Surat Saba'

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

_________________________

References, abbreviations, and technical terms

Clue to References
Ahmad: Musnad by Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (d. 241 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, Muhammad Nasiruddin Albani, (d. 1420 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da`eefah wa al-Mawdu`ah, Muhammad Nasirudding Albani, , Al-Maktab al-Islami.
Alusi/Ruh: Ruh al Ma`ani Fi Tafsir Qur’an al `Azim Wa al Sab` al Mathani by Shihab al Din Sayyid Mahmood Alusi (d.1291 A.H.)
`Aqidah: `Aqidah Tahawiyyah, commentary Ibn Abi al-`Izz, (tr. By Syed Iqbal Zaheer, as Funamentals of Islamic Creed), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Arba`ahal, Kitab al-Fiqh `ala Madhahib al-Arba`ah by Abdul Rahman al-Jaziri
Asad: The Message of the Qur’an by Muhammad Asad (d. 1412 A.H.)
`Awn al-Ma`bud: Sharh Sunan Abi Da’ud, Muhammad Shams al-Haq al-`Azimabadi.
`Ayni, `Umdatu al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Badruddin `Ayni, Ihya al-Turath al-Islami, Beirut.
Bada’i`: Bada’i` al-Tafsir, Al-Jami` al-Tafsir al-Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, collected by Yusri Sayyid Muhammad, Dar Ibn Jawzi, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 1993
E.I.: Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, Leiden 1991
Fath-h/Fath/Ibn Hajr: Fut-h al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, by Hafiz Ahmed b. Ali ibn Hajr al-`Asqalani (d.852 A.H.)
Haythami, , Majma`u al-Zawa’id wa Manba` al-Fawa’id, Nuruddin `Ali b. abi Bakr, Mu’assasatu al-Ma`arif, Beyrut.
Hussain: Tafsir ibn Kathir, Hussain b. Ibrahim Zahran, ed.
Ibn Is-haq: Sirah Rasulullah, by Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 151 A.H.).
Ibn Jarir/Tabari: Jami` al Bayan Fi Tafsir al Qur’an by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310 A.H.)
Ibn Kathir: Tafsir al Qur’an al `Azim by `Imad al Din Abul Fida Isma`il ibn `Amr ibn Kathir (d.774 A.H.)
Ibn Majah, Sunan, Muhammad b. Yazid al-Qazwini, Maktabah al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut.
Ibn Qayyim: Al-Tafsir Al-Qayyim, by Shamsuddin Muhammad b. Abi Bakr Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d.751 A.H.) collected by Muhammad Uways Al-Nadwi.
Jami` Saghir: Fayd al-Qadir Sharh Jami` Saghir (of Jalaluddin Suyuti) by Muhammad `Abdul Ra’uf al-Munawi.
Kabir al: Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir, tafsir notes of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 A.H) collected by Dr. `Abdul Rahman `Umayrah.
Kanz: Kanz al-`Ummal,by Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi.
Lane: An Arabic-English Lexicon, by Edward Willian Lane, Librarie Du Luban, 1968
Lisan: Lisan al-`Arab, Ibn Manzur, (d. 711 A.H.).
Lughat: Lughat al-Qur’an (Urdu) by Mawlana Abdul Rashid No`mani & Mawlana Sayyid Abdud-Da’im Al-Jalali.
Ma`arif /Shafi`: Ma`arif al Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi` Deobandi (d. 1396 A.H.).
Majid: Holy Qur’an Translation and Commentary (English) by `Abdul Majid Daryabadi (1397).
Majidi: Holy Qur’an Translation and Commentary by `Abdul Majid Daryabadi (Urdu).
Manar, Tafsir al-Manar, Rashid Rada Misri, Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Mawdudi/Tafhim: Tafhim al-Qur’an by Sayyid Abul A`la Mawdudi (d.1979 C.E.)
Mughni al, Ibn Qudamah, al-Maqdisi, Ri’asat al-Idaratu al-Buuth al-`Ilmiyyah, Saudi Arabia.
Mulhim: Fath al-Mulhim, Shabbir Ahmad `Uthmani, and, Takmilatu Fath al-Mulhim, Taqiuddin `Uthmani, Dar al-Ulum, Karachi.
Muwatta’: Muwatta’ by Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 A.H.).
Nasa’i, Ahmad b. Shu`ayb, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Dar al-Rayyan li al-Turath, Cairo.
Nawawi: Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Sharfuddin al-Nawawi (d. 261 A.H.)
Penrice: A Dictionary and Glossary of the Qur’an, John Penrice, Gaurav Publishing House, 187
Qurtubi: Al-Jam`i Li ‘l Ahkam al Qur’an by Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al Ansari al Qurtubi (d.671 A.H.)
Raghib: Mu`jam Mufradat al-Qur’an by al-Raghib al-Asfahani (d. 503 A.H.)
Rawa‘e`: Rawa‘e` al-Bayan Tafsir Ayat al-Ahkam by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Razi: Tafsir al Fakhr al Razi by Muhammad al-Razi Fakhr al Din ibn Dia al Din `Umar (d.604 A.H.)
Sabuni: Safwatu al Tafasir by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Sahih ibn Hibban bi-Tarteeb Ibn Balban, `Ala’uddin `Ali b. Balban, , Mu’assasah al-Risalah, Beirut.
Shabbir/`Uthmani: Al-Qur’an al-Karim, Commentary by Shabbir Ahmed `Uthmani (d. 1370 A.H.).
Shanqiti: Adwa‘ al-Bayan, Fi Idahi Al-Qur’an bi ‘l-Qur’an by Muhammad Al-Amin b.Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Jakani Al-Shanqiti.
Se`di: Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman, fir Tafsir al-Mannan, `Abdul Rahman b. Nasir Se`id.
Shawkani: Al-Fut-h al-Qadir by Muhammad ibn `Ali Shawkani (d.1255 A.H.)
S. Ibrahim: Ed. Al-Fath al-Qadir, by Shawkani
Sihah: Taj al-Lugha wa Sihah al-`Arabiyyah, Isma`il b. Nasr Hammad al-Jawhari, 393 A.H.
Sirah: Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah fi Daw Masadir al-Athliyyah, Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, Saudi Arabia 1992.
Sayyid Qutb/Qutb/Zilal: Fi Zilal al Qur’an by Sayyid Qutb (d.1386 A.H.).
Thanwi/Bayan: Bayan al Qur’an by Ashraf `Ali Thanwi (d.1361 A.H.)
Tuhfah: Tuhfah al-Ahwazi bi Sharh Jami` al-Tirmidhi by Muhammad ibn `Abdul Rahman Mubarakpuri.
Yusuf Ali: The Glorious Qur’an, Meaning and Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (d. 1953 A.H.).
Zafar Ahmad `Uthmani, I`la al-Sunan, Idaratu al-Islam wa `Ulum al-Islamiyyah, Karachi, Pakistan.
Zamakhshari/Kashshaf: Haqa’iq al- Tanzil Wa `Uyun al-Aqawil Fi Wujuh at-Ta‘wil by Abu al-Qasim Jarallah Mahmood b.`Umar al-Zamakhshari (d.538 A.H.).
Zarkashi: Al-Burhan Fi `Ulum al-Qur’an by Badruddin Muhammad bin `Abdullah al-Zarkashi (d. 794 A.H.), Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Note: The list above is not a complete bibliography, but rather books sort of more often referred.

________________________

Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

(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. 34

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ ۚ وَهُوَ الْحَكِيمُ الْخَبِيرُ (1)

    34|1| IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE KIND, THE COMPASSIONATE.All praise is for Allah to whom belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. His is the praise in the Hereafter, and He is the All-wise, the All-aware.

    يَعْلَمُ مَا يَلِجُ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا يَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا وَمَا يَنْزِلُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَمَا يَعْرُجُ فِيهَا ۚ وَهُوَ الرَّحِيمُ الْغَفُورُ (2)

    34|2| He knows that which goes into the earth and that which comes forth from it, that which descends from the heaven and that which ascends to it.2 He indeed is the All-merciful, the All-forgiving.

    1. The chapter is Makkan by consensus, except for a single verse – number 6 - that some have thought is Madinan (Qurtubi). 2. That is, what goes into the earth of the seeds or the dead, what comes out of it of the vegetation, or living beings; what comes down from the heaven of Allah's mercy, such as rains, or angels, or the Revelation, and what ascends into it of the good word as mentioned in 35: 10):

    إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُ

    "To Him rises the good word", or the souls, or good deeds (that rise up) could all have been alluded to (Razi, Qurtubi and others in parts). Asad puts it in contemporary terms, “This definition comprises things physical and spiritual: waters disappearing underground and reappearing; the metamorphosis of seed into plant, and of decaying plant into oil and coal; traces of old artefacts and entire civilizations buried in the earth and then reappearing within the sight and consciousness of later generations of men; the transformation of dead bodies of animals and men into elements of nourishment for new life; the ascent of earthly vapours towards the skies, and their descent as rain, snow or hail; the ascent towards the heaven of men’s longings, hopes and ambitions, and the descent of divine inspiration into the minds of men, and thus a revival of faith and thought and, with it, the growth of new artefacts, new skills and new hopes: in short, the endless recurrence of birth, death and re-birth which characterises all of God’s creation.”

    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَا تَأْتِينَا السَّاعَةُ ۖ قُلْ بَلَىٰ وَرَبِّي لَتَأْتِيَنَّكُمْ عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ ۖ لَا يَعْزُبُ عَنْهُ مِثْقَالُ ذَرَّةٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا أَصْغَرُ مِنْ ذَٰلِكَ وَلَا أَكْبَرُ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ (3)

    34|3| But said those who disbelieved, 'The Hour will never come upon us.' Say, 'Yes indeed, by my Lord, it shall surely come upon you – (brought by the) Knower of the Unseen – not absent3 from Him is an atom's weight4 in the heavens nor in the earth, neither smaller than that nor greater, but it is in a clear Record.5

    3. This is how Ibn `Abbas, Mujhahid, and Qatadah understood the word "ya`zubu" of the text – as in Ibn Jarir; reflecting Allah's Quality: the Shaheed (Au.). 4. As noted earlier, "dharrah" alludes to a very small ant, or the speck of dust that is visible when a ray of light penetrates a dark room. Adoption of its modern meaning, atom, although correct, is actually more for reasons of sound than sense (Au.). 5. That is, the "Lawh al-Mahfooz" (Alusi).

    لِيَجْزِيَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةٌ وَرِزْقٌ كَرِيمٌ (4)

    34|4| That He may reward those who believed and worked righteousness. Those - for them is forgiveness and a generous provision.

    وَالَّذِينَ سَعَوْا فِي آيَاتِنَا مُعَاجِزِينَ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مِنْ رِجْزٍ أَلِيمٌ (5)

    34|5| As for those who strove in Our signs, to frustrate (Us), those, for them shall be a painful chastisement of a foul nature.6

    6. Asad writes: “The particle min (lit., “out of”) which precedes the noun rijz (“vileness” or “vile conduct”) indicates that the suffering which awaits such sinners in the life to come is an organic consequence of their deliberately evil conduct in this world.”

    وَيَرَى الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ هُوَ الْحَقَّ وَيَهْدِي إِلَىٰ صِرَاطِ الْعَزِيزِ الْحَمِيدِ (6)

    34|6| On the other hand,7 those who have been given the knowledge see that what has been sent down to you by your Lord is the truth, and guides to the path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable.8

    7. In its brevity, the Qur'an uses "waaw" to express, apart from its standard meanings of "and," "while," "but," "yet," “although,” etc., several other meanings, such as, "for," "further," "moreover," "to be sure," etc. At this point, "on the other hand" seems to fit quite well (Au.). 8. Sayyid comments on” And guides to the path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable: "The path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable is that path which He has approved for His creation, and has chosen it for the humans so that their footsteps may match with the footsteps of the material world in which they live. The path is none other than the system which rules over all that is there in the universe including human life. Human life then, cannot sever its relationship with the universe which provides it with the basis of existence as well as the system that governs its continuation. “(It) guides on to the ‘path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable,’ by creating in the hearts of a believer clear perceptions with regard to his own existence, his relationships (with the world around him), and the laws (that govern the world). It tells him about his place in it, his role, and the nature of relationship between its various parts, in their joint effort towards the realization of Allah's will, and His wisdom in their creation; and towards the realization of the harmony between various elements as the whole journeys to its ultimate destination. "(It) guides to the ‘path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable,’ by correcting man’s modes and manners of thought, placing them on a sound footing; those that agree with the created world on the one side, and with his own natural instincts on the other. It helps the human beings to understand well the laws that govern the world, how they could be made use of, and how to respond to its demands without clashing with it, or running into a conflict with it. "(It) guides to the ‘path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable,’ with the help of its own methods of training which prepare an individual to conform with the society, and prepare the society to conform with the individual, thus creating a harmony which extends to all the creations that inhabit the globe. But more, it prepares all the creations to fall in harmony with the nature of the universe in which they live. And all this is achieved with extreme ease and comfort. (It) guides to the ‘path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable,’ – a guidance that consists of a system of laws which is in accord with human nature, his circumstances of life, and its economics, in harmony with the laws of the universe that govern the rest of the creations. In the process, man does not break away from them with his own organizations and laws. He is after all, only one of the many communities that inhabit this world."

    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا هَلْ نَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ رَجُلٍ يُنَبِّئُكُمْ إِذَا مُزِّقْتُمْ كُلَّ مُمَزَّقٍ إِنَّكُمْ لَفِي خَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ (7)

    34|7| But said those who disbelieved, 'Shall we point you to a man9 who will inform you that when you are torn to complete tearing, you will surely be (raised) in a new creation?10

    9. Qurtubi draws our attention to the derision hidden in alluding to a prominent figure of Makkah in words, "Shall we point you to a man.." (as if he was just any man, unworthy of any term better than this: Au.) 10. The pagans contemporary to the Prophet (saws) could be pardoned for thinking that Allah (swt) will resurrect after, "you are torn to complete tearing." But many Muslims contemporary to us fail to notice that the promise, as in the Qur'an and prophetic traditions, is not about recreation after a complete tearing resulting in disintegration of the body into bits and pieces. But rather, the promise involves an earth that will be completely destroyed, leaving no trace on it of any traces of biological life whatsoever: no bones, no fossils, no living forms, however slight, on the surface or buried deep inside with its life arrested by Time. The earth will undergo such massive geological and physical changes as will juggle together its every single atom, to leave mountains moving like clouds and the waters – a source of life – on fire. When the present sun will be gone, the stars will disappear and a new universe brought into existence governed by entirely new set of laws. It is from that "new" situation, when the earth will be held in one hand, and the universe folded around another, that Allah will "resurrect the dead" from atoms (Au.).

    أَفْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا أَمْ بِهِ جِنَّةٌ ۗ بَلِ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ فِي الْعَذَابِ وَالضَّلَالِ الْبَعِيدِ (8)

    34|8| What! Is he fastening a lie against Allah, or is there in him madness?' Nay! But those who believe not in the Hereafter are in chastisement and in a far stretched error.11

    11. Asad thinks that this is in reference to the tortuous life of those who reject Allah’s call. However, since, not all such societies 'definitely' suffer such consequences as alluded to in the verse, we may take his following, but brilliant note as a point for further brooding. He writes: “The construction of this phrase (fi al-`adhaabi wa dalaalim ba`aeed: Au.) points definitely to suffering in this world (in contrast with the suffering in the hereafter spoken of in verse 5 above): for whereas the concept of “aberration” (Asad’s rendering of “dalaal”) is meaningless in the context of the life to come, it has an obvious meaning in the context of moral and social confusion – and, hence, of the individual and social suffering – which is the unavoidable consequence of people’s loss of belief in the existence of absolute moral values and, thus, in an ultimate divine judgment on the basis of values.”

    أَفَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَىٰ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ إِنْ نَشَأْ نَخْسِفْ بِهِمُ الْأَرْضَ أَوْ نُسْقِطْ عَلَيْهِمْ كِسَفًا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِكُلِّ عَبْدٍ مُنِيبٍ (9)

    34|9| Have they not considered what lies before them and what lies behind them of the heaven and the earth?12 If We wished We could make the earth swallow them, or cause a fragment of the heaven crash upon them.13 Surely, in that is a sign for every slave who turns (to Allah) repentant.14

    12. If reference to the words, "what lies behind them of the heaven and the earth," Qatadah has remarked that the justification is that wherever you look, (not only to the left or right, or front), but also at the rear, you see the earth and the heaven (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). In other words, there is no madness in the Messenger of truth, but it could be in those who are surrounded by signs all around them, that they find it impossible to escape from, but cling to illogical notions (Au.). Asad again, “.. how can anyone be so presumptuous as to deny the reality of resurrection and life after death, seeing that it is a phenomenon beyond man’s experience, while, on the other hand, everything within the universe points to God’s unlimited creative power.” 13. “This allusion is to unpredictable geological and cosmic occurrences – earthquakes, the fall of meteors and meteorites, cosmic rays, and so forth..” (Asad). 14. That is, signs that are a personal gift of Allah to a slave of His, for, they are not visible, although they surround the humankind, except to those who establish a Master-slave relationship with Him. On the other hand, if they decide that they can "work out things" all by themselves, "including the discovery of signs - if there are any," to them, the challenge is: do it if you can. The key to discovery of higher truths is bondage to the slavery of the Creator (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ مِنَّا فَضْلًا ۖ يَا جِبَالُ أَوِّبِي مَعَهُ وَالطَّيْرَ ۖ وَأَلَنَّا لَهُ الْحَدِيدَ (10)

    34|10| We definitely bestowed a bounty on Da'ud from Us:15 'O you mountains, sing praises with him,16 and O birds (you too).'17 And We softened for him the iron.18

    15. So, there is no limit to bestowal of signs upon those who turn to Him. Da'ud (asws) was one of them. He was an "oft-turning" person to Allah (28: 34). So He conferred upon him such signs and miracles as no one will ever achieve by himself: iron was made wax for him (as a material gift) and, hearts of mountains and birds were softened for him (as spiritual gift), so that when he sang his Lord's praises they joined him in chorus in a language and voice that he could understand and derive ecstatic pleasure from (Au.). Majid comments: “This may also refer to the greatness of David as a king. After the death and defeat of Saul at the hands of the formidable Philistines, ‘Israel rallied to David as the one possible saviour, though the succession was disputed by a rival faction; and under David’s leadership the supremacy of Hebrew kingdom was decisively established, the Philistine power was shattered and the hostile tribes were forced to become David’s tributaries.’ (UHW. I. p.447).” Mawdudi adds: “This is an allusion to the countless favours with which Allah had blessed the Prophet David (asws). He was an ordinary young man of the tribe of Judah, living in Bethlehem. In a campaign against the Phillistines he slew the giant Goliath. This increased his esteem among the Israelites, and ultimately he was made a king over the whole of Israel, having first been made a ruler over Hebron. He took Jerusalem and made it the capital of his kingdom whose boundaries extended between the Gulf of `Aqabah in the east and river Euphrates in the west. In addition, he was divinely bestowed with knowledge and wisdom.” 16. "Sing praises": This is how Ibn `Abbas, Abu `Abd al-Rahman, Abu Maysarah, Mujahid, Dahhak and others understood the textual "awwibi" (Ibn Jarir). 17. It is reported that Da'ud's beautiful recitation of the Zabur created such effects that the mountains, birds and other animals sang along with him. In Sayyid's words, "It seems Da'ud had attained such high quality of Praises for his Lord that the veils between him and Allah's other creations stood removed. They all sang in a chorus with him. This was the special blessing that was bestowed upon him." The Prophet (saws) said about Abu Musa al-Ash`ari's recitation as he heard him recite the Qur'an one night,

    أُعْطِيَ مِزْمَاراً مِنْ مَزَامِيرِ آلِ دَاوُد"َ"

    "Indeed he has been given a musical voice that was given to Da'ud's folks" (Bukhari and Muslim: Ibn Kathir). The above implies that the skill went down the line. 18. The allusion is not allegorical, but real, to a miracle. It was not melting of the metal for ease of moulding but rather softening of it in his hands, so that he bent it to the shape of his desire with ease – yet another of the special blessings bestowed on Da'ud (Sayyid). It is said that making armour was Da'ud's means of sustenance also (Ibn Kathir).

    أَنِ اعْمَلْ سَابِغَاتٍ وَقَدِّرْ فِي السَّرْدِ ۖ وَاعْمَلُوا صَالِحًا ۖ إِنِّي بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ (11)

    34|11| That, 'You fashion wide coats of mail,19 and measure well the links.20 And do you all act righteously,21 for indeed I am, of what you do, seeing.'

    19. The apparent meaning is efficient design and skilled manufacture of the armour. But Imam Razi thinks that the directive is not to spend time on the manufacture of the armour beyond an acceptable limit of time and quantity. In different words, "qaddir" is for spending just the right time and efforts. The rest of the time should be devoted to the counsel that follows: "And do you all act righteously." 20. It is said that it was Da'ud who first made chained armours. Earlier, it were shields (made from beaten sheets of iron) that were in use (but they were heavy: Au.) - Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir. 21. Either the whole family has been addressed, or perhaps the plural form has been adopted for reverence (Alusi).

    وَلِسُلَيْمَانَ الرِّيحَ غُدُوُّهَا شَهْرٌ وَرَوَاحُهَا شَهْرٌ ۖ وَأَسَلْنَا لَهُ عَيْنَ الْقِطْرِ ۖ وَمِنَ الْجِنِّ مَنْ يَعْمَلُ بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِ ۖ وَمَنْ يَزِغْ مِنْهُمْ عَنْ أَمْرِنَا نُذِقْهُ مِنْ عَذَابِ السَّعِيرِ (12)

    34|12| And unto Sulayman (did We subject) the wind: its morning course a month('s journey) and its evening course a month('s journey).22 And We made fount of molten-copper flow for him. And of the Jinn who worked before him by the leave of his Lord;23 whoever of them swerved away from Our command, We made him taste chastisement of the Blaze.

    22. That is, it covered two month's course in a day's time, morning to evening (Ibn Jarir). 23. That is, of the Jinn some were subjected to him to help him in construction works.

