Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
Yusuf Ali’s Explanation of this Chapter.
Muhammad Asad’s Explanation of this Chapter.
Their commentaries can be read in ‘verse by verse’ view.
Literally: ‘a most sharp, powerful, and preventative element’
From Introduction of Yusuf Ali:
“The present Madinah Surah is chiefly concerned with spiritual humility and the avoidance, and a warning that retirement from the world may not be the best way of seeking the good pleasure of God. Its probable date is after the Conquest of Makkah, A.H. 8.”
From Introduction of Muhammad Asad:
“THE MENTION in verse 25 of “iron” and all that this word implies (see note 42 below) so impressed the contemporaries and successors of the Prophet that this surah has always been known as “the surah in which iron is mentioned” (Tabari). From the reference to the conquest of Mecca (al-fath) in verse 10 it is obvious that the earliest date of its revelation would be the end of the year 8 H.”
Although it is believed that this Chapter was revealed after the Believers had entered[i] Mecca, there are indications that it may have been revealed a few years earlier, namely, after the Peace Treaty of Hudaybiyyah (depending on which event is considered ‘Fat-H’ فتح).
This chapter calls upon Believers to support their professed faith with deeds and give generously in the way of God, offering insight into certain imperceptible realities about God, His ‘Divine/ Natural’ system of Creation, the Hereafter, and invites all who profess their faith in God to also believe in His Messenger Muhammad.
Its introductory verse is striking; many chapters of the Qur’an[ii] begin with such a statement:
‘Motivated/ Moving to God is everything in the Exalted Expanses and on Earth,
and He is The Invincible, The Wise.’
Definition of ‘Tasbeeh’ (for the benefit of New Readers):
The root-verb ‘sabaHa’ is related to ‘swimming,’ the continuous bodily motions which keep us from drowning.
Life, dear Reader, necessitates similar unrelenting ‘motion/ motivation’ to keep us afloat[iii], but then, to get ahead, we must exert even more effort!
This explanation is consistent with HQ 73:7, where six verses begin by addressing the Messenger peace upon him, giving him his ‘agenda’ by night and by day:
· During nighttime he is to ‘peruse/ rattil[iv]’ the Qur’an.
· During daytime he is to maintain long periods of motion/ motivation.
‘Indeed, you do/shall have in the daytime prolonged movement (motion/ motivation).’
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1. Just as we noted that the last chapter concluded with a command to do ‘tasbeeh,’ we note today that this chapter begins with a statement of fact, asserting that everything, indeed, does ‘tasbeeh!’
Regular Readers will remember how we explained the concept of ‘tasbeeh,’ and said that it was related to the constant ‘motion’ by which everything fulfills its innate God-given characteristics (see how often this is mentioned in the Qur’an). Indeed, everything ‘moves/ yusabbiHhu’[v] to fulfill itself so naturally, that its mere existence is its ‘tasbeeh;’ whatever stops moving, ceases to exist (even swimmers drown). Yet more is expected of us, cognizant humans:
We are expected to move with intent and focus, effecting not just physical, but also psycho-spiritual potential, growing in knowledge and awareness… facilitating the growth of others and progressing together in God’s direction.
2. After announcing that everything in the Exalted Expanses and on Earth is ‘motivated to God..’ Verse 2 tells us that the Dominion of the Exalted Expanses and the Earth is His Alone, and that He is The Deliverer of Life and Death, and that He Alone is of all things ‘Qadeer’ (explained below).
Verse 3 continues with God’s attributes, that He is The First and The Last, the Evident and the Immanent, and the Knower of all things.
Earlier, we had hastily explained the word ‘Qadeer’ as ‘Capable’ (the traditional understanding of the word), but seeing the word now in CONTEXT, and remembering the Arabic LANGUAGE and the 1,000 year old definition of the root-verb ‘qadara,’ we come up with a completely different understanding.
Regular Readers will remember the amazing concept of ‘qadr’ (put words in ‘Search’); where God gives everything in ‘qadr’ (an amount WITH capacity for PROJECTION to its utmost). We also said that ‘qadr’ is embedded in everything He bestows upon us, but only now do we realize the connection between our ‘tasbeeh/ motion/ motivation,’ which through action, can gradually transform into reality what was - until that point – only a ‘projection/ qadr.’ When one possibility becomes a reality, new options open up for us, and so on.
