Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
Muhammad Asad’s explanation of this Chapter.
Laleh Bakhtiar’s explanation of this Chapter.
From Introduction of Yusuf Ali:
In subject matter it carries forward the argument of the last Surah. The mystic night of revelation is indeed blessed: but those who reject Truth are impervious to Allah's Message, however clear may be the evidence in support of it.”
From Introduction of Muhammad Asad:
“WHEREAS some of the authorities are of the opinion that this surah belongs to the Medina period, many others regard it as a late Meccan revelation. The key-word by which it is designated is found at the end of the first verse. ”
This Chapter is about the 'People of the Compilation' (Jews and Christians) and 'The Evidence' which they had long been waiting for, of which they had been telling the 'Mushriks' (Associat-ers/ Idolators), as per the tidings in their Scriptures.
This 'evidence' was: A Messenger from God, bearing unpolluted records, in which are upstanding compilations.
Many of them followed this Messenger when he came, and many did not. Some of the 'People of the Compilation' chose not to follow him, yet they remained on the path of their own original Messages. Others did not:
Others not only chose to ignore this latest Message, but having deviated from their own Scripture, denied their own original tenets. They fraternized with those who had remained Idolators, and harbored hostility against the Messenger and his followers. They were therefore promised a fitting recompense from God unless they made amends (hence a 'verb' rather than a 'noun/ label' to identify them).
This Chapter summarizes the relationship of the 'People of the Compilation' with each other, with this Message, and with the Hereafter... all in 8 short statements, telling it, as it is.
PAGE 598 Arabic Qur’an
- The first three verses point to what historical record has told us, as well as certain prophecies in ancient Scripture (Torah, Bible i, among othersii) that the 'People of the Compilation' (Jews and Christians) and the Idolators ('Mushriks' literally: Associat-ers) were ALL expecting a Messenger from God. His name had appeared in their texts, as well as certain details about his lineage, his mission, the intermittent delivery of his Message, as well as its impact.
- 'The Evidence' which they had long been waiting for, and which caused them not to change their stance, was the appearance of a Messenger from God, bearing unpolluted records, in which are 'upstanding' compilations (iii). Also see HQ 18:1-2.Remember, those who had remained Jews after Jesus' arrival had so remained because they had belied him: To them, he was NOT the prophesied one, he was NOT the one 'like unto Moses,' neither personally, nor with regard to characteristics of the Message itself.Regular Readers may know the following:Many people still mistakenly assume that the Qur'an considers Jews and Christians to be 'Infidels' (Arabic: 'kafir/ kuffaar' which actually means 'Deniers'/ Those who COVER the Truth).They also think that the Qur'an considers it incumbent upon Jews and Christians to forsake their scriptures and follow its teachings.Both assumptions are so FAR from the truth!Firstly, we can clearly see that the Qur'an calls Jews and Christians 'Ahl Al-Kitaab' /People of THE Compilation, the definite article acknowledging their Scripture, and showing that 'The Compilation' always been ONE, from God, borne in stages by different Messengers.Furthermore, upon searching key-words in the Qur'an, which relate to 'People of the Compilation,' we find this combination (with the address: 'O/ Ya'):-'Ya + Ahl + Al-Kitaab' /O People of the Compilation:'Looking through these verses, which are directly calling upon them, we find them being asked to speak the Truth about God, and not to commit excesses in their belief-standards/ Accountability (iv).We also find them being asked to return to their own Commandments (HQ 5:68), to stand fast by the Torah (of Moses) or the Gospel (of Jesus)!And we find the Messenger being told to extend this invitation to them (HQ 3:64):“Come/ Rise to a common Word between us and you:That we worship none but God, and we do not associate anything with Him,and we do not take from amongst ourselves lesser lords than God.”But if they turn away, say: “Then do bear witness, that we are Purely Reverent/ Muslims.”Here, we recall that ALL the Prophets, Messengers, and their followers were 'Purely Reverent to God,' ie: 'Muslim (see Moses HQ 10:84; Jesus HQ 3:52), and that we should make plain to the world that we do not differentiate among God's Messengers, but rather, we have Faith in them one and all, as well as in the Divine Messages they brought. We must also follow God's general directive about not arguing with the 'People of the Compilation' except in a manner which is best 'aHsan' (HQ 29:46), and about telling them plainly that 'our' God and 'their' God is One (the same), and that it is to Him that we are Purely Reverent (Muslim) v.Upon searching key-words in the Qur'an relating to 'People of the Compilation' we also find this combination, with the verb: 'denied/ kafaru:'
-'Ahl + Al-Kitaab' + 'kafaru/ they denied:'
These verses show us SO clearly that some OF them ('min' من) -did deny; some... and NOT all Ahl Al-Kitab (copy+paste this combination words in 'Search' to read more: min -Mu'min).
