
    Storehouses where the leaves were patched on
    Then you came down to the earth, not a man
    Nor a chewed flesh nor leech-like
    But rather a drop that rode the boat as
    Nasr was tamed while its people drowned
    Transported from the back into the womb
    When the heavens began to be laid up in layers.

    The Prophet said, “May Allah break not your teeth;” which is another way of saying, “May you never get too old.”

    To give another example,
    إنِّي رضيتُ عليا لَلْهُدي عَلَماً
    كما رضيتُ عَتيقاً صاحبَ الغارِ
    وقد رضيتُ أبا حفصٍ وشيعَتَه
    وما رضيتُ بقتْلِ الشيخِ في الدارِ
    كلُّ الصحابةِ عندي قُدْوةٌ عَلَمُ
    فهل عليَّ بهذا القولِ من عارِ
    إن كنتَ تعلم إني لا أُحِبُّهم
    إلا من أجلك فاعْتِقْني من النارِ

    I am satisfied with `Ali, a symbol of true guidance
    As I was satisfied with `Ateeq, the Companion of the cave
    And I was satisfied with Abu Hafs and his people
    Nor I was ever happy with the murder of the Old man in his house
    Everyone of the Companions are to me models, symbols
    Is there then upon me for this statement any blame?
    If you know that I do not love them
    But for You, then free me from the Fire.

    Another example is in the famous lines of Ka`b b. Zuhayr (that he recited before the Prophet). They are loaded with allegories of all sorts. They also demonstrate that a poet can in rhapsodies break rules and cross some boundaries:

    بانتْ سعادُ فقلبي اليومَ متبولُ
    متيَّمٌ إثرها لم يُفدَ مكبولُ
    وما سعادُ غداةَ البينِ إذ رحلوا
    إلاّ أغنَّ غضيضُ الطَّرفِ مكحولُ
    تجلو عوارضَ ذي ظلمٍ إذا ابتسمتْ
    كأنَّهُ منهلٌ بالرَّاحِ معلولُ

    Su`ad has departed and my heart is love-sick
    In thrall to her, unrequited, bound with chains
    And what Su`ad when she came forth on the morning of departure
    Was, but as a gazelle with bright black downcast eyes
    When she smiles, she lays bare a shining row of side-teeth
    That seem to have been bathed in fragrant wine.

    Musa b. ‘Uqbah has stated in his Maghazi that Ka`b b. Zuhayr recited the poem praising the Prophet inside the mosque. When he reached the lines:

    إنَّ الرسولَ لسيفٌ يُستضاءُ بهِ
    مهنَّدٌ من سيوفِ الله مسلولُ
    في عصبةٍ من قريشٍ قال قائلهمْ
    ببطنِ مكَّةَ لما أسلموا زولوا

    Truly the Messenger is a light whence illumination is sought
    A drawn Indian sword, one of the swords of Allah.
    Amongst a band of Quraysh, whose spokesman said,
    When he professed Islam in the valley of Makkah, ‘Depart ye.’

    The Prophet signaled to the people outside that they could enter to hear him.
    Commenting on the above, Sa’aati wrote: “Abu Bakr b. al-Anbari has said that when Ka`b b. Zuhayr reached the words:
    Truly the Messenger is a light whence illumination is sought
    A drawn Indian sword, one of the swords of Allah
    .. the Prophet cast his cloak on him.” (Hence the title of the poem Qasidah Burdah. (Seerah by Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, p. 604; and the translation of Ka`b’s poetry is by A. Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, with minor variations: Au.)].

    Hassan b. Tbabit said at the death of the Prophet,

    فَبَكّي رَسولَ الله يا عَينُ عَبْرَة ً
    ولا أعرفنكِ الدهرَ دمعكِ يجمدُ
    ومالكِ لا تبكينَ ذا النعمة ِ التي
    على الناسِ منها سابغٌ يتغمدُ
    فَجُودي عَلَيْهِ بالدّموعِ وأعْوِلي
    لفقدِ الذي لا مثلهُ الدهرِيوجدُ
    وَمَا فَقَدَ الماضُونَ مِثْلَ مُحَمّدٍ،
    ولا مثلهُ، حتى القيامة ِ، يفقدُ

    So cry O eyes for the Messenger of Allah copiously,
    May I never discover you with your tears dried!
    Why should you not weep the kindly one?
    Whose bounteous robe covered all men?
    Be generous with your tears and cries
    At the loss of one whose equal will never be found.
    Those gone by never lost one like Muhammad
    And one like him will not be mourned till the day of Judgment.
    [Source: Seerah by Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, p. 695: Au.].

