Saturday 14 September 2019

Surah Al Anbiya - The Prophets: 21st Chapter of Quran - Exegesis Part I

Surah Al Ambiyāʼ " 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. 

As already mentioned in the Overview that for the ease of understanding, the surah has been divided into three parts as under:
  • Part I  : [Ruku 1-3] - 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. 
  • Part II : [Ruku 4-6] - 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.
  • Part III: Ruku 7 -  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.
Let us now read the translation and exegesis / tafseer in English of the Part IFor 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"

Ruku / Section 1 [1-10]
1-10 The day of accountability is getting closer but the disbelievers are still heedless to the admonition and disputing as to how Rasool can be a human beings
( 1 )  The time of people's reckoning has drawn near, and yet they turn aside in heedlessness.
One of the main query of the pagans / disbelievers of Makkah was: When the Day of Resurrection will come? Such questions were mainly asked to mock the Prophet of Allah when he would recite verses that warn the disbelievers of the day which is very near.

Thus right from the outset, this surah begins with the Divine Warning: “Draws near for mankind their reckoning”: the time of Resurrection. This is to warn the people that the time of Resurrection when they will have to appear before their Lord to render their accounts is not far. This was because the coming of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a sign and a clear evidence of the fact that mankind had entered into the last stage of its history. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has himself explained it by holding out two of his adjoining fingers and said: I have been sent at a time which joins to the time of Resurrection just as these two fingers adjoin. By this he meant to say: No other Prophet is coming between me and the Resurrection. Therefore mend your ways now, for after me no guide is coming with good news and warning.

This verse thus warns that every minute sees them nearer to their doom, and yet they are sadly heedless, and even actively turn away from the Message that would save them.
( 2 )   No mention comes to them anew from their Lord except that they listen to it while they are at play
In each age, when the Message of Allah is renewed, the very people who should have known better and welcomed the renewal and the sweeping away of human cobwebs, either receive it with amused self-superiority, which later tums to active hostility, or with careless indifference.
( 3 )   With their hearts distracted. And those who do wrong conceal their private conversation, [saying], "Is this [Prophet] except a human being like you? So would you approach magic while you are aware [of it]?"
Allah's Message is free and open, in the full light of day. While His enemies, here the pagans of Makkah are being referred to as Allah's enemies, plot against it in secrecy, lest their own false motives be exposed. Their jealousy prevents them from accepting a "man like themselves" as a teacher or warner or guide. And when Allah's Messenger is proved to be above them in moral worth, in true insight, in earnestness and power of eloquence, they accuse him of witchcraft, a word which may mean nothing, or perhaps some mysterious deceitful arts. And would try to ward off others from nearing the Prophet of Allah by saying:  Anyone who listens to him or goes near Him is charmed. Therefore, the best thing for you is not to listen to him at all, nor go near him, for listening to him or going near him will only be involving yourselves intentionally in his snare.

The reason why they accused the Prophet (peace be upon him) of practicing magic was that even his antagonists were charmed by his personality when they met him. Muhammad bin Ishaq (152 A.H.) says: Once Utbah bin Rabiah, the father-in-law of Abu Sufyan, said to the chiefs that he wanted to see Muhammad and give him counsel. They said: We have full confidence in you. You may go and have a talk with him. When Rabiah went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said:
Dear nephew, you know that you were held in great honor here before this and you belong to a noble family. Why have you then brought this affliction to your people? You have caused discard among them. You consider your people to be fools. You speak ill of their religion and deities, and you declare their deceased forefathers to be disbelievers. My dear nephew, if your object is to become a rich man, we can give you so much wealth that you will become the richest man among us. If you are seeking a high rank, we will make you our chief, even our king, if you so like. But if you are suffering from a mental illness which makes you see illusions, we will have you treated by the best physicians. He went on talking in this strain and the Prophet (peace be upon him) remained silent. 
When he was done talking, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Abul Walid, have you had your say or do you want to say anything more? He replied that he had said what he had to say. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Now listen to me. And he began to recite Surah Ha-Mim-Sajdah after Bismillah and Utbah listened to him as if he had been charmed. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to (Ayat 38), he fell down in prostration. Then raising his head, he said: O Abul Walid, I have said whatever I had to say, and you have heard it. Now I have nothing more to say. After this Utbah walked back towards the chiefs who perceived him to be a changed man and remarked:
By God, his face shows that he is not the same man that he was when he went from here. When he came to them, they asked: What has been the result of your mission? He answered: By God, today I have heard a thing the like of which I had never heard before. By Allah! It is not poetry nor sorcery nor divination. O people of Quraish, I advise you to leave him to himself. From what I have heard from him, I conclude that his message is going to bring about a great revolution here. If the Arabs overcome him, you will stand absolved from the charge of murdering your own brother, and if he overpowers the Arabs, his sovereignty will be your own sovereignty and his honor your own honor. 
The people answered: By God, you too, O Abul Walid, have been charmed by him. To this he replied: I have expressed my opinion. Now it is for you to accept or reject it. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 313-314). Baihaqi, in his narration of the above event, makes this addition: When the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited (Ayat 13): If they turn away from your message, say to them, I have warned you of the coming of a thunderbolt like the thunderbolt that visited the Aad and the Thamud, Utbah placed his hand on the mouth of the Prophet (peace be upon him), saying: For God’s sake, have mercy on your own people.