So, rather than ‘sabaHha/ sabaha’ being motion ‘in celebration of God’s praise,’ it is motion in fulfillment of God’s ‘Qadr,’ as per HIS attribute of ‘Qadeer’ (being ‘Creator and Projector’).
Also, notice that (in HQ 21:87, 39:67) the words ‘SubHhaan Allah’ indicate that we have acknowledged God’s ‘Qadr!’
Isn’t it EXCITING when we discover things together! So, the next time around God-willing, when/if we redo this Blog from beginning to end, there are a few corrections we’ll have to make, and this is one of them: That God has ‘projected’ into everything a multitude of ‘ends’ which might be fulfilled, each ‘fulfillment’ or ‘non-fulfillment’ dependent on one’s motion/ motivation, relative to circumstance and environment. The possibilities are limitless for each of us, and each choice we make opens up – or closes - a new set of possibilities and projections, aiding or thwarting our rise to potential (achieving potential IS the ultimate aim; put ‘potential’ in ‘Search’).
The ‘motion/ motivation’ of ‘Tasbeeh’ encompasses everything we do, and certainly includes our reflection (by thought and word) on God’s great attributes.
Yusuf Ali’s[vii] earlier explanation of the word was just a few steps away from our understanding, as you can see here.
When we imagine the impact that each action by each creature might have upon each projection, we come closer to BEGINNING to realize how great God is. No wonder the Qur’an so often tells us of the deficit in people’s ‘esteem’ of God…. وما قدروا الله حق قدره ....
Isn’t it a tragedy to find that most scholars have reduced Tasbeeh/ Tasbih to indicate a form of remembrance/ thikr, where the person simply utters words such as ‘Subhaan Allah’ a certain number of times? Isn’t it indicative of even greater alienation that many ‘Muslims’ (especially those who do not speak Arabic) have reduced ‘tasbeeh’ even further to signify the string of beads (rosary) used to take count?
Notice, dear Reader, how something we treasure can change with time when we’ve lost sight of its original concept. Finally, even its symbolism disappears, and what remains is a hollow name.
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3. In Verse 4 we are told for the sixth (and last) time that God created the Exalted Expanse and the Earth in six aeons /epochs/ terms (NOT days), and how at length (‘thumma- ثم’) He secured and sustained it in His full command (New Readers: Put ‘Arch’ in ‘Search;’ put ‘aeons days’ in ‘Search’).
Then, we are given a ‘shocker’:
‘… AND HE IS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU MAY BE, AND GOD IS ALL-SEEING OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING.’
Not simply ‘observing us from a distance,’ or ‘knowing what we do,’ but actually WITH us… everywhere.. wherever we may be?
This verse, dear Reader, should stop us in our tracks when we find our steps leading to unfavorable places or deeds!
Then, Verse 5 asserts that the Dominion of the Exalted Expanses and the Earth is His, and to God all matters are returned.
In Verse 6 (as in Verse 4), we find God’s creation of natural phenomena linked to His Knowledge of us.
Doesn’t it make us think, dear Reader, when we find this final mention in the Qur’an of God’s merging of night and day into each other, that He also mentions His knowledge of what goes on within the dark recesses of our minds/ chests? Now that we know what ‘SubHhaan-Allah’ means, let us say it:
SubHhaan-Allah, we do acknowledge God’s limitless ‘Qadr’ (despite being unable to fully appreciate it).
4. One of the central themes in Verses 7- 24 is that we should SPEND of what God has made us ‘successors of;’ with a direct call to spending in Verses 7, 10, 11, 18, 24.
Notice that ‘faith’ is always joined by good deeds, in this case, it is about spending (in God’s way, spreading the wealth to the benefit of mankind).
Verse 7 begins quite plainly: Whatever material wealth we may think we ‘possess’ is not truly ours, but rather, it comes and goes to different people through succession/ ‘khilaafah’ (most notably due to people dying and leaving it to those who succeed them).
Regular Readers will remember the definition of the root-verb ‘khalafa:’ ‘To come after (in location or in time); to succeed someone who is absent/ deceased’ (put word in ‘Search’). I prefer Yusuf Ali’s ‘heirs’ to Muhammad Asad’s ‘trustees.’
