The Title: The name of this chapter is derived from the story of the ants: The alleged supernatural book of the Quran records Jewish fables as facts. This embellished story of Solomon and the conversion of the Queen of Sheba to Islam is the chief new feature of this chapter. “And before Solomon were marshalled his hosts of Jinns and men and birds, and they were all kept in order and ranks. At length, when they came to a valley of ants, one of the ants said: O ye ants, get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you without knowing it. So he smiled, amused at her speech ………..” (v 17-19)
Moses at the burning bush: “Behold! Moses said to his family: I perceive a fire; soon will I bring you from there some information, or I will bring you a burning brand to light our fuel, that ye may warm yourselves. But when he came to the (fire), a voice was heard: Blessed are those in the fire and those around: and glory to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. O Moses! verily, I am Allah, the exalted in might, the wise……. ” ( v 7-11). ——- This appears to be another story relating to the burning bush with differences from the accounts in chapter 20 verses 9-13 and 28:29-33 and the biblical account of Exodus 3:1-6.
The knowledge of David and Solomon: “We gave knowledge to David and Solomon: And they both said: Praise be to Allah, Who has favoured us above many of his servants who believe! And Solomon was David’s heir. He said: O ye people! We have been taught the speech of birds, and on us has been bestowed (a little) of all things: this is indeed grace manifest (from Allah)” (v 15, 16).
The Queen of Sheba and the Hoopoe Bird: “And he took a muster of the birds; and he said: Why is it I see not the Hoopoe? Or is he among the absentees? I will certainly punish him with a severe penalty, or execute him, unless he bring me a clear reason (for absence). But the Hoopoe tarried not far: he (came up and) said: I have compassed (territory) which thou hast not compassed, and I have come to thee from Saba with tidings true” (v 20-22).
The Queen of Sheba and the magnificent throne: “I found a woman ruling over them and provided with every requisite; and she has a magnificent throne ……… “He (Solomon) said Ye chiefs! which of you can bring me her throne before they come to me in submission? Said an ‘Ifrit, of the Jinns: I will bring it to thee before thou rise from thy council: indeed I have full strength for the purpose, and may be trusted. Said one who had knowledge of the Book: I will bring it to thee within the twinkling of an eye! Then when (Solomon) saw it placed firmly before him, he said: This is by the grace of my Lord! to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful!” (v 23-40) ——- In the second targum of the Book of Esther, the throne is said to have been unequalled and belonged to Solomon. The Quran tells us that it was carried about by genii where the targum gives this responsibility to twenty-four eagles.
The Queen of Sheba invited to submit to Islam: “I ( the Hoopoe) found her and her people worshipping the sun besides Allah …….. (Solomon) said: Soon shall we see whether thou hast told the truth or lied! Go thou, with this letter of mine, and deliver it to them: then draw back from them, and see what answer they return……………………… (The queen) said: Ye chiefs! here is delivered to me a letter worthy of respect. It is from Solomon, and is ‘In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful: ‘Be ye not arrogant against me, but come to me in submission (to the true religion).’ ……… ” (v 24-37) —— The resemblance of this story and the above targum is considerable only in the targum the letter is sent by a red-cock.
The Queen of Sheba submits to Islam: “And he diverted her from the worship of others besides Allah: for she was of a people that had no faith. She was asked to enter the lofty palace: but when she saw it, she thought it was a lake of water, and she (tucked up her skirts), uncovering her legs. He said: This is but a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass. She said: O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul: I do (now) submit (in Islam), with Solomon, to the Lord of the worlds.” (v 41-44) ——– Solomon questioned the queen about the altered throne which she thought was the same as hers (v 41). Solomon had built a palace for the queen it was said to be made of transparent glass, laid over running water, in which fish were swimming. The queen, supposing it to be water, lifted up her robe and exposed her legs which were said to be hairy. Some jinns removed the hair and it is said that Solomon married her and she became a Muslim. The story of the Queens legs is found in the Muslim traditions, namely the Araish al Majalis. The factual Bible account is found in 1 Kings 10:1-13.
Believers preserved and unbelievers destroyed: the effects of the preaching of Salih and Lot are once again repeated (v 45-58).
Reasons why Allah is greater than the Quarraish deities: “(Who) is better? Allah or the false gods they associate (with Him)?……… Or, Who has created the heavens and the earth…. Or, Who has made the earth firm to live in …… Or, Who listens to the (soul) distressed ……. Or, Who guides you through the depths of darkness on land and sea ….. Or, Who originates creation, then repeats it ……. Say: None in the heavens or on earth, except Allah, knows what is hidden” ( v 59-65)
The Resurrection and Judgement: “The unbelievers say: “What! when we become dust,- we and our fathers,- shall we really be raised (from the dead)?…… Verily this Quran doth explain to the Children of Israel most of the matters in which they disagree………… “And when the Word is fulfilled against them (the unjust), we shall produce from the earth a beast to (face) them: He will speak to them, for that mankind did not believe with assurance in Our signs …………………….” (v 67- 82).——– This monster is supposed to be sixty cubits high, with two wings. It is to be compound of various animals, to have the head of a bull, the horns of a stag, the neck of an ostrich, the legs of a camel and the voice of an ass. It will mark the faces of believers with Mu’min, and the unbelievers with Kafir.
Sura 28. Al-Qasas (The Story) Mecca
The Title: is found in verse 25 is said to be taken from an incident in the early life of Moses: “So when he came to him and narrated the story he said: Fear thou not: (well) hast thou escaped from unjust people.” Moses: A great deal of this chapter is taken up with the repetition of much earlier material concerning the narration of Moses, with whom Muhammad wished to be compared, only a few points will be noted —– Moses the early years (v 3-13) He is said to be adopted by Pharaoh’s wife: “The wife of Pharaoh said …………….. It may be that he will be use to us, or we may adopt him as a son.” (v 9) Exodus 2:5-10 agrees that Moses was adopted but not to Pharaoh’s wife but his daughter. Moses kills an Egyptian (v 14-21); Moses flees to Midian (v 22-28); Moses and the burning bush (29-32); Moses goes with Aaron to Pharaoh (v 33-37).