In this connection, ibn Ishaq has cited another event. Once a man from the clan of Arash came to Makkah with some camels and Abu Jahl bought them. When he demanded their price, he put him off by lame excuses. At last the man came to the Sanctuary of the Kabah and began to bewail publicly the dishonesty of Abu Jahl. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was also sitting in a corner of the Sanctuary. The chiefs of the Quraish said to the man: We cannot help you in any way in this matter; look, there is a man sitting: go to him and he will get you your money. Accordingly, the Arashi went towards the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the chiefs began to whisper jokingly: Today there will be great fun. When the man expressed his complaint before the Prophet (peace be upon him), he at once stood up and accompanied him to the house of Abu Jahl, followed by an informer of the chiefs. The Prophet (peace be upon him) knocked at Abu Jahl’s door, who asked from inside: Who is there? He answered: Muhammad. Hearing this, he at once came out and the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to him: Pay this man his dues. Abu Jahl went in without uttering a word, brought the price of the camels and paid the man. At this the informer ran back to the Quraish and told them the whole story and said: By God, today I have seen something which I had never seen before. When Abu Jahl came out, Muhammad asked him to pay the dues, and he obeyed him as if he were spellbound. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 29-30).

It was this charm of the personality, character and words of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which these people considered to be the effects of charm and warned the people not to go near him for fear of his magic.
( 4 )   The Prophet said, "My Lord knows whatever is said throughout the heaven and earth, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing."
This was the answer of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to their false propaganda and whispering campaign. Instead of giving a tit for tat answer, he said: My Lord will deal with you for He hears everything and knows everything.

Every word, whether whispered in secret (as in xxi. 3 above) or spoken openly, is known to Allah. Let not the wrong-doers imagine that their secret plots are secret to the Knower of all things.

قٰلَ رَبِّىۡ يَعۡلَمُ الۡقَوۡلَ فِى السَّمَآءِ وَالۡاَرۡضِ​ وَهُوَ السَّمِيۡعُ الۡعَلِيۡمُ‏ 

In verse 4 above, notice that in the usual Arabic texts (that is, according to the Qiraat of Hafs) the word qala is here and in xxi. 112 below, as well as in xxiii. 112, spelt differently from the usual spelling of the word in other places (e.g. in xx. 125-126). Qul is the reading of the Basra Qiraat, meaning, "Say thou" in the imperative. If we construe "he says", the pronoun refers to "this (one)" in the preceding verse, viz.: the Prophet. But more than one Commentator understands the meaning in the imperative. The point is merely one of verbal construction. The meaning is the same in either case.
( 5 )   But they say, "[The revelation is but] a mixture of false dreams; rather, he has invented it; rather, he is a poet. So let him bring us a sign just as the previous [messengers] were sent [with miracles]."
The background of this verse is this: When the message of the Prophet (peace be upon him) started gaining adherents, the chiefs of Makkah started a propaganda campaign to counteract it and decided that every visitor to Makkah for pilgrimage should be approached and his mind so poisoned against the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he doesn't even go near and listen to him. Though this campaign continued throughout the year, in the pilgrimage season, a large number of men were deputed to go to the tents of the pilgrims to warn them to beware of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Different sorts of things were said against the Prophet (peace be upon him) during these talks.
The charges against Allah's inspired Messenger are heaped up, "Magic!" says one: that means, "We don't understand it!" Says another, "Oh! but we know! he is a mere dreamer of confused dreams!" If the "dreams" fit in with real things and vital experiences, another will suggest, "Oh yes! why drag in supernatural agencies? he is clever enough to forge it himself!" Or another suggests, "He is a poet! Poets can invent things and say them in beautiful words!" Another interposes, "What we should like to see is miracles, like those we read of in stories of the Prophets of old!" 
All they wanted to do was to poison the minds of the visitors irrespective of the correctness of their own versions. They had no considered and definite opinion in the matter.

This false propaganda, however, had just the opposite effect. The name of the Prophet (peace be upon him) became known throughout the country through the nefarious activities of the chiefs of Makkah. A positive kind of approach from the Muslims would not have achieved the same publicity in years as was achieved so rapidly through this negative campaign of the Quraish. It made everybody thinking: After all, who is this man against whom such a campaign of vilification has been started? The serious type among them rather came to the conclusion that they must hear to the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself and said to themselves: After all we are not children who can be easily enticed away.

For instance, Ibn Ishaq has related in detail the story of Tufail-bin-Amr Dausi in his own words: I was a poet of the clan of Daus. Once I went to Makkah and was, on my arrival there, surrounded by some people of the Quraish who told me all sorts of things against the Prophet (peace be upon him). So I grew suspicious and tried to avoid him as much as possible. The very next day, when I went to visit the Sanctuary, I saw him saying his prayer. I heard a few sentences and felt that what he was reciting were excellent words. I said to myself: I am a poet and a sensible young man and no child who cannot discriminate between the right and the wrong. Why should I not therefore meet him and inquire what he is reciting? Accordingly, I followed him to his house and said: The people had so much poisoned me against you that I had actually put cotton into my ears lest I should hear your voice, but what I have heard today from you was so appealing that I feel urged to inquire into your message rather in detail. At this the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited a passage of the Quran. As a result of which I embraced Islam there and then. On my return home I induced my father and wife to become Muslims, which they did, and then invited the people of my clan to embrace Islam with the result that by time of the battle of the Trench, as many as eighty families from my clan had entered the fold of Islam. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 22-24).

