Surat Al-Qaşaş

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
by
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير

PREPARATORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015

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References, abbreviations, and technical terms

Clue to References
Ahmad: Musnad by Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (d. 241 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, Muhammad Nasiruddin Albani, (d. 1420 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da`eefah wa al-Mawdu`ah, Muhammad Nasirudding Albani, , Al-Maktab al-Islami.
Alusi/Ruh: Ruh al Ma`ani Fi Tafsir Qur’an al `Azim Wa al Sab` al Mathani by Shihab al Din Sayyid Mahmood Alusi (d.1291 A.H.)
`Aqidah: `Aqidah Tahawiyyah, commentary Ibn Abi al-`Izz, (tr. By Syed Iqbal Zaheer, as Funamentals of Islamic Creed), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
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Hussain: Tafsir ibn Kathir, Hussain b. Ibrahim Zahran, ed.
Ibn Is-haq: Sirah Rasulullah, by Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 151 A.H.).
Ibn Jarir/Tabari: Jami` al Bayan Fi Tafsir al Qur’an by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310 A.H.)
Ibn Kathir: Tafsir al Qur’an al `Azim by `Imad al Din Abul Fida Isma`il ibn `Amr ibn Kathir (d.774 A.H.)
Ibn Majah, Sunan, Muhammad b. Yazid al-Qazwini, Maktabah al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut.
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Jami` Saghir: Fayd al-Qadir Sharh Jami` Saghir (of Jalaluddin Suyuti) by Muhammad `Abdul Ra’uf al-Munawi.
Kabir al: Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir, tafsir notes of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 A.H) collected by Dr. `Abdul Rahman `Umayrah.
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Ma`arif /Shafi`: Ma`arif al Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi` Deobandi (d. 1396 A.H.).
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Mughni al, Ibn Qudamah, al-Maqdisi, Ri’asat al-Idaratu al-Buuth al-`Ilmiyyah, Saudi Arabia.
Mulhim: Fath al-Mulhim, Shabbir Ahmad `Uthmani, and, Takmilatu Fath al-Mulhim, Taqiuddin `Uthmani, Dar al-Ulum, Karachi.
Muwatta’: Muwatta’ by Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 A.H.).
Nasa’i, Ahmad b. Shu`ayb, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Dar al-Rayyan li al-Turath, Cairo.
Nawawi: Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Sharfuddin al-Nawawi (d. 261 A.H.)
Penrice: A Dictionary and Glossary of the Qur’an, John Penrice, Gaurav Publishing House, 187
Qurtubi: Al-Jam`i Li ‘l Ahkam al Qur’an by Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al Ansari al Qurtubi (d.671 A.H.)
Raghib: Mu`jam Mufradat al-Qur’an by al-Raghib al-Asfahani (d. 503 A.H.)
Rawa‘e`: Rawa‘e` al-Bayan Tafsir Ayat al-Ahkam by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Razi: Tafsir al Fakhr al Razi by Muhammad al-Razi Fakhr al Din ibn Dia al Din `Umar (d.604 A.H.)
Sabuni: Safwatu al Tafasir by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Sahih ibn Hibban bi-Tarteeb Ibn Balban, `Ala’uddin `Ali b. Balban, , Mu’assasah al-Risalah, Beirut.
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Se`di: Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman, fir Tafsir al-Mannan, `Abdul Rahman b. Nasir Se`id.
Shawkani: Al-Fut-h al-Qadir by Muhammad ibn `Ali Shawkani (d.1255 A.H.)
S. Ibrahim: Ed. Al-Fath al-Qadir, by Shawkani
Sihah: Taj al-Lugha wa Sihah al-`Arabiyyah, Isma`il b. Nasr Hammad al-Jawhari, 393 A.H.
Sirah: Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah fi Daw Masadir al-Athliyyah, Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, Saudi Arabia 1992.
Sayyid Qutb/Qutb/Zilal: Fi Zilal al Qur’an by Sayyid Qutb (d.1386 A.H.).
Thanwi/Bayan: Bayan al Qur’an by Ashraf `Ali Thanwi (d.1361 A.H.)
Tuhfah: Tuhfah al-Ahwazi bi Sharh Jami` al-Tirmidhi by Muhammad ibn `Abdul Rahman Mubarakpuri.
Yusuf Ali: The Glorious Qur’an, Meaning and Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (d. 1953 A.H.).
Zafar Ahmad `Uthmani, I`la al-Sunan, Idaratu al-Islam wa `Ulum al-Islamiyyah, Karachi, Pakistan.
Zamakhshari/Kashshaf: Haqa’iq al- Tanzil Wa `Uyun al-Aqawil Fi Wujuh at-Ta‘wil by Abu al-Qasim Jarallah Mahmood b.`Umar al-Zamakhshari (d.538 A.H.).
Zarkashi: Al-Burhan Fi `Ulum al-Qur’an by Badruddin Muhammad bin `Abdullah al-Zarkashi (d. 794 A.H.), Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Note: The list above is not a complete bibliography, but rather books sort of more often referred.

________________________

Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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

_______________________

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

_______________________

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

________________________

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

______________________

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

______________________

  • Surah No. 28

    Meritsof the Surah

    1. Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah have said that this chapter is Makkan except for a verse which came down in Juhfah during the Hijrah journey. The verse in question is no. 85: “Surely He who ordained the Qur’an upon you, will surely bring you back to the place of return.” Muqatil however said that verses 52 to 55 are Madinan.
    Ma`dikarab says, “We went to `Abdullah ibn Mas` ud and asked him to recite to us Surah Ta Sin Mim, the two hundred. He said, ‘I do not have it. But rather, you should take it from someone who took it directly from the Prophet, say Khabbab b. al-Art.’ So I went to Khabbab b. al-Art and asked, ‘How did the Prophet recite? Was it Ta Sin Mim, or Ta Sin?’ He answered, ‘The Prophet used to recite them all’ (Qurtubi).
    The report is in Ahmad, Tabarani and Ibn Marduwayh, about which Suyuti has said that it has a good chain (Shawkani). Haythamiyy also mentioned it and approved the chain as in Ahmad (S. Ibrahim).
    As is usual with the hadith masters, they are primarily concerned with the chain of narratives, leaving out the meaning of the text, or its criticism, to other experts. With reference to the above report, we could not find a proper explanation of the ending words. Perhaps by saying "recite them all" Khabbab meant “he used to recite them both ways.” Again, `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud was an authority on the Qur’an. What did he mean when he said he did not have the Surah? Did he mean he did not take it directly from the Prophet, but rather, Khabbab did?
    Connection
    Alusi reports from Suyuti that the Qur’an mentioned a few incidents from the life of Musa in Al-Shu`ara, such as Fir`awn said, in v.18-19,

    {قَالَ أَلَمْ نُرَبِّكَ فِينَا وَلِيدًا وَلَبِثْتَ فِينَا مِنْ عُمُرِكَ سِنِينَ (18) وَفَعَلْتَ فَعْلَتَكَ الَّتِي فَعَلْتَ وَأَنْتَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ} [الشعراء: 18، 19]

    “Did we not raise you amongst us as a child, and you stayed with us many years of your life? But you committed a deed of yours that you committed, and you are of the ungrateful,” to which Musa replied, in v. 20-21,

    {قَالَ فَعَلْتُهَا إِذًا وَأَنَا مِنَ الضَّالِّينَ (20) فَفَرَرْتُ مِنْكُمْ لَمَّا خِفْتُكُمْ فَوَهَبَ لِي رَبِّي حُكْمًا وَجَعَلَنِي مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ} [الشعراء: 20، 21]

    “I did it then while I was of the unguided. So I fled from you when I feared you.” Then in the next Surah, Al-Naml, what happened from that point onward in Musa’s return journey was revealed. It said, v.7,

    {إِنِّي آنَسْتُ نَارًا} [النمل: 7]

    “I perceive a fire.”
    The Qur’an did not state at those places what happened in the intervening gaps. It picks up the story now in this chapter to fill in the gaps. Considering a few other verses of this and the last two chapters, which, according to Ibn `Abbas were revealed in this sequence, one can say that what was presented in brief in the previous two chapters, was expanded upon in this one, while what was detailed in the previous two, received brief attention in this one.
    We are indebted to Asad for pointing out the special characteristic of the story of Musa as it appears in this chapter. He writes: “It is noteworthy that most of this story depicts the purely human aspects of his life – that is to say, the impulses, perplexities and errors which are part of the human condition as such: aspects which the Qur’an stresses in order to counteract any possible tendency on the part of the pious to attribute ‘superhuman’ or, in the least resort, semi-divine qualities to God’s apostles. Appropriately, the surah ends with a sonorous evocation of the truth that ‘there is no deity save God’, and that ‘everything is bound to perish, save His [eternal] Self.’”
    He adds: “The presentation of Musa’s story in this chapter begins with his birth. Nowhere else in the Qur’an has his story started from this point although his stories are spread over several chapters in the Qur’an. This is because the first episode in Musa’s life, the difficult conditions prevailing at his birth, his isolation at birth from every power, the weakness of his people and their humiliations at the hands of Fir`awn .. all these go to serve the principal objective of this chapter and brings out the powerful, open, and challenging hand that works without any veil covering it and directly strikes at tyranny and oppression when humans become incapable of doing so, helping those weak ones who have no power to turn to and establish the persecuted ones who have no authority and no security. That was the meaning that the weak ones at Makkah were in the need to receive, to be reassured with, and which the rebellious, oppressive, and overwhelming majority pagans at Makkah were in the need of learning.”

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ طسم (1)

    28|1| Ta. Sin. Mim

    تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ (2)

    28|2| These are verses of a clear Book.2

    2. “Mubeen” has several connotations: a Book clear in itself, clearly depicting the truth, showing a clear path, as well as, clarifying its message, leaving no doubt about its intents and purposes, so that if somebody chooses a path other than that it shows, he shall not have the excuse of ambiguity of the text at his disposal. This is a proof of Qur’anic authenticity, which every other Scripture lacks (Au.).

    نَتْلُو عَلَيْكَ مِنْ نَبَإِ مُوسَىٰ وَفِرْعَوْنَ بِالْحَقِّ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (3)

    28|3| We recite to you a part of the story of Musa and Fir`awn in truth – for a people who believe.

    إِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ عَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَجَعَلَ أَهْلَهَا شِيَعًا يَسْتَضْعِفُ طَائِفَةً مِنْهُمْ يُذَبِّحُ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيِي نِسَاءَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ (4)

    28|4| Indeed Fir`awn rose up in the land3 and divided its inhabitants into factions,4 weakening a group of them, slaughtering their sons and keeping their women alive.5 Indeed, he was of the corrupters.6


    3. That is, writes Zamakhshari, the land of Egypt and Syria, (and elsewhere), Madyan excluded.
    4. I.e., “.. undoubtedly referring to the division of people into ‘high’ and ‘low-born’ (Asad) a practice now widely prevalent among all kinds of people (Au.).
    5. Reports (and not ahadith: Au.) say that it was Ibrahim (asws) who had predicted that one day an Israelite will bring down the power and rule of the Fara`inah. The Children of Israel had been passing the tradition from generation to generation, which finally reached the ears of the Copts (Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    According to Suddi, the Fir`awn contemporary to Musa dreamed that a fire had started from Jerusalem that reached the Egyptian lands which burned down houses of the Copts but spared those of the Israelites. The dream was interpreted by the Egyptian priestly class to mean that someone was to rise from the Israelites who would destroy Egypt. So Fir`awn ordered that every new-born male child was to be killed at birth and the general Israelite public to be put to hard and meanly labor. This was the division that Allah (swt) spoke of in this ayah (Tabari, Razi, Qurtubi).
    Qurtubi notes Zajjaj as commenting on the intelligence of the unbelievers, examples of which are reported to us on a daily basis from the elitists of the unbelievers in reference to Islam and Muslims: Consider Fir`awn’s idiocy. If the soothsayers had predicted that a man was to rise from among the Israelites who would destroy his kingdom, then there were two possibilities. Either, they were right in their interpretation, (which meant it would happen no matter what you did), in which case there was no point in killing the new-born males, or they were wrong, in which case too there was no point in killing the new-born (Au.).
    6. The Salaf understood the “`ard” of this occurrence as meaning, lands of Egypt and Syria.

    وَنُرِيدُ أَنْ نَمُنَّ عَلَى الَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَنَجْعَلَهُمْ أَئِمَّةً وَنَجْعَلَهُمُ الْوَارِثِينَ (5)

    28|5| Whereas We wished to confer favor upon those who were weakened in the land7 and make them leaders,8 and make them the inheritors.

    7. “.. an allusion to the historical fact that the Hebrews were the first to accept monotheistic creed in a clear, unequivocal formulation..” (Asad).
    8. See Surah Ta-ha, note 33 for explanation.

    وَنُمَكِّنَ لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَنُرِيَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ وَجُنُودَهُمَا مِنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَحْذَرُونَ (6)

    28|6| And establish them in the land, and show Fir`awn and Haman9 – and their forces – that which they were dreading.

    9. Majid discusses the identity of Haman. He writes: “Haman does not seem to be a personal name, but on the analogy of Pharaoh, it may well be only an official designation. That there was a great Egyptian god by the name of Amon admits of no doubt. ‘He was originally the local divinity of Thebes, but on the accession of the eighteenth dynasty, became the supreme ruler of the Egyptian Pantheon, and official god of the empire.’ (JE. I. p. 526). ‘Amon became the great god of the most important age of Egypt – the XVIIIth-XXth dynasties.’ (ERE. V. p. 247). ‘Later, Amon obtained pre-eminence and, with the rise of Thebes, became the official chief god of Egypt (EBi. C. 3429). And it is quite likely that the official acting as the high priest, in the king’s absence, of Amon’s temple may have borne a title closely akin to what in Arabic pronouncement is known as Haman.’ This is the more probable when we remember that it was impossible for the Egyptian king, who was the responsible head of a highly complex system of government, to exercise his high-priestly functions except on rare occasions, he accordingly was obliged to depute them to the heads, or higher members, of the various local priesthoods.’ (ERE. X. p. 294). Haman is here coupled with Pharaoh, as the latter, next to the king, was the highest dignity of the state. The Theban High Priest of Ammon, was recognized beyond dispute the chief of the sacerdotal order, and the next person in the kingdom after the king.’ (Rawlinson, Ancient Egypt, p. 289).”
    Asad’s own research confirms Majid’s. He writes: “This Haman, who is mentioned several times in the Qur’an as Pharaoh’s chief advisor, is not to be confused with the Persian Haman of the Old Testament (The Book of Esther iii ff.). Most probably, the word ‘Haman’ as used in the Qur’an is not a proper noun at all but the Arabicized echo of the compound designation Ha-Amen given to every high priest of the Egyptian god Amon. Since at the time in question the cult of Amon was paramount in Egypt, his high priest held a rank second only to that of the reigning Pharaoh. The assumption that the person spoken of in the Qur’an as Haman was indeed high priest of the cult of Amon, is strengthened by Pharaoh’s demand (mentioned in verse 38 of this surah as well as in 40: 36-37) that Haman erect for him ‘a lofty tower’ from which he could ‘have a look at [or ‘ascend to’] the god of Moses’: which may be, among other things, an allusion to the hieratic purpose of the great pyramids of Egypt and to the function of the high priest as their chief architect.”

    وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ أُمِّ مُوسَىٰ أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ ۖ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَيْهِ فَأَلْقِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ وَلَا تَخَافِي وَلَا تَحْزَنِي ۖ إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ إِلَيْكِ وَجَاعِلُوهُ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (7)

    28|7| So We sent inspiration to Musa’s mother10 (to the effect): ‘Suckle him. Then, when you fear for him, place him into the river;11 and fear not, nor grieve. We shall restore him to you and shall make him (one) of the Messengers.’12

    10. Although the term used is “awhayna,” the revelation was not the type that is sent to Messengers, but rather, as Suddi has said, inspiration placed in the heart (Ibn Jarir).
    There is consensus of opinion among the scholars of Islam that she was not a Prophetess. It is possible that an angel was sent to her just as an angel was sent to test three men: the blind, the bald and the leper. Angels also greeted `Imran although he was not a Prophet (Qurtubi). See surah Al `Imran note 76 of this work.
    11. The precedence of the words “suckle him” suggest that she was not asked to place the infant into the sea the day of his birth, but rather, resort to it whenever she feared the inspectors’ visit (Tabari).
    The textual word “yamm” is used for any large amount of water, applicable both to river as well as sea.
    12. As Ibn Zayd said, these words were said at a time when she had placed the casket containing Musa into the Nile but had forgotten to tie up the rope to a peg. The casket floated away (Ibn Jarir).
    Asma`ee said that once he praised a bedouin girl for her poetry. She replied, “Is that any eloquence in comparison to ‘Suckle him. Then, when you fear for him, cast him into the river; and fear not, nor grieve; We shall restore him to you and shall make him one of the Messengers!?’ In this short verse Allah mentioned two commands, two prohibitions and two promises (Qurtubi).
    Two commands: Suckle him, and, cast him into the river
    Two prohibitions: Fear not, and, grieve not
    Two promises: We shall restore him, and, make him a Messenger (Au.).

