Surat Ar-Rūm

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. 30

    Merits of the Surah

    1. In the opinion of Ibn `Atiyyah and others there is no difference in opinion among the earliest scholars that without exception of a verse, the whole of this Surah is Makkan (Alusi).
    The connection between the previous chapter and this one is apparent. It is, as stated by Jalaluddin Suyuti, as follows: The previous chapter ended with the words, “As for those who struggle in Our cause, We shall guide them to Our ways,” this one opens with the good news of the People of the Book ultimately overcoming pagans - implying that their own defeats here and there should not worry the Muslims. They shall also emerge victorious.
    After stating the above opinion, Alusi mentions that he does not think that this is a strong opinion since the wars of the People of the Book cannot be considered as “Jihad in Allah’s cause.” He offers his own understanding of the connection between the two, but to us Suyuti’s opinion seems reasonable enough to be content with (Au.)

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الم (1)

    30|1| Alif. Lam. Mim.

    غُلِبَتِ الرُّومُ (2)

    30|2| The Romans have been overcome.2

    2. There is consensus of opinion among the earliest scholars that the allusion is to the victory of the Persians over Romans, that took place before the emigration. The Prophet (saws) and his Companions wished to see the Romans, People of the Book, emerge victorious over the Persians. The latter were Magians, a branch of paganism; which was the prime reason why the Makkan pagans wished to see the Persians victorious. The pagans would tell the Muslims, “Our brothers (in faith), the Persians have overcome the Christians who are as much People of the Book as you are. In the like manner we shall also overcome you.” So Allah (swt) revealed these verses (Ibn Jarir and others). The Roman defeat resulted in the loss of large territories. Heraclius, the Roman emperor, had to flee and seek refuge in his capital Constantinople (Ibn Kathir).

    فِي أَدْنَى الْأَرْضِ وَهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ غَلَبِهِمْ سَيَغْلِبُونَ (3)

    30|3| In a land close by,3 but, after their defeat, they shall soon be victorious.4

    3. Most scholars have stated that the allusion is to the lands which the Romans had lost: Palestine, Syria, and southern Iraq, which were close to the Arab borders.
    4. One may ask, Why did Allah start off by saying, ‘The Romans have been overcome?’ The answer is, it is to impress that the prediction of their being victorious one day, will be more amazing in the light of the fact that once they were so weak as to have been so thoroughly overcome. After all, it is easier to predict a future victory following present victorious, but not the other way round (Razi, slightly reworded).
    This prediction prompted Abu Bakr (according to some reports he was backed by other Muslims) to bet with some pagans (some said it was Ubayy b. Khalf) over some camels. Abu Bakr agreed to five years’ time. But when the Prophet learned of the bet, he recommended that the period be extended to 8-9 years. He also recommended enhancement of the stake – betting being allowed in those early Islamic years (Ibn Jarir).
    The above reports are also found in various Hadith works such as Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and Ibn Abi Hatim. Tirmidhi declared his own report as trustworthy. This last mentioned report adds that since the original betting period that Abu Bakr had agreed to was six, the pagans took away whatever (of the camels) he had betted. But by the seventh year the Romans had begun to overcome the Persians and so a lot of people embraced Islam. Similar reports have also come through many second generation scholars of Islam (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    According to some reports (having extended the time factor) Abu Bakr received the bet-camels but the Prophet asked him to give away in charity since it was unlawful, or unclean (Alusi).

    فِي بِضْعِ سِنِينَ ۗ لِلَّهِ الْأَمْرُ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَمِنْ بَعْدُ ۚ وَيَوْمَئِذٍ يَفْرَحُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ (4)

    30|4| In a few years.5 Allah’s is the command, before and after. And that day the believers shall rejoice.6

    5. The Prophet interpreted the textual “bid`” as any figure between three and nine.
    6. Yusuf Ali places the following note at ayah 3, but is relevant to ayah 4 as well: “The Pagan Quraish of Makkah rejoiced at the overthrow of Rome by Persia. They were pro-Persian, and in their heart of hearts they hoped that the nascent movement of Islam, which at that time was, from a worldly point of view, very weak and helpless, would also collapse under their persecution. But they misread the true Signs of the times. They are told here that they would soon be disillusioned in both their calculations, and it actually so happened at the battle of Issus in 622 (the year of Hijrat) and in 624, when Heraclius carried his campaign into the heart of Persia.. and the Makkan Quraish were beaten off at Badr.”

    بِنَصْرِ اللَّهِ ۚ يَنْصُرُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ (5)

    30|5| In Allah’s help.7 He helps whom He will. He is the Almighty, 8 the Most Merciful.

    7. Ibn Jarir treats the words, “And that day the believers shall rejoice in Allah’s help,” as one sentence. (That is, the last part of verse 6 and the beginning part of verse 7: Au.)
    The victory took place at the same time as Muslim victory over pagans at Badr (Ibn Jarir). [Thus, the Qur’an used one sentence for two events of joy: Au.].
    The above was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Thawri, Suddi and many others. Abu Sa`id also held this opinion as one of Tirmidhi’s report suggests. However, `Ikrimah, Zuhri, Qatadah and many others believe the prediction came true after Hudaybiyyah, because Heraclius had vowed that if he became victorious, he would walk up to Bayt al-Maqdis from Hims in thanks to Allah. He was there when Dihya Kalbi arrived with the Prophet’s letter to him. Heraclius ordered that any other Arabs visiting his lands be brought forth. Abu Sufyan happened to be in Ghazza. He was taken to the royal court and one of the several questions that he asked him was, “Has the person who claims to be a Messenger ever deceived you?” Abu Sufyan said, “Not in the past. But just now we have entered into a treaty with him, and it is to be seen whether he will honor it.” He was referring to the Hudaybiyyah treaty (that took place in the sixth year after Hijrah). The two opinions can be reconciled, adds Ibn Kathir, in effect, by saying that the original victory took place earlier, but by the time Heraclius had wrested all his territory, had reorganized the affairs, and went up to Bayt al-Maqdis, another four years had elapsed. (The time between Badr and Hudaybiyyah was four years).
    The Romans
    In what follows we present an account, taken from various sources, to illustrate the historical conditions prevailing at the time the astonishing Qur’anic prediction of Roman victory over its Persian adversary was issued.
    The Arabia of the Prophet’s time was, although not geographically, but from the point of view of important activities, in a remote corner of the world. At best it was known to the outside world for its hungry, ferocious, untamed desert-dwellers, and God-forsaken desert lands. The so-called civilized world – although as far away from true civilization as our contemporary world - was divided into two major powers. Both were vast, powerful, and several centuries old. They were the Roman and the Persian. The Romans (known by the later historians as the Byzantine) ruled over some parts of Europe, the whole of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa. The Persian Empire had its roots in Persia, spread eastward, as well as down into the Yemen. Iraq was shared between the two. The two super powers had long been warring with each other in their efforts to control territories and collect taxes.
    If the year 570 was significant for the humanity for the fact that it was the Prophet’s year of birth, it was significant for the Persians for the death of the renowned Anaushairwan. He was succeeded on the throne by an unworthy son Hurmuz (570-590). Had it not been for the talents of his able General Bahram, his Empire would have been ruined by the invasions of the Turks on one side and Romans on the other. Eventually Bahram rebelled, and Hurmuz was deposed and killed. His son Khusrau Parwez (Chosroes II) took refuge with the Byzantine Emperor Maurice. The latter practically adopted him as a son, gave him a daughter in marriage, and when time became ripe, restored him to the Persian throne with Roman arms. Khusrau reigned over Persia from 590 to 628. It was to him that the holy Prophet had sent his letter of invitation to Islam, which might have reached him, or might not have gone beyond one of his Governors.
    On the Roman side, the army mutinied against the emperor Maurice (582-602) replacing him with Phocus. The latter promptly executed five sons of Maurice, then Maurice himself, and later the former empress and her three daughters also. This enraged Khusrau, who promised to avenge the killing of his godfather Maurice and family. Thus started a series of wars which lasted until his death. Phocus himself proved too tyrannous to bear the throne, and a Governor of African territories sent his son Heraclius to depose him. The mission succeeded and Heraclius (Hiraql of Arabic) was installed in 610 to rule until 642. The year in which he was installed emperor, was the year Prophet Muhammad was commissioned as a Messenger. It was Prophet Muhammad whose tongue pronounced ultimate Roman victory against the Persians. Yet, it were his own Muslim forces who ultimately took away the Empire from the Emperor.
    To continue with the Persians, Khusrau’s armies began their attack on the Romans in 603, and tore through their defenses. They reached Edessa in Asia Minor on the one side and Syrian territories on the other in quick time. Their sweeping victories brought them Damascus in 611. Jerusalem fell to their arms in 614-615, about 7 to 8 years before the Prophet’s migration to Madinah. Some 90,000 Christians were massacred. The city was burnt and pillaged, churches were pulled down, the burial place of Christ was insulted, and many relics, including the “Holy Cross” on which the Christians believed Christ had been crucified, were carried away to Persia. The priests of the Persian religion celebrated an exultant triumph over the priests of Christ (Yusuf Ali). In this pillage and massacre the Persians were assisted by the ever discontent crowds of Jews and ever undependable Pagans. The sympathies of the Nestorians, Jacobites and other Christian sects - which had been excommunicated by the Roman Church and tyrannized for years – were also with the Magian (Zoroastrian) invaders. Thus, it might be proper to say that the Pagans, Persian Zoroastrians, Magians, Jews and a few Christian sects were all pitted against the Qur’anic prediction.
    In Mawdudi’s words: How puffed up was Khusrau Parvez at this victory can be judged from the letter that he wrote to Heraclius from Jerusalem. It said: “From Khusrau, the greatest of all gods, the master of the whole world: To Heraclius, his most wretched and most stupid servant: ‘You say that you have trust in your Lord. Why then did not your Lord save Jerusalem from me?’”
    It was at this juncture that the Prophet announced the Qur’anic prediction of ultimate Roman victory. But, despite the prediction, nothing visible happened. The situation got worse for Heraclius, who (as Gibbon wrote), being more a man of the pleasantries of the palace than the battlefields, watched with complete helplessness the on-going destruction of his empire. As if the Persian scourge was not enough, he had to now to deal with the Avars who were attacking from the northern side of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), which was, with Persian armies pitched at the southern side, practically in a state of siege. Famine and pestilence added to the horrors of the situation.
    By 619 A. D. the whole of Egypt had passed into Persian hands and their armies shortly arrived at the gates of Tripoli. In Asia Minor they pushed back the Romans to Bosporus, stationing their army right at the gates of the capital of Rome: Constantinople. The helpless Emperor Heraclius begged for peace but Khusrau’s reply was: “I shall not give protection to the emperor until he is brought in chains before me and gives up obedience to his crucified god and adopts submission to the fire god” (Mawdudi).
    He who was promised victory, was denied peace.
    Referring to the Qur’anic prediction delivered in the 4th or 5th year of Apostleship the famous English historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) wrote the following lines in one of the greatest of historical works, “The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire” (vol. 5 p. 79, London, 1911):
    “At the time when the prediction is said to have been delivered, no prophecy could be more distant from its accomplishment, since the first twelve years of Heraclius announced the approaching dissolution of the empire.”
    But then something happened to Heraclius. He changed. He gave up pleasantries of the palace, assumed the role of a hero, and borrowing all the gold that the churches could lend him (on interest: Mawdudi), he set sail quietly into the Mediterranean Sea with a small band of soldiers. As he was sailing down – a fugitive - the Prophet was in his emigration journey from Makkah to Madinah. Little did the unbelieving world realize what the two journeys meant for future history.
    Heraclius landed at the shores of Syria and defeated the Persian army sent to intercept him. The vigor and valor of his army surprised the Persians, especially when Heraclius advanced further, handing them defeat after defeat. (The Persians had still a large force in Asia Minor, which they could have brought into play against the Romans if Heraclius had not made another and equally unexpected dash by sea from the north. He returned to Constantinople by sea, made a treaty with the Avars, and with their help kept the Persians at bay around the capital: Yusuf Ali). Then he returned to the Syrian region and marched on carrying in the process his victorious armies as far as the royal cities of Casbin and Ispahan, which had never been approached by a Roman emperor before. There he faced the largest- ever Persian army, so fearful that his bravest veterans were left speechless with awe. Although he knew nothing of the prophecy of the Qur’an, Heraclius addressed his commanders in prophetic words:
    “Be not terrified by the multitude of your foes. With the aid of Heaven, one Roman may triumph over a thousand barbarians.”
    The victory was his. The decisive battle was at Ninevah. And a little later he recovered the “Holy Cross.” In seven years Heraclius had liberated all the provinces that had been lost in thirty years. The prediction of the Qur’an had come true. And astonishingly again, Heraclius went back thereafter to the same old life of pleasure and ease, forcing Gibbon to state:
    “Of the characters conspicuous in history, that of Heraclius is one of the most extraordinary and inconsistent. In the first and last years of a long reign, the emperor appears to be the slave of sloth, of pleasure, and of superstition, the careless and impotent spectator of public calamities."
    It was as if Heraclius had woken up from his sloth only to fulfill the prophecy of the Qur’an.
    In pursuance of a vow, Heraclius went south to Emessa (Hims) from where he marched on foot to Jerusalem to celebrate his victories, and restore to its place the “Holy Cross” which had been recovered from the Persians. Heraclius’s route was strewn with costly carpets, and he thought that the final deliverance had come for his people and his empire. But, either on the way, or in Jerusalem, he met a messenger from the holy Prophet. The Prophet’s letter of invitation to Islam was a Divine announcement of the end of his duties. His job was done, he had to be relieved, and the people under his yoke had to be relieved from the slavery of men and put into the slavery of God. The Prophet had announced another prediction coming from on High, though not in the Qur’an but in the hadith, preserved in Bukhari and others:
    On Abu Hurayrah’s authority, the Prophet (saws) said,

