Surat Muĥammad

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. 47

    Merits of the Surah

    1. The chapter is also named as Surah al-Qital (Qurtubi, Shawkani).

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَضَلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (1)

    47|1| Those who disbelieved and hindered from Allah’s path, He will lay waste their deeds.2

    2. Yusuf Ali has a poignant point: “Whatever they do will miss its mark, because Allah is the source of all energy and life. If the wicked try to persecute men or seduce them from the Truth, the result will be the opposite of what they intend.”

    وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَآمَنُوا بِمَا نُزِّلَ عَلَىٰ مُحَمَّدٍ وَهُوَ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ ۙ كَفَّرَ عَنْهُمْ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ وَأَصْلَحَ بَالَهُمْ (2)

    47|2| While those who believed and worked righteous deeds, and believed in that which has been sent down upon Muhammad3 – and it is the Truth from their Lord – He will acquit them their evil deeds, and reform their condition.4

    3. Sufyan Thawri said with reference to the words, “And believed in that which has been sent down upon Muhammad,” that the allusion is to those who did not oppose Muhammad in any way (Qurtubi).The addition of this clause is to emphasize that after the appearance of Prophet Muhammad, belief in him becomes part of the faith structure, and that, there is no independent path of salvation open but which must necessarily pass through Muhammad’s territory (Au.).
    4. Obviously, the application is general, but Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said that (at the time of revelation) the first verse was referring to the Makkans while the second to the Ansar (Tabari).
    The above opinion of Ibn `Abbas was recorded by Hakim and others, with the former declaring it trustworthy (Alusi).
    Ibn Kathir points out that similar words have been used in supplicatory words that are to be said in response to another’s sneeze. They are:
    “May Allah guide you and reform your condition.”

    ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا اتَّبَعُوا الْبَاطِلَ وَأَنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّبَعُوا الْحَقَّ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ لِلنَّاسِ أَمْثَالَهُمْ (3)

    47|3| That because those who disbelieved followed the falsehood,5 while those who believed followed the truth from their Lord. Thus does Allah set forth for the people their similitudes.6

    5. “Batil” is that which does not enjoy a true existence (Razi).
    6. “We learn the greatest moral lessons by parables and similitudes from things that happen in the outer world. If a man goes after a mirage or a thing that has no real existence, he can never reach his goal, while the man that follows the kindly Light from Allah that leads him on must be happier in mind, sounder in heart, and firmer in life, generally for every moment that he lives” (Yusuf Ali).

    فَإِذَا لَقِيتُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَضَرْبَ الرِّقَابِ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَثْخَنْتُمُوهُمْ فَشُدُّوا الْوَثَاقَ فَإِمَّا مَنًّا بَعْدُ وَإِمَّا فِدَاءً حَتَّىٰ تَضَعَ الْحَرْبُ أَوْزَارَهَا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ وَلَوْ يَشَاءُ اللَّهُ لَانْتَصَرَ مِنْهُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ لِيَبْلُوَ بَعْضَكُمْ بِبَعْضٍ ۗ وَالَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَلَنْ يُضِلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (4)

    47|4| Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers (in a battle), then (let there be) striking of the necks until, when you have slaughtered them well enough, tie well the bonds.7 Thereafter either (confer) generosity, or (accept) ransom,8 until war lays down its burdens.9 That (is how it has to be)!10 Had Allah wished, He could have avenged upon them;11 but that He may try some of you by means of others.12 As for those who were slain in Allah’s path, never will He lay waste their deeds.13

