Surat Al-`Ankabūt

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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


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


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


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


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


  • Surah No. 29

    Merits of the Surah

    “The title has been derived from the parable of ‘the spider’s house’ in verse 41, a symbol of false beliefs and false values, which in the long run are bound to be blown away by the winds of truth” (Asad).
    Yusuf Ali writes in his introduction to the Surah: “This Surah is the last of the series begun with S. xvii, in which the growth of the man as an individual is considered, especially illustrated by the way in which the great Prophets were prepared for their work and received their mission, and the nature of the Revelation in relation to the environments in which it was promulgated… It also closes the sub-series beginning with S. xxvi, which is concerned with the spiritual Light, and the reactions to it at certain periods of religious history…
    “The last Surah closed with a reference to the doctrine of the Ma`ad, or final Return of man to Allah. This theme is further developed here, and as it is continued in the subsequent Suras, it forms a connecting link between the present series and those three Suras.
    “In particular, emphasis is laid here on the necessity of linking actual conduct with the reception of Allah’s revelation, and reference is again made to the stories of Noah, Abraham, and Lot among the Prophets, and the stories of Midian, `Ad, Thamud, and Pharaoh among the rejecters of Allah’s Message. This world’s life is contrasted with the real Life of the Hereafter.
    “Chronologically, the main Sura belongs to the late Middle Makkan period, but the chronology has no significance except as showing how clearly the vision of the Future was revealed long before the Hijrat, to the struggling Brotherhood of Islam.”
    1. This Surah can be related to the previous one in many ways such as, to mention one of them: When Allah (swt) said He will take the Prophet back to the Place of Return, meaning Makkah, He meant to say that this returning will require struggle leading to armed conflicts. Consequently, He said at the beginning of this Surah, “Do the people reckon that they will be left alone that they said, ‘We believed, and they will not be tried?’” That is, they will have to struggle in Allah’s cause and be ready for Jihad.
    Another point of note is that there is wisdom in trials. The lowest rank that a believer enjoys is that he is a plain Muslim. Anything below this level is unbelief. Further, of those who register themselves as Muslims, there are some who are active, offering various services to Islam, others who lag behind, while a few are there who get their names deleted from service. Accordingly, some Muslims are advancing, some stagnating, while others retreating. So Allah said, “Do the people reckon they will be left alone?” That is, they will not be left alone, but rather tried, in order that they remain active, advancing to higher ranks. Or they may refuse, enter into sins and transgressions, go down in ranks to finally descend into unbelief, if they so wish (Razi, shortened).
    2. According to Hasan, `Ikrimah, `Ataa and Jabir, the whole of this Surah is Makkan. But, according to one of the two opinions of Ibn `Abbas – and Qatadah - the whole of it is Madinan. Yahya b. Sallam said that the first ten verses are Madinan, the rest Makkan. `Ali b. Abi Talib said that it was revealed between Makkah and Madinah (Qurtubi, Alusi).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الم (1)

    29|1| Alif Lam Mim.

    أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ (2)

    29|2| Do the people reckon that they will be left alone that they say, ‘We believed,’ and will not be tried?3

    3. Yusuf Ali comments: “Mere lip profession of Faith is not enough. It must be tried and tested in the real turmoil of life. The test will be applied in all kinds of circumstances, in individual life, and in relation to the environment around us, to see whether we can strive constantly and put Allah above Self. Much pain, sorrow, and self-sacrifice may be necessary, not because they are good in themselves, but because they will purify us, like fire applied to a goldsmith's crucible to burn out the dross.”
    Although the ayah is in the general sense, most early commentators have said that the allusion is to those who had suffered persecution in Makkah; and a few have mentioned specific instances. One of them refers to the martyrdom of Mahja` the freed slave of `Umar who was the first to fall at Badr. His martyrdom evoked the Prophet’s words: “Mahja` is the Prince of Martyrs and will be the first to be invited to the gates of Paradise.”
    Sha`bi has said that this ayah refers to some people who embraced Islam at Makkah but did not migrate to Madinah. The Companions of the Prophet wrote to them that their Islam was invalid if they did not migrate. So they attempted to migrate but the Makkans chased them and brought them back. It was at this point that this verse was revealed: “Do the people reckon that they will be left alone that they say, ‘We believed,’ and will not be tested?” So the Companions wrote to them again informing them that such and such a verse had been revealed concerning them. So they said to themselves, “Let us go. If the pagans fight, we shall give them a fight.” So they made another attempt at Hijrah. As expected, the pagans gave them a chase. So they fought them. Some got killed, others escaped to Madinah; and Allah (swt) revealed another verse (of Surah Al-Nahl, no. 110) which said, “But, verily your Lord, unto those who migrated, after they were persecuted, yet struggled thereafter, and persisted in patience .. after all that, Your Lord is (unto them) All-forgiving, All-kind” (Ibn Jarir at verse 3 and Qurtubi). Zamakhshari has a similar report but does not name Sha`bi.
    The report is also in `Abd b. Humayd and Ibn Abi al-Mundhir (Shawkani).
    Ibn Jarir presents this same narrative a second time at ayah 10, but as an opinion of Ibn `Abbas, and then remarks that according to Qatadah, the first ten verses of this chapter are Madinan while the rest of the Surah is Makkan.
    Qurtubi quotes a hadith of Ibn Majah which reports about Abu Sa`id al-Khudri:

    أَنَّ أَبَا سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِىَّ دَخَلَ عَلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- وَهُوَ مَوْعُوْكٌ عَلَيْهِ قَطِيفَةٌ فَوَضَعَ يَدَهُ عَلَيْهِ فَوَجَدَ حَرَارَتَهَا فَوْقَ الْقَطِيفَةَ فَقَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ : مَا أَشَدَّ حَرَّ حُمَّاكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ. فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- : إِنَّا كَذَلِكَ يُشَدَّدُ عَلَيْنَا الْبَلاَءُ ، وَيُضَاعَفُ لَنَا الأَجْرُ. ثُمَّ قَالَ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ مَنْ أَشَدُّ النَّاسِ بَلاَءً؟ قَالَ : الأَنْبِيَاءُ. قَالَ : ثُمَّ مَنْ؟ قَالَ : ثُمَّ الْعُلَمَاءُ. قَالَ : ثُمَّ مَنْ؟ قَالَ : ثُمَّ الصَّالِحُونَ كَانَ أَحَدُهُمْ يُبْتَلَى بِالْفَقْرِ حَتَّى مَا يَجِدُ إِلاَّ الْعَبَاءَةَ يَلْبَسُهَا وَيُبَتَلَى بِالْقَمْلِ حَتَّى يَقْتُلَهُ وَلأَحَدُهُمْ أَشَدُّ فَرَحًا بِالْبَلاَءِ مِنْ أَحَدِكُمْ بِالْعَطَاءِ.

    That he entered upon the Prophet while he was ill, covered in a blanket. He placed his hand over the blanket and found it hot. H remarked, ‘How severe your fever is, Messenger of Allah.’ He replied, ‘This is how it is with us Prophets. Our trials are doubled, and so are our rewards.’ I asked, ‘Which of the people is tried most?’ He answered, ‘Prophets.’ I asked, ‘Who after them?’ He replied, ‘Scholars.’ He asked, “Who after them?’ He answered, ‘The righteous ones. One of them was tried with poverty to such extent that he had nothing on him but torn clothes, and another tried with lice that would almost kill him. Yet, one of them would be more pleased with tribulations than you are with ease.’”
    The above version is from Adab al-Mufrad declared trustworthy by Albani.
    Another report narrated by Sa`d b. abi Waqqas says,

    قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَيُّ النَّاسِ أَشَدُّ بَلَاءً قَالَ الْأَنْبِيَاءُ ثُمَّ الصَّالِحُونَ ثُمَّ الْأَمْثَلُ فَالْأَمْثَلُ مِنْ النَّاسِ يُبْتَلَى الرَّجُلُ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ صَلَابَةٌ زِيدَ فِي بَلَائِهِ وَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ رِقَّةٌ خُفِّفَ عَنْهُ وَمَا يَزَالُ الْبَلَاءُ بِالْعَبْدِ حَتَّى يَمْشِيَ عَلَى ظَهْرِ الْأَرْضِ لَيْسَ عَلَيْهِ خَطِيئَةٌ

    “I asked the Prophet, ‘Which of the people is tried most?’ He answered, ‘The Prophets; then the next best, and then the next best. A man is tested in accordance with his religion. If there happens to be strength in his religion, his trials are increased in severity. Tribulations keep visiting a slave until they leave him walking on the earth without any sin on him” (Qurtubi).
    So trials are in the nature of things. Allah said elsewhere (3: 142),
    {أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَنْ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَعْلَمِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا مِنْكُمْ وَيَعْلَمَ الصَّابِرِينَ } [آل عمران: 142]
    “Or, do you reckon that you will enter Paradise (without being tested) while Allah has not yet known those of you who fight (in His cause), and (in order that) He may know the persevering (ones).”
    He said at another place (2: 214),

    {أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَنْ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُمْ مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ مَسَّتْهُمُ الْبَأْسَاءُ وَالضَّرَّاءُ وَزُلْزِلُوا حَتَّى يَقُولَ الرَّسُولُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ مَتَى نَصْرُ اللَّهِ أَلَا إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ} [البقرة: 214]

    “Or do you reckon that you will enter Paradise, while (trials) similar to those (that visited others) before you, have not yet come to you? Suffering and adversity touched them, and they were shaken until the Messengers and those who had believed in them cried out: ‘When (will come) Allah's help?’ Verily, Allah's help is nigh” (Ibn Kathir).
    We could quote a few lines from Ibn al-Qayyim: “When a Messenger is raised among a people, they face two alternatives. Either one of them says, ‘yes I believe,’ or he decides to continue on the path of sin. Now, whoever says, ‘I believe,’ is subjected to tests and trials to determine the truth of his claim. Allah said (3: 179),

    {مَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيَذَرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَلَى مَا أَنْتُمْ عَلَيْهِ حَتَّى يَمِيزَ الْخَبِيثَ مِنَ الطَّيِّبِ} [آل عمران: 179]

    ‘Allah was not such as to let the believers remain in the state in which you are, until He distinguished the corrupt from the good.’
    “To be sure, he who says ‘no’ to the message, should not imagine that he will escape the trials. Indeed, he faces greater tribulations, which are an immediate chastisement for the choice he made. In the next life he will meet with everlasting condemnation. In short, in this world, none can escape tribulations: whether he is a believer or an unbeliever.
    “Therefore, whoever imagines that he can somehow escape sufferings and trials, is sadly mistaken. They are part of this life: in two ways. Man is made up of conflicting elements and, in trying to meet with the demands of these elements, he commits excesses in one or the other direction, and exposes himself to a variety of sufferings. Another factor is that he is a social being who must cooperate with others to meet with his needs. This cooperation leads to competition between individuals, so that, at one end he is loved, but at the other, hated. If he fails in giving what the others expect of him – as price for their co-operation with him – he faces their ire. If he gives in, it is to his peril. For, such giving in has to be in terms of efforts whose consequence is pain. To escape, therefore, from belief in Allah, in fear of trials and tribulations, or pain and suffering, is not an intelligent strategy. We might therefore keep before us `A’isha’s admonition to Mu`awiyyah, ‘He who pleased Allah at the cost of the people’s displeasure will find Allah sufficient against their harm. But he who pleased the people at the cost of Allah’s anger, will find that they cannot benefit him aught against Him’ (Bada’i`).”
    Sayyid Qutb adds, “A word on trials: Iman is Allah’s trust in the land that none will bear and carry except those worthy of it, and have the ability to carry it – whose hearts bear sincerity for it, in the absolute sense; and not those who give preference to ease and comfort over it.. to peace and security, to materials and temptations. It is the trust of the vicegerency in the earth; and people’s guidance to the way of Allah, and establishment of his Word in the world of the living. Thus it is a noble trust .. and it is a burdensome trust. It is Allah’s strategy whereby He exposes the people. It needs a special class of people to bear the trust: people who can be patiently persevering during the course of trials.”

    وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ (3)

    29|3| We did try those that were before them, so, Allah will surely know those who are truthful and He shall surely know the liars.4

    4. Allah (swt) knew all about them before the test, during the test and after the test. What He meant here is that ‘He shall make known the truth of the truthful and the lie of the liars’ (Tabari).
    In fact, `Ali (ibn Abi Talib) and Zuhri read the word “la-ya`limanna” as “la-yu`limanna” meaning, He shall make it known (Zamakhshari).

    أَمْ حَسِبَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ أَنْ يَسْبِقُونَا ۚ سَاءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ (4)

    29|4| Or do they reckon - those who indulge in evil - that they will outstrip Us? Evil is what they judge.5

    5. The immediate reference was to Walid b. al-Mughirah, Abu Jahl, Al-Aswad b. Hashim, al-`Aas b. Hisham, Shaybah, `Utbah, Walid b. `Utbah, `Uqbah b. Abi Mu`ayt, Hanzala b. Abu Sufyan, `Aas b. Wa’il and others (Qurtubi, Alusi).
    Yusuf Ali has in mind another implication of the words, “If the enemies of Truth imagine that they will ‘be first’ by destroying Truth before it takes root, they are sadly at fault, for their own persecution may help to plant Allah's Truth more firmly in men's hearts.”

    مَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاءَ اللَّهِ فَإِنَّ أَجَلَ اللَّهِ لَآتٍ ۚ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ (5)

    29|5| Whoever hopes to encounter Allah, (should know) that Allah’s (appointed) term is surely coming; He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing.6

    6. Yusuf Ali explains: “The term (ajal) may signify: (1) the time appointed for death, which ends the probation of this life; (2) the time appointed for this life, so that we can prepare for the Hereafter; the limit will soon expire. In either case the ultimate meaning is the same. We must strive now and not postpone anything for the future. And we must realize and remember that every prayer we make to Allah is heard by Him, and that every unspoken wish or motive of our heart, good or bad, is known to Him, and goes to swell our spiritual account.”

    وَمَنْ جَاهَدَ فَإِنَّمَا يُجَاهِدُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ (6)

    29|6| And, whoever strives, strives only for himself.7 Indeed, Allah is Independent of (all the beings of) the worlds.

    7. Perhaps because whenever the term Jihad is used in the Qur’an, the default meaning is to wage war in Allah’s cause, unless the context lends the meaning of struggle or strive that Hasan al-Busri cautions us about those who had no chance to participate in a battle. He writes, (in words as quoted by Ibn Kathir): “A man might conduct jihad although he might not have struck with the sword once in (his) lifetime.”

    وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَنُكَفِّرَنَّ عَنْهُمْ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَحْسَنَ الَّذِي كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (7)

    29|7| As to those who believed and acted righteously, We shall surely blot out their misdeeds from them and shall surely recompense them with better than what they were doing.8

    8. The translation as done here has the backing of Zamakhshari and as adopted by Alusi and Thanwi. Hence, Alusi points out, every one of their deeds will earn rewards ten times their value, or more.

    وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حُسْنًا ۖ وَإِنْ جَاهَدَاكَ لِتُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا ۚ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (8)

    29|8| And We enjoined on man goodness to his parents. But if they strive against you, that you associate with Me what you have no knowledge of, then obey them not.9 To Me is your return, and I shall inform you of what you were doing.

    9. The connection between this and the previous verses seems to be that earlier Allah said, “And whoever strives, strives only for himself,” He points out now that this striving could start with the parents who could be the first, as experienced quite often, to oppose their son embracing Islam (Au.).
    Imam Razi extends the meaning to people’s reliance on others for thoughts, ideas and concepts. In Asad’s words, “According to Razi, this phrase may also allude to concepts not evolved through personal knowledge but, rather, acquired through a blind, uncritical acceptance of other people’s views (taqlid).”
    Qatadah has said that this verse was revealed in reference to Sa`d b. abi Waqqas’s emigration to Madinah (Ibn Jarir, and Zamakhshari without naming Qatadah), and Qurtubi (as well as Ibn Kathir) quote the following from Tirmidhi who recorded it as the context of revelation of this verse, declaring the report trustworthy. Sa`d’s son narrated from his father that four verses were revealed in reference to him. Sa`d’s mother asked, “Has not Allah commanded you to be good? By God, I shall not eat anything nor drink until I die or you denounce (this new religion).” “So,” said Sa`d, “When they wanted to feed her, they used to forcibly open her mouth.” It is then that Allah revealed this verse. It is also recorded that Sa`d initially tried to persuade her to give up while she taunted him that after her death he will be remembered as the killer of his mother. Finally, Sa`d told her, “Mother, if you had a hundred souls, and gave them all up, one after another, I will not abandon my religion. So, if you wish to eat, you may, but if you do not, then don’t.” She gave up.
    Shawkani adds: According to a hadith in Tirmidhi (who declared it Sahih), Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban, Bayhaqi and a few others, the Prophet (saws) said,

    لَقَدْ أُوذِيتُ فِي اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ وَمَا يُؤْذَى أَحَدٌ وَأُخِفْتُ مِنْ اللَّهِ وَمَا يُخَافُ أَحَدٌ وَلَقَدْ أَتَتْ عَلَيَّ ثَلَاثَةٌ مِنْ بَيْنِ يَوْمٍ وَلَيْلَةٍ وَمَا لِي وَلِعِيَالِي طَعَامٌ يَأْكُلُهُ ذُو كَبِدٍ إِلَّا مَا يُوَارِي إِبِطَ بِلَالٍ

    “I have been persecuted like no one else was persecuted; I feared in the way of Allah like no one feared; a third day would dawn upon me in a condition that I and Bilal had nothing to eat except for what could be concealed in Bilal’s armpit.”

    وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَنُدْخِلَنَّهُمْ فِي الصَّالِحِينَ (9)

    29|9| As for those who believed and acted righteously, We shall surely admit them among the righteous.

    وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ فَإِذَا أُوذِيَ فِي اللَّهِ جَعَلَ فِتْنَةَ النَّاسِ كَعَذَابِ اللَّهِ وَلَئِنْ جَاءَ نَصْرٌ مِنْ رَبِّكَ لَيَقُولُنَّ إِنَّا كُنَّا مَعَكُمْ ۚ أَوَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِأَعْلَمَ بِمَا فِي صُدُورِ الْعَالَمِينَ (10)

    29|10| And, among the people are some who say, ‘We believe in Allah.’ But when (one of them) is harmed in (the cause of) Allah, he treats the people’s oppression as a wrath of Allah.10 But if help comes from your Lord, they will surely say, ‘Indeed we were with you.’11 Is not Allah best knowing of what is in the bosom of (all the beings of) the worlds?

    10. That is, they said to themselves: ‘If we believe, we are persecuted by the unbelievers, and if we do not, then we face Allah’s ire’ - equating the two. But can the two be equated? (Razi, shortened). So one of them decided that he should perhaps take a way in between, and adopt hypocrisy. So Allah said, “But if help comes from your Lord, they will surely say, ‘Indeed, we were with you’” (Au.).
    This verse has been differently expressed elsewhere. Said Allah (22: 11-12):

    {وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَعْبُدُ اللَّهَ عَلَى حَرْفٍ فَإِنْ أَصَابَهُ خَيْرٌ اطْمَأَنَّ بِهِ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ فِتْنَةٌ انْقَلَبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ خَسِرَ الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةَ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ (11) يَدْعُو مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَضُرُّهُ وَمَا لَا يَنْفَعُهُ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الضَّلَالُ الْبَعِيدُ} [الحج: 11، 12]

    “And, among the people is such a one who serves Allah on an edge. If good touches him, he is satisfied therewith. But if a trial touches him, he turns on his face. He loses this world and the Hereafter. That indeed is an evident loss. He calls to one - apart from Allah - who can neither harm him nor benefit him. That indeed is the extreme error” (Ibn Kathir).
    11. So you should give us a share in the booty (Zamakhshari).
    As Allah said elsewhere (4: 141),

    {الَّذِينَ يَتَرَبَّصُونَ بِكُمْ فَإِنْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فَتْحٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ قَالُوا أَلَمْ نَكُنْ مَعَكُمْ وَإِنْ كَانَ لِلْكَافِرِينَ نَصِيبٌ قَالُوا أَلَمْ نَسْتَحْوِذْ عَلَيْكُمْ وَنَمْنَعْكُمْ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ} [النساء: 141]

    “Those who wait upon you so that if victory comes to you from Allah, they ask: ‘Were we not with you?’ But if the unbelievers get a share of it they say (to them): ‘Did we not gain mastery over you, and protect you from the believers?’” – Ibn Kathir.

    وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ (11)

    29|11| And Allah will surely know those who believed and He shall surely know the hypocrites.12

    12. (Thus, we can see once again that trials are in Allah’s scheme). After the battle of Uhud which subjected the believers to extreme tribulation, Allah said (3: 179),

    { مَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيَذَرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَلَى مَا أَنْتُمْ عَلَيْهِ حَتَّى يَمِيزَ الْخَبِيثَ مِنَ الطَّيِّبِ} [آل عمران: 179]

    “Allah was not such as to let the believers remain in the state in which you are, until He distinguished the corrupt from the good” (Ibn Kathir).
    Asad has a word on hypocrisy: “This is probably the earliest occurrence of the term munafiq in the chronology of the Qur’anic revelation. Idiomatically, the term is derived from the noun nifaq, which denotes an ‘underground passage’ having an outlet different from the entry, and signifying, specifically, the complicated burrow of a field-mouse, a lizard, etc., from which the animal can easily escape or in which it can outwit its pursuer. Tropically, the term munafiq describes a person who is ‘two-faced,’ inasmuch as he always tries to find an easy way out of any real commitment, be it spiritual or social, by adapting his course of action to what promises to be of practical advantage to him in the situation in which he happens to find himself. Since a person thus characterized usually pretends to be morally better than he really is, the epithet munafiq may roughly be rendered as hypocrite.”
    Along with the above description, we might keep that definition before us which has been offered by the Salaf, stated elsewhere in this work, which should help us draw a line between a weak Muslim and a hypocrite: “Nifaq is to conceal disbelief and put up a show of faith.” To put it differently, it is the effort to manifest faith in Islam, without its existence in the heart. According to this definition, if someone has belief well planted in his heart, but is unable to make it manifest, for whatever reason, or reasons, other than to mislead Allah and His creations, then he is not a munafiq. Therefore, to qualify Asad’s statement above, (viz., “he always tries to find an easy way out of any real commitment, be it spiritual or social, by adapting his course of action to what promises to be of practical advantage”), we might add, “doing it out of lack of conviction with regard to Islamic values, teachings and demands, in a word, faith in Islam.” On the other hand, if he adopts the course as described by Asad, but either out of inner weaknesses, or simply for practical advantages, which he admits, and is remorseful of, then, Allah willing, it is not hypocrisy (Au.).

    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّبِعُوا سَبِيلَنَا وَلْنَحْمِلْ خَطَايَاكُمْ وَمَا هُمْ بِحَامِلِينَ مِنْ خَطَايَاهُمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ۖ إِنَّهُمْ لَكَاذِبُونَ (12)

    29|12| And said those who disbelieved to those who believed, ‘Follow our way, and we shall carry (the burden) of your faults.’13 But they are not going to carry any of their faults. Indeed, they are liars.

    13. That is, ‘if there is sin in following our pagan ways and beliefs, then such a sin will be our burden (Alusi); such was the level of confidence of the pagans in their religion. They had a feeling deep down in their hearts that their pagan ways were sinful, but considered it worth bearing the burden! (Au.).

    وَلَيَحْمِلُنَّ أَثْقَالَهُمْ وَأَثْقَالًا مَعَ أَثْقَالِهِمْ ۖ وَلَيُسْأَلُنَّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ عَمَّا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ (13)

    29|13| But rather they shall carry their (own) burdens, and (other) burdens along with their (own) burdens.14 And they shall surely be questioned on the Day of Standing about that which they were forging.15

    14. That is, they will carry their own burden of sins and, in addition, the sins of those they misguided (Ibn Jarir).
    Thus, there is no contradiction between the previous verse which says that they will not carry the burden, and this one which says they will. What was meant earlier was that the sins of the sinners they misguide will not be offloaded from them on to these people so that the misguided ones become free of any responsibility (adopted from Razi). This is clarified by a Sahih hadith that Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir quote. It says,

    مَنْ دَعَا إِلَى هُدًى كَانَ لَهُ مِنَ الأَجْرِ مِثْلُ أُجُورِ مَنْ تَبِعَهُ لاَ يَنْقُصُ ذَلِكَ مِنْ أُجُورِهِمْ شَيْئًا وَمَنْ دَعَا إِلَى ضَلاَلَةٍ كَانَ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الإِثْمِ مِثْلُ آثَامِ مَنْ تَبِعَهُ لاَ يَنْقُصُ ذَلِكَ مِنْ آثَامِهِمْ شَيْئًا

    “Whoever invited to guidance will have rewards equal to the rewards of those who follow him until the Day of Standing without their own rewards being reduced by aught. And whoever invited to misguidance, will have upon him sins equal to the sins of all those who follow him until the Day of Standing, without their sins being reduced by aught.”
    Another Sahih report says,

    لَا تُقْتَلُ نَفْسٌ ظُلْمًا إِلَّا كَانَ عَلَى ابْنِ آدَمَ الْأَوَّلِ كِفْلٌ مِنْ دَمِهَا وَذَلِكَ لِأَنَّهُ أَوَّلُ مَنْ سَنَّ الْقَتْلَ

    “No one is killed unlawfully but a share of the guilt is upon the first son of Adam because he was the first to set the example.”
    The report is in Bukhari (Au.).
    15. That is, these misguiding people will carry several kinds of loads: sins of their own, sins of those they misguided, and, in addition, sins of fabricating lies when they claimed that they could carry the sins of others (Razi).
    In this connection, Abu Umamah al-Bahiliyy reports that the Prophet said,

