Verses from Al-Hijr (78-99)

[78] Certainly, the dwellers in the Thicket were inveterate evildoers.67


67. The word ‘aykah is for an orchard thick with trees, a thicket (Ibn Kathir). According to Qatadah, they were one of  the two nations to whom Shu`ayb (asws) was sent, the other being Madyan. These people are referred to as the dwellers in the Thicket (As-hab al-`aykah) because they owned huge orchards and whose economy largely depended on fruit production. It is said that when Allah (swt) decided on their destruction, He sent upon them a scorching heat lasting for a week. Thereafter He sent a piece of cloud. They gathered under its shade. A fire came down from the cloud and they were all burned. Hence the Qur’anic reference to the punishment elsewhere as (26: 189), “punishment of the day of Shade” (Ibn Jarir). However, another opinion is that ‘Aykah was the name of a town (Shawkani).

[79] So we inflicted Our retribution on them. And they both68 lie on a high-way, open.


68. Although Ibn Jarir writes that the allusion by “the two” is to the cities of Lut and Shu`ayb, it could also be to the two cities of Shu`ayb: the Thicket City and Madyan (Kashshaf and Razi).

[80] The dwellers in Hijr69 also rejected the messengers.


69. The reference is to the nation of Saleh, the Thamud. When the Prophet (saws) passed by their ruins on his way to Tabuk he instructed, “Do not enter into the dwellings of those who wronged themselves except that you should be crying, and if you cannot cry then do not enter into their dwellings at all, lest you are seized by what seized them.” Then the Prophet prodded his mount and hurried past the place until it was left behind. (The hadith is in Bukhari and Muslim: Shawkani). He also said, “These were the nation of Saleh whom Allah destroyed except for one of them who was in the  Haram, saved from Allah’s wrath.” They asked him, “Who was it, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Abu Righal”  (Ibn Jarir). In fact, a report in Bukhari coming through Ibn ‘Umar says that the Prophet advised his Companions to not even use water from their wells, rather, from the well which Saleh’s miraculous camel used to drink from. Some of them had already kneaded dough with water from the wells used by the Thamud. He instructed them to feed them to the cattle. The following few fiqh points therefore, says Qurtubi, have been derived:
i. It is undesirable to enter into the dwellings that have been destroyed by Allah (swt), in chastisement of their rejection of a Prophet.
ii. What is unlawful for humans, is not necessarily unlawful for animals. In this case, the Prophet (saws) allowed that the kneaded dough be fed to camels.
iii. Prayers (Salah) are not allowed in such places.iv. Ablution with water from such places is also disallowed (i.e., when it is from the very wells the destroyed nations used: Au.).

[81] We gave them signs but they always turned away from them.
[82] They hewed mountains for homes (to live) in peace.
[83] So the cry seized them at the morning.
[84] Of no avail to them was what they were earning.
[85] We have created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, save in truth. Verily, the Hour is
coming. So forgive (O Muhammad), with graceful forgiveness.70


70. Dahhak has said that forgiving was to be the way during a certain stage of the Prophetic mission. Several verses of similar nature were sent to the Prophet (saws) in that phase. One of them said (43: 89), “Forgive them, and say, ‘Peace.’ Soon they will know.” And (45: 14), “Say to the believers that they should forgive those who do not hope for Allah’s days.” The behest contained in these verses were all abrogated by the verse in Surah Tawbah which said (9: 5), “So seize them and besiege them, and sit in wait for them at every point of ambush.” Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah said that the verse under discussion, and others of similar nature remained in force until a time when the Prophet said, “I am the Prophet of mercy. I am the Prophet of slaughter (Nabiyyul Malhamah). I have been sent to reap, not to cultivate.” (Ibn Jarir).

Although the above hadith could not be located in those words in any of the known works, Sahih of Ibn Hibban has a hadith (as well as a few in Musnad Ahmed) in which the Prophet (saws) called himself “Nabiyyul Malhamah” (Au.).

