Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah 27, Al-Naml [10-16]

[10] Now, throw down your staff.’ But when he saw it quivering, as if a snake,14 he turned about, retreating, and turned not back. ‘O Musa, fear not. Truly, Messengers fear not in My presence.’

Commentary

14. Jaann is that small snake which slithers very fast (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

Musa’s reaction should be of no surprise. A snake is a snake. It has been observed that when it enters into a cave in a cold night, other animals, including the ferocious ones, quietly vacate the cave. Further, could Musa be sure in that dark night that it was not his own staff? Or, is it possible that in the dark cold night he thought he was all along holding a stiff snake that came alive when thrown into the warmth of the fire? (Au.)

The Prophet (saws) has, (according to a hadith in the Sahihayn: H. Ibrahim) prohibited that the domestic-Jann be killed (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

Scholars explain that the prohibition applied to his time, and to the city of Madinah alone. It is said that during the time of the Prophet Jinns trying to learn about Islam visited Madinah in the form of snakes. One was spotted under the bed of a Companion, but he prevented it from being disturbed (Au.).

[11] Save him who wronged, then substituted a good after an evil, then I am All-forgiving, All-compassionate.15

[12] And thrust your hand in your pocket. It will come forth shining white without any blemish – among nine signs to Fir`awn and his people. Surely they are a rebellious people.

Commentary

15. How is the verse to be understood if the words “Save him who wronged” are understood to be alluding to the Messengers? One explanation is that the allusion is to their minor errors, committed by such Prophets as Adam (asws), Yunus (asws), Da’ud (asws), Sulayman (asws) and others, not to forget Musa (asws) who had unintentionally punched the Copt to death (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi and others).

[13] But when there came to them Our visible signs,16 they said, ‘This is plain magic.’

Commentary

16. The textual mubsirah should be better translated as “those that make visible” or “light-giving” or “illuminating” (Ibn Jarir).

[14] And they rejected them, though their inner selves were convinced thereof – wrongfully and out of pride.17 See then what was the end of those given to corruptions!

Commentary

17. That is if it is asked, “why was it that they rejected the signs after their hearts were convinced?” the answer is, “out of transgression and pride” (Ibn Jarir).

[15] Indeed, We gave Da’ud and Sulayman knowledge.18 The two said, ‘All praise to Allah who preferred us over many of His believing bondsmen.’

Commentary

18. The nakirah form of `ilm suggests special knowledge, not given to others (Au.). Ibn Jarir writes: The allusion is to such knowledge as was given to Sulayman, e.g., the language of birds and animals (Ibn Jarir), to Da’ud that of how to handle the metals (Qurtubi and Alusi).

Mawdudi adds: “The Bible does not mention that Sulayman was given the knowledge of the speech of birds and animals though Israeli traditions do specifically refer to it. (See Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. xi, p. 439).”

Yusuf Ali comments: “`Knowledge’ means such knowledge as leads up to the higher things in life, the Wisdom that was shown in their decisions and judgments, and the understanding that enabled them to fulfill their mission in life. They were both just men and prophets of Allah (swt). The Bible, as we have it, is inconsistent: on the one hand it calls David ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (I Samuel, xiii. 14, and Acts xiii. 22); and the Christians acclaim Christ as a son of David; but on the other hand, horrible crimes are ascribed to him, which, if he had committed them, would make him a monster of cruelty and injustice. About Solomon, too, while he is described as a glorious king, there are stories of his lapses into sin and idolatry. The Muslim teaching considers them both to be men of piety and wisdom, and high in spiritual knowledge.”

[16] Sulayman inherited Da’ud19 and said, ‘O people. We20 have been taught the language of birds and we have been given of everything.21This indeed, is the clear bounty.’22

Commentary

19. That is, Sulayman inherited knowledge and sovereignty over the land from Da’ud (Ibn Jarir). He could not have meant any worldly possession since he had nineteen sons and the kingdom left by Da’ud should have been divided equally between them. (Of all the sons) Sulayman was specifically mentioned because of the knowledge and Prophethood that he inherited from Da’ud. Our Prophet has said, “We, the family of Prophets, do not leave wealth behind us. Whatever we leave behind is charity” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

The report is also in Sahih of Ibn Hibban (Au.).

Another report in Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi has Abu Darda’ narrating from the Prophet, “Scholars (of Islam) are inheritors of the Prophets, and Prophets do not leave behind Dinar or Dirham, but rather, they leave behind knowledge. So whoever obtained it, obtained a great blessing.”

These reports should be enough to refute the Shi`ah opinion, as reported by Tabrasi that it was wealth that Sulayman inherited (Alusi, Shafi`).

The Shi`ah are desperate for such opinions because their disapproval of the Companions in general, and Abu Bakr and `Umar in particular, rests on one of the two principal points of grief: one, `Ali did not become a Khalifah immediately after the Prophet, and two, Fatimah, the Prophet’s daughter, was denied Fadak orchard, the inheritance supposedly due from her father (Au.).

The verse demonstrates, write the commentators, the importance of knowledge and the superior position held by the scholars. But, they should be modest about it and never imagine a higher position for themselves over others. We should not forget how (when an old woman objected to `Umar’s intention to limit the mahar [marriage gifts] in an open assembly, saying it went against the Qur’an: Alusi), `Umar admitted that he had erred and quipped, “Everyone seems to know more than `Umar.” Nevertheless, Alusi adds, there is no harm in acknowledging oneself as a scholar as an expression of gratitude and humility to Allah. He might even say, ‘I am a scholar.’ This is reported of `Ali, Ibn `Abbas and some others of the Companions. As for what has become famous as a hadith viz., “He who said I am a scholar is an ignorant man,” it is not an authentic statement of the Prophet.

20. The ‘we,’ says Majid, “is a plural of majesty and does not imply that there were others besides Solomon who knew the language of birds.”

21. That is, ‘We have been given every imaginable good thing’ (Ibn Jarir), that is necessary for establishing a kingdom (Shafi`), but the allusion is to prophethood, wisdom, judgment, and blessings of the like (Razi).

22. Mawdudi points out that the scholars of old seem to have exaggerated the extent of Sulayman’s kingdom.

Majid leads us to the sources of influence: “His realm is described by the Rabbis as having extended … over the upper world inhabited by the angels and over the whole of the terrestrial globe with all its inhabitants, including all the beasts, fowls, and reptiles as well as the demons and spirits.’ (JE. XI, pp. 439-440). ‘Solomon was rewarded with riches and an unprecedented glorious reign.’ (JE. XI, p. 439). ‘He developed commerce, and the products of other countries, Egypt, Arabia and lands beyond, passed through Israel and brought the Hebrews increased wealth … He sent a fleet to Ophir, in the south, which brought back gold and other rare and precious products. Solomon also cultivated the arts, particularly literature, architecture …’ (VJE., p.610). ‘Even allowing for the exaggeration of a later age, … he was clearly a ruler over a larger territory than any other Israelite monarch. His court was splendid and he was allied by marriage to the Egyptian royal house. Trade was fostered and was made possible by the comparative peace of his reign. The country was thoroughly organized and a large civil service administered the affairs of the land.’ (UHW, II, p. 816). ‘Solomon … sought not imperial expansion but material wealth; and wealth accumulated under his long rule has become proverbial.’ (I, p. 677). ‘The king’s annual revenue is stated as 666 talents of gold, which would perhaps be 5,000,000 Pounds of our money. This did not include the profits of his commerce, whether derived from “merchantmen” … or from the tribute of the subject people; or from all the kings of the mingled people, or the government of the provinces.’ (Farros, Solomon, His Life and Times, pp. 127-128).”

(To be continued)