Surat Ad-Dukhān

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. 44

    Merits of  the Surah

    Ar. Texts could be taken from VP files

    1. Ibn Kathir presents two ahadith here that speak of the special virtues (fada’il) of reciting this Surah (at night, or, specifically, in a Friday night), both from Tirmidhi, but both declared weak by the collector himself. Qurtubi has a few others but whose authenticity is untraceable (Au.).
    2. The Surah is Makkan by consensus except for Qurtubi’s statement that the verse 15 (viz. “We are going to remove the torment a little, (but) you will surely revert”) which is Madinan.
    Baydawi has also said that the verse in question is Madinan (Thanwi).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ حم (1)

    44|1| Ha Mim.

    وَالْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ (2)

    44|2| By the clear Book.

    إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ مُبَارَكَةٍ ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُنْذِرِينَ (3)

    44|3| We have indeed sent it down on a blessed night.3 Surely, We were wont to warn.4

    3. This night has been identified by great majority of the Salaf as the Laylatu al-Qadr. A minority opinion is that the allusion is to the night of fifteenth of Sha`ban (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others).
    What exactly does the sending down of the Qur’an in this particular night mean? Ibn `Abbas explained, when asked by a Khariji, that the Qur’an was sent down as one whole from the Lawh al-Mahfuz (in the seventh heaven) to the Bayt al-Ma`mur (or Bayt al-`Izzah, in the first heaven) during the night of the Qadr, in Ramadan. Thereafter it was sent down in parts, according to the contingencies (Razi, Alusi).
    4. “The revelation of the Qur’an is but a continuation and, indeed, the climax of all divine revelation which has been going on since the dawn of human consciousness. Its innermost purpose has always been the warning extended by God to man not to abandon himself to mere material ambitions and pursuits and, thus, to lose sight of spiritual values” (Asad).

    فِيهَا يُفْرَقُ كُلُّ أَمْرٍ حَكِيمٍ (4)

    44|4| Therein is decreed every affair5 of wisdom.6

    5. Mujahid, Qatadah, Hasan and others said that affairs of the next one year, Ramadan to Ramadan, are decided in this night of Ramadan. Thereafter, Allah brings forward what He will, and delays what He will. `Ikrimah, however, thought that it is in the night of 15th of Sha`ban that the affairs are decided for the next year. But this is not the preferred opinion (Ibn Jarir). In fact, Ibn Kathir points out a hadith to this effect – although he declares it weak.
    It cannot be used, write Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others, to contradict the Qur’an which says (97: 1),

    {إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ} [القدر: 1]

    “Surely, We have revealed it in the night of Qadr.”
    And (2: 185)

    {شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآَنُ} [البقرة: 185]

    “The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an...”
    Zamakhshari, who lived in Makkah for the best part of his last years, states that one of the “barakah” noticed on the night of 15th of Sha`ban is the apparent increase in the water level of Zamzam, yet, he seems to be with the majority that the allusion here is to the night of Qadr – to which conclusion Razi is also inclined.
    In view of some of the Salaf saying that fates are decreed in the Layalatu Bara’ah, it is quite possible, as Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said (as in Alusi), that the decree is written down in the night of the mid of Sha`ban, and then forwarded on for action in the night of Qadr (Thanwi).
    That said, there is no difference in opinion that this ayah is clearly referring to the Night of Qadr as it falls in Ramadah, whereas, the above is an opinion of the Salaf whose trustworthiness could not be established (Au.).
    The Night of Mid of Sha`ban
    Reports come to us from the earliest times about the importance of the night of the mid of Sha`an. Its importance, perceived or real, has earned it at least four names: Laylatu al-Bara’ah, Laylatu al-Rahmah, Laylatu al-Mubarakah and Laylatu al-Sakk. Some scholars, viz., Qurtubi and Alusi, have given it good space, but without critically evaluating the reports. Mubarakpuri does it in his Tuhfatu al-Ahwadhi fi Sharh al-Tirmidhi more professionally and concludes that in view of the widespread reports involving many narrators right from the start, they should have had a good origin. One of the reports is as follows, which however, Tirmidhi himself declared weak:

    عَنْ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ فَقَدْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- لَيْلَةً فَخَرَجْتُ فَإِذَا هُوَ بِالْبَقِيعِ فَقَالَ « أَكُنْتِ تَخَافِينَ أَنْ يَحِيفَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكِ وَرَسُولُهُ ». قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنِّى ظَنَنْتُ أَنَّكَ أَتَيْتَ بَعْضَ نِسَائِكَ. فَقَالَ: إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يَنْزِلُ لَيْلَةَ النِّصْفِ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ الدُّنْيَا فَيَغْفِرُ لأَكْثَرَ مِنْ عَدَدِ شَعْرِ غَنَمِ كَلْبٍ

    `A’isha said, “(One night) I missed the Prophet and went out (seeking him). He was in Baqee` (graveyard). He said, “Were you fearful that Allah and His Messenger will be unjust to you?” I said, “Messenger of Allah. I thought maybe you have gone to one of your wives.” He said, “Allah the Mighty, the Exalted, descends, in the night of the middle of Sha`ban to the earthly firmament and forgives more than the hair on the body of the sheep of the Kalb (tribe).”
    [The Kalb tribe was known for its large flock of sheep, and by the words, “Are you fearful that Allah and His Messenger will be unjust to you?” – the allusion is to the Prophet spending the night of `A’isha’s right with another wife: Au.].
    After declaring the above hadith weak, Tirmidhi cites another that has been reported on this topic. Thereafter, the commentator follows up by noting that the report has also been traced by Bazzar and Bayhaqi. The latter’s report seems to have a line of narrators who are perhaps just unobjectionable. To add, Ibn Majah also carries this report, as does Bayhaqiyy who presents us with another version, as originating from Mu`adh ibn Jabal which is preserved in Ibn Majah, who reports from Abu Musa al-Ash`ariyy. It also in Mundhiri’s Targhib wa Tarhib. This particular one is in the sahih of Ibn Hibban. It says,

