Surat Fuşşilat

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
by
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير

PREPARATORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015

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References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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

________________________

Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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

_______________________

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

_______________________

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

________________________

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

______________________

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

______________________

  • Surah No. 41

    Merits of the Surah

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ حم (1)

    41|1| Ha Mim.1

    1. Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir present reports from several collections with regard to the context of revelation, which, although all of which are somewhat weak, gather strength when put together. (Razi places one of them against verse 14). A summary is as follows: `Utbah ibn Rabi`ah was sent to the Prophet in Makkah to dissuade him from preaching. He said, “Look Muhammad. Are you better than your mother? Are you better than your father? If you say no, then, are you not belittling them by disparaging those they worshiped? Look! We do not know of anyone amongst us who did worse things to his own people. You brought differences among us, broke our unity, mocked at our gods, and disgraced us among the Arabs to the extent that they have begun to say that there is now a magician and a soothsayer among the Quraysh. By God, if you need wealth, we will gather together enough to make you the richest of us, if you are looking for leadership, we shall declare you one, if you are looking for kingship, we will make you one, and, if you feel that a Jinn comes upon you then tell us, we shall get you treated.” When he was over the Prophet asked him, “Are you through O Abu Waleed?” He said, “Yes.” The Prophet read out the opening verses of this Surah. As he reached the verse, “I have warned you of a thunderbolt like the thunderbolt of `Ad and Thamud,” `Utbah placed his hand on the Prophet’s mouth and adjuring by the right of kinship asked him to stop.
    As he returned to the Quraysh, they remarked that the man was returning with a face different from what it was when he went. When asked how Muhammad had replied, he said all that he could remember was the threat, and that he had prevented him from going any further, afraid that his words might come true: true as the man was. He advised them to let the Prophet alone. If he overcame, it would be good for the Quraysh, if not, the Arabs will take care of him (Zamakhshari, Shawkani).

    تَنْزِيلٌ مِنَ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ (2)

    41|2| A sending down from the Kind, the Compassionate.2


    2. The mentioning of these two Attributes suggests that the sending down of the Qur’an was a requirement of Allah’s mercy (Shabbir).

    كِتَابٌ فُصِّلَتْ آيَاتُهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ (3)

    41|3| A Book whose verses have been explained3 – an Arabic recitation for a people who understand.


    3. “Fussilat” has other connotations those of: variegating, distinguishing, exposing, explaining in detail, and separating out. Imam Razi writes: The meaning is: verses of the Qur’an explain in detail various meanings and discuss a variety of topics. They expound Allah’s Attributes, His Mercy, His Wisdom, the wonders in His creations such as the heavens, the earth, the stars, the alternation of the days and nights, as also the wonders in the creation of human beings and animals. Some of them carry commandments addressing the heart, others are meant for the limbs of the body (to act upon). Some contain promises while others threats. Some speak of the ranks in Paradise while others of levels in the Fire. Some carry admonitions while others help improve morals and effect spiritual cleansing. Yet some others deal with the history of past nations while some narrate stories of the ancients. In short, if you are honest about it, you will find that there is no book in men’s hands that deals with so many subjects and topics and is as variegated in its contents as this one.

    بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا فَأَعْرَضَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ فَهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُونَ (4)

    41|4| Giving good tidings and warning, but most of them turn away, so they hear not.


    وَقَالُوا قُلُوبُنَا فِي أَكِنَّةٍ مِمَّا تَدْعُونَا إِلَيْهِ وَفِي آذَانِنَا وَقْرٌ وَمِنْ بَيْنِنَا وَبَيْنِكَ حِجَابٌ فَاعْمَلْ إِنَّنَا عَامِلُونَ (5)

    41|5| They said, ‘Our hearts are in a covering from what you invite us to; and in our ears there is a heaviness; and there is a veil between us and you; therefore, keep working, we are also working.'4


    4. A possible meaning is: You keep working according to the demands of your religion, we shall keep working according to the demands of our religion (Razi, Qurtubi). Another meaning suggested by Mawdudi is: You can continue with your mission of trying to convert people to your cause while we shall continue to work against it.

    قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ فَاسْتَقِيمُوا إِلَيْهِ وَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ ۗ وَوَيْلٌ لِلْمُشْرِكِينَ (6)

    41|6| Say, ‘I am only a human like you,5 (except that) it has been revealed to me that your God is One God. Therefore, take the straight path to Him and seek His forgiveness. And woe unto those who Associate (partners with Him).


    5. That is, being a human like you, I command no special power wherewith I could turn you faithful (Majid, reworded).

    الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ (7)

    41|7| Those who expend not for purification6 and, in the Hereafter they are disbelievers.


    6. That is, Suddi said, they are not believers in charity as anything worthy to adopt (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Jarir writes: Zakah is the bridge (laid down) by Islam. He who crossed the bridge, saved himself, while he who failed, is destroyed. Those who denied zakah after the Prophet’s death said to Abu Bakr, “As for Prayers, we shall establish them. But as for zakah, you ought not to seize our wealth.” Abu Bakr replied, “I shall not accept one of the two that Allah (always) mentioned together (i.e., salah and zakah).
    Zamakhshari adds: The dearest thing to a man is his wealth. If he spends it in the way of Allah, then, that is a sure sign of his sincerity towards the religion.
    As to the question why zakah is demanded of those who have not believed in the first place, Thanwi answers that it is not a demand, but their refusal to expend in charity is mentioned as a continuous sign of refusal to believe in Islam, and a reason why they will not believe in it.

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ (8)

    41|8| Surely, those who believed and did righteous deeds, for them is a reward unfailing.


    قُلْ أَئِنَّكُمْ لَتَكْفُرُونَ بِالَّذِي خَلَقَ الْأَرْضَ فِي يَوْمَيْنِ وَتَجْعَلُونَ لَهُ أَنْدَادًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ (9)

    41|9| Say, ‘Do you deny Him who created the earth in two days7 and suggest for Him equals? That is the Lord of the worlds.


    7. The allusion by the “days” cannot be to the 24-hour cycle of days and nights since, at the time of creation there was neither the day nor the night as known by us now (Shabbir).
    Ibn `Abbas was asked to reconcile this ayah which speaks of the creation of the earth before that of the heavens, with those in A-Nazi`at (27-30) which speak of heavens as being created first. Those verses say,
    ???
    “What? Are you more difficult to create than the heavens that He built? He increased its expanse and then organized (and arranged) it. Then He darkened its night and brought out its daylight. Then, after that, He readied its earth.”
    Ibn `Abbas replied, “Allah created the earth first – in two days. The creation of the heavens followed. Thereafter He turned to the heavens and readied them in two more days. Thereafter He readied the earth, i.e., brought out its water and pasture. He also created the mountains, the inanimate objects, reefs and all else in two other days. Thus, the earth, and all that it contains was created in four days while the heaven was created in two other days.
    The report is in Bukhari (Ib Kathir). But it must be clearly noted as a statement of Ibn `Abbas.

    وَجَعَلَ فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ مِنْ فَوْقِهَا وَبَارَكَ فِيهَا وَقَدَّرَ فِيهَا أَقْوَاتَهَا فِي أَرْبَعَةِ أَيَّامٍ سَوَاءً لِلسَّائِلِينَ (10)

    41|10| And He placed therein pegs from above it,8 placed blessings therein,9 and ordained therein its providences10 in four days11 - alike for all who ask.12


    8. (Lit., from above it), meaning, rising high above the surface of the earth (Shawkani).
    9. That is, made it capable of yielding plants (Ibn Kathir); water and minerals (Qurtubi).
    10. At this point Ibn Jarir quotes the hadith that we have quoted elsewhere which, (found in Muslim’s collection) tells us that Allah created the dust on Saturday, mountains on Sunday, trees on Monday, makruhat on Tuesday, Nur (according to another version, Nun) on Wednesday, the beasts on Thursday and Adam on Friday, in the last hours of the day between late evening hours before nightfall. Ibn Kathir adds that Bukhari found defect in the above report, stating in his Al-Tarikh that it is more correctly a narrative of Ka`b al-Ahbar. See note 81 of Surah 7 for discussions.
    11. Some grammarians have thought that the creation and placement of providence took four days, i.e., the first two days are included in the four of later mention. They quote examples of such usage in Arabic language (Tabari, Zamakhshari, Shawkani).
    12. This is how Razi and Shawkani understand “istawa” at this point.

    ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ وَهِيَ دُخَانٌ فَقَالَ لَهَا وَلِلْأَرْضِ ائْتِيَا طَوْعًا أَوْ كَرْهًا قَالَتَا أَتَيْنَا طَائِعِينَ (11)

    41|11| Then He turned13 to the heaven, it was then smoke,14 and said to it and to the earth, “Come15 willingly, or unwillingly.”16 They said, “We come willingly.”


    13. That is, enough providence for all who will ever inhabit the earth (Tabari, Ibn Kathir).
    14. “I.e., a gas – evidently hydrogen gas, which physicists regard as the primal element from which all material particles of the universe have evolved and still evolve” (Asad).
    15. “Come”: That is, Allah said to the heavens: “Bring out your suns, moons and stars,” and to the earth, “Split up to produce the springs and bring out your fruits and pasture,” and they responded (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani). Other modifications to the two – heaven and earth - were also effected (Thanwi).
    16. That is, you have no choice. You will have to do as told. But the question is, are you submitted? They answered, yes we are, and are pleased to do as ordered (Thanwi).

    فَقَضَاهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ فِي يَوْمَيْنِ وَأَوْحَىٰ فِي كُلِّ سَمَاءٍ أَمْرَهَا ۚ وَزَيَّنَّا السَّمَاءَ الدُّنْيَا بِمَصَابِيحَ وَحِفْظًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ (12)

    41|12| Then He determined them as seven heavens in two days17 and revealed in every heaven its affair.18 And He adorned the earthly heaven with lamps and a means of protection. Such is the ordaining of the Mighty, the Knowing.’


    17. The use of the words “thumma” or “fa” (then) need not be an indication of order or sequence. There are several Qur’anic instances to demonstrate that these articles lend other meanings (Shabbir).
    A hasty totaling gives us the figure of 8 days for the creation of the heaven and earth. But, there has been overlapping. That is, while some developments were taking place in the earth, they were taking place in the heavens also. There are examples of this kind of phrasing in Arabic.
    18. Mujahid and Suddi have thought that the allusion is to the placement of suns, moons, stars, and creations in every firmament (Ibn Jarir).
    Shabbir quotes an opinion of Shah `Abdul Qadir which is much advanced of his times considering the fact that just a few decades ago scientists were still discussing whether there is any possibility of life in other parts of the universe, “Our Lord alone knows what kind of creations inhabit other parts of the universe, in what manner, and following what laws. In this our this little planet itself there are thousands of (various kinds of life-)systems. Can the immensely large other-worlds be empty?”
    19. Furious poisonous winds, is one opinion of the Salaf. Another opinion is that the allusion is to extremely cold, high sounding winds (Ibn Jarir). But to understand it as furious,

    فَإِنْ أَعْرَضُوا فَقُلْ أَنْذَرْتُكُمْ صَاعِقَةً مِثْلَ صَاعِقَةِ عَادٍ وَثَمُودَ (13)

    41|13| But if they turn away, then say, ‘I have warned you of a thunderbolt like the thunderbolt of `Ad and Thamud.


    إِذْ جَاءَتْهُمُ الرُّسُلُ مِنْ بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا اللَّهَ ۖ قَالُوا لَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّنَا لَأَنْزَلَ مَلَائِكَةً فَإِنَّا بِمَا أُرْسِلْتُمْ بِهِ كَافِرُونَ (14)

    41|14| When there came to them the Messengers from before them and from behind them (saying), ‘Worship not but Allah,’ they said, ‘Had our Lord willed, He would have surely sent down angels. We are indeed disbelievers in what you have been sent with.’


    فَأَمَّا عَادٌ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَقَالُوا مَنْ أَشَدُّ مِنَّا قُوَّةً ۖ أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّهَ الَّذِي خَلَقَهُمْ هُوَ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً ۖ وَكَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا يَجْحَدُونَ (15)

    41|15| Then, as for `Ad, they waxed proud in the earth without right and said, ‘Who is stronger that we in might?’ Had they not seen that Allah who created them was stronger than they in might? But they kept disputing with Our signs.


    فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ رِيحًا صَرْصَرًا فِي أَيَّامٍ نَحِسَاتٍ لِنُذِيقَهُمْ عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَعَذَابُ الْآخِرَةِ أَخْزَىٰ ۖ وَهُمْ لَا يُنْصَرُونَ (16)

    41|16| So We sent upon them a furious wind19 through ominous days20 to make them taste the humiliating torment in the life of this world. And surely, the torment of the Hereafter is more humiliating; and they will not be helped.

    poisonous, cold winds will not be going out of the way (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    20. This was the opinion of Mujahid, Qatadah and Suddi, and which is the opinion of Tabari, although he quotes Ibn `Abbas that the allusion is to “continuous” days (Tabari).
    In Majid’s words: The days were “inauspicious for them on account of the Divine visitation;” but auspicious for the believers (Ibn Qayyim).
    Alusi removes a superstition of pagan origin and Thanwi reproduces it in view of its popular currency among some Muslims: Citing this ayah as evidence, some people believe that some days are ominous while others are blessed. But this ayah cannot be used in evidence because the days, as mentioned elsewhere, cover all the days of the week, and beyond. The Qur’an said elsewhere, without mentioning the ominousness:
    ???
    “And, as for `Ad, they were destroyed by a fierce howling wind, which Allah caused to blow against them for seven nights and eight days continuously, so that you could have seen the people therein lying prostrate, as though they were trunks of palm trees fallen down” (69: 6-7)].

    وَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ فَاسْتَحَبُّوا الْعَمَىٰ عَلَى الْهُدَىٰ فَأَخَذَتْهُمْ صَاعِقَةُ الْعَذَابِ الْهُونِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ (17)

    41|17| As for Thamud, We guided them but they preferred blindness to guidance. So there seized them torment of the debasing thunderbolt because of what they were earning.


    وَنَجَّيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ (18)

    41|18| And We delivered those who had believed and were ever fearful (of Allah).


    وَيَوْمَ يُحْشَرُ أَعْدَاءُ اللَّهِ إِلَى النَّارِ فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ (19)

    41|19| The day enemies of Allah will be gathered together at the Fire as they are pushed and dragged.21


    21. The words "they are pushed and dragged" have Baghawi's interpretation behind them.
    Suddi and Qatadah however thought that it meant to say that the first will be held until the last arrive (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    The textual word has the sense of large numbers being involved (Zamakhshari). Further, the missing statement is, “they will be brought at the Fire, to be questioned for their deeds” (Alusi).

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا مَا جَاءُوهَا شَهِدَ عَلَيْهِمْ سَمْعُهُمْ وَأَبْصَارُهُمْ وَجُلُودُهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (20)

    41|20| At length, when they have arrived at it, their hearing, their sights and their skins22 will testify against them concerning what they were doing.


    22. See note 51 of Surah Ya-Sin (no. 36) for commentary.
    Ibn Kathir quotes a hadith from Ibn Abi Hatim which is also found in Ibn Majah which has been declared as not wholly untrustworthy by Haythami. It says,
    ???
    Jabir reports: After I had returned to the Prophet via the sea he asked (during one of those sessions), “Will you not tell us about the strangest of things you saw in the Abyssinian lands?” One of the young men spoke out, “Sure, Messenger of Allah. Once as we were sitting around when one of their old ascetic woman passed by carrying on her head a pot filled with water. She passed by one of their young men. He placed one of his hands between her shoulders and gave her a push. She fell upon her knees and her pot broke. When she rose up, she turned to him and said, ‘You will soon know, you treacherous man, when Allah will place the Kursiyy, gather together the firsts and the lasts, and when hands and legs will speak out about what they used to do. Then you will know what will be the affair between me and you – with Allah, tomorrow.’” The Prophet (saws) remarked, “She spoke the truth; spoke the truth. How will Allah cleanse a people whose weak are not given their rights by the strong.”
    Another narrative goes as follows:


    On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, they (the Companions) asked, “Messenger of Allah, shall we see our Lord on the Day of Judgment?” He replied, “Do you doubt your seeing of the Sun at noon on a cloudless day?” They said, “No.” He asked, “Do you doubt your seeing of the moon on a full-moon lit cloudless night?” They said, “No.” He said, “By Him in whose hand is my life, you will not doubt seeing your Lord except as much you doubt seeing one of the two (sun or the moon).” Then he added, “Then a man will be cast and He will ask, ‘O so and so. Did I not honor you, gave you leadership, gave you a spouse, subjugated the horses and camels to you and let you be the head and take quarter of the booty? He will say, ‘Sure, my Lord.’ He will ask, Did you ever think that you are going to meet Me? He will say, ‘No.’ He will say, ‘So I shall forget you today as you had forgotten Me.’ Then a second one will be cast and He will ask, ‘O so and so. Did I not honor you, gave you leadership, gave you a spouse, subjugated the horses and camels to you and let you be the head and take quarter of the booty?’ He will say, ‘Sure, my Lord.’ He will ask, Did you ever think that you are going to meet Me?’ He will say, ‘No.’ He will say, ‘So I shall forget you today as you had forgotten Me.’ Then a third will be cast and he will be told the same things. He will reply, ‘My Lord. I believed in You, in Your Book, Prayed, fasted and spent in charity.’ He will speak of the good things (he did) to the possible extent. He (Allah) will say, ‘Here too?’ Then it will be said to him, ‘Now We shall raise testifiers against you’ He will start to think, ‘Who can testify against me?’ Then his mouth will be sealed and it will be said to his thigh, flesh and bones, ‘Speak out.’ His thigh, flesh and bones will speak of his deeds. That, in order that he is left with no excuse left for himself. That will be the hypocrite. That is the one Allah will be angry with.”
    The one-fourth of the booty of above mention, used to be the share of the chieftain in pre-Islamic wars.

    وَقَالُوا لِجُلُودِهِمْ لِمَ شَهِدْتُمْ عَلَيْنَا ۖ قَالُوا أَنْطَقَنَا اللَّهُ الَّذِي أَنْطَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ خَلَقَكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ (21)

    41|21| They will say to their skins, ‘Why did you testify against us?' They will reply, ‘That Allah made us speak who makes everything speak. He it is who created you at first, and to Him you are returned.


    وَمَا كُنْتُمْ تَسْتَتِرُونَ أَنْ يَشْهَدَ عَلَيْكُمْ سَمْعُكُمْ وَلَا أَبْصَارُكُمْ وَلَا جُلُودُكُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ ظَنَنْتُمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَعْلَمُ كَثِيرًا مِمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ (22)

    41|22| And, you would not conceal (from us) lest your hearing, your sights or your skins testify against you.23 But rather, you assumed that Allah will not know much of what you were doing.


