Tuesday, July 30, 2013
TAFSIR -L-QUR'AN 018 - Towards understanding your Creator
Tafsir Ibn Kathir In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. ﴿سُبْحَانَ الَّذِى أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الاْقْصَى الَّذِى بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ ءايَـتِنَآ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ البَصِيرُ-﴾ (1. Glorified be He Who took His servant for a Journey by Night from Al-Masjid Al-Haram to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, the neighborhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him of Our Ayat. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.) Allah glorifies Himself, for His ability to do that which none but He can do, for there is no God but He and no Lord besides Him. ﴿الَّذِى أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ﴾ (Who took His servant for a Journey) refers to Muhammad ﴿لَيْلاً﴾ (by Night) means, in the depths of the night. ﴿مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ﴾ (from Al-Masjid Al-Haram) means the Masjid in Makkah. ﴿إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الاٌّقْصَى﴾ (to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa,) means the Sacred House which is in Jerusalem, the origin of the Prophets from the time of Ibrahim Al-Khalil. The Prophets all gathered there, and he (Muhammad ) led them in prayer in their own homeland. This indicates that he is the greatest leader of all, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and upon them. ﴿الَّذِى بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ﴾ (the neighborhood whereof We have blessed) means, its agricultural produce and fruits are blessed ﴿لِنُرِيَهُ﴾ (in order that We might show him), i.e., Muhammad ﴿مِنْ ءَايَـتِنَا﴾ (of Our Ayat.) i.e., great signs. As Allah says: ﴿لَقَدْ رَأَى مِنْ ءَايَـتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَى ﴾ (Indeed he did see of the greatest signs, of his Lord (Allah).) (53:18) We will mention below what was narrated in the Sunnah concerning this. ﴿إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ البَصِيرُ﴾ (Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.) means, He hears all the words of His servants, believers and disbelievers, faithful and infidel, and He sees them and gives each of them what he deserves in this world and the Hereafter. Hadiths about Al-Isra' Imam Ahmad reported from Anas bin Malik that the Messenger of Allah said: (Al-Buraq was brought to me, and it was a white animal bigger than a donkey and smaller than a mule. One stride of this creature covered a distance as far as it could see. I rode on it and it took me to Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), where I tethered it at the hitching post of the Prophets. Then I entered and prayed two Rak`ahs there, and came out. Jibril brought me a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk, and I chose the milk. Jibril said: `You have chosen the Fitrah (natural instinct).' Then I was taken up to the first heaven and Jibril asked for it to be opened. It was said, `Who are you' He said, `Jibril.' It was said, `Who is with you' He said, `Muhammad.' It was asked, `Has his Mission started' He said, `His Mission has started.' So it was opened for us, and there I saw Adam, who welcomed me and prayed for good for me. Then I was taken up to the second heaven and Jibril asked for it to be opened. It was said, `Who are you' He said, `Jibril.' It was said, `Who is with you' He said, `Muhammad.' It was asked, `Has his Mission started' He said, `His Mission has started.' So it was opened for us, and there I saw the two maternal cousins, Yahya and `Isa, who welcomed me and prayed for good for me. Then I was taken up to the third heaven and Jibril asked for it to be opened. It was said, `Who are you' He said, `Jibril.' It was said, `Who is with you' He said, `Muhammad.' It was asked, `Has his Mission started' He said, `His Mission has started.' So it was opened for us, and there I saw Yusuf, who had been given the beautiful half. He welcomed me and prayed for good for me. Then I was taken up to the fourth heaven and Jibril asked for it to be opened. It was said, `Who are you' He said, `Jibril.' It was said, `Who is with you' He said, `Muhammad.' It was asked, `Has his Mission started' He said, `His Mission has started.' So it was opened for us, and there I saw Idris, who welcomed me and prayed for good for me. - then (the Prophet ) said: Allah says: ﴿وَرَفَعْنَاهُ مَكَاناً عَلِيّاً ﴾ (And We raised him to a high station) (19:57).: «لَقَدْ رَجَعْتُ إِلى رَبِّي حَتَّى اسْتَحْيَيْت» ﴿Then he resumed his narrative:﴾ (Then I was taken up to the fifth heaven and Jibril asked for it to be opened. It was said, `Who are you' He said, `Jibril.' It was said, `Who is with you' He