Surat Luqmān

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
by
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير

PREPARATORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015

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References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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

________________________

Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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

_______________________

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

_______________________

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

________________________

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

______________________

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

______________________

  • Surah No. 31

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الم (1)

    31|1| Alif. Lam. Mim.

    تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْحَكِيمِ (2)

    31|2| These are verses of the Wise Book.

    هُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لِلْمُحْسِنِينَ (3)

    31|3| A guidance and a mercy for those who excel (in good deeds).2

    1. Qatadah has said that except for two verses 27 and 28, the rest of the Surah is Makkan. Ibn `Abbas however said that three of its verses are not Makkan (Qurtubi). 2. The “muhsinin” of the text has been explained in the verse itself with words that follow: “those who offer the Prayers (assiduously), give the zakah” (Zamakhshari).

    الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ يُوقِنُونَ (4)

    31|4| Those who offer the Prayers (correctly and spiritedly), give the zakah and, they – in the Hereafter – they have sure faith.

    أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَىٰ هُدًى مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ (5)

    31|5| They are on a guidance from their Lord;3 and they, they indeed, are the prosperers.

    3. That is, on a path that is plain, clear, unambiguous and entirely satisfying to the mind, heart and soul (Au.).

    وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَشْتَرِي لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ لِيُضِلَّ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ وَيَتَّخِذَهَا هُزُوًا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُهِينٌ (6)

    31|6| And, of the people is one4 who purchases idle discourse5 to lead astray from the path of Allah6 – without knowledge7 – and to treat it in mockery. They, for them is a humiliating chastisement.8

    4. It is reported by most classical commentators that the allusion is to Nadr b. al-Harith who, in the words of Majid, “brought from abroad the romance of Persian heroes, allured to them the crowds of the Quraish and persuaded them to think that his stories were preferable to the word of God.” But, Asad warns, the allusion is not to a specific person but rather “describes a type of mentality and has, therefore, a general import.” 5. The textual “shira`” (purchase) is not in its literal sense but rather its preference over the truth; as for example, Allah (swt) said about those who preferred error over guidance, as those who purchased error. He said (2: 16),

    أُوْلَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرُوُاْ الضَّلاَلَةَ بِالْهُدَى (البقرة – 16)

    “They are the ones who purchased error in exchange of guidance” (Qurtubi). “Idle discourse” is not a very accurate rendition of the textual phrase “lahwatu ‘l hadith.” It has been widely reported of Ibn Mas`ud that he emphatically explained it as alluding to songs and music. Ibn `Abbas and his students agreed with Ibn Mas` ud’s interpretation but added that all such instruments are included that cause distraction to the soul (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Hasan al-Busri specifically mentioned music as covered in the disapproval (Ibn Kathir). A narrative in this connection however, of `Abdullah ibn `Umar does not reach trustworthy status. It reports Nafi` as saying, “I was with `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud when he passed by someone playing on a flute. He cut across the path, pressed his fingers against his ears and kept asking me, ‘Nafi`. Do you still hear?’ When I said no, he removed his fingers and said, ‘This is how I saw the Prophet do.’” Abu Da’ud and `Iraqi have both distrusted the report (Shawk ani: S.Ibrahim). There is another report however which comes down on the authority of `Abdul Rahman ibn `Awf. It is of Hasan status. (It is in Tirmidhi: S. Ibrahim) the Prophet (saws) said,

    "نُهيْتُ عن صَوْتَيْنِ أَحْمَقَيْنِ فَاجِرَيْنِ: صَوْتٍ عِنْدَ مُصِيبَةٍ خَمْشِ وُجُوهٍ وشَقّ جُيُوبٍ ورَنّةِ شيطانٍ" (الترمذي)

    “I have forbidden the voice of two idiotic perverts: A senseless voice accompanied by music, and the mourning-voice at a misfortune accompanied by scratching of the face, tearing of the clothes and devilish screams” (Shawkani). A shorter version of this hadith has been declared by Haythami in his Zawa’id as having a reliable chain (Au.). In general, all that diverts one’s attention from the useful to the useless such as: nightly-gossips, flying anecdotes, talks centered around imaginary incidents or fictitious legends, jokes, songs and music, is covered in the term “lahwatu ‘l hadith” (Zamakhshari); unless, of course, they remain within tolerable limits of occasional indulgence (Au.). In this connection there is a report coming through Abu Umamah al-Bahili. The Prophet said,

    لا تَبِيعُوا الْقَيْنَاتِ وَلَا تَشْتَرُوهُنَّ وَلَا تُعَلِّمُوهُنَّ وَلا خَيْرَ فِي تِجَارَةٍ فِيهِنَّ وَثَمَنُهُنَّ حَرَامٌ فِي مِثْلِ هَذَا أُنْزِلَتْ هَذِهِ الآيَةُ وَمِنْ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَشْتَرِي لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ لِيُضِلَّ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ إِلَى آخِرِ الآيَةِ

    “Do not buy or sell (female) singers nor teach them (music), there is no good in trading them, and the profit thereof is unlawful. It is about them that Allah revealed, “Of the people is one who purchases idle tales to lead astray from the path of Allah” (Ibn Jarir). The report as in Tirmidhi, was declared weak by him (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). Bukhari, Nasa’i, Daraqutni and Abu Zur`ah have distrusted one of its narrators (Tuhfah) – Au. Qurtubi lists down opinions of the past scholars about such songs as which included light music (in contrast to the kind of music in today’s songs, which can be described as heavy music, which are totally unacceptable: Au.). Ibn Mas`ud swore three times that the allusion in this verse is to songs (that include such music: Au.). So thought Ibn `Umar, `Ikrimah, Maymun b. Mahran, Mak-hul, Mujahid, Hasan, Qasim b. Muhammad, Malik, and others. But according to Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shafe`i, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Ibrahim (Nakha`i), Sha`bi, Hammad, Thawri, and many others it is makruh. Ibn Hanbal was asked about a singer slave-girl left to a boy in inheritance, whether she could be sold off to meet the child’s expenses. He replied that she could be sold, but not as a singer, even if that fetched a higher price. Qaffal has said that the testimony of a person given to songs and music may not be accepted. That applies to singers and musicians. Imam Malik in fact had learnt to play music in his younger days. But when he grew up his mother admonished him against it and so he gave up and took to studying Islamic disciplines. In sum, writes Qurtubi, the kind of song that motivates to what has been declared unlawful in Islam, is unlawful by consensus. However, that which does not, is lawful in small measures, on occasions, to effect a change in mood or remove boredom. We have examples of simple songs to the accompaniment of a drum sung before the Prophet: (a) when he allowed `A’isha to watch a group of dancers perform in the yard of his mosque, (b) when some girls sang on the occasion of `Eid, [when Abu Bakr reproached them, the Prophet interrupted to say, “Let them alone, Abu Bakr. This is our `Eid”], (c) when the Companions sang at the time of the mosque construction, or (d) when the Trench was being dug. So also, simple kind of musical instruments such as a tablah or drum are allowable if played once in a while. It is engrossment in these pastimes that is disapproved of. Also disallowed to males are songs sung by ghayr mahram women. This was the opinion of Imam Shafe`i. Mufti Shafi` adds a hadith which comes from Abu Da’ud, Ibn Majah (whose commentators declared it weak), as well as from Ibn Hibban’s Sahih (which makes it trustworthy). The Prophet said,

