Sura 6. Al-An’am (The Cattle) (Mecca)
The Title: The chapter derives its title from the frequent mention of cattle in connection with the idolatrous rites of the people of Mecca.
The unbelief of the Qurraish: The idolaters continue to scoff and reject any idea that the Quran has a heavenly origin so thoughts of leaving Mecca begin to develop in Muhammad’s mind. “If We had sent unto thee a written (message) on parchment, so that they could touch it with their hands, the unbelievers would have been sure to say: “This is nothing but obvious magic!” They say: “Why is not an angel sent down to him?” If we did send down an angel, the matter would be settled at once, and no respite would be granted them” (v 7) —– The Qurraish did not see anything in the Quran significantly miraculous to convince them of its heavenly origin so Muhammad says that they would not have believed even if an angel had come down to them from heaven.
The Quarraish scoff at the message: “Of them there are some who (pretend to) listen to thee; but We have thrown veils on their hearts, So they understand it not, and deafness in their ears …….. they dispute with thee; the unbelievers say: “These are nothing but tales of the ancients.” Others they keep away from it, and themselves they keep away ………. ” (v 25-26) ——– The persons referred to are Abu Sufyan, Nadhir, Walid, ’Utba, Shaibu and others. ——- “Despite having high family connections, relationship with the guardians of the Ka’aba, many personal virtues, indomitable patience, uncompromising fearlessness and fervid eloquence …… his mission at Mecca was a complete failure.” (Rev Canon Sell)
Punishment of those who charge Muhammad with imposture: “But those who reject our signs, them shall punishment touch, for that they ceased not from transgressing” (v 49).
Observance of the times of prayer: “To establish regular prayers and to fear Allah: for it is to Him that we shall be gathered together.” (v 72). There are five stated times of prayer: 1) From dawn to sunrise. 2) When noon is past. 3) Midway between noon and sunset. 4) A few minutes after sunset. 5) From sunset till midnight. All prayers must be in Arabic.
Abraham’s testimony against idolatry: “Lo! Abraham said to his father Azar: “Takest thou idols for gods? For I see thee and thy people in manifest error.” So also did We show Abraham the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth, that he might have certitude. When the night covered him over, He saw a star: He said: “This is my Lord.” But when it set, He said: “I love not those that set.” When he saw the moon rising in splendour, he said: “This is my Lord.” But when the moon set, He said: “unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.” When he saw the sun rising in splendour, he said: “This is my Lord; this is the greatest ” But when the sun set, he said: “O my people! I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah” (v 74-78).
Abraham’s father is called Terah (Genesis 11:26). In his book Qisas al-Anbiya, Al-Najjar said: “Azar is only a name that Abraham used to call his father. It means, ‘You old man!’ Yet the name of Abraham’s father was Terah, he had two names.” The Torah does not explicitly or implicitly say that Terah worshipped idols yet Joshua 24:2 may suggest he did. It may have been that Terah was so frustrated with the idolatry in Ur that he moved his family away, for all Genesis states is: “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.” ( Genesis 11:31.)
The prophets after Abraham: “That was the reasoning about Us, which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will, degree after degree: for thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge. We gave him Isaac and Jacob: all guided: and before him, We guided Noah, and among his progeny, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron: thus do We reward those who do good: And Zakariya and John, and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous: And Isma’il and Elisha, and Jonas, and Lot: and to all We gave favour above the nations ” (v 83-86). ———— Of twenty-five prophets mentioned in the Quran, eighteen are mentioned here. The order in which they occur may suggest Muhammad’s ignorance of history. Several of them Zacharias, Ishmael and Lot, were not prophets.
The Jews accused of suppressing part of the Scriptures: “Say: “Who then sent down the Book which Moses brought? a light and guidance to man: But ye make it into (separate) sheets for show, while ye conceal much ……. ” (v 91) —— The Jews are here, and frequently in the Quran, accused of suppressing and altering those parts of their scriptures which referred to the theory of the mission of Muhammad. These verses show that Muhammad does not accuse the Jews of corrupting the original text but rather they are accused of writing the text down on separate sheets with the intention of concealing or suppressing Muhammad’s claims.
What food may be eaten: “So eat of (meats) on which Allah’s name hath been pronounced, if ye have faith in His signs ……… ” (v 118-119). ——— Before any animal is killed for food, ‘In the name of God’ must be pronounced. Only if necessary, may other food be eaten.
The jinn: “O ye assembly of jinns and men! came there not unto you messengers from amongst you, setting forth unto you My signs, and warning you of the meeting of this day of yours?” (v 130). ———- The jinn were supposed to be supernatural beings created, like the devils, of fire instead of clay, and possessed of miraculous powers. They are devoutly believed in by Muslims, and are supposed to be subject to the same controlling laws as mankind, and to have also had prophets sent to them. Some of them were good, some were said to be converted to Islam, but generally they were seen as evil (c/f Bukhari Volume 9, Book 93, Number 650.
The idolaters at Mecca rebuked: “Out of what Allah hath produced in abundance in tilth and in cattle, they assigned Him a share: they say, according to their fancies: “This is for Allah, and this for our “partners”! but the share of their “partners” reacheth not Allah, whilst the share of Allah reacheth their “partners”! Evil is their assignment! ………………..But leave alone them and their inventions.” (v 136, 137) ———– The idolaters divided the produce of their fields and flocks into two parts – one for God and the other for inferior deities. Should the portion of God prove greater at the time of harvest, they changed their portions, giving the larger portion to their ’partners’. According to Al-Baidawi the major share set apart to Allah was given to the poor while the share for the idols was given to the priests for providing sacrifices for them.
Evil customs pre-Islamic practices of the Qurraish exposed: “And they say that such and such cattle and crops are taboo, and none should eat of them except those whom, so they say, we wish; further, there are cattle forbidden to yoke or burden, and cattle on which, (at slaughter), the name of Allah is not pronounced …… They say: “What is in the wombs of such and such cattle is specially reserved (for food) for our men, and forbidden to our women; but if it is still-born, then all have share therein. For their (false) attribution (of superstitions to Allah), He will soon punish them ………. ” (v 138, 139).
Among the Arabs one tree was dedicated to the gods and allowed to grow untouched. They were forbidden to eat some animals or ride upon others. Some might be eaten by men and not by women, and vice versa. Such customs are condemned.
Infanticide forbidden: “Lost are those who slay their children, from folly, without knowledge, and forbid food which Allah hath provided for them, inventing (lies) against Allah” (v 140). ——– Female infanticide occurred amongst the Arabs. Daughters were buried alive as soon as they were born if the parents thought that they could not maintain them.
Muhammad the first Muslim?: “Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are for Allah, the cherisher of the worlds: No partner hath He: this am I commanded, and I am the first of those who bow to His will.” (v 162, 163) —– Allah must have meant here that Muhammad was the first of Muslims from amongst the Qurraish otherwise there is a serious contradiction with Al-Imran 3:67. Abraham is recognised by Muslims as not a literal Muslim but a spiritual Muslim: ‘Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; but he was true in faith, and bowed his will to Allah’s (which is Islam), and he joined not gods with Allah.’
