Sura 15. Al-Hijr (The Rocky Tract) (Mecca)
The Title: is taken from the fate of the tribes of Thamud who dwelt in the territory of Al-Hijr: “The companions of the rocky tract Al-Hijr also rejected the messengers ……….. Out of the mountains did they hew (their) edifices, But the (mighty) blast seized them of a morning ………. ” (v 81-84) The prophet Salih is said to have been sent to the tribe of Thamud who lived in the rocks of al-Hijr. They had cut out their dwellings from the rocks. The mighty blast was said to be caused by the angel Gabriel.
Every nation has its day: Muhammad continues to warn the Qurraish against idolatry but they scoff at him while he, on his part, identifies himself with the former prophets who were also rejected and proclaims judgement: “Never did We destroy a population that had not a term decreed and assigned beforehand. neither can a people anticipate its term, nor delay it” (v 4, 5). ——- Muslims say everything is set in writing and decreed by God
All prophets scorned: “We did send messengers before thee amongst the religious sects of old: But never came a messenger to them but they mocked him ………. ” (v 10-13). —————— The Quarraish became more hostile and the believers more discouraged. To meet these adverse circumstances Muhammad produced a whole series of revelations to seek to show that the former prophets had been treated in the same way as he was being treated this was therefore made out to be a clear proof of his divine mission.
The proud refusal of Satan to fall down and worship Adam when ordered to do so by Allah: “Thy Lord said to the angels: I am about to create man, from sounding clay from mud moulded into shape; When I have fashioned him and breathed into him of my spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him. So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together: Not so Iblis: he refused to be among those who prostrated themselves ………… (Allah) said: Then get thee out from here; for thou art rejected, accursed. And the curse shall be on thee till the day of judgement. (Iblis) said: O my Lord! give me then respite till the day the (dead) are raised. (Allah) said: Respite is granted thee “Till the day of the time appointed. (Iblis) said: O my Lord! because Thou hast put me in the wrong, I will make (wrong) fair-seeming to them on the earth, and I will put them all in the wrong, “Except Thy servants among them, sincere and purified.”…………..” (v 26-42) ——— In the Bible, Satan fell before Adam was created. God forbids the worship of any other than Himself, and would never require angels to worship men. The story is a Jewish legend.
Hell has seven gates: “And verily, hell is the promised abode for them all! To it are seven gates: for each of those gates is a class assigned” (v 43, 44). ———– Muslims believe that there are seven hells, below each other. The first is called Jahannum, this is for wicked Muslims, who will in time be relieved; the second is for Jews; the third for Christians; the fourth for Sabians; the fifth for Magians; the sixth for idolaters; and the seventh for hypocrites. Over each hell there is a guard of nineteen angels.
The Seven oft-repeated verses: “And We have bestowed upon thee the seven oft-repeated and the grand Quran” (v 87). ———- This may refer to the first chapter of the Quran, which contains seven verses which were often recited. Others say it refers to the seven longest suras.
Muhammad goes public with his revelation: “Therefore expound openly what thou art commanded, and turn away from those who join false gods with Allah.” (Al-Hijr 15:94) —— Three years after his commissioning to being a prophet he was commanded by Allah to go public. His own people neither avoided him nor resisted him until he started reviling their gods. Then they disowned him and declared him their enemy, except for the small group who had already gathered around him.
Sura 16 An-Nahl (The Bee) (Mecca)
The Title: the aspect of creation is prominent in this chapter and the title comes from verse 68 which comments on the usefulness of the bee “And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men’s) habitations; Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a sign for those who give thought” (v 68, 69). ——– The varying colours of honey are said to differ according to the different plants on which the bees feed. Honey is useful in some cases as a medicine. In the hadith, Bukhari Volume 7, Book 71, Number 588, Muhammad encourages the use of honey for the healing of abdominal trouble.
Other aspects of Allah’s creation: “He has created the heavens and the earth for just ends” (v 3); “He has created man from a sperm-drop” (v 4); “And cattle He has created for you” (v 5); “(He has created) horses, mules, and donkeys, for you to ride and use for show” (v 8); “It is He who sends down rain from the sky …….” (v 10). Additional acts of creation are given in v 65-67 “And Allah sends down rain from the skies, and gives therewith life to the earth after its death: verily in this is a sign for those who listen. And verily in cattle will ye find an instructive sign. From what is within their bodies between excretions and blood, We produce, for your drink, milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink it. And from the fruit of the date-palm and the vine, ye get out wholesome drink and food”
The Muhajirun: “To those who leave their homes in the cause of Allah, after suffering oppression, We will assuredly give a goodly home in this world; but truly the reward of the Hereafter will be greater.” (v 41 c/f v 110) —— This sura is a late Meccan one some say this verse refers to the refugees who went to Abyysinia, others that it refers to the Muhajirun who left Mecca as immigrants to Medina. If it is the latter it must be a composite sura.
Doubters to inquire from Jews and Christians: “And before thee also the messengers We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: if ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the message” (v 43). ——– The Qurraish had taunted Muhammad with being only a man. He replied that God only sent men, and that they should enquire whether this was the case or not from those who had the scripture. It should be noted that the Bible is acknowledged to be the word of God.
The Qurraish attribute daughters to God: “And they assign daughters for Allah! Glory be to Him! and for themselves (sons) they desire! When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female, his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on contempt, or bury it in the dust? Ah! what an evil they decide on?” (v 57-59) ———- The idolatrous Arabians regarded angels as females and identified them as the daughters of God. Yet in the world their preference was always towards male offspring. It was said that the only time ‘Uthman ever shed a tear was when he wiped the dust of the grave-earth from his beard as he buried his little daughter alive.
Covenants not to be broken: “Fulfil the covenant of Allah when ye have entered into it, and break not your oaths after ye have confirmed them; indeed ye have made Allah your surety; for Allah knoweth all that ye do” (v 91). ——— The Qurraish, when they were superior in numbers to those with whom they had made their treaty, thought they could disregard it, but this is condemned.
