Monday 5 August 2019

Surah Al Muminoon (The Believers): Exegesis 23rd Chapter of Holy Quran - Part I

Sūrah Al-Mu’minūn /  Surah Al Muminoon is the twenty third surah with 118 ayahs with six rukus, part of the 18th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The surah takes its name, Al-Mu'minun, from the first verse.

The surah was revealed during the middle stage of Prophethood at Makkah. It appears that the surah was sent down during the climax of the "Famine" in Makkah (as mentioned in verses 75-76), which according to authentic traditions occurred during the middle stage of Prophethood. Moreover, according to a tradition related by 'Urwah bin Zubair, Hadrat Umar, the second caliph, who had embraced Islam by that time, said, "This Surah was revealed in my presence and I myself observed the state of the Holy Prophet during its revelation. When the revelation ended , the Holy Prophet remarked, 'On this occasion ten such verses have been sent down to me that the one who measures up to them, will most surely go to Paradise'. Then he recited the initial verses of the surah." (Ahmad, Tirmizi, Nasai, Hakim).

The central theme of the surah is to invite the people to accept and follow the Message of Allah being delivered to them through Prophet and the whole Surah revolves round this theme.

For ease of understanding, the exegesis of the sūrah has been divided into two parts:
  • Part I  : Rukhu 1-3 (verses 1-50), which basically describe qualities of true believer, creation of man and the universe and stories of some of the former prophets and their communities have been cited as historical evidences of the truth of the Message. 
  • Part II : Rukhu 4-6 (verses 51-118), which include Prophet’s call to Allah’s path, mention of Polytheists and the concluding remarks.
Let us now read the translation and exegesis / tafseer in English of the Part I of the sūrah. 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 1 [1-22] - Characteristics of and rewards for true believers:
In this world of God, success is for one who is a true believer, one who devotes himself fully to God and not to anybody other than God and who leads a God-oriented life.  Realization of God is not a simple matter.  It brings about a revolution in the life of a person.  He becomes a worshiper of God and bows down before Him in submission.  His sincerity and seriousness increase to the extent that wasting time in useless pursuits appears fatal to him.  He sets aside a portion of his earnings in the Name of God and with that he helps the needy.  He exercises control over his sexual desires and gives free rein to them only within the limit prescribed by God.  He lives his life in this world as a responsible person and never misappropriates whatever is entrusted to him.  Such a person never dishonors any pledge undertaken by him.  Those who possess these qualities are the favored servants of God.  God has kept ready the gardens of Paradise for these people.  After death they will be sent into this new ‘world’ so that they may savor its joys forever.
( 1 )   Certainly will the believers have succeeded:
Win through, prosper, succeed, achieve their aims or obtain salvation from sorrow and all evil. This verse connects on with verses 10 and 11 below. The success or victory may come in this world, but is certain and lasting in the world to come.

The meaning of the first verse of the surah cannot be fully appreciated unless one keeps in view the background in which it was made. On the one hand, there were the well-to-do and prosperous chiefs of Makkah, the opponents of Islam, whose business was thriving and who were enjoying every good thing of life, and on the other hand, there were the followers of Islam, majority of whom were either poor from the beginning, or had been reduced to poverty by ruthless antagonism to Islam. Therefore, the assertion: Most certainly the believers have attained true success, with which the discourse begins, was meant to tell the disbelievers that the criterion of success and failure that they had in mind was not correct. It was based on misconceptions besides being transitory and limited in nature: it led to failure and not true success. On the contrary, the followers of Muhammad (peace be upon him), whom they regarded as failures, were truly successful, because by accepting the invitation to the right guidance given by the Messenger of Allah, they had struck a bargain which would lead them to true success and everlasting bliss in this world as well as in the Hereafter, whereas by rejecting the message the opponents had incurred loss and would meet with the evil consequences both in this world and in the next.

This is the main theme of the Surah and the whole discourse, from the beginning to the end, is meant to impress the same.

الَّذِيۡنَ هُمۡ فِىۡ صَلَاتِهِمۡ خَاشِعُوۡنَ ۙ‏ 
( 2 )   They who are during their prayer humbly submissive
The noble characteristics of the believers pointed out in (verses 2-9 )are the arguments to prove the above assertion. In other words, it has been stated that people with such and such traits and qualities only can attain true success in this world and in the Hereafter.

Khashiun in the text is from khushu (to bow down, to express humility) which is a condition of the heart as well as of the body. Khushu of the heart is to fear and stand in awe of a powerful person and khushu of the body is to bow his head and lower his gaze and voice in his presence. In Salat one is required to show khushu both of the heart and of the body, and this is the essence of the Prayer. It has been reported that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) once saw a person offering his Prayer as well as playing with his beard, he remarked: If he had khushu in his heart, his body would have manifested it.

Though khushu is actually a condition of the heart, as stated by the above tradition, it is manifested by the body as a matter of course. The Shariah has enjoined certain etiquette which, on the one hand, helps produce khushu in the heart, and on the other, helps sustain the physical act of the Prayer in spite of the fluctuating condition of the heart. According to this etiquette, one should neither turn to the right or left, nor raise his head to look up, One may, however, look around from the corner of the eye, but as far as possible, he must fix the gaze on the place where the forehead would rest in prostration. One is also forbidden to shift about, incline sideways, fold the garments or shake off dust from them. It is also forbidden that while going down for prostration, one should clean the place where he would sit or perform prostration.