    23. It could mean, “You took care to conceal your sins from others of your kind, but you did not from your own body limbs ruling it out altogether that one day they could betray you” (Ibn Jarir).

    وَذَٰلِكُمْ ظَنُّكُمُ الَّذِي ظَنَنْتُمْ بِرَبِّكُمْ أَرْدَاكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُمْ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ (23)

    41|23| But that assumption of yours which you assumed concerning your Lord24 brought you to destruction,25 and now you have become of those (who are) utterly lost.’


    24. Hasan and Qatadah have said: Of assumptions concerning our Lord, there are two kinds: good assumptions, and evil assumptions. A believer holds good assumptions of his Lord and so good deeds flow out of him, while the unbeliever holds evil assumptions and, consequently, evil deeds flow out of him. The example of the first is, as in the Qur’an (2: 46):
    “Those who hoped that the will meet their Lord and that to Him they will return.”
    Or (69: 20):


    “I was hopeful that I shall encounter my reckoning.”
    These are the assumptions of the believers. As for the assumptions of the unbelievers, an example is the verse under consideration: “But that assumption of yours which you assumed concerning your Lord brought you to destruction.”
    Accordingly, adds Ibn Jarir, Ma`mar has reported that a man will be ordered sent to the Fire. He will turn around and say, “My Lord! This is not what I had assumed of You.” He will ask, “So what was your assumption?” He will reply, “That You will forgive me and not punish me.” Allah will say, “I am with your assumption about Me.”
    Razi also presents the above in brief.
    Accordingly, we have a hadith-qudsi which (as found in Ahmad and declared as of Sahih narrators) says,
    Allah says, “I am with the assumption of My slave about Me, and I am with him when he calls Me."
    The earlier report of Ma`mar – as quoted by Ibn Jarir - could not be traced in hadith books. However, there are several ahadith of this nature in Ahmad, Abu Ya`la, and the collection of `Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak. One of them says,
    Four persons will be brought out of the Fire and presented to Allah the Exalted (according to another narrator, two). He will order them thrown into the Fire. One of them will turn around and say, “My Lord, I was hoping that when You had brought me out of the Fire, you will not return me to it.” He will be told, “We shall not return you to it.”
    Another report, as in `Abdullah ibn Mubarak’s collection, as also in Ahmad says,
    As Allah will terminate judging the people on the Day of Judgment, two men will be left about whom He will order that they be sent to the Fire. One of them will look back. Allah the Subduer will say, “Bring him back.” So he will be brought back. He will be asked, “Why were you glancing backward?” He will reply, “I was hoping that You will admit me into Paradise.” He will be ordered sent to Paradise. The man will say, “This is my Lord’s granting. If I were to feed all the inhabitants of Paradise, it will not cause any decrease in what I have.” (That is, he will be given such a vast Paradise: Au.).
    Whenever the Prophet (saws) mentioned this (adds the narrator), his face brightened up.
    Haythami has commented that Ahmad’s narrators are all trustworthy except that some of them suffer some kind of weakness (Au.).
    Consequently, noting the hadith of Ahmad above viz., “I am with the assumption of My slave..” Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and Shawkani add the following report from Ahmad,
    “Let not any of you die but he fastens good hope on Allah. A people’s evil hope of Allah destroyed them: ‘But that assumption of yours which you assumed concerning your Lord brought you to destruction.’”
    The above report, in part or full, is found in Muslim, Abu Da’ud, Ibn Hibban and others (Shawkani).
    Some reports add that the Prophet said these words three days before his death (Au.).
    On the same topic, Hasan said the following: Some people’s wishful thinking led them to inactivity until they left the world without a good deed in their account. One of them says, “I fasten good hope on my Lord.” But that is a lie. If he had good hope he would have attempted good deeds (Qurtubi).
    25. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud reports the following as a context of revelation of this verse:
    “Two Qurayshis and a Thaqafi, or maybe two Thaqafis and a Qurayshi – their bellies laden with fat but their hearts empty of wisdom – gathered together at the Holy House. (According to other reports, “talking together much of which I could not follow”). One of them said, “Do you think Allah hears what we speak?” The other said, “He hears if we speak aloud but not when we speak in low tones.” At that another said, “If he hears when we speak aloud, He will hear when we speak in whispers.” So Allah revealed this verse, “And, you would not conceal (from us) lest ...” (Ibn Jarir, Imam Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi, Shawkani).
    The report is the Sahihayn and Tirmidhi (Ibn Kathir).
    The above is a shorter version. Other versions in Ahmad and others add that Ibn Mas`ud had concealed himself behind the Ka`ba covering (perhaps at night) and that Allah (swt) revealed this verse when he reported the incident to the Prophet.

    فَإِنْ يَصْبِرُوا فَالنَّارُ مَثْوًى لَهُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ يَسْتَعْتِبُوا فَمَا هُمْ مِنَ الْمُعْتَبِينَ (24)

    41|24| Now, if they observe patience, then (it is all the same), the Fire is their home; but if they seek a return,26 then, they are not going to be of those returned.


    26. This is how Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir understand the difficult word “yesta`tabu,” which has been explained differently also, but close in meaning such as, plea to be returned to the pleasantries they were in, or to a happier relationship with their Lord, etc. (Au.).

    وَقَيَّضْنَا لَهُمْ قُرَنَاءَ فَزَيَّنُوا لَهُمْ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَحَقَّ عَلَيْهِمُ الْقَوْلُ فِي أُمَمٍ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ مِنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنْسِ ۖ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا خَاسِرِينَ (25)

    41|25| And We assigned to them close companions who decked out fair to them what was before them27 and what was behind them,28 and (thus) came true the Word against them (being) among the people that passed away before them of the Jinn and mankind.29 They were indeed of the losers


    27. That is, they were led to believe that there was nothing before them of such things as: Hereafter, Reckoning, Paradise or Fire (Alusi).
    28. That is, what was behind them of the material world, coaxing them on to plan and lead a lecherous life during the days to come.
    (The Qur’an gives the answer to the question why Allah had destined evil companions for the unbelievers: Au.), it says (43: 36),


    “And he who turns away from the remembrance of Allah, We appoint for him a devil so that he is his close companion” (Ibn Kathir).
    29. That is, the word of chastisement came true against them, as it came true against those of the Jinn and mankind who had rebelled earlier (Tabari).

    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَا تَسْمَعُوا لِهَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ وَالْغَوْا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَغْلِبُونَ (26)

    41|26| And said those who disbelieved, ‘Do not listen to this Qur’an, but make noise thereat, haply that you will overcome.’30


    30. Mujahid reports through his chain that the Makkan pagans used to make noise, whistle, and clap when the Qur’an was recited by the Prophet in the Haram precincts so that it might not be heard and may not influence any listener (Tabari, Ibn Kathir).
    In modern context, “This is an allusion to the efforts aimed at discrediting the Qur’an by describing it as ‘invented’ by Muhammad for his own – personal and political – ends, as a series of ‘misunderstood quotations’ from earlier scriptures, as the result of ‘hallucinations,’ and so forth: all of which implies that it challenges their self-complacent, materialistic outlook on life and ought, therefore, to be combated” (Au.).

    فَلَنُذِيقَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَسْوَأَ الَّذِي كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (27)

    41|27| We shall surely make the unbelievers taste a severe chastisement, and We shall surely requite them for the worst of what they were doing.


    ذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ أَعْدَاءِ اللَّهِ النَّارُ ۖ لَهُمْ فِيهَا دَارُ الْخُلْدِ ۖ جَزَاءً بِمَا كَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا يَجْحَدُونَ (28)

    41|28| That is the requital of the enemies of Allah: the Fire. For them is therein, the everlasting abode, a (fit) requital for that they were disputing with Our signs.


    وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا رَبَّنَا أَرِنَا اللَّذَيْنِ أَضَلَّانَا مِنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنْسِ نَجْعَلْهُمَا تَحْتَ أَقْدَامِنَا لِيَكُونَا مِنَ الْأَسْفَلِينَ (29)

    41|29| And those who disbelieved will say, ‘Our Lord! Show us both the Jinn and men who misled us.31 We shall place them under our feet so that they be of the lowest.’32


    31. Although it is reported of `Ali that the allusion is to the first unbeliever of the Jinn, Iblis, and the first murderer from among the humankind, Qabil, (as in Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir), the prevalent opinion has been that the allusion is general, applicable to all those of the Jinn and men who misled others to Hellfire (Au.).
    32. That is, we shall place them a level below our level in the fire where the punishment is hardest (Ibn Jarir).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا بِالْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي كُنْتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ (30)

    41|30| Surely, those who said, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ and then remained steadfast,33 angels descend on them (saying),34 ‘Do not fear, nor grieve.35 But receive good tidings of the Paradise that you were being promised.


    33. That is, as Abu Bakr al-Siddique explained, they never associated with Allah and remained in that state, disinclined towards anyone or anything, until they died (Tabari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani). Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Suddi and others followed suite in his opinion. However, `Umar ibn al-Khattab, Ibn `Abbas and others thought that “istiqamah” is to obey Allah in matters declared obligatory – and not furtively evading, (added `Umar), like a fox (Tabari, Qurtubi Ibn Kathir)
    The Prophet was asked by a Thaqafi:
    ???