    7. Asad comments, “.. thus connecting with verse 1 and laying down the fundamental condition which alone justifies physical warfare; namely, a defence of the Faith and of freedom. In other words, when ‘those who are bent on denying the truth’ try to deprive the Muslims of their social and political liberty and thus to make it impossible for them to live in accordance with the principles of their faith, a just war (jihad) becomes allowable and, more than that, a duty.”
    8. That is, after you have overcome your enemies, then, either set them free, without any compensation, or set a ransom. Some scholars have thought that this verse is abrogated by another which said (9: 5),
    “When the holy months have passed, then slay the polytheists wherever you find them.” However, the correct position is that the ayah under question is firm, un-abrogated. The leader of the faithful is free to kill some prisoners (with bad record: Au.), ransom some, or set free others as a gesture of goodwill (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    In fact, this ayah abrogates the rule set by the verses of surah al-Anfal (ayah 67, 68), which disapproved prisoner-taking in the first place. In view of the verse under discussion, scholars have treated the verses of surah al-Anfal as abrogated, and have said that taking prisoners and then granting them freedom after they have paid ransom, or freeing them in return of nothing, is entirely lawful. This was the position adopted by `Abdullah ibn `Umar, Hasan, `Ata, Thawri, Shafe`i, Ahmad, Is-haq and others. Accordingly, when the Prophet (saws) captured 80 men of an ambushing party at Hudaybiyyah, he freed them all for no returns. From Imam Abu Hanifah we have two opinions, one disallowing ransom, another, allowing it. Tahawi has reported in Ma`ani al-Athar that this is the preferred opinion of Abu Hanifah.
    As regards how Islam – which stands firm in favor of human rights – allowed taking slaves, the answer requires good amount of discussion, but in sum it might be noted that the rules and conditions that have been promulgated in this connection, leave only the name: slavery, but in actual fact take away all the realities of slavery best seen in British and American treatment of slaves. As Le Bon Gustave has pointed out, the image of a slave, bound in chains, whipped for work, housed in a pen, fed with little, if any, does not hold true of the slave in Islam. The Prophet has said, as in a hadith of Bukhari,
    “They are your brothers, placed under you. So if one of your brother is placed under your hand, then, let him feed him out of what he eats, clothe him out of what he clothes himself, and place not upon him a burden more than he can bear, but if he did place an unbearable burden on him, then, help him therewith.” As against all other systems, Islam allows that a slave marry his own owner, receives half the booty of a battle, and, surprisingly, if he promises security to an enemy member, his word is to be honored. The Prophet’s last words, as reported by `Ali, were, (as in Abu Da’ud and Ahmad),
    “The last words of the Prophet were, ‘Prayers, Prayers. Fear Allah in the matters of the salves.’” In addition, Islam framed such rules and injunctions that helped in the emancipation of the slaves. Indeed, it appears as though slaves were to be freed on simple pretexts. There were many sins whose commitment entailed freeing of a slave as the expiation. It went to such extent that according to a hadith when someone slapped his slave, he was asked to free him. These are the reason why the Companions are reported to have freed such large number of slaves. The author of Al-Najm al-Wahhaj has conducted research to show the following figures of slaves freed by some Companions:
    `A’isha, 69 slaves,
    `Abbas, 70
    Hakim b. Hizam, 100
    `Abdullah ibn `Umar, 1,000
    `Uthman b. `Affan, 20
    Dhu al-Kala` Himyari, 800
    `Abdul Rahman b. `Awf, 30,000
    Finally, one might note that slave-taking is a mutual act. That is, prisoners are made slaves for the reasons of retaliation. But if there is a mutual pact between a Muslim and a non-Muslim warring states that they will not take slaves, then, a Muslim state will be more than willing to enter into such a pact (Mufti Shafi`).
    Mawdudi adds: “The treatment therefore, of the slaves in early Islam was remarkable. One of the slave, Abu `Aziz, himself reported, “The Ansari in whose care I was placed, used to live on dates while he fed me bread.” The Prophet (saws) was told about another slave, Suhayl b. `Amr, that he was a fiery speaker (against Islam) and, therefore, his teeth ought to be broken. The Prophet replied, as in Ibn Hisham, “If I have his teeth broken then Allah will break my teeth, although I am a Prophet.”
    The rules regarding Arabian Pagans, however, writes Alusi, are different. If they resort to war and are taken prisoners, then, nothing but Islam is accepted of them. (Having come to the battle and getting imprisoned, ransom will not be accepted ofthem). For them, it is either Islam or exile. However, no child, woman or an old man can be executed in view of the Prophet’s instruction; nor can any individual execute any of the prisoners of war. That is the prerogative of the government alone. Further, if they embrace Islam before imprisonment, then they cannot be enslaved. On the other hand, if they embrace Islam after being imprisoned, they cannot be executed. But rather, they will remain slaves of the state.
    It is reported that Hajjaj handed over a prisoner to Ibn `Umar to execute him. He refused saying, “This is not what we have been ordered; but rather, ‘either favor, or ransom’” (Qurtubi). The report is in Ibn Marduwayh (Shawkani).
    Scholars have given their opinions about the third option, not mentioned here: that of executing the prisoners. A study of the Prophetic practice reveals that it was only in specific cases that the prisoners were killed, otherwise, the general Prophetic practice was adoption of one of the two alternatives mentioned above: show favor or accept ransom. This is what he did most of the time, such as, with the prisoners of Makkah, Hawazin, Jews of Khayber, and many others (Au.).
    9. Mujahid has said that the “until” of the ayah would be attained when `Isa ibn Maryam descends; (until then wars will go on: Au.) – Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and others).
    Apart from being a rational explanation, the above admits a fact: there will never be peace in the world. For example, during the last two hundred years Muslims have not committed any offence against the West. But, did it bring peace to them? Far from that, they have been continuously losing lives and property decade after decade.
    Abu Salamah b. Nufayl is said to have reported that someone went up to the Prophet and said, “I am wearied of the horse, have laid down my arms as war has laid down its burdens, and I said to myself, ‘there is no more fighting.’” The Prophet replied, “It is now that the war has begun. A group of my Ummah will remain dominant over others. Allah will up-raise the hearts of a people, so they will fight them and Allah will feed them through them, until Allah’s command comes to pass while they are in that state. Lo, Islam’s most prominent place will be Syria. As for horses, goodness is tied to their foreheads until the day of Judgment.”
    According to other versions, the man had gone to the Prophet after a certain victory (Ibn Kathir).
    Hadith commentators explain that Syria would be the principal city of Islam when, before the end of the world, great events will take place (Au.).
    The above hadith is in the Sahih of Ibn Hibban as well as in Nasa’i (Sami).
    10. Shabbir expounds the passage: Truth and falsehood will always remain confronting each other. Therefore, when there is a clash between believers and unbelievers, the Muslims should remain steadfast and show courage. Falsehood will only weaken when its ringleaders are destroyed and their unity is broken. Therefore, let there be no lackadaisical or sluggish attitude towards the clash; nor any hesitation in slaughtering the enemy in the battlefield. When, after considerable battling, your dread is implanted in the hearts of the enemies, and their strength is broken, then it is that you might take prisoners. This imprisonment may lead them to learn a lesson (so as not to resort to violence once again). Another possibility is that when the prisoners have lived among you, they might see the difference between you and themselves, and reconsider the Islamic message. It is expected that this will lead to their acceptance of the truth. However, if you feel it right, you might free them without ransom which might lead some of them to soften their hearts towards Islam, or you may accept ransom and let them go. But if it is not possible to return the prisoners, then there are only three ways of dealing with them: (a) Keep them back as citizens of the Islamic state as dhimmis. (b) Take them as slaves. (c) Kill them. But killing is only allowable if one of them has committed a serious crime. (Otherwise they cannot be killed).
    If someone attempts a little research - and he might not need to spend a long time on the project - he will discover how far away the West is in dealing with war prisoners, in comparison with the Islamic instructions and practices. At the time of this writing, kidnapping citizens of other countries, locking them up in secret prisons, or handing them over to such states that promise to torture them and never let them out, without any trial ever taking place, nay, without anyone ever knowing the true numbers involved, is accepted by the citizens and leaders of the so-called civilized world as fair and just (Au.).
    11. Qatadah said: He could easily destroy them by setting upon them His forces, and many they are. Were He to set upon them the weakest of His forces, it would suffice them (Ibn Jarir).
    12. That is, Allah (swt) had the power to destroy them Himself, but He allowed them to commit aggression against you and challenge you in the battle-field, in order to try you by them: whether you will fight back, or flee to safer places, leaving Islam unsuccored (Au.).
    13. Qatadah said that the special reference by “those who were slain” was to those who fell at Uhud. These verses were in fact revealed in reference to that battle. The Prophet was on a hill and his followers were badly injured. A batch of pagans proclaimed: “Hubal is exalted.” The Muslims responded, “Allah is more Exalted and more Glorious.” The pagans said, “A day for a day. War is like a pail. We have `Uzza, while you have no `Uzza.” The Prophet then said, “Allah is our Protector while you have no protector. As for the dead they fair differently: our dead are alive, being fed, while your dead are in the Fire, receiving torture” (Tabari, Kashshaf, Qurtubi).
    It was Abu Sufyan who had spoken out those words from the foot of the hill on behalf of the pagans (Ibn Kathir).
    As regards a martyr’s special status, there are several ahadith to support it. One is in Tirmidhi, who declared it Sahih, as well as in Ibn Majah . It says,
    Miqdam b. Ma`dikarib reported the Prophet: “A martyr enjoys six specialties: He is forgiven at the first instance (of martyrdom) so that he sees his place in Paradise; is saved from the punishment in the grave; will be saved from the Great Fear; will have a crown of dignity placed on his head - whose rubies will be better than the world and what it contains; will be married to seventy (wide-eyed) houris; and will be able to intercede for seventy of his kinsfolk.”

    سَيَهْدِيهِمْ وَيُصْلِحُ بَالَهُمْ (5)

    47|5| He will surely guide them,14 and reform their condition.

    14. That is, guide them to Paradise, although other connotations are possible (Qurtubi).

    وَيُدْخِلُهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ عَرَّفَهَا لَهُمْ (6)

    47|6| He will admit them to Paradise with which He has familiarized them.15

    15. It is widely reported by the commentators that the angel who will take charge of the individual believers on Judgment day, will lead him right up to the gates of Paradise.
    We have a report in this connection from Abu Said al-Khudri. It says,
    Abu Sa`id al-Khudri narrated that the Prophet said, “When the believers would have escaped the Fire, they will be held on a bridge between the Fire and Paradise. At that point they will settle their accounts of wrongs done to each other. Then they will be allowed to proceed to Paradise. At that time, they would know their places in Paradise better than they knew their homes on the earth.”
    Mujahid added that they will know their places as if they lived in them from the time they were created, without seeking guidance from anyone (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari & Razi [without quoting the hadith]).
    The above hadith is in Bukhari (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    The translation as “familiarized” follows Hasan’s understanding as in Qurtubi to the effect that Allah has already familiarized the believers with Paradise, having described it and explained in detail what it will be like (Au.).

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ تَنْصُرُوا اللَّهَ يَنْصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ (7)

    47|7| O those who have believed, if you help Allah, He will help you, and firm up your feet.16

    16. Allah (swt) will firm up the feet of those who help Him in His cause during this life so that they stay firm on Islam, as He will also firm them up in the battlefields and give them firm feet on the Bridge (Qurtubi), in other words, at everyl moment where a believer can stagger or hesitate (Au.).

    وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَتَعْسًا لَهُمْ وَأَضَلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (8)

    47|8| As for those who disbelieved, destruction for them,17 and He has laid waste their works.

    17. The Prophet has said, as in Bukhari,
    “Destroyed is the worshipper of Dinar and Dirham, cloaks and shrouds. If he is granted he is pleased, but if denied, he is displeased” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

    ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَرِهُوا مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (9)

    47|9| That because they disliked what Allah has revealed therefore, He quashed their deeds.

    أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ دَمَّرَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ أَمْثَالُهَا (10)

    47|10| Have they not traveled in the land to see how was the end of those before them? Allah set destruction upon them. As for (these) unbelievers, they shall have the like thereof.18

    18. That is, a similar end awaits them.

    ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ مَوْلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَأَنَّ الْكَافِرِينَ لَا مَوْلَىٰ لَهُمْ (11)

    47|11| That, because Allah is the protector of the believers and that because the unbelievers have no protector for them.

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُدْخِلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَتَمَتَّعُونَ وَيَأْكُلُونَ كَمَا تَأْكُلُ الْأَنْعَامُ وَالنَّارُ مَثْوًى لَهُمْ (12)

    47|12| Allah will surely admit those who believed and did righteous deeds into gardens beneath which rivers flow. As for the unbelievers, they enjoy themselves and eat like the cattle eat,19 while Fire is their ultimate abode.

    19. That is, they devour food as cattle devours pasture without any regard for anything higher (Tabari).
    Razi writes: There are a few differences between the partaking of a believer and an unbeliever. A believer eats and drinks in order to (gain strength and) obey Allah. The unbeliever has no aim whatsoever. Second, a believer is led to his Lord, while an unbeliever sees no evidence of the creator of his food. Third, an unbeliever devours to get larger and fatter, just like an animal, without realizing that it is the fat one of the herd which is slaughtered first.
    Hence the Prophet’s words (as in the Sahihayn: Sami):
    “A believer eats with a single intestine while an unbeliever eats with seven intestines” (Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi adds: It is said that while a believer is preparatory (for next life: Au.), a hypocrite is ostentatious, and the unbeliever relishing. The Arabic text is as follows:

    وَكَأَيِّنْ مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ هِيَ أَشَدُّ قُوَّةً مِنْ قَرْيَتِكَ الَّتِي أَخْرَجَتْكَ أَهْلَكْنَاهُمْ فَلَا نَاصِرَ لَهُمْ (13)

    47|13| And how many a town (there has been) that was stronger in might than the town that expelled you, (but) which We destroyed? Then, there was no helper for them.

    أَفَمَنْ كَانَ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّهِ كَمَنْ زُيِّنَ لَهُ سُوءُ عَمَلِهِ وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءَهُمْ (14)

    47|14| Is he then, who is upon clear evidence from His Lord, like him, to whom his evil deeds have been decked out fair, and such as those who followed their base desires?

    مَثَلُ الْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي وُعِدَ الْمُتَّقُونَ ۖ فِيهَا أَنْهَارٌ مِنْ مَاءٍ غَيْرِ آسِنٍ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِنْ لَبَنٍ لَمْ يَتَغَيَّرْ طَعْمُهُ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِنْ خَمْرٍ لَذَّةٍ لِلشَّارِبِينَ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِنْ عَسَلٍ مُصَفًّى ۖ وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا مِنْ كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ ۖ كَمَنْ هُوَ خَالِدٌ فِي النَّارِ وَسُقُوا مَاءً حَمِيمًا فَقَطَّعَ أَمْعَاءَهُمْ (15)

    47|15| The description20 of the Paradise that the pious have been promised: rivers of unpolluted water, rivers of milk of unchanging taste, rivers of wine, tasty for the drinkers, and rivers of pure honey;21 and for them therein all kinds of fruits - and forgiveness from their Lord. (Is someone who is in such bliss) like him who will abide in the Fire (among those) who will be served boiling liquid which will tear their intestines into pieces!?22

    20. The translation of “mathal” as “description” is based on the understanding of `Ikrimah as in Ibn Kathir.
    21. Reports tell us that the milk of Paradise will not be the product of udders, that the wine thereof would not have been pressed by the feet, and the honey, not the regurgitation of the bee. And, in a report preserved by Imam Ahmad, the Prophet said,
    “Surely, in Paradise there are seas of water, seas of honey, sees of milk and seas of wine. It is out of them that rivers spring out” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Kathir adds: A hadith tells us, (as in Bukhari: Au.),
    “When you ask Allah, ask Him Firdaws, for it is in the best part of Paradise, in the highest part of it. Above it is the Rahman’s `Arsh, and from it flow out the rivers of Paradise.”
    In this context another hadith might be quoted. In full length it is in Ahmad, (as also in Zawa’id of Ahmad’s son, and Tabarani: Sami but whose authenticity could not be traced: Au.). It reports the narrator as saying,
    “Messenger of Allah. What is it that we will see in Paradise?” He replied, “Rivers of pure honey, rivers of wine that will neither cause headache nor regret, rivers of milk whose flavor would not have changed, and rivers of unpolluted water - and fruit. And, I swear by the eternity of your Lord, that which you do not know; and better than that would be with Him, and spouses, purified.” I asked, “Messenger of Allah. Shall we have spouses, or, will there be among them reformed ones?” He answered, “The righteous women will be for righteous men. They will enjoy them like you enjoy them in this world, and they will enjoy you except that you will not have children.”
    Yet another hadith that describes the rivers of Paradise (but, as Mundhiri said in “Al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib,” it is the words of the first narrator: Sami) says that rivers of Paradise will not be flowing in sunken earth, but rather, right on the surface, cordoned by pearls, whose bottom will be musk and azfar grass (Ibn Kathir).
    22. The Prophet (saws) said, “(A drink) will be brought near to him but he will be averse to it. When brought nearer, it will burn his face and his forehead skin will rip off. When he drinks, his intestine will be torn to pieces until it comes out of his rear” (Ibn Jarir).

    وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَسْتَمِعُ إِلَيْكَ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا خَرَجُوا مِنْ عِنْدِكَ قَالُوا لِلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ مَاذَا قَالَ آنِفًا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءَهُمْ (16)

    47|16| And among them are some who listen to you, till, when they depart from you ask those who have been given knowledge, ‘What did he say just now?’23 They are the ones upon whose hearts Allah has set a seal, and so they follow their base desires.24

    23. These were hypocrites in their previous life. They paid scant attention to what the Prophet was saying. When they left, they asked one of the true believers, merely out of jest, “What was he saying?” (Kashshaf).
    24. “The people spoken of in the above verse are the hypocrites among the contemporaries of the Prophet as well as all people, at all times, who pretend to approach the Qur’anic message with a show of ‘reverence’ but are in their innermost unwilling to admit that there is any sense in it” (Asad).

    وَالَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا زَادَهُمْ هُدًى وَآتَاهُمْ تَقْوَاهُمْ (17)

    47|17| As for those who are guided aright, He increased them in guidance, and gave them their piety.

    فَهَلْ يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَّا السَّاعَةَ أَنْ تَأْتِيَهُمْ بَغْتَةً ۖ فَقَدْ جَاءَ أَشْرَاطُهَا ۚ فَأَنَّىٰ لَهُمْ إِذَا جَاءَتْهُمْ ذِكْرَاهُمْ (18)

    47|18| Are they then waiting for (anything) but the Hour, that it should come upon them suddenly? Already, its signs have arrived.25 But how (usefull) for them their reminder (will be) when it appears to them?

    25. Literally, its conditions have been met (Au.).
    Prophet Muhammad has described the signs of the approaching hour in such details as no other Prophet did. In fact, he himself – being last of the Prophets - was a sign. Hence his various names that give out the meaning of being last). He said (in a hadith of Bukhari),
    “I have been sent with the Hour like this” pointing with his two fingers, stretching them forward (Ibn Kathir).
    According to a hadith in Bukhari, the Prophet said,
    “I have five names. I am Muhammad, and Ahmad, I am Mahi, the obliterator by whom Allah will obliterate disbelief, I am Hashir after whom Allah will gather together the people, and I am the `Aqib (who is followed by none) – Au.
    Since the ayah speaks of the appearance of some of the signs of the end of the world, we feel appropriate to go beyond the commentaries to gather together a few traditions from various Hadith works, that describe such signs of the Hour as seem to have come true by our times. We shall not be presenting those predictions of the Prophet, which do not seem to have yet been fulfilled. A hadith of Bukhari says,
    `Awf b. Malik said, “I went to the Prophet during the Tabuk expedition. He was in a leather tent. He said, ‘Count six before the Hour: (i) My death; then, (ii) the fall of Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem); then, (iii) two (mass) deaths that will take you like the illness of the sheep; then, (iv) abundance of wealth so that a man will be given a 100 Dinar but he will be unhappy; then (v) a tribulation that will not leave an Arab house but would enter it; and then (vi), there will be a peace-treaty between you and the white race. But they will be treacherous and will come to you as eighty companies, in each company there will be twelve thousand (soldiers).’”
    The above figure works out to about a million souls. However, other reports of similar nature say that the ultimate victory will be for Muslims.
    At all events, first four of the above predictions have come true. We are going through the fourth, when a 100 Dinar increase in the salary of a professional (doctor, engineer) is considered worthless. As regards the fifth, it is not clear what is meant by it (Au.).
    Abu Hurayrah says he heard the Prophet say to Thawban, “How will you be O Thawban when the nations will fall upon you like you fall upon food at the table?” He answered, “May my parents be sacrificed for you, will it be because of our fewness?” He answered, “No. You will be large in numbers, but ‘wahn’ would be cast in your hearts.” They asked, “What is ‘wahn’ Messenger of Allah?” He answered, “Your love of this world and dislike of a fight.”
    Abu Hurayrah reports the Prophet as having said that the Hour will not strike until two large groups will clash leading to great many deaths between them, each making the same claim; until near about 30 lying Dajjals will appear, each of them claiming that he is Allah’s messenger; until earthquakes will become frequent; time will appear close; tribulations will appear and there will be lot of (senseless) killing; until there will be so much wealth that a man of wealth will be at a loss to find someone to accept his charity; until he offers it to someone, but that person will say, ‘I have no need for it;’ until, people will compete with each other over tallness of buildings; until a man will pass by a grave and say, ‘O that I was in his place;’ and until the sun appears from the West. Now when it would have thus appeared and the people would have seen it, they will all believe; that will be at a time when ‘a man’s faith will not profit him, if he had not believed earlier or had not earned any good in his faith’”
    Except for two or three, it will be noticed that the rest of the preductions have come true, some wholly, some partially, the first prediction being an allusion perhaps to the battles between two claimants to Khilafah during the time of the Companions.
    `Awf b. Malik said, “O plague, seize me.” They said, “Have you not heard from the Prophet, ‘A Muslim enjoying long life is good for him?’ He said, “Indeed yes. But I fear six things: (i) Leadership of the foolish; (ii) sale of justice (through bribes); (iii) excessive police (presence); (iv) severance of kinship ties; (v) a people who will treat the Qur’an as a musical work and (vi) bloodshed.” The hadith is in Ahmad and Tabarani. Haythami declared Tabarani’s version as trustworthy: Au.).
    Hudhayfah b. al-Yaman reports the Prophet as having said that “the Hour will not strike before the luckiest of men so considered will be a mean one, son of a mean one.” Tirmidhi said that the report is of Hasan status.
    Ibn Hajr mentions the hadith of Anas, originally in Ahmad and other works that, “Before the advent of Dajjal they will have years of deceit in which a truthful one will be treated as a liar while a liar will be treated as believable; a trustworthy will be treated as treacherous and a treacherous trusted; and in which common men will speak in affairs of governance.”
    The above hadith clearly indicates in its ending passage the scourge of the modern times viz., democracy in the hands of the inept.
    Abu Hurayrah reports the Prophet as having said, “The Hour will not strike until river Furat (Euphrates) spews out mountains of gold over which the people will fight resulting in the killing of ninety-nine out of every hundred. Each of the men will say, ‘Maybe, I will be the one to survive.’”
    It is not clear from the above whether the allusion is to oil, called black gold or to gold itself. Huge amounts of high-quality and cheap oil is said to be buried everywhere in Iraq. At the moment Iraq is occupied by the USA and other Western invaders and, so far, a million people have died while millions are eking out their living on bread crumbs. Another report is in Muslim:
    Jabir reports (that the Prophet) said, “It is likely that the people of Iraq would not be allowed to have their measure (of food) or Dirham.” We asked, “How would that be?” He replied, “At the hands of the non-Arabs. They will prevent it.” Then he added, “It is likely that the people of Syria would not be allowed their measure (of food) or Dirham.” We asked, “How would that be?” He replied, “At the hands of the white race.”
    Above were some of the ahadith that have predicted what have either come true, or seem to be happening now. Here is a long report from Abu al-Sheikh but whose authenticity-status could not be traced. Perhaps it is a collection of several reports. It has piquant references to so many things of our contemporary world that as if it is not from a book of old, but written down in our own times:


    “`Ali reports the Prophet as having said, ‘Of the signs of the Hour is that you will see the people not dong their Prayers, loss of trust, legalization of major sins, devouring of interest, acceptance of bribe, (massive) construction of buildings, following of base desires, bartering of religion for worldly gains, treating the Qur’an as a musical instrument, spreading of the skins of wild animals, mosques as places to pass through, wearing of silk, spread of oppression, common occurrence of adultery, treating divorce as something easy, dependence on the treacherous, treating the trustworthy as treacherous, skin-deep rains, coarse (indisciplined) children, debauch rulers, lying viziers, those trusted proving treacherous, oppressive secret agencies, fewness of scholars, numerousness of Qur’an reciters, fewness of the knowledgeable, decoration of the Qur’an with gold, ornamenting of mosques, raising of the pulpits, corruption of the hearts, popularity of singing girls, legalizing of musical instruments, drinking of wine, discontinuation of capital punishments, shortness of the months, breaking of the oaths, women participating in business with their husbands, women riding mules, men imitating women and women imitating men, swearing by other than Allah, a man testifying without being asked, when zakah is considered a penalty, trust as booty, a man obeying his wife abandoning his mother and distancing his father, governance becoming inheritable, the last of this Ummah criticizing its firsts, a man respected simply because of fear of his evil, numerousness of the police, the ignorant climbing pulpits, men wearing crowns, congestion of roads, (massive) construction of buildings, men’s needs met by men and women’s needs by women, plethora of speech-makers on your pulpits, your scholars depending on your rulers to make the unlawful lawful to them and lawful unlawful, passing religious rulings following their wishes, your scholars gaining knowledge in order to milk your Dinars and Dirhams and when you will take the Qur’an as a means of trading, when you will neglect Allah’s share in your wealth, when your wealth will be in the hands of the most evil among you, when you break asunder the ties of kinship, drink wine in your gatherings, when you gamble, when you begin to use musical instruments, when you deny your needy ones your charity, and consider it a penalty, killing of the innocent in order to anger the common people from their killing, when your opinions are at variance, and when all charity will fall into the hands of the slaves and the lowly ones, when weights and measures are played with and when you hand over your affairs (of the government) to the inept.”
    The hadith is from the collection of Abu al-Sheikh (Al-Fitan) who appeared in the 4th Islamic century. Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, who dies at the end of the 17th century (C.E.) placed it in his collection called Kanz al-`Ummal. This single hadith should be enough for anyone to embrace Islam on the spot. It makes predictions such as which no mind even of the nineteenth century could make. Consider the following which are entirely non-moral, but rather economic, political or social: “massive construction of buildings (there are so many vacant in Dubai alone that the entire Sharjah population can be accommodated); treating divorce as something easy (averagely 25% all over the world); treating the trustworthy as treacherous; coarse (indisciplined) childrene; lying viziers (two presidents of the USA lied to the world for starting war in Iraq and Libya); oppressive secret agencies; (they have now become a scourge even upon white, Christian, Wesern citizens), numerousness of Qur’an reciters, fewness of the knowledgeable; popularity of singing girls, discontinuation of capital punishments (now it is univerally banned); women participating in business with their husbands, men imitating women and women imitating men, when trust is treated as booty, a man obeying his wife abandoning his mother and distancing his father; the last of this Ummah criticizing its firsts; numerousness of the police; congestion of roads; (massive) construction of buildings; men’s needs met by men and women’s needs by women; plethora of speech-makers on your pulpits; when you break asunder the ties of kinship; when you deny your needy ones your charity (in some Arab countries, even sending out of country to feed the starving is denied); killing of the innocent in order to anger the common people from their killing.”
    What human could have predicted these happenings of the 21st century? (Au.).

    فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنْبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مُتَقَلَّبَكُمْ وَمَثْوَاكُمْ (19)

    47|19| Know then that there is no deity save Allah, seek forgiveness for your sins and for the (sins of the) believing men and believing women.26 Allah knows your movements about, and your end abode.27

    26. Sins and errors are judged by the ranks (of the sinners). What is sin for one may not be for another. A Prophet’s minor misstep is referred to as sin, although, ordinarily, no sin at all. Hence they say,
    “Good deeds of the pious are evil for those brought nigh” (Shabbir).
    Accordingly, the Prophet’s prayer-words used to be, as in Bukhari: Sami):
    “My Lord, forgive me my errors, my ignorance, my excesses in all my affairs, and of what You know better than me. O Allah, forgive me my unintended errors and the intended ones, my ignorance, my sallies - and (I admit) all these are in me.”
    He would also say at the end of Prayers, as in a Sahih report (in Muslim: Sami),
    “O Allah forgive me: what I have sent forward and what I have held back; what I have concealed and what I have done openly: surely You are the One who pulls forward and the One who pushes backward, and You have power over all things.”
    Another trustworthy report (as in Bukhari: Sami) records his words as,
    “By Allah! I seek Allah’s forgiveness and turn to Him more than seventy times a day.”
    Yet another report (of Ahmad: Sami) says,
    Iblis said, “My Lord. I shall not cease misguiding mankind so long as there is life in their bodies.” The Lord the Mighty, the Exalted answered, “I shall not cease forgiving them so long as they seek forgiveness from Me” (Ibn Kathir).
    27. The translation is based on the explanation offered by Ibn `Abbas as in Ibn Kathir.
    But, as should be obvious, the words can apply to all kinds of human movements, including those from the sperm to the child; and to all kinds of returns: from return to homes, to graves, to the ultimate abode, etc. (Qurtubi).

    وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَتْ سُورَةٌ ۖ فَإِذَا أُنْزِلَتْ سُورَةٌ مُحْكَمَةٌ وَذُكِرَ فِيهَا الْقِتَالُ ۙ رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَيْكَ نَظَرَ الْمَغْشِيِّ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الْمَوْتِ ۖ فَأَوْلَىٰ لَهُمْ (20)

    47|20| And said those who have believed, ‘Why is it not that a surah is sent down?’28 But when a surah of decisive meaning was sent down,29 and fighting mentioned therein, you saw those in whose heart is a sickness,30 looking at you with a look of one who swoons of death;31 but more fitting for them (would have been)32


    28. It was the wish to defend themselves, their faith, their honor, their Prophet and their religion, and win their Lord’s good pleasure that led the true believers to seek Allah’s command to wage retaliatory jihad against their adversaries; but the weak ones among them sought peace, even if it was at the cost of humiliation at the hands of the enemies of Islam; their policies being no different from the policies of the leaders of the Muslim ummah today: surrender, so that you can live comfortably for a while more (Au.).
    29. That is, a surah of clear, unambiguous meaning, which would declare obligatory fighting in Allah’s cause in explicit terms.
    30. The allusion by heart’s sickness is to hypocrisy (Ibn Jarir).
    31. That is, tired of persecutions, the believers wish that a surah could be sent down legalizing retaliation. But when a surah is actually sent down containing the command, it shakes those who carry the disease of hypocrisy in their hearts, who would all but faint off at the news, and physically appear as if the angel of death stands right before them, about to snatch away their souls (Au.).
    32. The words in parenthesis and the translation here expresses the understanding of a section of commentators such as Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, and others, who thought that the ending words of verse 20 should be joined with the opening words of verse 21.
    Ibn Jarir however thinks that the words “fa awla lahum” should be rendered as “then, destruction be for them” which is a second meaning also accepted by many as valid, such as, Zamakhshari and Qurtubi (the latter citing other examples).

    طَاعَةٌ وَقَوْلٌ مَعْرُوفٌ ۚ فَإِذَا عَزَمَ الْأَمْرُ فَلَوْ صَدَقُوا اللَّهَ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ (21)

    47|21| Obedience and goodly word.33 Thereafter, when the affair was resolved, then, had they been true to Allah, it would have been better for them.

    33. Another meaning attributed to Ibn `Abbas, as in Qurtubi is that the words, “obedience and a goodly word” is an instruction from Allah to the hypocrites that they ought to be obeying and saying goodly words. Yet another possible meaning, as stated by Razi is: “It is better for them”, i.e., death is better for them. The complicated structure of the passage and its elliptic nature allows for other interpretations as well.

    فَهَلْ عَسَيْتُمْ إِنْ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ أَنْ تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَتُقَطِّعُوا أَرْحَامَكُمْ (22)

    47|22| Then, is it expected of you, if you turned away,34 that haply you would work corruption in the earth35 and sever altogether your ties of kinship?36

    34. Another possible connotation is: “if you are given charge (of affairs)” – Ibn Jarir, Razi.
    35. That is, will cause bloodshed in the land.
    36. That is, it is not the fear of loss of life or property which discourages you from fighting. But rather, it is your unwillingness to fight for a cause, the cause of Islam that creates in you such a powerful dislike for war. Is it possible that if Islam recedes, you will revert to your pre-Islamic standards of morals and behavior, and then will fight fearlessly causing destruction in the land, and breaking ties of kinship? (Au.).
    In Mawdudi’s words, “If at this time you shrink from supporting and defending Islam and refrain from fighting with your life and wealth for the cause of the great reformist revolution which the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his Companions are struggling to bring about, there will be no other consequence of this that you will return to the same type of ignorance in which you have been cutting each other’s throat since centuries, burying your children alive, and filling God’s earth with injustice and wickedness.”
    Yusuf Ali touches upon another aspect: “They have become so impervious to facts and truths, because, without the courage to oppose Allah’s Cause openly, they secretly intrigue with Allah’s enemies, and say that they will follow them part of the way, and by remaining partly in the other camp, they will be far more useful as spies and half-hearted doubters than by going over altogether. If they think that this game will be successful, they are mistaken. All the inner secrets and motives of their hearts are known to Allah. Cf. lix. 11.
    (In connection with the ties of kinship, texts describing its importance are numerous). One of them says,
    Abu Hurayrah reports the Prophet that Allah created the creation. When He was done with it, kinship stood up and held the lower garment of the All-merciful. He said, “Stop that.” She said, “This is the place of one seeking Your refuge from severance of ties.” He replied, “Are you not satisfied that I should join him who joins you and sever him who severs you?” She said, “Yes, indeed.” And so it was. Then Abu Hurayrah said, “Read if you will, ‘that haply you would work corruption in the earth and sever altogether your ties of kinship’” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi)
    The above hadith is in Bukhari and Muslim, and one of the version says that the ayah was quoted by the Prophet himself. And Qurtubi explains that the hadith has to be understood in allegorical terms (Au.).
    Then there is one in Ahmad (and Ibn Majah, and Tirmidhi who trusted its authenticity):
    On the authority of Abu Bakrah, the Prophet said, “There is no sin more deserving that its punishment should be hastened to its perpetrator in this world, in addition to what is stored for him in the Hereafter, than insurrection (against a Muslim authority) and severance of ties.” Another report is from Ahmad. It says,
    “He who is pleased with increase in his term of life, and in his providence, may join the kin.”
    (Yet another makes the point sharper). It is in Ahmad and says,
    A man went up to the Prophet (saws) and said, “Apostle of Allah. I have close kin whom I join but they cut me apart. I forgive them, they do me injustice. I do good, they respond with evil. Should I then deal with them evenly?” He said, “No. In that event you all would have abandoned (the right behavior). But rather, show grace and keep doing them good, in which event you shall have a supporter from Allah the Exalted, so long as you are in that state.”
    Bukhari has one that further expounds the subject at hand. It says,
    The Prophet said, “He who reciprocates is not one who joins the kin. A joiner is one who, when cut asunder, joins the kinship.”
    Another employs different words,
    The Prophet said, “The tie of kinship will be placed on the Judgment-day with a curve like the curve of a spindle, speaking in eloquent language. It will bind him who bound it and cut asunder him who cut it asunder.”
    (Haythami treated the report as quite close to being reliable: Sami).
    Yet one more is also from Ahmad and Tirmidhi who declared it of Hasan Sahih status. It says:
    “Those who show kindness will be shown kindness by the All-merciful. Show mercy to the peoples of the earth, you will be shown mercy by He of the heaven. And the womb (rahm) is derived from al-Rahman. It will join whosoever joined it and sever whosoever severed it.”
    Finally, we have a hadith from Tabarani’s Al-Awsat, (as well as in Shi`ab al-Iman, which, although weak, is strengthened by others of more or less the same meaning: Au.). It says:
    The Prophet said, “When words are displayed, but actions are absent, tongues differ, hearts are filled with rancor, and every kinsman cuts his kin, then at that point Allah will curse them, deafen them and blind their sights” (Ibn Kathir).
    It is in keeping with the spirit of the above that when some women-prisoners were being sold away to one party, and their children to another, the Prophet prohibited that mothers and children be separately sold. He ordered them kept together.

    أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ فَأَصَمَّهُمْ وَأَعْمَىٰ أَبْصَارَهُمْ (23)

    47|23| They are the ones Allah has cursed and so He made them deaf and blinded their sights.

    أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا (24)

    47|24| What! Do they not ponder the Qur’an, or, are there on the hearts their locks?37

    37. In the world of literature, the word “qufl” (pl.: aqfal) is used for hardness of material and immaterial objects (Qurtubi).
    It is reported that once the Prophet (saws) recited this verse ending with, “or, are there on the hearts their locks?” A young Yemeni boy sitting thereby remarked, “Of course there are locks on the hearts and it is Allah Himself, the Exalted who locks them or unlocks them.” The young man remained in `Umar’s memory until, when he assumed caliphate, he used him (for governmental services) – Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir.