Similarly it is disrespectful that one should stand stuffy erect, recite the verses of the Quran in a loud resounding voice, or sing them, or belch or yawn repeatedly and noisily. It has also not been approved that one should offer the Prayer in a hurry. The injunction is that each article of the Prayer should be performed in perfect peace and tranquility, and unless one article has been completely performed, the next should not be begun. If one feels hurt by something during the Prayer, he may cast it aside by one hand, but moving the hand repeatedly or using both the hands for the purpose is prohibited.

Along with this etiquette of the body, it is also important that one should avoid thinking irrelevant things during the Prayer. If thoughts come to the mind without one’s intention, it is a natural human weakness, but one should try his utmost that the mind and heart are wholly turned towards Allah, and the mind is in full harmony and tune with the tongue, and as soon as one becomes conscious of irrelevant thoughts, he should immediately turn the attention to the Prayer.

وَالَّذِيۡنَ هُمۡ عَنِ اللَّغۡوِ مُعۡرِضُوۡنَۙ‏ 
( 3 )   And they who turn away from ill speech
Literally, laghv is anything nonsensical, meaningless and vain, which is in no way conducive to achieving one’s goal and purpose in life. The believers pay no heed to such useless things and they show no inclination or interest for them. If by chance they see such things being indulged in, they keep away and avoid them scrupulously, or treat them with utmost indifference. This attitude has been described in (Surah Al-Furqan, Ayat 72), thus: If they have to pass by what is vain, they pass by like dignified people.

This is indeed one of the outstanding characteristics of the believer. He is a person who feels the burden of responsibility at all times. He regards the world as a place of test, and the life as the limited time allowed for the test. This feeling makes him behave seriously and responsibly throughout life just like the student who is taking an exam with his whole mind and body and soul absorbed in it. Just as the student knows and feels that each moment of the limited time at his disposal is important and decisive for his future life, and is not inclined to waste it, so the believer also spends each moment of his life on works which are useful and productive in their ultimate results. So much so that even in matters of recreation and sport, he makes a choice of only those things which prepare him for higher ends in life and do not result in mere wastage of time. For him time is not something to be killed but used profitably and productively.

Besides this, the believer is a person who possesses a right thinking mind, pure nature and fine taste. He has no inclination to indecent things. He can talk useful and healthy things but cannot indulge in idle talk. He has a fine taste of humor, but is not given to jesting, joking, ridicule, etc. nor can he endure dirty jokes and fun. For him a society in which the ears are never immune from abusive language, back-biting, slander; lying, dirty songs and indecent talk is a source of torture and agony. A characteristic of the promised Paradise is: Therein you will not hear anything vain or useless.
( 4 )   And they who are observant of zakah
The word Zakat literally means purification and development, to help something grow up smoothly and develop without obstruction. As an Islamic term, it implies both the portion of wealth taken out for the purpose of purifying the rest of wealth and the act of purification itself. The words of the original text mean that the believer constantly practices purification. Thus the meaning is not confined to the paying off of Zakat dues only but it is extended to self purification which includes purification of morals as well as wealth, property and life in general. Then it does not mean purification of one’s own self, but includes the purification of the lives of other people as well.

So the verse means: The believers are the people who purify themselves as well as others. This thing has also been stated at other places in the Quran, for instance: Successful is he who practiced purification and remembered his Lord and prayed. (Surah Al-Aala, Ayats 14-15). And: Successful is he who purified himself and failure is he who corrupted it. (Surah Ash-Shams, Ayats 9-10). But this verse is more comprehensive in meaning because it stresses the purification of both society and one’s own person.
( 5 )   And they who guard their private parts
The Muslim must guard himself against every kind of sex abuse or sex perversion. The new psychology associated with the name of Freud traces many of our hidden motives to sex, and it is common knowledge that our refinement or degradation may be measured by the hidden workings of our sex instincts. But even the natural and lawful exercise of sex is restricted to the marriage bond, under which the rights of both parties are duly regulated and maintained.

They are modest in every sense of the word. They are free from sex abuse and sex perversion. They are so modest that they even conceal those parts of their bodies which the law forbids to expose before others.

For further details, see explanation of verses 30-31 of Surah An-Noor. Chapter 24.
( 6 )   Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed
To be read in conjunction with explanation reference given above.
( 7 )   But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors
 This is a parenthesis which is meant to remove the common misunderstanding that sex desire is an evil thing in itself and satisfying it even in lawful ways is not desirable, particularly for the righteous and godly people. This misunderstanding would have been strengthened, had it been only said that the believers guard their private parts scrupulously, because it would have implied that they live unmarried lives, away from the world, like monks and hermits. Therefore a parenthesis has been added to say that there is nothing wrong in satisfying the sex desire in lawful ways. What is evil is that one should transgress the prescribed limits for satisfying the sex desire.

Here are briefly a few injunctions which are based on this parenthetical clause:
  • (1) Two categories of women have been excluded from the general command of guarding the private parts: (a) wives, (b) women who are legally in one’s possession, i.e. slavegirls. Thus the verse clearly lays down the law that one is allowed to have sexual relations with his slave-girl as with his wife. The basis being possession and not marriage. If marriage had been the condition, the slave-girl also would have been included among the wives, and there was no need to mention them separately. Some modern commentators, who dispute the permissibility of having sexual relations with the slave-girl, argue from (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 25 )to prove that one can have sexual relations with a slave-girl only after entering wedlock with her, because that verse enjoins that if a person cannot afford to marry a free Muslim woman, he may marry a Muslim slave-girl. But these commentators have a strange characteristic. They accept a part of a verse if it suits them, but conveniently ignore another part of the same verse if it goes against their wish and whim. The law about marrying the slave-girls as enunciated in (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 25) reads: You may marry them with the permission of their guardians and give them their fair dowries. Obviously the person under reference here is not the master of the slave-girl himself but the person who cannot afford to marry a free Muslim woman, and therefore, wants to marry a slave-girl, who is in the possession of another person. For if the question had been of marrying his own slave-girl, who would then be the guardian whose permission would have to be sought? Then, the interpretation they give of this verse contradicts other verses dealing with the same subject in the Quran. A sincere person who wants to understand the Quranic law in this regard should study (Surah An-Nisa, Ayats 3, 25); (Surah Al-Ahzab, Ayats 50, 52), and (Surah Al-Maarij Ayat 30 )together with this verse of Al-Mominoon. (For further details read verse 24 Surah An-Nisa, Chapter 4)
  • (2) The law prescribed in the parenthesis is only applicable to men as is clear from the text. A woman in the time of Umar did not understand this fine point of the language and indulged in sexual gratification with her slave. When her case was brought before the consultative body of the companions, they gave the unanimous decision: She misinterpreted the Book of Allah. Nobody should entertain the doubt that if this exception is meant for the men only, how could then the husbands become lawful for the wives? This doubt is unjustified because when the husbands are exempted from the command of guarding their private parts in regard to their wives, the wives automatically stand exempted from the command with regard to their husbands, and there is no need to grant them exemption separately. Thus the command of exemption remains applicable and effective only in respect of the man and the woman legally in his possession, and the slave becomes unlawful for the woman possessing him. The wisdom of why the slave has been forbidden to the woman is that he can only satisfy her sexual desire but cannot become guardian and governor of herself and her household, which leaves a serious flaw in the family life.
  • (3) The sentence “Then whoever seeks beyond that, so it is they who are the transgressors” has made satisfaction of sex desire in other ways unlawful, whether it be through fornication, homosexuality, sex gratification with animals, or some other means. The jurists differ only with regard to masturbation. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal regards it as lawful, but Imams Malik and Shafai regard it as absolutely unlawful: and though the Hanafites also regard it as unlawful, they give the opinion that if a person indulges sometimes in masturbation under the fit of passion, it is expected that he will be forgiven the error.
  • (4) Some commentators have proved the prohibition of mutah (temporary marriage) from this verse. They argue that the woman with whom one has entered into wedlock temporarily, can neither be regarded as a wife nor a slavegirl. She is obviously not a slave-girl, and she is also not a wife, because the legal injunctions normally applicable to the wife are not applicable to her. She cannot inherit the wealth of the man. Likewise, the man cannot inherit her wealth. She is neither governed by the law pertaining to Iddah (waiting period after divorce or death of husband), divorce, subsistence, nor by that pertaining to the vow by man that he will not have conjugal relations with her, false accusation, etc. She is also excluded from the prescribed limit of four wives. Thus, when she is neither a wife nor a slave-girl in any sense, she will naturally be included among those “beyond this”, whose seeker has been declared as a “transgressor” by the Quran.
This is a strong argument but due to a weakness in it, it is difficult to say that this verse is decisive with regard to the prohibition of mutah. The fact is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) enjoined the final and absolute prohibition of mutah in the year of the conquest of Makkah, but before it mutah was allowed according to several authentic traditions. If mutah had been prohibited in this verse, which was admittedly revealed at Makkah, several years before the migration, how can it be imagined that the Prophet (peace be upon him) kept the prohibition in abeyance till the conquest of Makkah? The correct position therefore is that prohibition of mutah is not based on any express law of the Quran but is based on the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Had it not been prohibited by the Sunnah, it would have been difficult to declare it as prohibited only on the authority of this verse.

It would be worthwhile to clarify two other points in connection with mutah:

(a) lts prohibition is based on the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and therefore it is wrong to say that it was prohibited by Umar. As a matter of fact, Umar only enforced it as a law of Islam and published it among the people. This had not been done earlier because the Prophet (peace be upon him) had forbidden mutah only during the latter part of his worldly life.

