Surat An-Naml

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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


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


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


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


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


  • Surah No. 27

    Merits of the Surah

    1. A few lines from Yusuf Ali’s introduction to the Surah could be quoted here: “The Fire, the White Hand, and the Rod, in the story of Moses; the speech of birds, the crowds of Jinns and men pitted against a humble ant, and the hoopoe and the Queen of Sheba, in Solomon’s story; the defeat of the plot of the nine wicked men in the story of Salih; and the crime of sin with open eyes in the story of Lot; - lead up to the lessons of true and false worship and the miracles of Allah’s grace and revelation.”
    2. Except for a few verses, the rest of the Surah is Makkan (Alusi).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ طس ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْقُرْآنِ وَكِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ (1)

    27|1| Ta Sin. These are verses of the Qur’an, and a clear Book.3

    3. Mubin has the dual meaning of being clear as well as making something clear. Mawdudi comments: “Kitabun Mubin,” a Clear Book, means the following: (i) That this Book expounds its teachings, instructions and commands in clear terms. (ii) That it clearly indicates the difference between Truth and falsehood. (iii) That it is also clear in that it is evidently the Book of God. Anyone who reads it with an open mind can see that it is not something that Muhammad (peace be on him) could have authored.”

    هُدًى وَبُشْرَىٰ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ (2)

    27|2| A guidance and glad tiding to the believers.

    الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ يُوقِنُونَ (3)

    27|3| Those who perform the Prayer (assiduously and spiritedly), give out the zakah and in the Hereafter – they firmly believe.4

    4. So the Qur’an is a composition of clear verses which are a guidance and a glad tiding to those who possess the qualities stated in this verse (Ibn Jarir).
    Yusuf Ali expounds this a little more: “Revelation is here presented in three aspects: (i) it explains things, the attributes of Allah, our own position, and the world around; (ii) it directs us to right conduct and keeps us from evil; (iii) to those who have Faith and accept its guidance, it gives the good news of forgiveness, purification, and the achievement of salvation.”
    Sayyid adds: “All that the Qur’an consists of, by way of the systems, laws, and morals, are all based on faith. Therefore, he whose heart does not believe in Allah, who does not receive this Qur’an with the belief that it is from Allah, and that what it presents is the way that Allah wishes for him … he who does not have this kind of faith, will not be guided by the Qur’an, nor will he obtain any benefit from the good tidings mentioned therein.
    “The Qur’an consists of treasures of guidance, knowledge, and a way. But faith is the key to these treasures. These treasures will never open up without the key of faith. Those in the past who believed in this Qur’an in the manner that it should be believed in, perceived the supernatural with its help. But when this Qur’an became a book whose verses are to be sung in a lyrical manner, then it reaches the ears but does not reach the hearts. It provides no benefit, but remains a treasure without a key.
    “This Surah presents the qualities of those believers who find the Qur’an a guidance and a glad tiding: ‘Those who perform the Prayer (assiduously and spiritedly), pay the zakah and in the Hereafter – they firmly believe.’
    “These believers then, who remember Allah, are faithful to His commandments, who are fearful of being questioned in the Hereafter, who hope to gain Allah’s approval, these are the ones whose hearts open up for the Qur’an. They find it a guidance, and a glad tiding, a Light in their souls, and something that urges them to action in their lives. It becomes their provision which helps them achieve their goals.
    “As for those, ‘who do not believe in the Hereafter, We have decked out fair for them their works, they are therefore wandering blindly.’”

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ زَيَّنَّا لَهُمْ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَهُمْ يَعْمَهُونَ (4)

    27|4| Surely those who do not believe in the Hereafter, We have decked out fair for them their works, they are therefore wandering blindly.5

    5. “Those who reject Allah and follow Evil have a good conceit of themselves. Their deeds are pleasing to no one else. As they have rejected Allah’s (swt) guidance, they are allowed to hug their own self-conceit, and given further respite for repentance. But they follow their own whims and wander about in distraction, as they have no standards such as guide the godly” (Yusuf Ali).

    أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَهُمْ سُوءُ الْعَذَابِ وَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ هُمُ الْأَخْسَرُونَ (5)

    27|5| They are those for whom awaits an evil chastisement,6 and in the Hereafter – they are the greatest losers.

    6. The painful chastisement as alluded to here, unfolded itself at Badr, when the best of their men were slaughtered, leaving the rest of the Makkans in grief (Zamakhshari, expanded).

    وَإِنَّكَ لَتُلَقَّى الْقُرْآنَ مِنْ لَدُنْ حَكِيمٍ عَلِيمٍ (6)

    27|6| And surely, you are receiving the Qur’an from One All-wise, All-knowing.

    إِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِأَهْلِهِ إِنِّي آنَسْتُ نَارًا سَآتِيكُمْ مِنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ آتِيكُمْ بِشِهَابٍ قَبَسٍ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَصْطَلُونَ (7)

    27|7| When Musa said to his family, ‘I perceive a fire; I shall forthwith bring you tiding from it7 or bring you a flaming brand that you may warm yourselves.8

    7. Or, bring back information about the way they had lost (Ibn Kathir).
    8. Musa (asws) was on his way to Egypt from Madyan and it was a cold night (Ibn Jarir).
    Significantly, as he had wished, writes Ibn Kathir, Musa brought back both: a great news (that he was appointed a Messenger) and a great flaming fire, i.e., the Nur of guidance.

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَهَا نُودِيَ أَنْ بُورِكَ مَنْ فِي النَّارِ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا وَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (8)

    27|8| But when he came to it,9 he was called thus,10 ‘Blessed is he who is in the fire11 and he who is around it;12 and glory to Allah, Lord of the worlds.

    9. When he came to the tree, Musa faced a most amazing sight. The fire was engulfing a green tree. It seemed to be increasing in its intensity while the tree grew greener. And, as he raised his eyes to look above, he perceived that the Nur was rising up from the tree all the way to the clouds (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    10. “According to Surah al-Qasas, this voice came from a tree in the hallowed ground. It seems that there was something burning somewhere towards one end of the valley, but nothing was on fire, nor was there any smoke. It was a strange kind of fire within which there stood a green tree from where, suddenly, this voice emanated” (Mawdudi).
    11. A variety of interpretations have come from the earliest scholars. Ibn `Abbas thought that the allusion by the words, “Blessed is he who is in the fire” is to Allah Himself. It was He who was there and the fire was his Nur (Light). That was also the opinion of Sa`id b. Jubayr (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    He did not mean of course, that Allah was there, in Person, in the sense in which pagans assume, who believe in hulul. On the contrary, as we know, nothing can contain Allah, nor the fire before Musa could contain Him. Perhaps Ibn `Abbas alluded to tajalli. Yet, we must caution, even tajalli could not have been in the sense in which the word is commonly understood, that is, in the sense of manifestation – the sense in which Allah denied Musa when He denied him the Beatific Vision (7: 143). Had, in that instance, Allah’s own tajalli been there in the fire, Musa would not have later asked that he be allowed the Vision. The tajalli then, if it was there in the fire, was tajalli al-mithali (Representative Manifestation) and not tajjali al-dhati (Personal Manifestation) – Mufti Shafi`.
    Hasan and Qatadah however thought that the allusion was to Nur. It was Allah’s Nur which was blessed. But Mujahid thought that it was the fire itself which was blessed. Ibn `Abbas also figures in this opinion. A fourth opinion was that of Muhammad b. Ka`b who said that the allusion by the Nur of this instance is to Allah Himself (Ibn Jarir). Ibn `Abbas also seems to have shared this view (Qurtubi).
    Qurtubi also writes: The interpretation (of the opinions of Ibn `Abbas and others) is that He is manifested in every deed which leads to the Doer of the deed. That is to say, blessed was the power and dominion that was there in the fire. It is also said that blessed was the command of Allah that was there in the fire which Allah placed as a sign for Musa. To this context belongs the hadith recorded by Muslim as well as Ibn Majah whose version runs as follows:

    إِنَّ اللَّه لَا يَنَام وَلَا يَنْبَغِي لَهُ أَنْ يَنَام , يَخْفِض الْقِسْط وَيَرْفَعهُ , يُرْفَع إِلَيْهِ عَمَل النَّهَار قَبْل عَمَل اللَّيْل , وَعَمَل اللَّيْل قَبْل عَمَل النَّهَار , حِجَابه النُّور , لَوْ كَشَفَهُ لَأَحْرَقَتْ سُبُحَات وَجْهه مَا اِنْتَهَى إِلَيْهِ بَصَره مِنْ خَلْقه

    Abu Musa said, “The Prophet (saws) stood up among us and spoke of five things. He said, ‘Allah does not sleep, nor does it behoove Him to sleep. He raises the Scale and lowers it. The night’s deeds are raised to Him before the deeds of the day and the day’s deeds before the deeds of the night. Nur is His veil. (According to Abu Bakr’s narration, Fire). If He unveiled it, the Blaze of His Face would burn down everything that it reached of His creation.” Abu `Ubaydah – the narrator – then recited this ayah, “Blessed is he who is in the fire and he who is around it, and glory to Allah, Lord of the worlds].”
    In the above hadith the textual words law kashafahu mean to say, “if He removed the veils from the eyes of the creations.” As for the hijab, they are, as Ibn Jurayj said, seven: Hijab al-`Izzah (the veil of Might), Hijab al-Mulk (the veil of Dominion), Hijab al-Sultan (the veil of Power), Hijab al-Nar (the veil of Fire), Hijab al-Nur (the veil of Light), Hijab al-Ghamam (the veil of Clouds) and Hijab al-Ma’ (the veil of Water). In other words, concludes Qurtubi, Allah (swt) is not veiled, but, on the contrary, the creations are veiled.
    Qurtubi also quotes Sa`id b. Jubayr’s opinion that “It was Fire there. Allah (swt) made him hear His Speech from its side and showed him His powers from that side.” It is in the same vein, adds Qurtubi, as it is written in the Torah (Deut. 33: 2), “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Se`ir unto them; He shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands saints; from His right hand went a fiery law for them.” In this verse of the Tawrah, the allusion by the “Lord’s coming from Sinai” is to Musa, by “rising up from Se’ir” it is to `Isa (asws), and by “shining forth from mount Paran” it is to our Prophet (saws).
    The translation of the above verse is from The King James Red Letter Bible, Florida Publication, dateless. It took this writer quite some effort to locate this familiar verse because, for no apparent reason, the index shows several entries for the word Paran. They are all in proper order: except this verse. The reference to it is placed out of order, second last, almost tucked out of sight! Is it considered crucial by the Jews and Christians? (Au.)
    Ibn Kathir does not report Ibn `Abbas’ opinion that it was the Lord of the Worlds who was alluded to when it was said, “Blessed is he who is in the fire” but quotes his other opinion also that it was the Nur of the Lord of the worlds.
    Zamakhshari points out that the allusion is not to the spot where the fire was, but rather to a buq`ah al-mubarakah, as alluded to in verse 30 of Al-Qasas. It says,

    فَلَمَّا أَتَاهَا نُودِيَ مِنْ شَاطِئِ الْوَادِ الْأَيْمَنِ فِي الْبُقْعَةِ الْمُبَارَكَةِ مِنَ الشَّجَرَةِ [القصص: 30[

    “He was called from the fringe of the valley on the right in the buq`ah mubarakah.”
    Alusi uses the occasion to demonstrate that the attribution of the concepts of hulul, ittihad, or tajsim to the Sufis is incorrect. But rather, the ayah leads us to believe that Allah (swt) manifested His tajalli in the fire which is very different from what we understand as hulul. A person’s image in a mirror for example, is not the person himself and cannot be said to have attained hulul with the mirror. (Does anyone believe that the sun’s image in the mirror is the whole sun in its true size? - Shabbir). Hence, it was immediately added, “Glory to Allah, Lord of the worlds,” to deny all that can be falsely and foolishly attributed to Him. Allah cannot be reduced to any human level of understanding. He manifests Himself as He wills. A trustworthy report says,
    سبحانك حيث كنت
    “Glory to You, wherever (or whatever) You be.” (Slightly reworded).
    And the hadith that Alusi quotes is in Tabarani which says, “Allah has an angel who, if he was told to swallow all that is there in the seven heavens and earths in one gulp, he could do it. His chanting of praise is,

    إنّ لله تعالى مَلَكاً لوْ قِيلَ لهْ التَقِمِ السَّمَوَاتِ السَّبْعَ والأَرَضينَ بِلُقْمَةٍ واحِدَةٍ لَفعَلَ تَسْبِيحُهُ سُبْحانَكَ حَيْثُ كُنْتَ

    The report has been preserved by Tabarani in his Kabir as well as in his Awsat. Haythami however remarked that he could not trace the biography of one of the narrators. In short, to him it is not a very strong narrative, although meaning wise, it cannot be contended (Au.).
    12. According to Ibn `Abbas and Hasan, the allusion by “he who is around it” is to angels (Ibn Jarir). Ibn Kathir reports `Ikrimah, Sa`id b. Jubayr and Qatadah also of this opinion.
    Muhammad b. Ka`b thought that Musa was also included (Ibn Jarir).
    Zamakshari thinks that by “around it” the allusion could be to the whole of the Syrian lands about which Allah has said that it is a blessed patch of land.
    Sayyid writes: “Who was in the fire? And who was around it? The preferred opinion is that it was not a fire of the kind that we use. It was a fire whose origin was the higher world… A fire lit by the pure souls of the angels, constituting the great guidance… It was (perhaps) the presence of those pure souls that made it look like fire. It was said, “Blessed is he who is in the fire” to announce of the blessings of the upper world on the angels within the fire and those around it, and Musa was of those who were around it.”

    يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنَّهُ أَنَا اللَّهُ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (9)

    27|9| O Musa! Verily, it is I, Allah, the Mighty, the Wise.13

    13. To the question, who called? One suggestion is it was, “Verily, it is I, Allah, the Mighty, the Wise” (Qurtubi).

    وَأَلْقِ عَصَاكَ ۚ فَلَمَّا رَآهَا تَهْتَزُّ كَأَنَّهَا جَانٌّ وَلَّىٰ مُدْبِرًا وَلَمْ يُعَقِّبْ ۚ يَا مُوسَىٰ لَا تَخَفْ إِنِّي لَا يَخَافُ لَدَيَّ الْمُرْسَلُونَ (10)

    27|10| Now, throw down your staff.’ But when he saw it quivering, as if a snake,14 he turned about, retreating, and turned not back. ‘O Musa, fear not. Truly, Messengers fear not in My presence.’

    14. Jaann is that small snake which slithers very fast (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Musa’s reaction should be of no surprise. A snake is a snake. It has been observed that when it enters into a cave in a cold night, other animals, including the ferocious ones, quietly vacate the cave. Further, could Musa be sure in that dark night that it was not his own staff? Or, is it possible that in the dark cold night he thought he was all along holding a stiff snake that came alive when thrown into the warmth of the fire? (Au.)
    The Prophet (saws) has, (according to a hadith in the Sahihayn: H. Ibrahim) prohibited that the domestic-Jann be killed (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Scholars explain that the prohibition applied to his time, and to the city of Madinah alone. It is said that during the time of the Prophet Jinns trying to learn about Islam visited Madinah in the form of snakes. One was spotted under the bed of a Companion, but he prevented it from being disturbed (Au.).

    إِلَّا مَنْ ظَلَمَ ثُمَّ بَدَّلَ حُسْنًا بَعْدَ سُوءٍ فَإِنِّي غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (11)

    27|11| Save him who wronged, then substituted a good after an evil, then I am All-forgiving, All-compassionate.15

    15. How is the verse to be understood if the words “Save him who wronged” are understood to be alluding to the Messengers? One explanation is that the allusion is to their minor errors, committed by such Prophets as Adam (asws), Yunus (asws), Da’ud (asws), Sulayman (asws) and others, not to forget Musa (asws) who had unintentionally punched the Copt to death (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi and others).

    وَأَدْخِلْ يَدَكَ فِي جَيْبِكَ تَخْرُجْ بَيْضَاءَ مِنْ غَيْرِ سُوءٍ ۖ فِي تِسْعِ آيَاتٍ إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَقَوْمِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمًا فَاسِقِينَ (12)

    27|12| And thrust your hand in your pocket. It will come forth shining white without any blemish – among nine signs to Fir`awn and his people. Surely they are a rebellious people.

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَتْهُمْ آيَاتُنَا مُبْصِرَةً قَالُوا هَٰذَا سِحْرٌ مُبِينٌ (13)

    27|13| But when there came to them Our visible signs,16 they said, ‘This is plain magic.’

    16. The textual mubsirah should be better translated as “those that make visible” or “light-giving” or “illuminating” (Ibn Jarir).

    وَجَحَدُوا بِهَا وَاسْتَيْقَنَتْهَا أَنْفُسُهُمْ ظُلْمًا وَعُلُوًّا ۚ فَانْظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُفْسِدِينَ (14)

    27|14| And they rejected them, though their inner selves were convinced thereof - wrongfully and out of pride.17 See then what was the end of those given to corruptions!

    17. That is, if it is asked, “why was it that they rejected the signs after their hearts were convinced?” the answer is, “out of transgression and pride” (Ibn Jarir).

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ عِلْمًا ۖ وَقَالَا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي فَضَّلَنَا عَلَىٰ كَثِيرٍ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (15)

    27|15| Indeed We gave Da’ud and Sulayman knowledge.18 The two said, ‘All praise to Allah who preferred us over many of His believing bondsmen.’

    18. The nakirah form of `ilm suggests a special knowledge, not given to others (Au.). Ibn Jarir writes: The allusion is to such knowledge as was given to Sulayman, e.g., language of birds and animals (Ibn Jarir), to Da’ud that of how to handle the metals (Qurtubi and Alusi).
    Mawdudi adds: “The Bible does not mention that Sulayman was given the knowledge of the speech of birds and animals though Israeli traditions do specifically refer to it. (See Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. xi, p. 439).”
    Yusuf Ali comments: “`Knowledge’ means such knowledge as leads up to the higher things in life, the Wisdom that was shown in their decisions and judgments, and the understanding that enabled them to fulfill their mission in life. They were both just men and prophets of Allah (swt). The Bible, as we have it, is inconsistent: on the one hand it calls David ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (I Samuel, xiii. 14, and Acts xiii. 22); and the Christians acclaim Christ as a son of David; but on the other hand, horrible crimes are ascribed to him, which, if he had committed them, would make him a monster of cruelty and injustice. About Solomon, too, while he is described as a glorious king, there are stories of his lapses into sin and idolatry. The Muslim teaching considers them both to be men of piety and wisdom, and high in spiritual knowledge.”

