Surat Aş-Şāffāt

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
by
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير

PREPARATORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015

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References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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

________________________

Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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

_______________________

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

_______________________

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

________________________

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

______________________

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

______________________

  • Surah No. 37

    Merits of the Surah

    1. Nasa’i has a report coming through Ibn `Umar which says,“The Prophet used to recommend us shortening of the recitation (in Prayers, when we lead), while he himself used to recite Al-Saffat” (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    Albani declared it Sahih (S.Ibrahim).
    That is, although the Prophet recommended that Prayers be made short and easy for ease of the people, his own practice was to recite long chapters such as this one, to encourage his followers adopt similar ways (Sindi in Sharh Nasa’i).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ وَالصَّافَّاتِ صَفًّا (1)

    37|1| By those who range (themselves) in (perfect) rows,2

    2. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, Masruq, Suddi and Ibn Zayd said that the allusion is to angels (Ibn Jarir); who stand in rows in their own Prayers in the heavens, or, perhaps, as Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Razi and Shawkani added, 'hung in the air, (wings outspread), in rows, waiting for orders.'
    It is also possible that the allusion is to the angels lining up in rows in accordance with their ranks, (whenever they have to, for whatever purpose) – Razi.
    Another ayah of this surah implies that it is angels who line up in rows (37: 165):“Indeed, we do line up” (Thanwi).
    In connection with rows, Ibn Kathir reminds us of the following hadith: Hudhayfa reports the Prophet in a narrative preserved by Muslim as having said, “We have been given preference over other people in three things: Our rows have been made similar to the rows of the angels, the whole of the earth has been made a place of worship for us, and, its dust has been made a means of purification if we do not find water.”
    Muslim, Abu Da’ud, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah also report on the authority of Jabir b. Samurah that the Prophet said,“Would you not like to line up in rows like the angels do before their Lord?” They asked, “How do the angels row up before their Lord?” He replied, “They fill in the front rows and stand close to each other in them.”
    In fact, adds Mufti Shafi`, there are so many ahadith on straightening up the rows and forming them properly that one could write a short book on it. One of the hadith is reported by Abu Mas`ud the Badri,“The Prophet used to pat us on our shoulders before the Prayer and say, ‘Straighten up and do not differ, or your hearts will differ. Let the matured and the discerning of you be nearest to me, then the next and then the next.”

    فَالزَّاجِرَاتِ زَجْرًا (2)

    37|2| Then (by) those who drive strongly,3

    3. Mujahid and Suddi thought that the allusion is, once again, to angels who drive the clouds. But Qatadah believed it was to the verses of the Qur’an that prohibit (which is another connotation of the word zajara). But Mujahid’s opinion sounds more correct (Ibn Jarir). The opinion (of Mujahid and) Suddi was also corroborated by Rabi` b. Anas and Zayd b. Aslam (Ibn Kathir).

    فَالتَّالِيَاتِ ذِكْرًا (3)

    37|3| Then (by) those who recite the Reminder,4

    4. That is, by those angels who bring revelation – Mujahid (Ibn Jarir).

    إِنَّ إِلَٰهَكُمْ لَوَاحِدٌ (4)

    37|4| Surely, your Lord is indeed One.5

    5. The preceding three oaths in three verses, are not there as evidences of Allah’s Oneness, but rather, have been placed, primarily, to attract attention (Thanwi).

    رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا وَرَبُّ الْمَشَارِقِ (5)

    37|5| Lord of the heavens and the earth, and what is between them: Lord of the Easts.6

    6. The allusion is to the ever changing position of the sun as it rises with reference to the earth. And, Wests has not been mentioned because it is obvious. In fact, Suddi said that there are 360 Easts and 360 Wests: as many days of the year (Ibn Jarir).
    Nonetheless, wWe have verses in the Qur’an that mention the West in plural, (70: 40), “Verily, We swear by the Easts and the Wests, that We are Able.”
    The allusion could also be, adds Mawdudi, to different points of the sun’s position as it rises, with reference to people in different parts of the globe.

    إِنَّا زَيَّنَّا السَّمَاءَ الدُّنْيَا بِزِينَةٍ الْكَوَاكِبِ (6)

    37|6| Surely, We have adorned the earth’s heaven7 with the beauty of the stars.

    7. That is, the firmament closest to the earth; and all that is visible either to the naked eye, or is detectable with instruments, is part of the first firmament.

    وَحِفْظًا مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْطَانٍ مَارِدٍ (7)

    37|7| And a guard against every rebellious8 Satan9

    8. Lierally, “marada” is for one who is bereft (of something); hence “amrad” for a boy who is bereft of hair on the chins, or, “mareed” who is free (of all goodness). Here, “he who is free of any obedience;” hence, rebellion (Alusi).
    9. The unanimous opinion is that the stars, while serving the purpose of adornment for the people of the earth, are also guards against the penetration of Shayatin too far into the first firmament (Ibn Jarir).
    If we take the above ayah in the material sense, for which there is room without any fear of contradiction with the more obvious explanation, as adopted by the Salaf, we can add that although we do not have sufficient data on other planets, in fact not even about the moon as to how many meteorites it deflects through its gravitational pull from the earth to absorb into itself, but about Saturn the scientists are quite sure that one of the advantages of its exceptionally large size is that it attracts to itself large meteors, which would otherwise crash on to earth, making life impossible to exist thereon (Au.).

    لَا يَسَّمَّعُونَ إِلَى الْمَلَإِ الْأَعْلَىٰ وَيُقْذَفُونَ مِنْ كُلِّ جَانِبٍ (8)

    37|8| (So that) they do not hear (anything) from the Exalted Assembly; and are darted10 from every side,11

    10. This passage has been explained by the Salaf in the same terms as ayah 23 of Surah Saba’. See note 52 there. Some more details might be added, Allah willing, if found necessary, at ayah 9 of Surah al-Jinn (no. 72).
    At this point Ibn Jarir quotes the following: Shayatin had their sitting places in the heaven closest to earth from where they could pick up a few fragments of the Revelation. Those days the Shayatin were not struck. When they manage to hear any part of the Revelation, they descended to the earth, added nine of their own words to every word they heard, and published it. But after the Prophet had been commissioned, when a Shaytan tried to take his position, a blazing fire was hurled at him that did not miss him. They complained of this to Iblis – may Allah curse him. He said, “Surely, something must have happened.” He sent his scouts around. They discovered the Prophet offering Prayer between two mountains of Nakhlah. (That is, said the reporter, at the bottom of a valley [between two mountains]). They reported back the matter to him. He said, “This is what has newly happened” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    The pelting of fire at the Shayaatin, however, does not kill them, it only burns and injures them (Shawkani from Ibn Jarir and Ibn Abi al-Mundhir).
    11. “From every side” does not imply that they are literally pelted with flaming fire from every side, but rather, they are pelted with fire, at whichever side of the firmament they take position (Thanwi).

    دُحُورًا ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ وَاصِبٌ (9)

    37|9| Repulsed:12 and theirs is a perpetual torment.

    12. This is how Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah, `Ikrimah and Ibn Zayd understood the word (Ibn Jarir).

    إِلَّا مَنْ خَطِفَ الْخَطْفَةَ فَأَتْبَعَهُ شِهَابٌ ثَاقِبٌ (10)

    37|10| Except for him who snatched away by stealth; but then he is pursued by a flaming Fire of piercing brightness.13

    13. The flaming fire need not be meteorites – or, in common parlance, the falling star that are visible in the night once in a while. The word – shihab – as employed by the Arabs, and as used by the Qur’an, is common, but meanings are different (Au.).
    Dahhak was asked, “Do the Shayatin have wings?” He answered, “How else do you think they fly?” (Ibn Jarir).

    فَاسْتَفْتِهِمْ أَهُمْ أَشَدُّ خَلْقًا أَمْ مَنْ خَلَقْنَا ۚ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاهُمْ مِنْ طِينٍ لَازِبٍ (11)

    37|11| So, seek their opinion:14 Are they the more difficult to create15 or those (others) We have created?16 Surely, We created them17 of sticky clay.18

    14. The verbal form chosen (istaftihim) suggests seeking their well-considered opinion (Au.).
    15. Another possible rendering is, “Are they harder of constitution?”
    16. Who are “those others?” Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir believe the allusion is to the heavens and the earth.
    17. “Them”: i.e., the humans.
    18. That is, all that was involved, after all, in the creation of human beings was clay, while creation of the universe required energy and various other forces, some known (e.g., gravitational force, electrodynamics force, the weak and the strong nuclear forces), others unknown, (such as, e.g., the predictable anti-gravity, the dark enerty, and few others), yet all so finely balanced that according to scientists, if – for example – gravity, (one of the weakest of the forces involved), had varied by one in 1060, this universe would not have come into being. Yet this is about the part of world that we know. To know it in its entirety is out of human scope since its expansion at almost the speed of light, prohibits that we shall ever know it in full. Matter at the periphery ever gets out of the range of detecting instruments because light emanating from them will never reach us because of the doubling of distance for reasons of expansion, leaving us in dark. In fact, an interesting point is that our progeny will know less of the universe than we know, since, by their time, the enormous expansion will have put much matter beyond the reach of their instruments. Hence the conclusion of many scientists that we will never know how large our universe is.
    Another interesting, and, perhaps, ironic factor is that of what we know of the universe, which is but a part, ninety percent is hidden as dark matter: dark because no instrument can detect it, not to mention minor irritations such as “Black Holes” from whose powerful gravitational field, nothing can escape, not even light, for humans to detect it by any means. Their existence is only implicitly evident.
    Allah said at another place (Ghafir; 40: 57),“Surely, creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of mankind, but most people know not.”
    Finally, the universe came first, then came the humans. It should be obvious, although the DNA’s complexity creates immense complication, [to human knowledge, it is “the most” amazing thing in the universe], yet .. it should be obvious that what comes later should be easier to create, although all is equally easy for Allah (Au.).

    بَلْ عَجِبْتَ وَيَسْخَرُونَ (12)

    37|12| Lo! You wonder, while they scoff!19

    19. Qatadah has said in effect that the text points to the contrast that the Prophet, although the recipient of the Revelation, was filled with wonder by this phenomenon, pagans made it a point of ridicule (Ibn Jarir).
    The textual word “yestaskhirun” suggests seeking to ridicule, implying, as Razi and Qurtubi suggest, invoking each other to ridicule the Message.

    وَإِذَا ذُكِّرُوا لَا يَذْكُرُونَ (13)

    37|13| And when they are reminded, they do not remember.20

    20. Or, as Asad put it, “they refuse to take it to heart.”

    وَإِذَا رَأَوْا آيَةً يَسْتَسْخِرُونَ (14)

    37|14| And when they see a sign, they seek to ridicule (it).

    وَقَالُوا إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ مُبِينٌ (15)

    37|15| And they say, ‘This is nothing but clear magic.

    أَإِذَا مِتْنَا وَكُنَّا تُرَابًا وَعِظَامًا أَإِنَّا لَمَبْعُوثُونَ (16)

    37|16| What! When we die and have become dust and bones, shall we indeed be raised up (again)?

    أَوَآبَاؤُنَا الْأَوَّلُونَ (17)

    37|17| What, and our fathers of old (also)?’

    قُلْ نَعَمْ وَأَنْتُمْ دَاخِرُونَ (18)

    37|18| Say, ‘Yes, and you will be humiliated.’

    فَإِنَّمَا هِيَ زَجْرَةٌ وَاحِدَةٌ فَإِذَا هُمْ يَنْظُرُونَ (19)

    37|19| It will merely be a single shout,21 and behold, they will begin to see.

    21. The allusion is to the second blast of the Trumpet (Alusi).

    وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ (20)

    37|20| They will say, ‘Woe unto us, this is the Day of Reckoning.’

    هَٰذَا يَوْمُ الْفَصْلِ الَّذِي كُنْتُمْ بِهِ تُكَذِّبُونَ (21)

    37|21| This is the Day of Decision22 that you were denying.23

    22. “Fasl” is for separation. Yusuf Ali comments: “The Day of Judgment is the Day of sorting out.. Good and evil will finally be separated, unlike the apparently inexplicable conditions in the present probationary life, when they seem to be mixed together.”
    23. This will be said by angels and believers (Ibn Kathir).