This section includes heart-melting questions which ask:
· ‘And why are you not trusting/ having faith in God, even as the Messenger invites you to trust/ have faith in your Sustainer…?’ (Verse 8)
· ‘And what is with you that prevents you from spending in God’s way…?’ (Verse10)
· ‘Who is it that shall loan God a beautiful loan after which He shall multiply it, and his is a generous reward? (Verse 11)
Remember that the Qur’an is interactive, and that every question it asks does get a response, even in our silence.
We also notice that Verse 8 (after having questioned listeners as to their faith in God), reminds them of their ‘solemn pledge/ meethaaq’ given to God, IF they are indeed Believers!
Upon searching for this pledge, we find it in HQ 5:7, where we learn that Believers had pledged to hear and to obey.
Verse 9 tells listeners why God was sending these evident ‘Signs/ Ayaat’ unto His worshipper (Muhammad):
He was sending them so that (li) He would take ‘you’ out of the Darknesses into the Light, indeed God is Most Gracious, Unceasingly Compassionate towards you.
Verse 10 clearly indicates that, although both groups are promised the best, it is those who had exerted themselves in times of duress who shall end up far surpassing others who had exerted themselves in easier times; they are considered literally ‘of greater tread/ step,’ having made larger strides forward/ upward (‘darajah’ does NOT mean ‘rank,’ but ‘stepping up.’ Put word in ‘Search’).
Regular Readers also know that ‘Fat’H’ probably refers to the Peace Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, which this verse seems to consider a defining historic marker!
What a difference there must have been between the two times; at the beginning, the need was more critical and the sacrifice greater.
See the Chapter of ‘The Opening/ The Victory’ where we discuss the word ‘Fat’H’ in detail; put ‘Hudaybiyyah’ in ‘Search.’
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5. Verses 12- 15 transport us to a certain Time/ Yawm (in the Hereafter), where we witness an exchange which takes place ‘en route’ between the Faithful and the ‘Hypocrites’ (Munafiqeen: ‘Those in camouflage’). The Faithful, whose Light travels (runs [viii]) with them, are given glad tidings of Gardens beneath which rivers flow, to reside therein in comfort… a great Deliverance/ salvation indeed. Meanwhile, the Hypocrites are begging that they wait for them/ look towards them, so that they could grasp some of their light! The response is astounding: The Hypocrites are told to retrace their steps and seek Light! (It is too late at that stage of their existence; they should have thought of gaining light earlier on.) Retracing their steps back through time is impossible, which is why the verses continue, showing how they become separated from the others, ‘walled out’ from them. The ‘divider’ separating them contains ‘Mercy’ at the other side, which they don’t see, while ‘Suffering’ is displayed on their side. They ask the Believers, ‘Were we not with you?’ The response is that they were ‘with’ them, but had been tempting themselves/ playing with fire (literally ‘trying themselves by fire’), and had waited/ lingered/ bided time, and had doubted, and been misled by their aspirations until God’s Command came upon them, and they were (ultimately) deceived by ‘the Deceiver,’ with regard to God (see HQ 35:5 which shows us how ‘deceptive’ the immediate life of this world can be, especially when one is ‘prodded’ to deviancy by the Deviant/ SheyTaan: the negative force within each of us).
Then, in Verse 16, we read one of the MOST heart-melting questions in the Qur’an:
· ‘Isn’t it time for Those who have attained Faith, that their hearts/ minds become tranquil in the Remembrance of God….?
(Root-verb: khasha’a- خشع-- is all about being ‘calmly subdued, in full tranquility or stillness.’ For the Faithful, nothing is as powerful at granting ‘calm’ as the remembrance of God.
Although the definition does not point to it, from reading the Qur’an where the word is 16 times mentioned, it seems that this tranquility is in trusting ‘anticipation’ for what is to come! That is why no single English word can define ‘Eman,’ which is Faith, Trust, and a feeling of ‘amn,’ security in God’s care.
The rest of this verse warns Those who have attained faith NOT to be like those who had received the Compilation earlier.. those whose hearts/ minds had hardened with the passage of time, and those amongst whom many (not all) are now Deserters/ Breachers of Faith (Faasiq).
