Verses from Surah 25: Al-Furqan (The Criterion) [62 – 71]

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE KIND, THE COMPASSIONATE

[62] He it is who made the night and the day follow each other – for him who desires to remember or desires (to show) gratitude.78

Commentary

78. The implication of the textual khilfah of the verse, as stated by Ibn `Abbas and Hasan is that Allah created the night and the day, following each other, so that, (as far as you are concerned) if you missed a good deed of the day, you might follow up and do it at night (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Accordingly, when a man went to `Umar ibn al-Khattab and said that he had missed the night Prayers, he remarked, “Seek in the day what you missed in the night,” and then he recited this verse, “It is He who made the night and the day follow each other for him who desires to remember or desires (to show) gratitude” (Ibn Jarir, Razi). Hence we have `Umar ibn al-Khattab himself narrating in Muslim that the Prophet said, “Whoever missed doing any of his supererogatory of the night, but did it between Fajr and `Asr, will have it written down as if he did it at night.” (Qurtubi)

Qurtubi also quotes Ibn al-`Arabiyy (Abu Bakr) as saying, “I heard the great martyr Sheikh al-Akbar say, ‘Allah created man: living and conscious. This is His perfection (kamaal). However, He imposed on him sleep, the need to attend to nature’s call, and attenuation in his powers (as he advances in age), for, perfection is for the Creator alone. So, if it is possible for a man to cut down on his food and sleep in order to free himself (for devotions), then, let him do so. It is a great loss that a man should live for sixty years, losing half of it sleeping at night, and then resting a sixth of the day, thus losing two thirds of his life, leaving him with just twenty years (of active life). It is certainly ignorance (jahaalah) and foolishness that a man should spend two thirds of his life seeking ephemeral pleasure (of sleep), and not spend his life in wakefulness for the delights of the everlasting world: with the Self-sufficient, the Keeper of His promise, who is neither short (of anything) nor is a wrong-doer.’”

Another implication of the word khilfah is, (as Razi put it) mukhtalifayn that is, one is bright while the other is dark (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). This was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas as documented by Ibn Abi Hatim (Shawkani), as also that of Mujahid, Qatadah and Kisaa’ee (Razi, Qurtubi).

[63] And the Rahman’s slaves (are) those who walk on the earth modestly,79 and when the uncouth address them, they say, ‘Peace.’80

Commentary

79. Ibn Jarir writes that the textual “hawn” has been explained by Mujahid (through several routes) and `Ikrimah as tranquility (sakinah) and dignity (waqaar) while Ibn `Abbas and others thought it means submission, obedience, and humility. Yet others said it means they do not walk proud or arrogant but humble, and do not spread corruption. A few others thought that the second part of the verse explains the word hawn, viz., when they encounter the ignorant and the uncouth who wish to engage them in unseemly, coarse or indecent behavior, they avoid them gracefully or answer back courteously reminding them of things virtuous. Zayd b. Aslam was reported as saying, “I sought the explanation of this verse, ‘those who walk on the earth modestly’ but did not find it with anyone. Then someone came to me in my sleep and I was told, ‘It is those who do not intend any corruption in the land.’” (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi).

Perhaps the best explanation is provided by Alusi who quotes Abu `Abdullah as having said that to walk in the natural gait on which a man is born – without any artificiality – is hawn. He also quotes Ibn `Atiyyah’s opinion that the verse in fact is not talking of the manner of walking, but rather, the manner of conducting oneself on the earth.

The structure of the verse lends strong support to this explanation. Further, a hadith which is found in several collections and which says that “fast pace walking drives out a believer’s dignity,” has been declared weak by Ibn Jawzi in his Jaami` (Au.).

The manner of the Prophet’s walk has been reported as: ‘Long strides, firm-footed, quick paced, as if going down a slope, dignified but neither lazily stepping forward, nor hurrying up.’ On the other hand `Umar ibn al-Khattab walked fast though in natural gait. (Qurtubi and Alusi)

And when Hasan (al-Busri) was asked about this verse he answered, “Believers are a humble people. Their hearing, sight and limbs of the body are humbled to the extent that the common people think they must be sick. But in fact they are healthy of hearts, but the thing is, a kind of dread has entered into them – a fear that has not entered into the hearts of others. Their knowledge of the Hereafter prevents them from going after this world. So they say, ‘Praise be to Allah who dislodged from us the grief.’ By Allah, their grief is not the grief of this world, nor to them are those things of any great value by which they seek Paradise. It is fear of the Fire that makes them weep. Surely, he who did not take comfort in the comfort (provided) by Allah, will have his heart cut asunder by the grief over this world. And one who does not see Allah’s bestowals but in food and drinks, has, for sure, little knowledge. His punishment has drawn close” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