According to another tradition cited by Ibn Ishaq, the chiefs of the Quraish confessed in their private meetings that all their charges against the Prophet (peace be upon him) were false. According to him, addressing a meeting, Nadr bin Harith once said:
You cannot overcome Muhammad by the methods you are adopting against him. When he was a young man you regarded him as your best mannered person and looked upon him as your most truthful and honest man. Now that he has attained advanced age, you say, he is a sorcerer, he is a soothsayer, he is a poet, he is insane. By God, he is not a sorcerer, for we very well know what kind of people the sorcerers are and what kind of tricks they resort to. By God, he is not a soothsayer, for we are fully aware of the guess works of the soothsayers. By God, he is not a poet for we know what poetry is and can judge that his words cannot be classified under poetry in any sense. By God, he is not insane, for we all know what nonsensical things the insane people utter. Therefore, O chiefs of the Quraish, let us think of some other plan to defeat him. 
After this, he himself proposed that stories from Persia like those of Rustam and Asfandyar should be given publicity to divert the people’s attention from the Quran. Accordingly, they put this scheme into practice and Nadr himself began to relate such stories before the people. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. l, pp. 320-321).
( 6 )   Not a [single] city which We destroyed believed before them, so will they believe?
This contains a concise answer to the demand for a sign in the previous verse:
  • (1) You ask for signs like the ones which were shown by the former Messengers but you forget that those obdurate people did not believe in spite of the signs shown to them.
  • (2) While demanding a sign, you fail to realize that the people, who disbelieved even after seeing a sign, were inevitably destroyed.
  • (3) It is indeed a favor of Allah that He is not showing the sign as demanded by you. Therefore, the best course for you would be to believe without seeing a sign. Otherwise, you will meet the same doom that the former communities met, when they did not believe even after seeing the signs. 
It is being said that 'If such miracles as you read of failed to convince Unbelievers of old, what chance is there that these Unbelievers will believe? Miracles may come, but they are no cures for Unbelief."
( 7 )   And We sent not before you, [O Muhammad], except men to whom We revealed [the message], so ask the people of the message if you do not know.
This is the answer to their objection: This man is no more than a human being like yourselves, and therefore, cannot be a Messenger of God. They have been told that the former Prophets, too, whom you also recognize as Prophets, were human beings and were blessed with revelations from Allah.

In fact this answers the Unbelievers' taunt, "he is just a man like ourselves!" True, but all messengers sent by Allah were men, not angels or another kind of beings, who could not understand men or whom men could not understand.

And that they may have it testified by the Jews, who are the enemies of Islam like them, and are teaching them the ways to oppose it, that all the Messengers including Prophet Musa (Moses, peace be upon him) were human beings.

A similar answer to the pagan of Makkah is given in Surah An Nahl, Chapter 16, verse 43) as under:
"And before thee also the apostles We sent were but men to whom We granted inspiration: if ye realize this not ask of those who possess the Message."
This verse too clearly states that Allah's prophets were always men, not angels; and their distinction was the inspiration they received. And if If the Pagan Arabs, who were ignorant of religious and other history, wondered how a man from among themselves could receive inspiration and bring a Message from Allah, let them ask the Jews, who had also received Allah's Message earlier through Moses, whether Moses was a man, or an angel, or a god. They would learn that Moses was a man like themselves, but inspired by Allah. "Those who possess the Message" may also mean any men of Wisdom, who were qualified to have an opinion in such matters.
( 8 )   And We did not make the prophets forms not eating food, nor were they immortal [on earth].
As men they were subject to all the laws governing the physical bodies of men. They ate and drank, and their bodies perished in death.
( 9 )   Then We fulfilled for them the promise, and We saved them and whom We willed and destroyed the transgressors.
History not only tells us that the former Messengers were human beings but it also contains a lesson that they all received Allah’s succor as promised by Him and their enemies were completely destroyed. Therefore you should seriously consider the goal for which you are heading.

And however difficult (or impossible) their mission may have appeared to them, or to the world at first, they won through eventually, even those who seemed to have been defeated. Examples are given in the latter part of this Surah, especially in verses 51-93. They were delivered from the Wrath which overtook the Unbelievers, as were those with them who accepted Allah's Message and placed themselves in conformity with His Will and Plan. That is the meaning of "whom We willed."
( 10 )   We have certainly sent down to you a Book in which is your mention. Then will you not reason?
This is a comprehensive answer to the various objections which were being raised in desperation by the disbelievers of Makkah against the Quran and the Prophet (peace be upon him), as if to say: What is there in this Book that you cannot understand? Why don’t you consider it in the right spirit? It discusses you and your own problems and affairs of life. It describes your own nature, origin and end. It discriminates between good and evil and presents high moral qualities which your own consciences endorse and confirm. Why don’t you, then, use your minds to understand this simple and easy thing?

Ruku / Section 2 [11-29]
Verses 11-15 Prior nations were destroyed due to similar iniquities:
( 11 )   And how many a city which was unjust have We shattered and produced after it another people.
We only have to visit the ruins of many a large and once dominating empires that lie destroyed and shattered across the areas where once prophets and messengers of Allah were denied and laughed at.
( 12 )   And when its inhabitants perceived Our punishment, at once they fled from it.
When they had every chance of repentance and reform, they rejected Allah's Message, and perhaps even put up an open defiance. When they actually began to feel the Wrath coming, they began to flee, but it was too late! Besides, where could they flee to from the Wrath of Allah? Hence the ironical appeal to them in the next verse: better go back to your luxuries and what you thought were your permanent homes!

