Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah 26: Al Shu’ara’ (The Poets) [ 60 – 75 ]



[60] So they pursued them at sunrise.70


70. The words “at sunrise,” should not lead us to believe that Fir`awn and his forces caught up with the Israelites on the day which followed the night they had departed. But rather, as Thanwi has pointed out, since Fir`awn had sent musterers to the cities, it would have taken them a couple of days to gather together their forces before starting on the chase.

Musa (asws) had started off with the Israelites by night. But, he was reminded of Yusuf’s will that his bones should be carried back to Syria. But the problem was no one knew where his grave was, except for an old woman, who took her price for the information. They dug his grave and carried his coffin-box with them (which delayed them) – Ibn Jarir.

Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir narrate the whole story, as in Ibn Abi Hatim. It says that once the Prophet Muhammad alighted at a Bedouin’s place. He proved a good host. So the Prophet suggested that the two enter into a covenant with each other. So the Bedouin came and the Prophet asked, “What’s your need.” The man said, “A camel with its paraphernalia and a few goats that my wife can milk.” The Prophet replied, “Are you weaker than that you should be like the old Israeli woman?” The Companions asked, “What’s the story of the old Israeli woman, Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “When Musa left with the Israelites he lost the way. He asked the Israelites, ‘What’s going on?’ The Israelite scholars said, ‘Let us tell you that when Yusuf’s death approached him he took a promise from us that we shall not leave Egypt without his coffin.’ Musa asked them, ‘So which of you can lead us to Yusuf’s grave?’ They said, ‘No one knows about it except an old woman of the Children of Israel.’ So he sent for her and asked her to guide them to Yusuf’s grave. She said, ‘By God, I’ll not do it until you have met with my demand.’ He asked what it was. She replied that she should be in Paradise with him. Now, it looked as if that was a bit difficult for Musa. So he was told by his companions, ‘Give her what she asks.’ (He gave her that promise) and she took them to a swampy pond. She asked them to remove its water. When they had done that she asked them to dig. When they dug they arrived at Yusuf’s grave. As soon as they carried him with them, when, lo, the pathway was like during the day.”

After quoting the Hadith Ibn Kathir rules that this is a Munkar report. Albani however declared it trustworthy in his Al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, H. no. 313, vol.1.  Albani also points out that some versions use the word “bones” in place of “coffin” which he explains through similar usage in another Hadith as meaning the whole body – since the body of the Prophets are not consumed by the earth (Au.).

[61] And when the two groups sighted each other, said Musa’s Companions, ‘We will surely be caught up.’

[62] He said, ‘No way. Surely, with me is my Lord. He will presently guide me (out).’71


71. Note the words “No way. Surely, with me is my Lord. He will presently guide me,” in which Musa spoke in singular (i.e., instead, “With us is our Lord,” and “He will show us the way”). It is perhaps because the others had betrayed lack of trust in Allah when they said, “We will surely be caught up’” (Alusi).

[63] So We inspired Musa, ‘Strike the sea with your staff.’ So it split and each part was like a towering mount.72


72. Qurtubi demonstrates through pre-Islamic poetry that tawd of the text was used in the sense adopted here.

[64] And there We brought the others on.

[65] And We delivered Musa and those with him all together.

[66] Then We drowned the others.

[67] Surely, in that is a sign. But most of them were not to be believers.

[68] Surely your Lord – He indeed is the All-mighty, the All-compassionate.73


73. Allah is All-Powerful in dealing with the unbelievers and All-merciful in dealing with the believers (Zamakhshari).

“Thus we can see,” writes Sayyid, “that although Musa’s story has been narrated at several places in the Qur’an, e.g., in Surah al-Baqarah, al-Ma’idah, al-A’raf, Yunus, al-Isra, al-Kahf and Taha, each time the theme was different and the narration suited the context in which the story was narrated.

“The theme at this point is that of the Message, its denial and, consequences of the denial. The story as narrated here has several scenes as they unfold themselves: altogether seven: (in brief: Au.) first, that of the Call, second Musa’s encounter with Fir`awn, third, the contest between Musa’s truth and the magic of the sorcerers, fourth, the sorcerers’ efforts to seek assurance if they are to be successful, fifth, the contest, the belief of the sorcerers and confrontation with Fir`awn, sixth: this has two parts, first the revelation to Musa to leave by night and second Fir`awn sending across musterers, and seventh their coming together at the shore, Israelites crossing through, and the drowning of Fir`awn.

“Thus we notice that there is no repetition in the story of Musa despite its several occurrence in the Qur’an. Everywhere it is a different context, following different themes, and hence filled with different details.”

[69] And recite to them the tiding of Ibrahim.74


74. That is, not the story of Ibrahim, but rather, the tiding, important news. This is how we are invited to look at the narratives of the past Prophets (Au.).

Sayyid Qutb looks at the previous mentions of Ibrahim to trace the various themes at different points: “The passage that touches upon Ibrahim’s life at this point deals with his message to his people and his discussions with them the questions of faith and belief. He disowns their several deities, invites them to the worship of one God, and reminds them of the Day of Judgment. This is followed by a scene fully representing the Day of Judgment when they will disown the false deities and regret over the Association with Allah that brought them to where they find themselves. Thereon the talk shifts to a discussion of the constituents and formative elements of tawhid, decadence of polytheism and the destiny of the Associators on Judgment Day. These were the central points, which were dealt with in brief leaving out the detailed discussions for other occasions.

