[Famous commentary on Holy Quran by Shia scholar Tabatabai.
Here only first 46 verses are given. See printed edition for the complete exegesis.]
“Al-Mizan: An Exegesis of the Quran”
By Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai
# Suratul Fatiha: The Chapter of the Opening 1:1-5
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful (1).
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds (2).
The Beneficent the Merciful (3).
The Master of the Day of Judgement (4).
Thee do we worship and Thee do we beseech for help (5).
QURAN: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful: People often take the name of one of their great and powerful personalities at the time of doing or beginning a work. By this association, it is believed, the work would achieve success, greatness and blessings; or that it would be a memorial to keep the named one's memory alive for ever. This is also observed in naming a child, a project, a house or an association - they give it the name of a deeply loved or highly respected person, so that his name would continue in this form; for example, a man names his son after his father, in order to perpetuate the father's memory.
This verse runs on the same line. Allah began His speech with His Own name - Great is His name - so that the ideas taught in this chapter be stamped by, and associated with it. Also, it teaches a lesson to mankind, showing them the perfect manner of starting all their talks and actions; it guides them to put the stamp of the divine name on all their activities; doing every work for the sake of Allah, associating it with His good names and attributes. In this way that action would neither be rendered null and void, nor remain incomplete; it has been started in the name of Allah, and negation and annihilation cannot reach that sacred name.
Allah has declared variously in the Quran that what is not for His Person must perish, is in vain; He will proceed to the deeds not done for His sake and shall render them as scattered floating dust; He shall forfeit what they have done and shall nullify their deeds; and that nothing shall remain except His honoured Person.
Therefore, what is done for the sake of Allah and performed in His name, shall continue and will not perish. Everything, every work and every affair shall have its share of eternity - as much as it is related to Allah. It is this reality that has been hinted at in the universally accepted tradition of the Prophet: "Every important affair, not begun with the name of Allah, shall remain incomplete. . ." The word al-abtar (translated here as "incomplete") means a thing whose end is cut off, an animal whose tail is severed.
The preposition "bi” (in, with), in the phrase "In the name of Allah", is related to an implied verb, "I begin". This verse, at this particular place, begins the speech which is a single action; this singleness comes from the singleness of its meaning; that is, the meaning intended to be conveyed, the aim and purpose of the speech.
Allah has mentioned the purpose for which His speech -the whole Quran - has been revealed: . . . indeed, there has come to you a light and a clear Book from Allah; with it Allah guides him who follows His pleasure into the ways of safety. . . (5 :15 -16). There are other verses which show that the aim with which the Book - the speech of Allah - has been sent down is the guidance of the people.
Therefore, the full import of the sentence would be as follows: The guidance, total guidance is begun with the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; He is Allah, Whom the servants return to; He is Beneficent, Who has opened the way of His All-encompassing mercy for believers and disbelievers alike, the mercy which provides them with all that is necessary and good for their existence and life; He is Merciful, Who has reserved His special mercy for the believers, the mercy which ensures their happiness in the life hereafter and their nearness to their Lord. Allah has said: . . . and My mercy encompasses all things; so I will ordain it (specially) for those who guard (against evil) and pay zakat, and those who believe in our signs (7 :156) . This explanation has been written, putting this verse in the framework of the whole Quran, of which it is the first sentence.
Again, Allah has repeatedly mentioned "chapter" in His speech. For example: Say: "Then bring a chapter like this. . . " (10:38) ; Say: "Then bring ten chapters like it, forged. . . " (11:13); And whenever a chapter is revealed. . . (9:86); (This is) a chapter which We have revealed. . . (24:1). It shows that Allah Himself has divided His speech in various parts, each part being called a chapter. It naturally means that every chapter is a single unit in structure and in fullness of meaning; and that that unity is not found between various verses of a chapter or between one chapter and the other. It necessarily follows that the theme of every chapter is different from the other; every chapter is revealed with a certain aim in view, and when that aim is achieved the chapter comes to its end.
Therefore, the verse, "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful" coming at the beginning of every chapter, refers to the particular theme of that chapter.
Accordingly, this verse, at the beginning of this chapter of "The Opening", refers also to the theme of this chapter. It appears from its semantic flow that its purpose is to praise Allah and to pledge the believer's servitude (declaring that he worships only Allah and seeks help from Him only) and then to pray for divine guidance. This speech has been uttered by Allah, on behalf of His servant, so that the servant may learn how, by repeating these words, he may show his gratitude to, and servitude before, Allah.
This pledging of servitude is the important work which the servant of Allah intends to do; and which he begins in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. In this context, this verse would mean: In Thy name, I pledge my servitude to Thee.
In this first verse of this chapter, therefore, the preposition, "in", is related to the implied verb, "I begin"; and the aim is to perfect the sincere servitude by addressing the pledge to Allah Himself. Some people have said that the implied verb is "I seek help" (by); although this view is not objectionable, but "I begin" is more appropriate - the chapter explicitly seeks divine help, "and Thee do we beseech for help"; therefore, it is not necessary in the beginning.
"al-Ism" (name) is the word that points to the named thing or person. It is derived from as-simah (sign, identifying mark) or as-sumuww (height, eminence). In any case, it is the word by which an individual thing or person is spoken of or spoken to. Naturally, it is other than, and separate from, the named thing.
The following is a sample of the academic exercises so much loved by the ancients:
There is a name that means "the person himself seen in the light of an attribute"; such a name is not separate from the named person; it is the person himself. The word al-Alim (The Knower), one of the divine names, points to the Person of Allah as seen in the light of His attribute of Knowledge. At the same time, it refers to Allah Who cannot be known except by one or the other of His attributes. Let us explain this matter in another way: "Name" points to the named person; likewise the personal traits and characteristics point to the holder of those traits and characteristics - in this way, we may say that the personal traits are the "names" of the person concerned. "Name", accordingly, can be of two kinds: in words, and in substance. The direct name is of the second type, ,that is, the personal trait that points to its own subjects - for example, the "Knowledge" that points to Allah, the holder of the knowledge. And the word "the Knower" is in reality an indirect name - it points to the direct name, that is, the attribute of knowledge, which in its turn directly points to its holder, that is, Allah. "Knowledge" is, thus, the name of Allah, and "the Knower" is "the name of the name".
The above was the result of the academic analysis (or should we say, mental luxury!) mentioned earlier; but such things should not be imposed on language and literature. "Name", according to the "plain Arabic language", means what we have written earlier. There was a lot of controversy going on among the theologians of the early centuries of Islam: whether the name was separate from the named person or not. Such unnecessary polemics is out of place at present times; it is self-evident that "name" and "named" are two things, and not one. We should not waste time and energy in quoting the ancients' arguments and counter-arguments, and in judging who was right.
"Allah" (the divine name) was originally al-Ilah; the "I" in the middle was omitted because of frequent use. Al-Ilah is derived from alaha (he worshipped) or from aliha or waliha (he was bewildered). It is on paradigm of al-fi’al on meaning of al-maf’ū1 (object-noun); for example, al-kitab means al -maktūb (the written); likewise a1-I1ah means al-Ma'lūh that is the One who is worshipped, or the One about whom minds are bewildered.
Quite clearly, it has become the proper name of God. It was commonly used in this meaning in Arabic long before the Quran was revealed. The fact that even pre-Islamic Arabs used this name for God, may be inferred from the following verses:
And if you should ask them who created them, they would certainly say: `Allah". . . (43:87).
. . . and they say: "This for Allah"-so they assert - "and this is for our associates". . . (6:136).
Other divine names may be used as adjectives for this name; for example, "the Beneficent and the Merciful Allah"; also, this name is used as subject of the verbs derived from other divine names; for example, "Allah knew", "Allah had mercy", "Allah gave sustenance" etc. But the word, "Allah", is never used as adjective to any other name, nor is the verb derived from it used to describe other names. It is a clear proof that it is the proper name of God.
The divine existence, inasmuch as Allah is the God of everything, presupposes that He should have all the attributes of perfection; and, as a result, this name points to all perfect attributes. That is why it is said that the name, "Allah", means "the Person Who is the Essential Being, and Who encompasses all the attributes of perfection". But the fact is that it is the proper name of God and no other meaning (except that related to worship or bewilderment) has been taken into consideration here.
"ar-Rahman ar-Rahīm " (The Beneficent, the Merciful) are two adjectives derived from ar-rahmah (mercy) .
When you see someone suffering from a deficiency which he cannot remove by himself, the reaction which you experience and which tells you to provide him with what he needs in order to make up his deficiency, is called mercy. Ultimately, mercy means giving and bestowing to fulfill other's need. It is this latter meaning in which this attribute is used for Allah.
"ar-Rahman " is on a paradigm which is used for magnification and exaggeration. "ar-Rahīm" is a paradigm of as-Sifatu 'l-mushabbahah (perpetual adjective, inseparable attribute). Therefore, "ar-Rahman " ( translated here as "the Beneficent") relates to that all-encompassing mercy that is bestowed upon the believers and the unbelievers alike. It is used in the Quran, mostly in this meaning. Allah says: The Beneficent (God) is firm in power (20 : 5 ); Say: “As for him who remains in error, the Beneficent (God) will surely prolong his length of days. . . (19:75). "ar-Rahīm" (translated here as "the Merciful"), on the other hand, is more appropriate for that mercy which shall remain for ever, the perpetual inexhaustible mercy that shall be bestowed on the believers in the life hereafter. Allah says: . . . and He is Merciful to the believers (33 :43); surely to them (i.e., the believers) He is Compassionate, Merciful (9 :117). That is why it is said that the mercy of "ar-Rahman " is common for the believers and the unbelievers, and that of "ar-Rahīm" is reserved for the believers.
QURAN: All praise is due to Allah: It has been said that "al- hamd" is to praise someone for a good acquired by his
own intention, "al-madh"(also translated as praise) is more general - it is used to praise even that good which
someone is given without his will and power. If you praise someone for his benevolence, you may use either word - al-hamd or
al-madh but if you want to praise a pearl for its lustre, you may use the verb al-madh, but not al-hamd because the pearl has
not acquired that lustre by its own will and power.
"al "(translated here as "all") in "al-hamd" denotes either species or praise, or each and every praise. The end-result is the same in either case; that is why it has been translated here as "all".
Allah says: That is Allah, your Lord, the Creator of every thing (40:62). Whatever there is, is created by Allah. Again He says: . . . Who made good everything that He has created (32: 7). Everything is good because it has been created by Allah and is attributed to Him. In other words, a thing becomes good because it is created by Allah; and everything created by Him is good. Every creature is good and beautiful because Allah has made it so; and every good and beautiful thing is created by Allah, attributed to Him. Allah says: He is Allah, the One, the Subduer (of all) (39 :4) ; And the faces are humbled before the Living, the Self-subsistent God . . . (20:111). In other words, He has created the creatures by His own knowledge, power and will, and not because He was compelled by someone else to do so. Therefore, everything is His own good work, done by His own will.
The above discourse was about Allah's action. Coming to His names, He has said: Allah is He besides Whom there is no god; His are the very best names (20 : 8) ; And Allah's are the best names; therefore call on Him thereby, and leave alone those who violate the sanctity of His names (7:180). It is clear that Allah is good in His names and good in His actions; and that every good and beauty emanates from Him.
Therefore, Allah is praised for His good names as He is praised for His good actions. Every praise, uttered by any speaker for any good deed is in reality addressed to Allah only; because every good (which is the object of praise) emanates from Him only. In short, to Him belongs the species of the praise and all and every praise.
The verse: "Thee do we worship", shows that the whole chapter is revealed on behalf of man. Allah teaches him in this chapter how to praise his Lord and how to show his allegiance to, and humility towards, Him. And the phrase, "All praise is due to Allah", further strengthens this inference, as will be seen in the next paragraph.
The praise means to attribute, to ascribe; and Allah has declared that He is above all that His servants ascribe to Him. He has said: Hallowed be Allah (for freedom) from what they ascribe, except the servants of Allah, freed (from sins) (37:159 -160). This declaration is general and unconditional; and it is further proved by the fact that not a single verse in the Quran ascribes the action of "praise" to anyone except Allah and some of the prophets (who were doubtlessly freed from sins). Allah addresses Nuh (Noah -a.s.) in these words: . . . Say: "All praise is due to Allah who delivered us from the unjust people" (23:28). And He quotes Ibrahim (Abraham -a.s.) as saying: "Praise be to Allah, Who gave me in old age Isma’il and Ishaq . . ." (14:39). Also, He told His Prophet, Muhammad, in several places, And say: "Praise be to Allah. . . " (27:93). Further, he says about Dawūd and Sulayman (peace be on both of them): . . . and they both said: “Praise be to Allah. . . " (27:15). Another exception is of the people of the
Paradise -and they also are freed from spite and rancour as well as from vain and sinful words: . . . and the last of their cry shall be: "Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds" (10:10).
As for other creatures, the Quran never says that they "praise" Allah - they always "glorify Allah with His praise". Allah says: . . . and the angels declare His glory with the praise of their Lord . . . (42:5) ; and the thunder declares His glory with His praise . . . (13:13); and there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise . . . (17:44) . In all these verses "praise" is preceded by glorifying; rather "glorifying" is the main verb and "with praise" is only a clause, attached to it. None except Allah may comprehend the beauty and perfection of His work, nor can anyone else understand the beauty and perfection of His names and attributes. Allah says: . . they do not comprehend Him in knowledge . . . (20 :110). In this background, if they were to praise Him it would mean that they had comprehended Him in their knowledge; in other words, Allah would be surrounded by their limited understanding, confined within the boundary of their comprehension. Therefore, they were careful enough to first declare His glory from all the limits of their comprehension, before starting His praise. Allah says: . . . surely Allah knows and you do not know (16:74).
So far as His purified servants are concerned, He treats their utterance of praise as though He Himself has said it, because they are free from sins and defects.
From the above discourse, it becomes crystal-clear what the good manner of servitude demands: The servant should praise his Lord in exactly the same words the Lord Himself has chosen for Himself; no deviation from it would be tolerable, as the Prophet has said in an universally accepted tradition; "I do not enumerate Thy praise; Thou art as Thou Thyself hast praised Thyself . . . "
Therefore, the divine word, "All praise is due to Allah", is a sort of a training to the servant - a training without which he could not know how to declare the praise of Allah.
QURAN: the Lord of the worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful, the Master of the Day of Judgement: "ar-Rabb" is the Master Who manages the affairs of His servant. The word, thus, connotes the idea of ownership. Ownership (in our social structure) is a special relationship of one thing with another - a relationship that allows the owner to do with the owned thing as he wishes. When we say, "This thing belongs to us", it shows that it has a special relationship with us that allows us to do with it as we wish; had it not been for this relationship, we would not have had this authority over it. In this social context, it is an idea which the society has laid down but which has no existence outside imagination. This idea is derived from another real and positive concept, which too is called "ownership": Our limbs and faculties, like the sight, the hearing, the hands and the feet, belong to us - they exist because of our own existence, they have no independent existence, they depend on us for their existence and continuity, and we use them as we like. This is the real ownership.
The ownership that may be attributed to Allah is the real one, and not that which is based on subjective outlook. Obviously the real ownership cannot be disjoined from management of the affairs of the owned thing. The owned thing depends on the owner in its existence, as well as in all affairs related to its existence. Allah is "ar-Rabb "the Lord of everything because the Lord is the owner who manages the affairs of, and looks after, the owned thing - and only Allah has this attribute.
"al-‘Alamīn is the plural of al’alam (the world) which literally means, "what one is known with”. This paradigm is used for "instrument", like al-qalab (the mold, the form), al-khatam (the seal, the instrument of sealing), and at-taba’ (the stamp, the impress). The word al-‘Alam is used for the universe - the whole creation taken together. Also it is used for each genes or species taken separately, for example, the inorganic world, the vegetable world, the animal world, the human world. It is also used for a class of a species, like the Arab world, the African world etc. This last meaning is more appropriate in the context of these verses: The verses that enumerate the good names of Allah until they come to "the Master of the Day of Judgement". The judgement is reserved for mankind alone or together with the jinn. Therefore, the "worlds" should refer to the worlds of the human beings and the jinn, that is, their various groups. The word al’alamin (the worlds) has been used in this sense in other Quranic verses too. Allah says: . . .and has chosen you above the women of the worlds (3 : 42) ; . . .so that he may be a Warner to the worlds (25:1); What! do you commit an indecency which any one in the worlds has not done before you (7 :80).
"The Master of the Day of Judgement": We have explained above the meaning of ownership, that is, mastership. The word "al-malik" is derived from al-milk (possession, to possess). Some reciters have read this word as "al -malik " (the sovereign, the king); it is derived from al-mulk (country; kingdom). The king is the one who has the authority to manage his nation's affairs; nevertheless he does not own the nation or the country. In other words, he holds the authority for management and administration.
The reciters have given the reasons for their preference of either recitation. But the fact remains that Allah is the Master as well as the King, and both words are equally correct, so far as the divine authority is concerned. Looking at it from linguistic point of view, the word, "King" is generally used in context of time and period. It is said, "the King of that time"; but they do not say "the master of that time", as it would be stretching the meaning too far. In this verse, Allah has used this word in reference to a certain "day"; therefore, linguistically, it would be more proper to say, "the King of the Day of Judgement". Moreover, Allah has used the word, "Kingdom" in context of the same day in other verse: To whom belongs the kingdom of this day? To Allah, the One, the Subduer (of all) (40:16).
Imam Reza said in explanation of the divine words: In the name of Allah: "It means: ‘I mark my soul with one of the marks of Allah', and it is (His) worship." He was asked: "What is the ‘mark'?" He said; "The brand." (`Uyūnu '1-akhbar and Ma'ani 'l-akhbar).
The author says: This meaning emanates from the explanation given earlier that the preposition, "in", herein connotes beginning. As the servant marks his worship with the name of Allah, he brands his soul - real doer of the worship - with one of the divine marks.
It is narrated in at-Tahdhīb from Imam Jafar, and in `Uyūnu 'l-akhbar and Tafsir of Ayyashi from Imam Reza that this verse "is nearer to the Greatest name of Allah than the iris of the eye is from its white".
The author says: This tradition will be explained when we shall talk about the Greatest name.
Imam Ali said that (this verse) is from the chapter of The Opening; and verily the Prophet used to recite it and count it as one of its verses, and he used to say, "The Opening of the Book is `the seven oft-repeated' (verses)". ( `Uyūnu 'l-akhbar )
The author says: This matter has also been narrated by the Sunni narrators. ad-Dar-qutnī narrates from Abū Hurayrah that he said: "The Prophet said: When you recite (the chapter of) The Praise (i.e., The Opening), you shall recite, In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, because it is the source of the Book and (is) the seven oft-repeated (verses), and, In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful is one of its verses.
Imam Jafar said: "What have they done? May Allah destroy them! They proceeded to the greatest verse of the Book of Allah, and thought that it would be an innovation (unlawful act) if they recited it loudly! " (al-Khisal )
al-Baqir said: "They stole the most exalted verse of the Book of Allah, (that is) In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. It should be recited at the start of every big or small work, so that it may be blessed.
The author says: There are numerous traditions of this meaning coming from the Imams of Ahlul Bayt. All of them prove that the verse (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful) is a part of every chapter, except the ninth (" Repentance") ; and the Sunni traditions also prove it
Anas (ibn Malik) said that the Prophet said: "Just now a chapter has been sent down to me." Then he began reciting, "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. " (as-Sahih, Muslim).
Abu Dawud narrates from Ibn `Abbas (and they say that its chain is "correct") that he said: "Verily, the Prophet did not know the separation of a chapter (and in another narrative it is `end of a chapter' ) until came down to him: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. "
The author says: This matter has been narrated by Shi `ite narrators also from al-Baqir.
It is reported in al-Kafi, at-Tawhīd, Ma’ani '1-akhbar and Tafsir of Ayyashi that Imam Jafar said, inter alia, in a tradition: "And Allah is God of everything, ar-Rahman (the Beneficent) for all His creations, ar-Rahīm (the Merciful) especially for the believers."
Imam Jafar has said: "ar-Rahman (the Beneficent) is a special name with a general attribute; and ar-Rahīm (the Merciful) is a general name with a special attribute."
The author says: The preceding commentary may explain why the mercy of "the Beneficent" is general for the believer and the unbeliever alike, and why that of "the Merciful" is reserved for the believer only. The description given in this tradition that "the Beneficent is a special name with a general attribute, and the Merciful is a general name with a special attribute ", perhaps this refers to the fact that the mercy of the Beneficent is limited to this world and is common for the whole creation; and that of the Merciful is common to this world and the hereafter but is reserved for the believer. In other words, the mercy of the Beneficent is reserved for the creative blessings that are bestowed on believers and unbelievers alike; and that of the Merciful is common to the creative and legislative blessings (the latter opening the way to happiness and felicity) and is reserved for believers, because only the bounties bestowed upon them will last for ever, and the (good) end is for guarding (against evil) and for piety.
It is narrated in Kashfu '1-ghummah that Imam Jafar said: "A mule of my father was lost. He said: `If Allah brought it back to me, I would thank Him with praises He would be pleased with.” Shortly afterwards, it was brought before him with its saddle and rein (intact). When he sat on it and arrayed his clothes, he raised his head towards heaven and said: ‘Praise be to Allah.’ He said nothing more. Then he said: “I did not omit, nor did I leave out, anything; I have declared that all praises are for Allah, Powerful and Great is He!; because there is no praise but it is included in this (formula)."
It is narrated in `Uyūnu 'l-akhbar that 'Ali was asked about its explanation. He said: "Verily, Allah has explained to His servants broadly some of His bounties on them, as they cannot know all His bounties in detail - they are beyond enumeration and description. Therefore, He said: Say: ‘All praise is for Allah on what He has bestowed upon us.’ "
The author says: The Imam points to the fact mentioned earlier that the praise, in this verse, is from the servant, and that Allah has revealed it to teach him the manners of servitude and worship.
FROM PHILOSOPHICAL POINT OF VIEW
Reason tells us that an effect, as well as all its characteristics and affairs, depend on its cause; whatever perfection it may be having, is a shadow of the cause. If beauty or goodness has any existence, then its perfect and independent entity is for Allah only, as He is the Cause of all causes. The praise and thank is addressed, in reality, to the cause which creates the perfection and excellence referred to. As every perfection is caused by Allah, every praise and thank, in reality, is addressed to Allah. Therefore, all praise is for, and due to Allah.
QURAN: Thee do we worship and Thee do we beseech for help:
"al- Abd" means slave, a human being who is owned. In its abstract sense, it is applied to other intellectual beings also, as the words of Allah show: There is no one in the heavens and the earth but will come to the Beneficent God as “abdan" ( a slave) (19:93). In modern usage, it is commonly translated as ‘servant'
"al –Ibadah " (to serve, to worship, to obey) is derived from this word. Its inflexion and meaning changes according to the context. al-Jawhari has written in his dictionary, as-Şihah, that "the basis of al-‘ubūdiyyah (bondage, servitude) is "al-khudu’ (submission). But this explanation is not of the word; it only shows a concomitant quality of its meaning; because al-khudu` is used with the preposition “li”, and al-`ibadah is used without any preposition.
When a servant of Allah worships Him, he stands before the Lord as a slave stands before his master. That is why worship is diametrically opposed to arrogance and pride - but it is not so opposed to polytheism; after all, a slave may be jointly owned by two or more masters. Allah says: Verily those who are arrogant to My worship shall soon enter Hell, disgraced (40:60). Also He says: . . . and he should not join anyone in the worship of his Lord (18:110). It should be noted here that polytheism - joining someone in the worship of Allah - is a possibility, and that is why it has been made subject of this prohibition; none forbids an impossible thing. But arrogance does not exist with worship, and that is why the expression, "arrogant to my worship ", has been used in the first verse.
Servitude is effective in those affairs which are owned or controlled by the master; and not in other matters related to the slave, like his being son of his father, or having a height of so many centimetres - there is no submission or servitude in such things. But the mastership of Allah is not limited; His mastership is not shared by anyone else, nor is the servitude of the creatures divided between Allah and someone else. A master has only limited authority over his servants - he may employ them to perform certain duties, but he cannot kill them or punish them unjustly. But Allah has total and all-encompassing authority over His servants; He does whatsoever He wills with them and about them. His ownership is unconditional and unlimited; and the servitude of His creatures is likewise unconditional and unlimited. This "ownership" is true and exclusive on both sides: The Lord has the exclusive ownership, and the slave has the exclusive servitude. The construction of the sentence, "Thee do we worship", points to this exclusiveness - the object, "Thee", has been placed before the verb, and worship is mentioned without any condition.
It has been explained earlier that the owned thing exists and subsists because of, and with, its owner. In this sense, it should not divert an onlooker's attention from its owner. You look at a house belonging to Zayd; if you are looking at it merely as a house, you may possibly lose sight of Zayd; but if you look at it from the angle that it is a property of Zayd, you cannot wean your thoughts from him.
The only true attribute of the universe is that it is created and owned by Allah. Nothing in the creation can hide the divine presence, nor should looking at these things make one forgetful of Allah. He is ever present, as He has said: Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that he is a witness over all things? Now surely they are in doubt as to the meeting of their Lord; now surely He encompasses all things (41:53-54). The true worship, therefore, is that in which the worshipped and the worshipper both are present. Allah should be worshipped as the One who is present before the worshipper - and that is why the third person of the preceding verses has been changed to the second person in this verse, "Thee do we worship". The worshipper should be present before his Lord, not only with his body but also with his soul; otherwise, the worship would be a body without soul, a form without life. Nor should he divide his attention between his Lord and someone (or something) else - neither openly, (as the idol worshippers do) - nor secretly (like the one whose mind is on something else while worshipping Allah, or the one who worships Allah because he wants to enter the Garden or to save himself from the hell). All these diversions are various facets of polytheism, and Allah has forbidden it in His Book: . . . therefore, worship Allah, being sincere to Him in religion (39:2). Now, surely, sincere religion is for Allah (alone), and (as for) those who take guardians besides Him, (saying): We do not worship them save that they may make us nearer to Allah, surely Allah will judge between them in that in which they differ (39:3 ).
Worship shall be a true worship when it is done with pure intention, and this purity has been named as the presence of the worshipper. This will happen only when the attention of the Worshipper is not fixed on anyone other than Allah (otherwise, it would be polytheism); and when his aim of worship is not any other hope or fear like that of the paradise or the hell (otherwise, the worship would not be purely for Allah). Moreover, he should not be concerned with his own self, as it would tantamount to egotism and arrogance, completely opposite of submission and servitude. Probably the plural pronoun - "we" worship - points to this fact; it negates the individuality of the worshipper as he includes himself in a multitude of people; it removes egotism, creates humility, and effaces the tendency of self-importance.
The declaration of one's servitude with the words, "Thee do we worship", is free from all defects, so far as its meaning and purity are concerned. Yet, as the servant describes the worship as his own act, it could create an impression that he thought to be independent in existence, power and will, while in fact he is only a slave and slave owns nothing. The second sentence, "and Thee do we beseech for help", removes this possible misunderstanding. It means: "We ascribe the worship to ourselves and make this claim only with Thy help; we are never independent of Thee. In other words, the complete verse, "Thee do we worship and Thee do we beseech for help”, gives a single meaning, and that is "worship with purity of intention". Probably, that is why both sentences have the same style; otherwise, it could be said, 'Thee do we worship; help us and guide us . . .' The style has been changed in the next verse, "guide us . . ." and its reason will be explained later.
The above-given explanation makes it clear why the pronouns in this verse have been changed from the third to the second person; why the restrictive device of putting the object ("Thee") before the verb has been chosen; why the worship, in "do we worship", is used without any condition; why worshipper includes others with him in this declaration of allegiance and worship; why the second sentence is needed after the first; and why both have the same construction and style.
The scholars have written other fine points about this verse; the reader is advised to refer to their books for this purpose; Allah is the creditor whose debt can never be repaid.
Guide us to the straight path (6), the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, not of those inflicted by Thy wrath, nor of those gone astray (7).
OUR 'AN: Guide us to the straight path . . . nor of those gone astray: The meaning of "al-hidayah " (guidance, to guide) may easily be understood, if we consider first the significance of the "path". "as-Sirat"(path) is synonymous with at-tarīq and as-sabīl. In these verses, Allah has commended the path that it is straight and that it is the path taken by those upon whom Allah has bestowed His bounties and favours. It is this path guidance to which has been asked for. And it is the ultimate goal of the worship: The servant prays to his Lord that his worship, clean from all impurities, be performed in this path.
Allah has mentioned in His Book that He has laid down a path for man, nay, for all the creation, a path upon which they are proceeding. He says: O man! surely thou art striving to thy Lord, a hard striving, until thou art to meet Him (84:6); . . . and to Him is the ultimate resort (64:3); . . . now surely to Allah do all affairs eventually come (42:53). There are many such verses, showing that all are proceeding on a prescribed road and that their destination is Allah.
So far as the way is concerned, Allah has said that there are two ways, not one: Did I not enjoin on you, 0 children of Adam! that you should not worship the Satan? Surely he is your open enemy. And that you should worship Me; this is the straight path (30:60-61). So, there is a straight path, and also there is another path. Again He has said: . . . then verily I am near; I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way (2:186); Call upon Me, I will answer you. Verily, those who are arrogant to My worship shall soon enter hell, disgraced (40:60). Obviously, Allah is near to His servants, and the nearer path to Him is that of worship and prayer. Compare it with description of those who do not believe in Him: . . . these shall be called to from a far-off place (41:44). Obviously, the station of unbelievers is far-off place.
There are thus two ways to Allah, a near one - the way of the believers - and a distant one, that of the others. It is the first difference between the ways.
Second difference: Surely (as for) those who reject Our signs and turn away from them haughtily, the doors of heaven shall not be opened for them (7:40). What is the function of a door? To let authorized people pass through it and bar the entry to unauthorized ones. The verse shows that there is a passage from the lower level to the upper heights. On the other hand, Allah says: . . . and to whomsoever My wrath descends he shall perish indeed (20:81). The word translated here as "shall perish" literally means "shall fall down". Therefore, there is another passage coming for the upper heights to the lower level. Also He says: . . . and whoever adopts unbelief instead of faith, he indeed has gone astray from (i.e., has lost) the right way (2: 108). Allah uses the term "polytheism" for "going astray".
Accordingly, people are divided into three categories: First, those who proceed to the upper heights - those who believe in the signs of Allah and are not arrogant to His worship. Second, those who fall down to the lower levels - they are those upon whom the wrath of Allah has descended. Third, those who have gone astray from the right path; they are lost, wandering hither and thither. The last verse under discussion points to these three categories: "the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, not of those inflicted by Thy wrath, nor of those gone astray."
Obviously, "the straight path" is separate from the last two paths. It is the path of the believers who are not arrogant. At the same time, the following verse shows that the straight path itself may be divided in various "traffic lanes", ways or branches: . . . Allah will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees . . . (58 :11). This statement needs some elaboration:
Every straying is polytheism and vice versa, as may be inferred from the words of Allah: . . . and whoever adopts unbelief instead of faith, he indeed has gone astray from the right way (2:108). The same is the theme of the verse: Did not I enjoin on you, O children of Adam! that you should not worship the Satan? Surely he is your open enemy. And that you should worship Me; this is the straight path. And certainly he has led astray a great multitude from among you (36:60 - 62). Likewise, the Quran counts polytheism as injustice and vice versa, as may be seen in the words which the Satan shall utter after the judgement will be delivered against him and his followers: . . . surely I disbelieved in your associating me with Allah, before; surely it is the unjust that shall have the painful punishment (14:22). Then it counts injustice as straying: Those who believe and do not mix up their faith with injustice, those are they who shall have the security and they are those who shall be guided aright (6:82). It should be noted that they shall be guided aright and shall have security against straying or its resulting punishment only if they do not mix their faith with injustice and inequity.
It is clear from looking at these verses together that going stray, polytheism and inequity all have the same effect; all three are adjunct to each other. That is why it is said that each of them is indentifiable by the other two. For all practical purposes the three are one and the same, although they may be different in their literal meaning.
The straight path, then, is different from that of those who have gone astray; it is a path which is far away from polytheism and injustice. There can be no straying in this path - neither in hidden ideas and beliefs (for example, the disbelief or the thoughts disapproved by Allah) ; nor in open actions or omissions (like committing a sin or omitting a good deed). It is the true monotheism in belief and in deeds. And what is there after the truth but error? The above-mentioned verse 6:82, fits on it completely. That verse guarantees security in the way and promises perfect guidance. The promise is inferred from the fact that the original word translated as "guided aright" is noun-agent, and the grammarians say that such a noun is really made for future. This is one feature of the straight path.
Allah has identified those bestowed with divine favours, in the verse: And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, these are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed favours from among the prophets and the truthful and the martyrs and the righteous ones; and excellent are these as companions (4:69). The belief and the obedience have been explained shortly before it in these words: But no! by your Lord! they do not believe (in reality) until they make you a judge of that which has become a matter of disagreement among them, and then they do not find any straitness in their selves as to what you have decided, and submit with total submission. And if We had prescribed for them: Kill yourselves or go forth from your homes, they would not have done it except a few of them; and if they had done what they were admonished, it would have certainly been better for them and most efficacious in strengthening (them) (4 :65-66) . Those who truly believe are really strong in their servitude and submission, in words and in deeds; in appearance and in secret. Yet such perfect believers shall be placed in a rank behind those upon whom Allah has bestowed favours; that is why Allah has said, "these are with those . . ." and not, ‘among those’. They shall be with them, but not of them. It is further strengthened by the last sentence, "and excellent are these as companions". Companions are other than the self.
There is another, somewhat similar, verse in fifty-seventh chapter: and (as for) those who believe in Allah and His Messengers, these it is that are the truthful and the martyrs with their Lord; they shall have their reward and their light . . . (57:19). The believers, thus, shall be included in the ranks of the martyrs and the truthful - in the life hereafter. The fact that it will happen in the next world is inferred from the words, "with their Lord", and "they shall have their reward".
Those bestowed with divine favours who are the people of the straight path - with whose relationship the straight path is identified - have greater prestige and higher rank than these believers who have cleansed their beliefs and actions from straying, polytheism and injustice. Pondering on these verses together, one feels sure that this group of the believers (with this quality) still continues; it has not come to its end. Had this group completed its term, it would have been counted among (and not, "with") those bestowed with favours; these believers would have gone up and instead of being with those bestowed with favours, would have become part of them. They probably are among those who have been given knowledge from Allah, as He says: Allah will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees (58:11).
The people of the straight path are bestowed with excellent bounties that are more precious than that of the complete faith and perfect belief. This is the second feature of the straight path.
Allah repeatedly mentions as-sirat (path) and as-sabīl (way) in the Quran; but He has never attributed to Himself except one straight path; although He attributes several ways to Himself. And (as for) those who strive hard for Us. We will most certainly guide them onto Our ways (29:69).
Likewise, He has never ascribed "the straight path" to any of his servants, the only exception being this verse under discussion which ascribes it to those who are bestowed with divine favours; but He frequently attributes "the way" to one or the other of His chosen servants: Say: "This is my way; I invite you unto Allah; with clear sight (are) I and he who follows me" (12:108); . . . and follow the way of him who turns to Me (31:15); . . . the way of the believers . . . (4:l15). It is an indication that "the way" is other than "the straight path". There may be various and different ways taken by various chosen servants proceeding on the way of worship and submission; but "the straight path" is only one, as Allah points to it in these words: Indeed, there has come to you a light and a clear Book from Allah; with it Allah guides him who follows His pleasure into the ways of safety and brings them out of utter darkness into light by His permission and guides them to the straight path (5:15-16). See, how the verse refers to "the ways" (in plural), and to "the straight path" (in singular). Now, there may be two explanations for it. Either "the straight path" is the same thing as "the ways", or "the ways" on going further join together and then merge into the straight path.
There is another difference between the straight path and the way. Allah says: And most of them do not believe in Allah without associating others (with Him) (12:106). Note how the believers are said to associate others with Allah. It shows that some sort of polytheism (that is, straying) may co-exist with belief (and the belief is a "way"); in other words the way may co-exist with polytheism. But the straight path cannot do so because it is not the path of those who have gone astray.
