Verses from Surah Al-Anbiya’ (10-20)

[10] Indeed, We have now sent a Book to you wherein is your mention.16 Will you not think? 

Commentary

16. Mujahid believed in the meaning expressed in the translation. But Sufyan (ibn `Uyaynah) thought – to which meaning Ibn Jarir is inclined – that the term “dhikr” here alludes to “honor”. That is, it is a revelation that promises to ennoble those who follow and live by it (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi), as Allah said, adds Zamakhshari (43: 44), Surely, it (the Qur’an) is a (thing of) honor: for you and your people.”

Sufyan ibn `Uyayna also explained, as in his biography, “The Qur’an was revealed to a people who regarded qualities such as good neighborliness, fulfilling oaths, truthfulness, trustworthiness, etc., as noble qualities and which they themselves tried to live by. The Qur’an reminded them that by promoting the same values it was mentioning them” (Au.).

Hasan however understood the term “dhikr” of this occurrence as “religion (Ibn Kathir).

Asad’s commentary is on the same lines, “..the above phrase contains, apart from the concept of ‘reminder’, an indirect allusion to the dignity and happiness to which man may attain by following spiritual and social precepts laid down in the Qur’an.”

If we take the standard meaning, then Mawdudi’s comment explains what the verse means, “What was so exotic about the Qur’an which drove its opponents to hold such a collection of mutually conflicting opinions about it (as expressed in verse 5 above: au.)? The Qur’an should have been familiar material to them for its discourses centered on the human psyche and on human affairs; on man’s nature, man’s beginning and end.”

[11] How many towns We destroyed that were transgressors, and brought forth after them another people?

[12] When they felt Our chastisement (coming) they began to run away from it.17

Commentary

17. The textual word “yarkudun” is richer in meaning than simply running away. Zamakhshari points out that the word “rakada” is used for spurring a riding beast with the heels, in an effort to make it gallop. At another place Allah used the word in the sense of “rubbing.” He said (38: 42),  “Rub (the ground) with your foot.”

[13] ‘Do not run, return to the luxuries you were in, and to your homes, perhaps you will be questioned.’18

Commentary

18. This is a satirical suggestion meaning, ‘perhaps you will be asked whether the promise made to you was true’ (Au).

Another possible explanation, as in Kashshaf, Razi, Qurtubi, Alusi and others is: Maybe your attendants and dependents will seek to know your opinion about what to do and how to do in everyday affairs, as you were wont to be consulted in ordinary times. Or maybe they will ask you for orders to do things pleasing to your majesties.

[14] They said, ‘Woe unto us. We had been transgressors.’

[15] That remained their claim until We rendered them as mowed down (fields),19 burnt out (coals).

Commentary

19. That is, they were lying dead, like corn plants cut from the roots.

[16] Nor have We created the heaven and the earth and what is between them in sport.20

Commentary

20. Yusuf Ali comments: “The Hindu doctrine of Lila, that all things were created for sport, is here negatived. But more, with Allah we must not associate any ideas but those of Truth, Righteousness, Mercy, Justice, and other attributes implied in His Beautiful Names. He does not jest or play with His creatures.”

One might be confused by the Qur’anic statements such as (6: 32), “And this life is nothing but game and sport.”

Or (57: 20),  “Be aware that the life of this world is game and sport and some adornment.

There is no contradiction between these verses and the present verse. These verses are speaking of the nature of man’s life on earth: an ephemeral, dream-like microsecond-stay, in comparison to the eternal life, the truly real everlasting one of the Hereafter. All the pleasures and pains of this world, the relationships of love and hatred between the humans, the quarrels between nations over the resources of the world, and all the great events that shook the world, would appear from the Next World like episodes of a short dream. Nevertheless, all this does not reduce the seriousness of this life or its importance even in mundane affairs as they have no important bearing on the life to come (Au.).

[17] Had We wished to take a sport,21 We would have surely taken it from within Ourselves,22 if We were to do that.23

Commentary

21. Mujahid, Qatadah, Hasan and others have said that in one of the several Yemeni dialects, “lahw” stood for a wife (Tabari, Ibn Kathir).

22. “From within Ourselves!” what does it mean? Thanwi answers, “That is, ‘One of Our Perfect Attributes’ that are eternal and hence worthy of projection.”

23. Asad throws further light on this difficult passage: “..meaning that, had God ever willed to ‘indulge in a pastime’ (which, being almighty and self-sufficient, He has no need to do), He could have found it within His Own Self, without any necessity to create a universe which would embody His hypothetical – and logically inconceivable – will to ‘please Himself’, and would thus represent a ‘projection’, as it were, of His Own Being. In the elliptic manner of the Qur’an, the above passage amounts to a statement of God’s transcendence.”

[18] But rather We hurl the Truth against falsehood,24 and it smashes (its brains),25 and lo! it is vanished.26  And woe unto you for what you ascribe.27

Commentary

24. Asad again, and in line with the previous comment, “I.e., the truth of God’s transcendence against the false idea of His existential immanence in, or co-existence with, the created universe.”

25. “Damgh” is used for a blow on the head that smashes the brain (Ibn Jarir and others).

26. The following from Asad may be read in conjunction with the above two comments. He comes close to what Thanwi wrote half a century earlier (but which Asad would have been unaware of): “The obvious fact that everything in the created universe is finite and perishable effectively refutes the claim that it could be a projection’ of the Creator, who is infinite and eternal.”

27. And, finally, this comes in logical sequence from Asad, which, while connecting the two verses 17 and 18, also removes a misconception held by many intellectuals including Muslims. He writes: “Lit., ‘for all that you attribute [to God] by way of description’ or ‘of definition’ .. implying that the idea of God’s ‘immanence’ in His creation is equivalent to an attempt to define His Being.”

[19] And to Him belong those in the heavens and the earth. And those that are with Him28 do not wax proud against His worship, nor do they grow weary.

Commentary

28. Since Allah is in His limitlessness beyond space and time, what does the word ‘near’ Him  mean? Asad takes the explanation from Zamakhshari and Razi, “.. their ‘being with Him’ is a metaphorical indication of their spiritual eminence and place of honor in God’s sight, and does not bear any spatial connotation of ‘nearness’.

[20] They glorify (Him) by night and day, and do not take a break.29

Commentary

29. ‘Abdullah ibn al-Harth says he asked Ka`b al-Ahbar about how the angels could be in the act of glorification day and night, without a break, when they also have to perform various duties such as, bring down the revelation? He replied, “Chanting out glory is like breathing unto them. Do you not go about eating, drinking and doing your works, while you keep breathing? In the like manner, they chant glory while going about their duties” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). But the allusion could be to those of the angels who do nothing but worship Allah, or sing his glory. For instance, as Ibn Jarir reports, “While the Prophet (saws) was with men around him he asked, ‘Do you hear what I hear?’ They replied, ‘We hear nothing O Apostle of Allah.’ He said, ‘I can hear the heaven creaking. And it cannot be blamed for creaking when there is not an inch of space in it but with an angel either in prostration or standing (in Prayers).’”

The report comes down through two chains of narrations preserved in Ibn Abi Hatim, but both weak (Ibn Kathir).

The report is also in Ibn al-Mundhir, Abu al-Sheikh and Bayhaqi (Alusi).

Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut judged its chain of narration as trustworthy (Au.).