“Passages touching upon Ibrahim’s stories have appeared earlier in al-Baqarah, al-An`am, Hud, Ibrahim, al-Hijr, Maryam, al-Anbiya’, and al-Hajj. At every point those aspects were touched upon that the various contexts demanded, presenting what of his life and struggle fitted the theme of the Surah.

“In al-Baqarah, the Qur’an presented such details as which dealt with the construction of the House at his and Isam`il’s hands. It mentioned there his supplication to Allah to make it a place of peace; his announcement that the inheritance and custody of the House will be for those who had submitted to Allah: those who would follow his religion – of submission – and will not be for those who merely claimed lineage to him. This was done in the backdrop of rejection of the true religion of the Israelites, and, as a result, their rejection by Allah and their consignment to a curse.

“The chapter al-Baqarah also presented the story of his encounter with a tyrant and debate over the powers of the true Deity: one who gives life and deals death, who brings the sun from the east. It ended when Ibrahim challenging the tyrant to bring it from the west, which left the unbeliever stunned.

“The Qur’an also presented the story of Ibrahim’s request that he be shown how the dead will be resurrected. He was asked to slaughter four birds, place their parts on several mountains and witness them coming to him in speed, alive when beckoned.

“The chapter al-An`am presents us a few scenes from his search to find his Lord and ultimate guidance unto Him after some speculating thoughts on stars, the moon and the sun, and a few other natural phenomena. This was in a chapter that primarily dealt with faith and its tenets, Allah’s signs in the cosmos and the evidences therein of a Creator only One, with no partners.

Surah Hud spoke of glad tidings to him of a son Is-haq. This was during the course of Lut’s story, the stopping over of the angels at Ibrahim’s house on the way to the destruction of the towns inhabited by the Sodomites.

Surah Ibrahim presented us the scenes of his supplications while settling his progeny in the uncultivable valley. He is also seen there thanking his Lord for bestowing on him, despite his old age, Isma`il and Is-haq. He is also seen supplicating that he and his progeny be made those who establish the Prayers; that his supplications be accepted; and that he, his parents and all those who submit to Allah be forgiven on the Day of Judgment. The whole of this Surah dealt with a single aspect of the message brought by the Messengers: Oneness of Allah. The unbelievers too reacted in a similar fashion: a long chain of rejection. The image was as if the Message was but a single tree that offered shadows in a wide expanse of desert.

“Passages in Surah al-Hijr were of the same genre as those in Hud, except for the additions of a few details. The theme was Allah’s compassion towards the believers and His chastisement of the rejecters.

Surah Maryam portrayed his compassion for his father, while, in contrast, his father’s harshness in dealing with him. It also showed his severance of all relationship with his father and his people. It also mentions the bestowal of Isma`il and Is-haq. It was in the background of Allah’s special treatment of those of His slaves that He chose. The Surah had the atmosphere of compassion, love and lenience.

“In Surah Al-Anbiya’, another scene of his call unto his father and his people was unveiled. It also presents us his denouncement of the deities and smashing of the idols. We are presented with another scene of his being flung into the fire which was ordered to cool down to offer peace and comfort to him. It told us about his and his nephew’s escape from his people to a land in which Allah placed His blessing: the Syrian lands.”

[70] When he said to his father and his people, ‘What do you worship?’75


75. The question was not raised for eliciting information. Ibrahim knew well what they worshipped. It was rather meant to point out their folly, for he knew how they would answer (Alusi).

[71] They said, ‘We worship idols and shall remain cleaving to them.’76


76. They could have simply said, “We worship idols.” But their addition, “We shall remain cleaving to them,” speaks of their intransigence, and pride in their deities (Zamakhshari, Razi, Alusi and others).

It has also been said that they used the word “nazallu” (which is for an action during the day), because they worshipped the idols during the day and stars and celestial objects at night (Zamakhshari and others).

[72] He asked, ‘Do they hear you when you supplicate?
[73] Or, do they benefit you, or do harm?’
[74] They said, ‘Nay, but we found our forefathers so doing.’77


77.  They thus tacitly admitted that their deities were powerless and that they had no other reason for being devoted to them except that their forefathers had clung to them (Ibn Kathir, reworded). In Shabbir’s words, “We don’t care a bit for the rationale of it. We have a reason stronger than a hundred reasons: our forefathers worshipped them. Were they fools?”

Asad comments: “The particle bal at the beginning of the sentence expresses astonishment. Thus, evading a direct answer to Abraham’s criticism of idol-worship, his people merely stress in antiquity, forgetting – as Zamakhshari points out – that ‘ancient usage and precedence in time are no proof of [a concept’s] soundness.’ Razi, for his part, states that the above verse represents ‘one of the strongest [Qur’anic] indications of the immorality (fasad) inherent in [the principle of Taqlid]’ i.e., the blind, unquestioning adoption of religious concepts or practices on the basis of one’s uncritical faith in no more than the ‘authority of a scholar or religious leader.”

[75] He said, ‘Have you then considered what you have been worshipping (all along)?78


78. That is, Majid writes, “have they reflected on their nature, properties and attributes?”

About YMD

Past Issues