Wednesday 31 July 2019

Surah An Nur - The Light: Exegesis of 24th Chapter of Holy Quran - Part IV

Sūrah An-Nūr "الْنُّور" is the twenty fourth surah with 64 ayahs with nine rukus, part of the 18th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The title of the surah is taken from verses 35 in which is often referred to as " Ayat an-Nur or the Light Verse", or "the Parable of Light":
"Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is as if there were a niche and within it a lamp: the lamp enclosed in glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His light: Allah doth set forth parables for men: and God doth know all things."
As already mentioned in the Overview, Surah An Nūr is one of the most important surahs of the Holy Qur'an for it concentrates on establishing the good manners and morals that will ultimately benefit the new Muslim society.  It establishes regulations for marriage, modesty, appropriate household behaviour, and the manners and necessity of obedience to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  While the central theme of this chapter is educating the Muslim community, it flows effortlessly from prescribing mandatory punishments to gently inviting us to reflect on the signs God has placed for us throughout the universe.

In view of the sensitivity of subjects discussed in the surah, it is of utmost importance to understand the historical background of the revelation of the surah and the theme before reading its translation  and exegesis / tafseer. The passages shared herein under are  'unedited'  and direct from 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, so as to present detailed explanation of laws concerning issues discussed in the surah, presenting view point of different scholars for better understanding.

Since these explanations are quite lengthy due to sensitivity of the subjects so discussed so as to leave no ambiguity in understanding, the exegesis has been divided into many parts to keep the interest of readers alive:
  • Part I   : Rukhu 1 [verses 1-10] - fornication / extra matrimonial relations and punishments. 
  • Part II  : Rukhu 2-3 [verses 11-26] - Slander against Aisha, wife of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and her exoneration by Allah of the slander charges
  • Part III     : Rukhu 4 [verses 27-34] - Special instructions / manners
  • Part IV   : Rukhu 5-7 [verses 35-57] Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth, misdeeds of disbelievers and qualities of true believers
  • Part V    : Rukhu 8-9 [verses 58-64] - Etiquette of seeking permission to enter the room of married couple, Etiquette of eating at houses other than your own, Requirement of attending meetings which require collective action
Let us now read the translation and exegesis / tafseer in English of the Part IV of the Surah, Rukhu 5-7 [verses 35-57] which begins with the " Ayat an-Nur or the Light Verse"  - Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. Besides this part also mentions the misdeeds of disbelievers and qualities of true believers. 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 35-40]
Verse 35 - The verse of light
In this verse, Allah describes the heart of the believer by using the analogy of light. God is the light of the heavens and the earth. It is His light that illuminates the universe, without it there is nothing but darkness. Try to imagine a lamp in a niche in a wall.  It burns brightly but the light becomes even brighter when it enclosed in a crystal; so bright that it shines light like a radiant star in the sky. The light is fueled from the oil of an olive tree, often called a blessed tree. It is an olive tree that grows in a central position able to get the light of the sun throughout the day. For this reason, the oil is pure and burns as if it has no need for the fire that keeps it alight. It is light upon light, the light of the pure oil and the light of the fire.  It is God who guides us to His light. The bright light that fills the heart of the believer glows like nothing else in this vast universe.  It is light upon light, upon light.

