Surahs Tin – ‘Alaq

Surahs Tin – ‘Alaq


Qur'anic Exegesis

Both these surahs form a pair with regard to their subject-matter. The law of retribution which is validated by the first surah is used to warn a prominent chief of the Quraysh in the second one. He is informed that if he does not mend his ways, he shall become a victim of this unchanging law. Both surahs apparently address the Prophet (sws); however, a little deliberation shows that the actual addressees are the leaders of the Quraysh whose defiant and rebellious attitude was now reaching its extreme. It is evident from the subject-matter of the surahs that they were revealed in Makkah, just before the Prophet's migration to Madinah, in the phase of itmam al-hujjah of the Prophet Muhammad's (sws) preaching mission.

The theme of Surah al-Tin is to validate the Day of Judgement and to warn the Quraysh with its reference that the truth has now been communicated in a conclusive manner; hence, they have nothing with them but stubbornness and obstinacy to deny it.

The theme of Surah al-'Alaq is to sound a note of severe warning and threat to an eminent leader of the Quraysh that if even after being taught and reminded through a Book like the Qur'an he persists in his arrogance, he should get ready to face its consequences: very soon the guards of the Almighty shall drag him and cast him to the deep pit of Hell, and none of his comrades and associates will be able to help him.

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Explanation

Surah Tin

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

وَ التِّیۡنِ وَ الزَّیۡتُوۡنِ ۙ﴿۱﴾وَ طُوۡرِ سِیۡنِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۲﴾وَ ہٰذَا الۡبَلَدِ الۡاَمِیۡنِ ۙ﴿۳﴾لَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَا الۡاِنۡسَانَ فِیۡۤ اَحۡسَنِ تَقۡوِیۡمٍ ۫﴿۴﴾ ثُمَّ رَدَدۡنٰہُ اَسۡفَلَ سٰفِلِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۵﴾اِلَّا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ عَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ فَلَہُمۡ اَجۡرٌ غَیۡرُ مَمۡنُوۡنٍ ؕ﴿۶﴾

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

The [mountains of] Fig and Olive[1] bear witness and [so does] the mount of Sinai[2] and this secure city[3] of [yours] that We created man [in these places] in the best of moulds. Then We reverted him to the lowest [state] when he himself wanted to become low.[4] As for those who accepted faith and did righteous deeds, for them shall be a reward unending.[5] (1-6)

فَمَا یُکَذِّبُکَ بَعۡدُ بِالدِّیۡنِ ؕ﴿۷﴾اَلَیۡسَ اللّٰہُ بِاَحۡکَمِ الۡحٰکِمِیۡنَ ﴿۸﴾

Then [O Prophet] what is it that denies you about the Day of Judgement?[6] [Ask them:] "Is not God the best of Judges?"[7] (7-8)

Surah 'Alaq

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

اِقۡرَاۡ بِاسۡمِ رَبِّکَ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَ ۚ﴿۱﴾خَلَقَ الۡاِنۡسَانَ مِنۡ عَلَقٍ ۚ﴿۲﴾اِقۡرَاۡ وَ رَبُّکَ الۡاَکۡرَمُ ۙ﴿۳﴾ الَّذِیۡ عَلَّمَ بِالۡقَلَمِ ۙ﴿۴﴾عَلَّمَ الۡاِنۡسَانَ مَا لَمۡ یَعۡلَمۡ ؕ﴿۵﴾

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

Read out to them [O Prophet][8] in the name of your Lord Who has created[9] – created man from a clot of congealed blood.[10] Read out to them[11] and [in reality] your Lord is the Most Bounteous who taught [this Qur'an] by the pen.[12] He gave man[13] [in it] that knowledge which he knew not.[14] (1-5)

کَلَّاۤ اِنَّ الۡاِنۡسَانَ لَیَطۡغٰۤی ۙ﴿۶﴾اَنۡ رَّاٰہُ اسۡتَغۡنٰی ﴿ؕ۷﴾ اِنَّ اِلٰی رَبِّکَ الرُّجۡعٰی ؕ﴿۸﴾

اَرَءَیۡتَ الَّذِیۡ یَنۡہٰی ۙ﴿۹﴾عَبۡدًا اِذَا صَلّٰی ﴿ؕ۱۰﴾اَرَءَیۡتَ اِنۡ کَانَ عَلَی الۡہُدٰۤی ﴿ۙ۱۱﴾اَوۡ اَمَرَ بِالتَّقۡوٰی ﴿ؕ۱۲﴾اَرَءَیۡتَ اِنۡ کَذَّبَ وَ تَوَلّٰی ﴿ؕ۱۳﴾اَلَمۡ یَعۡلَمۡ بِاَنَّ اللّٰہَ یَرٰی ﴿ؕ۱۴﴾

