Verses from Surah 26: Al-Shu`ara’ (The Poets) [ 192 – 209 ]

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE KIND, THE COMPASSIONATE

 

[192] This indeed is a Revelation of the Lord of the worlds.

[193] Brought down by the Trustworthy Spirit.138

Commentary

138. Authorities like Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, Ibn Jurayj and Dahhak have explained the textual Ruh al-Ameen as alluding to Jibril (Ibn Jarir). In fact, there is no difference in opinion among the scholars that Ruh al-Ameen is Jibril (Ibn Kathir).

Asad, who has his point to add, however, sums up the classical view: “According to almost all the classical commentators, the expression ar-ruh al-amin (lit., ‘the faithful [or ‘trustworthy’] spirit’) is a designation of Gabriel, the Angel of Revelation, who, by virtue of his purely spiritual, functional nature, is incapable of sinning and cannot, therefore, be other than utterly faithful to the trust reposed in him by God.”

[194] Upon your heart,139 so that you might be of the warners.

[195] In a clear, Arabic tongue.

Commentary

139. What is the difference between sadr, fu’ad and qalb. Imam Razi writes: Sadr is obvious. It is the chest that houses the fu’ad and qalb. Fu’ad is for the whole of the heart: its main part, arteries and all. Qalb in contrast is that part which can be called as the seat of emotions, affections, memory and understanding.

The point is, the Qur’an was first revealed to a trustworthy angel Jibril. He brought it down to reveal and leave an imprint directly on the heart of Prophet Muhammad, so that there was never a chance of corruption during the process of revelation (Au.).

 

[196] Truly, it is in the (revealed) Books of the earlier (peoples).140

Commentary

140. What is in the revealed Books of the ancients? Imam Razi answers that the allusion could be to any of the following: the news, the Qur’an, the Prophet’s mention, as well as, the warning.

How could the Qur’an be in the holy writ of the ancients, seeing that it is in the language of the Arabs, Arabic? It will be surprising to those who have been carried away by the Jewish propaganda that as against the propaganda, Hebrew is actually of a later origin than Arabic, and has its root in Arabic (Au.).

Majid writes, “Which (i.e., Arabic) has also been the language of the holy patriarchs and of the ancient Hebrews. ‘One might, assume, as some scholars have done, that the Israelites’ language in patriarchal times was Aramaic. Hommet maintains that Aramaic was but an Arabic dialect; and that originally the Israelites spoke Arabic.’ (JE.VI. p. 307). ‘The Arabic language is upon the whole nearest the primitive Semitic speech as it is by far the oldest and purest of all living tongues and its speakers in Arabia belong to the oldest and purest of races.’ (DB. V. p. 87)

Asad adds: “That the message of the Qur’an is, nevertheless, universal and has been stressed in many of its verses (e.g., 7: 128 or 25: 1). The other prophets mentioned in the Qur’an who ‘preached in the Arabic tongue’ were Ishmael, Hud, Salih and Shu`ayb, all of them Arabians. In addition, if we bear in mind that Hebrew and Aramaic are but ancient Arabic dialects, all the Hebrew prophets may be included among ‘those who preached in the Arabic tongue.’”

Some commentators, such as Zamakhshari, Alusi, and others have pointed that Imam Abu Hanifah used this verse to adduce that recitation of the translation of the Qur’an in the Prayers, by someone who does not know Arabic should suffice in lieu of its obligatory recitation in Arabic. But there seems to be some confusion over the issue. At all events, it is reported that the Imam faced the question of tens of thousands of men and women (especially in the Persian region) who had become Muslims but neither knew Arabic, nor any part of the Qur’an. What were they to do in their Prayers? So, he allowed it as a temporary measure, but withdrew when Arabic learning caught on (Au.).

[197] And, has it not been a sign to them that the learned among the Children of Israel recognize it?141

[198] And, had We sent it down upon one of the non-Arabs,

Commentary

141. According to Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others, the allusion by “the learned of the Children of Israel” was to scholars such as `Abdullah b. Salam and others (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

Yusuf Ali offers the rejoinder that Mukhayriq was also a Jewish scholar and a man of property who left his wealth for Islam.

Asad adds: “..for instance, ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam, Ka`b ibn Malik and other learned Jews of Medina in the lifetime of the Prophet. Ka`b al-Ahbar the Yemenite and a number of his compatriots during the reign of `Umar, and countless others throughout the world who embraced Islam in the course of centuries.”

A great enemy of Islam and the Prophet, Muir admits that the scholars of the Children of Israel knew that Muhammad could not have been but a Prophet. Majid comments and quotes him: “Some amongst the Jews not only encouraged the Prophet ‘in the idea that he might be’ but ‘even affirmed that he was that Prophet whom the Lord their God should raise up unto them of their brethren.’ (Muir, op. cit. p. 98)”

One might ask: Does the drawing of evidence from the Scriptures of old mean that they are authentic and trustworthy? Thanwi answers that the fact that mention of this Scripture and he who brought it remains in their Scriptures, despite their alterations, only strengthens the argument.

