Verses from Surah Al-Hajj (no. 22) [6 – 16]

[6] That (happens) because Allah, He is the Truth, and that it is He who gives life to the dead, and that He has power over all things.10 

Commentary

10. Yusuf Ali paraphrases this verse: “If they really have doubts in their minds about the life after death, they have only to turn their attention either to their own nature, or to the nature around. How wonderful is their own physical growth, from lifeless matter, to seed, fertilized ovum, foetus child, youth, age, and death! How can they doubt that the Author of all these wonderful stages in their life here can also give them another kind of life after the end of this life? Or, if they look at external nature, they see the earth dead and barren and Allah’s fertilizing showers bring it to life, growth and beauty in various forms. The Creator of this pageant Beauty can create yet another and a newer world.”

[7] And that the Hour is coming – no doubt about it; and that Allah will raise up those in the graves.

[8] Yet among the people is such a one who disputes about Allah without knowledge, or guidance, or an illuminating Book.

[9] (Disdainfully) twisting his neck,11 so that he might mislead away from Allah’s path. For him there is disgrace in this world, and on the Day of Judgment We shall make him taste the chastisement of burning. 

Commentary

11. According to the Salaf, the term “thaaniya `itfihi” alludes to a proud gesture. It draws the image of a man turning away in disdain, not ready to listen to anything. Ibn `Abbas said in explanation, “the man is too proud to follow the truth” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

[10] ‘This because of what your hands forwarded, for Allah is not unjust to (His) servants.’

[11] And, among the people is such a one who serves Allah on an edge.12 If good touches him, he is satisfied therewith. But if a trial touches him,13 he turns on his face.14 He loses this world as well as the Hereafter. That indeed is an evident loss. 

Commentary

12. The term “edge” has been used to indicate that the man stands at the end, and not in the middle of the religion. He is like someone in an army right in the last row. If the army is victorious, he is with it in loot and booty. But if it experiences defeat, he is at the right spot to bolt away (Zamakhshari).

13. Reports from Ibn `Abbas, Dahhak and others (one is in Bukhari: Ibn Kathir) say that this verse alludes to some of the outlying Arabs who emigrated to Madinah. Now, if the weather and water suited to one of them, his mare brought a foal, his woman gave birth to a son, he felt comfortable with Islam and said to himself, “I have not experienced anything but good since I embraced this religion.” But, if the weather and water did not suit him, or his wife gave birth to a girl, or he did not receive anything by way of charity, Satan went up and whispered to him, ‘By God! Since the day you embraced Islam, you have not encountered anything good.’”

There is yet another report on this topic, (in Ibn abi Hatim and Ibn Marduwayh with trustworthy chain of narrators: Shawkani) which says, “Bedouins from the outlying areas would come to the Prophet and embrace Islam. As they returned to their dwellings, if they found it a rainy year of plenty and birth of good number of children, they would say, ‘This is a good religion. Hold on to it.’ But if they found it a dry year, unproductive, and births of their disapproval (i.e., girls), they would remark, ‘There is no good in this new religion.’ So Allah revealed, “And, among the people is such a one who serves Allah on an edge..”

Others have said that the verse refers to hypocrites. They interpret the term “harf” as meaning, “(in) doubt.”

14. That is, he abandons Islam.

[12] He invokes one – apart from Allah – which can neither harm him nor benefit him. That indeed is the extreme error.

[13] He invokes him whose harm is nearer than his benefit.15 Evil indeed is the patron and evil indeed the companion.16

Commentary

15. “They are men whose minds are not firm: they will have faith, if all goes well with them. But as soon as they are tried, they are found wanting. They are a different kind from hypocrites. It is not fraud or double meaning that is their sin: it is a weak mind, petty standards of judging right by success, a selfishness that gives nothing but asks for all.. (Yusuf Ali).

