Saturday 6 July 2019

Surah Ash-Shu'ara - The Poets: Exegesis / Tafsir 26th Chapter of the Holy Quran - Part II

Sūrah Ash-Shuʻarāʼ is the twenty sixth surah with 227 ayahs with eleven rukus, part of the 19th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The Surah takes its name from verse 224 in which the word Ash-Shu`araa' occurs.

As already mentioned in the Overview of this surah, since this surah is very long, the exegesis / tafseer has been broken down into parts for better understanding as under and will be presented separately in our subsequent posts: 
  • Part I:   Rukhu 1-4 (Verses 1-68) - Mention of Prophet Moses and Pharaoh
  • Part II:  (This Part) Rukhu 5 (verses 69-104) - Mention of Prophet Abraham
  • Part III: Rukhu 6-7 (Verses 105-140) - Mention of Prophets Noah and Hüd
  • Part IV: Rukhu 8-10 (Verses 141-191) - Mention of Prophets Sälih, Lüt, and Shu'aib
  • Part V:  Rukhu 11 (Verses 192-227) - The Revelation of the Qur'an 
Just a reminder of the overview, from Sūrah Ash-Shuʻarāʼ, a new series of four Surahs (Chapters 26-29), begins which illustrate the contrast between the spirit of Prophecy and spiritual Light and the reactions to it in the communities among whom it appeared, by going back to old Prophets and the stories of the Past. In this particular Surah the story of Moses in his fight with Pharaoh and of Pharaoh's discomfiture has been mentioned. Other Prophets mentioned are Abraham, Noah, Hüd, Sälih, Lüt, and Shu'aib. The lesson is drawn that the Qur'an is a continuation and fulfillment of previous Revelations, and is pure Truth, unlike This Surah begins the poetry of vain poets Chronologically the Surah belongs to the middle Makkan period, when the contact of the Light of Prophecy with the milieu of Pagan Makkah was testing the Makkans in their most arrogant mood.

This part of the life-history of Prophet Ibraheem (Abraham, peace be upon him) relates to the time when after his appointment to Prophethood, a conflict had started between him and his people on the questions of shirk and Tauhid. In this connection, the reader should also see (Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayats 258-260); (Surah Al-Anaam, Ayats 75-83); (Surah Maryam, Ayats 41-50); (Surah Al-Anbiya, Ayats 51-70); (Surah As-Saffat, Ayats 83-113); and (Surah Al- Mumtahanah, Ayats 4-5).

The Quran has specially repeated this part of Prophet Abraham’s life story over and over again because the Arabs in general and the Quraish in particular regarded themselves as his followers and professed his way and creed. Besides them, the Christians and the Jews also claimed that Abraham was their religious leader and guide. That is why the Quran admonishes them over and over again that the creed brought by Abraham was Islam itself, which is now being presented by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and which they are opposing tooth and nail. Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was not a mushrik, but an antagonist against shirk, and for the same reason he had to leave his home and country and live as a migrant in Syria, Palestine and Hejaz. Thus he was neither a Jew nor a Christian, because Judaism and Christianity appeared centuries after him. This historical argument could neither be refuted by the mushriks, nor by the Jews or the Christians, because the mushriks themselves admitted that idol-worship in Arabia had started several centuries after Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), and the Jews and the Christians also could not deny that Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) had lived long before the beginning of Judaism and Christianity. This obviously meant that the special beliefs and customs which those people thought formed the basis of their religion, were not part of the original religion taught by Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). True religion was the one which had no tinge of those impurities, but was based on those worship and obedience of One Allah alone. That is why the Quran says:

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a Muslim, sound in the faith, and he was not of those who set up partners with Allah. Surely only those people who follow Abraham are entitled to claim a relationship with him. Now this Prophet and the believers are better entitled to this relationship. (Surah Al Anaam, Ayats 67, 68).