اَللّٰهُ نُوۡرُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَالۡاَرۡضِ ​ؕ مَثَلُ نُوۡرِهٖ كَمِشۡكٰوةٍ فِيۡهَا مِصۡبَاحٌ​ ؕ الۡمِصۡبَاحُ فِىۡ زُجَاجَةٍ​ ؕ اَلزُّجَاجَةُ كَاَنَّهَا كَوۡكَبٌ دُرِّىٌّ يُّوۡقَدُ مِنۡ شَجَرَةٍ مُّبٰـرَكَةٍ زَيۡتُوۡنَةٍ لَّا شَرۡقِيَّةٍ وَّلَا غَرۡبِيَّةٍ ۙ يَّـكَادُ زَيۡتُهَا يُضِىۡٓءُ وَلَوۡ لَمۡ تَمۡسَسۡهُ نَارٌ​ ؕ نُوۡرٌ عَلٰى نُوۡرٍ​ ؕ يَهۡدِى اللّٰهُ لِنُوۡرِهٖ مَنۡ يَّشَآءُ​ ؕ وَ يَضۡرِبُ اللّٰهُ الۡاَمۡثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ​ؕ وَاللّٰهُ بِكُلِّ شَىۡءٍ عَلِيۡمٌ ۙ‏ 
( 35 )   Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.
From here the discourse is directed towards the hypocrites, who were bent upon starting mischief in the Islamic community, and were as active from within as the unbelievers were from without to harm the Islamic movement and the body politic of Islam. As these people professed belief, and apparently belonged to the Muslim community, and had blood relationships with the Muslims, especially with the Ansar (the Muslims dwellers of Madinah), they were better placed to start and spread mischief. The result was that even some sincere Muslims, due to simplicity or weakness, became tools in their hands and even their supporters. But in spite of their profession of faith, the lure of worldly gains had utterly blinded them to the light that was spreading in the world through the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The indirect address to the hypocrites here has three things in view:
  • Firstly, to admonish them, for the first and foremost demand of Allah’s providence and His mercy is to go on admonishing the misguided and the erring one till the last in spite of his persistence in mischief and wickedness. 
  • Secondly, to differentiate clearly between belief and hypocrisy so that every right thinking person from the Muslim community should be able to distinguish between a true believer and a hypocrite. Then if anybody, in spite of this differentiation, falls a prey to the machinations of the hypocrites or supports them, he should himself be responsible for his conduct.
  • Thirdly, to warn the hypocrites clearly and plainly that Allah’s promises for the believers are meant only for those who sincerely believe and then fulfill the demands and requirements of their faith. These promises are not meant for anybody who poses himself as a Muslim. The hypocrites and the sinful people therefore should not cherish any hope that they will have any share in these.
The phrase heavens and the earth in the Quran is generally used for the universe. Thus the verse would also mean: Allah is the light of the whole universe.

Light is something which makes things visible; which is itself manifest and helps make other things manifest. The human mind conceives light in this very sense. Absence of light is termed darkness, invisibility and obscurity. On the other hand, when there is visibility and things become exposed to view, man says there is light. Allah has been called Light' in this basic sense, and not in the sense of a beam of light which travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second and stimulates the optic nerve through the retina. This conception of light has nothing to do with the reality of the meaning for which human mind has coined this word; rather the word light is used for all those lights which we experience in this physical world. All human words used for Allah are used in their basic sense and meaning, and not with reference to their physical connotation. For instance, when, the word sight is used with respect to Allah, it does not mean that Allah has an eye like men and animals with which He sees. Similarly when we say that Allah hears or grips or grasps, it does not mean that He hears through ears, or grips or grasps with the hand like us. These words are used in a metaphorical sense and only a man of very poor intelligence would have the misconception that hearing or seeing or grasping is not possible except in the limited and specific sense in which we experience it. Similarly it will be shortsightedness to interpret the word light in the sense of physical light rays emanating from a luminous body and affecting the retina. This word is not applicable to Allah in its limited sense, but in its absolute sense. That is, He alone in this universe is the real and prime cause of manifestation, otherwise there is nothing but darkness here. Everything which gives light and illuminates other things has received its light from Him; it has no light of its own.

The word light is also used for knowledge, and ignorance is termed as darkness. Allah is the Light of the universe in this sense too, because the knowledge of reality and of right guidance can be obtained from Him alone; without having recourse to His Light, there will be nothing but darkness of ignorance and the resultant vice and wickedness in the world.

Te Olive tree has been termed as “Blessed”: yielding multiple benefits. Which is neither in the east nor in the west: which grows in an open plane or on a hill, where it gets sunshine from morning till evening. Such an olive tree yields the oil which gives a bright light. On the other hand, a tree which gets sunlight only from the east or only from the west, yields thick oil which gives weak light.

"Its oil well nigh glows forth (of itself) though no fire touched it: Light upon Light." In this parable, Allah has been likened to the Lamp and the universe to the Niche. The glass shade is the veil behind which Allah has concealed Himself from His creation. This veil is not a physical veil for concealment, but a veil caused by the intensity of divine manifestation. The human eye is unable to see Him not because of the intervening darkness but because of the intensity of the all pervading, all-embracing Light radiating through the transparent veil. The human vision which is limited in nature cannot comprehend it. It can only comprehend and perceive limited physical lights which vary in brightness, which disappear and reappear, and Which can be perceived only by contrast to existing darkness. But the Absolute Light has no confronting darkness. It does not vanish, it shines forth and pervades all around with ever existing glory; it is beyond human perception and comprehension.

