Sunday 7 July 2019

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

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:  Rukhu 5 (verses 69-104) - Mention of Prophet Abraham
  • Part III: (This Part) 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.

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 6 [Verses 105-122]
105-122 Story of Prophet Nuh (Noah, peace be upon him), his dialogue with his people, they disbelieved and as a result faced destruction.

The people of Noah also rejected their Messenger.  He was gentle and mild, and asked for no payment, but they considered him and those who followed him to be poor and worthless.  Noah said he would never drive away a believer; he was nothing but a warner.  They asked him to desist or he would be stoned.  Noah called out to God asking for a decisive judgement.   God saved Noah and the believers in a ship, the others were drowned.  This is a great lesson, but most do not believe.  God is Mighty and Merciful.
( 105 )   The people of Noah denied the messengers
The mention of people of Noah also appears in  (Surah AI-Aaraf, Ayats 59-64); (Surah Younus, Ayats 71-73); (Surah Houd, Ayats 25-48); (Surah Bani Israil, Ayat 3); (Surah Al-Anbiya, Ayats 76-77); (Surah Al-Mominoon, Ayats 23-30); and (Surah Al-Furqan, Ayat 37). For the details of the story of Prophet Noah, see (Surah Al-Ankabut, Ayat 15); (Surah As-Saffat, Ayats 75-82); (Surah Al-Qamar, Ayats 9-15) and Surah Nooh itself.

Though Noah's people had rejected only one Messenger, it amounted to rejecting all the messengers because all of them had brought one and the same message from Allah. This is an important fact which the Quran has mentioned over and over again in different ways. Thus, even those people who rejected just one Prophet have been regarded as unbelievers though they believed in all other Prophets, for the simple reason that the believer in the truth of one Messenger cannot deny the same truth in other cases unless he does so on account of racial prejudice, imitation of elders, etc.
( 106 )   When their brother Noah said to them, "Will you not fear Allah?
The address of Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) to his people, is also mentioned at other places in the Quran: O my people, worship Allah alone, you have no deity other than Him. Are you not afraid (of Him)? (Surah Al-Mominoon, Ayat 23); and Worship Allah and fear Him and obey me. (Surah Nooh, Ayat 3). That is, are you not afraid of the consequences of adopting an attitude of rebellion against Allah and worshiping others than Him?
( 107 )   Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy messenger.
This verse has two meanings. (1) I present before you nothing but what Allah reveals to me. (2) I am a Messenger whom you have already known to be a trustworthy and honest and righteous man. When I have been honest and true in my dealings with you, how can I be dishonest and untrustworthy in conveying the message of God? Therefore, you should rest assured that whatever I am presenting is the truth.
( 108 )   So fear Allah and obey me.
That is, when I am a truthful and trustworthy Messenger, you are duty-bound to obey me alone as against all other patrons, and carry out my commands and instructions, because I represent the will of God. Obedience to me is in fact obedience to God and disobedience to me is disobedience to Him. In other words, the people are not only required to accept a Messenger as a true Messenger sent by Allah, but it inevitably implies that they have to obey him and follow his Law against all other laws. To reject a Prophet, or to disobey him after accepting him as a Prophet, is tantamount to rebellion against Allah, which inevitably leads to His wrath. The words “fear Allah” are, therefore, a warning that every hearer should clearly understand the consequences of rejecting the message of a Messenger or of disobeying his commands.
( 109 )   And I do not ask you for it any payment. My payment is only from the Lord of the worlds.
This is the second of the two arguments of Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) about the truth of his message, the first being that they had known him as a trustworthy man during his earlier life, which he had lived among them. This second argument implies this: I do not have any selfish motive or personal interest in conveying the message which I am propagating day and night in spite of all sorts of opposition and antagonism from you. At least you should understand this that 1 am sincere in my invitation, and am presenting honestly only that which I believe to be the truth and in following which I see the true success and well-being of humanity at large. I have no personal motive in this that I should fabricate falsehood to fool the people.