Each of these ways has some excellence or some deficiency - but not so the straight path. Each way is a part of the straight path, but is distinguished from the other ways. It may be inferred from the above-mentioned verses as well as from others. For example, Allah says: And that you worship Me; this is the straight path (36 : 61) ; Say: "Surely, (as for) me, my Lord has guided me to the straight path; (to) a most right religion, the faith of Ibrahim the upright one" (6:161). The worship and the religion are common to all the ways, and they are also "the straight path". The relation of the straight path to the ways of Allah is that of the soul to the body. The body, during the life, undergoes countless changes, varies from day to day - from infancy to childhood; from adolescence to youth, from middle to old age and to senility. But the soul remains the same, and is always one with body at every stage. Sometimes, the body is inflicted with undesirable effects, which the soul would never accept, if left to itself. But the soul - the creation of Allah, upon which He created the man - never deteriorates. Yet, in all these states, the body remains one with the soul. Likewise, the ways of Allah are one with the straight path; but sometimes a way - the way of the believers, of the followers of the Prophet of those who turn towards Allah or any other way - suffers from some kind of deterioration, although the straight path is immune from all defects and imperfections. You have seen how one of the ways, the belief, sometimes combines with polytheism and straying, but the straight path does not do so. In short, the ways are of various grades -near or distant; safe or unsafe; clean or unclean - but all are in the straight path, or, let us say, are one with the straight path.
Allah has mentioned this fact, in a parable of truth and falsehood, in these words: He sends down water from the heaven, then the valleys flow according to their measure, and the torrent bears along the swelling foam; and from what they melt in the fire for the sake of (making) ornaments or apparatus arises a scum like it; thus does Allah compare truth and falsehood; then as for the scum, it passes away as a worthless thing; and as for that which profits the people, it remains in the earth; thus does Allah set forth parables (13:17) . It clearly shows that the hearts and mind differ in their abilities and capacities to receive the divine knowledge and spiritual perfection, although all partake of the same divine sustenance. (Its full explanation will be written in the ch. 13).
This was, however, the third feature of the straight path. From the above analysis it may be seen that the straight path is a sort of controller of all the ways leading to Allah. We may say that a way leading to Allah leads a man to Him as long as it remains one with the straight path; but the straight path leads to Allah unconditionally, without any if or but. That is why Allah has named it "as-siratu '1-mustaqīm" (the straight path). as-Sirat means a clear path, and is derived from "saratttu sartan " (I swallowed it completely); in other words, this clear path swallows its walkers without letting them go out. "al-Mustaqim" (straight) literally means the one who stands on his legs, and has full control of himself as well as of the things attached to him. In other words, it is a thing which is not subjected to change or variation. Thus "as-siratu 'l-mustaqīm" is the straight path is the path which never fails to guide and to lead the walker to his destination. Allah says: Then as for those who believe in Allah and hold fast unto Him, soon will He admit them to Mercy from Him and (His) Grace, and guide them unto Himself (by) the straight path (4 :175). Obviously this guidance does not fail; it always succeeds. Also He has said: Therefore (for) whomsoever Allah intends that He would guide him aright, He expands his breast for Islam, and (for) whomsoever He intends that He should leave him to err, He makes his breast strait and narrow as though he were ascending into the sky; thus does Allah lay uncleanliness on those who do not believe. And this is the path of your Lord, (a) straight (path) (6 :125 -126) . That is, this is Allah's path that never changes, nor does it fail to reach its destination. Again He says: He said: "This is a straight path with Me; surely as regards My servants, thou hast no authority over them except those who follow thee of the deviators " (15:41-42). The verse declares that this is His settled course which never varies. In this way, it conveys the same idea which is contained in the verse: For you shall not find any alteration in the course of Allah; and you shall not find any change in the course of Allah (35 :43).
The above-mentioned discourse has made the following points clear:
First: There are various ways to Allah, each differing with others in perfection, easiness and smoothness. It all depends on its nearness or remoteness from the basic reality, from the straight path, like the way of submission, of faith, of worship, of purity of intention or of humility before Allah. Some of the ways leading to the opposite direction are disbelief, polytheism, infidelity, exceeding the bounds, committing sins etc. Allah has said: And for all are grades according to what they did, and so that He may pay them back fully their deeds and they shall not be dealt with unjustly (46:19).
The same is the case with the spiritual knowledge which the human mind receives from Allah. They vary according to mental and spiritual capacity of the receivers, and are tinted by colours of visions of the beholders. This fact is shown in the Quranic parable mentioned earlier: He sends down water from the heaven, then the valleys flow according to their measure . . . (13:17).
Second: The straight path controls all the ways. Likewise, the people of the straight path (who have been firmly established in it by Allah) do enjoy complete authority to guide the other servants of Allah. Allah says: . . . and excellent are these as companions (4:69); Verily, your only Master is Allah and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayer and pay zakat while they are bowing down (5:55). The last mentioned verse was revealed about ‘Ali, the Leader of the faithful, as al-mutawatir traditions say; and he (peace be on him) was the first to open this door in Islam. More details of it will be given in the fifth chapter.
Third: The import of the guidance to the way depends on the meaning of the way itself. al-Hiddyah means to
guide, to lead; it accepts two objects, either without any preposition (as in the language of Hijaz) or with ila (to) before the second object (as in the language of other tribes). This detail has been given in as-Sihah of al-Jawharī, and obviously it is correct.
Before going further, a mistaken notion should be removed. Some people think that the meaning of guidance changes, depending on whether its second object is preceded by the preposition ila or not. If there is no such preposition, then according to them, guidance means "to convey to the destination"; if it is preceded by ila, then it denotes "to show the path". In evidence, they offer the following verses: Surely you cannot guide whom you love, but Allah guides whom He pleases (28:56). This verse, in which the verbs, "cannot guide" and "guides", have been used without preposition, says that the Prophet could not guide whom he pleased. But it is known that he, throughout his life, guided the people, that is, showed them the path of Allah. Therefore, what has been negated must be the other meaning. What the verse, then, says is this: you cannot convey to the spiritual goal whom you please; but it is Allah who conveys to that destination whom He pleases. This difference in meaning is more clearly seen in the verses: And We would certainly have guided them in the right path (4:68). The verb (in the Arabic text) has been used without any preposition and it refers to the divine guidance -that is, conveyance to destination. And Allah addresses the Prophet in these words: and most surely you guide to the right path (42:52). Here the verb is followed by ila and the sentence attributes to the Prophet the task of guidance, in the meaning of showing the way. According to their reasoning the three verses put together show that when guidance is used in the meaning of "conveying to destination", its second object accepts no preposition; when it is used for "showing the path", the said object is preceded by ila.
But this notion is not supported by the Quran. Allah quotes the believer of the people of Pharaoh as saying: "O my people! follow me, I will guide you to the right course" (40:38). Here the Arabic text has no preposition and yet it does not mean conveying to destination, it only denotes showing the way.
What has been mentioned in the verse 28:56 (Surely you cannot guide whom you love, but Allah guides whom He pleases) is the reality or perfection of guidance. The verse shows that the Prophet could not bestow on his people the perfect guidance, the reality of guidance, as it was a task that Allah has reserved for Himself.
In short, the meaning of guidance does not depend on preposition ila coming or not coming before the second object. In both cases the meaning is the same.
al-Hidayah means to guide, to show the destination by showing the way, or, let us say, to convey to the destination. Guidance, in reality, is reserved for Allah, and He guides His servants by creating such causes that point the destination to them and lead them to their spiritual goal. Allah says: Therefore (for) whomsoever Allah intends that He would guide him aright, He expands his breast for Islam (6 :125) ; . . . then their skins and their hearts become pliant to the remembrance of Allah; this is Allah's guidance, He guides with it whom He pleases (39:23). The verb "become pliant" is followed by the preposition "to", giving the verb a shade of meaning of inclination and repose. Guidance, thus, means that Allah creates in the heart an aptitude by which it initiates, accepts, inclines towards and becomes serene in the remembrance of Allah.
It has been mentioned earlier that there are many ways leading to Allah. Consequently, guidance for one way would differ from those of the others. Each way has a special guidance of its own. This variation has been hinted at in the verse: And (as for) those who strive hard for Us, We will most certainly guide them unto Our ways; and Allah is most surely with the doers of good (29:69). A man strives "in the way of Allah"; and another strives "for Allah". There is a great difference between the two. The first tries to keep the way safe and free from all dangers and blockades; the second's attention is fixed on Allah only. It is this man who is praised in this verse - he strives hard for Allah; thereupon Allah helps him and guides him on the way most suited to his ability and power; and thereafter keeps guiding him from one way to another until He exclusively attaches him to Himself.
Fourth: The straight path is preserved in the ways of Allah - the ways that are of various grades and levels. Allah guides man to it; and the man is thus guided aright. As mentioned above, Allah may keep guiding a man from one way to the other which is of a higher grade, and then to a third one still higher. The prayer in this verse, "Guide us to the straight path" (revealed on behalf of those whom Allah has already guided to His worship) points to this very fact. If we keep this point in view, there would be no room for an objection like the following: The one who utters this prayer is already guided aright - how can he pray afresh for guidance? It would be an attempt to reobtain a thing which is already in hand, and it is just impossible. Also, the worshipper is already on the straight path - how can he pray to be guided again to the same path? Isn't it an impossibility?
But the explanation given by us clears away the mist of such objections.
Another objection: Our Law is the most perfect and most comprehensive of all the laws sent by Allah since the dawn of humanity. Why should we ask from Allah to guide us to the path of those of the previous people upon whom He had bestowed favours?
Reply: Admittedly, the Law brought by Muhammad is more perfect than any other one. But it does not necessarily mean that all those who follow this Law are more perfect than all those who followed the previous laws. An average follower of the law of Muhammad cannot surpass Nuh or Ibrahim , although their laws were sent long before the Islamic Law. It is one thing to accept and follow a law; it is quite another to get spiritual perfection by total submission - by perfectly moulding oneself in that law's pattern. A believer of previous nations who attained a high spiritual level, who became a mirror of divine attributes, is most certainly better than, and superior to, a follower of this law who did not reach that state - even though the latter would be following the most perfect and comprehensive law, that is, the Law of Muhammad. Therefore, it is quite in order for a believer of lower grade (although he may follow a perfect law) to pray to Allah to help him reach the level of a believer of higher grade (although he might have followed a less perfect law).
An exegete has replied to the above-mentioned objection in a way that is not free from defects. He has said: The religion of Allah is one, and that is Islam. The fundamental truths - the belief in One God, the Prophethood and the Day of Judgement and all that results from this belief - are the same in all the laws and revelations sent by Allah. The Law of Islam has an added distinction, in that it covers all aspects of human life and is, thus, the most comprehensive one. It looks more properly after public welfare. Moreover, its foundation is laid on reasoning - in all its forms: The logic, the admonition and the goodly argumentation.
All divine religions are, thus, the same and the fundamental truths are common to all. The previous people have preceded us in this path. Therefore, Allah has ordered us to look into their affairs, to take lessons from them and to follow them to spiritual perfection.
The author says: The principle upon which this reply is based is against the principles that guide us in exegesis of the Quran. The reply assumes that the realities of fundamental truths are on the same level in all the religions; that there is no difference in their grades; that the spiritual perfections and religious virtues are of the same quality everywhere. According to this view, the highest ranking prophet is equal to the lowest type of believer in his existence and natural perfection - so far as his creation is concerned. The difference, if any, is based on the subjective outlook of shariah, not on any matter of creation. In their opinion, this case is similar to that of a king vis-a-vis his subjects - they are not different in their human existence, the difference is in their subjective and assumed positions only which are laid down by people and which do not have any independent existence.
This thinking, in its turn, is based on the theory of materialism, which teaches that nothing exists but matter; metaphysical "things" have no existence at all (or, at least, we are not in a position to know that they exist). The only exception is God, and we believe in His existence because of logical evidence.
Those who accepted this view did so because, coming under the influence of natural sciences, they put all their confidence in their five senses. Or because they thought that "commonsense" was enough for explaining the divine words, and therefore, neglected to meditate on the Quran. God willing, we shall throw more light on this subject at some other place.
Fifth: The people of the straight path are higher in rank than others, and their path is superior to the others' ways. It is because of their knowledge, and not because of their virtuous deeds. They have that knowledge of divine attributes which is hidden from others. (We have explained earlier that perfection of virtuous deeds is found in some of the inferior ways also. Therefore, deeds cannot be the criterion by which the people of the straight path are given excellence over the rest.) The question arises as to what is that knowledge and how it is acquired. We shall deal with these questions when we shall explain the verse 13:17 (He sends down water from the heaven, then the valleys flow according to their measure).
The following verses too point to this fact: Allah will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge in higher degrees (58:11); To Him do ascend the good words; and the good deed lifts them up (35:10). What ascends to Allah is the good words, that is, true belief and knowledge; good deeds lift up the good words and help them in their ascension, without themselves going up. We shall fully discuss this verse when we shall reach it.
Imam Jafar said about the meaning of worship: "Worship is of three kinds: some people worship Allah, because they fear Him - so it is the worship of slaves; and a group worships Allah, Blessed and High is He, to seek reward - so it is the worship of hirelings; and a group worships Allah, Mighty and Great is He, because of (His) love - and this is the worship of noble persons, and it is the most excellent worship." (al-Kafi )
Verily, some people worshipped Allah being desirous (of His reward) - so this is the worship of traders; and some people worshipped Allah fearing (His punishment) - so it is the worship of slaves, and a group worshipped Allah in gratitude (to Him) -so this is the worship of noble men. (Nahju '1-baldghah)
Imam Jafar said: "Verily people worship Allah in three ways: One group worships Him in desire of His reward, and it is the worship of covetous ones, and it is greed; and others worship Him in dread of the Fire, and it is the worship of slaves, and it is fear; but I worship Him in His love - Mighty and Great is He and this is the worship of noble ones. (It is) because Allah has said: and they shall be secure from terror on that days (27:89); and He has said, Say: `If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you. . .' (3:31). Therefore, whosoever is loved by Allah, he shall be among the secure ones; and it is a hidden position, cannot touch it save the purified ones." (al-`Ilal, al-Majalis and al-Khisal )
The author says: The meaning of these traditions may be understood from the preceding commentary. The Imams (of Ahlul Bayt) have variously attributed the worship of the noble ones sometimes to gratitude and sometimes to love, because in final analysis both are one and the same. Gratitude and thank means putting the received bounty in its proper place. It is the thank of worship that it should be addressed to Allah, as only He, Himself, deserves to be worshipped. Allah is worshipped because He is Allah, that is, because He alone holds all attributes of beauty and glory. He, of all things, is Beautiful; He alone is loved for Himself. What is love? It is inclination and attraction towards beauty. We say: He is worshipped because He is He; We may express the same idea if we say: He is worshipped because He is beautiful and beloved. Again, the same theme may be explained by saying that He is worshipped because He is the Bestower of favours and is thanked through worship. All three expressions carry the same import.
It has been narrated through Sunni chains that Imam Jafar explained the verse, "Thee do we worship . . ." in these words: "We do not ask from Thee other than Thee, and we do not worship Thee by substitute and replacement, as do those who are ignorant of Thee, removed from Thee."
The author says: This tradition points to what has been explained in the commentary that worship demands presence (of heart) and purity (of intention) which does not allow diversion to any substitute, to anything else.
Imam Jafar said inter alia in a tradition: "And whosoever thinks that he worships (Allah) by (His) attributes without being conscious of Him, he refers (his worship) to an absent one; and whosoever thinks that he worships the attribute and the person (having that attribute) he nullifies monotheism, because the attribute is other than the person; and whosoever thinks that he ascribes the person to the attribute, he belittles the Great One, and they do not assign to Allah His proper prestige . . .' " (Tuhafu '1-‘uqūl)
Imam Jafar explained the verse: Guide us to the straight path, in these words: "Guide us to adhere to the path that leads to Thy love, and conveys to Thy Garden, (the path that) prevents us from following our desires (lest we be ruined) and from adhering to our opinions (lest we be destroyed). (Ma`ani 'l-akhadr)
The same book quotes `Ali as saying about this verse: "Continue for us Thy help with which we obeyed Thee in our past days, so that we continue to obey Thee in our coming days also."
The author says: The two traditions point to two aspects of the reply of the previously mentioned objection - that the prayer for guidance, addressed by a person already guided aright, is trying to obtain a thing in hand, and that it was asking for impossible. The first tradition looks at the difference in the grades of guidance, and the second looks at oneness of guidance in its reality.
Again Ma’ani 'l-akhbar quotes 'Ali as saying: "The straight path, in this world, is that which stops short of excesses and rises above shortcomings, and remains straight; and, in the next world, it is the path of the believers (leading them) to the Garden. "
The same book quotes the same Imam, explaining the verse: The path of those. . ., as follows: "Say: Guide us to the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours by strengthening them for Thy religion and Thy obedience - not (of those whom Thou favoured) with wealth and health because such things are sometimes given even to the disbelievers or to the sinful." (Then he said:) "And those (bestowed with divine favour) are those about whom Allah says: And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, these are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed favours from among the prophets and the truthful and the martyrs and the righteous ones, and excellent are these as companions (4:69).
Imam Reza narrates through his forefathers from Imam Ali that he said: "I heard the Prophet saying: ‘Allah, Mighty and Great is He, has said: "I have divided the Opening of the Book between Myself and My servant; so, its half is for Me and the (other) half is for My servant. And My servant shall get what he asks for." When the servant says: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Allah, Great is His Glory, says: "My servant has started with My name, and it is incumbent upon Me that I should complete his works for him and bless him in his affairs." And when he says: All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, Allah, Great is His Glory, says: "My servant has praised Me, and he knows that the bounties that are with him are from Me, and that the misfortunes that have been averted from him were so averted by My grace; (O My angels!) I appoint you as My witnesses that I shall add for him the favours of the next world to those of this world, and will avert from him the calamities of the next world as I have averted from him the calamities of this world." And when he says, The Beneficent, the Merciful, Allah, Great is His Glory, says: "My servant bore witness for Me that I am the Beneficent, the Merciful; I make you My witness that I will most surely augment his share in My mercy, and I will most certainly increase his portion in My bounties." And when he says, The Master of the Day of Judgement, Allah, the High, says: "I make you My witness that, as he has acknowledged that I am the Master of the Day of Judgement, I will most certainly make his reckoning easier (for him) on the Day of Reckoning, and I will most certainly accept his good deeds, and look over his sins." And when he says: Thee do we worship, Allah, Mighty and Great is He, says: "My servant is telling truth, He worships Me only. Be My witness that I will most surely give him for his worship a reward that will be the (object of) envy to all who opposed him when he worshipped Me." And when he says, and Thee do we beseech for help, Allah, the High, says: "From Me has My servant sought help, and in Me has he taken refuge. Be My witness that I will most certainly help him in his affairs, and will aid him in his difficulties, and will take his hand in his calamities." And when he says, Guide us to the right path . . ., Allah, Mighty and Great is He, says: "This (part) is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he asks for; and I have answered (the prayer of) My servant, and have given him what he hopes for and have protected him from what he is afraid of." ' " (`Uyūnu 'l-akhbar).
The author says: Saduq has narrated in `Ilalu ‘sh-shara'i `, an almost similar tradition from Imam Reza. The tradition explains the chapter of The Opening in the frame of the daily prayer. It further confirms the previously mentioned fact that this divine revelation has been sent, as though on behalf of the servants of Allah, to teach them the manners of servitude; to show them how to praise their Lord and how to declare their allegiance to Him. It is a chapter made especially for the purpose of worship; and no other chapter comes near to it in this respect. For example:
1. The entire chapter is a divine speech, revealed on behalf of His servant, so that he may recite it when he stands to worship his Lord.
2. It is divided in two parts: one for Allah and the other for the servant.
3. It contains, in spite of its brevity, all the Quranic wisdom. The Quran is a vast treasure of fundamental truths, moral values and the most comprehensive shariah which consists of the rules of worship and mutual dealings, as well as the penal and civil codes. Further it is a valuable mine of divine promises and threats, stories of previous peoples as well as parables and moral lessons. But, in spite of this wide scope, all its teachings may be returned to four fundamental truths: the Oneness of God, the prophethood, the resurrection (with all its details) and the guidance of mankind to its bliss in this world as well as in the next. Needless to reiterate that this chapter contains all these basic realities in these very short, and at the same time very eloquent, sentence.
It will not be out of place to compare the beauty, glory and spirituality of this chapter, used in the Muslims' prayers, with the Lord's prayer, used by the Christians in their prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever. Amen. (Matthews 6 : 9 -13 )
Ponder deeply on the teachings contained in these sentences, supposed to be of divine revelation, and see what manners of servitude does this prayer teach. First it tells them that their Father (i.e. God, in their terminology) is in heaven. Then it prays about the Father that His name be hallowed, His kingdom come and His will be done in earth as it is in heaven. The question is: Who will fulfill these wishes which look more like political slogans than spiritual invocation. Then it makes them ask for their daily bread, and for His forgiveness in lieu of their forgiveness – that He should waive His rights as they have waived theirs. But what right do they possess except that which they have been given by God Himself? Then they beseech Him not to lead them into temptation but to deliver them from evil. This is asking for im possible, because this world is the place appointed for our test and trial, so that we may acquire spiritual perfection. Would not salvation lose its meaning, if there was no test and trial?
And yet some orientalists have temerity to write: "Islam does not have any superiority over other religions, so far as spiritual knowledge is concerned, because all divine religions invite the men to the belief in one God, and ask them to purify themselves by good character and virtuous deeds. The religions excel one another only in deep-rootedness of their social fruits."
It is narrated in Man la yahduruhu '1-faqīh and Tafsir of Ayyashi that Imam Jafar said: "The straight path is Amīru'l-mu'minīn."
Imam Jafar said: "(The straight path) is the path to the knowledge of Allah. And there are two paths, one in this world and the other in the next. As for the path in this world, it is the Imam whose obedience is obligatory; whosoever knows him in this world and follows his guidance, he shall proceed on the path which is the bridge over the hell in the next world; and whosoever does not know him in this world, his foot shall slip (over that bridge) in the next world, and he shall fall down into the fire of the hell." (Ma`ani '1-akhbar )
The same book quotes as-Sajjad as saying: "There is no curtain between Allah and His proof, nor is there any screen for Allah against His proof. We are the gates of Allah, and we are the straight path, and we are the (treasure) chest of His Knowledge, and we are the interpreters of His revelation, and we are the pillars of His Oneness, and we are the place of His secret."
Ibn Shahrashūb has quoted from Tafsir of Wakī 'ibn al-Jarrah from ath-Thawrī from as-Suddī from Asbat and Mujahid from Ibn `Abbas that he said about the verse: Guide us to the straight path: "Say O group of the servants (of Allah): Lead us to the love of Muhammad and his family members."
The author says: There are other traditions of the same meaning. Such traditions are based on the "flow" of the Quran, that is, application of the Quran wherever it is applicable. It should be noted that the term, "flow" - and it will often be used in this book - has been taken from the traditions of the Imams of Ahlu 'I-bayt:
al-Fudayl ibn Yasar said: "I asked Abu Ja'far about the tradition, `There is no verse in the Quran but it has an exterior and an interior, and there is no word in it but it has a boundary, and every boundary has a watching place.' (I asked him) what was the meaning of exterior and interior. The Imam said: `Its exterior is its revelation and its interior is its interpretation; some of it has already passed (i. e. happened) and some of it has not come about yet; it runs along (or flows) as run the sun and the moon; when a thing of it comes (to its appointed place and time) it happens . . . (Tafsir, of al -`Ayyashī)
This theme is found in other traditions too. It is the convention of the Imams of Ahlul Bayt that they apply a Quranic verse to all things it may be applied to. And this convention was correct and reasonable, because the Quran was revealed as a "guidance to the worlds"; it guides the mankind to correct belief, correct ethics and correct action. The matter of belief that it has explained is eternal truth; it is not limited to a certain time or certain place. The virtue or vice and the rules laid down for them are not confined to one person or one period - they are general and applicable to all relevant persons and times. The traditions explaining the background of revelation of a certain verse - when, why and about whom or what was it revealed - do not affect its general import. The rule is not restricted to that particular person or event; otherwise, it would cease to be valid in other similar conditions, and would die with the death of that person. The Quranic declaration is general. If it praises some persons, or condemns some others, it is because of the presence of good or evil characteristics in them. And wherever those good or evil characteristics are found, even in later generations, the verse will in all truth be applied to them. The Quran itself proves it, as Allah says: With it (i.e., the Quran) Allah guides him who follows His pleasure into the ways of safety . . . (5:16); . . . and most surely it is a Mighty Book, falsehood shall not come to it from before it nor from behind it (41:41-42) ; Surely We have revealed the Reminder and We will most surely be its guardian (15:9) .
There are numerous traditions, perhaps reaching to hundreds, which apply various verses of the Quran to the Imams or to their enemies. They are called the traditions of "flow". But now that the general principle has been explained, we shall not include those traditions in this book - except where it becomes necessary for the explanation of a verse or for some reasoning or discussion.
# Suratul Baqarah: The Chapter of The Cow
al Baqarah (The Cow)
286 verses –
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Alif Lam mīm (1) . This Book, there is no doubt in it, (is) a guidance to those who guard (against evil) (2), Those who believe in the unseen and keep up the prayer and spend (benevolently) out of what We have given them (3), And who believe in that which has been sent down to thee and that which was sent down before thee and they are sure of the hereafter (4). These are on a guidance from their Lord and these it is that shall be the successful ones (5).
This chapter was revealed piecemeal; therefore, it does not have a single theme. However a major part of it shows a general objective: It emphasizes that a man cannot be a true servant of Allah unless he believes in all that was revealed to the Messengers of Allah without making any difference between revelation and revelation, or between Messenger and Messenger; accordingly, it admonishes and condemns the disbelievers, the hypocrites and the people of the book because they differed about the religion of Allah and differentiated between His Messengers; thereafter it ordains various important laws, like change of the direction to which the Muslims were to turn for their prayers, regulations of hajj, inheritance and fasting and so on.
QURAN: Alif lam mīm: God willing, we shall describe in the 42nd chapter some things related to the "letter-symbols" that come at the beginning of some chapters. Also, the meaning of the guidance of the Quran and of its being a book will be explained later on.
QURAN: This Book, there is no doubt in it, (is) a guidance to those who guard (against evil), those who believe in the unseen: Those who guard against evil, or in other words, the pious ones, are the very people who believe. Piety, or guarding oneself against evil, is not a special virtue of any particular group of the believers. It is not like doing good, being humble before God or purity of intention, which are counted as various grades of the faith. Piety, on the other hand, is a comprehensive virtue that runs through all the ranks of the true faith. It is for this reason that Allah has not reserved this adjective for any particular group of the believers.
The characteristics of piety, enumerated in these four verses, are five: Believing in the unseen, keeping up prayers, spending benevolently out of what Allah has given, believing in what Allah has revealed to His Messengers, and being sure of the hereafter. The pious ones acquire these spiritual qualities by a guidance from Allah, as Allah tells us in the next verse: "These are on a guidance from their Lord ". They became pious and guarded themselves against evil because Allah had guided them to it. When they got that quality, the Quran became a guidance for them: "This Book . . . (is) a guidance to those who guard against evil". It clearly shows that there are two guidances, one before they became pious, the other after it. The first guidance made them pious; and thereupon Allah raised their status by the guidance of His Book.
The contrast is thus made clear between the pious ones on one hand and the disbelievers and the hypocrites (who are admonished in the next fifteen verses) on the other. The later two groups are surrounded by two strayings and two blindnesses. Their first straying causes their unbelief and hypocrisy, and the second one (which comes after their unbelief and hypocrisy) confirms their first error and strengthens it. Look at what Allah says about the disbelievers: Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing; and there is a covering over their eyes (2:7) . Sealing their hearts has been ascribed to Allah, but the covering over their eyes was put by the disbelievers themselves. Likewise, Allah says about the hypocrites: There is a disease in their hearts, so Allah added to their disease (2:10). The first disease is attributed to the hypocrites themselves, and the second one to Allah. The same reality has been explained in many verses. For example: He causes many to err by it and many He leads aright by it! But He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors (2:26) ; . . . but when they turned aside, Allah made their hearts turn aside (61:5).
In short, the pious ones are surrounded by two guidances, as the disbelievers and hypocrites fall between two errors. The second guidance is by the Quran; therefore, the first one must have been before the Quran. They must have been guided by a healthy and unimpaired psychology. If a man's nature is faultless and flawless, it cannot fail to see that it is dependent on some thing above it. Also, it realizes that every other thing, which it may perceive, imagine or understand, depends likewise or, a thing outside the chain of dependent and needy things. Thus, it comes to believe that there must be a Being, unseen and imperceptible through the senses, who is the beginning and end of every other thing. It also sees that the said Essential Being does not neglect even the smallest detail when it comes to creative perfection of His creatures. This makes him realize that the said Creator cannot leave the man to wander aimlessly hither and thither in his life; that He must have provided for him a guidance to lead him aright in his actions and morals. By this healthy reasoning, the man acquires the belief in One God, in the institution of prophethood and in the Day of Resurrection. In this way, his faith in the fundamentals of religion becomes complete. That faith leads him to show his servitude before his Lord, and to use all that is in his power - wealth, prestige, knowledge, power, and any other excellence - to keep this faith alive and to convey it to others. Thus we come to the prayer and benevolent spending. The five virtues enumerated in these verses are such that a healthy nature unfailingly leads the man to them. Once a man reaches this stage, Allah bestows on him His another grace, that is, the guidance by the Quran.
The above-mentioned five qualities - correct belief and correct deeds - fall between two guidances, a preceding one and a following one. This second guidance is based on the first one. This fact has been described in the following verses : Allah confirms those who believe with the sure word in this world's life and in the hereafter (14:27). O you who believe! fear Allah and believe in His Messenger. He will give you two portions of His mercy, and make for you a light with which you will walk . . . (57:28). O you who believe! if you help Allah, He will help you and make firm your feet (47:7) . And Allah does not guide the unjust people (61:7) . . . . and Allah does not guide the transgressing people (61:5).The same is the case with error and straying of the disbelievers and hypocrites, as will be seen later on.
The above verses give an indication that man has another life, hidden behind this one. It is by that life that he lives in this world as well as after death and at resurrection. Allah says: Is he who was dead then We raised him to life and made for him a light by which he walks among the people, like him whose likeness is that of one in utter darkness whence he cannot come forth . . . (6:122). We shall explain it, God willing, later on.
Those who believe in the unseen" "al- Īman” (faith, to believe) is consolidation of belief in heart. It is derived from al-amn (safety, to feel safe). The believer, by his belief and faith, gains safety from doubts. (Needless to say that doubt is like a poison to the faith.)
It has already been explained that faith has many grades. Sometimes one is certain of the object of faith; and this certainty has its effects; at other times the certainty increases and includes some concomitants of the said object; and at times it increases to include all the related matters of the object of faith. Naturally, the belief, thus, is of various grades and so are the believers. "al-Ghayb" (the unseen) is opposite of "the perceived". It is used for Allah, and His great signs, including the revelation, which is referred to in the clause, "And who believe in that which has been sent down to thee and that which was sent down before thee". Also, it includes the hereafter. But in these verses, the beliefs in the revelation and in the hereafter have been separately mentioned. Therefore, "the unseen" must have been used for Allah only. In this way the belief in the three fundamentals of religion becomes complete.
The Quran emphasizes that man should not confine his knowledge and belief to only the perception; it exhorts him to follow healthy reasoning and rational understanding.
QURAN: and they are sure of the hereafter: Instead of only believing in the hereafter, they are sure of it. There is an indication here that one cannot be pious, cannot guard himself against evil, until he is really certain of the hereafter - a certainty that does not let him forget it even for a short time. A man believes in a matter, yet sometimes forgets some of its demands and then commits something contrary. But if he believes in, and is sure of, the day when he shall have to give account of all that he has done -big or small - he will not do anything against the divine law, will not commit any sin. Allah says: . . . and do not follow desire, lest it should lead you astray from the path of Allah; (as for) those who go astray from the path of Allah, for them surely is a severe punishment because they forgot the day of reckoning (38:26). Clearly it is because of forgetting the Day of Reckoning that man goes astray. It follows that if one remembers it and is sure of it, he will surely guard himself against evil, will become pious.
QURAN : These are on guidance from their Lord and these it is that shall be the successful ones: Guidance is always from Allah, it is not ascribed to anyone else except in a metaphorical way.
Allah describes His guidance in these words: Therefore (for) whomsoever Allah intends that He would guide him aright, He expands his breast for Islam . . . (6 :125) . If one's breast is expanded, he will be free from every tightness and niggardliness. And Allah says that: . . . whoever is preserved from the niggardliness of his soul, these it is that are the successful ones (59:9). Therefore, He says in this verse about those who are on His guidance that "they shall be the successful ones".
Imam Jafar said about the words of Allah: Those who believe in the unseen: "Those who believe in the rising of al- Qa'im
(one who stands, i.e., al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam - a. s. ) that it is truth." (Ma’ani '1-akhbar )
The author says: This explanation is given in other traditions also; and it is based on the "flow" of the Quran.
According to Tafsir of Ayyashi, Imam Jafar said about the words of Allah: and spend (benevolently) out of what We have given them, that it means: the knowledge We have given them.
In Ma`ani 'l-akhbar, the same Imam has explained it in these words: "And they spread the knowledge We have given them and they recite what We have taught them of the Quran.
The author says: Both traditions explain the "spending" in a wider sense that includes spending the wealth as well as using other bounties of Allah in His cause; the explanation given by us earlier is based on this exegesis.
A PHILOSOPHICAL DISCUSSION
Should we rely on rational concepts, in addition to the things perceptible through the senses? It is a subject of great controversy among the western scholars of the later days. All Muslim philosophers as well as most of the western ones of ancient times believed that we can rely on the rational as well as the sensual perceptions. They were rather of the opinion that an academic premises does not look at a tangible and sensual factor as such. But most of the modern scholars, especially the scientists, hold that nothing can be relied upon except what one perceives through the five senses. Their proof is as follows:
Pure rational proofs often go wrong. There is no test or experiment, perceptible through the senses, to verify those rational proofs or their premises.
Sensual perceptions are free from this defect; when we perceive a thing through a sense, we verify it through repeated tests and experiments; this testing continues till we are sure of the characteristics or properties of the object of test.
Therefore, sensual perception is free from doubt, while rational proof is not.
But this argument has many flaws:
First: All the above-mentioned premises are rational; they cannot be perceived by any of the five senses. In other words, these scholars are using rational premises, to prove that rational premises cannot be relied upon! What a paradox! If they succeed in proving their view-point through these premises, their very success would prove them wrong.
Second: Sensual perception is not less prone to error and mistake than rational proof. A cursory glance at the books dealing with the optics and other such subjects is enough to show how many errors are made by sight, hearing and other senses. If rational proof is unreliable because of its possible mistakes, sensual perception also should be discarded for the same reason.
Third: No doubt, there should be a way to distinguish the right perception from the wrong. But it is not the "repeated testing", per se, that creates that distinction in our mind. Rather, it becomes one of the premises of a rational proof which in turn provides that distinction. When we discover a property of an object, and the property remains the same through repeated tests, a rational proof, on the following lines, is offered by our thinking power. If this property were not this thing's own property, it would not be found in it so unfailingly; But it is always found in it without fail; Therefore, it is its own property. It is now obvious that sensual perception too depends on rational premises to finalize its findings.
Fourth: Let us admit that practically every sensual perception is supported by test. But is that test verified by another test? If yes, then the same question will arise about this later one. Obviously, it cannot go on ad infinitum; there must come at the end a test whose verification depends not on a visible test but on the above-mentioned rational proof. It means that one cannot rely on sensual perception without relying on rational concepts.
Fifth: The five senses cannot perceive absolute and major issues; they know only the particular and minor things. Knowledge depends on absolute issues, which cannot be tested in a laboratory nor can they be grasped by the five senses. A professor of anatomy operates upon, or dissects, a number of living or dead human bodies - it does not matter how large or small that number is. He finds that each of the bodies - which he has opened - has a heart, a liver and the like. And after looking at those particular cases, he feels bold enough to teach an absolute proposition that all men have a heart and a liver. The question is: Has he seen inside "all" the human beings? If only that much can be relied upon which is perceived by the five senses, how can any absolute proposition of any branch of science be accepted as true?
The fact is that sensual perception and rational concept both have their place in the field of knowledge; both are complementary to each other. By rationality and understanding, we mean that faculty which is the source of the above examples of absolute principles. Everyone knows that man has such a faculty. How can a faculty created by Allah (or as they say, by nature) be always in wrong? How can it always fail in the function entrusted to it by the Creator? The Creator never entrusts any work to an agent until He creates a connecting link between them.
So far as mistakes in rational and sensual faculties are concerned, the reader should look for it in related subjects like logic etc.
ANOTHER PHILOSOPHICAL DISCUSSION
Man in his early childhood perceives the objects around him; he knows them without knowing that he knows, that is, without being aware that he has, or is using, a faculty called knowledge or cognition. This continues until a time comes when he finds himself doubting or presuming a thing. Then he realizes that before that he was using "knowledge" in his life affairs. He also gradually comes to understand that his perception or concepts are sometimes wrong, that error cannot be in the materials that he perceives - because those material things are facts and facts cannot be non-facts, that is, cannot be wrong. Therefore, the error must be in his perception. When there is no error in perception, it is knowledge - a perception that leaves no room for opposite ideas.