[Whatever frivolous talk they indulge in against it is baseless O Prophet!] By no means! Man is surely rebellious, as he considers himself self-sufficient.[15] [Let him think so;] to your Lord will he [one day] have to return. (6-8)

Have you seen him who forbids a servant [of God] when he prays.[16] Just consider if this servant happens to be on the right path or urges [others] to piety?[17] Just see if this wretch is the one who denied and turned away?[18] Does he not know that God is watching? (9-14)

کَلَّا لَئِنۡ لَّمۡ یَنۡتَہِ ۬ۙ لَنَسۡفَعًۢا بِالنَّاصِیَۃِ ﴿ۙ۱۵﴾نَاصِیَۃٍ کَاذِبَۃٍ خَاطِئَۃٍ ﴿ۚ۱۶﴾فَلۡیَدۡعُ نَادِیَہٗ ﴿ۙ۱۷﴾سَنَدۡعُ الزَّبَانِیَۃَ ﴿ۙ۱۸﴾

کَلَّا ؕ لَا تُطِعۡہُ وَ اسۡجُدۡ وَ اقۡتَرِبۡ ﴿ٛ۱۹﴾

[This is nothing.] By no means! If he does not desist, We shall drag him by the forelock, a lying sinful forelock.[19] Then let him call his help-mates. We shall summon Our guards.[20] (15-18)

By no means! Heed him not and bow down in prostration and draw near [Me in this manner].[21](19)

Kualalumpur

10th March 2010

(Translated from Al-Bayan by Dr Shehzad Saleem)

[1]. Olive is the mountain where the punishment of the rejecters of Jesus (sws) was declared after he had been lifted from this world and it was there that a new ummah, the Nazarenes, was born from among the Israelites who professed faith in him. Moreover, it was declared there that those who believed in Jesus (sws) would remain dominant till the Day of Judgement. Besides being the name of a mountain, Fig is also the name of a village situated on this mountain and is referred to as Bethphage in the Bible. In this name, the word "Phage" is actually the word "Fig." It is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke (19:29) that when Jesus (sws) came to Jerusalem, he stayed at this place before entering the city.

[2]. The word سِیۡنِیۡنَ is a plural (جمع سالم). This is similar to the plural اَجْمَعُوْن. In Hebrew its sign is the suffix يْم. The plural here expresses the wide expanse of the mountain. Thus in the Torah we find it mentioned at some places by سِيْنَا and at others by سِيْنِيْم. It was at this mountain that the Israelites began their life as an ummah. Then it was at this mountain that the Almighty declared that if they adhered to the truth, they would be dominant over other nations of the world and if they deviated from it, they would be inflicted by the punishment of subjugation and humiliation at the hands of those very nations.

[3]. The word الۡاَمِیۡنِ means "secure" ie. the city which the Almighty regarded as secure because of His House. The words used in Surah Al-i 'Imran are: (3:97) وَ مَنۡ دَخَلَہٗ کَانَ اٰمِنًا (whoever enters it is secure, (3:97). It is called Makkah, the chief city of Arabia. It is in this city that Abraham (sws) was granted the position of religious and political leadership and the custodianship of the first centre of God's worship on earth: Bayt al-Haram was eternally given to his progeny. And it was here that it was further declared that the leadership will not be given to those in his progeny who are unjust to their souls.

[4]. It is evident from the details given above that the reward and punishment that will take place for all mankind on the Day of Judgement took place for the progeny of Abraham (sws) in this very world. The village of Fig, the mounts of Olive and Sinai and the secure city – all are areas where reward and punishment manifested itself. The Qur'an while mentioning in ascending order the incidents that ensued at these places has directed our attention to the fact that when each branch of the progeny of Abraham (sws) began, it was exactly in the mold in which the Creator created it: it adhered to monotheism; had full conviction in the Hereafter and its majority was of exemplary conduct. However, when it deviated from this status, God also relegated it to decadence in which it can now be seen for the past many centuries. It is afflicted with the scourge of humiliation and subjugation and is unable to find any way out from it.

Here, it needs to be kept in consideration that in the expression اَسۡفَلَ سٰفِلِیۡنَ the word اَسۡفَلَ is an adverb of place and the word سٰفِلِیۡنَ is an accusative of state (حال) from the accusative pronoun in رَدَدۡنٰہُ. The antecedent of this pronoun is الۡاِنۡسَانَ which connotes plurality. The implication is that the Almighty plunged these people into disgrace when they themselves became inclined to it and did not have the determination to achieve the higher ideals of life.

[5]. The verb اٰمَنُوۡا occurs in the verse. It denotes its complete and ultimate meaning. This exception has been stated by the Almighty so that it may not be understood that if He plunges a nation in its collective capacity into decadence and punishes it, then people who in their individual capacity adhere to faith and do righteous deeds will be deprived of reward. It is asserted that they will receive their full reward and will enter the eternal kingdom of God. This judgement of people relates to this world; in the Hereafter, each person will be held responsible before God in his individual capacity and his good or evil fate will be decided accordingly. In fact, people who strive to be good in the times of decadence of the nation will be entitled to more reward. This is because they remained awake when others were sleeping and were living when others were dead en masse.