    يَعْمَلُونَ لَهُ مَا يَشَاءُ مِنْ مَحَارِيبَ وَتَمَاثِيلَ وَجِفَانٍ كَالْجَوَابِ وَقُدُورٍ رَاسِيَاتٍ ۚ اعْمَلُوا آلَ دَاوُودَ شُكْرًا ۚ وَقَلِيلٌ مِنْ عِبَادِيَ الشَّكُورُ (13)

    34|13| Fashioning for him whatever he would24 - of castles,25 images,26 basins like water-troughs,27 and anchored cooking-pots.28 'Exercise thanks29 O House of Da'ud. Few indeed of My slaves are grateful.'30

    24. That is, the Jinn worked for Sulayman, joining hands in whatever he wished to build or manufacture. 25. "Mihrab" is the front part of any (significant) building, place of worship, or prayer-hall. Metaphorically, it can be used for any constructed place, such as mosques, medium sized palaces, or even villas (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir from the Salaf). 26. According to Lisan al-`Arab, “timthaal” (pl. tamaatheel) is for every artefact that may have been made to resemble a living creation of Allah. `Atiyyah al-`Awfi, Dahhak and Suddi's opinion was that the allusion is to pictures (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). It might be asked, 'How could Sulayman have been allowed to make pictures when it is disallowed in our religion?' The answer is, it was perhaps not forbidden in his Shari`ah, for, after all, this is not a moral issue such as truthfulness, or lies, (that have remained unlawful throughout the ages in every Shari`ah). Further, Abu al-`Aaliyyah has said that (it is not necessary that those were human figures, but rather) pictures of non-living objects, such as natural sceneries, or, if of living beings then, headless (Zamakshari). Qurtubi comments: Reports from the Prophet (saws) on this topic lead us to believe that all kinds of pictures are prohibited in Islam, except for some designs on clothes. Indeed, there are a few ahadith that do not allow even for this exception. One is in Muslim which says that,

    "إِنّ أَصْحَابَ هَذِهِ الصّوَرِ يُعَذّبُونَ. وَيُقَالُ لَهُمْ: أَحْيُوا مَا خَلَقْتُمْ"

    "Artists will be punished in the Hereafter and told, 'Now, blow life into these.' Another hadith of Hasan Ghareeb Saheeh status in Tirmidhi says, عَنْ أَبي هُرَيْرَةَ قالَ: قالَ رَسُولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: "تَخْرُجُ عُنُقٌ مِنَ النّارِ يَوْمَ القِيَامَةِ لَها عَيْنَانِ تُبْصِرَانِ وَأُذُنَانِ تَسْمَعَانِ وَلِسَانٌ يَنْطِقُ يَقُولُ إِنّي: وُكّلْتُ بِثَلاَثَةٍ: بِكُلّ جَبّارٍ عَنِيدٍ، وَبِكُلّ مَنْ دَعَا مَعَ الله إِلَهَاً آخَرَ، وَبِالمُصَوّرِينَ". "A neck will rise out from the Fire on the Day of Judgment, with two eyes that will see, two ears that will hear, and a tongue that will speak. It will say, 'I have been given custody of three: Every stubborn tyrant, every one who evoked a deity other than Allah, and, those who made pictures.'" Exempted however, adds Qurtubi, are dolls for children. `A'isha herself used to play with them and the Prophet did not object. Another narrative preserved by Bukhari, Muslim and Tirmidhi, narrated by Abu Talha says, عن عُبَيْدِ الله بنِ عَبْدِ الله بنِ عُتْبَةَ، أَنّهُ سَمِعَ ابنَ عَبّاسٍ يَقُولُ: سَمِعْتُ أَبَا طَلْحَةَ يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ: "لاَ تَدْخُلُ المَلاَئِكَةُ بَيْتاً فِيهِ كَلْبٌ وَلاَ صُورَةُ تَمَاثِيلَ". (قال أبو عيسى: هذا حديثٌ حسنٌ صحيحٌ).‏ "Angels do not enter a house which has a dog or graven images." The following is also preserved:

    عَنْ سَعِيدِ بْنِ أَبِي الْحَسَنِ. قَالَ: جَاءَ رَجُلٌ إِلَى ابْنِ عَبّاسٍ. فَقَالَ: إِنّي رَجُلٌ أُصَوّرُ هَذِهِ الصّوَرَ. فَأَفْتِنِي فِيهَا. فَقَالَ لَهُ: ادْنُ مِنّي. فَدَنَا مِنْهُ. ثُمّ قَالَ: ادْنُ مِنّي. فَدَنَا حَتّىَ وَضَعَ يَدَهُ عَلَىَ رَأْسِهِ. قَالَ: أُنَبّئُكَ بِمَا سَمِعْتُ مِنْ رَسُولِ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم. سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ "كُلّ مُصَوّرٍ فِي النّارِ. يَجْعَلُ لَهُ، بِكُلّ صُورَةٍ صَوّرَهَا، نَفْساً فَتُعَذّبُهُ فِي جَهَنّمَ". وَقَالَ: إنْ كُنْتَ لاَ بُدّ فَاعِلاً، فَاصْنَعِ الشّجَرَ وَمَا لاَ نَفْسَ لَهُ (مسلم)

    Sa'id ibn Abi al-Hasan narrated that a man went to Ibn `Abbas and said, "I make pictures. So tell me about it." He said, "Come nearer." He went nearer. He told him, "Come nearer." He went nearer until Ibn `Abbas placed his hand on his head and then said, "Let me tell you what I heard from the Messenger of Allah. I heard him say, 'Every artist will be in the Fire. Every picture that he made will be turned into a body that will torture him in Hell.' "Then he added, 'If you have to do it at all, then make trees and other lifeless objects" (Au.). Mawdudi devotes a goodly space to the topic. Herewith in short: “Some people have argued that since picture-making was allowed during the time of Sulayman, it should be allowable in our Shari`ah also. But, this argument is not tenable. The prohibition was equally there during his times too. Torah had already been revealed to Musa and contains unambiguous references to picture making and its prohibition. E.g. ‘Thou shall not make unto thee graven images, or any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth below or that is in the water under the earth (Exod. 20:4)’. And, ‘Ye shall make no idols, nor graven images, nor rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it (Levi. 26:1).’ And, ‘Lest you corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth’ (Deut. 4: 16-18).’ “Further, a strong argument cannot be built on the basis of a simple word like “tamaatheel” which has unclear connotations, especially in the light of the strongly worded prohibitions in the Prophetic traditions. A hadith preserved in Bukhari tells us that once a few of the Prophet’s wives were around him. They were talking among themselves and `A'isha tells us that,

    عَنْ عَائِشَةَ أُمِّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنَّ أُمَّ حَبِيبَةَ وَأُمَّ سَلَمَةَ ذَكَرَتَا كَنِيسَةً رَأَيْنَهَا بِالْحَبَشَةِ فِيهَا تَصَاوِيرُ فَذَكَرَتَا لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ إِنَّ أُولَئِكَ إِذَا كَانَ فِيهِمْ الرَّجُلُ الصَّالِحُ فَمَاتَ بَنَوْا عَلَى قَبْرِهِ مَسْجِدًا وَصَوَّرُوا فِيهِ تِلْكَ الصُّوَرَ فَأُولَئِكَ شِرَارُ الْخَلْقِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ).البخاري)

    Umm Habibah and Umm Salamah casually mentioned that they had been into a Church in Abyssinia where they had found pictures (of humans). The Prophet remarked, “The custom among the past peoples was that when one of their righteous men died, they built a house of worship over his grave and decorated it with pictures. On the Day of Judgement these people will be the worst of creations in the sight of Allah.” `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud reported the Prophet,

    إِنَّ أَشَدَّ النَّاسِ عَذَاباً عِنْدَ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ الْمُصَوِّرُونَ

    “The most severely punished on the day of Judgment would be those who made pictures.” (Sahihayn) `A’isha reports the following:

    عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا قَالَتْ حَشَوْتُ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وِسَادَةً فِيهَا تَمَاثِيلُ كَأَنَّهَا نُمْرُقَةٌ فَجَاءَ فَقَامَ بَيْنَ الْبَابَيْنِ وَجَعَلَ يَتَغَيَّرُ وَجْهُهُ فَقُلْتُ مَا لَنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ مَا بَالُ هَذِهِ الْوِسَادَةِ قَالَتْ وِسَادَةٌ جَعَلْتُهَا لَكَ لِتَضْطَجِعَ عَلَيْهَا قَالَ أَمَا عَلِمْتِ أَنَّ الْمَلَائِكَةَ لَا تَدْخُلُ بَيْتًا فِيهِ صُورَةٌ وَأَنَّ مَنْ صَنَعَ الصُّورَةَ يُعَذَّبُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَقُولُ أَحْيُوا مَا خَلَقْتُمْ

    “I made pillows – sort of small cushions - for the Prophet that had pictures. He entered and sat down between the two entrances. Then his countenance began to alter. She inquired, “What’s wrong with us, Messenger of Allah?” He asked, “What about these cushions?” She answered, “Well, cushions I made so that you could rest on them.” He said, “Have you not known that angels do not enter a house in which there are pictures and that whoever made a picture will be tormented on the day of Standing and told, ‘Now. Give life to what you made’” (Bukhari). “Some people try to make a distinction,” continues Mawdudi, “between a photograph and a painting, whereas the Shari`ah forbids the picture itself without discussing the process or methods of how such pictures are made. Yet others have argued that the forbiddance was meant to put an end to idol worship in early Islamic days; but since such a risk does not exist anymore, the prohibition should go. This argument is also untenable because there is no hadith that gives us the reason as being proffered now. Furthermore, the statement that paganism has been obliterated has no basis in reality. Paganism and polytheism of all sorts thrive in our contemporary world. Finally, that pictures lead to idol-worship, saint-worship, etc., could be only one of the reasons for its prohibitions; there are other ill-effects that are done away with by the prohibition. Pornography and obscenity are cases in point. Pictures are also used for misleading the masses and spreading discord among nations.” To the above we might add that far from decorating their homes with pictures, a report preserved by Bukhari reports `Umar as having said to the People of the Book,

    إنا لا ندخل كنائسكم، من أجل التماثيل التي فيها الصور

    “We do not enter your Churches because of the pictures you have there.” As for discord that Mawdudi spoke of, we could cite a single example from thousands: While relaying the event of the destruction of the Trade Centre buildings, live on the TV, CNN, America's most popular channel showed Palestinians celebrating the event. The announcer remarked: “We shall never forget this celebration.” Later it was discovered that the TV station had introduced an older film that depicted celebrations of some other occasion. The moment was used to sow permanent hatred of the Muslims in American minds. It achieved high level of success. There is no disputing the fact that no single element has done so much damage to the Islamic religion and its culture as the TV (Au.). 27. That is, the basins were as large as cisterns. 28. The cooking cauldrons were so large that they were, because of their weight, sort of anchored to the ground (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Abu Bakr Ibn al-`Arabi said that in pre-Islamic times the pots of `Abdullah b. Jud`an were also so large that one had to climb a ladder to look in. Tarafah b. al-`Abd has a poetical line describing them. Ibn al-`Arabi also reports having seen similarly large pot in one of the ribaat (zaawiyyah: Sufi resort) in Abu Sa`eed to serve the Sufis since they all – without exception – shared meal from one pot (Qurtubi). The details about Sulayman's activities confirm (the historical accounts) that Da'ud established the kingdom, while his son Sulayman attended to its development (with a point from Razi). 29. To act righteously, in obedience of Allah, is to act according to the demands of gratefulness (Muhammad ibn Ka`b: Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Ibn Majah has recorded the Prophet (saws) as Sulayman’s mother having said to him,

    يَا سُلَيْمَانُ لا تُكْثِرِ النَّوْمَ بِاللَّيْلِ ، فَإِنَّ كَثْرَةَ النَّوْمِ بِاللَّيْلِ تَتْرُكُ الْعَبْدَ فَقِيرًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

    “Sulayman! Do not sleep much at night. Long sleep during the night will leave a man destitute on the Day of Judgment" (Ibn Kathir). But Haythamiyy remarked that the above report does not have a strong chain (Au.). 30. In Asad’s words, ‘I.e., even among those who consider themselves God’s servants – for “truly grateful [to God] is only he who realizes his inability to render adequate thanks to Him” (Zamakhshari).’ Sayyid points out that if we fail to thank Allah for his numerous benefits, in fact, even fail to realize the blessings spread around us, it is because we are used to them and have taken them for granted. It is only when we miss one of them that we realize the great benefit. (Like a cut on a finger makes us realize how much we utilize that particular spot: Au.). We experienced this, continues Sayyid, when once (in the prison) the only access to the sun we had was through a hole the size of a coin. We (the inmates) would make the best use of it so long as it lasted, taking the place in turns. We would take the shine on our faces, hands, feet, and everywhere. And, I shall never forget the day when I was out and allowed full exposure to the sun, one of us saying, "Good Lord! Here is our sun. It still rises." How many other blessings do we not receive, every moment that pass by us, yet, for how many of them do we truly feel thankful? ("Shakoor" is superlative of "shaakir", that is, those who thank a lot). So, "shakoor" is someone who says thanks with his heart, tongue, and limbs of the body. Such a one is engaged in "shukr" all his time. Ibn `Abbas said that "shakoor" is someone who thanks in every situation. Suddi said that he is someone who says thanks upon thanks. It is also said that "shakoor" is someone who feels he can never be grateful enough. It is said that `Umar heard someone say, "O Allah, make me of the few." He asked him what it meant. The man replied, "I have heard Allah say, 'Few indeed of My slaves are grateful.' So I supplicate that He make me of those few." `Umar remarked, "Everybody seems to know more than `Umar" (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi). That gratitude is expressed with the help of deeds, is well illustrated by a hadith in Muslim. When the Prophet's feet were swollen because of his long standing in Prayers at night, 'A'isha asked, "Should you do that when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins?" He asked back, "Should I not be a grateful slave?" (Qurtubi)

    فَلَمَّا قَضَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ الْمَوْتَ مَا دَلَّهُمْ عَلَىٰ مَوْتِهِ إِلَّا دَابَّةُ الْأَرْضِ تَأْكُلُ مِنْسَأَتَهُ ۖ فَلَمَّا خَرَّ تَبَيَّنَتِ الْجِنُّ أَنْ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ الْغَيْبَ مَا لَبِثُوا فِي الْعَذَابِ الْمُهِينِ (14)

    34|14| Then, when We decreed death upon him, nothing indicated to them his death but a creature of the earth that kept gnawing at his staff. It is only when he fell that the Jinn saw clearly that, had they known the Unseen, they would not have continued in the humiliating torment.31

    31. Various reports coming from the Salaf give us to understand that the Jinn boasted before men that they interacted with, and knew, the Unseen. They were, however, subjugated by Sulayman who put them – despite their dislike - to the completion of the Temple that Da'ud had begun to build but had died before completion. Sulayman used to supervise their works from a certain spot, standing erect, supported by his staff. (One report says he would be seated on a chair reclining on a staff: Qurtubi). He died in that state, but the staff kept him supported. However, insects began to gnaw at the staff, until when it became hollow. One day it broke and Sulayman's corpse fell. It is then that the Jinn knew that they were labouring all the time in fear of Sulayman, although he was dead. And the men realized that the Jinn could not have known the Unseen. Nevertheless, none of the reports of the above kind reaches a hadith status, except for one, which, although it is not directly on the same lines, yet which has been declared weak by Haythamiyy (Au.). That apart, that the Mosque was not completed but after Sulayman's death does not sound correct in view of a report in Nasa'i and other works, of Sahih rank, which reports the Prophet (saws) as having said,

    أَنّ سُلَيْمَانَ بْنَ دَاوُدَ صلى الله عليه وسلم لَمّا بَنَى بَـيْتَ الْمَقْدِسِ سَأَلَ اللّهَ عَزّ وَجَلّ خِلاَلاً ثَلاَثَةً: سَأَلَ اللّهَ عَزّ وَجَلّ حُكْما يُصَادِفُ حُكْمَهُ فَأُوتِيَهُ وَسَأَلَ اللّهَ عَزّ وَجَلّ مُلْكا لاَ يْنْبَغِي لأَحَدٍ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ فَأُوتِيَهُ وَسَأَلَ اللّهَ عَزّ وَجَلّ حِينَ فَرَغَ مِنْ بِنَاءِ الْمَسْجِدِ أَنْ لاَ يَأْتِيَهُ أَحَدٌ لاَ يَنْهَزُهُ إلاّ الصّلاَةَ فِيهِ أَنْ يُخْرِجَهُ مِنْ خَطِيئَتِهِ كَيَوْمِ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمّهُ.

    "When Sulayman b. Da'ud built the Temple, he asked during its construction for three things: A judgment that matches with His (Allah's own) judgment: he was given it; he asked that he should be given a kingdom that should not be the share of anyone else after him: he was granted it; he asked after he had finished construction of the Mosque that no one should come to it, moved by no other desire but prayers in it, but he should emerge out of his sins like the day his mother gave him birth." The strange manner, however, of the death of a Prophet and king, who enjoyed power over the Jinn, birds and winds, comes as a climax to remind us that ultimately all power belongs to Allah. He does as He will. Further, admittedly, there could have been one or two accessory buildings that were completed after Sulayman had finished the main building (Au.). Asad’s note might not express accurately the understanding of Muslim scholars in general, but it is, once again, worthy of consideration: “In the elliptic manner so characteristic of the Qur’an, stress is laid here, firstly, on the limited nature of all empirical knowledge, including the result of deductions and inferences based on no more than observable or calculable phenomenon, and, secondly, on the impossibility to determine correctly, on the basis of such limited fragments of knowledge alone, what course of action would be right in a given situation. Although the story as such relates to 'invisible beings', its moral lesson (which may be summed up in the statement that empirical knowledge cannot provide any ethical guidelines unless it is accompanied, and completed, by divine guidance) is obviously addressed to human being as well.”

    لَقَدْ كَانَ لِسَبَإٍ فِي مَسْكَنِهِمْ آيَةٌ ۖ جَنَّتَانِ عَنْ يَمِينٍ وَشِمَالٍ ۖ كُلُوا مِنْ رِزْقِ رَبِّكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لَهُ ۚ بَلْدَةٌ طَيِّبَةٌ وَرَبٌّ غَفُورٌ (15)

    34|15| There was a sign indeed for (the people of) Saba'32 in their dwelling-place: two gardens to the left and to the right.33 'Eat of your Lord's providence and give thanks to Him': a good land,34 and a Lord All-forgiving.

    32. Ibn Jarir traces out several reports, coming through different chains, of the content that the Prophet was asked about Saba' and explained that it was the name of a person who lived in Yemen in historical times. Qurtubi, as well as Ibn Kathir trace a Hadith as in Tirmidhi which was declared Hasan Ghareeb by him. It is as follows (Tuhfah, no. 3275):

    عَنْ فَرْوَةَ بنِ مُسَيْكٍ المُرادِيّ قَالَ "أَتَيْتُ النبيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ الله أَلاَ أُقَاتِلُ مَنْ أَدْبَرَ مِنْ قَوْمِي بمَنْ أَقْبَلَ مِنْهُمْ؟ فأَذِنَ لِي في قِتَالِهِمْ وَأَمّرَني، فَلَمّا خَرَجْتُ مِنْ عِنْدِهِ سَأَلَ عَنّي مَا فَعَلَ الغُطَيْفِيّ فأُخْبِرَ أنيّ قَدْ سِرْتُ، قَالَ فأَرْسَلَ في أَثَرِي فَرَدّني فَأَتَيْتُهُ وَهُوَ في نَفَرٍ مِنْ أَصْحَابِهِ فَقَالَ: ادْعُ القَوْمَ فَمنْ أَسْلَمَ مِنْهُمْ فَاقْبَلْ مِنْهُ، وَمَنْ لَمْ يُسْلِمْ فَلاَ تَعْجَلْ حَتّى أُحْدِثَ إِلَيْكَ، قَالَ وأُنْزِلَ في سَبَإ ما أُنْزِلَ، فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ يَا رَسُولَ الله وَمَا سَبَأٌ أَرْضٌ أَو امرأةٌ؟ قَالَ لَيْسَ بِأَرْضٍ وَلاَ امْرَأَةٍ وَلَكنّهُ رَجُلٌ وَلَدَ عَشْرَةً مِنَ العَرَبِ فَتَيَامَنَ مِنْهُمْ سِتّةٌ وَتَشَاءَمَ مِنْهُمْ أَرْبَعَةٌ، فأَمّا الّذِينَ تَشَاءَمُوا فَلخْمٌ وجذامٌ وَغَسّانُ وعَامِلَةُ، وأَمّا الّذِينَ تَيَامَنَوُا فالأَزْدُ والأَشْعَريونَ وحِمْيَرُ ومَذْحِج وَأَنْمَار، وَكِنْدَةُ فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ يَا رَسُولَ الله ومَا أَنْمَارُ؟ قَالَ الّذِينَ مِنْهُم خَثْعَمُ وَبَجِيلَةُ"

    Farwah b. Musayk al-Muradi (al-Ghutayfiyy) said, "I went to the Prophet and asked, 'Messenger of Allah, should I not fight those who delay (in responding to this message) with the help of those who have hastened (to it)?' He allowed me to fight against them giving me the command over them. After I had left him, he asked about me as to what had the Ghutayfiyy done. He was told that I had left. He sent someone after me and got me back. So I went to him while he was with some of his Companions. He said, 'Invite your people and accept it from whosoever embraces Islam. As for those who do not accept Islam, do not hasten against them until I let you know.' He (the narrator) said that revelation came down about Saba (those very days). So someone asked, 'Messenger of Allah. What is Saba': a place or a woman?' He answered, 'Neither a woman nor a place, but a man who produced ten sons of the Arabs of whom six settled in Yemen while four others in Syria. Those who went to Syria were Lakhm, Judhdham, Ghassan and `Aamilah, while those who settled in Yemen, were: Azd, Ash`aroon (or maybe Ash`ariyyun), Himyar, Kinda, Madh-hij, and Anmar.' One of the men asked, 'Messenger of Allah what about Anmar?' He replied, 'Khath`am and Bajeelah are of them.'" Ibn Kathir adds: Saba' (in usage) refers to kings and people of Yemen, Tubaaba`ah (pl. of Tubba`) were part of them, as also Bilqis (contemporary to Sulayman). As for ten sons of Saba', it does not necessarily mean direct descendants, but rather his progeny over several generations. The Ansar were the descendants of the Saba', who were scattered by the burst of the dam (that we shall discuss presently). Saba' Arab history is traced back in the ancient past to two persons: `Adnaan and Qahtaan. The opinion prevalent among the genealogists is that the `Aad, Thamood, Jurham, `Amaaleeq, Himyar, and the rest of the historical tribal names we encounter were, what are known as, `Arab-`Aaribah: sons of `Adnan and Qahtan, some 3000 years before Islam. While `Adnan's progeny spread all over the Arabian Peninsula, Qahtan and his progeny settled in the Yemen. They gave rise to a people known as the Saba', who occupied the South Western Arabia, centering around an ancient walled town called Ma'aarib (which had a circumference of six miles in its heyday), about 1200 m (4000 feet) above the sea level in Wadi San`a. (According to 1975 census there were 70,000 inhabitants in and around the town - which still carries the same name). The civilization they created peaked about 1500 years before the Prophet's advent, and at one time penetrated into the Horn of Africa, or, what is known today as Eritrea. Bilqis, Prophet Sulayman's contemporary, who belonged to the Himyarites, was roughly of this period. The Ma'aarib dam that was built, and the floods that the Qur'an spoke of, refer to a time some 1000 and 900 years respectively before the Prophet. The dam had surface covered with stones and mortared, and was at least 16 m. high, 60 m. broad and 620 m. wide, no doubt its construction a mammoth feat. Twice the year the water was let down for irrigation of the lands. Several canals, dozens of sleuths and hundreds of subsidiaries ending with water distributors helped cover a large area of irrigation. Remains show that it was a pretty complicated network of irrigation. The dam had to be expanded several times because of flooding which implies that the area experienced heavy rains. The plantation was so extensive that a horseman needed more than a month to cross them, and, in doing so, he found himself continuously in the shadow of trees. Their religion was largely polytheistic paganism. Although not too common, but, as if to provide proof to the Qur'anic statements in this regard, modern excavations reveal that throughout their history monotheism prevailed among a section of the population. It could be termed as the Cult of the Merciful. The older inscriptions are free of explicit marks of Judaism or Christianity. Their presence can be traced in later epochs. Some 600 years before the Prophet, Romans besieged Ma'arib but despite assaults could not take the town. But it seems they laid waste the neighborhood and destroyed the renewed irrigation works of the oasis. At the height of its development, in the 8th century BC, the kingdom of Saba’ maintained colonies along trade routes leading to Palestine, and Ma‘rib, (some 60 miles off San`a, and 3900 feet above sea level). It was the capital and one of the wealthiest cities of ancient Arabia. It was the meeting-place of the trade routes connecting the frankincense lands with the Mediterranean ports. The construction for which the city that was particularly famous was the great Sadd Ma'rib (i.e., Ma'arib Dam). Majid quotes several authorities about Ma'arib and its dam: "'This remarkable engineering feat, together with the other public works of the Sabaeans, reveal to us a peace-loving society highly advanced not only in commerce but in technical accomplishment as well.’ (Hitti, op. cit., p.55) ‘The failure of the dam at Marib was at once an effect and a cause of the national decay . . . The dam at Marib is now in much the same condition as when Houdani (A.D. 848) saw it.’ (EBr. XIX. P. 785) ‘West of Marib are the ruins of the dam which figures so prominently in Arabic tradition. These show a very solid construction with several sluices. It was destroyed by a flood’ (II. P. 184). This deluge marks an epoch in the history of South Arabia. The waters subside, the lands return to cultivation and prosperity, but Ma'arib lies desolate and the Sabaeans have disappeared forever, except to point a moral or to adorn a tale’ (Nicholson, op. cit. p. 16). According to a Muslim chronicler, 'subsequently God destroyed the dam and tore up the rocks, the pavilions, the trees, and the canals, casting the sands over them. And when they who were below the dam saw its destruction, and they could do nothing to it, they fled to the tops of the hill with their families and cattle. And the water surged over the dam through an abundance of rain: and the water issued from the interstices burrowed by the rats . . . And it is related that the torment of the inundation occurred about four hundred years before Islam . . . but God knows best.’ (Redhouse, op. cit., I. PP. 55-56) ‘The chroniclers report that a rat turned over a stone which fifty men could not have bridged, and thus brought about the collapse of the entire dam.’ (Hitti, op. cit., p. 65). Referring again to this ‘memorable event immortalized in Islamic literature says Hitti:- Al-Isfahani, . . . puts the tragic event four hundred years before Islam but Yaqut comes nearer to the truth when he assigns it to the reign of the Abyssinians. The ruins of the dam are visible to the present day . . . The final catastrophe alluded to in the Koran must have taken place after 542 and before 570." Mawdudi adds: "Since antiquity this Arabian nation has been well known to the rest of the world. Ur inscriptions of 2500 B.C. mention it by the name of Sabom. Then in the Babylonian and Assyrian inscriptions and also in the Bible it has been mentioned several times (see, for instance, Psalms 72:15; Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:22, 38: 13; Job 6:19). The Greek and Roman historians and the geographer Theo-phrastus (288 B.C.) have mentioned it continuously for many centuries of the Christian era since before Christ. "Its home was the south-western corner of the Arabian Peninsula, now called al-Yemen. Its rise to prominence started in 1100 B.C. In the time of the Prophets David and Solomon the Saba'ians had become world famous as a wealthy people. In the beginning they were a sun-worshipping nation. Then, when their queen affirmed faith at the hand of the Prophet Solomon (965-926 B.C.), probably most of them became Muslims. But then in some unknown later period they again began to worship gods and goddesses like Almaqah (the moon-god), ‘Athtar (Venus), Dhat Hamim, Dhat Bad’an (the sun-god), Harmatam or Harimat and many others. Almaqah was their chief deity, and the kings made claim to the people’s obedience as representatives of this deity. Many inscriptions have been unearthed in the Yemen which show that the whole land abounded in the temples of these gods, especially of Almaqah, and thanksgiving services for them were held at every important event. As a result of the modern archaeological researches about 3,000 inscriptions have been discovered which throw a good deal of light on the history of this nation." 33. Zamakhshari points out that it is not just two gardens that are meant, but rather, a vast stretch of land on both sides of the mountains over which flourished flush green gardens stretching up to maybe hundreds of miles. The boundaries (of the thousands) of them were so close that they were like two vast gardens. Qurtubi traces it as an opinion of Qushayri. 34. "The good land": because irrigated by an intricate system of (hundreds of dams, the largest being known as the Ma`aarib), dykes, canals and ducts, it yielded its produce in abundance. The weather was so moderate that no insect – flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, ants, lice etc. - ever annoyed them unreasonably. The two gardens yielded fruit so plentifully that it is said – notably by Qatadah - that a woman with a basket on her head would pass through one of their gardens and emerge at the other side with the basked full of fruits having fallen into it, without she having to pick any (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir). That could be a hyperbole, but abundance is ascertained. However, the above reminds one of the abundance of fish in some rivers in the United States where, to a camera’s eye, jumping fish land into passing boats, so that, over less than 10 minutes of sailing on water, a boat bags 13 large fishes without the boatmen doing anything about it except mechanically sailing the boat. In fact, in the skit shown, the boatmen had to cover their heads with their hands in fear of the jumping fish falling on their heads. All around, the fishes were jumping out and back into water in continuous frivolity (Au.).

