Verses from Surah al-Anbiya (88-103)

[88] So We responded to him and delivered him from distress. Thus do We deliver the believers.

[89] And (remember) Zakariyyah when he called unto his Lord, ‘My Lord! Leave me not solitary, though You are the best of inheritors.’112


112. Yusuf Ali once again, “It is not that I crave a personal heir to myself: all things go back to Thee, and Thou art the best of inheritors: but I see no one around me sincere enough to carry out my work for Thee; wilt Thou give me one whom I can train?

[90] So we responded to him and bestowed on him Yahya and cured his wife for him.113 They ever hastened to good (deeds) and supplicated Us in hope and fear. And they were humble to Us.


113. That is, cured her of her sterility. Another reported explanation is that she was loose-tongued and Allah cured her (Qurtubi, Shawkani).

[91] And (remember) her who guarded her chastity,114 so We blew into her of Our spirit 115 and made her and her son a sign unto the worlds.


114. Asad comments, “..the expression allati ahsanat farjaha occurring in the above verse .. (is) rejection of the calumny (referred to in 4: 156 and obliquely alluded to in 19: 27-28) that the birth of Jesus was the result of an ‘illicit union.’”

115. The use of the phrase “of My spirit” draws the following from Asad, “This allegorical expression, used here with reference to Mary’s conception of Jesus, has been widely – and erroneously – interpreted as relating specifically to his birth. As a matter of fact, the Qur’an uses the same expression in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general – namely in 15: 29 and 38: 72, ‘when I have formed him .. and breathed into him of My spirit’; and in 32: 9, ‘and thereupon He forms [lit., ‘formed’] him fully and breathes [lit., breathed] into him of His spirit.’ In particular, the passage of which the last-quoted phrase is a part (i.e., 32: 7-9) make it abundantly and explicitly clear that God ‘breathes of His spirit’ into every human being. Commenting on the verse under consideration, Zamakhshari states that ‘the breathing of the spirit [of God] into a body signifies the endowing it with life’: an expression with which Razi concurs.”

[92] Surely, this religion of yours is one religion116 and I am your Lord, therefore, worship Me (alone).


116. The translation of the textual Ummah as religion follows the understanding of Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid as in Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir and others.

The word has been used in this sense at another place in the Qur’an. Allah said (43: 23), “Indeed, we found our forefathers on a religion..” (Shawkani).

Majid comments, “I.e., this way of life which is prescribed for you is the same as has been preached and practiced by all the prophets and holy men and women, howsoever widely divided by time and space; Islam is only a continuation of that old religion.”

An off chance exists that the Ummah alludes to community or nation. Yusuf Ali might then be quoted, “Our attention has been drawn to people of very different temperament and virtues, widely different in time, race, language, surroundings, history, and work to be performed, but forming the closest brotherhood as being men and women united in the highest service to Allah. They pre-figure the final and perfected Brotherhood of Islam.”

[93] But they split up their affair between themselves.117 (Nonetheless) to Us will they all return.


117. The textual “amr” refers to religion. That is, they split away from the true religion of One God, or differed between themselves to give rise to sectarianism (Ibn Jarir).

[94] Then, whosoever works deeds of righteousness 118 – and he is a believer – there is no denying (the rewards of) his endeavor, and We – indeed – are its recorders for him.


118. Considering that the textual “min” is “tab`idiyyah” (encampssing a part), the literal translation should be, “then whosoever works, whatever of good deeds..” (based on Qurtubi).

[95] And it is forbidden unto a town We destroyed: that they should return.119


119. Ibn `Abbas used to read the textual word “haram” as “hirmun” interpreting it as “azmun” (meaning, “it is decided, decreed, or determined”) Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir.

However, some others have understood the term as meaning, “wajibun” (i.e., it is binding). Imam Razi quotes a poetical piece to prove the point. The verse would then mean, “It is binding upon every town which We destroyed, that they should not return (back to this world).” This is how Yusuf Ali rendered it.

Or, as Majid did it, “A ban (is laid) on every town We destroyed that they shall not return.” However, another possible allusion by “laa yerji’un” could be that, “they will not return from Association (with Allah) and denial of the truth” (Razi); i.e., “laa yerji`una min shirkihim” (Au.)

Another understanding – as pointed out by Ibn `Aashur – is that the “laa” of “laa yerji’un” is “laamu tawkeed.” That is, it does not mean, they will “not return” but rather “they should return.” Another opinion – that noted by Qurtubi – is that the “laa” of “laa yerji’un” is “laamu sila” meaning “that” (in Arabic “an yerji`un”, meaning, ‘that they should return’). This is the first meaning given by Baghawi.

