Wednesday 16 September 2020

Surah Al-Bayyinah - The Clear Proof: Exegesis 98th Chapter of Quran

Sūrah Al-Bayyinah " البينة " is the 98th sürah with 8 ayahs, part of the 30th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The Surah is so designated after the word al-bayyinahالْبَيِّنَةُ " occurring at the end of the first verse.

Sūrah Al-Bayyinah having been placed after Sūrah 96 Al-Alaq and Sūrah 97 Al-Qadr in the arrangement of the Quran is very meaningful. Sūrah Al-Alaq contains the very first revelation, while Sūrah Al-Qadr shows as to when it was revealed, and in this Sūrah it has been explained why it was necessary to send a Messenger along with this Holy Book. [2]

Where it was revealed, at Makkah or Madinah, is also disputed. Some commentators say it is a Makki revelation according to most scholars; others say it is a Madani revelation according to most scholars. Ibn Az Zubair and Ata bin Yasar hold the view that it is Madani. Ibn Abbas and Qatadah are reported to have held two views, first that it is Makki, second that it is Madani. Hadrat Aishah regards it as a Makki Surah. Abu Hayyan, author of Bahr al-Muhit, and Abdul Munim ibn al- Faras, author of Ahkam al-Quran, also have preferred to regard it as Makki. As for its contents, there is nothing in it to indicate whether it was revealed at Makkah or at Madinah.

The central chiasm is precisely positioned in the 5th verse "religion [of Abraham], upholding prayers and giving alms, that is true religion" this in turn is flanked by concentric looping themes in an A B C | C' B' A' pattern where A' responds to A, B' responds to B and C' responds to C. As an example of this structure, verse 2 stating "A Messenger from Allah reciting purified scriptures" is answered by verse 7 "Indeed, they who have believed and done righteous deeds — those are the best of all creatures." [10]

We have already shared the summary of the Sūrah. Let us now read the verse by verse translation and exegesis / tafseer in English. You may also listen to its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles at the end of the post:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

لَمْ يَكُنِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ مُنفَكِّينَ حَتَّىٰ تَأْتِيَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَةُ 
( 1 )   Those who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the polytheists were not to be parted [from disbelief] until there came to them clear evidence

Here the word kufr " كَفَرُ " (unbelief) has been used in its widest sense, which includes different forms of the unbelieving attitude. For example, some were unbelievers in the sense that they did not acknowledge Allah at all; some did acknowledge Allah but did not regard Him as the One and only God, but worshiped others as well, thinking they were associates in divine Being or divine attributes and powers in one way or the other; some acknowledged oneness of God but committed some kind of shirk as well; some acknowledged God but did not acknowledge His Prophets and the guidance brought by them; some acknowledged one particular Prophet and did not acknowledge another; others rejected the Hereafter. In short, there were different kinds of kufr in which the people were involved. And the statement: The disbelievers from among the people of the Book and those who associate, does not mean that some of them were not involved in kufr, but that those who were involved in kufr were of two kinds: the followers of the Book and the mushriks. Here, min (among) has not been used for division but for explanation, as for example, in ( Surah Al-Hajj, Ayat 30), where it has been said Fajtanib-ur rijsa min al-authan, which means: Therefore, guard yourselves against the filth of idols, and not, guard yourselves against the filth which is in the idols. Likewise, alladhina kafaru min ahl-il-Kitabi wal-mushrikin " الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ  " means: the disbelievers from among the followers of the Book and the mushriks, and not, those who have disbelieved from these two groups.

Despite the common factor of kufr between them the two groups have been mentioned by separate names. The followers of the Book imply the people who possessed any of the revealed Books, even if in corrupted form, sent to the former Prophets, and they believed in it. And the mushriks (idolaters) imply the people who did not follow any Prophet nor believed in any Book. Although in the Quran the shirk, (polytheism, idolatry) of the people of the Book has been mentioned at many places, e.g. about the Christians it has been said: They say: God is one of the three (Surah Al-Maidah, Ayat 73); The Messiah is son of God (Surah At-Taubah, Ayat 30); The Messiah, son of Mary, is God (Surah Al-Maidah, Ayat 17). And about the Jews it has been said: They say: Ezra is son of God (Surah At-Taubah, Ayat 30), yet nowhere in the Quran has the term mushrik been used for them, but they have been mentioned as alladhina ul-ul-Kitaba (those who were given the Book), or by the words Jews and Christians. For they believed in the principle of Tauhid (Oneness of God) as the true religion, and then committed shirk. Contrary to this, for others than the followers of the Book, the word mushrik has been used as a term, for they acknowledged shirk (idolatry) as true religion and dis-acknowledged Tauhid. This distinction between the two groups holds good not only in the use of the term but also in the Shariah injunctions. Animal flesh duly slaughtered by the followers of the Book has been declared lawful for the Muslims if they slaughter a lawful animal in the name of Allah in the prescribed way, and permission to marry their women has also been given. On the contrary, neither the animal slaughtered by the mushriks is lawful for the Muslims nor is marriage with their women.