Then, Verse 17 gives such persons (who may be listening) hope for change, for God does revive the earth after it is dead, such signs He has made evident for us if we were to secure knowledge.
Verse 18 announces to men and women who are genuine, heart-feeling and charitable (from root-verb SaDaqa) that they, and whoever ‘loans’ to God a goodly loan, shall receive it multiplied manifold, and they shall have a generous recompense.
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6. Verse 19 identifies for us WHO the ‘SiDdeeq’ and the ‘Shaheed/ Witness’ are: They are those who have attained complete faith/trust in God and His Messenger (and therefore, have also obeyed them, as HQ 4:69 specifies). They shall have their own reward and their own light, as for the Deniers who have belied God’s Signs, they shall be the ‘companions’ of the extreme Heat (‘jaHeem: literally, the hot, scalding place).
Then, in Verses 20 and 21 we find eye-opening statements defining this immediate life for us, and telling us what to do in its fleeting time.
Notice the commands: KNOW and RACE:
‘Know that the immediate lowly life is but a …’ (Verse 20).
‘Race towards Forgiveness from you Lord and a garden which is…’ (Verse 21).
Read these two verses carefully, dear Friend!
Verse 22 tells us that no irreparable blow can strike this earth or our Selves, but that it already is in a compilation (of Creation) before God brings it into being, which is easy for God (explained below).
The next verse tell us why (we are so being told):
‘So that you neither sorrow for what passes you by, nor exult in what comes to you…’
Indeed! After Verse 20 had defined for us that the life of this world is no more than a temporary, delusional convenience… nothing on earth we miss or catch can merit the loss of our heads with sorrow or exaltation.
The verse ends by telling us that God does not like every conceited braggart, which helps us understand that pride and exaltation generate more harm than sorrow (put ‘muSseebah’ in ‘Search’; see 10 times mentioned in Qur’an). Also see what kinds of behaviors ‘God does not like.’
We have discussed the issue of everything being in ‘a compilation’ of Creation before[ix] (put ‘turn of events’ in ‘Search’).
Regular Readers know that this does not mean that all ‘blows’ are ‘from God,’ and no one is responsible for them. What this means is that anything which happens has happened within A DIVINE SYSTEM, a NATURAL PROCESS which brought it about. When A takes place, B will necessarily follow and so on, not necessarily by our choice, but because that is how the turn of events takes place, in ‘God’s system’ or ‘sunnatul-Lah.’ That ‘system’ has been compiled by Him, and each of us is responsible for putting in motion whatever circumstances bring about the outcome.
Then, Verse 24 seems to tell us exactly whom God does NOT like: Those who are stingy and urge others to be the same, for when they turn away from giving, God is Self-sufficient ‘Ghani,’ Praiseworthy; He has absolutely no need of them nor will their deeds affect Him in the least.
This verse seems to punctuate what was mentioned before, indicating that -in the ‘system’ which God created- miserly people only harm themselves.
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7. Read Asad’s explanation and valuable commentary on Verse 25.
This verse is so thought-provoking!
Firstly, it shows listeners that this Messenger is but one in a series of Messengers who came to their people with evidence, and with The Compilation AND the ‘Scale/ Criterion,’ so that (li) people would uphold equity (fair and just dealings with each other).
The Compilation and the Scale are mentioned together twice in the Qur’an; here, and in HQ 42:17... where we noticed that CONTEXT mentioned people of (earlier) Compilation who, having ‘inherited’ it, had strayed and followed their plummeting desires (hawa). The Messenger was commanded not to follow them, but rather to be upright AND DEAL WITH EQUITY AMONG ALL PEOPLE, SAYING ‘GOD IS OUR LORD AND YOUR LORD.’
Think, dear Reader, of the importance of fair dealing in any society, where all people are considered equals. The Compilation which God had sent to Humanity IS about that, and has always been. It is WE who have rendered ‘self-serving’ what we’ve made out as ‘our own version’ of it!
Humanity is one; our divisions are of our own making.
Just as God is One, so is His Compilation sent to Humankind throughout the ages.
Secondly, this very same verse mentions God delivering to us the usage of [x] ‘iron,’ an element ‘most sharp/ powerful/ preventative’ and informing us that in this element there is:
· Severe potency (in inflicting Suffering and gaining Power).
