Surat Al-Ĥujurāt

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

Clue to References
Ahmad: Musnad by Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (d. 241 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, Muhammad Nasiruddin Albani, (d. 1420 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da`eefah wa al-Mawdu`ah, Muhammad Nasirudding Albani, , Al-Maktab al-Islami.
Alusi/Ruh: Ruh al Ma`ani Fi Tafsir Qur’an al `Azim Wa al Sab` al Mathani by Shihab al Din Sayyid Mahmood Alusi (d.1291 A.H.)
`Aqidah: `Aqidah Tahawiyyah, commentary Ibn Abi al-`Izz, (tr. By Syed Iqbal Zaheer, as Funamentals of Islamic Creed), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Arba`ahal, Kitab al-Fiqh `ala Madhahib al-Arba`ah by Abdul Rahman al-Jaziri
Asad: The Message of the Qur’an by Muhammad Asad (d. 1412 A.H.)
`Awn al-Ma`bud: Sharh Sunan Abi Da’ud, Muhammad Shams al-Haq al-`Azimabadi.
`Ayni, `Umdatu al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Badruddin `Ayni, Ihya al-Turath al-Islami, Beirut.
Bada’i`: Bada’i` al-Tafsir, Al-Jami` al-Tafsir al-Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, collected by Yusri Sayyid Muhammad, Dar Ibn Jawzi, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 1993
E.I.: Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, Leiden 1991
Fath-h/Fath/Ibn Hajr: Fut-h al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, by Hafiz Ahmed b. Ali ibn Hajr al-`Asqalani (d.852 A.H.)
Haythami, , Majma`u al-Zawa’id wa Manba` al-Fawa’id, Nuruddin `Ali b. abi Bakr, Mu’assasatu al-Ma`arif, Beyrut.
Hussain: Tafsir ibn Kathir, Hussain b. Ibrahim Zahran, ed.
Ibn Is-haq: Sirah Rasulullah, by Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 151 A.H.).
Ibn Jarir/Tabari: Jami` al Bayan Fi Tafsir al Qur’an by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310 A.H.)
Ibn Kathir: Tafsir al Qur’an al `Azim by `Imad al Din Abul Fida Isma`il ibn `Amr ibn Kathir (d.774 A.H.)
Ibn Majah, Sunan, Muhammad b. Yazid al-Qazwini, Maktabah al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut.
Ibn Qayyim: Al-Tafsir Al-Qayyim, by Shamsuddin Muhammad b. Abi Bakr Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d.751 A.H.) collected by Muhammad Uways Al-Nadwi.
Jami` Saghir: Fayd al-Qadir Sharh Jami` Saghir (of Jalaluddin Suyuti) by Muhammad `Abdul Ra’uf al-Munawi.
Kabir al: Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir, tafsir notes of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 A.H) collected by Dr. `Abdul Rahman `Umayrah.
Kanz: Kanz al-`Ummal,by Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi.
Lane: An Arabic-English Lexicon, by Edward Willian Lane, Librarie Du Luban, 1968
Lisan: Lisan al-`Arab, Ibn Manzur, (d. 711 A.H.).
Lughat: Lughat al-Qur’an (Urdu) by Mawlana Abdul Rashid No`mani & Mawlana Sayyid Abdud-Da’im Al-Jalali.
Ma`arif /Shafi`: Ma`arif al Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi` Deobandi (d. 1396 A.H.).
Majid: Holy Qur’an Translation and Commentary (English) by `Abdul Majid Daryabadi (1397).
Majidi: Holy Qur’an Translation and Commentary by `Abdul Majid Daryabadi (Urdu).
Manar, Tafsir al-Manar, Rashid Rada Misri, Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Mawdudi/Tafhim: Tafhim al-Qur’an by Sayyid Abul A`la Mawdudi (d.1979 C.E.)
Mughni al, Ibn Qudamah, al-Maqdisi, Ri’asat al-Idaratu al-Buuth al-`Ilmiyyah, Saudi Arabia.
Mulhim: Fath al-Mulhim, Shabbir Ahmad `Uthmani, and, Takmilatu Fath al-Mulhim, Taqiuddin `Uthmani, Dar al-Ulum, Karachi.
Muwatta’: Muwatta’ by Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 A.H.).
Nasa’i, Ahmad b. Shu`ayb, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Dar al-Rayyan li al-Turath, Cairo.
Nawawi: Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Sharfuddin al-Nawawi (d. 261 A.H.)
Penrice: A Dictionary and Glossary of the Qur’an, John Penrice, Gaurav Publishing House, 187
Qurtubi: Al-Jam`i Li ‘l Ahkam al Qur’an by Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al Ansari al Qurtubi (d.671 A.H.)
Raghib: Mu`jam Mufradat al-Qur’an by al-Raghib al-Asfahani (d. 503 A.H.)
Rawa‘e`: Rawa‘e` al-Bayan Tafsir Ayat al-Ahkam by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Razi: Tafsir al Fakhr al Razi by Muhammad al-Razi Fakhr al Din ibn Dia al Din `Umar (d.604 A.H.)
Sabuni: Safwatu al Tafasir by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Sahih ibn Hibban bi-Tarteeb Ibn Balban, `Ala’uddin `Ali b. Balban, , Mu’assasah al-Risalah, Beirut.
Shabbir/`Uthmani: Al-Qur’an al-Karim, Commentary by Shabbir Ahmed `Uthmani (d. 1370 A.H.).
Shanqiti: Adwa‘ al-Bayan, Fi Idahi Al-Qur’an bi ‘l-Qur’an by Muhammad Al-Amin b.Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Jakani Al-Shanqiti.
Se`di: Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman, fir Tafsir al-Mannan, `Abdul Rahman b. Nasir Se`id.
Shawkani: Al-Fut-h al-Qadir by Muhammad ibn `Ali Shawkani (d.1255 A.H.)
S. Ibrahim: Ed. Al-Fath al-Qadir, by Shawkani
Sihah: Taj al-Lugha wa Sihah al-`Arabiyyah, Isma`il b. Nasr Hammad al-Jawhari, 393 A.H.
Sirah: Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah fi Daw Masadir al-Athliyyah, Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, Saudi Arabia 1992.
Sayyid Qutb/Qutb/Zilal: Fi Zilal al Qur’an by Sayyid Qutb (d.1386 A.H.).
Thanwi/Bayan: Bayan al Qur’an by Ashraf `Ali Thanwi (d.1361 A.H.)
Tuhfah: Tuhfah al-Ahwazi bi Sharh Jami` al-Tirmidhi by Muhammad ibn `Abdul Rahman Mubarakpuri.
Yusuf Ali: The Glorious Qur’an, Meaning and Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (d. 1953 A.H.).
Zafar Ahmad `Uthmani, I`la al-Sunan, Idaratu al-Islam wa `Ulum al-Islamiyyah, Karachi, Pakistan.
Zamakhshari/Kashshaf: Haqa’iq al- Tanzil Wa `Uyun al-Aqawil Fi Wujuh at-Ta‘wil by Abu al-Qasim Jarallah Mahmood b.`Umar al-Zamakhshari (d.538 A.H.).
Zarkashi: Al-Burhan Fi `Ulum al-Qur’an by Badruddin Muhammad bin `Abdullah al-Zarkashi (d. 794 A.H.), Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Note: The list above is not a complete bibliography, but rather books sort of more often referred.


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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


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


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


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


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


  • Surah No. 49

    Merits of the Surah

    1. Asad sums up the contents of the chapter, although without being comprehensive: “.. this surah deals predominantly with social ethics. Beginning with the reverence to the Prophet (saws) and – by implication to the righteous leaders of the community after him, the discourse culminates in the principle of brotherhood of all believers (verse 10) and, in its widest sense, the brotherhood of all mankind (verse 13). The concluding passage (verses 14 ff.) points out the difference between true faith and a mere outward observance of religious formalities.”
    Sayyid writes: “This chapter is no more than 18 verses, but, meaning wise, a long one. It consists of major truths concerning faith and practice, as well as aspects that concern life and existence. They are truths that open up distant horizons for the heart and mind and offer deep meanings and profound ideas to the inner self. It consists of methods of education and training, while it expounds basics of law and oneness of Divinity. In short, it carries such matter as would normally require a hundred verses.”