Sura 7 Al-A’raf – The Heights or the Wall with Elevations (Mecca)
The Title: It is derived from the reference in verses 46 and 47 to the partition wall (heights) between heaven and hell, which is called al-A’raf: “Between them shall be a veil, and on the heights will be men who would know every one by his marks: they will call out to the companions of the garden, peace on you: they will not have entered, but they will have an assurance (thereof). When their eyes shall be turned towards the companions of the fire, they will say: Our Lord! send us not to the company of the wrong-doers.” (v 46, 47). The idea sounds very similar to Jesus’ parable of the great gulf separating paradise from the place of torment in Luke 21:26.
Iblis refuses to worship Adam and is cast out of heaven becoming an adversary to mankind: “It is We who created you and gave you shape; then We bade the angels prostrate to Adam, and they prostrate; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who prostrate Allah said: “What prevented thee from prostrating when I commanded thee?” He said: “I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay Allah said: “Get thee down from this: it is not for thee to be arrogant here: get out, for thou art of the meanest (of creatures).” He said: “Give me respite till the day they are raised up.” (Allah) said: “Be thou among those who have respite.” He said: “Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way: “Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for thy mercies).”Allah said: “Get out from this, disgraced and expelled. If any of them follow thee, Hell will I fill with you all. (v 11-18)
Adam’s temptation and sin in the garden: “O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and enjoy (its good things) as ye wish: but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.” Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them, bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden from them (before): he said: “Your Lord only forbade you this tree, lest ye should become angels or such beings as live for ever.” And he swore to them both, that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: “Did I not forbid you that tree, and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?” They said: “Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: If thou forgive us not and bestow not upon us Thy mercy, we shall certainly be lost.” (v. 19-23) —— Muslim scholars argue that Adam’s sin occurred before he became a prophet. However, it remains true that deficiency resides in man. God alone is perfect, whereas man by contrast has short-comings; though he may have virtues he still has sinful tendencies.
Indecent customs forbidden: “When they do aught that is shameful, they say: We found our fathers doing so …….. “Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer” (v 28-31). The Quarraish used to go around the Ka’aba naked and they defended this action on the grounds of custom. Now such action is forbidden.
The punishment of those who reject the messengers of Allah: “O ye Children of Adam! Whenever there come to you messengers from amongst you, rehearsing My signs unto you, those who are righteous and mend (their lives), on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve. But those who reject Our signs and treat them with arrogance, they are companions of the fire, to dwell therein. Who is more unjust than one who invents a lie against Allah or rejects His signs?” (v 35-37).
The Messengers and the fate of those who rejected the message: These stories actually reflect Muhammad’s personal struggles in Mecca. He was preaching monotheism and was the target of idolaters mockery. The Quarraish too would have to face the judgement of Allah if they did not walk in His ways.
Hud rejected by the tribe of ’Ad and their fate: (v 65-72). According to the Quran the prophet Hud came to the ‘Ad tribe, which was said to be a powerful ancient tribe which lay to the north of Mecca. They were zealously pursuing idolatry, worshiping four deities. The story of Hud is told in Suras 7, 11, 26, 46, 49 and his name is found in the first three of these. The title of Sura 11 bears his name and verses 50-60 of that sura are concerned with him. His genealogy is tied to the tribe of ’Ad and he is also said to be identified with ’Abir i.e. Heber – the ancestor of the Hebrews, but this is uncertain. Like every ‘warner’ he is represented as being in the same position as Muhammad in Mecca having only a few followers. The legend describes how the whole tribe of ‘Ad was destroyed with the exception of Hud and his followers.
Salih rejected by the Thamudites and their fate: (v 73-79). Salih was said to be a prophet who went to the Arab people of Thamud. He is depicted as having the same warning style as Muhammad, demanding that the tribe should turn to him and pray to Allah alone (Sura 7:73, 11:6). Various verses scattered over the Quran when pieced together show that Salih’s idea of judgement and his claim to revelation were rejected, and only irritated the unbelievers. Allah sends the tribe a special sign in the form of a she camel. Salih begs them to share their water with it and leave it unharmed but they cause it to become lame and one member of their tribe kills it calling upon Salih to inflict the punishment he had threatened. The punishment then is duly inflicted. The Quran teaches that the tribe of Thamud were the successors of the ‘Ad, yet both the story of Hud and Salih are in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Quran that no prophet had been sent to the Arabs before him (Al-Qasas 28:46; As-Sajdah 32:3; Saba’ 34:44). The stories of Hud and Salih are found fairly frequently in the earliest Meccan suras but almost disappear in the Medinan suras.
Shu’aib rejected by the Madainites and their fate: (v 85- 101). According to Sura 26:176-189 Shu’aib was sent to the people of Al-Aikah and the people of Madyan who are considered to be his brothers. The same basic recitation occurs in the story of Shu’aib as in the other Arab prophets. Shu’aib preaches monotheism, encourages honesty in weights and measures, and warns the tribe to whom he was sent of judgement. He and his followers were threatened with expulsion from their city. If it was not for his family he would have been stoned. The tribe were destroyed by an earthquake. Some suggest Shu’aib is to be identified with Jethro, the father- in- law of Moses who lived in Midian.
Moses rejected by Pharaoh and his chiefs: “Then after them We sent Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they wrongfully rejected them: So see what was the end of those who made mischief………………. So We exacted retribution from them: We drowned them in the sea, because they rejected Our Signs and failed to take warning from them…. and We levelled to the ground the great works and fine buildings which Pharaoh and his people erected (with such pride).” (v 103-137). —–
The Quran mentions the mission of Moses to Pharaoh, the contest with the magicians, the ten plagues, the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. There are some historical issues that need to be considered in this section for example Exodus 1:7-22 says that the male children, including Moses, were ordered to be put to death whereas the Quran suggests (v 127) the order came from Pharaoh at a later stage in the life of Moses.
Aaron and the golden calf: “The people of Moses made, in his absence, out of their ornaments, the image of calf, (for worship): it seemed to low: did they not see that it could neither speak to them, nor show them the way? They took it for worship and they did wrong….. Those who took the calf (for worship) will indeed be overwhelmed with wrath from their Lord, and with shame in this life: thus do We recompense those who invent (falsehoods)” (v 148-152). —– The worship of the golden calf is described in Exodus 32:1-24. There is no mention that the calf lowed although it is one of the traditions of the Talmud, nor is there mention that Moses seized Aaron by the hair (v 150). These are additions by Muhammad.
Muhammad the illiterate Prophet: “Those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures), in the law and the Gospel…… So believe in Allah and His messenger, the unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided.” (v 157, 158). —- Muhammad is called an-Nabiyu’l-ummi – ‘the illiterate prophet’ but commentators are not agreed to its meaning. He appears to have wished to be thought ignorant and illiterate in order to raise the elegance of the Quran into a miracle. The hadith of Bukhari Volume 7, Book 70, Number 573 suggests that he was capable of writing a statement of faith. He certainly was ignorant of many details concerning the preceding prophets and Biblical characters.
Water from the Rock in the Wilderness: “We directed Moses by inspiration, when his people asked him for water: Strike the rock with thy staff: out of it there gushed forth twelve springs…….” (v 160)
The correct account is found in Exodus 17:1-7. There is no mention that twelve fountains gushed out. Muhammad may have confused this with the twelve springs at Elim in Exodus 15:27.
