Verses from Surah 25: Al-Furqan (The Criterion) [47 – 54]

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE KIND, THE COMPASSIONATE

 [47] He it is who made for you the night a covering, the sleep a (means of) rest,52 and made the day a (time) to spread around.53

Commentary

52.Sabt” has several meanings such as, e.g., stretching. When a woman lets her tresses down, they say, “sabatat al-mar’atu.” Another meaning is to severe, hence sleep, which severs a man from activities. This is the connotation in the Jewish “sabbat” since they cease from all worldly activities. Khalil (the grammarian) said that “sabt” is used for heavy sleep (Qurtubi).

53. The word “nushoor (from nashara)” of the text could also mean, a time for people to spread around (looking for sustenance) – Ibn Kathir.

[48] And He it is who sends the winds bearing glad tidings before His mercy.54 And We send down from the sky pure water.55

[49] So that We might revive thereby a dead land, and water thereby great many of those We created of livestock and men.

Commentary

54. That is, the rains.

55.Tahoor” has a second connotation of “Taahir”, meaning, a purifying agent. Ahmed b. Yahya has said that Tahoor is something that is pure by itself and capable of purifying other things (Zamakhshari). And, according to Imam Abu Hanifah, it is the disappearance of one of the three cardinal qualities of water that renders it impure eliminating its purifying quality: change in its (i) taste, (ii) color and (iii) smell (Qurtubi).

[50] And We have distributed it amongst them so that they might remember.56 But most people are averse except to unbelief.57

Commentary

56. The pronoun of “sarrafnaahoo” (We distribute it) alludes to the rain. Ibn Mas`ud and Ibn `Abbas have said that rainfall of any particular year are no different (in quantity) from those of another year. But Allah distributes them the way He wishes. Mujahid, Ibn Zayd and others expressed similar opinions (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

One wonders what was the source of Ibn `Abbas’ opinion about a fact discovered more than a thousand years after him (Au.).

But another possibility is that the pronoun in sarrafnaahoo is for this Message. That is, the Qur’an has been well-rehearsed in a variety of ways so that people might be reminded and admonished, although most people prefer to disbelieve (Zamakhshari, Qurtubi).

57. What Allah meant when He said, “But most people are averse except to unbelief,” is, ‘(Although it is Allah who distributes the rains) people say, “it happened because of such and such star-effects’” (Mujahid: Ibn Jarir).

Hence the hadith of Muslim which says that one morning, after the previous night had rained, the Prophet asked his Companions: “Do you know what your Lord said?” They replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “Some of my slaves did their morning in faith, while others in disbelief. He who said, ‘It rained on us by the grace of Allah and His mercy,’ believed in Me and denied the stars. While he who said, ‘It rained on us because of such and such a star,’ he then, is the disbeliever in Me and believer in the stars’” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). Hakim declared the report Sahih (Alusi).

Zamakhshari and Imam Razi add: Whoever attributed the falling of rains to stars or planets or to cosmic elements, in the absolute sense, committed Kufr. However, it is not Kufr to attribute to an external agent the immediate physical cause appointed by Allah.

[51] Had We willed We could have raised into every town a warner.58

Commentary

58. That is, ‘just like We send down rain to every patch of the earth, We could also send a Warner to every town’ (Qurtubi).

[52] So, obey not the unbelievers and strive against them therewith59 – a great striving.60

Commentary

59. That is, Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Zayd said, strive with the help of this Qur’an (Ibn Jarir).

60. The Prophet is being directed to put up a “great striving” because Allah did not send a Messenger to every town of his time. He was supposed to, therefore, contribute efforts, equivalent of the combined efforts of several Prophets to achieve the desired results in every town. (Zamakhshari, Razi, slightly reworded)

[53] It is He who has let forth the two bodies of water: this one palatable and sweet, while the other salty61 and bitter. And He placed between the two a barrier, and a partition unbreachable.62

Commentary

61. Although the textual word is “milh” meaning salt, most have understood it as “maalih” or “maleeh.” The latter, in fact, happens to be a variant reading (Qurtubi). Alusi shows, however, that linguistically it is perfectly alright to say “maa’un milh” as it is also perfectly alright to say “maa’un maalih” (both meaning, salty water).

62. Mujahid’s opinion was that the letting forth of the two waters meant letting one of them flow into the other (Qurtubi), as it happens when river water joins with the sea (Au.).

According to the ancient scholars, the allusion is to the two bodies of water: of the rivers and of the seas. Allah has placed a barrier between them so that one does not spoil the other and both retain their qualities. The barrier between them is the land that prevents the seas from joining with the rivers. Mujahid however added that he was told by someone who had some naval experience that when Dijlah water (Euphrates) falls into the sea it doesn’t mix up with the seawater but rather, a line separating the two remains visible. After reporting the above, Ibn Jarir expresses his own opinion that the land could not be considered as the barrier mentioned. But rather, the allusion is to the invisible barrier that is placed between them that prevents one from mixing with the other when the two waters meet (in the sea). This is because, Ibn Jarir adds, when the two waters are let forth, then, there is no barrier of dry land between them. Further, the aayah is speaking of the Power of Allah, (which is more apparent when the barrier is invisible between two adjacent bodies of waters).

