The Beautiful Message of The Qur’an:
a guide to some essential teachings of Islam – for learners and seekers

 

 

This compendium is a tribute to The Message of The Qur’an, by Muhammad Asad.

 

Available from: honestthinking.org/en/Islam/

 

Preface

For a non-Muslim, the Qur’an can be a hard book to approach. Both its structure and style will at first feel unfamiliar to many – in particular to people brought up in a Western and/or Christian tradition (like myself).

However, I hope this compendium will help convince you that the Qur’an is a truly marvellous book; a source of profound wisdom and beauty. As the Prophet is reported to have said: God is beautiful and He loves beauty (al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ 6902).

Even though any attempt at translating the Qur’an is bound to have its shortcomings, anyone who is not fluent in Arabic, will need a translation in order to approach the holy book of Islam. In my own experience, The Message of The Qur'an, by Muhammad Asad, is an excellent place to start. Its pages are permeated by rational thinking and profound learning. Unlike many other translations of the Qur’an, it comes with an extensive set of explanatory footnotes.

The book is therefore a treasure trove for anyone interested in something more than just a superficial understanding of Islam.

The Message of The Qur'an has deeply impressed me – I hope the same will hold true for you. I hope this modest compendium of excerpts will be helpful as an initial guide to the Quranic text, and perhaps also as an easily accessible online reference to Quranic verses (along with Asad’s helpful explanations) that address topics of particular interest.

Having said that, any serious student of the Qur’an should of course read it in its entirety. Thus, if this compendium wets your appetite, I recommend that you get your own copy of Asad’s magnum opus.

The Qur’an contains 6236 verses. Approximately 8% of these verses (roughly 500) have been included in this compendium.

Those verses have been selected because they have been important in shaping my understanding of what constitutes the essential message of the Qur’an, i.e., the core Islamic beliefs. If you think I have left out important verses (or if you find any errors or typos), please use email and contact me via ole at HonestThinking dot org.

Italics are used as in the original text, while underlining has been added by me.

For some more personal thoughts of mine on Islam and the Qur’an, as well as on Asad himself, please see Appendix I and Appendix H. Even so, by way of introduction, here are a few words about Muhammad Asad (1900 – 1992): He was an Austro-Hungarian-born Muslim journalist, traveller, writer, linguist, political theorist, diplomat, and Islamic scholar. Asad was one of the most influential European Muslims of the 20th century. His translation of the Qur’an into English, The Message of The Qur'an, is among his most notable works. (Source: Wikipedia; emphasis added.)

 

Table of Contents

Preface. 1

1. Al-Fatihah (The Opening) 3

2. True Religion and The Religion of Truth. 5

3. God. 8

4. Faith and wisdom.. 13

5. The Qur’an. 18

6. God’s relationship with mankind. 30

7. The true, the good, and the beautiful 98

8. Falsehood and related evils. 109

9. Brotherhood of believers. 119

10. Christianity and other faiths based on earlier revelations. 121

11. The doctrine of the Trinity. 132

12. Relationship to non-Muslims. 134

13. Communities. 138

14. God’s creation. 153

15. Man. 164

16. Prophets. 175

17. Paradise and hell 177

Appendix A – Prologue by Gai Eaton. 180

Appendix B – Foreword by Muhammad Asad. 182

Appendix C – Asad on symbolism and allegory in the Qur'an. 190

Appendix D – The classical commentators. 193

Appendix E – Challenging or controversial verses. 194

Appendix F – Tolerance of ambiguity. 202

Appendix G – The crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 203

Alternative view #1: Jesus was indeed crucified, but not by the Jews. 204

Alternative view #2: Jesus was not crucified in the full sense of that term.. 204

Appendix H – Some reflections on Asad’s footnotes. 205

Appendix I – Some personal reflections. 207

Appendix J – Additional material 208

Appendix K – About this document. 209

 

 

1. Al-Fatihah (The Opening)

The first Surah, Al-Fatihah (The Opening), is used by Muslims as part of their five daily prayers. Asad writes the following in his introduction to this Surah.

Quote:

THIS SURAH is also called Fatihat al-Kitab ("The Opening of the Divine Writ"), Umm al-Kitab ("The Essence of the Divine Writ"), Surat al-Hamd ("The Surah of Praise"), Asas al-Qur'an ("The Foundation of the Qur'an"), and is known by several other names as well. It is mentioned elsewhere in the Qur'an as As-Sab' al-Mathani ("The Seven Oft-Repeated [Verses]") because it is repeated several times in the course of each of the five daily prayers. According to Bukhari, the designation Umm al-Kitab was given to it by the Prophet himself, and this in view of the fact that it contains, in a condensed form, all the fundamental principles laid down in the Qur'an: the principle of God's oneness and uniqueness, of His being the originator and fosterer of the universe, the fount of all life-giving grace, the One to whom man is ultimately responsible, the only power that can really guide and help; the call to righteous action in the life of this world ("guide us the straight way"); the principle of life after death and of the organic consequences of man's actions and behaviour (expressed in the term "Day of Judgment"); the principle of guidance through God's message-bearers (evident in the reference to "those upon whom God has bestowed His blessings") and, flowing from it, the principle of the continuity of all true religions (implied in the allusion to people who have lived – and erred – in the past); and, finally, the need for voluntary self-surrender to the will of the Supreme Being and, thus, for worshipping Him alone. It is for this reason that this surah has been formulated as a prayer, to be constantly repeated and reflected upon by the believer.

"The Opening" was one of the earliest revelations bestowed upon the Prophet. Some authorities (for instance, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib) were even of the opinion that it was the very first revelation; but this view is contradicted by authentic Traditions quoted by both Bukhari and Muslim, which unmistakably show that the first five verses of surah 96 ("The Germ-Cell") constituted the beginning of revelation. It is probable, however, that whereas the earlier revelations consisted of only a few verses each, "The Opening" was the first surah revealed to the Prophet in its entirety at one time: and this would explain the view held by 'Ali.

Unquote.

 

Keywords

Qur’an quote

Notes and comments

Al-Fatihah (The Opening)

 

1:1 In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace: (1)

 

1:2 ALL PRAISE is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds, (2) (1:3) the Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace, (1:4) Lord of the Day of Judgment!

 

1:5 Thee alone do we worship; and unto Thee alone do we turn for aid.

 

1:6 Guide us the straight way (1:7) the way of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, (3) not of those who have been condemned [by Thee], nor of those who go astray! (4)

 

1 According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse 1. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. – Both the divine epithets rahman and rahim are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Manar I,48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahim expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation – in other words, an aspect of His activity.

 

2 In this instance, the term "worlds" denotes all categories of existence both in the physical and the spiritual sense. The Arabic expression rabb – rendered by me as "Sustainer" – embraces a wide complex of meanings not easily expressed by a single term in another language. It comprises the ideas of having a just claim to the possession of anything and, consequently, authority over it, as well as of rearing, sustaining and fostering anything from its inception to its final completion. Thus, the head of a family is called rabb ad-dar ("master of the house") because he has authority over it and is responsible for its maintenance; similarly, his wife is called rabbat ad-dar ("mistress of the house"). Preceded by the definite article al, the designation rabb is applied, in the Qur'an, exclusively to God as the sole fosterer and sustainer of all creation – objective as well as conceptual – and therefore the ultimate source of all authority.

 

3 i.e., by vouchsafing to them prophetic guidance and enabling them to avail themselves thereof.

 

4 According to almost all the commentators, God's "condemnation" (ghadab, lit., "wrath") is synonymous with the evil consequences which man brings upon himself by wilfully rejecting God's guidance and acting contrary to His injunctions. Some commentators (e.g., Zamakhshari) interpret this passage as follows: "... the way of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings – those who have not been condemned [by Thee], and who do not go astray": in other words, they regard the last two expressions as defining "those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings". Other commentators (e.g., Baghawi and Ibn Kathir) do not subscribe to this interpretation – which would imply the use of negative definitions – and understand the last verse of the surah in the manner rendered by me above. As regards the two categories of people following a wrong course, some of the greatest Islamic thinkers (e.g., Al-Ghazali or, in recent times, Muhammad 'Abduh) held the view that the people described as having incurred "God's condemnation" – that is, having deprived themselves of His grace – are those who have become fully cognizant of God's message and, having understood it, have rejected it; while by "those who go astray" are meant people whom the truth has either not reached at all, or to whom it has come in so garbled and corrupted a form as to make it difficult for them to recognize it as the truth (see 'Abduh in Manar 1,68 ff.).

 

 

 

2. True Religion and The Religion of Truth

Islam is a religion where truth is a central concept; indeed, Islam is The Religion of Truth. Above all, Islam is concerned with the truth of God’s existence as well as His oneness (tawhid), but Islam is also concerned with truth in general – speaking the truth, pursuing the truth, and acknowledging and respecting truth wherever we encounter it – even when it’s challenging or painful.

This must be so, since all truth is God’s truth, and any other attitude towards truth would – with logical necessity – violate the concept of tawhid, which would amount to polytheism (shirk), since one would then implicitly be placing some human “truth” next to or above God’s truth.

What about the concept of true religion? According to the Qur’an, true religion boils down to one thing, and one thing only; self-surrender unto God. Anyone who surrenders to God, is per definition a Muslim (albeit not necessarily in the "institutionalized" sense of that term), whether he or she realises it or not. Conversely, anyone who does not surrender to God, is not a Muslim. All else is non-essential; possibly interesting or even important, but not essential.

Confer what the scholars behind The Study Quran writes in their general introduction (page xxix): “The message of the Quran concerning religion is universal. Even when it speaks of islam, it refers not only to the religion revealed through the Prophet of Islam, but to submission to God in general.”

 

Keywords

Qur’an quote

Notes and comments

Religion of truth

48:28 He it is who has sent forth His Apostle with the [task of spreading] guidance and the religion of truth, to the end that He make it prevail over every [false] religion; and none can bear witness [to the truth] as God does.

 

Confer 61:9, 9:29, 9:32.

 

 

Religious humility versus the pitfalls of arrogance and exclusivism

 

68:34 For, behold, it is the God-conscious [alone] whom gardens of bliss await with their Sustainer: (68:35) or should We, perchance, treat those who surrender themselves unto Us (17) as [We would treat] those who remain lost in sin?

 

68:36 What is amiss with you? (18) On what do you base your judgment [of right and wrong]?

 

17 This is the earliest occurrence of the term muslimun (sing. muslim) in the history of Qur'anic revelation. Throughout this work, I have translated the terms muslim and islam in accordance with their original connotations, namely, "one who surrenders [or "has surrendered"] himself to God", and "man's self-surrender to God"; the same holds good of all forms of the verb aslama occurring in the 'Qur'an. It should be borne in mind that the "institutionalized" use of these terms – that is, their exclusive application to the followers of the Prophet Muhammad – represents a definitely post-Qur'anic development and, hence, must be avoided in a translation of the Qur'an.

 

18 Sc., "O you sinners".

 

True religion

 

Surah 2

2:112 Yea, indeed: everyone who surrenders his whole being unto God, (91) and is a doer of good withal, shall have his reward with his Sustainer; and all such need have no fear, and neither shall they grieve. (92)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 3:19

3:19 Behold, the only [true] religion in the sight of God is [man's] self-surrender unto Him.

 

Pickthall (3:19): Lo! religion with Allah (is) the Surrender (to His Will and Guidance).

 

Rashad (3:19): The only religion approved by God is "Submission."

 

Yusuf Ali (3:19): The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will).

 

 

Surah 3

3:76 Nay, but [God is aware of] those who keep their bond with Him, (59) and are conscious of Him: and, verily, God loves those who are conscious of Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 73

73:15 BEHOLD, [O men,] We have sent unto you an apostle who shall bear witness to the truth before you, even as We sent an apostle unto Pharaoh: (9)

 

Notes on Surah 2

91 Lit., "who surrenders his face unto God". Since the face of a person is the most expressive part of his body, it is used in classical Arabic to denote one's whole personality, or whole being. This expression, repeated in the Qur'an several times, provides a perfect definition of islam, which derived from the root-verb aslama, "he surrendered himself" – means "self-surrender [to God]": and it is in this sense that the terms islam and muslim are used throughout the Qur'an. (For a full discussion of this concept, see my note on 68:35 (found in this compendium under Religious humility versus the pitfalls of arrogance and exclusivism), where the expression muslim occurs for the first time in the chronological order of revelation.)

 

92 Thus, according to the Qur'an, salvation is not reserved for any particular "denomination", but is open to everyone who consciously realizes the oneness of God, surrenders himself to His will and, by living righteously, gives practical effect to this spiritual attitude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note on Surah 3

59 Some of the commentators relate the personal pronoun in 'ahdihi to the person or persons concerned, and therefore take 'ahd as meaning "promise" – thus: "[as for] him who fulfils his promise ...", etc. It is, however, obvious from the next verse that the pronoun in 'ahdihi refers to God; consequently, the phrase must be rendered either as "those who fulfil their duty towards Him", or "those who keep their bond with Him" – the latter being, in my opinion, preferable. (For the meaning of man's "bond with God", see surah 2, note 19.)

 

 

Note on Surah 73

9 This is probably the oldest Qur'anic reference to the earlier prophets, to the historic, continuity in mankind's religious experience, and, by implication, to the fact that the Qur'an does not institute a "new" faith but represents only the final, most comprehensive statement of religious principle as old as mankind itself: namely, that "in the sight of God, the only [true] religion is [man's] self-surrender unto Him" (3:19), and that "if one goes in search of a religion other than self-surrender unto God, it will never be accepted from him" (3:85).

 

 

3. God

This section provides several examples of what the Qur’an says about God.

 

Keywords

Qur’an quote

Notes and comments

God – above and beyond anyone or anything that could ever be imagined

 

59:22 GOD IS HE save whom there is no deity: the One who knows all that is beyond the reach of a created being's perception, as well as all that can be witnessed by a creature's senses or mind: (27) He, the Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace. (59:23) God is He save whom there is no deity: the Sovereign Supreme, the Holy, the One with whom all salvation rests, (28) the Giver of Faith, the One who determines what is true and false, (29) the Almighty, the One who subdues wrong and restores right, (30) the One to whom all greatness belongs!

 

Utterly remote is God, in His limitless glory, from anything to which men may ascribe a share in His divinity!

 

59:24 He is God, the Creator, the Maker who shapes all forms and appearances! (31)

 

27 See note 65 on the second paragraph of 6:73.

 

28 Lit., "the Salvation" (as-salam): see surah 5, note 29.

 

29 For this rendering of muhaymin, see 5:48 – where this term is applied to the Qur'an – and the corresponding note 64.

 

30 Since the verb jabara – from which the noun jabbar is derived – combines the concepts of "setting right" or "restoring" (e.g., from a state of brokenness, ill-health, or misfortune) and of "compelling" or "subduing (someone or something) to one's will", I believe that the term al-jabbar, when applied to God, is best rendered as above.

 

31 Thus Baydawi. The two terms al-bari' ("the Maker") and al-musawwir ("the Shaper", i.e., of all forms and appearances) evidently constitute here one single unit.

Face of God

 

Surah 55

(55:26) All that lives on earth or in the heavens (10) is bound to pass away: (55:27) but forever will abide thy Sustainer's Self, (11) full of majesty and glory.

 

 

 

Arberry: (55:27) yet still abides the Face of thy Lord, majestic, splendid.

 

 

Surah 28

(28:88) ... There is no deity save Him. Everything is bound to perish, save His [eternal] Self. (100) With Him rests all judgment; and unto Him shall you all be brought back.

 

 

Alternative translations of 28:88:

 

Sahih International: ... Everything will be destroyed except His Face.

 

Pickthall: ... Everything will perish save His countenance.

 

Yusuf Ali: ... Everything (that exists) will perish except His own Face.

 

Mohsin Khan: ... Everything will perish save His Face.

 

Arberry: ... All things perish, except His Face.

 

Notes on Surah 55

10 Lit., "Everyone who is upon it", i.e., on earth and/or, according to Ibn Kathir, in the heavens – since the pronoun in 'alayhd apparently relates to the whole universe.

 

11 Lit., "face", or "countenance", a term used metonymically in classical Arabic to denote the "self" or "whole being" of a person – in this case, the essential Being, or Reality, of God. Cf. also 28:88, "Everything is bound to perish, save His [eternal] Self".

 

 

Note on Surah 28

100 See 55:26-27 and the corresponding note 11.

 

 

God alone is perfect (and freedom from faults is beyond human reach)

 

Surah 48

48:1 VERILY, [O Muhammad,] We have laid open before thee a manifest victory, (1) (48:2) so that God might show His forgiveness of all thy faults, past as well as future, (2) and [thus] bestow upon thee the full measure of His blessings, and guide thee on a straight way, (3) (48:3) and [show] that God will succour thee with [His] mighty succour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 55

55:31 [ONE DAY] We shall take you to task, (13) O you sin-laden two! (14) (55:32) Which, then, of your Sustainer's powers can you disavow?

 

Notes on Surah 48

1 Namely, the moral victory achieved by the Truce of Hudaybiyyah, which opened the doors to the subsequent triumph of Islam in Arabia (see introductory note, which explains many allusions to this historic event found in the subsequent verses).

 

2 Lit., "so that God might forgive thee all that is past of thy sins and all that is yet to come" – thus indicating elliptically that freedom from faults is an exclusive prerogative of God, and that every human being, however exalted, is bound to err on occasion.

 

3 Sc., "to a fulfilment of thy mission", which the Truce of Hudaybiyyah clearly presaged.

 

 

Note on Surah 55

13 Lit., "We shall apply Ourselves to you".

 

14 I.e., "you sin-laden men and women" (see note 4 above). According to an interpretation quoted by Razi, the designation thaqalan (the dual form of thaqal, "a thing of weight") signifies that both these categories of human beings are liable to, and therefore burdened. with, sinning.

 

God – always warning man (and thus calling every one of us unto Himself)

 

44:3 Behold, from on high have We bestowed [this divine writ] on a blessed night: (3) for, verily, We have always been warning [man]. (4)

 

(44:4) On that [night] was made clear, in wisdom, the distinction between all things [good and evil] (5) (44:5) at a behest from Ourselves: for, verily, We have always been sending [Our messages of guidance] (44:6) in pursuance of thy Sustainer's grace [unto man]. Verily, He alone is all-hearing, all-knowing, (44:7) the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them – if you could but grasp it with inner certainty! (6)

 

44:8 There is no deity save Him: He grants life and deals death: He is your Sustainer as well as the Sustainer of your forebears of old. (44:9) Nay, but they [who lack inner certainty] are but toying with their doubts. (7)

 

 

See also:

·         Doubts, toying with.

·         Follow not the crowd.

·         Inner certainty.