said, `Muhammad.' It was asked, `Has his Mission started' He said, `His Mission has started.' So it was opened for us, and there I saw Harun, who welcomed me and prayed for good for me. Then I was taken up to the sixth heaven and Jibril asked for it to be opened. It was said, `Who are you' He said, `Jibril. It was said, `Who is with you' He said, `Muhammad.' It was asked, `Has his Mission started' He said, `His Mission has started.' So it was opened for us, and there I saw Musa, who welcomed me and prayed for good for me. Then I was taken up to the seventh heaven and Jibril asked for it to be opened. It was said, `Who are you' He said, `Jibril.' It was said, `Who is with you' He said, `Muhammad.' It was asked, `Has his Mission started' He said, `His Mission has started.' So it was opened for us, and there I saw Ibrahim, who was leaning back against the Much-Frequented House (Al-Bayt Al-Ma`mur). Every day seventy thousand angels enter it, then they never come back to it again. Then I was taken to Sidrat Al-Muntaha (the Lote tree beyond which none may pass), and its leaves were like the leaves ﴿ears﴾ of elephants and its fruits were like jugs, and when it was veiled with whatever it was veiled with by the command of Allah, it changed, and none of the creatures of Allah can describe it because it is so beautiful. Then Allah revealed that which He revealed to me. He enjoined on me fifty prayers every day and night. I came down until I reached Musa, and he said, `What did your Lord enjoin on your Ummah' I said, `Fifty prayers everyday and night.' He said, `Go back to your Lord and ask Him to reduce (the burden) for your Ummah, for your Ummah will not be able to do that. I tested the Children of Israel and found out how they were.' So I went back to my Lord and said, `O Lord, reduce (the burden) for my Ummah for they will never be able to do that.' So He reduced it by five. I came back down until I met Musa and he asked me, `What did you do' I said, `(My Lord) reduced (my burden) by five.' He said, `Go back to your Lord and ask Him to reduce (the burden) for your Ummah.' I kept going back between my Lord and Musa, and (my Lord) reduced it by five each time, until He said, `O Muhammad, these are five prayers every day and night, and for every prayer there is (the reward of) ten, so they are (like) fifty prayers. Whoever wants to do something good then does not do it, one good deed will be recorded for him, and if he does it, ten good deeds will be recorded for him. Whoever wants to do something evil and does not do it, no evil deed will be recorded for him, and if he does it, one evil deed will be recorded for him.' I came down until I reached Musa, and told him about this. He said: `Go back to your Lord and ask him to reduce (the burden) for your Ummah, for they will never be able to do that.' I had kept going back to my Lord until I felt too shy.) This version was also recorded by Muslim. Imam Ahmad recorded Anas saying that Al-Buraq was brought to the Prophet on the Night of the Isra' with his saddle and reins ready for riding. The animal shied, and Jibril said to him: "Why are you doing this By Allah, no one has ever ridden you who is more honored by Allah than him.'' At this, Al-Buraq started to sweat. This was also recorded by At-Tirmidhi, who said it is Gharib. Ahmad also recorded that Anas said: "The Messenger of Allah said: (When I was taken up to my Lord (during Al-Mi'raj), I passed by people who had nails of copper with which they were scratching their faces and chests. I asked, `Who are these, O Jibril' He said, `These are those who ate the flesh of the people ﴿i.e., backbiting﴾ and slandered their honor.') This was also recorded by Abu Dawud. Anas also said that the Messenger of Allah said: Imam Ahmad recorded that Jabir bin `Abdullah said that he heard the Messenger of Allah say: (When Quraysh did not believe that I had been taken on the Night Journey to Bayt Al-Maqdis, I stood up in Al-Hijr and Allah displayed Bayt Al-Maqdis before me, so I told them about its features while I was looking at it.) This was also reported in the Two Sahihs with different chains of narration. According to Al-Bayhaqi, Ibn Shihab said: Abu Salamah bin `Abdur-Rahman said: Some people from Quraish went to Abu Bakr and said, "Have you heard what your companion is saying He is claiming that he went to Bayt Al-Maqdis and came back to Makkah in one night!'' Abu Bakr said, "Did he say that'' They said, "Yes.'' Abu Bakr said, "Then I bear witness that if he said that, he is speaking the truth.'' They said, "You believe that he went to Ash-Sham ﴿Greater Syria﴾ in one night and came back to Makkah before morning'' He said, "Yes, I believe him with regard to something even more than that. I believe him with regard to the revelation that comes to him from