These two arguments are among the most important arguments which the Quran has advanced repeatedly as proofs of the truthfulness of the Prophets, and which it presents as criterion for judging Prophethood. A man who before Prophethood has lived a life in a society and has always been found to be honest, truthful and righteous, cannot be doubted even by a prejudiced person that he would suddenly start fabricating falsehood in the name of Allah and making people believe that he has been appointed a Prophet by Him, whereas he has not been. More important than that, such a lie cannot be fabricated with a good intention unless somebody has a selfish motive attached to this kind of fraud. And even when a person indulges in this sort of fraud, he cannot hide it completely from the people. The foul means and devices adopted by him to promote his business become known and all the various selfish interests and gains become all too apparent. Contrary to this, the personal life of a Prophet is full of moral excellencies. It has no trace of the employment of foul means and devices. Not to speak of any personal interest, he expends whatever he has for the cause of a mission which to all appearances is fruitless. No person who possesses any common sense and also has a sense of justice, can ever imagine that a sensible man who was leading a perfectly peaceful life, would come out all of a sudden with a false claim, when such a false claim does not do him any good, but on the contrary, demands all his money, time and energy and earns him nothing in return but the antagonism and hostility of the whole world. Sacrifice of personal interests is the foremost proof of a man’s sincerity; therefore, doubting the intentions and sincerity of a person who has been sacrificing his personal interests for years and years can only be the pastime of the one who himself is selfish and insincere.
( 110 )   So fear Allah and obey me."
Repetition of this sentence is not without reason. In the first case (verse 108), it implied this: You should fear Allah if you treat as false a true and trustworthy Messenger from Him, whom you yourselves have been regarding as a true and trustworthy man in the past. Here it means: You should fear Allah if you doubt the intention of a person who is working sincerely only for the reformation of the people without any personal interest. This thing has been stressed because the chiefs of Prophet Noah’s (peace be upon him) people, in order to find fault with his message of truth, accused him of struggling merely for his personal superiority: He merely intends to obtain superiority over you. (Surah Al-Mominoon, Ayat 24).
( 111 )   They said, "Should we believe you while you are followed by the lowest [class of people]?"
This answer to Prophet Noah’s (peace be upon him) message of truth was given by the chiefs, elders and nobles of his people as mentioned in (Surah Houd, Ayat 27). In answer to this, those chiefs of his people, who had rejected his message: said, We see that you are no more than a mere man like ourselves, and we also see that only the meanest from among us have become your followers without due consideration, and we find nothing in you that might give you superiority over us. This shows that those who believed in Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) were mostly the poor people, and ordinary workmen, or some youth who enjoyed no position in society. As for the influential and rich people, they had become his bitter opponents, and were trying by every trick and allurement to keep the common man behind them. One of the arguments they advanced against Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) was this: Had there been some weight and substance in Noah’s message, the rich people, scholars, religious divines, nobles and wise people of the community should have accepted it, but none of them has believed in him; the only people to follow him are the foolish people belonging to the lowest stratum of society, who have no common-sense. Now how can the noble and high ranking people like us join the company of the common people?