    احْشُرُوا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا وَأَزْوَاجَهُمْ وَمَا كَانُوا يَعْبُدُونَ (22)

    37|22| ‘Gather together,’ (it will be said), ‘those who wronged:24 their likes,25 and what they were worshipping

    24. Specifying those who will be ultimately led to Hellfire as “zalimun” gives strength to the opinion that the word “zalimun” of the Qur’an – when used in its absolute sense – is synonymous with “kafirun.” Allah said at another place:“The unbelievers: they are the wrong-doers.”
    Allah also said, adds Qurtubi, “Surely, Association (with Allah) is a great wrong.”
    25. `Umar ibn al-Khattab, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Abu al-`Aliyyah, Qatadah, Suddi and others are reported to have said that by the word “azwaj” at this point, the allusion is to “kinds, likes, associates, compatriots, followers,” etc. (Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf [citing an untraced hadith], Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    That is, as `Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “Sin-sharing groups will be presented together: adulterers with adulterers, wine-addicts with wine-addicts, usury-devourers with usury devourers etc.” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    So that, Razi adds, when you say in Arabic,you mean to say, “I have of this [thing, of the same], more kinds.” Or when you say,“a pair of socks”, then, each of them is the “like” of the other. Allah also said (56: 7),“You will be (divided into) three kinds” (and not pairs).

    مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ فَاهْدُوهُمْ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطِ الْجَحِيمِ (23)

    37|23| other than Allah, and lead them on to the way to Hell.26

    26. (Lit. flaming fire), Ibn `Abbas said about the textual “Jahim” that it is the name assigned to the fourth gate of Hell (Ibn Jarir).

    وَقِفُوهُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُمْ مَسْئُولُونَ (24)

    37|24| But stop them. They are to be questioned.27

    27. `Abdullah ibn Mubarak said that he heard `Uthman b. Za’idah say, “The first thing a man will be required to answer for is his friends" (perhaps meaning, regarding those one interacts with: Au.) - Ibn Kathir.

    مَا لَكُمْ لَا تَنَاصَرُونَ (25)

    37|25| What is the matter with you that you do not help one another?’

    بَلْ هُمُ الْيَوْمَ مُسْتَسْلِمُونَ (26)

    37|26| Nay, but today they are resignedly submissive.

    وَأَقْبَلَ بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ (27)

    37|27| Some of them will turn to others seeking to question each other.

    قَالُوا إِنَّكُمْ كُنْتُمْ تَأْتُونَنَا عَنِ الْيَمِينِ (28)

    37|28| They will say, ‘Verily, it was you who used to come to us from the right side.’28

    28. The textual “yamin” has been explained as “power, force and influence” by Mujahid. Poetical pieces can be cited in support of this opinion (Ibn Jarir). That is, they presented their deviations in a powerful manner (Kashshaf, Razi). In other words, adds Razi, “you used to deceive us into accepting your misguidance by suggesting that those were very much in the cause of truth.”
    In Asad’s words, “The idiomatic phrase ‘approaching one from the right’ is more or less synonymous with ‘pretending to give a morally good advice’, as well as ‘approaching another person from a position of power and influence (Zamakhshari).’”
    `Ikrimah said that the allusion is to “points, places or locations they felt comfortable (that they would not be misguided by)” - Ibn Kathir.

    قَالُوا بَلْ لَمْ تَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ (29)

    37|29| They will reply, ‘Nay, but you yourselves were not believers.29

    29. That is, explain Razi and Qurtubi, you never possessed belief for us to have deflected you. You were always unbelievers: from the beginning to the end.
    Yusuf Ali removes some misconceptions in this regard: “But the fact that others mislead, or that their evil example is before us, does not justify us in falling from right conduct. Faith should save us from the fall. But if we have ourselves no Faith - in righteousness, or a future life, or the reality of Allah’s Law, how can we blame others? The misleaders can well say, ‘You will be judged according to your misdeeds!‘ The responsibility is personal, and cannot be shifted on to others. The others may get a double punishment, - for their own evil, and for misleading their weaker brethren. But the weaker brethren cannot go free from responsibility for their own deeds; for evil means a personal rebellion against Allah, if we believe in a personal God. Evil has no authority over us, except in so far as we deliberately choose it.‏”

    وَمَا كَانَ لَنَا عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ ۖ بَلْ كُنْتُمْ قَوْمًا طَاغِينَ (30)

    37|30| We had no power over you. Nay, but you were a rebellious people yourselves.

    فَحَقَّ عَلَيْنَا قَوْلُ رَبِّنَا ۖ إِنَّا لَذَائِقُونَ (31)

    37|31| Now the Lord‘s word has proved true against us.30 We are indeed (bound) to taste (the consequence).

    30. To the effect that (11: 190), “I shall surely fill Jahannum with men and Jinn, all together” (Qurtubi and others).

    فَأَغْوَيْنَاكُمْ إِنَّا كُنَّا غَاوِينَ (32)

    37|32| We misguided you: indeed, we were ourselves misguided.’31

    31. Raghib Asfahani has said that (by saying, “We misguided you: indeed, we were ourselves misguided,” what they meant is that) “we did the best that a friend could do to another in all sincerity: wishing the same for him as he wishes for himself, and so, we guided you to what we believed was right” (Alusi).

    فَإِنَّهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ فِي الْعَذَابِ مُشْتَرِكُونَ (33)

    37|33| So, today they shall be sharers in chastisement.

    إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَفْعَلُ بِالْمُجْرِمِينَ (34)

    37|34| Surely, that is how we deal with the criminals

    إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا إِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ (35)

    37|35| Indeed, when they were told, ‘There is no deity (worthy of worship) but Allah,’ they would wax proud.32

    32. Yusuf Ali discusses dimensions other than apparent: “Selfish arrogance was the seed of sin and rebellion: ii. 34 (of Satan): xxviii. 39 (of Pharaoh); etc. It is that kind of arrogance which prevents man from mending his life and conduct. When he speaks of ancestral ways, or public opinion, or national honour, he is usually thinking of himself or of a small clique which thrives on injustice. The recognition of Allah, the one true God, as the only standard of life and conduct, the Eternal Reality, cuts out Self, and is therefore disagreeable to Sin. If false gods are imagined, who themselves would have weaknesses that fit in with sin, they give countenance to evils, and it becomes difficult to give them up, unless Allah’s grace comes to our assistance.”‏

    وَيَقُولُونَ أَئِنَّا لَتَارِكُو آلِهَتِنَا لِشَاعِرٍ مَجْنُونٍ (36)

    37|36| And say, ‘Are we going to abandon our deities for the sake of a possessed poet?’33

    33. “The message of Islam, so far from being ‘mad‘ or in any way peculiar, is eminently conformable to reason and the true facts of nature as created by Allah. It is the Truth in the purest sense of the term, and confirms the Message of all true Messengers that ever lived” (Yusuf Ali).‏

    بَلْ جَاءَ بِالْحَقِّ وَصَدَّقَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (37)

    37|37| No indeed, he has brought the Truth and confirms the Sent ones.34

    34. So, what then was your problem, O religious people, when this fresh Messenger had confirmed the Messengers you believed in as true? By confirming the Messengers of yore, had he not taken your side against the skeptics and rejectionists you were struggling against from among your own people? Had he brought anything that went against the basic principles of truth and morality laid down by previous Messengers? (Au.)

    إِنَّكُمْ لَذَائِقُو الْعَذَابِ الْأَلِيمِ (38)

    37|38| Surely, you are about to taste a painful chastisement.

    وَمَا تُجْزَوْنَ إِلَّا مَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (39)

    37|39| You will not be recompensed but for what you were doing.

    إِلَّا عِبَادَ اللَّهِ الْمُخْلَصِينَ (40)

    37|40| Except for Allah’s slaves, the chosen ones,

    أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ رِزْقٌ مَعْلُومٌ (41)

    37|41| They, for them is a provision known,35

    35. It will be known, e.g., that they are available in abundance; that they are of any quality, taste, color, or shape that one can desire (Alusi).

    فَوَاكِهُ ۖ وَهُمْ مُكْرَمُونَ (42)

    37|42| Fruits;36 and they shall be honored,37

    36. (Although “fawakih” is for fruits, the connotation hidden in the word is that of what yields pleasure, in short), fruits for pleasure and not as food for sustenance (Alusi).
    37. Food that comes without honor is fit only for animals (Razi); and perhaps a reference to spiritual bliss after the physical bliss of the fruits.

    فِي جَنَّاتِ النَّعِيمِ (43)

    37|43| In Gardens of Bliss.

    عَلَىٰ سُرُرٍ مُتَقَابِلِينَ (44)

    37|44| On couches facing one another.38

    38. It has been said that the couches will have circulatory movement so that the occupants, sitting face to face, will never see each other’s backs (Qurtubi). Perhaps, one circular couch within another circular couch; and which reminds us of a circular couch Bernard Shaw had got made in his backyard that automatically rotated in a manner to be always facing the sun (Au.).

    يُطَافُ عَلَيْهِمْ بِكَأْسٍ مِنْ مَعِينٍ (45)

    37|45| A cup39 from a free-flowing spring,40 would be passed around them.

    39. “Cup” is the literal translation of “ka’s” but, according to Dahhak, whenever the Qur’an said “ka’s” the allusion is to wine. In fact, Suddi added, a “ka’s” was a “ka’s” for the pre-Islamic Arabs if it was filled with wine, otherwise it was a mere “inaa‘” (or “qid-h” – Qurtubi), i.e., a container or a pitcher (Ibn Jarir); like “ma’idah” (low-height food-table) which is not a “ma’idah” without food on it; or “zani`ah” for “hawdaj” (litter) is not so named if there is no woman in it (Qurtubi).
    40. “Ma`in” is a spring which has water flowing on the surface of the earth (as against a spring which has water beneath the surface) – Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi.

    بَيْضَاءَ لَذَّةٍ لِلشَّارِبِينَ (46)

    37|46| (Sparkling) white,41 a delight to the drinkers,

    41. Another explanation will tell us that “bayda’” is that wine which has not been squeezed by the feet (Qurtubi). For those who do not know, we might mention that juice for the best grape wines in Europe are squeezed out by the feet of several men or women in a deep concrete or wooden trough (Au.).

    لَا فِيهَا غَوْلٌ وَلَا هُمْ عَنْهَا يُنْزَفُونَ (47)

    37|47| Neither any headiness therein, nor will they be intoxicated thereby.42

    42. Thus, free from all side-effects that earthly wine causes: headache, vomiting, stomach-ache, loss of self-control, liver damage, impotency, general deterioration of health over the long run, etc. (Au.). Further, it should never be forgotten that wines, fruits, springs, etc., are only names that have been used for human understanding. Otherwise (as Ibn `Abbas has said: Au.) there is nothing in Paradise that shares anything with that on earth, but the name (Alusi).

    وَعِنْدَهُمْ قَاصِرَاتُ الطَّرْفِ عِينٌ (48)

    37|48| And, by their sides low-gazed43 wide-eyed (damsels).44

    43. For those in the West who, (are used to bold, forward, progressive, half naked women who never bat an eye, no matter what the extent of obscenity they face), and who have perhaps never had the occasion to observe the beauty of a low-gazed girl, one might explain that there were times when – out of pure modesty – women, and especially maidens, would not raise their eyes at any man but to a close kin without a deep blush that forced their gazes down again. Perhaps the nearest in English would be a combination of “coy, blushing and bashful” (Au.).
    44. The textual word “`een” is the plural of “`aynaa’” which, as many commentators have pointed out, is also used in the sense of “beautiful.”