    فَالْتَقَطَهُ آلُ فِرْعَوْنَ لِيَكُونَ لَهُمْ عَدُوًّا وَحَزَنًا ۗ إِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ وَجُنُودَهُمَا كَانُوا خَاطِئِينَ (8)

    28|8| Then the household of Fir`awn picked him up13 to be an enemy to them and a cause of grief. Verily, Fir`awn, Haman and their forces were of the erroneous ones.14

    13. The allusion by the words, “Fir`awn’s folks” is to the slave girls of Fir`awn’s wife who were bathing in the Nile. Another opinion is that Fir`awn and his courtiers used to assemble by evenings at the bank of the river Nile with Asiyyah at his side. It is his courtiers who had picked up the casket (Tabari).
    14. Literally, those who commit mistakes. Hence Zamakhshari’s comment: They committed mistakes in everything that they did, although “sinning” is another permissible connotation.

    وَقَالَتِ امْرَأَتُ فِرْعَوْنَ قُرَّتُ عَيْنٍ لِي وَلَكَ ۖ لَا تَقْتُلُوهُ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَنْفَعَنَا أَوْ نَتَّخِذَهُ وَلَدًا وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (9)

    28|9| Said Fir`awn’s wife, ‘Comfort of the eyes, for me and for you. Kill him not;15 perhaps he will profit us,16 or we will adopt him as a son’ – and they perceived not.17

    15. In keeping with the practice of killing off all male offspring of the Israelites, Fir`awn wished to do away with Musa too, having recognized him as of Israeli origin. But Asiyyah bint Muzahim argued him out of his intention (Ibn Kathir).
    16. Ibn `Abbas said that when Asiyyah said, “Perhaps he will benefit us,” Fir`awn remarked dryly, “Maybe you, but not me.” The turn of events proved his words true. Musa benefited Asiyyah, who believed in him when he returned from Madyan as a Messenger, but not Fir`awn who refused and was drowned (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    This verse tells us by implication that one ought to interpret events occurring presently as foreboding good and, consequently expect good to unfold itself in the future.
    17. That is, as Mujahid and Qatadah said, they perceived not that their destruction would be at his hands (Ibn Jarir).

    وَأَصْبَحَ فُؤَادُ أُمِّ مُوسَىٰ فَارِغًا ۖ إِنْ كَادَتْ لَتُبْدِي بِهِ لَوْلَا أَنْ رَبَطْنَا عَلَىٰ قَلْبِهَا لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (10)

    28|10| And the heart of Musa’s mother became void.18 She wellnigh disclosed him, had We not fortified her heart – that she should be of the believers.19

    18. Anyone who lost a dear one knows what it feels like in the heart for the first few days: it is as if there is a void where the heart used to be, or, as if within the heart there is a place vacant (Au.).
    Although there are one or two other interpretations, the preferred meaning is that her heart became empty of everything except the remembrance of Musa. She could not think of anything or talk about anything except him. The pronoun in “bihi” then is for Musa’s remembrance which reached such levels that it was feared that she would reveal the birth and loss of child to his enemies. This is the interpretation offered by Ibn `Abbas (Ibn Jarir). This interpretation is in Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, and Hakim, with the latter declaring it trustworthy (Alusi, Shawk ani).
    19. That is, a believer in Allah’s promise when He said to her, “We shall restore him to you” (Qurtubi).

    وَقَالَتْ لِأُخْتِهِ قُصِّيهِ ۖ فَبَصُرَتْ بِهِ عَنْ جُنُبٍ وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (11)

    28|11| She said to his sister, ‘Follow him.’ So she observed him from a distance while they perceived not.20


    20. Another possible meaning is that she spotted Musa from a distance while he was being picked up, though she herself was not within their sight. Alternatively, as some reports suggest, she spotted Musa outside the palace gates as the attendants were looking for someone who could nurse the child. For a few other details see Ta-ha, note 33.

    وَحَرَّمْنَا عَلَيْهِ الْمَرَاضِعَ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَقَالَتْ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ أَهْلِ بَيْتٍ يَكْفُلُونَهُ لَكُمْ وَهُمْ لَهُ نَاصِحُونَ (12)

    28|12| Now We had forbidden him aforetime (all) wet nurses.21 So she suggested, ‘Shall I direct you to a household that will take care of him and will be his sincere well-wishers?’

    21. The word “maradi`” could also mean the place of suck, or, breasts (Zamakhshari, Alusi).

    فَرَدَدْنَاهُ إِلَىٰ أُمِّهِ كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا وَلَا تَحْزَنَ وَلِتَعْلَمَ أَنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (13)

    28|13| Thus We restored him to his mother that she might be comforted, and not grieve; and that she might know that Allah’s promise is true but most of them know not.22

    22. Several commentators discuss in detail how it all happened that ultimately Musa was restored to his mother. But since the reports have not been checked for their authenticity, we ignore them. Nevertheless, one or two points could be discussed, e.g., did it not occur to Fir`awn’s attendants how Musa’s mother could have milk without giving birth to a child? The answer given is that Musa’s mother explained by saying that she had a son to suckle, Harun, who was born the year before, which was another reason, it has been said, why she said she could not move into the Palace, when asked to do so. There was perhaps another stronger reason, which the commentators do not point out, as to why Musa’s mother could not be identified as his mother: he was pretty dark, as in sahih ahadith, (but carefully concealed by Jews and Christians), while she was most probably fair. This author has known an extremely dark person, although none in the extended family was any worse than light brown (Au.).

    وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَاسْتَوَىٰ آتَيْنَاهُ حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ (14)

    28|14| Then, when he had reached puberty and attained full strength,23 We gave him judgment and knowledge.24 Thus do We reward those who do good.

    23. This is how Ibn Jarir explains “Istawa.” Zamakhshari writes that it is that stage in life after which no further physical development is possible.
    Sayyid adds: “(At this point we enter into a new phase of Musa’s life). As for what happened after he was restored to his mother, how was he brought up in the royal Pharaonic palaces, what kind of relationship existed between him and his mother after the suckling period was over, what was Musa’s status in the palaces and outside them after he had grown up, what were his beliefs, while he was being readied under Allah’s own eye .. these are all details that the Qur’an did not discuss, but rather, we are taken straight to the next stage in his life and to the next episode.”
    24. “This implies that he was pious and righteous from early manhood, and was at no time of his adult life an unbeliever” (Majid).

    وَدَخَلَ الْمَدِينَةَ عَلَىٰ حِينِ غَفْلَةٍ مِنْ أَهْلِهَا فَوَجَدَ فِيهَا رَجُلَيْنِ يَقْتَتِلَانِ هَٰذَا مِنْ شِيعَتِهِ وَهَٰذَا مِنْ عَدُوِّهِ ۖ فَاسْتَغَاثَهُ الَّذِي مِنْ شِيعَتِهِ عَلَى الَّذِي مِنْ عَدُوِّهِ فَوَكَزَهُ مُوسَىٰ فَقَضَىٰ عَلَيْهِ ۖ قَالَ هَٰذَا مِنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۖ إِنَّهُ عَدُوٌّ مُضِلٌّ مُبِينٌ (15)

    28|15| And he entered the city at a time when its people were inattentive.25 He found there two men fighting: this from his own faction and this from among his enemy. Now the one that was of his faction appealed to him against the one who was from among his enemy. Musa struck him26 and finished him off.27 He exclaimed, ‘This is one of Satan’s doing. Surely, he is a misguiding, manifest enemy.’

    25. It was perhaps midday, the markets were closed, and so there weren’t any people around in the streets (Ibn Jarir).
    26. “Wakaza-wakz” is to fold the fingers and assault with the hand (Zamakhshari), what is known as a punch or a box today (Au.).
    27. Although he did not intend to kill him (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَغَفَرَ لَهُ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ (16)

    28|16| He said, ‘O my Lord! Surely I have wronged my soul. Therefore, forgive me.’ So He forgave him. He is indeed the Forgiving, the Merciful.28

    28. Alusi comments on why Musa had to seek forgiveness for an unintended murder. First he points out that the Prophets of Allah never commit a major sin at any time in their lives. So, Musa was blameless on that account. However, he was remorseful because after the man died, he might have analyzed his behavior. Did he over-react? Should he not have merely pushed the man away instead of punching him? Yes he could. He had indeed proven hasty which was unbecoming of a man of his status. Hence he said, ‘O my Lord! Surely I have wronged my soul. Therefore, forgive me.’ And he was forgiven. He sought forgiveness because commitment of an unintentional wrong by the pious is considered a sin by those who are closer to Allah.
    Mufti Shafi` emphasizes the illegality of a Muslim killing a non-harbi pagan, or confiscating his property. He quotes Ibn Hajr as writing in his Sharh al-Bukhari as follows, “The fact of pagans and Muslims living together in peace, makes their life and property unlawful unto the Muslims. Thanwi’s opinion is close to this, writes Mufti Shafi`, and was the last of his legal opinions that he heard from him on the 2nd of Rajab 1362 A.H., Thanwi succumbing to his prolonged illness, breathing his last on the 16th of Rajab the same year.
    Mufti Shafi` perhaps thought it wise to emphasize - in view of the prevailing situation in the Indian sub-continent, where Muslim life and property is constantly under attack the question arise: should they retaliate in a similar manner, or sit back doing nothing? The answer is, so long as the state does not consider attacks against them as legal, they might defend themselves by whatever means possible, but not retaliate in the manner in which they are attacked, such as, indiscriminately killing any non-Muslim, or destroying property, as their enemies do (Au.).

    قَالَ رَبِّ بِمَا أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ فَلَنْ أَكُونَ ظَهِيرًا لِلْمُجْرِمِينَ (17)

    28|17| He said, ‘My Lord! For the favor You have bestowed on me, I shall never be a helper to the criminals.29

    29. Hence, Ata’ has said that it is not lawful for anyone to help an oppressor, or be his writer, or even accept his company. It is reported that Dahhak was asked by Sulayman b. Muslim (an early Abbasid: Ibn Kathir in Tarikh) to go up to Bukhara and distribute some state funds among the people there. He declined. Sulayman made repeated requests but Dahhak emphatically refused. He was asked the reason. He replied tersely, “I do not wish to be a helper to any wrongdoing person in any way.” `Ata’ b. Rabah was asked, “I have a brother who earns his livelihood with his pen. He keeps the accounts, entering, deducting, etc. He has family and children. If he gives up, he will have to live on loans.” He asked, “Who employs him?” He was told, “Khalid b. `Abdullah al-Qasra” (an Umayyad: Ibn Kathir in Tarikh). He remarked, “Have you not read what a pious person (of the past) had to say?: ‘My Lord! For the favor You have bestowed on me, I shall never be a helper to the criminals!’” (Zamakhshari in part, Qurtubi, Alusi and Mawdudi).

    فَأَصْبَحَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ خَائِفًا يَتَرَقَّبُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي اسْتَنْصَرَهُ بِالْأَمْسِ يَسْتَصْرِخُهُ ۚ قَالَ لَهُ مُوسَىٰ إِنَّكَ لَغَوِيٌّ مُبِينٌ (18)

    28|18| Thus he did his morning in the city in fear, watchful, when behold, the one who had sought his help the previous day was calling after him. Musa told him, ‘You are indeed an evident deviant one.’30

    30. For, you are the one who led me to yesterday’s killing (Alusi and others).

    فَلَمَّا أَنْ أَرَادَ أَنْ يَبْطِشَ بِالَّذِي هُوَ عَدُوٌّ لَهُمَا قَالَ يَا مُوسَىٰ أَتُرِيدُ أَنْ تَقْتُلَنِي كَمَا قَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا بِالْأَمْسِ ۖ إِنْ تُرِيدُ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ جَبَّارًا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا تُرِيدُ أَنْ تَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُصْلِحِينَ (19)

    28|19| Then, as he tried to lay his hand on the one who was an enemy to both,31 he cried out, ‘O Musa! Do you intend to kill me as you killed a man yesterday?32 You do not wish but to be a tyrant in the land, and do not wish to be one of those who set things right.’


    31. That is, Musa (asws) did not wish to strike him. He merely tried to restrain the Copt (Au.).
    32. He wrongly perceived the threat from Musa’s words of alarm, "Indeed, you are an evident deviant one” (Alusi and others).

    وَجَاءَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَقْصَى الْمَدِينَةِ يَسْعَىٰ قَالَ يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنَّ الْمَلَأَ يَأْتَمِرُونَ بِكَ لِيَقْتُلُوكَ فَاخْرُجْ إِنِّي لَكَ مِنَ النَّاصِحِينَ (20)

    28|20| Then came a man from the farthest end of the city, hurrying, and said, ‘O Musa! The chiefs are conferring over you, to kill you.33 Therefore, depart. I am indeed one of your sincere advisers.’

    33. The intervening events are left out, viz., reports carried to Fir`awn that Musa was the one who had killed the Copt the previous day, and the discussions amongst the ruling elite as to what action was to be taken against Musa, the majority insisting that he be put to death in retaliation, etc. Their decision also implies that although Musa was brought up among the royals, he was never accepted as one of the royalty or even as one of the Copts, to be spared for accidentally killing one of them. Muslims who try to integrate themselves with the non-Muslims, and go a long way to please them, should perhaps make note of this historical reality (Au.).

    فَخَرَجَ مِنْهَا خَائِفًا يَتَرَقَّبُ ۖ قَالَ رَبِّ نَجِّنِي مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ (21)

    28|21| So he departed therefrom in fear, watchful saying, ‘O my Lord! Save me from the wrong-doing people.’34

    34. Yusuf Ali tries to figure out Musa’s state of mind: “Moses saw that his position was now untenable, both in the Palace and in the City, and indeed anywhere in Pharaoh’s territory. So he suffered voluntary exile. But he did not know where to go to. His mind was in a state of agitation. But he turned to Allah (swt) and prayed. He got consolation, and felt that after all it was no hardship to leave Egypt, where there was so much injustice and oppression.”

    وَلَمَّا تَوَجَّهَ تِلْقَاءَ مَدْيَنَ قَالَ عَسَىٰ رَبِّي أَنْ يَهْدِيَنِي سَوَاءَ السَّبِيلِ (22)

    28|22| Then, as he turned his face towards Madyan, he said,35 ‘I do hope that my Lord will guide me to the right way.36

    35. Various commentators, especially Majid and Mawdudi, have speculated the route Musa could have taken when leaving Egypt: none perhaps wholly accurate. We reproduce one possibility from Yusuf Ali, not for its certainty, but for its brevity: “East of Lower Egypt, for about 300 miles, runs the Sinai Peninsula, bounded on the south by the Gulf of Suez, and on the north by what was the Isthmus of Suez, now cut by the Suez Canal. Over the Isthmus ran the highroad to Palestine and Syria, but a fugitive could not well take that road, as the Egyptians were after him. If he could, after crossing the Isthmus, plunge into the Sinai desert, east or south-east, he would be in the Midianite territory, where the people would be Arabs and not Egyptians. He turned thither, and again prayed to Allah for guidance.”
    “Here,” Mawdudi adds a useful point, “the Biblical account is in agreement with the Qur’anic one in that both state that after leaving Egypt, Moses went to Midian. The Talmud, however, relates the absurd story of Moses fleeing to Abyssinia and becoming a great favourite of the king there.. Moses was then (at the time of departure from Abyssinia: au.) 67 years old (as stated by Polano, though not Talmud. See also The Jewish Encyclopaedia, vol.9, p. 48: ed.).” Or perhaps this story needs to be connected with another, viz. Musa & Israelites had gone back to Egypt after the drowning of Fir’awn. May be there is a mix-up in the sequence of events. See note no. 191 of surah no. 7 for further details.
    36. The translation reflects the understanding of Ibn `Abbas who said that Musa did not know the way to Madyan and hence prayed in these words (Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf, Razi and others). Sa`id b. Jubayr mentioned that the journey (on foot) between Egypt and Madyan was eight days long (Kashshaf, Razi, Ibn Kathir and others).
    Majid adds: “’And because the public roads were watched, he took the flight through the desert through a route his enemies could not suspect he would travel.’ (Ant. II, 11: 1). ‘The route he took was probably very much the same as that by which he afterwards led the Israelites to Mount Sinai. It avoided the Egyptian parts and settlements.’ (Rawlinson, Moses, His Life and Times’ p. 186).”

    وَلَمَّا وَرَدَ مَاءَ مَدْيَنَ وَجَدَ عَلَيْهِ أُمَّةً مِنَ النَّاسِ يَسْقُونَ وَوَجَدَ مِنْ دُونِهِمُ امْرَأَتَيْنِ تَذُودَانِ ۖ قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُمَا ۖ قَالَتَا لَا نَسْقِي حَتَّىٰ يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَاءُ ۖ وَأَبُونَا شَيْخٌ كَبِيرٌ (23)

    28|23| Then, when he arrived at the waters of Madyan he found there a crowd of people watering (their flocks) and apart from them he found two women holding back (their flocks).37 He asked, ‘What is the matter with you two?’ They said, ‘We may not water (our flocks) until the shepherds drive off (theirs); and our father is a very old man.’38

    37. That is, restraining their flock from rushing towards the well.
    38. So, they had to wait until everyone had left by the end of the day, and be content with whatever water was left at the bottom of the well (Au.).
    Although, a more becoming behavior on the part of those who are endowed with nature’s good qualities was that the girls should have been allowed to draw water first and drive away their flock before men would start (Sayyid).
    Yousuf Ali beautifully fills in the gaps that the verses leave: “Here is a pretty little idyll, told in the fewest and most beautiful words possible. Moses arrives at an oasis in the desert, weary and travel worn, with his mind full of anxiety and uncertainty owing to his recent experiences in Egypt. He was thirsty and would naturally seek water. At the well or spring he found shepherds (or perhaps goat-herds) watering their flocks. As a stranger it was not for him to thrust himself among them. He waited under the shade of a tree until they should finish. He noticed two damsels, also waiting with their flocks, which they had come to water. His chivalry was roused. He went at once among the goat-herds, made a place for the flocks of the damsels, gave them water, and then resumed his place in the shade. They were modest maidens, and had given him in three Arabic words the key of the whole situation. ‘abu-na shaikhun kabirun' our father is a very old man, and therefore cannot come to water the flocks; we therefore do the work; we could not very well thrust ourselves among these men.’

