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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

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


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`ara' 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: 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:  (This Part) 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 11 [Verses 192-227]
In this last ruku It is being said that "This Quran" comes from Allah, brought down to Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel, as a warning to the people in plain Arabic language.  The former scriptures foretold this, why is that not sufficient proof? If it was revealed to a non-Arab who recited to them in Arabic they would still not believe.  Allah puts unbelief in the hearts of the guilty.  They will not believe until they see the torment, and at that time they will ask for respite. Past enjoyment is no protection from the torment.  Allah never destroyed a population without a warner.  He is never unjust.  The jinn did not bring down the Quran.  Do not worship anything other than Allah.  Warn your close kin (oh Muhammad) and show kindness to the believers.  If they disobey then you are not accountable for their actions. Put your trust in Allah.  The devils descend upon the liars and only the lost follow the poets; except the poets who believe and are righteous.  And the oppressors will know to what they will return. 

In that, in the initial Verses 192-207 it is being said that Al-Quran is revealed in plain Arabic by Allah through angel Gabriel, those people who do not want to believe will not believe:
( 192 )   And indeed, the Qur'an is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds.
At the end of the historical account, the same theme, with which the Surah began, is resumed. For reference, see (verses 1-9, mentioned in Part I).

This lucid Book whose verses are being recited to you, and this admonition from which the people are turning away, is not the product of the whims of a man. It has not been written and compiled by Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself, but it consists of the revelations of the Lord of this universe.
( 193 )   The Trustworthy Spirit has brought it down
That is, Angel Gabriel, as mentioned in (Surah Al- Baqarah, Ayat 97): Say to them: Whosoever is the enemy to Gabriel, he should understand that he has, by Allah’s command, revealed to your heart the Quran. Here the object of using the title of the trustworthy Spirit for Gabriel implies that the Quran is not being sent down by Allah through some material agency, which is subject to change and vacillation; but through a pure Spirit, having no tinge of materialism, and who is perfectly trustworthy. This Spirit conveys the messages of Allah precisely in the same form and with the same content as they are entrusted to him. It is not possible for him to tamper with the messages, or to make his own additions to them in any way.

عَلٰى قَلۡبِكَ لِتَكُوۡنَ مِنَ الۡمُنۡذِرِيۡنَۙ‏ 
( 194 )   Upon your heart, [O Muhammad] - that you may be of the warners 
Qalb (Heart) signifies not only the seat of the affections, but also the seat of the memory and understanding. The process of inspiration is indicated by the impression of the divine Message on the inspired one's heart, memory, and understanding, from which it was promulgated in human speech to the world. In this case the human speech was the perspicuous Arabic tongue, which would be plainly intelligible to the audience who would immediately hear it and be through them transmitted to all the world.
( 195 )   In a clear Arabic language.
That is the divine message has not been sent down in a dead or mysterious language, or in a language of riddles and enigmas, but in such clear and lucid Arabic, which can be understood easily by every Arab and every non Arab who has learned Arabic. As such, the people who are turning away from it, they cannot have the excuse that they could not understand the message of the Quran. The only reason of their denial and aversion is that they are afflicted with the same disease with which Pharaoh, the people of Abraham the people of Noah, the people of Lot, the Aad and the Thamud, and the people of Aiykah were afflicted.
( 196 )    (a revelation embodied) in the scriptures of the ancients..
That is, this very admonition and divine message and teachings are contained in the former Scriptures also. The same message of submission to One God, the same belief in the Hereafter and the same invitation to follow the Prophets has been given in all those Books. All the Books sent down by God condemn shirk and the materialistic philosophy of life and invite people to accept the true and sound philosophy of life, which is based on the concept of man’s accountability before God, and demands that man should give up his independence in deference to divine commands brought and preached by the Prophets. None of these things is new, which the Quran may be presenting for the first time, and none can blame the Prophet (peace be upon him) of saying something which had never been said before by the former Prophets.

