Surat Fāţir

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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


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


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


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


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


  • Surah No. 35

    Merits of the Surah

    Finished re-reading commentary text on 5th June 2011

    1. The chapter has also been called as “Surah al-Mala’ikah” (Zamakhshari, Alusi).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ فَاطِرِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ جَاعِلِ الْمَلَائِكَةِ رُسُلًا أُولِي أَجْنِحَةٍ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ ۚ يَزِيدُ فِي الْخَلْقِ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (1)

    35|1| IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE KIND, THE COMPASSIONATE.All praise to Allah,2 Originator3 of the heavens and the earth,4 Appointer of angels (as) messengers; with wings: twos, threes, and fours.5 He adds to the creation as He will.6 Surely, Allah has power over all things.

    2. “When we praise Allah, it means that we understand and bring to mind that His glory and power are exercised for the good of His Creation, and this is the subject-matter of the Surah” (Yusuf Ali).‏
    3. Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said that he did not know what “Fatir” was until he happened to be near two Bedouins disputing over a water-hole. One of them said to the other,
    “I originated it” (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). The word has its root in “fatara” which means “to split,” as well as “to create” (Qurtubi). Allah is the Originator in the sense of having created without a previous example, and without a previously existing set of physical laws (Alusi).
    Yusuf Ali comments: “As man’s knowledge of the processes of nature advances, he sees how complex is the evolution of matter itself, leaving out the question of the origin of Life and the spiritual forces, which are beyond the ken of experimental science. But this knowledge itself becomes a sort of ”veil of Light": man becomes so conscious of the proximate causes, that he is apt, in his pride, to forget the primal Cause, the ultimate hand of Allah in Creation.. The word fatara here means the creation of primeval matter, to which further creative processes have to be added by the hand of Allah, or Allah ‘adds to His Creation as He pleases’, not only in quantity, but in qualities, functions, relations and variations in infinite ways.‏“
    4. Majid gives a reason why a re-statement of the stated is necessary: “The earliest heathen gods were the personifications of the heaven and the earth. Hence the need for emphasizing that they are mere created beings. Even the Jews with their heritage of monotheism were led, under the sway of Platonic ideas, to conceive of creation ‘as carried into effect through intermediate agencies, not very distinguishable from sub-deities.’ (JE. IV. p. 338).”
    Today’s scientists propose that the universe is “a free lunch”, that is, it came out of nothing. This is justified in the following curious manner: Firstly, we know that everything exists in pairs: positive and negative. For example, we have matter and antimatter. Now, before the big bang nothing existed but only energy. This positive energy must have had its negative partner. That partner is gravity which is assumed as negative energy. This negative energy cancels out the positive energy, and we end up having a universe out of nothing! Physicists say, on the other hand, that it is observed in the laboratories that during experiments sub-atomic particles pop up suddenly from nowhere. They have no mass, and no energy. But their physical effects are measurable. They come into existence all by themselves, for a microsecond, and disappear. This proves that the universe could have come into existence by itself.
    One wonders how much of the above stated in scientific works is given credence by their authors themselves, or, is it for public consumption alone? (Au.).
    5. That is, some of them have a pair of wings, others two, or three, or four. But there is no limit. During the night of the Flight to the heavens our Prophet saw Jibril with six hundred wings (Zamakhshari), between each of the wings was a distance of the east and the west (Ibn Kathir).
    The above report, as in Ibn Abi Hatim and in Kitab Al-Adab of Bukhari, has the following words in Arabic:There is another report in Abu al-Sheikh, as also in Kanz to the effect that the Prophet saw Jibril at Sidratu al-Muntaha with six hundred motley colored wings (Au.).
    Majid comments: “The figures are not designed to express actual number of wings. They are symbolic of the different orders of those beings so unlike the creatures of the earth… In the Bible also there is a mention of certain winged heavenly beings, known as seraphim, attending on God and proclaiming His holiness:- ‘I also saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings: with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain did he fly.’ (Is. 6: 1-2).”
    6. That is, there can be other creations with more than six hundred wings (Suddi – Ibn Kathir). But clearly, the allusion is to increase in all kinds of quantities and qualities in the creations (Zamakhshari). In the words of Asad, “the process of creation is continuous, constantly expanding in scope, range and variety.”

    مَا يَفْتَحِ اللَّهُ لِلنَّاسِ مِنْ رَحْمَةٍ فَلَا مُمْسِكَ لَهَا ۖ وَمَا يُمْسِكْ فَلَا مُرْسِلَ لَهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (2)

    35|2| Whatsoever of mercy Allah opens for the people, has no withholder thereof; and what He withholds has no releaser of it7 thereafter;8 and He is the All-mighty, the All-wise.9

    7. It is in this vein that the Prophet is reported to have supplicated in words as reported by Bukhari, Ahmad and others:
    Warrad, who was Mughira b. Sho`ba’s secretary, wrote on his behest to Mu`awiyyah that the Prophet used to say after every of the five daily Prayers,
    “There is no deity save Allah, the One. He has no partners. His is the kingdom and for Him the praise; and He has power over all things. O Allah, there is no withholder of what You grant, and no granter of what You withhold. And no possessor of good fortune can be of any benefit when faced with Your will.”
    Muslim has a slightly different version of the above report, as also Ahmad. It is said that the Prophet used to say these words of supplication during his deep bows (ruku’). The actual words are:
    “O our Lord, Yours is the praise (in quantities) filling the heavens and the earth, and filling whatever else You wish after them, worthy of praise; there is no withholder of what You grant, and no granter of what You withhold. And no possessor of good fortune can be of any benefit when faced with Your will” (Ibn Kathir).
    Alusi notes: Ibn al-Mundhir has recorded from `Amir b. Qays that, “There are four verses of the Qur’an on the strength of which I do not care how I do my morning or my evening:
    i) “Whatsoever of mercy Allah opens for the people has no withholder thereof; and what He withholds, has no releaser thereof after Him.”
    A second says,
    ii) “And, were Allah to visit you with an affliction, there is no remover thereof, save He. And, if He wished you any good, there is none to bar His bounty” (10: 107).
    And a third:
    iii) “And there is no creeper on the earth but upon Allah is its provision” (11: 6).
    iv) “Allah will place ease after hardship” (65: 7).
    Sayyid Qutb has a passage the likes of which make his commentary stand out from others. Here is a shortened version, “Whatsoever of mercy that Allah opens for the people, has no withholder thereof; and what He withholds has no releaser of it thereafter: This single short verse puts an end to every doubt concerning the powers in the heavens and earth, binding man wholly to the power of Allah. On one hand, it drives into him disillusionment against every hope of mercy from any quarter of the universe, connecting him, on the other hand, with the mercy of Allah. It shuts all the doors of the heavens and earth, opening for him Allah’s door alone. It blocks every path in the heavens and the earth, leaving open the way to Allah alone.
    “And Allah’s mercy appears in so many forms that they defy counting. Man is unable to take account of it all in his little self and what goes to make it. He cannot take account of all that Allah has bestowed of His mercy by way of honoring him, by way of the things He subjected to him: from above, from below, and from every side. But of course, those that a man realizes are but a meager few of those that he does not know.
    “Allah’s mercy appears in those things that are prohibited as well as in those that have been declared lawful. When Allah opens up His mercy, the person concerned discovers it in everything, in every situation, in every condition, and in every place.. He finds it in his self, in his disposition, in things surrounding him, wherever he happens to be, and in whatever condition he happens to be, even when he is in the process of enduring all that the people consider as a stroke of misfortune. On the other hand, he misses the mercy we are speaking of, if Allah withholds it, in every thing, in every situation, in every condition, and in every place, even if he possesses all that the people reckon as the means of happiness and satisfaction.
    “There is no blessing but it turns into a curse - if Allah disconnects it from His mercy. And there is no distress but it becomes a blessing - if it is accompanied by Allah’s mercy.. Man may rest on a bed of thorns – blessed with Allah’s mercy – and behold, it is a cushion. He might rest on a bed of silk – but Allah has withheld His Mercy – and behold, it is a bed of thorns. He could be struggling against all odds – but is in Allah’s mercy – and behold, they are the simplest of things to endure. On the other hand, he might be attempting one of the easiest things – but is without His mercy – and behold, it is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish. He passes through dangerous situations, but experiences peace and comfort, if in Allah’s mercy, while without it, he indulges in the most simple of things, yet they prove distressful.
    “There is no hardship with Allah’s mercy at hand. Hardship contains in it being withheld; even if a man is in the darkness of prison cells, or undergoing severe torture, or engulfed by flames of destruction. And there is no peace without it, even if a man is in the best of blessings, and material comforts. It is within the soul that springs of blessings and comforts sprout – by Allah’s mercy; and from within the soul scorpions of worry, anxiety, fatigue, hardship, distress and plight sting, when one is without Allah’s mercy.
    “This is the door which, when open, could close all other doors, windows, and every opening. But no worry, for, it is the door to ease, comfort and prosperity. On the other hand, if this door is closed, but rest of the doors are opened, all the windows, and all the openings, but it will be of no use, for, it is going to mean constriction, pain, worries, and afflictions.
    “This bestowal descends, but if there is constriction in provision, in housing, in livelihood, or, life happens to be rough and the resting place harsh – yet, no matter, for, they are of little consequence. In reality it is luxury, comfort, peace and blessing. On the other hand, if this bestowal is held back, but is followed by material ease, and by everything that sounds pleasant, yet it is no use. It will prove to be stressful, constricting, wretched and full of tribulation.
    “Wealth and progeny, health and strength, power and prestige ... all these become sources of worry, exhaustion, distress and hardship – if Allah’s mercy is withheld. But if Allah opens the doors of His mercy, then the same things are sources of comfort, pleasure, satisfaction, and contentment.
    “It is by Allah’s mercy that you feel His mercy. Allah’s mercy always encompasses you, overwhelms you, circumscribes you, but it is your awareness of it that turns it into a mercy. Your hoping to get it, and experience it - that is His mercy. It is your faith in it, and expectations of it in every affair, which is the true mercy. Torture is true torture when you feel you are veiled from it, or you doubt its coming. But it is that kind of torture that a believer never experiences for, ‘None despairs of Allah’s mercy but an unbelieving folk.’”
    8. Imam Razi understood it as “after Him.” That is, who can release after Allah withholds it? (Zamakhshari). Our rendering follows Jalalayn, Alusi and others (Au.).
    Mawdudi writes: “This is to remove the pagan beliefs that there are beings or agencies other than Allah responsible for providing, or for obtaining from Allah, wealth, health, progeny, etc. This has been emphasized in many parts of the Qur’an to release the people from the shame and humiliation of begging at every door and at every shrine.”
    9. “He is All-mighty and so can grant what He wills, but is also All-wise, and so grants in accordance with the demands of wisdom” (Mawdudi).

    يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ ۚ هَلْ مِنْ خَالِقٍ غَيْرُ اللَّهِ يَرْزُقُكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ فَأَنَّىٰ تُؤْفَكُونَ (3)

    35|3| O people, recall Allah’s blessings upon you. Is there a creator other than Allah to provide you out of heaven and earth? There is no deity save He. Where then are you being diverted?

    وَإِنْ يُكَذِّبُوكَ فَقَدْ كُذِّبَتْ رُسُلٌ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ ۚ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ تُرْجَعُ الْأُمُورُ (4)

    35|4| But if they cry lies to you, then Messengers before you were also cried lies to. And, to Allah are the affairs returned.

    يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ ۖ فَلَا تَغُرَّنَّكُمُ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَا يَغُرَّنَّكُمْ بِاللَّهِ الْغَرُورُ (5)

    35|5| O people, Allah’s promise is true; therefore, let not the life of the world delude you, and let not the (great) Deluder10 delude you concerning Allah.11

    10. Ibn `Abbas has said that the allusion by “the Deluder” is to Shaytan (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Everyone agrees that Shaytan is the enemy to the humans, but few seem to live up to their own assertions. Fudayl b. `Iyad used to say to himself, “O liar! O slanderer! Fear Allah. Do not curse Shaytan in public while you befriend him in private” (Qurtubi).
    11. “That is, he deludes you concerning Allah to the effect, (e.g.), He does not exist, or, if He exists, He does not take interest in the affairs of the world, or, if He does, it is not people’s guidance or misguidance that interest Him to be sending Messengers, or, if He did send, then, He is too merciful to punish the defaulters” (Mawdudi).

    ِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ فَاتَّخِذُوهُ عَدُوًّا ۚ إِنَّمَا يَدْعُو حِزْبَهُ لِيَكُونُوا مِنْ أَصْحَابِ السَّعِيرِ (6)

    35|6| Indeed, Shaytan is an enemy to you; so treat him as an enemy. He only calls his party12 so that they may be among the companions of the blaze.

    12. Ibn Zayd said that the allusion by “his party” is to those who befriend Shaytan or follow him (Ibn Jarir).

    الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ كَبِيرٌ (7)

    35|7| Those who have disbelieved, for them is a severe chastisement. As for those who believed and did righteous deeds, for them is forgiveness and a great reward.

    أَفَمَنْ زُيِّنَ لَهُ سُوءُ عَمَلِهِ فَرَآهُ حَسَنًا ۖ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يُضِلُّ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۖ فَلَا تَذْهَبْ نَفْسُكَ عَلَيْهِمْ حَسَرَاتٍ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ (8)

    35|8| Is he, then, for whom the evil of his conduct has been decked out fair, so that he looks at it as good (equal to the rightly guided)?13 For, Allah leads astray whomsoever He will, and guides whomsoever He will;14 so let not your soul waste (itself) in grief over them. Surely, Allah knows well all that they do.

    13. Can someone who decides to use his potentials in a manner that defies reason and logic, opts to use the power of choice he is given wrongly, and then, remains determinedly on the course, despite open evidences against what he chooses, be equal, in this life and in the final outcome - to him who follows the guidance when it becomes clear to him? (Shabbir).
    14. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded the following hadith in reference to this verse:It reports `Abdullah ibn `Amr as having heard the Prophet say, “Indeed, Allah created His creation in darkness, then He cast His Nur on them. So, whosever received out of that Nur, found guidance, while whoever missed it, missed. That is why I say that the Pen has dried on Allah’s knowledge” (Ibn Kathir).
    We have traced the hadith to Ahmad and many collections, but took it from Tirmidhi who declared it Hasan, but which Ibn Hibban declared Sahih, as in Tuhfah (Au.).

    وَاللَّهُ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ الرِّيَاحَ فَتُثِيرُ سَحَابًا فَسُقْنَاهُ إِلَىٰ بَلَدٍ مَيِّتٍ فَأَحْيَيْنَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ النُّشُورُ (9)

    35|9| Allah it is who sets loose the winds so that they stir up the clouds, then We drive it to a dead land; then We revive thereby the earth after its death. Even so (will be) the resurrection.15

    15. Ibn Kathir writes: When Allah (swt) will decide to quicken the dead, He will send down rain from below the `Arsh that will cover the whole earth. With that the bodies will begin to grow from within the graves as crops grow. Says a Sahih hadith (which can be traced in Bukhari and Muslim):
    “The whole of Adam’s sons is decimated by the earth except for the tail bone (coccyx) out of which he is created and out of which he will be recreated” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above is Muslim’s version (Au.).
    We have earlier pointed out the findings of the embryologist that the first bone to be formed in the fetus is the tail piece of the backbone. Bukhari’s version is as follows:
    “There will be a spell of forty between the two blows (of the Trumpet). He (Abu Hurayrah) was asked, ‘Forty days?’ He said, ‘I reject it.’ He was asked, ‘Forty months?’ He said, ‘I reject it.’ He was asked, ‘Forty years?’ He said, ‘I reject it.’ Then he continued, He will send down rain from below the `Arsh that will cover the whole earth and then the bodies will begin to grow from within the graves as crops grows. There is not a bone in the humans but is decimated except the tail-bone upon which the creations will be raised on the Day of Judgment” (Au.).
    While explaining the above hadith in Fath, Ibn Hajr points out that according to a version in the collections of Hakim and Abu Ya`la, the word “mustard seed” (khardal) has been used in place of “tail-bone,” which, in the language of the ancients stood for the smallest of matter imaginable, or, in today’s parlance, a sub-atomic particle. The original is as follows:

    مَنْ كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّهِ الْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُ وَالْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ يَرْفَعُهُ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ يَمْكُرُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ ۖ وَمَكْرُ أُولَٰئِكَ هُوَ يَبُورُ (10)

    35|10| Whoever seeks power and glory, (may know that) all power and glory belongs to Allah.16 Unto Him rises the good word,17 and good deeds raise it up.18 As for those who plot evils, for them is a severe chastisement.19 And it is their plot that is sterile.20