The last part of the verse means that there was no means of their being freed from this state of unbelief except that a clear evidence (of the truth) should come and make them understand the falsity of every form of kufr and its being untrue, and should present the right way before them in a clear and rational way. This does not mean that after the coming of the clear evidence they would give up kufr but that in the absence of the clear evidence it was not at all possible that they would be delivered from that state. However, if even after its coming, some of them still persisted in their kufr, then they themselves would be responsible for it; they could not complain that Allah had made no arrangement for their guidance. This same thing has been expressed in the Quran at different places in different ways, e.g. in (Surah An-Nahl, Ayat 9), it is said: Allah has taken upon Himself to show the right way; in (Surah Al-Lail, Ayat 12), it is said: It is for Us to show the way; in (Surah An-Nisa, Ayats 163-165): O! Prophet, We have sent revelation to you just as We had sent it to Noah and other Prophets after him (peace be upon them all)... All these Messengers were sent as bearers of good news and warners so that, after their coming, the people should have no excuse left to plead before Allah; and in (Surah Al-Maidah, Ayat 19): O people of the Book, this Messenger of Ours has come to you and is making clear to you the teachings of the right way after a long interval during which there had come no Messengers, lest you should say: No bearer of good news nor warner came to us. Lo, now the bearer of good news and warner has come.

 رَسُولٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ يَتْلُو صُحُفًا مُّطَهَّرَةً 
( 2 )   A Messenger from Allah, reciting purified scriptures

Here, the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been called the clear evidence, for his life before and after Prophethood, his presenting a Book like the Quran in spite of being unlettered, his bringing about an extraordinary revolution in the lives of the converts to Islam through education and training, his educating the people in rational beliefs, clean and pure forms of worship, excellent morals and the best principles and injunctions for human life, perfect harmony and agreement between his word and deed, and his constancy of purpose in respect of his message in spite of every kind of resistance and opposition, all these were clear signs of the truth that he was Allah’s Messenger.

Lexically, suhuf " صُحُفً " means written pages, but in the Quran this word has been used as a term for the Books revealed to the Prophets of Allah (peace be upon them); and by the scriptures are meant the scriptures which are free from every mixture of falsehood, every kind of error and moral filth. The full import of these words becomes evident when one studies the Bible (and the books of other religions as well) vis-a-vis the Quran, and finds written in them along with sound teachings such things as are not only opposed to truth and reason but are also morally contemptible. After reading them when one turns to the Quran, one realizes how pure and hallowed this Book is.

 فِيهَا كُتُبٌ قَيِّمَةٌ 
( 3 )   Within which are correct writings.

