Researcher’s Companion to Ghamidi’s Al-Bayan: Surah Baqarah (40-60)

Researcher’s Companion to Ghamidi’s Al-Bayan: Surah Baqarah (40-60)


Qur'anic Exegesis

Shehzad Saleem

I. Meaning & Morphology (الصرف و اللغة)

1. 'مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا مَعَكُمْ'

Farahihas pointed out1that theverb 'صَدَّقَ' also means 'to make something true' besides its other meaning of 'to testify to the veracity of something'.

The Qur'an uses this word in the former meaning thus:

وَلَقَدْ صَدَّقَ عَلَيْهِمْ إِبْلِيسُ ظَنَّهُ فَاتَّبَعُوهُإِلَّا فَرِيقًا مِّنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (34: 20)

And Satan indeed made true his expectations regarding them because they follow him – except some among the believers. (34:20)

A Hamasi poet says:

فدت نفسي وما ملكت يميني

فوارس صدقت فيهم ظنوني

(I sacrificed my life and wealth for warriors who proved my expectations regarding them to be true.)

Farahigoes on to explain that if the various verses in which this expression occurs in the Qur'an are studied, it becomes evident it is used in the former meaning. (see for example: 2:101, 4:47, 46:30, 61:6, 89:2). Also becomes evident from these verses is the fact that the expression 'مَا مَعَكُمْ' refers not to the Torah as a whole but to the verses of the Torah which contain predictions of the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (sws).

2. 'اَلظَّن'2

Regarding the meaning of 'اَلظَّن', Ghamidi(footnote 22) writes: 'In the Arabic language, just as it is used for 'doubt' in contrast to 'certainty', it is also used to mean 'having a thought of something and its fear'. In this second meaning, it does not have the sense of doubt associated in the first meaning.'

It is used in this second meaning in the following verse:

إِنِّي ظَنَنتُ أَنِّي مُلَاقٍ حِسَابِي (69 :20)

I always thought that [one day] I shall have to face my reckoning. (69:20)

The following couplets also corroborate this meaning:

Aws Ibn Hajrsays:

ألا لمعى الذى يظن بك الظن

كان قد رأى وقد سمعا

(That intelligent person who when conjectures about you seems that he does so after observing and listening.)

Durayd Ibn Summahsays:

فقلت لهم ظنوا بألفى مدجج

سراتهم في الفارسي المسرد

(I told him to be certain of [the help of] two thousand armed riders whose chiefs would be wearing finely intertwined armour)

3. 'اَلصَّبر'

While alluding to the meaning of 'اَلصَّبر', Ghamidi writes (note 18): 'In the Arabic language, the word 'صَبْر' (perseverance) is used to firmly set one's self on one's view while protecting one's self from worry, frustration and anxiety.'

While referring to this meaning, Farahi writes:

الصبر عند العرب ليس من التذلل في شى كمايصبر المضطهد العاجز بل هو أصل القوة والعزم و كثر في كلام العرب استعماله بهذا المعنى

To the Arabs, 'صَبْر' never referred to what is frail and feeble – something accustomed to the weak and meek. On the contrary, it is the basis of power and determination. It is abundantly used in this meaning in classical Arabic.3

Farahi goes on to corroborate his claim by quoting from the Qur'an and from various classical poets:

وَلَمَن صَبَرَ وَغَفَرَ إِنَّذَلِكَ لَمِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ(43:42)

And indeed if anyone shows patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous. (42:43)

قال حاتم الطائي

وغمرة موت ليس فيها هوادة

يكون صدور المشرفي جسورها

صبرنا له في نهكها و مصابها

بأسيافنا حتى يبوخ سعيرها

(Many are the seas of death on which are bridges of swords. We showed perseverance with our swords against all their torments and tortures until they cooled down.)

وقال الأصبغ

يا بن الجحاجحة المداره

والصابرين على مكاره

(O progeny of noble chiefs and of people who persevere in facing hardships.)

وقال زهير ابي سلمي

قود الجياد وأصهار الملوك وصبر

في مواطن لو كانوا بها سئموا

(Riding well bread horses, being sons in law of kingsand[showing] perseverance in trenches where others lose inner strength.)