·         Self-deception.

 

3 I.e., the night on which the revelation of the Qur'an began: see surah 97.

 

4 The revelation of the Qur'an is but a continuation and, indeed, the climax of all divine revelation which has been going on since the very dawn of human consciousness. Its innermost purpose has always been the warning extended by God to man not to abandon himself to mere material ambitions and pursuits and, thus, to lose sight of spiritual values.

 

5 Lit., "was made distinct everything wise", i.e., "wisely" or "in wisdom": a metonymical attribution of the adjective "wise" – which in reality relates to God, the maker of that distinction – to what has thus been made distinct (Zamakhshari and Razi). The meaning is that the revelation of the Qur'an, symbolized by that "blessed night" of its beginning, provides man with a standard whereby to discern between good and evil, or between all that leads to spiritual growth through an ever-deepening realization (ma'rifah) of God's existence, on the one hand, and all that results in spiritual blindness and self-destruction, on the other.

 

6 Lit., "if you had but inner certainty". According to Abn Muslim al-Isfahani (as quoted by Razi), this means, "you would know it if you would but truly desire inner certainty and would pray for it".

 

7 Lit., "are toying in doubt": i.e., their half-hearted admission of the possibility that God exists is compounded of doubt and irony (Zamakhshari) – doubt as to the proposition of God's existence, and an ironical amusement at the idea of divine revelation.

 

God and His creation (it all belongs to Him)

 

20:6 Unto Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, as well as all that is between them and all that is beneath the sod.

 

 

God – beyond description or definition

 

Surah 6

6:100 Limitless is He is His glory, and sublimely exalted above anything that men may devise by way of definition: (88)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 30

(30:27) His is the essence of all that is most sublime in the heavens and on earth, (19) and He alone is almighty, truly wise.

 

Note on Surah 6

88 I.e., utterly remote is He from all imperfection and from the incompleteness which is implied in the concept of having progeny. The very concept of "definition" implies the possibility of a comparison or correlation of an object with other objects; God, however, is unique, there being "nothing like unto Him" (42:11) and, therefore, "nothing that could be compared with Him" (112:4) – with the result that any attempt at defining Him or His "attributes" is a logical impossibility and, from the ethical point of view, a sin. The fact that He is undefinable makes it clear that the "attributes" (sifat) of God mentioned in the Qur'an do not circumscribe His reality but, rather, the perceptible effect of His activity on and within the universe created by Him.

 

Notes on Surah 30

19 Primarily, the term mathal denotes a "likeness" or "similitude", and hence is often used in the Qur'an (e.g., in the next verse) in the sense of "parable". Occasionally, however, it is synonymous with sifah, which signifies the intrinsic "attribute", "quality" or "nature" of a thing, concept or living being (cf. the reference to "the nature of Jesus" and "the nature of Adam" in 3:59). With reference to God, who is "sublimely exalted above anything that men may devise by way of definition" (see 6:100 and the corresponding note 88), the expression mathal clearly points to a quality of being entirely different from all other categories of existence, inasmuch as there is "nothing like unto Him" (42:11) and "nothing that could be compared With Him" (112:4): hence, the rendering of mathal as 'essence" is most appropriate in this context.

 

God’s existence, signs of

 

51:20 AND ON EARTH there are signs [of God's existence, visible] to all who are endowed with inner certainty, (51:21) just as [there are signs thereof] within your own selves: (13) can you not, then, see?

 

13 See note 3 on 45:4.

 

 

God – sovereign ruler of the universe

 

(39:67) And no true understanding of God have they [who worship aught beside Him], inasmuch as the whole of the earth will be as a [mere] handful to Him on Resurrection Day, and the heavens will be rolled up in His right hand: (66) limitless is He in His glory, and sublimely exalted above anything to which they may ascribe a share in His divinity!

 

66 I.e., the whole universe is as nothing before Him: for this specific allegory of God's almightiness, see 21:104. There are many instances, in the Qur'an as well as in authentic ahadith, of the clearly metaphorical use of the term "hand" in allusions to God's absolute power and dominion. The particular reference, in the above, to the Day of Resurrection is due to the fact that it will be only on his own resurrection that a human being shall fully grasp the concept of God's almightiness; referred to in the subsequent words, "limitless is He in His glory" (subhanahu)".

 

God – the ultimate reality

 

57:1 ALL THAT IS in the heavens and on earth extols God's limitless glory: for He alone is almighty, truly wise! (57:2) His is the dominion over the heavens and the earth; He grants life and deals death; and He has the power to will anything. 57:3 He is the First and the Last, (1) and the Outward as well as the Inward: (2) and He has full knowledge of everything. (57:4) He it is who has created the heavens and the earth in six aeons, and is established on the throne of His almightiness. (3) He knows all that enters the earth, and all that comes out of it, as well as all that descends from the skies, and all that ascends to them. (4) And He is with you wherever you may be; and God sees all that you do. 57:5 His is the dominion over the heavens and the earth; and all things go back unto God [as their source].

 

1 I.e., His Being is eternal, without anything preceding His existence and without anything outlasting its infinity: an interpretation given by the Prophet himself, as recorded in several well-authenticated Traditions. Thus, "time" itself – a concept beyond man's understanding – is but God's creation.

 

2 I.e., He is the transcendental Cause of all that exists and, at the same time, immanent in every phenomenon of His creation – cf. the oft-repeated Qur'anic phrase (e.g., in verse S), "all things go back unto God [as their source]"; in the words of Tabari, "He is closer to everything than anything else could be". Another – perhaps supplementary – rendering could be, "He is the Evident as well as the Hidden": i.e., "His existence is evident (zahir) in the effects of His activity, whereas He Himself is not perceptible (ghayr mudrak) to our senses" (Zamakhshari).

 

3 Cf. the identical phrase in 7:54 and the corresponding note 43.

 

4 See 4 note 1 on 34:2.

 

Necessary existence

 

3:2 GOD – there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being!

 

Confer 20:111, where the phrase “the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being” is also found.

 

 

 

4. Faith and wisdom

Philosopher Blaise Pascal has said that “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.” Alternatively rendered as “There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition”, or “There is enough light for those who want to see, and enough darkness for those who do not want to.”

If you are searching for formal proofs of God’s existence, you’re searching in vain. If you are willing to observe and take to heart the innumerable signs of God’s existence, His wisdom, His love, as well as His grace and mercy, you will be overwhelmed and convinced.

The Qur’an recommends that, in order to approach God, we should (1) think, we should (2) strive to be knowledgeable, and to the best of our ability we should (3) use our God-given reason (see 30:21-30 below).

And, in all of this, we must be willing to listen and also willing to receive God’s gift of faith; see 7:203 below. These are essentials that could help us move in the direction of wisdom.

Carefully note that willingness to listen (to the still, small voice of the heart, fitrah; confer 30:30 below) requires humility, without which true wisdom cannot be achieved.

 

Keywords

Qur’an quote

Notes and comments

Heart, deafness and blindness of

 

Surah 27

27:80 [But,] verily, thou canst not make the dead hear: and [so, too] thou canst not make the deaf [of heart] hear this call when they turn their backs [on thee] and go away, (27:81) just as thou canst not lead the blind [of heart] out of their error; none canst thou make hear save such as [are willing to] believe in Our messages, and thus surrender themselves unto Us. (72)

 

Confer 30:52-53.

 

Surah 28

28:56 VERILY, thou canst not guide aright everyone whom thou lovest: but it is God who guides him that wills [to be guided]; (55) and He is fully aware of all who would let themselves be guided. (56)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 17

(17:72) for whoever is blind [of heart] in this [world] will be blind in the life to come [as well], and still farther astray from the path [of truth]. (87)

 

 

See also:

·         Remembering God.

·         Self-destruction.

·         God’s guidance.

 

Note on Surah 27

72 This passage corresponds to the oft-repeated Qur'anic statement that "God guides him that wills [to be guided] (yahdi man yasha')".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes on Surah 28

55 Or: "God guides whomever He wills" – either of these two renderings being syntactically correct. According to several extremely well-authenticated Traditions, the above verse relates to the Prophet's inability to induce his dying uncle Abu Talib, whom he loved dearly and who had loved and protected him throughout his life, to renounce the pagan beliefs of his ancestors and to profess faith in God's oneness. Influenced by Abu Jahl and other Meccan chieftains, Abu Talib died professing, in his own words, "the creed of 'Abd al-Muttalib" (Bukhari) or, according to another version (quoted by Tabari), "the creed of my ancestors (al-ashyakh)". However, the Qur'anic statement "thou canst not guide aright everyone whom thou lovest" has undoubtedly a timeless import as well: it stresses the inadequacy of all human endeavours to "convert" any other person, however loving and loved, to one's own beliefs, or to prevent him from falling into what one regards as error, unless that person wills to be so guided.

 

56 The above rendering of the expression al-muhtadin conforms to the interpretations offered in this context by many classical commentators – e.g., "those who accept guidance" (Zamakhshari), "everyone who in time would find the right way" (Razi), "those who are prepared (musta'iddin) for it" (Baydawi), "all who deserve guidance" (Ibn Kathir), and so forth. Thus, God's guidance is but the final act of His grace with which He rewards all who desire to be guided. For a further consideration of this problem, the reader is referred to Zamakhshari's illuminating remarks quoted in note 4 on 14:4 (found in this compendium under God’s guidance I).

 

Note on Surah 17

87 Cf. 20: 124-125. This passage shows that man's life in the hereafter is not merely conditioned by the manner of his life on earth, but is also an organic extension of the latter, manifested in a natural development and intensification of previously-existing tendencies.

 

 

Heart, disease of

 

(2:10) In their hearts is disease, and so God lets their disease increase; and grievous suffering awaits them because of their persistent lying. (8)

 

 

See also:

·         Falsehood – should be shunned.

·         Sinning against oneself.

 

8 i.e., before God and man – and to themselves. It is generally assumed that the people to whom this passage alludes in the first instance are the hypocrites of Medina who, during the early years after the hijrah, outwardly professed their adherence to Islam while remaining inwardly unconvinced of the truth of Muhammad's message. However, as is always the case with Quranic allusions to contemporary or historical events, the above and the following verses have a general, timeless import inasmuch as they refer to all people who are prone to deceive themselves in order to evade a spiritual commitment.

 

Knowledge – always to be sought after

 

20:114 [...] [always] say: "O my Sustainer, cause me to grow in knowledge!" (101)

 

 

See also: Qur’an – to be read in its entirety.

101 Although it is very probable that – as most of the classical commentators point out – this exhortation was in the first instance addressed to the Prophet Muhammad, there is no doubt that it applies to every person, at all times, who reads the Qur'an. The idea underlying the above verse may be summed up thus: Since the Qur'an is the Word of God, all its component parts – phrases, sentences, verses and surahs – form one integral, coordinated whole (cf. the last sentence of 25:32 and the corresponding note 27). Hence, if one is really intent on understanding the Qur'anic message, one must beware of a "hasty approach" – that is to say, of drawing hasty conclusions from isolated verses or sentences taken out of their context – but should, rather, allow the whole of the Qur'an to be revealed to one's mind before attempting to interpret single aspects of its message. (See also 75:16-19 and the corresponding notes.)

 

Messages unto people of [innate] knowledge, people who can grasp the truth, and people who will believe

Surah 6

(6:96) [He is] the One who causes the dawn to break; and He has made the night to be [a source of] stillness, and the sun and the moon to run their appointed courses: (81) [all] this is laid down by the will of the Almighty, the All-Knowing.

 

6:97 And He it is who has set up for you the stars so that you might be guided by them in the midst of the deep darkness of land and sea: clearly, indeed, have We spelled out these messages unto people of [innate] knowledge!

 

(6:98) And He it is who has brought you [all] into being out of one living entity, (82) and [has appointed for each of you] a time-limit [on earth] and a resting-place [after death]: (83) clearly, indeed, have We spelled out these messages unto people who can grasp the truth!

 

6:99 And He it is who has caused waters to come down from the sky; and by this means have We brought forth all living growth, and out of this have We brought forth verdure. (84) Out of this do We bring forth close-growing grain; and out of the spathe of the palm tree, dates in thick clusters; and gardens of vines, and the olive tree, and the pomegranate: [all] so alike, and yet so different! (85) Behold their fruit when it comes to fruition and ripens! Verily, in all this there are messages indeed for people who will believe!

 

Notes on Surah 6

83 The commentators differ widely as to the meaning of the terms mustaqarr and mustawda' in this context. However, taking into account the primary meaning of musstagarr as "the www.islamicbulletin.org 265 limit of a course" – i.e., the point at which a thing reaches its fulfilment or end – and of mustawda' as "a place of consignment" or "repository", we arrive at the rendering adopted by me above. This rendering finds, moreover, strong support in 11:6, where God is spoken of as providing sustenance for every living being and knowing "its time-limit [on earth] and its resting-place [after death]" (mustagarraha wa-mustawda'aha), as well as in verse 67 of the present surah, where mustaqarr is used in the sense of "a term set for the fulfilment [of God's tiding]".

 

84 In contrast with its sequence, which is governed by the present tense, the whole of the

above sentence is expressed in the past tense – thus indicating, obliquely, the original,

basic aspect of God's creating life "out of water" (cf. 21:30 and the corresponding note 39).

 

85 I.e., all so alike in the basic principles of their life and growth, and yet so different

in physiology, appearance and taste.

Wisdom – some essential prerequisites

 

Surah 30:21-24, 30:30

30:21 And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, (15) so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think! (30:22) And among his wonders is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours: for in this, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are possessed of [innate] knowledge! 30:23 And among His wonders is your sleep, at night or in daytime, as well as your [ability to go about in] quest of some of His bounties: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who [are willing to] listen! 30:24 And among His wonders is this: He displays before you the lightning, giving rise to [both] fear and hope, (16) and sends down water from the skies, giving life thereby to the earth after it had been lifeless: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who use their reason!

 

[…]

 

30:30 AND SO, set thy face (25) steadfastly towards the [one ever-true] faith, turning away from all that is false, (26) in accordance with the natural disposition which God has instilled into man: (27)

 

Confer 6:96-99

 

Surah 7

7:203 Say [, O Prophet]: "I only follow whatever is being revealed to me by my Sustainer: this [revelation] is a means of insight from your Sustainer, and a guidance and grace unto people who will believe. (7:204) Hence, when the Qur'an is voiced, hearken unto it, and listen in silence, so that you might be graced with [God's] mercy." (7:205) And bethink thyself of thy Sustainer humbly and with awe, and without raising thy voice, at morn and at evening; and do not allow thyself to be heedless.

 

 

Alternative endings of 7:203

 

Yusuf Ali: ... for any who have faith.

 

Shakir: ... for a people who believe.

 

Muhammad Sarwar: ... for those who have faith.

 

Arberry: ... for a people of believers.

 

 

See also: Fitrah (original disposition, natural constitution, innate nature).

 

 

Notes on Surah 30

15 Lit., "from among yourselves" (see surah 4, note 1).

 

16 I.e., hope of rain – an oft-recurring Qur'anic symbol of faith and spiritual life (cf. 13:12).

 

[…]

 

25 I.e., "surrender thy whole being"; the term "face" is often used metonymically in the sense of one's "whole being".

 

26 For this rendering of hanif, see note 110 on 2:135 (found under keyword Hanif in this compendium).

 

27 See 7:172 and the corresponding note 139 (found under keyword Fitrah in this compendium). The term fitrah, rendered by me as "natural disposition", connotes in this context man's inborn, intuitive ability to discern between right and wrong, true and false, and, thus, to sense God's existence and oneness. Cf. the famous saying of the Prophet, quoted by Bukhari and Muslim: "Every child is born in this natural disposition; it is only his parents that later turn him into a 'Jew', a 'Christian', or a 'Magian'." These three religious formulations, best known to the contemporaries of the Prophet, are thus contrasted with the "natural disposition" which, by definition, consists in man's instinctive cognition of God and self-surrender (islam) to Him. (The term "parents" has here the wider meaning of "social influences or environment").

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. The Qur’an

This section provides several examples of what the Qur’an says about itself. The entry labelled Allegory in the Qur’an may, according to Asad, be regarded as a key to our understanding of the Qur'an (for a more thorough discussion of the Qur’an’s use of symbolism and allegory, see Appendix C).

 

Keywords

Qur’an quote

Notes and comments

Allegory in the Qur’an

 

3:7 He it is who has bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, containing messages that are clear in and by themselves – and these are the essence of the divine writ – as well as others that are allegorical. (5) Now those whose hearts are given to swerving from the truth go after that part of the divine writ (6) which has been expressed in allegory, seeking out [what is bound to create] confusion, (7) and seeking [to arrive at] its final meaning [in an arbitrary manner]; but none save God knows its final meaning. (8) Hence, those who are deeply rooted in knowledge say: "We believe in it; the whole [of the divine writ] is from our Sustainer – albeit none takes this to heart save those who are endowed with insight.

5 The above passage may be regarded as a key to the understanding of the Qur'an. Tabari identifies the ayat muhkamat ("messages that are clear in and by themselves") with what the philologists and jurists describe as nass – namely, ordinances or statements which are self-evident (zahir) by virtue of their wording (cf. Lisan al-'Arab, art. nass). Consequently, Tabari regards as ayat muhkamat only those statements or ordinances of the Qur'an which do not admit of more than one interpretation (which does not, of course, preclude differences of opinion regarding the implications of a particular ayah muhkamah). In my opinion, however, it would be too dogmatic to regard any passage of the Qur'an which does not conform to the above definition as mutashabih ("allegorical"): for there are many statements in the Qur'an which are liable to more than one interpretation but are, nevertheless, not allegorical – just as there are many expressions and passages which, despite their allegorical formulation, reveal to the searching intellect only one possible meaning. For this reason, the ayat mutashabihat may be defined as those passages of the Qur'an which are expressed in a figurative manner, with a meaning that is metaphorically implied but not directly, in so many words, stated. The ayat muhkamat are described as the "essence of the divine writ" (umm al-kitab) because they comprise the fundamental principles underlying its message and, in particular, its ethical and social teachings: and it is only on the basis of these clearly enunciated principles that the allegorical passages can be correctly interpreted. (For a more detailed discussion of symbolism and allegory in the Qur'an. see Appendix 1.)

 

6 Lit., "that of it".

 

7 The "confusion" referred to here is a consequence of interpreting allegorical passages in an "arbitrary manner" (Zamakhshari).

