Surat Şād

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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


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


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


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


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


  • Surah No. 38

    Merits of the Surah

    1. While Ibn `Abbas said that the letter “sad” here is a word of oath, Suddi thought it is one of the “huruf al-muqatta`at.
    On the other hand Hasan al-Busri said that “sad” is an imperative form of the word “sad” (s-a-d) meaning, “compare your deeds with the Qur’an, do they agree with each other)?” There are other explanations (Tabari, Zamakhshari [without naming authorities], Qurtubi).
    Yusuf Ali adds: “Sale’s note: ‘it may stand for Solomon’: is a real howler; for in Arabic the letter sad does not occur at all in the name of Solomon.”
    Sulayman starts with a “Sin” and not “Sad.” And these howlers form the dominating clan among the Orientalist tribe (Au.).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ ص ۚ وَالْقُرْآنِ ذِي الذِّكْرِ (1)

    38|1| Sad,1 by the Qur’an of the Reminder.2

    2. Or, “full of admonition.” Nonetheless, “dhi-adh-dhikr” was explained by Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, Abu Saleh, Suddi and others as meaning, “full of honor and of high-standing” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir), or, as Asad put it, “endowed with eminence.”
    Yusuf Ali points out, “.. the word ‘dhikr’ is far more comprehensive than any single word or phrase that I can think of in English: it implies (1) remembrance in a spirit of reverence; (2) recital, celebrating the praises of Allah; (3) teaching, admonition, warning; (4) Message, Revelations, as in “Ahlu al Dhikr” ‘those who possess the Message (xv: 43). Devotional exercises are also called ‘dhikr’, with reference to meaning (2) above.”

    بَلِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فِي عِزَّةٍ وَشِقَاقٍ (2)

    38|2| But those who have disbelieved are in pride and dissension.3

    3. “... they refuse to acknowledge the fact of divine revelation because such an acknowledgement would imply an admission of man’s responsibility to God – and this their false pride, manifested in their arrogant belief in man’s ‘self-sufficiency’, does not allow them to do” (Asad).
    As Allah (swt) said elsewhere about one of this class (2: 206),“When he told: ‘Fear Allah,’ he is led by arrogance to more sins” (Qurtubi and others).

    كَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ مِنْ قَرْنٍ فَنَادَوْا وَلَاتَ حِينَ مَنَاصٍ (3)

    38|3| How many a generation4 We destroyed before them? At length they cried out, but that was no time for escape.5

    4. Asad writes: “It is to be noted that the term “qarn” signifies not merely a ‘generation’ but also - and quite frequently in the Qur’an - ‘people belonging to a particular period and environment’, i.e., a ‘civilization’ in the historic connotation of this word.”
    5. There has been a good deal of discussion over the verse, Qurtubi and Alusi devoting several pages to the beautiful term “lata hina manas.” We have given the sum and substance – if it was possible - in the translation (Au.).
    The same thing has been expressed elsewhere in pointed words (21: 12-13):“When they felt Our chastisement (coming) they began to run away from it. ‘Do not run, return to the luxuries you were in, and to your homes, perhaps you will be questioned’” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَعَجِبُوا أَنْ جَاءَهُمْ مُنْذِرٌ مِنْهُمْ ۖ وَقَالَ الْكَافِرُونَ هَٰذَا سَاحِرٌ كَذَّابٌ (4)

    38|4| They wonder that a warner has come to them from among themselves. And said the unbelievers, ‘This is a sorcerer,6 a great liar.7

    6. In what sense did the Makkans refer to the Prophet (saws) as a sorcerer? Mawdudi explains: They used the epithet “sahir” (sorcerer, magician) for him because whoever came in contact with him, was overly influenced by him to such extent that he who declared faith in him, would not mind endangering huge material losses, was ready to face persecution, and was in fact, ready to break relations with his wife, children, parents and other dear ones. Who else, according to them, but a sorcerer could exercise such influence?
    7. That is, when he claims that he receives revelation (Qurtubi), and not in personal life, in which they never experienced a lie (Au.).
    In Asad’s words, “... i.e., it is not the personality of the Prophet that fills them with distrust, but, rather, the substance of the message proclaimed by him – and, in particular, his insistence on God’s absolute oneness and uniqueness, which runs counter to their habits of thought and social tradition.”

    أَجَعَلَ الْآلِهَةَ إِلَٰهًا وَاحِدًا ۖ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَشَيْءٌ عُجَابٌ (5)

    38|5| What? Has he made of the (several) deities, a single Deity?8 Surely, this is an amazing thing.’9

    8. Thanwi writes with reference to Ruh (but which statement could not be located there: Au.), that some Sufis have used this verse as evidence to prove validity of the concept of “Wahdatu al-Wujud” (Transcendent Unity of Being). But, he writes, as did Alusi, such reasoning is unreasonable because the purpose of this Qur’anic verse is to deny the existence in reality of any deities besides Allah.
    9. “This wonder is only simulated. They are full of envy and spite against one of themselves who has been chosen by Allah to be his Messenger, and they vent their spite by making all sorts of false accusations. The man who was pre-eminent for truth and conscientious considerations, they call ‘a sorcerer and a liar’!” (Yusuf Ali).
    Majid comments and quotes on the multiplicity of gods: “In the realm of polytheism the number of gods, higher and lower, and sub-deities is such that one is, in fact overwhelmed by their vast medley. ‘Starting from the theology of savage tribes the student arrives at the polytheistic hierarchies of the Aryan nations. In ancient Greece, the cloud-compelling Heaven-god reigns over deities as the god of War and the goddess of Love, the Sun-god and the Moon-goddess … In modern India, Brahma, Vishnu-Siva reign pre-eminent over a series of divinities … such figures as Indra of Heaven and Surya of the Sun, Agni of the Fire … the divine Rivers, and below the ranks of nymphs, elves, demons, ministering spirits, of heavens and earth.’ (PC., II, p.251).”
    Asad delves below the surface to explain: “Divorced from its purely historical background, this criticism acquires a timeless significance, and may thus be paraphrased: ‘Does he claim that all creative powers and qualities are inherent exclusively in what he conceived as “one God”?’ – a paraphrase which illustrates the tendency of many people to attribute a decisive influence on human life – and, hence, a quasi-divine status – to a variety of fortuitous phenomena or circumstances (like wealth, ‘luck’, social position, etc.) rather than to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence, in all observable nature, of God’s unique existence.”
    It is reported in this context by Ibn `Abbas that when Abu Talib fell sick a group of the chiefs of Quraysh went to him (afraid that he might die and leave the affair of the Prophet (saws) unsettled: Au.; and alarmed at `Umar’s Islam: Razi and Qurtubi) and told him to restrain his nephew who insulted their deities. Abu Talib sent for the Prophet. When he arrived, Abu Jahl hurried to occupy a vacant seat next to Abu Tablib fearing that the Prophet might soften his heart. So the Prophet had to sit near the door. Abu Talib told him that the Quraysh chiefs were complaining about him saying that he insulted their deities. The Prophet replied,“
    O my uncle, all I want from them is a single word; if they said it, the Arabs will follow them and the non-Arabs will pay them tribute.”
    They jumped and said, “One word, why, take ten from us.” The Prophet said, the word is,“There is no deity save Allah.” They tore their clothes and said (38: 5), “What? Has he made out of (several) deities, a single Deity?” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    The narrative is in Tirmidhi (who declared it Sahih); Nasa’i, Hakim, who also thought it was trustworthy, and many other collections (Shawkani).

    وَانْطَلَقَ الْمَلَأُ مِنْهُمْ أَنِ امْشُوا وَاصْبِرُوا عَلَىٰ آلِهَتِكُمْ ۖ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَشَيْءٌ يُرَادُ (6)

    38|6| And went forth the prominent ones among them (saying), ‘Move on, remain steadfast to your deities. Indeed, this is an affair well-directed10 (to gain advantages).

    10. As we would say today in journalistic language, “points to a hidden agenda” (Au.).

    مَا سَمِعْنَا بِهَٰذَا فِي الْمِلَّةِ الْآخِرَةِ إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا اخْتِلَاقٌ (7)

    38|7| We never heard (the like) of this in the last religion,11 surely this is nothing but an invention.

    11. Ibn `Abbas, Suddi and other said that the allusion by the “last religion” is to the last revealed religion, Christianity. Mujahid and Qatadah however thought the reference was to the religion of the Quraysh: paganism (Ibn Jarir, Razi without naming authorities).

    أَأُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ الذِّكْرُ مِنْ بَيْنِنَا ۚ بَلْ هُمْ فِي شَكٍّ مِنْ ذِكْرِي ۖ بَلْ لَمَّا يَذُوقُوا عَذَابِ (8)

    38|8| What? Has the Reminder been revealed to him out of us all?’12 But they are in doubt concerning My Reminder. But rather, they have not yet tasted My chastisement.

    12. This sentiment echoes in other verses. E.g. (43: 31),“Only if this Qur’an had been revealed to a man of these two major towns,” where the allusion was to Makkah and Ta’if (Zamakhshari).
    Nevertheless, the point was not that it should have been revealed to the noblest of them, (which the Prophet was, both genealogically as well as morally), but rather, the richest of them (Razi).
    The Orientalists use verses of this kind to prove that the Prophet (saws) was not genealogically the best of them. That is, if the Quraysh thought Muhammad was not the noblest of them, which is what their objection implies, then, they were right. See EI art., Muhammad. Ironically, their argument reveals that at heart the Orientalists believe that the Qur’an is not the Prophet’s product, since, if it was, it would not have contained verses that deny him noble lineage (Au.).

    أَمْ عِنْدَهُمْ خَزَائِنُ رَحْمَةِ رَبِّكَ الْعَزِيزِ الْوَهَّابِ (9)

    38|9| Or, have they the treasures of your Lord’s mercy, the Mighty, the Bestower?13

    13. “I.e., ‘Do they think that it is for them to decide as to who should and who should not be graced with divine revelation?” (Asad).

    أَمْ لَهُمْ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا ۖ فَلْيَرْتَقُوا فِي الْأَسْبَابِ (10)

    38|10| Or, is theirs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and what is between them? If so, let them then ascend up to the means.14

    14. The textual “al-asbab” has been explained by some of the Salaf as meaning “the heavens.” That is, let them climb up to the heavens (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Sa` id b. Jubayr and others said the allusion is to the “ways or means (such as ladders: Zamakhshari), to the heavens (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). In other words, they understood “al-asbab” as meaning, “the means by which they could ascend” (Au.).
    But Tabari also has a strange statement coming from Anas: “Asbab: It is thinner than hair, stronger than iron and exist in every place except that it is invisible.”
    It is strange because the allusion could either be to gravitons (particles yet to be discovered but which are strongly believed to fill the universe, through which the gravitational force works), or, to the new concept of the true nature of space. It is being said by the physicists that at ultramicroscopic distances - distances shorter than the Planck length - violent fluctuations are noted in the special fabric. A new field of study therefore, is now developing to unravel the mystery of the nature of space. This theory, known as the string theory, tries to reconcile the two irreconcilable theories: Einstein's theory of relativity, and the laws of quantum physics. Writes a contemporary scientist:
    "According to string theory, the elementary ingredients of the universe are not point particles. Rather, they are one-dimensional filaments somewhat like infinitely thin rubber bands, vibrating to and fro ... (But) unlike an ordinary piece of string, which is itself composed of molecules and atoms, the strings of string theory are purported to lie deep within the heart of matter. The theory proposes that they are ultramicroscopic ingredients making up the particles out of which atom themselves are made. The strings of string theory are so small – on average they are about as long as the Planck length – that they appear pointlike even when examined with our most powerful equipment." (Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe, p. 136, Vintage Books, New York, 2003) – Au.
    Asad takes up yet another issue hidden in the verse, “Do they think that human beings are so highly endowed that they are bound to attain, some day, to mastery over the universe and all nature, and thus to God-like power?”
    In contemporary context we might point out that the Qur’anic prediction that humans will never be able to go beyond a certain distance in space, has come to be acknowledged by the scientists. It was not but a few decades ago when the scientists were talking about going deep into space, traveling from star to star, galaxy to galaxy, and coming back enriched with resources essential for human survival on earth. Some of them boasted of taking the earth itself – through human power – out of the decaying Solar system, and placing it into another area in space orbiting around another sun, where, enriched by the new environment, the human race could continue living forever instead of the presently predicted mere four billion years. Four billion years is the estimated time that the sun will take to burn all its hydrogen after which it will flare up into a huge fire-ball burning its helium when its size will grow to such a magnitude as to engulf the earth, burning down all that there is on it now – a prospect that had dismayed Bertrand Russell.
    But now it is being realized that anything that moves anywhere near the speed of light assumes such mass that it becomes impossible to be moved: ever increase in speed implies ever increasing mass of the moving body, in turn implying ever increasing demand on the supply of energy for the journey; in other words, a self defeating enterprise. Secondly, movement in space implies movement through time, meaning, a much faster movement of time for the travelers in space than those on the earth, so that a couple of years through a distant space would mean perhaps thousands of years on earth. Any venture deep into the universe then is doomed to failure from the start (Au.).