Let us now read the translation and exegesis / tafseer in English of the Surah segmented into portions as per the subject matter. For Arabic Text, please refer to the references given at the end and may also listen to its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles:

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

Rukhu 5 [Verses 69-104]
This part is the story of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) and his arguments against idol worshiping and Prayer of Prophet Ibrahim for this life and the life hereafter and Mushrikin and their gods both will be toppled into hell
( 69 )   And recite to them the news of Abraham,( 70 )   When he said to his father and his people, "What do you worship?"
Obviously the object of this question was to remind the people that the deities which they worshiped were false and absolutely powerless. In Surah Al Anbiya the same question has been posed thus: What are these images to which you are so devoted. (verse 52).
( 71 )   They said, "We worship idols and remain to them devoted."
Though everybody knew that they worshiped idols, their answer implied that they were firm in faith and their hearts were satisfied with it, as if to say: We also know that these are idols of stone and wood, which we worship, but our faith demands that we should serve and worship them devotedly.
( 72 )   He said, "Do they hear you when you supplicate?( 73 )   Or do they benefit you, or do they harm?"
( 74 )   They said, "But we found our fathers doing thus."
That is, we do not worship and serve them because they hear our prayers and supplications, or that they can harm and benefit us, but because we have seen our elders worshiping and serving them. Thus, they themselves admitted that the only reason of their worshiping the idols was the blind imitation of their forefathers. In other words, they meant this: There is nothing new in what you are telling us, We know that these are idols of stone and wood, which do not hear anything, nor can harm or do good, but we cannot believe that our elders who have been worshiping them since centuries, generation after generation, were foolish people. They must have had some good reason for worshiping these lifeless images, so we are doing the same as we have full faith in them.
( 75 )   He said, "Then do you see what you have been worshiping,
( 76 )   You and your ancient forefathers?
That is, is it enough to say that a religion is true only because it has been held as such by their ancestors? Should people, generation after generation, go on following their ancestors in their footsteps blindly without ever caring to see whether the deities they worship possess any divine attribute or not, and whether they have any power to influence their destinies?
( 77 )   Indeed, they are enemies to me, except the Lord of the worlds,
That is, when I consider them, I see that if I worship them, I shall ruin myself both in this world and in the Hereafter. As their worship is clearly harmful, worshiping them is worshiping one’s enemy. These words of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) bear a close connection with (verses 81, 82 of Surah Maryam), which say: These people have set up gods other than Allah so that they may become their supporters. But they will have no supporter; all of them will not only disown their worship but also become their opponents (on the Day of Judgment).

It should be noted that Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) did not say: They are enemies to you, but said: They are enemies to me. In the first case, there was every chance that the people would have felt offended and provoked, because it would have been difficult for them to understand how their own gods could be their enemies. As a matter of fact, Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) appealed to the natural feeling of man that he is his own well-wisher and cannot wish ill of himself deliberately. This would inevitably have led the addressees to think whether what they were doing was really for their good and was in no way harmful.

