Wednesday 30 October 2019

Surah An-Nahl - The Bee: 16th Chapter of Quran Exegesis Part III

Sürah An-Naḥl " الْنَّحْل " " (The Bees) is the 16th chapter (sūrah) of the Qur'an, containing 128 āyāts.  with sixteen rukus, part of the 14th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. It also has one sajda-e-talawat (Prostration of Recitation) in the 50th verse. The Sürah takes its name from the 68th verse:
وَاَوۡحٰى رَبُّكَ اِلَى النَّحۡلِ اَنِ اتَّخِذِىۡ مِنَ الۡجِبَالِ بُيُوۡتًا وَّمِنَ الشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا يَعۡرِشُوۡنَۙ‏ 

"Your Lord inspired the bee, saying: "Set up hives in the mountains and in the trees and in the trellises that people put up" 

This Sürah was revealed during the last Makkan stage of Prophethood and the following verses tend to support the assertion:
  • Verse 41 clearly shows that persecution had forced some Muslims to emigrate to Habash before the revelation of this Surah.
  • Verse 106 indicates to the fact that at that time the persecution of the Muslims was at its height. Therefore a problem had arisen in regard to the utterance of a blasphemous word, without actual disbelief, under unbearable conditions. The problem was that if one did so how he should be treated.
  • Verses 112-114 refer to the end of seven year famine that had struck Makkah some years after the appointment of the Holy Prophet as Allah's Messenger.
  • There is a reference to verse 116 of this Surah in Surah VI Al-An'am: 145, and verse 118 of this Surah contains a reference to Surah VI Al-An'am: 146. This is a proof that both these Surahs (VI and XVI) were sent down in the same period.
  • The general style of the Surah also supports the view that this was revealed during the last stage at Makkah.
In subject matter it sums up, from a new point of view, the arguments on the great questions of Allah's dealings with man. All the topics of the Surah revolve round different aspects of the Message, i.e., refutation of shirk, proof of Tawhid, and warning of the consequences of the rejection of and opposition and antagonism to the Message.

This sürah warns against polytheism, saying that the pagan gods cannot create anything ([Quran 16:20]), and against comparisons between Allah and any created beings ([Quran 16:74]). It praises Allah for giving the Earth with all its wealth to mankind. According to this sürah, all wonders of the natural world, like seas, stars, mountains are proofs of God's infinite power ([Quran 16:14]).

Owing to the length of the sürah, the exegesis / tafseer has been divided into three parts as under:
  • Part I   : Ruku / Sections 1-6 [Verses 1-50] 
  • Part II  : Ruku / Sections 7-12 [Verses 51-89] 
  • Part III : Ruku / Sections 13-16 [Verses 90-128] 
We have already presented the Parts I and II. Let us now read the exegesis / tafseer of the Part III, the last partThe translation and exegesis / tafseer is in English. 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"

Ruku / Section 13 Verses [90-100]

Summary Verses 90-94: Allah commands to do justice, do good to others, and give to near relatives; and He forbids indecency, wickedness, and rebellion:

Verse 90 below is the most comprehensive verse of the Holy Qur'an where the essence of the entire range of Islamic teachings has been condensed into a few words. 

اِنَّ اللّٰهَ يَاۡمُرُ بِالۡعَدۡلِ وَالۡاِحۡسَانِ وَاِيۡتَآىـئِ ذِى الۡقُرۡبٰى وَيَنۡهٰى عَنِ الۡفَحۡشَآءِ وَالۡمُنۡكَرِ وَالۡبَغۡىِ​ۚ يَعِظُكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَذَكَّرُوۡنَ‏ 
( 90 )   Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
In this brief sentence Allah has enjoined three most important things on which alone depends the establishment of a sound and healthy society:

The first of these is justice which has two aspects.
To make such arrangements as may enable everyone to get one’s due rights without stint. Justice does not, however, mean equal distribution of rights, for that would be absolutely unnatural. In fact, justice means equitable dispensation of rights which in certain cases may mean equality. For example, all citizens should have equal rights of citizenship but in other cases equality in rights would be injustice. For instance, equality in social status and rights between parents and their children will obviously be wrong. Likewise those who render services of superior and inferior types cannot be equal in regard to wages and salaries. What Allah enjoins is that the full rights of everyone should be honestly rendered whether those be moral, social, economic legal or political in accordance with what one justly deserves.
The second thing enjoined is ihsan which has no equivalent in English. This means to be good, generous, sympathetic, tolerant, forgiving, polite, cooperative, selfless, etc. In collective life this is even more important than justice; for justice is the foundation of a sound society but ihsan is its perfection. On the one hand, justice protects society from bitterness and violation of rights. On the other hand, ihsan makes it sweet and joyful and worth living. It is obvious that no society can flourish if every individual insists on exacting his pound of flesh. At best such a society might be free from conflict but there cannot be love, gratitude, generosity, sacrifice, sincerity, sympathy and such humane qualities as produce sweetness in life and develop high values.