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَيَطَّلِعُ فِى لَيْلَةِ النِّصْفِ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ فَيَغْفِرُ لِجَمِيعِ خَلْقِهِ إِلاَّ لِمُشْرِكٍ أَوْ مُشَاحِنٍ

    The Prophet said, “Allah looks down (upon mankind) during the night of the mid of Sha`ban and forgives all His creations except a polytheist and one who commingles lineages.”
    Ibn Majah too carries this version coming from Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, as does Bazzar and Bayhaqi, but from Abu Bakr through a chain that Mundhiri thought not too weak; but the one in Ibn Majah, writes Mubarakpuri, has Ibn Lehi`ah who was declared weak by most (though an occasional voice spoke in his favor: Au.). In addition, there is another report originating from `Abdullah ibn `Amr about which Mundhiri said that it is weak; as also there is one by Mak-hul coming through Kathir b. Murrah, as preserved by Mundhiri and Tabarani, but also weak. Mak-hul has another through Abu Tha`labah, but mursal. Ibn Majah has yet another hadith. This one originates with `Ali (ibn Abi Talib) but there is one in the chain who was alleged to have manufactured ahadith. All these reports, concludes Mubarakpuri, lead us to believe that the hadith about the virtue of the night of mid of Sha`ban has some truth at the bottom and are evidences against him who says that there is nothing in the hadith literature to prove the virtue of this night. (Mufti Shafi` expresses his agreement with the above discussion).
    Nevertheless, Mullah `Ali Qari has pointed out that the hadith which describes a Prayer of one hundred raka`ah during each of which raka`ah Surah al-Ikhlas is to be recited has no basis whatsoever, nor is there any basis for the special attention bestowed to the night in which the Qur’an is completed in the Tarawih Prayers; in connection with which Mubarkapuri reminds that similarly the fast of the next day of the Laylatu al-Bara’ah has no religious significzne. A hadith that comes to this effect is fabricated (Tuhfah).
    6. Ibn Jarir explains that the textual “hakim” is to be treated as “muhkam” (meaning, confirmed, clear in meaning, unambiguous: Au.). Ibn Kathir is also of the same opinion.

    أَمْرًا مِنْ عِنْدِنَا ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُرْسِلِينَ (5)

    44|5| An affair (proceeding) from Us. Surely, We were wont to send (Messengers).7

    7. Ibn Jarir’s opinion is that the allusion is to Prophet Muhammad, in which case the translation should be, “And We were wont to send (a Messenger).”

    رَحْمَةً مِنْ رَبِّكَ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ (6)

    44|6| A mercy from your Lord. He indeed is the All-hearing, the All-knowing.

    رَبِّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا ۖ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُوقِنِينَ (7)

    44|7| Lord of the heavens and the earth and what is between the two, if you would be believers.8

    8. That is, if you wish to believe (Razi from Abu Muslim), or, “if you would care for inner certainty” (Au.)

    لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ ۖ رَبُّكُمْ وَرَبُّ آبَائِكُمُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (8)

    44|8| There is no deity save He. He quickens and deals death: your Lord and the Lord of your ancient fathers.

    بَلْ هُمْ فِي شَكٍّ يَلْعَبُونَ (9)

    44|9| But they are in doubt, sporting.

    فَارْتَقِبْ يَوْمَ تَأْتِي السَّمَاءُ بِدُخَانٍ مُبِينٍ (10)

