بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Introduction and Summary
As the Opening Surah sums up in seven beautiful verses the essence of the Quran, so this Surah sums up in 286 verses the whole teaching of the Quran. It is closely reasoned argument.
Summary- It begins (verses 1-29) by classifying men into three broad categories, depending on how they receive Allah's message.
This leads to the story of the creation of man, the high destiny intended for him, his fall, and the hope held out to him (2:30-39).
Israel’s story is then told according to their own records and traditions-what privileges they received and how they abused them (2:40-86), thus illustrating again as by a parable the general story of man.
In particular, reference is made to Moses and Jesus and their struggles with an unruly people: how people of the Book played false their own lights and in their pride rejected Muhammad, who came in the true line of Prophets (2:87-121).
They falsely laid claim to the virtues of Father Abraham; he was indeed a righteous Imam, but he was the progenitor of Ismail’s line (Arabs) as well as of Israel’s line, and he with Ismail built the Ka'bah (the House of Allah in Makkah) and purified it, thus establishing a common religion, of which Islam is the universal exponent (2:122-141).
The Ka'bah was now to be the center of universal worship and the symbol of Islamic unity (2:142-167).
The Islamic Ummah (brotherhood) having thus been established with its definite centre and symbol, ordinances are laid down for the social life of the community, with the proviso (2:177) that righteousness does not consist in formalities, but in faith, kindness, prayer, charity, probity, and patience under suffering. The ordinances relate to food and drink, bequests, fasts, jihad, wine and gambling, treatment of orphans and women, etc, (2:168-242).
Lest the subject of jihad should be misunderstood, it is taken up again in the story of Saul, Goliath and David, in contrast to the story of Jesus (2:243-253).
And so the lesson is enforced that true virtues lies in practical deeds of manliness, kindness, and good faith (2:254-283), and Allah's nature is called to mind in the sublime Ayah al Kursi, the Verse of the Throne (2:255).
The Surah ends with an exhortation to Faith, Obedience, a sense of Personal Responsibility, and Prayer (2:284-286).
This is the longest Surah of the Quran, and in it occurs the longest verse (2:282). The name of the Surah is from the Parable of the Heifer in 2:67-71, which illustrates the insufficiency of carping obedience.
When faith is lost, people put off obedience with various excuses; even when at last they obey in the letter, they fail in the spirit, which means that they get fossilized, and their self-sufficiency prevents them from seeing that spiritually they are not alive but dead. For life is movement, activity, striving, fighting against baser things. And this is the burden of the Surah.
This is in the main an early Madinah.
C.44 (The running Commentary, in Rhythmic Prose)
The Message of Allah, is a guide that is sure
To those who seek His light, but those
Who reject faith are blind: their hearts
Are sealed. Woe to the hypocrites,
Self-deceived and deceiving others,
With mockery on their lips, and mischief
In their hearts, and fear; the clouds
That bring fertilizing rain to others,
To them bring out deafening thunder-peals
And lightning flashes blinding to their eyes.
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
C25. These are abbreviated letters, the Maqatta'at, on which a general discussion will be found in Appendix I.
The particular letters, Alif, Lam, Mim, are found prefixed to this Surah, and Surahs 3, 29, 30, 31 and 32 (six in all).
- In Surah 2 and Surah 3 the argument is about the rise and fall of nations, their past, and their future in history, with ordinances for the new universal people of Islam.
- In Surah 29 a similar argument about nations leads off to the mystery of Life and Death, Failure and Triumph, Past and Future, in the history of individual souls.
- The burden of Surah 30 is that Allah is the source of all things and all things return to Him.
- In Surah 31 and Surah 32 the same lesson is enforced: Allah is the Creator and He will be the Judge on the Last Day. There is therefore a common thread, the mystery of Life and Death, Beginning and End.
Much has been written about the meaning of these letters, but of it is pure conjecture. Some commentators are content to recognize them as some mystic symbols of which it is unprofitable to discuss the meaning by more verbal logic.
ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ ﴿٢﴾
2. This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah.
C26. Taqwa and the verbs and nouns connected with the root, signify:
1. the fear of Allah which according to the writer of Proverbs " title="1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." style="text-decoration: none">1:7) in the Old Testament is the beginning of Wisdom;
2. restraint, or guarding one's tongue, hand, and heart from evil;
3. hence righteousness, piety good conduct.
All these ideas are implied; in the translation, only one or other of these ideas can be indicated according to the context.
الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاةَ ...
3. Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer,
... وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ ﴿٣﴾
and spend out of what We have provided for them.
C27. All bounties proceed from Allah.
- They may be physical gifts, e.g., food, clothing, houses, gardens, wealth, etc. or
- intangible gifts, e.g., influence, power, birth and the opportunities flowing from it, health talents, etc. or
- spiritual gifts, e.g., insight into good and evil, understanding of men, the capacity for love, etc.
We are to use all in humility and moderation. But we are also to give out of every one of them something that contributes to the well-being of others.
We are to be neither ascetics nor luxurious sybarites, neither selfish misers nor thoughtless prodigals.
والَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنزِلَ مِن قَبْلِكَ...
4. And who believe in the Revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time,
... وَبِالآخِرَةِ هُمْ يُوقِنُونَ ﴿٤﴾
and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter.
C28. Righteousness comes from a secure faith, from sincere devotion to Allah, and from unselfish service to Man.
أُوْلَـئِكَ عَلَى هُدًى مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ﴿٥﴾
5. They are on (true) guidance, from their Lord, and it is these who will prosper.
C29. Prosperity must be taken as referring to all the kinds of bounty which we discussed in the note 2:3 above.
The right use of one kind leads to an increase in that and other kinds, and that is prosperity.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ ...
6. As to those who reject Faith,
C30. Kafara kufr, kafr, and derivative forms of the word, imply a deliberate rejection of Faith as opposed to a mistaken idea of Allah or faith, which is not inconsistent with an earnest desire to see the truth. Where there is such desire, the grace and mercy of Allah gives guidance.
But that guidance is not efficacious when it is deliberately rejected and the possibility of rejection follows from the grant of free will.
The consequence of the rejection is that the spiritual faculties become dead or impervious to better influences.
See also n. 93 to 2:88.
... سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿٦﴾
it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe.
خَتَمَ اللّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهمْ وَعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ ...
7. Allah hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing,
C31. All actions are referred to Allah. Therefore, when we get the penalty of our deliberate sin, and our senses become impervious to good, the penalty is referred to the justice of Allah.
... وَعَلَى أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ...
and on their eyes is a veil;
... وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عظِيمٌ ﴿٧﴾
great is the penalty they (incur).
C32. The penalty here is the opposite of the prosperity referred to in 2:5. As we go down the path of sin, our penalty gathers momentum, just as goodness brings its own capacity for greater goodness.
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ ...
8. Of the people there are some who say:
"We believe in Allah and the Last Day,"
C33. We now come to a third class of people, the hypocrites.
They are untrue to themselves, and therefore their hearts, they soon pass into the category of those who deliberately reject light.
... وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٨﴾
but they do not (really) believe.
يُخَادِعُونَ اللّهَ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا...
9. Fain would they deceive Allah and those who believe,
... وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلاَّ أَنفُسَهُم وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ ﴿٩﴾
but they only deceive themselves and realize (it) not!
فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ فَزَادَهُمُ اللّهُ مَرَضاً...
10. In their hearts is a disease; and Allah has increased their disease,
C34. The insincere man who thinks he can get the best of both worlds by compromising with good and evil only increased the disease of his heart, because he is not true to himself.
Even the good which comes to him he can pervert to evil. So the rain which fills out the ear of corn or lends fragrance to the rose also lends strength to the thorn or adds strength to the poison of the deadly nightshade.
... وَلَهُم عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْذِبُونَ ﴿١٠﴾
and grievous is the penalty they (incur), because they are false (to themselves).
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لاَ تُفْسِدُواْ فِي الأَرْضِ ...
11. When it is said to them: "Make not mischief on the earth,"
... قَالُواْ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ ﴿١١﴾
they say: "Why, we only want to make peace!"
أَلا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَـكِن لاَّ يَشْعُرُونَ ﴿١٢﴾
12. Of a surety, they are the ones who make mischief, but they realize (it) not.
C35. Much mischief is caused (sometimes unwittingly) by people who think that they have a mission of peace, when they have not even a true perception of right and wrong.
By their blind arrogance they depress the good and encourage the evil.
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ آمِنُواْ كَمَا آمَنَ النَّاسُ ...
13. When it is said to them: "Believe as the others believe"
... قَالُواْ أَنُؤْمِنُ كَمَا آمَنَ السُّفَهَاء ...
they say: "Shall we believe as the fools believe?" --
... أَلا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ السُّفَهَاء وَلَـكِن لاَّ يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٣﴾
of a surety they are the fools but they do not know.
C36. This is another phase of the hypocrite and the cynic.
"Faith" he says, "is good enough to fools."
But his cynicism may be the greatest folly in the eyes of Allah.
وَإِذَا لَقُواْ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ قَالُواْ آمَنَّا...
14. When they meet those who believe, they say: "We believe,"
C37. A deeper phase of insincerity is actual duplicity. But it never pays in the end. If we compare such a man to a trader, he loses in the bargain.
... وَإِذَا خَلَوْاْ إِلَى شَيَاطِينِهِمْ قَالُواْ ...
but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say:
... إِنَّا مَعَكْمْ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُسْتَهْزِؤُونَ ﴿١٤﴾
"We are really with you, we (were) only jesting."
اللّهُ يَسْتَهْزِىءُ بِهِمْ ...
15. Allah will throw back their mockery on them,
... وَيَمُدُّهُمْ فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ ﴿١٥﴾
and give them rope in their trespasses; so they will wander like blind ones (to and fro).
أُوْلَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرُوُاْ الضَّلاَلَةَ بِالْهُدَى...
16. These are they who have bartered guidance for error:
... فَمَا رَبِحَت تِّجَارَتُهُمْ وَمَا كَانُواْ مُهْتَدِينَ ﴿١٦﴾
but their traffic is profitless, and they have lost true direction.
مَثَلُهُمْ كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي اسْتَوْقَدَ نَاراً ...
17. Their similitude is that of a man who kindled a fire;
C38. The man wanted light; he only kindled a fire. It produced a blaze, and won the applause of all around. But it did not last long. When the flame when out as was inevitable, the darkness was worse than before. And they all lost their way.
So hypocrisy, deception, arrogant compromise with evil, cynicism, or duplicity may win temporary applause. But the true light of faith and sincerity is wanting, and therefore it must mislead and ruin all concerned. In the consternation they cannot speak or hear each other, and of course they cannot see; so they end like the deliberate rejecters of Faith (2:7), wildly groping about, dumb, deaf and blind.
... فَلَمَّا أَضَاءتْ مَا حَوْلَهُ ذَهَبَ اللّهُ بِنُورِهِمْ...
when it lighted all around him, Allah took away their light
... وَتَرَكَهُمْ فِي ظُلُمَاتٍ لاَّ يُبْصِرُونَ ﴿١٧﴾
and left them in utter darkness, so they could not see.
صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لاَ يَرْجِعُونَ ﴿١٨﴾
18. Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not return (to the path).
أَوْ كَصَيِّبٍ مِّنَ السَّمَاء فِيهِ ظُلُمَاتٌ وَرَعْدٌ وَبَرْقٌ...
19. Or (another similitude) is that of a rain-laden cloud from the sky; in it are zones of darkness, and thunder and lightning,
C39. A wonderfully graphic and powerful simile applying to those who reject Faith. In their self-sufficiency they are undisturbed normally.
But what happens when a great storm breaks over them?
They cover their ears against thunder-clasps and the lightning nearly blinds them. They are in mortal fear, but Allah encompasses them around - even them, for He at all times encompasses all.
He give them rope. In the intervals of deafening noise and blinding flashes, there are moments of steady light and these creatures take advantage of them, but again they are plunged into darkness.
Perhaps they curse; perhaps they think that the few moments of effective light are due to their own intelligence!
How much wiser would they be if they humbled themselves and sought the light of Allah!
... يَجْعَلُونَ أَصْابِعَهُمْ فِي آذَانِهِم مِّنَ الصَّوَاعِقِ حَذَرَ الْمَوْتِ...
they press their fingers in their ears to keep out the stunning thunder-clap, the while they are in terror of death.
... واللّهُ مُحِيطٌ بِالْكافِرِينَ ﴿١٩﴾
But Allah is ever round the rejecters of Faith!
يَكَادُ الْبَرْقُ يَخْطَفُ أَبْصَارَهُمْ ...
20. The lightning all but snatches away their sight;
... كُلَّمَا أَضَاء لَهُم مَّشَوْاْ فِيهِ وَإِذَا أَظْلَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ قَامُواْ...
every time the light (helps) them, they walk therein, and when the darkness grows on them, they stand still.
... وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ لَذَهَبَ بِسَمْعِهِمْ وَأَبْصَارِهِمْ ...
And if Allah willed, He could take away their faculty of hearing and seeing;
... إِنَّ اللَّه عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ﴿٢٠﴾
for Allah hath power over all things.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ ...
21. O ye people!
... اعْبُدُواْ رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ﴿٢١﴾
adore your Guardian-Lord, who created you and those who came before you, that ye may become ighteous.
C40. For Taqwa see 2:2 n. 26.
I connect this dependent clause with "adore, etc." above, though it could be connected with "created".
According to my construction the argument will be as follows.
Adoration is the act of the highest and humblest reverence and worship. When you get into that relationship with Allah, Who is your Creator and Guardian, your faith produces works of righteousness.
It is a chance given you: will you exercise your free will and take it? If you do, your whole nature will be transformed.
الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الأَرْضَ فِرَاشاً وَالسَّمَاء بِنَاء وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاء مَاء...
22. Who has made the earth your couch, and the heaven your canopy; and sent down rain from the heavens;
... فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ رِزْقاً لَّكُمْ...
and brought forth therewith fruits for your sustenance;
... فَلاَ تَجْعَلُواْ لِلّهِ أَندَاداً وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونََ ﴿٢٢﴾
then set not up rivals unto Allah when ye know (the truth).
C41. Further proofs of Allah's goodness to you are given in this verse. Your whole life, physical and spiritual, depends upon Him. The spiritual is figured by the Canopy of Heaven.
The truth has been brought plainly before you. Will you still resist it and go after false gods, the creation of your own fancy?
The false gods may be idols, superstitions, Self, or even great or glorious things like Poetry, Art, or Science, when set up as rivals to Allah. They may be pride of race, pride of birth, pride of wealth or position, pride of power, pride of learning, or even spiritual pride.
وَإِن كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّن مِّثْلِهِ...
23. And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Surah like thereunto;
... وَادْعُواْ شُهَدَاءكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿٢٣﴾
and call your witnesses or helpers (if there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true.
C42. How do we know that there is revelation, and that is from Allah?
Here is a concrete test.
The Teacher of Allah's Truth has placed before you many Surahs. Can you produce one like it?
If there is any one besides Allah, who can inspire spiritual truth in such noble language, produce your evidence.
Or is it that your doubts are merely argumentative, refractory, against your own inner light, or conscience?
All true revelation is itself a miracle, and stands on its own merits.
فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُواْ وَلَن تَفْعَلُواْ فَاتَّقُواْ النَّارَ الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ ...
24. But if ye cannot,- and of a surety ye cannot,- then fear the fire whose fuel is Men and Stones-
C43. According to commentators the "Stones" mentioned in this verse refer to the idols which the polytheists worshipped.
Thus, far from coming to the aid of their worshippers, the false gods would be means of aggravating their torment. [Eds].
... أُعِدَّتْ لِلْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٢٤﴾
which is prepared for those who reject Faith.
وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِين آمَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ ...
25. But give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness,
... أَنَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الأَنْهَارُ...
that their portion is Gardens, beneath which rivers flow.
... كُلَّمَا رُزِقُواْ مِنْهَا مِن ثَمَرَةٍ رِّزْقاً قَالُواْ ...
Every time they are fed with fruits therefrom, they say:
... هَـذَا الَّذِي رُزِقْنَا مِن قَبْلُ ...
"Why, this is what we were fed with before,"
... وَأُتُواْ بِهِ مُتَشَابِهاً...
for they are given things in similitude;
... وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا أَزْوَاجٌ مُّطَهَّرَةٌ ...
and they have therein companions (pure and holy);
C44. What can be more delightful than a Garden where you observe from a picturesque height a beautiful landscape round you, - rivers flowing with crystal water, and fruit tree of which the choicest fruit is before you.
The fruit of goodness is goodness, similar, but choicer in every degree of ascent. You think it is the same, but it is because of your past experiences and associations of memory. (R).
... وَهُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُون ﴿٢٥﴾
and they abide therein (for ever).
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلاً مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا...
26. Allah disdains not to use the similitude of things, lowest as well as highest.
C45. The word for "the lowest" in the original Arabic means a gnat, a byword in the Arabic language for the weakest of creatures.
In 29:41, which was revealed before this Surah, the similitude of the Spider was used, and similarly in 22:73, there is the similitude of the Fly. For similitudes taken from magnificent forces of nature, expressed in exalted language, see 2:19 above.
To Allah all His creation has some special meaning appropriate to itself, and some of what we consider the lowest creatures have wonderful aptitudes, e.g., the spider or the fly.
Parables like these may be an occasion of stumbling to those "who forsake the path"; in other words those who deliberately shut their eyes to Allah's Signs, and their Penalty is attributed to Allah, the Cause of all causes.
But lest there should be misunderstanding, it is immediately added that the stumbling and offence only occur as the result of the sinner's own choice of the wrong course. Verses 26 and 27 form one sentence and should be read together.
"Forsaking the path" is defined in 2:27, viz.,
breaking solemn covenants which the sinner's own soul had ratified, causing division among mankind, who were meant to be one brotherhood, and doing as much mischief as possible in the life on this earth, for the life beyond will be on another plane, where no rope will be given to evil.
The mention of Covenant (2:27) has a particular and a general signification.
The particular one has reference to the Jewish tradition that a Covenant was entered into with "Father Abraham" that in return for Allah's favours the seed of Abraham would serve Allah faithfully. But as a matter of fact a great part of Abraham's progeny were in constant spiritual rebellion against Allah, as is testified by their own Prophets and Preachers and by Muhammad Mustafa.
The general signification is that a similar Covenant is entered into by every creature of Allah: for Allah's loving care, we at least owe Him the fullest gratitude and willing obedience.
The sinner, before the darkness his own conscience, knows this, and yet he not only "forsakes the path" but resists the Grace of Allah which comes to save him. That is why his case becomes hopeless. But the loss is his own. He cannot spoil Allah's design.
The good man is glad to retrace his steps from any lapses of which may have been guilty, and in his case Allah's Message reclaims him with complete understanding. (R).
... فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ...
Those who believe know that it is truth from their Lord;
... وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِهَـذَا مَثَلاً...
but those who reject Faith say: "What means Allah by this similitude?"
... يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيراً وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيراً...
By it He causes many to stray, and many He leads into the right path,
... وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلاَّ الْفَاسِقِين ﴿٢٦﴾
but He causes not to stray, except those who forsake (the path).
الَّذِينَ يَنقُضُونَ عَهْدَ اللَّهِ مِن بَعْدِ مِيثَاقِهِ وَيَقْطَعُونَ مَا أَمَرَ اللَّهُ بِهِ أَن يُوصَلَ...
27. Those who break Allah's Covenant after it is ratified, and who sunder what Allah has ordered to be joined,
... وَيُفْسِدُونَ فِي الأَرْضِ أُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُون ﴿٢٧﴾
and do mischief on earth: These cause loss (only) to themselves.
كَيْفَ تَكْفُرُونَ بِاللَّهِ ...
28. How can ye reject the faith in Allah?
C46. In the preceding verses Allah has used various arguments.