The third thing which has been enjoined is good treatment towards one’s relatives which in fact is a specific form of ihsan. It means that one should not only treat his relatives well, share their sorrows and pleasures and help them within lawful limits but should also share his wealth with them according to his means and the need of each relative. This enjoins on everyone who possesses ample means to acknowledge the share of his deserving relatives along with the rights of his own person and family. The divine law holds every well to do person in a family to be responsible for fulfilling the needs of all his needy kith and kin. The law considers it a great evil that one person should enjoy the pleasures of life while his own kith and kin are starving. As it considers the family to be an important part of society, it lays down that the first right of needy individuals is on its well t -do members and then on the others. Likewise it is the first duty of the well to do members of the family to fulfill the needs of their own near relatives and then those of others. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has emphasized this fact in many traditions, according to which a person owes rights to his parents, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, other relatives, etc. in accordance with the nearness of their relationships. On the basis of this fundamental principle, Umar made it obligatory on the first cousins of an orphan to support him. In the case of another orphan he declared that if he had no first cousins he would have made it obligatory on distant cousins to support him. Just imagine the happy condition of the society every unit of which supports its every needy individual in this way. Most surely that society will become high and pure economically, socially and morally.

In contrast to the above mentioned three virtues, Allah prohibits three vices which ruin individuals and the society as a whole:
(1) The Arabic word fahsha applies to all those things that are immodest, immoral or obscene or nasty or dirty or vulgar, not fit to be seen or heard, because they offend against recognized standards of propriety or good taste, e.g. adultery, fornication, homosexuality, nakedness, nudity, theft, robbery, drinking, gambling, begging, abusive language and the like. Likewise it is indecent to indulge in giving publicity to any of these evils and to spread them, e.g. false propaganda, calumny, publicity of crimes, indecent stories, dramas, films, naked pictures, public appearance of womenfolk with indecent makeup, free mixing of sexes, dancing and the like.
(2) Munkar applies to all those evils which have always been universally regarded as evils and have been forbidden by all divine systems of law.
(3) Baghy applies to those vices that transgress the proper limits of decency and violate the rights of others, whether those of the Creator or His creation.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Justice is a comprehensive term, and may include all the virtues of cold philosophy. But religion asks for something warmer and more human, the doing of good deeds even where perhaps they are not strictly demanded by justice, such as returning good for ill, or obliging those who in worldly language "have no claim" on you; and of course a fortiori the fulfilling of the claims of those whose claims are recognized in social life. Similarly the opposites are to be avoided; everything that is recognized as shameful, and everything that is really unjust, and any inward rebellion against Allah's Law or our own conscience in its most sensitive form.
( 91 )   And fulfill the covenant of Allah when you have taken it, [O believers], and do not break oaths after their confirmation while you have made Allah, over you, a witness. Indeed, Allah knows what you do.( 92 )   And do not be like she who untwisted her spun thread after it was strong [by] taking your oaths as [means of] deceit between you because one community is more plentiful [in number or wealth] than another community. Allah only tries you thereby. And He will surely make clear to you on the Day of Resurrection that over which you used to differ.( 93 )   And if Allah had willed, He could have made you [of] one religion, but He causes to stray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And you will surely be questioned about what you used to do.( 94 )   And do not take your oaths as [means of] deceit between you, lest a foot slip after it was [once] firm, and you would taste evil [in this world] for what [people] you diverted from the way of Allah, and you would have [in the Hereafter] a great punishment.
Summary Verses 95-100: What is with you is transitory; and what is with Allah is everlasting and When you recite Al-Quran, seek Allah's protection against Shaitan
( 95 )   And do not exchange the covenant of Allah for a small price. Indeed, what is with Allah is best for you, if only you could know.( 96 )   Whatever you have will end, but what Allah has is lasting. And We will surely give those who were patient their reward according to the best of what they used to do.( 97 )   Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer - We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.( 98 )   So when you recite the Qur'an, [first] seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled [from His mercy].( 99 )   Indeed, there is for him no authority over those who have believed and rely upon their Lord.( 100 )   His authority is only over those who take him as an ally and those who through him associate others with Allah.
Ruku / Section 14 Verses [101-110]

