94 Sura Al-Inshirah (Have We Not Opened)
The Theme: As with the preceding chapter (Ad-Dhuha) this sura is very personal for Muhammad. It is generally placed in the first period of Muhammad’s life at the time when he was conceiving the idea of a divine mission. Here, his heart is said to be opened so that he can begin to understand the ‘revelation’ that he will later receive “Have We not expanded thee thy breast? “(v 1) Some think that the opening of his heart occurred in infancy while others connect it to his journey to heaven, when his heart was washed with zamzam water, as reported in Bukhari Volume 1, Book 8, Number 345, still others more sensibly think his heart was expanded in order to begin to receive the ‘truth’.
Allah removed Muhammad’s burden: “And removed from thee thy burden the which did gall thy back?” (v 2-3) If the burden was sin, Muslims only believe the sins removed where those committed before he began his mission. Others say it was the burden of ignorance or a sense of uneasiness he was experiencing..
Allah raised the reputation of Muhammad and relieved his hardship: “And raised high the esteem (in which) thou (art held)? So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief: Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.” (v 4-6).
Surah 95 At-Tin The Fig
The Oath: “By the fig and the olive, And the Mount of Sinai, And this city of security (Mecca)” (v 1-3)
—— An appeal is made by swearing on oath to familiar and honoured places which were dear to the Meccan Arabs. The commentators Ibn ‘Abbas and Hussain say that the fig and the olive stand for two hills near Mecca or for the mosques of Mecca and Damascus while Baidawi and Zamakhshari suggest that they are representative qualities of what is nourishing and wholesome. The Ahmadiyyan Maulvi Muhammad Ali proposed that the fig represented Judaism, which has passed away, because Christ said to the barren fig tree (Matthew 21:19) ‘Let no fruit grow on thee, henceforward and forever.’ The olive stands for Islam, for as the olive produces oil for light so Islam is the light of the nations (Rev. Canon Sell).
Degradation of man: Mankind was created from the most excellent fabric but became the vilest of the vile: “We have indeed created man in the best of moulds, Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low” (v 4, 5). The exception to this is the believers: “Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.”
Judgement day is coming: “Then what can, after this, contradict thee, as to the judgement (to come)? (v 6-8)
96 Sura Al-Alaq (The Clot) Mecca
The Theme and Title: “Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood” (v.1-2). The first five verses of this chapter are generally regarded as the first in the chronology of the Quran when Gabriel, in a vision, summoned Muhammad to the prophetic office. The tradition is that Gabriel commanded Muhammad to read, to which he replied ’I cannot read and is found in Bukhari Book 1, Number 301. All men are said to be made from congealed or thick blood except Adam, Eve and Jesus.
Muhammad’s illiteracy: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful, He Who taught (the use of) the pen, Taught man that which he knew not” (v 3-5). Al Beidawi states that Muhammad being completely illiterate was assured that God would remedy this defect in a similar way as to how God had instructed men with the pen.
Muhammad’s foe Abu Jahl: This surah is a good example of the composite nature of the suras in the Quran for the rest of the chapter is said to denounce Muhammad’s opponent, Abu Jahl, but this situation only developed much later in Muhammad’s career. “A votary when he (turns) to pray? Seest thou if he is on (the road of) guidance? Or enjoins righteousness? Seest thou if he denies (truth) and turns away? Knoweth he not that Allah doth see? Let him beware! If he desist not, We will drag him by the forelock, A lying, sinful forelock! Then, let him call (for help) to his council (of comrades): We will call on the angels of punishment (to deal with him)!”(9-19) —– ‘Amr ibn Hisham, was called Abu Jahl (“Father of Folly”) by the Muslims. He is presented in the Quran as one of the most embittered opponents amongst the aristocracy in Mecca. He is said to have abused Muhammad verbally and to have been proud and boastful. He was killed at the battle of Bedr and when Muhammad saw his corpse he is said to have called him “the Pharaoh of his people.”This picture is naturally drawn from the one sided traditions but in the mourning songs of the Meccans for him he is called “the Meccan chief, the noble-minded man never vulgar nor greedy.”
97 Sura Al-Qadr (The Night of Decree/Power) – Mecca but disputed
Title: “We have indeed revealed this (message) in the Night of Power” (v 1) Muslims believe that the very words now found between the two covers of the Quran ‘revealed’ in time to Muhammad, have existed and been decreed from eternity; or, more emphatically, that they are the very words of Allah Himself, albeit in Arabic. Not the ideas alone but the words themselves, their spelling and grammar, are all Allah’s alone. The whole collection of these writings was brought down from its place near Allah’s throne, on lailatu’l qadr, the night of power in the month of Ramadan, to the lowest heaven. There it was stored up until Gabriel began to recite it “piecemeal”, as occasion required, to Muhammad.“We have indeed revealed this (message) in the Night of Power” (v 1). Muslims usually spend the night in fasting and prayer.