    وَوَرِثَ سُلَيْمَانُ دَاوُودَ ۖ وَقَالَ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ عُلِّمْنَا مَنْطِقَ الطَّيْرِ وَأُوتِينَا مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ ۖ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَهُوَ الْفَضْلُ الْمُبِينُ (16)

    27|16| Sulayman inherited Da’ud19 and said, ‘O people. We20 have been taught the language of birds and we have been given of everything.21 This indeed, is the clear bounty.’22

    19. That is, Sulayman inherited knowledge and sovereignty over the land from Da’ud (Ibn Jarir). He could not have meant any worldly possession since he had nineteen sons and the kingdom left by Da’ud should have been divided equally between them. (Of all the sons) Sulayman was specifically mentioned because of the knowledge and Prophethood that he inherited from Da’ud. Our Prophet has said,

    إنا معشر الأنبياء لاَ نُورَثُ مَا تَرَكْنَا فَهُوَ صَدَقَةٌ

    “We the family of Prophets do not leave wealth behind us. Whatever we leave behind is charity” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    The report is also in Sahih of Ibn Hibban (Au.).
    Another report in Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi has Abu Darda’ narrating from the Prophet,

    إِنَّ الْعُلَمَاءَ وَرَثَةُ الأَنْبِيَاءِ إِنَّ الأَنْبِيَاءَ لَمْ يُوَرِّثُوا دِينَارًا وَلاَ دِرْهَمًا إِنَّمَا وَرَّثُوا الْعِلْمَ فَمَنْ أَخَذَ بِهِ أَخَذَ بِحَظٍّ وَافِرٍ

    “Scholars (of Islam) are inheritors of the Prophets, and Prophets do not leave behind Dinar or Dirham, but rather, they leave behind knowledge. So whoever obtained it, obtained a great blessing.”
    These reports should be enough to refute the Shi`ah opinion, as reported by Tabrasi that it was wealth that Sulayman inherited (Alusi, Shafi`).
    The Shi`ah are desperate for such opinions because their disapproval of the Companions in general, and Abu Bakr and `Umar in particular, rests on one of the two principal points of grief: one, `Ali did not become a Khalifah immediately after the Prophet, and two, Fatimah, the Prophet’s daughter, was denied Fadak orchard, the inheritance supposedly due from her father (Au.).
    The verse demonstrates, write the commentators, the importance of knowledge and the superior position held by the scholars. But, they should be modest about it and never imagine a higher position for themselves over others. We should not forget how (when an old woman objected to `Umar’s intention to limit the mahar [marriage gifts] in an open assembly, saying it went against the Qur’an: Alusi), `Umar admitted that he had erred and quipped, “Everyone seems to know more than `Umar.” Nevertheless, Alusi adds, there is no harm in acknowledging oneself as a scholar as an expression of gratitude and humility to Allah. He might even say, ‘I am a scholar.’ This is reported of `Ali, Ibn `Abbas and some others of the Companions. As for what has become famous as a hadith viz., “He who said I am a scholar is an ignorant man,” it is not an authentic statement of the Prophet.
    20. The ‘we,’ says Majid, “is a plural of majesty and does not imply that there were others besides Solomon who knew the language of birds.”
    21. That is, ‘We have been given every imaginable good thing’ (Ibn Jarir), that is necessary for establishing a kingdom (Shafi`), but the allusion is to prophethood, wisdom, judgment, and blessings of the like (Razi).
    22. Mawdudi points out that the scholars of old seem to have exaggerated the extent of Sulayman’s kingdom.
    Majid leads us to the sources of influence: “His realm is described by the Rabbis as having extended … over the upper world inhabited by the angels and over the whole of the terrestrial globe with all its inhabitants, including all the beasts, fowls, and reptiles as well as the demons and spirits.’ (JE. XI, pp. 439-440). ‘Solomon was rewarded with riches and an unprecedented glorious reign.’ (JE. XI, p. 439). ‘He developed commerce, and the products of other countries, Egypt, Arabia and lands beyond, passed through Israel and brought the Hebrews increased wealth … He sent a fleet to Ophir, in the south, which brought back gold and other rare and precious products. Solomon also cultivated the arts, particularly literature, architecture …’ (VJE., p.610). ‘Even allowing for the exaggeration of a later age, … he was clearly a ruler over a larger territory than any other Israelite monarch. His court was splendid and he was allied by marriage to the Egyptian royal house. Trade was fostered and was made possible by the comparative peace of his reign. The country was thoroughly organized and a large civil service administered the affairs of the land.’ (UHW, II, p. 816). ‘Solomon … sought not imperial expansion but material wealth; and wealth accumulated under his long rule has become proverbial.’ (I, p. 677). ‘The king’s annual revenue is stated as 666 talents of gold, which would perhaps be 5,000,000 Pounds of our money. This did not include the profits of his commerce, whether derived from “merchantmen” … or from the tribute of the subject people; or from all the kings of the mingled people, or the government of the provinces.’ (Farros, Solomon, His Life and Times, pp. 127-128).”

    وَحُشِرَ لِسُلَيْمَانَ جُنُودُهُ مِنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنْسِ وَالطَّيْرِ فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ (17)

    27|17| And marshalled before Sulayman were his forces of Jinn, men, and birds, duly distributed (in order and ranks).23

    23. Sayyid comments: “So that was the retinue of Sulayman, comprising of the Jinn, men and birds. We know about mankind. As for the Jinn, we do not know anything about them except for what the Qur’an has taught us, viz., they are created from the flames of fire, that they see the humankind but humankind do not see them, (“he sees you, he and his tribe, while you see them not” - 7: 27); and that they are capable of inciting humans to evil and inspire sins in them, although we do not know how; and that a group of them had believed in the Prophet … and that a group of them were made submissive to Sulayman who built for him niches, statues, and huge pots for cooking, who dived into the sea for him – following his command, doing Allah’s will.
    “Allah had subjugated for Sulayman a group of the Jinn and birds, just as He subjugated a group of men for him. And, just as not all the people of the world constituted the forces of Sulayman, since his kingdom did not go beyond the areas known as Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq up to the banks of river Euphrates, in similar manner all of the Jinn or birds would not have been subjugated to him. It was only a group of them that was subjugated to him.”

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَتَوْا عَلَىٰ وَادِ النَّمْلِ قَالَتْ نَمْلَةٌ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّمْلُ ادْخُلُوا مَسَاكِنَكُمْ لَا يَحْطِمَنَّكُمْ سُلَيْمَانُ وَجُنُودُهُ وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (18)

    27|18| At length, when they came upon the valley of ants, an ant said,24 ‘O ants. Get into your homes, lest Sulayman and his forces crush you, being unaware.’25

    24. It is said that when Qatadah came to Kufa, people flocked around him eager to learn. He said, “Ask what you will.” Abu Hanifah was also present. He was a teenager then. He suggested to them to ask Qatadah about Sulayman’s ant. Was it male or female? (Since adds Razi, “namlah” - like “shatah” or “hamamah” - is the name of a species which can either be male or female: Au.). Qatadah was quiet. Abu Hanifah said it was female. They asked him how he knew it. He said because Allah had said, “qaalat” (Zamakhshari, Razi, Alusi).
    Qurtubi must have had an eye. He reports, a finding presented in modern biology works, that ants are so clever that they slice a seed into two so that it doesn’t sprout and, since slicing a coriander seed does not prevent it from sprouting, the ants slice them into four! Alusi adds that the ants slice a lentil seed also into four.
    “The anthropoid apes no doubt approach nearer to man in bodily structure than do other animals, but when we consider the habits of ants, their social organization, their large communities and elaborate habitations, their roadways, their possession of domestic animals, and even, in some cases, of slaves, it must be admitted that they have a fair claim to rank next to man in intelligence.’ (DB. I. 103).” – Majid.
    25. Alusi presents various opinions about the ant’s ability to speak and Sulayman’s ability to hear. One is the obvious opinion that he could hear the animals’ speech just as our Prophet (saws) heard a few animals' speech to him. Another is that Sulayman heard her from a distance of three miles. Alusi does not rule out that the winds could have carried the ant’s voice to Sulayman’s ear from that distance, but adds another opinion that he did not hear the voice of the ant, but rather, her speech was relayed to him by Allah through revelation. But, he also adds, one can not see why we need to deny that the animals have power of speech. We have the example of a dabb (lizard like desert animal, but large in size) speaking to the Prophet (saws).
    Alusi’s allusion is to the hadith in Tabarani’s Al-Saghir as well as his Awsat, which, in the judgment of Haythami, has – but for one narrator - a chain accepted by the Sihah compilers as trustworthy.
    In sum, writes Shafi`, Qur’anic deliberations lead us to understand that animals possess the power to reason, in some measure or the other, perhaps of the kind that is enough for organizing their simple lives, although not enough for them to be charged with observation of revealed Law.
    Ibn al-Qayyim adds the following story: “Hisham b. Hassan narrates that Ahnaf b. Qays’s clan was greatly inconvenienced by ants. Ahnaf b. Qays ordered a chair placed between two of their nests. He sat down in it, recited praises to Allah and then said, “If you will not desist, we will set you on fire.” It is said that they vacated the area (Bada’i`).
    Jewish sources also accept the Qur’anic version. Majid quotes, “While sailing over a valley where there were many swarms of ants, Solomon heard one ant say to the others, ‘Enter your houses; otherwise Solomon’s legion will destroy you’ (JE. XI. P. 440).”
    However, Jewish sources also leave a dark patch on Solomon’s character. Mawdudi explains and quotes, “The event in question is mentioned in Israelite traditions but the last part of their account is contrary to its Qur’anic version… to quote from the Israelite tradition, ‘The king greatly angered (at the speech of the ant), threw her down, saying, Dost thou know who I am? I am Solomon, the son of David! She (the ant answered), I know that thou art created of a corrupted drop; therefore, thou oughtest not to be proud’ (The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. XI, p. 440).
    “Amazingly (Mawdudi continues), these are the traditions, according to Orientalists’ claims, from which the Qur’an has drawn its content.”
    We might close the topic by pointing out that advances in audio technology have enabled scientists to discover that the ants routinely talk to each other in their nests. The ants rub segments of their abdomen to produce a sound that is understood by others. They change the rhythm to produce different kinds of communications. Insertion of miniaturized microphones and speakers into the ant nests has resulted in recording instructions by the queen. When the recorded queen’s instructions were replayed within the nest colony, the worker ants responded by standing motionless in rapt attention. The noise they produce sounds like clattering of the teeth or croaking of the frogs, but without the chorus (Au.).

    فَتَبَسَّمَ ضَاحِكًا مِنْ قَوْلِهَا وَقَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَىٰ وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَدْخِلْنِي بِرَحْمَتِكَ فِي عِبَادِكَ الصَّالِحِينَ (19)

    27|19| He smiled, laughingly26 at her words and said, ‘My Lord! Dispose me that I may be grateful to You for the blessings wherewith You have blessed me and my parents, and that I may do good deeds (that are) pleasing to You. And admit me by Your grace amongst Your righteous slaves.’27

    26. That is, it was a show of happiness between a smile and laughter (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi). Qurtubi suggests that dahikan could be interpreted as “bemused” since, not every smile is a result of happiness.
    27. This refutes the Jewish and Christian charge that, writes Majid, “(Solomon) had become ungodly in the later part of his life.”
    A Prophet’s rank is above that of the awliya’ and salihin. Why then, do they supplicate that they be placed amongst the salihin? It is because a kamil salih (perfectly righteous) is someone who never disobeys Allah in the slightest. Even the thought of sin does not occur to him. Accordingly, we find the Qur’an narrating to us the prayer-words of several Prophets and Messengers to the effect that they be joined with, or placed amongst the salihin (Razi).
    Ashraf Ali Thanwi demonstrates that “Salih” is a status of which there are several levels, the highest belongs to Prophets and Messengers, and the lowest to ordinary believers in Paradise (Au. from Ashraf al-Tafasir, vol.1).
    In this context Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir report from Muslim who has a report on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (saws) said,

    أَنَّ نَمْلَةً قَرَصَتْ نَبِيًّا مِنَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ فَأَمَرَ بِقَرْيَةِ النَّمْلِ فَأُحْرِقَتْ فَأَوْحَى اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ أَفِى أَنْ قَرَصَتْكَ نَمْلَةٌ أَهْلَكْتَ أُمَّةً مِنَ الأُمَمِ تُسَبِّحُ

    “One of the Prophets was bitten by an ant. He ordered that the anthill be burnt down. It was done. Allah revealed to him, ‘Is it for a single ant’s bite that you destroyed a nation (of ants) that used to chant Glory? Why not a single ant?’” That is, why did you not kill a single ant?
    It is also reported in the hadith literature, such as in Ibn Abi Hatim that,

    خرج النَّبِي سُلَيْمَان عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام يَسْتَسْقِي ، فَمر بنملة مستلقية رَافِعَة قَوَائِمهَا إِلَى السَّمَاء تَقول : اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّا خلق من خلقك لَيْسَ لنا غنى عَن سقياك ورزقك ، فإمَّا أَن تسقنا وترزقنا ، وَإِمَّا أَن تُهْلِكنَا . فَقَالَ : ارْجعُوا فقد سقيتم بدعوة غَيْركُمْ

    Sulayman (asws) went out with his followers to supplicate for rain. He found an ant fallen on its back, with its forearms raised toward the heaven saying, “O Allah, we are a creation of the many of Your creations. We cannot do without Your water and food. So, either You send down rain and feed us, or destroy us.” He said, “Return. You will be sent the rains by the supplication of (someone) other than you” (Ibn Kathir).
    The hadith is also in Ahmad, Daylami and Hakim, the last of whom declared it trustworthy, and Dhahabi gave his approval. See Jami` Saghir, h. no. 3906 (Au.).
    Qurtubi further reports that one of the Prophets harbored some doubt about the destruction of a town inhabited by unbelieving transgressors but which also had a few righteous people. The same Prophet was once sleeping under a tree when he was woken up by an ant’s bite. He ordered the nest burnt down. Allah reminded him of his doubt over the destruction of a town the majority of whose dwellers were transgressors. (This is not a hadith: Au.). Nevertheless, Qurtubi concludes, punishment through burning must have been permissible in the Shari`ah of that Prophet. In our Shari`ah it is disallowed. The Prophet has specifically prohibited it.

    وَتَفَقَّدَ الطَّيْرَ فَقَالَ مَا لِيَ لَا أَرَى الْهُدْهُدَ أَمْ كَانَ مِنَ الْغَائِبِينَ (20)

    27|20| And he reviewed the birds and said,28 ‘How is it with me that I do not see the hoopoe?29 Or is he among the absent?30

    28. It is said that not every bird, but one of every kind used to be present when asked to assemble (Alusi).
    29. Shabbir and Mawdudi refute the misinterpretation by some so-called contemporary rationalist writers that Naml and Hudhud were names of individuals. To this author, these modern-day rationalists are not worthy of any attention. Library shelves refuse to yield any worthwhile work that this class of Muslims have produced (Au.).
    According to a report in Ahmad, Abu Da’ud and Ibn Majah, through Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet (saws) prohibited the killing of four animals: ants, bees, hoopoe and sparrow-hawk. The hadith is in Abu Da’ud and is trustworthy (Qurtubi).
    According to very reliable reports, writes Shabbir, hoopoe is known for its ability to spot a worm under the surface of the earth. Sometimes it digs half a foot deep to pull out a worm.
    Sayyid comments on an important aspect, “From the fact that Sulayman felt the absence of hoopoe, we can surmise that it must have been a few birds that were subjugated to him. Had it been all the hoopoes in the world, millions of them, he wouldn’t have been able to spot the absence of a particular one. It is possible that of the species of hoopoe this particular one was required to be there as a representative of the lot. This is strengthened by the fact that the hoopoe in question was a particularly intelligent one.”
    30. Since we do not have a trustworthy report explaining why Sulayman missed the hoopoe, we can only say that for some reason he looked for it but did not find it (Ibn Jarir).
    Shafi` points out that the “am” at the start of the verse is in the sense of “bal” meaning, “but rather.” That is, Sulayman said to himself that his eyes had not erred in not finding the hoopoe, but rather, he was surely absent.
    Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said that the hoopoe was responsible for searching for water whenever Sulayman went out on a campaign. This particular one was capable of scanning the surface of the earth, locate water below the surface, and then point to the spot where the Jinn could dig. Once they ran short of water but when Sulayman looked for the hoopoe he could not find him.
    Once when Ibn `Abbas was narrating this, when Nafi` b. Azraq – one of the Khawarij who denied Qada’ and Qadr – protested. He said, “Look! Even a little boy is able to trap a hoopoe into a net. And here you are speaking of its ability to locate water!?” Ibn `Abbas replied, “When destiny descends, eyes turn blind, and all precautions vanish into thin air.” The Khariji promised that he wouldn’t dispute with him ever thereafter, over the Qur’an (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). The report is in Ibn Abi Shaybah, `Abd b. Humayd, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim and Hakim. And Hakim declared it trustworthy (Shawkani).
    Ibn `Abbas is also reported to have remarked, “Consider, O clever man, how hoopoe can see below the surface of the earth, but fails to notice the net when it falls into it” (Qurtubi, Shafi`).
    That animals are endowed with some incredible qualities is very well known by the biologists. Instances can be seen in most biological works of general nature. Our Prophet has informed us that some of them can see angels and devils. A hadith of Bukhari says,

    إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ صِيَاحَ الدِّيَكَةِ فَاسْأَلُوا اللَّهَ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ، فَإِنَّهَا رَأَتْ مَلَكًا ، وَإِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ نَهِيقَ الْحِمَارِ فَتَعَوَّذُوا بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ ، فَإِنَّهُ رَأَى شَيْطَانًا

    “When you hear a rooster’s crowing, ask for Allah’s bounty, for it has seen an angel. And when you hear a donkey braying, seek Allah’s refuge for it has seen a devil” (Au.).
    In connection with the ability of Sulayman’s hoopoe to see below the surface of the earth, Ibn Kathir has a strange story to narrate. It is in Ibn `Asakir’s work (Tarikh) who mentioned it under the biography of Abu `Abdullah al-Barazi. He was from Barzah, (a village) in Ghota, Dimashq. He was a pious man who would fast every Monday and Thursday. He was some eighty years old and was one-eyed. Ibn `Asakir reported through Sulayman b. Zayd that he asked him the reason for being one-eyed. But he wouldn’t explain. But he persisted for several months and so, finally he agreed to open up. He said two men had come from Khurasan and he received them in his house in Barzah on a Friday. They asked him to lead them to a nearby valley, and he complied. There –at the valley - they brought out their incense pots and threw in so much incense that the whole valley was filled with smoke. All kinds of snakes began to gather around them. But they paid no attention to any one of them until a snake – a meter long – came up. Her eyes were shining like a Dinar coin. They were very glad to see her. They said, “By Allah’s grace, we did not waste a year’s journey.” Then they broke down the braziers and caught the snake. They thrust a kohl-needle into her eyes and applied it, kohl-like, to their own eyes. "I asked them to apply the kohl to me also but they refused. I insisted and promised to give them (a piece of land). So they applied the kohl to my right eye; and I began to see below the surface of the earth as you can see through glass. Then they said to me, walk awhile with us. I began to walk with them, while they kept talking between themselves until we were quite a distance away from the village. Then they pounded upon me and bound me up. Then one of them thrust his finger into my eye, removed the eye-ball and threw it away. Thereafter, they walked away. I lay there until a passerby untied me."
    As regards hoopoe’s ability to locate water, we have nothing to comment since modern biologists do not study phenomena of this sort, despite the fact that it has been often reported that the animals get restive before earthquakes; dogs start to bark, and so on. Are they seismic-sensitive? We do not know. But we do know that there are people who can locate water up to a depth of 100 feet. In India, they are commonly hired to indicate the most promising spot before drilling is commenced. During severe droughts even the government hires them to help locate promising water-spots. At our own farmlands we have used them with success. One needs them when several attempts fail, in and around your land. When asked, they are reported to say that they go by the vibrations under their feet, which, according to them, anyone could learn with some patience (Au.).

