Verses from Surah Ibrahim1 (1-5)

[1] Alif. Lam. Ra. A Book We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) that you may bring forth mankind from darknesses to Light, by the leave of their Lord 2 – to the path of the Mighty, the Praiseworthy.


1. There is no difference in opinion that this chapter is Makkan, except that a variant opinion is that a few verses are Madinan (Qurtubi, Alusi). Verses thought to be Madinan are 28-30. Imam Razi adds that so long as there is no abrogation, it doesn’t matter if the chapter is Makkan or Madinan.

2. Ibn Jarir explains the words “By the leave of their Lord,” as, by the help of Divine Inducement or grant of fulfillment (tawfiq). This verse proves that the knowledge of Allah (ma‘rifatu-Allah) can only be gained through the Prophetic teachings.

Yusuf Ali writes: “It is insisted on that every Prophet speaks not from himself but from Allah. His leading into the light is but by the grace and mercy of Allah, not by any power of his own, or by any merit of those who hear him.”

[2] (The path) of Allah to whom belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth.3 And woe unto the unbelievers for a severe chastisement.


3. Imam Razi points out that Allah (swt) cannot be said to be in a particular direction. For, if He was, let us say above the heavens, then, since anything above oneself is “sama’” in Arabic, His person would be included when Allah said that ‘His is the dominion of the heavens and the earth’. That would mean He owns Himself. Therefore, He cannot be said to be in the direction above the heavens.

It has been answered however that, firstly, what does not exist in any of the six directions, does not exist, and, secondly, “above” is used in the sense of ‘apart from’ or over and above everything. When it is said, “The man could not have done that these words, he is above that,” then, in this sentence “above” is used in the sense of a distinguished existence, separate from others (Au.).

[3] (Such as) Those who prefer the life of this world over the next, 4 hinder from the path of Allah, desiring to make it crooked. They are in a distant error.5


4. This part of the verse proves that one who preferred the life of this world over the next is a misguided person (Razi).

5. The error has been called a “distant error” because, not to believe is itself an error. And, to prevent others from the path of guidance by trying to make it look crooked is a greater error (Razi).

Shabbir comments: “This world is, all in all, for the unbelievers. They prefer the present one over the next, spending their days and nights in obtaining it. (Since anyone not following their ways threatens to harm their world: au.), they want others to also fall in love with the material world and abandon the path that leads to Allah’s Approval. They keep striving to prove defects in Allah’s religion and show the straight path as crooked. It is only when they are struck by Allah’s harsh chastisement that they will open their eyes.”

[4] And We sent not a Messenger but in the tongue of his people so that he could expound unto them.6 Thus does Allah lead astray whomsoever He will and guides whomsoever He will.7 And He is the All-powerful, All-wise.


6. The Prophet (saws) has said, “Every Messenger was sent to his people in the language of his people. But Allah sent me to every white and black of His creation.” He also said, “By Him in whose hand is my soul, not a Jew or Christian of this ummah heard of me, yet did not believe in me, but will be in the Fire” (Qurtubi).

This verse carries two messages. One, the Messenger raised among a people was of them, spoke their language and brought the Divine Message in their language. Second, Messengers previous to the Final Messenger were for a particular people, of a geographical region. It is another thing that, anyone belonging to any other people who heard of him was bound to accept his Message since truth is to be accepted regardless of its origin (Au.).

Shabbir writes: “Since a Prophet addresses those people first among whom he is raised, Allah (swt) sent them Messages in the language of their people. Now, our Prophet’s ummah is the whole of mankind as well as the jinn. (Either as Ummah al-da`wah [those to be invited], or Ummah al-ijabah [those that responded]). However, since Arabic was the language of the people among whom he was raised and who were to be the first to be addressed, he was given a revelation in Arabic. That made it easy for the first generation Muslims to understand and obtain the Message in complete accuracy and fullest scope and to be able to pass it on to the next generation Muslims.

Accordingly, after the Prophet, they spread in every direction to spread the Message. Then, with the acceptance of the Message, such a powerful urge was created in the non-Arab, next generation Muslims, that they learnt the language of the Qur’an and acquired mastery over it. In fact, they gained such mastery of the language and of several Qur’anic disciplines, that they overtook the Arabs.”