The Quran: a) Muhammad accused of forgery: Despite the unbelieving Qurraish’s accusations that the Quran was a forgery, and that he received assistance in writing it (v 24), “We know indeed that they say, It is a man that teaches him. The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear” (v 103). Opinions have differed as to the persons who have allegedly assisted him (Salman the Persian, Suheib, son of Sinan, the monk Addas) but the stories from the Jewish Scriptures and traditions prove that some persons supplied him with the material. b) Muhammad continues its proclamation: “(We sent them) with clear signs and books of dark prophecies; and We have sent down unto thee the message; that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought” (v 44). He is told to invite, preach and graciously argue with unbelievers: “Invite to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious……” (v 125). c) Seeking Allah’s protection from Satan before reading the Quran: “When thou dost read the Quran, seek Allah’s protection from Satan the rejected one” (v 98). Before reading any part of the Quran pious Muslims say.‘I have recourse unto God for assistance against Satan, driven away with stones.’ d) The Quran sent down by the Holy Spirit: “Say, the Holy Spirit has brought the revelation from thy Lord in truth, in order to strengthen those who believe, and as a guide and glad tidings to Muslims” (v 102). ——- The ‘Holy Spirit’ is understood by Muslims to mean the angel Gabriel. e) The doctrine of abrogation: “When We substitute one revelation for another, and Allah knows best what He reveals, they say, Thou art but a forger: but most of them understand not” (v 101). —– The Quran was delivered at different times, and Muhammad sometimes contradicted himself so the doctrine of abrogation was invented. It was on account of these changes that he was accused of forgery.
Permission given to hide faith when under pressure: “Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters unbelief, except under compulsion ……. on them is wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful penalty.” (v 106) ——— While some of Muhammad’s followers were free from personal danger because of their connections with influential families others who had no protector were ill-treated and imprisoned. Muhammad was much concerned about this, and even encouraged them to dissemble in order to escape punishment. This verse concerns ‘Ammar bin Yassar, who had been put under considerable pressure to abuse the Prophet and speak well of their gods.’
The Title: relates to Muhammad’s alleged night journey when he was caught up through the seven heavens into the presence of Allah “Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque.” Others prefer the title ‘the children of Israel’ as found in verse two.
The Night Journey: Before Muhammad broke off relations with the Jews, the temple of Jerusalem was the qibla to which he prayed. In this verse Muhammad claimed that he was carried one night on a white animal called Buraq from Mecca to Jerusalem and then into heaven itself. This journey is called the Mi’raj or ’ascent.’ In the morning, Muhammad told everyone around him that during the night he had been praying in the temple in Jerusalem. The story was ridiculed until Abu Bakr, his father-in-law, declared his belief in the journey. Upon the rock on which the mosque of ‘Umar stands in Jerusalem, there is claimed to be the print of Muhammad’s foot as he leaped down from Buraq. The following hadiths refer to this subject: Bukhari Volume 9, Book 93, Number 608; Bukhari Volume 5, Book 58, Number 226; and Muslim Book 1, Number 316.
The Judgement Day: “And to those who believe not in the Hereafter, (it announceth) that We have prepared for them a Penalty Grievous (indeed) ……. “Every man’s fate We have fastened on his own neck: On the day of judgement We shall bring out for him a scroll, which he will see spread open. (It will be said to him) Read thine (own) record: sufficient is thy soul this day to make out an account against thee.” (v 10 – 15) —— Every man’s fate is supposed to be tied to his neck like a collar which he cannot remove. Muslims believe in God’s absolute decree and predestination both of good and evil; whatever has or shall come to pass in this world, whether good or bad proceeds entirely from the divine will, and is fixed and recorded from all eternity in the ‘preserved tablet’; God having secretly predetermined not only the adverse and prosperous fortune of every person in this world, in the most minute detail, but also his faith or infidelity, his obedience or his disobedience, and consequently his everlasting happiness or misery after death, it is not possible by any foresight or wisdom to avoid this fate or predestination.’ ——— “One day We shall call together all human beings with their Imams: those who are given their record in their right hand will read it, and they will not be dealt with unjustly in the least….. ” (v 71, 72). ——– At the day of judgement, it is said, each man will receive a book containing all the actions of his life. The righteous will receive it in their right hand, but the ungodly will be obliged to receive it with their left, which will be bound behind their backs, their right hand being tied up to their necks.
Cities destroyed which rejected their messengers: “When We decide to destroy a population, We send a definite order to those among them who are given the good things of this life and yet transgress; so that the word is proved true against them: then We destroy them utterly” (v 15, 16). —- The purpose of these two verses is to show that the Qurraish would be destroyed if they rejected Muhammad, just as unbelievers had been destroyed in earlier times.
Duty to Parents: “Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents ……” (v 23, 24). Duty to the Family and the Poor: “And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer ……………… Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard’s) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute.” (v 26-29)
Why Muhammad was not allowed to work miracles: “And We refrain from sending the signs, only because the men of former generations treated them as false …… We only send the signs by way of terror (and warning from evil).” (v 59) ——– This verse is emphatic in saying that Allah did not assign to Muhammad the working of miracles. The reason given is that such a gift had practically produced no results in the case of the former prophets. An example is put forward in respect of the prophet Salih who went to the Thamud tribe and on the insistence of this tribe he showed them a miracle as he caused a she-camel, big with young, to come out of a rock, but most did not believe this miracle. The Quarraish continued to press their point and later on Muhammad had to maintain that the Quran was the only one special miracle which attested his mission. Yet still, Muslims contend that not only is the Quran a miracle but that there are three principal miracles of Muhammad recorded in the Quran: 1. the splitting of the moon; 2. the night journey; 3. the conversion of the jinns. The traditions ascribe numerous miracles to Muhammad but this is directly opposed to the teaching of the Quran.
The temptations of Muhammad: “And their purpose was to tempt thee away from that which We had revealed unto thee, to substitute in our name something quite different; Behold! they would certainly have made thee (their) friend! And had We not given thee strength, thou wouldst nearly have inclined to them a little.” (v 73, 74) ——- Various authorities put forward their views as to the context of these verses. Some suggest that it refers to Muhammad’s lapse in respect of the intercession of idols (Sura 53 An-Najm) and here he is warned never to seek such a compromise again. Others hold that that this refers to a temptation placed before the Prophet by the people of Ta’if when they sought certain concessions when considering accepting Islam such as freedom from legal alms and the stated times of prayer and permission to retain their idol Al-Lat for a period. The majority it seems, like Zamakhsari hold that it refers to the time when Ta’if was besieged (8/9 A.H).
Times of prayer: “Establish regular prayers at the sun’s decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony. And pray in the small watches of the morning: an additional prayer for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a station of praise and glory!” (v 78, 79) —— At first Muhammad observed the three Jewish times of prayer (daybreak, noon and dusk). Two additions were made, at first optional, afterwards compulsory. The tradition is that in heaven fifty prayers a day were ordered but Muhammad got them reduced to five. See Bukhari Volume 1, Book 8, Number 345.
Question the Quarraish asked Muhammad on the recommendation of the Jewish rabbis: “They ask thee concerning the Spirit (of inspiration). Say: “The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord …… ” ( v 85) —– The Holy Spirit for the most part was unknown among the Jews of Medina and the Muslims in Mecca.
