Verses from Al-Hijr (51-77)

[51] And inform them about the guests of Ibrahim.
[52] When they entered upon him and said, ‘Peace.’ He said, ‘Behold. We are afraid of you.’49


49. He said that because when he offered them roasted calf, they refused to eat (Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir). See Hud, verses 69-73 for details.

[53] They said, ‘Be not afraid. We give you the good news of a learned boy.’50


50. Alusi, (following most commentators’ statements elsewhere) has said that it was Is-haq who was meant. However, unless there was a great age difference between Ismáil the first born, and Is-haq, one is inclined to prefer Mujahid’s  lone opinion expressed in Qurtubi (Dhariyat, verse 28), to the effect that the allusion is to Isma`il. In that case we cannot allow ourselves to assume that the woman referred to in Dhariyat and other places was Sarah. It could have been Hajar. In any case, Arberry’s rendering, in his otherwise fairly accurate translation, of the word “alim” of this verse as “cunning,” is one of the strangest occurrence in Qur’anic translation.

[54] He said, ‘Do you give me the good news even though old age has seized me? Of what then do you give me the
good news?!’51


51. He was amazed to be promised a son when both he and his wife were in advanced years (Ibn Jarir).
It is in human nature that when a man hears something entirely unexpected but delightful, the first reaction is
expression of a joyful disbelief. When that happens the carrier repeats the news and leaves no doubt about what was heard in the first occasion, thus lengthening the joy that accompanies it (Shabbir, slightly modified).

[55] They said, ‘We give you the good news in truth.52Be not of those who despair.’53


52. To paraphrase the words using Asad’s rendering, “We have given you the glad news of something that is bound to come true.”
53. Since Ibrahim’s first surprised reaction apparently sounded as if he had lost hope, the angels added this caution (Thanwi), which was a little out of place. In Ibrahim’s own words: “Who despairs of His Lord’s mercy except such as go astray” (Au.).

[56] He said, ‘Who despairs of His Lord’s mercy except such as go astray.’
[57] (Feeling assured), He inquired, ‘So what is your errand O ye, envoys?’
[58] They replied, ‘We have been sent to a people guilty.
[59] Except for Lut’s folk. We shall save them all.
[60] But not his woman. We have decreed54 that she will be among those who lag behind.’


54. When the angels said, “We,” they were speaking on behalf of Allah (Razi). Asad further explains, “… qaddarna –
which, in the sense of ‘We have ordained’ or ‘decreed’, is an act attributed in the Qur’an invariably, and exclusively to God. … God’s ‘ordaining’ a sinner to commit a sin or His ‘decreeing’ that he should remain deaf to the voice of truth is metonym for the natural law instituted by Him (that the rejecters are not shown the truth: Au.).”

[61] At length when the envoys came to Lut’s folk,
[62] He said, ‘Behold! You are a folk unknown (here).’55


55. The original “munkarun” carries the connotation of a slight distaste, as if Lut (asws) wasn’t too happy with their visit. Qurtubi has something close to say.
Another possible rendition is: “You are a strange people.” And Lut (asws) only said that when he did everything possible to save them from the city-men raiding his house, but he observed that the guests themselves sat out coolly, quite unconcerned and pretty well-composed. So, as if Lut told them, “You are a strange people. I am working so hard to avoid the crisis, but you sit there pretty coo!?” They replied, “Don’t worry, we are angels and have been sent to destroy the towns” (Shabbir).

[63] They said, ‘Rather, we have brought you what they have been doubting.
[64] We have brought you the truth. And, indeed, we speak truly.56


56. Perhaps Lut (asws) was finding it hard to reconcile himself to the fact that his people will be destroyed, root and branch (Au.). For greater details of the story, summarized here, see Surah Hud, verses 77-83.

[65] Therefore, set forth with your home-folk during a portion of the night, yourself following them in the rear.57
And let none of you turn around;58 keep going to where you are commanded.’


57. That is, keep yourself at the rear as they set off, preventing anyone from falling out for any reason.
58. That is, let none of you turn back when you hear the Cry seize them (Ibn Kathir). Why were they commanded
not to look back? Mawdudi explains, “This does not mean that as soon as they looked behind, they would be turned into pillars of salt, as the Bible says (Genesis, 19: 26). What was being asked was simply that they should not be prompted by the noise behind them to pause and see what was going on.”

