Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah 27, Al-Naml [82]

[82] And when the Word is fulfilled against them,103 We shall bring forth for them a beast out of the earth, that will speak to them that the people would not believe in Our signs.104

Commentary

103. We can look into a possible general meaning before going into the specific. Asad writes: “I.e., when the truth becomes obvious to them against all their expectations, and thus confounds them utterly: an allusion to the approach of the Last Hour, Resurrection and God’s Judgment, all of which they were wont to regard as ‘fables of the ancient times.’”

And now for the specific: In the opinion of Ibn `Umar and `Atiyyah, this will happen when the Muslims give up enjoining the good and prohibiting the wrong (Ibn Jarir).

According to other reports `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud said that it will happen with the death of scholars, the loss of knowledge, and withdrawal of the Qur’an. He also said, “Recite the Qur’an often before it is withdrawn.” He was asked, “These written copies could be withdrawn, but what about what is in the hearts?” He replied, “A night will pass over them and by morning they will find themselves without it.

They will forget the testimony ‘la ilaha ..’ and will resort to poetry and sayings of the jahiliyy period. That will be the time when the Word will come true against them.” According to another opinion however, the allusion by the Word coming true against them is to “chastisement.”

A third opinion is that it will happen when the situation will be the same as it was when it was said about the nation of Nuh (11: 36), “Indeed, none of your people will ever come to believe, except for him who has already believed.”

That is, just as chastisement became necessary at that point, it will also become necessary at the time of the emergence of the Beast. Hence the Prophet’s words as in Muslim, “Three there are, after whose appearance, no one’s belief will be of no benefit to a man, if he had not believed earlier, or had earned good in its belief: sunrise from the West, Dajjal, and the Beast of the earth” (Qurtubi).

Ibn `Umar is also reported to have thought that the beast in question will appear in Makkah (Ibn Jarir). But the reports are unconfirmed (Au.).

104. It was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Hasan and Qatadah that the said Animal will speak to the people (in the manner of men’s speech) – Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir.

In fact, `Ali believed that it will converse with people. `Ata’ al-Khurasani opined that it will say (the Qur’anic words), “that the people would not believe in Our signs.” Ibn Jarir has adopted this opinion, but, personally I feel, writes Ibn Kathir, it needs a second consideration.

A second opinion of Ibn `Abbas has been that “tukalli-muhum” is actually “takli-muhum” meaning “tujri-huhum”, i.e., it will injure them (perhaps meaning brand them: Au.).

A third opinion from him is that it will do both, speak to them [the believers] as well as injure them [the unbelievers] – Qurtubi. This opinion is in `Abd b. Humayd, Ibn Marduwayh and Ibn Abi Hatim (Shawkani).

Hasan also expressed this opinion. Obviously, there is no contradiction between the two (Ibn Kathir).

Dabbah

Hadith and other religious literature have several mentiona of this Animal. A hadith in Ahmad, Muslim and other books reports Usayd al-Ghifari, “The Prophet (saws) arrived upon us when we were discussing the Hour. He said, ‘It will not come forth until you have seen ten signs: Sunrise from the West, Smoke, the Animal, appearance of Ya’juj and Ma’juj, `Isa ibn Maryam’s appearance, Dajjal, and three cavings-in (of the earth): in the West, in the East and in the Arabian Peninsula, and, finally, a Fire that will start from the depths of `Adan (Eden) that will drive the people (to the Field of Resurrection – Syria: Au.), halting with them where they halt (for the night), and taking a siesta with them where they take siesta.’”

Another report in Muslim is on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Amr who said, “I have remembered three words from the Prophet (saws) that I will never forget. I heard the Messenger of Allah say, ‘The first of the signs in appearance is sunrise from the West and the appearance of the Animal for the people by the noon. So, whichever of the two happens earlier than its companion, the other will be on its heels.’”

Muslim has yet another hadith. Abu Hurayrah reports the Prophet (saws),“Hasten up with deeds before six: Sunrise from its West, Smoke, Dajjal, the Beast, the happening of one of you, and the common affair” (Ibn Kathir).

In the above report the words “the happening of one of you” have been interpreted by scholars such as Nawawi and Munawi to mean “death;” (i.e., death of one of you, or, maybe, death of one of your favorites); while the words “common affair” have been interpreted by Munawi as meaning the Day of Judgment (Au.).

