Verses from Surah Maryam (51-58)

[51] And recall in the Book (the account of) Musa. He was a chosen one,60 a Messenger and a Prophet. 


60. The textual “mukhlas” is also read as “mukhlis” meaning, sincere in his religion, sincere to his Lord (Ibn Jarir and others).

[52] We called him from the right side of (Mount) Tur,61 and drew him near for close communion.62


comment number. Enter commentary for the verse here….

[53] And in Our mercy bestowed on him his brother Harun, a Prophet.

[54] And recall in the Book (the account of) Isma`il. He was indeed true to his promise,63 a Messenger and a Prophet.64


63. Being true to the promise is specifically mentioned as Isma`l’s quality because he stayed true to the promise he gave his father that he will not flinch when the knife is applied to his throat. Otherwise, of course, all Prophets were endowed with this quality. Our own Prophet was particular about it even before he was chosen for the mission. `Abdullah ibn abi al-Hamsa’ says in a report of Abu Da’ud,

“I made a deal with the Prophet in pre-Islamic days. I paid him partly and told him to wait at the spot for the rest. However, as I went off to fetch, I entirely forgot about it. I happened to pass by the place after three days and found him right there. He remarked, “Young man, you put me into hardship. I am waiting for you here since three days” (Qurtubi).

But the hadith has been declared not quite trustworthy by some authorities, while Ibn Kathir evinces some confidence (Au.).

64. Ibn Kathir points out here that while mentioning Is-haq, Allah qualified him as a Prophet, while mentioning Isma`il, he qualified him both as Prophet and a Messenger. This demonstrates the superiority of Isma`il over Is-haq. This is strengthened by a Prophetic statement which says, “Indeed, of the sons of Ibrahim, Allah chose Isma`il..”

There is a lack of clarity about the exact functions of a Prophet (nabiyy). This rises from the simple fact that we do not know enough about the anbiya’ of the past. Previous nations have not preserved their history to any degree of credibility. In fact, the term nabiyy itself has been variously understood. In the words of Mawdudi, “Lexicographers disagree as to the exact meaning of the word nabi. Some consider it to be the derivative of the term naba’ and denotes ‘to give news and hence the word nabi means someone who brings news. Others consider it to be derived from nabu, meaning height and elevation.. Accordingly, nabi is a person who holds a high, elevated position.”

What in any case, is the difference between a Prophet and a Messenger? Mujahid answered in very simple terms. He said, as in Ibn Abi Hatim, “Prophets are those who are revealed to, but not sent to a people. In contrast, Messengers are those who are given revelations, and, in addition, are sent to a people” (Shawkani).

Alusi adds: However, a Messenger need not carry a new Shari`ah altogether. According to one opinion, sometimes he is sent with the Shari`ah of a previous Messenger, to a people who had not received a revealed Shari`ah earlier. This is the case with Isma`il. A new Shari`ah was not revealed to him. But rather, he carried the Shari`ah of Ibrahim to a people – in this case the Jurham tribe – who had not received any Shari`ah through any earlier Messenger.

Yusuf Ali simplifies it while writing about Musa: “.. he was a prophet (nabi), in that he received inspiration; and he was a messenger (rasul) in that he had a Book of Revelation, and an Ummat or organized community, for which he instituted laws.”

[55] He enjoined his people Prayers 65  and charity; and He was pleasing to His Lord.


65. Ibn Kathir writes: Allah (swt) has also said about Prayers (66: 6):

Believers! Save yourselves and your homefolk from a Fire whose fuel is men and stones. It is in charge of such angels as are harsh, tough, who do not disobey Allah, but rather do as they are ordered.”

And the Prophet has said,

“May Allah show mercy to a man who got up in the depth of the night and Prayed, and woke up his wife. If she did not respond, he sprinkled water on her face. May Allah show mercy to the woman who got up in

the depth of night, Prayed, and woke her husband up. If he did not respond, she sprinkled water on his face.” The hadith is in Abu Da’ud and Ibn Majah.

It was declared as of strong chain by Al-Arna’ut (Au.).

[56] And recall in the Book (the account of) Idris.66 He was a man of truth67 and a Prophet.


66. In the absence of a hadith, opinions vary about Idris. But many see him as the first Messenger (rasul) after Adam, being a grand grandfather of Nuh. He was given 30 scriptures (Alusi). Ibn Mas`ud however thought that Idris and Ilyas were one and the same person (Alusi, Shawkani).

Majid adds: “(He is) Probably the Enoch of the Bible .. who lived for 365 years (Ge. 5: 18-21). But Yusuf Ali rightly expresses his doubts. He writes, “Idris is mentioned twice in the Qur’an, viz., here and in xxi. 85, where he is mentioned among those who patiently persevered. His identification with the Biblical Enoch, who ‘walked with God’ (Gen. v. 21-24), may or not be correct. Nor are we justified in interpreting verse 57 here as meaning the same thing as in Gen. v. 24 (‘God took him’), that he was taken up without passing through the portals of death.”

67. “This is perhaps to refute the opinion held by a section of the Jews that Enoch was ‘inconsistent in his piety (JE. V. p. 178),’ or that ‘he was light-minded and inclined to sin again’ (Rashi, On Genesis, p. 93)” – Majid.

[57] We raised him to a high station.68


68. Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Dahhak and others have said that Idris was raised up to the fourth or sixth heaven, where he died. Our Prophet had met him in the fourth heaven when he himself had gone there during his Mi`raj journey (Tabari, Ibn Kathir). Many of those who believe that he was taken up to the heavens think that he went up alive (Alusi). However, there is no hadith to this effect and the earliest commentators seem to have been, as pointed out by Majid, influenced by Jewish traditions (Au.).

[58] Those were some of the Prophets whom Allah favored, from the seed of Adam and of those We carried (in the boat) with Nuh; and of the seed of Ibrahim and Isra’il69 – of those We guided and chose. When verses of the Most Merciful were recited to them they fell down prostrate, crying.70


69. The commentators have used this verse to conclude that Idris appeared before Nuh. For, in the words of Mawdudi, (with the modification of names), “Of the Messengers mentioned here, Yahya, `Isa and Musa are descendants of Ya`qub and Isma`il; Is-haq and Ya`qub are descendants of Ibrahim, and Ibrahim is a descendant of Nuh. This leaves only Idris and it is to him alone that the expression ‘descendant of Adam’ might be applied.”

70. It is reported that once ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab recited this chapter, prostrated himself at this point and remarked, “Here is the prostration, but where is the crying?!” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

Ibn Majah, Is-haq b. Rahwayh and Bazzar have a report coming down through Sa`id b. Waqqas. The Prophet said,

“Recite the Qur’an and cry. If you can not, then attempt to cry” (Alusi).

According to some scholars, the above report does not meet with the strict conditions of acceptance. But Haythami expressed some confidence in it (Au.).

(To be continued)

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