    إياكم والظلم، فإن الله يعزم يوم القيامة فيقول: وعزتي لا يجوزني اليوم ظلم! ثم ينادي مناد فيقول: أين فلان ابن فلان؟ فيأتي يتبعه من الحسنات أمثال الجبال، فيشخص الناس إليها أبصارهم حتى يقوم بين يدي الله الرحمن عز وجل ثم يأمر المنادي فينادي (5) من كانت له تِبَاعة -أو: ظُلامة -عند فلان ابن فلان، فهلمّ. فيقبلون حتى يجتمعوا قياما بين يدي الرحمن، فيقول الرحمن: اقضوا عن عبدي. فيقولون: كيف نقضي عنه؟ فيقول لهم: خذوا لهم من حسناته. فلا يزالون يأخذون منها حتى لا يبقى له حسنة، وقد بقي من أصحاب الظلامات، فيقول: اقضوا عن عبدي. فيقولون: لم يبق له حسنة. فيقول: خذوا من سيئاتهم فاحملوها عليه". ثم نزع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بهذه الآية الكريمة: وَلَيَحْمِلُنَّ أَثْقَالَهُمْ وَأَثْقَالا مَعَ أَثْقَالِهِمْ وَلَيُسْأَلُنَّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ عَمَّا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ

    “Beware of injustice. Allah will swear by His Power and Majesty and say, ‘No injustice will overtake Me today.’ Then a caller will call out, ‘Where is so and so, son of so and so?’ He will come forward with mountains of good deeds behind him. People’s eyes will be stuck to them (the good deeds) in wonder – until he stands before the All-merciful. He will command a caller to call out, ‘Whoever is owed anything or an injustice (done to him) by so and so, son of so and so, may come forward.’ Such of them will come forward until they stand together before the All-merciful. The All-merciful will say, ‘Pay back from My slave.’ (I.e., the one who did wrong to others: Au.). They will ask, ‘How shall we pay back from him?’ He will say, ‘Pay back out of his good deeds.’ So they will keep transferring the good deeds, until none of his good deeds remains. But there would still be people with scores to be settled. He will say, ‘Pay back from My slave.’ They will ask, ‘Nothing is left of his good deeds.’ He will say, ‘Take their evil deeds and load them on to him.’ Then the Prophet recited this verse, “But rather they shall carry their (own) burdens, and (other) burdens along with their (own) burdens” (Qurtubi).
    This report, which is in Ibn Abi Hatim also, has similar reports in Sahih works corroborating it.
    Ibn Abi Hatim has another report which fits the context. He narrates Mu`adh b. Jabal as saying,

    يا معاذ، إن المؤمن يسأل يوم القيامة عن جميع سعيه، حتى عن كُحْل عينيه، وعن فتات الطينة بإصبعيه، فلا ألْفَيَنَّكَ تأتي يوم القيامة وأحد أسعد بما آتاك الله منك

    “The Prophet told me, ‘O Mu`adh. A believer will be questioned on the Day of Judgment about his every action to the extent of the kohl in his eyes and the little dust between his fingers. So, let me not find someone on the Day of Judgment who would have done better than you in reference to what Allah bestowed on you” (Ibn Kathir).
    The authenticity of the above report could not be verified (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ فَلَبِثَ فِيهِمْ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ إِلَّا خَمْسِينَ عَامًا فَأَخَذَهُمُ الطُّوفَانُ وَهُمْ ظَالِمُونَ (14)

    29|14| Indeed We sent Nuh to his people. He dwelt among them a thousand years except for fifty years.16 Then the flood seized them while they were wrongdoers.17

    16. The period of Nuh’s stay was mentioned to encourage the Prophet and his early followers to bear the Makkan rejection with patience. After all, an earlier Prophet had shown patience in the face of rejection for no less than 950 years (Razi).
    There are several opinions about the age at which Nuh (asws) was commissioned and how long he lived. The nearest to being correct is that of Ibn `Abbas, (as in Ibn Abi Shaybah, `Abd b. Humayd, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Abu al-Sheikh and Hakim, with the last rating it Sahih: Shawkani), that he was granted Prophethood at forty, remained preaching for the next 950 years, after which the Flood overtook the unbelievers. After the floods he lived for another sixty years (Qurtubi, Zamakhshari and others).
    Qurtubi presents another report coming from Anas b. Malik. It says that when the angel of death came to Nuh, he asked him, “O thou, the longest living Prophet. How did you find the world?” Nuh replied, “Like a man who built a house with two doors. He entered by one door, stood in the middle to say, ‘Salam to you,’ and then left by another.” (The report is in Ibn `Asakir whose authenticity could not be checked: Au.).
    Alusi points out that it is in Ibn Abi al-Dunya also, (but he does not evaluate it: Au.).
    Mujahid said, “Ibn `Umar asked me, ‘How long did Nuh tarry among his people?’ I said, ‘A thousand years except for fifty.’ He said, ‘Since that time people have been suffering decrease in their ages, their aspirations, their morals, and their physical stature - to this day’” (Durr al-Manthur).
    Sayyid has an intelligent point for the rationalists who fail to think straight quite so often. He writes: “By any account, the length of Nuh’s life was certainly long. By today’s standards, it was unnatural and is not known to occur among humanity today. But we have it from a source that happens to be the truest source in existence. This is evidence enough for us. However, if we wished to explain, we could say that the human population then, at the time of consideration, must have been quite low. It is no surprise that Allah should have compensated fewness in numbers with long lives in order that human life could continue on the earth. When the numbers increased and mankind spread over the lands, there remained no need for such long lives. This can be noticed in many species: whenever the populations are low, the age factor increases such as in the case of certain reptiles. For example, turtles live for hundreds of years. On the other hand among the flies, which multiply in millions, individuals hardly live for more than two weeks.”
    17. That is, they remained adamantly on unbelief: wrongdoers to the end (Razi).

    فَأَنْجَيْنَاهُ وَأَصْحَابَ السَّفِينَةِ وَجَعَلْنَاهَا آيَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ (15)

    29|15| And We delivered him and the companions of the boat and appointed it a sign for the (peoples of the) worlds.18

    18. According to Qatadah the meaning is that Allah left the boat on top of Mount Judiyy as a sign. But another possible meaning is that He appointed the punishment meted out to the unbelievers as a sign for the rest of the world (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    وَإِبْرَاهِيمَ إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاتَّقُوهُ ۖ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (16)

    29|16| And (remember) Ibrahim, when he said to his people, ‘Worship Allah and fear Him. That is better for you if only you knew.

    إِنَّمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْثَانًا وَتَخْلُقُونَ إِفْكًا ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ لَكُمْ رِزْقًا فَابْتَغُوا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ الرِّزْقَ وَاعْبُدُوهُ وَاشْكُرُوا لَهُ ۖ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ (17)

    29|17| You only worship idols besides Allah, and invent a falsehood. Indeed, those you worship besides Allah have no power of sustenance for you. Therefore, seek sustenance from Allah,19 worship Him, and be grateful to Him; to Him you will be returned.

    19. “Rizq” of Arabic has a wide connotation, often relegated to the back of the mind. Yusuf Ali reminds us: “Sustenance: in the symbolic as well as the literal sense. Seek from Allah all that is necessary for your upkeep and development, and for preparing you for your future Destiny. Lay all your hopes in Him and in no one else. Dedicate yourselves to His worship. He will give you all that is necessary for your growth and well being, and you should show your gratitude to Him by conforming your will entirely to His.”

    وَإِنْ تُكَذِّبُوا فَقَدْ كَذَّبَ أُمَمٌ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ ۖ وَمَا عَلَى الرَّسُولِ إِلَّا الْبَلَاغُ الْمُبِينُ (18)

    29|18| But if you cry lie (to Muhammad), then, surely nations before you also cried lies. And there is no more on the Messenger, except clear conveyance.’20

    20. It is also possible that these are the words of Ibrahim (asws) in which case he was referring to the nations of Sheeth, Idrees, Nuh and others (Zamakhshari).

    أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا كَيْفَ يُبْدِئُ اللَّهُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ (19)

    29|19| Have they not seen how Allah begins the creation and then repeats it? That surely is easy for Allah.

    قُلْ سِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَانْظُرُوا كَيْفَ بَدَأَ الْخَلْقَ ۚ ثُمَّ اللَّهُ يُنْشِئُ النَّشْأَةَ الْآخِرَةَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (20)

    29|20| Say, ‘Journey in the land and see how He began the creation.’ Then Allah will produce the final producing.21 Surely, Allah has power over all things.

    21. According to Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah, the allusion is to the resurrection after death (Ibn Jarir).

    يُعَذِّبُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَرْحَمُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۖ وَإِلَيْهِ تُقْلَبُونَ (21)

    29|21| He punishes whom He will and shows mercy unto whom He will.22 And to Him shall you be turned back.

    22. It is another thing that Allah (swt) does not punish every defaulter, every time he commits an error, but rather offers reprieve, punishing only those who cross all limits. Otherwise, as Ibn Kathir quotes a hadith (from Abu Da’ud, Ibn Majah and Musnad Ahmad: H. Ibrahim),

    إن الله لو عذب أهل سماواته وأهل أرضه، لعذبهم وهو غير ظالم لهم

    “Verily, if Allah punished all of his creations in the heavens and all of them in the earth, He could do it without being unjust.”
    Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut judged the above as a strong report (Au.).
    The connection with the previous verse is obvious. There it was said that Allah will resurrect a final time. Now, resurrection will be for the purposes of judging the people, rewarding or punishing them, which is what this present verse says (Au.).

    وَمَا أَنْتُمْ بِمُعْجِزِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ ۖ وَمَا لَكُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مِنْ وَلِيٍّ وَلَا نَصِيرٍ (22)

    29|22| And you are not going to frustrate (Him) either in the earth or in the heaven.23 And you have not, apart from Allah, a protector or helper.

    23. That is, you will not be able to frustrate Allah’s designs either in the earth, or in the heavens if you happened to be there (Ibn Jarir).

    وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَلِقَائِهِ أُولَٰئِكَ يَئِسُوا مِنْ رَحْمَتِي وَأُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (23)

    29|23| As for those who rejected Allah’s revelations24 and the encounter with Him, it is they (who) are despaired of My mercy, and it is they for whom awaits a painful chastisement.

    24. The translation of the word ayah as ‘revelation,’ has the backing of Qurtubi (Au.).

    فَمَا كَانَ جَوَابَ قَوْمِهِ إِلَّا أَنْ قَالُوا اقْتُلُوهُ أَوْ حَرِّقُوهُ فَأَنْجَاهُ اللَّهُ مِنَ النَّارِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (24)

    29|24| But there was no answer of his people except that they said, ‘Kill him, or burn him.’ But Allah rescued him from the fire. Surely, in that there are signs for a people who believe.

    وَقَالَ إِنَّمَا اتَّخَذْتُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْثَانًا مَوَدَّةَ بَيْنِكُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ ثُمَّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَكْفُرُ بَعْضُكُمْ بِبَعْضٍ وَيَلْعَنُ بَعْضُكُمْ بَعْضًا وَمَأْوَاكُمُ النَّارُ وَمَا لَكُمْ مِنْ نَاصِرِينَ (25)

    29|25| And he said, ‘You have only taken to yourselves, other than Allah, idols as (bonds of) mutual love between you for the life of this world. But on the Day of Standing you will disown one another, and you will curse one another. Your abode will be the Fire, and you will have no helpers.’25

    25. Yusuf Ali comments on high level of co-operation seen among those who reject the truth, but who will end in sorrow: “In sin and wickedness there is as much log-rolling as in politics. Evil men humor each other and support each other; they call each other's vice by high-sounding names. They call it mutual regard or friendship or love; at the lowest, they call it toleration. Perhaps they flourish in this life by such arts. But they deceive themselves, and they deceive each other. What will be their relations in the Hereafter? They will disown each other when each has to answer on the principle of personal responsibility. Each will accuse the others of misleading him, and they will curse each other. But there will then be no help, and they must suffer in the Fire.‏”
    In connection with “some helping others” on the Day of Judgment, Ibn Kathir has the following to report from Ibn Abi Hatim. Umm Haani, the sister of `Ali ibn Abi Talib said,

    أخبرِك أن الله تعالى يجمع الأولين والآخرين يوم القيامة في صعيد واحد، فَمَنْ يدري أين الطرفان ، فقالت الله ورسوله أعلم . "ثم ينادي مناد من تحت العرش: يا أهل التوحيد، فيشرئبون" قال أبو عاصم: يرفعون رؤوسهم . "ثم ينادي: يا أهل التوحيد، ثم ينادي الثالثة: يا أهل التوحيد، إن الله قد عفا عنكم" قال: "فيقول الناس قد تعلق بعضهم ببعض في ظُلامات الدنيا -يعني: المظالم -ثم ينادي: يا أهل التوحيد، ليعف بعضكم عن بعض، وعلى الله الثواب

    “The Prophet told me, ‘Let me inform you that Allah is going to gather together whole of mankind in one field on the Day of Judgment. Then who knows the two ends?’ She said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said, ‘Then a caller will call out from below the `Arsh: “Ya Ahl al-Tawhid.” They will raise their heads. Then he will call out again, “Ya Ahl al-Tawhid.” Then he will call out a third time and say, “Allah has forgiven you.”’ The Prophet added, ‘Then some people (of the Ahl al-Tawhid) will remain who would be held back because of wrongs committed against others in the world. Then it will be announced, “Ya ahl al-Tawhid, let you forgive each other, and Allah will recompense.”’
    Al-Haythamiyy noted that Abu Hatim declared the above hadith as “munkar” – a kind of quite weak a hadith (Au.).