    فَأَعْرَضُوا فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ سَيْلَ الْعَرِمِ وَبَدَّلْنَاهُمْ بِجَنَّتَيْهِمْ جَنَّتَيْنِ ذَوَاتَيْ أُكُلٍ خَمْطٍ وَأَثْلٍ وَشَيْءٍ مِنْ سِدْرٍ قَلِيلٍ (16)

    34|16| But they turned away;35 so We sent upon them the flood of the `Arim36 and We gave them in lieu of their two gardens, two (other) gardens bearing Araak fruit (trees),37 athel (bushes),38 and a few lote trees.39

    35. It is widely reported that altogether no less than thirteen Prophets were raised among them. However, adds Alusi, it is possible that they had appeared over long periods before Jesus Christ, but the decision to chastise them through the destruction of the dam came later, a couple of centuries before the appearance of our own Prophet. 36. Opinions of the earliest authorities varied over the meaning of `Arim between (a) name of a dam [that Bilqis had built, at a place called Ma'aarib, three travel-stations from San`aa], (2) name of a valley which held the waters of the dam, and, (c) the word is equivalent of violence (sayl al-`arim meaning, violent floods: Ibn Jarir); as well as (d) heavy rains (Alusi). In any case, "sayl" of the text refers to the dam burst that was caused by a multiple of factors: heavy, incessant rains, weakening of the dam by age, and damage caused by rats that burrowed into its walls. When it burst, the rushing waters destroyed all that lay in its path, leaving behind it the irrigation system in ruins. The tribes dispersed (Au.). 37. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Hasan, Qatadah and Dahhak said that in their opinion "khamt" is for Araak tree (which bears a bitter fruit) – Ibn Jarir. Lane explains in his grand Lexicon that if it is pronounced as now in the Qur'an namely, "ukulin khamtin" it should mean Araak tree, but if pronounced a "ukulu khamtin" (an unpopular reading: Ibn Jarir) then, as "bitter fruits." In either case the fruit of the Araak genus can both be edible as well as too bitter for the mouth, depending on its variety (Au.). 38. Or, tamarisk bushes. In rendering the "athl" of the Qur'an as "athel," we are influenced by Merriam Webster's Dictionary which defines athel as: "a small drought-resistant evergreen tree (Tamarix aphylla) native to southern and western Asia but now widely planted as an ornamental or shelter-belt tree in warm dry regions (as of the southwestern United States and Australia); broadly: any of several other trees or shrubs of the genus Tamarix" (Au.) 39. That is, when the Saba' denied the message, Allah caused the dam wall to collapse sending the waters crashing through the valleys that destroyed all that came in the way: houses, trees, everything. Subsequently, the dam was repaired, but the former glory could not be restored. Neither the irrigation system could be revived, nor were there enough people to attempt revival. Gradually, the gardens turned into semi forests (Au.). Asad writes: "The date of that catastrophe cannot be established with any certainty, but the most probable period of the first bursting of the Dam of Ma'arib seems to have been the second century of the Christian era. The kingdom of Sheba was largely devastated, and this led to the migration of many southern (Qahtan) tribes towards the north of the Peninsula. Subsequently, it appears, the system of dams and dykes was to some extent repaired, but the country never regained its earlier prosperity; and few decades before the advent of Islam the great dam collapsed completely and finally."

    ذَٰلِكَ جَزَيْنَاهُمْ بِمَا كَفَرُوا ۖ وَهَلْ نُجَازِي إِلَّا الْكَفُورَ (17)

    34|17| Thus We recompensed them for that they disbelieved. And, do We ever recompense any (that way) but the ingrate?40

    40. That is, none do We recompense in this way, but the ingrate (Alusi). Such punishment, however, did not visit any in the past but a nation that rejected its Prophet. Muslims do not in the normal circumstances receive such punishment. Punishment to Muslims in this world takes different forms. Ibn Khayrah, a companion of `Ali, stated,

    جزاء المعصية الوهن في العبادة، والضيق في المعيشة، والتعسر في اللذة، قيل: وما التعسر في اللذة؟ قال: لا يصادف لذة حلال إلا جاءه مَنْ يُنَغِّصه إياها

    "The recompense of a sin appears in the form of slackness in devotional prayers, constriction in provision, and difficulty in (obtaining) delight." He was asked, “What is meant by difficulty in delight?” He answered, "He does not obtain a lawful thing, but there comes (upon him) what takes away the delight from it” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi and Shafi` combined). The punishment was the immediate reward. Greater punishment is reserved for the unbelievers in the Hereafter. The rule, once again, can be different for Muslims. They could be punished here in this world and forgiven in lieu in the Hereafter (Au.). Qatadah said that if Allah wishes to honor a Muslim, He accepts his good deeds, but if He wishes his humiliation, He holds back the punishment for his evil deeds in order to punish him in full in the Hereafter. It is reported that one of the Companions saw a woman passerby and his eyes followed her (to some distance). As he came across a wall (of an orchard) he crashed into it and received injury on the face. He went up to the Prophet with his bleeding face and told him what had happened. He explained,

    إِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بعَبْدٍ خَيْرًا عَجَّلَ لَهُ عُقُوبَةَ ذَنْبه فِى الدُّنْيَا وإذا أرادَ بِعَبْد شرًّا أمسك عُقُوبة ذنبه حتى يُوَافِيَه يوم القيامةِ كأنه عَيْر أبتر (أحمد ، والطبرانى ، والحاكم ، والبيهقى فى شعب الإيمان عن عبد الله بن مغفل - قال الهيثمى : إسناده جيد .

    "When Allah wishes to honor a slave, He hastens the punishment for his sins in this world. But if He wishes his humiliation, He withholds the retribution until He will recompense him in full on the Day of Standing, as if He is a tail-less donkey” (Ibn Jarir). Haythami declared its chain of transmission as good (Au.).

    وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمْ وَبَيْنَ الْقُرَى الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا قُرًى ظَاهِرَةً وَقَدَّرْنَا فِيهَا السَّيْرَ ۖ سِيرُوا فِيهَا لَيَالِيَ وَأَيَّامًا آمِنِينَ (18)

    34|18| And We placed between them and the towns which We had blessed,41 (other) apparent towns,42 and We determined the journey therein (saying),43 ‘Travel therein by nights and days, in peace.’

    41. The allusion is to the Syrian lands (Ibn Jarir). 42. That is, Arab towns that were strewn across Yemen and Syria on the highway (Ibn Jarir). They were called apparent towns because they were right on the road that connected Yemen with Syria (Ma`arif). 43. That is, the Arab towns were so closely placed that if a traveler left one of them by noon, he arrived at the next town by evening, and if he left by evening, he arrived at another by dinner time - freeing him from the need to carry any provision (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi).

    فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا بَاعِدْ بَيْنَ أَسْفَارِنَا وَظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ فَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَحَادِيثَ وَمَزَّقْنَاهُمْ كُلَّ مُمَزَّقٍ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ (19)

    34|19| But they said, ‘Our Lord. Lengthen (the distance) between (the stages) of our journeys;’44 and (thus) they wronged themselves. So We made them (but) tales45 and tore them to an utter tearing.46 Indeed in that are signs for every persevering, grateful (person).47

    44. That is, (although they might not have prayed in so many words: Shabbir, Mawdudi), in their arrogance they wished the ease of journey provided by Allah removed, so that they could encamp in deserts and encounter some of the hardships that travelers normally faced – for fun and adventure. So, Allah punished them, for their disbelief and their hubris by sending down the floods (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir from Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Hasan and others). In this they imitated the Israelites who rejected the comforts of Mann and Salwa and readily exchanged them for earthly products (Kashshaf, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). 45. Their dispersal became proverbial. When circumstances scatter a people in the lands, it is said, "they scattered, Saba'-like" (Qurtubi). 46. So Saba' became a tale, and its tribes were scattered all across the lands. `Aamir al-Sha`bi said that the Ghassaan went to Syria, the Ansar settled in Yethrib, Khuza`ah went to Tihama, and Azd to `Umman. 47. There are signs for such of the believers who are persevering and grateful, in situations when they pass through such trying times. They render thanks when in ease, and bear patiently when in difficulties. The Prophet has said as in a report of Bukhari and Muslim, with the words here as in Muslim,

    "عَجَباً لأَمْرِ الْمُؤْمِنِ. إِنّ أَمْرَهُ كُلّهُ خَيْرٌ. وَلَيْسَ ذَاكَ لأَحَدٍ إِلاّ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ. إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرّاءُ شَكَرَ. فَكَانَ خَيْراً لَهُ. وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرّاءُ صَبَرَ، فَكَانَ خَيْراً لَهُ"

    "Amazing is a believer's affair. Indeed, all his affairs are good for him. And this is not for everyone but for a believer alone. If ease touches him he gives thanks and that is good for him. But if difficulties visit him he observes patience, and it is good for him."

    وَلَقَدْ صَدَّقَ عَلَيْهِمْ إِبْلِيسُ ظَنَّهُ فَاتَّبَعُوهُ إِلَّا فَرِيقًا مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (20)

    34|20| Surely, Iblis proved true his assumption about them and so they followed him:48 (all) but for a group of believers.49

    48. The allusion is, state Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others, to his statement at the time of Adam's creation when he said (7: 16,17),

    فَبِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لأَقْعُدَنَّ لَهُمْ صِرَاطَكَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ ثُمَّ لآتِيَنَّهُم مِّن بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ وَعَنْ أَيْمَانِهِمْ وَعَن شَمَآئِلِهِمْ وَلاَ تَجِدُ أَكْثَرَهُمْ شَاكِرِينَ

    (He said), “Now that You have led me to misguidance, I shall most certainly sit in ambush for them all along Your Straight Path. Then I shall come on them from their front, their rear, their right and their left, and You will not find many of them grateful (to You)." According to a report in Ibn Abi Hatim, Satan had promised at the time he was sent down from Paradise that he will not depart from a son of Adam so long as there is soul in him, deluding him, promising him, and deceiving him. Allah said in response,

    وعزتي لا أحجب عنه التوبة ما لم يُغَرغِر بالموت، ولا يدعوني إلا أجبته، ولا يسألني إلا أعطيته، ولا يستغفرني إلا غفرت له

    "By My honor and greatness. I shall not hold back My forgiveness so long as he does not start gurgling at death, will not invoke Me but I shall respond to him, will not ask Me but I shall grant him, and will not seek forgiveness but I shall forgive him" (Ibn Kathir). 49. Although the import is general, among the Saba' too there seems to have been believers in one God, who survived through the ages. Mawdudi provides us the details: "History shows that in ancient times there lived among the Sabaians a small group of people who believed in one God, shunning all other gods. The inscriptions that have been discovered in the ruins of Yemen as a result of modern archeological research point to the existence of this small element. Some inscriptions of the period about 650 B.C. indicate that at several places in the kingdom of Saba there existed such houses of worship as were exclusively meant for the worship of dhu-samavi (i.e. Rabb as-sama’: Lord of the heavens). In some places this Deity has been mentioned as Malikan dhu-samavi (the King who is the Owner of the heavens). This remnant of the Sabaians continued to live in Yaman for centuries afterwards. Thus, in an inscription of 378 A.D. also there is found mention of a house of worship that was built in the name of Ilah dhu-samavi. Then in an inscription dated 465 A.D. the words are Bi-nasr wa rida ilah-in ba’l samin wa ardin (i.e. with the help and support of that God Who is the Owner of the Heavens and the earth). In another inscription of the period dated 458 A.D., the word Rahman has been used for the same God, the actual words being bi-rida Rahmanan (i.e. with the help of Rahman)."

    وَمَا كَانَ لَهُ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا لِنَعْلَمَ مَنْ يُؤْمِنُ بِالْآخِرَةِ مِمَّنْ هُوَ مِنْهَا فِي شَكٍّ ۗ وَرَبُّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَفِيظٌ (21)

    34|21| Yet he had no power over them whatsoever; but that We might know who believes in the Hereafter as against him who is in doubt thereof;50 and your Lord is Watchful over everything.

    50. That is, Shaytan has not been given the power to physically force anyone to a path. At best he has the ability to suggest, incite, provoke, and mislead in order that Allah may know who follows His guidance in preference to Shaytan's promptings. It never happens that Shaytan's way appears open, but rather, the other road – the road to salvation – is always plainly and clearly visible (Shabbir in substance).

    قُلِ ادْعُوا الَّذِينَ زَعَمْتُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ ۖ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا لَهُمْ فِيهِمَا مِنْ شِرْكٍ وَمَا لَهُ مِنْهُمْ مِنْ ظَهِيرٍ (22)

    34|22| Say, ‘Call on those you allege (as deities) apart from Allah. They own not the weight of an atom in the heavens, nor in the earth. They do not have any partnership in either, nor has He any helper from among them.'

    وَلَا تَنْفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ عِنْدَهُ إِلَّا لِمَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ ۚ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا فُزِّعَ عَنْ قُلُوبِهِمْ قَالُوا مَاذَا قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا الْحَقَّ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ (23)

    34|23| And, intercession will not avail with Him, except for him to whom He grants leave;51 till, when terror is removed from their hearts, they will say, ‘What did your Lord say?’ They will reply, ‘The Truth;52 and He is the All-High, the All-great.’

    51. As Allah said elsewhere (53: 26),

    وَكَم مِّن مَّلَكٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ لا تُغْنِي شَفَاعَتُهُمْ شَيْئًا إِلا مِن بَعْدِ أَن يَأْذَنَ اللَّهُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَيَرْضَى

    "And how many angels are there whose intercession profits not aught except after Allah grants leave unto whom He will and approves." Hadith literature also conforms this. For example, the well-known hadith which reports the Prophet as saying that when the entire mankind will be presented (and the standing takes long) he will go to the "Praiseworthy Station" (al-Maqam al-Mahmood) in order to be allowed to intercede on behalf of mankind, so that the process of Reckoning might be started. He said,

    فَأَسْتَأْذِنُ عَلَى رَبّي. فَيُؤْذَنُ لِي. فَأَقُومُ بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ. فَأَحْمَدُهُ بِمَحَامِدَ لاَ أَقْدِرُ عَلَيْهِ الاَنَ. يُلْهِمُنِيهِ الله. ثُمّ أَخِرّ لَهُ سَاجِداً. فَيُقَالُ لِي: يَا مُحَمّدُ ارْفَعْ رأْسكَ. وَقُلْ يُسْمَعْ لَكَ. وَسَلْ تُعْطَهْ. وَاشْفَعْ تُشَفّعْ "

    “I will seek my Lord’s permission. I will be allowed. I will stand before Him and praise Him with words of Praises that I do not have the power now, that Allah will inspire me with. Then I will fall in prostration. I will be told, ‘O Muhammad, raise your head, and speak, you will be heard, seek, and you will be given, and seek intercession, you will be granted" (Ibn Kathir). 52. There have been several interpretations. One, the allusion is to those who seek permission to intercede. But when they are actually allowed to intercede, terror overtakes them in apprehension that their intercession might fall in favor of a wrong person resulting in Allah's anger evoked against them. When they recover from the terror, they ask the angels – who bring down the permission to them – 'What did your Lord say?' They reply, ‘the Truth’ (Qurtubi). The lesson is that if intercession is so difficult to obtain from those who are qualified to intercede, how could the unbelievers depend on false deities to save them from the chastisement of the Hereafter? (Qurtubi) In Asad's words, "As is evident from the sequence.. this passage relates, in particular, to the attribution of divine or semi-divine qualities to saints and angels and to the problem of their 'intercession' with God." Second possible meaning is, as understood by Hasan al-Busri, (seconded by Zayd b. Aslam) who interpreted "fuzi`a" (lit., "fear is removed") as meaning "kushifa" (i.e., "uncovered"). Consequently, the verse can be paraphrased in the following manner, "When the coverings of doubts and skepticisms in the hearts of the unbelievers are removed, which happens only when Satan departs and false hopes leave them, at the time of death, it is then that they seek to know in some seriousness, "What did your Lord say?" Three, the allusion is to the revelation of a verse or more by Allah. In the heavens its release sounds like iron chain (steel: Ibn `Abbas) struck on rock. The occupants of the heavens are struck by extreme fear and when they regain their calm, they ask, "What did your Lord say?" (This was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas: Ibn Jarir). Fourth, the allusion is to the issue of commands generally. (This was the opinion of `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud and others: Ibn Jarir). In this connection hadith records have a few related reports. One in Bukhari says,

    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ يَبْلُغُ بِهِ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ الْأَمْرَ فِي السَّمَاءِ ضَرَبَتْ الْمَلَائِكَةُ بِأَجْنِحَتِهَا خُضْعَانًا لِقَوْلِهِ كَالسِّلْسِلَةِ عَلَى صَفْوَانٍ قَالَ عَلِيٌّ وَقَالَ غَيْرُهُ صَفْوَانٍ يَنْفُذُهُمْ ذَلِكَ فَإِذَا فُزِّعَ عَنْ قُلُوبِهِمْ قَالُوا مَاذَا قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ قَالُوا لِلَّذِي قَالَ الْحَقَّ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ فَيَسْمَعُهَا مُسْتَرِقُو السَّمْعِ وَمُسْتَرِقُو السَّمْعِ هَكَذَا وَاحِدٌ فَوْقَ آخَرَ وَوَصَفَ سُفْيَانُ بِيَدِهِ وَفَرَّجَ بَيْنَ أَصَابِعِ يَدِهِ الْيُمْنَى نَصَبَهَا بَعْضَهَا فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ فَرُبَّمَا أَدْرَكَ الشِّهَابُ الْمُسْتَمِعَ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَرْمِيَ بِهَا إِلَى صَاحِبِهِ فَيُحْرِقَهُ وَرُبَّمَا لَمْ يُدْرِكْهُ حَتَّى يَرْمِيَ بِهَا إِلَى الَّذِي يَلِيهِ إِلَى الَّذِي هُوَ أَسْفَلَ مِنْهُ حَتَّى يُلْقُوهَا إِلَى الأَرْضِ وَرُبَّمَا قَالَ سُفْيَانُ حَتَّى تَنْتَهِيَ إِلَى الأَرْضِ فَتُلْقَى عَلَى فَمْ السَّاحِرِ فَيَكْذِبُ مَعَهَا مِائَةَ كَذْبَةٍ فَيُصَدَّقُ فَيَقُولُونَ أَلَمْ يُخْبِرْنَا يَوْمَ كَذَا وَكَذَا يَكُونُ كَذَا وَكَذَا فَوَجَدْنَاهُ حَقًّا لِلْكَلِمَةِ الَّتِي سُمِعَتْ مِنْ السَّمَاءِ

    "When Allah decrees an affair in the heaven, angels beat their wings in submission to His words making a sound like a chain striking a smooth rock. When fear is removed from their hearts they ask, 'What did your Lord say?' He answers him who had asked, 'The Truth. He is the All-high, the All-great.' This is also heard by the one who steals the hearing. And, those who steal the hearing are like that: some over the others – Sufyan (one of the narrators) demonstrated it by holding one hand over the other, with fingers outspreading. So he hears the word (sometimes a meteorite strikes him before he can receive it, but at other times he passes it on before he is struck), and casts it on the one below him, the other one casts it on the next one below him, until (the last one) casts it on to the tongue of a magician or fortune-teller. Then he (the magician or fortune-teller) mixes it with a hundred lies so that it is said (by those who hear him), 'Did he not tell us about such and such a thing, on such and such a day?' referring to the word that had been heard from the heaven" (Ibn Jarir in short, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). Ibn Kathir adds the following report from Ahmad:

    عن عَبْدَ اللّهِ بْنَ عَبّاسٍ. قَالَ: أَخْبَرَنِي رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النّبِيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ أَنّهُمْ بَيْنَمَا هُمْ جُلُوسٌ لَيْلَةً مَعَ رَسُولِ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم رُمِيَ بِنَجْمٍ فَاسْتَنَارَ. فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: "مَاذَا كُنْتُمْ تَقُولُونَ فِي الْجَاهِلِيّةِ، إِذَا رُمِيَ بِمِثْلِ هَذَا؟" قَالُوا: اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَعْلَمُ. كُنّا نَقُولُ وُلِدَ اللّيْلَةَ رَجُلٌ عَظِيمٌ. وَمَاتَ رَجُلٌ عَظِيمٌ. فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: "فَإِنّهَا لاَ يُرْمَىَ بِهَا لِمَوْتِ أَحَدٍ وَلاَ لِحَيَاتِهِ. وَلَكِنْ رَبّنَا، تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَىَ اسْمُهُ، إِذَا قَضَىَ أَمْراً سَبّحَ حَمَلَةُ الْعَرْشِ. ثُمّ سَبّحَ أَهْلُ السّمَاءِ الّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ. حَتّىَ يَبْلُغَ التّسْبِيحُ أَهْلَ هَذِهِ السّمَاءِ الدّنْيَا. ثُمّ قَالَ الّذِينَ يَلُونَ حَمَلَةَ الْعَرْشِ لِحَمَلَةِ الْعَرْشِ: مَاذَا قَالَ رَبّكُمْ؟ فَيُخْبِرُونَهُمْ مَاذَا قَالَ. قَالَ: فَيَسْتَخْبِرُ بَعْضُ أَهْلِ السّمَاوَاتِ بَعْضَاً. حَتّىَ يَبْلُغَ الْخَبَرُ هَذِهِ السّمَاءَ الدّنْيَا. فَتَخْطَفُ الْجِنّ السّمْعَ فَيَقْذِفُونَ إِلَىَ أَوْلِيَائِهِمْ. وَيُرْمَوْنَ بِهِ. فَمَا جَاؤُوا بِهِ عَلَىَ وَجْهِهِ فَهُوَ حَقّ وَلَكِنّهُمْ يَقْرِفُونَ فِيهِ وَيَزِيدُونَ".

    On one of those occasions, when the Prophet sat with his Companions at night, they witnessed a falling star. He asked, 'What would you say to this in pre-Islamic times?' They said they thought a great person must have taken birth or died.' He told them, "No, it is not flung at the birth or death of a person. But when Allah decrees an affair, the bearers of `Arsh begin to chant His glory. They are followed by the inhabitants of the heaven immediately below it, until their glory-chanting reaches the heaven closest to the earth. Then, those in the heaven closest to the `Arsh seek to know what was said - from the bearers of the `Arsh. Then (some of) the bearers of the `Arsh ask (others of) the bearers of the `Arsh, 'What did your Lord say?' They inform them. Then the inhabitants of the heavens inform those of the next heaven until it reaches the heaven closest to the earth. At that point the Jinn might steal off (a word) and they are struck (with a meteorite). So, whatever they bring down of it (the original command), is true. But (in actual fact) they divided it up and adulterate it." The report is also in Muslim and Nasa'i.