And now coming over to an important matter as regards reciting Qur'an in Arabic in prayers:
  • Among other arguments this verse also is quoted in support of Imam Abu Hanifah’s early opinion that if a person recites the translation of the Quran in the prayer, his prayer will be in order and valid, whether he is able to recite the Quran in Arabic or not. According to Allama Abu Bakr al-Jassas, the basis of this argument is: Allah says that the Quran was contained in the former Scriptures also; obviously this could not be in Arabic words, As such, if translated and presented in another language, it will still be the Quran. (Ahkam-ul-Quran, Vol. III, p. 429). 
  • But the weakness of this argument is obvious. The Quran, or any other divine Book, was never revealed in a manner that Allah inspired to the Prophet with its meaning and then he presented it before the people in his own words. The fact is that every Book, in whatever language it came, was revealed in divine words and meanings together. As such, the teachings of the Quran were contained in the former Scriptures in divine words and not in human, and none of their translations could be considered as the divine Book or its representation. As regards the Quran, it has been stated over and over again that it was literally revealed in the Arabic language: We have sent it down as Quran in Arabic. (Surah Yusuf, Ayat 2). We have sent this command in Arabic to you. (Surah Ar-Raad, Ayat 37). An Arabic Quran without any crookedness. (Surah Az-Zumar, Ayat 28). Then just before this verse, it has been said that the trustworthy Spirit has brought it down in Arabic. Now how can it be said that the translation of the Quran made into another language will also be the Quran and its words will represent the words of Allah?
  • It appears that later the Imam himself felt this weakness in the argument and, according to authentic traditions, gave up his earlier opinion, and adopted the opinion of Imams Abu Yusuf and Muhammad, who held that a person who could not recite Arabic words, could recite the translation of the Quran in his prayer till he was able to pronounce Arabic words. However, the prayer of a person, who was able to recite the Quran in Arabic, would not be valid if he recited its translation. 
  • The fact is that the two Imams had proposed this concession only for those non Arab converts who were not able to offer their prayer in Arabic immediately after embracing Islam. In this the basis of their argument was not that the translation of the Quran was the Quran itself, but that just as a person unable to perform Ruku and Sajdah was allowed to offer his prayer by making signs, so a person unable to pronounce Arabic words could recite the translation. Then just as the prayer of a person who offered it by making signs could not be valid as soon as the cause of inability was removed, so the prayer of a person who recited the translation would not be valid as soon as he became able to pronounce Arabic words. (For a detailed discussion, see Al-Mabsut by Sarkhasi,Vol. I, p. 37; Fath ul- Qadir and Sharh Inaya alal-Hedaya, Vol. I. pp. 190-201). 
( 197 )   And has it not been a sign to them that it is recognized by the scholars of the Children of Israel?
That is, the learned men of the Israelite know that the teachings of the Quran are the same as of the former Scriptures. Though the people of Makkah themselves were uninitiated in the knowledge of the Book, there were many scholars among the Israelites living in the surrounding areas, who fully understood that the Quran did not bring a novel message, which was being presented by Muhammad bin Abdullah for the first time, but it was the same message which had been brought and preached by Prophets of Allah one after the other since thousands of years. Is it not then a convincing proof of the fact that the Quran has been sent down by the same Lord of the universe Who sent down the former Books.

According to Ibn Hisham’s Life of the Holy Prophet, a little before the revelation of these verses a deputation of 20 men, who had been influenced by the preaching of Jaafar, came to Makkah from Habash. They met the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Masjid al-Haram and asked him in the presence of the unbelieving Quraish what his teachings were. In response, the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited a few verses of the Quran, whereupon tears came down from their eyes and they believed in him there and then to be a true Messenger of Allah.

