Surat Al-Ĥadīd

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
by
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير

PREPARATORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Arberry:

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

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

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

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

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

و ف إنَّ

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

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

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

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

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

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

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

Further down he writes:

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

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

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

He adds a little further,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

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

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

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

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015

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References, abbreviations, and technical terms

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

________________________

Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

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

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

_______________________

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

_______________________

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

________________________

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

______________________

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

______________________

  • Surah No. 57

    Merits of the Surah

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ سَبَّحَ لِلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (1)

    57|1| Whatever is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah;1 and He is the All-mighty, the All-wise.

    1. The glorification is both in verbal as well as virtual sense (Shabbir). Primarily, “tasbih” is declaration of freedom from any weakness which can be associated with Allah (Razi).

    لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ ۖ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (2)

    57|2| His is the dominion of the heavens and the earth: He gives life2 and deals death. He has power over all things.

    2. For instance, He gives life to a lifeless package of protein which comes alive as soon as it enters into a cell, thereafter called a virus (Au.).

    هُوَ الْأَوَّلُ وَالْآخِرُ وَالظَّاهِرُ وَالْبَاطِنُ ۖ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ (3)

    57|3| He is the First3 and the Last,4 the Manifest5 and the Hidden;6 and He is of all things knowing.7

    3. That is, He is the First before whom there was no first (Ibn Jarir). To be sure, He precedes Time which is one of His creations (Alusi).
    4. That is, He is the Last, who will last, after whom there can be none. As He said,
    “Everything will perish except His Face.” (Ibn Jarir).
    5. “Al-Zahir” – He who is apparent by means of the evidences. It has also been understood as meaning, ‘He who is above all, one who overcomes all’ (Zamakhshari); as in another verse of the Qur’an,
    “Then they became the overcomers” (Razi).
    6. “Al-Batin” – because He is beyond the perception of all human senses (Zamakhshari). Thus, Allah is “Zahir” when sought through physical, perceptual evidences, and “Batin” when sought through conceptual senses (Alusi).
    The following hadith, found in Muslim, Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmad and others offers some explanation to the Attributes as mentioned here:
    Suhayl said that Abu Saleh used to instruct them that when one of us goes to bed he should lie on his right side and say, “O Allah, Lord of the heavens and the earth, Lord of the `Arsh, and Lord of every thing. O You the splitter of the dawn and the seed, Revealer of Torah, Injil and Furqan: I seek Your shelter from every evil thing that you hold by its forelock. O Allah, You are the First so that there is nothing before You; and You are the Last so that there is nothing after You. You are the Manifest so that there is nothing above You and You are the Hidden so that there is nothing beyond You. O Allah, remove our debts from us and save us from poverty.”
    (Suhayl added), “He (Abu Saleh) used to narrate to us through Abu Hurayrah, who reported from the Prophet” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Alusi points out that, according to reports in Muslim and others, the Prophet suggested the same supplicatory words to Fatimah when she had gone to him seeking a housemaid. And, it is possible that when he said,
    The Prophet meant, “there is nothing closer than You.”
    Thus, and although we have offered a literal translation of the Attributes al-Zahir and al-Batin, they have been understood differently by different people. We also have Azhari explaining in the same vein. He said,
    (The words al-Zahir is understood in the sense of overcoming someone). So the meaning is: He is the One who overcomes all, Himself overcome by none. He conducts Himself by overpowering His subjects and subjugating them. Or, it may be said that there is none above Him to prevent Him (from doing anything). And al-Batin is someone besides whom there is no shelter or refuge. The source is Tuhfa who took it from (Mulla `Ali Qari’s Mirqat) – Au.
    7. Ibn Kathir and Shawkani pick up a hadith from Abu Da’ud (as also cited by Alusi) relevant to this ayah but whose authenticity could not be traced. It says that,
    Abu Zumayl mentioned to Ibn `Abbas, “What is this that I find in my heart?” He asked, “What is it?” I said, “I shall not speak it out.” He asked, “Is it of the nature of a doubt?” Then he smiled and said, “Nobody ever escaped it,” and added, “to the extent that Allah revealed the verse (10: 94): ‘Now, if you are in any doubt about what We have sent down to you, then ask those of them before you who recite the Book.’ He ended by saying, “When you feel something of this sort in your heart, say, “He is the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden; and He is of all things knowing.”
    Alusi and Shawkani point out that Abu al-Sheikh’s collection has the Prophet saying,
    “People will keep asking about everything until they will say, ‘Alright. This is Allah. He was there before everything else. But what was there before Allah?’ If that is said to you, say,
    ‘He is the First before everything and nothing is there after Him. He is the Manifest above everything and He is the Hidden behind everything; and He is the Knower of all things.‘”
    Ibn Kathir quotes another hadith relevant to this ayah. It is in Tirmidhi and a few other books but declared weak by Tirmidhi himself because Hasan did not hear directly from Abu Hurayrah. It says,
    Once, as the Prophet sat in an assembly with his Companions, a cloud passed by. He asked, “Do you know what this is?” They replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “This is a cloud, a land irrigator. Allah will drive it to a people who do not thank Him and do not supplicate Him.” Then he asked, “Do you know what is above you?” They replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “It is a well preserved vault and the suspended waves. Then he asked, “Do you know how much it is between you and it?” They replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “Between you and it is (a distance of) five hundred years.” Then he asked, “Do you know what is above it?” They replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “Above it are two firmaments and between them is (the distance of) five hundred years.” Then he went on counting and explaining (the distance) between every two firmaments as between the heaven and earth. Then he asked, “Do you know what is above that?” They replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “Above that is `Arsh, and between it and the firmament is the distance between two firmaments.” Then he asked, “Do you have any idea of what is below you?” They replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “Below it is another earth and (the distance between them) is five hundred years.” He went on until he had counted seven earths with five hundred years (of distance) between one earth and another. Then he added, “By Him in whose hand is my life, if you were to let down a man by a rope to the bottom-most earth, he will fall upon Allah.” Then he recited, ‘He is the First...’ until the end.
    And, Tirmidhi added, by saying, “He will fall upon Allah,” he meant, “He will fall upon Allah’s Knowledge, His Powers, and His Rule.”
    A similar hadith is in Ahmad, but there the words are “seven hundred years,” instead of “five hundred.” (Ibn Kathir).
    Alusi points out that the verse, “He is the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden,” has been used by some Sufis, as evidential of “Wahdat al-Wujud” (Transcendental Unity of Being). They also call to evidence another hadith of Tirmidhi which speaks of the rope falling on Allah. But the weakness in their arguments is the fact that, firstly, the hadith is of the “mutashabihat” (uncertain of meaning) and, secondly, “falling upon Allah” has been explained as “falling upon Allah’s knowledge.”
    If the hadith sounds strange to some, they might remember that modern cosmology tells us that we will never know our world, which, by latest computation 150 billion light years wide (Au.).

    هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ ۚ يَعْلَمُ مَا يَلِجُ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا يَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا وَمَا يَنْزِلُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَمَا يَعْرُجُ فِيهَا ۖ وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ (4)

    57|4| He it is who created the heavens and the earth in six phases and then assumed istawaa on the `Arsh. He knows what penetrates into the earth8 and what emerges out of it; what descends down from the heaven9 and what ascends up into it;10 and He is with you wherever you be;11 and Allah is Seeing of what you do.

