Surahs Qadr-Bayyinah

Surahs Qadr-Bayyinah


Qur'anic Exegesis

Introduction

Both these surahs form a pair with regard to their subject-matter. The first surah highlights the exalted status of the Qur'an while the second one warns its deniers of their dire end.

Both surahs are primarily directed at the Quraysh. However, in the second surah,the People of the Book have also become prominent because of the objections they were implanting in the minds of the Quraysh in this last phase of the Prophet's (sws) preaching mission. A look at the subject-matter of the surahs shows that like the previous surahs, they were also revealed in Makkah during the phase of itmam al-hujjah of the Prophet Muhammad's (sws) preaching mission, a little before his migration to Madinah.

The theme of Surah al-Qadris to explain to the Quraysh that the Qur'an which is being read out to them by the Prophet (sws) in the form of a Book is not the result of any Satanic inspiration or of the Prophet's (sws) own fancy; on the contrary, it is a divine scripture which the Almighty has started to reveal in a thorough manner in a night in which great decisions are implemented in this Universe. Therefore, the Quraysh should not take the Qur'an lightly. Such an attitude towards it can cause eternal loss.

The theme of Surah al-Bayyinahis to warn both the Quraysh and the People of the Book on their nonsensical demand that a book be given to them from the Almighty through some messenger who descend on them from the heavens reading it out to them. If they persist with this attitude, they should beware that they will soon become the firewood of Hell.

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Explanations

Surah Qadr

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

اِنَّاۤ اَنۡزَلۡنٰہُ فِیۡ لَیۡلَۃِ الۡقَدۡرِ ۚ﴿ۖ۱﴾وَ مَاۤ اَدۡرٰىکَ مَا لَیۡلَۃُ الۡقَدۡرِ ؕ﴿۲﴾لَیۡلَۃُ الۡقَدۡرِ ۬ۙ خَیۡرٌ مِّنۡ اَلۡفِ شَہۡرٍ ؕ﴿ؔ۳﴾تَنَزَّلُ الۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃُ وَ الرُّوۡحُ فِیۡہَا بِاِذۡنِ رَبِّہِمۡ ۚ مِنۡ کُلِّ اَمۡرٍ ۙ﴿ۛ۴﴾

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

We have revealed this [Qur'an] in the night in which fates are decided.[1]And what do you know what this night of decisions is?[2] Better is the night of decisions than a thousand months.[3] Therein descend the angels and the Spirit[4] by the permission of their Lord with a directive in every affair. (1-4)

سَلٰمٌ ۟ۛ ہِیَ حَتّٰی مَطۡلَعِ الۡفَجۡرِ ٪﴿۵﴾

It is peace in its entirety till the rising of the dawn.[5] (5)

Surah Bayyinah

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

لَمۡ یَکُنِ الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا مِنۡ اَہۡلِ الۡکِتٰبِ وَ الۡمُشۡرِکِیۡنَ مُنۡفَکِّیۡنَ حَتّٰی تَاۡتِیَہُمُ الۡبَیِّنَۃُ ۙ﴿۱﴾رَسُوۡلٌ مِّنَ اللّٰہِ یَتۡلُوۡا صُحُفًا مُّطَہَّرَۃً ۙ﴿۲﴾فِیۡہَا کُتُبٌ قَیِّمَۃٌ ؕ﴿۳﴾

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

Those among the People of the Book and the Idolaters[6] [of the Quraysh] who have denied [the Qur'an][7] shall not desist from their stubbornness until [according to their wish] there comes to them a clear sign – that is a messenger from God [descending from the heavens] reciting purified pages in which [are written] clear directives [for them].[8] (1-3)

وَ مَا تَفَرَّقَ الَّذِیۡنَ اُوۡتُوا الۡکِتٰبَ اِلَّا مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِ مَا جَآءَتۡہُمُ الۡبَیِّنَۃُ ؕ﴿۴﴾ وَ مَاۤ اُمِرُوۡۤا اِلَّا لِیَعۡبُدُوا اللّٰہَ مُخۡلِصِیۡنَ لَہُ الدِّیۡنَ ۬ۙ حُنَفَآءَ وَ یُقِیۡمُوا الصَّلٰوۃَ وَ یُؤۡتُوا الزَّکٰوۃَ وَ ذٰلِکَ دِیۡنُ الۡقَیِّمَۃِ ؕ﴿۵﴾

The truth is that the People of the Book became divided only after [such] a clear sign[9] had come to them. They had only been directed to worship God, obeying Him exclusively with sincere devotion and to diligently adhere to the prayer and to pay zakah. This is the religion of the Upright Nation.[10] (4-5)

اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا مِنۡ اَہۡلِ الۡکِتٰبِ وَ الۡمُشۡرِکِیۡنَ فِیۡ نَارِ جَہَنَّمَ خٰلِدِیۡنَ فِیۡہَا ؕ اُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمۡ شَرُّ الۡبَرِیَّۃِ ؕ﴿۶﴾

اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ عَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ ۙ اُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمۡ خَیۡرُ الۡبَرِیَّۃِ ؕ﴿۷﴾جَزَآؤُہُمۡ عِنۡدَ رَبِّہِمۡ جَنّٰتُ عَدۡنٍ تَجۡرِیۡ مِنۡ تَحۡتِہَا الۡاَنۡہٰرُ خٰلِدِیۡنَ فِیۡہَاۤ اَبَدًا ؕ رَضِیَ اللّٰہُ عَنۡہُمۡ وَ رَضُوۡا عَنۡہُ ؕ ذٰلِکَ لِمَنۡ خَشِیَ رَبَّہٗ ﴿۸﴾

Those among the People of the Book and the Idolaters who have denied [the Qur'an in this obdurate manner] shall surely dwell forever[11] in the fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures.[12] (6)

[On the other hand,] those who accepted faith and did righteous deeds, they are the best of creatures.[13] Their reward with God is the gardens of eternity beneath which rivers flow. They will abide therein forever. God is well pleased with them and they with Him. This is the reward for those who feared their Lord [without seeing Him].[14](7-8)

Kuala Lumpur

11th March 2010

[1]. The actual words are: اِنَّاۤ اَنۡزَلۡنٰہُ فِیۡ لَیۡلَۃِ الۡقَدۡرِ. There is no antecedent of the accusative pronoun in اَنۡزَلۡنٰہُ because the word "We revealed" automatically shows that the Qur'an is referred to. The verse does not necessitate that the whole of the Qur'an be revealed in a single night. In fact, if the decision of its revelation was made in that night and the first instalment was revealed in it, then the word اَنۡزَلۡنٰہُ would be absolutely apt for it.

It was a night of Ramadan. It is evident from verse 185 of Surah al-Baqarah that the Qur'an was revealed in the month of Ramadan.

The word قَدۡر can refer to the night of decisions and also to the night of splendour. This topic is discussed in Surah al-Dukhan thus: فِیۡہَا یُفۡرَقُ کُلُّ اَمۡرٍ حَکِیۡمٍ (44: 4) (all wise matters are distributed in it, (44:4)). It is evident from this verse that the first of the meanings of قَدۡر is implied.

The word اِنَّاۤ in the verse also needs to be considered. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

The stress in the wordاِنَّاۤ (Indeed We) has a very special purpose. It is meant to dispel the doubt that the Qur'an is the result of a human endeavour. It emphasizes that the Qur'an is totally free from the evil inspiration and influences of Satan, as its opponents contended. On the contrary, it has been solely revealed by the Almighty Himself to provide guidance and direction to mankind. No one other has any say in it. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vol. 9, 466)

[2]. This expression of grandeur or horror of something is adopted at many places in the Qur'an. Here the purpose is to point to the greatness of this night. In other words, it is a night whose exaltedness and blessings cannot be imagined by anyone.

[3]. This style denotes a large number and must not be understood in the literal sense. The purpose is to show that since in this night important decisions are implemented, it has so many blessings in it and so many opportunities of procuring the nearness of God that a thousand nights do not have them. No doubt, the decisions which are taken on this night relate both to mercy and punishment yet since they are from the being every decision of Whom is replete with mercy, wisdom and justice all of them are blessed. On this very basis, in verse 3 of Surah al-Dukhan, this night is called: لَيْلَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

… The objective of mentioning these characteristics of the night … to the adversaries of the Qur'an is that they are thoroughly mistaken if they consider a Book revealed in an exalted night to be of the genre of soothsaying, poetry or sorcery. They have failed to distinguish a pearl from a pebble. There is no possibility that an evil inspiration can penetrate during this majestic night, as in this night the priceless pearls of revelation are showered by the Creator of the Heavens. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vol. 9, 467)

A secondary guidance that can be understood from this is that just as in this material world there is a certain climate and months prescribed for certain activities, similarly, in the spiritual world also there are special days and times of the year which are set aside for special tasks and activities. If a certain matter is assigned in these days by God, then man reaps the benefit of this matter by observing it on the day and month fixed for it. Thus if the messenger of God fervently sought this night of destiny or urged others to do so, then this should not be a cause for wonder. After being informed by the Almighty that this is a blessed and exalted night, this is the only reaction that can emanate from a believer. Muslims while trying to follow the Prophet (sws) try to seek this night every year in the month of Ramadan and diligently worship God.