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
This aggregate connotation is inherent in the adjective qayyimah as used here (Razi). - The above passage has caused some difficulties to the classical commentators on account of the participle munfakkin occurring in the first verse. It is generally assumed that this participle, in combination with the phrase lam yakun at the beginning of the verse, denotes "they did not [or "could not"] give up" or "separate themselves from" - i.e., supposedly, from their erroneous beliefs - "until there came to them the evidence of the truth" in the person of the Prophet Muhammad and in the revelation of the Qur'an: implying that after the evidence came, they did give up those false beliefs. This assumption is, however, deficient on two counts: firstly, it is well-known that not all of the erring ones from among the ahl al-kitab and the mushrikin accepted the message of the Qur'an when it was conveyed to them; and, secondly, the ahl al-kitab are spoken of in verse {4} as having "broken their unity [of faith]" - i.e., offended against the fundamental principles of that faith - after "the evidence of the truth" had come to them. This apparent contradiction has been convincingly resolved by no less an authority than Ibn Taymiyyah (see Tafsir Sitt Suwar, pp. 391 ff.); and it is his interpretation that I have followed in my rendering of the above three verses. According to Ibn Taymiyyah, the pivotal phrase lam yakun munfakkin does not denote "they did not give up" or "separate themselves from", but, rather, "they are not abandoned" - i.e., condemned by God - unless and until they have been shown the right way by a God-sent prophet, and thereupon have consciously refused to follow it: and this is in accord with repeated statements in the Qur'an to the effect that God does not take anyone to task for wrong beliefs and wrong actions unless the true meaning of right and wrong has previously been made clear to him (cf. {6:131-132} and the second paragraph of 17:15, as well as the corresponding notes). Hence, the above reference to "the evidence of the truth" does not relate only to the Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad but to all the earlier prophets and revelations as well (cf. 42:13 and the corresponding notes [12-14]- just as the "ordinances of ever-true soundness and clarity" (spelled out in verse {5} below) are common to all God-inspired messages, of which the Qur'an is the final, most perfect expression.

وَمَا تَفَرَّقَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَةُ 
( 4 )   Nor did those who were given the Scripture become divided until after there had come to them clear evidence.

That is, the reason why the people of the Book before this were divided into countless sects because of different kinds of errors and deviation, was not that Allah had failed to send a clear evidence from Himself for their guidance, but the fact that they adopted the wrong way after guidance had come from Allah. Therefore, they themselves were responsible for their deviation, for Allah had fulfilled His obligation towards them. Likewise, since their scriptures are no longer pure and their books no longer consist of original and correct teachings, Allah by sending a Messenger of His, as a clear evidence, with a hallowed Book, containing sound and pure teachings, has again fulfilled His obligation towards them, so that even if after that they remained divided, they themselves should be responsible for it and should have no excuse left to plead before Allah. This has been stated at many places in the Quran, e.g. see ( Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayats 213, 253); (Surah Al-Imran, Ayat 19); (Surah Al-Maidah, Ayats 44-50); ( Surah Younus, Ayat 93); (Surah Ash-Shura, Ayats 13-15); (Surah Al-Jathiyah, Ayats 16-18).

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
This refers to the tablets of the Torah with which Moses (sws) descended from the mount of Sinai accompanied by extraordinary miracles. The implication is that since when centuries ago they had already been given what they had demanded, what did they do with it? Even after witnessing all this they fulfilled their obligation towards sincerity to God by being allured into worshiping the calf by Samiri. The differences and divisions found in them arose in spite of this very clear sign had been shown to them and which they are now demanding..

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
This definition is general, comprising the followers of all religious teachings revealed before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (Ibn Kathir), and not - as some commentators assume - only the Jews and the Christians. (See also notes [12] and [13] on 3:19.)

I.e., most of them strayed from the teachings of the prophets sent to them, all of whom had preached the same fundamental truths (see next verse and note {6} below).

 وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ حُنَفَاءَ وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ دِينُ الْقَيِّمَةِ
( 5 )   And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah. And that is the correct religion.

That is, the message of the same religion, which now the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is preaching, had been given to the people of the Book by the Prophets who came to them and by the Books which were sent among them; they had not been enjoined any of the false belief and wicked deeds which they adopted afterwards and created different sects. Right and correct religion has always been the same: that Allah alone should be served and worshiped exclusively, none else be joined with Him in worship, man should become worshiper of One Allah alone and obedient to His command only, should establish the salat and pay the zakat. (For further explanation, see (E.N. 19 of Surah Al-Aaraf); (verse 105 109 of Surah 10. Younus), (verse 30 of Surah 30. Ar-Room); (Verse 3-4 of Surah 39. Az-Zumar). Some commentators have taken the words din al qayyimah "  دِينُ الْقَيِّمَةِ " in this verse in the meaning of din al-millat al qayyimah: Religion of the righteous community. Some others have taken qayyimah " الْقَيِّمَةِ " in the superlative sense and understood it in the same meaning as we have adopted in our translation.

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
Since the term zakah has here obviously a wider meaning than the obligatory tax incumbent on Muslims (which, as its name indicates, is meant to purify their income and their possessions from the taint of selfishness), I am rendering the above phrase in the more general sense of "spending in [i.e., practicing] charity".