The statement here that the “learned of the Children of Israel know it” is a self-evident and unconditional one. The learned of the Children of Israel were mentioned in particular because it is they alone in those times who knew the holy writs. Their own common folk were as ignorant of their literature as the Arabs were of Judeo-Christian literature. With the dawn of the modern times, the holy literature that was so carefully concealed from the masses for centuries has come to be exposed through mass publication. Today, anyone can gain mastery over them and be referred to as the learned of the Scriptures of the Children of Israel. Any and any such person will testify that the Qur’an adds on to the good things stated in the holy writs, but is without any of the foul, and even filthy, material that adorn them (Au.).

[199] And he recited it upon them, they would not have been believers in it.142

Commentary

142. That is, had this Qur’an, which is at the highest level of eloquence, been revealed to one of the non-Arabs, and so a self-evident miracle in that a non-Arab should be able to recite a highly rhetoric and eloquent Qur’an, even then the Makkans would not have believed in it. Such was the level of their intransigence (Thanwi, Shabbir).

Another possible meaning is that had the Qur’an been revealed in the tongue of one of the non-Arabs, the Makkans would have rejected it outright, no matter what qualities it bore. Another hidden implication is that a non-Arab would have only conveyed the voice, that is, the words and sentences as pronounced. But you, O Prophet, you are able to appreciate it fully, being an eloquent Arab yourself and at the same wave-length, so to say, at the heart-level, as your countrymen. (Razi)

Who is an `ajamiyy anyway? Is it any non-Arab? The answer is, generally speaking yes. But strictly speaking it is for anyone who does not have proficiency in the Arabic language, even if he is an Arab (Ibn Jarir). Qurtubi states that an Arab who does not speak pure Arabic can be referred to as an `ajamiyy, while a non-Arab is always an `ajamiyy, even if he can speak pure Arabic. (In all cases, it is not a derogatory term, although many of the `ajam among the Arabs use it that way: Au.).

Another meaning of a`jamiyy is animal. Hence `Abdullah b. Muti` once pointed to his camel and said, “Had it come down upon this camel of mine, and, had it recited it upon the Quraysh, they would have still not believed in it because of their extreme aversion to Islam” (Ibn Jarir). According to other reports, it was `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud who said that pointing to his camel (Alusi).

[200] That is how We have threaded it into the hearts of the criminals.143

[201] They will not believe in it, until they see have seen a painful chastisement.

[202] But it will come upon them suddenly, while they perceive not.

[203] Then they will say, ‘Shall we be respited?’

[204] What, do they seek to hasten Our chastisement?

[205] Do you see then? If We gave them enjoyment for years!

[206] Then came to them that which they were promised!

Commentary

143.  What does the article “it” stand for? The answer is, it is for denial. In other words Allah means to say, “That is how We have made the denial (disbelief, or polytheism) enter into the hearts of the criminals.” That is how Hasan explained it (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi). That is, when those people made a firm decision about never acknowledging the truth, then, in consequence, Allah drove it down their heart to reside there for good (Au.). In Asad’s words, “As regards God’s ‘causing’ this to happen, see Surah 2, note 7…” And which we reproduce herewith, “a reference to the natural law instituted by God, whereby a person who persistently adheres to false beliefs and refuses to listen to the voice of truth gradually loses the ability to perceive the truth, ‘so that finally, as it were, a seal is set upon his heart.’”

[207] Of what avail144 to them the enjoyment that they were given?145

[208] And never did We destroy a town but it had warners.

[209] A reminder! And never have We been unjust.

Commentary

144. A few have understood the “maa” at the start of the verse as negative. But the majority understood it as interrogative.

145. That is, if Allah extended them with all the luxuries of life, but followed them up with a chastisement, will those luxuries be of any profit? Would they be able to prevent the chastisement from descending, or allowed respite to enjoy the bestowals? A hadith in Musnad Ahmed says,

“The most luxurious man of the world – destined to be in the Fire – will be brought on the Day of Judgment and said, ‘Dip him a single dip in the Fire.’ Then he will be asked, ‘Son of Adam. Have you ever experienced any good? Did any blessing pass by you?’ He will reply, ‘No, my Lord, I have never experienced any good, nor any cool of the eyes.’ And a believer who had left a most miserable life in the world will be brought and said, ‘Dip him into Paradise once.’ So he will be given a single dip into it and asked, ‘Son of Adam. Did you experience any hardship? Did any misery pass by you?’ He will reply, ‘No by my Lord. No misery ever pass by me, nor have I ever experienced any hardship.’” (Ibn Kathir)

A version close to this is in Muslim also (Au.).

It is said that Maymun b. Mahran longed to see Hasan (al-Busri). He chanced upon him during a Tawaf. He requested him for admonition. Hasan recited these verses to him, “Do you see then? If We gave them enjoyment for years, then came to them that which they were promised; of what avail to them the enjoyment that they were given?” Maymun told him, “You couldn’t have advised me in better words (Zamakhshari). It is reported that every morning `Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz would hold his beard and recite these lines.

(To be continued)