- He has recalled His goodness (2:21-22);
- resolved doubts (2:23);
- plainly set forth the penalty of wrong-doing (2:24);
- given glad tidings (2:25);
- shown how misunderstandings arise from a deliberate rejection of the light and breach of the Covenant (2:26-27).
Now (2:28-29) He pleads with His creatures and appeals to their own subjective feelings.
- He brought you into being.
- The mysteries of life and death are in His hands.
- When you die on this earth, that is not the end. You were of Him, and you must return to Him.
- Look around you and realize your own dignity; it is from Him.
The immeasurable depths of space above and around you may stagger you. They are part of His plan. What you have imagined as the seven firmaments (and any other scheme you may construct) bears witness to His design of order and perfection, for His knowledge (unlike yours) is all- comprehending.
And yet will you deliberately reject or obscure or deaden the faculty of Faith which has been put into you?
... وَكُنتُمْ أَمْوَاتاً فَأَحْيَاكُمْ ...
Seeing that ye were without life, and He gave you life;
... ثُمَّ يُمِيتُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُحْيِيكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ ﴿٢٨﴾
then will He cause you to die, and will again bring you to life; and again to Him will ye return.
هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ لَكُم مَّا فِي الأَرْضِ جَمِيعاً...
29. It is He who hath created for you all things that are on earth;
... ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى إِلَى السَّمَاء فَسَوَّاهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ...
moreover His design comprehended the heavens, for He gave order and perfection to the seven firmaments;
... وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ ﴿٢٩﴾
and of all things he hath perfect knowledge.
C.45 (The running Commentary, in Rhythmic Prose)
Yet man! What wonderful destiny
Is thine! Created to be
al' viceregent on earth!
Yet beguiled by evil! Set for a season
On this earth on probation
To purge thy stain, with the promise
Of guidance and hope from on high,
From the Oft-Returning, Merciful!
Wilt thou choose right and regain
Thy spiritual home with Allah?
وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً ...
30. Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth."
... قَالُواْ أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاء...
They said, "Wilt thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?
... وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ...
Whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?"
... قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٣٠﴾
He said: "I know what ye know not."
C47. It would seem that the angels, though holy and pure, and endued with power from Allah, yet represented only one side of Creation. We may imagine them without passion or emotion, of which the highest flower is love.
If man was to be endued with emotions, those emotions would lead him to the highest and drag him to the lowest.
The power of will or choosing would have to go with them, in order that man might steer his own bark. This power of will (when used aright) gave him to some extent a mastery over his own fortunes and over nature, thus bringing him nearer to the God-like nature which has supreme mastery and will.
We may suppose the angels had no independent wills of their own; their perfection in other ways reflected Allah's perfection but could not raise them to the dignity of vicegerency.
The perfect vicegerent is he who has the power of initiative himself, but whose independent action always reflects perfectly the will of his Principal.
The distinction is expressed by Shakespeare (Sonnet 94) in those fine lines:
"They are the lords and owners of their faces.
Others but stewards of their excellence."
The angels in their one-sidedness saw only the mischief consequent on the misuse of the emotional nature by man; perhaps they also, being without emotions, did not understand the whole of Allah's nature, which gives and asks for love. In humility and true devotion to Allah, they remonstrate; we must not imagine the least tinge of jealousy, as they are without emotion.
This mystery of love being above them, they are told that they do not know and they acknowledge (in 2:32 below) not their fault (for there is no question of fault) but their imperfection of knowledge. At the same time, the matter is brought home to them when the actual capacities of man are shown to them (2:31, 33).
وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الأَسْمَاء كُلَّهَا ...
31. And He taught Adam the names of all things;
C48. "The names of things": according to commentators means the inner nature and qualities of things, and things here would include feelings.
The particular qualities or feelings which were outside the nature of angels were put by Allah into the nature of man. Man was thus able to love and understand love, and thus plan and initiate, as becomes the office of vicegerent.
The angels acknowledged this. These things they could only know from the outside, but they had faith, or belief in the Unseen. And they knew that Allah saw all - what others see, what others do not see, what others may even wish to conceal.
Man has many qualities which are latent or which he may wish to suppress or conceal, to his own detriment. (R).
... ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلاَئِكَةِ...
then He placed them before the angels,
... فَقَالَ أَنبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاء هَـؤُلاء إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿٣١﴾
and said: "Tell Me the nature of these if ye are right."
قَالُواْ سُبْحَانَكَ لاَ عِلْمَ لَنَا إِلاَّ مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ ﴿٣٢﴾
32. They said:
"Glory to Thee, of knowledge we have none, save that Thou hast taught us:
in truth it is Thou who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom."
قَالَ يَا آدَمُ أَنبِئْهُم بِأَسْمَآئِهِمْ ...
33. He said: "O Adam! tell them their natures."
فَلَمَّا أَنبَأَهُمْ بِأَسْمَآئِهِمْ قَالَ ...
When he had told them, Allah said:
... أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ غَيْبَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ...
"Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth,
... وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ ﴿٣٣﴾
and I know what ye reveal and what ye conceal?"
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ اسْجُدُواْ لآدَمَ ...
34. And behold, We said to the angels: "Bow down to Adam;"
... فَسَجَدُواْ إِلاَّ إِبْلِيسَ ...
and they bowed down, not so Iblis,
C49. The Arabic may also be translated: "They bowed down, except Iblis."
In that case Iblis (Satan) would be one of the angels.
But the theory of fallen angels is not usually accepted in Muslim theology. In 18:50 Iblis is spoken of as a Jinn.
We shall discuss later the meaning of this word. (R).
.... أَبَى وَاسْتَكْبَرَ...
he refused and was haughty,
... وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٣٤﴾
he was of those who reject Faith.
وَقُلْنَا يَا آدَمُ اسْكُنْ أَنتَ وَزَوْجُكَ الْجَنَّةَ ...
35. We said:
"O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden,
C50. Was the Garden of Eden a place on this earth?
Obviously not. For, in verse 36 below, it was after the Fall that the sentence was pronounced: "On earth will be your dwelling."
Before the Fall, we must suppose Man to be on another plane altogether - of felicity, innocence, trust, a spiritual existence, with the negation of enmity, want of faith, and all evil. (R).
... وَكُلاَ مِنْهَا رَغَداً حَيْثُ شِئْتُمَا...
and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will,
... وَلاَ تَقْرَبَا هَـذِهِ الشَّجَرَةَ فَتَكُونَا مِنَ الْظَّالِمِينَ ﴿٣٥﴾
but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression."
C51. "Zulm" in Arabic implies harm, wrong, injustice, or transgression, and may have reference to oneself;
when the wrong is done to others it implies tyranny and oppression;
the idea of wrong naturally connects itself with darkness, which is another shade of meaning carried with the root word.
فَأَزَلَّهُمَا الشَّيْطَانُ عَنْهَا فَأَخْرَجَهُمَا مِمَّا كَانَا فِيهِ...
36. Then did Satan make them slip from the (garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been.
C52. The word "Iblis" in the verse 34 above is derived from the root idea of desperateness or rebellion whereas "Satan" conveys the idea of perversity or enmity.
Note the appropriateness of the term on each occasion.
Also, "slipping" from the Garden denotes the idea of Evil gradually tempting man from a higher to a lower state. (R).
... وَقُلْنَا اهْبِطُواْ بَعْضُكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ ...
"Get ye down, all (ye people), with enmity between yourselves.
C53. Allah's decree is the result of man's action.
Evidently Adam is the type of all mankind, and the sexes go together in all spiritual matters. Moreover, the expulsion applied to Adam, Eve, and Satan, and the Arabic plural is appropriate for any number greater for any number greater than two.
... وَلَكُمْ فِي الأَرْضِ مُسْتَقَرٌّ وَمَتَاعٌ إِلَى حِينٍ ﴿٣٦﴾
On earth will be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood for a time."
C54. Man's sojourn in this lower state, where he is partly an animal of this earth, is for a time.
But he must fulfil his lower duties also, for they too are a part of his spiritual training.
فَتَلَقَّى آدَمُ مِن رَّبِّهِ كَلِمَاتٍ فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ...
37. Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord turned toward him;
C55. As "names" in verse 31 above is used for the "nature of things", so "words" here mean "inspiration" "spiritual knowledge".
The Arabic word used for "learn" here implies some effort on his part to which Allah's Grace responded.
The Arabic word for "Repentance" (Tawbah) means "turning" and the intensive word (tawwwab) for Allah's forgiveness (Oft-Returning" or "Ever-Returning") is from the same root.
For repentance, three things are necessary:
- the sinner must acknowledge his wrong;
- he must give it up; and
- he must resolve to eschew it for the future.
Man's nature is weak, and he may have to return again and again for mercy. So long as he does it sincerely, Allah is Oft-returning, Most Merciful. For His grace helps out the sinner's shortcomings.
... إِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿٣٧﴾
for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.
قُلْنَا اهْبِطُواْ مِنْهَا جَمِيعاً...
38. We said:
"Get ye down all from here;
... فَإِمَّا يَأْتِيَنَّكُم مِّنِّي هُدًى ...
and if, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me,
C56. Note the transition from the plural "We" at the beginning of the verse to the singular "Me" later in the same verse.
Allah speaks of Himself usually in the first person plural "We"; it is the plural of respect and honour and is used in human language in Royal proclamations and decrees. But where a special personal relationship is expressed the singular, "I" or "Me" is used. Cf. 26:52, etc.
In spite of Man's fall, and in consequence of it, assurance of guidance is given. In case man follows the guidance he is free from any fear for the present or the future, and any grief or sorrow for the past. The soul thus freed grows nearer to Allah.
...فَمَن تَبِعَ هُدَايَ فَلاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ ﴿٣٨﴾
whosoever follows My guidance on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve."
وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرواْ وَكَذَّبُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا أُولَـئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ ...
39. "But those who reject Faith and belie Our Signs, they shall be Companions of the Fire;
... هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ ﴿٣٩﴾
they shall abide therein."
C57. As their rejection of faith was deliberate and definite, so the consequences must be of an abiding character. (R).
C.46 (The running Commentary, in Rhythmic Prose)
Amongst men what nation had higher chances
In the realm of the Spirit than the Children of Israel?
But again and again did they fail in the Spirit.
They rebelled against Moses and murmured
In the wilderness; the Prophets they slew
And the Signs they rejected; they falsified
Scripture and turned their back on righteousness.
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ ...
40. O children of Israel!
... اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ...
call to mind the (special) favor which I bestowed upon you,
... وَأَوْفُواْ بِعَهْدِي أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ ﴿٤٠﴾
and fulfil your Covenant with Me as I fulfil My Covenant with you and fear none but Me.
C58. The appeal is made to Israel subjectively in terms of their own tradition.
You claim to be a favoured nation; have you forgotten My favours?
You claim a special Covenant with Me: I have fulfilled My part of the Covenant by bringing you out of the land of bondage and giving you Canaan, the land "flowing with milk and honey" how have you fulfilled your part of the Covenant?
Do you fear for your national existence?
If you fear Me, nothing else will matter.
وَآمِنُواْ بِمَا أَنزَلْتُ مُصَدِّقاً لِّمَا مَعَكُمْ ...
41. And believe in what I reveal, confirming the revelation which is with you,
C59. You receive revelations before: now comes one confirming it: its first appeal should be to you: are you to be the first to reject it?
And reject it for what?
Allah's Signs are worth more than all your paltry considerations. And the standard of duty and righteousness is to be taken from Allah, and not from priests and customs.
... وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ أَوَّلَ كَافِرٍ بِهِ...
and be not the first to reject faith therein,
... وَلاَ تَشْتَرُواْ بِآيَاتِي ثَمَناً قَلِيلاً وَإِيَّايَ فَاتَّقُونِ ﴿٤١﴾
nor sell My Signs for a small price: and fear Me, and Me alone.
وَلاَ تَلْبِسُواْ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُواْ الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٤٢﴾
42. And cover not Truth with falsehood, nor conceal the Truth when ye know (what it is).
وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَاةَ وَارْكَعُواْ مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ ﴿٤٣﴾
43. And be steadfast in prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship).
C60. The argument is still primarily addressed to the Jews, but is of universal application, as in all the teachings of the Quran.
The chief feature of Jewish worship was and is the bowing of the head.
أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ وَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ ...
44. Do ye enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget (to practice it) yourselves, and yet ye study the Scripture?
... أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ ﴿٤٤﴾
Will ye not understand?
وَاسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ...
45. Nay, seek (Allah's) help with patient perseverance and prayer:
C61. The Arabic word Sabr implies many shades of meaning, which it is impossible to comprehend in one English word.
1. patience in the sense of being thorough, not hasty;
2. patient perseverance, constancy, steadfastness, firmness of purpose;
3. systematic as opposed to spasmodic or chance action;
4. a cheerful attitude of resignation and understanding in sorrow, defeat, or suffering, as opposed to murmuring or rebellion, but saved from mere passivity or listlessness, by the element of constancy or steadfastness.
... وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلاَّ عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ ﴿٤٥﴾
it is indeed hard, except to those who bring a lowly spirit.
الَّذِينَ يَظُنُّونَ أَنَّهُم مُّلاَقُو رَبِّهِمْ وَأَنَّهُمْ إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ ﴿٤٦﴾
46. Who bear in mind the certainty that they are to meet their Lord, and that they are to return to Him.
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ ...
47. O children of Israel!
... اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ ...
call to mind the (special) favor which I bestowed upon You,
C62. These words are recapitulated from 2:40, which introduced a general account of Allah's favours to Israel; now we are introduced to a particular account of incidents in Israel's history.
Each incident is introduced by the Arabic word "Iah", which is indicated in the translation by "Remember".
... وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿٤٧﴾
and that I preferred you to all others (for My message).
وَاتَّقُواْ يَوْماً لاَّ تَجْزِي نَفْسٌ عَن نَّفْسٍ شَيْئاً...
48. Then guard yourselves against a day when one soul shall not avail another
... وَلاَ يُقْبَلُ مِنْهَا شَفَاعَةٌ ...
nor shall intercession be accepted for her,
... وَلاَ يُؤْخَذُ مِنْهَا عَدْلٌ ...
nor shall compensation be taken from her,
... وَلاَ هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ ﴿٤٨﴾
nor shall anyone be helped (from outside).
C63. Before passing to particular incidents, the conclusions is stated.
Be on your guard; do not think that special favours exempt you from the personal responsibility of each soul.
وَإِذْ نَجَّيْنَاكُم مِّنْ آلِ فِرْعَوْنَ ...
49. And remember, We delivered you from the people of Pharaoh:
... يَسُومُونَكُمْ سُوَءَ الْعَذَابِ...
they set you hard tasks and punishments,
... يُذَبِّحُونَ أَبْنَاءكُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيُونَ نِسَاءكُمْ ...
slaughtered your sons and let your womenfolk live;
C64. The bondage of Egypt was indeed a tremendous trial. Even the Egyptians' wish to spare the lives of Israel's females when the males were slaughtered, added to the bitterness of Israel. Their hatred was cruel, but their "love" was still more cruel.
About the hard tasks, see Exod, 1:14:
"They made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field; all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour."
Pharaoh's taskmasters gave no straw, yet ordered the Israelites to make bricks without straw: Exod. 5:5-19.
Pharaoh's decree was:
"Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive": Exod. 1:22.
It was in consequence of this decree that Moses was hidden three months after he was born, and when he could be hidden no longer, he was put into an ark of bulrushes and cast into the Nile, where he was found by Pharaoh's daughter and wife (28:9), and adopted into the family: Exod. 2:2-10.
Thus Moses was brought up by the enemies of his people. He was chosen by Allah to deliver his people, and Allah's wisdom made the learning and experience and even cruelties of the Egyptian enemies themselves to contribute to the salvation of his people.
... وَفِي ذَلِكُم بَلاء مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ عَظِيمٌ ﴿٤٩﴾
therein was a tremendous trial from your Lord.
وَإِذْ فَرَقْنَا بِكُمُ الْبَحْرَ فَأَنجَيْنَاكُمْ وَأَغْرَقْنَا آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ...
50. And remember We divided the sea for you and saved you and drowned Pharaoh's people
... وَأَنتُمْ تَنظُرُونَ ﴿٥٠﴾
within your very sight.
C65. When the Israelites at last escaped from Egypt, they were pursued by Pharaoh and his host. By a miracle the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, but the host of Pharaoh was drowned: Exod. 14:5-31.
وَإِذْ وَاعَدْنَا مُوسَى أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً ...
51. And remember We appointed forty nights for Moses,
C66. This was after the Ten Commandments and the Laws and Ordinances had been given on Mount Sinai:
Moses was asked up into the Mount, and he was there forty days and forty nights: Exod. 24:18.
But the people got impatient of the delay, made a calf of melted gold, and offered worship and sacrifice to it: Exod. 32:1-8.
... ثُمَّ اتَّخَذْتُمُ الْعِجْلَ مِن بَعْدِهِ...
and in his absence you took the calf (for worship),
... وَأَنتُمْ ظَالِمُونَ ﴿٥١﴾
and ye did grievous wrong.
ثُمَّ عَفَوْنَا عَنكُمِ مِّن بَعْدِ ...
52. Even then We did forgive you;
C67. Moses prayed for his people, and Allah forgave them. This is the language of the Quran.
The Old Testament version is rougher:
"The Lord repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people": Exod. 32:14.
The Muslim position has always been that the Jewish (and Christian) scriptures as they stand cannot be traced direct to Moses or Jesus, but are later compilations. Modern scholarship and Higher Criticism has left no doubt on the subject. But the stories in these traditional books may be used in an appeal to those who use them: only they should be spiritualized, as they are here, and especially in 2:54 below.
... ذَلِكَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ ﴿٥٢﴾
there was a chance for you to be grateful.
وَإِذْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ وَالْفُرْقَانَ ...
53. And remember We gave Moses the Scripture and the criterion (between right and wrong),
C68. Allah's revelation, the expression of Allah's Will, is the true standard of right and wrong. It may be in a Book or in Allah's dealings in history. All these may be called His Signs or Miracles.
In this passage some commentators take the Scripture and the Criterion (Furqan) to be identical.
Others take them to be two distinct things:
- Scripture being the written Book and
- the Criterion being other Signs.
I agree with the latter view.
As Aaron received no Book, Furqan must mean the other Signs.
Mustafa had both the Book and the other Signs: perhaps here too we take the other Signs as supplementing the Book.
Cf. Words worth's "Arbiter undisturbed of right and wrong." (Prelude, Book 4)
... لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ ﴿٥٣﴾
there was a chance for you to be guided aright.
وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ ...
54. And remember Moses said to his people:
... يَا قَوْمِ إِنَّكُمْ ظَلَمْتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ بِاتِّخَاذِكُمُ الْعِجْلَ...
"O my people! Ye have indeed wronged yourselves by your worship of the calf,
... فَتُوبُواْ إِلَى بَارِئِكُمْ فَاقْتُلُواْ أَنفُسَكُمْ ...
so turn (in repentance) to your Maker, and slay yourselves (the wrongdoers);
C69. Moses' speech may be construed literally, as translated, in which case it reproduces Exod. 32:27-28 but in a much softened form, for the Old Testament says:
"Go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor... and there fell of the people that day 3,000 men." (R).
... ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ عِندَ بَارِئِكُمْ ...
that will be better for you in the sight of your Maker."
the word here translated Maker (Bari) has also in it a touch of the root-meaning of "liberator"-an apt word as referring to the Israelites, who had just been liberated from bondage in Egypt.
... فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿٥٤﴾
Then He turned toward you (in forgiveness);
for He is Oft-returning, Most Merciful.
وَإِذْ قُلْتُمْ ...
55. And remember ye said:
C70. We have hitherto had instances from the Jewish traditional Tawrah (or Pentateuch). Now we have some instances from Jewish traditions in the Talmud, or body of exposition in the Jewish theological schools.