The Muslim theologians are not agreed exactly where to fix this night; the majority opinion is that it is on one of the odd last ten nights of the month of Ramadan. The traditions encourage believers to search diligently for this auspicious night. The text states that to worship on the Night of Power is better than worshipping Allah for a thousand months i.e. eighty-three years and four months: “The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.” (v 3).
The Night of Decrees: Muslims believe that on this night, annually, the decrees for the coming year are fixed and acted upon. The matters of death, births, provision, calamities etc are taken from the preserved table by Allah’s throne and given to the angels to be executed: “Therein come down the angels and the Spirit (Gabriel) by Allah’s permission, on every errand” (v 4)
98 Sura Al-Bayyinah (The Clear Evidence) Mecca but disputed
The Title: Christians, Jews and idolaters are accused of rejecting ‘the clear evidence’ —– “Those who reject (truth), among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, were not going to depart (from their ways) until there should come to them clear evidence, A messenger from Allah, rehearsing scriptures kept pure and holy: Wherein are laws (or decrees) right and straight. Nor did the People of the Book make schisms, until after there came to them clear evidence. And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the religion right and straight” (v 1-5) ———— The Muslim belief here seems to be that the ‘People of the Book’, as well as the idolaters expected a prophet to come and until that day arrived they would remain in their own religion. However, when the day arrived they were divided over the claims of Muhammad, some believing he was the foretold prophet others denying it. The religious system of those who rejected Muhammad’s claims was said to be have become totally corrupted and as they wandered away from the ‘religion right and straight’ they became ‘the worst of creatures’.
The worst of creatures: these are the People of the Book and Polytheists — “Those who reject (truth), among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, will be in hell-fire, to dwell therein. They are the worst of creatures” (v 1-6). ——- Muslim Book 1, Number 284 relates …. “he who amongst the community of Jews or Christians hears about me (Muhammad), but does not affirm his belief in that with which I have been sent and dies in this state (of disbelief), he shall be but one of the denizens of Hell-Fire.”
The best of creatures: these are the Muslims: “Those who have faith and do righteous deeds, they are the best of creatures. Their reward is with Allah: Gardens of eternity, beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein for ever ………………” (v 7, 8).
The Title: The Earthquake – “When the earth is shaken to her (utmost) convulsion” (v 1) “And the earth throws up her burdens (from within), And earth yieldeth up her burdens,” (v 2) —— On the sound of the trumpet the earth will be shaken violently giving up her treasures and dead bodies. “And man cries (distressed): ‘What is the matter with her?’ On that day will she declare her tidings: ………….. On that day will men proceed in companies sorted out, to be shown the deeds that they (had done). Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil, shall see it.” (v 1-8) ——————- The despairing creatures on earth will cry out to the earth and she will reply. God will then bring men arranged in distinct classes to judgement and they will be judged according to their deeds.
100 Sura Al-‘Adiyat (The War Horses That Run Swiftly)
An Oath on war horses: “By the (steeds) that run, with panting (breath), And strike sparks of fire, And push home the charge in the morning, And raise the dust in clouds the while, And penetrate forthwith into the midst (of the foe) en-masse.” (v 1-5) Here we have an oath by war horses, some say camels, which run swiftly into battle and pass through the oppositions defences.
Unbelievers are ungrateful and will be punished: “Truly man is, to his Lord, ungrateful; And to that (fact) he bears witness (by his deeds); And violent is he in his love of wealth. Does he not know, when that which is in the graves is scattered abroad And that which is (locked up) in (human) breasts is made manifest That their Lord had been well-acquainted with them, (even to) that day?” (6-11)
101 Sura Al-Qariy’ah (The Calamity) Mecca
The terror of the Last Day: These eleven verses speak about the calamity of the Last Day when terror strikes terror into the hearts of men and nature experiences an an upheaval “The (day) of noise and clamour: What is the (day) of noise and clamour? And what will explain to thee what the (day) of noise and clamour is? (It is) a day whereon men will be like moths scattered about, and the mountains will be like carded wool.” (v 1-5)
The Balance: It will be the day when men shall be weighed in the balance to determine their eternal destination “Then, he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) heavy, will be in a life of good pleasure and satisfaction. But he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) light, Will have his home in a (bottomless) pit. And what will explain to thee what this is? (It is) a fire blazing fiercely!”(v 6-11) ————— The balance is not a new concept with Islam for it is mentioned in the fictitious book ‘Testament of Abraham’ which was written in Egypt 400 years before Muhammad’s flight to Medina. Muhammad may have heard about the balance from his Coptic wife, Mary. It is also more famously known in the Egyptian work ’The Book of the Dead.’ In Islam all deeds and words will be weighed in a balance scale one balance being over paradise and the other over hell c/f Al-Anbiya 21:47 & Ash-Shura 42:17.