As regards the connotation of "moral law" in the term din, see note [3] on 109:6 the qualifying noun al-qayyimah (in the genitive case) has here the same meaning as the adjective qayyimah at the end of verse {3}. The above definition of moral law outlines, in a condensed form, all the basic demands of true religion: a cognition of God's oneness and uniqueness and, implicitly, of man's responsibility to Him; a turning-away from all false concepts, values and dubious beliefs, all over-estimation of oneself, and all superstition; and finally, kindness and charity towards all of God's creatures.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The actual words are: ذٰلِکَ دِیۡنُ الۡقَیِّمَۃِ. Their actual construction is: دين الملة القيمة. The noun qualified by the attribute قَیِّمَۃ has been suppressed in accordance with linguistic principles. The upright nation refers to the nation of Abraham (sws). The implication is that these clear directives were given to both branches of Abraham’s progeny as the collective heritage of their forefather. The Torah also preached them. The Qur’an too is giving them the same directives. So what guidance are they now waiting for and what types of directives do they now desire? The religion of God has always remained the same, but which of its directives have they adhered to? The divisions which they are in have made them lose every element of religion.
They had also been directed by the Almighty to adhere to monotheism exclusively obeying Him and fully devoting themselves to Him; however, they ruined this basic teaching of religion. Right in the presence of their prophet, they worshiped the calf, deemed ‘Uzayr to be God’s son and regarded their religious scholars to be partners of God. They were incriminated with sorcery and magic and went as far as to worship the idols of other nations on which their prophets lamented in a very sad and moving way.
Similarly, they were also directed to offer the prayer and pay zakah … but they totally disregarded the prayer and such was the extent of this disregard that the Torah even became devoid of its mention. The Torah does mention the ritual of animal sacrifice; however, the prayer finds no mention in it. Similar was the case of zakah. Though it did continue to exist in a formal way, yet instead of the poor and needy, the religious scholars of the Levites became its real recipients and if anyone wants to have an idea of the stinginess of these scholars, one only need to read how the Gospels and scriptures of other prophets portray their greediness. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 482)
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمْ شَرُّ الْبَرِيَّةِ 
( 6 )   Indeed, they who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the polytheists will be in the fire of Hell, abiding eternally therein. Those are the worst of creatures.

Disbelieved: Refused to acknowledge the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as Allah’s Messenger. The meaning is that the end of those from among the mushriks and the followers of the Book, who have not acknowledged the Messenger whose emergence by itself is a clear evidence, and who is reciting to them hallowed pages containing sound and correct teachings, will be as is being described below. They are worse than all creatures of God, even animals, for the animals do not possess reason and power, but these people reject the truth in spite of having reason and authority.

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمْ خَيْرُ الْبَرِيَّةِ 
( 7 )   Indeed, they who have believed and done righteous deeds - those are the best of creatures.

That is, they are superior to all creatures of God, even to the angels, for the angels do not have the power to disobey, and these people adopt Allah’s obedience in spite of having the power to disobey Him.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
This is a mention of the success of God’s servants who at that time were jeered by the Quraysh. The verse states that these people have made no such demands as the ones made by the arrogant among the People of the Book and the Idolaters. They accepted faith and with full conviction of the heart did righteous deeds. Thus they are the best of creatures. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
… The real value of a person is not on the basis of his wealth and resources, family and lineage but on the basis of his intellectual and moral abilities. People who have these abilities are noble and of high status in the eyes of God even if they are slaves of Rome and Abyssinia. On the other hand, those who are devoid of these abilities are the worst of creatures in the eyes of God even if they are leaders of the Quraysh and the Hashimites. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 484)
 جَزَاؤُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۖ رَّضِيَ اللَّـهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَنْ خَشِيَ رَبَّهُ 
( 8 )   Their reward with Allah will be gardens of perpetual residence beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever, Allah being pleased with them and they with Him. That is for whoever has feared his Lord.

The person who did not live in the world fearlessly and independent of God, but feared Him at every step lest he should do something which might entail His wrath and punishment, will have this reward reserved for him with Allah.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sūrah Al-Bayyinah with English subtitles:

You may refer to our Reference Page "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, explanation and exegesis of other chapters of the Qur'an.

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 67 | 8 | 9 | 10 |
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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