Christ's saying in the present Gospel of St. Matthew (iii. 7): "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the Wrath to come?"
( 13 )   [Some angels said], "Do not flee but return to where you were given luxury and to your homes - perhaps you will be questioned."
This is a very meaningful sentence. It may mean: (1) Examine this scourge minutely so that if someone asks you about it, you may be able to give an accurate account of it.(2) Hold your grand meetings as usual. Perhaps your servants may come with folded hands before you to receive orders. (3) Hold your councils as before, perhaps people may still come to ask for your wise counsels.
( 14 )   They said, "O woe to us! Indeed, we were wrongdoers."
( 15 )   And that declaration of theirs did not cease until We made them [as] a harvest [mowed down], extinguished [like a fire].
The two similes present two different aspects of the lamentation of the ungodly. When they really see the Wrath to come, there is a stampede, but where can they go to? Their lamentation is now the only mark of their life. But it dies away, as corn vanishes from a field that is being mown, or as a dying fire is slowly extinguished! They do not die. They wish they were dead! (lxxviii. 40, read below).
Verily We have warned you of a Penalty near the Day when man will see (the Deeds) which his hands have sent forth and the Unbeliever will say "Woe unto me! Would that I were (mere) dust!" (Al-Quran Surah 78. An-Nabaa)
That is "Is Judgment very near?" Yes. There are three stages of Judgment. (1) Many of our sins and wrong-doings find their penalty in this very life. It may not be an open or striking event, but it corrodes the soul and conscience all the time. Let us therefore tum back to Allah in repentance and ask for forgiveness. (2) Where the Penalty is not actually perceived or is not visible in this life, Death is considered the Lesser Judgment for each individual soul: [see verse lxxv. 22. Death may come to anyone at any time, and we must all be ready for it. (3) Then there is the final Judgment, when the whole of the present order passes away, and there is a New World. Time as we know it will not exist. Fifty thousand years as we reckon now will be but as a Day: (see verse lxx. 4). According to those standards even this Final Judgment is quite near, and we must prepare for it. For it will be too late then for repentance.

The Unbeliever, the Rejecter of Allah, will then find himself in a world of absolute Reality, in which there will be no place for him. He will neither live nor die: (see verse xx. 74). He will wish that he could be reduced to nothingness, but even that would not be possible.

Verses 16-18 The creation of heavens and earth is not a game
( 16 )   And We did not create the heaven and earth and that between them in play.
This was to refute their entire conception of life which was based on the assumption that man was free to do whatever he liked, and there was none to call him to account or take him to task: that there was no life in the Hereafter where one’s good deeds would be rewarded and evil deeds punished. In other words, this meant that the whole universe had been created without any serious purpose and therefore there was no need to pay any heed to the message of the Prophet.

The Hindu doctrine of Lila, that all things were created for sport, is here negatived. But more: with Allah we must not associate any ideas but those of Truth, Righteousness, Mercy, Justice, and the other attributes implied in His Beautiful Names. He does not jest nor play with His creatures.
( 17 )   Had We intended to take a diversion, We could have taken it from [what is] with Us - if [indeed] We were to do so.
That is, this world has been created with a definite purpose and not as a plaything. For, if We had wanted to enjoy a sport, We would have done so without creating a sentient, rational and responsible creature like you. Far be it from Us to put man to trial and conflict for the sake of mere fun.
( 18 )   Rather, We dash the truth upon falsehood, and it destroys it, and thereupon it departs. And for you is destruction from that which you describe.
The lies / falsehood like: (1) Allah has partners (xxi.22), or (2) that He has begotten a son (xxi. 26), or (3) has daughters (xvi. 57), or any other superstitions derogatory to the dignity and glory of Allah.

The object for which this world has been created is to stage a conflict between the truth and falsehood. And you yourselves know that in this conflict falsehood has always been defeated and destroyed. You should, therefore, consider this reality seriously. For, if you build the system of your life on the false presumption that it is mere fun, you will meet with the same consequences as the former people did, who presumed that the world was a mere show and pastime. Therefore you should reconsider your whole attitude towards the message which has come to you. Instead of making fun of it and scoffing at the Messenger, you should take a warning from the fate of the former peoples.

Verses 19-24 If there were more than One God, the heavens and earth would have been in a state of disorder
( 19 )   To Him belongs whoever is in the heavens and the earth. And those near Him are not prevented by arrogance from His worship, nor do they tire.
From verse 19 on begins the discourse on the confirmation of Tawhid and the refutation of shirk for these were the actual bases of the conflict between the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the disbelievers of Makkah.

The line of argument is this: The whole system of the universe is a clear proof that there is One Allah Who is its Creator, Sovereign, Ruler, and Lord and it is a falsehood that there are many gods who are partners in His Kingdom and Sovereignty, or that there is a Supreme God Who has under Him some minor gods to conduct the affairs of His Kingdom. This proof is also based on the preceding verses in which it has been stated that the universe has not been created as a pastime or a plaything, but for a serious purpose and that there has always been a conflict between the truth and falsehood, and falsehood has always been defeated and destroyed.