 

8 According to most of the early commentators, this refers to the interpretation of allegorical passages which deal with metaphysical subjects – for instance, God's attributes, the ultimate meaning of time and eternity, the resurrection of the dead, the Day of Judgment, paradise and hell, the nature of the beings or forces described as angels, and so forth – all of which fall within the category of al-ghayb, i.e., that sector of reality which is beyond the reach of human perception and imagination and cannot, therefore, be conveyed to man in other than allegorical terms. This view of the classical commentators, however, does not seem to take into account the many Qur'anic passages which do not deal with metaphysical subjects and yet are, undoubtedly, allegorical in intent and expression. To my mind, one cannot arrive at a correct understanding of the above passage without paying due attention to the nature and function of allegory as such. A true allegory – in contrast with a mere pictorial paraphrase of something that could equally well be stated in direct terms – is always meant to express in a figurative manner something which, because of its complexity, cannot be adequately expressed in direct terms or propositions and, because of this very complexity, can be grasped only intuitively, as a general mental image, and not as a series of detailed "statements": and this seems to be the meaning of the phrase, "none save God knows its final meaning".

 

 

Divine authorship

10:37 Now this Qur'an could not possibly have been devised by anyone save God: nay indeed, it

confirms the truth of whatever there still remains [of earlier revelations]

 

 

Divine inspiration

Surah 16

16:2 He causes the angels to descend with this divine inspiration, (2) [bestowed] at His behest upon whomever He wills of His servants: "Warn [all human beings] that there is no deity save Me: be, therefore, conscious of Me!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 34

34:1 ALL PRAISE is due to God, to whom all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth belongs; and to Him will be due all praise in the life to come. For He alone is truly wise, all-aware: (34:2) He knows all that enters the earth, and all that comes out of it, as well as all that descends from the skies, and all that ascends to them. (1) And He alone is a dispenser of grace, truly-forgiving.

 

Note on Surah 16

2 The term ruh (lit., "spirit", "soul" or "breath of life") is often used in the Qur'an in the sense of "inspiration" – and, more particularly, "divine inspiration" – since, as Zamakhshari points out in connection with the above verse as well as with the first sentence of 42:52, "it gives life to hearts that were [as] dead in their ignorance, and has in religion the same function as a soul has in a body". A very similar explanation is given by Razi in the same context. The earliest instance in which the term ruh has been used in this particular sense is 97:4.

 

 

Note on Surah 34

1 This definition comprises things physical and spiritual: waters disappearing underground and reappearing; the metamorphosis of seed into plant, and of decaying plant into oil and coal; traces of old artifacts and entire civilizations buried in the earth and then reappearing within the sight and consciousness of later generations of men; the transformation of dead bodies of animals and men into elements of nourishment for new life; the ascent of earthy vapours towards the skies, and their descent as rain, snow or hail; the ascent towards the heavens of men's longings, hopes and ambitions, and the descent of divine inspiration into the minds of men, and thus a revival of faith and thought and, with it, the growth of new artifacts, new skills and new hopes: in short, the endless recurrence of birth, death and re-birth which characterizes all of God's creation.

 

Divine writ

21:10 [O MEN!] We have now bestowed upon you from on high a divine writ containing all that you ought to bear in mind: (13) will you not, then, use your reason?

(13) The term dhikr, which primarily denotes a "reminder" or a "remembrance", or, as Raghib defines it, the "presence [of something] in the mind", has also the meaning of "that by which one is remembered", i.e., with praise – in other words, "renown" or "fame" – and, tropically, "honour", "eminence" or "dignity". Hence, the above phrase contains, apart from the concept of a "reminder", an indirect allusion to the dignity and happiness to which man may attain by following the spiritual and social precepts laid down in the Qur'an. By rendering the expression dhikrukum as "all that you ought to bear in mind", I have tried to bring out all these meanings.

 

Message from God (Qur’an)

 

17:59 And nothing has prevented Us from sending [this message, like the earlier ones,] with miraculous signs [in its wake], save [Our knowledge] that the people of olden times [only too often] gave the lie to them: (71)

71 This highly elliptic sentence has a fundamental bearing on the purport of the Qur'an as a whole. In many places the Qur'an stresses the fact that the Prophet Muhammad, despite his being the last and greatest of God's apostles, was not empowered to perform miracles similar to those with which the earlier prophets are said to have reinforced their verbal messages. His only miracle was and is the Qur'an itself – a message perfect in its lucidity and ethical comprehensiveness, destined for all times and all stages of human development, addressed not merely to the feelings but also to the minds of men, open to everyone, whatever his race or social environment, and bound to remain unchanged forever. Since the earlier prophets invariably appealed to their own community and their own time alone, their teachings were, of necessity, circumscribed by the social and intellectual conditions of that particular community and time; and since the people to whom they addressed themselves had not yet reached the stage of independent thinking, those prophets stood in need of symbolic portents or miracles (see surah 6, note 94) in order to make the people concerned realize the inner truth of their mission. The message of the Qur'an, on the other hand, was revealed at a time when mankind (and, in particular, that part of it which inhabited the regions marked by the earlier, Judaeo-Christian religious development) had reached a degree of maturity which henceforth enabled it to grasp an ideology as such without the aid of those persuasive portents and miraculous demonstrations which in the past, as the above verse points out, only too often gave rise to new, grave misconceptions.

 

Nothing new (in Muhammad’s message)

 

41:43 [And as for thee, O Prophet,] nothing is being said to thee but what was said to all [of God's] apostles before thy time. (36)

 

36 This is an allusion to the allegation of the Prophet's opponents that he himself was the "author" of what he claimed to be a divine revelation, as well as to their demand that he should "prove" the truth of his prophetic mission by producing a miracle: a scornful attitude with which all the earlier prophets had been confronted at one time or another, and which is epitomized in the "saying" of the unbelievers mentioned in verse 5 of this surah.

 

Qur’an – appealing to man’s reason and moral sense

 

50:1 Qaf. (1) CONSIDER this sublime Qur'an! (50:2) But nay – they deem it strange that a warner should have come unto them from their own midst; (2) and so these deniers of the truth are saying, "A strange thing is this!

 

1 Chronologically, the above is the second occurrence (after surah 68) of one of the disjointed letter-symbols which precede some of the Qur'anic surahs. For the theories relating to these symbols, see Appendix II. As regards my rendering of the adjurative particle wa which opens the next sentence as "Consider", see first half of note 23 on 74:32, where this adjuration appears for the first time in the chronological order of revelation.

 

2 This is the earliest Qur'anic mention – repeated again and again in other places of people's "deeming it strange" that a purportedly divine message should have been delivered by someone "from their own midst", i.e., a mortal like themselves. Although it is undoubtedly, in the first instance, a reference to the negative attitude of the Meccan pagans to Muhammad's call, its frequent repetition throughout the Qur'an has obviously an implication going far beyond that historical reference: it points to the tendency common to many people, at all stages of human development, to distrust any religious statement that is devoid of all exoticism inasmuch as it is enunciated by a person sharing the social and cultural background of those whom he addresses, and because the message itself relies exclusively – as the Qur'an does – on an appeal to man's reason and moral sense. Hence, the Qur'an explicitly mentions people's "objections" to a prophet "who eats food [like ordinary mortals] and goes about in the market-places" (25:7; see also note 16 on 25:20).

 

Qur’an – consistent (i.e., free of inner contradictions)

 

4:82 Will they not, then, try to understand this Qur'an? Had it issued from any but God, they would surely have found in it many an inner contradiction! (97)

97 I.e., the fact that it is free of all inner contradictions – in spite of its having been revealed gradually, over a period of twenty-three years – should convince them that it has not been "composed by Muhammad" (an accusation frequently levelled against him not only by his contemporaries but also by non-believers of later times), but could only have originated from a supra-human source.

 

Qur’an – convincing, and fulfilling an old promise

 

17:107 Behold, those who are already (130) endowed with [innate] knowledge fall down upon their faces in prostration as soon as this [divine writ] is conveyed unto them, (17:108) and say, "Limitless in His glory is our Sustainer! Verily, our Sustainer's promise has been fulfilled!" (131)

130 Lit., "before it" – i.e., before the Qur'an as such has come within their ken.

 

131 This may be an allusion to the many Biblical predictions of the advent of the Prophet Muhammad, especially to Deuteronomy xviii, 15 and 18 (cf. surah 2, note 33). In its wider sense, however, the "fulfilment of God's promise" relates to His bestowal of a definitive revelation, the Qur'an, henceforth destined to guide man at all stages of his spiritual, cultural and social development.

 

Qur’an – divinely inspired

16:103 whereas this is Arabic speech, clear [in itself] and clearly showing the truth [of its source].

For an explanation of this composite rendering of the descriptive term mubin, see surah 12, note 2. 'the term is used here to stress the fact that no human being – and certainly no non-Arab – could ever have produced the flawless, exalted Arabic diction in which the Qur'an is expressed.

 

Qur’an – full of wisdom

 

(36:2) Consider this Qur'an full of wisdom: (36:3) verily, thou [Muhammad] art indeed one of God's message-bearers, (2) (36:4) pursuing a straight way (36:5) by [virtue of] what is being bestowed from on high by the Almighty, the Dispenser of Grace, (3)

 

2 This statement explains the adjurative particle wa (rendered by me as "Consider") at the beginning of the preceding verse – namely: "Let the wisdom apparent in the Qur'an serve as an evidence of the fact that thou art an apostle of God". As regards my rendering of al-qur'an al-hakim as "this Qur'an full of wisdom", see note 2 on 10:1.

 

3 Cf. 34:50 – "if I am on the right path, it is but by virtue of what my Sustainer reveals unto me".

 

Qur’an – inimitable

 

17:88 Say: "If all mankind and all invisible beings would come together with a view to producing the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce its like even though they were to exert all their strength in aiding one another!" (17:89) For, indeed, many facets have We given in this Qur'an to every kind of lesson [designed] for [the benefit of] mankind!

 

 

Qur’an – its messages should be pondered in humble realization that their understanding requires insight

 

38:29 [All this have We expounded in this] blessed divine writ which We have revealed unto thee, [O Muhammad,] so that men may ponder over its messages, and that those who are endowed with insight may take them to heart.

 

Sahih International: [This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.

 

Pickthall: (This is) a Scripture that We have revealed unto thee, full of blessing, that they may ponder its revelations, and that men of understanding may reflect.

 

Yusuf Ali: (Here is) a Book which We have sent down unto thee, full of blessings, that they may mediate on its Signs, and that men of understanding may receive admonition.

 

Shakir: (It is) a Book We have revealed to you abounding in good that they may ponder over its verses, and that those endowed with understanding may be mindful.

 

Muhammad Sarwar: It is a blessed Book which We have revealed for you so that you will reflect upon its verses and so the people of understanding will take heed.

 

Mohsin Khan: (This is) a Book (the Quran) which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its Verses, and that men of understanding may remember.

 

Arberry: A Book We have sent down to thee, Blessed, that men possessed of minds may ponder its signs and so remember.

 

 

 

Qur’an – its truth and purport will gradually dawn on us

 

(38:87) [SAY O Prophet]: "This [divine writ], behold, is no less than a reminder to all the worlds – (38:88) and you will most certainly grasp its purport after a lapse of time!"

 

Sahih International: And you will surely know [the truth of] its information after a time.

 

Pickthall: And ye will come in time to know the truth thereof.

 

Yusuf Ali: "And ye shall certainly know the truth of it (all) after a while."

 

Muhammad Sarwar: You will certainly know its truthfulness after a certain time.

 

Mohsin Khan: "And you shall certainly know the truth of it after a while."

 

 

Qur’an – repeating truths in manifold forms

 

39:23 God bestows from on high (27) the best of all teachings in the shape of a divine writ fully consistent within itself, repeating each statement [of the truth] in manifold forms (28) – [a divine writ] whereat shiver the skins of all who of their Sustainer stand in awe: [but] in the end their skins and their hearts do soften at the remembrance of [the grace of] God. ... Such is God's guidance: He guides therewith him that wills [to be guided] (29) – whereas he whom God lets go astray can never find any guide. (30)

 

27 Lit., "has been bestowing from on high", i.e., step by step. The verbal form nazzala indicates both gradualness and continuity in the process of divine revelation and may, therefore, be appropriately rendered by the use of the present tense.

 

28 This is the most acceptable meaning, in this context, of the term mathani (pl. of mathna), as explained by Zamakhshari in his commentary on the above verse. Another possible meaning, preferred by Razi, is "pairing its statements", i.e., referring to the polarity stressed in all Qur'anic teachings (e.g., command and prohibition, duties and rights, reward and punishment, paradise and hell, light and darkness, the general and the specific, and so forth). As regards the inner consistency of the Qur'an, see also 4:82 and 25:32, as well as the corresponding notes.

 

29 Or: "He guides therewith whomever He wills", either of these two formulations being syntactically correct.

 

30 See note 4 on 14:4.

 

Qur’an – revealed over a long time period

 

25:32 Now they who are bent on denying the truth are wont to ask, "Why has not the Qur'an been bestowed on him from on high in one single revelation?" (26) [It has been revealed] in this manner so that We might strengthen thy heart thereby – for We have so arranged its component parts that they form one consistent whole. (27) – (25:33) and [that] they [who deny the truth] might never taunt thee with any deceptive half-truth (28) without Our conveying to thee the [full] truth and [providing thee] with the best explanation. (29)

26 Lit., "in one piece" or "as one statement" (jumlatan wahidatan) – implying, in the view of the opponents of Islam, that the gradual, step-by-step revelation of the Qur'an points to its having been "composed" by Muhammad to suit his changing personal and political requirements.

 

27 I.e., free of all inner contradictions (cf. 4:82). See also 39:23, where the Qur'an is spoken of as "fully consistent within itself". The concise phrase rattalnahu tartilan comprises the parallel concepts of "putting the component parts [of a thing] together and arranging them well" as well as "endowing it with inner consistency". Inasmuch as full consistency and freedom from contradictions in a message spread over twenty-three years of a life as full of movement and drama as that of the Prophet does give a clear indication of its God-inspired quality, it is bound to strengthen the faith of every thinking believer: and herein lies, according to the Qur'an itself, the deepest reason. for its slow, gradual revelation. (When applied to the reciting of the Qur'an – as in 73:4 – the term tartil refers to the measured diction and the thoughtful manner in which it ought to be enunciated.)

 

28 Lit., "come to thee with a parable (mathal)" – i.e., with all manner of seemingly plausible parabolic objections (exemplified in verses 7-8, 21 and 32 of this surah as well as in many other places in the Qur'an) meant to throw doubt on Muhammad's claim to prophethood and, hence, on the God-inspired character of the Qur'anic message.

 

29 Sc., "of the problem or problems involved": an allusion to the self-explanatory character of the Qur'an. Throughout this section (verses 30-34) the personal pronoun "thou" (in the forms "thy" and "thee") relates not only to the Prophet but also to every one of his followers at all times.

 

Qur’an – revealed step by step

 

3:3 Step by step has He bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, (2)

2 The gradualness of the Qur'anic revelation is stressed here by means of the grammatical form nazzala.

Qur’an – source of eminence

 

43:43 So hold fast to all that has been revealed to thee: for, behold, thou art on a straight way; (43:44) and, verily, this [revelation] shall indeed become [a source of] eminence for thee and thy people: (36) but in time you all will be called to account [for what you have done with it]. (37)

 

36 For the above rendering of dhikr as "[a source of] eminence", see first half of note 13 on 21:10 (found in this compendium under Divine writ).

 

37 The meaning is that on the Day of Judgment all prophets will be asked, metaphorically, as to what response they received from their people (cf. 5:109), and those who professed to follow them will be called to account for the spiritual and social use they made – or did not make – of the revelation conveyed to them: and thus, the "eminence" promised to the followers of Muhammad will depend on their actual behaviour and not on their mere profession of faith.

 

Qur’an – to be read in its entirety

 

20:114 [Know,] then, [that) God is sublimely exalted. the Ultimate Sovereign, the Ultimate Truth: (99) and [knowing this,] do not approach the Qur'an in haste, (100) ere it has been revealed unto thee in full, but [always] say: "O my Sustainer, cause me to grow in knowledge!" (101)

 

 

See also: Qur’an – to be seen as its own commentary.

Note 99 is found in this compendium under Truth, ultimate.

 

100 Lit., "be not hasty with the Qur'an" (see next note).

 

101 Although it is very probable that – as most of the classical commentators point out – this exhortation was in the first instance addressed to the Prophet Muhammad, there is no doubt that it applies to every person, at all times, who reads the Qur'an. The idea underlying the above verse may be summed up thus: Since the Qur'an is the Word of God, all its component parts – phrases, sentences, verses and surahs – form one integral, coordinated whole (cf. the last sentence of 25:32 and the corresponding note 27). Hence, if one is really intent on understanding the Qur'anic message, one must beware of a "hasty approach" – that is to say, of drawing hasty conclusions from isolated verses or sentences taken out of their context – but should, rather, allow the whole of the Qur'an to be revealed to one's mind before attempting to interpret single aspects of its message. (See also 75:16-19 and the corresponding notes.)

 

Qur’an – to be seen as its own commentary

 

75:16 MOVE NOT thy tongue in haste, [repeating the words of the revelation:] (6) (75:17) for, behold, it is for Us to gather it [in thy heart,] and to cause it to be read [as it ought to be read]. (7) (75:18) Thus, when We recite it, follow thou its wording [with all thy mind]: (8) (75:19) and then, behold, it will be for Us to make its meaning clear. (9)

 

 

See also: Qur’an – to be read in its entirety.

6 Lit., "Move not thy tongue therewith so that thou might hasten it" – the pronoun undoubtedly referring to the contents of revelation. In order to understand this parenthetic passage (verses 16-19) more fully, one should read it side by side with the related passage in 20:114, together with the corresponding note 101. Both these passages are in the first instance addressed to the Prophet, who is said to have been afraid that he might forget some of the revealed words unless he repeated them at the very moment of revelation; but both have also a wider import inasmuch as they apply to every believer who reads, listens to or studies the Qur'an. In 20:114 we are told not to draw hasty – and therefore potentially erroneous – conclusions from isolated verses or statements of the Qur'an, since only the study of the whole of its message can give us a correct insight. The present passage, on the other hand, lays stress on the need to imbibe the divine writ slowly, patiently, to give full thought to the meaning of every word and phrase, and to avoid the kind of haste which is indistinguishable from mechanical glibness, and which, moreover, induces the person who reads, recites or listens to it to remain satisfied with the mere beautiful sound of the Qur'anic language without understanding – or even paying adequate attention to – its message.

 

7 I.e., "it is for Us to make thee remember it and to cause it to be read with mind and heart". As pointed out in the preceding note, the Qur'an can be understood only if it is read thoughtfully, as one integral whole, and not as a mere collection of moral maxims, stories or disjointed laws.

 

8 Lit., "follow thou its recitation", i.e., its message as expressed in words. Since it is God who reveals the Qur'an and bestows upon man the ability to understand it, He attributes its "recitation" to Himself.

