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ISOLATING Fact from Fiction.

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


Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 294; Qur’an 87: 1-19 page 591

Welcome Friends:  Ahlan wa sahlan!
Yusuf Ali’s explanation of this Chapter.
Muhammad Asad’s explanation of this Chapter.
Laleh Bakhtiar’s explanation of this Chapter.

سورة الأعلى
'The Most High (i)’

From Introduction of Yusuf Ali:

"This is one of the  of Makkan Surahs, being usually placed eighth in chronological order, and immediately after Surah 81.
The argument is that God has made man capable of progress by ordered steps, and by His Revelation will lead  him still higher to purification and perfection."

From Introduction of Muhammad Asad:

"THIS IS most probably the eighth surah in the chronology of revelation. The key-word by which it has always been known appears in the first verse."


This is a very important Chapter which helps us not only to understand the 'IQRA dynamic (which is the BASIS for understanding Qur'anic words and intent), but seems to summarize everything of major importance in half of a written page! Amazing.

PAGE 591 Arabic Qur’an
    1. This magnificent Chapter begins with the word 'sabbiH' (from SabaHa ii), which relates to the constant ‘motion’ by which everything in creation gradually fulfills its innate characteristics (as per the Creator's design).
    'SabbiH' is a command, and we find the first three verses urging the listener:

    'Motivate yourself/ Glorify the Attribute of your Lord Most High:
    Who created, and thereupon 'sawwaa/ duly proportioned (all Creation) in a process.
    And Who projected to the utmost (all capabilitiesiii),
    and thereupon guided and gifted (each to fulfillment)'

    As Regular Readers know, we are urged to do ‘Tasbeeh,’ by word (iv) and by deed.
    New Readers: Put ‘Tasbeeh’ in ‘Search.'
    Here we note what the 'attribute' of 'Highest Rabb/ Lord-Sustainer Most High الرب الأعلى' entails: It entails creating all Beings, evolving them in a process, projecting their innate capacities to the utmost, and finally, guiding and gifting each Creature to fulfill itself.
    And this amazing attribute belongs to God Alone, as we see in the Qur'an (HQ 79:24; 87:1; 92:20) (yet the arrogant and foolish Pharaoh alleged to his people that he was their 'Rabb' Most High)!

    Regular Readers will remember that the word Rabb means much more than 'Lord:'
    It refers to someone who has a just claim to possession and authority over something, as well as the task of rearing, sustaining, fostering and bringing it together from inception to fruition (see Y. Ali's opinion v).

    Note how God's Attribute The 'Most High' relates to us:
    It is this attribute which we 'remember,' are 'motivated-to,' and we 'find abiding benefit' in...! اسم ربنا "يُذكر" و "يسبّح" و"يتبارك

    Verses 4-5 allude to the natural course of life and its sustenance- its pasture -showing us the 'TasbeeH' of Nature, as God brings its growth out of this earth and as He renders it decayed, at the end.

    2. Verses 6- 7, which seem to be addressed in particular to the Messenger, must have been CRUCIAL to him with regard to his fulfillment of the IQRA dynamic.

    Remember, the Messenger was initially told (HQ 96:1): 'Iqra, by the attribute of our Lord Who Created', and in today's verses we find The Lord Creator, towards Whom all Creation is motivated, Who created each and projected its capacities to the fullest reassuring him, addressing him directly in the second person singular, telling him that he is not alone, and that he will have Divine aid as he embarks upon his life's labor, fulfilling the initial command 'IQRA.'

    'We shall make you 'iqra,' then you shall not forget.
    Except what God wills, indeed He knows the Announced (vi) and what is hidden.

    Q. Was the Messenger worried that he might forget some part of what was being revealed to him?
    A. Probably, as is inferred from HQ 75: 16-19!

    But these verses, among others, coming at the beginning of his mission, must have put his mind at ease.
    See what Muhammad Asad says, if we were to understand the passage as also addressed to us in general (vii).

    Some Commentators have understood 'except as God wills' to refer to 'abrogation' when, as some believe, a new revelation replaces an older one, an issue which we spoke about earlier. See what our commentators say about this: Yusuf Ali / Muhammad Asad.

    3. Verse 8 assures the Messenger further, assuring him that God would 'easen/ slacken' for him a way to ease,' as Verse 9 calls on him:

    'And remind, if the reminder were to benefit.'