The Sabbath breakers changed into apes: “Ask them concerning the town standing close by the sea. Behold! they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath. For on the day of their Sabbath their fish did come to them, openly holding up their heads, but on the day they had no Sabbath, they came not: thus did We make a trial of them, for they were given to transgression……….. When in their insolence they transgressed prohibitions, We said to them: Be ye apes, despised and rejected…….” (v 163-167) ——— Reference is made to this supposed incident also in Surah 2:265 and 5:60. No trace of this story is found in the Talmud. The legend concerns some Jews who lived in the days of David at Elath, on the Red Sea. On the night of the Sabbath, it is said, that the fish came in great numbers to the shore to tempt them. Some of the inhabitants broke the Sabbath-day commandment so David cursed them, and God changed them into apes.
Mount Sinai shaken over the Israelites: “When We shook the Mount over them, as if it had been a canopy, and they thought it was going to fall on them (We said): Hold firmly to what We have given you, and bring to remembrance what is therein; perchance ye may fear Allah.” (v 171). —— Sinai is never mentioned in the Quran as the place where the Law was given. Rather the Quran legend shows the Israelites refused to receive the laws of Moses so God tore up the mountain by the roots and shook it over their heads to terrify them into compliance. It is a Jewish fable adopted by Muhammad.
Allah’s beautiful names: “The most beautiful names belong to Allah: so call on him by them; but shun such men as use profanity in his names: for what they do, they will soon be requited” (v 180). —- The number of these names or attributes are ninety-nine and are found either in the Quran or the Traditions. It is written in Bukhari Volume 3, Book 50, Number 894 that “Allah’s Apostle said, Allah has ninety-nine names, i.e. one-hundred minus one, and whoever knows them will go to Paradise.” These names are repeated by pious Muslims with the aid of a rosary and often divided into two sections; the first Isma-ul-Jalaliyah: the terrible attributes and the second, Isma-ul-Jamaliyah: the glorious attributes, the former are more emphasised. ——————– The list includes expected names like: Ar-Rahman, The Merciful; Ar-Rahim, The Compassionate; Al-Malik, The King; Al-Aziz, The Mighty One; Al–Khalik, The Creator but also the unexpected are found. Dr. Zwemer wrote, “What must have been Muhammad’s idea of the character of God when he named Him Al-Mutakabbir, The Proud; Al-Jabbar, The All-Compelling; Al-Mumit, The Slayer; Al-Muakhir, The Deferrer; Ar-Ra’oof, The Indulgent and Adh-Dhur, The Harmful. Nor can the mind reconcile such attributes with those of goodness and compassion without doing violence to the text of the Quran itself.”
The foolishness of idolatry: “Do they indeed ascribe to Him as partners things that can create nothing, but are themselves created? No aid can they give them, nor can they aid themselves! …… (v 191- 202) —- The arguments against idolatry are like those in Psalm 105:3-8 and Isaiah 44:8-21.
The Quran to be heard in silence: “When the Quran is read, listen to it with attention, and hold your peace …….. And do thou Bring thy Lord to remembrance in thy soul, with humility and in reverence, without loudness in words, in the mornings and evenings” (v. 204, 205).
Sura 8. Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War) (Medina)
The Title: The title is taken from the question in the first verse :“They ask thee concerning spoils of war”. —————- Most of the chapter is taken up with an account of the alleged miraculous character of the battle of Badr. After a successful attack on a mercantile caravan at Nakhla a goodly amount of plunder entered Medina. Muhammad heard that a rich caravan was on its way from Syria so he decided to ambush it at Badr. The Qurraishi, Abu Sufiyan, who was leading the caravan, had now become cautious and heard about the plan so he sent to Mecca for help. He diverted his caravan to the coast and believing that he was no longer under threat sent and cancelled his initial request. The army, however, had now been mustered and was three times larger that that of Muhammad’s so they saw it as an opportunity to defeat the Prophet. Muhammad went to Badr were he expected to meet Abu Sufiyan’s caravan but instead found the Qurraish army. The resulting battle was a resounding victory for the Muslims, although the numbers involved were small it was of great significance for Islam is now declared to have received the seal of God to its truth, and all who oppose it in the future will merit shame and destruction, both in this world and the next. (c/f Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 168)
Spoils belong to God and the Prophet: “They ask thee concerning spoils of war. Say: spoils are at the disposal of Allah and the Messenger:….. ” (v 1). ————————— Following the battle of Badr a dispute about the spoils of war occurred between the young men who had fought in battle and those who were older who had remained behind to guard the camp. The young men believed they deserved the whole booty while the rest believed they deserved a portion. This verse was then revealed. The law regarding ‘the spoils of war’ is that four-fifths of all weapons, horses, prisoners of war, and all other moveable possessions are to be divided among the troops who have been present at the battle whether they actually took part or not; the remaining fifth belongs to Allah (see verse 41). ————– There is also the accusation made by ‘the hypocrites’ that Muhammad had taken from the booty, as his right, a beautiful red garment. After much complaint this verse is revealed to justify his right to the prized item. (Jami’u’t-Tirmidhi, vol. 2, p.391)
Miraculous assistance promised at Badr: “Remember ye implored the assistance of your Lord, and He answered you: I will assist you with a thousand of the angels, ranks on ranks.” (v 9).
Muslims refreshed before the battle: “Remember He covered you with a sort of drowsiness, to give you calm as from Himself, and he caused rain to descend on you from heaven, to clean you therewith, to remove from you the stain of Satan, to strengthen your hearts, and to plant your feet firmly therewith” (v 11).
The inspired angels stir up the believers to violent warfare: “Remember thy Lord inspired the angels: I am with you: give firmness to the believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.” (v 12). Satan deserted the Quarraish on the field of battle when he saw the angels which remained unknown to the believers (v 48).
The victory at Badr was a miracle: “It is not ye who slew them; it was Allah: when thou threwest (a handful of dust), it was not thy act, but Allah’s ………………….. ” (v 17). ——– The Qurraish were said to have been slain by angels. It is said that Muhammad, by the direction of Gabriel, took a handful of gravel, and threw it towards the enemy, saying, ‘May their faces be confounded’ on this they turned their backs and fled. Here it is said that it was Allah’s who threw it by his angel.
Allah, the greatest plotter: “Remember how the unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out (of thy home). They plot and plan, and Allah too plans; but the best of planners is Allah.” (v 30) ——– This early Medinan sura recalls the action of the Quarraish that caused Muhammad to leave Mecca. In a short period of two months nearly all the believers had emigrated from Mecca. Muhammad remained behind and when a deputation came to see him he feared it was actually a plot against him so he abandoned his house, joined Abu Bakr and left the city as night drew on.
The guardians of the Kaaba threatened: “But what plea have they that Allah should not punish them, when they keep out (men) from the sacred Mosque and they are not its guardians? No men can be its guardians except the righteous; but most of them do not understand. Their prayer at the House (of Allah) is nothing but whistling and clapping of hands: Taste ye the penalty because ye blasphemed.” (v 34, 35) —— The Qurraish are reckoned unworthy guardians of the Kaaba, men and women circled it naked while whistling, and clapping their hands.
The division of the spoil: “And know that out of all the booty that ye may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to Allah, and to the Messenger, and to near relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer …………. ” (v 41). ——— Having laid down his absolute right to the booty in one verse he somewhat modifies it here. This verse was revealed shortly after the battle of Badr. It was the custom of ancient Arabs that Arab chiefs received a portion of the ‘spoils of war’ in order to cover any costs incurred, so this was not a new innovation. Many Muslim scholars say that the fifth allotted to Allah should be distributed equally amongst the five categories shown in this verse, namely, the apostle, relatives, orphans, the needy, and the traveller. The prophet’s portion according to the Shafi’i school should be given to the general good of the Muslim community. This is the law of Islam on the subject to the present day.