    فَسَقَىٰ لَهُمَا ثُمَّ تَوَلَّىٰ إِلَى الظِّلِّ فَقَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي لِمَا أَنْزَلْتَ إِلَيَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ (24)

    28|24| So he watered (their flocks) for them,39 then he turned aside into the shade and said, ‘My Lord! Verily, whatever You send down to me of a good (thing), I am in need thereof.’40

    39. This demonstrates that “perfection” (kamiliyyah) does not negate services to the people (Thanwi), in fact, it is a sign of perfection by itself (Au.).
    Most commentators report that Musa drew water from the same well from which the shepherds were drawing. A few say that upon inquiry he was led by the girls to another well that had a huge rock on its mouth. Musa removed it, watered their flock and replaced the lid (Shawkani). The report is in `Abd b. Humayd and Ibn al-Mundhir (Alusi).
    40. No human mind could ever think of expressing in such a short sentence, in such absolute sense, the extreme privation that Musa was suffering (Au).
    It is said that Musa was in such a state that all that he wished by his supplication was a simple meal (Ibn Jarir).
    His supplication demonstrates that the “perfect” are never tired of seeking Allah’s blessings, big or small, as against the “pseudo perfect” who evince total independence of material needs, in fact, spurn them when sent their way (Thanwi).
    It is reported of Ibn Mas`ud: “I rode on my camel for two days until I was in Madyan. I inquired about the tree under which Musa had rested. I found it a lush green tree full of leaves. My hungry camel rushed to it and began to feed on it, which it did for an hour, and then vomited. I prayed for Musa and moved on” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). In fact, it is reported that Ibn Mas` ud also visited the tree (at Toor) from which Allah had spoken to Musa (Ibn Kathir).

    فَجَاءَتْهُ إِحْدَاهُمَا تَمْشِي عَلَى اسْتِحْيَاءٍ قَالَتْ إِنَّ أَبِي يَدْعُوكَ لِيَجْزِيَكَ أَجْرَ مَا سَقَيْتَ لَنَا ۚ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُ وَقَصَّ عَلَيْهِ الْقَصَصَ قَالَ لَا تَخَفْ ۖ نَجَوْتَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ (25)

    28|25| Then came to him one of the two walking bashfully.41 She said, ‘My father invites you that he may reward you with the wage for that you watered for us.’42 Then, when he came to him,43 and narrated to him the story, he said, ‘Fear not. You have escaped from an oppressive people.’44

    41. The Qur’an has no romantic tales. But a little phrase, “tamshee `ala-istihya’” throws open several avenues of thought to those who have had the experience of watching simple men and women of the country-side living out their lives in complete innocence and supreme natural joy. Gone into oblivion are those days and those scenes that Wordsworth drew in his pastoral poems, perhaps never to return. Among the commentators, Yusuf Ali stands alone in courage and imagination, to fill the colors in the Qur’anic sketches. The reader is advised to read all the notes of this context in his work.
    `Umar (ra) is reported to have said (in a Sahih report: Ibn Kathir) that the girl had gone to Musa covering her face with her shirt-sleeve, bashful, unlike the forward and fearless women who are ever ready to dash out of their homes into the streets: on any pretext or no pretext (Ibn Jarir).
    42. This demonstrates that acceptance of wages, that were not intended for a good deed, does not nullify a good intention, especially when such acceptance is a means of preventing ill consequences (Thanwi).
    A man of keen sentiments, Yusuf Ali could not fail to feel like several characters of the story must have felt at the time the episode took place. He writes, boldly, but cautiously: “Nothing could have been more welcome than such a message, and through such a messenger. Moses went of course, and saw the old man. He found such a well-ordered patriarchal household. The old man was happy in his daughters and they in him. There was mutual confidence. They had evidently described the stranger to him in terms which made his welcome a foregone conclusion. On the other hand Moses had allowed his imagination to paint the father in something of the glorious colours in which his daughters had appeared to him like an angelic vision. The two men got to be friends at once. Moses told the old man his story, - who he was, how he was brought up, and what misfortunes had made him quit Egypt. Perhaps the whole household, including the daughters, listened breathlessly to his tale. Perhaps their wonder and admiration were mingled with a certain amount of pity - perhaps with some more tender feeling in the case of the girl who had been to fetch him. In any case the stranger had won his place in their hearts. The old man, the head of the household, assured him of hospitality and safety under his roof. As one with a long experience of life he congratulated him on his escape. ‘Who would live among unjust people? It is as well you are free of them!’”
    43. Although some of the earliest commentators have identified this person with Shu`ayb the Prophet, (but not Ibn `Abbas: Razi), it is very unlikely that the two were one in view of the fact that Shu`ayb the Prophet appeared at least four hundred years before Musa. Further, the Qur’an did not name the person as Shu`ayb in this context. As for the ahadith that speak of him in such context, none of them is trustworthy (Ibn Kathir).
    “I have earlier expressed my opinion that it must or could have been Shu`ayb, but now I am convinced that it was not Suh`ayb the Prophet for, Shu`ayb’s people were destroyed. It is only those who believed in him that were spared. But, the behavior of the shepherds at the well, who did not allow the girls to water their flock first, is not something expected of the first generation of believers” (Sayyid).
    44. Fir`awn’s kingdom did not include Madyan lands (Ibn Jarir from the Salaf).

    قَالَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا يَا أَبَتِ اسْتَأْجِرْهُ ۖ إِنَّ خَيْرَ مَنِ اسْتَأْجَرْتَ الْقَوِيُّ الْأَمِينُ (26)

    28|26| Said one of them, ‘O my father, hire him; surely, the best one you can hire is a strong, trustworthy (person).45

    45. Brief and precise, the sentence cannot be improved upon: all you need when you hire a man is strength (ability to perform), and honesty. The two qualities assured, you can entrust your work and forget all about it (Zamakhshari).
    It has been said, by Ibn `Abbas and others, that this was said by one of the two (daughters) whose flocks Musa had watered. “What makes you think he is strong and trustworthy?” her father asked. She replied that she judged his strength from the manner in which he had drawn the water and his trustworthiness from the fact that he had never looked at them twice and had asked her to walk behind him when she had gone to fetch him. Some others have said that she judged his strength from his feat of lifting the rock off the mouth of the well which only a group of men could ordinarily do (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Kashshaf).
    The arrangement between the two was that if Musa strayed as they walked down to her house, she would throw a stone to indicate the right direction (Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali does not rule out another implication: “Strong and trustworthy: Moses had proved himself to be both, and these were the very qualities which a woman most admires in the man she loves.”

    قَالَ إِنِّي أُرِيدُ أَنْ أُنْكِحَكَ إِحْدَى ابْنَتَيَّ هَاتَيْنِ عَلَىٰ أَنْ تَأْجُرَنِي ثَمَانِيَ حِجَجٍ ۖ فَإِنْ أَتْمَمْتَ عَشْرًا فَمِنْ عِنْدِكَ ۖ وَمَا أُرِيدُ أَنْ أَشُقَّ عَلَيْكَ ۚ سَتَجِدُنِي إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ (27)

    28|27| He said,46 ‘I intend to wed one of these my two daughters to you47 on (condition) that you serve me eight years.48 But if you complete ten, then, that will be (as a favor) from you.49 And I do not wish to press hard on you. You shall surely find me, Allah willing, of the righteous.’50

    46. It should not be imagined that the entire conversation, from the time Musa met Shu`ayb, to this point, took place in one session (Au.).
    47. In his re-portrayal of the scene, Yusuf Ali fills in the gaps with details that most readers would agree could be the missing links, “A little time passed, and at length the father broached the subject of marriage. It was not for the fugitive to suggest a permanent tie, especially when, in the wealth of this world, the girl’s family was superior, and they had an established position, while he was a mere wanderer. The father asked if he would marry one of the daughters and stay with them for at least eight years, or if he liked, ten years, but the longer term was at his option. If he brought no dower, his service for that period was more than sufficient in lieu of dower. The particular girl intended was no doubt tacitly settled long before, by the mutual attraction of the young hearts themselves. Moses was glad of the proposal, and accepted it. They ratified it in the most solemn manner, by appealing to Allah. The old man, knowing the worth of his son-in-law, solemnly assured him that in any event he would not take advantage of his position to be a hard task-master or to insist on anything inconsistent with Moses’s interests, should a new future open out to him. And a new and glorious future was awaiting him after his apprenticeship.”
    Sayyid echoes the words of Qurtubi in essence when he elaborates: Thus, in this simple and frank manner that is devoid of any twist of the tongue, the man proposed his daughter to Musa: without any fuss, or feelings of shame or awkwardness. For, he is proposing the building up of a husband-wife relationship and establishment of a home. It is not something that has room for hesitation, vacillation, or far-fetched gestures nor the kind of artificiality that is to be found in societies that have lost their naturalness, having accepted false values and traditions. Such societies prevent the father or custodian from proposing to someone with whose religion, morals and personality he feels satisfied as matching with those of his daughter or sister. They prescribe that it is the man or his representative alone who should make the proposal to the girl’s father or custodian and it should never be done from the girl’s side. The deviation to be noted in such societies is that its young men and women mix together freely, talk freely, and move about freely without any intention of marriage; but when it comes to marriage, then suddenly a pall of unnatural embarrassment descends, and a wall of artificiality is erected, preventing a clear and frank discussion of the proposal.
    In contrast, at the time of the Prophet, fathers offered their daughters for marriage to those they approved. Sometimes, even a woman offered herself for marriage. And the affairs were conducted in perfect frankness, cleanliness, and good manners, unimpaired by the thoughts of shame or dishonor. `Umar offered his daughter to Abu Bakr, then to `Uthman, and then complained to the Prophet perhaps hoping that Allah might decree a husband for his daughter better than the two he had proposed. A woman offered herself to the Prophet – who refused – and then she left it to him to find a suitable match for her.”
    48. He was to serve him looking after his flocks and attend to related works (Ibn Jarir and others).
    “In patriarchal society it was not uncommon to have a marriage bargain of this kind conditional on a certain term of service. In this case the episode conveys two lessons. (1) A man destined to be a messenger of Allah is yet a man, and must pass through the ups and downs of life like any other man: only he will do it with more grace and distinction than other men. (2) The beautiful relations in love and marriage may themselves be a preparation for the highest spiritual destiny that may await a Messenger of Allah. A woman need not necessarily be a snare and a temptation: she may be the understanding help-mate that the Lady Khadija was to the holy Prophet (Yusuf Ali).
    This kind of marriage, in which wages are offered by the male as mahr is allowed among the Hanafiyyah (Shabbir), but on certain conditions (Shafi`). There is a close example of this in the hadith. A man had nothing to offer as mahr, so the Prophet (saws) told him to teach the bride some verses of the Qur’an in lieu, to which the woman agreed (Qurtubi). Abu Hanifa’s personal opinion however, was that such an agreement is not allowable in Islam now. Further, this Qur’anic precedence cannot be quoted since in this case, Musa actually promised to serve Shu`ayb, while the mahr is a woman’s own right, and not that of her father (Shafi`).
    A contemporary commentator thinks however, that the whole debate as conducted by the scholars of the Ummah over the issue, is, in his words, “meaningless.” He lets his imagination loose, and constructs a scenario, which he perhaps thought could not have occurred to others before him. In the heat he failed to notice the clear implications of the verse in question, viz. service to the father-in-law was a clause of the marriage contract (Au.).
    49. Although all of them weak, but severally they strengthen the report that of the two terms, Musa completed what was more becoming of him, that is, ten. We do not have a trustworthy hadith in this context, but this was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, as reported in Bukhari (Ibn Kathir). Mujahid however maintained that altogether he served twenty years (Ibn Kathir, Alusi). If Musa was in his early twenties, which seems to be probable, then, it is quite likely that he stayed twenty years before thinking of returning to a land, where dangers lurking for him must have fizzled out over this long period of absence. Indeed, it is possible that he might have heard that the Fir`awn who had brought him up was dead and that another had taken his place (Au.).
    In this there is close affinity with our own Prophet’s mission. He left Makkah in fear, but came back eight years later to subdue it (Shabbir), and emptied it of pagans, just like Egypt was emptied of the pagans in ten years time (Muwaddih).
    50. “Here again,” writes Mawdudi, “the Israelites have done woeful injustice to their most illustrious Prophet, their greatest benefactor and hero.. According to another Jewish tradition, mentioned in The Jewish Encyclopaedia: ‘On his arrival at Midian Moses told his whole story to Jethro, who recognized him as the man destined to destroy the Egyptians. He therefore took Moses prisoner in order to deliver him to Pharaoh .. Moses was imprisoned in a deep dungeon in Jethro’s house, and received as food only small portions of bread and water. He would have died of hunger had not Zipporah, to whom Moses had before this captivity made an offer of marriage by the well, devised a plan by which she no longer went out to pasture the sheep, but remained at home to attend to the household, being thereby enabled to supply Moses with food without her father’s knowledge. After ten (or seven) years, Zipporah reminded her father that he had at one time cast a man into the dungeon, who must have died long ago, but if he were still living he must be a just man whom God had kept alive by a miracle. Jethro went to the dungeon and called Moses, who answered immediately. As Jethro found Moses praying, he really believed that he had been saved by a miracle, and liberated him … and gave him the virtuous Zipporah as his wife.’” (Vol.9, pp. 48-9).

    قَالَ ذَٰلِكَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَكَ ۖ أَيَّمَا الْأَجَلَيْنِ قَضَيْتُ فَلَا عُدْوَانَ عَلَيَّ ۖ وَاللَّهُ عَلَىٰ مَا نَقُولُ وَكِيلٌ (28)

    28|28| He said, ‘Be that between me and you. Whichsoever of the two terms I fulfill, there will be no injustice to me. And Allah is a Witness51 to what we say.52

    51. Literally, Trustee (Au.).
    52. With this example of Musa before him, how can any Muslim, reduced to a state of discomforts, after the plenty he once possessed, complain of the vicissitudes of time? Or, agree to live among an oppressive or un-Islamic people, for reasons of a materially rich, but spiritually barren life? One may also note the goodness in the heart of a future Prophet. Just out of the palace, he marries a plain Bedouin shepherdess without any qualms, in order to be able to follow, as commentators have pointed out, a virtuous life, and to demonstrate that the love of the world had not touched the heart of someone brought up in luxuries (Au.).

    فَلَمَّا قَضَىٰ مُوسَى الْأَجَلَ وَسَارَ بِأَهْلِهِ آنَسَ مِنْ جَانِبِ الطُّورِ نَارًا قَالَ لِأَهْلِهِ امْكُثُوا إِنِّي آنَسْتُ نَارًا لَعَلِّي آتِيكُمْ مِنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جَذْوَةٍ مِنَ النَّارِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَصْطَلُونَ (29)

    28|29| Then, when Musa had completed the term,53 and was journeying with his family,54 he perceived a fire in the direction of the Tur. He said to his family, ‘Wait. I have indeed perceived a fire. Perhaps I will bring to you some information from there, or a burning firebrand that you may warm yourselves.55

    53. What term was it? Was it the term of the marriage contract? Sayyid has an entirely different perspective in mind. Could it be the term of training and preparation? He elaborates: “Life in palaces is spent in a special kind of environment where it follows its own customs. The milieu there leaves a certain kind of impression on the heart, no matter how well a soul is possessed of knowledge, understanding, and purity of heart. But Messengership is in the service of all kinds of people. Among them are the rich and the poor, the possessed and the deprived, the pure and the impure, the cultured and the coarse, the good and the bad, the strong and the weak, the patient and the grumbling ones, and so on. Moreover, the poor have their own manners of eating, drinking, dressing and conducting their affairs. Their way of understanding the affairs, their notions concerning this life, their way of talking and moving, and their way of expressing feelings, are those that are a bit hard for those to appreciate who have been brought up in the comforts of palaces. Little chance the latter have of even seeing the life of the lowly ones, far from attempting to reform them – no matter how good the hearts of the poor ones, and how ready for improvement they are. The basic problem is that their lives and manners are something to which the residents of palaces do not open their hearts.
    “Messengership on the other hand, means discomforts, some ruggedness, and of course requires some hard work, while the hearts of those who live in palaces, however prepared for sacrifices, however used to humbleness and equanimity, cannot bear long in patience when faced with deprivations, hardships, and difficulties of sorts in a life of very different settings and atmosphere than those they are used to.
    “Allah wished then – who was moving Musa’s steps – that he should descend down from what he was used to, into the company of shepherds, and to make him realize the blessing there is in shepherding a flock of sheep, having found, after hunger and hardships, a refuge and provision ... and that he should root out from his inner self any repugnance there could have been for poverty, and the poverty-stricken, … root out the feelings of any revulsion against their ways and manners, their rustic ways and simplicity, their ignorance, poverty and shabbiness. He was forced deep into the wide sea, before he was ready to face its waves at the shore … all this in order to train him in the burden of Messengership that he was destined to bear…
    “Thus we see, how Musa was prepared by Allah, under His own supervision, and how he was readied for the hardships he was about to face as he started on this in his way”
    54. Some of the Salaf have said that Musa had with him his wife and two children (Au.), which is also reported in the Bible (Majid).
    55. As mentioned earlier, it was a dark, rainy and cold night in which Musa (asws) had lost his way (Ibn Kathir and others).