    جُنْدٌ مَا هُنَالِكَ مَهْزُومٌ مِنَ الْأَحْزَابِ (11)

    38|11| Forces these are, of the confederates (that will be) routed.15

    15. Mujahid has said that by “jund” (forces) it is the Quraysh that are meant, while by “ahzab” (confederates), the allusion is to forces of the past. And, to put the verse differently, adds Tabari: “These are forces like the forces of the past nations, (lying) defeated there.”
    Allah (swt) said elsewhere (54: 44-45), “Or, do they say, ‘We are a band (that will emerge) victorious.‘ Soon the band will be defeated and will show their backs” (Ibn Kathir).
    The verse held a prediction which came true when the Quraysh too, along with the confederates, returned defeated in their purposes from the battle of the Trench (Qurtubi in brief).
    Most commentators have pointed out that the forces of this occurrence were routed at Badr. But, if we consider the situation at the Battle of the Ditch, when a confederate of forces came down intending to annihilate the Muslims root and branch – some 20,000 against perhaps 3-4000 Muslims – but were virtually routed by Allah’s forces, then we can legitimately say that the ayah made a perfect prediction of that event (Au.).

    كَذَّبَتْ قَبْلَهُمْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ وَعَادٌ وَفِرْعَوْنُ ذُو الْأَوْتَادِ (12)

    38|12| Laid the lie before them the people of Nuh, `Ad, and Fir`awn – he of the stakes.16

    16. With reference to “awtad,” Suddi and Ibn Anas said that Fir`awn used to torture people by pegging them to the ground (and setting loose on them snakes and scorpions: as noted by most commentators), and hence “the man of pegs or stakes” (Tabari). Another possibility, among others, is that Fir`awn commanded a huge army that, when it pitched its tents, made a terrifying site with numberless pegs (and poles: Asad), and hence “he of the pegs” (Razi, Qurtubi).
    Asad adds: “In classical Arabic, this ancient Bedouin term is used idiomatically as a metonym for ‘mighty dominion’ or ‘firmness of power’ ([as in] Zamakhshari). The number of poles supporting a bedouin tent is determined by its size, and the latter has always depended on the status and power of its owner; thus, a mighty chieftain is often alluded to as, ‘he of many poles.’”

    وَثَمُودُ وَقَوْمُ لُوطٍ وَأَصْحَابُ الْأَيْكَةِ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ الْأَحْزَابُ (13)

    38|13| And Thamud, Lut’s people, and the men of the thicket:17 those were the confederates.18

    17. That is, the people of Shu`ayb (Razi).
    18. That is, those were confederates, and forces like you are, O Quraysh. But what was their end?

    إِنْ كُلٌّ إِلَّا كَذَّبَ الرُّسُلَ فَحَقَّ عِقَابِ (14)

    38|14| Not one (of them) but cried lies to the Messengers, and deserved My penalty.19

    19. Yusuf Ali places this note slightly above: “In their day, Noah’s contemporaries, or the ‘Ad and the Thamud, so frequently mentioned, or Pharaoh the mighty king of Egypt, or the people to whom Lot was sent (cf. xxxvii. 75-82; vii. 65-73; vii. 103-137; vii. 80-84) were examples of arrogance and rebellion against Allah: they rejected the divine Message brought by their messengers, and they all came to an evil end. Will not their posterity learn their lesson?”

    وَمَا يَنْظُرُ هَٰؤُلَاءِ إِلَّا صَيْحَةً وَاحِدَةً مَا لَهَا مِنْ فَوَاقٍ (15)

    38|15| And, these (too) wait not but for a single shriek, which will brook no delay.20

    20. Also pronounced “fuwaq” by some, lit., it is the interval between one milking of an animal, and another, perhaps for relaxing the fingers, or to allow the young to suck.
    Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Suddi interpreted “fawaq” as meaning “return” (Tabari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). That is, once the Trumpet is blown into, there will be no return (to the situation and conditions of the world as known today: Au.). Some others have understood as meaning: the Trumpet-blowing will have no pause or ending thereto (Ibn Kathir and others).

    وَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا عَجِّلْ لَنَا قِطَّنَا قَبْلَ يَوْمِ الْحِسَابِ (16)

    38|16| And they said, ‘O Our Lord, hasten to us our share before the Day of Reckoning.’21

    21. The allusion is to the Quraysh’s demand that the punishment be hastened upon them. This is how Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Suddi and Sa`id b. Jubayr understood it. But it could as well be that they demanded sarcastically that their good share of the Hereafter may be granted here and now since they did not believe in the Hereafter anyway (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    اصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَاذْكُرْ عَبْدَنَا دَاوُودَ ذَا الْأَيْدِ ۖ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ (17)

    38|17| Bear patiently what they say and remember Our slave Da’ud, a man of strength,22 an unfailing penitent.23

    22. While Ibn `Abbas said “dhu al-ayd” meant the man of strength, Mujahid, Qatadah, Suddi and other added, ‘in devotion.’ That is, he was a man of strength in devotional matters (Tabari). This is supported by a Prophetic statement which says, as in the Sahihayn:The best of Prayers in the sight of Allah was that of Da’ud and the best of fasts in the sight of Allah was that of Da’ud: he slept half of the night, stood up in Prayers one third and (then again) slept off one sixth. And he would fast a day, and break a day” (Ibn Kathir).
    On the other hand, Ibn `Abbas’ opinion is strengthened by another verse which says (51: 47):“And the heaven, We built it with strength and We are expanding it” (Ibn Kathir).
    Another example is (19: 12),“O Yahya, hold the Book with strength.” There are other examples of this usage (Razi).
    23. Although, and as usual, the Bible does not treat David kindly, Western writers have treated him differently. It is falsely alleged by Jewish and Christian writers that Prophet Muhammad drew much material from Biblical sources. In this case, however, latter day Jewish and Christians seem to have drawn much from the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions. Majid comments and quotes from them: “That David was a deeply religious personality is admitted even by the unfriendly critics: ‘David himself was sincerely loyal to Jehovah, Israel’s God. His battles were fought and his victories won in the name of Jehovah. None of his public acts was marked by any disloyalty or unfaithfulness to Jehovah. Through David the popular conception of the power of Jehovah must have been greatly strengthened.’ (NSBD, p. 172) ‘He was a sincerely religious man, a devout worshipper of Yahweh’ (EBr. VII. P. 78).. ‘David’s piety was so great that his prayers were able to bring things heavenly down to earth.’ (JE, IV, p. 455).”

    إِنَّا سَخَّرْنَا الْجِبَالَ مَعَهُ يُسَبِّحْنَ بِالْعَشِيِّ وَالْإِشْرَاقِ (18)

    38|18| We subjected the mountains singing praises along with him at nightfall24 and sunrise.25

    24. “`Ashiyy”: in common parlance “evening time” but in classical times the term referred to either (1) the time between sun’s decline until sunset or (2) the time between sun’s decline until next day’s morning (Lisan), while “Ishraq” is either (1) first hour of the day, or (2) the time between sunrise until it begins to decline. This is the reason why “Salatu al-Duha” (normally offered an hour before noon) is also referred to as “Salatu al-Ishraq,” which is normally offered some 20 mts. after sunrise (Au.).
    25. Some scholars have suggested that the “tasbih” of the mountains could be of the same nature as that of the handful of pebbles that the Prophet (saws) once held against the ears of some of his Companions and they heard their “tasbih” (Alusi).
    It is reported that Ibn `Abbas did not Pray “Salatu ad-Duha” because he did not feel comfortable about it until he entered upon Umm Hani (Abu Talib’s daughter) and asked her about the Prophet (as to what he did when he entered Makkah triumphant). She said, “He entered my house, ordered a tub to be filled, asked for a cloth to be stretched between me and him and bathed himself. Thereafter he sprinkled some water at one corner of the house and offered eight cycles of Prayer: in which all actions were of more or less equal duration. Ibn `Abbas came out saying, “I had read the Qur’an from cover to cover but did not know what Salah al-Duha is. I used to ask, ‘Where is Salah al-Ishraq?’ until I found it in this verse” (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Umm Hani’s report is, according to Haythami, not very strong (S. Ibrahim), but various versions of reports concerning Salah al-Duha are to be found in the Sahihayn and other collections (Shawkani, Alusi).

    وَالطَّيْرَ مَحْشُورَةً ۖ كُلٌّ لَهُ أَوَّابٌ (19)

    38|19| And the birds, assembled together; all (of them) obedient to him.26

    26. That is, all of them responded to him with their own voices of glory when Da’ud recited the Zabur (Razi and others).

    وَشَدَدْنَا مُلْكَهُ وَآتَيْنَاهُ الْحِكْمَةَ وَفَصْلَ الْخِطَابِ (20)

    38|20| And We strengthened his kingdom, gave him wisdom27 and decisive speech.28

    27. It is said that every statement that agrees with the truth is “hikmah” (Zamakhshari).
    28. Fasl al-khitab: That is, skill at judgment: Ibn `Abbas and others. It was further explained by Qadi Shurayh as one which consists in demanding witnesses and (if not found) resorting to oaths. But it is better, writes Tabari, to leave it open and say that the words refer to skill in judgment.
    “Sagacity of judgment” is another possibility (Asad).
    Sha`bi said that the allusion is to saying “amma ba`d” before starting a speech (Ibn Jarir). This is what Abu Musa (al-Ash`ari) also said (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani), but Da’ud could not have been the first to say those words (Alusi).
    Imam Razi disagrees with the above interpretations and says that there is no reason why the apparent meaning should be abandoned viz., Da’ud (asws) was given the power of speech and the ability to express every shade of meaning he had in mind.
    One may note that Allah (swt) mentioned no less than ten reasons as to why Da’ud (asws) should be an example (Razi).

    وَهَلْ أَتَاكَ نَبَأُ الْخَصْمِ إِذْ تَسَوَّرُوا الْمِحْرَابَ (21)

    38|21| And, has the tiding of the disputants come to you? When they scaled the sanctuary!29

    29. That is, they did not come by the door, but rather climbed the wall of his private chamber of worship.
    The textual word “mihrab” is for an upper room, the best part of a house, where the head of the house sat, and latterly, a room reserved for devotional acts. Raghib has said that the mosque’s “mihrab” is so called because that is the place where a person fights (from “harb”: war) or struggles against Shaytan and his influences (although, “mihrab” of today’s mosques, in its specific shape, did not, as Suyuti has pointed out in an article on this topic, exist during the Prophet’s time). Some others have said that originally “mihrab” was used for a place of worship alone, from where it was taken to be used for the best part of a house (Alusi).

    إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَىٰ دَاوُودَ فَفَزِعَ مِنْهُمْ ۖ قَالُوا لَا تَخَفْ ۖ خَصْمَانِ بَغَىٰ بَعْضُنَا عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ فَاحْكُمْ بَيْنَنَا بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا تُشْطِطْ وَاهْدِنَا إِلَىٰ سَوَاءِ الصِّرَاطِ (22)

    38|22| When they entered upon Da’ud;30 and so he was alarmed by them.31 They said, ‘Do not be alarmed. (We) two are disputants: one of whom has wronged the other. Therefore, judge between us with Truth. Stray not (away from truth), but lead us to the straight path.32

    30. The addition of the words, “they entered upon Da’ud” inform us that after scaling the wall, the two did not stop there, but advanced further to enter upon Da’ud (right in his private room) - Razi.
    31. For, (perhaps) they had come by night and had not used the door. Further, it is possible that the two had come that way with ill intentions, under the impression that Da’ud would not be guarded. But when they found him guarded, they dug up the story of ninety-nine and one ewes (Razi).
    32. Thus they spoke offensively with Da’ud, almost accusing him. But he kept his cool, and thus passed the test except that when he pronounced his judgment, he addressed the plaintiff, instead of first inquiring the defendant about the truth of the matter, which was perhaps the error he made (that led him to seek Allah’s forgiveness) - Thanwi.
    The second half of the above has been voiced by many commentators (Au.).

    إِنَّ هَٰذَا أَخِي لَهُ تِسْعٌ وَتِسْعُونَ نَعْجَةً وَلِيَ نَعْجَةٌ وَاحِدَةٌ فَقَالَ أَكْفِلْنِيهَا وَعَزَّنِي فِي الْخِطَابِ (23)

    38|23| This is my brother.33 He has ninety-nine ewes while I have just one ewe. Now, he says, “Entrust it to me,” and has prevailed over me in speech.’34

    33. That is, a brother in faith.
    34. This tells us by implication that personal or social pressure to force a Muslim into doing something or giving away something, is not allowed. For example, if someone uses his authoritative position to make a Muslim yield a gift, which he is not happy to yield, then it would amount to “ghasab” (impounding). Similarly, a group of men going up to a Muslim to pressurize him into making a charitable donation, say for a mosque or some other good cause, is not recommended. Those who collect funds for Madrasas, mosques, or other social causes may pay special attention to this. The Prophet (saws) has said,“A Muslim’s wealth is not lawful except by his cheerful assent” (Mufti Shafi`).