    فَآمَنَ لَهُ لُوطٌ ۘ وَقَالَ إِنِّي مُهَاجِرٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّي ۖ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (26)

    29|26| But Lut believed in him.26 And he said, ‘I am emigrating toward my Lord.27 He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-wise.’

    26. That is, he believed in Ibrahim the moment he presented his call, and accepted all that he had brought as true (Alusi).
    Lut was a nephew of Prophet Ibrahim (Qurtubi from Ibn Is-haq).

    وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَجَعَلْنَا فِي ذُرِّيَّتِهِ النُّبُوَّةَ وَالْكِتَابَ وَآتَيْنَاهُ أَجْرَهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَإِنَّهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ (27)

    29|27| Then We bestowed on him Is-haq and Ya`qub28 and appointed Prophethood and the Book to be among his progeny;29 and We gave him his reward in this world,30 and in the world to come he shall surely be among the righteous.

    27. It is Ibrahim who said this (Ibn Jarir from the Salaf). Qatadah however said that both he and Lut emigrated (along with Ibrahim’s wife Sarah) from Kutha (a place near Kufa) to Syria. He also said that we used to hear that the Prophet had said,

    سَتَكُونُ هِجْرَةٌ بَعْدَ هِجْرَةٍ، فَخِيَارُ أَهْلِ الأَرْضِ إِلَى مُهَاجَرِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلامُ، يَبْقَى فِيهَا شِرَارُ أَهْلِهَا، تَلْفِظُهُمُ الأَرْضُ، وَتَقْذَرُهُمْ نَفْسُ اللَّهِ، فَيَبْعَثُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَارًا تَحْشُرُهُمْ مَعَ الْقِرَدَةِ وَالْخَنَازِيرِ

    “There will be hijrah after hijrah. In droves peoples of the earth will go to the places Ibrahim migrated. Only the worst kind of people will be left in the earth, their lands will throw them out, Allah will disapprove of them, until Allah will send upon them the fire that will collect them along with monkeys and swine.”
    The report is in Abu Da’ud also (Ibn Kathir).
    But Albani declared it weak; although meaning-wise there are other reports of trustworthy nature (Au.).
    Ibn Jurayj however said that Lut first migrated to Harran. Then he was ordered to move to the Syrian region (Ibn Jarir).
    It has been thought by some scholars however, that the words are those of Lut (asws). In this context Anas b. Malik reported that `Uthman b. `Affan left with Ruqayyah – the Prophet’s daughter - to the Abyssinian lands. For some time no news reached the Prophet about them, until a Qurayshi woman, who had just come back from a journey, told him: “I saw your son-in-law with your daughter.” He asked, “In what state did you find them?” She said, “I saw him having mounted his wife on a lean donkey, while he led it on.” The Prophet said,

    إِنَّ عُثْمَانَ أَوَّلُ مَنْ هَاجَرَ إِلَى اللَّهِ بِأَهْلِهِ بَعْدَ لُوطٍ.

    “`Uthman is the first after Lut, to migrate along with his family” (Qurtubi).
    Asad comments on the term “muhajir”: “In the present instance this term is obviously used in both its physical and spiritual senses, analogous to the early allusion (in 19: 48-49) to Abraham’s ‘withdrawal’ (i`tizal) from his evil, native environment and to his physical emigration to Harran (in northern Mesopotamia), and thence to Syria and Palestine.”
    28. That is, a son Is-haq, and a grandson Ya`qub. It is in this sense that Ibn `Abbas meant to say when he said that the two were sons of Ibrahim (Ibn Kathir).
    29. So that, writes Ibn Kathir, every Prophet who came after Ibrahim (asws) was raised from his progeny.
    30. It is said that Mujahid sent someone to `Ikrimah to find out what was the ‘this-worldly’ reward that Ibrahim was given. He told him, his ‘this-worldly’ reward was that all the nations of the world love to own him as theirs. When the man returned with the answer to Mujahid he remarked, “He is correct.” This is the opinion of Ibn `Abbas and others who added that another of the rewards of this world granted to him was righteous progeny (Ibn Jarir).

    وَلُوطًا إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ إِنَّكُمْ لَتَأْتُونَ الْفَاحِشَةَ مَا سَبَقَكُمْ بِهَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ مِنَ الْعَالَمِينَ (28)

    29|28| And (recall) Lut when he said to his people, ‘Verily, you commit a lewdness that no one has preceded with before you in the worlds.31

    31. `Amr b. Dinar used to say that no one in the world ever committed homosexuality before the people of Lut (Ibn Jarir); perhaps he meant as a nation (Au.).

    أَئِنَّكُمْ لَتَأْتُونَ الرِّجَالَ وَتَقْطَعُونَ السَّبِيلَ وَتَأْتُونَ فِي نَادِيكُمُ الْمُنْكَرَ ۖ فَمَا كَانَ جَوَابَ قَوْمِهِ إِلَّا أَنْ قَالُوا ائْتِنَا بِعَذَابِ اللَّهِ إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (29)

    29|29| What, do you approach men, cut off the highway,32 and commit abomination in your assembly?’33 But there was no answer of his people except that they said, ‘Bring us Allah’s chastisement if you are of the truthful.’

    32. Ibn Zayd has said that the allusion is to their habit of waylaying passers-by and forcing anal sex on them (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    Another connotation of “taqta`una al-sabil” is, as offered by Hasan and quoted by Zamakhshari: “to cut across the way (of nature).” And, as noted by Asad, “Imam Razi adopts it exclusively and without reservation.”
    33. While a report from `A’isha said that the allusion is to wind-passing contests in their assemblies; Umm Haani says she was told by the Prophet that they squatted on the roads, threw pebbles at the passers by, (especially women: Qurtubi), and made fun of them (Ibn Jarir).
    Umm Hani’s report is in Tirmidhi also, but who declared it not so reliable. The report is also in Hakim who declared it trustworthy (Alusi). The allusion could in general be to all sorts of indecencies that they committed in their assemblies (Ma`arif).
    The report about throwing pebbles etc., is in Abu Da’ud Tayaalisi, Nuhhas, Tha`labi, Mahdawi and Mawardi. As regards reports about passing winds, it also comes from Ibn `Abbas and Qasim b. Abi Bazzah. Several other indecencies are reported of them, including lesbianism (Qurtubi), such as, as one coming from Ibn `Abbas which says that the allusion is to finger-joints crackling, chewing gum, rubbing miswak in public, removing clothes before others, calling names, and indecency in jokes (Zamakhshari).
    The above report has not been authenticated. We have presented it to give some idea of what our ancestors disapproved of, some of which have entered into Muslim society of our times (Au.).

    قَالَ رَبِّ انْصُرْنِي عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْمُفْسِدِينَ (30)

    29|30| He said, ‘O my Lord. Help me against the corrupting people.’

    وَلَمَّا جَاءَتْ رُسُلُنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ بِالْبُشْرَىٰ قَالُوا إِنَّا مُهْلِكُو أَهْلِ هَٰذِهِ الْقَرْيَةِ ۖ إِنَّ أَهْلَهَا كَانُوا ظَالِمِينَ (31)

    29|31| When Our messengers came to Ibrahim with the good news,34 they said, ‘Indeed We are about to destroy the inhabitants of this township. Verily, its inhabitants have been evildoers.’

    34. When Lut (asws) prayed to Allah (swt) for help against the evildoers, Allah responded by sending angels of destruction. They passed by Ibrahim (asws) but first gave him the glad tiding of a son and a grandson in order to comfort him at the impending destruction of the people of Lut (Ibn Kathir).

    قَالَ إِنَّ فِيهَا لُوطًا ۚ قَالُوا نَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ فِيهَا ۖ لَنُنَجِّيَنَّهُ وَأَهْلَهُ إِلَّا امْرَأَتَهُ كَانَتْ مِنَ الْغَابِرِينَ (32)

    29|32| He said, ‘But surely Lut is in it.’35 They said, ‘We know very well who is in it. Assuredly we shall save him and his family - except his wife: she has been of those who lag behind.’

    35. Ibrahim was not informing the angels about Lut’s presence in the township (Au.), but rather he meant to express his wonder over how could a people be destroyed when there happened to be a Prophet among them (Razi); so, primarily he was concerned with Lut (Au.).

    وَلَمَّا أَنْ جَاءَتْ رُسُلُنَا لُوطًا سِيءَ بِهِمْ وَضَاقَ بِهِمْ ذَرْعًا وَقَالُوا لَا تَخَفْ وَلَا تَحْزَنْ ۖ إِنَّا مُنَجُّوكَ وَأَهْلَكَ إِلَّا امْرَأَتَكَ كَانَتْ مِنَ الْغَابِرِينَ (33)

    29|33| And when Our messengers came to Lut, he was troubled on their account and felt himself powerless for them.36 They said, ‘Fear not, nor grieve. We shall save you and your family, except your wife - she has been of those who lag behind.

    36. Their arrival, and the nefarious intentions of the inhabitants of his town, made Lut distressful, (Qatadah: Ibn Jarir), especially so because he felt himself powerless against the corrupt folk (Razi). According to details given in Hud, al-Hijr and al-Qamar, the townsmen visited Lut to demand his guests. He cried out in anguish (10: 80), “Would that I had a power against you or take refuge in a strong corner’” (Mawdudi).

    إِنَّا مُنْزِلُونَ عَلَىٰ أَهْلِ هَٰذِهِ الْقَرْيَةِ رِجْزًا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ (34)

    29|34| Indeed, we are about to bring down upon the inhabitants of this township a scourge from the heaven because they have been doing corruption.’

    وَلَقَدْ تَرَكْنَا مِنْهَا آيَةً بَيِّنَةً لِقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ (35)

    29|35| Indeed, We left thereof a clear sign for a people who reason.37

    37. That is, a lasting sign and unforgettable lesson was left in them, in the town, and in the punishment which was meted out to them (Ibn Jarir, reworded). When the Arabs of the Prophet’s time visited the Syrian region, they passed by the Dead Sea and learned from the local populations that the nation of Lut was buried in there (Au.). Allah said about their main town under the sea (15: 76-77):

    {وَإِنَّهَا لَبِسَبِيلٍ مُقِيمٍ (76) إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَةً لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ} [الحجر: 76، 77]

    “And it is right on the high-road. Surely, in that is a sign for those who believe.”
    Asad adds: “This is an allusion to the Dead Sea – known to this day as Bahr Lut (“The Sea of Lot”) – which covers most of the region in which Sodom and Gomorrah were once situated. Its waters contain so high a percentage of sulphur and potash that no fish or plants can live in them.”
    Majid adds: “The sea itself has certain very curious peculiarities. ‘Ocean water contains on an average 4-6% of salts. Dead Sea water contains 25% .. Owing principally to the large proportion of chloride and bromide of magnesia, no animal life can exist in its water. Fish .. die in a very short time if introduced into the main waters of the lake.’ (EBr. VII. p. 879, 11th ed.). ‘The water of the Dead Sea is intensely saline .. The Chlorides of magnesium, largely held in solution, gives water its nauseous taste .. No animal life can exist in its waters… The recent (1924) joint expedition of the Xenio seminary and the American School of Oriental Research sent out to locate the Cities of the Plain are convinced that three of them, Sodom, Gomorrah and Zoar, stood in the south-east corner of the Dead Sea … but now of course beneath the area.’ (EBr. VII, pp. 99-100).”
    Yusuf Ali has his usual poignant remark: “The whole tract on the east side of the Dead Sea (where the Cities were situated) is covered with sulphureous salts and is deadly to animal and plant life. The Dead Sea itself is called in Arabic the Bahr Lut (the sea of Lot). It is a scene of utter desolation, that should stand as a Symbol of the Destruction that awaits Sin.”

    وَإِلَىٰ مَدْيَنَ أَخَاهُمْ شُعَيْبًا فَقَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَارْجُوا الْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ (36)

    29|36| And to Madyan (We sent) their brother Shu`ayb. He said, ‘O my people, worship Allah and look to the Last Day.38 And act not corruptly in the earth, spreading mischief.

    38. That is, you should look forward to be rewarded for your good deeds in the Hereafter (Ibn Jarir). A few have thought that the meaning is “fear the Hereafter” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Qurtubi).

    فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ الرَّجْفَةُ فَأَصْبَحُوا فِي دَارِهِمْ جَاثِمِينَ (37)

    29|37| But they lay the lie on him and so the earthquake seized them and by morning they lay prostrate in their dwelling.39

    39. That is, they lay dead, piled upon each other (Ibn Jarir).

    وَعَادًا وَثَمُودَ وَقَدْ تَبَيَّنَ لَكُمْ مِنْ مَسَاكِنِهِمْ ۖ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ وَكَانُوا مُسْتَبْصِرِينَ (38)

    29|38| And (remember) `Ad40 and Thamud - surely, it has become clear to you (what We did to them) from their homes (now in ruins). Shaytan decked out fair to them their deeds, and thus averted them from the Path, although they were (otherwise) quite sagacious.41

    40. Asad comments: “As regards the tribe of `Aad, the above seems to be an allusion to their one-time capital, the legendary ‘Iram the many pillared’ (mentioned in the Qur’an only once, namely, in 89: 7). It has since been buried by the moving sand-dunes of Al-Ahqaf (a region between ‘Uman and Hadramawt, within the great South-Arabian desert of Rub al-Khali); it is said, however, that its traces are occasionally uncovered by strong winds.”
    41. Alternative meanings are, “they were endued with sight” (Majid), or “were keen of sight.” Asad writes, “Thus, the Qur’an implies that it is man’s ‘ability to perceive the truth’ (istibsar) that makes him morally responsible for his doings and hence, for his failure to resist his own evil impulses..”
    Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Qatadah said that they were quite sagacious in their religious affairs, doing what they did consciously; upon which Dahhak added that not only they knew well what they clung to as their religion, but were in fact sort of proud of it (Ibn Jarir). Another possible meaning is that they knew the error in their pagan religion, and were quite aware that the truth lay in the message brought by their Prophets, yet clung to paganism. Farra’s opinion on the other hand was that although they were a sagacious people, their sagacity served them not (when they decided to reject the messages) - Qurtubi.

    وَقَارُونَ وَفِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ ۖ وَلَقَدْ جَاءَهُمْ مُوسَىٰ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا كَانُوا سَابِقِينَ (39)

    29|39| And Qarun, Fir`awn and Haman - Musa did go to them with clear signs but they waxed proud in the earth, but they were not the overtakers (against Us).

    فَكُلًّا أَخَذْنَا بِذَنْبِهِ ۖ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِ حَاصِبًا وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَخَذَتْهُ الصَّيْحَةُ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ خَسَفْنَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَغْرَقْنَا ۚ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيَظْلِمَهُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ كَانُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ (40)

    29|40| Wherefore We seized each one for his sin. Against some We loosed a storm of stones;42 some were seized by the Cry;43 some We sank in the earth;44 while some We drowned.45 And Allah was not such as to wrong them, but rather, they were wronging themselves.

    42. The allusion is to `Aad and the nation of Lut.
    The Arabs name every storm that carries sand, pebble, or hale, as `aasif (Ibn Jarir).
    43. The allusion is to Thamud and the inhabitants of Madyan.
    44. Such as Qarun. Asad comments: “The common denominator between these two (Haman and Qarun: au.) and Pharaoh is their false pride (takabbur) and arrogance (istikbar), which caused them to become ‘archetype of evil’.. A similar attitude of mind is said to have been the characteristic of the tribes of `Aad and Thamud mentioned in the preceding verse.”
    45. Such as the nations of Nuh, Fir`awn and his folks.

    مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ كَمَثَلِ الْعَنْكَبُوتِ اتَّخَذَتْ بَيْتًا ۖ وَإِنَّ أَوْهَنَ الْبُيُوتِ لَبَيْتُ الْعَنْكَبُوتِ ۖ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ (41)

    29|41| The example of those who took protectors other than Allah is like the spider which takes (to itself) a house; but truly, the weakest of houses is the spider’s house;46 only if they knew.47

    46. Yusuf Ali has a goodly note on the spider’s nest: “The Spider's house is one of the wonderful Signs of Allah's creation. It is made up of fine silk threads spun out of silk glands in the spider's body. There are many kinds of spiders and many kinds of spider's houses. Two main types of houses may be mentioned. There is the tubular nest or web, a silk-lined house or burrow with one or two trap-doors. This may be called his residential or family mansion. Then there is what is ordinarily called a spider's web, consisting of a central point with radiating threads running in all directions and acting as tie-beams to the quasi-circular concentric threads that form the body of the web. This is his hunting box. The whole structure exemplifies economy in time, material, and strength. If an insect is caught in the net, the vibration set up in the radiating threads is at once communicated to the spider, who can come and kill his prey. In case the prey is powerful, the spider is furnished with poison glands with which to kill his prey. The spider sits either in the centre of the web or hides on the under-side of a leaf or in some crevice, but he always has a single thread connecting him with his web, to keep him in telephonic communication. The female spider is much bigger than the male, and in Arabic the generic gender of 'Ankabut is feminine.”
    Except Antarctica, spiders are found everywhere. A few of them are aquatic, that is, live under water. There are about 30,000 known species of them. Their average sizes vary from a few millimeters to 9 cm. body length. Feet included, they can be as large as 30 cm. (a foot). The bird-eating spider weighs 120 gm. and is capable of hunting down little birds.
    Spiders have eight legs and eight simple eyes. In some species the eyes are so arranged as to allow all around view. They can see ahead, behind, above, and to the sides, all at the same time. The lower part of the abdomen produces the silk gland. They live for about a year and are predators; they bite their prey releasing a powerful poison which causes paralysis. The poison also produces digestive juices in the body of the prey which the spider sucks along with other juicy parts of the body. To humans, their bite is not fatal although can cause severe pain. Occasionally, they may cause death.
    Usually they use their nets to trap insects. Some species however lasso them as they come within range. The famous Tarantula variety lives in burrows and is large enough to pound on the prey rather than use a net.
    The main wonder of the spiders is the silk they produce. Initially, it is a fluid which contains a protein called fibroin. It solidifies into an insoluble thread when the proteins rearrange themselves under tension as the silk is drawn out of the spider’s body. Spiders have several glands to produce several types of silk. Spider silk is up to 200 times finer than the finest human hair and is highly elastic. It can be stretched to over 20% of its length and retains its elasticity at temperatures as low as - 40 º C. It is one of the strongest natural substances known. A single thread of it can be stretched by nearly a third without snapping, and would have to be about 80 km long to break purely under its own weight. It is said that an inch thick of pure spider silk net can stop a flying jetliner in the air.
    Mating occurs by the force of nature, otherwise, it is the end of the male which is either eaten off by the female, or dies off, immediately after the mating is over. Once mature, the male spider stops feeding and spends all the time and energy trying to find a female to mate with. In some cases the female starts eating off the male even as mating is going on. Strangely, in such cases mating actions continue despite the male having lost its head to the female.
    Spiders are oviparous, i.e., they lay eggs. The mother sometimes carries the eggs on her back, or conceals them somewhere, preserving them in silk cocoons. When they hatch, the young ones ride on their mother’s back until they are big enough to fend for themselves. Among the Wolf spiders, when two female spiders carrying young meet, they fight to the death of one of them. When that happens, the spiderlings from both will climb onto the back of the victorious mother who carries them around as if they are her own.
    47. Yusuf Ali tells us why people fail to learn in life: “Parables seem simple things, but their profound meaning and application can only be understood by those who seek knowledge and by Allah's grace attain it.‏” And, “Most of the facts in the last note can be read into the Parable. For their thickness the spider's threads are very strong from the point of view of relativity, but in our actual world they are flimsy, especially the threads of the gossamer spider floating in the air. So is the house and strength of the man who relies on material resources however fine or beautiful relatively; before the eternal Reality they are as nothing. The spider's most cunning architecture cannot stand against a wave of a man's hand. His poison glands are like the hidden poison in our beautiful worldly plans which may take various shapes but have seeds of death in them.‏”

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (42)

    29|42| Surely, Allah knows whatever aught they call upon other than Him. He is the All-mighty, the All-wise.

    وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِبُهَا لِلنَّاسِ ۖ وَمَا يَعْقِلُهَا إِلَّا الْعَالِمُونَ (43)

    29|43| And We strike these similitudes for the people, but ponder not except the knowledgeable.

    خَلَقَ اللَّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ (44)

    29|44| Allah created the heavens and the earth in truth.48 Surely in that is a sign for the believers.

    48. “I.e., endowed with meaning and purpose.. In other words, belief in the existence of a meaning and purpose underlying the creation of the universe is a logical corollary of one’s belief in God” (Asad).

    اتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ ۖ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ ۗ وَلَذِكْرُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ (45)

    29|45| Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book, and perform the Prayer (assiduously and spiritedly);49 verily, Prayer forbids the indecent50 and the reprehensible.51 Surely, Allah’s remembrance is greater.52 Allah knows the (deeds) that you commit.

    49. Iqamatu al-salah is, to repeat, to do the Prayers on time, in good spirit, doing all its parts in an efficient, acceptable manner (Qurtubi).
    50. Majid comments: “That brings to mind, by way of contrast, the strong connotation that has very frequently existed between obscenity and the acts of worship as ordained by the so-called religions of the world. In many of them even prostitution appears to have been not merely tolerated but encouraged. ‘In Egypt, Phoenicia, Assyria, Chaldea, Canaan and Persia, the worship of Isis, Moloch, Baal, Astarte, Mylitta and other deities consisted of the most extravagant sexual orgies, and the temples were merely centres of vice. In Babylon some degree of prostitution appears to have been even compulsory and imposed upon all women in honor of the goddess Mylitta. In India the ancient connection between religion and prostitution still survives.’ (EBr. XVIII, p. 596). ‘The Kedeshoth mentioned in the Bible were prostitutes attached to the Canaanite temples, and were held in the highest reverence by the worshippers. Temple prostitutes, in all countries, and at all times, have been highly thought of.’ (Scott, History of Prostitution, p. 10). In its earliest of phases prostitution was always associated with religion; and there seem strong grounds for the assumption that the first brothels were run by priests.’ (p. 59).”
    51. Although a lone opinion of Ibn `Umar is that by “salah” the allusion is to the Qur’an which is recited in Prayers, most others, such as Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas and others have said that by the term “salah” the allusion is to Prayers. In fact, Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said, “A Prayer which does not prohibit a man from the indecent and the reprehensive, actually distances him from Allah.” This is reported as a Prophetic statement also, coming down through Ibn Mas`ud (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    Ibn Jarir however, does not seem to be very comfortable with the above report either as a Prophetic statement, or as that of Ibn `Abbas. For, he quotes Ibn `Awn as saying, (in reference to this verse), “When you are in the Prayers, you are in a good act: Prayer has come in between you and the indecent and reprehensive. ‘Fahshaa’ is fornication, and ‘the reprehensive’ is disobedience. Whoever then, committed an obscenity or disobeyed Allah, such as one which nullifies his Prayers, and, obviously, such a man did not Pray at all.”
    In any case, the above as a statement of Ibn `Abbas is, according to Haythamiyy, a weak report, while, as a Prophetic statement, it is, according to Albani, a “Batil” narrative (“Mawdu`ah” no. 2), while to Haythamiyy it is untrustworthy (Majma`) - Au.
    Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir also caution that none of the statements about a “salah” distancing away from Allah reaches the Prophet. Another hadith of the Prophet apparently contradicts the hadith that says that Prayer can cause distancing from Allah. It is said that the Prophet was told, “So and so Prays the whole night but steals in the morning.” He replied, “His Prayers will prevent him.” And, Qurtubi adds, that is how it happened.
    Haythamiyy said about this last report: “Ahmad and Bazzar recorded it and its narrators are those of Sahih collections” (Au.).
    In short, writes Qurtubi, if salah is performed properly, in the manner it is required of a Muslim, in complete mental presence, and physical humbleness, the heart filled with fear, then it does move one away from the indecent and the evil. It is reported of one of the Salaf that when he stood for Prayers, he became pale and shook with fear. When asked why that happened to him, he would say, “This is how one feels when before a king; what about when one is about to appear before the King of all kings?” It is this kind of Prayer about which the Prophet (saws) said, as in Tirmidhi, who judged it Hasan Sahih,

    أَرَأَيْتُمْ لَوْ أَنَّ نَهَرًا بِبَابِ أَحَدِكُمْ يَغْتَسِلُ فِيهِ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ خَمْسًا مَا تَقُولُ ذَلِكَ يُبْقِي مِنْ دَرَنِهِ قَالُوا لَا يُبْقِي مِنْ دَرَنِهِ شَيْئًا قَالَ فَذَلِكَ مِثْلُ الصَّلَوَاتِ الْخَمْسِ يَمْحُو اللَّهُ بِهِ الْخَطَايَا

    “Do you think if one of you had a river passing by his door, in which he bathed himself five times a day, will he have any dirt left on him?” They replied, “No, no dirt will be left on him.” He said, “This is how it is with the five daily Prayers. Allah wipes out the sins thereby.”
    The above hadith is in Bukhari also (Au.).
    But when salah is done badly, year after year, without any remorse, then it does not prevent a man from sins, but rather, he begins to commit them oftener. When he does that, then the sins that are blatantly committed cause him to stray away from Allah.
    Hatim described his own Salah, “As if my feet are on the Bridge, Paradise on my right side and Hellfire on left with the angel of death right above me. And I Pray in a state of hope and fear.” It is this kind of Prayer, writes Zamakhshari, which comes in between a man and indecent acts.
    Alusi clarifies the issue to a greater degree. He writes that some confusion is allowed for, when we fail to assign an exact meaning to the textual “tanhaa.” Many people seem to understand it not in the sense of “prohibit,” in which sense it has been used. They rather understand it in the sense of “prevent,” in which sense it has not been used. We must understand that Prayers can only “prohibit” a man from the indecent and reprehensive, but do not “prevent.” (That is, a strong inner voice protests against sins and says, in effect, “Do not do it”). This prohibition does not mean a complete prevention, for that is something for a man to decide for himself. Indeed, Allah Himself does no more than this with His slave. He prohibits. He said (16: 90):

