Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah 27, Al-Naml [59 – 63]

[59] Say, ‘All praise to Allah and peace on His slaves whom He has chosen.81 What, is Allah better or that which they associate (with Him)?’82

Commentary

81. Ibn `Abbas and Sufyan al-Thawri believed that the allusion by those that Allah chose is to the Companions of the Prophet (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Zayd b. Aslam’s opinion was that the allusion is to the Prophets and Messengers. It is they who were chosen by Allah (swt). (Ibn Kathir)

Allah (swt) teaches us that this is how we should commence our talks and speeches. (Alusi)

82. “‘Who is better: Allah (swt) or the gods that they associate with Him as His partners?’ The polytheists did not have the courage to face the question in this manner, for even the most hardened among them would not say that the deities were better than God. And if they accepted that God was better, the very foundation of their religion would be undermined and it would be unreasonable for them, thereafter, to say that they preferred what was inferior to that which was superior. By posing this question, the Qur’an immediately disarms its opponents.” (Mawdudi)

[60] Or, He who created the heavens and the earth,83 and sent down for you out of heaven water84 – then We caused to grow therewith delightful gardens;85 it was not (possible) for you to cause their trees to grow – is there a god with Allah? But rather, they are a people who swerve away (from the truth).86

Commentary

83. There is a little bit of ellipsis (ijaz) involved here. When it is said, “Or, He who created the heavens and the earth..,” it is as if being asked, “Is Allah (swt) better who created the heavens and the earth … or the deities you suggest?” (Au.)

84. When we consider the fact that living organisms, topped by the humans, inhabit only the earth, and that none of the other ten to eleven planets, nor their dozens of moon-like satellites, some of them as large as the earth, have been graced with water, then, the true meaning of, “And sent down for you out of heaven water” dawns upon us.(Au.)

85. In comparison to bustan, hadiqah is that orchard which has a fence around it. (Ibn Jarir)

So, there is creation:created the heavens and the earth,” regulation: “sent down for you out of heaven water,” sustenance: “caused to grow therewith,” and finally, beauty, “delightful gardens.” (Au.)

86. That is, they are a people who swerve away from the truth. (Ibn Jarir)

The words could also be translated as, “they are a people who assigns equals (to Allah).” Majid comments:

“In Vedic religion, for instance, ‘both Heaven and Earth are regarded as the parents of gods (deva-gods) even though they are said to have been generated by gods. Sometimes one god – Indira, or Agni, or Rudra, or Soma – sometimes all the gods together, are said to have generated or created heaven and earth, the whole world.” (ERE. IV., p. 156)

[61] Or, He who made for you the earth a resting place,87 and set amidst it rivers, and assigned for it pegs, and placed between the two seas a barrier88 – is there a god with Allah? But rather, most of them do not know.

Commentary

87. That is, a mass of matter that does not shake, convulse or quiver. When it does, as during an earth-quake, it causes devastation. (Au.)

88. See Surah al-Furqan, Ayah 53 for notes.

[62] Or, He who responds to the distressed when he appeals to Him and removes the evil,89 and makes you successors in the earth90 – is there a god with Allah? Seldom it is that you keep (this) in mind.

Commentary

89. Accordingly, Abu Saleh reports that “when Ta’us visited me in my sickness, I said to him, ‘Pray for me.’ He replied, ‘Pray for yourself for,‘He responds to the distressed when he calls Him.’” Imam Ahmad has a report that:

“A man of Balhujaym said, ‘Messenger of Allah! What’s your call?’ He answered, ‘I am calling unto One Allah who relieves you when you call Him in distress, who leads you back if you call Him when you are lost in the wilderness, who makes your crops grow when drought strikes and you appeal to Him.’”

(The above has been shortened in view of the next that follow).

According to Albani, the report above is trustworthy: S. Ibrahim.

Ahmad has another report coming from Jabir b. Sulaym al-Hujaymi.