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُقَدِّمُوا بَيْنَ يَدَيِ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (1)

    49|1| O you who have believed, do not put forward before Allah and His Messenger;2 and fear Allah, surely Allah is All-hearing, All-knowing.

    2. The statement is: “Do not put forward.” But what is it that one may not put forward? The object is missing. It has been answered that if it has been kept open, it is to include everything, so that, one should not place one’s own interests before that of Allah and His Messenger, or one’s opinions, or interests, or anything else. In short, Allah and His Messenger should come first (Alusi and others).
    Ibn `Abbas said in explanation, “Do not say anything against the Qur’an and the Sunnah.” Another opinion coming from Ibn `Abbas is that the Muslims were ordered not to speak when the Prophet (saws) was speaking. It also means to say, do not give preference to your opinion where Allah’s or His Messenger’s has been sounded. Qatadah said that (some of the Companions) used to say, “only if such and such commandment could be sent down ..” So Allah (swt) revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    Hasan said that on the occasion of an `Eid, some people slaughtered their sacrificial animal before the Prophet (saws) could do. The Prophet ordered them a repeat (Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf, Qurtubi).
    Thus, a general rule has been promulgated here: where there is an injunction from the Qur’an or Sunnah, there is no room for personal opinion.
    Asad sums up: “This has both literal and a figurative meaning: literal in the case of the Prophet’s Companions, and figurative for them as well as for believers of later times – implying that one’s personal opinions and predilections must not be allowed to overrule the clear-cut legal ordinances and/or moral stipulations promulgated by the Prophet.”
    Yusuf Ali sums up: “Several shades of meaning are implied: (1) do not make yourselves conspicuous in word or deed when in the presence of Allah (e.g. in a Mosque, or at Prayers or religious assemblies): (2) do not anticipate in word or deed what your Leader (Allah’s Messenger) may say or do; (3) do not be impatient, trying to hasten things before the time is ripe, of which the best Judge is Allah, Who speaks through His Messenger. Be reverent in all things, as in the presence of Allah: for He hears and sees all things. (4) Look to the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (saws) (peace be on him) for guidance and let nothing else take precedence of them.”
    The following may be quoted to elucidate the issue:
    It was reported by some of the companions of Mu`adh in Hims that when the Prophet was sending Mu`adh b. Jabal to Yemen he asked him, “How will you judge when you encounter an affair?” He answered, “I shall judge by Allah’s Book.” He asked, “But if you did not find it in Allah’s Book?” He replied, “Then by the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger.” The Prophet then asked, “But what if you did not find it in the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger, nor in Allah’s Book?” He answered, “Then I shall work out my personal opinion, without caring (for the people’s criticism).” The Prophet struck him on his chest and said, “Praise to Allah that He inspired the messenger of the Messenger of Allah with what has the approval of Allah’s Messenger” (Ibn Kathir, Sayyid).
    The report is considered weak because of the unknown first narrator, but because of the implied support from the Qur’an, it has been accepted as a working principle by the Fuqaha’ (Au.).
    The Companions received the message well enough. None of them offered his personal opinion to the Prophet in matters related to religion. None of them suggested anything unless the Prophet himself inquired; to the extent that even when they knew the answer, they would yet say that Allah and His Messenger knew better. We have a good example of this in the reports of the Prophet’s speech at the farewell pilgrimage. He asked the audience, “What month is this?” Now, everyone knew what month it was. But they answered, “Allah and His Messenger know better.” They did that because they thought he would give the month a new name. He went on asking questions, but, despite knowing the answers, they kept on saying, “Allah and His Messenger know better.” This was their reverence, the true face of piety (Sayyid, slightly reworded).

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَرْفَعُوا أَصْوَاتَكُمْ فَوْقَ صَوْتِ النَّبِيِّ وَلَا تَجْهَرُوا لَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ كَجَهْرِ بَعْضِكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ أَنْ تَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالُكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَشْعُرُونَ (2)

    49|2| O you who have believed, raise not your voices above the Prophet’s voice, nor speak aloud to him in talk,3 like the loudness of some of you to others4 – lest your deeds collapse while you perceive not.5

    3. That is, do not shout out saying, “O Muhammad, O Muhammad,” or, “O Prophet of Allah, O Prophet of Allah,” or, “O Messenger of Allah, O Messenger of Allah” (Ibn Jarir).
    It seems several events took place that could be connected to the revelation of this passage. (Bukhari for instance has the following: Qurtubi),
    Ibn Abi Mulaykah says that the two good men Abu Bakr and `Umar were almost destroyed when they raised their voices in the presence of the Prophet at the time the Ban Tam im delegation arrived. One of them suggested Al-Aqra` b. H abis of Banu Muj ashe` as suitable for leadership, while the other suggested another man – N afe` said he could not remember his name. Abu Bakr told `Umar, ‘It seems you mean nothing but to oppose me.’ `Umar replied, ‘No, I didn’t mean that at all.’ They both raised their voices and Allah revealed, “Do not raise your voices above the Prophet’s voice..” Ibn Zubayr added that thereafter `Umar spoke to the Prophet in such low tones that he had to ask him to repeat (Ibn Jarir, Sayyid).
    In this context there is another report which comes from ibn Shim as, he from his father. He said, “When this ayah was revealed Th abit b. Qays sat down in the street weeping. ` Asim b. `Adiyy happened to pass by and asked him why. Th abit said that perhaps the ayah about not raising voices above that of the Prophet was revealed to warn him, as he was a man of loud voice, and so, a man of the Fire. While ` Asim went to the Prophet, Th abit went home and said to his wife Jam ila, a daughter of `Abd Allah b. Ubayy b. Sallul to close the door of the stable behind him and nail it, which she did. He said he would not come out until the Prophet ordered him released. On the other side ` Asim reported to the Prophet that Thabit thought he was of the Fire. The Prophet told him to fetch him. ` Asim went to the same spot and not finding him there went to his house. There his wife Jam ila told him the story. ` Asim removed the nails and took him to the Prophet. He told him, ‘Are you not satisfied that you should live praised, die as a martyr and enter Paradise?’” Accordingly, reports says he died fighting the apostates in Yam amah (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    A shorter version of this report is in Bukhari, Muslim and others.
    Qurtubi adds: When the Muslims met Musaylimah the Liar’s men in battle, initially they faced defeat. Th abit and S alim (the freed slave of Abu Hudayfah) said, “This is not how we used to fight during the Prophet’s life.” Then they dug themselves into a pit and fought on until both were martyred. It was then that the famous incident of Abu Bakr acting upon a dream took place. What happened was that Thabit was wearing an expensive coat of mail. Someone passed by after his martyrdom and took it off. Th abit appeared in another Muslim’s dream and told him to inform Khalid about what had happened. He identified the person and the place where his coat of mail could be found. He also told this person in his dream not to dismiss it as a mere dream but rather to inform Abu Bakr to pay back such and such a loan that he had left behind him by disposing off the coat of mail. Khalid retrieved the coat of mail and Abu Bakr got the “testament after death” executed.
    Scholars have said that raising voices near the Prophet’s grave is similar to raising voices in his presence when he was alive (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Bukhari reports that `Umar ibn al-Khattab heard raised voices of two men in the Prophet’s mosque. He asked them, “Do you realize where you are?” Then he asked them where they were from. They said they were from Ta’if. He said, “If you had been an inhabitant of Madinah, I would have got you whipped” (Ibn Kathir, Sayyid).
    4. Asad comments: “While this relates in the first instance to the Prophet (saws), it may also be taken to apply to any supreme leader of the community (amir al-mu’minin) who acts as the Prophet’s successor (khalifah) and rules in his name, i.e., under the aegis of Islamic Law.”
    5. (A Muslim needs to be careful about what he utters speaking out only the truth. The dissolution of deeds can take place without a man realizing it).A hadith of Bukhari says,
    The Prophet (saws) said, “A man speaks out a word of Allah’s approval without paying much attention to it, but Allah raises his ranks thereby. Conversely, a man speaks out a word of Allah’s disapproval without paying any attention to it but Allah sinks him into Hellfire because of it” (Ibn Kathir).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَغُضُّونَ أَصْوَاتَهُمْ عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ امْتَحَنَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ ۚ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ (3)

    49|3| Verily those who lower their voices in the presence of the Messenger of Allah6 are the ones whose hearts Allah has tested for piety.7 For them is forgiveness and a mighty reward.