102 Sura At-Takathur (The Piling Up)
Unbelievers should be warned about piling up worldly wealth: In these eight verses we read that it was the desire to multiply in wealth and children that consumed the Qurraish but they are warned not to waste their lives in such activity but rather face the reality of the Judgement Day. “The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you, Until ye visit the graves But nay, ye soon shall know (the reality). Again, ye soon shall know! Nay, were ye to know with certainty of mind, Ye shall certainly see hell-fire! Again, ye shall see it with certainty of sight! Then, shall ye be questioned that day about the joy (ye indulged in!)” (v 1-8)
103 Sura Al-‘Asr (The Declining Day)
This sura has only three verses. Some call the title of this sura ‘afternoon’ connecting it with the time when the sun declines and the time of one of the appointed times of prayer. Muhammad is said to have recited this sura in the mosque at Mecca just before he died.
Theme: apart from those things done for Allah everything has no value: “Verily man is in loss, Except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy.”
104 Sura Al-Humazah (The Slanderer) Mecca
The Slanderer: This sura is directed against one or more Quarraish rich men. Baidawi, (volume 2 page 415) names Akhas ibn Sharif as one of the men who used to slander Muhammad and others. They are said to live their whole life in acquiring wealth and seemed to consider themselves immortal. “Woe to every scandal-monger and-backbiter, Who pileth up wealth and layeth it by, thinking that his wealth would make him last for ever! By no means! He will be sure to be thrown into that which breaks to pieces, And what will explain to thee that which breaks to pieces? (It is) the fire of (the wrath of) Allah kindled, The which doth mount to the hearts It shall be made into a vault over them, in columns outstretched.” (v 1-9)
105 Sura Al-Fil (The Elephant) Mecca
Theme: The importance of the Ka’aba in Islam: The Ka’aba was very important to Muhammad and the Qurraish. It is likely that this sura was meant to encourage both Muhammad and the Meccans to remind them that Allah, the Lord of the Ka’aba, delivered it from the forces of Abraha, the Christian king of Abyssinia who came against it riding on an elephant. Muslim Tradition has made extravagant and puerile legends from this event claiming that Abraha’s army was destroyed by a flocks of birds with each bird throwing down three stones on the enemy. It is said that on each stone was the name of the man to be killed by it.
Allah destroys the plans of His enemies: “Seest thou not how thy Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant. Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray? And He sent against them flights of birds, Striking them with stones of baked clay. Then did He make them like an empty field of stalks and straw, (of which the corn) has been eaten up.” (v 1-5) Muslim Tradition has made extravagant and puerile legends from this event claiming that Abraha’s army was destroyed by a flocks of birds with each bird throwing down three stones on the enemy. It is said that on each stone was the name of the man to be killed by it.
106 Sura Qurraish (The Quarraish) Mecca
The Qurraish: “For the covenants (of security and safeguard enjoyed) by the Qurraish, Their covenants (covering) journeys by winter and summer, Let them adore the Lord of this House, Who provides them with food against hunger, and with security against fear (of danger).” (v 1-4) —- This sura, of four verses, recounts the privileges of the Qurraish. The Lord of the Ka’aba had delivered the tribe from the attack on its territory by Abraha. This, along with the two annual mercantile caravan trips, one in winter to Yemen, the other in summer to Syria, had united the tribe and made it secure. ——– The Arabs were split up into various tribes often in conflict with one another. At Mecca, the Qurraish tribe was dominant and they claimed common descent from one ancestor. The origins of the Qurraish were humble and little is known of them. At first they led their lives in the wild mountains around the sacred territory of Mecca until one of their number took Mecca by force. Ten main clans have been identified, among them, Hashim, to which Muhammad had been born, and Ummaya, from which many of his fiercest enemies arose.