They are based on the Jewish scriptures, but add many marvelous details and homilies.
As to seeing Allah, we have in Exod. 33:20:
"And He said "Thou canst not see My face: for there shall no man see Me and live."
The punishment for insisting on seeing Allah was therefore death; but those who rejected faith were forgiven, and yet they were ungrateful.
... يَا مُوسَى لَن نُّؤْمِنَ لَكَ حَتَّى نَرَى اللَّهَ جَهْرَةً...
"O Moses! we shall never believe in thee until we see Allah manifestly,"
... فَأَخَذَتْكُمُ الصَّاعِقَةُ وَأَنتُمْ تَنظُرُونَ ﴿٥٥﴾
but ye were dazed with thunder and lightning even as ye looked on.
ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَاكُم مِّن بَعْدِ مَوْتِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ ﴿٥٦﴾
56. Then We raised you up after your death; ye had the chance to be grateful.
وَظَلَّلْنَا عَلَيْكُمُ الْغَمَامَ وَأَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَنَّ وَالسَّلْوَى...
57. And We gave you the shade of clouds and sent down to you manna and quails,
C71. Manna: Hebrew, Manhu: Arabic Mahuwa? -
What is it?
In Exod. 16:14 it is described as
"a small round thing as small as the hoar frost on the ground."
It usually rotted if left over till next day; it melted in the hot sun; the amount necessary for each man was about an Omer, a Hebrew measure of capacity equal to about 2 quarts. This is the Hebrew account, probably distorted by traditional exaggeration.
The actual Manna found to this day in the Sinai region is a gummy saccharine secretion found on a species of Tamarisk. It is produced by the puncture of a species of insect like the cochineal, just as lac is produced by the puncture of the lac insect on certain trees in India.
As to quails, large flights of them are driven by winds in the Eastern Mediterranean in certain seasons of the year, as was witnessed during the Great War of 1914-1918. (R).
... كُلُواْ مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ...
saying: "Eat of the good things We have provided for you;"
... وَمَا ظَلَمُونَا وَلَـكِن كَانُواْ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ ﴿٥٧﴾
(but they rebelled); to Us they did no harm, but they harmed their own souls.
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا ادْخُلُواْ هَـذِهِ الْقَرْيَةَ ...
58. And remember We said:
"Enter this town,
C72. This probably refers to Shittim.
It was the "town of acacias," just east of the Jordan, where the Israelites were guilty of debauchery and the worship of and sacrifice to false gods (Num. 25:1-2, also 8-9); a terrible punishment ensued, including the plague of which 24,000 died.
The word which the transgressors changed may have been a pass-word. In the Arabic text it is "Hittatun" which implies humility and a prayer of forgiveness, a fitting emblem to distinguish them from their enemies.
From this particular incident a more general lesson may be drawn;
- in the hour of triumph we are to behave humbly as in Allah's sight, and our conduct should be exemplary according to Allah's word; otherwise our arrogance will draw its own punishment.
Here (2:58) we have "enter the town" and in 7:161 we have "dwell in this town."
Again in 2:2:59 here we have "infringed (Our command)," and in 7:162, we have "transgressed."
The verbal differences make no difference to the sense.
... فَكُلُواْ مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ رَغَداً...
and eat of the plenty therein as ye wish;
... وَادْخُلُواْ الْبَابَ سُجَّداً وَقُولُواْ حِطَّةٌ نَّغْفِرْ لَكُمْ خَطَايَاكُمْ...
but enter the gate with humility, in posture and in words, and We shall forgive you your faults
... وَسَنَزِيدُ الْمُحْسِنِينَ ﴿٥٨﴾
and increase (the portion of) those who do good."
فَبَدَّلَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ قَوْلاً غَيْرَ الَّذِي قِيلَ لَهُمْ...
59. But the transgressors changed the word from that which had been given them;
... فَأَنزَلْنَا عَلَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ رِجْزاً مِّنَ السَّمَاء بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفْسُقُونَ ﴿٥٩﴾
so We sent on the transgressors a plague from heaven, for that they infringed (our command) repeatedly.
وَإِذِ اسْتَسْقَى مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ ...
60. And remember Moses prayed for water for his people;
... فَقُلْنَا اضْرِب بِّعَصَاكَ الْحَجَرَ ...
We said: "Strike the rock with thy staff."
... فَانفَجَرَتْ مِنْهُ اثْنَتَا عَشْرَةَ عَيْناً ...
Then gushed forth therefrom twelve springs.
... قَدْ عَلِمَ كُلُّ أُنَاسٍ مَّشْرَبَهُمْ ...
Each group knew its own place for water.
C73. Here we have a reference to the tribal organization of the Jews, which played a great part in their forty years' march through the Arabian deserts (Num. 1 and 2) and their subsequent settlement in the land of Canaan (Josh 13 and 14).
The twelve tribes were derived from the sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (soldier of Allah) after he had wrestled, says Jewish tradition, with Allah (Genesis 32:28).
Israel had twelve sons (Gen. 35:22-26), including Levi and Joseph. The descendants of these twelve sons were the "Children of Israel."
Levi's family got the priesthood and the care of the Tabernacle; they were exempted from military duties for which the census was taken (Num. 1:47-53), and therefore from the distribution of Land in Canaan (Josh. 14:3); they were distributed among all the Tribes, and were really a privileged caste and not numbered among the Tribes;
Moses and Aaron belonged to the house of Levi. On the other hand Joseph, on account of the high position to which he rose in Egypt as the Pharaoh's minister, was the progenitor of two tribes, one in the name of each of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. Thus there were twelve Tribes in all, as Levi was cut out and Joseph represented two tribes.
Their having fixed stations and watering places in camp and fixed territorial areas later in the Promised Land prevented confusion and mutual jealousies and is pointed to as an evidence of the Providence of Allah acting through His prophet Moses. Cf. also 7:160.
The gushing of twelve springs from a rock evidently refers to a local tradition well known to Jews and Arabs in Al Mustafa’s time. Near Horeb close to Mount Sinai, where the Law was given to Moses, is a huge mass of red granite, twelve-feet high and about fifty feet in circumference, where European travelers (e.g. Breydenbach in the 15th Century after Christ saw abundant springs of water twelve in number (see Sale’s notes on this passage). It existed in Al Mustafa’s time and may still exist to the present day. For anything we know to the contrary. The Jewish tradition would be based on Exod, 17:6:
Thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it that the people may drink.
The story is used as a parable, as is clear from the latter part of the verse. In the desolation and among the rocks of this life people grumble. But they will not be left starving or thirsts of spiritual life. Allah's Messenger can provide abundant spiritual sustenance even from such unpromising things as the hard rocks of life. And all the nations can be grouped round it, each different, yet each in perfect order and discipline.
We are to use with gratitude all spiritual food and drink provided by Allah, and He sometimes provides from unexpected places. We must restrain ourselves from mischief, pride and every kind of evil, for our higher life is based on our probation on this very earth.
... كُلُواْ وَاشْرَبُواْ مِن رِّزْقِ اللَّهِ وَلاَ تَعْثَوْاْ فِي الأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ ﴿٦٠﴾
So eat and drink of the sustenance provided by Allah and do no evil nor mischief on the (face of the) earth.
وَإِذْ قُلْتُمْ ...
61. And remember ye said:
... يَا مُوسَى لَن نَّصْبِرَ عَلَىَ طَعَامٍ وَاحِدٍ فَادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ...
we cannot endure one kind of food (always); so beseech thy Lord for us
... يُخْرِجْ لَنَا مِمَّا تُنبِتُ الأَرْضُ مِن بَقْلِهَا وَقِثَّآئِهَا وَفُومِهَا وَعَدَسِهَا وَبَصَلِهَا...
to produce for us of what the earth groweth, its pot-herbs, and cucumbers, its garlic, lentils, and onions."
... قَالَ أَتَسْتَبْدِلُونَ الَّذِي هُوَ أَدْنَى بِالَّذِي هُوَ خَيْرٌ ...
"Will ye exchange the better for the worse?
... اهْبِطُواْ مِصْراً فَإِنَّ لَكُم مَّا سَأَلْتُمْ ...
Go ye down to any town, and ye shall find what ye want!"
C74. The declension of the word Misr in the Arabic text here shows that it is treated as a common noun meaning any town, but this is not conclusive, and the reference may be to the Egypt of Pharaoh.
The Tanwin expressing indefiniteness may mean "any Egypt", i.e., any country as fertile as Egypt. There is here a subtle reminiscence as well as a severe reproach.
The rebellious children of Israel murmured at the sameness of the food they got in the desert. They were evidently hankering after the delicacies of the Egypt which they had left, although they should have known that the only thing certain for them in Egypt was their bondage and harsh treatment.
Moses' reproach to them was twofold:
1. Such variety of foods you can get in any town;
would you, for their sake, sell your freedom?
Is not freedom better than delicate food?
2. In front is the rich Promised Land, which you are reluctant to march to; behind is Egypt, the land of bondage.
Which is better?
Would you exchange the better for the worse?
... وَضُرِبَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الذِّلَّةُ وَالْمَسْكَنَةُ وَبَآؤُوْاْ بِغَضَبٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ ...
They were covered with humiliation and misery; they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah.
C75. From here the argument becomes more general.
They got the Promised Land. But they continued to rebel against Allah. And their humiliation and misery became a national disaster. They were carried in captivity to Assyria. They were restored under the Persians, but still remained under the Persian yoke, and they were under the yoke of the Greeks, the Romans, and Arabs. They were scattered all over the earth, and have been a wandering people ever since, because they rejected faith, slew Allah's messengers and went on transgressing.
The slaying of the Prophets begins with the murder of Abel, who was in the ancestry of Israel. The elder sons of Jacob attempted the murder of Joseph when they dropped him into the well, and if he was afterwards rescued by strangers, their blood guilt was none the less. In later history they attempted to slay Jesus, in as much as they got the Roman Governor to crucify one in his likeness, and they attempted to take the life of Mustafa.
But the moral goes wider than the Children of Israel. It applies to all nations and all individuals. If they are stiffed-necked, if they set a greater value on perishable goods than on freedom and eternal salvation, if they break the law of Allah and resist His grace, their portion must be humiliation and misery in the spiritual world and probably even on this earth if a long view is taken.
... ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَانُواْ يَكْفُرُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَيَقْتُلُونَ النَّبِيِّينَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ ...
This because they went on rejecting the signs of Allah and slaying His messengers without just cause.
... ذَلِكَ بِمَا عَصَواْ وَّكَانُواْ يَعْتَدُونَ ﴿٦١﴾
This because they rebelled and went on transgressing.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَالَّذِينَ هَادُواْ وَالنَّصَارَى وَالصَّابِئِينَ ...
62. Those who believe (in the Qur'án) and those who follow the Jewish (Scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,
C76. Latest researches have revealed a small remnant of a religious community numbering about 2,000 souls in Lower Iraq, near Basra.
In Arabic they are called Subbi (plural Subba). They are also called Sabians and Nasoraeans; or Mandaeans, or Christians of St. John.
They claim to be Gnostics, of Knowers of the Great Life. They dress in white, and believe in frequent immersions in water. Their Book Ginza is in a dialect of Aramaic. They have theories of Darkness and Light as in Zoroastrianism. They use the name Yardan (Jordan) for any river. They live in peace and harmony among their Muslim neighbors. They resemble the Sabi'un mentioned in the Quran but are not probably identical with them.
The pseudo-Sabians of Harran, who attracted the attention of Khalifah Ma'mun al Rashid in 830 A.C. by their long hair and peculiar dress probably adopted the name as it was mentioned in the Quran, in order to claim the privileges of the People of the Book. They were Syrian Star-worshippers with Hellenistic tendencies, like the Jews contemporary with Jesus.
There was another people called the Sabaens, who played an important part in the history of early Arabia, and are known through their inscriptions in an alphabet allied to the Phoenician and Babylonian. They had a flourishing kingdom in the Yemen tract in South Arabia about 800-700 B.C., though their origin may have been in North Arabia. They worshipped the planets and stars (Moon, Sun, Venus). Probably the Queen of Sheba is connected with them. They succumbed to Abyssinia about 350 A.C. and to Persia about 579 A.C. Their capital was near San'a. They had beautiful stone buildings, in which the pointed arch is noticeable.
(See Encyclopedia Britannica, on Sabaeans). (R).
... مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحاً فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ ...
and who believe in Allah and the last day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord;
... وَلاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ ﴿٦٢﴾
on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
C77. CF. 2:38, where the same phrase occurs. And it recurs again and again afterwards.
The point of the verse is that Islam does not teach an exclusive doctrine, and is not meant exclusively for one people. The Jews claimed this for themselves, and the Christians in their own origin were a sect of the Jews.
Even the modern organized Christian churches, though they have been, consciously or unconsciously, influenced by the Time-spirit, including the historical fact of Islam, yet cling to the idea of Vicarious Atonement, which means that all who do not believe in it or who lived previously to the death of Christ are at a disadvantage spiritually before the Throne of Allah.
The attitude of Islam is entirely different. Islam existed before the preaching of Muhammad on this earth: the Quran expressly calls Abraham a Muslim (3:67). Its teaching (submission to Allah's will) has been and will be the teaching of Religion for all time and for all peoples.
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ وَرَفَعْنَا فَوْقَكُمُ الطُّورَ ...
63. And remember We took your Covenant and We raised above you (the towering height) of Mount (Sinai)
C78. The Mountain of Sinai (Tur al Sinin) a prominent mountain in the Arabian desert, in the peninsula between the two arms of the Red Sea.
Here the Ten Commandments and the Law were given to Moses. Hence it is now called the Mountain of Moses (Jabal Musa).
The Israelites encamped at the foot of it for nearly a year. The Covenant was taken from them under many portents (Exod. 19:5,8,16,18), which are described in Jewish tradition in great detail.
Under thunder and lightening the mountain must indeed have appeared an awe-inspiring sight above to the Camp at its foot. And the people solemnly entered into the Covenant: all the people answered together and said, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do."
... خُذُواْ مَا آتَيْنَاكُم بِقُوَّةٍ وَاذْكُرُواْ مَا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ﴿٦٣﴾
(saying): "Hold firmly to what We have given you and bring (ever) to remembrance what is therein, perchance ye may fear Allah."
ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُم مِّن بَعْدِ ذَلِكَ...
64. But ye turned back thereafter,
... فَلَوْلاَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ لَكُنتُم مِّنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ ﴿٦٤﴾
had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allah to you, ye had surely been among the lost.
وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْتُمُ الَّذِينَ اعْتَدَواْ مِنكُمْ فِي السَّبْتِ ...
65. And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath;
... فَقُلْنَا لَهُمْ كُونُواْ قِرَدَةً خَاسِئِينَ ﴿٦٥﴾
We said to them: "Be ye apes, despised and rejected."
C79. The punishment for breach of the Sabbath under the Mosaic law was death.
"Every one that defieth it (the Sabbath) shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people." (Exod. 31:14).
There must have been a Jewish tradition about a whole fishing community in a seaside town, which persisted in breaking the Sabbath and were turned into apes;
فَجَعَلْنَاهَا نَكَالاً لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهَا وَمَا خَلْفَهَا وَمَوْعِظَةً لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ ﴿٦٦﴾
66. So We made it an example to their own time, and to their posterity, and a lesson to those who fear Allah.
وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَنْ تَذْبَحُواْ بَقَرَةً ...
67. And remember Moses said to his people: "Allah commands that ye sacrifice a heifer."
The stories were accepted in Jewish traditions, which are themselves based on certain sacrificial directions in the Old Testament. The heifer story of Jewish tradition is based on Num. 19:1-10, in which Moses and Aaron ordered the Israelites to sacrifice a red heifer without spot or blemish; her body was to be burnt and the ashes were to be kept for the purification of the congregation from sin.
The parable of the dead man we shall refer to later.
The lesson of the heifer parable is plain. Moses announced the sacrifice to the Israelites, and they treated it as jest. When Moses continued solemnly to ask for the sacrifice, they put him off on one pretext and another, asking a number of questions which they could have answered themselves if they had listened to Moses' directions.
Their questions were carping criticisms rather than the result of a desire for information. It was a mere thin presence that they were genuinely seeking for guidance. When at last they were driven into a corner, they made the sacrifice, but the will was wanting, which would have made the sacrifice efficacious for purification from sin.
The real reason for their prevarications was their guilty conscience, as we see in the parable of the dead man (2:72-73).
... قَالُواْ أَتَتَّخِذُنَا هُزُواً...
They said: "Makest thou a laughing-stock of us?"
... قَالَ أَعُوذُ بِاللّهِ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ ﴿٦٧﴾
He said: "Allah save me from being an ignorant (fool)!"
قَالُواْ ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لّنَا مَا هِيَ ...
68. They said: "Beseech on our behalf thy Lord to make plain to us what (heifer) it is!
... قَالَ إِنَّهُ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٌ لاَّ فَارِضٌ وَلاَ بِكْرٌ عَوَانٌ بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ...
He said: "He says: The heifer should be neither too old nor too young, but of middling age;
... فَافْعَلُواْ مَا تُؤْمَرونَ ﴿٦٨﴾
now do what ye are commanded!
قَالُواْ ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا لَوْنُهَا...
69. They said: "Beseech on our behalf thy Lord to make plain to us her color."
... قَالَ إِنَّهُ يَقُولُ إِنّهَا بَقَرَةٌ صَفْرَاء فَاقِـعٌ لَّوْنُهَا تَسُرُّ النَّاظِرِينَ ﴿٦٩﴾
He said: "He says, a fawn-colored heifer, pure and rich in tone, the admiration of beholders!"
قَالُواْ ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا هِيَ إِنَّ البَقَرَ تَشَابَهَ عَلَيْنَا...
70. They said, "Beseech on our behalf thy Lord to make plain to us what she is, to us are all heifers alike;
... وَإِنَّآ إِن شَاء اللَّهُ لَمُهْتَدُونَ ﴿٧٠﴾
we wish indeed for guidance, if Allah wills."
قَالَ إِنَّهُ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٌ لاَّ ذَلُولٌ تُثِيرُ الأَرْضَ وَلاَ تَسْقِي الْحَرْثَ...
71. He said: "He says, a heifer not trained to till the soil or water the fields;
... مُسَلَّمَةٌ لاَّ شِيَةَ فِيهَا...
sound and without blemish."
... قَالُواْ الآنَ جِئْتَ بِالْحَقِّ ...
They said: "Now hast thou brought the truth."
... فَذَبَحُوهَا وَمَا كَادُواْ يَفْعَلُونَ ﴿٧١﴾
Then they offered her in sacrifice, but not with goodwill.
وَإِذْ قَتَلْتُمْ نَفْساً فَادَّارَأْتُمْ فِيهَا ...
72. Remember ye slew a man and fell into a dispute among yourselves as to the crime,
C81. In Deut. 21:1-9 it is ordained that if the body of a slain man be found in field and the slayer is not known, a heifer shall be beheaded, and the elders of the city next to the slain man's domicile shall wash their hands over the heifer and say that they neither did the deed nor saw it done, thus clearing themselves from the blood-guilt.
The Jewish story based on this was that in a certain case of this kind, every one tried to clear himself of guilt and lay the blame at the door of others. In the first place they tried to prevaricate and prevent a heifer being slain as in the last parable. When she was slain, Allah by a miracle disclosed the real person. A portion of the sacrificed heifer was ordered to be placed on the corpse, which came to life and disclosed the whole story of the crime.
The lesson of this parable is that men may try to hide their crimes individually or collectively, but Allah will bring them to light in unexpected ways.
Applying this further to Jewish national history, the argument is developed in the following verses that the Children of Israel played fast and loose which their rites and tradition, but they could thus evade the consequences of their own sin.