    قَالَ لَقَدْ ظَلَمَكَ بِسُؤَالِ نَعْجَتِكَ إِلَىٰ نِعَاجِهِ ۖ وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِنَ الْخُلَطَاءِ لَيَبْغِي بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَقَلِيلٌ مَا هُمْ ۗ وَظَنَّ دَاوُودُ أَنَّمَا فَتَنَّاهُ فَاسْتَغْفَرَ رَبَّهُ وَخَرَّ رَاكِعًا وَأَنَابَ ۩ (24)

    38|24| He said, ‘He has undoubtedly wronged in asking your ewe to (be added) to his ewes. And truly, most partners (are such that) some of them oppress others; except those who believe and do deeds of righteousness,35 but how few are they?!’ And Da’ud understood that We had tested him and so he sought forgiveness of his Lord,36 fell down deeply bowing, and turned repentant.37

    35. This is not only to say that practicing Muslims do not deceive each other, but also that their entry into partnership with anyone, for any apparent material reason, is – at bottom - of the kind where each seeks moral, spiritual and religious advantages of the other (Razi in different words).
    36. In connection with the test and forgiveness, the following is in Hakim’s collection who treated it as trustworthy and which assessment Dhahabi seconded. It is also in Bayhaqi’s “Shu`ab”: Da’ud was struck by delight bordering to self-congratulation, to say, “O my Lord! There is not an hour during the day or the night when one of Da’ud’s family is not in prayer, recitation, remembrance, chanting glory, or engaged in similar devotional acts.” He was told by Allah (swt) that this was only because of His own attention and paving of the way making it easy for them all. He was also told that he would be tested. And the test consisted in he being freed (of Allah’s help). That is, he would be given charge of his self altogether. Da’ud asked that he be told of the day it would happen, which was done, and so Da’ud shut himself up in the Sanctuary (Shawkani), [yet he fell into the error that he did: Au.].
    The above story however does not say how exactly Da’ud was tried and what was the error he fell into (Au.).
    Imam Razi has another explanation. It is possible, he states, that although the two had entered with an ill purpose, Da’ud’s kindly treatment provoked them to repentance and to invoking him to seek their forgiveness which explains the words, “he sought forgiveness of his Lord.”
    Following their habit of passing on whatever they heard, many early commentators, including Ibn Jarir, have narrated stories that seem to have come from Jewish sources. They state in sum and substance that the piety, wisdom and material power that Da’ud commanded, provoked him into a sort of temporary vain-glory. He even sought to be granted the same status as major Messengers such as Ibrahim (asws) and others were granted. Allah wished to teach him a lesson. One day, as he happened to be on his roof-top he saw a woman bathing. She pleased him, he sent her soldier husband to battle-front until he got killed. Thereafter he married the woman. According to some versions Da’ud, although he had ninety-nine wives, had asked her husband to divorce her so that he could marry her.
    Qurtubi dismisses the story as what it is, viz., baseless, and Ibn Kathir points out that none of the versions has a good chain of narrators. (Both Abu Hayyan and Baydawi rejected the stories: f.n. Qurtubi). Imam Razi takes it up for a detailed refutation running over several pages. He points that the story is too fanciful, and unbefitting a Prophet to be accepted for narration. Far from a Prophet, whom Allah (swt) praised as possessing ten outstanding qualities, whose example He commanded Muhammad to follow, not even a man of low morals would plan and execute such an absurd thing without winning universal disapproval. The story alleges that Da’ud planned the murder of one of his followers. Could that be true when our Prophet said, “Whoever helped in shedding blood of a Muslim, even by a word, will appear on the Day of Judgment with the words written on his forehead, ‘Despaired of Allah’s mercy.’” Another hadith says, “A Muslim is one, from whose tongue and hands others are in peace.” When such are the qualities of an ordinary believer, could such things be attributed to a Prophet of the past?
    Imam Razi would not even accept that the story is allegorical, that it were two angels that had come to test him because such assumption will imply a lie on the angels, one of whom said, “We two are disputants” while they were not. Qurtubi and Alusi however maintain that if we assume that the two had agreed between themselves that this is how they shall talk, then the implication of a lie is removed. Alusi adds that the opinion that the two were angels is almost unanimous, although the story concerning the woman is obviously not.
    Zamakhshari also discounts the stories that have circulated both among the laities as well as the non-laities about Da’ud (asws) and reports Sa` id ibn Jubayr and Harith al-A`war as saying that `Ali had promised to flog with 160 lashes anyone he heard was narrating such stories; (but Zaynuddin Iraqi thought the report is weak: Alusi). When `Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz mentioned the story, a scholar sitting there protested saying, “If the story is not in the Qur’an, then its narration is a slander against a Prophet and if true – by any chance – then it is best not to publicize what Allah left concealed.” It seems Ibn `Abdul `Aziz was quite pleased with the remark.
    Caution demands, conclude Zamakhshari, Razi, Ibn Kathir and some others, that we say no more than what the Qur’an has said, whether we understand the text or we do not.
    Sayyid Qutb remarks that even modified and diluted versions of the story are not acceptable in view of the praises the Qur’an lavished on Da’ud.
    Qadi Baydawi, Abu Hayyan, Ibn Jawzi, Abu Sa`ud, Qadi `Ayad, Khazin, Ibn Hazm, Khifaji, Abu Tammam, and others have all discounted the story refusing to accept any part of it as true (Shafi`).
    All said, how catchy and alluring stories are, can be judged from the fact that a famous contemporary commentator, who, while criticizing the Bible, spins out a completely new version of the story that seems to be entirely from his own imagination (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali points to inner contradictions in the Bible, which must be compared with the sublime notes on Ayyub in the Qur’an. He writes, “Those who think they see a resemblance to the Parable of the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel, xii. 1-12) have nothing to go upon but the mention of the “one ewe” here and the “one little ewe-lamb” in Nathan’s Parable. The whole story is here different, and the whole atmosphere is different. The Biblical title given to David, “a man after God’s own heart” is refuted by the Bible itself in the scandalous tale of heinous crimes attributed to David in chapters xi and xii. of 2 Samuel, viz., adultery, fraudulent dealing with one of his own servants, and the contriving of his murder. Further, in chapter xiii, we have the story of rapes, incest, and fratricide in David’s own household! The fact is that passages like those are mere chroniques scandaleuses, i.e., narratives of scandalous crimes of the grossest character.”
    37. Some people are led to believe that D a’ud must truly have committed some kind of sin for Allah to have said, “he sought forgiveness of his Lord, fell down deeply bowing, and turned repentant.” Yusuf Ali paraphrases the sentiments of many commentators when he writes: “Some commentators say that David’s fault here was his hastiness in judging before hearing the case of the other party. When he realised his lapse, he fell down in repentance.” But, Imam Razi points out, had not Allah (swt) said to our Prophet (47: 19), “And seek forgiveness for your sins and for believing men and women.”
    Sajdah al-Tilawah:
    What Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir write can be summed up in the following manner: Scholars have differed over “sujud” at this point, whether it is a prostration of thanks or the obligatory type. Ibn `Abbas thought – as in a report of Bukhari, Abu Da’ud and others - that a “sajdah” at this point is not obligatory although “I have seen the Prophet prostrating himself.” In a Sahih report preserved by Nasa’i, Ibn `Abbas said, “The Prophet prostrated himself during (the recitation of Surah) Sad” and remarked, ‘Da’ud prostrated himself by way of repentance while we prostrate ourselves by way of thanks.’”
    With regard to what may be preferably said during the “sajdah al-tilawah” at this point, (I have personally heard my Sheikh Mizzi narrate through his own chain reaching up to Ibn `Abbas: Ibn Kathir) that, A man came up (identified as Abu Sa`id al-Khudri in Tuhfah: Au.) to the Prophet (saws) and said, “I saw in my dream that I am Praying behind a tree. I recited a (verse carrying the) prostration-verse. So I prostrated myself and the tree also prostrated itself and I heard the tree say in its prostration,‘O Allah, write for me thereby a reward with You, remove from me thereby a sin, and preserve it with You as a reward for me and accept it from me as You accepted it from Your slave Da’ud.’
    “When the Prophet recited an ayah containing a “sajdah,” continued Ibn `Abbas, he prostrated himself and I heard him say the same words.”
    While on the topic of sajdah al-tilawah, we might add the following: A hadith in Tirmidhi, which he declared Hasan Sahih, has `A’isha saying that when the Prophet did his sajdah al-tilawah, he would say the following words during the prostration:“My face prostrates itself for Him who created it, and who fissured its hearing and sight by His strength and power.” Muslim and others have reported however, that the Prophet used to say the above words during all his prostrations, including the prostration of Salah. Perhaps it is in view of this that Mullah `Ali Qari has said, as in Tuhfah, that one might say during sajdah of tilawah falling within the Prayers what he normally says in his sujud viz.However, if it is out of Prayers one could say the words of his choice, such as the two Prayer-words noted above.
    It may be noted that the following is in Tuhfatu al-Ahwadhi: “Tirmidhi declared the above hadith weak. Nevertheless, Ibn Hibban preserved it in his Sahih, as also Hakim in his Mustadrak declaring it Sahih, with the backing of Dhahahabi [as noted in Al-Mirqah]. It is also in Ibn Majah. However, `Uqayli declared the report weak. [Haythami did not discuss it]. And, except for a minority, most scholars believe one should not offer the prostration if he recited or heard the ayah of sajdah, unless he is in a state of ablution” (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir continues: “A report in Ahmad has it that Abu Sa`id al-Khudri dreamt that he was writing down Surah Sad. When he reached this verse, he found that the pen, the ink-pot and everything around him prostrated itself. He spoke of it to the Prophet. Thereafter, he (i.e. the Prophet) always prostrated himself at this point.” Abu Da’ud has another narrative on this topic:“On the authority of Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, once the Prophet recited this Surah on the mimber. When he reached this verse, he prostrated himself and so did his Companions. When he recited it another time and reached this verse, the people prepared themselves for the prostration (but the Prophet did not). He said, “That was a repentance of a Prophet. But as I see, you are quite predisposed to prostrating yourselves.” Then he came down (the mimber) and prostrated himself, and so did others.” (Quote from Ibn Kathir ends here).
    Haythami declared it Sahih (Au.).
    Mufti Shafi` adds: The following maybe remembered in connection with “sajdah al-tilawah”:
    (1) In view of the ayah above, where Allah (swt) mentioned “raka`a” (instead of “sajada”), the Hanafiyyah allow one to go into “ruku`” at “ayah sajdah” (instead of making a “sajdah”).
    (2) But the above is allowable in obligatory Prayers alone (since there can be a large crowd behind an Imam who will be thrown into confusion if he went into prostration, instead of “ruku`”, especially if his followers do not hear the recitation, or do not know Arabic: Au.).
    (3) The above is not allowable if one is reciting the Qur’an and reaches this point. He cannot offer a deep bow instead of “sajdah”.
    (4) Going into “ruku`” in an obligatory Prayer, instead of “sajdah” is only allowable, if one either goes into “ruku`” directly after the recitation of the “ayah sajdah” or, perhaps two or three verses after it, but not more. But of course, it is better to go into a “sajdah” rather than a “ruku`” even during an obligatory Prayer.

    فَغَفَرْنَا لَهُ ذَٰلِكَ ۖ وَإِنَّ لَهُ عِنْدَنَا لَزُلْفَىٰ وَحُسْنَ مَآبٍ (25)

    38|25| So We forgave him that.38 And indeed, he has closeness to Us, and a fair resort.39

    38. This forgiveness is in the same vein as was said to our Prophet (48: 2),“In order that Allah may forgive the sins of your past and future” (Razi).
    39. This refers to Da’ud’s spiritual closeness to Allah. A trustworthy Prophetic tradition (in Muslim: H. Ibrahim) says, “Those who observe justice will be on mimbers of nur by the right hand side of the Rahman - and both His hands are right - those who administer justice in their judgments, treat justly their home-folk and those they have been given the charge of” (Ibn Kathir).

    يَا دَاوُودُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَاكَ خَلِيفَةً فِي الْأَرْضِ فَاحْكُمْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعِ الْهَوَىٰ فَيُضِلَّكَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَضِلُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ بِمَا نَسُوا يَوْمَ الْحِسَابِ (26)

    38|26| (We said), ‘O Da’ud, We have indeed made you a vicegerent in the earth,40 therefore, judge between the people with Truth,41 and follow not base desires lest they mislead you away from Allah’s path. Surely those who wander away from Allah’s path: for them is a severe chastisement, for having forgotten the Day of Reckoning.

    40. That is, one who implements Allah’s laws (Razi).
    41. Men are social by nature, writes Razi. This being so, while living together and interacting with each other, they must enter into disputes. Therefore, there has to be someone to decide among the disputants. Da’ud is being told that you have to act as the judge, since you, after all, are also required to impose and implement Allah’s laws.