[4]. The actual word is: الرُّوۡحُ. It refers to Gabriel. His name has been specially mentioned here because he occupies a very high rank among the angels.

[5]. Ie., till the appearance of dawn, this night is peace in its totality. No devil can in any way interfere in it.

[6]. When this word occurs in this manner in the Qur'an, it specifically refers to the Idolaters of the Quraysh. It does not refer to all the Idolaters of the world. Similarly, the People of the Book are also not included in its connotation even though they are guilty of polytheism.

[7]. A further clarification is that only those among the People of the Book and the Idolaters are referred to here who outrightly rejected the Qur'an without any reason. Those among them who did not accept faith but continued to listen to its calls in their pursuit of the truth are not implied here. The word قرآن (Qur'an) is grammatically the object of الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا. It is suppressed because the subsequent verse points to it.

[8]. Ie., their demand that instead of this messenger and this Qur'an, a messenger of God should bring pages untouched by man and jinn. He should descend while reciting them. It should contain something as precise as the directives written in the tablets of the Torah and not contain the many unrelated anecdotes and discussions found in the Qur'an.

[9]. This refers to the tablets of the Torah with which Moses (sws) descended from the mount of Sinai accompanied by extraordinary miracles. The implication is that since when centuries ago they had already been given what they had demanded, what did they do with it? Even after witnessing all this they fulfilled their obligation towards sincerity to God by being allured into worshipping the calf by Samiri. The differences and divisions found in them arose in spite of this very clear sign had been shown to them and which they are now demanding.

[10]. The actual words are: ذٰلِکَ دِیۡنُ الۡقَیِّمَۃِ. Their actual construction is: دين الملة القيمة. The noun qualified by the attribute قَیِّمَۃِ has been suppressed in accordance with linguistic principles. The upright nation refers to the nation of Abraham (sws). The implication is that these clear directives were given to both branches of Abraham's progeny as the collective heritage of their forefather. The Torah also preached them. The Qur'an too is giving them the same directives. So what guidance are they now waiting for and what types of directives do they now desire? The religion of God has always remained the same, but which of its directives have they adhered to? The divisions which they are in have them lose every element of religion. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

They had also been directed by the Almighty to adhere to monotheism exclusively obeying Him and fully devoting themselves to Him; however, they ruined this basic teaching of religion. Right in the presence of their prophet, they worshipped the calf, deemed 'Uzayr to be God's son and regarded their religious scholars to be partners of God. They were incriminated with sorcery and magic and went as far as to worship the idols of other nations on which their prophets lamented in a very sad and moving way.

Similarly, they were also directed to offer the prayer and pay zakah … but they totally disregarded the prayer and such was the extent of this disregard that the Torah even became devoid of its mention. The Torah does mention the ritual of animal sacrifice; however, the prayer finds no mention in it. Similar was the case of zakah. Though it did continue to exist in a formal way, yet instead of the poor and needy, the religious scholars of the Levites became its real recipients and if anyone wants to have an idea of the stinginess of these scholars, one only need to read how the Gospels and scriptures of other prophets portray their greediness. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vol. 9, 482)

[11]. While reading these words, this false notion of the People of the Book should also remain in mind that if ever the fire of Hell touches them, it will only be for a few days.

[12]. These words attack the arrogance of those who would demand that a scripture should directly descend on them from the sky, belittle the messenger, deride Muslims, make fun of them and regard themselves to be superior.

[13]. This is a mention of the success of God's servants who at that time were jeered by the Quraysh. The verse states that these people have made no such demands as the ones made by the arrogant among the People of the Book and the Idolaters. They accepted faith and with full conviction of the heart did righteous deeds. Thus they are the best of creatures. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

… The real value of a person is not on the basis of his wealth and resources, family and lineage but on the basis of his intellectual and moral abilities. People who have these abilities are noble and of high status in the eyes of God even if they are slaves of Rome and Abyssinia. On the other hand, those who are devoid of these abilities are the worst of creatures in the eyes of God even if they are leaders of the Quraysh and the Hashimites. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vol. 9, 484)

[14]. Ie., they did not insist on seeing the truth with their eyes before believing in it; they used their intellect to understand it and lived their lives fearing their Lord merely on this basis.

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