Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
The Balance we should uphold in our Consumption, between what is Halaal and Haraaam is perhaps best illustrated in HQ 5:87.
Yusuf Ali’s Translation of our new Chapter.
Muhammad Asad’s Translation of our new Chapter.
Their commentaries can only be read in verse by verse view
PAGE 281 Arabic Qur’an.
After warning everyone (in our last Reading) against ascribing ‘falsities’ to God, by saying that something is lawful or unlawful, Verse 118 tells the Messenger, that God had earlier forbidden/ made inviolable to the Jews what He had already mentioned to him (in previous verses, such as HQ 4:160, 6:146); and it was they, who had wronged their own selves.
Verse 119 gives us a General Rule as to who can expect the Lord’s Forgiveness:
Anyone who commits misdeeds unknowingly, then repents, and MENDS.
Note that Repentance is not sufficient on its own, and that context here makes this rule applicable to Jews, as well as everyone else.
(How wonderful it is to read Muhammad Asad’s explanations on Jewish Doctrine and Practice! His own Jewish heritage, and his family’s preparations for him to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps as a Rabbi, made him well-versed in Talmudic studies at a young age. Read about this extraordinary man in side-bar.)
2. The following verses illustrate the connection between the missions of both Prophets Muhammad and Abraham, peace upon both.
They begin by mentioning Abraham’s beautiful qualities and his high esteem (Verses 120- 121- 122), then go on to tell Muhammad (Verse 123) how it was, that God conveyed, to him, to follow Abraham’s ‘Haneef’ creed. (Other important attributes of Abraham are also mentioned here, but his distinctive quality, as we have seen earlier, is that he was Haneef: In a nutshell, we might say that ‘Haneef’ is one who maintains awareness, while self-correcting his direction at every turn. See Posting of May 17th.)
Verse 124 first mentions the ‘Sabbath violators’ who had NOT followed Abraham’s creed, then closes the argument by leaving judgment of the matters in which people differ…..to God. See Asad’s detailed comments on the subject.
3. As we saw in Verse 124, to God returns all judgment of our disputes…meanwhile, we are human and we WILL indeed differ.
So Verse 125 sets the ‘standards of argument/ dispute’ for the Messenger specifically, and us all in general:
We should argue in the manner which IS BEST: بالتي هي أحسن- not merely good, but THAT WHICH IS BEST ‘ahsan’.
Actually, the Messenger is asked to tell God’s Worshippers to ALWAYS convey to others ‘that which is best’ (HQ 17:53), and HQ 29:46 is specific, regarding the same generosity of manner in which we can argue with People of (earlier) Compilation.
Verses 126- 127 set the standards for exacting Retribution for any wrong committed, stressing on Forbearance as being of more benefit خير for the Forbearing persons, and commanding the Messenger to Forbear, in (reliance on) God, and not to grieve at what others are devising against him.
Verse 128 brings this beautiful Chapter to a close, with the statement that God is indeed WITH those who are AWARE and who are doing their BEST ‘muhsin’- محسن (even in argument!).
PAGE 282 Arabic Qur’an.
The Night Journey
From Muhammad Asad’s introduction to this Chapter:
“THE REFERENCE to the mystic Night Journey in the first verse of this surah (see Appendix IV) shows that it cannot have been revealed earlier than in the last year before the hijrah….
Because of the mention of the children of Israel in verses 2-8 and 101-104, some of the contemporaries of the Prophet used to designate this surah by the title of Banu Isra'il ("The Children of Israel"); most of the classical commentators, however, prefer the title Al-Isra'.”
4. This Chapter begins (Verse 1) by mentioning an experience which was specific to Muhammad, peace upon him, called ‘al Israa’- usually translated as the ‘journey by night.’ Unfortunately, traditions have coupled another event with this one, called ‘Miraaj’ (which is not mentioned at all in the Qur’an). Too much has been said on this subject for people to retain objectivity; some stress the truth of ‘Miraaj’ while others ridicule it. Dante (1265-1321) based his ‘Divine Comedy’ on the Latin translations of this event, and I cannot help wondering how the English word ‘mirage’ which describes an ‘illusion’ relates to this narrative! We shall not dwell on what is NOT in the Qur’an today.
