Verses from Surah al-Isra’ (99-111)

[99] Do they not see that Allah, who created the heavens and the earth, has the power to create the like of them?150 He has appointed a term for them, there is no doubt about it; but the unjust refuse except that they should reject.


150. Seeing that the universe was created out of nothing, shouldn’t it be easier to resurrect man when he is reduced to dust? After all, whatever the form, the raw material is there in comparison to the heavens and earth for which there was no raw material? (Au.)

A report of the Sahihayn says, “There is nothing of men that does not become dust except the tail piece of their back bone. It is from this that men will be resurrected on Judgement Day” (Ibn Kathir, Alusi).

Other reports add, “from an atom of the tail-piece” (Au.).

[100] Say, ‘If you possessed the treasures of my Lord’s mercy,151 you would hold back in fear of poverty.152 Surely, man is ever so niggardly.153


151. The allusion by the term “rahmah” is to blessings (Alusi)

152. The translation of “infaq” as poverty reflects the understanding of Ibn `Abbas as in Ibn Jarir. Otherwise, literally the meaning is “expending.”

153. The implied meaning seems to be that the economic discomforts and hardships that the Makkan claimed as the reason for asking what they asked the Prophet, do not have their reason in the constriction of the land, or lack of rivers, but rather, man’s refusal to expend. His holding back wealth gives rise to poverty. He is in fact so niggardly that had he the treasures of the heavens and earth in his possession, he would hold them back from fear of expending them off, and thus poverty would remain. A second implication is hidden in the words “treasures of your Lord’s mercy”, viz., “it is truly His mercy that must be coveted and not physical, material treasures” (Au.).

[101] Indeed, We gave Musa nine clear signs:154 ask the children of Israel, when he went to them and Fir`awn said to him, ‘Indeed I believe, O Musa, you are bewitched.’


154. There has been difference in opinion over the nature of these signs. Some of the Salaf believed that the allusion is to the signs of the Book, i.e., its verses. Hence Tirmidhi and Nasa’i have a report by Safwan b. `Assal that a Jew said to another, “Let us go to this Prophet and ask him.” The other said, “Don’t utter the word Prophet. If he heard us he will develop four eyes.” They went to the Prophet (saws) and asked him about Allah’s words, “We gave Musa nine clear signs.” The Prophet replied, “That you do not associate aught with Allah, do not fornicate, do not take away a life that Allah has forbidden except by right, do not steal, do not cast magical spell, do not get an innocent killed by the ruler, do not devour interest, do not slander an innocent woman, do not run away from the battlefield – Sho`bah was doubtful – and for you especially, O Jews, do not desecrate the Sabbath.” They began to kiss his hands and feet and said, “You are a Prophet – for sure.” He asked, “What prevents you from becoming Muslims?” They replied, “David had supplicated to the Lord that Prophethood should remain among his offspring. In addition, we are afraid that if we declared faith in you, the Jews will kill us.” Tirmidhi rated this hadith as Hasan Sahih.

Nevertheless, there have been others who believed that the allusion by the nine signs is to physical signs that appeared at the hands of Musa (asws). Then, there are differences over what they were. From Ibn `Abbas we have several opinions. However, he, along with Matr al-Warraq, `Ata’, Mujahid, Sha`bi and others believed that they were: His hand (which shone), the staff, the torrent, locusts, lice, frogs, blood, the years of drought and destruction of fruits (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).

[102] He replied, ‘You know very well that none has brought them down but the Lord of the heavens and the earth – eye openers. And indeed I consider you, O Fir`awn, doomed to destruction.’155


155. “Doomed to destruction” is one understanding of the Salaf. Another is “accursed” and a third, “overcome” (Ibn Jarir). To be sure, Musa’s courage has not gone unnoticed by the earliest commentators. As if he was saying (Zamakhshari) that, “if you think I am mad, then, let me tell you what I think of you: you are accursed and doomed to destruction.” To say that to an emperor, before a full court, was possible only for a Prophet.

[103] He tried to unsettle them in the land,156 so we drowned him and those with him, all together.157


156. In view of the fact that Fir`awn and his subjects needed the Israeli labor, we might understand that either he tried to expel Musa (asws) and perhaps a few others along with him, or, unsettle the Israelites through harsh measures of persecution. The original “istifzaz” lends all these connotations.

157. Mawdudi shows the connection, “It will be recalled that the unbelievers contended that their believing in the Prophet (peace be on him) was contingent upon the latter’s performance of certain miracles. In response, they are told that in the past, Pharaoh witnessed no less than nine miracles in succession. But since he was bent upon not believing, he was unable to change his views even after witnessing all those miracles.”

Further down he writes, “(Moreover) this brings out the true moral of the narrative. The Makkan polytheists were intent upon uprooting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) and the Muslims from Arabia. They are told that Pharaoh intended to do the same with the Prophet Moses (peace be on him) and the Israelites. However, what really happened was that while Pharaoh and his people were annihilated, Moses (peace on him) and his followers became firmly established in the land which was earlier under Pharaoh’s sway.”