[96] Till, when Ya’juj and Ma’juj are unloosed and they race down every hill.120


120. They are two tribes, or hordes that will be let loose, breaching the barrier against them, in the Final Hours of life on earth. (Attempts to identify them have failed: Au.). It is said that if mankind is ten parts, they will be nine parts of it (Razi), but this is not a hadith.

A hadith of Muslim and others says, “Once as we were discussing the Doomsday when the Prophet (saws) happened to come out of his house. He said: ‘Doomsday will not arrive until you have witnessed ten signs: the Smoke, Dajjal, the Animal, sunrise from the West, `Isa ibn Maryam, Ya’juj and Ma’juj, three caving in of the earth: one in the East, one in the West and one in the Arabian Peninsula, and the fire that will start from Aden and drive the people to the Field of Resurrection”

The hadith does not specify the sequence. Among the ten, and in the light of other ahadith, we can be sure of the sequence of five: Dajjal, `Isa ibn Maryam, Ya’juj Ma’juj, the rising of the sun from the West and the fire of Aden. (Qurtubi has pointed out that since repentance will not be acceptable after the sunrise from West, it has to be the second last). As for the Smoke, the Animal and the three caving in of the earth, we do not know in what sequence they will happen (Au.).

For further details see note 115 under Surah al-Kahf.

Ibn Kathir presents a relevant hadith here. It says, “Surely, this house will be visited for Hajj and Umarah even after Ya’juj and Ma’juj” (Bukhari).

See Surah al-Kahf, note 115 of this work for details about Ya’juj and Ma’juj.

[97] Then the true promise would draw nigh;121 and behold, the eyes of the unbelievers, fixedly staring (in terror – saying), ‘O our woe! We were unmindful of this. Rather, we were wrongdoers.’


121. That is, the new promise concerning the Day of Judgment (Razi).

[98] Surely, you and what you worship other than Allah are the firewood of Jahannum. You shall go down to it.

[99] If those had been gods, they would not have arrived at it. And they shall all abide therein forever.122


122. That is, the worshippers as well as the worshipped.

[100] In it there will be heavy sighing for them, and they will not hear (anything) therein.123


123. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud has said that those that will abide in the Fire will be placed in chests of fire. Then those chests will be placed in other chests of fire and nailed with nails of fire. Thereafter they will hear nothing and will imagine that there is no one who is being punished as severely as they (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).

[101] As for those about whom the good (word) had passed from Us, they shall be kept away from it.124

[102] They shall not hear its slightest sound, and they shall be, in what their souls desire, dwelling forever.

[103] The Great terror shall not grieve them, but rather, the angels will receive them (saying), ‘This is your Day that you were promised.’


124. The verse has been interpreted in two ways. One, the allusion by, “But as for those about whom the best had passed from Us, they shall be kept away from it,’ is to those about whom Allah’s decree has been that they will never enter Hellfire. Hence, it is reported of `Ali that he said, “Uthman and his colleagues are of them,” and then recited this verse.

Another interpretation, coming down from many of the Salaf, is that those are alluded who were worshipped without their consent such as, e.g., Jesus Christ, angels or others. Ibn Is-haq has reported that once Waleed b. al-Mughira, Nadr b. al-Harith and other Quraysh men were sitting before the Prophet. He presented Islam to them and then warned them in the words of the Qur’an, “Surely, you and what you worship other than Allah are fuels of Jahannum. You shall go down to it. If those had been gods, they would not have arrived at it. And they shall all abide therein forever.” Thereafter he left them. After he had left, `Abdullah b. Zib`ara entered the gathering. They complained to him of the Prophet’s harsh words. He said, “O.K. This means what we worship: the angels, what the Jews worshipped: `Uzayr, and what the Christians worship: `Isa, will be in fire. Right!” They were pleased with the idea and went back to the Prophet with their triumphant argument. He explained, “Yes, all those who consented to being worshipped will be in Fire with those who worshipped them” (Ibn Jarir). As for the lifeless, such as dust, stone, or wooden idols, they will be used as fuel to burn the unbelievers as additional pain for them.

The report is in Abu Da’ud, (in his Nasikh), Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Marduwayh and Tabarani (Alusi). Subsequently however, Ibn Kathir adds, `Abdullah b. Zib`ara embraced Islam.

(To be continued)

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