The Qurraish prisoners of Badr: “It is not fitting for a prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he hath thoroughly subdued the land” (v 67) ————- The above verse was said to be revealed as the Muslims considered what they should do with their prisoners; they therefore either ransomed them or set them free unconditionally. However, ‘Uqbah Ibn Abu Mu’ayt and An-Nadr ibn al-Harith were executed, the former for composing satirical verses against Muhammad and the latter for claiming that his rhymes about Persian customs were equal to the Quran.
Muslims reproved for taking ransom at Badr: “Had it not been for a previous ordainment from Allah, a severe penalty would have reached you for the (ransom) that ye took. But (now) enjoy what ye took in war, lawful and good ………… ” (v 68-69). ————- The Muslims are said to have spared the lives of the captives of Badr because they desired the ransom money; they would have suffered severe punishment if it had not been permitted by a previous revelation.
Sura 9 At-Taubah (The Repentance or Immunity) (Medina)
The Title: This chapter is sometimes called ‘Immunity’ on account of the first verse which reads: “A (declaration) of immunity from Allah and His Messenger, to those of the pagans with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances.” Verses 1-12 form the proclamation of immunity which declared that now that Mecca had been conquered Muhammad was released from any obligation towards any Arab idolaters and could now resort to the sword. This sura, however, is more commonly entitled ‘Repentance’ after verse 104: “Know they not that Allah doth accept repentance.” Verses 38-99 refer to the campaign to Tabuk and emphasise the call to repentance on those who declined to accompany Muhammad on this expedition.
The Bismillah – This chapter is the only one which does not have the bismillah, ‘In the name of Allah’ prefixed at the beginning. Rodwell says that its original form is of Jewish origin and was taught firstly to the Qurraish by the poet Umaiyah of Taif, who was a slightly older contemporary of Muhammad. The absence of the bismillah here is said, by some, that Muhammad died shortly after this sura and had not given directions about it while others assert that it arises because this sura was originally attached to the preceding sura.
Declaration of Immunity: “A (declaration) of immunity from Allah and His Messenger, to those of the pagans with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances: Go ye, then, for four months, backwards and forwards, throughout the land, but know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah but that Allah will cover with shame those who reject Him. And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger, to the people on the day of the Great Pilgrimage, that Allah and His Messenger dissolve (treaty) obligations with the pagans. If then, ye repent, it were best for you; but if ye turn away, know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah. And proclaim a grievous penalty to those who reject faith. (But the treaties are) not dissolved with those pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loveth the righteous” (v 1-4). ————— Ali read out the proclamation on the last day of the pilgrimage, on the day of sacrifice, as Muhammad had ordered.
The verse of the sword: “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful” (v 5).
Ibn Ishaq says’ As soon as Mecca was conquered and the Quarraish had submitted to him, being humbled by Islam, the Arabs, understanding that they themselves had not the power to oppose Muhammad and make war against him, professed the faith of Islam.’
The whole framework of society was broken down and needed re-construction; only Muhammad had the power to head a new united Arabia. This verse abrogates the earlier restriction which did not allow Muslims to commence a war. Recognising the old order of the sacred months (the first, seventh, eleventh and twelfth months were months in which the Arabs made war unlawful) any idolaters found in the peninsula was to be ambushed and killed. Permission to enter the Ka‘aba precincts during this period was denied unless the idolater accepted Islam.
The victory of Hunain due to Allah’s help: “Assuredly Allah did help you in many battle-fields and on the day of Hunain: Behold! your great numbers elated you, but they availed you naught: the land, for all that it is wide, did constrain you, and ye turned back in retreat. But Allah did pour His calm on the Messenger and on the believers, and sent down forces which ye saw not: He punished the unbelievers; thus doth He reward those without faith” (v 25, 26). —————– In A.H. 8 the Muslims came to the valley of Hunain, which is situated about three miles from Mecca, to engage the unbelievers in battle. They had superior forces numbering 12,000 men over the enemies 4,000. However, panic spread through the Muslim ranks but through the calmness and bravery of Muhammad and his companions, order was restored and victory gained.
Jizya tax imposed on Jews and Christians: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (v 29). From this verse the dogma of the jizya tax was established. While pagans have the choice only between Islam or death the possessors of the scriptures may obtain security and protection for themselves and their families and goods by paying the jizya. ———————- Only those who have lived and continue to live under the Islamic system know what it is like ‘to feel themselves subdued.’ Sir Willaim Muir says” One must admire the rare tenacity of those who on payment of tribute were tolerated in the Islamic state; those believers who kept to their Christian faith with but scanty light and hope, held its ground through weary ages of insult and depression and still survives to see the dawning of a brighter day.”
Jews and Christians reproved for using the epithet ‘the Son of God’: “The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the truth!” (v 30). ———————- The Muslim tradition appears in several forms, the gist is as follows: Nebuchadnezzer had destroyed all the copies of the Pentateuch, but Ezra (’Uzair) had committed it to memory. On his way back from captivity he died but after a hundred years he rose from the dead and dictated the Pentateuch to the scribes. For this reason the Jews believed that he must be the ’Son of God.’ There is no Jewish authority for this tradition and the story must be dismissed as pure invention c/f Al-Baqarrah 2:259.
Islam’s final verdict against Jews and Christians: “They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary …………… Fain would they extinguish Allah’s light with their mouths, but Allah will not allow but that His light should be perfected, even though the unbelievers may detest. It is He who hath sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, to proclaim it over all religion ………….. O ye who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder from the way of Allah. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah: announce unto them a most grievous penalty on the Day when heat will be produced out of that (wealth) in the fire of Hell ……………… ” (v 31-35) ——————– These verses refer not to the pagans but to Jews and Christians who are accused of attempting to put out the light of the Quran and the message of Allah’s last prophet. It is said of Islam that it will conquer all other religions and therefore abrogate their laws. These verses are set in the warlike atmosphere of the Tabuk Campaign an expedition concerned with the submission of Christian and Jewish communities. This may be fairly taken as Muhammad’s final and deliberate opinion as to the future relation of Islam to these creeds and people.
The Tabuk campaign: (v 38-99) ———— This was the last expedition undertaken during Muhammad’s lifetime and it was conducted in response to rumours of a Roman invasion. Disaffected Arab clans, nominally Muslim, had gathered on the Syrian frontier and when they reached Tabuk they found that the rumours of the invasion had melted away and there was no threat, at the present time, to the border. Muhammad therefore, had to content himself with the submission of some petty Christian and Jewish tribes while a strong detachment under Khalid was sent to Duma. It is related in tradition that soon after the Tabuk campaign the followers of Islam began selling their arms saying ‘The wars for religion now are ended’ but Muhammad forbade the sale saying, ‘There shall not cease from the midst of my people a party engaged in fighting for the truth, even until Anti-Christ appear.’