    لَأُعَذِّبَنَّهُ عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا أَوْ لَأَذْبَحَنَّهُ أَوْ لَيَأْتِيَنِّي بِسُلْطَانٍ مُبِينٍ (21)

    27|21| Assuredly, I will chastise him with a painful chastisement or I will slaughter him,31 unless he brings me a clear authority.’32

    31. The jurist in Qurtubi speaks out when he says that this verse gives us the rule that punishment has to be in accordance with the size of the crime and not according to the size of the criminal, (meaning, his age, social position and financial status, which should not affect the judgment: Au.).
    32. That is, unless he can offer a good reason for his absence (Ibn Jarir).
    This ayah implies that it is allowable to punish animals within moderate limits for their misdoings (Shafi`).
    Before any misanthrope animal rightist has tears in his eyes over punishment to mute animals, we may point out that they do seem to have some sense, although crude, of right and wrong. There is a marked change in their behavior, such as of cats and dogs, after they have committed what is generally considered as wrong. For instance, when a cat is fed by it master, it shows its fangs when somebody tries to take its food away from it. But, when it is surprised by its master eating from a dish, it runs away. It does not show up for quite some time thereafter. This also refutes the biological theory that animals are sort of pre-planned (by whom?), and act entirely by instinct (Au.).
    Imam Razi conjectures that perhaps hoopoes of Sulayman’s time were given intellectual power, which has been withdrawn from them since that time. Alusi does not agree with him and believes all animals have been given enough intelligence for the limited activities of their lives. Some of their activities leave us spell bound, which speak strongly of their intelligence. In fact, their abilities have led some people to the extent of believing that the animals are also required to follow a Shari`ah of their own. However, such people might have their arguments, but the majority opinion is that messengers of their own species or kinds have not been sent to them.

    فَمَكَثَ غَيْرَ بَعِيدٍ فَقَالَ أَحَطْتُ بِمَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ وَجِئْتُكَ مِنْ سَبَإٍ بِنَبَإٍ يَقِينٍ (22)

    27|22| But he (hoopoe) tarried not too long when he said, ‘I have encompassed that which you did not encompass.33 I have come to you from Saba’34 with true tiding.35

    33. This demonstrates in a definite manner that Prophets did not possess knowledge of the unseen (Shafi`).
    34. Saba’ was also known as Ma`arib in Yemen, three nights' journey away from San`a’ (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others).
    Majid supplies historical details: “Sheba of the Bible. The Sabaens were ‘the ancient dwellers in South-west Arabia, in the part now called Yemen, Hadramaut, and Asir … The land produced spices and incense and was a stage on the trade road from India, Malay archipelago and Africa… Marib, 100km. east of San`a, was its capital.’ (EBr. XIX, pp. 784, 785). Recent researches ‘which have disclosed elaborate architectural remains, and brought to Europe hundreds of inscriptions, the work of Sabaens more than confirms the ancient fame of Sheba, and vindicates its claim, not only to wide commerce and a productive soil, but to an influential empire as well.’ (DB. V. p. 85).”
    Mawdudi adds: “Their (Sabaens) capital city was Ma’arib, located 55 miles north-east of San`a, the present capital of Yemen. The Sabaens rose to power after the decline of the Minaean kingdom around 1100 B.C. and for about one thousand years they remained predominant in Arabia. Then, around 115 B.C. they were replaced by the Himyarites, another renowned people of southern Arabia who ruled Yemen and Hadramawt in Arabia and Abyssinia in Africa.
    “The Sabaens controlled the trade between East Africa, India, the Far East and Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome, a fact which explains their affluence. Greek historians have called them the richest nation of the world. In addition to their trading skills, another reason accounting for their prosperity was their excellent irrigation system which dotted the length and breadth of the country with dams. Their land was unusually fertile and lush. This is also mentioned by Greek historians and the Qur’an alludes to it too in Surah Saba’ 34: 15.”
    35. If it is asked, how come a knowledgeable person and a Prophet like Sulayman did not know the existence of Bilqis and her kingdom? Zamakhshari answers that perhaps Allah (swt) kept the knowledge secret from him for reasons of His own, just as He did not inform Ya`qub about Yusuf’s whereabouts.
    A minority opinion is that these are the words of Sulayman who tarried for a while, to visit Saba’ and then was quickly back.

    إِنِّي وَجَدْتُ امْرَأَةً تَمْلِكُهُمْ وَأُوتِيَتْ مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَلَهَا عَرْشٌ عَظِيمٌ (23)

    27|23| I found a woman ruling over them;36 and she has been given of everything.37 And she has a mighty throne.38

    36. It is attributed to the Prophet that he said that one of the parents of Bilqis was a Jinn. But the attribution is incorrect.
    Once the people of Yemen wrote to Malik that there was a man who claimed to have a Jinn as his wife! Imam Malik wrote back that he did not see why a human could not marry a Jinn, but he would not approve of it because of the fear that a woman carrying a child (out of adultery) could claim that she was made pregnant by a Jinn. This story is in Al-Ashbah wa al-Nada’ir of Ibn Najim. However, when the subject came up before Hasan (al-Busri), as in Ibn `Asakir, he remarked that intermarriage between the two, Jinn and human, proves sterile. They cannot produce progeny.
    Hasan (al-Busri) must have known good amount of modern biology which tells us that interbred progenies of two species is always sterile (Au).
    37. That is, she was given all kinds of worldly things (Ibn Jarir, Razi), or, we might say, writes Qurtubi, all that was required to successfully administer her kingdom.
    38. “Here is a Jewish version of the story. ‘One day, the king, observing that the mountain-cock or hoopoe was absent, ordered that the bird be summoned forthwith. When it arrived it declared that it had for three months been flying hither and thither seeking to discover some country not yet subjected to Solomon, and had at length found a land in the East, exceedingly rich in gold, silver, and plants, whose capital was called Kitor, and whose ruler was a woman, known as the Queen of Sheba.’ (JE. XI. p. 443).”
    Zamakhshari and Razi (reworded) issue the warning that while dealing with the exaggerated and excited descriptions of the hoopoe, one might not forget that after all it was a bird.

    وَجَدْتُهَا وَقَوْمَهَا يَسْجُدُونَ لِلشَّمْسِ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ فَهُمْ لَا يَهْتَدُونَ (24)

    27|24| I found a woman ruling over them;36 and she has been given of everything.37 And she has a mighty throne.39

    39. “Ancient Arabian traditions also say the same thing. Ibn Is-haq quotes genealogists while stating that the people of Saba’ were descendants of `Abd Shams (‘the Servants of the Sun’)” – Mawdudi.

    أَلَّا يَسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ الَّذِي يُخْرِجُ الْخَبْءَ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُخْفُونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ (25)

    27|25| (And) so they do not prostrate themselves to Allah who brings forth the hidden in the heavens and earth?40 and knows what you conceal and what you reveal.

    40. "The hidden": such as the rain in the heaven and the seed in the earth (Ibn Jarir).
    Shabbir quotes Shah `Abdul Qadir (Muwadhdhih al-Qur’an) that hoopoe does not feed on grains, seeds or fruits. It feeds on worms, hidden beneath the surface of the earth, their natural habitation. Is there a connection then, he asked, between its strange ability to pull out hidden worms, and his description of Allah’s power, “who brings out the hidden?”

    اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ ۩ (26)

    27|26| Allah, there is no deity save He – Lord of the Magnificent `Arsh.’41

    41. According to Ibn Zayd, hoopoe’s words end at this point (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالَ سَنَنْظُرُ أَصَدَقْتَ أَمْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ (27)

    27|27| He said, ‘We shall presently see whether you told the truth or you are of the liars.42

    42. Do animals lie that Sulayman should have said, “We shall presently see whether you told the truth or you are of the liars?” The answer is that we do not know the language of the birds to be able to say yes or no. But biologists, bird-watchers and ornithologists report quite incredible things about birds. Their finding is that the birds do deceive each other, in fact, they even commit theft (Au.).
    Ibn al-Qayyim reports that someone narrated the following story: “It so happened that an ant came out of its nest and encountered a locust carcass. She tried to carry it to the nest but could not. So she retreated and brought back a group of ants to carry it. But, as I saw them coming, I lifted the carcass off the ground. They came, encircled the ground and, not finding anything, retreated. I replaced the locust. She came back and tried to carry it but could not. So she went back and once again brought back a group of ants to help her. But I lifted it off the ground once again. Once again, not finding anything they retreated. I replaced the locust and back she was after a while trying to drag it to the nest. But failing, once again, she went back to the nest, and I did my trick. I did this several times. Finally, when she brought her mates and they did not find anything, they surrounded her and cut her up to pieces” (Bada’i` al-Tafsir). When this was mentioned to the Sheikh (Ibn Qayyim perhaps means Ibn Taymiyyah) he remarked that by nature ants abhor lies.
    Significantly, the Qur’an has made mention of such animals which have evoked human interest to this day. In our times, the ant is studied as a subject by hundreds of scientists and amateur researchers over the world. There are scientists who have obtained doctorate degrees in ant related subjects, while others study their genetics to determine their behavior.
    An ant has three parts to its body, six legs and a pair of antennae which are also used for sense of smell. It can run very fast. If a man were to run as fast as an ant runs for its body-size, he would have to run as fast as a race horse. It has two stomachs, one for digesting its own food, and the other for food to be shared with other ants, e.g., nest workers and the larvae. It has no lungs. Touching of antennae seems to be one of the ways of communicating with each other. It has the largest brain size among all animals in terms of body size, (altogether some 250,000 brain cells). It has strong limbs and is ordinarily capable of lifting a weight 20 times its own weight. (No other animal can lift the weight that ants can lift. Humans can ordinarily lift half their body weight). The likeness of a leaf cutter ant’s weight carrying capacity is to a man carrying 250 kg for a distance of one km in 2.5 minutes. An ant has been photographed tenaciously holding on to a lizard thousands of times its own weight, clinging to the bottom of a thick branch while the lizard hung. It held on for several hours waiting for help before dropping it down. The Arabs knew of the strength of ant’s joints. A proverb was struck:

    مَعَ أَنّ النّمْلَةَ يُضْرَبُ بِهَا الْمَثَلُ فِي الْقُوّةِ فَيُقَالُ أَقْوَى مِنْ النّمْلَةِ لِأَنّهَا تَحْمِلُ مَا هُوَ أَكْبَرُ مِنْ جِرْمِهَا بِأَضْعَافٍ

    A proverb is struck by the ant and said, ‘He is stronger than an ant,’ because she can carry weights several times larger than her own weight.
    Ants live in colonies comprising of thousands to millions of individuals. A colony starts when a female ant flies off followed by male ants. (Although most nests have a single queen, among some species, such as fire ants, a single ant colony can have as many as 500 queens. Ants in such colonies seem to work cooperatively for the interest of the entire group). After mating the ant settles in some place, making a little hole where she starts to lay eggs. As they hatch, the colony grows. The queen keeps laying eggs, until its death some 10-14 years later.
    There are tens of thousands of ant species. But members of one species are not accepted by another. If they try to enter, the soldier ants tear them apart. However, if eggs are placed in their nests, they bestow equal care on them and accept them as their own when the larvae hatch out. Some species raid nests of other ants and steal their pupae. When these foreign pupae hatch, they are employed as slaves within the colony. Some species are migratory. They are known as Army Ants or Driver Ants. They number up to 700,000 and are always on the move just like nomads, carrying their eggs and pupae with them – always moving in a column.
    A biologist writes his personal account: “As an adult in Panama I have stepped aside and contemplated the New World equivalent of the driver ants that I had feared as a child in Africa, flowing by me like a crackling river, and I can testify to the strangeness and wonder. Hour after hour the legions marched past, walking as much over each others’ bodies as over the ground, while I waited for the queen. Finally she came, and hers was an awesome presence. It was impossible to see her body. She appeared only as a moving wave of worker frenzy, a boiling peristaltic ball of ants with linked arms. She was somewhere in the middle of the seething ball of workers, while all around it the massed rank of soldiers faced threateningly outwards with jaws agape, everyone ready to kill and to die in defence of the queen. Forgive my curiosity to see her: I prodded the ball of workers with a long stick, in a vain attempt to flush out the queen. Instantly, 20 soldiers buried their massively muscled pincers in my stick, possibly never to let go, while dozens more swarmed up the stick causing me to let go with alacrity.” (Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, p. 108, 1996, W.W. Norton and Company).
    Not all ants bite, but some bites can be dangerous, even fatal. The ubiquitous black large ant in the Gulf can be fatal to some. A man bitten by one of them can have bobs all over his body in ten minutes, within which time his body throws out the entire store of the sperm. A girl had to be hospitalized after being bitten by a black ant of this class. The doctors warned her that she might not survive another bite. Sadly, they proved correct. In India a female farmer coming back to her shack found her little one killed by thousands of ants tenaciously clinging to the child’s body.
    The nest grows in size as the population increases. Its size is limited by the number of eggs laid by the queen, and by the water level of the land. Some nests go as deep as 7-8 meters and are equally as wide. A nest contains a labyrinth of tunnels, neatly cut through, with myriad of branches, resembling brain nerves. Amazingly, they start boring tunnels from opposite sides advancing towards each other from two ends to arrive perfectly face to face with each other when the two holes open into each other.
    Adjacent to the tunnels there are chambers with beautiful curved ceilings, breeding houses of special shapes, stockyards, large work stations, processing plants, and, in case of leaf-cutter ants, plantation fields, harvesting areas, and pits for decomposing waste. The nest and its pathways are efficiently designed for the heat rising from chemical processes to find its way out into the atmosphere and to be replaced by cool oxygen-rich air allowed in through side tunnels. Maintenance of a constant temperature is an important factor in the development of the pupae. The entrances can be successfully sealed off in case of rains, severe cold, or attacks.
    At the social level, there are various castes among the ants, but always headed by a queen. In actual fact the queen is no queen. Much larger in size than others, it is merely an egg-laying apparatus. No one lays eggs except the queen. She coats her eggs with a pheromone – a hydrocarbon blend – that helps their identification as queen-laid eggs. In experiments, when the queen-laid eggs were removed, the worker ants began to lay their own eggs. But more surprisingly, when queen-laid eggs were brought back, the ants destroyed the worker-laid eggs. The eggs hatch into varieties of ants: soldier ants, worker ants, male, female, etc. Somehow the ratio is maintained. In experiments, when soldier ants of a colony were destroyed, the eggs that had already been laid hatched more soldier ants. And when worker ants were destroyed, the eggs that had already been laid, produced more of the worker ants. The eggs somehow knew what was happening outside.
    The nest usually consists of patrol ants, maintenance ants, worker ants, (of several varieties, normally determined by size and age), soldier ants, a few males, and of course, at least one queen. But the basic mystery about these ant colonies is that neither is there any hierarchy, nor management, nor a central control. Yet everyone seems to know its function, and does it pretty efficiently, in the quickest time possible, without receiving orders, and without reporting work performance. Duties can change from hour to hour, day to day, and from situation to situation. The worker ants for example, perform a myriad of activities: food gathering, processing, stockpiling, nest cleaning, larvae-care, and several others, such as, in case of leaf-cutter ants, de-fungi-ing the leaves, cultivation, harvesting, storage, and waste disposal. But, although no command is ever issued to anyone of the tens of thousands, sometimes even millions of ants, yet, as a whole the nest functions like a perfectly organized kingdom.
    Ibn al-Qayyim seems to have known about the absence of central command. He writes what modern biologists have learnt after decades of painstaking research: “Ants do not have any leader or commander assigning them tasks as is the case with the leaders among bees to whom the message of food is first passed on, and who in turn send a host of bees in the direction of food. In case of ants, every one of them seems to be working for the benefit of the colony, without any regard for their own likes and dislikes” (Bada’i`).
    Ant activity begins with the patroller ants popping their queer heads out of the nest entrance early in the morning. For some time they eye the area around the nest. With “all’s well” message passed on, the patroller ants come out in good numbers and head in different directions in search of food. The directions differ from day to day. The patrollers are very sensitive to predators. Writes a researcher, “Collecting patrollers (for laboratory research: Au.) was completely different. Even the most careful of aspirating of only a few patrollers, well apart from each other, could cause the whole colony to shut down. The nest maintenance workers and other patrollers would go back into the nest, and later the foragers (food collectors: Au.), would not come out at all .. What puzzled me most about this observation was the rapidity of the patrollers’ reaction. When some patrollers outside the nest disappeared, the rest of the patrollers sometimes headed back into the nest immediately, within seconds – long before there was time for anyone to go back into the nest and assess the rate at which the patrollers were returning” (Ants at Work, Deborah Gordon, p. 152, The Free Press, 1999).
    With the patrollers’ return to the nest, foragers or food collectors pour out. They head straight in the directions the patrollers took. They go back and forth the nest several times carrying food, collecting only that which the patrollers had encountered in the morning. What the patrollers ignored, the collectors also ignore. If the food is too heavy, an ant goes back to fetch others. When she re-emerges, she has an army behind her, which moves in a column and never as a crowd.
    Leaf cutter ants first cut leaves of manageable transport size. They drop them at the first level chambers in the anthill. There other ants (smaller than the ants that went out) spray the leaves with a sort of antibiotic. That assures that no bacteria will escape death. After that other ants, (normally smaller than the ones that did their work at the upper chamber), cut the leaves to smaller pieces and lay them in another area. Within 48 hours the leaves turn into fungus. At the fourth level of activity, harvesting is done. Then come in other ants, the smallest, to collect the leftovers and prepare the field for the next harvest. During plantation they use caterpillar faeces as manure.
    Some ants take care of the larvae of aphids or other insects. The reason is that these insects release a sweet sap, and the ants seem to be raising them to obtain a supply of the sap rather than eating them. As long as these insects are being cared for by ants, they are protected from other enemies and the ants collect their honey.
    When the sun is in the middle of the sky, the forager ants retreat and attend to tasks within the nest. Inside, they care for the larvae and pupae, attend to cleaning, dig the nest deeper in response to the queen laying more eggs, carry back sand to the top, thus creating the mount or the anthill, and perform several other tasks. Sometimes by evening, if the weather is not good, the mouth to the nest is closed with sand. With compound eyes, they seem to have infrared capabilities, which explains how they can work in the dark tunnels. Ants have also been seen collecting food at night, but that seems to be related to good quality food. For instance, a cockroach which has recently been dead, draws them out in the dark. However, within the nest, the ants work at night also. They move the eggs and larvae deep into the nest to protect them from the cold. During daytime, they move the eggs and larvae of the colony to the top of the nest so that they can be warmer.
    Nothing seems to ever go wrong in a nest for the decade and a half of its life-cycle, although individual ants live for anything between a month and a half, which is normal, to a year, which is the case for some species. But the queen lives for, averagely, 15-20 years, although in some rare species, up to 50 years. And, as soon as the egg-laying machine dies, it is the end of the others also. Instead of adopting a new queen, they give up their ghosts, no one knows why, and the nest is turned into a vast graveyard. A close parallel of this is the cells of the human body. Each cell functions, apparently without any central command, producing the kind of proteins required, hour to hour, without ever failing in its specific functions: depending on where the cell is - liver, intestine, nails or knee cap. Each cell somehow knows what it has to do. Like an ant colony members, individual cells do not live out the whole life that the body does. Cells come and go, like ants in a nest, but the body goes on, for sixty-seventy years. Then the queen dies and that is the end of the individual ants. Similarly, the human body dies, and that is the end of the hundred trillion cells. Scientists are unable to explain how the cells know that it is time for them to die, altogether, at one time. Interestingly, a 400,000 ant colony of ants collectively has the same sized brain as humans.
    It is ants and their sister species termites who bring down what man builds. From the very first day that man completes his proud construction, these littlest of Allah’s creatures begin their work of removing the foundation, grain by grain, to one day bringing down the entire structure! In the Arabian Gulf region, it has been found that the effects of deterioration caused by the ants on concrete buildings are visible within one week of the finish of construction (Au).

