اِنَّا نَحۡنُ نَزَّلۡنَا الذِّکۡرَ وَ اِنَّا لَہٗ لَحٰفِظُوۡنَ ﴿۱۰﴾
إِنَّا نَحۡنُ نَزَّلۡنَا ٱلذِّكۡرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُۥ لَحَٰفِظُونَ
e. 36:70; 65:11. (close)
1482. The promise about the protection and preservation of the Qur’an made in this verse has been so remarkably fulfilled that even if there had been no other proof, this fact alone would have sufficed to establish its Divine origin. This Surah was revealed at Mecca (Noldeke) when the life of the Holy Prophet and his followers was extremely precarious and the enemy could easily crush the new Faith. It was then that disbelievers were challenged to do their worst to destroy it and were warned that God would frustrate all their designs because He Himself was its Guardian. The challenge was open and unequivocal and the enemy strong and ruthless, and yet the Qur’an remained safe against corruption and interpolation and tampering with and has ever continued to enjoy perfect security. This distinction of the Qur’an is not shared by any other revealed Book. Sir William Muir, the notoriously hostile critic of Islam, says: 'We may, upon the strongest presumption, affirm that every verse in the Qur’an is the genuine and unaltered composition of Mohammad himself… There is otherwise every security, internal and external, that we possess the text which Mohammad himself gave forth and used… To compare their pure text with the various readings of our Scriptures, is to compare things between which there is no analogy' (Introduction to 'The Life of Mohammad'). Prof. Noldeke, the great German Orientalist writes as follows: 'Efforts of European scholars to prove the existence of later interpolations in the Qur’an have failed' (Enc. Brit.). The utter failure of Dr. Mingana, a few years ago, to find fault with the purity of the Quranic text, on the contrary, set the seal on the truth of its claim that among all revealed Scriptures the Qur’an alone has remained completely immune from all interpolation or tampering with it. See "The Larger Edition of the Commentary," pp.1263-1266. (close)
b. 36:70; 65:11. (close)
This verse furnishes a powerful proof of the truth of the Quran and of its Divine origin. In fact, the promise about the preservation of the Quran made in this verse has been so remarkably fulfilled that even if there had been no other proof of the truth of Islam, this alone would have sufficed to establish its Divine origin.
Verse 8 contains the demand mockingly made by disbelievers that if the Quran were really as grand a Book as it was claimed to be, it ought to have descended under the guardianship of angels. This ridicule of disbelievers has been answered in the present verse, which emphatically says that the Quran is indeed a sublime Book and that God Himself has undertaken to act as its Guardian and that He will always protect it against every kind of corruption and interference. And in order that this promise about the protection of the Quran may gain still more force, particles expressive of special emphasis, such as انا (verily We) and نحن (Ourself) and again انا followed by ل (most surely) have been used in this verse. Thus the claim has been made in the most emphatic and forceful language.
The statement that God Himself is the Guardian of the Quran does not mean that angels do not guard it. They also do so, for when the master himself is guarding a thing, the servants must also be necessarily engaged in that service. By saying, most surely We will be its Guardian, God, however, points to the fact that there are certain peculiarities of the Quran which it is beyond the power of angels to guard and, therefore, God Himself has undertaken to do that work.
This Surah was revealed at Mecca. According to Ibn Hisham, it was revealed in the fourth year of the Holy Prophet’s ministry. Sprenger, Rodwell and Nöldeke all agree that it belongs to the Meccan period. Now it is a well-known fact that during the Meccan period, the life of the Holy Prophet and his followers was extremely precarious. They did not even know how to save themselves or where to hide themselves. For no less than three years the Prophet and his few helpless followers were virtually imprisoned in the Shi‘b (valley) of Abu Talib from where they could not venture out. They were under a ban. Is it not then astonishing that when the very lives of Muslims were in peril and the enemy was so strong that he could easily crush the new Faith, disbelievers were challenged to do all that lay in their power to destroy the Quran, and were told that God would frustrate all their designs because He Himself was its Guardian? The challenge was open and unequivocal and the enemy strong and ruthless. But what was the result? The Prophet and his Companions not only remained safe and sound but thrived and prospered and the number of converts continued to swell and the Quran remained safe against all corruption and has ever continued to enjoy perfect security. This distinctive feature of the Quran has not been shared by any other book revealed to any other Prophet.