(b) The Shiite view that mutah is absolutely lawful and permissible has no sanction and support in the Quran or Sunnah. The fact is that a few of the companions, their followers and jurists who regarded it permissible in the early days of Islam, did so only in case of extreme necessity and need. None of them held the view that it was absolutely lawful like marriage and could be practised in normal circumstances. Abdullah bin Abbas, who is generally cited as a prominent supporter of the view of permissibility, has himself explained his position thus: It is just like carrion which is lawful for a person only in extreme necessity. Even Ibn Abbas had to revise his opinion when he saw that people were abusing permissibility and had started practising mutah freely regardless of genuine need and necessity. Again, even if the question, whether Ibn Abbas and the few likeminded jurists had revised their opinion or not, is ignored, the fact is that the supporters of mutah allow it only in case of extreme necessity. Holding mutah as absolutely permissible, practising it without any real necessity, or resorting to it even when one has a legally wedded wife or wives is a kind of licence which is abhorred by good taste, much less it be attributed to the Shariah of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and imputed to the learned jurists of his family. I think that among the Shiite Muslims themselves no respectable person would like that somebody should ask for the hand of his daughter or sister not in marriage but for the purpose of mutah. For, if mutah is held as absolutely permissible, it would imply that there should exist in society a low class of women, like the prostitutes, who should be available for the purpose as and when required, or if not that, mutah be restricted to the daughters and sisters of the poor stratum of society and the well-to-do be given the freedom and right to exploit them as and when they like. Can such an injustice and discrimination be expected of the divine law? And will Allah and His Messenger permit an act which every respectable woman would regard not only disgraceful for herself but shameful, too?
( 8 )   And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive
The believers fulfill the terms of the trusts which are placed in their charge. In this connection it should be noted that the Arabic word amanat is very comprehensive and includes all those trusts which are placed in their charge by Allah or society or individuals. Likewise aahd includes all those compacts, pledges, and promises which are made between Allah and man, and man and man. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself used to impress the importance of the fulfillment of pledges in his addresses: The one, who does not fulfil the terms of his trust, has no faith, and the one, who does not keep promises and pledges has no Islam. (Baihaqi). According to a tradition reported both by Bukhari and Muslim, he said: Four characteristics are such that if a person has all four in him, he is beyond any doubt a hypocrite, and the one who has one of these, is a hypocrite to that extent till he gives it up:

(a) When something is placed in his trust, he commits breach of the trust.

(b) When he speaks, he tells a lie.

(c) When he makes a promise, he breaks it.

(d) When he has a quarrel with somebody, he exceeds all limits (of decency and morality).
( 9 )   And they who carefully maintain their prayers
That is they strictly guard their Prayers: they strictly adhere to the prescribed times of the Prayers: they perform them with due regard for their prerequisites, conditions and articles with clean body and dress and necessary ablutions: they do not regard their Prayers as an unnecessary burden, which has to be cast off somehow: they do not recite mechanically but understand what they recite and are conscious that they are supplicating to their Lord like humble servants.
( 10 )   Those are the inheritors 
الَّذِيۡنَ يَرِثُوۡنَ الۡفِرۡدَوۡسَؕ هُمۡ فِيۡهَا خٰلِدُوۡنَ‏  
( 11 )   Who will inherit al-Firdaus. They will abide therein eternally.
Firdaus (Paradise) is a common word found in almost all human languages in very nearly similar forms. It means a vast garden adjoining the dwelling of a person and enclosed by defence walls and containing all kinds of fruit trees, especially vines. In some languages, the word has the sense of containing pet birds and animals, too. Firdaus was in common use in pre-Islamic Arabic literature. The Quran, however, has used it for a plurality of gardens as in (Surah Al-Kahf, Ayat 107). This gives the idea that Firdaus is a vast place containing a great number of gardens, vineyards, etc.

The substance of this passage may be summed up in four parts for further understanding of the Surah:
  • (1) The above mentioned excellent qualities of the believers are not confined to any race, nation or country.
  • (2) These excellences can be attained only by sincere faith and excellent moral qualities, and by the observance of prescribed laws in all the aspects of life.
  • (3) True success is not confined to transitory worldly and material prosperity but it comprises both success in this life and in the life after death in the Hereafter, and is attained by sincere faith and righteous deeds. This is a fundamental principle which cannot be falsified either by the worldly success of the evil-doers or by the temporary failure of the righteous people.
  • (4) Let us reiterate that these excellent characteristics of the believers have been presented as a practical proof of the truth of the message of the Prophet (peace be upon him), for these were the result of its acceptance. This should be kept in mind in the study of the succeeding passages, wherein the same subject has been pursued from different angles. This will also help to show the connection between this and the succeeding passages.
Verses 12-16 - Stages of human creation:
In this beautiful passage, Allah's creative work, as far as man is concerned, is recapitulated, in order to show man's real position in this life, and the certainty of the future: to which he was referred for his reward in verses 10-11 above. Here we are not concerned with the earliest stage, the creation of primeval matter out of nothing. It is also a process of creation when inorganic matter becomes living matter. Thus inorganic constituents of the earth are absorbed into fiving matter by way of food and living matter reproduces itself by means of sperm. This is deposited in the ovum and fertilises it and rests for a time in security in the mother's womb. The first change in the fertilised ovum is the conversion into a sort of clot of thickly congealed blood; the zygote cells grow by segmentation; then the mass gradually assumes shape in its growth as a foetus. From the lump develop bones and flesh and organs and a nervous system. So far man's growth is like that of an animal, but a further process takes place which makes the infant animal into the infant man. This is the breathing from Allah's spirit into him. It may be a continuous process parallel to that of physical growth. The child is born; it grows; it decays and dies; but after death another chapter opens for the individual, and it is to remind us of this most momentous chapter that the previous stages are recapitulated.
( 12 )   And certainly did We create man from an extract of clay.( 13 )   Then We placed him as a sperm-drop in a firm lodging.
The growth in the foetal stage is silent and unseen. The foetus is protected in the mother's womb like a king in a castle; it is firmly fixed, and gets the protection of the mother's body, on which it depends for its own growth until birth.

