Verses from Surah Anbiya’ [83 – 87]

[83] And (remember) Ayyub when he called unto his Lord, ‘Truly, I am touched by distress,101 and You are the Most Merciful of the mercifuls.’102

Commentary

101. Majid comments and quotes the Bible, “(He suffered sudden loss of wealth property and family). He had seven sons and three daughters, all of whom suddenly died in a house collapse. (Job. 1: 2, 9)”

However, as Mawdudi has pointed out, the account of Job in the Biblical Book of Job cannot be reconciled with the concept of Prophethood as presented by the Qur’an, and hence it cannot be stated with any certainty that the two are speaking of the same person.

102. (It is possible that some people will miss the subtlety of the prayer. An illustrative example from the early Muslims might help). A woman complained to Sa`d b. Mu`adh that her house had no rats. He ordered that she be supplied with some good amount of bread, butter and meat (Alusi).

Sa`d understood that she had no provisions at home for rats to visit (Au.).

[84] So We responded to him and removed that which was upon him of distress. And We restored to him his family, and the like thereof along with them:103 a mercy from Us and a reminder to those who serve (Us).

Commentary

103. In the absence of reports coming from the Prophet or the Companions, it is difficult to establish Ayyub’s identity (Wahab b. Munabbih thought he was an Israelite). It is also not clear as to what trials Ayyub was subjected to. The authenticity of what is reported – in great detail – by some early commentators and narrators cannot be established. All the same, in sum it is as follows: Ayyub (asws) was subjected to trials affecting his wealth, crops, livestock, and children until he was left with nothing but a wife. She served him faithfully during his prolonged sickness and even worked outside to earn the living while Ayyub lay in bed. Notwithstanding the troubles, he stayed firm, not losing hope in Allah’s mercy. The period of trials over, he was given back all that he had lost, twice over. A report of Abu Hurayrah, preserved by Ibn Abi Hatim, whose sum and substance is in Bukhari, says:

“When Allah cured Ayyub, he sent a shower upon him of golden locusts. He began to collect them together in his garment. He was asked, ‘Ayyub, have you not had enough?’ He replied, ‘Sure, my Lord. But who can claim to have had enough of Your mercy?’” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

Qurtubi in passing and Shawkani in full report the following hadith of Hakim, who declared it creditable, which is also in the Sahih of Ibn Hibban (declared trustworthy by Haythami: S.Ibrahim): Anas reports the Prophet (saws) as having said, “Ayyub remained under trial for eighteen years. His friends, relatives, just everyone abandoned him except for two men who were his close brotherly companions. They used to visit him morning and evening. One day, one of them remarked to the other, ‘Ayyub must have committed some grave sin for Allah not to have forgiven him for eighteen years.’ The other mentioned it to Ayyub. He replied, ‘I don’t know what they are talking about. But Allah knows that I used to pass by two people arguing (and swearing in Allah’s name). I would come to my house and expiate for them as I did not like that Allah’s name be thus desecrated (through false oaths).’

“In any case,” the Prophet continued, “Ayyub used to go out to attend to the nature’s call. His wife would hold him by hand and help him return. One day, she delayed in coming and Allah revealed to him at that place (Sad, 42), ‘Strike with your foot. This is good for a bath – cold, and (good for) drink.’ By the time she arrived, Allah had removed his affliction and he had become as good-looking as he ever was. As she came close she asked him, ‘Did you happen to see Allah’s Prophet, the one who has been put to test? And, by Allah, he was almost like you, before he was afflicted.’ He assured her, ‘I am he.’ He had two large bottles, one for wheat storage, and the other for barley. Allah sent two patches of clouds. One of them poured gold into the wheat bottle to its fill and the other filled his barley bottle with silver.” (Free translation, with explanation from Qurtubi).

Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut treated this narration found in Sahih of Ibn Hibban as meeting with the requirements of Muslim (Au.)

It can be guessed in explanation of the above report that when Prophet Ayyub said, ‘I used to pass by two people arguing…’ that he was speaking of those very two persons one of whom conjectured that ‘he (Ayyub) must have committed a grave sin.’ In other words, he subtly complained, in effect, ‘if that was my way with you – that I prayed for you in secret – this is your way with me, that you send across taunts to me!’ Thus, this hadith should be enough to reject Ayyub’s identity with Job of the Bible, which heaps upon him innumerable blasphemies and statements unbecoming of a Prophet. E.g., (Job, 10: 2-3), “I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why thou thus contend against me? Does it seem good to oppress, to despise the work of thy hands, and favor the design of the wicked?” (Au.).

[85] And (remember) Isma`il,104 Idris and Dhu al-Kifl;105 all were of the patient.106

[86] We admitted them into Our mercy. They were, indeed, of the righteous.

Commentary

104. Yusuf Ali comments, “Isma`il is mentioned specially, apart from the line which descended through Isaac (xxi, 72), as he was the founder of a separate and greater Ummat.” Then he follows up to bring to light what most commentators have missed out, “His suffering began in infancy… but his steady constancy and submission to the will of Allah were specially shown when he earned the title of ‘Sacrifice to Allah’… That was the peculiar quality of his constancy and patience.”

105. Opinions have varied among the earliest scholars whether Dhu al-Kifl, was a Prophet or merely a pious person (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). But the company in which he has been mentioned here leads us to the opinion that perhaps he was a Prophet (Thanwi).

Majid offers us some information, although it cannot be wholly trusted for its veracity, since towns and people with identical names have always existed. His comments run as follows: “(Dhu al-Kifl is) Probably an Arabicized form of Ezekiel. ‘He was among the aristocracy whom Nebuchadnazzar (597 B.C.), after the first capture of Jerusalem, carried off to be in exile in Babylonia .. His prophecies extended over twenty-two years (JE. V. 313). ‘The traditional burial-place of the prophet Ezekiel, .. is shown at Kefil near Bira Nimrud: for centuries it has been a favorite place of pilgrimage for Mohammedans as well as for Jews’ (p. 316). Speaking of the ruins of Babylon, says an explorer and traveler of the last century: ‘To the south-west, in the extreme distance, rose the palm trees of Kefil, casting their scanty shade over a small dome, covering the tomb of Ezkiel. To this spot flock in crowds, as their forefathers have done for centuries, the Jews of Baghdad, Hillah and other cities of Chaldea the descendants of the captives of Jerusalem, who still linger in the land of their exile’ (Layard, Nineveh and Babylon p. 281). 

106. “i.e., steadfast in faith” (Majid).

[87] And (remember) the man of the fish,107 when he went off in anger,108 and thought that We would have no power over him.109 But he cried out through the depths of darknesses,110 ‘There is no God but You. Glory to You. I was, indeed, of the wrongdoers.’111

Commentary

107. Lit., man of the fish, the allusion is to Yunus bin Matta of Nineveh (a town in the area of Mosul in northern Iraq), so called because he remained imprisoned in a fish’s stomach for some time.

Yusuf Ali writes: “He was the Prophet raised to warn the Assyrian capital Nineveh… When his first warning was unheeded by his people, he denounced Allah’s wrath on them. But they repented and Allah forgave them for the time being. Jonah meanwhile, departed in wrath, discouraged at the apparent failure of his mission. He should have remained in the most discouraging circumstances, and relied on the power of Allah; for Allah had power both over Nineveh and over the Messenger He had sent to Nineveh. He went away to the sea and took a ship, but apparently the sailors threw him out as a man of bad omen in a storm. He was swallowed by a big Fish (or Whale), but in the depth of darkness, he cried to Allah and confessed his weakness… Allah, Most High, forgave him. He was cast ashore, he was given the shelter of a plant in his state of mental and physical lassitude. He was refreshed and strengthened, and the work of his mission prospered.”

108. Whom was he angry with? One of the answers is, for the sake of Allah. He was angry with his people, for not having believed in Allah’s message. There are other explanations coming down from the past commentators, but none from the well-known experts such as Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud, or their students. For details, see Surah Yunus, note 138-140 of this work.

109. The translation is literal. But the literal meaning, although coming down from Hasan al-Busri, stands, according to almost all ancient commentators, rejected since it is unbecoming of Prophets to think in those terms (Alusi, Shawkani). Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others have explained the meaning as, ‘He (Yunus) thought he would not be taken to task (for having left his people).’ That is, he left the town and his people before he was specifically commanded by Allah to do so, (thus making an error in judgment) [Zamakhshari]. A few other lesser class of commentators have offered one or two other explanations, but Ibn Jarir prefers the above as correct as does Ibn Kathir and others. Qurtubi also mentions this as one of the possible meanings and most of them quote the following verse in evidence (65: 7): “But he whose resources are restricted, may spend according to what Allah has bestowed on him.”

It may be noted that in the above verse the word “qudira” has not been used in the sense of “power” but in sense of “restriction. The well-known hadith about the fearful man who instructed his corpse burnt and ashes spread into the sea, also uses the word “qadira” in more or less the same sense.

110. The textual word is “zulumat” i.e., darkness in plural. What darknesses were they? The answer given, although uncertain is: darkness of the night, darkness of the seas, and darkness of the whale’s belly (Ibn Jarir). This is reported of several of the earliest commentators (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

111. Majid comments, “The forgiveness he craves is for the error of judgment, and not for any sin. The Prophets of God are the very first to own and acknowledge their mistakes, however unintentional or trivial they may have been.”

hadith (of Ahmad, Abu Da’ud, and Nas a’i [in Yawm wa Laylah]: Ibn Kathir) reports the Prophet as having said that no Muslim uttered these words:

لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ

in his prayer for anything, but Allah responded (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi). 

(To be continued)