Sayyid comments: “In the life of a true believer, faith is well grounded in his heart. The world around him shakes and convulses, but he remains unshaken, tenaciously holding on to the rock of faith. This then is the reward of faith. He should, accordingly, seek its support, fall back on it and hold on to it in times of difficulties, and not seek rewards for it, for, such a faith is a reward by itself. A believer realizes its worth when he sees puzzled men and women around him, those who are unsure of what’s happening, why it’s happening, and so on. They are blown about by every wind of change resulting in worries and tension, while the believer goes about undisturbed, contented of heart, firm of feet, of unruffled carriage, aware of the Presence of Allah, and satisfied with the connection. He does not experiment with his Lord. But rather, he is ready to face all that comes his way, submitted from the beginning to what the life will unfold of its events for him, good or bad. His faith is in a Being who owns the Command, Who is the origin of all that is and will be.

“In contrast, the other one, the one on the edge, makes his faith a commodity in the market of commodities. He is, in his devotion, on the edge. A mild push results in his fall. He is the grand loser. Apart from the loss of a dear one, or of wealth or health, he also loses peace of heart, quiet submission to his fate, in addition to his loss of the rewards in the Hereafter. And, what happens to him after the fall? Where does he go next? Whom does he apply for help? He ‘calls to one – apart from Allah – who can neither harm him nor benefit him.’ He calls upon deities, idols, devils, or imaginary gods of the pagans. Or he might apply to humans like himself, or appeal to authorities: in the manner of the jahiliyyah of all times whose harm is closer than the benefit. The harm consists in the split of loyalties causing a split in the heart leading to a split personality. His response results in further uncertainties and, above all, a degradation, loss of respect for one’s own self, in one’s own eyes: ‘That indeed is the extreme error.’”

16. Experience with the pagans tells us that Yusuf Ali’s commentary is quite appropriate. He writes: “Such false worship is not always neutral, bringing neither harm nor good. Perhaps the harm comes first, and there is no help from Allah. Such minds are themselves demoralized, and render themselves unfit for help.

[14] Verily, Allah will admit those who believed and worked righteous deeds into gardens beneath which rivers flow. Surely, Allah does what He will.

[15] Let him who imagines that Allah will not help him in this world and the Hereafter, extend a rope toward the heaven, then cut off,17and let him see, does his guile remove that which enrages (him)?18

[16] And that is how We have sent it down (as) manifest signs; and that Allah guides whom He will. 

Commentary

17. Another interpretation of the term “fal-yaqta`” could be, “let him traverse” (the distance: with the root “qata`a”: meaning to traverse) – Razi, Asad. “Cut off” (the help) is another possibility (Razi).

18. Great many of the classical commentators are of opinion that the pronoun in “yansurahu” refers to the Prophet. Accordingly, Ibn `Abbas has said in explanation of this verse, “Whoever thinks that Allah will not help Muhammad in this world and the Next, might extend a rope to the roof (of his house, which is his “samaa’”), and strangle himself thereby to see if his rage is cured.” This was also the opinion of Mujahid, `Ikrimah, `Ata, Abu al-`Aliyyah and others (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). In short, he might commit suicide to cool his rage. There is little else he can do about it (Au.).

Another and parallel interpretation of the Salaf has been paraphrased by Yusuf Ali in the following manner: “If the enemies of Allah are enraged at the help he (Muhammad) gets from heavens, let them stretch a rope to heavens, and see if they can intercept Allah’s help by their petty devices.”

Some others have conjectured that the personal pronoun “hu” in “yansurahu” alludes to the one who thinks that he (himself) will not be helped in this world and the Hereafter (may commit suicide). But, unless there is a hidden meaning to it, it doesn’t seem to be easy to accept since no believer in Allah thinks that he will be neither helped in this world nor in the Hereafter (Au.).

And, although Qatadah also figures in the above opinion, he viewed the verse slightly differently. According to him, whoever thought that Allah was not going to help the Prophet, His Book and His religion, might stretch a rope to the heaven and try and get the connection severed (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Razi).

(To be continued)