    فَلَمَّا أَتَاهَا نُودِيَ مِنْ شَاطِئِ الْوَادِ الْأَيْمَنِ فِي الْبُقْعَةِ الْمُبَارَكَةِ مِنَ الشَّجَرَةِ أَنْ يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنِّي أَنَا اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ (30)

    28|30| When he came to it he was called from the edge of the valley on the right side,56 in a hallowed (piece of) ground, coming from a tree, ‘O Musa. Verily I, I am Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’57

    56. Most scholars have understood this to mean, “from the right side of Musa.” Nonetheless, there is room to believe that the word “ayman” has been used in the sense of “hallowed” (Ibn Kathir, Asad and others).
    57. Mahdawi has said that Allah (swt) spoke to Musa from above His `Arsh and made him hear His voice from the tree. Allah should not be attributed with movements that are the attributes of His creations. Abu Is-haq on the other hand said that Allah created a meaning within Musa’s mind with the help of which he was able to grasp the words of Allah when He spoke to him – His speech being a specialty to Him (Qurtubi).
    Al-Ash`ari and Imam Ghazali maintain that Musa heard Allah’s own Eternal Voice, which was devoid of any sound, and devoid of any words.

    وَأَنْ أَلْقِ عَصَاكَ ۖ فَلَمَّا رَآهَا تَهْتَزُّ كَأَنَّهَا جَانٌّ وَلَّىٰ مُدْبِرًا وَلَمْ يُعَقِّبْ ۚ يَا مُوسَىٰ أَقْبِلْ وَلَا تَخَفْ ۖ إِنَّكَ مِنَ الْآمِنِينَ (31)

    28|31| And that, ‘Cast your staff.’ Then, when he saw it quivering as if a snake,58 he turned back in retreat and did not retrace his steps. ‘O Musa, come forward and fear not, you are of those who are secure.

    58. “Jann” according to most commentators, though not all, is a little snake, fearsome for its swift movement. Tho`ban used elsewhere in the Qur’an, is for a large, and hence slow moving snake, a python, whereas “hayyah” is a common noun for snakes. It has been explained that, firstly, it took several shapes, suitable to the occasions, and secondly it evinced all qualities of snakes at once, i.e., even when it became a python, it moved as swiftly as a thin little snake, stirring great panic in the crowds (Au.).

    اسْلُكْ يَدَكَ فِي جَيْبِكَ تَخْرُجْ بَيْضَاءَ مِنْ غَيْرِ سُوءٍ وَاضْمُمْ إِلَيْكَ جَنَاحَكَ مِنَ الرَّهْبِ ۖ فَذَانِكَ بُرْهَانَانِ مِنْ رَبِّكَ إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمًا فَاسِقِينَ (32)

    28|32| Thrust your hand in your pocket,59 it will come forth (shining) bright without any blemish. And draw your hand to your side against any fear.60 These are two proofs61 from your Lord unto Fir`awn and his chiefs. Indeed, they have been a people given to transgression.’

    59. This is how Ibn Jarir understands the textual word “jayb.”
    60. That is, ‘whenever fear or terror strike you, press your hand to your side, you will be cured of it.’ That is how Mujahid and Qatadah understood it (Ibn Kathir and others).
    Literally, ‘Draw thy wing close to thy side, (away) from fear’. When a bird is frightened, it ruffles its wings and prepares to fly away, but when it is calm and composed, it sits with its wings drawn close to its sides, showing a mind secure from danger (Yusuf Ali).
    The following we quote to demonstrate the decency among the Salaf and to show the extent to which their minds were filled with the Qur'an, to come to fore at a moment when you would expect an ordinary person to betray a smile. Qurtubi reports that once wind escaped a secretary of `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz. He felt embarrassed, threw down his pen in disgust and stood up. `Umar told him, “Take your pen, draw your hand to your side, and do away with any embarrassment for I have not heard it from anyone more than I heard it from myself.”
    61. That is, the staff which turned into snake, and the hand which turned shiny white when brought out of the pocket (Ibn Kathir and others).

    قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي قَتَلْتُ مِنْهُمْ نَفْسًا فَأَخَافُ أَنْ يَقْتُلُونِ (33)

    28|33| He said, ‘My Lord! I have indeed killed one of their men. So I fear that they will slay me (instantly).’62

    62. That is, “before I get time to deliver the message” (Majid).

    وَأَخِي هَارُونُ هُوَ أَفْصَحُ مِنِّي لِسَانًا فَأَرْسِلْهُ مَعِيَ رِدْءًا يُصَدِّقُنِي ۖ إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَنْ يُكَذِّبُونِ (34)

    28|34| And my brother Harun, he is more eloquent than I in speech, therefore, send him with me as a support, to corroborate me.63 I am indeed afraid they will lay the lie on me.

    63. Musa did not mean when he said, “to corroborate me” that when he claimed Messengership before Fir`awn, Har un would attest and confirm his claim, but rather he would use his eloquent tongue to offer convincing arguments on his behalf (Zamakhshari, Razi).
    ‘It is not that Moses is not reassured from all fear on account of the apparent snake which his rod had become, or from the sacred and unfamiliar surroundings in which he found himself. On this point his heart has been completely assured. But he is still new to his mission, and the future is obscure to his mind. Pharaoh was after him, to take his life, and apparently with good cause, because one of Pharaoh’s men had been slain at his hands. And now he is commanded to go to Pharaoh and rebuke him and his Chiefs. The inner doubts and difficulties of his human mind he frankly lays before his Lord, and asks for a little human and visible support, which is granted him at once, viz.; the help of his brother Aron (Yusuf Ali).

    قَالَ سَنَشُدُّ عَضُدَكَ بِأَخِيكَ وَنَجْعَلُ لَكُمَا سُلْطَانًا فَلَا يَصِلُونَ إِلَيْكُمَا ۚ بِآيَاتِنَا أَنْتُمَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَكُمَا الْغَالِبُونَ (35)

    28|35| He said, ‘We shall surely strengthen your arm with your brother64 and shall vouchsafe unto you both an authority,65 so that they shall not be able to reach you:66 with Our signs, you two, and those who followed you, shall be the overcomers.’67

    64. That is, ‘We shall strengthen your cause through your brother.’ This was done by making Harun (asws) a Prophet, for which Musa had prayed. Hence some of the Salaf have said that no one did a brother greater good than Musa to Harun when he prayed for his Prophethood. See 19: 53 (Ibn Kathir).
    65. The Bible has a twist here. It reports (Ex. 7: 1), “And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.” Thus Musa became a god unto Fir`awn and Harun his, and not Allah’s, prophet (Au.).
    66. That is, they will not be able to do you any harm (Zamakhshari, Razi).
    This is similar to what was said to our own Prophet (5: 67),

    {يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ وَإِنْ لَمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ وَاللَّهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ} [المائدة: 67]

    “O Messenger, proclaim what has been sent down to you by your Lord. If you did not, you would not have delivered His message. Allah will protect you from the people” (Ibn Kathir).
    67. As Allah said (58: 21),

    {كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَأَغْلِبَنَّ أَنَا وَرُسُلِي إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ} [المجادلة: 21]

    “Allah has written that He and His Messengers shall overcome.”
    He also said (40: 51),

    {إِنَّا لَنَنْصُرُ رُسُلَنَا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا} [غافر: 51]

    “Surely We shall help Our Messengers and those who followed them in the life of this world” (Ibn Kathir).

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ مُوسَىٰ بِآيَاتِنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ قَالُوا مَا هَٰذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ مُفْتَرًى وَمَا سَمِعْنَا بِهَٰذَا فِي آبَائِنَا الْأَوَّلِينَ (36)

    28|36| Then, when Musa came to them with Our clear signs, they said, ‘This is nothing but faked magic, we have not heard of this among our fathers of old.’

    وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ رَبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ جَاءَ بِالْهُدَىٰ مِنْ عِنْدِهِ وَمَنْ تَكُونُ لَهُ عَاقِبَةُ الدَّارِ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الظَّالِمُونَ (37)

    28|37| Musa said, ‘My Lord knows best who has brought guidance from Him, and for whom will be the ultimate Abode. Surely, wrongdoers will not prosper.’

    وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرِي فَأَوْقِدْ لِي يَا هَامَانُ عَلَى الطِّينِ فَاجْعَلْ لِي صَرْحًا لَعَلِّي أَطَّلِعُ إِلَىٰ إِلَٰهِ مُوسَىٰ وَإِنِّي لَأَظُنُّهُ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ (38)

    28|38| Fir`awn said, ‘O chiefs. I do not know of any other deity for you besides me.68 Therefore, kindle for me O Haman, (a fire) upon clay69 and build for me a tall edifice that I may have a look at Musa’s god.70 Surely I think he is of the liars.’

    68. What this implied on Fir`awn’s part is that he had no evidence that God existed; and, according to him, that which lacked evidence did not exist: an error commonly committed by many people (Razi).
    This trend is most common among the atheists, and, surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, among the scientists who know it as the first scientific principle, viz. what they do not have evidence for, can neither be rejected nor accepted. One should observe complete neutrality in such matters. But most often they take sides against some perennial and, in some cases, self-evident, truths (Au.).
    A few details of the denial are given elsewhere in the Qur’an. Allah said (79: 23-24),
    {فَحَشَرَ فَنَادَى (23) فَقَالَ أَنَا رَبُّكُمُ الْأَعْلَى} [النازعات: 23، 24]
    “Then he gathered (his people) and cried aloud, saying, ‘I am your Lord, the supreme’” (Ibn Kathir).
    Mawdudi writes: “By saying so, Pharaoh obviously did not mean that he was their creator and the creator of the heavens and the earth… Nor did it mean that they worshipped no other God besides Pharaoh because it is well known that they worshipped many gods and Pharaoh, himself, had been raised to the status of godhead in his capacity as the incarnation of Ra, the sun-god. The Qur’an itself provides a definite testimony in this regard, for it mentions that Pharaoh worshipped many gods: ‘The elders of Pharaoh’s people said, “Will you leave alone Moses and his people to spread mischief in the land, and forsake you and your gods” (Al-A`raf 7: 127).’
    “Hence the word ‘god’ used here by Pharaoh for himself was not to claim that he was their creator and their sole object of worship. He rather used this word in the sense that he was the lord and master of Egypt where his command was executed; where he was considered to have full authority, and where people considered themselves bound to obey him, and where he was the absolute sovereign whose orders were carried out, and where he was in a position to decide what was good and what was evil, and where no one else had the authority to issue any commands. In this context, Pharaoh wondered what the locus standi of Moses was.”
    Although there is perhaps much truth in the above statement, but perhaps lesser in what follows thereafter in the original work, yet the fact remains that Pharaoh did assume some kind of divinity, and was considered invested with divine qualities, sounds obvious from the Qur’anic statements in this regard, here, and elsewhere (Au.).
    Majid gives us the historical background to give us an idea of the somewhat ambiguous position Pharaoh held vis-à-vis, godhead, and which comes closer to explaining the Qur’anic expressions: “Pharaoh-worship was very much akin to Mikado-worship, and the ‘divinity’ of the ancient Egyptian Imperious House bore close resemblance to that of the present-day Japanese Imperial House. The Pharaoh was a veritable Incarnate Deity. ‘The king in that first monarchy was the visible god upon earth. The only thing like it that has been since seen is the deification of the Roman emperor. No pure monotheism would for a moment have been compatible with such an intense exaltation.’ (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, Intro p. xxxvi) ‘It is a well-known fact that the Egyptians, from the earliest traceable period of their history, believed their kings to be embodied forms of certain gods … The reigning king was regarded as “Horus” (the national god of lower Egypt in pre-historic times, and, later, of the whole kingdom) … The reigning king was styled “the good god,” or at an earlier day, “the great god.” (ERE, VI, p. 647). Pharaoh ‘was not merely looked upon as the earthly representative of the god Horus … but he was actually regarded as a form or manifestation of that god. The king was therefore a god, and indeed was commonly spoken of as the “good god.” Moreover, by the time of the Vth dynasty the king was believed to be the physical son of the sun-god, the State-god of Egypt.’ (X. p. 294).”
    69. The translation is literal, otherwise, the meaning is, “manufacture bricks for me” (Ibn Jarir). Nonetheless, either we believe our Prophet was a veritable encyclopaedia of knowledge, the like of whom did not appear earlier or later, or accept him as a Messenger of Allah. How did he, for instance, know such architectural details as Majid brings to our notice? Majid writes: “Note that brick, rather than stone was the general building material used in ancient Egypt, and the Egyptians were well-known for brick-making. ‘The true countries of brick-makers were Egypt and Mesopotamia … Egyptian bricks were usually twice the size of our modern ones. Many of them (from dynasty 18 onwards) were stamped with the name of a king, to show that they belonged to public buildings … Stamps as well as moulds have been preserved up to the modern times, and bricks with the name of Ramses II, “the Pharaoh of the oppression,” are shown in our museums.’ (EBi. C. 609). ‘Egypt has yielded numerous examples of brick, manufactured in the earliest and subsequent dynasties.’ (EBr. IV. P. 111).
    70. There is no way to establish whether the edifice was built or not. Common sense tells us that it was not built. As for the stories that have been narrated concerning the edifice that was built, they only serve to open doors for attack by the adversaries of the Qur’an (Razi).
    Elsewhere in this work, we have mentioned the Soviets trying to locate God in the skies. Mawdudi comments a little bit in detail on this point: “This mindset is similar to that of the Communists of the former Soviet Union. They launched sputniks … and then glibly claimed that their spaceships had found no God up there in the sky… This only shows that the reasoning of ignorant people has not changed over the last 3,500 years. What idiocy to believe that God is sitting somewhere up there in the sky waiting to be observed by anyone who can soar high enough. What idiocy to believe that if He cannot be so found, this is proof enough that He does not exist.”

    وَاسْتَكْبَرَ هُوَ وَجُنُودُهُ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا يُرْجَعُونَ (39)

    28|39| And he waxed proud in the land – he and his forces – without right, and thought that they will not be returned to Us.

    فَأَخَذْنَاهُ وَجُنُودَهُ فَنَبَذْنَاهُمْ فِي الْيَمِّ ۖ فَانْظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الظَّالِمِينَ (40)

    28|40| So We seized him and his forces, and flung them into the sea.71 See then, how was the end of the wrongdoers.

    71. The choice of words, [“flung them”] is to express the worthlessness of the man and his army, flung away, (like they were no more than a dead lizard: Au.) – Zamakhshari, Razi.

    وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَدْعُونَ إِلَى النَّارِ ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا يُنْصَرُونَ (41)

    28|41| We made them leaders inviting to the Fire;72 and, on the Day of Standing, they shall not be helped.

    72. In the words of Asad, “archetypes inviting to the fire.”
    That is, they became examples for the evil-minded people of all times, who could take lessons of the failure of tyranny and injustice from them (Alusi and others).

    وَأَتْبَعْنَاهُمْ فِي هَٰذِهِ الدُّنْيَا لَعْنَةً ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ هُمْ مِنَ الْمَقْبُوحِينَ (42)

    28|42| And We made a curse to follow them in this world,73 and, on the Day of Standing they will be of the loathed ones.

    73. That is, (although cursing is generally disallowed), cursing Fir`awn and his forces has been made lawful to the believers.

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا أَهْلَكْنَا الْقُرُونَ الْأُولَىٰ بَصَائِرَ لِلنَّاسِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ (43)

    28|43| We did give Musa the Book74 after We had destroyed the earlier generations:75 insights to men,76 a guidance and a mercy,77 haply that they will receive admonition.78

    74. Yahya b. Sallam said that Tawrah was the first Book ever revealed that had commandments pertaining to the lawful and unlawful (Qurtubi). Abu Hayyan held the same opinion (Alusi).
    Asad points to the significance: “By virtue of its being the first instance of a divinely-inspired Law, the Torah inaugurated a new phase in mankind’s religious history.”
    75. Abu Sa`id al-Khudri is reported to have said, “After the revelation of the Tawrah, Allah (swt) did not destroy any nation through a heavenly chastisement, except for transformation of some people into apes and swine. Read if you will, ‘We did give Musa the Book after We had destroyed the earlier generations’” (Ibn Jarir). In fact, according to a version, Abu Sa`id al-Khudri reports this as the Prophet’s own words (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    And Shabbir gives us the raison de’tre for the escape of the non-believing rebellious nations from wholesale destruction: Jihad was instituted.
    That is, Jihad, instituted after the revelation of Tawrah, and put into action immediately after Musa (cf. the extensive military campaigns of Joshua) helped remove the leaders of disbelief from the way of the common people, who gained their freedom to accept the true religion of their time. In consequence, they escaped the divine punishment which they would have faced because of their disbelief. Allah was not going to tolerate disbelief for long. This should also explain why Muslim scholars have termed, surprisingly for many, the Islamic Jihad as a mercy, and why our own Prophet has promised that wholesale destruction of this Ummah will not happen because a group from among Muslims will continue fighting in the way of Allah until the Hour (Au.).
    76. How do we reconcile the Qur’anic qualification of earlier revelations as affording insight (basa’ir), with the hadith of `Umar? `Umar was once reading the Torah in the Prophet’s presence. When he raised his head he found that the Prophet’s face had become red with anger. He said, “By Allah, if Musa was here today, he would have had to follow me.” Qurtubi answers after raising the question that firstly, Torah and Injil were at one time sources of insight, but, with interpolations and corruptions, no more. That of course, does not mean that they are totally devoid of any ability to offer insight now. But the Prophet had to respond so harshly to make sure that during his own time the people read nothing but the Qur’an. Once they had dwelt deep in to the Qur’an, they could, especially the discerning ones among them, profit from some parts of Torah and Injil.
    In other words, writes Shafi`, the prohibition against Torah and Injil is not unconditional. Accordingly, we find some of the Companions quoting from the Torah and Injil during the time of the Companions, to which no one ever objected. Ka`b al-Ahbar was one of those who quoted from Jewish and Christian scriptures without earning any reproach from the Companions. That is because, by then the Qur’an and sunnah and the message they impart had taken firm root among the Muslims, and it was not feared that they would be misguided by the corrupted portions of the previous Books. Thus, there is no harm at all if they are read by people who are well-versed in the Qur'an and Sunnah, can make the difference between corrupted and uncorrupted portions of Tawrah and Injil and remove chaff from the grain. Common people should stay away from them.
    77. “The first thing that happens to the seeker of truth (when he finds the truth) is that his understanding improves. This is the insight (basa’ir) of this occurrence. Next, he accepts the precepts and injunctions wholeheartedly for practice. This is guidance (hidayah) of the verse. Finally, he harvests the fruits of guidance, which is mercy (rahmah)” - Thawni.
    78. “After the destruction of the Pharaonic Tyranny and other similar Tyrannies before them, Allah began a new age of Revelation, the age of Moses and his Book. Humanity began as it were with a clean slate again. It was a full Revelation (or Shari’at) which may be looked at from three points of view: (1) as Light or Insight for men, so that they should not grope in darkness; (2) as a Guide to show them the Way, so that they should not be misled into wrong Paths; and (3) as a Mercy from Allah (swt), so that by following the Way they may receive Allah’s Forgiveness and Grace. In vi. 91, we have a reference to Light and Guidance in connection with the Revelation of Moses, and in vi. 154 we have a reference to Guidance and Mercy in the same connection. Here all three are combined, with the substitution of Basair for Nur. Basair is the plural of Basirat, and may also be translated as Proofs (Yusuf Ali).

