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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Surah Al-Asr - The Time: Exegesis 103rd Chapter of Quran


Sürah Al-‘Aṣr " العصر "  is the 103rd surah with 3 ayahs, part of the 30th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The Surah takes its name from the word Al-‘Aṣr occurring in the first verse.

Although Mujahid, Qatadah and Muqatil regard it as a Madani Surah, yet a great majority of the commentators opine that it is Makki; its subject matter also testifies that it must have been sent down in the earliest stage at Makkah, when the message of Islam was being presented in brief but highly impressive sentences so that the listeners who heard them once could not forget them even if they wanted to, for they were automatically committed to memory.

Though is a mere three versed Sürah, it is very strong in its substance. Imam Shafi’ says that if people thought about Surah Al-’Asr carefully, it would be enough for their guidance. It is a concise but comprehensive Surah, which in three verses, outlines a complete way of human life based on the Islamic worldview.

This Surah is a matchless specimen of comprehensiveness and brevity. A whole world of meaning has been compressed into its few brief words, which is too vast in content to be fully expressed even in a book. In it, in a clear and plain way it has been stated what is the way to true success for man and what is the way to ruin and destruction for him. Imam Shafi has very rightly said that if the people only considered this Surah well, it alone would suffice them for their guidance. How important this Surah was in the sight of the Companions can be judged from the tradition cited from Hadrat Abdullah bin Hisn ad-Darimi Abu Madinah, according to which whenever any two of them met they would not part company until they had recited Surah Al-Asr to each other. (Tabarani)

The more one reads it, the more clearer its subject matter becomes. We have already presented a summary and an overview as to why the man is at loss. We now present the verse by verse translation and exegesis / tafseer in English. You may also listen to its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles at the end of the post:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"


وَالْعَصْرِ 
( 1 )   By time,
Muhammad Asad Explanation:
The term asr denotes "time" that is measurable, consisting of a succession of periods (in distinction from dahr, which signifies "unlimited time", without beginning or end: i.e., "time absolute"). Hence, 'asr bears the connotation of the passing or the flight of time - time which can never be recaptured.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
Ie., the complete period of prophethood from Adam (sws) to Muhammad (sws) bears witness. In this period, that the court of justice was set up on the earth for the immediate addressees of the messengers of God and the rebellious among them were punished in this very world. All this can also be stated in another way as: history bears witness. Viewed thus, this word is the name of all the accounts mentioned in the Qur’an that validate the Day of Judgement. The Qur’an has presented evidence from the accounts of ‘Ad, the Thamud, the people of Noah (sws), Lot (sws) and Shu‘ayb (sws) and other similar ones. This evidence is presented here in one word. In fact, this is the evidence of the lesser days of judgement on the greater Day of Judgement. These lesser days of judgement were brought about to validate the greater day to the extent scientific facts are experimentally validated in a laboratory. Besides the evidence found in the world in and around man to substantiate the Day of Judgement, this is the evidence from history on this day.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Al-Asr may mean: (1) Time through the Ages, or long periods, in which case it comes near to the abstract idea of Time, Dahr; (2) or the late afternoon, from which the Asr canonical prayer takes its name. An appeal is made to Time as one of the creations of Allah, of which everyone knows something but of which no one can fully explain the exact significance. Time searches out and destroys everything material. No one in secular literature has expressed the tyranny of "never-resting Time" better than Shakespeare in his Sonnets. For example, see Sonnets 5 ("never-resting Time"), 12 ("Nothing gainst Time's scythe can make defence"), and 64 ("When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced The rich proud cost of outworn buried age"). If we merely run a race against Time, we shall lose. It is the spiritual part of us that conquers Time. See verse 3 below. For the "afternoon" idea see next note.

Mufti Shafi Usmani contends that since ‘Time’ is man’s capital of life, the man himself is the trader. Under normal circumstances, his capital is not a frozen thing that may be kept for a while and used up later when the need arises. The capital is fluid or flowing all the time, every minute and every second. The man who invests it needs to be very wise, intelligent and agile, so that he is able to swiftly and readily reap the profit from a flowing capital. One of the old scholars said that he had learnt the meaning of this verse from an ice-seller whose trade required utmost diligence, and if he were neglectful for a moment, his entire capital would melt away. That is why this verse has sworn an oath by the ‘time’ to indicate that it is a melting capital, and the only way to escape loss is to take every moment of his life as valuable, and use it for the four acts mentioned in the Surah.

Another possible reason for swearing by ‘Time’ may be that the ‘Time’(in the sense of history) bears testimony to the fact mentioned in the Surah. If one thinks on the causes of the rise and decline of individuals and nations, he would certainly believe that it is only these four acts(mentioned in the forthcoming verses) that may ensure the real success and betterment of mankind. Whoever has ever abandoned them has suffered a great loss, as is evident from numerous events recorded by history.

 إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ 
( 2 )   Indeed, mankind is in loss,
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The word الۡاِنۡسَان is not generic in nature. The alif lam affixed to it defines it and the reference is to the addressees of Muhammad (sws) to whom the truth was conclusively communicated and in spite of this they persisted in their arrogance. Loss here refers to loss both in this world and the next. In other words, they will be punished in this world like the other foremost addressees of other messengers of God were, and a great torment awaits them in the Hereafter. They have their eyes fixed on high status, power and the wealth of this world. They think that opposing the Prophet (sws) is earning them a lucrative deal. In reality, they are facing the law of retribution and will soon reach their fate. Hence, they should remain aware that if they persist with this attitude they will end up in loss.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
If life be considered under the metaphor of a business bargain, man, by merely attending to his material gains, will lose. When he makes up his day's account in the afternoon, it will show a loss. It will only show profit if he has Faith, leads a good life, and contributes to social welfare by directing and encouraging other people on the Path of Truth and Constancy.

 إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ 
( 3 )   Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.
In this Surah an oath has been sworn by the Time to impress the point that man is in sheer loss and only those people are an exception from the loss who are characterized by four qualities:

(1) Faith.

(2) Righteous deeds.

(3) Exhorting one another to truth.

(4) Exhorting one another to patience.

Let us consider each of these parts separately in order to fully understand the meanings.

As for the oath, we have explained several times above that Allah has not sworn an oath by any of the created objects on account of its glory or its excellence and wonderful qualities but for the reason that it testifies to the truth which is meant to be established. Therefore, the oath by Time signifies that Time is witness to the truth that man is in sheer loss except for the people who possess the four qualities.

The word time is used for the past as well as for the passing time in which the present, in fact, does not signify any long stretch of time. Every moment, when it has passed, becomes past, and every moment of the future, when it is passing, becomes present, and when it has passed, becomes past. Here, since the oath has been sworn by time absolute, both kinds of time are included in its meaning. The oath by the past time means that human history testifies that the people who were without these qualities, eventually incurred loss, and in order to understand the significance of the oath by the passing time, one should understand that the time which is now passing is, in fact, the time which has been given to every single individual and every single nation to work in the world. Its example is of the time which is allotted to a candidate for answering his question-paper in the examination hall. The speed with which this time is passing can be estimated from the movement of the secondhand in the watch. Even a second is a considerable amount of time, for during this very second light travels 186,000 miles, and in the Kingdom of God there may as well be many things which move even faster than light, but are not yet known to man. However, if the speed of the passing time be regarded the same as of the movement of the second-hand, and we consider that whatever act, good or bad, we perform and whatever occupation we pursue, takes place in the limited span of age that we have been given for work in the world, we feel that our real wealth is this very time, which is passing so quickly. Imam Razi has cited a scholar as saying: I understood the meaning of Surah Al- Asr from an ice-seller, who was calling aloud for the attention of the people repeatedly in the bazar: Have mercy on the one whose wealth is melting away! Hearing what he was crying I said to myself: this then is the meaning of Walasri innal-insana lafi khusrin. The age-limit that man has been allotted is passing quickly like the melting away of ice. If it is wasted, or spent in wrong pursuits, it will be sheer loss to man. Thus, swearing an oath by the Time what has been said in this Surah, means that the fast passing Time is witness that devoid of these four qualities in whatever occupation and work man is spending his limited span of life, he is engaged in bad bargains. Only such people are engaged in good bargains, who work in the world, characterized by the four qualities. It would be just like calling attention of the candidate, who was spending the time allotted for solving the question-paper in some other pursuit, to the wall clock in the examination hall, to tell him that the passing time bore witness that he was causing loss to himself; the candidate benefiting by the Time was he who was using every moment of the allotted time in solving the paper.