The Quarraish continue to ask for a miracle: “They say: “We shall not believe in thee, until thou cause a spring to gush forth for us from the earth, “Or (until) thou have a garden of date trees and vines, and cause rivers to gush forth in their midst, carrying abundant water; “Or thou cause the sky to fall in pieces, as thou sayest (will happen), against us; or thou bring Allah and the angels before (us) face to face: “Or thou have a house adorned with gold, or thou mount a ladder right into the skies.” (v 90-92) —– The people of Mecca had been threatened with future punishment and temporal punishment but as no great calamity had happened they passed from curiosity to incredulity. They challenged Muhammad’s message, derided his denunciations and demanded miraculous signs of his authority.
The Most Beautiful Names and Prayer: “Say: “Call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman: by whatever name ye call upon Him, (it is well): for to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Neither speak thy prayer aloud, nor speak it in a low tone, but seek a middle course between.” (v 110) ——- While in Mecca Muhammad spoke comfortably to the Jews with whom he was on friendly terms. It is suggested that the Jews said to him that God was often called the Merciful (Ar-Rahman) in the Pentateuch, and that they noticed he did not use the term. —— The Qurraish were unhappy with the answers Muhammad provided concerning his revelations so most did not listen to his recitals any-more. A number however, did, and Muhammad is here told not to pray too loudly lest these people turn away from him; also he was not to pray too quietly lest they could not understand or comprehend.
Sura 18 Al-Kahf (The Cave) (Mecca)
The Title Al-Kahf (The Cave) : The story connected with the title of this chapter is believed by westerners to have derived its name from the legend of the Seven Sleepers in a cave. The story told in verses 9-20 is Greek in origin and found in the Latin work ‘Story of Martyrs’ (1:95) by Gregory of Tours. It goes back to the age of Emperor Decius (249-251 A.D.) when Christians received terrible persecution. In order to escape with their lives, seven men from Ephesus found refuge in a cave near their city and fell asleep for a hundred years. When they emerged from the cave they found a completely changed scene; the emperor and most of his subjects were now Christians. The story was composed to highlight how the suffering of the martyrs eventually was rewarded. No Christian ever believed it was a factual story. Muslims point to a tradition saying that it was revealed to Muhammad in order for him to answer difficult questions put to him by Jews while he was in Medina. “Or dost thou reflect that the companions of the cave and of the inscription were wonders among Our sign? Behold, the youths betook themselves to the cave …………. We relate to thee their story in truth: they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We advanced them in guidance: We gave strength to their hearts: Behold, they stood up and said: Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and of the earth: never shall we call upon any god other than Him: if we did, we should indeed have uttered an enormity! These our people have taken for worship gods other than Him: why do they not bring forward an authority clear for what they do? They said, We have stayed a day, or part of a day, they (all) said, Allah knows best how long ye have stayed here. Now send ye then one of you with this money of yours to the town: let him find out which is the best food and bring some to you, that (ye may) satisfy your hunger therewith: And let him behave with care and courtesy, and let him not inform any one about you. For if they should come upon you, they would stone you or force you to return to their cult, and in that case ye would never attain prosperity……. So they stayed in their cave three hundred years, and (some) add nine” (v 9-25)
Satan (Iblis) one of the jinn: “Behold! We said to the angels, Bow down to Adam: They bowed down except Iblis. He was one of the Jinns, and he broke the command of his Lord……… wrong-doers!” (v 50) —— Muhammad appears, according to this text, to have considered Iblis not only as the father of the jinn but as one of them. He seems to have derived his doctrines of genii from Persian and Indian mythology where they represent the principle of evil.
The strange story of Moses and the fish: “Behold, Moses said to his attendant, I will not give up until I reach the junction of the two seas or I spend years and years in travel. But when they reached the junction, they forgot (about) their fish, which took its course through the sea as in a tunnel. When they had passed on, Moses said to his attendant: Bring us our early meal; truly we have suffered much fatigue at this our journey. He replied: Sawest thou when we betook ourselves to the rock? I did indeed forget the fish: none but Satan made me forget to tell about it: it took its course through the sea in a marvellous way! Moses said: That was what we were seeking after: So they went back on their footsteps” (v 60-64).
The two seas are said to be the sea of Greece and the sea of Persia. There is no trace of this legend in the Rabbinical writings. As commentators find no literal interpretation satisfactory they have devised a metaphorical or spiritual interpretation explaining that the two seas are natural and supernatural knowledge. ———The legend is that al-Khizr had disappeared in search of the water of immortality. Hearing that he had drunk from this water of life and become immortal Moses was inspired to search for him. Taking along with him his servant, Moses was told that he would find al-Khizr by a rock where two seas met. Here he would loose a fish which he had been directed to take with him; the loss of the fish was a sign that they would soon find al-Khizr.
The strange story of Dhu’l-Qarnein: “They ask thee concerning Zul-qarnain. Say, I will rehearse to you something of his story. Verily We established his power on earth, and We gave him the ways and the means to all ends” (v 83, 84). —– Dhu’l-Qarnein means ‘the two horned.’ The Arabs have suggested that this refers to a number of persons but the most frequent suggestions are connected with Alexander the Great, he is known in Arabic literature as al-Iskander. On coins he is represented with two horns, these may denote his bravery. Some suggest that Dhu’l-Qarnein is to be identified with an ancient person contemporary with Abraham. The additional verses which refer to him seem to suggest that he was invested with divine authority to remove impiety and idolatry.
Gog and Magog: The mention of Gog and Magog verses 92-100 presents another aspect of Muslim eschatology.
Sura 19 Maryam (Mary) (Mecca)
The Title: Maryam: to whom was given the announcement of a holy son; she conceives; gives birth and is vindicated against slanderous reports by the baby which speaks from the cradle.
1) In the verses relating to Maryam there is no mention of her husband because according to Muslim tradition ‘Isa had no earthly father.
2) Islam considers that only two people were born without sin – Maryam and Jesus. According to Islamic tradition, when a child is born it cries because Satan has touched and infected it with sin, only Jesus and Mary came into the world without crying.
3) The name Maryam is the only female name mentioned in the whole Quran. Other women are called the “wife of Imran” or “the wife of Pharaoh.”
4) Although ‘Isa is clearly more important than Maryam in the Quran her name appears 34 times whereas the name of Isa appears only 25 times.
5) Maryam is mentioned in both the older Meccan suras and the later Medinan suras.