Soon, the (non-Arabs) became the masters. Thus, though at the time of revelation, Arabic was a local vernacular spoken by a small number of people, it became an international language within a short time. It only began to decline with decline in interests in religious disciplines. It continues to shrink in its influence: there being interest neither on the part of the Arabs to return to their religious roots, nor on the part of the non-Arabs. The present situation is that there is a sizable number of educated Arabs who cannot fully comprehend the Qur’an when recited before them, not to speak of the non-Arab intellectuals who cannot understand a syllable of the language, and who, consequently, parrot-like repeat Western ideas. This situation will only change with the revival of religious learning (Au.).

Yusuf Ali adds: “If the object of a Message is to make things clear, it must be delivered in the language current among the people to whom the Messenger is sent. Through them it can reach all mankind. There is even a wider meaning for ‘language.’ It is not merely a question of alphabets, letters, or words. Each age or people – or world, in a psychological sense – casts its thoughts in a certain mould or form. Allah’s Message – being universal – can be expressed in all moulds and forms, and is equally valid and necessary for all grades of humanity, and must, therefore, be explained to each according to his or her capacity or receptivity. In this respect, the Qur’an is marvelous. It is for the simplest as well as the most advanced.”

7. Probably dismayed by the widespread fatalism in the Islamic world, Asad, with the backing of Zamakhshari writes the following: “All Qur’anic references to God’s ‘letting man go astray’ must be understood against the background of 2: 26-27 – ‘none does He cause to go astray save the iniquitous, who break their bond with God’; that is to say, man’s ‘going astray’ is a consequence of his own attitudes and inclinations and not a result of an arbitrary ‘predestination’ in the popular sense of this word. In his commentary on the above verse, Zamakhshari stresses this aspect of free choice on the part of man and points out that ‘God does not cause anyone to go astray except one who, as He knows, will never attain to faith; and He does not guide anyone aright except one who, as He knows, will attain to faith. Hence, the [expression] ‘causing to go astray’ denotes [God’s] leaving [one] alone (takhliyah) and depriving [him] of all favour, whereas [the expression] ‘guidance’ denotes [His] grant of fulfillment [tawfiq] and favour…. Thus, He does not forsake anyone except those who deserve to be forsaken, and does not bestow His favour upon anyone except those who deserve to be favored.’

Commenting on the identical phrase occurring in 16: 93, Zamakhshari states: ‘[God] forsakes him who, as He knows, will [consciously] choose to deny the truth and will persevere in this [denial]; and … He bestows His favour upon him who, as He knows, will choose faith: which means that He makes the issue dependent on [man’s] free choice [al-ikhtiyar], and thus on his deserving either [God’s] favour or the withdrawal of [His] aid … and does not make it dependent on compulsion [i.e., predestination], which would rule out [man’s] deserving anything of above.”

[5] Surely, We sent Musa with Our signs, that ‘You bring forth your people from darknesses to Light. And remind them of the days of Allah.’8 Verily, in that is a sign for everyone firm in patience, constantly grateful.9


8. (The textual term “ayyam” is used for a period of glorious events, or for memorable years of a nation, such as, for e.g., “ayyam al-`Arab” which will refer to the glorious days of early Islam: au.) – hence Majid’s rendering: annals of Allah. Mujhaid, Sa`id b. Jubayr and Qatadah have understood “ayyamu’Allah” as blessings of Allah (or days of Allah’s great blessings or trials: Razi). In fact, Ubayy has reported a hadith to this effect. (The hadith referred to by Ibn Jarir is in Musnad Ahmed: Ibn Kathir). However, Ibn Zayd has understood it to mean the days when Allah (swt) punished the sinning nations of the past (Ibn Jarir).

Alternatively, “ayyamu’Allah” could be referring to the Hereafter, in particular the Day of Judgement. This is the opinion of a few commentators.

9. Since “ayyamu’Allah” can either be days of blessings, during which a believer should be grateful, or those of trials and tribulations, when he is required to be patiently persevering, Allah (swt) mentioned these two qualities of the believer here and said, “a sign for everyone firm in patience, constantly grateful.” Further, since it is the faithful who see Allah’s hand behind all events, they are the ones to whom the days carry signs, the unbelievers being totally incognizant of them (Razi).

A hadith in Muslim says, “A believer’s affairs are amazing. Allah does not destine for him anything but it proves good for him: if he is struck by a misfortune, he stays patient and so it proves good for him. And if a good things comes his way, he gives thanks, and that turns out good for him” (Ibn Kathir).

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