    إِذَا هَلَكَ كِسْرَى فَلَا كِسْرَى بَعْدَهُ وَإِذَا هَلَكَ قَيْصَرُ فَلَا قَيْصَرَ بَعْدَهُ وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَتُنْفَقَنَّ كُنُوزُهُمَا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ

    “When Kisra (Persian emperor) dies there will be no Kisra after him, and when Qaysar (Roman emperor) dies, there will be no Qaysar after him. By Him in whose hands is my life, you shall surely spend their treasures in the way of Allah.”
    Within a decade after the Prophet’s death, all the three prophesies were fulfilled (Au.).
    8. The words of `Al a b. Zubayr’s father are worth reproducing at this point, (as in Ibn Kathir), who said, “I have been witness to the Persians overcoming the Romans, then the Romans overcoming the Persians, and then the Muslims overcoming both Romans as well as the Persians – all within fifteen years.”
    We might point out that those fifteen years were the most consequential in the history of mankind (Au.).

    وَعْدَ اللَّهِ ۖ لَا يُخْلِفُ اللَّهُ وَعْدَهُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (6)

    30|6| Allah’s Promise; 9 Allah fails not His promise; but most people do not know.

    9. Yusuf Ali comments: “The promise refers to the Decision of all things by the Command of Allah, Who will remove all troubles and difficulties from the path of His righteous Believers, and help them to rejoice over the success of their righteous Cause. This refers to all times and all situations. The righteous should not despair in their darkest moments, for Allah’s help will come. Ordinarily men are puffed up if they score a seeming temporary success against the righteous, and do not realize that Allah’s Will can never be thwarted.‏”

    يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِرًا مِنَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ الْآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ (7)

    30|7| They know but the apparent of the worldly life; but of the Hereafter, they are unmindful.10

    10. That is, (and if we summarize what the earliest scholars had to say: Au.), “They know all about commerce, industry, agriculture, and how to build the land, but little else” (Ibn Jarir).
    Zahir wa Batin
    The ayah implies that the world consists of the apparent and the inaparent. The apparent is known and understood by all; but not the inapparent. Its inapparent aspect is that which leads to the Hereafter; whose blessings are to be earned through righteous living. Also, the nakira form employed for “zahir” implies that there are many aspects of the apparent, of which the unbelievers know only one: the most obvious one (i.e. the profane one: Au.) – Zmakhshari.
    Imam Razi writes that the outward aspect of the world is its glitter and pleasantness, while the inner aspect is the harm and fatigue that it brings. The unbelievers understand only its outward visible nature, but have no idea of its concealed ephemeral character.
    Hasan al-Busri has said, “By Allah, one of them knows this world so well that he can tell you the weight of a coin by balancing it on his nail, but he cannot do his Prayers well” (Zamakhshari and Qurtubi in part, Ibn Kathir in full). Alusi recalls Kirmani’s simple definition: The apparent (zahir) is that which is visible to the eye at one glance, while the inapparent (batin) is that reality which has to be arrived at through intellectual reasoning.
    In the words of contemporary writers, man has in the modern age learnt to fly in the air like birds, swim in water like fishes, but has not learnt how to walk on the earth (Au.).

    أَوَلَمْ يَتَفَكَّرُوا فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ ۗ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَأَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى ۗ وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِنَ النَّاسِ بِلِقَاءِ رَبِّهِمْ لَكَافِرُونَ (8)

    30|8| Have they not reflected within themselves?11 Allah created not the heavens and the earth, and what is between them, but in truth and to a named term.12 But surely, most of the people are disbelievers in the encounter with their Lord.

    11. After commenting upon man’s refusal to look beyond the apparent, the ayah now invites him to reflect over the created world, which can lead to some understanding of the inapparent (batin) – Au.
    12. That is, the whole as well as its parts are created in Truth, to serve its purpose and conclude to a predetermined end. E.g., every plant on this planet has a predetermined life-term, while there is no difference in opinion that this earth (unless destroyed earlier) has about four billion years left to it before the sun enlarges in size to take it within its radius to burn down everything to ashes. To consider the non-living, at the macrocosm level, the sun will last another 5 billion years while on the microcosm, atoms are known to have a rate of decay that will lead to its final annihilation. If the others are not known to be affected by decay, it could perhaps be because their life runs into time incomprehensible to the humans (Au.).

    أَوَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ كَانُوا أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً وَأَثَارُوا الْأَرْضَ وَعَمَرُوهَا أَكْثَرَ مِمَّا عَمَرُوهَا وَجَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ۖ فَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيَظْلِمَهُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ كَانُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ (9)

    30|9| Have they not travelled in the land to see how was the end of those before them? They were stronger than them in might; they cultivated the land13 and populated it more than they themselves have populated it; and their Messengers came to them with clear evidences. Thereupon, Allah was not such as to wrong them but rather they were wronging themselves.14

    13. The translation reflects the understanding of most scholars. However, Ibn `Abbas – as in Ibn Jarir - interpreted the textual:
    1. أثاروا الأرض
    as meaning, “they owned the lands and tilted them.”
    14. “Let not any generation think that it is superior to all that went before it. We may be ‘heirs to all the ages, in the foremost files of times.’ That is no reason for arrogance, but on the contrary adds to our responsibility. When we realize what flourishing cities and kingdoms existed before, how they flourished in numbers and prosperity, what chances they were given, and how they perished when they disobeyed the law of Allah, we shall feel a sense of humility, and see that it was rebellion and self-will that brought them down. Allah was more than just. He was also merciful. But they brought about their own ruin (Yusuf Ali).

    ثُمَّ كَانَ عَاقِبَةَ الَّذِينَ أَسَاءُوا السُّوأَىٰ أَنْ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَكَانُوا بِهَا يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ (10)

    30|10| Then the end of those who did evil was evil,15 for that they cried lies to the signs of Allah and used to ridicule them.16

    15. The original su’a is the feminine of aswa’, just as “husna” is that of “ahsan” (Zamakhshari and others).
    16. The translation of the verse reflects the understanding of Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah, as in Ibn Jarir (Au.). The report is in Ibn Abi Hatim as narrated by Dahhak b. Muzahim (Ibn Kathir).

    اللَّهُ يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ (11)

    30|11| Allah begins the creation and then repeats it; then to Him you shall be returned.

    وَيَوْمَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ يُبْلِسُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ (12)

    30|12| And, the Day the Hour is called the criminals will be struck with despair.17

    17. Another meaning of “yublisu” that Ibn Zayd offered is ‘descending down of evils on a man.’ When several misfortunes descend upon a man, it is said, “ablasa al-rajul” (Ibn Jarir). Another meaning that “ablasa al-rajul” offers, according to some linguists such as Zajjaj is, ‘the man was quiet because he was left without any argument to defend himself.’ Some have conjectured that the word “Iblis” carries this connotation (Qurtubi).
    Lest we forget, we might keep Mawdudi’s comments before us, “… (the word) ‘criminals’ here does not imply those alone who commit theft, murder and robberies, etc. But rather those who rebelled against God, refused to accept the guidance and teachings of His Messengers, denied the accountability of the Hereafter, or lived a heedless life, have been worshipping other than Allah, or their own selves, whether or not, besides these deviations, they also committed those acts which are commonly called crimes. Further, it includes those people also who, in spite of believing in God, His Messengers and knowing about the accountability in the Hereafter, disobey Him and persist in their ways to the end of their lives. When these people are brought back to life in the Hereafter, they will discover that they confront what they denied, or ignored, and so, will be dumbfounded.”

    وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُمْ مِنْ شُرَكَائِهِمْ شُفَعَاءُ وَكَانُوا بِشُرَكَائِهِمْ كَافِرِينَ (13)

    30|13| No intercessors shall they have from among those they associated (in Allah’s Divinity)18 but rather, they shall disown their associates.19

    18. Mawdudi comments: “Associates include three kinds of beings: (1) Angels, Prophets, saints and righteous men to whom the polytheists assigned divine attributes and worshipped as gods. (2) Inanimate objects such as the sun, moon, stars, trees, etc. The polytheists worship them and would expect them to come forward and intercede for them. (3) Arch-criminals, who by deception or fraud, or by the use of force, compelled God’s slaves to worship them, e.g., Satan, false religious guides, tyrants and despots.
    19. As Allah (swt) said elsewhere (2: 166,167):

    {إِذْ تَبَرَّأَ الَّذِينَ اتُّبِعُوا مِنَ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوا وَرَأَوُا الْعَذَابَ وَتَقَطَّعَتْ بِهِمُ الْأَسْبَابُ (166) وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوا لَوْ أَنَّ لَنَا كَرَّةً فَنَتَبَرَّأَ مِنْهُمْ كَمَا تَبَرَّءُوا مِنَّا} [البقرة: 166، 167]

    “When those that had been followed will disown those who followed them and (both) will witness the punishment - and the relationship between them will be cut asunder. Then (it will be that) those who had followed will say to those they had followed, “Oh that for us (another chance) when we will disown these (people) as they have disowned us” (Ibn Jarir).

    وَيَوْمَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَتَفَرَّقُونَ (14)

    30|14| And, the day the Hour is called, that Day they shall split (into groups).20

    20. Into groups of believers and unbelievers, never to be brought together again (Tabari, Ibn Kathir from Qatadah).

    فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَهُمْ فِي رَوْضَةٍ يُحْبَرُونَ (15)

    30|15| Then, as for those who believed and acted righteously, they shall be made happy21 in a green meadow.22

    21. Mujahid and Qatadah said that the meaning is, “They will enjoy a life of luxury.” Another meaning of “yuhbarun” as forwarded by Yahya ibn abi Kathir is, “They will be offered songs and music” (Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    On the topic of songs and music in Paradise, Ibn al-Qayyim reproduces in his Bada’e` a hadith from Abu Nu`aym’s Sifatul Jannah. It is on the authority of Ibn `Umar who narrates the Prophet (saws) as having said,

    إِنَّ أَزْوَاجَ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ لَيُغَنِّينَ أَزْوَاجَهُنَّ بِأَحْسَنِ أَصْوَاتٍ سَمِعَهَا أَحَدٌ قَطُّ إِنَّ مِمَّا يُغَنِّينَ : نَحْنُ الْخَيِّرَاتُ الْحِسَانُ أَزْوَاجُ قَوْمٍ كِرَامٍ يَنْظُرْنَ بِقُرَّةِ أَعْيَانٍ ، وَإِنَّ مِمَّا يُغَنِّينَ بِهِ : نَحْنُ الْخَالِدَاتُ فَلا يُمِتْنَهْ ، نَحْنُ الآمِنَاتُ فَلا يَخَفْنَهْ ، نَحْنُ الْمُقِيمَاتُ فَلا يَظْعَنَّ - رواه الطبراني في الصغير والأوسط ورجاله رجال الصحيح (الهيثمي).‏

    “Spouses of the inhabitants of Paradise will sing for them in voices so sweet as never heard by anyone before. Of what they would sing: ‘We are the good ones. We are spouses of an honored folks. They see with eyes like those of cows.’
    And of what they would sing: ‘We are eternally abiding, not to die. We are the peace givers, so let no one be apprehensive. We are stayers who will not move away.’” (Haythami treated the report as trustworthy Au.).
    Another report comes through Anas b. Anas. The Prophet said,

    الحور العين يغنين: نحن الخيِّرات الحسان، خُلقنا لأزواج كرام

    “Wide-eyed Houries will sing (in Paradise), ‘We are the beautiful Houries who have been created for honorable spouses.’”
    This hadith is also from Abu Nu`aym’s Sifa and declared Sahih by Albani: Yusri.
    He has several other reports but they are weak.
    Nonetheless, Ibn Abi Dunya and Diya’ al-Maqdisi have in their Sifatu al-Jannah a statement from Ibn `Abbas, which Suyuti thought was trustworthy. He said, “There is a tree in Paradise of such large trunk that a traveler could cover the tree’s shade in one hundred years. The inhabitants of Paradise will come out, and chat under its shade. One of them will remember worldly music. Allah will send a wind from Paradise that will flutter the tree with every music played in the world” (Shawkani).
    22. The translation of “rawdah” is influenced by Raghib’s note (Au.).

    وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَكَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَلِقَاءِ الْآخِرَةِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ فِي الْعَذَابِ مُحْضَرُونَ (16)

    30|16| But, as for those who disbelieved and cried lies to Our signs, and to the encounter of the Hereafter, they indeed shall be brought forth into the torment.23

    23. It is noteworthy that while right belief was coupled with righteous deeds for salvation, disbelief has not been made conditional to evil deeds. This is to indicate that disbelief in Allah is by itself a crime which deserves everlasting punishment, whether coupled with evil deeds or not (Mawdudi).

    فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ حِينَ تُمْسُونَ وَحِينَ تُصْبِحُونَ (17)

    30|17| So glory to Allah when you do your evening and when you do your morning.

    وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَعَشِيًّا وَحِينَ تُظْهِرُونَ (18)

    30|18| His is the Praise in the heavens and the earth – and (glory to Him) at the sun’s decline, 24 and when you do your noon.25

    24. `Ashiyy is for the time between the sun’s decline until next morning (Raghib). Qurtubi however mentions that according to Jawhariyy `ashiyy is for the time between Maghrib and `Isha’.
    25. Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, Ibn Zayd and others have said that the verse thus mentions four of the five daily Prayers: Maghrib (when you do your evening), Fajr (when you do your morning), `Asr (the sun’s decline), and Zuhr (when you do your noon). When Ibn `Abbas was asked whether five daily Prayers were mentioned in the Qur’an anywhere, he recited this verse and that of Surah Nur (no.58):

    وَمِن بَعْدِ صَلاةِ الْعِشَاء ثَلا ثُ عَوْرَاتٍ لَّكُمْ (النور - 58)

    "and after the `Isha Prayer - three (times) of privacy for you.”
    Mujahid however believed that the five-daily Prayers were in this present verse itself, explaining the textual tumsun as covering both the Maghrib as well as `Isha Prayers (Tabari).
    Ibn `Abbas reports the Prophet as having said, (in a trustworthy report found in Abu Da’ud and Tabarani: Ibn Kathir),

    مَنْ قَالَ حِينَ يُصْبِحُ ( فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ حِينَ تُمْسُونَ وَحِينَ تُصْبِحُونَ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ فِى السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَعَشِيًّا وَحِينَ تُظْهِرُونَ) إِلَى (وَكَذَلِكَ تُخْرَجُونَ) أَدْرَكَ مَا فَاتَهُ فِى يَوْمِهِ ذَلِكَ وَمَنْ قَالَهُنَّ حِينَ يُمْسِى أَدْرَكَ مَا فَاتَهُ فِى لَيْلَتِهِ

    “Whoever said these words at the morning (as in text above) will regain what he lost during his day, and whoever said them in the evening will regain what he lost during his night” (Kashsh af, Ibn Kathir).
    Imam R azi points out that the five daily Prayers done by a Muslim between sunset and sunrise, as well as at the early hours of the day and night - all in all seventeen raka`ah (cycles), for seventeen hours that he is awake – as if keep him in Prayers the whole of the time he is awake, to put him on par with the angels about whom Allah said (21: 20),

    يُسَبِّحُونَ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ لا يَفْتُرُونَ - الأنبياء (20)

    “They glorify (Him) by night and day, and take no break.”
    Shabbir draws our attention to the timing of the five daily Prayers in reference to the Sun, which has been revered by the pagans of all times and even worshipped as the greatest of gods. The first Prayer of the day is done before the Sun appears. (There are no Prayers until the Sun is in its glory, having risen up in the sky). Next Prayer is offered only after it begins to decline; the next after it begins to acquire paleness; the next after it has set; and the last after every trace of its light and shine has been lost. That is, all the prayers are offered at times when the sun has lost part or all of its glory (Au.).

    يُخْرِجُ الْحَيَّ مِنَ الْمَيِّتِ وَيُخْرِجُ الْمَيِّتَ مِنَ الْحَيِّ وَيُحْيِي الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ تُخْرَجُونَ (19)

    30|19| He brings out the living from the dead and brings out the dead from the living, 26 and He quickens the earth after its death – in the like manner you shall be brought out.

    26. To most the ayah is in material sense, (e.g., chicken from egg and egg from chicken), but Hasan al-Busri said that the meaning is, “Allah brings out a believer out of a non-believer, and a non-believer out of a believer” (Ibn Jarir).
    Although science is unable to define life, to the modern scientific mind eggs are living matter and hence, a chicken out of egg is the emergence of the living from the living. But there are other examples of the living coming out of the dead. The best examples are viruses, viroids and prions. In their natural form, these three are mere chemical bonds, or to define precisely, a macromolecular package.
    In its natural state, a virus is nothing but a particle of dust. There can be billions of them strewn around us. Ordinarily harmless, we breathe millions of them in an out without any harm. They contain within them a small strand of RNA or DNA. This is surrounded by a protein layer. The outer surface (the protein capsule) can be round, square or many sided (In fact, outwardly, they are beautiful to observe). The RNA or DNA encode anything from a few to hundreds of genes. Once one of them can find a cell (human, animal or plant), whose surface matches its own, the protein covering of the virus binds with a particular surface component of the host cell. Soon, and through a few chemical reactions, it finds its way into the cell, and lo! the same dead dust particle, comes alive. It orders the host cell to make copies of its own kind which, when once filled, burst out of the cell and begin to invade other cells, dysfunctioning them, cell by cell. In a few hours they can spread to millions of cells of a body causing various illnesses.
    Viriods are simpler than viruses in their construction. They are pure RNA without a protein coat. The RNA can be anything between 240 to 600 nucleotide length. A viroid works the same way as a virus does, invading a cell, and then taking over the cell machinery to produce more of itself. The effects of viroids on crops can be serious. A particular type of viroid disease called cadang-cadang has in the past devastated coconut palm groves in the Philippines. Others have affected other kinds of plants in USA.
    A prion is much simpler than a viriod in that it lacks even a Nucleic acid chain – DNA or RNA. It is a mere block of protein. It enters into the brain of the victim and stays there quietly for years before springing to action. The best example is that of the CJD disease, which is caused by a prion that sits in the brain of cows. It can sit there dormant, for as long as ten years. And, since, it does nothing, it cannot be detected, nor an animal can be tested for its presence. But, one fine day, for no apparent reason, it becomes active, begins to produce more of itself, and damage the functioning of the brain (hence the common reference to it as “mad cow disease”). It is said that they strike those animals that are fed on other animals' reprocessed body material; (perhaps nearest to being referred to as the Jallalah of the Islamic concept, which is declared unlawful by the Fuqaha: Jallalah is that cattle which feeds on the faeces of other animals). The most amazing part – or not so amazing for Muslims who believe in Allah’s Planning – is that the prion protein is encoded by a gene within the host cell’s own chromosome. In other words, the body of an organism actually brings the disease upon itself by actively engaging in the production of its enemy, without any request by the latter. The self-inflicted disease is then transmitted to human beings. But, more strangely, attempts to transmit the disease caused by prions have failed. That is, a living body could not be induced to catch the disease through forced transmission. It seems it must do it on its own, without human intervrntion: what we can call as ‘by Allah’s will.’
    At the moment we have these three examples of non-living coming to life by Allah’s command. No one knows how many more are there in the unknown (16: 8):

    {وَيَخْلُقُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ} [النحل: 8]

    “And He creates what you know not.”
    To be sure, we also have the dead molecules turning into living ones. This happens, (as Rashid Rida and Sayyid have discussed, though not at this point), during digestion when what has been cooked, and its characteristics of life are destroyed, it is again converted into living matter. To elaborate, the stomach breaks the food into molecules. These molecules are passed on through the blood stream to the cells of the body. There, they are either used as molecules, or further broken down into atoms, which are absorbed and brought into the life cycle. Obviously, atoms by themselves are not living matter, but, once within the cell, they are converted into such molecules as have the characteristics of the living matter, such as, the DNA which has the ability to replicate: an important characteristic of life, as understood by the scientists who deny the soul (Au.).

    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ إِذَا أَنْتُمْ بَشَرٌ تَنْتَشِرُونَ (20)

    30|20| And among His signs is that He created you of dust then, behold,27 you are men scattering (far and wide).28

    27. A hadith preserved by Ahmad, Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi (who declared it Hasan Sahih), has Abu Musa al-Ash`ari as saying that the Prophet said,

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَلَقَ آدَمَ مِنْ قَبْضَةٍ قَبَضَهَا مِنْ جَمِيعِ الأَرْضِ فَجَاءَ بَنُو آدَمَ عَلَى قَدْرِ الأَرْضِ جَاءَ مِنْهُمُ الأَحْمَرُ وَالأَبْيَضُ وَالأَسْوَدُ وَبَيْنَ ذَلِكَ وَالسَّهْلُ وَالْحَزْنُ وَالْخَبِيثُ وَالطَّيِّبُ - قال أبو عيسى هذا حديث حسن صحيح

    “Allah created Adam from a handful of dust that consisted of material taken from all over the earth. That is how Adam’s progeny came: in varieties as the earth varies: they came as white, red, and black – and between them – wicked and the well-disposed, the pliant and the rough to handle – and between them rotten and good ones” (Ibn Kathir).
    28. Whether for good or bad reason, or for no reason at all, living organisms must migrate. It is firmly planted in their nature. They do not seem to be able to stay in one place for long. Some of them must keep moving out to new lands, no matter at what cost of physical pain bordering to suffering. From fishes to shrimps, birds to creepers, human beings to insects, they all seem to suffer an urge to venture into new lands. Butterflies have been found at Mount Everest, on their way across the Himalayas (Au.).

