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ISOLATING Fact from Fiction.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 174; Qur’an 23:75-104, page 347 + 348

Welcome Friends:  Ahlan wa sahlan!
Yusuf Ali’s Translation of this Chapter.
Muhammad Asad’s Translation of this Chapter.
Their commentaries can only be read in verse by verse view.

PAGE 347 Arabic Qur’an.

1.    Our Reading today begins with Verses 75- 77, which continue in their description of people who ‘do not believe in the Hereafter.’  We notice their adherence to the same conduct, no matter what God sends them: Mercy and Suffering seem to elicit similar responses!

2.    In Verse 78 we find that our Hearing, our Sight, and our Resolve/ mental response are listed as God’s gifts to us, which should enable us to be productive (shukr).
Verses 79 - 80 describe the alternation of life and death, night and day, as evidence which should help us to secure knowledge (aql: أفلا تعقلون).

In Verses 81- 83, these people present their arguments against the likelihood of Resurrection, stating that this is ‘ancient history’ (‘historia is ‘أسطورية’ -see March 21).

3.    Verses 84- 89 pose a series of questions to people who deny Resurrection: 
‘To Whom belongs…?’  ‘Who is…?’ ‘Who controls..?’ and we notice them being prodded by the exclamations: ‘..if you indeed knew…; why then don’t you reflect?; shouldn’t you then be Aware?..; in what way are you deluded?

Interestingly, to each of these questions their answer is the same:  ‘God!’
Remember HQ 12:106, where Yusuf Ali adds:

“Even if people profess a nominal faith in God, they corrupt it by believing in other things as if they were God’s partners, or had some share in the shaping of the world’s destinies!”

PAGE 348 Arabic Qur’an.

4.    Verses 90- 92 assert that God has brought them The Truth, which they belied by ascribing a ‘child’ to Him, or a ‘partner’ in His Divinity.  Creation, in its precision and unity, replies to the absurdity of such allegations.  Knower of what is Unseen/ Imperceptible and what is Witnessed, Exalted is He above all their attributions!

5.    Verses 93- 95 speak directly to Prophet Muhammad, giving him the words/ prayers to say even as he was being oppressed by Qureish, assuring him of God’s ability to show him the dire consequences which his oppressors were promised.

Dear Reader,
We must realize that ‘History’ is always biased towards the mentality/ knowledge/ standpoint of the person(s) who recorded it.  Unless we have several independent narratives to compare with, we can never know so-called ‘historic’ details for certain. 
As any scholar would know, this applies to accounts of the Prophet’s life-history (Seerah), peace upon him.  The most distinguished narrative was authored by Ibn Ishaq   - ابن اسحاق (85-153 A.H./ 703-767 A.D.), and abridged later by Ibn Hisham (d. 218 A.H./ 833 A.D) ابن هشام- .  What is extant today is the latter’s, while Ibn Ishaaq’s full narrative is lost.

Now, what is interesting, is that Ibn Ishaaq’s narrative was commissioned by the Abbasid Caliph Al Mansour أبو جعفر المنصور[i], for a child, his young son Al Mehdiالمهدي -.  Knowing this detail will help us understand why some reported incidents may read like a fairy-tale, and why much unpleasantness (related to the Prophet’s suffering at the hands of Qureish) was barely mentioned.
Originally compiled from oral tradition, Ibn Ishaaq himself says in his introduction: ‘Only God knows which of these narratives are true.

It is therefore not surprising that, while we read ample accounts of mundane things, we find vague mention of ‘أذى’ injury to the Prophet, his family members and close companions, some of whom had to flee to Ethiopia, while most fled into the wilderness where they spent three years, eating grubs, leather, leaves, and bark.  Yet, it is because of this suffering that many of his supporters died, most notable among whom were both his uncle, and his wife, Khadija.  We are told that, after the death of his two main supporters, things only got worse -but we also have no record of that. 

This is why, when we seek general Truths about the Prophet’s life, we should look to the Qur’an.

And this is why, when we encounter verses which speak directly to Prophet Muhammad, providing solace and encouragement, or calling for forbearance and (as above) giving him the words/ prayers to say even as he was being oppressed by Qureish:  We should stop for a moment of Reflection, knowing that God is Sole Witness, and the Qur’an is sole authority on what really took place.

6.    Now despite all the hardship the early Believers were incurring, especially at the hands of the Heads of Qureish, we find Verse 96 commanding exemplary conduct of the Prophet, peace upon him, after which Verses 97-100 show us their humiliating end:

Repel an offense with that which is best: We are best-acquainted with what they describe.
And say: “My Lord! I seek refuge with You from the pressures[ii] of the Chieftains[iii]
And I seek refuge with You, O Lord, that they should approach me.
Until, upon death’s arrival to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord! Return me!
Perhaps I could perform Goodness in what I had left behind.’
No!  It is but a word he utters, and behind them is a Partition/Barrier till the day they shall be raised from the dead.”

CONTEXT  clearly shows us that these verses are about the chieftains or tribal-lords of Qureish (as in HQ 2:14 - explained by Ibn Abbas, the Prophet’s cousin). 
The ‘shayateen’ here are neither the ‘jinns,’ nor the ‘promptings of the evil ones/ evil impulses’ (Ali/Asad).  Both commentators missed this one!

7.    Verses 101- 104 show us that, after Death and Resurrection, when the ‘quickening of events نفخ في الصور-’ takes place, nothing will count except their deeds… weighed for –or against them- in all precision.
Enough said!

Our next Reading is from HQ 23:105-118; 24:1-10, a new Chapter!

Peace unto all!

"يروى أن محمد بن إسحاق (توفي سنة 152هـ/767م)، وكان وافر العلم غزير الإطلاع في أخبار العرب، أم بغداد، فدخل يوماً على الخليفة المنصور (754م-775م) وبين يده ابنه المهدي (775م-785م)، وكان حدثاً.
فقال له المنصور: أتعرف من هذا؟ قال: نعم، هذا ابن أمير المؤمنين. قال: اذهب فصنف له كتاباً منذ خلق الله تعالى آدم إلى يومنا هذا. فذهب ابن إسحاق، فصنف له ذلك الكتاب وعاد به إلى الخليفة. فقال المنصور: لقد طولته وأكثرت، اذهب فاختصره. ثم عاد ابن إسحاق بالكتاب مختصراً، وسمّاه كتاب "المغازي والسير". فكان الكتاب أوّل سيرة في التاريخ لرسول الله (صلى الله عليه وسلم)، ولكنها يا للأسف قد فقدت وما زالت مفقودة، ما عدا بعض المقاطع المخطوطة، الدفينة في دور الكتب. اقرأها كاملة هنا.

[ii] همز: ضغط وعصر، و"همزت الشيء في كفّي" والهمز في الكلام كأنه يضغط الحرف.  والقوس الهَمَزي هو القوس شديد الدفع للسهم. ويقال "الهامز-الهمّاز والهُمَزة".

[iii] "وإذا لقوا الذين آمنوا قالوا آمنا.وإذا خلوا إلى شياطينهم قالوا إنما نحن مستهزئون"2:14 قال ابن عباس: هم رؤساء الكفر.

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