heaven.'' Abu Salamah said, from then on Abu Bakr was known as As-Siddiq (the true believer). Fizilaal Qur’an A Unique Journey The sūrah begins with glorifying God, the most fitting action to confirm the bond between God and His servants in the atmosphere of compassion and friendliness imparted by the mention of the night journey: Limitless in His glory is He who transported His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque [in Makkah] to the Aqşā Mosque [in Jerusalem] — the environs of which We have blessed — so that We might show him some of Our signs. Indeed He alone is the One who hears all and sees all. ( Qur’an 17: 1 ) The sūrah emphasizes the position of man as God’s servant: “He who transported His servant by night...” The emphasis here is needed in the context of the Prophet’s ascension to heaven where no human being had gone before. It is important in this context that the status of man’s servitude to God should always be remembered. There must be no confusion of status similar to that which happened in the case of Jesus on account of his birth, his being raised to heaven at the end of his life on earth, and the powers which were given to him during life. All these caused some people to confuse his status and to claim that he had a divine nature. In its simplicity and purity, Islam insists that no similarity could ever exist between God and any creature. The Arabic text of this opening verse uses the verb, asrā, which denotes‘travelling during the night’. It is sufficient then to use this verb to denote the time of the action. Yet the verse adds the phrase, laylan, or ‘by night’, to give an added sense of the still night and the ease of travel. The journey from the Sacred Mosque to the Aqşā Mosque was one chosen by God, the Compassionate who knows everything. It provided a link between all monotheistic faiths from the time of Abraham and Ishmael to the time of the last Prophet, Muĥammad (peace be upon them all). It also established a link between the holy places in all these religions. It seems that this unusual journey served as an announcement that the last Messenger was the heir to the heritage of all former messengers. His message staked a claim to all these holy places. Thus it becomes a journey that goes beyond the scope of time and place.The opening verse describes the Aqşā Mosque as one with blessed environs. This description shows the blessings surrounding the mosque and flowing in abundance. This impression could not have been given with a direct description such as ‘the mosque which we have blessed.’ This is another example of the refined use of language characteristic of the Qur’ān. The Prophet’s night journey was a telling sign, and it was accompanied by others, as the opening verse says in stating its purpose, “so that We might show him some ofOur signs.” Covering the distance between the Sacred Mosque in Makkah and the Aqşā Mosque in Jerusalem, in a very short period that did not allow the Prophet’s bed to become cold, is a sign of God’s power, whatever the means used to accomplish it. It opens our minds to new horizons in the universe and reveals latent potentials within mankind. It shows that those human beings chosen by God to be the bearers of His message have the latent ability to receive whatever greater powers God wishes to give them. It is God who has honoured man, giving him a favoured position among His creation, and endowed him with such potentials. “He alone is the One who hears all and sees all.” (Verse 1) He indeed hears and sees all that is beyond the reach of our hearing and seeing faculties. It is especially impressive that the opening verse of this sūrah starts with glorifying God, “Limitless in His glory is He who transported His servant by night”. After defining the purpose of this journey, it finishes with highlighting two of God’s attributes, perfect hearing and seeing that encompass all things. This quick movement across purposes reflects the finest points of the expression used. The glorification is addressed to God Himself, and the statement about the purpose of the night journey comes from Him, while the description of God’s powers is made in the form of an indisputable statement. All these forms are combined in one verse so as to give their different imports. TAFHIM L QUR’AN سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آَيَاتِنَا إِنَّه هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ ﴿1﴾17:1) (17:1) Glory be to Him, Who transported His Servant one night from the Masjid-i-Haram to the distant Temple, whose surroundings We have blessed, so that we might show him some of Our Sings: *1 the fact is that He alone is All-Hearing and All-Seeing. In this verse, the Qur'an mentions only a part of the Journey, i.e., from Masjid-i-Haram to the Temple at Jerusalem. The