    عَنْ أَبِي مَالِكٍ الأَشْعَرِيِّ؛ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: "لَيَشَرَبَنَّ نَاسٌ مِنْ أُمَّتِي الْخَمْرَ. يُسَمُّونَهَا بِغَيْرِ اسْمِهَا. يُعْزَفُ عَلَى رُءُوِسِهِمْ بِالْمَعَازِفِ وَالْمُغَنّيَاتِ، يَخْسِفُ اللهُ بِهِمُ الأَرْضَ. وَيَجْعَلُ مِنْهُمُ الْقِرَدَةَ وَالْخَنَازِيِرَ" – (ابن ماجة)

    “Surely some of my followers will give wine a different name and drink it; and female singers will sing for them to the tunes of music. Allah will sink them into the earth and transform some of them into monkeys and pigs.”

    وَإِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِ آيَاتُنَا وَلَّىٰ مُسْتَكْبِرًا كَأَنْ لَمْ يَسْمَعْهَا كَأَنَّ فِي أُذُنَيْهِ وَقْرًا ۖ فَبَشِّرْهُ بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ (7)

    31|7| When Our verses are recited to such a one, he turns away in arrogance, as though he did not hear them: as though there is heaviness in his ears. So, give him the glad tiding of a painful chastisement.9

    6. According to Ibn `Abbas, recitation of the Qur’an and similar other devotional activities constitute the path of Allah. 7. That is, in his extreme ignorance he does not realize that his indulgence in songs, music, and other such activities divert him off Allah’s path (Ibn Jarir). 8. “Humiliating chastisement,” because he did not treat Allah’s revelations with the care and respect that was due to them (Ibn Kathir). 9. “Painful punishment,” because he used to be pained at hearing the revelations of Allah (Ibn Kathir).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتُ النَّعِيمِ (8)

    31|8| Surely, those who believed and did righteous works, for them are gardens of bliss.

    خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۖ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقًّا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (9)

    31|9| Abiding therein forever. Allah’s promise is true; and He is the Al-mighty, the All-wise.10

    10. Asad paraphrases Imam Razi’s comments: “Commenting on the above three verses, Razi points out, firstly, that the deliberate contrast between the plural in the promise of ‘gardens (jannat) of bliss’ and the singular in that of ‘suffering’ (`adhab) is meant to show that God’s grace surpasses His wrath .. and, secondly, that the use of the expression ‘to abide therein’ in connection with the mention of paradise only, and not with that of otherworldly suffering (or hell), is an indication that whereas the enjoyment of the former will be unlimited in duration, suffering in what is described as ‘hell’ will be limited.”

    خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ بِغَيْرِ عَمَدٍ تَرَوْنَهَا ۖ وَأَلْقَىٰ فِي الْأَرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَنْ تَمِيدَ بِكُمْ وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِنْ كُلِّ دَابَّةٍ ۚ وَأَنْزَلْنَا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَنْبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِنْ كُلِّ زَوْجٍ كَرِيمٍ (10)

    31|10| He created the heavens without any pillars that you can see;11 and cast into the earth pegs12 lest it should quake with you.13 And He scattered therein all kinds of animals. And We14 sent down out of sky water and made grow therein every noble species.15

    11. That is, there are pillars but you cannot see them: Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Qatadah and others (Ibn Jarir). See Surah al-Ra`d, note 4 for further explanation. 12. That is, mountains that have been rooted into the earth, just like pegs - a geological fact unknown until some fifty years ago (Au.). 13. They help avoid convulsions in the outer crust (what is known as the Lithosphere) surrounding the inner layers of the earth (Au.). 14. The change from singular to plural is striking. Asad comments: “This is another of the Qur’anic instances where the personal pronoun relating to God is suddenly changed – in this instance from ‘He’ to ‘We’ – in order to indicate that God, being infinite, cannot be circumscribed by any pronoun applicable to created, finite beings, and that the use of such pronouns with reference to Him is no more than a concession to the limited nature of every human language.” 15. Yusuf Ali thinks that the words could be referring to the sex life in plants.

    هَٰذَا خَلْقُ اللَّهِ فَأَرُونِي مَاذَا خَلَقَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ دُونِهِ ۚ بَلِ الظَّالِمُونَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ (11)

    31|11| This is the creation of Allah. So, show me what those other than Him have created. Nay, but the transgressors are in manifest error.

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا لُقْمَانَ الْحِكْمَةَ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِلَّهِ ۚ وَمَنْ يَشْكُرْ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ (12)

    31|12| Indeed We gave Luqman16 wisdom:17 ‘Give thanks to Allah. Whosoever gives thanks, gives thanks only to his own self, while he who is ungrateful, (may know that) verily Allah the Praiseworthy is free of all wants.’18