All these usages of the word 'صَبْر' show that it is referred to as a commendable trait and not something which reflects weakness and frailty.

4. 'مَوْت' in 'مَوْتِكُمْثُمَّ بَعَثْنَاكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ'

A figurative use of the word 'مَوْت' (death) is 'unconsciousness' and 'sleep'. This usage is very apparent in the Prophet's prayer which he used to recite when he would wake up from sleep:

اَلْحَمْدُللهِالَّذِیْأَحْـيَانَا بَعْدَمَا أَمَاتَـنَا وَإِلَـيْـهِالنُّشُوْرُ(بخارى: رقم 5837)

All gratitude is for Allah who gave us life after he had given death and towards Him is the return. (Bukhari, No: 5837)

Here, in this expression, as pointed out by Ghamidi (note 40), the word is used in this very sense. The verb 'بَعَثْنَاكُمْ' has also been used in the Qur'an in the meaning 'to wake up someone from sleep':

وَكَذَلِكَ بَعَثْنَاهُمْ لِيَتَسَاءَلُوا بَيْنَهُمْ (18:19)

And in the same way we woke them up so that they could question one another. (18:19)

5. The word 'اسُجَّدً' in 'وَادْخُلُوا الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا'

The word 'اسُجَّدً' is the plural of 'سَاجِد' and the way it is used in this expression is conclusive evidence that the verb 'سَجَدَ' also means to bow one's head. (See Ghamidi's note 48). After all, the Israelites could not have entered the city while in a state of prostration.

6. The particle 'ب' in 'وَإِذْ فَرَقْنَا بِكُمْ الْبَحْرَ'

Technically the 'ب' in Ghamidi's translation is that of 'مُصَاحِبَه'. The implied meaning is pointed out by Zamakhshari4by the words 'فَرَقْنَاهُ مُلْتَبِسا بِكُمْ' (We parted the sea taking you along).

7. 'الْقَرْيَة'

As pointed out by Ghamidi (note 45), in the Arabic language, the word 'الْقَرْيَة' is not only used for villages, it is also used for large cities as well. Consequently, Makkah the central city of Arabia is referred to by this name in the Qur'an (6:92; 42:7; 47:13). Similarly, 34:18 refers to the cities of Syria.

8. 'آلَ'

While explaining the meaning of this word, Ghamidi writes: 'It does not merely connote children; in fact, if there exist an indication, it also connotes the children of a great personality, his followers, his tribe and his nation.' (note 29)

This usage is apparent in the following section of verses as well:

وَلَقَدْ أَخَذْنَا آلَ فِرْعَونَ بِالسِّنِينَ وَنَقْصٍ مِّن الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ فَإِذَا جَاءتْهُمُ الْحَسَنَةُ قَالُواْ لَنَا هَذِهِ وَإِن تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ يَطَّيَّرُواْ بِمُوسَى وَمَن مَّعَهُ أَلا إِنَّمَا طَائِرُهُمْ عِندَ اللّهُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَقَالُواْ مَهْمَا تَأْتِنَا بِهِ مِن آيَةٍ لِّتَسْحَرَنَا بِهَا فَمَا نَحْنُ لَكَ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمُ الطُّوفَانَ وَالْجَرَادَ وَالْقُمَّلَ وَالضَّفَادِعَ وَالدَّمَ آيَاتٍ مُّفَصَّلاَتٍ فَاسْتَكْبَرُواْ وَكَانُواْ قَوْمًا مُّجْرِمِينَ وَلَمَّا وَقَعَ عَلَيْهِمُ الرِّجْزُ قَالُواْ يَا مُوسَى ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ بِمَا عَهِدَ عِندَكَ لَئِن كَشَفْتَ عَنَّا الرِّجْزَ لَنُؤْمِنَنَّ لَكَ وَلَنُرْسِلَنَّ مَعَكَ بَنِي إِسْرَآئِيلَ فَلَمَّا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمُ الرِّجْزَ إِلَى أَجَلٍ هُم بَالِغُوهُ إِذَا هُمْ يَنكُثُونَ فَانتَقَمْنَا مِنْهُمْ فَأَغْرَقْنَاهُمْ فِي الْيَمِّ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَذَّبُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا وَكَانُواْ عَنْهَا غَافِلِينَ وَأَوْرَثْنَا الْقَوْمَ الَّذِينَ كَانُواْ يُسْتَضْعَفُونَ مَشَارِقَ الأَرْضِ وَمَغَارِبَهَا الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ الْحُسْنَى عَلَى بَنِي إِسْرَآئِيلَ بِمَا صَبَرُواْ وَدَمَّرْنَا مَا كَانَ يَصْنَعُ فِرْعَوْنُ وَقَوْمُهُ وَمَا كَانُواْ يَعْرِشُونَ (7: 130-7)

