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.
‘The Single File'
From Introduction of Yusuf Ali:
“This is the fifth Surah of the of series of short Madinah Surahs beginning with Surah 57. Its subject matter is the need of discipline, practical work, and self-sacrifice in the cause of Ummah. Its date is uncertain, but it was probably shortly after the battle of Uhud, which was fought in Shawal, A.H. 3.”
From Introduction of Muhammad Asad:
“THE TITLE of this surah has been derived from the expression saffan ("in [solid] ranks") occurring in verse 4. The central idea, first enunciated in verse 2 and developed in the subsequent passages, is "Why do you say one thing and do another?" Thus, it is essentially a call to unity between professed belief and actual behaviour.”
In this Chapter we hear the 82nd-84th call (out of 89) in the Qur’an: ‘O you Who Have Attained Faith!’ It is interesting to know that ALL such calls occur in the Chapters revealed in Medina, which further helps us understand that the term ‘Imaan’ is not about belief in One God, but rather it is about complete faith and trust in Him, as well as FEELING SECURE in His care. What a difference!
(Put ‘Imaan’ in ‘Search.’)
This Chapter’s introductory verse is similar to others in the Qur’an[i] which begin with the statement:
‘Motivated/ Moving to God is everything in the Exalted Expanses and on Earth,
and He is The Invincible, The Wise.’
Then, calling out to ‘Those who Have Attained faith,’ the Chapter continues, urging them/us to replace our words with deeds, highlighting the importance of unity, and drawing examples from the experiences of Prophets Moses and Jesus, peace upon them, with their followers.
New Readers: See definition of ‘Tasbeeh’ below[ii].
PAGE 551 Arabic Qur’an
1. This chapter begins with a statement of fact, asserting that everything is ‘motivated’ to God/ in ‘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’[iii] to fulfill itself so naturally, that its mere existence is its ‘tasbeeh;’ whatever stops moving, ceases to exist. And, as cognizant humans, more is expected of us since we are not just physical beings with physical potential, but are also capable of growing in knowledge and awareness, and facilitating the growth of others as we all progress together in God’s direction.
After announcing that everything in the Exalted Expanses and on Earth is ‘motivated to God..’ Verse 2 addresses ‘Those Who have Attained Faith & security’ asking them why they say that which they do not do, adding that it is ‘great in abomination/ kabura maqtan[iv]’ to profess what one does not actively fulfill!
The verse is chiding ‘Believers’ for words emanating from their mouths, UNPROVEN by action, warning them that this discrepancy shall hinder them on their journey of ‘tasbeeH’ towards God!!
This takes us back to a prominent characteristic of a person of Faith: That s/he be aware of God and BE WITH The Truthful (see HQ 9:119)!
What a strong reminder, dear Reader, for us to be totally honest, and mingle with like persons. This strengthens us as a community (see definition of ‘truth/ sidq’ below[v]).
How often do people say things which they don’t mean… or hide their flaws behind false excuses…. or undeservedly paint themselves in a favorable light? Many people do that to advance themselves on the job or in relationships, and end up lacking credibility, being mistrusted, as well as losing that relationship.
That is NOT acceptable behavior from a person of Faith: It is indeed ABOMINABLE.
Verse 4 follows up with a visual explanation of what ‘Truth in Action’ brings:
It weaves the community into a strong STRUCTURE. And God loves ‘Those Who fight back[vi] in His way’ in an unbroken, single file… united together as one even, tightly-built structure[vii]!
UNITY of purpose, UNITY of action, on EVEN standing (no one standing out from the other).
THIS is where the all-important word ‘Saff/ الصف’ appears (the title to this Chapter).
2. Then, Verse 5 takes us back historically, showing us DISUNITY and its repercussions, and the consequence of disobeying God’s Messengers. We hear the very words of Moses asking his own people who were bringing him grief WHY they were hurting him, although they knew and had evidence to the fact that he, peace upon him WAS God’s Messenger, sent to them.
The verse shows us how one thing naturally leads to another: Once they had physically swerved (from following their Messenger), God caused their ‘hearts/ minds’ to swerve away, for God guides not the ‘Faasiq/ Deserters/ Breachers of Faith.’
