Surat Az-Zumar

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
by
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير

PREPARATORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015

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References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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

________________________

Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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

_______________________

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

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

________________________

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

______________________

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

______________________

  • Surah No. 39

    Merits of the Surah

    1. The Surah is also known as Al-Ghuraf (Zamakhshari, Alusi).
    Tirmidhi and Nas a’ i have recorded on the authority of `A’isha (ra),that the Prophet would not sleep (any night) before having recited Surah Al-Zumar and Bani Israel (Qurtubi, Shawkani). The hadith was declared Sahih by Albani (S. Ibrahim).
    2. The whole of the Surah is Makkan except for perhaps two, three, or seven verses (Qurtubi, Alusi, Shawkani).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ تَنْزِيلُ الْكِتَابِ مِنَ اللَّهِ الْعَزِيزِ الْحَكِيمِ (1)

    39|1| The revelation of the Book is from Allah, the All-mighty, the All-wise.

    إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ فَاعْبُدِ اللَّهَ مُخْلِصًا لَهُ الدِّينَ (2)

    39|2| Surely, We have sent down to you the Book with the truth,3 so worship Allah making the religion pure for Him.4

    3. Two meanings can be ascribed to the words, “with Truth,” or “in Truth.” (1) The Book has been revealed carrying the Truth, and, (2) it is Truly Allah’s revelation to you, since no man could have written it (Razi).
    4. That is, all your acts of worship should be aimed at winning His approval. Mere utterance of the words of faith will not be sufficient although forgiveness on its basis alone is not ruled out.
    It is said that when Farazdaq’s wife felt she was near her death, she instructed that her burial Prayers be led by Hasan al-Busri. When she died and Hasan had led the Prayers over her, he asked Farazdaq: “What have you prepared for this day?” Farazdaq replied, “The kalimah shahadah.” Hasan said, “That is the central pole. But where are the tent-ropes?” – meaning, deeds – which hold the tent poles in place (Razi).
    Hasan and Farazdaq were actually friendly with each other (EI., art. Hasan).
    Shamar is reported as having said, “A man will be brought with a Record of deeds as huge as mountains. Then Allah will say, ‘You prayed on such and such a day so that it might be said that you prayed. But I am the God besides whom there is no god. You fasted on such and such a day so that it might be said that you fasted. But I am the God besides whom there is no god. You spent so that it may be said, so and so is charitable. But I am the God besides whom there is no god.’ One after another He will keep on erasing deeds from his Record until nothing will be left. Thereat his two companion angels will remark, ‘O so and so. Were you practicing for the sake of others?” (Ibn Jarir).
    Mawdudi comments: This is an important verse of the Qur’an which needs to be understood carefully in order to understand the central theme of the message of Islam. It contains two parts: one, man should worship Allah alone, and two, the religion should purely be for Him. The two terms “`Ibadah” and “din” need some attention. According to the authoritative “Lisan al-`Arab” the word “`Ibadah” derived from “`abd” is an antonym of a free man, meaning, a slave, bondman, etc. Accordingly, “`Ibadah” implies (i) worship and devotion and (ii) humble and willing obedience.
    On the other hand the word “din” has several connotations. It implies (i) dominion, sovereignty, suzerainty, and the authority to enforce one’s decisions on others; (ii) obedience, compliance with commands in servitude; and (iii) practices and ways of a man or people.
    To combine together, the sense we get is that of worship and complete devotion to Allah (swt) in all sincerity, without the adulteration of any other’s obedience or subservience in any area of life.

    أَلَا لِلَّهِ الدِّينُ الْخَالِصُ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ مَا نَعْبُدُهُمْ إِلَّا لِيُقَرِّبُونَا إِلَى اللَّهِ زُلْفَىٰ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ فِي مَا هُمْ فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ كَاذِبٌ كَفَّارٌ (3)

    39|3| Lo, religion is purely for Allah.5 As for those who took protectors apart from Him (claim), ‘We do not worship them except that they may take us nearer to Allah in station.’6 Truly, Allah will judge between them in what they were differing; surely Allah does not guide him who is a liar, a (stubborn) ingrate.7

    5. Sayyid writes: “The demand to assign religion (strictly speaking ‘din’) to none other than Allah was made on no less than the Prophet himself, the very bearer of the Message. The demand was to accept it as the way of life, building the whole life and society on this basis; a system which starts with belief in the heart and grows to dominate the individual’s life and finally, covers the entire society.
    “A heart which believes in Allah’s Oneness, also leads a life in accordance with the demands of that Oneness. No other concern engages it other than this. He neither demands anything nor relies upon any of His creations. To him, Allah alone is the Strong, the One who is the Subduer, above all His creations. And humans – all together – are weak and incapable of any benefit or harm. Therefore, there is no need for him to devote his attention to any of them. They are like him: incapable of harm or benefit. It is Allah who is the Bestower and the Withholder. What need is there for him to turn his attention to any other than Allah who is Self-sufficient while the creations are dependents and poor?
    “A heart which believes in Allah also believes in the unity of the system of divine laws that turn the whole creation about. It believes that the compendium of laws given by Allah, is a part of the whole and therefore, humanity’s existence, its establishment and growth, is unachievable without meeting with its demands. Consequently, such a heart cannot choose to live by a system other than that Allah has chosen for it. It cannot obey laws but those of Allah, such laws as are in harmony with the laws governing the rest of the world.
    “Accordingly, a heart that believes in Allah’s Oneness feels the existence of a relationship between itself and all that Allah’s Hands have wrought. It lives in a friendly world, one in which he feels Allah’s Hand working in everything that works, and obtains comfort in everything his hands touch and his eyes fall upon. In consequence, he does not wish to harm anything that he touches or to indulge in anything but for which he has received the commands and approval from Allah, the Creator of all, the Giver of life and death, his Lord, Lord of everything, and of every living being.
    “That is how the effects of Allah’s Oneness appear in every belief or opinion held, as they also appear in attitudes and behavior. They help to design life on a clear pattern, complete, distinct. It does not remain a mere verbal utterance. The special attention accorded to Tawhid, its explanation, and the repeated stress on it in Allah’s Book demands special attention on the part of the Muslims, in every epoch and in every milieu. Tawhid in its extended and complete sense is a colossal reality that needs awareness, understanding and full comprehension.
    “'Lo, the religion is purely for Allah...’ the Revelation announces its importance by phrasing it in this high sounding, reverberating manner... opening up the short sentence with ‘Lo!’ demanding our immediate and fullest attention."
    6. This is not, as Majid writes, “the ever recurring plea of the polytheists” alone. But rather, if revived, Christianity is ever likely to go back to its ways of saint-worship. Majid further writes, “Compare and contrast with the absolute, pure, and unadulterated monotheism of Islam the palpable polytheistic attitude of Christianity. ‘The faithful who belong to the Church militant upon earth, in offering their prayers to God, call at the same time to their aid the saints who belong to the Church in heaven; and these, standing on the higher steps of approach to God, by their prayers and intercessions purify, strengthen, and offer God the prayers of the faithful living upon earth, and by the will of God work graciously and beneficently upon them.’ (Longer Orthodox Catechism, quoted in ERE, XI, p.51). ‘We ask God to grant blessings, we ask the saints to be our advocates. To God we say, “Have mercy on us;” to the saints we commonly say, “Pray for us …” We beg of them as they are pitiful, to take compassion on us and interpose in our behalf.’ (Roman Catechism, quoted in ERE. XI. P.51). This mentality, perhaps, is at the root of the primitive man’s worship and the Christian cults of the dead. ‘A crowd of saints, who were once men and women, now form a crowd of inferior deities, active in the affairs of men and receiving from them reverence and prayer’ (PC. II, p. 120).”
    7. “Yet humanity deviates from the natural and logical path of pure but simple to understand concept of Tawhid that Islam has brought, and which every Messenger had brought. Today we notice everywhere in our Islamic world devotion to the so-called holy men and ecclesiasts in a manner that reminds us of the pre-Islamic Arab devotion to angels, or carved images, seeking Allah’s nearness through them, hoping to win their intercession while Allah has clearly laid down the path: the path of pure Tawhid which neither relies on, nor is in any need of intercessors. We observe devotion to them being practiced all around us, in the mythical style, ‘Surely, Allah does not guide a liar, ingrate’” (Sayyid).

    لَوْ أَرَادَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا لَاصْطَفَىٰ مِمَّا يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ ۖ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ (4)

    39|4| Had Allah wished to take a son, He would have surely chosen out of those He creates whom he willed.8 Glorified is He, the One, the Subduer.

    8. “The argument is,” writes Majid, “assuming that God betook for Himself a Son, is that Son an uncreated Being like Himself, or a created being inferior to Him, and belonging to another class? If the former, then the clear conclusion is a doctrine of Dualism; if the latter, does it befit a Perfect Being to beget one who is imperfect?”

    خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بِالْحَقِّ ۖ يُكَوِّرُ اللَّيْلَ عَلَى النَّهَارِ وَيُكَوِّرُ النَّهَارَ عَلَى اللَّيْلِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ ۖ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى ۗ أَلَا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفَّارُ (5)

    39|5| He created the heavens and the earth in truth. He rolls the night over the day and rolls the day over the night9 and has subjected the sun and the moon: each running to an appointed course (of time).10 Lo, He is the All-mighty, the All-forgiving.

    9. “Takwir” is the act of wrapping something around an object. “Kawwara al-`imamah” means he wrapped the turban (around his head) – Zamakhshari. This carries two connotations: (1) of the night overlapping the day (shortening it) and (2) circular movement. The latter is the first hint in any peice of writing that the earth is round (Au.).

    خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ نَفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ ثُمَّ جَعَلَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَأَنْزَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ الْأَنْعَامِ ثَمَانِيَةَ أَزْوَاجٍ ۚ يَخْلُقُكُمْ فِي بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ خَلْقًا مِنْ بَعْدِ خَلْقٍ فِي ظُلُمَاتٍ ثَلَاثٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ لَهُ الْمُلْكُ ۖ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ فَأَنَّىٰ تُصْرَفُونَ (6)

    39|6| He created you out of a single soul, then from it He made its mate, and sent down for you11 of the cattle eight, (making four) pairs;12 He creates you in the wombs of your mothers – from one creation to another creation13 - in threefold darknesses.14 That is your Lord. His is the dominion. There is no deity save He. How then are you being turned away?15


    10. It has also been said that the meaning is, each has its position designated to it that it cannot go beyond, nor fall short of (Ibn Jarir).
    11. Mujahid, Qat adah and Dahh ak have said that the allusion is to the four kinds of flock: sheep, goat, camels and oxen as Allah said (8: 143-144),“Eight (that make) couples: of the sheep a pair, of the goats a pair. Say, ‘Has he forbidden the two males or the two females? Or what the wombs of the two females carry? Tell me by knowledge, if you are true.’ Similarly, of the camel is a pair, and of the oxen a pair” (Ibn Jarir).
    12. In the words, “sent down for you” is the clear indication that the domestication of cattle was by Allah’s design, and not through human effort. Human’s have not been able to add a fifth to Allah’s four (Au.).
    As for “sending down” (of them), similar expressions have been used for water, iron and clothes (Shafi`).
    13. The allusion is to various stages that a fetus passes through within the womb until birth as said Allah (23: 12-14),“Surely, We created man from the quintessence of clay. Then We placed him as a sperm drop in a safe lodging. Then We fashioned the sperm drop into a leech like structure, then of that leech like structure We made a chewed like substance. Then out of the chewed like substance We created the bones. Then We clothed the bones with flesh. Then We developed him into a new creation. So, blessed is Allah, the Best of creators.”
    14. The threefold darkness is created by the outer skin (batn), the skin of the womb (rahm), and the membrane (al-mashimah) that covers the fetus within the womb (placenta): Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Suddi, Ibn Zayd and Dahh ak (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    15. The implication is clear: It seems you are under the influence of others and are “being turned away” rather than you making the decision independently, all by yourself (Au.).

    إِنْ تَكْفُرُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ عَنْكُمْ ۖ وَلَا يَرْضَىٰ لِعِبَادِهِ الْكُفْرَ ۖ وَإِنْ تَشْكُرُوا يَرْضَهُ لَكُمْ ۗ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ ۚ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ (7)

    39|7| If you disbelieve, then Allah is independent of you, yet He does not approve of disbelief for His slaves.16 But if you are grateful, He approves it for you. And no burden-carrier will carry the burden of another. Ultimately, to your Lord is your return when He will inform you of what you were doing. Surely, He is knowing of what is in the breasts.

    16. This implies that disbelief is not planted into the humans from Allah, although, in the final analysis, both belief and disbelief are His creation. If disbelief had been planted by Allah, He would not have been displeased with disbelief and would not have disapproved it for His slaves (Razi and others).

    وَإِذَا مَسَّ الْإِنْسَانَ ضُرٌّ دَعَا رَبَّهُ مُنِيبًا إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ إِذَا خَوَّلَهُ نِعْمَةً مِنْهُ نَسِيَ مَا كَانَ يَدْعُو إِلَيْهِ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَجَعَلَ لِلَّهِ أَنْدَادًا لِيُضِلَّ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ ۚ قُلْ تَمَتَّعْ بِكُفْرِكَ قَلِيلًا ۖ إِنَّكَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّارِ (8)

    39|8| And when an affliction touches man, he invokes his Lord, turning to Him (in sincerity), then, when He confers upon him a blessing (directly) from Him, he forgets all that He prayed for earlier and sets up compeers to Allah – so as to mislead away from His way.17 Say, ‘Enjoy your disbelief a little, surely, you are of the inhabitants of the Fire.’

    17. That is, not only does the man in question alter his attitudes towards Allah depending on whether he is going through hardship or ease, devoting himself sincerely to Him when in trouble, and turning away as soon as granted ease, but he also attributes his relief to other than Allah telling others that he seems to have won relief through the help of such and such a saint, deity or, perhaps physical causes, misleading others too besides himself (Mawdudi summarized).