    كَأَنَّهُنَّ بَيْضٌ مَكْنُونٌ (49)

    37|49| As if they are hidden eggs.45

    45. An opinion attributed to Ibn `Abbas is that the allusion by “eggs” is to pearls, while that of Ibn Zayd was that it is to eggs under a birds’ wings in a nest that are well guarded and which are brown-white in color. But other authorities have said that the allusion is to the white layer below the egg’s shell – unpolluted by touch (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    In Iv.58, the phrase used is “like rubies and coral” (Yusuf Ali, Shabbir).
    Writes Majid: “The likeness of a modest maiden with an egg is in respect of her color as well as in her being closely guarded and protected as beneath the wing. ‘This may seem an odd comparison to an European; but the Orientals think nothing comes as near the color of fine woman’s skin as that of an ostrich’s egg when kept perfectly clean’ (Sale).”
    Alusi adds: Fair with a yellowish tint is an approved color for women, as fair with a pinkish tint is for men. Pure white is repulsive. The Prophet has been described as “fair, but not pure white.”
    Alusi’s description of the preferable color comes very close to the color now prevalent in the Middle East, i.e., area covering Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine (excluding the Jews) and parts of North Africa. This color seems to have emerged by virtue of centuries of mixing of races of all color-range: from pure white to pure dark, and all hues in between, during centuries when Islam had prevailed, and people were free to move and settle down anywhere in the Islamic world. This belt was most preferable, being the seat of political and cultural power. One is inclined to believe that had Islam prevailed over the globe, a few things would have happened: the prevalence of ostrich-egg color with few extremely dark and extremely white individuals surviving at the fringes as insignifcant minorities, opening up of all borders for migration and settlement leading to leveling of economic conditions covering the globe, and domination of a single language Arabic, resulting in closer homogeneity of the minds, and culture, while Islam exercised similar influence on the soul. With the white man still considering colored people as “the scum” (as recently remarked by a French minister with reference to second and third generation French immigrants from North Africa and Arab world), even after the modern “civilization” has passed its peak, indicates that it is only Islam that could have been as successful over the globe, as it has been in the belt referred above. But, perhaps much influenced by the Jewish story of the Tower of Babel, Man chose otherwise (Au.).

    فَأَقْبَلَ بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ (50)

    37|50| Some of them will adnance on others seeking to know.46

    46. Yusuf Ali places this note at an earlier point but within the same passage: “The Garden’s Delights are figured forth from parallel experiences in our present life, and follow an ascending order: Food and Fruits; Gardens of Bliss, (with all their charm, design, greenery, birds’ songs, fountains, etc.); the Home of Happiness and Dignity, with congenial company seated on Thrones; Delicious Drinks from crystal Springs, for social pleasure; and the society of Companions of the opposite sex, with beauty and charm but none of the grossness too often incidental to such companionship in this life.‏”

    قَالَ قَائِلٌ مِنْهُمْ إِنِّي كَانَ لِي قَرِينٌ (51)

    37|51| One of them saying, ‘I had an intimate companion.

    يَقُولُ أَإِنَّكَ لَمِنَ الْمُصَدِّقِينَ (52)

    37|52| Who would say, “Are you really of the confessers?

    أَإِذَا مِتْنَا وَكُنَّا تُرَابًا وَعِظَامًا أَإِنَّا لَمَدِينُونَ (53)

    37|53| Is it that when we are dead and become dust and bones, shall we indeed be called to account?”’

    قَالَ هَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُطَّلِعُونَ (54)

    37|54| He will say47 ‘Would you (care to) look (at him)?’

    47. Perhaps an angel will say this (Au.).

    فَاطَّلَعَ فَرَآهُ فِي سَوَاءِ الْجَحِيمِ (55)

    37|55| He will look and see him in the midst of the Flaming Fire.48

    48. It is said that there will be apertures (vision glasses) in Paradise through which believers will be able to see the inhabitants of the Fire (Zamakhshari). The statement is attributed to Ibn `Abbas as well as Ka`b al-Ahbar (Qurtubi).
    One wonders at the source of the above statement because the telescope had not yet been invented until after a 1000 years (Au.).

    قَالَ تَاللَّهِ إِنْ كِدْتَ لَتُرْدِينِ (56)

    37|56| He will say, ‘By Allah, you had almost ruined me.

    وَلَوْلَا نِعْمَةُ رَبِّي لَكُنْتُ مِنَ الْمُحْضَرِينَ (57)

    37|57| But for my Lord’s favor, surely, I would have been of those arraigned.

    أَفَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَيِّتِينَ (58)

    37|58| Is it (the case that) we do not die?

    إِلَّا مَوْتَتَنَا الْأُولَىٰ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمُعَذَّبِينَ (59)

    37|59| Except for our first death, and, are we (humans) not chastised?

    إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَهُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ (60)

    37|60| This indeed is the supreme triumph.‘49

    49. These are the concluding remarks of the believers in Paradise, and to paraphrase verses 58-60: “Is it not a fact that – being in Paradise - we shall not experience death again, except for the one we experienced earlier? Further – also being in Paradise – we shall never experience any chastisement anytime in future.”

    لِمِثْلِ هَٰذَا فَلْيَعْمَلِ الْعَامِلُونَ (61)

    37|61| For the like of this then, let the workers work.

    أَذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ نُزُلًا أَمْ شَجَرَةُ الزَّقُّومِ (62)

    37|62| Is that better as hospitality50 or theZaqqum tree?51

    50. “Nuzul” has been understood by the authorities as “fadl” meaning superabundance (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi).
    51. Zaqqum is a tree of the cactus species that grows in Tihama. Its fruit is bitter, obnoxious in smell, and yields a milk-like juice when cut open (Majid, Mawdudi). Indian soil also grows a variety which in fact is locally known as the serpent-headed tree (Nag-phun) – Thanwi, Shabbir, Mufti Shafi`.
    Some varieties in the USA grow as tall as palm trees, and, a desert area filled with them has an eerie, almost devilish, look (Au.).
    It is reported by Mujahid and Suddi that when the ayah (44: 43),was revealed, Abu Jahl said, “Do you know what it means in the Arabic language? Let me serve you some.” The he ordered his slave-girl to bring dates and cream. He began to eat one with the other and remarked, “Have some. This is the Zaqqum that Muhammad is threatening you with.” So Allah revealed these present three verses (Ibn Jarir).

    إِنَّا جَعَلْنَاهَا فِتْنَةً لِلظَّالِمِينَ (63)

    37|63| Verily, We have made it a trial for the wrongdoers.52

    52. One of the possible explanations is that when the Qur’an mentioned a tree in Hell-fire, it caused increase in the disbelief of the pagans, thus, the Zaqqum Tree became a trial for them (Razi).
    Interestingly, the meaning of tribulation is also hidden in the word (Zamakhshari).

    إِنَّهَا شَجَرَةٌ تَخْرُجُ فِي أَصْلِ الْجَحِيمِ (64)

    37|64| Verily, it is a tree that issues forth from the bottom of the Flaming Fire.53

    53. When the pagans objected by saying, how can there be a tree in fire?, Allah answered by pointing out that it grows from the bottom of the Fire, meaning, it is a tree constituted of fire (Ibn Jarir).
    But it could also be a tree (in the biological sense) but which the fire cannot burn. After all, Allah has placed angels over the fire – the Zabaniyyah (96: 18) – but which does not burn them (Razi).

    طَلْعُهَا كَأَنَّهُ رُءُوسُ الشَّيَاطِينِ (65)

    37|65| Its fruits54 as if they are heads of the Devils.55

    54. Alternatively, “swathes.”
    55. Ibn Jarir raises a doubt. The pagans had neither seen the Zaqqum tree nor the heads of the Devils. How were they to visualize what the allusion was to? The answer is, the use of the word Shaytan gives rise to an ugly and nasty connotation. For example, it is said, “So and so is a devil,” although the people have not seen a devil. But the loathsome feeling the comparison evokes justifies the usage.
    At all events, the words “ru’usus Shayatin” have also been understood as referring to the heads of the serpents which look most fearful, especially when they have a crown (Ibn Jarir and others).
    Tirmidhi has a Sahih report in this connection, as well as Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Ibn Abi Hatim. It is as follows: Ibn `Abbas reports that the Prophet recited this verse and then said, “Fear Allah in the manner He should be feared. For, if a drop of Zaqqum were to be dropped into the oceans of the earth, it will pollute the life of its inhabitants. So, how about him whose food it will be?” (Ibn Kathir)

    فَإِنَّهُمْ لَآكِلُونَ مِنْهَا فَمَالِئُونَ مِنْهَا الْبُطُونَ (66)

    37|66| They will surely eat thereof, and fill their bellies therewith.

    ثُمَّ إِنَّ لَهُمْ عَلَيْهَا لَشَوْبًا مِنْ حَمِيمٍ (67)

    37|67| Then, on top of it, there is for them a brew56 of boiling liquid.

    56. Brew: that is, a mixture of tears, blood, and puss that their bodies will discharge (Ibn Zayd: Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Abi Hatim has a report coming down from Sa`id ibn Jubayr that he said, “When the people of Hell are hungry they will be fed with Zaqqum which will cause the skins of their faces to peel off. So that, if somebody passed by them he will not be able recognize them from their faces. As thirst overtakes them they will ask for a drink and will be given a boiling liquid similar to oil heated to its maximum degree. As it is taken to the mouth, it will bake the flesh from which the skin had fallen off. (A single gulp) will melt their guts which begin to fall off. Then they will be struck with hooked rods and every element of their body will burst out in lamentation” (Ibn Kathir).
    May Allah save us from a touch of the Fire (Au.).

    ثُمَّ إِنَّ مَرْجِعَهُمْ لَإِلَى الْجَحِيمِ (68)

    37|68| Then their return is unto the blazing fire.57

    57. Apparently, eating and drinking will take place in another place in Hell. (Muqatil has said that Hamim is situated out of the boundaries of Jahim: Qurtubi). After they have been fed and given a drink they will be taken back to the area designated as “Al-Jahim.” This is supported by another ayah of the Qur’an which says (55: 44),“They will make rounds between it (Jahannum) and scalding water, heated to the highest degree” (Razi, Qurtubi).
    Qushayri has said that these are various regions of Hellfire (Qurtubi).

    إِنَّهُمْ أَلْفَوْا آبَاءَهُمْ ضَالِّينَ (69)

    37|69| Verily, they found their forefathers misguided.

    فَهُمْ عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمْ يُهْرَعُونَ (70)

    37|70| So they are hurled on their footsteps.58

    58. Asad quotes Zamakhshari, “i.e., blind imitation (taqlid) of the – obviously absurd – beliefs, valuations and customs of one’s erring predecessors, and disregard of all evidence of the truth supplied by both reason and divine revelations, is here shown to be the principal cause of the suffering referred to in the preceding passage.”

    وَلَقَدْ ضَلَّ قَبْلَهُمْ أَكْثَرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (71)

    37|71| In fact, misguided before them were most of the ancients.

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا فِيهِمْ مُنْذِرِينَ (72)

    37|72| Although We had sent among them warners.

    فَانْظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُنْذَرِينَ (73)

    37|73| See then, how was the end of those who were warned.

    إِلَّا عِبَادَ اللَّهِ الْمُخْلَصِينَ (74)

    37|74| Except for the chosen slaves of Allah.

    وَلَقَدْ نَادَانَا نُوحٌ فَلَنِعْمَ الْمُجِيبُونَ (75)

    37|75| Verily, Nuh had called to Us – and We are best of the responders.

    وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ وَأَهْلَهُ مِنَ الْكَرْبِ الْعَظِيمِ (76)

    37|76| So We delivered him and his folks from the great agony.

    وَجَعَلْنَا ذُرِّيَّتَهُ هُمُ الْبَاقِينَ (77)

    37|77| And made his progeny, the only survivors.59

    59. So that, the whole of the humanity today can be traced back to Nuh (Ibn Jarir).
    It is believed that the progeny of others that were with Nuh in the ship did not survive (Zamakhshari). This has been reported as a statement of Ibn `Abbas. However, others have thought that those others that were with Nuh in the boat also left behind their progeny. They based their opinion on (17: 3)".. progeny of those whom We carried in the boat” (Qurtubi).
    Tirmidhi has a report (of Hasan status: Au.), as also Ahmad, that the Prophet said about the progeny of Nuh that they were Sam, Ham and Yafeth. According to another report, also in Tirmidhi, and narrated by Samurah b. Jundub (but weak: Au.), the Prophet said,“Sam is the progenitor of the Arabs, Yafeth of the Romans, and Ham of the Africans.” Yafeth is also pronounced Yafet as well as Yafeth (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). Alusi points out that Hakim declared the above hadith as trustworthy.
    It might be noted that the above report does not say anything about other sons of Nuh, nor about the progeny of others who were with him. Alusi accepts the notion that the Flood might not have been universal and hence, other races in other regions of the world could have remained unaffected (Au.).

    وَتَرَكْنَا عَلَيْهِ فِي الْآخِرِينَ (78)

    37|78| And left for him (a good word) among the later folk.60

    60. The words in parenthesis reflect the understanding of Qatadah and Suddi as in Ibn Jarir; and of Ibn `Abbas as in Ibn Kathir.

    سَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ نُوحٍ فِي الْعَالَمِينَ (79)

    37|79| Peace upon Nuh in the worlds.61

    61. Some commentators have understood the two verses in the following manner: And (We) left for him among the later folk: Peace upon Nuh in the worlds (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ (80)

    37|80| Thus indeed We reward those who excel (in deeds).

    إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (81)

    37|81| He was surely (one) of Our believing slaves.

    ثُمَّ أَغْرَقْنَا الْآخَرِينَ (82)

    37|82| Then We drowned the rest.

    وَإِنَّ مِنْ شِيعَتِهِ لَإِبْرَاهِيمَ (83)

    37|83| And, of his persuation62 was Ibrahim.

    62. The textual word “shi`a” has been understood by `Ibn `Abbas as “religion,” by Mujahid as “way,” and by Qatadah as “religion and nation” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and others).
    The ayah expresses the same meaning as in the following (21: 92),“Surely, this religion of yours is one religion and I am your Lord, therefore, worship Me (alone)” – Shabbir.

    إِذْ جَاءَ رَبَّهُ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ (84)

    37|84| When he came to his Lord with a sound63 heart.

    63. Qatadah and Suddi (as also Muqatil and Kalbi: Razi) said that by a “sound heart” the allusion is to one free of Association (shirk). Mujahid however believed it meant free of doubts (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi). Scholars have said that Ibrahim (asws) lived and died with a clean heart, free of every contamination of sin which would include Association, doubts, dishonesty, deceit, hatred and envy (Razi, Alusi).

    إِذْ قَالَ لِأَبِيهِ وَقَوْمِهِ مَاذَا تَعْبُدُونَ (85)

    37|85| When he said to his father and his people, ‘What is it you worship?

    أَئِفْكًا آلِهَةً دُونَ اللَّهِ تُرِيدُونَ (86)

    37|86| Is it a falsehood, a deity other than Allah that you desire?

    فَمَا ظَنُّكُمْ بِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (87)

    37|87| What then is your idea about the Lord of the worlds?’

    فَنَظَرَ نَظْرَةً فِي النُّجُومِ (88)

    37|88| Then he cast a glance at the stars,64

    64. While most scholars have understood Ibrahim’s glance at the stars as something to do with his utterance thereafter, Alusi has the intelligence to point out that there is no reason to connect them. People do different things while thinking. (Some scratch their heads, another holds his beard, another looks deeply at an object: Au.). So, it is possible that Ibrahim was pondering over a proper answer, and in his deep thought looked at the stars. They assumed he was consulting them.
    Alusi also devotes several pages to the question of effects brought by stars and planets on human beings, and the knowledge thereof. He concludes by quoting Sheikh al-Akbar, presenting his statements almost as the last word on the subject, and which, according to him, is in agreement with what star-gazers and astronomers have to say concerning the issue. Needless to say that what he quotes from “Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyyah,” demands a good amount of naivety for acceptance. One is amazed at the credulity he accords to the quoted passages, despite the fact that not a line of it was ever uttered by any of the Companions, not even by the architect of the “Futuhat `Umariyyah” whose “Ya Sariyatu: al-jabal” was instrumental, at the spiritual plane, in bringing about the “futuhat” that led millions to Islam. Do we have a better example of the immense spiritual and moral influence wielded by a single individual, which deserve that he be remembered by the appellation Sheikh al-Akbar, if such appellations have to be taken seriously? (Au.).

    فَقَالَ إِنِّي سَقِيمٌ (89)

    37|89| and said, ‘I am indeed sick.’65

    65. An alternative translation could be, as pointed out by Razi and others, “I am about to get sick.” The language supports this.
    (Like pagans of all times, including quite a few with similar leanings in the modern West), Ibrahim’s people were firm believers in astrology. When he looked at them, they assumed he was consulting the stars and constellations, and had read his destiny that he was about to fall sick (Zamkhshari and others).
    There have been differences in opinion among the ancient commentators over what Ibrahim meant by saying he was unwell; but they all agreed that consultation of the stars was a common practice among his people; and, therefore, he cast a glance at the stars, as if consulting, and declared that either he was sick or going to be so. What sickness was it that he meant? Neither the Qur’an nor prophetic traditions say anything about it. Ibn `Abbas, Dahhak, and Ibn Is-haq, perhaps influenced by the verse which follows, said that he meant he had plague, a fearful disease and hence they hastily retreated. Others however took the word in its general sense of being unwell. In any case, this was one of the three lies that Ibrahim had spoken, as confirmed by a hadith (Ibn Jarir).
    Writes Ibn Kathir: This is one of those three lies that have been attributed to Ibrahim (asws), the reports about which are preserved in Sahih and Sunan compilations. However, they were not lies in the literal sense that draw people’s rebuke, but only metaphorically or figuratively so, for, they were in Allah’s cause, as in a hadith. “Surely, in indirect suggestions there is escape from lies.”
    (Its authenticity could not be established. The author of Kanz traces it to Bayhaqi and ibn `Adiyy in his Kamil but without passing his judgment. Haythami traces it in Tabarani, but taking it up to `Imran b. Hussain only, and remarks that all the narrators up to him are those of the Sahih works: Au.).
    Alusi points out that we have a comparable situation in the Qur’an, although not exactly the same, when the belongings of Yusuf’s brothers were searched earlier than Bin Yamin’s, although they knew that it could not be with his brothers. See Surah Yusuf, ayah 76.
    Shabbir adds that we have another example in the hadith, of how in life-threatening situations, one could use what is known as “tawriyyah”, feigning to be speaking of one thing, but actually meaning another. E.g., during the Hijrah journey (when the Prophet carried the prize of a hundred camels on his head), whenever someone asked Abu Bakr as to who his companion was, he would say,“A man who will show me the way.” He meant to say that his companion was a religious guide while the listener thought he was a professional guide (through the deserts and mountains).

    فَتَوَلَّوْا عَنْهُ مُدْبِرِينَ (90)

    37|90| So they departed from him retreating.66

    66. Ibrahim’s folk had come to take him along to celebrations of a day of feast, having known from past experience that Ibrahim stayed away from such festivals. Ibrahim pretended that he was unwell, and, from the words he used they assumed that it as one of the contagious diseases, and so retreated hastily. But of course, there could have been other reasons for a hasty retreat, one, e.g., that they were already late for the functions (Au.).

    فَرَاغَ إِلَىٰ آلِهَتِهِمْ فَقَالَ أَلَا تَأْكُلُونَ (91)

    37|91| Then he turned to their deities and said, ‘Will you not eat?67

    67. The pagan practice of food offerings to deities lasts to this day (Au.).

    مَا لَكُمْ لَا تَنْطِقُونَ (92)

    37|92| What is the matter with you that you do not talk?’

    فَرَاغَ عَلَيْهِمْ ضَرْبًا بِالْيَمِينِ (93)

    37|93| Then he turned upon them smiting with his right hand.

    فَأَقْبَلُوا إِلَيْهِ يَزِفُّونَ (94)

    37|94| Thereafter they advanced towards him, in hurried steps.68

    68. Ibrahim had a history of disparaging their deities. Therefore, when they saw them broken down, the first suspicion fell on him and so they went to him in haste to investigate the truth. Perhaps they would have met people on the way who would have told them (21: 60),“We have heard of a young man mentioning them (disparagingly). He is called Ibrahim” (Zamakhshari).
    For those who have not seen the emotional attachment of idol-worshippers to their idols, it will be hard to imagine their chagrin at seeing them in a broken heap. They can be in tears - although they can buy another (sometimes a foreign made, better looking one). In contrast, when our neighborhood mosque was burnt down by a crowd of non-Muslim rioters (while Muslims were Praying inside), no Muslim, not even the regular worshippers, were in tears. Of course they were angry, but they said, “Well, we will build it again.” Of course, mosques are not idols, but one can imagine the emotional response to the destruction of a temple, instead of an idol. It finds its place in historical works. (Au.).

    قَالَ أَتَعْبُدُونَ مَا تَنْحِتُونَ (95)

    37|95| He asked, ‘Do you worship that which you yoursleves carve?

    وَاللَّهُ خَلَقَكُمْ وَمَا تَعْمَلُونَ (96)

    37|96| While (it is) Allah (who) created you and what you make.’69

    69. That is, what you make of the idols.

    قَالُوا ابْنُوا لَهُ بُنْيَانًا فَأَلْقُوهُ فِي الْجَحِيمِ (97)

    37|97| They said, ‘Build for him a structure and cast him into a blazing fire.’

    فَأَرَادُوا بِهِ كَيْدًا فَجَعَلْنَاهُمُ الْأَسْفَلِينَ (98)

    37|98| Thus they devised a scheme against him, but We made them the lowest ones.

    وَقَالَ إِنِّي ذَاهِبٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ (99)

    37|99| He said, ‘Verily, I am leaving towards my Lord,70 He will surely guide me.’

    70. That is, “I shall migrate in obedience of my Lord’s command” (Razi, Qurtubi).
    It is said that from Babylon he migrated to Palestine, perhaps halting for sometime at Harran (based on Qurtubi).

    رَبِّ هَبْ لِي مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ (100)

    37|100| ‘O my Lord, grant me one of the righteous.’71

    71. Ibrahim must have made this supplication several years later, perhaps when he was in Syria, for he was a mere youth when cast into the fire (Au.).

    فَبَشَّرْنَاهُ بِغُلَامٍ حَلِيمٍ (101)

    37|101| Wherefore, We gave him the glad tiding of a forbearing son.72

    72. That is, Isma`il, who was Ibrahim’s first son, but whom the Israelites do not acknowledge as the “first-born” because, according to them, it is only the first son from a free wife that wins the title, while, and although Isma`il was the first son of Ibrahim, he was of a slave-girl Hajirah. Hence, according to the Israelites, Isaac was offered for sacrifice since the Bible speaks of the “first-born”, which could only have been Isaac – Isma`il being the elder but not the “first-born” of their Scriptures (Au.).
    In fact, writes Shabbir, Isma`il was so named because he was bestowed when Ibrahim’s prayer was heard. In Hebrew, “sam`” means to hear, and “ail” means God. Says the Torah:
    “And as for Ish’-ma-el, I have heard thee: Behold I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exeedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation (Gen. 17: 20).”

    فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَىٰ ۚ قَالَ يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ ۖ سَتَجِدُنِي إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ (102)

    37|102| Then, when he was of age of exertion with him, he said, ‘O my little son! I see indeed, in my sleep,73 that I am slaughtering you.74 So, consider, what is your view!’75 He said, ‘O my father! Do as you are ordered. You shall find me, Allah willing, of the steadfast.‘