By these stages, he becomes aware of the basic principle that positive and negative are mutually exclusive and totally exhaustive; they are contradictories, they cannot both be present nor can both be absent. This fundamental truth is the foundation-stone of every self-evident or theoretical proposition. (Even if one doubts this statement, he intuitively knows that this "doubt" cannot be present with its negative, with its "nondoubt".)
Man relies on knowledge in every academic theory and practical function. Even when he feels doubtful about a matter, he identifies that doubt by knowing that it is a doubt. The same applies when he does not know, or only presumes, or merely imagines a thing, he identifies it by the knowledge that it is ignorance, presumption or imagination.
But in ancient
, there arose a group, the Sophists, who denied existence of knowledge. They showed doubt in every thing, even in their own selves, even in that doubt. The Sceptics of later days are almost their successors. They deny knowledge of every thing outside their own selves and their own minds. Their "arguments" run as follows: Greece
First: The most potent knowledge (that comes through the five senses) is often wrong and in error. Then how can one be sure of the knowledge obtained through other sources? How can we rely, in this background, on any knowledge or proposition outside our own selves?
Second: When we wish to comprehend any outside object, what we get is merely its knowledge; we do not grasp the object itself. Then, how can it be possible to grasp any object?
Reply to the First Argument:
First: This argument negates and annihilates itself. If no proposition can be relied upon, how can one rely on the propositions and premises used in this argument?
Second: To say that a source of knowledge is "often" wrong, is to admit that it is also correct many times. Then how can it be rejected totally?
Third: We have never said that our knowledge is always correct. The Sophists and the Sceptics affirm that no knowledge is correct. To refute this universal negative proposition, a particular affirmative proposition is sufficient. That is, we have only to prove that some knowledge is correct; and we have done so in the second reply.
Reply to the Second Argument: The issue in dispute is knowledge, which means to unveil an object. The Sceptics admit that when they try to comprehend an object, they get its knowledge. Their only complaint is that they do not grasp the object itself. But nobody has ever claimed that knowledge means grasping the object itself; our only claim is that knowledge unveils some of the realities of its object, that is, of the thing so known.
Moreover, the Sceptic refutes his own views practically in every movement and at every moment. He claims that he does not know anything outside his own self, outside his own mind. But when he is hungry or thirsty, he moves to the food or water; when he sees a wall falling down, he runs away from it. But he does not try to get food when he just thinks about hunger, and does not run away when he just thinks about a falling wall. It means that he does not act on the pictures in his mind - which he claims are the real things, and acts on that feeling or perception which comes to him from outside - which, according to him, does not have any reality and should not be relied upon!
There is another objection against existence of knowledge. They deny existence of established knowledge; and have laid the foundation of today's natural sciences on this rejection. Their reasoning is as follows:
Every single atom in this world is in constant movement; every single thing is continuously moving towards perfection or deterioration. In other words, what a thing was at a given instant, is not the same in the next. Understanding and perception is a function of brain. Therefore, it is a material property of a material compound. Naturally, this process too is governed by the laws of change and development. It means that all functions of brain, including knowledge, are constantly changing and developing. It is, therefore, wrong to say that there is any such thing as established knowledge. Whatever knowledge there is has only relative permanence - some propositions last longer than others. And it is this impermanent conception that is called knowledge.
Reply: This argument is based on the presumption that knowledge is not non-material and abstract; that it is a physical thing. But this supposition is neither self-evident nor proved. Knowledge is certainly non-material and abstract. It is not a physical and material thing, because the attributes and properties of matter are not found in it:
1. All material things are divisible; knowledge, per se, is not divisible.
2. Material things depend on space and time; knowledge, per se, is independent of space and time. An event happens in a certain place and time, but we may comprehend it in any place and at any time without any adverse effect on its comprehension.
3. Material things are admittedly governed by the law of general movement and constant change. But knowledge, per se, does not change. Knowledge, as knowledge, is incompatible with change, as one may understand after a little meditation.
4. Suppose that knowledge, per se, is subject to constant change like matter and material things. Then one thing or event could not be comprehended with the same details, in exactly the same way, at two different times. Nor could a past event be remembered correctly later on. Because, as the materialists have said, "what a (material) thing was at a given instant is not the same in the next".
These comparisons show that knowledge, as knowledge, is not a material or physical thing. It must be told here that we are not talking about the physical actions and reactions which an organ of a sense or the brain has to undergo in the process of acquiring knowledge. That action and reaction is a process, or a tool, of knowledge, it is not the knowledge itself.
For more detailed discussion of this subject one should study the philosophical works.
Surely those who disbelieve, alike is it to them whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe (6). Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing; and there is a covering over their eyes; and for them is a great punishment (7).
QURAN: Surely those who disbelieve. . . will not believe: They were the people who obstinately clung to rejection of faith and in whose hearts disbelief had established deep roots. This may be inferred from the fact that warning them and not warning them was all alike to them; they would not move from their obduracy. Probably it refers to the disbelievers of Quraysh, who were the bitterest enemies of Islam and who did try their utmost to extinguish the light of faith; they persisted stubbornly in their enmity until Allah destroyed them in Badr and other battles. The sentence, "alike is it to them whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe", strengthens this interpretation; because it could not be applied to all the disbelievers of the world - otherwise the door of guidance would be closed. Also, this same sentence has come in Chapter of Yasin (36:10) which is a Meccan chapter. Then it appears in this chapter that is the first chapter revealed at
. (It was revealed before the battle of Badr.) Therefore, more probably this verse also refers to the same Meccan group. In other places too the same explanation may be given to the word, "those who disbelieve", unless there is a reason to the contrary. Medina
Likewise, wherever the word, "those who believe", has been used in the Quran it refers to the first and early Muslims - unless there is any reason to believe otherwise. .This style of address was reserved for them as a protocol of honour.
QURAN: Allah has set a seal. . . great punishment: Allah has ascribed the sealing to His own action, but the covering over their eyes is attributed to their own selves. It shows that they had put a curtain on their souls against the light of truth - it was their own choice. Then, after their sins and disbelief, Allah put another curtain or seal over their souls. Their disbelief and misdeeds thus fall between two curtains - the first from themselves, the second from Allah.
Its further explanation will be given under 2:26; Surely Allah is not ashamed to set forth any parable - that of a gnat or any thing above that . . .
Disbelief, like belief, has various degrees and ranks; and its effects also vary, like those of belief.
az-Zubayri says that he said to Imam Jafar: "Tell me how many ways of al-kufr (disbelief, infidelity, to cover) are there according to the Book of Allah? Mighty and Great is He! He (the Imam) said: `Disbelief, according to the Book of Allah, is of five types. There is the disbelief of denial (and denial is of two kinds), and the disbelief by neglecting what Allah has ordered, and the disbelief of disavowal, and the ingratitude. As for the disbelief of denial, it is denial of the Lordship; it is the talk of those who say: "there is no Lord (i.e. Creator), nor any Garden nor Fire". It is the word of two groups of disbelievers who are called atheists. And they are those who say: "nothing destroys us but time" (45:24). It is a religion invented by them as it seemed good to them, but they have no proof to support their view. That is why Allah has said (about them): And they have no knowledge of that; they only conjecture (ibid.), that it is in reality as they say. And He also said: Surely those who disbelieve, alike is it to them whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe.' "(al-Kafi)
And as for the second kind, it is the denial after knowing; it means that the denier denies (the existence of God), but he knows (very well) that He is the truth, and he is convinced of it (in his heart). And Allah has said (about such people): And they denied them unjustly and proudly while their soul had been convinced of them (27:14) ; . . . and aforetime they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieved, but when there came to them that which they did recognize (i.e. the Prophet) they disbelieved in him; so Allah's curse is on the unbelievers (2:89).
So this is the explanation of the two kinds of denial.
And the third way of disbelief is ingratitude to the bounties (of Allah) ; and it is as Allah says quoting (the Prophet) Sulayman
"This is of the grace of my Lord that He may try me whether I am grateful or ungrateful; and whoever is grateful, he is grateful only for his own self, and whoever is ungrateful, then surely my Lord is Self-sufficient, Honoured " (27:40) ; If you are grateful, I would certainly give you more, and if you are ungrateful, My chastisement is truly severe (14:7). Therefore remember Me, I will remember you, and be thankful to Me, and do not be ungrateful to Me (2 :152) . (In all these verses Allah has used the word al-kufr is disbelief, to denote ungratefulness, and ingratitude. )
And the fourth way of disbelief is leaving out or neglecting what Allah has ordered to do. It is as Allah says: And when We made a covenant with you: You shall not shed your blood and you shall not turn your people out of your cities; then you gave a promise while you witnessed. Yet you it is who slay your people and turn a party from among you out of their homes, backing each other up against them unlawfully and exceeding the limits; and if they should come to you as captives, you would ransom them - while their very turning out was unlawful for you. Do you then believe in a part of the book and disbelieve in the other? (2:84-85). In this verse Allah has charged them with disbelief because they did not follow the commandment of Allah; (it should be noted that) Allah has (in this very verse) linked them to belief, yet He did not accept it from them and it did not benefit them before Allah. So Allah (further) said: What then is the reward of such among you as do this but disgrace in the life of this world, and on the day of resurrection they shall be sent back to the most grievous chastisement, and Allah is not at all heedless of what you do (ibid.)
And the fifth way of disbelief is disavowal. It is as Allah says, quoting lbrahim ". . . we renounce you, and enmity and hatred have appeared between us and you for ever until you believe in Allah alone" (60:4), that is, we disavow and repudiate you. And He says, describing Iblis and his disowning his friends from mankind on the Day of Resurrection: ". . . surely I disbelieved in your associating me (with Allah) before" (14:22). And also He says: And he said: "You have only taken for yourselves idols besides Allah by way of friendship between you in the world's life, then on the resurrection day some of you shall deny others, and some of you shall curse others . . . (29:25) , that is, some of you shall dissociate from others.
The author says: This tradition confirms what we have previously mentioned that disbelief has many grades and ranks.
And there are some people who say: "We believe in Allah and in the last day"; while they are not at all believers (8). They desire to deceive Allah and those who believe, and they do not deceive except themselves and they do not perceive (9) . There is a disease in their hearts, so Allah added to their disease and for them is a painful chastisement because of the lie they were saying (10). And when it is said to them, "Do not make mischief in the land", they say: "We are but peace-makers" (11). Now surely they themselves are the mischief-makers, but they do not perceive (12). And when it is said to them: "Believe as the people have believed ", they say: "Shall we believe as the fools have believed? " Now surely they themselves are the fools, but they do not know (13). And when they meet those who believe, they say: "We believe "; and when they are alone with their Satans, they say: "Surely we are with you, we were only mocking" (14). Allah pays them back their mockery, and leaves them alone in their rebellion blindly wandering on (15) . These are they who buy error for the guidance, so their bargain brings (them) no gain, nor are they guided aright (16). Their parable is like the parable of one who kindled afire, but when it had illumined all around him, Allah took away their light, and left them in utter darkness - they do not see (17). Deaf, dumb (and) blind, so they will not turn back (18). Or like an abundant rain from the heaven in which is utter darkness and thunder and lightning; they put their fingers into their ears because of the thunder peals, for fear of death, and Allah encompasses the unbelievers (19). The lightning almost takes away their sight; whenever it shines on them they walk in it, and when it becomes dark to them they stand still; and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have taken away their hearing and their sight; surely Allah has power over all things (20) .
These thirteen verses are about the hypocrites. We shall discuss this subject in detail in Chapter 63 (The Hypocrites) and in some other places.
QURAN: They desire to deceive: "al-Khad'ah" is deceit, duplicity.
QURAN: When they are alone with their Satans: "ash-Shaytan" means evil, wicked; that is why the Iblis is called the Satan.
QURAN: Their parable is like the parable of one who kindled a fire . . . they will not return: The hypocrites are like a man who is surrounded by a blinding darkness in which he cannot distinguish good from bad, beneficial from harmful; to remove it he kindles a fire, and in its light is able to see to some distance around it; then as soon as it has illumined all around, Allah, extinguishes it by wind, rain or some other thing like it and he is left as he was before - in utter darkness. And now he is pressed between two darknesses - that of the night and that of bewilderment and nullity of his endeavour. This parable fits exactly on hypocrites. A hypocrite declares himself to be a Muslim, and through it gains some benefits, as he is treated as a Muslim in matters of marriage and inheritance etc. But as soon as death approaches - the time when the real and complete benefits of Islam should have appeared - Allah takes away the light, nullifies his deeds and leaves him in utter darkness in which he cannot see at all. Thus he falls between two darkness - his original one and the one he added with his dark deeds.
QURAN : Or like an abundant rain . . . Allah has power over all things: "as-Sayyib " (abundant rain); "al- barq " (lightning; flesh of lightning); "ad-ra'd" (thunder that is heard after lightning); "as-sa `iqah " (thunderbolt, to strike with lightning).
This is another example for the hypocrites. A man is caught in a rainpour; darkness surrounds him, he is unable to see around and loses his bearings. The rain tells him to run away; to find a shelter somewhere, but darkness prevents him from it; frightening thunder and lightning-bolts have overwhelmed him, yet when lightning appears he tries to take its advantage by walking ahead in its light - but it appears only for a fleeting moment and then disappears; whenever it shines he walks ahead and when darkness I engulfs him again he stops.
A hypocrite is exactly in the same position. He does not like Islam, but has to profess to be a Muslim. His words do not reach his heart; what he says is different from what he believes in his heart. Because of this discrepancy his path is not illuminated as it should have been. The result is that he gropes about aimlessly and stumbles every now and then; he walks a little and then stops. Thus Allah punishes him with disgrace; and had He wished so, He would have taken away his sight and hearing, thereby disgracing him on the very first day.
O men! worship your Lord Who created you and those before you so that you may guard (against evil) (21) ; Who made the earth a bed (resting place) and the sky a structure; and (Who) sends down rain from the heaven, thereby brings forth with it subsistence for you of the fruits; therefore do not set up equals to Allah while you know (22). And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful (23). But if you do (it) not - and never shall you do (it) - then be on guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; it is prepared for the unbelievers (24) . And convey good news to those who believe and do good deeds that for them are gardens in which rivers flow; whenever they shall be given a portion of the fruit thereof, they shall say: "This is what was given to us before;- and they shall be given the like of it, and they shall have pure mates in them; and in them they shall abide (25).
QURAN: O men! worship your Lord . . . may guard (against evil): The preceding nineteen verses have described the positions of the three groups category-wise: The pious ones who are on the guidance from their Lord; the disbelievers whose hearts and ears have been sealed and who have their eyes covered; and the hypocrites in whose hearts there is disease so Allah added to their disease and they are deaf, dumb and blind.
In this background, Allah calls the men to be His good servants, to worship Him and to join, not the disbelievers and the hypocrites, but the pious ones, those who guard themselves against evil. This context shows that the clause, "so that you may guard (against evil)", is governed by the verb "worship" - you should worship Allah to join those who guard against evil, who are pious. It may also be governed by the verb, "created" - Allah created you in order that you may guard yourselves against evil.
QURAN: Who made the earth a bed . . . do not set up equals to Allah while you know: "al-Andad" is plural of an-nidd (alike, equal, peer) . The phrase, "while you know" , is unconditional, and grammatically it is circumstantial phrase of "do not set up"; these two factors lend extra-ordinary force to the prohibition of setting up equals to Allah. The sentence shows that a man who has even a little knowledge should not ascribe any equal or partner to Allah; he should know that it is Allah Who has created him and those before him and arranged and managed this system in the creation for their sustenance and survival.
QURAN : And if you are in doubt . . . then produce a chapter like it . . . : It is a challenge which human beings and jinn can never meet. This challenge has been offered to demonstrate the miracle of the Quran, to show that it is a Book sent down by Allah, there is no doubt in it; that it has been revealed as an everlasting miracle that will remain alive till the end of the world. This challenge has repeatedly been given in the Quran:
Say: "If men and jinn should combine together to bring the like of this Quran, they could not bring the like of it, even though some of them were aiders of the others" (17:88). Or, do they say: "He has forged it?" Say: "Then bring ten chapters like it forged and call upon whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful " (11:13).
This context shows that the pronoun "it" in "like it" refers to "that which We have revealed to Our servant", that is, the Quran. It is a challenge to them to bring a like of the Quran in its inimitable style and meaning.
The word "min mithlihi" (translated here as "like it") may also be rendered as "from like him". In that case it will be a challenge to bring a like of the Quran written by someone like the Holy Prophet. This Quran has been brought by a person who was never taught by any teacher, who had not learnt these valuable and marvelous truths from any human being, nor had he taken this most eloquent style from any mortal. If the disbelievers thought that such a man can write such a Book, then let them bring its like from some such illiterate man. In this light, the verse would have the same import as the following one: Say: "If Allah had desired (otherwise) I would not have recited it to you, nor would He have taught it to you; indeed I have lived a lifetime among you before it; do you not then understand?" (10:16)
Both explanations have been given in some traditions.
Obviously, this and the other challenging verses dare the antagonists to bring, if they can, like of even the shortest chapter of the Quran - say, the Chapter of al-Kawthar or al- Asr.
A strange exegesis has been written by someone that "like it " means like this Chapter, The Cow, in which this verse occurs. This explanation is totally devoid of good literary taste. Those who disbelieved in the Quran, rejected the whole Book as being forged against Allah. What purpose could be served by challenging them to bring a Chapter like that of The Cow? Such a challenge would, in final analysis, mean this: If you are in doubt the short Chapter of al-Kawthar or al- Ikhlds, then bring a like of the largest Chapter of The Cow. Absurd, isn't it!
MIRACLE AND ITS QUIDDITY
The claim of the Quran that it is a miraculous sign, and the challenge to the doubters offered by this verse, contains in reality two claims: First, that miracles, super-natural events, do occur; second, that the Quran is one of such miracles. If the second claim is proved, the first will automatically be proved. That is why the Quran has challenged the men to bring its like, as it would prove both aspects of the claim.
How does a miracle happen? After all, it is against the deep-rooted system of the cause-and-effect which is never negated. The Quran explains this subject in the following two stages:
First: The miracle is a reality; the Quran is one of the miracles, which in itself proves the existence of miracles in general; it offers a challenge to its adversaries, and in this way proves its truth.
Second: What is the reality of miracle? How can a thing happen in this world of nature against the universal law of the cause-and-effect?
THE MIRACLE OF THE QURAN
Undoubtedly, the Quran has offered a continuing challenge, by which it proves itself to be a miracle. This challenge has been given in many verses of Meccan as well as Medinite period. All of them show that this Book is a divine miracle, a super-natural sign. The verse under discussion, "And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it . . . ", is one of those challenges: Produce a chapter like one of the Quran from someone like the Prophet. It should be noted that it does not purport to prove the prophethood of Muhammad directly; it does not say, `if you are in doubt as to the prophethood of Our, servant'; instead it says, `if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant'. Likewise, all the challenges given in the Quran aim to prove that this Book is a super-natural sign from Allah. And when this fact is established, the prophethood of the Prophet will automatically be proved.
The verses of challenge vary in their scope and generality. The most general is the verse: Say: ` If men and jinn should combine together to bring the like of this Quran, they could not bring the like of it, even though some of them were aiders of the others" (17:88). The verse is of Meccan period, and it is easy to see that it contains an all-encompassing challenge.
This challenge is not confined to its unsurpassed eloquence and purest style. Otherwise, the challenge would not cover non-Arabs; it could be addressed to only those who spoke pure Arabic before it was debased by foreign influence - in other words, only to the Arabs of the days of paganism or to those whose life-span bridged the time of paganism and that of Islam. But the verse challenges not only the whole mankind but confronts the jinn also.
As for other special qualities of the Quran (like the exposition of spiritual realities, the high morals, the most comprehensive and the fairest legal code, the information of the things unseen as well as other subjects which the man had not even thought of when the Quran was revealed), they are of such a nature that only a selected group - and not the whole mankind - may appreciate them. But the challenge is general and covers elites and common men and jinn. It is clear in this light that it is not confined to any one quality; it defies them to bring a like of this Book in all its qualities together.
The Quran is a miracle: For a man of eloquence, in its spellbinding sublimity and style; for a sage, in its sagacity; for a scholar, in its knowledge; for a sociologist, in its social system; for a legislator, in its legislation; for a politician, in its politics; for a ruler, in its rule of justice; and for the whole world, in such things which none of them can grasp like the information of the unseen, prophecies of future events, freedom from discrepancy in its laws, knowledge and expression.
The Quran claims to be a comprehensive miracle, covering all its aspects. It is a miracle for every individual man and jinn -an average person or a select one, learned or ignorant, man or woman, of a very high rank of excellence or of a lower level -in short, anyone who has enough intelligence to understand the Quranic speech. Man, by nature, comprehends a virtue and understands its various grades. Every person should look into an excellence which he or someone else has got; then he should compare that excellence or virtue with what the Quran contains of the same; and then he should decide - in all honestly and justice - whether it is in human power to bring a like of the Quran. Is it possible for a man to bring such divine knowledge, so well-reasoned, as the Quran has done? Is it within human power to build such character, based on foundation of reality, which may honestly be compared with the Quranic teaching in purity and excellence? Can human beings legislate perfect laws covering all human activities without blundering into discrepancies, with the spirit of monotheism and the word of piety permeating every order and its every implication, with purity and cleanliness feeding its root and shoots? Can such astonishing comprehensiveness and all-inclusiveness come from an untaught man? A man who was born and brought up among a people whose only share in human virtues was a life sustained with raids, plunders and wars; they buried their daughters alive, and killed their children for fear of poverty; they boasted of their fathers and married their mothers; debauchery was their pride; they condemned knowledge and showed off their ignorance; in spite of their haughtiness and chauvinism, they were preyed upon by every hunter and were easy targets for anyone who wished to conquer them - one day they were under the Yemenite rule, the next day were ruled over by the Ethiopians; some day Byzantine emperors lorded over them, the other day it was Persia's turn to humiliate them. This is the picture, in miniature, of the Arabs before Islam. And in such environment, the Quran was brought by the Prophet of Islam.
Again, suppose a man brings a book, claiming that it is a guidance for the worlds. Will he dare to include in it the news and informations of the unseen - both past and future - not in one or two places but spread over a lot of topics - in stories, in prophecies, and about the events that are to happen in future? And what will be your judgement if not a single detail proves wrong?
Once again, man is a part of this natural world; this world is constantly changing and developing from perfection to perfection. Is it possible for a man to talk about each -and every affair of human life; to give the world knowledge, laws, wisdom, admonition, parables, stories - concerning every matter, big or small - without committing any discrepancy, without showing any trace of gradual development? And especially so, if his talks are not delivered all at one time, are delivered piecemeal in a long period of twenty-three years? And even more so when some topics are repeated again and again, when there are shoots sprouting from a previously planted root? Undoubtedly, it is not possible, because no man can remain unchanged in his knowledge and outlook throughout his life.
When a man ponders over these facts about the Quran -containing the above-mentioned distinctions besides many more - he can entertain no doubt whatsoever about its divine origin; he will feel sure that it is beyond human power, over and above the natural and material causes. If someone is not in a position to understand this clear fact, he should follow the dictate of his nature - in other words, he should ask those who are knowledgeable about this subject.
Question: Why did not the Quran confine its challenge to the elite only? What is the use of including general public in this call? After all, a common man is easily- influenced by such claims and it takes him no time to accept pretensions of every pretender. Don't you see that it was this group that surrendered to al-Bab, al-Baha', Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyanī and al- Musaylamah, even though what those deceivers brought as their proof was more like a senseless jabber and raving delirium than a sensible talk?
Reply: It was the only way to keep the miracle all-inclusive; the only possible method for discerning the perfection and excellence in a quality that has various ranks and grades. People have different grades of understanding; likewise, the virtues differ in their perfection. Those who have high level of understanding and correct perception will easily appreciate the high quality of an excellent work. Those who have a lower understanding should refer to the former for their judgement. It is the dictate of nature and demand of human psyche.
A miracle that can be universal and comprehensive, that can be addressed to every individual, in every place and at all times, that can be conveyed to all and can remain alive to the last day of the world, must necessarily be a set of divine knowledge and spiritual realities. All other miracles were either material objects or a tangible event that were governed by the laws of nature inasmuch as they were confined to a certain time and space. They were seen by only a limited number of people; even supposing, for the sake of argument, that it was observed by all people of that particular place, it could not be witnessed by people of other localities; and suppose that an impossible happened, that is, it was seen by the whole world, it could not continue eternally for the future generations to observe.
It was for this reason that Allah chose this academic and spiritual miracle, that is, the Quran, for the Prophet of Islam, so that it may continue its challenge to the whole mankind -in all places and in all generations. And thus the miracle continues in its generality, defying every person, in every area and every era.
FIRST SPECIFIC CHALLENGE: THE KNOWLEDGE IT CONTAINS
Now we come to its specific challenges. It has offered particular challenge concerning the knowledge it imparts arid cognition it contains. Allah says: . . . and We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything (16:89) ; . . . nor anything green nor dry but (it is all) in a clear book (6:59). There are many other verses of the same theme. Look at the fundamental teachings given in the text of the Quran; then see its details for which it has referred the people to the Prophet - as Allah says: . . . and whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and from whatever he forbids you, keep back . . . (59:7) ; . . . that you may judge between people by means of that which Allah has taught you (4:105). Then you will know that Islam has put its attention to all big and small topics relevant to divine knowledge, moral virtues and religious laws - covering worship, mutual dealings, social regulations, penal code, and, in short, everything that affects life and character. All this is based on the foundation of human nature and monotheism. Analyze the details and you will find monotheism as their basis; combine the basis with relevant principles and you will get the details.
Then it has declared that all this knowledge will remain valid to the end of the world; will continue to guide mankind and will always be relevant to human needs and environment. Allah says: . . . and most surely it is a Mighty Book: Falsehood shall not come to it from before it nor from behind it; a revelation from the Wise, the Praised One (41:41-42). Surely We have revealed the Reminder and We will most surely be its guardian (15:9) . In other words, it is a Book which is beyond the reach of the law of change and development; it will never be disturbed by abrogation.
A question may be asked here: The sociologists are of the opinion that the laws and regulations controlling the society must change according to the changes occurring in the structure of society. As the time passes and civilization marches ahead, it becomes necessary to change the laws to cope with the changed situation. Then how can the shariah of Islam continue without any change or abrogation all these centuries? We shall explain this matter, God willing, under the verse: Mankind was but one people . . . (2:213). Here it is enough to point out that the Quran has built its laws on the foundation of monotheism and excellent ethics that spring from healthy human nature; it declares that legislation must grow up from the seed of creation and existence. The scholars of sociology, on the other hand, have fixed their eyes on changes of society, totally ignoring the spiritual side of monotheism and morality. As a result, their word concentrates on material development of the society - and society is not a living organism, it does not have a soul; and the word of Allah is the highest.
SECOND SPECIFIC CHALLENGE: THE RECIPIENT OF THE REVELATION
Another aspect of this challenge is the personality of the untaught Prophet who brought this Quran as a miracle in its words and in its meanings. He had not learnt from any teacher, was not trained by any instructor. This challenge is contained in the following words of Allah: Say: "If Allah had desired (otherwise) I would not have recited it to you, nor would He have taught it to you; indeed I have lived a lifetime among you before it; do you not then understand?" (10:16). The Prophet lived among them as one of them. In all those years, he had not risen above them in scholarship, nor was he renowned for any knowledge. He did not deliver any lecture, nor did he compose a single line of poetry, upto his fortieth year - that is to say, for about two-thirds of his total life-span; he did not get any distinction in literature or scholarship all these years. Then, all of a sudden, he brought what he said was the revelation from God, before which giants of literature felt like pigmies, and eloquent speakers became tongue-tied. He published that revelation to the furthest limits of the world, but no one dared to bring its like in all these centuries.
The outmost that his adversaries could say was that he must have learnt those stories from Christian monks during his trade-journeys to
. But he had gone to Syria only twice: First, in his early childhood, with his uncle, Abū Talib and then, at the age of twenty-five, with Maysarah, the slave of Khadījah. In both these journeys he was never alone day or night, and nobody ever reported any such meeting with any supposed teacher. Even if we accept for the sake of argument that such training session did take place, many questions will arise from it: Who taught him this divine knowledge of monotheism? Where did he get these wise rules and these realities? And lastly, who gave him this unsurpassed elocution which has kept the silver-tongued elocutionists dumbfounded all these years? Syria
Another suggestion was that he learned these sublime truths from a blacksmith, of Roman origin, who made and sold swords. Allah replied to this allegation in this verse: And certainly We know that they say: "Only a mortal teaches him ". The tongue of him whom they are inclined to blame for it is barbarous, and this is clear Arabic language (16:103) .
A third accusation was that he gained this knowledge from Salman, the Persian, who allegedly knew all about various religions and sects. But Salman met the Prophet in
Medina and thereafter accepted Islam, while the major portion of the Quran was revealed at Mecca, and that part contained all the principles, knowledge and stories that were later repeated at Medina - we may say that Meccan revelation had more of these thing, than the verses revealed at . The question is: What knowledge did Salman add after his conversion to Islam? Nothing. Medina
Moreover, read the Old and the New Testaments, and compare the stories of the previous prophets and their people written in them with those revealed in the Quran. You will see that the latter's history and stories are different from the former's. The Bible attributes such sins and evils to the prophets of Allah which one would be loth to ascribe to an average man of good character. But the Quran absolves them from such blames. Then you will find in the Bible many topics that have no bearing on, and relevance to, the spiritual knowledge or moral excellence. The Quran never talks except about that which is truly beneficial to people in their spiritual upliftment and character-building.
THIRD SPECIFIC CHALLENGE: ITS PROPHECIES AND INFORMATION OF UNSEEN
The Quran's third specific challenge is concerning its prophecies and the information it gives of the unseen. Such verses may be divided in four categories:
1. The information about previous prophets and their nations: Allah says about some of these stories: These are of the tidings of the unseen which We revealed to you; you did not know them - (neither) you nor your people - before this. . . (11:49); .and He says after the story of Yūsuf: This is of the tidings of the unseen (which) We revealed to you, and you were not with them when they resolved upon their affair, and they were devising plans (12 :102) ; also, about the story of Maryam: This is of the tidings of the unseen which We reveal to you; and you were not with them when they cast their pens (to decide) which of them should have Maryam in his charge, and you were not with them when they contended one with another (3:44); and about `Isa: Such is Isa, son of Maryam; (this is) the saying of truth about which they dispute (19:34). There are many verses of the same import.
2. Prophecies of future events: For example: The Romans would avenge their defeat: The Romans are vanquished, in a near land; and they, after being vanquished, shall overcome within a few years (30:2-4); the Prophet would return to Mecca after his hijrah: Most surely He Who has made the Quran binding on you will bring you back to the destination (28 :85); the vision of the Prophet would certainly come true: Certainly Allah had shown to His Messenger the vision with truth: You shall most certainly enter the Sacred Mosque, if Allah pleases, in security, (some) having their heads shaved and (others) having their haircut, you shall not fear (48:27); the behaviour, in future, of a group of Muslims: Those who are left behind will say when you set forth for the gaining of acquisition: Allow us (that) we may follow you. They desire to change the words of Allah (48:15); nobody would be able to harm the Prophet: . . . and Allah will protect you form the men (5:70); the Quran will remain under the protection of Allah: Surely We have revealed the Reminder and We will most surely be its guardian (15:9). We may include in this category other numerous verses giving good tidings to the believers and threatening the disbelievers and pagans of
of various retributions. Mecca
In this category come the prophecies of the signs and disturbances appearing soon before the Day of Judgement. For example: And it is forbidden to a town which We destroyed that they shall not return, until when Gog and Magog are let loose and they shall hasten forth from every elevated place. And the true promise shall draw nigh, then lo! the eyes of those who disbelieved shall be fixedly open: O woe to us! surely we were in heedlessness as to this; nay, we were unjust ones (21:95-97). Allah has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them successors in the earth as He made successors those before them . . . (24:55). Say: `He has the power that He should send on you a chastisement from above you or from beneath your feet, or that He should throw you into confusion, (making you) of different parties; and make some of you taste the fighting of to others . .. . (6:65).
3. The verses based on such scientific realities which were unknown, and even unthought of, when the Quran was revealed, and which have just now been discovered after long researches: And We send the winds fertilizing (15:22); And the earth - We have spread it forth and put in it anchors (i.e. mountains) and caused to grow in it of everything, weighed (15:19); Have We not made the earth a resting place, and the mountains as pegs (therein)? (78:6 - 7 ).
4. The verses that allude to many great events and disorders that were to happen in the Islamic community, or the world in general, after the lifetime of the Prophet. For example: O you who believe! whoever of you turns back from his religion, then soon Allah will bring a people that He shall love them and they shall love Him, humbled before the believers, mighty against the unbelievers, they shall strive hard in Allah's way and shall not fear the censure of any censurer; this is Allah's grace, He gives it to whom He pleases (5:54); And every nation had an Messenger; so when their Messenger came, the matter was decided between them with justice and they shall not be dealt with unjustly. And they say: "When will this threat come about, if you are truthful?" Say; "I do not control for myself any harm, or any benefit, except what Allah pleases; every nation has a term; when their term comes, they shall not then remain behind for an hour, nor can they go before (their time)". Say: "Tell me if His punishment overtakes you by night or by day! what then is there of it that the guilty would hasten on?" (10:47-50) ; Then set your face uprightly for the (right) religion in natural devotion (to the truth), the nature made by Allah in which He has made men; . . . and be not of the polytheists, of those who divided their religion and became sects; every sect rejoicing in what they had with them (30:30-32). There are many verses that come into this category, and we shall describe some of them when explaining the seventeenth chapter (The Night-journey). It should be noted here that this category is one of the specialties of this book of ours.
FOURTH SPECIFIC CHALLENGE: NO DISCREPANCIES IN THE QURAN
It is one of the challenges of the Quran that there is no discrepancy in it. Allah says: Do they not then meditate on the Quran? And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy (4:82).
This is a material world, governed by the law of change and development. Every item in this world changes day after day from weakness to strength, from deficiency to perfection -in its own self as well as in all its concomitants and attachments. Man is no exception to this rule. He also undergoes constant change and development in his existence as well as in effects of his actions and reactions. And this law applies also to what he gets through his perception and intellect. Every man finds that his today is a bit more perfect than his yesterday. Every passing hour makes him realize what mistakes he had committed in the past hour, what erronous views he had held a few hours back. It is a fact that no sane person can deny.
In this background, look at the Quran. Muhammad brought this book piece by piece, one small chapter or a few verses at a time. It continued for twenty-three years in different places, various conditions and divergent situations: In Mecca and Medina, by day and by night, during journeys and at home, in thick of battle and in time of peace, during hard up days and in easy times, when Muslims suffered defeat and when they were victorious, in safety and in danger. It contained all types of subjects - it unveiled spiritual knowledge, taught excellent ethics and ordained laws for every conceivable aspect of life. In spite of all these factors, there is not a whiff of discrepancy in its matter or meaning - it is an oft-repeated book whose parts resemble one with the other. There is not a least difference, contradiction or contrariety in the realities it has explained, in the principles it has laid down. One verse explains the rest, one sentence clarifies the others, as 'Alī said: "Its one part speaks with the other, and one portion testifies about the others."
No doubt, if such a book would have been from other than Allah, there would have been a lot of ups and downs in its style; the speech would have bounced between elegance and clumsiness; the themes would have ranged from correct to erronous. In short, the book would have been uneven, unbalanced and full of discrepancies.
Question: This is a claim without any proof. Non-Muslim scholars have written many books showing that the Quran suffers from many discrepancies and mistakes - in construction of sentences (which fall short of the standard of eloquence) as well as in themes and meanings (which contain errors in its views and teachings). The replies given by the Muslims are just piteous attempts to explain away those contradictions and shortcomings. Those are defects that a correct and good speech should not have had in the first place.
Reply: The so-called discrepancies and defects have not been discovered by our adversaries; they have been mentioned (together with their replies) by Muslims in their books of exegesis and other subjects related to the Quran (not excepting this book of ours); the Muslim authors have used this method to show that what looks at the first glance an unusual style or expression is in fact a gem of highest eloquence. The non-Muslim writers have just picked out those supposed defects and discrepancies and collected them in their books, ignoring the replies that showed the real beauty of those expressions. If eye of love is blind, the eye of enmity is not any brighter.
