I. Meaning & Morphology (الصرف و اللغة)
As indicated by Ghamidi(note 25), the word 'سُؤال' (question) has many connotations. One of these is a question that actually has a ring of an objection around it. In other words, such a question is not meant to elicit an answer. It is just meant to tease the addressees.
Following are some more examples in which the word 'سُؤال' is used in this connotation. (The underlined Arabic words indicate the verb used for this).
يَسْأَلُكَأَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ أَن تُنَزِّلَ عَلَيْهِمْ كِتَابًا مِّنَ السَّمَاء فَقَدْ سَأَلُواْ مُوسَى أَكْبَرَ مِن ذَلِكَ فَقَالُواْ أَرِنَا اللّهِ جَهْرَةً فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ الصَّاعِقَةُ بِظُلْمِهِمْ (153:4)
The People of the Book ask you to bring down for them a book from heaven. Of Moses they demanded a harder thing than that. They said to him: 'Show us God distinctly'. And for their wickedness the thunderbolt smote them. (4:153)
يَسْأَلُكَ النَّاسُ عَنِ السَّاعَةِ قُلْ إِنَّمَا عِلْمُهَا عِندَ اللَّهِ وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ لَعَلَّ السَّاعَةَ تَكُونُ قَرِيبًا (33:63)
People ask you about the Hour of Doom. Say: 'God alone has knowledge of it'. Who knows the Hour may well be near at hand. (33:63)
This word is used in two connotations as referred to by Ghamidi (note: 27): 'Just as it means 'to forgive', it also means 'to ignore' and 'to pay no heed'.'
It is used in the latter meaning in the following verse:
يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ قَدْ جَاءكُمْ رَسُولُنَا يُبَيِّنُ لَكُمْ كَثِيرًا مِّمَّا كُنتُمْ تُخْفُونَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ قَدْ جَاءكُم مِّنَ اللّهِ نُورٌ وَكِتَابٌ مُّبِينٌ (5:15)
People of the Book! Our Prophet has come to reveal to you much of what you have hidden of the Scriptures, and to ignore a lot [what you do]. Indeed, a light has come to you from God and a glorious Book. (5:15)
The word 'وَلَدٌ' is used both for male and female children. It is not always used for the male offspring. In 2:116, it would be erroneous to translate it as 'son'. The following Qur'anic verse conclusively testifies to this meaning:
وَجَعَلُواْ لِلّهِ شُرَكَاء الْجِنَّ وَخَلَقَهُمْ وَخَرَقُواْ لَهُ بَنِينَ وَبَنَاتٍ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ َدِيعُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ أَنَّى يَكُونُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ تَكُن لَّهُ صَاحِبَةٌ وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ وهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ(6: 100-101)
And they regard the jinn as Allah's equals, though He created them, and impute with knowledge sons and daughters unto Him. Praise and Glory to Him! Exalted is He above their imputations. He is the originator of the heavens and the earth. How can He have children when for Him there is no consort. He created everything and He has knowledge about all things. (6:100-101)
In the above verses, after a mention of the fact that the Idolaters have falsely ascribed sons and daughters as partners to God, the foolish claim has been refuted by the words 'أَنَّى يَكُونُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ' (how can He have children?). Obviously, 'وَلَدٌ' here is meant both for the masculine as well as the feminine gender.
II. Style & Eloquence (الاساليب و البلاغة)
1. Parenthetic Sentences
As pointed out by Ghamidi(notes 6 and 7), one use ofparenthetic sentences is that they serve to immediately interrupt and negate a notion. To exonerate Solomon from sorcery and the angels Harut and Marut from teaching witchcraft the Almighty has interrupted the discourse on two occasions in the form of parenthetic sentences. The first of these is:
وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ وَلَكِنَّ الشَّيْاطِينَ كَفَرُواْ يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ (102:2)
Whereas Solomon never was guilty of disbelief; it is the devils who were guilty of disbelief. (2:102)
The second one is:
وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّى يَقُولاَإِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلاَ تَكْفُرْ(102:2)
Yet they would never instruct anyone without saying to him beforehand: 'We are a test for you; do not enter into disbelief. (2:102)
Consider another example of such parenthetic sentences, as indicated in underlined portion of the following verse:
وَإِنْ نَكَثُوا أَيْمَانَهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ عَهْدِهِمْ وَطَعَنُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ فَقَاتِلُوا أَئِمَّةَ الْكُفْرِ إِنَّهُمْ لَا أَيْمَانَ لَهُمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَنتَهُونَ(9 :12)
But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith, fight these chiefs of disbelief – for their oaths are nothing to them – that thus they may be restrained. (9:12)
The parenthetic sentence is a comment of disgust on the arrogant leaders of Quraysh. Muslims are told that as long as they abide by the covenant of Hudaybiyyah made in the vicinity of the Baytullah they should bear with them. However, if they break their covenant, Muslims are required to fight them in order to curb their aggressive intent. In between this discourse, a parenthetic comment by the Almighty serves to warn the Muslims that their opponents are not men of words and may break their promise any time, so they should be ready to fight with them when the time comes.