Summary Verses 101-110: Unbelievers accused Muhammad (pbuh) of being taught Al-Quran by a certain man, but the man they allude to is non-Arab while Al-Quran is in eloquent Arabic
( 101 )   And when We substitute a verse in place of a verse - and Allah is most knowing of what He sends down - they say, "You, [O Muhammad], are but an inventor [of lies]." But most of them do not know.
I.e., if the Torah is also a Book of God and they believe in it, then what do they mean when they say that God gives a law at one instance and then Himself changes this law by another one.
( 102 )   Say, [O Muhammad], "The Pure Spirit has brought it down from your Lord in truth to make firm those who believe and as guidance and good tidings to the Muslims.
The verse [Quran 16:103] addresses the allegations that Muhammad has invented the Quran: 
( 103 )   And We certainly know that they say, "It is only a human being who teaches the Prophet." The tongue of the one they refer to is foreign, and this Qur'an is [in] a clear Arabic language.
 In this connection, traditions mention the names of several persons, one of whom is Jabar. According to the disbelievers of Makkah he taught the Prophet (peace be upon him). However, one thing particularly noteworthy about all these persons is that they were non Arab slaves. Whosoever he might be, the fact that he used to recite the Torah and the Gospel and had an acquaintance with the Prophet (peace be upon him). This gave an opportunity to the disbelievers for spreading this false report that it was the particular slave who was the real author of the Holy Quran, but Muhammad (peace be upon him) presented it as the Word of God. This not only shows that his opponents were very impudent in spreading false accusations against the Prophet (peace be upon him) but also that, in general, people are not just in judging the worth of their contemporaries. They were ill treating like this that great personality who has had no parallel in history. Nevertheless, these people who had become blind in their opposition, preferred to attribute the authorship of the matchless Arabic Quran to a non Arab slave who had a smattering of the Torah and the Gospel. Instead of accepting the claim of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who was an embodiment of truth, they attributed its authorship to an insignificant foreign slave.

Yousaf Ali Translation:
The wicked attribute to Prophets of Allah just such motives and springs of action as they themselves would be guilty of in such circumstances. The Pagans and those who were hostile to the revelation of Allah in Islam could not and cannot understand how such wonderful words could flow from the tongue of the Holy Prophet. They must need to postulate some human teacher. Unfortunately for their postulate, any possible human teacher they could think of would be poor in Arabic speech if he had all the knowledge that the Qur'an reveals of previous revelations. Apart from that, even the most eloquent Arab could not, and cannot, produce anything of the eloquence, width, and depth of Quranic teaching, as is evident from every verse of the Book.
( 104 )   Indeed, those who do not believe in the verses of Allah - Allah will not guide them, and for them is a painful punishment.( 105 )   They only invent falsehood who do not believe in the verses of Allah, and it is those who are the liars.
Verse 105 can also be rendered like this: A Prophet does not forge any false thing but those, who do not believe in the revelations of Allah, invent falsehoods.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
It is clearly those who raise the cry of forgery that are guilty of falsehood, as there is not the least basis or even plausibility in their suggestion.
( 106 )   Whoever disbelieves in Allah after his belief... except for one who is forced [to renounce his religion] while his heart is secure in faith. But those who [willingly] open their breasts to disbelief, upon them is wrath from Allah, and for them is a great punishment;
This verse deals with the case of those Muslims who were being persecuted with cruelty and were being subjected to unbearable torments to force them to give up their faith. They are being told that if at any time they are forced to utter words of disbelief to save their lives, when in fact in their hearts they are secure against disbelief, they will be pardoned. On the other hand, if they accepted unbelief from the core of their hearts, they shall not escape the torment of Allah even if they succeed in saving their lives.

It does not, however, mean that one should utter words of disbelief to save his life. This is merely a permission but not the ideal thing for a believer. According to this permission if one utters such a thing, he shall not be taken to account. In fact, the ideal for a believer is to utter words of truth in any case whether his body is cut into pieces.

There are instances which show that during the period of the Prophet (peace be upon him) some acted upon the ideal while others took advantage of the permission.

  • There was Khabbab bin Art (may Allah be pleased with him) who was made to lie on embers of fire until the fire was extinguished by the melting of his fat, but he remained firm in his faith. 
  • Then there was Bilal Habashi who was made to put on an armor and stand in the scorching heat. Then he was dragged on the burning sand but he went on saying, Allah is one. 
  • There was another believer, Habib Gin Zaid bin Asim, whose limbs were cut one by one by the order of Musailimah, the Liar. Each time his limb was severed it was demanded of him that he should acknowledge the Liar as a prophet but each time he refused to bear witness to his claim of prophethood until he breathed his last. 
  • On the other hand, there was the instance of Ammar bin Yasir whose parents were mercilessly butchered before his eyes. After this he himself was put to such unbearable torture that, in order to save his life, he had to utter the same words of unbelief that were demanded of him. Afterwards when he came crying to the Prophet (peace be upon him), he said: O Messenger of Allah, they did not let me go until I spoke evil of you and praised their deities. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked him: How do you feel about this, in your heart? He replied humbly: My heart is fully convinced of the faith. At this the Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: If they put you to the same torture again, you may utter the same words. May Allah be pleased with them all. 

