Verses from Surah Ta-Ha (1-8)

[1] Ta-Ha.2


2. According to the earliest commentators, Ta-ha is a word of Nabataean origin meaning,

“O man.” Tabari quotes poetical lines to demonstrate that in the classic Arabic also the word was used in this sense. An ancient dialect of a Yemeni tribe known as `Akk, also used it in the same sense. Another possible meaning is, “Rest assured.” Imam Razi offers several other possibilities without stating his own preference.

[2] We have not sent down the Qur’an upon you that you should be distressed.3


3. Mujahid said that (in early Islam) the Prophet used to stand long hours in vigil as well as some of his Companions. Sometimes they stood so long that they needed to tie ropes to themselves (to prevent falling off during the Prayers). It was proving very stressful so Allah revealed, “We have not sent down the Qur’an that you be distressed.” In other words of the Qur’an itself (73: 20),  “So recite of it (in the Prayers) what is easily possible” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

The report however is not wholly reliable. It was declared weak by Suyuti (Shawkani).

Another possibility is that the allusion is to the distress the Prophet felt for the Makkans for not accepting his message and this verse was revealed to console him (Qurtubi).

Taking cue from this verse, Ibn Kathir quotes a hadith which should be a great source of consolation for scholars. It is preserved by Tabarani which Ibn Kathir thinks is fairly reliable. The Prophet said, “On the Day of Judgment when Allah would have taken His place for judgment He will address the scholars and say, ‘I did not place the knowledge from Me, nor My wisdom in you except that I wished to forgive you, whatever the state in which you were, and I do not care.’”

Yet another possible reason for the revelation of this verse is that the Makkans were taunting the early Muslims that since the Revelation had begun coming down, they appeared to be in great distress, what with lengthy Prayers at nights and several restrictions in everyday life (Ma`arif). Asad answers their objection. He writes, “I.e., the ethical discipline imposed upon man by the teachings of the Qur’an is not meant to narrow down his feel of life, but on the contrary, to enhance it by deepening his consciousness of right and wrong.”

[3] But only an exhortation to him who fears.

[4] A revelation from Him who created the earth and the high heavens.

[5] (By) the Most Merciful who assumed Istawa’ on the ‘Arsh.4


4. Imam Razi once again stresses on the point that “istawa `ala `l-`Arsh” should not be taken in the sense of “being seated on the `Arsh”: for three reasons. One, there was a time when there was no `Arsh until Allah created it. Second, the earth is spherical. What is up for some is down for others. `Arsh has to be in some direction. But Allah is not in any one direction. Third, we read in Surah Al-Haqqah verse 17,  “Eight will be bearing the `Arsh on that Day.” Obviously, the created cannot bear the Creator.” Therefore the meaning of being seated has to be shelved. For further discussion see Chapter 7, note 82 of this work.

We might also ask ourselves, if not for the introduction of such enigmatic words how will challenge-hungry minds spend their research energies? (Au.)

Alusi also takes up the subject to show how difficult it is to deal with it. He quotes the hadith from Abu Da’ud which says, “I have been allowed to say that one of those angels that carry the `Arsh (is so large) that between his earlobe and the shoulder is a distance of seven hundred years.”

According to Albani, the hadith is Sahih (Au.).

The Prophet has also said that the `Arsh is above the seven heavens in the form of a dome. Another report of Abu Da’ud tells us that once a Bedouin went up to the Prophet and said, “People are suffering, folks are lost, properties are destroyed, cattle is dying, so ask Allah for rains. We seek that you intercede with Allah, and seek that Allah intercede with you..” The Prophet remonstrated, “Woe unto you man. Do you realize what you are saying?” Then he began to say “Glory to Allah, glory to Allah,” again and again. Then he said, “Woe unto you man. Allah cannot be asked to intercede with anyone of His creation. Allah is Greater than that. Do you realize Allah’s Greatness? He is above His `Arsh, the `Arsh is above the heavens.” Then using his fingers he made a dome-like figure to indicate its shape. Then he added, “It makes a noise similar to the noise of a rider on a new leather saddle.”

The hadith was declared Sahih by Abu Da’ud himself.

The difficulty of the topic has led many scholars of great repute to leave the verse where it is without any interpretation, explanation, or further clarification. Imam Abu Hanifah held the opinion that, “It is not right of anyone to speak out anything about Allah’s Essence. Rather, one should ascribe to Him what He ascribed unto Himself, without adding anything over and above what He said.” This was also the opinion of  Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad, Imam Shafe`i, Muhammad b. al-Hasan, Mirwazi, Ibn Mubarak, Is-haq b. Rahwayh, Bukhari, Tirmidhi and Abu Da’ud. This is more or less what the Sufiya have said, viz., people do not need any interpretation unless they forget the fact, already there in a corner of their mind, that Allah is different from anything that their minds can imagine.