    6. The main point is reverence of the Prophet which scholars deserve after him. It is reported of Ibn `Abbas that he would go to Ubayy’s house for learning the Qur’an, but would not knock at his door; rather wait for him to emerge. When Ubayy asked him why he would not knock, Ibn `Abbas replied that a scholar among his people is like a Prophet was among his Companions (Alusi).
    7. The meaning given by Mujahid and Qatadah is that Allah (swt) tried these people and purified their hearts, just like, Ibn Jarir adds, gold and silver are heated on the fire to remove impurities.

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُنَادُونَكَ مِنْ وَرَاءِ الْحُجُرَاتِ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ (4)

    49|4| Surely those who shout out for you from without the apartments,8 most of them do not understand.9

    8. The textual word “hujrah” is any piece of land that is surrounded by a wall or fence. (It may or may not have an apartment within: Au.). Accordingly, a walled land for keeping camels is also a “hujrah” (Qurtubi, Alusi).
    Hujurat al-Nabiyy:
    The Prophet (saws) had nine “hujurat” for his nine wives. `Ata al-Khurasani said that the “hujurat” were walled with frond (date-palm branches), and a thick-hair cloth-curtain hung on the doors. Reports in Bukhari’s Adab al-Mufrad, Ibn Abi Dunya and Bayhaqi tell us that the hujurat were also covered from outside with hair-cloth. The distance from the fence door to the door of the apartment was around 6-7 feet. The apartment itself was around 10 feet by 7-8 feet. Hasan said that he used to enter the apartments of the Prophet’s wife during the Khilafah of `Uthman, and could touch the roof. They were all included into the mosque of the Prophet (saws) by the order of Walid b. `Abdul Malik, while the people were weeping. Sa`id b. Musayyib said, “By Allah, it would have been better if they had left the ‘hujurat’ as they were in order to be a lesson for generation after generation of Muslims to impress on them the kind of life their Prophet led.” Abu Umamah Sahl b. Hunayf is also reported to have made the same remarks (Alusi).
    Ibn Kathir writes in his “Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah”: Walid b. `Abd al-Malik – the Umayyad Khalifah (d. 131 A.H.: Au.) ordered `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz to pay the price and demolish the houses of the Prophet’s wives to widen the Prophet’s mosque. He gathered together the ten fuqaha of Madinah and other scholars for consultation. They disagreed with him saying that those were low-roof apartments made from very simple construction materials. So, they may be left as they are to be a lesson for the visitors, who might learn that palatial houses are for Pharaohs .. etc. `Abdul `Aziz wrote back the consensus of the ten fuqaha to Al-Walid but he insisted that they be demolished. So `Abdul `Aziz had no recourse but to demolish them. When the work was begun the Madinans and in particular Banu Hashim began to weep. The general public too wept the way they had wept at the Prophet’s death (Au.).
    9. “To shout aloud to your Leader from outside his Apartments shows disrespect both for his person, his time, and his engagements. Only ignorant fools would be guilty of such unseemly behaviour. It is more seemly for them to wait and bide their time until he is free to come out and attend to them. But, with the Messenger of Allah, much is forgiven that is due to lack of knowledge and understanding. In an earthly Court, ignorance of the Law excuseth no man. If a man behaved in that way to the General of an army or the Governor of a Province, not to speak of an earthly King, he would be laid hands on by the Guard, and could never gain the access he desires” (Yusuf Ali).

    وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ صَبَرُوا حَتَّىٰ تَخْرُجَ إِلَيْهِمْ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (5)

    49|5| Had they observed patience until you came out to them,10 it would have been better for them.11 And Allah is All-forgiving, All-kind.

    10. It is widely reported that this verse was revealed in response to an incident involving Al-Aqra` b. Habis of the Tamim tribe. He stood outside the Prophet’s house and began shouting, “O Muhammad, O Muhammad.” (He had a few men with him and the Prophet (saws) was then in his noon siesta: Qurtubi). The Prophet (saws) came out and asked him what the matter was. Al-Aqra` said,
    “Muhammad. My praise is good and my curse is evil.” The Prophet (saws) said, “Woe unto you man, that’s Allah,” and this verse was revealed (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi). That is, that kind of description befits Allah (Au.).
    The above report is in Ahmed (Ibn Kathir), but in the opinion of Haythami it is quite likely to be Mursal (S ami). It is also in Tirmidhi who termed it Hasan Gharib (Au.).
    11. It is said that the men so shouting impatiently, had gone to the Prophet (saws) to seek release of some of their men taken captive. The Prophet released half of them on ransom and the rest free of cost. But, had they been patient, as the Qur’an said, it would have been better for them, for, the Prophet was likely to have freed all of them without ransom (Qurtubi).
    Alusi adds that subsequently the Tamimis and the Muslims gathered together in the mosque where a sort of competition took place between a poet (Zabarq an b. Badr) and an orator (`Utarid b. Hajib) from their side, while a poet (Hass an b. Th abit) and an orator (Th abit b. Qays) represented the Prophet’s side. When it concluded their chieftain Aqra` b. H abis admitted that the Muslim poet and orator had defeated their poet and orator, and, in consequence, he and his tribal representatives embraced Islam.

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَنْ تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ (6)

    49|6| O you who have believed, if there comes to you an ungodly (person)12 with a piece of news, then investigate,13 lest you afflict a people unwittingly and then become, about what you did, remorseful.14

    12. The textual word is “fasiq” which has been understood here as “liar.” That was the opinion of Ibn Zayd, Muq atil and Sahl b. `Abdullah. Abul Hasan al-Warr aq defined “fasiq” as someone who commits sins openly while Ibn T ahir thought that it is someone who is not mindful of Allah (and hence not ashamed of himself: Au.) – Qurtubi. R aghib has said that “fisq” can involve minor as well as major sins and hence there are grades of “fisq”, “kufr” being at its extreme end” (Alusi).
    13. Two verses later, the question of how to deal with warring Muslim factions is dealt with. At this point Allah impresses on us that most troubles start because of rumors. Hence this present verse (Shabbir, reworded).
    14. The following is reported as the context of revelation. The Prophet (saws) sent Wal id b. `Uqbah b. Abi Mu`ayt to Banu Mustaliq for collection of zakah. He went up to them but when they came out to receive him, almost in joy, he thought that they were going to attack him and so retreated hastily. (It is said that his tribe and Banu Mustaliq had some quarrels between them before Islam: Au.). Wal id returned to the Prophet (saws) and told him that they seem to have become apostates, had refused zakah, and had tried to kill him. On the other side Banu Mustaliq feared that there was something wrong in the man’s hasty retreat and sent a delegate on his heels. The Prophet (saws) asked them whether they had become apostates. They denied and explained what had happened, and Allah (swt) revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    Mujahid and Qatadah add (as in Ibn Jarir: Au.) that the Prophet (saws) had actually sent Khalid ibn Wal id after Wal id b. `Uqbah’s return who reported back that he had witnessed their adhan and salah (Ibn Kathir).
    The report about Wal id is in Ahmed (Ibn Kathir). The narrative is in Tabarani while the narrators of Ahmed are trustworthy (Haythami). It was this Wal id, writes Zamakhshari, who when appointed as governor of Kufa, led in Fajr Prayers and did four raka`ah. Then he turned to the congregation and asked, “Shall I do more for you?” He was drunk and `Uthman removed him from the governorship.
    There are one or two other unpleasant stories about him, but some scholars have contended the reports, and since his name has not appeared in the Qur’an, nor in the hadith in deprecatory terms, Thanwi points out that it is not allowable to think of Wal id as a fasiq (Au.).
    The ayah tells us by implication, Razi, Qurtubi and Alusi write, that a single person’s report (khabr al-wahid) is enough for acceptance of the news or a piece of information so long as he is not a fasiq (This establishes the strength of akhbar al-ahad of the hadith literature: Au.).

    وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ فِيكُمْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ۚ لَوْ يُطِيعُكُمْ فِي كَثِيرٍ مِنَ الْأَمْرِ لَعَنِتُّمْ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ حَبَّبَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَزَيَّنَهُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ وَكَرَّهَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْكُفْرَ وَالْفُسُوقَ وَالْعِصْيَانَ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الرَّاشِدُونَ (7)

    49|7| And be mindful that you have Allah’s Messenger amongst you. If he were to obey you in much of the affairs, you would surely suffer,15 but Allah has endeared to you the Faith,16 decking it fair in your hearts, and has made detestable to you unbelief, ungodliness and disobedience17: they indeed, they are the rightly guided.18

    15. As Allah said elsewhere (23: 71),
    “If the Truth were to follow their vain desires, surely the heavens and the earth and all there are within them would be corrupted” (Ibn Kathir, Shabbir).
    Qatadah is reported to have recited this verse and said, “Look, it were none but the Companions of the Prophet (saws); yet Allah (swt) said that if the Messenger followed their opinions they would be put to difficulties. As for you, By Allah, you are worse than them in opinion, and less intelligent than them. Therefore, consult Allah’s Book for it is the only trustworthy source (Ibn Jarir, shortened).
    16. Hence the Prophetic statement,
    i.e., “He who is delighted with his good deeds and is distressed by his evil deeds is a believer.” (The report is in Tirmidhi who rated it Hasan Sahih Gharib (Au.).
    17. The disobedience here is in particular reference to the disobedience of the Prophet (Ibn Jarir).
    18. “Fortunate indeed was the generation among whom the Prophet of Allah walked in his daily life. His example was inspiring. Their inner Faith was dear to them; it was a thing to be proud of in their innermost hearts; and they loved discipline, obedience, and righteousness. No wonder all their other disadvantages were neutralised, and they went from strength to strength. Nothing but the Grace of Allah could have brought about such a result” (Yusuf Ali).
    It is reported by Imam Ahmed and Nas a’i, (in his Al-Kabir) that after the pagans had withdrawn on the day of Uhud (another version says, the day of Hudaybiyyah: S ami), the Prophet (saws) said, “Line up so that I may praise my Lord.” So they fell in rows behind him and he made the following supplication,
    “O Allah, all praise belongs to You. O Allah there is no withholder of what You extend, nor an extender of what You withhold; no guide to him whom You sent astray and no one to send astray him whom You guided; no bestower of what You deny and no denier of what You bestow; no one to bring nearer what You send away and no one to send away what You draw close. O Allah, extend to us Your blessings, mercy, grace and provision. O Allah I ask You the lasting delight: those that do not shift, nor move away. O Allah, I ask You for blessings on a day of want, peace on a day of fear. O Allah, I seek Your protection against what you have bestowed on us and the evil of what you have denied. O Allah, endear the Faith to us, deck it fair in our hearts and make unbelief, impiety and disobedience detestable to us and make us of the rightly guided. O Allah, allow us die as Muslims, live as Muslims, and join us with the righteous ones: dishonored, and untried. O Allah, fight the unbelievers: those who cry lies to Your Messengers and prevent from Your path, and, place upon them Your abomination and Your torment. O Allah, fight the unbelievers from among those who were given the Book .. O the True God” (Ibn Kathir).

    فَضْلًا مِنَ اللَّهِ وَنِعْمَةً ۚ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ (8)

    49|8| A favor from Allah and a bounty.19 And Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.

    19. If it is asked: this endearing of the faith, the detestation of unbelief, ungodliness and disobedience .. how did this all happen? The answer is: this is a favor from Allah and His bounty (Ibn Jarir).

    وَإِنْ طَائِفَتَانِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اقْتَتَلُوا فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا ۖ فَإِنْ بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا عَلَى الْأُخْرَىٰ فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِي تَبْغِي حَتَّىٰ تَفِيءَ إِلَىٰ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ ۚ فَإِنْ فَاءَتْ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا بِالْعَدْلِ وَأَقْسِطُوا ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ (9)

    49|9| And if two factions of the believers fight (among themselves), then make peace between them. Thereafter, if one of them rebels against the other,20 then fight the faction that rebels until it reverts to the ordinance of Allah.21 But if it reverts, then make peace between the two equitably.22 And be just, surely Allah loves the just.23