Question: Well, how can you explain away the difficulty that arises out of abrogation? Many Quranic verses have been abrogated, as the Quran itself says: Whatever signs We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it (2:106) ; And when We change (one) communication for (another) communication, and Allah knows best what He reveals . . . (16:101) . Abrogation is at least a change of opinion, an inconsistency of thought, if not an outright contradiction in speech.
Reply: Abrogation is neither a contradiction in speech nor a change of opinion or thought. A rule is abrogated when the society, the environment, changes in such a way that the underlying wisdom of that rule remains no longer valid. The difference, if any, is not in the opinion; it is rather in the subject matter. A clear evidence of it may be seen in the abrogated verses themselves - they invariably always contained some phrases or clauses to show that the given order was a temporary one, that it would soon be abrogated. For example: And as for those who are guilty of lewdness from among your women, call to witness against them four (witnesses) from among you; then if they bear witness confine them to the houses until death takes them away or Allah makes some way for them (4:15). Note the last sentence and the hint it gives. Another example: Many of the people of the Book wish that they could turn you back into unbelievers after your faith . . . But pardon and forgive (them) until Allah should bring about His command (2:109). Here too the concluding phrase shows that the rule ordained was not for ever.
FIFTH SPECIFIC CHALLENGE: ITS ELOQUENCE
The Quran has also challenged its adversaries to bring its like in its eloquence. Allah says: Or, do they say: "He has forged it?" Say: "Then bring ten chapters like it forged and call upon whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful. " But if they do not answer you, then know that it is revealed by Allah's knowledge and that there is no god but He; will you then submit? (11:13-14) These verses were revealed at
. Again Allah says: Or, do they say: "He has forged it?" Say: "Then bring a chapter like this and call whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful." Nay, they have rejected that of which they have no comprehensive knowledge, and its final interpretation has not yet come to them (10:38-39) . These are Meccan verses too. All these verses challenge the doubters and disbelievers to bring the like of ten or even one chapter of the Quran in its style and eloquence, as eloquence was the most accomplished art of the Arabs of those days. Undoubtedly, they had reached the highest peak of eloquence. No preceding, contemporary or following nation ever reached even near them in their mastery of literature. Their expression was elegant, their style enchanting; their words perfectly fitted their themes and meanings; their talks were always in harmony with the occasions; their words were plain and their sentences beautiful; and their speech had an easy flow and inimitable grace. It was a way of which they were the pioneers and the only walkers. The Quran challenged such a nation in every possible way, so as to excite their rage, rouse their fury and fire them with determination to meet the challenge. It should not be forgotten that they were extremely proud of their art of eloquence and never acknowledged the least elocutionary skill to anyone else. In spite of that arrogance of theirs, the Prophet dared them to bring just one chapter like the Quran. It is a challenge that even now is ringing in the ears of disbelievers, defying them to forge, if they can, just one chapter like it. But the Arabs' only answer was to avoid it; the more forcefully they were challenged, the more evident their helplessness was. Ultimately, they used to hide themselves to avoid hearing its sound. Mecca
Allah says: Now surely they fold up their breasts that they may conceal from Him; now surely, when they put their garments as a covering, He knows what they conceal and what they make known (11:5).
Even after fourteen centuries, no one has been able to bring its like. Those who tried it put themselves to shame and made themselves targets of ridicule. History has preserved some samples of those pathetic attempts. Musaylamah (who posed as a prophet) wrote these words in reply to the Quran ch. 105 (The Elephant): "The elephant, what is the elephant! And what will make you understand what the elephant is? It has an unwholesome tail, and a long trunk." In another "verse", which he recited before al-Sajah (who also claimed to be a prophetess), he said: ". . . then we penetrate it into you women a hard penetration, and take it out from you forcefully. . ." Look at this rigmorale and decide its worth. A Christian in latter days wrote this "chapter" in reply to the Chapter of The Opening: "All praise is due to the Beneficent, the Lord of the beings, the King, the Subduer. For Thee is the worship, and from Thee is the help. Guide us to the path of faith."
All attempts to meet this challenge suffered the same fate.
First: It is unreasonable to say that a speech can reach a level where it would become a miracle, a super-natural work. Language has been made by human ingenuity. How can a product of nature be above the reach of nature? A maker is more powerful than the thing he makes; a cause always encompasses its effect. It is the man who invented the words to meet his social needs, to convey to others' minds what one thinks or feels. The relationship of a word with its meaning is created by man. It is a subjective quality given to the word by man. This quality cannot reach beyond the ability of the maker himself. In other words, it is impossible for a speech to rise above the human ability.
Second: Let us accept for the time being that a particular composition of a speech may reach super-natural level, may become a miracle. Every intended theme may be clothed in various sentences, each differing from the others in grades of perfection; and out of those numerous sentences one would reach a standard which would be beyond human ability and power - and that composition would be a miracle. It means that for every intended meaning there would be one miraculous sentence; and other structures would be below that standard. But we see that the Quran, more often than not, repeats many themes - and especially the stories - using different compositions and dissimilar styles. Whichever sentence-structure and style is accepted as a miracle, the other ones would fall short of that standard.
Reply: Before replying to these objections one matter should be clarified here. It were such questions which led some Muslim scholars to believe in the theory of as-sarf (to turn away). They believed like other Muslims that it was impossible for men to bring a like of the whole Quran; or its ten chapters, or even one chapter. But, according to them, this inability of men was not based on the fact that the Quranic speech in itself was beyond the human power. The real reason was that Allah, by His predominant will and decree, has turned away and dissuaded would-be adversaries from bringing its like. Allah has done so to preserve and protect the sanctity of the prophethood.
This theory was totally wrong. This explanation is not in conformity with the clear import of the challenging verses. Allah says for example: Or, do they say: "He has forged it?" Say: "Then bring ten chapters like it forged and call upon whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful. "But if they do not answer you, then know that it is revealed by Allah's knowledge and that there is no god but He; will you then submit? (11:13-14). Ponder on the sentences, "then know that it is revealed by Allah's knowledge". The challenge was meant to prove that the Quran was a revelation; that it was not a speech forged by the Messenger; and that it was revealed by Allah's knowledge and not by the Satans. The same theme is found in the following verses:
Or, do they say: "He has forged it." Nay! they do not believe. Then let them bring a talk like it if they are truthful. (52:33-34). And the Satans have not come down with it; and it behooves them not, and they have not the power to do (it). Most surely they are far removed from the hearing (of it) (26:210-212). On the other hand, this theory of "turning away" implies that the reality of the Quran's miracle was not in its being a revelation from Allah; the miracle was that Allah prevented the people from bringing a like of it. Again look at the verse: Or, do they say: "He has forged it?" Say: "Then bring a chapter like this and call whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful." Nay, they have rejected that of which they have no comprehensive knowledge, and its final interpretation has not yet come to them . . . (10:38-39). This verse clearly says that what made them helpless before the Quran, what made it impossible for them to bring a like of even one of its chapters, was the fact that it has a final interpretation whose knowledge is reserved for Allah - a knowledge which they lacked. It is this inherent quality of the Quran which vanquished the adversaries. It was not that they had ability to bring its like but Allah prevented them from doing so. Then, there is the verse: Do they not then meditate on the Quran? And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy (4:82). It shows that the miracle is in the inherent quality of the Quran that it was free from discrepancy in its words and meanings - because it is a quality which is not within the power of any creature - not that there was some discrepancy in this Book, but Allah prevented people from finding it out.
All these Quranic declarations prove that the theory of as-sarf has no leg to stand, and one should not take it seriously.
Now we come to the objections mentioned earlier
It is a fallacious argument that as the language is a product of human ingenuity, it can never reach a level which would be beyond the grasp or ability of human beings; language, being a product, cannot be more powerful than its producer. The fallacy lies in the fact that what has been invented by man is simple words for particular meanings. But this congruity of the words with their meanings does not teach the man how to arrange those words, how to plan, draft and deliver a talk in the best possible way - in a way that the talk reflects the beauty of the meaning as it is in the mind, and the meaning in its turn becomes a mirror of the reality, remains in complete agreement with the fact. It requires a dexterity in the art of eloquence, an adroitness in elocution; also it depends on sharp intelligence and comprehensive knowledge so that the speaker may be fully cognizant of all aspects of the subject matter. It is this skill and knowledge that differs from man to man, and creates difference between talk and talk in their respective perfection and beauty.
So, there are three aspects of a human talk; Knowledge of language - a man may be having the most comprehensive knowledge of the words of a language, without being able to speak it; elocutionary skill - a man may be the most accomplished orator, without being cognizant of material and spiritual realities; Knowledge of realities - a man may be the most learned scientist or theologian without having the ability to express his views and meanings intelligibly. These three factors may be found separately (as mentioned above) and may also combine together in some people. And on them depend the beauty and the eloquence of a speech.
The first factor - single words for their meanings - has been invented by social instinct of man. But the remaining two depend on intellectual refinement and delicate discernment.
Human perception, intelligence and discernment is limited and restricted. We cannot comprehend all the details of an event, all concomitants of a fact. As a result, we cannot be sure of being right at any time. Furthermore, we are gradually moving from deficiency to perfection, and so is our perception and discernment. Look at any spellbinding orator or enchanting poet; compare his earlier work with his latest and you will see the difference.
In this background, let us look at human speech - any human speech. First, we cannot be sure that it is free from errors of fact and judgement, because, as mentioned above, no speaker can have comprehensive knowledge of all the details and concomitants of an event. Second, it will not be on the same level with speaker's former or later speech. Not only that: Even in the same speech the beginning will surely be on a level different from that of the end, although we, probably, will not be able to discern it because of the minuteness of difference.
Now, when we find a decisive speech, based on comprehensive knowledge, and free from all types of discrepancy, we will have to admit that it is not the work of a mortal man. This reality has been described in the following verses: Do they not then meditate on the Quran? And if it were from any other than Allahhhh, they would have found in it many a discrepancy (4:82); (I swear) by the heaven endued with rotation, and by the earth splitting (with plants etc.), most surely it is a decisive word, and it is not a jest (86:11-14). Note the adjectives used for the heaven and the earth - they point to the constant changes occurring therein, because the oath is about a Book which is free from change and difference, inasmuch as it is based on an unchangeable and lasting reality, that is, its "interpretation". (It is a Quranic terminology that will be explained in Ch. 3.) Also, Allah says: Nay! it is a glorious Quran, in a guarded tablet (85: 21-22) ; (I swear) by the Book that makes manifest (the truth); surely We have made it an Arabic Quran so that you may understand. And surely it is in the original of the Book with Us, truly elevated, full of wisdom (43:2 -4) ; But nay! (I swear) by the falling of stars; and most certainly it is a great oath if you only knew; most surely it is an honoured Quran, in a book that is hidden; none do touch it save the purified ones. A revelation by the Lord of the worlds (56:75 -80).These and other similar verses show that the Quran is based on established realities that do not change, that are never altered. And, therefore, the Quran itself is safe from change, alteration and discrepancy.
To come back to the main objection: Accepted that language has been made by men. But it does not mean that there cannot be found a piece of literature that is beyond the reach of the very men who made the language. Otherwise, we would have to say that a sword-maker must be the bravest of all the swordsmen, the inventor of chess or lute must be the most accomplished chess-master or lutanist!
The perfect eloquence demands that, first, the word should be in complete harmony with the intended meaning, and, second, the conveyed meaning must be in accordance with the established fact. How the words fit the meanings? The structural sequence of the words and their parts should perfectly agree with the natural order of the intended meaning and its parts - bringing the man-made language and sentences in total agreement with the nature. (See for details Dala'ilu '1-ijaz of ash-Shaykh `Abdu '1-Qahir al-Jurjanī.) As for the meaning, it must be correct and true, based on a real fact existing outside our imagination - and that fact should be of permanent value, unchangeable and unalterable. The first quality (the agreement of the word with meaning) depends on this basic quality of the meaning. A very eloquent sweet-sounding jocular speech cannot stand before a serious talk; nor can an eloquent, serious speech - if it is based on wrong premises - be equal to a talk that reflects true facts and comprehensive wisdom.
A speech attains the highest standard of eloquence when its words are sweet, its style free-flowing, its meaning fitting the occasion and its conveyed proposition based on true facts.
Such a talk, based as it is on reality, can never differ with other realities, can never disagree with other truths. Truth and reality is a non-divisible entity. Truth cannot refute another truth; reality cannot oppose another reality. Lie, on the other hand, may be in opposition to another lie as it surely is against the truth. Ponder on the verse: . . . and what is there after the truth but error (10:32). Note that truth is singular, there is no division in it. Again Allah says: . . . and follow not (other) ways, for they will scatter you away from His ways . . . (6:153). Lie has many ways, it is not only disunited but also disuniting.
Obviously, there can be no difference whatsoever between one truth and the other; instead, there shall be total union and unison between them - one truth will lead to the other, one reality will guide to the other; thus, one part of the Quran confirms the others, one sentence testifies for the others.
It is a wonderful quality of the Quran. Take any verse; it is clear in its meaning; add to it another relevant verse equally clear; and you will find them together pointing to a new reality that was not shown by either verse separately: then put them side by side with a third relevant verse, and you will gain fresh insight into new sublime realities. It is a unique quality of the Quran, and you will see many examples of this special characteristic in this book. Unfortunately the exegetes had so far neglected this method. Had they followed this way since the early days, they would have discovered by now so much of its hidden treasures.
This lengthy discourse was necessary to show that the two objections laid down against the Quranic miracle of eloquence were baseless. Miraculous eloquence is not based on words alone. Therefore, it is out of place to say that as it is man who had made the language, how can any speech be above the reach of the man himself? Also, there is no room for the question that as only one out of many possible compositions can be the highest, how is it possible to express one idea in different ways, and then to claim that all were of miraculous standard? Our foregoing explanation has made it clear that the miracle of eloquence depends on meaning - on its agreement with sublime unchangeable reality and on its conformity with the words.
THE REALITY OF MIRACLE: ACCORDING TO THE QURAN
The Quran repeatedly asserts the occurrence of miracle - an unusual preternatural phenomenon, which shows the authority of metaphysical forces over the physical and material world. Miracle is not something against self-evident rational truth.
Some people have tried to explain away the verses that describe various miracles; their aim was to make the Quran fit the principles of modern physical sciences. But such attempts are unacceptable, as they are a forced burden on the language and the Quran.
We are going to explain, under various headings, what the Quran teaches us about the meaning and reality of miracle.
1. The Quran Confirms the General Rule of the Cause-and-Effect
The Quran says that in this natural world every thing, every effect, has a cause; that there is a system of cause-and-effect permeating through this world. It is a self-evident reality; and on this truth depend the scientific and academic researches and discussions. Man by nature believes that there must be a cause for every natural phenomenon. Likewise, academic researches try to find out relevant causes for all such happenings. What is a cause? It is such a thing, or a combination of things, that whenever it occurs, another thing - its effect - unfailingly comes into being. We try to find out by experiments the causes of various things. For example, experience has taught us that if there is any burn, it must have bbeen caused by fire, movement, friction or some such cause. A cause must be unfailable, comprehensive and universal. In other words, whenever and wherever the cause is found, its effect must be found.
This matter is clearly confirmed by the Quran. It takes this principle for granted when it talks about life, death, sustenance and other heavenly or earthly phenomena - although it ultimately ascribes all the effects, and their causes too, to Allah.
The Quran, therefore, confirms the general system of the cause-and-effect; whenever a cause is found (with all its necessary conditions) its effect must come into being, and whenever we see an effect, it surely and unfailingly proves the existence of its cause.
2. The Quran Affirms Miracle (Super-Natural Events)
The Quran, nevertheless, narrates many an event that goes against the normal, natural system of the cause-and-effect. It ascribes many super-natural miracles to various prophets, like Nūh, Hūd, Salih, Ibrahīm, Lūt, Dawūd, Sulayman, Mūsa, `Isa and Muhammad (peace of Allah be on them all!). It should not be forgotten here that those events, although abnormal and uncustomary, were not inherently impossible; they were not like an assertion that `A positive proposition and its opposite are affirmed together and are negated together'; or like a statement that `A thing can be separated from its own self'; or that `One is not a half of two'. We instinctively know that such propositions are impossible, they cannot be. But the miracles shown by the prophets were not of this category; otherwise, the minds of untold billions of religionists, since the dawn of humanity, would not have accepted them and believed in them. No man accepts an inherently impossible statement, nor does any sane person ascribe such a thing to another.
Moreover, the effects that are called miracle, are not unknown to the nature. The natural world is continuously engaged in bestowing on the matter one form after the other, turning one event into another, giving life to the dead, and death to the living, transforming the misfortune into fortune and the comfort into discomfort. All this is happening daily in the world of nature; the only difference between a natural event and a miraculous one is in the speed and steps required to reach the goal. A natural cause brings about its effect, in special conditions, at a particular time and space, step by step in a long series of changes. The matter present in a walking-stick may one day appear in a running serpent; a disintegrating skeleton may one day become a living man - but in its natural course it will take a very long time, under certain conditions of time and space, with numerous consecutive causes which would constantly change that particular matter from one form to the other, taking it from one step to the next and then to the third and so on, until it appears in the required shape and form. In normal way, it cannot happen without its proper causes, without its necessary conditons; nor can it be brought into being by will-power of a human being. But when it comes to a miracle, it happens just by the will of the prophet, without any material cause and without any lapse of time.
Of course, it is very difficult for a simple mind - as it is for a scientific brain - to understand such super-natural events; man is, after all, accustomed to the natural-causality. On the other hand, no scientist can outright reject occurrence of super-natural phenomena even in this atomic age. Every day someone or the other demonstrates his skill bringing some super-natural events about; people see it, radios and televisions broadcast it, newspapers and magazines publish it; and nobody says that it could not have happened as it was against the laws of nature.
Such phenomena have led many modern scholars to the theory that man, like everything else, is surrounded by unknown magnetic or electric currents; man may, through rigorous training, get control over the surrounding currents, and use them to affect other material things in abnormal and unusual ways, bringing those astonishing feats about.
If this theory is proved correct and all-inclusive, it will supercede all present theories that explain various happenings and effects in terms of motion and power; it will replace all previous causes with one all-pervasive natural cause: the magnetic currents.
This is their theory. They are right in their belief that every natural phenomenon must have a natural cause if the causal relationship between them is intact.
The Quran has not identified by name any all-pervasive natural cause that would explain all natural and super-natural events, as it is not within the main purposes of this divine book. But it affirms that every natural phenomenon has a natural cause - by permission of Allah. In other words, every phenomenon is totally dependent on Allah, Who has appointed for it a certain procedure, a natural cause through which it gets its existence -the existence that is given by Allah. Allah says: and whoever fears Allah He will make for him an outlet, and give him sustenance from whence he thinks not; and whoever trusts in Allah, He is sufficient for him; surely Allah attains His purpose; Allah indeed has made a measure for every thing (65:2-3) . Its first sentence unreservedly declares that whoever fears Allah and has trust in Him, Allah is sufficient for him, and He will surely manage his affairs and make him succeed, even if in the normal way it may seem impossible, even if the material causes go against him. It is supported by the following verses: And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then verily I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me (2 :186) ; Call upon Me, I will answer you (40:60); Is not Allah sufficient for His servant? (39:36).
The next sentence, "surely Allah attains His purpose", explains the reason of the first declaration. The same theme is found in the verse: . . . and Allah is predominant over His affair, but most people do not know (12 :21). This sentence too is all-inclusive and without any condition. Allah has His own way to let a thing happen, if He so wills - even if the normal ways are closed, even if usual paths to it are cut off.
This may possibly happen in two ways: First, Allah may bring that thing into being simply by His will, without resorting to any material or natural cause. Second, there may be an alternative natural cause, unknown to us, which Allah may have appointed for that phenomenon; it may be hidden from our eyes but the Maker and Creator, Who has prescribed it, knows it and uses it to attain His purpose. This second possibility seems more appropriate in view of the last sentence, "Allah indeed has made a measure for every thing." This sentence shows that every effect, whether it is in accordance with the normal causality or not, has a measure appointed by Allah, is related to other beings, has a connection with other things; Allah may bring that effect into existence through any other related thing, even if the normal cause is absent. What should not be forgotten is the basic fact that it is Allah Who has bestowed causality on a cause; this relation of cause and effect is not independent of Allah.
Allah has created causal relation between various things. He can attain His purpose through any way He wishes. No doubt, there is the system of cause-and-effect in the world; but this chain is in the hands of Allah, He may use it in any way He wills. There is a real causal relation between a thing and the things that have preceded it; but that reality is not as we know it - that is why no academic or scientific theory is capable of explaining all phenomena of the world; it is really as Allah knows, makes and manages it.
This basic principle has been referred to in the verses of "decree" or "measure": And there is not a thing but with Us are the treasures of it, and We do not send it down but in a known measure (15:21). Surely We have created every thing according to a measure (54:49); . . . and Who created every thing, then ordain for it a measure (25:2). Who created then made complete, and Who made (things) according to a measure then guided (them to their goal) (87:2 - 3) . Look also at the following verses: No misfortune befalls on the earth nor in your own souls, but it is in a book before We bring it into existence (57:22). No affliction comes about but by Allah's permission; and whoever believes in Allah, He guides aright his heart; and Allah is Cognizant of all things (64:11).
These verses (and especially the first) show that the things take their particular identity in accordance with a measure appointed for it by Allah; that measure gives it its individuality and defines it; and that measure and definition precedes the thing and then accompanies it. A thing can be properly delineated only if it is seen in its perspective, clearly defining its relation to all other things. The other related things serve as a mould that gives this item its peculiar shape and particular form. Every material effect is connected with all things which precede or accompany it. All such things together serve as the cause of this effect; and this one in its turn becomes a part of the cause of other effects that come later.
Also, it may be proved from the following two verses: That is Allah, your Lord, the Creator of every thing. . . (40:62) ; . . . there is no living creature but He holds it by its forelock; surely my Lord is on the straight path (11:56) . Add to them the fact that the Quran confirms the general system of causality -and you will find the complete picture displayed before your eyes.
1. The first verse says that every thing is created by Allah, and the second one states that creation is on a single pattern; there is no deviation in it as that would cause chaos and disturbance.
2. The Quran confirms the general system of causality for all material things.
3. It follows that every material thing and effect is invariably always created by a cause - a cause that precedes it and brings it into being. It makes no difference whether it is a normal and usual cause, or a supernatural one. There must always be a cause.
4. Many usual causes which sometimes fail to bring about the expected effects are not the real causes. The real causes are those which never fail to create the expected effects. An example may be given of various diseases and their causes; influenza was previously thought to be caused by cold; but cold did not always create it, now it has been discovered that it is caused by a virus. The same is true about many supernatural feats.
3. Whatever is Caused by Natural Causes is Really Caused by Allah
The Quran, while affirming the causal relation between a cause and its effect, ascribes every effect to Allah. The inference is that these normal and usual causes are not independent in creating their effects; the real cause, in the true sense of this word, is only Allah. Allah says: surely His is the creation and the command (7:54); Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is Allah's (2:284); His is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth (57:5); Say: “All is from Allah" (4:78). There are numerous such verses showing that everything belongs exclusively to Allah; He may deal with it in any way He likes; no one else can handle it at all except by permission of Allah; He allows whomsoever He wishes to manage, influence and effect it to a certain extent. But this divine permission, establishing the relation of causality, does not make that cause independent of Allah; it is just a permission given by the real owner to use his property. The man having this permission cannot transgress the limits imposed by the owner. Allah says: Say: "O Allah, Master of kingdom! Thou givest the kingdom to whomsoever thou pleasest and takest away the kingdom from whomsoever Thou pleasest (3:26); Our Lord is He Who gave to everything its creation, then guided it (to its goal) (2:50) ; . . . whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His; who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission? (2:255); . . . and He is firmly established on Arsh, regulating the affair; there is no intercessor except after His permission (10:3).
The causes do have the causality because Allah has given it to them. They have got it, but are not independent of Allah. It is this factor that has been described in above verses as "intercession" and "permission". Permission means that there was an impediment which, but for this permission would have hindered the now-authorized agent from interfering in this affair.
In short, every cause has been given the power to create the relevant effect; but the real authority is yet in the hands of Allah.
4. The Souls of the Prophets do have Influence Over the Super-Natural Events
Allah says: . . . and it was not meet for an Messenger that he should bring a sign except with Allah's permission; but when the command of Allah came, judgement was given with truth, and those who treated (it) as a lie were lost (40:78).
The verse shows that it was the Messenger who brought the sign - by permission of Allah. The souls of the prophets were given a special power to cause the miracle; and that causal power, like all other causes, created its effect with permission of Allah.
Again Allah says: And they followed what the Satans chant (of sorcery) against the kingdom of Sulayman; and not that Sulayman disbelieved, but (it was) the Satans that disbelieved, they taught men sorcery and what was sent down to the two angels at Babylon, Harut and Marut: Yet these two taught no one until they had said, "Surely we are only a trial, therefore do not be a disbeliever". Even then men learned from these two that by which they might cause a separation between a man and his wife; and they cannot hurt with it any one except with Allah's permission (2:102).
This verse proves two things: magic has some reality; and it, not unlike miracle, is caused by a psychical factor of the magician, by permission of Allah.
Take a miracle, a magic, a mysterious wonder of a saint, or a spell-bringing skill acquired through rigorous practice - all these extra-ordinary or super-natural deeds emanate from their agents' psychical factors - or will-power - as the above-mentioned verses have shown. But Allah has made it clear that the psychical cause found in His Messengers, prophets and believers is predominant, has the mastery, over all other causes, in all imaginable conditions; it can never be overpowered. Allah says: And certainly Our word has already gone forth in respect of Our servants, the Messengers: Most surely they shall be the assisted ones, and most surely Our host alone shall be the victorious ones (37:171-173). Allah has written down: I will most certainly prevail, I and My Messenger . . . (58:21). Most surely We help Our Messengers and those who believe, in this world's life and on the day when the witnesses shall stand (40:51). As you see, these verses do not put any condition or restriction on the promised victory; the Messengers and the believers shall be victorious over their adversaries in all conditions and situations.
It may be inferred from it that this divine source is something metaphysical, preternatural. Material things are, in their nature, measured and limited; they get the worst of it if they are faced by another thing which is superior in power. But this preternatural spiritual source, which is assisted by the will of Allah, is never defeated by any factor; whenever it is faced by any material adversary, it is given by Allah a far more superior power to achieve victory with flying colours.
5. Whatever is Caused by Psychical Power Depends on a Command from Allah
Read again the last sentence of the verse 40:78, mentioned at the beginning of the preceding chapter: "but when the command of Allah came, judgement was given with truth, and those who treated (it) as a lie were lost". You will see that the supernatural event caused by the psychical power of the agent depends on a command from Allah - in addition to His permission. That command may coincide with the said permission, or may be one with it. The command of Allah is His creation, described by the word ‘Be' in the verse: His command, when He intends anything, is only that He says to it, "Be", and it is (36:82). Also Allah says: Surely this is a reminder, so whoever wishes takes to his Lord a way. And you do not wish except that Allah wishes; surely Alldh is Knowing, Wise (76:29-30). It is naught but a reminder for the worlds, for him among you who wishes to go straight. And you do not wish except that Alldh wishes, the Lord of the worlds (81:27-29). These verses show that the affairs which are within the sphere of the man's will, and under his control and authority, are still dependent on the divine will for their existence. What these verses say is this: The intentional actions of a man are done by his will; but that will itself depends on the will of Allah.
The verses do not say that whatever is wished by man is wished by Allah. Had it been the case, no human wish would have remained unfulfilled - because it would have become the will of Allah! Also, many verses refute this idea; And if We had wished We would certainly have given to every soul its guidance . . . (32:13). And if your Lord had wished surely all those who are in the earth would have believed (10:99).
Our will depends on the divine will; our action depends on our will, and also they depend - indirectly, through our will -on the will of Allah. And both our will and action depend on the command of Allah - on His word, "Be".
Things, affairs and events may be either natural or supernatural; and the super-natural may be either on the side of good, like miracle, or on that of evil, like magic and sooth saying. But all of them come into being through natural causes, and at the same time they depend on the will of Allah. In other words, they cannot come into being unless the natural cause coincides, or becomes one, with the permission and command of Allah. All things are equal in this respect; but when a prophet brings about a miracle, or a good servant of Allah prays to Him for a thing, an additional factor, that is, the decisive command of Allah, is added thereto; and the desired effect or event unfailingly comes into being. Allah says: Allah has written down: I will most certainly prevail, I and My Messengers (58:21) ; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me. . . (2:186). See also other such verses quoted in the preceding chapter.
6. The Quran Attributes the Miracle to an Invincible Cause
The preceding chapters have made it clear that miracle, like other natural and super-natural things, needs a natural cause; and that all causes depend on some metaphysical causes. All these events and effects may, thus, be divided into four categories:
First: The normal events: They come into being by normal apparent causes which are accompanied by real causes - in most cases those real causes are material ones; arid those causes depend on the divine will and. command.
Second: The extra-ordinary events of evil nature, like sorcery and sooth saying: They are caused by natural but unusual and abnormal causes, which are accompanied by the real causes; and those causes depend on the divine permission and will.
Third: The extra-ordinary events of good nature, like a prayer answered by Allah: They are caused by the natural and real cause, with permission and will of Allah - but such events do not contain any element of challenge, that is, they do not purport to prove the truth of any call or claim.
Fourth: The miracles: The extra-ordinary, super-natural events of good character, which are brought about as a challenge, to prove the truth of the call or claim. They too are caused by the natural and real causes with permission and will of Allah.
The third and fourth categories have an extra quality in them: Their cause is fortified by an invincible factor; it can never be overpowered, as it is always accompanied by the decisive command of Allah.
Question: It is strange to say that miracle is caused by a natural cause. Suppose, we discover the real natural cause of a miracle; will it not then be possible for us to create that miracle? If yes, then miraculousness would be a relative matter; any action would be a miracle in the eyes of those who are unaware of its cause, but quite an ordinary thing for those who know. In the same way, an event that was believed to be a miracle in dark ages would not be so impressive in this age of science and knowledge. If scientific research found out the real natural causes of the miracles, there would be no miracle at all - and no miracle could be used to prove the truth of the prophet's claim. What all this leads to is this: A miracle is not a proof except against him who is ignorant of its natural cause; therefore, it cannot be put as an evidence of the truth of the prophet's claim.
Reply: Miraculousness of a miracle does not depend on unknowability of its cause; nor is it a miracle because it emanates from an extraordinary or mysterious cause. It is a miracle because it is brought about by such an extraordinary cause which is invincible, which cannot be overcome, cannot be defeated. Let us look at the case of a seriously sick person, who, all of a sudden, is cured by the prayers of a believer. It is called a miraculous event, because it emanates from an invincible cause. We know that patient could be cured by medical treatment, and it would have been a normal process; but this cause, that is, the medical treatment, could be foiled by other more powerful factors; and that is why it is not called a miracle.
7. The Quran Counts Miracle as a Proof of the Truth of the Claim of Prophethood
Question: What is the connection between miracle and veracity of the claim of prophethood? Reason fails to see any binding relation between the two. But the Quran time and again asserts this concomitancy, as may be seen in the stories of various prophets, for example, Hūd, Salih, Mūsa, `Isa and Muhammad (peace of Allah be on all of them!). The Quran narrates that no sooner did they announce their claim than they were asked by their people to bring some miracle to prove the truth of their claim; and they responded to it by showing the miracle.
Not only that. Some of them were given their miracle even before their nations had asked them for it. Allah told Mūsa at the start of his mission: Go you and your brother with My signs and be not remiss in remembering Me (20:42) . And He says about `Isa: And (will make him) an Messenger to the children of Israel: "That I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I create for you out of dust like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird with Allah's permission and I heal the blind and the leper, and bring the dead to life with Allah's permission and I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your house; most surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers" (3:49).
The same is the position of the Quran which was given to the Prophet right at the start of his mission. The reason does not see any connection whatsoever between the truth of the message of an Messenger or a prophet on one hand and his ability to show a super-natural sign on the other.
Moreover, the beauty of the principles expounded by the Messengers and the prophets, strengthened as it is by irrefutable proofs, dispenses with the need of any miracle - for an intelligent and knowledgeable person. That is why it is said that miracles are needed for convincing the simple-minded people, because they cannot understand a learned discourse; but knowledgeable persons do not need them.
Reply: The prophets had not brought the miracles to prove any principle of religion, like belief in Oneness of God and the Day of Resurrection etc. - the truth of which could be realized by intellect and reason. They always proved such things with reasoning and logical arguments. For example, Allah says regarding the existence of the Creator: Their Messengers said: "Is there doubt about Allah, the Master of the heavens and the earth?" (14:10); and He says about resurrection: And We did not create the heaven and the earth and what is between them in vain; that is the opinion of those who disbelieve; then woe to those who disbelieve on account of the fire. Shall We treat those who believe an and do good like the mischief-makers in the earth? Or shall We make those who guard (against evil) like the wicked? (38:27-28).
Why were, then, the Messengers asked to show miracle, and why did they bring it about? It was to prove that they were in fact sent by Allah; it was meant to authenticate their claim.
The prophets claimed that they were sent by Allah, that He had revealed His message to them - either directly or through an angel. It was an assertion of a super-natural event; a claim of a reality beyond the physical senses and mental cognization of their people; a fact above the level of man's perception. If that claim was right, it would be a special metaphysical disposition reserved for the prophets only. The difficulty was that the prophets were like any other human being in their humanity and in its characteristics. How could they be favoured for this especial relationship with the world beyond nature?
The disbelievers, therefore, resorted to two methods to disprove the prophets' claim:
First Method: They tried to refute it through such "arguments" as the following:
a) They said: "You are nothing but human being like us; you wish to turn us away from what our fathers used to worship" (14:10). The Messengers were like all other men; and other men do not receive such divine revelation as was claimed by the Messengers. If they could be given revelation from God, why could not others get it as well? Were not all of them alike in their humanity?
The Messengers replied to it in these words: Their Messengers said to them: "We are nothing but human beings like yourselves, but Allah bestows (His) favours on whom He pleases of His servants. . . " (14:11) . They accepted that they were like all men in their humanity, but showed that Messengership was a very especial favour of Allah, and He bestows it on whom He pleases. It is not difficult to. see that being alike does not preclude some of them from being reserved for some especial favours. Of course, if Allah had pleased, He could have bestowed it on anyone among them, but He chose for this favour whom He pleased. The same was the thrust of their protest against the Prophet: "Has the reminder been revealed to him from among us?" (38:8)
b) Of the same nature, but with added sarcasm, were the following remarks of the polytheists of
: And they say: "Why was not this Quran revealed to a man of importance in the two towns? " (43:31) And they say: "What sort of Messenger is this that he eats food and goes about in the marts; why has not an angel been sent down to him so that he be a warner with him? Or a treasure be thrown down to him, or be for him a garden from which he may eat!" (25:7-8) Mecca
What they wanted to say was this: If the Messenger (of Islam) really has been chosen by God to receive divine revelation, then he must be someone above all the mortals. Then why does he require food to eat, and why is he obliged to go about in the markets to earn his livelihood? If he is truly a representative of God, he should have been accompanied by an angel to assist trim in his work, or he should have been given a treasure to save him the trouble of earning his livelihood in the markets, or a garden should have been bestowed on him, so that he would not need a food like ours.
Allah answered them in these words: See how they coin comparisons for thee! So they have gone astray, therefore they shall not be able to find a way . . . And We did not send before thee any messengers but they most surely ate food and went about in the markets; and We have made some of you a trial for others; will you bear patiently? And your Lord is Ever-seeing (25:9,20). And in reply to their demand for sending down an angel, it was said in another chapter: And if We had made him angel, We would certainly have made him a man, and We would certainly have made confused to them what they make confused (6:9).
c) Going further, they raised their demands even higher: And those who do not hope for Our meeting, say: "Why have not angels been sent down upon us, or (why) do we not see our Lord? " Now certainly they are too proud of themselves and have revolted a great revolt (25:21) . According to their thinking, there was no difference between them and the Prophet; all were human beings. Then why should he be reserved for this office of Messengership? They too should be visited by angels; or, even better, they should see the Lord. Allah replied to them: On the day when they shall see the angels, there shall be no joy on that day for the guilty, and they shall say: "It is a forbidden thing totally prohibited" (25:22) . It means that if they persist in their disbelief, they shall not see the angels except at the time of death, and then they shall not find any joy in it. The same thing has been mentioned in another verse: And they say: "O you to whom the Reminder has been revealed! you are most surely insane. Why do you not bring to us the angels if you are of the truthful ones?" We do not send the angels but with truth, and then they would not be respited (15:6-8).
d) This last verse shows us one more twist of their "arguments". The Prophet, according to their thinking, was truthful in his claim of revelation, but he was insane; whatever news he brought was a product of his unstable mind and was, therefore, not correct. The same "argument" was put against Nūh, as the Quran says: . . . and they called (Nūh) mad, and he was driven away (54:9).