Haman builds a high tower for Pharaoh: “Pharaoh said: O chiefs! no god do I know for you but myself: therefore, O Haman! light me a (kiln to bake bricks) out of clay, and build me a lofty palace, that I may mount up to the god of Moses: but as far as I am concerned, I think (Moses) is a liar!” (v 38) —— Haman actually lived in Persia and was in the service of King Ahasuerus. See the book of Esther for details.
Jews and Christians who become Muslims receive a double reward: “Those to whom We sent the Book before this, they do believe in this (revelation): And when it is recited to them, they say: We believe therein, for it is the truth from our Lord: indeed we have been Muslims from before this. Twice will they be given their reward ……………..” (v 52-54) —- It is suggested that those who were formerly Jews and Christians held the doctrine of Islam. Those who became Muslims were to receive a double reward, as they accepted both the former scriptures and the Quran.
The story of Qarun’s wealth (Korah): “Qarun was doubtless, of the people of Moses; but he acted insolently towards them: such were the treasures We had bestowed on him that their very keys would have been a burden to a body of strong men ……………. So he went forth among his people in the (pride of his worldly) glitter. Said those whose aim is the life of this world: Oh! that we had the like of what Qarun has got! for he is truly a lord of mighty good fortune! ……………… but this none shall attain, save those who steadfastly persevere. Then We caused the earth to swallow up him and his house; and he had not (the least little) party to help him against Allah, nor could he defend himself.” (v 76-81) —– The Muslim commentators identify Qarun with the biblical Korah yet this Qarun has been endued with immense wealth. One Muslim writer says that forty mules were required to carry Qarun’s keys. It may be that Muhammad used this story of Korah, the leader of the rebellion against Moses but had in mind a wealthy opposer of himself. See Numbers 16 for the true account.
Muhammad encouraged in his faith and purpose: “Therefore lend not thou support in any way to those who reject. And let nothing keep thee back from the signs of Allah after they have been revealed to thee: and invite (men) to thy Lord, and be not of the company of those who join gods with Allah. And call not, besides Allah, on another god …….. ” (v 86-88).
The Title: The chapter derives its name from the mention of a spider in verse 41 where idolatry is likened to the flimsiness of a spider‘s web. “The parable of those who take protectors other than Allah is that of the spider, who builds (for itself) a house; but truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider’s house; if they but knew.”
Believers must be tested: The trials and hardships the Muslim believers endured were said to be necessary in order to distinguish them from the fickle hypocrites. “Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, We believe, and that they will not be tested?” (v 2) ……. “And Allah most certainly knows those who believe, and as certainly those who are hypocrites” (v 11).
Messengers delivered, idolaters punished: In order to meet the opposition of the Qurraish Muhammad pointed to the activity of those who had rejected the earlier prophets for example Noah, Lot and Moses. Noah (v 14 -15); Abraham (v 16-27); Lot (v 28-35); Shu’aib (v 36, 37). The people’s destroyed are the familiar names of ‘Ad and Thamud (v 38) Korah, Pharaoh and Haman reject the message of Moses (v 39-40). Their idolatry was like a fragile spider’s web.
Disputes with the People of the Book: At this time, Muhammad was very anxious to gain the allegiance of the Jews and so in several ways he strove to win them to his side. They turned to Jerusalem in prayer, so did he; they observed the Feast of Atonement on the tenth day of the month by sacrificing and fasting, he ordered his followers to do the same. So he made it easy for certain Jews to pass over to Islam. These men proved very useful, for they could supply him with the much needed information about the Jewish religion and they led him to believe there were passages in them relating to his advent. “And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong: but say, We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow. And thus (it is) that We have sent down the Book to thee………” (v 46, 47).
The Jews read the Law in Hebrew and explained it to the Muslims in Arabic: so the Prophet said “Neither agree with the possessors of the Scriptures, nor call them liars and say we believe on God and that which He hath sent down.” The great body of the Jews did not accept him nor admit his claims for the prophet for whom they looked was to come from the House of David. This verse is thought to have been abrogated by the verse of the sword (At-Taubah 18:29) and Baidawi states (Volume 2 p.98) that it was repealed when the breach with the Jews was complete. Others think that this verse only relates to those who were in alliance with the Muslims.
The truth of the Quran claims to be in Muhammad’s inability to read or write: “And thou wast not (able) to recite a book before this (book came), nor art thou (able) to transcribe it with thy right hand…….. ” (v 48). ——– Muslims generally believe Muhammad was unable to read or write at all, and for this reason the Quran is a miracle. Some understand the words ‘before it,’ to mean that at first he was ignorant but now miraculously he was able to read and write.
The Quran a sufficient miracle: “And they say: Why are not signs sent down upon him from his Lord? Say: The signs are only with Allah, and I am only a plain warner. Is it not enough for them that We have revealed to you the book which is recited to them? Most surely there is mercy in this and a reminder for a people who believe.” (v 49-50). ——– The Meccans wanted more than the Quran as a sign of revelation but he continuously declined alleging that the Quran was a sufficient miracle.
Sura 30. Ar-Rum (The Romans) Mecca
The Title: is so called because of the alleged prophesy of the coming triumph of the Romans over Persia “The Roman Empire has been defeated in a land close by; but they, after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious. Within a few years. With Allah is the decision, in the past and in the future: on that day shall the believers rejoice” (v 2-5)
The Prophecy concerning the Romans: Muslims regard this passage as a wonderful prophecy and a proof that the Quran really came from God. The passage states that there was a great victory of the Persians over the Romans. When this news came to Mecca the idolaters were elated but Muhammad, who claimed to believe in the divine scriptures, and would have naturally wanted the Christians to defeat the idolatrous fire-worshippers, was tormented seeing this as a sign that the idolaters would also defeat him and his religion. Then he prophesied that the Romans would defeat the Persians.