    73. Dreams of the Prophets are true (Ibn Jarir), except that, Ibn Hajr adds in Fat-h, they need to be interpreted (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir adds: Abu Hatim in fact has a hadith to this effect:“Dreams that Prophets see in sleep are revelations.”
    The above hadith provides (Haythami said about a different version in Tabarani that it is weak), its own authenticity test. Had it been a fabricated one, the fabricator would have said:“Dream that Prophets see are revelations”
    But the Prophetic statement above adds: “in the sleep.” That is, not those that all humans see – and Prophets are humans – while awake, i.e., “day-dreams” (Au.).
    74. Despite the fact that after narrating the episode of sacrifice, the Qur’an says, in verse 112 below, “And We gave him the glad tiding of Is-haq,” Ibn Jarir held the opinion that the “offering” was Is-haq and reports about `Abdullah ibn Ma`ud, `Abbas ibn `Abdul Muttalib, his son `Abbas, Abu Hurayrah, `Ikrimah, Qatadah, Masruq, Ka`b al-Ahbar as of those who held the same opinion. But he also reports some of the above authorities as well as some others as of opinion that the one offered for slaughter was Isma`il. Ibn `Umar, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Hasan, Muhammad b. Ka`b al-Qurazi, Sha`bi, Ibn Mahran and others figure here. He presents no less than 11 reports which say that it was Isma`il whom Ibrahim had intended to sacrifice. Muhammad b. Is-haq said that he heard Ka`b al-Qurazi (a former Jew) assert this several times. And, this is supported by ayah 112 of this Surah itself which says, “And We gave him the glad tiding of Is-haq: a Prophet, one of the righteous.” Ibn Jarir also reports that `Umar ibn `Abdul `Aziz was of some doubt regarding this until he heard that a learned Jew had converted to Islam in Syria. After conversion he had proven to be a true and punctilious Muslim. Ka`b al-Qurazi says he was present when `Umar ibn `Abdul `Aziz asked him about which of the two he thought was the one offered for sacrificed. He said, without any hesitation that it was Isma`il and that this was written in Tawrah but modified by the Jews out of jealousy. Ibn Jarir also reports the following hadith (as also in Kashshaf):Sunaabihi says we were with Mu`awiyyah b. Abu Sufyan when they mentioned the “offering,” whether it was Isma`il or Is-haq. Mu`awiyyah said, “You have fallen on the right man. We were with the Prophet when a man came in and said, ‘Give me some out of what Allah has bestowed on you, O son of the two slaughtered ones.’ The Prophet smiled broadly.” We asked (Mu`awiyyah), “O Leader of the faithful, what’s this son of the two slaughtered ones?” He replied, “When `Abd al-Muttalib was asked to dig up the Zamzam well, he vowed to Allah that if He made the affair easy for him, he would slaughter one of his sons. The draw fell on `Abdullah (the Prophet’s father). His uncles said no to the slaughter, telling him, ‘Offer instead 100 camels.’ So, he sacrificed 100 camels. (That was one). The second was Isma`il.”
    (The report was preserved by Hakim also. But Ibn Kathir, Qurtubi and Alusi [who quotes Iraqi] do not believe in its trustworthiness: Au.).
    Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the majority opinion, Ibn Jarir maintains the opinion that it was Is-haq who was offered for sacrifice, and the place of sacrifice was Palestine. With regard to the horns of the ram (bestowed on Ibrahim for sacrifice in lieu of his son), that had remained in the Ka`bah (“I saw the two hung near the Meezaab, gone pretty dry”: Ibn `Abbas – Tabari), he thinks it could have been brought here from Palestine. But this does not seem plausible. Jews would not have allowed the horns to be taken away from them. As for verse 112 which speaks of Is-haq only after the sacrifice affair is over (“and We gave him the glad tiding of Is-haq)”, meaning, he came later, Ibn Jarir has an explanation that does not sound too strong and hence we ignore it (Au.).
    Razi is also unsure about the “offering” – especially in face of the authorities holding a different opinion – but seems inclined to believe that if we are to go by the apparent text, it could only have bee Isma`il. Qurtubi prefers to keep himself uncommitted. He presents arguments of both the sides and sees that both the arguments are inconclusive. Alusi quotes Jalaluddin Suyuti as saying that he was once inclined to believing that it was Is-haq who was offered for sacrifice until he looked into the arguments after which the inclination was gone and he came to conclude that it was Isma’il who was offered for sacrifice. Some scholars (as mentioned by Khifaji) have thought that a good ground for Is-haq being the person is established by the opinion held by the peoples of the Book who seem to be unanimous that it was Is-haq. In fact, moved by the evidences in favor of Is-haq, some have conjectured that the sacrifice could have been offered twice: once in Syria and a second time in Makkah. But this sounds like a far-fetched conjecture.
    Ibn Kathir believes that those who identified the “offering” as Is-haq were influenced by Jewish reports that somehow spread among the Salaf. They did not have a hadith to this effect, but (unprejudiced as they were: Au.), they accepted the reports as plausible and circulated them among themselves without any reservation. Otherwise, the Qur’an is very clear about the identity of the “offering” by first mentioning the good news about a “forbearing” son, and then of a second son naming him as Is-haq. We have a report in Ahmed which says,The above can be summarized as: “The Prophet once told `Uthman b. Talha (who was handed over the keys of the Ka`ba at the fall of Makkah: Au.), ‘I saw two horns when I went inside the House (Ka`ba), but forgot to tell you to cover them up for it is not right that there should be anything in the House that distracts attention of the devotees.’” Sufyan (the narrator) added, “The two horns had remained hung in the House until the House once caught fire and burnt, along with the two horns which were also reduced to ashes.”
    At all events, continues Ibn Kathir, although Abu Maysarah, Thawri, Abu Hudhayl, Ibn `Abbas, his father `Abbas, `Ali and `Umar b. al-Khattab have thought that it was Is-haq who was offered for sacrifice; and that a trustworthy report tells us that Ibn Mas`ud held the same opinion; which is also the reported opinion of `Ikrimah, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, Mujahid, Sha`bi, Ibn `Umayr, Zayd b. Aslam, Zuhri, Ibn Abi Barzah, Mak-hul, Suddi, Hasan, Qatadah, Masruq, `Ata’, Muqatil and others; yet, it is very likely that these reports originated from Ka`b al-Ahbar and his kind of people, who picked them from Jewish scriptures, and which gained currency. There is in fact a hadith too to the effect that the “offering” was Is-haq. But it is untrustworthy. On the other hand, many of the authorities named above, as also several others, are reported to have said that the one offered for sacrifice was Isma’il. Ibn `Abbas for example has been severally reported that the Jews lied when they said Is-haq was the “offering;” it was rather Isma`il. Of the two conflicting reports from him, this one happens to be stronger in terms of chain of narrators. This was also the reported opinion of Mujahid, Sha`bi, Abu Saleh, Kalbi, Yusuf b. Mahran, Hasan al-Busri, Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, `Umar ibn `Abdul `Aziz (who inquired a newly converted Jew who said the Jews lied when they claimed that it was Is-haq), Ka`b al-Qurazi, Abu Hurayrah, Ibn `Umar and `Ali ibn Abi Talib.
    Of the Hadith doctors Ibn Hanbal and Abu Hatim were of the opinion that the “offering” was Isma`il (Au.).
    Shawkani, as also many other commentators see three Qur’anic verses as confirming that Isma`il was the offering. Allah said (21: 85):“And (remember) Isma`il, Idris and Dhu al-Kifl; they were all of the persevering ones.”
    In this ayah he has been described as “persevering” which quality he manifested when taken for slaughter.
    (In fact, “halim” was an outstanding quality of Ibrahim and Isma`il and have been employed in the Qur’an for none but the two: Shabbir).
    He also said about him (19: 54) “He was true of promise,” which refers to his keeping of the promise which he made to his father when told that he wished to slaughter him. (This quality has also been reserved in the Qur’an for Isma`il: Au.).
    A third Qur’anic verse supporting the view about Isma`il is in this chapter itself. The Qur’an says, after the affair of the slaughter (37: 112),“And We gave him the glad tiding of Is-haq: a Prophet, one of the righteous.” How could the good news about Is-haq come if he was already there at the time of sacrifice? Secondly, this verse says that he will be a Prophet. Now, if Ibrahim was already told that Isma`il would be a Prophet, how could he be asked to slaughter him? Surely, he would have asked, “Here I am my Lord! But, have you not promised that the lad will be a Prophet?”
    Mufti Shafi` points to weakness in Jewish claims, in the light of nothing else but the Torah itself. It is said in Genesis (22: 1-2),
    “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, ‘Abraham’: and he said, ‘Behold, here I am.’ And he said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Mori‘ah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of.’”
    (The Jews have used considerable ingenuity to locate Mori’ah in Palestine but with little success. Marwah (the Mount) sounds closest to Mori’ah. It is at Marwah that Hajj sacrifices were offered, as stated by the Prophet in a tradition documented in Muwatta’. This is the hill at which the Sa`ee ends and the likely original place for offering the sacrifice. But, perhaps, because of crowds the place of sacrifice was shifted to nearby Mina (in whose valleys there is enough space for shepherds and goatherds to bring their flock for sale: Au.). Who knows there might be a hint to this in the preceding verse which says,“When he reached Sa`ee (spot) with him”).
    In any case, it can be clearly seen in the above that Isaac is a later insertion since the first verse asserts, “thy only son;” since the Torah also tells us that Isma`il was born (14 years: ref. Gen., 16: 15 below) before Isaac, and hence Isaac was “not the only son.” In an earlier chapter Genesis it said (16: 1-2),
    “Now Sar’ai Abrams wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sar’ai said unto Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee go in unto my maid; It may be that I may obtain childeren by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sar’ai.’
    Abram accepted the offer and so, the Torah continues,
    “And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.” (Gen., 16:4),
    The Torah adds,
    “And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ish’mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish’mael to Abram.” (Gen., 16: 15)
    However, Sarah was not deprived of blessing. Abraham received the following message after Isma`il’s birth:
    “And God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sar’ai your wife, you shall not call her name Sar’ai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover give you a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.’ Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?’”
    The Torah adds,
    “And God said, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed; and you shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” (Gen., 16: 19)
    Mufti Shafi` has not been quicker than the Jews to discover the discripency. They say therefore (in the interest of a tribal religion: Yusuf Ali), that since Ishmael was not of a free woman, but a slave, he could not become the first-born. Isaac was the first son (although second by birth) because he was born of a free woman. The ingenuity does not solve the problem wholly in view of the words “the only son.” This problem can be solved by declaring Isaac not only the “first-born” but also “the only” son. But in that event, the Torah cannot be put to service because in several places it refers to Ishmael as a son of Abram. (After initially referring to Ibrahim as Abram, God commanded him to change his name to Abraham: ref. Gen., 17: 5). In fact, Isma`il was “the only son” at the time Ibrahim was ordered the slaughter. Thus, on close scrutiny, the theory that Is-haq was the offering – although supported by no less than seven of the Companions, albeit some of them reported as having a second opinion – fails to win approval.
    The Brill Encyclopaedia of Islam, which blackens pages on articles of little or no interest and profit, completely ignores both the discrepecy in the Bible, as well as the arguments offered by the Muslim scholars. It quotes Ibn Jarir, but ignores Ibn Kathir. It accuses the Prophet of being initially ignorant of the father-son relationship between Ibrahim and Isma`il:
    “These (Qur’anic: Au.) references to Isma`el and others are, in each case, part of a larger context in which more men of antiquity are mentioned. Each time, at either a lesser or greater distance before Isma`il, Abraham (Ibrahim) is also praised as one of the earlier men. Nowhere, however, is a direct link established between Abraham and Isma`il, so that it must be assumed that originally Muhammad was not well informed about the relationship between Abraham and Ishmael, as at that time he seems to have counted Jacob, not Isma`il as another son of Abrahm together with Isaac (XIX, 49; XXI, 72; XXIX, 27; VI, 84; XI, 71).” (Art.: Isma`il)
    As if the above temerity is not enough, it gives a new twist to the issue. Discussing Ishak, it states:
    “Actually the controversy came to be more concerned with Persian than with [IV:110a] Jewish rivalry for the Arabs (Goldziher, Muh. St., i, 144 f., Eng. tr., i, 135), since the Persians claimed descent from Ishak. Al-Mas`udi (Murudj, ii, 146 f.) quotes a Persian poet in 290/902 who boasted that his descent from Isaac the dhabih was superior to that of the Arabs.”
    So, an unknown Persian poet’s boast (drunk on his words), 300 years after the Prophet was enough to prove, firstly, that the narrative is fully trustworthy, (as against the Hadith, which is always untrustworthy), and secondly, that the Persians now become cousins of the Jews. One wonders whether this was ever suggested, in any scholarly work, to the Jews, or, it has been manufactured for the consumption of Iranians alone (Au.).
    75. He was perhaps not seeking his opinion, but rather informing him, in the Middle-eastern style, of his intention to slaughter him (Au., with a point from Zamakhshari).

    فَلَمَّا أَسْلَمَا وَتَلَّهُ لِلْجَبِينِ (103)

    37|103| So, when the two had submitted, and he had laid him down on his forehead,

    وَنَادَيْنَاهُ أَنْ يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ (104)

    37|104| We called out to him, ‘O Ibrahim,

    قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّؤْيَا ۚ إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ (105)

    37|105| You have fulfilled the (purpose of the) vision. Thus indeed We reward those who excel.

    إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَهُوَ الْبَلَاءُ الْمُبِينُ (106)

    37|106| Surely, this indeed was a clear test.’

    وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ (107)

    37|107| And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice.76

    76. The substitute was a ram (male sheep, which, as some thought, came from Paradise, which explains the qualification “great”) or perhaps a mountain goat. The earliest commentators said that when Ibrahim took Isma`il for sacrifice and headed towards Mina, Shaytan appeared before him at Jamarah al-`Aqabah (to dissuade him) but he waved him off. He reappeared at Jamarah al-Wusta and he waved him off again. Then, as he intended to proceed with the slaughter, Isma`il told him, “Father. I have no shirt other than this. I should rather remove it so that you can use it as my coffin.” As he was removing his shirt, (or, as Suddi said, Ibrahim was trying to run his knife over his neck) they heard (37: 104-05),“O Ibrahim, You have fulfilled the vision.” They turned to find a ram which was duly slaughtered.
    The report about the knife not cutting, is in Ibn al-Mundhir and Hakim who declared it trustworthy (Alusi).
    The above, it might be noted, is the Salaf’s own statements, which, although they are likely to have been heard from the Prophet, are not ahadith per se (Au.).

    وَتَرَكْنَا عَلَيْهِ فِي الْآخِرِينَ (108)

    37|108| And left for him (a good word) among the later folk.

    سَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (109)

    37|109| Peace upon Ibrahim.

    كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ (110)

    37|110| Thus indeed We reward those who do excel.

    إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (111)

    37|111| He was surely (one) of Our believing slaves.

    وَبَشَّرْنَاهُ بِإِسْحَاقَ نَبِيًّا مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ (112)

    37|112| And We gave him the glad tiding of Is-haq: a Prophet, one of the righteous.

    وَبَارَكْنَا عَلَيْهِ وَعَلَىٰ إِسْحَاقَ ۚ وَمِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِهِمَا مُحْسِنٌ وَظَالِمٌ لِنَفْسِهِ مُبِينٌ (113)

    37|113| And We blessed him and Is-haq; but of the progeny of the two (is one who is a) well-doer, and (another who is) a clear wrong-doer unto himself.77

    77. Thus writes Muhammad Asad, a former Jew, “With this prediction the Qur’an refutes, as in so many other places, the spurious contention of the Jews that they are ‘the chosen people’, by virtue of their descent from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and therefore, a priori ‘assured’, as it were, of God’s acceptance. In other words, God’s blessing a prophet or saint does not, by itself, imply the conferment of any special status on his descendants.”

    وَلَقَدْ مَنَنَّا عَلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ وَهَارُونَ (114)

    37|114| And surely, We conferred Our favor on Musa and Harun.78

    78. “I.e., in consideration of their own merit, and not because of their descent from Abraham and Isaac” (Asad).

    وَنَجَّيْنَاهُمَا وَقَوْمَهُمَا مِنَ الْكَرْبِ الْعَظِيمِ (115)

    37|115| And We delivered them and their folks from a great agony.79

    79. “The Israelites were delivered by three steps mentioned in verses 114, 115, and 116 respectively; but the consummation of Allah’s favour on them was (verses 117-118) the Revelation given to them, which guided them on the Straight Way, so long as they preserved the Revelation intact and followed its precepts. The three steps were: (1) the divine commission to Moses and Aaron: (2) the deliverance from bondage; and (3) the triumphant crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army” (Yusuf Ali).

    وَنَصَرْنَاهُمْ فَكَانُوا هُمُ الْغَالِبِينَ (116)

    37|116| We succored them, so that they were the overcomers.

    وَآتَيْنَاهُمَا الْكِتَابَ الْمُسْتَبِينَ (117)

    37|117| And We gave them the manifesting Book.

    وَهَدَيْنَاهُمَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ (118)

    37|118| And We guided them to the Straight Path.

    وَتَرَكْنَا عَلَيْهِمَا فِي الْآخِرِينَ (119)

    37|119| And left for them (a good word) among the later folk.

    سَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ وَهَارُونَ (120)

    37|120| Peace upon Musa and Harun.

    إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ (121)

    37|121| Thus indeed do We reward those who excel.

    إِنَّهُمَا مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (122)

    37|122| Surely, the two were of Our believing slaves.

    وَإِنَّ إِلْيَاسَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (123)

    37|123| And surely, Ilyas80 was also of the sent ones.

    80. As discussed earlier, there have been differences in opinion over Ilyas and Idris: whether they were the same persons or different (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). But majority of commentators believe that Ilyas, a descendant of Harun, was a Prophet in his own right (Razi) who was succeeded by Al-Yasa`, another Prophet (Qurtubi). Al-Yasa` on the other hand has been identified as Elisha of the Bible, who, as the Bible states was given the mantle after Elijah. See 2Kings, 2: 9-11 (Au.).
    Majid writes: “Later commentators too have identified him as the Elisa of the Bible: ‘(He) was a prophet in Israel in the first half of the ninth pre-Christian century, under King Ahab.’ JE. V. p. 121). He ‘came from the land east of the Jordan, to wage war, in the name of the God of his fathers, against the worship of Baal.’ (ib) He ‘was among the greatest and most original of the Hebrew prophets; not unworthy of a place by the side of Moses.’ (EBi. C. 1270) ‘The loftiest prophet of the OT, raised up by “J” at a crisis in the history of Israel to save the nation from lapsing into heathenism.’ (DB.I. p. 687) ‘Foremost prophet of the Northern Kingdom, whose activity .. falls chiefly in the reign of Ahab (876-853). He was known as the Fishlite, probably because he was a native of Fishlite in Gibal ... He performed some miracles, among them the restoration to life of a poor widow’s son ... Elijah like Enoch, is said to have been transported to heaven .. apotheosis due no doubt to his great zeal for God and his insistence upon the spiritual and ethical value of Hebrew monotheism.’ (VJE. P. 201).”
    We do not know whether the following has always been there, which Majid failed to notice, or is it a later introduction:
    “Elijah (of the 9th century before Christ): also spelled Elias, or Elia, Hebrew Eliyyahu. Hebrew prophet who ranks with Moses in saving the religion of Yahweh from being corrupted by the nature worship of Baal. Elijah’s name means ‘Yahweh is my God‘ and is spelled Elias in some versions of the Bible. The story of his prophetic career in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reigns of Kings Ahab and Ahaziah is told in 1 Kings 17–19 and 2 Kings 1–2 in the Old Testament.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2005 edition) – Au.
    Mawdudi offers some more details. Herewith a summary: “Elijah appeared sometime after Solomon (10th century before Christ), when the Israeli Kingdom had already broken into two: a northern piece called Israel with its capital in Samaria (present day Nabulus: Shafi`), and a southern (both within Palestine) called Judea with its capital in Jerusalem. Religious and moral corruption that had taken roots earlier, but which had subsided during the reigns of David and Solomon, began to reappear in full force now. Idol-worship spread along with tyranny. Ahab the King of the Israel married Jezebel the daughter of the polytheist King of Sidon, he adopted the religion of his wife and built a Temple for Ba`l in Samaria. Offerings were made publicly for Ba`l. That was the time that prophet Elias appeared. He was of course very unpopular with the religious class, and because of his denunciation of polytheism, was persecuted by Jezebel. Ultimately, he had to flee and took refuge in a cave at the foot of Mount Sinai where he lived for several years before coming back to Israel to once again try his hand at reformation, but to no avail. He died without having won many Israelis to his cause.”
    To the above lines of Mawdudi, we may add: The present-day Bible tells us that Elijah (meaning “My God is Jehova“), who was fed by ravens when in hiding (1King, 17: 6), who parted river Jordan (2Kings, 2:8), and even raised a widow’s dead son (1King, 17: 21-22), was raised to the heaven alive on a fiery chariot:
    “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you, before I be taken away from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘I pray you, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’ And he said, ‘You have asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so unto you; but if not, it shall not be.’ And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind unto heaven.” (2Kings, 2: 9-11). It is this mysterious disappearance that led the Jews to the belief in the second coming of Elijah. (It was a Jewish belief that the prophet Elijah would return to earth to take part in the establishment of God’s kingdom: The Jerome Biblical Commentary, p.424, Originally pub. by Prentice Hall Inc., USA, 1968). When John the Baptist began to baptize, the Jews began to wonder what right he had to do it without being a Prophet: “And this is the record of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah? And he said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you that Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’” (John, 1: 19-21). [Incidentally, the above quote tells us that the Jews were waiting for three prophets: Jesus Christ, Elijah, and ‘that Prophet‘. Neither the Jews nor Christians are clear to this day about the identity of “that Prophet”] - Au.
    At all events, writes Mufti Shafi`, the above were the stories in circulation during the time of the second and third generation Muslims and which influenced them to believe that Ilyas is still alive. Ka`b al-Ahbar for instance, thought that four Prophets are still alive, two in the heavens, and two on the earth: `Isa ibn Maryam and Idris in the heavens and Khadir and Ilyas on the earth. Some narratives say that the last two get together during Hajj; a few others in Ibn `Asakir tell us about people having met Ilyas. Ibn Kathir has declared all of them unworthy of any attention. Hakim has a report which claims that our Prophet had met Ilyas while on his way to Tabuk. Dhahabi emphatically declared it fake and was vexed that a scholar like Hakim placed it in his collection.
    The above said, we (Au.) might now look into the Brill Encyclopedia of Islam for some amusement. The article on Ilyas is contributed by two Orientalists. It says:
    “Ilyas is the name given in the Qur’an .. to the Biblical prophet Elijah; the form Ilyas derives from .. a Hellenized adjustment, but attested also in Syrian and Ethiopic, of the Hebrew name Eliyah."
    The implication is clear. How could the Prophet know about Elijah, and its equivalent Ilyas to be able to mention him in a non-revelational work, which the Qur’an is? Surely, it needs an explanation. It is found. The word is there in Greek and Ethiopic languages. So, the implication is, the Prophet picked his name from there.
    The two authors continue down the lines:
    “In Muslim legend related by later authors there may be noted on the one hand the more or less faithful use of the Biblical facts (I Kings XVII to II Kings II), with a genealogical linking, inspired by the Jewish Aggada, of Ilyas to the priestly line of Harun through Pinhas; and on the other hand to the confusion of the character of Elijah/Ilyas with al-Khadir (Khidr) and Idris.”
    We may ask, who else will fall upon fake reports with cupidity but the rejecters of trustworthy ahadith? Referring to Ibn Kathir at this point – who rejects the legends they speak of - perhaps did not suit the purposes of the two authors. So they promptly ignored him. A fact of greater interest is that the atheist authors suddenly reveal their true identity by assuming the role of Evangelists. Christian Scriptural stories that are treated skeptically - if not scorn - by learned Biblical scholars from among themselves become, to them, “Biblical facts.” It may also be noted that the “later (Muslim) authors” are declared here as being faithful to Biblical facts. But are these not the very “later (Muslim) authors”, who, according to the Orientalists, were not faithful to their own Prophet? According to them they manufactured the mass of the ahadith fastened on their own Prophet? However, since even those who were careless enough to reproduce Biblical stories, were never confused about Ilyas or Khadir, this remark might have its own political connotations.

    إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ (124)

    37|124| When he said to his people, ‘Do you not fear?

    أَتَدْعُونَ بَعْلًا وَتَذَرُونَ أَحْسَنَ الْخَالِقِينَ (125)

    37|125| Do you invoke Ba`l81 and forsake the best of creators:82

    81. “Ba`l” of the text is literally for master, possessor, chief, etc., so that a husband is his wife’s “ba`l” (as in the Qur’an 11: 72 – Razi), a family has a “ba`l” at the top, a nourisher or sustainer is a “ba`l” et al. At this point the occurrence has been explained as meaning “Lord”, or “deity.” Some others have said that “Ba`l” was actually the name of an idol they worshipped in a town called Ba`albak west of Dimashq and inhabited by a branch of the Israelites. Another report identifies it as a woman who was worshipped (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Majid quotes: “’Ba`l is a primitive title of divinities which is found in all branches of the Semitic race.’ (ERE. II. P. 283)… The Particular Baal mentioned in connection with Elijah is the Ball of Tyre. ‘And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him… and went and served Ball and worshipped him. And he reared up an alter for Ba-al in the house of Ba-al which he had built in Samaria.’ (1Kings 16: 30-32).”
    82. We could repeat a note offered by Asad at ayah 14 of Surah Al-Mu’minun (23) on the words “best of creators”: “As Tabari points out, the Arabs apply the designation ‘creator’ to every artisan (sani`) – a usage also current in European languages with reference to the ‘creation’ of works of art and imagination. Since God is the only Creator in the real, primary sense of this word, the phrase ‘ahsan al-khaliqin’ must be understood in this secondary sense of the term khaliq (cf., Taj al-`Arus, art. khalaqa).”