Nevertheless, how is “safhun jamil” (“graceful forgiveness”) to be understood? Alusi, and from him Thanwi, quotes Muhammad b. Hanafiyyah the words of ‘Ali that “safhun jamil” is “to forgive without reproach, without any feeling of rancor for the wrongdoer and a return to the relationship that prevailed before the wrong was committed.”

[86] Surely, Your Lord is the Great Creator, All-knowing.
[87] Indeed, We have given you seven of the oft-repeated,71 and the Mighty Qur’an


71. Exegetes such as Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn ‘Umar and Ibn ‘Abbas have said that the allusion by the words “oft-repeated seven” is to the seven long chapters of the Qur’an, (the Tiwal: the long ones): Al-Baqarah, Al-‘Imran, Al-Nisa’, AlMa’idah, Al-An`am, Al-A`raf, and Yunus. These contain most of the important legislative principles of Islam. Sa`id b. Jubayr, Mujahid and Dahhak are also widely reported of the same opinion. However, ‘Umar, ‘Ali, Ubay b. Ka`b, and in a second opinion of Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn ‘Abbas, as well as Hasan, Mujahid, Qatadah and several others, were of the opinion that the allusion is to Sura al-Fateha. In fact, there is a hadith to this effect (Ibn Jarir). See Surah AlFateha, under “Merits of the Surah.”

However, there is no reason why, Ibn Kathir adds, that both the opinions cannot be true, as both are oft-repeated and both have several characteristics in common. A similar example is that of the two mosques, the Prophet’s in Madinah and the other in Quba. When asked, sometimes the Prophet (saws) said the “mosque built on piety” was his mosque, while at other times he said it was the Quba mosque: because both share some qualities.

[88] (Therefore), stretch not your eyes72 toward what We have bestowed on certain classes of them.73 Grieve not over them, and lower your wing unto the believers.74


72. The message hidden is, after the priceless Qur’an you do not need any other bounty (Au.).
Ibn ‘Uyaynah has explained this verse with the famous hadith of the Prophet (saws) which appears in Sahih works including Bukhari:

And the meaning, as understood by Ibn ‘Uyaynah is, “He is not of us who does not feel that the Qur’an is sufficient for him against material possessions” (Ibn Jarir). This is the meaning Qurtubi derives. It is supported by many scholars of the past such as Anas, Sa`id b. Musayyib, Hasan, Ibn Sirin, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Nakha`i and others who disapproved that the Qur’an be recited in a singing tone. However, Imam Shafe`i, a powerful linguist, believed that the meaning of the hadith is, “He is not of us who does not sing out the Qur’an.” The translation is literal. What is meant in fact by “taghanni” is beautifying the recitation of the Qur’an with a good voice (while observing the rules of Tajwid) [‘Ayni, ‘Umdatul Qari, Fada’il al-Qur’an, hadith 42].

73. Most commentators have understood “azwaj” of the text as “asnaf”, i.e., “kinds,” or “classes” (Razi and others). Asad adds: “The phsilological authorities are unanimous in opinion in that the plural azwaj denotes here “kinds” of people, or “some” of them, and not – as certain modern translators of the Qur’an have assumed – “pairs.”

As context of revelation Ibn Abi Hatim reports from Abu Rafe`: “Once the Prophet had a few guests. He did not
have anything suitable to offer them. So he sent him to a Jew asking him to lend some flour which he would return by the first of Rajab. The man said, ‘Only on mortgage.’ I brought back the message to the Prophet. He remarked, ‘By Allah, I am the trustworthy in the heavens and the trustworthy on the earth. Had he lent me, or sold me, I would have surely returned it.’ In response this verse was revealed: ‘Stretch not your eyes toward what we have bestowed on certain classes of them’” (Ibn Kathir).The implication of the verse is, says Qurtubi, that one ought not to be entirely engrossed in this world, or give it precedence over the demands of the Hereafter. After all, the Prophet himself said, “Of your world, women and perfume have been made dear to me, and the cool of my eyes has been placed in Prayers.” It is another thing that today the unlawful has so permeated everything, that it is better, although asceticism is disapproved in Islam, to avoid indulging in the world. It is better to stay as far away from it as possible. The Prophet himself has said, “A time will come when the best course for a believer would be to take a few goats and go away to the mountains, escaping from the trials of the world.”