    44|10| Watch then for a Day when the sky shall bring forth a manifest Smoke.9

    9. Manifest Smoke: i.e., a clearly visible smoke (Zamakhshari, Razi), in other words, something real and not imaginary (Au.).
    Dukhkhan
    There have been two opinions. One, that of Ibn Mas`ud through trustworthy reports viz., this has already happened. Another, that it will happen just before the Last Hour. Ibn Jarir adopts the opinion of Ibn Mas`ud. He reports that someone went up to Ibn Mas`ud and told him that someone was saying in the mosque (in a Qur’anic circle) that just before the Day of Judgment, a smoke will engulf the earth. It will affect the eyes and ears of the unbelievers while to believers it will be like catching cold. Ibn Mas`ud was reclining. He straightened up and said, “Why should not the people say, ‘I do not know’, instead of speaking out without knowledge. Let me explain. When the Quraysh delayed their decision about Islam, the Prophet prayed that they be made to experience the kind of drought that Yusuf had predicted. As a result, they were struck with starvation and began to eat bones and carrion. In that state they would cast a look at the heaven and it would look like it was filled with smoke: because of the hardship, hunger and thirst. It is in reference to this that Allah said, ‘Watch then, for a Day when the sky shall bring forth a manifest Smoke; enveloping the people: this is a painful torment.’ When that happened they said, ‘O our Lord, remove from us the torment, we shall be believers.’ Allah said in reply, ‘We are going to remove the torment a little, (but) you will surely revert.’ Then He added, ‘The day We shall assault them the greatest assaulting, We shall surely take the vengeance.’ Accordingly, Allah took vengeance on the day of Badr.” This opinion of Ibn Mas`ud is seconded by other authorities such as Mujahid, Qatadah, Abu al-`Aliyyah and others. (Zamakhshari also presents the above two opinions).
    Ibn Mas`ud is also reported (in sahih works: Au.) that the following signs have already been: Smoke, Lizam (meaning, “[a necessary [occurrence]; ref. 25: 77), the assaulting (of verse 16 of this Surah), Al-Qamar (54: 1), and Al-Rum (Surah 30).”
    The above report concerning the ten signs is in the Sahihayn. Ibn Mas`ud’s report concerning the drought can be found in Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, and others, narrated through several chains of narrators (Au.).
    With reference to the famine mentioned above, the following note from Yusuf Ali should throw further light: “The ‘smoke’ or ‘mist’ is interpreted on good authority to refer to a severe famine in Makkah, in which men were so pinched with hunger that they saw mist before their eyes when they looked at the sky. Ibn Kathir in his Tarikh mentions two famines in Makkah, one in the 8th year of the Mission, say the fourth year before the Hijrah, and another about the 8th year after the Hijrah. But as either or both of these famines lasted as many as seven years, the dates are to be taken very roughly. It is even possible that the two famines were continuous, of varying severity from year to year. Bukhari mentions only the post-Hijrah famine, which was apparently so severe that men began to eat bones and carrion. Abu Sufyan (about 8 A.H.) approached the holy Prophet to intercede and pray for the removal of the famine, as the Pagans attributed it to the curse of the Prophet. Sura xxiii., which is also Makkan, but of later date than the present Surah, also refers to a famine: see xxiii. 75, and n. 2921. As Suras were not all revealed entire, but many came piecemeal, it is possible that particular verses in a given Surah may be of different dates from the Sura as a whole.”
    After discussing Ibn Mas`ud’s opinion, Ibn Jarir takes up the second opinion which was held by Ibn `Umar, Hudhayfah b. al-Yaman, Hasan, Abu Sa`eed and others in the sense that the Smoke is going to be. Ibn `Umar is reported to have said that a Smoke will appear that will strike the believers as mere cold, but will enter into every opening of the unbelievers to such effect that he will think his head is being roasted. In addition, `Abdullah ibn `Abbas is reported to have said to Ibn Abi Mulaykah, “I could not sleep whole of the last night.” Ibn Abi Mulaykah asked him why. He answered, “People told me about the appearance of a cosmic body with a tail. I said to myself that perhaps Smoke will appear next. This took my sleep off until the morning.”
    After presenting the above, Ibn Jarir declares them weak, especially in view of the severally reported narrative of Ibn Mas`ud.
    It could have been the Hallye's Comet which flew by the earth in 1986 and should come back in 75 years time, i.e. roughly in 2060.
    While accepting the weakness of the ahadith declared weak by Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir however differs with him. He accepts the hadith of Ibn Mas`ud which is also in other works such as Ahmed, Nasa’i, Ibn Abi Hatim, and that Abu al-Aliyyah, Ibrahim Nakha`i, Dahhak and Atiyyah al-`Awfi held the same opinion. But the other opinion also needs consideration since all the reports in this regard are not weak; for instance, a hadith of Muslim says,

    عَنْ أَبِى الطُّفَيْلِ عَنْ حُذَيْفَةَ بْنِ أَسِيدٍ الْغِفَارِىِّ قَالَ اطَّلَعَ النَّبِىُّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- عَلَيْنَا وَنَحْنُ نَتَذَاكَرُ فَقَالَ « مَا تَذَاكَرُونَ ».قَالُوا نَذْكُرُ السَّاعَةَ. قَالَ « إِنَّهَا لَنْ تَقُومَ حَتَّى تَرَوْنَ قَبْلَهَا عَشْرَ آيَاتٍ ». فَذَكَرَ الدُّخَانَ وَالدَّجَّالَ وَالدَّابَّةَ وَطُلُوعَ الشَّمْسِ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا وَنُزُولَ عِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- وَيَأْجُوجَ وَمَأْجُوجَ وَثَلاَثَةَ خُسُوفٍ خَسْفٌ بِالْمَشْرِقِ وَخَسْفٌ بِالْمَغْرِبِ وَخَسْفٌ بِجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِ وَآخِرُ ذَلِكَ نَارٌ تَخْرُجُ مِنَ الْيَمَنِ تَطْرُدُ النَّاسَ إِلَى مَحْشَرِهِمْ.

    “Hudhayfah b. Asid al-Ghifari says that the Prophet came upon us while we were in a reminder-session (dhikr). He asked, “What is it you are discussing?' We said, 'The Hour.' He said, 'It will not be until you have seen ten signs.' Then he mentioned: the Smoke, Dajjal, the Animal, the sun rising from where it sets, coming down of `Isa ibn Maryam (peace be upon him), Ya’juj and Ma’juj, and three caving in of the earth: one in the East, another in the West and a third in the Arabian Peninsula, and the last of them would be a fire that will start from Yemen and push people to the Field of Resurrection."
    There is another hadith, Ibn Kathir goes on, which has a good chain of narrators. It is in Tabarani. It says,

    ورَبُّكُمْ أَنْذَرَكُمْ ثَلاثًا : الدُّخَانَ ، يَأْخُذُ الْمُؤْمِنَ مِنْهُ كَالزَّكْمَةِ ، وَيَأْخُذُ الْكَافِرَ فَيَنْتَفِخُ وَيَخْرُجُ مِنْ كُلِّ مَسْمَعٍ مِنْهُ ، وَالثَّانِيَةُ الدَّابَّةُ ، وَالثَّالِثَةُ الدَّجَّالُ

