Translation & Commentary: Verses from Surah 25: Al-Furqan

[4] But said those who disbelieved, ‘This is nothing but a slander that he has forged, and other people have helped him in it.’11 Surely, they have brought forth an injustice and an untruth.

Commentary

11. Mujahid said that when the Makkan pagans alleged that the Prophet had been assisted by some others in his forgery, their allusion was to the Jews (Ibn Jarir). But there were a few Makkans too who they alleged that they taught Muhammad (Qurtubi, Alusi and others).

What prevented them, Razi and Qurtubi wonder, from seeking the help of “those others” and produce a similar Qur’an?

And, what prevented them, wonders Mawdudi, from raiding the house of Muhammad, seize the relevant texts and place them before the public eye!?

But when such replies are given, their modern counterparts, the Western Orientalists, scholars and scientists pretend not to be listening (Au.).

[5] And they said, ‘Tales of the ancients12 that he has got written down which are dictated upon him morning and evening.’

Commentary

12. According to a report attributed to Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Jurayj, it was Nadr b. al-Harith, one of the Quraysh, a widely traveled man who used to say that the Qur’anic revelations were “tales of the ancients.” He would take the Prophet’s place after he had left an assembly, and narrate tales of Rustam, Isfandyar, Persians kings, and others, and ask, “Aren’t my tales better than the tales of the ancients that this man (Muhammad) narrates?” The Qur’an referred to him no less than eight times, and every time the words employed were, “tales of the ancients” – Ibn Jarir.

Adds Ibn Kathir: This was a foolish and patently wrong statement from the pagans. It was commonly known that Muhammad did not learn how to read and write: neither in his childhood nor any time later in his life. He grew up right before their eyes from the day of his birth until he proclaimed Messengership at forty. They knew very well everything about him: his honesty, trustworthiness, righteousness, and that he was far away from lies, evil deeds and every unbecoming activity. But when Allah bestowed on him the great honor, they took to enmity and began to accuse him of things every reasonable person knew he was innocent of. Sometimes they said he was a magician, at other times that he was a poet, while on other occasions that he was mad, until Allah said, “See how they strike similitudes for you! Thus they went astray and will not be able (to find) a way.”

[6] Say, ‘It has been sent down by Him who knows (every) secret of the heavens and the earth. He indeed is ever Forgiving, ever Merciful.’13

Commentary

13. That is, Allah, who knows the secrets of the heavens and the earth, also knows the plotting and scheming of the opponents of the Prophet’s call. He could have immediately punished them for their sins, but He is All-forgiving, All-merciful (Ibn Kathir, Zamakhshari, Razi and others).

Another possibility is that they are being coaxed into seeking forgiveness from One who is All-Merciful (Alusi).

Yusuf Ali writes: “The answer (to their objections) is that the Qur’an teaches spiritual knowledge of what is ordinarily hidden from men’s sight, and such knowledge can only come from Allah, to Whom alone is known the secret of the whole Creation. In spite of man’s sin and shortcomings, He forgives, and He sends His most precious gift, i.e., the revelation of His Will.”

[7] They (also) said, ‘What is with this Messenger that he eats food and walks about in the markets?14 Why an angel has not been sent down to him to be with him as a warner?

Commentary

14. While promising more details later, Qurtubi points out that going about in the markets – for a purpose – is not an impious habit. Thanwi’s penetrating mind brings out the idea that the undesirability reported in the Ahaadith is for purposeless sauntering in the markets (today’s window-shopping: Au.). In fact, he adds, if someone doesn’t go into the markets out of pride, then his ‘not going about’ in them is undesirable, while going about would be commendable.

What he means is that some people never go the markets out of pride, leaving it for the plebian. Also see note 26 below (Au.).

Sayyid Qutb looks at other aspects: “Allah’s honoring of Man manifests itself in this .. but those who do not appreciate the worth of this creature (Man), nor the true meaning of Allah’s honor that Allah wished for him, refuse that humans should have contacts with Allah through revelation. They refuse that one of the humans should be a Messenger from Allah. They see that angels were more suitable. They ask, ‘Why an angel has not been sent down to him to be with him as a warner?’…

“Allah’s wisdom manifests itself in the fact that one of the humans should appear as a Messenger unto the humans. It can only be one of the humans – who feels like they do, who experiences their emotions, who undergoes their experiences, who shares their hopes and fears, who knows their tendencies and delights, who knows their needs and burdens, and, in addition, is favorably disposed towards understanding their weaknesses and shortcomings, who has hopes in their strengths and their efforts to advance, who walks with them step by step, who understands their motives, sensitivities and responses: for, in the end he is one of them, who explores with them the way to Allah … through the revelations of Allah and seeks Divine help to face the hardships of the way – it can only be such a human who could be raised as a Messenger.