As for the lamp which is lit with the oil of a blessed olive tree, which is neither eastern nor western, this is a metaphor to give an idea of the perfect light of the lamp and its brilliance. In antiquity the source for brilliant light were the olive lamps, and the most superior oil for the purpose was that obtained from a tree standing in an open and elevated place. The epithet of Lamp for Allah in the parable does trot mean that Allah is deriving His energy from some external source. It only means that the Lamp of the parable is not an ordinary lamp but the most brilliant lamp that can be imagined. Just as a brilliant lamp illuminates the whole house, so has Allah illuminated the whole universe.

Again, the words “its oil is (so fine) as if it were going to shine forth by itself though no fire touched it”, are also meant to emphasize the brilliance of the light of the lamp, which is being fed by the finest and most readily combustible oil. The olive and its being neither eastern nor western, and high combustibility of its oil by itself' (without fire), are not the essential elements of the parable, but attributes of the lamp, which is the primary element of the parable. The essential elements of the parable are only three: the Lamp, the Niche and the transparent Glass Shade.

The sentence: His light may be likened, dispels the possible misunderstanding that one could have from the words: Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. This shows that the use of the word light for Allah does not at all mean that the essence of His Being is nothing but light. In essence, He is a Perfect Being, Who is All-Knowing, All- Powerful, All-Wise etc. and also possessing all Light has been called Light itself because of His Perfection as a source of Light, just as somebody may be called Grace on account of his being highly gracious and beneficent and Beauty because of his being highly beautiful and attractive.

"Allah guides to His Light whom He wills": That is, although Allah’s Light is illuminating the whole world, everybody does not and cannot perceive it. It is Allah alone Who blesses whomsoever He wills with the capacity for perceiving His Light and benefiting by it. Just as the day and night are alike to a blind man, so is the case of a man without the gift of inner perception. He may see the electric light, the sunlight, the moonlight and the light from stars, but he cannot perceive the Light of Allah. For him there is nothing but darkness in the universe. Just as a blind man cannot see the stone in his way unless he stumbles over it, so is the man without the gift of inner perception, who cannot perceive even those realities around him which may he all brilliance and shining by Allah’s Light. He will perceive them only when he is overtaken by the consequences of his own misdeeds.

"Allah sets forth parables to make people understand. Allah knows everything": This means two things: First, He knows what parable can best explain a certain reality, and secondly, He knows who is entitled to receive this bounty and who is not. Allah has no need to show His Light to the one who has do desire or longing for it and who is utterly lost in worldly pursuits and in seeking material pleasures and gains. This bounty can be bestowed only on the one who in the knowledge of Allah has a sincere desire for it.

Verses 36 – 45 dwell on Allah’s radiant light…
The light God mentions can be found in the houses and mosques that have been built for God’s remembrance. God is remembered and honoured there and His name is glorified throughout the day. The people are not distracted by commerce because they fear the Day of Judgement.  They perform the prayer, give the obligatory charity and remember that they will be called to account. The people will then be rewarded for their good deeds and God will add even more to the bounty of whomever He pleases.

The deeds of the unbelievers will disappear like a mirage in the desert.  God’s reckoning will be swift.  The state of a disbeliever is like darkness in a bottomless ocean.  If God does not give light there is no light at all.  Everything in the heavens and the earth glorify God in its own way.  Each knowing how to pray and exalt Him, and God is well aware of all that they do.  God controls the heavens and earth, drives the clouds, and sends the hail, diverting it from whomever he wishes.  He alternates the night and the day, and has created every living thing from water. 