Also remember: When we say that someone has 'denied' (or any other verb), that does NOT mean that the person IS 'a Denier.' We know that people may do certain things at times, but that we cannot label them by the deed until it becomes part of their identity. We spoke of this earlier when we came across the words 'The Thief' in HQ 5:38, where we understood the noun as an EARNED identifier.
Interestingly, history tells us that early Believers in the Qur'an extended this acceptance to other faiths whose scriptures share our Inviolables/ Commandments, including Buddhists (see our earlier comments regarding Chapter 95).
And what is perhaps VERY important to us today is that:
IT IS WE WHO SHOULD ALSO HEED THE ADDRESS 'O PEOPLE OF THE COMPILATION!
DON'T WE REALIZE THAT SUCH VERSES INDICATE THAT WE SHOULD NOT BE RENDERING THE DYNAMIC QUR'AN INTO A 'COMPILATION' OF STATIC 'SHEETS' ??
Now it is some of us who revere commandments other than God's, and have replaced certain verses of the Qur'an with these 'commands' (either by way of mis-interpretation, contextomy/ quoting out of context, or blatant misappropriation).
Indeed, everything which 'they' were advised, commanded, or forbidden from, has come to apply to many of 'us' now. Sad... but true... and it's time we admit it:
WE 'Muslims' have set up 'lords' from amongst ourselves, scholars whose opinions we revere and take as 'gospel,' dictating to us what to believe and how to behave, which is very ironic since, these eminent early scholars, in their time, had far more freedom of thought and speech than we do today: They gave the Qur'an its proper esteem as compared to the reported Sayings of the Prophet. They happily differed with one another. They learnt from each other, and after traveling and living in different societies, the were known to have changed their opinions and made the changes public. They died thinking that 'Ijtihaad' was alive and well ('Ijtihaad' is exerting oneself with Independent Reasoning, especially with regard to emerging issues).
Both Sunni and Shiite Muslim 'scholars' are guilty of narrowing-down (to a mere trickle) the path of 'Ijtihaad,' and considering the 'Ijtihaad' of certain of their (own) Imaams as paramount and incontestable. Both discourage independent reasoning in one way or another, and are suspicious of anyone with a background unlike their own. Both revere and repeat what their predecessors have said, even when this leads to replacing important Qur'anic injunctions with 'interpretations.' Yet, although in both sects we can find biased extremists on one hand, we also find balanced, eminent scholars on the other, who courageously attempt to correct such wrongs (vi). But before you wrap-up that image, dear Reader... think:
This 'extremist' picture is not just about 'Muslims.' Extremism is on the rise worldwide, and is engendering violence everywhere, often under the guise of 'freedom of speech.' In order to exist, Extremists need an extremist reaction from the opposite side; the louder, the better, with a few deaths to spice things up (vii).
How many brave Arnoud Van Doorns on each extreme side do we need, to change the tide?
- We just read that the People of the Compilation and the Idolators (who listened to them), were expecting to receive Evidence: A Messenger from God, sent to them, reciting (in sequence/ yatlu) from unpolluted Sheets/ Records/ SsuHuf صُحُف (viii), containing upstanding compilations.Verses 4 tells us that it was not until AFTER the Evidence had arrived, that the People of the Compilation parted ways, while Verse 5 tells us what it was that they were commanded to do by this Messenger, which is to worship God Alone, purifying and refining their Accountability to Him, in a 'Haneef' manner (Haneef: Aware, self-correcting attitude), and to establish Salaat/ Prayer/ Relationship, extend Zakaat/ Purifying dues, and THAT is the upstanding, fault-free Standard of Accountability ('deen+ QYM' mentioned 5 times in Qur'an).New readers: Please put unfamiliar words in 'Search.'
- Then, Verse 6 presents Dissuasion, as it tells us of the whereabouts of all Those who Denied (and died in that state), whether they be of the 'People of the Compilation' or the 'Idolators': ALL Mushrikeen..They are in the fire of the Pit, inclined/ snug therein. These indeed are the most deplorable of all creatures.
- Then, Verse 7 -8 present Persuasion, telling us of the recompense of Those who attained Faith and performed good deeds, calling them immediately 'The most commendable of creatures'. Their recompense is Perpetual Gardens (Eden) beneath which rivers flow, 'inclined/ cozy' therein for Time.. (and then comes the beautiful description which we've seen earlier, clinching this image):
'God is well-pleased with them, and they are well-pleased with Him.
That (recompense) is for one who is in awe of His Lord.'
May we be among them!
Peace unto all!
Copy+paste מַחֲמַדִּ into Google translate, Hebrew to English, highlight the English word you get, click on it, scroll down and see the alternative meanings; the name Muhammad will be on that list. Hebrew, similar to Arabic, is written right to left, and we see here the 4 consonants MHMD=محمد). Even if we acknowledge that not every MHMD in the Hebrew Scripture is about Muhammad (since the word itself is related to praise, among other favorable qualities), yet we are certain that an unbiased scholar WILL find that, in certain verses, it can only be speaking about a person who deserves that name/ title. Come on, People. Set your mind free!
Some scholars say that there are 'prophecies' about Muhammad in Hindu scriptures as well (see here).
I've been under the impression that the word 'kitaab' did not necessarily appear in plural in the Qur'an, because when it did in certain scripts, there was a variant reading which was singular. But today see here, I found no variant reading to كتبه.
When I revise my work I'll make sure to correct that. The plural 'kutub' DOES appear in Qur'an.
The concept of 'Original Sin' and of Eve's culpability -which most Jews and Christians believe in- is where the 'excess' begins:
-Many Jews traditionally see themselves (especially the males) as the 'Chosen Ones,' preferred by God over all Humanity, regardless of their deeds.
-Many Christians traditionally see themselves as redeemed by the Crucifiction, also regardless of their deeds.
(This 'deviance' in one's Accountability standard seems to be a result of unattended Human Nature! Today, most world faiths seem to have puffed themselves up with pride on being 'superior' to everyone else, and on a 'standard' of their own, and amongst them are 'Muslims,' whose Qur'an speaks out clearly against all that... so Muslims must be on the list:)
-Many Muslims who traditionally see themselves as 'Chosen by God' (especially if the Prophet's name is at the head of their ancestral-tree), and believe themselves redeemed by their declaration of 'Shahada,' or by what they perceive as 'martyrdom,' regardless of their deeds.
And of course, each 'school of thought' or 'sect' always sees itself as the best, and the only one to be accepted by God.
It is time we all realized our pettiness, and began to see God in His rightful esteem!
P.S. When I was able to read Arabic well, my grandmother showed me our family-tree, which I'd been hearing so much about. She pointed proudly to my grandfather's name, then the Prophet's name, peace upon him, 25 grandfathers-up, and I tried to read them all. What I remember asking at the time was, how come her name, my mother's name, and other females' names were not on the tree? Her response was that this was the way it was done, but I was unconvinced: Without the name of 'Fatima' (the Prophet's daughter) at the top, there would be no tree in the first place!
It saddens me to see how far 'Muslims' have strayed from all these directives. Calling God 'Allah' even when speaking different languages, knowing that only an Arab (whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim) would recognize God by that name. This has made 'our' God seem like an alien deity to them!
However, what really angers me, is how someone could tamper with a deceased person's writings, go against his specifically stated intention, and change the thousands of references he has made to 'God'.... replacing them all with 'Allah,' without a thought as to the integrity of the original work or their own integrity as publishers of it! This is exactly what happened to the beautiful work of Yusuf Ali, whose vastly used explanation of Qur'an was reprinted in Saudi Arabia decades ago, with every reference to 'God' changed to 'Allah.'' This may be the main reason behind non-Arabs worldwide thinking that Muslims worship another God.
Further VERY INTERESTING reading:
-'Deriving Laws: A Comparison between Ijtihad among Shia Muslims and Istihsan and Istislah among Sunni Muslims in Contemporary Islamic Thought'
-'Was the Gate of Ijtihad Closed?' (about Sunni Islam).
- 'From ijtihad to wilayat-i faqih: The Evolving of the Shi'ite Legal Authority to Political Power.'
These are the papers I personally enjoyed, but there are others to 'Google' and choose from, dear Reader.
Extremism is universal, as we can see, mirrored in all ethnicities and ideologies. I still remember the Danish Cartoon issue, and how when the cartoons were first published, few took notice. Then, a back-up campaign began, with a few even more insulting pictures fabricated and distributed around the world, falsely attributed to that newspaper. Unwisely, many people from both sides got on board, heating the situation up rather than cooling it down, as the drama began again, and the newspaper republished the offensive cartoons. But this time it worked, causing serious rifts and about 200 deaths.
Unfortunately, as our world is becoming more polarized, thanks to the agendas of our untrustworthy politicians, extremism is gaining ground and, wherever you are, it is now playing at a theater near you.