The statement ‘The Roman Empire has been defeated,’ probably refers to the incident which occurred in the year 615 A.D., that is the 6th year before the Hijrah, when Khosrou Parviz of Persia conquered Syria from the Romans. The Persians then continued their expansion with the capture of Palestine and Jerusalem and then laid siege to Constantinople in A.D. 625. On this occasion however, the Romans gained a victory over them and the comment ‘in a few years,’ would then allude to this defeat of the Persians by Heraclius. ———– The text does not mention who defeated the Romans or where they were defeated. It also should be borne in mind that there are technical points of grammar in verse 1 which make the sense of the text difficult. Some argue that the passage could possibly be said to have been constructed in such a way that it proved true in any event.
Foolishness of idolatry, Idolaters are destroyed: “Do they not travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those before them? They were superior to them in strength: they tilled the soil and populated it in greater numbers than these have done: there came to them their messengers with clear (signs)…………. “On the day that the hour will be established, the guilty will be struck dumb with despair. No intercessor will they have among their partners and they will reject their partners… ………. ” (v 9-14). ——— The Meccans are warned of the consequences of rejecting Allah’s messenger by presenting evidence of the destruction of former cities who rejected the messengers.
Allah’s signs in creation and providence: “So (give) glory to Allah, when ye reach eventide and when ye rise in the morning; yea, to Him be praise, in the heavens and on earth…………………. Among His signs in this, that He created you from dust; and then, behold, ye are men scattered! And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are signs for those who reflect. And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are signs for those who know. And among His signs is the sleep that ye take by night and by day, and the quest that ye (make) out of His bounty: verily in that are signs for those who hearken…………… It is He Who begins creation; then repeats it; and for Him it is most easy.” (v 17-26). ———– Amongst Muhammad’s natural theology most prominent is his mention of the power of nature. The phenomena most frequently mentioned are: the creation of the heavens and the earth, the creation of man, the various benefits towards men such as animals, the alternation of night and day, the shining of sun, moon and stars, the changing winds, the sending of rain and the restoration of life on the land, the movement of ships on the sea and the stability of the mountains.
Unbelievers deny the resurrection: “Yet are there truly many among men who deny the meeting with their Lord (at the Resurrection)!” (v 8) ——- “On the day that the hour (of reckoning) will be established, the transgressors will swear that they tarried not but an hour: thus were they used to being deluded! But those endued with knowledge and faith will say: Indeed ye did tarry, within Allah’s decree, to the Day of Resurrection, and this is the Day of Resurrection: but ye were not aware!” (v 52-56) ———– The Arabs would be aware of the almost miraculous way in which the dead land was revived by rain. It was this miracle-like revival of the dead land that became Muhammad’s natural argument for the general resurrection of the dead rather than the individual resurrection of Christ.
Sura 31 Luqman (Luqman) Mecca
The Title: Luqman: This chapter is named after the reference to Luqman who is reckoned to be a Muslim. Sayings attributed to Luqman: “We bestowed (in the past) wisdom on Luqman ….. Behold, Luqman said to his son by way of instruction: O my son! join not in worship (others) with Allah: or false worship is indeed the highest wrong-doing.” (v 12, 13) /// “O my son! If there be (but) the weight of a mustard-seed and it were (hidden) in a rock, or (anywhere) in the heavens or on earth, Allah will bring it forth: for Allah understands the finest mysteries, (and) is well-acquainted. “O my son! establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong: and bear with patient constancy whatever betide thee; for this is firmness (of purpose) in (the conduct of) affairs” (v 16 and 17).////// “And be moderate in thy pace, and lower thy voice; for the harshest of sounds without doubt is the braying of the ass.” (v 19) ///// “And if all the trees on earth were pens and the ocean (were ink), with seven oceans behind it to add to its (supply), yet would not the words of Allah be exhausted” (v 27)
Luqman is said to have directed this last saying during a dispute with some Jews who had stated that all knowledge came only through the Torah. An Arab tradition places him as a legendary figure from the period of Arab paganism. He was offered long life and the length of his life was measured to being the equivalent of the length of the life of seven vultures, with his life ending on the death of the seventh vulture. He was thought to belong to the Arab tribe of Hud and was said to be the first to punish adultery by stoning his unfaithful wife and her paramour. He is also said to have cut off the hand of a robber. —————– Muhammad seems to consider that due to his exceptional wisdom he was able to produce many proverbs and later writers considered him as a sort of Aesop of the Arabs who was described in legend as having the appearance of a deformed slave. Arab writers claim that he was from the offspring of Job and lived for several centuries down to the time of Jonah. The story is also told that God offered him the choice of being either a prophet or wise man; he chose the latter and became King David’s advisor.
An unbeliever rebuked for his contempt of the Quran: “But there are, among men, those who purchase idle tales, without knowledge, to mislead (men) from the path of Allah and throw ridicule (on the path): for such there will be a humiliating penalty. When Our signs are rehearsed to such a one, he turns away in arrogance, as if he heard them not, as if there were deafness in both his ears: announce to him a grievous penalty” (v 6, 7). ——— Nadhir ibn al-Harith responded to Muhammad’s challenge to bring a production of a book like the Quran, at least in respect of rhyme and rhetoric. While travelling in Persia he had purchased the romance of the Persian heroes Rostem and Esfendiar which were four hundred years later highly acclaimed by the respected Persian poet Firdousi. Nadhir either versified, or put into rhyme these tales and read them out at meetings not dissimilar to those where Muhammad recited the Quran. Ibn Hisham tells us that these stories were well known in Medina from before the birth of Muhammad for even during his life, the Persians had ruled parts of the Arabian Peninsula and had influenced the Arabs. Nadhir was taken prisoner at the battle of Badr. Ransom was refused and according to Baidawi (vol. 2 p. 112) he was put to death.
Allah has the knowledge of all things: “Verily the knowledge of the hour is with Allah …… Verily with Allah is full knowledge and He is acquainted (with all things)” (v 33, 34). —– According to a Tradition these are the five keys of secret knowledge: 1) The time of the day of judgement; 2) The time of rain; 3) What is being formed in the womb; 4) What shall happen tomorrow; 5) Where a person is to die (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 151).