    وَمَا خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاءَ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا بَاطِلًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ظَنُّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ۚ فَوَيْلٌ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنَ النَّارِ (27)

    38|27| And We have not created the heaven and the earth and what is between them in vain.42 That is the assumption of those who have disbelieved. Woe then, unto those who have disbelieved for the Fire.43

    42. It is common observance that the pious suffer at the hands of corrupt individuals and societies. If there is no Day of Reckoning, then the obvious conclusion is that life on earth is entirely futile. The Day of Reckoning therefore, is a demand of reason. This connects this ayah with the previous one (Razi, Ibn Kathir reworded). See Asad’s comment below.
    43. Asad discusses the issue of disbelief: “i.e., a deliberate rejection of the belief that the universe – and, in particular, human life – is imbued with meaning and purpose leads unavoidably – though sometimes imperceptibly – to a rejection of all moral imperatives, to spiritual blindness and, hence, to suffer in the life to come.”

    أَمْ نَجْعَلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ كَالْمُفْسِدِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَمْ نَجْعَلُ الْمُتَّقِينَ كَالْفُجَّارِ (28)

    38|28| Or, shall We make those who believed and acted righteously, like those who cause corruption in the land? Or, shall We treat the righteous like the wicked?44

    44. Asad again: “By implication, belief in resurrection, judgment and life after death is postulated in this passage (verses 27-28) as a logical corollary – almost a premise – of all belief in God: for, since we see that many righteous people suffer all manner of misery and deprivations in this world, while, on the other hand, many of the wicked and depraved enjoy their lives in peace and affluence, we must either assume that God does not exist (because the concept of injustice is incompatible with that of Godhead), or – alternatively – that there is a hereafter in which both the righteous and the unrighteous will harvest in full what they had morally sown during their lives on earth.”

    كِتَابٌ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ مُبَارَكٌ لِيَدَّبَّرُوا آيَاتِهِ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ (29)

    38|29| A Book We have sent down to you, blessed, that they may ponder over its verses,45 and so that those who are bestowed with reason may be reminded.46

    45. Hasan said, “By Allah, a man did not ponder over the Qur’an if he memorized its words, but wasted away its commands and prohibitions. One of them says, ‘I have read whole of the Qur’an,’ but, in actual fact, the Qur’an is not visible in his behavior and dealings” (Ibn Kathir).
    46. “The creation of the heaven and earth, and what is between them is not a falsehood, and is not built on a false premise. It is 'the truth,' and has been established on the truth. It is from this truth that spring forth all the rights: the right of Khilafah in the earth, the right to judge between the people, the right to reshape people’s emotions and activities so that, not rendered equal are those who believe and live righteously and those who spread corruption in the earth, nor should the weight of the pious be equal to that of the wicked. The truth that this blessed Book has brought and which Allah has revealed in order that men of reason ponder over its content and so that men of reason may be reminded of the true basis upon which this universe is built: such truths as are imperceptible to the unbelievers, for, their nature does not match with the basic truths behind the construction of this world; moreover, they have evil ideas about their Lord, and, therefore, cannot attain to any of the noble characteristics of the truth – ‘That is the assumption of those who have disbelieved. Woe then, unto those who have disbelieved, because of the Fire.’
    “Allah’s laws for the people are just one part of a set of laws that govern the universe. The Book that He has sent down expounds the truth upon which the universe is established. The justice that is demanded of the vicegerents in the earth, and of the rulers, is only a part of the whole truth. People’s affairs will never be righted but when this part matches with the whole of the set of laws operating this universe. Any deviation from Allah’s laws and the truth, in vicegerency and in delivering justice, is a deviation from the Truth upon which the universe is built and run. This is a matter of great consequence. It should be obvious that any clash with the great overwhelming Truth will only result in the destruction of those that clash against it. The transgressing deviators, deviating from Allah’s ways and laws operating the universe, cannot thrive for long. It is not possible for such of them, with weak forces in their command, to stand up for long against the irresistible grinding force of the truth.
    “This is what should the ponderers think over, and the men of reason should be reminded of” (Sayyid).
    It is the irony of times that, as these words are being written at the end of 2011, the world, with the West in the forefront, faces a a melt-down - material, economic, social, political, and civilizational - and a predicted complete collapse within a decade or two, Sayyid's commentary is banned in the leading nations of the world! (Au.).

    وَوَهَبْنَا لِدَاوُودَ سُلَيْمَانَ ۚ نِعْمَ الْعَبْدُ ۖ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ (30)

    38|30| And We bestowed Sulayman on Da’ud - an excellent slave47 who was an unfailing penitent.48

    47. Although Jews and Christians also consider him as of the patriarchs, we could contrast this Qur’anic description with Biblical tributes:
    He married Fir`awn’s daughter:
    “Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh, king of Egypt; he took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David...” (1Kings, 3: 1).
    This and other pagan wives that Solomon had taken, corrupted his faith:
    “Now, King Solomon loved many foreign women: the daughter of Pharaoh, and Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them.’ Solomon clung to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods. And the Lord was angry with Solomon.” (1 Kings, 11: 1-9).
    Here is another tribute to Solomon from the Jews and Christians:
    Solomon was cruel and oppressive, “And they sent and called him; and Jeroboam and all Israel came and said to Rehoboam (Solomon’s son who took control after his death: Au.), ‘Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore, lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us, and we will serve you.’” (2 Chr. 10: 3-5).
    Yet, when the Jews and Christians are told, “Your Scriptures have been corrupted, and, therefore, the world needs another incorruptible Scripture,” they stare at the Muslims anger and disbelief (Au.).
    48. Ibn Abi Hatim preserved Mak-hul who reported that Sulayman was much devoted to Allah. When Allah (swt) had bestowed him to Da’ud (and he had grown) he asked him, “My little son, what is the best thing (in life)?” He replied, “Tranquility from Allah, and belief in Him.” He asked, “And what is the worst?” He replied, “Disbelief after belief.” He asked, “And which is the sweetest?” He answered, “Allah’s mercy among His slaves.” He asked, “And what is the coolest?” He answered, “Allah’s forgiveness of the people and people’s forgiveness of each other.” Da’ud remarked, “Then you are a Prophet” (Ibn Kathir); meaning perhaps, that “you are a Prophet in the making” (Au.).

    إِذْ عُرِضَ عَلَيْهِ بِالْعَشِيِّ الصَّافِنَاتُ الْجِيَادُ (31)

    38|31| When there were presented to him in the afternoon nobly-bred49 swift footed steeds.50

    49. “Safinat” (sing. “Safin”) has its root in “safinatun” meaning, to stand. It is used for a horse when it stands on its three legs, raising the front fourth, just touching its hoof to the ground. Obviously, a beautiful image. The same is stated in Jalalayn:50. Note the description, write Zamakhshari and Razi: the steeds were a beautiful sight when standing, and the speediest when galloping.
    Ibrahim al-Taymi has stated, writes Ibn Jarir, that these horses had wings. Ibn Kathir reminds us of a hadith in Abu Da’ud (but whose trustworthiness could not be established: Au.). It says: `A’isha reports that as the Prophet (saws) returned from Tabuk, or perhaps Khayber, the wind blew the curtain over a niche to disclose her dolls. He asked, “What are these `A’isha?” She told him they were her dolls. He saw among them a horse with wings made from cloth. He asked, “Whatever is this one in the middle?” She said, “A horse.” He asked, “And what is it over (its back)?” I said, “Wings”. He remarked, “A horse with wings?!” She replied, “Have you not heard that Sulayman had horses with wings?” She said, “The Prophet smiled until I could see his teeth” (Ibn Kathir).
    (What dampens the report, Ibn Hajr writes in Fat-h that if we take earlier of the two campaigns, viz., Khayber, then `A’isha’s age at that time must have been at least fourteen: not an age in which girls play with dolls).
    It was not an age, especially for `A’isha who had undergone precocious development to be playing with dolls, an occupation of Arab girls of age up to five or six. Sayyid Sulayman Nadwi has treated the report (cf. Sirat-e-`A’isha) as belonging to the Makkan phase (Au.).

    فَقَالَ إِنِّي أَحْبَبْتُ حُبَّ الْخَيْرِ عَنْ ذِكْرِ رَبِّي حَتَّىٰ تَوَارَتْ بِالْحِجَابِ (32)

    38|32| He said, ‘Truly, I preferred lovable good things51 (over) My Lord’s remembrance52 – until they hid behind the veil (of darkness)53 -

    51. The words:should be understood as,and the allusion by “khayr” is either to horses or material wealth (Ibn Jarir).
    Imam Razi prefers the literal meaning viz., “I love the love of the good things,” or, in different words, “I approve of my love of good things (such as horses readied for Jihad).”
    Horses are, remind Zamakhshari and Qurtubi, of the good things of this life. Our Prophet (saws) has said, (as in a hadith of Bukhari and several other collections: Au.),“Good is fastened to the forehead of horses until the Day of Judgment.”
    In fact, many commentators have pointed out that in Arabic the word “khayr” is used both for material goods as well as – metaphorically - for horses.
    52. Although it has been said by some of the Salaf that the allusion by Sulayman’s neglect of Allah’s remembrance was to the missing of Salah al-`Asr, the question remains open (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    While on this topic we might add the following. Ahmad has a narrative which says that Abu Qatadah and Abu Dahman used to travel to the Sacred House quite frequently. Once they met a Bedouin. He said, “The Prophet had takenmy hand in his and had taught me of what Allah the Great had taught him. He ended by saying,
    Place the Arabic text here ????
    ‘You will not give up a thing in fear of Allah, but Allah will give you better than that’” (Ibn Kathir).
    53. That is, writes Razi, Sulayman kept repeating the words until sunset. Qurtubi expresses the possibility that Sulayman set the horses loose in a race and kept following them until they disappeared in the darkness of the evening.
    Some commentators have assumed that the pronoun in the word “rudduha” is for the sun. That is, the sun was brought back so that he could offer his `Asr Prayer. But expert exegetes have rejected it. In fact, another report of this pattern is taken around to the effect that the Prophet (saws) had ordered the sun back after it had set for the sake of `Ali who had not done his `Asr. But the narrative is fake and a Shi`ah invention (Qurtubi).

    رُدُّوهَا عَلَيَّ ۖ فَطَفِقَ مَسْحًا بِالسُّوقِ وَالْأَعْنَاقِ (33)

    38|33| Bring them back to me.’ Then he began to stroke (their) shanks and necks.54

    54. Although some earlier scholars have thought that the words: “he began to stroke (their) shanks and necks” allude to ordering them slaughtered, Ibn Jarir does not see any need for abandoning the apparent meaning. Qurtubi reports that when `Ali was told of this opinion of Ka`b, he said Ka`b had lied. (Ka`b is well-known for his narratives of Jewish origin: Alusi). Referring to the hadith of this connection as found in Tabarani’s Al-Kabir, Haythami remarked that it is weak (Au.).
    A straightforward meaning of the passage is as follows: Allah instructed our Prophet to bear the rejection of his message with patience. He gave him the example first of Da’ud, and then, in this passage, of Sulayman. (Although given a matchless kingdom: Au.), the latter was interested in Jihad more than other modes of devotion. Accordingly, he had got prepared finest quality horses and was examining them until sunset. After the sunset he asked the stable-keepers to bring them back and began to stroke their shanks and necks to judge their strength and readiness. All the rest that has been said, he adds, (which we have cut out for brevity: Au.), does not fit into the context and cannot be attributed to a Prophet of such caliber as whose example our own Prophet was asked to follow.
    A report coming from Ibn `Abbas, as presented by Mufti Shafi`, is close to the above in its essence (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا سُلَيْمَانَ وَأَلْقَيْنَا عَلَىٰ كُرْسِيِّهِ جَسَدًا ثُمَّ أَنَابَ (34)

    38|34| Surely We tried Sulayman and cast on his chair a (mere) body;55 then he returned penitent.