[66] And We decreed to him the affair that the roots of these people will be severed by the morning.
[67] And the city-men came rejoicing.59


59. Majid remarks, “(They were pleased by) the news of the arrival of young and handsome strangers.”

[68] He exclaimed, ‘These are my guests. So put me not to shame.
[69] Fear Allah, and disgrace me not.’60


60. This happened earlier, before he knew that they were angels, but sequence is not important here (Ibn Kathir).
Nevertheless, it is also possible that when Lut (asws) came to know that they were angels and sent to destroy his
people, he went out to the men to plead for sensibility, for one and the last time. Who knows, they could avoid the
punishment? (Au.)

[70] They said, ‘Have we not forbidden you about all and sundry?’61


61. They reminded him that they had instructed him never to accept guests (who were their own right for their own purposes: Au.) nor offer them protection (Qatadah and others: Ibn Jarir).

[71] He said, ‘Here, these are my daughters, if you will be doing.’62


62. He meant their own women, calling them his daughters because a Prophet is the father of his nation

[72] By your life (O Prophet),63 verily, in their drunkenness they were stumbling blindly.


63. Qadi Abu Bakr b. `Arabiyy has said that the unanimous opinion of the commentators is that Allah swore by the life of our Prophet as a mark of honor, for, his own people, the Quraysh, were drunk in power, also stumbling blindly. However, Ibn al-`Arabiyy has added that there is no reason why Allah (swt) would not have sworn by the life of Lut. That, of course will not reduce our own Prophet’s status! (Qurtubi).

Qurtubi also points out that according to Imam Ahmed b. Hanbal and Malik, for us humans to swear by the life of the Prophet is a sin demanding expiation, to which Ibn Khuwayzmandad has added that unless the meaning were to be, “by the Lord of Muhammad” in which case it would be allowable.

Majid comments on Allah (swt) swearing by the Prophet’s life, “It is the absolute purity of the holy Prophet’s life that is cited here as witness.”

[73] And a cry seized them by the sunrise.
[74] And we turned its uppermost bottommost and rained on them stones of baked clay.
[75] Surely, in that are signs for those who mark.64


64. Asad comments: “In its full significance, the term mutawassimun denotes ‘one who applies his mind to the study of the outward appearance of a thing with a view to understanding its real nature and its inner characteristics’  (Zamakhshari and Razi).

This, in fact, is also the meaning given by the Salaf who said it means, “mutafarrisin” meaning as given by Asad
above. The Prophet (saws) has said in a hadith of Tirmidhi and al- Hakim, “There are some slaves of Allah who can read the people.” Another hadith says, “Beware of the believer’s sight of eye. He sees by the light of Allah”
(Tirmidhi). Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Never it happened that someone asked me a question and I didn’t know if the man is learned or not.” And, it is reported that once Imam Shafe`i and Muhammad b. al-Hasan (Abu Hanifa’s pupil) were inthe Ka`bah yard when a man entered into the Haram gate. One of them said, “I think he is a carpenter.” Another said, “Rather, I believe he is a blacksmith.” Someone who had heard their remarks went up and asked the man what he did for his living. He said, “I used to be a carpenter, but now I work as a blacksmith.” It is reported of ‘Umar that when the Madh-hij tribe entered upon him with Ashtar as one of them, he looked hard at him and remarked, “I see in this man tribulations for the Muslims.” (Ashtar later played his role in the martyrdom of Hasan). It is also reported that once Malik b. Anas passed by the market place where he stared at a beautiful woman. When he entered upon ‘Uthman (b. ‘Affan) he remarked, “One of you enters upon me while he has marks of adultery in his eyes.” Malik asked, “What! revelation after the Prophet?” He replied, “Rather not, but signs and penetrating eyes.” Many such things have been reported of the Salaf (Qurtubi).

[76] And it 65 is right on the high-road.66


65. That is, the city of Sodom (Ibn Jarir).

66. It is in everybody’s knowledge that at present the city lies under the Dead Sea (Ibn Kathir).

Asad writes: “The existence of that road, which led from northern Hijaz to Syria, skirting the Dead Sea – to the
northeast of which Sodom and Gomorrah were situated – has received startling confirmation through aerial
photographs recently published by the American School of Oriental Research (New Haven, Connecticut). These photographs clearly show the ancient road as a dark streak winding northwards, more or less parallel with the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.”

Yusuf Ali adds: “The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were utterly destroyed, and even their precise position cannot be identified. But the brimstone plain of the tract still exists, right on the highway, between Arabia and Syria. To the traveler in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea the whole locality presents a scene of dismal desolation which truly suggests the awful punishment for unspeakable crimes.”

[77] Surely, in that is a sign for those who believe.


comment number. Enter commentary for the verse here….

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