    اذْهَبْ بِكِتَابِي هَٰذَا فَأَلْقِهْ إِلَيْهِمْ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا يَرْجِعُونَ (28)

    27|28| Carry this my letter and drop it before them;43 then draw back and see what shall they respond.’

    43. “The use of birds as letter-carriers need not surprise the modern mind. ‘The use of homing pigeons to carry messages is as old as Solomon and the ancient Greeks, to whom the art of training the birds came probably from the Persians, (they) conveyed the names of Olympic victors to their various cities by this means. Before the electric telegraph this mode of communication had considerable vogue amongst stockbrokers and financiers.’ (EBr. XVII. p. 921).” – Majid.

    قَالَتْ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ إِنِّي أُلْقِيَ إِلَيَّ كِتَابٌ كَرِيمٌ (29)

    27|29| She (the queen) said, ‘You chiefs, a letter worthy of respect has been delivered to me.44

    44. “The letter was important to Queen Sheba for several reasons: (i) It had arrived in an unusual fashion; delivered and dropped in front of her by a bird. (ii) It was from Solomon the magnificent, the ruler of Palestine and Syria. (iii) It commenced with the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful, even though this formula was not used anywhere in the world for diplomatic state correspondence. (iv) To write a letter in the name of Almighty God in disregard of all deities was something uncommon for them. (v) The letter contained a clear message to Queen Sheba to give up defiance, to commit her allegiance to Solomon and to go to him in the state of submission ‘as a Muslim.’
    “To come as ‘Muslim’ can have two meanings: (i) to come in the state of submission, or (ii) to accept Islam and come to him in that capacity” (Mawdudi)

    إِنَّهُ مِنْ سُلَيْمَانَ وَإِنَّهُ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ (30)

    27|30| Verily, it is from Sulayman and verily it is, “In the name of Allah, the Kind, the Compassionate.45

    45. Following this Qur’anic lead, it is desirable to commence any piece of writing with the basmalah. However, if one fears that one’s writing might be discarded, and Allah’s name desecrated, then it is better to merely pronounce the basmalah at the start of the writing, and not write the words (Shafi`).

    لَّا تَعْلُوا عَلَيَّ وَأْتُونِي مُسْلِمِينَ (31)

    27|31| (Saying) Rise up not against me, but come to me in submission.”’46

    46. Alluding to the briefness of the letter, Qatadah has pointed out that this is how Prophets wrote letters: no loose talk, no verbiage, just plain truth. (Our own Prophet’s letters were as brief: Au.). And, the invitation was to submit to the Lord One God (Ibn Jarir). In Shabbir’s words, “Rarely such a brief, terse, and to the point letter was ever written.”
    It was from Sulayman, full stop. Was there any need for any further introduction? It started in the name of the Kind and the Compassionate. Sulayman was His envoy and had His power and authority behind him. Therefore, there was no point in rising up against him. Hence, ‘submit yourself to the Lord God of the world without much ado' (Au.).

    قَالَتْ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ أَفْتُونِي فِي أَمْرِي مَا كُنْتُ قَاطِعَةً أَمْرًا حَتَّىٰ تَشْهَدُونِ (32)

    27|32| She said, ‘You chiefs, give me your opinion concerning (this) my affair. I am not used to deciding a matter until you are present (with) me.’47

    47. There are quite a few reports of Jewish origin about the number of chiefs that Bilqis consulted. Alusi scoffs at them and considers them nearer to lies than truth.

    قَالُوا نَحْنُ أُولُو قُوَّةٍ وَأُولُو بَأْسٍ شَدِيدٍ وَالْأَمْرُ إِلَيْكِ فَانْظُرِي مَاذَا تَأْمُرِينَ (33)

    27|33| They said, ‘We possess power and own great fighting (prowess). However, the affair rests with you. So, consider what you will command.’

    قَالَتْ إِنَّ الْمُلُوكَ إِذَا دَخَلُوا قَرْيَةً أَفْسَدُوهَا وَجَعَلُوا أَعِزَّةَ أَهْلِهَا أَذِلَّةً ۖ وَكَذَٰلِكَ يَفْعَلُونَ (34)

    27|34| She said, ‘Kings, when they enter a country, they despoil it and render the noblest of its people the most abased. That is what they do.48

    48. Her chiefs had comforted her that they commanded great power and fighting skill. But she knew the reality and told them indirectly that if they faced Sulayman’s forces, they would have a different story to narrate after the fiasco (Au.).

    وَإِنِّي مُرْسِلَةٌ إِلَيْهِمْ بِهَدِيَّةٍ فَنَاظِرَةٌ بِمَ يَرْجِعُ الْمُرْسَلُونَ (35)

    27|35| I am going to send them a gift and see with what do the envoys return.’49

    49. That is, if Sulayman accepted the gifts and spared her and her kingdom, it would mean he was a mere king who could be resisted. But if he did not accept the gifts, it would mean he was a Prophet who could not be resisted (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). There are no few reports on what those fabulous gifts constituted, but, once again in the words of Alusi, nearer to lies than to truth. The Jewish encyclopedia for instance says she sent several vessels of treasures along with 6000 boys and girls of the same age as gift (Majid).

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَ سُلَيْمَانَ قَالَ أَتُمِدُّونَنِ بِمَالٍ فَمَا آتَانِيَ اللَّهُ خَيْرٌ مِمَّا آتَاكُمْ بَلْ أَنْتُمْ بِهَدِيَّتِكُمْ تَفْرَحُونَ (36)

    27|36| But when they (the envoys) came to Sulayman he said, ‘Will you extend riches to me?, while what Allah has given me is better than what He gave you. But rather, it is you who rejoice in your gifts.50

    50. Yusuf Ali comments: “Poor Bilqis! She thought she had arranged with womanly tact to conciliate Solomon, and at the same time pacify her warlike subjects. But the effect of the embassy with such presents was the very opposite. Solomon took it as an insult that she should send him presents instead of her submission to the true Religion! He flung back the presents at her, as much as to say, ‘Let these baubles delight your own hearts! Allah (swt) has blessed me with plenty of worldly goods, and something infinitely better, viz., His Light and Guidance! Why do you say nothing about that?’”

    ارْجِعْ إِلَيْهِمْ فَلَنَأْتِيَنَّهُمْ بِجُنُودٍ لَا قِبَلَ لَهُمْ بِهَا وَلَنُخْرِجَنَّهُمْ مِنْهَا أَذِلَّةً وَهُمْ صَاغِرُونَ (37)

    27|37| Go back to them. We will assuredly come against them with a force they have no power (to resist), drive them out from there disgraced, and they will be humbled.’

    قَالَ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ أَيُّكُمْ يَأْتِينِي بِعَرْشِهَا قَبْلَ أَنْ يَأْتُونِي مُسْلِمِينَ (38)

    27|38| He asked, ‘You chiefs. Which one of you will bring me her throne before they come to me surrendered?’51

    51. It is narrated that when Bilqis came to know that her gifts were rejected, she started off to see Sulayman. It was when she had arrived close to his capital that he ordered her throne brought to him (Ibn Kathir).

    قَالَ عِفْرِيتٌ مِنَ الْجِنِّ أَنَا آتِيكَ بِهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ تَقُومَ مِنْ مَقَامِكَ ۖ وَإِنِّي عَلَيْهِ لَقَوِيٌّ أَمِينٌ (39)

    27|39| Said one of the powerful ones52 of the Jinn, ‘I will bring it to you before you rise from your place.53 Surely, I am strong, trustworthy.’

    52. Literally, the word `ifrit is used for a rebellious ruffian (Alusi), but here it is understood as a giant and a mighty one of them, as in Ibn Kathir.
    53. Maqamik: i.e., from the seat of Justice that Sulayman occupied every day until noon, administering justice.

    قَالَ الَّذِي عِنْدَهُ عِلْمٌ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ أَنَا آتِيكَ بِهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَرْتَدَّ إِلَيْكَ طَرْفُكَ ۚ فَلَمَّا رَآهُ مُسْتَقِرًّا عِنْدَهُ قَالَ هَٰذَا مِنْ فَضْلِ رَبِّي لِيَبْلُوَنِي أَأَشْكُرُ أَمْ أَكْفُرُ ۖ وَمَنْ شَكَرَ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ رَبِّي غَنِيٌّ كَرِيمٌ (40)

    27|40| Said he who possessed knowledge of the Book, ‘I will bring it to you before even your glance returns to you.’54 When he saw it firmly placed55 before him he said,56 ‘This is by the grace of my Lord that He may test me whether I give thanks or am I ungrateful. And, whosoever is grateful, surely he is grateful only for himself, while whosoever is ungrateful, then, surely, my Lord is All-sufficient, All-generous.’57

    54. Ibn Is-haq as well as some others have reported that the one who said these words was a friend of Sulayman and he knew Ism al-A`zam by whose power he was able to place the throne before Sulayman in a moment (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Another opinion is that it was Sulayman himself who brought the throne with Allah’s help (Zamakhshari, Razi).
    55. The use of the term “mustaqarr” implies that it could have been a fairly large throne (Au.).
    56. Ibn Jarir has several reports that describe who brought the throne and how. But, in the absence of any hadith, either weak or strong, the details do not carry any scholarly weight. As Ibn Kathir notes, there is no way we can check the authenticity of these reports since they are most probably of Jewish origin, and hence ignoring them is the best course.
    Mawdudi comments: “It may well be asked how the throne was carried over the distance of 1500 miles, appearing in Solomon’s court within the twinkling of an eye. In this regard it must be stated that our notions of time and space, of matter and motions, based on our limited observation and experience, are applicable only to us and not to God… God can cause anything… When we are talking of God… what difficulty is there in believing that a throne was carried up to a distance of a few thousand miles within the twinkling of an eye? … After all, the same Qur’an contains the statement that one night God took His servant Muhammad (peace be on him) from Makkah to Jerusalem and brought him back, all within one night.”
    For those familiar with modern science, it should not present any difficulty in understanding how the throne could have been brought in a second. The distance between Yemen and Palestine is no more than about 2500 km. It means the carrier would have traveled at the speed of about 5000 km. per second. How does it compare with the speed of light which is 300,000 km a second – roughly the speed at which the universe is now expanding?!
    57. “If Solomon had been ungrateful to Allah, i.e., if he had worked for his own selfish or worldly ends, he could have used the brute strength of `Ifrit to add to his worldly strength and glory. Instead he uses the higher magic of the Book, - of the Spirit - to transform the throne of Bilqis for her highest good, which means also the highest good of her subjects, by the divine Light. He had the two alternatives, and he chooses the better, and he thus shows his gratitude to Allah (swt) for the Grace He had given him” (Yusuf Ali).

    قَالَ نَكِّرُوا لَهَا عَرْشَهَا نَنْظُرْ أَتَهْتَدِي أَمْ تَكُونُ مِنَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَهْتَدُونَ (41)

    27|41| He said, ‘Disguise her throne for her. We will see whether she is guided or will she be of those who are not guided.’58

    58. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, and Wahb b. Munabbih have opined that the meaning of this ayah is, ‘Will Bilqis be rightly guided in recognizing her throne as her own?’ And the presentation of the throne was to test whether she was intelligent enough (to recognize Allah’s powers) - Ibn Jarir.

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَتْ قِيلَ أَهَٰكَذَا عَرْشُكِ ۖ قَالَتْ كَأَنَّهُ هُوَ ۚ وَأُوتِينَا الْعِلْمَ مِنْ قَبْلِهَا وَكُنَّا مُسْلِمِينَ (42)

    27|42| So when she came, it was said, ‘Is your throne like this?’ She said, ‘As if it is it.’59 ‘And we were given the knowledge before her, and were submitted.60

    59. “Bilqis stands the test. She knows it was her throne, yet not exactly the same, for it was now much better. And she is proud of her good fortune, and acknowledges, for herself and her people, with gratitude, the light which was given to them by Allah (swt), by which they recognized Allah’s prophet in Solomon (asws), and received the true Religion with all their will and heart and soul.” (Yusuf Ali).
    60, The dominant opinion is that of Mujahid who said that these are the words of Sulayman meaning, he had knowledge of these things much before her arrival, and, was a believer (Baghawi, Ibn Kathir).

    وَصَدَّهَا مَا كَانَتْ تَعْبُدُ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّهَا كَانَتْ مِنْ قَوْمٍ كَافِرِينَ (43)

    27|43| But what she had been worshipping besides Allah had prevented her. She was of an unbelieving people.’61

    61. “The purport is that her continuance in paganism was not specially a fault of her own, but due to her family upbringing and to her vicious associates” (Majid).
    The opinion of Mujahid, Sa`id and Hasan was that the words, “And we were given the knowledge” … until “she was of an unbelieving people” are those of Sulayman (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    قِيلَ لَهَا ادْخُلِي الصَّرْحَ ۖ فَلَمَّا رَأَتْهُ حَسِبَتْهُ لُجَّةً وَكَشَفَتْ عَنْ سَاقَيْهَا ۚ قَالَ إِنَّهُ صَرْحٌ مُمَرَّدٌ مِنْ قَوَارِيرَ ۗ قَالَتْ رَبِّ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي وَأَسْلَمْتُ مَعَ سُلَيْمَانَ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (44)

    27|44| She was told, ‘Enter the palace.’ But when she saw it, she thought it was a vast pool of water62 and bared her shanks. He said, ‘It is indeed a palace paved smooth with glass.’63 She said, ‘O my Lord, I have indeed wronged myself, and now submit myself with Sulayman to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’64

    62. The textual lujji is for a vast amount of water.
    63. Majid quotes from several Jewish sources. One is as follows: “`In the Second Targum on the Book of Esther we read that Solomon received the queen seated on a throne upon a floor of glass. She thought he was sitting in the midst of water.’ (Farros, Solomon: His Life and Times, p. 135).”
    64. After her throne had been found with Sulayman, this glass construction was the second proof to Bilqis of Sulayman’s extraordinary powers which were certainly not human, but supernatural, those that only the Lord God of the worlds could have bestowed on him. Consequently, Bilqis announced, “I submit myself together with Sulayman to Allah, the Lord of the worlds” (Sayyid).
    We may present in sum and substance the commentaries of Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir and others: There are a number of reports, perhaps of Jewish origin, why Sulayman got a palace constructed out of glass. But the most plausible one is that it was to impress upon Bilqis that in comparison to her own kingdom, that of Sulayman’s was materially much more advanced and that those under his control, men, Jinn and animals, were capable of performing miraculous feats: the palace was one example. Its floor was paved with glass. Water flowed below it in currents as in a stream, complete with fish and other sea animals swimming around. The work was so exquisitely done that Bilqis thought she would be stepping into water. The efficient artwork convinced her of Sulayman’s special powers, and that he could have only got it done with the help of supernatural powers. And, since he was apparently a man of high moral integrity too, his claim that he was a Prophet stood its test. Accordingly, she declared her belief in Allah who had raised him as a Prophet.
    Shawkani points out that the stories of Sulayman (asws) ultimately marrying Bilqis are of Jewish origin and not trustworthy. That is true also of several other fibs that have been narrated in the context of this Qur’anic passage. As to the Jewish origin, Majid confirms by quoting: “`Every legitimate reguson negust, or king of kings, traces his descent from the union of king Solomon with the Queen of Sheba. The substance of the claim is supported by the presence today of some 70,000 Jews in the southern provinces of Abyssinia.’ (UHW. VI. p. 3404)”
    Before moving on we might point out to the sceptics that if there was any thoroughgoing editor and redactor of the Bible, it was perhaps Prophet Muhammad. There isn’t a story, not merely in the Bible, but also in Talmud (ever out of print since before the Prophet’s times), or a few other ancient Rabbinical literature, that the Prophet doesn’t seem to have known, mastered and then presented a wonderfully edited version that stands above any reproach or criticism. How could he have done it? Or, is it Revelation? (Au).
    Mawdudi, and before him Majid, quote profusely from Jewish sources for comparison. To pick up a passage from Mawdudi: “A major difference is that in Rabbinical traditions we find no reference to Solomon’s Tawhid and God-consciousness and the worst detraction is the allegation that Solomon slept with the Queen of Sheba and begot an illegitimate child and that it was in this illegitimate lineage that Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, who would destroy Jerusalem, was born. (See The Jewish Encyclopaedia, vol. XI, p. 443).
    “The truth is,” Mawdudi continues, “that a group of Jewish scholars have harboured enmity towards Solomon (peace be on him). They have accused him of violating the Commandment of the Torah, of his arrogance on account of his kingdom, of pride in his wisdom, of being a hen-pecked husband, of a luxuriant life-style and even of polytheism and idol-worship. (See The Jewish Encyclopaedia, vol. XI, pp. 439-41). Because of such propaganda, the Bible presents Solomon (asws) as a king rather than as a Prophet and that too as a king who, in violation of God’s commands, loved several polytheistic women, and whose heart turned to other gods. (See Kings 11: 1-11).”
    See also Majid’s note in this connection in Surah al-Baqarah, no. 206.