In verses 36-38 it is said that Allah's Light is found in the places of worship which are built for his remembrance by His devotees:
( 36 )   (Those who are directed to this Light are found) in houses which Allah has allowed to be raised and wherein His name is to be remembered: in them people glorify Him in the morning and in the evening,
Some commentators have interpreted these houses to mean the mosques, and raising them to mean constructing and reverencing them. Some others, however, take them to mean the houses of the believers and raising them to mean raising their moral status. The words to mention His name therein seem to refer to the mosques and support the first interpretation, but if we look deeper, we see that they support the second interpretation equally well. This is because divine law does not confine worship to mosques alone as is the case with the priest-ridden religions where the rituals can only be performed under the leadership of a clergy. In Islam a house is also a place of worship like the mosque and every man is his own priest. As this Surah mostly contains instructions for ennobling domestic life, the second interpretation seems more in keeping with the context though there is no reason for rejecting the first interpretation. There will be no harm if both the mosques and the houses of the believers are implied here.
( 37 )   [Are] men whom neither commerce nor sale distracts from the remembrance of Allah and performance of prayer and giving of zakah. They fear a Day in which the hearts and eyes will [fearfully] turn about 
"Remembrance of Allah" is wider than Prayer: it includes silent contemplation, and active service of Allah and His creatures. The regular Prayers and regular Charity are the social acts performed through the organised community. "Remembrance of Allah" is wider than Prayer: it includes silent contemplation, and active service of Allah and His creatures. The regular Prayers and regular Charity are the social acts performed through the organised community.
( 38 )   That Allah may reward them [according to] the best of what they did and increase them from His bounty. And Allah gives provision to whom He wills without account.
Here those characteristics have been described which are necessary for the true perception of Allah’s Absolute Light and for benefiting from His bounties. Allah does not bestow His bounties without reason. He bestows them on the deserving ones alone. He only sees this that the recipient has sincere love for Him, stands in awe of Him, seeks His favors and avoids His wrath; he is not lost in material pursuits but in spite of his worldly engagements keeps his heart warm with God’s remembrance. Such a person does not rest content with low spiritual levels, but actively endeavors to attain the heights towards which his master may guide him. He does not go for the paltry gains of this transitory world, but has his gaze constantly fixed on the everlasting life of the Hereafter. These are the things which determine whether or not a person should be granted the favor to benefit from Allah’s Light. Then, when Allah is pleased to bestow His bounties, He bestows them without measure; and it will be man’s own incapacity if he does not receive them in full.

 In verses 39-40 it is warned that Deeds of unbelievers are like a mirage in a sandy desert:
( 39 )   But those who disbelieved - their deeds are like a mirage in a lowland which a thirsty one thinks is water until, when he comes to it, he finds it is nothing but finds Allah before Him, and He will pay him in full his due; and Allah is swift in account.
That is, they refused to accept sincerely the divine message which was brought by the Prophets, and which at that time was being given by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). These verses clearly show that the truthful and righteous believers only can benefit from Allah’s Light. In contrast to them, the state of those people is being described here, who refused to believe and obey the Prophet (peace be upon him), who was the real and sole means of attaining the Light of Allah.

This parable describes the condition of those people who, in spite of disbelief and hypocrisy, practice some good deeds and also believe, among other things, in the life after death in the hope that their good deeds will be of some help to them in the Hereafter even if they did not believe and follow the Prophet and lacked the qualities of true believers. In this parable they are being told that their expectations of reaping benefits of their ostentatious deeds of virtue in the Hereafter are no more than a mirage. Just as a traveler in the desert takes the glittering sands for a surging pool of water and runs towards it for quenching his thirst, so are these people traveling on the road to death cherishing false hopes on account of their good deeds. But just as the one running towards a mirage does not find anything there to quench his thirst, so will these people find nothing to avail them when they enter the state of death. On the contrary, they will find Allah there, Who will require them to account for their disbelief, hypocrisy and misdeeds, which they committed along with their ostentatious deeds of virtue, and will deal with them in full justice.
( 40 )   Or [they are] like darkness within an unfathomable sea which is covered by waves, upon which are waves, over which are clouds - darkness, some of them upon others. When one puts out his hand [therein], he can hardly see it. And he to whom Allah has not granted light - for him there is no light.
This parable describes the condition of all the disbelievers and the hypocrites including those who perform good deeds for ostentation. It is being stated that such people are passing their life in a state of absolute and complete ignorance, whether they are the most learned people in the world and leaders in their respective fields of learning. They are like the man who is lost in complete darkness where no ray of light can reach him. They think that knowledge merely consists in producing atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, supersonic planes and moon rockets, or in attaining excellence in economics and finance and law and philosophy. But they little understand that real knowledge is something entirely different and they have no idea of it. Thus considered they are just ignorant, and an illiterate peasant who has gained some acquaintance of the divine truth is wiser than them.

Here is stated the real object of the discourse which began with: Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. When in fact there is no light in the universe except the Light of Allah and all manifestation of reality is due to that Light, where from can the one whom Allah does not give light have light? There exists no other source of light from where he can receive a ray.