Though the word man has been used in the singular, in the following sentences those people have been made an exception from it, who are characterized by the four qualities. Therefore, one will have to admit that here the word man has been used as a collective noun, denoting a class, and it applies equally to individuals, groups, nations, and entire mankind. Thus, the general statement that whoever is devoid of the above four qualities is in loss, would be proved in any case whether it is a person who is devoid of these, or a nation, or all men of the world. It will be just like giving the verdict that poison is fatal for man; it will mean that poison is fatal in any case whether it is taken by an individual, or a nation, or all the people of the world. Poison’s being fatal is an unchangeable truth; it does not make any difference whether one man has taken it, or a nation has decided to take it, or all the people of the world collectively have agreed to take poison. Precisely in the same way this truth by itself is unchangeable that man’s being devoid of the above four qualities brings him loss. The general rule is not at all affected even if one man is devoid of these, or a nation, or all the people of the world agree that they would exhort one another to disbelief, immorality, falsehood and servitude to the self.

Now, let us see in what sense has the Quran used the word khusr (loss). Lexically, khusr is an antonym of nafa (profit); in trade this word is used in the case when loss results from one bargain as well as in the case when the whole business is running in loss, and also in the case when man loses all his capital and becomes bankrupt. The Quran has made this word a special term of its own and uses it as an antonym of falah (true success). And just as its concept of falah is not merely synonymous with worldly prosperity but comprehends man’s true success from the world till the Hereafter, so its concept of khusr (loss) is also not merely synonymous with worldly failure or distress but comprehends man’s real failure and disappointment from the world till the Hereafter. We have explained the Quranic concept of both falah and khusran at several places before which need not be repeated here.

Besides, one should also understand that although according to the Quran true success is man’s success in the Hereafter and real loss his failure there, yet in this world too what the people describe as success is not, in fact, real success but its end in this world itself is failure, and what they regard as loss is not, in fact, loss but a means of true success even in this world. This truth has been stated by the Quran at several places and we have explained it everywhere accordingly. (Please see (E.N. 99 of Surah An- Nahl); (E.N. 53 of Surah Maryam); (E.N. 105 of Surah TaHa); (E.Ns 3-5 of Surah Al-Lail). Thus, when the Quran states conclusively and absolutely that man is certainly in loss, it implies loss both in this world and in the Hereafter. And when it says that only such people are secure from this loss, who are characterized by the four qualities, it implies their being secure from loss and attaining true success both here and in the Hereafter.

Now, let us consider the four qualities on the existence of which depends man’s being secure from loss and failure.

Of these the first quality is Iman (Faith). Although this word at some places in the Quran has been used in the meaning of only verbal affirmation of Faith (e.g. in (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 137); (Surah Al-Maidah, Ayat 54); (Surah Al- Anfal, Ayats 20, 27); (Surah At-Taubah, Ayat 38); ( Surah As- Saff, Ayat 2), it has primarily been used in the meaning of believing sincerely and faithfully, and in the Arabic language this word has this very meaning. Lexically, amanu lahu means saddaqa-hu wa tamada alai-hi: affirmed him and put faith in him, and amana bi-hi means aiqana bi-hi: had full faith in him. The Faith which the Quran regards as true Faith has been explained in the following verses:
In fact, true believers are those who believed in Allah and His Messenger, then entertained no doubt. (Surah Al- Hujurat, Ayat 15).
Those who said: Allah is our Lord, and then stood steadfast by it. (Surah HaMim As-Sajdah, Ayat 30).
True believers are those whose hearts tremble with awe, whenever Allah is mentioned to them. (Surah Al-Anfaal, Ayat 2).
Those who have believed adore Allah most ardently. (Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayat 165).
Nay, (O Prophet), by your Lord, they can never become believers until they accept you as judge for the decision of the disputes between them, and then surrender to your decision with entire submission without the least resentment in their hearts. (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 65).
The following verse is even more explicit as regards the distinction between verbal affirmation of Faith and true Faith; it says that what is actually desirable is true Faith and not mere verbal affirmation of the Faith:
O you who profess to have believed, believe sincerely in Allah and His Messenger. (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 136).
As for the question, what has one to believe in, in order to have true faith? This has also been answered and explained in the Quran most explicitly. First, it implies that one has to believe in Allah, not merely in His Being but in the sense that He alone is God; no one else is an associate in His Godhead. He alone is worthy that man should worship, serve and obey Him. He alone can make or mar destinies; man should invoke Him alone and have trust in Him alone. He alone can enjoin things and forbid things; man is under obligation to obey Him and refrain from what he forbids. He sees everything and hears everything; not to speak of any act of man, even his motives and intentions with which he has done an act, are not hidden from Him. Secondly, one has to believe in the Messenger, in the sense that he is a guide and leader appointed by Allah: whatever he has taught, is from Allah, is based upon the truth and has to be acknowledged and accepted. This belief in Apostleship also includes faith in the angels, the Prophets, the divine Books and in the Quran itself, for this forms part of the teachings which the Messenger of Allah has given. Thirdly, one has to believe in the Hereafter, in the sense that man’s present life is not his first and last life, but after death man has to be resurrected, to render an account to God of the deeds done in the present life, and has to be rewarded for the good deeds and punished for the evil deeds accordingly. This Faith provides a firm basis for morality and character, upon which can be built the edifice of a pure life, whereas the truth is that without such Faith, the life of man, however beautiful and pleasing outwardly, is like a ship without an anchor, which is at the mercy of the waves wherever they may take it.

After Faith the second quality required to save man from loss is to perform righteous deeds (salihalt). Salihat comprehends all kinds of virtuous and good deeds. However, according to the Quran, no act can be a good act unless it is based on Faith and it is performed in obedience to the guidance given by Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him). That is why in the Quran exhortation to perform good deeds is preceded everywhere by Faith, and in this Surah too it has been mentioned after the Faith. Nowhere in the Quran has a deed without Faith been called a good deed, nor any reward promised for a deed performed without Faith. On the contrary, this also is a fact that only that Faith is reliable and beneficial, the sincerity of which is proved by man’s own act and deed, otherwise Faith without righteous deeds would be a false claim refuted by the man himself when in spite of this claim he follows a way opposed to the way taught by Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him). The relationship between Faith and righteous deed is of the seed and the tree. Unless the seed is sown in the soil no tree can grow out of it. But if the seed is in the soil and no tree is growing out of it, it would mean that the seed is lost in the soil. On this very basis whatever good news has been given in the Quran, has been given to the people who believe and do good deeds, and the same has been reiterated in this Surah. What man requires to do after the Faith in order to remain secure from loss is to perform righteous deeds. In other words, mere Faith without righteous deeds cannot save man from loss.