74. “Khafada Janahayhi” means, to be gentle, to be easy to deal with, compliant, etc. Yusuf Ali writes: “The
metaphor is from a bird which lowers her wing in tender solicitude for her little ones.”

[89] And say, ‘Indeed I am a clear warner.’75


75. That is, if you are gentle and easy to deal with O Prophet, your followers should not assume that they can treat
their affairs with ease and comfort. Warn them that the questioning in the Hereafter will not be an easy affair (Au.).

[90] As We sent down76 on those who divided.77


76. The elliptic beginning has the following words hidden: “We have revealed to you this Qur’an, (just as We sent revelations to those who divided)” – Zamakhshari. Thanwi however believes the meaning is, “Say, indeed I am a clear warner (and I am told to convey from Allah, who says that He will surely send down), ‘as We sent down on those who divided.’”

77. Ibn ‘Abbas is reported to have said that the allusion is to the People of the Book: Jews and Christians, (and the report is in Bukhari: Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). These people divided the Qur’an into parts, believing in some and
rejecting others, saying, (Alusi adds), ‘this portion agrees with our Scriptures, and therefore, is true, but the other portion does not, and, therefore, it is false.’

Ibn Jarir suggests, however, that since there is no hadith to this effect, another possibility is that the reference is to the pagan Quraysh who gave different names to the Qur’an, some calling it poetry, others stories of old and yet others a soothsaying, which was also the opinion of Qatadah and some others.

On the other hand, Mujahid’s opinion was that the textual “muqtasimin” is in the sense of “mutahalifin”, that is those who swore to each other that they will oppose the Prophet. The Qur’an said about them (16: 38), “And they swore by Allah, their strongest oath, that Allah will never raise the dead.” Another example, Ibn Kathir adds, is the Qur’anic verse (27: 49) about Saleh`s people: “They said, ‘Swear one to another by Allah that we shall strike him and his homefolk by the night.’” Zayd b. Aslam was also of this opinion (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

[91] Those, who have split the Qur’an into fragments.78


78. The textual word “‘idin” is the plural of “‘udwun” which means parts. As noted above, Ibn ‘Abbas and some
others have said that the allusion is to the Jews and Christians who divided the Qur’an, believing in a part of it and rejecting the rest. However, Ibn ‘Abbas is also reported by Ibn Is-haq that once Walid b. al-Mughira got the Quraysh together (sixteen of them: Alusi) and suggested that before the on-coming Hajj they must agree on a single version of denial and not let every man speak his own mind. Some suggested they should say to the pilgrims that the Prophet (saws) is mad, others that he is a poet, yet others that he is a magician. A fourth opinion was that they should agree on him as one possessed by the Jinn. They disagreed with most, while most of them agreed that they should refer to the Prophet as a mere poet and the Qur’an as a poetical production. So Allah (swt) revealed, “Those who have split the Qur’an into fragments.”

Yet another opinion is that of ‘Ikrimah and Qatadah who have thought that the root word is “al-‘addah” meaning “magic.” That is, people have termed the Qur’an as a piece of magic (Ibn Jarir).

[92] By Your Lord, We shall surely call them to account, one and all.
[93] Concerning what they were doing.79


79. The meaning and application are general: everybody will be questioned about faith, and about deeds after faith. A hadith in Ibn Abi Hatim records the Prophet (saws) as saying, “O Mu`adh. On the Day of Judgment, Man will be questioned about everything he did, including the kohl he applied to his eyes…” (Ibn Kathir).
This verse does not contradict the other verse which says (55: 39), “That day neither men nor jinn will be questioned about their sins,” because, (i) men will pass through various stages in the Hereafter, until entry into Paradise. At some stages they will not be questioned, while at some they will be subjected to questioning, and (ii) the questioning of the present verse is of the nature of “Did you do, or did you not?” In contrast, the questioning that is denied is the nature of “Why did you do it? Did you have good grounds for doing what you did?” This is the kind of questioning that the verse of Surah Al-Rahman denies. However, some scholars have expressed exactly the opposite meaning, viz., people will not be asked if they did a thing or not, they will only be asked, why did they do it. The contradiction in any case is resolved (Au.).