    8. He has complete knowledge of all things that enter into the earth, whether they are water drops, seeds, or anything else (Au.).
    9. He knows of all things that come down such as, revelations, angels, destinies, commandments, snow, rain drops, etc. Earlier we have mentioned in our work that every rain drop that comes down is accompanied by an angel who sees to it that it reaches the place destined for it by Allah (Ibn Kathir).
    10. Plants immediately come to our mind when we think of things emerging from the ground (based on Qurtubi).
    To sum up the previous verses: Allah has the knowledge of the whole as well as its parts, the largest and the littlest, the visible and the invisible, the real of the physical world, and the virtual which reside in human hearts (Au.).
    Ibn Kathir adds: That is, He knows what angels or deeds rise up to the heavens as says a Sahih hadith:
    “The night’s deeds are raised up to Him before the deeds of the day and deeds of the day before deeds of the night.”
    11. In other words, wherever you might be, He sees you, hears you and knows what you do. That is, “His being everywhere” refers to His knowledge; as Allah said elsewhere:
    “Lo! They fold their breasts that they may hide from Him. Lo! When they fold their clothes (upon themselves) He knows what they conceal and what they reveal. Verily, He is Aware of the inner (secrets) of the hearts” (Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Kathir presents a report which is a combination of two reports, one in Abu Da’ud and another in Bayhaqi and Tabarani, which are Sahih as declared by Albani in his Silsi1lah. The Prophet said,
    “Whoever did these three things tasted the sweetness of faith: He worshipped Allah, the One – and indeed there is no deity save Allah – and purified his wealth, with a good heart, helping over it, every year, not giving out the old (cattle), nor the substandard of it, nor the sick one, nor the worst one in yielding milk, but rather from the average type… and (as in other reports), purified himself.” The man inquired, “And what is purification of the self?” The Prophet answered, “He should know that Allah is wherever he is.”
    Razi adds: At all events, there is no difference in opinion among the scholars that Allah is not everywhere, and not in all places. He is not in any specific direction, or in any specific place. This ayah, therefore, has to be taken in the allegorical sense, and, once this rule (of allegory) is accepted, it can be applied wherever necessary.
    We are forced into an allegorical meaning, because two apparently contradictory statements have been mentioned together: “He assumed istawa of the `Arsh," and, “He is with you wherever you may be.” (We will do well not to try and reconcile) yet may remember Abu al-Ma`ali’s words who said, “Muhammad (peace be upon him) was nearer to Allah on the night of his nocturnal journey (laylatu al-isra’) than Yunus b. Matta was in the belly of the fish” (Qurtubi).
    But Alusi warns that the age in which the allegory could be resorted to has gone. It was the time of the Salaf. Now, in our times, we will not resort to allegorical meanings but rather, we shall accept as allegorical, only that which the Salaf explained as allegorical. As for what they explained as the real meaning, we shall accept as the real meaning.
    We have an interesting anecdote in connection with this verse. It is as follows,
    Nuh ibn Maryam was heard saying, “We were with Abu Hanifah when he first appeared (in Kufah) when a woman came down to him from Tirmidh. She used to attend the assemblies of Jahm (b. Safwan, founder of the Jahmiyy sect: Au.). When she entered Kufah, I believe ten thousand people adopted her opinions. She was told, ‘There is a man here, a rationalist, called Abu Hanifah.’ So she visited him and said, ‘Are you the one who teaches Law to the people, and have abandoned your religion? Tell me: where is your Deity that you worship?’ He remained silent and remained so for seven days not answering her. Then one day he came to us, dropped down a book and said, ‘Allah is in the heavens and not on the earth.’ Someone said, ‘Have you considered Allah’s words, ‘He is with you?’’ Abu Hanifah answered, ‘Those words are in the same sense as when you write to a friend of yours (in trouble), ‘I am with you’ although he is away from you.’”

    لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ تُرْجَعُ الْأُمُورُ (5)

    57|5| His is the dominion of the heavens and the earth; and to Allah are returned the affairs.

    يُولِجُ اللَّيْلَ فِي النَّهَارِ وَيُولِجُ النَّهَارَ فِي اللَّيْلِ ۚ وَهُوَ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ (6)

    57|6| He makes the night enter the day and the day enter the night;12 and He is Aware of what is there in the breasts.

    12. The allusion is to the lengthening and shortening of the day and night (Ibn Jarir).

    آمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَأَنْفِقُوا مِمَّا جَعَلَكُمْ مُسْتَخْلَفِينَ فِيهِ ۖ فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ وَأَنْفَقُوا لَهُمْ أَجْرٌ كَبِيرٌ (7)

    57|7| Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and expend out of that in which He has made you successors.13 Those then, who believed from among you, and expended, for them there is a great reward.

    13. By the use of the word “successors” it has been impressed that “you have only succeeded others in owning the wealth now in your hands. You do not own the wealth. You are only keepers and custodians. Therefore, expending out of it should be as easy as expending any wealth placed in your custody (say, by one of your friends) with the authority from him to expend as you like” (Zamakhshari: from whom perhaps Razi, Qurtubi and Alusi take).
    Ibn Kathir and Alusi write: There are many ahadith pertaining to this verse. One of them says, as in Muslim,
    The Prophet said, “Son of Adam says, ‘My wealth, my wealth.’ But, son of Adam, is there anything of your wealth for you save what you consumed and destroyed, or wore and made it old, or gave in charity and finished (it off)?”

    وَمَا لَكُمْ لَا تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ ۙ وَالرَّسُولُ يَدْعُوكُمْ لِتُؤْمِنُوا بِرَبِّكُمْ وَقَدْ أَخَذَ مِيثَاقَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (8)

    57|8| And what is (the matter) with you that you believe not in Allah while the Messenger is inviting you to believe in your Lord,14 and He has taken your compact15 – if you will be believers?16

    14. We have a hadith relevent to this ayah. The Prophet once asked his Companions,
    “Which of the believers is amazing to you in terms of faith?” They replied, “Angels.” He said, “Why should they not believe when they are right with their Lord?” So they said, “Prophets.” He said, “Why should they not believe when Revelations come to them?” They said, “Then we.” He said, “Why should you not believe when I am right among you?” But rather the most amazing in terms of belief are a people who will come after you. They will find a Scripture and believe in what it states.”
    A similar hadith has been recorded by Bukhari (Au.).
    15. The allusion is to the prenatal contract taken from the children of Adam to the effect that Allah is their Lord (Ibn Jarir). The opinion has Mujahid’s backing. However, we believe, writes Ibn Kathir, that the allusion is to the allegiance given to the Prophet.
    16. That is, if you have any willingness to believe, then this is the time you should declare your faith (Ibn Jarir).

    هُوَ الَّذِي يُنَزِّلُ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ آيَاتٍ بَيِّنَاتٍ لِيُخْرِجَكُمْ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ بِكُمْ لَرَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ (9)

    57|9| He it is who sends down upon His servant self-evident verses, that He may bring you out of darknesses into Light. And surely, Allah is All-clement, All-merciful.

    وَمَا لَكُمْ أَلَّا تُنْفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَلِلَّهِ مِيرَاثُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ لَا يَسْتَوِي مِنْكُمْ مَنْ أَنْفَقَ مِنْ قَبْلِ الْفَتْحِ وَقَاتَلَ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ أَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً مِنَ الَّذِينَ أَنْفَقُوا مِنْ بَعْدُ وَقَاتَلُوا ۚ وَكُلًّا وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ (10)

    57|10| And what is (the matter) with you that you should not expend in Allah’s path while to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth? Not equal is he among you who expended before the Victory,17 and fought. They are of greater ranks than those who expended thereafter and fought;18 although to each Allah has promised (a reward) most fair.19 And Allah is well acquainted with what you do.

