Surah 7. Al A'Araf  (140-206)
 
 

Surah 7. Al A'Araf  (140-206)

قَالَ أَغَيْرَ اللّهِ أَبْغِيكُمْ إِلَـهًا وَهُوَ فَضَّلَكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ﴿7:140﴾ 
(7:140) Moses said: 'Should I seek any god for you other than Allah although it is He who has exalted you above all?'

 
وَإِذْ أَنجَيْنَاكُم مِّنْ آلِ فِرْعَونَ يَسُومُونَكُمْ سُوَءَ الْعَذَابِ يُقَتِّلُونَ أَبْنَاءكُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيُونَ نِسَاءكُمْ وَفِي ذَلِكُم بَلاء مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ عَظِيمٌ﴿7:141﴾ 
(7:141) And call to mind when We delivered you from Pharaoh's people who perpetrated on you a terrible torment, putting your males to death and sparing your females. Surely in it there was an awesome trial for you from your Lord.

 
وَوَاعَدْنَا مُوسَى ثَلاَثِينَ لَيْلَةً وَأَتْمَمْنَاهَا بِعَشْرٍ فَتَمَّ مِيقَاتُ رَبِّهِ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً وَقَالَ مُوسَى لأَخِيهِ هَارُونَ اخْلُفْنِي فِي قَوْمِي وَأَصْلِحْ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ﴿7:142﴾ 
(7:142) And We appointed for Moses thirty nights, to which We added ten, whereby the term of forty nights set by his Lord was fulfilled. *99 And Moses said to Aaron, his brother: 'Take my place among my people, act righteously, and do not follow the path of those who create mischief.' *100
*99. After the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt which marks, on the one hand, the end of the constraints of slavery and on the other, the beginning of their life as an independent nation, Moses was summoned by God to Mount Sinai in order that he might receive the Law for Israel. He was initially summoned for a period of forty days so that he might single-mindedly devote himself to worshipping, fasting, meditation and reflection and thus develop the ability to receive the revelation which was to put a very heavy burden upon him.
In compliance with God's command, Moses left the Israelites at the place now known as the Wadi al-Shaykh which lies between Nabi Salih and Mount Sinai. The place where the Israelites had camped is presently called
Maydan al-Rahah. At one end of the valley is a hillock where, according to local tradition, the Prophet Salih pitched his tent after his migration from the land of Thamud. A mosque built as a monument to the Prophet Salih still adorns the landscape. Mount Harun is located at the other end of the valley where, again, according to local tradition, the Prophet Harun (Aaron) stayed after his exasperation with the Israelites because of their cow-worship. The top of the towering Mount Sinai, standing 7,359 feet high, is mostly enveloped by clouds. The cave to which Moses retired for forty days to devote himself to worship and meditation is situated at the top of the mountain, and still attracts many pilgrims. Close to the cave are a mosque and a church. Moreover, a monastery built in the Justinian period stands even today at the foot of the mountain. (See Tafhim al-Qur'an, al-Naml 27: nn. 9-10.)
*100. Although Aaron was senior to Moses in age by three years, he was placed under the direction of the Prophet Moses and was required to assist him in connection with his mission, As explained elsewhere in the Qur'an, Aaron was not assigned independent prophethood; he was rather appointed a Prophet by God in response to Moses' prayer that he be appointed as his assistant. (See Ta Ha 20: 29-31 - Ed.)
 
وَلَمَّا جَاء مُوسَى لِمِيقَاتِنَا وَكَلَّمَهُ رَبُّهُ قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِي أَنظُرْ إِلَيْكَ قَالَ لَن تَرَانِي وَلَـكِنِ انظُرْ إِلَى الْجَبَلِ فَإِنِ اسْتَقَرَّ مَكَانَهُ فَسَوْفَ تَرَانِي فَلَمَّا تَجَلَّى رَبُّهُ لِلْجَبَلِ جَعَلَهُ دَكًّا وَخَرَّ موسَى صَعِقًا فَلَمَّا أَفَاقَ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَأَنَاْ أَوَّلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ﴿7:143﴾ 
(7:143) And when Moses came at Our appointment, and his Lord spoke to him, he said: 'O my Lord! Reveal Yourself to me, that I may look upon You!' He replied: 'Never can you see Me. However, behold this mount; if it remains firm in its place, only then you will be able to see Me.' And as soon as his Lord unveiled His glory to the mount, He crushed it into fine dust, and Moses fell down in a swoon. And when he recovered, he said: 'Glory be to You! To You I turn in repentance, and I am the foremost among those who believe.'

 
قَالَ يَا مُوسَى إِنِّي اصْطَفَيْتُكَ عَلَى النَّاسِ بِرِسَالاَتِي وَبِكَلاَمِي فَخُذْ مَا آتَيْتُكَ وَكُن مِّنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ﴿7:144﴾ 
(7:144) He said: 'O Moses! I have indeed preferred you to all others by virtue of the Message I have entrusted to you and by virtue of My speaking to you. Hold fast therefore, to whatever I have granted you, and give thanks.'

 
وَكَتَبْنَا لَهُ فِي الأَلْوَاحِ مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مَّوْعِظَةً وَتَفْصِيلاً لِّكُلِّ شَيْءٍ فَخُذْهَا بِقُوَّةٍ وَأْمُرْ قَوْمَكَ يَأْخُذُواْ بِأَحْسَنِهَا سَأُرِيكُمْ دَارَ الْفَاسِقِينَ﴿7:145﴾ 
(7:145) And We ordained for Moses in the Tablets all manner of admonition, and instruction concerning all things, *101 and said to him: Hold to these, with all your strength. and bid your people to follow them in accord with their best understanding. *102 I shall soon show you the habitation of the wicked.  *103
*101. The Bible categorically mentions that the tablets were of stone. The act of writing on these tablets is attributed in both the Qur'an and the Bible, to God. Nonetheless, it is not possible to ascertain whether the actual act of writing was as performed by God exercising His power directly, or by God in the sense of His assignment of the task to some angel or to Moses (cf. Exodus 31: 18, 32: 15-16; and Deuteronomyi, 5: 6-22).
*102 The Israelites were asked to hold fast to the Law to follow it in its plain meaning, a meaning which can he grasped by an ordinary man of sound heart and good intent with the help of his common sense. This stipulation was added in order to discourage the chicanery and hair-splitting to which lawyers resort in order to accommodate the crooked aims of the people. The warning was necessary to emphasize that holding fast to the Law was not to be equated with following the chicanery of the lawyers.
*103. The Israelites were told that on their way they would come across the ruins of earlier nations who had refused to turn to God and who had persisted in their evil way's. Observing those ruins would he instructive insofar as they eloquently spoke of the tragic end that meets those who indulge in such iniquity .
 
سَأَصْرِفُ عَنْ آيَاتِيَ الَّذِينَ يَتَكَبَّرُونَ فِي الأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَإِن يَرَوْاْ كُلَّ آيَةٍ لاَّ يُؤْمِنُواْ بِهَا وَإِن يَرَوْاْ سَبِيلَ الرُّشْدِ لاَ يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلاً وَإِن يَرَوْاْ سَبِيلَ الْغَيِّ يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلاً ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَذَّبُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا وَكَانُواْ عَنْهَا غَافِلِينَ﴿7:146﴾ 
(7:146) I shall turn away from My signs those who, without any right, behaved haughtily in the earth, *104 even if they may, witness each and every, sign, they shall not believe therein. And even if they see the right path, they shall still not follow it; but if they see the path of error. they shall choose it for their path. This is because they rejected Our signs as false and were heedless to them.
*104. It is God's law that evil-doers do not and cannot take any lesson from the otherwise instructive events which they observe. The arrogance mentioned here refers to man's delusion that he is on a higher plane than God's creatures and servants. It is this which prompts him to disregard God's command and to adopt an attitude which suggests that he neither considers himself God's servant, nor God his Lord. Such egotism has no basis in fact; it is sheer vanity. For as long as man live on God's earth, what can justify his living as a servant of anyone other than the Lord of the universe? It is for this reason that the Qur'an declares this arrogance to be 'without any right'.
 
وَالَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا وَلِقَاء الآخِرَةِ حَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ هَلْ يُجْزَوْنَ إِلاَّ مَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ﴿7:147﴾ 
(7:147) Vain are the deeds of those who reject Our signs as false and to the meeting of the Hereafter.  *105Shall they be recompensed, except according to their deeds?'
*105. That the acts of such persons are vain and fruitless is evident from the fact that the acceptance of man's acts by God is subject to two conditions. First, one's acts should conform to the Law laid down by God. Second, man should be prompted by the desire to achieve success in the Hereafter rather than merely in this world. If these conditions are not fulfilled, a person's acts will be of no consequence. He who performs an act in defiance of God's guidance, is guilty of rebellion and is undeserving of God's reward. He who acts only to obtain worldly success, is neither entitled to nor should expect any reward from God in the Hereafter. If someone uses another person's land contrary to his wish, what else can he expect from him than punishment? The same holds true for he who deliberately uses someone's land, knowing well that he is not entitled to any produce after the restoration of that land to its owner. There is no justification for him to expect any share of the produce of that land.
 
وَاتَّخَذَ قَوْمُ مُوسَى مِن بَعْدِهِ مِنْ حُلِيِّهِمْ عِجْلاً جَسَدًا لَّهُ خُوَارٌ أَلَمْ يَرَوْاْ أَنَّهُ لاَ يُكَلِّمُهُمْ وَلاَ يَهْدِيهِمْ سَبِيلاً اتَّخَذُوهُ وَكَانُواْ ظَالِمِينَ﴿7:148﴾ 
(7:148) And in the absence of Moses *106 his people made the image of a calf from their ornaments, which lowed. Did they not observe that it could neither speak nor give them any guidance? And still they made it an object of worship. They were indeed wrong-doing.  *107
*106. Here reference is made to the forty days which Moses spent on Mount Sinai in compliance with God's command when his people remained in the plain at the foot of the mountain called Maydan al-Rahah.
*107. Their cow-worship was another manifestation of the Israelites' slavish attachment to the Egyptian traditions at the time of the Exodus. It is well-known that cow-worship was widespread in Egypt and it was during their stay there that the Israelites developed this strange infatuation. The Qur'an also refers to their inclination to cow-worship: 'Their hearts were overflowing with love for the calf because of their unbelief' (al-Baqarah 2: 93). What is more surprising about their turn to idolatry is that it took place just three months after their escape from Egypt. During that time they had witnessed the parting of the sea, the drowning of Pharaoh, and their own deliverance from what otherwise seemed inescapable slavery, to the Egyptians. They knew well that all those events had taken place owing to the unmistakable and direct interference of the all-powerful God. Yet they had the audacity to demand that their Prophet should make for them a false god that they might worship. Not only that, soon after Moses left them for Mount Sinai, they themselves contrived a false god. Disgusted with such conduct on the part of the Israelites, some Prophets have likened their people to a nymphomaniac who loves all save her husband and who is unfaithful to him even on their nuptial night.
 