    “Messenger of Allah, tell me something that I could hold fast unto.” He said, “Say my Lord is Allah and then remain steadfast.” He asked, “Messenger of Allah. What could be the worst thing about me that you could fear?” In reply he held his own tongue in hand and said, “This.” The report is also in Muslim (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    34. That is, at the time of death: Mujahid and Suddi. But Ibn `Abbas thought that this will happen in the Hereafter (Tabari).
    Actually, writes Imam Razi, this could happen three times: at the time of death, in the graves, and at the time of Resurrection. This was the opinion of Zayd b. Aslam (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). At all events, the long hadith that describes the events at the time of death, both of a believer as well as a non-believer, has the following words of the angels addressing the dying believer:
    ???

    “O peaceful soul, come out to mercy and providence, and a Lord who is not angry” (Ibn Kathir).
    The report is in Tabarani’s “Al-Kabir” which Haythami declared as one carrying trustworthy chain of narrators (Au.).
    35. That is, fear not the future, and grieve not the past: Mujahid and Suddi (Tabari).
    Fear and grief are the two causes of depression which strike a quarter of mankind today. Fear is always of something wrong that might happen in the future, while grief is over unpleasant events that have been in the past. Further, fear of the future is always greater than grief over mishaps of the past. This could explain why fear always happens to be of first mention in the Qur’an (Au.).

    نَحْنُ أَوْلِيَاؤُكُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ ۖ وَلَكُمْ فِيهَا مَا تَشْتَهِي أَنْفُسُكُمْ وَلَكُمْ فِيهَا مَا تَدَّعُونَ (31)

    41|31| We are your protector-friends in the life of this world and in the world to come; for you therein all that your souls desire, and for you therein all that you ask for.


    نُزُلًا مِنْ غَفُورٍ رَحِيمٍ (32)

    41|32| As hospitality from One All-forgiving, All-compassionate.'


    وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ قَوْلًا مِمَّنْ دَعَا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ (33)

    41|33| And who is better than he in speech, who invited to Allah, did righteous deeds and said, ‘Indeed I am of the believers.'36


    36. Although some scholars have interpreted that the allusion is to the “Prayer-caller” (muadhdhin), the application is general, applicable to everyone who invited to good and himself led a righteous life (Ibn Kathir).

    وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ۚ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ (34)

    41|34| Not equal are the good and the evil. Repel (therefore) with that which is better, and thereupon, he between whom and you is enmity, is, as if a warm friend.


    وَمَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلَّا الَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا وَمَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلَّا ذُو حَظٍّ عَظِيمٍ (35)

    41|35| An none is granted this but those who exercise patience, and none is granted this but one of great fortune.


    وَإِمَّا يَنْزَغَنَّكَ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ نَزْغٌ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ (36)

    41|36| And when Satan provokes you with a provocation, seek Allah’s refuge. Surely, He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing.


    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ اللَّيْلُ وَالنَّهَارُ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ ۚ لَا تَسْجُدُوا لِلشَّمْسِ وَلَا لِلْقَمَرِ وَاسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ الَّذِي خَلَقَهُنَّ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ (37)

    41|37| And among His signs are the night and the day, the sun and the moon. Do not prostrate yourselves to the sun37 nor to the moon,38 but prostrate yourselves to Allah who created them,39 if it is Him you (wish to) worship.40


    37. Majid comments: “(The sun has been) one of the most popular of all deities. ‘Rivaling in power and glory, the all-encompassing Heaven, the Sun moves eminent among the deities of nature .. It is no exaggeration to say with Sir William James, that one great fountain of all idolatry in the four quarters of the globe was the veneration paid by men to the sun.’ (PC.II, p.286) ‘To men who could look on the sky, earth and sea as animated intelligent beings, the Sun, the giver of light and life to the world, rising and crossing the sky and descending at night in the under-world whence he arose, has a clearest divine personality… As far back as ancient history reaches, the Sun-god appears .. (as a deity among the people: Au.)’ - (Taylor, opp.cit. p.360). According to a modern writer, if one were to merely list the people who have been votaries of the Sun, the list would include almost all nations, old and new, from Akkadians and Aztecs to Lapps and Zulus. ‘As one of the most conspicuous and powerful objects in the physical world the un has naturally attracted the attention and obtained the homage of many races, who have personified and worshiped it as a god… Whatever the reasons maybe a solar religion appears to flourish best among nations which have attained to a certain degree of civilization, such as the ancient Egyptians and the Indians of Mexico and Peru at the time they were discovered by the Spaniards.’ (FWN pp. 441-442). Proceeding further, Frazer gives accurate and minute details of Sun-worship in India (both ancient and modern), Persia, Greece, Rome, Egypt, Babylon, Arabia, Japan, and other countries.”
    This is the reason why, Shafi` points out at ayah 78 of Surah 19, that the Prayer timings in Islam have all been disassociated with the hours when the sun was or is worshiped. Fajr Prayers are held before sunrise; Zuhr only after it has begun to decline; `Asr when it begins to lose its shine; Maghrib when it has set and `Isha only when its light has completely disappeared.
    38. Majid again, “’Nearly every place in early times would have a sun god or a moon god or both, and in the political development of the country the moon, god of the conquering city, displaced or absorbed the moon god of the conquered.’ (Rogers, Religion of Babylonia, pp. 78, 79) ‘Moon worship naturally ranking below Sun-worship in importance ranges through nearly the same district of culture. There are remarkable cases in which the Moon is recognized as a great deity by tribes who take less account, or none at all, of the Sun.’ (PC. II p.299) ‘The Moon-god or goddess marks the festival of rude forest tribes who dance by the light of the moon. It is not uncommon for the Moon to rank above the Sun, as perhaps for astronomical reasons was the case in ancient Babylonia; but more usually the Sun stands first, as seems to us more natural; and commonly Sun and Moon are locked on as a pair, brother and sister, or husband and wife.’ (Taylor, op. cited p. 361).”
    39. Ibn Khuwayzmandad has said that this ayah is the basis for the Salah al-Kusuf as instituted by the Prophet (Qurtubi).
    40. The pagans who paid tributes to these celestial objects contended that it is not these very objects that they worshiped, but rather, they aimed at the One Supreme God through them. They are told here that there is no need to use them as intermediaries, you could directly worship Allah, if it is Him you wish to serve. (Au.).
    Sayyid comments: “These signs are open to sights that eyes cannot miss to see: whether of the educated as well as the uneducated. They touch upon the hearts of men directly, even if a man is quite ignorant of the (cosmological) knowledge concerning them. There is a deep relationship between them and the humans which is deeper than that it should depend on a scientific knowledge of them. Between man and them, there exists a profound association: in their respective emergence, in their natures, and in their make-up. He is of them and they are of him. His make-up is their make-up and their make-up is his make-up. His material of creation is their material of creation. His laws are their laws. His Lord is their Lord. Accordingly, he embraces the knowledge of their reality with a deep feeling of harmony. It is for this reason that the Qur’an simply draws attention to them, awakens his heedlessness towards them .. to reinvigorate the old relationship with these forgotten companions of his, and to make him recall the old affiliations deeply rooted in his being.”

    فَإِنِ اسْتَكْبَرُوا فَالَّذِينَ عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ يُسَبِّحُونَ لَهُ بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَهُمْ لَا يَسْأَمُونَ ۩ (38)

    41|38| But if they wax proud, then those that are near your Lord glorify Him by night and day, and grow not weary.


    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنَّكَ تَرَى الْأَرْضَ خَاشِعَةً فَإِذَا أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْهَا الْمَاءَ اهْتَزَّتْ وَرَبَتْ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِي أَحْيَاهَا لَمُحْيِي الْمَوْتَىٰ ۚ إِنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (39)

    41|39| And among His signs is that you see the earth withered. Then, when We send down water upon it, it quivers and swells. Surely, He who quickens it will quicken the dead, surely, He has power over all things.41


    41. “Although the allusion to the reviving earth often occurs in the Qur’an as a parable of man’s ultimate resurrection, in the present context (and in tune with the entire passage comprising verses 33-39) it appears to be an illustration of God’s power to bestow spiritual life upon hearts that have hitherto remained closed to the truth of His existence and omnipotence. Hence it implies a call to the believer never to abandon the hope that ‘those who deny the truth’ may one day grasp the truth of the Qur’anic message” (Asad).
    Yusuf Ali is on the same line of thought: “Evil makes of the souls of men what drought makes of land: it kills life, beauty, and fruitfulness. Allah’s Word in the spiritual world has the same wonderful effect as rain has on barren land: it gives life, beauty, and fruitfulness. And the effect of Allah’s Word is also seen through the lives of men who repel evil with what is better. They also convert dead souls (which harbour spite and hatred) into living souls, which come into the main current of spiritual life, and help in carrying out Allah’s beneficent Purpose.”

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي آيَاتِنَا لَا يَخْفَوْنَ عَلَيْنَا ۗ أَفَمَنْ يُلْقَىٰ فِي النَّارِ خَيْرٌ أَمْ مَنْ يَأْتِي آمِنًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۚ اعْمَلُوا مَا شِئْتُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ (40)

    41|40| Verily, those who seek deviation42 in Our verses, they are not hidden from Us.43 Is he then who will be cast into the Fire (better) or he who will come secure on the Day of Standing? Do as you like. Surely, He is Seeing of all that you do


    42. “Lahada” is for the act of turning to a side while digging a hole, hence the derived meaning of turning away from the truth, in this instance, from the Qur’an (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi).To distort, deny, corrupt the meaning, etc., are other connotations of the original “yulhidun” without one receiving preference over another, but rather, demanding a combination of all (Ibn Jarir).
    In Yusuf Ali’s words, “Pervert the Truth in Our Signs; either by corrupting the scriptures or turning them to false and selfish uses; or by neglecting the Signs of Allah in nature around them, or silencing His voice in their own conscience. Everything is known to Allah. Why not work for true salvation at the final Judgment?
    43. The implied threat is, in time such criminals will be taken care of. They will not escape the consequences of their crimes.

