Verses from Surah Hud (25-40)

[25] We sent Nuh to his people (with the message), ‘I am indeed for you a clear warner.

[26] That you worship not but Allah.38 Verily, I fear for you the chastisement of a painful day.’

Commentary

38. And give up the worship of false deities such as Wadd, Suwa`, Yaghuth, Ya`uq and Nasr (Thanwi).

[27] Thereupon the chiefs of those who disbelieved among his people said, `We do not see you but as a human being like ourselves. And we do not see you followed except by the meanest of us,39 – (men) of low opinion;40 nor do we perceive in you any superiority over us. In fact, we think you (and your followers) are liars.’41

 

Commentary

39. Such as carpenters, weavers, barbers and small-time traders. This has been always the case. Modestly placed people always embrace the truth first. Accordingly, when Abu Sufyan met with the Roman Emperor Heraclius, he asked him about the kind of people that had believed in the man who claimed to be a Messenger. When Abu Sufyan said it were the lowly people, Heraclius remarked, “That’s how it is with all Prophets. It is the lowly who follow them first.” (Ibn Kathir).

40. Although some of the Salaf have suggested that the term baadiyar-ra’yi means, “in the first suggestion” or, “apparently” (Ibn Jarir, Shawkani), Ibn Kathir, who has the backing of Zamakhshari, thinks that the allusion is to, “people of low or poor opinion who fall onto something without much consideration and preceding thought.” Then he adds that to think of a people low of opinion simply because they accept the Truth in the first instance, is itself a low opinion. Nuh’s adversaries judged the Truth by who had accepted it rather than judging the people by who among them had accepted the Truth. Those who accepted the Truth were the noble ones, even if financially badly off, in contrast to those who rejected it, who were the meanest of people, even though financially well-off. Truth in fact demands immediate acceptance. What’s there to think and ponder when Truth becomes evident? The truly intelligent and the pure of heart will go for it in the first instance. Accordingly, we find our Prophet telling us, “There wasn’t anyone to whom I offered Islam, but he hesitated (for a short or long moment) except Abu Bakr. He did not hesitate for a moment.”

Zamakhshari asks: Isn’t that the situation with most of those who claim to be Muslims? They judge a man and treat him – honoring him or belittling him – by the criteria of how much material means he possesses. They forget that worldly possessions do not take them nearer to Allah (swt). In fact, in most cases, they take them away from Him. Prophets did not build the world. Just the opposite. They treated it with scorn and neglect.

41. Yusuf Ali summarizes a long story into a short passage: “The unbelievers were impelled by three powerful human motives of evil to resist Grace. (1) jealousy of other men; they said, `Why, you are no better than ourselves,’ half perceiving the Prophet’s superiority, and half ignoring it; (2) contempt of the weak and lowly, who are often better intellectually, morally, and spiritually; they said, `We cannot believe or do what these fellows, our inferiors in social rank, believe or do!’ (3) arrogance and self-sufficiency,  which is a vice cognate to (2), looked at from a different angle; they said, “We are really better than the lot of you!’ Now the claim made on behalf of Allah’s Message attacked all these three attitudes. And all they could say against it was to abuse impatiently, and call it a lie.”

[28] Said (Nuh), ‘My people! Have you considered?! If I happen to be on a clear (path) from my Lord, and He accorded me mercy from Himself, but it has been obscured unto you, shall we then force it on you, while you are averse to it?’42

Commentary

42. Yusuf Ali carries on: “Noah’s answer (like that of the Prophet of Allah who spoke in later ages in Makkah and Madinah), is a pattern in humility, gentleness, firmness, persuasiveness, truth and love for his own people. First, he meekly (not exultingly) informs them that he has got a Message from Allah. Secondly, he tells them that it is a Message of Mercy even in its warning, though in their arrogance the Mercy may be hidden from them. Thirdly, he tells them plainly that there can be no compulsion in Religion: but will they not accept with goodwill what is for their own benefit? He pleads with them as one of them.”

[29] ‘My people! I do not ask of you any wealth over this (admonition). My wage is only upon Allah. And, I am not going to drive away those who have believed. They are to meet their Lord.43 Rather, I see you as a people ignorant.’ 

Commentary

43. What Nuh meant by saying, “They are to meet their Lord” is: “The reason you cite for me to drive them away is not well established in reason. You say they are a people of poor opinion who have embraced my faith in haste. But, I can’t tear their breasts to look into them for reasons behind their acceptance. It is only Allah who knows that for sure. They will meet with their Lord, and He will make the judgment.” (Alusi).