Ibn Kathir cautions that hawn certainly does not imply weakness or meekness or that they walk about as if they are sick, pretending humbleness. The Salaf have expressed disapproval of a pretentious walk. In fact, when `Umar b. al-Khattab saw a young man walking meekly, he asked him if he was sick. When he said no, he raised his whip against him and said, “Walk strong and upright.” A poet has well said, adds Qurtubi, about the well-measured walk of the pseudo scholars designed to impress the onlookers: to quote a poetical line, “Everyone of them walks slow, everyone of them seeks a kill.”

Mawdudi adds: “So, what is it in one’s gait that is considered of such importance that it is the first attribute to be mentioned as a prerequisite for a true servant of God? A little reflection reveals that one’s gait is the first indicator of one’s whole character and personality. The gait of the cunning man is different from the gait of a tyrant, which is different from that of a civilized and upright person, which again is different from that of someone who is arrogant or criminal.”

80. That is, when an ill-mannered, uncouth person speaks to them roughly, they answer back politely, with restraint and control (Ibn Jarir from Hasan).

The salaam here, Asam has pointed out, is the salaam of goodbye and not a greeting (Razi). Nuhhas however thought that it is a salaam seeking goodly riddance. When the Arabs say, “tasalluman minka” they mean, “I am quit of you.” Hence, some scholars have said, one might use the same word “salaaman” (imparting the same meaning) while departing the company of unbelievers engaged in vain talk, but might say salamun alaykum while leaving the believers similarly engaged (Qurtubi).

They do not act, Shabbir points out, in the manner a pre-Islamic poet has portrayed:

Hey! Let no vulgar treat us in a vulgar way
For, we will act vulgarly beyond the vulgarity of vulgars.

That is, the poet promises a vulgarity that would exceed the vulgarity of the most vulgar of his tribe. We might add that at least the vulgar of the past knew a language that surpassed in beauty the language of today’s pretentious top-hats that are as vulgar from within as civilized from without (Au.).

[64] And those who spend the night prostrate to their Lord, and standing.81

Commentary

81. Hasan al-Busri used to say when he passed over these verses that after describing the behavior of the believers during the day, Allah now describes how they behave at night. (Qurtubi, Razi without naming Hasan)

Many scholars have said that whoever did some Qur’anic recitation at night will be counted as one who spent his night in prostration and standing. Others have said that whoever did two cycles after Maghrib and two after `Isha, will be counted among them (Qurtubi, Alusi and others).

[65] And those who say, ‘Our Lord! Avert from us the chastisement of Jahannum.82 Surely, its chastisement is a grievous (ever-adhering) torment.83

Commentary

82. Hasan has said, “They spent the day humble and the night wearied – in fear of the Fire of Hell” (Razi).

83. Mawdudi comments: “The worship of these sincere devotees to God does not make them proud. They do not suffer from the illusion that they are God’s favorites and that Fire cannot touch them. On the contrary, in spite of their many virtues and their supplication and devoted worship, they tremble with fear lest any lapse on their part causes them to be condemned to punishment. They do not consider their piety as sure ticket to Paradise. Instead, conscious as they are of their human weaknesses, they deem it sufficient to be able to escape punishment.”

(Literally, gharaam is for punishment, penalty, distasteful thing, something repulsive, etc.: Au.). Muhammad b. Ka`b, Hasan and Ibn Jurayj have said that the word leads to mean it will be a never-abating grievous punishment (Ibn Jarir).

But hope lingers in such hopeless situations too. Ibn Kathir quotes a tradition from Ahmed on the authority of Anas b. Malik. The Prophet said, “A man will cry out in Jahannum for a thousand years, ‘Ya Hannan, Ya Mannan’ (O the Affectionate, O the Munificent). Allah will say to Jibril: ‘Go and bring Me this slave of Mine.’ Jibril will go down but find the inhabitants of the Fire fallen (on their faces) weeping. He will return to his Lord and inform Him. Allah will say, ‘Bring him to Me. He is in such and such a place.’ So he will bring him and make him stand before Allah. He will ask, ‘My slave, how did you find your station and place of rest?’ He will answer, ‘My Lord! Evil is the station, evil is the place of rest.’ Allah will say, ‘Take him back.’ The man will say, ‘My Lord! This is not what I expected when You got me out – that You will send me back to it.’ So Allah will say, ‘Let alone My slave.’”