Muslims exhorted to fight at Tabuk: “O ye who believe! what is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? …………… Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place ………. “Go ye forth, (whether equipped) lightly or heavily, and strive and struggle, with your goods and your persons, in the cause of Allah…………………… ” (v 38-42) —————- Tabuk was a town about halfway between Medina and Damascus. It was the hot season and some preferred to harvest their ripe fruits at home rather than campaign abroad. The Muslims set out therefore unwillingly, as punishment was threatened for disobedience. The reluctant campaigners of the Tabuk campaign is rehearsed in verses 45-47.
Those who are faithful will obtain a reward: “Say: ‘Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector’: and on Allah let the believers put their trust. Say: ‘Can you expect for us (any fate) other than one of two glorious things? ……………….. So wait (expectant); we too will wait with you.’” (v 51, 52). ——————- Nothing would happen unless Allah had written it. The ‘two glorious things’ were victory in battle or admission into heaven through martyrdom.
Those who went to Tabuk half-heartedly: “‘The Hypocrites are afraid lest a Sura should be sent down about them, showing them what is in their hearts.’ Say: ‘Mock ye! But verily Allah will bring to light all that ye fear.’ If thou dost question them, they declare: ‘We were only talking idly and in play.’ Say: ‘Was it at Allah, and His signs, and His Messenger, that ye were mocking? Make ye no excuses: ye have rejected faith after ye had accepted it. If We pardon some of you, We will punish others amongst you, for that they are in sin.’” (v 64-66) ————————- Muhammad receives a revelation against those who were murmuring about the campaign. One (hypocrite) had expressed the opinion that the idea of attacking and taking some of the forts and districts in Syria was unlikely to happen, but another rebuked him and hoped that a revelation would come to Muhammad concerning his attitude. The ‘revelation’ duly came against this murmuring and the hypocrites, in fear, responded saying they were only joking.
Muhammad must continue to strive against the unbelievers and hypocrites: “O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell, an evil refuge indeed.” (v 73) ————- ‘This ninth sura is the last, or the last but one to be revealed. It is fierce and intolerant, and shows how advancing years, instead of mellowing and softening the temper of the Prophet, only developed his warlike spirit (Rev. Canon Sell).’
Exemptions for fighting in the way of Allah: “Those who were left behind (in the Tabuk expedition) rejoiced in their inaction behind the back of the Messenger of Allah: they hated to strive and fight, with their goods and their persons, in the cause of Allah: “they said, “Go not forth in the heat.” Say, “The fire of Hell is fiercer in heat.” …………………. There is no blame on those who are infirm, or ill, or who find no resources to spend (on the cause), if they are sincere to Allah and His Messenger ……… Nor (is there blame) on those who came to thee to be provided with mounts, and when thou saidst, “I can find no mounts for you,” they turned back, their eyes streaming with tears of grief that they had no resources wherewith to provide the expenses. The ground (of complaint) is against such as claim exemption while they are rich. They prefer to stay with the (women) who remain behind ……………. ” (v 81-93) ——————– There was insufficient carriage and supplies to meet the needs of all and some who could not participate in the Tabuk campaign were bitterly disappointed. A tradition states that seven men asked Muhammad for some old boots because they could not march without them in the hot season. When they heard that they could not be supplied, they went away crying. They are honoured as ‘The Weepers.’
Students and teachers exempt from the call to arms: “Nor should the believers all go forth together: if a contingent from every expedition remained behind, they could devote themselves to studies in religion, and admonish the people when they return to them.” (v 122)
The Bedouins who held back from the campain are rebuked: “And there were, among the desert Arabs (also), men who made excuses and came to claim exemption; and those who were false to Allah and His Messenger (merely) sat inactive. Soon will a grievous penalty seize the unbelievers among them.” (v 90) ………….. “The Arabs of the desert are the worst in unbelief and hypocrisy ………on them be the disaster of evil.” (v 97, 98) ——————— In the Campaign of Tabuk those who held back are rebuked, but those who went were highly commended and for the latter there would be in Paradise ‘gardens under which rivers flow.’ ——— Some afterwards repented for their lack of commitment and were forgiven but they were materially disadvantaged for not following the Messenger of God’s instructions v 102, 103).
Opposition mosque denounced: “And there are those who put up a mosque by way of mischief and infidelity to disunite the believers …………………….. They will indeed swear that their intention is nothing but good; But Allah doth declare that they are certainly liars. Never stand thou forth therein. There is a mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety; it is more worthy of the standing forth (for prayer) therein. In it are men who love to be purified; and Allah loveth those who make themselves pure.” (v 107, 108) —————— Muhammad had laid the foundation stone of the first place of public prayer in Islam at the mosque at Kuba, about two miles from Medina, four days before he entered that city on his flight from Mecca. In this verse the tribe of Bani Ganim had built a mosque professedly for religious motives and had invited Muhammad, when on his way to Tabuk, to dedicate it by a solemn act of prayer. Muhammad, however, discovered that their real motive was jealousy. They were envious of another tribe and jealous over the mosque at Kuba. They also had an understanding between themselves and Muhammad’s enemy Abu Amir, a monk who was at that very time in Syria trying to get the Greeks to attack the Muslims and their mosque.
Sura 10 Yunus (Jonah) (Mecca)
The Title is taken from a reference to Jonah: “Why was there not a single township (among those We warned), which believed, so its faith should have profited it, except the people of Jonah? When they believed, We removed from them the penalty of ignominy in the life of the present, and permitted them to enjoy (their life) for a while” (v 98). —- In the Bible (2 Kings 14:25) Jonah is called the son of Ammittai but his father’s name is not recorded in the Quran. He is mentioned four times, once as Dhu’l-Nun (Zun-nun) Al-Anbiya 21:87. He is the only major or minor prophet mentioned in the Quran. Muhammad’s familiarity with Jewish history shows that he had Jews amongst his friends and acquaintances.
The Meccans accuse Muhammad of sorcery: This chapter is largely addressed to the unbelieving Qurraish who continue to follow their idols and charge Muhammad with imposture. “Is it a matter of wonderment to men that We have sent Our inspiration to a man from among themselves? ………….. say the unbelievers: ‘This is indeed an evident sorcerer!’” (v 2). This was a time of increased opposition for Muhammad and becomes the prelude for the flight from Mecca.
The Qurraish ask for a different Quran: “But when Our clear signs are rehearsed unto them, those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us, say: ‘Bring us a reading other than this, or change this,’ Say: ‘It is not for me, of my own accord, to change it: I follow naught but what is revealed unto me ……….. ‘” (v 15). —– The Qurraish wanted a message of mercy instead of threatening. Muhammad declared he could not change it because the abrogations were only made by God.
Mankind one community: “Mankind was but one nation, but differed (later). Had it not been for a word that went forth before from thy Lord, their differences would have been settled between them” (v 19). —— Some are of the opinion that the meaning here is that once there was only one religion, and that was monotheistic Islam but the religion has been perverted by Jews, Christians and others c/f Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23, Number 467.
The Quarraish demanded a sign from Muhammad: “They say: ‘Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?’ Say: ‘The unseen is only for Allah, then wait ye: I too will wait with you.’” (v 20) —— This shows that as yet Muhammad had not wrought any miracle, but some suggest that from the saying ‘wait,’ he seems to have expected to receive the power to do so.