6) In the Quran, Mary’s father is called ‘Imran while in Christian tradition he is called Ioachim. It is generally thought that Muhammad was confused over the two Maryam’s in the Bible. In the Old Testament ‘Amram was the father of Moses, Aaron and Maryam. The fact that the Quran records that Maryam is called the sister of Aaron (Harun) in surah 19:28 seems to confirm this assertion.
7) Maryam according to the hadith is reckoned as one of the four best women who have ever existed, the others being Khadija, Asia, Pharaohs wife and ‘Aisha. (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 642 and Volume 7, Book 65, Number 329).
8 The birth of Maryam is recorded in Sura Al ‘Imran 3:35-37. This story goes back to Christian tradition and corresponds closely to the details contained in Protevangelium Jacobi and De nativitate Mariae.
9) According to Al-Maidah 5:116 Mary belongs to the Trinity: “And behold! Allah will say: O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’? He will say: Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say)”. The Muslim commentaries describe the Trinity as consisting of Allah, ‘Isa and Maryam. It is difficult to know exactly as to how Muhammad came to this view perhaps it was the veneration of Mary in Christian sects or even from the Marian Traditions in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Such veneration was anathema to Muhammad who asserted “Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger” (Al-Maidah 5:75)
10) Maryam is portrayed in the Quran as a faithful Muslim believer. She regularly went into the mosque (or temple) to pray. She lived there day and night and did not leave the holy place. She prayed facing in the right direction in the prayer corner (mihrab). Allah sent Maryam provisions because she always prayed facing in the right direction. She received food from divine servants in the sanctuary. She is considered to be the model for all Muslim women.
11) The number of errors found in the account of Mary and the birth of Jesus show that Muhammad was not acquainted with the Bible and was indebted to Jewish or Christian informants of tradition.
The story of Zakariya and Yahya and the birth of John the Baptist (Yahya): “(This is) a recital of the mercy of thy Lord to His servant Zakariya. Behold! he cried to his Lord in secret ….. O my Lord, in my prayer to Thee! Now I fear (what) my relatives (will do) after me: but my wife is barren: so give me an heir as from Thyself ….. (His prayer was answered): O Zakariya! We give thee good news of a son: His name shall be Yahya ….. (Zakariya) said: O my Lord! give me a sign. Thy sign, was the answer, Shall be that thou shalt speak to no man for three nights, although thou art not dumb. So Zakariya came out to his people from him chamber: He told them by signs to celebrate Allah’s praises in the morning and in the evening. (To his son came the command): O Yahya! take hold of the Book with might: and We gave him wisdom even as a youth, And piety as from Us, and purity: He was devout, And kind to his parents, and he was not overbearing or rebellious. So peace on him the day he was born, the day that he dies, and the day that he will be raised up to life (again)!” (v 2-15)
The announcement of a holy son to Maryam: “Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the east. She placed a screen from them; then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. She said: I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) most gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah. He said: Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son. She said: How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste? He said: So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, ‘that is easy for Me: and to appoint him as a sign unto men and a mercy from Us’: It is a matter decreed.” (v 16-21) — According to tradition Gabriel appeared to Maryam in the form of a beardless youth with a shining face and curly hair. After he had announced to her the birth of a male child she was amazed but became compliant to the will of Allah.
The birth of Mary’s son: “So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight! But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man, say, ‘I have vowed a fast to (Allah) most gracious, and this day will I enter into not talk with any human being” (v 22-26) —— The tradition continues that the angel blew his breath into the fold of her shirt, which she had taken off. When the angel had gone she put the shirt back on again and became pregnant. The apocryphal book called the History of the Nativity of Mary and the Saviour’s Infancy states ’Mary was wearied in the desert by the heat, and asked Joseph to rest for a little while under the shade of a palm-tree.’ The major divergence between this story and that of the Quran is that the palm-tree assists the holy family after the birth of Christ following their journey into Egypt while the latter occurrence is at the time of Christ’s birth.
Maryam accused of being unchaste: vindicated by her son speaking from the cradle: “At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him. They said: O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste! But she pointed to the babe. They said: How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle? He said: I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live (He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)! Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute” (v 27-34). — Muhammad claimed that the above was revealed to him by God through the angel Gabriel. Yet, it contains legends which were current among schismatic Christians in the time of Muhammad. In respect to the reproaches given to Mary and of Jesus speaking out from the cradle we find a similar story in the Arabic Gospel of Infancy: “Jesus spake when he was in the cradle, and called out to his mother, “Verily I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Word, whom thou hast given birth to according to the good tidings given thee by the Angel Gabriel, and my Father hath sent me for the salvation of the world.” It will become apparent that Muhammad adapted this apocryphal story and worked it into his own system.
Abraham and his father: “Also mention in the Book (the story of) Abraham: He was a man of truth, a prophet. Behold, he said to his father: O my father! why worship that which heareth not and seeth not, and can profit thee nothing? O my father! to me hath come knowledge which hath not reached thee: so follow me: I will guide thee to a way that is even and straight. O my father! serve not Satan: for Satan is a rebel against (Allah) most gracious. O my father! I fear lest a penalty afflict thee from (Allah) most gracious, so that thou become to Satan a friend. (The father) replied: Dost thou hate my gods, O Abraham? If thou forbear not, I will indeed stone thee: Now get away from me for a good long while! Abraham said: Peace be on thee: I will pray to my Lord for thy forgiveness: for He is to me most gracious” (v 41-47). —— The biblical story in Genesis 11:26-31 and 12:1-4 gives no such account of such a conversation. This is legend.
Enoch (Idris) taken to heaven: “Also mention in the Book the case of Idris: He was a man of truth, a prophet: And We raised him to a lofty station” (v 56, 57). —– He is only mentioned twice in the Quran, here and in Al-Anbiya 21:85. ——– Idris is generally believed to be Enoch. He is said to be called Idris from dars ‘to instruct’. The Muslim legend is that from his knowledge of divine mysteries thirty portions of divine scriptures were revealed to him. He was the first to write with a pen and also studied astronomy and arithmetic. The Bible makes no such statement. See Genesis 5:21-24.