When they took leave of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Abu Jahl met them along with a few other men of the Quraish and rebuked them, saying: Never has a more stupid company come here before: O foolish men, you were sent here by your people with a view to inquiring about this man, but no sooner did you meet him than you gave up your own faith. Those gentle people did not like to have a dispute with Abu Jahl, so they left him, saying: We have no wish to enter an argument with you. You are responsible for your faith and we are for ours. We adopted something in which we saw some good for ourselves.
( 198 )   And even if We had revealed it to one among the foreigners
( 199 )   And he had recited it to them [perfectly], they would [still] not have been believers in it.
That is, now when a man from among themselves is reciting to them this divine revelation in lucid Arabic, they say that he himself has composed it, and therefore it cannot be from Allah. But if the same revelation in eloquent Arabic had been sent down by Allah to a non Arab as a miracle, and he had recited it before them in perfect Arabic accent, they would have invented some other excuse for not believing in him. They would have said that he is under the power and influence of a jinn, who speaks Arabic through a non Arab. As a matter of fact, a lover of the truth considers the thing presented before him coolly and forms an opinion about it after due thought. But an obdurate person who is unwilling to believe, pays no attention to it at all, but instead seeks all sorts of excuses to reject it, and will, in any case, invent an excuse for his denial. This obduracy of the unbelieving Quraish has been exposed over and over again in the Quran, and they have been clearly told that even if a miracle were shown to them, they would certainly have found an excuse to deny it because they are not inclined to believe: O Messenger, even if We had sent down to you a Book written on paper, and even if they had touched it with their own hands, the disbelievers would have said: This is nothing but manifest sorcery. (Surah Al-Anaam, Ayat 7). Even if We had opened a gate for them in heaven, and they had begun to ascend through it, they would have said: Our eyes have been dazzled; nay, we have been bewitched. (Surah Al-Hijr, Ayats 14-15).
( 200 )   Thus have We inserted disbelief into the hearts of the criminals.
That is, unlike the truth loving people to whom the Quran brings peace of the mind and heart, it passes like a hot iron rod through the hearts of the disbelievers, which sets them ill at ease, and they, instead of pondering over its themes, start looking for subterfuges to deny it.
( 201 )   They will not believe in it until they see the painful punishment.
( 202 )   And it will come to them suddenly while they perceive [it] not.
( 203 )   And they will say, "May we be reprieved?"
There is a subtle gap between this and the preceding sentence, which the reader himself can fill with a little thinking. They were asking for the torment to be hastened because they were not sure that it would ever come. They were confident that they would continue living a life of ease and indulgence as they had been living till then. On account of the same confidence they challenged the Prophet (peace be upon him), as if to say: If you are a Messenger of Allah, and we deserve to be chastised by Allah because we have treated you as a liar, then you should hasten that torment on us, with which you threaten us. At this it is being said: Well, even if they be right in their confidence, and the torment is not sent upon them immediately, and they are allowed a long respite to enjoy life as they expect, the question is: What will these few years of worldly pleasure and comfort avail them when the inevitable scourge from Allah overtakes them suddenly as it overtook the Aad and the Thamud, or the people of Lot and of Aiykah, or if they are visited by death which nobody can escape.
( 204 )   So for Our punishment are they impatient?
While some sinners out of negligence postpone the day of repentance till it is too late, others more bold actually ask out of bravado that Allah's Punishment should be brought down on them at once, as they do not believe in Allah or His Punishment! The answer to them is: It will come soon enough-too soon, they will think, when it comes!
( 205 )   Then have you considered if We gave them enjoyment for years
( 206 )   And then there came to them that which they were promised?
( 207) They would not be availed by the enjoyment with which they were provided.
That is, We could not be blamed for any injustice when they did not heed the warning and admonition of the warners and were destroyed. It would have been injustice if no effort had been made to admonish them and guide them aright prior to their destruction.

Verses 208-220: Al-Quran is not brought down by shaitans, it is neither in their interest nor in their power:
( 208 )   And We did not destroy any city except that it had warners
( 209 )   As a reminder; and never have We been unjust.
After the positive aspect as stated in (verses 192-193), the negative aspect is being stated that the Quran has not been brought down by satans as the enemies of the truth allege. The unbelieving Quraish in their campaign to spread lies and slander against the Prophet (peace be upon him) were facing a real difficulty. They did not know how to account for the wonderful discourses which were being presented before the people in the form of the Quran and which were moving their hearts deeply. They could not stop the Quran from reaching the people. The only thing they could do to counteract its effect and influence was to create doubts and suspicions about it in their minds and hearts. Therefore, in their desperation they charged that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a sorcerer, who was being inspired by the satans, and they considered this charge of theirs to be the most effective because it could neither be easily verified nor refuted.
( 210 )   And the devils have not brought the revelation down.
( 211 )   nor does it behove them, nor does it lie in their power.
The first part of the verse means: These revelations and themes do not at all suit the satans. Any person who has a little common sense can well understand that the sublime discourses being presented in the Quran cannot be inspired by the satans. Never has it happened that the satans might have taught the people through the sorcerers to worship God and fear Him, or forbidden them from shirk and idol-worship, or warned them of the accountability of the Hereafter, or prohibited them from tyranny and sexual and moral evils, and exhorted them instead to act righteously and do good to others. Such works cannot behoove the satans. Their only pastime can be to sow the seeds of discord among the people and to arouse them to mischief and vice. The common observation is that people visit the sorcerers to find out whether they will succeed in their love affairs or not, what move would suit them in gambling, what trick and stratagem would be helpful against the enemy, or who had stolen the camel of so and so. Apart from such affairs and problems, the sorcerers and their patron-saints cannot be expected to worry themselves about matters like reforming the people, teaching them morals and cleansing their lives of vice and evil.