وَلَمَّا سُقِطَ فَي أَيْدِيهِمْ وَرَأَوْاْ أَنَّهُمْ قَدْ ضَلُّواْ قَالُواْ لَئِن لَّمْ يَرْحَمْنَا رَبُّنَا وَيَغْفِرْ لَنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ﴿7:149﴾ 
(7:149) And when they were afflicted with remorse and realized that they had fallen into error, they said: 'If our Lord does not have mercy on us and does not pardon us, we shall be among the losers.'

 
وَلَمَّا رَجَعَ مُوسَى إِلَى قَوْمِهِ غَضْبَانَ أَسِفًا قَالَ بِئْسَمَا خَلَفْتُمُونِي مِن بَعْدِيَ أَعَجِلْتُمْ أَمْرَ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَلْقَى الألْوَاحَ وَأَخَذَ بِرَأْسِ أَخِيهِ يَجُرُّهُ إِلَيْهِ قَالَ ابْنَ أُمَّ إِنَّ الْقَوْمَ اسْتَضْعَفُونِي وَكَادُواْ يَقْتُلُونَنِي فَلاَ تُشْمِتْ بِيَ الأعْدَاء وَلاَ تَجْعَلْنِي مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ﴿7:150﴾ 
(7:150) And when Moses returned to his people, full of wrath and sorrow, he said: 'Vile is the course you have followed in my absence. Could you not patiently wait for the decree of your Lord?' And he threw down the Tablets [of the Law] and took hold of his brother's head, dragging him to himself. Aaron said: 'My mother's son, the people overpowered me and almost killed me. So let not my enemies gloat over me, and do not number me among the wrong-doing folk.' *108
*108. The above Qur'anic verse absolves Aaron of the charge levelled against him by the Jews. According to the Biblical version of the story of calf-worship, however, it was Aaron who had made the golden calf for the people of Israel. To quote:
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, 'Up, make up gods who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' And Aaron said to them, 'Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.' So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.' When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.' And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play (Exodus 32: 1--6).
The Qur'an, however, refutes the above account at many places and points out that it was Samiri the rebel of God rather than Aaron the Prophet who committed that heinous sin. (For details see Ta Ha 20: 90 ff.)
Strange though it may appear, the Israelites maligned the characters of those very people whom they believed to be the Messengers of God. The accusations they hurled at them included such heinous sins as polytheism, sorcery, fornication, deceit and treachery. Needless to say, indulgence in any of these sins is disgraceful for even an ordinary believer and decent human being, let alone Prophets. In the light of the history of Israeli morals, however, it is quite understandable why they maligned their own Prophets. In times of religious and moral degeneration when both the clergy and laity were steeped in sin and immorality, they tried to seek justification for their misdeeds. In order to sedate their own consciences they ascribed the very sins of which they were guilty to their Prophets and then their own inability to refrain from sins on the grounds that not even the Prophets could refrain.
The same characteristic is evident in Hinduism. When the Hindus reached the lowest point in their moral degeneration, they produced a literature which presents a very perverted image of Hindu ideals. This literature portrayed their gods, hermits and monks as crass sinners. In doing so, they suggested that since such noble people could not refrain from indulging in grave sins, ordinary mortals are inevitably bound to commit them. Moreover, a person's indulgence in immoral acts should not make him remorseful for the same acts were committed earlier by their monks and hermits.
 
قَالَ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَلأَخِي وَأَدْخِلْنَا فِي رَحْمَتِكَ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ﴿7:151﴾ 
(7:151) Thereupon Moses said: 'O Lord! Grant forgiveness upon me and my brother and admit us to Your Mercy, for You are most merciful of the merciful.'

 
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُواْ الْعِجْلَ سَيَنَالُهُمْ غَضَبٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَذِلَّةٌ فِي الْحَياةِ الدُّنْيَا وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُفْتَرِينَ﴿7:152﴾ 
(7:152) In reply they were told: 'Verily those who worshipped the calf will certainly incur indignation from their Lord, and will be abased in the life of this world. Thus do We reward those who fabricate lies.

 
وَالَّذِينَ عَمِلُواْ السَّيِّئَاتِ ثُمَّ تَابُواْ مِن بَعْدِهَا وَآمَنُواْ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِن بَعْدِهَا لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ﴿7:153﴾ 
(7:153) As for those who do evil, and later repent and have faith, such shall find their Lord All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate after (they repent and believe)

 
وَلَمَّا سَكَتَ عَن مُّوسَى الْغَضَبُ أَخَذَ الأَلْوَاحَ وَفِي نُسْخَتِهَا هُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِرَبِّهِمْ يَرْهَبُونَ﴿7:154﴾ 
(7:154) And when the anger of Moses was stilled, he took up the Tablets again, the text of which comprised guidance and mercy to those who fear their Lord.

 
وَاخْتَارَ مُوسَى قَوْمَهُ سَبْعِينَ رَجُلاً لِّمِيقَاتِنَا فَلَمَّا أَخَذَتْهُمُ الرَّجْفَةُ قَالَ رَبِّ لَوْ شِئْتَ أَهْلَكْتَهُم مِّن قَبْلُ وَإِيَّايَ أَتُهْلِكُنَا بِمَا فَعَلَ السُّفَهَاء مِنَّا إِنْ هِيَ إِلاَّ فِتْنَتُكَ تُضِلُّ بِهَا مَن تَشَاء وَتَهْدِي مَن تَشَاء أَنتَ وَلِيُّنَا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الْغَافِرِينَ﴿7:155﴾ 
(7:155) And out of his people Moses singled out seventy men for Our appointment.  *109Then, when violent shaking seized them, he addressed his Lord: 'Had You willed, O my Lord, You could have destroyed them and me long ago. Will You destroy us for what the fools amongst us did? That was nothing but a trial from You whereby You mislead whom You will and guide whom You will.  *110You alone are our guardian. Forgive us, then, and have mercy upon us. You are the best of those who forgive.
*109. Moses was summoned for the second time to Mount Sinai along with seventy chiefs of the nation in order that they might seek pardon for their calf-worship and renew their covenant with God. Reference to this event is not found in the Bible and Talmud. They simply mention that Moses was summoned to receive new tablets as replacements for the ones he had thrown down and broken. (Cf. Exodus 34.)
*110. When a people are put to the test it is an occasion of crucial importance for it helps to distinguish the righteous from the wicked. Like a winnow, it separates out of the mass the useful from the useless. Hence in his wisdom God subjects people to tests. Those who successfully pass through them, owe their success to the support and guidance they receive from God. As for those who are unsuccessful, their failure is the result of their not receiving that support and guidance. This does not detract from the fact that men neither arbitrarily receive or are denied God's support and guidance. Both extending and withholding support and guidance follow a rule which is based on wisdom and justice. The fact, however, remains that man can succeed in the test to which he is put only if God supports and guides him.
 
وَاكْتُبْ لَنَا فِي هَـذِهِ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ إِنَّا هُدْنَـا إِلَيْكَ قَالَ عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَاء وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَـاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ﴿7:156﴾ 
(7:156) And ordain for us what is good in this world and in the World to Come for to You have we turned.'He replied: 'I afflict whomsoever I wish with My chastisement. As for My mercy, it encompasses everything. *111 will show mercy to those who abstain from evil, pay Zakat and have faith in Our signs.'
*111. It is false to assume that the general rule underlying God's governance of His realm is that of wrath which is occasionally tempered with mercy and benevolence. On the contrary, the general rule is that of mercy and benevolence and wrath is the exception which is aroused when man's transgression and rebellion exceed all reasonable limits.
 
الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِندَهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالإِنْجِيلِ يَأْمُرُهُم بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَآئِثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالأَغْلاَلَ الَّتِي كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُواْ النُّورَ الَّذِيَ أُنزِلَ مَعَهُ أُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ﴿7:157﴾ 
(7:157) [To-day this mercy is for] those who follow the ummi Prophet,  *112whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel with them. *113 He enjoins upon them what is good and forbids them what is evil. He makes the clean things lawful to them and prohibits all corrupt things, *114 and removes from them their burdens and the shackles that were upon them. *115 So those who believe in him and assist him, and succour him and follow the Light which has been sent down with him, it is they who shall prosper.
*112. The preceding verse concludes God's response to Moses' prayer. This was the appropriate moment to invite the Israelites to follow the Message preached by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). The upshot of what is being said here is that people can even now attain God's mercy exactly as they could in the past. These conditions require that people should now follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), since refusal to follow a Prophet after his advent amounts to gross disobedience to God. Those who do not commit themselves to follow the Prophet (peace be on him) cannot attain the essence of piety, no matter how hard they try to make a pretence of it by observing the minor details of religious rituals generally associated with piety.
Likewise, the Israelites had been told that paying Zakah was essential to win God's mercy. However, payment of Zakah is meaningless unless one supports the struggle to establish the hegemony of truth which was being carried on under the leadership of the Prophet (peace be on him). For unless one spends money to exalt the word of God, the very foundation of Zakah are lacking, even if a person spends huge amounts in the way of charity. They were also reminded that they had been told in the past that God's mercy was exclusively for those who believed in His Revelation. Now those who rejected the Revelation received by Muhammad (peace be on him) could never be considered believers in Revelation no matter how zealously they claim to believe in the Torah.
Reference to the Prophet (peace be on him) in this verse as umimi is significant as the Israelites branded all other nations as Gentiles (ummis). Steeped in racial prejudice, they did not consider members of other nations as their equals, let alone accept any person not belonging to them as a Prophet. The Qur'an also states the Jewish belief that they would not be taken to ask for whatever they might do to non-Jews. (See Al'Imran 3: 75.) Employing the same term which they themselves had used, the Qur'an tells them that their destiny was linked with the ummi Prophet. By obeying him they would become deserving of God's mercy. As for disobedience to the Prophet (peace be on him). it would continue to arouse God's wrath which had been afflicted upon them for centuries.
*113. Pointed and repeated reference to the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) is made in the Bible. (See Deuteronomy 8: 15-19; Matthew 21: 33-46; John 1: 19-25; 14: 15-17, 25-30; 15: 25-6; 6: 7-15.)
*114. The Prophet declares the pure things which they had forbidden as lawful, and the impure things which they had legitimized as unlawful.
*115. The Israelites had fettered their lives by undue restrictions which had been placed on them by the legal hair-splitting of their jurists, the pietistic exaggerations of their spiritual leaders, the introduction of superstitions and self-contrived laws and regulations by, their masses. The Prophet, by relieving them of every unnecessary burden and releasing them from every unjustified restriction, in fact liberated their shackled lives.
 
قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ يُحْيِـي وَيُمِيتُ فَآمِنُواْ بِاللّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِيِّ الأُمِّيِّ الَّذِي يُؤْمِنُ بِاللّهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ﴿7:158﴾ 
(7:158) [Say, O Muhammad]: 'O men! I am Allah's Messenger to you all - of Him to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no god but He. He grants life and deals death. Have faith then, in Allah and in His Messenger, the ummi Prophet who believes in Allah and His words; and follow him so that you may be guided aright.'

 
وَمِن قَوْمِ مُوسَى أُمَّةٌ يَهْدُونَ بِالْحَقِّ وَبِهِ يَعْدِلُونَ﴿7:159﴾ 
(7:159) Among the people of Moses' *116 there was a party who guided others in the way of the truth and established justice in its light.  *117
*116. This marks the resumption of the main theme of the discourse which had been interrupted by the parenthesis (see verses 157-8) calling people to affirm the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be on him).
>*117. The translators generally render the verse as the following:
Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth. (Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.)
They do so because, in their view, the present verse describes the moral and intellectual state of the Israelites at the time when the Qur'an was revealed. However, the context seems to indicate that the above account refers to the state of the Israelites at the time of the Prophet Moses. Thus, the purpose of the verse is to emphasize that even in the days of their calf-worship when God rebuked them, all members of Israel were not corrupt; that a sizeable section of them was righteous.
 
وَقَطَّعْنَاهُمُ اثْنَتَيْ عَشْرَةَ أَسْبَاطًا أُمَمًا وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى إِذِ اسْتَسْقَاهُ قَوْمُهُ أَنِ اضْرِب بِّعَصَاكَ الْحَجَرَ فَانبَجَسَتْ مِنْهُ اثْنَتَا عَشْرَةَ عَيْنًا قَدْ عَلِمَ كُلُّ أُنَاسٍ مَّشْرَبَهُمْ وَظَلَّلْنَا عَلَيْهِمُ الْغَمَامَ وَأَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَنَّ وَالسَّلْوَى كُلُواْ مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَمَا ظَلَمُونَا وَلَـكِن كَانُواْ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ﴿7:160﴾ 
(7:160) And We divided them into twelve tribes, forming them into communities. *118 When his people asked Moses for water We directed him: 'Smite the rock with your rod.' Then twelve springs gushed forth from the rock and every people knew their drinking-places. And We caused thick clouds to provide them shade, and We sent down upon them manna and quails, *119 saying: 'Eat of the clean things that We have provided you.' They wronged not Us, but it was themselves that they wronged.
*118. This refers to the organization of the people of Israel which has been mentioned in the Qur'an in al-Ma'idah 5:12 and also described, at length, in the Bible in Numbers. According to these sources, in compliance with God's command the Prophet Moses first conducted the census of the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai. He registered their twelve tribes, ten of whom were descendants of the Prophet Jacob, and the remaining two descendants of the Prophet Joseph, as separate and distinct tribes. He appointed a chief for each tribe and assigned to him the duty to maintain moral, religious, social and military discipline within each tribe and to enforce the Law. The Levites, who were descendants of the Prophets Moses and Aaron, however, were organized as a distinct group entrusted with the task of providing religious guidance to all tribes.
*119. This organization was one of the numerous favours which God had bestowed upon the Israelites. Mention is made of three other favours bestowed upon them. First, an extraordinary arrangement for their water supply was made in the otherwise arid Sinai peninsula. Second, the sky was covered with clouds such that they were protected from the scorching heat of the sun. Third, a unique meal, consisting of manna and quails was sent down on them. Had this Divine arrangement, catering as it did for the millions of wandering Israelites' basic necessities of life, not been made, they would certainly have perished.
On visiting that land even today it is difficult to visualize how such an arrangement providing shelter, food and water for millions of people was made. The population of this peninsula standseven today at a paltry, 55,000 people. (it may be noted that this statement was made in the fifties of the present century. However, the present population of the Sinai is 200,000 - Ed.) If a five or six hundred thousand strong army, were to camp there today, it would be quite a task for those at the helm to provide the necessary supplies for the army. Little wonder, then, that many scholars who belive neither in the Scripture nor in miracles, rule out the historical accuracy of the event. For them, the people of Israel camped in an area lying south of Palestine and north of Arabia. In view of the physical and economic geography of the Sinai peninsula, they consider it totally incredible that such a large population could have stayed there for years. What has made these scholars even more sceptical about the event is the fact that the Israelites were not then in a position to procure supplies from either the Egyptians or the 'Amaliqah' who inhabited respectively the eastern and northern parts of the peninsula, since both groups were hostile to them. It is against this background that one may appreciate the immense importance of the favours God conferred on the Israelites. Likewise, it also gives one some idea of the blatant ingratitude of the people of Israel since they consistently defied and betrayed God even though they had witnessed a great many divine signs. (See Towards Understanding the Qur'an, vol. 1, al-Baqarah 2: nn. 72-3 and 76, pp. 76-7 - Ed.)
 
وَإِذْ قِيلَ لَهُمُ اسْكُنُواْ هَـذِهِ الْقَرْيَةَ وَكُلُواْ مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ وَقُولُواْ حِطَّةٌ وَادْخُلُواْ الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا نَّغْفِرْ لَكُمْ خَطِيئَاتِكُمْ سَنَزِيدُ الْمُحْسِنِينَ﴿7:161﴾ 
(7:161) And recall *120 when it was said to them: 'Dwell in this town and eat plentifully of whatever you please, and say: "Repentance", and enter the gate prostrate. We shall forgive you your sins and shall bestow further favours on those who do good.'
*120. This alludes to their constant defiance and rebellion in face of God' favours which eventually brought about their destruction.
 
فَبَدَّلَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ مِنْهُمْ قَوْلاً غَيْرَ الَّذِي قِيلَ لَهُمْ فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ رِجْزًا مِّنَ السَّمَاء بِمَا كَانُواْ يَظْلِمُونَ﴿7:162﴾ 
(7:162) Then the wrong-doers among them substituted another word in place of the one told them. So We sent upon them a scourge from the heaven as a punishment for their Wrong-doing.  *121
*121. For details see Towards Understanding the Qur'an, vol. 1, al-Baqarah 2: nn. 74-5, pp. 76-7.
 
واَسْأَلْهُمْ عَنِ الْقَرْيَةِ الَّتِي كَانَتْ حَاضِرَةَ الْبَحْرِ إِذْ يَعْدُونَ فِي السَّبْتِ إِذْ تَأْتِيهِمْ حِيتَانُهُمْ يَوْمَ سَبْتِهِمْ شُرَّعاً وَيَوْمَ لاَ يَسْبِتُونَ لاَ تَأْتِيهِمْ كَذَلِكَ نَبْلُوهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ﴿7:163﴾ 
(7:163) And ask the people of Moses concerning the town situated along the sea *122 how its people profaned the Sabbath when fish came to them breaking the water's surface on Sabbath days, *123 and would not come to them on other than Sabbath-days. Thus did We try them because of their disobedience. *124
*122. Most scholars identify this place with Eilat, Eilath or Eloth. (Cf. Encyclopaedia Britannica, XV edition, 'Macropaedia', vol. 3, art. 'Elat' -Ed.) The seaport called Elat which has been built by the present state of Israel (which is close to the Jordanian seaport, Aqaba), stands on the same site. It lies at the end of that long inlet of the Red Sea situated between the eastern part of the Sinai peninsula and the western part of Arabia. It was a major trading centre in the time of Israelite ascendancy. The Prophet Solomon took this city as the chief port for his fleet in the Red Sea.
The event referred to in the above verse is not reported in Jewish Scriptures. Nor do historical accounts shed any light on it. Nonetheless, it appears from the way it has been mentioned in the above verse and in al-Baqarah that the Jews of the early days of Islam were quite familiar with the event. (See Towards Understanding the Qur'an, vol. 1, al-Baqarah 2: 65 and n. 83, pp. 81-2 - Ed.) This view is further corroborated by the fact that even the Madinan Jews who spared no opportunity to criticize the Prophet (peace be on him) did not raise any objection against this (Qur'anic account.
*123. 'Sabbath', which means Saturday, was declared for the Israelites as the holi day of the week. God declared the Sabbath as a sign of the perpetual covenant between God and Israel. (Exodus 31: 12-16.) The Israelites were required to strictly keep the Sabbath which meant that they may not engage in any worldly activity; they may not cook, nor make their slaves or cattle serve them. Those who violated these rules were to be put to death. The Israelites, however, publicly violated these rules. In the days of the Prophet Jeremiah (between 628 and 586 B.C.), the Israelites carried their merchandise through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day itself. Jeremiah, therefore, warned them that if they persisted in their flagrant violation of the Law, Jerusalem would be set on fire. (Jererniah 17: 21-7.) The same complaint is voiced in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (595-536 B.C.) who referred to their violation of the Sabbath rules as their major sin. (Ezekiel 20: 12-24.) In view of these Scriptural references it seems plausible that the event mentioned in the above Qur'anic verse is related to the same period.
*124. Men are tested by God in a variety of ways. When a person or group of people begin to turn away from God and incline themselves towards disobedience, God provides abundant opportunities for them to disobey. This is done in order that the full potential for disobedience, which had remained hidden because of lack of such an opportunity, might come to the surface.
 
وَإِذَ قَالَتْ أُمَّةٌ مِّنْهُمْ لِمَ تَعِظُونَ قَوْمًا اللّهُ مُهْلِكُهُمْ أَوْ مُعَذِّبُهُمْ عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا قَالُواْ مَعْذِرَةً إِلَى رَبِّكُمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ﴿7:164﴾ 
(7:164) And recall when a party of them said: 'Why do you admonish a people whom Allah is about to destroy or punish severely?' They said: 'We admonish them in order to be able to offer an excuse before Your Lord, and in the hope that they will guard against disobedience.'