    “Your Lord has warned you of three: The Smoke that will attack a Muslim merely as if it is an attack of cold but will seize the unbeliever until it will emerge from every orifice in his body; second, the Animal, and third, Dajjal.”
    Again, Sahih reports tell us that when the Prophet went up to see Ibn Sayyad in Madinah, he discovered that he was not Dajjal but a mere soothsayer. Satisfied at that, he told Ibn Sayyad, “Be off with you, you cannot go any further than your limits.” And then he recited this verse, “Watch then, for a Day when the sky shall bring forth a manifest Smoke.” This is a clear indication that there is going to be a Smoke some time in the future.
    It is also reported of `Ali, continues Ibn Kathir, that the Smoke has not yet been. The report about Ibn `Abbas (with reference to a comet: Au.), is in Ibn Abi Hatim and has a good chain. (Quote from Ibn Kathir, [much of which is also in Qurtubi and others] ends here. Shawkani expresses nearly the same opinions as the two).
    We might add that `Ali’s opinion is treated as trustworthy by Ibn Hajr in his Fat-h. But he distrusts the report about Ibn `Abbas saying that perhaps the word he used was “Al-Dajjal” which got altered to “Al-Dukhkhan. Nawawi on the other hand states that there is no reason why both the explanations cannot be correct (i.e., future Smoke as well as of the past). In fact, the construction and use of words in the Qur’anic ayah under discussion is such that it appears to be alluding to both the events: that of the past and that of the future (Au.).

    يَغْشَى النَّاسَ ۖ هَٰذَا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (11)

    44|11| Enveloping the people: this is a painful torment.

    رَبَّنَا اكْشِفْ عَنَّا الْعَذَابَ إِنَّا مُؤْمِنُونَ (12)

    44|12| (They will cry out) ‘O our Lord. Remove from us the torment, we shall turn believers.’

    أَنَّىٰ لَهُمُ الذِّكْرَىٰ وَقَدْ جَاءَهُمْ رَسُولٌ مُبِينٌ (13)

    44|13| On what account the admonition for them, seeing that a clear Messenger has already come to them?10

    10. Or, “a Messenger who is clearly so (Au.); i.e., His being a Messenger is quite evident from his character, morals and deeds” (Mawdudi).

    ثُمَّ تَوَلَّوْا عَنْهُ وَقَالُوا مُعَلَّمٌ مَجْنُونٌ (14)

    44|14| Yet they turned away from him and said, ‘A tutored, possessed (man).’11

    11. If the Prophet was tutored, could his tutor remain hidden from his wife and close companions: Khadeejah, Abu Bakr, `Ali, Zayd and others? (Mawdudi).
    And would the tutor remain in obscurity – never claiming the credit?

    إِنَّا كَاشِفُو الْعَذَابِ قَلِيلًا ۚ إِنَّكُمْ عَائِدُونَ (15)

    44|15| We are going to remove the torment a little, (but) you will surely revert.12

    12. Predictably, that is what happened. Allah removed the torment and they went back to denial (Ibn Jarir from Ibn Zayd).
    Yusuf Ali expounds Allah’s mercy hidden behind the trials to which the humans are subjected: “Allah gives every chance to all His creatures, however rebellious. He gives them a little trial, perhaps personal, perhaps economic, to see if that would bring them to their bearings, and train their will in the right direction. Some are thus reclaimed, and some do not learn. Perhaps, for the latter, he gives them a chance by removing the trial; some are reclaimed, and some still remain obdurate. And so, in His wisdom, He allows His grace to work, again and again, until, at the last, Judgment must seize the last and irreclaimable remnant ‘with a mighty onslaught’. Such working of Allah’s Providence is clearly visible in the story of the Quraish. It is a pity that the economic conditions of Makkah have not been studied in detail in any of the standard biographies of the Prophet.”

    يَوْمَ نَبْطِشُ الْبَطْشَةَ الْكُبْرَىٰ إِنَّا مُنْتَقِمُونَ (16)

    44|16| (But) the day We assault them the great assaulting, We shall surely take to vengeance.13

    13. It could be referring to, as Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Dahhak, Abu al-`Aliyyah and others have said, the day of Badr (Ibn Jarir); but Ibn Kathir reports Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah and Hasan al-Busri, as saying that the allusion is to the Day of Judgment; although he accepts that there could be two “assaults” one at Badr, another on the Day of Judgment. Shawkani however argues that it fits the Day of Badr better than the Day of Judgment, when, in actual fact, there will be no assault, (but rather, one great shoving into the Fire: Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا قَبْلَهُمْ قَوْمَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَجَاءَهُمْ رَسُولٌ كَرِيمٌ (17)

    44|17| We did put to test before them the folks of Fir`awn, so a noble Messenger went to them.

    أَنْ أَدُّوا إِلَيَّ عِبَادَ اللَّهِ ۖ إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ (18)

    44|18| (Saying), ‘Deliver Allah’s bondmen to me, surely I am unto you a trusted Messenger.14

    14. That is, let go the Children of Israel with me. Alternatively, it could mean, “Give me the right I have upon you O people, that you should listen to me and follow me, for, I am a trustworthy Messenger” (Zamakhshari, Razi Alusi).

    وَأَنْ لَا تَعْلُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ ۖ إِنِّي آتِيكُمْ بِسُلْطَانٍ مُبِينٍ (19)

    44|19| And, rise not against Allah, surely, I have brought you a clear authority.