[104] We said after him to the Children of Israel, ‘Settle down in the land. When the promise of the Hereafter comes to pass, We shall bring you back as mixed crowds.’158


158. “According to Razi, the expression lafif denotes a human crowd composed of innumerable heterogeneous elements, good and bad, strong and weak, fortunate and unfortunate: in short it characterizes mankind in all respects” (Asad).

[105] And, with truth We have sent it down,159 and in truth it was revealed.160 And We have sent you not (O Muhammad) but a bearer of good tidings and a warner.


159. That is, the Qur’an has been sent down containing the truth (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

160. That is, the message has been delivered without any addition or deletion (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

[106] A Qur’an that We have gradually unfolded so that you may recite to the people with deliberation;161 and We have sent it down progressively.


161. Ibn `Abbas said that Allah (swt) sent down the Qur’an to the heaven closes to the earth, the whole of it, at once, in the night of Qadr and then gradually revealed to the Prophet over two decades. Ibn Zayd and Qatadah have also said something similar (Ibn Jarir).

[107] Say, ‘Believe in it or do not believe. Those who were given knowledge before it, when (it is) recited upon them, fall down on their faces162 in prostration.


162. Some commentators have pointed out that the textual word “yakhirruna” gives the sense of involuntary, uncontrolled prostration. Further, the textual word “adhqan” literally means chin, and hence Hasan said that the meaning is they fell on their beards. Nevertheless, Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah understood the word as “face.”

Razi adds: The word chin has been used perhaps to allude that when a man involuntarily falls – literally – into prostration, unable to control his emotions, then he rubs his whole face against the ground including the beard. On the topic, Alusi adds a few lines on crying. He reports a hadith of Hakim Tirmidhi. The Prophet said, “Two eyes will not be touched by the Fire. An eye that cried in fear of Allah, and an eye that spent the night in guard (against the enemy).” Nasa’i and Muslim have a narration which says, “Fire will not touch a man who cried in fear of Allah until milk goes back to the udders and two things will not come together upon a man: dust that fell while on the way of Allah and the smoke of Hellfire.”

[108] They say, “Glory to our Lord. The promise of our Lord had to come true.163


163. What promise is it? The answer is, those who had received the previous revelations find in the Qur’an and in the Messenger who brought it, the promise of Allah (swt) fulfilled, viz., He will send His Final Messenger in time.

[109] They fall down on their faces in tears,164 and it increases them in humble submission.’


164. Hence `Abdullah al-Taymiy has said that he who did not cry at the knowledge given him, perhaps never received it (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

[110] Say, ‘Call upon Allah or call upon al-Rahman; by whichsoever (name) you call upon, to Him belong the beautiful Names.’165 And, be not loud in your supplication, nor do it in low tones, but rather, seek a way in between.166


165. Ibn `Abbas, Mak-hul and Qatadah have said that the Prophet used to call on Allah in words, “Ya Rahman.” The pagans said he was addressing his prayers to a man in Yamamah who was called Rahman (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

166. `A’isha, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Mak-hul and others have understood the textual word “salat” to mean supplication. [`A’isha’s opinion is in the Sahihayn and others: Alusi].

However, in a second opinion of ‘Ibn `Abbas, Sa’id b. Jubayr and Dahhak the allusion is to the Prophet’s loud recital of the Qur’an when he led in Prayers in the Haram area, which led the pagans to rebuke the revelation. He was told: “Be not loud in your Prayers” (so that the pagans do not hear), “nor do it in low tones” (so that the Muslims behind you don’t miss), “rather, take a way in between” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

[111] And say, ‘Praise to Allah who has not taken a son, has no partner in His kingdom, and who has none as His friend out of weakness.167 And magnify Him with magnification.’168


167. Yusuf Ali has an appropriate comment: “A first step towards the understanding of Allah’s attributes is to clear our minds from superstition, such as that Allah begot a son, or that He has partners,” .. (or that He took friends because He needed protection: Au.).

Shabbir’s comment is worth reproducing: “Help can come from three quarters: “From the lower to the higher, like a son helping his father; from someone equal; or from a stronger to a weaker, which entails humiliation. The verse refutes absence of all three reasons. First by saying, “He did not take a son,” second by saying, “there is no partner in His kingdom,” and third by saying, “who has none as His friend out of weakness.” Incidentally, the verse also holds refutation of Christian, pagan and Jewish ideas. Of the Christians in words, “He did not take a son,” of the pagans in words, “there is no partner in His kingdom,” and of the Jews in words, “who has none as His friend out of weakness.” For, the Jews claim that God could not beat Jacob in a wrestling match.”

Israel’s God is, in fact, in the words of Karen Armstrong “wedded” to Israel who laments when the Israelites pay homage to other deities (Au.).

168. It might be observed that the chapter began with Allah’s glory and ends on the note to magnify Him for His greatness and glory.


(Surah commentary concludes here)

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