 

9 I.e., if the Qur'an is read "as it ought to be read" (see note 7 above), it becomes – as stressed by Muhammad Abduh – "its own best commentary".

 

Qur’an versus poetry

 

36:69 AND [thus it is:] We have not imparted to this [Prophet the gift of] poetry, nor would [poetry] have suited this [message]: (38) it is but a reminder and a [divine] discourse, clear in itself and clearly showing the truth, (39) (36:70) to the end that it may warn everyone who is alive [of heart], and that the word [of God] may bear witness (40) against all who deny the truth.

 

38 This passage resumes the theme enunciated in the opening verses of this surah, namely, the revelation of the Qur'an. As in 26:224, we have here an allusion to the allegation of Muhammad's opponents, in his own as well as in later times, that what he described as divine revelation was in reality an outcome of his own poetic invention. This the Qur'an refutes by alluding to the fundamental difference between poetry – especially Arabic poetry – and divine revelation as exemplified by the Qur'an: whereas in the former the meaning is often subordinated to the rhythm and the melody of language, in the Qur'an the exact opposite is the case, inasmuch as here the choice of words, their sound and their position in the sentence – and, hence, its rhythm and melody – are always subordinated to the meaning intended. (Cf. also 26: 225 and the corresponding note 100.)

 

39 For this composite rendering of the adjective mubin, see surah 12, note 2. Literally, the above phrase reads, "a reminder and a [divine] discourse ..., etc., with the conjunctive particle wa ("and") being used here, as in 15:1, to point out that the Qur'an is an integral element in the process of divine revelation.

 

40 Lit., "may come [or "be proved"] true", i.e., on the Day of Judgment (cf. verse 7 of this surah).

 

Qur'an – will

cease to be of benefit to people who have lost their moral virtues and their faith

 

32:23 AND, INDEED, [O Muhammad,] We did vouchsafe revelation unto Moses [as well]: so be not in doubt of [thy] having met with the same [truth in the revelation vouchsafed to thee). (18) And [just as] We caused that [earlier revelation] to be a guidance for the children of Israel, (32:24) and [as] We raised among them leaders who, so long as they bore themselves with patience and had sure faith in Our messages, guided [their people] in accordance with Our behest (19) – [so, too, shall it be with the divine writ revealed unto thee, O Muhammad]. (20)

18 With this passage the discourse returns to the theme enunciated at the beginning of this surah – namely, the divine origin of the revelation granted to Muhammad, which, as the present passage points out, proceeds from the same source as that granted to Moses (the last of the great apostles of God accepted as such by all the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Furthermore, the identity of the fundamental truths in all divine revelations, stressed in the above verse, implies an identity of the moral demands made of the followers of those revelations irrespective of period, race or social environment.

 

19 I.e., in accordance with the divine ordinances enunciated in and for their time in the Torah: an allusion to the decline of faith, frequently mentioned in the Qur'an, among the children of Israel of later times, and the tendency among many of their leaders and learned men to corrupt the text of the Torah and, thus, to "overlay the truth with falsehood" (see, e.g., 2:42, 75, 79, and the corresponding notes).

 

20 This interpolation reflects Zamakhshari's commentary on the above passage, to the effect that the Qur'an is destined to provide guidance and light so long as the community's religious leaders are patient in adversity and steadfast in their faith: an interpretation which implies that the Qur'an will cease to be of benefit to people who have lost their moral virtues and their faith.

 

 

6. God’s relationship with mankind

God is gracious and merciful. He is calling us to recognise Him as the ultimate source of all that exists, as well as the ultimate source of all truth. And therefore, He asks us to surrender ourselves unto Him. He will lead us on the right path if we allow Him to, but He will not in any way force us.

 

Keywords

Qur’an quote

Notes and comments

Best conformation

 

(95:4) Verily, We create man in the best conformation; (2) (95:5) and thereafter We reduce him to the lowest of low (3) (95:6) excepting only such as attain to faith and do good works: and theirs shall be a reward unending! (95:7) What, then, [O man,] could henceforth cause thee to give the lie to this moral law? (4) (95:8) Is not God the most just of judges?

 

2 I.e., endowed with all the positive qualities, physical as well as mental, corresponding to the functions which this particular creature is meant to perform. The concept of "the best conformation" is related to the Qur'anic statement that everything which God creates, including the human being or self (nafs), is "formed in accordance with what it is meant to be" (see 91:7 and the corresponding note 5, as well as in a more general sense – 87:2 and note 1). This statement does not in any way imply that all human beings have the same "best conformation" in respect of their bodily or mental endowments: it implies simply that irrespective of his natural advantages or disadvantages, each human being is endowed with the ability to make the, for him, best possible use of his inborn qualities and of the environment to which he is exposed. (See in this connection 30:30 and the corresponding notes, especially 27 and 28.)

 

3 This "reduction to the lowest of low" is a consequence of man's betrayal – in another word, corruption – of his original, positive disposition: that is to say, a consequence of man's own doings and omissions. Regarding the attribution, by God, of this "reduction" to His Own doing, see note 7 on 2:7.

 

4 I.e., to the validity of the moral law – which, to my mind, is the meaning of the term din in this context – outlined in the preceding three verses. (For this specific significance of the concept of din, see note 3 on 109:6.) The above rhetorical question has this implication: Since the moral law referred to here has been stressed in the teachings of all monotheistic religions (cf. verses 1-3 and note 1 above), its truth ought to be self-evident to any unprejudiced person; its negation, moreover, amounts to a negation of all freedom of moral choice on man's part and, hence, of justice on the part of God, who, as the next verse points out, is – by definition – "the most just of judges".

 

Bond with God

2:27 [the iniquitous,] who break their bond with God after it has been established [in their nature], (19) and cut asunder what God has bidden to be joined, and spread corruption on earth: these it is that shall be the losers.

 

 

See also:

·         Nafs – the human self.

·         Covenant; insight; true faith.

19 The "bond with God" (conventionally translated as "God's covenant") apparently refers here to man's moral obligation to use his inborn gifts – intellectual as well as physical – in the way intended for them by God. The "establishment" of this bond arises from the faculty of reason which, if properly used, must lead man to a realization of his own weakness and dependence on a causative power and, thus, to a gradual cognition of God's will with reference to his own behaviour. This interpretation of the "bond with God" seems to be indicated by the fact that there is no mention of any specific "covenant" in either the preceding or the subsequent verses of the passage under consideration. The deliberate omission of any explanatory reference in this connection suggests that the expression "bond with God" stands for something that is rooted in the human situation as such, and can, therefore, be perceived instinctively as well as through conscious experience: namely, that innate relationship with God which makes Him "closer to man than his neck-vein"(50:16). For an explanation of the subsequent reference to "what God has bidden to be joined", see surah 13, note 43.

 

Borderline of faith

 

22:11 And there is, too, among men many a one who worships God on the border-line [of faith]: (8) thus, if good befalls him, he is satisfied with Him; but if a trial assails him, he turns away utterly, (9) losing [thereby both] this world and the life to come: [and] this, indeed, is a loss beyond compare. (10)

 

22:12 [By behaving thus,] he invokes, instead of God, something that can neither harm nor benefit him: (11) [and] this is indeed the utmost one can go astray. (12) (22:13) [And sometimes] he invokes [another human being –] one that is far more likely to cause harm than benefit: vile, indeed, is such a patron, and vile the follower! (13)

8 I.e., wavering between belief and disbelief, and not really committed to either.

 

9 Lit., "he turns about on his face" the "face" (wajh) of man signifying metonymically his whole being.

 

10 Lit., "the [most] obvious loss".

 

11 By failing to commit himself unreservedly to the faith which he professes, man is often inclined to attribute to all manner of extraneous forces, be they real or imaginary, a decisive "influence" on his own destiny, and thus invests them, as it were, with divine qualities.

 

12 Lit., "this, this (dhalika huwa) is the straying far-away". For an explanation of my paraphrase, see note 25 on the last sentence of 14:18.

 

13 The interpolation of "another human being" in the opening clause of this verse is necessitated by the relative pronoun man ("one that" or "who"), which almost always relates to an animate person – in this case, a human being who, by allowing himself to be idolized by those who "worship God on the border-line of faith", causes infinite spiritual harm to himself and to his followers.

 

Covenant; insight; true faith

13:19 CAN, THEN, he who knows that whatever has been bestowed from on high upon thee by thy Sustainer is the truth, be deemed equal to one who is blind? Only they who are endowed with insight keep this in mind: (13:20) they who are true to their bond with God and never break their covenant; (42) (13:21) and who keep together what God has bidden to be joined, (43) and stand in awe of their Sustainer and fear the most evil reckoning [which awaits such as do not respond to Him]; (13:22) and who are patient in adversity out of a longing for their Sustainer's countenance, and are constant in prayer, and spend on others, secretly and openly, out of what We provide for them as sustenance, and [who] repel evil with good. (44)

 

 

Confer 24:22 and the corresponding note 27.

 

 

See also:

·         Nafs – the human self.

·         Bond with God.

 

 

42 The "covenant" is, in this context, a general term embracing the spiritual obligations arising from one's faith in God and the moral and social obligations, resulting from that faith, towards one's fellow-men (Zamakhshari) – I see in this connection the first sentence of 5:1 (where the term 'aqd is used) and the corresponding note 1. As regards my rendering of 'ahd Allah as "bond with God", see surah 2, note 19.

 

43 This refers to all ties arising from human relationships – e.g., the bonds of family, responsibility for orphans and the poor, the mutual rights and duties of neighbours – as well as the spiritual and practical bonds which ought to exist between all who belong to the brotherhood of Islam (cf. 8:75 and the corresponding notes). In its widest sense, the phrase "what God has bidden to be joined" applies to the spiritual obligation, on the part of man, to remain conscious of the unity of purpose underlying all of God's creation, and hence – according to Razi – man's moral duty to treat all living beings with love and compassion.

 

44 Some of the commentators take this to mean that "if they have committed a sin, they repel it [i.e., its effect] by repentance" (Ibn Kaysan, as quoted by Zamakhshari), while others think that the "repelling" connotes the doing of a good deed in atonement of a – presumably unintentional – bad deed (Razi), or that it refers to endeavours to set evil situations to rights by word or deed (an alternative interpretation mentioned by Zamakhshari). But the great majority of the classical commentators hold that the meaning is "they repay evil with good"; thus Al-Hasan al-Basra (as quoted by Baghawi, Zamakhshari and Razi): "When they are deprived [of anything], they give; and when they are wronged, they forgive." Tabari's explanation is very similar: "They repel the evil done to them by doing good to those who did it"; and "they do not repay evil with evil, but repel it by [doing] good". See also 41:34-36.

 

Devotion, utter

 

73:8 But [whether by night or by day,] remember thy Sustainer's name, and devote thyself unto Him with utter devotion.

 

 

Doubts, toying with

 

(44:9) Nay, but they [who lack inner certainty] are but toying with their doubts. (7)

 

 

See also:

·         Follow not the crowd.

·         God – always warning man (and thus calling every one of us unto Himself).

·         Inner certainty.

·         Self-deception.

 

7 Lit., "are toying in doubt": i.e., their half-hearted admission of the possibility that God exists is compounded of doubt and irony (Zamakhshari) – doubt as to the proposition of God's existence, and an ironical amusement at the idea of divine revelation.

 

Ethics, perverted by “revelations” having sources other than God

 

42:21 Is it that they [who care for no more than this world] believe in forces supposed to have a share in God's divinity, (25) which enjoin upon them as a moral law something that God has never allowed? (26)

 

 

Sahih International: Or have they other deities who have ordained for them a religion to which Allah has not consented?

 

Muhammad Sarwar: Do they have idols who have established a religion without the permission of God?

 

25 Lit., "Is it that they have partners [of God]" – i.e., "do they believe that circumstantial phenomena like wealth, power, 'luck', etc.., have something divine about them?" – the implication being that belief in such "forces" is usually at the root of men's pursuance of exclusively worldly ends. (For my above explanatory rendering of the term shuraka' – lit., "partners" or "associates" [of God] – see note 15 on 6:22.)

 

26 I.e., which cause them to abandon themselves with an almost religious fervour to something of which God disapproves – namely, the striving after purely materialistic goals and a corresponding disregard of all spiritual and ethical values. For my rendering of din, in this context, as "moral law", see note 3 on 109:6.

 

Excuses for not believing

 

46:11 But they who are bent on denying the truth speak thus of those who have attained to faith: "If this [message] were any good, these [people] would not have preceded us in accepting it!" (13) And since they refuse to be guided by it, they will always say, "This (14) is [but] an ancient falsehood!"

 

13 Lit., "towards it". Almost all of the classical commentators assume that this refers, specifically, to the contempt with which the pagan Quraysh looked down upon the early followers of Muhammad, most of whom came from the poorest, lowliest strata of Meccan society. However, the above "saying" has undoubtedly a timeless import inasmuch as the poor and lowly have always been among the first to follow a prophet. Moreover, it may also have a bearing on our times as well, inasmuch as the materially powerful nations, whom their technological progress has blinded to many spiritual verities, are increasingly contemptuous of the weakness of those civilizations in which religion still plays an important, albeit largely formalistic, role; and so, not realizing that this very formalism and the ensuing cultural sterility, and not religious faith as such, is the innermost cause of that weakness, they attribute it to the influence of religion per se, saying as it were, "If religion were any good, we would have been the first in holding on to it" – thus "justifying" their own materialistic attitude and their refusal to be guided by spiritual considerations.

 

14 I.e., the concept of divine revelation as such, as is evident from the subsequent reference to the revelation of Moses.

 

Faith – what it really implies

 

42:52 And thus, too, (54) [O Muhammad,] have We revealed unto thee a life-giving message, (55) [coming] at Our behest.

 

[Ere this message came unto thee,] thou didst not know what revelation is, nor what faith [implies]: (56) but [now] We have caused this [message] to be a light, whereby We guide whom We will of Our servants, and, verily, [on the strength thereof] thou, too, shalt guide [men] onto the straight way – (42:53) the way that leads to God, to whom all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth belongs.

 

Oh, verily, with God is the beginning and the end of all things! (57)

 

54 I.e., in all the three ways mentioned in the preceding verse.

 

55 The term ruh (lit., "spirit" or "soul") has in the Qur'an often the meaning of "divine inspiration" (see surah 16, note 2). In the present context, it evidently denotes the contents of the divine inspiration bestowed on the Prophet Muhammad, i.e., the Qur'an (Tabari, Zamakhshari, Razi, Ibn Kathir), which is meant to lead man to a more intensive spiritual life: hence my above rendering.

 

56 I.e., that the very concept of "faith" implies man's complete self-surrender (islam) to God.

 

57 Lit., "unto God do all things (al-umur) pursue their course": i.e., all things go back to Him as their source, and from His will depends the course which they take (Baydawi).

 

Empty formalism

 

57:27 And thereupon We caused [other of] Our apostles to follow in their footsteps; and [in the course of time] We caused them to be followed by Jesus, the son of Mary, upon whom We bestowed the Gospel; (46) and in the hearts of those who [truly] followed him We engendered compassion and mercy. But as for monastic asceticism (47) – We did not enjoin it upon them: they invented it themselves out of a desire for God's goodly acceptance. (48) But then, they did not [always] observe it as it ought to have been observed: (49) and so We granted their recompense unto such of them as had [truly] attained to faith, whereas many of them became iniquitous. (50)

 

46 See surah 3, note 4.

 

47 The term rahbaniyyah combines the concepts of monastic life with an exaggerated asceticism, often amounting to a denial of any value in the life of this world – an attitude characteristic of early Christianity but disapproved of in Islam (cf. 2:143 – "We have willed you to be a community of the middle way" – and the corresponding note 118).

 

48 Or: "they invented it themselves, [for] We did not enjoin it upon them: [We enjoined upon them] only the seeking of God's goodly acceptance". Both these interpretations are equally legitimate, and are accepted as such by most of the classical commentators. The rendering adopted by me corresponds to the interpretation given by Sa'id ibn Jubayr and Qatadah (both of them cited by Tabari and Ibn Kathir).

 

49 I.e., not all of them observed it in the right spirit (Tabari, Zamakhshari, Iba Kathir), inasmuch as in the course of time many of them – or, rather, many of those who came after the early ascetics (Tabari) – corrupted their devotions by accepting the ideas of Trinity and of God's incarnation in Jesus, and by lapsing into empty formalism (Razi).

 

50 Sc., "and were deprived of Our grace".

 

Faith, the purpose of

 

57:16 IS IT NOT time that the hearts of all who have attained to faith should feel humble at the remembrance of God and of all the truth that has been bestowed [on them] from on high, (22) lest they become like those who were granted revelation aforetime, (23) and whose hearts have hardened with the passing of time so that many of them are [now] depraved? (24) 57:17 [But] know that God gives life to the earth after it has been lifeless! (25) We have indeed made Our messages clear unto you, so that you might use your reason.

 

22 I.e., "Should not the remembrance of God and His revelation make them humble rather than proud?" This is an emphatic warning against all smugness, self-righteousness and false pride at having "attained to faith" – a failing which only too often attains to such as consider themselves "pious".

 

23 This is apparently an allusion to the spiritually arrogant among the Jews, who regard themselves as "God's chosen people" and, therefore, as predestined for His acceptance.

 

24 I.e., so that now they act contrary to the ethical precepts of their religion: implying that the purpose of all true faith is to make man humble and God-conscious rather than self-satisfied, and that a loss of that spiritual humility invariably results in moral degeneration.

 

25 According to most of the commentators – and, particularly, Zamakhshari, Razi and Ibn Kathir this is a parabolic allusion to the effect of a re-awakening of God-consciousness in hearts that had become deadened by self-satisfaction and false pride.

 

Fitrah (original disposition, natural constitution, innate nature)

 

(7:172) AND WHENEVER thy Sustainer brings forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam, He [thus] calls upon them to bear witness about themselves: "Am I not your Sustainer?" – to which they answer: "Yea, indeed, we do bear witness thereto!" (139)

 

139 In the original, this passage is in the past tense ("He brought forth", "He asked them", etc.), thus stressing the continuous recurrence of the above metaphorical "question" and "answer": a continuity which is more clearly brought out in translation by the use of the present tense. According to the Qur'an, the ability to perceive the existence of the Supreme Power is inborn in human nature (fitrah); and it is this instinctive cognition – which may or may not be subsequently blurred by self-indulgence or adverse environmental influences – that makes every sane human being "bear witness about himself" before God. As so often in the Qur'an, God's "speaking" and man's "answering" is a metonym for the creative act of God and of man's existential response to it.