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
The exception refers to a case like that of 'Ammar, whose father Yasir and mother Sumayya, were subjected to unspeakable tortures for their belief in Islam, but never recanted. 'Ammar, suffering under tortures himself and his mind acted on by the sufferings of his parents, uttered a word construed as recantation, though his heart never wavered and he came back at once to the Prophet, who consoled him for his pain and confirmed his faith.
( 107 )   That is because they preferred the worldly life over the Hereafter and that Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.( 108 )   Those are the ones over whose hearts and hearing and vision Allah has sealed, and it is those who are the heedless.
Cf. Surah ii. Al Baqarah: 7. On account of their iniquities and their want of Faith their hearts and their senses become impervious to Allah's grace, and they run headlong to perdition.
( 109 )   Assuredly, it is they, in the Hereafter, who will be the losers.
These words apply to those people who gave up their faith, when they felt that they could not bear hardships of the right way and so they again joined their unbelieving, mushrik people.
( 110 )   Then, indeed your Lord, to those who emigrated after they had been compelled [to renounce their religion] and thereafter fought [for the cause of Allah] and were patient - indeed, your Lord, after that, is Forgiving and Merciful
This is a reference to the migration to Abyssinia and the struggle for the cause of God refers to their heroic feats they undertook to persevere on the religion of God.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
I take this verse to refer to such men as were originally with the Pagans but afterwards joined Islam, suffered hardships and exile, and fought and struggled in the Cause, with patience and constance. Their past would be blotted out and forgiven. Men like Khalid ibn Walid were numbered with the foremost heroes of Islam. In that case this verse would be a Madinah verse, though the Surah as a whole is Makkan. Perhaps it would be better to read, with some Commentators, fatanu in the active voice rather than futinu in the passive voice, and translate "after inflicting trials and persecutions (on Muslim)." Notice the parallelism in construction between this verse and verse 119 below.

Ruku / Section 15 Verses [111-119]

Summary Verses 111-119: Do not declare with your tongue what is Halal (lawful) and what is Haram (unlawful)-Halal and Haram are from Allah
( 111 )   On the Day when every soul will come disputing for itself, and every soul will be fully compensated for what it did, and they will not be wronged.
That is even if they succumbed to any mistake or oversight God will forgive them and bless them with His mercy because of their deeds.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
When the Reckoning comes, each soul will stand on its own personal responsibility. No one else can help it. Full justice will be done, and all the seeming inequalities of this world will be redressed.
( 112 )   And Allah presents an example: a city which was safe and secure, its provision coming to it in abundance from every location, but it denied the favors of Allah. So Allah made it taste the envelopment of hunger and fear for what they had been doing.
This is an example of every settlement towards which a messenger is sent. The most prominent of these were settlements the destruction of which had become proverbial in their literature.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
The reference may be to any of the cities or populations in ancient or modern times, which were favoured with security and other blessings from Allah, but which rebelled from Allah's Law and tasted the inevitable penalty, even in the midst of their iniquities. Some Commentators see here a reference to the city of Makkah under Pagan control.

There is a double metaphor: (1) the tasting of hunger and terror after the abundant supplies and the full security which it had enjoyed; and (2) the complete enfolding of the City as with a garment, by these two scourges, hunger and a state of subjective alarm. If the reference is to Makkah shortly before its fall to the Muslims, the "hunger" was the seven years' severe famine which afflicted it, and the alarm was the constant fear in the minds of the Pagans that their day was done. Peace and prosperity were restored after the re-entry of the Prophet.
( 113 )   And there had certainly come to them a Messenger from among themselves, but they denied him; so punishment overtook them while they were wrongdoers.
That habitation has not been specified here nor have the commentators definitely pointed out which that habitation was. However, there is a saying of Ibn Abbas (which seems to be correct) that the place referred to is Makkah itself. In that case, hunger and fear will mean the famine which prevailed over the people of Makkah for several years during the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The implication is that God was not unjust to them. They were unjust to themselves.
( 114 )   Then eat of what Allah has provided for you [which is] lawful and good. And be grateful for the favor of Allah, if it is [indeed] Him that you worship.
This shows that the above mentioned famine had come to an end at the time of the revelation of this Surah.

Here the observation of the lawful and the unlawful has been made the test of worship of Allah. Those who claim to be the servants of Allah will eat what is lawful and pure and show gratitude to Him and will scrupulously refrain from what is forbidden and impure.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Ingratitude for Allah's sustenance (in the literal and figurative senses) may be shown in various ways, e.g., (1) by forgetting or refusing to acknowledge the true source of the bounty, viz., Allah, (2) by misusing or misapplying the bounty, as by committing excesses in things lawful, or refusing to share them with others of Allah's creatures when the need arises, or (3) by falsely ascribing to Allah any prohibitions we may set up for ourselves for special reasons or because of our special idiosyncrasies.

Explanation by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi:
That is they must not regard something pure and permissible to be prohibited due to their polytheistic superstitions. This is ingratitude to God's favours and the people of Saba were guilty of this and thereby reached the fate mentioned earlier.
( 115 )   He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit] - then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
Please refer also to (Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayat 173), (Surah Al-Maidah, Ayat 3) and (Surah Al-Anaam, Ayat 145).