The second part of the verse means that even if the satans wanted they could not impart truth and goodness to the people like a true teacher and reformer as the Quran does. Even if to deceive the people, they came out under the guise of a benefactor, their work would not be tree from blemishes, which would betray their ignorance and their hidden satanic nature.

Thus the satans can neither inspire others with piety and goodness, nor can those, who have any relation with the satans, become pious and righteous themselves. Then in addition to its high and noble teachings, the Quran is a lucid and eloquent Book, which contains the knowledge of reality. That is why it has over and over again put forward the challenge that human beings and jinns would never be able to produce a book like the Quran even if they collaborated with all their energies and capacities. Declare this: Even if human beings and jinns should cooperate with one another to bring forth a book like the Quran, they will never be able to bring anything like it, even though all of them help one another (Surah Bani Israil, Ayat 88). or still yet: Tell them: if what you say be true, then produce one Surah like this, and you may call to your assistance anyone you can other than Allah. (Surah Yunus, Ayat 38).
( 212 )   Indeed they, from [its] hearing, are removed.
And what to speak of interfering with the revelation of the Quran, the satans are not even given a chance to hear the Quran any moment from the time Angel Gabriel receives it from Allah till he reveals it to the heart of the Prophet. They are so kept out of its hearing that they cannot get any hint as to its words and contents so as to tell their friends that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was going to give such and such a message to his followers, or that his address would contain such and such a thing that day.
( 213 )   So do not invoke with Allah another deity and [thus] be among the punished.
This does not mean that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was going to be involved in shirk from which he was to be admonished to desist. The object was to warn the disbelievers and polytheists to the effect: As the message of the Quran is based on pure truth revealed by the Almighty Ruler of the universe, and there is no tinge of any satanic impurity in it, there could be no question of showing a favor to somebody in regard to the truth. Even if the Messenger (peace be upon him) himself, who is nearest to Allah and His most beloved servant, deviated a little from the path of His obedience and invoked any other deity than Allah, he could not escape the punishment. When it was so in the case of the Prophet, who else could have the hope that after committing shirk with regard to Allah, he would be able to escape the punishment or help others to escape it.
( 214 )   And warn, [O Muhammad], your closest kindred.
Just as there could be no concession or favor for the person of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a matter concerning Allah’s religion, so there could be no question of a favor being shown to the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) family or his nearest kinsfolk. Here the case of everybody will be judged on merit, and nobody will be shown any favor on account of his ancestry or relation with somebody else. The accountability of the Hereafter and punishment for deviation and misdeeds are the same for everybody and even the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) nearest kinsfolk are no exception. Therefore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was commanded to warn his relatives and kindred to attain the right belief and to act righteously because they would not escape punishment only by virtue of being his relations.

The matter was not simply this that on receipt of the command to warn your nearest kinsfolk, the Prophet (peace be upon him) called together all his relatives and complied with it. In fact, the principle it meant to stress was that in the matter of religion the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his relations enjoyed no special privilege of which the other people might be deprived. What was harmful for one man was harmful for everybody. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was supposed to first protect himself from this and then warn his nearest kinsfolk and the common people of its fatal consequences. On the other hand, what was good and beneficial for one man was good and beneficial for all. As such, the Prophet (peace be upon him) should first adopt it himself and then exhort his relatives also to adopt it, so that everybody may see that the Prophet does not only preach his message to others but also practices it himself sincerely.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) followed this principle throughout his life. On the conquest of Makkah, when he entered the city, he declared: Every kind of interest payable from the people during the age of ignorance, is trampled under my feet, and first of all, I remit the interest payable to my uncle Abbas." (It should be noted that before the prohibition of interest, Abbas traded money on interest, and a substantial amount of interest payable to him at that time was outstanding against the people). Once the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered cutting off of the hand of a Quraishite woman, named Fatimah, on the charge of theft, Usamah bin Zaid came to intercede for her, whereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: By God, even if Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad, had committed the theft, I would have ordered amputation of her hand, too.

