Surat Aş-Şaf

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. 61

    Merits of the Surah

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

    61|1| Whatever is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah, and He is the All-mighty, the All-Wise.

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ (2)

    61|2| O those who have believed, why do you say that which you do not do?1

    1. This ayah is not prohibiting invitation to what someone does not practice himself. It is prohibiting that one should claim to having done what one has not done. In fact, inviting people to good acts, quite often leads he who invites to practice those acts himself (Thanwi).
    When asked, about this ayah as well as a few others on the topic, the Salaf replied that one ought to prohibit the wrong, whether one practices himself or not, for, if the condition is to practice before you preach, then, how many can preach?
    As further elucidation of the cause of revelation, the following may be quoted. The preferred opinion is that some of the Companions said, among them `Abdullah ibn Rawaha, “Had we known the best of deeds in the sight of Allah, we would have attempted it.” But when verses pertaining to Jihad were revealed, some betrayed aversion, so Allah revealed this passage. But `Abdullah ibn Rawaha said, at the time of revelation, that he would remain in Jihad untill death; and, true to his word, he died a martyr (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    The report above is trustworthy (Alusi).
    Ibn Kathir points out that there is a report in Ahmad which narrates `Abdullah b. Salam as saying that “a group of us were discussing amongst ourselves as to who would volunteer to go and ask the Prophet what the best of deeds was. But none volunteered. By coincidence, right then the Prophet sent us a man to take us all to him one after another. When we went to him he recited this chapter.”
    Ibn Zayd said however that this passage refers to the hypocrites who promised to help the Muslims (in war) but never kept their promise (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    Yusuf Ali points to the possibility that the reference could be to the failure of some of the Companions at Uhud.

    كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَنْ تَقُولُوا مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ (3)

    61|3| Greatly hateful it is in the sight of your Lord that you should say what you do not do.2


    2. The disapproval includes saying to others what we refuse to attempt ourselves. A hadith reports the Prophet as having said,
    “I passed by a people, the night I was taken up, whose lips were being clipped with scissors of fire. I asked Jibril, ‘Who are these people?’ He answered, ‘These are sermonizers of the world. They commanded others to goodness but forgot themselves, although they recited the Book. Should they have not considered?’” (Qurtubi).
    The above narrative is in Ahmad, Ibn Hibban’s Sahih and several other works (Au.).
    The rule applies to minor affairs also. We have a report in Ahmad and Abu Da’ud which reports `Abdullah b. `Amir as saying that “Once the Prophet visited our house. I was then a child and started off to play outside. My mother called me back and said, ‘Abdullah, come and have this.’ The Prophet asked, ‘What is it that you intended to give him?’ She replied, ‘Dates.” He said:
    “Had you not done it, a lie would have been written against you.”

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِهِ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُمْ بُنْيَانٌ مَرْصُوصٌ (4)

    61|4| Allah certainly approves of those who fight in His cause in rows as if they are a leaded structure.3

    3. That is, as one body, each joined to the rest as if welded together (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali comments: “A battle array, in which a large number of men stand, march, or hold together against assault as if they were a solid wall, is a striking example of order, discipline, cohesion, and courage. ‘A solid cemented structure’ is even a better simile than the usual ‘solid wall’ as the ‘structure’ or building implies a more diversified organisation held together in unity and strength, each part contributing strength in its own way, and the whole held together not like a mass but like a living organism.”
    The Prophet is reported to have said in a narrative preserved by Ahmad and Ibn Majah:
    “There are three at whom Allah laughs (i.e., is pleased with): A man who rises up for late-night Prayers, a people when they form rows for a battle, and when they form rows for the Prayers.”
    The hadith could not be located in Ibn Majah, and this particular version is not quite trustworthy. But Ibn Kathir adds the following to strengthen it. It reports Mutarrif b. `Abdullah as saying:
    “I was narrated a hadith of Abu Dharr and I wished all along I could meet him (to confirm it). I did happen to meet him and I asked him, ‘O Abu Dharr, a hadith of yours reached me and I wished to meet you.’ He said, ‘May Allah bless your father, now you have found me.’ I said, ‘I have learnt that the Prophet told you, “Allah loves three and detests three..” He said, ‘He did not befriend me that I should forge a lie on my friend.’ I asked, ‘So who are those that Allah loves?’ He said, ‘A man who fought in Allah’ Cause, in patience and hoping to be rewarded – a mujahid. Then he met the enemy and fought until he died. And you find this in Allah’s Book.’ Then he recited this ayah, ‘Surely, Allah approves of those who fight in His cause as if they are a leaded structure.’”
    This report is declared trustworthy by Hakim in his Mustadrak and confirmed by Dhahabi (Au.).
    The following from Majid should be of interest: “’The recognized military formation,’ in the early history of Islam, ‘whether on parade, on the march, or in battle, was the ta`biyyah. In it the army was divided into five main divisions, namely centre, right and left wings, van (muqaddamah) and rear-guard (sava) .. The ‘five formation’ was in use as early as the Prophet’s own time, e.g., at the battle of Badr and Muta, and to its invention and introduction has been attributed much of his success against his opponents who were still using the old, irregular method of attack.’ (Levy, Sociology of Islam, II, pp. 296, 297). The ordinary method of fighting in vogue till then was ‘that of the raid, in which a sudden charge was followed by prompt retreat and sudden return to the onslaught’ (p. 297). The Prophet, the great military leader that he was, changed this, and at the battle of Badr ‘introduced the new formation of the ta`biyyah for the first time, with great success. He had very few more than three hundred men, of whom only one was mounted. He arranged them in straight, regular ranks, which he put in order himself, walking along the ranks with an arrow in order to push back any man who was out of the line with the rest.’ (p. 298).”
    Sayyid adds: “Islam does not desire warfare. It declares Jihad obligatory because of the ground realities .. It offers the humanity a program of life, a system: the final to come from their Lord. Now, this system and this program of life, which in truth corresponds well with nature – except that it requires the humans to put in some efforts of their own, so that they may rise up above others – is opposed by forces that do not agree with it. For, this program threatens to take away advantages that those who command influence, draw from the older systems. These forces declare a war on the Islamic program, to root it out. In their own efforts they rely on weak elements within the Islamic community, as they also depend on ignorance of some, and love of the heritage of the past. The ensuing evil is pretty vicious. Falsehood is a braggart, and Shaytan, meanly.
    “It becomes necessary then on the caravan of faith and defenders of the system, to be strong in order to overcome the agents of evil and allies of the Devil. They have to be equally strong in their morals, especially, at the time they face their enemies. Yet, it is conditional upon them that they should fight only when fighting is the final recourse to guarantee their freedom of faith, freedom to execute their program of life, and freedom to preach their faith.
    “They fight in Allah’s Cause; not for their own sake, not for tribal, clannish, or nationalistic, regional solidarity’s sake. They fight in Allah’s Cause, pure and simple, in order that Allah’s Word may prevail. The Prophet has said, ‘He who fought in order that Allah’s Word may prevail, is in Allah’s Cause.’"

    وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ يَا قَوْمِ لِمَ تُؤْذُونَنِي وَقَدْ تَعْلَمُونَ أَنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا زَاغُوا أَزَاغَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْفَاسِقِينَ (5)

    61|5| And (recall) when Musa said to his people, ‘O my people, why do you torture me while you know that I am Allah’s Messenger to you.’4 But when they deviated, Allah caused their hearts to deviate;5 and Allah does not guide a rebelliously corrupt people.6

    4. That is, when you know for sure that I am Allah’s Messenger (Razi, Qurtubi).
    See note 151 of Surah al-Baqarah for details of Musa’s torture at the hands of the children of Israel.
    5. As Allah said elsewhere:
    “And We turn their hearts and their sights because they did not believe in the first instance, and leave them in their rebellion, wandering about (blindly).”
    That is “On the one hand I have been foretold in Tawrah – as the final Prophet among the children of Israel, and, on the other, I am informing you about the appearance of a Prophet after me” (Ibn Kathir).
    6. “The sinner’s own will deviates, i.e., goes off from the right way, and he does wrong. That means that he shuts off Allah’s grace. Allah then, after his repeated rebellion, withdraws the protecting Grace from him, and the sinner’s heart is tainted: there is ‘a disease in his heart’, which is the centre of his being: his spiritual state is ruined. Allah’s guidance is withdrawn from him” (Yusuf Ali).

    وَإِذْ قَالَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيَّ مِنَ التَّوْرَاةِ وَمُبَشِّرًا بِرَسُولٍ يَأْتِي مِنْ بَعْدِي اسْمُهُ أَحْمَدُ ۖ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ قَالُوا هَٰذَا سِحْرٌ مُبِينٌ (6)

    61|6| (Also recall) when `Isa the son of Maryam said, ‘O Children of Israel, certainly I am Allah’s Messenger to you, testifying the Tawrah which was before me, and (I myself am, a) harbinger of glad tidings of a Messenger who will come after me.7 His name will be Ahmad.’8 But when he came to them carrying clear evidences, they said, ‘This is clear sorcery.’9