    قُلْ مَنْ يَرْزُقُكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ قُلِ اللَّهُ ۖ وَإِنَّا أَوْ إِيَّاكُمْ لَعَلَىٰ هُدًى أَوْ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ (24)

    34|24| Say, 'Who provides for you out of the heavens and the earth?' Say, 'Allah.53 And (so), either we or you are upon right guidance or in manifest error.54

    53. Yusuf Ali's note deserves attention: "There are six propositions introduced here with the word "Say", at verses 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 30. They clearly explain the doctrine of Unity (verse 22), the Mercy of Allah (verse 24), man's Personal Responsibility (verse 25), the Final Justice of Allah (verse 26), Allah's Power and Wisdom (verse 27), and the Inevitability of the Judgment, by which true values will be restored (verse 30)." 54. Ibn Jarir and Qurtubi discuss the "or" of the passage, "either we or you are upon right guidance or in manifest error," and offer various solutions since, after all, there is no doubt that the believers are on right guidance, while the unbelievers are in obvious error. So, why is there the element of doubt expressed in "or"? One explanation is: when you say to a dishonest person, e.g., "one of us is a liar," he knows what exactly you mean. Another explanation is that the "waaw" of the text is "waaw al-muwaalaah" which offers the meaning, "Indeed, we are on right guidance while you are in manifest error." They support this meaning with poetical citations. Another possible connotation is, "We both cannot be rightly guided. One of us is in error. So, look carefully at your own position." Today, with the loss of knowledge and the faith which issues from it, this last mentioned is a meaning that is lost upon many Muslims. They cannot understand the exclusiveness, and are ever ready to strike a chord of unity with the antagonists of Islam, on the premise that, after all, others also have some truth (Au.). Yusuf Ali makes an emphatic statement: "Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, are incompatible, one with another. In this matter we can make no compromise. It is true that in men there may be various degrees of good or evil mixed together, and we have to tolerate men as our fellow-creatures, with all their faults and shortcomings. But this does not mean that we can worship Allah and Mammon together. Wrong is the negation of Right as light is of darkness. Though there may be apparently varying depths of darkness, this is only due to the imperfection of our vision: it is varying strengths of light as perceived by our relative powers of sight. So we may perceive the Light of Allah in varying degrees according to our spiritual vision. But in simple questions of Right or Wrong, we are faced by the Categorical Imperative.‏" Razi offers us another point: We may note the article "upon" in "upon right guidance" and the article "in" as it appears in the words "in manifest error." The implication is that the former is high above the latter (from where he can see his path clearly) while the latter is in a deep abyss (not sure where he is)."

    قُلْ لَا تُسْأَلُونَ عَمَّا أَجْرَمْنَا وَلَا نُسْأَلُ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ (25)

    34|25| Say, 'You will not be questioned about what we committed, nor will we be questioned as to what you do.'

    قُلْ يَجْمَعُ بَيْنَنَا رَبُّنَا ثُمَّ يَفْتَحُ بَيْنَنَا بِالْحَقِّ وَهُوَ الْفَتَّاحُ الْعَلِيمُ (26)

    34|26| Say, 'Our Lord will bring us together, then He will judge between us with Truth. Surely, He is the (true) Judge,55 the All-knowing.

    55. The rendering of "Fattaah" as Judge is following Ibn `Abbas' understanding as in Ibn Jarir, Shawkani and others.

    قُلْ أَرُونِيَ الَّذِينَ أَلْحَقْتُمْ بِهِ شُرَكَاءَ ۖ كَلَّا ۚ بَلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (27)

    34|27| Say, 'Show me those you have joined with Him as associates.56 Nay; rather, He is Allah, the All-mighty, the All-wise.'

    56. But of course, when He said, "Show me those you have joined with Him as associates," He knew those that were associated with Him in his times, but, in reality, the objective was to identify their error in association. 57. A plain truth about the Messenger and the Message, but unobvious to even some Muslims. Some Muslims of our contemporary world believe in the parochial nature of our Prophet's mission, and in the Qur'an as the book for Muslims, just as every religious denomination has its own (Au.). The statement anyway, is echoed several times in the Qur'an. Allah said (25: 1),

    تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ الْفُرْقَانَ عَلَى عَبْدِهِ لِيَكُونَ لِلْعَالَمِينَ نَذِيرًا (الفرقان – 1)

    "Blessed is He who sent down the Criterion upon His slave, that he may be a warner unto the worlds." And (7: 158),

    يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا (الأعراف – 158)

    "Say, 'O people, verily, I am Allah's Messenger towards you all." And `Ikrimah reported `Ibn `Abbas as saying, "Allah gave the Prophet preference over those of the heavens and those of the earth." They asked him, "How did Allah give him preference over the prophets?" He replied, "Allah said (14: 4),

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلاَّ بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ لِيُبَيِّنَ لَهُمْ (إبراهيم – 4)

    'And We did not send a Messenger but in the language of the people, so that he could make (it) clear to them.' Whereas, He said at this point (34: 28),

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلا كَافَّةً لِّلنَّاسِ (سباء – 28)

    'We have not sent you but for all mankind.'" And, adds Ibn Kathir, the statement of Ibn `Abbas can be corroborated with a hadith of the Sahihayn which says,

    أَخْبَرَنَا جَابِرُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ أُعْطِيتُ خَمْسًا لَمْ يُعْطَهُنَّ أَحَدٌ قَبْلِي نُصِرْتُ بِالرُّعْبِ مَسِيرَةَ شَهْرٍ وَجُعِلَتْ لِي الْأَرْضُ مَسْجِدًا وَطَهُورًا فَأَيُّمَا رَجُلٍ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أَدْرَكَتْهُ الصَّلَاةُ فَلْيُصَلِّ وَأُحِلَّتْ لِي الْمَغَانِمُ وَلَمْ تَحِلَّ لِأَحَدٍ قَبْلِي وَأُعْطِيتُ الشَّفَاعَةَ وَكَانَ النَّبِيُّ يُبْعَثُ إِلَى قَوْمِهِ خَاصَّةً وَبُعِثْتُ إِلَى النَّاسِ عَامَّةً (البخاري، مسلم)

    "I have been given five things that none of the Prophets before me were given: I have been helped with fright from a distance of one month; the whole of the earth has been made for me a place of prostration and a means of purification, so that, anyone of my Ummah who encounters (the time) for Prayer, may Pray (anywhere); war spoils have been made lawful unto me while they were not lawful for anyone before me; I have been bestowed with the (Grand) Intercession; and, a Prophet used to be sent to a specific people, while I have been sent to whole of mankind."

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا كَافَّةً لِلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (28)

    34|28| And, We have not sent you but for all mankind: a harbinger of good tiding and a Warner; but most of the people do not know.57

    وَيَقُولُونَ مَتَىٰ هَٰذَا الْوَعْدُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (29)

    34|29| And they say, 'When will this promise (come to pass) if you are truthful?'58

    58. That is, the promise of punishment. Allah said elsewhere (42: 18),

    يَسْتَعْجِلُ بِهَا الَّذِينَ لا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهَا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مُشْفِقُونَ مِنْهَا وَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهَا الْحَقُّ (الشورى – 18)

    "Those who believe not in it seek to hasten it, while those who believe are fearful of it, and know that it is the very truth."

    قُلْ لَكُمْ مِيعَادُ يَوْمٍ لَا تَسْتَأْخِرُونَ عَنْهُ سَاعَةً وَلَا تَسْتَقْدِمُونَ (30)

    34|30| Say, 'For you (there is) appointment of a day, from which you cannot remain behind by a single hour, nor can you get ahead.'

    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَنْ نُؤْمِنَ بِهَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ وَلَا بِالَّذِي بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ ۗ وَلَوْ تَرَىٰ إِذِ الظَّالِمُونَ مَوْقُوفُونَ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ يَرْجِعُ بَعْضُهُمْ إِلَىٰ بَعْضٍ الْقَوْلَ يَقُولُ الَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا لِلَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا لَوْلَا أَنْتُمْ لَكُنَّا مُؤْمِنِينَ (31)

    34|31| And said those who disbelieved, 'We will never believe in this Qur'an, nor in that which was before it.'59 If you could see when the wrongdoers will be held before their Lord, throwing back on one another the word (of blame), those that were deemed weak saying to those that waxed proud, 'Had it not been for you, we should have been believers.'60

    59. This is to console the Prophet that if they reject you now, then they are in the footsteps of past nations, who also greeted Allah's revelations with disdain, and rejected in a similar summary manner (Razi and others in sum). Although the Makkans used to consult the People of the Book, and vaguely believed that they had received Allah's revelation at one time (Qurtubi, with addition); which point was strengthened by the fact that a few signs of the Prophet could be found in their Scriptures also, but they decided, all the same, that they would rather deny all (Zamakhshari). Yusuf Ali reminds us of a historical reality that is often ignored: "To the Pagans all scriptures are taboo, whether it be the Qur'an or any Revelation that came before it. The people of the Book despised the Pagans, but in their arrogant assumption of superiority, prevented them, by their example, from accepting the latest and most universal Scripture when it came in the form of the Qur'an. This relative position, of men who fancy themselves on their knowledge, and men whom they despise but exploit and mislead, always exists on this earth." 60. “This is how those who deemed themselves weak will react in that terrifying and humbling situation, well aware that what is expected to come next could be much worse. That day they will express themselves confidently, and so will speak out aloud. So long as they were in this world, they did not have the opportunity to face them - their leaders - as freely, without any constraints and fear of retaliation, as this day. Their weaknesses, their subservience, and their self-abasement had prevented them from face to face encounters in the previous life. They had sold out their God-given freedom, the honor that Allah had bestowed on them, and the perceptions that He had granted them. But today, all those valuable bestowals are behind them. In front of them is the sure prospect of chastisement. And, therefore, they speak out fearlessly: "Had it not been for you, we would have been believers!" (Sayyid).

    قَالَ الَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا لِلَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا أَنَحْنُ صَدَدْنَاكُمْ عَنِ الْهُدَىٰ بَعْدَ إِذْ جَاءَكُمْ ۖ بَلْ كُنْتُمْ مُجْرِمِينَ (32)

    34|32| Those wh waxed proud will say to those that were deemed weak, 'Was it we who kept you back from guidance after it had come to you? Rather, you have been guilty.'

    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا لِلَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا بَلْ مَكْرُ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ إِذْ تَأْمُرُونَنَا أَنْ نَكْفُرَ بِاللَّهِ وَنَجْعَلَ لَهُ أَنْدَادًا ۚ وَأَسَرُّوا النَّدَامَةَ لَمَّا رَأَوُا الْعَذَابَ وَجَعَلْنَا الْأَغْلَالَ فِي أَعْنَاقِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ۚ هَلْ يُجْزَوْنَ إِلَّا مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (33)

    34|33| Said those who were deemed weak to those who waxed proud, 'But rather, (it was your) day and night plotting wherewith you bid us to disbelieve in Allah, and set up equals to Him.' They will conceal remorse when they see the punishment.61 And We shall place shackles around the necks of those who disbelieved. Will they be recompensed but for what they were doing?

    61. "Asarra" is one of those words which carry reversible connotations. In this case, the usage can be understood as either meaning "conceal" or "evince" (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi). For a slightly larger note on the word, see Surah Yunus of this work, note 81.

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا فِي قَرْيَةٍ مِنْ نَذِيرٍ إِلَّا قَالَ مُتْرَفُوهَا إِنَّا بِمَا أُرْسِلْتُمْ بِهِ كَافِرُونَ (34)

    34|34| And never did We send a Warner into a town but its affluent ones declared, 'Indeed, we are, in what you have been sent with, disbelievers.'62

    62. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded through Abu Razeen (in a report whose authenticity could not be verified: Au.):

    عن أبي رزين قال: كان رجلان شريكان خرج أحدهما إلى الساحل وبقي الآخر، فلما بعث النبي صلى اللّه عليه وسلم كتب إلى صاحبه يسأله ما فعل، فكتب إليه أنه لم يتبعه أحد من قريش إنما اتبعه أراذل الناس ومساكينهم، قال: فترك تجارته ثم أتى صاحبه، فقال: دلني عليه، وكان يقرأ الكتب أو بعض الكتب، قال: فأتى النبي صلى اللّه عليه وسلم فقال: إلامَ تدعو؟ قال: "أدعو إلى كذا وكذا" قال: أشهد أنك رسول اللّه، قال صلى اللّه عليه وسلم: "وما علمك بذلك؟" قال: إنه لم يبعث نبي إلا اتبعه أراذل الناس ومساكينهم، قال: فنزلت هذه الآية، {وما أرسلنا في قرية من نذير إلا قال مترفوها إنا بما أرسلتم به كافرون}

    "There were two men partners (in business). One of them went to the shores while the other remained. When the Prophet appeared, the other one wrote to this one with regard to his (the Prophet’s) achievements so far. This one wrote back that none of the Quraysh had followed him; it is the lowly ones and poor people who have followed him. So, (the reporter said), he terminated his business and came back to his partner. He told him, 'Lead me to him.' (The reporter) added, 'He used to read the Scriptures, or some of them.' So he went up to the Prophet and asked, 'What do you call people unto?' He replied, 'To such and such things.' He said, 'I testify that you are a Messenger of Allah.' He asked, 'What led you to this (belief)?" He said, "No Prophet was raised but it were the lowly of the people and their poor ones who followed him.' Then this ayah was revealed, 'And never did We send a Warner into a town but its affluent ones declared, 'Indeed, we are, in what you have been sent with, disbelievers.' So the Prophet sent him the word (to him), 'Allah has revealed to attest your statement.'" And this is what Heraclius had remarked when in reply to his question, 'Are the lowly ones following him or the noble ones?' he was answered that it were the lowly ones who were following him (Ibn Kathir). The above report of Abu Razeen is also in Ibn Abi al-Mundhir's collection (Shawkani).

    وَقَالُوا نَحْنُ أَكْثَرُ أَمْوَالًا وَأَوْلَادًا وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمُعَذَّبِينَ (35)

    34|35| And they said, 'We are more in wealth and progeny, and we shall not be chastised.'63

    63. That is, not for nothing have we been given preference over you in matters of wealth and progeny. Those who are so treated in this world, will not be treated differently in the Next (Qurtubi with addition). Allah said elsewhere about their error (23: 55-56)

    أَيَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّمَا نُمِدُّهُم بِهِ مِن مَّالٍ وَبَنِينَ، نُسَارِعُ لَهُمْ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ بَل لا يَشْعُرُونَ (المؤمنون – 55، 56)

    "Do they think that by the wealth and offspring with which We extend them, We hasten to them the good things? Nay, they perceive not." And (9: 55),

    فَلاَ تُعْجِبْكَ أَمْوَالُهُمْ وَلاَ أَوْلاَدُهُمْ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُم بِهَا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَتَزْهَقَ أَنفُسُهُمْ وَهُمْ كَافِرُونَ (التوبة – 55)

    "So let not their wealth and children amaze you. Allah desires only to punish them therewith in the life of this world and that their souls should depart while they are in a state of disbelief" (Ibn Kathir).

    قُلْ إِنَّ رَبِّي يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَقْدِرُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (36)

    34|36| Say, 'Indeed, my Lord extends the provision unto whom He will, and restricts. But most of the people know not.'64

    64. That is, wealth and progeny are no signs of Allah's approval of your ways in this world, nor of a goodly end in the Hereafter (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi). How many pious have not been there who led a life of wants, and how many immoral perverts have not been there who led a life of luxury?! (Imam Razi in substance).

    وَمَا أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَلَا أَوْلَادُكُمْ بِالَّتِي تُقَرِّبُكُمْ عِنْدَنَا زُلْفَىٰ إِلَّا مَنْ آمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَأُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ جَزَاءُ الضِّعْفِ بِمَا عَمِلُوا وَهُمْ فِي الْغُرُفَاتِ آمِنُونَ (37)

    34|37| And, neither your wealth nor your progeny are the things that will bring you nigh to Us in nearness;65 except for he who believed, did righteous deeds66 – they it is, for whom is double the reward67 for that they did – and they shall be in lofty chambers, in peace.68

    65. How could wealth and children be thought of as the means for attaining closeness to Allah, asks Razi, when in actual fact, they engage a man in "other than Allah?" But rather, writes Ibn Kathir, the parameters are different. A hadith of Musnad, Muslim, and Ibn Majah (narrated by Abu Hurayrah in Muslim) explains what it is:

    "إِنّ اللّهَ لاَ يَنْظُرُ إِلَى أَجْسَادِكُمُ وَلاَ إِلَىَ صُوَرِكُمْ. وَلَكِنْ يَنْظُرُ إِلَىَ قُلُوبِكُمْ" (مسلم)

    "Verily, Allah does not look at your bodies nor at your faces, but rather looks at your hearts." 66. Another possible interpretation, expressed by Zamakhshari is that, it is not any wealth and any children that take one nearer to Allah, but rather, it is that wealth which is freely spent in the way of Allah, and those children that are brought up on Islam, taught knowledge, and trained to obey, that help achieve the objective of nearness to Allah. In short, none draws any advantage from wealth and children but the pious. The Prophet advised `Amr b. al-`Aas in words,

    "يا عمرو نعما بالمال الصالح للمرء الصالح". (قال الهيثمي: ورجال أحمد وأبي يعلى رجال الصحيح).‏

    "O `Amr, a blessing is that wealth which is (in the hands of) a righteous person" (Au.). 67. "Double the reward" is an inaccurate translation adopted for want of a better alternative. Otherwise, this grammatical construction, as pointed out by Zamakhshari, lends the meaning of "double, and double, and double .. the rewards," another way of saying, "many fold rewards." While agreeing with the above, Qurtubi offers other possibilities but yielding near about the same meaning. 68. These chambers will be made of pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones (Qurtubi). We have a hadith in Ibn Abi Hatim which sheds some light on what these chambers are. `Ali reported the Prophet (a tradition whose authenticity could not be traced: Au.),

    عن علي رضي اللّه عنه قال، قال رسول اللّه صلى اللّه عليه وسلم: "إن في الجنة لغرفاً ترى ظهورها من بطونها وبطونها من ظهورها" فقال أعرابي: لمن هي؟ قال صلى اللّه عليه وسلم: "لمن طيّب الكلام، وأطعم الطعام، وأدام الصيام، وصلى بالليل والناس نيام" (أخرجه ابن أبي حاتم).

    "In Paradise there are chambers whose inside will be visible from outside and the outside from inside." A bedouin asked, "Whom are they meant for?" He answered, "For him who spoke good words, fed the food, fasted a lot, and prayed at night while people slept" (Ibn Kathir). Although we are not sure the above is allusion to glass palaces, one might remind that despite great advances in glass technology, at its zenith but in a stalled situation since a decade or two, villas, far from palaces, could not be constructed entirely out of glass. At best, huge buildings can be clad from the outside with glass, (which in most cases have to be, by necessity, reflective, allowing view from any one side alone), but with all inner structure and divisions from concrete, steel, wood and aluminum. To the question, what are the possibilities of mankind ever constructing buildings entirely from glass, the answer from someone who is in the business of architectural glass and aluminum, and has the latest technology at his service, is that it is zero.

    وَالَّذِينَ يَسْعَوْنَ فِي آيَاتِنَا مُعَاجِزِينَ أُولَٰئِكَ فِي الْعَذَابِ مُحْضَرُونَ (38)

    34|38| As for those who strove in Our signs, (trying to) frustrate (Us), those shall be brought into chastisement.

    قُلْ إِنَّ رَبِّي يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَقْدِرُ لَهُ ۚ وَمَا أَنْفَقْتُمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فَهُوَ يُخْلِفُهُ ۖ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ (39)

    34|39| Say, 'Indeed, my Lord extends the provision unto whom He will of His slaves and restricts (it) for him.69 And, whatever thing you expend, He will replace it.70 He is the best of providers.'71

    69. As Allah said elsewhere (17: 21),

    انظُرْ كَيْفَ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ وَلَلآخِرَةُ أَكْبَرُ دَرَجَاتٍ وَأَكْبَرُ تَفْضِيلاً (الإسراء – 21)

    "See then how We give preference to some over others. But surely, the Hereafter is greater in rank and greater in excellence." In other words, just like there are grades and ranks in this world, there are grades and ranks in the Hereafter: some will be in "lofty chambers, in peace," while others at the bottom-most part of Hell. And, the best of the people in this world is, as a hadith of Muslim, conveyed to us by `Abdullah b. `Amr b. al-`Aas says,

    "قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ أَسْلَمَ، وَرُزِقَ كَفَافاً، وَقَنّعَهُ اللّهُ بِمَا آتَاهُ". (مسلم)

    "Succeeded he who became a Muslim, was given just enough (for survival) and then Allah granted him contentment over what He gave him" (Ibn Kathir). 70. That is, the rewards of whatever you spend are brought back to you – both in this world as well as in the Next. As for this-worldly reward, it can either be in material terms, or in terms of contentment, which is a treasure that never empties. Nevertheless, one might not throw away all he has in charity. Mujahid is reported to have said that if someone has what supports his life, then, let him take the middle-path, for provision has been divided (in a certain measure). What he has been given might be little, out of which he might spend as if he has been given a lot, to suffer poverty in the end (Zamakhshari). The Problem however, is not that of generosity, but of miserliness. Hence Razi, Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir cite Prophetic traditions that encourage spending. One of them (as preserved by Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad: H. Ibrahim) says (in words as in Muslim),

    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: "مَا مِنْ يَوْمٍ يُصْبِحُ الْعِبَادُ فِيهِ، إِلاّ مَلَكَانِ يَنْزِلاَنِ. فَيَقُولُ أَحَدُهُمَا: اللّهُمّ أَعْطِ مُنْفِقاً خَلَفاً. وَيَقُولُ الاَخَرُ: اللّهُمّ أَعْطِ مُمْسِكاً تَلَفاً". (الصحيحين)

    Abu Hurayrah reports, "There is not a day in which slaves do their morning but two angels come down. One of them says, 'O Allah, grant compensation to him who spends;' and the other says, 'O Allah grant destruction to him who withholds.'" Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir cite another hadith: The Prophet has reported to us from Allah, as in a hadith (of Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah and Ahmad: Hussain b. Ibrahim),

    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ يَبْلُغُ بِهِ النّبِيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ: "قَالَ اللّهُ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى: يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ أَنْفِقْ أُنْفِقْ عَلَيْكَ". (الصحيحين)

    Abu Hurayrah reports the Prophet, "Allah said, 'Son of Adam, spend, I shall spend on you.'" Qurtubi offers a trustworthy hadith on the topic taking it from Daraqutni,

    غن جابر (بن عبدالله) عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: "كل معروف صدقة. وما أنفق الرجل على نفسه و أهله كتبت له صدقة وما وقى به عرضه فهو صدقة و ما أنفق الرجل من نفقة فعلى الله خلفها إلا ما كان من نفقة في بنيان أومعصية". قال عبد الحميد قلت لإبن المنكدر: "وما وقى به الرجل عرضه"؟. قال: يعطي الشاعر وذا اللسان.

    Jabir reports that the Prophet said, "Every good deed is a charity. And what a man spends on himself and his family, it is recorded as charity including what he spends in defense of his honor, which is also charity for him. And whatever a man spends, it is for Allah to bring back, except for what he spent on a building or in a sin." Jabir was asked about what was meant by "what he spends in defense of his honor?" He replied, "(For example) he gives to a poet, or someone with a loose tongue." Other reports however, adds Qurtubi, explain that the amount one spends on a house which is essential for him, will be compensated for. Ibn Kathir adds: Once the Prophet (saws) told Bilal,

    "أنفق يا بلالُ ولا تخش من ذي العرش إقلالاً".

    "Spend O Bilal, and do not fear from the Possessor of the `Arsh diminution." (The report was collected by Tabarani. Haythami however declared a narrator weak: Au.). According to another tradition reported by Hudhayfah and found in Ibn Abi Hatim and Hafiz Abu Ya`laa's collections, the Prophet said,

    ألا إن بعد زمانكم هذا زمانا عضوضا يعض الموسر على ما في يده حذار الإنفاق، وقد قال الله تعالى: {وما أنفقتم من شيء فهو يخلفه} وسيد شرار الخلق يبايعون كل مضطر، ألا إن بيع المضطرين حرام، المسلم أخو المسلم، لا يظلمه، ولا يخذله، إن كان عندك معروف فعد به على أخيك، ولا تزده هلاكا إلا هلاكه.

    "Lo, after this will be biting times when the affluent one will hold with his teeth (what he has) in fear of expenditure while Allah has said, 'And, whatever thing you expend, He will replace it.' And, the worst of the evil ones from among the creation will trade with the most desperate person. Remember, trading with the desperate ones is unlawful. A Muslim is a brother unto another Muslim. He does not wrong him, and does not humiliate him. If you happen to posses a good thing, take it to your brother, but do not (on the contrary) augment destruction upon his (present) destruction." The hadith however, adds Ibn Kathir, is weak. (But the prediction has come true: Au.). 71. The best of provisions is that, writes Razi, which (a) is not delayed beyond the time of need, (b) is not lesser than the exact requirement, and (c) does not entail reckoning. Further, the use of the term "providers" in the plural – while there is only one provider, Allah – is purely allegorical, like saying, "Allah comes down," or, "Allah is with the slaves," etc. At best the term "providers" has been employed to reflect on the various means that Allah (swt) adopts to provide His creations.

    وَيَوْمَ يَحْشُرُهُمْ جَمِيعًا ثُمَّ يَقُولُ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ أَهَٰؤُلَاءِ إِيَّاكُمْ كَانُوا يَعْبُدُونَ (40)

    34|40| And, the day He gathers them together and then say to the angels, 'Was it you that these were worshipping?72

    72. If we consider the fact that since angels are the means that Allah employs, worship of angels could imply worship of the material means so powerfully prevalent in our times (Au.). In any case, as pointed out by Qurtubi, there was a clan – Banu Mulayh belonging to the Khuza`ah tribe – which worshipped the Jinn, claiming that they could see them and that they were angels, Allah's own daughters.

