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UNCOVERING the original message of the Arabic Qur'an by using Lexicons compiled more than 1,000 years ago.

ISOLATING Fact from Fiction.

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A BREAKTHROUGH project which helps understand the Qur'an AS REVEALED -not just 'as explained.'


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 260; Qur’an 53: 1-62, pages 526-528

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.

سورة النجم
The Star

From Introduction of Yusuf Ali:

‘This is an early Makkan Surah, and is the fourth of the series of seven which were described in the introduction to Surah 50.
The particular theme of this Surah is that Revelation is not an illusion: the illusion is in the minds of those who doubt and have false ideas of God: God is the source and goal of all things.

Summary- The impression received by the Prophet in revelation is neither error on his part nor deception by others, nor does he speak from selfish motives: it comes clearly from God, Who is not what the vain imagination of men conceive…
Those who turn away are petty and ignorant, not knowing that God is the source and goal of all things---in men, in nature, and in the events of history; therefore serve ye Him (53:33-62, and C. 230).’

From Introduction of Muhammad Asad:

‘IT IS generally assumed that this is a comparatively early Meccan surah, revealed shortly after surah 112. However, some parts of it undoubtedly belong to a later period - especially verses 13-l8, which allude to the Prophet's mystic experience of an ascension to heaven (mi'raj), about one year before his exodus to Medina…’


The title of this Chapter ‘Al Najm’ refers to what some have explained/ translated as ‘Star’ (see Ali).  Others have postulated that it refers to the verses of the Qur’an themselves, saying that the word ‘hawaa’ indicates their ‘falling’ or ‘unfolding’ from above (see Asad).  

I totally disagree with the second explanation:  Firstly, their calling the Qur’an ‘najm’ is not based on evidence, language, or context.  Secondly (as discussed earlier), the word ‘hawaa’ is about ‘plummeting desire leading to emptiness,’ and is always negative, and therefore cannot be related to the Qur’an. 

But ‘najm’ here may be related to the ‘najm’ mentioned in HQ 86:3… describing a natural phenomenon which marked, or shall mark, a pivotal change in this world.

 PAGE 526 Arabic Qur’an

1.     Verses 1-4: 
This Chapter begins with one oath:
‘By the ‘Star/Najm’ as it ‘plummets/hawaa’!’
As regular Readers know, Qur’anic ‘oaths’ precede matters of paramount importance; here this oath is made to endorse the Messenger. 
Speaking directly to Qureish, it tells them ‘your companion,’ (whom you’d known very well for 40 years of his life) is neither astray nor misled, and that what he is recounting does NOT come from (his own) ‘plummeting desire,’ but rather: It is no other than ‘exclusive information’ (wahiوحي - being conveyed to him).
Then, verses 5-18 assert that the Messenger has received such information, imprinted/ impressed upon him (allama) by one mighty in power, highlighting the fact that he saw the formidable deliverer of this information twice, the second time being at ‘sidratul muntahaa,’ the ‘final point’ beyond which lies the ‘Garden of Refuge.’ 
It is interesting to note that throughout this experience, his mental response (fou’aad[i]) did not belie or disbelieve what it was seeing, and his sight (baSsar) remained steady, neither drifting (away) nor transgressing (beyond).  We are not given details, but are made to understand that he did see phenomenal things, among which ‘… he indeed saw, of God’s Signs, the greatest.’  THE greatest.
THREE important points must be mentioned here:
·      FIRSTLY:
Difficulty in understanding these verses:
These verses, dear Reader are difficult to explain because the subject is repeatedly mentioned by the (existent or implied) masculine singular pronoun ‘huwa’ (he/it.. which could grammatically but NOT contextually apply to anyone/anything pertinent to these verses).  So ‘whoever/ whatever’ had descended into mid-air, right in front of the Messenger, and whatever the ‘sidratul muntaha’ actually was…. they were part of a magnificent ‘out of this world’ experience which people argued with the Messenger about then, and continued to argue about, with each other, for centuries to come. 
Dear Reader: Due to the difficulty in understanding these verses, much was added through the ages ‘to fill in the blanks.’  Unfortunately, all that was added later became part of ‘tradition,’ and it is such narratives which are used today by noxious ‘anti-Islamic’ websites to discredit the Qur’an and whoever believes in it.  
·      SECONDLY:
What the Qur’an indicates:
These details display the position of the Messenger, towering WAY above what any of us (and skeptic Qureish) can ever imagine; it is he who receives revelation from God, and he who witnesses His greatest Signs, and he who has arrived at a point of certainty, where Heaven itself is in his sight.
In Verse 12 their skepticism is under question, and also their constant dispute with him over ‘what he sees.’  In Verse 23 they are shown their folly in worshipping powerless idols of their making and naming). 
So these verses serve to prove his stature, the seriousness of their allegations against him, and their folly.
·      THIRDLY:
Commonly held beliefs:
Traditionally (NOT in the Qur’an), this incident is called ‘Mi’raaj.’ Also traditionally, it is always linked to another incident (which IS in the Qur’an) called ‘Israa.’  The linking of these two produces what ‘Islamic’ scholars have termed ‘the Israa and the Mi’raaj.’
Scholars differ with regard to the reported ‘sayings/ hadeeth’ of Prophet Muhammad on the subject of ‘Israa and Mi’raaj;’ some ‘consider the chain of transmitters ‘reliable/ saheeh,’ while others don’t.  The latter especially refute the narrative of Ibn Abbas.
New Readers read about the term ‘hadeeth’ below[ii].  To read more about the ‘Israa and Mi’raaj’ narrative see this post (scroll halfway down). Note the Etymology of ‘mirage,’ below[iii].