Precisely the same thing was being said by the unbelieving Quraish about the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his followers. Abu Sufyan in reply to the questions asked by Heraclius had said: Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been followed by the poor and weak of our people. What they seemed to be thinking was that truth was that which was considered as truth by the chiefs and elders of the community, for only they had the necessary common-sense and power of judgment. As for the common people, their being common was a proof that they lacked sense and judgment. As such, if a thing was accepted by them but rejected by the chiefs, it meant that the thing itself was without worth and value. The disbelievers of Makkah even went further. They argued that a Prophet could not be a common man. If God had to appoint a Prophet, He would have appointed a great chief to be a Prophet. They say: why has not the Quran been sent down to a prominent man of our two cities (Makkah and Taif)? (Surah Az-Zukhruf, Ayat 31).
( 112 )   He said, "And what is my knowledge of what they used to do?( 113 )   Their account is only upon my Lord, if you [could] perceive.
This is the first answer to their objection, which was based on the assumption that the poor people belonging to the working classes and lower social strata who performed humble duties, did not possess any mental maturity and were without intelligence and common sense. Therefore, their belief was without any rational basis, and so unreliable, and their deeds were of no value at all. To this Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) replies: I have no means of judging the motives and assessing the worth of the deeds of the people who accept my message and act accordingly. This is not my concern but the responsibility of God.
( 114 )   And I am not one to drive away the believers. ( 115 )   I am only a clear warner."
Verse 105 gives the second answer to their objection, which implied that since those who were gathering around Noah (peace be upon him) as believers, belonged to the lowest social strata, none of the nobles would like to join them, as if to say: O Noah, should we believe in you in order to be counted among the low-ranking people like the slaves and servants and workmen? To this Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) answers: How can I adopt this irrational attitude that I should attend earnestly to those who do not like to listen to me, but drive away those who have believed and followed me? I am simply, a warner, who has declared openly that the way you are following is wrong and will lead you to ruin, and the way that I am inviting to is the way of salvation far all. Now it is up to you whether you heed my warning and adopt the right path, or go on following blindly the way to your ruin. It does not behoove me that I should start inquiring into the castes and ancestry and trades of the people who have heeded my warning and adopted the right path. They might be mean in your sight, but I cannot drive them away and wait to see when the nobles will give up the path of destruction and adopt the way of salvation and success instead.

Precisely the same thing was going on between the Holy Prophet and the disbelievers of Makkah when these verses were revealed, and one can fully understand why the dialogue between Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) and the chiefs of his people, has been related here. The chiefs of the disbelievers of Makkah thought exactly the same way. They said how they could sit side by side with the slaves like Bilal, Ammar and Suhaib and other men of the working class, as if to say: Unless these poor people are turned out, there can be no possibility that the nobles may consider to become believers; it is impossible that the master and the slave should stand shoulder to shoulder with each other. In answer to this the Prophet (peace be upon him) was commanded by Allah to tell the vain and arrogant disbelievers plainly that the poor believers could not be driven out of Islam just for their sake: O Muhammad, you attend earnestly to him who has shown indifference (to your message), whereas you have no responsibility if he does not reform himself; and the one who comes to you earnestly, fearing Allah, to him you pay no attention. Nay, this indeed is an admonition, so let him, who wills, accept it. (Surah Abasa, Ayats 5-12).

And do not drive away those who invoke their Lord morning and evening and are engaged in seeking His favor. You are not in any way accountable for them, nor are they in any way accountable for you: so, if you should drive them away, you shall be counted among the unjust. As a matter of fact, in this way We have made some of them a means of test for others, so that, seeing them, they should say: Are these the people from among us upon whom Allah has showered His blessings? Yes, does Allah not know His grateful servants better than they? (Surah Al-Anaam, Ayats 52-53).
( 116 )   They said, "If you do not desist, O Noah, you will certainly become one of the accursed."
The words in the text may have two meanings. (1) You will be stoned to death. (2) You will be showered with abuses from all sides, and cursed and reviled wherever you go.
( 117 )   He said, "My Lord, indeed my people have denied me.
That is, they have rejected me completely and absolutely and now there is no hope of their becoming believers. Here nobody should have the misunderstanding that just after this conversation between Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) and the chiefs of his people, and the rejection of his message by them, the Prophet submitted a report to Allah that his people had rejected him and now He should settle the accounts between them.