    وَإِنِّي عُذْتُ بِرَبِّي وَرَبِّكُمْ أَنْ تَرْجُمُونِ (20)

    44|20| I take refuge in my Lord and your Lord, lest you should stone me.15

    15. Although originally “rajm” was coined for casting stones (at someone), the word has been borrowed for other purposes such as, to cast a doubt, evil presentiment, abuse, or to sound rejection and drive away (Isfahani). There is no reason why all these senses have not been used at this point of usage (Tabari), predominant being, as Ibn `Abbas said, rejection by the tongue (Au.).

    وَإِنْ لَمْ تُؤْمِنُوا لِي فَاعْتَزِلُونِ (21)

    44|21| And, if you will not believe in me, then leave me alone.’16

    16. In this is the proof that one might abandon him who stubbornly pays no attention to the attention shown to him (Thanwi in different words).

    فَدَعَا رَبَّهُ أَنَّ هَٰؤُلَاءِ قَوْمٌ مُجْرِمُونَ (22)

    44|22| Ultimately, He cried to his Lord that these are a criminal people.

    فَأَسْرِ بِعِبَادِي لَيْلًا إِنَّكُمْ مُتَّبَعُونَ (23)

    44|23| ‘In that case, set you out with My bondmen by night, you are sure to be pursued.

    وَاتْرُكِ الْبَحْرَ رَهْوًا ۖ إِنَّهُمْ جُنْدٌ مُغْرَقُونَ (24)

    44|24| And leave the sea as a furrow,17 they are a host to be drowned.’

    17. Qatadah explained that the instruction pertained to the moment after Musa (asws) had crossed the sea while the water had remained parted, he thought of preventing the pursuers – Fir`awn and his forces – by striking the water with his rod again, to let the two sides join up and close the furrow. He was told to let the furrow as it was for drowning of the hosts. Several of the Salaf have expressed opinions close to this (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    كَمْ تَرَكُوا مِنْ جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ (25)

    44|25| How many of gardens and springs they left behind?!

    وَزُرُوعٍ وَمَقَامٍ كَرِيمٍ (26)

    44|26| Crops and honorable places?!

    وَنَعْمَةٍ كَانُوا فِيهَا فَاكِهِينَ (27)

    44|27| And blessings wherein they took delight?!

    كَذَٰلِكَ ۖ وَأَوْرَثْنَاهَا قَوْمًا آخَرِينَ (28)

    44|28| Even so. And we bequeathed them upon another people.18


    18. Hasan (al-Busri) has said that the Israelites went back to Egypt after Fir`awn was drowned. As for those who have rejected the theory, they have been influenced by historical reports. But, historical reports are not worthy of full trust (Thanwi).
    See Al-Manar's discussion in this connection in Surah al A`raf note 191 (Au.).

    فَمَا بَكَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ السَّمَاءُ وَالْأَرْضُ وَمَا كَانُوا مُنْظَرِينَ (29)

    44|29| Then neither the heaven nor the earth wept over them;19 nor were they given respite.

    19. Do the heaven and earth weep for anyone? The answer given by `Ali, Ibn `Abbas, and Mujahid is: yes, they do weep. They explain that there is no man but he has a door for him in the heaven by which his sustenance is sent down and through which his good deeds rise up. When a believer dies, the door is closed and so the heaven weeps. Similarly, with his death, when the place where a believer used to do his Prayers goes empty the earth mourns. Fir`awn and his folks never offered any Prayers, nor any good deed that could pass through the door in the heaven. Consequently, neither the heaven nor the earth wept for them. In fact, a hadith is also quoted to this effect (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir); which is found in Nazm al-Mutanasir of Kittani, as well as in Thu`alibi (as pointed out by Qurtubi) but which is mursal (Au.).
    The hadith of above reference is as follows:
    Hafiz al-Musali reports on the authority of Anas b. Malik that the Prophet said,

    “There is no human but there are two doors for him in the Heaven. A door from which his sustenance descends and a door by which his deeds and words ascend. When he dies they miss him and weep for him.” Then he recited this verse, “Then neither the heaven nor the earth wept over them.” Ibn Abi Hatim reports the same (Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Kathir also points out that the hadith quoted can be traced in its shorter form to Tirmidhi, but which Tirmidhi himself declared untrustworthy.
    Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said, as in Hakim,(which he declared trustworthy: Alusi) that the earth weeps for a believer for forty days. Then he recited this verse (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Razi, Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir quote in parts opinions which say that the heaven’s weeping is that it should get reddened at the horizons. This is what happened, as some reports say, the day Hussain was murdered. It is reported that the heaven remained crimson for no less than four months. It is also reported that they did not turn a stone after Hussain’s murder but found blood under it, and a solar eclipse took place immediately after it. These, they say, are the signs that the heaven cried at Hussain’s murder.
    But, Ibn Kathir writes, these reports seem to have been manufactured by the Shi`ah and the spirit behind them is no more than a joke. If Hussain occupied such a status as to cause natural phenomena of several sorts at his murder, then what about his father – greater than he – at whose murder nothing was noted; nor was anything noted at the murder of `Uthman. Further, who occupies a greater position than Prophet Muhammad? But when his beloved son Ibrahim died and solar eclipse happened to take place, and people thought that Ibrahim’s death was the cause, the Prophet emphatically rejected the connection.
    As for the proposition that the statement “the heaven and the earth did not weep for them” should be treated metaphorically, there seems to be no reason to resort to metaphorical interpretations when the apparent is possible. Why can the heavens and the earth not cry? If the inanimate can sing praises, [why can’t they weep]? (Thanwi).
    At this point, we might point out that a recent scientific paper says that several waves that originate from the Sun’s surface, seem to sound like the sun is singing a kind of musical song (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ نَجَّيْنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ الْمُهِينِ (30)

    44|30| And surely, We delivered the Children of Israel from the humiliating affliction.