    {إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ} [النحل: 90]

    “Verily, Allah enjoins justice, good-doing, and giving to kin. And He forbids the indecent, the reprehensible and rebellion.” Now, it is up to a man to decide how he will treat the admonition. (Hence Allah ended the verse by saying, “He admonishes you that perhaps you will be mindful”: Au.). It is following this understanding that we find Ibn `Abbas as saying, as in Ibn Hayyan, Kalbi, Ibn Jurayj and Hammad b. Sulayman that ‘the Prayers forbid these things, so long as a man is in the Prayers.’ What they meant perhaps, continues Alusi, is that the Prayer is the prohibiting element, telling him from within, “Do not do this, do not do that,” etc., in short, offering checks and brakes. Nonetheless, the possibility remains, adds Alusi, that, in addition to prohibiting, Prayers also “prevent” a slave from the indecent and reprehensible. But that of course is conditional to how well they are done, (the better done, the better the effects on the devotee). They weaken in their effect with increase in inattentiveness during the Prayers (ghaflah): the kind of Prayer that, as the Prophet said, is bundled as old clothes are bundled and flung back on the face of the devotee with the Prayers saying, “May Allah squander you, as you squandered me.”
    The effect of Salah on the devotees is a commonly noted fact. Even non-Muslims confess that they see a glow on the faces of Muslims as they emerge from the mosques. A Hindu once complaining of a Muslim’s lies remarked, “And, the strange thing about him is that he Prays regularly (Au.).
    Majid quotes, “.. In the words of a distinguished American psychologist: ‘All historians declare that the amazing success of Islam in dominating the world lay in the astounding coherence or sense of unity in the group, but they do not explain how this miracle was worked. There can be little doubt that one of the most effective means was prayer. The five daily prayers, when all the faithful, wherever they were, alone in the given solitude of the desert or in the vast assemblies in the crowded cities, knelt and prostrated themselves towards Mecca uttering the same words of adoration for the one true God and of loyalty to His Prophet, produce an overwhelming effect upon the spectator, and the psychological effects of thus fusing the minds of the worshippers in a common adoration and expression of loyalty is certainly stupendous.’ (Dennison, op. cit., 274-275).”

    وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ ۖ وَقُولُوا آمَنَّا بِالَّذِي أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَأُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ وَإِلَٰهُنَا وَإِلَٰهُكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ (46)

    29|46| And dispute not with the People of the Book save with that which is better,53 except for those among them who do wrong;54 and say, ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us, and sent down to you.55 Our God and your God is One; and to Him we have surrendered.’56

    52. “Allah’s remembrance is greater.” But greater than what? Imam Razi answers that since there is nothing that can be compared to Allah’s remembrance, to any degree, nothing could be brought forth for comparison. After all, one does not say, “The mountain is bigger than a grain of sand.” There is no comparison between a grain of sand and a mountain. Yet, we know that the two are of the kind and class that are in some ways comparable. In contrast, is there anything that can be brought forth as comparable to Allah’s remembrance?
    The translation of the text follows the heavier of the two opinions about how this verse is to be understood. One opinion (as in Ibn Jarir and others) is that “A slave’s remembrance of Allah within the Prayers, is greater than the Prayer itself. (Allah said in 20: 14, “Establish the Prayers for My remembrance”: Au.).
    `Abdullah b. Rabi`ah says Ibn `Abbas asked him about how he understood these words. Ibn Rabi`ah replied that the allusion is perhaps to the mention of Allah’s Names and Attributes within the Prayers, recitation of the Qur’an within them, etc. Ibn `Abbas told him that it sounded good, but was not correct. But rather, he said, the allusion is to Allah’s remembrance of His slaves, which is a greater thing that their remembrance of Him. Another report coming down from him makes it clearer. He said, “Surely, Allah’s remembrance of His slaves, when they remember Him, is greater than your remembrance of Him.” This was also the opinion of `Atiyyah, Mujahid, Salman (al-Farsi: Ibn Kathir), Sho`bah and several others as in Ibn Jarir. A second opinion of Qatadah and Salman, also in Ibn Jarir, was that the meaning is, “Remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in this world).” A third opinion, that of Ibn `Abbas, is that both the meanings are possible, meaning perhaps that one does not rule out the other. Ibn Jarir’s own inclination is toward the first opinion while Qurtubi accepts all possibilities.
    53. That is, with arguments and evidences better than that they, the People of the Book put forth (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    It means, to respond to crudeness with gentleness, to anger with calmness, to argumentativeness with admonition (Alusi), and, to emotionalism with rationalism (Au.).
    Mawdudi further expounds: “That is, the discussions should be conducted rationally, in a civilized and decent manner, with the reformation of the opponent as the objective. The chief aim should be to appeal to the heart and mind and not make it a wrestling match with the objective to defeat rather than convince. One should act like a physician, who tries to heal, and not to make the patient’s situation worse through ill-treatment.”
    54. That is, you can act tough with those who are obstinate in the face of truth (Alusi and others). In the words of Mawdudi: “Islam ordains politeness. But that does not mean meekness and undue humbleness. The Muslims should not be such as to be taken for granted by every wicked tyrant.”
    The prevalent opinion is that of Mujahid who said that the meaning of the second part of the verse is that those among them who do wrong, i.e., obstinately remain on their corrupt beliefs, should be fought against until they believe, or pay the tribute (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    55. Sufyan b. Husain is said to have remarked that to say, “We believe in what has been sent down to us, and sent down to you,” is the “better” spoken of in verse 46 (Alusi).
    Mawdudi points out that the verse implies that discussions should start with the points of agreement and not points of disagreement.
    However, when that fails to convince, then the discussant or the debater may switch over to disagreements to demonstrate how Islamic position is the more rational and nearer to truth, but which of course should be done without hurting the sentiments of the contestants (Au.).
    56. Explaining this verse Abu Hurayrah said: People of the Book used to recite the Tawrah in Hebrew and then explain to the Muslims in Arabic. The Prophet said, “Neither refute the holders of previous Scriptures, nor confirm. But rather say, ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us, and sent down to you. Our God and your God is One; and to Him we have surrendered’” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    The above report is in Bukhari. Another report of Musnad Ahmad has Abu Namlah al-Ansari saying that he was in the company of the Prophet when a Jew came in and asked,

    يَا مُحَمَّدُهَلْ تَتَكَلَّمُ هَذِهِ الْجَنَازَةُ؟ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: اللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ، فَقَالَ الْيَهُودِيُّ: أَنَا أَشْهَدُ أَنَّهَا تَتَكَلَّمُ، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ:مَا حَدَّثَكُمْ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ فَلا تُصَدِّقُوهُمْ وَلا تُكَذِّبُوهُمْ، وَقُولُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ، فَإِنْ كَانَ حَقًّا لَمْ تُكَذِّبُوهُمْ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَاطِلا لَمْ تُصَدِّقُوهُمْ

    “Muhammad, do these corpses speak?” He replied, “Allah knows best.” He said, “But I bear witness that they speak.” The Prophet (saws) told the people around him, “When the People of the Book narrate to you something, neither give them credence nor refute them. But rather, say, ‘We have believed in Allah, His Books and Messengers.’ If it happens to be true, you would not have denied it, and if it happens to be false, you would not have given it credence” (Ibn Kathir).
    The report is also in Sahih of Hibban (Au.).
    Nevertheless, Imam Bukhari has a report that once Mu`awiyyah (b. Sufyan) was speaking to a group of people when Ka`b al-Ahbar was mentioned. Mu`awiyyah said, “Although he is the most trustworthy of those who narrate from the People of the Book, we still reckon that some of the things he narrates are not true (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ ۚ فَالَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ ۖ وَمِنْ هَٰؤُلَاءِ مَنْ يُؤْمِنُ بِهِ ۚ وَمَا يَجْحَدُ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَّا الْكَافِرُونَ (47)

    29|47| And thus it is that We have sent down the Book to you;57 wherefore those We have given the Book believe in it; as some of these (also) believe in it;58 and none gainsay59 Our revelations but the unbelievers.60

    57. That is: Just as We sent Books to earlier Prophets, in the like manner We have sent down the Book upon you, O Muhammad (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    58. That is, those who have been given the Qur’an believe in it, while some of these – the People of the Book – also believe in it (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Kathir however, understands the verse the other way around. That is, he assumes that by “of these” the reference is to the pagans of the Prophet’s time.
    59. Jahad of the text is defined as denial of what one’s own heart is convinced (as true), and to confess and insist on what the heart denies (as false) - Alusi from Raghib.
    60. That is, it is only those deny who have decided to remain on untruth (Au.).

    وَمَا كُنْتَ تَتْلُو مِنْ قَبْلِهِ مِنْ كِتَابٍ وَلَا تَخُطُّهُ بِيَمِينِكَ ۖ إِذًا لَارْتَابَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ (48)

    29|48| And you were not reciting any book before this,61 nor did you inscribe one with your right hand:62 for then the followers of falsehood63 would have doubted.64

    61. Ayah 46 suggested that we are not to argue with the People of the Book save with that which is better: as arguments and as evidences. This ayah helps us with an evidence: how could someone who never wrote down anything in life, was able to dictate an everlasting masterpiece in one attempt, without ever editing and improving it? (Au.)
    62. The addition of the words “with your right hand” is to draw an image for greater emphasis (Alusi), and leave a stronger impression on the mind (Au.).
    Qurtubi comments on this verse in the following manner: Except for an outside opinion, that of Abul Walid al-Baji, who said that our Prophet wrote (a few words) at the time the peace-treaty was being drawn at Hudaybiyyah, which opinion has been rejected by the rest of the Ummah, the consensus has ever been that to the end of his life the Prophet remained unlettered. One or two stray reports to the effect that he had learnt how to read and write before his death are not authentic. It is said for instance that in one of his trustworthy hadith he stated that Dajjal will have kafir written on his forehead. He emphasized by pronouncing the letters: kaf, alif, faa, raa, which means he knew the Arabic letters. But, Qurtubi answers, we might not forget that he also said, “Everyone, whether lettered or not lettered, will be able to read these letters on Dajjal’s forehead.” (Being able to know the alphabets does not make one literate: Au.).
    As regards the Hudaybiyyah incident, when the Prophet dictated the text of the treaty to `Ali which said, “In the name of Allah, the Kind, the Compassionate: This is what Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, agreed to ..” The Quraysh objected, saying, “If we had known that you are a Messenger of Allah, we would have followed you. So, you better write, ‘Muhammad, son of Abdullah.’” The Prophet ordered `Ali to erase the words, “Messenger of Allah.” But `Ali refused, saying “By Allah, I will not erase.” So the Prophet asked to be shown the words “Messenger of Allah” and erased them and wrote in their place, “son of `Abdullah.” According to another version in Bukhari, “(He wrote down) but did not do it legibly.” This incident, continues Qurtubi, has led one or two stray scholars to believe that toward the end of his life the Prophet had learnt how to read and write. But, the great majority has not considered this evidence enough to conclude that he had become literate, and that he might have asked another person to write those words. The latter day scholars have thought that it was a miracle that he wrote those words. Allah moved his hands that drew lines that somehow read like “son of `Abdullah.”
    Qurtubi’s comments end here.
    Majid quotes the consensus of Western scholars: “His youth had never been instructed in the arts of reading and writing.’ (GRE. V. p. 376). ‘As to acquired learning, it is confessed he had none at all.’ (SPD. p. 73). ‘It is probable that he could neither read nor write.’ (Palmer, The Qur’an, Intro. p. XLVII). ‘There is no evidence that he was able to read.’ (EBr. XIII, p. 483). ‘It is certain that he had neither read the Bible nor any other books.’ (HHW, VIII, p. 11).”
    63. Asad has a note on the contextual “mubtiloon”: “The participial noun mubtil is derived from the verb abtala, ‘he made a false [or ‘vain’] claim’, or ‘tried to disprove the truth [or something]’, or ‘to reduce [something] to nothing,’ or ‘to prove [it] to be of no account’, or ‘null and void’, or ‘unfounded’, ‘false’, ‘spurious’, etc., irrespective of whether the object is true or false, authentic or spurious, valid or unfounded (Lisan al-`Arab and Taj al-`Arus).”
    64. They would have doubted both ways. If the Prophet knew how to read and write, they would have said he was not a Prophet since their Scriptures said that he will be unlettered. They would have also said that since he knew how to read and write, what he produced was no more than some clever plagiary (based on Zamakhshari).