· Benefits for Cognizant Humans.
This verse also gives us the reason for giving us the use of this element:
‘SO THAT GOD WOULD MARK OUT those who would ‘assist/ serve’ Him and His Messengers in the unseen..’ (in one’s heart, where no one but the person himself knows whom/ what he is actually serving).
Q. What does the context of this verse indicate, and why is ‘Hadeed,’ or ‘iron,’ an element ‘most sharp/ powerful/ preventative’ specifically mentioned?
A. Because ‘Hadeed’ is the element used for DEVELOPMENT, DEFENSE and WARFARE. It is what may be used to build OR to destroy. It is the single most constructive, yet most destructive element on earth, mentioned in this verse together with the Compilation, the Scale/ Criterion, Equitable treatment, and the warning that its USAGE should be in accordance with fairness and justice… and that each of us shall be ultimately branded/ ‘marked out’ by our acts AND our hidden intentions!
Tell that to the weapon manufacturers, to arms-dealers, to war-mongers… to unscrupulous governments, to fanatics… to anyone who wants to start or enhance conflicts, rather than to quell conflict and bring harmony.
Such immoral people are writing our history today. Is there any way we can help bring them to a stop? Yes, there is, and it is not as difficult as one might think. I will not get into what I do not know, such as creating incentives which might direct their products towards peaceful ends, making it more lucrative for them to switch gear… but I shall discuss what I DO know:
I do know that things can and will change when People of Conscience worldwide say AND strive towards something like this:
‘OUR DIVISIONS ARE OF OUR OWN MAKING (not God’s).
THERE IS SO MUCH MORE THAT JOINS US THAN DIVIDES US.
WE ARE ONE ENTITY ON THIS EARTH AND WHATEVER HARM WE CREATE FOR OTHERS SHALL EVENTUALLY HURT US / OUR CHILDREN.
PEACE IS THE ONLY ROAD TO PROSPERITY AND HAPPINESS.
JUSTICE (AND THE REPARATION OF PRIOR WRONGS) IS THE ROAD TO LASTING PEACE.’
8. After what we’ve discussed, dear Reader, it follows quite naturally that the following verses would mention previous Messengers (such as Prophets Noah, Abraham, and Jesus, by name, alluding to others, peace upon them all). Certainly, all of them were sent with the Compilation and the Scale of Right and Wrong, and all of them taught justice and fair-dealing among people.
Verse 26 tells us that there were other Prophets who descended from the lines of Prophets Noah and of Abraham, and they too upheld the Compilation, but that among their descendants were those who were guided, while many were ‘deserters/ breachers of faith’ (faasiq).
Then comes Verse 27, an eye-opener with regard to the followers of Prophet Jesus. Read this Verse as explained by Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Asad (I must remind readers that the word ‘Allah’ was replaced by editors who did not respect Ali’s deliberate use of the word ‘God’ in his English explanation).
This verse is an eye-opener, as it first speaks of the Evangel given to Prophet Jesus and of the compassion and mercy which God had rendered in the hearts/ minds of his followers. Then it mentions a trait originated by them, ‘Rahbaaniyyah/ Monastic seclusion’ - literally: ‘Reclusion due to terror (rahbah)’ which indicates that they were forced into isolation, fearing for their faith and lives. The verse then tells us about this monasticism, asserting that God did not ‘put it together/ compile it’ as a duty/ obligation upon them, except that it was -in their case- a way to seek His Approval/ Pleasure. The verse continues, informing us that they, in their keeping of it, did not do justice to its observation, so God gave those of them who had attained Faith their reward, and many of them were breachers of Faith/ Deserters.
This may lead us to conclude that although reclusion, as an extreme undertaking, might be considered favorable in times of danger/ terror…. it is likely to leads to breaching one’s faith in the long-term, and is therefore inadvisable as a way of life.
9. After the persuasion and dissuasion of the previous verses, Verse 28 calls upon Those who had Attained Faith telling them/ us in the second person plural ‘you’ to:
· Be aware of God.
· Believe/ Trust in His Messenger.
And He would:
· Give you a double portion of His Mercy.
· Render for you a Light in which to walk.