... وَاللّهُ مُخْرِجٌ مَّا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ ﴿٧٢﴾
but Allah was to bring forth what ye did hide.
فَقُلْنَا اضْرِبُوهُ بِبَعْضِهَا...
73. So We said: "Strike the (body) with a piece of the (heifer)."
... كَذَلِكَ يُحْيِي اللّهُ الْمَوْتَى وَيُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ ﴿٧٣﴾
Thus Allah bringeth the dead to life and showeth you His Signs, perchance ye may understand.
ثُمَّ قَسَتْ قُلُوبُكُم مِّن بَعْدِ ذَلِكَ فَهِيَ كَالْحِجَارَةِ أَوْ أَشَدُّ قَسْوَةً...
74. Thenceforth were your hearts hardened; they became like a rock and even worse in hardness.
... وَإِنَّ مِنَ الْحِجَارَةِ لَمَا يَتَفَجَّرُ مِنْهُ الأَنْهَارُ...
For among rocks there are some from which rivers gush forth;
... وَإِنَّ مِنْهَا لَمَا يَشَّقَّقُ فَيَخْرُجُ مِنْهُ الْمَاء...
others there are which when split asunder send forth water;
... وَإِنَّ مِنْهَا لَمَا يَهْبِطُ مِنْ خَشْيَةِ اللّهِ...
and others which sink for fear of Allah.
... وَمَا اللّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿٧٤﴾
And Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.
C82. The sinner's heart gets harder and harder. It is even harder than rocks, of which a beautiful poetical allegory is placed before us.
In nature we think there is nothing harder than rocks. But there are rocks that weep voluntarily, like repentant hearts that come to Allah of their own accord; such are the rocks from which rivers and springs flow spontaneously, sometimes in small trickles, sometimes in big volumes.
Then there are rocks which have to be split or dug into or blown up with dynamite, and underneath we find abundant waters, as in wells beneath rocky soil. Such are the hearts of a less degree of fineness, which yet melt into tears when some great blow or calamity calls the mind to higher things. (R).
75. Can ye (O ye men of Faith) entertain the hope that they will believe in you?
Seeing that a party of them heard the word of Allah,
... ثُمَّ يُحَرِّفُونَهُ مِن بَعْدِ مَا عَقَلُوهُ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٧٥﴾
and perverted it knowingly after they understood it.
وَإِذَا لَقُواْ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ قَالُواْ آمَنَّا...
76. Behold! when they meet the men of Faith, they say: "We believe,"
C83. The immediate argument applies to the Jews of Madinah, but the more general argument applies to the people of Faith and the people without Faith, as we shall see below.
If the Muslims of Madinah ever entertained the hope that the Jews in their city would as a body welcome Muhammad Mustafa as the Prophet prophesied in their own books, they were mistaken. In Deut. 18:18, they read:
"I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee." (i.e., like unto Moses) which was interpreted by some of their doctors as referring to Muhammad, and they came into Islam.
The Arabs are a kindred branch of the Semitic family, and are correctly described in relation to the Jews as "their brethren"; and there is no question that there was not another Prophet" like unto Moses" until Muhammad came; in fact the PostScript of Deuteronomy, which was written many centuries after Moses, says:
"There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face."
But the Jews as a body were jealous of Muhammad, and played a double part. When the Muslim community began to grow stronger they pretended to be of them, but really tried to keep back any knowledge of their own Scriptures from them, lest they should be beaten by their own arguments.
The more general interpretation holds good in all ages. Faith and Unfaith are pitted against each other.
Faith has to struggle against power, position, organization, and privilege. When in gains ground, Unfaith comes forward insincerely and claims fellowship. But in its own mind it is jealous of armory of science, and knowledge which Faith brings into the service of Allah. But Allah knows all, and if the people of Faith will only seek knowledge sincerely wherever they can find it-even as far afield as China, as Muhammad said, they can defeat Unfaith on its own ground.
[Even though the directive that Muslims should derive knowledge regardless of its location is an acceptable proposition from the Islamic viewpoint, the tradition to which the author refers here is not authentic. (Eds).].
... وَإِذَا خَلاَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِلَىَ بَعْضٍ قَالُواْ أَتُحَدِّثُونَهُم بِمَا فَتَحَ اللّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ...
but when they meet each other in private, they say: "Shall you tell them what Allah hath revealed to you,
... لِيُحَآجُّوكُم بِهِ عِندَ رَبِّكُمْ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ ﴿٧٦﴾
that they may engage you in argument about it before your Lord?" Do ye not understand (their aim)?
أَوَلاَ يَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ اللّهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا يُسِرُّونَ وَمَا يُعْلِنُونَ ﴿٧٧﴾
77. Know they not that Allah knoweth what they conceal and what they reveal?
وَمِنْهُمْ أُمِّيُّونَ ...
78. And there are among them illiterates,
C84. The argument of 2:76 is continued. The Jews wanted to keep back knowledge, but what knowledge had they?
Many of them, even if they could read, were no better than illiterates, for they knew not their own true Scriptures, but read into them what they wanted, or at best their own conjectures.
They planned off their own writings for the Message of Allah. Perhaps it brought them profit for the time being; but it was a miserable profit if they "gained the whole world and lost their own souls" (Matt. 16:26).
"Writing with their own hands" means inventing books themselves, which had no divine authority.
... لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ الْكِتَابَ إِلاَّ أَمَانِيَّ ...
who know not the Book but (see therein their own) desires,
... وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلاَّ يَظُنُّونَ ﴿٧٨﴾
and they do nothing but conjecture.
فَوَيْلٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يَكْتُبُونَ الْكِتَابَ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ...
79. Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands
... ثُمَّ يَقُولُونَ هَـذَا مِنْ عِندِ اللّهِ لِيَشْتَرُواْ بِهِ ثَمَناً قَلِيلاً ...
and then say: "This is from Allah," to traffic with it for a miserable price!
فَوَيْلٌ لَّهُم مِّمَّا كَتَبَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَوَيْلٌ لَّهُمْ مِّمَّا يَكْسِبُونَ ﴿٧٩﴾
Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.
وَقَالُواْ لَن تَمَسَّنَا النَّارُ إِلاَّ أَيَّاماً مَّعْدُودَةً ...
80. And they say: "The fire shall not touch us but for a few numbered days;"
C85. The Jews in their arrogance might say:
Whatever the terror of Hell may be for other people, our sins will be forgiven, because we are the children of Abraham; at worst, we shall suffer a short definite punishment and then be restored to the "bosom of Abraham".
This bubble is pricked here.
Read this verse with 2:81-82.
The general application is also clear. If Unfaith claims some special prerogative, such as race, "civilization," political power, historical experience, and so on, these will not avail in Allah's sight. His promise is sure, but His promise is for those who seek Allah in Faith, and show it in their conduct.
... قُلْ أَتَّخَذْتُمْ عِندَ اللّهِ عَهْدًا فَلَن يُخْلِفَ اللّهُ عَهْدَهُ ...
Say: "Have ye taken a promise from Allah for He never breaks His promise?
... أَمْ تَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللّهِ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٨٠﴾
Or is it that ye say of Allah what ye do not know?"
بَلَى مَن كَسَبَ سَيِّئَةً وَأَحَاطَتْ بِهِ خَطِيـئَتُهُ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ ...
81. Nay, those who seek gain in Evil, and are girt round by their sins, they are Companions of the Fire,
C86. This is many degrees worse than merely falling into evil: it is going out to "earn evil" as the Arabic text has it, i.e., to seek gain in evil.
Such a perverse attitude means that the moral and spiritual fortress erected around us by the Grace of Allah is voluntarily surrendered by us and demolished by Evil, which erects its own fortress, so that access to Good may be more and more difficult.
... هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ ﴿٨١﴾
therein shall they abide (for ever).
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ أُولَـئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ ...
82. But those who have faith and work righteousness, they are Companions of the Garden,
... هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ ﴿٨٢﴾
therein shall they abide (for ever).
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ لاَ تَعْبُدُونَ إِلاَّ اللّهَ...
83. And remember We took a Covenant from the children of Israel (to this effect): worship none but Allah;
This moral law is universal and if you break it no privileges will lighten your punishment or help you in any way (2:86).
"Speak fair to the people" not only means outward courtesy from the leaders to the meanest among the people, but the protection of the people from being exploited, deceived, defrauded, or doped with things to lull their intelligence.
... وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَاناً وَذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ...
treat with kindness your parents and kindred, and orphans and those in need;
... وَقُولُواْ لِلنَّاسِ حُسْناً وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَاةَ...
speak fair to the people; be steadfast in prayer; and practice regular charity.
... ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً مِّنكُمْ وَأَنتُم مِّعْرِضُونَ ﴿٨٣﴾
Then did ye turn back, except a few among you, and ye backslide (even now).
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ لاَ تَسْفِكُونَ دِمَاءكُمْ وَلاَ تُخْرِجُونَ أَنفُسَكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ...
84. And remember We took your Covenant (to this effect): shed no blood amongst you, nor turn out your own people from your homes;
C88. Verse 83 referred to the universal moral law.
This verse 84 refers to its application under a special Covenant entered into with the Jews of Madinah by the new-born Muslim Commonwealth under its Guide and teacher Muhammad.
This Covenant is given in Ibn Hisham's Sirat-ur-Rasul, and comments on it will be found in Ameer Ali's Spirit of Islam (London 1922), pp. 57-61.
It was entered into in the second year of the Hijrah, and was treacherously broken by the Jews almost immediately afterwards.
... ثُمَّ أَقْرَرْتُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ ﴿٨٤﴾
and this ye solemnly ratified, and to this ye can bear witness.
ثُمَّ أَنتُمْ هَـؤُلاء تَقْتُلُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَتُخْرِجُونَ فَرِيقاً مِّنكُم مِّن دِيَارِهِمْ ...
85. After this it is ye, the same people, who slay among yourselves, and banish a party of you from their homes;
... تَظَاهَرُونَ عَلَيْهِم بِالإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ...
assist (their enemies) against them, in guilt and rancor;
... وَإِن يَأتُوكُمْ أُسَارَى تُفَادُوهُمْ وَهُوَ مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَيْكُمْ إِخْرَاجُهُمْ ...
and if they come to you as captives, ye ransom them, though it was not lawful for you to banish them.
C89. I understand "ransom them" here to mean "take ransom for them" though most of the Commentators take it to mean "give ransom for them".
Mustafa had made a Pact which, if it had been faithfully observed by all parties, would have brought a reign of law and order for Madinah. But some of the treacherous Jews never intended to observe its terms. They fought and slew each other and not only banished those who were obnoxious to them but intrigued with their enemies. If by chance they came back into their hands as captives, they demanded ransom for them to return to their homes although they had no right to banish them at all.
If we understand by "ransom them" pay "ransom for them to release them from the hands of their enemies," it would mean that they did this pious act for show, although they were themselves the authors of their unlawful banishment.
I think the former makes better sense.
... أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتَابِ وَتَكْفُرُونَ بِبَعْضٍ...
Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest?
... فَمَا جَزَاء مَن يَفْعَلُ ذَلِكَ مِنكُمْ إِلاَّ خِزْيٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا...
But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?
... وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَى أَشَدِّ الْعَذَابِ ...
and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty.
... وَمَا اللّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿٨٥﴾
For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.
أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُاْ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا بِالآَخِرَةِ ...
86. These are the people who buy the life of this world at the price of the Hereafter;
... فَلاَ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ ﴿٨٦﴾
their penalty shall not be lightened, nor shall they be helped.
C.47 (The running Commentary, in Rhythmic Prose)
The people of Moses and the people of Jesus
Were given revelation, but alas!
They played false, with their own lights
And, in their selfishness, made narrow
Allah's universal message. To them
It seemed incredible that His light
Should illumine Arabia and reform
The world. But His ways are wondrous,
And they are clear to those who have Faith
وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ وَقَفَّيْنَا مِن بَعْدِهِ بِالرُّسُلِ ...
87. We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of Messengers;
... وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ...
We gave Jesus the son of Mary clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit.
C90. As to the birth of Jesus, cf. 19:16-34.
Why is he called the "Son of Mary"?
What are his "clear signs"?
What is the "holy spirit" by which he was strengthened?
We reserve to a later state a discussion of the Quranic teaching on these questions.
... أَفَكُلَّمَا جَاءكُمْ رَسُولٌ بِمَا لاَ تَهْوَى أَنفُسُكُمُ اسْتَكْبَرْتُمْ ...
Is it that whenever there comes to you a Messenger with what ye yourselves desire not, ye are puffed up with pride?
... فَفَرِيقاً كَذَّبْتُمْ وَفَرِيقاً تَقْتُلُونَ ﴿٨٧﴾
Some ye called impostors, and others ye slay!
C91. Notice the sudden transition from the past tense in "some ye called imposters" to the present tense in "others ye slay."
There is a double significance.
- First, reviewing the long course of Jewish history, we have come to the time of Jesus; they have often given the lie to Allah's Prophets, and even now they are trying to slay Jesus.
- Secondly, extending the review of that history to the time of Muhammad, they are even now trying to take the life of that holy Prophet.
This would be literally true at the time the words were promulgated to the people. And this transition leads on naturally to the next verse, which refers to the actual conditions before Muhammad in Medina in the second year of the Hijrah.
Section 11-13 (2:87-121) refer to the people of Book generally, Jews and Christians. Even where Moses and the Law of Sinai are referred to, those traditions are common to both Jews and Christians.
The argument is about the people who ought to have learnt from previous Revelations and welcomed Muhammad's teaching, and yet they both took up an attitude of arrogant rejection.
وَقَالُواْ قُلُوبُنَا غُلْفٌ ...
88. They say, "Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve Allah's word, we need no more)."
C92. The Jews in their arrogance claimed that all wisdom and all knowledge of Allah were enclosed in their hearts. But there were more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in their philosophy. Their claim was not only arrogance but blasphemy. In reality they were men without Faith.
I take Ghulfun here to be the plural of Ghilafun the wrapping or cover of a book, in which the book is preserved.
As usual, there is much wider meaning. How many people at all times and among all nations close their hearts to any extension of knowledge or spiritual influence because of some little fragment which they have got and which they think is the whole of Allah’s Truth?
Such an attitude shows really want of faith and is a blasphemous limitation of Allah’s unlimited spiritual gifts to His creatures.
[According to another view the verse refers to the Jewish claim that a covering had been placed over their hearts which prevented them from grasping the message of the Prophet (peace be on him)].
See Ibn Kathir’s commentary on the verse.
See also verse 4:155. [Eds].
... بَل لَّعَنَهُمُ اللَّه بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَقَلِيلاً مَّا يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿٨٨﴾
Nay, Allah's curse is on them for their blasphemy; little is it they believe.
C93. The root kafara has many shades of meaning:
1. to deny Allah's goodness, to be ungrateful,
2. to reject Faith, deny His revelation,
3. to blaspheme, to ascribe some limitation or attribute to Allah which is derogatory to His nature.
In a translation, one shade or another must be put forward according to the context, but all are implied.
وَلَمَّا جَاءهُمْ كِتَابٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللّهِ مُصَدِّقٌ لِّمَا مَعَهُمْ ...
89. And when there comes to them a Book from Allah, confirming what is with them-
C94. The Jews, who pretended to be so superior to the people without Faith - the Gentiles - should have been the first to recognize the new Truth - or the Truth renewed - which it was Muhammad's mission to bring because it was so similar in form and language to what they had already received.
But they had more arrogance than faith. It is this want of faith that brings on the curse, i.e., deprives us (if we adopt such an attitude) of the blessings of Allah.
Again the lesson applies to a much wider circle than the Jews. We are all apt, in our perverseness, to reject an appeal from our brother even more summarily than one from an outsider. If we have a glimmering of the truth, we are apt to make ourselves impervious to further truth, and thus lose the benefit of Allah's Grace.
... وَكَانُواْ مِن قَبْلُ يَسْتَفْتِحُونَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ...
although from of old they had prayed for victory against those without faith,
فَلَمَّا جَاءهُم مَّا عَرَفُواْ كَفَرُواْ بِهِ ...
when there comes to them that which they (should) have recognized, they refused to believe in it;
... فَلَعْنَةُ اللَّه عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٨٩﴾
but the curse of Allah is on those without Faith.
بِئْسَمَا اشْتَرَوْاْ بِهِ أَنفُسَهُمْ أَن يَكْفُرُواْ بِمَا أنَزَلَ اللّهُ...
90. Miserable is the price for which they have sold their souls, in that they deny (the revelation) which Allah has sent down,
... بَغْياً أَن يُنَزِّلُ اللّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ عَلَى مَن يَشَاء مِنْ عِبَادِهِ ...
in insolent envy that Allah of His Grace should send it to any of His servants He pleases;
C95. Racial arrogance made the Jews averse to the reception of Truth when it came through a servant of Allah, not of their own race.
Again the lesson is wider.
Is that averseness unknown in our own times, and among other races?
Yet how can a race or a people set bounds to Allah's choice?
Allah is the Creator and Cherisher of all races and all worlds.
... فَبَآؤُواْ بِغَضَبٍ عَلَى غَضَبٍ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ ﴿٩٠﴾
thus have they drawn on themselves wrath upon wrath. And humiliating is the punishment of those who reject Faith.
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ آمِنُواْ بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ ...
91. When it is said to them: "Believe in what Allah hath sent down,"
... قَالُواْ نُؤْمِنُ بِمَآ أُنزِلَ عَلَيْنَا...
they say, "We believe in what was sent down to us;"
... وَيَكْفُرونَ بِمَا وَرَاءهُ وَهُوَ الْحَقُّ مُصَدِّقاً لِّمَا مَعَهُمْ...
yet they reject all besides, even if it be truth confirming what is with them.
قُلْ فَلِمَ تَقْتُلُونَ أَنبِيَاء اللّهِ مِن قَبْلُ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٩١﴾
Say: "Why then have ye slain the prophets of Allah in times gone by, if ye did indeed believe?"
C96. Even the race argument is often flimsy and hollow pretext.
Did not the Jews reject Prophets of their own race who told them unpleasant truths?
And do not other nations do likewise?
The real trouble is selfishness, narrowness, a mean dislike of anything which runs counter to habits, customs or inclinations.
وَلَقَدْ جَاءكُم مُّوسَى بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ثُمَّ اتَّخَذْتُمُ الْعِجْلَ مِن بَعْدِهِ...
92. There came to you Moses with clear (Signs); yet ye worshipped the Calf (even) after that,
... وَأَنتُمْ ظَالِمُونَ ﴿٩٢﴾
and ye did behave wrongfully.
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ وَرَفَعْنَا فَوْقَكُمُ الطُّورَ ...
93. And remember We took your Covenant and We raised above you (the towering height) of Mount (Sinai), (saying):
... خُذُواْ مَا آتَيْنَاكُم بِقُوَّةٍ وَاسْمَعُواْ...
"Hold firmly to what We have given you and hearken (to the Law);"
C97. Cf. the introductory words of 2:63 which are the same as the introductory words here but the argument is developed in a different direction in the two places.
In 2:63, after they are reminded of the solemn Covenant under the towering height of Mount Sinai they are told how they broke the Covenant in after ages.
Here, after they are reminded of the same solemn Covenant, they are told that even then they never meant to observe it. Their thought is expressed in biting words of sarcasm.
They said in words:
"All that the Lord hath spoken we will do"
But they said in their hearts "We shall disobey".
... قَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا ...
they said: "We hear, and we disobey;"
C98. What they should have said was: "We hear and we obey" this is the attitude of the true men of Faith (2:285).
... وَأُشْرِبُواْ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الْعِجْلَ بِكُفْرِهِمْ ...
and they had to drink into their hearts (of the taint) of the calf because of their faithlessness.
C99. After the Commandments and the Law had been given at Mount Sinai, and the people had solemnly given their Covenant, Moses went up to the Mount, and in his absence, the people made the golden calf.