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَىٰ ثَمُودَ أَخَاهُمْ صَالِحًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ فَإِذَا هُمْ فَرِيقَانِ يَخْتَصِمُونَ (45)

    27|45| Aforetime We sent to Thamud65 their brother Saleh that, ‘Worship Allah.’66 But at once they were two parties disputing (with one another).67

    65. The story of Bilqis – of the south – that portrayed her humbleness before the truth and submission to it when it dawned upon her, is now contrasted with two stiff-necked nations of the north (with a point from Asad).
    66. “Saleh’s mission is summarized at this point in a few words. This is the message that has been the central part of any message that was ever sent down from the heavens to the earth: a single message, sent to every nation, in every epoch, and through every Messenger. This, despite the fact that everything that there is around man in this universe, and everything that their selves conceal within themselves, cries loudly this, one reality. Humanity has moved on, generations after generations, through epochs after epochs, encountering this reality, but has been rejecting it, denying it, if not sometimes mocking it. It remains evading this eternal truth to this day, inclined to any other path, except the path of its Lord, One God” (Sayyid).
    67. That is, Mujahid said, they divided themselves into believers and unbelievers (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ لِمَ تَسْتَعْجِلُونَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ قَبْلَ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ لَوْلَا تَسْتَغْفِرُونَ اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ (46)

    27|46| He said, ‘O my people! Why do you seek to hasten on the evil before good?68 If only you sought Allah’s forgiveness; haply so you may be shown mercy.’

    68. That is, Mujahid said, ‘Why do you ask chastisement to be brought down instead of seeking Allah’s mercy?’ (Ibn Jarir).
    Zamakhshari explains what it means to ask for evil before good. Saleh’s people used to say, in their ignorance, that ‘we shall repent to God if the chastisement that Saleh promises comes to pass. We shall seek forgiveness as it arrives and shall be forgiven.’ They assumed that repentance at such a time would ward off the punishment. They also thought that, ‘if the chastisement does not come, we shall remain on what we are.’ So, Saleh spoke to them following their suppositions and ended by suggesting that they should seek forgiveness before evil comes: “haply you will be shown mercy.”

    قَالُوا اطَّيَّرْنَا بِكَ وَبِمَنْ مَعَكَ ۚ قَالَ طَائِرُكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ ۖ بَلْ أَنْتُمْ قَوْمٌ تُفْتَنُونَ (47)

    27|47| They said, ‘We augur ill omen of you and those that are with you.’69 He said, ‘Your ill omen is with Allah.70 But rather you are a people who will be tested.’71

    69. That is, “Your luck, your future, and your destiny” are all in Allah’s hands” (Sayyid).
    It seems that any problem or calamity Saleh’s people faced after his advent, was attributed to him and his mission. He became to them a symbol of bad omen (Au.).
    For explanation of “tiyarah” see al-A`raf, n. 180-182. Sayyid adds here, “To this day we can observe among such people as who reject belief in Allah and refuse to place their trust in Him, falling into the same foolish error, despite their advancement in every discipline of knowledge. You will see them drawing ill omen from number 13, or from a black cat cutting across their path, and so on.”
    70. Saleh’s people alleged that the troubles that they faced in life, or were likely to face, were because of him and his followers. He reminded them that their real troubles were with Allah. Chastisement could descend upon them if they did not mend their ways (Au.).
    71. The words, “But rather you are a people being tested” could also mean, writes Zamakhshari, that seeking of omen are of those acts by means of which Satan puts them to troubles and tribulations.

    وَكَانَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ تِسْعَةُ رَهْطٍ يُفْسِدُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا يُصْلِحُونَ (48)

    27|48| And in the city there was a group of nine72 who spread corruption all over the land73 and would not reform.74

    72. Raht is for a group of men numbering between three and ten (Zamakhshari) without a woman in it (Jawhari).
    73. That is, their corruption was not limited to their own land Hijr, but spilled beyond it into other lands (Alusi).
    Apart from other things, one of their corrupt practices was to chip off silver and gold from Dirham and Dinar coins (Qurtubi), which our own Prophet has also prohibited (Ibn Kathir).
    74. That is, totally corrupt, without any good coming out of them, in contrast to those who are less corrupt through whom some good works flow out at some time or the other (Zamakhshari).

    قَالُوا تَقَاسَمُوا بِاللَّهِ لَنُبَيِّتَنَّهُ وَأَهْلَهُ ثُمَّ لَنَقُولَنَّ لِوَلِيِّهِ مَا شَهِدْنَا مَهْلِكَ أَهْلِهِ وَإِنَّا لَصَادِقُونَ (49)

    27|49| They said, ‘Swear to each other by Allah that we shall attack him and his family by night and then say to his heir, ‘We did not witness the destruction of his family and that we are truthful.’75

    75. Ibn `Abbas said that thes allusion is to the nine who later hamstrung the camel. According to a report in Ibn abi Hatim, when they were promised chastisement within three days, they said they’d rather finish off Saleh before the expiry of the time promised. But, as they arrived to attack him by night, they were overtaken by Allah’s chastisement and they all lay dead. By morning their nation too was destroyed (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    وَمَكَرُوا مَكْرًا وَمَكَرْنَا مَكْرًا وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (50)

    27|50| Thus they plotted a plot and We plotted a plot, but they perceived not.

    فَانْظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ مَكْرِهِمْ أَنَّا دَمَّرْنَاهُمْ وَقَوْمَهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (51)

    27|51| See then how was the end of their plot - that We destroyed them and their nation, all together.

    فَتِلْكَ بُيُوتُهُمْ خَاوِيَةً بِمَا ظَلَمُوا ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ (52)

    27|52| Yonder there are their homes in ruin,76 because they (indulged in) wrongdoing. Surely, in that is a sign for a people who know.

    76. “Yonder there” because, when the Makkans traveled to the Syrian regions, they passed by Wadi al-Qura’ which has the remains of their habitations (Shabbir).

    وَأَنْجَيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ (53)

    27|53| And We delivered those who believed and were fearful (of Allah).

    وَلُوطًا إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ أَتَأْتُونَ الْفَاحِشَةَ وَأَنْتُمْ تُبْصِرُونَ (54)

    27|54| And Lut, when he said to his people, ‘Do you commit the indecent while you are seeing?77

    77. That is, you can see with the inner eye that these practices are abominable (Kashshaf). They could also see with their physical eyes that propagation of every biological species depends on the male going into the female. Could they see any practice among any biological organism contrary to this? Weren’t they the only pervert exception? (Sayyid)
    As these lines are being written – April 2004 – the situation in the West is that due to homosexual practices and pedophilic activities spreading wide and deep in the society, marriage between homosexuals (both between male and male, as well as between female and female) has been legalized in the United Stated of America. Across the continent, in Britain, the dominant Christian sect is allowing homosexuals to enter into priesthood (Au.).

    أَئِنَّكُمْ لَتَأْتُونَ الرِّجَالَ شَهْوَةً مِنْ دُونِ النِّسَاءِ ۚ بَلْ أَنْتُمْ قَوْمٌ تَجْهَلُونَ (55)

    27|55| What, do you approach men lustfully rather than women? Nay, but you are a people behaving ignorantly.’78

    78. Jahalah is not merely ignorance, but rather, in the extreme sense, a state of mind that reflects the qualities of ‘knowing very well but refusing to acknowledge,’ ‘deliberately acting against what is right,’ combined with intransigence, argumentativeness, insolence, and total disregard for people’s censure (Au.).

    فَمَا كَانَ جَوَابَ قَوْمِهِ إِلَّا أَنْ قَالُوا أَخْرِجُوا آلَ لُوطٍ مِنْ قَرْيَتِكُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُمْ أُنَاسٌ يَتَطَهَّرُونَ (56)

    27|56| His people had no answer except to say, ‘Drive out Lut’s family from your town. They are indeed men who make themselves out to be pure.’79

    79. It was a derisive, sarcastic statement.

    فَأَنْجَيْنَاهُ وَأَهْلَهُ إِلَّا امْرَأَتَهُ قَدَّرْنَاهَا مِنَ الْغَابِرِينَ (57)

    27|57| His people had no answer except to say, ‘Drive out Lut’s family from your town. They are indeed men who make themselves out to be pure.’79

    وَأَمْطَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ مَطَرًا ۖ فَسَاءَ مَطَرُ الْمُنْذَرِينَ (58)

    27|58| And We rained down on them a rain. So evil was the rain for those who were warned.80

    80. Shah `Abdul Qadir commented on the three episodes here: Sulayman had promised that he would bring a force which they would not be able to resist. This came true for our own Prophet, who brought a force to Makkah that the unbelievers could not resist. The gang of nine promised each other that they would attack Saleh by night; but he was rescued by Allah. Similarly, the Quraysh surrounded the Prophet’s house by night in an attempt to do away with him by morning. But Allah (swt) rescued His Messenger. And Lut’s people threatened him with expulsion, but instead, he was ordered to leave, after which they met with their destruction. Similarly, the Makkans had threatened the Prophet (saws) with expulsion. But he left the place on his own (and their chiefs were destroyed at Badr: Au.) – Shabbir.

    قُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ وَسَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ عِبَادِهِ الَّذِينَ اصْطَفَىٰ ۗ آللَّهُ خَيْرٌ أَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (59)

    27|59| Say, ‘All praise to Allah and peace on His slaves whom He has chosen.81 What, is Allah better or that which they associate (with Him)?’82

    81. Ibn `Abbas and Sufyan al-Thawri believed that the allusion by those that Allah chose is to the Companions of the Prophet (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Zayd b. Aslam’s opinion was that the allusion is to the Prophets and Messengers. It is they who were chosen by Allah (Ibn Kathir).
    Allah teaches us that this is how we should commence our talks and speeches (Alusi).

    أَمَّنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَأَنْزَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَنْبَتْنَا بِهِ حَدَائِقَ ذَاتَ بَهْجَةٍ مَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَنْ تُنْبِتُوا شَجَرَهَا ۗ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ ۚ بَلْ هُمْ قَوْمٌ يَعْدِلُونَ (60)

    27|60| Or, He who created the heavens and the earth,83 and sent down for you out of heaven water84 – then We caused to grow therewith delightful gardens;85 it was not (possible) for you to cause their trees to grow – is there a god with Allah? But rather, they are a people who swerve away (from the truth).86

    82. “’Who is better: Allah or the gods that they associate with Him as His partners?’ The polytheists did not have the courage to face the question in this manner, for even the most hardened among them would not say that the deities were better than God. And if they accepted that God was better, the very foundation of their religion would be undermined and it would be unreasonable for them, thereafter, to say that they preferred what was inferior to that which was superior. By posing this question the Qur’an immediately disarms its opponents” (Mawdudi).
    83. There is a little bit of ellipsis (ijaz) involved here. When it is said, “Or, He who created the heavens and the earth..,” it is as if being asked, “Is Allah better who created the heavens and the earth .. or the deities you suggest?” (Au.).
    84. When we consider the fact that living organisms, topped by the humans, inhabit only the earth, and that none of the other ten to eleven planets, nor their dozens of moon-like satellites, some of them as large as the earth, have been graced with water, then, the true meaning of, “And sent down for you out of heaven water” dawns upon us (Au.).
    85. In comparison to bustan, hadiqah is that orchard which has a fence around it (Ibn Jarir).
    So, there is creation: “created the heavens and the earth,” regulation: “sent down for you out of heaven water,” sustenance: “caused to grow therewith,” and finally, beauty, “delightful gardens” (Au.).
    86. That is, they are a people who swerve away from the truth (Ibn Jarir).
    The words could also be translated as, “they are a people who assigns equals (to Allah).”
    Majid comments: “In Vedic religion, for instance, ‘both Heaven and Earth are regarded as the parents of gods (deva-gods) even though they are said to have been generated by gods. Sometimes one god – Indira, or Agni, or Rudra, or Soma – sometimes all the gods together, are said to have generated or created heaven and earth, the whole world (ERE. IV. p. 156).”

    أَمَّنْ جَعَلَ الْأَرْضَ قَرَارًا وَجَعَلَ خِلَالَهَا أَنْهَارًا وَجَعَلَ لَهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ حَاجِزًا ۗ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (61)

    27|61| Or, He who made for you the earth a resting place,87 and set amidst it rivers, and assigned for it pegs, and placed between the two seas a barrier88 – is there a god with Allah? But rather, most of them do not know.

    87. That is, a mass of matter that does not shake, convulse or quiver. When it does, as during an earth-quake, it causes devastation (Au.).
    88. See Surah Al-Furqan, ayah 53 for notes..

    أَمَّنْ يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ وَيَجْعَلُكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ الْأَرْضِ ۗ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ ۚ قَلِيلًا مَا تَذَكَّرُونَ (62)

    27|62| Or, He who responds to the distressed when he appeals to Him and removes the evil,89 and makes you successors in the earth90 – is there a god with Allah? Seldom it is that you keep (this) in mind.

    89. Accordingly, Abu Saleh reports that “when Ta’us visited me in my sickness, I said to him, ‘Pray for me.’ He replied, ‘Pray for yourself for, He responds to the distressed when he calls Him.’” Imam Ahmad has a report that,

    عَنْ رَجُلٍ مِنْ بَلْهُجَيْمٍ قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِلاَمَ تَدْعُو قَالَ « أَدْعُو إِلَى اللَّهِ وَحْدَهُ الَّذِى إِنْ مَسَّكَ ضُرٌّ فَدَعَوْتَهُ كَشَفَ عَنْكَ وَالَّذِى إِنْ ضَلَلْتَ بِأَرْضٍ قَفْرٍ دَعَوْتَهُ رَدَّ عَلَيْكَ وَالَّذِى إِنْ أَصَابَتْكَ سَنَةٌ فَدَعَوْتَهُ أَنْبَتَ عَلَيْكَ ».

    A man of Balhujaym said, “Messenger of Allah! What’s your call?” He answered, “I am calling unto One Allah who relieves you when you call Him in distress, who leads you back if you call Him when you are lost in the wilderness, who makes your crops grow when drought strikes and you appeal to Him.”
    (The above has been shortened in view of the next that follow).
    According to Albani, the report above is trustworthy: S. Ibrahim.
    Ahmad has another report coming from Jabir b. Sulaym al-Hujaymi.

    عَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ سُلَيْمٍ الْهُجَيْمِىِّ قَالَ أَتَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- وَهُوَ مُحْتَبٍ بِشَمْلَةٍ وَقَدْ وَقَعَ هُدْبُهَا عَلَى قَدَمَيْهِ فَقُلْتُ أَيُّكُمْ مُحَمَّدٌ أَوْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- فَأَوْمَأَ بِيَدِهِ إِلَى نَفْسِهِ فَقُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنِّى مِنْ أَهْلِ الْبَادِيَةِ وَفِىَّ جَفَاؤُهُمْ فَأَوْصِنِى. فَقَالَ « لاَ تَحْقِرَنَّ مِنَ الْمَعْرُوفِ شَيْئاً وَلَوْ أَنْ تَلْقَى أَخَاكَ وَوَجْهُكَ مُنْبَسِطٌ وَلَوْ أَنْ تُفْرِغَ مِنْ دَلْوِكَ فِى إِنَاءِ الْمُسْتَسْقِى وَإِنِ امْرُؤٌ شَتَمَكَ بِمَا يَعْلَمُ فِيكَ فَلاَ تَشْتُمْهُ بِمَا تَعْلَمُ فِيهِ فَإِنَّهُ يَكُونُ لَكَ أَجْرُهُ وَعَلَيْهِ وِزْرُهُ وَإِيَّاكَ وَإِسْبَالَ الإِزَارِ فَإِنَّ إِسْبَالَ الإِزَارِ مِنَ الْمَخِيلَةِ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْمَخِيلَةَ وَلاَ تَسُبَّنَّ أَحَداً ». فَما سَبَبْتُ بَعْدَهُ أَحَداً وَلاَ شَاةً وَلاَ بَعِيراً.

    He said, “I went to see the Prophet. He was sitting with his head-gear wrapped around his feet. Its end had fallen on his feet. I said, ‘Which of you is Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah?’ He pointed to himself. I said, ‘Messenger of Allah, I am of the desert and I discover hard-heartedness in myself. So, admonish me.’ He said, ‘Do not belittle any good deed; even if it is just meeting your brother with a smile; and even if you can empty your bucket in the water-seeker’s pot. And, if someone taunts you over something that he knows is in you, you do not taunt him back over what you find in him. You will have a reward for it while the sin will be on him. And beware! Let not your trousers hang below the ankles, for letting down the trousers is a thing of pride, and Allah does not approve of pride. And do not curse anything.’ (The Hujaymi said), "I never cursed anyone or anything after that, neither a goat nor a camel.” The hadith is also in Abu Da’ud and Nasa’i and is better reported in those books (Ibn Kathir).
    We might note in the above that the man had complained of the hardness of his heart, and therefore, all that the Prophet (saws) suggested to him would have gone into softening his heart if he put them to practice. Unwittingly, the man acknowledged the effect of the counsel on him by saying, “I never cursed anyone or anything thereafter, neither a goat nor a camel.” Could any other ordinary man's words have had the same effect upon a hard-hearted rugged Bedouin? (Au.)
    In the context of Allah helping the distressed, Ibn Kathir has two stories, both of which are in Ibn `Asakir’s work. The first reports Muhammad b. Da’ud al-Daynouri - better known as Daqi Sufi. He narrated from another man who said, “I used to rent my mule’s back to people wishing to travel to other towns. Once I took a man with me and as I was outside the town, he asked me to take an unknown direction. I said I was unfamiliar with that route. He said he knew it well enough and that it was a shortcut. But, as we reached a desolate place with lots of human remains in a valley, the man alighted. He gathered his clothes, brought out a knife, and began to advance towards me as if he wanted kill me. I tried to run away but he caught up with me. I told him he could keep my mule and all that it carried. He said they were his anyway and that nothing but my life would satisfy him. When I saw that I couldn’t escape, I asked to be allowed to Pray two cycles. He told me to do it fast. But when I tried to recite the Qur’an, not a word would come to my mind and I stood there in silence. He was urging me to get over with it quick. Finally, the following words came to my mind:

    {أَمْ مَنْ يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ} [النمل: 62]

    No sooner had I said these words that a horseman began to approach through the mouth of the valley. He had a spear which he hurled at the man striking him in his chest. In a moment he lay dead. I asked the horsemen who he was. He said, ‘I am sent by Him who responds when a distressed person calls upon Him.’”
    Another story has it that there was a man whose horse spoke to him during a battle against the Romans, to the effect that it was being mistreated by his syce. The story spread and people would visit him just to hear the story directly from him. The news reached the Romans whose ruler said that if there was such a man among them they wouldn’t be able to overcome the Muslims. So he sent an apostate to kidnap the man. He came pretending having embraced Islam anew in all earnestness, and became friendly with him. One day, as they were going together somewhere, another man appeared. It was clear that they had pre-planned to kidnap him. When the man saw that he was overpowered, he supplicated, “O Allah, You know they have deceived me. So help me in whatever way You will.” Two wild beasts appeared and devoured the two men.
    Quote from Ibn Kathir ends here.
    90. That is, one generation of men succeeds another (Ibn Jarir).
    Had Allah willed, He could have brought out all the people He wished to create till the end of Time, at once, at one time on the earth. But rather, He willed that they should appear one generation after another, one nation after another, and so on (Ibn Kathir).