    قَالُوا سُبْحَانَكَ أَنْتَ وَلِيُّنَا مِنْ دُونِهِمْ ۖ بَلْ كَانُوا يَعْبُدُونَ الْجِنَّ ۖ أَكْثَرُهُمْ بِهِمْ مُؤْمِنُونَ (41)

    34|41| They will reply, 'Glory to You. You are our Protector apart from them. Nay rather, they were worshipping the Jinn.73 Most of them were believers in them.'

    73. It is the Shayaatin who used to beautify for them the worship of other than Allah (Ibn Kathir).

    فَالْيَوْمَ لَا يَمْلِكُ بَعْضُكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ نَفْعًا وَلَا ضَرًّا وَنَقُولُ لِلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا ذُوقُوا عَذَابَ النَّارِ الَّتِي كُنْتُمْ بِهَا تُكَذِّبُونَ (42)

    34|42| This day then, no power do some of you hold of benefit or harm to others. And We shall say to those who wronged, 'Taste the chastisement of the Fire that you used to cry lies to.'

    وَإِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ قَالُوا مَا هَٰذَا إِلَّا رَجُلٌ يُرِيدُ أَنْ يَصُدَّكُمْ عَمَّا كَانَ يَعْبُدُ آبَاؤُكُمْ وَقَالُوا مَا هَٰذَا إِلَّا إِفْكٌ مُفْتَرًى ۚ وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِلْحَقِّ لَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ مُبِينٌ (43)

    34|43| And when Our verses are read out to them as clear evidences, they say, 'This is not but a man who wishes to avert you from what your forefathers worshipped.' And they said, 'This is not, but a forged lie.' And said those who disbelieved of the Truth when it came to them, 'This is (nothing) but clear magic.'74

    74. Yusuf Ali's commentary on the verse runs as follows: "Apart from the worship of Evil in the guise of the Powers of Light, there is another form of false worship, which depends on ancestral tradition. "Why," it is said, "should we not do as our fathers did?" They reject a new prophet of Truth simply because his teaching does not agree with the ways of their ancestors. The answer to this is given in verse 44 below. But meanwhile the rejecters' objection to new Truth is stated in three forms: (1) our ancestors knew nothing of this; (2) the story of inspiration is false; it is merely an invention; we do not believe in inspiration; (3) when in some particular points, the new Truth does work wonders in men's hearts, they account for it by saying it is magic. 'The third objection is merely traditional. What is magic? If it was merely deception, surely the Truth has proved itself to be above deception. The second objection is answered by the fact that the Messenger who comes with new spiritual Truth is acknowledged to be truthful in other relations of life: why should he be false where his preaching brings him no gain but much sorrow and persecution?"

    وَمَا آتَيْنَاهُمْ مِنْ كُتُبٍ يَدْرُسُونَهَا ۖ وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهِمْ قَبْلَكَ مِنْ نَذِيرٍ (44)

    34|44| And We have not given them any Books to study; nor did We send them before you any warner.75

    75. That is, among the Quraysh. In fact, no Messenger had been raised among the Arabs in general, in recent memory. Isma`il’s ministry was an ancient affair (Au). And, therefore, they should have been especially grateful to Allah, who did not deny them what others were blessed with, namely Jews and Christians, by sending this Messenger. On that account they ought to have made the best use of the Messenger raised among them, and of the Book that he brought (Mufti Shafi`).

    وَكَذَّبَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ وَمَا بَلَغُوا مِعْشَارَ مَا آتَيْنَاهُمْ فَكَذَّبُوا رُسُلِي ۖ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ نَكِيرِ (45)

    34|45| Those that preceded them (also) cried lies, yet they did not attain a tenth of what We gave them.76 But they cried lies to My Messengers. (See) then, how was My repudiation!

    76. The opinion attributed to Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, (also Suddi and Ibn Zayd: Ibn Kathir) is that the Makkans were not given a tenth of the power, material wealth, and the length of life that the earlier unbelievers were given. Yet consider, how was their end!? (Ibn Jarir). This is in the same vein, writes Ibn Kathir, as another verse which says (46: 26),

    وَلَقَدْ مَكَّنَّاهُمْ فِيمَا إِن مَّكَّنَّاكُمْ فِيهِ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُمْ سَمْعًا وَأَبْصَارًا وَأَفْئِدَةً فَمَا أَغْنَى عَنْهُمْ سَمْعُهُمْ وَلَا أَبْصَارُهُمْ وَلَا أَفْئِدَتُهُم مِّن شَيْءٍ إِذْ كَانُوا يَجْحَدُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَحَاقَ بِهِم مَّا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُون (الأحقاف – 26)

    "Surely, We had firmly established them with that wherewith We have not established you therewith. And We had assigned them hearing, sights and hearts; but availed them not their hearing, sights, nor the hearts aught, because they were denying Allah's signs; and (consequently), that (very thing) surrounded them which they were mocking." To Imam Razi, another connotation is possible. To paraphrase, "And laid the lie those who were before the Quraysh, while they, the earlier ones, did not attain a tenth of what these, the Quraysh, have attained" where, the allusion is to the excellence in language they possessed and signs of the Prophet's veracity that the Quraysh were shown. In short, the earlier ones did not receive a tenth of the evidences that the Quraysh have, yet, they suffered destruction for their disbelief; so, what about these?

    قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَعِظُكُمْ بِوَاحِدَةٍ ۖ أَنْ تَقُومُوا لِلَّهِ مَثْنَىٰ وَفُرَادَىٰ ثُمَّ تَتَفَكَّرُوا ۚ مَا بِصَاحِبِكُمْ مِنْ جِنَّةٍ ۚ إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا نَذِيرٌ لَكُمْ بَيْنَ يَدَيْ عَذَابٍ شَدِيدٍ (46)

    34|46| Say, 'I exhort you to one (thing) only: that you stand up for Allah in pairs and singly77 and then reflect:' there is no madness in your companion.78 He is no more than a warner to you of an impending severe chastisement.79

    77. In ones and twos, but threes were left out, for, as an English proverb goes, two is company, three is crowd - larger the number, lesser is the intellectual content of a pool. If you have a hundred people before you, and you want everyone to understand what you are saying, you will have to bear in mind the lowest of intellect among them to successfully communicate your ideas. In contrast, if it is not simply communication of an idea, but discussion of some sort is involved, then, one might remember that crowds are always not quite rational (Au.). Yusuf Ali comments with another aspect in mind: "A crowd mentality is not the best for the perception of the final spiritual truths. For these, it is necessary that each soul should commune within itself with earnest sincerity as before Allah: if it requires a Teacher, let it seek out one, or it may be that it wants the strengthening of the inner convictions that dawn on it, by the support of a sympathiser or friend. But careful and heart-felt reflection is necessary to appraise the higher Truths." 78. What the Quraysh meant perhaps is that the Prophet exhibited signs of madness by not seeing where his true tribal and personal interests lay, and that the very nobleness of his teachings promised its failure (Au.). 79. We have a hadith that speaks of the closeness of the Hour. It is in Ahmad declared trustworthy by Haythamiyy. Buraydah reports: One day the Prophet (saws) came out and called out three times saying,

    أَيُّها النَّاسُ ! أَتَدْروْنَ ما مَثَلي وَمثَلُكم قالوا اللهُ ورسولُه أعلَمُ قال إنَّمَا مَثَلي وَمَثَلُكم كَمثَلِ قومٍ خَافُوا عَدُوًّا يَأْتيهم فبَعثُوا رَجُلاً يَرْبؤُّهُمْ فَبَيْنَا هُم كذلكَ أبْصَرَ العَدُوَّ فأقْبَل لِيُنْذِرَهُم - أراه قال خشيةَ أن يُدْرِكَه العَدُوُّ قبل أن يُنْذِرَ قومَه فأهْوَى بثوبه ) أيُّها النَّاسُ ! أُتِيتُم ! أيُّها النَّاسُ ! أُتِيتُم !

    "People! Do you know the example that fits me and you? It is the example of a people who feared their enemy that should pounce upon them. So they sent a man to watch out. While he was thus engaged, he spotted the enemy. So he went back (to them) to warn them but was afraid that the enemy will seize them even before he could reach his people. So he signaled with his garment (and said), 'People! They are upon you. People! They are upon you’ – three times" (Ibn Kathir).

    قُلْ مَا سَأَلْتُكُمْ مِنْ أَجْرٍ فَهُوَ لَكُمْ ۖ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَى اللَّهِ ۖ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ (47)

    34|47| Say, '(If) I have asked you any wage, it is yours. My wage is only upon Allah. And He is over all things a Witness.'

    قُلْ إِنَّ رَبِّي يَقْذِفُ بِالْحَقِّ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ (48)

    34|48| Say, 'Verily my Lord casts the Truth:80 the Great Knower of the Unseen.'

    80. The allusion is, according to Qatadah and Ibn Zayd, to Revelation (Ibn Jarir). Another possible connotation is, ‘He casts the Truth in the hearts of the truthful’ (Razi).

    قُلْ جَاءَ الْحَقُّ وَمَا يُبْدِئُ الْبَاطِلُ وَمَا يُعِيدُ (49)

    34|49| Say, 'The truth has come, and falsehood will neither originate (anything) nor repeat (it).'81

    81. That is, whatever is 'other than God,' cannot make anything appear, or, re-generate (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir from some of the Salaf). In a deeper sense, "I.e., in contrast to the creativeness inherent in every true idea, falsehood – being in itself an illusion – cannot really create anything or revive any value that may have been alive in the past" (Asad).

    قُلْ إِنْ ضَلَلْتُ فَإِنَّمَا أَضِلُّ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِي ۖ وَإِنِ اهْتَدَيْتُ فَبِمَا يُوحِي إِلَيَّ رَبِّي ۚ إِنَّهُ سَمِيعٌ قَرِيبٌ (50)

    34|50| Say, 'If I should go astray, then I would go astray against myself. But if I am rightly guided, then it is by what my Lord reveals to me.82 He indeed is the Hearer, the Ever-nigh.'83

    82. That is, the Prophet has not worked out the guidance or the means of salvation he is offering with his own mind: it is Allah's own bestowal. 83. Yusuf Ali explains: "If it could possibly be supposed that the Prophet was a self-deceived visionary, it would affect him only, and could not fail to appear in his personality. But in fact he was steady in his constancy and Faith, and he not only went from strength to strength, but won the enduring and whole-hearted love and devotion of his nearest and dearest and of those who most came into contact with him. How was this possible, unless he had the Truth and the inspiration of Allah behind him? This is the fifth and last argument in this passage."

    وَلَوْ تَرَىٰ إِذْ فَزِعُوا فَلَا فَوْتَ وَأُخِذُوا مِنْ مَكَانٍ قَرِيبٍ (51)

    34|51| And, if you could see when they will be smitten with fright; but (there will be) no escape.84 And they will be seized from a place nearby.85

    84. This is how Ibn `Abbas explained the term "fawta", viz., “escape,” as in Ibn Jarir. Report concerning the above is in Ibn abi al-Mundhir also (Shawkani). 85. Although Ibn Jarir keeps it open, the preferred opinion is that this seizing will be on the Day of Judgment (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir), and the import is, writes Razi, they will not be able to flee, but rather, will be seized from a place close at hand.

    وَقَالُوا آمَنَّا بِهِ وَأَنَّىٰ لَهُمُ التَّنَاوُشُ مِنْ مَكَانٍ بَعِيدٍ (52)

    34|52| And they will say, 'We believe in it (now).' But, how could they receive (faith)86 from a place far off?87

    86. "Tanawush" is different from its close synonym "tanaawul" in that the former implies an easy attaining, or what does not involve any effort (while the latter would need some effort). The implication is, the faith that was being offered to them in the world, was within easy reach. But now, in the Next world, that easy reach has become a distant wish (Au.). 87. An alternative understanding is that the textual word "tanaawush" is for return. That is, how can they be returned to the world of “the past,” to facilitate them to repent? This was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    وَقَدْ كَفَرُوا بِهِ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۖ وَيَقْذِفُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ مِنْ مَكَانٍ بَعِيدٍ (53)

    34|53| Seeing they denied it earlier. And they are casting at the Unseen from a place far off.88

    88. Ibn Jarir points out that several interpretations are possible: (a) they are conjecturing about the Prophet that he is either a sorcerer, a soothsayer, or a poet (Mujahid), (b) they are conjecturing that there will be no raising after death, no reckoning, no rewards or punishments (Qatadah), (c) they cast aspersions against the Qur'an from a distance (Ibn Zayd). Note the contrast. Allah casts the truth. The unbelievers also cast, but they cast that which is insubstantial, which is what "bi 'l ghayb" implies here (Razi). Asad adds: "The obvious implication is that man's fate in the Hereafter will be a consequence of, and invariably conditioned by, his spiritual attitude and the manner of his life during the first, earthly stage of his existence. In this instance, the expression 'from far away' is apparently used in a sense similar to saying like, 'far off the mark' or 'without rhyme or reason', and is meant to qualify as groundless and futile all negative speculation about what the Qur'an describes as al-ghayb ('that which is beyond the reach of human [or created being's] perception'): in this case, life after death."

    وَحِيلَ بَيْنَهُمْ وَبَيْنَ مَا يَشْتَهُونَ كَمَا فُعِلَ بِأَشْيَاعِهِمْ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا فِي شَكٍّ مُرِيبٍ (54)

    34|54| And a barrier is placed between them and what they desire,89 as was done with the likes of them earlier.90 They were (also) in a doubt disquieting.

    89. Hasan, Mujahid, Qatadah and others interpreted the verse as meaning, a barrier will be placed between the unbelievers and their wishes to believe in Allah and return to1. The chapter is Makkan by consensus, except for a single verse – number 6 - that some have thought is Madinan (Qurtubi). 2. That is, what goes into the earth of the seeds or the dead, what comes out of it of the vegetation, or living beings; what comes down from the heaven of Allah's mercy, such as rains, or angels, or the Revelation, and what ascends into it of the good word as mentioned in 35: 10):

    إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُ

    "To Him rises the good word", or the souls, or good deeds (that rise up) could all have been alluded to (Razi, Qurtubi and others in parts). Asad puts it in contemporary terms, “This definition comprises things physical and spiritual: waters disappearing underground and reappearing; the metamorphosis of seed into plant, and of decaying plant into oil and coal; traces of old artefacts and entire civilizations buried in the earth and then reappearing within the sight and consciousness of later generations of men; the transformation of dead bodies of animals and men into elements of nourishment for new life; the ascent of earthly vapours towards the skies, and their descent as rain, snow or hail; the ascent towards the heaven of men’s longings, hopes and ambitions, and the descent of divine inspiration into the minds of men, and thus a revival of faith and thought and, with it, the growth of new artefacts, new skills and new hopes: in short, the endless recurrence of birth, death and re-birth which characterises all of God’s creation.” 3. This is how Ibn `Abbas, Mujhahid, and Qatadah understood the word "ya`zubu" of the text – as in Ibn Jarir; reflecting Allah's Quality: the Shaheed (Au.). 4. As noted earlier, "dharrah" alludes to a very small ant, or the speck of dust that is visible when a ray of light penetrates a dark room. Adoption of its modern meaning, atom, although correct, is actually more for reasons of sound than sense (Au.). 5. That is, the "Lawh al-Mahfooz" (Alusi). 6. Asad writes: “The particle min (lit., “out of”) which precedes the noun rijz (“vileness” or “vile conduct”) indicates that the suffering which awaits such sinners in the life to come is an organic consequence of their deliberately evil conduct in this world.” 7. In its brevity, the Qur'an uses "waaw" to express, apart from its standard meanings of "and," "while," "but," "yet," “although,” etc., several other meanings, such as, "for," "further," "moreover," "to be sure," etc. At this point, "on the other hand" seems to fit quite well (Au.). 8. Sayyid comments on” And guides to the path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable: "The path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable is that path which He has approved for His creation, and has chosen it for the humans so that their footsteps may match with the footsteps of the material world in which they live. The path is none other than the system which rules over all that is there in the universe including human life. Human life then, cannot sever its relationship with the universe which provides it with the basis of existence as well as the system that governs its continuation. “(It) guides on to the ‘path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable,’ by creating in the hearts of a believer clear perceptions with regard to his own existence, his relationships (with the world around him), and the laws (that govern the world). It tells him about his place in it, his role, and the nature of relationship between its various parts, in their joint effort towards the realization of Allah's will, and His wisdom in their creation; and towards the realization of the harmony between various elements as the whole journeys to its ultimate destination. "(It) guides to the ‘path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable,’ by correcting man’s modes and manners of thought, placing them on a sound footing; those that agree with the created world on the one side, and with his own natural instincts on the other. It helps the human beings to understand well the laws that govern the world, how they could be made use of, and how to respond to its demands without clashing with it, or running into a conflict with it. "(It) guides to the ‘path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable,’ with the help of its own methods of training which prepare an individual to conform with the society, and prepare the society to conform with the individual, thus creating a harmony which extends to all the creations that inhabit the globe. But more, it prepares all the creations to fall in harmony with the nature of the universe in which they live. And all this is achieved with extreme ease and comfort. (It) guides to the ‘path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable,’ – a guidance that consists of a system of laws which is in accord with human nature, his circumstances of life, and its economics, in harmony with the laws of the universe that govern the rest of the creations. In the process, man does not break away from them with his own organizations and laws. He is after all, only one of the many communities that inhabit this world." 9. Qurtubi draws our attention to the derision hidden in alluding to a prominent figure of Makkah in words, "Shall we point you to a man.." (as if he was just any man, unworthy of any term better than this: Au.) 10. The pagans contemporary to the Prophet (saws) could be pardoned for thinking that Allah (swt) will resurrect after, "you are torn to complete tearing." But many Muslims contemporary to us fail to notice that the promise, as in the Qur'an and prophetic traditions, is not about recreation after a complete tearing resulting in disintegration of the body into bits and pieces. But rather, the promise involves an earth that will be completely destroyed, leaving no trace on it of any traces of biological life whatsoever: no bones, no fossils, no living forms, however slight, on the surface or buried deep inside with its life arrested by Time. The earth will undergo such massive geological and physical changes as will juggle together its every single atom, to leave mountains moving like clouds and the waters – a source of life – on fire. When the present sun will be gone, the stars will disappear and a new universe brought into existence governed by entirely new set of laws. It is from that "new" situation, when the earth will be held in one hand, and the universe folded around another, that Allah will "resurrect the dead" from atoms (Au.). 11. Asad thinks that this is in reference to the tortuous life of those who reject Allah’s call. However, since, not all such societies 'definitely' suffer such consequences as alluded to in the verse, we may take his following, but brilliant note as a point for further brooding. He writes: “The construction of this phrase (fi al-`adhaabi wa dalaalim ba`aeed: Au.) points definitely to suffering in this world (in contrast with the suffering in the hereafter spoken of in verse 5 above): for whereas the concept of “aberration” (Asad’s rendering of “dalaal”) is meaningless in the context of the life to come, it has an obvious meaning in the context of moral and social confusion – and, hence, of the individual and social suffering – which is the unavoidable consequence of people’s loss of belief in the existence of absolute moral values and, thus, in an ultimate divine judgment on the basis of values.” 12. If reference to the words, "what lies behind them of the heaven and the earth," Qatadah has remarked that the justification is that wherever you look, (not only to the left or right, or front), but also at the rear, you see the earth and the heaven (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). In other words, there is no madness in the Messenger of truth, but it could be in those who are surrounded by signs all around them, that they find it impossible to escape from, but cling to illogical notions (Au.). Asad again, “.. how can anyone be so presumptuous as to deny the reality of resurrection and life after death, seeing that it is a phenomenon beyond man’s experience, while, on the other hand, everything within the universe points to God’s unlimited creative power.” 13. “This allusion is to unpredictable geological and cosmic occurrences – earthquakes, the fall of meteors and meteorites, cosmic rays, and so forth..” (Asad). 14. That is, signs that are a personal gift of Allah to a slave of His, for, they are not visible, although they surround the humankind, except to those who establish a Master-slave relationship with Him. On the other hand, if they decide that they can "work out things" all by themselves, "including the discovery of signs - if there are any," to them, the challenge is: do it if you can. The key to discovery of higher truths is bondage to the slavery of the Creator (Au.). 15. So, there is no limit to bestowal of signs upon those who turn to Him. Da'ud (asws) was one of them. He was an "oft-turning" person to Allah (28: 34). So He conferred upon him such signs and miracles as no one will ever achieve by himself: iron was made wax for him (as a material gift) and, hearts of mountains and birds were softened for him (as spiritual gift), so that when he sang his Lord's praises they joined him in chorus in a language and voice that he could understand and derive ecstatic pleasure from (Au.). Majid comments: “This may also refer to the greatness of David as a king. After the death and defeat of Saul at the hands of the formidable Philistines, ‘Israel rallied to David as the one possible saviour, though the succession was disputed by a rival faction; and under David’s leadership the supremacy of Hebrew kingdom was decisively established, the Philistine power was shattered and the hostile tribes were forced to become David’s tributaries.’ (UHW. I. p.447).” Mawdudi adds: “This is an allusion to the countless favours with which Allah had blessed the Prophet David (asws). He was an ordinary young man of the tribe of Judah, living in Bethlehem. In a campaign against the Phillistines he slew the giant Goliath. This increased his esteem among the Israelites, and ultimately he was made a king over the whole of Israel, having first been made a ruler over Hebron. He took Jerusalem and made it the capital of his kingdom whose boundaries extended between the Gulf of `Aqabah in the east and river Euphrates in the west. In addition, he was divinely bestowed with knowledge and wisdom.” 16. "Sing praises": This is how Ibn `Abbas, Abu `Abd al-Rahman, Abu Maysarah, Mujahid, Dahhak and others understood the textual "awwibi" (Ibn Jarir). 17. It is reported that Da'ud's beautiful recitation of the Zabur created such effects that the mountains, birds and other animals sang along with him. In Sayyid's words, "It seems Da'ud had attained such high quality of Praises for his Lord that the veils between him and Allah's other creations stood removed. They all sang in a chorus with him. This was the special blessing that was bestowed upon him." The Prophet (saws) said about Abu Musa al-Ash`ari's recitation as he heard him recite the Qur'an one night,

    أُعْطِيَ مِزْمَاراً مِنْ مَزَامِيرِ آلِ دَاوُد"َ"

    "Indeed he has been given a musical voice that was given to Da'ud's folks" (Bukhari and Muslim: Ibn Kathir). The above implies that the skill went down the line. 18. The allusion is not allegorical, but real, to a miracle. It was not melting of the metal for ease of moulding but rather softening of it in his hands, so that he bent it to the shape of his desire with ease – yet another of the special blessings bestowed on Da'ud (Sayyid). It is said that making armour was Da'ud's means of sustenance also (Ibn Kathir). 19. The apparent meaning is efficient design and skilled manufacture of the armour. But Imam Razi thinks that the directive is not to spend time on the manufacture of the armour beyond an acceptable limit of time and quantity. In different words, "qaddir" is for spending just the right time and efforts. The rest of the time should be devoted to the counsel that follows: "And do you all act righteously." 20. It is said that it was Da'ud who first made chained armours. Earlier, it were shields (made from beaten sheets of iron) that were in use (but they were heavy: Au.) - Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir. 21. Either the whole family has been addressed, or perhaps the plural form has been adopted for reverence (Alusi). 22. That is, it covered two month's course in a day's time, morning to evening (Ibn Jarir). 23. That is, of the Jinn some were subjected to him to help him in construction works. 24. That is, the Jinn worked for Sulayman, joining hands in whatever he wished to build or manufacture. 25. "Mihrab" is the front part of any (significant) building, place of worship, or prayer-hall. Metaphorically, it can be used for any constructed place, such as mosques, medium sized palaces, or even villas (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir from the Salaf). 26. According to Lisan al-`Arab, “timthaal” (pl. tamaatheel) is for every artefact that may have been made to resemble a living creation of Allah. `Atiyyah al-`Awfi, Dahhak and Suddi's opinion was that the allusion is to pictures (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). It might be asked, 'How could Sulayman have been allowed to make pictures when it is disallowed in our religion?' The answer is, it was perhaps not forbidden in his Shari`ah, for, after all, this is not a moral issue such as truthfulness, or lies, (that have remained unlawful throughout the ages in every Shari`ah). Further, Abu al-`Aaliyyah has said that (it is not necessary that those were human figures, but rather) pictures of non-living objects, such as natural sceneries, or, if of living beings then, headless (Zamakshari). Qurtubi comments: Reports from the Prophet (saws) on this topic lead us to believe that all kinds of pictures are prohibited in Islam, except for some designs on clothes. Indeed, there are a few ahadith that do not allow even for this exception. One is in Muslim which says that,

    "إِنّ أَصْحَابَ هَذِهِ الصّوَرِ يُعَذّبُونَ. وَيُقَالُ لَهُمْ: أَحْيُوا مَا خَلَقْتُمْ"

    "Artists will be punished in the Hereafter and told, 'Now, blow life into these.' Another hadith of Hasan Ghareeb Saheeh status in Tirmidhi says,

    عَنْ أَبي هُرَيْرَةَ قالَ: قالَ رَسُولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: "تَخْرُجُ عُنُقٌ مِنَ النّارِ يَوْمَ القِيَامَةِ لَها عَيْنَانِ تُبْصِرَانِ وَأُذُنَانِ تَسْمَعَانِ وَلِسَانٌ يَنْطِقُ يَقُولُ إِنّي: وُكّلْتُ بِثَلاَثَةٍ: بِكُلّ جَبّارٍ عَنِيدٍ، وَبِكُلّ مَنْ دَعَا مَعَ الله إِلَهَاً آخَرَ، وَبِالمُصَوّرِينَ".

    "A neck will rise out from the Fire on the Day of Judgment, with two eyes that will see, two ears that will hear, and a tongue that will speak. It will say, 'I have been given custody of three: Every stubborn tyrant, every one who evoked a deity other than Allah, and, those who made pictures.'" Exempted however, adds Qurtubi, are dolls for children. `A'isha herself used to play with them and the Prophet did not object. Another narrative preserved by Bukhari, Muslim and Tirmidhi, narrated by Abu Talha says,

    عن عُبَيْدِ الله بنِ عَبْدِ الله بنِ عُتْبَةَ، أَنّهُ سَمِعَ ابنَ عَبّاسٍ يَقُولُ: سَمِعْتُ أَبَا طَلْحَةَ يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ: "لاَ تَدْخُلُ المَلاَئِكَةُ بَيْتاً فِيهِ كَلْبٌ وَلاَ صُورَةُ تَمَاثِيلَ". (قال أبو عيسى: هذا حديثٌ حسنٌ صحيحٌ).‏

    "Angels do not enter a house which has a dog or graven images." The following is also preserved:

    عَنْ سَعِيدِ بْنِ أَبِي الْحَسَنِ. قَالَ: جَاءَ رَجُلٌ إِلَى ابْنِ عَبّاسٍ. فَقَالَ: إِنّي رَجُلٌ أُصَوّرُ هَذِهِ الصّوَرَ. فَأَفْتِنِي فِيهَا. فَقَالَ لَهُ: ادْنُ مِنّي. فَدَنَا مِنْهُ. ثُمّ قَالَ: ادْنُ مِنّي. فَدَنَا حَتّىَ وَضَعَ يَدَهُ عَلَىَ رَأْسِهِ. قَالَ: أُنَبّئُكَ بِمَا سَمِعْتُ مِنْ رَسُولِ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم. سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ "كُلّ مُصَوّرٍ فِي النّارِ. يَجْعَلُ لَهُ، بِكُلّ صُورَةٍ صَوّرَهَا، نَفْساً فَتُعَذّبُهُ فِي جَهَنّمَ". وَقَالَ: إنْ كُنْتَ لاَ بُدّ فَاعِلاً، فَاصْنَعِ الشّجَرَ وَمَا لاَ نَفْسَ لَهُ (مسلم)

    Sa'id ibn Abi al-Hasan narrated that a man went to Ibn `Abbas and said, "I make pictures. So tell me about it." He said, "Come nearer." He went nearer. He told him, "Come nearer." He went nearer until Ibn `Abbas placed his hand on his head and then said, "Let me tell you what I heard from the Messenger of Allah. I heard him say, 'Every artist will be in the Fire. Every picture that he made will be turned into a body that will torture him in Hell.' "Then he added, 'If you have to do it at all, then make trees and other lifeless objects" (Au.). Mawdudi devotes a goodly space to the topic. Herewith in short: “Some people have argued that since picture-making was allowed during the time of Sulayman, it should be allowable in our Shari`ah also. But, this argument is not tenable. The prohibition was equally there during his times too. Torah had already been revealed to Musa and contains unambiguous references to picture making and its prohibition. E.g. ‘Thou shall not make unto thee graven images, or any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth below or that is in the water under the earth (Exod. 20:4)’. And, ‘Ye shall make no idols, nor graven images, nor rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it (Levi. 26:1).’ And, ‘Lest you corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth’ (Deut. 4: 16-18).’ “Further, a strong argument cannot be built on the basis of a simple word like “tamaatheel” which has unclear connotations, especially in the light of the strongly worded prohibitions in the Prophetic traditions. A hadith preserved in Bukhari tells us that once a few of the Prophet’s wives were around him. They were talking among themselves and `A'isha tells us that,

    عَنْ عَائِشَةَ أُمِّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنَّ أُمَّ حَبِيبَةَ وَأُمَّ سَلَمَةَ ذَكَرَتَا كَنِيسَةً رَأَيْنَهَا بِالْحَبَشَةِ فِيهَا تَصَاوِيرُ فَذَكَرَتَا لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ إِنَّ أُولَئِكَ إِذَا كَانَ فِيهِمْ الرَّجُلُ الصَّالِحُ فَمَاتَ بَنَوْا عَلَى قَبْرِهِ مَسْجِدًا وَصَوَّرُوا فِيهِ تِلْكَ الصُّوَرَ فَأُولَئِكَ شِرَارُ الْخَلْقِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ).البخاري)

    Umm Habibah and Umm Salamah casually mentioned that they had been into a Church in Abyssinia where they had found pictures (of humans). The Prophet remarked, “The custom among the past peoples was that when one of their righteous men died, they built a house of worship over his grave and decorated it with pictures. On the Day of Judgement these people will be the worst of creations in the sight of Allah.” `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud reported the Prophet,

    إِنَّ أَشَدَّ النَّاسِ عَذَاباً عِنْدَ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ الْمُصَوِّرُونَ “The most severely punished on the day of Judgment would be those who made pictures.” (Sahihayn) `A’isha reports the following:

    عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا قَالَتْ حَشَوْتُ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وِسَادَةً فِيهَا تَمَاثِيلُ كَأَنَّهَا نُمْرُقَةٌ فَجَاءَ فَقَامَ بَيْنَ الْبَابَيْنِ وَجَعَلَ يَتَغَيَّرُ وَجْهُهُ فَقُلْتُ مَا لَنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ مَا بَالُ هَذِهِ الْوِسَادَةِ قَالَتْ وِسَادَةٌ جَعَلْتُهَا لَكَ لِتَضْطَجِعَ عَلَيْهَا قَالَ أَمَا عَلِمْتِ أَنَّ الْمَلَائِكَةَ لَا تَدْخُلُ بَيْتًا فِيهِ صُورَةٌ وَأَنَّ مَنْ صَنَعَ الصُّورَةَ يُعَذَّبُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَقُولُ أَحْيُوا مَا خَلَقْتُمْ

    “I made pillows – sort of small cushions - for the Prophet that had pictures. He entered and sat down between the two entrances. Then his countenance began to alter. She inquired, “What’s wrong with us, Messenger of Allah?” He asked, “What about these cushions?” She answered, “Well, cushions I made so that you could rest on them.” He said, “Have you not known that angels do not enter a house in which there are pictures and that whoever made a picture will be tormented on the day of Standing and told, ‘Now. Give life to what you made’” (Bukhari). “Some people try to make a distinction,” continues Mawdudi, “between a photograph and a painting, whereas the Shari`ah forbids the picture itself without discussing the process or methods of how such pictures are made. Yet others have argued that the forbiddance was meant to put an end to idol worship in early Islamic days; but since such a risk does not exist anymore, the prohibition should go. This argument is also untenable because there is no hadith that gives us the reason as being proffered now. Furthermore, the statement that paganism has been obliterated has no basis in reality. Paganism and polytheism of all sorts thrive in our contemporary world. Finally, that pictures lead to idol-worship, saint-worship, etc., could be only one of the reasons for its prohibitions; there are other ill-effects that are done away with by the prohibition. Pornography and obscenity are cases in point. Pictures are also used for misleading the masses and spreading discord among nations.” To the above we might add that far from decorating their homes with pictures, a report preserved by Bukhari reports `Umar as having said to the People of the Book,

    إنا لا ندخل كنائسكم، من أجل التماثيل التي فيها الصور

    “We do not enter your Churches because of the pictures you have there.” As for discord that Mawdudi spoke of, we could cite a single example from thousands: While relaying the event of the destruction of the Trade Centre buildings, live on the TV, CNN, America's most popular channel showed Palestinians celebrating the event. The announcer remarked: “We shall never forget this celebration.” Later it was discovered that the TV station had introduced an older film that depicted celebrations of some other occasion. The moment was used to sow permanent hatred of the Muslims in American minds. It achieved high level of success. There is no disputing the fact that no single element has done so much damage to the Islamic religion and its culture as the TV (Au.). 27. That is, the basins were as large as cisterns. 28. The cooking cauldrons were so large that they were, because of their weight, sort of anchored to the ground (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Abu Bakr Ibn al-`Arabi said that in pre-Islamic times the pots of `Abdullah b. Jud`an were also so large that one had to climb a ladder to look in. Tarafah b. al-`Abd has a poetical line describing them. Ibn al-`Arabi also reports having seen similarly large pot in one of the ribaat (zaawiyyah: Sufi resort) in Abu Sa`eed to serve the Sufis since they all – without exception – shared meal from one pot (Qurtubi). The details about Sulayman's activities confirm (the historical accounts) that Da'ud established the kingdom, while his son Sulayman attended to its development (with a point from Razi). 29. To act righteously, in obedience of Allah, is to act according to the demands of gratefulness (Muhammad ibn Ka`b: Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Ibn Majah has recorded the Prophet (saws) as Sulayman’s mother having said to him,

    يَا سُلَيْمَانُ لا تُكْثِرِ النَّوْمَ بِاللَّيْلِ ، فَإِنَّ كَثْرَةَ النَّوْمِ بِاللَّيْلِ تَتْرُكُ الْعَبْدَ فَقِيرًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

    “Sulayman! Do not sleep much at night. Long sleep during the night will leave a man destitute on the Day of Judgment" (Ibn Kathir). But Haythamiyy remarked that the above report does not have a strong chain (Au.). 30. In Asad’s words, ‘I.e., even among those who consider themselves God’s servants – for “truly grateful [to God] is only he who realizes his inability to render adequate thanks to Him” (Zamakhshari).’ Sayyid points out that if we fail to thank Allah for his numerous benefits, in fact, even fail to realize the blessings spread around us, it is because we are used to them and have taken them for granted. It is only when we miss one of them that we realize the great benefit. (Like a cut on a finger makes us realize how much we utilize that particular spot: Au.). We experienced this, continues Sayyid, when once (in the prison) the only access to the sun we had was through a hole the size of a coin. We (the inmates) would make the best use of it so long as it lasted, taking the place in turns. We would take the shine on our faces, hands, feet, and everywhere. And, I shall never forget the day when I was out and allowed full exposure to the sun, one of us saying, "Good Lord! Here is our sun. It still rises." How many other blessings do we not receive, every moment that pass by us, yet, for how many of them do we truly feel thankful? ("Shakoor" is superlative of "shaakir", that is, those who thank a lot). So, "shakoor" is someone who says thanks with his heart, tongue, and limbs of the body. Such a one is engaged in "shukr" all his time. Ibn `Abbas said that "shakoor" is someone who thanks in every situation. Suddi said that he is someone who says thanks upon thanks. It is also said that "shakoor" is someone who feels he can never be grateful enough. It is said that `Umar heard someone say, "O Allah, make me of the few." He asked him what it meant. The man replied, "I have heard Allah say, 'Few indeed of My slaves are grateful.' So I supplicate that He make me of those few." `Umar remarked, "Everybody seems to know more than `Umar" (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi). That gratitude is expressed with the help of deeds, is well illustrated by a hadith in Muslim. When the Prophet's feet were swollen because of his long standing in Prayers at night, 'A'isha asked, "Should you do that when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins?" He asked back, "Should I not be a grateful slave?" (Qurtubi) 31. Various reports coming from the Salaf give us to understand that the Jinn boasted before men that they interacted with, and knew, the Unseen. They were, however, subjugated by Sulayman who put them – despite their dislike - to the completion of the Temple that Da'ud had begun to build but had died before completion. Sulayman used to supervise their works from a certain spot, standing erect, supported by his staff. (One report says he would be seated on a chair reclining on a staff: Qurtubi). He died in that state, but the staff kept him supported. However, insects began to gnaw at the staff, until when it became hollow. One day it broke and Sulayman's corpse fell. It is then that the Jinn knew that they were labouring all the time in fear of Sulayman, although he was dead. And the men realized that the Jinn could not have known the Unseen. Nevertheless, none of the reports of the above kind reaches a hadith status, except for one, which, although it is not directly on the same lines, yet which has been declared weak by Haythamiyy (Au.). That apart, that the Mosque was not completed but after Sulayman's death does not sound correct in view of a report in Nasa'i and other works, of Sahih rank, which reports the Prophet (saws) as having said,

    أَنّ سُلَيْمَانَ بْنَ دَاوُدَ صلى الله عليه وسلم لَمّا بَنَى بَـيْتَ الْمَقْدِسِ سَأَلَ اللّهَ عَزّ وَجَلّ خِلاَلاً ثَلاَثَةً: سَأَلَ اللّهَ عَزّ وَجَلّ حُكْما يُصَادِفُ حُكْمَهُ فَأُوتِيَهُ وَسَأَلَ اللّهَ عَزّ وَجَلّ مُلْكا لاَ يْنْبَغِي لأَحَدٍ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ فَأُوتِيَهُ وَسَأَلَ اللّهَ عَزّ وَجَلّ حِينَ فَرَغَ مِنْ بِنَاءِ الْمَسْجِدِ أَنْ لاَ يَأْتِيَهُ أَحَدٌ لاَ يَنْهَزُهُ إلاّ الصّلاَةَ فِيهِ أَنْ يُخْرِجَهُ مِنْ خَطِيئَتِهِ كَيَوْمِ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمّهُ.

    "When Sulayman b. Da'ud built the Temple, he asked during its construction for three things: A judgment that matches with His (Allah's own) judgment: he was given it; he asked that he should be given a kingdom that should not be the share of anyone else after him: he was granted it; he asked after he had finished construction of the Mosque that no one should come to it, moved by no other desire but prayers in it, but he should emerge out of his sins like the day his mother gave him birth." The strange manner, however, of the death of a Prophet and king, who enjoyed power over the Jinn, birds and winds, comes as a climax to remind us that ultimately all power belongs to Allah. He does as He will. Further, admittedly, there could have been one or two accessory buildings that were completed after Sulayman had finished the main building (Au.). Asad’s note might not express accurately the understanding of Muslim scholars in general, but it is, once again, worthy of consideration: “In the elliptic manner so characteristic of the Qur’an, stress is laid here, firstly, on the limited nature of all empirical knowledge, including the result of deductions and inferences based on no more than observable or calculable phenomenon, and, secondly, on the impossibility to determine correctly, on the basis of such limited fragments of knowledge alone, what course of action would be right in a given situation. Although the story as such relates to 'invisible beings', its moral lesson (which may be summed up in the statement that empirical knowledge cannot provide any ethical guidelines unless it is accompanied, and completed, by divine guidance) is obviously addressed to human being as well.” 32. Ibn Jarir traces out several reports, coming through different chains, of the content that the Prophet was asked about Saba' and explained that it was the name of a person who lived in Yemen in historical times. Qurtubi, as well as Ibn Kathir trace a Hadith as in Tirmidhi which was declared Hasan Ghareeb by him. It is as follows (Tuhfah, no. 3275):

    عَنْ فَرْوَةَ بنِ مُسَيْكٍ المُرادِيّ قَالَ "أَتَيْتُ النبيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ الله أَلاَ أُقَاتِلُ مَنْ أَدْبَرَ مِنْ قَوْمِي بمَنْ أَقْبَلَ مِنْهُمْ؟ فأَذِنَ لِي في قِتَالِهِمْ وَأَمّرَني، فَلَمّا خَرَجْتُ مِنْ عِنْدِهِ سَأَلَ عَنّي مَا فَعَلَ الغُطَيْفِيّ فأُخْبِرَ أنيّ قَدْ سِرْتُ، قَالَ فأَرْسَلَ في أَثَرِي فَرَدّني فَأَتَيْتُهُ وَهُوَ في نَفَرٍ مِنْ أَصْحَابِهِ فَقَالَ: ادْعُ القَوْمَ فَمنْ أَسْلَمَ مِنْهُمْ فَاقْبَلْ مِنْهُ، وَمَنْ لَمْ يُسْلِمْ فَلاَ تَعْجَلْ حَتّى أُحْدِثَ إِلَيْكَ، قَالَ وأُنْزِلَ في سَبَإ ما أُنْزِلَ، فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ يَا رَسُولَ الله وَمَا سَبَأٌ أَرْضٌ أَو امرأةٌ؟ قَالَ لَيْسَ بِأَرْضٍ وَلاَ امْرَأَةٍ وَلَكنّهُ رَجُلٌ وَلَدَ عَشْرَةً مِنَ العَرَبِ فَتَيَامَنَ مِنْهُمْ سِتّةٌ وَتَشَاءَمَ مِنْهُمْ أَرْبَعَةٌ، فأَمّا الّذِينَ تَشَاءَمُوا فَلخْمٌ وجذامٌ وَغَسّانُ وعَامِلَةُ، وأَمّا الّذِينَ تَيَامَنَوُا فالأَزْدُ والأَشْعَريونَ وحِمْيَرُ ومَذْحِج وَأَنْمَار، وَكِنْدَةُ فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ يَا رَسُولَ الله ومَا أَنْمَارُ؟ قَالَ الّذِينَ مِنْهُم خَثْعَمُ وَبَجِيلَةُ"

    Farwah b. Musayk al-Muradi (al-Ghutayfiyy) said, "I went to the Prophet and asked, 'Messenger of Allah, should I not fight those who delay (in responding to this message) with the help of those who have hastened (to it)?' He allowed me to fight against them giving me the command over them. After I had left him, he asked about me as to what had the Ghutayfiyy done. He was told that I had left. He sent someone after me and got me back. So I went to him while he was with some of his Companions. He said, 'Invite your people and accept it from whosoever embraces Islam. As for those who do not accept Islam, do not hasten against them until I let you know.' He (the narrator) said that revelation came down about Saba (those very days). So someone asked, 'Messenger of Allah. What is Saba': a place or a woman?' He answered, 'Neither a woman nor a place, but a man who produced ten sons of the Arabs of whom six settled in Yemen while four others in Syria. Those who went to Syria were Lakhm, Judhdham, Ghassan and `Aamilah, while those who settled in Yemen, were: Azd, Ash`aroon (or maybe Ash`ariyyun), Himyar, Kinda, Madh-hij, and Anmar.' One of the men asked, 'Messenger of Allah what about Anmar?' He replied, 'Khath`am and Bajeelah are of them.'" Ibn Kathir adds: Saba' (in usage) refers to kings and people of Yemen, Tubaaba`ah (pl. of Tubba`) were part of them, as also Bilqis (contemporary to Sulayman). As for ten sons of Saba', it does not necessarily mean direct descendants, but rather his progeny over several generations. The Ansar were the descendants of the Saba', who were scattered by the burst of the dam (that we shall discuss presently). Saba' Arab history is traced back in the ancient past to two persons: `Adnaan and Qahtaan. The opinion prevalent among the genealogists is that the `Aad, Thamood, Jurham, `Amaaleeq, Himyar, and the rest of the historical tribal names we encounter were, what are known as, `Arab-`Aaribah: sons of `Adnan and Qahtan, some 3000 years before Islam. While `Adnan's progeny spread all over the Arabian Peninsula, Qahtan and his progeny settled in the Yemen. They gave rise to a people known as the Saba', who occupied the South Western Arabia, centering around an ancient walled town called Ma'aarib (which had a circumference of six miles in its heyday), about 1200 m (4000 feet) above the sea level in Wadi San`a. (According to 1975 census there were 70,000 inhabitants in and around the town - which still carries the same name). The civilization they created peaked about 1500 years before the Prophet's advent, and at one time penetrated into the Horn of Africa, or, what is known today as Eritrea. Bilqis, Prophet Sulayman's contemporary, who belonged to the Himyarites, was roughly of this period. The Ma'aarib dam that was built, and the floods that the Qur'an spoke of, refer to a time some 1000 and 900 years respectively before the Prophet. The dam had surface covered with stones and mortared, and was at least 16 m. high, 60 m. broad and 620 m. wide, no doubt its construction a mammoth feat. Twice the year the water was let down for irrigation of the lands. Several canals, dozens of sleuths and hundreds of subsidiaries ending with water distributors helped cover a large area of irrigation. Remains show that it was a pretty complicated network of irrigation. The dam had to be expanded several times because of flooding which implies that the area experienced heavy rains. The plantation was so extensive that a horseman needed more than a month to cross them, and, in doing so, he found himself continuously in the shadow of trees. Their religion was largely polytheistic paganism. Although not too common, but, as if to provide proof to the Qur'anic statements in this regard, modern excavations reveal that throughout their history monotheism prevailed among a section of the population. It could be termed as the Cult of the Merciful. The older inscriptions are free of explicit marks of Judaism or Christianity. Their presence can be traced in later epochs. Some 600 years before the Prophet, Romans besieged Ma'arib but despite assaults could not take the town. But it seems they laid waste the neighborhood and destroyed the renewed irrigation works of the oasis. At the height of its development, in the 8th century BC, the kingdom of Saba’ maintained colonies along trade routes leading to Palestine, and Ma‘rib, (some 60 miles off San`a, and 3900 feet above sea level). It was the capital and one of the wealthiest cities of ancient Arabia. It was the meeting-place of the trade routes connecting the frankincense lands with the Mediterranean ports. The construction for which the city that was particularly famous was the great Sadd Ma'rib (i.e., Ma'arib Dam). Majid quotes several authorities about Ma'arib and its dam: "'This remarkable engineering feat, together with the other public works of the Sabaeans, reveal to us a peace-loving society highly advanced not only in commerce but in technical accomplishment as well.’ (Hitti, op. cit., p.55) ‘The failure of the dam at Marib was at once an effect and a cause of the national decay . . . The dam at Marib is now in much the same condition as when Houdani (A.D. 848) saw it.’ (EBr. XIX. P. 785) ‘West of Marib are the ruins of the dam which figures so prominently in Arabic tradition. These show a very solid construction with several sluices. It was destroyed by a flood’ (II. P. 184). This deluge marks an epoch in the history of South Arabia. The waters subside, the lands return to cultivation and prosperity, but Ma'arib lies desolate and the Sabaeans have disappeared forever, except to point a moral or to adorn a tale’ (Nicholson, op. cit. p. 16). According to a Muslim chronicler, 'subsequently God destroyed the dam and tore up the rocks, the pavilions, the trees, and the canals, casting the sands over them. And when they who were below the dam saw its destruction, and they could do nothing to it, they fled to the tops of the hill with their families and cattle. And the water surged over the dam through an abundance of rain: and the water issued from the interstices burrowed by the rats . . . And it is related that the torment of the inundation occurred about four hundred years before Islam . . . but God knows best.’ (Redhouse, op. cit., I. PP. 55-56) ‘The chroniclers report that a rat turned over a stone which fifty men could not have bridged, and thus brought about the collapse of the entire dam.’ (Hitti, op. cit., p. 65). Referring again to this ‘memorable event immortalized in Islamic literature says Hitti:- Al-Isfahani, . . . puts the tragic event four hundred years before Islam but Yaqut comes nearer to the truth when he assigns it to the reign of the Abyssinians. The ruins of the dam are visible to the present day . . . The final catastrophe alluded to in the Koran must have taken place after 542 and before 570." Mawdudi adds: "Since antiquity this Arabian nation has been well known to the rest of the world. Ur inscriptions of 2500 B.C. mention it by the name of Sabom. Then in the Babylonian and Assyrian inscriptions and also in the Bible it has been mentioned several times (see, for instance, Psalms 72:15; Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:22, 38: 13; Job 6:19). The Greek and Roman historians and the geographer Theo-phrastus (288 B.C.) have mentioned it continuously for many centuries of the Christian era since before Christ. "Its home was the south-western corner of the Arabian Peninsula, now called al-Yemen. Its rise to prominence started in 1100 B.C. In the time of the Prophets David and Solomon the Saba'ians had become world famous as a wealthy people. In the beginning they were a sun-worshipping nation. Then, when their queen affirmed faith at the hand of the Prophet Solomon (965-926 B.C.), probably most of them became Muslims. But then in some unknown later period they again began to worship gods and goddesses like Almaqah (the moon-god), ‘Athtar (Venus), Dhat Hamim, Dhat Bad’an (the sun-god), Harmatam or Harimat and many others. Almaqah was their chief deity, and the kings made claim to the people’s obedience as representatives of this deity. Many inscriptions have been unearthed in the Yemen which show that the whole land abounded in the temples of these gods, especially of Almaqah, and thanksgiving services for them were held at every important event. As a result of the modern archaeological researches about 3,000 inscriptions have been discovered which throw a good deal of light on the history of this nation." 33. Zamakhshari points out that it is not just two gardens that are meant, but rather, a vast stretch of land on both sides of the mountains over which flourished flush green gardens stretching up to maybe hundreds of miles. The boundaries (of the thousands) of them were so close that they were like two vast gardens. Qurtubi traces it as an opinion of Qushayri. 34. "The good land": because irrigated by an intricate system of (hundreds of dams, the largest being known as the Ma`aarib), dykes, canals and ducts, it yielded its produce in abundance. The weather was so moderate that no insect – flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, ants, lice etc. - ever annoyed them unreasonably. The two gardens yielded fruit so plentifully that it is said – notably by Qatadah - that a woman with a basket on her head would pass through one of their gardens and emerge at the other side with the basked full of fruits having fallen into it, without she having to pick any (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir). That could be a hyperbole, but abundance is ascertained. However, the above reminds one of the abundance of fish in some rivers in the United States where, to a camera’s eye, jumping fish land into passing boats, so that, over less than 10 minutes of sailing on water, a boat bags 13 large fishes without the boatmen doing anything about it except mechanically sailing the boat. In fact, in the skit shown, the boatmen had to cover their heads with their hands in fear of the jumping fish falling on their heads. All around, the fishes were jumping out and back into water in continuous frivolity (Au.). 35. It is widely reported that altogether no less than thirteen Prophets were raised among them. However, adds Alusi, it is possible that they had appeared over long periods before Jesus Christ, but the decision to chastise them through the destruction of the dam came later, a couple of centuries before the appearance of our own Prophet. 36. Opinions of the earliest authorities varied over the meaning of `Arim between (a) name of a dam [that Bilqis had built, at a place called Ma'aarib, three travel-stations from San`aa], (2) name of a valley which held the waters of the dam, and, (c) the word is equivalent of violence (sayl al-`arim meaning, violent floods: Ibn Jarir); as well as (d) heavy rains (Alusi). In any case, "sayl" of the text refers to the dam burst that was caused by a multiple of factors: heavy, incessant rains, weakening of the dam by age, and damage caused by rats that burrowed into its walls. When it burst, the rushing waters destroyed all that lay in its path, leaving behind it the irrigation system in ruins. The tribes dispersed (Au.). 37. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Hasan, Qatadah and Dahhak said that in their opinion "khamt" is for Araak tree (which bears a bitter fruit) – Ibn Jarir. Lane explains in his grand Lexicon that if it is pronounced as now in the Qur'an namely, "ukulin khamtin" it should mean Araak tree, but if pronounced a "ukulu khamtin" (an unpopular reading: Ibn Jarir) then, as "bitter fruits." In either case the fruit of the Araak genus can both be edible as well as too bitter for the mouth, depending on its variety (Au.). 38. Or, tamarisk bushes. In rendering the "athl" of the Qur'an as "athel," we are influenced by Merriam Webster's Dictionary which defines athel as: "a small drought-resistant evergreen tree (Tamarix aphylla) native to southern and western Asia but now widely planted as an ornamental or shelter-belt tree in warm dry regions (as of the southwestern United States and Australia); broadly: any of several other trees or shrubs of the genus Tamarix" (Au.) 39. That is, when the Saba' denied the message, Allah caused the dam wall to collapse sending the waters crashing through the valleys that destroyed all that came in the way: houses, trees, everything. Subsequently, the dam was repaired, but the former glory could not be restored. Neither the irrigation system could be revived, nor were there enough people to attempt revival. Gradually, the gardens turned into semi forests (Au.). Asad writes: "The date of that catastrophe cannot be established with any certainty, but the most probable period of the first bursting of the Dam of Ma'arib seems to have been the second century of the Christian era. The kingdom of Sheba was largely devastated, and this led to the migration of many southern (Qahtan) tribes towards the north of the Peninsula. Subsequently, it appears, the system of dams and dykes was to some extent repaired, but the country never regained its earlier prosperity; and few decades before the advent of Islam the great dam collapsed completely and finally." 40. That is, none do We recompense in this way, but the ingrate (Alusi). Such punishment, however, did not visit any in the past but a nation that rejected its Prophet. Muslims do not in the normal circumstances receive such punishment. Punishment to Muslims in this world takes different forms. Ibn Khayrah, a companion of `Ali, stated,