    أَمَّنْ هُوَ قَانِتٌ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ سَاجِدًا وَقَائِمًا يَحْذَرُ الْآخِرَةَ وَيَرْجُو رَحْمَةَ رَبِّهِ ۗ قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ۗ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ (9)

    39|9| Is he then who is given to worship18 during the deep hours of night,19 prostrating himself or standing (in prayers), who fears the Hereafter and hopes for his Lord’s mercy20 (like one who does not)? Say, are equal those who know and those who do not know?21 Surely, none receive the admonition but men of understanding.

    18. The general meaning of “qanata” is to obey, but, technically, it refers to standing in prayer. Hence the “qunut” in “witr” which is a supplication from the standing position. A hadith of Muslim says, "The best Prayer is that which consists of a lengthy standing” (Zamakhshari).
    Some scholars have thought that “qunut” (in reference to Prayers) is not merely standing in prayer, but one which also involves “khushu`” (humbleness accompanied by fear) - Ibn Kathir.
    19. ‘Ana’ has been explained by Ibn `Abbas, Hasan, Suddi and Ibn Zayd as meaning, depth of the night. See Surah ‘Al-`Imran, note 184 in support of this understanding. But a few others have not restricted it to the depth of the night but to any part of it (Ibn Kathir).
    In Surah Ta-ha, ayah 130, we have adopted the latter meaning in view of the context there (Au.).
    It is said that reciting this ayah Ibn `Umar remarked, “That was `Uthman ibn `Affan who spent most of his night in Prayers.” It is said that sometimes he would recite the whole of the Qur’an in one raka`ah (Ibn Kathir).
    Other names have also been cited such as that of Ibn Mas` ud, `Amm ar b. Y asir, Suhayb and S alim the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah ( Alusi). Tamim D ari has been preserved by Ahmad as reporting the Prophetic words,“Whoever recited a hundred verses of the Qur’an in a night, is recorded as if he was in prayers the whole night.” Nas a’ i has also recorded it in his “Al-yawm wa al-laylah” (Ibn Kathir).
    Haythami noted in Majma` that Ibn Ma` in and Abu H atim trusted one of the narrators, while Bukhari did not. But Haythami adds his weight to the narrative (Au.).
    20. That is, they are in a state of fear and hope. Tirmidhi, Nas a’ i and Ibn Majah have preserved through Anas that“the Prophet entered upon a man who was in the throes of death. He asked him, ‘How do you find yourself?’ He said, ‘I am hopeful, yet fearful of Allah.’ The Prophet remarked, ‘The two do not get together in the heart of a believer during such moments but Allah gave him what he hoped for and withheld what he feared’” ( Alusi, Shawk ani).
    According to Albani the report is of Hasan status (S.Ibrhim).
    21. Although Ibn `Umar named `Uthman b. `Aff an, and `Abdullah ibn `Abbas named `Amm ar b. Y asir as those in whose connection this verse was revealed, the application is obviously general (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    Sayyid devotes a few paragraphs to this verse. We present the briefest possible summary here: “Say, are equal those who know and those who do not know?” – the juxtaposition of this ayah with the previous one, which spoke of Prayers in the depth of night, leads us to believe that by the words “those who know” the allusion is “those who act.” Conversely, evil is the case of the man who knows, but does not act. "
    It could also mean, however, that just as those who know and those who do not, are not equal, those who stand in Prayers at night cannot be equal to those who do not (Zamakhshari).
    Imam Razi sees another connection between the last two verses: one is about deeds, the other about knowledge. Deed is the basis – performed consistently, accompanied by fear and hope. Knowledge follows, which is ma`rifah and mukashafa. But the unbelievers do not know. They are Unitarians when in trouble, Trinitarians and above when in peace. They are fated never to become ‘men of understanding’ (slightly modified).
    In the words of Sayyid, “The knowledge of the Truth is the gnosis. It is the comprehension of the Truth. It opens the eyes. It is the union with the fixed and firm realities of existence. Knowledge is not those unconnected pieces of data that are amassed in the mind in a heap. Such a heap does not lead to the grand truths of existence. It does not take beyond the apparent, physical manifestation of things.
    “And this is the way to the knowledge and electric gnosis.. it is this ... standing before Allah, the hearts in wakefulness, fear of the Hereafter, in the hope of mercy and blessings.. this is the way to knowledge. It is then that one gets at the kernel, begins to know, and benefit from what he sees, hears and experiences, traveling up the path, ending at the Truth that lies behind the apparent. As for those who halt at the haphazardly conducted, isolated experiences, and at apparent meanings of the observable, they are collectors of pieces of knowledge. They are not Gnostics.”

    قُلْ يَا عِبَادِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ ۚ لِلَّذِينَ أَحْسَنُوا فِي هَٰذِهِ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةٌ ۗ وَأَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَاسِعَةٌ ۗ إِنَّمَا يُوَفَّى الصَّابِرُونَ أَجْرَهُمْ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ (10)

    39|10| Say, ‘My servants who have come to believe, fear Allah.22 For those who do well in this world, is good.23 And Allah’s earth is spacious.24 Surely, those who endure in patience25 will be given their reward without measure.’26

    22. The textual word is “ittaquAllah” meaning, fear Allah, acquire taqwa, and so on.
    “That Allah addressed the believers in Him as the faithful, and then demanded that they acquire taqwa leads us to believe that a ‘fasiq’ (one without any taqwa) is still a believer. In short, ‘fisq’ does not preclude ‘iman’” (Razi).
    23. The allusion could either be to peace and tranquility during this life, as Suddi said, or to Paradise as others have said (Tabari).
    24. The indication is concealed, says Mujahid, that it is time the (persecuted) Muslims (at Makkah) should migrate to the lands of peace (Ibn Jarir).
    Indeed, adds Qurtubi, there is indication in it that one may migrate from an expensive place to a cheaper one. Sufyan Thawri has said, “Live in a place where you can fill a bag with bread for a Dirham.”
    25. That is, show patience and persistence in the face of difficulties you will encounter during emigration and settling into a foreign land (Razi).
    26. “Bi-ghayri hisab” has two connotations. One, the reward will be of unimaginable magnitude and second, it will be ever-lasting (Razi).
    It might be noted that “sabr” is the only quality that has been promised in the Qur’an as whose reward will be “without measure,” as fasting is the only deed whose reward has been promised in the hadith as “without measure” (Au.).

    قُلْ إِنِّي أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ مُخْلِصًا لَهُ الدِّينَ (11)

    39|11| Say, ‘I have been ordered that I should worship Allah making religion purely for Him.27

    27. Or, to put it differently, making the religion exclusively for Him (Au.).
    That is, making my obedience for Him alone, and declaring Him as the only true One Lord (Ibn Jarir).

    وَأُمِرْتُ لِأَنْ أَكُونَ أَوَّلَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ (12)

    39|12| And I have been ordered (this) so that I should be the first of those who surrender.’28

    28. That is, I do not behave in the manner of kings and rulers who command and order but fail to live by what they command and order (Razi).

    قُلْ إِنِّي أَخَافُ إِنْ عَصَيْتُ رَبِّي عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ (13)

    39|13| Say, ‘I fear the punishment of a great Day29 if I disobeyed my Lord.’

    29. A Great Day because its hardships will be of great magnitude (Tabari).

    قُلِ اللَّهَ أَعْبُدُ مُخْلِصًا لَهُ دِينِي (14)

    39|14| Say, ‘I worship Allah making my religion purely for Him.

    فَاعْبُدُوا مَا شِئْتُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ ۗ قُلْ إِنَّ الْخَاسِرِينَ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ وَأَهْلِيهِمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۗ أَلَا ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ (15)

    39|15| Therefore, worship what you will, apart from Him.’ Say, ‘Surely, losers are those who lost themselves and their families on the Day of Standing.30 Lo! That is the clear loss.’

    30. That is, those are true losers who will stand alone on Judgment Day and in Hell, without anyone of the large family they lived amongst in this world. Although Ibn `Abbas did not support this, this was the understanding of Mujahid and Ibn Zayd (Ibn Jarir).
    Another understanding is that they did not bother to put their families on the right track and so they perished, as they themselves perished (Shawkani).
    Ibn `Abbas however said that Allah (swt) has prepared spouses, servants and others in Paradise for every one of the humankind. But when a man enters into the Fire, he loses them all (Razi). The confirmation of this may be sought in another verse which says (23: 10), “They are the inheritors” (Qurtubi). That is, the believers will inherit what the unbeliever loses of his share in Paradise.

    لَهُمْ مِنْ فَوْقِهِمْ ظُلَلٌ مِنَ النَّارِ وَمِنْ تَحْتِهِمْ ظُلَلٌ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ يُخَوِّفُ اللَّهُ بِهِ عِبَادَهُ ۚ يَا عِبَادِ فَاتَّقُونِ (16)

    39|16| Above them will be overshadowings of the Fire and from below them overshadowings.31 That is what Allah frightens His slaves with. Fear Me then, O My slaves.

    31. Or, layers of fire from above and below (Tabari). This has the same meaning as another verse (7: 41),“Jahannum shall be a cradle for them, and from above them (several folds of) covering of fire)” - Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir.

    وَالَّذِينَ اجْتَنَبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ أَنْ يَعْبُدُوهَا وَأَنَابُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ لَهُمُ الْبُشْرَىٰ ۚ فَبَشِّرْ عِبَادِ (17)

    39|17| As for those who avoided the Devils lest they worship them,32 and turned penitent to Allah, for them is the good tiding. So give glad tiding to My servants.

    32. As explained earlier, the term “taghut” carries several connotations. At this point however, the allusion, as Ibn Zayd said, is to Shaytan. The word yields both singular as well as plural meanings (Ibn Jarir).

    الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَاهُمُ اللَّهُ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمْ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ (18)

    39|18| Those who listen to the word and follow the best of it.33 They are the ones whom Allah has guided; and they are the people endowed with understanding.

    33. Ibn Marduwayh has recorded Ibn `Umar as saying that Sa` id b. Zayd, Abu Dharr and Salman (al-F arsi) were of those in the pre-Islamic time who followed the best of speech viz., “God can only be One.”
    (I.e., the words, God can only be One" is the “best of speech”: Au.).
    Ibn Marduwayh has another report which says that when this ayah was revealed, the Prophet (saws) sent across a caller announcing, “He who died without associating partners with Allah will enter Paradise.” When `Umar came to know he turned the caller back explaining to the Prophet that he feared people would begin to depend on this single statement. The Prophet remarked, “If the people knew the extent of Allah’s mercy they would never be without hope and if they knew the extent of His anger they would look down upon their deeds as worthless” (Shawkani remarks that the ending part of the above text is found in Sahih works).
    (But, in addition to reports from Sa` id b. Zayd and others), there are others who said that the ayah applies very well to `Uthman, `Abdul Rahman ibn `Awf, Sa`d (ibn abi al-Waqq as), Sa` id (b. Zayd), Talha and Zubayr following the good word (Qurtubi). [They all embraced Islam through Abu Bakr, right at the start of the Prophetic mission: Au.].
    Yet another aspect of the meaning, as worded by Ibn `Abbas, is that those are meant who hear both good and evil things. But they suppress the evil, mentioning them to no one, but talk about the good things and put them to practice (Qurtubi: reworded).
    In sum, the commentators have explained with regard to the best of the word, that the allusion is to words of all kinds that the people in question listen: good and bad, true and false, tawhid and Association, originating from the pious and the fraudulent, the believers and unbelievers, but follow only the good ones of them. Hence the ending remarks: “they are the ones guided and they are people of understanding.” This is why it has been said that the verse applies to the earliest Muslims who, apart from other reasons, listened to all kinds of words from the pagans, Jews and Christians, but followed the good of them (Shafi` from Qurtubi).

    أَفَمَنْ حَقَّ عَلَيْهِ كَلِمَةُ الْعَذَابِ أَفَأَنْتَ تُنْقِذُ مَنْ فِي النَّارِ (19)

    39|19| Is he then, against whom the word of Chastisement has realized34 – can you then rescue him who is in the Fire?

    34. Because of his consistent denial and refusal to accept the call (Ibn Jarir from Qat adah) – can such a one be rescued from the Fire?

    لَٰكِنِ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا رَبَّهُمْ لَهُمْ غُرَفٌ مِنْ فَوْقِهَا غُرَفٌ مَبْنِيَّةٌ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ ۖ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ ۖ لَا يُخْلِفُ اللَّهُ الْمِيعَادَ (20)

    39|20| But those who feared their Lord, for them are chambers over which are built chambers, underneath which flow rivers: Allah’s promise; and Allah does not fail in the promise.35

    35. This is in contrast with the Fire of ayah 16 that will be above the inhabitants of the Fire and below them (Qurtubi).
    Ibn Kathir quotes the following to explain the verse. The first is in the Sahihayn as well as in Tirmidhi who declared it Hasan Sahih:Abu Sa` id al-Khudri reported the Prophet (saws) as having said, “The inhabitants of Paradise will see the people of the upper chambers from above them, as you see the shining star about to set in the horizon, in the east or the west – because of the differences in ranks between them.” They asked, “Messenger of Allah. Those must be places for Prophets that other than them will not get!” He answered, “Not at all. By Him in whose hands is my life, they would be people who believed in Allah and testified to the Messengers.”
    Ahmad, Tirmidhi (in parts) and Ibn Majah carry a trustworthy hadith which says that the Companions once said to the Prophet, “Messenger of Allah, when we see you, our hearts soften up and we become (as if) people of the other world. But when we leave you, the world seems enchanting and we smell our women and children!” He said, “If you remained all the time in the state in which you are with me, angels would shake hands with you with their palms and would visit you in your homes. The fact is, if you were not to sin, Allah would bring another set of people who would sin so that He might forgive them.” They asked, “Messenger of Allah, tell us something about Paradise and what it is made of.” He replied, “A brick of gold over a brick of silver, plastered with fragrant musk, its gravel is of pearls and gems, and its soil saffron. Whoever entered it, will be in blessings and never suffer, will stay therein forever and never die. His clothes will not get worn and he will not lose his youth. (Then he added), there are three whose supplication is not rejected: A just leader, a fasting person until he breaks his fast, and the supplication of a wronged person which is carried on through the clouds, for which doors of the heavens are opened and the Lord says, ‘By My Power. I shall surely help you, even if after a while.’”
    (In view of the above two, the following report can also be brought in from Ibn Kathir, although it has not been declared free of defects: Au.). It is in Ahmad:`Ali reported that the Prophet said, “Surely, in Paradise are chambers whose inside can be seen from outside and outside from inside.” At that a Bedouin said, “Messenger of Allah, for whom are they?” He replied, “For him who spoke well, fed the food and Prayed for Allah in the night while the people are asleep.”

    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ أَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَلَكَهُ يَنَابِيعَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ثُمَّ يُخْرِجُ بِهِ زَرْعًا مُخْتَلِفًا أَلْوَانُهُ ثُمَّ يَهِيجُ فَتَرَاهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَجْعَلُهُ حُطَامًا ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَذِكْرَىٰ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ (21)

    39|21| Have you not observed that Allah sent down water out of heaven, then He threaded it as springs in the land, then He brings out therewith crops of diverse hues, then it withers, and you see it turning yellow. Then He reduces it to broken stubble. In that surely is a reminder for men of understanding.36

    36. Asad writes: “As in many other instances, the above Qur’anic reference to the endless transformation and the miraculous cycle of life and death in all nature serves to emphasize God’s almightiness and, specifically, His power to resurrect the dead – thus alluding, indirectly, to the statement at the end of the preceding verse that ‘never does God fail to fulfill His promise.’”
    Yusuf Ali writes from another, but equally useful perspective: “The circuit of water, by which the rain falls from the clouds, is absorbed through the earth, and flows through rivers or underground streams to the sea, where it again rises as vapour and forms clouds, was explained in notes 3111-12 to xxv 53. Here our attention is drawn to one portion of the process. The rain fructifies the soil and the seeds. Produce of various kinds is raised. The harvest ripens and is gathered in. The plants wither, dry up, and crumble away. Men and animals are fed. And the circuit starts again in another season. Here is a Sign of the Grace and Goodness of Allah, clear to those who understand.”

    أَفَمَنْ شَرَحَ اللَّهُ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ فَهُوَ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ مِنْ رَبِّهِ ۚ فَوَيْلٌ لِلْقَاسِيَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ مِنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ (22)

    39|22| Is he then whose heart Allah has opened for Islam,37 so that he is on a light from his Lord38 (equal to him who is stumbling in the dark)? Woe then to those whose hearts are hardened against the Reminder of Allah.39 They are in manifest error.

    37. That is, opened his heart for higher knowledge (ma`rifah), to acknowledgement of His Oneness, submission to his Lordship, and readiness to obey Him (Ibn Jarir).
    38. That is, the light of His guidance (Ibn Jarir).
    39. The Bible echoes this. Majid quotes from the NT: “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, and be converted and I should heal them.” (Jn. 12: 40).
    The allusion by the textual “dhikr” is to the Qur’an (Ibn Jarir).
    Malik b. Din ar has said that individually, a man is not struck with anything worse than hardness of heart, and collectively a people with removal of kindness from their hearts (Qurtubi).
    Thanwi, although a Sufi, cautions that this “hardness of heart” should be understood in contrast with the “openness of the heart” and not in the sense of “its lack of softness” (riqqah). Some people, when they discover that their heart is not soft, become apprehensive that perhaps they suffer hardness of the heart. Such a conclusion, and derivation of such a meaning is incorrect.

    اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُتَشَابِهًا مَثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَنْ يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ (23)

    39|23| Allah has sent down the best of discourses:40 a Book, consimilar41 in its oft-repeated (content),42 whereat shiver the skins of those who fear their Lord, then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah.43 That is Allah’s guidance whereby He guides whom He will.44 But whomsoever Allah misleads, then, no guide has he.

    40. Qushayri has said that some people have thought that the term “hadith” is in the sense of something new, freshly created. But this is not the sense wherever used in the Qur’an. The words of the Qur’an are “qadim” (eternal, since it is “uncreated”). It is true that an additional meaning of the term “hadith” is “new,” but in Qur’anic usage, it lends the meaning of “new” or “fresh” in reference to the listener or hearer, while it remains “qadim” (in reference to the created world) - Qurtubi.
    Imam Razi has a lengthy discourse in favor of this point.
    This is because Allah’s speech (kalamuAllah) is an Attribute of Allah (sifah min sifatillah) which is part and parcel of His Person (Au.).
    41. That is, as Sa` id b. Jubayr put it, similar to each other and not contradictory or inconsistent (Ibn Jarir).
    The allusion could also be to the Qur’anic mention of a thing, a fact, a phenomenon and then its opposite such as, e.g., Paradise against the Fire, good against evil, this world against the Hereafter, a believer against an unbeliever and so on. This “mutashabih” warns Ibn Kathir, is different from the “mutashabihat” (mentioned in 3: 7) which speaks of a particular category of verses.
    42. That is, one that repeats its verses, commands, injunctions, stories, admonitions, etc. (Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Suddi, Hasan and others: Ibn Jarir).
    “Mathani” is the plural of “mathna” which means to repeat and reiterate (Zamakhshari). So an added allusion is that this is a Speech whose recitation is repeated by those who believe in it (Qurtubi).
    43. That is, their hearts soften and their bodies become pliant for Allah’s obedience (Ibn Jarir).
    The meaning is, when they hear the Qur’anic verses such as those, for instance, that threaten punishment, a shiver runs through their body. And when they hear verses speaking of Allah’s mercy promising rewards, their fear turns into hope and they feel more attracted to His remembrance ( Alusi, Thanwi).
    The same thing has been said elsewhere, writes Ibn Kathir. For example (8: 2-4),“Surely, believers are those whose hearts tremble when Allah is mentioned. When His revelations are recited to them, they cause increase in their faith; and they place their trust in their Lord. Those: who perform the Prayer (well) and expend of what We have provided them. These in truth are the believers. For them are ranks with their Lord, forgiveness, and a noble provision.”
    There are other verses of this nature. A third meaning comes to us from Qat adah through `Abdul Razz aq who reports him as having said after reciting this verse:“This is the description of Allah’s friends. Their skins shiver, and their eyes shed tears as their hearts find peace through Allah’s remembrance. Allah did not describe them as those who lose their minds (when listening to the Qur’an), or pass out in a swoon. This kind of behavior belongs to the innovators and are straight from Shaytan” (Ibn Kathir).
    Preceding Ibn Kathir, Qurtubi expands on this last issue. He reports Asm a’ bint Abi Bakr as saying, “When the Prophet’s Companions listened to the Qur’anic recitation, their skins shivered, and their eyes shed tears.” She was told, “But today when one of the people hears the Qur’anic recitation he falls to the ground unconscious?!” She said, “I seek Allah’s refuge from Shaytan the accursed.”
    Alusi adds from Zubayr b. Bakk ar’s Al-Muwaffaqiyyat that `Abdullah b. al-Zubayr said to his mother (Asm a’ bint Abi Bakr), “I have discovered a people better than whom I have never come across any time. They remember Allah and one of them shivers until he swoons because of his fear of Allah.” She replied, “Never sit in their company.” Then she added, “I have seen the Prophet reciting the Qur’an, and I have seen Abu Bakr and `Umar recite the Qur’an but no such thing ever happened to them. Do you think these people are more fearful of Allah than those?”
    Sa` id b. `Abdul Rahman al-Jumahi says that `Abdullah ibn `Umar passed by a man who had fallen unconscious while listening to Qur’anic recitation. He asked, “What’s wrong with this man?” He was told, “The Qur’an was recited to him, he was reminded of Allah, and he swooned.” He remarked, “We fear Allah and do not swoon.” Then he added, “Shaytan enters into these people. The Prophet’s Companions never experienced anything of this sort.” `Umar ibn `Abdul `Aziz reports that Ibn S ir in was told about a people who swoon when the Qur’an is recited before them. He said, “(Let there be a test) between us and them. Let one of them sit on a roof with his feet dangling down. Then let the Qur’an be recited to him. If he jumps down, he is genuine” (Qurtubi, Alusi).
    Alusi maintains, however, that if some people swoon, it is because of their weakness at the emotional level, over which they have no control, and on which account are perhaps forgivable. If the Salaf never underwent such states, it was because they were deeply knowledgeable (rasikhuna fi al-`ilmi), and strong of mind and heart. He also states that some stray cases of a Companion or two who also underwent such states have been reported, and which he, Alusi, has mentioned in his paper on “Haqiqatu al-Tariqah.” As for the criticism by the Salaf, it was perhaps directed at men who show off (mura’in), or were impious.
    For example, we are told of `Umar that once he heard a recitation emerging from a house. He was so affected that he had to seek a wall's support, and wasn't well for a whole month (Au.).
    Qurtubi adds a few reports on good effects of the skins shivering with Allah’s remembrance, such as, acceptance of supplication made at such moments. But all of them carry some defect or the other in their chains of narration (Au.).
    Also see Al `Imran, verse 125 of this work for some commentary there (Au.).
    44. The comparison of rain water with Revelation is quite apt. The previous passage spoke of the cycle of water which, sent down from the heavens, causes life’s renewal which appears in a variety of hue. This verse speaks of the Revelation coming down from the heavens that some hearts welcome. They open up, get activated and bloom with life. On the other hand, hardened hearts receive the guidance just as hard rocks receive rain water. It fails to penetrate (Sayyid).

    أَفَمَنْ يَتَّقِي بِوَجْهِهِ سُوءَ الْعَذَابِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۚ وَقِيلَ لِلظَّالِمِينَ ذُوقُوا مَا كُنْتُمْ تَكْسِبُونَ (24)

    39|24| Is he then who will fend off with his face an evil torment45 on the Day of Judgment (like him who escaped)? And it will be said to the wrongdoers, ‘Taste (now) what you were earning.’

    45. Because their hands will be tied (Zamakhshari), an opinion attributed to the Salaf (Au.).
    Taking the torment on the face expresses utter helplessness (Majid).

    كَذَّبَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ فَأَتَاهُمُ الْعَذَابُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (25)

    39|25| Those who were before them (also) cried lies, then the chastisement came upon them from whence they did not perceive.

    فَأَذَاقَهُمُ اللَّهُ الْخِزْيَ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَعَذَابُ الْآخِرَةِ أَكْبَرُ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ (26)

    39|26| So Allah made them taste humiliation in the life of the world, but surely, the chastisement of the Hereafter is greater, if only they knew.

    وَلَقَدْ ضَرَبْنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِي هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ (27)

    39|27| Surely, We have struck for the people in this Qur’an all manner of similitude haply they will heed:

    قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا غَيْرَ ذِي عِوَجٍ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ (28)

    39|28| An Arabic Qur’an wherein there is no crookedness,46 haply they will fear.

    46. That is, as Asad puts it, 'without any deviousness that could obscure its meaning.'

    ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا رَجُلًا فِيهِ شُرَكَاءُ مُتَشَاكِسُونَ وَرَجُلًا سَلَمًا لِرَجُلٍ هَلْ يَسْتَوِيَانِ مَثَلًا ۚ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (29)

    39|29| Allah strikes a parable: a man belonging to several partners at variance with each other,47 and a man belonging exclusively to one man - are the two equal in comparison?48 Praise to Allah.49 But rather, most of them know not.

    47. The textual “shakasa” also carries with it the connotation of ill-temper (Ibn Jarir). This opinion is attributed to Mujahid, `At a’ and Ibn Zayd (Qurtubi).
    48. “This parable fully depicts the truth concerning tawhid and shirk in every situation of life. A believer’s heart filled with tawhid is one that traverses this journey following a clear guidance. His eyes are fixed upon a single star in the horizon and, therefore, does not miss his direction. He realizes that there is just one source of life, strength and provision; a single source of benefit and loss, and a single source of bestowal and denial. So, he straightens his steps towards this single source, seeking help from this single origin, holding with his hand a single rope anchored to a handle. He is satisfied with his direction towards a single goal and does not remove his eyes off it. He serves a single Master, and so, does what pleases Him and abstains from what displeases Him. In this manner his potentials derive inner strength and remain united. He does, whatever he does, with his full vigor since he is firmly footed on the ground turned towards a single Lord in the heavens” (Sayyid).
    Mawdudi writes, “It is not difficult to imagine that if someone has several masters who are at variance with each other, and, at the same time, ill-tempered, each making unreasonable demand on his slave, will jointly leave the slave in a miserable state. Such is the example of shirk and tawhid, several gods to serve and One. It may also be understood that the parable does not apply to images or idols but to living entities who behave as if they are godlings. There is one’s own self, its never ending demands, then the family, friends’ circle, the society, and finally the state. Each behaves as if it is a god and makes incessant demand on the individual. Their contradictory demands keep pulling the individual to this side and that, making his life miserable. Not merely that, but, failing to meet with their demands, if one causes him a heart-break, then the other takes offence. One humiliates, another boycotts, and so on. The man can never please all of them.”
    49. After presenting the dilemma of the two, one serving one God, and the other several, it is asked, “can the two be equal?” The polytheist has no answer except for the muted reply that they cannot be equal. So, in response it is said, “Praise be to Allah” who explains it so lucidly (Au.).

    إِنَّكَ مَيِّتٌ وَإِنَّهُمْ مَيِّتُونَ (30)

    39|30| You are sure to die (O Muhammad) and they are sure to die.50

    50. The difference between “mayyit” (ãíøöÊ) and “ma’it” ( ãÇ ÆÊ ) is that of emphasis. “Ma’it” is one who is to die, maybe tomorrow, maybe later. But “mayyit” is an adjective attached to the noun, like “sayyid” which is a quality (of “leadership” or “chieftainship”) attached to a person thus qualified. The quality in this case is such a permanent feature of the humans, that they are as good as dead (especially, when compared with the true life of the Next: Au.). In short, “mayyit” is someone sure to die (Zamakhshari). The simple “mayt” ( ãíúÊñ َ) on the other hand, is for the dead (Shafi`).
    The information that the Prophet is going to die was aimed at his followers: he will not abide with them forever. Yet we find a man like `Umar declaring after the Prophet’s death that he was not dead, and that he would come back (Qurtubi); which explains why this had to be here (Au.).

    ثُمَّ إِنَّكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ عِنْدَ رَبِّكُمْ تَخْتَصِمُونَ (31)

    39|31| Then, surely, on the Day of Judgment you will be disputing before your Lord.51

    51. Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir (some of which Alusi shares) write that we have several reports in explanation of this verse. Tirmidhi has one of Sahih status:`Abdullah ibn Zubayr says that Zubayr (b. al-`Aww am) asked (in reference to this verse), “Messenger of Allah. Is there going to be a repetition of disputes and mutual claims, after what we have been through in this world?” When he said yes, Zubayr said, “Then the affair is going to be difficult.”
    Ahmad’s report adds that upon being asked by Zubayr the Prophet replied, “Yes, there will be a repetition until everyone restores every other (claimant’s) rights.”
    There is another report (which is also presented by Zamakhshari) in words: And, Ibn `Umar says, “I had spent plenty of time believing that the verse, ‘You are sure to die (O Muhammad) and they are sure to die. Then, surely, on the Day of Judgment you will be disputing before your Lord,’ applied to us and the People of the Book. (As for disputes between ourselves) we used to wonder, ‘how can we dispute when our Prophet is same and our Book is same?’ That remained until we saw some of us striking others with the swords on their faces and I knew that it was revealed in our reference."
    (Haythami said that this report of Tabarani has trustworthy narrators: Au.).
    Ibn Kathir adds Imam Ahmad‘s report (which we take from Majma`: Au.), the Prophet (saws) said, “The first two disputants will be neighbors.”
    (The report, which is in Ahmad and Tabar ani has one of the two chains trustworthy: Au.).
    And Ahmad’s Musnad has the following hadith: The Prophet said, “By Him in whose hands is my life, disputes will take place to the extent of two goats over why was it that they locked horns.”According to another report, the Prophet saw two goats locked in horns and asked, “Abu Dharr. Do you know what is it they are fighting over?” He said, “No.” He said, “But Allah knows and He will judge between them.”
    (Haythami writes: The report is in Ahmad, Bazzar, Tabar ani, but has some weakness in the chain: Au.).
    The application of the verse, however, adds Ibn Kathir is general. There will be many kinds of disputants so that, as is reported in Kitab al-Ruh of Ibn Mandah, Ibn `Abbas said that even the body will dispute with the soul, one blaming the other for evil deeds until Allah will send an angel to them. He will say, “You two are like a man who cannot walk but can see, while another can walk but cannot see. Agreeing together, one mounts the other, and the two steal fruit from a tree. So, (the angel will ask), which of them do you think is the wrongdoing?” They will say, “Both.” The angel will say, “You have passed the judgment on yourselves.”
    (Quote from Ibn Kathir ends here).
    In any case, Alusi writes, the application is general. Accordingly, Ibn Jarir quotes Ibn `Abbas as saying that the true will contend against the false, the oppressed against the oppressor, the unguided against the guided, the weakened ones against the arrogant ones and so on.
    And, Tabarani has recorded - through a chain of narrators which is not too bad for reliance - that Abu Ayyub al-Ansari said, “The first to dispute against each other on the Judgment Day will be a man and his wife. By Allah, it is not her tongue that will speak but her hands and legs will bear witness against her in matters involving the rights on her, and his hands and legs will bear witness against him in matters involving the rights on him. Next will be between a man and his servant. They will dispute in a similar manner. Then will come people in business. And, there will be no coins nor any currency except that the wronging man’s good deeds will be given away to the man he wronged. Thereafter tyrants will be brought up, fully chained, and it will be said, ‘Take them all to the Fire.’ By Allah, I do not know whether they alone will enter it, or, as Allah said, ‘And there is none among you but will arrive at it.’”
    Ibn Kathir also quotes the above.
    We can end with an oft-quoted hadith on the topic. It is in Bukhari:The Prophet said, “Whoever has a wrong on him which he did to his brother involving his honor or something else, may clear himself of it now, before (a day) when there will be neither Dinar nor Dirham (for exchange). If he has a good deed (in his account), it will be taken away from him in proportion to his wrong, and, if he did not have good deeds, then the other man’s wrong deeds will be taken off him and loaded on to the (wrongdoing) man.”

    فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنْ كَذَبَ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَكَذَّبَ بِالصِّدْقِ إِذْ جَاءَهُ ۚ أَلَيْسَ فِي جَهَنَّمَ مَثْوًى لِلْكَافِرِينَ (32)

    39|32| So who can be more unjust than he who uttered a lie against Allah and laid a lie against the Truth when it came to him? Is there not in Jahannum an abode for the unbelievers?52

    52. (In addition to the apparent meaning) the allusion could be to those (pseudo-Sufis) who claim “wilayah” falsely. As for the words, “laid a lie against the Truth when it came to him,” the allusion could be to him who discarded the Shari`ah behind him saying, “this is only the skin” (while we possess the golden core). We seek Allah’s shelter from them ( Alusi, Thanwi).

    وَالَّذِي جَاءَ بِالصِّدْقِ وَصَدَّقَ بِهِ ۙ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ (33)

    39|33| As for he who brought the Truth and (those who) testified it, they, such of them are the godfearing.53

    53. The allusion is to all those who bring the Truth and those who testify to its veracity, starting from Jibril who brought the Qur’an, down to the Prophet who brought the Message, and anyone else who preaches the truth as well as all those who follow it - in all times and in all climes (Tabari, Qurtubi and others).
    But perhaps it is not suited to anyone else as it is suited to the Prophet, who brought the truth, and Abu Bakr, who was the first to testify. This was the opinion of `Ali ibn abi Talib. And, the reason is clear. Abu Bakr was the first to believe and offer moral and material support to the message. The situation remained for a long while: `Ali himself was too young, while other early believers were not powerful or rich enough to offer any support to the Prophet (Razi).

    لَهُمْ مَا يَشَاءُونَ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (34)

    39|34| For them is whatever they desire with their Lord,54 that is the recompense of those who excel.

    54. The words “For them is whatever they desire with their Lord,” hold the promise that the believers will be allowed the Beatific Vision since, as we know after they would have tasted several pleasures of Paradise, one will remain, viz., the Beatific Vision, and, it will not be denied since the promise here is that they shall have all with their Lord that they desire (Razi).

    لِيُكَفِّرَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ أَسْوَأَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا وَيَجْزِيَهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ بِأَحْسَنِ الَّذِي كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (35)

    39|35| So that Allah may acquit them of the worst of what they did55 and award them their reward in measures better than what they were doing.

    55. This is in reference to the wrongs men commit against their Lord such as, e.g., declaring partners unto Him. He will acquit them of such of the evil deeds because of their subsequent repentance and return to Him (Ibn Jarir, Razi and others).
    While mentioning the above interpretation as closer to being correct, Imam Razi, however, quotes Muq atil as of a different view. The latter thought that the allusion by the forgiveness of the worst of evil deeds is to major sins committed after entry into Islam. Muqatil, Imam Razi thinks, was one of the leaders of the “murji’ah” (those who held great hope) who believed that no sin harms a man after his belief, just as, at the other end of the spectrum, no good deed is of any worth when accompanied by unbelief. Muq atil believed that the allusion here could not be to the “disbelief” of the pre-Islamic times, since the promise here is to the believers, after they have declared their faith. The verse says, it may be noted, “As for he who brought the Truth and (those who) testified to it, ... Allah will acquit them of the worst of what they did...” So, by the words, “worst of what they did” refer to sins in the state of belief, in other words, major sins.
    We do not have Muq atil’s stand in this regard in its fullest detail, but the modification that the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah make is, “Allah could forgive major sins of the believers and let them into Paradise from the start, or He may punish them first in Hellfire before final entry into Paradise, if He so wills” (Au.).

    أَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِكَافٍ عَبْدَهُ ۖ وَيُخَوِّفُونَكَ بِالَّذِينَ مِنْ دُونِهِ ۚ وَمَنْ يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ (36)

    39|36| Is not Allah sufficient for His slave?56 They frighten you with those besides Him.57 And he whom Allah misguides, no guide has he.

    56. That is, Allah is enough for a man that He should believe in Him and trust Him, and that he should be satisfied with the situation he is in. We have a hadith on this topic preserved by Tirimidhi who declared it trustworthy. the Prophet (saws) said,“Good cheer for him who was guided to Islam, his provision (for life) was just enough for him and he was quite satisfied with it.”
    The report is also in Ibn abi H atim through another chain (Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Kathir has yet another quotable hadith on the topic,Ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet told him while he was riding behind him on a beast, “My boy. Let me teach you a few words: Be mindful of Allah, He will be mindful of you. Be cognizant of Allah, you will find Him before you. Turn to Allah in your times of ease, He will remember you in your difficult times. When you ask, ask Allah. When you seek help, seek Allah’s help. And know that if mankind were to gather together to do you a good that Allah has not written for you, they will not be able to do the good to you. And, if mankind were to gather together to do you a harm that Allah has not written against you, they will not be able to harm you. The Scriptures have dried and the Pens have been withdrawn. Know that to show patience over a thing of dislike carries much good; that success comes with patience; that the opening accompanies (every) pain, and that with every hardship, there is an ease.” (Haythami said that the report is in Tabar ani but is weak: Au.). The Prophet is also reported by Ibn Abi Hatim as having said to Ibn `Abbas, “He who wishes to be strongest of the people, may rely on Allah. He who wishes to be richest of the people, may have greater faith in what Allah has than in what his hands possess. And he who wishes to be the most honorable of the people, may always be conscious of Allah and fear him.” (The authenticity of this report could not be established: Au.).
    57. Makkan pagans tried to frighten the Prophet off his preaching against their deities saying that their deities would strike him with evil. Hence we find that when the Prophet sent Khalid ibn al-Wal id to a valley in Hijaz where “Al-`Uzzah” was installed, to destroy it, he was warned by its custodian. He told Khalid that this was no ordinary deity and that it would strike back in force. In response Khalid went up to the idol and chopped off its nose (before demolishing it altogether: Au.) - Ibn Jarir, Kashsh af, Qurtubi.
    The application is also to Muslim-to-Muslim situation. The officers frighten their subordinates into doing something disallowed in Islam by threatening them with some sort of action against them if they would not co-operate. Good Muslims should hold on to their principles. Allah is the Protector. He has several ways of providing for His slaves (Shafi`).

    وَمَنْ يَهْدِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ مُضِلٍّ ۗ أَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِعَزِيزٍ ذِي انْتِقَامٍ (37)

    39|37| But he whom Allah guides, no misleader has he. Is not Allah - the Mighty – the Lord of Retribution?

    وَلَئِنْ سَأَلْتَهُمْ مَنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّهُ ۚ قُلْ أَفَرَأَيْتُمْ مَا تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ إِنْ أَرَادَنِيَ اللَّهُ بِضُرٍّ هَلْ هُنَّ كَاشِفَاتُ ضُرِّهِ أَوْ أَرَادَنِي بِرَحْمَةٍ هَلْ هُنَّ مُمْسِكَاتُ رَحْمَتِهِ ۚ قُلْ حَسْبِيَ اللَّهُ ۖ عَلَيْهِ يَتَوَكَّلُ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ (38)

    39|38| And, if you asked them, ‘Who created the heavens and the earth?’ they will surely answer, ‘Allah.’58 Say, ‘Do you see then, whatever you invoke besides Allah, are they,59 if Allah willed me an affliction, able to remove His harm? Or, are they, if He willed me a mercy, able to withhold His mercy?’60 Say, ‘Sufficient for me is Allah; in Him the trusting men place their trust.’

    58. A mass of evidence tells us that the Arabs believed in a supreme Deity, Allah, even before the advent of Islam. Writes Majid: “The offence of the Arabs was not that they denied the Supreme Being or the Creator; they fully recognized His existence, but they associated other deities with Him.”
    59. The pronoun employed here is feminine because the allusion is to deities (Razi).
    60. That is, do you not see the contradiction, that while on the one hand you believe in One Supreme Deity, Allah, the all-Arching, the Overwhelming, on the other hand you also ascribe partners unto Him! Your behavior is all the more ridiculous when you realize that the deities that you ascribe to Him are totally powerless, neither capable of good nor harm.

    قُلْ يَا قَوْمِ اعْمَلُوا عَلَىٰ مَكَانَتِكُمْ إِنِّي عَامِلٌ ۖ فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ (39)

    39|39| Say, ‘My people. Keep working according to your condition,61 I am also working. You shall soon know:

    61. The translation here follows Alusi’s understanding. Otherwise, the word “makanat” can also be understood as place or station, as noted by Zamakhshari.

    مَنْ يَأْتِيهِ عَذَابٌ يُخْزِيهِ وَيَحِلُّ عَلَيْهِ عَذَابٌ مُقِيمٌ (40)

    39|40| To whom comes the chastisement that will humiliate him and upon whom descends an enduring torment.’

    إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ لِلنَّاسِ بِالْحَقِّ ۖ فَمَنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَلِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۖ وَمَا أَنْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ بِوَكِيلٍ (41)

    39|41| Surely, We have sent down upon you for mankind the Book in Truth. So, whosoever receives guidance, then, it is for his own self; while he who goes astray, then upon him is the detriment. And you are not over them a custodian.62

    62. The Prophet used to get extremely worried over the rejection by the Makkans. He is being told here not to vex himself unduly. None but Allah can guide a man. Guidance is for the soul what life is for the body: the rightly-guided is alive, while the unguided is dead. And, just as life to the body is given by Allah, life to the soul is also given by Allah. This should have gone a long way in consoling the Prophet (Razi).

    اللَّهُ يَتَوَفَّى الْأَنْفُسَ حِينَ مَوْتِهَا وَالَّتِي لَمْ تَمُتْ فِي مَنَامِهَا ۖ فَيُمْسِكُ الَّتِي قَضَىٰ عَلَيْهَا الْمَوْتَ وَيُرْسِلُ الْأُخْرَىٰ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (42)

    39|42| Allah takes the souls63 at the time of their death,64 and of that which does not die in its sleep.65 Then He withholds that for which He has destined death and releases the others till a stated term.66 Surely, in that are signs for a people who reflect.67

    63. Nafs and Ruh
    What is the difference between “nafs” and “ruh”? There does not seem to be a clear way to distinguish one from the other. The difficulty arises from the Qur’an itself which seems to treat them as synonyms. And so does the hadith (Au.).
    A report coming from Ibn `Abbas says that between “nafs” and “ruh” there is a barrier like the sun’s rays. (Nafs has the power of intellect and cognition while ruh has the power of breathing and movement: Zamakhshari from same source). Allah withdraws the “nafs” from the body during sleep, leaving the “ruh” within it. If Allah wills, He withdraws the “ruh” also to deliver death to the body. Otherwise, he sends back the “nafs” until an appointed term (Kashshaf). The report is in Ibn al-Mundhir and Ibn Abi H atim (Shawkani).
    Qurtubi also quotes the above but disagrees that the “nafs” and “ruh” are different entities. He quotes several ahadith that use the terms synonymously. E.g.,The Prophet said, “Have you not seen that when a man dies his eyes are fixed in stare?” They said, “Indeed.” He said, “That is the time when the eyes follow its ‘nafs’ (as it leaves the body)”- Muslim.
    According to another report he said, “Angels appear before a dying man. If he happens to be a righteous man they say, ‘Come out O good nafs. You were in a good body ...” (Ibn Majah).
    On the other hand, the Prophet used the word “ruh” describing the same situation. He said, as in a hadith of Muslim,“When a believer’s ‘ruh’ leaves, it is received by two angels that ascend with it.”
    More clearly, in a single incident the words “nafs” and “ruh” were used together. It happened when, after a campaign night-halt no one woke up for Fajr until the sun was up. When the Prophet questioned Bilal who had promised to watch the dawn, he explained,“My ‘nafs’ was seized by Him who had seized your ‘nafs,’ O Messenger of Allah.” the Prophet (saws) later explained the reason why they slep off their Fajr:“Our ‘arwah’ were in the hands of Allah. He restored them when He willed” (Abu Da’ud).
    The above goes to prove that “nafs” and “ruh” are one and the same entities (Qurtubi).
    The matter, however, remains undecided and Zamakhshari’s report mentioned above carries greater conviction (Au.)
    Sleep
    Modern science is unable to explain sleep, far from giving any clue about the nature of the soul. Almost every biological organism sleeps. Whales and dolphins sleep either at the surface of water, or sink deep to sleep.
    Until recently it was thought that the body needed rest and hence sleep. But it has been found that although the body is inactive, every cell in the human body is feverishly as active as during wakefulness. Further, elephants sleep from standing position. Surely, the whole body is not resting. It was then suggested that perhaps the brain needed rest. But that also proved wrong. The brain is quite active during sleep. Although theories abound, a century of intense research has failed to yield any data explaining sleep. The so-called “data-processing” theory (removal of unnecessary data from memory, by the mind, during sleep) has also been discarded. If anything, the mystery has deepened. Research shows that larger a body, lesser sleep it needs, and smaller the body, the longer it sleeps – although the opposite should have been true. The giraffe and elephant, for instance, sleep 2-4 hours a day. But bats, opossums, and some other small mammals sleep 18 hours a day or more. Human beings tend to sleep 8 hours a day, and, it is assumed that less than that is not free of harm. However, Allah (swt) has power over everything. Many scholars, politicians, students and even scientists just manage a couple of hours at night, without any apparent effects, except for the feeling of fatigue. The Qur’an itself said praising the pious (51: 17), “And little it is they used to sleep at nights” (Au.).
    64. “The mystery of life and death, sleep and dreams, is a fascinating enigma, of which the solution is perhaps beyond the ken of man. A vast mass of superstition as well as imaginative and psychological literature has grown up about it. But the simplest and truest religious doctrine is laid down here in a few words. In death we surrender our physical life, but our soul does not die; it goes back to a plane of existence in which it is more conscious of the realities of the spiritual world: ‘Allah takes the soul’” (Yusuf Ali).
    65. Qurtubi leads us to a hadith in D ara Qutni about sleep in the Hereafter. It says,The Prophet (saws) was asked, “Will the inhabitants of Paradise sleep?” He answered, “Sleep is death’s twin-brother and the inhabitants of Paradise will not sleep.”
    It is also in Tabar ani and Bazz ar with the one in Bazz ar declared trustworthy by Haythami (Au.).
    66. Sa` id b. Jubayr and Suddi held the opinion that when people sleep their souls meet with those of the dead in the higher realm. Then, Allah (swt) retains the souls of the dead and restores the souls of those in sleep (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). The above opinion is attributed to Ibn `Abbas and can be found in `Abd b. Humayd, Ibn al-Mundhir, Tabar ani (in his Awsat), Abu al-Sheikh (in his al-`Azamah), Ibn Marduwayh and Diyaa’ (in his Mukhtarah) – Shawkani.
    This, one might note, is not supported by a hadith. Also see Surah al-An`am, ayah 60 and 61 and the corresponding notes (Au.).
    Imam Razi however opts for the plain meaning: Allah withdraws the souls at sleep. Then, He withholds those whose death is destined, restoring the rest to the sleepers.
    At all events, the manner of Allah taking the souls away at death has been described elsewhere. Allah said (32: 11),“Say, ‘The angel of death given charge of you draws your souls‘” (Razi).
    A related hadith can be quoted here. It is in the Sahihayn:Abu Hurayrah reports the Prophet, “When one of you goes to bed, he should dust his bed with the hem of his lower garment, for he does not know what has come on to it after him, and then he should say, ‘In Your name my Lord, I place my side, and in Your name do I raise it. If You hold back my soul, show it mercy. And if you send it back, protect it as You protect Your righteous slaves” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi, Shawkani).
    (By the words “he does not know what has come on to it after him” the allusion is to the possibility of insects or creepers invading the bed: Au.).
    67. Asad comments: “According to Razi, this passage connects allegorically with the preceding – the light of guidance being likened to life, and man’s going astray, to death or, if it is not permanent, to death-like sleep followed by awakening. Beyond this, however, we have here a reminder – in tune with the subsequent passage – of God’s almightiness, and especially of His exclusive power to create and to withdraw life. As to the operative verb ‘yatawaffa,’ it primarily denotes ‘He takes [something] away in full;’ and because death is characterized by disappearance of all vital impulses (the “soul”) from the once-living body – their being ‘taken away in full,’ as it were – this form of the verb has been used tropically, since time immemorial, in the sense of ‘causing to die,’ and (in its intransitive form) ‘dying’ or (as a noun) ‘death:’ a usage invariably adhered to in the Qur’an. The traditional likening of sleep to death is due to the fact that in both cases the body appears to be devoid of consciousness, partially and temporarily in the former case, and completely and permanently in the latter. (The popular translation of ‘anfus’ – pl. of ‘nafs’ – as ‘souls’ is certainly inappropriate in the above context, since, according to the teaching of the Qur’an, man’s soul does not ‘die’ at the time of his bodily death, but, on the contrary, lives on indefinitely."
    Yusuf Ali has the spiritual aspect in mind. He writes: “If we contemplate these things, we can see more clearly many spiritual truths: e.g. (1) that our bodily life and death are not the whole story of our existence; (2) that in our bodily life we may be dead to the spiritual world, and in our bodily death, may be our awakening to the spiritual world; (3) that our nightly Sleep, besides performing the function of rest to our physical life, gives us a foretaste of what we call death, which does not end our personality; and (4) that the Resurrection is not more wonderful than our daily rising from Sleep, ‘twin-brother to Death.’”

    أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ شُفَعَاءَ ۚ قُلْ أَوَلَوْ كَانُوا لَا يَمْلِكُونَ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَعْقِلُونَ (43)

    39|43| Or, have they taken intercessors apart from Allah? Say, ‘Even if they do not have power over anything, nor can they reason?’

    قُلْ لِلَّهِ الشَّفَاعَةُ جَمِيعًا ۖ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ (44)

    39|44| Say, ‘To Allah belongs intercession altogether.68 His is the dominion of the heavens and the earth, then, to Him you will be returned.’

    68. That is, on Judgment Day intercession will be in the hands of Allah alone. He will grant whom He will (Ibn Jarir).
    Two conditions are attached to intercession: Only he can intercede whom Allah allows, and in favor of only him whom Allah allows (Zamakhshari, Alusi).
    Majid quotes a Western scholar to lay his finger on the error committed by the Christian Church. He writes, “Referring to four passages in the NT says a modern spokesman of Christianity: ‘In all these passages Christ is represented as mediating between God and man. God and man have been estranged. The relation which normally subsists between them has been destroyed, and the work of the mediator is to restore it. In 1 Timothy this work is explicitly connected with the redemptive death of Christ; there is one meditative between God and man, Himself man. Jesus Christ who gave Himself as ransom for all (ERE., VIII, p. 516).”

    وَإِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ اشْمَأَزَّتْ قُلُوبُ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ ۖ وَإِذَا ذُكِرَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ دُونِهِ إِذَا هُمْ يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ (45)

    39|45| And when Allah alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who believe not in the Hereafter shrink in aversion, but when those are mentioned that are besides Him, then behold, they are rejoicing.69


    69. Such is the state of many Muslim groups today. They call upon “Awliya’ Allah,” seeking their help - which is nothing less than shirk – but when they are told to call upon Allah alone, the All-powerful, the Quick to Respond, they turn away in disgust ( Alusi, Thanwi).
    (Even if not to the above extent, but it is common to see how people brighten up, and joy is visible on their faces when other than Allah are talked about: stories of feats and miracles on the part of the so-called saints and holy men, but which have no basis in truth. Talk to the same people about Allah, and a sudden cooling of interest is markedly visible (Shabbir).
    “Not very different,” adds Majid, “is the case of the Christians. Look at their invocation of the saints, their patronage of relics and their use of images. And look at their Litany of the Blessed Virgin: ‘We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God! Despise not our petition in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, O ever glorious and blessed vigin-Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us .. God the father of heaven, God the Son, Redeemer of the world. God the Holy Christ. Holy Trinity .. Lord God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Pray for us, O holy mother of God.’ (Butler’s Catechism, pp. 9-12).”

    قُلِ اللَّهُمَّ فَاطِرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ عَالِمَ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ أَنْتَ تَحْكُمُ بَيْنَ عِبَادِكَ فِي مَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ (46)

    39|46| Say, ‘O Allah, the Originator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the Unseen and the Seen, You will judge between Your slaves in matters in which they were differing.70

    70. In reference to the words, “Originator of the heavens and the earth,” Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir quote a hadith from Muslim:`Abdul Rahman ibn `Awf says he asked ` A’isha about how the Prophet began his Prayers deep at night? She answered that he began by saying, “O Lord of Jibril Mik a’il and Isr afil, the Originator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the seen and the unseen, You will judge between the people in what they are differing. Lead me in what has been differed with in truth, by Your leave. Verily, You guide whom You will to the straight path.”
    Shawkani also quotes this hadith.
    Ibn Kathir quotes a few more ahadith on the topic. `Abdullah ibn Mas` ud is recorded in Ahmad as reporting the Prophet, “Whoever said:‘O Allah, Originator of the heavens and the earth, the Knower of the seen and the unseen, I pledge to You in the life of this world that there is no deity except You, alone. You have no associates and Muhammad is Your slave and Messenger. If you leave me to myself, You will only take me closer to evil and away from good. I do not place any trust except on Your mercy. Therefore, let there be a pledge remaining with You, which You will fulfill on the Day of Standing, surely, You do not break the trust,’
    ... whoever said this ... but Allah will say on the Day of Standing, ‘My slave has made a compact with Me, so fulfill it now.’ Then he will be admitted into Paradise.” “So,” said Suhayl, “I informed Qasim b. `Abdul Rahman that `Awn says such and such a thing.” He said, “There is not a maiden in our household but who says these words in her apartments.”
    Haythami wrote: Its narrators are those of the Sahih except that one narrator is missing after `Abdullah ibn Mas` ud (Au.).
    The above report, adds Ibn Kathir, has been recorded through a second chain which is also in Ahmad. And a third chain says that Abu Rashid al-Habrani went to `Abdullah ibn `Amr and told him, “Narrate to me something from the Prophet.” He took out a collection spread it before me and said ‘this is what the Prophet dictated to me.’ I read out of it. (One of the things) it said was that Abu Bakr asked the Prophet to teach him what he should say in the morning and in the evening, in response to which the Prophet said, ‘O Abu Bakr, say the following:“O Allah, Originator of the heavens and the earth, the Knowner of the seen and the unseen, there is no deity save You, Lord of all things and their Owner. I seek Your refuge from the evil of myself, from the evil of Shaytan and his associates and that I should perpetrate upon myself an evil or should push it towards a Muslim.”
    Tirmidhi declared this report as of Hasan Gharib status (Au.).
    To touch on another aspect, it is reported that when Rabi` b. Khuthaym was informed about Hussain’s martyrdom, all he said was “Ah,” and then recited this verse. The Salaf have said that when one is told about the differences between the Companions, he might recite this verse to great relief: “O Allah, the Originator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the Unseen and the Seen, You will judge between Your slaves in matters in which they were differing” ( Alusi, Shafi`).

    وَلَوْ أَنَّ لِلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مَا فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا وَمِثْلَهُ مَعَهُ لَافْتَدَوْا بِهِ مِنْ سُوءِ الْعَذَابِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۚ وَبَدَا لَهُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مَا لَمْ يَكُونُوا يَحْتَسِبُونَ (47)

    39|47| And, were there to be for the wrongdoers all that there is in the earth, and the like of it along with it, surely they will offer it to ransom themselves from the evil of the chastisement on the day of Standing. Yet there would appear for them from Allah that which they were not envisaging.

    وَبَدَا لَهُمْ سَيِّئَاتُ مَا كَسَبُوا وَحَاقَ بِهِمْ مَا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ (48)

    39|48| There would appear for them the evil of that which they earned and that would encompass them which they were mocking.

    فَإِذَا مَسَّ الْإِنْسَانَ ضُرٌّ دَعَانَا ثُمَّ إِذَا خَوَّلْنَاهُ نِعْمَةً مِنَّا قَالَ إِنَّمَا أُوتِيتُهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ ۚ بَلْ هِيَ فِتْنَةٌ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (49)

    39|49| Now, when an affliction touches man he calls upon Us. But when We confer on him a blessing from Us, he says, ‘I was given this only because of a knowledge (I have).’ But rather, it is a trial but most of them realize not.

    قَدْ قَالَهَا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ فَمَا أَغْنَىٰ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ (50)

    39|50| Thus said those that were before them,71 but that was of no profit to them which they were earning.

    71. Q ar un for example said the same thing. He said (28: 78),“I have been given it (the wealth) because of a knowledge that I have” (Razi, Qurtubi).

    فَأَصَابَهُمْ سَيِّئَاتُ مَا كَسَبُوا ۚ وَالَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْ هَٰؤُلَاءِ سَيُصِيبُهُمْ سَيِّئَاتُ مَا كَسَبُوا وَمَا هُمْ بِمُعْجِزِينَ (51)

    39|51| The evil (consequence) of what they earned struck them, and (thus), the wrong-doers of these – them also the evil of what they have earned will strike them.72 And they will not be able to frustrate (Us).

    72. That is, said Suddi, a similar calamity will strike these, the unbelievers from the Ummah of the Prophet, as struck those of the previous prophets (Ibn Jarir).

    أَوَلَمْ يَعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَقْدِرُ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (52)

    39|52| Have they not known that Allah extends provision unto whom He will and constricts. Surely, in that are signs for a people who believe.73

    73. When a man succeeds, he attributes it to his abilities, education and qualifications. But, how can he fail to notice that many there are who are better qualified than he, but are doing worse, while, on the other hand, there are men of modest abilities, if not altogether quite unworthy, who do far better than him. Should not the man in question conclude that provision seems to rest in somebody’s else hands? (Abridged from several commentators).

    قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنْفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِنْ رَحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ (53)

    39|53| Say, ‘O My slaves who have committed excesses against their own souls, despair not of Allah’s mercy. Verily, Allah forgives all sins.74 Indeed, He is the All-forgiving, the All-kind.75

    74. Sayyid is worth quoting at this point: “The verse offers an unlimited mercy that covers every sin, however serious: it is the invitation to turn back. It is the invitation addressed to the disobeying, bounds-breaking, rebellious people that have strayed deep into the valleys of error. They are being invited to faith, optimism and trust in Allah. Allah is kind with His slaves. He knows their weakness and their helplessness. He knows of the factors working upon them deep from within the bottom of their inner beings as well as those acting from outside. He knows that Shaytan sits in ambush at every spot, picking them up from every path, attacking them with his foot and mounted soldiers; and that he functions in an extremely efficient manner. The believer knows that the construction in which he is engaged is a vain effort, and that he is the meek one who quickly stumbles the moment he lets loose the rope that binds him to the anchor; and that all such tendencies within his inner self to base desires make him prone to lose balance, to make him fall here or there throwing him into a spree of sins; and that he is too weak to maintain a goodly balance.
    “Allah Most High knows all this about His creation and, therefore, extends this help, stretches towards him His mercy, and does not seize him for his sin until He lays down around him every means by which he could escape being disobedient to Him and which straighten him up whenever he stumbles. All the same, after he has sunk deep in sins, exceeded in error, and begun to feel that he has been abandoned, and that his affair is all but over, and that he might never return (to his innocent state) – in such a state - a state of despair and pessimism - he hears the majestic soothing call of mercy: ‘O My slaves who have committed excesses against their own souls, despair not of Allah’s mercy. Verily, Allah forgives all sins.’”
    The majority opinion of the Salaf is that the verse is addressing the non-Muslims whose sins of pre-faith days would all be forgiven if they believed and attempted righteous deeds hereonward (Ibn Jarir, Razi in sum, Qurtubi).
    Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir make it more specific by quoting a few ahadith: It is reported in the Sahihayn that some pagans who had committed killing and fornication to the extreme end went up to the Prophet (saws) and said, “What you say and call to, is indeed good, but if you could tell us whether there is expiation for what we did." So Allah revealed (25: 68),“And those who do not invoke along with Allah other deities, do not kill a soul that Allah has forbidden, except by right, and do not commit fornication.”
    He also revealed the verse in question, “Say, ‘O My slaves who have committed excesses against their own souls, despair not of Allah’s mercy. Verily, Allah forgives all sins.”
    Ibn Kathir has a few ahadith on the topic. Imam Ahmad has a hadith which says: That a very old man went up to the Prophet leaning on his walking staff and said, “Messenger of Allah. I have in my account many treacheries and debaucheries. Will I be forgiven?” He asked, “Do you not testify that there is no deity save Allah?” He replied, “Indeed I do. I also testify that you are a Messenger of Allah.” the Prophet (saws) said, “Allah has forgiven you your treacheries and debaucheries.”
    (Except for the doubt, writes Haythami, about one narrator in the chain whether he had met the one he heard from, the rest of the chain is trustworthy: Au.).
    In addition to the above, we have already noted the story in the Sahihayn of a man who had killed ninety-nine people. The version in Muslim goes like this, Abu Sa` id al-Khudri is the first narrator:The Prophet said, “There was a man from among those before you (from among the Israelites: Bukhari) who killed ninety-nine people. Then he inquired about the most knowledgeable man on earth. He was directed to a monk. He went up to him and asked him whether there was repentance for him. He said no. So he killed him also and completed his hundred with him. Then he inquired about the most knowledgeable man on earth and was led to a scholar. He told him that he had killed a hundred men. Was their any chance of repentance? He told him, “Of course. Who could come between him and repentance?” He suggested him to go to a village in which there were people devoted to Allah: “You too devote yourself to Allah in their company. And do not return to your town which happens to be an evil place.” He started off until he had covered half the distance. But death overtook him there. Angels of mercy and angels of chastisement disputed over him. Said the angels of mercy, “He had come repentant, with his heart turned to Allah.” The angels of torment said, “He never did a good thing in his life.” Then an angel appeared in the form of a human. They made him an arbiter. He said, “Measure the two lands and treat him as belonging to that which happens to be closer.” They found him closer to the land he was migrating to (by a hand span). So the angels of mercy took his soul.
    (Other reports suggest that he had crawled on his chest while death was on him and that Allah ordered the land that was of the good people to contract itself and the other land to stretch itself away from him).
    A second opinion however comes from the Salaf – Ibn Mas` ud being one of them - to the effect that the allusion is to Muslims who, after their sins, major or minor, could be forgiven if they sought forgiveness (Ibn Jarir).
    In sum, the verse is addressing both believers as well as unbelievers. One has to repent sins of disobedience, the other has to repent paganism, atheism, and other forms of beliefs in other than Allah (Au.).
    It is also reported as context of revelation (preserved by Ibn Is-haq: Ibn Kathir), that `Umar (b. al-Khattab) said, “I used to say to myself that Allah will never accept anything as expiation, or repentance from those who believed but because of the trials that befell their lot, fell into apostasy (or, did not migrate, but remained in Makkah); until Allah revealed these verses.”
    “So,” `Umar said, “I wrote down this verse and sent it to Hish am b. al-` As (at Makkah).” Hish am said, “When it reached me, I began to go up and down in Dhu Tuwa, reading it in a loud voice, but could not make out what it all meant until I said, ‘O Allah, make me understand them.’ So Allah cast the meaning in my heart that they were meant for us, and in connection with what we used to think about ourselves, and was being said about us. So I jumped on my camel and went and joined the Prophet” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    Haythami remarked that the chain of this report has trustworthy narrators (Au.).
    As an aside Ibn Kathir offers us the report that `Abdullah ibn Mas` ud said: The greatest of Qur’anic verses is (2: 255):“Allah, there is no deity but He, the Living, the One by Whom all subsist...” (Ibn Jarir).
    The most comprehensive of Qur’anic verses, so far as good and evil is concerned is (16: 90):“Allah orders you justice and doing good...”
    The Qur’anic verse that lends most hope is the one under discussion (39: 53):“Say, ‘O My slaves who have committed excesses against their own souls, despair not of Allah’s mercy...”
    The strongest of the Qur’anic ayah in terms of entrustment is (65: 2-3):“And whoever feared Allah, He will find for him a way out and feed him from where he does not reckon. And whoever trusted Allah, Allah is sufficient for him. Surely, Allah is the Accomplisher of His affair. Surely, Allah has – for everything – determined a measure.”
    Ibn Kathir also has a word to say on despair: There are several reports regarding despair. One is in Ahmad. The Prophet (saws) said, “By Him in whose hands is my life (or he said, “in whose hands is Muhammad’s life”), if you were to sin until your sins filled the space between the heaven and the earth, but then sought Allah’s forgiveness, He would surely forgive you. And, by Him in whose hand is my life, (or he said, “in whose hands is Muhammad’s life”), if you were not to sin, Allah would have brought a people who would sin, then seek Allah’s forgiveness, and He would forgive them.”
    (Haythami commented that the report has a trustworthy chain). The second half of this tradition is also in a report in Muslim, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari said in his death-bed, “I had concealed from you something I had heard from the Prophet. He said, ‘If you were not to sin, Allah would bring a people who would sin, then seek Allah’s forgiveness, and He would forgive them.’”
    `Abdullah b. Imam Ahmad narrated the following words, “Verily, Allah approves of a tried (but failed) yet oft-turning slave.”
    75. One may note the number of ways the ayah promises mercy, directly or indirectly:
    Alusi has a different aspect in mind when he counts the above, and more: altogether sixteen.
    On the comparative side, a point may be noted: In the Christian system of belief, Allah has been replaced by Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. Majid quotes, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in the world to come.’ (Matthew, 12: 31,32).”

    وَأَنِيبُوا إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَسْلِمُوا لَهُ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَأْتِيَكُمُ الْعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لَا تُنْصَرُونَ (54)

    39|54| And turn to your Lord (in repentance)76 and submit to Him77 before the chastisement comes upon you, then you will not be helped.

    76. On the topic of “inabah” we have a report (in Hakim: Au.). It says,“It is man’s good fortune that his age should prolong and Allah should award him inabah” (Qurtubi).
    “Inabah” is the act of turning to Allah. We have cut short the above hadith to reproduce the portion that Hakim has in his Mustadrak and which he declared as carrying a trustworthy chain (Au.).
    77. The words “turn to your Lord (in repentance) and submit to Him,” tell us by implication that it should not be imagined that if Allah (swt) is Forgiving and Merciful, repentance might not be necessary. But rather, it is repentance, sincerity and submission to Allah’s will that qualifies one to receive Allah’s mercy (Kashsh af, reworded).

    وَاتَّبِعُوا أَحْسَنَ مَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَأْتِيَكُمُ الْعَذَابُ بَغْتَةً وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَشْعُرُونَ (55)

    39|55| And follow the best of what has been sent down to you from your Lord78 before the chastisement comes to you of a sudden, and you are unaware.79

    78. That is, this – the Qur’anic guidance – is the best of what could be sent to you (Ibn Jarir).
    79. Yusuf Ali has a few very pertinent words here: “Allah’s Command meets the weakness of His weakest servants, and only asks that His servants should surrender their selfish will to Allah’s Will. In divine compassion, therefore, we are allowed to do just what we can, even though our standard should fall short of the highest standard. But our aim should be to follow the highest standard, and Allah’s Grace will come to our assistance. But we must do so in this life-and at once, as soon as the Word penetrates our mind or understanding. We must not delay a moment, for the Judgment may come at any time, suddenly, before we even perceive where we are.”

    أَنْ تَقُولَ نَفْسٌ يَا حَسْرَتَا عَلَىٰ مَا فَرَّطْتُ فِي جَنْبِ اللَّهِ وَإِنْ كُنْتُ لَمِنَ السَّاخِرِينَ (56)

    39|56| Lest a soul should say, “Alas for me, that I have been remiss in respect of Allah, and I was but of the scoffers.”80

    80. That is, write Ibn Jarir and Zamakhshari, not only did he disobey his Lord’s commands, but took one step forward to become one of the scoffers. The opinion is attributed to Qat adah (Razi, Qurtubi).

    أَوْ تَقُولَ لَوْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ هَدَانِي لَكُنْتُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ (57)

    39|57| Or it should say, “If only Allah had guided me, I would have surely been of the godfearing.”81

    81. We have a Tradition in this context. Nas a’ i and Ahmad have it, the Prophet (saws) said, “Everyone of the inhabitants of the Fire will see his place in Paradise (that had been reserved for him), and say, ‘Only if Allah had guided me.’ Thus it will be a source of regret for him.”
    He also said, “Everyone of the inhabitants of Paradise will see his place in Hell-fire (which had been reserved for him), and say, ‘If Allah had not guided me (I would not have made it).’ Thus it will be a source of gratefulness for him” (Ibn Kathir).

    أَوْ تَقُولَ حِينَ تَرَى الْعَذَابَ لَوْ أَنَّ لِي كَرَّةً فَأَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (58)

    39|58| Or lest it should say when it sees the chastisement, “If only I had another turn, so I could be of those who do good.”82

    82. It is another thing that were he to be given another chance, he would remain on his disbelief. Allah (swt) has told us about men of his class (6: 28),"If they are returned, they will return to what they were forbidden” (Ibn Jarir).

    بَلَىٰ قَدْ جَاءَتْكَ آيَاتِي فَكَذَّبْتَ بِهَا وَاسْتَكْبَرْتَ وَكُنْتَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ (59)

    39|59| No indeed, My signs did come to you, but you cried lies to them, waxed proud, and you were of the unbelievers.’

    وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ تَرَى الَّذِينَ كَذَبُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ وُجُوهُهُمْ مُسْوَدَّةٌ ۚ أَلَيْسَ فِي جَهَنَّمَ مَثْوًى لِلْمُتَكَبِّرِينَ (60)

    39|60| And, on the Day of Standing you will see the faces of those who fastened lies upon Allah blackened.83 Is not Jahannum an abode for the proud?

    83. The unbelievers fasten such lies upon Allah as to say, for example, that He has ordered them commit indecencies; or, about the deities that they are their intercessors; or, attribute qualities to Allah that do not belong to Him (Kashshaf).
    (The translation is literal) otherwise it is not the darkness of the face that is alluded to, but rather, darkness of the soul which will reflect on the face (Razi, Alusi, Thanwi).

    وَيُنَجِّي اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا بِمَفَازَتِهِمْ لَا يَمَسُّهُمُ السُّوءُ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ (61)

    39|61| And Allah will rescue those who were godfearing by their attainment.84 No evil shall touch them nor shall they grieve.


    84. Literally, “mafazat” (from faza) is, in Yusuf Ali’s words, “place or state of safety or salvation, place or state of victory or achievement, accomplishment of wish or desire.”
    If it is asked, what exactly that attainment is, the answer is, it is stated in the words that follows: “No evil shall touch them nor shall they grieve” (Kashshaf).
    85. The textual “jami`an” qualifying the earth does not denote “the whole of it” but rather, “all of the earths” there being seven of them (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi).

    اللَّهُ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ ۖ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَكِيلٌ (62)

    39|62| Allah is the Creator of all things and He is upon everything a Cusdodian.

    لَهُ مَقَالِيدُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۗ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ (63)

    39|63| His are the keys to the heavens and the earth. As for those who cried lies to Allah’s signs, those - they (indeed) are the losers.

    قُلْ أَفَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ تَأْمُرُونِّي أَعْبُدُ أَيُّهَا الْجَاهِلُونَ (64)

    39|64| Say, ‘Is it other than Allah that you bid me serve, you ignorant ones?'

    وَلَقَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ وَإِلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ لَئِنْ أَشْرَكْتَ لَيَحْبَطَنَّ عَمَلُكَ وَلَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ (65)

    39|65| While it has been revealed to you and to those before you, 'Surely, if you associate (with Allah), your deeds will certainly go vain, and you will surely be among the losers.

    بَلِ اللَّهَ فَاعْبُدْ وَكُنْ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ (66)

    39|66| But rather, you worship Allah (alone), and be among the thankful.'

    وَمَا قَدَرُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ وَالْأَرْضُ جَمِيعًا قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (67)

    39|67| And, they esteemed not Allah, in the manner of estimation due to Him; while all of the earth85 shall be but His handful on the Day of Standing and the heavens rolled around His right hand.86 Glory to Him, high above what they associate (with Him).

    86. Their disbelief in Allah is the proof that they did not give Allah the regard due to Him. Had they esteemed Him in the true measure, they would have believed in Him (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Jarir also writes as the context of revelation (as do Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir) that there are several reports of the following nature: On the authority of `Abdullah ibn Mas` ud, “One of the Jewish scholars went to the Prophet and said, ‘O Muhammad! We find (in our Scriptures) that Allah will place the heavens on one Finger, the earths on another, the trees on another, water and dust on another Finger, and the rest of the creations on another Finger and say, “I am the King.” The Prophet (saws) smiled so broadly that his teeth became visible as if attesting the Jewish scholar’s statement. Then he recited, “And they esteemed not Allah, in the manner of estimation due to Him while the whole of the earth shall be but His handful on the Day of Standing and the heavens rolled around His right hand. Glory to Him, high above what they associate (with Him)."
    Ibn Kathir adds: The above is as reported in the Sahihayn, as well as in Tirmidhi and Nas a’ i (with minor differences). According to another version in Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet said, “Allah will hold the earth in one hand, and wrap the heavens in His Right Hand and say, ‘I am the King. Where are the kings of the earth?’”
    As regards the statement in the above report to the effect, “as if attesting the Jewish scholar’s statement,” Nawawi writes in his commentary, that these are words of the commentator. There is every possibility that the Prophet smiled in disapproval (and then stated the correct version: Au.).
    When dealing with such reports, adds Ibn Kathir, we treat the words (such as Finger or Hand) literally, without offering an interpretation or futher explanation.
    Qurtubi and Alusi clarify the situation on the Day of Judgment by quoting a hadith from Tirmidhi who declared it Hasan-Sahih-Gharib:
    `A’isha says she asked the Prophet in reference to Allah’s words, “the whole of the earth shall be but His handful on the Day of Standing, and the heavens rolled around His right hand,” as to where will the people be on that Day? He answered, “On the Bridge laid over Jahannum.”
    Yet another report that could be cited in this connection – adds Alusi - is in Muslim and others. It says,Abu Sa` id al-Khudri reports the Prophet as having said, “The earth will be like a single disk of bread that the Compeller will turn over in His hand, as one of you turns bread over in his hand (to flatten and shape it), in preparation of the dwellers of Paradise.”
    Another report quoted by Ibn Jarir, (in Ahmad, Muslim, Nas a’ i and others: Ibn Kathir and Alusi) says,The above is Muslim’s version reported by Ibn `Umar. To put various versions together:
    The Prophet once recited this verse on the mimber waving his hands, moving forward and backward and saying, “The Lord exalts Himself. He says, ‘I am the Enforcer. I am the Proud. I am the King. I am the Powerful. I am the Noble.’” The mimber began to vibrate with him, and, says the narrator, “we feared he might fall off.”
    According to another version in Muslim, “I could see the mimber vibrating at its base and I thought it will bring the Prophet down in a fall.”
    But of course, the statement to the effect that Allah (swt) will wrap the universe around His Hand, should not be treated literally. The allegorical nature of the statement, so forcefully presented, cannot be missed. The Hand, for example, expresses Might, and by the “wrapping of the Universe,” the allusion is to absolute Power (Zamakhshari).
    Qurtubi offers a similar meaning and cites other examples; while Shabbir quotes a hadith to demonstrate the allegorical nature of the term “Hand.” (He quotes only a part, but the whole, as in Abu Ya`la’s collection – declared trustworthy by Haythami, is as follows: Au.),`Ikrimah said, “Both the Hands of Allah are Right Hands. He will wrap the heavens on the Day of Judgment then take them into His right Hand and say, ‘I am the Sovereign. Where are the tyrants? Where are the arrogant ones?‘ Then He will take the earths in His other hand and say, ‘I am the Sovereign. Where are the tyrants? Where are the arrogant ones?‘”
    When S alim was informed of the above, he said that he had heard `Abdullah ibn `Umar narrate this hadith from the Prophet himself (but without the statement, “Both the Hands of Allah are Right Hands: Au.).
    Strangely, Imam Razi, after quoting Zamakhshari, (from whom he draws quite often) criticizes him at this point for rejecting the apparent meaning, but, after some discussion states what sounds like adopting a position that is close to Zamakhshari’s. He elaborates in the following manner: We say, “The house is in somebody’s hand,” or, as the Qur’an says about slaves, “what your right hands possess,” in all such cases there is no need to resort to the allegories. The “apparent” and “real” meaning, in this case of the word hand, is the expression of power and possession. In short, what Zamakhshari considers as allegorical expression, Imam Razi thinks is the true meaning. He denies of course, parts and limbs for Allah.
    Ibn Kathir remarks, however, that the understanding of such statements is beyond human intellect and hence it is best to submit the mind and say that the meaning is best known to Allah Himself. The “Right Hand” of the Qur’an and the “Fingers” of the ahadith should be treated as mere words meaning exactly what they say viz. “Right Hand” and “Fingers” - without offering any explanation, without suggesting a form, and without venturing an interpretation.

    وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَصَعِقَ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا مَنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ ۖ ثُمَّ نُفِخَ فِيهِ أُخْرَىٰ فَإِذَا هُمْ قِيَامٌ يَنْظُرُونَ (68)

    39|68| And the Trumpet will be blown87 and whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth will swoon, save whom Allah wills.88 Then it will be blown a second time,89 and behold, they will be standing, staring on.90

    87. Qurtubi offers us a report from Ibn Majah to the effect that there are two in charge of the Trumpet: Jirbril and Isr afil (and so, anyone or both could blow into it. But Haythami declared it weak. The consensus is that Isr afil alone is in charge of the Trumpet: Au.).
    Ibn Kathir cites a lengthy narrative on this topic which can be found in Ahmad and Muslim,Someone said to `Abdullah ibn `Amr, “I believe you say that the Day of Reckoning will happen in such and such a manner?” He said something to disown it and then added, “I am considering whether to stop narrating to you altogether. What I have said is that after a while you will witness a few major events.” Then he said about the Prophet that he said, “Dajjal will appear in my Ummah and abide among them for forty. (I do not know whether it will be for forty days, forty months or forty years). Then Allah will send `Isa ibn Maryam as if he is `Urwah ibn Mas` ud the Thaqafi. He will go after him (Dajjal) and destroy him. Thereafter, the people will live for seven years without any enmity between them. Then Allah will send a cold wind from the Syrian direction so that no one who had an atom weight of faith in him will remain on the earth but that it will take away his soul, until if one of you happened to be in the interior of a mountain, it will enter upon him and seize his soul.” He (Ibn `Amr) added that he heard the Prophet say, “Thereafter the worst of the people will remain: as light as birds and endowed with beastly characteristics; not knowing a good nor disapproving a reprehensible thing. Shaytan will go to them in the form of a human and say, ‘Will you not respond?’ They will ask, ‘So what do you suggest?’ He will command them to worship idols and they will worship them. They will then be in the best of conditions: abundant food and good quality living. Then the Trumpet will be blown and none hears it but he will bend his neck and stretch it forward (trying to pick up the sound). The first to hear will be a man who will be repairing his cistern for his camels. He will faint and no one will remain but will fall unconscious. Then Allah will send rains, as if a short shower (or maybe he said “shades,” Nu`man was doubtful), and bodies of the people will grow thereby. Then another blow will follow and there they will be, standing, looking around. Then it will be said, ‘People: unto your Lord.’ But, ‘Hold them on. They will be questioned.’ Then it will be said, ‘Remove those destined for the Fire.’ It will be asked, ‘How many?’ It will be said, ‘Nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand.’ It is then that the young will turn old. It is that day when the Calf will be revealed.”
    (The above version is from Imam Muslim: Au.)
    88. A report in Ibn Jarir would have it that with the second blow of the Trumpet, all the living beings in the heavens and the earth will die, except martyrs in heaven who will be spared because they would have already tasted death. The report names Jibril, Mik a’il, Isr afil, the carriers of `Arsh, and even the angel of death as those that will suffer death.
    (The report however, as in Ish-aq b. Rahwayh, has not been declared Sahih by any of the well-known Hadith masters: Au.).
    Shawkani on the other hand states that Jibril, Mik a’il, and Isr afil are exempt; and perhaps even the carriers of the `Arsh, and keepers of Paradise and Hell. He quotes a hadith from Abu Ya`l a, D ara Qutni (in his Ifrad), Ibn al-Mundhir, and H akim who declared it Sahih that the Prophet said that martyrs are exempt who will have drawn-swords in their hands going about the `Arsh. Yet another report in Al-Faryabi, Ibn Jarir, Abu Nasr Sijzi (in his Ibanah), and Ibn Marduwayh exempts Jibril, Mik a’il, the angel of death, Isr afil and the carriers of `Arsh.
    (This is also an unverified report: Au.).
    Ibn Jarir (as also Qurtubi and Alusi) offer another report (found in the Sahihayn: Shawkani). It says,
    A Jew went to the Prophet and complained, “Muhammad. One of your Ansari companion slapped me in the face.” The Prophet asked the man to be brought and asked him why he had slapped him. He said, “I passed by this Jew and I heard him say, ‘By Him who chose Musa over all the people..’ I asked, ‘Over Muhammad also?’ And anger overtook me and so I slapped him.” The Prophet remarked, “Do not declare me better than the Prophets, for, the people will swoon on the Day of Standing, and I will be the first to regain myself, and behold I will find Musa holding one of the posts of `Arsh. Now, I do not know whether he came to himself before me, or spared because of his swoon on the T ur of the Mann and Salwa.”
    89. What will be the time gap between the two? Abu Hurayrah has a report, but he refused to specify it. It is as follows:Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (saws) said, “Between the two blows, it will be forty.” (Abu Hurayrah was asked), “Forty days?” He (Abu Hurayrah) replied, “I reject.” He was asked, “Forty months?” He replied, “I reject.” He was asked, “Forty years?” He replied, “I reject.” Then he added, “Thereafter Allah will send down water from the heaven and they will begin to grow like vegetation appears. There is nothing in man but undergoes decay except for a single bone and that is his spinal tail-bone. It is upon this that the creation will be rebuilt” (Ibn Jarir).
    The hadith is in Bukhari (Au.).
    90. Ibn Jarir reports at this point the state in which the believers will be raised:The Prophet said, “The believers will be raised on the Day of Standing naked, beardless, of age thirty.”
    The above hadith is variously reported and Haythami declared one of the versions as trustworthy. Other reports tell us that the entire humankind will be raised naked (Au.).

    وَأَشْرَقَتِ الْأَرْضُ بِنُورِ رَبِّهَا وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ وَجِيءَ بِالنَّبِيِّينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ (69)

    39|69| And the earth91 will shine with the light of its Lord,92 the Book will be placed,93 Prophets and witnesses will be brought,94 and judgment will be pronounced between them in truth, and they shall not be wronged.

    91. The allusion of course, by “the earth” is to another “earth,” since, as another Qur’anic passage tells us, the present earth will be destroyed. The reference is to (19: 48),“The day when the earth will be replaced with another earth.”
    There are other verses supporting the destruction of the earth in which we live (Razi).
    92. The “nur” of this occurrence has been interpreted by authorities such as Hasan and Dahh ak as meaning “justice,” (that is, the earth will shine because of the complete justice rendered to everyone: Au.).
    Ibn `Abbas however said that Allah will create a “nur” specifically for that Day which will engulf the earth (Qurtubi, Alusi).
    Imam Razi refutes the anthropomorphists who use this present verse and others of the Qur’an to believe that Allah is made of “nur.” Several errors are committed. Firstly, the true meaning of the term “nur” has not been established. If by any chance it could be established, we cannot be sure that the word as used in this context, carries the same meaning. Again, (as Zamakhshari has pointed out) it is said, “the rule of such a sovereign has filled the land with light,” or, it is said, “the oppression of such and such a ruler has filled the land with darkness.” Is the usage literal?
    93. That is, said Suddi and Qat adah, the Record of Deeds (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    94. That is, said Ibn `Abbas, when nations will deny that any Prophet ever came to them, witnesses will be brought forward to testify that the Prophets did deliver the message (Ibn Jarir).

    وَوُفِّيَتْ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَا عَمِلَتْ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ (70)

    39|70| Every soul will be paid in full for what it wrought, and He knows best what they do.

    وَسِيقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلَىٰ جَهَنَّمَ زُمَرًا ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءُوهَا فُتِحَتْ أَبْوَابُهَا وَقَالَ لَهُمْ خَزَنَتُهَا أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ رُسُلٌ مِنْكُمْ يَتْلُونَ عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِ رَبِّكُمْ وَيُنْذِرُونَكُمْ لِقَاءَ يَوْمِكُمْ هَٰذَا ۚ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ وَلَٰكِنْ حَقَّتْ كَلِمَةُ الْعَذَابِ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ (71)

    39|71| And those who disbelieved will be driven to Jahannum95 in throngs until, when they have arrived there, its gates will be opened and its keepers will ask them, 'Did not Messengers come to you from among yourselves,96 reciting to you your Lord's revelations and warning you against the encounter of this your day?' They will answer, 'Yes indeed, but the word of chastisement has proven true against the unbelievers.'

    95. In reference to this verse Ibn Zayd has said that although the word used for both dwellers of Hell and Paradise is same (“siqa”), the meanings are different. When applied to the criminals it means they will be driven, pushed and pulled to the gates. This is in view of other Qu’anic verses (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi, reworded).
    96. That is, humans like you (Razi).

    قِيلَ ادْخُلُوا أَبْوَابَ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۖ فَبِئْسَ مَثْوَى الْمُتَكَبِّرِينَ (72)

    39|72| It will be said, 'Enter you into the gates of Jahannum, abiding therein forever. And evil is the lodging of the arrogant.'97

    97. This remark of the angels may be contrasted with that of the unbelievers themselves who will, by implication, blame their fate by saying, “Yes indeed, but the word of chastisement has proven true against the unbelievers.” Angels will offer the correction by remarking that it is their arrogance that led them to this end and not their fate (Au.).

    وَسِيقَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا رَبَّهُمْ إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ زُمَرًا ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءُوهَا وَفُتِحَتْ أَبْوَابُهَا وَقَالَ لَهُمْ خَزَنَتُهَا سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ طِبْتُمْ فَادْخُلُوهَا خَالِدِينَ (73)

    39|73| And those who feared their Lord will be led to Paradise in groups98 until, when they have arrived there - and its gates will have already been opened99 - they will be told by its keepers, 'Peace upon you. You attained purity.100So, enter it, abiding forever.'101

    98. As against the throngs of unbelievers driven to the Hellfire, the believers will arrive in groups: scholars, Qur’an-reciters, martyrs, and so on (Qurtubi).
    99. The rendering as, “and its gates will have already been opened,” is in view of the Qur’anic statement in Surah Sad, verse 50,“Gardens of `Adn, (their) gates thrown open for them” (Shawk ani). The “waw” that has been added in this passage is the supporting evidence for the difference in connotations (Qurtubi).
    Qurtubi also identifies the “waw” of this context as the “eighth-waw” of the Quraysh. The short but interesting discussion at this point is far from easy to present in English, but for the Arabic knowing persons it is worth a reading. The other Qur’anic examples that he offers in this connection is an indication of how deep the understanding of previous generations was in comparison with the modern, materialistic, this-earthly understanding and interpretation.
    It is easy to understand why the gates of Hell will be opened for the unbelievers only after they arrive. Prison gates are opened only upon the arrival of the criminals. In contrast, doors of the hosts are thrown open in anticipation of the arrival of guests (Au.).
    Qurtubi writes that some people have held the opinion that there are eight gates to Paradise. They quote the following hadith of the Sahihayn,“Paradise has eight doors. Of them one is called ‘Rayyan,’ through which will enter those who used to fast (much).”
    However, adds Qurtubi there seem to be more than eight gates of Paradise. A hadith in Tirmidhi can be cited as evidence. He says he has discussed this issue thoroughly in his another work “Al-Tadhkirah” concluding that there must be 13 gates to Paradise.
    (At all events, the hadith quoted above could not be traced in the source works in exactly similar words, but is quoted by Ibn Hajr in his commentary on Bukhari: Au.).
    Another tradition that has come down to us on this topic, writes Ibn Kathir, is also in the Sahihayn with some differences in words (the version below is from Bukhari): The Prophet (saws) said, “Whoever spent a pair (of anything) in Allah’s way will be called from the gates of Paradise, ‘O Allah’s slave, this is good.’ So, whoever is of the people of Prayer, will be called from Prayer-gate. Whoever is of the people of Jihad will be called from the Jihad-gate. Whoever is of the people of fasting, will be called by the Rayyan gate. Whoever is of the people of charity, will be called from the Charity-gate.”
    Abu Bakr broke in, “May I sacrifice my parents for you, O Messenger of Allah, it does not matter from which gate someone is called, yet, will there be anyone who will be called from all the gates?” The Prophet replied, “Yes. And I hope you will be one of them.”
    Another report speaks of the eight doors of Paradise. It is from Muslim and is reported by `Umar ibn al-Khattab. It says,“None of you makes ablution and does it well and then says, ‘I bear witness that there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger,’ but all the eight gates of Paradise are opened for him, to enter by the gate of his choice.”
    100. The allusion could be, writes Qurtubi, to the cleansing organized on a Flyover near Hellfire. Muq atil said, “When the believers would have crossed the Bridge (Sirat), they will be held on a Flyover between Hell and Paradise. There, retaliation will take place involving the wrongs they did to each other during the previous life. When they would have thus been cleansed, the keepers of Paradise will say to them, ‘You have attained purity. So, enter into it, abiding forever.’” In fact, adds Qurtubi, there is a hadith in Bukhari which confirms the above event taking place on the Flyover (but which does not cite the Qur’anic ayah in reference: Au.). The hadith of Bukhari ends by saying that after the cleansing, the believers will know their dwelling places in Paradise better than one knows his house in this world. The text whose substance is given above is as follows:101. The first to enter Paradise will be our Prophet as says a hadith in Muslim and Ahmad,“I will go to the gate of Paradise on the Day of Judgment and seek it to be opened. The keeper will ask, ‘Who are you?’ I will say, ‘Muhammad.’ He will say, “For you I have been ordered to open and for none before you.” Another hadith on the topic is as follows:the Prophet (saws) said, “The first group to enter Paradise will have faces glittering like the moon of the full moon night. There, they will not spit, nor blow their noses, nor attend a nature’s call. Their utensils will be of gold, combs of gold and silver, incense of pearls, and sweat of misk. Each one of them will have two spouses whose bone marrow could be seen from the flesh because of their beauty. There will be no difference between them and no rancor. They will be of one heart chanting glory to their Lord morning and evening.”
    Another report in the Sahihayn is in different words,“The first group to enter Paradise will be glittering like the moon (as it appears) on a full moon night. Those to follow them will be like the most shiny star in the sky. They will not spit therein, nor blow their noses, nor attend a nature’s call. Their combs will be of gold and silver, and sweat of misk. Their incense of pearls, and aloe wood used for fire. Their spouses will be wide-eyed Houries. All of them on one nature, on the face of their father Adam, sixty feet (tall) in the heaven.”
    There are a few other reports about those who will enter first through the gates of Paradise. The following is in the Sahihayn: Abu Hurayrah reported the Prophet as having (once) said, “Seventy-thousand of my Ummah will enter Paradise, their faces shining as bright as the moon on a full moon night.” Abu Hurayrah said, “At that `Ukk asha got up lifting a shroud on him and said, ‘Messenger of Allah. Supplicate to Allah that He place me as one of them.‘ He said, ‘O Allah, make him one of them.‘ Then another man of the Ansar stood up and said, ‘Messenger of Allah. Supplicate to Allah that He place me as one of them.’ He replied, ‘`Ukk asha overtook you therewith.” According to another report (of Bukhari and Muslim), the Prophet (saws) said,“Surely, seventy thousand of my followers, or seven hundred thousand, the first of whom will not enter Paradise until the last of them enters. Their faces shining bright like the moon on a full-moon night.”
    According to another tradition recorded by Tirmidhi, the Prophet said,“My Lord has promised me that He will admit seventy thousand of my followers into Paradise, without they undergoing any reckoning or any punishment, along with another seventy thousand and (over and above them) three handfuls from the Handfuls of my Lord” (Ibn Kathir).
    The above report was declared Hasan Gharib by Tirmidhi. However, after mentioning the above in his “Fath”, Ibn Hajr quoted another hadith on the above topic from Ibn Hibb an and Tab arani, which he declared trustworthy. It says,“Then every thousand will intercede for seventy thousand. Thereafter, my Lord will usher in three handfuls of His two Handfuls.” When `Umar said “Allah is the Greatest” the Prophet added, “The seventy thousand will be allowed to intercede for their fathers, mothers and family members, and I hope that the handfuls will be from the lowest of my followers.”
    Hafiz Di a’ remarked that he did not know of any defect (in the report) - Au.
    Quotation from Ibn Kathir ends here.
    Ibn Kathir takes up another topic. How wide will the gates of Paradise be? There is a tradition in the Sahihayn about it. It says,“By Him in whose hands is the life of Muhammad, the distance between two posts (jambs) of the two shutters of the gate to Paradise is like the distance between Makkah and Hajr, or Hajr and Makkah.” (Hajr was a town at the Eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula: Au.).

    وَقَالُوا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي صَدَقَنَا وَعْدَهُ وَأَوْرَثَنَا الْأَرْضَ نَتَبَوَّأُ مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ حَيْثُ نَشَاءُ ۖ فَنِعْمَ أَجْرُ الْعَامِلِينَ (74)

    39|74| And they will say, 'All praise belongs to Allah who fulfilled His promise to us102 and made us inherit the earth.103 We can settle in the Garden wheresover we will.104 Excellent is the reward of the workers.'

    102. Ibn Jarir reproduces a report which he had done in Surah al-A`raf, verse 43, except that this one is attributed to `Ali, while there, `Ali had attributed it to `Umar. It runs as follows:When the people arrive at the gates of Paradise they will find a tree there from whose roots two springs would be sprouting. They will take a bath in one of them. With that they will feel enwrapped in blessings. After that their hair will never get unruffled again, and their faces never dusty; as if they are bathed in oil. Then they will drink from the other spring. That will remove any dirt or impurity they had within them. Then they will proceed to the gates of Paradise seeking it to be opened. Its gates will be opened for them and angels will greet them saying (39: 73): "Peace upon you. You have done well. So enter herein, to abide forever." Next, immortal children will greet them. They will surround them as children surround a dear one when he returns home from a journey saying, "Be of good cheer. Allah has prepared such and such a thing for you, such and such a thing for you." One of the children will leap back to his spouse and announce his arrival. They will identify him to her with a name by which he was known in the world. The woman will be overcome with joy and will stand by the threshold of her door. She will ask: "Did you see him yourself?" He will say yes.
    He will proceed to the house and lo, its foundation of pearls of different colors: yellow, red, or green. When he enters, behold: there are the cups arranged, the cushions lined up, and carpets spread. He will enter upon his spouse of the wide-eyed Hoorie, and, had not Allah prepared his eyes to behold her, he would go blind because of her shine and beauty. It is then that he will recline on the cushion and say, "Praise be to Allah for having guided us to this. We would have never found our way if we were not guided by Allah. Indeed, our Messengers brought the truth." And the angels will say (7: 43), "This is the Paradise that you have inherited because of what you were doing."
    Ibn Kathir also reproduces the above report.
    Ibn Hajr remarks in his "Al-Matalib al-`Aliyyah" that this is a trustworthy report which Baghawi and Abu Nu`aym have also preserved. It is attributable to the Prophet because, in such matters `Ali would not speak on his own (Au.).
    103. Qatadah, Suddi and Ibn Zayd have said that the allusion by "the earth" is to the earth of Paradise (Ibn Jarir).
    As for inheritance, most commentators have said that they would inherit the area in Paradise marked for an unbeliever, which he would have received had he believed (Ibn Jarir, Shawkani).
    This is in the same vein, points out Ibn Kathir, as another ayah of the Qur'an which says (21: 105), "We wrote it in the Zabur – after the admonition – that the earth will be inherited by My righteous slaves,” where also, by earth the allusion is to Paradise.
    104. This is an eloquent way of saying that the Paradise granted to each individual will be so immensely, and immeasurably large that the dwellers might initially feel that the whole may not be exclusively theirs. But when they learn that the whole is really theirs, by actually visiting some of the places, they will cry out in joy that experience tells them that they have the freedom to visit any part of it. It should be obvious that if the place is restricted, then, even if allowed the freedom to visit any part of it, one will not cry out in joy, “Moreover, I have the freedom to visit any part of it” (Au., with a hint from Zamakhshari).

    وَتَرَى الْمَلَائِكَةَ حَافِّينَ مِنْ حَوْلِ الْعَرْشِ يُسَبِّحُونَ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ ۖ وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ بِالْحَقِّ وَقِيلَ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (75)

    39|75| And you will see the angels encircling about the `Arsh, chanting the praises of their Lord, and it will be judged between them in truth. And it will be said, 'All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the worlds.'