Sir William Muir, the well-known critic of Islam, says about the Quran: "We may, upon the strongest presumption, affirm that every verse in the Quran is the genuine and unaltered composition of Mohammad himself." Again, "There is otherwise every security, internal and external, that we possess the text which Mohammad himself gave forth and used." Again, "To compare (as the Muslims are fond of doing) their pure text with the various readings of our Scriptures, is to compare things between which there is no analogy." (Introduction to "The Life of Mahomet"). Prof. Nöldeke, the great German Orientalist writes as follows: "Slight clerical errors there may have been, but the Quran of Othman contains none but genuine elements, though sometimes in very strange order. Efforts of European scholars to prove the existence of later interpolations in the Quran have failed." (Enc. Brit.). Professor Nicholson, says in his "Literary History of the Arabs": "Here (in the Quran) we have materials of unique and incontestable authority for tracing the origin and early development of Islam—such mater-ials as do not exist in the case of Buddhism or Christianity or any other ancient religion."
The importance of this security of the Quranic text is further enhanced when we compare it with other revealed Scriptures. The Quran was revealed among an illiterate people, while most other Scriptures were revealed among peoples who were comparatively more literate and therefore better qualified to preserve the purity of their Scriptures. Yet they failed to do so, while the Quran, the most widely read of all revealed Scriptures, enjoys complete immunity from all sorts of corruption. This miraculous preservation of the Quranic text is no mere accident. It has been brought about by the special providence of God in accordance with an openly declared prophecy of the Quran.
The means adopted to safeguard the purity of the text of the Quran have been briefly referred to in verse 2 in the memorable words الکتاب (the Written Book) and قرآن مبین (the Illuminating Recital) signifying: (a) That every verse of the Quran was committed to writing as soon as it was revealed and this writing was most tenaciously preserved. (b) That it was committed to memory as soon as revealed by a number of Muslims. And this pious practice has increasingly continued so much so that in the past centuries hundreds of thousands of Muslims have had the entire Quran literally on the tips of their tongues. Add to this the fact that from the very beginning of Islam the recital of parts of the Quran in the five daily Prayers was made obligatory.
The following additional factors also very materially contributed to the preservation of the Quran:
(1) God has inspired the Muslims with an extraordinary love for the Quran. They enjoy the reading of the Book even if they do not understand the meaning of the text. This leads to its being preserved in their hearts.
(2) The rhythm of the Quran is so sweet and its language so charming and so easy to learn and the construction of its sentences so beautiful that it can be committed to memory with great ease.
(3) God so ordained that immediately after the Quranic revelation became complete, it spread far and wide, to the remotest corners of the world, among all nations and all peoples, so that it became practically impossible for anyone to tamper with its text.
(4) From the beginning the Quran formed for Muslims the basis of all the sciences and learning they acquired and developed with a view to serving it. Various branches of knowledge such as Grammar, Rhetoric, History, Philosophy and Logic were cultivated and developed by Muslims for the sake of a better understanding of their holy Book.
(5) God has preserved Arabic, the language of the Quran, as a living language, while the languages of all other revealed Books, which were not meant to last forever, have become practically dead.
Again, it is not only the text of the Quran that has been preserved intact by God. He has provided for the preservation of its spirit also. This has been done by raising divinely inspired Reformers among the Muslims from time to time. These Reformers, known in Islamic terminology as Mujaddids, receive revelations from God and interpret and explain the true meaning of the Quranic text. Such Reformers appeared among the followers of other religions also, but that was only for so long as such scriptures served as guides for their followers. After the advent of Islam, however, all other religious systems and their scriptures, which were intended only for specific periods and specific peoples, became abrogated and divinely inspired Reformers ceased to appear among them. Now, therefore, the Quran alone among all revealed Scriptures of the world holds the field as a living Book and hence divinely inspired Reformers now appear only among the followers of Islam. In our own time God has raised Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, to demon-strate the truth and excellence of the Quran in a manner unparalleled in the history of Islam. Ahmad’s present-ation of Islam is not like one praying for a hearing, as was the vogue among the apologetic school of Muslim writers, but as a victor challenging the protagonists of all other religious systems and the so-called Modernists and Higher Critics to find fault with any teaching of Islam; and also as a judge passing his judgement upon them. The appearance of such Reformers in itself constitutes proof of the living power of a religion and its Scripture inasmuch as they are really the fruit of their religion and their appearance proves its efficacy.