The monstrous assertion that God has begotten a son!: “They say: (Allah) most gracious has begotten a son! Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous! At it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin. That they should invoke a son for (Allah) most gracious. For it is not consonant with the majesty of (Allah) most gracious that He should beget a son.” (v 88-92 see also v 35-37)
Sura 20 Ta-Ha (Mecca)
The Title: Ta-Ha is taken from the two letters which stand at the beginning of the chapter; the meaning of which is uncertain. The sura is said to instrumental in the conversion of the twenty-six year old Umar ibn Khattab
Moses: A great part of the chapter is taken up with an Islamic account of Moses. The object is to encourage Muhammad as a prophet, in the expectation that he would be assisted like his predecessor. Just as Moses was sent to the stubborn Pharaoh, so Muhammad was sent to the stubborn and unbelieving Qurraish.
a) Moses and the fire: “Has the story of Moses reached thee? Behold, he saw a fire: So he said to his family, Tarry ye; I perceive a fire; perhaps I can bring you some burning brand there from, or find some guidance at the fire. But when he came to the fire, a voice was heard: O Moses! Verily I am thy Lord! therefore put off thy shoes: thou art in the sacred valley Tuwa. I have chosen thee: listen, then, to the inspiration” (v 9-13). ——- Muslims commentators believe that Moses having left his father-in-law journeyed from Midian towards Egypt to visit his mother. On a dark night in the valley of Tuwa, the wife of Moses fell into labour and delivered him a son. Moses had lost his way but suddenly saw a fire by the side of a mountain. He went to the fire to get guidance and retrieve a firebrand to warm himself (Al-Qasas 28:29). This differs from the biblical account considerably. b) The magicians converted: “So the magicians were thrown down to prostration: they said, We believe in the Lord of Aaron and Moses. (Pharaoh) said ….. be sure I will cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will have you crucified on trunks of palm-trees: so shall ye know for certain, which of us can give the more severe and the more lasting punishment!” (v 70-72). —- When the magicians saw the miracle of Moses, as their rods were devoured by that of Moses, they are said to convert. This and the punishment threatened by Pharaoh is mere legend, please read Exodus 8:19. Crucifixion was not used in the time of the Pharaohs. c) The story of the golden calf: “So Moses returned to his people in a state of indignation and sorrow….. They ( the Israelites) said: We broke not the promise to thee, as far as lay in our power: but we were made to carry the weight of the ornaments of the people, and we threw them (into the fire), and that was what the Samiri suggested. Then he brought out (of the fire) before the (people) the image of a calf: It seemed to low: so they said: This is your god, and the god of Moses, but (Moses) has forgotten! …….. They had said: We will not abandon this cult, but we will devote ourselves to it until Moses returns to us. (Moses) said: O Aaron! what kept thee back, when thou sawest them going wrong, From following me? Didst thou then disobey my order? (Aaron) replied: O son of my mother! Seize (me) not by my beard nor by (the hair of) my head! Truly I feared lest thou shouldst say, ‘Thou has caused a division among the children of Israel, and thou didst not respect my word!’“(Moses) said: What then is thy case, O Samiri? He replied: I saw what they saw not: so I took a handful (of dust) from the footprint of the Messenger, and threw it (into the calf): thus did my soul suggest to me. (Moses) said: Get thee gone! ……… Now look at thy god, of whom thou hast become a devoted worshipper: We will certainly (melt) it in a blazing fire and scatter it broadcast in the sea!” (v 86-97).
The identity of as-Samiri is uncertain. However, the likely origin of this fiction can be found from a Jewish writer Pirke Rabbi Eleazer. The writer says that Sammael made a noise from inside the calf in order to lead the people astray. Muhammad must have thought they said Sameri, connecting it with the enemy of the Jews the Samaritans, however, the city of Samaria did not come into existence until 400 years after Moses. According to these verses as-Samiri is said to have taken a handful of dust from the footstep of the Messenger of God (Gabriel) which was then cast into the shape of a calf which became animated and lowed. The true account can be read in Exodus 32.
The story of Adam’s disobedience: “When We said to the angels, Prostrate yourselves to Adam, they prostrated themselves, but not Iblis: he refused. Then We said: O Adam! verily, this is an enemy to thee and thy wife: so let him not get you both out of the garden, so that thou art landed in misery ………. But Satan whispered evil to him: he said, O Adam! shall I lead thee to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that never decays? In the result, they both ate of the tree, and so their nakedness appeared to them: they began to sew together, for their covering, leaves from the garden: thus did Adam disobey his Lord, and allow himself to be seduced. But his Lord chose him: He turned to him, and gave him guidance” (v 115-122). ——- Here and in Al-Araf 7:19, Muhammad seems unaware of the distinction between the tree of knowledge and the tree of life as given in Genesis 2:9 and 3:5. “Adam disobeyed his Lord” by eating from the tree. Al-Baidawi says, “He strayed from the path of duty and despaired, or wandered away from what he was commanded to do, or deviated from the right direction because he was deceived by the enemy.” To violate what is prohibited is sin.
Unbelievers blind at the day of judgement: “But whosoever turns away from My message, verily for him is a life narrowed down, and We shall raise him up blind on the day of judgement. He will say: O my Lord! why hast Thou raised me up blind, while I had sight (before)? (Allah) will say: Thus didst thou, when Our signs came unto thee, disregard them: so wilt thou, this day, be disregarded.” (v 124-126).
Sura 21 Al-Anbiya (The Prophets)
The Title: Al-Anbiya At a time when the Qurraish were scoffing at Muhammad he in his defence produces a string of revelations showing that former prophets had been treated just as himself and this was therefore a clear proof of his divine mission. All those who scoff now at his warnings should heed the dreadful destiny of the opponents of the righteous, just and wise prophets in former ages. We therefore read of ungodly cities which were destroyed “How many were the populations We utterly destroyed because of their iniquities, setting up in their places other peoples …..” (v 11-15 c/f v 39-41)
The Prophets: The Quranic idea about the prophets is that there were two categories rasul and nabi. The distinction between them is not always as clear as at first appears however, as a general principle ‘a nabi is one who has received direct inspiration (wahy) by means of an angel, or by the inspiration of the heart (ilham); or has seen the things of God in a dream. A rasul, or messenger is one who has received a book through the angel Gabriel or has been entrusted to a special mission. Muhammad is called sometimes a rasul and sometimes a nabi. He did not claim the title nabi until he was in Medina and then later went on to say that he was the ‘seal of the prophets.’
The rasul (apostles) – messengers of God: to every and every people (was sent) a messenger (Yunus 10:47, An-Nahl 16:36, An-Nisa 4:41, Al-Qasas 28:75) in the past but Muhammad was sent to a people to whom Allah has not sent an apostle (Yunus 10:47). ———– Tradition relates that there were 315 messengers or apostles (rasul) – (Mishkat book 24, chapter 1 part 3). Nine of these are special messengers: they are Noah, Abraham, David, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad. Six have special titles: 1. Adam (Safiyu’llah) – The chosen of God; 2. Noah (Nabiyu’llah) – The preacher of God; 3. Abraham (Khililu’llah) – The friend of God; 4. Moses (Kalimu’llah) – The converser with God; 5. Jesus (Ruhuu’llah) – The spirit of God; 6. Muhammad (Rususlu’llah) – The messenger of God. ———- There are said to be 104 sacred books delivered to man. 10 were given to Adam; 50 to Seth (his name not mentioned in the Quran); 30 to Enoch; 10 to Abraham; This total of 100 was called sahifah – ‘a small book or pamphlet’. Four additional books were given – the Taurat to Moses; the Zabur to David; the Injil to Jesus; the Quran to Muhammad. These four are known as Kitab’s. All these inspired writings are supposed to be retained in the Quran.