The Quarraish remember Allah in distress, but forget Him when delivered: “He it is Who enableth you to traverse through land and sea ……… then comes a stormy wind and the waves come to them from all sides, and they think they are being overwhelmed: they cry unto Allah …………. But when he delivereth them, behold! they transgress insolently ………….. ” (v 22, 23)
The Quarraish need to acknowledge that Allah is their Creator and Preserver: “For they will be deserted by their gods on the judgment day : “One day shall We gather them all together. Then shall We say to those who joined gods ‘To your place! ye and those ye joined as partners We shall separate them ………they will be brought back to Allah their rightful Lord, and their invented falsehoods will leave them in the lurch …….. Verily they will not believe Say: ‘Of your partners, can any originate creation and repeat it?’ Say: ‘It is Allah who originates creation and repeats it: then how are ye deluded away (from the truth)?’” (v 28 – 34) —- The foolishness of those who worship inferior deities is shown, while they regard Allah as the source of all their blessings.
The Quran said to have been composed only by Allah: “This Quran is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book wherein there is no doubt from the Lord of the worlds. Or do they say, “He forged it”? say: “Bring then a Sura like unto it ……. and call (to your aid) anyone you can besides Allah, if it be ye speak the truth!’” (v 37-39) ——- No reason is given as to why none other but God could have composed the Quran. The only proof requested that it was not forged by Muhammad is to bring a chapter like it. Authors naturally think highly of their own works: other people believe that there are writings much superior to the Quran. ——
Sale’s translation of the Quran is known to be fair one but his well-known statement on its literary quality should be remembered: “I must say it is as toilsome reading as I ever undertook. A wearisome confused jumble, crude, incondite; endless iterations, long-mindedness, entanglement, most crude, insupportable stupidity in short.”
An apostle sent to every nation: “To every people a messenger: when their messenger comes the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged” (v 47).
Moses: Moses is represented as an example of a former prophet who, when in Egypt, was accused of sorcery in seeking to get the Egyptians to move away from the ways of their idolatrous forefathers. “Then after them sent We Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh ………. When the truth did come to them from Us, they said: “This is indeed evident sorcery!” Said Moses: “Say ye (this) about the truth when it hath (actually) reached you? Is sorcery (like) this? But sorcerers will not prosper.” They said: “Hast thou come to us to turn us away from the ways we found our fathers following, in order that thou and thy brother may have greatness in the land? But not we shall believe in you!” (v 75-78) —— The Bible does not say that Moses and Aaron were sent to the Egyptians to achieve their conversion to the true faith.
Pharaoh’s body raised from the sea: “We took the Children of Israel across the sea: Pharaoh and his hosts followed them ……. At length, when overwhelmed with the flood, he said: “I believe that there is no god except Him whom the Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit (to Allah in Islam) ” (It was said to him): “Ah now! But a little while before, wast thou in rebellion! and thou didst mischief! “This day shall We save thee in the body, that thou mayest be a sign to those who come after thee!” (v 90-92) —— This legend is of the type seen in the Talmud. Pharaoh when drowning is said to have confessed himself a Muslim, but Gabriel stopped his mouth with mud and reproached him. As some of the Israelites doubted that Pharaoh had really drowned the legend says that Gabriel, by God’s command, caused his body to swim so that they could see it.
Muhammad appeals to the Bible: “If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee:the truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt” (v 94). ——- The full and true account of Moses and his dealings with Pharaoh are seen in the Old Testament. If the scriptures had been corrupted as modern day Muslims suggest, would Muhammad have spoken of them as he did? Would he not rather have warned people about their use? The appeal to corrupted scriptures is thoroughly baseless Muhammad never even entertained the idea. Any imputation of Jews and Christians corrupting the text comes from the Muslim doctors who, finding the Quran differed from the scriptures, sought to escape out of the difficulty by this groundless assumption.
Surah 11 Hud
The Title: The story of Hud is told in suras 7, 11, 26, 46 and 49, some of his details are recorded in the relevant verses in this chapter. This chapter Hud and its sisters (suras 21, 56, 69, 78, 81 or 101) are known as the ‘Terrific Suras.’ It was said to have been written when the opposition was very strong. Tradition relates that one day Abu Bakr noted that Muhammad had black hair and yet his beard had more white hairs than his head. Muhammad gave the reason for his grey beard – ‘Hud and her sisters have hastened my white hair.’ As this Sura is very much a repetition of Sura 7 Al-Araf, quotations will be few.
Muhammad charged with imposture forging the Quran: “Or they may say, He forged it, Say, Bring ye then ten suras forged, like unto it, and call (to your aid) whomsoever ye can, other than Allah! ……………… ” (v 13, 14) ——- It should be noticed that the challenge in this passage and in other similar passages is not to produce a book which shall equal the Quran in points of poetry or rhetoric but rather in the importance of the subject-matter. Muhammad well knew that his references to the divine unity and future retribution were far superior to the conceptions of the deity in the idolatrous Arab literature.
As far as the standard of literature is concerned we may say that the argument is not satisfactory. In almost every country there is a book which is confessedly the best in the language. No other Sanskrit poet equalled Kalidasa; no other Greek poet can be compared with Homer; among English poets Shakespeare is unrivalled. Suppose Shakespeare claimed inspiration for his work, and said to the people in proof of it, ‘Bring ten dramas like unto mine forged by yourselves,’ would this be accepted? A poets own opinion of his writings must be received with caution.
Noah rejected: “But the chiefs of the unbelievers among his people said: “We see (in) thee nothing but a man like ourselves: Nor do we see that any follow thee but the meanest among us, in judgement immature: Nor do we see in you (all) any merit above us: in fact we thing ye are liars!” (v 27) —– Noah is said to be a warner of little consequence and Muhammad believes his activities are very similar. While Muhammad and some of his followers like, Abu Bakr did have connections with influential families, the majority were gathered from the slaves and lower class of Arabs.
A son of Noah refuses to enter the ark: “So the ark floated with them on the waves like mountains, and Noah called out to his son, who had separated himself (from the rest): O my son! embark with us, and be not with the unbelievers! The son replied: I will betake myself to some mountain: it will save me from the water. Noah said: This day nothing can save, from the command of Allah, any but those on whom He hath mercy! And the waves came between them, and the son was among those overwhelmed in the flood” (v 42-43). —- In Genesis 7:13 no son of Noah was drowned in the flood.
Hud rejected: “To the ‘Ad People (We sent) Hud, one of their own brethren. He said: O my people! worship Allah!…………………….” (v 50 -54). ———- According to the Quran the prophet Hud appeared among the ‘Ad tribe which was said to be a powerful ancient tribe situated to the north of Mecca they were zealously pursuing idolatry worshiping four deities. His genealogy is tied to the tribe of ’Ad but he is also identified with ’Abir i.e. Heber – the ancestor of the Hebrews, but this is uncertain. Like every ‘warner’ he is represented as being in the same position as Muhammad in Mecca having only a few followers. The legend describes how the whole tribe of ‘Ad was destroyed with the exception of Hud and his followers.