 
فَلَمَّا نَسُواْ مَا ذُكِّرُواْ بِهِ أَنجَيْنَا الَّذِينَ يَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ السُّوءِ وَأَخَذْنَا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ بِعَذَابٍ بَئِيسٍ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفْسُقُونَ﴿7:165﴾ 
(7:165) Then, when they forgot what they had been exhorted, We delivered those who forbade evil and afflicted the wrong-doers with a grievous chastisement *125 because of their evildoing.
*125. This shows that the people in that town were of three categories. One, those who flagrantly violated God's commands. Two, those who were silent spectators to such violations and discouraged those who admonished the criminals, pleading that their efforts were fruitless. Three, those who, moved by their religious commitment, actively enjoined good and forbade evil so that the evil-doers might make amends. In so doing, they were prompted by, a sense of duty, to bring back the evil-doers to the right path, and if the latter did not respond to their call, they would at least be able to establish before their Lord that for their part they had fulfilled their duty to admonish the evil-doers. So, when the town was struck by God's punishment, only the people belonging to the last category were spared for they had displayed God-consciousness and performed the duties incumbent upon them. As for the people of the other two categories, they were reckoned as transgressors and were punished in proportion to their crimes.
Some commentators on the Qur'an are of the opinion that whereas the Qur'an specifically, describes the fate of the people belonging to the first and third categories, it is silent about the treatment meted out to the people of the second category. It cannot be said, therefore, with certainty, whether they were spared or punished. It is reported that Ibn 'Abba's initially believed that God's punishment included the second category as well. It is believed that later his disciple Ikramah convinced him that only the people of the second category would be delivered in the same manner as the people of the third category.
A closer study of the Qur'anic account, however, shows that Ibn 'Abba's earlier viewpoint is sound. It is evident that the people of the town would inevitably have been grouped into two categories on the eve of God's punishment: those who were spared and those who were not. Since the Qur'an states that the people of the third category, had been spared, it may be legitimately assumed that the people belonging to both the first and the second categories were punished. This view is also corroborated by the preceding verse:
Also recall when a party of them said: 'Why do you admonish a people whom Allah is about to destroy or punish severely? They said: 'We admonish them in order to he able to offer an excuse before your Lord, and in the hope that they will guard against disobedience.' (Verse 164.)
Thus it clearly emerges from the above discussion that all the people of the place where evil deeds are publicly committed stand guilty, One cannot be absolved merely on the basis that one had not committed any evil. One may be acquitted only, in the event that one made every possible effort to bring about reform and actively worked in the cause of the truth. This constitutes the divine law pertaining to collective evil as is evident from the teachings of the Qur'an and Hadith. The Qur'an says:
And guard against the mischief that will not only bring punishment to the wrong-doers among you. Know well that Allah is severe in punishment (Al-Anfal 8: 15).
Explaining the above verse the Prophet (peace be on him) remarked: 'God does not punish the generality of a people for the evil committed by a particular section of that people until they observe others committing evil and do not denounce it even though they are in a position to do so. And when they do that, God punishes all, the evil-doers and the people in general.' (Ahmad b. Hanbal. Musnad, vol. 4, p. 192 - Ed.)
Moreover. the verse in question seems to suggest that God's punishment afflicted the town concerned in two stages. The first stage is referred to as 'grevious chastisement', for in the next stage they were turned into apes. We may, therefore, hold that people belonging to both the first and the second categories were subjected to punishment. But the punishment of transforming the persistent evil-doers into apes was confined only to the people of the second category. (God knows best. If I am right that is from God. If I err, that is from me alone. God is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.)
 
فَلَمَّا عَتَوْاْ عَن مَّا نُهُواْ عَنْهُ قُلْنَا لَهُمْ كُونُواْ قِرَدَةً خَاسِئِينَ﴿7:166﴾ 
(7:166) And when they persisted in pursuing that which had been forbidden We said: 'Become despised apes.' *126
*126. For details see Towards Understanding the Q ur'an, vol. 1, alBaqarah 2: n. 83, pp. 81-2,
 
وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكَ لَيَبْعَثَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ مَن يَسُومُهُمْ سُوءَ الْعَذَابِ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَسَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ﴿7:167﴾ 
(7:167) And recall when Your Lord proclaimed *127 that 'He would continually set in authority over them, till the Day of Judgement, those who would ruthless oppress thern.' *128 Surely, your Lord is swift in chastising; and yet He is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.
*127. The Qur'anic expression 'ta'adhdhana' means almost the same 'he warned; he proclaimed'.
*128. Since the 8th century B.C. the Israelites were warned consistently. This is borne out by the contents of the Books of the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and their successors. Jesus too administered the same warning which is borne out by many of his orations in the New Testament, This was also later confirmed by the Qur'an. History bears out the veracity of the statement made both in the Qur'an and the earlier scriptures. For throughout history, since the time the Jews were warned, they have continually been subjected to abject persecution in one part of the world or another.
 
وَقَطَّعْنَاهُمْ فِي الأَرْضِ أُمَمًا مِّنْهُمُ الصَّالِحُونَ وَمِنْهُمْ دُونَ ذَلِكَ وَبَلَوْنَاهُمْ بِالْحَسَنَاتِ وَالسَّيِّئَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ﴿7:168﴾ 
(7:168) And We dispersed them through the earth in communities - some were righteous, others were not -and We tested them with prosperity and adversity that they may turn back (to righteousness).

 
فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ وَرِثُواْ الْكِتَابَ يَأْخُذُونَ عَرَضَ هَـذَا الأدْنَى وَيَقُولُونَ سَيُغْفَرُ لَنَا وَإِن يَأْتِهِمْ عَرَضٌ مُّثْلُهُ يَأْخُذُوهُ أَلَمْ يُؤْخَذْ عَلَيْهِم مِّيثَاقُ الْكِتَابِ أَن لاَّ يِقُولُواْ عَلَى اللّهِ إِلاَّ الْحَقَّ وَدَرَسُواْ مَا فِيهِ وَالدَّارُ الآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ﴿7:169﴾ 
(7:169) Then others succeeded them who inherited the scriptures, and yet kept themselves occupied in acquiring the goods of this world and kept saying: 'We shall be forgiven.' And when there comes to them an opportunity for acquiring more of those goods, they seize it. *129 Was not the covenant of the Book taken from them that they would not ascribe to Allah anything but the truth? And they have read what is in the Book *130 and know that the abode of the Hereafter is better for the God-fearing. *131 Do you not understand?
*129. The Jews knowingly commit sins in the belief that being God's chosen people they will necessarily be pardoned and spared God's punishment. As a result of this misconception, they neither repent nor refrain from committing sins. How unfortunate the Jews are! They received the Scriptures which could have made them leaders of all mankind. But they were so petty-minded that they aspired to nothing higher than paltry worldly benefits. Thus even though they had the potential of becoming the upholders of justice and righteousness across the world they ended up merely as worshippers of this world.
*130. The people of Israel know well that the Torah does not unconditionally assure them salvation. They have never been promised by God or any of His Prophets that they will attain deliverance no matter what they do. Therefore they have absolutely no right to ascribe to God something which He never told them. What makes their crime even worse is that their claim to unconditional salvation constitutes a sacrilege of their covenant with God whereby they pledged never to attribute any false statement to God.
*131. The above verse has two renderings. It may be either translated as above or it may be rendered thus: 'For the righteous, only the home in the Hereafter is the best.' Going by the first rendering, the verse means that salvation is not the exclusive privilege of a particular person or a family. It is absolutely out of the question that one will attain deliverance even if one commits sins, simply on account of being a Jew. A little reflection will help one realize that only the righteous and God-fearing will be rewarded in the Hereafter. In the light of the second rendering, only the unrighteous prefer worldly, gains to reward in the Hereafter. As for the righteous, they are conscious of the importance of the Hereafter and hence forego worldly benefits for the sake of reward in the Next World.
 
وَالَّذِينَ يُمَسَّكُونَ بِالْكِتَابِ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلاَةَ إِنَّا لاَ نُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُصْلِحِينَ﴿7:170﴾ 
(7:170) Those who hold fast to the Book and establish Prayer - We shall not allow the reward of such righteous men to go to waste.

 
وَإِذ نَتَقْنَا الْجَبَلَ فَوْقَهُمْ كَأَنَّهُ ظُلَّةٌ وَظَنُّواْ أَنَّهُ وَاقِعٌ بِهِمْ خُذُواْ مَا آتَيْنَاكُم بِقُوَّةٍ وَاذْكُرُواْ مَا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ﴿7:171﴾ 
(7:171) And recall when We shook the mountain over them as though it were a canopy, and they thought that it was going to fall over them; and We said: 'Hold firmly to that which We have given you, and remember what is in it, that you may guard against evil. *132
*132. The allusion here is to the event which took place when Moses proclaimed God's Divine Law at the foot of Mount Sinai.
Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. (Exodus 19: 17-18.)
This awesome atmosphere was created by God at the time when He made the people of Israel enter into a covenant with Him in order to impress upon them the gravity of the event and the supreme importance of the covenant. It should not be mistakenly assumed, however, that the people of Israel, who were reluctant to make the covenant, were forced to enter into it. In fact they were all believers and had gone to the Mount merely to make the covenant. The extraordinary conditions which God created were such as to make the Israelites realize that making a covenant with God was not an ordinary matter. They were rather made to feel that they were entering into a covenant with none other than Almighty God and that violating it could spell their disaster.
This concludes the discourse especially addressed to the Israelites. From here on the discourse is directed to all mankind, and particularly to the people whom the Prophet (peace be on him) addressed directly.
 
وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِن بَنِي آدَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتَ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُواْ بَلَى شَهِدْنَا أَن تَقُولُواْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَذَا غَافِلِينَ﴿7:172﴾ 
(7:172) And recall (0 Prophet) *133 when your Lord brought forth descendants from the loins of the sons of Adam, and made them witnesses against their ownselves. asking them: 'Am I not your Lord?' They said: 'Yes, we do testify.'  *134We did so lest you claim on the Day of Resurrection: 'We were unaware of this.'
*133. The preceding discourse concluded with the note that God made the Israelites enter into a covenant with their Lord. In the following passages all men are told that a covenant with God is not the exclusive privilege of Israel. In fact all human beings are bound in a covenant with God and a Day will come when they will be made to answer how well they were able to observe that covenant.
*134. This event, according to several traditions, took place at the time of the creation of Adam. Apart from the prostration of the angels before Adam and the proclamation that man would be God's vicegerent on earth, all the future progeny of Adam were gathered, and were endowed with both existence and consciousness in order to bear witness to God's lordship. The best interpretation of this event is found in a statement by, 'Ubayy b. Ka'b, who has probably given the substance of what he had heard from the Prophet (peace be on him):
God gathered all human beings, divided them into different groups, granted them human form and the faculty of speech, made them enter into a covenant, and then making them witnesses against themselves He asked them: 'Am I not your Lord?' They replied: 'Assuredly you are Our Lord.' Then God told them: 'I call upon the sky and the earth and your own progenitor, Adam, to be witness against you lest you should say on the Day of Judgement that you were ignorant of this. Know well that no one other than Me deserves to he worshipped and no one other than Me is your Lord. So do not ascribe any partner to Me. I shall send to you My Messengers who will remind you of this covenant which you made with Me. I shall send down to you My Books.' In reply all said: 'We witness that You are Our Lord and our Deity. We have no lord or deity other than You.' (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 5, p. 135 - Ed.)
This event has also been interpreted by some commentators in a purely allegorical sense. They are of the opinion that the purpose of the Qur'an is merely to emphasize that the acceptance of God's lordship is innate in human nature. However, this was narrated in such a way as to suggest that the event did actually take place. We do not subscribe to this allegorical interpretation of the primordial covenant of man with God. For both the Qur'an and Hadith recount it not only as an actual happening, but also affirm that the covenant would be adduced as an argument against man on the Day of Judgement. There remains, therefore, no ground whatsoever to interpret the event in terms of mere allegory.
In our own view the event did take place. God caused all human beings whom He intended to create until the Last Day to come into existence. He endowed upon them life, consciousness and the faculty of speech, and brought home to them that there is no god or lord besides Him, and that Islam alone is the right way to serve Him.
If someone considers calling all human beings together in one assembly impossible, that shows, more than anything else the woeful paucity of his imagination. For if someone accepts that God has the power to create countless human beings in succession, there is no reason to suppose that He did not have the power to create them all at some given moment prior to the creation of the universe, or that He will be unable to resurrect them all at some given moment in the future. Again, it stands to reason that at a time when God wanted to designate man as His vicegerent on earth after endowing him with reason and understanding, He took from him an oath of allegiance. All this is so reasonable that the actual occurrence of the covenant should not cause any wonder. On the contrary, one should wonder if the event did not take place.
 
أَوْ تَقُولُواْ إِنَّمَا أَشْرَكَ آبَاؤُنَا مِن قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا ذُرِّيَّةً مِّن بَعْدِهِمْ أَفَتُهْلِكُنَا بِمَا فَعَلَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ﴿7:173﴾ 
(7:173) Or say: 'Our forefathers before us who associated others with Allah in His divinity; we were merely their offspring who followed them. And would You destroy us for that which the unrighteous did?' *135
*135. The verse describes the purpose of the primordial covenant. The purpose is to make every person responsible for his deeds so that if he rebels against God he will be held fully accountable for that rebelfion. Because of the covenant, no one will be able either to plead for acquittal on grounds of ignorance, or blame his misdeeds on his ancestors. In other words, this primordial covenant has been mentioned as the reason for the inherent awareness in every single person that God is the only Lord and Deity. Thus, none can totally absolve himself of his responsibility on the plea that he was altogether ignorant, or transfer the blame for his error to the corrupt environment in which he was brought up. Now, it can be argued that even if the covenant did take place, no human being remembers its occurrence. No human being is aware that a long time ago, at the time of creation, he had affirmed, in response to God's query, that God indeed was his Lord. This being the case, it can be further argued that no charge can be legitimately brought against man on the ground of a covenant with God which he no longer remembers to have made. In response to this it can be said that had the covenant been made fully in man's conscious memory, it would be meaningless for God to put man to the test in this world. Hence, there can be no denying that the covenant is not preserved in man's conscious memory. But it has doubtlessly been preserved in man's sub-conscious mind. In this respect the primordial covenant is no different from other pieces of knowledge in man's sub-conscious mind. Whatever man has so far achieved in the way of culture and civilization can be attributed to his latent potentialities. All external factors and internal motivations simply account for helping the actualization of those potentialities. Neither education nor training nor environmental factors can bring out anything which is not potentially found in the human mind. Likewise, external factors have no power to root out man's latent potentialities. External factors may, at the most, cause a person to deflect from the course dictated by sound human nature. However, man's sound nature is inclined to resist the pressure of external forces and exert itself in order to find an outlet. As we have said earlier, this is not peculiar to man's religious propensity alone, but is equally true of all his mental potentialities. In this regard the following points are particularly noteworthy:
(1) All man's potentialities exist in the sub-conscious mind and prove their existence when they manifest themselves in the form of human action.
(2) The external manifestation of these potentialities requires external stimuli such as instruction, upbringing. and attitudinal orientation. In other words, our actions consist of the responses of our inherent potentialities to external stimuli.
(3) Man's inner potentialities can be suppressed both by false urges within him as well as external influences by trying to pervert and distort those latent potentialities. The potentialities themselves, however, cannot he totally rooted out.
The same holds true of man's intuitive knowledge regarding his position in the universe and his relationship with his Creator. In this connection the following points should be borne in mind:
(1) That man has always had such intuitive knowledue is evident from the fact that this knowledge has surfaced throughout history in every period and in every part of the world, and which no power has so far been able to extirpate.
(2) That this intuitive knowledge conforms to objective reality, is borne out by, the fact that whenever this knowledge has influenced human life, it has had beneficial results.
(3) That in order to manifest itself in his practical life, man's intuitive knowledge has always required external stimuli. The stimuli have consisted of the advent of the Prophets (peace be on them), the revelation of the Heavenly Books, and the striving of those who have tried to follow them and invite others to do the same. It is for this reason that the Qur'an has been desienated as mudhakkir (the reminder): dhikr (remembrance); tadhkirah (admonition). and the function of the Qur'an has been characterized as tadhkir(reminding). What this suggests is that the Prophets, the Heavenly Books and those who invite people to the truth do not seek to provide human beings with something new, something which exists outside of them. Their task rather consists of bringing to the surface and rejuvenating what is latent, though dormant, in man himself.
Throughout the ages man has always positively responded to this 'Reminder'. This itself is testimony to the fact that it is embodied in a knowledge which has always been recognized by; man's soul.
Forces arising from ignorance and obscurantism, lust and bigotry, and the erroneous teachings and promptings of devils - human as well as jinn - have always attempted to suppress, conceal, and distort the fact that the truth preached by the Prophets is embedded in man's soul. These attempts gave rise to polytheism, atheism, religious misdirection and moral corruption. Despite the combined efforts of the forces of falsehood, however, this knowledge has always had an imprint on the human heart. Hencel, whenever any effort was made to revive that knowledge, it has proved successful.
Doubtlessly those who are bent on denying the truth can resort to a great deal of sophistry in order to deny or at least create doubt and confusion about the existence of this knowledge. However on the Day of Resurrection the Creator will revive in man the memory of the first assembly when man made his covenant with God and accepted Him as his Only Lord. On that occasion God will provide evidence to the effect that the covenant always remained imprinted on man's soul. He will also show how from time to time man tried to suppress his inner voice which urged him to respond to the call of the covenant; how again and again his heart pressed him to affirm the truth; how his intuition induced him to denounce the errors of belief and practice; how the truth ingrained in his soul tried to express itself and respond to those who called to it; and how on each occasion he lulled his inner self to sleep because of his lust and bigotry.
However a Day will come when man will no longer be in a position to put forth specious arguments to justify his false claims. That will be the Day when man will have no option but to confess his error. It will then be impossible for people to say that they were ignorant, or negligent. In the words of the Qur'an: '...and they will bear witness against themselves that they had disbelieved' (al-An'am 6: 130).
 
وَكَذَلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الآيَاتِ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ﴿7:174﴾ 
(7:174) And thus do We expound the signs *136 that they may turn back (to the right path). *137
*136. 'Signs' here refer to the imprints made by knowledge of the truth on the human heart which help towards cognition of the truth.
*137. 'To return' here signifies giving up rebellion, and reverting to obedience to God.
 
وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِيَ آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا فَانسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ﴿7:175﴾ 
(7:175) And recite to them [O Muhammad] the story of the man to whom We gave Our signs *138 and who turned away from them; then ultimately Satan caught up with him and he was led astray.
*138. The words of the text seem to indicate that the person mentioned must indeed be a specific rather than an imaginary figure mentioned for the sake of parable. It may, be borne in mind that God and His Messenger (peace be on him) usually mention evil without specific references to any individual. This is obviously in keeping with their dignity. Only examples of evil are mentioned since those examples are meant for didactic purposes, and this is done without smearing anyone's reputation.
Some commentators on the Qur'an, however, have applied the statement made here to some persons who lived in the time of the Prophet (peace be on him) as well as before him. Some of them mention the name of Bal'am b. Ba'ura', others that of Umayyah b. Abi al-Salt, and still others that of Sayfi b. al-Rahib. (See the comments of Qurtubi on verses 175 and 176 - Ed.) Nonetheless, in the absence of any authentic information about the identity of the persons under discussion, we might as well consider the description made here to fit a certain type of person.
 
وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَاهُ بِهَا وَلَـكِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَى الأَرْضِ وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ الْكَلْبِ إِن تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُكْهُ يَلْهَث ذَّلِكَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ﴿7:176﴾ 
(7:176) Now had We so willed We could indeed have exalted him through those signs, but he clung to earthly life and followed his carnal desires. Thus his parable is that of the dog who lolls out his tongue whether you attack him or leave him alone. *139 Such is the parable of those who reject Our signs as false. Narrate to them these parables that they may reflect.
*139. Since the statement here embodies a very significant point, it needs to be carefully examined. The person mentioned in the verse as the representative of the evil type possessed knowledge of God's signs, and hence of the truth. This should have helped him to give up an attitude which he knew to be wrong, and to act in a manner which he knew to be right. Had he followed the truth and acted righteously God would have enabled him to rise to higher levels of humanity. He, however, overly occupied himself with the advantages, pleasures, and embellishments of the worldly life. Instead of resisting worldly temptations, he totally, succumbed to them so much so that he abandoned altogether his lofty spiritual ambitions and became indifferent to the possibilities of intellectual and moral growth. He even brazenly, violated all those limits which, according to his knowledge. should have been observed. Hence when he deliberately turned away from the truth merely because of his moral weakness, he was misled by Satan who is ever ready to beguile and mislead man. Satan continually led him from one act of depravity to another until he landed him in the company of those who are totally under Satan's control and who have lost all capacity for rational judgement.
This is followed by a statement in which God likens the person in question to a dog. A dog's protruding tongue and the unceasing flow of saliva from his mouth symbolize unquenchable greed and avarice. The reason for likening the human character described above to a dog is because of his excessive worldliness. It is known that in several languages of the world it is common to call people overly devoted to worldliness as 'dogs of the world'. For what, after all, is the characteristic of a dog? It is nothing else but greed and avarice. Just look at the dog! As he moves around, he continuously sniffs the earth. Even if a rock is hurled at him he runs at it in the hope that it might be a piece of bone or bread. Before he discovers it to be a rock, he hastens to seize it in his mouth. Even a person's indifference does not deter a dog from waiting expectantly for food - panting for breath, his tongue spread out and drooping, and a whole world from one perspective alone - that of his belly! Even if he discovers a large carcass, he would not be content with his portion of it, but would try to make it exclusively his and would not let any other dog even come close. It seems that if any urge other than appetite tickles him, it is the sexual urge. This metaphor of the dog, highlights the fate of the worldly man who breaks loose from his faith and knowledge, who entrusts his reins to blind lust and who ends up as one wholly devoted to gratifying his own appetite.
 