Yusuf Ali considers both the meanings as possible whom Majid quotes, “Maraja: literally, let free or let loose cattle for grazing. Bahrain: two seas, or two bodies of flowing water; for bahr is applied both to the salty sea and to rivers. In the world taken as a whole, there are two bodies of water, viz.,: (1) the great salt Oceans, and (2) the bodies of sweet water fed by rain, whether they are rivers, lakes or underground springs: their source in rain makes them one, and their drainage, whether above-ground or underground, eventually to the Ocean, also makes them one. They are free to mingle, and in a sense they do mingle, for there is a regular water-cycle .. and the rivers flow constantly to the sea, and tidal rivers get sea-water for several miles up their estuaries at high tide. Yet in spite of all this, the laws of gravitation are like a barrier or partition set by Allah, by which the two bodies of water as a whole are always kept apart and distinct. In the case of rivers carrying large quantities of water to the sea, like the Mississippi or the Yangtse-Kiang, the river-water with its silt remains distinct from sea-water for a long distance out at sea. But the wonderful Sign is that the two bodies of water, though they pass through each other, remain distinct bodies, with their distinct functions.”

He adds, “Incidentally, this verse points to a fact which has only recently been discovered by science. This fact relates to the oceans of the world: they meet and yet each remains separate for Allah has placed ‘a barrier, a partition’ between them.” [However, this does not adequately explain the present verse which speaks of two bodies of water, one sweet, the other bitter. It could be used to explain another passage of the Qur’an (55: 19-22) which we shall attempt when we arrive at it by Allah’s will (Au.)].

Mawdudi comments: “This happens whenever a large river flows into the sea. There are springs of sweet water at several locations in different seas where the sweet water remains separate from the salty water of the sea. Sayyidi `Ali Ra’is, a Turkish Admiral of the sixteenth century, mentions in his work, Mir’aat al-Mamalik, one such place in the Persian Gulf. He writes that he found springs of sweet water under the salty waters of the sea and drew drinking water from them for his fellow sailors. In more recent times, when the Arabian American Oil company began drilling oil wells in Saudi Arabia, they used the water of the same springs of the Persian Gulf as drinking water until the wells in the vicinity of Dhahran were dug. Also, near Bahrain, there are springs of sweet water under the sea from which people have drawn upon for ages.

“This verse identifies the wondrous manifestation of God’s omnipotence as evidence of His Unicity. But there is an additional, albeit more subtle, meaning implicit in the verse too. No matter how bitter and salty the ocean of human society may become, God can always produce a righteous group of people in the same manner that He can produce a spring of sweet water in the depths of a salty ocean.”

Shabbir remarks, “It is reported that from Arakaan to Chaatgaam (in Bangladesh) one can see two separate and distinct bodies of water: one clear (that of the river) while the other dark (that of the sea). This is visible for miles and miles. One of them remains sweet, while the other bitter. The interesting thing is that while the black body of water shows tempestuous characteristics, the clear water remains calm. “Here at (Gujarat) where I am staying,” adds he, “it is people’s daily experience to watch sea water rush into the land riding over the river water, for quite some distance, at the time of heavy tides. However, even when the river mouth is filled with bitter sea water, at bottom the water remains sweet. The two do not mix.”

Asad adds: “Some Muslim mystics see in this stress on the two kinds of water an allegory of the gulf – and, at the same time, interaction – between man’s spiritual perception, on the one hand, and his worldly needs and passions, on the other.”

[54] And it is He who created man out of water63 and then made him kindred of blood and marriage.64 And your Lord was ever Able.

Commentary

63. “That is, (out of the) seminal fluid” (Majid). But the other meaning, viz., of creation out of water is also possible (Au.).

64. There are seven kindred through direct lineage and five through marriage both of which are mentioned in the Qur’anic verse 23 of Surah al-Nisa’ which says: “Forbidden unto you are your mothers, daughters, sisters, paternal aunts, maternal aunts, brother’s daughters, sister’s daughters, foster mothers who gave you suck, foster sisters by the suck, your mothers in law, step daughters who are in your care – of those women with whom you have consummated the marriage, however, if you have not consummated the marriage, then there is no harm, wives of those of your sons who are of your loins, and that you should bring together (in wedlock) two sisters, save for what is of the past. Surely Allah is All-forgiving, All-merciful.” Thus, the seven kindred of lineage are: (1) mothers, (2) daughters, (3) sisters, (4) paternal aunts, (5) maternal aunts, (6) brother’s daughter, and (6) sister’s daughter.” As for the five kindred through marriage, they are: (1) foster mothers, (2) foster sisters, (3) mothers-in-law, (4) step daughters, and (5) daughters-in-law. (Ibn Jarir)

That said, there is no consensus of opinion over what constitutes kindred of marriage (sahr). When asked, `Umar ibn al-Khattab said that parents in law and wives were the sahr; the report being in `Abd b. Humayd (Shawkani). `Ali (ra) for instance said that “nasab” kindred is that which disallows marriage, whereas “sahr” allows it. According to another opinion coming down from him as well as from Dahhak, “sahr” is that relationship that accrues from suckling (Alusi). In short, sahr is the relationship that develops with marriage, from the woman’s side (Au).

(To be continued)