I. Meaning & Morphology (الصرف و اللغة)
According to Ghamidi (note 5), the word 'وَسَط' is used literally. It refers to the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) who stood as an intermediate nation. On the one side was the Prophet (sws) and on the other, the rest of the nations of the world before which they had to bear witness.
Most commentators have taken the metaphorical meaning of this word viz 'best' since that which is in the middle is the best.
Writes Ghamidi (note 22): 'Although the word 'كُل' is an indefinite noun; however, when it comes after a mention of someone or some group then it generally refers to that person or group'.
Examples of this usage can be seen in the following verses:
فَلَمَّا اعْتَزَلَهُمْ وَمَا يَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَكُلًّا جَعَلْنَا نَبِيًّا(49:19)
ِAnd when Abraham had cast off his people and the idols which they worshipped, We gave him Isaac and Jacob. Each of them We made a prophet. (19:49)
وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِدْرِيسَ وَذَا الْكِفْلِ كُلٌّ مِّنَ الصَّابِرِينَ (85:21)
And you shall also tell of Ishmael, Idris, and Dhul-Kifl. All these were among those who endured with patience. (21:85)
II. Style & Eloquence (الاساليب و البلاغة)
1. Elision of an Incomplete verb
As pointed out by Ghamidi (note 1), there occurs an elision of an incomplete verb (الفعل الناقص) in the expression 'قَدْ نَرَى تَقَلُّبَ وَجْهِكَ'. The sense is 'قَدْ كُنَّا نَرَى' (We have been seeing).
Such an elision is customary in eloquent Arabic. In the Qur'an, this is quite common. Here are some examples:
Inthe following verse, the sense is 'وَفَرِيقاًكُنْتُمْ تَقْتُلُونَ':
أَفَكُلَّمَا جَاءكُمْ رَسُولٌ بِمَا لاَ تَهْوَى أَنفُسُكُمُ اسْتَكْبَرْتُمْ فَفَرِيقاً كَذَّبْتُمْ وَفَرِيقاً تَقْتُلُونَ(2 :88)
Similarly, in 'وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ (25:21)', the sense is 'إِلَّا كُنَّا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ'.
2. 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 18),2:145 presents such form of address:
[So if there is anything that can satisfy them, then it is that you accept their Qiblah] and [you should know that] if, after the knowledge [that has been revealed to you], you yield to their desires, then you will surely be among these transgressors.
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.
3. Elision of the Mubtada
Writes Ghamidi (note 20): 'The Qur'anic words used are:'الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ'. 'الْحَقُّ' is an enunciative (khabr) of a suppressed inchoative (mubtada) and the words'مِن رَّبِّكَ' relate to this enunciative. Generally, the inchoative is suppressed in the Arabic language when all attention need to be focused on the enunciative.'
Here are some more examples of such an elision:
In the sentence: (2 : 18) 'صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ' there occurs an elision of the Mubtada to focus all attention on the Khabr. It can be unfolded thus:
'صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ [هُمْ]'.
Another instance of elision of the Mubtadais:
الرَّحْمَنُ فَاسْأَلْ بِهِ خَبِيرًا (59:25)
The sense is: 'الرَّحْمَنُ فَاسْأَلْ بِهِ خَبِيرًا[هُوَ]'
III. Exegesis and Explanation (الشرح و التفسير)
1. The Background of 'عَلَيْهِ أَن يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَافَلاَ جُنَاحَ'
While explaining the following verse, commentators generally narrate that two idols had been placed on the hills of Safa and Marwah and the Qur'an has reassured the believers that if they offer Sa'i between them, then this will not entail any wrong:
إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِن شَعَآئِرِ اللّهِ فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَن يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا(2: 158)
Safaand Marwaare indeed two of God's symbols. So it shall be no offence for those who come for Hajj or 'Umrah of this Sacred House to walk around them. (2:158)
According to Ghamidi, this is not the case. If the context of the verse is considered, it becomes evident that the Jews were guilty of concealing certain facts about the relationship of Abraham (sws) with Arabia. While referring to this concealment, the Qur'anin the very verse says:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالْهُدَى مِن بَعْدِ مَا بَيَّنَّاهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِي الْكِتَابِ أُولَـئِكَ يَلعَنُهُمُ اللّهُ وَيَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّاعِنُونَ(2: 159)
Those who conceal the clear proofs and the guidance We have revealed [in this matter]even though We had openly proclaimed them for these people in our Book it is they who shall be cursed by God and cursed by those who curse. (2:159)
According to Ghamidi(note 51), in order to conceal the relationship of Abraham (sws) with Safaand Marwah they must have come up with the propaganda that offering Sa'i was an innovation and that it should therefore be avoided. It was to reveal this concealment of facts that the Qur'anvehemently asserted that offering Sa'ibetween these two hills is no sin. In fact, both these hills symbolize certain aspects of religion. He writes:
When the Jews tried to sever the relationship of the Safa and Marwah from Abraham (sws), they must have also asserted that offering the Sa'i between these two hills is polytheistic innovation and has nothing to do with Abraham's religion. It was in this background that the Qur'an refuted this claim by clarifying that there was no harm in offering the Sa'i between these hills; in fact this is a designated worship ritual and therefore certainly an act of virtue which if done with zeal will be accepted by the Almighty.
Moreover, the placement of two idols on the hills could not have been the case for reassuring Muslims to observe Sa'isince on similar grounds there were over 360 idols placed within the Ka'bah and Muslims never needed any re-assurance to observe the ritual of Tawaf.