    بَلْ هُوَ آيَاتٌ بَيِّنَاتٌ فِي صُدُورِ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ ۚ وَمَا يَجْحَدُ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَّا الظَّالِمُونَ (49)

    29|49| But it is clear verses65 within the breasts of those who have been given knowledge.66 And none gainsay Our verses but the wrongdoers.67

    65. Asad comments, “Lit., ‘self-evident (bayyinah) in the breasts of those who have been given knowledge’ – the term `ilm having here the connotation of intuitive, spiritual perception.”
    66. There are two opinions. One, the allusion is to the predictions about our own Prophet found in the older Scriptures, such as that the final Prophet will be unlettered, which, along with others, are signs in the hearts of those of the People of the Book who have knowledge. This is attributed to Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Jurayj. (The Prophet carried in his person not one, but several signs: Qurtubi). The second opinion is expressed by Hasan who thought that by the signs, the allusion is to Qur’anic revelations. Ibn Jarir prefers the former.
    Ibn Kathir follows the latter opinion and reminds us of the hadith of Bukhari which says,

    مَا مِنْ الْأَنْبِيَاءِ نَبِيٌّ إِلَّا أُعْطِيَ مَا مِثْلهُ آمَنَ عَلَيْهِ الْبَشَرُ وَإِنَّمَا كَانَ الَّذِي أُوتِيتُ وَحْيًا أَوْحَاهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيَّ فَأَرْجُو أَنْ أَكُونَ أَكْثَرَهُمْ تَابِعًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

    “There has not been a Prophet but who was given something because of which people believed in him (i.e., miracles). I have been given the Revelation that Allah revealed to me (as the miracle). And I expect that I will be the most-followed-one on the Day of Judgment.”
    He is also recorded in Muslim as having said,

    يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنَّمَا بَعَثْتُكَ لأَبْتَلِيَكَ ، وَأَبْتَلِيَ بِكَ ، وَأَنْزَلْتُ عَلَيْكَ كِتَابًا لاَ يَغْسِلُهُ الْمَاءُ تَقْرَؤُهُ نَائِمًا وَيَقْظَانًا

    “Allah said, ‘I shall try you, and through you try others. And I am going to send down a Book upon you that water cannot wash away; which you will recite in wakefulness and when asleep.’” That is, a Revelation which will be in the memory of the people and so cannot be washed away with water (Ibn Kathir).
    67. One might note that here, at this verse, Allah (swt) designated them as “zalimoon” while at verse 47 He called them “kafiroon.” This is because at verse 47 they were simple “kafiroon” since the evidence had not yet been presented. By this verse, an evidence has been presented, viz., the Prophet was unlettered. If the unbelievers still refuse, then they become “zalimoon” – a rank above the ordinary unbeliever in perversion (Razi).

    وَقَالُوا لَوْلَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَاتٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ ۖ قُلْ إِنَّمَا الْآيَاتُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَإِنَّمَا أَنَا نَذِيرٌ مُبِينٌ (50)

    29|50| And they said, ‘Why signs have not been sent down upon him from his Lord?’ Say, ‘Indeed, signs are with Allah alone, while I am only a plain warner.’

    أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِهِمْ أَنَّا أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ يُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَرَحْمَةً وَذِكْرَىٰ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (51)

    29|51| Is it not sufficient for them that We have sent down the Book upon you (which is) recited to them?68 Assuredly, in that is a mercy and a reminder for a people who believe.

    68. That is, writes Zamakhshari, is not a single sign – the Qur’an – enough for them? As against several signs of the past – such as the rod or the camel - this is a sign which is permanent, which does not wither with time, and remains a sign in every place, until the end of time? And which, Razi adds, cannot be rejected on grounds that it is sorcery (as, for example, the signs of Jesus could be rejected on grounds of sorcery: Au.).
    Apart from above, Imam Razi also points out that, (as against the Prophethood of other Prophets) since our Prophet’s Prophethood was meant for all mankind, and not for a specific people, he was given a few miracles that were for all mankind, e.g., the splitting of the moon, two halves of which went down towards two opposite parts of the earth; or the seas that witnessed storm (in some parts of the globe), or Kisra’s pillars crashing down, while church portals came down in yet another part of the earth, all indicating that the Prophet’s Prophethood would not be for a specific people, but for the entire globe.
    It is also reported (by Yahya b. Ja`dah: Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir) that some Companions of the Prophet made notes of what the People of the Book were saying and brought them to the Prophet. He waved them aside and Allah revealed this verse: “Is it not sufficient for them that We have sent down the Book upon you, (which is) recited to them?”
    Accordingly, the Prophet has said, Qurtubi adds,

    ليس مِنَّا مَن لم يَتغنَّ بالقرآن

    “He is not of us, who is not satisfied with the Qur’an (to give up the rest).”
    It could also be rendered as: “He is not of us who does not sing out the Qur’an.” The present translation is based on the understanding of Imam Shafe`I (Au.).

    قُلْ كَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَكُمْ شَهِيدًا ۖ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۗ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِالْبَاطِلِ وَكَفَرُوا بِاللَّهِ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ (52)

    29|52| Say, ‘Sufficient is Allah as a Witness between me and you. He knows whatsoever is in the heavens and earth.’ Those who have believed in falsehood and disbelieved in Allah, it is they indeed who are the losers.

    وَيَسْتَعْجِلُونَكَ بِالْعَذَابِ ۚ وَلَوْلَا أَجَلٌ مُسَمًّى لَجَاءَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلَيَأْتِيَنَّهُمْ بَغْتَةً وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (53)

    29|53| And they urge you to hasten on the punishment. If it was not for an appointed term, the punishment would have certainly come to them.69 Indeed, it will come upon them of a sudden while they perceive not.

    69. For the Quraysh that appointed term was the Day of Badr (Qurtubi), while for every nation there is an appointed term; and the final appointment for everyone is the Day of Judgment (Au.).

    يَسْتَعْجِلُونَكَ بِالْعَذَابِ وَإِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ لَمُحِيطَةٌ بِالْكَافِرِينَ (54)

    29|54| They urge you to hasten on the punishment,70 but surely Jahannum will encompass the unbelievers.71

    70. The reference is to the Quraysh (particularly Nadr b. al-Harth) who said (8: 32),

    {وَإِذْ قَالُوا اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كَانَ هَذَا هُوَ الْحَقَّ مِنْ عِنْدِكَ فَأَمْطِرْ عَلَيْنَا حِجَارَةً مِنَ السَّمَاءِ أَوِ ائْتِنَا بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ} [الأنفال: 32]

    “When they said, ‘O Allah, if this is truly from You, then rain down upon us stones from the sky’” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    71. That is because, man is drowned in sins and the consequences – Jahannum – must overwhelm him (Zamakhshari, reworded). Actually, writes Imam Razi, the words express amazement that although the Fire has already surrounded the unbelievers, they still seek it to be hastened on.
    Mujahid said that the allusion is to the oceans (Ibn Jarir). That is, oceans will be turned into Jahannum. The Prophet is reported in Ahmad,

    الْبَحْرُ هُوَ جَهَنَّمُ

    “The oceans are Jahannum.”
    The report is also in Hakim with Dhahabi remarking that it is trustworthy.
    That is, the oceans will be turned into Jahannum. Ibn `Abbas said that the stars, sun and moon will be dipped into the oceans, then it will be set on fire, and that will be Jahannum (Ibn Kathir). Haythamiyy said that the hadith of Ahmad about the oceans is trustworthy (Au.).
    However, there is no consensus over where Jahannum is or will be. Trustworthy ahadith say that it will be dragged and brought to the Field of Resurrection on the Day of Reckoning. We also know that the heavens and the earth will be destroyed and created anew, that this earth will be expanded and that Jahannum will have various levels. In the light of these and several other details, it is better to leave the question where it is, without a final opinion (Au.).

    يَوْمَ يَغْشَاهُمُ الْعَذَابُ مِنْ فَوْقِهِمْ وَمِنْ تَحْتِ أَرْجُلِهِمْ وَيَقُولُ ذُوقُوا مَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (55)

    29|55| The day the punishment will overwhelm them from above them and from under their feet,72 and He will say, ‘Taste now what you were doing.’73

    72. Since common understanding leads to the opinion that the unbelievers will be surrounded by Fire from all sides, which leaves the sides above and below free of it, it was specifically said that, “The day the Punishment will overwhelm them from above them and from under their feet.” That is, as against all expectations of Fire rising up, it will descend on them from above, while the area immediately under their feet, will be shooting out flames of Fire, despite being quenched by the feet (Imam Razi, reworded).
    73. While the Fire will be torturing their physical bodies, these words will be said in taunt for adding spiritual torture (Razi).

    يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّ أَرْضِي وَاسِعَةٌ فَإِيَّايَ فَاعْبُدُونِ (56)

    29|56| O My slaves who have believed, surely My earth is wide. Therefore, Me alone should you serve.74

    74. “Implying that since the earth offers innumerable, multiform facilities to human life, there is no excuse for forgetting God ‘owing to the pressures of adverse circumstances.’ Whenever or wherever the worship of God – in its essential, and not merely liturgical sense – becomes impossible, the believer is obliged to ‘forsake the domain of evil’ .. and to ‘migrate unto God,’ that is, to a place where it is possible to live in accordance with one’s faith” (Asad).
    Sa`id b. Jubayr explained the verse as meaning: When sins are committed in a land, then leave the place. For, Allah’s earth is vast. Mujahid added: “Emigrate, and join in Jihad.” `Ata’ expressed a similar opinion. Ibn Zayd said however, that Makkan Muslims were the immediate context. They were urged to leave the township in view of persecutions. Ibn Jarir explains that the words with which the verse ended, “Then Me, and Me alone you serve” imply that if Allah’s worship is not possible in a land, one might leave it. Qurtubi has similar opinions and adds the words of Sufyan Thawri to expand the meaning, “If you are in an expensive place, shift to another where you can fill your basket with bread for a Dirham.”
    On Zubayr b. al-`Awwam’s authority, it is reported in Ahmad that the Prophet said,

    الْبِلَادُ بِلَادُ اللَّهِ وَالْعِبَادُ عِبَادُ اللَّهِ فَحَيْثُمَا أَصَبْتَ خَيْرًا فَأَقِمْ

    “The lands are Allah’s lands, and people are Allah’s slaves. Therefore, wheresoever you find good, take up residence there” (Ibn Kathir).
    The report is thought to be weak by Haythamiyy (Au).
    Zamakhshari adds: “Places widely vary from one another from the point of view of being or not being conducive to Islam and its demands. We have tried, as others before us have also tried, and have found that among the places we lived in, and they lived in, there is no place more helpful in suppressing the inner self, destroying the base desires, more in-gathering for the heart, more bringing together the spread out worries, more urging to contentment, more chasing away the Satan, more away from trials and tribulations, than the city of Makkah.”
    This comes from a man of letters, a philosopher, and a migrant to Makkah with no means of income in a city of harsh economic environment, which offered none of the charms that cities like Cairo, Dimashq, Kufa or Busra, or even Madinah offered. He ends his passage above by saying, “Praise be to Allah then, for making it easy (to live in Makkah), and for bestowing perseverance and gratefulness” (Au.).
    We could end with a note from Yusuf Ali: “There is no excuse for any one to plead that he could not do good or was forced to evil by his circumstances and surroundings, or by the fact that he lived in evil times. We must shun evil and seek good, and Allah's Creation is wide enough to enable us to do that, provided we have the will, the patience, and the constancy to do it. It may be that we have to change our village or city or country; or that we have to change our neighbors or associates; or to change our habits or our hours, our position in life or our human relationships, or our callings. Our integrity before Allah is more important than any of these things, and we must be prepared for exile (or Hijrat) in all these senses. For the means with which Allah provides us for His service are ample, and it is our own fault if we fail.‏”
    Mufti Shafi` tells us about when Hijrah becomes obligatory. First, it must be noted that at the beginning of Islam, Hijrah was a requirement of faith for every Makkan Muslim, man or woman. Those who did not migrate were not considered Muslims. This rule came to end with the fall of Makkah. The Prophet then said, “There is no Hijrah after the fall.” Now the situation is that Hijrah once again becomes obligatory if Muslims find themselves in Dar al-Kufr, that is, a place where they do not have the freedom of faith, or are not allowed to practice the essentials of Islam. But of course, this is conditional to the ability to migrate. On the other hand, although it is not obligatory, it is desirable (mustahab) to migrate from Dar al-Fisq, i.e., where Islamic commandments are openly flouted. Such a place need not necessarily be Dar al-Kufr. This was also the opinion of Ibn Hajr.

    كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ (57)

    29|57| Every soul shall taste death.75 Then unto Us shall you be returned.

    75. That is, if you fear that during or after emigration in the way of Allah you will face deprivation or death, then you might remember that death will overtake you in any case. None will escape it (Razi, Qurtubi).

    وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَنُبَوِّئَنَّهُمْ مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ غُرَفًا تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ نِعْمَ أَجْرُ الْعَامِلِينَ (58)

    29|58| Then those who believed and did righteous works, We shall surely lodge them in lofty chambers of Paradise76 underneath which rivers flow, abiding therein forever; an excellent reward for those who labored.