    Verses 10- 13 convince us with both Persuasion and Dissuasion, as they tell us of who would benefit from the Reminder, versus who would not:

    The one who would benefit from this Reminder is One who has awe, whereas the one who would avoid it, or leave it aside, is the 'Most Wretched'شقي' (viii), who shall be conjoined to the Great Fire, in which he shall neither die nor live.

    Aren't you convinced, dear Reader? Remembering who we are and where we came from is of UTMOST benefit to us, simply because this knowledge raises our standards and aim. What a difference between soaring to one's potential, and keeping to ground level.
    4. Verses 14- 15 follow up on such 'benefit' by announcing something quite important, not in anticipation, but as a definitive done-deed!

    'Indeed, he has already succeeded, one who 'tazakkaa/ cultivates oneself.'
    And remembers his Lord's Attribute, and maintains relationship/ prayer.'

    We mentioned earlier that 'zakaat' literally denotes cultivating something pure and helping it grow, but here we learn more: Even as that process is taking place and is not yet complete, with one's intention and work-ethics being exemplary:


    Time disappears... and the additional steps required to finalize what we are doing blur... behind the reality which is that:

    With Zakaat, remembering our Lord, and maintaining our relationships:
    Success is ours.
    What an important Reminder!
    5. Verses 16- 17 warn listeners about their preference for the immediate life/ lowly life (of this world), while the Hereafter is of higher benefit and longer duration.
    At the end of this Chapter we find Verses 18-19 linking the important information it just conveyed, to past revelations, saying that this (what we'd just heard) is in the early 'صحف / records,' the records of Abraham and Moses!

    What a beautiful conclusion, focusing our attention to our Lord Most High, His Message to Mankind, our remembrance of it, and then showing us that this is what it has ALWAYS been about, since the beginning of Time.
Peace unto all!
علو: أصلٌ واحد يدلُّ على السموّ والارتفاع، لا يشذُّ عنه شيء. ومن ذلك العَلاَء والعُلُوّ. ويقولون: تَعالى النّهارُ، أي ارتفع.
قال الخليل: أصل هذا البناء العُلُوّ. فأمّا العَلاء فالرِّفعة. وأمّا العُلُوّ فالعظمة والتجبُّر. يقولون: علا المَلِك في الأرض عُلُوَّاً كبيراً. قال الله تعالى: {إنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ عَلاَ في الأرْضِ} [القصص 4]، ويقولون: رجلٌ عالي الكعب، أي شريف.
ويقال لكلِّ شيءٍ يعلُو: علا يَعْلُو. فإن كان في الرِّفعة والشرف قيل عَلِيَ يَعْلَى.
ومن قَهَر أمراً فقد اعتلاه واستعلى عليه وبه، كقولك استولى. والفَرَس إذا جرى في الرِّهان فبلغ الغايةَ قيل: استَعلى على الغاية واستولَى.
وقد عَلوتُ حاجتي أعلوها عُلُوَّاً، إذا كنتَ ظاهراً عليها.
قال الخليل: المَعْلاة: كَسْبُ الشّرَف، والجمع المعالي. وفلانٌ من عِلْية النّاس أي من أهل الشَّرف. وهؤلاء عِلْيَةُ قومِهم، مكسورة العين على فِعلة مخفّفة.
والسُِّفل والعُِلْو: أسفل الشيء وأعلاه.
قال الخليل: العَلياء: رأس كل جبلٍ أو شَرَفٍ.
ويسمَّى أعلى القناةِ: العالية، وأسفلها: السَّافلة، والجمع العوالي.

قالوا: والعُلِّيَّة: غرفةٌ، على بناء حُرِّيّة. وهي في التصريف فُعليّة، ويقال فُعلولة.
قال الفرّاء في قوله تعالى: {إنَّ كِتَابَ الأَبْرَارِ لَفِي عِلِّيِّينَ} [المطففين 18]: قالوا: إنّما هو ارتفاعٌ بعد ارتفاعٍ إلى ما لا حدَّ له. وإنّما جُمِع بالواو والنون لأنَّ العرب إذا جمعت جمعاً لا يذهبون فيه إلى أنّ له بناءً من واحد واثنين، قالوه في المذكَّر والمؤنث نحوَ عليّين، فإنّه إنّما يراد به شيءٌ، لا يقصد به واحد و لا اثنان، كما قالت العرب: "أطعمنا مَرَقةَ مَرَقِينَ ". والسموات العُلَى الواحدة عُلْيا.
ومن الباب العَلاَةُ، وهي السَّنْدان.


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.
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.  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.
We free-willed Cognizant Humans often choose which of our innate characteristics to activate and enhance, at the expense of other characteristics we may possess yet may leave inactive. This is especially important for parents and teachers who have dependents who rely on us to help realize their potential. Our efforts are aided or (more often) thwarted by the 'industries' which command the media, and the effect their self-serving interests have on our children and their relationships.


Regular Readers will remember the amazing concept of ‘qadr’ (put words in ‘Search’); where God gives everything in ‘qadr’ (an amount WITH capacity forPROJECTION to its utmost).  We also said that ‘qadr’ is embedded in everything He bestows upon us, and tried to grasp 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. 

It may be interesting to know that all ‘practicing Muslims’ do indeed recount this exact Tasbeeh ‘verbally’- in Arabicسبحان ربي الأعلى  no less than 51 times every day, throughout our five daily prayers. But as regular Readers know, verbal 'TasbeeH' is not enough without constant consciousness of the direction in which we are moving.

"The word "Lord" by itself is an inadequate rendering here for Rabb. For it implies:
-         cherishing,
-         guarding from harm,
-         sustaining,
-         granting all the means and opportunities of development." End Quote

جهر: هو إعلان الشَّيء وكَشْفُه وعُلُوّه. يقال جَهَرْتُ بالكلام أعلنتُ به. ورجلٌ جَهِير الصَّوت، أي عالِيهِ
ومن هذا الباب: جَهَرت الشّيءَ، إذا كان في عينك عظيماً. وجَهَرْت الرّجُل كذلك فأمّا العَيْن الجَهراءُ، فهي التي لا تُبْصِر في الشمس. ويقال رأيْت جُهْرَ فلانٍ، أي هَيْئَتَه. ويقال جَهِيرٌ بَيِّنُ الجَهارة، إذا كان ذا منظرٍ
Muhammad Asad:
"The classical commentators assume that the above words are addressed specifically to the Prophet, and that, therefore, they relate to his being taught the Qur’ān and being promised that he would not forget anything thereof, “save what God may will [thee to forget].” This last clause has ever since given much trouble to the commentators, inasmuch as it is not very plausible that He who has revealed the Qur’ān to the Prophet should cause him to forget anything of it. Hence, many unconvincing explanations have been advanced from very early times down to our own days, the least convincing being that last refuge of every perplexed Qur’ān-commentator, the “doctrine of abrogation” (refuted in my note 87 on 2:106). However, the supposed difficulty of interpretation disappears as soon as we allow ourselves to realize that the above passage, though ostensibly addressed to the Prophet, is directed at man in general, and that it is closely related to an earlier Qur’anic revelation – namely, the first five verses of sūrah 96 (“The Germ-Cell”) and, in particular, verses 3-5, which speak of God’s having “taught man what he did not know.” In note 3 on those verses I have expressed the opinion that they allude to mankind’s cumulative acquisition of empirical and rational knowledge, handed down from generation to generation and from one civilization to another: and it is to this very phenomenon that the present passage, too, refers. We are told here that God, who has formed man in accordance with what he is meant to be and has promised to guide him, will enable him to acquire (and thus, as it were, “impart” to him) elements of knowledge which mankind will accumulate, record, and collectively “remember” – except what God may cause man to “forget” (in another word, to abandon) as having become redundant by virtue of his new experiences and his acquisition of wider, more differentiated elements of knowledge, empirical as well as deductive or speculative, including more advanced, empirically acquired skills. However, the very next sentence makes it clear that all knowledge arrived at through our observation of the external world and through speculation, though necessary and most valuable, is definitely limited in scope and does not, therefore, in itself suffice to give us an insight into ultimate truths.
* I.e., all that is intrinsically beyond the reach of human perception (al-ghayb): the implication being that, since human knowledge must forever remain imperfect, man cannot really find his way through life without the aid of divine revelation." End Quote

شقو: يدلُّ على المعاناة وخلاف السُّهولة والسّعادة.
والشِّقوة: خلاف السعادة.

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