We spoke earlier about ‘guidance,’ in that its definition also denotes a ‘gift,’ and that ‘guidance’ always begets guidance, and vice versa. Regular Readers will remember how we marveled at the beautiful statement in HQ 47:17 about ‘Those who are Guided,’ in that God shall increase their guidance and bring them their Awareness. We said that this is VERY important, as it shows us how guidance can only evolve into further guidance, begetting us the most precious gift of all: ‘Awareness.’ But ‘guidance’ (which is the end result) cannot be reached unless we take our steps in its direction! So it is our choice which dictates the result, within God’s ‘framework’ of cause and effect.
PAGE 552 Arabic Qur’an
3. Then, Verse 6 goes on, and we now hear the very words of Jesus, peace upon him, also doing his best to convince Bani Isra-eel that he is God’s Messenger to them! What strikes us here however, is that while announcing himself as God’s Messenger to them, he confirms the Torah (of Moses) and then announces that he is:
‘…bringing glad tidings of a Messenger coming after me whose name/attribute is Ahmad (THE MOST praised/ praiseworthy)…..’[viii]’
The verse ends by telling us that Jesus’ listeners labeled his message to them as ‘evident sorcery.’
This project is about the Qur’an, so I won’t go into much detail about what other compilations might say, however: However, dear Researcher, I suggest that you spend some time retrieving the Biblical evidence of Jesus giving glad tidings of a future prophet. Take a look at Asad’s notes (remember that he was born a Jew and was well-versed in Talmudic and Biblical studies).
Anyone who is interested can look into this subject and find out how the word ‘Holy Ghost’ later came to replace the word ‘spirit,’ which originally meant ‘prophet… (!)’ and how translations distance readers from original intent.
In verses of the Bible translated from the original Greek, Jesus speaks of someone who will succeed him as parakletos (see Gospel of John: 14:16; 14:26 15:26; 16:7 where the word is translated as counselor, helper, encourager, advocate, or comforter). This term is believed by Muslim scholars to have originally been written periklytos, which means ‘famed, illustrious, praiseworthy’ which is a literal translation of ‘Muhammad.’
Readers may also refer to the writings of the former Reverend David Benjamin Keldani, better known as Professor Abdul-Ahad Dawud, who shows how the original word must have been periklytos, simply because the Greek word for 'comforter or consoler' is NOT 'Paraclytos' but 'Paracalon.' Oh.
Here we arrive at a question:
Q. Besides mis-translation, could there have been a deliberate attempt (on the part of Judeo-Christian scholars) to distance Jesus’ entire Message from that of Muhammad, peace upon them both?
A. I think that there were such attempts.
Firstly, although we Muslims see the faith brought to us by Muhammad as an extension of what Moses and Jesus brought to their people from God Himself, we know that most Jews and Christians, especially in the west, see us as heretics, and make out our Arabic term for ‘God’ to be an idol or a false deity. I will not go into false propaganda here (God knows there are countless past AND present examples of that), but I’ll only mention that they ignore the fact that ‘God’ is ‘Allah’ in the Arabic Bible.
Secondly, based on my current research I PERSONALLY know for a fact that so-called etymologists of European languages have consistently ignored and failed to mention the Arabic origin of their words. Put ‘etymology’ in ‘Search.’
This failure is evidence of a BIAS great enough to make scholars sacrifice not only truth, but scientific knowledge and the advancement of international goodwill…. all of which affect the well-being of future generations.
What misery would have been saved had scholars focused on what we have in common, rather than on the little that we don’t.
Isn’t it sad that very few Christians know that the Qur’an speaks of Jesus and Mary in an even higher standard than the Bible itself?
4. Then, Verse 7 asks a rhetorical question:
‘And who could be more wrong-doing than someone who fabricates a lie against God (attributing it to God), even while he is being invited to Islaam/ Pure Reverence, and God does not guide/gift people who are Wrong-doers!’
Note, dear Reader, that fabricating a lie ‘against’ God is considered the greatest of wrongs against oneself!
This is not only about deliberate fabrication, but about being aware of saying that God is or isn’t without Qur’anic evidence.
We should never say that ‘God says …’ without Qur’anic evidence.
We should never say that ‘He does….’ without Qur’anic evidence.
WHATEVER we say about Him SHOULD have evidence in the Qur’an, and whatever we quote as His words SHOULD be a direct quote from Arabic Qur’an itself, in context.
Anything else is our own rendition, and might be considered ‘fabricating falsehood.’