سَاء مَثَلاً الْقَوْمُ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا وَأَنفُسَهُمْ كَانُواْ يَظْلِمُونَ﴿7:177﴾ 
(7:177) Evil is the example of the people who reject Our signs as false and perpetrate wrong against their own selves.

 
مَن يَهْدِ اللّهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِي وَمَن يُضْلِلْ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ﴿7:178﴾ 
(7:178) He whom Allah guides, he alone is rightly guided; and he whom Allah lets go astray - it is they who are the loser.'

 
وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالإِنسِ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لاَّ يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لاَّ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لاَّ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا أُوْلَـئِكَ كَالأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ أُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ﴿7:179﴾ 
(7:179) And certainly We have created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind; *140 they have hearts with which they fail to understand; and they have eyes with which they fail to see; and they have cars with which they fail to hear. They are like cattle - indeed, even more astray. Such are utterly heedless.
*140. This does not mean that God has created some people for the specific purpose of fuelling Hell. What it does mean is that even though God has bestowed upon men faculties of observation, hearing and reasoning, some people do not use them properly. Thus, because of their own failings, they end up in Hell.
The words employed to give expression to the idea are ones which reflect deep grief and sorrow. This can perhaps be grasped by the occasional outbursts of sorrow by human beings. If a mother is struck by the sudden death of her sons in a war, she is prone to exclaim: 'I had brought up my sons that they might serve as cannon fodder!' Her exclamatory, utterance does not mean that that was the real purpose of the upbringing. What she intends to convey by such an utterance is a strong condemnation of those criminals because of whom all her painful efforts to bring up her sons have gone to waste.
 
وَلِلّهِ الأَسْمَاء الْحُسْنَى فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا وَذَرُواْ الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَآئِهِ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ﴿7:180﴾ 
(7:180) Allah has the most excellent names. *141 So call on Him by His names and shun those who distort them. They shall soon be requited for their deeds. *142
*141. Here the present discourse is nearing its end. Before concluding, people are warned in a style which combines admonition with censure against some basic wrongs. People are here being warrned particularly against denial combined with mockery which they, had adopted towards the teachings of the Prophet (peace be on him).
*142. The name of a thing reflects how it is conceptualized. Hence, inappropriate concepts are reflected in inappropriate names, and vice versa. Moreover, the attitude a man adopts towards different things is also based on the concepts he entertains of those things. If a concept about a thing is erroneous, so will be man's relationship with it. On the other hand. a right concept about a thing will lead to establishing, the right relationship with it. In the same way, as this applies to relationships with worldly objects, so it applies to relationships with God. If a man is mistaken about God - be it about His person or attributes - he will choose false words for God. And the falsity of concepts about God affects man's whole ethical attitude. This is understandable since man's whole ethical attitude is directly related to man's concept of God and God's relationship with the universe and man. It is for this reason that the Qur'an asks man to shun profanity in naming God. Only the most beautiful names befit God, and hence man should invoke Him by them. Any profanity in this respect will lead to evil consequences.
The 'most excellent names' used of God express His greatness and paramountcy, holiness, purity, and the perfection and absoluteness of all His attributes. The opposite trend has been termed ilhad in this verse. The word ilhad literally means 'to veer away from the straight direction'. The word is used, for instance, when an arrow misses the mark and strikes elsewhere. (See Raghib al-Isfahani, al-Mufradat, q.v. ilhad - Ed.) The commitment of ilhad in naming God mentioned in the verse consists of choosing names which are below His majestic dignity and which are inconsistent with the reverence due to Him; names which ascribe evil or defect to God, or reflect false notions about Him. Equally blasphemous is the act of calling some creature by a name which befits God alone, The Qur'anic exhortation in the above verse to 'shun those who distort God's names' implies that if misguided people fail to see reason, the righteous should not engross themselves in unnecessary argumentation with them. For such men will themselves suffer dire consequences.
 
وَمِمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا أُمَّةٌ يَهْدُونَ بِالْحَقِّ وَبِهِ يَعْدِلُونَ﴿7:181﴾ 
(7:181) And of those whom We have created there is a party who guide men through the truth and act justly according to it.

 
وَالَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا سَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ﴿7:182﴾ 
(7:182) As for those who reject Our signs as false, We shall lead them, step by step, to their ruin without their even perceiving it.

 
وَأُمْلِي لَهُمْ إِنَّ كَيْدِي مَتِينٌ﴿7:183﴾ 
(7:183) And (for this purpose) I will grant them respite. My design is incontrovertible.

 
أَوَلَمْ يَتَفَكَّرُواْ مَا بِصَاحِبِهِم مِّن جِنَّةٍ إِنْ هُوَ إِلاَّ نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ﴿7:184﴾ 
(7:184) Have they not pondered that their companion [i.e. the Prophet Muhammad] is not afflicted with insanity? He is only a plain warner.

 
أَوَلَمْ يَنظُرُواْ فِي مَلَكُوتِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَمَا خَلَقَ اللّهُ مِن شَيْءٍ وَأَنْ عَسَى أَن يَكُونَ قَدِ اقْتَرَبَ أَجَلُهُمْ فَبِأَيِّ حَدِيثٍ بَعْدَهُ يُؤْمِنُونَ﴿7:185﴾ 
(7:185) Have they not observed the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and all that Allah has created *143 and that their term of life might have drawn near *144 After this warning from the Prophet, what will it be that will make them believe?
*143. The word 'companion' here refers to the Prophet (peace be on him) who was born, brought up, grew into youth, in short, spent his whole life including his old age in their midst. Before the advent of his prophethood, Muhammad (peace be on him) was known to all the Quraysh as good natured and of sound mind. However, as he started calling people to accept the Message of God, they immediately dubbed him insane. Now it is obvious that they were not attributing insanity to him as regards his pre-prophetic life, for they had nothing evil to say about that period of his life. The charge of insanity, therefore, was levelled against the Message he began to preach when he was designated a Prophet.
The Qur'an, therefore, asks them to give serious thought to the teachings of the Prophet (peace be on him) and to see if there is anything that is inconsistent with sanity, or is meaningless and irrational. Had people reflected on the order of the universe, or carefully considered even one single creation of God, they would have been convinced of the truth of the teachings of the Prophet (peace be on him). They would have realized that whatever he said to refute polytheism, or to establish God's unity or the accountability of man in the Hereafter, or about the necessity of man's surrender to God, was corroborated by the entire order of the universe and every single atom of God's creation.
*144. The unbelievers, feeble-minded as they are, fail to understand that no one knows when he will die. For death overtakes man totally unawares. This being the case, what will be the end of those who waste the time at their disposal until death overtakes them and fail to find the direction to their salvation?
 
مَن يُضْلِلِ اللّهُ فَلاَ هَادِيَ لَهُ وَيَذَرُهُمْ فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ﴿7:186﴾ 
(7:186) For those whom Allah lets go astray, there is no guide; and He will leave them in their transgression to stumble blindly.

 
يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ السَّاعَةِ أَيَّانَ مُرْسَاهَا قُلْ إِنَّمَا عِلْمُهَا عِندَ رَبِّي لاَ يُجَلِّيهَا لِوَقْتِهَا إِلاَّ هُوَ ثَقُلَتْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ لاَ تَأْتِيكُمْ إِلاَّ بَغْتَةً يَسْأَلُونَكَ كَأَنَّكَ حَفِيٌّ عَنْهَا قُلْ إِنَّمَا عِلْمُهَا عِندَ اللّهِ وَلَـكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ﴿7:187﴾ 
(7:187) They ask you concerning the Hour, when will its coming be? Say: 'The knowledge of it is with my Lord alone: none but He will disclose it at its time. That will weigh heavily on the heavens and the earth; and it shall not come to you other than all of a sudden.' They ask you - as if you are eagerly inquisitive about it - concerning it. Say to them: 'The knowledge of it is with none except Allah. But most people are unaware of this reality.'

 
قُل لاَّ أَمْلِكُ لِنَفْسِي نَفْعًا وَلاَ ضَرًّا إِلاَّ مَا شَاء اللّهُ وَلَوْ كُنتُ أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ لاَسْتَكْثَرْتُ مِنَ الْخَيْرِ وَمَا مَسَّنِيَ السُّوءُ إِنْ أَنَاْ إِلاَّ نَذِيرٌ وَبَشِيرٌ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ﴿7:188﴾ 
(7:188) Tell them [O Muhammad]: 'I have no power to benefit or harm myself except as Allah may please. And had I knowledge of the unseen, I should have amassed all kinds of good, and no evil would have ever touched me. *145 I am merely a warner and the herald of glad tidings to those who have faith.'
*145. The time of the advent of the Last Day is known to God alone Who knows the Unseen which, in fact, is not known even to the Prophet (peace be on him). Being human, he is not aware what the morrow has in store for him and his family. Had his knowledge encompassed everything - even things that lie beyond the ken of sense-perception and events that lie hidden in the future - he would have accumulated immense benefit and would have been able to avoid a great deal of loss owing to such foreknowledge. That being the case, it is sheer naivety to ask the Prophet about the actual time for the advent of the Last Day.
 
هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَجَعَلَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا لِيَسْكُنَ إِلَيْهَا فَلَمَّا تَغَشَّاهَا حَمَلَتْ حَمْلاً خَفِيفًا فَمَرَّتْ بِهِ فَلَمَّا أَثْقَلَت دَّعَوَا اللّهَ رَبَّهُمَا لَئِنْ آتَيْتَنَا صَالِحاً لَّنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ﴿7:189﴾ 
(7:189) It is He - Allah -Who created you from a single being, and out of it He made its mate, that he may find comfort in her. And when he covers her, she bears a light burden and goes about with it. Then, when she grows heavy, they pray to their Lord: 'If You bestow upon us a healthy child, we will surely give thanks.'