[The word ushribu which occurs in the verse seems to suggest, as noted Tabi'i Qatadaqh is reported to have said, that their hearts were saturated with the love for the calf.
See Ibn Kathir's Commentary on the verse. (Eds).]
... قُلْ بِئْسَمَا يَأْمُرُكُمْ بِهِ إِيمَانُكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٩٣﴾
Say: "Vile indeed are the behests of your faith if ye have any faith!"
قُلْ إِن كَانَتْ لَكُمُ الدَّارُ الآَخِرَةُ عِندَ اللّهِ خَالِصَةً مِّن دُونِ النَّاسِ...
94. Say: "If the last Home, with Allah, be for you specially, and not for anyone else,
... فَتَمَنَّوُاْ الْمَوْتَ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿٩٤﴾
then seek ye for death, if ye are sincere."
وَلَن يَتَمَنَّوْهُ أَبَدًا بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ ...
95. But they will never seek for death, on account of the (sins) which their hands have sent on before them.
C100. The phrase "What their hands have sent on before them" frequently occurs in the Quran.
Here, and in many places, it refers to sins.
In 2:110, it is the good that goes before us.
Our deeds are personified. They are witnesses for or against us, and they always go before us. Their good or bad influence to operate before we even know it.
This is more general than the New Testament idea in the First Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy, 5:24: "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after."
... وَاللّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالظَّالِمينَ ﴿٩٥﴾
And Allah is well acquainted with the wrongdoers.
وَلَتَجِدَنَّهُمْ أَحْرَصَ النَّاسِ عَلَى حَيَاةٍ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُواْ...
96. Thou wilt indeed find them, of all people, most greedy of life, even more than the idolaters;
... يَوَدُّ أَحَدُهُمْ لَوْ يُعَمَّرُ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ وَمَا هُوَ بِمُزَحْزِحِهِ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ أَن يُعَمَّرَ...
each one of them wishes he could be given a life of a thousand years; but the grant of such life will not save him from (due) punishment,
... وَاللّهُ بَصِيرٌ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿٩٦﴾
for Allah sees well all that they do.
قُلْ مَن كَانَ عَدُوًّا لِّجِبْرِيلَ فَإِنَّهُ نَزَّلَهُ عَلَى قَلْبِكَ بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ...
97. Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel, for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by Allah's will,
C101. A party of the Jews in the time of Muhammad ridiculed the Muslim believe that Gabriel brought down revelations to Muhammad Mustafa.
But this pretence - that Michael was their friend and Gabriel their enemy - was merely a manifestation of their unbelief in angels, apostles, and Allah Himself; and such unbelief could not win the love of Allah.
In any case it was disingenuous to say that they believed in one angel and not in another.
Muhammad's inspiration was through visions of Gabriel. Muhammad had been helped to the highest spiritual light, and the message which he delivered and his spotless integrity and exemplary life were manifest Signs which every one could understand except those who were obstinate and perverse. Besides, the verses of the Quran were in themselves reasonable and clear.
... مُصَدِّقاً لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَهُدًى وَبُشْرَى لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٩٧﴾
a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe.
مَن كَانَ عَدُوًّا لِّلّهِ وَمَلآئِكَتِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَجِبْرِيلَ وَمِيكَالَ ...
98. Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and apostles, to Gabriel and Michael,
... فَإِنَّ اللّهَ عَدُوٌّ لِّلْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٩٨﴾
Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject faith.
وَلَقَدْ أَنزَلْنَآ إِلَيْكَ آيَاتٍ بَيِّنَاتٍ وَمَا يَكْفُرُ بِهَا إِلاَّ الْفَاسِقُونَ ﴿٩٩﴾
99. We have sent down to thee manifest signs (Ayat);
and none reject them but those who are perverse.
أَوَكُلَّمَا عَاهَدُواْ عَهْداً نَّبَذَهُ فَرِيقٌ مِّنْهُم ...
100. Is it not (the case) that every time they make a Covenant, some party among them throw it aside?-
... بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿١٠٠﴾
Nay, most of them are faithless.
وَلَمَّا جَاءهُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللّهِ مُصَدِّقٌ لِّمَا مَعَهُمْ...
101. And when came to them a Messenger from Allah, confirming what was with them,
نَبَذَ فَرِيقٌ مِّنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَابَ كِتَابَ اللّهِ وَرَاء ظُهُورِهِمْ ...
a party of the People of the Book threw away the Book of Allah behind their backs,
C102. I think that by "the Book of Allah" here is meant, not the Quran, but the Book which the People of the Book had been given, viz., the previous Revelations.
The argument is that Muhammad's Message was similar to Revelations which they had already received, and if they had looked into their own Books honestly and sincerely, they would have found proofs in them to show that the new Message was true and from Allah. But they ignored their own Books or twisted or distorted them according to their own fancies. Worse, they followed somethings which was actually false and mischievous and inspired by the evil one. Such was the belief in magic and sorcery.
These are described in the next verse in terms referring to the beliefs and practices of the "People of the Book."
... كَأَنَّهُمْ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٠١﴾
as if (it had been something) they did not know!
وَاتَّبَعُواْ مَا تَتْلُواْ الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَى مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ...
102. They followed what the evil ones gave out (falsely) against the power of Solomon;
C103. This is a continuation of the argument in 2:101.
The People of the Book, instead of sticking to the plain Books of Revelations, and seeking to do the will of Allah ran after all sorts of occult knowledge, most of which was false and evil.
Many wonderful tales of occult power attributed the power of Solomon to magic. But Solomon dealt in not arts of evil. It was the powers of evil that pretended to force the laws of nature and the will of Allah; such a pretense is plainly blasphemy.
... وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ وَلَـكِنَّ الشَّيْاطِينَ كَفَرُواْ يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ...
the blasphemers were, not Solomon, but the evil ones, teaching men magic,
... وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ...
and such things as came down at Babylon to the angels Harut and Marut.
C104. Harut and Marut lived in Babylon, a very ancient seat of science, especially the science of astronomy. The period may be supposed to anywhere about the time when the ancient Eastern Monarchies were strong and enlightened: probably even earlier, as Ma-ru-tu or Mandruk was a deified hero afterwards worshipped as a god of magic in Babylon.
Being good men, Harut and Marut of course dabbled in nothing evil, and their evil hands were certainly clean of fraud. But knowledge and the arts, if learned by evil men, can be applied to evil uses. The evil ones, besides their fraudulent magic, also learnt a little of this true science and applied it to evil uses.
Harut and Marut did not withhold knowledge, yet never taught anyone without plainly warning them of the trial and temptation of knowledge in the hands of evil men. Being men of insight, they also saw the blasphemy that might rise to the lips of the evil ones puffed up with science and warned them against it.
Knowledge is indeed a trial or temptation: if we are warned, we know its dangers: if Allah has endowed us with free will, we must be free to choose between the benefit and the danger.
Among the Jewish traditions in the Midrash (Jewish Tafsir) was a story of two angels who asked Allah's permission to come down to earth but succumbed to temptation, and were hung up by their feet at Babylon for punishment.
... وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّى يَقُولاَ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلاَ تَكْفُرْ ...
But neither of these taught anyone (such things) without saying: "We are only for trial, so do not blaspheme."
... فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ...
They learned from them the means to sow discord between man and wife.
C105. What the evil ones learnt from Harut and Marut (see last note) they turned to evil. When mixed with fraud and deception, it appeared as charms and spells of love potions. They did nothing but cause discord between the sexes. But of course their power was limited to the extent to which Allah permitted the evil to work, for His grace protected all who sought His guidance and repented and returned to Him.
But apart from the harm that these false pretenders might do to others, the chief harm which they did was to their own souls. They sold themselves into slavery to the Evil One, as is shown in the allegory of Goethe's Faust.
That allegory dealt with the individual soul. Here the tragedy is shown to occur not only to individuals but to whole groups of people, for example, the People of the Book.
Indeed the story might be extended indefinitely.
... وَمَا هُم بِضَآرِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ...
But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah's permission.
... وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلاَ يَنفَعُهُمْ ...
And they learned what harmed them, not what profited them.
... وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُواْ لَمَنِ اشْتَرَاهُ مَا لَهُ فِي الآخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلاَقٍ ...
And they knew that the buyers of (magic) would have no share in the happiness of the Hereafter.
... وَلَبِئْسَ مَا شَرَوْاْ بِهِ أَنفُسَهُمْ لَوْ كَانُواْ يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٠٢﴾
And vile was the price for which they did sell their souls, if they but knew!
وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُواْ واتَّقَوْا لَمَثُوبَةٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّه خَيْرٌ لَّوْ كَانُواْ يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٠٣﴾
103. If they had kept their faith and guarded themselves from evil, far better had been the reward from their Lord, if they but knew!
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تَقُولُواْ رَاعِنَا وَقُولُواْ انظُرْنَا وَاسْمَعُواْ...
104. O ye of Faith! say not (to the Prophet) words of ambiguous import, but words of respect; and hearken (to him);
C106. The word disapproved is Raina, which is used by the Muslims meant “Please look at us, attend to us.”
But it was ridiculed by enemies by a little twist to suggest some insulting meaning. So an unambiguous word “Unzurna,” with the same meaning is suggested.
The general lesson is that we must guard ourselves against the cynical trick of using words which should complimentary to the ear but have a hidden barb in them. Not only must we be plain and honest in our words. We must respectfully hearken to the words of a Teacher whom we have addressed. Thoughtless people use vain words or put foolish questions, and straightaway turn their minds to something else.
... وَلِلكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ ﴿١٠٤﴾
to those without faith is a grievous punishment.
مَّا يَوَدُّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَلاَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ...
105. It is never the wish of those without faith among the People of the Book, nor of the Pagans,
... أَن يُنَزَّلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَاللّهُ يَخْتَصُّ بِرَحْمَتِهِ مَن يَشَاء...
that anything good should come down to you from your Lord. But Allah will choose for His special Mercy whom He will,
... وَاللّهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ ﴿١٠٥﴾
for Allah is Lord of grace abounding.
106. None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar;
It has even been used for human signs and tokens of wonder, as, for example, monuments or landmarks built by the ancient people of 'Ad (26:128).
What is the meaning here?
If we take it in a general sense, it means that Allah's Message from age to age is always the same, but that its form may differ according to the needs and exigencies of the time. That form was different as given to Moses and then to Jesus and then to Muhammad.
Some commentators apply it also to The Ayat of the Quran. There is nothing derogatory in this if we believe in progressive revelation. In 3:7 we are told distinctly about the Quran, that some of its versus are clear (and of established meaning), and others are not entirely clear, and it is mischievous to treat the verses that are not entirely clear and to follow them (literally). On the other hand, it is absurd to treat such a verse as 2:115 as if it were abrogated by 2:144 about the Qiblah.
There may be express abrogation, or there may be "causing or permitting to forget."
How many good and wise institutions gradually become obsolete by afflux of time?
Then there is gradual process of disuse or forgetting in evolution. This does not mean that eternal principles change. It is only a sign of Allah's infinite Power that His creation should take so many forms and shapes not only in the material world but in the world of man's thought and expression.
... أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللّهَ عَلَىَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ﴿١٠٦﴾
knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things?
أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللّهَ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ...
107. Knowest thou not that to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth!
... وَمَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلاَ نَصِيرٍ ﴿١٠٧﴾
And besides Him ye have neither patron nor helper.
أَمْ تُرِيدُونَ أَن تَسْأَلُواْ رَسُولَكُمْ كَمَا سُئِلَ مُوسَى مِن قَبْلُ...
108. Would ye question your Messenger as Moses was questioned of old?
C108. Moses was constantly harassed with foolish, impertinent, or disingenuous questions by his own people. We must not follow that bad example.
In spiritual matters, posers to no good: questions should be asked only for real instruction.
... وَمَن يَتَبَدَّلِ الْكُفْرَ بِالإِيمَانِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ سَوَاء السَّبِيلِ ﴿١٠٨﴾
But whoever changeth from faith to unbelief, hath strayed without doubt from the even way.
C109. "Even way": the Arabic word sawaa signifies;
- smoothness as opposed to roughness:
- symmetry as opposed to want of plan;
- equality or proportion as opposed to want of design;
- rectitude as opposed to crookedness;
- a mean as opposed to extremes; and
- fitness for the object held in view as opposed to faultiness.
وَدَّ كَثِيرٌ مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ لَوْ يَرُدُّونَكُم مِّن بَعْدِ إِيمَانِكُمْ كُفَّاراً...
109. Quite a number of the People of the Book wish they could turn you (people) back to infidelity after ye have believed,
... حَسَدًا مِّنْ عِندِ أَنفُسِهِم مِّن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الْحَقُّ ...
from selfish envy, after the truth hath become manifest unto them;
... فَاعْفُواْ وَاصْفَحُواْ ...
but forgive and overlook,
C110. Three words are used in the Quran, with a meaning akin to "forgive" but each with a different shade of meaning.
- Afa (here translated "forgive") means to forget, to obliterate from one's mind.
- Safaha (here translated "overlook") means to turn away from, to ignore, to treat a matter as if it did not affect one.
- Gafara (which does not occur in this verse) means to cover up something as Allah does to our sins with His grace;
this word is particularly appropriate in Allah's attribute of Gaffar, the One who forgives again and again.
... حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ اللّهُ بِأَمْرِهِ ...
till Allah accomplish His purpose;
C111. The word Amr is comprehensive and includes;
- an order or command as in 96:12; or
- a purpose, design, will as in 18:82; or
- affairs, working doing, carrying out or execution of a design, as in 79:5.
In many cases some of these meanings run together.
... إِنَّ اللّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ﴿١٠٩﴾
for Allah hath power over all things.
C112. Not how this phrase, seemingly repeated from 2:106, and occurring in many other places, has an appropriate signification in each place.
In 2:106 we were told about progressive revelation, how the same thing may take different forms and seeming human infirmity contribute to the fulfillment of Allah's design, for Allah's power is unlimited.
Here we are told to be patient and forgiving against envy and injustice: this too may be fulfilling Allah's purpose, for His power is infinite.
وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَاةَ ...
110. And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity:
... وَمَا تُقَدِّمُواْ لأَنفُسِكُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ تَجِدُوهُ عِندَ اللّهِ ...
and whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah;
... إِنَّ اللّهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ ﴿١١٠﴾
for Allah sees well all that ye do.
وَقَالُواْ لَن يَدْخُلَ الْجَنَّةَ إِلاَّ مَن كَانَ هُوداً أَوْ نَصَارَى...
111. And they say: "None shall enter paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian."
... تِلْكَ أَمَانِيُّهُمْ ...
Those are their (vain) desires.
... قُلْ هَاتُواْ بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿١١١﴾
Say: "Produce your proof if ye are truthful."
بَلَى مَنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ لِلّهِ وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ فَلَهُ أَجْرُهُ عِندَ رَبِّهِ ...
112. Nay, whoever submits his whole self to Allah and is a doer of good, he will get his reward with his Lord;
C114. The word translated "self" is Wajh, a comprehensive Arabic word. It means;
1. literally "face" but it may imply;
2. countenance or favour, as in 92:20;
4. cause, sake ("for the sake of") as in 76:9;
5. the first part, the beginning as in 3:72;
Here I understand meaning 6; the face expresses the personality or the whole inner self of man. (R).
... وَلاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ ﴿١١٢﴾
on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
C115. This phrase comes in aptly in its own context many times.
وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ لَيْسَتِ النَّصَارَى عَلَىَ شَيْءٍ...
113. The Jews say: "The Christians have naught (to stand) upon;"
... وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَى لَيْسَتِ الْيَهُودُ عَلَى شَيْءٍ وَهُمْ يَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ...
and the Christians say: "The Jews have naught (to stand) upon." Yet they (profess to) study the (same) Book.
... كَذَلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ مِثْلَ قَوْلِهِمْ...
Like unto their word is what those say who know not,
C116. It is a sure sign of ignorance and prejudice when you study the same book as another or a similar one and yet are absolutely intolerant of the meaning which the other draws from it.
You should know better, but you speak like the ignorant. In this case the primary reference in the word "ignorant" may be to the Pagan Arabs.
... فَاللّهُ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فِيمَا كَانُواْ فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ ﴿١١٣﴾
but Allah will judge between them in their quarrel on the Day of Judgment.
وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن مَّنَعَ مَسَاجِدَ اللّهِ أَن يُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ ...
114. And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for the worship of Allah, Allah's name should be celebrated? -
C117. There were actually Pagans in Makkah who tried to shut out the Muslim Arabs from the Ka'bah, the universal place of Arab worship.
The Pagans themselves called it the House of Allah. With what face could they exclude the Muslims, who wanted to worship the true Allah instead of worshipping idols?
If these Pagans had succeeded, they would only have caused violent divisions among the Arabs and destroyed the sanctity and the very existence of the Ka'bah.
This verse taken in a general sense, establishes the principle of freedom of worship in a public mosque or place dedicated to the worship of Allah. This is recognised in Muslim law. (R).
... وَسَعَى فِي خَرَابِهَا...
Whose zeal is (in fact) to ruin them?
أُوْلَـئِكَ مَا كَانَ لَهُمْ أَن يَدْخُلُوهَا إِلاَّ خَآئِفِينَ...
It was not fitting that such should themselves enter them except in fear.
... لهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا خِزْيٌ وَلَهُمْ فِي الآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ ﴿١١٤﴾
For them there is nothing but disgrace in this world, and in the world to come, an exceeding torment.
وَلِلّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّواْ فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللّهِ ...
115. To Allah belong the East and the West; whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah's countenance.
C118. That is, you will face Allah whichever direction you turn your face.
See note to 2:112 above. (R)
... إِنَّ اللّهَ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ ﴿١١٥﴾
For Allah is All-Embracing,, All-Knowing.
وَقَالُواْ اتَّخَذَ اللّهُ وَلَدًا سُبْحَانَهُ ...
116. They say: "Allah hath begotten a son;" Glory be to Him.
... بَل لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ كُلٌّ لَّهُ قَانِتُونَ ﴿١١٦﴾
Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth; everything renders worship to Him.
C119. It is a derogation from the glory of Allah - in fact it is blasphemy - to say that Allah begets sons, like a man or an animal.
The Christian doctrine is here emphatically repudiated. If words have any meaning, it would mean an attribution of Allah of a material nature, and of the lower animal functions of sex. (R)
بَدِيعُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ...
117. To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth;
C120. The previous verse told us that everything in heaven and earth celebrates the glory of Allah. Lest anyone should think that the heavens and the earth were themselves primeval and eternal, we are now told that they themselves are creatures of Allah's will and design.
Cf. 6:101, where the word bada'a is used as here for the creation of the heavens and the earth, and khalaqa is used for the creation of all things.
Bada'a goes back to the very primal beginning, as far as we can conceive it.
The materialists might say that primeval matter was eternal; other things, i.e., the forms and shapes as we see them now, were called into being at some time or other, and will perish. When they perish, they dissolve into primeval matter again, which stands as the base of all existence.
We go further back. We say that if we postulate such primeval matter, it owes its origin itself to Allah Who is the final basis of existence, the Cause of all Causes. If this is conceded, we proceed to argue that the process of Creation is not then completed.
"All things in the heavens and on the earth" are created by gradual processes. In "things" we include abstract as well as material things. We see the abstract things and ideas actually growing before us.
Here comes in what we know as the process of evolution. On the other hand, the "amr" (Command, Direction, Design) is a single thing, unrelated to Time, "like the twinkling of an eye" (54:50).
Another word to note in this connection is ja'ala "making" which seems to imply new shapes and forms, new dispositions, as the making of the Signs of the Zodiac in the heavens, or the setting out of the sun and moon for light, or the establishment of the succession of day and night (25:61-62).
A further process with regard to the soul is described in the word sawwa, bringing it to perfection (91:7) but this we shall discuss in its place.