    16. “The immediate allusion is to the chiefs of the Quraysh who thought they were defending their honor and glory, threatened by the message of the Prophet which brought the people to one social and political level without any discrimination. Their age-old prestigious position as leaders of the Arabs was at stake. But they are being told that their honor and glory was false, based on untrue premises, and therefore, unendurable. True and lasting power and glory lay with Allah alone, the true Dispenser, in this world and in the next” (Mawdudi).
    “True honor and glory take root in the heart before they appear in outward forms. It is a reality, which when it takes its pace in the hearts, raises a person from resorting to any means that could lead a man to bending knees before ‘other than Allah.’ It is a reality wherewith a man raises himself above his own carnal self; above fear of the people and above covetousness against the people. Whoever possessed this, cannot be humiliated or humbled by anyone. It is people’s base desires, their covetousness and greed that makes them mean and shorn of self-respect. It is by overcoming these base qualities that a man can achieve honor and glory. It is not gained through pride, arrogance, or oppression of the people, but rather, it is gained through humility before Allah, through His fear, and through thoughts of His presence in open and in secret” (Sayyid).
    17. This then is the way to attaining true power and glory: right beliefs accompanied by righteous deeds. A soul ennobled by moral power, will glide through all hurdles of the Hereafter in complete dignity (Au.).
    Mukhariq b. Sulaym reported that once `Abdullah (ibn Mas`ud) addressed them saying,
    “When we narrate a hadith, we bring forth a Qur’anic ayah in evidence. When a Muslim says, ‘Glory to Allah and by His Praise: Praise to Allah, there is no deity save Allah, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is Blessed,’ then, an angel takes the words, places them under its wings and rises up to the heavens, so that it does not pass by any group of angels but they seek forgiveness for him who who said those words until he presents it before the Rahman.” Then `Abdullah read out this verse” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Kathir adds the following from Musnad of Ahmad:Nu`man b. Bashir reports the Prophet,
    “Those who mention ‘Allah’s greatness, His glory, His Praise, His oneness,’ have those around the `Arsh – who have a buzzing like the buzzing of the bees – mention the person who says these words. Would not one of you then then like it that there should always be something by Allah, by which he could be remembered?”
    Although only a few words have been specified in the hadith, every good word is included in “al-kalim al-tayyib”, such as words of admonition, wisdom, etc. (Razi).
    In view of this and other verses of the Qur’an, writes Thanwi, the rule that can be worked out is: testification at the heart’s level is an essential requirement for the initial acceptance of the “al-kalimah al-tayyibah”. Thereafter, righteous deeds are the condition for the fuller acceptance of all the “al-kalimat al-tayyibat.”
    And righteous deeds are those, adds Shafi`, which are performed in accordance with the requirements of Sunnah.
    18. This is how Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others understood this verse (Ibn Jarir), wherein “the good word” is Allah’s remembrance, which however are not free to ascend by themselves. It is such deeds as are the demands of Islam, which, when performed, take the good word to Allah, to be stored as those deserving rewards. Hasan and Qatadah added that Allah (swt) does not accept good words without good deeds (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    What’s the connection between the previous verse and this one? The answer is that the earlier passage spoke of the source of power, glory and honor (`izzah) which humans strive for, reminding that they belong to Allah alone. How can they be obtained? The answer came next: through good word rising to Allah. But how do good words rise up to Him? It is through good deeds. It is righteous believers who are granted `izzah. Allah identified them elsewhere when He said (63: 8)),“For Allah is the `izzah (power, glory, honor), for His Messenger, and for the believers” (Razi, restructured).
    On another plane of meaning, good deeds flow out of good intentions. By the use of one word “makr”, evil intention was identified. With this intention as the fount, all deeds that flow out are foul. Hence “yamkuruna al-sayyi’at” (they plot evil deeds) - Au.
    19. The allusion is to those who take active interest in obfuscating the message of Islam (Au.).
    20. Asad explains, “It appears that in this context.. both the noun makr (lit., ‘a scheme’, or ‘scheming’, or ‘plotting’) and the verb yamkurun (lit., “they scheme” or ‘plot’) have the connotation of ‘devising false [or ‘fallacious’] arguments’ against something that is true. Since the preceding passage refers to God’s creativeness and, in particular, to His power to create life and resurrect the dead (verse 9), the ‘evil deeds’ spoken of above are, presumably, specious arguments meant to ‘disprove” the announcement of resurrection.”

    وَاللَّهُ خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ ثُمَّ جَعَلَكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا ۚ وَمَا تَحْمِلُ مِنْ أُنْثَىٰ وَلَا تَضَعُ إِلَّا بِعِلْمِهِ ۚ وَمَا يُعَمَّرُ مِنْ مُعَمَّرٍ وَلَا يُنْقَصُ مِنْ عُمُرِهِ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ (11)

    35|11| Allah created you from dust, then from a sperm-drop, then He made you in pairs. And no female conceives nor delivers but with His knowledge. And, no one whose life is prolonged, has his life prolonged, nor is his lifespan diminished, but is in a Record.21 Surely, that is easy for Allah.

    21. The meaning that Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Zayd attributed to the verse is that no one reaches his old age, nor does another has his original age diminished, but is already recorded in a Book. In simpler words, everyone attains the lifespan allotted to him: whether it is someone who attains old age (to complete his term), or it is someone who dies young (having attained the decreed term) – both attain the lifespan decreed for them, neither one enjoying an increase nor the other suffering decrease.
    A minor opinion is that lifespan can be increased or decreased. But the opinion of Ibn `Abbas is nearer to being correct (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    With due respect to the above, we might point out that there are a few reports that apparently seem to be declaring increase or decrease in lifespan as possible. One is in Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Da’ud. It says,
    “Whoever wishes that his provision be increased and his lifespan lengthened may extend help to his kinsfolk” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    This alternative interpretation has been seconded by a few other scholars, as in Ibn Hajr’s Fat-h. In fact, there is a hadith in Ahmad reported by `A’isha of trustworthy status, to this effect. It says,The Prophet (saws) told `A’isha, “Surely, he who was given kindliness was given a good share of this life as well as of the Hereafter. And, doing good to the kin, good manners and good behavior towards the neighbor, build the world (on healthy lines), and cause increase in lifespan.”
    But this contradicts with some ahadith, one of which – as in Muslim – says,Hudhayfah b. Asid reported the Prophet (saws) as having said, “The angel enters upon the fetus forty or forty five days after it is settled in the womb and asks, ‘My Lord, blessed or wretched?’ One of them is decreed. Then he asks, ‘My Lord, male or female?’ One of them is decreed. Similarly his deeds, his lifespan, his death, his provision, are all written down. Then the scrolls are rolled back, so that nothing is added and nothing decreased” (Alusi, Shawkani).
    A possible reconciliation is that in particular reference to lifespan, there could be two decrees. Say one of 100 years, while the other of 80, known only to Allah alone, and not even to the Angel of Death. Where no two options are decreed, it is known as “the irrevocable decree” (qada’ al-mubram) while one which goes with options, is known as a “conditional decree” (qada’ al-mu`allaq). In case of a man’s age, it can be said that the decree goes something like this: if he performs certain righteous deeds, he is allowed to attain his 100 years; if he fails, he dies at 80. Obviously, the above Qur’anic verse is speaking of this lifespan, known to Allah alone, in which there can be no increase or decrease; but what the angel knows can undergo increase or decrease, depending on which of the two he has in his record.
    Alusi adds that statements of the Prophet such as, in reference to Tarawih Prayers, “I was afraid it would be declared obligatory on you,” or his fear of Dajjal (although he knew he will appear at the end of the world: Au.), also lend credence to this theory. It can be supported by another Qur’anic verse which says (13: 39),“Allah erases what He will and confirms. And with Him is the Umm al-Kitab (Mother of the Book, [Lawh al-Mahfuz – the Preserved Tablet]).”
    Another possible interpretation is that by increase in lifespan the allusion is to “barakah” in time, so that a man is able to achieve within his stipulated time what another could in longer years.
    Also see note 77 under Surah al-Ra`d for further discussion, and perhaps the final word.
    In any case, writes Mawdudi, to say, on the basis of the statistics that infant mortality has been reduced, or that the average lifespan has been extended, etc., is incorrect. Everything falls under Allah’s decree.
    As far as science is concerned, it has not been able to discover why the body should age although cells continue their activities throughout life. In other words, the cells of the young and old work as vigorously. Yet, one, the young, is physically vigorous, while the other, weak. In fact, the cells do not seem even to be immediately aware of the body’s death. If taken off a warm body, it continues to multiply in cultures. (Culturing is a process in which living cells are taken from a body and kept in a solution of nutrients under certain conditions. In this situation the cells replicate a certain number of times. Having completed their cycle of replication, lasting about 45 to 50 replications, the dead man’s cells die off, just as a living body’s cell would when cultured) - Au.

    وَمَا يَسْتَوِي الْبَحْرَانِ هَٰذَا عَذْبٌ فُرَاتٌ سَائِغٌ شَرَابُهُ وَهَٰذَا مِلْحٌ أُجَاجٌ ۖ وَمِنْ كُلٍّ تَأْكُلُونَ لَحْمًا طَرِيًّا وَتَسْتَخْرِجُونَ حِلْيَةً تَلْبَسُونَهَا ۖ وَتَرَى الْفُلْكَ فِيهِ مَوَاخِرَ لِتَبْتَغُوا مِنْ فَضْلِهِ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ (12)

    35|12| And not alike are the two masses of water:22 this one is sweet, potable, and pleasant to drink, while the other is salty, bitter; yet from each you partake tender flesh and extract ornaments that you wear.23 And you see the ships plough therein in search of His bounty, haply that you may give thanks.