Thus Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) told the idol worshipers: Of all the deities who are being worshiped in the world, there is only One Allah alone, Lord of the universe, in whose worship I find any good for myself, and Whose worship is the worship of one’s own Cherisher and Supporter, and not of one’s enemy. Then Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) briefly gives the arguments, which nobody could refute, as to why Allah alone is worthy of man’s worship and indirectly suggests that his addressees (the idol-worshipers) had no rational basis for worshiping deities other than Allah except in blind imitation of their forefathers.
( 78 )   Who created me, and He [it is who] guides me.
This is the first reason for which Allah, and One Allah alone, is worthy of man’s worship. The people also knew and believed that Allah alone was their Creator without any partner. Not only they but all the polytheists of the world also have always held the belief that even the deities they worshiped were the creation of Allah, and except for the atheists none have ever denied that Allah is the Creator of the whole universe. This argument of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) implied that being a creature, he could only worship his Creator, Who was alone worthy of his worship, and none else, because none besides Allah had any share in His creation.
( 79 )   And it is He who feeds me and gives me drink.
The second reason for worshiping Allah and Allah alone is that Allah has not become unconcerned with man after creating him and has not left him alone to seek other supporters for help, but has also taken the responsibility of making arrangements for his guidance, protection and fulfillment of his needs. The moment a human child is born, milk is produced for it in the breasts of his mother, and some unseen power teaches it the way to suck it and take it down the throat. From the first day of his life till his death, the Creator has provided in the world around him all necessary means required for every stage of his life for his development and guidance, sustenance and survival. He has also endowed him with all those powers and abilities which are needed to use the means with advantage and given him all necessary guidance for every sphere of life. 
( 80 )   And when I am ill, it is He who cures me
Then for the protection of human life against all sorts of disease, germs and poisons, He has created such effective antidotes that they have not yet been fully encompassed by human knowledge. If these natural arrangements had not been made, even a thorn-prick would have proved fatal. When this all-pervading mercy and providence of the Creator is supporting and sustaining man at all times in every way, there could be no greater folly and ingratitude on the part of man than this that he should bow down before others than Allah and seek their help in need and trouble.
( 81 )   And who will cause me to die and then bring me to life     
The third reason for worshiping none but Allah is that man’s relation with his God is not merely confined to this worldly life, which will end at death, but extends to life after death also. The same God Who brought him into existence, recalls him and there is no power which can stop his return from the world. No remedy, no physician, no god or goddess has ever been able to catch the hand which takes man out of this world. Even all those men who were made deities and worshiped could not ward off their own deaths. Only Allah judges and decides when a particular person is to be recalled from the world, and whenever somebody is recalled by Him, he has to leave this world in any case. 
( 82 )   And who I aspire that He will forgive me my sin on the Day of Recompense."
Then it is Allah alone Who will decide as to when He should raise back to life all those people who were born in this world and died and buried here, and ask them to account for their worldly lives. Then also nobody will have the power to stop resurrection of himself or others. Every human being will have to rise at the command of Allah and appear in His court. Then Allah alone will be the Judge on that Day, and nobody else will be a partner in his judgment in any degree. To punish or to forgive will be entirely in Allah’s hand. Nobody will have the power to get somebody forgiven if Allah would want to punish him, and punished if Allah would want to forgive him. All those who are regarded as intercessors in the world, will themselves be hoping for Allah’s mercy and grace for their forgiveness.

In view of these facts anybody who worships others than Allah, is in fact preparing for his own doom. There can be no greater misfortune than this that man should turn away from Allah Who controls his life here as well as in the Hereafter, and should turn for help and support to those who are utterly powerless in this regard.

رَبِّ هَبۡ لِىۡ حُكۡمًا وَّاَلۡحِقۡنِىۡ بِالصّٰلِحِيۡنَۙ‏ 
( 83 )   [And he said], "My Lord, grant me authority and join me with the righteous.
Hukm here does not mean Prophethood, because at the time this prayer was made, Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) had already been appointed a Prophet. Even if this prayer was made before that, Prophethood is not bestowed at request, but it is something which Allah Himself bestows on those He wills. That is why hukm has been translated wisdom, knowledge, right understanding and power of judgment. 

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is also reported to have made a similar prayer. Arinal-ashyaa kama hiya: O Allah, give us the power to see and understand a thing as it really is and to form an opinion about it according to its reality.