The question here arises, if the Scriptures revealed to the previous Prophets have not been preserved in their original purity, what guarantee is there to believe that the Quran would enjoy permanent security? In this connection it should be noted that the promise of protection made by God in this verse mentions the word الذکر (rendered in the text as "this Exhortation") and not the Quran or any other word; and herein lies the answer to the above question. For, to become deserving of the permanent protection of God it is essential that the Divine revelation should be الذکر of which the necessary attributes are: (1) that it should establish a close and permanent relationship between man and his Maker, inspiring in the former constant remembrance of God, the word ذکر meaning remembering; and (2) that it should elevate man to a state where God may also remember him or in other words favour him with His words and with heavenly help, the word ذکر also means eminence. The verse under comment thus purports to mean that God undertakes to protect any Scripture so long as it serves the above two purposes. But when, through changes in the conditions and circumstances of man, any Scripture ceases to perform these functions and God, in His infallible wisdom, deems it necessary to reveal another Scripture, He naturally ceases to extend His protection to earlier revelations. The question as to when any particular Scripture at any particular time ceases to serve the above-mentioned purposes has to be decided on facts. It is a fact beyond doubt that at the present time no religion other than Islam can claim that there is among its followers anyone who fulfils in his person the conditions mentioned above, viz. attainment of such nearness to God that God begins to speak to him and manifests His special powers for his sake. Such a claim can be made only by a follower of the Quran. As stated above Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, has made this claim in our own time and has proved by powerful heavenly signs that his claim is founded on fact and God is helping his cause wonderfully. It is, therefore, natural that Muslims should claim and believe that now the protection of God is a privilege enjoyed by the Quran alone.
As regards the future, our belief based upon promises made in the Quran is that whenever Muslims forget, or fall away from, the teachings of the Quran, God will, by raising heavenly Reformers, restore to them their faith in its pristine purity. The teachings of the Quran will thus remain effective for all time and will ever continue to enjoy Divine help and protection. (close)
وَ لَقَدۡ اَرۡسَلۡنَا مِنۡ قَبۡلِکَ فِیۡ شِیَعِ الۡاَوَّلِیۡنَ ﴿۱۱﴾
وَلَقَدۡ أَرۡسَلۡنَا مِن قَبۡلِكَ فِي شِيَعِ ٱلۡأَوَّلِينَ
1717. Important Words:
شیع (parties) is the plural of شیعة (a party) which is derived from شاع meaning, it (a thing or a piece of news) became spread or disclosed. اشاع الخبر means, he spread or disclosed the news. شیع بالابل (shayya‘a) means, he (a pastor) called to the camels whereupon they (gathered together and) followed one another. شیعة of which the plural is شیع means, a separate or distinct party of men, so called from their agreeing together and following one another; the followers or assistants of a man; any people that have combined in or for an affair; any people or party whose affair or case is one and who follow one another’s opinion (Lane).
In the word شیع (parties or more literally, parties forming groups) all the former peoples have been spoken of as groups. This negatives the assertion of those so-called in-dependent people who describe themselves as not belonging to any group, for every man must belong to one group or another whether old or new, known or unknown. Herding, according to psychologists, is one of the strongest instincts of man, and it is in reference to this fact that the former peoples have been spoken of as forming so many شیع (parties or groups). For the meaning of the word شیع see Important Words.
The verse purports to state that the Prophet of Islam is not the first Prophet. There have been Prophets before him and God extended His protection to their teachings also. Similarly He will protect his teaching, the Quran. On the occasion of the appearance of a Prophet who brings a new Law, this protection is afforded to his teaching, among other things, by his followers being invested with political power which enables them to give a practical demonstration of the truth of his teaching. His followers may not attain to political power very early in their career, nevertheless they achieve such influence as enables them to demonstrate by actual practice the truth of his teachings. It is indeed surprising that the opponents of every Prophet have always refused to test the truth of his claim by the criteria of the history of past Prophets, which is the easiest way to ascertain the merits of any such claim. This attitude of disbelievers proves that they are not honest or earnest about ascertaining the truth but intend only to confuse the issues. (close)
وَ مَا یَاۡتِیۡہِمۡ مِّنۡ رَّسُوۡلٍ اِلَّا کَانُوۡا بِہٖ یَسۡتَہۡزِءُوۡنَ ﴿۱۲﴾
وَمَا يَأۡتِيهِم مِّن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا كَانُواْ بِهِۦ يَسۡتَهۡزِءُونَ
a. 36:31; 43:8. (close)
a. 36:31; 43:8. (close)
The verse shows that when disbelievers addressed the Holy Prophet saying, O thou to whom this Exhortation has been sent down, thou art surely a madman (v. 7), they really used the words in jest. So what it meant in the present verse is that if disbelievers mock at the Holy Prophet, it is not a thing to be wondered at, for even Prophets whom they claim to accept were similarly mocked at by their forefathers.
Another significance of the verse is that whenever there comes a Prophet, God promises to protect his teachings, and this makes disbelievers wonder. They cannot bring themselves to believe that through his teachings he has any chance of success in the face of their opposition and, therefore, they treat him with contempt.