From a mere animal, we now consider man as man. Is it not a Sign of wonder in itself that from dry dust or inorganic matter should be made protoplasm (moist clay or organic matter); from it should grow a new animal life; and out of it should grow human life, with all its capacities and responsibilities? Man carries within himself Signs of Allah's wisdom and power, and he can see them every day in the universe around him.
( 14 )   Then We made the sperm-drop into a clinging clot, and We made the clot into a lump [of flesh], and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allah, the best of creators.
For explanation read verses 5-7 Surah Al-Hajj, Chapter 22.

Now let the disbelievers consider the message of the Prophet (peace be upon him) by observing their own creation, for this will convince them of its truth by proving its doctrine of Tauhid. The origin of man is from a mere inanimate sperm-drop, which undergoes several changes in the womb of the mother. But after this, when it sees the light of the day, it is quite a different creation from the embryo in the womb. Now it can hear, it can see, and in due course of time it can talk and think. Then, when he reaches adulthood and maturity, he is capable of performing wonderful deeds. It is obvious that Allah alone could create all these characteristics in an inanimate sperm-drop.

The various stages of the creation of man have been cited to prove that Allah is All-Blessed and there is no human language which can describe the praise of which He is worthy, as if to say: That Allah Who is able to develop an essence of clay into a perfect man, does not have any partner in His Godhead. Moreover, He has the power to raise him up again after his death, and is capable of working even greater wonders.
( 15 )   Then indeed, after that you are to die.
Our physical death in this mortal life seems to make a break. But if it were the end of all, our life becomes meaningless. Our own instinct tells us that it cannot be so, and Allah assures us that there will be a resurrection for judgment.
( 16 )   Then indeed you, on the Day of Resurrection, will be resurrected.
Verses 17-22: Allah has made the heavens, vegetation, trees and Animals for the benefit of human beings. In fact  the most wonderful aspect of the universe is that it is highly favorable to the existence of human beings.  The planet has been made to cater to all of man’s needs.  For example, man is able to domesticate a variety of animals and put them to various uses.  The cow’s belly, for instance, is a wonderful factory that gives out a valuable commodity – milk.  All these factors warrant man’s recognition of his Kind and Merciful God and his remaining ever grateful to Him.

وَلَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَا فَوۡقَكُمۡ سَبۡعَ طَرَآئِقَ ۖ  وَمَا كُنَّا عَنِ الۡخَـلۡقِ غٰفِلِيۡنَ‏ 
( 17 )   And We have created above you seven layered heavens, and never have We been of [Our] creation unaware.
The original Arabic word taraiq has more than one meaning. It may refer to the paths of the seven planets, with which the man of the time of the revelation of the Quran was familiar, or to the seven heavens. It should be noted that this word has not been used as a modern scientific term, but as a common word according to the Arabic usage of the period in order to invite the people’s attention to the wonders of the heavens, whose creation is certainly a greater thing than the creation of men.

This may also be translated as: We were not nor are heedless of Our creation. According to the first translation, it will mean that the whole of the creation has been brought about in a perfect manner with a definite design and purpose. For Allah, their Creator, is perfect in every respect. The creation itself a proof that it is not the work of a novice or an inexpert. All the physical laws of the entire system of the universe are so closely interconnected as to prove that it is the creation of the All-Wise Allah. If we take the second translation, it will mean that Allah has not been heedless in making provisions for every thing according to its nature from the most insignificant to the greatest of all.
( 18 )   And We have sent down rain from the sky in a measured amount and settled it in the earth. And indeed, We are Able to take it away.
There are two parts of this verse, (1) Sending rain water in measured amount, (2) Deprivation of it for some

(1) The water may refer to the rainfall, which comes down every now and then. It may also refer to the great store of water which Allah sent down at the time of the creation of the earth to fulfill its various needs till the Last Day, and which still exists in the shape of seas, lakes, sub-soil water, etc. It is the same water which evaporates in summer and freezes in winter and is carried by winds from place to place and spread over the earth by rivers, springs and wells to cause the growth of multitudes of things, and then is again restored to the seas, lakes, etc. Neither has this store of water been decreased by a drop nor was there any need to increase it by a drop since its creation. Today it is too well known how water comes about by the combination of oxygen and hydrogen in a certain ratio. The question is why can’t more water be produced when oxygen and hydrogen still exist in abundance in the world? Who caused them to combine in the proper ratio in the beginning to produce oceans of water and who now stops them from coming together to produce an extra drop? Then when water evaporates, who causes oxygen and hydrogen to remain combined in water vapors even in the gaseous state. Do the atheists and polytheists, who believe in independent deities for water, air, summer and winter, have any answer to this question?