“On the other hand, they find in him a model possible of imitation. For, he is a man like them, who seeks to raise them little by little. He lives among them bearing values, deeds and burdens about which he informs them that Allah has made obligatory on them and is desirous of them. Thus, he is in his own person a living explanation of the message that he brings to them. His life, his movements and his deeds are meant to be placed in front of them so that they could transfer them (unto themselves) line by line, and put into action, in the truest possible sense. They can aim to imitate him. For, he is a living example. Had he been an angel, they would not have thought of imitating his deeds nor to follow him, for, from the start they would have realized that his nature is different from their own. In that event, it would have been obvious that his behavior should be different from theirs, which would create no desire for imitation, nor any wish to conduct themselves in the light shown by him…

“One of naïve objections raised by the unbelievers was that the Messenger went about in the markets, seeking his livelihood… But Allah did not wish that he should possess a treasure or an orchard. He wished that he should be a complete example for them, who bore the responsibilities of messengership, while, at the same time struggled to earn his livelihood, as anyone of his followers did. So, that, no one of his followers who tired himself in earning his sustenance should say, ‘So far as the worldly needs are concerned, the Prophet had been taken care of. He never struggled to earn and hence was able to free himself for his beliefs, his message and his responsibilities thereof. He never faced any of the hardships (as I do).’ But, in actual fact, here was the Prophet, striving, in order to earn while he also struggled for his cause. So, the least that one of his followers can do today is to bear his own meager share of the Prophet’s burden. And he has his example before him. Yes, the Prophet did receive wealth later, toward the end of his life. That was in order that he should be an example of the other extreme also, and so that his example should remain complete.  He did not allow the wealth that arrived to prevent him from any of his duties. But rather, he became like a wind unleashed in his generosity and came out the better when tested with wealth. So that, no one could say after him, ‘The Messenger lived in poverty, wealth never distracted him in any way.’ For, there he was, wealth coming to him in abundance, but he carried on as usual with his call, behaving those days as if he was poverty stricken.”

[8] Or, a treasure poured down on him,15 or he should have had an orchard he could eat therefrom.’16 The transgressors also said, ‘You follow not but a man bewitched.’

Commentary

15. That’s what Fir`awn had said about Musa (43: 53), “Then why not has he been given golden bangles or came with him angels (in) close company?” (Ibn Kathir).

16. Qurtubi, Alusi and Shawkani repeat the story narrated by Ibn Is-haq involving `Utbah b. Rabi`ah, Abu Sufyan, Nadr b. al-Harith, Abu al-Bakhtari and several others seeking a compromise solution with the Prophet, during which they made demands of the nature mentioned in this verse. See surah al-Isra’ note 144.

One can notice how the pagans came down in their demands. First they said “What’s with this Messenger that he eats food and walks about in the markets?” That is, why is he not an angel without the need to eat and drink? Then they scaled down their demand to say that if he could not have been an angel, then, at least there should have been an angel in his company. They said (verse 7), “Why an angel has not been sent down to him to be with him as a warner?” Then they dropped the demand that an angel should accompany him. Yet, some sort of special treatment was, according to them, in order. Therefore they suggested, “A treasure (should have been) poured down on him.” Finally, they scaled down to demanding that he could be a human like them in every sense except that at least economically he should be well off. So they demanded that “he should have had an orchard he could eat therefrom” (Zamakhshari).

[9] Behold how they strike similitudes for you! Thus they went astray and will not be able (to find) a way.17

Commentary

17. This because the true path is one single path. Whoever lost it, will never find another, no matter in what direction he heads thereafter (Ibn Kathir).

Mawdudi sums up: “These objections to the claim of Prophethood are not described here in order to refute them. Rather, they are mentioned simply to show the extent of the opponents’ blindness which arose from their spite and prejudice. Indeed, the charges so made against the Prophet were not even worth refuting. Rather, it was sufficient to mention them in order to demonstrate that they had no logical argument to support their contentions, and that they were opposing a sound and reasonable message with nothing more than vile and stupid statements. When they were told that polytheism, on which their faith and culture rested, was erroneous and devoid of every bias, they made no effort to marshal any rational arguments in support of their beliefs. Instead, they sought to decry the Prophet (peace be on him) by saying that he was a man bewitched. When the Messenger of God (peace be on him) demonstrated that monotheism was the operating principle of the whole universe and when he pointed to the manifest proofs which supported his truth, they merely rebuffed his claim by saying that he was no more than a magician.”

(To be continued)