I advise Readers to always try and stick precisely to what the Qur’an, in Arabic, actually says. Today, we shall look at ‘Israa’ alone, and our view in regard to the Prophet’s intimate, invigorating, heart-warming, ‘out of this world’ experience should be based on who we are: We are OUTSIDERS to this personal exchange which took place between a Messenger and his Lord, an experience which is unrelated to us, proven by the fact that the Qur’an has only offered us this single, quick reference on it.
Although I believe we should only discuss the basic details offered in the Qur’an, for the sake of clarity I also find it perhaps helpful to mention some commonly-held views about Israa:
From Muhammad Asad’s Appendix IV:
“Since the Prophet himself did not leave any clear-cut explanation of this experience, Muslim thinkers - including the Prophet's Companions - have always widely differed as to its true nature. The great majority of the Companions believed that both the Night Journey and the Ascension were physical occurrences - in other words, that the Prophet was borne bodily to Jerusalem and then to heaven - while a minority were convinced that the experience was purely spiritual. Among the latter we find, in particular, the name of 'A'ishah, the Prophet's widow and most intimate companion of his later years, who declared emphatically that "he was transported only in his spirit (bi-ruhihi), while his body did not leave its place" (cf. Tabari, Zamakhshari and Ibn Kathir in their commentaries on 17:1); the great Al-Hasan al-Basri, who belonged to the next generation, held uncompromisingly to the same view (ibid.). As against this, the theologians who maintain that the Night Journey and the Ascension were physical experiences refer to the corresponding belief of most of the Companions - without, however, being able to point to a single Tradition to the effect that the Prophet himself described it as such. Some Muslim scholars lay stress on the words asra bi-'abdihi ("He transported His servant by night") occurring in 17:1, and contend that the term 'abd ("servant") denotes a living being in its entirety, i.e., a combination of body and soul.”
5. While Verse 2 mentions the Compilation granted to Moses, and the instructions given to Bani Isra-eel, Verse 3 mentions prophet Noah, peace upon both Prophets, as being a worshipper who was ‘productive’ in his gratitude.
6. Verses 4- 5- 6- 7 are historically explained by Asad (Ali too) relying on Jewish Tradition and history that is believed to have already taken place, while others see ‘future prophecy’ in these verses.
I always see lessons to be learnt, and prefer not to elaborate on more than the obvious.
From Asad we get the following conclusion with regard to ‘Israa’:
In conclusion, it should be noted that the Prophet's Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, immediately preceding his Ascension, was apparently meant to show that Islam is not a new doctrine but a continuation of the same divine message which was preached by the prophets of old, who had Jerusalem as their spiritual home. This view is supported by Traditions (quoted in Fath al-Bari VII, 158), according to which the Prophet, during his Night Journey, also offered prayers at Yathrib, Sinai, Bethlehem, etc. His encounters with other prophets, mentioned in this connection, symbolize the same idea. The well-known Traditions to the effect that on the occasion of his Night Journey the Prophet led a prayer in the Temple of Jerusalem, in which all other prophets ranged themselves behind him, expresses in a figurative manner the doctrine that Islam, as preached by the Prophet Muhammad, is the fulfilment and perfection of mankind's religious development, and that Muhammad was the last and the greatest of God's message-bearers.
Remember, dear Readers, that this intimate experience arrived at a time when the Prophet, peace upon him, was at the lowest point in both his personal and professional existence. His family support was gone with the death of his (only) wife of almost 30 years, AND his uncle; they had all suffered the Boycott and the ‘Fitnah’ (trial by fire) by the hands of Qureish, and he had found it necessary to travel to Ta’if for outside support, but was thrown stones at … until his shoes were filled with his blood… Wouldn’t his Lord comfort and strengthen him in such an hour?
(For Readers who might wonder… yes, Khadija was his only wife until she died. He had married her at age 25 when she was 40. There was no one else sharing his bed, at a time when polygyny and concubines was the norm.)
Our next Reading is from HQ 17:9-27
Peace unto all!