(2) This is to warn that Allah is able to take away the water if He so wills, and deprive the world of its most important means of life. Thus, this verse is more comprehensive in meaning than (verse 30 of Surah Al-Mulk): Ask them, have you ever considered that if the water of your wells should sink down into the earth, who would then restore to you running springs of water?
( 19 )   And We brought forth for you thereby gardens of palm trees and grapevines in which for you are abundant fruits and from which you eat.
That is, you sustain yourselves by the produce that you get from these gardens in the shape of fruit, corn, wood, etc.
( 20 )   And [We brought forth] a tree issuing from Mount Sinai which produces oil and food for those who eat.
That is, the olive-tree, which is the most important product of the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. The olive-tree can last for 2,000 years or so, so much so that some trees in Palestine are said to be existing since the time of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). It has been attributed to Mount Sinai probably for the reason that the area whose well known and prominent place is Mount Sinai is its original habitat.
( 21 )   And indeed, for you in livestock is a lesson. We give you drink from that which is in their bellies, and for you in them are numerous benefits, and from them you eat.
Not only that we get  milk and meat from the cattle; but also from their skins we make leather for shoes, boots, straps, saddlery, and numerous other uses; from camel's hair and sheep's wool we weave cloth, hangings, carpets, etc.; from the horns of cattle we make cups and articles of ornament or use; and camels, horses, donkeys, mules, etc., are used for riding, carrying loads, or drawing vehicles.
( 22 )   And upon them and on ships you are carried.
The benefits of cattle as means of conveyance have been mentioned here along with the ships, because in Arabia, camel was used mainly for this purpose, and has been called the ship of the desert for the same reason.

Rukhu 2 [23-32]
In this Rukhu, stories of the former Prophets and their communities have been cited as historical evidences of the truth of the Message. They prove the following things :
  • The objections and the doubts that the antagonists are raising against the Message of Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) are not new. These were raised against the former Prophets also whom they themselves acknowledged as Messengers of Allah. Therefore they should learn a lesson from their history and judge for themselves whether the Prophets were in the right or their objectors.
  • The Message of Tawhid and the Hereafter that Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) is conveying is the same as was brought by the former Prophets; therefore they should accept it.
  • They should take a warning from the consequences met by those communities who rejected the Message of their Prophets.
  • All the Prophets brought one and the same religion from Allah and they all belonged to one and the same community. All other religions were invented by the people themselves and none of them is from Allah.
Verses 23-30: Prophet Nuh (noah, peace be upon him) was sent to guide his people, they disbelieved him, as a result Allah drowned all disbelievers in great flood:
( 23 )   And We had certainly sent Noah to his people, and he said, "O my people, worship Allah; you have no deity other than Him; then will you not fear Him?"
For details about Prophet Noah see also (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayats 59-64); (Surah Yunus, Ayats 71-73); (Surah Houd, Ayats 25-48); (Surah Bani Israil, Ayat 3 )and (Surah Al-Anbiya, Ayats 76-77).

That is, are you not afraid that if you set up partners and associates with Allah, Who is the real Sovereign, and worship and submit to them, you shall incur His wrath and punishment?
( 24 )   But the eminent among those who disbelieved from his people said, "This is not but a man like yourselves who wishes to take precedence over you; and if Allah had willed [to send a messenger], He would have sent down angels. We have not heard of this among our forefathers.
There has been a common deviation that a human being cannot be a Prophet, and a Prophet cannot be a human being. That is why the Quran has refuted this wrong conception over and over again, and has stated forcefully that all the Prophets were human beings and that a human being only could be sent as a Prophet to human beings. For details, see (Suras Al-Aaraf Ayats 63, 69); (Younus, Ayat 2); (Houd, Ayats 27-31); (Yousuf, Ayat 109); (Ar- Raad, Ayat 38); (Ibrahim, Ayats 10-11); (An-Nahl, Ayat 43), (Bani Israil, Ayats 94-95); (Al-Kahf, Ayat 110); (Al-Anbiya, Ayats 3, 34); (Al-Mominoon, Ayats 33-34, 47); (Al-Furqan, Ayats 7, 20); (Ash-Shuara, Ayats 154, 186); (Ya-Sin, Ayat 15), (Ha Mim Sajdah, Ayat 6).

"Who wishes to take precedence over you" This accusation is another old objection, which has always been raised against those who tried to reform their people. Their opponents always accused them of exploiting religion to gain domination in the land. Prophets Moses, Aaron and Jesus were accused of the same and so was Muhammad (peace be upon them all). So much so that the disbelievers of Makkah offered to make the Prophet (peace be upon him) their king, if he gave up his message.