[30] My people! Who will help me against Allah if I drove them away? Will you not then be admonished?’

[31] `And I do not say to you that I posses Allah’s treasures, nor (do I claim that) I know the Unseen.44 I do not say either that I am an angel. Nor do I say about those whom your eyes hold in contempt that Allah will not grant them any good. Allah knows best what is in their hearts. Surely (if I said that) I would be (counted) among the wrong-doers.’

Commentary

44. Those ignorant ones were of the belief that a Messenger of Allah should necessarily have access to the Unseen (Thanwi).

[32] They replied, ‘O Nuh! You have argued with us and have exceeded in argument with us. Now bring us that which you threaten us with, if you are of the truthful.’45

 

Commentary

45. To Noah’s address the worldly chiefs give a characteristic reply. In its aggressive spirit it is the very antithesis of the gentle remonstrance of Noah. Because he had gently and patiently argued with them, they impatiently accuse him of ‘disputing with them and prolonging the dispute.’ They are unable to deal with his points. So they arrogantly throw out their challenge, which is a compound of hectoring insolence, unreasoning skepticism, and biting irony. `You foretell disaster to us if we don’t mend our ways! Let us see you bring it on! Now, if you please! Or shall we have to call you a liar?’ (Yusuf Ali)

[33] (Nuh) said, ‘Surely, it is Allah who will bring it to you if He will. And you will not be able to frustrate (Him).

[34] And, (it seems) my sincere counsel will do you no good, even if I wish (to offer you) good counsel, if it be that Allah wishes to destroy you.46 He is your Lord and to Him you will be returned.’ 

Commentary

46. The original yughwiya-kum with its root in ghawa (lit. to be lost, and hence aghwa, i.e., misguided: au.) is also used in the sense of destruction. Allah (swt) said, (The Qur’an, 19: 59),

“Soon they shall meet with destruction” (Ibn Jarir).

Ibn Kathir also prefers this meaning.

[35] Do they (the Makkan unbelievers) say, ‘He has forged it?’ Say (O Prophet), ‘If I forged it then the crime is on me. And I am quit of the crimes you commit.’47

Commentary

47. The abrupt break from the past to the present, from Nuh’s times to those of Muhammad, is apparent. Yusuf Ali comments on the reason: “The fine narrative of dramatic power is here interrupted by a verse which shows that the story of Noah is also a Parable for the time and the ministry of Muhammad, the Prophet. The wonderful force and aptness of the story cannot be denied. The enemy, therefore, turns and says, ‘Oh! But you invented it! The answer is, “No! But it is Allah’s own truth! You may be accustomed to dealing in falsehoods, but I protest that I am free from such things.”

[36] Then it was revealed to Nuh that, ‘No one will believe of your people (after this) except for he who has already believed. So, do not be distressed by what they are doing.

[37] And (start to) build the boat under Our supervision and instruction,48 and speak not to Me (any further) about the wrong-doers. They are to be drowned.’ 

Commentary

48. Ibn `Abbas and others have said that Nuh did not have the know-how for building a ship. Therefore he was ordered to build following Allah’s direction and under His supervision (Ibn Jarir).

[38] So, he set himself to building the boat. Now, whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they poked fun at him. He said, ‘If you poke fun at us today, then, surely, we are soon to poke fun at you the way you are poking fun (at us now)’.49

Commentary

49. It was a large boat and took several years to build. Whenever the elites of the town passed by, they’d make fun of him. Someone would say, “So, now you have become a carpenter after you were a Prophet?!” Another would say, ‘So, you are making a boat. Are you? But where is it going to sail? In the sands?’ Etc. (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari).

[39] ‘Soon you shall know to whom comes the chastisement disgracing him and on whom will be loosened a lasting punishment.’

[40] At length Our command came and the oven50 gushed forth. We directed, ‘Load onto it two of every (kind of animal) male and female, as also your family, and those who have believed, except for him about whom the Word has preceded.’ And, (the truth is), they believed not with him but a few.

Commentary

50. Although there have been minority opinions saying that tannur is for the surface of the earth, and a second opinion that it is the break of the dawn, the great majority of the Salaf have believed that the allusion is to the fire pit made in the earth for baking bread (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).

(To be continued)