Explanation by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi:
This is stated because in spite of being incriminated with all sorts of polytheistic nonsense the Makkan Quraysh claimed that they worshiped God only and the reason they worshiped their idols was that they would procure God's proximity. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

They believed that their idols were the near and favoured ones of God. If they were pleased, then they could intercede with God and procure for the Quraysh anything they wanted. It was because of this notion that they presented offerings to them and would dedicate animals to them. Those animals were regarded as sacred such that neither was their meat and milk allowed to be consumed nor could they be used as a means of transport. The Qur'an has dispelled this misconception here: if they claim to be worshipers of God alone, then only He should be thanked for the favours He has provided. They should neither ascribe these favours to others nor present offerings to them and also not regard what is lawful and what is not because of them. (Amin Ahsan Islahi,Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vol. 4, 459)

That is out of the things which are regarded as pure and wholesome by those who eat, it is only these four which are prohibited. Blood because it inclines a person to beastliness; meat of dead animals because blood remains in the vessels in those of them which die a natural death; pig because though it belongs the herbivourous animal species, yet it eats meat like carnivores; animals not slaughtered in the name of God because this is explicit polytheism which can be committed by only those who have become rebellious to God. As for unwholesome things, they do not need to be specified because their prohibition is found in human nature and human beings have always known that they should be abstained from.
( 116 )   And do not say about what your tongues assert of untruth, "This is lawful and this is unlawful," to invent falsehood about Allah. Indeed, those who invent falsehood about Allah will not succeed.
This verse clearly shows that none but Allah has the right to declare a thing to be lawful or unlawful. Or, in other words, the right of making laws exclusively rests with Allah. Therefore, any person who will dare to decide about the lawful and the unlawful will transgress his powers. Of course, a person, who acknowledges the divine law as the final authority, may deduce from it whether a certain thing or action is lawful or unlawful.

The arrogation of the right of determining the lawful and the unlawful has been declared to be a falsehood on Allah for two reasons:

(1) Such a person, so to say, claims that what he declares to be lawful or unlawful, disregarding the authority of the divine Book, has been made lawful or unlawful by God.

(2) He means to claim that Allah has given up the authority of making lawful and unlawful and has thus left man free to make his own laws for the conduct of life. It is obvious that each of these claims will be a falsehood and a false imputation to Allah.
( 117 )   [It is but] a brief enjoyment, and they will have a painful punishment.
In the coming paragraph (Ayats 118-124), answers to the objections raised by the disbelievers of Makkah concerning the commandments contained in (Ayats 114-117 )have been given. Their first objection was: Besides the above mentioned unlawful things, there are other unlawful things in the Jewish law which have been made lawful by you. If that law was from Allah and yours is also from Allah, why do they then contradict each other? Their second objection was: You have abrogated the sanctity of the Sabbath of the Israelites. Have you done this of your own accord or by Allah’s command? In the latter case then will be an obvious contradiction in the two laws. Or has Allah Himself given two contradictory commandments? 
( 118 )   And to those who are Jews We have prohibited that which We related to you before. And We did not wrong them [thereby], but they were wronging themselves.
This refers to: “And We prohibited all animals with claws to those people who had adopted Judaism.” (Surah Al-Anaam, Ayat 146). In this (verse 118) Allah has stated that certain things were made unlawful because of the disobedience of the Jews.

Here a question arises. Which of the two Surahs, Al-Anaam or An-Nahl, was first revealed? This is because in (verse 118), a reference has been made to (verse 146 of Al-Anaam). Also in (verse 119 of Al-Anaam): “And why should you not eat that thing over which Allah’s name has been mentioned, when He has already given you a detail of those things that have been declared to be unlawful for you except in case of extremity?” a reference has been made to (verse 115 of An- Nahl).

This is because these are the only two Makki Surahs in which details of unlawful things have been given. As regards to the question, we are of the opinion that An-NahI was revealed earlier than Al-Anaam, for (verse 119 )of the latter contains a reference to( verse 115) of the former. It appears that after the revelation of Surah Al-Anaam, the disbelievers raised objections in regard to these verses of An-Nahl. So they were referred to (verse 146 of Al-Anaam) in which a few things were made unlawful, especially for the Jews. As this answer concerned An-Nahl, so (verse 118), though it was revealed after the revelation of Al-Anaam, was inserted as a parenthetical clause in An-Nahl.

Explanation by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi:
Reference is towards things which were prohibited to the Jews to punish them for their rebelliousness. This is because they themselves had prohibited these things out of their own desires while showing disregard to God and His directives. As a consequence, God too prohibited these things for them.

ثُمَّ اِنَّ رَبَّكَ لِلَّذِيۡنَ عَمِلُوا السُّوۡۤءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ تَابُوۡا مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِ ذٰ لِكَ وَاَصۡلَحُوۡۤا ۙ اِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِهَا لَغَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِيۡمٌ  
( 119 )   Then, indeed your Lord, to those who have done wrong out of ignorance and then repent after that and correct themselves - indeed, your Lord, thereafter, is Forgiving and Merciful.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
See above, xvi. 110. The parallelism in construction confirms the suggestion of the alternative reading which is made in explanation above  The similarity of expressions also rounds off the argument, as by a refrain in poetry. What follows now in this Surah is an exhortation to right conduct.