"Those near Him" - That is, the angels whom the mushriks of Arabia believed to be the children of God and worshiped them as partners in Godhead. And they are actually engaged in His service day and night without grumbling or ever feeling wearied.
( 20 )   They exalt [Him] night and day [and] do not slacken.
The pure angelic hosts, whom we imagine to be glorious creatures of light, high in Heavens, near the Throne of Allah Himself, are yet His creatures, and serve Him without ceasing, and are proud to do so. Such is the majesty of Allah Most High.
( 21 )   Or have men taken for themselves gods from the earth who resurrect [the dead]?
This question has been posed to bring home to the disbelievers that when they themselves believed that there is no being other than Allah who can give life to inanimate matter, why do they then acknowledge other deities besides Allah?

The different kinds of false gods whom people raise from their imagination are now referred to. In verses 21-23, the reference is to the gods of the earth, whether idols or local godlings, or deified heroes, or animals or trees or forces of the nature around us, which men have from time to time worshiped. These, as deities, have no life except what their worshipers give to them.

The answer of course is "no". No one but Allah can raise the dead to life. The miracle in the story of Jesus (iii. 49 and v. 113) was "by Allah's leave". It was a miracle of Allah, not one of Jesus by his own power or will.
( 22 )   Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides Allah, they both would have been ruined. So exalted is Allah, Lord of the Throne, above what they describe.
After the false gods of the earth (verse 21), are mentioned the false gods in the heavens and the earth, like those in the Greek Pantheon (verse 22), who quarreled and fought and slandered each other and made their Olympus a perfect bear-garden!

This concise sentence contains two arguments:
  • (1) The obviously simple argument is that no institution, no household, not to speak of the vast universe containing multitudes of countless distant stars, can function smoothly and properly, if it has two masters.
  • (2) The deeper argument is that the system of the whole universe, including that of the earth, is functioning according to a universal law. It could not work so even for a moment, if there had been no proper proportion, balance, harmony and coordination between the different powers and countless things. This is a clear proof that there is a universal and all powerful law and system which binds and forces these powers and things to cooperate and coordinate between themselves with a perfect proportion and harmony and this could not have happened if there had been different independent rulers. The existence of such a system is itself a clear proof that there must be One All Powerful Manager and Administrator governing and ruling the entire universe. 
In Surah Al Isra  )also called Surah Bani Israel) Chapter 17, verse 42, a similar theme is presented:
"Say, (O Muhammad): "Had there been other gods with Him, as they claim, they would surely have attempted to find a way to the Lord of the Throne."
That is, they would have themselves tried their best to become masters of the Throne. This is because if there had been more than one partners in Godhead, it would produce one of the two results: (1) If they were all independent gods, it was not conceivable that they would agree and cooperate with one another in the management of the boundless universe and there could never have been unanimity, uniformity and balanced proportion in its functioning. There would have been conflict at every step and everyone would have tried to dominate others in order to become its sole master. or (2) if one of them had been the supreme god and the others his obedient servants whom he had delegated some of his powers, then, according to the maxim “power corrupts”, they would never have been content with remaining obedient servants of the supreme god and would have conspired to become the supreme god themselves.

Whereas the fact is that in this universe not even a grain of wheat or a blade of grass can grow unless and until everything in the earth and the heavens cooperate with one another for its production. Therefore, only an utterly ignorant and block headed person can conceive that there are more than one independent or semi independent rulers, who carry on the management of this universe. Anyone who has tried to understand the nature and functioning of the universe will most surely arrive at the conclusion that there is One and only One Sovereign ruling over this universe, and there is absolutely no likelihood of anyone else to be a partner in this at any stage.
( 23 )   He is not questioned about what He does, but they will be questioned.
That is Allah is Self-Subsisting. All His creatures are responsible to Him and dependent on Him there is no other being to whom He can be responsible or on whom He can be dependent.
( 24 )   Or have they taken gods besides Him? Say, [O Muhammad], "Produce your proof. This [Qur'an] is the message for those with me and the message of those before me." But most of them do not know the truth, so they are turning away.
See verse 22, where two kinds of false worship are noted. Now we are warned against a third danger, the worship of false gods of any sort. Pagan man is prolific of creating abstract images for worship, including Self or abstract Intelligence or Power. In verse 26 below is mentioned a fourth kind of false worship, which imagines that Allah begets sons or daughters.

This verse should be read with the next. All reason revolts against the idea of conflicting gods, and points to Unity in Creation and Unity in Godhead. This is not only the Message of Islam ("those with me") but the message of all prophets who came before the holy Prophet Muhammad ("those before me"), and the line of prophets was closed with him. The Message given to every prophet in all ages was that of Unity as the fundamental basis of Order and Design in the world, material, moral, and spiritual.

It is their lack of the knowledge of the reality which has created this indifference towards the message of the Prophet, and the same has made them heedless of the message.

Verses 25-29 All Rasools were sent with the same Message, "There is no god but Allah, so worship Him alone
( 25 )   And We sent not before you any messenger except that We revealed to him that, "There is no deity except Me, so worship Me."
This verse in plain words warn that there is no God but He. And He alone is the master of the entire universe without any partners or associates (as claimed by Christians).
( 26 )   And they say, "The Most Merciful has taken a son." Exalted is He! Rather, they are [but] honored servants.
This refers both to the Trinitarian superstition that Allah has begotten a son, and to the Arab superstition that the angels were daughters of Allah. All such superstitions are derogatory to the glory of Allah. The prophets and the angels are no more than servants of Allah: they are raised high in honour, and therefore they deserve our highest respect, but not our worship.
( 27 )   They cannot precede Him in word, and they act by His command.
They never say anything before they receive Allah's command to say it, and their acts are similarly conditioned. This is also the teaching of Jesus as reported in the Gospel of St. John (xii. 49-50): "For I have not spoken of myself: but the Father which sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak."

