Verses from Surah Ibrahim (37-45)

[37] Our Lord! I have settled some of my offspring by Your sacred Houses67 in a valley68 devoid of vegetation,69 O our Lord, that they may perform the Prayer.70 So make the hearts of some people incline towards them,71 and provide them with fruits,72 haply they will give thanks.73

Commentary

67. This confirms that the Sacred House was already there in existence, in some form or the other (Qurtubi).

Another possibility is that the supplication was made after the construction, although, the place was marked for such a House, the day Allah (swt) created the heavens and the earth (Au.).

68. Maj id quotes various Western scholars, “‘The city lies in a hollow among the hills‘ (Ebr. XV. p. 150). ‘Mecca lies in a valley imprisoned by stony hills, the last word of desolation’ (Lady Cobbold, Pilgrimage to Mecca, p. 139). It would be difficult to meet with a more forbidding site, even amongst the mixed rock-masses of Tihama, the lowest-lying and with desolate part of this stern province of Hijaz  In the badly-ventilated corridor, scorched all through in endless summer by the pitiless sun of Arabia, without the shelter of a single palm-tree, the population in order to slake their thirst were reduced to the uncertain flow of ZamZam,’ (Lammen, Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, p. l6).”

The honest Westem scholars might note with some disappointment that the “uncertain flow of Zamzam” has never failed, right up to this day, when thousands of gallons of water is drawn from it every day with the help of several power-operated pumps (Au.).

69. This supplication was made at the time when Ibrahim had left Hajar with Isma‘il in her lap at the destined spot, later to become Makkah. When he turned to go back, Hajar followed him to some distance asking him if he was leaving them there, and if so, was it by Allah’s command. He said ‘yes’ without turning. Then, as they became out of sight, he turned and prayed in these words (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and others). However, the full content suggests that this is a collection of supplications that Ibrahim made on various occasions at various times (Au.). Ibn Kathir and Thanwi have also stated something to this effect.

For details of Ibrahim‘s joumey from Syria to the deserted valley in Makkah, see Surah Al-Baqarali, note 253 of this work.

The place is still as barren as it was four thousand years ago (Au.). No tree bears any fruit there. All the fruits found in the town are brought from outside (Ibn Kathir).

Majid again comments and quotes: “‘The old geographers observe that the whole Haram area or sanctuary around the city is almost without cultivation or date-palms (Ebr. XV. p. 150). ‘For many miles around Mecca, the general features are rugged rocks without a trace of foliage. Even at the present day, Mecca can hardly boast a garden or cultivated field, and only here and there is a tree’ (Muir, op. cit. p.2). The city of Makkah, about forty-eight miles east of the Red Sea, lies in the world zone of maximum heat and dryness, and the whole tract, which is rainless, experiencing great extremes of heat in summer. ‘The thermometer in Makkah can register almost unbearable heat’ (Hitti, op. cit. p. l04).”

70. Imam Razi writes on the implication of this passage: This shows that once a man is free of worldly worries, he should busy himself with prayers and other rituals of worship.

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab is reported to have said in a Friday sermon, “Allah first granted custody of the House to the Tasm. But they violated its sanctuary. So Allah destroyed them and gave it to the Jurham tribe. But, in time, they too violated its sanctuary. So Allah destroyed them also and has given you the custody now, O Quraysh! So take care not to disobey its Lord, declare its lawful as unlawful, or belittle its rights. By Allah, one Prayer offered therein is dearer to me than a hundred elsewhere. And, you might know that sins therein are similarly treated” (Ibn Jarir).

Qurtubi adds: Most scholars have considered prayers offered in the Sacred House as the most reward bearing, followed by those done in the mosque at Madinah. One of the traditions in this regard says, “Prayers in my mosque are a thousand times more reward-bearing than in any other mosque except for the Sacred House at Makkah where the Prayers are a hundred times more reward bearing than Prayers in this mosque of mine.” Hence, many scholars say that Muslims may offer their ‘Eid Prayers anywhere in a town, but in Makkah, it must be offered in the Grand Mosque alone.

71. Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah and Mujahid have said that as a result of the addition of article “min” before “al-nas”, (rendering the meaning as ‘some of the people‘), it is only the Muslims who are inclined towards them. If all the people had been intended, peoples of the world would have crowded into the Holy Sanctuary (Ibn Jarir).

72. Zamakhshari wrote: The supplication was accepted and, in consequence, we notice the amazing phenomenon that the shops are laden with fruits of all varieties, none of which are grown in Makkah, not at any particular time, but throughout the year.

That was in the sixth century. And so has been throughout the centuries. No one has ever visited Makkah, but has noticed this phenomenon (Au.).

73. Apart from fruits, Allah (swt) provided them with water too: which is both water as well as diet. The Prophet (saws) said in a hadith in Dara Qutni, “Zamzam water is good for whatever it is drunk for. If you seek to be cured, Allah will cure you, if you consider it as food, Allah will fill your stomach. If you drank against thirst, Allah will remove your thirst. It is by Jibril’s strike and Allah’s water to Isrna’il.” Hence Ibn ‘Abbas used to say before drinking it, “O Allah! Grant me useful knowledge, wide sustenance and cure from every ailment,” And Ibn al-Arabiyy has said, “This will last until the day of Judgment for him who has the right intention, not denying (its qualities) inwardly, nor drinking it by way of experiment; for, Allah is with those who trust Him, and He dispels the experimenters” (Qurtubi).

