Verses from Surah Maryam (34-50)

[34] Such was `Isa son of Maryam, a word of truth wherein they are doubting.40


40. People have always been in grave doubts regarding `Isa ibn Maryam and have, therefore, disputed between themselves. Some said, like the Jews, that he was a magician, a soothsayer and an illegitimate child. The Talmud consigns him to Hell, along with dogs. Others said, he was a Son of God; yet others that he was God himself; a few that he was one of a Trinity of gods. It was only a handful who believed in Christ’s own claim which can be found in today’s Gospels also that he was no more than a Messenger of Allah (Ibn Jarir with some additions).

Some scholars have noted however, says Qurtubi, that it was only once that `Isa ibn Maryam spoke in infancy. Once Maryam’s chastity was established, he grew up as a normal child. Ibn `Abbas has said that his mother and Yusuf the carpenter took him away to Egypt fearing attempt on his life. They brought him back after 12 years, (and, to be sure, he immediately started preaching and making evoking enmity: Au.).

Mawdudi’s comment touches on another aspect, “The thrust of the argument so far clearly reveals that the Christian belief in Jesus is false. Although John was born in a miraculous manner, this birth did not make him God’s son. Similarly, although Jesus too was born by means of another miracle, this in no way provided any reason for considering him to be God’s son. Jesus’ birth was no more miraculous than John’s and there are no grounds for referring to John as God’s son. Remember that according to reports which are accepted by Christians, both John and Jesus were born miraculously. In Luke, both miracles are described in terms which bear close resemblance to the Qur’anic version of the miracles.”

[35] It was not for Allah that He should take a son. Exalted is He. When He determines a thing, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.41


41. Where is the need of a son for someone who creates what He wishes with a single command? (Alusi and others).

[36] (Jesus too had said) ‘Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path.’42


42. Yusuf Ali explains the positioning of the verse, “As opposed to the crooked superstitions which take refuge in all sorts of metaphysical sophistries to prove three in one and one in three; in the Qur’an there is no crookedness. Christ’s teaching was simple, like his life, but the Christians have made it crooked.”

[37] But the factions differed between themselves. Woe then to the unbelievers for the scene of a dreadful Day.43


43. That is, the Day of Judgment, when nothing will profit without the right sort of beliefs. A hadith of Bukhari and Muslim reports the Prophet, “Whoever testified that there is no deity save Allah the One, that He has no partners, that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, that `Isa is a slave, His Messenger, a Word that He cast upon Maryam, and a Spirit from Him, and that Heaven and Hell are real, Allah will admit him into Paradise regardless of his deeds” (Ibn Kathir).

[38] How plainly they will hear and see the Day they come to Us!? Yet the transgressors are in clear error today.

[39] And warn them of the Day of regrets, when the affair will be judged,44 but they are heedless and (so) they are not believing.45


44. Yusuf Ali explains the textual word “mash-had”: “.. (it) implies many things: (1) the time or place where evidence is taken, as in a Court of Judgment; (2) the time or place where people are produced (to be judged); and (3) the occasion for such production for the taking of evidence. A very expressive way for the Day of Judgment.”

45. Abu Sa`id reported the Prophet as having said: “Death will be brought forth on the Day of Judgment in the form of a fat ram and placed between Heaven and Hell. Then a crier will call, ‘O inhabitants of Paradise.’ They will gaze around and look. He will ask, ‘Do you recognize it?’ They will reply, ‘Yes. This is death.’ And everyone would have seen it. Then the crier will call, ‘O inhabitants of the Fire.’ They will gaze around and look. He will ask, ‘Do you recognize it?” They will reply, ‘Yes. This is death.’ And everyone would have seen it. Following that it will be slaughtered and announced, ‘O inhabitants of Paradise, eternity and no more death. And O inhabitants of the Fire, eternity and no more death.’ Then the Prophet recited this verse, ‘And warn them of the Day of regrets, when the affair will be judged, but they are heedless and they do not believe.’ Then the Prophet signaled towards the earth (that is to say, ‘They are heedless in this world) – Ibn Jarir.

Qurtubi writes that the hadith is also found in Muslim. However, Alusi writes, Ibn Zayd has said that there would be many situations of regret for the unbelievers on the Day of Judgment. In fact, even a righteous believer will regret that he was not more righteous.

The above hadith, says Ibn Kathir, is in the Sahihayn as well as in Ibn Majah.

[40] Indeed, it is We who inherit the earth and all that are upon it, and it is to Us that they shall be returned.46


46. Mawdudi writes, “..the discourse seeks to establish the fact that Islam teaches Muslims not to make any compromise in matters relating to truth. The religious fervor of (the) righteous Muslim migrants to Abyssinia is all the more remarkable since they expressed the true doctrinal position about Jesus before the court of a Christian Emperor at a time when the court was strongly inclined to accept a bribe to hand them over to their enemies. It was obvious to the Muslims that their forthright criticism of the Christian doctrine might enrage Negus and that as a result he might return them to the ruthless Makkan unbelievers. Notwithstanding the precariousness of the situation, they showed remarkable strength of faith and showed not even the slightest hesitation in speaking the truth.”

[41] And recall in the Book (the account of) Ibrahim. Surely he was a truthful man,47 a Prophet. 


47. Majid gives us the definition of Siddiq: “Siddiq is the intensive form of saduq ‘the truthful,’ and implies an invariable habit of veracity and imperishable love of truth.

He was not simply a truthful man, but a man of truth, in the sense that he stayed true to his mission (Au.).

[42] When he said to his father, ‘O my father! Why do you worship that which neither hears nor sees; nor avails you anything?48


48. Majid comments: “The religion of Ur was a polytheism of the grossest type. ‘Written texts preserve for us the names of about five thousand Sumerian gods, great and small’ (Woolley, Abraham, p. 192).”

