Thursday 12 September 2019

Overview: Surah Al Anbiya (The Prophets) - 21st Chapter of Quran

Sürah Al Anbiya " الْأَنْبِيَاء ", pronounced as Al-Ambiyāʼ is the twenty first surah with 112 ayahs with seven rukus, part of the 17th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an.

The surah draws its title from the stories, and lessons from the lives of many of the more notable prophets, mentioned in verses verses 48 to 91. 

The last Sürah, Surah Ta Ha (20th Chapter) dealt with the individual story of Prophets Musa and Harun (Moses and Aaron, peace be upon them both) and contrasted it with the growth of evil in individuals like Pharaoh and the Samiri and ended with a warning against Evil, and an exhortation to the purification of the soul with prayer and praise. 

This Sürah begins with the external obstacles placed by Evil against such purification, and gives the assurance of Allah's power to defend men, illustrating this with reference to Abraham's idolatry, Lot's fight against injustice and failure to proclaim Allah's glory by making full use of man's God-given faculties and powers, that of Job against impatience and want of self-confidence, that of Ismä'il, Idris, and Zul-kifl against want of steady perseverance, that of Zun-nūn (Yunus, Jonah) against hasty anger, that of Zakariya against isolation, and that of Mary against the lusts of this world. In each allusion there is a special point about the soul's purification. The common point is that the Prophets were not, as the disbelievers suppose, just irresistible men. They had to win their ground inch by inch against all kinds of resistance from evil. 

The chronology of this Sūrah has no particular significance. It probably dates from the middle of the Makkan period of inspiration. And discusses the conflict between Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the chiefs of Makkah, which was rampant at the time of its Revelation and answers those objections and doubts which were being put forward concerning his Prophethood and the Doctrines of Tawhid and the Hereafter. The chiefs of Makkah have also been rebuked for their machinations against the Holy Prophet and warned of the evil consequences of their wicked activities. They have been admonished to give up their indifference and heedlessness that they were showing about the Message. At the end of the Surah, they have been told that the person whom they considered to be a "distress and affliction" had in reality come to them as a blessing.

For the ease of understanding, the surah has been divided into three parts as under:

Part I  : [ Ruku 1-3 Verses 1- 41 ] 
This part mentions the accusations and lies of the pagans of Makkah that a human being could not be a Messenger and therefore they could not accept Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a Prophet. And in response arguments and admonitions have been used to remove another misunderstanding of theirs. 

The subject matter has been divided into three parts:
  • Verses 1 – 9  Accusations and liesGod warns that the Day of Accountability is getting closer, yet many people are heedless.  They ridicule the warnings and warners that come to them and continue to play, their hearts preoccupied with worldly affairs.  In their private conversations, they say that Muhammad is a just human being like themselves, and that he is trying to trick them with witchcraft.  God says to Prophet Muhammad, tell them that I (God) hear everything they think is said in secrecy.  Many accuse Prophet Muhammad of having muddled dreams, or making up false stories, or being a poet.  The disbelievers ask for a sign, but God mentions that all the cities and towns destroyed previously asked for and received signs yet they did not believe.  The disbelievers dispute as to how a human being can be a prophet yet the previous prophets were all mortal men.  God fulfilled His promise to them, they were saved, as were those who believed in them but many were destroyed for their disbelief. 
  • Verses 10- 24  Falsehood blown awayWe (God) have sent you a reminder.  Prior nations were destroyed because of their iniquities.  Other communities were raised up in their place.  They tried to escape when they felt Our (Gods) wrath upon them.  (They were told) Go back to your houses and play.  They admitted their wrongdoing and continued to do so until they were extinguished, just like a fire.  Heaven and earth and all that lies between them were not created to be a playground.  Falsehood is blown away by the truth, so woe to those who have created false gods.  Those who are with God worship and praise him tirelessly.  Do your false deities have the power to raise the dead? There is proof and there is the reminder (the Quran) yet most people do not recognise the truth and turn away.
  • Verses 25- 47  Every soul will taste deathAll the prophets were sent with the same message; there is no deity but God, so worship Him alone.  Despite having received the true message people tell lies against God.  These evil doers are rewarded with Hell.  Do the disbelievers not consider the world around them? The heavens and the earth were once one mass split asunder by God; all living creatures have their origin in water.  The earth is covered with firm mountains and broad pathways and the sky is a canopy.  God created the night and the day; the celestial bodies move in their orbits.  Every soul will taste death.  Everyone is tested and then they will return to God.  The Day will arrive suddenly and the disbelievers will be powerless to turn it away.  The previous messengers were ridiculed but in the end those who ridiculed were overcome by what they mocked.   Invented gods cannot defend themselves so how will they defend the disbelievers? They are warned but refuse to hear, and then if even a breath of punishment touches them they cry to God.  Be warned that on the Day of Judgement the scales will be set up and God will take account.
The first few verses of 4th Ruku (42-47) have been grouped with Part I for continuity of the subject matter.