“Join me with the righteous”: Give me a righteous society to live here in this world and raise me along with the righteous in the Hereafter. To be raised back to life with the righteous and to attain one’s salvation have one and the same meaning. Therefore, this should be the prayer of every person who believes in the life-after-death and in reward and punishment. Even in this world a pious man cherishes the desire that God should save him from living a life in an immoral and wicked society and should join him with the righteous people. A pious and righteous person will remain ill at ease and restless until either his own society should become clean and pure morally, or he leaves it to join another society which is practicing and following the principles of truth and honesty.
( 84 )   And grant me a reputation of honor among later generations.
That is, grant me true renown among posterity. Grant me the grace that posterity should remember me as a good and pious man after my death and not as one of the unjust people, who were not only wicked themselves, but who left nothing but wickedness behind them in the world. Enable me to perform such high deeds that my life should become a source of light for others for all times to come, and I should be counted among the benefactors of humanity. This is not a prayer for worldly greatness and renown, but for true greatness and renown, which can be achieved only as a result of solid and valuable services. A person’s achieving such true renown and glory has two good aspects:

  • (1) The people of the world get a good example to follow, as against bad examples, which inspires them with piety and encourages them to follow the right way; and
  • (2) The righteous person will not only get the rewards of works done by posterity who were guided aright by the good example left and set by him, but in addition to his own good works, he will have the evidence of the millions of people in his favor that he had left behind him in the world fountains of guidance, which went on benefiting people, generation after generation, till the Day of Resurrection. 

( 85 )   And place me among the inheritors of the Garden of Pleasure.
( 86 )   And forgive my father. Indeed, he has been of those astray.
Some commentators have interpreted this prayer of Prophet Abraham for his father’s forgiveness to imply that he had prayed to God to grant his father the favor to accept Islam because forgiveness in any case is inter-linked with and dependent upon faith. But this interpretation is not borne out by the other verses of the Quran. The Quran says that when Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) left his home at the tyrannical treatment of his father, he said: I bid farewell to you; I shall pray to my Lord to forgive you for He is very kind to me. (Surah Maryam, Ayat 47). To fulfill this promise, he not only prayed for the forgiveness of his father, but for both his parents: Lord, forgive me and my parents. (Surah Ibrahim, Ayat 41). But afterwards he himself realized that an enemy of the truth, even if he be the father of a believer, does not deserve a prayer of forgiveness. Thus according to (verse 114 of Surah At- Taubah): The prayer of Abraham for his father was only to fulfill a promise he had made to him, but when he realized that he was an enemy of Allah, he disowned him.
( 87 )   And do not disgrace me on the Day they are [all] resurrected
This may mean That do not put me to disgrace on the Day of Judgment by inflicting punishment on my father in front of all mankind, when I myself shall be witnessing his punishment helplessly.
( 88 )   The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children( 89 )   But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart."
It cannot be said with certainty whether verses 88, 89 are a part of Prophet Abraham’s (peace be upon him) prayer, or they are an addition by Allah. In the first case, they will mean that Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) while praying for his father had a full realization of these facts. In the second case, they will be a comment by Allah on Abraham’s (peace be upon him) prayer, as if to say: On the Day of Judgment, only a sound heart, sound in faith and free from disobedience and sin, will be of any avail to man and not wealth and children, for wealth and children can be useful only if one possesses a sound heart. Wealth will be useful if one would have spent it sincerely and faithfully for the sake of Allah, otherwise even a millionaire will be a poor man there. Children also will be of help only to the extent that a person might have educated them in faith and good conduct to the best of his ability; otherwise even if the son is a Prophet, his father will not escape punishment if he died in the state of unbelief, because such a father will have no share in the goodness of his children.

