Verses from Surah 25: Al-Furqan (The Criterion)

Makkan2

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE KIND, THE COMPASSIONATE

[1] Blessed3 is He who sent down4 the Criterion5 upon His slave,6 that he may be a warner7 unto the worlds.8

Commentary

Relationship

Yusuf Ali has the following to state as the relationship between this and the previous chapter:

“This Surah further develops the contrast between Light and Darkness, as symbolical of knowledge and ignorance, righteousness and sin, spiritual progress and degradation. It closes with a definition of the deeds by which the righteous are known in the environment of this world.”

1. The Sahihayn and several other books have recorded `Umar ibn al-Khattab as saying:

“I heard Hisham b. Hakeem reciting Surah al-Furqaan during the life of the Messenger. I paid attention to his recitation and in many words different from what I had been taught by the Prophet. I could hardly hold myself from pouncing on him during the Prayers, but decided to be patient until he would finish. When he was finished, I wrapped him in my cloak and asked him who had taught him to recite the Surah he had recited that way. He answered that it was the Prophet himself who had taught him that way. I denounced him as a liar and took him to the Prophet. I complained to him that he was reciting in a way different from what he had taught me. He said, ‘Release him.’ Then he said, ‘Recite to us, O Hisham!’ He recited in the manner I had heard him recite. The Prophet remarked, ‘That is how it was revealed.’ Then he said, ‘Recite to us, O `Umar.’ So I recited in the manner he had taught me. The Prophet remarked, ‘That is how it was revealed. This Qur’an has been revealed following seven letters. Therefore, recite what of it is easy to you.’” (Shawkani)

There is no consensus of opinion over what was meant by “seven letters.” But, perhaps, the most logical one is that some words of the Qur’an could be read in more than one way, but not more than seven ways. This is Ibn Hajr’s opinion as in Fat-h. To cite an example, the word “tukallimuhum” of Surah Al-Naml, verse 82 has been variously read as “taklimuhum” and “tunabbi’uhum.” Or, “Maalik” of Surah al-Fatiha has also been read as “Malik.” Or the word “Khalifah” has also been read as “Khaliqah.” In all cases, it hardly matters how they are read because they yield meanings close to each other (Au.).

2. Reports suggest that this Surah has Makkan and Madinan verses mixed up together (Qurtubi). Dahhak and Muqatil have said that this Surah was revealed eight years before the revelation of Surah al-Nisa’ (Mawdudid from Tabari and Razi at verse 68). Its date has no significance (Yusuf Ali).

3. The meaning of “tabaaraka” as given here reflects the understanding of Ibn `Abbas as in Ibn Jarir, and of Zajjaj as in Qurtubi.

The report about Ibn `Abbas is in Ibn Abi Hatim also (Shawkani).

Linguistically, however, as Zamakhshari, Razi and others point out, the word in the root is barakah which means increase in (all kinds of) good and beneficence. In this case, tabaaraka would point to overflow of benefits and goodness from Allah. It is outflow of good that resulted in the revelation of the Qur’an, and hence the importance of knowledge (Razi). There have been other explanations, quite philosophic, by Razi (though in greater detail by Alusi) while Qurtubi, as well as others inform us that the root word leads us to another meaning: that of permanence and eternity of Allah’s Attributes.

Ibn al-Qayyim explains that the attribution of “barakah” to Allah means attribution of the Qualities of mercy, power and honor to Him. In verb form, the word becomes “tabaaraka” which is applicable only to Allah and none else. Hence, he on whom He bestowed “barakah” is mubaarak, e.g., the mubaarak Book, the mubaarak Messenger, etc. Here, however, as well as in all other places in the Qur’an, the word “tabaaraka” has been used as an adjective and not as a verb (Badaa’i`).

Yusuf Ali adds: “Tabaaraka: the root meaning is “increase” or “abundance”. Here that aspect of Allah’s dealing with His creatures is emphasized, which shows abundant goodness to all His creatures, in that He sent the Revelation of His Will, not only in the unlimited Book of Nature, but in a definite Book in human language, which gives clear directions and admonitions to all. The English word ‘blessed’ hardly conveys that meaning.”

4. The textual word for “sending down” is “nazzala” which is a verb form used for expressing exaggeration or emphasis. Here it has been used to emphasize the gradual, and therefore, fragmentized sending down of the revelation as against the previous Scriptures that were sent down as one whole (Ibn Kathir). As Allah said (3: 3), points out Razi:

“He has sent down upon you the Book with the truth, confirming that which preceded it (as) He sent down the Tawrah and the Injil.”