He said, “I went to see the Prophet. He was sitting with his head-gear wrapped around his feet. Its end had fallen on his feet. I said, ‘Which of you is Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah?’ He pointed to himself. I said, ‘Messenger of Allah! I am of the desert and I discover hard-heartedness in myself. So, admonish me.’ He said, ‘Do not belittle any good deed; even if it is just meeting your brother with a smile; and even if you can empty your bucket in the water-seeker’s pot. And, if someone taunts you over something that he knows is in you, you do not taunt him back over what you find in him. You will have a reward for it while the sin will be on him. And beware! Let not your trousers hang below the ankles, for letting down the trousers is a thing of pride, and Allah (swt) does not approve of pride. And do not curse anything.’ (The Hujaymi said), “I never cursed anyone or anything after that, neither a goat nor a camel.” The hadith is also in Abu Da’ud and Nasa’i and is better reported in those books. (Ibn Kathir)

We might note in the above that the man had complained of the hardness of his heart, and therefore, all that the Prophet (saws) suggested to him would have gone into softening his heart if he put them to practice. Unwittingly, the man acknowledged the effect of the counsel on him by saying, “I never cursed anyone or anything thereafter, neither a goat nor a camel.” Could any other ordinary man’s words have had the same effect upon a hard-hearted rugged Bedouin? (Au.)

In the context of Allah (swt) helping the distressed, Ibn Kathir has two stories, both of which are in Ibn `Asakir’s work. The first reports Muhammad b. Da’ud al-Daynouri– better known as Daqi Sufi. He narrated from another man who said:

“I used to rent my mule’s back to people wishing to travel to other towns. Once, I took a man with me and as I was outside the town; he asked me to take an unknown direction. I said I was unfamiliar with that route. He said he knew it well enough and that it was a shortcut. But, as we reached a desolate place with lots of human remains in a valley, the man alighted. He gathered his clothes, brought out a knife, and began to advance towards me as if he wanted kill me. I tried to run away, but he caught up with me. I told him he could keep my mule and all that it carried. He said they were his anyway and that nothing but my life would satisfy him. When I saw that I couldn’t escape, I asked to be allowed to Pray two cycles. He told me to do it fast. But when I tried to recite the Qur’an, not a word would come to my mind and I stood there in silence. He was urging me to get over with it quick. Finally, the following words came to my mind: “He who responds to the distressed when he appeals to Him and removes the evil…” No sooner had I said these words that a horseman began to approach through the mouth of the valley. He had a spear which he hurled at the man striking him in his chest. In a moment, he lay dead. I asked the horsemen who he was. He said, ‘I am sent by Him who responds when a distressed person calls upon Him.’”

Another story has it that there was a man whose horse spoke to him during a battle against the Romans, to the effect that it was being mistreated by his syce. The story spread and people would visit him just to hear the story directly from him. The news reached the Romans whose ruler said that if there was such a man among them they wouldn’t be able to overcome the Muslims. So he sent an apostate to kidnap the man. He came pretending having embraced Islam anew in all earnestness, and became friendly with him. One day, as they were going together somewhere, another man appeared. It was clear that they had pre-planned to kidnap him. When the man saw that he was overpowered, he supplicated, “O Allah! You know they have deceived me. So help me in whatever way You will.” Two wild beasts appeared and devoured the two men.

Quote from Ibn Kathir ends here.

90. That is, one generation of men succeeds another. (Ibn Jarir)

Had Allah (swt) willed, He could have brought out all the people He wished to create till the end of Time, at once, at one time on the earth. But rather, He willed that they should appear one generation after another, one nation after another, and so on. (Ibn Kathir)

[63] Or, He who guides you through the darknesses of the land and sea, and who sends the winds as heralds of his forthcoming mercy91 – is there a god with Allah? Exalted High is Allah, above that which they associate (with Him).92

Commentary

91. The allusion is to the cool, fragrant winds that precede rains.(Au.)

92. Majid comments on how multiple deities find their place in human society: “Once an erring humanity has formed conception of a multiplicity of gods, there is no end to god-manufacturing. ‘It is the first step that costs: once you have got the idea of a god fairly evolved, any number of gods may be invented or introduced from all quarters. A great pantheon readily admits new numbers to its ranks from many strange sources … The Romans, indeed, deified every conceivable operation of nature or of human life: they had gods or goddesses for the minutest details of agriculture, of social relations, of the first years of childhood, of marriage and domestic arrangements generally.’” (Allen, Evolution of the Idea of God, p. 21)

(To be continued)