Verses from Surah Al-Anbiya’ [71-77]
 We delivered him, and Lut,82 unto the land in which We have placed blessing for all beings.83
82. Lut (asws) was his nephew. The two, along with Ibrahim’s wife Sarah left Iraq for Syria.
83. There are a few varying minor opinions about the identity of the region, but most scholars such as `Ubayy b. Ka`b, Qatadah, Hasan and others have said that the allusion is to Syria (which, in its widest connotation includes present day Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon, a region which has been, as Yusuf Ali put it, “a bone of contention between all the great kingdoms and empires (Au.).
Qatadah has a rather intriguing remark about the area: “Syria is known as the pillar (`amud) of emigration. The earth is not reduced from any part of the world but is added to Syria, and no part is reduced from Syria but is added to Palestine. Syria is also the place where people will be gathered, the place where Resurrection will take place, where `Isa ibn Maryam will descend, and where Dajjal will be destroyed. The Prophet has said, “I saw in a dream that the mainstay (`amud) of the Book was being withdrawn from underneath my pillow. I followed it with my eyes, and lo, it was a bright Light; until I thought it might be taken away. It was planted in Syria. I interpret it as meaning that faith (iman) will be in Syria at the time tribulations descend.”
The report is in Ahmad and others, treated Sahih by Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut (Au.).
Accordingly, when ‘Umar wrote to Ka`b, “O Ka`b, why should you not come and live in Madinah? It is the place to which the Prophet migrated, and where his grave lies?” Ka`b replied, “O leader of the faithful! I read in the Book that Syria is Allah’s treasure on earth and His slaves are treasured here” (Ibn Jarir).
According to another report, in Tirmidhi, the Prophet said, “Blessedness is for the people of Syria.” We asked, “Why is that, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Because the angels of the Most Merciful have spread their wings over it” (Alusi).
The tradition is in Musnad Ahmad and other collections, declared trustworthy (Au.).
 And We bestowed on him Is-haq and, in addition,84 Ya`qub. 85 And We made all of them righteous.86
84. Scholars such as Mujahid, `Ata’ and others have understood the term “nafilah” as “bestowal” (Ibn Jarir). And since Isma`il is not mentioned here, there are stray opinions that perhaps it was Is-haq who was sacrificed by Ibrahim.
But Yusuf Ali has a good explanation why Isma`il’s mention was left out. He writes: “Nafilat has many meanings: (1) booty; (2) extra work or prayer; (3) extra or additional gift; (4) grandson. The two last significations are implied here. Not only was Abraham given a son in his old age .. but several sons, the chief being Isma`il and Isaac, who both joined in burying him (Gen. xxv. 9); and he also saw grandsons. Isma`il is specially mentioned later (xxi. 85) apart from Isaac’s line, on account of his special importance for Islam.”
In any case, that Isma`il was first-born can be substantiated from the Qur’an itself. It said in (37: 102-112),
“Then, when he was of age of exertion with him, he said, ‘O my little son! I see indeed, in my sleep that I am slaughtering you. So consider, what is your view!’ He said, ‘O my father! Do as you are ordered. You shall find me, Allah willing, of the steadfast.’ So, when the two had submitted, and he had laid him down on his forehead, We called out to him, ‘O Ibrahim ,you have fulfilled the (purpose of the) vision. Thus indeed We reward those who do well. Surely, this indeed was a clear test.’ And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice; and left for him (a good word) among the later folk. Peace upon Ibrahim. Thus indeed We reward those who do things well. He was surely (one) of Our believing slaves. And We gave him the glad tiding of Is-haq: a Prophet, one of the righteous.”
Thus, Is-haq was not yet born until time of the sacrifice. Further, the Qur’an never mentioned the two together, but mentioned first Isma`il and then Is-haq. For example, 2: 136, 3: 84, 4: 163 and 14: 39 (Au.).
85. It is said that Ibrahim asked for a single righteous descendant when he prayed in words (37: 100), “O my Lord! Grant me of the righteous” but he was granted two: One, his son, Is-haq, and second, his grandson, Ya`qub (Ibn Jarir).
86. This reminder was necessary in view of the extremely grave charges of immorality brought against these Prophets by the Israeli holy literature (Au.).
 And We made them leaders 87 guiding by Our command. And We inspired to them doing of good deeds, proper performance of Prayer and giving of charity. And they were devoted to Us.88
87. Majid comments: “i.e., exemplars; objects of imitation to the people. So these prophets of God were, the Qur’an expressly and repeatedly affirms, models of religion and piety, and pre-eminently virtuous and holy, not mere diviners or interpreters of the Law to their people.”