Sura 32. As-Sajdah (The Prostration) Mecca
The Title: The name of the chapter is taken from verse 15: “Only those believe in Our signs, who, when they are recited to them, fall down in prostration.” ——– In this act of worship the person’s forehead touches the ground.
The Quran for the Arabs: “(This is) the revelation of the Book in which there is no doubt, from the Lord of the worlds…….. that thou mayest admonish a people to whom no warner has come before thee: in order that they may receive guidance” (v 2, 3).
Allah the Creator: The Qurraish on account of their obstinate unbelief in the Quran are told that the Creation is a sign “It is Allah Who has created the heavens and the earth, and all between them, in six days, and is firmly established on the throne: ye have none, besides Him, to protect or intercede: will ye not then receive admonition?” (v 4, c/f v 27)
Hell will be filled with jinn and men: The consequences of unbelief – “If only thou couldst see when the guilty ones will bend low their heads before their Lord, (saying) Our Lord! We have seen and we have heard: Now then send us back (to the world): we will work righteousness: for we do indeed (now) believe. If We had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance: but the word from Me will come true, I will fill Hell with Jinns and men all together. Taste ye then for ye forgot the meeting of this day of yours, and We too will forget you taste ye the penalty of eternity for your deeds!” (v 12-14) There will be no escape from Hell: “their abode will be the fire: every time they wish to get away there from, they will be forced there into, and it will be said to them: Taste ye the penalty of the fire, the which ye were wont to reject as false.” (v 20)
The book of the law given to Moses: “We did indeed aforetime give the Book to Moses: be not then in doubt of its reaching (thee): and We made it a guide to the Children of Israel” (v 23).
Exhortation to believe by the sign of the ruined cities: “Does it not teach them a lesson, how many generations We destroyed before them, in whose dwellings they (now) go to and fro? Verily in that are signs: Do they not then listen?” (v 26)
Sura 33 Al-Ahzab (The Confederates) Medina
The Title: The chapter takes its name from the confederate tribes which attacked Medina on the instigation of the Jewish tribe of Nadhir who had been driven out of their settlement near Medina a year before. They were repulsed at the battle of the Ditch.uslims against the confederate forces at the battle of the Ditch:
“Remember the grace of Allah, on you, when there came down on you hosts (to overwhelm you): But We sent against them a hurricane and forces that ye saw not: but Allah sees all that ye do. Behold! they came on you from above you and from below you, and behold, the eyes became dim and the hearts gaped up to the throats, and ye imagined various thoughts about Allah!” (v 9, 10)
The Qurraish and Jewish confederation, numbering 12,000 besieged Medina. On the advice of Salman, the Persian, Muhammad ordered a deep ditch to be dug around the city which he defended with 3,000 men. After a month with little activity, a bitter cold east wind one night blew out the fires of the confederates, overturned their tents, and put them into confusion, causing them to flee. Muhammad ascribes the storm to angelic agency.
The Confederate force makes no gains despite the “hypocrites: “And behold! The Hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a disease say: “Allah and His Messenger promised us nothing but delusion!” Behold! A party among them said: “Ye men of Yathrib! ye cannot stand (the attack)! therefore go back!” And a band of them ask for leave of the Prophet, saying, “Truly our houses are bare and exposed,” though they were not exposed they intended nothing but to run away ……….. Say: “Running away will not profit you if ye are running away from death or slaughter; and even if (ye do escape), no more than a brief (respite) will ye be allowed to enjoy! ……….. no advantage did they gain; and enough is Allah for the believers in their fight.” (v 12-16 & 25). ——— As the Confederates pressed further with their siege a number wanted to return from the outer defence works into the city but were rebuked with this revelation. The Quarraish suddenly raised the siege and retired while Muhammad in the eyes of his followers became stronger.
The closeness of the Prophet: “The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves” (v 6). ———- It is said that this verse was revealed when Muhammad called some of his followers to be with him as he began preparations for the Tabuk campaign. They sought leave from their fathers and mothers but Muhammad revealed that he was far dearer than them and he deserved their utmost respect and love (c/f Bukhari Volume 8, Book 78, Number 628) .
Muhammad, an excellent example: “Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern for any one whose hope is in Allah and the final day, and who engages much in the praise of Allah” (v 21). ————- At the time of the confederates attack Muhammad showed the example of firmness in danger; confidence in divine assistance and constancy in worship. The question of the excellency of his morals is another matter and is considered below in the siege of the Jewish tribe of Qurayza and the quantity of his wives.
The slaughter of the Qurayza Jews: “And those of the People of the Book who aided them Allah did take them down from their strongholds and cast terror into their hearts some ye slew, and some ye made prisoners. And He made you heirs of their lands, their houses, and their goods, and of a land which ye had not frequented.” (v 26, 27). —————– After the unsuccessful confederate siege of Medina, Muhammad made a successful expedition against the Jews of Qurayza, for their alleged treason and violation of treaties. The Qurayza Jewish tribe, though in league with Muhammad, had gone over and assisted the Qurraish at Medina. When the confederates had withdrawn, the angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Muhammad and encouraged him to attack the Jewish tribe, ‘as the angels had not yet laid down their arms.’ After a siege of twenty-five days the tribe capitulated. Sa’d ibn Moaz, a chief of the tribe of the Aws, who had been wounded at the battle of the ditch against the tribe, was asked to decide upon the fate of the captives. His judgement was that the men should be beheaded, the women and children be sold into slavery, and the spoil be divided among the Muslims. Muhammad said: ‘The judgement of Sa’d is the judgement of the Lord pronounced on high from above the seventh heaven.’ Trenches were dug in the bazaar of Medina for the disposal of the 600 Jewish bodies who had been slaughtered during the night. (Ibn Hisham: The Prophet’s Biography; volume 2, pages 40 and 41).