The above two qualities are such as must be possessed by every single individual. Then, the Surah mentions two further qualities, which a man must have in order to be saved from loss. They are that the people who believe and do good deeds must exhort one another to truth and to patience. This means that in the first place, a believing and righteous people should not live as individuals but should create a believing and righteous society by their combination. Second, that every individual of this society must feel his responsibility not to let the society become degenerate. Thus, all its members are duty bound to exhort one another to truth and to patience.

Truth is the antonym of falsehood, and generally it is used in , two meanings:
(1) A correct and right thing which is in accordance with justice and truth, whether it relates to belief and faith or to mundane affairs.
(2) The right which is obligatory on man to render, whether it is the right of God, the right of man, or the right of one’s own self. Thus, to exhort one another to truth means that the society of the believers should not be so insensitive that falsehood may thrive and things against justice and truth be done in it, and the people be watching everything indifferently. On the contrary, it should be a living, sensitive society so that whenever and wherever falsehood appears, the upholders of the Truth should rise up against it, and no member of the society rest content with only himself adhering to truth, righteousness, justice and rendering the rights of others, but should exhort others also to adopt the same way of life. This is the spirit that can ensure security of a society against moral degeneration and decay. If a society becomes devoid of this spirit, it cannot remain secure from loss, and eventually even those people are also affected by the loss who might in their own way be adhering to the truth, but were insensitive to violation of the truth in their society.
The same has been stated in Surah Al-Maidah, thus: Those who adopted the way of disbelief among the children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of David and of Jesus, son of Mary, because they had grown rebellious and become transgressors: they would not forbid one another to do the wrong deeds they committed. (verses 78-79). Then the same idea has been expressed in Surah Al-Aaraf, thus: When the children of Israel totally forgot the teachings (of observing the Sabbath), We seized with a severe scourge all those who were transgressors, and We saved those who used to forbid evil (verse 165); and in Surah Al-Anfal, thus: And guard against that mischief which will not bring punishment in particular to the mischief-makers alone from among you. (verse 25). That is why to enjoin what is good and to forbid what is evil, has been enjoined on the Muslim community as a duty (Surah Aal-Imran, Ayat 104) and the community which performs this duty has been declared to be the best community (Surah Aal-Imran, Ayat 110).

Besides exhorting to the truth, the other thing which has been declared as a necessary condition for keeping the believers and their society secure from loss is that the members of the society should enjoin patience upon one another. That is, they should enjoin upon one another to bear with fortitude and steadfastness the difficulties, hardships, trials, losses and deprivations which befall the one who adheres to the truth and supports it. Each one of them should encourage the other to bear up against adversity steadfastly.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
In the coming verse, it is categorically stated how a person can secure himself from loss. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
… Though this approach is pointed out in a few words, however such is the judiciousness and comprehensiveness of style adopted that if a person deliberates on it, he will come to know the individual and collective obligations which are imposed on him and his eternal salvation depends on discharging them.
A little deliberation shows that the real purpose of the Qur’an is to guide man to this straight path and to organize the individual and collective lives of a person in order to achieve success in the Hereafter. In other words, the message which is conveyed by one hundred and fourteen surahs of the Qur’an has been succinctly put forth in three verses of this surah. It is to this very fact that Imam Shafi‘i has pointed by saying that if people only read Surah al-‘Asr while reflecting on its contents, it will suffice for them. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 530)

Īman (faith) is an ancient religious term. The root امن is also found in Hebrew and means considering something to be true and relying on it. The word آمين (amen) is made from this word and through it we corroborate something. In the Qur’an, iman has been used in this meaning. Thus if something is accepted with the certitude of the heart, then this is called iman. The foundation of this word is iman (faith) in God. If a person accepts the Almighty such that he submits his heart and mind to Him to the utmost, then in the terminology of the Qur’an, he is a mu’min (believer).

It is this very essence of faith on account of which the Qur’an demands from a person that besides substantiation from the heart, his words and deeds should also testify to it. Thus it calls every act of virtue emanating from iman and an essential quality of a believer. The mention of righteous deeds after faith is a kind of elucidation. It is like coordinating something specific and general. Imam al-Farahi writes:
… Thus the conviction which exists with all the conditions and corollaries of humility, trust and acknowledgment is called faith. And a person who professes faith in God, in His signs, in His directives, submits all that he has to Him and is happy on all His decisions is called a mu’min. (Al-Farahi, Majmu‘ah tafasir, 347)
No doubt, in the eyes of the law, every person who professes faith in Islam with his tongue is a Muslim. The extent of his faith can also not be ascertained as far as the law is concerned; however, as far as true faith is concerned, it is never static. A person grows stronger in faith when he remembers God and hears His revelations and witnesses His signs in the world within him and in that around him. The Qur’an (14:24) has compared faith to a tree whose roots are deep in the soil and branches spread in the vastness of the sky.

Same is the case of one’s faith growing weaker. Thus if a person instead of making it stronger through sound knowledge and righteous deeds does acts which are against the requirements of faith, it grows weaker, and in some cases is totally wiped out. Some verses such as (167:3) ہُمۡ لِلۡکُفۡرِ یَوۡمَئِذٍ اَقۡرَبُ مِنۡہُمۡ لِلۡاِیۡمَانِ (on that day, they were closer to disbelief than belief, (3:167)) point to this aspect.

It is evident from this that both faith and righteous deeds are essential to one another. Thus just as righteous deeds are necessary for faith, similarly faith is necessary for righteous deeds. At all places, the Qur’an has stated professing faith to be the very first condition for salvation. In Surah al-Nur (24:39), the deeds of people who are devoid of the treasure of faith are compared to the mirage found in a desolate desert which is a mere eye-wash. A thirsty person jumps towards it thinking it to be water but when he draws near, he comes to know that what he thought as waves of water were actually grains of shining sand.

This faith consists of five things:

1. Belief in God

2. Belief in the Angels

3. Belief in the Prophets

4. Belief in Divine Books

5. Belief in the Day of Judgement

In the terminology of the Qur’an, it refers to every deed which is in accordance with God’s wisdom on which the universe has been created and according to which He governs it. All its bases are found in the norms of intellect and human nature and the shari‘ah of God has been revealed to guide mankind towards these righteous deeds.

This is the obligation of preaching which the Qur’an has imposed on all its followers. This is because man does not merely live in isolation; he is also a member of a family or a citizen of a society. This is a very natural aspect of his existence. He requires the existence of a family not only for this material life but also for his moral and spiritual life. Thus on this basis he is directed here to not remain negligent of the betterment of his surroundings.

This obligation is mentioned as a part of righteous deeds as their explanation because this is a natural requirement of one’s love for the truth. A person very vehemently wants people to love what he himself loves.

The way this obligation is mentioned shows that it is from among the basic requirements of faith. If a believer does righteous deeds and also fulfills this requirement of faith, then these verses guarantee him security from any loss in the Hereafter and he will gain the eternal kingdom of Paradise.