Fatara (42:11) implies, like bada'a, the creating of a thing out of nothing and after no preexisting similitude, but perhaps fatara implies the creation of primeval matter to which further processes have to be applied later, as when one prepares dough but leaves the leavening to be done after.
Badaa (without the 'ain), 30:27, implies beginning the process of creation; this is made further clear in 32:7 where the beginning of the creation of pristine man from clay refers to his physical body, leaving the further processes of reproduction and the breathing in of the soul to be described in subsequent verses.
Lastly, bara'a is creation implying liberation from pre-existing matter or circumstance, e.g., man's body from clay (59:24) or a calamity from previously existing circumstances (57:22).
... وَإِذَا قَضَى أَمْراً فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ ﴿١١٧﴾
when He decreeth a matter He saith to it: "Be;"
and it is.
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ لَوْلاَ يُكَلِّمُنَا اللّهُ ...
118. Say those without knowledge:
"Why speaketh not Allah unto Us?
... أَوْ تَأْتِينَا آيَةٌ ...
Or why cometh not unto us a sign?"
... كَذَلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِم مِّثْلَ قَوْلِهِمْ تَشَابَهَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ...
So said the people before them, words of similar import. Their hearts are alike.
... قَدْ بَيَّنَّا الآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يُوقِنُونَ ﴿١١٨﴾
We have indeed made clear the signs unto any people who hold firmly to faith (in their hearts).
إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ بِالْحَقِّ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا وَلاَ تُسْأَلُ عَنْ أَصْحَابِ الْجَحِيمِ ﴿١١٩﴾
119. Verily, We have sent thee in truth as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner.
But of thee no question shall be asked of Companions of the blazing fire.
وَلَن تَرْضَى عَنكَ الْيَهُودُ وَلاَ النَّصَارَى حَتَّى تَتَّبِعَ مِلَّتَهُمْ...
120. Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion.
قُلْ إِنَّ هُدَى اللّهِ هُوَ الْهُدَى...
Say: "The guidance of Allah, that is the (only) guidance."
... وَلَئِنِ اتَّبَعْتَ أَهْوَاءهُم بَعْدَ الَّذِي جَاءكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ...
Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee,
... مَا لَكَ مِنَ اللّهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلاَ نَصِيرٍ ﴿١٢٠﴾
then wouldst thou find neither protector nor helper against Allah.
الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَتْلُونَهُ حَقَّ تِلاَوَتِهِ أُوْلَـئِكَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ...
121. Those to whom We have sent the book study it as it should be studied; they are the ones that believe therein;
... وَمن يَكْفُرْ بِهِ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ ﴿١٢١﴾
those who reject faith therein, the loss is their own.
C.48 (The running Commentary, in Rhythmic Prose)
If the people of the Book rely
Upon Abraham, let them study
His history. His posterity included
Both Israel and Ismail. Abraham
Was a righteous man of Allah,
A Muslim, and so were his children.
Abraham and Ismail built
The Ka'bah as the house of Allah,
And purified it, to be a centre
Of worship for all the world;
For Allah is the God of all peoples.
C 121. The argument now proceeds on another line. Ye People of the Book who go back to Abraham! not only is your claim to exclusive knowledge of Allah false and derogatory to the Lord of All the Worlds. If you must appeal to Abraham, he was also the progenitor of the Arab race through Ismail. Indeed Abraham and Ismail together built the House of Allah in Makkah (long before the Temple of Jerusalem was built). They purified it and laid the foundation of the universal religion, which is summed up in word Islam, or complete submission to the Will of Allah. Abraham and Ismail were thus true Muslims. Whence then your rancour against Islam?
Historically the House of Allah at Makkah must have been far more ancient place of worship than the Temple of Jerusalem. Arab tradition connects various places in and around Makkah with the name of Abraham and identifies the well of Zamzam with the well in the story of the child Ismail.
Arab tradition also refers the story of the Sacrifice to Ismail and not to Isaac, therein differing from the Jewish tradition in Gen, 22:1-19. (R).
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ ...
122. O Children of Israel!
call to mind the special favor which I bestowed upon you,
... وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٢٢﴾
and that I preferred you to all others (for my message).
وَاتَّقُواْ يَوْماً لاَّ تَجْزِي نَفْسٌ عَن نَّفْسٍ شَيْئاً...
123. Then guard yourselves against a day when one soul shall not avail another,
... وَلاَ يُقْبَلُ مِنْهَا عَدْلٌ وَلاَ تَنفَعُهَا شَفَاعَةٌ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ ﴿١٢٣﴾
nor shall compensation be accepted from her,
nor shall intercession profit her,
nor shall anyone be helped (from outside).
The argument about the favours to Israel is thus beautifully rounded off, and we now proceed to the argument in favour of the Arabs as succeeding to the spiritual inheritance of Abraham.
وَإِذِ ابْتَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ ...
124. And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord, with certain commands, which he fulfilled;
C123. Kalimat: literally "words" here used in the mystic sense of Allah's Will or Decree or Purpose.
This verse may be taken to be the sum of the verses following. In everything Abraham fulfilled Allah's wish:
- he purified Allah's house;
- he built the sacred refuge of the Ka’bah;
- he submitted his will to Allah's, and thus became the type of Islam.
He was promised the leadership of the world; he pleaded for his progeny, and his prayer was granted, with the limitation that if his progeny was false to Allah, Allah's promise did not reach the people who proved themselves false.
... قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا ...
He said: "I will make thee an Imam to the nations."
C124. Imam; the primary sense is that of being foremost: hence it may mean:
1. leader in religion;
2. leader in congregational prayer;
3. model, pattern, example;
4. a book of guidance and instruction (11:17);
5. a book of evidence or record (36:12).
Here, meaning 1 and 3 are implied.
In 9:12 the word is applied to leaders of Unbelief or Blasphemy.
... قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي ...
He pleaded: "And also (Imams) from my offspring!"
... قَالَ لاَ يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿١٢٤﴾
He answered: "But my promise is not within the reach of evildoers."
وَإِذْ جَعَلْنَا الْبَيْتَ مَثَابَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَمْناً ...
125. Remember We made the house a place of assembly for men and a place of safety;
C125. The Ka'bah, the House of Allah. Its foundation goes back by Arab tradition to Abraham. Its fourfold character is here referred to:
1. It was the centre to which all the Arab tribes resorted for trade, for poetic contests, and for worship,
2. It was sacred territory and was respected by friend and foe alike. At certain seasons, all fighting was and is forbidden within it limits, and even arms are not allowed to be carried and no game or other thing is allowed to be killed.
Like the Cities of Refuge under the Mosaic Dispensation to which manslayers could flee (Num. 35:6) or the Sanctuaries in Mediaeval Europe, to which criminals could not be pursued. Makkah was recognized by Arab custom as inviolable for the pursuit of revenge or violence.
3. it was a place of prayer;
even today there is a Station of Abraham within the enclosure. Where Abraham was supposed to have prayed.
4. It must be held pure and sacred for all purposes.
Though the verse as a whole is expressed in the First Person Plural, the House is called "My House" to emphasize the personal relation of Allah, the One True God, to it, and repudiate the Polytheism which defiled it before it was purified again by Muhammad. (R).
... وَاتَّخِذُواْ مِن مَّقَامِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ مُصَلًّى ...
and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer;
... وَعَهِدْنَا إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا...
and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma'il, that they should sanctify
... بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ ﴿١٢٥﴾
My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).
C126. Four rites are here enumerated, which have now acquired a technical meaning.
1. Compassing the sacred territory, or going round the Ka'bah: Tawaf.
There are special guides who take pilgrims and visitors round.
2. Retiring to the place as a spiritual retreat, for contemplation and prayer: Itikat.
3. The posture of bending the back in prayer: Ruku.
4. The posture of prostrating oneself on the ground in prayer: Sujud.
The protection of the holy territory is for all, but special cleanliness and purity is required for the sake of the devotees who undertake these rites. (R).
وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَـَذَا بَلَدًا آمِنًا...
126. And remember Abraham said:
"My Lord, make this a City of Peace,
C127. The root salama in the word Islam implies (among other ideas) the idea of Peace, and therefore when Makkah is the city of Islam, it is also the City of Peace.
Makkah became the "New Jerusalem" - or rather the old and original "City of Peace" restored and made universal.
... وَارْزُقْ أَهْلَهُ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ مَنْ آمَنَ مِنْهُم بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ...
and feed its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day."
C128. The territory of Makkah is barren and rocky, compared with, say Taif, a city 70-75 miles east of Makkah . A prayer for the prosperity of Makkah therefore includes a prayer for the good things of material life. (R).
... قَالَ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَأُمَتِّعُهُ قَلِيلاً ...
He said: "(Yea), and such as reject faith, for a while will I grant them their pleasure,
... ثُمَّ أَضْطَرُّهُ إِلَى عَذَابِ النَّارِ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ ﴿١٢٦﴾
but will soon drive them to the torment of fire, an evil destination (indeed)!"
وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا...
127. And remember Abraham and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer):
accept (this service) from us,
... إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ ﴿١٢٧﴾
for thou art the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
رَبَّنَا وَاجْعَلْنَا مُسْلِمَيْنِ لَكَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِنَا أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً لَّكَ...
128. "Our Lord!
make of us Muslims, bowing to Thy (Will), and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Thy (Will),
... وَأَرِنَا مَنَاسِكَنَا وَتُبْ عَلَيْنَآ...
and show us our places for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in mercy);
... إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿١٢٨﴾
for Thou art the Oft-Returning, Most-Merciful.
رَبَّنَا وَابْعَثْ فِيهِمْ رَسُولاً مِّنْهُمْ ...
129. "Our Lord! send amongst them a Messenger of their own,
... يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ...
who shall rehearse Thy Signs to them and instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, and sanctify them;
... إِنَّكَ أَنتَ العَزِيزُ الحَكِيمُ ﴿١٢٩﴾
for Thou art the Exalted in Might, the Wise."
C129. How beautiful this prayer is, and how aptly it comes in here in the argument!
Such Paganism or star-worship or planet-worship as there was in Abraham's time was first cleared out of Makkah by Abraham. This is the chief meaning of "sanctification" or purification in 2:125, although of course physical cleanliness is (in physical conditions) a necessary element of purification in the higher sense.
Abraham and his elder son Ismail then built the Ka'bah and established the rites and usages of the sacred city. He was thus the founder of the original Islam (which is as old as mankind) in Arabia.
As becomes a devout man, he offers and dedicates the work to Allah in humble supplication, addressing Him as the All-Hearing and the All-Knowing. He then asks for a blessing on himself and his progeny generally, both the children of his eldest-born Ismail and his younger son Isaac.
With prophetic vision he foresees that there will be corruption and backsliding in both branches of his family: Makkah will house 360 idols, and Jerusalem will become a harlot city (Ezekiel 16:15), a city of abomination.
But the light of Islam will shine, and reclaim the lost people in both branches and indeed in all the world. So he prays for Allah's mercy, addressing Him as the Oft-Returning Most Merciful.
And finally he foresees in Makkah a Prophet teaching the people as one "of their own", and in their own beautiful Arabic language; he asks for a blessing on Muhammad's ministry, appealing to the Power and Wisdom of Allah.
وَمَن يَرْغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِلاَّ مَن سَفِهَ نَفْسَهُ...
130. And who turns away from the religion of Abraham but such as debase their souls with folly?
... وَلَقَدِ اصْطَفَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا ...
Him We chose and rendered pure in this world:
C130. Istafa: chose; chose because of purity; chose and purified.
It is the same root from which Mustafa is derived, one of the titles of Muhammad.
... وَإِنَّهُ فِي الآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ ﴿١٣٠﴾
and he will be in the Hereafter in the ranks of the righteous.
إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ أَسْلِمْ ...
131. Behold! his Lord said to him: "Bow (thy will to me)"
... قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٣١﴾
He said: "I bow (my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the universe."
وَوَصَّى بِهَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ بَنِيهِ وَيَعْقُوبُ...
132. And this was the legacy that Abraham left to his sons, and so did Jacob;
يَا بَنِيَّ إِنَّ اللّهَ اصْطَفَى لَكُمُ الدِّينَ فَلاَ تَمُوتُنَّ إَلاَّ وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ ﴿١٣٢﴾
"O my sons! Allah hath chosen the faith for you; then die not except in the faith of Islam."
أَمْ كُنتُمْ شُهَدَاء إِذْ حَضَرَ يَعْقُوبَ الْمَوْتُ ...
133. Were ye witnesses when death appeared before Jacob?
C131. The whole of the Children of Israel are called to witness one of their slogans, that they worshipped "the God of their fathers." The idea in their minds got narrowed down to that of a tribal God. But they are reminded that their ancestors had the principle of Islam in them - the worship of the One True and Universal God.
The death-bed scene is described in Jewish tradition.
... إِذْ قَالَ لِبَنِيهِ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن بَعْدِي...
Behold, he said to his sons: "What will ye worship after me?"
... قَالُواْ نَعْبُدُ إِلَـهَكَ وَإِلَـهَ آبَائِكَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَقَ...
They said: "We shall worship thy God and the God of thy fathers, of Abraham, Isma'il, and Isaac,
C132. "Fathers" means ancestors, and include uncles, grand-uncles, as well as direct ascendants.
... إِلَـهًا وَاحِدًا وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ ﴿١٣٣﴾
the one (true) God, to Him we bow (in Islam)."
تِلْكَ أُمَّةٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَلَكُم مَّا كَسَبْتُمْ ...
134. That was a People that hath passed away.
They shall reap the fruit of what they did, and ye of what ye do!
... وَلاَ تُسْأَلُونَ عَمَّا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٣٤﴾
of their merits there is no question in your case!
C133. I have made a free paraphrase of what would read literally:
"Ye shall not be asked about what they used to do."
On the Day of Judgment each soul would have to answer for its own deeds: it cannot claim merit from others, nor be answerable for the crimes or sins of others.
Here the argument is:
if the Jews or Christians claim the merits of Father Abraham and the Patriarchs or of Jesus, we cannot follow them. Because there were righteous men in the past, it cannot help us unless we are ourselves righteous.
The doctrine of personal responsibility is a cardinal feature of Islam.
وَقَالُواْ كُونُواْ هُودًا أَوْ نَصَارَى تَهْتَدُواْ...
135. They say: "Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (to salvation)."
... قُلْ بَلْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا ...
(I would rather) the religion of Abraham the true,
C134. Hanif: inclined to right opinion, orthodox (in the literal meaning of the Greek words), firm in faith, sound and well-balanced, true.
Perhaps the last word, True, sums up most of the other shades.
The Jews, though taught Unity, went after false gods, and the Christians invented the Trinity or borrowed it from Paganism. We go back to pure, Hanif doctrine of Abraham, to live and die in faith in the One True God.
... وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ﴿١٣٥﴾
and he joined not gods with Allah."
قُولُواْ آمَنَّا بِاللّهِ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا...
136. Say ye:
"We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us,
... وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالأسْبَاطِ ...
and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes,
... وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَى وَعِيسَى وَمَا أُوتِيَ النَّبِيُّونَ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ ...
and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord,
... لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ ﴿١٣٦﴾
we make no difference between one and another of them, and we bow to Allah (in Islam)."
C135. Here we have the Creed of Islam: to believe in:
1. the One Universal God.,
2. the Message to us through Muhammad and the Signs (Ayat) as interpreted on the basis of personal responsibility,
3. the Message delivered by other Teachers in the past.
These are mentioned in three groups:
- Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes:
of these Abraham had apparently a Book (87:19) and others followed his tradition:
- Moses and Jesus, who each left a scripture; these scriptures are still extant though not in their pristine form; and
- other scriptures, Prophets, or Messengers of Allah, not specifically mentioned in the Quran.
We make no difference between any of these. Their Message (in essentials) was one, and that is the basis of Islam.
فَإِنْ آمَنُواْ بِمِثْلِ مَا آمَنتُم بِهِ فَقَدِ اهْتَدَواْ وَّإِن تَوَلَّوْاْ فَإِنَّمَا هُمْ فِي شِقَاقٍ...
137. So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism;
... فَسَيَكْفِيكَهُمُ اللّهُ ...
but Allah will suffice thee as against them,
C136. We are thus in the true line of those who follow the one and indivisible Message of the One Allah, wherever delivered.
If others narrow it or corrupt it, it is they who have left the faith and created a division or schism. But Allah sees and knows all. And He will protect His own, and His support will be infinitely more precious than the support which men can give.
... وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ ﴿١٣٧﴾
and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
138. (Our religion is) the baptism of Allah;
C137. Sibghah: baptism: the root-meaning implies a dye or colour;
apparently the Arab Christians mixed a dye or colour in the baptismal water, signifying that the baptized person got a new colour in life.
We do not believe that it is necessary to be baptized to be saved. (Eds).
... وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللّهِ صِبْغَةً ...
and who can baptize better than Allah?
... وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدونَ ﴿١٣٨﴾
and it is He whom we worship.
قُلْ أَتُحَآجُّونَنَا فِي اللّهِ وَهُوَ رَبُّنَا وَرَبُّكُمْ...
Will ye dispute with us about Allah, seeing that He is our Lord and your Lord;
... وَلَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ ...
that we are responsible for our doings and ye for yours;
... وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُخْلِصُونَ ﴿١٣٩﴾
and that we are sincere (in our faith) in Him?
أَمْ تَقُولُونَ إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَـقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ ...
140. Or do ye say that Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob
... وَالأسْبَاطَ كَانُواْ هُودًا أَوْ نَصَارَى ...
and the Tribes were Jews or Christians?
C138. The alternative is with the question in the last verse.
Do you dispute with us although we worship the same God as you and claim that ours is the same religion as that of your ancestors?
Or do you really assert that Abraham and his son and his sons' sons, who founded the Tribes long before Moses, followed your Jewish religion as you know it?
History of course proves that claim absurd. If the Christians claim that these Patriarchs knew of and followed the teaching of Jesus, the claim is still more absurd, - except in the sense of Islam that Allah's teaching is one in all ages.
... قُلْ أَأَنتُمْ أَعْلَمُ أَمِ اللّهُ ...
Say: Do ye know better than Allah?
... وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن كَتَمَ شَهَادَةً عِندَهُ مِنَ اللّهِ ...
Ah! who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah?
... وَمَا اللّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٤٠﴾
But Allah is not unmindful of what ye do!
تِلْكَ أُمَّةٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَلَكُم مَّا كَسَبْتُمْ...
141. That was a people that hath passed away.
They shall reap the fruit of what they did, and ye of what ye do!
... وَلاَ تُسْأَلُونَ عَمَّا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٤١﴾
Of their merits there is no question in your case.
C139. Verse 134 began a certain argument, which is now rounded off in the same words in this verse. To use a musical term, the motif is now completed.
The argument is that it is wrong to claim a monopoly for Allah's Message: it is the same for all peoples and in all ages: if it undergoes local variations or variations according to times and seasons those variations pass away.
This leads to the argument in the remainder of the Surah that with the renewal of the Message and the birth of a new People, a new symbolism and new ordinances become appropriate, and they are now expounded.
C.49 (The running Commentary, in Rhythmic Prose)
But those people have passed away,
Who promised to uphold the Law of Allah.
Their progeny having been found
Unworthy, their place was taken
By a new people looking towards Makkah-
A new people, with a new Messenger,
To bear witness to Allah's Law,
To proclaim the truth, maintain
His Symbols, and strive and fight
For Unity in Allah's Way.
سَيَقُولُ السُّفَهَاء مِنَ النَّاسِ ...
142. The fools among the people will say:
C140. Nas: People, the unthinking multitude that sway to and fro, instead of being firm in Allah's Way.