As in Zawaa’id, the above hadith has been declared weak by some, but acceptable to others (Au.).

This Qur’anic passage is unique among religious Scriptures, the like of which is not found in non-Islamic traditions either. They portray the picture of the Companions, to whom the description fits most, and speak of a massive and miraculous transformation that the Prophet brought: a unique experience in the history of mankind whose echoes still last. They have not therefore, lost their impact entirely on those who normally look only from angles that can afford them opportunity to criticize (Au.).

Majid quotes a few involuntary statements from a spiritually dead West, preceding them with his own remark:

“Mark the miraculous change for the better that the Prophet of Islam had almost immediately brought about in his erstwhile ferocious, dissolute and irreligious countrymen: ‘From time beyond memory, Mecca and the whole peninsula had been steeped in spiritual torpor … The people were sunk in superstition, cruelty, and vice … Thirteen years before the Hijrat, Mecca lay lifeless in this debased state. What a change those thirteen years had now produced! A band of several hundred persons had rejected idolatry, adopted the worship of one God, and surrendered themselves implicitly to the guidance of what they believed a Revelation from Him; praying to the Almighty with frequency and fervour, looking for pardon through His mercy, and striving to follow through good works, almsgiving and justice. They now lived under a constant sense of the omnipotent power of God, and of His providential care over the minutest of their concerns. In all the gifts of nature, in every relation of life, at each turn of their new-born hopes; and to Him they yielded an implicit submission.’ (Muir, op. cit., p. 163). ‘But a few years since sunk in superstition and practicing all sorts of vice, they now prostrated themselves five times a day in prayer to an invisible Allah, whom they had before known only imperfectly at best, and were honestly trying to follow the precepts that they believed had been sent directly from Him to them.’ (Gilman, The Saracens, p. 153). ‘Wine, women and war were the only three objects which claimed the love and devotion of the Arab.’ (Kremer, Contributions to the History of Islamic Civilization, Eng. tr. p. 156).”

[66] Indeed, evil it is as an abode and as a place of rest.84

Commentary

84. Imam Razi raises a question, ‘What’s the difference between the textual mustaqarr and muqaam?’ and answers that perhaps it is a mustaqarr in reference to the sinners who will leave it one day or the other, but a muqaam in reference to those who will abide therein forever.

[67] And those who, when they expend, do not act extravagant nor are niggardly85 but rather hold a balance between them.86

Commentary

85. There are several interpretations. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ibn Jurayj and others have said that whatever is spent in Allah’s disobedience – however little – is israf. On the other hand, whatever is held back from being spent in obedience of Allah – however little – is iqtar. Others have said that israf is to cross the bounds and spend more than required while iqtar is to spend less than what is absolutely essential – and piety lies between the two. Ibn Jarir is with this opinion (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Alusi).

The opinion of Ibn `Abbas is preserved in `Abd b. Humayd, Ibn al-Mundhir and Ibn Abi Hatim who said that the believers are not such spendthrifts as to spend in the way of Allah’s disobedience nor so miserly as not to spend in Allah’s cause.

Are there clear lines demarcating the two: israf and iqtar? Ibn Jarir answers with an example. If you eat more than the essential, that which weakens your body and prevents you from devotion to Allah, it is israf. On the contrary, if you eat less, despite the availability, weakening your body and affecting your devotional acts to Allah, then that is iqtar. Yes, of course, you can always posses a little more. For example, one might keep an extra pair of clothes. This is following the Prophetic words, “What will harm one of you if he bought a pair of clothes for Friday apart from the pair for work?”

We have another report by Abu al-Ahwas, who reported his father that He went to the Prophet in shabby clothes. He asked him, “Do you have any wealth?” He said, “Yes, of all kinds.” He asked, “What sort of wealth?” He answered, “Allah has bestowed on me camels, sheep, horses, and slaves.” He said,“When Allah has bestowed wealth on you, then let the effects of Allah’s blessings, and generosity be seen on you.”

A part of the report is in Ibn Hibban, and Haythamiyy evaluated it Sahih (Au.).

Qurtubi quotes a hadith from Ibn Majah which reports the Prophet as having said, “It is extravaganza that you should eat all that you desire.”

Suyuti declared this Hadith as weak although there is another version with Hakim who thought it is trustworthy as mentioned by Munawi, perhaps elevating it to the rank of Hasan (Au.).