Rukhu 6 [verses 41-50]
Verses 41-45 explains that every thing in the heaven and earth glorify and praise Allah and Allah has created every living creature from water:
( 41 )   Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whomever is within the heavens and the earth and [by] the birds with wings spread [in flight]? Each [of them] has known his [means of] prayer and exalting [Him], and Allah is Knowing of what they do.
All denizens of the heavens, such as angels, all denizens of the earth (including the waters) such as man, animals, insects, fishes, etc., and all denizens of the air, such as birds, celebrate the praises of Allah. Each has his own mode of prayer and praise. It is not necessarily with words, for language (as we know it) is peculiar to man. But actions and other modes of self-expression recognize and declare the Glory of Allah.
( 42 )   And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and to Allah is the destination.
To Him we belong; and to Him we shall return. Not only we, but all Creation, proclaims this in the whole world.
( 43 )   Do you not see that Allah drives clouds? Then He brings them together, then He makes them into a mass, and you see the rain emerge from within it. And He sends down from the sky, mountains [of clouds] within which is hail, and He strikes with it whom He wills and averts it from whom He wills. The flash of its lightning almost takes away the eyesight.
As has been explained above, Allah is the Light of the whole universe, but His Light can be perceived and comprehended by the righteous believers only. All other people grope about in the dark like the blind in spite of the all-pervading, all-embracing Light. Here a few of the countless signs which guide to the Light are being mentioned by way of example. If a person whose eyes of the heart are open, sees them, he can perceive Allah working everywhere around him at all times. But those who are blind of the heart, and can only see with the head’s eyes, can see Biology and Zoology and other sciences working in the world, but they fail to perceive and recognize Allah’s signs anywhere working in the world.

Artists, or lovers of nature, or observers of clouds will appreciate this description of cloud effects-thin clouds floating about in fantastic shapes, joining together and taking body and substance, then emerging as heavy clouds heaped up, which condense and pour forth their rain. Then the heavy dark clouds in the upper regions, that bring hail,-how distinct and yet how similar! They are truly like mountain masses! And when the hailstones fall, how local their area! It hits some localities and leaves free others almost interlaced! And the lightning-how blinding flashes come from thunderous clouds! In this Book of Nature can we not see the hand of the powerful and beneficent Allah?
( 44 )   Allah alternates the night and the day. Indeed in that is a lesson for those who have vision.
His power, wisdom, and goodness are shown no less in the regular phenomena of nature like the succession of Day and Night, than in the seasonal or seemingly irregular movements of clouds and rain and hail and lightning. Those who have the spiritual vision can read this Book of Allah with delight and instruction.
( 45 )   Allah has created every [living] creature from water. And of them are those that move on their bellies, and of them are those that walk on two legs, and of them are those that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.
Protoplasm is the basis of all living matter, and "the vital power of protoplasm seems to depend on the constant presence of water". The creeping things include worms and lowly forms of animal life as well as reptiles (like snakes), centipedes, spiders, and insects. Where these have legs they are small, and the description of creeping or crawling is more applicable to them than that of walking. Fishes and sea-animals generally cannot be said to walk: their swimming is like "creeping on their bellies". Two-legged animals include birds and man. Most of the mammals walk on four legs. This includes the whole of the animal world.

In Allah's Will and Plan, the variety of forms and habits among animals is adapted to their various modes of life and stages of biological development.

Verses 46- 64 are about Obeyance of the Prophet & permissions granted in that it is being said that Allah sends clear revelations and He guides whomever He pleases.  Some hypocrites declare their belief but then turn their backs.  When they are summoned to God and His Messenger they turn away as if their hearts are diseased or they fear injustice.  They are wrongdoers; the believers on the other hand, hear and obey.  Only those who do not incur God’s displeasure will be successful.  If you obey Prophet Muhammad you will be rightly guided for it is his duty to convey the message clearly.  Establish the prayer, pay the obligatory charity and obey the Messenger and you will be given mercy.  Never think the disbelievers will escape punishment, their refuge will be the Fire.

Ask permission before entering at three times: before the dawn prayer, at the midday rest and after the evening prayer.  If elderly women want to lay aside their outer garments there is no blame on them.  There is no blame laid on the blind, the lame or the sick who wish to eat and mingle with people, and there is no prohibition on eating at the houses of members of your extended family or close friends.  Remember to give greetings of peace. 

Ask permission to leave when you are meeting with Prophet Muhammad, and do not leave unless the needs are pressing.  Treat and address Prophet Muhammad with all the respect due to a man of his lofty station.  God knows all thoughts and actions and on the Day of Judgement they will be clear to see.  God knows everything. 