There are authentic traditions to show that after the revelation of this verse, the Prophet (peace be upon him) first of all addressed the sons and daughters of his grandfather. Calling each one of them by name, he said:
O children of Abdul Muttalib, O Abbas, O Safiah, paternal aunt of Allah’s Messenger, O Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad! You are warned to beware and save yourselves from the torment of the Hell-Fire. I cannot protect you from Allah’s punishment. You may, however, demand whatever you like from my worldly property.
Then as was the custom in Arabia, to warn the people of an impending calamity, he stood on top of Mount Safa one morning and called out: O people of Quraish, O children of Kaab bin Luayy, O children of Murrah, O children of Qasayy, O children of Abd Manaf, O children of Abd Shams, O children of Hashim, O children of Abdul Muttalib, and in this way he called out each branch and clan of the Quraish by name. When all the people had come together, he said: O People, if I tell you that on the other side of this hill, there is a huge army ready to attack you, will you believe my word? With one voice they replied in the affirmative, saying that they had never heard a lie from him in the past. Thereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Well, I warn you of the impending scourge of Allah. Save yourselves from His punishment. I cannot be of any help to you against Him. On the Day of Resurrection, the only righteous will be nearest to me. Let it not happen that others should come forth with good deeds and you should appear with the burden of sins on your heads. Then you will call me for help, but I shall be constrained to turn my face away from you. Of course, here in this world, I am bound to you by blood relations, and I shall treat you with all possible politeness as a good relation should.
(Several traditions on this subject have been reported in Bukhari, Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, Tirmizi, Ibn Jarir on the authority of Aishah, Abu Hurairah, Abdullah bin Abbas, Zubair bin Amr and Qabisah bin Makhariq).
( 215 )   And lower your wing to those who follow you of the believers.
( 216 )   And if they disobey you, then say, "Indeed, I am disassociated from what you are doing."
This can have two meanings:  (1) Treat those of your relatives with kindness, who have believed in you and followed your teachings practically; as for those who have not accepted your message, you may declare that you are not responsible for what they do, or (2) You should treat with kindness every such person, who believes in and obeys you, and you should warn every unbeliever that you take no responsibility for his actions.

This verse shows that at that time there were some people among the Quraish and the neighboring Arabs, who had believed in the truth of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) message; but they had not as yet started obeying his teachings practically. They were still, as usual, living the same life of unbelief among their people as were the other unbelievers. Allah set apart such believers from those true believers who after belief had adopted total obedience of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Command to treat with kindness was meant only for the latter group. As for those who had turned away from his obedience, and who included both those who believed in the truth of his message and those who rejected it, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was instructed to disown them, and tell them plainly that they themselves were responsible for their deeds, and that after giving them the warning he was not at all responsible for what they did.
( 217 )   And rely upon the Exalted in Might, the Merciful,
That is, you should not care at all for any worldly power, howsoever big and strong, but should continue to perform your mission with complete trust in that Being Who is Mighty as well as Merciful. He is Mighty and, therefore, anybody enjoying His support, cannot be overcome by any other power; He is Merciful and, therefore, He will not let go waste the sacrifices and efforts of the one who struggles for the sake of raising His Word in the world.
( 218 )   Who sees you when you arise
“Stand up” may mean getting up for the Prayers during the night, or coming out for the purpose of performing the Prophetic mission.
( 219 )   And your movement among those who prostrate.
 This can have several meanings.
  • (1) Allah watches you when in the congregational Prayers you stand and sit and perform Ruku and Sajdah with your followers behind you.
  • (2) He watches you when you get up in the night to see what your companions (whose mark of distinction is that they prostrate themselves in worship) are doing for their own well-being in the Hereafter.
  • (3) He is fully aware of how you and your companions are endeavoring to reform the people.
  • (4) He is fully aware of all your efforts to revolutionize the lives of the people who prostrate themselves in worship; He knows what sort of training you are giving them to reform them; how have you purified their lives and transformed them into the best people.
These characteristics of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions have a special significance in the context here:
  • In the first place, the Prophet (peace be upon him) deserves Allah’s mercy and His support for Allah, being All-Hearing and All-Knowing, is fully aware of the struggle he is waging for His cause and of the efforts he is making to reform his companions. 
  • Secondly, when a person is living such a noble life as Muhammad (peace be upon him) is actually living, and the characteristics of his followers are those which Muhammad's (peace be upon him) companions have, only an ignorant person can have the boldness to say that he is inspired by the satans, or that he is a poet. 
People are fully aware of the lives of the sorcerers who are inspired by the satans and also of the poets and their admirers living among them. Can anybody honestly say that there is no difference whatsoever between the noble life being led by Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions and the sort of life being led by the poets and the sorcerers. Then, what is it if not sheer impudence that the former are openly being branded as poets and sorcerers without any shame.
( 220 )   Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.
Verses 221-227: Shaitans descend on slandering sinners, who listen to hearsay and are liars:
( 221 )   Shall I inform you upon whom the devils descend?
( 222 )   They descend upon every sinful liar.
This implies the sorcerers, astrologers, fortune-tellers and conjurers who pose as knower of the unseen and tell the people their future, or as wise men who have control over jinn and spirits and can make the destinies of the people through them.
( 223 )   They pass on what is heard, and most of them are liars.
This may have two meanings. (1) The satans somehow get a little hint of the truth and inspire their aids with it, mixing it with all kinds of falsehood. (2) The deceitful, unscrupulous sorcerers hear something from the satans and then mixing it with falsehood, whisper it into the people’s ears. This has been explained in a tradition which Bukhari has quoted on the authority of Aisha. She says that when some people asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about sorcerers, he replied that they were nothing. They said: O Messenger of Allah, they, sometimes, tell the right thing. The Prophet (peace be upon him) answered: That right thing is overheard by the jinn who whisper it into their friend’s ear, who concocts a story by mixing a lot of falsehood in it.