The words حَقّ (haqq) and صَبْر (sabr) mentioned in the verse need deliberation. The Almighty did not say: “they urged others to righteous deeds.” On the contrary, His words are: “they urged one another to the truth and urged one another to remain steadfast on it.” What is the reason for this? Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

This style has not only included in it what is found in the first part, it has also made very important additions to it: iman is included to the utmost in al-haqq because it is the right of God and in fact the greatest right of God. Similarly, righteous deeds either relate to the rights towards God or rights towards human beings; hence righteous deeds are also included in haqq. It is evident from this discussion that believers do all these things as an obligation, urge others to adopt them and also counsel others that discharging these obligations is no easy a task; it requires patience and forbearance. Those who do not have this characteristic will find it very difficult to carry out these obligations. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 536)

The word تَوَاصَوۡا also needs consideration. It is evident from this that the circle of this preaching is one’s own immediate surroundings and relationships. Thus the preacher and the preached are not distinct from one another. Every person at all times acts as a preacher as well as an addressee to this preaching. At some instances, the Qur’an has also called it amar bi al-ma‘ruf and nahi ‘an al-munkar. In other words, what is ma‘ruf according to nature and intellect as well as religion and shari‘ah should be urged upon those who live in our immediate surroundings and people should be stopped from what is regarded by these as munkar.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Faith is his armour, which wards off the wounds of the material world; and his righteous life is his positive contribution to spiritual ascent.

If he lived only for himself, he would not fulfill his whole duty. Whatever good he has, especially in moral and spiritual life, he must spread among his brethren, so that they may see the Truth and stand by it in patient hope and unshaken constancy amidst all the storm and stress of outer life. For he and they will then have attained Peace within.

Summing up, this Surah lays down the important principle of guidance for the Muslims that inviting other Muslims to keep to the true faith and good deeds is as much necessary as their own submission to the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah. Without sincere efforts, to the best of one’s ability, to invite others to the right path, one’s own good deeds are not enough to one’s salvation. Especially, if a person does not take care of the spiritual and moral welfare of his wife, children and family and turns a blind eye to their unrighteous deeds, he is blocking his way to salvation — no matter how pious he himself might be. Therefore, the Qur’an and the Sunnah make it obligatory upon every Muslim to do his best to invite others to the good deeds, and warn them against the evil acts. Unfortunately, let alone the general public, many learned people are lax in this matter. They think it is sufficient for them to be concerned about their own moral and spiritual well-being. They are not concerned about the well-being of their family and children. May Allah grant us the ability to act upon this verse.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sürah Al-‘Aṣr with English subtitles:



You may refer to our Reference Page "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, explanation and exegesis of other chapters of the Qur'an.

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
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Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi.  [2]
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Sūrah al-Humazah - The Backbiter / The Slanderer): Exegesis 104th Chapter of Qur'an


Sūrah al-Humazah " الهمزة‎ " is the 104th chapter (sūrah) of the Qur'an, with 9 verses (āyāt).  The Surah takes its name from the word Humazah occurring in the first verse. Humazah means "The Backbiter", "The Slanderer", "The Scorner" or "The Gossip-monger."

A study of its subject matter and style shows that this too is one of the earliest Surahs to be revealed at Makkah.

As already mentioned in the summary of the sūrah, in this sūrah some of the evils prevalent among the materialistic hoarders of wealth in the pre-Islamic days have been condemned. Every Arab knew that they actually existed in their society; they regarded them as evils and nobody thought they were good. After calling attention to this kind of ugly character, the ultimate end in the Hereafter of the people having this kind of character has been stated. Both these things (i.e. the character and his fate in the Hereafter) have been depicted in a way which makes the listener automatically reach the conclusion that such a man fitly deserves to meet such an end. And since in the world, people of such character do not suffer any punishment, but seem to be thriving instead, the occurrence of the Hereafter becomes absolutely inevitable.


Let us now read the verse by verse translation and exegesis / tafseer in English. You may also listen to its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles at the end of the post:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

وَيْلٌ لِّكُلِّ هُمَزَةٍ لُّمَزَةٍ 
( 1 )   Woe to every scorner and mocker
Sūrat al-Humazah begins with two words “Humazat il- Lumazah” which together mean the same: The slanderers. While the first word means slanderers who hurt others by word of mouth, the second word means slanderers who hurt others by action. These are Traducers, the Backbiters, the Mockers and many such similar qualities of man which ultimately result into his destruction and have him taken to the fire of hell where he is "crushed" forever.

The words used in the original are humazat il-lumazah. In Arabic hamz and lamz are so close in meaning that they are sometimes used as synonyms and sometimes with a little difference in the shade of meaning. But this difference is not definite and clear, for the meaning given to hamz by some Arabic speaking people themselves is given to lamz by other Arabic speaking peoples. On the contrary, the meaning given to lamz by some people is given to hamz by others. Here, since both the words appear together and the words humazat il-lumazat have been used, they give the meaning that it has become a practice with the slanderer that he insults and holds others in contempt habitually. He raises his finger and winks at one man, finds fault with the lineage and person of another, taunts one in the face and backbites another; creates differences between friends and stirs up divisions between brothers; calls the people names and satirizes and defames them.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The first of these relates to gestures and actions and the second to the tongue. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

… Making evil gestures and slandering others are two aspects of the same character. When the purpose is to make fun of others and to degrade and ridicule them, both are employed. At times, ridiculing and demeaning others through gestures can prove sharper and more effective than the tongue, and perhaps this is the reason for placing ہُمَزَۃ before لُمَزَۃ . (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 548)
A little deliberation shows that this way of making fun of others and demeaning them through gestures is the same as what can even be witnessed today in caricatures and cartoons depicted in the newspapers of today as well as in the statements of leaders.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:

Three vices are here condemned in the strongest terms: (1) scandal-mongering, talking or suggesting evil of men or women by word or innuendo, or behaviour, or mimicry, or sarcasm, or insult; (2) detracting from their character behind their backs, even if the things suggested are true, where the motive is evil; (3) piling up wealth, not for use and service to those who need it, but in miserly hoards, as if such hoards can prolong the miser's life or give him immortality: miserliness is itself a kind of scandal.


 الَّذِي جَمَعَ مَالًا وَعَدَّدَهُ 
( 2 )   Who collects wealth and [continuously] counts it.
This second sentence after the first sentence by itself gives the meaning that he slanders others because of his pride of wealth. The words jama a malan for collecting money suggest the abundance of wealth; then the words counting it over and over again depict the person’s miserliness and his selfish hoarding of wealth.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
(Hammaz, going about with slander) (68:11) Ibn `Abbas said, "Humazah Lumazah means one who reviles and disgraces (others).'' Mujahid said, "Al-Humazah is with the hand and the eye, and Al-Lumazah is with the tongue.'' Then Allah says: (Who has gathered wealth and counted it.) meaning, he gathers it piling some of it on top of the rest and he counts it up.

This is similar to Allah's saying:(And collect (wealth) and hide it.) (70:18)

This was said by As-Suddi and Ibn Jarir. Muhammad bin Ka`b said concerning Allah's statement: (gathered wealth and counted it.) "His wealth occupies his time in the day, going from this to that. Then when the night comes he sleeps like a rotting corpse.''