Verses 90-102 do not seem to be a part of Prophet Abraham’s (peace be upon him) speech, but they are Allah’s words.
( 90 )   And Paradise will be brought near [that Day] to the righteous.( 91 )   And Hellfire will be brought forth for the deviators,
That is, on the one hand, the righteous people will be shown the countless blessings which they will enjoy in Paradise by Allah’s grace, and on the other hand, Hell will be set open with all its dreads and horrors before the straying people, when they will still be in the Plain of Resurrection.
( 92 )   And it will be said to them, "Where are those you used to worship( 93 )   Other than Allah? Can they help you or help themselves?"( 94 )   So they will be overturned into Hellfire, they and the deviators( 95 )   And the soldiers of Iblees, all together.( 96 )   They will say while they dispute therein,( 97 )   "By Allah, we were indeed in manifest error( 98 )   When we equated you with the Lord of the worlds.
( 99 )   And no one misguided us except the criminals.
This is how the followers will treat their religious leaders and guides, whom they served and revered like deities in the world, whose words and patterns of behavior they took as authoritative and before whom they presented all sorts of offerings in the world. In the Hereafter when the people will find that their guides had misled them and caused their ruin as well as their own, they will hold them responsible for it and will curse them. The Quran has presented this horrible scene of the Hereafter at several places so as to admonish the blind followers to see and judge carefully whether their guides in this world were leading them on the right path or not. For instance: As each generation will be entering Hell, it will curse its preceding generation till all generations shall be gathered together there; then each succeeding generation will say regarding the preceding one: O Lord, these were the people who led us astray; therefore give them a double chastisement of the Fire. Allah will reply: There is a double chastisement for everyone but you know it not. (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 38). And the disbelievers will say: Our Lord, bring those jinns and men before us, who led us astray so that we may trample them under our feet and put them to extreme disgrace. (Surah Ha Mim Sajdah, Ayat 29). And they will say: Our Lord, we obeyed our chiefs and our great men and they misled us from the right path; our Lord, give them a double chastisement and curse them with a severe curse. (Surah Al-Ahzab, Ayat 67-68).
( 100 )   So now we have no intercessors
That is, those whom we regarded as our intercessors in the world and who, we believed, would take us safely into Paradise, are utterly helpless today and of no avail to us.
( 101 )   And not a devoted friend.
 That is, we have no sympathizer either who could feel for us and console us. The Quran says that in the Hereafter only the believers will continue to be friends; as for the disbelievers, they will turn enemies of one another even though they had been sworn friends in the world. Each will hold the other as responsible for the doom and try to get him maximum punishment. Friends on that Day will become enemies of one another except the righteous (who will continue to be friends). (Surah Az-Zukhruf, Ayat 67).
( 102 )   Then if we only had a return [to the world] and could be of the believers... "
That Quran has given an answer to this kind of longing and desire as well: Even if they be sent back to the earthly life, they would do all that they had been forbidden to do. (Surah Al-Anaam, Ayat 28). As for the reasons why they will not be allowed to return to the world, please see (E.Ns 90-92 of Surah Al-Mominoon) above.
( 103 )   Indeed in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers.
There are two aspects of the sign in the story of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). (1) On the one hand, the mushriks of Arabia, especially the Quraish, claimed that they were the followers of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) and were proud of being his descendants, but on the other hand, they were involved in shirk against which Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) had been engaged in a relentless struggle throughout his life. Then these people were opposing and treating the Prophet (peace be upon him) who was inviting them towards the religion brought by Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). They have been reminded that Abraham (peace be upon him) was an enemy of shirk and an upholder of Tauhid which they themselves admitted, and yet they persisted in their obduracy to follow the creed of shirk. (2) The people of Abraham (peace be upon him) were eliminated from the world. If any of them survived, it was the children of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) and his sons, Ishmael and Isaac (peace be upon them). Though the Quran does not mention the torment that descended on Abraham’s people after he had left them, it has included them among the tormented tribes: Has not the story reached them of those who had gone before them: the people of Noah, the tribes of Aad and Thamud, the people of Abraham, and the inhabitants of Midian and of the overturned cities? (Surah At-Taubah, Ayat 70).

وَاِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الۡعَزِيۡزُ الرَّحِيۡمُ
( 104 )   And indeed, your Lord - He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.
Here in the end of this part, two attributes of Allah have been used, Al Aziz and Ar Raheem. Please visit our post for the meaning of all 99 Attributes of Allah.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Surah Ash-Shu'ara with English subtitles:

You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary / exegesis of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Juzʼ / Part backwards for chapters in 30th Juzʼ / Part are shorter and easier to understand). 

Photo | References1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 
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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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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