Explanation by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi:
The actual word is: جَهَالَة. Though it also means "ignorance," its dominant meaning is to do some mischief or sin while being overcome by emotions. Thus in Arabic, this word is generally used as an opposite to restraint (حلم) instead of knowledge (علم).

Every person of literary taste can understand the eloquence of the style in which these people are asked to repent and mend their ways after the warnings sounded to them earlier.

Ruku / Section 16 Verses [120-128]

Summary Verses 120-124: Ibrahim was a nation in himself

اِنَّ اِبۡرٰهِيۡمَ كَانَ اُمَّةً قَانِتًا لِّلَّهِ حَنِيۡفًاؕ وَلَمۡ يَكُ مِنَ الۡمُشۡرِكِيۡنَۙ‏ 
( 120 )   Indeed, Abraham was a [comprehensive] leader, devoutly obedient to Allah, inclining toward truth, and he was not of those who associate others with Allah.
“Abraham was a whole community by himself” for at that time he was the only Muslim in the whole world who was upholding the banner of Islam, while the rest of the world was upholding the banner of unbelief. As that servant of Allah performed the mission which is ordinarily carried out by a whole community, he was not one person but an institution in himself.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Ummat: a model, pattern, example for imitation; but the idea that he was an Ummat in himself, standing alone against his world, should not be lost sight of. See next note.

The Gospel of Unity has been the comer-stone of spiritual Truth for all time. In this respect Abraham is the model and fountain-head for the world of western Asia and its spiritual descendants all over the world. Abraham was among a people (the Chaldeans) who worshiped stars and had forsaken the Gospel of Unity. He was among them but not of them. He suffered persecution, and left his home and his people, and settled in the land of Canaan.

Explanation by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi:
The implication is that Abraham was neither a jew nor a christian and had an independent existence; he was not just an individual but a person from whom emanated a great ummah to bear witness to the religion of truth before all mankind.
( 121 )   [He was] grateful for His favors. Allah chose him and guided him to a straight path.
Thus he could not even imagine to be ungrateful and decide what animals are lawful and not lawful by ascribing animals created by God to idols and tombs, the way they are doing.
( 122 )   And We gave him good in this world, and indeed, in the Hereafter he will be among the righteous.
This is a reference to the wealth and status, majesty and splendour the Almighty blessed Abraham (sws) with in this world after he had migrated from Babylon and it became possible for his progeny to gradually own the area where he had settled them.
( 123 )   Then We revealed to you, [O Muhammad], to follow the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth; and he was not of those who associate with Allah.
This is the complete answer to the first objection (as mentioned in summary after verse 117 above) raised by the disbelievers. This has two parts.

(1) There is no contradiction in the divine law as you seem to presume on the apparent variance in the Jewish and the Islamic Law. As a matter of fact a few things had been made unlawful especially for the Jews as punishment to them because of their disobedience; therefore, there was no reason why others should be deprived of those good things.

(2) Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was commanded to follow the way of Abraham and not the way of the Jews, and they themselves knew that these things were not unlawful in the law of Abraham. For instance, the Jews did not eat the flesh of camel but this was lawful according to Abraham. Likewise, ostrich, hare, duck, etc. were unlawful in the Jewish law, but they were lawful according to Abraham. Incidentally the disbelievers of Makkah have been warned that neither they nor the Jews had any relationship with Prophet Abraham for he was not a mushrik while both of them were practicing shirk. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers were the only true followers of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) for there was no tinge of shirk in their creed or in their practice.

Explanation by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi :
That is adopt religion in the same form and shape in which Abraham (sws) had left it. Thus there should not be any semblance of polytheism in their beliefs and deeds nor any trace of religious innovations in them the way they are found among the Jews, Christians and the polytheists of Arabia. They should give currency to the prayer, the fast, the hajj, the zakah and other religious deeds and customs and etiquette after cleansing them from all adulteration so that they are observed the way they were in the times of Abraham (sws). All matters related to what is lawful and what is unlawful should also return to their original form and it should become evident to everyone that they are in fact the real followers of the religion of Abraham (sws) and that their opponents have no relation with him.

Here it should be kept in mind that the part of religion which is called Sunnah has been instituted under this directive. Hence it is mandatory to be followed the way other directives of the Qur'an are. The directives of the Sunnah which have been transferred by the consensus and perpetual concurrence once Muhammad (sws) had revived and reformed some of them and also added certain directives to them are the following:

i. The Prayer

ii. Zakah and Sadaqah of 'Id al-Fitr

iii. Fasting and I'tikaf

iv. Hajjand 'Umrah

v. Animal Sacrifice and the Takbirs during the days of Tashriq

vi. Marriage and Divorce and their relevant details

vii. Abstention from coitus during the menstrual and the puerperal period

viii. Prohibition of pork, blood, meat of dead animals and animals slaughtered in the name of someone other than Allah

ix. Slaughtering in the prescribed manner of tadhkiyah by pronouncing Allah's name

x. Remembering Allah's name before eating or drinking and using the right hand for eating and drinking