    16. Majid comments: “Luqman, who may or may not be identified with Aesop of the Greeks was a sage very ‘well known to the Arabs.’ ‘Lukman was already known in the pagan period as a sage. His wisdom is celebrated in pre-Muslim poets … Lukman’s wisdom forms the transition from Jahiliyyah to the Qur’an (EI).” Luqman and his Wisdom: Yusuf Ali rules out the possibility of identifying Luqman with the Greek Aesop. Mawdudi adds: “Luqman was well known as a wise and learned man in Arabia. He has been mentioned in the poetry of the pre-Islamic poets like Imra’ul Qays, Lab id, A`shi, Tarafah and others. According to traditions, some three years before the Prophet’s migration to Madinah, Suwayd b. Samit visited Makkah for pilgrimage. When the Prophet heard of him, he met him and invited him to Islam. Suwayd told him, ‘Perhaps I have something similar to what you have.’ The Prophet asked him what it was and he replied, ‘Luqman’s rolls.’ Then he read out a few pieces to him. The Prophet said, ‘It sounds good. But what I have is better.’ When he read out the Qur’an to him, Suwayd admitted that it was indeed better.” A few lines down, Mawdudi presents us another example of honest Western scholarship. He writes: “The Arabic manuscript from the Library of Paris, which the Orientalist Derenboourg has published under the title Amthal Luqman (al-)Hakim (Fable De Loqman Le Sage) is a fabrication which has nothing to do with the Roll of Luqman. These fables were compiled by someone in the 13th century C.E. Its Arabic is poor, and perusal shows that it is in fact translation into Arabic from another language. The Orientalists conduct such research with special objective in view. It is in order to prove that the narrations of the Qur’an are no more than legends and therefore unreliable. Anyone who reads B. Heller’s article on Luqman in the Encyclopedia of Islam will not fail to understand the real motives of these people.” Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Sa`id b. al-Musayyib and many others thought that Luqman was an Israeli, a carpenter or a shepherd, large-footed, thick-lipped, flat-nosed, black man from the Egyptian part of Sudan (Ibn Jarir). Although we do not know how authentic, but a few stories are attributed to Luqman’s wisdom. One of them, mentioned by Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir, reports that his master instructed him to cut a goat and bring him two of its best parts. He brought him the tongue and the heart. Another time his master told him to slaughter a goat and bring back two of its worst parts. Luqman again took to him the tongue and the heart. When asked he explained that the tongue and the heart can be the best parts of a body, or its worst, depending upon how they are used. It is said that Sa` id b. al-Musayyib told a black man: “Do not be rueful because of your dark color. Three of the best men ever were black: Bilal, Mahja` (`Umar’s freed slave) and Luqman” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi and others). Perhaps he had non-Prophets in his mind for, Musa (asws) was also dark (Au.). 17. That is, ‘We gave him a good intellect, understanding and the ability to hold right opinions - all but Prophethood’ (Mujahid: Ibn Jarir). 18. “Hamid” is defined as One who is worthy of praise by Himself, whether He is praised or not (Ibn Jarir).

    وَإِذْ قَالَ لُقْمَانُ لِابْنِهِ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُ يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ (13)

    31|13| And when Luqman said to his son, admonishing him, ‘O my dear son!19 Associate not (aught) with Allah. Indeed, association (with Him) is a great wrong.’20

    19. The textual “bunayyah” is diminutive form (tasghir) of “ibni”, which the Arabs do to express love and affection (Au.). 20. Majid quotes: “This hatred of idolatry has been found even among the most uncivilized followers of the Prophet. The gorgeous rituals, the gaudy pictures, and the pious fraud which played so large a part in the conversion of the Solavonian nations to Christianity, seems only to have alienated these semi-barbarians. Mahmud the Ghaznavid … was offered a sum of ten million sterlings if only he would spare the famous idol in the pagoda of Somnat. Avarice is said to have been his besetting fault, but he replied in the memorable words, ‘Never shall Mahmud be a merchant of idols,’ and broke it into pieces” (Bosworth Smith, op. cit., p. 265).

    وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَىٰ وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ (14)

    31|14| And We have charged man21 concerning his parents22 - his mother bore him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years23 – that, ‘Be thankful to Me and to your parents.24 Unto Me is your (final) destination.

    21. There is a break here between Luqman’s admonitions to his son. Allah’s own words have been introduced in between. Yusuf Ali explains why: “Verses 14-15 are not the direct speech of Luqman but flow by way of commentary on his teachings. He was speaking as a father to his son, and he could not very well urge respect for himself and draw the son’s attention to the limitations of filial obedience. These verses may be supposed to be general directions flowing from Luqman’s teaching to men, and not dictated to his son; though in either case, as Luqman received wisdom from Allah, it is divine principles that are enunciated 22. "The coupling of parents with Himself in so far as the rendering of service is concerned, indicates the extreme importance that filial duty has in Islam” (Majid). Compare this with the American culture where children as young as four are given call numbers at schools, and instructed to contact the police if the parents act tough with them (Au.). 23. That is, a mother’s services to, and sacrifices for her child does not end with birth. She suckles him (and rears him) during the weakest phase of its life (Au.). This present ayah and another of the Qur’an are the basis of the opinion that the minimum period of birth of a child after pregnancy is six months. The other ayah is of (Al-Ahqaf 46: 15),

    حَمْلُهُ وَفِصَالُهُ ثَلاثُونَ شَهْرًا (الأحقاف - 15)

    “And, his carrying and weaning are thirty months” (Ibn Kathir). The verse is also the basis of the opinion that suckling period, and what it entails of marriage taboos, is two years. That is, a woman giving suck to a child above two years old does not entail foster relationship. Also, according to Abu Hanifah, if the weaning has been earlier than two years, say a year and a half, and the child is on external food, then too, further suckling does not entail foster relationship (Zamakhshari). 24. Parents hold rights that cross religious considerations. Non-Muslim parents of a Muslim deserve the same care. It is reported of Asma’ bint Abi Bakr that she asked the Prophet, “My non-Muslim aunt, (it is thought she was [not an aunt] but a foster mother) is visiting me and seeks to be served. Should I be dutiful to her?” He replied, “Yes.” After reporting this, Qurtubi adds the information for our benefit that Asma’s mother was not Umm Ruman, the mother of `A’isha and `Abdul Rahman.

    وَإِنْ جَاهَدَاكَ عَلَىٰ أَنْ تُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا ۖ وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا ۖ وَاتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَيَّ ۚ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (15)

    31|15| But if they strive with you that you should associate with Me what you have no knowledge of,25 then obey them not. However, you bear their company in this world in a goodly way; and follow the way of him who turns to Me.26 Then, unto Me is your return, and I shall declare unto you (all) that you were doing.’

    25. That is, “something which is contrary to thy knowledge that divine qualities are God’s alone” (Asad). 26. That is, serve your parents, but when it comes to religious affairs, follow not their ways if they are off the track, but rather of those who are devoted to Allah (Au.).

    يَا بُنَيَّ إِنَّهَا إِنْ تَكُ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ فَتَكُنْ فِي صَخْرَةٍ أَوْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ أَوْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَأْتِ بِهَا اللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَطِيفٌ خَبِيرٌ (16)

    31|16| ‘O my dear son! If it should be but the weight of a mustard seed, and should be (hidden) in a rock, or in the heavens, or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth.27 Verily, Allah is All-subtle, All-aware.

    27. Some people have difficulty in understanding how Allah (swt) could know the universe and its contents in every detail. They imagine, like the Greek philosophers, that He has the knowledge of important elements, while minor things take care of themselves. What they fail to realize is that if Allah does not know the minor, He cannot know the major, because the major is composed of the minor. If He does not know an atom, he cannot know a molecule. And if He does not know the molecule, He cannot know the rock. To know the rock, He has to know the electrons, protons and neutrons, of which it is constituted in the ultimate sense (Au.).