Muhammad’s wives ask for a higher allowance: “O Prophet! say to your wives: If you desire this world’s life and its adornment, then come, I will give you a provision and allow you to depart a goodly departing” (v 28). —————— After the increase in riches due to the benefits in removing the Qurayza tribe the wives of the prophet seek an improvement in their circumstances. In response Muhammad threatens to divorce them all but rather than having the divorce option they withdraw their request.
Muhammad’s permission to take his adopted son Zaid’s wife: “Behold! Thou didst say to one who had received the grace of Allah and thy favour: Retain thou thy wife, and fear Allah. But thou didst hide in thy heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear Allah. Then when Zaid had dissolved (his marriage) with her, with the necessary (formality), We joined her in marriage to thee: in order that there may be no difficulty to the believers in marriage with the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with the necessary (formality) (their marriage) with them. …………….. ” (v 37, 38).
The one favoured was Zaid. The favour of Allah consisted in him becoming a Muslim. The favour of Muhammad was that he had publicly adopted him as his son and heir. Zaid, one of the very early converts to Islam, he and Abu Lahab are the only contemporaries of Muhammad mentioned by name in the Quran. ———————— Muhammad, happened one day to visit the house of his adopted son, Zaid, and finding him not at home, accidentally saw his daughter-in-law Zainab unveiled. Smitten with her beauty, Muhammad exclaimed,’ Praise belonged unto God, who turneth the hearts of men even as He will.’ These words were overheard by Zainab, who proud of her conquest, told her husband about it. Zaid went at once to Muhammad, and offered to divorce his wife for him. At first Muhammad refused, for it was a thing unheard of to marry the divorced wife of an adopted son; but Zaid carried out his proposal. Muhammad after waiting for the term of her divorce to expire at last resolved to have her. Sitting by ‘Ayesha he professed to have a revelation from God, and said, ‘Who will run and tell Zainab that the Lord hath joined her to me in marriage?’ Zainab was overjoyed, and gave the messenger all the jewels she had on her person. The marriage caused a great scandal, and to save his reputation, Muhammad sought to justify his conduct by affirming that it was done by God’s command, as shown in this chapter. Zainab afterwards used to vaunt herself as the one wife of Muhammad who had been given in marriage by God himself.
Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets” (v 40). ——————————— Among the reasons for the Arabs believing that Muhammad was a prophet was the evidence of a mole of an unusual size on Muhammad’s back. They believed this lump was a divine seal, according to the predictions of the scriptures, and marked him out as the Seal of the Prophets. Muhammad himself may not have encouraged the sign of the tissue on his back as a supernatural sign of his prophetic mission. The relevant hadith is Bukhari Volume 7, Book 70, Number 574.
A law of a divorce: “O ye who believe! When ye marry believing women, and then divorce them before ye have touched them, no period of ‘Iddat have ye to count in respect of them: so give them a present. And set them free in a handsome manner” (v 49). ———————– If a wife is divorced before the marriage has been consummated, and no dower has been given, she is not bound to be kept for any time, but may be dismissed with a present. If a woman had a dowry, this must be returned.
Special revelation for Muhammad to have multiple wives: “O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Mecca) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her; this only for thee, and not for the believers……. ” (v 50). ———————————– Other Muslims were not allowed to marry more than four wives. Muhammad it is said by the express command of God, with the restrictions mentioned, was allowed to take as many as he pleased; he was also allowed to marry the daughters of his uncles and aunts which was forbidden in other cases.
Further concessions for Muhammad in marriage: “Thou mayest defer (the turn of) any of them that thou pleasest, and thou mayest receive any thou pleasest: and there is no blame on thee if thou invite one whose (turn) thou hadst set aside” (v 51). ——- Other men were obliged to conduct themselves equally towards their wives but the Prophet was free to act in the manner he thought best (c/f Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 311. Some restrictions are placed in the following verse “It is not lawful for thee (to marry more) women after this, nor to change them for (other) wives, even though their beauty attract thee, except any thy right hand should possess (as handmaidens)” (v. 52) ——— however the commentators differ over the meaning of this verse. Some say that Muhammad was forbidden to marry any more than the nine wives he at this time had; some say that if he divorced any, or any should die, he could not marry any more; others say that he was forbidden from marrying any other women apart from those in the four categories of verse 50; and still others say that this verse was abrogated by the preceding two verses. as it is thought that this verse was revealed before them although it occurs later in the passage.
A new etiquette of approaching Muhammad: “O ye who believe! Enter not the Prophet’s houses, until leave is given you …… but when ye are invited, enter; and when ye have taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such (behaviour) annoys the Prophet: he is ashamed to dismiss you….. ” (v 53). ———————– After Muhammad’s rise to power the old familiarity of previous years was abandoned by this revelation.
A new etiquette of addressing Muhammad’s wives: “And when ye ask for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs. Nor is it right for you that ye should annoy Allah’s Messenger, or that ye should marry his widows after him at any time……. ” (v 53). —————– In order to prevent familiarity with his wives a curtain of separation was drawn. It is said that on one occasion Muhammad had become uneasy because ’Ayesha’s hand had accidentally touched one of his companions and so this verse was revealed (c/f Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 314 & 315).
A new etiquette with the introduction of purdah: “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested.” (v 59).
Sir William Muir comments ‘The purdah imposed on women may at first sight appear a mere negative evil, a social custom comparatively harmless; but in truth it has a more debilitating effect upon the Muslim people than anything else, for by it a woman is totally withdrawn from her proper place in the social circle. Islam’s view of society is a truncated and imperfect exhibition of humanity; it is wanting in one of its constituent parts, the better half, the humanizing and softening element. As well as this, the link connecting the family with social and public life is detached. Such is the outcome of an attempt to improve upon nature, and banish woman, the helpmate of man, from the position assigned to her by God in the world.’