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ ارْتَدُّوا عَلَىٰ أَدْبَارِهِمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الْهُدَى ۙ الشَّيْطَانُ سَوَّلَ لَهُمْ وَأَمْلَىٰ لَهُمْ (25)

    47|25| Verily, those who turned on their backs after the guidance had become clear to them, Satan enticed them and prolonged hopes for them.38

    38. Another possible meaning of the words “amla lahum” is, “He (i.e., Allah) gave them respite.” In other words, “Satan enticed them but Allah gave them respite” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi); and, as explained by Ibn `Abbas, Dahhak and Suddi, the allusion is to hypocrites who backtracked from jihad (Qurtubi).

    ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا لِلَّذِينَ كَرِهُوا مَا نَزَّلَ اللَّهُ سَنُطِيعُكُمْ فِي بَعْضِ الْأَمْرِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ إِسْرَارَهُمْ (26)

    47|26| That is because they said to those who disliked what Allah revealed, ‘We shall obey you in some affairs (alone).’39 Allah knows their secrets.40

    39. They meant to say that they could commit themselves only to such things (as which pleased them), even if it happened to be in the displeasure of the Prophet (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Asad clarifies: “Lit., ‘in some [or “parts of”] the matter’: i.e., ‘although we cannot agree with you [atheists] as regards your denial of God, or of resurrection, or of the fact of revelation as such, we do agree with you that Muhammad is an imposter and that the Qur’an is but his invention’ (Razi). By ‘those who turn their back [on the message] after guidance has been vouchsafed to them’ are meant, in the first instance, the hypocrites and half-hearted followers of Islam at the time of the Prophet who refused to fight in defence of the Faith; in a wider sense however, this definition applies to all people, at all times, who are impressed by the teaching of the Qur’an but nevertheless refuse to accept it as God-inspired and, therefore, morally binding.”
    40. Allah (swt) mentioned “their secrets” because the above statement was made by them in secret, or kept the intention to themselves, guarding its secrecy (Qurtubi, reworded).

    فَكَيْفَ إِذَا تَوَفَّتْهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ يَضْرِبُونَ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَأَدْبَارَهُمْ (27)

    47|27| So, how will it be when the angels receive (their souls), smiting on their faces and backs.41

    41. The relationship of deeds with punishments may be noted: The hypocrites “disliked what Allah has revealed,” which state (i.e., dislike) appears on their faces. Hence, the angels smite them on their faces. Thereafter, the hypocrites refused to obey saying, “We shall obey you in some affairs (alone),” which implies showing their backs. Hence the angels smite their backs (Razi).

    ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمُ اتَّبَعُوا مَا أَسْخَطَ اللَّهَ وَكَرِهُوا رِضْوَانَهُ فَأَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (28)

    47|28| That because they followed what angers Allah and disliked His good pleasure. So He made their deeds collapse.42

    42. “This has two meanings: (i) That Allah will render vain and fruitless all those works which they performed believing them as ‘good works’, and they will get no rewards whatever for them in the Hereafter, and, (ii) that all the devices that they are adopting to obstruct the way of Allah and His Messenger’s religion will prove ineffective and fruitless” (Mawdudi).

    أَمْ حَسِبَ الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ أَنْ لَنْ يُخْرِجَ اللَّهُ أَضْغَانَهُمْ (29)

    47|29| Or have those in whose heart is a disease though that We shall never bring out their hatred?

    وَلَوْ نَشَاءُ لَأَرَيْنَاكَهُمْ فَلَعَرَفْتَهُمْ بِسِيمَاهُمْ ۚ وَلَتَعْرِفَنَّهُمْ فِي لَحْنِ الْقَوْلِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ أَعْمَالَكُمْ (30)

    47|30| And, if We wished, We could have shown them to you, so that you would have known them by their marks.43 However, you will know them from the tune of (their) talk.44 And Allah knows your deeds.

    43. Many of us have the experience to differentiate a Sunni from a Shi`ee from his face alone. Nothing strange then, that the Awliaya’ Allah should have been able to distinguish between a Muslim and non-Muslim, a good believer and a corrupt one to say, “I can smell belief in him,” or, “I can smell disbelief in him.” The Prophet, above all in his spiritual powers, would have been able to recognize them with the help of his own light of faith. It is in this light that the scholars have said, (since, as a hadith it is either very weak or fabricated: Au.) that,
    “Be mindful of the acumen of a believer. He sees by the light of Allah” (Alusi).
    That said, I would like to add, says Thanwi, that this does not make inquisitiveness allowable, but makes inquiry permissible if the reason is reformation. E.g., the Prophet telling `A’isha, after she was slandered, “If you have committed an error, then, seek Allah’s forgiveness.”
    44. We have a pertinent report in Musnad Ahmad:
    On the authority of Abu Mas`ud, “Once the Prophet addressed us. He began by praising Allah and extolling Him. Then he said, Among you are hypocrites. So when I name one of you, let him get up (and leave). Then he began to say, ‘Rise: so and so.’ ‘Rise: so and so.’ ‘Rise: so and so,’ until he named some thirty-six men. The he said, ‘Surely in you, or, of you .. therefore, fear Allah.”
    `Umar happened to encounter one of those men who was leaving the mosque, whom he used to know and trust. He asked, “What’s the matter with you?” He told him the story about what the Prophet said. `Umar said, “Away with you for the rest of the day man” (Ibn Kathir).
    Haythami did not give this report full clearance (Au.).
    A two line report in Qurtubi however, throws a refreshing light on the report above. Ibn Zayd said: “Allah wished to expose the hypocrites and so they were ordered to leave the mosque. But (some) refused, and clung to the testimony of Islam (kalimah), and therefore, their lives were spared and they were allowed to marry Muslim men or women.”

    وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ حَتَّىٰ نَعْلَمَ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ مِنْكُمْ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَنَبْلُوَ أَخْبَارَكُمْ (31)

    47|31| And, We shall surely try you until We know45 the striving ones of you and the steadfast ones, and shall try your reports (concerning your states).46

    45. That is, bring to light (Qurtubi).
    46. “Akhbar: the things reported of you; reputation for courage and constancy, which has to be brought to the test of facts and experience. In an epigram of Tacitus we are told of a Roman Emperor that he would have been considered in every way to have been worthy of being a ruler if only he had never ruled! So in life people may think us courageous, true, noble, and self-sacrificing; and we may consider ourselves as possessing all such virtues; but it is actual experience that will bring them to the test” (Yusuf Ali).
    Fudayl b. `Iyad would cry at this verse and say, “O Allah, do not try us. If You did, You will expose us” (Qurtubi).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَشَاقُّوا الرَّسُولَ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الْهُدَىٰ لَنْ يَضُرُّوا اللَّهَ شَيْئًا وَسَيُحْبِطُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (32)

    47|32| Surely those who disbelieved and hindered from Allah’s path, and made breach with the Messenger after the guidance became clear to them, they will never harm Allah in the least, rather He will cause their deeds to collapse.