    وَمَا كُنْتَ بِجَانِبِ الْغَرْبِيِّ إِذْ قَضَيْنَا إِلَىٰ مُوسَى الْأَمْرَ وَمَا كُنْتَ مِنَ الشَّاهِدِينَ (44)

    28|44| And you were not at the Western side when We decreed the commission to Musa,79 nor were you of the witnesses.80

    79. That is, `you were not, O Prophet, present there when Musa was being addressed, for you to be narrating it now (and in such details, as if you were standing right there observing every minute detail: Shabbir). But rather, it is by Our mercy that We narrate to you these stories for the admonition of those who believe in you.’ Stories of the Prophets, Messengers, and nations of the past then, as narrated in the Qur’an, are proofs of authenticity of the Prophet’s Messengership.
    Similarly Allah said, writes Ibn Kathir (3: 44),

    {ذَلِكَ مِنْ أَنْبَاءِ الْغَيْبِ نُوحِيهِ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا كُنْتَ لَدَيْهِمْ إِذْ يُلْقُونَ أَقْلَامَهُمْ أَيُّهُمْ يَكْفُلُ مَرْيَمَ وَمَا كُنْتَ لَدَيْهِمْ إِذْ يَخْتَصِمُونَ} [آل عمران: 44]

    "These are a part of the tidings of the past that We reveal unto you (O Muhammad) for, you were not there with them when they were casting their quills to decide by lot which of them shall have charge of Maryam, nor were you there with them when they were disputing.”
    Or He said (11: 49)

    {تِلْكَ مِنْ أَنْبَاءِ الْغَيْبِ نُوحِيهَا إِلَيْكَ مَا كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُهَا أَنْتَ وَلَا قَوْمُكَ مِنْ قَبْلِ هَذَا فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ الْعَاقِبَةَ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ} [هود: 49]

    “These are the tidings of the Unseen that We reveal unto you (O Muhammad).You did not know about it, nor your people before this. So be patient. Surely the (good) end is for the righteous.”
    Asad has a useful point: “The term al-amr ... is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew word torah ('law’ or ‘precept’), the commonly-accepted title of the revelation granted to Moses.”
    80. Ashraf Ali sums up the Qur'anic argument neatly. He writes: 'Following Our practice, We made you (O Muhammad) a Prophet.' Now, of the various evidences of the Prophets authenticity, one is his narration of Musa’s story in such detail. To narrate any story with such accuracy, one has to follow one of the four ways: (i) Make use of one's own intellect. But intellect is of little use in matters involving news o the past. (ii) Re-narrate a report heard earlier. But the channels to this were closed for the Prophet because of the early appearance of antagonism between him and those who were the sources of knowledge (i.e., the Jews and Christians). They would not divulge any information to him. (iii) The Prophet should have been personally there at the time the events took place, which of course was not the case. Thus we are left with the fourth option alone, namely (iv) Revelation from Allah.

    وَلَٰكِنَّا أَنْشَأْنَا قُرُونًا فَتَطَاوَلَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْعُمُرُ ۚ وَمَا كُنْتَ ثَاوِيًا فِي أَهْلِ مَدْيَنَ تَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِنَا وَلَٰكِنَّا كُنَّا مُرْسِلِينَ (45)

    28|45| But rather We raised (several) generations, and long periods passed over them;81 nor were you a dweller among the people of Madyan, to be rehearsing upon them Our revelations,82 but rather, We were to send the Messengers.

    81. That is, you came to know, O Prophet, because We decided to raise you and send a fresh revelation, which had become due as a long time had elapsed since the previous revelation (Razi).
    82. That is, Muqatil said, You were not there with the people of Madyan to be rehearsing their story to the Makkans now (Razi).
    Shabbir looks at it in another way. He writes: ‘The verse seems to be saying, ‘You are now, O Prophet, rehearsing the affairs that took place in Madyan in such details as if you were a Messenger unto those people at that earlier time, and were reciting these verses to them. This of course is not the case, but rather, Allah has now raised you, and reveals these stories to you, in such precise manner, that you might warn your contemporaries and save them from a destruction of the kind the previous nations met with.’
    Indeed no one, not even the Jews knew anything about the people of Madyan at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an (Au.).

    وَمَا كُنْتَ بِجَانِبِ الطُّورِ إِذْ نَادَيْنَا وَلَٰكِنْ رَحْمَةً مِنْ رَبِّكَ لِتُنْذِرَ قَوْمًا مَا أَتَاهُمْ مِنْ نَذِيرٍ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ (46)

    28|46| Neither were you there at the side of (Mount) Tur when We called (to Musa); but rather a mercy from your Lord, so that you might warn a people to whom no warner came before you, haply that they will receive the admonition.

    وَلَوْلَا أَنْ تُصِيبَهُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ فَيَقُولُوا رَبَّنَا لَوْلَا أَرْسَلْتَ إِلَيْنَا رَسُولًا فَنَتَّبِعَ آيَاتِكَ وَنَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (47)

    28|47| If it was not (for the fact) that had a calamity struck them because of what their hands forwarded, they (would have) said, ‘O our Lord! Had you only sent us a Messenger, so that we could have followed Your revelations and been of the believers.’83


    83. In other words, The Prophet was sent in order to remove any excuse they could have had, if no Messenger was raised, but punished for idol-worship. The same thing is differently worded elsewhere in the Qur’an (4: 165),

    {لِئَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَى اللَّهِ حُجَّةٌ بَعْدَ الرُّسُلِ} [النساء: 165]

    “... so that the people might have no argument against Allah after the Messengers.”
    It must be noted however, that Allah did not say, “If they had not said this, we would not have sent a Messenger” (Razi).

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمُ الْحَقُّ مِنْ عِنْدِنَا قَالُوا لَوْلَا أُوتِيَ مِثْلَ مَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَىٰ ۚ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفُرُوا بِمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَىٰ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۖ قَالُوا سِحْرَانِ تَظَاهَرَا وَقَالُوا إِنَّا بِكُلٍّ كَافِرُونَ (48)

    28|48| But when there came to them the truth from Us, they said, ‘Why is he not given the like of what Musa was given?’84 Had they not disbelieved in what Musa was given earlier?85 They said,86 ‘A pair of sorceries,87 mutually supporting each other.88 And they said, ‘As for us, we are disbelievers in each one of them.’89

    84. Asad places a note here which, as it terminates, correctly portrays the mind of the atheists which have worked similarly throughout the ages, including our own. He writes: “As the Qur’an frequently points out, the basic ethical truths enunciated in it are the same as those of earlier revelations. It is this very statement which induced the opponents of Muhammad (saws) – in his own time as well as in later times – to question the authenticity of the Qur’an: ‘If it had really been revealed by God,’ they argue, ‘would so many of its propositions, especially its social laws, differ so radically from the laws promulgated in that earlier divine writ, the Torah?’ By advancing this argument (and quite apart from the question whether the text of the Bible as we know it today has or has not been corrupted in the course of time), the opponents of Muhammad’s message deliberately overlook the fact, repeatedly stressed in the Qur’an, that the earlier systems of law were conditioned by the spiritual level of particular people and the exigencies of a particular chapter of human history, and therefore had to be superseded by new laws at a higher stage of human development... However, as is evident from the immediate sequence – and especially from the last sentence of this verse – the above specious argument is not meant to uphold the authenticity of the Bible as against that of the Qur’an, but rather, aims at discrediting both – and, through them, the basic religious principle against which the irreligious mind always revolts: namely, the idea of divine revelation and of man’s absolute dependence on and responsibility to God, the Ultimate Cause of all that exists.”
    85. It is reported that the Jews had coaxed the Makkans into asking the Prophet to produce similar miracles as Musa (asws) had done. Hence it is the Jews that Allah addressed when He said, “Had they not disbelieved in what Musa was given earlier?” (Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf, Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali expounds: “When a Revelation is sent to them, in the Qur’an, adapted to all their needs and the needs of the time they live in, they hark back to antiquity. The holy Prophet (saws) was in many respects like Moses, but the times in which he lived were different from the times of Moses, and his age did not suffer from the deceptions of sorcery, like that of Moses. The remedies which his age and future ages required (for his Message was universal) were different. His miracle of the Qur’an was different and more permanent than the Rod and the Radiant-White Hand of Moses. But supposing that the Quraish had been humoured in their insincere demands, would they have believed? Did they believe in Moses? They were only put up by the Jews to make objections which they themselves did not believe in.”
    86. To whom is the allusion by the pronoun “they”? There are several answers. Imam Razi’s opinion is that the allusion is to the Makkans, who refused to believe in any Prophet or any heavenly message. This leads to the acceptance of the following word “sihran” as alluding to Tawrah and the Qur’an; which in turn is explained by the ayah that follows, “As for us, we are disbelievers in each one of them.”
    87. A variant reading has been “sahiran” meaning, the two magicians. Following this reading, Ibn `Abbas said that the allusion is to the two Prophets Musa and Muhammad. But Mujahid thought the allusion is to Musa and Harun. (This is Ibn Kathir’s preferred meaning, if the variant reading is accepted). But most have read the word as it now appears in the Qur’an, viz., “sihran” meaning the two sorceries. Hence we have a second opinion of Ibn `Abbas which says that the allusion by two sorceries is to Tawrah and the Qur’an. Dahhak and Qatadah said the allusion is to Tawrah and Injeel. Ibn Jarir is with this last opinion.
    If we accept the reading as “sihran,” writes Ibn Kathir, then the preferred meaning is that the allusion is to Tawrah and the Qur’an. This is strengthened by another verse of the Qur’an wherein Allah (swt) reports the Jinn as saying (46: 30),

    {إِنَّا سَمِعْنَا كِتَابًا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ بَعْدِ مُوسَى مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ} [الأحقاف: 30]

    “Indeed we have heard a Book sent down after Musa, confirming that which came before it.”
    And, Warqah b. Nawfal had said, (when the Prophet read out to him the first ever revelation he had received), “This is the same Namus (message) that had been revealed to Musa.”
    Those who are endowed with knowledge, continues Ibn Kathir, know instinctively that out of the Books that Allah sent down from the heaven unto the Prophets, there is no other as noble, eloquent, complete and perfect as the Book revealed to Muhammad, viz., the Qur’an. What comes next in nobleness and greatness, is the Book that was given to Musa, viz., Tawrah.
    88. “A contemptuous allusion,” comments Asad, “on the one hand, to Old Testament predictions of the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (saws) … and, on the other, to the oft-repeated Qur’anic statement that this divine writ had been revealed to ‘confirm the truth of earlier revelations.’”
    89. Mujahid said that when they said, “we disbelieve in each one of them,” they meant that they disbelieved in the Qur’an; (which was their primary concern). Although Ibn `Abbas and Dahhak thought the allusion was to Tawrah and Injeel (Ibn Jarir). Imam Razi is of the opinion that their allusion was to every Revelation that was ever sent, whether the Tawrah, the Qur’an, or any other Book. This means the pronoun in “We” is for the Makkans. Hence Allah said, “Say, ‘Then bring a writing from Allah which is a better guide than the two.’”
    Shah Abdul Qadir commented: The Makkan unbelievers asserted that had the Prophet (saws) brought such miracles as Musa did in his own time, they would have unhesitatingly accepted him. However, when they discussed the affair with the Jews, and found that the Tawrah also contained some of what the Qur’an was rehearsing, namely, idol-worship is tantamount to disbelief, Resurrection and Reckoning are true, carrion is unlawful, and that a final Messenger is to appear, etc., then they declared that both the Tawrah and the Qur’an are sorceries, and both Musa and Muhammad were sorcerers (and hence the words, “We disbelieve in each one of them)” - Shabbir.

    قُلْ فَأْتُوا بِكِتَابٍ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ هُوَ أَهْدَىٰ مِنْهُمَا أَتَّبِعْهُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (49)

    28|49| Say, ‘Then bring a writing from Allah which is a better guide than the two,90 so that I might follow it, if you are truthful.’91

    90. Ibn Zayd said that the allusion by “the two” is to the Tawrah and the Qur’an (Ibn Jarir). Asad adds: “The Gospel is not mentioned in this context because, as Jesus himself had stressed, his message was based on the Law of Moses, and was not meant to displace the latter.”
    91. We might perhaps attempt to paraphrase verses 47 to 49: “If it was not (for the fact) that had a calamity struck them (the Makkans) because of what their hands forwarded, they (would have) said, ‘O our Lord! Had you only sent us a Messenger so that we could have followed Your revelations and had been of the believers.’ But when there came to them the truth from Us, they said, (prompted by the Jews), ‘Why is he not given the like of what Musa was given?’ (The answer to the Jews is), had they not disbelieved in what Musa was given earlier? (The Makkan attitude is no different). They said, ‘(Tawrah and Qur’an) are a pair of sorceries, mutually supporting each other (since, in a nut-shell, they seem to carry the same message). And they (the Makkans also said), ‘As for us, we are disbelievers in each one of them.’ Say (O Muhammad), ‘Then bring a writing from Allah which is a better guide than the two, (Tawrah and the Qur’an) so that I might follow it, if you are true’” (Au.).

    فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَجِيبُوا لَكَ فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّمَا يَتَّبِعُونَ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ ۚ وَمَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّنِ اتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ بِغَيْرِ هُدًى مِنَ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ (50)

    28|50| But if they do not respond to you, then know that they only follow their caprices. And who can be more misguided than he who followed his caprice, devoid of guidance from Allah? Verily, Allah does not guide a transgressing people.

    وَلَقَدْ وَصَّلْنَا لَهُمُ الْقَوْلَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ (51)

    28|51| We have indeed (exhaustively) conveyed92 the Word to them,93 haply that they will receive admonition.

    92. The parenthetical remark is prompted by the additional connotations that the textual “wassala” yields over the sense of merely conveying (something). Zamakhshari explains the associate meanings as, “the Qur’anic revelations came in close succession, with promises and threats, narratives and examples, admonitions and advices, so that they might draw lessons. Additionally it could mean they came down uninterrupted, one linked to the other.”
    Mujahid on the other hand explained “wassala” as meaning, “explained in detail,” Suddi said it means, “made it clear” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    93. Rifa`ah al-Qurazi (a former Jew) said that this and the next two verses were revealed in reference to ten men of whom he was one (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi). The report is also in Ibn Abi Hatim (Ibn Kathir). Shawkani traces the report as found in Ibn Abi Shaybah, Ibn al-Mundhir, Abu ‘l Qasim Baghawi, Tabarani and Ibn Marduwayh, and thinks that the chain of narrators is strong enough.
    However, reports do not mention names of the other nine (Au.).

    الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ هُمْ بِهِ يُؤْمِنُونَ (52)

    28|52| Those to whom We gave the Book before this, they are believers in it.94

    94. Mujahid, Qatadah and Dahhak held the opinion that this and the following few verses were revealed in reference to a group of followers of a previous Book. They believed in their Prophet, were persecuted, but observed patience and so were rewarded twice (Ibn Jarir).
    Qurtubi thinks these verses are of general nature that describe any of the people of the Book who embraced Islam, although, in particular they could be applicable to some forty Christians who came from Najran along with Ja`far (at Madinah). Also see the notes that follow herewith.
    Majid presents the testimony of a Jew. He writes: “Look at the grudging and very amusing admission of a modern Jew, - a rank reviler of the Prophet(saws): ‘Mohammed … had received considerable encouragement from certain Jews in Mekka. Some accepted Islam; others, doubtless, had flattered him, or even hailed him as a prophet (saws), in the hope of bringing him over to Judaism.’ (Torrey, Jewish Foundations of Islam, p. 128).”