Part II : [ Ruku 4-6 Verses 42 - 93 ] 
The main part of the surah wherein mention of earlier prophets and messengers has been exclusively made to show that all the Prophets, who were sent by Allah, were human beings and had all the characteristics of a man except those which were exclusive to Prophethood. They had no share in Godhead and they had to implore Allah to fulfill each and every necessity of theirs.

The part is further subdivided as per the subject matter of the verses related to the different prophets:
  • Verses 48 – 70 Brief stories of the prophets:  God says He gave Moses and his brother Aaron the scripture that distinguishes between right and wrong and the Quran is also a blessed message.  God sends it down yet some people continue to deny it.   Long ago right judgment was bestowed upon Abraham.  He questioned his father and his people about their clear idolatry but they answered that they only followed the ways of their ancestors.  Abraham said to them that their true Lord was the Lord of the heavens and the earth that had created them and that he (Abraham) would plot against the idols as soon as he could find the opportunity.  Abraham destroyed all the idols except the largest one.  He left it whole.  When they returned to find the carnage the people remembered Abraham’s threats so they called him and questioned him.  He asked them to question instead the remaining idol, pointing out the absurdity of their beliefs.  At first Abraham’s people admitted their errors but then they were seized with pride and obstinacy.  They threw Abraham into the midst of a fire but God kept the fire cool. They planned to hurt Abraham but God made them the losers.
  • Verses 71 – 77 God saves those who believeProphet Abraham and his nephew Lot were delivered from harm and sent to a land that God had blessed for the entire world.  Here Abraham was blessed even more with his righteous son Isaac and his grandson Jacob.  They were righteous, doing good deeds, establishing the prayer, giving alms and worshipping in the correct way.  Lot was given sound judgment and knowledge and God saved him from the city of wicked deeds.  Even further back in the past Noah called out to God and God accepted his prayer against the unbelievers.  Prophet Noah and the believers were saved from the great calamity (the flood) but those who had denied the warnings were drowned.
  • Verses 78 – 88 …And those who cry to Him in distressGod blessed Prophet David and Solomon with wisdom.  God was watching them when they were trying to judge a case about sheep straying a night and He made Solomon understand the case in a better way.  However both were given wisdom in abundance.  It was God who made the mountains and the birds sing His (God’s) praises with David and it was also God who taught David to make coats of armour for protection in battle.  God harnessed the wind for Solomon and made some of the jinn subservient to him.   God asks us to remember Job, who cried to his Lord when he was afflicted.  God heard his cry and removed his suffering.  And remember Ishmael, Idris, and Dhu’l- Kifl.  They were all steadfast and were admitted into God’s mercy.  And remember the man in the whale? He was angry but admitted his wrong and God saved him from his distress.  God saves the faithful.
Part III: [ Ruku 7 Verses 94 - 112 ]
In the last Ruku, it has been declared that only those who follow the Right Way, will come out successful in the final judgment of Allah and those who discard it shall meet with the worst consequences. The people have been told that it is a great favor of Allah that He has sent His Messenger to inform them beforehand of this Reality and that those, who consider his coming to be an affliction instead of a blessing, are foolish people.

Please read our subsequent posts for exegesis of the surah as divided in above mentioned three parts.

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 | 7 |
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 order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources:
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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