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِالذِّكْرِ لَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ ۖ وَإِنَّهُ لَكِتَابٌ عَزِيزٌ (41)

    41|41| Surely, those who denied the Admonition after it had come to them .. although it is a Mighty Book.44.


    44. That is, “those who reject the Qur’an, do so for their own want of understanding and not on account of any defect or deficiency in the Qur’an itself” (Majid).

    لَا يَأْتِيهِ الْبَاطِلُ مِنْ بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَلَا مِنْ خَلْفِهِ ۖ تَنْزِيلٌ مِنْ حَكِيمٍ حَمِيدٍ (42)

    41|42| No falsehood can approach it from before it or from behind it:45 a sending down by One full of wisdom, worthy of Praise.


    45. By the words, “from before it” the allusion is to any reduction, distortion in meaning or perversion of the text and its message, while by the words, “from behind it” the allusion is to the introduction of anything into it that does not belong to it (Ibn Jarir).
    An extended meaning is that no interpretation that disagrees with the plain Qur’anic texts, in meaning and implications, will be accepted as true by a seeker of the Qur’anic truth (Au.).

    مَا يُقَالُ لَكَ إِلَّا مَا قَدْ قِيلَ لِلرُّسُلِ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَذُو مَغْفِرَةٍ وَذُو عِقَابٍ أَلِيمٍ (43)

    41|43| Nothing will be said to you but what was said to Messengers before you. Surely, your Lord is the Master of Forgiveness, and the Master of a painful chastisement.46


    46. The two parts of the verse are connected in the following manner: It was said, “Nothing will be said to you (O Muhammad) but what was said to the Messengers before you.” In response it could be asked, “Then what? What happened?” The answer is, “Surely, your Lord is the Master of Forgiveness” towards His pious slaves, “while “Master of a painful chastisement,” for His enemies (Alusi).

    وَلَوْ جَعَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا أَعْجَمِيًّا لَقَالُوا لَوْلَا فُصِّلَتْ آيَاتُهُ ۖ أَأَعْجَمِيٌّ وَعَرَبِيٌّ ۗ قُلْ هُوَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا هُدًى وَشِفَاءٌ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ فِي آذَانِهِمْ وَقْرٌ وَهُوَ عَلَيْهِمْ عَمًى ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ يُنَادَوْنَ مِنْ مَكَانٍ بَعِيدٍ (44)

    41|44| And, had We made it a non-Arabic recitation,47 they would have surely said, ‘Why have its verses not explained clearly?48 Is it (in) non-Arabic (tongue)49 while (the Messenger is) an Arab?’ Say, ‘It is a guide and a cure50 unto the believers. As for those who do not believe, they have deafness in their ears and it is a blindness upon them. They are being called from a distant place‘.51


    47. One of the contentions of the Quraysh was that since the Prophet is an Arab, his bringing of a message in Arabic leaves them open to doubt that he might have made it himself. Had it been in a non-Arab language, that doubt could be removed (Mawdudi).
    48. “.. since the Prophet was an Arab and lived in an Arabic environment, his message had to be expressed in the Arabic language, which the people to whom it was addressed in the first instance could understand.. (Allah said elsewhere, 14:4) ‘Never have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a Message] in his own people’s tongue, so that he might make [the truth] clear unto them.’ Had the message of the Qur’an been formulated in a language other than Arabic, the opponents of the Prophet would have been justified in saying, ‘between us and thee is a barrier’” (Asad).
    Majid draws our attention to the implied meaning that has been ignored by many. What the Makkans meant by saying, “And, had We made it a non-Arabic recitation, they would have surely said, ‘Why have its verses not explained clearly,’ is that had the Qur’an been revealed in any other language, the intents and purposes of the Qur’anic texts would never have been met fully, but rather, would have been vague, unclear and subject to several interpretations, contradictory, but of equal strength. It is the clarity of the Arabic language, that no other language could have matched, had another language been chosen for revelation (Au.).
    Majid quotes: “’The Arabic language – in which the Arabs themselves took particular delight, for its copious vocabulary, its wealth of forms and its inherent capability of cultivation – was peculiarly fitted to take a leading position in the world. If it is compared, for example, with the unwieldy Latin, or even with the turgid Persian, it is found to be specially distinguished by the possession of short abstract forms – a property of great service in scientific expression. It is capable of indicating the finest shades of meaning…’ (De Boers, History of Philosophy in Islam, pp. 31-32). ‘Classical Arabic is characterized by an extraordinary richness of vocabulary and the logical, systematic character of its grammatical structure.’ (EBr. II p. 192).”
    49. Etymologically, the word “a`jamiyy” is the antithesis of “fasih” (eloquent), in other words, a language which does not help in attaining clarity of meaning. Applied to a person or people, a`jamiyy is someone, no matter of what ethnic origin, including an Arab, who is unable to express himself properly, like the animals (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi).
    50. It is a cure for the diseases of the heart (Zamakhshari).
    51. That is, although near, but because they hear it with disbelief and attitude of rejection, the Qur’anic call comes to them from a distance. They hear a vague distant voice saying something they are unable to comprehend.
    “They pretended that it was too deep for them, when they meant that they were superior to it! The fact was that by putting themselves in an artificially false position, they rendered themselves impervious to the Message. The voice of Revelation or the voice of conscience sounded to them as if it came from a far-off place! They themselves made themselves strangers to it” (Yusuf Ali).

    وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ فَاخْتُلِفَ فِيهِ ۗ وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِنْ رَبِّكَ لَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ ۚ وَإِنَّهُمْ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِنْهُ مُرِيبٍ (45)

    41|45| Indeed, We gave Musa the Book, but it was differed with.52 Had it not been for a Word preceding from your Lord, (the matter) would have been judged between them.53 Surely they are in suspicion concerning it, (in) a disquieting doubt thereof.


    52. That is, some saying, it is the truth, others differing with them and saying, it is not the truth (Zamakhshari).
    53. The word was to the effect that they will not be punished but after a while, which will take place in the Hereafter (Razi).
    In Mawdudi’s words, “It has two meanings: (1) If Allah had not already decreed that the people would be given enough respite for consideration, the disputants would have long been destroyed; (2) if Allah had not already decreed that the disputes would finally be decided on the Day of Judgment, the reality would have been made plain as to who is in the right and who is in the wrong.”

    مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ أَسَاءَ فَعَلَيْهَا ۗ وَمَا رَبُّكَ بِظَلَّامٍ لِلْعَبِيدِ (46)

    41|46| Whoever works righteousness, it is for his own self, and whoever does evil, it is against itself. Your Lord is not unjust (in the least)54 to the slaves.


    54. The hyperbolic expression (zallam) denies the least possible occurrence of oppression (Qurtubi).
    Another possible meaning, as pointed out by Zarkashi is that, had “zulm” been one of Allah’s Attributes, it would have been in exaggerated form and, thus, He would not have been a mere “zalim” but a “zallam” (Au.).

    إِلَيْهِ يُرَدُّ عِلْمُ السَّاعَةِ ۚ وَمَا تَخْرُجُ مِنْ ثَمَرَاتٍ مِنْ أَكْمَامِهَا وَمَا تَحْمِلُ مِنْ أُنْثَىٰ وَلَا تَضَعُ إِلَّا بِعِلْمِهِ ۚ وَيَوْمَ يُنَادِيهِمْ أَيْنَ شُرَكَائِي قَالُوا آذَنَّاكَ مَا مِنَّا مِنْ شَهِيدٍ (47)

    41|47| To Him is referred the knowledge of the Hour. And no fruit emerges out of its sheath, and not a female conceives, nor gives birth save with His knowledge. And, the day He shall call to them, ‘Where now are the associates (attributed) to Me?’ They will answer, ‘We proclaim to You, there is none among us to testify.’


    وَضَلَّ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَدْعُونَ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۖ وَظَنُّوا مَا لَهُمْ مِنْ مَحِيصٍ (48)

    41|48| Lost from them are what they used to invoke earlier and they will come to realize that they have no place of escape.


    لَا يَسْأَمُ الْإِنْسَانُ مِنْ دُعَاءِ الْخَيْرِ وَإِنْ مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ فَيَئُوسٌ قَنُوطٌ (49)

    41|49| Man wearies not of praying for the good. But if an evil touches him, lo, he loses all hope and is in despair.


    وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَاهُ رَحْمَةً مِنَّا مِنْ بَعْدِ ضَرَّاءَ مَسَّتْهُ لَيَقُولَنَّ هَٰذَا لِي وَمَا أَظُنُّ السَّاعَةَ قَائِمَةً وَلَئِنْ رُجِعْتُ إِلَىٰ رَبِّي إِنَّ لِي عِنْدَهُ لَلْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ فَلَنُنَبِّئَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِمَا عَمِلُوا وَلَنُذِيقَنَّهُمْ مِنْ عَذَابٍ غَلِيظٍ (50)

    41|50| And if We make him taste mercy from Us, after an affliction had touched him, he will surely say, ‘This is my due.55 I do not believe the Hour will be struck. And, if I am brought back to my Lord, then, surely, there shall be good for me with Him.'56 We shall surely show the unbelievers (te truth of) what they used to do, and We shall surely give them the taste of a severe chastisement.