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
This is a very comprehensive picture. If a person is inclined towards stinginess he becomes greedy for wealth and then remains involved in ardently counting it. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
It is a person’s attitude towards life and not what he says which gives an indication of his inner self. The life of a person who considers this world as his final destination is totally different from that of a person for whom the next world is the ultimate destination, towards which this life leads. It is not possible that a person who believes in the Hereafter greedily hoard his wealth. Such a person, as the Prophet Jesus (sws) said, keeps his account with God: “Keep your wealth with God, because your heart is wherever your wealth is.” (Matthew, 6:21-22). (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 549)

 يَحْسَبُ أَنَّ مَالَهُ أَخْلَدَهُ 
( 3 )   He thinks that his wealth will make him immortal.
Another meaning also can be: He thinks that his wealth will make him immortal. That is, he is so engrossed in amassing wealth and counting it over and over again that he has forgotten death and he never bothers to consider that a time will come when he will have to depart from the world empty-handed, leaving everything behind.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Then Allah says,: (He thinks that his wealth will make him last forever!) meaning, he thinks that gathering wealth will make him last forever in this abode (the worldly life).

كَلَّا ۖ لَيُنبَذَنَّ فِي الْحُطَمَةِ  
( 4 )   No! He will surely be thrown into the Crusher.
The word in the original is la yunbadhanna. Nabdh in Arabic is used for throwing away a thing regarding it as worthless and mean. This by itself indicates that because of his wealth he thinks that he is a great man but on the Day Of Resurrection he will be hurled into Hell as a mean and contemptible object.

The word hutamah in the original is from hatm, which means to smash, crush and break into pieces. Hell has been described by this epithet because it will crush and break to pieces whatever is thrown into it because of its depth and its fire.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Hutama: that which smashes or breaks to pieces: an apt description of the three anti-social vices condemned. For scandal-mongering and backbiting make any sort of cohesion or mutual confidence impossible; and the miser's hoards up the channels of economic service and charity, and the circulation of good-will among men.


  وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْحُطَمَةُ 
( 5 )   And what can make you know what is the Crusher?
Ibn Kathir Explanation:
And what will make you know what Al-Hutamah is The fire of Allah, Al-Muqadah, which leaps up over the hearts.) Thabit Al-Bunani said, "It will burn them all the way to their hearts while they are still alive.'' Then he said, "Indeed the torment will reach them.'' Then he cried. Muhammad bin Ka`b said, "It (the Fire) will devour every part of his body until it reaches his heart and comes to the level of his throat, then it will return to his body.''

 نَارُ اللَّـهِ الْمُوقَدَةُ  
( 6 )   It is the fire of Allah, [eternally] fueled,
Nowhere else in the Quran has the fire of Hell been called the fire of Allah. Here, its ascription to Allah not only expresses its dreadfulness but it also shows how the wrath and contempt of Allah envelops those who become proud and arrogant with the worldly wealth. That is why Allah has described that fire as His own Fire into which they will be hurled.

 الَّتِي تَطَّلِعُ عَلَى الْأَفْئِدَةِ  
( 7 )   Which mounts directed at the hearts.
Tattaliu is from ittalaa, which means to climb and mount to the top, and also to be aware and informed. Afidah is plural of fuwad, which means the heart. But this word is not used for the organ which throbs in the breast, but for the seat of man’s understanding and consciousness, his feelings and desires, beliefs and thoughts, motives and intentions, Thus, one meaning of the rising of the fire to the hearts is that this fire will reach the place which is the centre of man’s evil thoughts, false beliefs, impure desires and feelings, and wicked motives and intentions. The second meaning is that the Fire of Allah will not be blind like the fire of the world, which burns up the deserving and the non-deserving alike, but it will reach the heart of every culprit and discover the nature of his crime and then punish him according to his guilt.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
The Fire of Punishment mounts right up to the hearts and minds of such men, and shuts them out of the love of their fellows. "Heart" in Arabic means not only the seat of affection, pity, charity, etc., but also of understanding and intelligent appreciation of things.

 إِنَّهَا عَلَيْهِم مُّؤْصَدَةٌ  
( 8 )   Indeed, Hellfire will be closed down upon them
That is, after the culprits have been thrown into it, Hell will be closed in upon them without leaving any slit or opening anywhere, in order to choke and suffocate them.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
(Verily, it shall Mu'sadah upon them.) meaning, covering, just as was mentioned in the Tafsir of Surat Al-Balad (see 90:20).

Then Allah says,

 فِي عَمَدٍ مُّمَدَّدَةٍ  
( 9 )   In extended columns.
Fi amad-im-mumaddahah can have several meanings: (1) That the gates of Hell will be closed and tall columns will be erected on them, (2) That the culprits will be tied to the tall columns, (3) According to Ibn Abbas, the flames of the fire shall be rising high like tall columns.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
(In pillars stretched forth. ) "Atiyah Al-`Awfi said, "Pillars of Iron.'' As-Suddi said, "Made of fire.'' Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas, "He will make them enter pillars stretched forth, meaning there will be columns over them, and they will have chains on their necks, and the gates (of Hell) will be shut upon them.'' This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Al-Humazah, and all praise and thanks are due to Allah.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Those guilty of these vices will be choked and suffocated, for this Vault of Fire will cover them all over, and its scorching columns will extend over a far wider area than they imagine.


You may now like to listen to exegesis / tafsir of Sūrah al-Humazah by eminent Muslim Scholar, exegete  and linguist Nouman Ali Khan:

You may refer to our Reference Page "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, explanation and exegesis of other chapters of the Qur'an.

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |
Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi.  [2]
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

If you like Islam: My Ultimate Decision, and to keep yourself updated on all our latest posts to know more about Islam, follow us on Facebook

Please share this page to your friends and family members through Facebook, WhatsApp or any means on Social Media so that they can also be benefited by it and better understand Islam and the Holy Qur'an - Insha Allah (Allah Willing) you shall be blessed with the best of both worlds.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Selected Verses from Qur'an: Postpone Loan (or even right off) if Debtor is in Hardship


When we the Muslims say that Islam is not only a religion but a "Deen" as well, the non Muslims do not understand it as there is no exact translation of Arabic word Deen is available in any dictionary. The close when can get in its interpretation "The complete Way of Life". Which means that other than the spiritual aspect, which is embodied in any Heavenly religion, that focuses on belief in One True God, its messengers and abiding by a well laid out code of conduct, the Deen of Islam also lays out comprehensive guidelines for a believer as to how to live in a society and look after not only the other believers but also the non believers as well.

And one of the many aspects of a just and caring friendly society is the lending money by those who can afford to those who are in need. Before the advent of Islam, the rich and affluent would loan to the poor on very stringent conditions and interest rates. And when the debt came to term, the creditor would say to the debtor, "Either pay now or interest will be added to the debt.'' Over a period of time, even the interest would overtake the actual amount so loaned and the poor had to sell his entire household to repay the loan or even become slave to the creditor. Even after Islam, this practice continued and by a commandment of Allah, the interest was abolished and the creditor were asked to show magnanimity when dealing with the poor debtors, as is evident from the following 280th verse of Surah 2. Al Baqarah (The Cow):

وَاِنۡ يَّمۡسَسۡكَ اللّٰهُ بِضُرٍّ فَلَا كَاشِفَ لَهٗۤ اِلَّا هُوَ ​ۚ وَاِنۡ يُّرِدۡكَ بِخَيۡرٍ فَلَا رَآدَّ لِفَضۡلِهٖ​ ؕ يُصِيۡبُ بِهٖ مَنۡ يَّشَآءُ مِنۡ عِبَادِهٖ​ ؕ وَهُوَ الۡغَفُوۡرُ الرَّحِيۡمُ‏  
( 280 )   And if someone is in hardship, then [let there be] postponement until [a time of] ease. But if you give [from your right as] charity, then it is better for you, if you only knew.
The 8th century Muslim scholar and exegete of Quran Ibn Kathir explains this verses as under:

(And if the debtor is having a hard time, then grant him time till it is easy for him to repay; but if you remit it by way of charity, that is better for you if you did but know.) Allah commands creditors to be patient with debtors who are having a hard time financially, (And if the debtor is having a hard time (has no money), then grant him time till it is easy for him to repay.)