    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُمْ مَوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (21)

    30|21| And among His signs is that He created for you, of yourselves, spouses, so that you might repose in them;29 and He placed between you love and tenderness. Surely, in that are signs for a people who reflect.

    29. “That is,” writes Mawdudi, “he Creator’s perfect wisdom is that He created human beings in two sexes. In their humanness they are identical to each other, yet with different physical features, different mental and psychological qualities, and different emotions and desires. Yet there is perfect harmony between the two in that each is the counterpart of the other.”
    With reference to the repose that one finds in the other, Qurtubi writes that a woman should respond when her husband invites her to the bed, otherwise, she will be putting him into a restless state. The Prophet (saws) has said (as in a hadith of Bukhari),

    إِذَا بَاتَتْ الْمَرْأَةُ مُهَاجِرَةً فِرَاشَ زَوْجِهَا لَعَنَتْهَا الْمَلَائِكَةُ حَتَّى تَرْجِعَ [صحيح البخاري]

    “When a woman spends a night having abandoned her husband’s bed, angels curse her until she returns.”
    Majid adds: “The word connotes companionship and mutual love, which is distinct from mere sexual pleasure. This determines the proper status of the wife in Islam. She is not a handmaid, but a lifelong companion of her husband, his consort. Her function is to be, by her words, acts, or by mere presence, a source of comfort and solace to him. She must constitute the chief consoling, soothing element of his life. And a relation of affection, harmony, and mutual happiness and goodwill out to subsist between man and wife. Contrast this with the attitude of the early Church. ‘We cannot but notice, even in the greatest of the Christian fathers, a lamentably low estimate of women, and consequently of the marriage relationship. Even St. Augustine can see no justification for marriage, except in a grave desire deliberately adopted for having children; and in accordance with this view, all married intercourse, except for this single purpose, is honestly condemned … This idea of the mutual society, help and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity, hardly existed, and could hardly exist.’ (DCA, II, p. 1909).”

    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِلْعَالِمِينَ (22)

    30|22| And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth,30 and the diversity of your tongues and your colors. In that indeed are signs for the knowledgeable.

    30. The coming into existence of the heavens and the earth from nothingness, and their being established on an unchangeable law, functioning of great many forces within them, in harmony and equilibrium, contain many signs of their Creator, One God. Reflecting over the initial pure energy assuming the form of matter, the transformation of matter into so many elements and then combining themselves into this wonderful world, every unbiased mind is bound to conclude that the whole could not have happened all by itself. Further, the fact that the most distant part in the cosmos is made up of the same stuff, and follows the same laws, should lead a man to One God who made this possible. Could several gods have achieved this? (Au).

    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ مَنَامُكُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَابْتِغَاؤُكُمْ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَسْمَعُونَ (23)

    30|23| And among His signs is your sleep by night and day, and your seeking of His bounty. Surely, in that are signs for a people who hearken.31

    31. Yusuf Ali summarizes the message contained in the above few verses: “From verse 20 to verse 25 are mentioned a series of Signs or Miracles, which should awaken our souls and lead us to true Reality if we try to understand Allah. (1) There is our own origin and destiny, which must necessarily be our subjective starting point: ‘I think; therefore I am’: no particular exertion of our being is here necessary (xxx. 20). (2) The first beginnings of social life arise through sex and love: see iv. 1, and n. 506; to understand this in all its bearing, we must ‘reflect’ (xxx. 21). (3) The next point is to understand our diversities in speech, color, etc., arising from differences of climate and external conditions; yet there is unity beneath that diversity, which we shall realize by extended knowledge (xxx. 22). (4) Next we turn to our psychological conditions, sleep, rest, visions, insight, etc.; here we want teaching and guidance, to which we must hearken (xxx. 23). (5) Next, we must approach the higher reaches of spiritual hopes and fears, as symbolized by such subtle forces of nature as lightning and electricity, which may kill the foolish or bring prosperity in its train by rain and abundant harvest; to understand the highest spiritual hopes and fears so symbolized, we want the highest wisdom (xxx. 24). (6) And lastly, we may become so transformed that we rise above all petty, worldly, ephemeral things: Allah calls to us and we rise, as from our dead selves to a Height which we can only describe as the Heaven of stability: here no human processes serve, for the Call of Allah Himself has come (xxx. 25-27).‏”

    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ يُرِيكُمُ الْبَرْقَ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَيُنَزِّلُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَيُحْيِي بِهِ الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ (24)

    30|24| And among His signs is: He shows you the lightning - generating fear and hope; and He sends down out of heaven water reviving the earth therewith, after its death. In that indeed are signs for a people who think.

    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ تَقُومَ السَّمَاءُ وَالْأَرْضُ بِأَمْرِهِ ۚ ثُمَّ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ دَعْوَةً مِنَ الْأَرْضِ إِذَا أَنْتُمْ تَخْرُجُونَ (25)

    30|25| And among His signs is that the heaven and earth stand firm by His command. Then, when He calls you, by a single call (coming) from the earth, behold, you shall (all) come forth.

    وَلَهُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ كُلٌّ لَهُ قَانِتُونَ (26)

    30|26| And to Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and the earth, and all are devotedly obedient to Him.32

    32. “All nature in Creation not only obeys Allah, but devoutly obeys Him, i.e., glories in its privilege of service and obedience. Why should we not do likewise? It is part of our original unspoilt nature, and we must respond to it, as all beings do, by their very nature” (Yusuf Ali).

    وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ وَهُوَ أَهْوَنُ عَلَيْهِ ۚ وَلَهُ الْمَثَلُ الْأَعْلَىٰ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (27)

    30|27| And He it is who begins the creation, then repeats it, and that is easier for Him.33 To Him belongs the loftiest similitude in the heavens and the earth.34 And He is the All-mighty, the All-wise.

    33. Some commentators, such as Qurtubi, have pointed out that since nothing is difficult for Allah, “ahwan” should be understood in the sense of “hayyin” i.e., “easy.” Others have said however that if re-creation is easier, first time creation was not any difficult for Allah. Therefore, the translation as “easier” should be acceptable; in Majid’s words, “(It is) easier from the stand point of man, not of God; for to Him everything is equally easy (Th.).”
    Allah says in a hadith preserved by Bukhari,

    كَذَّبَنِي ابْنُ آدَمَ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ ذَلِكَ وَشَتَمَنِي وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ ذَلِكَ فَأَمَّا تَكْذِيبُهُ إِيَّايَ فَقَوْلُهُ لَنْ يُعِيدَنِي كَمَا بَدَأَنِي وَلَيْسَ أَوَّلُ الْخَلْقِ بِأَهْوَنَ عَلَيَّ مِنْ إِعَادَتِهِ وَأَمَّا شَتْمُهُ إِيَّايَ فَقَوْلُهُ اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ وَلَدًا وَأَنَا الْأَحَدُ الصَّمَدُ لَمْ أَلِدْ وَلَمْ أُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لِي كُفُواً أَحَدٌ - [صحيح البخاري]

    “Son of Adam lays the lie on Me, which is not right of him. He reviles Me, which is not right of him. As for his laying the lie, he says, ‘He will not recreate me as He created me at first’ – although the first creation was not easier for Me than the recreation. As for he reviling Me, it is his saying, ‘Allah took a son,’ – while I am the One, the Eternal; who did not beget nor was begotten, and none is there comparable unto Him” (Ibn Kathir).
    34. Except for the last sentence, Asad’s following note finely sums up commentaries of the classical commentators. He writes: “Primarily, the term mathal denotes a ‘likeness’ or ‘similitude’, and hence is often used in the Qur’an (e.g., in the next verse) in the sense of ‘parable’. Occasionally, however, it is synonymous with sifah, which signifies the intrinsic ‘attribute’, ‘quality’ or ‘nature’ of a thing, concept, or living being (cf. the reference to ‘the nature of Jesus’ and ‘the nature of Adam’ in 3: 59). With reference to God, who is ‘sublimely exalted above anything that men may devise by way of definition’ … the expression mathal clearly points to a quality of being entirely different from all other categories of existence, inasmuch as there is ‘nothing like unto Him’ (42: 11) and ‘nothing that could be compared with Him’ (112: 4): hence, the rendering of mathal as ‘essence’ is most appropriate in this context.” And Majid adds the note of warning: “I.e., none in the heaven and earth is comparable to Him, seeing He is the Creator of all. In speaking of Him and His attributes, we must make use of most noble and magnificent expression we can possibly desire and even then we shall fall far short of the actual reality.”

    ضَرَبَ لَكُمْ مَثَلًا مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ ۖ هَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ مِنْ شُرَكَاءَ فِي مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ فَأَنْتُمْ فِيهِ سَوَاءٌ تَخَافُونَهُمْ كَخِيفَتِكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ (28)

    30|28| He strikes for you an example from yourselves: 35 Do you have among those your right hands own, partners in what We have provided you, so that you are equal in it, fearing for them as your fear for yourselves? 36 That is how We explain the signs for a people who think.37

    35. This is a parable of the idolaters and those who associate partners with Allah. He asks them whether they consider their slaves on equal footing with themselves? Are they equally concerned of them? Do they fear that they might share their wealth after them? In the like manner, Allah (swt) has no partners with a share in His creation (Ibn Kathir).
    36. One opinion is that it means, “You fear that they might inherit your wealth as one of you inherits others.” Another and more sound opinion is that “You fear that these people (the slaves) might split up your wealth between themselves, as some of you do with others when those others are not circumspect.” This was the opinion of Abu Mijlaz (Tabari).
    In any case, adds Razi, is there any comparison between the relationship between you and your slaves on the one hand, and, on the other, between yourselves and your Lord? The ownership of the slaves you have is transferable, while your slavery to Allah is intransferable. Your slaves share all human and spiritual qualities with you, while you share no quality with your Lord. Finally, the slaves you own are but Allah’s bestowal on you. How can you then, if you do not like to be equal to your slaves (despite so many similarities), approve of partners for Allah in His Divinity?
    37. Yusuf Ali expounds the theme of the verse: “Allah is far higher above His Creation than any, the highest, of His creatures can be above any, the lowest, of His creatures. And yet would a man share his wealth on equal terms with his dependants? Even what he calls his wealth is not really his own, but given by Allah. It is “his” in common speech by reason merely of certain accidental circumstances. How then can men raise Allah’s creatures to equality with Allah in worship?‏”

    بَلِ اتَّبَعَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَهْوَاءَهُمْ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ ۖ فَمَنْ يَهْدِي مَنْ أَضَلَّ اللَّهُ ۖ وَمَا لَهُمْ مِنْ نَاصِرِينَ (29)

    30|29| Nay, but the transgressors followed their own caprices, without knowledge. Then who shall guide those whom Allah led into error? And they shall not have any helpers.38

    38. When the unbelievers abandoned Allah, by associating partners with Him, He too abandoned them, and, in consequence, they shall not find any helpers (Razi).

    فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (30)

    30|30| So set your face steadfastly to the religion, upright – Allah’s original, upon which He originated mankind.39 There is no changing Allah’s creation.40 That is the Straight Religion, 41 but most of the people know not.42

    39. Fitrah, rooted in fatarah has several meanings. One is to split. Another is to create, but, more specifically, to originate. Ibn `Abbas said that he did not know this meaning until he heard a Bedouin claiming watering rights to a well say,

    أنا فَطَرْتـُها

    “I originated it.”
    Fitrah then is the original, uncorrupted state, or, “a frame of mind that has belief in God laid deep down at its sub-conscious level” (Au.).
    Ibn Zayd and Mujahid have said that the allusion by the words “Allah’s original” (Fitrata Allah) is to Islam (the religion of submission) – a faith planted into every individual, to which Allah alluded in (7: 172),

    وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِن بَنِي آدَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتَ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُواْ بَلَى شَهِدْنَا - الأعراف _ 172)

    “And when Your Lord took from the loins of Adam’s children their offspring and made them testify concerning themselves, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They replied, ‘Yes. We do testify’…” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Accordingly, points out Razi, “If you ask them, who created the heavens and the earth, they will surely say, “Allah.” But this instinctual belief (fitri) is not sufficient to win salvation.
    However, points out Qurtubi, another possible meaning of “fatara” is creation. Several Qur’anic usages can be cited as examples.
    Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir also report that `Umar (ra) happened to pass by Mu`adh ibn Jabal. He asked him, “What is the mainstay (qiwam) of this Ummah?” He answered, “Three; and they are the means of deliverance too: Sincerity which is the Original (fitrah) upon which Allah created the creation, Prayers, which (leads to the establishment of) the Ummah, and obedience which is the safeguarding (mechanism).” `Umar remarked, “You spoke the truth.”
    40. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Qatadah, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Ibn Zayd and Ibrahim have all interpreted the textual word “khalq” as the religion of Allah (Ibn Jarir). This is how Bukhari understood it. And, on the topic of Allah’s creation created on the faith of Oneness of Allah we have several reports coming down from the Prophet. One is in Nasa’i narrated by Aswad b. Surayye`. He said,

    عن الأسود بن سريع قال: أتيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وغزوت معه فأصبت ظفراً وقتل الناس يومئذ حتى قتلوا الولدان - وقال مرة: الذرية - فقال رجل: يا رسول الله إنما هم أبناء المشركين؟ ثم قال: "إن خياركم أبناء المشركين". ثم قال: "ألا لا تقتلوا ذرية ألا لا تقتلوا ذرية ألا لا تقتلوا ذرية فإن كل نسمة تولد على الفطرة حتى يعرب عنها لسانها فأبواها يهودانها أو ينصرانها". رواه أحمد بأسانيد والطبراني في الكبير والأوسط كذلك إلا أنه قال: فبلغ ذلك النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال "ما بال أقوام جاوز بهم القتل حتى قتلوا الذرية؟". فقال رجل،والباقي بنحوه. وبعض أسانيد أحمد ورجاله رجال الصحيح. (الهيثمي)

    “Once I went to the Prophet and participated in a battle. I came out quite successful in it. Generally, the people too fought quite hard that day, killing even children. The Prophet was informed. He remarked, ‘What’s wrong with the people that they overdo in fighting to the extent that they kill even children.’ A man said, ‘Messenger of Allah, are they not progeny of the idolaters?’ He answered, ‘No. The best of you are progeny of the idolaters.’ Then he added, ‘Do not kill children. Do not kill children.’ He said further, ‘Every soul is born on fitrah until its tongue begins to express for it. Thereafter its parents Christianize it, or Judaize it.’” The Sahihayn have a report according to which the Prophet was asked about the children of the pagans, (i.e., where will they be after death?) He answered, “When Allah created them, He knew how they would act.”
    Another report of Ahmad and Muslim is worth reproducing. `Iyad b. Himar al-Mujashe`i reported that Allah’s Messenger said while delivering a sermon:

    أَلاَ إِنَّ رَبِّى أَمَرَنِى أَنْ أُعَلِّمَكُمْ مَا جَهِلْتُمْ مِمَّا عَلَّمَنِى يَوْمِى هَذَا كُلُّ مَالٍ نَحَلْتُهُ عَبْدًا حَلاَلٌ وَإِنِّى خَلَقْتُ عِبَادِى حُنَفَاءَ كُلَّهُمْ وَإِنَّهُمْ أَتَتْهُمُ الشَّيَاطِينُ فَاجْتَالَتْهُمْ عَنْ دِينِهِمْ وَحَرَّمَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ مَا أَحْلَلْتُ لَهُمْ وَأَمَرَتْهُمْ أَنْ يُشْرِكُوا بِى مَا لَمْ أُنْزِلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ نَظَرَ إِلَى أَهْلِ الأَرْضِ فَمَقَتَهُمْ عَرَبَهُمْ وَعَجَمَهُمْ إِلاَّ بَقَايَا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَقَالَ إِنَّمَا بَعَثْتُكَ لأَبْتَلِيَكَ وَأَبْتَلِىَ بِكَ وَأَنْزَلْتُ عَلَيْكَ كِتَابًا لاَ يَغْسِلُهُ الْمَاءُ تَقْرَؤُهُ نَائِمًا وَيَقْظَانَ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ أَمَرَنِى أَنْ أُحَرِّقَ قُرَيْشًا فَقُلْتُ رَبِّ إِذًا يَثْلَغُوا رَأْسِى فَيَدَعُوهُ خُبْزَةً قَالَ اسْتَخْرِجْهُمْ كَمَا اسْتَخْرَجُوكَ وَاغْزُهُمْ نُغْزِكَ وَأَنْفِقْ فَسَنُنْفِقَ عَلَيْكَ وَابْعَثْ جَيْشًا نَبْعَثْ خَمْسَةً مِثْلَهُ وَقَاتِلْ بِمَنْ أَطَاعَكَ مَنْ عَصَاكَ. قَالَ وَأَهْلُ الْجَنَّةِ ثَلاَثَةٌ ذُو سُلْطَانٍ مُقْسِطٌ مُتَصَدِّقٌ مُوَفَّقٌ وَرَجُلٌ رَحِيمٌ رَقِيقُ الْقَلْبِ لِكُلِّ ذِى قُرْبَى وَمُسْلِمٍ وَعَفِيفٌ مُتَعَفِّفٌ ذُو عِيَالٍ - قَالَ - وَأَهْلُ النَّارِ خَمْسَةٌ الضَّعِيفُ الَّذِى لاَ زَبْرَ لَهُ الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِيكُمْ تَبَعًا لاَ يَتْبَعُونَ أَهْلاً وَلاَ مَالاً وَالْخَائِنُ الَّذِى لاَ يَخْفَى لَهُ طَمَعٌ وَإِنْ دَقَّ إِلاَّ خَانَهُ وَرَجُلٌ لاَ يُصْبِحُ وَلاَ يُمْسِى إِلاَّ وَهُوَ يُخَادِعُكَ عَنْ أَهْلِكَ وَمَالِكَ ». وَذَكَرَ الْبُخْلَ أَوِ الْكَذِبَ - وَالشِّنْظِيرُ الْفَحَّاشُ - صحيح مسلم

    “Lo, my Lord has commanded me that I should teach you that which you are ignorant of. Out of what He taught me this day (are the following): All that I have conferred upon My slaves is lawful for them. I have created My servants as those with a natural tendency (to the true religion) but it is Satans who turn them away from the right religion and make unlawful for them that which has been declared lawful. And they command them to ascribe partnership to Me, although I have not sent down any authority for that. Verily, Allah looked at the peoples of the world and He strongly disliked them: the Arabs of them and the non-Arabs of them, except for a few remnants from the People of the Book. And He (further) said to me: ‘I have sent you in order to put you to test and put others to test through you. And I have sent a Book to you which cannot be washed away with water, that you may recite while awake or asleep.’ Verily, Allah commanded me to burn the Quraysh. I said: ‘My Lord, they will break my head (like the breaking) of bread.’ Allah replied: ‘You turn them out as they turned you out. You fight against them. We shall help you in this. And, you spend, you will be conferred upon. You send an army and I shall send an army five times greater than it. Fight against those who disobey you in the company of those who obey you.’ The Prophet also said, ‘The inmates of Paradise are (of) three (kinds): One who wields authority and is just and fair; one who is truthful and has been endowed with power to do good deeds. (A second) who is merciful and kind hearted towards his kin and (towards every) Muslim. And (a third) who does not stretch his hand in spite of having a large family to support.’ He also said, ‘The inmates of Hell are five: the weak one who lacks power to (avoid evil): the (carefree) ones who pursue (everything irrespective of the fact that it is good or evil) and who do not have any care for their family or for their wealth; the dishonest ones whose greed cannot be concealed even in minor affairs. And those who betray you morning and evening, in regard to your family and your property.’ He also made mention of the miser and the liar and those who are in the habit of abusing people and using obscene and foul language. (Muslim - Ibn Kathir.
    The report of Muslim is also mentioned by Qurtubi in passing who has a somewhat detailed discussion on the topic of children born on fitrah. What exactly does it mean? Are they who are born as Muslims believers in tawhid? He prefers the opinion of a sizable number of scholars who have thought that the allusion is to belief in Allah as the Lord God of the world. He presents his own master’s opinion: Allah creates the hearts of Adam’s progeny prepared and ready to accept the truth as He creates their sensory organs ready to hear or see. So long as the hearts remain on their original creation, they accept the truth when it becomes evident. This is supported by the hadith which says, “At birth (infants are) just like the young of the animals when they emerge. Do you see any one of them severed of earlobes or mutilated?” That is, just like animals are born whole, but their masters mutilate them, human beings take birth on fitrah. It is their parents (the term “parents” has here the wider meaning of “social influence” or “environment” – Asad), who turn them Christians, Jews or Magians.
    Mufti Shafi` summarizes Shah Waliyullah’s exposition in Hujjatullahi al-Baligha to the effect that Allah has placed natural instinct or disposition in all His creations. He said (20: 50):

    {أَعْطَى كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَى} [طه: 50]

    “He gave everything its instinct and then guided (it).”
    It is by this instinct that a bee knows how to collect nectar and convert into honey. In a similar manner, He places in every human He creates a natural disposition to belief in Him. This is the fitrah.”
    Also see Yusuf Ali’s note below.
    41. The textual “Qayyim” has been understood to mean “mustaqim” i.e., straight, correct, upright, etc. - that which has no crookedness in it” (Ibn Jarir).
    42. Yusuf Ali seems to sum up the thoughts of many scholars on the topic: “As turned out from the creative hand of Allah, man is innocent, pure, true, free, inclined to right and virtue, and endowed with true understanding about his own position in the Universe and about Allah’s goodness, wisdom, and power. That is his true nature, just as the nature of a lamb is to be gentle and of a horse is to be swift. But man is caught in the meshes of customs, superstitions, selfish desires, and false teaching. This may make him pugnacious, unclean, false, slavish, hankering after what is wrong or forbidden, and deflected from the love of his fellow-men and the pure worship of the One True God. The problem before the Prophets is to cure this crookedness, and to restore human nature to what it should be under the Will of Allah.”

    مُنِيبِينَ إِلَيْهِ وَاتَّقُوهُ وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَلَا تَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (31)

    30|31| Turning in repentance to Him, fear Him (alone). Perform the Prayer (in good spirit), and be not of the idolaters.

    مِنَ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا ۖ كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ (32)

    30|32| Of those who split their religion and are sects: every group rejoicing in what they have.43

    43. Allah (swt) describes those who committed shirk as “those who split up their religion and are sects: every group rejoicing in what they have.” For, of the mushirkin there are kinds and classes. There are those who associate the Jinn in divinity; those who associate angels; those who associate their forefathers in divinity; those who associate their kings and rulers; those others who associate priests and religious leaders in divinity; yet others who associate stones and trees. Then, there are those who associate stars and planets in divinity; others who associate fire; those others who associate (the phenomenon of) day and night; yet others who associate false values, personal inclinations and greed. Thus, there are endless varieties of shirk. And (23: 53),

    {كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ} [المؤمنون: 53]

    “Every group rejoicing in what it has” while true values are unchanging and inalterable which lead their adherents to none other than one Allah, by whose command the heaven and earth remain in place, to whom belong all that is there in the heavens and the earth, and to whom have surrendered all that are therein” (Sayyid).