It is surprising that although all Prophets have been mocked at on account of their humble origins, yet whenever a new claimant appears he is expected by disbelievers to come with great pomp and splendour. Disbelievers seem to forget that if past Prophets had come with pomp and splendour, they would never have been treated with scorn. Incidentally, the verse draws our attention to the divine law that the fact that every new Messenger of God is, in the beginning, rejected and ridiculed is really a sign of the truth of his claim rather than of his falsehood. (close)
کَذٰلِکَ نَسۡلُکُہٗ فِیۡ قُلُوۡبِ الۡمُجۡرِمِیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۱۳﴾
كَذَٰلِكَ نَسۡلُكُهُۥ فِي قُلُوبِ ٱلۡمُجۡرِمِينَ
b. 26:201. (close)
1483. The pronoun 'this' refers to the disbelievers’ practice of ridiculing the Divine Prophets mentioned in the preceding verse. (close)
a. 26:201. (close)
The pronoun "this" in the expression نسلکه (do We cause this to enter) refers to the practice of disbelievers of ridiculing Prophets mentioned in the previous verse. The verse under comment thus signifies that this evil habit of disbelievers springs from their own indulgence in sin and is not imported from outside. It states a general truth, viz. when a man does wrong, his natural aversion for sin is lessened and he gradually develops a liking for it which eventually takes deep root in his heart. It thus follows that the retribution of sin is not the result of some arbitrary action on the part of God but is the natural and inevitable consequence of the sinner’s own action. (close)
لَا یُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِہٖ وَ قَدۡ خَلَتۡ سُنَّۃُ الۡاَوَّلِیۡنَ ﴿۱۴﴾
لَا يُؤۡمِنُونَ بِهِۦ وَقَدۡ خَلَتۡ سُنَّةُ ٱلۡأَوَّلِينَ
a. 26:202. (close)
b. 26:202. (close)
The evil habit of ridiculing God’s Prophets referred to in v. 12 results in the hardening of the heart and debars the mockers from believing in their Prophet in spite of seeing clear signs in his support. The verse means to say that such has been the end of the scoffers of the Prophets in the past and such will be the end of those who mock at the Holy Prophet now. (close)
وَ لَوۡ فَتَحۡنَا عَلَیۡہِمۡ بَابًا مِّنَ السَّمَآءِ فَظَلُّوۡا فِیۡہِ یَعۡرُجُوۡنَ ﴿ۙ۱۵﴾
وَلَوۡ فَتَحۡنَا عَلَيۡهِم بَابٗا مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ فَظَلُّواْ فِيهِ يَعۡرُجُونَ
1484. The verse may mean that if God were to open the gates of His mercy and avert punishment, then instead of turning to Him, the disbelievers would become engaged in the acquisition of material prosperity and comforts. (close)
See note on the succeeding verse. (close)
لَقَالُوۡۤا اِنَّمَا سُکِّرَتۡ اَبۡصَارُنَا بَلۡ نَحۡنُ قَوۡمٌ مَّسۡحُوۡرُوۡنَ ﴿٪۱۶﴾
لَقَالُوٓاْ إِنَّمَا سُكِّرَتۡ أَبۡصَٰرُنَا بَلۡ نَحۡنُ قَوۡمٞ مَّسۡحُورُونَ
1485. Disbelievers have become such strangers to spiritual matters that even if they were to enjoy some of the spiritual experiences which the Holy Prophet had gone through and were to have some of the visions of the spiritual heights to which he had arisen, they would not believe and would only say that they had become victims of magic or witchcraft. (close)
In verse 8 mention was made of the objection of disbelievers that, if the Prophet was not the subject of hallucination, it was impossible to explain that the angels which he said came to him with the Divine Message could not be seen by anyone of them. In answer to this objection it was pointed out, firstly, that angels descended on men according to their natural affinity and that, since disbelievers were the fit objects of punishment, only the angels of punishment could come to them (v. 9); secondly, that when God had afforded protection to the Messages of the previous Prophets, there was no reason why He should not have given His protection to the Message of the present claimant (v. 10); thirdly, that the mockery of disbelievers was nothing to be wondered at, since all disbelievers in their time extended the same treatment to their respective Prophets. In fact, disbelievers indulged in mockery to such an extent that they lost all fear of sin which, became as it were, second nature with them. The opponents of the Holy Prophet would meet with a similar fate (vv. 12, 13).