Sura 107 Al- Ma’un (The Small Kindnesses)
Theme: The expected duty required of Muslims for the care of the less fortunate: In these seven verses one particular person is here intended who as well as denying a judgement day acted in a most uncharitable way to orphans and neglected to perform the Islamic prayers
“Seest thou one who denies the judgement (to come)? Then such is the (man) who repulses the orphan (with harshness), And encourages not the feeding of the indigent So woe to the worshippers who are neglectful of their prayers, Those who (want but) to be seen (of men), But refuse (to supply) (even) neighbourly needs.” (v 1-7) —— The Traditions also support the Quran in this matter for example Bukhari Volume 8, Book 73, Number 34, 35)
Sura 108 Al Kauthar (A River in Paradise) Mecca but disputed
Theme: Three topics are addressed in the three verses of this sura: 1.The river al-Kauthar. 2.The slaying of the sacrificial animals on the pilgrimage at the valley of Mina. 3. The consequences of hating Muhammad.
Al-Kauthar, the river in Paradise: “To thee have We granted the fount (Al-Kauthar)” (v 1) Kauthar, means abundance and Muhammad explained the term as referring to a river in Paradise. Springs are said to flow through Paradise (Muhammad 47:15) “In it (the garden) are rivers of water incorruptible; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear.” Tradition also speaks of this river in Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 488.
The sacrifices at Mina: “Therefore to thy Lord turn in prayer and sacrifice.” (v 2) It is obligatory to make the sacrifice in Mina however, these days it is not possible for all the pilgrims to do so therefore, it can be made in Wadi Muhassar or if not here, then any part of the holy territory of Mecca. The sacrificial animal must be a camel, cow or a sheep with certain characteristics. The pilgrim is allowed to appoint someone else as an agent to do the sacrifice on his behalf. It is permissible to take the meat of the sacrificial animals out of Mina since there are no poor and needy people in Mina. ————— Sacrifice in Islam has no atoning value: “It, the flesh of the sacrifice, does not reach Allah, nor its blood, but the piety that is the sincerity and intentions of your heart” (Tafsir al-Baizawi, volume 2 page 52).
The consequences of showing hatred towards Muhammad: “For he who hateth thee, he will be cut off.” (v 3). This verse is said to have been expressed against a certain individual who rejoiced when Muhammad’s son Al-Qasim died. His punishment would be that he would have no children or posterity.
Sura 109 Al-Kafirun (The Unbelievers) Mecca
Theme: The Muslim commentators say that the occasion of this sura of six verses was when some Meccan leaders, Abu Jahl, ‘As, Walid and others proposed a compromise with Muhammad that he would worship their gods for a year and then they would worship his for the same period. Muhammad did not accept the compromise and in this sura distinctly rejects idolatry.
Islam does not compromise with idolatry: Muhammad did not accept the compromise “Say: O ye that reject faith! I worship not that which ye worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your way, and to me mine.” (v 1-6)
110 Sura An-Nasr (Succour) Medina
Introduction: Although the southern portion of the Roman Empire had been invaded and the Muslims were soundly beaten at the battle of Muta, Muhammad realised the attack had been somewhat premature. Before entering on further conquests abroad he felt his position in Arabia had to be strengthened. Here, with the encouragement of these verses he consolidated his position before seeing ‘men entering the religion of God by troops’ (v 1) With a united national Arab concept and the possibility of the taking of Mecca likely, Islam could go from strength to strength.
Celebrate the praises of thy Lord, and pray for His forgiveness: (v 2) ——– Once again Muhammad needs to pray for forgiveness. Muslim commentators try to evade the plain and direct references to Muhammad’s sin by saying that the Arabic word used for Muhammad’s failure is the term thanib. This term when used of the sins of others ( e.g. At-Tauba 9:103) is translated variously as wrong-doings or faults. Tradition clearly represents Muhammad as seeking pardon as for example Mishkatul-Musbih 10, chapter 3 ‘Verily I ask pardon of God and turn from sin towards Him more than seventy times daily.’ ‘I ask pardon of God one hundred times daily.’ If Muslims must confess that even Muhammad was a sinner, how much more must they allow that all other men are sinners.
111 Sura Al-Masad (Palm Fibre) Mecca
Theme: Here we meet ‘Abd al-’Uzza, who is known to the Muslims as Abu Lahab, ‘Father of Flame’, i.e. man of hell. Along with his wife they were staunch opponents of Muhammad. The sura is said to have been revealed when Muhammad called the Qurraish chiefs together for a meeting on the hill Safa. Here, he addressed his relatives in the following terms, ‘If I announced to you an approaching enemy would you not believe me? ‘Yes’, they answered. ‘Well’, he said, I caution you against a great punishment!’ At this, Abu Lahab approached Muhammad and said ‘Mayest thou perish! Hast thou called us together for this?’ This sura then is the heavenly response. Apart from Abu Lahab, Zaid is the only relative or friend mentioned in the Quran.