    وَإِذَا مَسَّ النَّاسَ ضُرٌّ دَعَوْا رَبَّهُمْ مُنِيبِينَ إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ إِذَا أَذَاقَهُمْ مِنْهُ رَحْمَةً إِذَا فَرِيقٌ مِنْهُمْ بِرَبِّهِمْ يُشْرِكُونَ (33)

    30|33| And when an affliction touches the people, they call upon their Lord turning to Him in repentance. But when He gives them the taste of mercy from Him, lo, a party of them assigns associates to their Lord.44

    44. Yusuf Ali comments: “It is trouble, distress, or adversity that makes men realize their helplessness and turns their attention back to the true Source of all goodness and happiness. But when they are shown special Mercy - often more than they deserve - they forget themselves and attribute it to their own cleverness, or to the stars, or to some false ideas to which they pay court and worship, either to the exclusion of Allah or in addition to the lip-worship which they pay to Allah. Their action in any case amounts to gross ingratitude; but in the circumstances it looks as if they had gone out of their way to show ingratitude.”
    Imam Razi sheds light on another aspect: If someone attributes his deliverance from calamity to other than Allah, he commits open shirk (shirk jaliyy). On the other hand, if someone attributed his deliverance to natural means and causes, then too he committed shirk, although of a lower order (shirk khafiyy), but shirk all the same. For example, to say after one finds a wooden plank, that he escaped drowning because of it, or, at the encounter with a ferocious animal, that it was the sudden appearance of a man which saved his life, is shirk khafiyy. One condition being he believed the plank or the man had independent power. Indeed, if one says “Allah saved me by means of the plank, or the man,” then too it is some kind of shirk, although of a minor kind.

    لِيَكْفُرُوا بِمَا آتَيْنَاهُمْ ۚ فَتَمَتَّعُوا فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ (34)

    30|34| So as to be ungrateful for what We have given them. So enjoy a little, soon shall you know.

    أَمْ أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ سُلْطَانًا فَهُوَ يَتَكَلَّمُ بِمَا كَانُوا بِهِ يُشْرِكُونَ (35)

    30|35| Or, have We sent down an authority45 upon them which speaks of what they are associating with Him?

    45. Qurtubi points out that technically “sultan” is something by which one staves off a punishment that he is due to receive (for a wrong he committed). E.g., Allah said (27: 21):

    لأُعَذِّبَنَّهُ عَذَاباً شَدِيداً أَوْ َلأ َذْبَحَنَّهُ أَوْ لَيَأْتِيَنِّي بِسُلْطَانٍ مُّبِينٍ – (النمل - 21)

    “Assuredly, I shall chastise him with a painful chastisement or I shall slaughter him unless he brings me a good excuse.”

    وَإِذَا أَذَقْنَا النَّاسَ رَحْمَةً فَرِحُوا بِهَا ۖ وَإِنْ تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ إِذَا هُمْ يَقْنَطُونَ (36)

    30|36| And, when We give the people a taste of mercy, they rejoice in it; but if an adversity touches them, as an outcome of what their own hands have forwarded, behold, they despair.46

    46. After shirk jaliyy, Allah now describes shirk khafiyy (Razi).

    أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَقْدِرُ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (37)

    30|37| Have they not noticed that Allah extends the provision to whomsoever He will, or restricts. Surely, in that are signs for a people who would believe.47

    47. A believer should not look at what comes down: good or bad, plenitude or adversity, but rather, he should see “who” has sent it, viz., Allah. He should therefore rejoice at all events. This is the mark of a true believer. Hence Allah ended by saying, “Surely, in that are signs for a people who believe” (Razi).

    فَآتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَىٰ حَقَّهُ وَالْمِسْكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ لِلَّذِينَ يُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ (38)

    30|38| Give therefore the kin his right, 48 as well as to the needy and the wayfarer.49 That is better for those who seek Allah’s Countenance; and such indeed are the prosperers.

    48. Basing his opinion on this verse, Imam Abu Hanifah has ruled that the maintenance of every kin, male or female, who cannot earn his or her own livelihood, is the responsibility (of other kin). The Sh afe`iyyah however see the responsibility upon the incumbent’s father (Zamakhshari, Alusi).
    49. The allusion is to common charity. Deserving recipients of Zakah have already been nominated by Allah elsewhere in the Qur’an. The categories named here: the kin, the poor and the wayfarer, are those whose rights are not hinged to a man’s savings reaching a certain level, as in Zakah. But rather, their rights are enduring and unconditional. One should expend on them even if he is poor, if they are poorer (Razi).

    وَمَا آتَيْتُمْ مِنْ رِبًا لِيَرْبُوَ فِي أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ فَلَا يَرْبُو عِنْدَ اللَّهِ ۖ وَمَا آتَيْتُمْ مِنْ زَكَاةٍ تُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُضْعِفُونَ (39)

    30|39| And what you give out in usury50 that it may grow upon people’s wealth, does not grow with Allah.51 But rather, that which you give out as charity by which you seek Allah’s Countenance, such indeed, they are the augmenters.52

    50. The following is a comprehensive statement from Asad on how Islam looks at riba. He writes: “This is the earliest mention of the term and concept of riba in the chronology of Qur’anic revelation. In its general, linguistic sense, this term denotes an ‘addition’ to or ‘increase’ of a thing over and above its original size or amount; in the terminology of the Qur’an, it signifies any unlawful addition, by way of interest, to a sum of money or goods lent by one person or body of persons to another. Considering the problem in terms of the economic conditions prevailing at or before their time, most of the early Muslim jurists identified this ‘unlawful addition’ with profits obtained through any kind of interest-bearing loans irrespective of the rate of interest and the economic motivation involved. With all this – as evidenced by the voluminous juridical literature on this subject – Islamic scholars have not yet been able to reach an absolute agreement on the definition of riba: a definition, that is, which would cover all conceivable legal situations and positively respond to all the exigencies of a variable economic environment. In the words of Ibn Kathir (in his commentary on 2: 275), ‘the subject of riba is one of the most difficult subjects for many of the scholars (ahl al-`ilm).” It should be borne in mind that the passage condemning and prohibiting riba in legal terms (2: 275-281) was the last revelation received by the Prophet, who died a few days later; hence, the Companions had no opportunity to ask him about the shar`i implications of the relevant injunctions – so much so that even `Umar ibn al-Khattab is reliably reported to have said, ‘The last [of the Qur’an] that was revealed was the passage [lit., ‘the verse’] on riba; and, the Apostle of God passed away without [lit., ‘before’] having explained its meaning to us’ (Ibn Hanbal, on the authority of Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib). Nevertheless, the severity with which the Qur’an condemned riba and those who practice it, furnishes – especially when viewed against the background of mankind’s economic experiences during the intervening centuries – a sufficiently clear indication of its nature and its social as well as moral implications. Roughly speaking, the opprobrium of riba (in the sense in which this term is used in the Qur’an and in many sayings of the Prophet) attaches to profits obtained through interest-bearing loans involving an exploitation of the economically weak by the strong and the resourceful: an exploitation characterized by the fact that the lender, while retaining full ownership of the capital loaned and having no legal concern with the purpose for which it is to be used or with the manner of its use, remains contractually assured of gain irrespective of any losses which the borrower may suffer in consequence of this transaction. With this definition in mind, we realize that the question as to what kinds of financial transactions fall within the category of riba is, in the last resort, a moral one, closely connected with the socio-economic motivation underlying the mutual relationship of the borrower and lender; and, stated in purely economic terms, it is a question as to how profits and risks may be equitably shared by both partners to a loan transaction.”
    (This perhaps is the aspect which was not clear to `Umar [ra] when he remarked that the Prophet (saws) passed away without having explained riba to full satisfaction. Extremely cautious as they were, our pious predecessors might have feared much of what we feel assured as lawful transactions, as, in their eyes, unlawful. This is evidenced by a statement of `Umar (in Al-Zawajir of Ibn Hajr): “We had given up nine-tenth of the lawful fearing riba.” As the remarks that follow indicate, Asad himself seems to be inclined to an expanded meaning of riba, i.e., beyond simply “increase over the principal” to include “assured profits” to some at the cost of others in deals involving monetary transactions. The ukhuwwah of Islam, we might remind ourselves, depends to a large degree on how wealth is treated and distributed among the ikhwah: Au.).
    Asad continues: “It is, of course, impossible to answer this double question in a rigid, once-for-all manner: our answers must necessarily vary in accordance with the changes to which mans social and technological development and, thus, his economic environment is subject. Hence, while the Quranic condemnation of the concept and practice of riba is unequivocal and final, every successive Muslim generation is faced with the challenge of giving new dimensions and a fresh economic meaning to this term which, for want of a better word, may be rendered as ‘usury’. In the present instance (which, as I have mentioned, is the earliest in the history of the Qur’an), no clear-cut prohibition is as yet laid down; but the prohibition appearing in 2: 275 ff. is already foreshadowed by the reference to the immoral hope of increasing one’s own substance ‘through [other] people’s possession’, i.e., through the exploitation of others.”
    Asad’s cautious line is justified by several prophetic sayings on the topic. In brief, we might quote the following: According to a report in Ibn Marduwayh of unknown status, the Prophet (saws) said,

    سَيَأْتِى عَلَى النَّاسِ زَمَانٌ عَضُوضٌ يَعَضُّ الْمُوسِرُ عَلَى مَا فِى يَدَيْهِ وَلَمْ يُؤْمَرْ بِذَلِكَ قَالَ اللَّهُ جَلَّ ثَنَاؤُهُ (وَلاَ تَنْسَوُا الْفَضْلَ بَيْنَكُمْ) وَتَنْهَدُ الأَشْرَارُ وَيُسْتَذَلُّ الأَخْيَارُ وَيُبَايِعُ الْمُضْطَرُّونَ وَقَدْ نَهَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- عَنْ بَيْعِ الْمُضْطَرِّ وَعَنْ بَيْعِ الْغَرَرِ وَعَنْ بَيْعِ الثَّمَرَةِ قَبْلَ أَنْ تُطْعِمَ.