 
فَلَمَّا آتَاهُمَا صَالِحاً جَعَلاَ لَهُ شُرَكَاء فِيمَا آتَاهُمَا فَتَعَالَى اللّهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ﴿7:190﴾ 
(7:190) But when He vouchsafes them a healthy child, they attribute to Him partners regarding what Allah had bestowed upon them. Subliminally exalted is Allah above that which they associate with Him. *146
*146. The present and succeeding verses (190-8) seek to refute polytheism. These verses are devoted to highlighting the implications of the postulate which even the polytheists affirmed - that it is God Who originally created the human species. They also acknowledge that every human being owes his existence to God. God also holds absolute power over the entire process leading to man's birth, right from the fertilization of the ovurn in the uterus to its onward development in the form of a living being, then investing it with numerous faculties and ensuring its birth as a sound, healthy baby. No one has the power to prevent God, if He so willed, from causing a wornan to give birth to an animal or to odd creature, or to a physically or mentally handicapped baby. This fact is also equally acknowledged by monotheists and polytheists. It is for this reason that in the final stage of pregnancy, people are inclined to turn to God and pray for the birth of a sound and healthy baby.
It is, however, the very, height of man's ignorance and folly that after a sound and healthy baby has been born as a result of God's will, man makes offerings at the altars of false gods, goddesses, or saints. Occasionally the names given to the child (e.g., 'abd al-Rasul, 'abd al-'Uzza, 'abd Shams, etc.) also indicate that man feels grateful to others than God and regardsthe child as a gift either of sorne Prophet, some noted Companion of the Prophet (peace be on him), or some other noted personality such as his spiritual mentor rather than a gift from God.
There has been some misunderstanding with regard to the point emphasized here. This misunderstanding has been further reinforced by traditions of doubtful authenticity. The Qur'an mentions that human being's are created from a single person, and obviously here that person means Adam (peace be on him). Now this reference to one person is soon followed by reference to his spouse, and that both prayed to God for the birth of a sound and healthy baby. And when that prayer was accepted, the couple are mentioned as having associated others with God in the granting of His favour.
The misunderstanding consists in considering this couple, who fell prey to polytheism, to be Adam and Eve. People resorted to unauthentic traditions to explain the above verse and the story which thus gained acceptance was the following. It was claimed that Eve suffered several mishaps since her offspring would die after birth. Satan seized this opportunity to mislead her into naming her baby Abd al-Harith (the slave of Satan). (See the comments of Ibn Kathir on verse 190. Cf. Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 5, p. 11 - Ed.) What is most shocking is that some of these unsubstantiated traditions have been ascribed to the Prophet (peace be on him). The fact, however, is that the above account does not have even an iota of truth. Nor is it, in any way, corroborated by the Qur'an itself. The only point brought home by the Qur'an is that it is God alone, to the total exclusion of every one else, Who brought the first human couple into being. And again it is God alone Who causes the birth of each baby born out of the intercourse between a man and a woman. The Qur'an also points out that the of this truth is innate in human nature which is evident from the fact that in states of distress and crisis man turns prayerfully to God alone. Ironically, however, after God blesses those prayers with acceptance, a number of people associate others with God in His divinity. The fact is that the present verses do not refer to any particular man and woman. The allusion is in fact to every man and woman enmeshed in polytheism.
Here another point deserves attention. These verses condemn the Arabian polytheists on account of the fact that when God granted them sound children in response to their prayers they associated others with God in offering thanks. But what is the situation of many Muslims of today who strongly believe in the unity of God? Their situation seems even worse. It is not uncommon for them to ask others than God to grant children. They, make vows during pregnancy to others than God, and make offerings to others than God after child-birth. Yet they are satisfied that they have a full guarantee of Paradise since they are believers in the One True God whereas the Arabian polytheists would inevitably be consigned to Hell. It is only the doctrinal errors of the pre-Islamic Arabian polytheists which may be condemned. The doctrinal errors of Muslims are beyond all criticism and censure.
 
أَيُشْرِكُونَ مَا لاَ يَخْلُقُ شَيْئاً وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ﴿7:191﴾ 
(7:191) Do they associate (with Allah in His divinity) those who can create nothing; rather, they are themselves created?

 
وَلاَ يَسْتَطِيعُونَ لَهُمْ نَصْرًا وَلاَ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَنصُرُونَ﴿7:192﴾ 
(7:192) They have no power to help others. nor can they help themselves.

 
وَإِن تَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَى الْهُدَى لاَ يَتَّبِعُوكُمْ سَوَاء عَلَيْكُمْ أَدَعَوْتُمُوهُمْ أَمْ أَنتُمْ صَامِتُونَ﴿7:193﴾ 
(7:193) And if you call them to true guidance, they will not follow you. It is all the same for you whether you call them to true guidance or keep silent.  *147
*147. As to the false gods set up by the polytheists, what is the extent of their power? Not only, do they not have the power to guide others, they do not even have the power to follow others or even to answer the call of their devotees.
 
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ عِبَادٌ أَمْثَالُكُمْ فَادْعُوهُمْ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُواْ لَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ﴿7:194﴾ 
(7:194) Those whom you invoke other than Allah are creatures like you. So invoke them. and see if they answer your call, if what you claim is true.

 
أَلَهُمْ أَرْجُلٌ يَمْشُونَ بِهَا أَمْ لَهُمْ أَيْدٍ يَبْطِشُونَ بِهَا أَمْ لَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا أَمْ لَهُمْ آذَانٌ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا قُلِ ادْعُواْ شُرَكَاءكُمْ ثُمَّ كِيدُونِ فَلاَ تُنظِرُونِ﴿7:195﴾ 
(7:195) Have they feet on which they can walk? Have they hands with which they can grasp? Have they eyes with which they can see? Have they ears with which they can hear? *148 Say [O Muhammad]: 'Invoke all those to whom you ascribe a share in Allah's divinity, then scheme against me and grant me no respite.
*148. Polytheistic religions seem to have three characteristics: (1) idols and images that are held as objects of worship; (2) some persons and spirits that are considered deities represented in the form of idols and images, etc.; and (3) certain beliefs which underlie their polytheistic rites. The Qur'an denounces all these. At this place, however, the attack is directed against the objects to which the polytheists directed their worship.
 
إِنَّ وَلِيِّـيَ اللّهُ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ الْكِتَابَ وَهُوَ يَتَوَلَّى الصَّالِحِينَ﴿7:196﴾ 
(7:196) My guardian is Allah Who has revealed the Book, and it is He Who protects the righteous. *149
*149. This is in response to the threats held out by the polytheists to the Prophet (peace he on him). They used to tell the Prophet (peace be on him) that if he did not give up opposing their deities and denouncing them, he would be overwhelmed by the wrath of those deities and court utter disaster.
 
وَالَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِهِ لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُونَ نَصْرَكُمْ وَلآ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَنْصُرُونَ﴿7:197﴾ 
(7:197) And those whom you invoke other than Allah, they can neither help themselves nor you.

 
وَإِن تَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَى الْهُدَى لاَ يَسْمَعُواْ وَتَرَاهُمْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَيْكَ وَهُمْ لاَ يُبْصِرُونَ﴿7:198﴾ 
(7:198) And if you were to call them to true guidance, they will not hear; and you observe them looking at you whereas they have no power to see.'

 
خُذِ الْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْعُرْفِ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْجَاهِلِينَ﴿7:199﴾ 
(7:199) [O Prophet!] Show forgiveness, enjoin equity, and avoid the ignorant.

 
وَإِمَّا يَنزَغَنَّكَ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ نَزْغٌ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللّهِ إِنَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ﴿7:200﴾ 
(7:200) And if it happens that a prompting from Satan should stir you up, seek refuge with Allah. He is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

 
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَواْ إِذَا مَسَّهُمْ طَائِفٌ مِّنَ الشَّيْطَانِ تَذَكَّرُواْ فَإِذَا هُم مُّبْصِرُونَ﴿7:201﴾ 
(7:201) If the God-fearing are instigated by any suggestion of Satan, they instantly become alert, whereafter they clearly perceive the right way.

 
وَإِخْوَانُهُمْ يَمُدُّونَهُمْ فِي الْغَيِّ ثُمَّ لاَ يُقْصِرُونَ﴿7:202﴾ 
(7:202) As for their brethren [the Satans], they draw them deeper into error and do not relax in their efforts. *150
*150. Here some important directives are addressed to the Prophet (peace be on him) regarding how he should preach the Message of Islam and how he should guide and reform people. The object of these directives is not merely to instruct the Prophet (peace be on him), but also to instruct all those who would shoulder the same responsibility after the Prophet (peace be on him) was no longer amidst them. The major directives are as follows:
(1) The most important qualities that must be cultivated by anyone who calls others to the truth are tenderness, magnanimity, and forbearing. Such a person should also have the capacity to tolerate the lapses of his companions and to patiently endure the excesses of his opponents. He should also be able to keep his cool in the face of grave provocation and gracefully connive at the offensive behaviour of others. In facing the angry words, slander, persecution and mischief of his opponents, he should exercise the utmost self-restraint. Harshness, severity, bitterness. and vindictive provocativeness on his part are bound to undermine his mission. The same point seems to have been made in a Hadith in which the Prophet (peace be on him) says that he has been commanded by his Lord: '...to say the just word whether I am angry, or pleased; to maintain ties with nim who severs ties with me; and to give to him who denies me (my right); and to forgive him who wrongs me.' (See the comments of Qurtubi in his Tafsir on the verse - Ed.) The Prophet (peace be on him) also instructed all those whom he deputized for preaching: 'Give good news rather than arouse revulsion: make things easy rather than hard.' (Muslim, Kitab al-Ilm, Bab fi al-amr bi al-Taysir wa Tark al-Ta'sir'- Ed.) This distinguishing feature of the Prophet's personality has also been mentioned in the Qur'an.
It was thanks to Allah's mercy that you were gentle to them. Had you been rough, hard-hearted, they would surely have scattered away, from you (AI 'Imran 3: 159).
(2) The second key to the success in da'wah work is to stay away from excessive theorizing and intellectual hair-splitting. One should rather call people in clear and simple terms to those virtues which are recognized as such by the generality of mankind and appeal to common sense. The great advantage of this method is that the Message of Islam finds its way right to the hearts of people at all levels of understanding. Those who then seek to oppose the Message are soon exposed and end up antagonizing the common people. For when the common people obserse on the one hand decent and righteous people being opposed for the simple reason that they are inviting people to universally-known virtues, and on the other hand observe those opponents resorting to all kinds of immoral and inhuman means, they are bound to incline to support the standard bearers of truth and righteousness. This process goes on until a point where the only opponents left are those whose self-interest is inextricably linked with the prevailing unrighteous system, or those's who have been totally blinded by their bigoted adherence to ancestral tradition or by their irrational biases.
The wisdom underlying the Prophet's method accounts for his phenomenal success and for the speedy spread of Islam in and around Arabia within a short span of time. People flocked to Islam in vast numbers so much so that in some lands eighty and ninety per cent of the population embraced Islam. In fact there are even instances of a hundred per cent of the population embracing Islam.
(3) The interest of the Islamic mission requires, on the one hand, that righteousness should be enjoined on those who have the propensity to become righteous. On the other hand, it also requires that those who are overly insistent in their adherence to falsehood, should be left alone, and that their acts of provocation be ignored. Those who seek to spread Islam should confine their efforts to persuading only those who are prepared to consider the Message of Islam in
reasonable manner. When someone becomes altogether unreasonable and quarrelsome, and resorts to indecent methods of taunting and reviling Islam, Muslims should simply refuse to become adversative. For all the time and effort devoted to reforming such people will be totally wasted.
(4) The moment the proponent of the Islamic Message feels that he is being provoked by the excesses, mischief, and uncalled-for objections and accusation, he should realize that he is being influenced by Satan. In such a situation he should immediately seek refuge with God, and restrain himself lest his impulsiveness damage his cause. The cause of Islam can be served only by those who act cool-headedly. Only those steps are appropriate which have been taken after due consideration rather than under the influence of impulse and emotion. Satan, however, is ever on the look-out for opportunities to sabotage the efforts made in the cause of Islam. He, therefore, ensures that those who are working for the Islamic cause are subjected to unjust and mischievous attacks from their opponents. The purpose underlying this is to provoke the workers for the cause of Islam to engage in the senseless and harmful task of mounting counter-attacks against their opponents.
The appeal that Satan makes to those well-meaning, religious people is often couched in religious phraseology and is backed up by religious argument. But the fact is that those counter-attacks are undertaken merely under the impulse of man's lower self. The last two verses, therefore, make it clear that those who are God-fearing are always very sensitive to provocations under the impulse of Satan, and as soon as they become aware of such a provocation, they promote the best interests of the cause of truth rather than satisfy their vengeful feelings. As for those who are driven by egotistical impulses, they succumb to the promptings of Satan and are eventually set on an erroneous path. They fall victim to Satan, act virtually as his puppet, and subsequently their degradation knows no limit. They pay their opponents back in the same coin, tit for tat.
What has been said above also has another import. It seeks to remind the God-fearing that their ways should be perceptibly different from the ways of those who do not fear God. The God-fearing not only avoid evil, but the very idea of committing it pricks their conscience and rankles their hearts. They have an instinctive revulsion against evil, a revulsion similar to what a cleanliness-loving man feels at the sight of a big stain or a splash of filth on his clothes. This feeling causes the God-fearing to remove every stain of evil. Quite contrary are those who have no fear of God, who have no desire to stay away from evil and who are in harmony with the ways of Satan. Such people are always given to evil thoughts and wrong-doing.