    17. Although some have believed that the allusion is to the Hudaybiyyah Treaty, most scholars have believed that the allusion is to the fall of Makkah. Until then Islam was weak and Muslims under life-threatening situation.
    18. That is, there were two kinds of fighting and expending in the way of Allah: one, before the fall of Makkah, and another, after it. Of the two occasions: the fighting and expending before the fall of Makkah were of greater value (Ibn Jarir).
    The status that the earliest Companions occupy is the highest ever and no generation will be able to outbeat them. And this status should be accorded them on the basis of Qur’an and hadith, and not on the basis of historical reports. Accordingly Imam Ahmad and Ibn Taymiyyah have written in their several works that, (in the words of Ibn Taymiyyah), “By consensus of this Ummah, it is an obligation on the members of this Ummah that they should speak well of them, mention them with love and respect, and seek forgiveness for them; and that, if anybody insults them, he should be punished. As for the errors committed by them, they were miscarriages of judgment out of complete sincerity. In fact, because of their high position in Islam, the errors they committed are more likely to be forgiven than of those who followed them.” (Mufti Shafi`).
    The Prophet emphasized this on several occasions. A hadith in Muslim reports Abu Sa`id as saying,
    There was some friction between `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf and Khalid b. Waleed. Khalid abused him. The Prophet said, “Do not abuse anyone of my Companions. If one of you spent gold equal to Mount Uhud he will not attain to any of them in status, not even by half.” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi and others).
    Ibn Jarir reports another hadith of this class. (But the report’s authenticity could not be established: Au.). It is as follows:
    The Prophet said (according to some versions at the time of Hudaybiyyah), “It is possible that a people will rise (of such a class that) in comparison to their deeds you will belittle yours.” We asked, “Who are they Messenger of Allah? The Quraysh?” He said, “No. They have the softest of hearts and are the gentlest of them.” He pointed towards Yemen and said, “They are the people of Yemen. Lo! Faith is the faith of the Yemenis; and wisdom is Yemeni.” We asked, “Will they be better than us, Messenger of Allah?” He answered, “By Him in whose hands is my life, if one of them had gold equal to a mountain, and went about spending it, he will not become equal to you, not even by half.” Then he folded his fingers and opened out his little finger and said, “Lo! This is the dividing line between us and others.” Then he recited, “Not equal is he among you who expended before the Victory, and fought. They are of greater ranks than those who expended thereafter and fought; although to each Allah has promised (a reward) most fair. And Allah is well acquainted with what you do.”
    Ibn Kathir also reproduces the above report along with another version.
    19. For those who know Arabic, Razi has a very nice discussion at this point about how the “harakat” of a seemingly inconsequential word can alter the meaning of a sentence.

    مَنْ ذَا الَّذِي يُقْرِضُ اللَّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا فَيُضَاعِفَهُ لَهُ وَلَهُ أَجْرٌ كَرِيمٌ (11)

    57|11| Who is it that will lend to Allah a goodly loan20 that He might multiply it for him, and for him will be an honorable reward?21

    20. What is a goodly loan? Qurtubi answers that it is one which is given out for no other reason but to please Allah, not accompanied by taunting, nor that which is the worst part of wealth, but rather, that which is best part of wealth, yet considering the much that is given as the least of no worth, at a time when the donor has good hope of further life, i.e., not at the death-bed. Qushayri added, (as in Qurtubi), that it should be from a cheerful heart, and out of lawfully earned money.
    Quotation from Qurtubi ends here.
    Razi and Alusi have something similar to state.
    According to `Umar ibn al-Khattab, the allusion is to spending in the way of Allah. And an interesting incident is reported in connection with this verse. It says,
    When this ayah came down, Abu Dahdah al-Ansari went up to the Prophet and said, “Messenger of Allah. Does Allah seek a loan from us?” He said, “Yes, O Abu Dahdah.” He said, “Extend your hand, Messenger of Allah.” When he did, he placed his hand in his and said, “I have loaned out my orchard to my Lord.” He had an orchard that had six hundred date-palm trees. Umm Dahdah and her children lived in it.
    Abu Dahdah then returned to his orchard and called out: “O Umm Dahdah!” She said, “Welcome.” He said, “Come out. I have loaned it out to my Lord.” (According to another version, she said, “Your deal has profited you, O Abu Dahdah”). She took her children and belongings out and left the place. The Prophet remarked, “How many a (tree with) heavy bunches (of) sweet (fruits) is not there for Abu Dahdah in Paradise?!” (Ibn Kathir)
    Other reports add that Abu Dahdah had two orchards, one of which – and the better of the two - he gave off as a loan to Allah (Au.).
    21. The epithet “karim” lends the meaning that the rewards will not only be quantitatively different, but also qualitatively so (Alusi).

    يَوْمَ تَرَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَسْعَىٰ نُورُهُمْ بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَبِأَيْمَانِهِمْ بُشْرَاكُمُ الْيَوْمَ جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ (12)

    57|12| The Day you see believing men and believing women: their Light running before them and on their right side:22 glad tidings to you today (of) gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding therein. That indeed, is the supreme triumph.

    22. Many commentators point out that the relationship between ‘the Light in front and on their right side,’ and ‘the giving of the Records to the believers from their front into their right hands,’ may not be missed.

    يَوْمَ يَقُولُ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالْمُنَافِقَاتُ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا انْظُرُونَا نَقْتَبِسْ مِنْ نُورِكُمْ قِيلَ ارْجِعُوا وَرَاءَكُمْ فَالْتَمِسُوا نُورًا فَضُرِبَ بَيْنَهُمْ بِسُورٍ لَهُ بَابٌ بَاطِنُهُ فِيهِ الرَّحْمَةُ وَظَاهِرُهُ مِنْ قِبَلِهِ الْعَذَابُ (13)

    57|13| On the Day the hypocrite men and hypocrite women will say to those who believed, ‘Wait for us that we may borrow light from your Light.’ It will be said, ‘Return to your rear and seek for a light.’23 Then a wall will be struck between them,24 with a door,25 in the inward wherein is mercy, while in front, outside it, will be chastisement.26

    23. `Awfi, Dahhak and others have reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, “While the people are in complete darkness in the Field of Resurrection, Allah will send a Light. When the believers see the Light, they will begin to move towards it. The Light will be the sole guide to Paradise. When the hypocrites see the believers moving towards the Light, they will try to follow them. But Allah will take away the light from them. It is at that point that they will say, ‘Wait for us that we may borrow light from your Light; for we were with you in the world.’ The believers will reply, ‘Return to where you came from, and find your Light there.’” (The report is also in Ibn Marduwayh and Bayhaqi: Shawkani). Abu Umamah also explained in the same terms, saying: “There will be a point of time on the Day of Judgment when it will be so dark that neither a believer nor unbeliever will be able to see his palm: until Allah sends Light to the believers (of all time, throughout history: Alusi) in proportion to their deeds” and Dahhak added that when the Light of the hypocrites is taken away, the believers will cry out:
    “O, our Lord. Complete for us our Light” (Ibn Kathir).
    Imam Razi does not rule out the effect of good deeds on the amount of Light that people will receive on the Judgment Day. But he adds that considering the fact that the Light of Knowledge is in truth the Light of sight; we can conclude that the quantity and quality of Light on the Day of Judgment will be in proportion to the Light of Knowledge obtained in this life.
    Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir report Qatadah as narrating a hadith in reference to this ayah, (but which could not be traced in hadith works: Au.). It runs as follows:
    The Prophet said, “Of the believers there will be some whose Light will shine through from Madinah to Aden or San`a, or less than that; while there will be a believer whose Light will not shine beyond where he can place his foot.”
    Ibn Mas`ud further elaborated, as in Ibn Abi Hatim. The report is as follows,
    Ibn Mas`ud said in reference to ‘their Light running before them’: “They will be given their Light in accordance with their deeds, so that they will pass over the Bridge in a manner that there will be some whose Light will be like a mountain, another whose Light will be like a palm tree. The least of them in Light will be one whose Light will be on his toe: it will blink to light up and then go off, light up and go off.” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    The report is in Hakim also who declared it trustworthy (Shawkani).
    A long report in Muslim confirms that (as pointed out by Ibn Hajr) the removal of the Light of the hypocrites will take place on the Bridge (Au.).
    Another report of Ibn abi Hatim, (reconfirmed by a similar report in Hakim: Sami) is as follows:
    The Prophet said, “I will be the first to be allowed to prostrate myself on the Day of Standing, and the first to raise his head. I will see in front of me, behind me, and left and right side of me, and know my followers from among other nations.” A man asked, “Messenger of Allah, how will you recognize your followers from among other nations?” He answered, “I will recognize them from the marks of ablution; this will be no other nation’s mark. I will know them from the fact that they will be given their Records by their right hands. I will know them from the marks on their faces. And I will know them from their Lights that will be shining in front of them.” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi).
    Imam Razi writes: True Light is the Light of Allah.
    24. Mujahid, Qatadah, Ibn Zayd and others said that the wall will be the dividing one between Paradise and Hell; the same as mentioned in Surah al-A`raf. (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    25. It is said that the door mentioned here will be an entrance to Paradise (Zamakhshari). That is, perhaps one of the doors to Paradise, which will have seven others from various other sides; or, alternatively, the main entrance to the side that has Paradise, of which there will be eight doors. Allah knows best. Except for Thanwi in passing, other commentators have not dealt with this subject (Au.).
    26. Aware of the fact that Paradise will be in the highest hemisphere of all that exists, and Hell in the lowest, we must conclude, in the light of this passage, that the great physical distance will in no manner come in the way of realizing the closeness as portrayed here (Razi).