    7. Majid comments and quotes from the Britannica: “That the teachings of Jesus (on whom be peace) as a universal code of conduct, was singularly inadequate and incomplete, and necessitated the advent of another Teacher is admitted by the Christian apologists themselves, and accounted for in ways that are more amusing than convincing. ‘The Savior refrained from all attempts to guide His followers by rule, but gradually taught them .. that their lives were to be quickened by the Holy Spirit whose indwelling was to them to be their strength and inspiration for all time. In view of this prospect, we can understand why His ethical teaching was so suggestive but so paradoxical, so figurative and so incomplete. It was designed, not to save us from the trouble of thinking but to turn our thoughts to the Comforter whom He promised to send.’ (ERE, XII, p.621).”
    Ibn Jarir quotes a hadith of this context. We break it into two:
    On the authority of `Irbad b. Sariyyah, the Prophet said, “I am `Abdullah, seal of the Prophets while Adam was yet in his dust. And, let me tell you about the beginning of the affair: (I am) My father Ibrahim’s prayer, a glad tiding of `Isa about me, and the dream that my mother saw. And that is how mothers of the Prophets see.”
    The above is the first part. The second, separate part occurs separately in many reports. It says, “When she gave him berth, a Light emerged that illuminated the palaces of Syria.”
    The above reports are in Ahmad, Tabarani, Ibn Hibban and Hakim who both declared the reports trustworthy, the latter with Dhahabi in his support. Of course, Ibn Kathir does not miss them (Au.).
    That the people of the Book had received tidings from their Prophets about the Final Messenger is evidenced by the way some kings and rulers received the Prophet’s letters inviting them to Islam. Ibn Kathir presents the story of Negus, the Abyssinian Christian king. When `Amr b. al-`Aas failed to convince the Negus to hand over Muslim emigrants to him, he thought he will play his last card. He informed him that these people were opposed to his views about Jesus Christ. So Negus asked the Muslims what they thought of Jesus. They said they were taught that `Isa, the son of Maryam, was no more than a Messenger of Allah, created by a Word, through Maryam the Virgin, whom no man had touched. At that Negus picked up a twig from the ground and said, “Jesus Christ was no more or less than the twig against what they have described him.” He added that if he had not been a king, he would have visited the Prophet. The full story is in Ibn Is-haq’s Life of the Prophet.
    8. Alusi remarks that the word used in the Gospels is “Farqalit” which has been explained by some Christian scholars as meaning “Hamid”, i.e., one who praises.
    Thanwi writes that according to Indian Mawlana Rahmatullah Kayraanawi who produced the famous treatise Izhar al-Haq (which the Christians have not been able to answer to this day: Au.), the word used in Hebrew was Ahmad, meaning he who praises. The translators of those times usually translated proper nouns also. Accordingly, the word Ahmad was translated from Hebrew into Greek as Parakletos or Periklytos, or, as in modern rendering Parcalete. Then, when it was re-translated into Hebrew, the word was changed to Farqalit. Some Hebrew Bibles of the nineteenth century carried the name Ahmad. (Thanwi’s commentary is in Urdu, and the references he gives is that of a work entitled “Apology” by Godfrey Higgins, a London publication of 1829)].
    Christian missionaries invested lots of efforts towards the destruction of “Izhar al-Haq” but somehow it survived. It was originally in Arabic and has been translated into Turkish, English and Urdu (Mufti Shafi`).
    Qurtubi writes: Literally, Ahmad means someone who - out of all those who praise - is the most praising of Allah, while Muhammad means he who was praised severally or frequently. The Prophet could not have been Muhammad before being Ahmad.
    The Sahihyan have a pertinent hadith:
    The Prophet said, “I have several names so that I am Muhammad, I am Ahmad, I am Mahi by whom Allah will obliterate unbelief, I am Hashir after whom Allah will muster together the people and I am `Aqib (after whom there will be no Prophet)” - Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir.
    Another narration in Muslim and Ahmad is on the authority of Abu Musa al-Ash`ari:
    The Prophet used to name himself. Of those that we remember, he said, “I am Muhammad, Ahmad, Muqaffa, (last of the Prophets), Hashir, the Prophet of Repentance and of the Final War” (Ibn Kathir).
    The concept of Armageddon seems quite close to the “malahim” of hadith predictions (Au.).
    Razi quotes several passages from the Gospels that prophesize the advent of Prophet Muhammad by the tongue of Jesus Christ. One of them is as follows: “But the Comforter, [who is] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you (John 14: 26).”
    Imam Razi comments on the above that the Christians say that the Comforter mentioned in the above verse is Jesus himself, who re-appeared after his crucifixion. But this argument is untenable because, although according to the Gospels Jesus did appear after crucifixion, but that was for a few moments during which he taught nothing of what the above verse is promising.
    Hereunder a summary of Mawdudi’s long commentary:
    The Gospel of St. John bears evidence that at the advent of the Prophet Jesus Christ, the Israelites were awaiting the appearance of three persons: the Christ, Elias (i.e. the second coming of the Prophet Elias) and of “that prophet”. In the words of the Gospel:
    “And this is the record of John (the Prophet John: Yahya) when the Jews sent, priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness! Make straight the way of the Lord as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?” (John, 1: 19-25)
    “These words expressly show that the Israelites were awaiting another Prophet besides the Prophet Christ and the Prophet Elias, and he was not the Prophet John. The belief about the coming of that Prophet was so well known and well established among the Israelite that a mere reference to him as ‘that prophet’ was enough to call attention to him without any need to add: ‘The one who has been foretold in the Torah.’ Furthermore, it also shows that the advent of the prophet to whom they were referring was absolutely confirmed, for when these questions were asked of the Prophet John, he did not say that no other prophet was to come and therefore the questions were irrelevant.
    Consider now the predictions that have been cited in the Gospel of St. John from chapter 14 to chapter 16:
    “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (14: 16-17)
    “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, ‘he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (14: 25-26)
    “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” (14: 30)
    “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (15: 26)
    “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (16: 7)
    “I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” (16: 12-15)
    In order to determine the exact meaning of these passages one should first know that the language spoken by the Prophet Jesus an his contemporary Palestinians was a dialect of the Aramaic language, called Syriac. More than 200 years before the birth of Jesus when the Seleucidcs came to power Hebrew had become extinct in this territory and been replaced by Syriac. Although under the influence of the Seleucide and then the Roman empires, Greek also had reached this area, it remained confined only to that class of the people, who after having access to the higher government circles, or in order to seek access to them, had become deeply Hellenized. The Common Palestinians used a particular dialect of Syriac, the accents and pronunciations and idioms of which were different from the Syriac spoken in and around Damascus. The common people of the country were wholly unaware of Greek. So much so that when in A.D. 70 the Roman General Titus, after taking Jerusalem, addressed the citizens in Greek, he had to be translated into Syriac. This makes it evident that whatever the Prophet Jesus spoke to his disciples must necessarily be only in Syriac.
    Secondly, one should know that all the four Gospels were written by the Greek-speaking Christians, who had entered Christianity after the Prophet Jesus. The traditions of the sayings and acts of the Prophet Jesus reached them through the Syriac speaking Christians not in the written form but as oral traditions, and they translated these Syriac traditions into their own language and incorporated them in their books. None of the extant Gospels was written before A.D. 70; the Gospel of St. John was compiled a century after the Prophet Jesus probably in Ephesus, a city in Asia Minor. Moreover, no original copy even of these Gospels in Greek, in which these were originally written, exists. None of the Greek manuscripts that have been discovered and collected from here and there and which all belong to the period before the invention of printing date before the 4th century. Therefore, it is difficult to say what changes might have taken place in these during the first three centuries. What makes it particularly doubtful is that the Christians have been regarding it as quite lawful to temper with their Gospels intentionally as and when they liked. The author of the article “Bible” in Encyclopaedia Britannica (Ed. 1973) writes:
    “The main source of the evidence and of the variations are the manuscripts of the N.T., dating from the 2nd to the 10th century or even later. In the process of copying, these manuscripts underwent the revisions that necessitate textual criticism. Some of these revisions were unintentional, as the scribe skipped a word or a line or as he mistook one character for another. Other revisions came from the desire of the scribe to harmonize the text of one Gospel with another or of one Testament with the oher, or from his pious wish to ‘correct’ or clarify the text at another point. But now that variations in the text exist, collection of the manuscripts is a difficult task.” (See “Bible” in Encyclopedia Britannica, 1973).
    Under such conditions as these, it is very difficult to say wit absolute certainty that the sayings of the Prophet Jesus (peace be on him) found in the Gospels, have been preserved, reproduced and cited faithfully and accurately, and that no change has taken place anywhere
    (Another) vital point is that even afer the conquest by the Muslims, for about three centuries, the Palestine Christians retained Syriac, which was not replaced by Arabic until the 9th century A.D. The information that the Muslim scholars of the first three centuries obtained through the Syriac speaking Christians about the Christian traditions, should be more authentic and reliable than the information of those people whom it reached through translation after translation from Syriac into Greek and then from Greek into Latin. For there were greater chances of the original Syriac words spoken by the Prophet Jesus remaining preserved with the Palestinian Christians than with others.
    Now, it is interesting to note that in Greek itself there is another word Periclytos, which means “the Praised One”. This word is exactly synonymous with “Muhammad.” In pronunciation it closely resembles Paracletus. It cannot be a remote possibility that the Christians who have been used to making alterations in their religious books as and when they liked, might have effected a little variation in the spelling of this word in the prophecy related by St. John when they saw that it went against their set belief and creed. The original Greek Gospel composed by St. John does not exist either; therefore it is not possible to check which of the two words had actually been used in it.
    But the decision is not solely dependent on this as to which word had St. John actually used in Greek, for in any case that too was a translation and the Prophet Jesus’ language, as we have explained above, was Palestinian Syriac. Therefore, the word that he might have used in his good news must necessarily be a Syriac word. Fortunately, we find that original Syriac word in the Life of Muhammad by Ibn Hisham. Along with that we also come to know its synonymous Greek word from the same book. Ibn Hisham, on the authority of Ibn Ishaq, has reproduced the complete translation of 15: 23-27 and of 16: 1 of the Gospel according to Yuhannus (Yuhanna : John), and has used the Syriac word Munhamanna instead of the Greek Paraclete. Then, Ibn Ishaq or Ibn Hisham has explained it thus: The Munhamanna in Syriac means Muhammad and in Greek the Paracletus (Ibn Hisham, vol. 1, p. 248).
    Now, historically, the language of the common Palestinian Christians until the 9th century A.D. was Syriac. This land was included in the Islamic territories in the first half of the 7th century. Ibn Ishaq died in 768 A.D. and Ibn Hisha in 828 A.D. This means that in the time of both the Palestinian Christians spoke Syriac, and for neither it was difficult to ave contacts with the Christian subjects of their country. Moreover, in those days there also lived hundreds of thousands of Greek speaking Christians in the Islamic territories. Therefore, it was also not difficult for them to find out which particular word of Greek was synonymous with a certain word of Syriac. Now, if in the translation reproduced by Ibn Ishaq the Syriac word Munhamanna has been used, and Ibn Ishaq or Ibn Hisham has explained that its Arabic equivalent is Muhammad and Greek Paracletus, there remains no room for the doubt that the Prophet Jesus had given the good news of the coming of the Holy Prophet himself by name along with that it also becomes known that in the Greek Gospel of John the word, actually used was Periclytos, which the Christian scholars changed into Paracletus at some later time.”
    Mawdudi’s note ends here.
    Asad has almost the last word: “This prediction is supported by several references in the Gospel of St. John to the Parakletos (usually rendered as ‘Comforter’) who was to come after Jesus. This designation is almost certainly a corruption of Periklytos (‘the Much-Praised’), an xact Greek translation of the Aramaic term or name Mawhamana. (It is to be borne in mind that Aramaic was the language used in Palestine at the time of, and for some centuries after, Jesus, and was thus undoubtedly the language in which the original – now lost – texts of the Gospels were composed.) In view of the phonetic closeness of Periklytos and Parakletos it is easy to understand how the translator – or, more probably, a later scribe – confused these two expressions. It is significant that both the Aramaic Mawhamana and the Greek Periklytos have the same meaning as the two names of the Last Prophet Muhammad and Ahmad, both of which are derived from the verb hamida (‘he praised’) and the noun hamd (‘praise’). An even more unequivocal prediction of the advent of Prophet Muhammad – mentioned by name, in its Arabic form – is said to be forthcoming from the so-called Gospel of Saint Barnabas, which, though now regarded as apocryphal, was accepted as authentic and was read in churches until the year 496 of the Christian era, when it was banned as ‘heretical’ by a decree of Pope Gelasius. However, since the original text of the Gospel is not available (having come to us only in an Italian translation dating from the sixteenth century), its authenticity cannot be established with certainty.”