object of this journey as stated here was that Allah willed to show His servant some of His signs. The Qur'an does not give any details other than this but we find further details in the traditions, which are to this effect: One night the Angel Jibril transported the Holy Prophet on al-Buraq from Masjid-i-Haram to Masjid-i-Aqsa (the Temple). There the Holy Prophet offered his prayers along with the other Prophets. Then he took him towards the higher spheres, where he met some of the great Prophets in different spheres. At last he reached the Highest Place in the Heavens, and was received in audience by AIlah. It was there that besides other important instructions five daily Prayers were prescribed. Then he returned to the Temple and from there came back to Masjid-I Haram. During this Journey, according to many traditions, Paradise and Hell were shown to him. We also learn from authentic traditions that on the following day when he mentioned this event, the disbelievers of Makkah scoffed at him, and some of the Muslims also were sceptical about this. There are different versions of this Journey. Some say that this happened in a dream, while others are of the opinion that the Holy Prophet was fully awake and went on the Journey with his own physical body; some others say that it was merely a mystic vision which was shown to him. The opening words of this verse: "Glory be to Him, who transported His Servant. . . . .... " however, clearly show that it was a super-natural event which was brought about by the unlimited power of Allah. It is quite obvious that if the event had been merely a mystic vision, it would not have been introduced by the words which imply that the Being Who brought about this event is free from each and every kind of weakness and defect. Again the words "transported His servant one night" also show that this was not a dream or a vision but a physical journey in which Allah arranged that the Holy Prophet should make observation of His Signs with his physical eyes. Therefore, one is bound to admit that this was not a mere spiritual experience but a physical journey and visual observation which AIIah arranged for His Prophet. It is strange that some people are of the opinion that this extraordinary journey could not be possible, but now when man with his limited-very limited power has been able to reach the moon, it is absurd to deny that Allah with His limitless powers could enable His Messenger to make this journey in the extraordinary short time it took. Above all, the question whether a thing is possible or not, can arise only in the `case of human beings whose powers are after all limited, but such questions cannot be raised where the All-Powerful Allah is concerned. Only such a person who does not believe that Allah is able to do everything can raise objections against this wonderful Journey about which Allah Himself says that He transported His Servant one night from Masjid-i-Haram to Masjid-i-Aqsa. Likewise all the objections raised against the various details which are given in the traditions are frivolous. In regard to the Mi `raj it should be kept in view that all the Prophets were enabled by Allah to see His Signs in the heavens and the earth according to their ranks. And for this purpose all the material curtains were lifted so that they could see with their naked eyes the unseen realities, to which they were required to invite the people. This was done so that the Prophets could say with full conviction what they had seen with their own eyes. For this experience would distinguish there from a philosopher who bases all his theories on guess-work and cannot say that he bears witness to what he claims. In contrast to philosophers, Prophets could say that they bore witness to the things which they presented because they had seen them with their own eyes. Tanwīr al-Miqbās min Tafsīr Ibn 'Abbās [17:1] And from his own narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allah's saying (Glorified be): '(Glorified be) He says: He is far exalted above and exonerated from having a son or partner (He Who carried His servant) He Who took His servant Muhammad, peace be on him, (by night) at the beginning of the night (from the Inviolable Place of Worship) from the Sacred Precinct, from the house of Umm Hani' the daughter of Abu Talib (to the Far Distant Place of Worship) far in distance, but close to heaven, i.e. the Mosque of Jerusalem (the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed) with water, trees and fruits, (that We might show him) that We might show Muhammad (pbuh) (of Our tokens!) of Our marvels, for all the things He saw that night were marvels of Allah. (Lo! He, only He, is the Nearer) of what the Quraysh say, (the Seer) He sees them just as He sees His servant Muhammad (pbuh).