86. Thus the textual qawam is explained as what lies between israf and iqtar, that is, justly balanced (Ibn Jarir).

Ibn Kathir quotes a hadith from Musnad about moderation in spending. The Prophet said, “Moderate expending is a (sign) of a man’s understanding (of Islam).”

On the hand, Ibn Kathir quotes Hasan al-Basri as having said, “There is no extravaganza in any amount spent in the way of Allah.”

[68] And those who invoke not with Allah any other deity; and slay not such life as Allah has forbidden, except by right; and commit not fornication87 – and, whoever did that, shall meet (the price of) sin.88

Commentary

87. These are major sins in Islam. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud reportedly asked the Prophet about major sins, as in the Sahihayn. He answered, “That you should suggest an equal unto Allah while He alone created you.” He asked him, “Which one next?” He answered, “That you should kill your child in fear that he will share your food.” He asked him, “Which one next?” He answered, “That you should fornicate with the neighbor’s wife.”

And Allah revealed, “And those who do invoke not with Allah ..” to the end (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

The Prophet also emphasized the evilness of fornication by saying, as in a report preserved by Ibn Abi Dunya, “There is no other sin more heinous in the sight of Allah after shirk than a drop of semen spilled into a womb that is unlawful unto him.”

He also said to a man, in a narrative recorded by Ibn Abi Hatim, “Allah forbids you that you should worship His creations and ignore the Creator, and forbids that you kill your child but feed your dog, and also forbids that you fornicate with the neighbor’s wife.” (Ibn Kathir)

Now, says Ibn Kathir, this verse appears to contradict that of Surah al-Nisa’ which says (4: 93), “And whoever killed a believer intentionally, then his reward is Jahannum, abiding therein forever.”

When asked Ibn `Abbas explained that this ayah is Madinan while that of Al-Furqan is Makkan (with a difference of eight years between them) and so, the former annuls the latter. In fact, according to Ibn `Abbas, this present ayah is referring to the unbelievers. Hence the Hadith which says that once a group of pagans came to the Prophet and inquired whether there was any hope for them seeing that they had killed a lot and had committed several other kinds of transgressions. In response this ayah was revealed.

Abu Hurayrah nevertheless held a different opinion. He said, “Once as I reached home I found a woman standing close by. I said salam to her and entered into my house closing the door behind me. Then I began to Pray in my appointed place of Prayers. Then I heard a knock. I allowed her in. She asked, ‘I have come to ask you whether there is repentance for me. I committed sin, became pregnant and then killed the child.’ I replied, ‘There is no blessing in you, nor any dignity.’ She said in grief, ‘Alas! Has this beautiful face been created for the Fire?’ Then she went away. Next day I waited for the Prophet to be alone and then narrated the story to him. He said, ‘Evil was that which you said. Have you not read this verse, ‘Except for him who repented and did righteous deeds such then, Allah will change their evil (deeds) into good (ones).’ I left him and then I did not leave a fort nor housing quarters but I went to it and announced, ‘If you have a woman among you who went to Abu Hurayrah, then, let her come to me again and receive some good news.’ And, there, as I returned from my night Prayers with the Prophet, she was standing at my door. I told her that I had raised the issue with the Prophet and he had said to me, ‘Evil was that which you said.’ And then he recited this verse, ‘Except for him who repented and did righteous deeds such then, Allah will change their evil (deeds) into good (ones).’ The woman fell prostrate and then said, ‘Allah be praised for having shown a way out through repentance. I shall free my slave-girl and her son in Allah’s way. I repent what I have done’” (Ibn Jarir).

The above report is a weak one, there being narrators whose identities could not be established (Ibn Kathir).

See Surah al-Nisa’, n. 256 for a detailed discussion concerning the possibility of repentance after a premeditated murder of a Muslim.

An interesting report in Tabarani is worth quoting. There are three versions of it in Tabarani but Ibn Kathir quoted only one. It says that a person called Al-Mamdud went up to the Prophet and asked: “What do you say about a man who committed all sorts of sins leaving none uncommitted. In that situation (of sin) he left nothing – small or big – but he did it. Is there any repentance for such a man?” He asked, “Have you embraced Islam?” He answered, “As for me, I bear witness that there is no deity save Allah and that you are Allah’s Messenger.” He said, “Do good deeds, give up the evil ones and Allah will change them into good ones.” He inquired, “And my treacheries and debaucheries?” He answered, “Yes.” He said, “Allah is Great.” He kept repeating until he disappeared.