These were the variations of their "arguments" against the claims of the Prophet, the arguments which were based on similarity of the prophets and their people in their humanity.
Second Method: It was to reject outright the claim of the prophets, and demand from them proof of their veracity, asking them to bring some signs to show that they were in fact representatives of Allah and recipients of His revelation.
The Messengers and the prophets claimed a distinction which was intangible and unknowable to their people. They claimed that they were given Messengership and /or prophethood; that they were spoken to by Allah - either directly or through angels. Now, such a claim could not be verified by any test or experiment. It could be objected against in two ways: (i) There was no proof that such a claim was true; (ii) there was proof that it was not true. Revelation, divine speech, (and the resulting sharī`ah and religious discipline) could not be experienced by anyone other than the claimant; the normal system of cause and effect was against it. If such a claim were true, it would mean that the Prophet was in direct contact with the world beyond nature; he was tuned to the divine power - the power that can change the course of nature, can make the effect appear without their usual causes. In that case, he should be able to produce some another tangible super-natural effect; after all one super-natural event is like any other super-natural event so far as the divine authority is concerned. If Allah spoke to the Prophet - a super-natural effect - He should show on his hands some other tangible super-natural effects in order to prove the truth of his former claim, that is, the claim that he receives revelation from God. If God wanted to guide the people aright by means of a super-natural thing, that is, revelation, then let Him prove the truth of His Prophet by means of another super-natural, that is, miracle.
That was why the people asked for miracles whenever a prophet was sent to them. They wanted miracles to verify his claim of prophethood, and not to ensure the truth of his teachings. Suppose a man is sent by a ruler to his subjects with his commands and laws. He reaches his destination and they ask him for his credentials. Will they be satisfied if, at this juncture, he starts explaining the wisdom underlying each rule and regulation? Certainly not. They will say: All that you have said, just shows that these rules are based on wisdom and meant for our good; but it does not prove in any way that they are from our ruler, nor that you are his deputy authorized to manage our affairs on his behalf. We shall believe in your claim only when you show us a credential to this effect, for example, an appointment letter duly signed by the ruler and having his official seal. It is as the polytheists had said to the Prophet: ". . . until you bring down to us a book which we may read" (17:93).
From the above explanation, two things become abundantly clear
First: Miracle has an inseparable. connection with the truth of the claim of prophethood. Learned and ignorant, elite and common, all men need miracle in order to be able to accept the truth of a prophet's claim.
Second: What the prophet receives and perceives of the revelation is entirely different from those things which we feel by senses or comprehend by intellect. In plain words, revelation is not a function of mind; it is a reality totally separate from "right thinking". This fact is brilliantly clear from the Book of Allah; and no one, having an iota of common sense, can entertain any doubt about it. But in recent times some "scholars" have closed their eyes from this reality, and tried to reinterpret the spiritual facts and divine knowledge in the light of the natural sciences. They have, accordingly, based their explanations on materialistic theory. They believe that human perception and comprehension is a characteristic of matter, emanating from the brain. They are of the opinion that all real merits and perfections – whether of an individual or of a group - are developments of matter only. Based on these premises, they have explained prophethood and all related spiritual factors on the following materialistic lines:
Prophethood is a sort of a sharp mental power, an intellectual genius. The genius who is called prophet, looks at the social conditions of his nation; analyses what they have inherited of the beliefs, ideas, customs and superstitions; and then changes them to conform with the needs of his time and place, in the most suitable manner. In that light, he frames for them the basic social principles and ordains practical rules and regulations - in order to raise their standard of life, to elevate their morality and ethics, to make them better members of society. Basing on this hypothesis, they have declared that:
1) Prophet is an intellectual genius, who calls his people to the good of their social life.
2) Revelation is the good thought which comes into his mind.
3) Divine book is the collection of those good thoughts and ideas, inasmuch as they are free from personal desires and selfish motives.
4) Angels who, the prophet says, come to him, are only the natural material forces which keep the world going. Or, they are psychological traits which lead the man to his perfection. The Holy Ghost is a higher development of those material forces, which rains those pure ideas on the prophet's mind. Satan is a retrogression of the same material forces, which poisons the minds with evil thoughts and incites the people to anti-social deeds. In the same vein they have explained away all the realities which the prophets have told us about - like the Tablet, the Pen, the Throne, the Chair, the Book, the Reckoning, the Garden, and the Fire.
5) Religions are products of times; they change with the times.
6) The miracles, attributed to the prophets, are nothing more than myths and fictions; which were forged in the interest of religion, to strengthen the belief of common people; or to enhance the prestige of religious leaders in the eyes of their followers.
This in short is their explanation. But prophethood, in this meaning, should rather be called a political device than a divine reality. It is not possible here to throw light on its various facets. What the readers, however, should not overlook is that this interpretation has no resemblance whatsoever to what has been described in the Books of Allah and the traditions of the prophets. What led these "scholars" to such interpretations was their total submission to materialistic theories; that was why they rejected every metaphysical reality, and tried to bring it down to the level of lifeless matter.
Such peoples are academic descendants of an earlier group: Many early theologians interpreted every religious reality - the Throne, the Chair, the Tablet, the Pen, the Angels etc. - in material terms, adding, at the same time, that those things existed beyond the grasp of our senses. Needless to say that that interpretation was not based on any actual experiment or sensual perception. Now that the area of physical sciences has expanded so much, and every thing is being analyzed, tested and experimented on, this later generation was obliged to reject the idea of physical existence of those religious realities, because, as mentioned above, their existence could not be proved by any test or experiment. Therefore, they had to invent other meanings for those realities, well within the area of sensual perception. They thought that they were serving the cause of religion in this way - because their interpretation would bring those realities within the sensual and physical recognition, and thus save them from being totally rejected by modern scholars.
Both groups have strayed from the right path. The ancient theologians correctly understood the meanings of these words, without resorting to any allegorical interpretation. But they erred when they thought that those were material things although beyond the purview of sensual perception, not subjected to the laws of matter.
The modern scholars took the wrong way from the very start; they gave these words wrong meanings in their eagerness to make them conform with material realities; in their attempt to pull these sublime truths down to the level of physical experience.
The correct way is to explain these words according to the dictates of the language and the usage; then shall come the stage of identifying what, how and where, for example, the Pen is. This should be done with the help of other relevant verses. After the Pen is identified, it may be compared with current scientific ideas to check whether it goes against them. If that examination reveals that the identified entity was beyond the domain of matter, then it should not be proved, or disproved, by the principles of physical sciences. The science is concerned with material and physical things. What authority has it got to judge metaphysical or spiritual things? Can we allow a linguist to prove, or disprove, a proposition of astronomy by the rules of grammer? If not, then why should the rules of physical sciences be applied to prove, disprove or interpret metaphysical realities?
QURAN: But if you do (it) not - and never shall you do (it) -then be on guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; it is prepared for the unbelievers. And convey good news to those who believe and do good deeds, that for them are gardens in which rivers flow; whenever they shall be given a portion of the fruit thereof, they shall say: "This is what was given to us before;- and they shall be given the like of it, and they shall have pure mates in them; and in them they shall abide.
The chapter began with description of three groups: the pious ones, the disbelievers and the hypocrites. But then all of them were joined together by the words, "O men!", calling them to worship Allah. In this context, they could be divided in two groups only: those who answered this call (i.e. the believers) and those who did not answer it (i.e. the disbelievers). The hypocrites do not come into this picture, probably because in their appearance they are with the first group, while in reality they are included in the second. Perhaps, that is why the previous designation of the first group (those who guard against evil) has been changed here for "those who believe".
"al-Waqud" is fuel. The verse says that man himself is the fuel of the hell. He is his own fuel, to keep the fire burning, and to get himself burned in that fire. Allah says: then in the fire shall they be burned (40:72). It is the fire kindled by Allah, which rises above the hearts (104:6-7). Man shall be burned in a fire that will be kindled and fueled by his own self.
The next verse, 2:25, runs parallel to it and we find the same principle at work here also: "whenever they shall be given a portion of the fruit thereof, they shall say: `This is what was given to us before;' and they shall be given the like of it". It indicates that man shall get there only what he has himself prepared here. The Prophet has said: "As you live so you will die, and as you die so you will be raised." But the people of the paradise have a pleasant distinction vis-a-vis the people of the fire, because they shall be given ever-increasing rewards by their Lord: They have therein what they wish and with Us is more yet (50:35).
" . . . of which men and stones are the fuel": The stones referred to here are the idols which the disbelievers worshipped. Allah says: Surely you and what you worship besides Allah are the firewood of hell . . . (21:98) .
" . . . they shall have pure mates in them": The adjective "pure", inasmuch as it qualifies the "mates", refers to purity from all such things as may create aversion and unpleasantness - whether in their bodies or in their behaviour. In other words, the mates given to the believers in paradise will be free from every disagreeable characteristic or trait.
Saduq narrates that Imam Jafar was asked about this verse and he said: "The pure mates are the ones who shall be free from menstruation and other excrements."
The Author says: Some other traditions have expanded the meaning to include cleanliness from all defective traits, all characteristics causing aversion.
Surely Allah is not ashamed to set forth any parable - (that of) a gnat or any thing above that; then as for those who believe, they know that it is the truth from their Lord, and as for those who disbelieve, they say: "What is it that Allah means by this parable?" He causes many to err by it and many He leads aright by it, but He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors (26), who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation and cut asunder what Allah has ordered to be joined, and make mischief in the land; these it is that are the losers (27).
QURAN: Surely Allah is not ashamed. . . : Gnat or mosquito is one of the smallest animals perceptible by naked eyes. These two verses run parallel to verses 19 - 21 of ch. 13: Is then he who knows that what has been sent down to you from your Lord is the truth like unto him who is blind? Only those possessed of understanding shall bear in mind, those who fulfil the promise of Allah and do not break the covenant, and those who join that which Allah has bidden to be joined, and fear Allah and fear the evil reckoning.
The verse clearly shows that there is a straying, a blindness, which afflicts the man as a result of his evil deeds; it is different from that initial straying and blindness which the man opts for by his own free will. Look at the sentence, "but He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors". They transgressed first, and it was only then that Allah made them go astray.
Guidance and misguidance are two comprehensive words; they encompass every felicity and infelicity that comes from Allah to His good and wicked servants respectively. As Allah describes in the Quran, He makes His good servants live a happy life, strengthens them with the spirit of faith, bring them out of the darkness into the light, and gives them a light by which they walk among the people; He has taken them under His protection and guardianship, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve; He is with them, answers them when they call on Him, and remembers them when they remember Him; and the angels come down to them with good news of eternal peace.
Diametrically opposed to it is the condition of evil-doers. Allah causes them to err, takes them out of the light into the darkness, sets a seal upon their hearts and hearings, and a covering over their eyes; He alters their faces turning them on their backs; places chains on their necks and these reach up to their chins, so they have their heads raised aloft, and makes a barrier before them and a barrier behind them, then He covers them over so that they cannot see; He appoints for them the Satans to become their associates, and they turn them away from the right path while they think that they are guided aright; those Satans make their misdeeds to seem good to them and they are their guardians; Allah leads them on by steps from whence they perceive not; and yet He respites them, but His plan is firm; He makes a plan for them and leaves them alone in their rebellion, blindly wandering on.
These are some examples of the conditions of the two groups. On deeper consideration, it appears that man, in this world, lives two lives: there is this life which may be seen and perceived by all, and there is another life hidden behind this one; that hidden life is either good or bad - depending on his faith and deeds. Man will become aware of that hidden life when the veil of secrecy will be removed after death. Then he will see himself in his true form.
Further, it appears from the Quranic verses that man has had a spiritual life before the life of this world; and he shall have another life after this one. In other words, man has been given three lives - this life in this world is the second one, there was one preceding it and there will be another following. The condition of the third life shall be determined by that of this second life - which, in its turn, is governed by the first one.
Many exegetes have explained away the verses about the first life; they say that it is only a literary style, which presents imaginary pictures as real facts. And as for the verses concerning the life hereafter, they too are misrepresented as allegories and metaphors. But both types of verses are too clear in this meaning to allow such misinterpretations.
We shall explain the verses about the first life under ch. 7. As for the life hereafter, many verses show that the same good or bad deeds which man commits in this life, shall be returned to him, as their own reward or punishment, on the day of requital. Allah has mentioned this fact in many verses: . . . and do not make excuses today; you shall be recompensed only what you did (66:7); then every soul shall be paid back in full what it has earned, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly. (2:281); then be on guard against the fire of which men and stones are fuel (2:24); Then let him summon his council, We too would summon the tormentors (of the hell) (96:17-18); On the day that every soul shall find present what it has done of good and what it has done of evil . . . (3:30); . . . they eat nothing but fire into their bellies . . . (2:174); . . . surely they only swallow fire into their bellies . . . (4:10). There are many verses of the same import.
Then there is the verse 50:22, which by itself is enough to convince one of this principle: Certainly you were heedless, of it, but now We have removed from you your veil, so your sight today is sharp. The words, "you were heedless of it", indicate that there was something present in this world, to which the guilty one has not paid any attention; "removed from you your veil" means that, but for that veil, he could have seen that reality even in this worldly life. What the man would see on the Day of Resurrection was present even in this earthly life; otherwise, it would not be logical to say that previously you were inattentive to it, or that it was hidden from your eyes, but now that the cover has been removed, you may see it clearly.
There is no allegory or metaphor in these verses. Try to explain in plain Arabic the principle which we have mentioned just now. You will not find a more explicit way than the one used in these verses. Then, how can they be explained away as allegories?
The divine talk here points at two realities:-
First: Recompense: What a man will get in hereafter - reward or punishment, paradise or hell - shall be in recompense of the good or evil he would have done in this life.
Second: Embodiment of the deeds: Many verses indicate that the good or evil deeds themselves turn into their own pleasant or unpleasant recompense. (Or, that the recompense is an inseparable concomitant of the deeds themselves.) It is hidden from our eyes in this life, but we shall see it clearly on the day of reckoning.
These realities are not really two. But we had to explain it in this way to bring it nearer to the minds. The Quran too says that it uses similitudes to make people understand.
QURAN: but He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors: "al–Fisq” (transgression, sinfulness ). It is the Quran that, first of all, used this word in its now prevalent meaning. It is derived from fasaqati 't-tamrah (the date broke out of its outer rind ). That is why it has been further explained by the words, "who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation" - a thing must be whole before it is broken. Also the transgressors are described at the end of the verse as the losers - one must be owning a thing before he can lose it. Allah further says: Surely the losers are they who have lost themselves and their people on the resurrection day (42:45). All these expressions show how appropriate the adjective, "al- fasiqīn " (the transgressors ) is in this context.
You should never think that the adjectives used by Allah in His book for His good servants (like "those who are near to Allah", "the sincere ones", "the humble ones", "the good ones", "the purified ones" etc.) or for the evil ones (like "the unjust", "the transgressors", "the losers", "those who go astray", etc.) are cheap epithets, or that they are used as literary embellishment. Each adjective has its own significance; each points to a particular stage in man's spiritual journey. Each has its own characteristics, and gives rise to its especial effects and consequences. On physical level, every age has its own characteristics and powers, which cannot be found before or after that age; likewise, on spiritual plane, every attribute has its own special effects.
AN ESSAY ON COMPULSION AND DELEGATION
The sentence, "but He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors", explains how Allah manages the actions of His servants. Does He compel them to act in a pre-determined way? Or, has He delegated to them all powers in this respect? It is better to solve this knotty problem here and now, by the guidance of the Quran.
Allah says: Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is Allah's (2:284); His is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth (57:5); to Him belongs the kingdom, and to Him is due (all) praise (64:1). These and other similar verses prove that to Allah belongs the whole universe; His ownership is unconditional and unlimited. A man owns a thing, let us say, a donkey; he may use it and take its advantage to a certain extent only. For example, he may ride it or use it as a beast of burden; but he cannot starve it to death, nor can he burn it alive. Why? Because his ownership is not absolute; society would condemn him if he were to commit such atrocities. His ownership allows him certain advantages only; and not every possible use.
But when we say that Allah is the Owner of the worlds, we mean absolute, real and unrestricted ownership. There is no owner except Allah; the things own, or control, for themselves neither any harm nor any profit, neither life, death no resurrection. It is only Allah who owns and controls every affair of every creature; He may do with them whatever He pleases; no one can ask Him why; He cannot be blamed or questioned for anything He does, because He is the absolute Owner. He has, of course, allowed some of His creatures to use some other things to a certain limits; but both the user and the used are His property; and the user cannot exceed the authorized limit. Allah, as the absolute Owner, cannot be questioned about His dispositions; but others have to give account of how they exercised their authority. Allah says: who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission? (2:255); there is no intercessor except after His permission (10:3); . . . that if Allah please He would certainly guide all the people? (13:31); And if Allah please He would certainly make you a single nation, but He causes to err whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases . . . (16:93); And you do not please except that Allah please (76:30); He cannot be questioned concerning what He does and they shall be questioned (21:23). Allah disposes and manages His property in any way He pleases; no one can use any other thing except with His permission, because He is the real Owner and Sustainer of every thing.
Now we come to the rules and laws which Allah ordains for His creatures. He uses the same method which has been adopted by the human society - ordaining what is good and praising and rewarding its doers; forbidding what is bad and condemning and punishing its doers. For example, He says: If you give alms openly, it is well (2:271), . . . evil is a bad name after faith (49:11). Obviously, the laws ordained by Allah look at the good of man, and aim at perfecting the human society. Allah says: . . . answer (the call of) Allah and His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life (8:24); that is better for you, if you know (61:11); Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to kindred, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion (16:90); Surely Allah does not enjoin indecency (7:28). There are many such verses; and they show that the principles which the laws are based upon are always the same - be it a divine commandment or a human legislation. What is good in itself and ensures the good of the society is allowed, enjoined and prescribed; and what is evil in itself and endangers the social structure is forbidden; man is praised and rewarded for doing the former, and blamed and punished for doing the later. Some of those principles are as follows:-
People do whatever they do because of its underlying wisdom and good. Legislation of laws is no exception to this rule; the laws too are made because of their underlying good and benefit. They reward the law-abiding citizens and chastise, if they so wish, the law-breakers. The said recompense must be correlated to the action done - in its quantity and quality. Also, it is accepted that the enjoinment and prohibition can be addressed to him only who is not under any duress or compulsion who has got freedom of will and choice. The above-mentioned recompense too is related to such actions only which emanate from free will and choice. Of course, if someone, by his own action, puts himself in a tight corner, in a difficult position where he has to transgress a law, he may be justly punished for that transgression, and his plea of helplessness will not be heeded at all.
Allah uses these same principles in His dealing with His creatures. He does not compel the man to obey or to disobey the divine commands. Had there been any compulsion, rewarding the obedient ones with the paradise and punishing the disobedient ones with the hell would have been absolutely wrong: the reward would have been an unprincipled venture, and the punishment an unmitigated oppression and injustice - and all of it is evil according to reason. Moreover, it would mean favouring one against the other without any justification, without any cause – and this too is a demerit according to reason. Furthermore, it would provide the aggrieved party with a valid argument against Allah; but Allah says: . . . so that people should not have an argument against Allah after the (coming of) Messengers (4:165); . . . that he who would perish might perish by clear proof, and he who would live might live by clear proof (8:42).
The above discourse makes the following points clear:-
First: Divine laws are not based on compulsion. These rules have been made for the good of man in this life and the hereafter. And they have been prescribed for him because he has freedom of will, he may obey the rule if he so wishes, and may disobey if he so chooses. He will be fully recompensed for whatever good or bad he does by his free will.
Second: There are things and actions which are not in conformity with the divine sanctity, yet the Quran attributes them to Allah, like misleading, deceiving, scheming against someone, leaving him wandering on in his rebellion, letting the Satan overpower the man and become his associate. All these actions are related to various kinds of misleading and misguidance. But Allah is above all defects and demerits, and, therefore, these words when attributed to Him, should convey a meaning in keeping with His sacred name. Initial misleading, even in the sense of making inattentive and forgetful, cannot be ascribed to Allah. What the above-mentioned expressions actually mean is this: When someone by his own free will, opts to go astray, chooses the wrong path and commits sins, then Allah leaves him in that straying, and, thus, increases his error - it is done as a punishment of his wrong choice. Allah says: He causes many to err by it and many He leads aright, by it, but He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors (2:26) . . . . when they turned aside, Allah made their hearts turn aside (61:5). Thus does Allah cause him to err who is extravagant, a doubter (40:34).
Third: The divine decree does not cover the actions of the man inasmuch as they are attributed to him - they are done by the doer, although not created by him. We shall further explain it later.
Fourth: Now that it has been seen that the divine law is not based on compulsion, it should be clearly understood that it is not based on delegation of power either. How can a "master" issue an authoritative command if he has delegated all his powers to the servant. In other words, this theory of delegation negates the comprehensive ownership of Allah vis-à-vis many of His possessions.
A great number of traditions (narrated from the Imams of Ahlul Bayt - a.s.) says: "There is neither compulsion nor delegation (of power), but (there is) a position between these two (extremes)."
It is reported in ‘Uyūnu ’1-akhbar, through several chains: When the Leader of the faithful, Ali ibn Abi Talib returned from Siffīn, an old man (who has participated in that battle) stood up and said: "O Leader of the faithful! Tell us about this journey of ours, was it by Allah's decree and measure?" The Leader of the faithful said: "Yes, O Shaykh! By Allah you did not ascend any elevation, nor did you descend to any valley but by a decree of Allah and by His measure." The old man, thereupon said: "I leave to Allah all my troubles (of this journey), O Leader of the faithful!" (Ali - a.s.) replied: "Have patience, O Shaykh! Perhaps you take it to mean a firm decree and a compulsory measure! If it were so, then there would be no justification of reward or punishment, no sense of command, prohibition or admonition, no meaning of promise or threat; there would not be any blame on an evil-doer nor any praise for a good-doer. Nay, the good-doer would have been rather more deserving of blame than the evil-doer, and the evil-doer rather more worthy of grace than the good-doer. (Beware!) this is the belief of the idol-worshippers and the enemies of the Beneficent God (who are) the Qadariyyah of this ummah and its Majūs. O Shaykh! Verily Allah ordained (the shariah) giving freedom of will (to men) and prohibited (evil) to keep us on guard; and He gave plentiful (reward) on meagre (deeds); and He was not disobeyed by being overpowered, nor was He obeyed by compulsion; and He did not create the heavens and the earth and what is between them in vain; that is the opinion of those who disbelieve on account of the fire."
The author says: The topics of the speech of Allah and His decree and measure were among the earliest about which the Muslims differed among themselves. This second dispute may be described as follows:
The eternal divine will govern every thing in the universe. These things are transient in their quiddity; but when they do exist, they do so because the will of Allah decreed their existence - and in this way their existence becomes essential - otherwise, the divine decree would be meaningless. Conversely, when a thing does not exist, it is because Allah did not decree its existence - and in this way its existence becomes impossible - otherwise, the divine will would be meaningless. In short, whatever exists, exists because Allah has decreed its existence, - thus turning it into an essential being. This principle applies everywhere. But the difficulty arises when it comes to such a human action that issues from our own will and choice. We know that we can do it if we so desire, and can ignore it if we so wish. Their doing and not doing is equally possible to us. The balance is tipped in favour of either side by our own will and choice. Our actions are based on our choice, and our will brings them into existence. The difficulty that arises at this point is this: We have earlier seen that nothing comes into being without the will and decree of Allah, which turns the thing into an essential being - if so, then how can any action of ours be termed as "possible" one? It must exist because the divine will has decreed it! Moreover, how can our will affect it in any way when it is governed by the will of Allah? Also, in this background, it cannot be said that man had power to do a certain work before he did it. And, because he did not have that power, Allah could not give him any order or command for or against that work. Going a step further, if Allah gave him an order and he did not comply, it would mean that Allah Himself had not wanted that thing to happen; so it was impossible for it to happen. Then the question would arise: How could Allah order him to perform an impossible task? Conversely, if someone complied with that order, it was because Allah Himself wanted it to happen. Then why should the man be rewarded without any valid reason? By the same reasoning, a sinner should not be punished, as it would be against justice, a naked oppression. One may go on enumerating the difficulties arising out of this subject. A large number of Muslims felt obliged to admit, and believe in, all these absurdities. They said that:
Man does not have power to do a work before the time comes to do it. The reason has nothing to do with the merit or demerit of any action. Whatever Allah does becomes good; and whatever He forbids becomes evil.
Accordingly, Allah may choose an action without any justification; He may give reward without any cause; He may ordain laws beyond the capacity of the doer or agent; He may inflict punishment on a disobedient servant even though the said disobedience and transgression was not of his doing.
It appears that the old man, who had asked the question, thought that the belief in the divine will and decree meant that there was no merit or demerit in any action and that man had no right of any reward (or punishment). Naturally he was disappointed when he heard that the journey was by the decree of Allah; that is why he said: "I leave to Allah all my troubles." What he meant was this: My journey to Siffīn and back and my fighting in the way of Allah had no benefit for me as it was governed and done by the will of Allah; my share in all this venture was only the trouble and the inconvenience which I underwent. Therefore, I shall leave it to Allah to balance my account, as it was He Who put me through all these troubles. The Imam (Ali) replied to him by saying, "If it were so, there would be no justification of reward or punishment . . . " The Imam pointed to the rational principle on which the legislation is based. And at the end he reasoned that Allah did not create the heavens and the earth and what is between them in vain. If Allah could will the man's actions in a way as to deprive him of his freedom of will and choice, it would mean that He could do things without any purpose and aim; then He could create the whole creation aimlessly and in vain. This in its turn would render the principle of resurrection and reward and punishment invalid too.
It is narrated in at-Tawhīd and ‘Uyūnu ’l-akhbar that Imam Reza was asked about compulsion and delegation, and he said: "Should I not teach you in this regard a principle by which you shall never differ (among yourselves), and no one will argue with you on this subject but that you shall defeat him (by it)?" We said: "(Teach it to us) if you so please." Thereupon he said: "Verily Allah is not obeyed through compulsion, nor is He disobeyed by overpowering; and He did not leave the servants remiss in His kingdom; He (still) owns what He has given into their possession, and has power on what He has put into their power. Now, if the servants decided to obey Him, He would not prevent them from it, nor would he put any obstruction to it; and if they decided to disobey Him, then if He pleased to bar their way to it He would do so, and if He did not hinder it and they committed it, then it was not He Who led them into that (sin)." Then the Imam said: "Whoever would accurately delineate the boundaries of this speech would surely overcome his adversary."
The author says: Why did "al-Mujabbirah" (the believers in compulsion ) say what they said? It was because they pondered on the divine decree and measure, and it led them to the conclusion that when Allah decrees a thing it must happen inescapably. Their deliberation of this subject was correct, and so was the conclusion arrived at. Where they fell in error was in correlating that conclusion with reality; they did not understand the difference between a reality and an idea based on subjective approach; they forgot the distinction between essentiality and possibility.
It is correct to say, on the basis of the divine decree and measure, that nothing happens in this world unless it turns an essential being; it is because every thing and every affair comes into being when it is decreed by Allah, according to the measure prescribed by Him; and then it cannot fail to happen, otherwise the decree of Allah would fail. At the same time, it should be kept in mind that a transient or possible thing becomes essential because of its sufficient cause. When looked at in conjunction with its sufficient cause, it would be called "essential"; but separated from that cause, it would remain as it was before - a transient or possible thing. Let us look at an action of man which he does by his free will and choice. When we look at it in relation to all things that are necessary to bring it into being - knowledge, will, proper tools and organs, the material, formal, efficient and final causes, and all the conditions of time and space - it will become an essential being; and it is in this context that it become subject of the eternal divine will. In other words, it becomes an essential being when all aspects of its sufficient cause are complete. But, looked in relation to each of those aspects separately, it remains only a transient and possible thing. If it is seen vis-à-vis its efficient cause only, that is, in relation to the doer only, it will retain its characteristics of transience and possibility - it will not become an essential being.
It is now clear to see at which point the believers in "compulsion" have deviated from the right path. They thought that, inasmuch as the human action was subject to the divine will and decree, man had no power on it; he was not a free agent; he was rather a helpless tool in divine hands. But they did not take into consideration the fact that the divine will takes it into hand only when all aspects of its sufficient cause are complete, and not before that. The divine will decrees that a certain action be done by Zayd - not unconditionally, but on the condition that it is done by Zayd's free will, at a certain time and a certain place. Therefore, its relation to the divine will itself demands that it should be an action of a free agent, done by his own free will and choice.
Doubtlessly, that action will be called an "essential" one if seen in relation to the divine will; but at the same time and by virtue of the same divine will, it will be a possible and transient action when related to the doer, that is, the man. In other words, there are two wills - the human and the divine; they do not run parallel to each other; the divine will comes after and above the human will - they are in a vertical, and not a horizontal position to each other. Therefore, there is no competition or collision between the two wills. It was a short-sightedness on part of the believers in compulsion to negate the human will in order to establish the divine one.
The Mu‘tazilites said that human actions are done by man's free will. But they went to the other extreme, and fell in an error no less objectionable than that of al-Mujabbirah. They too said that if human action was subjected to the divine will man would not have any freedom of will and choice. And then they took a position diametrically opposed to that of al-Mujabbirah, and came to the conclusion that the divine will had no relation whatsoever to the human action. Thus they had to accept another creator - the man himself - for human actions. In this way, they accepted dualism without knowing what they were doing. Going further they fell into traps more harmful than the belief of al-Mujabbirah. As the Imam has said: "The poor al-Qadariyyah, they wanted to emphasize the justice of Allah, so they removed Him from His power and authority. . . "
A master, showing kindness to one of his slaves, married him to a slave-girl of his; he bestowed on him a property, gave him a well-furnished house and provided him with all the necessities of life. Then there came some people there, looked at his property, and began arguing among themselves. Someone said: "Even though the master has given this property to his slave and has made him its owner, the slave has no right in, or authority over, this property at all. Does any slave own any thing? The slave together with all his belongings belongs to the master."
Another said: "No. You are wrong. The master has bestowed on this slave the right of property. Now the slave is its absolute owner, and the master has lost all his rights, and authority over this property. We may say that he has abdicated in favour of his slave. "
The former was the opinion of al-Mujabbirah; the later that of the Mu‘tazilites. But both were wrong. The correct view would have been to say: The master has got his status of mastership; the slave his position of servitude and bondage. The master has made the slave owner of his (i.e., master's) property. The property belongs to the master at the same time that it belongs to the slave. There are two ownerships - one over the other. This is what the Imams of Ahlul Bayt have taught us to believe, and what the reason supports.
‘Abayah ibn Rib‘ī al-Asadī asked Ali, the Leader of the faithful, the meaning of "capability". The Leader of the faithful asked a counter question: "Do you have that capability without God or with God?" When ‘Abayah remained silent, he told him, "Tell me, O ‘Abayah!" He said: "What should I say? O Leader of the faithful!" He said: "You should say that you have got that capability by (grace of) Allah, to Whom it belongs and not to you. If He made you its owner, it would be of His bounties, and if He took it away from you, it would be a trial from Him; and He is the Owner of what He gave into your possession, and has power over what He put under your power. . ." (al-Ihtijaj)
The author says: Its meaning may be understood from the preceding explanation.
al-Mufīd reports in his Sharhu ’l-‘aqa’id: It has been narrated from Abū ’l-Hasan, the third, that he was asked whether the actions of the servants were created by Allah. He said: "If He were their creator, He would not have disowned their liability. And He (Allah) has said: Verily, Allah is free from liability to the idolators . . . (9:3). It does not mean that Allah was not responsible for the creation of the idolators; what Allah has disowned any responsibility of, is their idol worship and their evils."
The author says: There are two aspects of a deed - its actual existence, and its relation to its doer. It is only when an action is seen in relation to its doer that it is called obedience or disobedience, good or bad, virtue or sin. So far as actual existence is concerned, there is no difference between marriage and fornication. What distinguishes one from the other is the command of Allah - marriage conforms with the divine law, and fornication goes against that law. Someone is killed without any reason; another is killed by a lawful authority in reprisal of a murder. A teacher punishes an orphan in order to guide him aright; an oppressor hits at the same orphan unjustly. In all these examples, the actual movements of the actions are identical. But one group is called sin because it does not conform with the divine law or goes against the common weal of the society.
Allah says: Allah is the Creator of everything. . . (39:62). Every action is a "thing" inasmuch as it exists. And the Imam has said: "Whatsoever may be called a thing is created, except Allah. . ." Also, Allah says: Who made good everything that He has created. . . (32:7). It may be inferred that everything is good because it is created. Creation and goodness are inseparable factors. But at the same time, we see that Allah has named some actions as evil. For example, He says: Whoever brings a good deed, he shall have ten like it, and whoever brings an evil deed, he shall not be recompensed but only with the like of it . . . (6 :160). These are obviously the actions done by man; not the factor of recompense which cannot apply to divine actions. Such a deed is called sin. It is evil because it lacks some thing; because it is a nullification of a spiritual virtue or social good. In other words, a sin is sin because it is a negation , a non-being; otherwise it would have been good.
Now, let us look at the following verses of the Quran:
No misfortune befalls on the earth nor in your own souls, but it is in a book before We bring it into existence. . . (57:22); No affliction comes about but by Allah’s permission; and whoever believes in Allah, He guides aright his heart . . . (64 :11); And whatever affliction befalls you, it is on account of what your hands have wrought, and (yet) He pardons most (of your faults) (42:30); Whatever benefit comes to you, it is from Allah, and whatever misfortune befalls you, it is from yourself (4:79); . . . and if a benefit comes to them, they say: "This is from Allah;”- and if a misfortune befalls them they say: "This is from you." Say: “All is from Allah;" but what is the matter with these people that well-nigh they do not understand what is told (them)? (4:78). On pondering upon these verses, it becomes clear that these misfortunes are relative evils. A man is bestowed with the bounties of Allah, like security and peace; health and wealth, and so on; then he loses one or more of these bounties. This misfortune, in relation to that man, is evil because it has nullified some existing things, that is, the bounties which he had previously enjoyed. Thus, every misfortune is created by Allah, and at that stage it is not an evil. But it is an evil when seen in relation to the man who loses an existing bounty because of it.
Likewise, every sin is a negative factor, and as such, it is not to be attributed to Allah at all; though it may be attributed to Him from another angle, inasmuch as it happens by permission of Allah.
al-Bazanti said: I told Imam Reza that some of our fellows believe in compulsion and some of them advocate the (belief of) capability. Thereupon he told me: "Write down (as I say): Allah, Blessed and High is He, has said: ‘O son of Adam! By My will you have become such that you wish for yourself what you wish; and by My power you discharged the duties imposed by Me (on you); and by My bounty, you got power to disobey Me; I made you hearing, seeing (and) powerful. Whatever benefit comes to you, it is from Allah; and whatever misfortune befalls you, it is from yourself. And it is as it is because I have more right on your good deeds than you have yourself; and you are more liable to your sins than Me. And it is because I cannot be questioned concerning what I do and they shall be questioned. Thus, I have arranged for you everything that you want. . .' " (Qurbu ’1-asnad)
This, or nearly the same, tradition is narrated through other chains, of the Sunnis as well as of the Shī‘ahs. In short, the deeds that cannot be attributed to Allah, are the sins per se. It further explains the sentence of the preceding tradition: "If he were their creator, He would not have disowned their liability . . . What Allah has disowned any responsibility of, is their idol-worship and their evils. . . "
Abū Jafar and Abu Abdillah said: "Certainly, Allah is too Merciful to His creatures to compel them to sin and then to punish them for it. And Allah is too powerful for anyone to think that He would will a thing and it would not happen!" (The narrator) said: "Then they were asked: ‘Is there a third position between the (positions of) compulsion and (independent) capability?' They said: ‘Yes, broader than (the space) between the heaven and the earth."' (at-Tawhīd)
Muhammad ibn ‘Ajlan said: "I asked Abu Abdillah whether Allah has delegated (the authority of) the affair to the servants. He said: Allah is too honourable to delegate (the authority) to them.’ I said: ‘Then has He compelled the servants in their deeds?’ He said: Allah is too just to compel a servant on a deed and then to punish him for it.’” (ibid.)