Allah encouraged creditors to give debtors respite regarding their debts and promised all that is good, and a great reward from Him for this righteous deed, (But if you remit it by way of charity, that is better for you if you did but know) meaning, if you forfeit your debts and cancel them completely.

Imam Ahmad recorded that Sulayman bin Buraydah said that his father said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah say, (Whoever gives time to a debtor facing hard times, will gain charity of equal proportions for each day he gives.)

I also heard the Prophet say, (Whoever gives time to a debtor facing hard times, will earn charity multiplied two times for each day he gives.) I said, `O Messenger of Allah! I heard you say, `Whoever gives time to a debtor facing hard times, will gain charity of equal proportions for each day he gives.' I also heard you say, `Whoever gives time to a debtor facing hard times, will earn charity multiplied by two times for each day he gives.' He said:
(He will earn charity of equal proportions for each day (he gives time) before the term of the debt comes to an end, and when the term comes to an end, he will again acquire charity multiplied by two times for each day if he gives more time.)''
Ahmad recorded that Muhammad bin Ka`b Al-Qurazi said that Abu Qatadah had a debt on a man, who used to hide from Abu Qatadah when he looked for him to pay what he owed him. One day, Abu Qatadah came looking for the debtor and a young boy came out, and he asked him about the debtor and found out that he was in the house eating. Abu Qatadah said in a loud voice, "O Fellow! Come out, for I was told that you are in the house.'' The man came out and Abu Qatadah asked him, "Why are you hiding from me'' The man said, "I am having a hard time financially, and I do not have any money.'' Abu Qatadah said, "By Allah, are you truly facing a hard time'' He said, "Yes.'' Abu Qatadah cried and said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah say,
(Whoever gives time to his debtor, or forgives the debt, will be in the shade of the Throne (of Allah) on the Day of Resurrection.)''
Muslim also recorded this Hadith in his Sahih.

Al-Hafiz Abu Ya`la Al-Mawsili recorded that Hudhayfah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(On the Day of Resurrection, one of Allah's servants will be summoned before Him and He will ask him, "What deeds did you perform for Me in your life'' He will say, "O Lord! In my life, I have not performed a deed for Your sake that equals an atom,'' three times. The third time, the servant will add, "O Lord! You granted me wealth and I used to be a merchant. I used to be lenient, giving easy terms to those well-off and giving time to the debtors who faced hard times.'' Allah will say, "I Am the Most Worthy of giving easy terms. Therefore, enter Paradise.'')
Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Ibn Majah also recorded this Hadith from Hudhayfah, and Muslim recorded a similar wording from `Uqbah bin `Amir and Abu Mas`ud Al-Badri. Allah further advised His servants, by reminding them that this life will soon end and all the wealth in it will vanish. He also reminded them that the Hereafter will surely come, when the Return to Him will occur, and that He will hold His creation accountable for what they did, rewarding them or punishing them accordingly. Allah also warned them against His torment, (And have Taqwa for the Day when you shall be brought back to Allah. Then every person shall be paid what he earned, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly.)

It was reported that this was the last Ayah revealed from the Glorious Qur'an. An-Nasa'i recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "The last Ayah to be revealed from the Qur'an was,

وَاتَّقُواْ يَوْمًا تُرْجَعُونَ فِيهِ إِلَى اللَّهِ ثُمَّ تُوَفَّى كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا كَسَبَتْ وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ 
(And have Taqwa for the Day when you shall be brought back to Allah. Then every person shall be paid what he earned, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly.'')

This is the same narration reported by Ad-Dahhak and Al-`Awfi from Ibn `Abbas.

Eminent Muslim scholar and exegete of Quran Abul Ala Maududi contends that this verse is the basis of the Islamic regulation that if a person has become incapable of paying off his debt, the court will force the creditors to grant him respite for payment. In fact, under certain circumstances, the court is entitled to remit a part of his debt and, at times, the whole of it. It is mentioned in the Hadith that once a person suffered loss in his trade and became greatly burdened with debt and the case was brought to the notice of the Prophet. The Prophet urged the people to help their brother in his distress. They came to his assistance but the amount of help was not enough to wipe out his debts. Then the Prophet approached the lenders and asked them to accept whatever amount was available and to grant remission to the borrower because of his inability to make further payments. Muslim jurists have made it clear that a debtor's residential house, eating utensils, clothes and the tools which he uses for earning his livelihood may not be confiscated in any, circumstances whatsoever for non-payment of loans. (For relevant discussion and textual evidence see the commentaries on this verse in Ibn Kathir, Jassas, and Qurtubi - Ed.)

Javed Ahmed Ghamidi further elaborates this verse by contending that if the borrower is in difficulty, he should be given respite until he is able to pay back his debt, it clearly points out that in those times even the rich used to acquire loans. In fact, if the style and stress of the verse are correctly understood, it becomes clear that it was mostly the rich who used to procure loans. Indeed, there was a strong chance that the borrower would find himself in difficulty even to pay the original amount. The money-lender, therefore, is directed to give him more time and if he forgoes the original amount it would be better for him. The words of this verse strongly indicate this meaning. The actual words of the verse are: وَاِنۡ کَانَ ذُوۡ عُسۡرَۃٍ فَنَظِرَۃٌ اِلٰی مَیۡسَرَۃٍ. The particle of condition اِنۡ (if) is not used for general circumstances, but, in fact, is used for rare and unusual circumstances. For general circumstances the particle اِذَا (if) is used. In the light of this, it is clear that the borrower in those times was generally affluent (ذُوْمَيْسَرَة), but in some cases was poor or had become poor after acquiring the loan and in that case, the Qur’an has directed the money-lenders to give them a time rebate. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 1, 638-639)

However, this verse is applicable for the poor debtors and should not apply to those rich debtors who now a days obtain huge loans and then due to the trickery and loopholes in the judicial system get their loans written off.  They will be held accountable to their deceit and foul play not only in this world but the in the hereafter too,
May Allah help us understand Qur'an and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'an

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo | Reference: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.


An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2]  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

If you like Islam: My Ultimate Decision, and to keep yourself updated on all our latest posts to know more about Islam, follow us on Facebook

Please share this page to your friends and family members through Facebook, WhatsApp or any means on Social Media so that they can also be benefited by it and better understand Islam and the Holy Qur'an - Insha Allah (Allah Willing) you shall be blessed with the best of both worlds.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Sürah Al-Fīl - The Elephant: Exegesis 105th Chapter of Qur'an


Sürah Al-Fīl is the 105th surah with 5 ayahs, part of the 30th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The Sürah derives its name from the word.

This Sürah Al-Fil and the next one Sürah Qurayshboth form a pair about their subject-matter according to almost all of Quranic Scholars. The first surah in the current pair(105 & 106) warns the Quraysh, about the Incident of the Elephant, to fear God, while the second surah urges them to keep in mind the favors they enjoy, because of the Baytullah and consequently to give up rebelliousness against God and worship Him only.

In this Sürah the Quraysh are reminded of a significant event of their history: the Almighty had helped them decidedly in combating the forces of Abrahah, who attacked the Baytullah with a sixty thousand strong army to demolish it. It was not easy for the Quraysh to face such a big army in the open, whose vanguard consisted of elephants. They had therefore sought refuge in the nearby mountains and had defended the holy land by hurling stones at the advancing enemy. This defense was indeed very frail and feeble, but the Almighty transformed it into a powerful outburst which destroyed the enemy, and their dead bodies were feasted upon by kites, vultures and crows.