    جزاء المعصية الوهن في العبادة، والضيق في المعيشة، والتعسر في اللذة، قيل: وما التعسر في اللذة؟ قال: لا يصادف لذة حلال إلا جاءه مَنْ يُنَغِّصه إياها

    "The recompense of a sin appears in the form of slackness in devotional prayers, constriction in provision, and difficulty in (obtaining) delight." He was asked, “What is meant by difficulty in delight?” He answered, "He does not obtain a lawful thing, but there comes (upon him) what takes away the delight from it” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi and Shafi` combined). The punishment was the immediate reward. Greater punishment is reserved for the unbelievers in the Hereafter. The rule, once again, can be different for Muslims. They could be punished here in this world and forgiven in lieu in the Hereafter (Au.). Qatadah said that if Allah wishes to honor a Muslim, He accepts his good deeds, but if He wishes his humiliation, He holds back the punishment for his evil deeds in order to punish him in full in the Hereafter. It is reported that one of the Companions saw a woman passerby and his eyes followed her (to some distance). As he came across a wall (of an orchard) he crashed into it and received injury on the face. He went up to the Prophet with his bleeding face and told him what had happened. He explained,

    إِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بعَبْدٍ خَيْرًا عَجَّلَ لَهُ عُقُوبَةَ ذَنْبه فِى الدُّنْيَا وإذا أرادَ بِعَبْد شرًّا أمسك عُقُوبة ذنبه حتى يُوَافِيَه يوم القيامةِ كأنه عَيْر أبتر (أحمد ، والطبرانى ، والحاكم ، والبيهقى فى شعب الإيمان عن عبد الله بن مغفل - قال الهيثمى : إسناده جيد .

    "When Allah wishes to honor a slave, He hastens the punishment for his sins in this world. But if He wishes his humiliation, He withholds the retribution until He will recompense him in full on the Day of Standing, as if He is a tail-less donkey” (Ibn Jarir). Haythami declared its chain of transmission as good (Au.). 41. The allusion is to the Syrian lands (Ibn Jarir). 42. That is, Arab towns that were strewn across Yemen and Syria on the highway (Ibn Jarir). They were called apparent towns because they were right on the road that connected Yemen with Syria (Ma`arif). 43. That is, the Arab towns were so closely placed that if a traveler left one of them by noon, he arrived at the next town by evening, and if he left by evening, he arrived at another by dinner time - freeing him from the need to carry any provision (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi). 44. That is, (although they might not have prayed in so many words: Shabbir, Mawdudi), in their arrogance they wished the ease of journey provided by Allah removed, so that they could encamp in deserts and encounter some of the hardships that travelers normally faced – for fun and adventure. So, Allah punished them, for their disbelief and their hubris by sending down the floods (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir from Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Hasan and others). In this they imitated the Israelites who rejected the comforts of Mann and Salwa and readily exchanged them for earthly products (Kashshaf, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). 45. Their dispersal became proverbial. When circumstances scatter a people in the lands, it is said, "they scattered, Saba'-like" (Qurtubi). 46. So Saba' became a tale, and its tribes were scattered all across the lands. `Aamir al-Sha`bi said that the Ghassaan went to Syria, the Ansar settled in Yethrib, Khuza`ah went to Tihama, and Azd to `Umman. 47. There are signs for such of the believers who are persevering and grateful, in situations when they pass through such trying times. They render thanks when in ease, and bear patiently when in difficulties. The Prophet has said as in a report of Bukhari and Muslim, with the words here as in Muslim,

    "عَجَباً لأَمْرِ الْمُؤْمِنِ. إِنّ أَمْرَهُ كُلّهُ خَيْرٌ. وَلَيْسَ ذَاكَ لأَحَدٍ إِلاّ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ. إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرّاءُ شَكَرَ. فَكَانَ خَيْراً لَهُ. وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرّاءُ صَبَرَ، فَكَانَ خَيْراً لَهُ"

    "Amazing is a believer's affair. Indeed, all his affairs are good for him. And this is not for everyone but for a believer alone. If ease touches him he gives thanks and that is good for him. But if difficulties visit him he observes patience, and it is good for him." 48. The allusion is, state Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others, to his statement at the time of Adam's creation when he said (7: 16,17), فَبِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لأَقْعُدَنَّ لَهُمْ صِرَاطَكَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ ثُمَّ لآتِيَنَّهُم مِّن بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ وَعَنْ أَيْمَانِهِمْ وَعَن شَمَآئِلِهِمْ وَلاَ تَجِدُ أَكْثَرَهُمْ شَاكِرِينَ (He said), “Now that You have led me to misguidance, I shall most certainly sit in ambush for them all along Your Straight Path. Then I shall come on them from their front, their rear, their right and their left, and You will not find many of them grateful (to You)." According to a report in Ibn Abi Hatim, Satan had promised at the time he was sent down from Paradise that he will not depart from a son of Adam so long as there is soul in him, deluding him, promising him, and deceiving him. Allah said in response,

    وعزتي لا أحجب عنه التوبة ما لم يُغَرغِر بالموت، ولا يدعوني إلا أجبته، ولا يسألني إلا أعطيته، ولا يستغفرني إلا غفرت له

    "By My honor and greatness. I shall not hold back My forgiveness so long as he does not start gurgling at death, will not invoke Me but I shall respond to him, will not ask Me but I shall grant him, and will not seek forgiveness but I shall forgive him" (Ibn Kathir). 49. Although the import is general, among the Saba' too there seems to have been believers in one God, who survived through the ages. Mawdudi provides us the details: "History shows that in ancient times there lived among the Sabaians a small group of people who believed in one God, shunning all other gods. The inscriptions that have been discovered in the ruins of Yemen as a result of modern archeological research point to the existence of this small element. Some inscriptions of the period about 650 B.C. indicate that at several places in the kingdom of Saba there existed such houses of worship as were exclusively meant for the worship of dhu-samavi (i.e. Rabb as-sama’: Lord of the heavens). In some places this Deity has been mentioned as Malikan dhu-samavi (the King who is the Owner of the heavens). This remnant of the Sabaians continued to live in Yaman for centuries afterwards. Thus, in an inscription of 378 A.D. also there is found mention of a house of worship that was built in the name of Ilah dhu-samavi. Then in an inscription dated 465 A.D. the words are Bi-nasr wa rida ilah-in ba’l samin wa ardin (i.e. with the help and support of that God Who is the Owner of the Heavens and the earth). In another inscription of the period dated 458 A.D., the word Rahman has been used for the same God, the actual words being bi-rida Rahmanan (i.e. with the help of Rahman)." 50. That is, Shaytan has not been given the power to physically force anyone to a path. At best he has the ability to suggest, incite, provoke, and mislead in order that Allah may know who follows His guidance in preference to Shaytan's promptings. It never happens that Shaytan's way appears open, but rather, the other road – the road to salvation – is always plainly and clearly visible (Shabbir in substance). 51. As Allah said elsewhere (53: 26),

    وَكَم مِّن مَّلَكٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ لا تُغْنِي شَفَاعَتُهُمْ شَيْئًا إِلا مِن بَعْدِ أَن يَأْذَنَ اللَّهُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَيَرْضَى

    "And how many angels are there whose intercession profits not aught except after Allah grants leave unto whom He will and approves." Hadith literature also conforms this. For example, the well-known hadith which reports the Prophet as saying that when the entire mankind will be presented (and the standing takes long) he will go to the "Praiseworthy Station" (al-Maqam al-Mahmood) in order to be allowed to intercede on behalf of mankind, so that the process of Reckoning might be started. He said,

    فَأَسْتَأْذِنُ عَلَى رَبّي. فَيُؤْذَنُ لِي. فَأَقُومُ بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ. فَأَحْمَدُهُ بِمَحَامِدَ لاَ أَقْدِرُ عَلَيْهِ الاَنَ. يُلْهِمُنِيهِ الله. ثُمّ أَخِرّ لَهُ سَاجِداً. فَيُقَالُ لِي: يَا مُحَمّدُ ارْفَعْ رأْسكَ. وَقُلْ يُسْمَعْ لَكَ. وَسَلْ تُعْطَهْ. وَاشْفَعْ تُشَفّعْ "

    “I will seek my Lord’s permission. I will be allowed. I will stand before Him and praise Him with words of Praises that I do not have the power now, that Allah will inspire me with. Then I will fall in prostration. I will be told, ‘O Muhammad, raise your head, and speak, you will be heard, seek, and you will be given, and seek intercession, you will be granted" (Ibn Kathir). 52. There have been several interpretations. One, the allusion is to those who seek permission to intercede. But when they are actually allowed to intercede, terror overtakes them in apprehension that their intercession might fall in favor of a wrong person resulting in Allah's anger evoked against them. When they recover from the terror, they ask the angels – who bring down the permission to them – 'What did your Lord say?' They reply, ‘the Truth’ (Qurtubi). The lesson is that if intercession is so difficult to obtain from those who are qualified to intercede, how could the unbelievers depend on false deities to save them from the chastisement of the Hereafter? (Qurtubi) In Asad's words, "As is evident from the sequence.. this passage relates, in particular, to the attribution of divine or semi-divine qualities to saints and angels and to the problem of their 'intercession' with God." Second possible meaning is, as understood by Hasan al-Busri, (seconded by Zayd b. Aslam) who interpreted "fuzi`a" (lit., "fear is removed") as meaning "kushifa" (i.e., "uncovered"). Consequently, the verse can be paraphrased in the following manner, "When the coverings of doubts and skepticisms in the hearts of the unbelievers are removed, which happens only when Satan departs and false hopes leave them, at the time of death, it is then that they seek to know in some seriousness, "What did your Lord say?" Three, the allusion is to the revelation of a verse or more by Allah. In the heavens its release sounds like iron chain (steel: Ibn `Abbas) struck on rock. The occupants of the heavens are struck by extreme fear and when they regain their calm, they ask, "What did your Lord say?" (This was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas: Ibn Jarir). Fourth, the allusion is to the issue of commands generally. (This was the opinion of `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud and others: Ibn Jarir). In this connection hadith records have a few related reports. One in Bukhari says,

    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ يَبْلُغُ بِهِ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ الْأَمْرَ فِي السَّمَاءِ ضَرَبَتْ الْمَلَائِكَةُ بِأَجْنِحَتِهَا خُضْعَانًا لِقَوْلِهِ كَالسِّلْسِلَةِ عَلَى صَفْوَانٍ قَالَ عَلِيٌّ وَقَالَ غَيْرُهُ صَفْوَانٍ يَنْفُذُهُمْ ذَلِكَ فَإِذَا فُزِّعَ عَنْ قُلُوبِهِمْ قَالُوا مَاذَا قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ قَالُوا لِلَّذِي قَالَ الْحَقَّ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ فَيَسْمَعُهَا مُسْتَرِقُو السَّمْعِ وَمُسْتَرِقُو السَّمْعِ هَكَذَا وَاحِدٌ فَوْقَ آخَرَ وَوَصَفَ سُفْيَانُ بِيَدِهِ وَفَرَّجَ بَيْنَ أَصَابِعِ يَدِهِ الْيُمْنَى نَصَبَهَا بَعْضَهَا فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ فَرُبَّمَا أَدْرَكَ الشِّهَابُ الْمُسْتَمِعَ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَرْمِيَ بِهَا إِلَى صَاحِبِهِ فَيُحْرِقَهُ وَرُبَّمَا لَمْ يُدْرِكْهُ حَتَّى يَرْمِيَ بِهَا إِلَى الَّذِي يَلِيهِ إِلَى الَّذِي هُوَ أَسْفَلَ مِنْهُ حَتَّى يُلْقُوهَا إِلَى الأَرْضِ وَرُبَّمَا قَالَ سُفْيَانُ حَتَّى تَنْتَهِيَ إِلَى الأَرْضِ فَتُلْقَى عَلَى فَمْ السَّاحِرِ فَيَكْذِبُ مَعَهَا مِائَةَ كَذْبَةٍ فَيُصَدَّقُ فَيَقُولُونَ أَلَمْ يُخْبِرْنَا يَوْمَ كَذَا وَكَذَا يَكُونُ كَذَا وَكَذَا فَوَجَدْنَاهُ حَقًّا لِلْكَلِمَةِ الَّتِي سُمِعَتْ مِنْ السَّمَاءِ

    "When Allah decrees an affair in the heaven, angels beat their wings in submission to His words making a sound like a chain striking a smooth rock. When fear is removed from their hearts they ask, 'What did your Lord say?' He answers him who had asked, 'The Truth. He is the All-high, the All-great.' This is also heard by the one who steals the hearing. And, those who steal the hearing are like that: some over the others – Sufyan (one of the narrators) demonstrated it by holding one hand over the other, with fingers outspreading. So he hears the word (sometimes a meteorite strikes him before he can receive it, but at other times he passes it on before he is struck), and casts it on the one below him, the other one casts it on the next one below him, until (the last one) casts it on to the tongue of a magician or fortune-teller. Then he (the magician or fortune-teller) mixes it with a hundred lies so that it is said (by those who hear him), 'Did he not tell us about such and such a thing, on such and such a day?' referring to the word that had been heard from the heaven" (Ibn Jarir in short, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). Ibn Kathir adds the following report from Ahmad:

    عن عَبْدَ اللّهِ بْنَ عَبّاسٍ. قَالَ: أَخْبَرَنِي رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النّبِيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ أَنّهُمْ بَيْنَمَا هُمْ جُلُوسٌ لَيْلَةً مَعَ رَسُولِ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم رُمِيَ بِنَجْمٍ فَاسْتَنَارَ. فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: "مَاذَا كُنْتُمْ تَقُولُونَ فِي الْجَاهِلِيّةِ، إِذَا رُمِيَ بِمِثْلِ هَذَا؟" قَالُوا: اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَعْلَمُ. كُنّا نَقُولُ وُلِدَ اللّيْلَةَ رَجُلٌ عَظِيمٌ. وَمَاتَ رَجُلٌ عَظِيمٌ. فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: "فَإِنّهَا لاَ يُرْمَىَ بِهَا لِمَوْتِ أَحَدٍ وَلاَ لِحَيَاتِهِ. وَلَكِنْ رَبّنَا، تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَىَ اسْمُهُ، إِذَا قَضَىَ أَمْراً سَبّحَ حَمَلَةُ الْعَرْشِ. ثُمّ سَبّحَ أَهْلُ السّمَاءِ الّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ. حَتّىَ يَبْلُغَ التّسْبِيحُ أَهْلَ هَذِهِ السّمَاءِ الدّنْيَا. ثُمّ قَالَ الّذِينَ يَلُونَ حَمَلَةَ الْعَرْشِ لِحَمَلَةِ الْعَرْشِ: مَاذَا قَالَ رَبّكُمْ؟ فَيُخْبِرُونَهُمْ مَاذَا قَالَ. قَالَ: فَيَسْتَخْبِرُ بَعْضُ أَهْلِ السّمَاوَاتِ بَعْضَاً. حَتّىَ يَبْلُغَ الْخَبَرُ هَذِهِ السّمَاءَ الدّنْيَا. فَتَخْطَفُ الْجِنّ السّمْعَ فَيَقْذِفُونَ إِلَىَ أَوْلِيَائِهِمْ. وَيُرْمَوْنَ بِهِ. فَمَا جَاؤُوا بِهِ عَلَىَ وَجْهِهِ فَهُوَ حَقّ وَلَكِنّهُمْ يَقْرِفُونَ فِيهِ وَيَزِيدُونَ".

    On one of those occasions, when the Prophet sat with his Companions at night, they witnessed a falling star. He asked, 'What would you say to this in pre-Islamic times?' They said they thought a great person must have taken birth or died.' He told them, "No, it is not flung at the birth or death of a person. But when Allah decrees an affair, the bearers of `Arsh begin to chant His glory. They are followed by the inhabitants of the heaven immediately below it, until their glory-chanting reaches the heaven closest to the earth. Then, those in the heaven closest to the `Arsh seek to know what was said - from the bearers of the `Arsh. Then (some of) the bearers of the `Arsh ask (others of) the bearers of the `Arsh, 'What did your Lord say?' They inform them. Then the inhabitants of the heavens inform those of the next heaven until it reaches the heaven closest to the earth. At that point the Jinn might steal off (a word) and they are struck (with a meteorite). So, whatever they bring down of it (the original command), is true. But (in actual fact) they divided it up and adulterate it." The report is also in Muslim and Nasa'i. 53. Yusuf Ali's note deserves attention: "There are six propositions introduced here with the word "Say", at verses 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 30. They clearly explain the doctrine of Unity (verse 22), the Mercy of Allah (verse 24), man's Personal Responsibility (verse 25), the Final Justice of Allah (verse 26), Allah's Power and Wisdom (verse 27), and the Inevitability of the Judgment, by which true values will be restored (verse 30)." 54. Ibn Jarir and Qurtubi discuss the "or" of the passage, "either we or you are upon right guidance or in manifest error," and offer various solutions since, after all, there is no doubt that the believers are on right guidance, while the unbelievers are in obvious error. So, why is there the element of doubt expressed in "or"? One explanation is: when you say to a dishonest person, e.g., "one of us is a liar," he knows what exactly you mean. Another explanation is that the "waaw" of the text is "waaw al-muwaalaah" which offers the meaning, "Indeed, we are on right guidance while you are in manifest error." They support this meaning with poetical citations. Another possible connotation is, "We both cannot be rightly guided. One of us is in error. So, look carefully at your own position." Today, with the loss of knowledge and the faith which issues from it, this last mentioned is a meaning that is lost upon many Muslims. They cannot understand the exclusiveness, and are ever ready to strike a chord of unity with the antagonists of Islam, on the premise that, after all, others also have some truth (Au.). Yusuf Ali makes an emphatic statement: "Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, are incompatible, one with another. In this matter we can make no compromise. It is true that in men there may be various degrees of good or evil mixed together, and we have to tolerate men as our fellow-creatures, with all their faults and shortcomings. But this does not mean that we can worship Allah and Mammon together. Wrong is the negation of Right as light is of darkness. Though there may be apparently varying depths of darkness, this is only due to the imperfection of our vision: it is varying strengths of light as perceived by our relative powers of sight. So we may perceive the Light of Allah in varying degrees according to our spiritual vision. But in simple questions of Right or Wrong, we are faced by the Categorical Imperative.‏" Razi offers us another point: We may note the article "upon" in "upon right guidance" and the article "in" as it appears in the words "in manifest error." The implication is that the former is high above the latter (from where he can see his path clearly) while the latter is in a deep abyss (not sure where he is)." 55. The rendering of "Fattaah" as Judge is following Ibn `Abbas' understanding as in Ibn Jarir, Shawkani and others. 56. But of course, when He said, "Show me those you have joined with Him as associates," He knew those that were associated with Him in his times, but, in reality, the objective was to identify their error in association. 57. A plain truth about the Messenger and the Message, but unobvious to even some Muslims. Some Muslims of our contemporary world believe in the parochial nature of our Prophet's mission, and in the Qur'an as the book for Muslims, just as every religious denomination has its own (Au.). The statement anyway, is echoed several times in the Qur'an. Allah said (25: 1),

    تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ الْفُرْقَانَ عَلَى عَبْدِهِ لِيَكُونَ لِلْعَالَمِينَ نَذِيرًا (الفرقان – 1)

    "Blessed is He who sent down the Criterion upon His slave, that he may be a warner unto the worlds." And (7: 158),

    يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا (الأعراف – 158)

    "Say, 'O people, verily, I am Allah's Messenger towards you all." And `Ikrimah reported `Ibn `Abbas as saying, "Allah gave the Prophet preference over those of the heavens and those of the earth." They asked him, "How did Allah give him preference over the prophets?" He replied, "Allah said (14: 4),

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلاَّ بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ لِيُبَيِّنَ لَهُمْ (إبراهيم – 4)

    'And We did not send a Messenger but in the language of the people, so that he could make (it) clear to them.' Whereas, He said at this point (34: 28),

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلا كَافَّةً لِّلنَّاسِ (سباء – 28)

    'We have not sent you but for all mankind.'" And, adds Ibn Kathir, the statement of Ibn `Abbas can be corroborated with a hadith of the Sahihayn which says,

    أَخْبَرَنَا جَابِرُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ أُعْطِيتُ خَمْسًا لَمْ يُعْطَهُنَّ أَحَدٌ قَبْلِي نُصِرْتُ بِالرُّعْبِ مَسِيرَةَ شَهْرٍ وَجُعِلَتْ لِي الْأَرْضُ مَسْجِدًا وَطَهُورًا فَأَيُّمَا رَجُلٍ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أَدْرَكَتْهُ الصَّلَاةُ فَلْيُصَلِّ وَأُحِلَّتْ لِي الْمَغَانِمُ وَلَمْ تَحِلَّ لِأَحَدٍ قَبْلِي وَأُعْطِيتُ الشَّفَاعَةَ وَكَانَ النَّبِيُّ يُبْعَثُ إِلَى قَوْمِهِ خَاصَّةً وَبُعِثْتُ إِلَى النَّاسِ عَامَّةً (البخاري، مسلم)