Salih rejected: “To the Thamud people (We sent) Salih, one of their own brethren. He said: O my people! Worship Allah …… ” (v 161-162) —– Salih was said to be a prophet who went to the Arab people of Thamud. He is depicted in the same warning style as Muhammad, demanding that the tribe should turn to him and pray to Allah alone. Allah sends the tribe a special sign in the form of a she camel. Salih begs them to share their water with it and leave it unharmed but they cause it to become lame and one member of their tribe kills it calling upon Salih to inflict the punishment he had threatened. The punishment is duly inflicted. ——- The Quran teaches that the tribe of Thamud were the successors of the ‘Ad yet both the story of Hud and Salih are in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Quran that no prophet had been sent to the Arabs before him
Shu’aib rejected: “To the Madyan people (We sent) Shu’aib, one of their own brethren: he said: O my people! worship Allah ……. We saved Shu’aib and those who believed with him, by mercy from Ourselves: But the blast did seize the wrong-doers, and they lay prostrate in their homes by the morning, ” (v 85-88, 91, 94) ——- According to Sura 26:176-189 Shu’aib was sent to the people of Al-Aikah and the people of Madyan are considered to be his brothers. The same basic recitation occurs in the story of Shu’aib as in the other Arab prophets and the Arab Muhammad identifies his circumstances with these former Arabs. —- Shu’aib preaches monotheism, encourages honesty in weights and measures, and warns the tribe against those who oppose those walking in the ways of Allah. He and his followers are threatened with expulsion and if it was not for his family he would have been stoned. The tribe are destroyed by an earthquake.
Moses Rejected: “And we sent Moses, with Our clear (signs) and an authority manifest, unto Pharaoh and his chiefs: but they followed the command of Pharaoh and the command of Pharaoh was not right…… ” (v 96-98)
Quarraish warned to respond to the Messengers of Allah: “All that we relate to thee of the stories of the messengers, with it We make firm thy heart: in them there cometh to thee the truth, as well as an exhortation and a message of remembrance to those who believe” (v 120). —— If the Qurraish rejected Muhammad, they would likewise perish as those who did not believe in the former prophets or the Arabian prophets.
Sura 12 Yusuf (Joseph) (Mecca)
Joseph: This chapter differs from all the other chapters of the Quran in that it has only one subject, the history of Joseph. It is here stated that Muhammad was unacquainted with this story before it was revealed by God but the order of events is incorrect and there are additions and changes, yet Muhammad professed that everything had been revealed to him: “Such is one of the stories of what happened unseen, which We reveal by inspiration unto thee ” (v 102). Apart from this sura Joseph is mentioned only twice in the Quran, namely Al-Anam 6:84 and Ghafir 40:34.
Additions to the biblical story: (some may have been based on the Talmud). 1. Joseph is warned by Jacob not to tell his dream to his brothers. 2. The brothers ask their father to confine Joseph into their care. 3. The brothers lie, saying that they had gone off to run a race and left Joseph near the baggage. In their absence a wolf had torn him to pieces. 4. Jacob is blinded by his weeping. 5. The Egyptian who buys Joseph proposes to his wife that they should adopt him. 6. The shirt of Joseph is torn from behind proving his innocence. 7. When Joseph enters a banquet ladies are dazzled by the beauty of Joseph. 8. Joseph interprets Pharaohs dreams while he is still in prison. 9. Joseph makes himself known to his brothers and sends his father a shirt, which is to restore his eyesight. 10. Jacob’s sons ask for forgiveness and he prays to Allah for them.
Omissions from the biblical story: 1. There is no description of the character of Joseph. 2. There is no mention of the sheaves which bow down to Joseph. 3. No one is named apart from Joseph, Jacob, not even the brothers. ‘Aziz (Potipher) is said to be his rank not his proper name. 4. The number of his brothers is not mentioned.
Jacob tells Joseph not to make known his dreams: “Behold! Joseph said to his father: O my father! I did see eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves to me! Said (the father): My little son! relate not thy vision to thy brothers, lest they concoct a plot against thee: for Satan is to man an avowed enemy!” (v 4, 5) —— The Bible says that Joseph related his dreams to his brothers and father. Genesis 37: 5, 10.
Joseph’s brothers ask that Joseph be placed in their care: “They said: O our father! why dost thou not trust us with Joseph …. Send him with us tomorrow to enjoy himself and play, and we shall take every care of him. (Jacob) said …. I fear lest the wolf should devour him while ye attend not to him. They said: If the wolf were to devour him while we are (so large) a party, then should we indeed have perished ourselves!” (v 11-14). ——- The Bible says that Jacob sent Joseph of his own freewill, and that he sent him not with his brothers but in search of them, so that he could have news of his sons and the flocks. Genesis 37:12 -14.
Joseph is put in a well, but it is reported that he has been killed by a wolf: “So they did take him away, and they all agreed to throw him down to the bottom of the well …… Then they came to their father in the early part of the night, weeping. They said: O our father! We went racing with one another, and left Joseph with our things; and the wolf devoured him…. They stained his shirt with false blood. ………” (v 15-18). ——- The Bible says nothing about running races. The brothers sent Joseph’s coat dipped in blood to their father, simply saying, that they had found it, and asking whether it was Joseph’s coat. Genesis 37:32, 33.
Joseph said to have been found by travellers: “Then there came a caravan of travellers: they sent their water-carrier (for water), and he let down his bucket. He said: Ah there! Good news! Here is a young man! So they concealed him as a treasure! But Allah knoweth well all that they do! The (brethren) sold him for a miserable price, for a few dirhams counted out: in such low estimation did they hold him!” (v 19, 20) —— Muslims say that when the travellers let down a bucket to draw water, Joseph seized it, and was drawn up. The Bible says that the brothers took Joseph out of the well and sold him, and that the well was dry. Genesis 37:23, 24, 28.
Jacob’s sight restored by Joseph’s inner garment: “Go with this my shirt, and cast it over the face of my father: he will come to see (clearly). Then come ye to me together with all your family. When the caravan left (Egypt), their father said: I do indeed scent the presence of Joseph: Nay, think me not a dotard. They said: By Allah! truly thou art in thine old wandering mind. Then when the bearer of the good news came, He cast (the shirt) over his face, and he forthwith regained clear sight” (v 93-96). —- The Muslim legend is that, the inner garment was given by Gabriel to Joseph, when in the well. It retained the smell of heaven, and could be perceived at a long distance.
Old Testament stories confirmed: “There is, in their stories, instruction for men endued with understanding. It is not a tale invented, but a confirmation of what went before it, a detailed exposition of all things, and a guide and a mercy to any such as believe” (v 111). ——— The Quran professes to confirm the scriptures previously revealed; but it often does the opposite. The Qurraish were unconvinced by these ‘revelations’ and insisted that someone had taught him. It is clear that Muhammad had Jewish acquaintances from whom he gathered materials and afterwards worked them into the form which they now appear in the Quran.
Sura 13 Ar-Ra’d (The Thunder) (Mecca)
The Title: The title is taken from verse 13: “Nay, thunder repeateth His praises, and so do the angels, with awe: He flingeth the loud-voiced thunder-bolts, and therewith He striketh whomsoever He will …….. !” —————- The traditions and commentators generally say that this verse refers to Amir and Arbad ben Qais, who conspired against Muhammad and were struck down by lightning. ————– Some suggest that this is a composite sura which contains the last sura delivered at Mecca and deals with the Qurraish and Muhammad’s last words with them there. It has been well called the ‘Chapter of Apologies’ as it gives the reasons why Muhammad was not able to perform the miracles the unbelievers demanded (v 7). After thirteen long years he leaves Mecca warning and threatening those who rejected his claims with eternal fire and everlasting punishment (v 5).