If rightly understood, "Father" has the same meaning as our "Rabb", Sustainer and Cherisher, not Begetter or Progenitor.
( 28 )   He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they cannot intercede except on behalf of one whom He approves. And they, from fear of Him, are apprehensive.
These two verses refute the two reasons for which the mushriks had made the angels their deities: (1) They took them for the offspring of Allah. (2) They thought that if they worshiped the angels, they would be so pleased that they would intercede with Allah on their behalf. See (Surah Younus, Ayat 18); (Surah Az Zumur, Ayat 3).

In this connection, it should also be noted that the Quran refutes the doctrine of intercession of the mushriks, saying, that their so called intercessors are not qualified to intercede for anyone. This is so because they have no knowledge of the hidden things, whereas Allah knows all that is hidden from or open to them. Therefore, the angels or Prophets or saints shall be allowed intercession only with the prior permission of Allah. As Allah alone has the power to hear or accept intercession, none else is entitled to divine worship or rights. For further details, please see (Surah Ta Ha, Chapter 20, verse 109-110).
( 29 )   And whoever of them should say, "Indeed, I am a god besides Him"- that one We would recompense with Hell. Thus do We recompense the wrongdoers.
Doesn't this verse send shudders into the hearts of the false deities or those who take others as gods in addition to One True God that one day they would be asked why did they try to get into a race with Allah and befooled others ??

Ruku / Section 3 [30-41 ]
Verses 30-33 The skies and earth once were once one mass, Allah split them asunder, and He created all living things from water
( 30 )   Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?
From the wording of the text, it appears that at first the whole universe was a single mass of matter; then it was split into different parts and the earth and the other heavenly bodies were formed.

The evolution of the ordered worlds as we see them is hinted at. As man's intellectual gaze over the physical world expands, he sees more and more how Unity is the dominating note in Allah's wonderful Universe. Taking the solar system alone, we know that the maximum intensity of sun-spots corresponds with the maximum intensity of magnetic storms on this earth. The universal law of gravitation seems to bind all mass together. Physical facts point to the throwing off of planets from vast quantities of diffused nebular matter, of which the central condensed core is a sun.

From the wording of the text, it appears that Allah made water the cause and origin of life.  About 72 per cent, of the surface of our Globe is still covered with water, and it has been estimated that if the inequalities on the surface were all levelled, the whole surface would be under water, as the mean elevation of land sphere-level would be 7,000- 10,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. This shows the predominance of water on our Globe. That all life began in the water is also a conclusion to which our latest knowledge in biological science points. Apart from the fact that protoplasm, the original basis of living matter, is liquid or semi-liquid and in a state of constant flux and instability, there is the fact that land animals, like the higher vertebrates, including man, show, in their embryological history, organs like those of fishes, indicating the watery origin of their original habitat. The constitution of protoplasm is about 80 to 85 percent of water.
( 31 )   And We placed within the earth firmly set mountains, lest it should shift with them, and We made therein [mountain] passes [as] roads that they might be guided.
A similar assertion is also made in Surah An Nahl (16:15):
And He has placed firm mountains on the earth lest it should move away from you,12 and has made rivers and tracks that you may find your way, 
This shows that the real function of mountains is to regulate the motion and speed of the earth.

Lest it should shake with them: here "them" refers back to "they" means "Unbelievers". It might be mankind in general, but the pointed address to those who do not realise and understand Allah's mercies is appropriate, to drive home to them the fact that it is Allah's well-ordered providence that protects them normally from cataclysms like earthquakes, but that they could for their iniquities be destroyed in an instant, as the 'Ad and the Thamfid were destroyed before them. As pointed out in n. 2691 above, if the surface of the earth were levelled up, it would all be under water, and therefore the firm mountains are a further source of security of life which has evolved in terrestrial forms. Though the mountains may seem impassable barriers, yet Allah's providence has provided broad passes between them to afford highways for human communications.

“Broad highways” are the passes between high mountains and the valleys and ravines made by the rivers in the mountainous regions and other natural ways that connect different regions on the earth.

This is a very meaningful sentence. It may mean that the people may find paths for traveling on the earth, and it may also mean that the wisdom that underlies the skill and the system of their creation may guide them to the reality.
( 32 )   And We made the sky a protected ceiling, but they, from its signs, are turning away.
Canopy well guarded: the heavens form a canopy that is secure from falling down: they also form a sublime spectacle and a Mystery that man can only faintly reach.

For details also see Surah 15 Al-Hijr, Ayahs 14-22

وَهُوَ الَّذِىۡ خَلَقَ الَّيۡلَ وَالنَّهَارَ وَالشَّمۡسَ وَالۡقَمَرَ​ؕ كُلٌّ فِىۡ فَلَكٍ يَّسۡبَحُوۡنَ‏ 
( 33 )   And it is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all [heavenly bodies] in an orbit are swimming.
The use of the words kullun (all) and yasbahun (float) in the plural (for more than two) indicates that not only the sun and the moon but all the heavenly bodies are floating in their own separate orbits and none of them is fixed or stationary. These (verses 30-33) are capable of being interpreted in the modern scientific terms in accordance with the present day conceptions of Physics, Biology and Astronomy.

At the end of the verse, the metaphor of swimming implies in the original words: how beautiful it is to contemplate the heavenly bodies swimming through space (or ether) in their rounded courses before our gaze!