    اللَّهَ رَبَّكُمْ وَرَبَّ آبَائِكُمُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (126)

    37|126| Allah, your Lord and the Lord of your fathers of old?!’

    فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَإِنَّهُمْ لَمُحْضَرُونَ (127)

    37|127| But they laid the lie on him; so they will surely be brought forth.

    إِلَّا عِبَادَ اللَّهِ الْمُخْلَصِينَ (128)

    37|128| Except for the chosen slaves of Allah.

    وَتَرَكْنَا عَلَيْهِ فِي الْآخِرِينَ (129)

    37|129| And We left for him (a good word) among the later folk.

    سَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ إِلْ يَاسِينَ (130)

    37|130| Peace upon Ilyasin.83

    83. That is, Ilyas. Just as Ibrahim from Abraham or Seeneen from Sinaa’ (Tabari), or Mika`eel from Meekaal (Ibn Kathir) Ilyasin is derived from Ilyas.

    إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ (131)

    37|131| Thus indeed do We reward those who excel.

    إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (132)

    37|132| Surely, he was of Our believing slaves.

    وَإِنَّ لُوطًا لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (133)

    37|133| And surely, Lut was also of the sent ones.

    إِذْ نَجَّيْنَاهُ وَأَهْلَهُ أَجْمَعِينَ (134)

    37|134| (Recall) when We delivered him and his family, all together.

    إِلَّا عَجُوزًا فِي الْغَابِرِينَ (135)

    37|135| Except for an old woman: of those who tarried behind.

    ثُمَّ دَمَّرْنَا الْآخَرِينَ (136)

    37|136| Then we destroyed the rest.

    وَإِنَّكُمْ لَتَمُرُّونَ عَلَيْهِمْ مُصْبِحِينَ (137)

    37|137| Indeed, you pass by them by the morning,

    وَبِاللَّيْلِ ۗ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ (138)

    37|138| and by night.84 Will you not then, use your mind?

    84. Every sojourner to Syria had to pass by their ruins (Tabari).

    وَإِنَّ يُونُسَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (139)

    37|139| And surely, Yunus was also of the sent ones.85

    85. Ibn Kathir reminds us of the hadith in the Sahihayn:Abu Hurayrah reports the Prophet as saying, “It is not becoming of a slave that he should say ‘I am better than Yunus b. Matti.'”
    By “I” the Prophet’s allusion was either to himself or to a third person. The contexts of several versions support both. For example, The Prophet said, “Do not declare one Prophet superior to another. For, when the Trumpet is blown everyone will swoon in the heavens and the earth except for whom Allah wills otherwise. Then it will be blown a second time. I will be the first to be raised, and lo! (I will find) Musa holding on to the `Arsh. Now, I do not know whether he would be spared because of his swooning on (Mount) Tur, or would have recovered before me. And I do not say, ‘Anyone is better than Yunus b. Matti’” (Au.).

    إِذْ أَبَقَ إِلَى الْفُلْكِ الْمَشْحُونِ (140)

    37|140| When he fled to the laden ship.86

    86. That is, writes Razi, a ship that was heavily laden.
    After having dealt with the issues that arise with reference to the journey taken up by Yunus (asws) at ayah 87 of Surah al-Anbiya’ (21: 87), Imam Razi presents a short discourse on the meaning that can be attributed to the word “abaqa” as, “he fled from his master.” After rejecting the meaning that is apparent, especially to a novice in religion who does not understand the character of a Prophet, nor his status, and considering Yunus and his relationship with his Lord he points out, that two meanings are possible. One, the error committed by Yunus against his Lord was that Allah had promised him destruction of the people who had rejected him. He took it for granted that it was binding (on Allah) that He should send down the punishment. Following this belief, he gave up the supplication of forgiveness he used to make for his people. It was incumbent upon him that he should have continued seeking their forgiveness, especially, when it was possible that the punishment to come down but not destroy his people root and branch. Second, Yunus (asws) had promised his people the punishment. But when it did not come down, he concealed himself (out of shame) and escaped to the sea, hence the words, “fled to the sea.” The first meaning, adds Razi, is more appropriate.
    We do not know the origin of the stories that we have received from the earliest commentators since there are no ahadith that offer details; it is quite likely that Jewish literature has been used to weave around the sketchy details given by the Qur’an. Even Asad – who departs from his habit at this point to quote the Bible for explanation of the Qur’anic passage - seems to have been influenced by them. But Muslim scholars have been careful about alluding to an envoy what does not match with the functions and character of Prophets (Au.).

    فَسَاهَمَ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْمُدْحَضِينَ (141)

    37|141| And he drew lots,87 and was among the losers.88

    87. It is reported that when the boat in which Yunus (asws) had mounted was set to sail, it began to founder. The passengers – following their superstitious beliefs – thought that they were sure there was a sinner (unpopular with their deities) in the boat whose presence was causing the turmoil. They drew lots to find out who it could be. The lot fell on Yunus (asws). The casting was repeated but it was again his name. So he jumped into the sea and a whale gulped him in (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi and others).
    Although casting of lots is allowed, such casting in which a man is to be punished with death for a sin he committed (unless murder) is disallowed in Islam. Some people still offer one of their men as sacrifice to the waters when they swell in the river. Islam does not allow this (Qurtubi).
    88. The textual word “mud-hazin” has “dahaza” in its root which means, “to refute, dispute, confute,“ etc. Hence the Qur’anic usage (42: 15), "Those who argue in (matters concerning) Allah, after He has been responded to (by others), their argument stands refuted.” Thus, although “mud-hazin” has been explained by the commentators as meaning “losers” (in the lot: Razi), the possibility remains that the decision that Yunus (asws) should jump or (be cast into the sea) would have been preceded by some argument whether he should thus be treated or not: an argument that went against him (Au.).

    فَالْتَقَمَهُ الْحُوتُ وَهُوَ مُلِيمٌ (142)

    37|142| Then a fish swallowed him89 while he felt blameworthy.90

    89. There is every possibility that when asked to leave the boat, Yunus (asws) would have jumped in hoping to swim through to the shore, for a Prophet never thinks of committing suicide (Thanwi).
    Majid writes that large sharks and whales are known for swallowing humans whole.
    90. He was (perhaps) reproachful of himself for having left his people before he was ordered (Thanwi).
    But other commentators have understood it as meaning that he was blameworthy in the sight of Allah.
    One wonders whether there is any possibility that he felt blameworthy for participating in the draw of lots in the first place?! (Au.).

    فَلَوْلَا أَنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُسَبِّحِينَ (143)

    37|143| Now, had it not been that he was of those who chant Praises,91

    91. Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Abu al-`Aliyyah, Suddi and Qatadah have interpreted the word “musabbihin” as meaning “musallin,” i.e., 'who Prayed much' (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Surah al-Anbiya’ tells in ayah 87 that the words he used for seeking relief are:“There is no Lord save Thee, glory to You, indeed, I was of the wrongdoers.”
    A reliable source says that Imam al-Haramayn Juwayni used the ayah quoted above as proof that Allah is not in any particular direction. He was not closer to Muhammad who went up to the Ultimate end of the Sidrah Tree (53: 11-15) than He was to Yunus when he was in the fish’s stomach at the bottom of the sea, supplicating Allah (Qurtubi).
    In reference to the passage under discussion, Dahhak b. Qays was heard saying on the mimber, “Remember Allah when you are in ease, He will remember you when you are in hardship. Yunus was devoted to Allah’s remembrance. When he was struck by hardship he called upon Allah. He was helped out because he had been an obedient slave before the tribulation. Allah said about the situation, ‘had it not been that he was of those who chant Praises, he would have surely stayed in its belly until the Day they will be resurrected.‘ In contrast, Fir`awn was a rebel. He cried out when about to get drowned (10: 90), ‘I believe that there is no deity worthy of worship but He in whom the Israelites have believed; and I am of those who have surrendered.‘ But his supplication was rejected because he had not been an obedient slave in the past. But rather, Allah said about him (10: 91), ‘(Is it) Now (that you believe)!? While you had disobeyed earlier and you were of the mischief-makers!’ (Thus Fir’awn’s past became an obstacle to he being heard when in hardship)” - Ibn Jarir.
    In fact, Ibn Kathir adds, there is a hadith which says,“Know Allah in ease, He will know you in hardship.”
    This is well illustrated by the hadith about three people facing a storm taking refuge in a cave; each of them seeking Allah’s help by the virtue of one of their past good deeds, and each granted succor (Qurtubi).
    Hadith collections have a report which says that: When Yunus (asws) realized that he needed to supplicate Allah in some (particular) words, he began to call Allah while he was in the fish’s stomach. He said, “O Allah, there is no deity save You, hallowed are You, I have been of the wrong-doers.” The call began to ring under the `Arsh. Angels said, “This is a weak but familiar voice coming from a distant place.” Allah asked, “Do you not recognize it?” They asked, “O our Lord! Who is it?” He answered, “My slave Yunus.” They said, “Is it Yunus, that slave of Yours whose accepted deeds always ascended up, and whose Prayers were always answered?” Then they said, “Our Lord! Will You not show mercy to him who did in his times of ease what benefits in times of hardship?” He said, “Sure.” So He ordered the fish to throw him out on to the sands (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi).
    The report is in Ibn Abi Hatim (Ibn Kathir).
    But the authenticity of the report could not be established (Au.).

    لَلَبِثَ فِي بَطْنِهِ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ (144)

    37|144| He would have surely stayed in its belly until the Day they will be resurrected.92

    92. Although most commentators say that the ayah means that he would have died in the fish’s belly, Alusi does not see anything odd in the fish surviving with Yunus (asws) in its belly until the Day of Judgment.

    فَنَبَذْنَاهُ بِالْعَرَاءِ وَهُوَ سَقِيمٌ (145)

    37|145| Then We cast him on to the open;93 and he was sick.94

    93. Is there any contradiction between this ayah which says, “Then We cast him on to the open” and another in Surah al-Qalam (68: 49) which says,“If not for a blessing from his Lord that had reached him, he would have been thrown into the open, and he would have been blameworthy”?
    The answer is no. What this latter verse is saying is that Yunus (asws) was thrown into the open without any blame on him (Qurtubi).
    94. In other words, very weak (Ibn `Abbas and others – Ibn Kathir).

    وَأَنْبَتْنَا عَلَيْهِ شَجَرَةً مِنْ يَقْطِينٍ (146)

    37|146| And We caused to grow over him a plant of the gourd (kind).95

    95. Sa`id b. Jubayr said that generally speaking “yaqtin” is every stem-less creeper that dies out within a year. Abu Hurayrah, Ibn `Abbas, `Amr b. Maymun, Qatadah, and Dahhak said that it was a pumpkin tree (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and others quoting various authorities). Flies stay off this plant. It is reported that the Prophet liked this vegetable and would look for it in a bowl (Ibn Kathir). The report is in Bukhari (H.Ibrahim).
    It could as well have been water-melon (Au.).
    Imam Razi adds: Wahidi has pointed out a meaning that many others have missed but which is implied by the text: 1) Allah grew the plant instantly for Yunus, and 2) It crept over something to cast a shadow on him. If it spread itself on the ground, it would not have offered him protection from the sun. (One may not be misled, adds Thanwi, by the words, “into the open” for, open [deserts] have an occasional tree).
    It is significant to note that today scientists regard pumpkin and its family as superfood. (Biologically, water melon is included). The following is from an article on it: “It is high in fiber and low in calories. Both flesh and seeds offer different health benefits and are loaded with nutrients like vitamin B, C, and E., potassium, magnesium, and the antioxidant precursors of vitamin Al, beta-carotene, lycopene, llutein, zeaxantin, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptozanthin.
    “Pumpkin’s abundance in carotenoids benefits body tissues; regulates the defense mechanism; improves cell communication; activates the enzymatic detoxification system; lowers the rate of certain cancers (lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast, and skin); protects skin and eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease.”

    وَأَرْسَلْنَاهُ إِلَىٰ مِائَةِ أَلْفٍ أَوْ يَزِيدُونَ (147)

    37|147| Then We sent him unto a hundred thousand or more.96

    96. This is another way of saying they were more than a hundred thousand (Tabari from the Salaf).
    But it is likelier that the doubt about the true figure is from the observer’s point of view. If someone saw them he would have said, “Oh. They were a hundred thousand, or perhaps, a little more” (Razi, Qurtubi).
    As for the words “We sent him ... they believed; so We allowed them enjoyment for a while,” it has been suggested – as in Ibn Jarir - that he was perhaps sent to a fresh set of people who believed and were spared punishment until death. Baghawi has also mentioned this possibility (Ibn Kathir).
    Most other commentators believe however, that he went back to his people in Nineveh, ancient capital of Assyria, who welcomed him and were rewarded for their belief.
    At all events, the figure "a hundred thousand," (or, "fifty-thousand years": 70: 4) were perhaps employed for the first time in the history of the Arabic language. Pre-Prophet Arabs were unaware of such figures (Au.).

    فَآمَنُوا فَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ (148)

    37|148| They believed; so We allowed them enjoyment for a while.97

    97. As for the punishment being withheld, Thanwi points out that perhaps it was originally conditional to their belief. When they committed themselves, it was withdrawn.
    This writer’s belief is that Allah is not bound by any rule. He can punish or show mercy as He will to whom He will (Au.).
    As for their belief in Yunus (asws) after the fish episode, Mawdudi points out that a possible meaning is that they repented when they witnessed the scourge descending upon them, but formally declared their faith in him only upon his return.
    Mufti Shafi` recalls in this connection that Mirza Ahmed Qadiyani – the false Prophet - had also predicted a certain date when Allah’s chastisement would descend and destroy his opponents. The date passed and nothing happened. The liar then said that the chastisement had been postponed just as the chastisement of Yunus’ people was postponed. But what he forgot is that the people opposed to Yunus had repented, declared belief in him and had sought to be forgiven for their previous disbelief. As against that, those who had opposed Mirza Ahmed Qadiyani, never repented, but rather, had increased their opposition to him after his announcement of the date of their destruction, without any harm coming to them.

    فَاسْتَفْتِهِمْ أَلِرَبِّكَ الْبَنَاتُ وَلَهُمُ الْبَنُونَ (149)

    37|149| So seek their opinion, ‘Are daughters for your Lord, and sons for them?’98

    98. You might note that after presenting an account of the past Prophets, Allah now turns to describe the religious beliefs of the pagans (Razi).
    In Qatadah’s opinion the allusion is to angel-worship of the Arab pagans (Ibn Jarir).
    The pagans preferred sons for themselves (but attributed angels to Allah as His daughters). Allah said about this:
    Required Arabic Text???

    “When one of them is given the glad tiding of a female (child) his face remains dark as he suppresses his anger” (Ibn Kathir).

    أَمْ خَلَقْنَا الْمَلَائِكَةَ إِنَاثًا وَهُمْ شَاهِدُونَ (150)

    37|150| Or We created the angels females, while they are witnesses?99

    99. Among the Arabs, Juhaynah, Khuza`ah, Banu Mulayh, Banu Salamah and `Abd al-Dar held the belief that angels were females (Razi, Qurtubi).

    لَا إِنَّهُمْ مِنْ إِفْكِهِمْ لَيَقُولُونَ (151)

    37|151| Unquestionably, it is in their own slander (that) they say,

    وَلَدَ اللَّهُ وَإِنَّهُمْ لَكَاذِبُونَ (152)

    37|152| ‘Allah has begotten.’ Indeed, they are liars.

    أَصْطَفَى الْبَنَاتِ عَلَى الْبَنِينَ (153)

    37|153| Has he chosen daughters over sons?

    مَا لَكُمْ كَيْفَ تَحْكُمُونَ (154)

    37|154| What ails you then, how do you judge?

    أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ (155)

    37|155| Will you not then be admonished?

    أَمْ لَكُمْ سُلْطَانٌ مُبِينٌ (156)

    37|156| Or have you a clear authority?

    فَأْتُوا بِكِتَابِكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (157)

    37|157| Produce your Scripture then, if you are truthful.

    وَجَعَلُوا بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ الْجِنَّةِ نَسَبًا ۚ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمَتِ الْجِنَّةُ إِنَّهُمْ لَمُحْضَرُونَ (158)

    37|158| They have declared kinship between Him and the Jinn;100 but the Jinn know that they will be mustered.101

    100. While Mujahid and Suddi believed that by Jinn it is angels that are meant (jinn = angels: both being imperceptible creations: Razi, Qurtubi), whom the pagan Arabs thought were Allah’s daughters, Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah thought that the allusion is to the pagan belief that the Jinn and Allah are brothers (Ibn Jarir); they were close to the belief of the Zoroastrians (who, unable to sort out the question of good and evil, (fell on the false concept: Au.) that the world has two lords: a lord of good: God (Yezdan), and a lord of evil: Shaytan (Ahraman) – Razi, Shabbir.
    101. That is, angels know that whoever said such a thing will be brought forth for punishment (Qurtubi).

    سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ (159)

    37|159| Glorified is Allah, above what they attribute (to Him).

    إِلَّا عِبَادَ اللَّهِ الْمُخْلَصِينَ (160)

    37|160| Except for the chosen slaves of Allah.102

    102. There are two possibilities: either the exception is for those who will be “brought forth,” or for those who attribute daughters to Allah (Razi).

    فَإِنَّكُمْ وَمَا تَعْبُدُونَ (161)

    37|161| As for you, and what you worship,

    مَا أَنْتُمْ عَلَيْهِ بِفَاتِنِينَ (162)

    37|162| You will not mislead any away from Him,

    إِلَّا مَنْ هُوَ صَالِ الْجَحِيمِ (163)

    37|163| Except he who shall roast in the Blazing Fire.103

    103. The translation of verses 160-163 follows the understanding of the Salaf as in Ibn Jarir.

    وَمَا مِنَّا إِلَّا لَهُ مَقَامٌ مَعْلُومٌ (164)

    37|164| And, there is not one of us, but he has a known position.104


    104. That is, each of the pagans and believers occupies a known position with his Lord. The allusion could also be to the status each angel occupies in the sight of his Lord; to wit, status of fear, of gratefulness, hope, sincerity, and so on (Qurtubi).
    (Qatadah and Muqatil have said that) men and women Companions used to row up together in congregations until this ayah was revealed, ‘and, there is not one of us, but he has a known position’, after which they segregated themselves: men in front and women at the back (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    وَإِنَّا لَنَحْنُ الصَّافُّونَ (165)

    37|165| Indeed, we line up in rows.

    وَإِنَّا لَنَحْنُ الْمُسَبِّحُونَ (166)

    37|166| And indeed, we chant glory.105

    105. The Salaf have said that verses 164-166 are words of the angels, and the allusion is to their own Prayers in congregation in the heavens (Ibn Jarir). `A’isha has reported the Prophet as having said in reference to 164-166,
    Arabic Text Missing???
    “There is not a foot-space in the earthly heaven but occupied by an angel either in prostration or standing (in Prayers)” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Kathir adds: Ibn `Asakir has a report which says that the Prophet said, "The heaven is creaking, and it deserves to creak. There is not a foot’s space in it but there is an angel in deep bow or in prostration.”
    Hakim has a longer and slightly different version of this report about which he said that it has a trustworthy chain although the Sahihayn did not record it. The version in Hakim is also in Tirmidhi who declared it Hasan, while Suyuti, citing Ibn Majah apart from others, declared it weak in his Jami` al-Saghir, but Munawi writes that it is either Hasan or Sahih. Albani also declared – as pointed out by S.Ibrahim - one of its versions as trustworthy (Au.).
    Sahih of Muslim has a report which says that the Prophet came out to the Companions and said,“Will you not make your rows as the angels do before their Lord?” We asked, “Messenger of Allah, how do the angels make their rows before their Lord?” He answered, “They complete the front rows (first) and stand close to each other within them” (Qurtubi).
    And, it is reported of `Umar that when he stood before the congregation he would say, “People, straighten up, Allah wishes that you follow the angels – about whom He said, ‘Indeed, we line up in rows. And indeed, we chant glory’ – straighten up, you there, come forward, you there, go back a little, you there..” It is after they had properly lined up that he would go forward and lead in the Prayers (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    And Muslim has a hadith brought to us by Hudhayfah:The Prophet said, “We have been given preference over others in three things: our rows have been made on the pattern of the rows of the angels; the whole of the earth has been declared lawful for prostration; and, its dust has been made a means for cleansing (ourselves)” - Ibn Kathir, Alusi.

    وَإِنْ كَانُوا لَيَقُولُونَ (167)

    37|167| Although they used to say,

    لَوْ أَنَّ عِنْدَنَا ذِكْرًا مِنَ الْأَوَّلِينَ (168)

    37|168| ‘If only we had a Reminder from the ancients.

    لَكُنَّا عِبَادَ اللَّهِ الْمُخْلَصِينَ (169)

    37|169| We would have surely been Allah’s chosen slaves.’106

    106. Suddi, Dahhak, Ibn Zayd and others have said that the allusion is to the pagans of Makkah who used to say before the appearance of our Prophet that ‘had we received a Book from Allah, like the Jews and Christians did, we would have been better followers than they‘ (Ibn Jarir).

    فَكَفَرُوا بِهِ ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَعْلَمُونَ (170)

    37|170| Yet (when it came) they denied it; so they shall soon know.

    وَلَقَدْ سَبَقَتْ كَلِمَتُنَا لِعِبَادِنَا الْمُرْسَلِينَ (171)

    37|171| Already, Our word has preceded in favor of the slaves that were sent,107

    107. That is, the word of victory for the Messengers has been written down. As Allah said (58: 21),“Allah has written that surely I and My Messengers shall overpower.”
    Accordingly, Hasan said, “No Messenger was ever killed” (Qurtubi); that is, although Prophets were killed, Messengers were not.

    إِنَّهُمْ لَهُمُ الْمَنْصُورُونَ (172)

    37|172| That they indeed are the ones that shall be helped.

    وَإِنَّ جُنْدَنَا لَهُمُ الْغَالِبُونَ (173)

    37|173| And that, Our forces, surely, they shall be the victors.

    فَتَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ حَتَّىٰ حِينٍ (174)

    37|174| So turn away from them for a while.

    وَأَبْصِرْهُمْ فَسَوْفَ يُبْصِرُونَ (175)

    37|175| And watch them, they shall soon see.108

    108. By the word “soon” the allusion could either be to the day of Badr, or the Prophet’s death, or the Day of Judgment (Ibn Jarir from the Salaf, Razi, Qurtubi).

    أَفَبِعَذَابِنَا يَسْتَعْجِلُونَ (176)

    37|176| What, do they seek to hasten Our torment?

    فَإِذَا نَزَلَ بِسَاحَتِهِمْ فَسَاءَ صَبَاحُ الْمُنْذَرِينَ (177)

    37|177| But when it descends in their courtyard, then, evil is the morning of those that were warned.109

    109. Morning is the time when people start the day with new hopes and fresh resolves (Au.).
    (In this accord are the Prophetic words said at Khayber). Anas reported, as in the Sahihayn, that when the Prophet did his morning at Khayber, and the Jews came out of their forts with their axes and other agricultural tools, to discover the Prophet and his men, they hastened back to their forts saying, “Muhammad! By God, Muhammad and the army.” The Prophet responded by saying, “Allah is Great, Khayber is destroyed. Indeed, when we descend down into the courtyard of a people then, evil is the morning of those who were warned” (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi).

    وَتَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ حَتَّىٰ حِينٍ (178)

    37|178| So turn away from them for a while.

    وَأَبْصِرْ فَسَوْفَ يُبْصِرُونَ (179)

    37|179| And watch; they shall soon see.

    سُبْحَانَ رَبِّكَ رَبِّ الْعِزَّةِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ (180)

    37|180| Glorified is your Lord, Lord of the might, above that they attribute (to Him).

    وَسَلَامٌ عَلَى الْمُرْسَلِينَ (181)

    37|181| And peace upon those that were sent.110

    110. This is to promise that those that were sent will remain in peace on the Day of Judgment while the rest of the mankind will be in terror. And, (to touch upon another aspect of the meaning) Qatadah reports the Prophet’s words, “When you send peace to the me, also send peace to the Prophets, for I am one of the Messengers that were sent” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    The report is also in Ibn Abi Hatim (Ibn Kathir).

    وَالْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (182)

    37|182| And praise to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.111


    111. There are several reports that say that the last three verses may be recited at the end of every assembly. But none of them is appended with a good chain of transmitters (Au.).