88. Compare the contrasting conditions of the two, the Prophets and their people. The former were “devoted to Our worship” while the latter “given to abominations” (Au.).
 And Lut: We gave him Judgment and knowledge, and We delivered him from the township that had been practicing abomination.89 Truly, they were an evil people given to wickedness.
89. Sodomy was, of course, the great abomination. What were others? We have a hadith in Alusi listing others. It comes down through Hasan as the first narrator. But the credentials of the narrative could not be traced and therefore, we have dropped them (Au.).
 And We admitted him into Our mercy. Surely, he was of the righteous.90
90. “This clear, powerful vindication of Lot’s saintly character was all the more needed to contradict and repudiate the most atrocious charge – of incest – brought against him in the Bible. (Gen. 19: 30-38) The rabbis, not to be outdone by the Bible, maintained that ‘he was given over to lust; therefore he chose Sodom as his residence’ (JE. VIII, p. 186).”
Mawdudi demonstrates the discrepancies between the Qur’anic account and those in the Biblical sources: “According to the Qur’an, Abraham’s idolatrous father played a leading role in the perpetration of wrongs and excesses against Abraham. The Bible, however, refers to Abraham’s father as among those who migrated to Haran along with his sons, grandsons and daughters-in-law (Genesis 11: 27-32)..
“The Talmud, however, contains most of the details mentioned in the Qur’an regarding Abraham’s conduct during his Mesopotamia days. When one compares the Qur’anic and Talmudic versions, however, one notes a distinct difference in their thrust. The Talmudic account of Abraham is conspicuously incoherent and full of incredible incidents. In sharp contrast, the Qur’an presents the important details of Abraham’s life, creating the image of a person whose life is far from all those absurdities that might disfigure his personality. For illustrative purpose only, the gist of Talmudic version of Abraham’s life is given below. This will also serve to show how wrong it is to believe that the Qur’an is derived from either Christian or Judaic sources. The Talmudic version is as follows:
‘The wise men saw a large star in the sky on the night Abraham was born and they advised Nimrod to kill the child born in the house of Therach. The king decided to kill the child but Therach hid his child and had the child of one of his servant’s son killed instead. Therach thereupon hid his wife and child in a cave where they lived for ten years. In the 11th year Abraham was taken by Therach to Noah where he lived under the guidance of Noah and his Shem for thirty-nine years. During these years Abraham married his niece, Sarah, who was 42 years his younger.
‘Abraham left Noah after the age of 50 and returned to his father. There he found that his father was an idolater and had twelve idols in the house representing the twelve months of the year. He tried to preach to his father against idolatry but when the latter did not listen to him, Abraham then broke all the idols in the house. Seeing this Therach went straight to Nimrod and advised him that this was the son who the wise men had advised Nimrod to kill on the day of his birth. Therach said that the babies had been switched at Haran’s instigation. (Haran being Abraham’s brother.) Nimrod accordingly let Therach go but threw Haran into the fire along with Abraham. Haran was consumed by it, but Abraham walked through the flames unscathed. When Nimrod witnessed this with his own eyes, he cried out, “Servant of the God of Heaven, come forth from the fire and stand before me. Thereupon Abraham walked out of the fire and furnace and stood before the king who bowed before Abraham making him a gift of many valuable objects.
‘Thereafter, Abraham stayed in Iraq for another two years. Meanwhile, Nimrod had a dreadful dream which the astrologers said came through Abraham and that he should, therefore, put Abraham to death. Although Nimrod sent people to kill Abraham, but Abraham came to know of the plot before-hand through Eleazer, a slave presented to him by Nimrod himself. Abraham accordingly fled and took refuge with Noah where Therach also met him secretly on a number of occasions. At last both father and son decided to leave the country and Noah and his son Shem also approved of their plan. Accordingly, Therach, along with his son Abraham and his grandson Lot and his granddaughter and Abraham’s wife Sarah left and went to Haran (The Talmudic Selections, pp. 30-42).”
 And Nuh – when he cried (to Us) aforetime. So We responded to him and delivered him and his family 91 from the great distress.
 And We helped him against the people who cried lies to Our signs; truly, they were an evil people. So We drowned them all together.
91. (Although the term “ahl” is for one’s family), here the allusion is to those who believed and followed Nuh (Razi, Qurtubi).
(To be continued)