Here it should also be noted that verses 19-23 refute shirk while verses 30-33 present positive proofs of Tawhid. They imply that the creation and regular functioning of the universe clearly show that it is the work of One All- Powerful Creator, and no sensible person can say that it has been created as a mere pastime for the sake of fun. When the fact is this and you see proofs of the doctrine of Tawhid all around you, in the earth and heavens, why do you reject the message of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and demand other signs from him.

Verses 34-41 Allah has not granted immortality to any human being If Rasools are destined to die, how disbelievers are going to live forever!
( 34 )   And We did not grant to any man before you eternity [on earth]; so if you die - would they be eternal?
From here the same theme of the conflict between the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the disbelievers, that was interrupted by (verses 19-33), has been resumed.

Life on this planet without death has not been granted to any man. The taunt of the Unbelievers at the holy Prophet was therefore futile. Could any of them live without death at some time or other? Could they name any one who did?

كُلُّ نَفۡسٍ ذَآئِقَةُ الۡمَوۡتِ​ؕ وَنَبۡلُوۡكُمۡ بِالشَّرِّ وَالۡخَيۡرِ فِتۡنَةً​  ؕ وَاِلَيۡنَا تُرۡجَعُوۡنَ‏ 
( 35 )   Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned.
This is a brief answer to all those warnings and curses with which the Prophet (peace be upon him) was being threatened and the conspiracies which the Quraish were hatching against him day and night. On the one hand, the women of the Quraish cursed him because according to them he had ruined their home life by enticing away their kith and kins. While on the other hand, the chiefs of the Quraish threatened him with horrible consequences for the propagation of Islam. After the emigration to Habash especially, which almost affected every home of Makkah, these curses and threats increased all the more. This verse is meant to comfort and console the Prophet (peace be upon him) as well so that he should continue his mission without any fear of their threats.

The soul does not die, but when it separates from the body at the death of the body, the soul gets a taste of death. In our life of probation on this earth, our virtue and faith are tested by many things: some are tested by calamities, and some by the good things of this life. If we prove our true mettle, we pass our probation with success. In any case all must return to Allah, and then will our life be appraised at its true value.

In verse 185 of Surah Al-i'Imran, a similar mention is mades:

كُلُّ نَفۡسٍ ذَآئِقَةُ الۡمَوۡتِ​ؕ وَاِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوۡنَ اُجُوۡرَكُمۡ يَوۡمَ الۡقِيٰمَةِ​ؕ فَمَنۡ زُحۡزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَاُدۡخِلَ الۡجَـنَّةَ فَقَدۡ فَازَ​ؕ وَمَا الۡحَيٰوةُ الدُّنۡيَاۤ اِلَّا مَتَاعُ الۡغُرُوۡرِ‏

"Everyone is bound to taste death and you shall receive your full reward on the Day of Resurrection. Then, whoever is spared the Fire and is admitted to Paradise has indeed been successful. The life of this world is merely an illusory enjoyment."

Whoever considers the effects of his actions in this earthly life to be of crucial significance, and sees in them the criteria of right and wrong, the criteria of that which leads either to one's ultimate salvation or to one's doom, falls prey to a serious misconception. The fact that a person is outstandingly successful in life does not necessarily prove that he is either not prove that he has either strayed from the right way or is out of favour with God. The earthly results of a man's actions are often quite different from the ones he will see in the Next Life. What is of true importance is what will happen in that eternal life rather than in this transient one.

Allah is always putting human beings to test and trial both through adversity and affluence. This is to judge whether prosperity makes them proud, cruel and slaves of their lusts or they become grateful to Allah. On the other hand, He inflicts adversity upon them in order to see whether they remain within the prescribed and lawful limits or become low-spirited and down-hearted. A sensible person therefore should not be deluded by prosperity and adversity, but should keep their trial element in view and try to pass through it gracefully.
( 36 )   And when those who disbelieve see you, [O Muhammad], they take you not except in ridicule, [saying], "Is this the one who insults your gods?" And they are, at the mention of the Most Merciful, disbelievers.
It should be noted that this sentence contains only the reason why they scoffed at him, but does not refer to the expression of scoff itself. Obviously, the disbelievers must have been using some other words or expressions of derision to avenge themselves on the Prophet (peace be upon him) for his rejecting their self-made deities.

This is to rebuke the disbelieves as if to say: You cherish so much love of your self-made idols and false gods that you cannot tolerate anything against them. So much so, that you scoff at the Messenger of Allah, and you are not ashamed when you hear the name of the Merciful and discard His mention with disdain.

To the godly man the issue between false worship and true worship is a very serious matter. To the sceptics and unbelievers it is only a joke. They take it lightly, and laugh at the godly man. They not only laugh at him, but they blaspheme when the name of the One True God is mentioned. The reply to this is in the next verse.
( 37 )   Man was created of haste. I will show you My signs, so do not impatiently urge Me.
This is not the literal translation of the text; its purport according to the Arabic usage is: Man is a hasty and impatient creature by his very nature. The same thing has been stated in (Surah Al-Isra, Ayat 11): Man is very hasty and impatient.

Haste is in the very bone and marrow of man. If he is granted respite for his own sake, in order that he may have a further chance of repentance and coming back to Allah, he says impatiently and incredulously: "Bring on the Punishment quickly, that I may see if what you say is true!" Alas, it is too true! When the Punishment actually comes near and he sees it, he will not want it hastened. He will want more time and further delay! Poor creature of haste!