The Nabi – one who receives direct inspiration: The second category are the Prophets (anbiya) who went only to the ‘People of the Book.’ Only a minority of individuals called prophets in the Quran are described as prophets in the Bible. Two examples lists of the prophets are given in Al-An’am 6:83-87 and An-Nisa 4:163. —– Muhammad is said to have mentioned that there were 124,000 prophets (anbiya) but only the following twenty three are designated as such in the Quran namely, Adam; Idris (Enoch); Noah; Methusaleh; Abraham; Ishmael; Isaac; Jacob; Joseph; Lot; Moses Aaron; Shuaib (Jethro?); Zacharias; John the Baptist; Jesus; David; Solomon; Elias; Elisha; Job; Ezra and Jonah (the only literary prophet mentioned in the Quran). —— Three women are said to be prophetesses: Sarah because she was inspired to receive revelation of the news of Isaac’s birth; the mother of Moses who received by revelation the news of the birth of Moses; and Mary who received the news of Christ’s birth from an angel.
Remembering the former prophets: a general review of many other prophets, delivered out of distress is made in verses 72-91. Lot (v 71, 74); Isaac and Jacob (v 72); Noah (v 76); David and Solomon (v 78ff); Job (v 83); Ishmael and Enoch (Idris) (v 85); Jonah (Zun-nun): (v 87); Zachariah (v 89); Mary (v 91).
The signs of creation: “Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together, before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?………………………… And We have made the heavens as a canopy well guarded: yet do they turn away from the signs which these things (point to)! It is He Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon: all (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course” (v 30-33).——– Muslims believe that God divided the heaven into seven heavens, and the earth into as many storeys.
The story of Abraham and the idols: “We bestowed aforetime on Abraham his rectitude of conduct, and well were We acquainted with him. Behold! he said to his father and his people, What are these images, to which ye are devoted? They said, We found our fathers worshipping them. He said, Indeed ye have been in manifest error ye and your fathers………… Fie upon you, and upon the things that ye worship besides Allah! Have ye no sense?…. They said, Burn him (Abraham) and protect your gods ….. We said, O Fire! be thou cool, and (a means of) safety for Abraham!…….. ” (v 49-70). ———- This story is designed to identify Muhammad’s persecution with the famous prophet Abraham. It is a fable with the original story coming from Jewish sources. The story relates that Abraham’s father was outraged at the behaviour of his son in destroying the family idols. He took him, for the purposes of punishment, to Nimrod who was made out to be a persecutor of Abraham. Muslim commentators relate that Abraham was bound and thrown into the midst of a fire but he was delivered by the angel Gabriel.
Quotation from the Old Testament: This sura ends with the only quotation from the Old Testament found in the whole of the Quran “Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the message (given to Moses): My servants the righteous, shall inherit the earth.” (v 105) ——- The Quran repeatedly attests to that the scriptures are the word of God.
Sura 22 Al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage) Mecca/Medina
The Title: The Pilgrimage is a composite sura with many of it’s verses relating to the late Meccan period. At this stage the Meccans are still in possession of the Ka’aba in Medina “As to those who have rejected (Allah), and would keep back (men) from the way of Allah, and from the Sacred Mosque” (v 25). Each day the Muslims had turned towards it as an act of divine worship, yet for six long years they had not seen it. Although it is not mentioned in this sura we should point out that Muhammad incorporated into the Islamic Hajj old pagan customs and superstitions. He may have thought that these practices were introduced by Abraham but such customs are far more at home in a pagan society rather than fitting comfortably alongside the spiritual faith of Abraham. There again, he might have known that the background to these customs were pagan but he chose to retain them in order to appeal to Arab patriotism. In his desire to unite the Arab tribes into one strong nation which was able to resist their surrounding enemies, he could not afford to do away with such customs so deeply rooted amongst the pagan peoples of Arabia. The ceremonies of the old pagan system were declared rites of God and those who performed them were acting in piety of heart.
The proclamation of the Hajj: “And proclaim the pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways” (v 27)
The Pilgrimage to Mecca instituted: “And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways; That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed ones in want. Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House. Such (is the Pilgrimage) ………………… ” (v 27-30). ——————- It is alleged that Abraham was told to proclaim this pilgrimage and that before the time of Muhammad, the Arabs went on pilgrimage to celebrate the memory of Abraham and Ishmael. Muhammad made it one of the five principal duties of his religion and he wished Mecca to become a point of union for all Muslims. Pilgrims were forbidden to shave their heads, to cut their beards or nails during the pilgrimage. They must not even scratch themselves, lest they should kill an insect; but they could rub the body with the palm of the hand. Its merits are so great, that sins are forgiven and one who dies on his way to Mecca is enrolled in the list of martyrs.
Abraham and the Ka’aba: “Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the House, (saying): Associate not anything with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves” (v 26). —————- The legend is that Adam built the first Ka’aba. Some say this was taken up to heaven at the flood, and rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael. In truth, it was an idolatrous temple of the Arabs, which Muhammad continued and developed for his own system.
Sacrifices appointed for every religion: Eid-ul-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, is the most important feast during the Muslim year. “To every people did We appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of Allah over the sustenance He gave them from animals (fit for food)………The sacrificial camels we have made for you as among the symbols from Allah: in them is good for you: then pronounce the name of Allah over them as they line up (for sacrifice): when they are down on their sides (after slaughter), eat ye thereof……………” (v 34 & 36). ———————- On the 10th Dhu’l-Hajja, and the three following days, pilgrims make their sacrifices in the valley of Mina. The old Arab custom of sacrificing on this day in Mina was adopted by Islam. Muhammad had first intend it to represent the great day of atonement of the Jews but he failed to gain them over so he adopted it to this Arab sacrifice. In Islam blood sacrifice does not touch God, only piety.