Sura 34. Saba’ (Mecca)
The Title: The mention of prosperous Saba’ and its destruction, to the south of Arabia is the occasion for the title of this chapter. “There was, for Saba, aforetime …… a territory fair and happy ….. but they turned away, and We sent against them the flood from the dams, and We converted their two gardens into gardens producing bitter fruit, and tamarisks, and some few Lote-trees at was the requital We gave them because they ungratefully rejected faith ……… At length We made them as a tale, and We dispersed them all in scattered fragments” (v 15-19). ——— Saba’ was said to have been situated about thirty miles from Sana’, supposedly the capital of Queen Balqis. The passage alludes to the cessation of trading between them and Syria, which led them to desire the lengthening of the stages so as to reduce the expense of the journey. On account of the wickedness of the people, a great reservoir of water, built by the queen, burst and brought terrible destruction. The gardens then only produced bitter fruit. The proposed punishment of prosperous Mecca is developed in verses 35-38.
Meccans reject Muhammad’s warning of the hour of judgement: This chapter is very similar to other Meccan suras as the Qurraish continue accusing Muhammad of forgery and madness. They believed that they were secure and that the devastation that occurred in Saba’ could not happen to them “The unbelievers say, Never to us will come the hour” (v 3); “Has he invented a falsehood against Allah, or has a spirit (seized) him?” (v 8a) c/f verse 43: “they say, This is only a man who wishes to hinder you from the (worship) which your fathers practised. And they say, This is only a falsehood invented! …… This is nothing but evident magic!” (v 43)
Meccans should be thankful like David: “We bestowed grace aforetime on David from ourselves: O ye mountains! Sing ye back the praises of Allah with him! and ye birds! And We made the iron soft for him; Make thou coats of mail, balancing well the rings of chain armour, and work ye righteousness; for be sure I see all that ye do.” (v 10, 11) ——– The Arabs often called an excellent coat of mail a Dawudi. In this fictitious story David they say, applied himself to the making of coats of mail, not for warfare, but rather as a disguise. In the Miratu’z Zaman, disguised in his armour people were asked about the conduct of David. All praised him until one person accused him of taking money from the public treasury. David wished to show himself as a person who could live independently, so God made the iron soft, like thread, in his hands and then he sold the coats of mail. With the profits, he was able to obtain food for himself, feed his family and give to charity.
The wonders of Solomon: “And to Solomon (We made) the wind (obedient) …… and We made a font of molten brass to flow for him; and there were Jinns that worked in front of him, by the leave of his Lord ……….. They worked for him as he desired, (making) arches, images, basins as large as reservoirs, and (cooking) cauldrons fixed ………….. Then, when We decreed (Solomon’s) death, nothing showed them his death except a little worm of the earth, which kept (slowly) gnawing away at his staff: so when he fell down, the Jinns saw plainly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have tarried in the humiliating penalty” (v 12-14). ——— The legend, probably Jewish is as follows. As Solomon perceived that he would die before the completion of the temple which jinns were building, he wished his death to be kept secret from them. He died as he stood at prayers, leaning on his staff which supported his body for a whole year. The jinns supposing him to be alive kept on working. At last worms ate through the staff, and when the corpse fell and they discovered that he was dead. The Bible states that Solomon lived twenty-five years after the temple was built!
The proposed punishment of prosperous Mecca: “They said: We have more in wealth and in sons, and we cannot be punished……….. “It is not your wealth nor your sons, that will bring you nearer to Us in degree: but only those who believe and work righteousness these are the ones for whom there is a multiplied reward for their deeds ……… Those who strive against Our signs, to frustrate them, will be given over into punishment” (v 35 – 38).
Muhammad’s defends the accusation of being mad or demon-possessed: “We had not given them (Arabs) books which they could study, nor sent messengers to them before thee as warners. And their predecessors rejected (the truth); these have not received a tenth of what We had granted to those: yet when they rejected My messengers, how (terrible) was My rejection! Say: I do admonish you on one point: that ye do stand up before Allah in pairs, or singly, and reflect: your companion is not possessed: he is no less than a warner to you, in face of a terrible penalty. Say: No reward do I ask of you:” (v 44-47) —— Muhammad defence is that prophets sent to warn previous peoples were reckoned as impostors and he like them is only a warner who is not seeking material gain. He tells them to deliberate over his message not in a group but individually or in pairs where there is freedom from pressure and prejudice.
Surah 35 Fatir The Originator of Creation
In Praise of Allah the only Creator : “Praise be to Allah, Who created (out of nothing) the heavens and the earth, Who made the angels, messengers with wings,two, or three, or four (pairs) …….. is there a creator, other than Allah, to give you sustenance from heaven or earth? There is no god but He” (v 1-3) The deities of the Quarraish are questioned whether they have the power to create: “Say: “Have ye seen (these) ‘partners’ of yours whom ye call upon besides Allah. Show Me what it is they have created in the earth. Or have they a share in the heavens?” They are also challenged also about their inability to possess a divine book “Or have We given them a Book from which they (can derive) clear (evidence)?” (v 39)
He is the cause of the future resurrection (v 9); created mankind from dust, then from a sperm-drop (11); creator of the seas (12); he could blot out mankind and bring in a new creation (16, 17); he brings about various colours and shades in his creation (v 27, 28); he is omniscient (v 38).
Satan and the present life deceive the understanding about Allah: Let not then this present life deceive you, nor let the chief deceiver deceive you about Allah. Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his adherents, that they may become companions of the blazing fire. “(v 5, 6)
Allah will repay his servants according to their deeds: He will give them more out of His bounty (v 29, 30); he is well acquainted with their obedience (v 31); they are given the Quran for an inheritance but there are some who have ‘wronged their own souls’ who ‘follow a middle course’ and do not perform their duties perfectly (v 32).
Allah not frustrated by evil in the land: The plotting of the Quarraish does not bother him. “Nor is Allah to be frustrated by anything whatever in the heavens or on earth” (v 43, 44)
Sura 36. Ya-Sin (Mecca)
The Title: “Ya Sin” (v 1) mystic letters begin this chapter. It is known as the heart of the Quran for it is held in great esteem by Muslims, and is often read to the dying owing to its teaching on the resurrection.
Muhammad a messenger sent to warn the Arabs: “Thou art indeed one of the messengers…… In order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition ……… The same is it to them whether thou admonish them or thou do not admonish them: they will not believe.” (v 2-10).