    مِنْ فِرْعَوْنَ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَالِيًا مِنَ الْمُسْرِفِينَ (31)

    44|31| From Fir`awn, indeed he was high-and-mighty (and) of the prodigals.

    وَلَقَدِ اخْتَرْنَاهُمْ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ (32)

    44|32| And We chose them20 – in (full) knowledge21 – over the worlds.

    20. That is, chose them (for raising Prophets among them, sending down revelations, etc.) from among the nations contemporary to them (Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir).
    21. That is, write Zamakhshari and Alusi, We chose them in full knowledge that they deserved to be chosen (for reasons Allah knew best: Au.); or, despite the knowledge that they might sometimes rebel and exceed the bounds in certain situations.
    Asad comments: “.. (As) a test of their sincerity with regard to the spiritual principles which in the beginning raised them ‘above all other beings’ and, thus, of their willingness to act as God’s message-bearers to all the world. The formulation of the above sentence implies elliptically that they did not pass the test inasmuch as they soon forgot the spiritual mission for which they had been elected, and began to regard themselves as God’s ‘chosen people’ simply on account of their descent from Abraham: a notion which the Qur’an condemns in many places. Apart from this, the majority of the Children of Israel very soon lost their erstwhile conviction that the life in this world is but the first and not the final stage of human life, and – as their Biblical history shows – abandoned themselves entirely to pursuit of material prosperity and power.”
    Does not the above apply to this Ummah as well? Do we see in them any inclination to be the message-bearers? Does a strong notion prevail among them that this world is but a passage? (Au.).
    In the simpler language of Yusuf Ali, “From degrading servitude, Israel was delivered, and taken, in spite of many rebellions and backsliding on the way, to ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’, where later they established the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon. This was not merely fortuitous. In Allah’s decree it was to be a link in furthering His Plan. But their being chosen did not mean that they could do what they liked. In that sense there is no ‘chosen race’ before Allah. But Allah gives every race and every individual a chance, and when the race or individual fails to live up to it, he or it must fall and give place to others.”

    وَآتَيْنَاهُمْ مِنَ الْآيَاتِ مَا فِيهِ بَلَاءٌ مُبِينٌ (33)

    44|33| And bestowed on them such signs wherein was a manifest sign.22

    22. The allusion is to such miracles as were shown to them, viz., parting of the sea, mann and salwa, (the cloud sheltering them, etc.) in the Sinai etc. They tested the Israelites whether they would stay firm on the path when bestowed with such heavenly bestowals, or would they rebel? (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir, Alusi). The shining hand and the Rod turning into snake could also be included (Qurtubi).

    إِنَّ هَٰؤُلَاءِ لَيَقُولُونَ (34)

    44|34| Indeed, these people say,23

    23. It was the Quraysh who said this (Alusi).

    إِنْ هِيَ إِلَّا مَوْتَتُنَا الْأُولَىٰ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمُنْشَرِينَ (35)

    44|35| It is no more but our first death and we are not to be resurrected.24

    24. Zamakhshari writes: The meaning is not, as it might appear, that the pagans were promised several deaths and so they asserted, “This is not but our first death;” but rather, they were told that they were dead earlier, given life, will die, and will be resurrected; to which they answered in refutation, denyed that they were dead earlier, that it is nothing but this first life, and it will be no more than first death after which no life will follow.
    The ayah of Zamakhshari’s reference is (2: 28):

    “You were dead then He quickened you. Thereafter He will deal you death and then will quicken you.”
    The problem is that this ayah is said to be Madinan, while the Surah under discussion is Makkan - although nothing definite can be said of either of them as fully Makkan or fully Madinan. It is also possible that they were refuting a Prophetic statement of the above meaning or that of one of the Companions. Alusi appears with Zamakhshari in this opinion (Au.).
    Imam Razi mentions the above, without granting full approval, and presents another possible meaning, which sounds less convincing: “We shall not undergo any of the happenings of the Hereafter alleged by you (O Muhammad) except for experiencing the first death.”

    فَأْتُوا بِآبَائِنَا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (36)

    44|36| Bring back our forefathers then, if you are truthful.’25

    25. In particular, they wanted Qusayy b. Kilab – their most respected progenitor - to be brought alive so that they could consult him with regard to the Messenger and his message (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Alusi).

    أَهُمْ خَيْرٌ أَمْ قَوْمُ تُبَّعٍ وَالَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ أَهْلَكْنَاهُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا مُجْرِمِينَ (37)

    44|37| Are they better26 than the people of Tubba`,27 and those before them? We destroyed them (all). They were indeed criminals.