    "I have been given five things that none of the Prophets before me were given: I have been helped with fright from a distance of one month; the whole of the earth has been made for me a place of prostration and a means of purification, so that, anyone of my Ummah who encounters (the time) for Prayer, may Pray (anywhere); war spoils have been made lawful unto me while they were not lawful for anyone before me; I have been bestowed with the (Grand) Intercession; and, a Prophet used to be sent to a specific people, while I have been sent to whole of mankind." 58. That is, the promise of punishment. Allah said elsewhere (42: 18),

    يَسْتَعْجِلُ بِهَا الَّذِينَ لا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهَا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مُشْفِقُونَ مِنْهَا وَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهَا الْحَقُّ (الشورى – 18)

    "Those who believe not in it seek to hasten it, while those who believe are fearful of it, and know that it is the very truth." 59. This is to console the Prophet that if they reject you now, then they are in the footsteps of past nations, who also greeted Allah's revelations with disdain, and rejected in a similar summary manner (Razi and others in sum). Although the Makkans used to consult the People of the Book, and vaguely believed that they had received Allah's revelation at one time (Qurtubi, with addition); which point was strengthened by the fact that a few signs of the Prophet could be found in their Scriptures also, but they decided, all the same, that they would rather deny all (Zamakhshari). Yusuf Ali reminds us of a historical reality that is often ignored: "To the Pagans all scriptures are taboo, whether it be the Qur'an or any Revelation that came before it. The people of the Book despised the Pagans, but in their arrogant assumption of superiority, prevented them, by their example, from accepting the latest and most universal Scripture when it came in the form of the Qur'an. This relative position, of men who fancy themselves on their knowledge, and men whom they despise but exploit and mislead, always exists on this earth." 60. “This is how those who deemed themselves weak will react in that terrifying and humbling situation, well aware that what is expected to come next could be much worse. That day they will express themselves confidently, and so will speak out aloud. So long as they were in this world, they did not have the opportunity to face them - their leaders - as freely, without any constraints and fear of retaliation, as this day. Their weaknesses, their subservience, and their self-abasement had prevented them from face to face encounters in the previous life. They had sold out their God-given freedom, the honor that Allah had bestowed on them, and the perceptions that He had granted them. But today, all those valuable bestowals are behind them. In front of them is the sure prospect of chastisement. And, therefore, they speak out fearlessly: "Had it not been for you, we would have been believers!" (Sayyid). 61. "Asarra" is one of those words which carry reversible connotations. In this case, the usage can be understood as either meaning "conceal" or "evince" (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi). For a slightly larger note on the word, see Surah Yunus of this work, note 81. 62. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded through Abu Razeen (in a report whose authenticity could not be verified: Au.):

    عن أبي رزين قال: كان رجلان شريكان خرج أحدهما إلى الساحل وبقي الآخر، فلما بعث النبي صلى اللّه عليه وسلم كتب إلى صاحبه يسأله ما فعل، فكتب إليه أنه لم يتبعه أحد من قريش إنما اتبعه أراذل الناس ومساكينهم، قال: فترك تجارته ثم أتى صاحبه، فقال: دلني عليه، وكان يقرأ الكتب أو بعض الكتب، قال: فأتى النبي صلى اللّه عليه وسلم فقال: إلامَ تدعو؟ قال: "أدعو إلى كذا وكذا" قال: أشهد أنك رسول اللّه، قال صلى اللّه عليه وسلم: "وما علمك بذلك؟" قال: إنه لم يبعث نبي إلا اتبعه أراذل الناس ومساكينهم، قال: فنزلت هذه الآية، {وما أرسلنا في قرية من نذير إلا قال مترفوها إنا بما أرسلتم به كافرون}

    "There were two men partners (in business). One of them went to the shores while the other remained. When the Prophet appeared, the other one wrote to this one with regard to his (the Prophet’s) achievements so far. This one wrote back that none of the Quraysh had followed him; it is the lowly ones and poor people who have followed him. So, (the reporter said), he terminated his business and came back to his partner. He told him, 'Lead me to him.' (The reporter) added, 'He used to read the Scriptures, or some of them.' So he went up to the Prophet and asked, 'What do you call people unto?' He replied, 'To such and such things.' He said, 'I testify that you are a Messenger of Allah.' He asked, 'What led you to this (belief)?" He said, "No Prophet was raised but it were the lowly of the people and their poor ones who followed him.' Then this ayah was revealed, 'And never did We send a Warner into a town but its affluent ones declared, 'Indeed, we are, in what you have been sent with, disbelievers.' So the Prophet sent him the word (to him), 'Allah has revealed to attest your statement.'" And this is what Heraclius had remarked when in reply to his question, 'Are the lowly ones following him or the noble ones?' he was answered that it were the lowly ones who were following him (Ibn Kathir). The above report of Abu Razeen is also in Ibn Abi al-Mundhir's collection (Shawkani). 63. That is, not for nothing have we been given preference over you in matters of wealth and progeny. Those who are so treated in this world, will not be treated differently in the Next (Qurtubi with addition). Allah said elsewhere about their error (23: 55-56)

    أَيَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّمَا نُمِدُّهُم بِهِ مِن مَّالٍ وَبَنِينَ، نُسَارِعُ لَهُمْ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ بَل لا يَشْعُرُونَ (المؤمنون – 55، 56)

    "Do they think that by the wealth and offspring with which We extend them, We hasten to them the good things? Nay, they perceive not." And (9: 55),

    فَلاَ تُعْجِبْكَ أَمْوَالُهُمْ وَلاَ أَوْلاَدُهُمْ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُم بِهَا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَتَزْهَقَ أَنفُسُهُمْ وَهُمْ كَافِرُونَ (التوبة – 55)

    "So let not their wealth and children amaze you. Allah desires only to punish them therewith in the life of this world and that their souls should depart while they are in a state of disbelief" (Ibn Kathir). 64. That is, wealth and progeny are no signs of Allah's approval of your ways in this world, nor of a goodly end in the Hereafter (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi). How many pious have not been there who led a life of wants, and how many immoral perverts have not been there who led a life of luxury?! (Imam Razi in substance). 65. How could wealth and children be thought of as the means for attaining closeness to Allah, asks Razi, when in actual fact, they engage a man in "other than Allah?" But rather, writes Ibn Kathir, the parameters are different. A hadith of Musnad, Muslim, and Ibn Majah (narrated by Abu Hurayrah in Muslim) explains what it is:

    "إِنّ اللّهَ لاَ يَنْظُرُ إِلَى أَجْسَادِكُمُ وَلاَ إِلَىَ صُوَرِكُمْ. وَلَكِنْ يَنْظُرُ إِلَىَ قُلُوبِكُمْ" (مسلم)

    "Verily, Allah does not look at your bodies nor at your faces, but rather looks at your hearts." 66. Another possible interpretation, expressed by Zamakhshari is that, it is not any wealth and any children that take one nearer to Allah, but rather, it is that wealth which is freely spent in the way of Allah, and those children that are brought up on Islam, taught knowledge, and trained to obey, that help achieve the objective of nearness to Allah. In short, none draws any advantage from wealth and children but the pious. The Prophet advised `Amr b. al-`Aas in words,

    "يا عمرو نعما بالمال الصالح للمرء الصالح". (قال الهيثمي: ورجال أحمد وأبي يعلى رجال الصحيح).‏

    "O `Amr, a blessing is that wealth which is (in the hands of) a righteous person" (Au.). 67. "Double the reward" is an inaccurate translation adopted for want of a better alternative. Otherwise, this grammatical construction, as pointed out by Zamakhshari, lends the meaning of "double, and double, and double .. the rewards," another way of saying, "many fold rewards." While agreeing with the above, Qurtubi offers other possibilities but yielding near about the same meaning. 68. These chambers will be made of pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones (Qurtubi). We have a hadith in Ibn Abi Hatim which sheds some light on what these chambers are. `Ali reported the Prophet (a tradition whose authenticity could not be traced: Au.),

    عن علي رضي اللّه عنه قال، قال رسول اللّه صلى اللّه عليه وسلم: "إن في الجنة لغرفاً ترى ظهورها من بطونها وبطونها من ظهورها" فقال أعرابي: لمن هي؟ قال صلى اللّه عليه وسلم: "لمن طيّب الكلام، وأطعم الطعام، وأدام الصيام، وصلى بالليل والناس نيام" (أخرجه ابن أبي حاتم).

    "In Paradise there are chambers whose inside will be visible from outside and the outside from inside." A bedouin asked, "Whom are they meant for?" He answered, "For him who spoke good words, fed the food, fasted a lot, and prayed at night while people slept" (Ibn Kathir). Although we are not sure the above is allusion to glass palaces, one might remind that despite great advances in glass technology, at its zenith but in a stalled situation since a decade or two, villas, far from palaces, could not be constructed entirely out of glass. At best, huge buildings can be clad from the outside with glass, (which in most cases have to be, by necessity, reflective, allowing view from any one side alone), but with all inner structure and divisions from concrete, steel, wood and aluminum. To the question, what are the possibilities of mankind ever constructing buildings entirely from glass, the answer from someone who is in the business of architectural glass and aluminum, and has the latest technology at his service, is that it is zero. 69. As Allah said elsewhere (17: 21),

    انظُرْ كَيْفَ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ وَلَلآخِرَةُ أَكْبَرُ دَرَجَاتٍ وَأَكْبَرُ تَفْضِيلاً (الإسراء – 21)

    "See then how We give preference to some over others. But surely, the Hereafter is greater in rank and greater in excellence." In other words, just like there are grades and ranks in this world, there are grades and ranks in the Hereafter: some will be in "lofty chambers, in peace," while others at the bottom-most part of Hell. And, the best of the people in this world is, as a hadith of Muslim, conveyed to us by `Abdullah b. `Amr b. al-`Aas says,

    "قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ أَسْلَمَ، وَرُزِقَ كَفَافاً، وَقَنّعَهُ اللّهُ بِمَا آتَاهُ". (مسلم)

    "Succeeded he who became a Muslim, was given just enough (for survival) and then Allah granted him contentment over what He gave him" (Ibn Kathir). 70. That is, the rewards of whatever you spend are brought back to you – both in this world as well as in the Next. As for this-worldly reward, it can either be in material terms, or in terms of contentment, which is a treasure that never empties. Nevertheless, one might not throw away all he has in charity. Mujahid is reported to have said that if someone has what supports his life, then, let him take the middle-path, for provision has been divided (in a certain measure). What he has been given might be little, out of which he might spend as if he has been given a lot, to suffer poverty in the end (Zamakhshari). The Problem however, is not that of generosity, but of miserliness. Hence Razi, Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir cite Prophetic traditions that encourage spending. One of them (as preserved by Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad: H. Ibrahim) says (in words as in Muslim),

    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: "مَا مِنْ يَوْمٍ يُصْبِحُ الْعِبَادُ فِيهِ، إِلاّ مَلَكَانِ يَنْزِلاَنِ. فَيَقُولُ أَحَدُهُمَا: اللّهُمّ أَعْطِ مُنْفِقاً خَلَفاً. وَيَقُولُ الاَخَرُ: اللّهُمّ أَعْطِ مُمْسِكاً تَلَفاً". (الصحيحين)

    Abu Hurayrah reports, "There is not a day in which slaves do their morning but two angels come down. One of them says, 'O Allah, grant compensation to him who spends;' and the other says, 'O Allah grant destruction to him who withholds.'" Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir cite another hadith: The Prophet has reported to us from Allah, as in a hadith (of Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah and Ahmad: Hussain b. Ibrahim),

    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ يَبْلُغُ بِهِ النّبِيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ: "قَالَ اللّهُ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى: يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ أَنْفِقْ أُنْفِقْ عَلَيْكَ". (الصحيحين)

    Abu Hurayrah reports the Prophet, "Allah said, 'Son of Adam, spend, I shall spend on you.'" Qurtubi offers a trustworthy hadith on the topic taking it from Daraqutni,

    غن جابر (بن عبدالله) عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: "كل معروف صدقة. وما أنفق الرجل على نفسه و أهله كتبت له صدقة وما وقى به عرضه فهو صدقة و ما أنفق الرجل من نفقة فعلى الله خلفها إلا ما كان من نفقة في بنيان أومعصية". قال عبد الحميد قلت لإبن المنكدر: "وما وقى به الرجل عرضه"؟. قال: يعطي الشاعر وذا اللسان.

    Jabir reports that the Prophet said, "Every good deed is a charity. And what a man spends on himself and his family, it is recorded as charity including what he spends in defense of his honor, which is also charity for him. And whatever a man spends, it is for Allah to bring back, except for what he spent on a building or in a sin." Jabir was asked about what was meant by "what he spends in defense of his honor?" He replied, "(For example) he gives to a poet, or someone with a loose tongue." Other reports however, adds Qurtubi, explain that the amount one spends on a house which is essential for him, will be compensated for. Ibn Kathir adds: Once the Prophet (saws) told Bilal,

    "أنفق يا بلالُ ولا تخش من ذي العرش إقلالاً".

    "Spend O Bilal, and do not fear from the Possessor of the `Arsh diminution." (The report was collected by Tabarani. Haythami however declared a narrator weak: Au.). According to another tradition reported by Hudhayfah and found in Ibn Abi Hatim and Hafiz Abu Ya`laa's collections, the Prophet said,

    ألا إن بعد زمانكم هذا زمانا عضوضا يعض الموسر على ما في يده حذار الإنفاق، وقد قال الله تعالى: {وما أنفقتم من شيء فهو يخلفه} وسيد شرار الخلق يبايعون كل مضطر، ألا إن بيع المضطرين حرام، المسلم أخو المسلم، لا يظلمه، ولا يخذله، إن كان عندك معروف فعد به على أخيك، ولا تزده هلاكا إلا هلاكه.

    "Lo, after this will be biting times when the affluent one will hold with his teeth (what he has) in fear of expenditure while Allah has said, 'And, whatever thing you expend, He will replace it.' And, the worst of the evil ones from among the creation will trade with the most desperate person. Remember, trading with the desperate ones is unlawful. A Muslim is a brother unto another Muslim. He does not wrong him, and does not humiliate him. If you happen to posses a good thing, take it to your brother, but do not (on the contrary) augment destruction upon his (present) destruction." The hadith however, adds Ibn Kathir, is weak. (But the prediction has come true: Au.). 71. The best of provisions is that, writes Razi, which (a) is not delayed beyond the time of need, (b) is not lesser than the exact requirement, and (c) does not entail reckoning. Further, the use of the term "providers" in the plural – while there is only one provider, Allah – is purely allegorical, like saying, "Allah comes down," or, "Allah is with the slaves," etc. At best the term "providers" has been employed to reflect on the various means that Allah (swt) adopts to provide His creations. 72. If we consider the fact that since angels are the means that Allah employs, worship of angels could imply worship of the material means so powerfully prevalent in our times (Au.). In any case, as pointed out by Qurtubi, there was a clan – Banu Mulayh belonging to the Khuza`ah tribe – which worshipped the Jinn, claiming that they could see them and that they were angels, Allah's own daughters. 73. It is the Shayaatin who used to beautify for them the worship of other than Allah (Ibn Kathir). 74. Yusuf Ali's commentary on the verse runs as follows: "Apart from the worship of Evil in the guise of the Powers of Light, there is another form of false worship, which depends on ancestral tradition. "Why," it is said, "should we not do as our fathers did?" They reject a new prophet of Truth simply because his teaching does not agree with the ways of their ancestors. The answer to this is given in verse 44 below. But meanwhile the rejecters' objection to new Truth is stated in three forms: (1) our ancestors knew nothing of this; (2) the story of inspiration is false; it is merely an invention; we do not believe in inspiration; (3) when in some particular points, the new Truth does work wonders in men's hearts, they account for it by saying it is magic. 'The third objection is merely traditional. What is magic? If it was merely deception, surely the Truth has proved itself to be above deception. The second objection is answered by the fact that the Messenger who comes with new spiritual Truth is acknowledged to be truthful in other relations of life: why should he be false where his preaching brings him no gain but much sorrow and persecution?" 75. That is, among the Quraysh. In fact, no Messenger had been raised among the Arabs in general, in recent memory. Isma`il’s ministry was an ancient affair (Au). And, therefore, they should have been especially grateful to Allah, who did not deny them what others were blessed with, namely Jews and Christians, by sending this Messenger. On that account they ought to have made the best use of the Messenger raised among them, and of the Book that he brought (Mufti Shafi`). 76. The opinion attributed to Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, (also Suddi and Ibn Zayd: Ibn Kathir) is that the Makkans were not given a tenth of the power, material wealth, and the length of life that the earlier unbelievers were given. Yet consider, how was their end!? (Ibn Jarir). This is in the same vein, writes Ibn Kathir, as another verse which says (46: 26),

    وَلَقَدْ مَكَّنَّاهُمْ فِيمَا إِن مَّكَّنَّاكُمْ فِيهِ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُمْ سَمْعًا وَأَبْصَارًا وَأَفْئِدَةً فَمَا أَغْنَى عَنْهُمْ سَمْعُهُمْ وَلَا أَبْصَارُهُمْ وَلَا أَفْئِدَتُهُم مِّن شَيْءٍ إِذْ كَانُوا يَجْحَدُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَحَاقَ بِهِم مَّا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُون (الأحقاف – 26)

    "Surely, We had firmly established them with that wherewith We have not established you therewith. And We had assigned them hearing, sights and hearts; but availed them not their hearing, sights, nor the hearts aught, because they were denying Allah's signs; and (consequently), that (very thing) surrounded them which they were mocking." To Imam Razi, another connotation is possible. To paraphrase, "And laid the lie those who were before the Quraysh, while they, the earlier ones, did not attain a tenth of what these, the Quraysh, have attained" where, the allusion is to the excellence in language they possessed and signs of the Prophet's veracity that the Quraysh were shown. In short, the earlier ones did not receive a tenth of the evidences that the Quraysh have, yet, they suffered destruction for their disbelief; so, what about these? 77. In ones and twos, but threes were left out, for, as an English proverb goes, two is company, three is crowd - larger the number, lesser is the intellectual content of a pool. If you have a hundred people before you, and you want everyone to understand what you are saying, you will have to bear in mind the lowest of intellect among them to successfully communicate your ideas. In contrast, if it is not simply communication of an idea, but discussion of some sort is involved, then, one might remember that crowds are always not quite rational (Au.). Yusuf Ali comments with another aspect in mind: "A crowd mentality is not the best for the perception of the final spiritual truths. For these, it is necessary that each soul should commune within itself with earnest sincerity as before Allah: if it requires a Teacher, let it seek out one, or it may be that it wants the strengthening of the inner convictions that dawn on it, by the support of a sympathiser or friend. But careful and heart-felt reflection is necessary to appraise the higher Truths." 78. What the Quraysh meant perhaps is that the Prophet exhibited signs of madness by not seeing where his true tribal and personal interests lay, and that the very nobleness of his teachings promised its failure (Au.). 79. We have a hadith that speaks of the closeness of the Hour. It is in Ahmad declared trustworthy by Haythamiyy. Buraydah reports: One day the Prophet (saws) came out and called out three times saying,

    أَيُّها النَّاسُ ! أَتَدْروْنَ ما مَثَلي وَمثَلُكم قالوا اللهُ ورسولُه أعلَمُ قال إنَّمَا مَثَلي وَمَثَلُكم كَمثَلِ قومٍ خَافُوا عَدُوًّا يَأْتيهم فبَعثُوا رَجُلاً يَرْبؤُّهُمْ فَبَيْنَا هُم كذلكَ أبْصَرَ العَدُوَّ فأقْبَل لِيُنْذِرَهُم - أراه قال خشيةَ أن يُدْرِكَه العَدُوُّ قبل أن يُنْذِرَ قومَه فأهْوَى بثوبه ) أيُّها النَّاسُ ! أُتِيتُم ! أيُّها النَّاسُ ! أُتِيتُم !

    "People! Do you know the example that fits me and you? It is the example of a people who feared their enemy that should pounce upon them. So they sent a man to watch out. While he was thus engaged, he spotted the enemy. So he went back (to them) to warn them but was afraid that the enemy will seize them even before he could reach his people. So he signaled with his garment (and said), 'People! They are upon you. People! They are upon you’ – three times" (Ibn Kathir). 80. The allusion is, according to Qatadah and Ibn Zayd, to Revelation (Ibn Jarir). Another possible connotation is, ‘He casts the Truth in the hearts of the truthful’ (Razi). 81. That is, whatever is 'other than God,' cannot make anything appear, or, re-generate (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir from some of the Salaf). In a deeper sense, "I.e., in contrast to the creativeness inherent in every true idea, falsehood – being in itself an illusion – cannot really create anything or revive any value that may have been alive in the past" (Asad). 82. That is, the Prophet has not worked out the guidance or the means of salvation he is offering with his own mind: it is Allah's own bestowal. 83. Yusuf Ali explains: "If it could possibly be supposed that the Prophet was a self-deceived visionary, it would affect him only, and could not fail to appear in his personality. But in fact he was steady in his constancy and Faith, and he not only went from strength to strength, but won the enduring and whole-hearted love and devotion of his nearest and dearest and of those who most came into contact with him. How was this possible, unless he had the Truth and the inspiration of Allah behind him? This is the fifth and last argument in this passage." 84. This is how Ibn `Abbas explained the term "fawta", viz., “escape,” as in Ibn Jarir. Report concerning the above is in Ibn abi al-Mundhir also (Shawkani). 85. Although Ibn Jarir keeps it open, the preferred opinion is that this seizing will be on the Day of Judgment (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir), and the import is, writes Razi, they will not be able to flee, but rather, will be seized from a place close at hand. 86. "Tanawush" is different from its close synonym "tanaawul" in that the former implies an easy attaining, or what does not involve any effort (while the latter would need some effort). The implication is, the faith that was being offered to them in the world, was within easy reach. But now, in the Next world, that easy reach has become a distant wish (Au.). 87. An alternative understanding is that the textual word "tanaawush" is for return. That is, how can they be returned to the world of “the past,” to facilitate them to repent? This was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). 88. Ibn Jarir points out that several interpretations are possible: (a) they are conjecturing about the Prophet that he is either a sorcerer, a soothsayer, or a poet (Mujahid), (b) they are conjecturing that there will be no raising after death, no reckoning, no rewards or punishments (Qatadah), (c) they cast aspersions against the Qur'an from a distance (Ibn Zayd). Note the contrast. Allah casts the truth. The unbelievers also cast, but they cast that which is insubstantial, which is what "bi 'l ghayb" implies here (Razi). Asad adds: "The obvious implication is that man's fate in the Hereafter will be a consequence of, and invariably conditioned by, his spiritual attitude and the manner of his life during the first, earthly stage of his existence. In this instance, the expression 'from far away' is apparently used in a sense similar to saying like, 'far off the mark' or 'without rhyme or reason', and is meant to qualify as groundless and futile all negative speculation about what the Qur'an describes as al-ghayb ('that which is beyond the reach of human [or created being's] perception'): in this case, life after death." 89. Hasan, Mujahid, Qatadah and others interpreted the verse as meaning, a barrier will be placed between the unbelievers and their wishes to believe in Allah and return to the world to lead a righteous life (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Or perhaps, a barrier will be placed between their wishes and the outcome of the wishes (Au.). 90. As says another verse, points out Ibn Kathir (40: 84-85),

    فَلَمَّا رَأَوْا بَأْسَنَا قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَحْدَهُ وَكَفَرْنَا بِمَا كُنَّا بِهِ مُشْرِكِينَ. فَلَمْ يَكُ يَنفَعُهُمْ إِيمَانُهُمْ لَمَّا رَأَوْا بَأْسَنَا سُنَّتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ فِي عِبَادِهِ وَخَسِرَ هُنَالِكَ الْكَافِرُونَ (غافر – 84-85)

    "So, when they saw Our chastisement they said, 'We believed in One God and renounce those we were associating.' But their belief could not profit them when they had seen Our chastisement. Such has been the way of Allah with His slaves. And lost - then and there - were the unbelievers." the world to lead a righteous life (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Or perhaps, a barrier will be placed between their wishes and the outcome of the wishes (Au.). 90. As says another verse, points out Ibn Kathir (40: 84-85),

    فَلَمَّا رَأَوْا بَأْسَنَا قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَحْدَهُ وَكَفَرْنَا بِمَا كُنَّا بِهِ مُشْرِكِينَ. فَلَمْ يَكُ يَنفَعُهُمْ إِيمَانُهُمْ لَمَّا رَأَوْا بَأْسَنَا سُنَّتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ فِي عِبَادِهِ وَخَسِرَ هُنَالِكَ الْكَافِرُونَ (غافر – 84-85)

    "So, when they saw Our chastisement they said, 'We believed in One God and renounce those we were associating.' But their belief could not profit them when they had seen Our chastisement. Such has been the way of Allah with His slaves. And lost - then and there - were the unbelievers."