    “A time will come when tenacity will be of a high order. In those times even a well-to-do person will hold fast to what he has in his hands, which is not what he has been ordered. But rather Allah has said, “Do not forget to do good to each other.” (Ibn Kathir at 2:237).
    According to another report he said,

    سيد شرار الخلق يبايعون كل مضطر، ألا إن بيع المضطرين حرام، المسلم أخو المسلم، لا يظلمه، ولا يخذله، إن كان عندك معروف فعد به على أخيك، ولا تزده هلاكا إلا هلاك

    “The worst of the evil creations is those who would like to deal with the most desperate person. Remember, trade deals with the desperate is unlawful. A Muslim is a brother unto another Muslim. He does not wrong him nor does he humiliate him. If you have something good, extend it to your brother and not augment ruin (from your side) to add on to ruin.”
    Quite in contradiction to the noble principles laid down by Islam, we see today in the oil-rich Middle-east, that the most desperate people of the world – Muslim or non-Muslim - are identified, and brought in to labor for those whose wealth, created through exploitation of the weak, is no more than an easy game for the West, in whose coffers it ends sooner or later (Au.).
    51. Authorities such as Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Mujahid, Ibrahim, Qatadah, Dahhak and others are of the opinion that the meaning is, “What you give as gifts (or as services) to people in the hope of being similarly compensated by them, is not registered as a good deed deserving to be rewarded, although not punishable” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others).
    Ibn Abi Hatim has it that Ibn `Abbas said, “There are two kinds of riba: one allowed and the other disallowed. The one allowed is a man’s gift to another hoping to get something better in return.” According to Bayhaqi’s report he added that this is neither rewarded not punished. However, Allah (swt) specifically prohibited even this through a verse (74: 6) which said,

    و لا تمنن تستكثر (المدثر- 6)

    “Do not do good (to others) in order to gain more.” (Shawkani).
    52. That is, it is these who get multiple rewards as the Prophet (saws) said in a trustworthy report,

    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنّ رَسُولَ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ: "لاَ يَتَصَدّقُ أَحَدٌ بِتَمْرَةٍ مِنْ كَسْبٍ طَيّبٍ. إِلاّ أَخَذَهَا اللّهُ بِيَمِينِهِ. فَيُرَبّيهَا كَمَا يُرَبّي أَحَدُكُمْ فَلُوّهُ أَوْ قلَوصة. حَتّىَ تَكُونَ مِثْلَ الْجَبَلِ، أَوْ أَعْظَمَ". – مسلم

    “No one spent the equivalent of a date out of his lawful earning but Allah takes it by His right hand and increases it several fold for him as one of you looks after his foal or young camel, until the date becomes like (Mount) Uhud, or larger than it” (Razi in brief, Ibn Kathir).

    اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ ثُمَّ رَزَقَكُمْ ثُمَّ يُمِيتُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُحْيِيكُمْ ۖ هَلْ مِنْ شُرَكَائِكُمْ مَنْ يَفْعَلُ مِنْ ذَٰلِكُمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (40)

    30|40| Allah it is who created you and nourishes you.53 Then He will deal you death, and thereafter bring you back to life. Is there any of your associates (in Divinity) who does aught of that? Glory to Him, high above that they associate (with Him).

    53. That is, He brings out a new soul from the mother’s womb bereft of the senses of sound and sight, weak of body and mind, and then He nourishes it. It is reported that once Khalid’s two sons went to see the Prophet. They found him attending to some work and extended a helping hand. He told them,

    لا تَأْيَسَا مِنْ الرِّزْقِ مَا تَهَزَّزَتْ رُءُوسُكُمَا فَإِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ تَلِدُهُ أُمُّهُ أَحْمَرَ لَيْسَ عَلَيْهِ قِشْرَةٌ ثُمَّ يَرْزُقُهُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ

    “Never despair of Allah’s provision so long as your heads shake, for, a man emerges from his mother’s womb red, without a skin. Then on, Allah the Exalted nourishes him” (Ibn Kathir).

    ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُمْ بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ (41)

    30|41| Corruption54 has appeared in the land and sea55 owing to what people’s hands have earned, that He may give them a taste of some of what they have done, haply so they may return.56

    54. What is the allusion to? Imam Razi says it is to shirk. Allah said elsewhere (21: 22),

    لَوْ كَانَ فِيهِمَا آلِهَةٌ إِلا اللَّهُ لَفَسَدَتَا (الأنبياء – 22)

    “Had there been a deity other than Allah, surely the two (the heaven and earth) would have been corrupted.”
    Qatadah and Suddi held the same opinion, although several other opinions have also been offered (Qurtubi), e.g., loss of “barakah”, droughts, murder, crop failure, etc. (Alusi and others); other corruptions being the direct effect of shirk (Au.).
    Qatadah’s opinion that the allusion is to the epoch just before the appearance of the Prophet, seems to carry much weight in view of the fact that the whole world was at that time sunk in disbelief. The portrayal of the situation by the historians - vis a vis kufr – tells us in no indefinite terms that the whole world was sunk in debauchery of disbelief (Shabbir).
    55. Although most early commentators, including Mujahid, have understood the term barr and bahr as meaning land and sea, Mujahid remarked that the Arabs also refer to every town or village situated by the shore of a river or lake as bahr (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi). The Prophet also used the word “bahr” in this sense in a letter he wrote to the ruler of Aylah (Ibn Kathir).
    The meaning however is that when Allah is obeyed, the earth throws out its produce in abundance; but when He is disobeyed, it withholds. Accordingly, we have a hadith in Abu D a’ud which says,

    إِقَامَةُ حَدٍّ مِنْ حُدُودِ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ مِنْ مَطَرِ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً فِي بِلَادِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ

    “The execution on the earth of a capital punishment is better for its inhabitants than that they should be sent rains for forty mornings.”
    The report is in Ibn Majah and others, but thought to be weak, but Ibn Kathir’s following note may be paid attention to (Au.).
    The reason is that the execution of capital punishment deters people from breaking Allah’s laws. And, the observation of His laws opens the heavenly and earthly gates of good and plenty. Accordingly, when `Isa (asws) will come, he will rule by the Islamic law, killing swine, breaking the cross and annulling Jizyah. He will accept nothing but Islam or will put (the people) to the sword. In consequence, when Allah would have destroyed Dajjal, along with his followers, as well as Y a’j uj and M a’j uj, the earth will be ordered to throw out its blessings. At that time a group of people will eat out of a single pomegranate and rest in the shade of its skin. That, for no other reason except that Allah’s laws would be executed in the earth, and there will be no one disobeying Him. In this connection we might also remember the hadith in the Sahihayn which says that when a corrupt sinner dies, people, places, trees, and animal, all feel relieved about it. (The hadith is in Tirmidhi also, of Hasan status). And, Imam Ahmad has a report which says that during the time of Ziyad or Ibn Ziyad, a clay pot was found full of grains. They were the size of date stones. A writing found in it said, “This is of the times when justice used to be administered” (Ibn Kathir).
    56. Asad places a note that is all the more relevant today in view of further deterioration of the corruption that he pointed out several decades ago. He wrote: “Thus the growing corruption and destruction of our natural environment, so awesomely – if as yet only partially – demonstrated in our time, is here predicted as ‘an outcome of what men’s hands have wrought’, i.e., of that self-destructive – because utterly materialistic – inventiveness and frenzied activity which now threatens mankind with previously unimaginable ecological disasters: an unbridled pollution of land, air and water through industrial and urban waste, a progressive poisoning of plant and marine life, all manner of genetic malformations in men’s own bodies through an ever-widening use of drugs and seemingly ‘beneficial’ chemicals, and the gradual extinction of animal species essential to human well-being. To all this may be added the rapid deterioration and decomposition of man’s social life, the all-round increase in sexual perversion, crime and violence, with, perhaps, nuclear annihilation as the ultimate stage: all of which is, in the last resort, an outcome of man’s oblivion of God and, hence, of all absolute moral values, and their supersession by the belief that material ‘progress’ is the only thing that matters.”

    قُلْ سِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَانْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۚ كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ مُشْرِكِينَ (42)

    30|42| Say, ‘Go about in the land and see how was the end of those who were there before.’ Most of them were associaters (in Divinity).

    فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ الْقَيِّمِ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَأْتِيَ يَوْمٌ لَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ مِنَ اللَّهِ ۖ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَصَّدَّعُونَ (43)

    30|43| So set your face steadfastly to the Straight Religion before there comes a day from Allah that has no repellant; that day they will be split.

    مَنْ كَفَرَ فَعَلَيْهِ كُفْرُهُ ۖ وَمَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلِأَنْفُسِهِمْ يَمْهَدُونَ (44)

    30|44| Whosoever disbelieved - upon him is (the consequence of) his disbelief, and whosoever worked righteousness, then, for themselves they are preparing.57

    57. Mujahid’s opinion was that the unbelievers are preparing their bed in the grave (Ibn Jarir), perhaps in the sense that it will be the point of start for the journey to the Hereafter, and a tortuous one at that (Au.).

    لِيَجْزِيَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْكَافِرِينَ (45)

    30|45| That He may recompense those who believed and worked righteousness out of His bounty. Surely, He does not approve of the unbelievers.

    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ يُرْسِلَ الرِّيَاحَ مُبَشِّرَاتٍ وَلِيُذِيقَكُمْ مِنْ رَحْمَتِهِ وَلِتَجْرِيَ الْفُلْكُ بِأَمْرِهِ وَلِتَبْتَغُوا مِنْ فَضْلِهِ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ (46)

    30|46| And among His signs is that He sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, so as to let you taste of His mercy,58 so that the ship may sail at His command, that you may seek of His bounty,59 and haply so you may give thanks.

    58. That is, the rains.
    59. Through trade, commerce, and travel to distant parts of the world via the seas.

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ رُسُلًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِمْ فَجَاءُوهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَانْتَقَمْنَا مِنَ الَّذِينَ أَجْرَمُوا ۖ وَكَانَ حَقًّا عَلَيْنَا نَصْرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (47)

    30|47| Indeed, We sent before you Messengers to their people. They brought them clear signs; then We took revenge upon those who committed crimes: helping the believers was incumbent upon Us.60

    60. In further exposition of the ending part of this verse, Ibn Abi Hatim has a report on the authority of Abu Darda’. He says he heard the Prophet say,

    مَنْ رَدَّ عَنْ عِرْضِ أَخِيهِ الْمُسْلِمِ كَانَ حَقًّا عَلَى اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنْ يَرُدَّ عَنْهُ نَارَ جَهَنَّمَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

    “Whoever defended attack on the honor of his brother, makes it incumbent upon Allah that He should shield him from the Fire of Hell on the Judgment Day.” Then the Prophet recited this verse (Ibn Kathir).
    The above was declared Hasan by Tirmidhi, the collector (Au.).
    Iraqi has, however, declared this report as not trustworthy (S. Ibrahim).

    اللَّهُ الَّذِي يُرْسِلُ الرِّيَاحَ فَتُثِيرُ سَحَابًا فَيَبْسُطُهُ فِي السَّمَاءِ كَيْفَ يَشَاءُ وَيَجْعَلُهُ كِسَفًا فَتَرَى الْوَدْقَ يَخْرُجُ مِنْ خِلَالِهِ ۖ فَإِذَا أَصَابَ بِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ إِذَا هُمْ يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ (48)

    30|48| Allah it is who sends the winds that stir up the clouds,61 then He spreads them in the sky as He will.62 Then He breaks them into fragments.63 Then you see raindrops64 issuing forth from its midst. Then, when He strikes thereof those of His slaves He will, behold, they are rejoicing.

    61. The words,

    الرِّيَاحَ فَتُثِيرُ سَحَابًا

    “Winds that stir up the clouds” could also suggest, “the winds stir up (water to create) the clouds” (Au.).
    62. Qatadah understood “yabsatuhu” as meaning, “He gathers them together” (Ibn Jarir), but many others have understood as “He spreads them, causes them to increase and grow” (Ibn Kathir).
    63. Dahhak and others have pointed out that kisafan could also be understood as meaning layers upon layers (of clouds) - Ibn Kathir.
    64. The rendering of “wadq” as raindrops is following Mujahid’s understanding as in Ibn Jarir.

    وَإِنْ كَانُوا مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يُنَزَّلَ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ لَمُبْلِسِينَ (49)

    30|49| Although before it was sent down upon them they were indeed – before it - in despair.65

    65. What the repetition of the words “before it” means is that it had happened several times “before it” – i.e., before the rains finally came – that the rains did not fall despite expectation, until they lost all hope and had sunk into despair (Ibn Kathir).

    فَانْظُرْ إِلَىٰ آثَارِ رَحْمَتِ اللَّهِ كَيْفَ يُحْيِي الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ لَمُحْيِي الْمَوْتَىٰ ۖ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (50)

    30|50| See then the marks of Allah’s mercy: how He quickens the earth after its death. Surely that is the sure Quickener of the dead, and He has power over all things.