From the succeeding sentences it is obvious that signs here stands for the things that have been mentioned therein, the threat of the scourge of Allah, Resurrection and Hell. They made fun of these, as if to say: This man threatens us with the scourge of Allah and the torment of the Day of Resurrection if we deny him and that we shall become fuel of Hell, but nothing of the sort has befallen us. We are as strong as ever and nothing seems to be happening.
( 38 )   And they say, "When is this promise, if you should be truthful?"
( 39 )   If those who disbelieved but knew the time when they will not avert the Fire from their faces or from their backs and they will not be aided
They would not be so unreasonable if they only realised the terrible future for them! The Fire will envelop them on all sides, and no help will then be possible. Is it not best for them now to turn and repent? The Punishment may come too suddenly, as is said in the next verse.
( 40 )   That will suddenly come upon them and stupefy them. They shall not be able to ward it off, nor shall they be granted any respite. 
( 41 )   And already were messengers ridiculed before you, but those who mocked them were enveloped by what they used to ridicule.
The same verse occurs at Surah 6. Al-An'am, verse 10: "And indeed before your time (O Muhammad!) many a Messenger has been scoffed at; but those who mocked at them were encompassed by the Truth they had scoffed at"

Here we come to the end of the Part I [Ruku 1-3 verses 1-41]. However as mentioned in the Overview, the first few verses of 4th Ruku (42-47) have been grouped with Part I for continuity of the subject matter.

Ruku 4 [Verses 42-47] - Invented gods can not even defend themselves, how they will defend them against Allah and Scale of justice shall be set up on the Day of Judgement
( 42 )   Say, "Who can protect you at night or by day from the Most Merciful?" But they are, from the remembrance of their Lord, turning away.
'Allah is most Gracious: if, in spite of His great mercy, you are so rebellious and depraved as to incur His Wrath, who is there who can save you? His Wrath can descend on you at any time, by night or by day.'
( 43 )   Or do they have gods to defend them other than Us? They are unable [even] to help themselves, nor can they be protected from Us.
The full signification can only be got by a long paraphrase: 'they are not fit to be mentioned in the same breath with Us, nor can they be defended from Us.'
( 44 )   But, [on the contrary], We have provided good things for these [disbelievers] and their fathers until life was prolonged for them. Then do they not see that We set upon the land, reducing it from its borders? So it is they who will overcome?
In other words it means: These people have been deluded by Our favor and Our provisions. They think they are enjoying prosperity and good life as their personal right and there is none to take it away from them. They have forgotten that there is God above them Who is able to make or mar their fortune.

"Then do they not see that We set upon the land, reducing it from its borders?": Do they not see that an All-Powerful Being is showing His signs every now and then everywhere on the earth in the form of famines, epidemics, floods, earthquakes and other calamities. Millions of people are killed, habitations and harvests are destroyed and other damages are caused, which frustrate all human designs?

"So it is they who will overcome?" It means: When they know that all the resources and provisions of life are in Our hands and that We can increase or decrease them as We will, do they have the power and strength to defend themselves against Our punishment? Can they not see from these signs that their power, prosperity and luxury are not everlasting and that there is an All-Powerful Allah to seize and punish them.
( 45 )   Say, "I only warn you by revelation." But the deaf do not hear the call when they are warned.
According to the English saying: "none is so deaf as those who will not hear". When they deliberately shut their ears to warning from the Merciful Allah, meant for their own good, the responsibility is their own. But their cowardice is shown in the next verse by their behaviour when the first breath of the Wrath reaches them.
( 46 )   And if [as much as] a whiff of the punishment of your Lord should touch them, they would surely say, "O woe to us! Indeed, we have been wrongdoers."
That is, the same scourge which they are demanding to be hastened and of which they are making fun.
( 47 )   And We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all. And if there is [even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as accountant.
It is difficult for us to understand the exact nature of the balance. Anyhow, it is clear that the balance will weigh accurately all the human moral deeds instead of material things, and will help judge whether a man is virtuous or wicked and how much. The Qur'an has used this word to make mankind understand that every deed, good or bad, will be weighed and judged according to merit.

Another explanation could be:
  • Not the smallest action, word, thought, motive, or predilection but must come into the account of Allah. Browning (in Rabbi Ben Ezra): "But all, the world's coarse thumb And finger failed to plumb, So passed in making up the main account; All instincts immature. All purposes unsure. That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's account; Thoughts hardly to be packed Into a narrow act. Fancies that broke through language and escaped; All I could never be, All, men ignored in me, This, I was worth to God, Whose wheel the pitcher shaped."
  • The literalism of Sale has here excelled itself: he translates, "and there will be sufficient accountants with us"! What is meant is that when Allah takes account, His accounting will be perfect: there will be no flaw in it, as there may be in earthly accountants, who require other people's help in some matters of account which they do not understand for want of knowledge of that particular department they are dealing with. Allah's knowledge is perfect, and therefore His justice will be perfect also; for He will not fail to take into account all the most intangible things that determine conduct and character. See last note. There is no contradiction between this and xviii. 104-105, where it is said that men of vain works, i.e., shallow hypocritical deeds, will have no weight attached to their deeds, In fact the two correspond.
We will resume the exegesis of the Surah in Part II from verse 48 of Ruku 4, which make a mention of many of earlier prophets. It is this mention of prophets that this surah draws its title - Surah Al-Ambiyāʼ !!

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Surah Al-Ambiyāʼ 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 | 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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