In this Ayah, Allah used two different words for two different Revelations. He used nazzala for the Qur’an, while Anzala (which is for sending down in one installment) for Torah and Injeel.

5. Yusuf Ali comments on “al-Furqaan”:

“That by which we can judge clearly between right and wrong. Here the reference is to the Qur’an, which has already been symbolised by light. This symbol is continued here, and many contrasts are shown, in the midst of which we can distinguish between the true and the false by Allah’s Light, especially the contrast between righteousness and sin.”

“A second meaning, as most commentators have pointed out, is that of a separator – from faraqa: to separate – in this case, the separator of truth and falsehood.”

6. `Abd (slave) is an honorific title. The best that one can do is to be an `abd of Allah. When Allah uses the term for a person, it means He holds that person in high repute. Hence, on all important occasions, Prophet Muhammad was referred to as an `abd in the Qur`an (Ibn Kathir).

7. Ibn Zayd has said that the pronoun of li-yakuna is for the Prophet. He was and remains a warner unto the worlds. Allah said (35: 24),

And there hasn’t been a nation except a warner had been in it.”

And (26: 208),

And We did not destroy a town but it had its warners.”

Initially, there was only one warner: the Messenger. After he had passed away, he became a warner unto everyone who received the message after him. The Qur’an said (6: 19),

And this Qur’an has been revealed to me in order that I warn you and those whom it reaches.”

That is, those that the Qur’an reaches. Hence, the Prophet is a warner unto the worlds. The Qur’an told him to announce (7: 158),

O people. I am indeed Allah’s Messenger unto you all.”

Ibn Zayd also said that Allah never sent a Messenger to the entire world population except Nuh, with whom He began a new creation, and Muhammad, with whom He ended (the series) – Ibn Jarir.

Qurtubi also explains the verse in the above manner.

The Prophet said, “I have been sent to the entire mankind, the reds and the blacks.”

The above report of Ahmad was evaluated as Hasan by Shu`ayb al-Arna’ud (Au.).

He also said, “I enjoy specialty in five things… and a Prophet used to be raised for his own people alone, while I have been raised for the entire mankind.”

He mentioned as fifth that while others were sent to a particular nation, he was sent to all the peoples (Ibn Kathir).

Bukhari and Muslim recorded it (Au.).

8. “The worlds” – i.e., (the worlds of) the Jinn and mankind. (Zamakhshari, Razi)

Sayyid adds: “The words, ‘that he may be a warner unto the worlds’ appearing in a Makkan Surah leave no room that from the first day of revelation this message was meant for all mankind; and not, as some historians state, that originally the message was for the Arabs alone; later, with the subjugation of the Arabs, the Prophet declared it for others too, as a later thought and introduction. This ayah disproves this theory.”

[2] He to whom belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; who did not take a son, nor He ever had any associate with Him in His Kingdom. He created everything, then He determined its due proportion.9

Commentary

9. That is, created every being in form, shape, size, attributes, and potentialities in such a manner that each of them is able to perform its specific function in a precise manner (Zamakhshari).

Majid writes: “Several pagan philosophers, such as Epicurus, denied, in toto, the Divine superintendence of human affairs, and this human self-sufficiency was echoed by the latter-day Jews. The Sadducees among them held that there was no such thing as ‘fate’, and that ‘human actions are not directed according to it, but all actions are in our own power, so that we are ourselves the cause of what is good.’ (DB. IV. p. 53)

The Holy Qur’an corrects all such misconceptions and makes it clear that every event, big or small, that comes to pass in the universe, is the direct outcome of the All-Wise, All-Righteous, All-Powerful God, and not subject either to chance or necessity, and that the governing hand of God is visible through every process of nature, through the march of history, and through the fortunes of every individual life, steadily working out His preconceived Plan.”

[3] Yet they have taken besides Him gods who do not create anything: in fact, are themselves created.10 They have no power to harm or benefit themselves, nor have power over death, or life, or resurrection.

Commentary

10. The idols of the idolaters are a good case in point. Their worshippers create them giving them forms and shapes, many of which are so terribly ugly, that were the idols given life, they would attack their creators for making them so ugly. The point is, the idols are themselves created beings which have no power over good or bad and yet they are worshipped! (Au., with a point from Zamakhshari).