    It is also reported, Qurtubi continues, that once `Umar was going on his rounds at night when he found a lit hut. A woman was spinning wool inside and singing:

    على محمد صلاة الأبرا
    صلى عليه الطيبون الأخيار
    قد كنت قواما بكاء بالأسحار
    يا ليت شعري والمنايا أطوار
    هل يجمعني وحبيبي الدار

    Upon Muhammad prayers of peace from the righteous
    The best of the purified send peace to him
    You stood in Prayers and cried close to dawn
    How I wish, while destiny has its own ways
    Whether it will assemble me and my beloved in the House?
    `Umar sat down there weeping.
    Shawkani mentions the following: Ibn Sa`d has preserved a report which says that when Abu Sufyan lampooned the Prophet, Ibn Rawaha stood up and sought the Prophet’s permission to retaliate. He allowed him and he said a few lines. One of them said:

    ثَبَّتَ اللهُ ما أَعطاك مِن حُسْنٍ
    تَثْبيتَ موسى ونَصْرا مِثْلَ ما نُصِِرا

    May Allah confirm the bestowed the beauty on you
    Like the confirmation of Musa and the helper in the manner the two were helped.
    Then Ka`b. (b. Malik) stood up and sought to respond in a similar fashion. The Prophet allowed him. He said,

    هَمَّت سَخينَةُ أن تُغالِبَ ربَّها
    ولَيُغْلَبَنَّ مُغالِبُ الغَلاِّبُ

    The Quraysh has tried to overpower its Lord
    But the All-overpowering will overpower all.
    Then Hassan b. Thabit sought to respond to Abu Sufyan’s satire, promising that he will do it with skill. The Prophet told him to first consult Abu Bakr, who held mastery in genealogy, so that Hassan did not end up lampooning those he did not intend. He promised him that Jibril was with him.
    It is also reported that once Hassan was reciting poetry in the mosque when `Umar passed by. `Umar looked at him angrily. Hassan said, “I used to recite poetry here in the presence of someone better than you.” Then he turned to Abu Hurayrah and asked, “I adjure you by Allah, did you hear the Messenger of Allah say, ‘Respond on my behalf. O Allah, help him with Ruh al-Quds?” Abu Hurayrah replied, “Yes.”
    And Ibn Abi Shaybah preserved on the authority of Ibn Mas`ud that the Prophet said,

    إِنَّ مِنَ الْبَيَانِ سِحْرًا ، وَإِنَّ مِنَ الشِّعْرِ حِكْمَةً

    “Surely, some poetry is wisdom and some talk magic” (Quote from Shawkani ends here].
    Hassan’s story is in Muslim also, while Sakhawi and Albani treated the report of Ibn Abi Shaybah as trustworthy (S. Ibrahim).
    Qurtubi continues: Now, since we allow a poet to exaggerate and cross certain bounds, is he to be punished for what he admits in his poetry? The answer is a no to major punishments. But they might be restrained in other ways (except of course if they attempt character assassination, in which case they will be punished: Au.). It is said that Nu`man b. `Adiyy b. Nadla was one of the governors of `Umar. He said a poem which had the following lines:

    مَنْ مُبْلِغُ الحَسْناءِ أنَّ حَليلَها
    بِمِيسان يُسْقي في زُجاج وحَنْتَمِ
    إذا شئتُ غَنَّتْنِي دَهاقينُ قريةٍ
    ورَقَّاصةُ تَجْذو على كل مَنْسِمٍ
    فإنْ كنتَ نَدْمانِي فبِالأكبَرِ أسْقِني
    وَلا تَسْقِني بالأَصْغَرِ المُتَـثَـلِّمِ
    لعلَّ أميرَ المؤمنين يَسوءُه
    تَـنادُمُنا بالجَوسَقِ المتهدَّمِ

    Who will take the word to Hanaa’ that her husband?
    Is in Maysaan, offered drinks in glasses and goblets
    When I wish, village girls sing for me
    And a dancer curved on every (body) joint
    If you want to redden me then pass on large draughts
    And give me no drinks from broken small pitchers
    Maybe the Amir al-Mu’mineen will be displeased by
    Our drinking in the ruins of the palaces
    When the lines reached `Umar, he asked him to report to him and when he went he said, “Yes, by my Lord, they displease me.” Nu`man said, “O leader of the faithful, that was just boastful talk. I have not done any such thing as I mentioned. Has not Allah said, ‘Have you not seen that they wander distracted in every valley? And that they say what they do not do?’” `Umar said, ‘That absolves you of any punishment but you are relieved of the post for what you said.”
    165. A straightforward verbal translation would be, “to what destination will they turn” as expressed by Ibn Jarir.
    It is said that Hasan (al-Busri) passed by the bier of a Christian. He recited this verse (which supports our translation), “And soon will the wronging ones know what vicissitude they will turn.”
    And it is said of Safwan b. Muhriz that when he recited this verse, he cried so much that it was thought his chest will break up.
    The ayah, however, is commonly applicable to every wrongdoer. Ibn Abi Hatim reports that `A’isha said, “My father wrote following two lines in the will he left:

    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، هذا ما أوصى به أبو بكر بن أبي قُحَافة، عند خروجه من الدنيا، حين يؤمن الكافر، وينتهي الفاجر، ويَصدُق الكاذب: إني استخلفت عليكم عُمَر بن الخطاب، فإن يعدل فذاك ظني به، ورجائي فيه، وإن يَجُر ويبدل فلا أعلم الغيب، { وَسَيَعْلَمُ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَيَّ مُنْقَلَبٍ يَنْقَلِبُونَ }

    “In the name of Allah, the Kind, the Merciful. This is what Abu Bakr ibn Quhafa wrote as his will at the time he was leaving this world: at a moment when an unbeliever turns believer, the corrupter gives up, and the liar speaks the truth. I am leaving behind me `Umar as my successor. If he administers justice, then, that’s what I assume and hope of him. But if he oppresses, or alters (the commandments), then, I have no knowledge of the Unseen: ‘And soon will the wronging ones know what vicissitude they will turn’” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi).