Surat Ghāfir

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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


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


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


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


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


  • Surah No. 40

    Merits of the Surah

    The Theme
    Asad summarizes the chapter quite succinctly, skillfully, and, boldly: “The main theme of the Surah is that false pride which often makes man think that he is the center of the universe, and thus impels him to feel snugly satisfied with his own empirically-acquired knowledge (verse 83), to worship all manner of imaginary forces and false values seemingly helpful to human aggrandizement – like wealth, power, or even the conceit of ‘progress‘ – and to deny validity to any truth, however obvious, which runs counter to his sense of self-importance. The arrogant assumption that man is ‘self-sufficient’ – an illusion already touched upon in verse 6-7 of one of the earliest Qur’anic revelations (Surah 96) – brings with it the conviction that he is above all need of divine guidance, implying a rejection of the belief in resurrection and God’s ultimate judgment on the ‘Day of Reckoning’ (verse 27). The opening chord of this theme appears in the statement that ‘none but those who are bent on denying the truth would call God’s messages in question’ (verse 4), and is developed in many variations throughout the Surah; thus ‘in their hearts is nothing but overweening self-conceit, which they will never be able to satisfy’ (verse 56), and ‘perverted are the minds of those who knowingly reject God’s messages’(verse 63) – for ‘God sets a seal on every arrogant, self-exalting heart’ (verse 35), condemning it to spiritual blindness in this world and, as a consequence, to suffering in the life to come.
    “As so often in the Qur’an, these ideas are illustrated by reference to the stories of earlier prophets, and to what happened to deniers of truth in bygone times (verses 21-22 and 82ff.) – ‘such being the way of God that has always obtained for His creatures’ (verses 85).”
    1. It is also called Surah Al-Mu’min (the Believer).
    2. Except for one or two verses, the Surah is Makkan. In fact, one opinion is that all those chapters that start with the consonants Ha Mim are Makkan (Zamakhshari).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ حم (1)

    40|1| Ha Mim.3

    3. In all, there are 7 chapters, all in sequence, that start with these consonants. Collectively they are called “Hawamim.” Ibn `Abbas said that everything has its quintessence. The quintessence of the Qur’an are the Hawamim (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    Notably, all these seven chapters mention at their beginning the fact of the Qur’an being a Revelation from Allah (Thanwi).
    During some of the campaigns the Prophet (saws) would declare “Ha. Mim. They will not be helped” (or “you will not be helped)” as the night password. The report is in Tirmidhi and Abu Da’ud and is of Sahih status.
    Abu Darda’ was seen building a wall. When asked what he was doing he replied, “I am building a mosque for the people of Ha Mim.” It could be the mosque which is attributed to him, lying within the Syrian fort (Ibn Kathir).

    تَنْزِيلُ الْكِتَابِ مِنَ اللَّهِ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ (2)

    40|2| Sending down of the Book is by Allah, the All-mighty, the All-knowing.

    غَافِرِ الذَّنْبِ وَقَابِلِ التَّوْبِ شَدِيدِ الْعِقَابِ ذِي الطَّوْلِ ۖ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ إِلَيْهِ الْمَصِيرُ (3)

    40|3| Forgiver of sin,4 Accepter of repentance, Severe of Retribution, Possessor of bounty. There is no deity save He. To Him is the journey-end.

    4. It is reported that a man came to `Umar (ibn al-Khattab) and said, “I have a murder to my credit. Is there repentance for me?” He answered, “Yes. Keep attempting good deeds and do not despair.” Then he recited this verse to him (Ibn Jarir).
    The report is also in Ibn Abi Hatim (Ibn Kathir).
    It is also reported that a well-placed Syrian used to visit ‘Umar. Once he missed him and so asked, “What happened to so and so.” They said he had taken to drinking." `Umar asked his secretary to write to him, “O so and so, my Salam to you. I write to you the praises of Allah besides whom there is no deity: ‘Forgiver of sins, Accepter of repentance, Severe of Retribution, Possessor of bounty. There is no deity save He. To Him is the return.’” Then he told the people around him, “Pray for your brother that he turns to Allah and Allah turns to him in mercy.” When the letter reached the man, he kept saying, “He has warned me of His punishment and promises me forgiveness.” He kept repeating until he wept, turned penitent and gave up drinking. When the news of his repentance reached `Umar, he said to those around him, “This is how you should treat your deviant brothers. Pray for them and do not be Shaytan’s aides against him.”
    Hafiz Abu Nu`aym has preserved this report (Zamakhshari and Qurtubi in short, Ibn Kathir in full).
    A related incident goes as follows. It has been preserved by Ibn Abi Hatim. Thabit b. Bunani says, “I was with Mus`ab b. Zubayr in Kufa. I entered into an orchard in order to offer two cycles of Prayer. I began with Ha Mim until I reached ‘to Him is the return.’ I felt a man passing on a mule with a Yemeni decorated shroud on him. He said, ‘When you say, ”Forgiver of sins,“ follow up by saying, ”O Forgiver of sins, forgive me my sins.“ When you say, ”Accepter of penitence," say, “O Accepter of penitence, accept my penitence.” When you say, “Severe of retribution,” say, “O Severe of retribution do not be retributive with me.”‘ I turned back but did not find anyone. I went out and asked people whether they had seen a man with Yemeni decorated shroud. They said no. They believed it must have been Ilyas” (Qurtubi in short; Ibn Kathir in full).

    مَا يُجَادِلُ فِي آيَاتِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَلَا يَغْرُرْكَ تَقَلُّبُهُمْ فِي الْبِلَادِ (4)

    40|4| None disputes the revelations of Allah but the unbelievers. So, let not their going to and fro in the land delude you.5

    5. “Those who adopt the attitude of disputation against the Revelation of Allah, can never escape the punishment. They shall inevitably meet their doom. Now, if one sees that these people, even after adopting such attitudes, are strutting about, their business is flourishing, their governments functioning in a grand style, and they are enjoying the good things of life, one should not be misled into thinking that they have escaped Allah’s punishment, or that war against Allah’s revelations is an affair which can be treated as a pastime and its evil consequences warded off easily. This in fact is a respite they have been granted by Allah. Those who abuse this respite for doing more mischief are indeed preparing themselves for an ignominious end” (Mawdudi).

    كَذَّبَتْ قَبْلَهُمْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ وَالْأَحْزَابُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ ۖ وَهَمَّتْ كُلُّ أُمَّةٍ بِرَسُولِهِمْ لِيَأْخُذُوهُ ۖ وَجَادَلُوا بِالْبَاطِلِ لِيُدْحِضُوا بِهِ الْحَقَّ فَأَخَذْتُهُمْ ۖ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عِقَابِ (5)

    40|5| Cried lies before them Nuh‘s folk, and (several) confederates after them. Every nation attempted against its Messenger: to seize him. They disputed with falsehood in order to rebut the Truth thereby.6 So I seized them, so (see) how (terrible) was My retribution.7

    6. Mawdudi elaborates on what disputing constitutes: “To dispute means using crooked arguments in reasoning, raising irrelevant objections, isolating a word or sentence from its context, subjecting it to hair splitting and making it the basis of doubts and accusations, misconstruing words from their true sense and intention so that neither should one understand the meaning oneself nor let others do it.”
    Yusuf Ali comments in the following words: “Whenever a great or vital Truth is proclaimed and renewed, there are always shallow minds that are ready to dispute about it! And what petty and vain arguments they advance! They think they can discredit or condemn the Truth in this way, or render ‘of none effect’ Allah’s Plan. But they are mistaken. If they seem to succeed for a time, that is merely their trial. They may try to plan and plot against Allah’s men. But their plots will fail in the long run. They will themselves be caught in their own snares. And then, how terrible will be their Punishment!”
    7. Sayyid leads us to another perspective, “This is how the Qur’an portrays the true situation.. the fact of the clash between belief and disbelief, between truth and falsehood, between the callers to One Allah and the transgressors who wax proud in the earth without right. This is how we learn that the clash is an ancient one that began with the first man stepping on this planet and that the sphere of struggle is wider than this earth. For, as is generally realized, every existent being has submitted itself to Allah; except for the unbelievers – and none other than them - who dispute with the signs of Allah. And we also know how the struggle will end between the two unequals .. between the shining, overarching, gigantic Truth and the tiny, dark, insubstantial, untruth, however extensive its to and fro movements in the earth, and whatever show it might make of its strength and power.
    “This fact .. the fact of the clash between the two forces, and the time and place of the clash – is illustrated by the Qur’an in order that this fact may receive its place in the hearts, and in order that those who bear the burden of calling to the Truth, in every age and place, know the truth of it all; so that, they may not overrate the apparent power of falsehood: during a slender period in time, and a narrow stretch in space. What they see as the apparent, is not the real. It is virtual. The real is what the Qur’an depicts here. (And [see] how [terrible] was My retribution)!”

    وَكَذَٰلِكَ حَقَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ (6)

    40|6| And that is how the Word of your Lord was realized against those who disbelieved, that they are the Companions of the Fire.

    الَّذِينَ يَحْمِلُونَ الْعَرْشَ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهُ يُسَبِّحُونَ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ وَيُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُونَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا رَبَّنَا وَسِعْتَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ رَحْمَةً وَعِلْمًا فَاغْفِرْ لِلَّذِينَ تَابُوا وَاتَّبَعُوا سَبِيلَكَ وَقِهِمْ عَذَابَ الْجَحِيمِ (7)

    40|7| Those who bear the `Arsh,8 and those around it, chant glory and praise to their Lord.9 They believe in Him10 and seek forgiveness for those who have believed (saying),11 ‘Our Lord, You have encompassed everything with mercy and knowledge; forgive those who have turned penitent and follow Your path, and protect them from the chastisement of the blazing fire.

    8. The bearers of the `Arsh are the most honored of angels. The Prophet said,“I have been allowed to speak of an angel from among the angels of Allah – one of those who bear the `Arsh – that the distance between his ear lobe and the shoulder is seventy years” (Qurtubi).
    Haythami remarks that the report - but for the last two words – is in Abu Da’ud, and in Tabarani’s Awsat, with reliable narrators.
    9. “...chant glory and praise to their Lord”: to chant glory is to declare Allah free of all imaginable defects, and to chant praises is to confirm all good Qualities for Him (Ibn Kathir).
    10. Mention of the angels bearing the `Arsh clearly leads to the implication that Allah does not occupy it. If He did, He would have been in view of the angels in which case there was no point in mentioning that they believe in Him. The statement then leads to the belief that Allah is as much in the Unseen for the angels bearing the `Arsh as to His creations on the earth (Zamakhshari).
    Combating anthropomorphist tendencies, Imam Razi feels elated at the above remark and after quoting it from Zamakhshari states that had Zamakhshari written nothing else in his commentary but this point, it would have been an honor enough.
    11. Can one imagine to rise higher than this in esteem that he should be sinning on the earth, but because he is a believer, angels bearing the `Arsh should be supplicating for him? (Shabbir, slightly modified).

    رَبَّنَا وَأَدْخِلْهُمْ جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ الَّتِي وَعَدْتَهُمْ وَمَنْ صَلَحَ مِنْ آبَائِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجِهِمْ وَذُرِّيَّاتِهِمْ ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (8)

    40|8| And, Our Lord, admit them into gardens of `Adn that You have promised them, as well as those who attained righteousness of their progenitors, spouses and their offspring.12 Surely, You alone are the All-powerful, the All-wise.

    12. As Allah (swt) said elsewhere (52: 22),“As for those who believed, and their offspring followed them in faith, We shall join them with them and We shall not diminish from their deeds a thing” (Shabbir).
    Sa`id b. Jubayr has said that a believer will enter Paradise and ask, “Where is my father? Where is my mother? Where is my child? Where is my wife?” He will be told that their deeds were not of the class that would allow them here. He will say, “But I used to work for myself and for them.” They will be told, “Admit them into (this higher) Paradise (from its lower levels)” - Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir.

    وَقِهِمُ السَّيِّئَاتِ ۚ وَمَنْ تَقِ السَّيِّئَاتِ يَوْمَئِذٍ فَقَدْ رَحِمْتَهُ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ (9)

    40|9| And protect them from evils. And, whomsoever You protected from evils that Day, surely, You showed him mercy.13 That indeed is the great triumph.’14

    13. “That is the final Judgment, and any who is saved from the evil consequences of their deeds in this life will truly have been saved by Allah’s Mercy, and for them it is the highest achievement they could have, the attainment of all their wishes, the fulfillment of their destiny and the noblest purpose of their Life, the supreme Salvation and Felicity” (Yusuf Ali).
    14. To paraphrase Zamakhshari’s comment at this point: The supplication of the angels in favor of a species other than theirs, reflects the significant truth that sharing of belief entails sharing of concerns and qualities that proceed from it.

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يُنَادَوْنَ لَمَقْتُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ مِنْ مَقْتِكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ إِذْ تُدْعَوْنَ إِلَى الْإِيمَانِ فَتَكْفُرُونَ (10)

    40|10| Surely, those who committed disbelief will be called, ‘Indeed, Allah’s hatred was greater than your hatred for yourselves (now), when you were called unto belief but you were refusing.15

    15. That is, Allah’s hatred of them was greater that day when they were offered His message but they turned a blind eye to it, than their own hatred of themselves now, in the Hereafter, when they have seen the consequences of their denial (Mujahid, Qatadah, Suddi: Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    The caller could be angels, or even the Keepers of Hell seeing the unbelievers seething with anger engulfed by the flames of Hell (several commentators).

    قَالُوا رَبَّنَا أَمَتَّنَا اثْنَتَيْنِ وَأَحْيَيْتَنَا اثْنَتَيْنِ فَاعْتَرَفْنَا بِذُنُوبِنَا فَهَلْ إِلَىٰ خُرُوجٍ مِنْ سَبِيلٍ (11)

    40|11| They will say, ‘Our Lord, You dealt us death twice and quickened us twice.16 Now we have confessed our sins, is there now a way out?’17

    16. The Salaf have pointed out that this verse holds the same meaning as that of Al-Baqarah which said (2: 28),“How can you disbelieve in Allah seeing you were (once) lifeless, then He gave you life; then, He shall cause you to die and quicken you (again), and then unto Him you will be returned” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    The meaning given there holds good here. That is, ‘You were dust before you were created: that was the first death. Then He quickened you and gave you life: that was the first life. Then you will die and will be returned to dust: this will be the second death. Finally, you have been resurrected on this day of Judgment: this is the second life. Thus, in total, two deaths and two lives.
    But Imam Razi is of the opinion that the allusion is to the life and death of this world, and life and death of the grave.
    17. That is, seeing that You gave us multiple lives and deaths in the past, could you give us another death now, and a new life on the earth so that we could lead a life of obedience and devotion? (Au.).
    This statement of the unbelievers on the Day of Judgment will not be out of repentance, regret and the resolve to reform themselves, but rather, out of shock and an effort to escape the consequences. Hence the negative reply (Zamakhshari).

    ذَٰلِكُمْ بِأَنَّهُ إِذَا دُعِيَ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ كَفَرْتُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ يُشْرَكْ بِهِ تُؤْمِنُوا ۚ فَالْحُكْمُ لِلَّهِ الْعَلِيِّ الْكَبِيرِ (12)

    40|12| ‘That is because when Allah alone was invoked you disbelieved, but when He was associated with, you would believe.18 The judgment then rests with Allah, the Exalted, the Great.‘

    18. Allah (swt) gives the reason why their return will not profit them. Already, when Allah alone was invoked, they hated to hear it: “That is because when Allah alone was invoked you disbelieved, but when He was associated with, you would believe.” As He said elsewhere (6: 28),“If they are returned, they will return to what they were prohibited. They are indeed liars ” (Ibn Kathir).

    هُوَ الَّذِي يُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُنَزِّلُ لَكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ رِزْقًا ۚ وَمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ إِلَّا مَنْ يُنِيبُ (13)

    40|13| It is He who shows you His signs19 and sends down to you out of heaven provision.20 Yet, none but the penitent draw admonition.

    19. The heaven and the earth, the sun and the moon, the winds and the stars, the clouds and vapors, the rivers and springs, the trees and mountains, the days and the nights, the rains and drought, and, the ruins of the nations destroyed, are all signs of Allah that He has spread around for people to draw lessons of His existence and Oneness.
    20. “It is He who shows you His signs and sends down to you out of heaven provision”: The manifestation of the signs gives life to the soul, just as sending down of the provision gives life to the body (Razi).

    فَادْعُوا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْكَافِرُونَ (14)

    40|14| Therefore, call unto Allah making religion pure for Him, even though the unbelievers be averse.21

    21. The Qur’anic words remind Ibn Kathir of the words the Prophet used to say after the termination of every Prayer. He would say,“There is no deity save One Allah. He has no partners. His is the Kingdom and for Him the Praise; and He has power over all things. There is no power nor strength save with Allah. There is no deity save Allah. We do not worship but Allah. His is the blessing, and His the bounty. And for Him the good praise. There is no deity save Allah: being sincere in religion even though the unbelievers be averse.”
    The report is in Muslim (Au.).

    رَفِيعُ الدَّرَجَاتِ ذُو الْعَرْشِ يُلْقِي الرُّوحَ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ عَلَىٰ مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ لِيُنْذِرَ يَوْمَ التَّلَاقِ (15)

    40|15| High of Status,22 Master of the `Arsh.23 He sends down the Spirit24 by His will upon whomsoever He will of His servants, that he might25 warn of the Day of Encounter.26

    22. A meaning attributed to “darajat” is “sifat”, i.e., He who is of High Attributes (Qurtubi, Shawkani, Shafi` and others).
    The word “Rafi`” also carries the connotation of “He who raises the status” – of the Prophets, martyrs, the righteous and others (Razi, Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    23. `Arsh is a huge body that covers everything below it (Ibn Jarir).
    Dhu al-`Arsh: That is, the Creator, Owner and Master of it; that is, of power and kingdom. It is said, “So and so lost His `Arsh” meaning, he lost the power and control of his kingdom (Razi and Qurtubi).
    24. The allusion at this point by the textual term “ruh” is to the Qur’an, as Allah said elsewhere (42: 52), “That is how We have revealed to you a Spirit by our command” (Ibn Jarir). And the Revelation has been called “the Spirit” because it gives life to the soul (Qurtubi), just as the spirit (soul) gives life to the body (Razi).
    25. The pronoun in “li-yundhira” can be understood in three ways: “so that he may warn” (i.e., the Prophet), or, “that He may warn” (i.e., Allah), or “that it (the Qur’an) may warn” (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi).
    26. "The day of Encounter:" The day when people will meet their Lord, the day when they will meet each other, when the oppressor will meet the oppressed, the day when the inhabitants of the earth will meet the inhabitants of the heavens, the day when people will meet with their deeds (Qurtubi).

    يَوْمَ هُمْ بَارِزُونَ ۖ لَا يَخْفَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ مِنْهُمْ شَيْءٌ ۚ لِمَنِ الْمُلْكُ الْيَوْمَ ۖ لِلَّهِ الْوَاحِدِ الْقَهَّارِ (16)

    40|16| The Day whereon they come forth,27 nothing concerning them is hidden from Allah.28 Whose is the Kingdom today? For Allah, the One, the Compeller.29

    27. The textual word is “barizuna” meaning, the people will be in clear view of each other. One would say, “baraza fulanun” to mean, 'he came into view,' such as when he appears at the horizon (Au.).
    28. Nothing is ever hidden from Allah. But this fact was not apparent to them in the world. In the words of the Qur’an itself (41: 22), “But you guessed that Allah does not know much of what you do."
    On that day the realization will strike them hard “that nothing concerning them is hidden from Allah” (Razi).
    29. Ibn Mas`ud has said that people will be resurrected on a plain, newly created earth, resembling a molded sliver (plate), over which no sin would have been committed. As they will be gathered together, someone will call out, “Whose is the Kingdom today?” Mankind – both believers as well as unbelievers - will reply, “For Allah, the One, the Compeller.” The believers will say this with pleasure, while the unbelievers in painful realization (Qurtubi, Alusi, Shawkani).
    Mawdudi quotes an anecdote in connection with this verse. When the Samanid ruler Nasr b. Ahmad (301-331 A.H.) entered Nisapur he held court and after accepting the throne desired that the proceedings be initiated with Qur’anic recitation. An elderly person came forward and recited this very passage. When he reached this verse, “Whose is the Kingdom today?” Nasr was struck with awe. He came down the throne, took off the crown and fell into prostration saying, “My Lord, Kingdom is yours not mine.”
    (Nowadays one hardly comes across a faqir who is moved with awe by thoughts of Allah’s Power: Au.).

    الْيَوْمَ تُجْزَىٰ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ ۚ لَا ظُلْمَ الْيَوْمَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ (17)

    40|17| Today, every soul shall be recompensed for what it earned. No injustice today. Verily, Allah is swift at the reckoning.

    وَأَنْذِرْهُمْ يَوْمَ الْآزِفَةِ إِذِ الْقُلُوبُ لَدَى الْحَنَاجِرِ كَاظِمِينَ ۚ مَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ حَمِيمٍ وَلَا شَفِيعٍ يُطَاعُ (18)

    40|18| Warn them against the Approaching Day when the hearts are at the throats,30 choked.31 None there is for the transgressors of an intimate friend or an intercessor to be heeded.32

    30. The situation could both be figurative, expressing extreme fear, as well as real, in the sense that the hearts torn from their places and choking the unbelievers in their throats (Razi). Perhaps it would be a situation of perpetual heart-attack (Au.).
    31. Choked with fear, suppressing mounting anger and frustration, ready to burst out, but without the ability to express any of it in words or action (Au.).
    32. How can a faithless people faced up with a new situation on this Day look upon the faithful for intercession? Aren’t these the very people who were the object of their scorn in the previous life? There is another factor too, the most important, which they completely neglected: their Lord. Even if they could find someone to intercede for them, the intercessors will not be heeded, for the affair involves the unbelievers and their Lord and none else. Other creations might as well keep their distance (Au.).

    يَعْلَمُ خَائِنَةَ الْأَعْيُنِ وَمَا تُخْفِي الصُّدُورُ (19)

    40|19| He knows the treachery of the eyes33 and what the breasts conceal.

    33. The furtive glance of a man, for instance, at a woman when others around him are unaware (several commentators).
    It is reported that `Abdullah b. Sa`d b. Abi Sarh was one of those who were ordered killed at the fall of Makkah. After the victory, he concealed himself in `Uthman’s house. The latter brought him to the Prophet saying that the man had surrendered and was ready for allegiance. The Prophet looked at him but said nothing. `Uthman repeated the request. The Prophet raised his eyes, looked at him but said nothing. At the third time he accepted his allegiance. Later he told his Companions, “Was there not a rightly guided man among you to see that I was refusing to accept his allegiance, and so kill him?” Someone answered, “Why did you not, Messenger of Allah, signal with your eye?” He answered,“It is not becoming of a Prophet that he should have treacherous eyes” (Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    The report is in Abu Da’ud and is Sahih (S.Ibrahim).

    وَاللَّهُ يَقْضِي بِالْحَقِّ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ لَا يَقْضُونَ بِشَيْءٍ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ (20)

    40|20| Allah judges with Truth, while those they invoke besides Him, judge not by aught.34 Indeed, Allah is the All-hearing, the All-observing.

    34. Majid points to the misconceptions of the Christians in this regard. He writes: “This repudiates the Christian doctrine of Jesus being the Judge and Arbiter. Cf. the NT:- ‘For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.’ (Matt. 16: 27). [And], ‘When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ (Matt. 25: 31-34).”
    The “sheep” of the above context are of course the Christians, who by far, have proved themselves the most ferocious of all nations when it comes to murder and mayhem: whether between themselves or against nations other than theirs. The atrocities let loose by the Church during the Inquisition in the Middle-ages led to the killing of 55 million Christians. But this is only the tip of the ice-berg that historical works have recorded of the so-called sheep (Au.).

    أَوَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ كَانُوا مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ كَانُوا هُمْ أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً وَآثَارًا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَأَخَذَهُمُ اللَّهُ بِذُنُوبِهِمْ وَمَا كَانَ لَهُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ وَاقٍ (21)

    40|21| Have they not journeyed through the earth to see how was the end of those before them? They were stronger than them in might and in traces (they left) in the land.35 Then Allah seized them for their sins. And they had not against Allah a protector.

    35. As Allah said elsewhere (46: 26),“Surely, We established them in what We did not establish you in it.” He also said (30: 9),“Aand they cultivated the land and populated it more than they themselves have populated it.”

    ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَانَتْ تَأْتِيهِمْ رُسُلُهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَكَفَرُوا فَأَخَذَهُمُ اللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّهُ قَوِيٌّ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ (22)

    40|22| That was because their Messengers were coming to them with clear evidences, but they disbelieved, so Allah seized them. He is indeed, Full of Strength, Terrible of Retribution.

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَىٰ بِآيَاتِنَا وَسُلْطَانٍ مُبِينٍ (23)

    40|23| We had indeed sent Musa with Our signs36 and a clear Authority.

    36. Apart from the nine signs that Musa (asws) had shown to Fir`awn and his folks, the very personality of Musa was a sign to them and to others. Here was a man who had a death warrant on his head. He had fled the country from fear of being arrested, tried and put to death. The community to which he belonged was so hopelessly enslaved that their masters could slaughter them, young and old, at will. Had Musa on his second appearance been arrested and summarily put to death, no one would been surprised in the least. But what was truly surprising was that one of the slaves of the enslaved community stood in the court and challenged the head of the state – known for no other quality better than tyranny. Musa all but abused him, right in front of his courtiers. He must have been mad with anger. Yet, there he was, helpless against him, unable to restrain him, far from killing him. Was not Musa himself a great sign for the high and the low? (With the main point from Mawdudi).

    إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ وَقَارُونَ فَقَالُوا سَاحِرٌ كَذَّابٌ (24)

    40|24| To Fir`awn, Haman and Qarun. But they said, ‘A sorcerer, big liar.37

    37. The textual “kadhdhab”, instead of a simple “kadhib” led us to render it as “a big liar.”

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ بِالْحَقِّ مِنْ عِنْدِنَا قَالُوا اقْتُلُوا أَبْنَاءَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ وَاسْتَحْيُوا نِسَاءَهُمْ ۚ وَمَا كَيْدُ الْكَافِرِينَ إِلَّا فِي ضَلَالٍ (25)

    40|25| Now, when he brought them the Truth from Us, they said, ‘Kill off the sons of those who have believed with him and let their women live.’38 But the plot of the unbeliever is not but in error.

    38. This killing was different from the killing organized when the prediction was made that an Israelite will destroy Fir`awn‘s kingdom (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir).

    وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ ذَرُونِي أَقْتُلْ مُوسَىٰ وَلْيَدْعُ رَبَّهُ ۖ إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَنْ يُبَدِّلَ دِينَكُمْ أَوْ أَنْ يُظْهِرَ فِي الْأَرْضِ الْفَسَادَ (26)

    40|26| And Fir`awn said, ‘Let me alone that I kill off Musa,39 and let him call to His Lord. I fear he will change your religion40 or that he may cause disorder to appear in the land.’41

    39. This indicates that although free to kill Musa, Fir`awn could not make up his mind either because he did not have the courage, apprehensive that it might bring the punishment Musa (asws) was promising, or, even if inclined towards doing away with Musa, he was being advised against it by the senior courtiers who could have warned him that killing Musa on the one hand will demonstrate the weakness of the governmental position, and, on the other, make an immediate hero of Musa, leading to the spread of faith (Au.).
    Imam Razi suggests the possibility that his courtiers did not want Musa done away with, but rather, remain in Fir`awn’s concern and worries, in order to keep him busy, so that, they in turn may rest in peace from his evils. Courtiers often do this to divert the attention of the ruler from themselves to other, foreign enemies.
    To the brilliant point above one might add that this is much too often practiced by Western nations. Whenever they fear internal disturbance and dissatisfaction over their rule, they divert the attention of the masses to a foreign supposed enemy (Au.).
    40. Majid writes, “The popular religion of Egypt, at the time of Moses, was a gross form of polytheism. ‘The priests had invented, and maintained the outward polytheism and idolatry, as the only religion suitable to the mass of the people; they inculcated it, they administered its rites, they sanctioned its greatness, its licentiousness, its lowering and debasing materialism (Rawlinson, Moses: His Life and Times p. 39).”
    41. A life based on devotion to Allah was, to them, a life of mischief, disorder and corruption (Ibn Jarir from the Salaf).
    According to some other commentators, Fir`awn feared that if some people fell victim to Musa’s call, while the rest remained on the state religion, then, national unity would be endangered and the rulers will have a hard time directing the masses to a single goal which they had set up for them.

    وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ إِنِّي عُذْتُ بِرَبِّي وَرَبِّكُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ مُتَكَبِّرٍ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِيَوْمِ الْحِسَابِ (27)

    40|27| Musa said, ‘I take refuge with my Lord and your Lord, against every arrogant one who believes not in the Day of Account.’42

    42. Our own Prophet sought Allah’s refuge when in fear. Abu Burdah reports that,“When the Prophet feared a people he would supplicate in words, ‘O Allah, we place You in front of their chests and seek Your refuge from their evils.’”
    There is another hadith in slightly different words, as quoted by Ibn Kathir, but we gave preference to the version above, as in Abu Da’ud, since Haythami, Suyuti and `Iraqi (Fayd al-Qadir) declared it trustworthy (Au.).

    وَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مُؤْمِنٌ مِنْ آلِ فِرْعَوْنَ يَكْتُمُ إِيمَانَهُ أَتَقْتُلُونَ رَجُلًا أَنْ يَقُولَ رَبِّيَ اللَّهُ وَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ يَكُ كَاذِبًا فَعَلَيْهِ كَذِبُهُ ۖ وَإِنْ يَكُ صَادِقًا يُصِبْكُمْ بَعْضُ الَّذِي يَعِدُكُمْ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ مُسْرِفٌ كَذَّابٌ (28)

    40|28| Said a believer, one of the Fir`awn’s folk43 who was concealing his faith,44 ‘Will you kill a man because he says, “my Lord is Allah,”45 while he has brought you clear evidences from your Lord? If he should be a liar, then upon him will be his lie. But if he should be truthful, then some of what he warns you might strike you.46 Surely, Allah does not love him who is a transgressor and a big liar.47

    43. Ibn `Abbas has said that there were no more than three among the Copts who believed in Musa (asws): this person, who was concealing his faith, Fir`awn’s wife Asiyyah and the man who had warned Musa (Al-Qasas: 20) that the government was planning to slay him (Ibn Kathir).
    This opinion of Ibn `Abbas is in Ibn al-Mundhir and Ibn Abi Hatim (Shawkani).
    Mawdudi adds: The affair of the believer from among the ruling family speaking out in the court, is an important event that both the Old Testament as well as the Talmud failed to record, nor is this mention found in any Israeli annals. The Orientalists have used it to plant doubts over the authenticity of the Qur’an. Says the Encyclopedia of Islam (Lieden print), “The Koranic story of a believer in the court Pharaoh who wants to save Musa is not quite clear (xI,28). Ought we to compare Jethro in the Haggada who advises clemency at Pharaoh’s court?”
    The insinuation is, the Prophet somehow heard this Haggada episode?!
    If we are to give any credence to the Orientalists, we must conclude that there has never been a scholar in history, neither Jewish, nor Christin, the like of Muhammad, who had such mastery over the most ancient Jewish literatures, as to gather in himself a knowledge, which required life-time efforts of hundreds of modern-day Orientalists, equipped with rarest of manuscripts and archeological tablets, to merely trace out the sources of his knowledge (Au.).
    44. He was of course taking great risks. If exposed he could be sent to the gallows.
    The Prophet (saws) has said, as in a hadith of Abu Da’ud,“The best Jihad is a word of truth before a tyrannical ruler” (Ibn Kathir).
    A similar report is found in Nasa’i, A man asked the Prophet while he had placed his foot in the stirrup, “What Jihad is the best?” He answered, “A word of truth before a tyrannical ruler” (Au.).
    45. In reference to this verse we are reminded of an incident involving our Prophet in Makkah. Bukhari is the source, `Urwah ibn Zubayr said he asked `Abdullah b. `Amr about the worst thing that the Quraysh did to the Prophet. He said: I saw `Uqbah b. Abi Mu`ayt go up to the Prophet while he was Praying, throw his garment around his neck and begin to choke him. Abu Bakr came, pushed the man away and said, “Will you kill a man because he says, ‘my Lord is Allah,’ while he has brought you clear evidences from your Lord?” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    One might note Abu Bakr’s attachment to the Qur’an that he remembered the verse in that frustrating situation (Au.).
    In this connection, we also have a report preserved by Abu Nu`aym in Fada’il al-Sahabah:Muhammad b. `Aqil said that once `Ali (ibn abi Talib) asked us during a sermon, saying, “People! Tell us who is the most courageous of the people.” We said, “Yourself.” He said, “As for me, I never met someone in a duel but I did justice to it. But tell me who is the most courageous of the people.” They said, “Then we do not know who it is.” He said, “Abu Bakr. On the day of (the battle of) Badr, we built a shelter for the Prophet. But we began to ask ourselves as to who would remain with the Prophet to protect him from the pagans. By Allah, no one went near the Prophet but Abu Bakr with his sword swung out over the Prophet’s head. No one (of the pagans) ever moved towards the Prophet but Abu Bakr pounced upon him. He was the most courageous of the people. And, I have seen the Prophet when he was seized by the Quraysh (in Makkah). This one was pulling him, that one was pushing him, another was struggling with him. They were saying, ‘Are you the one who made one God of several gods?’ By Allah, none of us went near the Prophet except Abu Bakr. He was pulling this one, pushing that one and struggling against another saying, ‘Will you kill a man who says, ”Allah is my Lord?“’ Then he (`Ali) raised the cloak over him and wept until his beard was wet.” Then he asked, “Swear to me by Allah, was the believer from Fir`awn’s folk better or Abu Bakr?” The people were quiet. He said, “Will you not answer?” Then he added, “By Allah, Abu Bakr was in time better than the believer from Fir`awn’s folk. That was a man who was concealing his faith, while Abu Bakr had announced his faith” (Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    According to another version, the above incident was three days after Abu Talib’s death and that somebody had rushed up to Abu Bakr who came in running, with two pleats of hair (on his head) - Qurtubi.
    The version above is from Kanz al-`Ummal, which is slightly lengthier than in Qurtubi or Shawkani. And Kanz’s author, `Ala’uddin Muttaqi al-Hindi reports Haythami as approving its chain of narrators.
    It is possible, as it was happening on many occasions, that the Shiya`an `Ali were around `Ali, deprecating Abu Bakr, and so he thought it necessary to remove their misconceptions. That they remained quiet when he asked them about Abu Bakr strengthens this surmise (Au.).
    At any rate, the verse allows that if one is in fear (such as of sure and immediate persecution) one might conceal his faith (Thanwi).
    46. That is, if Musa (asws) is lying, then what can be greater transgression than to fasten a lie upon Allah? Will Allah allow him to propagate a lie in His name: Surely, Allah does not love him who is a transgressor and a big liar (Au.).
    At this point it might be useful to present a short passage from the commentary on “`Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah” by Ibn Abi al-`Izz. Discussing the issue of the possibility of our own Prophet being a false Prophet, he writes, “As for our Prophet, his case is so obvious that denying his message is tantamount to denying Allah Most High Himself, and alleging tyranny on His part, high above that Allah is. To explain: If someone thought that Muhammad, on whom be peace, was not a Prophet, rather a tyrant ruler, then, what it implies is that he fastened a lie on God, brought before the people something not revealed by Him, then, continued to declare the lawful as unlawful and the unlawful as lawful, declared the old Scriptural Laws null and void, slew the people, and destroyed the true followers of earlier Prophets. Yet, he is led to victories after victories. He alleged that all that was by Allah’s command sent down to him. And the Lord God watched him accomplish all that in His Name, annihilating the followers of truth and continuing to lie for no less than twenty three years. Indeed, Allah seems to have helped him achieve all that, let him overcome everyone, prepared the grounds with a couple of supernatural circumstances to lead him to victories. More. He even answered his prayers, destroyed those opposed to him and raised his name over all others. Now, for Allah to let someone do all that, in His Name, and, instead of uprooting him, help him in his plans, is only possible if Allah Himself is a tyrant, an oppressive Being, and a transgressor. Inevitably, that would lead the people to believe that this world has no Creator nor a Lord above all. Had there been one, He would have stopped this person from doing all that. Indeed, He would have punished him with an exemplary punishment for the satisfaction of the rest of the world. The ‘no action’ response does not befit even an ordinary king of this world. How then does it fit the King of kings and the Ruler of all rulers?
    “We do not deny that many liars have been successful in their own days, overcoming several opponents in their ventures. But, firstly, they did not succeed wholly, and secondly, the new situation they created did not last long. In time, Allah’s Messengers and their followers did away with all that they had established. This is the Sunnah of Allah that has been among the nations of the past. Indeed, even the unbelievers knew it. Allah said: “They say, ‘A poet for whom we await the Fate’s uncertainty.’ Say, ‘Wait. For I am with you one of those waiting.’” (Al-Tur, 30-31)
    (That is, even the pagans were pretty sure that if the Prophet was phony he would be destroyed and, therefore, the best recourse was to wait for the Divine intervention).
    47. “Compare a similar incident,” writes Majid, “recorded in connection with the apostle Jesus in the NT: ‘When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law .. And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do as touching these men .. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye found even to fight against God.’ (Ac. 5:33-39).”

    يَا قَوْمِ لَكُمُ الْمُلْكُ الْيَوْمَ ظَاهِرِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَمَنْ يَنْصُرُنَا مِنْ بَأْسِ اللَّهِ إِنْ جَاءَنَا ۚ قَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ مَا أُرِيكُمْ إِلَّا مَا أَرَىٰ وَمَا أَهْدِيكُمْ إِلَّا سَبِيلَ الرَّشَادِ (29)

    40|29| And O my people, for you is the sovereignty today, dominant in the land. But who will help us against Allah’s ire should it befall us?’ Fir`awn said, ‘I do not show you but what I see (as correct) and I do not guide you, but to the right path.’48

    48. Fir`awn was of course lying. And our Prophet has said as recorded by the Sahihayn,“There is no ruler entrusted the rule over Muslims, who deceives them, except that Allah has forbidden Paradise for him” (Ibn Kathir).

    وَقَالَ الَّذِي آمَنَ يَا قَوْمِ إِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ مِثْلَ يَوْمِ الْأَحْزَابِ (30)

    40|30| Said he who had believed, ‘O my people, truly I fear for you the like of the day of the confederates.49

    49. Ibn Jarir: the next verse identifies the 'confederates' (against the Messengers: Majid).

    مِثْلَ دَأْبِ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ وَعَادٍ وَثَمُودَ وَالَّذِينَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ ۚ وَمَا اللَّهُ يُرِيدُ ظُلْمًا لِلْعِبَادِ (31)

    40|31| The like of the case of the people of Nuh, `Ad, Thamud and those after them. And Allah does not intend wrong to His slaves.

    وَيَا قَوْمِ إِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ يَوْمَ التَّنَادِ (32)

    40|32| And O my people, verily I fear for you the Day of mutual calling.50

    50. Qatadah and Ibn Zayd said that the allusion is to the calling between the inhabitants of Paradise and Hellfire. As Allah said (7: 44)“And the inhabitants of Paradise will call the inhabitants of the Fire (saying), ‘We have found true what our Lord had promised us. So, have you also found what your Lord had promised you as true?’”
    Or (7: 50)“And the inhabitants of the Fire will call the inhabitants of Paradise (saying), ‘Throw down some water upon us, or out of what Allah has provided you’” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    But of course there will be other kinds of calling. E.g., the general calling to the Field of Reckoning; or the people called to fall out in groups; the call of the Companions of A`raf; or the final call when a ram symbolizing death would have been slaughtered and someone will call out, “O Inhabitants of Paradise, eternity and no death, and O inhabitants of the Fire, eternity and no death;” and so on.

    يَوْمَ تُوَلُّونَ مُدْبِرِينَ مَا لَكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ عَاصِمٍ ۗ وَمَنْ يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ (33)

    40|33| The day you will turn about retreating; no defender will you have against Allah. And, he whom Allah leaves unguided, has none to guide.

    وَلَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ يُوسُفُ مِنْ قَبْلُ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَمَا زِلْتُمْ فِي شَكٍّ مِمَّا جَاءَكُمْ بِهِ ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا هَلَكَ قُلْتُمْ لَنْ يَبْعَثَ اللَّهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ رَسُولًا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُضِلُّ اللَّهُ مَنْ هُوَ مُسْرِفٌ مُرْتَابٌ (34)

    40|34| Indeed, earlier Yusuf had brought you clear evidences. But you ceased not in doubt concerning what he had brought you until, when he perished, you said, “Allah will never raise a Messenger after him.”51 That is how Allah misguides him who is a transgressor, given to doubts.

    51. It is possible that this was not said by Fir`awn’s folks in grief and regret but rather in mockery. Sometime back they had a warner viz. Yusuf, and one was enough, God will not send another (Thanwi). Sayyid Qutb has a similar note.
    But another interpretation has been offered by Shah `Abdul Qadir which purports to mean that Fir`awn’s folks never believed in Yusuf until he died. However, once he was dead, and the blessings that he had brought on the land had departed, they began to say in despair that since they had disbelieved in him, Allah might not raise another in his place (Shabbir).

    الَّذِينَ يُجَادِلُونَ فِي آيَاتِ اللَّهِ بِغَيْرِ سُلْطَانٍ أَتَاهُمْ ۖ كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَعِنْدَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَطْبَعُ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ قَلْبِ مُتَكَبِّرٍ جَبَّارٍ (35)

    40|35| Those who dispute with Allah’s signs without an authority having come to them, greatly hateful is (that) to Allah and to those who have believed. That is how Allah sets the seal upon the heart of every arrogant, tyrannical person.‘

    وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ يَا هَامَانُ ابْنِ لِي صَرْحًا لَعَلِّي أَبْلُغُ الْأَسْبَابَ (36)

    40|36| Fir`awn said, ‘O Haman,52 build for me a tall palace, that haply I may attain the means..

    52. Imam Razi refutes the allegation made by the Christians of his time that according to their history works, Haman appeared several centuries later. Why is it assumed that there could have been no more than one Haman in human history?
    The Haman of Qur’anic mention should not be confused with the Persian Haman of the Old Testament. It has been suggested that Haman was the title of the Chief Priest of the kingdom. That Fir`awn should have addressed him is most reasonable, since his Haman was the one responsible for advocating, establishing and imposing the state religion of which he was the Chief Priest. If Musa (asws) was threatening the state religion, it was time the Chief Priest got involved. See al-Qasas, note 9 of this work for further details (Au.).

    أَسْبَابَ السَّمَاوَاتِ فَأَطَّلِعَ إِلَىٰ إِلَٰهِ مُوسَىٰ وَإِنِّي لَأَظُنُّهُ كَاذِبًا ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِفِرْعَوْنَ سُوءُ عَمَلِهِ وَصُدَّ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ ۚ وَمَا كَيْدُ فِرْعَوْنَ إِلَّا فِي تَبَابٍ (37)

    40|37| The means to the heavens and look up for the God of Musa;53 but I think he is a liar.’ Thus were decked out fair to Fir`awn the evil of his deeds. And he was blocked from the path. And Fir`awn’s plot was not but in ruin.

    53. “This is how Fir`awn the tyrant confronts the truth: by evading it. It is a distant thought to imagine that he was honest in his bidding, that this was the level of his understanding, that he was truly wishing to find the truth about the God of Musa: in this simple, disingenuous manner. The Fara`ina of Egypt had certainly attained higher cultural state to be so crude of mind.. It was nothing but mockery from one angle, and an artificial attempt at justice to the Call on the other; an effort to match the commonsense attitude of the believer with his own feigned logical approach. All of this of course speak of his unshakable decision to disregard the truth” (Sayyid).

    وَقَالَ الَّذِي آمَنَ يَا قَوْمِ اتَّبِعُونِ أَهْدِكُمْ سَبِيلَ الرَّشَادِ (38)

    40|38| And said he who had believed, ‘O my people, follow me. I will lead you to the right path.

    يَا قَوْمِ إِنَّمَا هَٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا مَتَاعٌ وَإِنَّ الْآخِرَةَ هِيَ دَارُ الْقَرَارِ (39)

    40|39| My people, the life of this world is nothing but a passing enjoyment and indeed, the Hereafter, that is the abode of (permanent) settlement.

    مَنْ عَمِلَ سَيِّئَةً فَلَا يُجْزَىٰ إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا ۖ وَمَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَأُولَٰئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ يُرْزَقُونَ فِيهَا بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ (40)

    40|40| Whosoever did an evil, then, he is not requited but with the like of it. But whosoever did a righteous deed, be it male or female, but is a believer, then, those will enter Paradise, provided therein without measure.

    وَيَا قَوْمِ مَا لِي أَدْعُوكُمْ إِلَى النَّجَاةِ وَتَدْعُونَنِي إِلَى النَّارِ (41)

    40|41| And, my people. How is it with me that I call you to deliverance, while you call me to the Fire?

    تَدْعُونَنِي لِأَكْفُرَ بِاللَّهِ وَأُشْرِكَ بِهِ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِهِ عِلْمٌ وَأَنَا أَدْعُوكُمْ إِلَى الْعَزِيزِ الْغَفَّارِ (42)

    40|42| You call me so that I should disbelieve in Allah, and to Associate with Him that about which I have no knowledge, while I call you to the All-mighty, the All-forgiving.

    لَا جَرَمَ أَنَّمَا تَدْعُونَنِي إِلَيْهِ لَيْسَ لَهُ دَعْوَةٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَلَا فِي الْآخِرَةِ وَأَنَّ مَرَدَّنَا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَأَنَّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ هُمْ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ (43)

    40|43| No doubt that what you call me to has no claim in this world nor in the Hereafter;54 and that our return is to Allah; and that the transgressors, they are the companions of the Fire.

    54. That is, although you appeal to them, but they, were they to be alive, would make no claim to divinity. Another interpretation renders “da`wah” in the sense of “response,” i.e., if called, they cannot respond (Zamakhshari, Razi).
    Yet another possible rendition is, as Majid did: that which has no right to be invoked.
    The Qur’an said elsewhere (35 14),“If you invoke them, they do not hear your invocation, and, even if they heard, they cannot respond to you”(Ibn Kathir).
    Therefore, is it anything but ignorance of the highest order to keep calling those who cannot respond? Allah said (46: 5),“And who can be in greater wrong than him who calls those – apart from Allah – who will not answer until the Day of Judgment, when in fact, they are unaware of their call?”
    In this case the situation is all the more hopeless, for, not that these false gods do not answer their call, but, they in fact cannot (Shabbir).

    فَسَتَذْكُرُونَ مَا أَقُولُ لَكُمْ ۚ وَأُفَوِّضُ أَمْرِي إِلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بَصِيرٌ بِالْعِبَادِ (44)

    40|44| You will soon recall what I say to you.55 As for (me) I commit my affair to Allah,56 surely Allah is Seeing of the salves.’

    55. That is, it will not be too long before punishment strikes you, if you stayed on the path of disbelief. Then it is that you will remember me and recall my words and regret not having heeded (Au.).
    56. This indicates that either he had already been threatened with death (Razi), or he felt sure he was risking his life by exposing himself (Au.).

    فَوَقَاهُ اللَّهُ سَيِّئَاتِ مَا مَكَرُوا ۖ وَحَاقَ بِآلِ فِرْعَوْنَ سُوءُ الْعَذَابِ (45)

    40|45| So Allah saved him from the evils of what they plotted57 and there enveloped Fir`awn’s folk an evil chastisement.

    57. Perhaps Fir`awn’s government plotted to get him assassinated, in the fashion of modern day governments in the East and the West, who get their security men assassinate anyone they depict to their public as the enemy of the state, in most cases, the victims being Muslims; claiming that they were killed in an encounter, when, in fact, it is cold-blooded murder. Today’s world is teeming with the Fara`ina as heads of democratic states preaching human rights, equality, freedom of the people, and all those slogans. In the face of mounting persecution of Muslims, one can only draw comfort from the words, “On the day the Hour strikes, (it will be said), ‘Admit the folks of Fir`awn into a more severe torture” (Au.).

    لنَّارُ يُعْرَضُونَ عَلَيْهَا غُدُوًّا وَعَشِيًّا ۖ وَيَوْمَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ أَدْخِلُوا آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ أَشَدَّ الْعَذَابِ (46)

    40|46| The Fire to which they are exposed morning and evening,58 and on the day the Hour strikes, (it will be said), ‘Admit the folks of Fir`awn into a more severe chastisement.’

    58. Hudhayl b. Shurahbil and Suddi have said in reference to this verse that the souls of the folks of Fir`awn are in the bodies of birds that are exposed to the Fire everyday, burning their feathers and blackening them thereby, to be whole once again by next morning for the cycle to repeat (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Thus, this is in contrast to the treatment of the believers in the world of Barzakh who are in the form of green birds, feeding themselves from any part of Paradise they will (Shabbir).
    This ayah is a Qur’anic evidence for punishment in the world of Barzakh, or simply, in the graves (Zamakhshari), especially the use of the words “morning and evening,” since the allusion could not be to Hell where the criminals will not be exposed to the fire merely in the morning and evening, but rather all the time (Razi).
    Ibn Kathir reconciles the contradiction between this Makkan verse and a couple of ahadith that say that early in Madinah the Prophet (saws) denied the possibility of punishment in Barzakh. How could he deny when this verse had already been revealed in Makkah? Of course, the simplest answer is that we cannot be definite about the revelation of this particular ayah in Makkah, even if this chapter is Makkan. In fact, some of the earliest commentators have though that verse 55 and 56 are Makkan. Can we rule out the possibility of this ayah, (no. 46), being Madinan simply because there are no reports? (Au.).
    At all events, Ibn Kathir reconciles in the following manner. First he reports a hadith in Ahmed which he declares Sahih. It says,`A’isha reports that a Jewish woman used to serve her. Now never did `A’isha do a good thing to her but the Jewess said, “May Allah protect you from the punishment in the grave.” `A’isha says when the Prophet entered upon her she asked her whether there was going to be punishment in the grave before the Judgment Day. He answered, “No. And who says that?” She told him that she never did a good thing to the Jewess but she said, “May Allah protect you from the punishment in the grave.” He said, “The Jews lied, and they are pretty fast at fastening a lie on Allah.” Then he remained as long as Allah wished him to remain (on this opinion) until one day he came out at mid-day gathering his clothes around him, red-eyed, pronouncing in a loud voice, “O people. Tribulations have overshadowed you like a dark night. O people. If you knew what I know, surely, you would have cried much and laughed little. O people, seek Allah’s refuge from the punishment in the grave, for punishment in the grave is true.”
    There are other reports of this nature in other collections. And the reconciliation is simple. In fact, reconciliation is not required. One can see that the Qur’anic statement as here, is not speaking of Fir`awn’s folks being actually tormented. It says that they are brought to the Fire morning and evening, in Qur’an’s own words, “The Fire to which they are exposed morning and evening.” Thus, they are merely exposed to the Fire while they are in the Barzakh. Later the Sunnah confirmed that not merely exposed, but the evildoers in general are indeed punished in the graves. In addition, there is another possibility. When the Prophet (saws) denied that the believers will be punished in the grave, it was because he did not know that Muslims too would be punished. In view of this Qur’anic ayah he could have surmised that it is unbelievers alone who will be punished, not believers. Indeed, this is strengthened by another version of the hadith in Musnad of Ahmed which reports that he reacted angrily, “But rather, it is Jews who will be punished.” However, later he was informed by Allah that even believers are likely to be punished, which he hurried to announce. The hadith of Ahmed is as follows,`Urwah ibn al-Zubayr heard ‘A’isha say that a Jewess entered upon her and said that “I understand that you will be punished in the grave.” She said, “The Prophet heard it and felt frightened. Then he said, ‘Indeed, Jews will be punished.’” ‘A’isha said, “A few nights passed over me when the Prophet said, ‘Are you aware that it has been revealed to me that you will be punished in the graves?’”
    (Thanwi states that this is the right and simple explanation of the apparent contradiction).
    In any case, ahadith promising punishment in the graves are several (Ibn Kathir).
    We also have in the hadith literature, the story of how the folks of Fir`awn are shunted up and down to be exposed to the Fire. Describing one of the incidents that the Prophet noticed during his Night Journey and Ascension, he said: “Then Jibril took me along until I passed over a people remarkable for their big tummies like huge houses. They were blocking the way of Fir`awn’s folks. These latter ones are exposed to the Fire, morning and evening. So that when they return, they are like sick camels who cannot make the difference between a rock and a tree, neither hearing nor understanding anything. When these people with big tummies feel them coming their way, they try to rise up (and move away) but because of their heavy tummies tumble down. They rise up again but again fall down, until Fir`awn’s folks arrive and run over them. They trample them coming and going. This is their punishment in the purgatory between this world and the next. The folks of Fir`awn cry out to Allah, ‘O Lord! Do not ever bring forth the Resurrection’” (Ibn Kathir).
    For Arabic text of the above hadith, see note no. 588 of Surah al-Baqarah of this work (Au.).
    Then there are reports of the believers rewarded during their life in Barzakh. One of the report says, as in Ibn Abi Hatim,`Abdullah ibn Mas`ud said, “The souls of martyrs are in the bodies of green birds that fly about in Paradise as they like. The souls of minor Muslim children are in the bodies of green birds that fly about in Paradise as they will, to return to lanterns hanging by the `Arsh. And the souls of Fir`awn’s folks are in the bodies of the birds that pass by Jahannum morning and evening, and that is their exposure to Jahannum (Ibn Kathir).
    The above is a statement of ibn Mas`ud, but ahadith concerning souls of the martyrs in the bodies of green birds in Paradise, are trustworthy and found in several collections such as Tirmidhi, Abu Da’ud and others (Au.).
    To continue with the subject at hand, there is a report in Ahmed and the Sahihayn which says,`Abdullah ibn `Umar reports the Prophet (saws) as having said, “When one of you dies, his place is shown to him morning and evening. If he is of the inhabitants of Paradise, then Paradise, but if of the inhabitants of the Fire, then the Fire, and he is told, ‘This is your place (that you will get) when Allah raises you on the Day of Judgment’” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).

    وَإِذْ يَتَحَاجُّونَ فِي النَّارِ فَيَقُولُ الضُّعَفَاءُ لِلَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا إِنَّا كُنَّا لَكُمْ تَبَعًا فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُغْنُونَ عَنَّا نَصِيبًا مِنَ النَّارِ (47)

    40|47| When they will dispute with each other in the Fire so that the weak ones will say to those who waxed proud, ‘Surely, we were but your followers. So, will you not relieve us now against any part of the Fire?’

    قَالَ الَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا إِنَّا كُلٌّ فِيهَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ حَكَمَ بَيْنَ الْعِبَادِ (48)

    40|48| Those who had waxed proud will say, ‘Surely, every one of us is in it. Indeed, Allah has already judged between the servants.’59

    59. That is, the affair is all over: those who had to go to Paradise are gone while those that were destined for the Fire are here. Now there is no departure from here (Au.).

    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ فِي النَّارِ لِخَزَنَةِ جَهَنَّمَ ادْعُوا رَبَّكُمْ يُخَفِّفْ عَنَّا يَوْمًا مِنَ الْعَذَابِ (49)

    40|49| And those who are in the Fire will say to the Keepers of Jahannum, ‘Call on your Lord to lighten on us a day of the torment.’

    قَالُوا أَوَلَمْ تَكُ تَأْتِيكُمْ رُسُلُكُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ۖ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ ۚ قَالُوا فَادْعُوا ۗ وَمَا دُعَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ إِلَّا فِي ضَلَالٍ (50)

    40|50| They will say, ‘Were not the Messengers ever coming to you with clear signs?’ They will say, ‘Yes indeed.’ They will say, ‘Then, call (Him) yourselves.’60 But the call of the unbelievers will not be but in the wandering.

    60. To paraphrase the passage, the angels will reply in words, “We are here to punish and torture you. Intercession is not part of our duty. Intercession in fact was the prerogative of the Prophets and Messengers. But you denied them when they came to you. That door is now closed. But if you believe there is some use in supplications, then do it, although the fact is, the time for supplications is also over. Today’s supplication is lost to the wind (Au. with a point from Shabbir).

    إِنَّا لَنَنْصُرُ رُسُلَنَا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْأَشْهَادُ (51)

    40|51| Surely We help Our Messengers and those who believe in the life of this world61 and on the Day when the witnesses will stand forth.62

    61. The believers in Truth are always triumphant, even if physically and materially not so, because the word of Truth they believe in overcomes the false word whenever the two clash, or come face to face with each other (Zamakhshari).
    Shabbir comments: “That is, they are victorious at the intellectual, moral and spiritual level. Falsehood is merely the dreg that appears on the surface. Those who stand for falsehood, seem to be on top of the world, in great might, pomp and show. But they are nothing but the upper bubble layer of soda water. They have no real existence.
    “Yet, the fact must not be lost sight of, that the promise of help and victory is for the true. Let those who seek Divine intervention look at themselves with a critical eye.”
    Suddi has said with reference to this verse that although some Prophets and their followers were killed by their people yet they were victorious because after they were gone, Allah sent His forces that destroyed the criminal nations. That was Allah’s help and the victory of the Messengers and believers (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Accordingly, we find that after Yahya and Zakariyyah were killed, Allah let loose upon the Jews such tribes as who tormented them. Similarly after the attempted murder of `Isa ibn Maryam, Allah sent upon them the Romans who tormented and humiliated them in a variety of ways. Allah has said in a hadith Qudsi preserved by Bukhari,“He who made an enemy of My Friend, I shall surely challenge him to a war” (Ibn Kathir).
    Sayyid adds: “The people notice that of the Prophets there were some who were killed, others who had to flee their land leaving behind a denying, rejecting nation; and that there were believers who were persecuted; some were thrown into fire-pits, others martyred, while some lived in pain and suffering. So, where was Allah’s promise of help? Shaytan finds his way in through these openings. Doubts start to creep in.
    “But people see only the apparent, ignorant of many truths and values. They think about these issues with a short span of time in view, and constricted places in sight. They are quite modest in their judgment. Evidently, a comprehensive standard of judgment takes us beyond to much extended time and space without placing boundaries of time and space. If we look at the issue of faith and ideals from this angle, we find that it does emerge victorious – without the littlest of doubt. To explain, the victory of beliefs and convictions is the victory of those who stood for those beliefs and convictions. This is because those who stood for those beliefs and convictions had no personality of their own separated from those beliefs and convictions. The demand on them right at the start was that they will dissolve their personalities in them and let emanate from their selves those beliefs and convictions alone.
    “Similarly, people err in allocating the meaning to the concepts of succor, restricting it to a particular familiar form. But it takes varieties of forms, some of which might even be confused with defeat. Take for instance Ibrahim (asws) at the time he was thrown into the fire. He refused to renounce his faith, nor would agree to desist calling to it. Was that a situation of defeat or triumph? Why, was he not at the very summit of victory? .. Or, consider Hussain. He was martyred, bearing pains that he bore. Was that victory or defeat? Measured by the limited scales, and measured against superficial paradigms it was defeat. But from a broader viewpoint, it was a grand victory. There has not been a martyr whose heart was not moved by Hussain’s sacrifice and who did not feel encouraged by his example, whether in sympathy with his cause or not, whether a Muslim or not. (These last lines have been slightly modified: Au.).
    “How many martyrs have not been,” continues Sayyid, “who could not have attained victory even if he had lived for a thousand years, the kind of victory he achieved with his martyrdom?!..
    “What is victory and what is defeat? We need to reconsider the meanings we have allocated to these terms before we can ask: Where is Allah’s help that has been promised to the Messengers and the believers.”
    62. Witnesses such as the angels, Messengers and the faithful who will all testify that Allah’s Messengers had delivered the messages (Ibn Jarir from Qatadah, Suddi and Mujahid).

    يَوْمَ لَا يَنْفَعُ الظَّالِمِينَ مَعْذِرَتُهُمْ ۖ وَلَهُمُ اللَّعْنَةُ وَلَهُمْ سُوءُ الدَّارِ (52)

    40|52| The Day, when their excuses will not profit the wrongdoers. For them is the curse63 and for them the evil abode.

    63. To be under “la`nah” is to be distanced from Allah’s mercy.

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْهُدَىٰ وَأَوْرَثْنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ الْكِتَابَ (53)

    40|53| We did gave Musa the guidance and bequeathed upon the Children of Israel the Book.64

    64. Literally, “We made the Israelites inherit the Book.” This is because normally one has to work hard to obtain a blessing. But the Book was given to them without any effort on their part, just like inherited wealth (Alusi).

    هُدًى وَذِكْرَىٰ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ (54)

    40|54| As a guidance and a reminder for those possessed of reason.65

    65. The connection between this verse and the previous ones should be obvious. Allah helps the Messengers and their followers. Fir`awn is a good example: the ruler of a mighty nation, but done away with summarily (Shabbir).

    فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنْبِكَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ بِالْعَشِيِّ وَالْإِبْكَارِ (55)

    40|55| Observe patience then. Allah’s promise is true. And seek forgiveness for your fault,66 and glorify your Lord with praise at evening and at dawn.

    66. Majid offers a note on the nature of “dhanb”: “When spoken of in respect to the prophets it (dhanb) means an act of inadvertence, not blamable in itself, but only unworthy of their high rank.”
    At all events, istighfar (i.e., saying the words “astaghfirullah” or the like: Au.), is by itself a devotional act (Shawkani).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُجَادِلُونَ فِي آيَاتِ اللَّهِ بِغَيْرِ سُلْطَانٍ أَتَاهُمْ ۙ إِنْ فِي صُدُورِهِمْ إِلَّا كِبْرٌ مَا هُمْ بِبَالِغِيهِ ۚ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ (56)

    40|56| Surely those who dispute concerning Allah’s revelations without any authority that came to them, there is nothing in their breasts but greatess67 that they are not going to attain. Therefore, seek refuge with Allah. He indeed is the Hearer, the Beholder.

    67. This verse has been thought to be Madinan (Qurtubi, Alusi).
    Our rendering of “kibr” as greatness, although the literal meaning is pride, is following the understanding of Mujahid as in Ibn Jarir.
    As a context of revelation it is reported that the Jews used to say that Dajjal will arise from among them along with whom they will subdue the land and sea of the world, who will make rivers run as he wishes, and the kingdom of the earth will then return to them. Allah (swt) revealed this verse in refutation (Zamakhshari).
    That is, to them Dajjal will be a man of worthy qualities (Au.).
    In fact it has been reported by `Abd b. Humayd and Ibn Abi Hatim – through a chain declared trustworthy by Suyuti – that some Jews went up to the Prophet and said that the Anti-Christ will be of them, and that they will accomplish this .. and that .. In response Allah revealed this ayah to say that they will not be able to attain their objectives (Shawkani, Alusi).
    With regard to pride, a hadith preserved by Ahmed says,“Those who wax pride will be raised on the Day of Judgment like ants in the image of people. Everyone will be stepping on them because of their littleness until they enter into a prison in Jahannum called ‘Bulus.’ The fires will rise above them, and they will be made to drink a mixture of puss, blood, tears and sweat of the inhabitants of the Fire” (Ibn Kathir).

    لَخَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَكْبَرُ مِنْ خَلْقِ النَّاسِ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (57)

    40|57| Certainly, the creation of the heaven and earth is greater than the creation of men but most men know not.

    وَمَا يَسْتَوِي الْأَعْمَىٰ وَالْبَصِيرُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَلَا الْمُسِيءُ ۚ قَلِيلًا مَا تَتَذَكَّرُونَ (58)

    40|58| And not equal are the blind and the seeing, nor those who believed and did righteous deeds and the evildoer. Little it is that you take admonition.68

    68. “The man of Faith who backs his faith by righteous conduct is like the man of clear vision, who sees things in their true perspective and walks with firm steps in the Way of Allah. The man who does evil is like a blind man: the Light of Allah is all around him, but he is blind, and he can see nothing. He has rejected Faith and cannot even learn by other people’s admonition” (Yusuf Ali).

    إِنَّ السَّاعَةَ لَآتِيَةٌ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهَا وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ (59)

    40|59| The Hour is surely coming. No doubt about it. But most people believe not.

    وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ (60)

    40|60| And said your Lord, ‘Call on Me,69 I shall respond to you. Surely those who wax proud against My service, will surely enter Jahannum, belittled.‘

    69. That is, address your supplications to me alone. A hadith explains the importance of supplications: The Prophet said, “Supplication is indeed worship.” Then he recited this verse, ‘Call on Me, I shall respond to you’ (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    The above hadith is in several Sunan collections about which Tirmidhi said that it is Hasan Sahih (Ibn Kathir).
    Another hadith of Ahmed says,“Allah is angry with him who does not ask Him” (Ibn Kathir).
    This hadith is not strong enough (S. Ibrahim).

    اللَّهُ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ لِتَسْكُنُوا فِيهِ وَالنَّهَارَ مُبْصِرًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ (61)

    40|61| Allah it is who made the night for you so that you may find repose therein,70 and the day light-giving.71 Verily, Allah is full of bounty for the people, but most people do not give thanks.72

    70. “The night for ... repose”: There are levels and kinds of rest and repose. Common people find repose in sleep. The devoted on the other hand find repose in deeds of the night (dhikr, qira’ah, ruku` and sujud: Au.). At the highest level are the lovers. Their repose is tethered to the acts of the heart (Alusi in Isharat, and Thanwi in his Suluk).
    With due respect to the above, one might draw attention to the fact that the “acts of the heart” seem to be acts that are conducted parallel to the acts of the body. Allah said about the Prophet and his earliest Companions (73: 20), “Surely, your Lord knows that you stand up (praying) nearly two-thirds of the night, or its half, or its one-third, and a group of believers is with you...” making no mention of the final and higher stage of the acts of the heart, which can come only along with the physical devotions, and never without them (Au).
    71. Or, alternatively, that which enables to see (Au.).
    72. The familiar loses its significance. Yusuf Ali reminds us of the bounties that remain unheeded because of the familiarity: “The succession of Day and Night in our physical life is frequently appealed to, as a symbol to draw our attention to the Mercy and Bounty of Allah. If we viewed these things aright, we should serve Allah and seek Light from Him and Rest from Him, and celebrate His praises with gratitude.”

    ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ فَأَنَّىٰ تُؤْفَكُونَ (62)

    40|62| Such is Allah your Lord, Creator of all things, there is no deity but He. How then are you being perverted?

    كَذَٰلِكَ يُؤْفَكُ الَّذِينَ كَانُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ يَجْحَدُونَ (63)

    40|63| That is how perverted were those who were disputing with Allah’s revelations.

    اللَّهُ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ قَرَارًا وَالسَّمَاءَ بِنَاءً وَصَوَّرَكُمْ فَأَحْسَنَ صُوَرَكُمْ وَرَزَقَكُمْ مِنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ ۖ فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ (64)

    40|64| Allah it is who made the earth for you a place of rest, and the sky a canopy, and fashioned you – and so well (fashioned) your features73 - and provided you out of the good things.74 Such is Allah your Lord, Hallowed then, is Allah, Lord of the worlds.75

    73. Allah’s fashioning is of such order that further improvement is ruled out and unattainable. No artist can make a figure more beautiful than the human face through the juggling of the organs on the face (Au.).
    74. In comparison with any other creation, including the Jinn, humankind consume the best of foods (Au.).
    75. “The argument in the last two verses was from man’s personal experiences of his physical life. In this and the next verse a parallel argument is addressed to man on a much higher plane: Look at the spacious earth and the canopy of the sky; look at the special position you occupy above other animals that you know, in shape and form, and moral and spiritual capacities; consider your refinements in food and fruits and the higher spiritual Sustenance of which your physical food is a type; would you not indeed say that the Lord is good, and would you not glorify His holy name?’” (Yusuf Ali).

    هُوَ الْحَيُّ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَادْعُوهُ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ ۗ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (65)

    40|65| He is the Ever-living, there is no deity but He, therefore call Him, making your religion pure for Him. All praise to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.76

    76. Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari and Ibn Kathir note that since declaration of Allah’s Oneness is followed by His praise, Ibn `Abbas and Sa`id b. Jubayr have been reported as having said, “Whoever said, let him follow up with, This is based on Allah’s words as here.
    The above report is in Ibn Marduwayah, Bayhaqi (in his Al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat), and Hakim, who declared it as coming to us through trustworthy narrators (Shawkani).

    قُلْ إِنِّي نُهِيتُ أَنْ أَعْبُدَ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ لَمَّا جَاءَنِيَ الْبَيِّنَاتُ مِنْ رَبِّي وَأُمِرْتُ أَنْ أُسْلِمَ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (66)

    40|66| Say, ‘I have been forbidden that I should serve those you invoke apart from Allah, when clear evidences have come to me from my Lord, and I have been commanded that I should surrender to the Lord of the worlds.‘

    هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ ثُمَّ مِنْ عَلَقَةٍ ثُمَّ يُخْرِجُكُمْ طِفْلًا ثُمَّ لِتَبْلُغُوا أَشُدَّكُمْ ثُمَّ لِتَكُونُوا شُيُوخًا ۚ وَمِنْكُمْ مَنْ يُتَوَفَّىٰ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۖ وَلِتَبْلُغُوا أَجَلًا مُسَمًّى وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ (67)

    40|67| He it is who created you out of dust, then of a sperm-drop, then of a clinging clot, then He brings you out an infant, then that you may achieve your age of full strength, then that you may become old; although of you is one who dies before (it), and that you may attain the appointed term,77 haply that you will reflect.