· Forgive/Absolve you, for God is Forgiving, Unceasingly Compassionate
Dear Reader: Isn’t that a handsome exchange? But wait. This is not just a statement of fact. This is also encouragement to the People of (earlier) Compilation, especially those of them who consider themselves ‘aware of God,’ that they should take the next step and believe/trust in His Messenger!
That is what Verse 29 concludes with, telling listeners that God’s Bounty knows no bound; it is His to give to whomever wills it/ whomever He wills, for God is OF great Bounty/Generosity[xi].
Peace unto all!
[i] The word ‘conquest’ is a common, but erroneous translation of the word ‘fat-H!’
[iv] The 1,000 year old definition of ‘rattala’ is NOT about ‘recital,’ as most people think, but rather it is a combination of realization, identification/clarification, and confirmation: تحقيق وتبيين وتمكين
[v] The word ‘sabaHa’ is related to motion, most similar to swimming in water. Arabs have used this word to describe the fluidity of camels upon the mirage of desert sands, the galloping horses, the churning of ships through the waves & people going about their different chores.
[vi] Notice the second verse which mentions His creating us, and that among us are ‘Deniers’ and among us are ‘Believers,’ and that He is All-seeing of what we are doing. Therefore BOTH becoming ‘Deniers’ or becoming ‘Believers’ are projections of what we COULD become, while what we actually DO become is our choice, based on what we were striving for in life.
[vii] From Yusuf Ali’s commentary:
“Qadir: I have translated it more fully than most translators. The root qadara not only implies power, ability, strength, but two other ideas which it is difficult to convey in a single word, viz., the act and power of estimating the true value of a thing or persons, as in 6:91; and the act and power of regulating something so as to bring it into correspondence with something. 'Judgement of values" I think sums up these finer shades of meaning.” End quote.
سعو: كلمتان إن صحّتا. فذكر عن الكسائي: مضى سَعْوٌ من الليل، أي قِطْع منه. وذكر ابن دريد() أن السَّعْوَ الشَّمَع، وفيه نظر. [والمَسْعاة()] في الكرم والجُود. والسِّعاية في أخذ الصدقات. وسِعاية العَبد، إذا كُوتِبَ: أن يسعى فيما يفُكُّ رقبتَه.
ومن الباب ساعَى الرّجلُ الأمَةَ، إذا فَجَرَ بها، كأنَّه سعى في ذلك وسَعَتْ فيه. قالوا: لا تكون المساعاة إلاّ في الإماء خاصّة.
سعى يسعى سعياً أي عدا وكذا إذا عمل وكسب وكل من وُلّي شيئاً على قوم فهو ساع عليهم وأكثر ما يقال ذلك في سعاة الصدقة.
[ix] “Some people (who do not know) see God as a ‘conductor’ in a confusing orchestra of 'fortune' and ‘misfortune.' Others might look at the good fortune of a person they consider ‘less faithful’ and consider it a ‘curse in disguise,’ sent personally to that individual, by God.
Actually, it is in God’s Divine System that we humans are tried by way of each other, so much so, that WE are the ones who harm ourselves/each other, whereas God dispels much of the harm we generate (HQ42:30)!!
Actually, it is in God’s Divine System that we humans are tried by way of each other, so much so, that WE are the ones who harm ourselves/each other, whereas God dispels much of the harm we generate (HQ42:30)!!
[x] I do not agree that ‘anzala’ in the Qur’an means ‘sent something physically down from above,’ as some commentators have said. There are many instances where this in no way applies (clothing, for example HQ 7:26)… while what DOES apply is the knowledge or ‘USAGE’ of it, being ‘delivered’ to us.
See below Yusuf Ali’s fine explanation:
"Sent down": anzala: in the sense of revealed to man the use of certain things, created in him the capacity of understanding and using them: cf. xxxix. 6: "sent down for you eight head of cattle in pairs".
[xi] Regular Readers know how interesting Muhammad Assad’s commentary is, especially when we remember that he began his life as a Jew, and was well-versed in Rabbinical studies:
“This is addressed in the first instance to the Jews, who reject the revelation granted to Muhammad in the belief that the office of prophethood is an exclusive “preserve” of the children of Israel, as well as to the Christians who, as followers of the Bible, implicitly accept this unwarranted claim.”