In the present verse another line of argument has been adopted, for in answer to the objection of disbelievers it is here said that not all men are in a position to understand all things, because understanding requires mental affinity on the part of him who wishes to understand. Disbelievers had become such strangers to spiritual matters that even if they were to undergo some of the spiritual experiences which the Holy Prophet had undergone and were to have some of the visions of the spiritual heights to which he rose, they would not believe and would only end by saying that they were subject to magic or witchcraft. The opening of "a door from heaven," spoken of in the preceding verse, refers to having spiritual experiences and "ascending through heaven" refers to visions of spiritual heights. The words "a door" i.e. not all doors but only one of the doors, are intended to hint that such people could only have passing experience of spiritual matters, which cannot conduce to any real spiritual advancement, the experience being intended only to provide them with proof of the truth of such spiritual matters.
The verse may also be taken to mean that when punishment is about to overtake disbelievers, they get frightened and say that if they were now saved from it, they would believe in the Divine Messenger. In this sense, the clause ولو فتحنا علیھم بابا من السماء (And even if We opened to them a door from heaven) occurring in the preceding verse would be taken to mean, "And if We open the door of Divine mercy and avert their punishment"; and the words فظلوا فیه یعرجون (and they began ascending through it) would mean "they, instead of turning to God, become engaged in the acquisition of material prosperity and comforts." The verse thus rebukes disbelievers that they have become so hard hearted that when they see punishment overtaking them, they repent; but when it is averted from them, they relapse into their old life of sin and engrossment in worldly pursuits. (close)
وَ لَقَدۡ جَعَلۡنَا فِی السَّمَآءِ بُرُوۡجًا وَّ زَیَّنّٰہَا لِلنّٰظِرِیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۱۷﴾
وَلَقَدۡ جَعَلۡنَا فِي ٱلسَّمَآءِ بُرُوجٗا وَزَيَّنَّـٰهَا لِلنَّـٰظِرِينَ
b. 37:7; 41:13; 67:6. (close)
1486. It is not merely the beautiful appearance of the planets and the stars at night that is meant here. The great purpose which their creation serves is mentioned in the following verses as well as in 16:17 and 67:6, and it is in the fulfilment of that great purpose that their real beauty lies. (close)
a. 37:7; 41:13; 67:6. (close)
1723. Important Words:
بروجا (mansions of stars) is the plural of برج (burj) which is from the verb برج (baraja) which means, it was or became apparent, manifest or conspicuous; or it was or became high or elevated. ابرج means, he built a tower. برج (burj) means a tower; a chamber built upon the sides of a fortress or palace; a sign of the Zodiac. بروج means, mansions (i.e. the courses or stages) of the moon or the stars; or asterisms or constellations (Lane).
The word بروج may be taken here either in the sense of "mansions" of planets and stars i.e. the spaces or courses wherein the planets perform their circuits, or it may signify the stars themselves.
It is not merely the beautiful appearance of the planets and the stars at night that is meant here, because they are not meant to serve only as an ornament for the heavens or to provide a beautiful sight. In reality their creation serves a great purpose which is mentioned in the succeeding verses as well as in 16:17 & 67:6 and it is in the fulfilment of that great purpose that their real beauty lies. See the following verses. (close)
وَ حَفِظۡنٰہَا مِنۡ کُلِّ شَیۡطٰنٍ رَّجِیۡمٍ ﴿ۙ۱۸﴾
وَحَفِظۡنَٰهَا مِن كُلِّ شَيۡطَٰنٖ رَّجِيمٍ
c. 37:8; 41:13. (close)
1487. The verse points out that just as in the physical world evilly disposed persons exercise some sort of power or influence and can cause a certain amount of injury to other men but cannot completely deprive them of heavenly blessings, e.g. the wholesome influence of stars, etc. similarly, in the spiritual world, satans too have no control over the Prophets and their true followers (v.43). "Satan" in the verse under comment refers to such disbelievers as desire to attain union with God independently of the Prophets (vv.14-16). Against such persons the spiritual heavens have indeed been guarded and their gates barred. (close)
b. 37:8; 41:13. (close)
In v. 10 the Quran speaks of the "guarding of the heavenly Exhortation," and in the verse under comment it speaks of the "guarding of the heavens" themselves. So the question arises here, what connection is there between the guarding of the heavenly Exhortation and the guarding of the heavens themselves, and why is it that immediately after speaking of the guarding of the heavenly Exhortation, the Quran speaks of the guarding of the heavens. From a study of the Quran it appears that it claims and repeatedly points to a strong resemblance between the physical and the spiritual systems of the world and, in order to bring home to the reader its various spiritual lessons, the Quran repeatedly draws his attention to the physical system of the world.