[94] So proclaim what you are commanded,80 and turn away from the idolaters.


80. “So proclaim what you are commanded,” i.e., proclaim the Qur’an (Ibn Jarir from the Salaf).
The implication is, Islamic truths are something that must be proclaimed and nothing should be concealed (Thanwi from Ruh).

[95] We are enough for you (against) the mockers.81


81. Scholars like ‘Urwah b. Zubayr, ‘Ikrimah and Sa`id b. Jubayr have identified the foremost among the mockers as five: Walid b. al-Mughirah, ‘As b. Wa’il, Aswad b. ‘Abd Yaghus, Aswad b. al-Muttalib and Harith b. Qays (according to ‘Ikrimah: Harith b. Ghaytilah). They all died before the battle of Badr. (Although normally the Prophet did not pray against the Makkans, he felt so hurt from them that) he supplicated for their destruction. Ibn Is-haq says once they were circumambulating the Ka`bah when Jibril came and stood with the Prophet by his side. As Aswad b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib passed by, Jibril threw a green leaf in his face. He became blind. Then, Aswad b. ‘Abd Yaghus passed by him. He pointed to his stomach which swelled and he died of dropsy. Then Walid b. Mughira passed by.  He pointed at a wound he had received earlier in his heel. It opened up and he died of it. Then, as ‘As b. Wa’il passed by. Jibril pointed at the hollow of his soul, and he was killed by a thorn that pricked into the hollow of his soul, as he was going to Ta’if. Lastly, as Layth passed, he pointed at his head. It got filled with pus that killed him (Ibn Jarir). The story is also in Ibn Hisham and there are many versions about the number of people and the manner of their destruction.

When Zuhri heard that Sa`id b. Jubayr named one of the five as Harith b. Ghaytilah, while ‘Ikrimah as Harith b.
Qays, he remarked, “‘Ikrimah was right. The man was Harith b. Qays. Ghaytilah (some say Tulatilah) was the name of his mother (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

[96] Those who set up along with Allah, other gods. Soon they will know.
[97] And, certainly We are aware that your heart constricts over what they say.
[98] Therefore,82 celebrate the praises of your Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves.


82. That is, the hearts’ cure from constriction has to be searched for in prostration and prayers.

[99] And worship your Lord83 until the certainty comes to you.84


83. Accordingly, whenever the Prophet (saws) faced a difficult situation, he resorted to Prayers (Ibn Jarir,

84. The rendering of “yaqin” as death is following the understanding of Mujahid, Qatadah, Hasan and others. In
fact, in a hadith the Prophet also used the word in this sense (Ibn Jarir).

Allah (swt) told us what the people of the Fire will say (74: 45),

“We were not of those who Prayed, nor did we feed the poor. We used to indulge (in diatribe against Islam) along with those who indulged, and we used to cry lies to the Day of Judgment, until death came to us.”
The meaning, therefore, that the misguided people have derived, viz., “yaqin” is in the sense of “ma`rifah” is
unacceptable. They say that one might Pray until he has acquired “ma`rifah.” Once he reaches the state of
“ma`arifah” he need not attend to the obligations, which are for people of lower status. Apart from the fact that none of the ancient scholars has derived such a meaning, nor does the Qur’an support it, but also, none of the Salaf, the highest in “ma`rifah”, the most knowledgeable after the prophets, ever claimed any such status for themselves. If anyone therefore, deserved that the obligations be abrogated, then it were the prophets and the Companions who should have been allowed that, but, rather, we find that they were most devoted to acts and rituals of worship, even more than the ordinary people (Ibn Kathir, Alusi, Thanwi).

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