xi. Greeting one another with al-Salamu 'Alaykum (peace be to you) and responding with Wa 'Alaykum al-Salam (and peace be to you)

xii. Saying al-Hamdulillah (praise be to Allah) after sneezing and responding to it by saying Yarhamukallah (may Allah have mercy on you)

xiii. Keeping moustaches trimmed

xiv. Shaving pubic hair

xv. Removing the hairs under the armpits

xvi. Paring fingernails

xvii. Circumcising the male offspring

xviii. Cleaning the nose, the mouth and the teeth

xix. Cleaning the body after excretion and urination

xx. Bathing after the menstrual and the puerperal periods

xxi. Ghusl al-janabah

xxii. Bathing the dead before burial

xxiii. Enshrouding a dead body and preparing it for burial

xxiv. Burying the dead

xxv. 'Id al-Fitr

xxvi 'Id al-Adha
( 124 )   The sabbath was only appointed for those who differed over it. And indeed, your Lord will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that over which they used to differ.
This is the answer to their second objection. Obviously, there was no need to state that the restrictions about the Sabbath applied only to the Jews and had nothing to do with the law of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), because they themselves knew it. The restrictions were imposed upon the Jews because of their mischief and violations of the law. In order to understand fully the significance of this reference one is requested to read those passages of the Bible in which commandments about the Sabbath have been stated, e.g., Exodus 20: 8-11, 23: 12-13,31: 1-17, 35: 23, and Numbers 15: 32-36. Besides this, one should also be acquainted with the impudent violations of the Sabbath. See Jeremiah: 17: 21-27 and Ezekiel. 10: 18-24.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
If Abraham's Way was the right way, the Jews were ready with the taunt, "Why don't you then observe the Sabbath?" The answer is twofold. (1) The Sabbath has nothing to do with Abraham. It was instituted with the Law of Moses because of Israel's hardness of heart (Surah ii. Al Baqarah: 74); for they constantly disputed with their Prophet Moses (Surah 3. Al-i'Imran 108), and there were constantly among them afterwards men who broke the Sabbath (Surah ii. Al Baqarah: 65). (2) Which was the true Sabbath Day? The Jews observe Saturday. The Christians, who include the Old Testament in their inspired Scripture, observe Sunday, and a sect among them (the Seventh Day Adventists) disagree, and observe Saturday. So there is disagreement among the People of the Book. Let them dispute among themselves. Their dispute will not be settled till the Day of Judgment. Meanwhile, Muslims are emancipated from such stringent restrictions. For them there is certainly the Day of United Prayer on Friday, but it is in no sense like the Jewish or the Scotch Sabbath!

Cf. Surah ii. Al Baqarah: 113.

Summary Verses 125-128 Call towards the Way of Allah with wisdom; advise and reason in a courteous manner
( 125 )   Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.
This instruction is very important for those who are engaged in the propagation of Islam. They should always keep in view two things, wisdom and excellent admonition. Wisdom implies that one should use discretion in the work of propagation and should not do this blindly like foolish people. Wisdom demands that one should keep in view the intelligence, capability and circumstances of the addressees and convey the message in accordance with the requirements of the occasion. Moreover, one should refrain from applying one and the same method to each and every person or group but should first diagnose the real disease of the addressee and then cure it by appealing to his mind and intellect.

Excellent admonition implies two things:

(1) One should not be content with convincing the addressee with arguments alone but should also appeal to his feelings. Likewise one should not confine himself merely to arguments in condemning evils and deviations but should try to convince the other of their repugnance that lies embedded in the human nature. One should also warn of the worst consequences of those evils. Besides, one should not only try to convince the addressee rationally of the soundness and excellence of guidance and righteous deeds but should also create in him interest and love for them.

(2) Admonition should be administered in such a manner as to show sincere concern for and the welfare of the addressee. Nothing should be said or done to create the impression that the admonisher is looking down upon him and taking pleasure in his own feeling of superiority. On the contrary, he should feel that the admonisher is filled with the strong desire for his reform and welfare.

“In a way that is better” implies that one should have a sweet tongue, show noble character and give reasonable and appealing arguments, and refrain from indulging in polemics, argumentation and controversies. The one who discusses things with people in the best manner, does not resort to accusations, crooked arguments, taunts, nor makes fun of the opponent in order to defeat him and to win applause for his own superiority in argument. For these things will produce obduracy and obstinacy. In contrast to this, he will try to convince the other in a simple and humble way, and when he feels that the other person has come down to crooked arguments, he will leave him alone lest the other should go further and further astray in his deviation.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
In this wonderful passage are laid down principles of religious preaching, which are good for all time. But where are the Teachers with such qualifications? We must invite all to the Way of Allah, and expound His Universal Will; we must do it with wisdom and discretion, meeting people on their own ground and convincing them with illustrations from their own knowledge and experience, which may be very narrow, or very wide. Our preaching must be, not dogmatic, not self-regarding, not offensive, but gentle, considerate, and such as would attract their attention. Our manner and our arguments should not be acrimonious, but modelled on the most courteous and the most gracious example, so that the hearer may say to himself, "This man is not dealing merely with dialectics; he is not trying to get a rise out of me; he is sincerely expounding the faith that is in him, and his motive is the love of man and the love of Allah."