Let us now read the verse by verse translation and exegesis / tafseer in English. You may also listen tafsir by Nouman Ali Khan at the end of the post:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

اَلَمۡ تَرَ كَيۡفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِاَصۡحٰبِ الۡفِيۡلِؕ‏ 
    ( 1 )   Have you not considered, [O Muhammad], how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant?

Though the address apparently is directed to the Prophet (peace be on him), its real addressees are not only the Quraish but all the people of Arabia, who were well aware of the event. At many places in the Quran the words alam tara (have you not seen) have been used, and they are meant not to address the Prophet (peace be on him) but the people in general. (For example, see (Surah Ibrahim, Ayat 19); ( Surah Al-Hajj, Ayats 18, 65); (Surah An-Noor, Ayat 43); (Surah Luqman, Ayats 29, 31); (Surah Fatir, Ayat 27); (Surah Az-Zumar, Ayat 21). Then, the word seeing has been used here to signify that in and around Makkah and in the vast country of Arabia, from Makkah to Yemen, there were many such people still living, who had witnessed with their own eyes the event of the destruction of the people of the elephant, for it had occurred only about forty to forty-five years earlier, and the people of Arabia had continually heard it described by the eye-witnesses themselves so that they had become so certain of it as though they had seen it with their own eyes.

Here, Allah has not given any detail as to who were the people of the elephant, where from they had come and what was the object of their march, for all these things were well known among the people.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The address is apparently to the Prophet (sws); however, the real addressees are the people of the Quraysh. Addressing single entities in this way is used when the attention of every person from among the addressees is needed individually. In parlance it is called: khitab ghayr mu‘ayyan (unspecified address). The addressees of this surah were aware of this incident. Many people in Makkah and its whereabouts were alive at that time who had witnessed this incident. For the rest, it was concurrent news and they had certain knowledge of it as if they themselves had seen it. For this reason, the Qur’an has not mentioned any details of it. Only its introduction by the words “People of the Elephant” was enough to indicate that Abrahah, the Abyssinian ruler of Yemen was referred to. He had attacked the House of God with a vast army whose troops also consisted of huge elephants.

According to the research of Imam Hamid al-Din Farahi (d. 1930), Abrahah had attacked the Baytullah with nine elephants and a sixty thousand strong army to demolish it. It was not easy for the Quraysh to face such a big army in the open. They had, therefore, sought refuge in the nearby mountains and had defended the holy land by hurling stones at the advancing enemy. This defence was indeed very frail and feeble but the Almighty transformed it into a powerful outburst which took the shape of a terrible stone-hurling storm (hasib) that totally destroyed the enemy in the valley of Muhassar, and their dead bodies were devoured by birds. (For details, see: Farahi, Nizam al-Qur’an, 444). The famous poet Abu Qays refers to this hasib in the following way: (Then the Almighty unleashed a hasib on them which enwrapped them like rubbish.)

اَلَمۡ يَجۡعَلۡ كَيۡدَهُمۡ فِىۡ تَضۡلِيۡلٍۙ‏ 
    ( 2 )   Did He not make their plan into misguidance?

The word kayd is used for a secret plan meant to harm somebody. The question is what was secret in this case? Sixty thousand troops together with several elephants had openly come from Yemen to Makkah, and they had kept no secret that they had come to destroy the Kabah. Therefore, there was nothing secret about this plan. However, what was secret was the motive of the Abyssinian. They by destroying the Kabah, crushing down the Quraish and intimidating the Arabians, wanted to take control of the trade route that led from south Arabia to Syria and Egypt. This motive they kept hidden, and instead proclaimed their intent that they wanted to destroy the Kaabah, the principal House of Arab worship, in retaliation for the pollution of their cathedral by the Arabs.

Literally, fi-tadlil means: led their plan astray, but idiomatically leading a plan astray means bringing it to nought and rendering it fruitless. At one place in the Quran, it has been said: But the disbelievers’ plot (kayd) ended in vain. (Surah Al-Momin, Ayat 25), At another: And that Allah does not lead to success the plan (kayd) of deceivers. (Surah Yousuf, Ayat 52). The Arabians described Imra ul-Qais by the epithet of al-malik ad-dalil (the king who lost and wasted), for he had lost the kingdom left by his father.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The word “plot” refers to the lame excuse Abrahah had made up to attack the Ka‘bah. It is evident from various historical narratives that he had made up a story that an Arab had violated the sanctity of the cathedral built by him at Ṣan‘a by relieving himself in it. Hence, in order to avenge this he was attacking the Ka‘bah. This tale was concocted in order to inflame the Arabs and to gain the support of king Negus of Abyssinia. As a result, an army of sixty thousand gathered for this attack on Makkah. This was merely a treacherous scheme. The real purpose was to raze to the ground the House of God and to divert the Arabs to offer their pilgrimage to the cathedral he had built in San‘a, the capital of Yemen. This whole scheme was concocted by him out of a frenzied prejudice for his religion in order to convert the Arabs into Christians. (For details, see: Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-nihayah, vol. 2, 170)

وَّاَرۡسَلَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ طَيۡرًا اَبَابِيۡلَۙ
    ( 3 )   And He sent against them birds in flocks,

Ababil means many separate and scattered groups whether of men or other creatures, which come from different sides successively. Ikrimah and Qatadah say that these swarms of birds had come from the Red Sea side. Saeed bin Jubair and Ikrimah say that such birds had neither been seen before nor ever after; these were neither birds of Najd, nor of Hijaz, nor of Timamah (the land between Hijaz and the Red Sea). lbn Abbas says that their beaks were like those of birds and claws like the dog’s paw. Ikrimah has stated that their heads were like the heads of the birds of prey, and almost all the reporters agree that each bird carried a stone in its beak and two stones in its claws. Some people of Makkah had these stones preserved with them for a long time. Thus, Abu Nuaim has related a statement of Naufal bin Abi Muawiyah, saying that he had seen the stones which had been thrown on the people of the elephant; they equaled a small pea seed in size and were dark red in color. According to Ibn Abbas’s tradition that Abu Nuaim has related, they were equal to a pine kernel, and according to Ibn Marduyah, equal to a goat’s dropping. Obviously, all the stones might not be equal but differing in size to some extent.

تَرۡمِيۡهِمۡ بِحِجَارَةٍ مِّنۡ سِجِّيۡلٍ‏ 
    ( 4 )   Striking them with stones of hard clay,

Literally, bi hijarat-im-min sijjil means stones of sijjil type. Ibn Abbas says that sijjil is the Arabic version of the Persian sang and gil, and it implies the stones made from clay and become hard when baked. The Quran also confirms the same. In (Surah Houd, Ayat 82) and ( Surah Al- Hijr, Ayat 74), it has been said that stones of baked clay (sijjin were rained on the people of Lot, and about the same stones in (Surah Adh-Dhariyat, Ayat 33), it has been said that they were the stones made from clay (hijarat-im min tin).