    وَلَئِنْ أَرْسَلْنَا رِيحًا فَرَأَوْهُ مُصْفَرًّا لَظَلُّوا مِنْ بَعْدِهِ يَكْفُرُونَ (51)

    30|51| But if We should send a wind66 and they saw it turn (their crops) yellow, they would remain after that disbelieving.67

    66. It might be noticed that earlier the word used for “wind” was “riyah” (pl. of rih), while at this point it is “rih.” The reason is, remarks Imam Razi, mankind experience the life-giving winds (riyah) more than destructive “rih” which is not so common. Hence plural for those that bring glad tidings and singular for the one that brings destruction.
    Hence the Prophet’s prayer-words, said whenever winds began to blow,

    اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا (أحمد)

    “O Allah make it “riyah” (winds) and not “rih” (wind).”
    The report is trustworthy.
    67. The allusion is to another class of winds which carry no moisture at all, but rather are dry.They dry up the crops and plants, leaving them in their wake yellow; although, it was a point in time when the farmers were expecting a refreshing shower that would turn the crops greener and cause to yield richer harvest (Au.).

    فَإِنَّكَ لَا تُسْمِعُ الْمَوْتَىٰ وَلَا تُسْمِعُ الصُّمَّ الدُّعَاءَ إِذَا وَلَّوْا مُدْبِرِينَ (52)

    30|52| Verily, you cannot make the dead hear nor can you make the deaf hear the call when they turn away showing their backs.68

    68. Ibn Kathir uses this occasion to stress upon the living not to lose contacts with the dead: by way of visits to their graves, supplicating for them, and sending peace to them. He quotes Ibn `Abd al-Barr’s hadith that he declared trustworthy:

    ما من أحد يمر بقبر أخيه المسلم، كان يعرفه في الدنيا، فيسلم عليه، إلا رد الله عليه روحه، حتى يرد عليه السلام

    “No one passes by a brother Muslim’s grave whom he knew in this world, who greets him, but Allah returns the man’s soul to him so that he can return the greeting.”
    And Ibn Abi Dunya has narrated a man of the family of `Asim al-Juhdari as saying, “I saw `Asim in a dream two years after his death. I asked, ‘Are not you dead?’ He replied, ‘Of course I am.’ I asked, ‘Where are you now?’ He replied, ‘By Allah I am in one of the orchards of Paradise. Myself and a few of my companions gather together every Friday night and its morning at Bakr b. `Abdullah al-Muzani’s place where we pick up your news.’ I asked, ‘Your bodies or souls?’ He answered, ‘Out of the question. The bodies have become dust. It is the souls that meet.’ I asked, ‘Do you come to know when we visit you?’ He replied, ‘Yes. From the evening of Friday, the whole of its day, until the sunrise on Friday.’ I asked, ‘Why this, apart from other days?’ He answered, ‘Because of the importance of Friday over all other days.’”
    And, Abu al-Tayyah reports about Mutraf that, “We heard that he used to visit Ghota. He would go there by night and stop by the graves as he passed by them. He would halt, remaining on his horse. He saw every dweller of a grave sitting on top of the grave. They would say to to each other, ‘This is Mutraf who comes to you every Friday…’”
    A cousin of Sufyan b. `Uyaynah says, “When my father died, I was struck by great grief. I used to visit his grave every day. Then I discontinued for some reason, until I visited him again. As I was sitting at the grave, I was overtaken by sleep and saw that my father’s grave had split. He was sitting in his grave looking much perturbed. He had the expression of the dead on his face. I was in tears when I saw him in that state. He asked, ‘My son, what prevented you from coming to me?’ I asked, ‘Do you get to know when I come here?’ He replied, ‘You never came but I knew about it. You used to come pleasing me and pleasing others around me: by virtue of your supplications.’” He said, “Thereafter I used to visit him as often as I could.”
    Ibn Suwayd al-Tafawi says his mother was so much given to devotions that she was nicknamed “Rahibah.” … “When she died I used to visit her every Friday, pray for her and for the rest of the dead in the graveyard. One day I saw her in my dream and asked her, ‘Mother dear! How are you?’ She replied, ‘My son! Death is a painful affair. By Allah I am in a praiseworthy Barzakh where the floor is made of sweet basil (rayhan) and we rest on (pillows of) silk brocade – until the day of Resurrection.’ I asked, ‘Do you have any need?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ I asked, ‘What is it?’ She replied, ‘Do not discontinue with your visits to us and your prayers for us. I am given the glad news of you starting off from your homefolk. I am told, “O Rahibah! Here is your son advancing toward you.” At that I rejoice as also those around me of the dead.’”
    This, says Ibn Kathir, is a vast chapter that has numerous reports from the Companions and those who came after them.
    Alusi also agrees with Ibn Kathir in that the dead can hear when addressed. Abu al-Sheikh recorded that a woman used to clean up the Prophet’s mosque. She died but the Prophet (saws) was not aware she was dead. He happened to pass by a grave and inquired whose it was. They told him, “Umm Mahjan’s.” He asked, “The one who used to clean up the mosque?” When they said yes, he asked them to line up for Prayers. After the Prayer, he addressed the grave, “What did you find most beneficial?” They asked (him), “Messenger of Allah, does she hear?” He answered, “You are not hearing me any better than she does.” Then he explained to them that she had replied: “Cleaning up the mosque.” Bayhaqi also reported it as well as Hakim who declared it trustworthy.
    (The above report could not be traced for its authenticity: Au.).
    One may be warned, adds Shabbir, that Allah allowing a dead to hear is one thing, and a human being making them hear is another. There is no guarantee whatsoever that if we address the dead in the grave, whether by way of supplication for them, or, mere greetings of peace, that they should hear.
    Also see Surah al-Naml, ayah 50, note 101 for relevant discussion.

    وَمَا أَنْتَ بِهَادِ الْعُمْيِ عَنْ ضَلَالَتِهِمْ ۖ إِنْ تُسْمِعُ إِلَّا مَنْ يُؤْمِنُ بِآيَاتِنَا فَهُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ (53)

    30|53| Nor are you going to guide the blind out of their error. You can only make hear those who believe in Our signs and so they surrender.

    اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ ضَعْفٍ ثُمَّ جَعَلَ مِنْ بَعْدِ ضَعْفٍ قُوَّةً ثُمَّ جَعَلَ مِنْ بَعْدِ قُوَّةٍ ضَعْفًا وَشَيْبَةً ۚ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيمُ الْقَدِيرُ (54)

    30|54| Allah it is who created you in (a state of) weakness, then made after weakness strength; then made after strength, weakness and hoary-head. He creates what He will; and He is the All-knowing, the All-powerful.

    وَيَوْمَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ يُقْسِمُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ مَا لَبِثُوا غَيْرَ سَاعَةٍ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ كَانُوا يُؤْفَكُونَ (55)

    30|55| The Day the Hour69 strikes, the criminals will swear (that) they tarried not but an hour. That is how they were being deluded.

    69. The “Hour” has been so called because it will be the last hour of this world (Zmakhshari).

    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ وَالْإِيمَانَ لَقَدْ لَبِثْتُمْ فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْبَعْثِ ۖ فَهَٰذَا يَوْمُ الْبَعْثِ وَلَٰكِنَّكُمْ كُنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (56)

    30|56| But those who were given knowledge and faith will say, ‘Indeed you tarried by Allah’s decree to the day of resurrection. This then is the day of resurrection, but you were not knowing.’

    فَيَوْمَئِذٍ لَا يَنْفَعُ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مَعْذِرَتُهُمْ وَلَا هُمْ يُسْتَعْتَبُونَ (57)

    30|57| That day, the excuses of the transgressors will not profit them, nor will they be asked to make amends.

    وَلَقَدْ ضَرَبْنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِي هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ ۚ وَلَئِنْ جِئْتَهُمْ بِآيَةٍ لَيَقُولَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِنْ أَنْتُمْ إِلَّا مُبْطِلُونَ (58)

    30|58| Surely, We have set forth for the people in this Qur’an all manner of similitude. And, even if you brought them a sign, those who have disbelieved will surely say, ‘You are all not but indulging in vain.’

    كَذَٰلِكَ يَطْبَعُ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (59)

    30|59| That is how Allah sets the seals upon the hearts of those who do not know.

    فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ ۖ وَلَا يَسْتَخِفَّنَّكَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُوقِنُونَ (60)

    30|60| So, patiently persevere; surely, Allah’s promise is true. And let not those who do not believe make light of you.70

    70. “That is,” writes Mawdudi, “Let not the enemies find you so weak as to suppress you by their uproar, nor to cow you down by their campaign of slander-mongering, nor dishearten you by their jesting, taunts and derisions, nor frighten you by their threats, show of power and persecution, nor allure you by offering baits, nor force you to effect a compromise with them …”
    Off the main implications, Ibn Jarir and others report that one of the Khawarij was Praying behind `Ali ibn Abi Talib in a Fajr Prayer. (The Khawarij fought against him because they believed he had abandoned Islam by making peace with Mu`awiyyah, and by sheltering `Uthman’s murderers, an allegation which had no basis but in evil suspicion: Au.). While ‘Ali was reciting the man shouted the following Qur’anic verse from the rear (39: 65),

    لَئِنْ أَشْرَكْتَ لَيَحْبَطَنَّ عَمَلُكَ وَلَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ - الزمر (65)

    “But if you commit association (with Allah), your deeds will go waste and you will surely be of the losers.” `Ali fell silent for a moment, weighing his answer, then recited this last verse of this Surah:

    فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَلا يَسْتَخِفَّنَّكَ الَّذِينَ لا يُوقِنُونَ (الروم – 60)

    “So, patiently persevere. Surely, Allah’s promise is true. And let not those who do not believe make light of you.” The report is in Ibn Abi Hatim also (Ibn Kathir). And, what `Ali meant perhaps by replying to the man’s taunt with this verse was that if he was so sure of his (`Ali’s) apostasy then, he ought to remain patient, persevering in his belief, without spilling blood over the issue (Au.).
    At this point Ibn Kathir also quotes a hadith from Ahmad transmitted by `Abdul Malik b. `Umayr. It is as follows:

    وعن عَبْدُ الْمَلِكِ بْنُ عُمَيْرٍ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ شَبِيبًا أَبَا رَوْحٍ مِنْ ذِي الْكَلَاعِ عَنْ رَجُلٍ أَنَّهُ صَلَّى مَعَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الصُّبْحَ فَقَرَأَ بِالرُّومِ فَتَرَدَّدَ فِي آيَةٍ فَلَمَّا انْصَرَفَ قَالَ إِنَّهُ يَلْبِسُ عَلَيْنَا الْقُرْآنَ أَنَّ أَقْوَامًا مِنْكُمْ يُصَلُّونَ مَعَنَا لَا يُحْسِنُونَ الْوُضُوءَ فَمَنْ شَهِدَ الصَّلَاةَ مَعَنَا فَلْيُحْسِنْ الْوُضُوءَ - رواه أحمد ورجاله رجال الصحيح.‏ (الهيثمي)

    Ibn `Umayr said, “I heard from Shabib Abu Ruh Dhu al-Kila` that he Prayed behind the Prophet. He recited Surah al-Rum. However, he got confused a bit. After it was over, he turned to them and remarked, “We got confused over the Qur’an because some among you who offer Prayers with us do not do their ablution properly. So, let anyone who attends the Prayers with us, do his ablution well.” This hadith, remarks Ibn Kathir, although of Hasan status, tells us in definitive terms that the Imam and the followers in a Prayer are inter-related - acts of one affect the other.
    Haythami has, however, declared it containing a chain which is that of the Sahih collections (Au.).