    وَإِذَا يُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِهِ إِنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا مِنْ قَبْلِهِ مُسْلِمِينَ (53)

    28|53| When it is recited to them, they say, ‘We have believed in it. It is indeed the truth from our Lord. We had indeed submitted (ourselves)95 before this.’96

    95. Muslimin: That is, ‘we were believers in One God, sincerely devoted to Him, and responsive to His call (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). Sayyid Qutb echoes Thanwi and others when he offers a simple explanation: “They were those who had submitted themselves to Allah earlier.”
    In the following statement of Mawdudi if the word “Muslim” is taken in the sense of “those who had submitted,” then, it reflects the opinion of the majority: “This statement explains that Islam is not merely the name of the Religion brought by Muhammad (peace be on him), nor does the term ‘Muslim’ denote only those who follow him. Rather, all the Prophets brought one and the same Religion and their followers have, at all times, been Muslims. However, if people refused to accept the Prophet (saws) who was raised after the one they initially followed, then, they ceased to be Muslims. As for those who believed in the previous Prophets and who also accepted the new Prophet when he was raised, there was no interruption in their Faith; they were Muslims before and continued to be so after their believing in the new Prophet.”
    Alusi however, pointing out that while Kashshaf and Bahr tell us that Islam is not a specific attribute of this Ummah, but rather, that of anyone who adopted pure monotheism, and believed in Divine revelation, also informs us that Suyuti was reluctant to use the terms Islam and Muslims for the followers of the Prophets of the past. He in fact wrote a short treatise to demonstrate that only this Ummah has been named “Muslimeen.” However, when he had finished writing the treatise, and lay down to rest, this verse occurred to him as contradicting his thesis, and he felt, in his words, “as if a mountain had fallen over me.” He thought over it for sometime but could not work out reconciliation. He supplicated to Allah to open his heart and went to sleep. By morning three explanations occurred to him that helped him reconcile his thesis with this verse. Alusi mentions the three, but expresses his own dissatisfaction with two of them, agreeing more or less with the third. He, Alusi, is inclined to believe, along with Baydawi, that the use of the word “muslimin” is in the sense of submission. Thus, we are brought back to the explanations offered by Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others, as stated above.
    A contemporary commentator seizes on Alusi’s report to criticize Suyuti. To him Suyuti offers “meaningless interpretations,” and that, “None of these answers, however, show any trace of the ‘opening of the heart’ for which he prayed.” The critic then proceeds to present evidences from the Qur’an to demonstrate Suyuti’s error. We cannot of course comment on Suyuti’s thesis without having seen it ourselves, and wonder whether the critic had seen it either. He does not quote anything more than what Alusi did. But we might point out that the verses that he quotes as evidences are in the knowledge of every student of the Qur’an, not to speak of a mufassir of Suyuti’s stature. Suyuti could have had the famous verse in mind which says (22: 78):

    {وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ مِلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ مِنْ قَبْلُ} [الحج: 78]

    “And strive in Allah, with a striving due to Him. He chose you. And He has not placed upon you in the religion any constriction: the faith of your father Ibrahim. He named you Muslims earlier,” where, according to Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, Mujahid and Dahhak, the pronoun “huwa” is for Allah. That is, “Allah named you Muslims.” So, one might ask, if the previous nations were Muslims, what was the point in naming the Ummah of Muhammad as Muslims. (Interestingly, the critic does not include this ayah among his relevant and irrelevant evidences. Perhaps because it would not have served him his purpose without his curious footnote [placed at 22: 78] in which he says that the pronoun in “sammakum,” [i.e., the “you” of “He named you”], alludes to all the monotheists of the world, previous and subsequent. So, the address in “strive” is to this Ummah, the “you” of “He chose you” is for this Ummah, the address in “He has not placed upon you” is to this Ummah, but the allusion in “He named you” is to all the monotheist of the world, past and present!) In any case, in view of this ayah we understand that, after all, Suyuti had a point, apart from whatever else he would have mentioned in his treatise. Additionally, we might point out that the people of the Book take strong exception to earlier Jews and Christians referred to as Muslims, perhaps not only because as a mass they never “surrendered” themselves to One God but also because the word does not appear anywhere in their scriptures (Au.).
    96. Before this, i.e., before the revelation of the Qur’an (Kashshaf and others).
    Sa`id b. Jubayr said that these verses were revealed in response to a delegation from Abyssinia. Some seventy churchmen had been sent to Madinah by Najashi. (They were referred to, according to Muqatil, as the Companions of the Ark, and had come down along with Ja`far: Razi). The Prophet recited Surah Ya Sin before them. They wept and declared their faith in Islam. They were rewarded twice for believing in two books, the Gospels and the Qur’an. Zuhri was also of the opinion that these verses were revealed in connection with this Abyssinian delegation.
    According to another report in Ibn Is-haq, the reference is to another delegation. This one comprised of twenty or so men. They met the Prophet in the Haram (at Makkah: Au.) and sat down before him while the Quraysh sat in their own circles. When they had explained to the Prophet the purpose of their visit, he recited some verses of the Qur’an and invited them to Islam. When they heard the Qur’an, their eyes were filled with tears. They embraced Islam, for they had found in him the signs that they had read in their Scriptures. When they rose up to go, Abu Jahl and a few of the Qurayshis confronted them and said, “May Allah fail the caravan (of yours). Your compatriots in your religion sent you to bring information about this man. But you had not even settled down before him that you abandoned your religion.” Of the things he said was, “We do not know of a delegation more stupid than yours,” or words of that sort. They replied, “Peace on you. We do not wish to enter into a bickering contest with you. Unto us, what we stand on, and unto you what you stand on. We have not been lax in seeking good for ourselves” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    And Abu Musa al-Ash`ari reports that the Prophet said,

    ثَلاَثَةٌ يُؤْتَوْنَ أَجْرَهُمْ مَرَّتَيْنِ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ آمَنَ بِنَبِيِّهِ وَأَدْرَكَ النَّبِىَّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- فَآمَنَ بِهِ وَاتَّبَعَهُ وَصَدَّقَهُ فَلَهُ أَجْرَانِ وَعَبْدٌ مَمْلُوكٌ أَدَّى حَقَّ اللَّهِ وَحَقَّ مَوَالِيهِ فَلَهُ أَجْرَانِ وَرَجُلٌ كَانَتْ لَهُ أَمَةٌ فَغَذَّاهَا فَأَحْسَنَ غِذَاءَهَا ثُمَّ أَدَّبَهَا فَأَحْسَنَ تَأْدِيبَهَا ثُمَّ أَعْتَقَهَا وَتَزَوَّجَهَا فَلَهُ أَجْرَانِ

    “There are three persons who will be rewarded twice: A man of the People of the Book who believed in his own Messenger and then happen to be in the time of the Prophet, peace on him, believed in him, testified him and followed him: he shall have two fold reward. A slave who did his duty to his master and to Allah – he shall have two fold reward; and a man who had a slave-girl. He trained and educated her well, freed her, and then married her – he shall have two fold reward.”
    The hadith is in the Sahihayn (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    The above is from Muslim (Au.).
    And, after narrating this hadith to a Khurasani student, Sha`bi remarked, “Take this hadith from me for no cost. Earlier, a man traveled to Madinah to hear a hadith of this kind” (Qurtubi).

    أُولَٰئِكَ يُؤْتَوْنَ أَجْرَهُمْ مَرَّتَيْنِ بِمَا صَبَرُوا وَيَدْرَءُونَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ السَّيِّئَةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنْفِقُونَ (54)

    28|54| They will be given their reward twice for that they patiently endured. They avert evil with good,97 and, of what We have provided them, they expend.98

    97. Accordingly, the Prophet has said,

    أَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ تَمْحُهَا وَخَالِقْ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ

    “Follow up an evil deed with a good one, it will erase it, and deal with the people in a goodly manner” (Qurtubi).
    There is a shorter hadith of this meaning, in Ahmad, which Suyuti declared trustworthy in his Jami` (Au.).
    98. One can see how Allah first mentioned belief as their merit, then deeds involving the limbs of the body, and finally, deeds involving wealth, i.e., charitable expending (Razi).
    Thanwi adds: In warding off evil with the good, is the cure for love of the self, while in expending is the cure for love of wealth.

    وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا اللَّغْوَ أَعْرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَقَالُوا لَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ لَا نَبْتَغِي الْجَاهِلِينَ (55)

    28|55| When they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say, ‘To us our deeds, and to you your deeds. Peace on you.99 We seek not the ignorant.’

    99. Hasan has said about the “salamun alaykum” of such occasion as “kalimatu ‘l hilm” meaning, a word of gentle indulgence (Zamakhshari). What the words mean is, ‘You may rest in peace from us. We do not wish to wrangle with you’ (Qurtubi).
    Shah Abdul Qadir wrote at this point that if one feels talking to an ignorant man will not make him understand, then it is better to avoid talking to him altogether (Shabbir).

    إِنَّكَ لَا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ (56)

    28|56| Verily, you cannot guide whom you like; but rather, Allah guides whom He will;100 and He knows best the rightly guided.101

    100. “The Qur’anic statement, ‘thou canst not guide aright everyone whom thou lovest,’ has undoubtedly a timeless import as well: it stresses the inadequacy of all human endeavours to ‘convert’ any other person, however loving and loved, to one’s own beliefs, or to prevent him from falling into what one regards as error, unless that person wills to be so guided” (Asad).
    Abu Hurayrah is severally reported to have said that this verse was revealed in reference to the Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib. When his death approached him, the Prophet suggested to him, “Say: there is no deity save Allah, that I might bear witness on the Day of Standing.” He replied, “If not for the Quraysh taunting me that I said it overtaken by death-pangs, I would have said it;” and Allah revealed this verse. According to other reports, when the Prophet offered him the testimony of la ilaha, Abu Jahl and `Abdullah b. Umayyah, who had arrived before him, began to say, “Abu Talib! Will you renounce the religion of `Abd al-Muttalib (his father)?” The Prophet kept pressing on him with the testimony until Abu Talib said, “Upon the religion of `Abd al-Muttalib.” He refused to say the testimony. The Prophet remarked, “By Allah, I shall remain seeking forgiveness for you until I am forbidden. So Allah revealed, “It was not (proper) for the Prophet and the faithful to seek pardon for the polytheists, even if they were near of kin, after it became clear to them that they are companions of the Fire.”
    Sa`id ibn Musayyib, Mujahid and others have the same report to offer (Ibn Jarir). The report is in the Sahihayn which adds that every time the Prophet offered the testimony to Abu Talib, the two repeated their taunt (According to some reports Abu Talib said, “If it was not for a remark that would be left on you and on the progeny of your father, I would have said the words to the cool of your eyes” - Zamakhshari).
    In this context, Ibn Abi Hatim has another report. It reports Sa`id b. Abi Rashid as saying,

    عن سعيد بن أبي راشد قال: كان رسول قيصر جاء إليَّ قال: كتب معي قيصر إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كتابًا، فأتيته فدفعت الكتاب، فوضعه في حجره، ثم قال: "مِمَّنْ الرجل؟" قلت: من تنوخ . قال: "هل لك في دين أبيك إبراهيم الحنيفية؟" قلت: إني رسول قوم، وعلى دينهم حتى أرجع إليهم. فضحك رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ونظر إلى أصحابه وقال: إِنَّكَ لا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ

    “I was sent as a messenger by the Roman emperor. I traveled to the Prophet and presented the letter. He placed it in his house and then asked, ‘Where are you from?’ I answered ‘I am of the Tannukh.’ He asked, ‘Are you interested in the pure religion of your forefather Ibrahim?’ I said, ‘I am the messenger of a people, and on their religion until I return.’ The Prophet smiled broadly, looked at his Companions and said, ‘Verily, you cannot guide whom you like, but rather, Allah guides whom He will’ (Ibn Kathir).
    The above report is in Ahmad and other works also, some of which versions are quite interesting, but too long for reproduction in this short work (Au.).
    We also know of the affair of Abu Talib. The Prophet was keen that he should embrace Islam before death, but he would not. At death bed, with Abu Jahl on guard against Abu Talib’s tongue, the Prophet pleaded:

    قُلْ لا إِلَهَ إِلا الله أَشْهَد لَكَ بِها يَوْمَ القِيامَةِ، قال: لولا أن تعيرني قريش لأقررت عينك، فأنزل الله: إِنَّكَ لا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ

    “Say la ilaha lillallah, so that I can bear testimony to your testimony on the day of Judgment.” He replied, “If not for Quraysh taunting me I would have said it to cool your eyes,” and Allah revealed, “You cannot guide whom you love ..” (Ibn Jarir).
    It is also reported by `Amir that when Abu Talib died, some people commented that his kinship with the Prophet would not benefit him in anyway. The Prophet remarked,

    بَلى، والَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِه إنَّه السَّاعَةَ لَفِي ضَحْضَاحٍ مِنَ النَّارِ عَلَيْهِ نَعْلان مِنْ نَارٍ تغْلِي مِنْهُما أُمُّ رأسِهِ، وما مِنْ أهل النَّارِ مِنْ إِنْسانٍ هُوَ أَهْوَنُ عَذابًا مِنْهُ

    “No, by Allah. There will be no one on the Day of Judgment receiving a lighter punishment than Abu Talib. He will (merely) wear two sandals of Fire, (yet) that will boil his brain” (Ibn Jarir).
    This verse does not contradict another of the Qur’an (23: 73) which says,
    {وَإِنَّكَ لَتَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ} [المؤمنون: 73]
    “And surely, you guide them (O Prophet) to the straight path.” For, the latter is speaking of the way that the Prophet could show, while the former is speaking of the tawfiq (Divine impulse) – Razi.
    In all circumstance, the reports lead us to believe that the Prophet’s eagerness had its basis in his love for his uncle. One should therefore tread on the topic carefully, to avoid causing any pain to him. Caution should be the watchword (Alusi).
    101. The words could also be understood as meaning, He knows well who will receive guidance and who will not (Razi).

    وَقَالُوا إِنْ نَتَّبِعِ الْهُدَىٰ مَعَكَ نُتَخَطَّفْ مِنْ أَرْضِنَا ۚ أَوَلَمْ نُمَكِّنْ لَهُمْ حَرَمًا آمِنًا يُجْبَىٰ إِلَيْهِ ثَمَرَاتُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ رِزْقًا مِنْ لَدُنَّا وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (57)

    28|57| They said, ‘If we were to follow the guidance with you, we will be snatched away from our land.’102 Have We not established for them a secure Sanctuary, to which are brought fruits of every manner, as provision from Ourselves?103 But most of them realize not.104

    102. That is because in pre-Islamic times the territories around the Makkans were unsafe. People who could not protect themselves through an alliance could be looted, kidnapped, enslaved, or even murdered, except for the Makkans, who were treated with respect for the virtue of they being the custodians of the Ka`ba. It was Harth b. `Amir b. Nawfal who said, “We know that what you have brought is true. But, we are prevented by the thought that we will be snatched off the land – meaning, war will be declared on us (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi).
    103. The purport of the ayah is that when the unbelievers said that they were afraid of losing worldly benefits if they declared their belief in the new message, Allah answered, in effect, that insistence upon rejection of the truth in fact endangers worldly blessings (Razi).
    104. That is, they do not know that just as the security provided to them by Allah was by virtue of Him having declared the city a Sanctuary, the fruits of all manner that are brought to it are also by Allah’s power and command.

    وَكَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ بَطِرَتْ مَعِيشَتَهَا ۖ فَتِلْكَ مَسَاكِنُهُمْ لَمْ تُسْكَنْ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا ۖ وَكُنَّا نَحْنُ الْوَارِثِينَ (58)

    28|58| And, how many of the towns We destroyed that exulted in their manner of life? Yonder there are their dwellings that were not dwelt in after them, except briefly;105 it is We who were the inheritors.

    105. The textual words “illa qalila” afford two meanings. One, those dwellings were not inhabited but by a few of the remnants, and two, they were not dwelt in at all after their inhabitants were destroyed, save for an occasional passer-by who spent a night or so. This is the meaning that Ibn `Abbas preferred as noted by several commentators.

    وَمَا كَانَ رَبُّكَ مُهْلِكَ الْقُرَىٰ حَتَّىٰ يَبْعَثَ فِي أُمِّهَا رَسُولًا يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ وَمَا كُنَّا مُهْلِكِي الْقُرَىٰ إِلَّا وَأَهْلُهَا ظَالِمُونَ (59)

    28|59| And, your Lord was not a destroyer of the towns until He had sent to its central (town) a Messenger reciting upon them Our revelations.106 And We were not to be the destroyers unless its inhabitants were evildoers.107

    106. Allah sent Messengers to the main towns because, one, (for cultural reason) the message is understood better in the main towns and, two because propagation of the call is easier from there than from minor towns (Thanwi).
    107. That is, Allah would not destroy a town even after it had received His Messenger until confirmed rejection of its inhabitants proved true through several respites.

    وَمَا أُوتِيتُمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فَمَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَزِينَتُهَا ۚ وَمَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ ۚ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ (60)

    28|60| And, whatever of the things you are given, is but this world’s transitory (means of) enjoyment and its glitter. But that which is with Allah, is better and longer lasting. Will you not then reason?108

    108. Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said, “Allah created the world and made its people of three kinds: believer, hypocrite and unbeliever. The believer prepares for the Hereafter, the hypocrite goes for the glitter, and the unbeliever for fleeing enjoyments.”