    77. The allusion could either be to death or Resurrection (Alusi and others).

    هُوَ الَّذِي يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ ۖ فَإِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ (68)

    40|68| He it is who gives life and deals death. And then, when He decrees an affair He but says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.78

    78. This, according to latter day scholars, is an allegorical depiction of the powers of Allah, in time and space, and not necessarily to say that this is how things normally happen (Alusi), but rather Allah chooses to create as He will, when He will, and as fast as He will (Au.).
    The above said, the ayah speaking about instant execution of His command, gives, at this point, as referenced to life and death, an instant example of how fast Allah’s biddings are executed: an infant comes to life in the womb in an instant, and a man dies off in a microsecond. Indeed, the universe itself seems to have come into existence in an instant: “When He decrees an affair He but says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is” (Au.).

    أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يُجَادِلُونَ فِي آيَاتِ اللَّهِ أَنَّىٰ يُصْرَفُونَ (69)

    40|69| Have you not considered those who dispute concerning Allah’s revelations, how they are turned away?

    الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِالْكِتَابِ وَبِمَا أَرْسَلْنَا بِهِ رُسُلَنَا ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَعْلَمُونَ (70)

    40|70| Those who laid the lie against the Book, and (against) that wherewith We sent Our Messengers - they shall soon know.79

    79. “’The Book ‘may refer to the Holy Qur’an or to the fundamental, Revelation the ”Mother of the Book" (xiii. 39), while the Books revealed to the messengers are the definite Revelations that came down to men from time to time" (Yusuf Ali).

    إِذِ الْأَغْلَالُ فِي أَعْنَاقِهِمْ وَالسَّلَاسِلُ يُسْحَبُونَ (71)

    40|71| When the shackles are around their necks, and the chains, and they are dragged.80

    80. “The rejection of Allah’s Message, however brought, carries its own penalty. The yoke of slavery to Sin and Evil is fastened more and more firmly round the rejecter’s neck, because there is no one to safeguard his freedom, and the chains of superstitions and the ugly consequences of evil restrict his freedom and the limited faculty of choice which was given by Allah to man. This process receives its climax at the Hour of Judgment” (Yusuf Ali).

    فِي الْحَمِيمِ ثُمَّ فِي النَّارِ يُسْجَرُونَ (72)

    40|72| In the boiling fluid81 and then in the fire they will be burnt.

    81. “Hamim” of the text (“boiling fluid” is the literal meaning), and “Jahim” have been thought to be differently located places in Hell, so that the criminals deserving this punishment will be dragged sometimes to “Hamim” and sometimes to “Jahim” (Thanwi).

    ثُمَّ قِيلَ لَهُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُمْ تُشْرِكُونَ (73)

    40|73| Then it will be said to them, ‘Where are those you were associating

    مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ ۖ قَالُوا ضَلُّوا عَنَّا بَلْ لَمْ نَكُنْ نَدْعُو مِنْ قَبْلُ شَيْئًا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُضِلُّ اللَّهُ الْكَافِرِينَ (74)

    40|74| Apart from Allah?’ They will say, ‘They have vanished from us. Nay, we were not invoking anything (substantial) earlier.’82 Thus it is that Allah leads the unbelievers astray.

    82. “All falsehoods will vanish: Cf. vii. 36. The only Reality will be fully manifest even to those to whom Evil was made to seem alluring in the lower life. They will feel in their inmost souls that they had been pursuing mere shadows, things of no real existence. This was the result of their rejecting the Light and the Grace of Allah: they got entangled in the mazes of error” (Yusuf Ali).

    ذَٰلِكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَفْرَحُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَبِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَمْرَحُونَ (75)

    40|75| That was because you were rejoicing in the earth without justification, and because you were exulting (insolently).

    ادْخُلُوا أَبْوَابَ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۖ فَبِئْسَ مَثْوَى الْمُتَكَبِّرِينَ (76)

    40|76| Enter (now) the gates of Jahannum, abiding therein. An evil abode of the arrogant.

    فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ ۚ فَإِمَّا نُرِيَنَّكَ بَعْضَ الَّذِي نَعِدُهُمْ أَوْ نَتَوَفَّيَنَّكَ فَإِلَيْنَا يُرْجَعُونَ (77)

    40|77| Therefore, observe patience, surely Allah’s promise is true. Then, whether We show you some of what We promise them, or We complete your life-term, to Us they shall be returned.

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلًا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ مِنْهُمْ مَنْ قَصَصْنَا عَلَيْكَ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ لَمْ نَقْصُصْ عَلَيْكَ ۗ وَمَا كَانَ لِرَسُولٍ أَنْ يَأْتِيَ بِآيَةٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۚ فَإِذَا جَاءَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ قُضِيَ بِالْحَقِّ وَخَسِرَ هُنَالِكَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ (78)

    40|78| Indeed, We sent Our Messengers before you, of whom some We have narrated to you (of their story), while of others, We did not narrate to you. And, it was not for a Messenger to bring a miracle but by Allah’s leave. Therefore, when Allah’s command came, it was judged between them in truth and lost were the falsifiers.83

    83. “The Signs of Allah are everywhere, and can be seen by the discerning eye at all times. But if any extraordinary Signs are demanded by cynics or Unbelievers, they will not be granted merely because they are demanded. It is Allah’s Will that issues them, not merely the desire of human beings, even if he be a Messenger of Allah. But when an extraordinary Sign does issue by the Command of Allah, it means that the cup of the iniquitous is full; that their case is decided, and their time of respite is past; and that Justice takes the place of Mercy, and evil is blotted out” (Yusuf Ali).

    اللَّهُ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَنْعَامَ لِتَرْكَبُوا مِنْهَا وَمِنْهَا تَأْكُلُونَ (79)

    40|79| It is Allah who made the cattle for you, some of them to ride, and some you eat.

    وَلَكُمْ فِيهَا مَنَافِعُ وَلِتَبْلُغُوا عَلَيْهَا حَاجَةً فِي صُدُورِكُمْ وَعَلَيْهَا وَعَلَى الْفُلْكِ تُحْمَلُونَ (80)

    40|80| And, there are for you (other) benefits in them, and so that you may achieve upon them whatever need (is there) in your breasts,84 and, upon them and on ships you are borne.

    84. After mentioning, “some of them you ride,” there seems to be no need to add, “so that you may achieve upon them whatever need (is there) in your breasts.” Zamakhshari comes to our rescue by explaining that there can be different needs, (especially of the religious nature) such as riding upon them during Hijrah, or to perform Hajj, or participation in Jihad, or, in search of knowledge, etc.
    We might also keep in mind that there are animals suitable for short-term rides such as donkeys, mules, or even cows and bullocks. They are for everyone to use. On the other hand there are animals that can only be used for long journeys such as horses and camels. The earlier part is alluding to the first kind, and the latter part to the latter kind (Au.).

    وَيُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ فَأَيَّ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ تُنْكِرُونَ (81)

    40|81| And He shows you His signs, so which of the signs of Allah will you deny?

    أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ كَانُوا أَكْثَرَ مِنْهُمْ وَأَشَدَّ قُوَّةً وَآثَارًا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَمَا أَغْنَىٰ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ (82)

    40|82| Have they not journeyed in the land and seen how was the end of those before them? They were more numerous than them, and were stronger than themselves in might, and in (leaving) traces in the land;85 yet of no avail was for them what they were earning.86

    85. Although at an earlier point (ref. 30: 9), a similar statement was explained by most early commentators as alluding to cultivation, at this point Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Alusi and Ibn Kathir explain “atharan” as traces in the land such as, to collect together their examples, the houses they carved in the mountains, the palaces and forts they built, or tall pyramids that they erected: none of which the Quraysh could boast of.
    Nonetheless, it has also been said, (by Mujahid: Ibn Jarir) that the allusion is to their footsteps in the land that they left as they went about committing crimes.
    86. Yusuf Ali again, “For any generation to take inordinate pride in its own single achievements in science or skill becomes ridiculous if we consider the broad stream of history. In the first place, men will find that a great deal of what they attribute to their own merits only became possible owing to the earlier work of their predecessors. Secondly, many of-their predecessors were more numerous and mightier in power than they, although the perspective of time may have reduced the apparent depth of their influence, and the monuments which they have left behind may have suffered from the destroying hand of Time. Thirdly, and most important of all, when they forgot Allah and His inexorable Law, nothing of their own handiwork profited them: they perished in the common ruin as all vanities must perish.”

    فَلَمَّا جَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَرِحُوا بِمَا عِنْدَهُمْ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ وَحَاقَ بِهِمْ مَا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ (83)

    40|83| When their Messengers came to them with clear evidences, they exulted in such knowledge as they had,87 but they were hemmed by the very thing they were mocking.

    87. Such as the philosophers, thinkers, leaders of a nation or its clergy, who exult in their knowledge and refuse to accept guidance from any other source except their own. But see to what chaos they have brought their followers in the modern world, particularly the West, where, according to women’s organizations, who have arrived at conclusions after extensive surveys, twenty five percent of their women are sexually abused during their childhood by their fathers, uncles, brothers and other males around them. Many of them are rendered so impaired mentally and psychologically as to make them incapable of any sexual enjoyment for the rest of their lives. These figures, we are told by the study, are only the tip of the iceberg. And sexual molestation, with the destruction of personalities, is only one of a dozen social ills that the individuals are subjected to living in Western societies. The prime reason for having arrived at no point of return but only promises of further chaos is the insistence of the Western thinkers that they must find solutions to their problems from within: and they exult in the knowledge that they have (Au.).

    فَلَمَّا رَأَوْا بَأْسَنَا قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَحْدَهُ وَكَفَرْنَا بِمَا كُنَّا بِهِ مُشْرِكِينَ (84)

    40|84| Then, when they saw Our might, they said, ‘We believe in Allah, the One, and We disbelieve in that we were associating with Him.‘

    فَلَمْ يَكُ يَنْفَعُهُمْ إِيمَانُهُمْ لَمَّا رَأَوْا بَأْسَنَا ۖ سُنَّتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ فِي عِبَادِهِ ۖ وَخَسِرَ هُنَالِكَ الْكَافِرُونَ (85)

    40|85| But their belief was not such as to benefit them when they had seen Our might: the way of Allah that has preceded among His servants, and lost then and there were the unbelievers.88

    88. “Incurred loss” would have been perhaps a better translation, but which would yet remain inadequate (Au.).