    55. Several narratives have come down explaining this particular ayah, but none reliable. They state in sum and substance that Sulayman carried a ring on his finger that he had inherited from Da’ud and which held the secret of his control over the kingdom, and, therefore, which he would never remove. However, a Jinn was somehow able to lay his hand on the ring. He changed his own form and assumed Sulayman’s resemblance. Then he disbanded him, expelled him, occupied his throne, and ruled over his kingdom for forty days, until Sulayman managed to regain his ring. None of the chains of these tales is trustworthy, and the stories, (of which there are many versions, with additions and deletions), are straight out of mythical collections, perhaps with origins in Jewish Scriptures (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir thinks that (even Jews would not like to make up such stories about Sulayman, therefore) these must have been fabricated by the perverts of thought (zanadiqa) among them. But Asad thinks they are of Talmudic origin.
    (We can assume that Ibn Kathir was not well informed of the contents of Jewish literature, else he would not have expressed such positive opinion about them: Au.).
    Imam Razi points out that if we are to imagine for a moment that the Jinn have the power to assume the form and figure of Prophets, then, surely, that will pull down the entire religious structure. Nothing would remain believable thereafter. A variety of explanations therefore, could be offered to this passage, such as, (as proposed by Zamakhshari), it was Sulayman himself who was cast on the throne as if a mere body, perhaps because of a temporary sickness. Another possibility is that the hadith that speaks of Sulayman going into seventy of his wives in a night could be alluding to this ayah. The hadith (one of whose versions is in Bukhari: Au.) says,On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet (saws) said, “Sulayman b. Da’ud, on whom be peace, said, ‘This night I shall go around visiting my hundred or ninety-nine wives. Every one of them shall beget a fighter in the way of Allah.’ One of his companion said, ‘Allah willing.’ But Sulayman did not say, ‘Allah willing.’ So, none of his wives bore child except one which ended in a stillbirth. By Allah in whose hand is my life, if he had said, ‘Allah willing,’ they would have all fought in the way of Allah.” Qurtubi also mentions this hadith as a possible explanation.
    A contemporary commentator divided the hours of the night with the number of wives to demonstrate the impossibility of the event. We could as well divide the distance between the earth and the heaven by the hours of a night to prove the impossibility of a Prophet covering the distance at the speed obtained. Or, work out the total amount of water required for a hundred people to make ablution, and the impossibility of so much water flowing out of a body. What we cannot ignore is that at the primary and earthly level of investigation and interaction, we humans are required to use reason and logic. But that does not give us license to try and understand miracles with the help of mathematical calculations (Au.).
    Sayyid accepts the authenticity of the above report but does not see it connected with the explanation of this verse. Mufti Shafi` also states that although the narrative is trustworthy, none of its version says that this explains the ayah under question. Imam Bukhari, for instance, quotes this hadith under several chapters, but not in Kitab al-Tafsir. In short, it is best to leave unexplained what the Qur’an and hadith left unexplained.
    What Bukhari wrote in connection with the Shayatin is as follows:
    On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet (saws) said, “Yesterday one of the giants of the Jinn suddenly appeared before me so as to distract me from the Prayer. But Allah empowered me over him, and I considered tying him up to one of the pillars of the mosque so that you could see him in the morning. But I remembered the supplication of Sulayman who said, ‘My Lord bestow on me a kingdom that should not be the share of anyone after me,’...” Rawh, the narrator after Abu Hurayrah added, “So, he returned him (the Jinn) frustrated.” The narrative is also in Muslim and Nasa’i.
    Another report of Muslim (recounts another incident),Abu Darda’ has been recorded as saying that once the Prophet stood up for Prayers. We heard him say, “I seek Allah’s refuge from you.” Then he said, “I curse you with Allah’s curse” – three times. And he stretched his hand as if he was trying to seize something.
    When he was out of the Prayer we asked, “Messenger of Allah, you said in the Prayer something we have not heard from you earlier. And we saw you stretching your hand?!” He replied, “Allah’s enemy Iblis came with a ball of fire to hurl it at my face. I said, ‘I seek Allah’s refuge from you’ three times. Then I said, ‘I curse you by the complete curse of Allah,’ but he did not retreat - three times. Then I thought I should seize him. By Allah, if not for our brother Sulayman’s supplication, he would have found himself tied up, an object of sport for children of Madinah” (Ibn Kathir).
    A report in Ahmad adds that it was the Fajr Prayers, and that he got confused in his recitation. The report is as follows:Abu Sa`id al-Khudri says the Prophet (saws) stood up for Fajr Prayer while he was behind him. He started reciting but seemed to founder. When he was finished he said, “Had you seen me and Iblis, I seized him and kept squeezing his neck until I felt the wetness of his saliva between my thumb and index finger. If not for my brother Sulayman’s supplication, he would have found himself tied to one of the pillars of the mosque, an object of sport for children of Madinah. So, whosoever can see to it that no one comes between him and the Qiblah, let him do it” (Ibn Kathir).
    Alusi, Thanwi and Shafi` add: A question might arise here about men’s power over Jinns. Can any human subjugate a Jinn unto himself. Apparently, the Qur’anic verse in question denies this. But, we must make a difference between a Prophet subjugating the Jinn and Shayatin, as species, and an individual subjugating one or two of them (the latter being possible: Au.). Alusi writes his personal experience of one of his assembly. When a certain man was provoked, he demonstrated that he had subjugated a Jinn.
    We might point out another difference: Sulayman’s subjugation was complete. He could even chain them - by Allah's leave. But ordinary humans do not enjoy such powers: Au.].
    Another narrative, continues Ibn Kathir, in Ahmad has `Abdullah al-Daylami saying,“I entered upon `Abdullah ibn `Amr while he was in an orchard of his called Al-Waht in Ta’if. He had his hand in the hand of a Qurayshi youth who was alleged to be drinking wine. I said to him, ‘I have received a report from you which says, “Whoever took in a gulp of wine, will have Allah not accepting his repentance for forty days; and that the wretched is one who was wretched in his mother’s womb; and that whoever went to Bayt al-Maqdis with no other motive but to Pray in it, came out of his sins like the day his mother gave him birth.”
    When the youth heard about wine-drinking, he withdrew his hand and left.
    `Abdullah ibn `Amr said, “I do not allow anyone to fasten upon me what I have not said. I (have actually) heard the Prophet (saws) say, ‘Whoever of my Ummah took a drink of wine, will have Allah not accepting his Prayers for forty days. If he repented, Allah will forgive. But if he returned, his forty days of Prayers will not be accepted. If he repented, Allah will forgive. But if he returned, his forty days of Prayers will not be accepted. If he repented, Allah will forgive. ‘If he repeated,’ (the narrator added) I do not know the third or fourth time, ‘it is becoming of Allah that He should make him drink a mixture of puss and blood of the inhabitants of the Fire.’” Then he (`Abdullah ibn `Amr said), “I (also) heard the Prophet say, ‘Allah created His creation in darkness. Then He cast His Light upon them. So whoever received of His Nur that day is well-guided, but he who missed it, missed the way. I say that the Pen has dried upon the knowledge of Allah.’ And I also heard him say, ‘Sulayman asked Allah for three things. He granted him two and we hope the third will be granted to us also: He asked Him for a judgment that would agree with His own judgment. He granted it to him. He asked Him for a kingdom that will not be the share of any after him. He granted him. And he asked that if anyone came out of his house intending nothing but Prayers in this mosque, will come out of his sins like the day his mother gave him birth. And we hope that Allah would have granted him this (also).”
    The above is supported in parts by a hadith in Nas a’i and Ibn Majah (Ibn Kathir).

    قَالَ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَهَبْ لِي مُلْكًا لَا يَنْبَغِي لِأَحَدٍ مِنْ بَعْدِي ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ (35)

    38|35| He said, ‘My Lord, forgive me,56 and bestow on me a kingdom that should not be the share of anyone after me.57 Surely, You are the Great Bestower.’

    56. Our own Prophet (saws) had said that he sought Allah’s forgiveness seventy times a day (Razi).
    57. This tells us by implication, says Razi, that seeking Allah’s forgiveness can be the key to obtaining His blessings. Nuh (asws) had advised the same thing to his people when he said (11: 52):“O my people! Seek forgiveness of your Lord and then turn to him (in repentance). He will open up the sky in torrents upon you.”
    A few others have thought however, that Sulayman wished it as a miracle of his own that he could use to strengthen his Message. Accordingly, he was given power over the Jinn, one of his specialties, which our own Prophet respected, when he refrained from tying up one of them to the mosque post.

    فَسَخَّرْنَا لَهُ الرِّيحَ تَجْرِي بِأَمْرِهِ رُخَاءً حَيْثُ أَصَابَ (36)

    38|36| So We subjected the wind to him flowing gently by his command whithersoever he directed.58

    58. This is how most of the Salaf explained the word “asab.” Zamakhshari, Imam Razi and Qurtubi quote a piece from Asma`i, the grammarian to prove the point. Zamakhshari offers another example.

    وَالشَّيَاطِينَ كُلَّ بَنَّاءٍ وَغَوَّاصٍ (37)

    38|37| (We also subjugated) the Shayatin to him (including) every builder and diver.

    وَآخَرِينَ مُقَرَّنِينَ فِي الْأَصْفَادِ (38)

    38|38| And others bound together in fetters.59

    59. Just as the Jinn are invisible, their chains would also have been invisible (Shafi`).

    هَٰذَا عَطَاؤُنَا فَامْنُنْ أَوْ أَمْسِكْ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ (39)

    38|39| This is Our bestowal, therefore, bestow or withhold, without account.60

    60. That is, Allah (swt) had allowed Sulayman to manage his kingdom the way he wished, giving whom he wished, and withholding from whom he wished without the fear of accounting in the Hereafter. This is because Allah had combined in him both a plentifully rich kingdom as well as Prophethood. Now, a rich kingship requires expension. But the fear of accounting comes as a restraining factor, especially for a Prophet. In consequence, the benefits of kingship are severely curtailed. Therefore, Sulayman was assured that there would be no accounting for what he gave or what he withheld (Alusi and Thanwi in different words).
    It was in any case known that a Prophet would never intentionally spend in a wrong cause (Ruh, Shafi`).
    Our Prophet was given the choice. He was asked to choose between being “a slave and Messenger” or, “a king and Prophet.” He looked at Jibril as if consulting him who advised him to be “a slave and Messenger” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَإِنَّ لَهُ عِنْدَنَا لَزُلْفَىٰ وَحُسْنَ مَآبٍ (40)

    38|40| And indeed, he has closeness to Us, and a fair resort.

    وَاذْكُرْ عَبْدَنَا أَيُّوبَ إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الشَّيْطَانُ بِنُصْبٍ وَعَذَابٍ (41)

    38|41| And recall Our slave Ayyub when he called to his Lord, ‘Indeed, Shaytan has touched me with hardships and torment.’61

    61. Details of the nature of trial, (although from Allah, but attributed to Shaytan by a noble soul: Au.), is not given anywhere in the Qur’an or hadith. Most stories have to be treated with caution. We have offered some notes while discussing ayah 84 of Surah al-Anbiya’ (21), which might be consulted once again. One of the trustworthy reports presented there, finds entry at this point in Ibn Jarir. Qurtubi recounts several stories spun around the ayah, and rejects them all as tales that should not be treated seriously.
    Zamakhshari voices the opinion of most commentators when he writes about Ayyub’s attribution of his physical and mental distresses to Shaytan, that it was out of respect: you attribute good to Allah and evil to other than Him although good and bad, both are from Him. The following are quoted as other examples (26 80),“When I fall sick, He cures me.”
    Or (18: 63),“And did not lead me to forgetfulness but Shaytan.”
    Or, as the Prophet (saws) said,“Good is in Your Hand, and evil is not (attributed) to you.”
    If the above is understood, writes Qurtubi (in sum and substance), then it will not be difficult to appreciate the statement, “Shaytan has touched me with hardships and torment.” That is, Shaytan had no role in his tribulations, and, therefore, there is no need to look into weird stories for explanation. And, the stories narrated in this regard are not only weird when attributed to a Prophet, but also, notably, not a word of them comes from our own Prophet. Regrettably, they are narrated despite the fact that we have been warned by our scholars not to treat Jewish or Christian stories seriously. Bukhari has recorded `Abdullah ibn `Abbas as having said,“O Muslims! How can you inquire with the People of the Scripture about anything while your Book which has been revealed to Allah’s Apostle is the latest of news concerning Allah? You read it undistorted, while Allah has informed you that the people of the Scripture altered what Allah wrote and altered the Scripture with their hands and said, ‘It is from Allah,’ to purchase thereby a little gain. Does not the knowledge which has come to you prevent you from asking them about anything? No, by Allah, we have never seen one of them asking you regarding what has been revealed to you!”
    It should also be obvious, adds Razi, that if we are to suppose for a moment that Shaytan has any power on human beings, then, trust in Allah will be lost. Given any situation (evil or good), we would not know who its author is: Allah or Shaytan. Has not Shaytan himself admitted (14: 22):“I had no power over you except that I invited you and you responded to me.”
    At best what the Qur’an leads us to believe, writes Sayyid, is that Ayyub was tried as a result of which he lost his health, wealth, and family-folks.
    The above discussion was largely with Prophets in view. Thanwi points out that there is every possibility of Shaytan causing harm to the most perfect of men. But what he cannot do to anyone is to actually make him commit a sin (i.e., make him physically perform it, against his own will: Au.). The choice to do or not to do remains with man.

    ارْكُضْ بِرِجْلِكَ ۖ هَٰذَا مُغْتَسَلٌ بَارِدٌ وَشَرَابٌ (42)

    38|42| (It was said), ‘Strike (the ground) with your foot: this (spring) is for a cool wash, and a drink.’62

    62. He was asked to strike the ground with his foot. With one strike a spring sprouted with water wherewith he bathed and became whole again. Another strike yielded water that he could drink (Ibn Jarir).

    وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ أَهْلَهُ وَمِثْلَهُمْ مَعَهُمْ رَحْمَةً مِنَّا وَذِكْرَىٰ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ (43)

    38|43| And We bestowed on him his family and the like of them along with them, as mercy from Us and a reminder for men of understanding.63

    63. The allusion perhaps is to the restoration of his family members and friends from whom he was cut off during his long illness (Au.).