Recording angels are always present: “For each there are (angels) in succession, before and behind him: They guard him by command of Allah” (v 11). ———————— Muslims believe that two guardian angels attend on every man and write down his actions. They are called Mua’qqibat, i.e. those who succeed one another.’ They are also called Kiraman Katibin or ‘Illustrious recorders’ c/f Al-Intifar 82:10-11 and Bukhari Volume 8, Book 76, Number 498.
Prophets may have wives and children: “We did send messengers before thee, and appointed for them wives and children……” (v 38). —————- This passage was revealed in answer to objections which were thrown against Muhammad because of the great number of wives he kept.
The covenant of Allah: “Those who fulfil the covenant of Allah and fail not in their plighted word …………… for such there is the final attainment of the (eternal) home, gardens of perpetual bliss ………….. “But those who break the Covenant of Allah, after having plighted their word thereto, and cut asunder those things which Allah has commanded to be joined, and work mischief in the land; on them is the curse; for them is the terrible home!” (v 20-25)
Jewish and Christian converts to Islam: “Those to whom we have given the Book rejoice at what hath been revealed unto thee: but there are among the clans those who reject a part thereof…………..” (v 36) ———————- In the late Meccan suras the Jews must have been highly gratified at the strong leaning towards, and respect for, their scriptures and their histories that Muhammad expressed. Baidawi (Vol 1 p. 483) is more definite by saying that this passage refers to the Jews and Christians who became Muslims. There were said to be eighty in all of whom forty were from the Najran, eight from Yemen and thirty-two from Abyssinia.
The Quran claims to be mother of the book: “Allah doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the Mother of the Book” (v 39). ——————— Muslims believe that God gave written revelation not only to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, but also to several other prophets although these are now lost.
Islam gains territory on the Hijaz: “See they not that We gradually reduce the land (in their control) from its outlying borders?” (v 41) —————– This verse seems to be referring to the encroachments of the Muslims over the territories of the pagan Arabs while they were in Medina.
Sura 14 Ibrahim (Abraham) (Mecca)
The Title: The title takes its name from the prayer of Abraham “Remember Abraham said: O my Lord! Make this city one of peace and security: and preserve me and my sons from worshipping idols…………… I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular prayer ……….. Praise be to Allah, Who hath granted unto me in old age Isma’il and Isaac: for truly my Lord is He, the hearer of prayer! O my Lord! make me one who establishes regular prayer, and also (raise such) among my offspring O our Lord! and accept Thou my prayer.” (v 35-40)
Abraham in Islam: a) Abraham is one of the six great prophets and to him was given twenty portions of scripture. ‘The Books of Abraham and Moses’ (Al-A’la 87:19).
b) According to the Quran the biblical Abraham was the son of Azar, some believe this is a confusion made in the Quran linking him to Eleazer, Abraham’s servant (Al-An’am 6:74)
c) Abraham’s monotheism: Abraham’s mother Usha, had to take refuge in a cave for fear of Nimrod. When still a child, Abraham came out of the cave and had the experience found in Al-An‘am 6:75-79 where he concludes “never shall I give partners to Allah.”He became zealous for monotheism and became a strong opponent of idolatry – Al-Anbiya 21:58-67, c/f sura 37:83 ff; 6:75 ff; 11:69 ff; 21:51 ff; 29:16 f.
d) Nimrod, Abraham’s greatest opponent: The name Nimrod does not occur in the Quran but his name is mentioned frequently in the Traditions. 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 the chief opponent of Abraham and known as the one ‘who disputed with Abraham’ (Al-Baqarrah 2:258). The whole story of Nimrod’s opposition to Abraham is based on rabbinical literature and legend. The opposition was so strong that it led to warfare. On one occasion Abraham was thrown into a fiery-limekiln but left unharmed after three or seven days. The story of Nimrod is scattered over many passages in the Quran. Muslim commentators say that Nimrod was the son of Canaan while the Bible states that he was the son of Cush (Genesis 10:8). Genesis 10:9 show that Nimrod was a prominent person in Babel but he lived one or two centuries before Abraham.
e) The friend of God: Abraham, after completely defeating Nimrod is now called ‘the friend of God’ (Khalil Allah) and after his adventures in Sodom and Gomorrah he sets off to Palestine.
f) Abraham is an imam to the nations: (Al-Baqarrah 2:124). In the Quran the term ‘imam’ can mean: sign, indication, model, pattern, leader.
g) Abraham raised the foundations of the Ka’aba with Ishmael. (Al-Baqarrah 2:124-127)
h) Abraham bequeaths Islam to his posterity: “Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to Thy (will), and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Thy (will)” (Al-Baqarrah 2:128) Abraham’s religion is therefore to be followed: “Follow the ways of Abraham the true in faith, and he joined not gods with Allah.” (An-Nahl 16:123 c/f (Al-Imran 3:95,96).
i) Abraham was neither a Jew or a Christian: “Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; but he was true in faith, and bowed his will to Allah’s (which is Islam), and he joined not gods with Allah” (Al-Imran 3:67).
j) Abraham taught the resurrection: “When Abraham said: Show me, Lord, how You will raise the dead“ (Al-Baqarrah 2:260) — This rendition seems to be Muhammad’s own rendering of Genesis 15.
k) Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son (As-Saffat 37:100-102). The Quran confirms the biblical account of the sacrifice and summarises the two events of the good tidings of the birth of the son and the vision to sacrifice the same son (As-Saffat 37:112-113). Ishmael is not mentioned in this discourse associated with Abraham’s sacrifice while Isaac is twice mentioned by name.
Purpose of the Quran: “A Book which We have revealed unto thee, in order that thou mightest lead mankind out of the depths of darkness into light by the leave of their Lord” (v 1)
Messengers use the language of their people: “We sent not a messenger except in the language of his (own) people, in order to make (things) clear to them.” (v 4) —– On the evidence of this verse the principle is that the Quran should be translated in order to make its teaching clear and understandable.
Former messengers rejected: The idolaters continue to be warned by examples of similar tribes who rejected the former prophets which had been sent to them. “Has not the story reached you, of those who (went) before you? of the people of Noah, and ‘Ad, and Thamud? ……………….. Ye wish to turn us away from the (gods) our fathers used to worship: then bring us some clear authority” (v 9, 10).
Muhammad confident of ultimate success: “And the unbelievers said to their messengers: “Be sure we shall drive you out of our land, or ye shall return to our religion.” …………………………… “And verily We shall cause you to abide in the land, and succeed them…………. ” (v 13, 14) ——- Though Muhammad after thirteen years of constant work was faced with banishment from Mecca he was confident that the situation in Medina was suitable for the development and expansion of Islam.
The punishment of an unbeliever: The punishment is not only temporal for there is a severe torture in the hereafter awaiting those who continue in unbelief. “In front of such a one is hell, and he is given, for drink, boiling fetid water. In gulps will he sip it, but never will he be near swallowing it down his throat: death will come to him from every quarter, yet will he not die: and in front of him will be a chastisement unrelenting” (v 16, 17). Satan will desert idolaters in hell: “And Satan will say when the matter is decided: It was Allah who gave you a promise of truth: I too promised, but I failed in my promise to you. I had no authority over you except to call you but ye listened to me: then reproach not me, but reproach your own souls….. ” (v 22). —— Satan will tell the unbelievers not to lay the blame on his temptations, but on their own foolishness in listening to him. He had no power to compel them to sin.
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