Hamid-ad-Din Farahi, who in the present age has done valuable work on the research and determination of the meaning and content of the Quran regards the people of Makkah and other Arabians as the subject of tarmihim in this verse, who are the addressees of alam tara. About the birds he says that they were not casting stones but had come to eat the dead bodies of the people of the elephant. A resume of the arguments he has given for this interpretation is that it is not credible that Abdul Muttalib should have gone before Abrahah and demanded his camels instead of pleading for the Kabah, and this also is not credible that the people of Quraish and the other Arabs who had come for Hajj, did not resist the invaders and leaving the Kaabah at their mercy had gone off to the mountains. Therefore, what actually happened was that the Arabs pelted the army of Abrahah with stones, and Allah by sending a stormy wind charged with stones, destroyed it completely; then the birds were sent to eat the dead bodies of the soldiers. But, as we have already explained in the Introduction, the tradition does not only say that Abdul Muttalib had gone to demand his camels but it says that he did not demand the camels at all but tried to dissuade Abrahah from attacking the Kabah. We have already explained that according to all reliable traditions, Abrahah’s army had come in Muharram when the pilgrims had gone back and also it was beyond the power of Quraish and other Arab tribes living in the surrounding areas to resist and fight an army 60,000 strong. They had hardly been able to muster a force ten to twelve thousand strong on the occasion of the Battle of the Trench (Ahzab) with the help of the Arab pagans and Jewish tribes then how could they have mustered courage to encounter an army, 60,000 strong? However, even if all these arguments are rejected and the sequence of the verses of Surah Al-Feel only is kept in view, this interpretation is seen to go against it. If it were so that the stones were cast by the Arabs and the people of the elephant were rendered as chaff, and then the birds came to eat their dead bodies, the order would be this: You were pelting them with stones of baked clay, then Allah rendered them as chaff eaten up, and then Allah sent upon them swarms of birds. But here we see that first Allah has made mention of sending swarms of birds; this is immediately followed by tarmihim bi-hijarat-im min-sijjil (which were pelting them with stones of baked clay); and then at the end it is said that Allah made them as straw eaten up.

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
Lit., "with stones of sijjil". As mentioned in 11:82, this latter term is synonymous with sijill, which signifies "a writing" and, tropically, "something that has been decreed [by God]": hence, the phrase hijarah min sijjil is a metaphor for "stone-hard blows of chastisement pre-ordained", i.e., in God's decree (Zamakhshari and Razi, with analogous comments on the same expression in 11:82). As already mentioned in the introductory note, the particular chastisement to which the above verse alludes seems to have been a sudden epidemic of extreme virulence: according to Waqidi and Muhammad ibn Ishaq - the latter as quoted by Ibn Hisham and Ibn Kathir - "this was the first time that spotted fever (hasbah) and smallpox (judari) appeared in the land of the Arabs". It is interesting to note that the word hasbah - which, according to some authorities, signifies also typhus - primarily means "pelting [or smiting"] with stones" (Qamus). - As regards the noun ta'ir (of which tayr is the plural), we ought to remember that it denotes any "flying creature", whether bird or insect (Taj al-'Arus). Neither the Qur'an nor any authentic Tradition offers us any evidence as to the nature of the "flying creatures" mentioned in the above verse; and since, on the other hand, all the "descriptions" indulged in by the commentators are purely imaginary, they need not be seriously considered. If the hypothesis of an epidemic is correct, the "flying creatures" - whether birds or insects - may well have been the carriers of the infection. One thing, however, is clear: whatever the nature of the doom that overtook the invading force, it was certainly miraculous in the true sense of this word - namely, in the sudden, totally unexpected rescue which it brought to the distressed people of Mecca.

فَجَعَلَهُمۡ كَعَصۡفٍ مَّاۡكُوۡلٍ‏ 
    ( 5 )   And He made them like eaten straw.

The word asf as used in the original has already occurred in verse 12 of Surah 55. Ar-Rahman: dhul-asf warraihan: and corn with husk as well as grain. This shows that asf means the outer covering of seeds, which the farmer throws away after the grain has been separated from it. Then the animals eat it, and some of it falls down in the chewing and some is trampled under the hoofs.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
(And He made them like `Asf, Ma'kul.) Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "This means straw, which the common people call Habbur.'' In a report from Sa`id he said, "The leaves of wheat.'' He also said, "Al-`Asf is straw, and Al-Ma'kul refers to the fodder that is cut for animals.'' Al-Hasan Al-Basri said the same thing. Ibn `Abbas said, "Al-`Asf is the shell of the grain, just like the covering of wheat.'' Ibn Zayd said, "Al-`Asf are the leaves of vegetation and produce. When the cattle eat it they defecate it out and it becomes dung.'' The meaning of this is that Allah destroyed them, annihilated them and repelled them in their plan and their anger. They did not achieve any good. He made a mass destruction of them, and not one of them returned (to their land) to relate what happened except that he was wounded. This is just like what happened to their king, Abrahah. For indeed he was split open, exposing his heart when he reached his land of San`a'. He informed the people of what happened to them and then he died. His son Yaksum became the king after him, and then Yaksum's brother, Masruq bin Abrahah succeeded him. Then Sayf bin Dhi Yazan Al-Himyari went to Kisra (the king of Persia) and sought his help against the Abyssinians. Therefore, Kisra dispatched some of his army with Sayf Al-Himyari to fight with him against the Abyssinians. Thus, Allah returned their kingdom to them (i.e., the Arabs of Yemen) along with all the sovereignty their fathers possessed. Then large delegations of Arabs came to him (Sayf Al-Himyari) to congratulate him for their victory. We have mentioned previously in the Tafsir of Surat Al-Fath that when the Messenger of Allah approached the mountain pass that would lead him to the Quraysh on the Day of Al-Hudaybiyyah, his she-camel knelt down. 

Then the people attempted to make her get up but she refused. So, the people said, "Al-Qaswa' has become stubborn.'' The Prophet replied: (Al-Qaswa' has not become stubborn, for that is not part of her character. Rather, she has been stopped by He Who restrained the Elephant (of Abrahah).) 

Then he said:(I swear by He in Whose Hand is my soul, they (the Quraysh) will not ask me for any matter (of the treaty) in which the sacred things of Allah are honored except that I will agree with them on it.) Then he beckoned the she-camel to rise and she stood up. This Hadith is of those that Al-Bukhari was alone in recording. 

It has been recorded in the Two Sahihs that on the Day of the conquest of Makkah, the Messenger of Allah said:(Verily, Allah restrained the Elephant from Makkah, and He has given His Messenger and the believers authority over it. And indeed its sacredness has returned just as it was sacred yesterday. So, let those who are present inform those who are absent. ) This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Al-Fil, and all praise and thanks are due to Allah.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
This is a graphic description of the final state of devastation and helplessness of Abrahah’s army. The Almighty totally ravaged them and not a single soul survived to gather the dead. They remained scattered in the battle field and carnivorous birds tore and ate their flesh.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
A field, from which all the corn has been eaten up and only straw with stalks or stubble is left, is a field dead and useless. And such was the army of Abraha,-dead and useless. Another possible rendering would be: "like eaten straw and stubble found in the dung of animals". The meaning would be the same, but much more emphatic.

The lesson to be drawn is twofold. For the Pagan Quraish of Makkah it was: Allah will protect His own; if you persecute the holy Prophet, he is greater than the mere building of the Ka'ba: will not Allah protect him? For men in all ages it is: 'a man intoxicated with power can prepare armies and material resources against Allah's holy Plan; but such a man's plan will be his own undoing; he cannot prevail against Allah'.

You may now like to listen to tafsir of Sürah Al-Fīl by Nouman Ali Khan:

You may refer to our Reference Page "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, explanation and exegesis of other chapters of the Qur'an.

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Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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