    وَخُذْ بِيَدِكَ ضِغْثًا فَاضْرِبْ بِهِ وَلَا تَحْنَثْ ۗ إِنَّا وَجَدْنَاهُ صَابِرًا ۚ نِعْمَ الْعَبْدُ ۖ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ (44)

    38|44| And (We said), ‘Take in your hand a bundle (of twigs) and strike therewith.64 Do not break your oath.’65 Indeed We found him a steadfast man - an excellent servant and an unfailing penitent.

    64. It could as well have been a bunch of grass; the word “dhighth” supports it (Zamakhshari).
    65. Qatadah and Mujahid have explained that at one time during his illness Ayyub had become extremely upset with his wife (for repeating before him what Shaytan had suggested as a cure for his distresses: `Abul Rahman Ibn Jubayr), and had sworn that he would lash her a hundred times for uttering such blasphemy. (But that was a woman devoted to her husband, a Prophet, serving him through two difficult decades, so) when Ayyub had recovered, Allah commanded him to fulfill his oath, but do it by taking hundred twigs and strike her once (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Differences in opinion have prevailed among the jurisconsults over avoidance of a religious duty by resorting to what is termed as “hilah” whether it is allowed in Islam or not. Alusi and Thanwi state that it is not allowable where Allah’s rights or those of the humans are involved, or where a Shari`ah rule is either compromised or nullified, such as, e.g., payment of Zakah.
    The hadith however, which is often quoted about an extremely sick person committing fornication with (another’s) slave-girl during the Prophet’s time, (who ordered that he be struck just once with a broom), has been questioned for its trustworthiness (Qurtubi). Alusi has two more incidents of the above nature (i.e., striking with a bunch of sticks, or a broom) but without any note on their authenticity (Au.).
    To the Hanafiyyah, who cite other evidences, Hila is allowed on certain condition. Details might be seen in Fiqh works (Au.).

    وَاذْكُرْ عِبَادَنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ أُولِي الْأَيْدِي وَالْأَبْصَارِ (45)

    38|45| And recall Our slaves Ibrahim, Is-haq, and Ya`qub: men of strength and vision.66

    66. That is, they were men of strong character, had a clear vision, and a proper understanding of religious truths (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir from the Salaf).

    إِنَّا أَخْلَصْنَاهُمْ بِخَالِصَةٍ ذِكْرَى الدَّارِ (46)

    38|46| Verily, We chose them for a quality most pure: remembrance of the final Abode.67

    67. If it is asked, what is it they were chosen for, the answer is: for never losing sight of the Hereafter and reminding others of the need to prepare themselves for the great reality they are soon to encounter (Au.: based on the understanding of the Salaf as reported by Ibn Jarir).

    وَإِنَّهُمْ عِنْدَنَا لَمِنَ الْمُصْطَفَيْنَ الْأَخْيَارِ (47)

    38|47| And surely, in Our sight they are of the elect and the best.

    وَاذْكُرْ إِسْمَاعِيلَ وَالْيَسَعَ وَذَا الْكِفْلِ ۖ وَكُلٌّ مِنَ الْأَخْيَارِ (48)

    38|48| And recall Isma’il, Al-Yasa`68 and Dhu al-Kifl:69 each among the best.

    68. Most commentators have identified him as the Prophet who succeeded Ilyas. The clue comes from Biblical sources, where he is named as Elisha, the successor of Elijah. (See 1Kings, ch. 19). But there are no hadith statements to this effect.
    69. See 21: 85 for explanation.

    هَٰذَا ذِكْرٌ ۚ وَإِنَّ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ لَحُسْنَ مَآبٍ (49)

    38|49| This is a reminder; and surely, for the godfearing there is a beautiful resort:

    جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ مُفَتَّحَةً لَهُمُ الْأَبْوَابُ (50)

    38|50| Gardens of ‘Adn,70 (their) gates thrown open to them.71

    70. Asad explains “`adn”: “In all the eleven instances in which the noun ‘adn occurs in the Qur’an – and of which the present is the oldest – it is used as a qualifying term for the ‘gardens’ (jannat) of paradise. This noun is derived from the verb ‘`adana,’ which primarily denotes ‘he remained [somewhere]’ or ‘he kept [to something]’, i.e., permanently: cf. the phrase ‘`adantu ‘l balad’ (‘I remained for good [or ‘settled’] in the country’). In Biblical Hebrew – which, after all, is but a very ancient Arabian dialect – the closely related noun ‘`eden’ has also the additional connotation of ‘delight’, ‘pleasure’ or ‘bliss.’ Hence the combination of the two concepts in my rendering of ‘`adn’ as ‘perpetual bliss.’“
    71. That is, doors that will open and close on verbal command (Hasan: Ibn Jarir).
    Although remote controlled doors have been made, sound-operated doors are still to be made in our times.
    Yusuf Ali’s mind travels further than the ordinary mind. He writes, “The Final Bliss will not be a hole-and-corner thing, a pale reflection of some Palace or Retreat, where mystery reigns behind closed doors. Its doors will be open, and its inmates will be free to go in and out as they will, because their wills will be purified and brought into accord with the Universal Law.”

    مُتَّكِئِينَ فِيهَا يَدْعُونَ فِيهَا بِفَاكِهَةٍ كَثِيرَةٍ وَشَرَابٍ (51)

    38|51| Reclining therein, calling therein for abundant fruit, and drink.

    وَعِنْدَهُمْ قَاصِرَاتُ الطَّرْفِ أَتْرَابٌ (52)

    38|52| And by their sides (maidens) of downcast eyes,72 of equal age.73

    72. Yusuf Ali removes the doubts spread by Christians with regard to physical pleasures in Paradise: “As we conceive happiness in this life, it is not complete if it is only solitary. How we hanker after some one who can share in our highest joy! That feeling is also figured here.”
    73. Yusuf Ali again, “To make the social happiness complete, we want companionship of equal age. Age and youth cannot be happy together. It is not suggested that in the Timeless state figured here, there will be old age; but if it is possible to conceive of temperamental differences then, the company will be so arranged that it will be congenial. Or we can accept the type of youth and freshness as common to all in that happy state.”
    Inclination towards women then, adds Thanwi, is not against piety, nor a weakness as those have thought who lack understanding.
    Thanwi might have had ignorant Sufis in mind, but Christians are foremost in denying physical pleasure to man in this and the next world - a claim entirely irrational that has no basis in Scriptures or in reason. They misguide others by assuring them that in this regard they are talking from a higher moral podium. But, is not a Paradise in which there are several kinds of pleasures e.g., physical, mental, spiritual, better than one which affords only one kind, the spiritual? (Au.)

    هَٰذَا مَا تُوعَدُونَ لِيَوْمِ الْحِسَابِ (53)

    38|53| This is what you were promised for the Day of Reckoning.

    إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَرِزْقُنَا مَا لَهُ مِنْ نَفَادٍ (54)

    38|54| Verily, this is Our provision: that which is inexhaustive.74

    74. In other words, provisions that will suffer no depletion (Au.).

    هَٰذَا ۚ وَإِنَّ لِلطَّاغِينَ لَشَرَّ مَآبٍ (55)

    38|55| This! And for the transgressor, there surely awaits an evil resort:

    جَهَنَّمَ يَصْلَوْنَهَا فَبِئْسَ الْمِهَادُ (56)

    38|56| Jahannum, where they are roasted,75 and an evil cradling.

    75. Or, “(into) which they will enter (to be roasted)" - Alusi.

    هَٰذَا فَلْيَذُوقُوهُ حَمِيمٌ وَغَسَّاقٌ (57)

    38|57| This, so let them taste it: boiling water and puss.76

    76. Although “puss” is the preferred meaning, another interpretation of the word “ghassaq” that came down from authorities such as Ibn Jurayj and Dahhak is that the allusion is to extremely cold liquid in contrast with the extremely hot liquid “hamim” (Ibn Jarir). There have been other explanations from the Salaf, which, if put together would lead us to believe that there is a valley in Hell in which will be collected puss, blood, tears, urine and other wastes of the dwellers of Hell mixed with the poison discharged by scorpions, snakes and other poisonous animals - out of which the dwellers will drink. It could get as cold to be as torturous as boiling water (Qurtubi, Alusi and others).
    A hadith on the authority of Abu Sa`id al-Khudri and preserved by Tirmidhi (who declared it weak: Au.), Ahmad, (Sahih of) Ibn Hibban and Hakim who declared it worthy of Sahih works says,“If a bucket of ghassaq were to be poured into this world, it will putrefy its people” (Alusi).

    وَآخَرُ مِنْ شَكْلِهِ أَزْوَاجٌ (58)

    38|58| And others of its kind,77 coupled together.

    77. That is, other punishments (Ibn Jarir).

    هَٰذَا فَوْجٌ مُقْتَحِمٌ مَعَكُمْ ۖ لَا مَرْحَبًا بِهِمْ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ صَالُو النَّارِ (59)

    38|59| ‘This (they will say) is a troop rushing in headlong with you. No Welcome for them.78 assuredly, they shall roast in the Fire.’79

    78. “In Arabic usage, the phrase ‘no welcome to them’ or ‘to you’ (la marhaban bihim, resp., bikum) is equivalent to a curse. In this context – carried on into the next verse – it expresses a mutual disavowal of the seducers and the seduced” (Asad).
    79. This will be said by those who will already be there in the Fire, addressing newcomers. It is in the same sense as (7: 38),“Every time a nation enters (into the Fire), it will curse its sister (nation)” (Ibn Jarir).
    It has also been said that the first part of the verse viz., ‘This is a troop rushing in headlong with you,’ will be said by the keepers of Fire, while the second part, ‘No Welcome for them. Assuredly, they shall roast in the Fire,’ by the unbelievers already in Hell (Razi). This opinion has been attributed to Ibn `Abbas (Qurtubi).

    قَالُوا بَلْ أَنْتُمْ لَا مَرْحَبًا بِكُمْ ۖ أَنْتُمْ قَدَّمْتُمُوهُ لَنَا ۖ فَبِئْسَ الْقَرَارُ (60)

    38|60| They will reply, ‘But rather, it is you for whom there is no welcome. You have brought this upon us; so, an evil place of rest.’80

    80. This will be said by the new entrants (Ibn Jarir). To summarize Shabbir, “The above two verses refer to the conversation between the companions of the Fire when one of them will be posted at the gates of Hell. First group will be of the leaders in unfaith. Then will appear their followers. When the leaders sight the second group, they will say, ‘Look! Another group is being forced forward about to jump into Hell. How unwelcome!’ Those who follow them will respond, ‘You say unwelcome?! May you not be welcome wherever you go? Is it not you who brought us here? Do we have any other place to go? Do we have a choice but to suffer here together?’

    قَالُوا رَبَّنَا مَنْ قَدَّمَ لَنَا هَٰذَا فَزِدْهُ عَذَابًا ضِعْفًا فِي النَّارِ (61)

    38|61| They will say, ‘O our Lord, whoso brought this upon us,- add to him a double chastisement in the Fire.’

    وَقَالُوا مَا لَنَا لَا نَرَىٰ رِجَالًا كُنَّا نَعُدُّهُمْ مِنَ الْأَشْرَارِ (62)

    38|62| And they will say, ‘How is it with us that we do not see men here whom we counted among the evil ones?81

    81. This is what the likes of Abu Jahl, Walid b. al-Mughira and others will say about the likes of Bilal, Suhayb, Salman and others (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    They considered them as evil ones either because they were poor and not of the same social class as they, or because they were not of the same religion as which they followed (Razi).
    To paraphrase verses 65 to 68, “I am a warner, warning you of the events that you will encounter with death. It is a great news that you are turning away from. Remember! There is no deity save one Allah. He forces everyone to submission - not the living beings alone, but rather, all that there is, living or non-living. The demand of the fact of there being just One God is that He should subdue all and enforce His will on all. However, it must not be imagined that He merely controls the created, but rather, He is the Mighty Lord who is also the Sustainer who nurtures His creation. Yet, if He does not punish those who have a tiny bit of choice to do or not do His will, it is because He is very Forgiving” (Razi: abridged and slightly modified).
    And, to take the paraphrasing further to include the following couple of verses, it could be added, “Man’s refusal to go along on the path of spiritual development was not an unexpected event for the Lord of the worlds; even angels – going by his qualities – had predicted this and had in fact disputed with their Lord over the new creation. But, they did not know that there was right there among them – although of a different genus – he who was worse than Adam: Iblis. He will cause to take great many of them to perdition” (Au.).

    أَتَّخَذْنَاهُمْ سِخْرِيًّا أَمْ زَاغَتْ عَنْهُمُ الْأَبْصَارُ (63)

    38|63| We took them for a laughing-stock! Or, do the eyes swerve away from them (now)?’82

    82. That is, are they somewhere around in Hell without us being able to spot them? (Ibn Jarir)
    Mujahid said that Abu Jahl will say, “What’ with me, I do not see Bilal, Suhayb, `Ammar, and so and so?” (Ibn Kathir).

    إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ لَحَقٌّ تَخَاصُمُ أَهْلِ النَّارِ (64)

    38|64| Surely, that is true: the wrangling of the companions of the Fire.83

    83. That is, one might wonder: what with all the sufferings and burnings, what with the extremely hot and cold drinking, will the inhabitants of the Fire have any energy to be wrangling among themselves? The answer is, “this is the truth: the wrangling of the inhabitants of the Fire” (Shabbir).

    قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا مُنْذِرٌ ۖ وَمَا مِنْ إِلَٰهٍ إِلَّا اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ (65)

    38|65| Say, ‘Indeed, I am only a warner; no deity there is, but Allah, the One, the Subduer.

    رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفَّارُ (66)

    38|66| Lord of the heavens and the earth, and what is between them: the All-mighty, the All-forgiving.’

    قُلْ هُوَ نَبَأٌ عَظِيمٌ (67)

    38|67| Say, ‘That is a great tiding,84

    84. It is something which only the extremely heedless can ignore (Zamakhshari).

    أَنْتُمْ عَنْهُ مُعْرِضُونَ (68)

    38|68| From which you are turning away.

    مَا كَانَ لِيَ مِنْ عِلْمٍ بِالْمَلَإِ الْأَعْلَىٰ إِذْ يَخْتَصِمُونَ (69)

    38|69| I had no knowledge of the High Council,85 when they were disputing.86

    85. We may not forget that “mala’” is for a group of people who stand out from others because of their achievements, who command awe and fill the eyes of an onlooker.
    86. The allusion is to the angels disputing among themselves the usefulness of Adam’s creation, when they had been informed about it (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    In reference to disputation, another hadith could be cited, which speaks of the interest angels take in human affairs. Mu`adh ibn Jabal reports: One morning the Prophet was held back from us for the dawn Prayer until we began to see the sun’s horns. Then he emerged in haste. The call for starting the Prayer was made. He led in the Prayer, shortening it. After he had said the termination formula, he said, “Remain in your rows.” Then he turned to us and said, “Let me tell you what held me back. This morning I rose up after the night and Prayed as much as I was destined to. Then I dozed off in my Prayer, until I felt heavy. And lo! I was in the presence of my Lord, the Exalted, the Supreme - in the best form. He asked, ‘Muhammad! What are the angels of the upper-most constellation disputing over?’ I said, ‘I do not know, my Lord!’ He asked, ‘Muhammad! What are the angels of the upper-most constellation disputing over?’ I replied, `I do not know, my Lord!’ He repeated, ‘Muhammad! What are the angels of the upper-most constellation disputing over?’ I answered, ‘I do not know, my Lord!’ Then I saw Him placing His palm between my shoulders until I felt the coldness of His fingers over my breast, and everything became clear to me. And I knew. Then He asked, ‘Muhammad! What are the angels of the upper constellation disputing over?’ I said, ‘Over expiations and ranks.’ He asked, ‘What are the expiations?’ I replied, ‘Walking over towards the mosques, sitting in the mosques after the Prayers and doing the ablution well despite discomfort.’ He asked, ‘What are the ranks.’ I replied, ‘Feeding (the people), kind words, and Prayers when people are asleep.’ He said, ‘Ask.’ I asked, ‘O Allah. I ask you for doing of the good deeds, avoidance of evil deeds, love of the poor and the humble, that You forgive me and show me mercy. And, when You wish tribulation for a people, deal me death untried. And I seek Your love, the love of those who love You, and love of the deeds that take one nearer to You.’” Then the Prophet added, “This is the truth, therefore, learn and teach.” – Ibn Kathir. (Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Khuzaymah in “Kitab al-Tawhid,” and in several other books of Traditions, through dozens of different narrators, with variations in words, additions and deletions, with some experts declaring the report weak, but others as trustworthy, such as Haythami, Hafiz, Hakim, Ahmad Shakir and Tirmidhi, the last of whom reports that when he spoke to Imam Bukhari about it, he said it was trustworthy) – Au.
    The hadith is also known as “Hadith Ikhtisam al-Mala` al-A`la” meaning, “Hadith concerning the dispute between angels of the highest constellation” (Au.).
    The companionship of `Abdul Rahman b. `A’ish has been questioned by some scholars. Some say he never met with the Prophet. Nevertheless, various other versions of the hadith have been narrated by the following Companions of the Prophet: Ibn `Abbas, Thawban, `Abdullah ibn `Umar, Abu Umamah, Abu Rafe`, Abu Hurayrah, Anas, `Adiyy b. Hatim and Abu `Ubaydah b. al-Jarrah. (Au.).
    Alusi informs us that some scholars have thought that the Ikhtisam al-Mala` in discussion of the ayah actually refers to the hadith above.

    إِنْ يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ إِلَّا أَنَّمَا أَنَا نَذِيرٌ مُبِينٌ (70)

    38|70| All that is revealed to me is that I am a clear warner.’87

    87. This much-occurring Qur’anic term has both the connotations of “being clear [by itself]” as well as “making clear” (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali explains one aspect: “‘Mubin’ (implies) (1) that the warning should be clear and perspicuous; there should be no mincing of matters, no ambiguity, no compromise with evil, vii. 184; (2) that the warning should be delivered publicly, before all people, in spite of opposition and persecution.”
    The manner of expression of this little passage seems to be conveying to us the truth that although a Prophet is sent with several purposes in sight, the gist of the message, the crowning truth and the matter of paramount importance is that the Prophet (saws) is a warner. He warns of most drastic things to happen in the Hereafter (based on Zamakhshari).

    إِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِنْ طِينٍ (71)

    38|71| When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am about to create a human being88 from clay.

    88. The lexicon meaning of the word “bashar” is ‘someone who is bare of hair and wool,’ and is applicable to human beings in this sense (Alusi). Hence, “basharahu” would mean he pared or trimmed (a hide) – Lane.

    فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ (72)

    38|72| So, when I have fashioned him and have blown into him a spirit from Me,89 then fall you all in prostration unto him.’90

    89. “Min Ruhi” has been explained by Dahhak as meaning, “My power” (Ibn Jarir); i.e., “when I have infused some of My powers in him,” perhaps meaning, “some of My Qualities” (Au.).
    On the rational plain, writes Razi, it is unimaginable that man’s spirit should be “a part of Allah’s own substance.” For, that would mean Allah (swt) is made up of parts that go to make the “whole” of Him. But one that is made up of parts is a composite substance, and not one substance, which is unimaginable of Allah since, a composite being has to be composed by another, and is, in consequence, “possible of existence” as against Allah, who is a “necessary Being.” As for the “spirit” we do not know its reality, but the closest possible explanation is that it is a clear substance, shining, made of the best of elements, and, sacrosanct; and that, because of its subtleness, it can pass through bodies as fast as light through air, and as successfully as heat through an element.
    90. Apart from others, one reason the event was repeated here was to impress upon the Quraysh that a single sin of a stubborn Iblis condemned him to Hellfire for ever, how could you, who carry mountains of sins upon yourselves ever aspire to Paradise? (Alusi).

    فَسَجَدَ الْمَلَائِكَةُ كُلُّهُمْ أَجْمَعُونَ (73)

    38|73| So the angels fell prostrate, all of them together.91

    91. That is, all the angels who were then there in the heavens (Ibn Jarir).

    إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ اسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ (74)

    38|74| Except for Iblees. He waxed proud and was of the unbelievers.92

    92. That is, Ibn `Abbas said, (although living among the angels), he was an unbeliever in Allah’s knowledge (Ibn Jarir). Many other commentators have expressed the same opinion.

    قَالَ يَا إِبْلِيسُ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَنْ تَسْجُدَ لِمَا خَلَقْتُ بِيَدَيَّ ۖ أَسْتَكْبَرْتَ أَمْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الْعَالِينَ (75)

    38|75| He asked, ‘O Iblees. What prevented you that you should prostrate yourself unto one I created with My two hands?93 Did you wax proud, or are you of the lofty ones?’