    20. What does rebellion against the other faction constitute? Ibn Jarir says it consists in refusing to accept the judgment by the Book while the other faction accepts it.
    And Ibn `Abbas has said that if the mainstream believers are to fight a rebelling party, it can only be done under the leadership of the Imam (the man heading the Muslim government) – Ibn Jarir.
    It might also be noted that despite two Muslim factions coming to armed conflict with each other, Allah (swt) referred to them as believers, as against the Khaw arij for instance, who believed that a sinner involved in major sins is out of the boundary of Islam. This is confirmed by a hadith also. Once the Prophet (saws) addressed from the pulpit while Hasan b. `Ali (a child) was with him. He pointed to Hasan and said,
    “This my son is a true leader. Perhaps Allah will make peace between two huge Muslim factions through him” (Ibn Kathir). The report is in Bukhari and the point is, despite the two factions, Iraqis and Syrians, who had earlier met in the battlefields several times, the Prophet (saws) referred to them as Muslims in his prediction (Au.).
    21. (This interference indeed is a religious duty: Au.). The Prophet (saws) has said,
    “Help your brother, whether an oppressor or oppressed.” A man inquired, “Messenger of Allah, I could help him if he was oppressed. But what do you say if he happens to be the oppressor? How could I help him?” He answered, “Restrain him, or prevent him from oppression. That would be helping him” (Ibn Kathir).
    22. Although several minor incidents took place, the major event to which the reference seems to be is as follows: Someone suggested to the Prophet (saws) that he should visit `Abdullah b. Ubayy. (This was previous to the battle of Badr: Au.). He started off (on a donkey, with a group of believers on foot: Qurtubi). As he approached him he found him sitting with a group of people (from Aws, Khazraj and Jews: Au.), Ibn Ubayy remarked, “Keep a distance from me. Your donkey’s smell is offensive.” (According to another report: “Don’t blow dust into our faces”: Au.). At that one of the Ansar said, “By Allah, the smell of the Prophet’s donkey is better than your smell.” That angered some of Ibn Ubayy’s friends and they got divided into two groups (according to some reports, into Awsis and Khazrajis: Au.). Heated words led to blows and slippers into the hands. (The Prophet) prevented further violence by cooling down the several factions and left: Au.). Allah (swt) revealed this verse. It was of course a fight without arms (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Muslim has a longer version containing other details (Au.).
    A few rules that are applicable to the situations where the mainstream Muslims fight a rebellious faction are as follows: No prisoners are to be taken from either side, women are not captured, booty cannot be seized, those fleeing cannot be chased, neither blood wit nor retaliation can be demanded (because the aim of the war is not to annihilate the other party, but to bring it back to the mainstream: Sayyid). It is also agreed by consensus that the battles between the Companions (Jamal, Siffin or others), were either accidental, or results of ijtihad. Therefore, criticism of either those who participated, or of those who refused to participate, is disallowed. Muslims cannot hold any grudge against any of the Companions because of the role he played in one of the battles between themselves because, although Talha and Zubayr were on the side opposing `Ali, the Prophet (saws) had said about Talha that he is one of the inhabitants of Paradise. Similarly, `Ali said about the murderer of Zubayr that he was in the Fire. One of the scholars of the past generation was asked to give his opinion about the battles that the Companions fought between themselves. He replied, “My hands are free of their blood, why should I color my tongue with it?” When Hasan al-Busri was asked, he said, “The Companions of Muhammad were present, while we were absent, they knew while we are ignorant; when they arrive at a consensus, we follow them; and when they differ, we desist” (Qurtubi).
    Another incident is reported in this context. It seems there was an Ansari called `Imran with a wife called Umm Zayd. She wished to visit her folks but he prevented her by locking her in an upper chamber. She sent word to her folks. They brought her down to take her with them. The husband showed up and sought the help of his own folks. The two groups came to blows and this verse was revealed. The Prophet (saws) made peace between them and the two agreed to accept Allah’s judgment (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali comments: “Individual quarrels are easier to compose than group quarrels, or, in the modern world, national quarrels. But the collective community of Islam should be supreme over groups or nations. It would be expected to act justly and try to compose the quarrel, for peace is better than fighting. But if one party is determined to be the aggressor, the whole force of the community is brought to bear on it. The essential condition of course is that there should be perfect fairness and justice and respect for the highest principles; for Islam takes account of every just and legitimate interest without separating spiritual from temporal matters. The League of Nations failed because these essentials were absent and today the United Nations fails for the same reason.” (They make peace, but - being dishonest - without justice, and so the quarrels linger on: Au.).
    Although in practice the issue can be quite complicated, the following fiqh points may help understand a few situations:
    Ahl al-Hall wa al-`Aqd
    There can be no rebellion against an Islamic government established by consensus of the “ahl al-hull wa al-`aqd” (the releasing and binding authorities).
    The “ahl al-hull wa al-`aqd” nominate the head of the state: the “amir al-mu’minin.” The qualifications are: he should be a Muslim, knowledgeable of state affairs, sagacious, a man of courage and character, and loyal to the Ummah. (Although desirable, he need not be a scholar, nor pious; enough if he is not a fasiq).
    Anyone who nominates himself, or is desirable of the post is disqualified by default unless nominated by the “ahl al-hull wa al-`aqd” (whatever his sentiments vis a vis the post).
    The “ahl al-hull wa al-`aqd” have the authority to remove the head of state and replace, by consensus, whenever they feel things are going awry. No one else nor any Body can remove a head of state, except those who have the appointing authority.
    Removal of the “amirul mu’minin” does not necessarily mean dismissal of ministers and high officials. The state keeps functioning and the transition is smooth: only the top position undergoes replacement, (just like a multinational corporate business, which changes its CEO without disturbing any sector of the company).
    He in turn forms a “Shoura” (Advisory Council) to help him appoint officials to run the affairs (but in practice to fill in new posts, or remove a few erring ones hear and there).
    The Shoura may include such members of the “ahl al-hull wa al-`aqd” who are ready to devote their time, whether on voluntary basis or at cost, to help the “amir al-mu’minin” in the affairs of the state: creating departments, department heads, replacement of some, and so on whenever the need arises. In other words, the head of state has the authority to make his own choice on the basis of personal knowledge and that of the advisory council, where the posts involve national interests.
    Since the governing authorities in Islam do no more than implement the directives of the Qur’an and Sunnah, every department acts more or less autonomously, so long as instructions contrary to the practice do not arrive from the top, i.e., from the “amir” (and not from the Shoura whose range of power does not go downwards, but only acts upwards).
    The “ahl al-hull wa al-`aqd” are Muslim leaders of the community and include: prominent scholars, tribal chiefs, social leaders, wealthy merchants, high-ranking officials, think-tanks, and other influential persons, but not artists, sportsmen and their like. They must necessary be “`adl” that is, endowed with moral and religious uprightness, honesty and trustworthiness. Their job is to appoint an “amir” and help him in state affairs, when requested, but not to run the state. No one but the “amir” reports to them. In short, the Shoura is the Advisory Council and not the Governing Council.
    The “ahl al-hull wa al-`aqd” (the Advisory body) need not necessarily consist of such individuals alone as described above, but may be comprised of those who take active interest in community affairs, although the doors are open for anyone who qualifies.
    The “ahl al-hull wa al-`aqd” cannot be elected by popular vote. They are the people who are there in the community, as a matter of fact and existence; such individuals who play their prominent role whether recognized by the common public or not.
    It is also not necessary, though desirable, that every leading personality of the far-flung Islamic state should be consulted. If the local members of the “ahl al-hull wa al-`aqd” should choose someone, the choice is binding on all, unless there is protest, disagreement, and rejection by members of this class from other quarters of the state; in which case the body of the “ahl al-hull wa al-`aqd” will have to be expanded to include all who qualify and are desirable of participation.
    The modern democratic system of election by popular vote does not meet with the Islamic requirement of nomination by the “ahl al-hull wa ahl al-`aqd” although its legality is established by another route as a tolerated evil. (It is another thing that it is not adequate. Democracy today is the elitist means of robbing a country’s resources. Like any other crime, Islam has no solution for political crimes).
    No rebellion is allowable against an Islamic government that is established by the above process. Obedience is binding on all. Bay`ah (oath of allegiance) of the amir by the common folk or the elite, is not an absolute necessity (Au.).
    23. Muslim has a hadith on the topic of justice. The Prophet (saws) said,
    “Surely, those who render justice will be on rostrums of Light, near Allah, on the right side of the Compassionate, the Most honored, the Exalted - and both His hands are right; those who are just when they judge while dealing with their homefolk, and while dealing with what they are given charge of” (Ibn Kathir).

    إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ (10)

    49|10| The believers are but brothers,24 so make peace between your two (factional) brothers.25 And fear Allah haply that you may be shown mercy.

    24. The tie of brotherhood in Islam is stronger than the tie of brotherhood by lineage. This is because brotherhood by lineage is broken if religions are different while brotherhood of Islam remains even if the tie of lineage is broken.
    This was further emphasized by the Prophet (saws). He said, as in a tradition preserved by Muslim:
    The Prophet (saws) said, “Do not envy each other, do not help raise prices up, do not carry ill will for each other, do not boycott each other, and let not some of you bid over (a commodity) already traded off to another; but rather, be Allah’s slaves, brothers unto each other. A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim. He does not wrong him, does not humiliate him, and does not look down upon him. Piety is here – pointing to his chest, three times. It is enough of evil for a man that he should look down upon his brother Muslim. Everything of a Muslim is unlawful unto another Muslim: whether it is his blood, property or honor” (Qurtubi).
    Ibn Kathir adds the following:
    “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim. He does not wrong him nor forsake him.”
    Another report says,
    “Allah is in the aid of a slave so long as he is in the aid of his brother.” A third report says,
    “Whoever supplicated for his brother in his absence, has the guardian angel say, ‘Amin! And may you have similar (to it).’”
    But of course, ahadith on this topic are pretty many. We have presented here a few as a sample (Ibn Kathir).
    The above three ahadith are from Muslim’s collection (Au.).
    25. Yet another proof that factional Muslims fighting each other remain Muslims is in the following. `Ali was asked about those who fought against him, “Were they polytheists?” He replied, “No. It is polytheism from which they had fled.” It was asked, “Were they hypocrites?” He answered, “No, because hypocrites do not remember Allah but little.” He was asked, “Then, how are they to be identified?” He answered, “Our brothers who rebelled against us” (Qurtubi).

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِنْ قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِنْ نِسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ ۖ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ ۚ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ (11)

    49|11| O you who have believed,26 let not a people scoff at another;27 may be they are better than themselves, nor should women (scoff) at other women; may be they are better than themselves.28 Neither defame one another nor insult one another by (offensive) nicknames.29 Evil is the ungodly name after faith. And, whoso repents not, those .. they are the evildoers.