 
وَإِذَا لَمْ تَأْتِهِم بِآيَةٍ قَالُواْ لَوْلاَ اجْتَبَيْتَهَا قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَتَّبِعُ مَا يِوحَى إِلَيَّ مِن رَّبِّي هَـذَا بَصَآئِرُ مِن رَّبِّكُمْ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ﴿7:203﴾ 
(7:203) [O Prophet!] When you do not produce before them any miracle, they say: 'Why do you not choose for yourself a miracle?' *151 Say to them: 'I follow only what is revealed to me by my Lord. This is nothing but a means of insight into the truth, and guidance and mercy from your Lord to the people who believe. *152
*151. This question is a taunt rather than a simple query. What the utterance implies is that if the claim to prophethood is genuine, it should have been supported by some miracle. The next verse contains a fitting rejoinder to the taunt.
*152. The Prophet (peace be on him) is being made to tell his opponents in clear terms that he has no power to get whatever he wants. Being God's Messenger, he is required to follow the directives of the One Who has sent him and has granted him the Qur'an which has the light of guidance. The major characteristic of this Book is that those who seek guidance from it do indeed find the right way. The moral excellence visible in the lives of those people who accept the Qur'an is testimony to the fact that they have been blessed with God's mercy.
 
وَإِذَا قُرِىءَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُواْ لَهُ وَأَنصِتُواْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ﴿7:204﴾ 
(7:204) So when the Qur'an is recited, listen carefully to it, and keep silent so that you may, be shown mercy.' *153
*153. The unbelievers are asked to shed their prejudice and to abandon their deliberate indifference to the Qur'an. Whenever the Qur'an is recited to them, they stuff their fingers into their ears and make a lot of noise lest they or any others hear the Qur'an. They should better behave more maturely and make an effort to grasp the teachings of the Qur'an. It is quite likely that their study, of the Book would ultimately make them share with Muslims the blessings of the Qur'an. This is an excellent, subtle and heart-winning approach which simply cannot be over-praised. Those who are interested in learning the art of effective preaching can benefit immensely by, pondering over this Qur'anic verse.
The main purpose of the verse has also been explained. By implication, however, the verse also enjoins people to be silent and to listen attentively to the Qur'an when it is being recited. The verse also provides the basis of the rule that when the leader (imam) is reciting verses of the Qur'an in Prayer, the followers in the congregation should (refrain from reciting and) listen to the recitation in silence. There is some disagreement among scholars on this issue. Abu Hanifah and his disciples are of the view that the followers in the congregation should remain silent, irrespective of whether the the imam is reciting the Qur'an aloud or silently in his mind. On the other hand, Malik and Ahmad b. Hanbal are of the opinion that the followers in the congregation should listen silently only when the Qur'an is being recited aloud. According to Shafi'i, the followers in the congrega tion should also recite the Qur'an regardless of whether the imam is reciting the Qur'an aloud or silently'. His view is based on the Hadith that Prayer without recitation of al-Fatihah is void. (See Ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid, vol. 1, pp. 149-50; Ibn Qudamah, al-Mughni, vol. 1, pp. 562-9 - Ed.)
 
وَاذْكُر رَّبَّكَ فِي نَفْسِكَ تَضَرُّعاً وَخِيفَةً وَدُونَ الْجَهْرِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالآصَالِ وَلاَ تَكُن مِّنَ الْغَافِلِينَ﴿7:205﴾ 
(7:205) And remember [O Prophet] your Lord in your mind, with humility and fear, and without raising your voice; remember Him in the morning and evening, and do not become of those who are negligent. *154
*154. The command to remember the Lord signifies remembrance in Prayer as well as otherwise, be it verbally or in one's mind. Again the directive to remember God in the morning and in the evening refers to Prayer at those times as well as remembering God at all times. The purpose of so saying is to emphasis constant remembrance of God. This admonition - that man ought to remember God always - constitutes the conclusion of the discourse lest man becomes heedless of God. For every error and corruption stems from the fact that man tends to forget that God is his Lord and that in his own part he is merely, a servant of God who is being tested in the world; that he will be made to render, after his death, a full account to his Lord of all his deeds. All those who care to follow, righteousness would, therefore, be ill-advised not to let these basic facts slip out of their minds. Hence Prayer, remembrance of God and keeping ones attention ever focused on God are frequently stressed in the Qur'an.
 
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ عِندَ رَبِّكَ لاَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِهِ وَيُسَبِّحُونَهُ وَلَهُ يَسْجُدُونَ﴿7:206﴾ 
(7:206) [The angels] who are near to Your Lord, never turn away irom His service out of arrogance; *155 they rather glorify Him *156 and prostrate themselves before Him. *157
*155. It is Satan who behaves arrogantly and disdains to worship God, and such an attitude naturally brings about degradation and abasement. But an attitude marked by consistent surrender to God characterizes angels and leads people to spiritual elevation and proximity to God. Those interested in attaining this state should emulate the angels and refrain from following the ways of Satan.
*156. To celebrate God's praise signifies that the angels acknowledge and constantly affirm that God is beyond any flaw, free from every defect, error and weakness; that He has no partner or peer; that none is like Him.
*157. Whoever recites or hears this verse should fall in prostration so as to emulate the practice of angels. In addition. prostration also proves that one has no shred of pride, nor is one averse to the duty of being subservient to God.
In all, there are fourteen verses in the Qur'an the recitation of which requires one to prostrate. That one should prostrate on reading or hearing these verses is, in principle, an incontrovertible point. There is, however, some disagreement about it being obligatory (wajib). Abu Hanifah regards it as obligatory, while other authorities consider it to be recommended (Ibn Qudamah, Al-Mughni, vol. 1. p. 663; Al-Jaziri, Kitab al-Fiqh 'ala al Madhahib al-arba'ah, vol. 1. p. 464 - Ed.) According to traditions, while reciting the Qur'an in large gatherings, when the Prophet (peace be on him) came upon a verse the recitation of which calls for prostration, he prostrated, and the whole gathering followed suit. The traditions mention that sometimes some people did not have room to prostrate. Such people prostrated on the backs of others. (See Bukhari, Abwab sujud al-Quran 'Bab Izdiham al-Nas Idh'a qara'a al-Imam al-Sajdah'- Ed.) It is reported in connection with the conquest of Makka that in the course of the Qur'an-recitation, as the Prophet (peace be on him) read such a verse, those standing fell into prostration while those who were mounted on horses and camels performed prostration in that very state. It is also on record that while delivering a sermon from the pulpit the Prophet (peace be on him) came down from the pulpit to offer prostration, and resumed his sermon thereafter. (Abu da'ud, Kitab al-Salah, 'Bab al-Sujud fi Sad' - Ed.)
It is generally, believed that the conditions for this kind of prostration are exactly the same as required for offering Prayer - that one should be in a state of ritual purity, that one should be facing the Ka'bah, and that the prostration should be performed as in the state of Prayer. However, the traditions we have been able to find in the relevant sections of the Hadith collection do not specifically mention these conditions. It thus appears that one may perform prostration, irrespective of whether one fulfils these conditions or not. This view is corroborated by the practice of some of the early authorities. Bukhari, for instance, reports about 'Abd Allah b. 'Urnar that he used to perform prostration even though he would have required ablution if he wanted to perform Prayer. (See Bukhari, Abwab Sujud al-Quran, 'Bab Sujud al-Muslimin ma' al-Mushrikin'- Ed.) Likewise, it has been mentioned in Fath al-Bari about 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami that if he was reciting the Qur'an while moving, and he recited a verse calling for prostration, he would simply bow his head (rather than make full prostration). And he would do that even when he was required to make ablution for Prayer, and regardless of whether he was facing the Ka'bah or not.
In our view, therefore, while it is preferable to follow the general opinion of the scholars on the question, it would not be blameworthy if someone deviates from that opinion. The reason for this is that the general opinion of the scholars on this question is not supported by well-established Sunnah, and there are instances of deviation from it on the part of the early authorities.