    يَا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا أَصَابَكَ ۖ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ (17)

    31|17| O my dear son! Establish the Prayer, enjoin the good, forbid the wrong, and bear in patience whatever befalls you. This indeed is the firmness in the affairs.

    وَلَا تُصَعِّرْ خَدَّكَ لِلنَّاسِ وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ (18)

    31|18| And, turn not your cheek away from the people,28 and walk not through the earth exultantly. Surely, Allah does not approve of any proud boaster.

    28. That is, do not turn away from the people in arrogance while they are speaking to you. Ibrahim (Nakha`i) however thought the reference is to boastfulness, or being braggart (Ibn Jarir).

    وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِنْ صَوْتِكَ ۚ إِنَّ أَنْكَرَ الْأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ (19)

    31|19| Be modest in your walk,29 and lower your voice. Surely, the most unpleasant of voices is the voice of the donkeys.’30

    29. The allusion is not to a slow-paced walk, but rather, to modesty in gait. It is reported of `Umar that when he walked, he walked fast. The Prophet’s own pace has been described as fast, as if he was surging forward or going down a hill. In contrast, any style of walking that smacks of artificiality is disapproved. `Umar (ra) saw someone walking feebly – in the manner of the pseudo pietists. He raised his whip against him and ordered him to walk straight like any normal person (Au.). ` A’isha saw a man walking feebly. She inquired what was wrong with him. She was told that he was one of the reciters of the Qur’an (so he was trying to appear humble and ascetic). She remarked, “Let him walk properly. `Umar was better at recitation. But when he walked, he walked fast, when he spoke, he spoke aloud, and when he struck (with his whip), he struck hard.” Mawdudi adds: “What is actually meant by this is to reform the state of the self under which a person walks haughtily. Haughtiness and arrogance of a person inevitably manifest themselves in his gait and style of walking, which shows the state of his mind and also the cause of his pride and haughtiness. Wealth, authority, beauty, knowledge, power and such other things cause a man to become proud and vain, and each of these gives him a special style of gait. Contrary to this, manifestation of humility is also the result of one or the other mental morbid states. Sometimes the hidden conceit of the self of a man takes on the form of ostensible humility, piety and godliness and this is shown by his gait…” 30. In this context Nasa’i has a hadith which says,

    عَن أَبي هُرَيْرَةَ رضي الله عنه أنّ النّبيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قالَ: "إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ صِيَاحَ الدّيكَةِ فاسْألُوا الله مِنْ فَضْلِهِ فإِنّهَا رَأَتْ مَلَكاً، وَإذَا سَمِعْتُمْ نَهِيقَ الْحِمَارِ فَتَعَوّذُوا بالله مِنَ الشّيْطَانِ الرّجيم فإِنّهُ رَأى شَيْطَاناً". (قال أبو عيسى: هَذا حديثٌ حَسَنٌ صحيحٌ).

    “When you hear the cry of a rooster, seek Allah’s bounty. But when you hear a donkey braying, seek Allah’s protection, for it has seen Shaytan.” Others also report this hadith (such as Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi: H. Ibrahim), some of which add the words, “at night” (Ibn Kathir). That is, when such sighting is at night (Au.). With reference to a few good qualities enjoined by Luqman, Ibn Kathir devoted a few pages to expand upon them, relying primarily on one of the treatise of Ibn Abi al-Dunya. But for a few, the authenticity of the reports could not be traced. We present those that echo quite often in the Islamic literature. Humbleness Mu`adh ibn Jabal reported the Prophet as having said,

    عَنْ مُعَاذِ بْنِ جَبَلٍ؛ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: أَلاَ أُخْبِركَ عَنْ مُلُوكِ الْجَنَّةِ؟ قُلْتُ:بَلَى. قَالَ: رَجُلٌ ضَعِيفٌ، مُسْتَضْعِفٌ، ذُو طَمْرَيْنِ، لاَيُؤْبَهُ لَهُ؛ لَوْ أَقْسَمَ عَلَى اللهِ لأَبَرَّهُ

    “Shall I not inform you about the kings of Paradise?” I said, “Do, Messenger of Allah.” He said, “A weak man in an extremely poor state, in two torn cloaks, whom no one pays any attention, but who (is of such class that), if he swore by Allah, Allah would do as he swore.” (Ibn Kathir quotes a slightly different version of Anas b. Malik which we could neither trace in Ahmad, nor find out its status. This particular one is from Ibn Majah, and Hasan of status, but available in various forms in several works: Au.). On Abu Hurayrah’s authority,

    إن من ملوك الجنة من هو أشعث أغبر ذو طمرين لا يؤبه له، اللذين إذا استأذنوا علي الأمرآء لم يؤذن لهم إذا خطبوا النسآء لم ينكحوا، و إذا قالوا لم ينصت لهم، حوائج أحدهم تتجلجل في صدره، لو قسم نوره يوم القيامة بين الناس لوسعهم (إبن أبي الدنيا)

    “Of the kings of Paradise is one who is of disheveled hair, soiled clothes, who is paid no attention. If they seek entry into (the company of) the rich, they are denied. If they ask for a girl’s hand, they are not given. When they speak, people do not listen to them. The needs of one of them reverberate within their breasts. But, if his Nur is divided between the people on the Day of Judgment, it would suffice them all.” Popularity Anas says the Prophet said,

    عن أنس عن رسول الله أنه قال بحسب امرئ من الشرأن يشار إليه بالأصابع في دينه أو دنياه إلا من عصمه الله. إن الله تعالى لا ينظر إلى صوركم وأموالكم، ولكن إلى قلوبكم وأعمالكم. (إبن أبي الدنيا)

    “It is enough of an evil for a man – except for he whom Allah saved – that he should be pointed at with the fingers either on account of his worldliness, or on account of his religion. Surely, Allah does not look at your faces, but at your hearts and deeds.” The above seems to be a combination of two reports (Au). Hasan (al-Busri) also narrated a similar narration. When someone told Hasan that people pointed fingers at him also (for his piety), he replied, “The allusion is to innovators and quacks in religion.” Whenever Ibn Mas`ud found people following him reverentially, he would remark, “By Allah. If you knew what we do behind these closed doors, not two men would follow me.” It is said that Ayyub would wear long shirts. When asked the reason he replied, “There was a time when wearing long shirts was a mark of pride. Today it is in wearing short shirts. So I wear long ones.” Thawri has said that the Salaf did not approve of such expensive attires which give a man eminence, nor so poor of quality that signal his deep religiousness. Good Manners `A’isha reports,

    إن المؤمن يدرك بحسن خلقه درجات قائم الليل صائم النهار.‏ (أحمد)

    “A believer attains the status of someone who stands long hours in Prayers, and fasts continually, through his good manners alone.” On Abu Hurayra’s authority we have a Sahih report:

    عن أبي هُرَيرَةَ قال: سُئلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيهِ وسَلَّم عن أكثرِ ما يُدخلُ النَّاسَ الجنَّةَ قال: تَقوى اللهِ وحُسنُ الخُلقِ وسُئلِ عن أكثرِ ما يُدخلَ النَّاسَ النَّارَ، قال: الفَمُ والفَرْجُ. (هذا حديثٌ صحيحٌ غريبٌ: الترمذي).