Two apostles of Jesus sent to Antioch: “Set forth to them, by way of a parable, the (story of) the companions of the city …. We sent to them two messengers, they rejected them: But We strengthened them with a third: they said, Truly, we have been sent on a mission to you ……. The (people) said: for us, we augur an evil omen from you: if ye desist not, we will certainly stone you ………. Then there came running, from the farthest part of the city, a man, saying, O my people! Obey the messengers: Obey those who ask no reward of you, and who have themselves received guidance” (v 13-21)
Muslim writers say that Jesus Christ sent two of his disciples to the city of Antioch. Habib al-Najjar, although an idolater believed on account of the miracles they performed. When Jesus heard this he sent another disciple, supposedly Peter, to Antioch. The New Testament records no such story, it is more likely that Muhammad put into the mouth of the people of Antioch the words the Qurraish were saying to him.
The Resurrection: Muhammad sought to prove the resurrection through natural theology arguing that from the dead earth life can spring forth (v 33-35). After giving more statements about the created order (36-42 c/f 77-83) he returns to the resurrection theme “The trumpet shall be sounded, when behold! from the sepulchres (men) will rush forth to their Lord! They will say: Ah! Woe unto us! Who hath raised us up from our beds of repose?… (A voice will say:) This is what (Allah) most gracious had promised. And true was the word of the messengers! It will be no more than a single blast, when lo! they will all be brought up before Us! Then, on that day, not a soul will be wronged in the least, and ye shall but be repaid for your past deeds. Verily the companions of the garden shall that day have joy in all that they do; They and their associates will be in groves of shade, reclining on thrones; fruit will be there for them; they shall have whatever they call for …… “But he did lead astray a great multitude of you. Did ye not, then, understand? “This is the Hell of which ye were (repeatedly) warned! “Embrace ye the (fire) this Day, for that ye (persistently) rejected (Truth).” (v 51-64).
Muhammad sent as a warner: “We have not instructed the (Prophet) in poetry, nor is it meet for him: this is no less than a message and a Quran making things clear: that it may give admonition to any alive, and that the charge may be proved against those who reject” (v 69, 70). —– If the unbelievers only viewed the Quran as a piece of poetry it might appear that it was his own composition and not the direct words of God so he rebutted the charge. The Meccans remained unconvinced.
Sura 37 As-Saffat (The Range in Ranks) Mecca
The Title: The chapter title is found with the oath in the first verse: “By those who range themselves in ranks” which refers to angels. The angels in Islam: The second of the six articles of the Muslim Creed refer to the belief about the angels of which the Quran and Tradition has much to say: 1) The devil was created from fire, men from clay and angels from light. 2) Angels have life, speech and reason. 3) Angels have no carnal desire or anger. It is said that their food is celebrating God’s glory, their drink is proclaiming God’s holiness, their conversation is commemorating God and their pleasure is worshipping God. 4) Angels are thought to be inferior to human prophets, because they were commanded to prostrate themselves before Adam. (Al-Baqarrah 2:34). 5) Every believer is attended by two recording angels, one of whom records his good actions, and the other his evil actions. (Al-Intifar 82:10-12 and Qaf 50:17,18). 6) Four are archangels: Gabriel, the angel of revelation; Mikha’il, the patron of the Israelites; Israfil, who is to sound the trumpet on the last day; and Azra’il, the angel of death. 7) The chief angel in hell is called Malik and he has 19 subordinate guards called Az Zabaniya (Al-Muddaththir 74:30, 31). 8 There are two angels, Munkar and Nakir, who examine the dead in their graves on the night after burial and examine them as to their faith. 9) Eight angels will support the throne of God (Al-Haqqah 69:17). 10) The angels intercede for man and celebrate the praises of the Lord (Ash-Shura 42:15). 11) The angels act as guardians to men (Ar-Ra’d 13:11). 12) The angels are in absolute submission and obedience to Allah yet there are examples of their disobedience. The angels Harut and Marut yielded to sexual temptation and were confined in a pit near Babel where they teach magic to men.
Angel’s protectors of the secrets of heaven: “We have indeed decked the lower heaven with beauty (in) the stars, (For beauty) and for guard against all obstinate rebellious evil spirits, (So) they should not strain their ears in the direction of the exalted repulsed, for they are under a perpetual penalty, Except such as snatch away something by stealth, and they are pursued by a flaming fire, of piercing brightness.” (v 6-10). ——- The devils endeavoured to rise up to heaven with the purpose of overhearing the conversations and tempting the inhabitants. They were repelled by shooting stars thrown by the protecting angels.