    أَمَّنْ يَهْدِيكُمْ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَمَنْ يُرْسِلُ الرِّيَاحَ بُشْرًا بَيْنَ يَدَيْ رَحْمَتِهِ ۗ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ ۚ تَعَالَى اللَّهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (63)

    27|63| Or, He who guides you through the darknesses of the land and sea, and who sends the winds as heralds of his forthcoming mercy91 – is there a god with Allah? Exalted High is Allah, above that which they associate (with Him).92

    91. The allusion is to the cool, fragrant winds that precede rains (Au.).
    92. Majid comments on how multiple deities find their place in human society: “Once an erring humanity has formed conception of a multiplicity of gods, there is no end to god-manufacturing. ‘It is the first step that costs: once you have got the idea of a god fairly evolved, any number of gods may be invented or introduced from all quarters. A great pantheon readily admits new numbers to its ranks from many strange sources … The Romans, indeed, deified every conceivable operation of nature or of human life: they had gods or goddesses for the minutest details of agriculture, of social relations, of the first years of childhood, of marriage and domestic arrangements generally’ (Allen, Evolution of the Idea of God, p. 21).”

    أَمَّنْ يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ وَمَنْ يَرْزُقُكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۗ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ ۚ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (64)

    27|64| Or, He who originates the creation,93 then repeats it, and provides you out of heaven and earth – is there a god with Allah? Say, ‘Bring your evidence if you are truthful.’94

    93. Majid offers us a comparison: “Contrast this with the openly polytheistic teaching of the NT, ‘Giving thanks unto the Father … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son … Who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creation: For by him were all things created, that are in heavens, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist … For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell’ (Col. 1: 12-19).”
    Origin of the World
    After three centuries of intense research, experimentations, observations, and theoretical speculations, the scientists are now in a vicious circle of their own making. They are in the same position which the Prophet (saws) had predicted, but without the solution that he offered. He said, as in reports of Bukhari, Muslim and others, “Shaytan comes to one of you and asks, ‘Who created such and such a thing? such and such a thing?…’ until he asks, ‘who created your Lord?’ When he reaches this (stage of thought), let him seek Allah’s refuge and stop thinking further.” One does not need to be extraordinarily intelligent to conclude that if he did not stop, he will remain within the circle.
    Science has simple facts at the bottom. Hence, a good scientific theory is one which, according to most scientists, is simple. (In most cases also beautiful). One of the simple statements of science is that every cause has an effect. If it is said, therefore, that such and such a thing happened by Allah’s will, directly, following His command, then, according to the scientists, one has not spoken science. Science wants something material, specific, demonstrable, and that which follows physical laws. So, according to them, for anything to happen there has to be a physical cause. Applied to the universe, it can be said safely that today’s universe is the effect of the causes of yesterday. One may go on backward to a point when it would have started. But, as one travels backward to the other end, as the scientists attempt, once again he enters into the circle.
    As is generally known, the Universe is expanding. Yesterday’s universe was smaller than today’s. We go way back some 15 billion years, when it was infinitesimally small in size - to be precise 10-32 cm across - and was all energy, highly compressed, and no matter. Why not lesser than that? Because calculations fail below this size and below a point in time 10-42 seconds after the start of the event of creation, or at the event of the Big Bang. (These are known as Planck’s constants). It was at that point that, according to the theoreticians, time, space, the forces of nature, and laws came into being. Who caused the Big Bang? No answer. What caused it? No answer either. From where did the universe get its time, space, the four forces of nature, and laws that govern it? No answer. Now we are in a circle. Timothy Ferris, an emeritus professor at the University of California sums up:
    “The first paradox may be stated: There can be no effect without a cause. Whatever events transpired near the outset of time, each must have been caused by some prior event. So we can never attain an account of the very beginning.”
    “The second paradox: You can’t get something from – or for – nothing. The ‘origin’ of the universe, if that concept is to have any meaning, must create the universe out of nothing. Therefore there can be no logical explanation of genesis.”
    “The third, and most telling cosmogonic paradox holds that: Regardless of its net energy, the universe must have originated from another system, and that system must in turn have an origin of some sort. And so we are caught in infinite regress.”
    The author then proceeds to demonstrate, over several chapters, how these paradoxes can be resolved. In his words,

    “Examining their thrown bones suggests that each has the potential of being resolved by shifting from a classical to a quantum paradigm. Attaining a quantum perspective is difficult. Living in a macroscopic world where quantum phenomena are rarely manifest, we humans came upon classical physics first, and tend to think of quantum physics as a special case. Nevertheless, it’s beginning to look like the universe is fundamentally a quantum system” (The Whole Shebang, Timothy Ferris, p. 246-48, Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1997).
    To put it in simpler words what the above means is that when classical physics and cosmology (of Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus and Newton), fail to resolve the above paradoxes; quantum physics (that of Neils Bohr, Maxwell, Weinberger and Max Plank) rescues the situation. The universe at large gives no clue of its origin. Every theory that has been advanced in this regard has its own disadvantages and fails to answer the questions that arise if assumed as true. Furthermore, the explanations fail below Max Planck constants. That is, equations start to fail when taken beyond the Planck Time of 10-42 seconds after the big bang event, and below the size 10-32 cm. Below these levels, the problem has to be handed over to the world of quantum physics.
    But, as explanations are launched in subsequent chapters of the book, it comes to light, to the discomfiture of the scientists, that quantum physics is fuzzy. At that level, sub-atomic particles seem to be endowed with contradictory qualities. E.g., they can both be particles as well as waves. They can be in two places at one time, crossing the limit set by Einstein’s equations, which suggest that nothing can travel at speeds greater than that of light. How will a particle behave, whether as a wave or a particle depends, amazingly, on the observer. If it is not observed, it behaves like a particle, but when subjected to observation it begins to behave as a wave. Of course, if science did not have experimental proofs, it would have been thought that they were taking the people for a ride. The sub-atomic particles behave in such inexplicable and unpredictable ways that their behavior is now referred to as weird. One another weird qualities of sub-atomic particles is that they seem to know what’s happening at the other end of the universe!
    So the theories that explain the universe at the quantum level cannot be advanced in a straightforward logical manner. They need a few – almost philosophical – turns. They need some “ifs”, “perhapses”, “assumptions”, “suppositions” and words of this class to stand on their own. Hence the careful choice of words in the above statement. Note for example: “Examining their thrown bones suggests,” (note the words ‘suggests’), “that each has the potential” (note the words ‘has the potential’) “of being resolved by shifting from a classical to a quantum paradigm. Attaining a quantum perspective is difficult.” (So do not worry yourself about it. Just take it as true). “Living in a macroscopic world where quantum phenomena are rarely manifest, we humans came upon classical physics first, and tend to think of quantum physics as a special case.” (Note the words, “tend to think”). “Nevertheless, it’s beginning to look like the universe is fundamentally a quantum system” (note the words, ‘it’s beginning to look like’).
    To be sure, studies and experiments at the quantum level have neither been able to, nor give hope of, the removal of ambiguities, anxieties and uncertainties. Some scientists have begun to make statements similar to what Darwin made when asked about how life began. He remarked that it was a meaningless question.
    To our relief, not every scientist subscribes to the view that the world’s origin has a perfect scientific explanation. In the words of Ferris himself, (who places this piece of writing at the beginning rather than at the end of the discussion),
    “Science as we know it is built on cause and effect, space and time. How can it comprehend as uncaused effect that, by definition, could not have occurred within a preexisting framework of space and time? Many scientists think it can’t. ‘Ultimately, the origin of the universe is, and always will be, a mystery,’ writes the astronomer Stuart Bowyer’. Says the physicist Charles Townes, ‘I do not understand how the scientific approach alone, as separated from a religious approach, can explain an origin of all things. It is true that physicists hope to look behind the “big bang,” and possibly to explain the origin of our universe as, for example, a type of fluctuation. But then, of what is it a fluctuation and how did this in turn begin to exist? In my view, the question of origin seems always left unanswered if we explore from scientific view alone.’” (The Whole Shebang, p. 245-46) - Au.
    94. Asad comments, “The implication being that most people who profess belief in a multiplicity of divine powers, or even in the possibility of One God’s ‘incarnation’ in a created being, do so blindly, sometimes only under the influence of inherited cultural traditions and habits of thought, and not out of a reasoned conviction.”

    قُلْ لَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الْغَيْبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۚ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ أَيَّانَ يُبْعَثُونَ (65)

    27|65| Say, ‘None knows the Unseen in the heavens and the earth except Allah.’ And they do not know when they will be resurrected.95

    95. Accordingly, `A’isha has said that whoever said that he – the Prophet – knew what tomorrow held, fastened a lie upon Allah, for Allah Himself said, ‘None knows the Unseen in the heavens and the earth except Allah’ (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir).
    In fact, the Prophet himself objected to being referred to as someone who knew what tomorrow held in store. On the authority of Rabi` bint Mu`awwaz, she said,

    عَنْ الرُّبَيِّعِ بِنْتِ مُعَوِّذٍ قَالَتْ دَخَلَ عَلَيَّ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ غَدَاةَ بُنِيَ عَلَيَّ فَجَلَسَ عَلَى فِرَاشِي كَمَجْلِسِكَ مِنِّي وَجُوَيْرِيَاتٌ يَضْرِبْنَ بِالدُّفِّ يَنْدُبْنَ مَنْ قُتِلَ مِنْ آبَائِهِنَّ يَوْمَ بَدْرٍ حَتَّى قَالَتْ جَارِيَةٌ وَفِينَا نَبِيٌّ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي غَدٍ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَا تَقُولِي هَكَذَا وَقُولِي مَا كُنْتِ تَقُولِينَ

    “The Prophet (saws) entered upon me the day I was being prepared (for marriage). He sat down on my bed as you (the next narrator) are sitting down now. Young girls were beating a tambourine and singing in praise of those of their fathers who had been martyred at Badr; until one of them sang out, ‘And amongst us is a Prophet who knows what tomorrow holds.’ The Prophet (saws) interrupted, ‘Do not say this. But rather say what you had been saying earlier’” (Au.).
    And Qatadah has said in a trustworthy report, “Ignorant people have ascribed effects to stars. They say, ‘He who married according to such and such stars …, he who traveled when such and such stars …, he who was born by such and such star …’ and such other things, whereas neither do the stars, nor animals, nor birds know anything about the Unseen. Allah has decreed that no one shall know what is in the Unseen except He, and they do not know when they will be raised up” (Ibn Kathir).

    بَلِ ادَّارَكَ عِلْمُهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ ۚ بَلْ هُمْ فِي شَكٍّ مِنْهَا ۖ بَلْ هُمْ مِنْهَا عَمُونَ (66)

    27|66| But rather, their knowledge failed96 as to the Hereafter; nay, they are in doubt thereof; nay, they are blind thereunto.97

    96. Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Zayd said that the meaning is, “they missed its meaning.” There have been other alternative readings of the term “iddaraka” and hence as many interpretations (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Shawkani). A few other meanings forwarded are, “their knowledge about it is equal.” That is, they are equally ignorant. Or, their knowledge about the Hereafter will only be complete when they are actually raised in the Hereafter. Another interpretation is, “Their knowledge stops short of knowing when it will be” (Ibn Kathir).
    97. Yusuf Ali comments on the hopeless state in which the deniers are: “The Unbelievers are generally materialists, who cannot go beyond the evidence of their physical senses. As to a spiritual vision of the future, their physical senses would only leave them in doubt and uncertainty, while their rejection of the spiritual Light makes them blind altogether to the next world.”
    Asad adds: “I.e., (they are) blind to its logical necessity within God’s plan of creation. For, it is only on the premise of a life after death that the concept of man’s moral responsibility and, hence, of God’s ultimate judgment can have any meaning: and if the absence of choice is taken for granted, all differentiations between right and wrong become utterly meaningless as well.”

    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَإِذَا كُنَّا تُرَابًا وَآبَاؤُنَا أَئِنَّا لَمُخْرَجُونَ (67)

    27|67| Said those who have disbelieved, ‘When we and our forefathers have become dust, shall we indeed be brought out?

    لَقَدْ وُعِدْنَا هَٰذَا نَحْنُ وَآبَاؤُنَا مِنْ قَبْلُ إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (68)

    27|68| We have been promised this in the past (also) - we and our forefathers; this is nothing but tales of the ancients.’

    قُلْ سِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَانْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُجْرِمِينَ (69)

    27|69| Say, ‘Go about in the land and see how was the end of the criminals.’98

    98. Asad explains, “I.e., those who denied the reality of a life after death and, hence, of man’s ultimate responsibility for his conscious doings… the unavoidable consequence of this denial is the loss of all sense of right and wrong: and this, in its turn, leads to spiritual and social chaos, and so to the downfall of communities and civilizations.”

    وَلَا تَحْزَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا تَكُنْ فِي ضَيْقٍ مِمَّا يَمْكُرُونَ (70)

    27|70| And, grieve not over them, nor be in any distress at what they contrive.

    وَيَقُولُونَ مَتَىٰ هَٰذَا الْوَعْدُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (71)

    27|71| And they say, ‘When shall this promise be, if you should be truthful?’

    قُلْ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُونَ رَدِفَ لَكُمْ بَعْضُ الَّذِي تَسْتَعْجِلُونَ (72)

    27|72| Say, ‘Maybe some of what you seek to hasten on could be right behind you (in close pursuit).’99

    99. To the Arabs of that time, the use of the term “radifa” should have had strong suggestions of the likelihood of the promised chastisement riding right behind them on their beasts (Au.).

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ (73)

    27|73| Surely, your Lord is full of grace for the people, but most of them do not give thanks.

    وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُكِنُّ صُدُورُهُمْ وَمَا يُعْلِنُونَ (74)

    27|74| And surely, your Lord knows what they conceal in their bosoms and what they reveal.

    وَمَا مِنْ غَائِبَةٍ فِي السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ (75)

    27|75| And, there is not a thing away (and hidden) in heaven and earth, but it is in a clear record.

    إِنَّ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ يَقُصُّ عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَكْثَرَ الَّذِي هُمْ فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ (76)

    27|76| Indeed, this Qur’an narrates to the Children of Israel most of that over which they disagree.100

    100. There is not a thing over which they do not disagree between themselves, including who is Yahweh and what is His exact relationship with the Jews (Au.). Zamakhshari wrote: They differed over Masih (asws) dividing themselves into sects and groups to the extent that some of them cursed others.
    Yusuf Ali comments on the divisions among the Jews: “The Jews had numerous sects. Some were altogether out of the pale, e.g., the Samaritans, who had a separate Taurat of their own: they hated the other Jews and were hated by them. But even in the orthodox body, there were several sects, of which the following may be mentioned: (1) the Pharisees, who were literalists, formalists, and fatalists, and had a large body of traditional literature, with which they overlaid the Law of Moses; (2) the Sadducees, who were rationalists, and seemed to have doubted the doctrines of Resurrection and of the Hereafter; (3) the Essenes, who practiced a sort of Communism and Asceticism and prohibited marriage. About many of their doctrines they had bitter disputes, which were settled by the Qur’an, which supplemented and perfected the Law of Moses. It also explained clearly the attributes of Allah and the nature of Revelation, and the doctrine of the Hereafter.”
    One can see some resemblance between Jewish sects of the past – Samaritans, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and others– and many active groups among the Muslims of our day (Au).
    Asad adds: “The term children of Israel comprises here both the Jews and the Christians (Zamakhshari) inasmuch as both follow the Old Testament, albeit in a corrupted form. It is precisely because of this corruption, and because of the great influence which Jewish and Christian ideas exert over a large segment of mankind, that the Qur’an sets out to explain certain ethical truths to both these communities. The above reference to ‘most’ (and not all) of the problems alluded to in this world, and not on ultimate, metaphysical questions which – as the Qur’an so often repeats – will be answered only in the hereafter.”

    وَإِنَّهُ لَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ (77)

    27|77| It is indeed a guidance and mercy unto the believers.

    إِنَّ رَبَّكَ يَقْضِي بَيْنَهُمْ بِحُكْمِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْعَلِيمُ (78)

    27|78| Verily, your Lord will decide between them by His judgment; He is the All-mighty, the All-knowing.

    فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَى الْحَقِّ الْمُبِينِ (79)

    27|79| So place your trust in Allah. You are assuredly on a self-evident truth.

    إِنَّكَ لَا تُسْمِعُ الْمَوْتَىٰ وَلَا تُسْمِعُ الصُّمَّ الدُّعَاءَ إِذَا وَلَّوْا مُدْبِرِينَ (80)

    27|80| Surely, you cannot make the dead hear,101 nor make the deaf to hear the call if they turn away in retreat.102

    101. That is, the unbelievers are spiritually dead and so cannot hear anything pertaining to the truth. They are alive only to what is base and fleeting (Au.).
    102. An exception was the Badr incident when the Prophet went up to the bodies of the pagans that were dumped into a deep pit to ask them,

    يَا فُلانَ بن فُلانٍ وَيَا فُلانَ بن فُلانٍ ، وَدِدْتُمْ أَنَّكُمْ كُنْتُمْ أَطَعْتُمُ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ، فَهَلْ وَجَدْتُمْ مَا وَعَدَ رَبُّكُمْ حَقًّا فَقَدْ وَجَدْنَا مَا وَعَدَنَا رَبُّنَا حَقًّا ، قَالَ عُمَرُ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَتُكِلِّمُ أَجْسَادًا لا أَرْوَاحَ فِيهَا ؟ قَالَ : وَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ مَا أَنْتُمْ بِأَسْمَعَ لِمَا أَقُولُ مِنْهُمْ

    “O so and so, so and so .. we have found that what our Lord promised us came true. Have you also found what your Lord promised you as true?” `Umar asked anxiously, "Messenger of Allah, are you speaking to bodies that have no soul?" The Prophet replied, “By Him in whose hands is Muhammad's life, you do not hear them any better than they hear me now.” According to a version in Bukhari,

    إِنَّهُمُ الآنَ لَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ مَا كُنْتُ أَقُولُ لَهُمْ حَقٌّ

    “At this moment they know that what I used to tell them was true.”
    From the concluding words we can deduce that it was not an address meant for the unrepentant living pagans, in order to drive fear into them, or teach them a lesson, but that, as Qatadah has said, Allah had sent back the souls to the dead pagans so that they could hear him (Qurtubi).
    Shanqiti, places a long discussion here over the issue. By and large he echoes the view that Ibn al-Qayyim offered in his Kitab al-Ruh. The latter maintained that the dead are able to hear the voices of the living. At the start he mentions `A’isha’s opinion who, basing her opinion on the Qur’an, believed that the dead cannot hear. But following that, he presents evidences that confirm that they do. A hadith apparently supporting this is in Bukhari. The Prophet (saws) said, “When a slave is placed in the grave and his companions retreat, until he hears the noise of their retreating footsteps; then come the two angels ...” to the end of the hadith. Another narrative in Muslim reports `A’isha as saying:

    كُلَّمَا كَانَ لَيْلَتُهَا مِنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- يَخْرُجُ مِنْ آخِرِ اللَّيْلِ إِلَى الْبَقِيعِ فَيَقُولُ :« السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ دَارَ قَوْمٍ مُؤْمِنِينَ وَأَتَاكُمْ مَا تُوعَدُونَ غَدًا مُؤَجَّلُونَ ، وَإِنَّا إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ بِكُمْ لاَحِقُونَ. اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لأَهْلِ بَقِيعِ الْغَرْقَدِ »

    “(Whenever it was her turn for Allah’s Messenger to spend the night with her), he would go out towards the end of the night to Baqi` graveyard and say, ‘Peace be upon you, O inhabitants of the believers. That will come to you tomorrow that had been promised, without delay, and, Allah willing, we shall join you soon. O Allah, forgive the inhabitants of Baqi` al-Gharqad.”
    Another report, thought to be trustworthy by Ibn `Abd al-Barr, has the following words of the Prophet (saws),

    مَا مِنْ رَجُل يَمُرّ بِقَبْرِ أَخِيهِ كَانَ يَعْرِفهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا فَيُسَلِّم عَلَيْهِ إِلَّا رَدَّ اللَّه عَلَيْهِ رُوحه حَتَّى يُرَدّ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام

    “There is no man who passes by another man’s grave whom he used to know in this world, and greets him, but Allah returns the man’s soul to him so that he can return the greeting.”
    Ibn al-Qayyim also argues with a report in Muslim which says that when death approached `Amr b. al-`Aas, he instructed the people around him in words,

    فَإِذَا أَنَا مُتُّ فَلاَ تَصْحَبْنِى نَائِحَةٌ وَلاَ نَارٌ فَإِذَا دَفَنْتُمُونِى فَشُنُّوا عَلَىَّ التُّرَابَ شَنًّا ثُمَّ أَقِيمُوا حَوْلَ قَبْرِى قَدْرَ مَا تُنْحَرُ جَزُورٌ وَيُقْسَمُ لَحْمُهَا حَتَّى أَسْتَأْنِسَ بِكُمْ وَأَنْظُرَ مَاذَا أُرَاجِعُ بِهِ رُسُلَ رَبِّى.

    “When I am dead, let no lamenting woman accompany my coffin, nor carry any light. When you have buried me, throw some dust on me but tarry around my grave for as long as it takes to slaughter a goat and distribute its mutton, so that I might draw strength from you and decide how I should respond to the messengers of my Lord (who will arrive to question him).”
    In fact, Shanqiti continues, Nawawi wrote in his Rawd al-Talibin, in effect: It is desirable that the dead should be encouraged immediately after the burial. One might say,

    يَا عَبْدَ اللَّهِ يَا ابْنَ أَمَةِ اللَّهِ اُذْكُرْ مَا خَرَجْت عَلَيْهِ مِنْ الدُّنْيَا : شَهَادَةَ أَنْ لَا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ، وَأَنَّ الْجَنَّةَ حَقٌّ ، وَأَنَّ النَّارَ حَقٌّ ، وَأَنَّ الْبَعْثَ حَقٌّ ، وَأَنَّ السَّاعَةَ آتِيَةٌ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهَا ، وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ بَعَثَ مَنْ فِي الْقُبُورِ ، وَأَنَّك رَضِيت بِاَللَّهِ رَبًّا ، وَبِالْإِسْلَامِ دِينًا ، وَبِمُحَمَّدٍ نَبِيًّا ، وَبِالْقُرْآنِ إمَامًا ، وَبِالْكَعْبَةِ قِبْلَةً ، وَبِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ إخْوَانًا

    “O son of a slave of Allah, O son of Allah’s maidservant, recall the words you said at the time you left the world: the testimony la ilaha illa Allahu, wa Muhammadur Rasul Allah. Recall that Paradise is true, the Fire is true, the Resurrection is true, that the Hour has to come and that Allah will resurrect those in the graves; and that you were happy with Allah as your Lord, with Islam as your religion, with Muhammad as the Prophet, with the Qur’an as your guide, with Ka`bah as your Qiblah and with the believers as your brothers.” This, says Nawawi, has been reported of the Prophet (saws).
    These ahadith, concludes Shanqiti, do not contradict the Qur’an. These reports are merely saying that the dead cannot hear the kind of hearing that can be of any profit to them. Thus the Qur’an does not deny this when it says they cannot hear. The term “sima`” then, has to be understood in a specific sense.
    Ibn al-Qayyim also argues, says Shanqiti, with the story of `Awf b. Malik who saw Al-Sa`b Juthama in his dream. The latter instructed him to pay off 10 Dinars out of the money he had left to a certain Jew from whom he had borrowed, but could not pay back. `Awf executed the will taking off 10 Dinar from what Al-Sa`ab had left, before distribution among the heirs could take place. We have another incident of the same class. It involves a man like Abu Bakr who saw Thabit b. Shammas in his dream. Thabit requested him to pay back loans on him and free such and such a slave. Abu Bakr acted accordingly. Now, argues Ibn al-Qayyim, if the dead can appear in someone’s dream, then why not the other way around, viz., the dead hearing the living? [Strangely, Ibn al-Qayyim quotes some weak reports and then says that they acquire strength from the fact that Muslims of many regions have adopted them for practice: Au.].
    Shanqiti then adds his remark that he is aware that this opinion of Ibn al-Qayyim has not been accepted by other scholars who have said that the evidences are not strong enough and that Imam Ahmad practiced no such thing. Furthermore, they say, it is only Muslims of the Syrian regions who seem to practice it.
    Shanqiti’s discussion ends here.
    There is another hadith which says,

    حَيْثُ مَا مَرَرْتَ بِقَبْرِ كَافِرٍ فَبَشِّرْهُ بِالنَّارِ

    “Whenever you pass by the grave of a pagan, give him glad tidings of the Fire.” Nevertheless, a careful study suggests that in all such cases as above, Allah returns the souls of those dead that He wills, at the time they are addressed. This seems to apply even to our Prophet. He said, according to a hadith in Abu Da’ud and others, which Ibn Hajr declared trustworthy, the Prophet (saws) said,

    إِنَّ مِنْ أَفْضَلِ أَيَّامِكُمْ يَوْمَ الْجُمُعَةِ فِيهِ خُلِقَ آدَمُ ، وَفِيهِ قُبِضَ ، وَفِيهِ النَّفْخَةُ ، وَفِيهِ الصَّعْقَةُ ، فَأَكْثِرُوا عَلَيَّ مِنَ الصَّلاةِ فِيهِ ، فَإِنَّ صَلاتَكُمْ مَعْرُوضَةٌ عَلَيَّ ، قَالُوا : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ، وَكَيْفَ تُعْرَضُ عَلَيْكَ صَلاتُنَا وَقَدْ أَرَمْتَ ؟ يَقُولُونَ قَدْ بَلِيتَ ، قَالَ : إِنَّ اللَّهَ حَرَّمَ عَلَى الأَرْضِ أَنْ تَأْكُلَ أَجْسَادَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ

    “The best of your days is Friday. Therefore send peace unto me as much as you can during its day and night, for, your peace formula is presented to me.” They (those around) asked, “How can our peace formulae be presented to you when you would have been reduced to dust?” He replied, “Allah has forbidden that the earth should eat the bodies of the Prophets.”
    It might be noticed here that the dead are reduced to dust in their graves, and therefore, if peace is sent to them, they cannot receive them unless Allah so wills. The majority of scholars are therefore of the opinion that ordinarily the dead cannot hear from their graves, especially after the first initial hours (Au.).
    Mufti Shafi` calls our attention to the fact that in all, there are three places in the Qur’an where hearing by the dead has been referred to (at this point, at 35: 22 and at 30: 52), and at all places it said that they cannot be made to hear, implying it is not in our power to make them hear. But It should not be concluded that Allah cannot make them hear, when He wishes them to.

    وَمَا أَنْتَ بِهَادِي الْعُمْيِ عَنْ ضَلَالَتِهِمْ ۖ إِنْ تُسْمِعُ إِلَّا مَنْ يُؤْمِنُ بِآيَاتِنَا فَهُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ (81)

    27|81| Nor are you going to guide the blind out of their error. You cannot make any to hear but he who believes in Our signs and so they surrender.

    وَإِذَا وَقَعَ الْقَوْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ أَخْرَجْنَا لَهُمْ دَابَّةً مِنَ الْأَرْضِ تُكَلِّمُهُمْ أَنَّ النَّاسَ كَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا لَا يُوقِنُونَ (82)

    27|82| And when the Word is fulfilled against them,103 We shall bring forth for them a beast out of the earth, that will speak to them that the people would not believe in Our signs.104

    103. We can look into a possible general meaning before going into the specific. Asad writes: “I.e., when the truth becomes obvious to them against all their expectations, and thus confounds them utterly: an allusion to the approach of the Last Hour, Resurrection and God’s Judgment, all of which they were wont to regard as ‘fables of the ancient times.’”
    And now for the specific: In the opinion of Ibn `Umar and `Atiyyah, this will happen when the Muslims give up enjoining the good and prohibiting the wrong (Ibn Jarir).
    According to other reports `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud said that it will happen with the death of scholars, the loss of knowledge, and withdrawal of the Qur’an. He also said, “Recite the Qur’an often before it is withdrawn.” He was asked, “These written copies could be withdrawn, but what about what is in the hearts?” He replied, “A night will pass over them and by morning they will find themselves without it. They will forget the testimony ‘la ilaha ..’ and will resort to poetry and sayings of the jahiliyy period. That will be the time when the Word will come true against them.” According to another opinion however, the allusion by the Word coming true against them is to “chastisement.”
    A third opinion is that it will happen when the situation will be the same as it was when it was said about the nation of Nuh (11: 36),

    { لَنْ يُؤْمِنَ مِنْ قَوْمِكَ إِلَّا مَنْ قَدْ آمَنَ } [هود: 36]

    “Indeed, none of your people will ever come to believe, except for him who has already believed.”
    That is, just as chastisement became necessary at that point, it will also become necessary at the time of the emergence of the Beast. Hence the Prophet’s words as in Muslim,

    ثَلاَثٌ إِذَا خَرَجْنَ لاَ يَنْفَعُ نَفْسًا إِيمَانُهَا لَمْ تَكُنْ آمَنَتْ مِنْ قَبْلُ أَوْ كَسَبَتْ فِى إِيمَانِهَا خَيْرًا طُلُوعُ الشَّمْسِ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا وَالدَّجَّالُ وَدَابَّةُ الأَرْضِ

    “Three there are, after whose appearance, no one’s belief will be of no benefit to a man, if he had not believed earlier, or had earned good in its belief: sunrise from the West, Dajjal, and the Beast of the earth” (Qurtubi).
    Ibn `Umar is also reported to have thought that the beast in question will appear in Makkah (Ibn Jarir). But the reports are unconfirmed (Au.).
    104. It was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Hasan and Qatadah that the said Animal will speak to the people (in the manner of men’s speech) – Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir.
    In fact, `Ali believed that it will converse with people. `Ata’ al-Khurasani opined that it will say (the Qur’anic words), “that the people would not believe in Our signs.” Ibn Jarir has adopted this opinion, but, personally I feel, writes Ibn Kathir, it needs a second consideration.
    A second opinion of Ibn `Abbas has been that “tukalli-muhum” is actually “takli-muhum” meaning “tujri-huhum”, i.e., it will injure them (perhaps meaning brand them: Au.). A third opinion from him is that it will do both, speak to them [the believers] as well as injure them [the unbelievers] - Qurtubi. This opinion is in `Abd b. Humayd, Ibn Marduwayh and Ibn Abi Hatim (Shawkani).
    Hasan also expressed this opinion. Obviously, there is no contradiction between the two (Ibn Kathir).
    Hadith and other religious literature have several mentiona of this Animal. A hadith in Ahmad, Muslim and other books reports Usayd al-Ghifari,

    لا تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ حَتَّى يَكُونَ عَشْرُ آيَاتٍ : الدَّجَّالُ ، وَالدُّخَانُ ، وَطُلُوعُ الشَّمْسِ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا ، وَدَابَّةُ الأَرْضِ ، وَيَأْجُوجُ وَمَأْجُوجُ ، وَثَلاثَةُ خُسُوفٍ : خَسْفٌ بِالْمَشْرِقِ ، وَخَسْفٌ بِالْمَغْرِبِ ، وَخَسْفٌ بِجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِ ، وَنَارٌ تَخْرُجُ مِنْ قَعْرِ عَدَنِ أَبْيَنَ تَسُوقُ النَّاسَ إِلَى الْمَحْشَرِ ، تَنْزِلُ مَعَهُمْ إِذَا نَزَلُوا ، وَتَقِيلُ مَعَهُمْ إِذَا قَالُوا

    “The Prophet (saws) arrived upon us when we were discussing the Hour. He said, ‘It will not come forth until you have seen ten signs: Sunrise from the West, Smoke, the Animal, appearance of Ya’juj and Ma’juj, `Isa ibn Maryam’s appearance, Dajjal, and three cavings-in (of the earth): in the West, in the East and in the Arabian Peninsula, and, finally, a Fire that will start from the depths of `Adan (Eden) that will drive the people (to the Field of Resurrection – Syria: Au.), halting with them where they halt (for the night), and taking a siesta with them where they take siesta.’”
    Another report in Muslim is on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Amr who said,

    إِنَّ أَوَّلَ الآيَاتِ خُرُوجًا طُلُوعُ الشَّمْسِ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا وَخُرُوجُ الدَّابَّةِ عَلَى النَّاسِ ضُحًى وَأَيُّهُمَا مَا كَانَتْ قَبْلَ صَاحِبَتِهَا فَالأُخْرَى عَلَى إِثْرِهَا قَرِيبًا

    “I have remembered three words from the Prophet (saws) that I will never forget. I heard the Messenger of Allah say, ‘The first of the signs in appearance is sunrise from the West and the appearance of the Animal for the people by the noon. So, whichever of the two happens earlier than its companion, the other will be on its heels.’”
    Muslim has yet another hadith. Abu Hurayrah reports the Prophet (saws),

    بَادِرُوا بِالأَعْمَالِ سِتًّا طُلُوعَ الشَّمْسِ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا أَوِ الدُّخَانَ أَوِ الدَّجَّالَ أَوِ الدَّابَّةَ أَوْ خَاصَّةَ أَحَدِكُمْ أَوْ أَمْرَ الْعَامَّةِ

    “Hasten up with deeds before six: Sunrise from its West, Smoke, Dajjal, the Beast, the happening of one of you, and the common affair” (Ibn Kathir).
    In the above report the words “the happening of one of you” have been interpreted by scholars such as Nawawi and Munawi to mean “death;” (i.e., death of one of you, or, maybe, death of one of your favorites); while the words “common affair” have been interpreted by Munawi as meaning the Day of Judgment (Au.).
    There is another report in Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Abu Da’ud Tayalisi which says the Animal will carry Musa’s staff and Sulayman’s ring, who will stamp the people as believers and unbelievers, so that people will address one another as, “O so and so an Unbeliever,” and “O so and so a Believer.” But the narrative is weak. Its shorter version has also been declared weak by Tirmidhi as well as Suyuti with Munawi’s agreement. Then there is one in Hakim’s Mustadrak,

    عن أبي الطفيل قال : كنا جلوسا عند حذيفة فذكرت الدابة فقال حذيفة رضي الله عنه : إنها نخرج ثلاث خرجات في بعض البوادي ثم تكمن ثم تخرج في بعض القرى حتى يذعروا و حتى تهريق فيها الأمراء الدماء ثم تكمن قال : فبينما الناس عند أعظم المساجد و أفضلها و أشرفها حتى قلنا المسجد الحرام و ما سماه إذ ارتفعت الأرض و يهرب الناس و يبقي عامة من المسلمين يقولون : إنه لن ينجينا من أمر الله شيء فتخرج فتجلو وجوههم حتى تجعلها كالكواكب الدرية و تتبع الناس جيران في الرباع شركاء في الأموال و أصحاب في الإسلام - هذا حديث صحيح على شرط الشيخين ولم يخرجاه - تعليق الذهبي قي التلخيص : على شرط البخاري ومسلم - المستدرك

    Abu Tufayl reported, “We were seated with Hudhayfa (b. al-Yaman) when the Animal was mentioned. He said, ‘It will have three appearances in some of the valleys and disappear. Then it will appear in some of the villages that will scare (the people) and the rulers will shed blood. Then it will disappear. Then, as the people will be near the largest mosque, the superior most and the most honored’ – until we said, “(Perhaps) the Masjid al-Haram” but he did not name it – “when (Hudhayfa continued) the earth will rise and the people will flee; only the common Muslims will remain saying, ‘Nothing will rescue us from Allah’s command.’ It will reappear and brighten their faces to the extent of making them bright as stars. It will follow the people who will be neighbors in the apartments, sharing the wealth and companions in Islam.” (Dhahabi evaluated it as on the same footing as those of Bukhari and Muslim) - Au..
    Ahmad and Ibn Marduwayh have recorded on the authority of Abu Umamah recounting the Prophet (saws) as having said,