That is why, although I appreciate the scholarly efforts and scientific verification of what is considered the Prophet’s ‘Sayings/ Hadeeth,’ and might quote something reported to have been said by the Prophet (which would of course agree with Qur’an), I would NEVER quote a Hadeeth ‘Qudsi/ Sacred.’ This is because the Qur’an is complete and nothing that God wanted to say was left unsaid.
Please put ‘hadeeth’ in ‘Search.’
Following is a good Arabic/ English site for Hadith Qudsi which explains the difference between these Hadith, regular Hadith, and the Qur’an[ix].
‘And who could be more wrong-doing than someone who fabricates a lie against God (attributing it to God)……?
This question is asked 5 times in the Qur’an (put ‘fabricate lie against God’ in ‘Search’).
Verse 8 seems to give us the REASON behind fabricating a lie against God:
“(By so doing) the Deniers are attempting to ‘put out/ extinguish’ God’s Light with their mouths, yet God shall indeed bring His Light to completion, despite their aversion to it!”
Regular Readers will remember that we spoke of this earlier in the Chapter of Light (the Deniers’ attempt mentioned twice in Qur’an), and said that God’s Light which they attempt to extinguish by ‘lying/ saying falsehoods’ is ‘Al Haqq/ The Truth!’
What a grievous wrong it is to attempt to extinguish TRUTH! Truth is God’s Light on earth. Anyone who speaks ‘in God’s name,’ misrepresents or misinterprets the Qur’an, or disparages God’s Messengers, is attempting to extinguish His Light… EVEN outside matters of ‘faith.’
In matters of politics, medicine, economy, sociology, in reporting history, and in the media:
Anyone who twists facts, presents a biased version of reality, tries to promote their own agenda DISHONESTLY…. anyone who does ANY of that is attempting to extinguish the Light of God! Think, dear Reader, how much the dishonest reporting of past events has pulled Humanity apart. We still do that every day through our biased media! Readers need no examples: Just follow any hot political story for a few days, then read about the same incidents from the opposing point of view. Someone is lying!
But Truth shall prevail, and God shall bring His Light to completion, whether they like it or not. When it does, each person shall come face to face with their own deeds AND all the repercussions incurred by their dishonesty.
5. Verse 9 announces (for the third and last time) that it is He (God) Who has sent His Messenger with the gift of Guidance, and the True Accountability, so that it would prevail over all accountability, even if The Associat-ers (Mushrik) were averse.
‘Religion’ is a wrong translation of the Arabic word ‘deen.’ ‘Religions’ are man-made titles by which we distinguish ourselves, while ‘deen’ means ‘accountability,’ and is the STANDARD BORNE BY ALL GOD'S MESSENGERS! Put ‘Accountability Deen’ in ‘Search.’
6. The final four verses address themselves to Those who have Attained Faith:
First, Verse 10 asks them a rhetorical question, whether they would like to be shown a TRANSACTION which would save them from painful suffering?
Then, Verse 11 tells them what they would have to offer from their side, adding that this is good for them, if they but knew:
FROM THEIR SIDE:
An article of faith, and its confirmation.
o To have Faith (with Trust and Security) in God and His Messenger (put ‘imaan’ in ‘Search’).
o To exert themselves financially and physically in God’s way (put ‘jahadada jihaad’ in ‘Search’).
Notice, dear Reader, that in the 9 times ‘self-exertion’ is mentioned, financial ‘jihaad/ exertion’ ALWAYS comes before the physical… so, once again, this is NOT about what people mistakenly call a ‘Holy War.’
New Readers: Please put ‘jihaad’ in ‘Search.’ It’s important that you find out about it.
Then, Verses 11- 13 tell them God’s side of the transaction:
FROM GOD’S SIDE:
Forgiveness, guarantee for the Hereafter, preceded by glad tidings in Life
o God shall absolve them of all the wrongs they committed against themselves.
(Put ‘thanb’ in ‘Search.’)
o God shall admit them into Gardens beneath which rivers flow, with fine residences of tranquility in Perpetual Gardens… and that is the Great Deliverance!
(Put ‘eden’ in ‘Search. Also ‘fawz.’)
o And another which they love, Victory from God and an imminent ‘Opening,’ given as glad tidings by the Messenger to Those who Had Attained Faith.
What a precious, worthwhile transaction:
An article of Faith and its CONSISTENT, active confirmation from the side of the Faithful… for all the Good imaginable in this life and the next, from God’s side.
It’s not as easy as it sounds.