    Asad’s note ends here.
    This author may add the following. But before further discussion, herewith a short (and selected) account of, first Barnabas, and then the Gospel of Barnabas:
    The Gospel of Barnabas
    The Gospel of Barnabas was written (or perhaps dictated) by one of the 11 chosen disciples of Jesus Christ, called Barnabas. It was written to remove the misconceptions and illusions that had begun to surround the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It states in the preamble: “Dearly beloved, the great and wonderful God hath during these past days visited us by his Prophet Jesus Christ in great mercy of teaching and miracles, under pretence of piety, by reason thereof many, being deceived of Satan, under pretence of piety, are preaching most impious doctrine, calling Jesus son of God, repudiating the circumcision ordained of God for ever, and permitting every unclean meat: among whom also Paul hath been deceived.”
    Hereunder a brief summary of an article on the Gospel in the Wikipedia:
    The Gospel of Barnabas
    “It is a work purporting to be a depiction of the life of Jesus by his disciple Barnabas. Two known manuscripts have been dated to the late sixteenth century, and are written respectively in Italian and in Spanish.
    Earlier occurrences of a Gospel of Barnabas
    A “Gospel according to Barnabas” is mentioned in two early Christian lists of apocryphal works: the Decretum Gelasianum (no later than the sixth century), as well as a 7th-century List of the Sixty Books.
    This work should not be confused with the surviving Epistle of Barnabas, which may have been written in 2nd century Alexandria; neither should it be confused with the surviving Acts of Barnabas, which narrates an account of Barnabas’ travels, martyrdom and burial; and which is generally thought to have been written in Cyprus sometime after 431.
    Spanish Manuscript
    The known Spanish manuscript was lost in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries; however an eighteenth century copy of it was discovered in the 1970s in the University of Sydney‘s Fisher Library among the books of Sir Charles Nicholson, labelled in English “Transcribed from ms. in possession of the Revd Mr Edm. Callamy who bought it at the decease of Mr George Sale...and now gave me at the decease of Mr John Nickolls, 1745”.
    Religious themes
    The Gospel of Barnabas was little known outside academic circles until recent times, when a number of Muslims have taken to publishing it in order to argue against the orthodox Christian conception of Jesus. It generally resonates better with existing Muslim views than with Christianity: it foretells the coming of Muhammad by name; rather than describing the crucifixion of Jesus, it describes him being raised up into heaven, similar to the description of Elijah in 2 Kings, Chapter 2; and it calls Jesus a “prophet” whose mission was restricted to the “house of Israel”.
    However, it differs from Islamic conceptions in at least two important respects; it reports that Muhammad, not Jesus, was the Messiah, whereas the Qur’an and Hadith both describe Jesus as the Messiah, and no orthodox variety of Islam calls Muhammad the Messiah.
    The Gospel also takes a strongly anti-Pauline tone at times, saying in the Italian version’s beginning: “many, being deceived of Satan, under pretence of piety, are preaching most impious doctrines, calling Jesus son of God, repudiating the circumcision ordained of God for ever, and permitting every unclean meat: among whom also Paul has been deceived.”
    Prediction of Muhammad
    The name of “Muhammad” is frequently mentioned verbatim in the Gospel of Barnabas, as in the following quote:
    “Jesus answered: ‘The name of the Messiah is admirable, for God himself gave him the name when he had created his soul, and placed it in a celestial splendour. God said: ”Wait Mohammed; for thy sake I will to create paradise, the world, and a great multitude of creatures, whereof I make thee a present, insomuch that whoso bless thee shall be blessed, and whoso shall curse thee shall be accursed. When I shall send thee into the world I shall send thee as my messenger of salvation, and thy word shall be true, insomuch that heaven and earth shall fail, but thy faith shall never fail." Mohammed is his blessed name.’ Then the crowd lifted up their voices, saying: ‘O God, send us thy messenger: O Admirable One, come quickly for the salvation of the world!’" Barnabas 97: 9-10. The Italian manuscript replaces “Admirable One” with “Muhammad”.
    Jesus not God or Son of God
    According to the Gospel of Barnabas, Jesus foresaw and rejected his own deification:
    ‘And having said this, Jesus smote his face with both his hands, and then smote the ground with his head. And having raised his head, he said: “Cursed be every one who shall insert into my sayings that I am the son of God”’ (53:6).
    ‘And having said this Jesus went out of the Temple. And the common people magnified him, for they brought all the sick folk whom they could gather together, and Jesus having made prayer gave to all their health: whereupon on that day in Jerusalem the Roman soldiery, by the working of Satan, began to stir up the common people, saying that Jesus was the God of Israel, who was come to visit his people’ (69:6).
    ‘Jesus answered: “And you; what say you that I am?” Peter answered: “You are Christ, son of God”. Then was Jesus angry, and with anger rebuked him, saying: “Begone and depart from me, because you are the devil and seek to cause me offences”’ (70:1).
    Jesus said again: “I confess before heaven, and call to witness everything that dwells upon the earth, that I am a stranger to all that men have said of me, to wit, that I am more than man. For I am a man, born of a woman, subject to the judgment of God; that live here like as other men, subject to the common miseries” (94:1).
    ‘Then answered the priest, with the governor and the king, saying: “Distress not yourself, O Jesus, holy one of God, because in our time shall not this sedition be any more, seeing that we will write to the sacred Roman senate in such wise that by imperial decree none shall any more call you God or son of God.” Then Jesus said: “With your words I am not consoled, because where you hope for light darkness shall come; but my consolation is in the coming of the Messenger, who shall destroy every false opinion of me, and his faith shall spread and shall take hold of the whole world, for so has God promised to Abraham our father”’ (97:1).
    Although the Gospel of Barnabas is, in several respects, inconsistent with Islamic teaching, some Muslim scholars cite this as evidence of the genuineness of the gospel by arguing that no Muslim would fake a document and have it contradict the Qur’an. They believe the contradictions of the Qur’an in the Gospel of Barnabas are signs of textual corruption (which Muslims already ascribe for a majority of the Bible), but that the Gospel of Barnabas would not be as corrupt as other religious works, and would still maintain the truth about Jesus not being crucified and not being God or son of God.” (Source: Encyclopaedia “Wikipedia”).