Nevertheless, some scholars have understood the term “istawa”, continues Alusi, in the sense of “istila” meaning, “He overcame, or overpowered.” This of course may not be a satisfactory explanation to some. But we should not be oblivious of the fact that the Qur’an is in the Arabic language, addressing Arabs, and their minds look for meaning. In view of this fact, and since “istawa” cannot be understood in the sense of “He sat,” or “squatted,” or “positioned Himself,” there should be room to understand it in the sense of “istila” since an Arab reader will have to choose between the two. He cannot be told to draw no meaning whatsoever. What Ibn `Abidin al-Shami has written in Radd al-Muhtar is very reasonable that taking the meaning as “istila” should be allowable for the common people, since they have to understand the verse one way or the other, although, such a meaning cannot be declared correct in the absolute sense.

Alusi concludes that it is best not to speak of the topic at all, but rather, leave it to everyone to form an opinion that his knowledge allows him, and not insist that one version is correct and another incorrect.

 [6] To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth, what is between them, and what is beneath the wet soil.5


5. Linguistically, the word “thara” is used for wet soil (that one encounters as he digs). But many have accepted the meaning at this point as simply the soil. That is, Allah knows what is below the soil. Our translation is literal and exact. Muhammad b. Ka`b however said that it meant “the seven earths.” That is, Allah knows what is below the seven earths (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

Majid’s study of other religions yields fruit. He writes: “The under-world has been supposed by many polytheistic nations to be ruled by a God of its own. ‘The divinity who reigns over the under-world is frequently a personification of the region itself, and this is more particularly the case where, e.g., the Earth and Under-earth are conceived as personified in one being. The earth-goddess is also the ruler of souls, with the under-earth people as her subjects’ (ERE XII, p. 518).”

The verse could also be considered as a prediction by the Qur’an that nobody will ever know what is below the wet soil. Centuries of research has yielded some results about what is below the surface of the earth. It is a world teeming with life forms. Yet details of which is impossible to determine. Bacteria has been found several kilometers deep. But, and significantly, the Qur’an is not speaking of the wet layer of soil. It is speaking of what is below the wet layer: as if to send across the hint that at best you will only know (at best something) about the wet layer, and not any further. On a diameter of 12,000 kilometer man has been able to drill through no more than a few kilometers and the rest remains a complete mystery. The division and description of several layers by the geologists, which ends with a hot liquid core, is, at best, sketchy, conjectural, and, of little information value. Only Allah knows what is beneath the wet soil (Au.).

[7] And, whether you speak aloud in speech (or not), He knows the secret and what is more hidden.6

[8] Allah, there is no god save He. His are the Names Most Beautiful.


6. What can be “hidden and less than that”, or more secretive than the secretive? Imam Baqir and Ja`far Sadiq (as also others: Au.), said that “sirr” is what one conceals in his heart, whereas “lesser than that” is the passing thought which a man is unable to control and recollect afterward (Alusi).

At this point Alusi also takes up the question of “Dhikr Jahri” (vocal remembrance) and states that there are above twenty ahadith that speak of the Prophet remembering Allah in a loud voice. We know of the famous incident when the Companions were making dhikr in a loud voice, in chorus, invoking the Prophet to say, “Be kind upon your souls, you are not calling upon someone who is deaf, nor someone away, but rather someone Who is the Hearing, the Near.” (That is, his objection was to the shouting. He did not say, do not raise your voice at all: Au.). As for the report that when Ibn Mas`ud encountered some people in a mosque doing dhikr aloud he remarked, “I do not see excpet that you are innovators” – and then he got them sent out. Well, this report is not trustworthy. In fact, Imam Nawawi thought that dhikr in a raised voice is better than the subvocal one (because it helps drive away other thoughts). So was the opinion of Imam Shafe`i and which seems to be the opinion of Imam Ahmad also.

See Surah Al-an`am, note no. 286 for some more details.

Although the main point of discussion above may have its merits, we might point out that according to Hussain Saleem Asad the narration concerning Ibn Mas`ud has a sound chain (Au).

At all events, it is scientifically proven that sound waves leave their effects on the mind, either positively or negatively: “The science seems to suggest that there is a relationship between sound waves and brainwaves and that sound waves can alter brainwaves in positive ways. In the conclusion of a study, ‘A Comprehensive Review of the Psychological Effects of Brainwave Entrainment,’ 2008, by Tina L. Huang, PhD., she says that findings suggest that Brainwave Entrainment is an effective therapeutic tool, but that more studies needed to be conducted. Her studies showed that people suffering from cognitive functioning deficits, stress, pain, headaches/migraines, PMS and behavioral problems benefited from Brainwave Entrainment.” (What Type of Sound Waves Are Best For Brain Entrainment? – by A. Mullen) – Au.

(To be completed)

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