The reference here is to the idolaters, the Hypocrites, and the party of Jews who were constantly seeking to "entangle in their talk" Mustafa and his disciples in Madinah even as the Pharisees and the Sadducees of Jesus' day tried to entangle Jesus (Matt. 22:15, 23)
... مَا وَلاَّهُمْ عَن قِبْلَتِهِمُ الَّتِي كَانُواْ عَلَيْهَا...
"What hath turned them from the Qiblah to which they were used?"
C141. Qiblah: The direction to which Muslims turn in prayer.
Islam lays great stress on social prayer in order to emphasize our universal Brotherhood and mutual cooperation. For such prayer, order, punctuality, precision, symbolical postures, and a common direction are essential, so that the Imam (leader) and all his congregation may face one way and offer their supplications to Allah.
In the early days, before they were organized as a people, they followed as a symbol for their Qiblah the sacred city of Jerusalem, scared both to the Jews and the Christians, the people of the Book. This symbolized their allegiance to the continuity of Allah's revelation.
When, despised and persecuted, they were turned out of Makkah and arrived in Madinah. Al Mustafa under divine direction began to organize its people as an Ummah, an independent people, with laws and rituals of their own. At that stage the Ka'bah was established as Qiblah, thus going back to the earliest centre, with which the name of Abraham was connected, and traditionally also the name of Adam.
Jerusalem still remained (and remains) sacred in the eyes of Islam on account of its past, but Islam is progressive religion, and its new symbolism enabled it to shake off the tradition of a dead past and usher in the era of untrammeled freedom dear to the spirit of Arabia. The change took place about 16 1/2 months after Hijrah.
... قُل لِّلّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ ...
to Allah belong both East and West;
... يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاء إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ ﴿١٤٢﴾
He guideth whom He will to a Way that is straight.
C142. Thus: By giving you a Qiblah of your own, most ancient in history, and most modern as a symbol of your organisation as a new nation (Ummah).
... جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا ...
have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced,
C143. Justly balanced: The essence of Islam is to avoid all extravagances on either side. It is a sober, practical religion.
But the Arabic word (wasat) also implies a touch of the literal meaning of Intermediacy. Geographically Arabia is in an intermediate position in the Old World, as was proved in history by the rapid expansion of Islam, north, south, west and east.
... لِّتَكُونُواْ شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ...
that ye might be witnesses over the nations,
C144. Witnesses: When two persons dispute, they advance extravagant claims. A just witness comes between them, and brings the light of reason to bear on them, pruning all their selfish extravagances. So the mission of Islam is to curb, for instance, the extreme formalism of the Mosaic law and the extreme "other-worldliness" professed by Christianity.
The witness must be unselfish, equipped with first-hand knowledge, and ready to intervene in the cause of justice. Such is the position claimed by Islam among rival systems. Similarly, within Islam itself, the position of witness to whom disputants can appeal is held by Muhammad Al Mustafa.
... وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا...
and the Messenger a witness over yourselves;
... وَمَا جَعَلْنَا الْقِبْلَةَ الَّتِي كُنتَ عَلَيْهَا إِلاَّ لِنَعْلَمَ مَن يَتَّبِعُ الرَّسُولَ ...
and We appointed the Qiblah to which thou wast used, only to test those who followed the Messenger
... مِمَّن يَنقَلِبُ عَلَى عَقِبَيْهِ ...
from those who would turn on their heels (from the faith).
C145. The Qiblah of Jerusalem might itself have seemed strange to the Arabs, and the change from it to the Ka'bah might have seemed strange after they had become used to the other.
In reality one direction or another, or east or west, in itself did no matter, as Allah is in all places, and is independent of Time and Place. What mattered was the sense of discipline, on which Islam lays so much stress: which of us is willing to follow the directions of the chosen Prophet of Allah? Mere quibblers about non-essential matters are tested by this. (R).
... وَإِن كَانَتْ لَكَبِيرَةً إِلاَّ عَلَى الَّذِينَ هَدَى اللّهُ ...
Indeed it was (a change) momentous, except to those guided by Allah.
... وَمَا كَانَ اللّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَانَكُمْ...
And never would Allah make your faith of no effect.
C146. What became of prayer with the Jerusalem Qiblah?
It was equally efficacious before the new Qiblah was ordained. Allah regards our faith: every act of true and genuine faith is efficacious with Him, even if formalists pick holes in such acts.
... إِنَّ اللّهَ بِالنَّاسِ لَرَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴿١٤٣﴾
For Allah is to all people most surely full of kindness, Most Merciful.
قَدْ نَرَى تَقَلُّبَ وَجْهِكَ فِي السَّمَاء...
144. We see the turning of thy face (for guidance) to the heavens;
C147. This shows the sincere desire of Mustafa to seek light from above in the matter of the Qiblah.
Until the organisation of his own People into a well-knit community, with its distinctive laws and ordinances, he followed a practice based on the fact that the Jews and Christians looked upon Jerusalem as a sacred city. But there was no universal Qiblah among them. Some Jews turned towards Jerusalem as a sacred city. But there was no universal Qiblah among them. Some Jews turned towards Jerusalem, especially during the Captivity, as we shall see later.
At the time of our Prophet, Jerusalem was in the hands of the Byzantine Empire, which was Christian. But the Christians oriented their churches to the East (hence the word "orientation") which is a point of the compass, and not the direction of any sacred place. The fact of the altar being in the East does not mean that every worshipper has his face to the east; for, according at least to modern practice, the seats in a church are so placed that different worshippers may face in different directions.
The Preacher of Unity naturally wanted, in this as in other matters, a symbol of complete unity, and his heart was naturally delighted when the Qiblah towards the Ka'bah was settled. Its connection with Abraham gave it great antiquity; its character of being an Arab centre made it appropriate when the Message came in Arabic, and was preached through the union of the Arabs; at the time it was adopted, the little Muslim community was shut out of it, being exiles in Madinah, but it became a symbol of bore and eventual triumph, of which Muhammad lived to see the fulfilment; and it also became the centre and gathering ground of all peoples in the universal pilgrimage, which was instituted with it.
... فَلَنُوَلِّيَنَّكَ قِبْلَةً تَرْضَاهَا...
now shall We turn thee to a Qiblah that shall please thee.
... فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّواْ وُجُوِهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ...
Turn then thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque; wherever ye are, turn your faces in that direction.
C148. The sacred Mosque: i.e. the mosque wherein the Ka'bah is located, in the sacred city of Makkah.
It is not correct to suggest that the command making the Ka'bah the Qiblah abrogates 2:115, where it is stated that East and West belong to Allah, and He is everywhere.
This is perfectly true at all times, before and after the institution of the Qiblah. As if to emphasize this, the same words about East and West are repeated in this very passage; see 2:142 above. Where the Itqan mentions mansukh in this connection, I am sorry I cannot follow that opinion, unless mansukh is defined in a special way, as some of the commentators do. (R).
... وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ أُوْتُواْ الْكِتَابَ لَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ...
The people of the Book know well that that is the truth from their Lord,
C149. Glimmerings of such a Qiblah were already foreshadowed in Jewish and Christian practice but its universality was only perfected in Islam.
... وَمَا اللّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٤٤﴾
nor is Allah unmindful of what they do.
وَلَئِنْ أَتَيْتَ الَّذِينَ أُوْتُواْ الْكِتَابَ بِكُلِّ آيَةٍ مَّا تَبِعُواْ قِبْلَتَكَ ...
145. Even if thou wert to bring to the People of the Book all the signs (together), they would not follow thy Qiblah;
... وَمَا أَنتَ بِتَابِعٍ قِبْلَتَهُمْ ...
nor art thou going to follow their Qiblah;
... وَمَا بَعْضُهُم بِتَابِعٍ قِبْلَةَ بَعْضٍ...
nor indeed will they follow each other's Qiblah.
C150. See n. 147 to 2:144 above.
The Jews and Christians had a glimmering of the Qiblah idea, but in their attitude of self-sufficiency they were not likely to welcome the Qiblah idea as perfected in Islam.
Nor is Islam, after the fuller knowledge which it has received, likely to revert to the uncertain, imperfect, and varying ideas of orientation held previously.
A very clear glimpse of the old Jewish practice in the matter of the Qiblah and the importance attached to it is found in the book of Daniel, 6:10.
Daniel was a righteous man of princely lineage and lived about 506-538 B.C. He was carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, the Assyrian, but was still living when Assyria was overthrown by the Medes and Persians. In spite of the “captivity” of the Jews, Daniel enjoyed the highest offices of state at Babylon, but he was ever true to Jerusalem. His enemies (under the Persian monarch) got a penal law passed against any one who “asked a petition of any god or man for 30 days” except the Persian King.
But Daniel continued true to Jerusalem. “His windows being open in his chambers towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”
... وَلَئِنِ اتَّبَعْتَ أَهْوَاءهُم مِّن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ...
If thou, after the knowledge hath reached thee, wert to follow their (vain) desires,
... إِنَّكَ إِذَاً لَّمِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿١٤٥﴾
then wert thou indeed (clearly) in the wrong.
الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَاءهُمْ ...
146. The People of the Book know this as they know their own sons;
C151. The People of the Book should have known all this as well as "they knew their own sons", as their past traditions and teaching should have made them receptive of the new message.
Some commentators construe the demonstrative pronoun "this" to refer to the Prophet. In that case the interpretation would be:
The People of the Book know Muhammad as well as they know their own sons;
they know him to be true and upright;
they know him to be in the line of Abraham; they know him to correspond to the description of the prophet foretold among themselves; but selfishness induces some of them to act against their own knowledge and conceal the truth.
... وَإِنَّ فَرِيقاً مِّنْهُمْ لَيَكْتُمُونَ الْحَقَّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٤٦﴾
but some of them conceal the truth which they themselves know.
الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ فَلاَ تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُمْتَرِينَ ﴿١٤٧﴾
147. The truth is from thy Lord, so be not at all in doubt.
C152. Truth only comes from Allah, and it remains truth, however men might try to conceal it or throw doubts on it.
وَلِكُلٍّ وِجْهَةٌ هُوَ مُوَلِّيهَا فَاسْتَبِقُواْ الْخَيْرَاتِ ...
148. To each is a goal to which Allah turns him; then strive together (as in a race) toward all that is good.
C153. The question is how we are to construe the pronoun, huwa, in the original. The alternative translation would be;
"To each is a goal to which he turns."
The simile of life being a race in which we all zealously run forward to the one goal of good, may be applied individually and nationally. This supplies another argument of the Ka'bah Qiblah, viz., the unity of goal, with diversity of races, traditions and temperaments.
... أَيْنَ مَا تَكُونُواْ يَأْتِ بِكُمُ اللّهُ جَمِيعًا ...
Wheresoever ye are, Allah will bring you together.
... إِنَّ اللّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ﴿١٤٨﴾
For Allah hath power over all things.
وَمِنْ حَيْثُ خَرَجْتَ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ...
149. From whencesoever thou startest forth, turn thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque;
C154. The simile of a race is continued, and so the Qiblah command is repeated from that point of view.
In 2:144 it was mentioned as the new symbol of the new nation (Muslim): now it is shown as the symbol of Good, at which we should all aim, from whichever point we started, e.g., as Jews or Christians, or our individual point of view; the Qiblah will unite us as a symbol of the Goal of the Future.
In 2:150 below, it is repeated:
- First for the individual, on the ground of uniformity and the removal of all occasions of dispute and argument; and
- secondly for the Muslim people, on the same ground, as a matter of discipline.
There is another little harmony in the matter of the repetitions.
"wheresoever ye are": which in the Arabic expression would imply three things;
- in whatever circumstances ye are, or
- at whatever time ye are, or
- in whatever place ye are.
I have spoken before of a sort of musical harmony in verbal repetitions: here there is a sort of pictorial harmony, as of a larger circle symmetrically including a smaller concentric circle.
... وَإِنَّهُ لَلْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ وَمَا اللّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٤٩﴾
that is indeed the truth from thy Lord. And Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.
وَمِنْ حَيْثُ خَرَجْتَ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ ...
150. So from whencesoever thou startest forth, turn thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque;
... وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ لِئَلاَّ يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَيْكُمْ حُجَّةٌ...
among wheresoever ye are turn your face thither, that there be no ground of dispute against you among the people,
... إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ مِنْهُمْ فَلاَ تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِي...
except those of them that are bent on wickedness; so fear them not, but fear Me;
... وَلأُتِمَّ نِعْمَتِي عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ ﴿١٥٠﴾
and that I may complete My favors on you, and ye may (consent to) be guided.
كَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا فِيكُمْ رَسُولاً مِّنكُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِنَا وَيُزَكِّيكُمْ ...
151. A similar (favor have ye already received) in that We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our signs, and purifying you,
C155. This verse should be read with 2:150, of which the sentence is here completed.
The argument is that in the grant of the Ka'bah Qiblah, Allah was perfecting religion and fulfilling the prayer for the future made by Abraham. That prayer was threefold:
1. That Makkah should be made a sacred Sanctuary (2:126);
2. that a truly believing (Muslim) nation should be raised, with places of devotion there (2:128); and
3. that an Apostle should be sent among the Arabs with certain qualities (2:129), which are set out there and again repeated here to complete the argument.
... وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُم مَّا لَمْ تَكُونُواْ تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٥١﴾
and instructing you in Scripture and wisdom, and in new Knowledge.
فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ ...
152. Then do ye remember Me; I will remember you.
C156. The word "remember" is too pale a word for dhikr, which has now acquired a large number of associations in our religious literature.
In its verbal signification it implies:
- to remember;
- to praise by frequently mentioning;
- to rehearse;
- to celebrate or commemorate;
- to make much of;
- to cherish the memory of as a precious possession. (R).
... وَاشْكُرُواْ لِي وَلاَ تَكْفُرُونِ ﴿١٥٢﴾
Be grateful to Me, and reject not faith.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ ...
153. O ye who believe! seek help with patient perseverance and prayer:
An additional meaning implied in sabr is self-restraint.
Haqqani defines it in his Tafsir as following Reason and restraining Fear, Anger, and Desire.
What can be a higher reward for patience, perseverance, self-restraint and constancy than that Allah should be with us?
For this promise opens the door to every kind of spiritual well-being.
... إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿١٥٣﴾
for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.
وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَنْ يُقْتَلُ فِي سَبيلِ اللّهِ أَمْوَاتٌ ...
154. And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah: "They are dead."
C158. The "patient perseverance and prayer" mentioned in the last verse is not mere passivity. It is active striving in the way of Truth, which is the way of Allah.
Such striving is the spending of one's self in Allah's way,
- either through our property or through our own lives,
- or the lives of those nearest and dearest to us,
- or it may be the loss of all the fruits of a lifetime's labour not only in material goods but in some intellectual
- or moral gain, some position which seemed in our eyes to be eminently desirable in itself, but which we must cheerfully sacrifice if necessary for the Cause.
With such sacrifice, our apparent loss may be our real gain: he that loses his life may really gain it; and the rewards or "fruits" that seem lost were mere impediments on our path to real inward progress. (R).
... بَلْ أَحْيَاء وَلَكِن لاَّ تَشْعُرُونَ ﴿١٥٤﴾
Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not.
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوفْ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الأَمَوَالِ وَالأنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ...
155. Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil),
... وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿١٥٥﴾
but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.
الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُواْ إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ ﴿١٥٦﴾
156. Who say, when afflicted with calamity:
"To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return."
أُولَـئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ...
157. They are those on whom (descend) blessings from Allah, and Mercy,
... وَأُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ ﴿١٥٧﴾
and they are the ones that receive guidance.
إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِن شَعَآئِرِ اللّهِ ...
Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of Allah.
C160. The virtue of patient perseverance in faith leads to the mention of two symbolic monuments of that virtue.
These are the two little hills of Safa and Marwa now absorbed in the city of Makkah, and close to the well of Zamzam. Here, according to tradition, the lady Hajar, mother of the infant Ismail, prayed for water in the parched desert, and in her eager quest round these hills, she found her prayer answered and saw the Zamzam spring.
Unfortunately the Pagan Arabs had placed a male and a female idol here, and their gross and superstitious rites caused offence to the early Muslims. They felt some hesitation in going round these places during the Pilgrimage. As a matter of fact they should have known that the Ka'bah (the House of Allah) had been itself defiled with idols, and was sanctified again by the purity of Muhammad's life and teaching.
The lesson is that the most sacred things may be turned to the basest uses; that we are not therefore necessarily to ban a thing misused; that if our intentions and life are pure, Allah will recognise them even if the world cast stones at us because of some evil associations which they join with what we do, or with the people we associate with, or with the places which claim our reverence.
... فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَن يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا...
So if those who visit the house in the season or at other times, should compass them round, it is no sin in them.
C161. The House: the Sacred Mosque, the Ka'bah.
The Season of regular Hajj culminates in the visit to Arafat on the ninth day of the month of Dhu al Hijjah, followed by the circumambulation of the Ka'bah.
A visit to the Sacred Mosque and the performance of the rites of pilgrimage at any other time is called an Umrah. The symbolic rites are the same in either case, except that the Arafat rites are omitted in the Umrah.
The Safa and Marwa are included among the Monuments, as pointing to one of the highest of Muslim virtues.
... وَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّ اللّهَ شَاكِرٌ عَلِيمٌ ﴿١٥٨﴾
And if anyone obeyeth his own impulse to good, be sure that Allah is He Who recogniseth and knoweth.
C162. The impulse should be to Good; if once we are sure of this, we must obey it without hesitation, whatever people may say.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالْهُدَى ...
159. Those who conceal the clear (Signs) We have sent down, and the guidance,
... مِن بَعْدِ مَا بَيَّنَّاهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِي الْكِتَابِ ...
after We have made it clear for the people in the book,
أُولَـئِكَ يَلعَنُهُمُ اللّهُ وَيَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّاعِنُونَ ﴿١٥٩﴾
on them shall be Allah's curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse.
C163. Those entitled to curse: i.e., angels and mankind (see 2:161 below): the cursed ones will deprive themselves of the protection of Allah and of the angels, who are the Powers of Allah, and of the good wishes of mankind, because by contumaciously rejecting Faith, they not only sin against Allah but are false to their own manhood, which Allah created in the "best of moulds" (95:4).
The terrible curses denounced in the Old Testament are set out in Deut. 28:15-68.
There is one difference.
Here it is for the deliberate rejection of Faith, a theological term for the denying of our higher nature.
There it is for a breach of the lease part of the ceremonial Law. (R).
إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ تَابُواْ وَأَصْلَحُواْ وَبَيَّنُواْ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ أَتُوبُ عَلَيْهِمْ ...
160. Except those who repent and make amends and openly declare (the truth), to them I turn;
... وَأَنَا التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿١٦٠﴾
for I am Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَمَاتُوا وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ أُولَئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ لَعْنَةُ اللّهِ...
161. Those who reject faith, and die rejecting, on them is Allah's curse,
... وَالْمَلآئِكَةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ ﴿١٦١﴾
and the curse of angels, and of all mankind.
خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ...
162. They will abide therein:
C164. Therein: in the curse.
A curse is not a matter of words: it is a terrible spiritual state, opposite to the state of Grace.
Can man curse?
Not of course in the same sense in which we speak of the curse of Allah. A mere verbal curse is of no effect. Hence the English saying:
"A causeless curse will not come."
But if men are oppressed or unjustly treated, their cries can ascend to Allah in prayer, and then it becomes Allah's "wrath" or curse, the deprivation of Allah's Grace as regards the wrongdoer.
... لاَ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنظَرُونَ ﴿١٦٢﴾
Their penalty will not be lightened, nor will respite be their (lot).
وَإِلَـهُكُمْ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ لاَّ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿١٦٣﴾
163. And your Allah is one Allah;
there is no god but He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
C165. Where the terrible consequences of Evil, i.e., the rejection of Allah, are mentioned, there is always stress laid on Allah's attributes of Grace and Mercy.