[43] O my father! To me has come a knowledge that has not come to you. Therefore, follow me, I will lead you to an even trail.

[44] O my father! Serve not Shaytan. Surely, Shaytan has ever been disobedient to the Most Merciful.

[45] O my father! I fear that a chastisement from the Most Merciful strikes you,49 so that you become a friend of Shaytan.’ 


49. Yusuf Ali has a nice point about why the epithet “the Most Merciful” has been placed here: “The rebellion is all the more heinous and inexcusable, considering that Allah is Most Just, Most Merciful, Most Gracious.”

[46] He replied, ‘Are you averse to my gods O Ibrahim? If you do not give up I will stone you.50 Now leave me alone for a good while.’51


50. The translation is literal. Otherwise, Suddi, Dahhak, Ibn Jurayj and others have said that what Ibrahim’s father meant to say is that he will stop talking to him (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

51. The translation reflects both the literal meaning as well as the understanding of Mujahid, Hasan, Suddi and others. Ibn `Abbas however, as well as Dahhak and Qatadah understood the term “maliyy” as meaning, “in good shape” or, “unharmed.” That is to say, “Leave me alone O Ibrahim, with yourself in good shape, unharmed – before I take some action against you” (Ibn Jarir). This latter interpretation of Ibn `Abbas is preserved in Ibn Abi Hatim (Shawkani).

Many commentators have pointed out the difference in the tones of Ibrahim and his father. In Yusuf Ali’s words, “Note the gentle persuasive tone of Abraham in his speeches.. contrasted with the brusque and repellent tone of the father’s reply in this verse. The one was the outcome of the true Light which had come to Abraham from Allah, as the other was the outcome of Pagan ignorance and the worship of brute force.”

[47] He said, ‘Peace be upon you.52 I shall seek forgiveness for you from my Lord.53 Surely, He has ever been Gracious unto me.


52. That was Ibrahim’s reply in response to his father’s threat, meaning, “Although you threat to attack me, I leave you in peace, out of respect due to a father.” The statement also reflects the general behavior of the believers, who, when confronted by course men respond in words (28: 55), “When they hear useless talk, they withdraw from it and say, ‘To us our deeds and to you your deeds. Peace unto you. We seek not (the way of the) ignorant’” (Ibn Kathir).

But it is obvious, Qurtubi writes, that these were Ibrahim’s parting words. For, greeting an unbeliever with an Islamic greeting is not desirable. We have a hadith of the Prophet in the Sahihayn. He said, “Do not initiate Salam with the people of the Book. And when you meet one of them in a lane, push them to the constricted sides.” (But perhaps this applies to those fighting against Islam for), some of the Salaf used to initiate the greeting when they passed by the people of the Book. Ibn Mas`ud himself greeted someone who was traveling in a caravan in his company. `Alqamah reminded him, “O Abu `Abdul Rahman, is it not undesirable to initiate Islamic greeting?” He replied, “Yes. But a co-traveler has his own rights.” Abu Umamah would not pass by a Muslim or a Christian but say Salam to him. Awza`i was asked about a Muslim who passes by an unbeliever. Should he greet him? He answered, “If you greet them, then the righteous people greeted them before you. But if you did not, then the righteous people before did not do before you.”

53. (Following his promise, Ibrahim kept seeking his father’s forgiveness until it became clear that the man would not change). And so did the followers of the Prophet until the following Qur’anic statement prevented them. That is, until prevented, they supplicated for their pagan relations. The following verse in question is (9: 114): “Ibrahim’s invocation for his father was only because of a promise that he had made to him. But when it became clear that he was Allah’s enemy, he disassociated himself from him. Surely, Ibrahim was very invocative, clement” (Ibn Kathir).

[48] And I renounce you all, and those that you call upon apart from Allah.54 And I shall supplicate my Lord. Perhaps I shall not be, in my supplications to my Lord, unblessed.’55


54. Perhaps he was also announcing his departure from Chaldea (Iraq) to Syria and then to Palestine (Au.).

55. The addition of “perhaps” at the beginning was by way of humbleness and to impress that answering a supplication is not an obligation on Allah, rather, a measure of mercy (Alusi).

[49] Then, when he had abandoned them and what they worshipped apart from Allah, We bestowed on him Is-haq and Ya`qub,56 and each We made a Prophet.57


56. Alusi explains that since Isma`il has been separately mentioned in the Qur’an, ref. (37: 101), “So We gave him the glad tiding of a clement son,” his mention has been left out although first born. Yusuf Ali further elaborates: “Isaac and Issac’s son Jacob are mentioned here as carrying on one line of Abraham’s traditions. The other line was carried by Isma`Il, who is mentioned independently five verses lower down, as his line got special honour in the Holy Prophet of Islam. That is why his mention comes after that of Moses. Cf. xxi. 72.”

In fact, whenever Isma`il and Is-haq have been mentioned together in the Qur’an in one verse, it is Isma`il who has been mentioned first, e.g., ref. 2: 136 and 4: 163.

57. The implication hidden is: righteous progeny is the reward of righteous living. And, greater the commitment, more significant the reward. When Ibrahim had completely abandoned false gods and devoted himself wholeheartedly to one God, without any reservation whatsoever, the reward followed was also of the highest kind possible (Au.).

[50] And We bestowed of our mercy on them and granted them praise,58 lofty.59


58. Ibn Jarir and Zamakhshari quote poetical lines to demonstrate that lisana sidqin is used in Arabic to mean “good praise.”

59. That is, lofty praise on all tongues of the followers of great religions (Ibn Kathir).

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