    22. “Bahr” of the text is not necessarily for an ocean. It is for any large mass of water. So, the comparison could be either between two large masses of water: one, smaller, containing sweet water, and the other, larger with bitter water. Or the comparision could be between the sea and the river. But this supposition offers a difficulty. Normally pearls are not extracted from rivers. The answer is that this is a misconception. Pearls are indeed occassionally extracted from rivers. Alusi reports that precious stones are picked up after floods, but discounts that they can be “extracted” (Au.). Yusuf Ali comments on extraction from the sea and rivers: “Such as pearls and coral from the sea, and such delicately tinted stones as the Aqiq (carnelian), the agate, the goldstone, or other varieties of quartz pebbles found in river-beds, and considered as gems. Many such are found in the Ken river in Banda District (in India). Some river sands also yield minute quantities of gold. In large navigable rivers and big Lakes like those of North America, as well as in the sea, there are highways for shipping and commerce.”
    Qurtubi notes that springs of sweet water can be found right in the middle of the oceans, but he sees the possibility that the allusion by extraction of pearls could be only to one, i.e., the ocean, and cites another example from the Qur’an itself (ref. 28: 73); the main point being not “the place of extraction” but the “fact of extraction” (Alusi).
    Nevertheless, in addition to these discussions, one may not overlook the allegorical allusion that is there to believers and non-believers. Although both are of some profit to others of the creations, but sweet water (believer) is after all sweet water. The unbeliever may relinquish pearls, (of course not without so much efforts after him), but life is unthinkable without sweet water. Not equal are the two: the bitter and the sweet water, the unbeliever and the believer (with points from Razi and Alusi).
    For the extraction of pearls from sea water, see Surah al-Rahman (no. 55), note number 17.
    23. To refer to ornaments as “libs” (something that is worn), connotes that whatever is put on the body is, technically, of the category of “libas.” Accordingly, Ibn Sirin says he asked `Ubaydah whether using silken sheets for beds was counted as “libs” and he answered, “Yes” (Qurtubi).
    For someone who would wish to attempt similar paraphrasing of the whole of the Qur’an (for the common people’s understanding), we offer as sample Thanwi’s rendering of the first eight verses along with his parenthetical remarks, slightly modified:
    “All praise to Allah, Originator of the heavens and the earth, who appointed angels as messengers (who have) wings: twos, threes and fours. (However, He is not bound to threes and fours but) rather adds to the creation as He will (so that some of them have hundreds of wings). Surely, Allah has power over all things. (He has such unassailable power that) whatsoever of mercy Allah opens for the people (such as rains, crops, etc.), has no withholder thereof; and what He withholds has no releaser of it thereafter. (He alone can do it because) He is the All-mighty, the All-wise. O people (just as He is All-mighty, He is also All-merciful. His bestowals are uncountable; therefore), recall Allah’s blessings upon you (consequently, thank Him, and one way of expressing thanks is to have faith in Him as One God; think), is there a creator other than Allah to provide you out of heaven and earth? There is no deity save He (so worship Him alone). Where then are you being diverted? But if they cry lies to you (then, worry not O Muhammad), for Messengers before you were also cried lies to. (Secondly, you must not forget that) all affairs are returned to Allah (He will suitably deal with them, why should you over-vex yourself now?) O people, Allah’s promise (of the affairs returning to Him) is true; (so) it should not happen that the life of the world deludes you, and let not the (great) Deluder (Satan) delude you concerning Allah (for you to assume that ‘if I am returned to my Lord, I shall have good things’). Indeed, Shaytan is an enemy to you; so treat him as an enemy. He only calls his party so that they may be among the companions of the blaze. Those who (fell into delusions and) disbelieved, for them is a severe chastisement. As for those who (did not fall prey to him and so) believed and did righteous deeds, for them is forgiveness (for the errors they committed) and a great reward (for their good deeds. Now, when the unbeliever will be chastised, and the believer rewarded, then, in terms of the final outcome) is he for whom the evil of his conduct has been decked out fair, so that he looks upon it as good (equal to the rightly guided)? (As for how any intelligent man can treat evil as good, the answer is) Allah leads astray whomsoever He will (by making him unreasonable), and guides whomsoever He will (by leaving in tact his power of reasoning). So, (since it is by Allah’s will that they are guided or misguided) let not your soul waste (itself, O Muhammad) in grief over them. Allah surely knows well all that they do (and will deal with them suitably when they return to Him)."

    يُولِجُ اللَّيْلَ فِي النَّهَارِ وَيُولِجُ النَّهَارَ فِي اللَّيْلِ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ لَهُ الْمُلْكُ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ مَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْ قِطْمِيرٍ (13)

    35|13| He makes the night enter into the day and the day enter into the night; and He has subjected the sun and the moon, each running to an appointed term. This your Allah is your Lord; His is the Kingdom. As for those you call upon other than Him, they own not so much as the husk of a date-stone.24

    24. As one splits a date, he finds thin fibrous filament that separates the seed from the pulp. This is qitmir. No human could have thought of using this word. No one ever pays attention to it while splitting a date - the mind is preoccupied with the fruit’s flesh (Au.).

    إِنْ تَدْعُوهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُوا دُعَاءَكُمْ وَلَوْ سَمِعُوا مَا اسْتَجَابُوا لَكُمْ ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَكْفُرُونَ بِشِرْكِكُمْ ۚ وَلَا يُنَبِّئُكَ مِثْلُ خَبِيرٍ (14)

    35|14| If you invoke them, they do not hear your invocation, and, even if they heard, they cannot respond to you. And, on the Day of Standing they will disown your association (of them with Allah);25 and none can inform you (O Prophet) like Him who is All-aware.

    25. “The Qur’an states in many places that all the false objects of worship – whether saints, angels, relics, fetishes, or deified forces of nature – will ‘bear witness’ against their one-time worshippers on Resurrection Day, and will ‘disown’ them.” (Asad).

    يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَنْتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ (15)

    35|15| O people! You are the ones that are in need of Allah, while Allah is the Self-sufficient, the Praiseworthy.26

    26. Allah is the Self-sufficient, the Praiseworthy: If someone construes the idea that Allah is “Al-Ghaniyy” in the material sense, then the attribute “Al-Hamid” offers the correction that Allah is Praiseworthy by Himself, independent of praise. If the creations have been asked to chant His praises, it is to establish His greatness and love in their hearts and minds (Au.).

    ِنْ يَشَأْ يُذْهِبْكُمْ وَيَأْتِ بِخَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ (16)

    35|16| If He will, He can take you away and bring about a new creation.

    وَمَا ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ بِعَزِيزٍ (17)

    35|17| And that is not at all hard upon Allah.

    وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۚ وَإِنْ تَدْعُ مُثْقَلَةٌ إِلَىٰ حِمْلِهَا لَا يُحْمَلْ مِنْهُ شَيْءٌ وَلَوْ كَانَ ذَا قُرْبَىٰ ۗ إِنَّمَا تُنْذِرُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ بِالْغَيْبِ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ ۚ وَمَنْ تَزَكَّىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَتَزَكَّىٰ لِنَفْسِهِ ۚ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ الْمَصِيرُ (18)

    35|18| And no bearer of burden shall carry the burden of another,27 and if a heavily laden soul should call another to her burden, nothing of it will be borne, even though he be near of kin.28 But you can warn only those who fear their Lord in the Unseen and perform the Prayer. And whosoever purified himself,29 purifies for the sake of his own soul, and to Allah is the journey’s end.

    27. This does not contradict the verse which says (29: 13)i.e., “They shall surely carry their own loads, and loads besides their own loads” because, the allusion in this verse is to the sin of misleading others (Alusi).
    28. (We have a hadith of Sahih status coming from the Prophet directly on this topic: Au.). It has been preserved in Tirmidhi, Abu Da’ud, Sa`id b. Mansur, Nasa’i, Ibn Marduwayh and Bayhaqi in his Sunan. It is as follows: Abu Rimthah reports: “I was in the company of my father as we walked up to the Prophet. The Prophet asked my father: ‘Is this your son?’ He replied, ‘Yes, by the Lord of the Ka`bah. It is the truth, I testify.‘ The Prophet smiled at my likeness with my father, and at my father’s swearing. Then he added, ‘Well, you will not be held responsible for any of his misdeed, nor he for any of your misdeed.’ Then he recited this verse, ‘And no bearer of burden will carry the burden of another’” (Shawkani).
    `Ikrimah commented that a father will go to his son, remind him of his past good deeds and then request him for a single good deed or take away a single evil deed from him in order to lighten his burden. But the son will refuse. He will try his wife, his friends, and others, but no one will be ready to offer any relief, on grounds that although he was seeking something pretty simple, they feared the same thing as he feared (Qurtubi).
    The above report is in Ibn Abi Hatim; as Allah (swt) said (80: 35-37), “On the Day when man will flee from his brother; his mother and father; his wife and children; for every man that day will be an affair that will occupy him (wholly)” - Ibn Kathir.
    Asad adds: “Thus, any transfer of moral responsibility from one person to another is shown to be impossible. Whereas the first part of the above statement implies a negation of the Christian doctrine of ‘original sin’ with which mankind is supposedly burdened, the second part categorically refutes the doctrine of the ‘vicarious atonement’ of that sin by Jesus Christ.”
    29. That is, he who purified himself of the filth of disbelief, Association, worship of other than Allah, and lived a righteous life (Au.).