It may be that the Preacher sometimes says to himself, "What is the use of teaching these people? they have made up their minds, or they are obstinate; or they are only trying to catch me out," Let him not yield to such a thought. Who knows how the seed of the Word of Allah may germinate in people's minds? It is not for man to look for results. Man's inner thoughts are known best to Allah.

Explanation by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi:
These things form the foundation of preaching religion. The directive of God that is mentioned in these verses is based on the following points:

Firstly, wisdom, kindly exhortation and sound discussion should permeate the tone of this preaching. In the above quoted verses, by wisdom (hikmah) is meant the arguments and kindly exhortation means urging the addressees through sincere reminders. The implication is that whatever is presented should be supported by arguments and presented in the light of knowledge and intellect and one should not be aggressive and forceful in one's presentation. One's tone should reflect sincerity and affection. If the stage reaches that of debate and argument, then this should be done in a most befitting manner. If the opponent becomes hostile and antagonistic, then instead of responding in an even more belligerent manner, a true preacher should always remain polite and civilized.

Secondly, the responsibility of a preacher is that of preaching only: he should communicate the truth and elucidate it, and in no way show any slackness in urging and exhorting people towards it. If he discharges this responsibility in a befitting manner, he fulfills an obligation. It is the Almighty Who decides to give guidance to a person or to lead him astray. He knows full well those who have erred and also those who are rightly guided. He shall thus deal with a person in a manner he is worthy of. A preacher should not try to force the truth on others nor should he give verdicts about the fate a person shall meet in the Hereafter. This is the sole prerogative of the Almighty, and the only responsibility of a preacher is to communicate the truth, and he must not exceed this.
( 126 )   And if you punish [an enemy, O believers], punish with an equivalent of that with which you were harmed. But if you are patient - it is better for those who are patient.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
In the context this passage refers to controversies and discussions, but the words are wide enough to cover all human struggles, disputes, and fights. In strictest equity you are not entitled to give a worse blow than is given to you. Lest you should think that such patience only gives an advantage to the adversary, you are told that the contrary is the case, the advantage is with the patient, the self-possessed, those who do not lose their temper or forget their own principles of conduct.

Explanation by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi:
If the addressees of preaching resort to oppression and inflict harm on the preacher, he is allowed to avenge it in a proportion commensurate with the harm inflicted while remaining within moral limits; however, in the eyes of God, it is better that a person bears this oppression without avenging it; he should not take any measure of revenge; neither should he change his stance after being overwhelmed with hardships. Those who show patience at these instances are promised great rewards. Not only will they face its good consequence in this world, they will also encounter good consequences in the Hereafter.
( 127 )   And be patient, [O Muhammad], and your patience is not but through Allah. And do not grieve over them and do not be in distress over what they conspire.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
In the previous verse are laid down the principles of conduct in controversy for all Muslims; 'if you catch them out, you are not entitled to strike a heavier blow than you received, but it is better to restrain yourself and be patient.' There patience was recommended. In this verse a command is directly addressed to the Prophet. 'Do thou be patient.' It is a command: his standard as the Great Teacher is much higher; and he carried out in his life. His patience and self-restraint were under circumstances of extraordinary provocation. In his human wisdom it may sometimes have seemed questionable whether forbearance and self-restraint might not be human weaknesses; he had to defend his people as well as himself against the enemy's persecutions. He is told here that he need not entertain any such fears. Patience (with constancy) in those circumstances was in accordance with Allah's own command. Nor was he to grieve if they rejected Allah's Message; the Prophet had done his duty when he boldly and openly proclaimed it. Nor was his heart to be troubled if they hatched secret plots against himself and his people, Allah would protect them.

Explanation by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi:
Together with the directive of patience, here the way to acquire patience is also delineated: one should try to strengthen one's relationship with God as far as possible. At other instances in the Qur'an, it is specified that the means to acquire patience is by remembering God of which the highest form is the prayer. The emphasis on the tahajjud prayer in the Qur'an is due to this very reason.
( 128 )   Indeed, Allah is with those who fear Him and those who are doers of good.
“Allah is with those who fear Him” because they scrupulously refrain from evil ways and always adopt the righteous attitude, for they know that their actions and deeds are not determined by the evils others do to them but by their own sense of righteousness; so they return good for evil.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
And the Surah ends with the highest consolation which the righteous can receive; the assurance that Allah is with them. A double qualification is indicated for so high an honour,-(1) that they should not yield to human passion or anger or impatience, and (2) that they should go on with constancy doing good all around them. To attain to the Presence of Allah in the sense of "I am with you" is the culmination of the righteous man's aspiration.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sürah An-Naḥl 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.

For attributes of Allah mentioned, please read details on each at: 99 Attributes of Allah.

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