 

Follow not the crowd

 

45:18 And, finally, (17) [O Muhammad,] We have set thee on a way by which the purpose [of faith] may be fulfilled: (18) so follow thou this [way], and follow not the likes and dislikes of those who do not know [the truth]. (19) (45:19) Behold, they could never be of any avail to thee if thou wert to defy the will of God (20) – for, verily, such evildoers are but friends and protectors of one another, whereas God is the Protector of all who are conscious of Him.

 

45:20 This [revelation, then,] (21) is a means of insight for mankind, and a guidance and grace unto people who are endowed with inner certainty.

 

 

See also:

·         Doubts, toying with.

·         God – always warning man (and thus calling every one of us unto Himself).

·         Inner certainty.

·         Self-deception.

 

 

17 Lit., "thereafter" or "in the end" (thumma) – i.e., after the failure of the earlier communities to realize the ideal purpose of faith in their actual mode of life.

 

18 Lit., "on a way of the purpose [of faith]": see note 15 above. It is to be borne in mind that the literal meaning of the term shari'ah is "the way to a watering-place", and since water is indispensable for all organic life, this term has in time come to denote a "system of laws", both moral and practical, which shows man the way towards spiritual fulfilment and social welfare: hence, "religious law" in the widest sense of the term. (See in this connection note 66 on the second part of 5:48.)

 

19 I.e., who are not – or not primarily – motivated by God-consciousness and, hence, are swayed only by what they themselves regard as "right" in accordance with worldly, changing circumstances.

 

20 Lit., "against [i.e., "in defiance of"] God".

 

21 I.e., the Qur'an, which unfolds to man the purpose of all faith.

 

Forgiveness

17:25 Your Sustainer is fully aware of what is in your hearts. If you are righteous, [He will forgive you your errors]: for, behold, He is much-forgiving to those who turn unto Him again and again.

 

 

Free will

 

36:67 And had it been Our will [that they should not be free to choose between right and wrong], We could surely have given them a different nature (35) [and created them as beings rooted] in their places, so that they would not be able to move forward, and could not turn back. (36)

 

35 Lit., "transformed [or "transmuted"] them".

 

36 I.e., if it had been God's will that men should have no freedom of will or moral choice, He would have endowed them from the very beginning with a spiritually and morally stationary nature, entirely rooted in their instincts ("in their places"), devoid of all urge to advance, and incapable either of positive development or of retreat from a wrong course.

 

Fulfilment in life

20:1 O MAN!(1) (20:2) We did not bestow the Qur'an on thee from on high to make thee unhappy,(2) (20:3) but only as an exhortation to all who stand in awe [of God]: (20:4) a revelation from Him who has created the earth and the high heavens – (20:5) the Most Gracious, established on the throne of His almightiness.(3)

 

2 I.e., the ethical discipline imposed upon man by the teachings of the Qur'an is not meant to narrow down his feel of life, but, on the contrary, to enhance it by deepening his consciousness of right and wrong.

 

3 For my rendering of the metaphorical term al-'arsh as "the throne of His almightiness", see note 43 on 7:54.

Future, (belongs to the God-conscious)

 

Surah 11

11:49 Be, then, [like Noah,] patient in adversity – for, behold, the future belongs to the God-conscious!

 

Confer 20:132, 28:83.

 

Surah 6

6:134 Verily, that [reckoning] which you are promised is bound to come, and you cannot elude it! (6:135) Say: "O my [unbelieving] people! Do yet all that may be within your power, [while] I, behold, shall labour [in God's way]; and in time you will come to know to whom the future belongs. (118) Verily, never will evildoers attain to a happy state!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note on Surah 6

118 Lit., "to whom the [happy] end of the abode shall belong". The term "abode" (dar) is used in the Qur'an with reference to both the life of this world (dar ad-dunya) and the life to come (dar al-akhirah). Most of the commentators are of the opinion that it refers here to the life to come; Zamakhshari, however, relates it to life on earth. Since either of these interpretations is agreeable with the text, I have chosen the above rendering which comprises both.

Godlessness, consequences of

(16:26) Those who lived before them did, too, devise many a blasphemy (19) – whereupon God visited with destruction all that they had ever built, (20) [striking] at its very foundations, so that the roof fell in upon them from above (21) and suffering befell them without their having perceived whence it came.

19 Lit., "schemed" (makara): i.e., they blasphemed by describing the divine revelations as "fables of ancient times" and by refusing to admit the truth of God's existence or of His oneness and uniqueness.

 

20 Lit., "their building" (see next note).

 

21 This is obviously a metaphor (Razi) describing the utter collapse of all endeavours – both individual and social – rooted in godlessness and false pride.

 

God – our only source of light and guidance

 

24:40 Or [else, their deeds (60) are] like the depths of darkness upon an abysmal sea, made yet more dark by wave billowing over wave, with [black] clouds above it all: depths of darkness, layer upon layer, (61) [so that when one holds up his hand, he can hardly see it: for he to whom God gives no light, no light whatever has he!

 

60 I.e., their bad deeds, as contrasted with their good deeds, which in the preceding verse have been likened to a mirage.

 

61 Lit., "one above another".

 

 

The Study Quran comments thus on 24:40 (italics in original): The three kinds of darkness mentioned here – the sea, the waves, the clouds – are interpreted [by some of the classical commentators] to be the darkness of one’s heart, one’s sight, and one’s hearing (R); see 2:7c for the notion of hearts and spiritual faculties being sealed or covered. […] That the disbeliever can hardly see his hand suggests that human beings can never be left in total darkness, and the light of guidance is available as long as they are still alive.

 

God’s blessings – in this life, and in the life to come

 

8:2 Believers are only they whose hearts tremble with awe whenever God is mentioned, and whose faith is strengthened whenever His messages are conveyed unto them,; and who in their Sustainer place their trust – (8:3) those who are constant in prayer and spend on others out of what We provide for them as sustenance (4) (8:4) it is they, they who are truly believers! Theirs shall be great dignity in their Sustainer's sight, and forgiveness of sins, and a most excellent sustenance. (5)

 

4 See surah 2, note 4.

 

5 I.e., in paradise. According to Razi, however, the "most excellent sustenance" is a metonym

for "the spiritual raptures arising from the knowledge of God, the love of Him, and the self-immersion (istighraq) in worshipping Him". In Razi's interpretation, this expression refers to the spiritual reward of faith in this world. Some commentators (cf. Manar IX, 597) regard the above definition of true believers as the most important passage of this surah. – The phrase rendered by me as "theirs shall be great dignity" reads, literally, "they shall have degrees", namely, of excellence and dignity.

God’s compassion

 

2:143 God is most compassionate towards man, a dispenser of grace.

 

 

Sahih International: Indeed Allah is, to the people, Kind and Merciful.

 

Pickthall: for Allah is Full of Pity, Merciful toward mankind.

 

Yusuf Ali: For Allah is to all people Most surely full of kindness, Most Merciful.

 

Mohsin Khan: Truly, Allah is full of kindness, the Most Merciful towards mankind.

 

Arberry: truly, God is All-gentle with the people, All-compassionate.

 

 

 

God’s grace (holding people accountable for conscious wrongdoings only)

 

6:131 And so it is that thy Sustainer would never destroy a community (116) for its wrongdoing so long as its people are still unaware [of the meaning of right and wrong]: (6:132) for all shall be judged according to their [conscious] deeds (117) – and thy Sustainer is not unaware of what they do.

116 Lit., "communities". The term qaryah (lit., "town", "village" or "land") denotes also the people of a town or land – in short, a "community" – and it is in this sense that this term is mostly, though not always, used in the Qur'an.

 

117 Lit., "all shall have grades out of what they did", i.e., consciously – since God does not take people to task for any wrong they may have committed unless it was done in conscious contravention of a moral law already made clear to them by the prophets.

 

God’s guidance I

 

14:4 AND NEVER have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a message] in his own people's tongue, so that he might make [the truth] clear unto them; (3) but God lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides him that wills [to be guided] – for He alone is almighty, truly wise. (4)

 

Confer 24:46, 28:56.

 

 

See also:

·         Christianity and other faiths based on earlier revelations.

·         Heart, deafness and blindness of.

 

3 Since every divine writ was meant to be understood by man, it is obvious that each had to be formulated in the language of the people whom the particular prophet was addressing in the first instance; and the Qur'an – notwithstanding its universal import (cf. note 126 on 7:158) – is no exception in this respect.

 

4 Or: "God lets go astray whomever He wills, and guides whomever He wills". All Qur'anic references to God's "letting man go astray" must be understood against the background of 2:26-27 – "none does He cause to go astray save the iniquitous, who break their bond with God" (regarding which latter expression, see surah 2, note 19): that is to say, man's "going astray" is a consequence of his own attitudes and inclinations and not a result of an arbitrary "predestination" in the popular sense of this word (cf. surah 2, note 7). In his commentary on the above verse, Zamakhshari stresses this aspect of free choice on the part of man and points out that

"God does not cause anyone to go astray except one who, as He knows, will never attain to faith; and He does not guide anyone aright except one who, as He knows, will attain to faith. Hence, the [expression] 'causing to go astray' denotes [God's] leaving [one] alone (takhliyah) and depriving [him] of all favour, whereas [the expression] 'guidance' denotes [His] grant of fulfilment (tawfiq) and favour. ... Thus, He does not forsake anyone except those who deserve to be forsaken, and does not bestow His favour upon anyone except those who deserve to be favoured."

 

Commenting on the identical phrase occurring in 16:93, Zamakhshari states:

"[God] forsakes him who, as He knows, will [consciously] choose to deny the truth and will persevere in this [denial]; and ... He bestows His favour upon him who, as He knows, will choose faith: which means that He makes the issue dependent on [man's] free choice (al ikhtiyar), and thus on his deserving either [God's] favour or the withdrawal of [His] aid ... and does not make it dependent on compulsion [i.e., predestination], which would rule out [man's] deserving anything of the above."

 

God’s guidance II

 

19:58 THESE WERE some of the prophets upon whom God bestowed His blessings – [prophets] of the seed of Adam and of those whom We caused to be borne [in the ark] with Noah, and of the seed of Abraham and Israel: and [all of them were] among those whom We had guided and elected;

 

 

God’s guidance III

19:76 And God endows those who avail themselves of [His] guidance with an ever-deeper consciousness of the right way; (64) and good deeds, the fruit whereof endures forever, are, in thy Sustainer's sight, of far greater merit [than any worldly goods], and yield far better returns.

 

64 Lit., "God increases in guidance those who ...", etc.

God’s guidance IV

 

(20:123) [...] None the less, there shall most certainly come unto you guidance from Me: and he who follows My guidance will not go astray, and neither will he be unhappy.

 

 

God’s Light, parable of

 

24:35 God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is, as it were, (50) that of a niche containing a lamp; the lamp is [enclosed] in glass, the glass [shining] like a radiant star: (51) [a lamp] lit from a blessed tree – an olive-tree that is neither of the east nor of the west (52) – the oil whereof [is so bright that it] would well-nigh give light [of itself] even though fire had not touched it: light upon light! (53) God guides unto His light him that wills [to be guided]; (54) and [to this end] God propounds parables unto men, since God [alone] has full knowledge of all things. (55)

 

Confer 24:46.

50 The particle ka ("as if" or "as it were") prefixed to a noun is called kaf at-tashbih ("the letter kaf pointing to a resemblance [of one thing to another]" or "indicating a metaphor"). In the above context it alludes to the impossibility of defining God even by means of a metaphor or a parable – for, since "there is nothing like unto Him" (42:11), there is also "nothing that could be compared with Him" (112:4). Hence, the parable of "the light of God" is not meant to express His reality – which is inconceivable to any created being and, therefore, inexpressible in any human language but only to allude to the illumination which He, who is the Ultimate Truth, bestows upon the mind and the feelings of all who are willing to be guided. Tabari, Baghawi and Ibn Kathir quote Ibn 'Abbas and Ibn Mas'ud as saying in this context: "It is the parable of His light in the heart of a believer."

 

51 The "lamp" is the revelation which God grants to His prophets and which is reflected in the believer's heart – the "niche" of the above parable (Ubayy ibn Ka'b, as quoted by Tabari) – after being received and consciously grasped by his reason ("the glass [shining brightly] like a radiant star"): for it is through reason alone that true faith can find its way into the heart of man.

 

52 It would seem that this is an allusion to the organic continuity of all divine revelation which, starting like a tree from one "root" or proposition – the statement of God's existence and uniqueness – grows steadily throughout man's spiritual history, branching out into a splendid variety of religious experience, thus endlessly widening the range of man's perception of the truth. The association of this concept with the olive-tree apparently arises from the fact that this particular kind of tree is characteristic of the lands in which most of the prophetic precursors of the Qur'anic message lived, namely, the lands to the east of the Mediterranean: but since all true revelation flows from the Infinite Being, it is "neither of the east nor of the west" – and especially so the revelation of the Qur'an, which, being addressed to all mankind, is universal in its goal as well.

 

53 The essence of the Qur'anic message is described elsewhere as "clear [in itself] and clearly showing the truth" (cf. note 2 on 12:1); and it is, I believe, this aspect of the Qur'an that the above sentence alludes to. Its message gives light because it proceeds from God; but it "would well-nigh give light [of itself] even though fire had not touched it": i.e., even though one may be unaware that it has been "touched by the fire" of divine revelation, its inner consistency, truth and wisdom ought to be self-evident to anyone who approaches it in the light of his reason and without prejudice.

 

54 Although most of the commentators read the above phrase in the sense of "God guides unto His light whomever He wills", Zamakhshari gives it the sense adopted in my rendering (both being syntactically permissible).

 

55 I.e., because of their complexity, certain truths can be conveyed to man only by means of parables or allegories: see notes 5 and 8 on 3:7.

 

God’s messages – called into question only by those who are bent on denying the truth

 

40:4 NONE BUT THOSE who are bent on denying the truth would call God's messages in question. But let it not deceive thee that they seem to be able to do as they please on earth

 

 

Yusuf Ali: None can dispute about the Signs of Allah but the Unbelievers. Let not, then, their strutting about through the land deceive thee!

 

OJA: Asad renders the word "bent" in italics when quoting verse 4 in his introduction to Surah 40; hence my use of italics in the heading here.

 

God’s messages – God’s wonders

 

(30:46) for among His wonders is this: He sends forth [His messages as He sends forth] the winds that bear glad tidings, (42) so that He might give you a taste of His grace [through life-giving rains], and that ships might sail at His behest, and that you might go about in quest of some of His bounties, and that you might have cause to be grateful.

 

42 The mention of God's messages, interpolated by me between brackets, is justified by the verses which precede and follow this passage. Moreover, it is only by means of such an interpolation that the symbolic purport of the above reference to "the winds that bear glad tidings" can be made fully obvious.

God’s Own fire – God’s own light (which bestows illumination)

 

(27:8) But when he (Moses) came close to it, a call was sounded: "Blessed are all who are within [reach of] this fire, and all who are near it! (7) And limitless in His glory is God, the Sustainer of all the worlds!"

7 Thus Zamakhshari explains the expression hawlaha (lit., "around it"). According to some of the earliest commentators, quoted by Tabari, the "fire" (nar) is in this context synonymous with "light" (nur), namely, the illumination which God bestows on His prophets, who – one may presume – are a priori "near it" by virtue of their inborn spiritual sensitivity. Alternatively, the phrase man fi 'n-nar wa-man hawlaha may be understood as referring to God's Own light, which encompasses, and is the core of, all spiritual illumination.

 

God’s spirit – breathed into man

 

32:7 Thus, He begins the creation of man out of clay; (7) (32:8) then He causes him to be begotten (8) out of the essence of a humble fluid; (32:9) and then He forms him in accordance with what he is meant to be, and breathes into him of His spirit: (9) and [thus, O men,] He endows you with hearing, and sight, and feelings as well as minds: (10)

7 Cf. note 4 on 23:12. In view of the next verse, this "beginning" of man's creation seems to allude to the basic composition of the human body as such, as well as to each individual's pre-natal existence in the separate bodies of his parents.

 

8 Lit., "He caused [i.e., as pointed out in note 6 above, "He causes"] his procreation [or "his begetting"] to be out of ..., etc.

 

9 As in 15:29 and 38:72, God's "breathing of His spirit into man" is a metaphor for the divine gift of life and consciousness, or of a "soul" (which, as pointed out in surah 4, note 181, is one of the meanings of the term ruh). Consequently, "the soul of every human being is of the spirit of God" (Razi). Regarding the verb sawwahu – rendered by me as "He forms him in accordance with what he is meant to be" – see note 1 on 87:2 and note 5 on 91:7.

 

10 Lit., "hearts" (af'idah), which in classical Arabic is a metonym for both "feelings" and "minds"; hence my composite rendering of this term.

 

Confer Asad’s note on Surah 21

87 […] As a matter of fact, the Qur'an uses the same expression in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general – namely in 15:29 and 38:72, "when I have formed him ... and breathed into him of My spirit"; and in 32:9, "and thereupon He forms [lit., "formed"] him fully and breathes lit., "breathed"] into him of His spirit". In particular, the passage of which the last-quoted phrase is a part (i.e., 32:7-9) makes it abundantly and explicitly clear that God "breathes of His spirit" into every human being.

 

God, unto whom there are many ways of ascent

 

(70:3) [...] God, unto whom there are many ways of ascent: (3)

 

 

Pickthall: Lord of the Ascending Stairways.

 

Yusuf Ali: Lord of the Ways of Ascent.

 

3 Lit., "He of the [many] ascents": a metonymical phrase implying that there are many ways by which man can "ascend" to a comprehension of God's existence, and thus to spiritual "nearness" to Him – and that, therefore, it is up to each human being to avail himself of any of the ways leading towards Him (cf. 76:3).

 

God with us

 

Surah 8

(8:12) Lo! Thy Sustainer inspired the angels [to convey this His message to the believers]: "I am with you!" (13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 5

5:12 And God said: "Behold, I shall be with you [i.e., the children of Israel]! If you are constant in prayer, and spend in charity, and believe in My apostles and aid them, and offer up unto God a goodly loan, (23) I will surely efface your bad deeds and bring you into gardens through which running waters flow. But he from among you who, after this, denies the truth, will indeed have strayed from the right path!"

 

Surah 20

20:45 The two [brothers] said: "O our Sustainer! Verily, we fear lest he act hastily with regard to us, (29) or lest he [continue to] transgress all bounds of equity." 20:46 Answered He: "Fear not! Verily, I shall be with you two, hearing and seeing [all]. (20:47) Go, then; you two unto him and say, 'Behold, we are apostles sent by thy Sustainer: let, then, the children of Israel go with us, and cause them not to suffer [any longer]. (30) We have now come unto thee with a message from thy Sustainer; and [know that His] peace shall be [only] on those who follow [His] guidance: (20:48) for, behold, it has been revealed to us that [in the life to come] suffering shall befall all who give the lie to the truth and turn away [from it]!'"