    يُنَادُونَهُمْ أَلَمْ نَكُنْ مَعَكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ وَلَٰكِنَّكُمْ فَتَنْتُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَتَرَبَّصْتُمْ وَارْتَبْتُمْ وَغَرَّتْكُمُ الْأَمَانِيُّ حَتَّىٰ جَاءَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ وَغَرَّكُمْ بِاللَّهِ الْغَرُورُ (14)

    57|14| They will be calling upon them, ‘Were we not with you?’27 They will reply, ‘Yes indeed. But you led yourselves to temptation,28 and you awaited,29 and fancies deluded you;30 until Allah’s commandment came.31 (It was) the deluder32 who deluded you concerning Allah.

    27. The hypocrites will resort to calling the believers from behind them because the believers will be rushing away fast with the help of their own lights, leaving the hypocrites far behind them in darkness. (Zamakhshari).
    In short, those who were unbelievers out and out, will be pushed into Hellfire right from the start. The believers in Prophets, during their periods, however weak in their faith, and hypocrites (carrying a potpourri of faith and unfaith: Au.) will remain. They will be asked to proceed to the Bridge and given Light. But the hypocrites will be denied. As the distance between them and the believers increases, they will begin to appeal to the believers (Shabbir).
    28. That is, you led yourselves into worldly pleasures, sins and lust (Ibn Kathir from the Salaf), which led you to adopt hypocrisy. (Kashshaf).
    29. That is, you delayed repenting (Ibn Kathir), in the hope that the rise of Islam will soon come to an end, especially when the Prophet is dead, when you could go back to the olden golden days. (Au.).
    30. A hadith should be remembered in this context. Ibn Mas’ud said,
    The Prophet drew a square (on the ground); then a central line within the square extending it out of the square. Then, he extended several lines from the one within the square, and said, “This is son of Adam, and the term allotted to him, surrounding him from all sides. The central line is man. The lines extending out are those from which if he manages to escape from one, another bites him. And the external line is his hopes.” (Qurtubi).
    31. That is, death. (Kashshaf).
    32. That is, Satan.

    فَالْيَوْمَ لَا يُؤْخَذُ مِنْكُمْ فِدْيَةٌ وَلَا مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ۚ مَأْوَاكُمُ النَّارُ ۖ هِيَ مَوْلَاكُمْ ۖ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ (15)

    57|15| Therefore, today no ransom shall be accepted from you, nor from those who adopted disbelief. Your refuge is the Fire: it is your best friend (now),33 and an evil destination.’

    33. This is how Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir explain the word “mawlakum” as meaning “most deserving,” and the whole passage meaning, “That is (the Fire) is most deserving of you.” The word ‘mawla’ has been used in the sense of ‘awla’ by the poets also.
    But Zamakhshari, Razi and Alusi would like to differ. They point out that Sharif al-Murtada had clung to this meaning of this verse, to help him cling to his Shi’ism; but not on strong grounds because, although the possibility is there, the two words “mawla” and “awla” are not interchangeable in many cases. Therefore, the possibility of the meaning of “mawlakum” as: “your protector”, “your ally”, “your helper”, “your friend”, or “your destination,” etc., all in ironic sense, is greater.

    أَلَمْ يَأْنِ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنْ تَخْشَعَ قُلُوبُهُمْ لِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَمَا نَزَلَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ وَلَا يَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَطَالَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْأَمَدُ فَقَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ ۖ وَكَثِيرٌ مِنْهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ (16)

    57|16| Has the time not arrived for those who have believed that their hearts should be humbled34 at the remembrance of Allah, and for what has come down of the Truth?35 And not be like those who were given the Book earlier, and the term prolonged over them, and so their hearts hardened,36 and most of them are ungodly.

    34. In known history, this ayah became the cause of two renowned person’s repentance: `Abdullah ibn Mubarak and Fudayl b. `Iyad.
    Ibn Mubarak said that once while he was in an orchard with friends, with a mandolin in hand, when the instrument spoke out, “Has not the time come..?” He responded with a yes, broke the mandolin, repented and changed his life.
    About Fudayl b. `Iyad it is reported that he was in love with a slave-girl. One night he was scaling a wall in order to meet her in secret when he heard somebody reciting: “Has not the time come..?” He traced back his footsteps saying, “Yes, by Allah, the time has come,” and took to asceticism (Qurtubi).
    Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir write: We have a report in this context. It says that the Prophet said,
    “The first thing to be removed from the people would be humbleness before Allah.”
    It is said that this ayah was recited before a few people from Yamamah in the presence of Abu Bakr. The people of Yamamah began to cry profusely. Abu Bakr remarked, “This is how we were before the hearts hardened” (Zamakhshari, Alusi).
    35. That is, the Qur’an. (Kashshaf).
    Muslim has recorded Ibn Mas`ud as saying,
    “It was not but four years between our entrance into Islam and revelation of this ayah by which Allah reproached us: “Has the time not arrived for those who have believed that their hearts should be humbled..?” (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    36. Allah said about them elsewhere,
    But, because of their (frequent) breach of the compact We cursed them and hardened their hearts. They displace the words from their context, and have forgotten much of what they were reminded with.” (Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir offer the following from Ibn Mas`ud, who said,
    When a long time had passed over the Children of Israel and their hearts hardened, they fabricated a Book (taking material) from before them and after them which their base desires approved and which their tongues repeated. They said, “We shall present this liturgy to the Children of Israel. Then, if someone believes in it, we shall spare him; but kill him who refuses.” One of their men would place Allah’s Book in a horn, and hang the horn between his breasts. So that, when he was asked, “Do you believe in this?” (i.e., the fabricated scripture). He would reply, “I believe in it,” nodding at the horn between his breasts. “Why should I not believe in this Book?” Therefore, Ibn Mas`ud ended by saying, “The best of their today’s community are those who are on the faith of the man with the horn.”
    Alusi writes that anyone who feels hardness in his heart should hasten to Allah’s remembrance and recitation of His Book, so that he may return to his original state.
    Thanwi adds that the ayah leads us to believe that seeking a humbling fear of Allah (khushu`) is obligatory, and that the lack of it is obtained because of long spells of heedlessness (ghaflah). This is best understood by the spiritual masters who have a remarkable understanding of their own state as well of others.

    اعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُحْيِي الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۚ قَدْ بَيَّنَّا لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ (17)

    57|17| Know that Allah quickens the earth after its death.37 We have indeed made the revelation clear for you, that haply you will ponder.

    37. Using His Power and Wisdom, Allah has now given life to the dead hearts of the ignorant Arabs, bestowing upon them amazing qualities (Shabbir).
    Thus, there is hope for every dead soul to come alive if it will turn to Allah with goodly repentance (Au.).

    إِنَّ الْمُصَّدِّقِينَ وَالْمُصَّدِّقَاتِ وَأَقْرَضُوا اللَّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا يُضَاعَفُ لَهُمْ وَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ كَرِيمٌ (18)

    57|18| Surely, those men who give freely in charity, and those women who give freely in charity, and have lent Allah a goodly loan, it shall be multiplied for them, and for them is an honorable reward.

    وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الصِّدِّيقُونَ ۖ وَالشُّهَدَاءُ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ وَنُورُهُمْ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَكَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا أُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْجَحِيمِ (19)

    57|19| And those who believed in Allah and His Messengers, they... they are the siddiqun;38 and witnesses39 in the sight of their Lord: for them are their reward and their Light.40 As for those who disbelieved and laid the lie against Our revelations, they are the companions of the Blazing Fire.

    38. Who are the “siddiqun”? Opinions vary. In general terms any one is a “siddiq” who believes in Allah’s Oneness and in the Messengership of a Messenger without harboring any doubt whatsoever, for any moment. Thus, the People of the Fire-pit were siddiqun, and so was the Believer in Fir`awn’s court, and others. From among this Ummah, it is said that they were eight: Abu Bakr, `Ali, Zayd, `Uthman, Talha, Zubayr, Sa`d, later joined by `Umar ibn al-Khattab (Qurtubi).
    But of course the above list is not comprehensive (Au.).
    A “siddiq” however, occupies a greater rank in comparison to a martyr. The Sahihayn have a report confirming this. The Prophet said,
    “The dwellers of Paradise will be able to see the people of the regions above them as you see a shining star about to set in the horizon, either in the east or west. That would be because of the differences in status between them.” They inquired, “Messenger of Allah. Those must be dwellings of the Prophets that others would not be able to attain?” He answered, “Nay. By Him in whose hand is my life, they will be men who believed in Allah and testified to the truth of the Messengers.” (Ibn Kathir).
    39. Opinions vary. Some of the ancient scholars thought that the reference is to those who bear the testimony of Allah’s Oneness, others that it is those who would bear witness in favor of Prophets and Messengers when they are denied by their nations on the Day of Judgment; yet others believe the reference is to martyrs (Qurtubi and others).
    To be sure, the word “shahid” covers various categories of men. In its most general sense, most believers would be included. A hadith of Muslim says,
    The Prophet asked, “Who do you think are the martyrs among you?” They answered, “Messenger of Allah, he who was killed in Allah’s path is a martyr.” He said, “If that is so, then martyrs of my Ummah are few.” They asked, “Then who?” He replied, “He who is killed in Allah’s path is a martyr, he who died in Allah’s path is a martyr, he who died in plague is a martyr, he who died because of stomach problem is a martyr.” (Razi).
    40. Ibn Jarir reports Ibn `Abbas and Dahhak as of opinion that there are two sentences involved in the verse: “And those who believed in Allah and His Messengers, they... they are the truthful ones; and witnesses in the sight of their Lord: for them are their reward and their Light.” The first sentence is: “And those who believed in Allah and His Messengers, they... they are the truthful ones,” while the rest is another sentence, i.e.: “And witnesses in the sight of their Lord: for them are their reward and their Light.”

    اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَزِينَةٌ وَتَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ وَتَكَاثُرٌ فِي الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَوْلَادِ ۖ كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهُ ثُمَّ يَهِيجُ فَتَرَاهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَكُونُ حُطَامًا ۖ وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانٌ ۚ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ (20)

    57|20| Know that that the life of the world is but a sport and diversion, an adornment and a cause of boasting among you, and a rivalry in wealth and children;41 like a rain42 whose (resulting) vegetation delights the tillers;43 then it withers, and you see it turn yellow and then it becomes chaff. And in the Hereafter there is severe chastisement, and44 forgiveness from Allah and Good Pleasure;45 and the life of the world is no more than a delusive joy.46

    41. The order should be noticeable. Life is a play (in childhood), diversion (in early youth), adornment (in early manhood), a cause of boasting (in more mature years), and a rivalry in wealth and children (middle-age onward) - Au.
    Mufti Shafi` writes: It is noteworthy that what a man possesses in each stage of his life is extremely dear to him. But once that stage is crossed, those very things become laughingly unimportant. A child, for instance, mourns and weeps at the loss of a doll. But when he grows up, it becomes worthless. That goes on in every stage: the previous phase turns insignificant. When he enters old age, all the possessions of his yesteryears lose their meaning and worth. From this vantage point he realizes that the gains and losses of the previous phases would not have mattered much either way: whether he got them or missed them. The Qur’an reminds us of the selfsame reality that rules this ephemeral life (reworded).
    42. The expression “a rain” ha been employed (i.e., with “a”) because there are rains that are not beneficent to the tiller (Au.).
    The difference between “matar” and “ghayth” is that the latter is used when the rain arrives after the people are in despair:
    “It is He who sends down rain after they were in despair.” (Ibn Kathir).
    43. “Kafara” is to conceal, hence a tiller is “kafir”, one who conceals his seeds, and hence too an unbeliever is a “kafir” because he consciously conceals the truth planted in his heart that there is a Lord God to the universe and that He can only be one (Au.).
    44. Ibn Jarir understands the “wa” of the text as meaning “or.” However, seeing that a great majority will perhaps undergo chastisement in the Fire before proceeding to Paradise, “and” seems to be better suited (Au.).
    45. (In comparison, the Hereafter is so much better that no words can describe it). Says a hadith,
    “The space whereat you could hang your whip in Paradise is better than the world and all that it contains” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    46. Sa`eed ibn Jubayr has said that the world is deceptive possession if it diverts away from the Hereafter. But, if it is employed to obtain the Hereafter, then it is a wonderful means. (Razi, Alusi).

    سَابِقُوا إِلَىٰ مَغْفِرَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا كَعَرْضِ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ أُعِدَّتْ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ (21)

    57|21| Race to forgiveness from your Lord and a Paradise whose width is the width of heaven and earth:47 prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers. That indeed is Allah’s favor which He bestows upon whom He will; and Allah is the possessor of great bounty.

    47. Ibn Kathir points out that the word “sama’” has been used as a generic noun. That is, all heavens are inclusive. The Qur’an used the word in plural elsewhere, e.g.,
    “And hasten to the forgiveness from your Lord, and to a Paradise whose width is that of the heavens and the earth – prepared for the godfearing.”
    Suddi has pointed out that everything has a width and a length where width is normally less than the length. Now, if the heavens and the earth are contained in the width of Paradise, one can imagine its length. (Zamakhshari).

    مَا أَصَابَ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي أَنْفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ نَبْرَأَهَا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ (22)

    57|22| No affliction strikes the earth, nor within yourselves but is in a Book, before We bring it into existence;48 that indeed is easy for Allah.