    The Prophet was asked about what would help the people enter Paradise most. He answered, “Allah’s fear and good manners.” And he was asked about what would push into the Fire most. He answered, “The mouth and the private parts.” Usama b. Shurayk says he was with the Prophet when a number of Bedouins flocked around him covering him from every side. They asked, يا رسول الله

    ، مَا خَيرُ مَا أُعطِى الإنْسَانُ ؟ قال : خُلُقٌ حَسَنٌ

    “Apostle of Allah. What is the best thing that a man can be given?” He replied, “Good conduct.” The hadith is in Hakim’s Mustadrak, declared trustworthy by Dhahabi (Au.). Abu Fur at reports the Prophet (saws) as having said,

    ما أحسن الله خلق رجل ولا خلقه فتطعمه النار. (كنز: أبن عساكر)

    “Allah will never beautify a man’s character and person to ultimately shove him into the Fire.” Haythamiyy did not trust the authenticity of the hadith fully (Au.). Pride Ibn Mas` ud reported the Prophet (saws),

    عن عَبْدِ الله قالَ: قالَ رَسُولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: "لاَ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنّةَ مَنْ كانَ في قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ حَبّةٍ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ مِنْ كِبْرٍ، ولا يَدْخُلُ النّارَ مَنْ كانَ في قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ حَبّةٍ مِنْ إِيمَانٍ" (الترمذي)

    “A man with pride equal in weight to a mustard seed will not enter Paradise, nor will anyone enter the Fire who has a mustard-seed worth of faith in his heart.” One of `Ali’s sons is reported to have said that never did any amount of pride enter into a heart but an equal amount of intellect and good sense was removed from it. Anas said that when Abu Bakr admonished us and talked about our origins, one of us would begin to feel filthy about himself. He would say, “He (man) came out twice through the passage of urine.” Abu Hurayrah reported the Prophet (saws),

    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: لا يَنْظُرُ اللَّهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِلَى مَنْ جَرَّ إِزَارَهُ بَطَراً، و بينما رجل يتبختر في حلة تعجبه نفسه خسف الله به الأرض فهو يتجلجل فيها إلى يوم القيامة".‏

    “Allah will not look at a man who dragged his clothes (in pride). There was a man strutting boastfully in his two cloaks, mighty pleased with himself, when Allah sank him in the earth, so that he will remain sinking until the Day of Standing.” This also seems to be a combination of two reports, both in Bukhari (Au.). It is said that Ta’us poked into `Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz’s stomach for walking in a proud manner. That was at the time when he was not yet a Caliph. `Umar begged excuse saying, “Uncle! I was beaten on every of my joint until I learnt how to walk in this manner.” Ibn Abi Dunya also reported that Banu Umayyah used to beat their children until they learnt how to walk in that gait. In some of the Arab countries, some organizations (governmental as well as private) design such a stiff collar for their employees, that he or she has to walk with the head raised high up, and women are trained to walk in such a manner as if she is floating on the ground (Au.).

    أَلَمْ تَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّهَ سَخَّرَ لَكُمْ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَأَسْبَغَ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعَمَهُ ظَاهِرَةً وَبَاطِنَةً ۗ وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يُجَادِلُ فِي اللَّهِ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ وَلَا هُدًى وَلَا كِتَابٍ مُنِيرٍ (20)

    31|20| Have you not seen that Allah has subjected to you whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth; and has completed His blessings on you: (both) outwardly and inwardly?31 Yet among the people there is such a one who disputes about Allah without knowledge, or guidance, or an illuminating Book.

    31. Commentators quote several statements in explanation of what the outward and inward blessings constitute. Many of them are of common nature, and echo around the opinions of Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid who thought that the allusion by the inward blessing is to belief in one God (planted in every soul) – Ibn Jarir. Yusuf Ali comments: “Allah’s grace and bounties work for us at all times. Sometimes we see them, and sometimes we do not. In things which we can apprehend with our senses, we can see Allah’s grace, but even in them, sometimes it works beyond the sphere of our knowledge. In the inner or spiritual world, sometimes, when our vision is clear, we can see it working, and often we are not conscious of it. But it works all the same.‏”

    وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمُ اتَّبِعُوا مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ قَالُوا بَلْ نَتَّبِعُ مَا وَجَدْنَا عَلَيْهِ آبَاءَنَا ۚ أَوَلَوْ كَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ يَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَىٰ عَذَابِ السَّعِيرِ (21)

    31|21| When they are told, ‘Follow that which Allah has sent down,’ they say, ‘But rather we shall follow that upon which we found our forefathers.’ What! Even though Shaytan was inviting them to the torment of the (flaming) Fire?

    وَمَنْ يُسْلِمْ وَجْهَهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ ۗ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ عَاقِبَةُ الْأُمُورِ (22)

    31|22| And, whoever submits his face to Allah, and he excels, grasped the most trustworthy handhold.32 And with Allah (rests) the outcome of all affairs.

    32. For explanation see Surah al-Baqarah, note 554 (under ayah 256) of this work.

    وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَلَا يَحْزُنْكَ كُفْرُهُ ۚ إِلَيْنَا مَرْجِعُهُمْ فَنُنَبِّئُهُمْ بِمَا عَمِلُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ (23)

    31|23| Therefore, whoever disbelieves, then, let not his disbelief grieve you; unto Us is their return, then We shall inform them about what they did. Verily, Allah knows well that which is within the breasts.

    نُمَتِّعُهُمْ قَلِيلًا ثُمَّ نَضْطَرُّهُمْ إِلَىٰ عَذَابٍ غَلِيظٍ (24)

    31|24| We grant them a little pleasure, then We shall force them on to a massive chastisement.

    وَلَئِنْ سَأَلْتَهُمْ مَنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّهُ ۚ قُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (25)

    31|25| If you are to ask them, ‘Who created the heavens and the earth?’ they will surely reply, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘Praise be to Allah;’ but most of them know not.33

    33. That is, most of them do not know what it implies to admit that Allah (swt) created the heavens and the earth. Asad writes: “I.e., they give the above answer unthinkingly, following a vague habit of thought, without realizing that a cognition of God as the Ultimate Cause of all existence logically postulates one’s full surrender to Him, and to Him alone.”

    لِلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ (26)

    31|26| To Allah belongs what is in the heavens and the earth. Verily Allah - He is free of all wants, the Praiseworthy.34

    34. That is, for Allah is the praise, whether someone praised Him or not. He is above all wants and desires to be seeking to be praised (Au.).

    وَلَوْ أَنَّمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ أَقْلَامٌ وَالْبَحْرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ سَبْعَةُ أَبْحُرٍ مَا نَفِدَتْ كَلِمَاتُ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ (27)

    31|27| And, even if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea, extended after it with seven (other)35 seas (as ink), Allah’s words would not be exhausted.36 Surely, Allah is All-mighty, All-wise.

    35. This is how Zamakhshari, Alusi, Shawkani, Thanwi and others understand the word “yamudduhu,” i.e., the sea replenished with seven other seas. 36. When Hasan was asked how he understood this ayah, he replied that if the trees of the world were used to make pens and the eight seas turned into ink, the seas would dry up and the pens break down but Allah’s Words, Might, and Wisdom will not exhaust (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). We have passed over a similar verse in Surah Al-Kahf, no. 109. It says,

    قُل لَّوْ كَانَ الْبَحْرُ مِدَادًا لِّكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّي لَنَفِدَ الْبَحْرُ قَبْلَ أَن تَنفَدَ كَلِمَاتُ رَبِّي وَلَوْ جِئْنَا بِمِثْلِهِ مَدَدًا (الكهف - 109)

    “Say, ‘If the sea were ink for the Words of my Lord, surely, the sea would be exhausted before the Words of my Lord are exhausted, even if We brought the like of it, in supplement.’” The number seven however is not in the literal sense referring to the seven Oceans: an idea taken by some from the Jewish sources, but rather, to indicate a large amount of water (Ibn Kathir). And the cause of revelation is explained as follows. A group of Jewish scholars went up to the Prophet and asked him, “Muhammad! To whose knowledge did you allude when you said, ‘And you have not been given of knowledge but little?’ Ours or your people’s?” He answered, “Both.” They said, “Have you not been reciting out of what has been revealed to you that the Torah has the explanation of all things?” He replied, “Although the knowledge it has is enough for you, but, compared with Allah’s knowledge, it is but little.” And Allah revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). Yusuf Ali suggests that the textual word “al-bahr” could be understood in the sense of “all the waters on the earth.” He writes, “Words of Allah: His wonderful Signs and Commandments are infinite and cannot be expressed if all the trees were made into pens, and all the wide Oceans, multiplied seven times, were made into ink. Any Book of His Revelation would deal with matters which man can understand and use in his life: there are things that man can never fathom. Nor would any praise that we could write with infinite resources be adequate to describe His power, glory, and wisdom.‏” Significantly, among the scientists a common adage is that the more you know, the more you realize how much more there is to know. Of spiders there are thought to be 80,000 species. Doctorate degrees have been obtained on ants, while thousands of its species are still to be studied. The basic unit of any living organism is the cell. It has thousands of organelles working within its boundaries. One of its structures at its exterior, that, in a scientist’s words, “looks like a hair and beats like a whip,” helps in cell movement. This apparatus has been the subject of study because of its important function. How much is there to state about this part of the cell? Let us have it from a molecular biologist who wrote in 1998: “A quick electronic search of the professional literature shows more than a thousand papers in the past several years that have cilia or a similar word in the title. Papers have appeared on related topics in almost all the major biochemistry journals, including Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Bio-chemistry, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Journal of Molecular Biology, Cell, and numerous others. In the past decades, probably ten thousand papers have been published concerning cilia.” (Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe, Touchstone Books, 1998, p.67)." So, that is about one-millionth part of a cell. And the study is not complete despite 10,000 scientific papers, since many questions remain unanswered. What about the rest of the cell? What about the whole human body? What about this universe? Indeed, far from details, the trees and the seven seas will not be enough to make an inventory of stars found in the universe (Au.). “Here the object is,” writes Mawdudi, “to make man realize that no creature can become a deity and associate in the works of Allah, who has brought into being such a vast universe, who is administering its affairs, and whose powers and resources are limitless. Not to speak of becoming an associate in the administration of this vast kingdom, it is not within the power of any creation to obtain a mere nodding acquaintance with the minutest portion of it. How can then anyone imagine that one or

    مَا خَلْقُكُمْ وَلَا بَعْثُكُمْ إِلَّا كَنَفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ بَصِيرٌ (28)

    31|28| Neither your creation, nor your resurrection are, but like (that of) a single soul.37 Surely, Allah is All-hearing, All-seeing.

    37. That is, both are equally easy for Him.

    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُولِجُ اللَّيْلَ فِي النَّهَارِ وَيُولِجُ النَّهَارَ فِي اللَّيْلِ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ (29)

    31|29| Do you not see that Allah causes the night to enter the day and the day into the night,38 and He has subjected the sun and the moon? Each is running to a specified term; and that Allah is well aware of what you do?

    38. That is, in one season a part of the night enters into the day, shortening it, while in another a part of the day enters into the night, shortening it (Ibn Jarir in effect, from the Salaf).

    ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْحَقُّ وَأَنَّ مَا يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ الْبَاطِلُ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ (30)

    31|30| That, because Allah – He is the Truth, and that, what they invoke apart from Him is the untruth, and that Allah – He is the All-high, the All-great.

    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ الْفُلْكَ تَجْرِي فِي الْبَحْرِ بِنِعْمَتِ اللَّهِ لِيُرِيَكُمْ مِنْ آيَاتِهِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ (31)

    31|31| Have you not seen how the ships run upon the sea by the grace of Allah – that He may show you of His signs? Surely, in that are signs for every constantly persevering, greatly thankful (person).

    وَإِذَا غَشِيَهُمْ مَوْجٌ كَالظُّلَلِ دَعَوُا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ فَلَمَّا نَجَّاهُمْ إِلَى الْبَرِّ فَمِنْهُمْ مُقْتَصِدٌ ۚ وَمَا يَجْحَدُ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَّا كُلُّ خَتَّارٍ كَفُورٍ (32)

    31|32| And when the canopy-like waves cover them, they call upon Allah, making religion purely for Him. But when He has delivered them to the land, then of them is one who is steadfast (in belief).39 And none denies Our signs but every ungrateful traitor.