In the same book Mihzam is reported as saying: "Abu Abdillah said: "Tell me what is that concerning which our followers (whom you have left behind) have differed among themselves.’ I said: ‘About the compulsion and the delegation?’ He said: ‘Then ask me about it.’ I asked: ‘Has Allah compelled the servants to (commit) sins?’ He replied: ‘Allah is too overpowering to do it to them.’ I asked: ‘Then has He delegated (the authority) to them?’ He replied: ‘Allah has too much power over them to do so.’ I asked: ‘Then what is it (i.e., the correct position)? May Allah make your affairs right for you!’" (The narrator says:) "The Imam turned his hand twice or thrice, then said: ‘If I were to answer you concerning it, you would not believe.’”
The author says: “Allah is too overpowering to do it to them”: Compulsion means that a force majeure subdues the subject in such a way that his power of action is nullified. "Too overpowering" (or, more overpowering than that) is the predominant will of Allah - He has willed that the action would emanate from the doer by his free will and choice, and this is what is actually happening in the world. The divine will has given the man freedom of will; neither the divine will negates the human will, nor the human will collides with the divine will.
It is reported in at-Tawhīd that Imam Jafar said: "The Prophet said: ‘Whoever thinks that Allah enjoins the evil and indecency, he tells a lie against Allah; and whoever believes that the good and bad (do happen) without the will of Allah, he removes Allah from His authority.'"
It is reported that al-Hajjaj ibn Yūsuf wrote to al-Hasan al-Basrī, ‘Amr ibn ‘Ubayd, Wasil ibn ‘Ata’ and ‘Amir ash-Sha‘bī, asking them to describe what they had got (and what has reached them) in respect of (divine) decree and measure. al-Hasan al-Basrī wrote to him: "The best thing that has reached me is that which I heard the Leader of the faithful, Ali ibn Abi Talib saying: ‘Do you think that He Who has forbidden you has (also) acted cunningly against you? Rather, your lower and higher (parts) have cunningly deceived you, and Allah is free from its liability.'" And ‘Amr ibn ‘Ubayd wrote to him: "The best thing I have heard about the decree and measure is the saying of the Leader of the faithful, Ali ibn Abi Talib: ‘If perfidy were in reality decreed, the perfidious man, if punished, would have been oppressed.' " And Wasil ibn ‘Ata’ wrote to him: "The best I have heard about the decree and measure is the saying of the Leader of the faithful, Ali ibn Abi Talib : ‘Do you think that He would guide you to the path and (then) obstruct you (from moving on)?' " And ash-Sha‘bī wrote to him: "The best thing I have heard concerning the decree and measure is the word of the Leader of the faithful, Ali ibn Abi Talib : ‘Whatever you have to seek Allah's pardon for it, it is from you; and whatever you thank Allah for it, it is from Him.' " When their letters reached al-Hajjaj and he studied them, he said: "Certainly they have taken it from a clear spring." (at-Tara’if )
It is narrated in the same book that someone asked Imam Jafar about the decree and measure, and he replied: "Whatever you may blame the servant (of Allah) for it, it is from him; and whatever you cannot blame the servant (of Allah) for it, it is the work of Allah. Allah will say to the servant: ‘Why did you disobey? Why did you transgress? Why did you drink liquor? Why did you fornicate?' This is, therefore, the work of the servant. But He will not say to him: ‘Why were you sick? Why were you of short stature? Why did you become white? Why were you black?(He will not ask it) because it is the work of Allah."
Ali was asked about monotheism and justice (of Allah), and he said: "Monotheism is that you should not imagine Him; and justice is that you should not accuse Him." (Nahju ’1-balaghah)
The author says: There are numerous traditions on this subject; but those quoted above throw light on all the aspects of the topic.
The above-mentioned traditions show various special methods of argument regarding the subject matter.
a) Some of them argue on the basis of legislation itself - order and prohibition; punishment and reward etc. - that man has freedom of will, without any compulsion or delegation of power. See, for example, the speech of the Leader of the faithful, Ali, replying to the old man. It is similar to the argument we have inferred from the words of Allah.
b) Others bring in evidence the verses of the Quran which cannot be reconciled with the theory of compulsion or delegation of power. For example: And Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth (3:189); and your Lord is not in the least unjust to the servants (41:46). Also, there is the verse, Say: "Surely Allah does not enjoin indecency" (7:28) .
Poser: A deed may be described as unjust or indecent if it is seen in relation to us. But when it is attributed to Allah it is not called unjust or indecent. Therefore, even if all "our" deeds were actually done by Allah, it would be perfectly right to say that He is not unjust and does not enjoin indecency.
Reply: The sentence seen in the context leaves no room for such misconceptions. The complete verse is as follows: And when they commit an indecency they say: "We found our fathers doing this and Allah has enjoined it on us " Say: "Surely Allah does not enjoin indecency. Do you say against Allah what you do not know?" Look at the sentence, "and Allah has enjoined it on us". The pronoun "it" clearly refers to the indecency committed by them; and it is the same deed which is referred to in the sentence, "Surely Allah does not enjoin indecency,". Allah does not enjoin what is termed as indecency in context of human activities; it does not matter whether in other framework it is called indecency or not.
c) A third type of reasoning is based on the divine attributes. Allah has given Himself many good names, and has described Himself with many sublime attributes, which cannot be squared with compulsion or delegation of power. Allah is the Subduer, the Omnipotent, the Benevolent and the Merciful. These attributes can only be believed in if one believes that everything depends on Allah in its existence, and that its defects and shortcomings cannot be attributed to Him at all. (Refer to the traditions quoted from at-Tawhīd.)
d) Yet others refer to seeking the pardon of Allah as well as to the blame which society directs at the wrong-doer. If sin were not from the man himself, there would have been no meaning in asking for divine pardon. If all our actions were done by Allah why should we be blamed for only some of them and not for the others?
e) Lastly, there are the traditions which explain the words, like causing to err, sealing the hearts and misleading, when they are attributed to Allah:
Imam Reza said explaining the words of Allah, and He (Allah) left them in utter darkness - they do not see: "Allah is not described as leaving something as His creatures do. But when He knew that they would not return from disbelief and error, He held back His help and grace from them and let them alone with their choice." (‘Uyunu ’1-akhbar)
The same book narrates from the same Imam in explanation of the words of Allah, Allah has set a seal upon their hearts: "It is setting a seal on the hearts of the disbelievers as a punishment of their disbelief, as Allah has said: . . . nay! Allah has set a seal upon them owing to their disbelief, so they shall not believe except a few (4:155)."
Imam Jafar said concerning the words of Allah, Surely Allah is not ashamed to set forth any parable. . .: "This divine word answers those who think that Allah makes (His) servants go astray and then punishes them for that straying . . . " (Majma‘u ’l-bayan)
The author says: Its meaning may be understood from previous explanations.
A PHILOSOPHICAL DISCUSSION
Every species is related to a particular type of action and reaction. In fact it is these special characteristics which identify the species as such. We looked at various kinds of actions and reactions emanating from various groups. Our reason told us that there should be an efficient cause, an agent, to bring each kind of these actions and reactions into being. Therefore, we put every group in a separate category, identifying it as a species. When we compared human characteristics, for example, with those of an animal, and delineated them clearly, we decided that they were two different species, with different characteristics.
When the actions are seen in relation to their subjects, that is, the species, they are primarily divided into two categories:
First: The actions emanating from the nature - where the knowledge of their emanation has no effect at all on their existence. For example, the growth and nutrition of the vegetables; the movement of the bodies; our own health or illness. These things are known to us, present in our own bodies; but our knowing or not knowing them has no effect whatsoever on their coming into being; they totally depend upon their doer - that is, nature.
Second: The actions issuing forth from the doer with his knowledge - where the said knowledge has a bearing on their being, like the intentional actions of the man and even of some animals. The doer does such an action after knowing and identifying it; and it is the knowledge and perception that gives him that insight. The knowledge makes him realize what would constitute his perfection, and helps him in deciding whether a particular action would lead to that desired perfection. The knowledge distinguishes the means of perfection from other things; and this distinction helps the doer in choosing a particular course of action. And the action comes into being.
The activities based upon ingrained aptitude (like issuing forth of the required voices, when a man speaks), as well as those emanating from natural disposition, or from the dictates of nature (like breathing) and, likewise, those springing from overwhelming grief or fear etc., do not require contemplation or meditation by the doer. Why? Because there is not more than one form of knowledge here, and the doer does not have to delay his activity awaiting a final decision. Therefore, he does it immediately. But in other cases, where the doer has before his eyes two or more possible forms of knowledge to choose from, he has to spend at least a few moments in contemplation and deliberation. For example, Zayd is hungry, and he gets a bread. Its one aspect is that it may satiate his hunger; but there may be other aspects too - it may be another man's property, it may be poisoned, it may have become dirty and so on. Zayd has to reflect whether the bread is legally, morally and hygienically fit for consumption. When he reaches a conclusion, the actions follows without any delay.
The first type of activities is called involuntary, like natural reactions; the second type is called voluntary, or intentional, like walking or talking.
The intentional actions, emanating from man's knowledge and will, are again divided into two categories:
First: When the man decides to do - or, not to do - a certain work, he may do so entirely on his own, without being influenced by any other fellow. In the example given above, Zayd may decide, on his own, not to eat the bread because it was someone else's property; or he may eat it in spite of that snag. This is called a deed done by man's free will.
Second: When the man opts for a certain course of action under the influence of someone else. A tyrant may force a helpless person to act according to that tyrant's instruction under duress. The poor fellow in this condition commits sins and crimes against his own will. This is called a deed done under compulsion.
Right? But let us look at this second category more closely. We have said that this kind of deed results from the compeller's compulsion; he does not allow any freedom to the doer, who has to take the only way left open by the oppressor. But even then, it is the doer himself who decides to proceed on that way. It is true that the major factor leading to this decision was the tyrant's compulsion; but it is equally true that the decision was taken by the doer himself, even though it was taken to save himself from the tyrant's oppression. In short, even the deeds done under compulsion are done by the will of the doer. It follows that the division of intentional actions into these two categories is not real, not based on actual facts. The intentional action is the one which emanates from a knowledge and a will that tips the balance in its favour. This reality is found in the deed done under compulsion as well as in the one done by free will. It makes no difference that it was some other man's force or fear that tipped the balance in one case and the doer's own thinking that did so in the other. A man sitting near a wall looks up to find that it was about to fall; overcome by fear he sprints away from that place. And we say that he did so by his own free will. Suppose, a tyrant threatens to bull-doze the wall over him if he did not move away. Overcome by fear, he sprints away from there. And we say that it was done under compulsion. But the fundamentals in both cases are the same. The man is overcome by fear and decides to move away. So, why should we put them in two different categories.
Objection: There is enough difference between the two actions to warrant their assignment to two different categories. The deed done by free will is based on its underlying wisdom (in the eyes of the doer); the doer deserves praise or blame, and gets reward or punishment, for it. All these factors are simply absent in the case of a deed done under compulsion.
Reply: It is true. But these factors are based on subjective approach of the society. They do not have any existence outside the imagination. By talking on these subjective approaches we have crossed the limits of philosophy. Philosophy deals with the things that exist in reality, as well as with those things' natural characteristics. What all this leads to is the conclusion that the discussion whether man is free in his actions is beyond the scope of philosophy.
We may yet bring it back on the track of philosophy from another direction:
A transient (possible) thing has equal relation with existence and non-existence. It, therefore, needs a sufficient cause to tip the balance in favour of existence, so that it may come into being.
The transient thing, when related to its sufficient cause, becomes an essential being - it becomes impossible for it not to exist. That is why it is said that a transient does not come into being unless it becomes an essential being.
A transient, by its definition, must have a sufficient cause for its existence. A transient existing without its sufficient cause is a contradiction in terms. And that cause gives it the essentiality, so long as it exists.
Now look at the universe at a glance. You will find a chain made up of unnumerable links, all of which would be essential beings. In other words, not a single existing thing could be called a transient, so long as it exists.
But this "essential - ness" comes to it only when it is looked at in relation to its sufficient cause.
The sufficient cause may be a single thing or a compound of various causes - the material, the formal, the efficient and the final causes, plus the necessary conditions of time and space as well as other preliminaries. An effect when related to its sufficient cause must invariably exist - because the said cause would make it essential. But when seen with only a part of that cause, or if related to any outside factor, it would not be essential; it would remain a transient as before.
If a transient, on being related to only a part of its sufficient cause (e.g., to its efficient cause only) become essential and come into being, its sufficient cause would be superfluous; and it would be a contradiction in term.
It shows that in this natural world two systems are found simultaneously: one of essentiality and the other of transiency. The system of essentiality covers the sufficient causes and their effects - there is no transiency in any part of this world, neither in any person nor in any action. The system of transiency permeates the matter and its potentialities when related to only a part of the sufficient cause. Take any human action; if it is related to its sufficient cause - man (the efficient cause), knowledge and will (the final), matter (the material) and its shape (the formal) plus all conditions of time and space including removal of every hindrance - it would become essential. But if it is seen in relation to only its efficient cause, that is, man, it would remain transient.
Finally, it should be pointed out that the transient things need a cause for their existence because of their transiency. And this need would not end until the chain of cause and effect finally reaches a cause Who is the Essential Being. This observation leads to the following two conclusions:
First: The need of an effect for its cause does not end on its being related to its transient cause. The need continues until it reaches the Final Cause, the Essential Being.
Second: This need emanates from its transient nature. It needs a cause to bring it into existence with all its characteristics and traits, including its relationship with its various causes, fulfilling all the conditions of its existence.
Now we may ponder upon the question of compulsion and delegation of power, keeping in view the above-mentioned premises:
First: No delegation of power: Man, like all other things and their actions, depends on the will of Allah, for his existence. In the same way, man's action depends on the will of Allah in its existence. Therefore, the Mu‘tazilites' view - that human actions have no relation at all to the divine will - is completely baseless. There was no reason at all for them to deny the decree and measure of Allah in respect of the man's actions.
Second: No compulsion: This relation to the will of Allah, inasmuch as it is concerned with existence, keeps all the characteristics of the created thing in view. Every effect emanates from its cause - with all its characteristics which have any bearing on its existence. A man's creation is attributed to Allah, keeping in view all its intermediary causes and condition - the father, the mother, the time, the place, the features, the quantity, the quality and a lot of other concomitants. Likewise, the action of man is attributed to Allah, keeping in view all its characteristics and conditions. When a man's action is attributed to Allah and His will, it does not cease to be the man's action; it is still caused by the said man's will. The will of Allah decrees that the action be done by the man emanating from the man's own free will and choice. Therefore, it would be a contradiction in term to say that the action was no longer done by man's free will because it was related to the divine will. Allah Himself has decreed it to be a work of the man by his free will; how can it be said that the divine will lost its effectiveness and the action happened without the man's free will? It is now clear that the view of al -Mujabbirah - that the human action's relation to the divine will nullifies its relation to the human will - is absolutely devoid of truth.
The above discourse shows that the said action has a relation to the human will and a relation to the divine will; neither relation nullifies the other, because each is connected with the other vertically, not horizontally.
Third: The human action, when related to its sufficient cause; becomes essential. But seen in relation to only a part of the sufficient cause, it remains transient. For example, when the action is related to only its sufficient cause, that is, man, it does not become essential, but remains transient as before.
Therefore, what a group of modern materialist philosophers have said - that the whole system of nature is permeated by compulsion, and there is no free will at all in the universe - is totally wrong. As we have said, all effects in relation to their sufficient causes are essential, but, when related to only a part of the said causes, are transient. And it is the foundation on which man's life is based. A man teaches and trains his child and then hopes that his efforts would bear fruit. If there was no freedom in the world, if everything was essential and had to happen anyhow, then all this teaching and training would be of no earthly use; there would remain no place for hope in human life.
How do you deny Allah and you were dead and He gave you life? Again He will cause you to die and again bring you to life; then you shall be brought back to Him (28). He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth, and He directed Himself to the heaven, so He made them complete seven heavens; and He know all things (29).
The talk reverts again to the initial topic. The beginning of the chapter dealt with three categories of mankind; then all were addressed together (verses 21-27) with the words, "O men", Now these verses describe the same subject with a grater detail. The twelve verses, starting from here, depict the reality of man; show the potentialities of perfection which Allah has endowed him with; delineate the vast scope of his inner being; describe the various stages - death and life, and again death and life; then the return to Allah - through which he passes in his journey, explaining that the final destination is Allah. In this context, the verses describe some basic bounties of Allah upon him - creative as well as legislative. He created for him all that is, in the earth and made the heaven subservient to him. He made him His deputy on the earth, ordered the angels to prostrate before him, put the first man into the Garden, opened for him the door of repentance and enhanced his prestige by guiding him to His worship. In this background, the opening words, "How do you deny Allah", serve to emphasize the grace and bounty of Allah on man.
QURAN: How do you deny Allah . . . you shall be brought back to Him: The verse is somewhat (though not exactly) similar to the verse 40:11: They shall say: "Our Lord! twice didst Thou give us death, and twice hast Thou give us life, so we do confess our faults; is there then a way to get out? This (later) is one of the verses that prove an al–barzakh (intervening period or life ) between this world and the next. It says that Allah gives death twice. First is the death that transfers us from this world. But when and where shall we be given the second death? Giving of death presupposes a preceding life. It means that man shall be given a life in the period intervening between this first death and the Day of Resurrection. This argument is solid, and it has been offered in some traditions too.
Question: Both verses have exactly the same connotation. Both mention two deaths and two lives. According to the verse 2:28, the stage before the life of this world has been called the first death. Then comes the first life in this world, followed by the second death transferring the man to the next world, and lastly will come the second life on the Day of Resurrection. The second verse (40:11) too should be interpreted in the same way, because both have the same import. It means that after the death of this world, there is no life before the Day of Resurrection.
Reply: It is wrong to say that the two verses have the same connotation. The verse 2:28 mentions one death, one causing to die and two givings of life; while the verse 40:11 is talking about two givings of death and two givings of life. There is a world of difference between "death" and "causing to die". "Causing to die" shows a preceding life; while "death" can be used just for absence of life - even when there was no life before it.
The verse 40:11 refers to the death after this life, then the life of the intervening period, then the death after that, and finally to the life on the Day of Resurrection. The verse 2:28 on the other hand, refers first to the lifeless state ("death", and not "causing to die") before coming to this world, then goes on mentioning this life, then death and then the life of the intervening period. There will be some delay before man is returned to his Lord. The conjunctive used "thumma" (then) denotes some delay. Its use here supports this explanation because after the life of the intervening period there shall come again a death and only then the man shall be returned to Allah.
QURAN: and you were dead and He gave you life: It shows the reality of man and his existence. He is a being, ever-changing, ever proceeding on his path of perfection, step by step, stage by stage. Before coming into this world, he was dead, then he was made alive by Allah and came here; again he will be caused to die and then be made alive again. Allah says: . . . and He began the creation of man from dust. Then He made his progeny of an extract, of water held in light estimation. Then He made him complete and breathed into him of His spirit . . . (32:7-9); . . . then We did grow it into another creation; so blessed be Allah, the best of the creators (23:14); And they say: "What! when we have become lost in the earth, shall we then indeed be in a new generation?" Nay! they are disbelievers in the meeting of their Lord. Say: "The angel of death who is given charge of you shall cause you to die, then to your Lord you shall be brought back" (32:10-11); From it We created you and into it We shall send you back from it will We raise you a second time (20:55). The verses will be explained when we shall come to them; they have been quoted here only to show that man is a part of the earth, he was created from it, gradually developed until he grew into "another creation"; this "another creation" proceeds on the path of his perfection; then the angel of death completely removes this "man" from the body; and he returns to Allah. This is the path which the man has to take to.
The divine decree has planned the universe in such a way that every thing is related to every thing else; there is a constant action and reaction between it and the rest of the creation. Man too influences, and is in turn influenced by, all that exists in the earth and in the heavens - the elements and their characteristics, the animal world, the vegetable world, the minerals, the water, the air and, in short, every creation of nature. The fact is that the scope of man's activities is much greater, and his circle far bigger than anything else's. He has been given thinking and reasoning powers, and, as a result of this unique gift of Allah, he influences the other creatures, manages them, arranges and rearranges them, manipulates them, destroys them, amends them and perfects them, on a scale unheard of outside his circle. Every creature is under his domain. Sometimes he imitates nature by creating synthetic items for his needs; at other times he sets some forces of nature against the others. In short, he obtains, by all possible means, whatever he wants from whatever he wants. Passage of time has further strengthened his hands; now he has deeper insight in the working of nature, and manipulates the system even more effectively. That is so that Allah may establish the reality by His words, and so that the truth of His speech may be seen even more clearly: And He has made subservient to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, all, from Himself (45:13). The verse following the verse under discussion, that is, 2:29, states the same fact: He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth, and He directed Himself to the heavens, so He made them complete seven heavens. The context - description of the bounties of Allah bestowed on man - shows that it was for the benefit of man that Allah directed Himself to the heavens and made them complete seven. (Ponder on the point!)
This is the path taken by the man in his journey of existence; and this is the imprint of his activities on the universe; it shows where he began from and what is his final destination.
Man's life in this world originates from nature, as the Quran confirms. But the same book declares also that this very life emanates from Allah: . . . and indeed I created you before, when you were nothing (19:9); Surely He it is Who originates and returns (85:13). Man is a creature that is brought up in the caressing fold of creation, gets his nourishment from the breast of production, and is connected on this level with life-less nature. But, on the level of origination, he is related to the command of Allah, to His authority: His command, when He intends anything, is only that He says to it, "Be", and it is (36:82); Our word for a thing when We intend it, is only that We say to it, "Be", and it is (16:40).
This much about genesis. As for the return journey, the path divides in two: the path of happiness, and that of unhappiness.
The path of happiness is the shortest route, leading the man to the sublime spiritual heights. It keeps raising his status and enhancing his rank until it takes him to the divine nearness. The path of unhappiness, on the other hand, is a long route that keeps demeaning and debasing him rendering him lowest of the low, until he reaches the divine presence. And Allah encompasses them on every side (85:20). This subject has been fully explained under the verse, Guide us to the straight path (1:6) .
This was a short description of man's path. Details about his life in this world, and before and after it, will be given in their proper place. The verse under discussion is not concerned with those details; it makes only a passing reference to it as it has some bearing on guidance and misguidance, happiness and unhappiness.
He made them complete seven heavens: We shall write about the heavens in Chapter 32 (as-Sajdah ), God willing.
And when your Lord said to the angels, "Verily I am going to make in the earth a vicegerent"; they said: "wilt thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood while we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness?" He said: "Surely I know what you do not know" (30). And He taught Adam the names, all of them, then presented them to the angels and He said: "Tell Me the names of those if you are right" (31). They said: "Glory be to Thee! we have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us; surely Thou, Thou (alone), art the knowing, the Wise" (32). He said: "O Adam! inform them of their names. And when he had informed them of their names, He said: "Did I not say to you that I surely know the unseen (secrets) of the heavens and the earth and (that) I know what you manifest and what you were hiding?" (33).
The verses tell us why the man has been sent to this world, what is the significance of his appointment as the vicegerent of Allah in this earth, what are the characteristics and special features of this vicegerency. Unlike other Quranic stories, it has been told in one place only, that is, in these verses.
QURAN: And when your Lord said: We shall explain in vol. IV, what the "speech" or "saying" means when it is attributed to Allah, to angels and to the Satan.
QURAN: they said: "Wilt thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it . . . and extol Thy holiness?": The angels heard the announcement, "I am going to make in the earth a vicegerent", and at once arrived at the conclusion that the wouldbe vicegerent would make mischief in the earth and shed blood. Apparently they understood the ultimate behaviour of the said vicegerent from the words, "in the earth". A vicegerent appointed in the earth would certainly be created from material components; he would necessarily be bestowed with two basic traits of desire and anger; the earth is a place of unceasing struggle and constant confrontation; its resources are limited, its opportunities finite; but the proposed vicegerent's desire would be unlimited, infinite. The condition of the earth and earthly things was hardly reassuring. Its creatures were subjected to ever-continuing deterioration and disintegration; its good was always turning into bad; it was a place where an individual could not live without a group having similar characteristics and traits. Keeping all this in view, the angels at once understood that what Allah intended to create was not only an individual, but a species. The members of that species would have to live together, cooperating with one another; that is to say, they would have to establish a society, a social order. And with a venture like this, they were bound to cause mischief and to shed blood.
On the other hand, they knew that vicegerency - setting one thing in place of another - was unthinkable unless the vicegerent were a true copy of his predecessor in all the characteristics, traits and intrinsic abilities. The proposed earthly creature was to be made vicegerent of Allah in the earth. Allah has got for Himself the best names, the sublime attributes; His mercy and power are beyond the comprehension of His creatures; He, in His person, is untouched by any defect; and, in his actions, is free from all kinds of evil and disorder. How could an earthly vicegerent, with all his defects and deficiencies, represent the majesty and splendour of Allah in the earth? Well, could a lowly creature of earth be a mirror of divine beauty and sublimity?
This was their question - and it was no more than a question. It was not a protest, not an objection; they actually wanted to know the truth. They later asserted their belief that Allah was the Knowing, the Wise. They believed that what Allah intended to do was based on knowledge and wisdom; and their question was put in order to learn the underlying wisdom of the decision of Allah. What their question - or, pleading - amounted to was as follows:
Allah intends to appoint a vicegerent in the earth; in order that the said vicegerent should represent Allah by celebrating His praise and glorifying His holiness through his worthy presence. But his earthly nature would not let him do so; it would irresistibly pull him towards mischief and wickedness. So far as the main purpose of this vicegerency - celebrating Allah's praise and glorifying His holiness - is concerned, we are already doing it. Therefore, we are Allah's de facto vicegerents; and if Allah wishes, He may bestow upon us this designation. What is the need, then, of a new creation to act as vicegerent of Allah in the earth?
For the reply, Allah used a sentence, "Surely I know what you do not know", and an action, "And He taught Adam the names, all of them".
The context shows that:
First: The vicegerent was to get the vicegerency of Allah; he was not to become a successor of any earthly creature that had preceded him. If Allah had wanted the man to take the place of that previous creature, the reply, "And He taught Adam the names, all of them", would be quite irrelevant.
Assuming that man was given vicegerency of Allah, this prestige would not be restricted to the person of Adam only, his descendants too would be vicegerents of Allah in the earth. Adam was taught the names; in other words, this knowledge was ingrained in human being in such a manner that, since that first day, it has been constantly bearing newer, fresher and better fruits; whenever man gets a chance, he discovers new avenues of knowledge; and thus he always finds himself imbued with previously unknown potentialities that more often than not turn into real achievements. It is a never ending process; it is a wonder that will not cease, and ever-fresh insight that will never fail to astonish.
That this assumption is correct, and the whole mankind is vicegerent of Allah, is evident by the following verses: And remember (O people of ‘Ad!) when He made you successors of Nūh's people . . . (7:69); Then We made you successors in the land after them . . . (10:14); . . . and He makes you successors in the earth (27:62). The word translated here as "successor" is the same that has been translated as "vicegerent" in the verse under discussion.
Second: Allah did not say that the vicegerent-designate would not cause mischief and bloodshed; nor did He reject the plea of the angels that they celebrated His praise and extolled His glory. By this silence, He confirmed that the angels were right on both counts. But then He made manifest one thing which the angels were not aware of. He showed them that there was a matter which they could not shoulder the responsibility of, while this proposed vicegerent could do so. Man was entrusted with a divine secret which the angels, in their nature, were unable to know or understand. And that divine gift would more than compensate the ensuing mischief and bloodshed.
Allah told them, first, that surely He knew what they did not know. Then He referred to the same reply by telling them: "Did I not say that I surely know the unseen (secrets) of the heavens and the earth?" Looking at the intervening sentences it may easily be understood that the "unseen (secrets)" refer to "the names". It does not refer to Adam's knowledge of those names. The angels were unaware of even the existence of these "names"; it was not that they knew about the names but were not sure whether Adam knew them or not. Had the angels been doubtful only about Adam's knowledge of the names, it would have been enough to tell Adam to inform the angels of the names in order that they would have known that Adam knew. Instead, Allah first asked them to tell Him "the names of those". The angels had claimed the vicegerency of Allah for themselves, and had hinted that Adam was not fit for it; but the essential qualification for the vicegerency was the knowledge of the names; therefore, Allah asked both candidates about the names; the angels did not know them, and Adam knew; it proved that he had the qualification while they lacked it. The question (about this knowledge) addressed to the angels ends with the clause, "if you are right"; it means that they had claimed a position, essential qualification of which was this knowledge.
QURAN: And He taught Adam the names, all of them, then presented them to the angels: The Arabic pronoun, "them", used in "then presented them", is made for rational beings, those who have life, sense and understanding. Obviously, the names (or, the named ones) were some living and sensible being who were hidden behind the curtain of the "unseen". It follows that the knowledge given to Adam of their names was something totally different from what we understand from the knowledge of names. Merely knowing the names (in the sense known to us) has no distinction; otherwise, the angels too would have become equal to Adam in this respect as soon as they heard those names from Adam. Also, there would have been no distinction for Adam in such a knowledge. The angels could rightly complain to Allah that He taught those names to Adam, but kept them (i.e. the angels) in dark; had He taught them too, they would have been equal to, if not better than, Adam! Understandably, such favouritism could not have silenced the angels. Surely, it was something deeper then merely knowing all the names.
It would not have been a convincing argument for Allah to teach Adam a dictionary and then put it as an evidence against the angels - the honoured servants who do not precede Him in speech and who act according to His commandment only - telling them to inform Him of the words which they had not been taught, and which the mankind was to invent in future. Moreover, the only purpose of language is to convey the feelings and ideas to the hearer; but the angels do not need any language for this purpose; they convey and receive the ideas directly without the medium of words; their stage is far higher than that of human beings in this respect.
However, it is clear that the knowledge of the names which the angels got after hearing them from Adam was not the same as Adam had got by teaching of Allah - the inferior knowledge of the names they could grasp, but not the superior one which qualified Adam for vicegerency of Allah.
Adam deserved the vicegerency because he was given the knowledge of the names, and not because he informed the angels of those names. That is why they declared, "Glory be to Thee! we have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us". They accepted that they did not possess that knowledge.
The above discourse leads us to believe that Adam was taught the names of the named ones in such a way that he clearly knew their reality and recognized their substantial existence; it was not merely knowing the semantic value of a noun. The named ones were substantial realities, the actual beings that were, at the same time, hidden behind the curtain of the unseen (secrets) of the heavens and the earth. This especial knowledge could be learnt only by an earthly human being, but was quite incomprehensible by a heavenly angel. And this knowledge had an intrinsic bearing upon vicegerency.
"al-Asma' " (the names ), in the sentences, "And He taught Adam the names", is a plural with the definite article "al" (the) prefixed to it. Grammatically, it denotes generality, comprehensiveness; and it is followed by the emphatic, “all of them”. Clearly, Adam was taught all the names of every named thing, without any restriction or limitation. As described earlier, the pronoun, "them", in the clause, "then presented them to the angels", shows that every name, that is, the named one, was a living being having knowledge and intellect; and at the same time, he was in the curtain of the unseen - the unseen of the heavens and the earth.
"The unseen of the heavens and the earth": It is a genitive case. Somewhere else this phrase may mean the unseen parts of the heavens and the earth. But in this verse, where Allah intends to demonstrate His perfect and comprehensive power, and to show the deficiency and incapability of the angels, it must mean a secret which is unseen to all the worlds, to all the heavens and the earth; an unseen beyond the sphere of the universe.
If you look at all the particulars of this verse - that "the names" denotes generality, that the named ones were alive and had knowledge, and that they were unseen to the heavens and the earth - you will agree that it perfectly fits on the theme of the verse 15:21, And there is not a thing but with Us are the treasures of it and We do not send it down but in a known measure. Whatever is called a thing - whatever is "named" a thing - Allah has its vast treasures, ever-lasting, never-ending, unmeasured by any measure, unlimited by any limit. Measure and limit come to it when it is created and sent down. The vastness of these treasures is not of the same kind as the multiplicity of number, because a number, no matter how large, is by definition measured, limited and quantified. The said treasure are vast in their ranks and grades. (We shall further explain it in Chapter 15.)
The named ones who were presented before the angels were sublime beings, who were well-protected by Allah, hidden in curtains of the unseen. He sent them down to the universe with their blessings and benefactions, and created all that is in the heavens and in the earth from their light and splendour. Although they had numerous identities, they were not different in their number or in their persons; whatever difference there was, it was in their ranks and grades.
QURAN: and I know what you manifest and what you were hiding: The sentence stands face to face with the mention of the unseen (secrets) of the heavens and the earth. Probably it refers to those things which are the parts of the heavens and the earth; and in this way both sentences together cover all unseen things - those which are beyond the sphere of the heavens and the earth together with those which are within that sphere.
Instead of saying "and what you hide", Allah said, "and what you were hiding". This changed style shows that there was something hidden especially in respect of Adam and his appointment as vicegerent. Probably it was the incident described in the next verse: ". . . (the angels) prostrated except Iblis. He refused and he showed arrogance, and he was one of the unbelievers". It shows that Iblis was an unbeliever before then, and that his refusal to prostrate had sprung from that disbelief, which he had kept hidden upto that moment. Obviously, the prostration of the angels and the refusal of Iblis had happened after Allah had told them, "Surely I know what you do not know", but before He said to them, ". . . I know what you manifest and what you were hiding" (i.e. the unbelief kept secret by Iblis). It also explains the reason why the former sentence was changed to, "I surely know the unseen (secrets) of the heavens and the earth".
Imam Jafar said: "The angels could not know what they said (Wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood), if they had not (earlier) seen someone who had made mischief in it and shed blood." (Tafsir, Ayyashi)
The author says: This tradition may be pointing to an earlier creature that inhabited the earth before the mankind, as some other traditions say. It is not against what we have said that they understood it from the very words of Allah: Verily, I am going to make in the earth a vicegerent; rather the tradition and our explanation are complementary. The tradition, without putting it in the framework of our explanation, would show that the angels too, like Iblis, had committed the folly of unauthorized analogy - a very objectionable practice.
Zurarah said: "I visited Abu Jafar and he asked (me): ‘What do you have of Shia traditions?' I said: ‘I do have a large number of it; and I was thinking of kindling a fire to burn them in it.' He said: ‘Hide it (somewhere), you will (naturally) forget what you are not familiar with.' " (Zurarah said): "Then, I thought about the mankind (and asked him about them). He said: ‘How did the angels get their knowledge when they said, Wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood?' " Zurarah further reports that whenever Abu Abdillah mentioned this tradition, he said: "It is a shattering blow against al-Qadariyyah (i. e. those who say that man is completely independent of Allah in his actions)." Abu Abdillah further said: "Adam had, in the heaven, a friend from among the angels. When Adam got down from the heaven to the earth, the angel felt lonely; he complained (of it) to Allah and sought His permission. Allah allowed him and he came down to him (Adam); he found him (Adam) sitting in a desolate region. When Adam saw him, he put his hand on his head and cried aloud." Abu Abdillah said: "They narrate that (it was such a loud cry that) all the creatures heard it. The angel told him: ‘O Adam! I do not see but that you have disobeyed your Lord and put on yourself a burden beyond your strength. Do you know what Allah had told us about you, and (what) we had said in His reply?' (Adam) said: ‘No.’ (The angel) said: ‘Allah told us, "I am going to make in the earth a vicegerent". We said: "Wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood?" Thus, He created you to place you in the earth. Could it be right for you to stay in the heaven?’ ” Abu Abdillah said: "Allah in this way consoled Adam for three days." (ibid.)
The author says: The tradition shows that the
was in the heaven. Other traditions on this subject will be given later. Garden of Adam
In the same book, Abul-Abbas is quoted as saying that he asked Abu Abdillah about the words of Allah, And He taught Adam the names, all of them, (and enquired) as to what Allah had taught him. (The Imam) said: "The earths, the mountains, the canyons and the valleys." Then he looked at the rug which he sat upon and said: "And this rug is among the things which He taught him."
It is reported in the same book that al-Fudayl ibn al Abbas asked Abu Abdillah what were the names which Allah taught Adam. He replied: "The names of the valleys and the vegetables and the trees and the mountains of the earth."
The same book narrates from Dawūd ibn Sarhan al-‘Attar that he said: "I was with Abu Abdillah ; he called for the table-spread and we took our meals. Then he called for the washbowl and hand-towel. I said to him: ‘May I be your ransom! The words of Allah: And He taught Adam the names, all of them - was (this) wash-bowl and hand-towel among them?' He said: ‘The mountain-passes and the valleys.' Saying this he pointed by his hand this and that way."