وَالشُّعَرَآءُ يَتَّبِعُهُمُ الۡغَاوٗنَؕ‏ 
( 224 )   And the poets - [only] the wayward follow them;
It is from this verse, the Surah draws its name.

It is being said that the people who follow and accompany the poets, are wholly different in their characteristics, habits and temper from those who follow and accompany Muhammad (peace be upon him). The difference between the two groups is so obvious that one group can be easily distinguished from the other. On the one side, there are the people who are characterized by the high seriousness, civilized and gentle behavior, righteousness and fear of God, sense of responsibility and a high regard for the rights of others. People who are fair and just in their dealings, who do not utter a word except in the cause of goodness, who have a high and pure ideal before them, which they pursue with single-minded devotion and for whose attainment they expend all their energies and capabilities. On the other side, there are the people whose only pastime is to portray erotic scenes of love and wine-drinking, mocking and jesting, satirizing and eulogizing, or to arouse feelings of hatred and enmity and vengeance against others, or to describe charms of unchaste women to the brothel or of chaste ladies in the houses, only for the sake of pleasing the people and winning their applause. From the crowds who throng the poetic sessions and follow the famous poets, one cannot help forming the impression that those people are free from every moral restriction, who have no object in life except to gratify the lusts of the flesh like animals, and who have no idea whatever of the higher and nobler ideals and ends of life. The person who cannot see the obvious difference between the two types is indeed blind. But if in spite of seeing and knowing the difference, only for the purpose of suppressing the truth, he says that Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions are no different from the poets and their followers, he is not only a liar but has also transgressed all bounds of modesty and decency.
( 225 )   Do you not see that in every valley they roam
That is, they follow no fixed pattern for their thought and speech but wander aimlessly in every valley. Every new impulse makes them take up a new theme regardless as to whether it has any truth in it or not. Under one momentary impulse they would start uttering wise things; under another they would give expression to filthy and base feelings. If they felt pleased with somebody, they would exaggerate his praises, and if they felt offended by him, they would condemn him and run him down to hell. If they had a selfish motive, attached with somebody, they would feel no hesitation in giving preference to a miserly person over a generous person and to a cowardly person over a gallant person. On the contrary, if they felt displeased with somebody, they would not feel any shame in blotting his character and ridiculing him and his ancestors. That is why, one can find God-worship and atheism, materialism and spiritualism, morality and immorality, piety and filthiness, seriousness and jesting, eulogy and satire expressed side by side in the poetry of one and the same poet. A person who is aware of these well known characteristics of the poets cannot reconcile himself to charging the recipient of the Quran with poetry, whose every discourse and word is clear and precise, whose objective is clearly defined, and who has never in his life uttered a word deviating in any way from the path of truth, righteousness and virtue.