    26. In the following few verses directions are being given over the kind of interpersonal and social relationship that should be generated. Ibn Kathir has the following from Ibn Majah, though he places it elsewhere in the Surah:
    `Abdullah ibn `Umar reports: “I saw the Prophet (saws) going round the Ka`bah and saying, ‘How good you and your smell! How great you and greatness of your sacredness! But, by Him in whose hand is Muhammad’s life, surely the sacredness of a believer is greater with Allah than your sacredness, his property and his life; and that we are not to think of him but in good terms.”
    Bus iri has said that the chain of narration has been questioned. One of the narrators was distrusted by one, although trusted by another Hadith Doctor (Sami).
    27. It seems there were several incidents that provoked the revelation of this verse. One was that of Th abit b. Qays who had some hearing problem so that when he came he would try and sit close to the Prophet (saws) to be able to hear him. Once he came late, but saying, “Open up, open up,” moved forward until someone refused to move saying, “You have found a place to sit, so why don’t you take your position there?” Thabit felt irritated and asked him who he was. The man identified himself saying that he was so and so, naming his father. Thabit said, “But you are the son of so and so,” naming his mother. The man felt embarrassed and this verse was revealed. (Thabit said, “Hereafter I shall never pride on ancestry: Alusi). Dahh ak said it came down when the Banu Tamim delegate made fun of some of the poor Companions. Some say it was revealed when some people referred to `Ikrimah b. Abu Jahl as “the son of the Pharaoh of this Ummah.” Other reasons have also been put forward (Qurtubi).
    Mawdudi elucidates: “Mocking does not only imply mocking with the tongue but such things are also includes as mimicking someone, making pointed references to him, laughing out at his words, or his works, or his appearance, or his dress, or calling the people’s attention to a defect in him so that others may also laugh at him. All these forms of behavior are forbidden.”
    28. It is said that the verse was revealed because two of the Prophet’s wives made fun of Umm Salamah. On another occasion some other wives made fun of her height. Yet others say that the context of revelation is `A’isha pointing to Safiyyah’s short height. Some others referred to her as the daughter of a Jew which brought down this verse (Qurtubi).
    29. Dahhak said that the Banu Salamah complained to the Prophet (saws) saying, “Messenger of Allah. You arrived in a situation when there was none among us but was given two or three nicknames. Now, when one of them was referred by a certain nickname, he felt insulted.” So Allah revealed this verse. Other reports suggest that this was a common practice among the pre-Islamic Arabs. Nevertheless, the allusion here is not merely to nicknames. `Ikrimah, Mujahid and others have said that using such appellations as, “O Fasiq,” or, “O hypocrite,” or addressing a former Jew or Christian as “O Jew,” or “O Christian,” or referring to someone’s past after his repentance, etc., is also included (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi). The report is in Ahmed, Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi who termed it Hasan Sahih.

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَبْ بَعْضُكُمْ بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَحِيمٌ (12)

    49|12| O you who have believed, avoid much suspicion,30 verily some suspicion is sin. And, do not spy,31 neither backbite one another.32 Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?33 So you abhor it. Therefore, fear Allah, surely Allah is Oft-turning, All-kind.34

    30. (A Muslim needs to be constantly on the guard lest he should fall into suspecting those who do not deserve to be suspected: Au.). `Umar is reported to have said, “Do not fall into suspicion on the basis of a word that comes out of a man’s mouth (errantly) except for giving him the benefit of doubt. You will discover that the uttered word is possible of a good interpretation.” However, when all evidences are there, wisdom requires that they be taken at face value as it happened during the governorship of Walid b. `Uqbah, when `Uthman (ra) was the Caliph. At that time of the incident, Ibn Mas`ud was the Exchequer under Walid b. `Uqbah himself. He (Walid) was brought to Ibn Mas`ud with his beard dripping wine. Ibn Mas`ud remarked, “We have been forbidden to spy. But if something appears right before us, then we go by it.” (Walid was called back to Madinah and given lashes on the order of `Uthman. Subsequently, after `Uthman’s death, Waleed retreated to Al-Jazirah [Iraq], refusing to take part in the political struggle that ensued: Au.) – Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi.
    There are, of course, several ahadith about entertaining good opinion of one another. One is from Bukhari (which Ibn Kathir quotes partially but we do it in full: Au.). It says,
    Abu Hurayrah reports the Prophet (saws) as having said, “Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales. Do not spy, do not be inquisitive, do not carry mutual hatred, but rather, be brothers and let not a man propose after the proposal of a brother until he either marries or gives up” (Ibn Kathir).
    Another version includes a few other things as in Muslim and Tirmidhi,
    “Do not boycott each other, do not shun each other, do not bear hatred for each other, do not envy each other, but rather be slaves of Allah, brothers (unto each other); and, it is not lawful for a Muslim to shun his brother for more than three days” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    31. To be sure, annuls of history record that once when `Umar and `Abd al-Rahman b. `Awf were patrolling the town, they passed by a house with lights on and emitting noises. `Umar suspected that they were drinking wine and asked ibn `Awf what should be their course of action. Ibn `Awf said they had good reason for punitive action. `Umar said, “But Allah has said, ‘Do not spy,’” and moved on (Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    (The following tradition recorded by Ahmed, Abu D a’ud and Nas a’i throws light on the topic of spying: Au.):
    Dukhayn told `Uqbah b. ` Amir, “We have neighbors who drink wine. I intend to call the police to arrest them.” He replied, “Do not do it. But, at best, admonish them and threaten them.” Dukhayn did it to no avail. So he went to `Uqbah to say, “I tried to prevent them, but no use. So, I think I’ll call the police now.” `Uqbah said, “Woe unto you man, don’t do it. I have heard the Prophet (saws) say, ‘He who concealed a believer’s hidden weakness, is like he who gave new life to an infant buried alive in her grave.’” (Ibn Kathir).
    Another report, preserved by Abu Da’ud has Mu` awiyyah saying,
    I heard the Prophet (saws) say, “If you pursued the people’s hidden affairs you will corrupt them, or, almost so.” Finally, Abu Umamah has a very pertinent report, also preserved by Abu D a’ud. It says,
    “If a ruler pursues doubtful affairs of the people, he will corrupt them” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    32. Ibn Jarir presents a hadith in this context in words slightly different from what they are in Tirmidhi from which we reproduce here,
    The Prophet (saws) was asked, “What is backbiting?” He answered, “That you should say something about your brother what he dislikes (to hear).” He asked, “What about when what I say is there in him?” He answered, “If what you say is there in him then you have done backbiting. But if it is not in him then you have slandered him.”
    It is also reported that a woman entered upon ` A’isha. When she rose up to go, she signaled with her hand to indicate how short she was. The Prophet (saws) told her, “You committed backbiting against her.” (Ibn Jarir, Kashsh af, Ibn Kathir, Alusi). On another occasion when a man got up from the Prophet’s company, he evinced weakness. They said (after he was gone), “Messenger of Allah, how weak he is.” He replied, “You ate your brother’s flesh and have done him backbiting” (Ibn Jarir).
    Another report has ‘ A’isha reporting about herself in a hadith Sahih documented by Tirmidhi:
    “I said, ‘Messenger of Allah, Safiyyah is a woman .. (pointing with her hand that she was so short).’ He answered, ‘You have adulterated (your talk) with a word (of such class) that had you adulterated it with sea water, it would have adulterated it.’”
    However, there are situations in which making an unsalutary remark about a person is not counted as “ghibah” (backbiting). We have the example of the Prophet (saws) speaking of Mu`awiyyah as poor, or Abu Jahm as violent, before Fatimah bint Qays when she consulted him after the two had proposed to her (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). Hasan (al-Busri) said that to mention someone given to innovations (bid`ah) unapprovingly, is not backbiting (That is, mentioning his bid`ah: Alusi). Hasan also said that of three there is no backbiting: He who is given to following his base desires, he who commits major sins openly, and a tyrant ruler (Qurtubi).
    Otherwise, the sanctity of a Muslim remains as said the Prophet (saws) in a hadith of Muslim:
    “Your lives, your wealth, your honor are all as sacred between yourselves, as this day of yours is (9th of Dhu al-Hijjah) in this month of yours (Dhu al-Hijjah) in this land of yours (Makkah)” – Ibn Kathir.
    33. (Herewith a few ahadith on the ill effects of backbiting. One is in Ahmed. `Ubayd, the freed-slave of the Prophet (saws) reported that,
    Two women fasted. A man came to the Prophet (saws) and said that there were two women who were fasting and that they were about to die from thirst. The Prophet (saws) ignored him, or perhaps remained silent. But he repeated, and I think said somewhat loudly, “Messenger of Allah, the two are dead or very near to dying.” He asked them to be brought. They came, and he asked for a goblet – or maybe a vessel. Then he said to one of them, “Vomit.” She vomited blood, puss, flesh until she had filled half the goblet. Then he asked the other to vomit and she vomited, blood, puss and blood-like flesh until she filled the goblet. Then he said, “These two abstained against what Allah has otherwise made lawful but fed themselves on what Allah has made unlawful to them. One of them sat down with the other and the two began to eat people’s flesh.”
    Albani declared the above report weak (Au.).
    (A report informs us that there were physical effects of sins that the Prophet (saws) and his men were able to sense: Au.). It is in Ahmed:
    Jabir b. `Abdullah said, “Once we were with the Prophet (saws) when a stinking smell arose. The Prophet (saws) asked, ‘Do you know what smell is this? It is the smell of those who backbite the Muslims.’”
    (Indeed, it is clear that no one’s, and not the slightest of backbiting is acceptable in Islam, including any slip of the tongue: Au.). An incident recorded by Hafiz Diy auddin al-Maqdisi in his “Al-Mukhtarah” runs as follows:
    On the authority of Anas b. Malik: The Arabs were used to serving each other during journeys. (According to another report: on hire). Abu Bakr and `Umar had a man to serve them. The two slept. When they woke up they found that he had not prepared any food for them. They said, “This is a sleeper,” and woke him up. They told him to go to the Prophet (saws), say salam, and tell him that the two seek some dish (to eat bread with). He answered, “They have already had the dish.” So the two went up to him and asked what dish was it that they had. He answered, “The flesh of your brother’s flesh. By Him in whose hand is my life, I can see his flesh between your teeth.” They said, “Seek forgiveness for us Messenger of Allah.” He said, “Ask him to seek forgiveness for you” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    (How serious this moral failure is can be judged from the unusually harsh words that the Prophet (saws) employed while warning of the consequences of backbiting: Au.). Abu Barzah al-Aslami reports as documented by Abu D a’ud,
    He said, “O those who have believed with the tongue but in whose heart faith did not enter, do not backbite the Muslims, nor try to discover their hidden weaknesses, for whoever tried to discover their hidden weaknesses, will have Allah uncover his hidden weaknesses. And, whosoever Allah began to uncover his hidden weaknesses, will disgrace him in his own house” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    (Another report evinces the Prophet’s impatience: Au.). It says, (as in a trusted report of Hafiz Abu Ya`l a):
    Bara’ b. ` Azib said, “The Prophet (saws) addressed us in (such a loud voice as to make) hear the virgins in their homes – or maybe he said, (from behind) their curtains – saying, ‘O those whose tongue has believed, do not backbite the Muslims nor try to discover their hidden weaknesses, for whoever tried to discover their hidden weaknesses, will have Allah uncover his hidden weaknesses. And, whosoever Allah began to uncover his hidden weaknesses, will be disgraced in the depth of his home’” (Kashshaf, Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    (No wonder then that the punishment should be severe: Au.). The Prophet (saws) said as in a report of Ahmed, Abu D a’ud and others,
    On the authority of Anas b. Malik, the Prophet (saws) said, “When I was taken up (during the Night Ascent), I passed by a people who had nails of copper. They were deep-scratching their faces and breasts. I asked,‘Who are these people, O Jibra’il?’ He answered, ‘These are a people who eat other people’s flesh and indulge in their honor’” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Another incident brings out the heinousness of backbiting more tellingly. It says,
    Ma`iz went up to the Prophet (saws) and said, “Messenger of Allah! I have committed fornication.” He ignored him until he repeated four times. When it was the fifth time he asked, “Did you fornicate?” He said, “Yes.” He asked, “Do you know what fornication is?” He answered, “Yes. I went into her unlawfully the way a man goes into his wife lawfully.” He asked, “What exactly do you mean by saying this?” He answered, “I want you to cleanse me.” The Prophet (saws) asked him, “Did you insert your that into hers it until it disappeared like a needle in a Kohl bottle?” He answered, “Yes.” So the Prophet ordered him stoned to death. Then the Prophet heard one of his Companions saying to another, “Look at this man. Allah covered him but he would not spare himself until he had to be stoned to death like a dog.” The Prophet (saws) stayed quiet. Then he walked by until he came across the carcass of a donkey with its legs up. He inquired, “Where is so and so?” The two said, “Here we are O Messenger of Allah.” He said, “Get down and feast upon this donkey.” They said, “Messenger of Allah! May Allah forgive you, who will eat from this?” He said, “What you indulged in of your brother’s honor just now was worse than eating from a carcass. And, by Him in whose hands is my life, just now he is taking a dip in the springs of Paradise” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    (That the Prophet was terribly upset with the two is apparent. But how hurt the two felt may be gathered from their words to him, “May Allah forgive you!” To this writer there is not a second occasion when somebody told the Prophet (saws), “May Allah forgive you.” Nonetheless, Islam remained and the relationship of love and trust between the Prophet and his Companions remained: despite things coming to such a pass, despite the Prophet’s application of the strictest standards of morality, and despite such harsh treatment he meted out to his Companions, who had the option of splitting away from him, to give us some idea of the true nature of this religion and the absolute sincerity of relationship between him and his followers, who, thus trained, then proceeded to establish the Kingdom of God never established before or after: Au.).

    يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ (13)

    49|13| O mankind, We have created you out of a male and female35 and made you tribes36 and clans so that you may identify each other.37 Surely, the noblest among you in the sight of Allah is the most godfearing of you.38 Verily, Allah is All-knowing, All-aware.

    34. Ibn Kathir writes: The question is, what should one do who did some backbiting? Should he seek the victim’s forgiveness? The answer is, no. Perhaps telling him will cause him pain. But instead, it is advisable to speak well of the victim in the same assemblies where he spoke against him, to nullify the backbiting to the extent possible. Imam Ahmed has a hadith (both promising, as well as threatening, although the topic is not exactly the same: Au.),
    The Prophet (saws) said, “Whoever defended a believer from a hypocrite, will have (Allah) raising an angel to protect his flesh on the Day of Standing in Hellfire. On the other hand, whoever slandered a Muslim wishing him ill, will be held on the Bridge on Hell until he reproduces what he said.”
    The authenticity of this report could not be traced (Au.).
    Alusi adds that according to a hadith in Sahih of Ibn Hibban, it is not allowed to backbite an unbeliever. It runs as follows:
    “Whoever made a Jew or a Christian hear (what he does not like) will be in the Fire.”
    It appears that the above hadith is speaking of Dhimmis. Nonetheless, it does not apply to an unbeliever at war with Muslims. Imam Ghazali also wrote that it is not right to speak ill of an unbeliever in his absence.
    Another report, that of Abu D a’ud is on the authority of J abir b. `Abdullah and Abu Talha Ansari.
    The Prophet (saws) said, “No Muslim will insult a Muslim, in a situation where he is being insulted and his honor is being attacked, but Allah will humiliate him in a situation where he would love to receive His help. And no Muslim will help another Muslim, in a situation where his honor is being attacked and he is being insulted, but Allah will help him in a situation where he would love to receive His help” (Ibn Kathir).
    The Muslims of the past were quite careful about falling into this heinous sin. I (Qurtubi) heard Abu al-` Asim say, “I never did any backbiting since the time I came to know its seriousness.” Maym un b. Siy ah would not listen to anyone backbiting before him. He would forbid it or leave the place. `Umar is reported to have said, “Beware that you mention the people (in your assemblies), for it is a sickness. But make it a practice to mention Allah, for it is a cure.” Sufyan Thawri has said that the least of backbiting is to use words of double meaning. `Amr b. `Ubayd was told by some people, “So and so did your backbiting to the extent that we began to feel sorry for you.” He answered, “Let you feel sorry for him instead.” Someone told Hasan, “I hear that you have done my backbiting.” He answered, “You are not important enough for me to allow your person destroy my good deeds” (Qurtubi).
    35. Thus, men and women are treated equal. Majid quotes a Western Christian woman writer: “Muhammad is supposed to have inspired her docile acquiesce to faith to have denied her self-expression in competition with men, and to have closed for her all doors which made spiritual and mental development possible. But this idea is contrary to fact … On the advent of Mohammad the position of woman was not enviable. He found her to be little more than a chattel – a condition which was due in large part to the teaching of the Hebrew rabbis. The Hebrew religion, which was practiced throughout the area into which Mohammad carried his teaching, had placed a decided stamp of inferiority upon her. She was inherited like any piece of furniture, and the heir could do with her as he pleased. She had no protection, no recourse to law, no right of inheritance. That to the Prophet (saws) was a state of affairs no longer to be tolerated. He believed woman was to be the ‘equal sister of man,’ and determined to strengthen the Moslem state by forcing a recognition of her equality … He limited polygamy and abolished infanticide. He instituted the marriage contract, inheritance right, and the privilege of divorce for women, while he discouraged divorce as the behest of one or the other where difference could reasonably be dissolved. He established the principles of dowry and provided for the inviolable maintenance of part of it for the woman’s protection. He safeguarded her further by decreeing religious favor to those who would assist in the support of widows and orphans. He recognized woman’s earlier as well as contemporary contribution to civilization, and urged her highest development spiritually and morally as an asset to the State. This was indeed a single advance in the thinking of that period, and a transformation in social custom which would be remarkable in any age.” (Miss Flory. The Muslim World, New York, January 1940, pp. 16-17).
    36. Qurtubi writes: “Sha`b” (pl. shu`ub) is the great mass of people of an area who trace their origin to a single man. Within it there can be several tribes. The structure is something like this, with some differences over the arrangement, ‘ashirah being the lowest and smallest denomination:
    Thus, writes Alusi, Khuzaymah were sha`b, Kinanah were qabilah, Quraysh were ‘imarah, Qusayy were batn, Hashim were fakhidh, and `Abbas was fasilah.
    Alusi does not mention `ashirah, as the word suggests, is perhaps for a family of around ten twenty people.
    Today, sha`b is used in the sense of nation, e.g., sha`b masri, meaning, the Egyptian people, but this was not the original meaning. Originally it belonged to an organized system as against today’s disorganized and chaotic societies organized on the basis of wealth, race, language, color and region. Naturally, it remains incoherent so that an individual cannot bank upon anyone but himself. Modern nationalistic societal organizations are disintegrative systems (Au.).
    37. That is, know each other as to who belongs to whom and how they are related to each other.

    قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا ۖ قُلْ لَمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَٰكِنْ قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ تُطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ لَا يَلِتْكُمْ مِنْ أَعْمَالِكُمْ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (14)

    49|14| The Bedouins say,39 ‘We have believed.’ Say, ‘You have not yet believed; but rather say, “We have surrendered.40 Faith has not yet entered your hearts.41 If you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will diminish not aught of your deeds. Verily, Allah is the All-forgiving, All-kind.”

    38. Majid quotes a Western scholar: “No consideration of birth, or race, or color, or money, have prevented a man from rising to the post for which it had been recognized that he was fit. Zaid, the Prophet’s freedman, led his armies in war … A dynasty of Circassian slaves ruled Egypt for a century before its conquest by the Ottoman Turks, and it is said that Christians from the Caucasus were glad to be carried off as slaves to Egypt because each one felt that he might rise to be sultan.” (Bosworth Smith, p. 250).
    Bukhari preserved a hadith in this context. It is on the authority of Abu Hurayrah,
    The Prophet (saws) was asked, “Who is the most honorable among the people?” He answered, “The most pious of them is the most honorable of them.” They said, “O Prophet, we are not asking about such a man.” He said, “Then the most honorable of the people was Yusuf, a Prophet of Allah, son of a Prophet, son of a Prophet, son of Allah’s Friend (Ibrahim).” They said, “It is not about him that we ask.” He said, “Then perhaps it is about the Arab roots that you are asking.” They said, “Yes.” He answered, “Those of you who were good in the pre-Islamic times are good in Islam, if they acquire understanding” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    (A man’s worth is not by any physical property, but by the moral and spiritual condition: Au.). Says a hadith in Muslim,
    The Prophet (saws) said, “Verily, Allah does not look at your faces, nor at your wealth but looks at your hearts and deeds.” He advised Abu Dharr in words,
    “Beware. You are no better than a white or a black man unless you are better than him in godliness” (Qurtubi).
    Another report is from Bazzar:
    The Prophet (saws) said, “All of you are from Adam and Adam was created out of dust. People should desist from priding by their forefathers or they will be more dishonorable in the sight of Allah than dung beetles” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    The above report has been thought weak, but a longer report in Abu Da’ud has been treated as trustworthy (Au.).
    Another report comes to us from no less than Abu Lahab’s daughter Durrah. It says, as in Ahmed with a good chain of transmission,
    A man got up and asked the Prophet (saws), “Who is the best of the people?” He answered, “The best of the people is the most learned, the most godfearing, the most to be enjoining virtue, the most to be prohibiting vice and the most to be joining the kin.”
    Finally, we have the Prophet’s own preference. `A’isha reports,
    “Nothing ever of this world pleased the Prophet (saws), nor did anyone please him ever, except a man of piety” (Ibn Kathir).
    Haythami remarked about the above report that except for Ibn Lehi`yah, (whom some thought as weak) the rest of the chain is of trustworthy narrators (Au.).
    Hence we find, continues Ibn Kathir, that when `Abdul Rahman heard one of the Banu Hashim say, “I am closer to the Prophet (saws),” he remarked, “You might be closer to him by blood ties, but there are others who are closer than you.”
    Yet another narrative from Abu D a’ud is brought to us by Abu Hurayrah:
    The Prophet (saws) said, “Surely Allah has removed from you the divisions of the times of Ignorance, and priding over the origins. (Now it is either) a believing pious man, or a corrupt wretched person. You are from Adam and Adam was from dust. Men should give up priding by people of the past - who are indeed coals upon coals in Jahannum – or they will be more odious in the sight of Allah than a dung-beetle that pushes the stinky-filth with its nose” (Au.).
    The above statement also speaks of the Prophet’s keen observational habit. It is not a common sight in the field to spot a tiny beetle pushing a ball of dung (Au.).
    39. Qatadah explained that the reference is not to the Bedouins in general, but to a few tribes in particular. Indeed, Allah Himself said about some of the Bedouins (9: 99),
    i.e., “And of the Bedouins are some who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and treats what he spends as a means of nearness to Allah” (Ibn Jarir).
    40. In this context we have a report (in Bukhari: Ibn Kathir) which recorded Sa`d as saying,

    “The Prophet (saws) gave to a few people [while Sa`d was sitting by] but not to a particular man whom I thought was better than the rest. I said, ‘Messenger of Allah, what about so and so? By Allah, I think he is a believer (mu’min).’ He answered, ‘Or perhaps a Muslim.’ So I stayed quiet for a while but what I knew about him got the better of me. So I repeated, ‘Messenger of Allah, what about so and so? By Allah, I think he is a believer.’ He answered, ‘Or perhaps a Muslim.’ So I stayed quiet for a while but what I knew about him got the better of me. So I repeated, ‘Messenger of Allah, what about so and so? By Allah, I think he is a believer.’ The Prophet (saws) repeated his reply. Then he added, ‘Sa`d. I give to a man despite another being dearer to me in fear that Allah will thrust him into the Fire.’” (That is, if not given, he might fall into kufr: Au.).
    The above report is in the Sahihayn (Ibn Kathir).
    41. That is, you have sought to save your skins and your properties by declaring Islam, although faith did not enter your hearts. This is because nothing less than Islam was acceptable of the Arabs of the Peninsula. Says a report,
    “I have been ordered to fight the people until they say, ‘There is no deity save Allah.’ Once they have said, ‘There is no deity save Allah, they will save their lives and their properties from me, except for their rights, while their reckoning is with Allah (Ibn Jarir). The report is in Bukhari (Au.).

    إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَرْتَابُوا وَجَاهَدُوا بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنْفُسِهِمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الصَّادِقُونَ (15)

    49|15| Only those are believers who believed in Allah and His Messenger, then did not fall into doubts, and fought with their possessions and their persons in Allah’s path. Those, they are the truthful ones.

    قُلْ أَتُعَلِّمُونَ اللَّهَ بِدِينِكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ (16)

    49|16| Say, ‘Will you inform Allah of your religion, while Allah knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth? And Allah is knowing of all things.’

    يَمُنُّونَ عَلَيْكَ أَنْ أَسْلَمُوا ۖ قُلْ لَا تَمُنُّوا عَلَيَّ إِسْلَامَكُمْ ۖ بَلِ اللَّهُ يَمُنُّ عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْ هَدَاكُمْ لِلْإِيمَانِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (17)

    49|17| They mention it as a favor on you that they have embraced Islam.42 Say, ‘Count not your Islam as a favor on me. But rather, Allah counts it as a favor on you that He led you to belief, if you are truthful.’

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَعْلَمُ غَيْبَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بَصِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ (18)

    49|18| Knower of the Unseen and the visible, the All-mighty, the All-wise.