    76. Muslim has a report that the Prophet said,

    إِنَّ أَهْلَ الْجَنَّةِ لَيَتَرَاءَوْنَ أَهْلَ الْغُرَفِ مِنْ فَوْقِهِمْ كَمَا تَتَرَاءَوْنَ الْكَوْكَبَ الدُّرِّىَّ الْغَابِرَ مِنَ الأُفُقِ مِنَ الْمَشْرِقِ أَوِ الْمَغْرِبِ لِتَفَاضُلِ مَا بَيْنَهُمْ. قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ تِلْكَ مَنَازِلُ الأَنْبِيَاءِ لاَ يَبْلُغُهَا غَيْرُهُمْ. قَالَ بَلَى وَالَّذِى نَفْسِى بِيَدِهِ رِجَالٌ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَصَدَّقُوا الْمُرْسَلِينَ

    “The inhabitants of Paradise will see the people of the ghuraf (lofty chambers) above them as you see the bright stars appearing in the eastern or western horizons – such will be the differences in ranks between them.” They asked, “Messenger of Allah. Those must be places for Prophets that other than them can never obtain.” He answered, “By Him in whose hands is my life, (they will be for) men who believed in Allah and gave credence to the Prophets.”
    And Tirmidhi has a report that there are chambers in Paradise whose inside can be seen from outside and the outside from inside. A Bedouin got up and asked, “Whom are they meant for O Messenger of Allah?” He replied,

    إِنَّ فِي الْجَنَّةِ غُرَفًا يَرَى ظَاهِرُهَا مِنْ بَاطِنِهَا , وَبَاطِنُهَا مِنْ ظَاهِرِهَا ، أَعَدَّهَا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لِمَنْ أَطْعَمَ الطَّعَامَ ، وَأَدَامَ الصِّيَامَ ، وَصَلَّى بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّاسُ نِيَامٌ

    “For him who fed the food, uttered good words, followed Prayers and fasts (with Prayers and fasts), and stood in the night (in Prayers) while the people were asleep” (Qurtubi).
    Haythamiyy declared it Sahih.

    الَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ (59)

    29|59| Such as those who persevered, and who place their trust on their Lord.77

    77. Allah mentioned two qualities: patience and trust. This is because time has three phases: past, present and future. Past is past; there is no point in discussing it. Present is worthy of patience and perseverance. As for the future, one should adopt the policy of trust in Allah. Further, patience and trust in Allah are qualities that cannot be obtained without the knowledge on the one hand, of what is with Allah and the knowledge of what is with other than Allah. He who knew ‘what is other than Allah,’ knew that it is going to pass away. This knowledge makes it easier for him to bear hardships with patience. And, one who knows Allah, knows that He is Eternal. He places his trust in Him, in the hope of future bounties. From another angle, some people can put up with persecutions, others cannot, and so they emigrate. Now, those who cannot emigrate, bear the persecutions with patience, while those who can, do emigrate, placing their trust in Allah (Razi).

    وَكَأَيِّنْ مِنْ دَابَّةٍ لَا تَحْمِلُ رِزْقَهَا اللَّهُ يَرْزُقُهَا وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ (60)

    29|60| And how many a moving creature carries not its own provision; Allah provides for it and for you also.78 He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing.

    78. Muslims are being encouraged to emigration, take up Jihad, and not to slacken from the fear of provision (Ibn Jarir).
    The point of discussion then, is not trust in Allah, but show of weakness in His path (Alusi). Accordingly, Ibn `Abbas reports that the Prophet (saws) told Makkan Muslims when they were subjected to persecutions: “Go to Madinah; do not live among a transgressing people.” They said, “We have no homes there, nor property, nor anyone to feed us.” So Allah revealed, “And how many an animal carries not its own provision..” The verse then is not saying that food storage is disallowed. In fact, the Prophet used to distribute (in his final years: Au.), provision of a whole year amongst his wives, as recorded in the Sahihayn; and so did many of the Companions, who were leaders in piety and trusted Allah to an unsurpassable degree (Qurtubi).
    While reading the Bible for the first time a quarter century ago, this writer’s mind had immediately committed to memory a beautiful line which said, “Sufficient unto the day the evil thereof.” Mawdudi’s eye fell upon the same lines. He quotes the entire passage. He writes: “Precisely the same thing was taught by the Prophet Jesus (may Allah’s peace be upon him) to his disciples when he said,

    “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, or love the other: or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore, say I unto you, Take ye no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what shall you put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add a cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things the Gentile seek); for your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need for all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof’ (Matt. 6: 24-34).”

    وَلَئِنْ سَأَلْتَهُمْ مَنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّهُ ۖ فَأَنَّىٰ يُؤْفَكُونَ (61)

    29|61| And if you asked them ‘who created the heavens and earth and subjected the sun and the moon (to law)?’ they will certainly say, ‘Allah.’ How then are they deluded?79

    79. Asad elucidates: “The perversion consists in their thinking that they really ‘believe in God’ and nevertheless worshipping false values and allegedly ‘divine’ powers side by side with Him: all of which amounts to a virtual denial of His almightiness and uniqueness.”

    اللَّهُ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَقْدِرُ لَهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ (62)

    29|62| Allah extends the sustenance to whomsoever of His slaves He will, and constricts for him.80 Surely, Allah is of all things, Knowing.

    80. That is, Allah’s material bounties are not dependent on belief or unbelief (Qurtubi).
    The implication is both ways. (1) Allah extends provision to an individual at one time and restricts at another. (2) He extends to some people, while He restricts to another group of people (Alusi).

    وَلَئِنْ سَأَلْتَهُمْ مَنْ نَزَّلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَوْتِهَا لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّهُ ۚ قُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ (63)

    29|63| And, if you asked them, ‘who brought down water out of heaven and quickened the earth thereby after its death?’ they will certainly say, ‘Allah.’ Say, praise to Allah. But rather, most of them ponder not.

    وَمَا هَٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا لَهْوٌ وَلَعِبٌ ۚ وَإِنَّ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ لَهِيَ الْحَيَوَانُ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ (64)

    29|64| And the life of this world81 is no more than an amusement and play.82 Surely, the Abode of the Hereafter, it indeed is the (true) life83 – only if they knew.

    81. The “this” of “this world” is to express the littleness of this world and worthlessness of its affairs (Zamakhshari).
    The following may not be a very accurate description of what this world in reality is; but it does reflect how those devoted to the Hereafter have looked at it. Alusi writes that in the opinion of some of the Gnostics: “This world is less worthier than a dead swine’s limb, over which a leprosy stricken dog had urinated.”
    82. “That is,” comments Mawdudi, “the reality of it is no more than the children engaging in sport and pastime for a while, and then returning home. One who became a king, does not become one in reality, he is only playing his part in a game. When the time comes, he descends the throne and leaves as empty handed as he came. Similarly, time is elusive. No phase of life is enduring and lasting. Everyone is playing out his role for a time.”
    83. The construction of the word “haywan” on the pattern of “ghadban” or “lahyan” lends the connotation of activity and commotion, which is missing from the simple “hayaah,” (Zamakhshari), and, on the other hand, of exaggeration (Razi).

    فَإِذَا رَكِبُوا فِي الْفُلْكِ دَعَوُا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ فَلَمَّا نَجَّاهُمْ إِلَى الْبَرِّ إِذَا هُمْ يُشْرِكُونَ (65)

    29|65| Then when they board a ship, they supplicate Allah, making the religion pure for Him.84 But when He rescues them to the land, behold, they associate (others with Him).85

    84. This kind of reaction has been reported quite often by passengers of ships who say that when the ship encounters rough weather, rocking left and right, everybody, including the atheists, turn to God the Supreme, begging forgiveness (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir quotes `Ikrimah b. Abu Jahl from Ibn Is-haq: When the Prophet had subdued Makkah, he left the town escaping him. He boarded a ship heading for Abyssinia. Once in deep waters, storms struck and the ship started rocking. They began to say, “Fellow-passengers! Supplicate your Lord making your call pure for Him. No one can save you now except He.” `Ikrimah said, “By Allah, if none can rescue except He in the waters, then surely, it is He alone who can rescue on the land.” So, he supplicated, ‘You have my promise that if I escape this, I shall go back and place my hand in Muhammad’s hand.’ “I am sure,” (He thought), “that I’ll find him kind and clement.” Which is what of course, he did.
    85. That is, as soon as they are on land, they go back to their false beliefs and false deities. Or, it could mean that they attribute their escape to the skill of the ship’s captain and his crewmen (Qurtubi).

    لِيَكْفُرُوا بِمَا آتَيْنَاهُمْ وَلِيَتَمَتَّعُوا ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَعْلَمُونَ (66)

    29|66| That86 they may be ungrateful for what We have given them, and to enjoy themselves. But soon they will know.

    86. Although a few commentators have thought that the “laam” of “li-yakfuru” is “lamu-kayy”, others have thought that it is “laam-al-`Aqibah.” In Asad’s words, “The particle li prefixed to the subsequent verb yakfuru (‘they show [utter] ingratitude’) and yatamatta`u (‘they enjoy [or ‘go on enjoying’] their worldly life’) is not an indication of intent (‘so that’ or ‘in order that’) but merely of a causal sequence..”

    أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّا جَعَلْنَا حَرَمًا آمِنًا وَيُتَخَطَّفُ النَّاسُ مِنْ حَوْلِهِمْ ۚ أَفَبِالْبَاطِلِ يُؤْمِنُونَ وَبِنِعْمَةِ اللَّهِ يَكْفُرُونَ (67)

    29|67| Do they not observe that We have made a Sanctuary secure (for them) while people are snatched away from all around them?87 Will they then believe in falsehood and be ingrate to Allah’s blessings?

    87. The allusion is to the peace that the Quraysh and other Makkan pagans enjoyed, as custodians of the House of God, while others suffered violence of various kinds. The situation was that any individual other than they could be kidnapped, enslaved and sold as a slave, if a powerful tribe did not support him (Au.). Mawdudi comments: “That is, has the city of Makkah, in whose surroundings they enjoy perfect safety and security, been declared a Sanctuary by their deities?”
    Asad picks up spiritual overtones. He writes: “In contrast to the ‘sanctuary secure’ – the inner peace and sense of spiritual fulfillment which God bestows on those who truly believe in Him – the atheist or agnostic, is more often than not exposed to fear of the Unknown and a despair born of uncertainty as to what will happen to him after death.”

    وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا أَوْ كَذَّبَ بِالْحَقِّ لَمَّا جَاءَهُ ۚ أَلَيْسَ فِي جَهَنَّمَ مَثْوًى لِلْكَافِرِينَ (68)

    29|68| And who can be more unjust than He who forged a lie on Allah, or cried lies to the truth when it came to him?88 Is not in Jahannum a home for the unbelievers?

    88. The addition of the words, “when it came to him” implies that they did not wait to consider and weigh the truth when it came to them, but at once denied it, immediately as it came (Alusi).

    وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (69)

    29|69| And those who strived in Us,89 We shall surely guide them to Our ways.90 Verily, Allah is with those who do things well.91

    89. "All that man can do is to strive in Allah's Cause. As soon as he strives with might and main, with constancy and determination, the Light and Mercy of Allah come to meet him. They cure his defects and shortcomings. They provide him with the means by which he can raise himself above himself. They point out the Way, and all the Paths leading up to it” (Yusuf Ali).
    90. That is, We shall guide them to the several ways by which Our Pleasure can be obtained (Alusi).
    Yusuf Ali elaborates: “The Way of Allah (sirat-ul-mustaqim) is a Straight Way. But men have strayed from it in all directions. And there are numerous Paths by which they can get back to the Right Way, the way in which the purity of their own nature, and the Will and Mercy of Allah require them to Walk. All these numerous Paths become open to them if once they give their hearts in keeping to Allah and work in right Endeavour (Jihad) with all their mind and soul and resources. Thus will they get out of the Spider's web of this frail world and attain to eternal Bliss in the fulfillment of their true Destiny.”
    Asad adds: “The plural used here is meant to stress the fact – alluded so often in the Qur’an – that there are many paths which lead to a cognizance (ma`rifah) of God.”
    Majid has a pertinent point to make: “Note that mere sincere search after God and His truths, apart from all consequences, is promised reward. Sincerity of purpose is the main thing, good results will follow of themselves.”
    The above reminds us of an American new-Muslim’s story told us by other than he. His mother fell sick and they lost hope of her recovery. He prayed to God that if she recovered he would devote himself to His service. She recovered but he, being a nominal Christian, did not know how to serve God. He went about with the thought that he needed to find God and serve Him. One day he was sitting with a fellow Muslim on a bench in a college campus while she was going through her mail. She had received some religious literature and he began to browse. He came across a word that somehow struck a note in him. It was ‘A`isha. He asked the girl how it was said. She pronounced it. It struck chord. Twice he had heard in his dreams a voice saying ‘A`isha, but being American he hadn’t known what it meant or that it was a name. He followed the trail and became a Muslim: “Allah guides whom He will to a Straight Path” (2: 213) - Au.
    Some scholars have said that he who practices what he knows, receives Divine impulse for loftier deeds. It is also said that what we see of our ignorance concerning what we do not know, is because of our failure with what we already know (Kashshaf).
    Ibn Kathir adds that `Abbas al-Hamdani of `Akka said while commenting on these words of Allah, [“And those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them to Our ways”], that the meaning is, “those who live by what they know; gain Allah’s guidance to what they do not know.” Ahmad b. al-Hawwari said that I mentioned this explanation to Abu Sulayman al-Daarani. He felt pleased but added the caution, “It is not right of anyone who has been inspired to a good deed, to actually do it, unless he finds support for it from the primary sources of Islam. If he finds support for it there, he can put it into action and express gratitude to Allah for having created corroboration and acceptance for the deed in his heart.”
    91. Ibn Abi Hatim has reported Sha`bi as saying, “`Isa ibn Maryam had said: ‘Ihsan is that you should do good to him who ill-treated you; it is not ihsan that you should do good to someone who did you good’” (Ibn Kathir).