    48. There are two opinions about the pronoun “it” as to what is the reference? Hasan’s opinion was that it is attached to the “soul.” That is, the affliction strikes the soul. So, the meaning would be, “No affliction strikes the earth, nor within yourselves but is in a Book, before We bring the soul into existence.” That is, all that is to happen to a person has already been recorded in the Book. This is the preferred opinion. A second opinion is that it is attached to the affliction, meaning, “No affliction strikes the earth, nor within yourselves but is recorded in a Book, before We bring that affliction into existence.” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Zamakhshari leaves the possibility of both open while Razi feels that the reference to afflictions is closer; that is, “before Allah creates the afflictions.”
    The Prophet said, as in Sahih reports of Tirmidhi and others,
    “Allah determined the destinies fifty thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth.” (Ibn Kathir).

    لِكَيْلَا تَأْسَوْا عَلَىٰ مَا فَاتَكُمْ وَلَا تَفْرَحُوا بِمَا آتَاكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ (23)

    57|23| That you may not despair over what missed you, nor exult over what He granted you;49 Allah does not approve of any self-conceited boaster.50

    49. Therefore, a believer’s equanimity should not be disturbed in either case: whether the world comes or goes. A believer knows that there is no escape from afflictions, or, contrarily, good happenings. He may aggrieve at one and feel happy with another. But in either case he maintains his self-composure. In practical terms, if good comes his way, he thanks Allah, if it is otherwise, he observes patience. (Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir, reworded).
    50. It is said that “mukhtal” is someone who looks at himself with self-aggrandizing eyes, while “fakhur” is one who looks at others with belittling eyes (Qurtubi).
    Only a self-conceited person or nation can boast over Allah’s blessings sent their way. Do they create the fortuitous conditions that help them achieve what others, better qualified, and more hard-working than them, fail to achieve? (Au.)

    الَّذِينَ يَبْخَلُونَ وَيَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبُخْلِ ۗ وَمَنْ يَتَوَلَّ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ (24)

    57|24| Those who are miserly and enjoin the people miserliness.51 Yet, whoever turned away, then surely, Allah is the Self-sufficient, the All-laudable.

    51. Misers and miserliness arise from the failure to recognize that if one happens to be wealthy, it is because he happens to be located on the path by which wealth passes. He could not have obtained it, if wealth had taken another route (Au.).
    Qurtubi writes: A miser and a generous person primarily differ in two ways: a miser draws pleasure from withholding money while a generous person draws pleasure from giving it away, and a miser gives only when asked, whereas a generous person gives without asking.

    لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنْزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ ۖ وَأَنْزَلْنَا الْحَدِيدَ فِيهِ بَأْسٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَلِيَعْلَمَ اللَّهُ مَنْ يَنْصُرُهُ وَرُسُلَهُ بِالْغَيْبِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ (25)

    57|25| We surely sent Our messengers52 with clear signs and sent down with them the Book and the balance so that the people may establish justice. And We sent down iron53 wherein is great military might,54 and (other) benefits for the people,55 so that Allah may know who helps Him and His Messengers56 in the Unseen.57 Surely, Allah is Strong, Mighty.58

    52. The allusion by “messengers” is to angels. (Zamakhshari). But Alusi disagrees and says it is to human Messengers.
    53. Some commentators have conjectured that perhaps iron was sent down from the heaven. The use of the words, “We sent down”, could have influenced them. But it happens to be a scientific fact established in the twentieth century. Formation of heavy metals including iron requires chemical reactions at temperatures 5x109 K. But the earth has never experienced this temperature. That is, at no time in the history of the earth its temperature was as high as this, or even a fraction of it. This kind of temperature obtains in the center of massive stars alone which, after their hydrogen burning phase is over, change, in various steps, into a Nova. It is at this stage that heavier elements are formed, including iron. At this stage, internal combustion results in immense amount of pressure and the Nova explodes into a Supernova shattering its heavy elements - primarily iron. The flakes, chunks and meteorites containing iron fly about in space to be ultimately attracted by other cosmic bodies. That is how the earth must have obtained its iron; i.e., through the iron-nickel meteorites. However, since the earth’s core (measuring 7600 km. dia., accounting for 32% of its mass, while the earth’s outer dia. is 12,700 km.), is entirely iron (with nickel as a trace element) it is a mystery where it got this quantity of iron from? The Supernova that exploded, should have been away by several light years. How did its shattered material arrive at the tiny earth in such massive quantities? This remains a mystery, but the origin of iron is no mystery. Scientists are quick to point out that since iron is from exploded stars, and since our bodies contain iron as one of the 24 elements from which we are made, we all carry fragments of a star (or stars) in our bodies (Au.).
    54. Allah created iron (for the believers) to confront those who deny Allah’s revelation after its truth becomes evident to them. Our Prophet spent 13 years in Makkah trying to convince the Quraysh of the truth of his Message. But when all efforts failed, and no hope was left of they ever being cured of their intransigence and opposition to the Truth, he was ordered to emigrate and then take up iron against them. Accordingly, the Prophet said, as in a report of Ahmad (with, as Haythami said, an isnad not entirely untrustworthy: Au.),
    “I have been sent with the sword until Allah alone – who has no partners - is worshipped. My providence is placed under the shadow of my spear; and humiliation and abasement is written for him who opposes my affair. And, whoever imitated a people, is one of them.” (Ibn Kathir).
    Mufti Shafi` writes: It might be noted that Allah sent down the Qur’an with the teachings that organize life. He also sent down the balance – which can be anything from a weighing machine to an electronic meter – to help establish measures of things and, thus, establish justice. But sometimes instructions and examples are not enough. There are some people who remain defiant. So Allah sent down iron which carries awesome power for the authorities to enforce the system of justice. Thus, primarily Man needs two things. One: the Book, and two: the balance to weigh the worth of things. Iron is used as a last resort only when admonitions, instructions and injunctions fail. Although it must be hastily added that iron by itself (power) is not enough to enforce a system. It is education and training which must be resorted to in the first place.
    55. Asad offers the following comment: “Side by side with enabling man to discriminate between right and wrong (which is the innermost purpose of all divine revelation), God has endowed him with the ability to convert to his use the natural resources of his earthly environment. An outstanding symbol of this ability is man’s skill, unique among all animal beings, in making tools; and the primary material for all tool-making – and indeed, for all human technology – is iron; the one metal which is found abundantly on earth, and which can be utilized for beneficial as well as destructive ends. The ‘awesome power’ (ba’s shadid) inherent in iron manifests itself not merely in the manufacture of weapons of war but also, more subtly, in man’s ever-growing tendency to foster the development of an increasingly complicated technology which places the machine on the foreground of all human existence and which, by its inherent – almost irresistible – dynamism gradually estranges man from all inner connection with nature. The process of growing mechanization, so evident in our modern life, jeopardizes the very structure of human society and, thus, contributes to a gradual dissolution of all moral and spiritual perception optimized in the concept of ‘divine guidance.’ It is to warn man of this danger that the Qur’an stresses – symbolically and metonymically – the potential evil (ba’s) of ‘iron’ if it is put to wrong use: in other words, the danger of man’s allowing his technological ingenuity to run wild and thus to overwhelm his spiritual consciousness and, ultimately, to destroy all possibility of individual and social happiness.”
    56. The connection between iron and Jihad is established. Iron was sent down so that Jihad could be undertaken. And justice can only be established with the help of the power that iron affords (based on Zamakhshari’s note).
    57. Ibn `Abbas said: they help in Allah’s causes without having seen Him (Zamakhshari); which tells us, writes Qurtubi, something about their sincerity.
    58. Allah is Strong and Mighty. He can execute His plan without human help. He only invites them to enlist themselves for His causes in order to reward them. He does the rest Himself (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا وَإِبْرَاهِيمَ وَجَعَلْنَا فِي ذُرِّيَّتِهِمَا النُّبُوَّةَ وَالْكِتَابَ ۖ فَمِنْهُمْ مُهْتَدٍ ۖ وَكَثِيرٌ مِنْهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ (26)

    57|26| And We did send Nuh and Ibrahim, and We appointed Prophethood and the Book to be among their seed. Yet, of them some are rightly guided, but most of them are defiantly disobedient.

