Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah 26: Al Shu’ara’ (The Poets) [ 76 – 89 ]

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE KIND, THE COMPASSIONATE

 

[76] You and your earliest forefathers?79

Commentary

79. By adding “your earliest forefathers,” Ibrahim meant to say that falsehood is falsehood, no matter how ancient its history or how modern, and no matter how many are devoted to it, whether few or large number of people (Razi).

[77] Indeed, they are enemies to me, except the Lord of the worlds.80

Commentary

80. Ibrahim meant to send across the message that if they believed their deities were capable of benefiting or harming them, then, here he was, declaring his enmity to them. Let them cause him some harm (Shabbir).

This phrase tells us that the list of deities that the pagans of Ibrahim’s times clung to, also included the Supreme deity, Allah. Ibrahim’s words that he was enemy to all they were devoted to except for one Allah is indicative of this (Au.).

[78] Who created me, and therefore, it is He who guides me.

[79] He who feeds me and gives me drink.81

Commentary

81. Through his supplicatory words, “He it is who feeds me and gives me drink,” Ibrahim demonstrated that just as we depend on Allah for religious guidance, we also depend, totally and entirely, on Him for our worldly needs, small or big, and, therefore, belittling the worldly blessings, or to show dispensability of them, as do some of the ignorant Sufis, is to act against the spirit of Islam. (Thanwi)

[80] And when I fall sick, it is He who cures me.82

Commentary

82. Majid writes, “(and not any healing-god). Many polytheist peoples, like Greeks, have believed in the existence of a separate God of healing. For the religion of Asclepious see UHW. II. p. 1370.”

Note that Ibrahim (asws) attributes his illness to himself: “And when I fall sick,” while he attributes the cure to Allah: “it is He who cures me.” This is, comment, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi and others, out of reverence for Allah. Hence, Musa’s companion said (18: 63), “And I was not made to forget but by Shaytan” (and not, “Allah caused me to forget it”: Au.).

It is in the same vein that we do not attribute to Allah His anger when we say in Surah al-Fatiha, “and not of those that were angered upon” (and not “those You were angry with”). Or, the words of the Jinn (72: 10), “And, we do not know whether evil is meant for those on the earth, or their Lord has intended good for them,” where evil is not directly attributed to Allah (Ibn Kathir).

Also, adds Zamakhshari, illness ought to be attributed to human beings alone because it is they who resort to extremes (in food and drink) and in consequence, suffer disorders. Medical men say that most sicknesses are caused by overeating.

Today, obesity is the major cause of illness in the world (Au.).

Alusi adds: Ibrahim took care not to attribute illness to Allah, out of reverence. That logic does not apply to death which he directly attributed to Allah. That is because it is commonly understood that none deals death except Allah and that there is no escape from it. Sickness in fact can sometimes be more difficult to bear. How many terminally ill persons are not there who prefer death to life? Further, death cannot be treated as a kind of punishment because everyone has to face it. On the other hand, illness is not the lot of everyone and hence, to attribute it to Allah would be a kind of impudence.

[81] He who will deal me death, and then bring me back to life.

[82] He, on whom I fasten hope, that He will forgive me my faults on the Day of Reckoning.’83

Commentary

83. He was referring to the three incidents of his life viz., his words, 1) “I am unwell,” 2) “Their chief did it” and, 3) “This is my sister” (Ibn Jarir from Mujahid, `Ikrimah and others). Zajjaj has said, adds Qurtubi, that Prophets and Messengers being humans, there remains the possibility of them committing errors or minor sins, but never a major sin. The “khati’ah” in his case was, explains Thanwi, the choice of the best of the two when confronted with two options.

See al-Anbiya’, note 77 for a detailed discussion.

But why did Ibrahim seek the forgiveness relating it to the day of Judgment? The answer is, say Zamakhshari and Razi, the natural consequences of errors in this world will appear in the Hereafter. In this world they are hidden.

Further, Razi adds, it might be noticed that Ibrahim starts his supplications (that follow from here) after praises for his Lord. This is because the souls and the spirits of the humans are of the same origins as those of the angels. Therefore, the more a man’s engagements in activities pertaining to the cognizance of Allah and His love, the closer he is to the world of Spirits; and more cognizant of the angelic spirit. He will also attain greater spiritual powers in this world. On the other hand, the closer a man to the activities pertaining to this world, and the more he dips into the darknesses of the material world, the closer he gets to animal spirit. Consequently, he will cause lesser impact on this world. Therefore, whoever wishes to supplicate, he must predicate his supplications with the praises of Allah, and His glory, in order to get closer to Allah, and closer to the angelic powers (Reworded).

[83] ‘O my Lord! Grant me wisdom84 and join me with the righteous.85

Commentary

84. The textual hukm has been variously interpreted as knowledge (Ibn `Abbas), intellect (`Ikrimah), Scripture (Mujahid), and Prophethood (Suddi) – Ibn Kathir.

85. What Ibrahim meant was, “guide me to such deeds as create good relationship with the righteous” (Kashshaf).

Thanwi however believes that Ibrahim, already a righteous person, was rather seeking close company of the righteous in this world. Another implication is: make me one of those whose example is followed by posterity, such as would cause increase in my reward.