    وَمَا يَسْتَوِي الْأَعْمَىٰ وَالْبَصِيرُ (19)

    35|19| Not equal are the blind and the seeing.

    وَلَا الظُّلُمَاتُ وَلَا النُّورُ (20)

    35|20| Nor the darknesses and the light.

    وَلَا الظِّلُّ وَلَا الْحَرُورُ (21)

    35|21| Nor the shade and the torrid heat.

    وَمَا يَسْتَوِي الْأَحْيَاءُ وَلَا الْأَمْوَاتُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُسْمِعُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۖ وَمَا أَنْتَ بِمُسْمِعٍ مَنْ فِي الْقُبُورِ (22)

    35|22| And not equal are the living and the dead.30 Allah makes to hear whomsoever He will; you are not going to make hear those who are in the graves.31

    30. This is a comparison between a believer and an unbeliever at the spiritual level (Ibn Jarir).
    Undeniably, spiritual qualities have their effects. We find Qatadah saying, as Ibn Jarir notes, “A believer is alive: alive of sight, alive of intention, alive in deeds. In contrast, an unbeliever is dead: dead of sight, dead of heart and dead in deeds.”
    The ayah is in the same vein as (6: 122),“What? Can one who was dead, then We gave him life and appointed a Light whereby he strides among the people, be like he who is in darknesses out of which he cannot emerge? Thus We have decked out fair for the unbelievers what they do.”
    Or (11: 24) “The likeness of the two groups is like the blind and the deaf, and the seeing and hearing. Are they equal in likeness? Will you not receive admonition?” – Ibn Kathir.
    Sayyid adds: “Not equal are the blind and the seeing; nor the darknesses and the light; nor the shade and the torrid heat; and not equal are the living and the dead: There is commonality between the natures of disbelief and of blindness, darkness, heat and death; as there is commonality between the natures of faith and light, sight, shade and life.
    “Faith is light: it is light in the heart, light in limbs, and light in senses and feelings. It is a light that shows the truth of the things, values, and events, and how they are related. A believer sees with the help of this light – Allah’s own light – and thus sees the truth of the things and knows how to interact with them so that he is not obfuscated on the way, nor staggers as he advances (toward his goal).
    “Faith is sight that sees. It experiences the true seeing, neither loosened nor disjointed. It leads its master on to a bright path, endowed with confidence and sense of satisfaction.
    “Faith is a deep shade under which the soul finds comfort, and the heart its contentment. It is the shade from which doubts, skepticism and perplexity have departed.
    “And faith is life: life of the heart and feelings; life in the objectives and directions; as it is also the name of constructive activities, fruitful, well-aimed, without any dullness or cooling of passions, neither any indulgence nor wastefulness.
    “Disbelief on the other hand is blindness: blindness in the heart, blindness from seeing the evidences of truth, blindness from the ability to see the truth, and the true relationships, truth in values, in men, in events and in things in general.
    “Disbelief is darkness - indeed, darknesses. When people are distanced from the light of faith, they fall into the pits of darknesses of a variety of kinds that prevent them from seeing the reality of great many things around them.
    “Disbelief is intensive heat. It enflames the heart with the flames of perplexity, anxiety and instability; and lack of sense of surety with regard to activities and ultimate purposes. It leads directly to the flames of Hellfire, to the scorching heat of the chastisement.
    “Disbelief is death: deadness of the conscience. It is severance from the sources of true life and severance from the path that leads to the ultimate purposes. It results in the inability to do the right things and to respond to those that are the sources of Truth.”
    31. That is, they are spiritually as dead as those in the grave (Qurtubi).

    إِنْ أَنْتَ إِلَّا نَذِيرٌ (23)

    35|23| Surely, you are no more than a warner.

    إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ بِالْحَقِّ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا ۚ وَإِنْ مِنْ أُمَّةٍ إِلَّا خَلَا فِيهَا نَذِيرٌ (24)

    35|24| We have indeed sent you with the truth, a bearer of glad tiding and a warner. And there has not been an Ummah but a warner has been among them.32

    32. If it is asked, writes Zamakhshari, has there been any warner between (the five to six hundred) years that elapsed between `Isa (asws) and our Prophet?, the answer is, so long as traces of a previous Prophet’s warnings are present in a people, one can say they have had their warner. (What Zamakhshari meant is, so long as the Message of a previous Prophet remains uncorrupted amongst a people, it can be said that they were not without a warner: Au.).
    For a detailed discussion of this issue one might refer to Surah Yunus, note 76. We reproduce its summary here: “Two points may be noted in this connection. First, a single Prophet is enough for any land – beyond his own - to which his message reaches. Second, no new Prophet need be raised so long as the message of a previous Prophet remains in them, uncorrupted. It is logically not necessary that a new Prophet should be raised in every land, among every generation of people.”

    وَإِنْ يُكَذِّبُوكَ فَقَدْ كَذَّبَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ جَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَبِالزُّبُرِ وَبِالْكِتَابِ الْمُنِيرِ (25)

    35|25| And if they give you the lie, then those who were before them also gave the lie; messengers came to them with clear signs, with Scriptures and the illuminating Book.

    ثُمَّ أَخَذْتُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ۖ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ نَكِيرِ (26)

    35|26| Then I seized those who disbelieved, so how (terrible) was My disapproval!

    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ أَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ ثَمَرَاتٍ مُخْتَلِفًا أَلْوَانُهَا ۚ وَمِنَ الْجِبَالِ جُدَدٌ بِيضٌ وَحُمْرٌ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهَا وَغَرَابِيبُ سُودٌ (27)

    35|27| Have you not considered that Allah sends down out of heaven water? We brought out therewith fruits of diverse hues. And in the mountains are tracks33 white and red; their colors of diverse shades, and (other mountains) raven dark.

    33. That is, narrow passes; alternatively, streaks, as a streak in the sky (from Lane’s Lexicon).

    وَمِنَ النَّاسِ وَالدَّوَابِّ وَالْأَنْعَامِ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهُ كَذَٰلِكَ ۗ إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ غَفُورٌ (28)

    35|28| And, of the people, beasts and cattle (too) there are various hues.34 Such is (Allah‘s creation). Indeed, from among His slaves, it is scholars who (truly) fear Allah.35 Verily, Allah is All-mighty, All-forgiving.

    34. Yusuf Ali displays depth of his learning: “Everyone can see how Allah’s artistry produces from rain the wonderful variety of crops and fruits: golden, green, red, yellow, and showing all the most beautiful tints we can think of. And each undergoes in nature the gradual shading off in its transformation from the raw stage to the stage of maturity.‏
    “These wonderful colours and shades of colours are to be found not only in crops but in rocks and mineral products. There are the white veins of marble and quartz or of chalk, the red laterite, the blue basaltic rocks, the ink-black flints, and all the variety, shade, and gradation of colours. Speaking of mountains, we think of their ‘azure hue’ from a distance, due to atmospheric effects, and these atmospheric effects lead our thoughts to the glories of clouds, sunsets, the zodiacal light, the aurora borealis, and all kinds of Nature’s gorgeous pageantry.
    “In the physical shapes of human and animal life, also, we see variations in shades and gradations of colours of all kinds. But these variations and gradations, marvellous though they be, are as nothing compared with the variations and differences in the inner or spiritual world."
    With a point from Shabbir, we might add the following: Such then are the varieties in the creation of Allah. How then can you, O Prophet, wish that all people become one variety: those devoted wholeheartedly to Allah? Indeed, it is only the Gnostics, the true scholars of Qur’an and Sunnah, who know Allah by His Attributes, who truly fear Allah.
    35. The translation reflects the understanding of Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir. The latter remarks that it is scholars alone who truly understand Allah’s Names and Attributes, and hence it is they alone who fear Him in the true sense of the word. Ibn Mas`ud has said, “Knowledge is not the name of excessive narratives but rather that of excessive fear of Allah” (Ibn Kathir).
    Rabi` b. Anas has remarked, “He who does not fear Allah, is not a scholar.” Sa`d b. Ibrahim was asked about the leading scholar of Madinah. He replied, “He who feared (Allah) most” (Shafi`).
    When `Ali ibn Abi Talib was asked about who a true scholar was, he replied,“A truly knowledgeable one is he who does not despair the people of Allah’s mercy, who does not make it easy for them to disobey Allah, who does not make them feel secure against His chastisement, who does not abandon the Qur’an, turning away from it, inclined to other than it. Surely, there is no good in devotion devoid of knowledge, no knowledge which lacks understanding, and no recitation without contemplation” (Qurtubi).
    And Ibn Abi Hayyan al-Taymi has reported from someone, that of scholars there are three kinds:
    (a) knowledgeable of Allah and knowledgeable of His commands;
    (b) knowledgeable of Allah, but not knowledgeable of His commands; and,
    (c) knowledgeable of Allah’s commands but not knowledgeable of Allah.
    Of the three, it is only the first kind, who is a true scholar. It is he who truly fears Him (Ibn Kathir).
    Mufti Shafi` notes from Abu Hayyan on the authority of Ibn `Atiyyah that the meaning that the ayah lends is not that none other than scholars fear Allah, but rather, the emphasis by the “innama” of the text is to stress the point that it is the main characteristic of scholars that they fear Allah; which does not mean a non-scholar cannot share this characteristic.
    From Thanwi once again we have a wise remark: The explanation about why some scholars are found lacking “khashiyyah” is that if their knowledge is of the doctrinal nature, then their fear is also of the doctrinal nature, but if it is related to the inner condition (hal: spiritual state), then their fear is also of the same type (hence vibrant and visible).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَتْلُونَ كِتَابَ اللَّهِ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنْفَقُوا مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ سِرًّا وَعَلَانِيَةً يَرْجُونَ تِجَارَةً لَنْ تَبُورَ (29)