2.    In these verses we find mention of ‘sidratul muntahaa,’ or the ‘sidra of the extremity/ ultimate end.’ 
Seder’:  Our more than 1,000 year-old Lexicon (Mu’jam al maqayees fil lugha) tells us ONLY this:  That the root-verb ‘sadara سدر’ indicates ‘confusion and uncertainty.’
Three hundred years later, the Lexicon Lissaan al Arab gives us MANY definitions to the word, beginning with the ‘Lote tree’ (see footnote[iv]), and also mentioning the famous Hadeeth with this ‘tree’ marking the farthest limit of ‘man’s knowledge (see Muhammad Asad’s explanation).
Aside: It is interesting to see how the etymology of ‘seder’ and ‘cedar’[v] seem connected.
Muntaha’: Mentioned in the Qur’an 3 times, TWICE in this chapter (HQ 53:14, 42; 79:44), the ‘muntaha/ ultimate end/ culmination’ always is with our Lord.
This is why I think that ‘sidratul muntahaa’ is indicative of the ‘ultimate end of a journey of uncertainty,’ at the Garden of Refuge/ ‘jannatul ma’waa.’
Dear Reader:
God knows best, but it seems that (besides providing the Messenger with support for what lies ahead) this epic event in which he saw, of his Lord’s Signs, the greatest, marked his receiving of ‘certainty/ yaqeen.’
(Read HQ 15:99 and notice the state in which he was, only to be relieved by this fantastic experience!)

3.    Verses 19- 23 speak directly to Qureish, of idols which they and their forefathers had ‘named,’ mentioning three of the most prominent. They are accused of following such idols due to both presumption/‘thann’ and self-serving ‘plummeting desire.’
Here again, we must mention another falsehood which crept into certain traditional explanations, and came to be known as ‘the Satanic Verses.’  As we said earlier, this allegation is totally absurd not only in subject-matter, but the impossibility of it occurring to Muhammad in his capacity as Messenger, peace upon him.  Furthermore, the alleged verses do not fit at all into the context of these existing and well-known verses.  I’d rather not waste time repeating them since anyone can easily look them up (also put ‘satanic verses’ in ‘Search this Site’).
Note, dear Reader, that attaching such verses to the Qur’an in an attempt to discredit it (or its Messenger) is material for people of prejudice, and succeeds mostly with the ignorant.  Those who are ‘Believers’ would know the Qur’an well, while most discerning, non-prejudicial people, would recognize evidence when they see it. Furthermore, the Arabic Qur’an had always been reported ad verbatim and anyone could find out what it says, word for word.

4.     Verses 24-25 speak to the cognizant human/ ‘insaan,’ asking a rhetorical question, and asserting that Life -both the Last AND the First- belongs to God.
Then, Verses 26 informs listeners of the limits of a ‘Custodian/ Angel’s’ (malak) qualifications:  The intercession of many an ‘angel’ is of no avail, unless God wills and accepts it.

PAGE 527 Arabic Qur’an

5.  Verses 27- 28 answer the rhetorical question in Verse 21, regarding Qureish’s custom of attributing ‘female offspring’ to God (in their minds, ‘angels’ are females and they are ‘daughters of God’). Earlier, in HQ 6:100 they were also mentioned as attributing the ‘Unseen/ Jinn’ to God, as His ‘sons and daughters.’  Here they are accused of following ‘presumption/ conjecture/ thann,’ which is of no avail.
Verses 29-30 tell the Messenger to avoid those who turn away completely from ‘our Remembrance’ and pursue nothing but this immediate, lowly Life… and then the verses state that ‘this is their extent of knowledge,’ asserting that ‘your Lord’ knows best who strays from His way and He knows best who is guided.

6.     Verses 31- 32 contain a general rule which brings us comfort, for it is about the certainty of final Justice; everything on earth and in the exalted expanse is God’s, and it is He who shall recompense those who commit misdeeds by what they have done, and shall recompense those who have performed good deeds, by Goodness (and then there is more detail about them):
Those who ‘steer clear/ avoid/ leave aside’ (root-verb ‘janaba):
·      The great hindrances (ithm) and
·      The pervading atrocities (fawaaHhish)
·      EXCEPT what is approached but then halted, and not committed (illal lamam).