 

Surah 26

26:15 Said He: "Not so, indeed! Go forth, then, both of you, with Our messages: verily, We shall be with you, listening [to your call]!

 

[…]

 

(26:60) And so [the Egyptians] caught up with them at sunrise; (26:61) and as soon as the two hosts came in sight of one another, the followers of Moses exclaimed: "Behold, we shall certainly be overtaken [and defeated]!" 26:62 He replied: "Nay indeed! My Sustainer is with me, [and] He will guide me!" […] (26:67) In this [story], behold, there is a message [unto all men], even though most of them will not believe [in it]. (26:68) And yet, verily, thy Sustainer – He alone – is almighty, a dispenser of grace!

 

 

Surah 57

57:3 He is the First and the Last, (1) and the Outward as well as the Inward: (2) and He has full knowledge of everything. (57:4) He it is who has created the heavens and the earth in six aeons, and is established on the throne of His almightiness. (3) He knows all that enters the earth, and all that comes out of it, as well as all that descends from the skies, and all that ascends to them. (4) And He is with you wherever you may be; and God sees all that you do.

 

Note on Surah 8

13 The phrase "I am with you" is addressed (through the angels) to the believers – "for, the purport of these words was the removal of fear, since it was the Muslims, and not the angels, who feared the deniers of the truth" (Razi).

 

Confer these two Biblical verses:

 

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

 

Mathew 1:23 (NIV) "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us").

 

 

Note on Surah 5

23 I.e., by doing righteous deeds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes on Surah 57

1 I.e., His Being is eternal, without anything preceding His existence and without anything outlasting its infinity: an interpretation given by the Prophet himself, as recorded in several well authenticated Traditions. Thus, "time" itself – a concept beyond man's understanding – is but God's creation.

 

2 I.e., He is the transcendental Cause of all that exists and, at the same time, immanent in every phenomenon of His creation – cf. the oft-repeated Qur'anic phrase (e.g., in verse 5), "all things go back unto God [as their source]"; in the words of Tabari, "He is closer to everything than anything else could be". Another – perhaps supplementary – rendering could be, "He is the Evident as well as the Hidden": i.e., "His existence is evident (zahir) in the effects of His activity, whereas He Himself is not perceptible (ghayr mudrak) to our senses" (Zamakhshari).

 

3 Cf. the identical phrase in 7:54 and the corresponding note 43.

 

4 See 4 note 1 on 34:2.

 

Grace and love

11:90 Hence, ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him in repentance – for, verily, my Sustainer is a dispenser of grace, a fount of love!

 

 

Gradually finding one’s way to the truth

10:19 And had it not been for a decree – that had already gone forth from thy Sustainer, all their differences would indeed have been settled [from the outset]. (29)

 

 

See also: Revelation, step by step.

 

29 […] Since, however, such a uniformity would have precluded men's intellectual, moral and social development, God has left it to their reason, aided by prophetic guidance, gradually to find their way to the truth.

 

 

Grieved (be not)

10:65 And be not grieved by the sayings of those [who deny the truth]. Behold, all might and glory belong to God alone: He alone is all-hearing, all-knowing.

 

 

Guidance (i.e., having received understanding from God)

 

2:143 those whom God has guided aright. (120)

 

 

Shakir: ... those whom Allah has guided aright

 

Muhammad Sarwar: ... those to whom God has given guidance.

 

120 I.e., "whom He has given understanding" (Razi). ...

 

Hanif (inclining towards truth and that which is right)

2:135 Say: "Nay, but [ours is] the creed of Abraham, who turned away from all that is false, (110) and was not of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God."

 

 

Sahih International: Abraham, inclining toward truth, and he was not of the polytheists.

 

Pickthall: Abraham, the upright, and he was not of the idolaters.

 

Yusuf Ali: Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah.

 

 

Confer 16:120, 123.

 

 

See also: Truth, men and women of.

 

 

110 The expression hanif is derived from the verb hanafa, which literally means "he inclined [towards a right state or tendency]" (cf. Lane II, 658). Already in pre-Islamic times, this term had a definitely monotheistic connotation, and was used to describe a man who turned away from sin and worldliness and from all dubious beliefs, especially idol-worship; and tahannuf denoted the ardent devotions, mainly consisting of long vigils and prayers, of the unitarian God-seekers of pre-Islamic times.

 

 

Health, physical

 

Said [Abraham]: (26:77) "Now [as for me, I know that,] verily, these [false deities] are my enemies, [and that none is my helper] save the Sustainer of all the worlds, (26:78) who has created me and is the One who guides me, (26:79) and is the One who gives me to eat and to drink, (26:80) and when I fall ill, is the One who restores me to health, (26:81) and who will cause me to die and then will bring me back to life – (26:82) and who, I hope, will forgive me my faults on Judgment Day!

 

 

Surah 41

41:44 Say: "Unto all who have attained to faith, this [divine writ] is a guidance and a source of health; but as for those who will not believe in their ears is deafness, and so it remains obscure to them: they are [like people who are) being called from too far away." (38)

 

 

Confer 16:69.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note on Surah 41

38 Lit., "from a far-off place": i.e., they only hear the sound of the words, but cannot understand their meaning.

Health, spiritual

 

17:82 THUS, step by step, We bestow from on high through this Qur'an all that gives health [to the spirit] and is a grace unto those who believe [in Us], the while it only adds to the ruin of evildoers: (98) (17:83) for [it often happens that] when We bestow Our blessings upon man, he turns away and arrogantly keeps aloof [from any thought of Us]; and when evil fortune touches him, he abandons all hope.

 

(27:77) and, verily, it [i.e., The Qur’an] is a guidance and a grace unto all who believe [in it].

 

 

See also: Health, physical.

 

98 By "evildoers" are meant people who, out of self-conceit or an excessive "love of this world"; reject out of hand any suggestion of divine guidance – and, with it, any belief in the existence of absolute moral values – and in the end, as the sequence shows, fall prey to spiritual nihilism.

Hearts – peace and rest for the hearts of the believers (as opposed to those who are bent on denying the truth, and who prefer to go astray)

13:27-29 NOW THOSE who are bent on denying the truth [of the Prophet's message] say, "Why has no miraculous sign ever been bestowed upon him from on high by his Sustainer?" (49) Say: "Behold, God lets go astray him who wills [to go astray] (50), So just as He guides unto Himself all who turn unto Him – (13:28) those who believe, and whose hearts find their rest in the remembrance of God – for, verily, in the remembrance of God [men's] hearts do find their rest –: (13:29) [and so it is that] they who attain to faith and do righteous deeds are destined for happiness [in this world] and the most beauteous of all goals [in the life to come]!"

 

49 See verse 7 of this surah and the corresponding note 16. The repetition of this question at this place points to its connection with the reference to "those who break their bond with God after it has been established [in their nature]" in verse 25 above (elucidated in note 19 on 2:27). The abandonment of their original, innate faculty to realize the existence of God and their own dependence on His guidance – caused by their utter immersion in the passing pleasures of this world's life – makes it impossible for "those who are bent on denying the truth" to sense the breath of the divine in the message propounded to them by Muhammad: and so they refuse to accept it as true unless it is supported by an outward "miracle". (See in this connection note 94 on 6:109.)

 

50 Or: "God lets go astray whomever He wills". Regarding the rendering adopted by me, see surah 14, note 4.

 

Hidden knowledge and understanding

 

19:64 ...unto Him belongs all that lies open before us [i.e., the angels] and all that is hidden – from us and all that is in-between. (50)

 

50 I.e., that which even the angels can only glimpse but not fully understand.

Human soul, illumination of

 

17:78 BE CONSTANT in [thy] prayer from the time when the sun has passed its zenith till the darkness of night, and [be ever mindful of its] recitation at dawn: (95) for, behold, the recitation [of prayer] at dawn is indeed witnessed [by all that is holy]. (96)

96 Most of the classical commentators take this to mean "witnessed by the angels of night as well as those of day", since dawn is the time between night and day. Razi, however, is of the opinion that the "witness" to which the Qur'an refers here is the spark of God-given illumination in man's own soul – the heightening of his inner perception at the time when the darkness and stillness of night begins to give way to the life-giving light of day, so that prayer becomes a means of attaining to deeper insight into the realm of spiritual truths and, thus, of achieving communion with all that is holy.

 

Humility and inner purity

 

23:1 TRULY, to a happy state shall attain the believers: (23:2) those who humble themselves in their prayer, (23:3) and who turn away from all that is frivolous, (23:4) and who are intent on inner purity; (1) (23:5) and who are mindful of their chastity, (2) (23:6) [not giving way to their desires] with any but their spouses – that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock] –: (3) for then, behold, they are free of all blame, (23:7) whereas such as seek to go beyond that [limit) are truly transgressors; (23:8) and who are faithful to their trusts and to their pledges, (23:9) and who guard their prayers [from all worldly intent].

 

23:10 It is they, they who shall be the inheritors (23:11) that will inherit the paradise; [and) therein shall they abide.

 

1 Lit., "working for" or "active in behalf of [inner] purity", which is the meaning of zakah in this context (Zamakhshari; the same interpretation has been advanced by Abu Muslim).

 

2 Lit., "who guard their private parts"

 

3 Lit., "or those whom their right hands possess" (aw ma malakat aymanuhum). Most of the commentators assume unquestioningly that this relates to female slaves, and that the particle aw ("or") denotes a permissible alternative. This conventional interpretation is, in my opinion, inadmissible inasmuch as it is based on the assumption that sexual intercourse with one's female slave is permitted without marriage: an assumption which is contradicted by the Qur'an itself (see 4:3, 24, 25 and 24:32, with the corresponding notes). Nor is this the only objection to the above-mentioned interpretation. [...]

Hypocrites

 

29:10 [...] Is not God fully aware of what is in the hearts of all creatures? 29:11 [Yea –] and most certainly will God mark out those who have [truly] attained to faith, and most certainly will He mark out the hypocrites. (7)

 

 

Confer 63:1-8.

 

7 This is probably the earliest occurrence of the term munafiq in the chronology of Qur'anic revelation. Idiomatically, the term is derived from the noun nafaq, which denotes an "underground passage" having an outlet different from the entry, and signifying, specifically, the complicated burrow of a field-mouse, a lizard, etc., from which the animal can easily escape or in which it can outwit a pursuer. Tropically, the term munafiq describes a person who is "two-faced", inasmuch as he always tries to find an easy way out of any real commitment, be it spiritual or social, by adapting his course of action to what promises to be of practical advantage to him in the situation in which he happens to find himself. Since a person thus characterized usually pretends to be morally better than he really is, the epithet munafiq may roughly be rendered as "hypocrite". It should, however, be noted that whereas this Western term invariably implies conscious dissembling with the intent to deceive others, the Arabic term munafiq may also be applied – and occasionally is applied in the Qur'an to a person who, being weak or uncertain in his beliefs or moral convictions, merely deceives himself. Hence, while using in my rendering of the Qur'anic text the conventional expression "hypocrite", I have endeavoured to point out the above differentiation, whenever possible and necessary, in my explanatory notes.

 

Hypocrisy – a sure way to earn God’s wrath

 

48:6 And [God has willed] to impose suffering [in the life to come] on the hypocrites, both men and women, and on those who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, both men and women: all who entertain evil thoughts about God. (6)

 

6 I.e., who deny His existence or man's responsibility to Him, or offend against the concept of His oneness.

Ignorance – know and respect your own limitations; be humble

17:36 And never concern thyself with anything of which thou hast no knowledge: (45) verily, [thy] hearing and sight and heart – all of them – will be called to account for it [on Judgment Day]!

(45) Or: "do not follow [or "pursue"] anything ...", etc. This would seem to relate to groundless assertions about events or people (and hence to slander or false testimony), to statements based on guesswork unsupported by evidence, or to interfering in social situations which one is unable to evaluate correctly.

 

Ignorance followed by repentance

16:119: And once again: Behold, thy Sustainer [shows mercy] to those who do evil out of ignorance and afterwards repent and live righteously: behold, after such [repentance] thy Sustainer is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

 

 

Inherit the earth

21:105-106 AND, INDEED, after having exhorted [man], We laid it down in all the books of divine wisdom that My righteous servants shall inherit the earth: (101) herein, behold, there is a message for people who [truly] worship God.

101 Zabar (lit., "scripture" or "book") is a generic term denoting any "book of wisdom": hence, any and all of the divine scriptures revealed by God to the prophets [Tabari]. The statement that "My righteous servants shall inherit the earth" is obviously an echo of the promise, "You are bound to rise high if you are (truly] believers" (3:139) – the implication being that it is only through faith in God and righteous behaviour on earth that man can reach the heights envisaged for him by his Creator's grace.

 

Inner certainty

 

45:3 Behold, in the heavens as well as on earth there are indeed messages for all who [are willing to] believe. (2) (45:4) And in your own nature, and in [that of] all the animals which He scatters [over the earth] there are messages for people who are endowed with inner certainty. (3)

 

45:5 And in the succession of night and day, and in the means of subsistence (4) which God sends down from the skies, giving life thereby to the earth after it had been lifeless, and in the change of the winds: [in all this] there are messages for people who use their reason.

 

 

See also:

·         Doubts, toying with.

·         Follow not the crowd.

·         God – always warning man (and thus calling every one of us unto Himself).

·         Self-deception.

 

2 Cf. 2:164, where the term ayat has been rendered by me in the same way, inasmuch as those visible signs of a consciously creative Power convey a spiritual message to man.

 

3 Cf. 7:185 and the corresponding note 151. – The intricate structure of human and animal bodies, and the life-preserving instincts with which all living creatures have been endowed, make it virtually impossible to assume that all this has developed "by accident"; and if we assume, as we must, that a creative purpose underlies this development, we must conclude, too, that it has been willed by a conscious Power which creates all natural phenomena in accordance with an inner truth" (see note 11 on 10:5).

 

4 I.e., rain, with the symbolic connotation of physical and spiritual grace often attached to it in the Qur'an.

 

Inner strength and vision

 

38:45 AND CALL to mind Our servants Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, [all of them] endowed with inner strength and vision: (38:46) for, verily, We purified them by means of a thought most pure: the remembrance of the life to come. (42) (38:47) And, behold, in Our sight they were indeed among the elect, the truly good! 38:48 And call to mind Ishmael and Elisha, (43) and every one who [like them] has pledged himself [unto Us]: (44) for, each of them was of the truly good!

 

42 Lit., "of the [final] abode".

 

43 Al-Yasa' in Arabic – the Biblical prophet who succeeded Elijah (see surah 37, note 48).

 

44 For an explanation of this rendering of dhu'l-kifl, see surah 21, note 81.

Intellectual approach, differing in

 

10:19 And had it not been for a decree – that had already gone forth from thy Sustainer, all their differences would indeed have been settled [from the outset]. (29)

29 Lit., "it would indeed have been decided between them regarding all that they were differing in": i.e., had it not been for God's decree – which is the meaning, in this context, of the term kalimah (lit., "word") – that men should differ in their intellectual approach to the problems touched upon by divine revelation, "they would not have contended with one another after having received all evidence of the truth", but would all have held from the very outset, and would continue to hold, the same views (cf. 2:253 and the corresponding note 245). Since, however, such a uniformity would have precluded men's intellectual, moral and social development, God has left it to their reason, aided by prophetic guidance, gradually to find their way to the truth. (See also surah 2, note 198.) The above parenthetic passage must be read in conjunction with 2:213.

 

Intellectual insight

 

19:43 [Abraham spoke [thus] unto his father:] "O my father! Behold, there has indeed come to me [a ray] of knowledge such as has never yet come unto thee: (32) follow me, then; I shall guide thee onto a perfect way."

 

32 I.e., a cognition of God's existence and uniqueness through intellectual insight (cf. 6:74-82).

Intellectual quality and progressive realization

 

21:51 AND, INDEED, long before [the time of Moses] We vouchsafed unto Abraham his consciousness of what is right; (59) and We were aware of [what moved] him (21:52) when he said unto his father and his people, "What are these images to which you are so intensely devoted?"

59 The possessive pronoun "his" affixed to the noun rushd (which, in this context, has the meaning of "consciousness of what is right") emphasizes the highly personal, intellectual quality of Abraham's progressive realization of God's almightiness and uniqueness (cf. 6:74-79 as well as note 69 on 6:83); while the expression min qabl – rendered by me as "long before [the time of Moses]" – stresses, once again, the element of continuity in man's religious insight and experience.

 

Jesus

 

Surah 19

19:20 Said she: "How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me? – for, never have I been a loose woman!" (19:21) [The angel] answered: "Thus it is; [but] thy Sustainer says, 'This is easy for Me; (15) and [thou shalt have a son,] so that We might make him a symbol unto mankind and an act of grace from Us.'" (16)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 21

21:91 AND [remember] her who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit (87) and caused her, together with her son, to become a symbol [of Our grace] Unto all people. (88)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 23:

(23:50) And [as We exalted Moses, so, too,] We made the son of Mary and his mother a symbol [of Our grace], (25)

 

Notes on Surah 19

15 (omitted here).

 

16 One of the several meanings of the term dyah is "a sign" or, as elaborately defined by Raghib. "a symbol" (cf. surah 17, note 2). However, the sense in which it is most frequently used in the Qur'an is "a [divine] message": hence, its metonymic application to Jesus may mean that he was destined to become a vehicle of God's message to man – i.e., a prophet – and, thus, a symbol of God's grace. – As regards the words "thou shalt have a son" interpolated by me between brackets, a statement to this effect is implied in the subsequent phrase beginning with "so that" (Zamakhshari and Razi).

 

 

Notes to Surah 21

87 This allegorical expression, used here with reference to Mary's conception of Jesus, has been widely – and erroneously – interpreted as relating specifically to his birth. As a matter of fact, the Qur'an uses the same expression in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general – namely in 15:29 and 38:72, "when I have formed him ... and breathed into him of My spirit"; and in 32:9, "and thereupon He forms [lit., "formed"] him fully and breathes lit., "breathed"] into him of His spirit". In particular, the passage of which the last-quoted phrase is a part (i.e., 32:7-9) makes it abundantly and explicitly clear that God "breathes of His spirit" into every human being. Commenting on the verse under consideration, Zamakhshari states that "the breathing of the spirit [of God] into a body signifies the endowing it with life": an explanation with which Razi concurs. (In this connection, see also note 181 on 4:171.) As for the description of Mary as allati ahsanat farjaha; idiomatically denoting "one who guarded her chastity" (lit., "her private parts"), it is to be borne in mind that the term ihsan – lit., "[one's] being fortified [against any danger or evil]" – has the tropical meaning of "abstinence from what is unlawful or reprehensible" (Taj al-'Arus), and especially from illicit sexual intercourse, and is applied to a man as well as a woman: thus, for instance, the terms muhsan and muhsanah are used elsewhere in the Qur'an to describe, respectively, a man or a woman who is "fortified [by marriage] against unchastity". Hence, the expression allati ahsanat farjaha, occurring in the above verse as well as in 66:12 with reference to Mary, is but meant to stress her outstanding chastity and complete abstinence, in thought as well as in deed, from anything unlawful or morally reprehensible: in other words, a rejection of the calumny (referred to in 4:156 and obliquely alluded to in 19:27-28) that the birth of Jesus was the result of an "illicit union".

 

88 For my rendering of the term ayah as "symbol", see surah 17, note 2, and surah 19, note 16 (the latter is included above, here in this compilation).

 

 

Note on Surah 23:

25 For my rendering of ayah, in this instance, as "symbol", see surah 19, note 16. Jesus and his mother Mary are mentioned here specifically because they, too, had to suffer persecution and slander at the hands of "those who were bent on denying the truth".

 

Judgment according to gravity of sins

 

Please refer to:

·         Self-destruction.

·         Heart, deafness and blindness of.

 

 

 

Judgment belongs to God alone

 

Surah 26

(26:112) Said he [i.e., Noah]: "And what knowledge could I have as to what they were doing [before they came to me]? (26:113) Their reckoning rests with none but my Sustainer: if you could but understand [this]! (50) (26:114) Hence, I shall not drive away [any of those [who profess to be] believers; (26:115) I am nothing but a plain warner."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 68

68:44 Hence, leave Me alone with such as give the lie to this tiding. (23)

 

 

See also: Kafir.

 

Note on Surah 26

50 This is obviously a retort to the unbelievers' suggestion (elliptically implied here) that those "abject" followers of Noah had declared their faith in him, not out of conviction, but only in order to gain some material advantages. Noah's answer embodies a cardinal principle of Qur'anic ethics and, hence, of Islamic Law: No human being has the right to sit in judgment on another person's faith or hidden motives; whereas God knows what is in the hearts of men, society may judge only by external evidence (az-zahir), which comprises a person's words as well as deeds. Thus, if anyone says, "I am a believer", and does not act or speak in a manner contradicting his professed faith, the community must consider him a believer.

 

 

Note on Surah 68

23 I.e., to divine revelation in general, and to the tiding of resurrection and judgment, in particular – the implication being that God alone has the right to decide whether or how to chastise them.

 

Justice, do not deviate from

 

5:8 O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone (19) lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do.

 

19 Lit., "of people".

Kafir

 

Surah 2

2:6 BEHOLD, as for those who are bent on denying the truth (6) – it is all one to them whether thou warnest them or dost not warn them: they will not believe. (2:7) God; has sealed their hearts and their hearing, and over their eyes is a veil; (7) and awesome suffering awaits them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 74

74:8 And [warn all men that] when the trumpet-call [of resurrection] is sounded, (9) that very Day shall be a day of anguish, (10) not of ease, for all who [now] deny the truth! (4)

 

74:11 LEAVE Me alone [to deal] with him whom I have created alone, (5)

 

Notes on Surah 2

6 In contrast with the frequently occurring term al-kafirun ("those who deny the truth"), the use of the past tense in alladhina kafaru indicates conscious intent, and is, therefore, appropriately rendered as "those who are bent on denying the truth". This interpretation is supported by many commentators, especially Zamakhshari (who, in his commentary on this verse, uses the expression, "those who have deliberately resolved upon their kufr"). Elsewhere in the Qur'an such people are spoken of as having "hearts with which they fail to grasp the truth, and eyes with which they fail to see, and ears with which they fail to hear" (7:179). – For an explanation of the terms kufr ("denial of the truth"), kafir ("one who denies the truth"), etc., see note 4 on 74:10, where this concept appears for the first time in Qur'anic revelation.

 

7 A reference to the natural law instituted by God, whereby a person who persistently adheres to false beliefs and refuses to listen to the voice of truth gradually loses the ability to perceive the truth, "so that finally, as it were, a seal is set upon his heart" (Raghib). Since it is God who has instituted all laws of nature – which, in their aggregate, are called sunnat Allah ("the way of God") – this "sealing" is attributed to Him: but it is obviously a consequence of man's free choice and not an act of "predestination". Similarly, the suffering which, in the life to come, is in store for those who during their life in this world have wilfully remained deaf and blind to the truth, is a natural consequence of their free choice – just as happiness in the life to come is the natural consequence of man's endeavour to attain to righteousness and inner illumination. It is in this sense that the Qur'anic references to God's "reward" and "punishment" must be understood.

 

 

Notes on Surah 74

4 Since this is the earliest Qur'anic occurrence of the expression kafir (the above surah having been preceded only by the first five verses of surah 96), its use here – and, by implication, in the whole of the Qur'an – is obviously determined by the meaning which it had in the speech of the Arabs before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad: in other words, the term kafir cannot be simply equated, as many Muslim theologians of post-classical times and practically all Western translators of the Qur'an have done, with "unbeliever" or "infidel" in the specific, restricted sense of one who rejects the system of doctrine and law promulgated in the Qur'an and amplified by the teachings of the Prophet – but must have a wider, more general meaning. This meaning is easily grasped when we bear in mind that the root verb of the participial noun kafir (and of the infinitive noun kufr) is kafara, "he [or "it"] covered [a thing]": thus, in 57:20 the tiller of the soil is called (without any pejorative implication) kafir, "one who covers", i.e., the sown seed with earth, just as the night is spoken of as having "covered" (kafara) the earth with darkness. In their abstract sense, both the verb and the nouns derived from it have a connotation of "concealing" something that exists or "denying" something that is true. Hence, in the usage of the Qur'an – with the exception of the one instance (in 57:20) where this participial noun signifies a "tiller of the soil" – a kafir is "one who denies [or "refuses to acknowledge"] the truth" in the widest, spiritual sense of this latter term: that is, irrespective of whether it relates to a cognition of the supreme truth – namely, the existence of God – or to a doctrine or ordinance enunciated in the divine writ, or to a self-evident moral proposition, or to an acknowledgment of, and therefore gratitude for, favours received. (Regarding the expression alladhina kafaru, implying conscious intent, see surah 2, note 6.)

 

5 Or: "...whom I alone have created". The above sentence can be understood in either of these two senses, depending on whether one relates the expression "alone" (wahid) to God – thus stressing His uniqueness as Creator – or to this particular object of His creation, man, who begins and ends his life in a state of utter loneliness (cf. 6:94 and 19:80 and 95). In either case, our attention is drawn to the fact of man's inescapable dependence on God. Beyond that, the phrase in question carries a further meaning, namely, "Leave it to Me alone to decide what to do with him who forgets that I am his Creator and Sustainer" – thus forbidding any human punishment of "those who deny the truth".

 

Knowledge (innate)

Surah 29

29:49 Nay, but this [divine writ] consists of messages clear to the hearts of all who are gifted with [innate] knowledge (48) – and none could knowingly reject Our messages unless it be such as would do wrong [to themselves].

 

 

Confer 41:3.

 

 

Surah 30

30:21 And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think! (30:22) And among his wonders is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours: for in this, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are possessed of [innate] knowledge!

 

Note on Surah 29

48 Lit., "self-evident (bayyinat) in the breasts of those who have been given knowledge" – the term 'ilm having here the connotation of intuitive, spiritual perception.

Life – rejoice in the life of this world

13:26 GOD GRANTS abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, unto whomever He wills; and they [who are given abundance] rejoice in the life of this world – even though, as compared with the life to come, the life of this world is nought but a fleeting pleasure.

 

 

Life renewed

 

28:85 VERILY, [O believer,] He who has laid down this Qur'an in plain terms, making it binding on thee, (95) will assuredly bring thee back [from death] to a life renewed. (96)

 

95 According to Mujahid (as quoted by Tabari), the phrase farada 'alayka is almost synonymous with a'taka, "He gave [it] to thee". This, however, elucidates only one part of the above complex expression, which, I believe, has here a meaning similar to that of faradnaha ("We laid it down in plain terms") occurring in the first verse of surah 24 (An-Nur) and explained in the corresponding note 1. In the present context, the particle 'alayka ("upon thee"), with its pronominal suffix, gives to the above clause the additional meaning of a moral obligation on the part of the recipient of the Qur'anic message to conform his or her way of life to its teachings; hence my compound rendering of the phrase.

 

96 The term ma'ad denotes, literally, "a place [or "a state"] to which one returns", and, tropically, one's "ultimate destination" or "ultimate condition"; in the present context, it is obviously synonymous with "life in the hereafter". This is how most of the classical authorities interpret the above phrase. But on the vague assumption that this passage is addressed exclusively to the Prophet, some commentators incline to the view that the noun has here a specific, purely physical connotation – "a place of return" – allegedly referring to God's promise to His Apostle (given during or after the latter's exodus from Mecca to Medina) that one day he would return victoriously to the city of his birth. To my mind, however, the passage has a much deeper meaning, unconnected with any place or specific point in history: it is addressed to every believer, and promises not only a continuation of life after bodily death but also a spiritual rebirth, in this world, to anyone who opens his heart to the message of the Qur'an and comes to regard it as binding on himself.

 

Light (versus darkness) – faith and reason

17:12 And We have established the night and the day as two symbols; and thereupon We have effaced the symbol of night and set up [in its place] the light-giving symbol of day, (14) so that […]

 

14 I.e., the message of the Qur'an, which is meant to lead man out of spiritual ignorance and error into the light of faith and reason.

Lying, bent on

 

39:3 [...] God does not grace with His guidance anyone who is bent on lying [to himself (3) and is] stubbornly ingrate!

 

3 Cf. 6:22-24 and the corresponding notes.

Man – taught by God

 

(96:3) Read – for thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One (96:4) who has taught [man] the use of the pen (96:5) taught man what he did not know! (3)

 

96:6 Nay, verily, man becomes grossly overweening (96:7) whenever he believes himself to be self-sufficient: (96:8) for, behold, unto thy Sustainer all must return. (4)

 

3 "The pen" is used here as a symbol for the art of writing or, more specifically, for all knowledge recorded by means of writing: and this explains the symbolic summons "Read!" at the beginning of verses 1 and 3. Man's unique ability to transmit, by means of written records, his thoughts, experiences and insights from individual to individual, from generation to generation, and from one cultural environment to another endows all human knowledge with a cumulative character; and since, thanks to this God-given ability, every human being partakes, in one way or another, in mankind's continuous accumulation of knowledge, man is spoken of as being "taught by God" things which the single individual does not – and, indeed, cannot – know by himself. (This double stress on man's utter dependence on God, who creates him as a biological entity and implants in him the will and the ability to acquire knowledge, receives its final accent, as it were, in the next three verses.) Furthermore, God's "teaching" man signifies also the act of His revealing, through the prophets, spiritual truths and moral standards which cannot be unequivocally established through human experience and reasoning alone: and, thus, it circumscribes the phenomenon of divine revelation as such.

 

4 Lit., "is the return (ar-ruj'a)". This noun has here a twofold implication: "everyone will inescapably be brought before God for judgment", as well as "everything that exists goes back to God as its source". In ultimate analysis, the statement expressed in verses 6-8 rejects as absurd the arrogant idea that man could ever be self-sufficient and, hence, "master of his own fate"; furthermore, it implies that all moral concepts – that is, all discrimination between good and evil, or right and wrong – are indissolubly linked with the concept of man's responsibility to a Supreme Power: in other words, without such a feeling of responsibility – whether conscious or subconscious – the concept of "morality" as such loses all its meaning.

 

Man’s heart – a house of worship

 

(52:2) Consider [God's] revelation, inscribed (52:3) on wide-open scrolls. (2) (52:4) Consider the long-enduring house [of worship]! (3) (52:5) Consider the vault [of heaven] raised high! (52:6) Consider the surf-swollen sea! (4)

 

2 I.e., always open to man's understanding (Razi).

 

3 This is a metonym for the fact that ever since the dawn of human consciousness men have persistently – although often but dimly – realized the existence of God and have tried, spurred on by the continuous, direct revelation granted to His prophets, to come closer to Him through worship. Hence, Baydawi regards the expression al-bayt al-ma'mur as a metaphor for the heart of the believer.

 

4 I.e., "Consider the immensity and wonderful configuration of the visible universe as an evidence of a conscious Creator."

 

Message tremendous

 

38:65 SAY [O Muhammad]: "I am only a warner; and there is no deity whatever save God, the One, who holds absolute sway over all that exists, (38:66) the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, the Almighty, the All-Forgiving!" 38:67 Say: "This is a message tremendous: (38:68) [how can] you turn away from it?"

 

(38:69) [Say, O Muhammad:] "No knowledge would I have had of [what passed among] the host on high when they argued [against the creation of man]; (52) (38:70) had it not been revealed unto me [by God] – to no other end than that I might convey [unto you] a plain warning." (53)

 

52 For the allegorical contention of the angels ("the host on high") against the creation of man, see 2:30 ff. and the corresponding notes 22-24. The allegory of man's creation, of God's command to the angels to "prostrate themselves" before the new creature, and of Iblis' refusal to do so appears in the Qur'an six times (2:30-34, 7:11 ff., 15:28-44, 17:6l-65, 18:50, and 38:69-85), each time with an accent on a different aspect of this allegory. In the present instance (which is undoubtedly the earliest in the chronology of revelation) it is connected with the statement, in 2:31, that God "imparted unto Adam the names of all things", i.e., endowed man with the faculty of conceptual thinking (see note 23 on 2:31) and, thus, with the ability to discern between what is true and what false. Since he possesses this faculty, man has no excuse for not realizing God's existence and oneness – the "message tremendous" – referred to in the preceding passage.

 

53 Lit., "otherwise than that I be (illa annama ana) a plain warner" – i.e., of the prospect of spiritual self-destruction inherent in a wilful disregard of the fact of God's existence and oneness, which is the core of all religious cognition and, hence, of all true prophethood.

 

Mocking that which you cannot (or is unwilling to) understand

 

(45:27) For, God's is the dominion over the heavens and the earth; and on the Day when the Last Hour dawns – on that Day will be lost all who [in their lifetime] tried to reduce to nothing [whatever they could not understand]. (29)

 

[…]

 

45:33 And [on that Day,] the evil of their doings will become obvious to them, and they will be overwhelmed by the very thing which they were wont to deride. (30)

 

45:34 And [the word] will be spoken: "Today We shall be oblivious of you as you were oblivious of the coming of this your Day [of Judgment]; and so your goal is the fire, and you shall have none to succour you: (45:35) this, because you made God's messages the target of your mockery, having allowed the life of this world to beguile you!" (31)

 

 

29 I.e., whatever they could not "prove" by direct observation or calculation. For the above rendering of al-mubtilun, see surah 29, note 47.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Lit., "and that which they were wont to deride will have enfolded them".

 

 

 

 

 

31 Lit., "since the life of this world has beguiled you": implying that this self-abandonment to worldly pursuits was the cause of their scornful disregard of God's messages.

Native tongues – crucial for each human being’s understanding of God’s message

 

19:96 VERILY, those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds will the Most Gracious endow with love: (80) (19:97) and only to this end have We made this [divine writ] easy to understand, in thine own tongue, [O Prophet,] (81) so that thou might convey thereby a glad tiding to the God-conscious, and warn thereby those who are given to [futile] contention: (19:98) for, how many a generation (82) have We destroyed before their time – [and] canst thou perceive any one of them [now], or hear any whisper of them?

 

 

Confer 44:58.

 

80 I.e., bestow on them His love and endow them with the capability to love His creation, as well as cause them to be loved by their fellow-men. As is shown in the next verse, this gift of love is inherent in the guidance offered to man through divine revelation.

 

81 Since man is incapable of understanding the "word" of God as such, it has always been revealed to him in his own, human tongue (cf. 14:4 – "never have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a message] in his own people's tongue"), and has always been expounded in concepts accessible to the human mind: hence the reference to the Prophet's revelations as "brought down upon thy heart" (2:97), or "[divine inspiration] has alighted with it upon thy heart" (26:193-194).

 

82 I.e., civilization – a meaning which the term qarn has also in the identical phrase in verse 74.

 

New heaven, new earth

 

Surah 14

(14:48) [His promise will be fulfilled] on the Day when the earth shall be changed into another earth, as shall be the heavens (63) and when [all men] shall appear before God, the One who holds absolute sway over all that exists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 39

39:69 And the earth will shine bright with her Sustainer's light. (69)

 

Note on Surah 14

63 This is an allusion to the total, cataclysmic change, on the Last Day, of all natural phenomena, and thus of the universe as known to man (cf. 20:105-107 and the corresponding note 90). Since that change will be beyond anything that man has ever experienced or what the human mind can conceive, all the Qur'anic descriptions – in the next two verses as well as in many other places – of what is to happen on that Last Day are, of necessity, expressed in allegorical terms: and this applies also to all descriptions of man's condition, good or bad, in, the life to come. (Cf. note 37 above, relating to the term "parable" often used in the Qur'an.)

 

 

Note on Surah 39

69 I.e., with a clear revelation of His will. See also 14:48, where it is stated that on Resurrection Day "the earth shall be changed into another earth, as shall be the heavens". A further allusion to this transformation (and not annihilation) of the universe is found in 20:105-107.

 

Objects of worship must never be anything else but God and God alone (not even His Temple)

 

22:26 For, when we assigned unto Abraham the site of this Temple, (34) [We said unto him:] "Do not ascribe divinity to aught beside Me!" (35) – and: "Purify My Temple for those who will walk around it, (36) and those who will stand before it [in meditation], and those who will bow down and prostrate themselves [in prayer]."

34 I.e., the Ka'bah: see note 102 on 2:125.

 

35 In view of the oft-repeated Qur'anic statement that Abraham was beyond all temptation to ascribe divinity to anything but God, it seems to me that the above injunction has a specific import, namely, "Do not allow this Temple to become an object of worship, but make it clear that it is holy only by virtue of its being the first temple ever dedicated to the worship of the One God" (cf. 3:96). Apart from that, it refers to "those who are bent on denying the truth" spoken of at the beginning of the preceding verse.

 

36 See surah 2, note 104.

 

Path of God

 

22:25 BEHOLD, as for those who are bent on denying the truth and bar [others] from the path of God (31) and from the Inviolable House of Worship which We have set up for all people alike – [both] those who dwell there and those who come from abroad – and all who seek to profane it (32) by [deliberate] evildoing: [all] such shall We cause to taste grievous suffering [in the life to come.]

 

31 This connects with the allusion, in the preceding verse, to "the way that leads to the One unto whom all praise is due".