    أَفَمَنْ وَعَدْنَاهُ وَعْدًا حَسَنًا فَهُوَ لَاقِيهِ كَمَنْ مَتَّعْنَاهُ مَتَاعَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ثُمَّ هُوَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مِنَ الْمُحْضَرِينَ (61)

    28|61| Is he then, whom We have promised a good promise, and so he will meet it, like he whom We gave this world’s transitory (means of) enjoyment but who will be of those arraigned on the Day of Standing?109

    109. That is, he will be brought forth and made to appear in Allah’s Court of Justice as a criminal on the Day of Judgment (Au.).

    وَيَوْمَ يُنَادِيهِمْ فَيَقُولُ أَيْنَ شُرَكَائِيَ الَّذِينَ كُنْتُمْ تَزْعُمُونَ (62)

    28|62| And that day He will call them, ‘Where are My partners that you were alleging?’

    قَالَ الَّذِينَ حَقَّ عَلَيْهِمُ الْقَوْلُ رَبَّنَا هَٰؤُلَاءِ الَّذِينَ أَغْوَيْنَا أَغْوَيْنَاهُمْ كَمَا غَوَيْنَا ۖ تَبَرَّأْنَا إِلَيْكَ ۖ مَا كَانُوا إِيَّانَا يَعْبُدُونَ (63)

    28|63| Those for whom the word (of punishment) will prove true will say, ‘O our Lord! These are the ones whom we led astray. We led them astray, even as we (ourselves) went astray.110 We disassociate ourselves (from them) to You. It is not us they were worshipping.’

    110. What they would try to say is that ‘we are not truly responsible for misguiding them. We were ourselves misguided and they, those we are supposed to have misguided, went astray by their own volition. For, all that we did by way of leading them astray is to make suggestions. Yet, if we had invited them to disbelief, they were invited by Allah to belief through a voice that spoke from within, the voice of reason and conscience, to which was added the voice of the Messengers sent to them.’ This is what Shaytan will say on the Day of Judgment (14: 22):

    {وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدْتُكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَنْ دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ مَا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنْتُمْ بِمُصْرِخِيَّ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِنْ قَبْلُ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ} [إبراهيم: 22]

    “And Satan will say when the matter is concluded, ‘Allah promised you a true promise, and I too promised. But I failed in my promise. And I had no power over you except that I invited you and you responded to me. Therefore, do not blame me, blame your own selves. I cannot come to your aid now nor can you come to my aid. I disown your earlier (act of) associating me (with Allah).’ Surely, a painful chastisement (awaits) the wrongdoers” (Zamakhshari, Razi).

    وَقِيلَ ادْعُوا شُرَكَاءَكُمْ فَدَعَوْهُمْ فَلَمْ يَسْتَجِيبُوا لَهُمْ وَرَأَوُا الْعَذَابَ ۚ لَوْ أَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يَهْتَدُونَ (64)

    28|64| And it will be said, ‘Call upon your partners.’ So they will call upon them, but they will not respond to them. And they will see the chastisement – would that they had received the guidance.111

    111. Zajjaj has said that the consequence of “would that” has not been stated. The implication is, “had we believed, we would have escaped the punishment today” (Qurtubi).

    وَيَوْمَ يُنَادِيهِمْ فَيَقُولُ مَاذَا أَجَبْتُمُ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (65)

    28|65| And that day He will call them and say, ‘What did you answer the Messengers?’112

    112. After being questioned about tawhid, they will next be questioned about risalah to be asked in effect, ‘If you could not use your own reason to arrive at tawhid, you could have at least listened to the voice of the Messengers. How did you answer them?’ (Shabbir)

    فَعَمِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الْأَنْبَاءُ يَوْمَئِذٍ فَهُمْ لَا يَتَسَاءَلُونَ (66)

    28|66| But that day their arguments will be lost to them, and they will not ask each other.113

    113. That is, they will not ask each other for help, as people normally do when they face difficulties (Zamakhshari, Razi). Qurtubi thinks they will not seek each other’s advice over how they should answer to construct a good case.

    فَأَمَّا مَنْ تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَعَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُفْلِحِينَ (67)

    28|67| Then, as for he who had repented, believed, and did righteous deeds, then haply114 he will be of the successful.

    114. When `asa (haply) is used by Allah (as a possibility from Him), it actually stands for certainty (Ibn Jarir).

    وَرَبُّكَ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ وَيَخْتَارُ ۗ مَا كَانَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ ۚ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (68)

    28|68| And your Lord creates what He will, and chooses.115 Not for them was the choice. Glory to Allah, high above that they associate (with Him).

    115. Bazzar has a trustworthy report which says,

    إن الله اختار أصحابي على العالمين سوى النبيين والمرسلين، واختار لي من أصحابي أربعة" - يعني أبا بكر وعمر وعثمان وعلياً رحمهم الله - "فجعلهم أصحابي". وقال: "في أصحابي: كلهم خير، واختار أمتي على الأمم، واختار من أمتي أربعة قرون: القرن الأول والثاني والثالث والرابع

    “Allah chose my Companions over the peoples of the world, except the Messengers and Prophets. Then of my Companions He chose for me four : Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman and `Ali. He made them my Companions. To be sure, there is some good in every one of my Companions. And He chose my Ummah over the rest of the nations, and of my Ummah, he chose four centuries: the first, the second, the third and the fourth” (Qurtubi).
    Haythamiyy declared that the above report could be trusted except that some differences in opinion have occurred over a few of the narrators (Au.).
    Qurtubi follows up with some details about Salah al-Istikharah. It is not right for a believer that he should decide on any (important) affair without asking His Lord to help him choose the right course. Bukhari has a report that the Prophet (saws) used to teach his Companions to seek Allah’s guidance (through Salah al-Istikharah) in every affair. He paid as much attention to it, as he would when teaching them a chapter of the Qur’an. One must offer two rak`ah of Prayers, apart from other supererogatory Prayers and recite after Al-Fatiha, Surah number 109 in the first rak`ah, and number 112 in the second rak`ah. Some scholars have said, adds Qurtubi, that in the first rak`ah one might recite the verse under discussion, and in the second raka`ah (33: 36) which says,

    {وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَنْ يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ وَمَنْ يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا مُبِينًا} [الأحزاب: 36]

    “It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should have any choice in their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, has surely strayed into clear error.” After finishing the Prayer he should supplicate to Allah in the following words:

    اللّهُمِّ إنّي أسْتَخِيرُ كَ بِعِلْمِكَ و أسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ وَ أَسْألُكَ مِنْ فَضلِكَ العَظيمِ فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَ لا أقْدِرُ وَ تَعْلَمُ وَ لا أَعْلَمُ وَ أنتَ عَلِّامُ الغُيُوبِ. اللّهمَّ إنْ كُنتَ تَعْلَمُ أنَّ هذَا الأمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِيني وَ مَعاشِي و عاقِبَةِ أمْرِي – أوْ قالَ عاجِلِ أمْري و آجِلِهِ – فَاقْدِرْهُ لي ويَسِّرْهُ لي ثُمَّ بارِكْ لي فيه. و إنْ كُنتَ تَعْلَمُ أنَّ هذَا الأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لي في ديني و مَعاشي و عاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي – أوْ قالَ في عاجِلِ أَمْري و آجِلِه – فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي و اصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ و اقْدِرْ لي الخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي بِهِ

    “O Allah! I seek Your help, by Your knowledge, and invoke Your Might through Your Power; ask of Your great bounty; for You have power and I have no power; You know and I do not know; and You are the Knower of the Unseen. O Allah. If You know that there is good for me in this affair, in my religion and in my life, and my affairs of the hereafter” – or he said, “the immediate of my affairs or the ultimate” – then, give me power for it and make it easy for me. Then, bless me in it. But if You know that this affair bodes evil for me, in my religion or life and in my affairs of the hereafter,” – or he said, “the immediate of the affairs and the ultimate” – then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and give me power over good, wherever it might be, and then render it acceptable to me.” After these words the man might name his need.
    And `A’isha reports from Abu Bakr who reports from the Prophet that when the Prophet wished to do something he would say, “O Allah! Make a choice for me.” It is also reported that he told Anas, “O Anas, when you wish to do something, seek the right course from your Lord seven times, then see what establishes itself in your heart, for the good is in it.”
    The scholars have said that before seeking Allah’s help, one should first empty his heart of any choice without being inclined to any particular side. Then seek Allah’s help in that state of neutrality and do according to the heart’s inclination, for the good is in it.
    Quote from Qurtubi ends here.

    وَرَبُّكَ يَعْلَمُ مَا تُكِنُّ صُدُورُهُمْ وَمَا يُعْلِنُونَ (69)

    28|69| And your Lord knows what their breasts conceal and what they publish.

    وَهُوَ اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ لَهُ الْحَمْدُ فِي الْأُولَىٰ وَالْآخِرَةِ ۖ وَلَهُ الْحُكْمُ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ (70)

    28|70| And He is Allah, there is no deity save He. Unto Him is the praise,116 at the first and at the last. His is the command,117 and to Him you will be returned.

    116. The praise of this mention is the “praise of delight” (hamd al-ladhdhah) and not the obligatory praise (hamd al-kulfah). It is about this class that the Prophet said, “They (the inhabitants of Paradise) will be inspired with glorifications and exaltations (of Allah)” – Zamakhshari.
    117. Imam Razi traces the sources of morality to Allah’s will and command: “If not for His command,” he writes, “there would have been no command on the earth. A child would not have obeyed his parents, a wife would not have obeyed her husband, neither subjects their rulers, nor a people their Messenger. It is Allah’s command that established the command of these people.”

    قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمُ اللَّيْلَ سَرْمَدًا إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ مَنْ إِلَٰهٌ غَيْرُ اللَّهِ يَأْتِيكُمْ بِضِيَاءٍ ۖ أَفَلَا تَسْمَعُونَ (71)

    28|71| Say, ‘Have you considered, were Allah to make the night perpetual upon you till the Day of Standing, what god is there besides Allah who could bring you light?118 Do you not then hearken?’

    118. An important reality is concealed behind the simple statement, “who could bring you light” because all life on earth is dependent on photosynthesis of the plants which in turn depends entirely on the sun’s energy (Au.).

    قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمُ النَّهَارَ سَرْمَدًا إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ مَنْ إِلَٰهٌ غَيْرُ اللَّهِ يَأْتِيكُمْ بِلَيْلٍ تَسْكُنُونَ فِيهِ ۖ أَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ (72)

    28|72| Say, ‘Have you considered, were Allah to make the day perpetual upon you till the Day of Standing, what god is there beside Allah who could bring you a night wherein you could repose?119 Do you not see (the truth)?’

    119. We get light on all parts of the earth because it turns around on its axis completing one turn in about 24 hours, while orbiting the sun in about 365 days. Had the turn on its own axis been so arranged that when the earth completed, say one quarter of its orbit around the sun, then, during the same period, it also turned one fourth around its own axis, then the earth would be showing the same face to the sun. On and on, turning on its own axis, and orbiting the sun during the same time, the earth would always show its one face to the sun, the other half remaining in perpetual darkness. As if to give us an example at close hand, Allah established this system between the earth and the moon. The moon turns around its axis in about 29 days, while it also completes an orbit around the earth in exactly the same time, and hence the inhabitants of the earth can never see the other face of the moon from the earth. This arrangement, according to the scientists, is by accident. But the problem is, the universe is filled with such accidental occurrences! (Au.)

    وَمِنْ رَحْمَتِهِ جَعَلَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ لِتَسْكُنُوا فِيهِ وَلِتَبْتَغُوا مِنْ فَضْلِهِ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ (73)

    28|73| It is out of His mercy (that) He made for you the night and the day - so that you might rest therein and seek from His bounty120 - and that haply you will give thanks.

    120. That is, writes Qurtubi, Allah made night and day, in both of which men can rest, whereas, He made the day specifically so that they may seek His provision.
    Alternatively, the verse could be paraphrased as: “It is out of His mercy (that) He made for you night - so that you might rest therein – and the day – so that you may seek His bounty during it (Au.).

    وَيَوْمَ يُنَادِيهِمْ فَيَقُولُ أَيْنَ شُرَكَائِيَ الَّذِينَ كُنْتُمْ تَزْعُمُونَ (74)

    28|74| And the day He will call unto them and say, ‘Where are My associates (in Divinity) that you were alleging?’

    وَنَزَعْنَا مِنْ كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ شَهِيدًا فَقُلْنَا هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ فَعَلِمُوا أَنَّ الْحَقَّ لِلَّهِ وَضَلَّ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ (75)

    28|75| And We shall draw out a witness from every nation121 and say, ‘Produce your evidence.’122 Then shall they know that the truth belongs to Allah, and lost to them will be those that they were forging.

    121. That is, Allah will draw out of every nation its Prophet or Messenger, who will testify that he had conveyed the message to them (Mujahid: Ibn Jarir).
    122. That is, present your evidences for worshipping false gods despite the Messengers delivering their message to you (Mujahid: Ibn Jarir).

    إِنَّ قَارُونَ كَانَ مِنْ قَوْمِ مُوسَىٰ فَبَغَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْكُنُوزِ مَا إِنَّ مَفَاتِحَهُ لَتَنُوءُ بِالْعُصْبَةِ أُولِي الْقُوَّةِ إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ قَوْمُهُ لَا تَفْرَحْ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْفَرِحِينَ (76)

    28|76| Verily, Qarun was of the people of Musa,123 but he acted insolently towards them.124 And such were the treasures We had given him125 that their very keys would burden a body of strong men.126 Whereupon his people said to him, ‘Exult not; surely, Allah does not approve of the exultant.

    123. According to Ibrahim, Qatadah and others he was Musa’s cousin (Ibn Jarir). The report is in Ibn Abi Shaybah’s Musannaf, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Hakim (who declared it trustworthy), and Ibn Marduwayh (Shawkani).
    124. When bagha is used along with the suffix `alayhi, it adds the connotation of envy to the primary meaning of “rising against,” “acting insolently and arrogantly,” etc. Muslim sources say that Qarun was envious of Musa and Harun that they held all the ecclesiastical offices between themselves with none invested in him (Qurtubi and others). Further, Musa was demanding from Qarun payment of poor-due, which, at the rate of 0.1%. But Qarun did not feel it was a just demand and so he rebelled. The significance of the Qur’anic words is fully realized through Jewish literature – if trustworthy. Majid comments and quotes: “Bagha `ala akhihi” is also, ‘He envied his brother; he wished that a blessing, or cause of happiness, or an excellence might become transferred from his brother to himself’ (LL). The Bible gives rather a meagre account of his ‘rising’ against Moses and Aron (on them be peace!). ‘And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?’ (Nu. 16: 2,3).
    “Josephus supplies some details:- ‘Corah, an Hebrew of principal account, both by his family and by his wealth … saw that Moses was in an exceeding great dignity, and was uneasy at it, and envied him on that account, (he was of the same tribe with Moses and kin to him) being particularly grieved, because he thought he better deserved that honourable post on account of his great riches, and as not inferior to him in his birth. So he raised a clamour against him among the Levites, who were of the same tribe, and especially among his kindred that … if God had determined to bestow that honour on one of the tribes of Levi, I am more worthy of it than he is, I myself being equal to Moses by my family, and superior to him in riches, and in my age.’ (“Ant,” Iv., 2: 2).”
    125. Qurtubi points out that according to Farra’, the explanation by some that Qarun’s wealth was due to his knowledge of “Alchemy” is incorrect. Alchemy is pseudo-science with no basis in truth.
    Ibn Kathir comments: Alchemy is no science for the simple reason that no one can alter the essence of things, such as ordinary metals to gold. A trustworthy narrative tells us that the Prophet said, “Allah says,

    وَمن أظلم مِمَّن ذهب يخلق خلقا كخلقي ، فليخلقوا ذرة ، أَو ليخلقوا حَبَّة ، أَو ليخلقوا شعيرَة

    “Who can be more wrong than he who claimed that he could create like I create. Let them then create an atom, let them create a barley seed.”
    This hadith is in reference to the prohibition against artwork involving humans. Now, if mere image-making invokes such response, then what about when somebody claims to alter the very nature of things? No one can ever transfer say, one metal into another, unless it is by karamah (thaumaturgy) of the Friends of Allah, where, it is Allah’s own power which is working and not that of the person involved. For example, we have the story of Haywah b. Shurayh the Egyptian, whom someone asked for help. He had nothing to offer, although he could see the pressing need of the man before him. So he took a few pebbles, shook them in his hand and then advanced them to the man. And Lo! They were pieces of gold. There are several reports of this kind that cannot be presented for reasons of length.
    Ibn Kathir’s quote ends here.
    126. That Qarun was fabulously rich is a Qur’anic testimony. According to Jewish sources (such as the Jewish Encyclopaedia), the keys to his treasures had to be carried on the back of three hundred mules. (Yusuf Ali traces a similar report from Jewish compilation called Midrashim). Muslim commentators seem to have been influenced by them. They have reported that the keys were carried not by three hundred, but by sixty mules. But, allowance made for Jewish hyperbole, we are still faced with the Qur’anic statement, “And such were the treasures We had given him that their very keys would burden a body of strong men.” There are three answers: one, the word “mafatih” has to be understood in the sense of “treasures.” This was the opinion of Abu Saleh. Two, Dahhak thought that the allusion by “mafatih” is to “treasure-chests,” that were carried on forty mules. Three, the keys were made of leather which ended with wooden rods (that made them heavy). These three opinions are in Ibn Jarir. A fourth possibility is that since during that period technology was quite crude and cumbersome, the keys could have been made of massive sized wood, for special kinds of locks that the technology of that time could afford. Dozens of such keys would have required a band of men to take charge of material in the stockyards. (There is no consensus over the number that `usbah stands for. Opinions vary from 3-10 men to 40 men. Further, uli-quwwah could as well be referring to men experienced in accounts capable of handling large stocks of a variety of goods ranging from cloth, to arms, to spices). Finally, the Qur’an does not implicitly say that the keys were too heavy. A possible implication is that there were so many keys, (quite heavy in their own right), that the carrying, preserving and guarding of which was a heavy task upon a band of men (Au.).
    One question may arise: The Israelites did not enter into Palestine for forty years after leaving Egypt. So, where were Qarun’s treasures? Yusuf Ali conjectures that perhaps he left his treasures in Egypt itself having brought with him only the keys. But that does not seem to be very likely, unless Qarun also went back to Egypt along with Musa after Fir`awn was drowned, as reported by Josephus (although Josephus does not name him). Alternatively, the episode might have taken place during the sojourn in Sinai, during which sojourn Qarun might have carried his treasure-chests on dozens of mules. That said, perhaps the explanation of Abu Saleh above is the most satisfactory, especially in view of the fact that the Qur'an has not made hyperbolic statements anywhere (Au.).