    35|29| Those who recite the Book of Allah, offer the Prayers (correctly and assiduously), and expend out of what We have provided them, secretly and openly,36 hope for a bargain which will never fail.37

    36. It is recommended that if the deeds are obligatory, they should be carried out in the open. Prayers for example, are followed after announcement from the minarets. Zakah should also be given in open. This encourages others to follow the example. Supererogatory acts on the other hand, are special deeds. And special deeds earn special status in the sight of the people. This can corrupt the intention which should be none other than earning Allah’s good pleasure. Therefore, they should be performed in secret (with some modification from Shafi`).
    37. “They hope,” because one can never be sure that his deeds have met the conditions of acceptance. Yet “it is a bargain” which has Allah’s promise that it “never fails,” as against worldly trade which carries the possibilities both of profit as well as of loss. It will never fail because, as Shafi` puts it, “fastening good hope on Allah” should pay in the end, even if the deeds fail the acceptance test. Chances of total failure are further reduced in view of the words that follow, “So that He may pay them their wages in full, and increase upon them out of His bounty, indeed He is All-forgiving, All-appreciative” (Au.).

    لِيُوَفِّيَهُمْ أُجُورَهُمْ وَيَزِيدَهُمْ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ غَفُورٌ شَكُورٌ (30)

    35|30| So that He may pay them their wages in full, and increase upon them out of His bounty, indeed He is All-forgiving, All-appreciative.

    وَالَّذِي أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ هُوَ الْحَقُّ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِعِبَادِهِ لَخَبِيرٌ بَصِيرٌ (31)

    35|31| And that which We have revealed to you of the Book is the Truth, confirming that which was before it, surely Allah is, with respect to His servants, well acquainted, fully observant.

    ثُمَّ أَوْرَثْنَا الْكِتَابَ الَّذِينَ اصْطَفَيْنَا مِنْ عِبَادِنَا ۖ فَمِنْهُمْ ظَالِمٌ لِنَفْسِهِ وَمِنْهُمْ مُقْتَصِدٌ وَمِنْهُمْ سَابِقٌ بِالْخَيْرَاتِ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَضْلُ الْكَبِيرُ (32)

    35|32| Then We gave the Book in inheritance to such of Our servants as We chose. Of them are some who wrong their own souls, of them some who are on the middle course, while some who are, by Allah’s leave, forerunners in good (works).38 That is the great bounty.

    38. Ka`b al-Ahbar is severally reported as having said that the allusion by the words, “Of them are some who wrong their own souls, and of them some on the middle course, while some who are, by Allah’s leave, forerunners in good (works),” is entirely to the followers of the Prophet, (who inherited the Book from previous nations), and whose all three classes mentioned here will be (ultimately) in Paradise. Abu Darda’ also seems to have believed that the allusion by those who wrong themselves is to the sinners of this Ummah. They will all be (ultimately: Shabbir) in Paradise (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    It can be added in explanation of the three categories that those who wrong themselves are those who do not record well in terms of doing what they are commanded but rather commit some of the forbidden. Those in the middle are those who do not fall short of the commandments, shun the forbidden totally, but who might commit some of the undesirable things (makruhat) or fall short in some of the desirable ones (mustahabbat). In complete contrast are the outrunners who not merely attempt what they are commanded to do, but also attempt those deeds that are desirable (mustahabbat). They shun the forbidden as well as the undesirable (makruhat). In fact, they will rather forbid unto themselves some of the permissible (mubahat, out of fear of falling into the forbidden, or because of preoccupation with religious affairs: Shafi`) – Ibn Kathir.
    On the other hand `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, `Abdullah in `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Hasan and Qatadah believed that of the three kinds, the allusion by those who transgresses their own souls, is to the hypocrites who will enter Hellfire, while the other two classes of this Ummah will enter Paradise. In evidence they pointed to the following verse (56: 8-11) “And you will be three groups: Then the people of the Right hand side - and what about the people of the Right hand side! And the people of the Left hand side - and what about the people of the Left hand side! As for the outrunners, they are outrunners. They are the ones brought nigh.“ (Ibn Jarir).
    The opinion that prevailed in this regard, however, is the one which has been expressed in the first paragraph above (Shawkani, Shafi` and others). That is, as expressed by Ka`b al-Ahbar (Au.).
    We have (an interesting: Au.) report (in Hakim, Tabarani, and Ibn Marduwayh: Shawkani) coming through `Uqbah b. Suhban. He said he asked `A’isha about this verse. She said, “As for the forerunners, they are those who died during the Prophet’s life and those whom he gave the good tiding of Paradise. As regards those on the middle course, the allusion is to those who followed the forerunners in close imitation. As for those who wronged themselves, well, they are people like us and those who followed us. And, all will be in Paradise.”
    “So,” said the narrator, “note how she placed herself among us common folk (although she was of the “sabiqun”) - Ibn Kathir, Shawkani.
    Qurtubi has a long list of opinions concerning the three categories mentioned here which he takes from Thu`alibi’s commentary:Sahl b. `Abdullah said that the allusion by the term “zalim” is to the ignorant, by “muqtasid”, to the seeker of knowledge, and by “sabiq” to the scholar.
    Dhun Nun al-Misri said, “Zalim” is someone who remembers Allah merely with his tongue, “muqtasid” is he who remembers with his heart, and “sabiq” is someone who never forgets Him.
    Al-Antaki said, “Zalim” is the man of words, the “muqtasid,” man of deeds, and “sabiq,” the man of states.
    Ibn `Ata’ said, “Zalim” is one who loves Allah for the sake of this world, “muqtasid” who remembers Him for the sake of the Hereafter, and “sabiq” someone who trampled upon his own objectives (of life) in search of the Grand Objective – (i.e. Allah).
    It has also been said that “Zalim” is someone who worships Allah out of fear of the Fire, “muqtasid,” he who worships Him yearning for Paradise, and “sabiq,” he who worships Him for His pleasure, and for no other reason.
    It has also been said that, “Zalim” is he who gave up the world because he wronged himself by abandoning its due, namely, knowledge and love, “muqtasid” is the Gnostic, and “sabiq” is the Lover.
    Another opinion has been that, “Zalim” is one who cries out in tribulations, “muqtasid,” he who is patient when facing tribulations, and “sabiq” who draws pleasure out of them.
    It has also been thought that “Zalim” is someone whose devotions are carried out in heedlessness, out of habit, “muqtasid,” he who is devoted because of inclination (to Him), and “sabiq,” he who worships out of awe.
    It has also been said that “Zalim” is one who, when given, withheld it, “muqtasid,” he who, when given, gave out, and “sabiq,” he from whom it was withheld and he rendered thanks.
    It is said that two devotees met. One of them asked the other, “How are our brothers in Basra?” He replied, “Very well: if they are given they render thanks, but if denied, they are patient.” The first one remarked, “This is the way of the dogs with us in Balkh. As for our devotees, if (provision) is denied they render thanks, but if given, they pass it on to others.”
    It is also said that “Zalim” is someone who seeks sufficiency through wealth, “muqtasid,” is he who attains it on the strength of his religion, and “sabiq” someone who attains it by the Power of his Lord.
    It is also said that “Zalim” is one who reads the Qur’an but does not live by it, “muqtasid,” is he who reads it and lives by it, and “sabiq,” someone who reads it, undertands it, and lives by it.
    It was also said that “Zalim” is a man who loves himself, “muqtasid,” he who loves his religion, and “sabiq,” he who loves his Lord.
    It is also said that “Zalim” is someone who seeks justice but does not render justice, “muqtasid,” he who seeks justice and renders justice, and “sabiq,” he who renders justice but does not seek justice.
    We have quoted at length to impress upon our readers the spirit of Islam that prevailed in the previous generations of Islam. It is useless to look for an equivalent of above in any religious literature (Au.).

    جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ يَدْخُلُونَهَا يُحَلَّوْنَ فِيهَا مِنْ أَسَاوِرَ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ وَلُؤْلُؤًا ۖ وَلِبَاسُهُمْ فِيهَا حَرِيرٌ (33)

    35|33| Gardens of Eternity they shall enter into, (where) they shall be adorned with bracelets of gold and pearls,39 and their apparel there will be of silk.40

    39. This has been stressed in the hadith also. One in Muslim says,Abu Hazim said: I was behind Abu Hurayrah while he was attempting ablution. He would stretch his hand until it reached his armpit. I asked, “O Abu Hurayrah, what kind of ablution is this?” He answered, “O people of the Banu Farrukh (a tribe), are you here? Had I known you were here I would not have made this kind of ablution. I have heard my friend say, ‘A believer’s ornaments will reach up to where ablution (water) reaches.’“ (Banu Farrukh were new in Islam, and had Abu Hurayrah known the presence of one of them, he would have made the standard kind of ablution, in order to impress on the observers its articles of obligatory nature: Au.).
    40. A hadith of Bukhari says,Zayd b. Thabit says he heard Ibn Zubayr say in a sermon, “I heard the Prophet (saws) say, ‘He who wore silk in this world will not wear it in the Hereafter.’”
    (Ibn Kathir presents shorter versions of both the ahadith above).
    Ibn Abi Hatim has a narrative which reports Abu Umamah as saying that while describing the dwellers of Paradise and the ornaments they will wear, the Prophet said, “They will be adorned with gold and silver bangles embossed with pearls. They will have garlands on, set with peals and rubies. And they will have crowns like the crowns of kings: with no hair (in the pubic area), beardless, with kohl in their eyes” – Ibn Kathir.

    وَقَالُوا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَذْهَبَ عَنَّا الْحَزَنَ ۖ إِنَّ رَبَّنَا لَغَفُورٌ شَكُورٌ (34)

    35|34| And they will say, ‘(All) praise to Allah who removed from us all grief.41 Surely our Lord is All-forgiving, All-appreciative.

    41. There have been several interpretations with reference to the textual “hazn” (grief), such as: the grief of loss of worldly comforts, grief of death, several kinds of grief that a man will undergo from the time of Resurrection until final entry into Paradise, etc., which all seem to be correct to Ibn Jarir since an all-inclusive meaning seems to have been intended. Nevertheless, Hasan’s remark, which he made while discussing another verse, is worth reproducing. He said, He said discussing verse 63 of Al-Furqan, ‘When the ignorant address them they say, “Salam,”’: “Believers are a humble people. Their sight, hearing and limbs of the body are so humbled that the onlookers assume that they must be sick. But there is no disease in them. They are the healthiest of people at heart. But rather, fear has entered into them – absent from others. Their knowledge of the Hereafter prevents them from indulging in this world. It is they who will say, ‘(All) praise to Allah who has put us away from all grief.’ By Allah, their ‘hazan’ is not grief over this world. What they relinquish in return of Paradise is nothing worthwhile in their sight; it is the fear of the Fire which makes them cry. Surely, he who does not seek glory by the Glory of Allah, will have his heart torn to pieces in regret over what he misses of the world. He who does not see Allah’s blessings but in food and drink, is little of knowledge, and is close to chastisement” (Qurtubi).
    The opinion of Ibn `Abbas, as in Ibn Abi Hatim and Hakim, who declared it Sahih, was that the allusion by “hazn” is to the Fire (Alusi).
    A hadith in Ibn Abi Hatim reports the Prophet (saws) as having said, “Believers in oneness of Allah will not feel fear and estrangement in their graves. As if I can see believers in Allah’s oneness rising up from their graves, clearing out dust from their heads saying, ‘There is no deity save Allah.’”
    According to another version (in Tabarani, ‘they will be’), saying, ‘(All) praise to Allah who removed away from us all grief‘" (Kashshaf, Ibn Kathir).
    But of course, adds Razi, the allusion is to all kinds of grief that one has to face throughout his life, until he finally makes it to Paradise.

    الَّذِي أَحَلَّنَا دَارَ الْمُقَامَةِ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ لَا يَمَسُّنَا فِيهَا نَصَبٌ وَلَا يَمَسُّنَا فِيهَا لُغُوبٌ (35)

    35|35| Who by His bounty has lodged us in the everlasting Abode,42 wherein no fatigue touches us, nor touches us therein any weariness.‘

    42. “By His bounty” – because no one will enter Paradise on the strength of his deeds. It is Allah’s own grace that will help him in. Says a hadith of the Sahihayn,“None of you will enter Paradise by his deeds.” They were quick to ask, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “No, not even me, unless Allah Most High covers me with His bounty and grace” – Ibn Kathir.

    وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَهُمْ نَارُ جَهَنَّمَ لَا يُقْضَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ فَيَمُوتُوا وَلَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمْ مِنْ عَذَابِهَا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي كُلَّ كَفُورٍ (36)

    35|36| As for those who disbelieved, for them will be fire of Hell. (Death) will not be decreed for them so that they may die,43 nor will its torment be lightened for them.44 Thus do We recompense every ingrate.

    43. The unbelievers will not die in Hell. It is the sinful among the believers who will. Says a hadith,“As for those of the Fire who belong to it, they will neither die therein nor live. But some people,” or he said something like that, “whom the Fire will take its toll because of their sins,” or he said, “because of their errors, they will die a death until when they would have become like coal, intercession will be allowed for them. They will be brought out and the dwellers of Paradise will sprinkle water on them. They will start growing like seedlings in the furrows through which water passes in the desert.” One of those present remarked, “As if the Prophet was brought up in the deserts” (Ibn Jarir).
    44. But rather, as the Qur’an said (17: 97),“Whenever it subsides, We shall increase for them the blaze” – Ibn Jarir.

    وَهُمْ يَصْطَرِخُونَ فِيهَا رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا نَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا غَيْرَ الَّذِي كُنَّا نَعْمَلُ ۚ أَوَلَمْ نُعَمِّرْكُمْ مَا يَتَذَكَّرُ فِيهِ مَنْ تَذَكَّرَ وَجَاءَكُمُ النَّذِيرُ ۖ فَذُوقُوا فَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ نَصِيرٍ (37)

    35|37| And they will be crying out therein, ‘Our Lord, bring us out, we will do righteousness: other than what we were doing‘ – ‘Did We not grant a life long enough, so that he who would remember, could remember therein.45 And there came to you the warner.46 Taste then, the wrongdoers shall not have a helper.‘

    45. To what age is the allusion? Qatadah’s implied opinion is that it is eighteen years. He warns that a long life, unless spent in piety, could lead to regretful consequences. Wahab b. Munabbih thought it is twenty. Hasan however thought it is forty years. (That is, the age at which a person attains full mental maturity: Au.). Ibn `Abbas was also of the same opinion. Nonetheless, another opinion of Ibn `Abbas, and perhaps the right opinion, is that it is sixty years. This is supported by a hadith which directly addresses the issue. On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet said,“Allah has left no excuse for a man whom He granted reprieve until he reached sixty years (of age).”
    The above hadith (also quoted in Kashshaf) is in Bukhari. Ahmad has similar versions (Ibn Kathir).
    Another narration, also through Abu Hurayrah says,“Whomsoever Allah granted sixty years of age, left no excuse for him on the basis of his age” (Ibn Jarir).
    And the reason for refusal to admit excuses after sixty is because by this age, all factors that prevent one from submitting himself to Allah, are absent. He who will still not surrender, is a true criminal (Au.).
    Another opinion of Ibn `Abbas, however, adds Qurtubi is that the allusion is to the age of forty. Hasan al-Busri and Masruq said the same thing, and, (despite the hadith above), it carries its own weight in view of Allah’s words (46: 15),“And We enjoined on man to be good to his parents. His mother bears him with pain, and brings him forth with pain, and the bearing of him and his weaning takes thirty months till, when he attains his full maturity and reaches the age of forty years, he says, ‘My Lord, grant me that I may be grateful for Your favor which you have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and so that I may do such righteous deeds as may please You. And establish righteousness among my progeny for me. I do turn to You; and, truly, I am of those who have surrendered.’”
    This is because by forty, a man’s mind is fully matured. Malik said, “I have found people in my town who sought wealth and knowledge until they were forty. Until that age they interacted with the common folk. But once they reached forty, they abandoned the world and set themselves up to seeking the Hereafter, until death” (Qurtubi).
    46. Most commentators have said that the allusion by “nadhir” is to the Prophets and warners raised among the nations of the world. Qurtubi notes that according to Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Sufyan, Waki`, Hussain b. al-Fadl, Farra’ and Tabarri, the allusion is to old age. It is also said that the allusion is to illness (of old age) and death of relatives.