    ثُمَّ قَفَّيْنَا عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمْ بِرُسُلِنَا وَقَفَّيْنَا بِعِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ وَآتَيْنَاهُ الْإِنْجِيلَ وَجَعَلْنَا فِي قُلُوبِ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُ رَأْفَةً وَرَحْمَةً وَرَهْبَانِيَّةً ابْتَدَعُوهَا مَا كَتَبْنَاهَا عَلَيْهِمْ إِلَّا ابْتِغَاءَ رِضْوَانِ اللَّهِ فَمَا رَعَوْهَا حَقَّ رِعَايَتِهَا ۖ فَآتَيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ ۖ وَكَثِيرٌ مِنْهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ (27)

    57|27| Then We sent, following in their footsteps59 Our Messengers; and sent `Isa, son of Maryam, giving him Injil; and We placed in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy;60 and monasticism61 which they invented62 - We did not prescribe it upon them - except to seek Allah’s approval.63 Thereafter they did not observe it as they should have observed.64 So We gave those of them who believed their reward, but most of them are corrupt.65

    59. Actually the word “qaffa” lends the meaning of sending one after another (Alusi), in quick succession (Au.).
    60. While some commentators have pointed out the difference between “ra’fah” and “rahmah” is that the former expresses greater intensity, Alusi says that “ra’fah” expresses that kindness which comes in between a man and a harm befalling him, while “rahmah” expresses that kindness which helps obtain what is good and beneficial.
    61. Abu Sa`eed al-Khudri narrated that:
    A man came to him and said, “Admonish me.” He said, “You have asked me what I had asked the Prophet earlier. He told me, ‘I admonish you to fear Allah. It is the head of everything. And upon you is Jihad for it is the monasticism of Islam. And upon you is Allah’s remembrance and recitation of the Qur’an for it is your (portion of) mercy in the heaven and a (means of) reminder for you on the earth.” (Ibn Kathir).
    62. “Bid`ah” is a much abused term in our times. Alusi, and following him Thanwi, point out that the word has been used here in its linguistic sense (to start up a new practice, to innovate), and not in its technical sense. (When the Prophet said, “Every innovation is an error,” he was using the word in its technical sense: Mufti Shafi`). It may be noted that the specific bid`ah mentioned here has not been condemned, but rather the fact that it was not observed in the spirit it deserved has been criticized.
    “Rahbaniyyah” itself, explains Shafi`, as defined by Islam (viz., observing celibacy, treating the lawful as unlawful and living in seclusion: Thanwi; not on a temporary basis, but as permanent and irreversible practice: Shafi`) stands prohibited in Islam – unless, once again, one has been left with no option between either severing all his relationships with the society, or abandoning faith. If someone faces a sure and definite threat to his faith, he may take to mountains and deserts without earning any censure, the way those of the Jews and Christians who were put to the ordeal did. They chose deserts and mountains but have not been censured by the Qur’an.
    Alusi does well to quote Nawawi from his commentary on Muslim. We translate in brief:
    “Scholars have said that innovation in religion (bid`ah) is of five kinds: mandatory, non-mandatory, forbidden, undesirable and acceptable. Of those that are mandatory, the arguments of the philosophers for refuting the atheists and innovators, is an example. The non-mandatory type is to author books, establish schools of study, set up border posts to (deter the enemy), etc. Of those that are acceptable are such as variety in food, etc. As for the forbidden and undesirable, they are quite well known. The hadith (which says, “every bid`ah is a misguidance”) is speaking of a particular type of bid`ah and is not generally applicable to all its kind. Our statement is strengthened by `Umar’s words concerning the taraawih he instituted: ‘A good bid`ah it is.’”
    The topic deserves greater elaboration. But none of the commentators under this author’s scheme of study has attempted it. It is on such occasions that one misses Rashid Rida’s thoroughgoing investigations (Au.).
    63. Ibn Jarir explains this passage in the following manner: “They invented a monasticism that We had not prescribed, although they did it hoping to attain Allah’s approval.” Zamakhshari is with him in this understanding.
    64. That is, a few remained true to their undertaking and so earned their rewards, but most of them did not observe monasticism the way it should have been observed but rather, proved to be incorrigibly corrupt. (Based on Zamakhshari).
    Ibn Jarir (as also Qurtubi) presents a report on his own authority, which has been preserved in several hadith collections such as Nasa’i, Tabarani and Ibn Marduwayh. The authenticity of some versions has been doubted but Ibn Kathir thinks that certain versions hold a strong position. It says that after `Isa (asws), the rulers altered Torah and Injeel and gave the options to their populace to either accept the altered versions or face the sword. Those who did not acquiesce were murdered. A third or so of the populace begged to be allowed into deserts where they could live in seclusion, away from the civilized life, and in no way disturbing the peace of others. They were allowed to take such a step, and it is in this connection that Allah revealed, “and monasticism which they invented - We did not prescribe it upon them - except to seek Allah’s approval.” By the time the Prophet arrived, few of them had survived so that when the news of his advent spread, this one came down from a monastery, that one from his recluse, yet another from his retreat, to embrace Islam. It is in reference to them that Allah said, “O those who have believed, fear Allah and believe in His Messenger. He will award you a two-fold portion of His mercy and provide for you a Light whereby you can walk, and forgive you; Allah is All-forgiving, All-merciful.”
    Abu Umamah al-Bahiliyy is reported to have applied this verse to this Ummah’s introduction of “tarawih” Prayers. He said, “Allah enjoined you to ‘siyam’ (fasts), but not ‘qiyam.’ It is something that you introduced. Now, (observe it in the manner of true observation: Qurtubi, and) do not forget that there were a people who introduced things in their religion that they were not commanded, but rather, did it on their own, and yet did not observe them in the spirit they should have been observed, so Allah reproached them for it saying, ‘and monasticism which they invented - We did not prescribe it upon them - except to seek Allah’s approval.’” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    Ibn Kathir cites a few other cases of Allah’s favor upon those He wills. The Sahihayn, Ibn Hibban and Ahmad have the following (the version here is from Muslim):
    “The poor immigrants went to the Prophet and said, ‘The wealthy attained high ranks and lasting bliss.’ He asked, ‘How is it?’ They said, ‘They Pray like we do, fast like we do, but they expend in charity while we cannot, and free slaves while we cannot.’ The Prophet told them, ‘Should I not teach you something whereby you will attain (to the same ranks) as those who went by, and overtake those who will come after you, and none will be equal to you except he who did like you do?’ They said, ‘Sure do it, Messenger of Allah.’ He said, ‘Chant out Allah’s glory, might, and praises after every Prayer thirty-three times each.’ Abu Saleh said, ‘(Later) the poor immigrants returned to the Prophet to say, ‘Our wealthy brothers came to know of what we were doing and have begun to do the same.’ He answered, ‘That is Allah’s mercy that He bestows upon whom He will.’”
    Qurtubi mentions a hadith in reference to monasticism. It is in Ahmad. It seems one of the Companions passed by a cave attached to a small pond. The place won his approval for its distance from the towns, away from the humdrum of life. When he returned, he described it to the Prophet and sought his permission to spend the rest of his life there worshipping Allah without any disturbance. He said,