At another place in the Quran, it has been stated that poetry is not suited to the temperament of the Prophet: (peace be upon him). We have not taught him poetry, nor does it suit him. (Surah Ya Sin, Ayat 69). And this fact was well known to the people who had any personal acquaintance with the Prophet (peace be upon him). Authentic traditions show that he could not recite a complete verse from memory. If ever during conversation he remembered of a good verse of some poet, he would recite it without much care and regard for its meter and order of words.

Once Aisha was asked whether the Prophet (peace be upon him) ever made use of poetic verses in his discourses. She replied that he hated poetic verses the most, though sometimes he would recite a verse of a poet of Bani Quais, but in so doing he would unconsciously change the order of its words. When Abu Bakr corrected him, he would say: Brother, I am not a poet, nor composing poetry is my object. Arabic poetry abounded in themes of sex and love romances, wine drinking, tribal hatreds and feuds, ancestry pride and vanity and made little or no mention of pure and noble themes. It was so saturated with falsehood, exaggeration, false accusations, undue praise, vanity, satiric invective, jesting and polytheistic obscenities that the Prophet (peace be upon him) once remarked: It is better that the interior of one of you be filled with pus than with poetic verses. However, if there was something good in a verse, he would appreciate it, and say: Some verses are based on wisdom. When he heard the verses of Umayyah bin Abi-Salt, he said: His verse is a believer but his heart a disbeliever.
( 226 )   and say things which they do not act upon 
This characteristic of the poets was just the antithesis of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) conduct and practice. Everybody knew that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said what he practiced and practiced what he said. The fact that there was complete conformity between his word and deed could not be denied by anybody. On the contrary, everyone was well aware that the poets said one thing and practiced just the opposite of it. For instance, they would express noble themes of generosity, indifference to worldly wealth, contentment and self-respect in their poetry, but, in practical life, they would turn out to be extremely stingy and cowardly, avaricious and selfish. They would find fault with others on trifles, but would themselves be involved in grave moral weaknesses.
( 227 ) except those who believed and acted righteously and remembered Allah much, and when they themselves were subjected to wrong, they exacted retribution no more than to the extent of the wrong? Soon will the wrong-doers know the end that they shall reach.
Here those poets have been made an exception from the general reproach, who possess the following four characteristics:
  • (1) They should be believers in Allah, His Prophets, His Books and the Hereafter.
  • (2) They should be pious in practical life and not sinners, nor free from moral restrictions to say whatever they like.
  • (3) They should be remembering Allah much in their day to day lives as well as in their literary work. It should not be so that their personal lives reflect God consciousness and piety, but their poetry is replete with themes of debauchery and lusts of the flesh, or that their poetry is full of serious themes of wisdom and God consciousness, but their personal lives are devoid of any trace of the remembrance of Allah. As a matter of fact, both these states are equally despicable. A good poet is he who is God conscious in his personal life and whose poetic talent and skills also are devoted to the advancement of the way of life followed by the God conscious, God fearing and God worshiping people.
  • (4) They should not satirize others for personal reasons, nor take vengeance on others on account of personal, racial and national prejudices, but when they are required to support the truth, they should use their literary powers like weapons of war against the unjust and treacherous people.
It does not behoove the believers to adopt a humble, supplicating attitude against injustice and oppression. Traditions show that when the unbelieving and mushrik poets raised a storm of false accusations against Islam and the Prophet (peace be upon him) and spread the poison of hatred against the Muslims, the Prophet (peace be upon him) urged and encouraged the poets of Islam to counter attack them. Once he said to Kaab bin Malik: Satirize them, for, I swear by God in Whose hand is my soul, your verse will be more effective and damaging for them than the arrow. Likewise he said to Hassan bin Thabit: Deal with them and Gabriel is with you. And: Say and the Holy Spirit is with you. (This statement should be taken as when Hassan bin Thabit would say his poetry to refute the poetry of the disbelievers, Allah’s help will be with him and an angel (Gabriel) will stand next to him and refute along with him). Once he said: The believer fights with the sword as well as with the tongue.

And the last part of verse “Those who do wrong”:  cautions the people who out of sheer obduracy calumniated the Prophet (peace be upon him) of being a sorcerer, poet and a mad and enchanted man, in order to defeat Islam, and to confuse the other people and distract them from his message and invitation.

Here we come to the end of the Part V and the entire Surah. May Allah grant us wisdom to understand the messages contained inn this surah and acct upon these i true letter and spirit. 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 | 
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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