    26. That is, in worldly power and sway over the lands (Zamakhshari).
    27. There is dearth of information about “the people of Tubba`”. Neither do we know anything about the Prophets raised among them, nor how exactly the people treated the message and Messengers. (History of no other people is as obscure as that of Himyar despite there being 26 known occupants of the thrones over a period of 2020 years: Alusi). One difficulty is that Tubba` (meaning a King, or Sovereign; collectively, Tababi`ah) was a dynastic name (like Fir`awn, Kisra, Qaysar), of whom there were two kingdoms. Their second dynasty ruled South Yemen (Himyar) flourishing in the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries of the Christian era. That is, their reign ended roughly one hundred years before the appearance of the Prophet. Syed Sulayman Nadwi (Arbdul Qur’an, vol.1, p. 289-91) lists more than a dozen Tababi`ah with approximate dates of their reign as found on archeological tablets. Shammar Yur`ish, Abukarib As`ad (E.I.), Sharjil Ya`fir, `Abd Kalil, are the better known names. Some of them are credited with great exploits (as in Ibn Sa`d’s Life of Muhammad), their rule extending up to Tashkent and leaving Arab colonies in Tibet. But Syed Sulayman Nadwi is with Ibn Khaldun who does not believe in these accounts. Alusi holds the same opinion (Au.).
    Historians report one of the Tababi`ah as having visited Yethrib (where its inhabitants – Jews included - fought him during the day, but fed his army at night). Thereonward he visited Makkah, enshrouded the Ka`bah, and, returning to Himyar, he converted the population to Judaism. Ibn Kathir credits the Tubba` of Qur’anic mention – named As`ad Abu Kurayb (or Karab) - as having been a (lower order: Au.) Prophet whose subjects adopted tawhid, but returned to paganism after his death. But Alusi discounts this and declares a report coming from Ibn `Abbas as weak.
    There are reports coming down from the Prophet which say that he was not sure whether Tubba` of Qur’anic mention was a Prophet or not. But, although found in several collections, those reports are weak. Another report has the Prophet saying, “Do not curse Tubba` for he had become a Muslim.” It is in Ahmad’s collection, but also weak because of the presence of `Amr b. Jabir and Ibn Lehi`ah in the chain (who were considered weak). Tabarani has the same report but through another chain in which (as noted by Sami b. Muhammad Salamah) one of the narrators was unknown to Haythami. `A’isha and Qatadah are also on record having said (since Allah censured the people of Tubba` but not Tubba` himself), “Do not speak ill of Tubba` for he was a righteous man” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir [some in parts]). `A’isha’s opinion about Tubba` is in Hakim (Alusi).

    وَمَا خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا لَاعِبِينَ (38)

    44|38| We created not the heavens and the earth, and what is between the two in sport.

    مَا خَلَقْنَاهُمَا إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (39)

    44|39| We created not the two but in truth, but most of them realize not.

    إِنَّ يَوْمَ الْفَصْلِ مِيقَاتُهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (40)

    44|40| Indeed the day of Decision28 is the appointed time for them all.

    28. The textual “fasl” can also be understood as “separator.” That day the believers will be separated from the unbelievers; the believer will be separated from all the hardships he underwent; the unbeliever will be separated from all that he dreamt of attaining (Razi).

    يَوْمَ لَا يُغْنِي مَوْلًى عَنْ مَوْلًى شَيْئًا وَلَا هُمْ يُنْصَرُونَ (41)

    44|41| The day no protector will avail a client aught, nor shall they be helped.

    إِلَّا مَنْ رَحِمَ اللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ (42)

    44|42| Save him upon whom Allah showed mercy. He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-merciful.

    إِنَّ شَجَرَتَ الزَّقُّومِ (43)

    44|43| Surely, the Zaqqum tree,29

    29. Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said that if a drop of Zaqqum was dropped on the earth, it would turn everything rancid (Ibn Jarir).
    Thanwi narrates that some people, Indians but residing in Makkah, told him that there the Arabs ate a fruit from a tree called Zaqqum. The fruit was called Barshumi. But the Qur’an says that it is the fruit of the inhabitants of the Fire! How could he reconcile, he was asked. He explained to them that, firstly, a coincidence in names does not indicate the edibility of the fruit, and, secondly, the Qur’an did not say they will eat Zaqqum, but that they will eat its tree.

    طَعَامُ الْأَثِيمِ (44)

    44|44| (shall be) the food of the regular sinner.30

    30. Zamakhshari reports that `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud was teaching someone the Qur’an. When he said, “Ta`amul athimi” the man would say, “ta`amul fatimi.” After a few trials Ibn Mas`ud told him, “Say, ‘ta`amul fajiri.’” The man was able to say, “ta`amul fajiri.” So Ibn Mas`ud said, “Alright, let it be ‘Ta`amul fajiri’ for you.” This shows that a word of the Qur’an can be (temporarily) replaced with another word equivalent in meaning if someone is unable to pronounce the original. This led Abu Hanifah to allow recitation in Persian on condition that the reader suppliments the exact equivalent of Qur’anic words without causing any distortion to the original. The scholars have said, adds Zamakhshari, the condition he placed meant that it was permitted but in truth not permitted since the Qur’an is at the peak of coherence, beauty, rhetoric, eloquence and balagha, which render it impossible to convert it to another language. Further, Imam Abu Hanifah did not know Persian well enough (to know the drawbacks). However, `Ali b. Ja`d reports Abu Yusuf regarding Abu Hanifah’s change in opinion regarding Qur’anic rendition into Persian. His two immediate pupils also believed that the Qur’an could not be rendered into Persian.
    Imam Razi quotes Zamakhshari’s text but says he rejects the argument, which he has discussed in detail in one of his books. Qurtubi also quotes Zamakhshari but without passing any remark. Alusi however does not accept that Abu Haneefah had ever allowed recitation of the Qur’an in Persian, quoting in this reference a research paper by one Sharambilali.

    كَالْمُهْلِ يَغْلِي فِي الْبُطُونِ (45)

    44|45| Like molten brass bubbling in the bellies,

    كَغَلْيِ الْحَمِيمِ (46)

    44|46| as boiling (water) bubbles.