A note of severe reprimand is indirectly sounded to the arrogant leadership of the Quraysh. The Prophet (sws) is addressed and told that even after all the "tangible" historical evidence on the Day of Judgement is there any other testimony left which can induce the Quraysh to accept faith?

[6]. The question posed obviously has a negative answer and the direction of the address is towards the disbelievers of the Day of Judgement who were refuting the warning of the Prophet (sws). The verse implies that if sense and reason are to decide, after witnessing the worldly retribution of the progeny of Abraham (sws) no one can deny the Prophet's warning about the Day of Judgement. It is a certain proof of this day. After this, only obduracy, stubbornness and blind following can induce people to this rejection.

[7]. The question posed obviously has a positive answer. The implication is that God indeed is the best of judges; no sensible person can deny this attribute of His. Then how is possible that He not bring about a Day of Judgement and let the evil doers and righteous go through the same fate?

[8]. The actual word is: اِقۡرَاۡ (read). In this verse it means: اِقۡرَاۡ عليىهم (read it out to people). It is used at many places in the Qur'an in this meaning like verse 204 of Surah al-A'raf and verse 45 of Surah Bani Isra'il. It is known that the whole of the Qur'an was read out in this manner before people to preach and warn them.

[9]. Ie., read out to them as God's directive that has to be obeyed so that people know that this is not the request of a pleader. It is the word of the Lord of the worlds Who is the Creator and Master and can give any directive to them. People should follow it without any hesitation. If they dare make fun of it or oppose it, they should think about its consequences which can be very grave.

[10]. This is a mention of the specific after the general ie. He created the whole universe and after that created man in particular from a clot of congealed blood. The purpose is to show firstly that the creator who has created people like Socrates and Plato from an insignificant clot of blood would not find it difficult to create them again for accountability? Secondly, can any sensible person after witnessing the power and wisdom which has manifested in the creation of man form an opinion that man has been made without a purpose. All this elaborate arrangement shows that a day must come where he be held accountable for his beliefs and deeds.

[11]. This is a badal (permutative) from the first verse and has been repeated to emphasize its directive.

[12]. Ie., God is benevolent and because of His benevolence has done a great favour on people that the Qur'an is being recited to them and at His behest and under the guidance of His Prophet, is being given to them in written form in such an elaborate manner. This is because this great favour is not merely for the Arabs but a treasure for the entire world. Found in this verse is also an admonition for the Quraysh that if they do not duly regard this favour, they should contemplate its consequences.

[13]. The word اِنۡسَانَ is general yet since the foremost addressees are the Quraysh, it is they who are primarily addressed here.

[14]. Reference is to the knowledge and wisdom, shari'ah and law mentioned with the same emphasis in verses 129 and 151 of Surah al-Baqarah, verse 164 of Surah Al-i 'Imran and verse 2 of Surah al-Jumu'ah. It is stated that it is a special favour of the Almighty to the unlettered Arabs that He sent forth to them a messenger from among them who purifies them and for this instructs them in law and wisdom.

[15]. Ie., the wealth and riches, success and progress in the world have become a hindrance and people think that they do not need God.

[16]. Ie., the Prophet (sws) himself. Here their rebelliousness is portrayed: so oppressive are they that they stop a servant of God from prostrating before Him what to speak of bowing down before the message of the Qur'an

[17]. As the severity of this situation is beyond expression, the remaining part of the verse has been suppressed. If this suppressed part is revealed, the implied meaning would be something like this: "Just consider if this servant of Ours is on the right path or urges [others] to piety, then is not the one who is forbidding him to pray calling for his doom?"

[18]. The intensity in the verse is similar to the previous one. Again the suppressed portion might read something like this: "Then has he not bought for himself the abode of Hell?"

[19]. The actual words are: نَاصِیَۃٍ کَاذِبَۃٍ خَاطِئَۃٍ. The word نَاصِیَۃٍ is a permutative (بدل) of the النَّاصِیَۃِ of the previous verse. Though the former is not defined by the article alif lam and the latter is, yet such a grammatical interpretation is possible because the نَاصِیَۃِ of this verse is defined by an adjective and such a noun can technically be regarded as a permutative (بدل) of a noun defined by the article alif lam.

[20]. Thus, it is these guards who descended from the heavens in the battle of Badr and at the whole power of Quraysh was decimated at their hands.

[21]. The implication is that the Prophet (sws) should stick to his view with patience and perseverance and in the conflict between truth and falsehood, seek the nearness of God through the prayer and by prostrating himself before Him.

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