2. Elision of the Annexed Noun (Mudaf)
Elision of the Annexed Noun is very common in Arabic. Thus as pointed out by Ghamidi (note 4): 'The actual Qur'anic words used are: 'عَلَى مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ'. As per the linguistic principles of Arabic, an elision of a 'annexed noun' (mudaf) has occurred before 'عَلَى'. Thus the implied meaning is: 'عَلَى عَهْدِ مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ'.' That is 'in the kingdom of Solomon' is actually 'in the period of the kingdom of Solomon'.
Thus in 'وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ (78:22)' the implied meaning while taking into account the elision is 'وَجَاهِدُوا فِي سَبِيْل للَّهِ. Similarly, in 'وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُم مَّانِعَتُهُمْ حُصُونُهُم مِّنَ اللَّهِ (2:59)', the implied meaning is 'مِنْ بَطْشِ اللَّهِ'.
3. Direction of Address
There are several instances in the Qur'an where the Prophet (sws) is seemingly addressed while the actual addressees are his opponents. This form of indirect address serves to give the actual addressees the time and respite to reflect on what is being said to them. It does not hurt their ego since they are not singled out by name. In fact, since the address is indirect and the apparent addressee (the Prophet) bears the brunt of such an address, great admonishment can be sounded out to the real addressees (the opponents) without causing any reaction from their side.
As pointed out by the Ghamidi(note 50),2:120 presents such form of address:
[You should know that] if after all the knowledge you have been given you yield to their desires, you will not have any friend against God and no one to help you.
What is being said is that even if a person as respected in the eyes of Allah as the Prophet (sws) follows his whims and desires which contradict the divine revelation sent to him, then he too will have to face the wrath of God. It is evident that there was no possibility of the Prophet (sws) yielding to his desires; it is actually his addressees who were guilty of it. Thus a severe warning is actually sounded to them that such is the grasp of God that He would not even spare His Prophet (sws) in this matter what to speak of others!
Some more examples of this style of address are:
وَلَن تَرْضَى عَنكَ الْيَهُودُ وَلاَ النَّصَـارَى حَتَّى تَتَّبِعَ مِلَّتَهُمْ قُلْ إِنَّ هُدَى اللَّهِ هُوَ الْهُدَى وَلَئِنِ اتَّبَعْتَ أَهْوَآءَهُم بَعْدَ الَّذِي جَآئَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ مَا لَكَ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلاَ نَصِيرٍ(120:2)
Never will the Jews nor the Christians be pleased with you [O Muhammad!] till you follow their religion. Say: 'Verily, the Guidance of Allah is the [only] Guidance. And if you [O Muhammad (sws)] were to follow their desires after what you have received of knowledge [--ie the Qur'an--], then you would have against Allah neither any guardian nor any helper. (2:120)
وَلَقَدْ أُوْحِىَ إِلَيْكَ وَإِلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكَ لَئِنْ أَشْرَكْتَ لَيَحْبَطَنَّ عَمَلُكَ وَلَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَـاسِرِينَ (65:39)
And indeed it has been revealed to you [O Muhammad], as it was to those before you: 'If you join others in worship with Allah, then surely [all] your deeds will be in vain, and you will certainly be among the losers'. (39:65)
In both these examples, the harshness present in the address is directed to the opponents of the Prophet (sws), who are actually addressed. In the first example, the people of the Book are reprimanded for their attitude of denying the Qur'an and told that such is the nature of its guidance that even the Prophet (sws) would not find Allah at his help if he follows their vain desires instead of the Qur'an. In the second example also, the Idolaters of Arabia are being told how heinous a sin polytheism is. Obviously, no prophet of Allah could have indulged into it. But to bring out the abominable nature of this sin, the Idolaters are informed that even the prophets of Allah despite their status will end up at the losing end if they are guilty of it.
4. Degrees of Verb
In the Arabic language and in many other languages, verbs have various degrees and levels. For example, a verb may express intention, result, permanence or completeness. An instance of a verb being used in its complete and thorough form is pointed out by Ghamidi (note 19) in 2:104: 'The Qur'anic word used is 'اسْمَعُوا'. Here, in this verse, it is used in its complete form implying: 'listen carefully and understand what is being said…'.
Some more examples of such usage are:
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا آمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَالْكِتَابِ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ عَلَى رَسُولِهِ (136:4)
O you who believe! Believe in God and His Apostle, and the scripture which He has sent to His Prophet. (4:136)
The second imperative 'believe' implies 'to believe totally and in entirety'.
فَإِنْ كُنْتَ فِي شَكٍّ مِمَّا أَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ فَاسْأَلْ الَّذِينَ يَقْرَءُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ(94:10)
So if you (O Muhammad (sws) are in doubt concerning that which We have revealed unto you, then ask those who are reading the Book [the Bible] before you. (10:94)
Here the verb 'are reading' refers to the truthful and righteous People of the Book who are really reading the Bible as it ought to be read and vouching for theQur'an as the Book of God.
5. Usage of 'آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ' and 'اُوْتُوْ الْكِتَابَ'
While referring to 'الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَتْلُونَهُ حَقَّ تِلاَوَتِهِ'(2:121), Ghamidi writes: 'A subtle aspect worth noting in this sentence is that since the righteous among the People are mentioned, the expression used is 'آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ' and not 'اُوْتُوْ الْكِتَاب'.What he means here is that the former expression which has the verb in its active form expresses attention and interest on the part of the Almighty and this can only be for the righteous among the People of the Book. This is in contrast to the expression 'اُوْتُوْ الْكِتَاب' in which the verb is used passively and which is not generally used for the righteous among the People of the Book.
III. Exegesis and Explanation (الشرح و التفسير)
1. Abrogation in the Qur'an
It is generally held that some verses of the Qur'an were abrogated. One of the verses from which this doctrine of abrogation is derived 2:106 wherein it is said:
مَا نَنسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِّنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا (106:2)
Whatever verse We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We replace it by a better one or one similar. (2:106)
Whether the verses of the Qur'an were actually abrogated or not is a separate affair; however, if the context of 2:106 is kept in consideration, it cannot be made the basis of the fact that abrogation took place in the Qur'an. A look at this context reveals that the disdainful attitude of the Jews regarding the Prophet Muhammad (sws) is being discussed. It is stated in verse 97 that they are so annoyed at the Qur'an being revealed to him that they have become enemies of Gabriel, the angel who would bring the Qur'an to him. In verse 100, their rejection of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) is regarded as a breach of the covenant their forefathers had pledged. In verses 101-2, they are reprimanded for ignoring the predictions of his advent as written in Torah and also rebuked on getting involved in sorcery and witchcraft instead. In verse 104, a prank they would play to ridicule the Prophet (sws) is referred to while verse 105 once again brings out their hatred for the Muslims that they do not want them to become recipients of divine revelation. It is in this background that the given verse (106) occurs and it would be entirely out of place for a verse to suddenly appear and inform us that some verses of the Qur'an have been abrogated. Moreover, the discourse continues in the succeeding verses with the attitude of the Jews that was in discussion previously and issues such as their jealousy and hatred are further elaborated.
2. The Pronunciation of 'رَاعِنَا'
While explaining how the Jews would ridicule the Prophet (sws) by pronouncing the word 'رَاعِنَا' in a certain way, Ghamidi writes (note 17): 'At another place, the Qur'an has clarified that the Jews would pronounce this word by twisting their tongue in such a manner that it would totally change in meaning.'
The reference is to the following verse:
مِّنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُواْ يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ وَيَقُولُونَ سَمِعْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا وَاسْمَعْ غَيْرَ مُسْمَعٍ وَرَاعِنَا لَيًّا بِأَلْسِنَتِهِمْ وَطَعْنًا فِي الدِّينِ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ قَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا وَاسْمَعْ وَانظُرْنَا لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَّهُمْ وَأَقْوَمَ وَلَكِن لَّعَنَهُمُ اللّهُ بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَلاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً (46:4)
Some Jews take words out of their context and say: 'We hear, but disobey' and [would say]: 'Listen to what is not worth listening to' and [would say:] 'Ra'ina!' distorting the word with their tongues and reviling the true faith. But if they said: 'We hear and obey: hear us and Unzurna, it would be better and more proper for them. God has cursed them in their unbelief. They have no faith, except a few of them. (4:46)
If the word 'رَاعِنَا' is stressed a little by twisting the tongue, it would become 'رَاعيِنَا', which means 'O our shepherd' which would be a derogatory way to address the Prophet (sws).
3. Punishment meted out to the Jews
While explaining the decision of the Almighty regarding the Jews, Ghamidi writes (note 28): 'This decision manifested in the form of killing, exiling and imposing Jizyah on the Jews once they had deliberately rejected the truth after they were convinced about it'. This refers to the divine law of Itmamu'l-Hujjah in which nations of the Messengers (Rusul) of God are punished in various forms in this very world if they deliberately deny the truth.1
4. Implications of the word 'فِتْنَةٌ'
While commenting on the implications of the word 'فِتْنَةٌ', Ghamidi writes (note 9): 'It means 'trial' and 'test'. In the Qur'an, this generally implies those things which originally are beneficial to man but by their misuse man often ends up in a state of trial.'
This is also evident from the following verse:
إِنَّمَا أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَأَوْلَادُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ وَاللَّهُ عِندَهُ أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ (64: 14-15)
Your wealth and your children are but a trial. God's recompense is great. (64:14-15)
IV. Scriptures and Testaments (العهود والصحف)
1. 'كُن فَيَكُونُ' (Be and it is, (2:117))
The Biblical parallels to the above expression can be seen thus:
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. (Psalm 33:6)
For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. (Psalm 33:9)