    (Quotation by this author ends here).
    Herewith a summary of Mawdudi’s notes on the Gospel of Barnabas:
    “Wherever this Gospel is mentioned in Christian literature, it is condemned as a forged Gospel, which perhaps some Muslim has composed and ascribed to Barnabas. But this is a great falsehood which has been uttered only for the reason that it contains at several places clear prophecies about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be Allah’s peace and blessings).. But no mention of any kind is found of the Gospel of Barnabas in the books of Muslim writers like Tabari, Ya`qubi, Mas`udi, Al-Bayruni, Ibn Hazm and others, who were fully conversant with Christian literature. The best catalogues of the books found in the libraries of the Islamic world were Al-Fihrist of Ibn an-Nadim and Kashf at-Zunun of Haji-Khalifah, and these too are without any mention of it. The most important argument to refute the claim that the Gospel has been written by a Muslim is that about 75 years before the birth of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), in the time of Pope Gelasius 1, the list prepared of uncanonical books, which were banned for reading by a Papal decree, also included the Gospel of Barnabas (Evangelium Barnabe). The question is: Who was the Muslim at that time, who forged this Gospel? The Christian scholars themselves have admitted that the Gospel of Barnabas remained prevalent in Syria, Spain, Egypt, etc. during the early days of Christianity for a long time and that it was banned as heretical in the 6th century.”
    (Mawdudi’s quote ends here).
    In conclusion, we may add the following. The Gospel of Barnabas mentions the Prophet - always naming him as Muhammad - at least 10 times. In a few other places it refers to him as the Messenger, or Messiah. It is unthinkable that a Muslim should introduce the Prophet’s name and do it 10 times over. Only a scholar could have ever laid his hand on a manuscript of this sort, and he would have been sensible enough to introduce the name twice or thrice, but not 10 times.
    Further, nowhere is the Prophet named “Ahmad.” This is another indication that this Gospel was not adulterated by a Muslim as the Christians claim. If a Muslim had interpolated it, he would have used the word “Ahmad” and not Muhammad, considering the fact that the Qur’an used the word Ahmad.
    Again, there are several passages that may meet with the Islamic standard of judgment, such as,
    “If thine eye be an offense to thee, pluck it out; for it is better that thou go with one eye only into paradise than with both of them into hell. If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, do likewise; for it is better that thou go into the kingdom of heaven with one foot or one hand, than with two hands and two feet go into hell’ (ch. 87).
    “And verily I say unto you, that whoso hath the light of his eyes clear, seeth everything clear, and draweth light even out of darkness itself; but the blind doeth not so. Wherefore I say that, if man had not sinned, neither I nor thou would have known the mercy of God and his righteousness. And if God had made man incapable of sin he would have been equal to God in that matter; wherefore the blessed God created man good and righteous, but free to do that which he pleaseth in regard to his own life and salvation or damnation’ (ch. 154).
    Yet, there are passages spread over every page that only a Christian, with thorough scholarship of the Torah, Talmud and Gospels, could have written. The style and the entire content are definitely pre-Islamic.
    In addition, there are a few other reasons why this Gospel could not be an interpolated version of an original Gospel, i.e., a work originally written by a Christian of the earliest times, adulterated and interpolated by a Muslim. There are passages that are so obviously un-Islamic that no Muslim would commit himself to. E.g. (a) it mentions that God wrote on the thumb-nail of Adam’s one hand, “There is only one God,” and on the other thumb-nail, “Muhammad is the messenger of God” (ch. 39). But there is nothing in the Islamic literature equivalent of this: neither in weak ahadith nor among the forged ones. In fact, computer search shows that such a story is not there in hundreds of history and biographical works. (b) It refers to Prophet Muhammad as “the Messiah” which every Muslim knows he was not, rather, Jesus Christ himself was. (c) It presents the idea of Prophet David’s unity with God:
    “Wherefore, albeit our father David verily saw them, I tell you he saw them not with human eye, for God took his soul unto himself, and thus, united with God, he saw them..” (ch. 169).
    This is a concept abhorrent to Islam. Or, in chapter 135, (d) demons are depicted as tormenters of the believers in Hell, while the Islamic concept is that they will themselves suffer punishment therein. It is angels who will deliver punishment to both humans as well as demons. Another un-Islamic concept is that (e) when Jesus Christ tried to make peace between Satan and God, and informed Satan that all he needed to be forgiven was to say, “I have sinned; have mercy on me.” Satan insisted that God should admit the same, that is, He should say to Satan, “I have sinned; have mercy on me.” Jesus cursed Satan saying that God was sinless (ch.51). This is a blasphemy that a Muslim would neither introduce in a book he was interpolating, nor leave it unaltered if he was editing. He would have surely removed it knowing that Muslims would reject a Scripture that contains such non-sense (Au.).
    9. The allusion by “when he came with clear signs” could be either to `Isa ibn Maryam, or to Muhammad (Razi, Qurtubi).
    With reference to `Isa (asws) we have the following from Majid: “’The accusation of magic is frequently brought against Jesus. Jerome mentions it, quoting the Jews … There were even Christian heretics who looked upon the founder of their religion as a magician, and public opinion at Rome accused all Christians of magic. The apostles were regarded in the same light.’ (JE., VII, p. 171). ‘According to Celsus and to the Talmud, Jesus learned magic in Egypt and performed his miracles by means of it… Different in nature is the witchcraft attributed to Jesus in the Toledot.’ (ib). ‘The Talmud stories allow that he did indeed work signs and wonders, but by means of magic.’ (Klaurmen, op. cit., p. 19). According to a Talmudic authority, ‘Yeshu practiced sorcery and beguiled and led Israel astray’ (p. 25). ‘And the scribes which came down from Jeruslaem said, He hath Beelzebub, and, by the prince of the devils, he casteth out devils’ (MK. 3: 22). ‘The Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.’ (Mt.9: 34). ‘When the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of devils’ (Mt., 12: 24).”
    If the allusion is assumed as to our Prophet, then the following can be offered from Yusuf Ali: “Our holy Prophet was foretold in many ways; and when he came, he showed forth many Clear Signs, for his whole life from beginning to end was one vast miracle. He fought and won against odds. Without learning from men he taught the highest wisdom. He melted hearts that were hard, and he strengthened hearts that were tender and required support. In all his sayings and doings men of discernment could see the working of Allah’s hand; yet the ignorant Unbelievers called it all Sorcery! - called that unreal which became the most solid fact of human history!”

    وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ وَهُوَ يُدْعَىٰ إِلَى الْإِسْلَامِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ (7)

    61|7| And who can do greater wrong than he who fastened lies on Allah while he is being invited to Islam? And Allah does not guide a transgressing people.

    يُرِيدُونَ لِيُطْفِئُوا نُورَ اللَّهِ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَاللَّهُ مُتِمُّ نُورِهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْكَافِرُونَ (8)

    61|8| They wish to put off the Light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His Light,10 even though the unbelievers are averse (to it).

    10. The allusion is to the light of Islam (Ibn Jarir), or, light of the Qur’an (Ibn Zayd).

    هُوَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْمُشْرِكُونَ (9)

    61|9| He it is who sent His Messenger11 with guidance and the religion of truth so that He may make it prevail over all religions,12 even though the polytheists may be averse (to it).

    11. That is, Prophe Muhammad.
    12. The term for “religions” in the Qur’anic text is actually in singular, perhaps because, as Yusuf Ali points out, there is only one true religon.
    Ibn Jarir is of the opinion that the complete prevalence of Islam will only take place when Jesus Christ appears a second time. (Mujahid was also of the same opinion: Alusi). Ibn Jarir quotes a hadith (now in Muslim). It reports `A’isha’s words, “I heard the Prophet say, ‘Days and nights will not stop their rotation before Lat and Manat are once again worshiped.’ I asked, ‘Messenger of Allah. When Allah (swt) revealed the verse, ‘He it is who sent His Messenger with Guidance and the religion of truth ..’, I thought that that was the end of it all!?’ He replied, ‘That surely will be fulfilled. None the less, Allah will send a pleasant breeze thereafter which will take the life of every individual who had even the littlest of faith in his heart. Only those will remain who have no good in them. They will return to the religion of their (pre-Islamic) ancestors.’”
    Qurtubi presents another hadith on the same lines. It is in Muslim. The Prophet said:
    “By Allah, Ibn Maryam will descend down as a just (ruler). He will surely break the cross, destroy swine, abolish Jizyah and young camels will be mounted without contention. Enmity, hatred and envy will be gone, and, people will be invited to wealth, but there will be no takers.”
    The meaning of “without contention” is that there will be so many of the camels that there will be no contention to own them.
    See Surah Tawbah, ayah 32 and accompanying notes for fuller discussion.

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ تِجَارَةٍ تُنْجِيكُمْ مِنْ عَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ (10)

    61|10| O those who have believed, shall I lead you to a bargain that will deliver you from a painful chastisement?

    تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِأَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنْفُسِكُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (11)

    61|11| You shall believe in Allah and His Messenger and fight in Allah’s cause with your wealth and your selves. That is best for you, only if you knew.

    يَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَيُدْخِلْكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ وَمَسَاكِنَ طَيِّبَةً فِي جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ (12)

    61|12| He will forgive you your sins and admit you into gardens beneath which rivers flow, and into splendid mansions in Gardens of Eternity. That is the supreme triumph.

    وَأُخْرَىٰ تُحِبُّونَهَا ۖ نَصْرٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَفَتْحٌ قَرِيبٌ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (13)

    61|13| And another (favor) that you love: help from Allah and a victory close (at hand);13 and, (therefore) give glad tidings to the believers.

    13. The allusion could either be to the conquest of Khayber, or Makkah, or even Rome and Persia (Mufti Shafi` and others).

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا أَنْصَارَ اللَّهِ كَمَا قَالَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ لِلْحَوَارِيِّينَ مَنْ أَنْصَارِي إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ الْحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحْنُ أَنْصَارُ اللَّهِ ۖ فَآمَنَتْ طَائِفَةٌ مِنْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَكَفَرَتْ طَائِفَةٌ ۖ فَأَيَّدْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَىٰ عَدُوِّهِمْ فَأَصْبَحُوا ظَاهِرِينَ (14)

    61|14| O those who have believed, be Allah’s helpers as said `Isa the son of Maryam to the disciples, ‘Who will be my helper unto Allah?’14 The disciples said, ‘We will be Allah’s helpers.’15 Then a party of the children of Israel believed, and a party disbelieved.16 So We helped those who believed against their enemies, so that they became dominant.17