    “I have not been sent with Judaism or Christianity but rather with the easy-to-practice religion of devotion to one God. By Him in whose hand is Muhammad’s life, a morning or a day out in Allah’s path (in Jihad) is better than the world and all that it contains; and the act of one of you standing in a congregational row, is better than his personal Prayers of sixty years.”
    The Prophet’s words as in the Arabic text were declared trustworthy by Albani, while Haythami questioned the earlier half (Au.).
    Alusi adds another hadith worth quoting. It is from Abu Da’ud (that has, according to Haythami, a narrator whom some accepted while others rejected: Au.),
    The Prophet said, “Do not go to extremes (by being harsh) on yourselves. A people before you were stern with their selves, so Allah also tightened upon them (by issuing tough commands). Those in the monasteries and cloisters are the leftovers of them.”
    That is, do not set upon yourselves harsh standards, nor take up difficult religious practices. In the end you will be defeated (Au.).
    65. Majid quotes a Christian: “With the passing of the concubine, the nuns in the convents provided the ‘holy men’ with the means of satisfying their sexual cravings” (Scot, History of Prostitution, p. 112). “Asceticism gave to sex an extravagantly important position, and the unhappy twist which the cult of celibacy gave to European morals was the natural result. There grew up a new hypocrisy, such as the old world had not troubled to practice and at the same time the extravagant license of medieval literature, and the squalor and degradation which have since then surrounded and accompanied prostitution” (UHW, I, p. 381). The outstanding features of these monasteries were ‘that they absorbed lands which would have been more useful in the hands of private owners, that they withdrew men from a life of active usefulness, and too often made them lazy and worthless.” (IV. P. 2627) “The rich endowments granted by kings had brought with them, as was inevitable, the seeds of luxury and self-indulgence, and of the very popularity of the ‘religious’ life gave occasion to unreality of professing it.” (DCD. I. p. 191).
    The Qur’anic remark that most of them were corrupt is not even the tip of the iceberg. History of monasticism is so full of corruption that none but the most die-hard Christian can have any respect for it. Mawdudi places a long note describing monasticism at its best, and it is far from pleasing. Although the account is familiar, we hesitate to reproduce any part of it because the author has not quoted the sources.

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَآمِنُوا بِرَسُولِهِ يُؤْتِكُمْ كِفْلَيْنِ مِنْ رَحْمَتِهِ وَيَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ نُورًا تَمْشُونَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (28)

    57|28| O those who have believed,66 fear Allah and believe in His Messenger. He will award you a two-fold portion of His mercy67 and provide for you a Light whereby you can walk,68 and forgive you; Allah is All-forgiving, All-merciful;

    66. According to Dahhak, the address is to those of the people of the Book who embraced Islam (Ibn Jarir).
    67. There will be others who will be doubly rewarded on the Day of Judgment. Says the Prophet in a hadith (preserved by Bukhari and others: Au.),
    “There are three who will receive two fold rewards: (a) A man who owns a slave-girl. He educates her, and educates her well, he teaches her good manners, and teaches it well. Then he frees her, and then marries her. He shall have twice the reward. (b) A believer of the people of the Book, who was a believer earlier also, and then believed in the Prophet (of the time). He shall have twice the reward. (c) And a slave who renders Allah’s rights and is sincere to his owner as well.” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    The above hadith ends on an interesting note. Sha`bi is one in the chain of narrators. He remarked as he narrated at Kufah,
    “I give this (narration) to you at no cost. There was a time when a man had to travel to Madinah for (a narration) much less important than this one” (Au.).
    Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir present another hadith in reference to two-fold rewards. (It is in Bukhari, Ibn Hibban, Ahmad and many other collections: Au.),
    The Prophet said, “Your epoch among the epochs of those who went before you is (the time) between `Asr and Maghrib (prayers). And your example compared to those of Jews and Christians is like a man who hired some workers saying, ‘Who will work for me for half the day over a measure each?’ The Jews worked for half a day for a measure each. Then he asked, ‘Who will work for me from mid-day until the `Asr time for a measure each?’ The Christians worked from mid-day until the `Asr time for a measure each. Then he said, ‘Who will work for me from the `Asr time until Maghrib on two measures each?’ Lo, O Muslims. It is you will work between `Asr and Maghrib for two measures each. Undoubtedly, you shall have two-fold rewards. So the Jews and Christians became angry and said, ‘Should we work more and be paid less?’ Allah asked, ‘Did I deny anything of your right?’ The two said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘This is My grace, I bestow upon whom I will.’”
    (For a better understanding of how the Fuqaha’ methodology works, it may be noted that the Hanafiyyah use this hadith – apart from others - to deduce that the time-gap between `Asr and Maghrib prayers should be shorter than the time gap between Zuhr and `Asr. They recommend therefore, that `Asr be done late: Au.).
    However, there is another report in Bukhari which varies with the above to point to another historical reality. Ibn Kathir quotes it:
    Abu Musa reports the Prophet as having said, “The example of the Muslims and Jews and Christians is like a man who hired a people to work for a day until the night, for a known wage. They worked until the mid-day, but said, ‘We have no need for the wage you had promised. Whatever we did was all waste.’ He told them, ‘Do not do that. Complete your work and take your wage in full.’ But they refused and abandoned the work. He hired two workers after them and said to them, ‘Complete this day of yours and you shall have your wages in full.’ They began to work but by the time it was `Asr-Prayer time, the two said, ‘Whatever we did for you was all waste. You may keep the reward you had promised us to yourself.’ He told the two, ‘Complete your work. What is left of the day is but little.’ The two refused. So he hired another set of people on condition that they will complete the work of the day. They worked for the rest of their day until the sun disappeared and completed the wages of the previous two parties. This is their example, and the example of what they took of this Light.”
    Note that the employment of the word “two” that were hired to work between noon and `Asr time, throws the hint that the Jews were also allowed to work, and that Judaism remained valid, even after some of them formed a new sect called “Christianity” (Au.).
    68. The Qur’an, the Criterion, and Allah’s guidance have been explained as being alluded to by the textual word “Nur.” But ‘the Qur’an’ is the preferable understanding, which is a source of Light for its holders (Ibn Jarir).
    Alusi adds: The hidden meaning in “provide you with Light whereby you can walk” is best expressed in a saying that circulates among scholars: “Whoever lived by what he knows is led to greater learning.”

    لِئَلَّا يَعْلَمَ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ أَلَّا يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ مِنْ فَضْلِ اللَّهِ ۙ وَأَنَّ الْفَضْلَ بِيَدِ اللَّهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ (29)

    57|29| that the people of the Book may know69 that they have no power over anything of Allah’s grace and that all grace is in Allah’s hand. He bestows it upon whom He will;70 and Allah is possessor of great grace.

    69. Not knowing the Arabic language well enough can lead to faulty understanding of the Qur’an. In this ayah, “li-‘alla” is equivalent of “li-kayla.” Ibn Jarir brings out a few other verses from the Qur’an in which “la” does not hold a negative meaning, but rather is used as a conjunction (lamu silah). For example,
    “What prevented you that you should prostrate yourself when I ordered you?”
    Or,
    “And what will inform you that when it comes, they will believe?”
    Or yet,
    “It is impossible for the (people of) a town which We destroyed, that they should return.”
    Qurtubi presents Farra’s position as agreeing with the above.
    70. One way to understand the verse, and its connection with the passage, is that Allah detailed some happenings of the past in order to impress upon the Jews and Christians that Allah’s grace is not bound with them, but is vast and available to any qualifying individual or nation. Therefore, there should be no objection to Him raising the Final Prophet among the Arabs and revealing to him (Razi).