[38] Our Lord! You know what we conceal and what we reveal,74 for nothing whatsoever is hidden from Allah, in the earth or in the heaven.75

Commentary

74. The allusion was perhaps to Ibrahim’s love and concern of Hajar and the child (Shawkani from lbn Abi Hatim).

75. That is, Allah knows what desires we conceal in our hearts, and so, in fact, there is no need for supplications. But, we do it to demonstrate our humbleness (Zamakhshari),

[39] Praise be to Allah who bestowed upon me in my old age, lsma‘ il and ls-haq.76 Surely, my Lord is the Hearer of supplication.77

Commentary

76. Ibrahim (asws) was a centurion by the time he finally became a father.

77. Allah (swt), of course, is the Hearer. But the meaning here is, He responds to the supplications and meets with our needs (Zamakhshari).

[40] O my Lord! Make me a performer of Prayer, and of my offspring (too),78 O our Lord, and accept my supplication.

Commentary

78. Asad Writes: “The particle ‘min ‘(‘[some] of’) preceding the Word dhurriyati (‘my offspring’) is obviously an allusion to 2: 124, where God says in answer to Abraham’s question about his  descendants: ‘My covenant does not embrace the evildoers’  (and, by implication, extends) even to the unrighteous among the descendants of the Last Prophet, Muhammad.”

[41] O our Lord! Forgive me,79 my parents, and the believers the day the reckoning is established.80

Commentary

79. Majid offers a very useful note here, especially for those who get confused over our own Prophet’s ‘ghufran’ as stated, e.g., in verse 2 of Surah al Fat-h: “Ghufr is only ‘to cover with Divine grace,’ and does not necessarily pre-suppose sinfulness on the part of one who asks for his ‘maghfirah.’” Hence, ‘mighfar’ for helmet, which covers the head (Au.).

80. Apparently, this supplication of forgiveness, which includes Ibrahim’s parents, was made earlier to his finally disowning them.

[42] And think not that Allah is unaware of what the transgressors do. He is only deferring them to a day when the eyes will be fixed in stare.

[43] Racing ahead,81 with heads erect, their gaze not returning towards them,82 and their hearts void.

Commentary

81. We have adopted one of the several connotations expressed by the earliest scholars. A second connotation contained in “muhti‘” is that of someone staring hard ahead, not diverting the sight for a moment. A third is to bend one’s head down. Classical poets, as quoted by Ibn Jarir and others, have used the term in all these senses.

However, the sense in this context seems to be that of a people rushing onward with their heads raised, looking upward towards the heaven in fearful apprehension (Shawkani).

Nevertheless, true believers would be exempted from all fear. The Qur’an said about them (21: 103), “They will not be grieved by the great fear. Rather, angels will meet with them saying, ‘This is your day which you had been promised.’”

82. The “shukhus” (rendered as fixed stare), allegorically expresses a stare filled with fear and horror. But it does not express continuance, or permanence, The purport of the latter part of the verse is to impress that the fear and horror will not end. People will keep staring ahead in horror, their gaze not returning back (Razi).

In fact, the term “turf” is for the eyelid, meaning, eye-lids will not move, implying,  of course, that the eyes would be staring hard ahead (Alusi).

[44] So warn the people of a day when the punishment comes on them. Then will the transgressors plead, ‘Our Lord! Grant us respite for a short term, we shall answer your call and follow the Messengers.‘ (They will be answered), ‘Were you not swearing a foretime that you will not have to move?83

Commentary

83. That is, you were pretty sure that you will not move from the material world to the Next (Mujahid: Ibn Jarir, Razi, Ibn Kathir and others)… “a reference to many people’s refusal, often mentioned in the Qur‘an, to believe in life after death and, hence, in God’s ultimate judgment” (Asad).

Although most ancient commentators have expressed the meaning as we have adopted above, another possible meaning (Alusi and others) is, “You deemed that you will not face material decline.”

Qurtubi and Alusi quote Ka‘b al-Qurazi that the dwellers of Hell-fire will ask Allah five things. He will answer them on four occasions. When He would have answered them on the fifth occasion, they will ask no more. They

will say (40: 11), “O our Lord! You gave us death twice and brought us to life twice. Now, we admit our sins. So, is there a way out?” He will answer (40: 12), “That, because when you were invited to Allah alone, you

disbelieved. But if He was associated with, you believed. So the judgment is for the Most High, the Great.” Then they will ask (33: 12), “O our Lord! We have seen and heard. So send us back so that we can attempt righteous deeds, we are now believers.”  He will answer (32: 14), “Taste then because you forgot this day of meeting. We have also forgotten you. Taste the everlasting punishment for what you were doing.” Then they will ask (14: 44), “O our Lord! Defer us to a near term. We shall respond to Your call and follow the Messengers.” They will be told (14: 44), “Were you not the ones who swore aforetime that you will not have to move?” Then they will ask (35: 37), “O our Lord! Remove us from here, so that we can do righteous deeds.” Allah (swt) will answer them (35: 37), “Did We not lengthen your life, that he might remember who wished to remember; and a Warner came to you, so, taste (the punishment), there is no helper for the wrongdoers.” They will say in reply (23: 106), “O our Lord! Our wretchedness got the better of us. We were a misguided people.” Allah will reply (23: 108), “Remain despised therein, and do not speak to Me (any further)” Thereafter, they will never address Him again, but only howl and bark at each other. The lid will be laid over them and sealed.

[45] And you dwelt in the dwelling-places of those who wronged themselves and it was obvious to you how We dealt with them,84 and struck for you similitudes.’

Commentary

84. “That is, ‘you lived on the same earth, and in basically the same human environment, as those earlier generations who offended against all ethical values and, thereby, brought destruction upon themselves: hence, their tragic fate should have been a warning to you’” (Asad).