    خُذُوهُ فَاعْتِلُوهُ إِلَىٰ سَوَاءِ الْجَحِيمِ (47)

    44|47| Seize him and drag him into midst of the Blazing Fire.

    ثُمَّ صُبُّوا فَوْقَ رَأْسِهِ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْحَمِيمِ (48)

    44|48| Then pour down over his head torment of the boiling water.31

    31. That is, pour on his head the instrument of torment: boiled water (Zamakhshari).

    ذُقْ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْكَرِيمُ (49)

    44|49| Taste, you are indeed the mighty, the noble.32

    32. Although general, Abu Jahl was considered by many as the most deserving of this punishment because when at one time the Prophet spoke to him he remarked that he was nobler than that he should be threatened with any punishment (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi).
    The fuller report is in Ibn Kathir and Shawkani:
    Umawi has recorded in his “Maghazi” that the Prophet met Abu Jahl, on whom be Allah’s curse, and told him, “I have been asked by Allah to tell you: ‘Woe to you and then woe. Then, woe to you and woe.’” He removed his cloak from his hand and replied, “Neither you nor your Companion (meaning Allah) have any power over me. You know very well that I am the most protected of the inhabitants of Bat-ha (valley). And I am mighty and noble.” So Allah destroyed him at Badr, and humiliated him, blamed him for his words and revealed, “Taste, you are indeed the mighty, the noble.”

    إِنَّ هَٰذَا مَا كُنْتُمْ بِهِ تَمْتَرُونَ (50)

    44|50| This is what you were doubting all along.

    إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي مَقَامٍ أَمِينٍ (51)

    44|51| Surely, the godfearing will be in a secured place.

    فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ (52)

    44|52| Amid gardens and springs.

    يَلْبَسُونَ مِنْ سُنْدُسٍ وَإِسْتَبْرَقٍ مُتَقَابِلِينَ (53)

    44|53| Wearing fine silk and rich brocades, (sitting) face to face.

    كَذَٰلِكَ وَزَوَّجْنَاهُمْ بِحُورٍ عِينٍ (54)

    44|54| Thus it will be, and We would have wed them to wide-eyed hooris.33

    33. Anas is reported to have said (while the words are sometimes attributed to the Prophet) that if a Hawra’ (sing.: Hur, meaning: a woman of a dark pupil with white background: Alusi) were to spit in a bitter ocean, its water would turn sweet (Ibn Kathir). But the authenticity of the report could not be established (Au.).
    The opinion to which most scholars subscribe is that Huris are not women of this world.

    يَدْعُونَ فِيهَا بِكُلِّ فَاكِهَةٍ آمِنِينَ (55)

    44|55| Calling therein for every kind of fruit, in peace.

    لَا يَذُوقُونَ فِيهَا الْمَوْتَ إِلَّا الْمَوْتَةَ الْأُولَىٰ ۖ وَوَقَاهُمْ عَذَابَ الْجَحِيمِ (56)

    44|56| They shall not taste death therein other than the first death34 – He would have saved them from the torment of the Blazing Fire.

    34. The allusion is to the death they experienced in their life on earth (Qurtubi and others). Reports say that the Prophet was asked whether the inhabitants of Paradise will sleep. He answered, “No! Sleep is death’s sister” (Ibn Kathir). There are several reports to this effect but only the one in Bazzar was declared trustworthy by Haythami (Sami b. M.S.).
    A report in Tabarani’s Awsat says,

    يُنَادِى مُنَادٍ إِنَّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَصِحُّوا فَلاَ تَسْقَمُوا أَبَدًا وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَحْيَوْا فَلاَ تَمُوتُوا أَبَدًا وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَشِبُّوا فَلاَ تَهْرَمُوا أَبَدًا وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَنْعَمُوا فَلاَ تَبْتَئِسُوا أَبَدًا

    "An announcer will announce (in Paradise), ‘That you will be in good health and never ill, that you should remain alive and never die, that you should remain young and never get old, and that you should be in luxury therein and will never be miserable’” (Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Kathir quoted a hadith of Tabarani about which Haythami was somewhat skeptic, we have therefore, picked up one from Muslim of roughly the same meaning (Au.).

    فَضْلًا مِنْ رَبِّكَ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ (57)

    44|57| As a bounty from your Lord;35 that indeed is the supreme triumph.

    35. “As a bounty from your Lord”: because none will enter Paradise on the strength of his deeds alone, as Sahih ahadith clarify (Razi, Ibn Kathir).

    فَإِنَّمَا يَسَّرْنَاهُ بِلِسَانِكَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ (58)

    44|58| We have indeed made it easy in your tongue, haply they will be reminded.

    فَارْتَقِبْ إِنَّهُمْ مُرْتَقِبُونَ (59)

    44|59| Watch then, they too are watching.36

    36. These words conceal both a threat as well as promise. Allah said elsewhere (Ghafir: 51, 52):

    {إِنَّا لَنَنْصُرُ رُسُلَنَا وَالَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْأَشْهَادُ (51) يَوْمَ لَا يَنْفَعُ الظَّالِمِينَ مَعْذِرَتُهُمْ وَلَهُمُ اللَّعْنَةُ وَلَهُمْ سُوءُ الدَّارِ} [غافر: 51، 52]

    “Surely We help Our Messengers and those who believe in the life of this world and on the Day when the witnesses will stand forth. The Day, when their excuses will not profit the wrongdoers. For them is the curse and for them the evil abode” (Ibn Kathir).