The denizens of this earth see over their heads a sky set with stars which do their work regularly in their respective spheres and none has the power to make the least change in this great system of nature, for it has been made secure by God. The Quran repeatedly refers to this system as an illustration of the spiritual heavens above us and it is for this very purpose that the celestial system has been referred to in the verse under comment. It is pointed out that just as the physical system of the heavens has been established on strong foundations, similarly, the spiritual system has been laid on solid foundations, and, like the physical heavens, the spiritual heavens are also divided into various spheres. There can beabsolutely no interference in the higher spheres of the spiritual heavens, but in the lowest sphere there may be an attempt at some interference; but it, too, has been fortified with spiritual stars which guard it against any real interference.
Just as the physical heavens are sustained by the physical stars, similarly, the spiritual heavens are sustained by the spiritual stars. Nay, just as the physical heavens mean the sum total of stars which also serve as an adornment for them, similarly, the spiritual heavens are the sum total of the spiritual stars and the latter also serve as an ornament for them. Again, just as the physical stars serve to protect the physical heavens, for they are their component parts, and if they are in any way upset, the whole system will thereby be upset, similarly, the spiritual stars serve to protect the spiritual heavens and if they are disturbed in any way the whole spiritual system will be disturbed. Hence it is that if anyone seeks to disturb the working of the spiritual stars, he is visited with punishment from God i.e. "fire" and "stones" rain upon him, as is clear from the word رجوما (stoning) in 67:6 and the word شھاب (flame) in the following verse.
The spiritual system has been compared to the physical system in other verses of the Quran also. In 33:47, for instance, the Holy Prophet has been likened to the sun, thus indicating that as the sun is the central figure in the physical system, so is the Holy Prophet the central figure in the spiritual realm; he is like the sun in the firmament of Prophets who are like so many stars and moons as compared with him. On a smaller scale, the Holy Prophet is also like the sun among his Companions, whom he likened to stars. He is reported to have said: "My Companions are like so many stars; whichever of them you follow, you will be rightly guided" (Saghir).
The analogy between the two systems, physical and spiritual, is brought out clearly in chapter 12, where Joseph is spoken of as having seen in a vision eleven stars along with the sun and the moon making obeisance to him (12:5). The interpretation of this vision by Joseph himself showed that the sun and the moon in his vision represented his parents and the eleven stars his eleven brethren.
In the verse under comment, the Quran refers to the solar system in order to illustrate how the protection of the Quran promised in verse 10 is to be effected. We are here told that just as in the material universe there is a sky (which is another name for the whole body of stars), similarly, in the spiritual universe there are various Prophets who form the spiritual heaven. Again, as each star serves as an ornament for the physical heaven and is guarding it by means of gravitation and other means, which are perhaps yet unknown to man, similarly, every Prophet is an ornament for the spiritual heaven and helps to guard it. Each Prophet appeared when his presence was really needed and every one of them had a definite task to perform which he alone could do. Similarly, every Prophet helped to guard the spiritual heaven, and served the Word of God, demonstrating its true nature as well as its holy influence in his own person and in the persons of his followers. Moreover, each Prophet fought and routed those wicked people who sought to distort the Word of God, and, as it were, fell upon them like fire and stones and frustrated their designs.
The verse also points out that just as in the physical world satans, i.e. evil persons, exercise some sort of power or influence, and can cause a certain amount of injury to man but possess no power in the heavens, being unable to deprive men of heavenly blessings such as light and air and the wholesome influence of the stars, etc., similarly, in the spiritual world, satans have no control over the Prophets and their true followers (v. 43). Again, just as satans have no power over the blessings which come from the physical heavens, similarly the blessings that are manifested through the spiritual heavens (i.e. Prophets), such as Divine revelation and heavenly signs, are beyond the control of satans. This is how the verse under comment explains verse 10.
The word رجیم (rejected) signifies that such persons will be driven away from the truth and will not be able to accept Islam. Surely, those disbelievers who seek to attain salvation independently of the Prophets of God and do not follow the way which has been prescribed by Him are kept away from the truth and never accept it.