As a matter of fact, the people who exhaust themselves in pursuit of worldly benefits and gains cannot believe that somebody in this world could also exert himself sincerely and selflessly for the sake of human welfare. They regard deceptive slogans, which they raise to capture power, and false promises, which they make day and night to bring about reforms as natural. They think that sincerity and selflessness can be employed only to deceive people and these cannot be put to any better use. That is why the epithet of power hungry for the reformers in all ages has been used by those already in power as if their own power and domination in the land was their birthright, and they were in no way blame worthy for struggling for it and achieving it.

In this connection, it should also be noted that all those, who try to reform the prevalent corrupt system of life, have inevitably to fight against those in power in order to establish the righteous system. That is why those with powers have always been against the Prophets and their followers, who had to dislodge the corrupt rulers. It is, however, obvious that here is a vast difference between those who want power to gain their own selfish ends and those who want it to reform their people.

"And as for the Demand for sending down Angels" This is a clear proof of the fact that Noah’s people were not disbelievers in the existence of God nor did they reject Him as Lord of the universe and the angels as His obedient servants. They were only guilty of shirk: they had set up other deities as partners in God’s attributes and powers and rights.
( 25 )   He is not but a man possessed with madness, so wait concerning him for a time."( 26 )   [Noah] said, "My Lord, support me because they have denied me."
“Help me because they have denied me”: Take Thy vengeance on these people for they have denied me. (Verse 10 of Surah Al-Qamar) says: Then cried Noah to his Lord, I am overcome, so take Thy vengeance on these people, and ( also verse 27 of Noah) say: And Noah said, O my Lord, do not leave of these disbelievers any dweller upon the earth, for if Thou sparest them, they will mislead Thy servants and will beget none but sinners and disbelievers.
( 27 )   So We inspired to him, "Construct the ship under Our observation, and Our inspiration, and when Our command comes and the oven overflows, put into the ship from each [creature] two mates and your family, except those for whom the decree [of destruction] has proceeded. And do not address Me concerning those who have wronged; indeed, they are to be drowned.
( 28 )   And when you have boarded the ship, you and those with you, then say, 'Praise to Allah who has saved us from the wrongdoing people.'
The fact that Allah should be praised and thanked for the annihilation of those people, is a clear proof that they were the most wicked and villainous people in the world.
( 29 )   And say, 'My Lord, let me land at a blessed landing place, and You are the best to accommodate [us].' "
“Landing” here does not simply mean touching and resting on the land, but it also implies the sense of hospitality, as if to say: O God, now we are Thy guests and Thou alone art our Host.
( 30 )   Indeed in that are signs, and indeed, We are ever testing [Our servants].
At the conclusion of the story of Prophet Noah (peace be upon him), particular attention has been drawn to the many signs in the story from which one can learn many lessons. For instance, the Prophet who invited the people to Tauhid was in the right and those who practiced and insisted on shirk and disbelief were in the wrong and were destroyed. That the same kind of conflict, which took place between Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) and his people, was going on in Makkah. Therefore, ultimately the Prophet (peace be upon him) will come out victorious over his antagonists just like Prophet Noah (peace be upon him).

We are ever testing [Our servants] can also be translated as: We had to or have to put people to the test. In each case the purpose is to warn the people that they will not be left alone after they have been granted power in the land and over good things of life, but Allah will put them to the test to see how they used their power. Whatever happened with the people of Noah was in accordance with this law, and the same will happen in future with any community which is raised to power.

Verses 31-32:  After prophet Nuh, Allah sent Hud to guide his people
( 31 )   Then We produced after them a generation of others.
The people of Aad, who were raised to power after the people of Noah. Refer to (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 69).
( 32 )   And We sent among them a messenger from themselves, [saying], "Worship Allah; you have no deity other than Him; then will you not fear Him?"
Rukhu 3 [33-50]
Verses 33-44:  Disbelievers called Hud and impostor; as a result Allah destroyed them all in a mighty blast and After Hud Allah sent Rasools / Messengers to other people, those people also denied and faced a similar punishment:
( 33 )   And the eminent among his people who disbelieved and denied the meeting of the Hereafter while We had given them luxury in the worldly life said, "This is not but a man like yourselves. He eats of that from which you eat and drinks of what you drink.
It should be noted that all those people who opposed the Messengers had three common characteristics: (1) They were the chiefs of their people. (2) They denied life in the Hereafter. (3) They were prosperous in the worldly life. Obviously, they loved the life of this world and could never conceive that their way of life, which had made them chiefs and brought prosperity, could ever be wrong. Therefore they opposed their Messengers, who took away their peace of mind, by preaching that there was a life-after-death and they shall have to render an account to Allah of what they did in this world. And this was exactly what was happening at Makkah.
( 34 )   And if you should obey a man like yourselves, indeed, you would then be losers.
Some commentators have wrongly opined that the chiefs exchanged these remarks against the Messenger between themselves. These remarks in fact were addressed to the common people. When the chiefs felt that the message was spreading among the common people and there was a real danger that they would be influenced by the pure character of the Messenger and that their superiority then would automatically come to an end, they began to delude them by raising such objections against him. It is worth while to note that both the chiefs of the people of Noah and the chiefs of the people of Aad accused their Messengers of the lust for power but as regards to themselves, they thought that power and prosperity were their inherent rights and they were in every respect entitled to be the chiefs of their people.