There is another report in Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Abu Da’ud Tayalisi which says the Animal will carry Musa’s staff and Sulayman’s ring, who will stamp the people as believers and unbelievers, so that people will address one another as, “O so and so an Unbeliever,” and “O so and so a Believer.” But the narrative is weak. Its shorter version has also been declared weak by Tirmidhi as well as Suyuti with Munawi’s agreement.

Then there is one in Hakim’s Mustadrak, Abu Tufayl reported, “We were seated with Hudhayfa (b. al-Yaman) when the Animal was mentioned. He said, ‘It will have three appearances in some of the valleys and disappear. Then it will appear in some of the villages that will scare (the people) and the rulers will shed blood. Then it will disappear. Then, as the people will be near the largest mosque, the superior most and the most honored’ – until we said, “(Perhaps) the Masjid al-Haram” but he did not name it – “when (Hudhayfa continued) the earth will rise and the people will flee; only the common Muslims will remain saying, ‘Nothing will rescue us from Allah’s command.’ It will reappear and brighten their faces to the extent of making them bright as stars. It will follow the people who will be neighbors in the apartments, sharing the wealth and companions in Islam.” (Dhahabi evaluated it as on the same footing as those of Bukhari and Muslim) – Au..

Ahmad and Ibn Marduwayh have recorded on the authority of Abu Umamah recounting the Prophet (saws) as having said, “The Animal will emerge and stamp on their noses. Thereafter they will go about amongst you until a man will purchase an animal and when asked, ‘Whom did you buy it from?’ he will answer, ‘From one of the stamped ones” (Shawkani).

The narrators of this report are all those whom the Sahih authors used except for one, `Umar b. `Abdul Rahman, who was in any case trustworthy (S. Ibrahim).

Alusi refutes the opinions that there will be several such Animals, as he also refutes the opinion that it will actually be a human being. This is supported by Muhammad b. Ka`b al-Qurazi’s untrustworthy narrative that when `Ali was asked about it he remarked that it will not have a tail but a beard. (But many animals have beards: Au.). Alusi also refutes the belief among some of the Shi`ah that it was `Ali himself who was the Dabbah. They seem to have several reports to this effect. One of them says that somebody asked `Ammar b. Yasir, “Abu Yaqzan! An ayah of the Book disturbs my heart.” He asked, “What ayah is it?”

The man said, “When the Word is fulfilled against them .. What Dabbah is it?” `Ammar said, “By Allah! I will not sit down, will not eat, nor will I drink until I have shown it to you.

Then `Ammar proceeded with the man to the Amir al Mu’muninin `Ali, may Allah honor his face. He was eating dates with butter. He said, “Come in O Abu Yaqzan!” So `Ammar sat down and began to eat. His companion was surprised. When they came out he asked, “Glory to Allah. Didn’t you tell me that you will not sit down, will not eat nor drink until you have shown it to me?”  `Ammar replied, “I have shown it to you if you have any sense.”

Alusi adds that this story has been reported through Abu Dharr also; but all such reports are false. In fact, one or two reports tell us that `Ali himself had rebuffed the idea. Ibn Abi Hatim has it through Nazzal b. Saburah that `Ali was asked, “Some people say that you are the Dabbatu al-Ard!” `Ali denied it.

The last report could not be checked for authenticity. Further, there has been a tendency among some of the contemporaries to treat the allusion as allegorical. In the words of one of them, “The ‘creature brought forth out of the earth,’ is apparently an allegory of man’s ‘earthly’ outlook on life – in other words, the soul-destroying materialism characteristic of the time preceding the Last Hour.” Earlier commentators have also encountered this idea and have refuted the tendency, such as Qurtubi (Au.).

Mawdudi writes in defense: “As for the question of an animal talking to human beings in their language: this is one of the manifestations of God’s Power. God can grant the power of speech to whomsoever He wills. Before the Day of Resurrection, He will grant this power to a beast, but after the Resurrection, He will grant this power to the eyes, ears and skins of human beings and they will call out: ‘And the Day when the enemies of Allah will be gathered to the Fire, and will be sorted out until when they reach it, their ears and their eyes and their skins will bear witness against them concerning what they were doing’” (41: 19, 20).

It is also significant to note that this Surah, and this one alone, informs us of the ability of some animals to hear (such as the ant and hoopoe) and the ability of some humans to hear their talk, although both share a world in which many humans are spiritually dead. It also mentions, and nowhere else in the Qur’an, that an animal will not only hear, but even talk to the people (Au.).

(To be continued)