Finally, it must be noted that by the word "satan" in this verse is not meant the forces of evil which serve as a trial for men. Here the word stands for any person who wishes to make spiritual progress independently of the ways revealed by God. As Satan wished to act independently of Adam and refused to obey him, so any person who seeks to attain salvation without following the Prophets of God is called a satan on account of his likeness to Iblis. The preceding verses speak of disbelievers (vv. 14-16); so the word "satan" in the verse under comment refers to such disbelievers as refuse to obey the Prophets and desire to attain union with God independently of them. Against such the spiritual heavens have indeed been guarded, and the doors of God’s nearness are closed against them. (close)
اِلَّا مَنِ اسۡتَرَقَ السَّمۡعَ فَاَتۡبَعَہٗ شِہَابٌ مُّبِیۡنٌ ﴿۱۹﴾
إِلَّا مَنِ ٱسۡتَرَقَ ٱلسَّمۡعَ فَأَتۡبَعَهُۥ شِهَابٞ مُّبِينٞ
a. 37:11; 67:6. (close)
1488. 'Stealing the Word of God' may signify, the deceitful action of such people as pretend to represent the teachings of the Prophets as their own. They seek to deceive people into believing that the Prophets bring no new teaching and that they too have access to that knowledge which the Prophets claim to possess. Or the verse may mean that they tear out a passage from its context and try to mislead simple-minded folk by putting a wrong interpretation upon it and distorting its meaning. The words, if anyone hears stealthily, make it clear that in verse 17 the words, 'the heaven' represent the spiritual system and not the physical firmament, for the stealing away of the Word of God has nothing to do with the physical heavens. (close)
1488A. The word 'mansions of stars' in v.17 represents Divine Messengers in general, while the words 'bright flame' in the present verse or 'penetrating flame' occurring in 37:11 stand for the Prophet of the day, or the Master- Prophet (the Holy Prophet). The pursuit of satans by Shihab signifies that so long as a religious teaching remains based on Divine revelation (adh-Dhikr v.10) and gives light and guidance, Divine Reformers also continue to appear to guard it. One of the signs of the appearance of Divine Reformers in the world is the frequent occurrence of meteoric phenomenon, called the falling of stars in large numbers. In the time of the Holy Prophet meteors fell in such large numbers that disbelievers thought that both heaven and earth were going to fall asunder (Kathir). It was from these extraordinary happenings that Heraclius who, it appears, had some knowledge of astronomy, inferred that the Prophet-King of the Arabs must have appeared (Bukhari ch. Bad’ul-Wahy). In the time of Jesus also meteors fell in unusually large numbers (Bihar). This celestial phenomenon was also witnessed in our own time—in 1885. Thus both history and Hadith bear testimony to the fact that the falling of meteors in unusually large numbers is a sure sign of the appearance of a Divine Reformer. See also "The Larger Edition of the Commentary," pp.1272-1276.
'Satan' in v.18 may be taken to refer to diviners and soothsayers. In that case 'the pelting of the satans' (67:6) would mean that during the time when there is no Divine Reformer in the world, astrologers and soothsayers succeed, to some extent, in their nefarious trade of hoodwinking simple-minded people but, with the appearance of a Divine Reformer, their false knowledge becomes exposed and people can easily distinguish between the true prophecies of heavenly Messengers and the conjectures of astrologers and soothsayers. The verse may also signify that when some mischievous people, after tearing out a passage from the text of the heavenly revelation, seek to spread it in a distorted form, a fresh Sign comes like a brilliant flash and destroys the machinations of the satanic people. (close)
1725. Important Words:
استرق السمع (hears stealthily). استرق is derived from سرق. The expression سرق منه or سرقه means, he stole from him a thing; he took a thing from him secretly and by artifice; or he came clandestinely to a place of custody and took what belonged to another. استرق منه or استرقه means, he stole from him a thing or robbed him of it. استرق also means, he deceived or circumvented secretly or by stealth. The expression استراق النظر means, taking an opportunity of looking by stealth. السمعmeans, the sense of hearing; the thing that is heard; the faculty in the ear whereby it perceives sounds; the ear itself. The word is used in both the singular and plural. استرق السمع or سرق السمع means, he listened or heard by stealth (Lane).
مبین (bright). See 2:169.
شھاب (flame) is derived from شھب which means, it was or became of the colour in which whiteness predominated over blackness; or in which whiteness was interrupted by blackness. شھاب of which the plural is شھب (shuhub) means, a brand or a flame of fire; or a مشعلة of fire gleaming or radiating; a shooting or falling star; a star or the like of a star that darts across the sky; a shining star; one who is penetrating, sharp or energetic in an affair (Lane).
The verse purports to say that so long as the Word of God is in the heavens and till it descends on the Prophets, it is secure and safe against all interference and stealing, but when, after descending on the lowest heaven it is recited to human beings and when men begin to repeat it to one another, then satans i.e. the enemies of God’s Prophets, try to steal it and make a wrong use of it. Then either as a result of this stealing they are visited by heavenly punishment or the Prophet of the day and his followers explain the true nature of the Divine revelation to the people and expose the deception of the stealers, who then become disgraced and humiliated. Thus the stealing of the Word of God in this verse means that, like thieves who take unlawful possession of the property of other people, the enemies of God’s Prophets seek to steal the Word of God not in order to believe in it but to mislead people by mis-representing and misinterpreting it.