    39. There are several possible meanings: First, among those who are delivered, there are a few who remain steadfast – on the path of Islam, while the rest return to their disbelief. Second, the term “muqtasid” stands for him who remains wavering between belief and unbelief despite deliverance. A third meaning advanced by Ibn Kathir is that when a man is delivered by Allah from a dangerous circumstance, he ought to be, thereonward, wholly devoted to Allah, abandoning all worldly concerns. But, instead, he remains just a moderate Muslim. A fourth opinion is that of Mujahid who said, as in Ibn Kathir, that the allusion by “muqtasid” is to the unbeliever. That is, he remains disbelieving despite the deliverance. To be sure, there is a line missing after muqtasid. If that is brought in, one could paraphrase the verse in the following manner: “And when the waves cover them – like canopies – they call upon Allah, declaring religion purely for Him. But when He has delivered them to the land, then of them is one who is steadfast (in belief), while the rest turn back to denying. And none denies Our signs but every ungrateful traitor” (Au.).

    يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ وَاخْشَوْا يَوْمًا لَا يَجْزِي وَالِدٌ عَنْ وَلَدِهِ وَلَا مَوْلُودٌ هُوَ جَازٍ عَنْ وَالِدِهِ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ ۖ فَلَا تَغُرَّنَّكُمُ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا وَلَا يَغُرَّنَّكُمْ بِاللَّهِ الْغَرُورُ (33)

    31|33| O people! Fear your Lord, and dread a day when a father will not avail his son aught, nor will a son avail his father aught. Surely, Allah’s promise is true. Therefore, let not delude you the life of the world, nor delude you concerning Allah the Deluder.40

    40. Generally speaking, gharur is anything that deludes and leads to errors. (It can be men, false ideas, delusions, etc.: Au.) But, here it alludes to Shaytan, as said by Sa`id b. Jubayr, Dahhak, and Qatadah (Ibn Jarir). Sa`id b. Jubayr explained it as meaning, ‘he leads on in sins assuring (the unsure) forgiveness from Allah’ (Zamakhshari).

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ عِنْدَهُ عِلْمُ السَّاعَةِ وَيُنَزِّلُ الْغَيْثَ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي الْأَرْحَامِ ۖ وَمَا تَدْرِي نَفْسٌ مَاذَا تَكْسِبُ غَدًا ۖ وَمَا تَدْرِي نَفْسٌ بِأَيِّ أَرْضٍ تَمُوتُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ (34)

    31|34| Surely, with Allah alone is the knowledge of the Hour. He sends down the rain, and knows what is in the wombs.41 And no soul knows what it shall earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it shall die.42 Verily, Allah is the All-knowing, the All-aware.

    41. That is, whether the child in the womb is male or female, fair or dark, etc. It is reported that a man from the deserts went up to the Prophet and asked, “My wife is pregnant, so tell me what will she deliver? And, our area is dry. So, tell us when will it rain? And, I have known when I was it that I took birth. Tell me when will I die?” In response, Allah revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir). As time moves forward, ignorance seems to increase, and reasoning power seems to decline, even when the issue is material. Common people have restricted the meaning of the words, “and He knows what is in the wombs” to the sex of the fetus. With this restricted meaning, they are led to confusion when they hear that with the development in the medical sciences, it has become possible to conduct tests that can determine the sex of the fetus. Their ignorance consists in not knowing that the Qur’anic statement is in its general and comprehensive sense, and involves all that there is to know of a person from birth to death and even thereafter. It means to say that no one knows whether the future baby will be male, female, fair, dark, tall, short, of good conduct or ill, defective by birth or whole, pessimistic or optimistic, a believer or non-believer, and everything else about him. No one shares with Allah this comprehensive knowledge concerning what is in the womb. Even if the allusion is restricted to the sex of the fetus, then, why is it that determination with the help of modern equipments is considered as challenging Allah’s knowledge, when a hadith tells us that after a few weeks, an angel asks what has to be done with the fetus, and is told by Allah to make it a male or female. Once that is determined for the fetus, there should be no problem discovering what is there in the womb. Further, mankind has not awaited modern methods to determine sex of the fetus. Medical men have always been able to conduct urine and other tests to determine the sex of the fetus after some time had elapsed. Modern medicine has only advanced the time when sex can be determined: to – at least in theory – that is, a week or ten days after conception. But, can anyone determine the sex earlier than that? No. How can anyone determine the sex without the sex gonad development in the zygote? And sex gonads begin to develop only after one week of the zygote slipping into the womb. Before that, no one knows what’s happening within the fertilized egg, which is no more than the size of a dot or smaller. Far from knowing anything about what the fertilized egg holds, no one knows until a week after fertilization anything about the existence of the fertilized egg itself. Now, this is of course in theory. In practice no one knows a woman is pregnant for quite a few weeks after conception. It is only when the normal menstrual cycle does not begin - which could happen only after a few weeks - that the concerned woman suspects she could be pregnant, and undergoes tests to determine what's going on in the womb. Thus, despite the “possibility” of determination of sex within about 10 days of pregnancy, in practice, it takes a couple of weeks to determine whether a woman is pregnant at all, and then, if she is, undergo further tests to determine the sex. In the meanwhile, it is Allah alone who “knows what is in the wombs” (Au.). 42. Ibn `Umar reports the Prophet as having said,

    مَفَاتِحُ الْغَيْبِ خَمْسٌ: إِنَّ اللَّهَ عِنْدَهُ عِلْمُ السَّاعَةِ وَيُنْزِلُ الْغَيْثَ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي الأَرْحَامِ وَمَا تَدْرِي نَفْسٌ مَاذَا تَكْسِبُ غَدًا وَمَا تَدْرِي نَفْسٌ بِأَيِّ أَرْضٍ تَمُوتُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

    “Five are keys to the Unseen that no one has the knowledge of except Allah..” Then he recited this verse: “Surely, with Allah alone is the knowledge of the Hour. He sends down the rain and knows what is in the wombs. And no soul knows what it shall earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die” (Ibn Jarir). There is a similar report in the Sahihayn (Ibn Kathir). It says,