The Hypocrites: “There are among men some who serve Allah, as it were, on the verge: if good befalls them, they are, therewith, well content; but if a trial comes to them, they turn on their faces ……………. ” (v 11) ————— The Munafiqin, or Hypocrites were a group of influential residents of Medina who had ostensibly embraced Islam, but had no intention of surrendering their position to the intruders from Mecca. For this reason Muhammad called them “hypocrites.”
War against infidels is permitted in self defence: “To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged; and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid” (v 39). —————- This was the first passage, said to be just before the flight to Medina, where Muhammad was given permission to defend themselves by using force. At first Muhammad exhorted his followers to bear injuries patiently, there are about seventy such injunctions in the Quran. Then, as here, after 13 years of facing verbal persecution and being turned out of their homes he claimed that God allowed them to use force to defend themselves. Later, as his power and influence increased, he professed to have divine permission to destroy idolatry by force.
Allah defends Christian, Jewish and Muslim places of worship: “Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause)” (v 40) ——————– The object of Muhammad here was to justify his resistance against the Quarraish. When men have followed other religious creeds they have always defended their places of worship and Muslims should do the same. This passage is sometimes used to justify jihad, religious war, for it is said the Jews protected their synagogues in their era, the Christians the churches in their time, and now in the present and all future days the protection of mosques is called upon.
All prophets tempted by Satan: “Never did We send a messenger or a prophet before thee, but, when he framed a desire, Satan threw some (vanity) into his desire: but Allah will cancel anything that Satan throws in, and Allah will confirm His signs.” (v 52). ————————- This verse refers to what is known as the Satanic verses. Muhammad, one day was reciting the Quran and spoke of some idols as ‘most high and beauteous damsels, whose intercession is to be hoped for.’ When Gabriel told him of what he had said, he was deeply grieved until this verse was revealed to him.
Sura 23. Al-Mu’minun (The Believers) Mecca
The Title: Although that prophets, in all ages, were rejected and treated as impostors Muhammad and his followers will win in the end. “The believers must win through, Those who humble themselves in their prayers; Who avoid vain talk; Who are active in deeds of charity; Who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess, for (in their case) they are free from blame” (v 1-6) ——– Muslim male believers are allowed four wives and they may consort with female slaves taken in war, whether they are bought or received as a gift.
The Rejected Messengers: (verses 23-49) Noah rejected (v 23-30); Hud or Salih rejected (v.31, 32-41) Messengers to later generations also rejected (v 42-44); Moses and Aaron rejected (v 45-49). Mary and Jesus “And We made the son of Mary and his mother as a Sign: We gave them both shelter on high ground, affording rest and security and furnished with springs.” (v 50).
The Balances of Judgement: Unbelievers will experience sore punishment, and this would be the consequences for the unbelieving Qurraish.“Then when the trumpet is blown, there will be no more relationships between them that day, nor will one ask after another! Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, they will attain salvation: But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls, in Hell will they abide. The fire will burn their faces, and they will therein grin, with their lips displaced………… ” (v 101- 108) ———– Muslims believe that at the day of judgement two angels will stand on the bridge with a balance. Those whose good works are heavier even by the weight of a hair, will go to paradise, while those whose good works are light will be cast down into hell.———— The principle of the Quran is wrong. Suppose a man is accused of theft before a judge, and he replies that he only stole on four days during the last month, while on twenty-five days he lived honestly. Would this excuse be accepted? If a man committed only one murder and during the rest of his life did not harm anyone, would he be pardoned on this account? No, our sinful actions are countless and they cannot be atoned for by a few good deeds. Unless there is a Saviour all must go to the place of punishment.
The Title: The title of this sura is taken from verses 35-40 which describes how the light of Allah should shine in the home of believers.
Living in the light of Allah: “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is as if there were a niche and within it a lamp: the lamp enclosed in glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His light: Allah doth set forth parables for men: and Allah doth knoweth all things . (Lit is such a Light) in houses, which Allah hath permitted to be raised to honour; for the celebration, in them, of His name …………………………….. ” (34-38) —– These verses are highly regarded by Sufi mystics.
Living in the darkness: “But the unbelievers, their deeds are like a mirage in sandy deserts, which the man parched with thirst mistakes for water; until when he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing: But he finds Allah with him, and Allah will pay him his account: and Allah is swift in taking account. Or (the unbelievers’ state) is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean, overwhelmed with billow topped by billow, topped by (dark) clouds: depths of darkness, one above another: if a man stretches out his hands, he can hardly see it! for any to whom Allah giveth not light, there is no light!” (v 36-40)
Punishment (flogging) of those found guilty of illegal sexual intercourse: Legal punishments are here prescribed here against moral failure “The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the believers witness their punishment” (v 2). This subject is developed in the relevant hadiths of Bukhari Volume 8, Book 82.
Punishment (flogging) of false accusers of virtuous women: “And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors; Unless they repent thereafter and mend (their conduct)” (v 4, 5). —————————– Limits (hudud) have been laid down by Allah. In Muslim criminal law punishment is meted out when the following breaches of Allah’s law are made: a) Stoning or one hundred stripes for illicit sexual intercourse (v 2); b) Eighty stripes for falsely accusing a married woman of adultery (v 4); c) Eighty lashes for the drinking of wine and other intoxicating liquors (Mishkat book 14 chapter 4); d) Cutting off the right hand for theft. (Al-Maidah 5:38); e) Various punishments for robbery which differ according to the circumstances; f) Death for the offence of apostasy (Bukhari).
‘Ayesha’s slanderers reproved: concerns the accusation against ‘Aisha of committing adultery with Safwan (v 11-20). “Those who brought forward the lie are a body among yourselves: think it not to be an evil to you; On the contrary it is good for you: to every man among them (will come the punishment) of the sin that he earned, and to him who took on himself the lead among them, will be a penalty grievous” (v 11). ——————— Those who spread the report Hamna, Hassan and Mestah, received the punishment of 80 stripes. It is also said that ’Ayesha was so annoyed with ’Ali for speaking of her in a disparaging way that she contrived to bring about the murder of his two sons, Hasan and Husain.
Rules about entering houses: “O ye who believe! enter not houses other than your own, until ye have asked permission and saluted those in them: that is best for you, in order that ye may heed (what is seemly). If ye find no one in the house, enter not until permission is given to you: if ye are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity for yourselves: and Allah knows well all that ye do” (v 27, 28). ——————— It was the custom in Arabia, before Islam, to enter houses without permission. To enter a habitation abruptly may possibly surprise a person in a state of indecency or discover something wanted to be concealed.
Concerning the behaviour of women: directions are given about women being closely veiled when they go out —- “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments” (v 31).