Haythami remarked that Bazzar also narrated it slightly differently and the narrators of Bazzar’s report are all transmitters who were accepted by Sahih compilers except for Abu Nashit (through whom they did not narrate), who was trustworthy anyway (Au.).

88. The translation follows the literal explanation as offered by Zamakhshari who quotes a poetical piece to say that atham is the reward for ithm (sin). He does not close the door for other explanations. Majid writes: “Atham signifies ‘the requital or recompense for ithm.’”

Ibn `Abbas however, along with `Abdullah ibn `Amr, Mujahid, `Ikrimah and others, is quoted by Ibn Jarir as having said that atham is a vale in Jahannum wherein fornicators and adulterers will be locked up (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

Ibn `Amir said, “I went to Abu Umamah Sudayy al-Bahili and said, ‘Narrate to me something you heard from the Prophet.’ He invited me to have dinner with him after which he said, ‘I heard the Prophet say that if a stone were to be dropped from the edge of Hell, it will not reach the bottom for fifty years until it ends at ghayy and atham. I asked him, ‘And what are ghayy and atham?’ He replied, ‘Two wells right at the bottom of Hell to which flow down pus and blood of the inhabitants of the Fire. It is about these two that Allah spoke when He said (19: 59), “They wasted away the Prayers, followed lust and so will meet with ghayy,” and “…and do not fornicate. And whoever did that will meet with athama” (Ibn Jarir).

Haythamiyy does not give full clearance to the report, nor does he reject it (Au.).

[69] Doubled shall be the punishment for him89 on the day of Standing and he will abide therein disgraced.90

Commentary

89. Why doubled? The answer is, one for disbelief and the other for evil deeds (Razi).

90. One question: It is not expected of believers that they will suggest partners unto Allah, or kill or fornicate. How then do we understand the verse? The answer given by Hasan as quoted by Razi is that it is the unbelievers who have been addressed indirectly. It is as though being said to them, “True believers do not suggest partners, but you do. They do not kill, but you do. And they do not fornicate while you do. (Do you see the difference?)”

And hence the following verse: “Doubled shall be the punishment for him on the day of Standing and will abide therein disgraced,” which fits the unbelievers. Similar thoughts have been expressed by Alusi also (Au.).

[70] Save him who repented, believed, and worked righteous deeds, such then, Allah will change their evil (deeds) into good (ones);91 for Allah is ever Forgiving, ever Merciful.

Commentary

91. One meaning, as expressed by Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id (b. Jubayr) Dahhak and others is that Allah will change the evil deeds of the pre-Islamic days into good ones of the after-Islam days – so that, their sin of association will be changed to belief in One Allah, their murder with cessation, and their fornication with chastity. A second opinion – such as that of Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib – is that evil deeds will be converted into good ones on the Day of Judgment. Ibn Jarir inclines to the first opinion.

The well-known Hadith might be recalled here: that of the last man to be brought out of Hell-fire and the last to enter Paradise. His minor evil deeds will be recounted before him while the major ignored. He will be asked if he acknowledges them, which he will, since he would have no other option. In fact, he will be fearful that the major sins could be brought to discussion. But he will be told that for each of his sin he shall have a virtue. At that point, he will cry out, “My Lord! I had committed some other evil deeds that I do not see here.” The narrator of this Hadith of Muslim says, “I saw the Prophet smile so broadly that his teeth became visible.” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Alusi)

Abu al `Aliyyah was one of those who would say when he did not understand a thing, “I believe in all that Allah has revealed in His book.” And this is what he said over this verse and then recited (3: 30), “The day when every soul will find presented (before it) what it had done of evil and would wish that there was between itself and that (evil) a great distance.”

Alusi points out that the two verses can be reconciled; of course in several ways but which we will leave to the reader (Au.).

[71] And whoever repented and worked righteousness, surely he turns to Allah in (full) repentance.92

Commentary

92. “And whoever repented and worked righteousness, surely he turns to Allah in (full) repentance”: Imam Razi explains that there is no repetition of repentance. The first (mun taaba) is for repentance over the sin of Association and disobedience, while the second (yatubu) is the return to the Lord in hope of rewards, (since, linguistically taaba means to return, to turn to, etc.: Au.).

As for a proper understanding of mataabaa, the verse could be paraphrased as, ‘And whoever repents by performing good deeds, then it is surely such a person who repents in the true manner of repentance’ (Qurtubi).

(To be continued)