Judgement for those who ridicule: “Truly dost thou marvel, while they ridicule, And, when they are admonished, pay no heed, And, when they see a sign, turn it to mockery, And say, “This is nothing but evident sorcery! ……………. ” Say thou: “Yea, and ye shall then be humiliated.” Then it will be a single cry; and behold, they will begin to see! They will say, “Ah! Woe to us! this is the day of judgement!” (v 12-20) ………. “For they, when they were told that there is no god except Allah, would puff themselves up with pride, And say: “What! shall we give up our gods for the sake of a poet possessed?” (v 35-36)
The sensual happiness of Paradise for believers: “But the sincere servants of Allah, For them is a sustenance determined, fruits; and they (shall enjoy) honour and dignity, In gardens of felicity, facing each other on thrones: Round will be passed to them a cup from a clear-flowing fountain, crystal-white, of a taste delicious to those who drink, free from headiness; nor will they suffer intoxication there from. And besides them will be chaste women, restraining their glances, with big eyes. As if they were (delicate) eggs closely guarded .“Then they will turn to one another and question one another. One of them will start the talk and say: “I had an intimate companion (on the earth), “Who used to say, ‘ what! art thou amongst those who bear witness to the truth? “‘When we die and become dust and bones, shall we indeed receive rewards and punishments?’” (A voice) said: “Would ye like to look down?” He looked down and saw him in the midst of the fire. He said: “By Allah! thou wast little short of bringing me to perdition!…………..” (v 40-57)
The tree az-Zaqqum in hell is described: “For We have truly made it (as) a trial for the wrong-doers. For it is a tree that springs out of the bottom of hell-fire: The shoots of its fruit-stalks are like the heads of devils: Truly they will eat thereof and fill their bellies therewith. Then on top of that they will be given a mixture made of boiling water. Then shall their return be to the fire.” (v 62-68). ——– The Zaqqum is a tree which bears a very bitter fruit,
The sincere servants of Allah: Noah: “Peace and salutation to Noah among the nations!” Thus indeed do we reward those who do right. For he was one of our believing servants. Then the rest we overwhelmed in the Flood……..” (v 75-82)
Abraham (and Ishmael): “So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising patience and constancy!” So when they had both submitted their wills and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him “O Abraham! “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice ………………….” (v 83-111) —————– The Muslim commentators say it took three visions for Abraham to understand that the instruction to sacrifice his son was not from the devil. Muslims allege that Ishmael was the only son at that time and the future promise of Isaac is not found until the following verse, yet on the whole the Quran is hardly chronological in its presentation! The commentators add that Abraham had the knife ready across the throat of his son but was miraculously hindered. ——– The Quranic verses do not mention which son was sacrificed yet many Muslim theologians say the intended sacrifice was Ishmael e.g. Al-Zamakhshari, al-Baidawi, al-Tabari, Ibn al-Athir, al-Tha’labi. Although al-Tha’labi emphasises that the Companions of the Prophet (ashab) and their successors (tabi’un) from ’Umar b. al-Khattab until Ka’b al-Ahbar did not differ from the Bible on this question.
Isaac: “And We gave him the good news of Isaac a prophet, one of the righteous. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.” (v 112, 113) Moses and Aaron: (v 114-122); Elias: (v 123-132); Lot: (v 133-138) and Jonah: (v 139-148).
Sura 38. Sa’d (Mecca)
The Title: This chapter is so called from the Arabic letter Sa’d with which it commences. Arabic commentators say that ‘God alone knows what He means by it’.
Opposition to Muhammad’s preaching: This sura belongs to the Middle Meccan period. Tradition relates that the first ten verses were revealed on one of the occasions when the Qurraish tried to get Abu Talib to withdraw his protection from Muhammad which he absolutely declined to do. “and the unbelievers say, This is a sorcerer telling lies! Has he made the gods into one Allah? Truly this is a wonderful thing! And the leader among them go away, (saying), Walk ye away, and remain constant to your gods! For this is truly a thing designed ! We never heard of this among the people of these latter days: this is nothing but a made-up tale!” (v 2-7)
The Qurraish are vigorously warned by the fate of the generations of similar scorners who have passed away: The named rejecters are the people of Noah, ‘Ad, Pharaoh, the Lord of Stakes, Thamud, the people of Lut, and the companions of the wood (v 11-15).
The Example of David: “(O Muhammad) Have patience at what they say, and remember our servant David, the man of strength: for he ever turned (to Allah). It was We that made the hills declare, in unison with him, Our Praises, at eventide and at break of day, And the birds gathered (in assemblies): all with him did turn (to Allah). We strengthened his kingdom, and gave him wisdom and sound judgement in speech and decision.” (v 17-20)
The story of David and the two disputants and his repentance is described in verses 21- 26. The Muslim belief is that David divided his life into parts: one day he served God, another day he rendered justice to the people, another day was for preaching, and another was for his own personal matters. It was while he was attending to his devotions that two disputants entered his private dwelling. They are said to be two angels in the form of men who needed David’s counsel in a controversy yet, this in fact, is no other than a confused narration of the prophet Nathan’s rebuke to David in disguise (2 Samuel 12). The commentator Al- Baidawi turns to the Bible to acknowledge that the matter which David had to repent over was the taking of Uriah’s wife and the ordering of her husband to be slain on the battle front.
Legends of Solomon: Two legends are described here, one concerning horses ( v 30-33) and the second the counterfeit body of Solomon ( v 34-40). One day Solomon was so taken up with his horses that he forgot the hour of evening prayer. In his anquish in forgetting to pray he was so grieved that he ordered them all to be brought before him and killed with the exception of a hundred. God recompensed him by giving him dominion over the wind (v 36). The counterfeit body of Solomon is taken from a Jewish legend. Solomon married the daughter of the king of Sidon. She so mourned for her father, that Solomon commanded the devils to make an image of him which his daughter worshipped. To punish Solomon a devil obtained possession of his ring, engraved with the holy name. With this the devil impersonated Solomon, who wandered about unknown forty days, the time during which the idol was worshipped. After this the devil flew away and threw the ring into the sea, where it was swallowed by a fish, which was afterwards caught and brought to Solomon, who then recovered his kingdom.
The Commemoration of Good Men: Job – “Commemorate Our servant Job. Behold he cried to his Lord: The Evil One has afflicted me with distress and suffering!……….. Truly We found him full of patience and constancy. How excellent in Our service! ever did he turn” (v 41-44). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob “possessors of power and vision” (v 45), “they were, in Our sight, truly, of the company of the elect and the good” (v 47). “And commemorate Isma’il, Elisha, and Zul-Kifl: “Each of them was of the company of the good” (v 48).
The Paradise reward of the righteous: “for the righteous, is a beautiful place of return, Gardens of eternity, whose doors will be open to them; Therein will they recline: Therein can they call for fruit in abundance, and drink; And beside them will be chaste women restraining their glances, of equal age” (v 49-52). The penalty of Hell for unbelievers: “Hell! they will burn therein, an evil bed! Yea, such! then shall they taste it, a boiling fluid, and a fluid dark, murky, intensely cold! And other penalties of a similar kind, to match them! Here is a troop rushing headlong with you! No welcome for them! truly, they shall burn in the fire!” (v 55-59)
Satan refuses to prostrate himself before Adam: ( 69-85) —– This same subject is duplicated in the Quran in Al Araf 7:11-18 and Al-Hijr 15: 26-42.
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