It may be easy to make decisions because you often KNOW the best thing to do, and it might not be difficult to begin doing what needs to be done, but it will be difficult to keep up, maintaining that standard, day in and day out, in everything which comes your way.
PERSISTENCE in doing the right thing: That is not easy.
Soon after these verses were revealed, the TRANSACTION between the Faithful and God was fulfilled. After they had given Him what was required of them, He gave them what He had promised. The glad tidings of victory from God (NaSsr) and an imminent Opening (Fat-H) -which the Messenger was told to give them- DID take place.
When we put the two words ‘NaSsr’ and ‘Fat-H’ in ‘Tanzil’ we see the connection for ourselves and realize that the chapter of ‘Al Fat-H’ is all about that.
It was The Peace Treaty of Hudaybiyyah which was the ‘Fat-H,’ leading to the peaceful takeover of Mecca by the Faithful (put ‘chapter al Fat-H’ in ‘Search’).
7. The final verse in this Chapter also addresses Those Who had attained Faith, commanding them to be ‘AnSaar/ Helpers’ of God, and reminding them of Jesus’ plea to his disciples when he asked them who will be his helpers towards God. Here we hear their response to Jesus, saying that they are God’s ‘Helpers,’ and we are told that some of Bani-Isra-eel believed while others denied. Being given that information, we think back to Verse 5, which told us of Moses’ trouble with his people who were actually hurting him! The verse ends with the statement that ‘We’ (God) aided Those Who Had Attained Faith over their foes, and they became prevalent.
It is through mention of Moses’ and Jesus’ experiences with their followers on one hand, and those who denied their Messages on the other, that we see the continuity of God’s Message to Mankind and the likely responses which Messengers confront.
It is also through mention of their stories in the Qur’an that the Faithful were guided towards the best attitude and conduct expected of them… and came to perform in such an exemplary way, bringing strength and prevalence to their community, satisfaction to the Prophet, and commendation from God (HQ 3:110):
“You were the best community ever brought forth for mankind: you enjoin what is mutually acceptable and forbid what is mutually objectionable,
and you have faith in God.
Had the People of (earlier) Compilation attained faith, it would have been better for them; among them are the Faithful, while most of them are Deserters (Faasiq).”
Had the People of (earlier) Compilation attained faith, it would have been better for them; among them are the Faithful, while most of them are Deserters (Faasiq).”
We might not be able to fill their shoes, but we can try to walk in their footsteps.
I do not mean walking backwards to their time and emulating their exact actions, as that is CONTRARY to what they did! They looked forward, changing everything which needed to be changed, departing from the idiosyncrasies of their forefathers, to the Straightened Path. That path is not ‘straight’ in and of itself, but requires ‘straightening.’ It is ‘straightened’ by the Qur’an, and NOT by the traditional practice of predecessors!
The generation commended in the above verse understood what was required of them, and they fulfilled the requirements to the best of their ability, exerting themselves, exerting themselves, exerting themselves, exerting themselves to get it right, IN THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES, IN THEIR TIME.
Their Leader, the Prophet, gave the following advice to his ambassadors, peace upon him:
“Facilitate and do not complicate.
Advocate and do not intimidate.
Cooperate and do not separate.”
We must do the same as we:
Uphold Truth at any price.
Uphold Justice even when it hurts.
Uphold Equality even when others don’t.
Uphold Unity despite disagreement.
May God grant us the KNOWLEDGE, strength, and persistence to do that!
Peace unto all!
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.
[iv] مقت: الميم والقاف والتاء كلمةٌ واحدةٌ تدل على شَناءةٍ وقُبْح.
ومَقَته مَقْتاً فهو مَقِيتٌ وممقوت. ونِكاح المَقْت كان في الجاهليّة: أن يتزوَّج الرَّجُل امرأة أبِيه.
[v] Regular Readers will remember that HQ: 9:119 calls upon those who have attained Faith, to be Aware of God and to be WITH the ‘saadiq’ صادقين. Our Lexicons gave us the definition of ‘sadaqa-صدق’ telling us that being ‘true’ is a word which denotes something strong and solid, because truth is more powerful than falsehood, which is why a sword or spear are described as ‘true,’ and a gift given in all willingness ‘sadaaq’ and ‘sadaqa.’ A friend in Arabic is a ‘sadeeq,’ because if there is no sincerity there is no friendship. No wonder the ‘Faithful’ can only be ‘True,’ or else they’ve LOST FAITH!