Concerning the behaviour of aged women: “Such elderly women as are past the prospect of marriage, there is no blame on them if they lay aside their (outer) garments, provided they make not a wanton display of their beauty: but it is best for them to be modest” (v 60).
Muslims to salute one another: “But if ye enter houses, salute each other a greeting of blessing and purity as from Allah………………….. ” (v 61). ———- Those with whom you have blood ties, and those with whom you share a common religion should be saluted. If the house is empty say ‘Peace be on us, and on the righteous servants of God’ for the angels will return your salutation.
Sura 25. Al-Furqan (The Criterion)
The object of the chapter is the same as many others, namely to present the virtue of the Quran to the unbelieving Qurraish and try to prove that Muhammad is one in the line of many former prophets who were rejected. As the term Furqan is mostly associated with revelation many Muslims regard it as an alternative name to the Quran. It occurs in the first verse of this sura.
The virtue of the Quran: Al-Furqan (The Criterion) “Blessed is He who sent down the criterion to His servant, that it may be an admonition to all creatures.” (v 1). The word furqan occurs seven times in the Quran and appears to be derived from the Jewish-Aramaic purqan or more probably the Syriac purqana with its basic meaning of salvation. It can be said with confidence that the term furqan was used only for a short period of time and some believe that it was applied as a criterion that separated believers from unbelievers when the Muslims were becoming became a distinct community (Bell and Watt ‘Introduction to the Quran‘). It should also be mentioned that the Quran gives the same title to the book of Moses: “And remember We gave Moses the Scripture and the Criterion (between right and wrong)” (Al-Baqarrah 2:.53 c/f 21:48,49) once again speaking of the integrity of the preceding scriptures.
Muhammad accused of forgery: “But the misbelievers say: Naught is this but a lie which he has forged, and others have helped him at it…. And they say: Tales of the ancients, which he has caused to be written: and they are dictated before him morning and evening……… The wicked say: Ye follow none other than a man bewitched…. But they have gone astray, and never a way will they be able to find!” (v 4-9). —- The frequency with which Muhammad feels it necessary to rebut this charge by denial is a strong indication of its truth.
Day of Judgement: “Nay they deny the hour (of the judgment to come): but We have prepared a blazing fire for such as deny the hour:: When it sees them from a place afer off, they will hear its fury and its ranging sigh And when they are cast, bound together into a constricted place therein, they will plead for destruction there and then! ……. “The day they see the angels, no joy will there be to the sinners that day: The (angels) will say: There is a barrier forbidden (to you) altogether! ….. The day the heaven shall be rent asunder with clouds, and angels shall be sent down, descending (in ranks). … The day that the wrong-doer will bite at his hands, he will say, Oh! would that I had taken a (straight) path with the messenger!” (v 11-27) —– In Islam on the judgement day the clouds shall descend with the angels who will be carrying the book where every man’s actions are recorded.
The Quran sent down in fragments: “Those who reject faith say: Why is not the Quran revealed to him all at once? Thus (is it revealed), that We may strengthen thy heart thereby, and We have rehearsed it to thee in slow, well-arranged stages, gradually. And no question do they bring to thee but We reveal to thee the truth and the best explanation” (v 32, 33). ——- Muslims thought that the Book of Moses, the Psalms and the Gospel, were sent down from heaven all at once, whereas it was twenty-three years before the Quran was completed. Moses, David and Jesus could all read but the revealing of the Quran in stages was believed to be a help to the illiterate Muhammad giving him the opportunity of understanding and absorbing the revelation and therefore overcoming this problem. The first suras therefore contain on average only five lines; the next twenty suras, sixteen lines while the average length of the suras after the Hijra is five pages.
Previous messengers and Muhammad rejected: (35-41) Moses and his brother Aaron (v 35, 36); Noah (v 37); the people of ‘Ad, Thamud and the companions of the Rass, rejected their prophets; and now Muhammad is treated with mockery (v 41).
Sura 26 Ash-Shu’ara’ (The Poets) Mecca
The Title: The chapter owes its title to certain poets, mentioned in verse 224 – 226 “And the poets, It is those straying in evil, who follow them. Seest thou not that they wander distracted in every valley? And that they say what they practise not?” —— Certain poets ridiculed and opposed Muhammad, they are said in this verse to ‘wander distracted in every valley,’ as madmen. Their productions were cited at the great annual fair held at Okatz. The poems which were judged the best were written up in letters of gold, or suspended (therefore called The Mu’allaqat) in the Ka’aba. In the early part of Muhammad’s mission he despised the poets but when Labid and Hassan accepted Islam they rose in Muhammad’s opinion (c/f Mishkat, book 22, chapter 9 part 1).
Several pious Muslim poets were employed by Muhammad to counter the satire of the unbelieving poets. Muhammad is reported as saying: ‘Ply them with satires, for they wound more deeply than arrows’ (Al-Beidawi). The poetical contests were subsequently suppressed by Muhammad, because they offered the opportunity for discussion which might prove unfavourable to his rising claims. ————– Muhammad repudiated the idea of being a poet but because the Quran is in a rhythm and in some places actual poetry the declaration that Muhammad was not a poet has perplexed the commentators. But ar-Razi explains that in order to be a poet it is absolutely necessary that the poems should not be impromptu verses as in the Quran, but deliberately framed.
Muhammad vexed by the rejection of his message by the Qurraish: “It may be thou frettest thy soul with grief, that they do not become believers They have indeed rejected (the message): so they will know soon the truth of what they mocked at!” (v 3 – 9).
Previous prophets message rejected: Nearly this entire chapter consists of repetitions of the history of Moses, Abraham, Noah, Hud, Salih, Lot and Shuaib. Islam claims that these prophets in fulfilling their divine mission were all called impostors, liars and madmen, by those who rejected them. Muhammad claims to be in their line and considers his rejection is because he too has been sent on a divine mission. Moses (verses 10-68): Abraham (verses 69-104): Noah (verses 105-122): Hud (verses 123-140): Salih (verses 141-159): Lot (verses 160 -175) : Shuaib (verses 175-191). Each section is separated by the same response: “And verily thy Lord is He, the Exalted in Might, Most Merciful”.
The Quran claims that it was given to Muhammad through Gabriel: “And lo! it is a revelation of the Lord of the worlds, Which the true spirit hath brought down Upon thy heart, that thou mayst be of the warners, In plain Arabic speech And lo! it is in the Scriptures of the men of old …….. ” (verses 192-197) ——– The ‘true spirit’, denotes Gabriel, Muhammad was the instrument and the words are God’s. The Quran is supposed to support the former scriptures. It is possible that some of the Jewish converts to Islam applied the prophecies about Jesus Christ to Muhammad?
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