    تَخْرُجُ الدَّابَّةُ فَتَسِمُ النَّاسَ عَلَى خَرَاطِيمِهِمْ ثُمَّ يَغْمُرُونَ فِيكُمْ حَتَّى يَشْتَرِيَ الرَّجُلُ الْبَعِيرَ فَيَقُولُ مِمَّنْ اشْتَرَيْتَهُ فَيَقُولُ اشْتَرَيْتُهُ مِنْ أَحَدِ الْمُخَطَّمِينَ

    “The Animal will emerge and stamp on their noses. Thereafter they will go about amongst you until a man will purchase an animal and when asked, ‘Whom did you buy it from?’ he will answer, ‘From one of the stamped one” (Shawkani).
    The narrators of this report are all those whom the Sahih authors used except for one, `Umar b. `Abdul Rahman, who was in any case trustworthy (S. Ibrahim).
    Alusi refutes the opinions that there will be several such Animals, as he also refutes the opinion that it will actually be a human being. This is supported by Muhammad b. Ka`b al-Qurazi’s untrustworthy narrative that when `Ali was asked about it he remarked that it will not have a tail but a beard. (But many animals have beards: Au.). Alusi also refutes the belief among some of the Shi`ah that it was `Ali himself who was the Dabbah. They seem to have several reports to this effect. One of them says that somebody asked `Ammar b. Yasir, “Abu Yaqzan! An ayah of the Book disturbs my heart.” He asked, “What ayah is it?” The man said, “When the Word is fulfilled against them .. What Dabbah is it?” `Ammar said, “By Allah! I will not sit down, will not eat, nor will I drink until I have shown it to you. Then `Ammar proceeded with the man to the Amir al Mu’muninin `Ali, may Allah honor his face. He was eating dates with butter. He said, “Come in O Abu Yaqzan!” So `Ammar sat down and began to eat. His companion was surprised. When they came out he asked, “Glory to Allah. Didn’t you tell me that you will not sit down, will not eat nor drink until you have shown it to me?” `Ammar replied, “I have shown it to you if you have any sense.” Alusi adds that this story has been reported through Abu Dharr also; but all such reports are false. In fact, one or two reports tell us that `Ali himself had rebuffed the idea. Ibn Abi Hatim has it through Nazzal b. Saburah that `Ali was asked, “Some people say that you are the Dabbatu al-Ard!” `Ali denied it.
    The last report could not be checked for authenticity. Further, there has been a tendency among some of the contemporaries to treat the allusion as allegorical. In the words of one of them, “The ‘creature brought forth out of the earth,’ is apparently an allegory of man’s ‘earthly’ outlook on life – in other words, the soul-destroying materialism characteristic of the time preceding the Last Hour.” Earlier commentators have also encountered this idea and have refuted the tendency, such as Qurtubi (Au.).
    Mawdudi writes in defense: “As for the question of an animal talking to human beings in their language: this is one of the manifestations of God’s Power. God can grant the power of speech to whomsoever He wills. Before the Day of Resurrection, He will grant this power to a beast, but after the Resurrection, He will grant this power to the eyes, ears and skins of human beings and they will call out: ‘And the Day when the enemies of Allah will be gathered to the Fire, and will be sorted out until when they reach it, their ears and their eyes and their skins will bear witness against them concerning what they were doing’” (41: 19, 20).
    It is also significant to note that this Surah, and this one alone, informs us of the ability of some animals to hear (such as the ant and hoopoe) and the ability of some humans to hear their talk, although both share a world in which many humans are spiritually dead. It also mentions, and no where else in the Qur’an, that an animal will not only hear, but even talk to the people (Au.).

    وَيَوْمَ نَحْشُرُ مِنْ كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ فَوْجًا مِمَّنْ يُكَذِّبُ بِآيَاتِنَا فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ (83)

    27|83| The day We shall muster together out of every community a troop that cried lies to Our signs, and then they will be arranged (in ranks).

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءُوا قَالَ أَكَذَّبْتُمْ بِآيَاتِي وَلَمْ تُحِيطُوا بِهَا عِلْمًا أَمَّاذَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (84)

    27|84| Until, when they have all come, He will say, ‘Did you deny My revelations although you did not comprehend them in knowledge?105 Or what was it that you were doing?’

    105. The verse tells us by implication that one should not speak out his opinion in matters that one does not understand well. This is also applicable to some of the things that the Gnostics say, that not everyone is able to understand. Silence in the face of such statements is the best course of action (Thanwi).

    وَوَقَعَ الْقَوْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ بِمَا ظَلَمُوا فَهُمْ لَا يَنْطِقُونَ (85)

    27|85| And the Word will be fulfilled against them because of their wrongdoing, then they will not speak.

    أَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّا جَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ لِيَسْكُنُوا فِيهِ وَالنَّهَارَ مُبْصِرًا ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (86)

    27|86| Have they not observed that We have made the night so that they can repose in it, and the day sight-giving? Surely, in that are signs for a people who will believe.

    وَيَوْمَ يُنْفَخُ فِي الصُّورِ فَفَزِعَ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا مَنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ ۚ وَكُلٌّ أَتَوْهُ دَاخِرِينَ (87)

    27|87| And, the Day the Trumpet is blown, then, terrified will be whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth – excepting whom Allah wills; and every one will come to Him humbled.

    وَتَرَى الْجِبَالَ تَحْسَبُهَا جَامِدَةً وَهِيَ تَمُرُّ مَرَّ السَّحَابِ ۚ صُنْعَ اللَّهِ الَّذِي أَتْقَنَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ إِنَّهُ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَفْعَلُونَ (88)

    27|88| You will see the mountains and think that they are firmly fixed but they would be moving, like the movement of the clouds.106 Allah’s making, who gave perfection to everything.107 He is well aware of what you do.

    106. We have the same thing described elsewhere. Allah (swt) said (52: 9-10),

    {يَوْمَ تَمُورُ السَّمَاءُ مَوْرًا (9) وَتَسِيرُ الْجِبَالُ سَيْرًا} [الطور: 9، 10]

    “The Day when the heavens will shake with a tremendous shaking and the mountains will move in a wondrous manner.” In another place (18: 47),

    {وَيَوْمَ نُسَيِّرُ الْجِبَالَ وَتَرَى الْأَرْضَ بَارِزَةً وَحَشَرْنَاهُمْ فَلَمْ نُغَادِرْ مِنْهُمْ أَحَدًا} [الكهف: 47]

    “And the Day when We shall move the mountains and you will see the earth raised up” (Ibn Kathir).
    107. With the advancement of science, perfection in Allah’s creation is becoming more visible than ever. In fact, as the probe goes deeper, it is more the order, the intricate connections, and the perfection – both in animate as well as inanimate objects - which the scientists increasingly encounter, rather than what could be put to good human use. This of course is a vast subject. We shall have to contend ourselves with a few generalities and that too at the macro level rather than micro, which is all the more intricate and hence difficult to cover in a short passage. We shall presently look at merely the fine balance present at the cosmological level, which is only one aspect of the perfection in creation. We quote from a recent scientific publication which is not at all sympathetic to religion or religious ideas, in fact which rejects the anthropic principle: “(The gravitational constant is expressed in equation as G = 6.67259 x 10-11 m3kg-1s-2)… we might compare gravity’s strength with that of the three other fundamental forces. Doing so, we find that gravitation is remarkably weak. The weak nuclear force is 1028 – ten billion billion billion – times stronger than gravity. Electromagnetism is one hundred billion times stronger than that, and the strong nuclear force is a hundred times stronger than electromagnetism…
    “Imagine what would happen were gravity a little stronger. The consequence, it turns out, would be dire. Cosmic expansion would have halted and the universe would have collapsed long before life could have evolved anywhere. Even if expansion somehow continued, the stars would burn out too rapidly to incubate intelligent life on anything like a terrestrial timescale. The sun, for instance, would have lasted only about a billion years. (It is now estimated as 5 billion years old: Au.). Planets might not even exist. A planet represents a balance between the gravitational force that seeks to collapse it and the electromagnetic force that prop up its molecules. Were gravity stronger, planets would light up and become stars, or further collapse to become white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes. So life probably could not exist in a stronger gravity universe. If, on the other hand, we decrease the strength of gravity, we find that the primordial material of the big bang simply dissipates, like hot air from a blown tire, before the gravitational fields can gather it into planets, stars and galaxies. Life seems unlikely in that universe, too. So we’ve learned something interesting about gravity – that if it didn’t have just about exactly the strength it does, we wouldn’t be here to inquire into the matter.
    “Similar arguments can be applied to many other aspects of nature. Why is the universe so old? Because living creatures need carbon (the basis of terrestrial life) as well as other metals (which is why a good multivitamin pill contains minerals), and for a planet to have abundant carbon and iron it had to have formed from material that had been processed through precedent stars, all of which take billions of years. Why are neutrons slightly more massive than protons? Because if protons were just one percent heavier they would spontaneously decay into neutrons, in which case hydrogen atoms could not exist, nor stars shine: No stars, no life as we know it. Why does space have three dimensions rather than two or four? Because the knots and tangles of genetic material in living cells and the walls of organs can exist only in three dimensions” (The Whole Shebang by Timothy Ferris, Touchstone Publication, New York, 1995pp. 297, 298) - Au.

    مَنْ جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ خَيْرٌ مِنْهَا وَهُمْ مِنْ فَزَعٍ يَوْمَئِذٍ آمِنُونَ (89)

    27|89| Whoever brought good (deeds), for him will be better than it; and they will be secure from the terror of that day.108

    108. Ibn Kathir offers the following in connection with this verse:

    عُرْوَةَ بْنِ مَسْعُودٍ سَمِعْتُ رَجُلًا قَالَ لِعَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو إِنَّكَ تَقُولُ إِنَّ السَّاعَةَ تَقُومُ إِلَى كَذَا وَكَذَا قَالَ لَقَدْ هَمَمْتُ أَنْ لَا أُحَدِّثَكُمْ شَيْئًا إِنَّمَا قُلْتُ إِنَّكُمْ سَتَرَوْنَ بَعْدَ قَلِيلٍ أَمْرًا عَظِيمًا كَانَ تَحْرِيقَ الْبَيْتِ قَالَ شُعْبَةُ هَذَا أَوْ نَحْوَهُ ثُمَّ قَالَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَمْرٍو قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَخْرُجُ الدَّجَّالُ فِي أُمَّتِي فَيَلْبَثُ فِيهِمْ أَرْبَعِينَ لَا أَدْرِي أَرْبَعِينَ يَوْمًا أَوْ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً أَوْ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً أَوْ أَرْبَعِينَ شَهْرًا فَيَبْعَثُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَأَنَّهُ عُرْوَةُ بْنُ مَسْعُودٍ الثَّقَفِيُّ فَيَظْهَرُ فَيُهْلِكُهُ ثُمَّ يَلْبَثُ النَّاسُ بَعْدَهُ سِنِينَ سَبْعًا لَيْسَ بَيْنَ اثْنَيْنِ عَدَاوَةٌ ثُمَّ يُرْسِلُ اللَّهُ رِيحًا بَارِدَةً مِنْ قِبَلِ الشَّامِ فَلَا يَبْقَى أَحَدٌ فِي قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ ذَرَّةٍ مِنْ إِيمَانٍ إِلَّا قَبَضَتْهُ حَتَّى لَوْ أَنَّ أَحَدَهُمْ كَانَ فِي كَبِدِ جَبَلٍ لَدَخَلَتْ عَلَيْهِ قَالَ سَمِعْتُهَا مِنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَيَبْقَى شِرَارُ النَّاسِ فِي خِفَّةِ الطَّيْرِ وَأَحْلَامِ السِّبَاعِ لَا يَعْرِفُونَ مَعْرُوفًا وَلَا يُنْكِرُونَ مُنْكَرًا قَالَ فَيَتَمَثَّلُ لَهُمْ الشَّيْطَانُ فَيَقُولُ أَلَا تَسْتَجِيبُونَ فَيَأْمُرُهُمْ بِالْأَوْثَانِ فَيَعْبُدُونَهَا وَهُمْ فِي ذَلِكَ دَارَّةٌ أَرْزَاقُهُمْ حَسَنٌ عَيْشُهُمْ ثُمَّ يُنْفَخُ فِي الصُّورِ فَلَا يَسْمَعُهُ أَحَدٌ إِلَّا أَصْغَى لَهُ وَأَوَّلُ مَنْ يَسْمَعُهُ رَجُلٌ يَلُوطُ حَوْضَهُ فَيَصْعَقُ ثُمَّ لَا يَبْقَى أَحَدٌ إِلَّا صَعِقَ ثُمَّ يُرْسِلُ اللَّهُ أَوْ يُنْزِلُ اللَّهُ قَطْرًا كَأَنَّهُ الطَّلُّ أَوْ الظِّلُّ نُعْمَانُ الشَّاكُّ فَتَنْبُتُ مِنْهُ أَجْسَادُ النَّاسِ ثُمَّ يُنْفَخُ فِيهِ أُخْرَى فَإِذَا هُمْ قِيَامٌ يَنْظُرُونَ قَالَ ثُمَّ يُقَالُ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ هَلُمُّوا إِلَى رَبِّكُمْ وَقِفُوهُمْ إِنَّهُمْ مَسْئُولُونَ قَالَ ثُمَّ يُقَالُ أَخْرِجُوا بَعْثَ النَّارِ قَالَ فَيُقَالُ كَمْ فَيُقَالُ مِنْ كُلِّ أَلْفٍ تِسْعَ مِائَةٍ وَتِسْعَةً وَتِسْعِينَ فَيَوْمَئِذٍ يُبْعَثُ الْوِلْدَانُ شِيبًا وَيَوْمَئِذٍ يُكْشَفُ عَنْ سَاقٍ

    Someone told `Abdullah ibn `Amr: “What is this hadith that you narrate to the effect that the Last Hour will arrive at such and such a time?” He replied: “Hallowed be Allah, there is no god but Allah (or words to this effect). I have decided that I will not narrate anything to anyone from now on. I had only said that after some time you will see an important event - that the (sacred) House (Ka’ba) would be destroyed and such and such things will happen, surely they will.” Then he added, Allah’s Messenger said: “Dajjal will appear in my Ummah and remain for forty.” [I cannot say whether he meant forty days, forty months, or forty years]. “Allah will then send Jesus son of Maryam who will resemble `Urwah b Mas`ud. He will chase Dajjal and kill him. Then the people will live for seven years in such a state that there will be no ill-feeling of any kind between them. Thereafter Allah will send a cold wind from the Syrian region that none on the earth who has a speck of good in him will survive. So much so that if one of you entered the innermost part of a mountain, the wind will reach that place and seize him.’ I heard this from Allah’s Messenger.” He also said, “Only the most wicked will survive and they would be as nimble as birds with the characteristics of beasts. They will neither appreciate the good nor condemn the evil. Then Satan will go to them in human form and say: ‘Will you not respond?’ They will ask, ‘What do you want us to do?’ He will command them to worship idols. But, in spite of this, they will receive abundant sustenance and lead comfortable lives. Then the Trumpet will be blown and no one would hear it but would bend his neck to one side and raise it from the other side (trying to hear: Au.). The first to hear the Trumpet would be a person who will be busy repairing the water trough for his camels. He will swoon and the rest of the people will also swoon. Then Allah will send rains like dew and there would grow thereby bodies of the people. Then The Trumpet will be blown a second time and they will stand up and begin to look (around). It will be said: ‘O people. Proceed to your Lord.’ Further on, they will be stopped and questioned. Then it will be said: ‘Bring out a group meant for the Fire.’ It will be asked: ‘How many?’ It will be said: ‘Nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand for the Fire.’ That will be the day which would turn the children grey-haired because of terror and that would be the day about which it has been said (68: 42): ‘The Day when the shank is uncovered’” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَمَنْ جَاءَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَكُبَّتْ وُجُوهُهُمْ فِي النَّارِ هَلْ تُجْزَوْنَ إِلَّا مَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (90)

    27|90| As to he who brought evil,109 their faces will be dipped into the Fire. Are you being recompensed but for what you were doing?

    109. Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Abu Hurayrah, Anas b. Malik and many of the followers have unanimously said that the allusion by “good” is to the testimony “la ilaha ..” and by “evil” to shirk (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    إِنَّمَا أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَعْبُدَ رَبَّ هَٰذِهِ الْبَلْدَةِ الَّذِي حَرَّمَهَا وَلَهُ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ ۖ وَأُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ (91)

    27|91| I have been indeed commanded that I should worship the Lord of this land110 which He has declared sacred. And to Him belong all things. And I have been ordered that I should be of those who have submitted.

    110. The city is Makkah (and its surroundings: Au.), and the words “Lord of this land” are for expressing honor for the city and for demonstrating divine care for it (Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali further elucidates: “The Lord of this City. This was spoken in Makkah say about the 5th year before the Hijrat, when the holy Prophet (saws) and his adherents were being persecuted as enemies to the cult of Makkah. So far from being against the true spirit of the holy City of Makkah, it was actually in furtherance of that spirit, which had been overlaid by the idolatries and abominations of the Pagan Quraish. They are told that the new Teaching is from the Lord of Makkah itself, the One True God, Who had sanctified it in the time of Abraham. Lest they should think that it was a local or tribal or narrow cult, it is added that He is not only Lord of this City, but Lord of the Worlds, ‘to Whom belong all things’. It is a universal message; but how sad it would be if the Makkans, among whom it came first, were to reject it?”

    وَأَنْ أَتْلُوَ الْقُرْآنَ ۖ فَمَنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ ضَلَّ فَقُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُنْذِرِينَ (92)

    27|92| And that I should recite the Qur’an. So whosoever is rightly-guided, is rightly-guided for his own self; and he who goes astray, then (unto them you) say, ‘I am only of the warners.’

    وَقُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ سَيُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ فَتَعْرِفُونَهَا ۚ وَمَا رَبُّكَ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ (93)

    27|93| And say, ‘Praise belongs to Allah. In time He will show you His signs, and you shall recognize them;111 and your Lord is not unaware of what you do.’

    111. As Allah (swt) said elsewhere (41: 53),

    {سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ} [فصلت: 53]

    “We shall surely show them signs in the horizons and in their own selves until it becomes clear to them that this is the Truth” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).