Imam Jafar said: "Verily, Allah taught Adam the names of His proofs, all of them; then He presented them - and they were the spirits - to the angels, and said: ‘Tell Me the names of these if you are right in your claims that you have more right, than Adam, to the vicegerency in the earth because of your glorifying and extolling (Me).' They said: ‘Glory be to Thee! we have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us; surely Thou, Thou (alone), art the Knowing, the Wise.' Allah, Blessed and High is He! said: ‘O Adam! inform them of their names.' When he informed them of their names, they knew of their (i.e. those spirits) high rank before Allah, Great is His name! They realized that they (i.e. those spirits) were more deserving to be the vicegerents of Allah in His earth, and (to be) His proofs over His creatures. Then Allah removed them (the spirits) from their sight, and subjugated them with their (i.e. those spirits) obedience and love; and told them, ‘Did I not say to you that I surely know the unseen (secrets) of the heavens and the earth and (that) I know what you manifest and what you were hiding?'" (Ma‘ani ’1-akhbar)
The author says: The meaning of this tradition may be understood from the commentary given earlier; and it may also be realized that there was no contradiction between this tradition and the preceding ones. It was explained earlier that the verse 15:21 (And there is not a thing but with Us are the treasures of it . . .) that every thing originally exists in the treasures of the unseen; the things that are with us came into being on descending from there. The name given to a thing in this existence is in fact the name of that which is hidden in the treasures of the unseen. You may say that Allah taught Adam every thing that was in His treasures of the unseen - unseen that was hidden from the heavens and the earth. The same idea may be conveyed in these words: Allah taught Adam the names of all things - the things that were unseen secrets hidden from the heavens and the earth. The sum total of both statements is the same.
It is not out of place here to point to the traditions of at-tīnah (the substance, of which a thing is made ). Such a tradition, narrated in Biharu '1-anwar, is as follows:
Jabir ibn ‘Abdillah said: "I said to the Prophet : ‘What was the first thing which Allah created?' He said ‘The light of your prophet, O Jabir! Allah created it, then created from it every good; then He caused it to stand before Him in the station of "nearness", so long as Allah wished. Then He divided it into parts; and He created the Throne from one part, and the Chair from another part, and the bearers of the Throne and the occupiers of the Chair from yet another part; and He placed the fourth part in the station of love, as long as Allah wished. Then He divided it into parts; and He created the Pen from one part, and the Tablet from another part, and the Garden from yet another part; and He placed the fourth part in the station of fear, as long as Allah wished. Then He divided it into portions, and He created the angels from one portion, and the sun from another portion, and the moon from yet another portion, and He placed the fourth portion in the station of hope, as long as Allah wished. Then He divided it into portions, and He created the understanding from one portion, and the knowledge and forbearance from another portion, and the (divine) protection and help from yet other portion, and He placed the fourth portion in the station of modesty as long as Allah wished. Then He looked at it with awe-inspiring eye, and that Light started perspiring, and one hundred and twenty-four thousand drops dropped from it; and Allah created from each drop the soul of a prophet and Messenger. Then the souls of the prophets began breathing, and Allah created from their breasts the souls of (His) friends and the martyrs and the good ones.' "
The author says: There are numerous traditions of the same type; and on deep pondering they support what we have written earlier; some of them will be discussed later on. You should not reject such traditions outright, thinking that they were forged by the Sūfīs. The wonders of the creation are unfathomable; the scientists and the philosophers have spent, and are spending, their lives in discovering some of its secrets; but every solved enigma brings in its wake a lot of fresh previously unthought of enigmas. Do not forget that this is the unfathomability of this physical world - the smallest in range, the narrowest in scope, the lowest in rank. How can we pass judgement about other worlds beyond this one - the worlds of light, spaciousness and abundance?
And when We said to the angels: "Prostrate before Adam", then all prostrated except Iblis. He refused and he showed arrogance and he was one of the unbelievers (34).
It has been explained earlier that the preceding words, "and what you were hiding", show that there was a hidden thing that had, meanwhile, come into open. The last sentence of this verse too leads to the same conclusion. Instead of saying, "He refused and he showed arrogance, and he disbelieved", it says, ". . . he was one of the unbelievers". It was not that he became an unbeliever at that moment; he was an unbeliever long since, but had kept it a secret, and this event brought it into open. Also, it was mentioned that the event of the prostration of the angels must have happened between the divine words, "Surely I know what you do not know", and the words, ". . . I know what you manifest and what you were hiding". It may be asked: Why then has Allah put this verse after those words? Probably it has been done just to create a link between the stories of creation of Adam and his being placed in the
Paradise. The twelve verses (28-39) were revealed to describe how and when man was made vicegerent of Allah, how was he sent down to the earth, and what is to happen to him in this life - the happenings that will have a bearing on his lasting happiness or unhappiness. For this theme, the event of prostration has not much importance - except as a connecting link. That is why it has been mentioned here only briefly without going into details. Perhaps, it is because of the same reason that the Quran has changed the pronouns referring to Allah from the third person (your Lord said) to the first (And when We said).
The angels had not hidden anything from Allah; it was Iblis who had done so. Then why did Allah ascribe this deed to all of them (you were hiding)? Allah in this talk used the same method which even the human beings have adopted for their own speeches; we ascribe the work of an individual to the whole group, if the doer is not properly identified or if he tries to remain anonymous. Also, there may be another explanation for it. Apparently the first announcement, "I am going to make in the earth a vicegerent", had shown that the said vicegerent would have authority over the angels too. It may be inferred from the command obliging them to prostrate before Adam. Probably on hearing that first announcement some disturbing thought had come into their minds, as it had never occurred to them that any earthly creature could be given authority over everything including themselves. Some traditions too point to it. In this context the words, "what you were hiding", could easily be addressed to the angels.
QURAN: "Prostrate before Adam": Apparently it shows that prostration, per se, may be done before other than Allah, if it is done in conformity with Allah's command, as a mark of respect to that person. A similar case is found in the story of Yūsuf: And he raised his parents upon the throne and they (all) fell down in prostration before him, and he said: "O my father! this is the interpretation of my vision of old; my Lord has indeed made it to be true" (12:100).
This topic needs some clarification:
It was explained in the chapter of The Opening what the worship means. The worshipper places himself in the position of servitude and performs what manifests this status, what clearly shows that he accepts the mastership of his master. Those acts must be such as to show the master's mastership or the servant's servitude; for example, prostrating before the master, bowing down to him, standing before him when he sits, walking behind him when he walks etc. The more apt an action is to show this status, the more reserved it becomes to the rites of the divine worship. Prostration is the most significant symbol of the master's status arid the servant's low rank, because the man in this act falls down and puts his forehead on the ground. For this reason, it has the strongest connection with the divine worship.
However, prostration is not the same thing as worship. They have two different meanings, and worship is not a quidditative substance of prostration. A quidditative characteristic can never be separated from any being. But prostration may be done without any thought of reverence or worship - for example, just to make fun of someone. Keeping this in view, it may safely be said that although the connection of prostration with divine worship is the strongest, that worship is not its quiddity. Therefore, prostration, per se, cannot be exclusively reserved for Allah. If there is any impediment or obstruction, it should emanate from the shariah or the reason. What the shariah and the reason forbid is ascribing the prerogatives of the lordship to anyone other than Allah. But they do not forbid honouring someone or according him respect when it is done without elevating him to godhead.
The discourse given above was from purely academic point of view. But the religious good taste, conditioned as it is by rituals of worship, has strictly reserved the prostration for divine worship; it should not be done for anyone other than Allah; in Islam, one is forbidden to prostrate before others even as a mark of respect.
Apart from prostration, there is no proof - either from the Quran and tradition or from reason and logic - against according respect and showing reverence to others than Allah, especially when it is done as a part of the love of Allah; examples may be given of revering and loving the good servants of Allah and paying respects to the graves of the friends of Allah or to the things attributed to them. There is no reason whatsoever why such actions should be prohibited. (We shall deal with this subject in a more appropriate place, God willing.)
Abu Abdillah said: "When Allah created Adam and ordered the angels to prostrate before him, it came into the angels' mind: ‘We never thought that Allah had created any creature more honourable than us; we are His neighbours, and we are the nearest of His creation to Him.' Thereupon Allah said: ‘Did I not say to you that I know what you manifest and what you were hiding?'- (it was) a reference to what they had mentioned concerning the affairs of the jinn, and had concealed what was in their own minds. So, the angels, who had said what they had said, took refuge with the Throne." (Tafsir, Ayyashi)
Another tradition of the same theme is narrated in the same book from Ali ibn al-Husayn, the last part of which runs as follows: "When the angels realized that they had fallen into error, they took refuge with the Throne; and it was a group of the angels - and they were those who were around the Throne; it was not all the angels (who had thought so). . . So, they have taken refuge with the Throne till the Day of Resurrection."
The author says: The theme of the two traditions may be inferred from the talk of the angels: "We celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness"; and "Glory be to Thee! we have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us; surely Thou, Thou (alone), art the Knowing, the Wise."
It will be explained later that the Throne means the divine knowledge, as the traditions narrated from the Imams of Ahlul Bayt say. (Therefore, the angels' taking refuge with the Throne would refer to their confession that they knew only that which Allah had taught them, and that only Allah was the Knowing, the Wise.)
According to some traditions, the word "the unbelievers", (in the clause, "and he was one of the unbelievers") refers to the species, jinn, to which Iblis belonged, and which was created before man. Allah says: And certainly We created man of clay that gives forth sound, of black mud fashioned into shape. And the jinn We created before of intensely hot fire (15:26-27).
According to the above-mentioned traditions, the attribution of hiding to the angels (what you were hiding) needs no explanation; the clause means exactly what it says; the angels had actually hidden in their hearts the idea of their supremacy.
A third, group of traditions says that the said clause refers to Iblis and his hidden thought that he would not make obeisance to Adam and would not prostrate before him if asked to do so.
There is no contradiction between these various explanations, because all the meanings may be inferred from the Quranic verses. They are all true and based on fact. Various traditions throw light on various facets of the same fact.
Abū Basīr said: "I said to Abu Abdillah : ‘Did the angels prostrate and put their foreheads on the earth?' He said: ‘Yes, as an honour (bestowed on him) by Allah.' " (Qisasu 'l-anbiya, ar-Rawandī)
The Imam said: "Verily the prostration of the angels before Adam was in obedience to Allah and for their love of Adam." (Tuhafu '1-‘uqūl)
Mūsa ibn Ja'far (peace be on them both) narrates through his forefathers that a Jew asked Amīru 'l-mu'minīn 'Alī about the miracles of the Prophet in comparison with the miracles of (other) prophets (in course of which) he said: "This is Adam before whom Allah ordered His angels to prostrate." "Did He do any thing like it for Muhammad?" 'Alī said: "It was so. But Allah ordered His angels to prostrate before Adam; yet their prostration was not a prostration of worship; (it was not) that they had worshipped Adam against Allah, Mighty and Great is He! It was rather as an acknowledgement of Adam's superiority and a mercy of Allah towards him. And Muhammad was given what was better than that. Verily Allah, Great and High is He!, blessed him in His omnipotence, and the angels, all of them, prayed for him, and the believers were obliged to pray for him. So this is the increase, O Jew! " (al-Ihtijaj)
Allah created Adam, and he remained for forty years in (that) shape (i.e. a statue without life). And Iblis, the cursed, used to pass by him and say: "Why have you been created?" al -Alim (i.e. al-Kazim - a.s.) said: "Then Iblis said: ‘If Allah ordered me to prostrate before this, I would certainly disobey Him.' . . . Then Allah said to the angels, ‘Prostrate before Adam’; all of them prostrated; but Iblis showed the envy that was in his heart and he refused to prostrate." (Tafsir, Qummi)
Biharu 'l-anwar narrates, quoting from Qisasu 'l-anbiya', Imam Jafar that he said: "Iblis was ordered to prostrate before Adam, and he said: ‘O my Lord! By Thy honour! If Thou excusest me from prostrating before Adam, I would certainly worship Thee a worship no one would ever have worshipped Thee in a like manner.' Allah, Great is His glory!, said: ‘I like to be worshipped according to My own pleasure.' "
The Imam also said: "Verily Iblis cried aloud four times: First, on the day he was cursed, and the day he was dropped down to the earth, and the day Muhammad was sent (as prophet) after a (long) interval of the Messengers, and when the source of the Book was sent down. And he snorted (in satisfaction) twice: when Adam ate from the tree and when he (Adam) was sent down from the Garden."
And he said about the words of Allah: so their nakedness appeared unto them (20:121) : "Their nakedness was not seen before, then it was uncovered."
Also he said: "The tree from which Adam was forbidden (to eat) was the spikenard."
The author says: The traditions - and there are many - support what we have written about prostration.
And We said: "O Adam! dwell you and your wife in the Garden and eat (you both) from it (freely) a plenteous (food) wherever you (two) wish and do not approach (you two) this tree, for then you (two) will be of the unjust" (35). But the Satan made them both slip from it and drove them out of what they were in; and We said: "Get down, some of you being the enemies of others; and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time" (36). Then Adam received (some) words from his Lord, so He returned to him mercifully; surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful (37) . We said: "Get down you there-from all together; and if there comes to you a guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve (38) . And (as to) those who disbelieve in, and belie, Our signs, they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide" (39).
QURAN: And We said: "O Adam! dwell you and your wife. . . ": Although the story of the angels' prostration before Adam has been repeated several times in the Quran, that of his placement in the Garden has been given in three places only:
First: The verses given above, from Chapter 2 (the Cow).
Second: In Chapter 7 (the Elevated Places): And (We said):
"O Adam! dwell you and your wife in the Garden; so eat from where you desire, but do not go near this tree, for then you will be of the unjust" (19). But the Satan whispered an evil suggestion to them that he might make manifest to them what was hidden from them of their nakedness, and he said: "Your Lord has not forbidden you from this tree except that you may not both become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals" (20). And he swore to them both: "Most surely I am a sincere adviser to you" (21). Then he caused them to fall by deceit; so when they tasted of the tree, their nakedness became manifest to them, and they both began to cover themselves with the leaves of the Garden; and their Lord called out to them: "Did I not forbid you both from that tree and say to you that the Satan is your open enemy?" (22). They said: "Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers" (23). He said: "Get down, some of you being the enemies of others, and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time" (24). He (also) said: "Therein shall you live, and therein shall you die, and from it shall you be raised" (25).
Third: In Chapter 20 (Ta-Ha): And certainly We had covenanted unto Adam before, but he forgot; and We did not find in him any determination (115). And when We said to the angels: "Prostrate before Adam", they did prostrate, but 1blīs (did it not); he refused (116). So We said: "O Adam! surely this is an enemy to you and to your wife; therefore let him not drive you both forth from the Garden so that you should be put to toil (117); Surely it is (ordained) for you that you shall not be hungry therein nor bare of clothing (118); and that you shall not be thirsty therein nor shall you feel the heat of the sun" (119). But the Satan whispered an evil suggestion to him; he said: "O Adam! shall I guide you to the tree of immortality and a kingdom which decays not?" (120). Then they both ate of it, so their nakedness appeared unto them, and they both began to cover themselves with leaves of the Garden, and Adam disobeyed his Lord, so he got astray (121). Then his Lord chose him, so He turned to him and guided (him) (122). He said: "Get down you two therefrom, all (of you), one of you (is) enemy to another. So if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, he shall not go astray nor be unhappy (123). And whoever turns away from My remembrance, his shall surely be a straitened life, and We will raise him, on the Day of Resurrection, blind" (124). He shall say: "My Lord! why hast Thou raised me blind, and I was a seeing one indeed?" (125) He will say: "Even so: Our signs came to you, but you forgot them; even thus shall you be forsaken this day" (126). And thus do We recompense him who is extravagant and does not believe in the signs of his Lord; and certainly the chastisement of the hereafter is severer and more lasting" (127).
The context, and particularly the opening words of the story, "Verily I am going to make in the earth a vicegerent", clearly show that it was for the earth that Adam was created; it was the original plan that he should live and die in the earth. Allah had temporarily placed the couple in the Garden to test them in order that their nakedness might be uncovered to them. Also the context in all three places shows that the order to the angels to prostrate before Adam, and then to Adam to stay in the Garden is a single, continuous, story. It all shows that Adam was created specifically for the earth, and the way to send him down was through the Garden as mentioned in the Quran: It was shown that he was superior to the angels and, therefore, more qualified for the vicegerency of Allah; then they were told to prostrate before him, in acknowledgement of his superiority; then he was placed in the Garden but forbidden to go near a particular tree; so that on eating from it they should become aware of their nakedness and then be sent down to the earth. It means that the last link in this chain was their becoming aware of their private parts - it was this factor which irrevocably showed that they were fit for this earth, ready for this life. "as-Saw 'ah", ( literally means shame, disgrace, private part of the body. In this story it has been used in the last meaning, as may be seen from the words, "and they both began to cover themselves with leaves of the Garden". That is why we have translated it as "nakedness". ) However, their awareness of their pudenda proved that in addition to their spiritual qualities, they had also animal instincts and desires ingrained in them. It naturally made them dependent on nutrition and growth. Iblis wanted them to become aware of their nakedness. Adam and his wife were given earthly, human existence and were at once placed in the Garden without any delay; they were not given time to perceive and understand their nakedness or its concomitants; they had not yet comprehended the life of this earth and its necessities. When they were sent to the Garden their connection with the spiritual world, including the angels, was strong; their link with it was not weakened. It should be noted that Allah has said, "what was hidden from them"; He has not said, "what had been hidden from them"; it may be inferred from the expression used that their nakedness could not remain hidden for ever in this life; it was hidden for only a short period when they were placed in the Garden. The uncovering of their nakedness with all its concomitants was a predetermined fact and it depended upon their eating from that tree. That is why Allah had told them: "therefore let him not drive you both forth from the Garden so that you should be put to toil"; thereafter, the Satan "drove them out of what they were in".
It should not be overlooked that even when Allah pardoned them after their repentance, He did not return them to the Garden - they were sent down to the earth to live therein. If their eating of the tree, the uncovering of their private parts and the life of this world were not a confirmed divine plan, an irrevocable predetermined decree, they would have been returned to their place in the Garden as soon as they were forgiven their mistake. In short, it was the divine plan that they should spend sometime in the Garden to get them prepared for the life in this world; and their removal from the Garden, according to the causal relation decreed by Allah, depended on their eating from the tree and becoming aware of their nakedness, and it happened because they listened to the whispering of the Satan.
Allah says: "And certainly We had covenanted unto Adam before, but he forgot". Which covenant does this verse allude to? Does it refer to the admonition, "and do not approach (you two) this tree, for then you (two) will be of the unjust"? Or to the warning, "surely this (i.e., the Satan) is an enemy to you and to your wife"? Or does it refer to the general covenant made with all human beings in general and with the prophets in particular?
The first possibility is out of question altogether. Allah says: "But the Satan whispered an evil suggestion to them . . . and he said: ‘Your Lord has not forbidden you from this tree except that you may not become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals . . .' " Obviously, when Adam and his wife committed the error and tasted of the tree they were aware of the prohibition - even the evil suggestion of the Satan had begun with a reference to it. And Allah says in this verse that "We had covenanted unto Adam before, but he forgot; and We did not find in him any determination." It, therefore, could not refer to that prohibition, because Adam had not forgotten it at all.
The second suggestion - that the covenant might refer to the warning against the Satan - is not so wide of mark; still it is not supported by apparent meaning of the verses. The said warning was given to both Adam and his wife, while this verse refers to a covenant made especially with Adam.
It leaves us with the last alternative that the covenant means the general covenant which was made with the whole mankind and more particularly with the prophets. This verse (about the covenant with Adam and his forgetting it) occurs at the beginning of the story in the chapter of Ta-Ha; and the story concludes with the words, "So if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, he shall not go astray nor be unhappy. And whoever turns away from My remembrance, his shall surely be a straitened life, and We will raise him, on the Day of Resurrection, blind. He shall say: ‘My Lord! why hast Thou raised me blind, and I was a seeing one indeed?' He will say: ‘Even so: Our signs came to you, but you forgot them; even thus shall you be forsaken (literally: forgotten) today."'
These concluding verses perfectly fit that opening one. To turn away from the remembrance of Allah is not different from forgetting the covenant of Allah. Add to it the use of the same verb (you forgot them) in the next verse. All these references are perfectly compatible with the covenant made with the souls of the human beings about the Mastership of Allah and their own servitude. That covenant obliged the man that he should never forget that Allah is his Lord, the Ruler and Master of his affairs; nor should he lose sight of the fact that he is a wholly owned slave of Allah; that he has no authority whatsoever over his benefit or harm; nor does he has any control over his life, death or resurrection; in short he owns neither his person, his characteristics nor his actions.
The error that stands opposite to this remembrance is forgetfulness - man forgets his Lord and His All-encompassing Mastership; he becomes engrossed in his own self, getting bogged down more and more in the mire of this world's attractions.
Look at this world's life, with all its diversity; and see how it spreads its tentacles in all directions. Note how it is shared by the believer and the unbeliever both. And then find out how the two groups respond to its joy and sorrow. How different is their respective attitude towards this life's success and failure, happiness and unhappiness, content and discontent, relief and suffering. These factors affect the two groups - the believers and the unbelievers - in entirely different ways. The believer has the knowledge of Allah and the unbeliever lacks this knowledge. And it causes all the differences in their respective behaviour. Every man looks at this world; a world that is submerged in all types of misfortunes and disasters: a life followed by death, a health ruined by disease, a prosperity eaten away by poverty, a comfort destroyed by discomfort, a gain nullified by loss - this is, in a nutshell, the life of this world. The believer knows that everything and every affair belongs to Allah; nothing is independent of God, the Lord. Every thing and every affair emanates from Him; and all that originates from Him is good and beautiful; nothing but beauty and splendour, goodness and excellence, can come from Him. And because all things and all affairs issue forth from his Lord and Master, he thinks that all is elegant and fine; he dislikes nothing and fears nothing; everything in his eyes is likeable, except that which his Master tells him to dislike. He subjugates his likes and dislikes to those of his Master. In short, all his attention is fixed to the pleasure of his Master. He knows that everything is the sole property of God; none else has any share in anything. That being the case, why should he worry how the Master manages His own property? He does not think that he is competent to meddle in the affairs of his Lord. This submission to Allah creates a perfect tranquillity, a truly happy life, untarnished by unhappiness; a light without darkness, a joy without sorrow, a benefit without harm, and a riches without want. It all happens because he believes in Allah and in His mastership.
On the other hand is the unbeliever who does not know Allah. By cutting himself off from the one and only Master, he has to bow his head before every creature. He believes that everything is independent in its actions - that it has a power of its own to benefit or to harm, to do good or evil. Consequently, he remains in constant fear of everything; he is ever apprehensive of every real or imagined danger. He is always grieving for want has befallen him, longing for the opportunities he has missed. He feels nostalgia for the prestige or wealth that is gone; breaks his heart for the children, relatives or friends who have left him. He is inextricably trapped by the attractions of the world; he relies on them and has trust in them; and when any thing goes wrong, he sinks into despair. Then as soon as he makes a virtue of necessity and is resigned to that misfortunate, a new calamity overwhelms him. In this way, he is always driven from pillar to post, with a heavy heart and a gloomy countenance; "thus does Allah lay uncleanliness on those who do not believe".
It can be seen, in the light of the above discourse, that forgetting the covenant and unhappiness of this world's life, both are interrelated - the later springs from the former. This fact becomes clearer if we compare the wordings of the verse 20:123-124 with those used in the verse under discussion. The former says: So if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, he shall not go astray nor be unhappy. And whoever turns away from My remembrance, his shall surely be a straitened life, and We will raise him, on the Day of Resurrection, blind. And the same idea has been expressed in this verse in the following words: . . . then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.
It may be inferred from these verses that the forbidden tree was of such a nature that if one ate from it he would certainly be entangled in the troubles and misfortunes of this life - he would spend his life in this world, heedless of his own place, forgetting his Lord. Probably Adam wanted to combine the fruit of that tree with the covenant that he had entered into with his Lord. But he could not succeed; the fruit had its effect, he forgot the covenant and fell into the troubles and toils of this world. Then he was saved when he repented before Allah and Allah turned to him with mercy.
QURAN: and eat (you two) from it (freely) a plenteous (food) "ar-Raghad " literally means happiness, well-being, good life and affluence arghada 'l -qawmu mawashiyahum means, "the people left their cattle to graze wherever it liked. "Qawmun raghad" and "nisa’un raghad” means people (or women) having a life of plenty and opulence.
QURAN: and do not approach (you two) this tree; The context shows that actual prohibition was of eating from it; but they were told not even to approach it; the prohibition was couched in these terms for emphasis. What was really forbidden is seen from the verse: so when they tasted of the tree, their nakedness became manifest to them (7:22), and . . . they both ate of it, so their nakedness appeared unto them (20:121) .
QURAN: for then you (two) will be of the unjust: "az-Zalimīn " is the nomen agentis of az-zulm (injustice, to do wrong ). It is not from az-zulmah (darkness), as has been suggested by someone. Adam and his wife
acknowledged their wrong-doing, and the Quran quotes them as saying: "Our Lord! we have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers" (7:23).
This clause has been changed in Chapter 20 to "so that you should be put to toil"; and the toil has further been explained in these words: Surely it is (ordained) for you that you shall not be hungry therein (i.e. in the Garden) nor bare of clothing; and that you shall not be thirsty therein nor shall you feel the heat of the sun (20:118-119). Clearly, the injustice and wrong-doing, mentioned in the verse 2:25, was to bring in its wake the toil of this world - hunger, thirst, nakedness and other discomforts. The injustice or wrong that they had done was against their own selves; it was neither a sin (as this term is used in the shariah ) nor an injustice against Allah. It shows that the prohibition was in the nature of an advice pointing out to them what was good for their own comfort; it did not have the force of an ordained law. Adam and his wife did wrong to themselves, because their disregard to that divine advice caused their removal from the Garden.
When a man commits a sin (i.e. an offence, from the shariah point of view), he is given a punishment. Then if he repents and his repentance is accepted, the punishment is completely waived off, and he is returned to his previous position as though he had not committed the sin at all. If Adam and his wife were guilty of such a sin, they should have been returned to their place in the Garden soon after their repentance was accepted. But it was not done. It clearly shows that the prohibition did not have the force of an ordained law; it was only an advice. Even so, neglecting it had its natural effect on both of them and they had to come out of the Garden. But this removal from the Garden was not a punishment for any sin or crime; it was the natural consequence of the wrong they had done against their own selves. (We shall write again on this subject, God willing.)
QURAN: But the Satan made them both slip from it: The Satan could have misled them by creating evil thoughts in their hearts, in the same way as he misleads other human beings. But many verses, in the three narratives quoted at the beginning of this commentary, show that the Satan had appeared before Adam and his wife, and had talked to them face to face:
So We said: "O Adam! surely this is an enemy to you and to your wife" (20:117). Allah had pointed out the Satan to Adam, not by any verbal description but by showing to him the person of the said enemy. (Note the demonstrative pronoun, "this is".)
(The Satan) said: "O Adam! shall I guide you to the tree of immortality. . . " (20:120). The speaker, that is, the Satan, must have talked to Adam face to face.
And he (i.e. the Satan) swore to them both: "Most surely I am a sincere adviser to you" (7:21). Obviously, he was visible to Adam and his wife and swore during his talk with them .
. . . and their Lord called out to them: "Did I not forbid you both from that tree and say to you that the Satan is your open enemy?" (7:22) It indicates that the Satan was visible to Adam and his wife. If the Satan had misled them by creating evil thoughts into their minds without appearing before them, they could have said to Allah that they were not aware that that thought was put into their minds by the Satan; that they mistook it to be their own thought because the Satan had not appeared before them.
They used to see and recognize the Satan. Likewise, other prophets - all of them covered by Allah's protection - used to see and recognize him if and when he came to them. Many traditions mention such encounters in the stories of Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, Isa, Yahya, Ayyub, Ismail and Muhammad.
The above-quoted verses as well as the verse 7:20 (and he said: "Your Lord has not forbidden from this tree except that . . .") also show that the Satan had visited then near that tree in the Garden. He entered the Garden, talked to them and put evil suggestion before them. He was able to do so because the Garden was not the Garden of eternal abode. The Quran also says that Adam, his wife and the Satan all were removed from the Garden together. (Of course, Allah had said to the Satan: "Then get down from this, for it does not befit you to behave proudly therein" [7:13]. But the pronouns "this" and "therein" may refer to the angels or to the heaven. It may mean: Get down from the company of the angels; or, get down from the heaven as it is a place of honour.)
QURAN: and We said: "Get down, some of you being the enemies of others. . . ": The second person pronouns, used in this verse, are plural, which denote at least three persons. Clearly, it was addressed to Adam, his wife and the Satan. The Satan was turned out of the heaven and/or the company of the angels before (as described above). This verse combines in itself that previous order too; and manifests the firm decree of Allah establishing enmity between Iblis on one side and Adam and his wife and their descendants on the other. It also promulgates another decree that they shall live in the earth, die therein, and be raised again from it.
It may safely be said that the whole human race (Adam together with his descendants) is covered by the last mentioned decree: Therein shall you live, and therein shall you die, and from it shall you be raised (7:25) . This verse comes at the end of the story (in Chapter 7) which begins with the following words: And certainly We created you, then We fashioned you, then We said to the angels: "Prostrate before Adam". . . (7:11). In both verses plural pronouns have been used; and it is an indication that the creation and the decree to live and die in the earth includes more than two, that is, other human beings too besides Adam and his wife.
The story of Adam may have been used by Allah to represent the rise, fall and rise again of the whole mankind. Adam was the first representatives of humanity, and his life was a symbol, a miniature, of the human beings life-span in this world.
The angels were told to prostrate before Adam, because he was the vicegerent of Allah in the earth. It has been mentioned earlier that this vicegerency was bestowed on the whole mankind. The angels prostrated before Adam, as he was the symbol of humanity, the representative of his race.
Adam and his wife were placed in the Garden and then were sent down from there because they had eaten of the forbidden tree. Every man may see his own face in this mirror. His soul, before coming to this world, enjoyed the sublime and lofty existence; his abode was spiritually near to his Lord - a place of joy and happiness, of splendour and light; in the company of purified companions and spiritual friends, near to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. Then he opted for this transient life, and was at once entangled in the troubles and toils of this world; leaving that purified existence, he was attracted to this tedious and odious life.
Adam at once repented and prayed for the mercy of Allah. In the same way, man may return to Allah and consequently to the eternal abode of honour and bliss. But if he took the wrong turning, did not try to return to Allah, and, in short, followed his base desires, he would change the bounty of Allah into disbelief and ungratefulness, would direct himself to the place of disgrace - to the hell; and how evil that resting place is!
QURAN: Then Adam received (some) words from his Lord, so He returned to him mercifully: "at-Talaqqī“(to receive) signifies "to learn". It was this learning of the words that paved the way for the repentance of Adam.
"at-Tawbah" literally means to return; generally it is used for repentance, because when a man repents, he returns to his Lord. This verb is at times ascribed to Allah (as in this verse), and signifies that Allah returns or restores the servant to His grace and mercy. In other words, He accepts the plea of the servant and forgives his sins. At other times it is attributed to the servant; then it signifies the servant's return to Allah, that is, his repentance from his sins.
at-Tawbah (repentance) of man is flanked on both sides by two tawbahs (mercies) of Allah. Man can never do without the mercy of Allah. He needs mercy and help of Allah to turn away from sins; only then he may return to Allah, may repent from his sins; then again the mercy of Allah comes forward, and his repentance is accepted. Therefore, an accepted repentance of man issues forth from the mercy of Allah, and also ends on His mercy. The verse 9:118 clearly mentions this fact: then He returned to them (mercifully) so that they might return (i.e. might repent).
What were the words which Adam received from his Lord? Some people think that it refers to their invocation reported in Chapter 7: They said: "Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers" (7:23). But this view is not supported by the sequence of the events. Adam and his wife had addressed that invocation before they were told to get down from the Garden (7:24); and it was after getting that order that he "received some words" from Allah, as is clear from the verse 2:36-37. Therefore, "some words" cannot refer to that previously uttered invocation.
There may, however, be another explanation: When Allah announced to the angels that He was going to make a vicegerent in the earth, they said: "Wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, while we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness?" Allah did not say that their accusation against the wouldbe vicegerent was wrong; His only answer was that He taught Adam all the names. There must have been something deep, meaningful and relevant in this teaching of the names; otherwise, the angels could not be satisfied, their objection could not be answered. The names taught to Adam must have contained some such thing that would come to the rescue of man if he sinned, would save him from disgrace if he erred. Probably, the words received at the time of repentance were related to the names taught to him in the beginning.
It cannot be denied that Adam did wrong to himself by placing himself in this world - a crossroads of happiness and unhappiness; had he been ensnared by it he would have perished; but he chose to return to his original place of spiritual bliss and was saved; he had to undergo, in this process, untold miseries and unbearable hardships. In any case, he put himself in so much trouble that he became "unjust" to himself. The question arises as to why Allah selected this hard way to send him from the Garden to the earth. The fact, however, remains that in this process he attained to such heights of eternal bliss and spiritual perfection as would have been impossible to reach without coming down to the earth - and that too with a stigma of mistake.
The events leading to his removal from the Garden and, later, to the acceptance of his repentance showed to him his true reality - how humble, dependent, deficient and servile he was; and at the same time he came to realize that every difficulty of this world leads to manifold ease in the next life; every unpleasantness here results in enhanced pleasantness there; every trouble in the obedience to Allah brings in its wake the pleasure of Allah and His unlimited reward; the process continues until the servant reaches the sublime presence of his Lord. Adam knew, through his own experience, taste of many of the beautiful attributes of Allah: His forgiveness, turning mercifully to the servants, covering their mistakes, bestowing mercy on them, putting them in the shadow of His compassion and grace - these are some of the divine attributes which He has especially reserved for the sinners. Adam could not know and understand them without passing through the stages which Allah had decreed for him.
This, however, was his repentance; it made ordination of a shariah essential. It was necessary for Adam and his descendants to know which path they should take so as to reach their destination, the abode of bliss and happiness. His repentance brought him to the stage where promulgation of religion and ordination of the shariah was inevitable.
That is why Allah frequently mentions the repentance before the belief: Stand fast then (in the right path) as you are commanded, as also he who has turned (to Allah) with you. . . (11:112); And most surely I am most forgiving to him who repents and believes and does good. . . (20:82). There are many such verses in the Quran.
QURAN: We said: "Get down you therefore all together; and if there comes to you a guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. And (as to) those who disbelieve in, and belie, Our signs, they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide".
This is the essence of religion ordained, for the first time, for Adam and his descendants. Allah has condensed the whole religion in these two sentences; nothing has been added, nor can be added to it upto the Day of Resurrection.
Ponder on this story and particularly the narrative of Chapter 20. You will see that Allah had issued two decrees in respect of Adam and his descendants. When he ate from the tree, it was decreed that he should get down to the earth and spend his life therein - a life of trouble and toil. And when he repented, it was ordained that he and his descendants should be honoured with divine guidance. The first decree initiated the earthly life for him; the second, issued after his repentance, bestowed dignity and grace to that life, by providing it with divine guidance. From then on, man's life is composed of two lives: A material, earthly life and a spiritual, heavenly one. It may be inferred from repetition of the order to "get down" in this narrative: "Get down, some of you being the enemies of others; and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time" (2:36). "Get down you therefrom all together; and if there comes to you a guidance from Me. . ." (2:38).
Repentance of Adam (2:37) occurred between these two orders. The sequence shows that Adam had repented before their departing from the Garden, although he had slipped from his earlier position of honour. It may also be, inferred from the change in the styles of the following verses: Allah said to Adam, when placing him in the Garden, "do not go near this tree" (7:19); but when they ate from it, their Lord called out to them: "Did I not forbid you both from that tree. . . " (7:22). Note the demonstrative pronoun, "this", (for a nearer object) in the former speech, and "that" (for a farther one) in the latter. Also contrast the verb, "said", (showing proximity) of the former with "called out" (showing distance) of the latter. All this together supports the above-given explanation that at the time of the second order Adam was still in the Garden but not in his earlier honoured place.
"Get down, some of you being the enemies of others; and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time" (2:36; 7:24). "Therein shall you live, and therein shall you die, and from it shall you be raised" (7:25). The verses indicate that the life on the earth was very different from that in the Garden. This life is firmly connected with the earth, full of difficulties and hardships. Man, in this life, is created from the earth, then after death is returned into it, and will, on the Day of Resurrection, be raised from it. This life is different from that of the Garden. It follows that Adam had lived a heavenly - and not earthly - life in the Garden.
This observation gives us a certainty that the
was in the heaven, although it was not the Garden of eternal abode from which one is never turned out. Garden of Adam
What is meant by "the heaven"? We shall, God willing explain it somewhere else.