Herein under, verses 46-50 point towards those who claim to be the believers but do not demonstrate their belief through actions are not true believers:
( 46 )   We have certainly sent down distinct verses. And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.( 47 )   But the hypocrites say, "We have believed in Allah and in the Messenger, and we obey"; then a party of them turns away after that. And those are not believers.
The Hypocrites, far from profiting from Allah's Light and Revelation, or declaring their open hostility, play fast and loose according to their selfish worldly aims. Their turning away from obedience itself belies their claim that they are believers and their conduct clearly shows that their profession of faith and submission was absolutely false.
( 48 )   And when they are called to [the words of] Allah and His Messenger to judge between them, at once a party of them turns aside [in refusal].
These words clearly state that the judgment of the Prophet is the judgment of Allah and the command of the Prophet is the command of Allah. Therefore, the invitation to obey the Prophet is an invitation to obey both Allah and His Prophet. Also see (Surah An-Nisa, Ayats 59-61).

This does not only apply to the cases which came up before the Prophet (peace be upon him) for a decision in his lifetime, but this continues valid even today. Thus, a summon from the court of a judge in an Islamic government, who judges a case in accordance with the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of Prophet (peace be upon him), is actually a summon from the court of Allah and His Prophet and the one who repudiates the judge indeed repudiates both Allah and His Prophet. This thing has been explained in a tradition related by Hasan Basri thus: Whosoever is summoned to appear before a judge from among the judges of the Muslims but fails to appear before him, he is a transgressor and forfeits his rights. (Al-Jassas, Ahkam-ul-Quran, Vol. III, p. 405). In other words, such a person not only renders himself punishable but also guilty and liable to be proceeded against.
( 49 )   But if the right is theirs, they come to him in prompt obedience.
This verse states that a person who willingly accepts only that part of the divine law which serves his advantage, but rejects that which goes against his interests and desires, and prefers the worldly laws instead, is not a believer but a hypocrite. His profession of faith is false for he does not in fact believe in Allah and His Prophet but in his own interests and desires. With this attitude even if he believes in and follows a portion of the divine law, his belief has no value whatever in the sight of Allah.

The Hypocrites only wanted to go to the judge who they thought was likely to give judgment in their favour. If their case was incontestable, and justice was on their side, they readily came to the Prophet, knowing that he was just and would judge in their favour, even against his own adherents. But if they had done wrong, an impartial judge was not to their taste. They would rather go to some one who would tip the balance in their favour! This form of selfishness and iniquity was not confined to the Hypocrites of Madinah. It is common in all ages, and should be suppressed.
( 50 )   Is there disease in their hearts? Or have they doubted? Or do they fear that Allah will be unjust to them, or His Messenger? Rather, it is they who are the wrongdoers.
That is, there can be only three reasons for such a conduct.
  • First, a person may not have believed at all but may only be posing as a Muslim in order to enjoy the benefits of belonging to the Muslim community. 
  • Secondly, he might have believed but may still be having doubts about the reality of the Prophethood, revelations, life-after-death, and even the existence of Allah Himself. 
  • Thirdly, he may be a believer but might at the same time be apprehending injustice from Allah and His Prophet and considering their commands disadvantageous to him personally in one way or the other. 
There can be no doubt that the people belonging to any of these categories are themselves unjust. A person who, having such doubts and suspicions, enters the Muslim community and enjoys undeserved benefits posing himself as a member thereof, is indeed a deceiver, cheater and forger. He is not only doing injustice to himself, practicing constant falsehood and developing the meanest traits of character, but he is being unjust to the Muslim people as well, who look upon him as one of themselves merely on the basis of his verbal profession of the faith and let him enjoy all sorts of social, cultural, political and moral relations with them as such.

Rukhu 7 [verses 51-57]
The last Verses 51-57 make a special mention of the true believers, who are those who, when called towards Allah and His Rasool, say, "We hear and we obey":
( 51 )   The only statement of the [true] believers when they are called to Allah and His Messenger to judge between them is that they say, "We hear and we obey." And those are the successful.
Contrast with it the attitude of the Unbelievers or Hypocrites, who say aloud, "we hear", but intend in their hearts to disobey. True happiness, whether here or in the Hereafter, is not to be attained by fraud or duplicity: it is the privilege of those who listen attentively to good counsel and carry it out in their lives.
( 52 )   And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger and fears Allah and is conscious of Him - it is those who are the attainers.
( 53 )   And they swear by Allah their strongest oaths that if you ordered them, they would go forth [in Allah 's cause]. Say, "Do not swear. [Such] obedience is known. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with that which you do."
Some people, especially hypocrites, give hyperbolic assurances, as did the Madinah Hypocrites to the holy Prophet, that they would do any bidding, even to the forsaking of their hearths and homes. To this they are ready to swear their strongest oaths, which mean nothing. They are asked to spare their oaths, and quietly do at least such un-heroic duties as they are asked to do in every-day life. Idle words are not of the least value. Allah will judge by your actions, and He knows all, whether it is open or secret.