    وَابْتَغِ فِيمَا آتَاكَ اللَّهُ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ ۖ وَلَا تَنْسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَأَحْسِنْ كَمَا أَحْسَنَ اللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ ۖ وَلَا تَبْغِ الْفَسَادَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُفْسِدِينَ (77)

    28|77| But seek through what Allah has given you the Final Abode; and forget not your share of the world.127 And do good (to others) as Allah has done you good, and seek not corruption in the land. Surely, Allah does not approve of the corrupters.’

    127. That is, do not give up working to please Allah in this world, through good deeds – Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others (Ibn Jarir).
    After presenting the above opinions, Qurtubi adds that according to some the allusion is to his coffin. They meant to say, “Do not forget that in truth, your share of this world is the coffin-shroud in which you will be packed and dispatched into the Hereafter.” He quotes two poetical examples in support of this interpretation.
    Another possible meaning is, do not forget to take your rightful share of this-worldly things such as victuals, clothes, articles of adornment, etc. For, your Lord has a right on you, your body has a right on you, your wife and children have their rights on you, your guest has a right on you, and so, give everyone his due (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    قَالَ إِنَّمَا أُوتِيتُهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ عِنْدِي ۚ أَوَلَمْ يَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَهْلَكَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ مِنَ الْقُرُونِ مَنْ هُوَ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُ قُوَّةً وَأَكْثَرُ جَمْعًا ۚ وَلَا يُسْأَلُ عَنْ ذُنُوبِهِمُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ (78)

    28|78| He boasted, ‘I was only given it by virtue of a knowledge that I have.’128 What! Did he not know that Allah destroyed before him of the generations, him who was stronger than he in might, and greater in wealth?129 And the criminals will not be questioned about their sins.130

    128. Several of the earliest commentators have said that the allusion by “knowledge” is to the knowledge of the Torah that Qarun had mastered.
    Ibn Zayd has said that Qarun thought that ‘if Allah was not well-pleased with me, if He was not unaware of my superiority, and the fact that I deserved it all, He would not have bestowed this wealth on me’ (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    The apparent meaning can be stated in Majid’s words: “i.e., what is this foolish talk about the grace and bounty of God? I have earned all this wealth on account of my own skill in the art of making money.”
    129. That is, if wealth and material power were signs of Allah’s approval, why were nations and individuals of earlier times who were wealthier and stronger than him destroyed?
    130. There are two possible meanings: one, as Qatadah has said, the unbelievers will be pushed into Hellfire without being questioned about their actions in the world. And two, the latter day unbelievers will not be questioned about the sins committed by earlier criminals (Ibn Jarir).
    Zamakhshari thinks however that the relationship is as follows: When Allah mentioned that there were many who were destroyed for their sins, He also stated that He did not need to question the unbelievers for their crimes. He had full knowledge of their doings.

    فَخَرَجَ عَلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ فِي زِينَتِهِ ۖ قَالَ الَّذِينَ يُرِيدُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا يَا لَيْتَ لَنَا مِثْلَ مَا أُوتِيَ قَارُونُ إِنَّهُ لَذُو حَظٍّ عَظِيمٍ (79)

    28|79| Then he strutted forth before his people in his pomp.131 Said those who aimed for the life of the world, ‘O would that we had the like of what Qarun has been given. Truly, he is (a man) of great fortune.’

    131. That is, he appeared along with his huge retinue, exulting, and displaying his wealth and position (Ibn Jarir).
    “That Korah was joined by a large number of malcontents is borne out by the Jewish traditions: ‘Korah incited all the people against Moses, arguing that it was quite impossible to endure the laws instituted by the latter.’ (JE. VII p. 557).”

    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ وَيْلَكُمْ ثَوَابُ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ لِمَنْ آمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَلَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلَّا الصَّابِرُونَ (80)

    28|80| But said those who were given knowledge, ‘Woe unto you, Allah’s reward is better for him who believes and works righteous deeds. But none is granted it except the patient (and persevering).’

    فَخَسَفْنَا بِهِ وَبِدَارِهِ الْأَرْضَ فَمَا كَانَ لَهُ مِنْ فِئَةٍ يَنْصُرُونَهُ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُنْتَصِرِينَ (81)

    28|81| So We sank him and his dwelling into the earth.132 He had no party to help him against Allah, nor was he of those who could defend themselves.

    132. In the absence of a trustworthy report, it is difficult to say what immediate cause led to the earth swallowing Qarun. A popular report as in Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani and others can be summarised in the following manner: When Qarun was asked by Musa to expend a meager amount of wealth in charity, it sounded like too much to him. So he thought he would rather cast aspersion on Musa and humiliate him before the elders of the Children of Israel rather than pay up. He prepared a harlot at good cost to allege that Musa had sex with her. As Musa visited Qarun to admonish him and his retinue, entourage, sycophants and supporters, he was confronted by Qarun who asked him whether what he preached about severing of the hand for theft, stoning to death for adultery and all that was equally applicable to him? (That is, to Musa). Musa said yes. At that point he accused him of adultery and the harlot was produced for testimony. But before the woman could speak out, Musa asked her to swear by all that was holy unto the Israelites before she made a statement. That drove fear into the woman and she decided to tell the truth viz., that Qarun had paid her to make the accusation against Musa. Musa went into prostration weeping, and supplicated that he be given command over the earth for a while. The supplication granted, he commanded the earth to swallow Qarun and his mansion, which it did. Qarun pleaded for mercy as he sank, but Musa paid no attention to him. After the sinking, Allah admonished Musa to the effect that had Qarun pleaded to Him for mercy, He would have responded to him. And, it is thought that his wealth was also sunk into the earth in order to remove any doubt that Musa wished to possess it.
    Majid presents the Jewish traditions of this context: “The ground clave asunder that was under them. And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained Korah, and all their goods. They, and all appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation.’ (Nu. 16: 31-33). See also “Ant.” IV, 4: 3,4). ‘At the time of Kora’s engulfment, the earth became like a funnel, and everything that belonged to him, even linen that was the launderer’s and needle that had been borrowed by personal living at a distance from Korah, rolled till it fell into the chasm. According to the Rabbis, Korah himself underwent the double punishment of being burned and buried alive’ (JE. VII. p. 557).”
    The description above of the earth becoming a funnel, if a reliable report, lends credence to the idea that he sank in the Sinai Desert. In our times, several caving in of the earth in the earth, have been reported, some, right in the middle of a town, and so large as to swallow houses and cars (Au.).
    There is no hadith that mentions Qarun’s end. But Bukhari has a report which says,

    بَيْنَمَا رَجُلٌ يَمْشِي فِي حُلَّةٍ تُعْجِبُهُ نَفْسُهُ مُرَجِّلٌ جُمَّتَهُ إِذْ خَسَفَ اللَّهُ بِهِ فَهُوَ يَتَجَلْجَلُ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ

    “While a man was dragging his lower garment, he was swallowed by the earth and he will remain sinking in the earth until the Day of Standing.” Another report in Ahmad is slightly differently worded. It says,

    بَيْنَا رَجُلٌ فِيمَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ خَرَجَ فِي بُرْدَيْنِ أَخْضَرَيْنِ يَخْتَالُ فِيهِمَا أَمَرَ اللَّهُ الْأَرْضَ فَأَخَذَتْهُ وَإِنَّهُ لَيَتَجَلْجَلُ فِيهَا إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ

    “While a man from of those before you came out in two green garments, strutting proudly and arrogantly, Allah ordered the earth to swallow him up. He will remain sinking into it until the Day of Judgment.” (Both these reports do not identify Qarun as the person).
    And Hafiz ibn al-Mundhir has recorded in his `Aja’ib wa Ghara’ib the following from Nawfal b. Musahiq: “Once I encountered a young man in one of the mosques in Najran. I began to stare at him for his health, beauty and extremely well-balanced figure. He asked, ‘Why do you stare at me?’ I replied, ‘In wonder at your beauty and perfection.’ He said arrogantly, ‘Ah, even Allah wonders at me.’ Immediately he began to shrink in size until he became as small as about half a foot. One of his relatives picked him up, put him in his pocket and left” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَأَصْبَحَ الَّذِينَ تَمَنَّوْا مَكَانَهُ بِالْأَمْسِ يَقُولُونَ وَيْكَأَنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَقْدِرُ ۖ لَوْلَا أَنْ مَنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَيْنَا لَخَسَفَ بِنَا ۖ وَيْكَأَنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الْكَافِرُونَ (82)

    28|82| And those who had longed for his position the previous day began to say by the morning,133 ‘Ah! It is Allah indeed who extends provision to whom He will of His slaves and constricts it.134 Had not Allah been gracious to us, He would have sunk us (also). Ah!135 Surely the unbelievers never prosper.’

    133. By the morning because, writes Alusi, the sinking took place at night.
    134. Wealth and well-being are no signs of Allah’s approval. A hadith speaks of the principle behind Allah’s division of wealth and other things. It says, as reported by Ibn Mas`ud,

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَسَمَ بَيْنَكُمْ أَخْلَاقَكُمْ كَمَا قَسَمَ بَيْنَكُمْ أَرْزَاقَكُمْ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يُعْطِي الدُّنْيَا مَنْ يُحِبُّ وَمَنْ لَا يُحِبُّ وَلَا يُعْطِي الدِّينَ إِلَّا لِمَنْ أَحَبَّ

    “Allah has divided good character amongst you as he has divided wealth. Indeed, Allah gives wealth unto him He loves, and unto him He does not love. But He does not bestow iman (faith) except on him He loves” (Ibn Kathir).
    135. “Ah” is a very poor equivalent of “wayka-annahu”. In Arabic it carries several connotations such as: “Have you not seen that?”, “Do you not see that?”, “Have you not known?”, etc., which is the meaning preferred by Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir.

    تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا ۚ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ (83)

    28|83| That home of the Hereafter We appoint it for those who seek not self-exaltation in the land, nor corruption.136 And the (good) end is for the godfearing.137

    136. What constitutes “`uluww fi’l ard”? Ibn Kathir writes that it is arrogant treatment of the people. The Prophet has said,

    إن الله عَز وجَل أَوحَى إِليَّ أنْ تَواضَعُوا ، ولا يَبغِ بَعضُكُم على بَعضٍ

    “It has been revealed to me that you should be humble, so that none of you waxes proud against another and no one mistreats another.”
    The report is in Muslim and Abu Da’ud: Hussain b. Ibrahim.
    And `Ali (ibn Abi Talib) has said that if a man wishes that his shoe-lace should be better than his brother’s, then this verse is applicable to him (Kashshaf). That however, adds Ibn Kathir, if it is out of pride and show of insolence; otherwise not. A sahih report says that a man asked the Prophet,

    قَالَ رَجُلٌ إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ يُحِبُّ أَنْ يَكُونَ ثَوْبُهُ حَسَنًا وَنَعْلُهُ حَسَنَةً. قَالَ « إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَمِيلٌ يُحِبُّ الْجَمَالَ

    “A man likes that his clothes be good, and shoes beautiful. Does that constitute pride?” He answered, “No. Allah is beautiful and He approves of the beautiful.”
    Qurtubi adds the following from Tabarani who narrates through Ahmad b. Hanbal: It is reported that once Hasan b. `Ali passed by a group of poor folks who were having their lunch over pieces of bread. He greeted them and they invited him to join in. Hasan recited this ayah,

    {تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ } [القصص: 83]

    “That home of the Hereafter We appoint it for those who seek not self-exaltation in the land, nor corruption.” Then he got down from his beast and joined them. When they had finished he said, “I responded to your invitation, now you should respond to mine.” He took them home, fed them and gifted them things.
    And it is reported that when `Adiyy b. Hatim entered upon the Prophet for the first time, he spread a cushion for `Adiyy to sit on. But `Adiyy preferred to sit on the bare ground. The Prophet told him,

    قال أشهد أنك لا تبغى علوا فى الأرض ولا فسادا

    “I testify that you are of those who do not seek self-exaltation in the earth nor corruption.” Not surprisingly, `Adiyy embraced Islam in that session.
    And it is reported of `Ali at the time he happened to be the Caliph that he would visit the markets, help the lost one to find his way, assist the weak, pass by the grocery and vegetable sellers and remind them by the Qur’an. All the while he would be repeating,

    {تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ } [القصص: 83]

    “That home of the Hereafter We appoint it for those who seek not self-exaltation in the land, nor corruption” (Alusi).
    137. “This verse was recited by the Prophet at the end of his last public address” (Majid).

    مَنْ جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ خَيْرٌ مِنْهَا ۖ وَمَنْ جَاءَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَى الَّذِينَ عَمِلُوا السَّيِّئَاتِ إِلَّا مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (84)

    28|84| Whosoever brings a good (deed), then, for him is better than it. While he who brought an evil, then those who worked evil will not be recompensed but for what they were doing.

    إِنَّ الَّذِي فَرَضَ عَلَيْكَ الْقُرْآنَ لَرَادُّكَ إِلَىٰ مَعَادٍ ۚ قُلْ رَبِّي أَعْلَمُ مَنْ جَاءَ بِالْهُدَىٰ وَمَنْ هُوَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ (85)

    28|85| Surely He who ordained the Qur’an upon you, will surely bring you back to the place of return.138 Say, ‘My Lord knows very well who has brought the guidance, and who it is that is in manifest error.’

    138. Linguistically, the construction “ma`ad” is for “a place of return.” To what is the allusion? According to Ibn `Abbas, Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, Mujahid, `Ikrimah and Sa`id b. Jubayr, it is to Paradise. However, `Ikrimah, Mujahid and Hasan also mentioned it as being an allusion to the Day of Judgment. Ibn `Abbas and Sa`id b. Jubayr offered another opinion. They said that the allusion was to the Prophet’s death. And a fourth opinion is that the allusion was to Makkah. This was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid (Ibn Jarir). This last opinion of Ibn `Abbas is in Bukhari, Nasa’i and others (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    Thus Ibn `Abbas figures in all the opinions, perhaps because he had different aspects and implications in mind when making several statements on different occasions. And of course, reconciliation is easily possible, there being no contradiction between the various opinions. Dahhak on the other hand is reported to have said (Kashshaf) that when the Prophet (saws) had reached Juhfah during his Hijrah-journey, he felt nostalgic about Makkah. So to comfort him, Allah (swt) revealed this verse promising him that one day He will take him back to it (Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi also reports the above opinions as well as the statement of Ibn `Abbas which imply that this verse is neither Makkan nor Madinan.

    وَمَا كُنْتَ تَرْجُو أَنْ يُلْقَىٰ إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابُ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً مِنْ رَبِّكَ ۖ فَلَا تَكُونَنَّ ظَهِيرًا لِلْكَافِرِينَ (86)

    28|86| And you were not expecting that the Book will be cast unto you, except that it is a mercy from your Lord. Do not then, ever be a supporter to the unbelievers.

    وَلَا يَصُدُّنَّكَ عَنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ بَعْدَ إِذْ أُنْزِلَتْ إِلَيْكَ ۖ وَادْعُ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ ۖ وَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (87)

    28|87| And never let them avert you away from Allah’s revelations after they have been sent down to you. Invite to your Lord; and never be of the polytheists.

    وَلَا تَدْعُ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ ۘ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلَّا وَجْهَهُ ۚ لَهُ الْحُكْمُ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ (88)

    28|88| And do not invoke with Allah, another deity. There is no deity save He. Everything will perish except His Face.139 His is the command,140 and to Him you will be returned.

    139. “Wajhahu”, literally, ‘His countenance’ signifies ‘His self’ or ‘Him’” (Majid). Alusi points out that according to the Salaf, “Wajh” is one of the Attributes of Allah which cannot be qualified or quantified.
    Some of the Salaf believed that the sentence is purporting to say, “Everything will perish, except such deeds as performed for the sake of His Face – that is, for the sake of Allah’s Pleasure” (Bada’e`, `Uthmani, Shafi`). Ibn Kathir traces this opinion to Mujahid and Thawri as in Bukhari who himself obviously agrees with the meaning. Ibn Jarir quotes a poetical verse to show similar use by the ancients.
    140. That is, it is His command alone that is executed in His creation (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Also see note 117 above.