In this case Unity is also stressed, because we have just been told about the Qiblah symbol of unity and are about to pass the theme of unity in diversity, in Nature and in the social laws of human society.
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلاَفِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ...
164. Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day;
... وَالْفُلْكِ الَّتِي تَجْرِي فِي الْبَحْرِ بِمَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ ...
in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind;
... وَمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ مِنَ السَّمَاء مِن مَّاء فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الأرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا...
in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead;
... وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ دَآبَّةٍ ...
in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth;
... وَتَصْرِيفِ الرِّيَاحِ وَالسَّحَابِ الْمُسَخِّرِ بَيْنَ السَّمَاء وَالأَرْضِ...
in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;
... لآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ ﴿١٦٤﴾
(here) indeed are signs for a people that are wise.
C166. This magnificent Nature passage stands out like a hill in a landscape, enhancing the beauty of our view, and preparing us for the every-day laws and ordinances which follow.
Note its literary architecture. Allah is One and among His wondrous Signs is the unity of design in the widest diversity of Nature. The Signs are taken from the features of beauty, power, ad utility to man himself, and lead up to an appeal to Man’s own intelligence ad wisdom.
We begin with the glory of the heavens ad the earth, the wide spaces covered by man’s imagination, remote and yet so near to his own life. The most striking everyday phenomenon resulting from the interrelations of the heavens ad the earth is the alternation of day ad night, regular and yet changing in duration with the seasons ad the latitudes of our globe.
The night for rest, and the day for work; and we can think of the work in terms of nature’s beauty; the stately ships “flowing” (as the original text has it) across the seas, for communications ad merchandise as between men ad men. The seas thus serve us no less than land, and the give-and-take as between sea, sky, ad land, is further exemplified by the rain.
The rain leads to the fertility of the land, and here we are reminded of the contrast between Winter’s death of Nature ad her revivification in the Spring. Here we are reminded of agriculture ad the use we make of cattle ad all kinds of living creatures.
The word translated “beasts” has a wide meaning, including crawling creatures, insects, etc. - all contributing to the round of Nature’s operations.
This leads us on to the wonderful winds, the region of the air, which man is just beginning to explore ad navigate. The personified winds drive the clouds in the sky like “slaves.”
Here is another aspect of clouds besides that of giving rain. The fleecy clouds are things of sunset beauty; at midday they temper the glare of the sun; at all times they affect radiation ad other processes going on in the sky. So we come back to the sky, rounding off the argument, and correlating our life with the Will ad Power of Allah, if we had the wisdom to see!.
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ أَندَاداً يُحِبُّونَهُمْ كَحُبِّ اللّهِ...
165. Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides Allah as equal (with Allah); they love them as they should love Allah.
... وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلّهِ...
But those of faith are overflowing in their love for Allah.
... وَلَوْ يَرَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ إِذْ يَرَوْنَ الْعَذَابَ أَنَّ الْقُوَّةَ لِلّهِ جَمِيعاً...
If only the unrighteous could see, behold, they would see the penalty, that to Allah belongs all power,
... وَأَنَّ اللّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعَذَابِ ﴿١٦٥﴾
and Allah will strongly enforce the Punishment.
C167. Everything around and within us points to unity of purpose and design, - points to Allah. Yet there are foolish persons (unrighteous - those who deliberately use the choice given them to go wrong). They think something else is equal to Allah. Perhaps they even do lip service to Allah.
If only the unrighteous could see the consequences, they would see the terrible Penalty, and that all Power is in Allah's hands, not in that of any one else.
Who are these others who are used as fetishes by the misguided?
It may be:
- creatures of their own imagination, or of their faculties misused; the idea lying behind Idols is akin to this, for no intelligent idol-worshipper owns to worshipping stocks and stones; or
- good leaders whose names have been misused out of perversity to erect them to a position of equality with Allah; or
- Powers of evil that deliberately mislead.
When it comes to the inevitable consequences of blasphemy and the rejection of Allah, the eyes of all are opened and these false and artificial, relations dissolve. The idea which was created into a fetish disowns its follower, i.e. is seen to have no reasonable basis in the life of the follower, and the follower is forced to renounce it as false. The good ones would take an unholy delight in exposing the facts. The Reality is now irresistible but alas! at what cost?
إِذْ تَبَرَّأَ الَّذِينَ اتُّبِعُواْ مِنَ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُواْ وَرَأَوُاْ الْعَذَابَ...
166. Then would those who are followed clear themselves of those who follow (them); they would see the penalty,
... وَتَقَطَّعَتْ بِهِمُ الأَسْبَابُ ﴿١٦٦﴾
and all relations between them would be cut off.
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُواْ لَوْ أَنَّ لَنَا كَرَّةً فَنَتَبَرَّأَ مِنْهُمْ كَمَا تَبَرَّؤُواْ مِنَّا...
167. And those who followed would say:
"If only we had one more chance, we would clear ourselves of them, as they have cleared themselves of us."
... كَذَلِكَ يُرِيهِمُ اللّهُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ حَسَرَاتٍ عَلَيْهِمْ ...
Thus will Allah show them (the fruits of) their deeds as (nothing but) regrets,
... وَمَا هُم بِخَارِجِينَ مِنَ النَّارِ﴿١٦٧﴾
nor will there be a way for them out of the Fire.
C.50 (The running Commentary, in Rhythmic Prose)
The Society thus organized
Must live under laws
That would guide their everyday life-
Based on eternal principles
Of righteousness and fair dealing
Cleanliness and sobriety,
Honesty and helpfulness,
One to another-yet shaped
Into concrete forms, to suit
Times and circumstances
And the varying needs
Of average men and women;
The food to be clean and wholesome;
Blood feuds to be abolished;
The rights and duties of heirs
To be recognized after death,
Not in a spirit of Formalism,
But to help the weak and the needy
And check all selfish wrongdoings;
Self-denial to be learnt by fasting;
The courage to fight in defence
Of right, to be defined;
The Pilgrimage to be sanctified
As a symbol of unity;
Charity and help to the poor
To be organized; unseemly riot
And drink and gambling
To be banished; orphans to be protected;
Marriage, divorce, and widowhood
To be regulated; and the rights of women,
Apt to be trampled under foot,
Now clearly affirmed.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ ...
168. O ye people!
... كُلُواْ مِمَّا فِي الأَرْضِ حَلاَلاً طَيِّباً...
eat of what is on earth, lawful and good;
C169. We now come to the regulations about food.
- First (2:168-71) we have an appeal to all people, Muslims, Pagans, as well as the People of the Book;
- then (2:172-73) to the Muslims specially;
- then (2:174-76) to the sort of men who then (as some do now) either believe in too much formalism or believe in no restrictions at all.
Islam follows the Golden Mean. All well-regulated societies lay down reasonable limitations. These become incumbent on all loyal members of any given society, and show what is "lawful" in that society. But if the limitations are reasonable, as they should be, the "lawful" will also coincide more and more with what is "good".
Good: Tayyub: Pure, Clean, wholesome, pleasing to the taste.
The general principle then would be:
- what is lawful and what is good, should be followed, not what is evil, or shameful, or foisted on by false ascription to divine injections, or
- what rests merely on the usage of ancestors, even though the ancestors were ignorant or foolish.
An example of a shameful custom would be that among the Pagan Arabs of taking congealed blood and eating it fried.
... وَلاَ تَتَّبِعُواْ خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ ﴿١٦٨﴾
and do not follow the footsteps of the Evil One, for he is to you an avowed enemy.
إِنَّمَا يَأْمُرُكُمْ بِالسُّوءِ وَالْفَحْشَاء وَأَن تَقُولُواْ عَلَى اللّهِ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٦٩﴾
169. For he commands you what is evil and shameful, and that ye should say of Allah that of which ye have no knowledge.
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمُ اتَّبِعُوا مَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ ...
170. When it is said to them: "Follow what Allah hath revealed,"
... قَالُواْ بَلْ نَتَّبِعُ مَا أَلْفَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ آبَاءنَا...
they say: "Nay! we shall follow the ways of our fathers."
... أَوَلَوْ كَانَ آبَاؤُهُمْ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ شَيْئاً وَلاَ يَهْتَدُونَ ﴿١٧٠﴾
What! even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance?
وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي يَنْعِقُ بِمَا لاَ يَسْمَعُ إِلاَّ دُعَاء وَنِدَاء...
171. The parable of those who reject faith is as if one were to shout like a goat-herd, to things that listen to nothing but calls and cries;
C170. If you reject all faith, the highest wisdom and the most salutary regulations are lost on you. You are like "dumb driven cattle" who can merely hear calls, but cannot distinguish intelligently between shades of meaning or subtle differences of values.
... صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ ﴿١٧١﴾
deaf, dumb, and blind, they are void of wisdom.
C171. Cf. 2:18, where we are told that the rejecters of faith are "deaf, dumb and blind: they will not return to the path."
Here the consequence of their not using their senses is that they have no wisdom. In each context there is just the appropriate deduction.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُلُواْ مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ ...
172. O ye who believe! eat of the good things that We have provided for you,
... وَاشْكُرُواْ لِلّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ ﴿١٧٢﴾
and be grateful to Allah, if it is Him ye worship.
C172. Gratitude for Allah's gifts is one form of worship.
إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنزِيرِ ...
173. He hath only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine,
C173. Dead meat: maitat: carrion; animal that dies of itself; the original Arabic has a slightly wider meaning given to it in Fiqah (Religious Law); anything that dies of itself and is not expressly killed for food with the Takbir duly pronounced on it.
But there are exceptions, e.g., fish and locusts are lawful, though they have not been made specially Halal with the Takbir. But even fish or locusts as carrion would be obviously ruled out.
... وَمَا أُهِلَّ بِهِ لِغَيْرِ اللّهِ...
and that on which any other name hath been invoked besides that of Allah,
The teachers of Fiqah (Religious Law) work out the details with great elaboration. My purpose is to present general principles, not technical details.
Carrion or dead meat and blood as articles of food would obviously cause disgust to any refined person. So would swine's flesh where the swine live on offal. Where swine are fed artificially on clean food, the objections remain:
1. that they are filthy animals in other respects, and the flesh of filthy animals taken as food affects the eaten;
2. that swine's flesh has more fat than muscle-building material; and
3. that it is more liable to disease than other kinds of meat; e.g., trichinosis, characterized by hair-like worms in the muscular tissue.
As to food dedicated to idols or false gods, it is obviously unseemly for the Children of Unity to partake of it.
... فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلاَ عَادٍ فَلا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ ...
but if one is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, then is he guiltless.
... إِنَّ اللّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴿١٧٣﴾
For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَيَشْتَرُونَ بِهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلاً ...
174. Those who conceal Allah's revelations in the Book, and purchase for them a miserable profit,
... أُولَـئِكَ مَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ إِلاَّ النَّارَ ...
they swallow into themselves naught but fire;
C175. "They eat nothing but fire into their bellies" is a literal translation that produces an effect of rude inelegance which is not in the Arabic words.
Even in the matter of food and drinks, the mission of Islam is to avoid the extremes of lawlessness on the one hand and extreme formalism on the other. It has laid down a few simply and very reasonable rules. Their infraction causes loss of health or physical powers in any case.
But if there is further a spirit of subjective rebellion or fraud - passing off in the name of religion something which is far from the purpose - the consequences become also moral and spiritual. Then it becomes a sin against Faith and Spirit.
Continuing the physical simile, we actually swallow fire into ourselves. Imagine the torments which we should have if we swallowed fire into our physical body! They would be infinitely worse in our spiritual state, and they would go on to the Day of Resurrection, when we shall be deprived even of the words which the Judge speaks to a reasonable culprit, and we shall certainly not win His Grace and Mercy.
... وَلاَ يُكَلِّمُهُمُ اللّهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَلاَ يُزَكِّيهِمْ ...
Allah will not address them on the Day of Resurrection, nor purify them;
... وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ ﴿١٧٤﴾
grievous will be their penalty.
أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُاْ الضَّلاَلَةَ بِالْهُدَى وَالْعَذَابَ بِالْمَغْفِرَةِ...
175. They are the ones who buy error in place of guidance and torment in place of forgiveness.
... فَمَآ أَصْبَرَهُمْ عَلَى النَّارِ ﴿١٧٥﴾
Ah! what boldness (they show) for the Fire!
ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللّهَ نَزَّلَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ...
176. (Their doom is) because Allah sent down the Book in truth
... وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُواْ فِي الْكِتَابِ لَفِي شِقَاقٍ بَعِيدٍ ﴿١٧٦﴾
but those who seek causes of dispute in the Book are in a schism far (from the purpose).
C176. From the mere physical regulation we are at once lifted up into the sphere of morals and faith. For the one acts and reacts on the other. If we are constantly carping at wholesome regulations, we shall do nothing but cause division and schisms among the people, and ordered society would tend to break up.
لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ ...
177. It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces toward East or West;
... وَلَـكِنَّ الْبِرَّ ...
but it is righteousness
C177. As if to emphasize again a warning against deadening formalism, we are given a beautiful description of the righteous and God-fearing man. He should obey salutary regulation, but he should fix his gaze on the love of Allah and the love of his fellow-men.
We are given four heads:
1. our faith should be true and sincere;
2. we must be prepared to show it in deeds of charity to our fellowmen;
3. we must be good citizens, supporting social organisation; and
4. our own individual soul must be firm and unshaken in all circumstances. They are interconnected, and yet can be viewed separately.
... مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَالْمَلآئِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ...
to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers;
C178. Faith is not merely a matter of words. We must realise the presence and goodness of Allah. When we do so, the scales fall form our eyes: all the falsities and fleeting nature of the Present cease to enslave us, for we see the Last Day as if it were today.
We also see Allah's working in His world and in us; His Powers (angels), His Messengers and His Message are no longer remote from us, but come within our experience. (R).
... وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَى حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَى ...
to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin,
C179. Practical deeds of charity are of value when they proceed from love, and from no other motive. In this respect, also, our duties take various forms, which are shown in reasonable gradation:
- our kith and kin;
- orphans (including any persons who are without support or help);
- people who are in real need but who never ask (it is our duty to find them out, and they come before those who ask);
- the stranger, who is entitled to laws of hospitality;
- the people who ask and are entitled to ask, i.e., not merely lazy beggars, but those who seek our assistance in some form or another (it is our duty to respond to them);
- and the slaves (we must do all we can to give or buy their freedom). Slavery has many insidious forms, and all are included.
... وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّآئِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ...
for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves;
... وَأَقَامَ الصَّلاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُواْ...
to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made;
C180. Charity and piety in individual cases do not complete our duties. In prayer and charity, we must also look to our organized efforts: where there is a Muslim State, these are made through the State, in facilities for public prayer, and public assistance, and for the maintenance of contracts and fair dealing in all matters.
... وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاء والضَّرَّاء وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ...
and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic.
C181. Then come the Muslim virtues of firmness and patience. They are to "preserve the dignity of man, with soul erect" (Burns).
Three sets of circumstances are specially mentioned for the exercise of this virtue:
1. bodily pain or suffering,
2. adversities or injuries of all kinds, deserved and underserved and
3. periods of public panic, such as war, violence, pestilence, etc.
... أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ ﴿١٧٧﴾
Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ...
178. O ye who believe!
the law of equality is prescribed to you
C182. Note first that this verse and the next make it clear that Islam has much mitigated the horrors of the pre-Islamic custom of retaliation. In order to meet the strict claims of justice, equality is prescribed, with a strong recommendation for mercy and forgiveness.
To translate qisas, therefore, by retaliation, is I think incorrect. The Latin legal term Lex Talionsis may come near it, but even that is modified here. In any case it is best to avoid technical terms for things that are very different.
"Retaliation" in English has a wider meaning, equivalent almost to returning evil for evil, and would more fitly apply to the blood-feuds of the Days of Ignorance.
if you must take a life for a life, at least there should be some measure of equality in it; the killing of the salve of a tribe should not involve a blood feud where many free men would be killed; but the law of mercy, where it can be obtained by consent, with reasonable compensation, would be better.
Our law of equality only takes account of three conditions in civil society,
- free for free,
- slave for slave,
- woman for woman.
Among free men or women, all are equal: you cannot ask that because a wealthy, or high-born, or influential man is killed, his life is equal to two or three lives among the poor or the lowly. Nor, in cases of murder, can you go into the value or abilities of a slave.
A woman is mentioned separately because her position as a mother or an economic worker is different. She does not form a third class, but a division in the other two classes.
One life having been lost, do not waste many lives in retaliation: at most, let the Law take one life under strictly prescribed conditions, and shut the door to private vengeance or tribal retaliation. But if the aggrieved party consents (and this condition of consent is laid down to prevent worse evils), forgiveness and brotherly love is better, and the door of Mercy is kept open. In Western law, no felony can be compounded.
... الْقِصَاصُ فِي الْقَتْلَى...
in cases of murder;
C183. The jurists have carefully laid down that the law of qisas refers to murder only.
Qisas is not applicable to manslaughter, due to a mistake or an accident. There, there would be no capital punishment.
... الْحُرُّ بِالْحُرِّ وَالْعَبْدُ بِالْعَبْدِ وَالأُنثَى بِالأُنثَى ...
the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman.
... فَمَنْ عُفِيَ لَهُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ ...
But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain,
C184. The brother: the term is perfectly general; all men are brothers in Islam. In this, and in all questions of inheritance, females have similar rights to males, and therefore the masculine gender imports both sexes.
Here we are considering the rights of the heirs in the light of the larger brotherhood.
- In 2:178-79 we have the rights of the heirs to life (as it were):
- in 2:180-82 we proceed to the heirs to property.
... شَيْءٌ فَاتِّبَاعٌ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَأَدَاء إِلَيْهِ بِإِحْسَانٍ...
then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude;
C185. The demand should be such as can be met by the party concerned, i.e., within his means, and reasonable according to justice and good conscience.
For example, a demand could not be made affecting the honour of a woman or a man. The whole penalty can be remitted if the aggrieved party agrees, out of brotherly love. In meeting that demand the culprit or his friends should equally be generous and recognise the good-will of the other side. There should be no subterfuges, no bribes, no unseemly bye-play: otherwise the whole intention of mercy and peace is lost.
... ذَلِكَ تَخْفِيفٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ...
this is a concession and a Mercy from your Lord.
... فَمَنِ اعْتَدَى بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ فَلَهُ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ ﴿١٧٨﴾
After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty.
وَلَكُمْ فِي الْقِصَاصِ حَيَاةٌ يَاْ أُولِيْ الأَلْبَابِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ﴿١٧٩﴾
179. In the law of equality there is (saving of) life to you, O ye men of understanding! that ye may restrain yourselves.
كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ إِن تَرَكَ خَيْرًا...
180. It is prescribed, when death approaches any of you, if he leave any goods,
... الْوَصِيَّةُ لِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأقْرَبِينَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ حَقًّا عَلَى الْمُتَّقِينَ ﴿١٨٠﴾
that he make a bequest to parents and next of kin, according to reasonable usage; this is due from the Allah-fearing.
C186. There are rules of course for the disposal of interstate property. But it is a good thing that a dying man or woman should, of his own free-will, think of his parents and his next of kin, not in a spirit of injustice to other, but in a spirit of love and reverence for those who have cherished him.
He must, however, do it "according to reasonable usage": the limitations will be seen further on.
فَمَن بَدَّلَهُ بَعْدَمَا سَمِعَهُ فَإِنَّمَا إِثْمُهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ يُبَدِّلُونَهُ ...
181. If anyone changes the bequest after hearing it, the guilt shall be on those who make the change.
... إِنَّ اللّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ ﴿١٨١﴾
For Allah hears and knows all things.
فَمَنْ خَافَ مِن مُّوصٍ جَنَفًا أَوْ إِثْمًا فَأَصْلَحَ بَيْنَهُمْ فَلاَ إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ...