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Friday, 04 May 2018

Surat Al-A’Raf/The Heights (The Wall with Elevations) 7 Meccan- Ayats 206- Section Six- Verses from 74-86


And remember how He made you successors/ inheritors after ‘Ad people, and gave you habitations in the land; you build for yourselves palaces and castles in the open plains, and carve out homes in the mountains. So bring to remembrance the graces (benefits you have received) from God, so refrain from evil and do not go about making mischief on the earth”. (74)

وَاذْكُرُوا إِذْ جَعَلَكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ مِنْ بَعْدِ عَادٍ وَبَوَّأَكُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ تَتَّخِذُونَ مِنْ سُهُولِهَا قُصُورًا وَتَنْحِتُونَ الْجِبَالَ بُيُوتًا فَاذْكُرُوا آَلَاءَ اللَّهِ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ (74)

The leaders of the arrogant party among his people said to those who reckoned weak and powerless –those among them who believed:” Do you know indeed that Salih is an Apostles from his Lord?”. They said:”We indeed believe in the revelation which has been sent through him.” (75)

قَالَ الْمَلَأُ الَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا مِنْ قَوْمِهِ لِلَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا لِمَنْ آَمَنَ مِنْهُمْ أَتَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ صَالِحًا مُرْسَلٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ قَالُوا إِنَّا بِمَا أُرْسِلَ بِهِ مُؤْمِنُونَ (75)

The arrogant party said:”Verily, for our party we reject and disbelieve in what you believe.” (76) 

قَالَ الَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا إِنَّا بِالَّذِي آَمَنْتُمْ بِهِ كَافِرُونَ (76)

So they ham-strung the she-camel, and insolently defied the order/commandment of their Lord, and said:”O’ Salih! Bring about your threats if you are indeed one of the Messengers of God!”. (77)

فَعَقَرُوا النَّاقَةَ وَعَتَوْا عَنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّهِمْ وَقَالُوا يَا صَالِحُ ائْتِنَا بِمَا تَعِدُنَا إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (77)

So the earthquake seized them unaware, and they lay (became dead) prostrate in their homes (In the morning). (78)

فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ الرَّجْفَةُ فَأَصْبَحُوا فِي دَارِهِمْ جَاثِمِينَ (78)

Then Salih turned away and left them and said:”O’ my people! I indeed have conveyed to you the Message for which I was sent by my Lord; and I have given you good counsel, but you do not love good counselors!” (79)

فَتَوَلَّى عَنْهُمْ وَقَالَ يَا قَوْمِ لَقَدْ أَبْلَغْتُكُمْ رِسَالَةَ رَبِّي وَنَصَحْتُ لَكُمْ وَلَكِنْ لَا تُحِبُّونَ النَّاصِحِينَ (79)

And (remember) Lut/Lot: when he said to his people:” Do you commit lewdness, the worst sin such as none in creation preceding you (ever) have committed before you?” (80)

وَلُوطًا إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ أَتَأْتُونَ الْفَاحِشَةَ مَا سَبَقَكُمْ بِهَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ مِنَ الْعَالَمِينَ (80)

“Verily, you practice your lusts on men in preference to women; you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” (81)

إِنَّكُمْ لَتَأْتُونَ الرِّجَالَ شَهْوَةً مِنْ دُونِ النِّسَاءِ بَلْ أَنْتُمْ قَوْمٌ مُسْرِفُونَ (81)

And his people gave no answer but this, they said:” drive them out of your city/town/village; these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure (from sin)”. (82) 

وَمَا كَانَ جَوَابَ قَوْمِهِ إِلَّا أَنْ قَالُوا أَخْرِجُوهُمْ مِنْ قَرْيَتِكُمْ إِنَّهُمْ أُنَاسٌ يَتَطَهَّرُونَ (82)

Then We saved him and his family; except his wife, she was of those who lagged behind (remained in the torment). (83)

فَأَنْجَيْنَاهُ وَأَهْلَهُ إِلَّا امْرَأَتَهُ كَانَتْ مِنَ الْغَابِرِينَ (83)

And We rained down on them a shower (of Brimstone); then see what was the end of those who are indulged in sin and crime. (84)   

وَأَمْطَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ مَطَرًا فَانْظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُجْرِمِينَ (84)

And to the Madyan/Midian people; We sent Shu’aib –one of their own brethren- he said:”O’ my people! Worship God; you have no other god but Him! Verily, now has come to you a clear Sign from your Lord! Give just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people the things that are their due; and do not mischief on the earth after it has been set in order; that will be best for you, if you have Faith and believers”. (85)

وَإِلَى مَدْيَنَ أَخَاهُمْ شُعَيْبًا قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَهٍ غَيْرُهُ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُمْ بَيِّنَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ فَأَوْفُوا الْكَيْلَ وَالْمِيزَانَ وَلَا تَبْخَسُوا النَّاسَ أَشْيَاءَهُمْ وَلَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بَعْدَ إِصْلَاحِهَا ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (85)

“ and do not squat on every road, breathing threats, hindering from the path of God those who believed in Him, and seeking in it something crooked. But remember how you were little and few, and He increased and multiplied you. And hold in your mind’s eye what was the end of those who did mischief.” (86)  

وَلَا تَقْعُدُوا بِكُلِّ صِرَاطٍ تُوعِدُونَ وَتَصُدُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ مَنْ آَمَنَ بِهِ وَتَبْغُونَهَا عِوَجًا وَاذْكُرُوا إِذْ كُنْتُمْ قَلِيلًا فَكَثَّرَكُمْ وَانْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُفْسِدِينَ (86)



(Verses 74-75-76-77) A/ As usually happens in such cases, the believers were the lowly and the humble, and the oppressors were the arrogant, who in selfishly keeping back nature’s gifts (which are God’s gifts) from the people, were deaf to the dictates of justice and kindness. Salih took the side of the unprivileged, and was therefore himself attacked. B/ Notice the relation between the question and the answer. The godless chiefs wanted to discredit Salih, and put a personal question –as much to say-, “Is he not a liar?”. The believers took back the issue to the higher plane, as much to say:”We know he is a man of God, but look at the justice for which he is making a stand: to resist it is to resist God.” The answer of the godless was to reject God in words, an in action to commit a further act of cruelty and injustice in ham-stringing and killing the she-camel, at the same time hurling defiance at Salih and his God.

(Verse 78)- The retribution was not long delayed. A terrible earthquake came and buried the people and destroyed their boasted civilization. The calamity must have been fairly extensive in area and intense in the terror it inspired, for it is described -in Surat Al-Qamar 54 verse 31 as a Single Mighty blast {Saihatan Wahidatanصيحة واحدة-}, the sort of terror-inspiring noise which accompanies all big earthquakes.

(Verse 79) Salih was saved by God’s Mercy as a just and righteous man. His speech here may be either a parting warning, or it may be a soliloquy lamenting the destruction of his people for their sin and folly.

(Verses 80-81)- Lut/Lot is the Lot of the English Bible. His story is biblical, but freed from some shameful features which are a blot on the biblical narrative (e.g. see Gen, xix. 30-36). He was a nephew of Abraham, and was sent as an Apostle and Warner to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah –cities utterly destroyed for their unspeakable sins. They cannot be exactly located, but it may be supposed that they were somewhere in the plain east of the Dead Sea. The story of their destruction is told in the 19th chapter of Genesis. Two angles in the shape of handsome young men came to Lot in the evening and became his guests by night. The inhabitants of Sodom in their lust for unnatural crime invaded Lot’s house but were repulsed. In the morning, the angels warned Lot to escape with his family. “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Gen. xix. 24-26). Note that Lot’s people are the people to whom he is sent on a mission. He was not one of their own brethren, as was Salih or Shu’aib. But he looked upon his people as his brethren (see Surat Qaf 50 verse 13), as a man of God always does.

(Verse 82)- An instance of withering sarcasm that hardened sinners use against the righteous. They wound with words, and follow up the insult with deeds of injustice, thinking that they would bring the righteous into disgrace. But God looks after His own, and in the end, the wicked themselves are overthrown when the cup of their iniquity is full.

(Verse 83)- In the biblical narrative she looks back, a physical act (as explained before): here she is a type of those who lag behind, i.e. whose mental and moral attitude –in spite of their association with the righteous- is to hark back to the glitter of wickedness and sin. The righteous should have one sole objective;- the Way of God. They should not look behind, nor yet to the right or the left.

(Verse 84)- The shower expressly stated in Surat Hud 11 verse 82 to have been stones, in Surat Al-Hijr 15 verses 73-74, we are told that there was a terrible blast or noise (Saihaصيحة-) in addition to the shower of stones. Taking these passages into consideration along with Gen. xix 24, I think it is legitimate to translate it:”A SHOWER OF BRIMSTONE”.

Verse 85) A/ “ Madyan” may be identified with “Midian”. Midian and the Midianites are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, though the particular incident here mentioned belongs to Arab than rather to Jewish tradition. The Midianites were of Arab race, though –as neighbors of the Canaanites- they probably intermixed with them. They were a wandering tribe; it was Midianites merchants to whom Joseph was sold into slavery, and who took him to Egypt. Their principal territory in the time of Moses was in the north-east of the Sinai Peninsula, and east of the Amalekites. Under Moses of the Israelites waged a war of extermination against them; they slew the kings of Midian, slaughtered all the males, burnet their cities and castles, and captured their cattle (Num. xxxi. 7-11). This sounds like total extermination. Yet a few generations afterwards, they were so powerful that the Israelites for their sins were delivered into the captivity of the Midianites for seven years; both the Midianites and their camels were without number; and the Israelites hid from them in “dens, caves, and strong holds” (Judges vii. 1-6). Gideon destroyed them again , (Judges vii. 1-25), say about two centuries after Moses. As the decisive battle was near the hill of Moreh, not far south of Mount Tabor, we may localize the Midianites on this occasion in the northern parts of the Jordan valley, at least 200 miles north of the Sinai Peninsula. This and the previous destruction under Moses were local, and mention no town of Midian. In later times there was a town of Madyan on the east side of the Gulf of Aqaba. It is mentioned in Josephus, Eusebius, and Ptolemy: {Encyclopedia of Islam). Then it disappears from geography. In Muslim times it was a revived town with quite different kind of population, but it never flourished. The Midianites disappeared from history. B/ Shu’aib belongs to Arab rather than to Jewish tradition, to which he is unknown. His identification with Jethro –the father-in-law to Moses- has no warrant, and I reject it. There is no similarity either in names or incidents, and there are chronological difficulties –as to be explained later. If –as the commentators tell us- Shu’aib was in the fourth generation from Abraham, being a great-grandson of Madyan (a son of Abraham), he would be only about a century from the time of Abraham, whereas the Hebrew Bible would give us a period of to six centuries between Abraham and Moses. The mere fact that Jethro was a Midianites and that another name –Hobab- is mentioned for a father-in-law of Moses in Num. x.29, is slender ground for identification. As the Midianites were mainly a nomad tribe, we need not be surprised that their destruction in one or two settlements did not affect their life in wandering sections of the tribe in other geographical regions. Shu’aib’s mission was apparently in one of the settled towns of the Midianites , which was completely destroyed by an earthquake (Verse 91). If this happened in the century after Abraham, there is no difficulty in supposing that they were again a numerous tribe three or five centuries later, in the time of Moses. As they were a mixed wandering tribe, both their resilience and their eventual absorption can be easily understood. But the destruction of the settlement or settlements (see Surat Al-Hijr 15 verse 78 –the companions of the Wood = Aika is a separate settlement) to which Shu’aib was sent to preach was complete, and no traces of it now remain. The name of the highest mountain of Yemen , Al-Nabi Shu’aib (جبل النبى شعيب11,000 ft.) has probably no connection with the geographical territory of the nomad Midianites, unless we suppose that their wanderings extended so far south from the territories mentioned in the last note.

(Verse 86)- The Midianites were in the path of a commercial highway of Asia, i.e. that between two such opulent and highway organized nations as Egypt and the Mesopotamian group comprising Assyria and Babylonia. Their besetting sins are thus characterized here: (1) giving short measure or weight, whereas the strictest commercial probity is necessary for success: (2) a more general form of such fraud, depriving people of their rightful dues: (3) producing mischief and disorder, where peace and order had been established (again in a literal as well as a metaphorical sense): (4) not content with upsetting settled life, taking to highway robbery, literally as well as: (5) metaphorically, in two ways; i.e. cutting off people from access to the worship of God, and abusing religion and piety for crooked purposes, such exploiting religion itself for their crooked ends, as when a man builds houses of prayer out of unlawful gains or ostentatiously gives charity out of money which he has obtained by force or fraud, etc       After setting out this catalogue of besetting sins Shu’aib makes two appeals to the past: (1) you began as an insignificant tribe, and by God’s favor you increased and multiplied in numbers and resources; do you not then owe a duty to God to fulfill His Law? (2) what was the result in the case of those who fell into sin? Will you not take warning by their example? So Shu’aib began his argument with faith in God as the source of all virtue, and ended it with destruction as the result of all sin. In the next verse he pleads with them to end their controversies and come to God.