Our own Prophet’s words at the time of death were, “O Allah, to the companions on high” – which, according to reports in the Sahihayn, he said three times.” (Ibn Kathir)

Alusi comments: It is said that through these words (“join me with the righteous“) Ibrahim sought the power of action, such as would him help in organizing the affairs of life in the company of those who avoid major and minor sins. This supplication was preceded by the one earlier (viz., “Grant me wisdom”), because power of knowledge precedes power of action. It is possible that one has knowledge but fails to act by its light, but the reverse is not possible. (That is, it is not possible that one does the right thing without possessing its knowledge). Knowledge is a quality of the soul while action belongs to the body. And, just as the soul is superior to the body, so is knowledge to action. However, I am personally inclined to believe, adds Alusi, that by the first (hukm) it is both the power of knowledge as well as action that is meant, while by the second (ilhaq bi al-saliheen), the supplication is for the same status with Allah, as of the exemplary righteous, amounting to, in final analysis, asking for both knowledge and action that are acceptable to Allah.

[84] Grant me a true reputation among posterity.86

Commentary

86. The translation here follows the understanding of Ibn Jarir who quotes `Ikrimah and Ibn Zayd of the same opinion. Accordingly, the Jews believed in Musa but not in `Isa or Muhammad. The Christians believed in `Isa and Musa, but not in Muhammad. But all of them, including the pagans believed in Ibrahim as the great Patriarch. Thus Ibrahim’s supplication was accepted. Allah however, severed the relationship of the Jews and Christians with Ibrahim because they refused to believe in Muhammad, but rather established his relationship with the followers of Muhammad by saying (3: 68), “Surely, the nearest of the people to Ibrahim are those who followed him (in the past in his unadulterated faith) ‑ and this Prophet (Muhammad), and those who believe (in this new Prophet). And Allah is the Protector of the believers.”

Qurtubi and Alusi note (Imam) Malik’s opinion that there is nothing wrong in a man feeling happy if praised for his good deeds, so long as his intentions remain unadulterated, purely for Allah. After all, Allah has said (19: 96), “Surely those who believed and did good deeds, soon the Rahman will place for them love (in the hearts of the creations).” Ibn al-`Arabiyy said that the knowledgeable of the ascetics have said that there is no harm in coaxing the people to good deeds for reasons that people will refer to them in good terms.

[85] And place me among the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss.87

Commentary

87. This supplication rejects the attitude of some (ascetics) who say, “I ask neither for Paradise nor Hellfire” (Qurtubi).

That is, they believe that the Gnostics should seek nothing but Allah, and no other reward such as Paradise, nor should they be driven by any fear, such as that of Hellfire. This is incorrect as we have here a great Messenger Ibrahim supplicating for Paradise (Au.).

[86] And forgive my father, he has been of those astray.88

Commentary

88. That is, forgive him his sin of initial rejection, and guide him to belief, as the rule that unbelievers will not enter Paradise, cannot be ignored in favor of anyone (based on Thanwi).

Bukhari has recorded that Ibrahim will meet his father with a dusty darkened face and say: “Did I not tell you not to disobey me?” He will reply, “Today I shall not disobey you.” So Ibrahim will supplicate, “My Lord! You have promised me that You will not disgrace me on the day they are resurrected?” Allah will say, “I have forbidden Paradise unto the unbelievers.” Then He will say, “Ibrahim, look down at your feet.” He will look down and find a hyena-like dirty creature. It will be seized by its feet and flung into the Fire” (Ibn Kathir).

Yusuf Ali comments at an earlier point:

“Having shown clearly the distinction between the False and the True, Abraham now shows in the form of a Prayer what his inmost wishes are. (1) He wants his own soul enlightened with divine wisdom, and (2) his heart and life filled with righteousness; (3) he will not be content with working for himself or his own generation: his view extends to all future generations; (4) and of course he wishes to attain the goal of the righteous, the Garden of the Bliss of the Divine Countenance; but he is not content with this; for (5) he wants his father and relatives to share in his spiritual joy, so that he can proudly see all whom he can reach, in an honourable station (contrasted with disgrace) on the Day of Judgment.”

[87] And disgrace me not on the Day they are raised up.89

Commentary

89. What is being of sound heart (qalbin saleem)? Generally speaking, it is a heart which is not sick as said Allah (2: 10), “In their hearts is a sickness” – that is, of hypocrisy and disbelief (Qurtubi and others).

Muhammad b. Sirin said: A sound heart is that which knows that Allah is the Truth, that the Hour is approaching and that Allah will raise up those in the graves. Muslim reports the Prophet as having said, “Some people will enter Paradise whose hearts would be like the hearts of the birds.”

He meant – although Allah knows best – that the hearts will be as clear of sins as the hearts of the birds, without any defect and such as those who have no experience in the affairs of the world. Another trustworthy report of the Prophet says that, “Most of the inhabitants of Paradise will be al-bulh.” And bulh has been explained by Azhari as someone who is on the nature (on which he was created) completely unaware of evil (Qurtubi).

Qatadah said that it is a heart free of shirk, while Mujahid said that the allusion is to a heart that is free of any doubt. Ibn Zayd added that sins have no role (in determining the state of the heart), since there isn’t anyone who does not sin (Tabari, Ibn Kathir). In short, write Zamakhshari and Razi, it is a heart that freed itself (salima) of shirk, achieved peace (aslama), is at peace with others (saalama), and has submitted to Allah (istaslama).

[88] The day when neither wealth nor children shall profit.

[89] Except for one who comes with a sound heart.’90

Commentary

90. Since Paradise is already created, and cannot be moved from its place, it has been conjectured that perhaps the allusion is to the dwellers of Paradise being taken near to it, as the pilgrims say, e.g., “Makkah has neared,” (although it is they who have neared), or, alternatively, it could mean that the veils covering it would be removed and Paradise will appear close, just as stars appear close, although they are at great distances from us (Alusi).