    55. “Being fully convinced of his own merit (as expressed in his own words, ‘this is but my due’), he is confident that – in case there should really be a life after death – his own flattering view of himself will be confirmed by God” (Asad).
    56. “When men entertain false ideas of values in life, there are two or three possible attitudes they may adopt in reaction to their experiences. In the first place, their desire may be inordinate for the good things of this life, and any little check brings them into a mood of despair.. In the second place, if their desire is granted, they are puffed up, and think that everything is due to their own cleverness or merit, and they forget Allah. Not only that, but they go a step further, and begin to doubt a Hereafter at all! If by chance they have a faint glimmering of the Hereafter, which they cannot help recognizing, they think themselves ‘favoured of Heaven’, because of some small favours given to them in this life by way of trial. Thus they turn all things, good or evil, away from their real purpose, because they are devoted to falsehood” (Yusuf Ali).

    وَإِذَا أَنْعَمْنَا عَلَى الْإِنْسَانِ أَعْرَضَ وَنَأَىٰ بِجَانِبِهِ وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ فَذُو دُعَاءٍ عَرِيضٍ (51)

    41|51| And when We bestow favors upon man, he turns away and withdraws aside. But when evil touches him, lo, he is full of lengthy supplications.57


    57. Yusuf Ali again, “The last verse and note dealt with men’s distortion of the values of life. Here we come to men’s ingratitude and hypocrisy. If they receive good, they go farther away from Allah, instead of coming nearer to him. If they suffer ill, they call on Allah and offer prolonged prayers, but it is not sincere devotion and therefore worthless.”

    قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ كَانَ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ كَفَرْتُمْ بِهِ مَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّنْ هُوَ فِي شِقَاقٍ بَعِيدٍ (52)

    41|52| Say, ‘Have you considered, if it is from Allah, yet you rejected it, then who can be in greater wrong than he who is in a far-fetched schism?’


    سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ ۗ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ (53)

    41|53| We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in their own selves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth.58 Is it not sufficient for your Lord that He is over all things a Witness?


    58. “I.e., through progressive deepening and widening of their insight into the wonders of the universe as well as through a deeper understanding of man’s own psyche – all of which points to a conscious Creator” (Asad).
    Mawdudi offers another perspective: “One of the two interpretations of the major commentaries has been that the allusion of signs in the horizon is to the prediction that Islam will prevail over large tracts of land in and beyond Arabia. It is then that the sign referred to in this verse will be fully perceived and recognized. The objection that can be raised is that political dominance does not prove the veracity of a Message or its carriers. The answer is, the triumph of Islam was not a military or political triumph. It was not the kind of triumph which results in a conqueror ending up owning the life and property of the conquered nation, in consequence, the land filled with tyranny and injustice. (At this point, and at this time of writing, one might be reminded that – by the accounts of a British newspaper and other sources – five years of American occupation of Iraq has resulted in transformation of a vast area into the stone-age: no power, no water, no fuel and no food. To obtain a few liters of petrol in this oil-rich country, people sleep at the petrol stations to queue up in the morning. So far, close to a million of Iraqis have died, several times more injured and maimed, and several millions have become refugees. This is the “conquer” that Mawdudi is alluding to. And, to continue with Mawdudi: Au.): “Contrary to this, the Islamic conquest brought with it a great religious, moral, intellectual, cultural, political, economic and social change whose influences elicited what was best in man and suppressed what was worst in him. The revolution brought by this phenomenon nurtured the moral excellence that the world could hope to see in the hermit and meditative recluses: in the politics of the rulers, in the wars and conquest, in the work of the tax-collectors or commerce of the big business, everywhere a huge moral upliftment, unseen anytime in human history, was achieved. The influence was so great and deep, that within a short time, in morality, character and behavior, cleanliness and purity, the common man was raised above the selected few of other societies. The Muslim conquests brought about in the conquered lands order in place of chaos, peace in place of anarchy, piety in place of wickedness, justice in place of tyranny, purity in place of obscenity and brotherhood in place of sanctioned inequality.
    “These were the signs that the Makkan Arabs were told they will see in the horizons. And it has not stopped there. People of all ages have been witness to the signs foretold in this Qur’anic passage. The Muslims – even during their decline - have displayed such moral order as has not been attained by their antagonist contemporaries. No precedents can be found from any period of Muslim history of the tyrannical treatment that has been meted out by the Western nations to the subdued nations of Africa, America, Asia and, in fact, of Europe itself. Anyone can check through history books how the Muslims treated Christians in Spain and how the Christians treated Muslims there; how the Muslims behaved towards Hindus during their long rule in India and how the Hindus have begun to treat the Muslims once in power, how the Muslims treated the Jews during 1300 years and how the Jews are treating the Muslims since the deceptive occupation of Palestine.”
    “The other meaning given by the commentators is that the unbelievers will be shown physical signs in the material world, as well as those found in their own physical existence. These signs will never end. In every new generation new signs will be discovered that will lead to the recognition that the world is not an accident but a well-designed creation” (With minor modifications).
    Majid has a short comment on this aspect, “The words are also of general application. If we only care to reflect on the marvelous structure of the atom and on the still more marvelous nature of the human mind, we are inevitably, inescapably, led to the truth of an All-Designing, Omnipotent, Omnipresent Being.”
    Following the same theme as above, one could add that by the words “within their own selves”, the allusion could be to the unbelievers of all ages who, once antagonists and opposed to Islam, undergo mighty changes in their own selves, to become, with the acceptance of Islam, entirely new – and laudable – personalities endowed with exemplary character (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali puts it in a more sublime manner: "Allah’s Truth always spreads, in its own good time, across to the uttermost ends of the earth, as it did in the case of Islam. But its intensive spread in the hearts and souls of people is even more remarkable than its extensive spread over large areas. Men like the four Companions of the Prophet - and many more - became leaders of men and arbiters of the world’s fate. Madinah from being a focus of jarring tribes and factions that hated each other, became the seat of heroic actions and plans and the nursery of great and noble heroic deeds that resounded throughout the world. It makes no difference what men may say or do. Allah’s Truth must prevail, and He knows who obstruct and who help.”

    Surah 42
    Al-Shura
    Makkan1
    IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE KIND, THE COMPASSIONATE