    14. The textual word “hawwari” has several meaings. The simplest being those who are the closest companions of a Prophet (Qurtubi).
    For other explanation see ayah 52 of Surah Al-`Imran.
    Majid quotes from the Gospels: “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” (Mk. 3: 14). “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.” (Lk. 10: 1)
    15. Ibn Jarir comments: So were the Companions of the Prophet. And among them, twelve were the “hawwari” of this Ummah. Qatadah named them as: Abu Bkr, `Umar, `Uthman, `Ali, Hmaza, Ja`far, Abu Ubaydah, `Uthman b. Maz`un, `Abd al-Rahman b. `Awf, Sa`d b. Abi Waqqas, Talha b. `Ubaydullah and Zubayr b. al-`Awwam. They were all from the Quraysh (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    16. Asad notes: “I.e., some of them recognized him as a Prophet – and, therefore, as no more than a created human being – whereas others denied this truth in the course of time by regarding him as ‘the son of God’ – and, therefore, as ‘God incarnate’ – while still others rejected him and his message altogether. The fact that the earliest followers of Jesus Christ regarded him purely as human is evident from the many theological controversies which persisted during the first three or four centuries of the Christian era. Thus, some renowned theologians, like Theodotus of Byzantium, who lived towards the end of the second century, and his followers – among them Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch in the year 260 – maintained that the ‘sonship of God’ mentioned in the then-existing texts of the Gospels was purely symbolic, denoting no more than that Jesus was a human being exalted by God. The original wide-spread teachings of Bishop Arius (280-326) centered in the concept of Jesus as a mortal man chosen by God for a specific task, and in the concept of God as absolutely One, unknowable, and separate from every created being; this doctrine, however, was ultimately condemned by the Councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381), and gradually ceased to have any influence on the Christian masses.”
    17. Qurtubi suggests that the prevalence was the prevalence of proofs and evidences, which became manifest when the 12 Apostles sent out by `Isa (asws) spread into adjoining lands propagating the new faith (which overcame the Jewish beliefs).
    Quoting Ibn Is-haq, Qurtubi gives the following details concerning the mission of the disciples of Jesus Christ: He sent Peter and Paul to the Roman lands; Andrew and Matthew to Cannibals; Thomas to Babylon; Philips to Africa; John to Damacsus the town of the seven-sleeper; Jacob to Jerusalem; Ibn Talma to the Arab world; Simon to the Berbers; Yehuda and Bard to Alexandria. Allah aided them with points of right argument and they prevailed.
    The report is also in the Tarikh Dimashq by Ibn `Asakir but with name variations (Au.).
    Thus Allah gave the upper hand to believers in `Isa over the unbelievers in him (Zamakhshari).
    The above, however, offers some difficulty since we know that early in the history of Christianity, it was not the believers in `Isa as a Messenger of Allah who dominated after a struggle between them and those who claimed that he was a son of God, or God Himself. Nor were it the Christians (of whatever denomination) who gained the upper hand against the Jews, during the early Christian history. That happened only after Constantine, the Roman emperor had embraced Christianity in the fourth century. So, the question remains: who were it that were given the upper hand, and over whom? The following narrative quoted by Ibn Jarir also does not give a satisfactory answer:
    Ibn `Abbas said that when Allah decided to raise `Isa ibn Maryam to the heavens, he assembled his 12 students in a house. His hair was dropping water droplets. He told them that one of them was going to betray his faith 12 times. Then he asked, “Which of you would volunteer that he should be transformed into my face. He will be killed and then he will be with me in Paradise.” A young man got up and said, “I.” Jesus told him to sit down and posed the same question. Again the young man got up as the volunteer. He told him to sit down. But when he got up a third time he agreed and said, “Alright, let it be you.” So the young man was transformed into his face and he himself was lifted out through a light hole to the heavens. The Jews came after him, caught hold of the young man and crucified him. After that the Christians became three factions: (i) A group said, “God was with us for as long as He wished. Now He is in the heavens. These were called as Jacobites. (ii) Another faction said, the son of God was with us as long as he willed. He has been raised unto the heavens. These were called Nestorians. (iii) A third group said, “He was a slave of Allah and a Messenger, and has now been raised to the heavens.” These were Muslims. But the other two sects oppressed the Muslims and slaughtered them. Thus Islam remained suppressed until Allah sent Prophet Muhammad. And Allah kept helping those who had believed in `Isa, Maryam’s son, until the Prophet came with whose advent they became the prevailers.
    And, Ibn Kathir adds: The Ummah of Muhammad will remain prevalent until the last of them will fight along with `Isa against Dajjal.
    The above was from Ibn Jarir which is also preserved by Nasa’i, in his Sunan al-Kubra (Ibn Kathir).
    No hadith doctor seems to have passed a judgment about the authenticity of the above report (Au.).
    The above interpretation however, remarks Alusi, does not agree with the apparent meaning viz., the believers in `Isa were given dominance over disbelievers in him.
    Shawkani’s interpretation is: We allowed dominance to the believers in Muhammad over both the factions of the Jews: those who believed in `Isa, as well as those who disbelieved. This, Qurtubi and Shawkani note, was also the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, as in Ibn Abi Hatim. The two Muqatils also suggested this meaning (Razi).
    But, treating the verse in the general and according it an overall perspective, Yusuf Ali has the last word on the topic. It might be kept in mind that when these lines were written the madness called “Israel” had not yet been created. And, it is not 60 years since the establishment of the Jewish state, but thinking Jews are saying, it cannot last long: “A portion of the Children of Israel - the one that really cared for Truth - believed in Jesus and followed his guidance. But the greater portion of them were hard hearted, and remained in their beaten track of formalism and false racial pride. The majority seemed at first to have the upper hand when they thought they had crucified Jesus and killed his Message. But they were soon brought to their senses. Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70 and the Jews have been scattered ever since. ‘The Wandering Jew’ has become a bye-word in many literatures. On the other hand, those who followed Jesus permeated the Roman Empire, brought many new races within their circle, and through the Roman Empire, Christianity became the predominant religion of the world until the advent of Islam. So is it promised to the people of Islam: they must prevail if they adhere to the Truth. Badr (A.H. 2) was a landmark against Pagan Arabia; Qadisiya (A.H. 14) and Madain (A.H. 16) against the might of Persia: Yarmuk (A.H. 15) against the might of the Byzantine Empire in Christian Syria; and Heliopolis (A.H. 19) against the same Empire in Christian Egypt and Africa. These were symbols in external events. The moral and spiritual landmarks are less tangible, and more gradual, but none the less real. Mark how the arrogance and power of Priesthood have been quelled; how superstition and a belief in blind Fate have been checked; how the freedom of human individuals has been reconciled with the sanctity of marriage in the law of Divorce; how the civil position of women has been raised; how temperance and sobriety have been identified with religion; what impetus has been given to knowledge and experimental science; and how economic reconstruction has been pioneered by rational schemes for the expenditure and distribution of wealth.”