Now, we come to the mistake of Adam. The explanation given under various verses throws sufficient light on this subject. But the importance of the topic justifies its recapitulation in a systematic way:
The verses obviously say that he had committed a mistake and disobeyed the divine command: ". . . for then you (two) will be of the unjust"; "and Adam disobeyed his Lord, so he got astray"; and they too acknowledged their error: "Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers." But on meditating on the verses, and particularly on the admonition not to eat of the tree, we come to a definite conclusion that the said prohibition was not in the nature of an authoritative command; it was rather like an advice to guide Adam to his good and comfort. The following proof irresistibly lead us to this conclusion:
First: Allah said in this, as well as in Chapter 7, that eating of the tree would be an injustice, a wrong-doing (for then you two will be of the unjust). The same result has been described as "toil" (so that you should be put to toil); and the "toil" has been explained in the terms of worldly needs and troubles, because it was ordained "for you that you shall not be hungry therein (i.e., as long as you remained in the Garden) nor bare of clothing; and that you shall not be thirsty therein nor shall you feel the heat of the sun". It seems clear that it was to protect them from these worldly troubles and toils that they were told not to go near that tree, The prohibition, therefore, was not more than an advice; certainly it was not an authoritative command. Going against an advice does not entail a sin, does not involve rebellion against the adviser. The injustice, mentioned in this story, therefore, means their doing wrong against their own selves, putting themselves in this world's hardship and toil; but it cannot mean the sin committed by a servant against his master.
Second: When a servant repents, that is, returns to Allah, his Lord, and the Lord accepts that repentance, all the effects of the sin are erased, as though he had not committed any sin at all. If the prohibition against eating from the tree had the force of an authoritative command, an ordained law, Adam and his wife should have been returned to their place in the Garden as soon as their repentance was accepted. But they were not. It decisively proves that the prohibition was of advisory nature like telling someone not to put his hand in a fire; if he does not listen to the advice, his hand would certainly burn, and the subsequent apology would not unburn it, even if the apology was accepted. Likewise, Adam and his wife disregarded the advice, and as a result of eating from the tree, had to go out of the Garden and live in the earth a life of trial and hardship. Their repentance could not take them back to the Garden as their coming to the earth was the natural and inevitable result of that action.
The prohibition, in short, was no a law ordained by the Master - like the announcement that a man who neglects to pray would enter the Fire; or the one who disobeys the rules of the shariah would be punished. If it were like such a command, the repentance would have rubbed out the effect of disobedience and they would have been sent back to the Garden straight away.
Third: We said: "Get down you therefrom all together; and if there comes to you a guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. And (as to) those who disbelieve in, and belie, Our signs, they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide." These verses have put in a nutshell all the detailed laws, rules, and regulations sent by Allah for the mankind, through His angels, books and Messengers. And it was the first shariah which Allah ordained for the world, the world of Adam and his descendants. It was ordained after the second order to "get down" - and the order to "get down" was not a legislative, but a creative, command, resulting from his eating of the tree.
It means that at the time when Adam partook of the tree, no shariah was ordained yet, and no law was promulgated. Therefore, whatever Adam did was not a transgression against any law of the shariah, nor was there any sin or crime involved in acting against that advice.
Question: The order to the angels and Iblis to prostrate before Adam was an authoritative command, and it was given before the order to Adam not to go near that tree. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that at that time there was no obligatory law.
Reply: We are talking about Adam and his descendants, and not about the angels and Iblis. It is irrelevant whether the angels and Iblis were given a compulsory order before Adam was placed in the Garden.
Question: If the prohibition were of an advisory nature, Allah would not have described its disregard in the terms of "injustice", "disobedience", and "going astray".
Reply: We have already explained that the "injustice" done by Adam and his wife was against their own selves; it was not a sin against Allah.
"al-Isyan" (disobedience ) literally means to resist, or to yield with difficulty. The Arabs say: I broke it and it was broken; I broke it fa-‘asa but it resisted, or yielded to my pressure with difficulty. Not heeding an order is called al-isyan, because one does not yield to that enjoinment or prohibition. This resistance may occur against an advice as much as against a compulsory order. The word in itself does not imply sinning; it all depends on the nature of the order that was disregarded.
Of course, nowadays we, the Muslims, use this word as synonymous to sinning. And now it has become a terminology of the shariah (or of the Muslims), used for disobedience to an authoritative command. But this later transformance cannot effect its original or literal meaning for which it was used in the Quran.
"al-Ghawayah" (to go astray ) literally means inability of a man to look after his interests; not managing one's affairs properly. This word by itself does not indicate committing a sin or crime. It is the context that determines its value. Its emphasis changes depending on whether the neglected order was an advice or an authoritative command.
Question: Then why did they repent? Why did they say, "and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers?"
Reply: at-Tawbah (repentance) means to turn to. And the word can be used in various meanings, depending on context.
A servant rebels against his master, and thereafter returns to him and asks for his forgiveness; the master, if he so wishes, pardons him, and gives him his previous rank and position.
A doctor tells a patient not to eat certain fruits, lest his illness be prolonged or the disease be complicated. The patient disregards the prohibition and, as a result, puts his life in danger. Now he feels embarrassed and repents before the doctor, asking for his forgiveness, begging him to prescribe for him a medicine to enable him to regain his health and vigour. The doctor may tell him that now it will be necessary for him to undergo a long and difficult treatment, adding that if he persevered in the prescribed regimen his health would be much better than before.
The significance of the other words used in the narrative, like forgiveness, mercy and loss, may likewise change with the context.
Qummi (Ali) narrates, in his Tafsir, from his father (Ibrahīm ibn Hashim) who narrates, from Imam Jafar. He said: "Imam Jafar was asked about the
whether it was a garden of this world or one of the hereafter's. He said: ‘It was a garden of this world, wherein the sun and the moon rose. Had it been a Garden of the hereafter, he would have not come out of it.' He further said: ‘Allah placed him in the Garden and allowed him its freedom with exception of the tree. (It was done) because here was a creature of Allah who could not survive without (some) enjoinment and prohibition, nor (could it continue) without food, cloth, shelter and marriage; nor could he know, without divine help, what was beneficial to him from what was harmful. Then came to him Iblis and told him: "If you (two) ate from this tree, which Allah has forbidden you, you (two) would become two angels and would abide in the Garden for ever; and if you (two) did not eat from it, Allah would turn you out from the Garden;" and he swore to them that he was a sincere adviser to them; as Allah quotes his words: Your Lord has not forbidden you from this tree except that you may not both become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals. And he swore to them both: "Most surely I am a sincere adviser to you." Adam believed in his words, and they (i.e. Adam and his wife) ate from the tree; and they became as Allah says: their nakedness became manifest to them; what Allah had clothed them with of the (attires of the) Garden dropped away from them, and they both began to cover themselves with the leaves of the Garden; and their Lord called out to them: Did I not forbid you both from that tree and say to you that the Satan is your open enemy? They said, as Allah quotes them: "Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves; and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers." Thereupon Allah said to them: "Get down, some of you being the enemies of others; and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time. " ' " He (the Imam) said: "that (time) is the Day of Resurrection". He further said: "Then Adam descended on the (hill of) as-Safa – and it got this name because Safīyu 'llah (the sincere friend of Allah, i.e. Adam ) came down on it; and Hawwa' (Eve) descended on the (hill of) al-Marwah - and it was named al-Mar-wah because al-mar'ah the woman descended on it. The Adam remained in prostration for forty days, weeping for the Garden. So Jibrīl (Gabriel) came to him and said: ‘Did Allah not create you with His hand, and (did He not) breath into you from His spirit, and (did He not) made His angels prostrate before you?' He said: ‘Certainly.' (Then Jibrī1 said:) ‘and He ordered you not to eat from the tree and you disobeyed Him?' Adam said: ‘Iblis swore to me falsely.'" Garden of Adam
The author says: There are other traditions too from Ahlul Bayt to the effect that the
was of this world; although some of them are from the same Ibrahīm ibn Hashim. Garden of Adam
The phrase, "a garden of this world", has been used in contrast to the Garden of everlasting abode. It indicates a state between this world and the hereafter. Adam's garden was not the Garden of everlasting abode, but neither was it a garden like is the state, place and time that of ours al-Barzakh between one's death and the Day of Resurrection. The said Garden may be called a Garden of al-Barzakh, and it may well have been situated in this world. The sentences, "Adam descended on the (hill of) as-Safa", and "Hawwa' descended on the (hill of) al-Marwah", indicate that, before it, they were somewhere above this world. The interpretation of "a time" with the "Day of Resurrection" is also revealing. Man remains in al-Barzakh after his death, and at the same time he remains in the earth. Many Quranic verses use these expressions interchangeably.
For example: He will say: "How many years did you tarry in the earth?" They will say: "We tarried a day or part of a day", but ask those who keep account. He will say: "You did tarry but a little - had you but known (it)" (23:112-114). And at the time when the Hour shall come, the guilty shall swear (that) they did not tarry but an hour; thus they used to utter lies. And those who are given knowledge and faith will say: "Certainly you tarried according to the decree of Allah till the Day of Resurrection, but you did not know" (30:55-56).
Apart from that, many traditions of Ahlul Bayt show that the
was in the heaven, and that he and his wife descended from the heaven. For the one who is familiar with the language of traditions, it is not difficult to believe that the said Garden was in the heaven and that they had descended from the heaven to the earth, even if they were created in the earth itself and live therein all along. These expressions are not any different from those which say that the Garden is in the heaven, and yet say that the grave is an orchard from the orchards of the Garden or a pit from the pits of the Fire. Many similar expressions are found in the traditions. Any lingering doubt will be removed when we shall write about the heaven, God willing. There is no mention in the correct and reliable traditions as to how Iblis found his way to Adam and his wife, or as to what means he adopted for this purpose. Some traditions mention the serpent and peacock as the two helpers of Iblis in his endeavour to mislead Adam and his wife; but they are extremely unreliable. Obviously, such traditions were interpolated under the influence of Judaism. This story has been taken from the Jews, and to make this point clear, we are quoting it from the Bible (King James version). The story is given in the book of Genesis: Garden of Adam
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in
; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole Eden , where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Havilah . And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth towards the east of land of Ethiopia Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord Gad caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God has made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; -upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of the life; And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it, bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the Man. , and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." (Genesis, ch.2: vs. 7 to ch.3: vs. 24) garden of Eden Cherubims
Compare the narrative of the Quran with that of the Bible, then ponder on various traditions narrated in the Shi'ah or Sunni books; you will come to know many revealing differences. But we are not going into it because it is beyond the scope of this book.
How could Iblis enter the Garden and mislead Adam therein? The question arises because:
i) the Garden is a place of cleanliness and purity, wherein there shall be nothing vain nor any sin (52:23);
ii) The garden is in the heaven, and Iblis was already turned out therefrom when he refused to prostrate before Adam. Then get out of it, for surely you are driven away (15:34). Then get down from this, for it does not befit you to behave proudly therein (7:13).
(i) The Quran disallows vain and sinful acts in the Garden of eternal abode (in which the believers shall be placed after resurrection) and the Garden of al-Barzakh wherein they are placed after death. But it is silent about the
, in which he was placed together with his wife before man was sent to this world and given any authoritative law. Rather, it may be said that it shows not only possibility of disobedience therein, but also its occurrence. Proof: This very disobedience of Adam and his wife. Garden of Adam
Moreover, vanity and sin are relative terms; and they do not occur until man comes into this world, and is given some authoritative laws to follow.
(ii) The argument may be replied as follows:
a. It cannot be definitely said that the clauses, "get down of it" and "get down from this" were meant to turn Iblis out of the heaven, because "the heaven" has not been mentioned in preceding sentences. The order, therefore, could mean, ‘get out of the ranks of the angels', or ‘get down from the honour and dignity given to thee'.
b. May be, the order to get down or to get out meant only that he could not live or stay in the heaven with the angels. If so, then it was not a prohibition against occasionally going or ascending thereto. This interpretation is supported by the verses which describe the Satans' occasional goings upto the heaven to eavesdrop the conversations of the angels. Also, it has been narrated that before the time of ‘Īsa, the Satans were going upto the seventh heaven; when he was born they were barred from the fourth heaven and above; then after the birth of the Prophet they were barred from all the heavens.
c. There is no mention in the Book of Allah that Iblis had entered the Garden. Therefore, the question does not arise at all. It has, of course, been narrated in the traditions; but they are not al-mutawatir; and possibly the narrators have described the story in their own words, and not exactly as the Imam said.
Utmost that may be put as evidence that Iblis had entered the Garden is the verse: and he (i.e. the Satan) said: "Your Lord has not forbidden you from this tree except that you may not become two angels. . . " (7:19), as he had used the pronoun, "this", ("this tree") which denotes nearness. But if it is taken to mean nearness in place, it would give the same meaning in Allah's command, . . . do not go near this tree (7:18). Surely it, cannot be said that the pronoun indicates that Allah was in that place near the tree.
Abdus-Salam al-Harawi said: "I said to Imam Reza: ‘O son of the Messenger of Allah! tell me about the tree from which Adam and Hawwa ate, what was it? Because people do have different views about it; some have narrated that it was a wheat-plant, and others have reported that it was the tree of envy.' He said: ‘All this is true.' I said: ‘Then what do these explanations, with their differences, mean?' He said: ‘O son of as-Salt! verily the tree of the Garden bears (fruits of) many kinds; and it was a wheat-plant and (yet) it bore grapes; and it was not like a tree of this world. And when Allah raised the status of Adam by making the angels prostrate before him and by placing him in the Garden, he said: "Has Allah created any man superior than me?" And Allah knew what had came into his mind; so He called out to him: "Raise your head, O Adam! and look at the pillar of the Throne." So, he looked at the pillar of the Throne and found written on it: "There is no god except Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; Ali ibn Abi Talib is the Leader of the faithful, and his wife, Fatimah is the Chief of the women of the worlds, and al-Hasan and al-Husayn are the Chiefs of the youths of the people of the Garden." Adam said: "O my Lord! who are they?" He, Mighty and Great is He said: "O Adam! they are (from) your off-springs; and they are better than you and all My creation; and if it were not (for) them, I would have not created you, nor the Garden, nor the fire, nor the heaven, nor the earth. So be careful not to look at them with envious eyes; otherwise, I will turn you out of My nearness." But he looked at them with envious eyes and entertained the hope of (attaining to) their rank. So, the Satan got the better of him, until he ate from the forbidden tree; and got the better of Hawwa, and she looked at Fatimah with envious eyes until she too, like Adam, ate from the tree. Thereupon, Allah turned them out of His Garden, and got them down from His nearness to the earth.'" (‘Uyūnu 'l-akhbar)
The author says: This matter has been described in many traditions, some more detailed than this; others, more concise. In this tradition, the Imam has confirmed that the tree was the wheat-plant, and also that it was the tree of envy. The former implies that the tree was not worthy of attention of the people of the Garden; the later indicates that it was too lofty to come within the grasp of Adam and his wife (as a tradition says that it was the tree of the knowledge of Muhammad and his progeny).
Apparently, the two interpretations are totally different from each other, and the tradition seems a problematic one. But if you ponder on the covenant referred to earlier, you will see that both meanings are complementary, and not mutually exclusive. Adam wanted to combine the pleasures of the Garden - a place of nearness to Allah, where it was necessary to always keep the covenant before one's eyes, and not to let one's attention divert to anyone or anything else - with the forbidden tree - which would bring all the world's troubles in its wake; but he failed in his endeavour, was sent down to the earth because he had been heedless of the said covenant and of its demands. It was reserved for the Prophet to combine these two seemingly apposite factors; it was he who, for the first time, harmonized this world with the next, synchronized the matter with the spirit, and brought into being a whole man.
However, Allah again guided Adam aright, chose him for His vicegerency, and as a result of his repentance, raised him above the worldly desires and made him remember again the forgotten covenant.
"But he looked at them with envious eyes and entertained the hope of (attaining to) their rank": The second clause explains the first; Adam wanted that he too should attain to that status; it was not that he was envious (i.e., had any ill will) against them. Envy is a vice, while aspiring to raise one's status is not.
Now let us look at the following two traditions:
1. ath-Thumalī narrates from Abū Ja’ far that he said: "Allah made a covenant with Adam that he should not go near the tree. But when the time came when, according to the knowledge of Allah, he was to eat of it, he forgot (the covenant) and ate from it. And that is (the meaning of) the words of Allah: And certainly We had covenanted unto Adam before, but he forgot; and We did not find in him any determination." (Kamalu 'd-dīn)
2. Ayyashi narrated in his Tafsir from one of the two (i.e., the fifth or the sixth) Imams, that he was asked as to why Allah punished Adam for his forgetfulness. He said: "He had not forgotten; and how could he forget when he had remembered it (very well) and (even) Iblis had told him: Your Lord has not forbidden you from this tree except that you may not both become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals."
The way to harmonize these seemingly conflicting traditions is clear if one applies to them the foregoing explanation.
Abū 's-Salt al-Harawī said: "Mamun gathered for Ali ibn Mūsa Imam Reza people of various sects from among the Muslims, the Jews, the Christians, the Magians, the Sabaeans and all other religions. Nobody stood (for religious discussion with the Imam) but that he was forced to accept his (Imam's) arguments and was put to silence. Then stood before him Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Jahm and said to him: ‘Do you believe in sinlessness of the prophets? O son of the Messenger of Allah!' He said: ‘Yes.’ He (Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Jahm) said: ‘Then what would you do with the words of Allah: and Adam disobeyed his Lord, so he got astray?. . .’ Then said our master, Imam Reza: ‘Woe unto you! O Ali! ! Have fear of Allah (in your heart) and do not ascribe indecencies to the prophets of Allah, and do not interpret by your own opinion the Book of Allah (Mighty and Great is He!) Verily Allah (Mighty and Great is He!) says: . . . but none knows its interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge (3:7). As for the words of Allah, and Adam disobeyed his Lord, so he got astray, (the fact is that) Allah (Mighty and Great is He!) had created Adam (to be) His proof in His earth and (to be) His vicegerent in His towns; He had not created him for the Garden; and the disobedience was (done) by Adam in the Garden, and not in the earth; (and it came to pass) so that the measures of the decree of Allah (Mighty and Great is He) might be fulfilled. So when he was sent down to the earth and was made (Allah's) proof and vicegerent, he was protected (i.e. became sinless), as Allah says: Surely Allah chose Adam and Nūh and the descendants of Ibrahīm and the descendants of Imran above all the worlds."' (3:33) (al-Amalī, Saduq)
The author says: The sentence, "and the disobedience was . . . in the Garden", points to what we have already mentioned that there was no religious law ordained in the Garden; and that Adam even before his creation, was destined to live in the earth; and, therefore, the disobedience was of an advice, and not of an ordained law. In this context, there appears no reason why anyone should try (as someone has done) to explain away this tradition in a round-about way.
Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Jahm said: "I was present in the court of Mamun; and Ali ibn Musa was there with him. And Mamun said to him: ‘O son of the Messenger of Allah! Is it not your belief that the prophets are sinless?' He said: ‘Yes.' (Mamun) said: ‘Then what is the meaning of the words of Allah, the High: and Adam disobeyed his Lord, so he got astray?' (The Imam) said: ‘Verily Allah said to Adam: dwell you and your wife in the Garden and eat (you both) freely wherever you (two) wish and do not approach (you two) this tree, (pointing to a tree) for then you (two) will be of the unjust. Allah did not say to him: Do not eat from this tree nor from another tree of its kind. And they did not eat from it; they ate from another (similar) tree because the Satan whispered evil suggestion to them and said: "Your Lord has not forbidden you from this (i.e. the other similar) tree; He has only forbidden you from approaching that one; and He has not forbidden you from that three except that you may not both become two angels or that you may not become of the immortals." And he swore to them both: "Most surely I am a sincere adviser to you." And Adam and Hawwa had not seen before that anyone swearing falsely in the name of Allah; thus he caused them to fall by deceit and they ate from that (tree) because they believed in his oath in the name of Allah. And it all happened before Adam was made a prophet, and it was not a big sin leading 'one to the fire; it was only a forgiven minor (sin) that is permissible to the prophets before they begin receiving revelation. But when Allah chose him and made him prophet he became sinless, not committing any minor or major sin. Allah (Mighty and Great is He!) has said: Surely Allah chose Adam and Nuh and the descendants of Ibrahim and the descendants of Imran above all the worlds. . .' " (‘Uyūnu '1-akhbar)
The author says: Saduq after narrating the tradition in full, has commented as follows:
"Strange that Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Jahm, in spite of his open hostility towards, and enmity and hatred of, Ahlul Bayt , should narrate this tradition."
This comment only looks at the belief of the sinlessness of the prophets which this tradition purportedly proves; but Saduq (may Allah have mercy on him!) did not look deep into its implications. The reported reply is not in accord with the well-known belief of the Imams of Ahlul Bayt, that all the prophets were fully protected from all major and minor sins before as well as after getting the prophethood.
Moreover, the reply presumes that the verse does not mean what it apparently says. According to this tradition, the verse, "Your Lord has not forbidden you from this tree except that you may not both become two angels . . . ", should be read as follows: "Your Lord has not forbidden you from this (i.e. the other similar) tree; He has only forbidden you from approaching that one; and He has not forbidden you from that tree except that you may not both become two angels . . ." Such deletions are against the norms of eloquence. The quoted speech of the Satan clearly shows that he was instigating them to eat from the very tree that was forbidden, holding out to them the hope of becoming angels or immortals: "Your Lord has not forbidden you from this tree except that you may not both become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals." "O Adam! shall I guide you to the tree of immortality and a kingdom which decays not?" The narrator, that is, Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Jahm, had himself been given the correct and complete answer in the court of al-Ma'mūn, as the preceding tradition shows; therefore, there is something wrong in this narration of his, although some parts may be somehow interpreted correctly.
Saduq has narrated (through his chain) from al-Baqir , through his forefathers, from Ali that the Messenger of Allah said: "Adam and Hawwa stayed in the Garden, (till they were sent out of it) for seven hours according to the (counting of the) days of the world, until Allah sent them down on the same day."
‘Abdullah ibn Sinan said: "Abu Abdillah was asked - and I was present there: ‘How long did Adam and his wife stay in the Garden until their mistake removed them from it?' He said: ‘Verily Allah breathed His spirit into Adam after the midday on Friday; then created his wife from his lowest rib; then He made His angels prostrate before him and placed him in His Garden the same day. And by God! he did not stay therein but six hours of the same day until he disobeyed Allah. Thereupon, Allah removed them both from it after the sunset, and they were put into the courtyard of the Garden till the morning; then their nakedness became manifest to them; and their Lord called out to them: "Did 1 not forbid you both from that tree?" Adam felt ashamed and bowed (his head) and said: "Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves and we confess our sins; therefore, forgive us (our sins)." Allah said to them: "Get down you both from My heavens to the earth; because no sinner shall remain in My nearness - neither in My Garden nor in My heavens. " ' " (Tafsir, Ayyashi)
The author says: The tradition gives a new detail, that Adam and Hawwa were removed first from the Garden to its courtyard and then from the courtyard to the earth. There are some indications in the Quran to support this information:
First: They were twice told to "get down" (vide vs. 2:36 and 2:38). It was a creative, and not a legislative, order, and a creative order takes effect the instant it is given.
If the first order told them to get down to the earth, there was no question of their not getting down to the earth at once; and, therefore, the second order would be superfluous. But in the light of this tradition the two commands would be perfectly in order.
Second: As mentioned in the commentary, this idea may be inferred from the changed verbs and pronouns of the verses. Allah describes in these words his talk with Adam when he was being placed in the Garden: And We said: "O Adam! dwell you and your wife in the Garden . . . and do not approach (you two) this tree. . . " But after they had eaten from the tree, their Lord called out to them: "Did I not forbid you both from that tree?" The verb, "We said" of the former has been changed to "called out to them" in the latter; as the demonstrative pronoun, "this tree" (showing nearness) was replaced by "that tree" (showing distance). These changes show that Adam had been removed, by the time of the second address, from his original place of nearness in the Garden to a distant place - which the tradition describes as the courtyard.
But this tradition says that Hawwa was created from the lowest rib of Adam; it is a Biblical story which has been totally rejected by the Imams of Ahlul Bayt, (as will be seen from the traditions which will be quoted under the verses of the creation of Adam). This tradition, therefore, is unacceptable unless this expression is taken to mean that Hawwa was created from the clay left over from the creation of Adam and which was lying near his lowest rib.
Whether he stayed in the Garden for six hours (as this tradition says) or seven (as the former says) is not very important, because such things are mere approximation.
It is reported from the fifth or the sixth Imam (peace be on them both) that he said about the verse, then Adam received (some) words from his Lord, that (the words were as follows): "There is no god except Thee; Glory be to Thee, O Allah! and praise! I have committed evil and been unjust to myself; therefore, forgive me (my sin) and Thou art the best of the forgivers. There is no god except Thee; Glory be to Thee, O Allah! and praise! I have done wrong and been unjust to myself; therefore, have mercy on me, and Thou art the best of the forgivers. There is no god except Thee; Glory to Thee, O Allah! and praise! I have committed evil and been unjust to myself; therefore, have mercy on me, and Thou art the best of those who have mercy. There is no god except Thee; Glory be to Thee, O Allah! and praise! I have done wrong and been unjust to myself; therefore, forgive me (my sin) and turn to me (with mercy); surely Thou, Thou alone, art oft returning (with mercy), the Merciful." (Kafi)
The author says: This theme has been narrated also by Saduq, Ayyashi, Qummi and others; nearly the same thing has been narrated through the Sunni chains; and it may possibly be inferred from the apparent meaning, of the verses.
Kulayni has written in Kafi : "And another tradition says in respect of this verse: (Adam) had asked from (Allah) by the right of Muhammad and Ali and Fatimah and al-Hasan and al-Husayn."
The author says: This explanation too has been narrated by Saduq, Ayyashi, Qummi and others. A nearly similar tradition has been narrated through the Sunni chains. it is reported in Durrul Manthur that the Prophet said: "When Adam committed the sin that he committed, he raised his head towards the heaven and said: ‘I beseach Thee, by the right of Muhammad, to forgive me.' Allah revealed to him (i.e., asked him through revelation): ‘And who is Muhammad?' He said: ‘Blessed is Thy name! When Thou created me, I raised my head towards Thy Throne and saw written therein: There is no god except Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Thus I knew that no one could be more honoured in Thy presence than him whose name Thou hadst placed with Thy name.' Thereupon, Allah revealed to him: ‘O Adam! Verily he is the last of the prophets, from thy descendants; and if it were not for him, I would have not created thee.' "
The author says: Although these traditions seem not to be in accord with the apparent meaning of the verse, on deeper consideration this explanation does not look so far-fetched. The sentence, "Then Adam received (some) words from his Lord", shows that he was taught those words by the Lord, and that he had got that knowledge before his repentance. Also, it is known that Allah had taught him all the names. Allah told the angels that He was going to make in the earth a vicegerent; they said: "Wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, while we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness? He said: "Surely I know what you do not know" . And He taught Adam the names, all of them. There must have been something in those names to wipe out every injustice, to erase every sin and to cure every spiritual and moral disease; otherwise, the objection of the angels could not be answered - Allah did not say a single word to refute the angels' assertion; all He did was to teach Adam all the names. It means that those names could cure all the ills of humanity; the angels understood it and surrendered to the knowledge and wisdom of Allah. We have earlier explained that those names were sublime creations, hidden from the heavens and the earth; they were intermediaries to convey the grace and bounties of Allah to His creation; and no creature would be able to attain to its perfection without their assistance. At this stage, we may refer to some traditions which say that Adam saw the figures of Muhammad and his Ahlul Bayt, and also their light at the time he was taught the names; and the ones which mention that he saw them when Allah took out his offspring from his back; and the others which describe his seeing them in the Garden. However, Allah has not identified those words, and has used it as a common noun, "(some) words"; nevertheless, the Quran has clearly used the expression, "word ", for an individual being, as for example, in the verse 3:45: . . . Allah gives you good news of a word from Him whose name is the Messiah, ‘Īsa son of Maryam . . .
Some exegetes have written that the "words", mentioned in this verse, refer to the plea of Adam and his wife reported in Chapter 7: They said: "Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers. "
But the sequence of events does not support this view. The repentance of Adam, according to the narrative of Chapter 2, had occurred after his coming to the earth. The verse (2:37) describing the repentance comes after the verse (2:36) that mentions his descent to the earth.1 But they had uttered that plea while they were still in the Garden, before coming down to the earth. The plea is given in verse 7:23; and the order to "get down" comes after that in verse 7:24. Apparently, this plea was in response to their admonition by Allah: "Did I not forbid you both from that tree . . . ?"; they wanted to declare their servitude and to surrender themselves to Allah; acknowledging that all the authority was in the hands of Allah and He might do what He pleased; He was their Lord, and they had put themselves in danger of loss by being unjust to themselves.
Imam Jafar said: "Verily, Mūsa asked his Lord to let him meet Adam; and he was joined with him (i.e., Adam). Mūsa said to him: ‘O father! Did Allah not create you with His hand, and breathe into you of His spirit; and make the angels prostrate before you, and order you not to eat of the tree? Then why did you disobey Him?' (Adam) said: ‘O Mūsa! How long before my creation did you find my mistake (mentioned) in the Torah?' He said: ‘Thirty thousand years before.' (Adam) said: ‘That is it."' Imam Jafar said: "Thus refuted Adam the argument of Mūsa." (Tafsir, Qummi)
The author says: Suyuti has narrated in Durrul Manthur approximately similar traditions, through various chains, from the Prophet.
Imam Baqir said: "By God, Allah had surely created Adam for the world, and He gave him place in the Garden, in order that he might disobey Him and thus He might return him to that for which He had created him." (‘llalu 'sh-shara' i‘)
The author says: A tradition of the same theme, narrated by Ayyashi from Imam Jafar, concerning an angel friend of Adam, has been quoted earlier.
A Syrian asked Ali as to which valley in the earth was the most honoured. He said: "The valley called Sarandīb wherein Adam descended from the heaven." (al-Ihtijaj)
The author says: In contrast to it, there are numerous traditions showing that he had descended at
(and some of them have been quoted above). May be, he first came down to Sarandīb and then got down to .Mecca. Mecca
It has been reported by at-Tabaranī, Abu 'sh-Shaykh (in his al-‘Azamah) and Ibn Marduwayh, from Abū Dharr, that he said: "I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! What do you say, was Adam a prophet?' He said: ‘Yes. He was a prophet (and) an messenger; Allah talked to him before; He had told him: "O Adam! dwell you and your wife in the Garden." ' "
The author says: The Sunnis have narrated almost similar traditions through various chains.
O children of
! Remember My bounties which I bestowed on you, and be faithful to (your) covenant with Me, I will fulfil (My) covenant with you; and of Me, Me alone, should you be afraid (40). And believe in what I have sent down verifying that which is with you, and be not the first to deny it, neither take a mean price in exchange for My signs; and Me, Me alone, should you fear (41). And do not mix up the truth with the falsehood, nor hide the truth while you know (it) (42). And keep up prayer and pay the zakdt and bow down with those who bow down (43). What! do you enjoin men to be good and forget your own selves while you read the Book? Have you then no sense? (44) Israel
Now begins the rebuking of the Jews that continues for more than a hundred verses. Allah reminds them of the bounties bestowed, of the honours given; contrasting it with their ingratitude and disobedience; showing how at every juncture they paid the favours of Allah with disregard of their covenant, open rebellion against divine commands and even with polytheism. The series reminds them of twelve events of their history - like rescuing them from Pharaoh and his people by parting the river, drowning of Pharaoh and his army, the appointed rendezvous at the mount Sina’i, the Jews' starting calf-worship in Mūsa's absence, and Mūsa's order to them to kill themselves, their demand from Mūsa to show their Lord to them face to face, their death by lightning and then their arising from dead etc. - all of which shows how they were chosen to receive the especial favours of Allah. But their ingratitude runs parallel to it. They repeatedly broke the covenants made with Allah, committed capital sins, hideous crimes and shameful deeds; more despicable. was their spiritual poverty and moral bankruptcy - in open defiance to their book and total disregard to the reason. It was all because their hearts were hardened, their souls lost and their endeavours worthless.
QURAN: . . . and be faithful to (your) covenant with Me: (covenant ) literally means guarding and "al-‘Ahd" maintenance. By association it has come to mean covenant, oath, testament, will, encounter, house, etc.
QURAN: . . . and of Me, . . . should you be afraid: "ar-Rah-bah" (fear ) is opposite of ar-raghbah (desire ).
QURAN: . . . and be not the first to deny it: That is, first among the people of the book, or first among your own people. This firstness is not all-inclusive, because the disbelievers of
had rejected the Message before the Jews. Mecca
And seek assistance through patience and prayer; and most surely it is a hard thing, except for the humble ones (45), who know that they shall meet their Lord and that they shall return to Him (46).
QURAN: And seek assistance through patience and prayer: Man seeks assistance in such affairs and tasks as he cannot manage alone, and in hardships and difficulties which he cannot overcome himself. In reality there is no helper except Allah. Man can, therefore, manage all his affairs and overcome all his difficulties by courage and steadfastness (i.e. by patience) and by looking towards Allah (i.e. by prayer). These two factors are the best way to get assistance: patience makes even the great misfortunes look trivial, and putting all his confidence in Allah awakens the spirit of faith; and thus man comes to realize that the cause which he is relying upon can never fail to produce the desired effect.
QURAN: and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones: The pronoun, it, refers to the "prayer". It is difficult to relate it to "seeking the assistance", because it will then cover patience too, and the word "the humble ones" will not look appropriate - humbleness does not fit very much with patience.
The word used here for humbleness is "khushū’”; "khudu’” too has the same meaning but with one difference: while the latter shows itself in the limbs of the body, the former refers to the inner feeling.
QURAN: who know that they shall meet their Lord . . .: The word used in this verse for "knowing" is "yazunnūn";
it literally means "they think". But the context, that is, the belief in the hereafter, demands a firm conviction that would leave no room for any doubt or supposition. Allah says: and they are sure of the hereafter (2:4). Or, may be, Allah, by using this word, makes us realize that even an elementary idea of the hereafter is sufficient to create in a man humility and humbleness before his Lord. Many a knowledge comes to man in stages: (1) first he becomes aware of an idea; (2) then he has some doubts about its correctness; (3) then he becomes inclined to accept it; (4) then gradually the possibility of his accepting the opposite view vanishes completely and he becomes firmly convinced of the truth of that idea - and this firm conviction is called knowledge. If such a knowledge is concerned with some frightening affair, then his worry and disquiet will begin as soon as he reaches the third stage when he is only inclined to accept it - is only "thinking" that probably it may be true. This Quranic expression, in other words, says that man, for showing humbleness before Allah, needs only to be aware of the idea that there is a Lord Whom he may return to after his death. In this context only a strong supposition should be enough to make him desist from disobeying his Lord; it would not be necessary, for this purpose, to reach the stage of firm knowledge. From this point of view, the verse looks almost similar to the verse: . . . therefore, whoever hopes to meet his Lord, he should do good deeds, and not join any one in the worship of his Lord (18:110).
The above discourse is based on the assumption that the words, "they shall meet their Lord . . .", refer to the Day of Resurrection. But if they are interpreted in, another way (as we shall describe in Chapter 7), there should be no difficulty at all in its explanation.
Imam Jafar said: "Whenever Ali faced a difficulty, he used to stand up for the prayer and then recite this verse: and seek assistance through patience and prayer." (Kafi)
The same Imam said about this verse: "The patience means fasting." Also he said: "When a man is confronted by a hard misfortune, he should fast. Surely Allah says: and seek assistance through patience, that is, fast." (ibid.)
The author says: Ayyashi too has narrated the theme of these two traditions in his Tafsir. Interpretation of "patience" as fast is based on the "flow" of the Quran.
Abu 'l-Hasan said about this verse: "The patience means fast; when a man is visited by a hardship or misfortune, he should fast; surely Allah says: And seek assistance through patience and prayer; and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones. And the humble one is he who shows humility in his prayer, turning all his attention to it; and it means the Messenger of Allah and the Leader of the faithful." (Ayyashi)
The author says: The Imam has inferred from this verse the desirability of fasting and praying when one is facing any hardship or turmoil; and likewise, the desirability of seeking the divine help through the medium of the Prophet and Ali at that time. In this way, the tradition interprets the fast and the prayer as the Prophet and Ali.
Ali said about the verse, who know that they shall meet their Lord . . . : Allah says that they are sure that they would be resurrected. And the supposition az-zann means certainty. (ibid.)
The author says: Saduq also has narrated this tradition.
Imam Baqir said that this verse was revealed about Ali, ‘Uthman ibn Maz'ūn, ‘Ammar ibn Yasir and (some of) their friends. (al-Manaqib, Ibn Shahrashūb)