The punishment of Muhammad’s opponent Abu Lahab: “Perish the hands of the Father of Flame! Perish he! No profit to him from all his wealth, and all his gains! Burnt soon will he be in a fire of blazing flame!” (v. 1-3) Abu Lahab is depicted as a wealthy, large corpulent man who quickly became angry. His son, ‘Utba, had married one of Muhammad’s daughters before Islam was preached, but when Muhammad announced that he was a prophet, he divorced her. Abu Lahab resolutely opposed Muhammad but was prevented from going to the battlefield at Badr. On hearing of the defeat at Badr he fell into such a rage that he behaved violently towards the news-bearer and his wife. According to Ibn Hisham, seven days later he died of smallpox. His sons feared to touch the corpse and it was left to putrefy but was eventually buried in an undignified way. The background of this sura is found in the hadith of Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 495.
The punishment of Abu Lahab’s wife: “His wife shall carry the (crackling) wood As fuel! A twisted rope of palm-leaf fibre round her (own) neck!” (v 4, 5). Abu Lahab’s wife was Umm Jamil and she was the daughter of Harb and the sister of Abu Sufyan, the prominent leader in Mecca until A.H.8. She had joined her husband in opposition to Muhammad. Al-Beidawi and Jallalo’ddin state that she carried a bundle of thorns and brambles and threw them by night in the prophet’s way. In this chapter her punishment is carrying wood for fuel in hell, however, one Muslim writer believes that ‘carries the wood’ means that she used to slander the prophet.
112 Sura Al-Ikhlas (The Declaration of God’s Unity)
These four verses which form this chapter are highly venerated by Muslim people (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 93, Number 472), and declared by tradition to be equal in value to a third of the whole Quran (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 93, Number 471). The Meccans did not give pre-eminent worship to Allah for they believed that Allah physically begat angels (As-Saffat 37:152), through whom they sought intercession. They ask Muhammad what were the distinguishing attributes of Allah and he invited them to follow this revelation which he said he had received: “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only Allah, the Eternal, Absolute He begetteth not, nor is He begotten And there is none like unto Him.”
113 Sura Al-Falaq (The Daybreak) Mecca
Theme: The traditional setting for these verses is found in Bukhari Volume 4, Book 54, Number 490. Muhammad had a dream in which he was told that he had been bewitched by a Jew named Lobeid, who had been assisted by his daughters. It seems that they had got hold of his comb, taken the hair from it, and then tied them onto a cord and thrown it in a well. When suras 113 and 114 were said to be revealed the angel Gabriel told Muhammad where the cord was hidden. Ali fetched the cord, and the Prophet repeated over it these two suras. At every verse a knot was loosed and when the last verse was reached he was entirely freed for the charm. Islam recognizes the activity of Satan and the connection with knots is also found in Tradition c/f Bukhari volume 4, book 54, number 491.
Allah is the creator of good and evil: “Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn From the mischief of created things; From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads.” (v 1-3)
Islam recognizes occult activity and the power of magic: “From the mischief of those who practise secret arts; And from the mischief of the envious one as he practises envy.” Muhammad looked at many things created by God with fear. He was afraid of the night. He was afraid of sorcerers and women who tried to have influence on others by making knots and blowing on them. Muhammad felt the power of evil spirits in one who had become envious.
Islam recognizes the activity of Satan: The connection with knots is also found in Bukhari volume 4, book 54, number 491.
114 Sura An-Nas (Mankind) Mecca
“Say: I seek refuge with the Lord and cherisher of mankind, The King of mankind, The God of mankind, From the mischief of the whisperer, who withdraws (after his whisper), (The same) who whispers into the hearts of mankind, Among Jinns and among men.” This chapter was revealed on the same occasion as sura 113. ‘Aisha relates that Muhammad used to recite these two suras regularly in what appears an occultish manner.
Muhammad experienced three sources of fear: man, Satan and demons and he sought to find refuge in Allah from each of these created beings. Muhammad acknowledged demons and spirits and sought refuge from Satan who whispered into his innermost being. It is with such words that the Quran finishes! Here it ends. Not a word of comfort, but with a cry for refuge.