The Quran has mentioned at different places the details of the long struggle that went on for centuries between Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) and his people, who persisted in unbelief. According to (verse 14 of Surah Al-Ankabut), the struggle continued for 950 years: He (Noah) remained among them for a thousand years save fifty years. Prophet Noah during this long period studied their collective behavior, generation after generation, and came to the conclusion that they had no inclination to accept the truth, and formed the opinion that in their future generations also there was no hope of anybody becoming a believer and adopting the righteous attitude: My Lord, if You should leave them, they will lead Your servants astray, and they will bear as children none but sinners and disbelievers. (Surah Nooh, Ayat 27). Allah Himself confirmed this opinion of Noah, saying: No more of your people will believe in you now than those who have already believed. So do not grieve at their misdeeds. (Sura Houd, Ayat 36).
( 118 )   Then judge between me and them with decisive judgment and save me and those with me of the believers."
That is You, O Allah, should not only give Your judgment as to who is in the right and who is in the wrong, but deliver Your Judgment in such a manner that the followers of the truth are saved and the followers of falsehood are completely annihilated from the earth.
( 119 )   So We saved him and those with him in the laden ship.( 1
Laden ship: because the ship became loaded with the believers and the pairs of animals from every species. For further details, see Surah Houd, Ayat 40.
20 )   Then We drowned thereafter the remaining ones.( 121 )   Indeed in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers.( 122 )   And indeed, your Lord - He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.
Rukhu 7 [Verses 123-140]
123-140 Story of Prophet Hüd (peace be upon him), his address to his people, they disbelieved and as a result faced destruction.

The people of Aad disbelieved in their Messenger Hüd.  He asked them to fear God and requested no payment.  They built strong, tall buildings as if they expected to live forever and were cruel tyrants.  Hüd reminded them that God provided them with their sustenance.  Hüd’s people replied that they had no fear of torment and such talk was nothing but an ancient myth.  God utterly destroyed them.  He is Mighty as well as Merciful.

A word about People of Aad: Ad (also called Aad) was the great-grandson of Shem, son of Noah (Arabic: Sam ibn Nuh سام بن نوح) who came from the northeast and was the progenitor of the Adites. The Adites are believed to be among the first inhabitants of the country of the Arabians. They belong to what is known as the perished Arabs (العرب البائدة). Iram (إرم) is the place to which the prophet Hüd (هود) was sent in order to guide its people back to the righteous path of God. The citizens continued in their idolatrous ways, and Allah destroyed their city in a great storm. [Wikipedia]
( 123 )   'Aad denied the messengers
For details see (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayats 65-72); (Surah Houd, Ayats 50-60); and for further details of this story, see (Surah HaMim Sajdah, Ayats 13-16); (Surah Al- Ahqaf, Ayats 21-26); (Surah Az-Zariyat, Ayats 41,45); (Surah Al-Qamar, Ayats 18-22); (Surah Al-Haqqah, Ayats 4-8); and (Surah AI-Fajr, Ayats 6-8).
( 124 )   When their brother Hüd said to them, "Will you not fear Allah?
In order to understand this discourse of Prophet Hüd fully, we should keep in mind the various details about the people of Aad which the Quran has given at different places: For instance, it says:
  • (1) After the destruction of the people of Noah (Peace be upon him), the Aad were given power and prominence in the world: Do not forget that after Noah’s people your Lord made you the successors. (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 69).
  • (2) Physically they were very robust and powerful people: And made you very robust. (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 69).
  • (3)They had no parallel as a nation in the world: The like of which was not created in the lands. (Surah Al-Fajr, Ayat 8).
  • (4) They were civilized and were well-known in the world for their great skill and art in erecting lofty buildings with tall columns: Have you not seen what your Lord did with Aad lram, of lofty columns? (Surah Al-Fajr, Ayat 6, 7).
  • (5) This material progress and physical power had made them arrogant and vain: As for Aad, they deviated from the right path and adopted an arrogant attitude in the land and said: Who is mightier than us in power? (Surah Ha Mim Sajdah, Ayat 15) .
  • (6) Their political power was in the hands of a few tyrants before whom none could dare raise his voice: And they followed and obeyed every tyrannous enemy of the Truth. (Surah Houd, Ayat 59).
  • (7) They were not disbelievers in the existence of Allah, but were involved in shirk; they only denied that Allah alone should be worshiped and none else: They said (to Houd), Have you come to us (with the demand) that we should worship Allah alone and discard those whom our elders have been worshiping? (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 70). 
The next three verses contain similar conversation that Prophet Noah had with his people and even all following prophets:

