Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tafsir of Surah al-Rahman Part 1

Surat al-Rahman pt 1– Tafsir 
Basic notes and commentary:
V1. {al-Rahman}: revealed when the people of Mecca asked the Prophet who this ‘al-Rahman’ was to make prostration to [Q. al-Furqan:60 – usjudu li’l-rahman]. 
  • Allah directly begins a sura with His attribute/Name: it means, “linguistically: al-Rahman is that whose mercy extends to all things…” (al-Tabarsi, Majma` al-Bayan, 3:17).
اللغة: الرحمن هو الذي وسعت رحمته كل شيء
  • It could also refer to three different suras combined in 1: “It is the opening of three chapters if they are combined that are names of Allah {Alif-Lam-Ra}, {Ha-Mim} and {Nun} and so combined they become {al-Rahman}. This was mentioned by Sa`id b. Jubayr and Ibn `Abbas…” (al-Mawardi, al-Nukat wa’l-`Uyun, 5:423).
الثاني: أنه فاتحة ثلاث سور إذا جمعن كن اسماً من أسماء الله تعالى: { الر } و { حم } و { ن } فيكون مجموع هذه { الرَّحْمَنُ } ، قاله سعيد بن جبير، وابن عباس.
  • “[Allah] begins the Chapter with the name of al-Rahman from amongst His other names in order to teach people that everything that will be subsequently described of His actions, His dominions, His power all stem from His attribute of mercy and greatness of His beneficence…” (al-Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 17:158).
فٱفتتح السورة بٱسم الرحمن من بين الأسماء ليعلم العباد أن جميع ما يصفه بعد هذا من أفعاله ومن ملكه وقدرته خرج إليهم من الرحمة العظمى من رحمانيته
  • Allah begins with His name of al-Rahman in order to: 1. to give it primacy and 2. to indicate to the reader that everything that will follow in this sura is purely from His contingent act of mercy and benevolence. 
V2. {taught the Qur’an}: 3 meanings:
[1] That Allah taught the Prophet (saw).
[2] That the Prophet taught his umma (ibn al-Sa’ib).
[3] The teaching of the Qur’an was made easy. 
V3. {taught him the bayan}: here the pronoun him/-hu can refer to either 1. All human beings; 2. The Prophet Adam (as) or 3. The Prophet Muhammad (saw).
{bayan}: this has at least 6 meanings:
If –hu refers to all human beings, then bayan could mean:
[1] Speech (al-nutq).
[2] Distinguishing between things (al-tamayyuz).
[3] halal wa’l-haram.
[4] Good and bad (khayr wa sharr).
[5] The path to guidance (turuq ila’l-huda).
[6] Writing (al-kataba).
[7] Logic.
If –hu refers to Adam, then bayan could mean:
[1] The names of all things.
[2] Explanation/meanings/clarifications of all things.
[3] Languages (al-luhgat).
If –hu refers to The Prophet, then bayan could mean:
[1] Everything that has happened and will happen (bayan ma kana wa ma yakunu).
VV5-6. {sun and moon [continue = yajriyan] in fixed courses} and {herbs/stars and trees prostrate}.
{bi-husban}: following a calculated trajectory, a fixed orbit, fixed for ascertaining the different times, etc.
{najm}: singular but plural in meaning, i.e. refers to all of them; the word najm can mean [1] everything that does not have a stalk or stem (kullu nabatin laysa lahu saaq); [2] the stars of the sky.
{shajar}: tree; everything that does have a stalk or stem, trunk, etc (ma kana `ala’l-saaq).
{prostrating}: “al-Farra’ said: both categories of creation prostrating means: they turn towards the Sun when it rises. And then they remain inclined to it until its rays begin to weaken and fade…” (Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir fi `Ilm al-Tafsir, 8:106):
 قال الفراء: سُجودهما: أنَّهما يستقبِلان الشمسَ إذا أشرقت، ثم يَميلان معها حتى ينكسر الفَيْىءُ.
  • Sujud/prostration here can also mean:
  1. The rotation of their shadows.
  2. Harvesting their fruits.
  3. Actual prostration.
V7. {and he has set up the mizan}: which has a number of meanings:
[1] Justice (`adl).
[2] A just and good balance that administers all peoples’ rights.
[3] The Qur’an.
[4] The Shari`a (al-Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 17:159-160).
[5] The Hukm (law, rule, judgment).
V9. {and do not break the balance}: not to transgress, break, exceed or overstep the balance put down.
Allah has given balance in all things in creation:
  • Capitalism and Communism have destroyed the economic, social and ecological balance:
  1. Created human devaluation.
  2. Generated human misery.
  3. Suppressed natural human religiosity.
  4. Police state.
  5. Impractical policies.
  6. Dictatorship.
  • Ecological degradation.
  • Environmental destruction.
  • Economic inequality.
  • Wars.
  • Exploitation.
  • Monopoly.

V10: {al-anam}: this can have a few meanings such as: [1] people (al-nas); [2] every living creature (ensouled being [kullu dhi ruhin]) – or what sleeps; [3] every creature that walks the earth (kullu ma dabba `ala wajh al-ard) and [4]jinns and human beings.  
V11: {al-nakhl}: here is an example of the specific after the general (khass ba`da ’l-`amm) because: 1. The date is familiar to the Arabs and 2. The extreme health benefits of dates (e.g. high in fibre, reduces constipation, muscle development, prevents abdominal cancer, gives extra energy to the body, has sugar, fats and protein hence essential for a balanced diet, increases sexual stamina with milk and honey, etc.).
V12. {al-habb}: grains, all types such as wheat and barley; {dhu’l-`asfi}, i.e. dry and yellow, when it becomes hard, {al-rayhan}, i.e. can mean 1. the rizq, sustenance; 2. Sweet-scented flowers/plants; 3. Green plants; 4. Leaved plants that are not eaten (non-edible) but beautiful in appearance.
V13. {so, which of the favours of your Lord will you both deny}: why has Allah mentioned the dual form (ithnayn/muthanna)? This is a style of the Arabic language:
[1] The Arabs address one person with the actions of two as in Q. Qaf:24.
[2] The clause intends both humans and jinn.
  • The reason for the repetition of this verse is given as follows: “As for the style of repeating this verse in this sura, it is for affirming the numerous bounties of Allah. The emphasis is in its repeated occurrence. Every time Allah – Glorified is He! – mentions His blessing and bounty that He has given, it affirms it and strengthens it and negates those who deny it and reject it.” (al-Tabarsi, Majma` al-Bayan, 3:19):
فأَما الوجه لتكرار هذه الآية في هذا السورة فإنما هو التقرير بالنعم المعدودة والتأكيد في التذكير بها فكلما ذكر سبحانه نعمة أنعم بها قرر عليها ووبخ على التكذيب بها
  • Ibn Qutayba said: “…when Allah recounts all His blessings in this sura, and reminds His servants of His bounties and warns them of His power and ability, He has put this clause as a separation between every blessing and bounty in order to make them understand and comprehend it as well as to affirm and emphasise it…” (Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 8:109).
قال ابن قتيبة: فلمّا عَدَّد اللهُ تعالى في هذه السورة نعماءَه، وأذكَرَ عِبَادَه آلاءَه، ونبَّههم على قُدرته، جعل كل كلمة من ذلك فاصلة بين كل نِعمتين، ليُفَهِّمهم النِّعم ويُقَرِّرهم بها،
  • Structural point: “When He – Glorified in He! – mentioned the creation of the larger macrocosm which consists of the sky and the earth everything in them, He then mentioned the creation of the microcosm which is the human being, i.e. Adam…” (al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir, 5:133):
لما ذكر سبحانه خلق العالم الكبير، وهو السماء والأرض وما فيهما، ذكر خلق العالم الصغير، والمراد بالإنسان هنا: آدم
  • Thus, the Qur’an focuses on human beings having discussed the wider world and cosmos.
V15. {He created isnan [i.e. Prophet Adam]} from {salsal} which means dried mud or clay (al-tin al-yaabis) where the hollow ringing can be heard if struck or the echo of one’s voice if spoken in it.
{with likes of fakhkhar}: the word fakhkhar means that which is heated or baked in fire (ma tubikha bi’l-nar).
{al-jann}: 1. All jinn (i.e. as a category of created species); 2. Iblis (The Devil, Satan) and 3. The original/father of the jinn species.
{marij}: 1. the flame of the fire without the smoke, i.e. smokeless fire; 2. The intense heat of the fire and its flames without the billowing smoke.
{maraja}: to join, combine, to mix, to make both meet, to overlap two things.
{al-bahrayn}: the two sea bodies, two oceans mixing.
{barzakh}: non-physical barrier, non-material separation, slanted barrier the eye cannot see, etc.
  • This separation allows both seas to separates with its own temperature, salinity and density. (Compare the Gibraltar Strait). The wisdom in this is being discovered by oceanologists in their research.
  • Another interesting meaning is as follows: “Sahl said: the two seas [s: each represent a path]; one path to good and one path to bad and the ‘barrier’ between them is the grace of God and impeccability…” (al-Mawardi, al-Nukat wa’l-`Uyun, 5:430):
وقال سهل: البحران طريق الخير وطريق الشر، والبرزخ الذي بينهما التوفيق والعصمة
  • Note: this ishara (subtle exegetical indication) is worth pondering over. Symbolically, the two seas represent the two paths: good/bad, truth/falsehood, etc. It is never the case that Allah will allow both to overlap, to meet, to come to a middle point, or mix. Thus, it is impossible that truth and falsehood mix and compromise: today the call for compromising Islam/changing Islam/diluting Islam/mixing Islam is very strong (e.g. government agendas for a ‘British Islam’, non-political Islam, spiritual Islam, secular Islam, etc. or false dichotomies such as Islam vs. Islamism, Muslims vs. Islamists, democratic Islam vs. 7th century Islam, etc.).
 V22. {lu’lu’}: pearls, from the root meaning to shine, to dazzle, to glisten, blaze, {marjan}: various beautiful coral gems, mixed stones. 
V24. {al-jawar}, ships that sail on the sea by Allah’s permission; {munsha’at} flows, sails along, moves, carries, etc.
{ka’l-a`lam}: like mountains; imagery of tall ships (think of bird’s eye view, side view of an army, fleet of ships sailing, trade ships, trawlers, etc.). The Arabs call jabal tawil (‘tall mountains’) `alamun (pl. a`lam).
V26. {`alay-ha}: on it, i.e. the earth; refers to humans and jinn and any living creature on the earth.
{faan}, i.e. haalik (‘anything that perishes’).
V27: {wajh} face, but here means ‘essence’ (dhat):
أَيْ وَيَبْقَى الله، فَالْوَجْه عِبَارَة عَنْ وُجُوده وَذَاته سُبْحَانه
“…meaning Allah Himself will remain. The term ‘face’ is an expression that refers to His existence, His Essence –Glorified is He!”
وَقَالَ اِبْن عَبَّاس : الْوَجْه عِبَارَة عَنْهُ كَمَا قَالَ: “وَيَبْقَى وَجْه رَبّك ذُو الجَْلاَل وَالإِْكْرَام
“…Ibn `Abbas said: the face is an expression that refers to Him [s: Allah Himself] as in {and the Face of your Lord will remain forever…}.” (al-Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 17:164).
{Full of Majesty…}: “it could also mean: Allah honours those close to Him and increases them in rank or it could mean one of two things: Majesty – i.e. He is Majestic, something ascribed of Allah Most High as a property and attribute and [Ikram/Honour] ascribed to human beings, i.e. something they do…” (Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 8:113-114)
وقد يحتمل أن يكون المعنى: أنه يُكرم أهلَ ولايته ويرفع درجاتهم؛ وقد يحتمل أن يكون أحد الأمرين ـ وهو الجلال ـ مضافاً إلى الله تعالى بمعنى الصفة له، والآخر مضافاً إلى العبد بمعنى الفعل منه،
  • Which means the da`wa carrier/general Muslim must be people who are with Allah in remembrance, deed and conscience.
  • The desire and need for victory, ascendancy can only be granted if Allah is worshipped sincerely and truly and if a bond is built with Allah.
V29. {everything in the heavens and the earth asks}: meaning is in need of Him, totally dependent on Him, cannot have independent sustenance or existence, contingent entities, etc.
{fi sha’n}, in some affair, i.e.
  1. Sustaining creation,
  2. giving life,
  3. Giving death,
  4. Elevating a people, disgracing another people (yarfa`u qawman wa yakhfadu akharin),
  5. Answers prayers.
  6. Responds to people.
  7. Forgives.
  • The da`wa carrier/general Muslim must be convinced that Help and victory lies with Allah and His Messenger, i.e. what they have said – not what others say.
  • The rules, codes, laws, ideas and concepts of Islam will prevail because Allah will assure it as part of His bargain and promise.
V30: {then which of the favours}: Question: why is this verse mentioned here after mentioning the destruction of everything and how this is a positive or good thing? Reply: “the blessing and bounty in destruction and total annihilation is that the believers are brought nearer to eternal bliss. Yahya b. Mu`adh said: ‘how great and preferable death is! It brings the beloved closer to the beloved!’…” (al-Nasafi, Madarik al-Tanzil, p.478):
والنعمة في الفناء باعتبار أن المؤمنين به يصلون إلى النعيم السرمد. وقال يحيـى بن معاذ: حبذا الموت فهو الذي يقرب الحبيب إلى الحبيب

Allah knows best
Peace and blessings upon our beloved Master
The Messenger of Allah,
Upon his pure family,
Upon his noble companions
And those who follow them until
The Last Day. 
S. Z. Chowdhury

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