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَالِمُ غَيْبِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ (38)

    35|38| Surely, Allah is the Knower of the unseen of the heavens and the earth. He knows what is in the breasts.

    هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَكُمْ خَلَائِفَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ فَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَعَلَيْهِ كُفْرُهُ ۖ وَلَا يَزِيدُ الْكَافِرِينَ كُفْرُهُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ إِلَّا مَقْتًا ۖ وَلَا يَزِيدُ الْكَافِرِينَ كُفْرُهُمْ إِلَّا خَسَارًا (39)

    35|39| He it is who made you successors47 in the earth; so whosoever disbelieved, upon him is his disbelief.48 And, the disbelief of the unbelievers does not increase in the sight of your Lord except abhorrence. And, the disbelief of the unbelievers does not cause increase but in their loss.

    47. The textual word “khala’if” is the plural of “khalifah” – one for whom Allah subdued the earth, gave him a free hand in it, so that he could thank his Creator by believing in Him and obeying Him (Zamakhshari).
    At this point it is in the sense of one who follows another. Hence when someone said to Abu Bakr, “O KhalifatuAllah,” he retorted, “I am not KhalifatuAllah but rather Khalifa of the Messenger of Allah. And I am satisfied with it” (Qurtubi).
    48. “Surely, in the string of human generations succeeding one another on the earth, departing of one, and following of another, this one inheriting that one, the fall of one empire and establishment of another, extinguishing of one flame and lightning of another, this extinction and that kindling, one after another over time ... surely, thoughts over this continuous movement, deserves the heart’s attention and drawing of lessons. Those present should realize that soon they will be of those who have departed, that those who come after them will ponder over their legacies, and exchange episode concerning them, as they ponder over the legacies of those who departed before them, and exchange episodes concerning them .. it is deserving that the heedless should wake up to the reality of the Hand that destroys the constructions, which interchanges the wands, which rotates the rule, grants kingdoms in inheritance, makes one generation succeed another, and that everything moves on, declines and passes off, and that Allah alone remains: the Everlasting, who will not pass off, who will not move away. These are the thoughts that come to mind as one gives the verse a cursory look” (Sayyid).

    قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ شُرَكَاءَكُمُ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَرُونِي مَاذَا خَلَقُوا مِنَ الْأَرْضِ أَمْ لَهُمْ شِرْكٌ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ أَمْ آتَيْنَاهُمْ كِتَابًا فَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَتٍ مِنْهُ ۚ بَلْ إِنْ يَعِدُ الظَّالِمُونَ بَعْضُهُمْ بَعْضًا إِلَّا غُرُورًا (40)

    35|40| Say, ‘Have you considered your associates – those whom you invoke other than Allah, show Me what have they created of the earth. Or, is there for them a partnership in the heaven? Or, have We given them a Book, so that they are on a clear evidence thereby? But rather, the wrongdoers do not promise one another except delusion.49

    49. “The people who enthrone in their hearts for worship anything besides Allah may well be asked a few questions. Some of such questions are indicated in the text with terse precision: (1) Have you seen these gods of yours? Do they exist? ‘Seeing’ of course does not necessarily mean physical sight. We do not see the air, but no one doubts that it exists. And the air is a physical substance. There are forces that we know exist, but we do not see them. To us, who have Faith, Allah is a truer Reality than anything else that we know, including ourselves. Can the false worshippers say that of any of their false gods? (2) Have your gods created or originated anything on earth? You may worship power or wealth, but that is a scramble for things as between selfish men. Power or wealth does not create new men or new worlds. (3) Have they a share in the ordering of the heavens? Obviously your false gods fail there. (4) Or have these false gods a book or revelation from the Supreme God, with clear evidence, to give them authority to teach men? The Prophets or Messengers of Allah have such authority, and they bring evidence of the One True God. The fact is that falsehood is falsehood, however much one form of it may support another by delusions” (Yusuf Ali).
    50. What is it that holds the heavens and the earth together? The scientific cliché is that it is the gravitational force. But in answer to the question, what force is this, the scientist is dumb. All that can be said is that it exists, and that it can be expressed in such and such terms. But beyond that, nothing is known about it. It remains a mystery. So what’s wrong in saying that He who created it knows its reality, and that He it is who ultimately controls it so that the sun and the moon, the earth and the stars, the galaxies and the nebulas do not fall apart? Yet, that is only one aspect of the Unknown. Other complication arise as scientists seek to know more. One of the findings is that the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, i.e., faster and faster. So, after all, gravitation works fine at micro level, but it does not seem to be working at the macro level. There is another force that is pushing matter into outer space (or expanding the space, as scientists prefer to state, though without any good reason). What force is causing this acceleration? What is force is expanding the space? No one has the slightest of clue (Au.).

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُمْسِكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ أَنْ تَزُولَا ۚ وَلَئِنْ زَالَتَا إِنْ أَمْسَكَهُمَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حَلِيمًا غَفُورًا (41)

    35|41| Surely, Allah holds the heavens and the earth lest they should swerve.50 And, if the two swerve, there is none at all to hold them after Him. He is indeed ever All-clement, All-forgiving.51

    51. That is, none can hold them and sustain them but He. A hadith of Muslim says,Abu Musa said, “The Prophet stood amongst us with five words. He said, ‘Allah does not sleep, nor does it behoove Him that He should sleep. He lowers the scale and raises it. He raises to Himself the deeds of the night before the day, and those of the day before the night. His veil is Light.’”
    According to another narrative coming from Abu Bakr, ‘If He were to remove it, the glitter of His Face will burn down His creation to the extent His sight reaches.’
    Notwithstanding that, He is the All-clement, the All-forgiving. He sees His slaves disbelieving and disobeying, but He shows clemency and forgives, gives respite and does not act against them hastily. Yet others He covers and forgives. He is indeed All-clement, All-forgiving (Ibn Kathir).

    وَأَقْسَمُوا بِاللَّهِ جَهْدَ أَيْمَانِهِمْ لَئِنْ جَاءَهُمْ نَذِيرٌ لَيَكُونُنَّ أَهْدَىٰ مِنْ إِحْدَى الْأُمَمِ ۖ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ نَذِيرٌ مَا زَادَهُمْ إِلَّا نُفُورًا (42)

    35|42| And they swore by Allah their most earnest oath, ‘surely, if there came to them a warner, they would surely be more rightly guided than any one of the nations.’ But when there came to them a warner, it increased them in nothing but aversion.

    اسْتِكْبَارًا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَكْرَ السَّيِّئِ ۚ وَلَا يَحِيقُ الْمَكْرُ السَّيِّئُ إِلَّا بِأَهْلِهِ ۚ فَهَلْ يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَّا سُنَّتَ الْأَوَّلِينَ ۚ فَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا ۖ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّهِ تَحْوِيلًا (43)

    35|43| Waxing proud in the land and plotting evil. But evil plotting hems in none except its authors. Then, are they waiting except for the wont of the ancients? But you shall never find in Allah’s ways any alteration; and you shall never find in Allah’s ways any deviation.

    أَوَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ وَكَانُوا أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً ۚ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعْجِزَهُ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَلِيمًا قَدِيرًا (44)

    35|44| Have they not traveled through the land to see what was the end of those before them? They were stronger than themselves in might. But Allah was not such as that anything in the heavens or the earth should frustrate Him. He is indeed, ever Knowing, Able.

    وَلَوْ يُؤَاخِذُ اللَّهُ النَّاسَ بِمَا كَسَبُوا مَا تَرَكَ عَلَىٰ ظَهْرِهَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ وَلَٰكِنْ يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى ۖ فَإِذَا جَاءَ أَجَلُهُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِعِبَادِهِ بَصِيرًا (45)

    35|45| And, should Allah to take men to task for what they earn, He would not leave on its back any creature,52 but He gives them respite for a stated term. Then, when their term comes, then surely Allah has ever been of His slaves, Seeing.

    52. For, in that situation Allah will hold back the rains and all beings on the face of the earth will perish. It is said that someone admonished another over a wrong action. The other one said, “Look after your own affairs. A wrongdoer does not wrong but himself.” Abu Hurayrah was present. He said, “By Him besides whom there is no Lord, you have lied. By Him in whose hands is my life, birds die because of wrongs committed by the wrongdoer” (Qurtubi)