[vi] Remember, the verb ‘qaatala’ denotes MUTUAL fighting, where you attempt to overcome someone who is already fighting you, which is why I have translated it as ‘fight back.’ If you looked up all the 17 verses mentioning ‘qaatilu fee sabeelil-Lah/ fight back in the way of God’ you’ll notice that the very first one (HQ 2:190) explains that you should fight anyone fighting you and NOT be the Aggressor! The other verses are also self-explanatory.
[vii] (صف) الصاد والفاء يدلُّ على أصلٍ واحدٍ، وهو استواءٌ في الشيء وتساوٍ بين شَيئين في المَقَرّ. من ذلك الصَّفُّ، يقال وقفَا صفَّاً، إِذا وَقَفَ كلُّ واحدٍ إلى جنْب صاحبه. واصطفَّ القومُ وتصافُّوا. والأصل في ذلك الصَّفْصَف، وهو المستوي من الأرض، فيقال للمَوقِف في الحرب إِذا اصطفَّ القومُ: مَصَفٌّ، والجمع المصافّ. والصَّفوف: النّاقة التي تَصُفُّ، أي تجمع بين مِحْلَبَين في حَلْبة. والصَّفُوفُ أيضاً: التي تصفُّ يدَيْها عند الحَلَب.
وممّا شذَّ عن الباب، وقد يمكن أن يُتطَلَّب لـه في القياس وجهٌ، غيرَ أنَّا نكره القياسَ المتمَحَّل المستَكْرَه، وهذا الذي ذكرناه، فهو الصفيف، قال * قومٌ: هو القَديد. وقال آخرون: هو اللَّحم يُحْمَل في الأسفار طبيخاً أو شِواءً فلا يُنْضَجُ. قال:
فَظَلَّ طُهَاةُ اللَّحمِ مِنْ بين مُنضجٍ *** صَفِيفَ شِواءٍ أو قديرٍ مُعَجَّلِ()
1. [viii] ‘Ahmad’ is ‘Muhammad,’ but giving the word in its superlative form.
As Regular Readers may remember, ‘Hamada’ means to praise someone because of inherent, praiseworthy characteristics.
A person who is being praised may be either of these three:
· When simply being ‘praised’ by others/ praiseworthy for his commendable characteristics, he is ‘Mahmoodمحمود- .’
· When being ‘OFT-praised’ by others/ praiseworthy for his MANY commendable characteristics, he is ‘Muhammadمحمد- .’
· When being ‘MOST-praised’ by others/ praiseworthy for having the MOST commendable characteristics, he is ‘Ahmad- أحمد-.’
This is simple word structure, each word being a stronger form of the same (characteristic). This piece of information should help us better understand the nature of Muhammad, peace upon him, and the fact that any defamation of his commendable character can be disproven, not just by evidence (readily available to those who seek it), but ALSO by his very ‘name:’
His ‘name’ IS his attribute (اسم- سمة): Known to contemporaries as ‘Muhammad,’ he is known to Prophet Jesus, peace upon him, who spoke his name, as ‘Ahmad.’
[ix] Hadeeth ‘Qudsi/ Sacred:’ Some scholars consider them as emanating from God Himself, albeit in the words of Muhammad, and have given them more weight than any other of the Prophet’s ‘Sayings/ Hadeeth,’ often disregarding the weakness of the chain of narrators.
I know that some of these ‘Hadith Qudsi’ are heartwarming in their description of God and His Forgiveness, but I also know that some of them are totally unbecoming, and even ugly in the humility in which the narrator alleges that God describes Himself (as transforming Himself into someone’s hand by which that person smites, or into the foot by which that person walks)!!! Nowhere in the Qur’an does God speak of Himself in such a lowly manner! Furthermore, why choose ‘smite’ as the exemplary deed, rather than stroking an orphan’s head? This is absolutely disgusting.
Q. Indeed, why quote such ‘Hadeeth’ in the first place when, for the knowledgeable, there are beautiful and potent Qur’anic verses which can be quoted, many of which show God’s beautiful relationship with His Worshippers?
But you see, dear Reader, that’s just it:
A. Enthusiastic quoting of Hadeeth evolved at a time when few people could read, and the masses who were wary of misquoting Qur’an turned to Prophetic Sayings instead. You see, Hadeeth was traditionally quoted by meaning anyway (not reported ‘ad verbatim’), unlike the Qur’an which must be quoted word for word.