    [1] Ha. Mim.
    [2] `Ayn. Sin. Qaf.
    [3] Thus reveals to you2 and to those before you - Allah, the All-mighty, the All-wise.3
    [4] To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth;4 and He is the Exalted, the Great.
    [5] The heavens would almost burst forth from above them;5 the angels celebrate the praises of their Lord and seek forgiveness for those on earth. Lo! Allah is indeed the All-forgiving, the All-merciful.
    [6] As for those who took protectors other than Him, Allah is a Watcher over them; you are not a guardian over them.
    [7] And thus have We revealed to you an Arabic Qur’an,6 that you may warn the Mother of the Towns7 and those around it,8 and warn of the Day of gathering, wherein is no doubt: a group in Paradise and a group in the Blaze.9
    [8] And, had Allah willed, He could surely have made them one community but He admits into His mercy whomsoever He will.10 As for the transgressors,11 they have neither a protector nor a helper.
    [9] Or, have they taken protectors besides Him? But it is Allah who is the (true) Protector; He quickens the dead and He has power over all things.
    [10] And whatever it is that you differ amongst yourselves but the judgment thereof belongs to Allah.12 Such is Allah, my Lord, in whom I have placed the trust and to Him I turn repentant.
    [11] Splitter of the heavens and the earth. He has made for you, of yourselves, mates, as (also) of the cattle mates: multiplying you thereby.13 There is nothing like unto Him;14 He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing.
    [12] To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth. He extends the providence to whom He will, or restricts. Verily, He is knowing of all things.15
    [13] He has laid down for you as religion16 what He enjoined upon Nuh, and that which We have revealed unto you and that which We enjoined therewith Ibrahim, Musa and `Isa: that you establish the religion17 and differ not therein.18 Hard is upon the polytheists what you call them to.19 Allah chooses for Himself whomsoever He will and guides to Himself whosoever turns (repentant).20
    [14] And they differed not but after knowledge had come to them,21 out of contentious envy between them. Had it not been for a word that preceded from your Lord (about) a slated term,22 it would have been decided between them. Surely, those who have been given the Book after them as inheritance are in suspicion thereof, dubitating.23
    [15] To this then,24 invite (them). And remain steadfast as you have been ordered,25 and follow not their base desires. And say, ‘I believe in what Allah has sent down of the Book and I have been ordered that I should judge between you justly;26 Allah is our Lord, and your Lord; we have our deeds and you have your deeds; there is no argument between us and you. Allah will gather us together and to Him is the return.’27
    [16] As for those who dispute concerning Allah after He has been responded to, their argument is void in the sight of their Lord;28 upon them rests anger, and for them is a severe chastisement.
    [17] Allah it is who sent down the Book with Truth, and the Balance.29 And, what will make you know that perhaps the Hour is close.30
    [18] Those who do not believe in it seek to hasten it; but those who have believed, they are in fear of it and know that it is the truth. Lo, those who dispute concerning the Hour are surely in a distant error.
    [19] Allah is All-subtle31 with His slaves and provides whomsoever He will (abundantly); He is the Powerful, the Mighty.
    [20] Whoever desires the harvest of the Hereafter, We grant him increase in his harvest;32 and whoever desires the harvest of this world, We grant him out of it,33 but he has no share in the Hereafter.
    [21] Or, have they associates (in Divinity)34 who have laid down as religion for them that for which Allah gave no leave?35 Were it not for the word of decision, it would have been decided between them.36 Surely, the transgressors will have a severe chastisement.
    [22] You will see the transgressors fearful on account of what they have earned,37 but it will (inevitably) fall upon them. As for those who believed and worked righteousness, they will be in meadows38 of the gardens. For them will be, with their Lord, what they desire.39 That indeed is the great bounty.
    [23] This is wherewith Allah gives the glad tiding to (such of) His slaves who believe and do righteous deeds.40 Say, ‘I do not ask you any wage for this except for love of kinship.’41 And, whoever earns a good, We shall cause him increase in good therein. Indeed, Allah is All-forgiving, All-appreciative.42
    [24] Or do they say he has forged a lie against Allah? But if Allah willed, He could set a seal on your heart.43 Allah blots out falsehood and establishes the truth with His words. Surely, He is knowing of that which is within the breasts.
    [25] It is He who accepts repentance from His slaves and forgives sins.44 And He knows what you do.
    [26] He responds to those who have believed and work righteousness and grants them increase out of His grace. As for the unbelievers, there awaits them a terrible chastisement.
    [27] And, if Allah were to enlarge upon the providence for His slaves, they would certainly rebel in the land;45 but He sends down in measure whatsoever He will.46 Surely He is Aware of His slaves, Seeing.47
    [28] He it is who sends down the rain after they have despaired48 and spreads His mercy (far and wide).49 And He is the Protector, the Praiseworthy.
    [29] And of His signs is creation of the heavens and the earth and what He has scattered abroad of living creatures therein.50 And He is Able to collect them together whenever He will.
    [30] And, whatever affliction strikes you is because of what your own hands have earned,51 although He forgives much.52
    [31] And you are not such as those to frustrate (Him) in the earth, nor do you have, besides Allah, a Protector or a Helper.
    [32] And, among His signs are the ships in the sea like landmarks.53
    [33] If He willed, He could still the wind; then they would remain motionless on its back.54 In that there surely are signs for every stoutly patient, thanksgiving (person).
    [34] Or He could wreck them on account of what they earn, but He forgives much.
    [35] And let those who dispute in Our signs know that they have no place to escape.
    [36] Whatsoever thing you are given is for the enjoyment of the life of this world, while what is with Allah is better and longer lasting for those who believe,55 and place (their) trust in their Lord.56
    [37] And those who avoid the great sins57 and the obscene, and, when they get angry, they are forgiving.58
    [38] And those who responded to their Lord, prayed (regularly and assiduously), and whose affair between themselves is by mutual consultation,59 and, out of what We have bestowed on them, they expend.60
    [39] And those who, when oppression strikes them, avenge themselves.61
    [40] And, recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof.62 However, he who forgave, brought about a reconciliation, then, His reward is upon Allah. Indeed, He does not approve of the wrongdoers.
    [41] And, whoever avenged himself after he was wronged, then those, upon them there is no way.63
    [42] The way is open only against those who wrong the people and act rebelliously in the earth without right. They, for them there is a painful chastisement.
    [43] Yet, he who bore in patience, and forgave, surely, that is of the matters of great resolution.
    [44] And, whomsoever Allah led astray, He has no protector after Him. And you will see the wrongdoers, when they will see the Chastisement, saying, ‘Is there any way to return?’64
    [45] You will see them as they are exposed to it, humbled in disgrace, looking with a stealthy glance;65 when the believers will say, ‘Surely, losers are those who ruined themselves and their families on the Day of Judgment.’66 Lo! The wrongdoers will be in a lasting Chastisement.
    [46] They have no protectors, besides Allah, who could help them. Indeed, he who is led astray by Allah, has no way (of escape).
    [47] Respond (therefore) to your Lord before there comes a day when there will be no putting back against Allah; that day, you shall have no place of refuge, nor will you have any (room) for denial.
    [48] But if they turn away, then, We have not sent you a guard upon them. No more is there upon you but the conveyance. Indeed, when We bestow a mercy upon man, he exults therein. But when an evil strikes them, because of what their hands have forwarded, truly then is man ungrateful.67
    [49] To Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He will. He bestows on whomsoever He will females, and bestows on whomsoever He will males.68
    [50] Or He couples them as males and females; and, He renders whomsoever He will, barren; He is indeed All-knowing, All-powerful.69
    [51] It was not for any mortal that Allah should speak to him (directly) except by revelation, or from behind a veil, 70 or should send a Messenger to reveal by His leave what He will.71 He is indeed the Most High, the Most Wise.72
    [52] And thus have We revealed to you a life-force73 of Our bidding. You were not knowing what a Book is, nor faith;74 but rather We made it a Light, whereby We guide whom We will of Our slaves. You are surely guiding to a straight path.
    [53] The path of Him to whom belongs what is in the heavens and what is in the earth. Lo! To Allah return the affairs.
    Re-read commentary and text on 9th July 2011
    1. Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah are reported to have thought that except for four verses 23-24 the rest of the Surah is Makkan (Qurtubi, Shawkani). But there are other exceptions too to the effect that a few other verses of the Surah are Madinan (Alusi).
    2. Ibn Kathir presents at this point the well-known hadith from the Sahihayn:
    `A’isha reports that Harith b. Hisham asked the Prophet, “Messenger of Allah, how does the revelation come to you?” He replied, “Sometimes it comes to me like the ringing of a bell. This one is the most difficult of its kind. Then, as it is drawn to a close I would have retained in memory all that he (the angel) would have said. At other times the angel appears to me in the form of a man. He speaks to me and I am able to retain in memory what he said.” `A’isha - Allah be pleased with her - said, “I have seen him on a chillingly cold day, the revelation coming down upon him. By the time it stopped sweat would be dropping down his forehead.”
    3. “I.e.,” writes Asad, “the basic truths propounded in the Qur’anic revelation – some of which are summarized in the sequence – are the same as those revealed to all the earlier prophets.”
    Some commentators have pointed out however, that by the use of the past-present tense in “yuhi”, a hint is hidden that this revelation is not a new or odd phenomenon, but rather, your Lord has been revealing His messages throughout human history.
    4. Commenting on, “To Him belongs what is in the heavens and the earth,” Sayyid writes: “Quite some people, deceived by the fact that they find things in their hands subjected to them, benefitting them and which they can use as they wish, are led to believe that they own those things. Of course they do not. Allah is the real owner. It is He who creates and destroys, who gives life and deals death, who has the power to let people own what He wishes, or take away from their possession what He will, to place them in the hands of some others when He will. True ownership remains in His hands who dispenses with them in a manner that suits His Grand Plan. Things respond to Him and transform themselves following His Scheme. In this latter sense, none has the ownership of the heavens and the earth but He. Once a people become fully cognizant of this fact, they know where and how to seek them and how to deal with them.”
    5. “From above them”: i.e., owing to the Greatness and Majesty of the Lord of the worlds above them – an opinion attributed to Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah and Suddi (Ibn Jarir); wherein, “above” is not for indicating the direction (Au.).
    If it is asked, writes Zamakhshari, why “from above them?” then the answer is: Because the greatest of signs and evidences with reference to the Exaltedness and Majesty are above the heavens viz., the `Arsh, the Kursiyy, rows of angels, their glories of their Lord, their praises ringing around the `Arsh, and various other holy manifestations of His stupendous Power and Kingdom. These are all above the heavens (under the force of which they could burst forth).
    Another opinion as attributed to Ibn `Abbas preserved by Hakim is that the heavens could collapse because of the weight (of the angels above them) – Alusi. This is supported by a hadith in Musnad Ahmad which says,
    “The heaven creaks, and it is right of it that it should creak for there is not a four-finger space but an angel is there in prostration.”
    Thanwi tries to answer a doubt raised by the materialists concerning weight of the angels. But for today’s Muslim it should offer no difficulty to imagine that billions upon billions of angels, each loaded with immense energy (being made of “nur”), the heaven below them could well collapse if not for Allah’s holding Power.
    A third opinion is that the heavens could burst forth because of attribution of a son to Allah. The following verse supports this (19: 90-91):
    “The heavens could well-nigh explode thereby, the earth split asunder, and the mountains collapse into ruins, that they should attribute to the Most Merciful a son.”
    6. The objective of the statement that this is an Arabic Qur’an is to impress on its being plain, simple, and, communicating its message in clear terms (Ibn Kathir, reworded).
    `Araba is to express oneself clearly, plainly, distinctly and precisely, in chaste language (Au.).
    7. That is, Makkah, because, according to one opinion, it has been the spiritual center throughout human history, and, according to another, because the earth was stretched from below it. As for being the spiritual center throughout human history, this might sound a little strange, but we need to recall the ahadith that speak of the ancient Prophets visiting Makkah for pilgrimage. Abu Ya`la has a report in his collection narrated by Ibn `Abbas that,
    Arabic ???
    “When the Prophet arrived at the `Usfan valley during his Hajj, he asked Abu Bakr, what valley it was? Abu Bakr replied that it was the `Usfan valley. The Prophet said, ‘Nuh, Hud and Ibrahim have passed by this valley on their red camels led by coiled halters, wearing a lower garment and an upper striped cloak. They had come to perform the pilgrimage of the Ancient House.’”
    The Musnad of Ahmad has another report of Ibn `Abbas who said,
    Arabic ???
    “When the Prophet passed by the `Usfan valley during his pilgrimage, he asked, ‘Abu Bakr, what valley is this?’ He told him that it was the `Usfan valley. The Prophet said, ‘Hud and Saleh passed by this valley on red camels, coiled halters, wearing lower garments and striped cloaks, uttering the Supplicatory words of pilgrimage of the Ancient House.’”
    Haythami said about the report of Ahmad that one of the narrators was a controversial person; while he was considered weak by some, a few others treated him as trustworthy (Au.).
    Writes Ibn Kathir: Makkah has been so called because it is the holiest of lands in the sight of Allah as several ahadith tell us. One of them is as follows:
    `Abdullah ibn `Adiyy says, “I have seen the Prophet standing on (a mound of earth called) Hazwarah and saying, ‘Surely, you are the best of Allah’s lands, and the most pleasing to Allah. If I was not forced out, I would not have left.’”
    This version is in Tirmidhi who judged it Hasan-Gharib-Sahih. Similar reports are in Nasa’i and Ibn Majah (Ibn Kathir).
    Some Orientalists have used this ayah to argue that the Prophet was sent only to the Arabs. It is a strange case of seeking evidence from the Qur’an while disbelieving in it. If the Qur’an is trustworthy in its statement that the Prophet’s mission was restricted to the Arabs, then, why is it not trustworthy in its statement that there is no god but One? Or, as Imam Razi has pointed out, why is it not trustworthy in its other statement (34: 28):
    ???
    “And, We have not sent you (O Muhammad) but to the whole of the mankind.”
    8. “Those around it” could include the settlements around Makkah as well as all those living around it in every direction (right up to where the human population ends) – Shafi`.
    See Surah Anfal, note 153 for a fuller discussion.
    Sayyid Qutub presents a somewhat detailed, although not a fully comprehensive, discussion as to why Allah chose Makkah and its surroundings as the first choice for sending down and addressing the final Message in the Arabic language. He writes in effect, “Obviously, Allah knows where to place His Message. Nonetheless, when we look back at the events and occurrences behind us, beyond the conditions and demands of our times, and, considering all that this mission has been through, yielding the results and consequences that have been, we begin to realize some of the wisdom that could have been there for choosing this place as the center for a message whose universality had been decided from day one.
    “At the time of the birth of this final message, this earth was ruled principally by four empires: (i) Roman, covering Europe and parts of Asia and Africa; (ii) Persian, extended over parts of Asia and Africa; (iii) Indian and, (iv) Chinese. The last two were more or less confined to themselves, locked in, politically, religiously, and culturally, within their boundaries. It were the first two that had far reaching influence on the humans and their developments.
    “Two revealed religions, Jewish and Christian, were confined in their influence to within these two great empires. They were, of course, under the subjugation of these two empires, having failed to win them over to their causes, in addition to themselves having suffered (moral and spiritual) corruptions and degeneration.
    “Judaism had suffered ravages, sometimes at the hands of the Persians and at others at the hands of the Roman imperialism. It could not find any quarter in the lands worthy of consideration where it could rule the people and their hearts. It ended up becoming, for a variety of reasons, a closed religion, reserved for the Israelites, without any wish on the part of its followers to accommodate people other than those of their race.
    “As for Christianity, it took birth within the shades of the Roman imperialism. It ruled all those areas: Palestine, Syria, Egypt and others, where this new religion was being spread secretly. It used to conceal itself from the reaches of the ruling power which was persecuting it resulting in the death of thousands of Christians. But when the era of persecution ended, and the rulers themselves came into Christianity, they brought in with them all the superstitions and practices that were part of the pagan religion. They even brought in with them the issues that were being hotly debated among the pagan Greeks. Christianity took a new form, one which had nothing to do with the revealed religion that it was at birth. The imperial state too, which had accepted this new faith, was in no way influenced by it. The state in fact ruled the religion. It was not the other way round. Over and above this, Christianity itself broke into countless sects, of such severity, that the divisions all but divided the empire itself.
    “It was in this situation that Islam appeared. It came to rid humanity of all that it was suffering from: corruption, degeneration, tyranny, and ignorance that filled every place. It came to rule over humanity and guide it to light. In view of the above, it was necessary for Islam to begin its work in an area untouched by occupation; a place which had remained free of slavery to imperialisms of the sort that surrounded it. It had to take root and grow free of all the corruptions and degenerations that previous religious systems had suffered. The Mother of the Towns, therefore, was most suited as a starting point before it spread over the globe.
    “At the time Islam appeared, there was no government of any sort in Arabia. This geographical patch was free of rules and regulations, police and armies, system of government and its overwhelming dominance over life and society. It imposed no state religion, no set of beliefs upon a subdued people, as it happens to be the state of affairs in oppressive states. Nor was there a systematized religion with clear-cut beliefs and practices. But rather, it was a disorganized house of pagan pantheons, disunited in beliefs and disunited in practices. Consequently, there was no united religious force to stand up and face Islam. If not for the material and economic interests attached to the old system, the Quraysh would not have in fact opposed Islam as vehemently as they did.
    “On the political front, things were not better organized than on the religious front which of course was a favorable point since that left no organized political system to take a stand against Islam.
    “Within the chaos, there were values that were upheld by all. They came to Islam’s aid. For example, the social system was tribal-based. Family had a strong appeal. Therefore, when the Prophet stood up with his message, he found Banu Hashim – although by and large unbelievers - supporting him with their drawn swords for no reason other than that he was a Hashimi. In fact, the tribes withheld their hands from every one of the earliest Muslims who had the most insignificant connection with one or the other tribe, leaving those tribes to discipline or torture them themselves. Those slaves that had embraced Islam were tortured by their own masters. None else could touch them. When Abu Bakr purchased them and freed them, once again no one could dare stretch his hand at them. This of course was a favorable factor for Islam.
    “In addition, there were certain Arab characteristics, specific to them, such as, courage, fortitude, pride, etc., that were necessary traits for taking a new mission forward and bearing the hardships that it demanded.
    “Again, the Arab Peninsula was then carrying as seeds personalities of such extraordinary qualities that proved useful later. They were also well experienced in the affairs of the world, and had good knowledge of the surrounding world by virtue of their travel to the north and the south every now and then entering into the territories of the two notable empires of the time, Roman and Persian. After Islam had taken good roots, these seeds became trees and Islam was able to make good use of them for the propagation of its message. Presence of extraordinary figures in such large numbers had surely a hidden Hand. Personalities such as: Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, `Ali, Hamza, `Abbas, Abu `Ubaydah, Sa`d b. Waqqas, Khalid b. Walid, Sa`d b. Mu`adh, Abu Ayyub Ansari and numerous other figures (of such stature as only appear as singles among nations over centuries: Au.) welcomed Islam, bore its message, took it forward, and spread it around. No doubt, they were the products of Islam, but the potential was there.
    “This is not the place to deal with this issue in a thorough fashion. It might require a whole work for a better understanding. Enough should be the few points we have placed above, for a common reader to get some idea of the causes that made the spread of Islam possible, the reasons why Allah chose the Mother of the Towns and its surroundings as the area to be first addressed.”
    9. In connection with the statement, “a party in Paradise and a party in the Blaze,” the following Hasan-Gharib-Sahih hadith could be quoted. (Ibn Jarir presents it at ayah 7):