The verse may also mean that the obedience expected of the believers is of recognized and well known type, which is above every kind of suspicion, and not such as may need swearing of oaths to convince others of its sincerity. Their conduct is manifest and everybody who comes into contact with them feels that they are truly obedient to Allah and His Prophet.
( 54 )   Say, "Obey Allah and obey the Messenger; but if you turn away - then upon him is only that [duty] with which he has been charged, and upon you is that with which you have been charged. And if you obey him, you will be [rightly] guided. And there is not upon the Messenger except the [responsibility for] clear notification."
'If you disobey Allah's commands as explained by His Prophet, you are not going to be forced. The Prophet's mission is to train your will and explain clearly all the implications of your conduct. The responsibility for your conduct rests entirely on yourselves.'
( 55 )   Allah has promised those who have believed among you and done righteous deeds that He will surely grant them succession [to authority] upon the earth just as He granted it to those before them and that He will surely establish for them [therein] their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security, [for] they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that - then those are the defiantly disobedient.
As has been hinted in the beginning of this discourse, this means to warn the hypocrites that the promise of Allah to bestow successor-ship in the land is not meant for those people who are Muslims only in name, but for those who are true in faith, pious in character, sincere in devotion and who follow Allah’s religion in letter and spirit eschewing every tinge of shirk. Those who lack these qualities and pay mere lip service to Islam are neither worthy of this promise nor its addressees. Therefore they should entertain no hope of having any share in it.

Some people interpret Khilafat (successor-ship in the land) to mean political power and authority, and conversely conclude that whosoever possesses power and authority in the land is necessarily a true believer and a follower of Allah’s approved religion and His devotee, free from all traces of shirk. Then in order to get support for their wrong conclusion, they even change the very meanings of faith, virtue, divine creed, Allah’s worship, idolatry, etc. to suit their interpretation. This is the worst distortion of the meaning of the Quran, even worse than what the Jews and Christians did with their Scriptures. This interpretation of the verse tends to destroy the very message of the Quran. If successor-ship in the land were to mean mere power and authority in the land; then all those people who wielded power and authority in the world, or wield it today, would fit in with the description contained in the verse, even if they denied Allah, revelations, Prophethood, life in the Hereafter, and were involved in all kinds of major sins like usury, adultery, drinking and gambling. Now if all such people are regarded as pious believers and considered worthy of holding the high offices because of their qualities as such, then faith would imply simple obedience to physical laws and virtue would mean making use of those laws effectively and successfully. Allah’s approved religion would mean making maximum progress in the fields of industry and trade, commerce and politics by achieving excellence in the physical sciences; devotion to Allah would mean abiding by the rules and procedures which are naturally useful and essential for success in individual and collective enterprises; and shirk would mean adopting a few harmful methods also along with the useful procedures and rules. But the question is: Would a person who has studied the Quran with an open heart and mind ever believe that the terms faith, righteous deeds, true religion, devotion to Allah, Tawhid and shirk as used in the Quran really mean this? As a matter of fact, such a meaning can be understood either by the one who has never made an intelligent study of the Quran as a whole, but has picked up verses from here and there and given them his own biased meaning according to preconceived notions and theories, or by the one who has read the Quran through but has all along been holding all those verses as wrong and absurd, which invite people to accept Allah as the One and only Lord, His revelations as the only source of guidance, His Messengers as the only true guides worthy of absolute obedience, and which demand not only belief in the life-after- death, but also state that the people who would consider success in the worldly life as their sole and ultimate objective, without any idea of their accountability in the Hereafter, would be deprived of real success. The Quran has repeated these themes so frequently in diverse ways and in such clear and plain language that it is difficult to believe that anybody who studies it honestly can ever be involved in those misunderstandings in which the modern interpreters of this verse have been involved. The fact is that they have misconstrued Khilafat and Istikhlaf (successor-ship) after their own notions, which cannot be held as correct by anybody who has some knowledge of the Quran.