    عَنْ رَجُلٍ مِنْ بَنِي عَامِرٍ أَنَّهُ اسْتَأْذَنَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ أَأَلِجُ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لِخَادِمِهِ اخْرُجِي إِلَيْهِ فَإِنَّهُ لَا يُحْسِنُ الِاسْتِئْذَانَ فَقُولِي لَهُ فَلْيَقُلْ السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ أَدْخُلُ قَالَ فَسَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ ذَلِكَ فَقُلْتُ السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ أَدْخُلُ قَالَ فَأَذِنَ أَوْ قَالَ فَدَخَلْتُ فَقُلْتُ بِمَ أَتَيْتَنَا بِهِ قَالَ لَمْ آتِكُمْ إِلَّا بِخَيْرٍ أَتَيْتُكُمْ أَنْ تَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ قَالَ شُعْبَةُ وَأَحْسِبُهُ قَالَ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَأَنْ تَدَعُوا اللَّاتَ وَالْعُزَّى وَأَنْ تُصَلُّوا بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ خَمْسَ صَلَوَاتٍ وَأَنْ تَصُومُوا مِنْ السَّنَةِ شَهْرًا وَأَنْ تَحُجُّوا الْبَيْتَ وَأَنْ تَأْخُذُوا مِنْ مَالِ أَغْنِيَائِكُمْ فَتَرُدُّوهَا عَلَى فُقَرَائِكُمْ قَالَ فَقَالَ هَلْ بَقِيَ مِنْ الْعِلْمِ شَيْءٌ لَا تَعْلَمُهُ قَالَ قَدْ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ خَيْرًا وَإِنَّ مِنْ الْعِلْمِ مَا لَا يَعْلَمُهُ إِلَّا اللَّهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عِنْدَهُ عِلْمُ السَّاعَةِ وَيُنَزِّلُ الْغَيْثَ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي الْأَرْحَامِ وَمَا تَدْرِي نَفْسٌ مَاذَا تَكْسِبُ غَدًا وَمَا تَدْرِي نَفْسٌ بِأَيِّ أَرْضٍ تَمُوتُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ ‏ (أحمد)

    A man of Banu ` Amir reports that he went to the Prophet’s door and said, “Do I enter?” He told his maid, “Go out, for he does not know the manners of entry. Tell him to say, ‘Al-Salamu Alaykum! Can I come in?’” He says, “I heard his words and said, ‘Al-Salamu Alaykum! Can I come in?’ He allowed me in and I asked him, ‘What have you brought us?’ He answered, ‘I have not brought to you but good. I have brought to you (the message) that you should worship Allah, the one God who has no partners; that you should abandon Lat and ‘Uzza; that you should pray five times during the day and night; that you should fast a month in a year; that you should perform pilgrimage of the House; and that you should take out zakah from your wealth and distribute it among your poor.’” At that the man asked him, “Is there any knowledge left that you do not know?” He replied, “Allah has taught me the good. But, of the knowledge that no one has except Allah, they are five: “Surely, with Allah alone is the knowledge of the Hour. He sends down the rain and knows what is in the wombs. And no soul knows what it shall earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die.” The report is in Ahmad and comes through a reliable chain (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). With specific reference to where one will die, Ahmad has several reports. One of them comes through Abu `Uzzah. The Prophet said,

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى إِذَا أَرَادَ قَبْضَ رُوحِ عَبْدٍ بِأَرْضٍ جَعَلَ لَهُ فِيهَا أَوْ قَالَ بِهَا – حاجة. (أحمد)

    "When Allah wishes to take back the soul of one of his slaves in a particular land, He creates a need for him there” (Qurtubi). Another report of similar nature is in Ibn abi Hatim whose words are:

    إذا أراد اللهُ قبضَ روحِ عبدٍ بأرض جعل له إليها حاجةً فلم ينتهِ حتى يقدُمَهَا

    “When Allah wishes to take back the soul of one of his slaves in a particular land, He places his need there so that he will not give up but go there” (Ibn Kathir). The report is in Hakim who declared it as following the criterion of the Sheikhayn; and Dhahabi agreed to it. Zamakhshari adds: It is said that Mansur was overtaken by thoughts of death. He would wonder about how much was left for him, until he saw in his dream that an image raised its hand from the sea and showed the figure five with five fingers. He asked scholars to interpret it. Some said he would live for five more years, others that he would live for five months. But when Abu Hanifah was asked, he said that it meant it was one of those five things that nobody had any knowledge of. It is also narrated that the angel of death visited Sulayman b. Da’ud at his court. He began to stare hard at one of the men there. The man asked who he was. Sulayman told him it was the angel of death. The man said, “Perhaps he wants to seize me.” He asked Sulayman to command the winds to drop him in India, which was accomplished. The angel of death said to Sulayman, “I was wondering how come the man was sitting next to you here in this court, while I was asked to draw his soul in India!?” In the above list, points out Shafi`, it is mentioned that only Allah knows where will a man die, but not when. The reason is obvious. If we do not know where a man will die, we cannot say when he will die. As this writer tries to hasten into the next chapter, several incidents of this context come to mind: There used to be a famous Jewish heart surgeon in the USA who would boast of the success of his operations, “Bring me a man within five minutes of his death from heart attack, and I’ll revive him.” Once, as he was entering the operation theatre, he suffered a stroke, and fell dead at the door. His colleagues removed the patient from the stretcher, placed him there, and did everything but failed to revive him. In another case, another heart specialist rose up his chair to present his paper during a seminar on cardiac arrests. He suffered a stroke and died then and there. During communal riots in India, a bullet from the police went through the stomach of a Muslim into the stomach of another Muslim behind him. The first man survived but the one behind him died. In a busy street in India, a passing car's wheel came out loose. It rolled out at good speed, went through the crowd of pedestrians on the sidewalk, hit a cobbler bent over his work and killed him. In Saudi Arabia, a wheel that freed itself and ran loose out of a truck, somehow jumped several feet high and struck the wind screen of a tall bus coming from the opposite direction across the island. The tire broke through the glass and killed the driver. In Bangalore, an eagle was carrying a snake as it flew. Below the eagle, a scooter was speeding with two men on it. The snake slipped out of the bird’s talons and fell straight on the pillion rider of the speeding scooter. As it struck, it bit the man in the neck and killed him. In Thailand, a hotel worker was chopping the heads of snakes to make a gourd out of its flesh. The chopping over, the man began to pick up the chopped heads lying on the floor. One of the heads bit him and he died. In Kuwait a man fell off a building under construction (perhaps off a scaffolding). His colleagues rushed down but found no trace of him. He appeared sometime later to tell the amazing story of how he fell straight into a truck carrying sand. As the colleagues were congratulating him, he said he would rather celebrate his new life by buying everyone a cool drink. As he was crossing the road, a vehicle ran over him and killed him. In the United States, a man arriving late for his flight argued his best to get into the aircraft, but to no avail. Disappointed, he went back with a sullen face. At home he went to sleep. His mother received the news that the aircraft had crashed and no one had survived. She thanked God for his son’s lucky escape and went to his son to give him the news. He was dead in his bed. In the Arabic tradition there is a story that a visiting doctor told his patient that he would die within next twenty-four hours. The patient recovered, but the doctor died (Au.).