    93. That is, how could you O Iblis, refuse to kowtow to him whom I created, and, therefore, it is I who knows best who stands where!? (from Zamakhshari).
    What is the meaning assigned to the words, “I created with My two hands?” Most classical commentators have not dealt with the question but in passing, such as, for example, Ibn Jarir who points out that according to Mujahid there are four that Allah (swt) created with his Hands: “Adam, the `Adn Paradise, `Arsh and the Pen.” Hadith literature counts a few more. Shawkani quotes a hadith preserved by Ibn Abi Dunya, Abu al-Sheikh (in his Al-`Azamah) and Bayhaqi (in his Asma wa Sifat), on the authority of `Abdullah ibn al-Harith,The Prophet said, “There are three that Allah created with His own Hands: He created Adam with His Hand, He wrote Tawrah with His Hand, and planted Firdaws with His Hand.” It is declared Sahih by Albani and mentioned by Dhahabi in his “`Uluww” (Sayyid Ibrahim).
    Ibn Qayyim has pointed out that whoever explained “bi-yadayya” as “blessings” committed an error. Qurtubi however, has a clear and correct explanation: “Yadayya” has been added by way of honor to the human beings. (It was as if said to Iblis, “Here is someone, a prize creation, so will you prostrate yourself to him?”: Au.).
    Others, such as Alusi and Thanwi have said that the allusion is to the special attention paid during the creation. Creation of Adam was quite unlike the creation of his progeny. The latter acquire existence through a process of creation not requiring special attention.
    Another explanation, based on Arabic usage is that “yadayya” is for power (Au.).
    Imam Razi devotes a couple of pages to discuss the several meanings that could be attributed but which cannot be right. He also contends that to think of the creation “with His own hands” in the literal sense presents several difficulties and rejects as wrong any opinion that attributes parts and limbs to Allah. To abridge what he writes, (1) He who attributes parts and limbs to Allah has to either (a) restrict himself to those organs that have been mentioned in the Qur’an, or, (b) add over them. If the former position is adopted then, he must accept that Allah (swt) has a flat face (following the usage, “Everything will encounter destruction except His Face”: 28: 88); He has several eyes (following the usage, “[Nuh’s boat] was sailing under Our eyes”: 54: 15); has just one side (following the usage, “O my woe over the excesses I committed on one side of Allah”: 39: 56); allow for several hands (e.g., “Of what Our hands have wrought”: 36: 71); but a single shank (following, “The day the Shank will be bared”: 68: 42), etc. (2) If He is allowed in our conception to be incapable of movement, then He is bound to remain confined to one place, but if we allow Him to move from place to place, then He is subjected to change: He would then be considered as one of those (about whom Ibrahim) said, “I do not approve of those that go down”: 6: 86; (3) Also, if He is allowed to move down every night from the `Arsh to the firmament closest to the earth then we can ask, “Is He still in control of the `Arsh and the firmaments above or not?” (4) It is admitted that He is greater than the `Arsh and that the `Arsh is greater than the firmaments. How can then the area under the `Arsh accommodate Him? (5) It is known that the universe is spherical. If He is considered right above the humans in the Heaven, then He is limited, but if considered all around them, then He becomes spherical. (6) If He is considered to be in the firmament closest to the earth during the last third part of the night, then, since the earth is spherical, He has to be everywhere at the same time. In short, there are many arguments to counter the anthropomorphists (“mushabbihin).” In the light of the above, we are not allowed to imagine parts and limbs for Allah, nor are we allowed to interpret the word “yadayya” literally as “two hands.” Perhaps the best one can do, ends Razi, is to say that “yadayya” indicates special attention.
    It should be evident on some consideration that the solution the Imam offers is also not wholly satisfactory. Therefore, it is best to go by the opinion of the majority of the “Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah” to say, as in the tenets of faith worked out by Imam Abu Ja`far Tahawi, in the well-known `Aqeedah Tahawiyyah. He writes there,“Our Lord, the Exalted, the Supreme, is qualified with the Attributes of Oneness, characterized with the characteristics unique to Him, with none of the creations sharing the same meaning. For our Lord is above limits and confines, parts, limbs and instruments. The six directions cannot contain Him in contrast to the creations.”
    Imam Tahawi’s commentator, Ibn Abi al-`Izz explains the above lines:
    "With reference to the above words we can say that there are three kinds of people: 1) Those who deny, 2) those who confirm, and 3) those who seek details. The last mentioned are the followers of the pious predecessors. They neither reject nor accept until the issue is clear to them. They accept what is clearly stated and reject what has been denied. But among the later generations, these words acquired ambiguity in their usage, as happens to be the case with many of the technical terms of Islam. As a result, not everyone seems to be using the words in the same sense. Consequently, there are those who deny both the true as well as the false. They report on behalf of those who accept things that they did not utter. There are others of those who confirm but who introduce connotations that are not part of it. In this they are opposed to the earliest scholars as well as what the Qur’an and the Criteria lead us to, since neither the Qur’an nor the Sunnah have said anything about their acceptance or rejection. It is not for us to attribute to Allah Most High what He did not attribute to Himself nor did the Prophet (on whom be peace): neither in conformity nor in denial. In these matters we are followers and not innovators.
    "It is required of us to confirm in matters of Attributes what Allah and His Messenger confirmed, and deny, what Allah and His Messenger have denied. Accordingly, the words that have appeared in the texts alone might be employed while accepting or denying. As for those words about which there is neither confirmation nor denial, they may be left suspended until it can be determined what the speaker intended. If the meaning were to be correct, it should be acknowledged. It must be observed that the expression of the meaning has to be in the words of the texts themselves, and not those that carry ambiguity, unless there were to be a pressing need for it, but, in such a case, it should be provided with the context that gives the intended meaning clearly.
    "The Sheikh (Tahawi), may Allah show him mercy, has intended to refute those of the anthropomorphists who say: Allah has a body, or that He has a torso, or limbs, etc. Allah is exalted high above what they allege. The meaning that the Sheikh intended by his denial is true. But, after him came people who introduced new connotations both true as well as false. That needs to be explained and is as follows. There was agreement between the pious forefathers that the people do not know Allah’s limits, and that they should not place a limit to any of His Attributes.
    "Abu Da’ud Tayalisi said: 'Sufyan Thawri, Sho`ba, Hammad b. Zayd, Hammad b. Salamah, Sharik and Abu `Uwanah would not set limits, would not commit anthropomorphism, and would not strike similes. They narrated reports without saying "how." When inquired, they would speak from the reports alone.'
    "Now, it is known that a limit or a boundary is something that helps separate a thing from another and by which a thing can be distinguished from another. Allah Most High does not dwell in His creation, nor is dependent for His existence upon them. Rather, He subsists by Himself and by Whom all else subsists. Consequently, the word “limit” cannot be used in a way that will contradict the above. For, behind its denial, there is nothing but the denial of the existence of the Lord Himself and the denial of His Reality. As for the limits pertaining to knowledge and the Word, these are limits assigned to Him by the people. This is something that is rejected by the Ahl al Sunnah by consensus.
    "Abu al Qasim al Qushayri has written: 'I heard `Abdul Rahman al Sulami, who heard from Abu Mansur b. `Abdullah, who heard from Abu al Hasan al `Anbari, who heard Sahal b. `Abdullah al Tustari say when asked about the Person of Allah, "Allah’s Person is Qualified with Knowledge, one who cannot be encompassed in limits, who cannot be seen in this world. He is present with the truths of faith, without limits, beyond comprehension, and not incarnated (in anyone or anything). The eyes will see Him in the next world. He is apparent in His Kingdom and in His Power, yet has veiled His creation from knowing the essence of His Person, leading them (to Himself) by His signs. Therefore, the hearts recognize Him. And the eyes will see Him. The believers will look at Him with their eyes, but without comprehending Him and without encompassing Him to the full.”'
    "As for the words 'parts,' 'limbs' and 'instruments,' the deniers use them to deny certain of His Qualities that are proven by the irrefutable texts: such as those that speak of Hand and Face.
    "Abu Hanifah, may Allah be pleased with him, said in his Al Fiqh al Akbar: 'He has Hands, Face and a Person, as He spoke of them in the Qur’an. He possesses them as Attributes, without us questioning the how of them. It should not be said that by the Hands He meant Power or Blessing, for that denies Him an Attribute.'
    'Nevertheless, it should not be thought by these Attributes that they are limbs or members of the body, or instruments, or parts of the body. For any part is a part of a whole. But Allah Most High is One, the Eternal, who cannot be divided, Glorified is He. The concept of limbs presupposes divisions. Allah is Exalted above that. Organs of a body have the sense of accruing benefit or earning something for themselves. So also, instruments help in certain functions of gaining an advantage or removing a harm. But all these concepts are un-befitting of Allah Most High. Accordingly, these have not been mentioned in the list of Attributes of Allah. These words themselves lend the right meaning, and are free from possibilities and unbecoming probabilities. Therefore, it is incumbent that the words be not given new meanings, either in denial or in acceptance, in order that neither an erroneous meaning is attached to them nor a correct meaning is denied. Undeniably, the words that have been used here are open to misuse.'
    "Insofar as the word 'direction' is concerned, sometimes it is used for indicating what is existent and sometimes for what is non-existent. Now, we know that there is nothing in true existence except the Creator and the created. Therefore, if by pointing to a 'direction,' the allusion is to something that is present apart from Allah, then that thing has to be a created being. As for Allah, He is not bound by anything and cannot be encompassed by His creation - Exalted He is above that. And, if what is meant by pointing to a direction is something that is non-existent, over and above the created world, then, nothing exists in that realm except Allah Most High, the One. Now, if it is said that He is in a particular direction and that, in this particular sense it is alright to say so, then the answer would be that the meaning of the words then would be that He is above where His creations end. In other words, He is above all, superseding everything.
    "Now, the deniers of the term 'direction' (when used for Allah) - those who meant to deny the 'above all' sense through their denial - say in defense of their statements the following: All directions are creations of Allah. He existed before the directions existed. Now, if someone says that He is in a certain 'direction,' then he declares a created being as pre-existent. As if, the One who was above a direction came to be contained in it.
    "This kind of argument leads us to believe that He is not within any part of His creation, whether we call it direction or anything else. This of course is true. But, direction itself does not enjoy an existence of its own. Rather, it is a thing of convention. Nonetheless, there is no doubt about it that directions have no limit, and that what is not found in what is limitless, has no existence.
    "The Sheikh’s words, may Allah show him mercy, 'The six directions cannot contain Him in contrast to the creations,' is in the sense that none of His creations can encompass Him. Rather, He encompasses everything and is above them. The Sheikh further elaborates this when He adds, later in this work, that Allah is, 'overencompassing everything, and He is above all.' Therefore, if we put together his two statements, that is, 'The six directions cannot contain Him in contrast to the creations,' and, 'overencompassing everything, and He is above all,' then it can be deduced that the meaning he intended is that He is not contained by anything, nor can anything encompass Him, as it can happen to the created beings, Allah encompasses everything, and that He is above everything.
    "Invariably, the ignorant suffer various distortions in the meaning; especially when things such as Allah coming down to the earth’s firmament every night are spoken of. They imagine that when He descends, as informed by the Prophet (saws), then the `Arsh is above Him, and that, He is then, confined between two heavens. This kind of thinking is contrary to the consensus of opinion of the pious fore-fathers, as also contrary to the Book and the Sunnah.
    "Sheikh al-Islam Abu `Uthman b. `Abd al-Rahman al-Sabuni says he heard his teacher Abu Mansur b. Hammad say, after he spoke of the descending down of Allah: 'Abu Hanifah was asked about it. He replied, "Yes, He descends, without (us being able to understand) the how of it."'
    "Some others, unable to reconcile things, because of the lack of a thorough understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah and the statements of the earliest scholars, are left quite puzzled. They resort to denial that Allah is above the `Arsh. They say: 'He is neither attached to it nor detached, neither within nor without (the created world).' Thus they describe Him with the Attributes of non-existence and what is impossible in itself. They do not describe Him in the manner He described Himself as being High above and over the `Arsh."
    Quotation from Ibn Abi al-`Izz ends here.

    قَالَ أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِنْهُ ۖ خَلَقْتَنِي مِنْ نَارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِنْ طِينٍ (76)

    38|76| He replied, ‘I am better than he. You created me of Fire, and created him of clay.’

    قَالَ فَاخْرُجْ مِنْهَا فَإِنَّكَ رَجِيمٌ (77)

    38|77| He said, ‘Then out you go from here, you are an outcast.94

    94. “Rajim” carries both the connotations of an outcast denied every blessing as well as one stoned (in this case flung) with flames whenever he tries to get any nearer to the abode of the angels than allowed (Au.).
    It might also be noted that the crime of refusal to obey on the part of Iblis was greater in magnitude because it was verbal (and not simply failure to act: Au.) - Alusi.
    The result of the expulsion from the heavens was that he who was originally bright became dark, ugly after he was pretty, and gruesome after he was shining (Zamakhshari).

    وَإِنَّ عَلَيْكَ لَعْنَتِي إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ (78)

    38|78| And, surely, upon you shall rest My curse, till the Day of Reckoning.’95

    95. The words “until the Day of Reckoning” should not lead someone to believe, as some of the Sufis do, that he will be relieved of the curse and punishment on the Day of Judgment, but rather, his punishments will be multiplied with other varieties added (Alusi).

    قَالَ رَبِّ فَأَنْظِرْنِي إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ (79)

    38|79| He asked, ‘My Lord. Respite me till the day they are resurrected.’96

    96. How did Iblis know that there is going to be a Day of Reckoning? Alusi answers that either he must have heard it from the angels (of High Council) or, could have rightly guessed it from the nature of the world that it should have a Day of end, and from Adam’s nature that he and his progeny will do each other wrongs and so will have to be subjected to reckoning.

    قَالَ فَإِنَّكَ مِنَ الْمُنْظَرِينَ (80)

    38|80| He said, ‘Then you are among those respited;

    إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْوَقْتِ الْمَعْلُومِ (81)

    38|81| Until a known Day.’

    قَالَ فَبِعِزَّتِكَ لَأُغْوِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (82)

    38|82| He claimed, ‘By Your Might,97 I shall seduce them, all.

    97. Yusuf Ali comments on Satan’s oath by Allah’s power, “This phrase, this oath of Satan, is a fresh point introduced in this passage, because here we are dealing with Power - the Power of Good contrasted with Evil,- the Power of Allah as contrasted with the power that we see in our earthly affairs. Satan acknowledges that even his Power, such as it is, has no reality except in so far as it is permitted to operate by Allah in Allah’s wise and universal Plan, and that it cannot harm the true and sincere worshippers of Allah.”

    إِلَّا عِبَادَكَ مِنْهُمُ الْمُخْلَصِينَ (83)

    38|83| Except for Your chosen slaves from among them.’

    قَالَ فَالْحَقُّ وَالْحَقَّ أَقُولُ (84)

    38|84| (He replied, ‘This is) the truth.98 And I say the truth;

    98. This has also been understood to mean, “I am the Truth, and I say the Truth” (Zamakhshari, Shawkani from Mujahid).

    لَأَمْلَأَنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنْكَ وَمِمَّنْ تَبِعَكَ مِنْهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (85)

    38|85| I shall surely fill Jahannum with you and with those who follow you, all together.’99

    99. That is, anyone who followed you, whether of the Jinn or mankind, shall end in Hell, none shall be spared (Zamakhshari).
    “The punishment of defiance, disobedience, and rebellion is inevitable and just, and the followers who chose to identify themselves with the disobedience must suffer as well as the leaders” (Yusuf Ali).

    قُلْ مَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُتَكَلِّفِينَ (86)

    38|86| Say, ‘I do not seek wage for this, neither am I of the affecters.100

    100. Or, to put it differently, “I am not ceremonial, artificial, a dissimulator, or someone who takes such things upon himself as he cannot execute” (Au.).
    In Yusuf Ali’s words: “Mutakallif:- a man who pretends to things that are not true, or declares as facts things that do not exist, one who takes upon himself tasks to which he is not equal. True prophets are not people of that kind.”‏
    Qurtubi adds a narrative brought to us by Nafi` (Ibn `Umar’s freed-slave), he from Ibn `Umar who said,Once the Prophet was traveling by night when they passed by a man squatted near his water tank. `Umar asked him, “O owner of the tank. Has any wild animal drunk from your tank this night?” The Prophet interjected, “O owner of the tank. Do not tell him. This is being fastidious (mutakallif). The wild beasts took away in their belly what was their share, while that which is left is a drink pure for us.”
    The report was declared as munkar by quite a few, but Ibn Hibban treated a questionable narrator as trustworthy while Imam Malik thought it worth to give space to this hadith in his Muwatta' (Au.).
    Shawkani cites other references in Hadith works. `Umar’s words are preserved in Bukhari,“We were forbidden affectation (or fastidiousness).” And Tabarani, Hakim and Bayhaqi report on the authority of Salman that he said,“The Prophet forbid us that we stretch ourselves unnecessarily for a guest.” (Haythami also mentioned it in his “Majma`” saying that its narrators are those of the Sahih works except Tusi who was trustworthy anyway. Albani also declared it Sahih: S. Ibrahim).
    Ibn Mas`ud has said that if one does not know, let him say he does not know. To air opinion about what one does not know is to indulge in “takalluf” (Ibn Kathir and others). In fact, some have pointed out that to say, “I do not know” speaks of a man‘s depth of knowledge.
    Zamakhshari, and following him Alusi, report that according to some scholars pretentious behavior (takalluf) implies one of the three: to descend from one’s position, to try to reach out to what one cannot achieve, and to say what one has no knowledge of. And, Sufi Thanwi points out, if you looked at the Masha’ikh and scholars of our time, you will discover that most of them are of mutakallifin.

    إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا ذِكْرٌ لِلْعَالَمِينَ (87)

    38|87| It is not but a Reminder for the worlds.

    وَلَتَعْلَمُنَّ نَبَأَهُ بَعْدَ حِينٍ (88)

    38|88| And you shall surely know its tiding after a while.’101

    101. The allusion is to death in reference to individuals, and to Badr in reference to the Quraysh (Au.).