The Quran has used Khilafat and Istikhlaf in the following three meanings and the context determines in which particular meaning it has been used in a particular place:
  1. To bear the authority delegated by Allah. The whole human race is Allah’s Khalifah (successor) on the earth in this sense.
  2. To acknowledge Allah as the Supreme Sovereign and to use His delegated powers and authority in accordance with His law. In this sense only a pious and righteous believer can be a Khalifah, because he alone can discharge the responsibilities of Khilafat truly. On the other hand, a disbeliever and sinner cannot be Khalifah: he is rather a rebel against Allah, because he abuses the power and authority delegated by Allah in disobedience to Him in the land bestowed by Him.
  3. The succession of one ruling nation in the land after the fall of another nation. The meanings (1) and (2) imply vicegerency while (3) implies successor-ship. Both these meanings of Khilafat are well known and recognized in the Arabic lexicon.
Now anybody who reads this verse in this context cannot have any doubt that the word Khilafat has been used here for the government which discharges the responsibilities of Allah’s vicegerency strictly in accordance with Allah’s law, and not in accordance with mere physical laws of the world. That is why, not to speak of the disbelievers, even the hypocrites, who professed faith in Islam, are being excluded from the purview of Allah’s promise. That is why it is being stated that true and righteous believers only are worthy of this promise. That is why it is being averred that the establishment of Khilafat will result in the establishment of Islam, Allah’s approved religion, on strong foundations; and that is why the condition being put forward for earning this favor is that the believers should remain steadfast in their faith and devotion to Allah avoiding every tinge of shirk. To remove this promise from its right context and apply it on the international scene to any power is sheer absurdity and nonsense. (For further details, see (E. N. 99 of Surah Al-Anbiya )also.

Another thing that needs to be mentioned here is that the direct addressees of this promise were the Muslims living in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) though indirectly it applies to the future generations of Muslims as well. When in the beginning this promise was held out by Allah, the Muslims were living in a state of fear and Islam had not yet taken firm roots even in Hejaz. A few years later this state of fear not only gave way to peace and equanimity but Islam also spread outside Arabia to large parts of Africa and Asia, and it became firmly established not only in its own land of birth but outside it as well. This is a historical proof of the fact that Allah fulfilled His promise in the times of Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman (may Allah he pleased with them all). No right thinking person, therefore, can have any doubt that the Khilafat of the first three Caliphs has been authenticated by the Quran itself and Allah Himself has testified to their being pious believers. If anybody still has a doubt, he should read the address of AIi in Nahjal Balaghah, which was meant to dissuade Umar from going personally to fight against the Iranians. He said:
Our success in this work is not dependent on numerical strength; it is the religion of Allah for which He Himself has opened ways. We are grateful to Him for His help and succor which has enabled us to serve its cause till it has been raised to its present glory. Allah Himself has said: Allah has promised to those among you, who believe and do righteous deeds that He will make them successors in the land. Allah will certainly fulfill this promise and will help the armies of Islam. The position of the Caliph in Islam is like that of the string in a necklace of pearls. If the string breaks, the pearls scatter away and the order is destroyed. Once scattered and dispersed, it becomes difficult to collect them again. No doubt the Arabs are small in number, but they have been increased by Islam and strengthened by unity. You should therefore stick to Madinah like the pivot and make the grindstone of Arabia rotate about you and guide the war-machine from here. Once you leave this place, your entire organization will begin to crumble, then you will start feeling more worried about the dangers behind than the enemies in front. Moreover, the Iranians will concentrate their whole attention on you, and will like to exterminate you, taking you as the main and only hurdle in their way to victory. As for your apprehension that they have come out in much greater strength, I would say that hitherto we have been fighting them not merely on the strength of numbers, but have been putting them to rout on the strength of Allah’s help and succor. 
Any discerning reader can see for himself as to which side is being held by Ali as worthy of Allah’s promise with regard to successor-ship in the land.

Kufr (disbelief) here may also mean ingratitude or denial of the truth. In the first case, the verse will refer to those people who deviate from the right path after Allah has favored them with successor-ship, and in the second, to the hypocrites, who do not give up their hypocritical attitude even after hearing this promise of Allah.
( 56 )   And establish prayer and give zakah and obey the Messenger - that you may receive mercy.( 57 )   Never think that the disbelievers are causing failure [to Allah] upon the earth. Their refuge will be the Fire - and how wretched the destination.
Here we come to the end of Part IV of the exegesis of Surah An Nur. The next and the last part, Part V, which covers Rukhu 8-9 [verses 58-64] wherein Etiquette of seeking permission to enter the room of married couple, Etiquette of eating at houses other than your own,  and Requirement of attending meetings which require collective action shall be discussed.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sūrah An-Nūr 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 | References: | 1 | 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. [1] 
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2] and partly [1]
  • 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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