These words show that the people of Aad were also not disbelievers in the existence of God. They too were involved in the sin of shirk. Refer to (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 70); (Surah Houd, Ayats 53-54); (Surah HaMim Sajdah, Ayat 14), and (Surah Al-Ahqaf, Ayats 21-22).
( 35 )   Does he promise you that when you have died and become dust and bones that you will be brought forth [once more]?( 36 )   How far, how far, is that which you are promised.
( 37 )   Life is not but our worldly life - we die and live, but we will not be resurrected.
They seem to say; "There is no future life: that we shall die is certain; that we have this life is certain: some die, some are born, some live: and so the cycle continues: but how can dead men be raised to life?"
( 38 )   He is not but a man who has invented a lie about Allah, and we will not believe him."
"He is only a fool, and invents things, and attributes them to Allah's inspiration! We are too wise to believe such things!"
( 39 )   He said, "My Lord, support me because they have denied me."
Every prophet is maligned and persecuted: it is always the same story with them, told in different ways.
( 40 )   So each We seized for his sin; and among them were those upon whom We sent a storm of stones, and among them were those who were seized by the blast [from the sky], and among them were those whom We caused the earth to swallow, and among them were those whom We drowned. And Allah would not have wronged them, but it was they who were wronging themselves.
When the Punishment comes, they will be sorry for themselves, but it will be too late then.
( 41 )   The example of those who take allies other than Allah is like that of the spider who takes a home. And indeed, the weakest of homes is the home of the spider, if they only knew.( 42 )   Indeed, Allah knows whatever thing they call upon other than Him. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.( 43 )   No nation will precede its time [of termination], nor will they remain [thereafter].
( 44 )   Then We sent Our messengers in succession. Every time there came to a nation its messenger, they denied him, so We made them follow one another [to destruction], and We made them narrations. So away with a people who do not believe.
Their habitations and their organisation have been wiped out. What remains is merely a vague story of their existence, a tale that is told. Where their name remains, which is not always the case, it is only a by-word, suggesting all that is unstable and ephemeral,-"to point a moral and adorn a tale".

Verses 45-50: Mention of Prophet Musa (Moses, peace be upon him) is made here who was sent to Fir'on and his chiefs; they also disbelieved and faced destruction
( 45 )   Then We sent Moses and his brother Aaron with Our signs and a clear authority
The use of a manifest Authority along with Our signs may either mean that the signs were a clear proof that they were Messengers of Allah, or the signs may refer to all other miracles of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) than the staff, which may stand here for a clear authority, because the miracles shown by means of it were a clear proof that the two brothers had been sent by Allah.
( 46 )   To Pharaoh and his establishment, but they were arrogant and were a haughty people.
The words in the text may either mean: (1) They were highly arrogant and tyrannous people, or (2) They showed haughtiness and self conceit.
( 47 )   They said, "Should we believe two men like ourselves while their people are for us in servitude?"
( 48 )   So they denied them and were of those destroyed.
For further details of the story of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and Pharaoh, see (Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayats 49-50); (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayats 103-136); (Surah Younus, Ayats 75-92), (Surah H0ud, Ayats 96-99), (Surah Bani Israil, Ayats 101-104), (Surah TaHa, Ayats 9-80 )
( 49 )   And We certainly gave Moses the Scripture that perhaps they would be guided.
( 50 )   And We made the son of Mary and his mother a sign and sheltered them within a high ground having level [areas] and flowing water.
The wording “We made the son of Mary and his mother a sign” is very significant, because it means that neither the son of Mary nor his mother was each a separate sign, but both of them together were a sign. This verse is a clear proof that a son was born to Mary without cohabitation with a man and that Jesus had no father. For further details see (Surah Aal-Imran, Ayats 45-49); (Surah An-Nisa, Ayats 156, 171); (Surah Maryam, Ayats 16-35) and (Surah Al-Anbiya, Ayats 91) and the relevant E.N.s.

In this connection, it should also be noted that the case of the error in regards to Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) and his mother was different from the error in regard to other Prophets, who were rejected because they were human beings. But the deviation in regard to Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) and his mother was that the credulous people raised them from the low position of human beings to the high rank of Godhead. On the other hand, those, who went to the other extreme accused Mary of unchastity, although they were witnesses of the miraculous birth of Jesus and had heard him speak in the cradle.

Different people have mentioned different places, like Damascus, Ar-Ramlah, Jerusalem and Egypt, in regard to the plateau where Allah gave them shelter. From the Christian traditions it appears that Mary had to leave her home twice after the birth of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him), first in the time of Herod when she took him to Egypt and stayed there till Herod’s death, and then in the time of Archelaus when she took him to Nazareth in Galilee. (Matthew, 2: 13-23). Therefore it cannot be said with certainty to which of these two emigrations the Quran refers here. It is, however, obvious that the place of shelter was a plateau which provided them with all the necessities of life.

Here we come to the end of Part I of the Sūrah Al-Mu’minūn. For exegesis of Rukhu 4-6, please refer to the Part II.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sūrah Al-Mu’minūn 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]
  • 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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