( 125 )   Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy messenger.( 126 )   So fear Allah and obey me.( 127 )   And I do not ask you for it any payment. My payment is only from the Lord of the worlds.
( 128 )   Do you construct on every elevation a sign, amusing yourselves,
That is, you build grand buildings merely to show off your wealth and power, whereas they have no use and purpose except that they stand as monuments to your grandeur and glory.
( 129 )   And take for yourselves palaces and fortresses that you might abide eternally?
That is, though you have built other buildings also for dwelling purposes, in order to make them grand, beautiful and strong, you expend your wealth and mental and physical abilities in a manner as if you were going to live forever, and there was no purpose of life except seeking of comfort and pleasure and nothing beyond this worldly life which might deserve your attention.

Prophet Hüd’s (peace be upon him) criticism of his people’s extravagant and luxurious architecture was not simply aimed at the high castles and monuments, but he was actually criticizing their corrupt civilization and social system, whose glaring symptoms could be seen everywhere in the land in the shape of castles and monuments.

In Surah Al Fajr, chapter 89, verses 6–14 the mention of People of Aad (and others) is made and the torment they received as punishment of their continued disobedience and mocking of the prophets sent to them:
6: Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with ‘Aad -
7: [With] Iram – who had lofty pillars, 8: The likes of whom had never been created in the lands 9: And [with] Thamud, who carved out the rocks in the valley? 10: And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the stakes? – 11: [All of] whom oppressed within the lands 12: And increased therein the corruption. 13: So your Lord poured upon them a scourge of punishment. 14: Indeed, your Lord is in observation.
( 130 )   And when you strike, you strike as tyrants.
That is, in order to meet the demands of your ever rising standards of life, you do not rest content with small living quarters but you build castles and fortresses, and yet being unsatisfied you erect lofty edifices unnecessarily just for ostentation. But as human beings you have become so depraved that there is no mercy in your hearts for the weak, no justice for the poor, and all people of lower social strata, living inside or around your land, are being oppressed tyrannically and none is safe from your barbarities.

Verse 131-135 once again are similar repetition of conversation which Prophet Noah had with his people, but to no avail:
( 131 )   So fear Allah and obey me.( 132 )   And fear He who provided you with that which you know,( 133 )   Provided you with grazing livestock and children( 134 )   And gardens and springs.( 135 )   Indeed, I fear for you the punishment of a terrible day."
( 136 )   They said, "It is all the same to us whether you advise or are not of the advisors
This can have two meanings. (1) Whatever we are doing is not new but has been happening from the time of our elders since centuries: they had the same creed, the same way of life, the same morality and the same kind of dealings and yet they remained unharmed and safe from every calamity. If there was any evil in this way of life, we should have met the doom with which you are threatening us. (2) The things you are preaching have also been preached and said before by religious maniacs and so-called moralists, but they could not change the ways of the world. It has never happened that the world suffered a disaster only because people refused to listen to preachers like you.
( 137 )   This is not but the custom of the former peoples,( 138 )   And we are not to be punished."
( 139 )   And they denied him, so We destroyed them. Indeed in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers.
According to the Quran, the people of Aad were destroyed by a violent windstorm. When they saw it advancing towards their valleys, they rejoiced with the hope that those were dense clouds which would bring much rain for them, but in reality it was Allah’s scourge. The windstorm continued to rage for eight days and seven nights and destroyed everything. The people were swept away like straw and everything on which the hot, dry wind blew was left rotting. The storm did not abate until the last man of the wicked tribe had met his doom. Only ruins of their habitations remained to tell the tale of their terrible fate, and today even the ruins have become extinct. The whole territory of Ahqaf has turned into dreadful desert dunes. 
( 140 )   And indeed, your Lord - He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.
May Allah guide us to the path of truth and let not our hearts deviate from his fear and commandments, for Allah does not like tyrants and transgressors. Aameen

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 | 6 |
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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