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَلَا تُبْطِلُوا أَعْمَالَكُمْ (33)

    47|33| O those who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and do not nullify your deeds.47

    47. Ibn `Umar and Abu al-`Aliyyah said, “The Companions were originally of belief that since no (good) deed was acceptable from a state of disbelief, it was legitimate to conclude that no (evil) deed would do any harm from a state of belief, until Allah revealed this verse about the collapse of good deeds.”
    Some of the Salaf, like Ibn `Umar, felt that major sins led to the collapse of one’s good deeds, but, in view of another verse (4: 47),
    “Surely Allah will never forgive that He should be associated with, but might forgive anyone anything other than that,” changed the opinion to as follows: “Fear (of punishment) concerning those who committed major sins, and hope (of forgiveness) concerning those who did not indulge in them” (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Razi points to another possible meaning, Do not commit the sin of Association after your Islam. If you did, all the good deeds of the past will collapse, as Allah said (39: 65),
    “If you committed Association, your deeds will collapse.”
    Qatadah however said, “Whoever of you can manage that he does not lead his deeds to collapse by committing sins after good deeds of the past, then, let him do it” (Ibn Jarir, Alusi, Thanwi).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ مَاتُوا وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ فَلَنْ يَغْفِرَ اللَّهُ لَهُمْ (34)

    47|34| Surely those who disbelieved and hindered from Allah’s path, then died while they were unbelievers, never will Allah forgive them.

    فَلَا تَهِنُوا وَتَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ وَأَنْتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ وَاللَّهُ مَعَكُمْ وَلَنْ يَتِرَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ (35)

    47|35| So, weaken not and sue not for peace.48 You will have the upper hand. Allah is with you and will never deprive you of your works.

    48. It might be recalled that at the time this was revealed, Muslims were still in hundreds, facing a million of the Peninsula Arabs, bent on destroying Islam root and branch, while the Jews and Christians of the world over, plus the fire-worshiping Persians, watched the struggle with interests and waiting to finish off the job if the Quraysh and others would not (Au.).

    إِنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ ۚ وَإِنْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَتَتَّقُوا يُؤْتِكُمْ أُجُورَكُمْ وَلَا يَسْأَلْكُمْ أَمْوَالَكُمْ (36)

    47|36| The life of the world is no more than sport and pastime.49 But if you believe and acquire piety, He shall grant you your wages, and will not ask you for your wealth.50

    49. “If life is declared as devoid of any meaning or purpose with reference to the Hereafter, and is not guided by the rules laid down by Allah, then surely it is reduced to nothing but play and pastime. It is the way of life as determined by Allah which makes it the field whose fruit will be harvested in the Hereafter, and which turns man into the vicegerent who will inherit the everlasting abode. This is what the words that follow indicate: ‘But if you believe and acquire piety, He shall grant you your wages.’ Belief and piety then, are elements that do not allow this life to turn into a meaningless pastime. They lift man from the state of animal existence to the state of caliphate connected to higher existence. A day will arrive when nothing that a believer would have earned in this world but would appear as reward, in the true, lasting world” (Sayyid).
    50. Yusuf Ali touches on our souls when he writes: “Complete self-sacrifice, if voluntarily offered, has a meaning: it means that the person’s devotion is exclusively and completely for the Cause. But no law or rule can demand it. And a mere offer to kill yourself has no meaning. You should be ready to take risks to your life in fighting for the Cause, but you should aim at life, not death. If you live, you should be ready to place your substance and your acquisitions at the disposal of the Cause. But it is not reasonable to pauperise yourself and become a hanger-on for the Cause. Moreover, the inborn tendency to self-preservation in an average man would lead to concealment and niggardliness if all were asked for the Cause, by Law, and there would further be a feeling of bitterness and rebellion.”

    إِنْ يَسْأَلْكُمُوهَا فَيُحْفِكُمْ تَبْخَلُوا وَيُخْرِجْ أَضْغَانَكُمْ (37)

    47|37| If He should ask them of you, and pressed you, you will be miserly and thus He will expose your ill-feeling.51

    51. The dictionary meaning of “al-dhaghn” is hatred, or extreme rancor. This is the meaning we have adopted at ayah 29 where the reference is to hypocrites. However, the meaning stated by Qurtubi is slightly different. It is, “that which is concealed of dislike.” This is the meaning that suits the common believers who conceal their dislike to spend off all their wealth in Allah’s cause, while “hatred” is the right meaning for the sentiments that the hypocrites bear for Islam.
    Asad expounds: “The implication is that since ‘man has been created weak (4: 28), the imposition of too great a burden on the believers would be self-defeating inasmuch as it might result not in an increase of faith but, rather, in its diminution. This passage illustrates the supreme realism of the Qur’an, which takes into account human nature as it is, with all its God-willed complexity and its inner contradictions, and does not, therefore, postulate a priori an impossible ideal as a norm of human behavior..”

    هَا أَنْتُمْ هَٰؤُلَاءِ تُدْعَوْنَ لِتُنْفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَمِنْكُمْ مَنْ يَبْخَلُ ۖ وَمَنْ يَبْخَلْ فَإِنَّمَا يَبْخَلُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ الْغَنِيُّ وَأَنْتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ ۚ وَإِنْ تَتَوَلَّوْا يَسْتَبْدِلْ قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَكُونُوا أَمْثَالَكُمْ (38)

    47|38| Here you are, being invited to expend in Allah’s cause, then of you are some who are miserly, although whoever is miserly, is miserly unto Himself. Allah is Self-sufficient while you are the needy ones. Yet if you turn away, He will substitute you with a people other than you, and then, they will not be the likes of you.52

    52. That is, far from your wealth, of which Allah does not seek all, even your physical bodies and presence are not indispensable to Him; He could replace you if He so wished.
    Some scholars have thought that the allusion by the nation that might be brought in place of the older one is to non-Arabs and Persians. There is a hadith to this effect:
    The Prophet recited this verse, “Yet if you turn away, He will substitute you with a people other than you, and then, they will not be the likes of you.” They asked him, “Who are they O Messenger of Allah – those who, if we turned away, will replace us, and then they will not be like us?” In answer he struck on Salman Farsi’s shoulder and said, “This, and his people. If religion were to be in Sirius, surely, one of the Persians would bring it (down)” - Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi.
    The hadith is in the Sahih of Ibn Hibban also.
    The point to note is that the prophesy amazingly came true. Within a hundred years, and for more than a millennium thereafter, thousands of scholars from Khurasan and farther afield dominated the fields of Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh, leaving their permanent mark on the world of Islam. The prophesy was made at a time when pen and ink were not sold in the shops of Khurasan. Who but a Prophet could have predicted t? - Au.