It is commonly understood that ‘lamam’ is about ‘small misdeeds’ (see Ali / Asad), which some say are ‘not counted,’ but that is NOT right because:
Firstly: Our more than 1,000 year old Lexicon tells us quite clearly[vi] that ‘lamam’ is about nearing/approaching the misdeed, then stopping yourself, and NOT committing it at all 
Secondly: Don’t you agree, dear Reader, that ‘size’ is relative? Who decides what is ‘small’ and what is not?  What seems small might actually have a HUGE effect.
The second half of Verse 32 tells us more about God Who knows us so well… urging us NOT to praise ourselves, for God knows best any among us who act in Awareness.

7.    Verses 33-37 draw attention to someone who ‘turns away,’ ‘gives so little, and is hardened…’ and then ask questions as to such a person’s knowledge of the unseen/ gheyb, and whether he was informed with regard to the scrolls of Moses, or to Abraham who fulfilled (his trust).. ?
Then we learn of another set of rules (Verses 38- 44): 
·     None shall bear the burden of another; each of us is responsible for his/her own deeds (put ‘original sin’ in ‘Search’), and:
·     Each of us shall have only what s/he has strived/ labored for, and:
·     That our strife/labor shall be beholden/ seen, then:
·     Each of us shall be recompensed in fullest for it, and:
·     That to ‘Your’ Lord is the  ultimate End/ ‘muntahaa,’ and..

Then the verses continue, with striking cadence, telling us that it is He Who gives us laughter and Tears, Death and Life (listen to them here, dear Reader!)…
PAGE 528 Arabic Qur’an

8.    The tempo continues in Verses 45- 49, mentioning His creation from the pair, male and female, the fertile seed of life, and His bringing about the emergence into another existence, granting wealth and possessions, and it is He Who is Lord of the ‘shi’raa’ star. 
And then in the same tempo, we find mention in Verses 50-56 of several previous Messengers and the warnings they brought to their people.

And then the discourse end with a warning, as Verses 57- 58 speak of the ‘Aazifah’ the IMPENDING Day, telling listeners that it is indeed upon them, and that none but God shall reveal it. 
The Chapter draws to a powerful close with Verses 59- 62, questioning them as to this ‘Hadeeth’ (this Qur’an; these verses revealed by God).  They are now wondering about it, and laughing recklessly.  If they had realized its truth, they would have been weeping! 

The final verse then directly commands listeners: 
‘Therefore prostrate to God, and worship!’

[i] Regular Readers will remember how, after throwing her infant into the water (HQ 28:10), the ‘fou’aad’ of the mother of Moses became ‘empty/ void/ blank’ so that she almost betrayed what she had just done… so we are talking here about the same sense, the ‘fou’aad’ (put the word in ‘Search this Site’).

[ii] The last part of HQ 87 asks:  “…and who is more truthful of ‘Hadeeth’ than God?
Although we mostly relate the word ‘Hadeeth’ to Prophet Muhammad’s Sayings, peace upon him, the word means something ‘that was not there before, and is the opposite of ‘old’ or قديم ‘qadeem.’  It also means something that is being announced in real time "خبر"
See the verses which mention the Qur’an as the ‘best’ of Hadeeth (HQ39:23) أحسن الحديث, or ‘this Hadeeth هذا الحديث (HQ18:6; 53:59; 56:81; 68:44).
[iii] Mirage:  Etymology, as usual, does NOT mention Arabic at all, although the pronunciation is identical, as is the prevalent belief of this narrative being an ‘illusion!’   Remember also, ‘mirror’ in Arabic is ‘mir’aa.’  Isn’t it time someone took an interest in this and looked into the European languages for hundreds of words which came from Arabic, at a time when Arabic was the language of science and innovation, just as English is today?
معجم المقاييس في اللغة:
معجم المقاييس في اللغة: شبه الحيرة واضطراب الرأي، يقولون السادر المتحير.
لسان العرب:(معان كثيرة منها): السدر: شجر النبق... والسادر المتحير.

[v] As usual, Etymology tells us that the word ‘cedar’ is of ‘unknown origin,’ but we now know better.  ‘Cedar/سدر’ is Arabic.  But what I found it interesting was that ‘cedar-oil’ was used by the Egyptians for embalming, and that the Romans used the word for ‘immortality.’

[vi]فأمَّا اللَّمَم فيقال: ليس بمواقَعَة الذّنْب، وإنَّما هو مقاربتُه ثم ينحَجِزُ عنه. قال الله تعالى: {الَّذِينَ يَجْتَنِبُونَ كَبَائِرَ الإثْمِ وَالفَوَاحِشَ إلا اللّمَمَ} [النجم 32].

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