 

32 Lit., "who aim therein at a deviation from the right course (ilhad)" – a term which circumscribes every perversion of religious tenets.

Peace

10:25 AND [know that] God invites [man] unto the abode of peace, and guides him that wills [to be guided] onto a straight way.

 

 

Confer 24:46.

 

 

People (each people is cared for and dealt with by God)

 

30;47 And indeed, [O Muhammad, even] before thee did We send forth apostles – each one unto his own people (43) – and they brought them all evidence of the truth: and then, [by causing the believers to triumph,] We inflicted Our retribution upon those who [deliberately] did evil: for We had willed it upon Ourselves to succour the believers.

 

43 Lit., "did We send apostles to their [own] people": see note 96 on 10:74.

Preachers, some responsibilities of theirs

 

26:214 And warn (whomever thou canst reach, beginning with] thy kinsfolk, (93) (26:215) and spread the wings of thy tenderness over all of the believers who may follow thee; (94) (26:216) but if they disobey thee, say, "I am free of responsibility for aught that you may do!" – (26:217) and place thy trust in the Almighty, the Dispenser of Grace, (26:218) who sees thee when thou standest [alone], (95) (26:219) and (sees] thy behaviour among those who prostrate themselves [before Him]: (96) (26:220) for, verily, He alone is all-hearing, all-knowing!

93 A believer is morally obliged to preach the truth to all whom he can reach, but obviously he must begin with those who are nearest to him, and especially those who recognize his authority.

 

94 For an explanation of the metaphorical expression "lower thy wing" rendered by me as "spread the wings of thy tenderness" see 17:24 and the corresponding note 28. The phrase "all of the believers who follow thee" shows that (contrary to the assumption of most of the commentators) the above passage is not addressed to the Prophet – since all who believe in him are, by definition, his followers, and vice versa – but to everyone who chooses to be guided by the Qur'an, and who is herewith called upon to extend his loving kindness and care to all believers who may "follow" him, i.e., who may regard him as spiritually or intellectually superior or more experienced. This interpretation also explains verse 213 above: for whereas the exhortation contained in that verse is meaningful with regard to all who may listen to or read the Qur'an, it would be meaningless with reference to its Prophet, for whom the principle of God's oneness and uniqueness was the unquestionable beginning and end of all truth.

 

95 According to Mujahid (as quoted by Tabari), this means "wherever thou mayest be". Other commentators take it to mean "when thou standest up for prayer", but this seems to be too narrow an interpretation.

 

96 I.e., among the believers. as contrasted with those who "disobey thee" (see verse 216 above).

 

Power on earth

 

24:55 God has promised those of you who have attained to faith and do righteous deeds that, of a certainty, He will cause them to accede to power on earth, (71) even as He caused [some of] those who lived before them to accede to it; and that, of a certainty, He will firmly establish for' them the religion which He has been pleased to bestow on them; (72) and that, of a certainty, He will cause their erstwhile state of fear to be replaced by a sense of security (73) – [seeing that] they worship Me (alone], not ascribing divine powers to aught beside Me. (74) But all who, after [having understood] this, choose to deny the truth – it is they, they who are truly iniquitous!

 

24:56 Hence, [O believers,] be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, (75) and pay heed unto the Apostle, so that you might be graced with God's mercy.

 

 

See also: Nations, rise and fall of.

 

71 Lit., "cause them to be successors on earth" – i.e., enable them to achieve, in their turn, power and security and, thus, the capability to satisfy their worldly needs. This Qur'anic reference to God's "promise" contains an oblique allusion to the God-willed natural law which invariably makes the rise and fall of nations dependent on their moral qualities.

 

72 Cf. 5:3 – "I have willed that self-surrender unto Me (al-islam) shall be your religion". Its "firm establishment" (tamkin) relates to the strengthening of the believers' faith as well as to the growth of its moral influence in the world.

 

73 Lit., "exchange for them, after their fear [or "danger"], security". It is to be noted that the term amn signifies not merely outward, physical security but also – and, indeed, originally – "freedom from fear" (Taj al-'Arus). Hence, the above clause implies not only a promise of communal security after an initial period of weakness and danger (which, as history tells us, overshadows the beginnings of every genuine religious movement), but also the promise of an individual sense of inner security – that absence of all fear of the Unknown which characterizes a true believer. (See next note.)

 

74 I.e., the believer's freedom from fear is a direct outcome of his intellectual and emotional refusal to attribute to anyone or anything but God the power to shape his destiny.

 

75 The specific mention of the "purifying dues" (az-zakah) in this context is meant to stress the element of unselfishness as an integral aspect of true faith. According to Zamakhshari, the above verse connects with, and concludes, verse 54.

 

Prophet Muhammad, foretold by Jesus

 

61:6 And [this happened, too,] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said: "O children of Israel! Behold, I am an apostle of God unto you, [sent] to confirm the truth of whatever there still remains (5) of the Torah, and to give [you] the glad tiding of an apostle who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad." (6) But when he [whose coming Jesus had foretold] came unto them (7) with all evidence of the truth, they said: "This [alleged message of his] is [nothing but] spellbinding eloquence!" (8)

5 Lit., "whatever there is between my hands" – a phrase explained in surah 3, note 3.

 

6 This prediction is supported by several references in the Gospel of St. John to the Parakletos (usually rendered as "Comforter") who was to come after Jesus. This designation is almost certainly a corruption of Periklytos ("the Much-Praised"), an exact Greek translation of the Aramaic term or name Mawhamana. (It is to be borne in mind that Aramaic was the language used in Palestine at the time of, and for some centuries after, Jesus, and was thus undoubtedly the language in which the original – now lost – texts of the Gospels were composed.) In view of the phonetic closeness of Periklytos and Parakletos it is easy to understand how the translator – or, more probably, a later scribe – confused these two expressions. It is significant that both the Aramaic Mawhamana and the Greek Periklytos have the same meaning as the two names of the Last Prophet, Muhammad and Ahmad, both of which are derived from the verb hamida ("he praised") and the noun hamd ("praise"). An even more unequivocal prediction of the advent of the Prophet Muhammad – mentioned by name, in its Arabic form – is said to be forthcoming from the so-called Gospel of St. Barnabas, which, though now regarded as apocryphal, was accepted as authentic and was read in the churches until the year 496 of the Christian era, when it was banned as "heretical" by a decree of Pope Gelasius. However, since the original text of that Gospel is not available (having come down to us only in an Italian translation dating from the late sixteenth century), its authenticity cannot be established with certainty.

 

7 I.e., to the later followers of the Bible.

 

8 Alluding to the Qur'an (see 74:24-25 and the corresponding note 12).

 

Prophet Muhammad, foretold in the Bible

 

7:157 those who shall follow the [last] Apostle, the unlettered Prophet whom they shall find described in the Torah that is with them, and [later on] in the Gospel: (124)

124 The interpolation of the words "later on" before the reference to the Gospel is necessitated by the fact that the whole of this passage is addressed to Moses and the children of Israel, that is, long before the Gospel (in the Qur'anic sense of this term – cf. surah 3, note 4) was revealed to Jesus. The stories of some of the earlier prophets given in this surah – beginning with the story of Noah and ending with that of Moses and the children of Israel – constitute a kind of introduction to this command to follow the "unlettered Prophet", Muhammad. The stress on his having been "unlettered" (ummi), i.e., unable to read and write, serves to bring out the fact that all his knowledge of the earlier prophets and of the messages transmitted by them was due to divine inspiration alone, and not to a familiarity with the Bible as such. For the Old Testament predictions of the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (especially in Deuteronomy xviii, 15 and 18), see surah 2, note 33; for the New Testament prophecies to the same effect, see 61:6 and the corresponding note 6.

 

Purpose, firmness of

 

20:115 AND, INDEED, long ago did We impose Our commandment on Adam; (102) but he forgot it, and We found no firmness of purpose in him.

102 The relevant divine commandment – or, rather, warning – is spelled out in verse 117. The present passage connects with the statement in verse 99, "Thus do We relate unto thee some of the stories of what happened in the past", and is meant to show that negligence of spiritual truths is one of the recurrent characteristics of the human race (Razi), which is symbolized here – as in many other places in the Qur'an – by Adam.

 

Queen of Sheba

 

27:41 (And] he continued: "Alter her throne so that she may not know it as hers: let us see whether she allows herself to be guided [to the truth] or remains one of those who will not be guided." (36) (27:42) And so, as soon as she arrived, she was asked: "Is thy throne like this?" She answered: "It is as though it were the same!" (37)

 

[And Solomon said to his nobles: "She has arrived at the truth without any help from us, (38)] although it is we who have been given [divine] knowledge before her, and have [long ago] surrendered ourselves unto God! (27:43) [And she has recognized the truth] although that which she has been wont to worship instead of God (39) had kept her away [from the right path]: for, behold, she is descended of people who deny the truth!" (40)

 

[After a while] she was told: "Enter this court!" – but when she saw it, she thought that it was a fathomless expanse of water, and she bared her legs. (41) Said he: "Behold, it is [but) a court smoothly paved with glass!" (42) Cried she: "O my Sustainer! I have been sinning against myself [by worshipping aught but Thee]: but (now) I have surrendered myself, with Solomon, unto the Sustainer of all the worlds!"

36 I.e., whether she remains satisfied with perceiving only the outward appearance of things and happenings, or endeavours to fathom their spiritual reality. Seeing that the people of Sheba were, until then, motivated by love of luxury and worldly power, Solomon intends to show the Queen her "throne", or the image of her dominion, as it could be if it were inspired by faith in God and, hence, by a consciousness of moral responsibility.

 

37 Sc., "and yet not quite the same": thus, she expresses doubt – and doubt is the first step in all spiritual progress. She realizes that the "altered throne" is outwardly the same as that which she has left behind; but she perceives intuitively that it is imbued with a spiritual quality which the other did not possess, and which she cannot yet quite understand.

 

38 Thus Tabari, Zamakhshari and Ibn Kathir, on whose interpretation of this passage my rendering and the above interpolation are based.

 

39 An allusion to her and her people's worship of celestial bodies (cf. verses 24-25 and the corresponding notes 20 and 21).

 

40 Lit., "she was [sc., "born"] of people ...", etc. – thus stressing the role of the idolatrous tradition in which she had grown up, and which in the past had made it difficult for her to find the right path. Considering this cultural background, Solomon points out, her awakening at the very moment of her leaving her ancestral environment must be deemed most remarkable and praiseworthy.

 

41 I.e., in order to wade into it, or perhaps to swim through it, thus braving the seemingly fathomless deep: possibly a symbolic indication of the fear which a human being may feel when his own search after truth forces him to abandon the warm, soothing security of his erstwhile social and mental environment, and to venture into the – as yet – unknown realm of the spirit.

 

42 I.e., not a dangerous, bottomless deep, as it appeared at first glance, but, rather, the firm, glass-clear light of truth: and with her perception of the ever-existing difference between appearance and reality, the Queen of Sheba comes to the end of her spiritual journey.

 

Reality, hidden

Surah 2

2:2-3 HIS DIVINE WRIT – let there be no doubt about it is [meant to be] a guidance for all the God-conscious (2) who believe in [the existence of] that which is beyond the reach of human

perception, (3) …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 11

11:123 And God alone comprehends the hidden reality of the heavens and the earth: for, all that exists goes back to Him [as its source].

 

 

Surah 27

27:65 Say: "None in the heavens or on earth knows the hidden reality [of anything that exists: none knows it] save God." (63)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 35

35:38 VERILY, God knows the hidden reality of the heavens and the earth: [and,] behold, He has full knowledge of what is in the hearts [of men].

 

 

Confer 49:18.

 

Notes on Surah 2

2 The conventional translation of muttaqi as "God-fearing" does not adequately render the positive content of this expression – namely, the awareness of His all-presence and the desire to mould one's existence in the light of this awareness;

 

3 Al-ghayb (commonly, and erroneously, translated as "the Unseen") is used in the Qur'an to denote all those sectors or phases of reality which lie beyond the range of human perception and cannot, therefore, be proved or disproved by scientific observation or even adequately comprised within the accepted categories of speculative thought: as, for instance, the existence of God and of a definite purpose underlying the universe, life after death, the real nature of time, the existence of spiritual forces and their interaction, and so forth. Only a person who is convinced that the ultimate reality comprises far more than our observable environment can attain to belief in God and, thus, to a belief that life has meaning and purpose. By pointing out that it is "a guidance for those who believe in the existence of that which is beyond human perception", the Qur'an says, in effect, that it will – of necessity – remain a closed book to all whose minds cannot accept this fundamental premise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note on Surah 27

63 In this context, the term al-ghayb – rendered by me here as "the hidden reality" – apparently relates to the "how" of God's Being, the ultimate reality underlying the observable aspects of the universe, and the meaning and purpose inherent in its creation. My repetition, within brackets, of the words "none knows it", i.e., save God, is necessitated by the fact that He is infinite, unlimited as to space, and cannot, therefore, be included among the beings "in the heavens or on earth", who have all been created by Him.

 

Reason, all that runs counter to

16:90 BEHOLD, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good, and generosity towards [one's] fellowmen;  and He forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason (109), as well as envy; [and] He exhorts you [repeatedly] so that you might bear [all this] in mind.

 

 

Confer 24:21.

109 The term al-munkar (rendered by me in other places as "that which is wrong") has here its original meaning of "that which the mind [or the moral sense] rejects", respectively "ought to reject". Zamakhshari is more specific, and explains this term as signifying in the above context "that which [men's] intellects disown" or "declare to be untrue" (ma tunkiruhu al-'uqul): in other words, all that runs counter to reason and good sense (which, obviously, must not be confused with that which is beyond man's comprehension). This eminently convincing explanation relates not merely to intellectually unacceptable propositions (in the abstract sense of the term) but also to grossly unreasonable and, therefore, reprehensible actions or attitudes and is, thus, fully in tune with the rational approach of the Qur'an to questions of ethics as well as with its insistence on reasonableness and moderation in man's behaviour. Hence my rendering – of al-munkar, in this and in similar instances, as "all that runs counter to reason".

 

Reason, conscious insight accessible to

 

See Truth-seekers.

 

Reasonable compliance

 

24:53 Now [as for those half-hearted ones,] they do swear by God with their most solemn oaths that if thou [O Apostle] shouldst ever bid them to do so, they would most certainly go forth [and sacrifice themselves]. (69) Say: "Swear not! Reasonable compliance [with God's message is all that is required of you]. (70) Verily, God is aware of all that you do!"

 

 

Shakir: Swear not; reasonable obedience (is desired); surely Allah is aware of what you do.

 

Arberry: Say: 'Do not swear; honourable obedience is sufficient. Surely God is aware of the things you do.'

 

 

See also: Religious law – should be natural, simple, and liberal in its straightforwardness.

 

69 This is an allusion to the ephemeral, self-deceiving enthusiasms of the half-hearted and their supposed readiness for "self-sacrifice", contrasting with their obvious reluctance to live up to the message of the Qur'an in their day-to-day concerns.

 

70 This elliptic phrase alludes to the principle – repeatedly stressed in the Qur'an – that God does not burden man with more than he can easily bear.

 

Religious law – should be natural, simple, and liberal in its straightforwardness

 

2:71 [Moses] answered: "Behold, He says it is to be a cow not broken-in to plough the earth or to water the crops, free of fault, without markings of any other colour." Said they: "At last thou hast brought out the truth!" – and thereupon they sacrificed her, although they had almost left it undone. (55)

 

 

See also: Reasonable compliance.

55 i.e., their obstinate desire to obtain closer and closer definitions of the simple commandment revealed to them through Moses had made it almost impossible for them to fulfil it. In his commentary on this passage; Tabari quotes the following remark of Ibn 'Abbas: "If [in the first instance] they had sacrificed any cow chosen by themselves, they would have fulfilled their duty; but they made it complicated for themselves, and so God made it complicated for them." A similar view has been expressed, in the same context, by Zamakhshari. It would appear that the moral of this story points to an important problem of all (and, therefore, also of Islamic) religious jurisprudence: namely, the inadvisability of trying to elicit additional details in respect of any religious law that had originally been given in general terms – for, the more numerous and multiform such details become, the more complicated and rigid becomes the law. This point has been acutely grasped by Rashid Rida, who says in his commentary on the above Qur'anic passage (see Manar I, 345 f.): "Its lesson is that one should not pursue one's [legal] inquiries in such a way as to make laws more complicated ... This was how the early generations [of Muslims] visualized the problem. They did not make things complicated for themselves – and so, for them, the religious law (din) was natural, simple and liberal in its straightforwardness. But those who came later added to it [certain other] injunctions which they had deduced by means of their own reasoning (ijtihad); and they multiplied those [additional] injunctions to such an extent that the religious law became a heavy burden on the community." For the sociological reason why the genuine ordinances of Islamic Law – that is, those which have been prima facie laid down as such in the Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet – are almost always devoid of details, I would refer the reader to my book State and Government in Islam (pp. 11 ff. and passim). The importance of this problem, illustrated in the above story of the cow – and correctly grasped by the Prophet's Companions – explains why this surah has been entitled "The Cow". (See also 5 : 101 and the corresponding notes 120-123.)

 

Remembering God

 

20:14 Verily, I – I alone – am God; there is no deity save Me. Hence, worship Me alone, and be constant in prayer, so as to remember Me! (10)

 

(20:124) But as for him who shall turn away from remembering Me – his shall be a life of narrow scope; (109) and on the Day of Resurrection We shall raise him up blind.

 

 

See also: Heart – deafness and blindness of.

 

 

10 Thus, conscious remembrance of God and of His oneness and uniqueness is declared to be the innermost purpose, as well as the intellectual justification of all true prayer.

 

109 I.e., sterile and spiritually narrow, without any real meaning or purpose: and this, as is indicated in the subsequent clause, will be a source of their suffering in the hereafter.

 

Repentance, importance of

 

Surah 24

24:31 ... And [always], O you believers – all of you – turn unto God in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state! (41)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah 38

38:24 And [suddenly] David understood that We had tried him: (24) and so he asked his Sustainer to forgive him his sin, and fell down in prostration, and turned unto Him in repentance.

 

[…]

 

(38:35) [Solomon] prayed: "O my Sustainer! Forgive me my sins, and bestow upon me the gift of a kingdom which may not suit anyone after me: (33) verily, Thou alone art a giver of gifts!"

 

See also: David – prophet and psalmist.

 

 

Note on Surah 24

41 The implication of this general call to repentance is that since "man has been created weak" (4:28), no one is ever free of faults and temptations so much so that even the Prophet used to say, "Verily, I turn unto Him in repentance a hundred times every day" (Ibn Hanbal, Bukhari and Bayhaqi, all of them on the authority of 'Abd Allah ibn 'Umar).