We afflicted Pharaoh's people with dearth and famine so that they might take heed. When good things came their way, they said: 'It is our due', but when evil befell them they ascribed it to Moses and his people. Yet it was God who had ordained their ills, though most of them did not know it. They said: 'Whatever miracles you work to enchant us, we will not believe in you.' So We plagued them with floods and locusts, with lice and frogs and blood: clear miracles, yet they scorned them all, for they were a wicked nation. And when each plague smote them, they said: 'Moses, pray to your Lord for us: invoke the promise He has made you. If you lift the plague from us, we will believe in you and let the Israelites go with you.' But when We had lifted the plague from them and the appointed time had come, they broke their promise. So We took vengeance on them and drowned them in the sea, for they had denied Our signs and paid no heed to them. We gave the persecuted people dominion over the eastern and the western lands which We had blessed. Thus was your Lord's gracious word fulfilled for the Israelites, because they had endured with fortitude; and We destroyed the edifices and the towers of Pharaoh and his people. (7:130-7)

The underlined part at the end of these verses makes it amply clear that the Pharaoh and his people are referred to by the words 'آلَ فِرْعَونَ' occurring at the very beginning.

9. 'اَلْبَارِى'

Writes Ghamidi in note 36: 'Although, there is a slight difference between it and the word'خَالِقْ', generally the two are used synonymously.'

While pointing the above difference between 'بَارِى' and 'خَالِقْ', Farahiwrites:5

واعلم أن البرء ليس مرادف الخلق إلا على التجوز' فإن الخلق أصله: التقدير' كما مر. والبرء إصلاحه ' والتصوير إتمامه. ولذلك قال تعالى: (هو الله الخالق البارئ المصور) ' كما قال: (الذي خلق فسوى).

You should know that 'البرء' is not of the same meaning as 'الخلق' except when used in a broad sense. The real meaning of 'الخلق' is 'to design something' and 'البرء' means 'to better something'. The word 'التصوير' is used to mean 'to perfect something'. On this very basis, the Almighty says: 'هو الله الخالق البارئ المصور' just as He says 'الذي خلق فسوى'.

II Syntax & Declensions (النحو و الاعراب)

1. 'قُولُوا حِطَّةٌ'

In the words of Ghamidi (note 48): 'The actual Qur'anic words used are 'قُولُوا حِطَّةٌ'. The word 'حِطَّة' has come in place of a whole sentence to the effect 'مَسْئَلَتُنَا حِطَّة'. It is from the verb 'حَطَّ يَحُطُّ' which means 'to brush away'. Here it means 'to brush away sins'.'

Technically, this can be explained in the words of Zamakhashari as follows6:

(حِطَّةّ) فعلة من الحط كالجلسة والركبة ' وهي خبر مبتدا محذوف ' أي مسألتنا حطة ' أو امرك حطة. والأصل : النصب بمعني : حط عنا ذنوبنا حطة.

3. The Accusative 'مُفْسِدِينَ' in 'وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ'

Technically, the accusative case of the word 'مُفْسِدِينَ' is because of being a 'َالحَالُ الْمُؤَكَّدة'.

4. The 'وَ' in 'وَإِذْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ وَالْفُرْقَانَ'

As pointed out by Ghamidi(note 35), this 'وَ' is for explication (لِلْتَفْسِيْر).The Torah has been explicitly called the 'الْفُرْقَانَ' in the following verse as well:

وَلقَد آتَيْنَا مُوسَى وَهَارُونَ الْفُرْقَانَ وَضِيَاءً وَذِكْرًا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ(48:21)

We granted to Moses and Aaron the Criterion and a Light and a Message for the God fearing. (21:48)

5. The 'ال' in 'الْبَاب'

Regarding the connotation of the word 'الْبَاب' in the expression 'وَادْخُلُوا الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا', Ghamidi, while refuting the interpretation of Islahi7, writes: 'The way the word 'الْبَاب' occurs after 'الْقَرْيَة', linguistic considerations show that it refers to the door of the city and cannot be taken to mean the 'door of the tabernacle'.

Technically, the 'ال' is 'عوض عن المضاف اليه' (the implied expression being 'باب القرية') and cannot be taken to connote anything else.

III Style & Eloquence (الاساليب و البلاغة)

1. The Style in 'وَلَا تَكُونُوا أَوَّلَ كَافِرٍ بِهِ'

Writes Ghamidi in note 9: 'Here the governed noun (مُضَاف اِلِيه) of the superlative is singular and hence implies a specification (تَمْيِيز).'

Other examples of the annexed noun in the singular which are a specification (تَمْيِيز) can be seen in the following verses:

قُلْ إِنِّيَ أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ أَوَّلَ مَنْ أَسْلَمَ وَلاَ تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكَينَ (14:6)

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَالَمِينَ (96:3)

2. The Stress in 'وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ' and 'وَإِيَّايَ فَاتَّقُونِ'

It is pointed out by Ghamidi (note 7): '…the letter 'ف' appended to the verb incorporates in it an emphasis similar to the one found in the construction'اَمَّا' and its apodosis(جَزَا).'

Further examples of this style of stress and emphasis can be found in all these three initial verses of Surah Muddathir:

وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْوَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْوَالرُّجْزَ فَاهْجُرْ(75: 1-3)

The implied meaning, for example, in the first of these being: 'وَ امّا َرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ'

A similar construction can be seen in the following couplet of 'Adi Ibn Zayd:

و بالعدل فانطق ان نطقت و لا تلم

و ذا ذم فاذممه و ذا الحمد فاحمد

3. Negation by Negating the Outcome

Consider the verse:

وَاتَّقُوا يَوْمًا لَا تَجْزِي نَفْسٌ عَنْ نَفْسٍ شَيْئًاوَلَا يُقْبَلُ مِنْهَا شَفَاعَةٌ وَلَا يُؤْخَذُمِنْهَا عَدْلٌ وَلَا هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ(2:48)

And guard yourselves against the day when no soul shall be of use to another in anyway and no intercession shall be accepted and no compensation be taken from it and nor will people be helped. (2:48)

There is a negation of three things in this verse: intercession, compensation and help. However, this is just the negation of the outcome: actually the negation is of the existence of someone who can intercede, compensate or help. In other words, what is implied is that on that day there will be no intercession, compensation and help because there will be no person who would do these. This style is similar to what Imru'u'l-Qays has said while describing a path in the desert by the words 'لا يَهتَدِي بِمَنَارِهِ' (Its tombs cannot provide guidance [to a traveler])'. The reason of course being that there are no tombs in a desert.

وَإني زَعِيمٌ إنْ رَجَعْتُ مُمَلَّكاً

بسَيْرٍ تَرَى مِنْهُ الفُرَانِقَ أزْوَرَا

عَلى لاحِبٍ لا يَهتَدِي بِمَنَارِهِ

إذا سافَهُ العَوْدُ النُّبَاطيُّ جَرْجَرَا

4. Use of 'ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا' in 'وَلَا تَشْتَرُوا بِآيَاتِي ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا'

The words 'ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا' (paltry price) do not refer to the fact that verses of the Qur'an can be sold for a high price. These qualifying words actually point to the intensity of the sin. To take an example from the Qur'an, consider the following verse:

وَلَا تُكْرِهُوا فَتَيَاتِكُمْ عَلَى الْبِغَاءِ إِنْ أَرَدْنَ تَحَصُّنًا لِتَبْتَغُوا عَرَضَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَمَنْ يُكْرِهُّنَّ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ مِنْ بَعْدِ إِكْرَاهِهِنَّ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ(33:24)

Force not your slave-girls into prostitution that you may seek pleasures of the life of the world, if they would preserve their chastity. (24:33)

Obviously, this verse does not mean that if the slave-girls are willing, prostitution may be allowed. It merely points out the intensity of the sin of those who force such slave-girls to prostitution as wish to avoid the despicable crime.

5. Change in Address

Change in address sometimes conveys the emotions of the addresser. Consider this shift in address in the verse:

كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَمَا ظَلَمُونَا وَلَكِنْ كَانُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ (2 :57)

'Eat these pure things We have provided you' [Alas! Those on which We bestowed this favour disregarded it] and [in this way], they did not do injustice to Us, but they had been doing injustice to their own souls. (2:57)

Writes Ghamidi(note 45) regarding this shift which has occurred in the underlined portion: 'this sentence of the discourse has not been uttered while addressing the Jews as was the case of the previous ones. It has been uttered in an indirect manner while turning away from them. Such a shift normally occurs in the Qur'an when the addresser wants to express his disgust for the addressees.'

Another example of a similar change which expresses the unworthiness of the addressee by the addresser is:

أَتَى أَمْرُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَسْتَعْجِلُوهُ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (16:1)

The [Inevitable] command of God has arrived. Seek not [O Idolaters] to hasten it: glory to Him,and far is He above having the partners they ascribe unto Him! (61:1)

The idolaters are addressed directly to warn them that the inevitable punishment is certain to arrive (the past tense is used in the verse to express the certainty of the event) and then the discourse shifts to a mention of their beliefs in the indirect narrative form as if their belief has made them unworthy of being directly addressed.

IV. Exegesis and Explanation (الشرح و التفسير)

1. 'قِيام' and 'سَجْدَه' connote Al-Salah

In note 19, Ghamidi writes: 'At other places in the Qur'an also, the Salah has been named after its constituent practices like 'قِيام' and 'سَجْدَه'. Here in these verses, it has been called after another of its constituent practice: 'رُكُوْع' (bowing down).'

Some verses which refer to the prayer by its constituent practices are:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ عِندَ رَبِّكَ لاَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِهِ وَيُسَبِّحُونَهُ وَلَهُ يَسْجُدُونَ (206:7)

مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاء عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاء بَيْنَهُمْ تَرَاهُمْ رُكَّعًا سُجَّدًا يَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلًا مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانًا (29:48)

وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَاسْجُدْ لَهُ وَسَبِّحْهُ لَيْلًا طَوِيلًا (26:76)

وَالَّذِينَ يَبِيتُونَ لِرَبِّهِمْ سُجَّدًا وَقِيَامًا (64:25)

V. Scriptures and Testaments (العهود والصحف)

The following parallel Biblical verses can be quoted in relation to some of the major events that the Qur'an has alluded to in this section of verses:

'وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ' (I exalted you above the people of the world) (2:47 )

And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised. (Deuteronomy, 26: 18-19)

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy, 7:6)

ii. 'وَأَغْرَقْنَا آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ' (And We drowned Pharaoh's people) (2:50)

The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, 'Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.' Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.' Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen-the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. (Exodus, 14:23-8)

iii. 'ثُمَّ اتَّخَذْتُمْ الْعِجْلَ' ( You made that calf …) (2:51)

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, 'Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.' Aaron answered them, 'Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.' So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, 'Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.' So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' (Exodus, 32:1-8)

iv. 'فَاقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ' (Slay the people …) (2:54)

Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.' The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. (Exodus, 32:7-28)

v. 'وَإِذْ اسْتَسْقَى مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ' (And recall when Moses prayed for water for his people) (2:60)

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?' Then Moses cried out to the LORD, 'What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.' The LORD answered Moses, 'Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.' So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Exodus, 17:3-6)




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