    `Abdullah b. `Amr narrated, “The Prophet came out with two books in his hand. He asked, ‘Do you know what these two books are?’ We said, ‘No, O Messenger of Allah. Will you not tell us?’ So pointing to his right hand he said, ‘This is the book of the Lord of the worlds. Herein are names of the inhabitants of Paradise complete with the names of their fathers and tribes. The list ends with the last of them so that there will never be any addition or deletion.’ Then he said about what was in the left hand, ‘This is the Book of the Lord of the worlds. Herein are names of the inhabitants of the Fire, complete with the names of their fathers and tribes. The list ends with the last of them so that there will never be any addition or deletion.’ At that his Companions said, ‘Then for what end the deeds, O Messenger of Allah, if the affair has already been decided?’ He answered, ‘Be steadfast and try to be (as) close (to the ideal as possible). As for the man of Paradise, (his life) will be terminated in accordance with the deeds of the inhabitants of Paradise no matter what he did (during the life). As for the man of Hellfire, (his life) will be terminated in accordance with the deeds of the inhabitants of Paradise no matter what he did (during the life).’ Then the Prophet tossed away the two books and said, ‘Allah is done with (His) slaves, a group in Paradise and a group in the Fire.’” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Tirmidhi remarked that this is a Hasan-Gharib-Sahih report. A similar report is in Nasa’i.
    10. One possible connotation is, Allah (swt) could have made the people a single community of either believers or unbelievers – Qurtubi.
    That is, had Allah willed, He could have forced them all to belief, or, could have left them all to themselves and they would all have chosen disbelief. But He opens the gates of mercy and guides some to belief to admit them in (Au.).
    11. The words, “He admits into His mercy whomsoever He will; as for the transgressors ..” are plain in their meaning that it is Allah who admits people into belief and obedience: by His mercy, but it is humans who leave themselves out of the range of mercy by adopting transgression (based on Razi).

    أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ فِي مِرْيَةٍ مِنْ لِقَاءِ رَبِّهِمْ ۗ أَلَا إِنَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُحِيطٌ (54)

    41|54| Lo! They are surely in a doubt concerning the meeting with their Lord. Lo! He is, of all things, encompassing.