Stealing the Word of God may also refer to the action of such people as seek to represent the teachings of the Prophets as their own. In this way they seek to deceive other people into believing that the Prophets have brought no new thing and that they too have access to that knowledge which the Prophets of God claim to possess. Some of them even go so far as to pretend that it is from them that the Prophets stole their knowledge. But, just as a stolen dress does not fit the body of the thief, similarly the teachings which are stolen from the Prophets do not fit in with the false beliefs of those who steal them and consequently their theft becomes easily exposed.
The words, But if anyone hears stealthily, make it clear that in verse 17 the words, "the heaven" represent the spiritual system, and not the physical firmament, for the stealing away of the Word of God has nothing to do with the physical heavens. The word مبین (bright) which means both a thing that is bright in itself and a thing that illuminates others (2:169) and which has been added to the word شھاب (flame) in the present verse also, shows that the verse speaks of no physical or material flame. The physical شھاب (flame) either means a flame of fire or the light which appears in the sky and looks like a shooting star. It is superfluous to qualify a thing which itself is bright by the epithet مبین (bright). But if the heavens be taken to mean the spiritual heavens and شھاب (flame) be taken as meaning a Prophet of God who brings with him the illuminating light of heavenly signs and fights the evil machinations of those who seek to tamper with the Word of God, then the word مبین (bright) can be used as quite an appropriate adjective to the noun شھاب (flame), for in this case this word would express an additional idea by referring to the bright signs shown by the Prophets.
Stars in these verses represent God’s Prophets, while شھاب مبین (bright flame) or شھاب ثاقب (penetrating flame) occurring in 37:11 represent the Prophet of the day, for although every Prophet is a star and serves as an ornament for the spiritual heaven, yet every Prophet is not always acting as شھاب (flame) destroying the satans who tamper with religion. This is done only by the Prophet of the day or by a living Prophet whose prophet-hood knows no end and whose Law is always in force. When the people of the time of such a Prophet become corrupt and God raises from among his followers a Reformer or subordinate Prophet, in that case also the Master-Prophet is called a شھاب (flame), because it is his spiritual power and influence which works through the subordinate Prophet. According to this significance of the word, Moses, Jesus, and other past Prophets may indeed be called the stars of the spiritual heavens, but they cannot be called شھب(flames), for they have now ceased to be the means for the destruction of satans. But the epithet of شھاب (flame) will always apply to the Holy Prophet, for his mission will continue till the end of days and Divine Reformers will continue to be raised from among his followers who, by receiving spiritual power and influence from him, will continue to destroy the satans of their day.
Of the different meanings of شھاب (see Important Words), it is in the sense of star that the word is used in the verse under comment. This interpretation is supported by vv. 37:7-8 & 67:6, in which it is stated that the protection of the heavens is secured by means of stars which are used as a means of stoning satans. So the pursuing of satans by شھبmeans that so long as a Divine revelation continues to be a living revelation and deserves to be called الذکر (v. 10), God also continues to send شھب or, in other words, heavenly Messengers for its protection. In the verse under comment it has been promised that this method of protecting Divine revelation applies particularly to the Quran. In fact, it constitutes the most effective method of protection, for the heavenly Messengers not only defend the Divine Law from the attacks of satans by the help of heavenly signs but, being favoured by Divine revelation, they are also in a position to give believers a true interpretation of the Word of God, which leaves no room for doubt. Believers thus get rid of those contradictory interpretations which had been puzzling the minds of the people before the coming of the heavenly Messenger.
But what is the significance of the shooting stars that dart across the physical heavens and do they also in any way strike a blow at the satans? This is a pertinent question and the answer is that they too serve a purpose. As a matter of fact it is an invariable divine law that at the advent of every new Prophet God shows two kinds of Signs: (a) those that are manifested in the world round about us; (b) those that take place in the celestial bodies. One of the signs of the latter class is the falling of stars. History testifies to the fact that in the time of Jesus and the Holy Prophet the phenomenon of the falling of stars was frequently witnessed. In the time of the Holy Prophet meteors fell in such large numbers that disbelievers thought that both heaven and earth were going to fall asunder (Kathir, under 72:9). This sign was witnessed in fulfilment of the prophecy of the previous Scriptures, for some changes in the heavens were predicted by the Israelite Prophets as a sign of the appearance of the Holy Prophet. It was from these extraordinary happenings that Heraclius who, it appears, had some knowledge of astronomy inferred that the Prophet-King of the Arabs must have appeared (Bukhari, ch. on Bad’ul-Wahy).
From the traditions it appears that in the time of Jesus also meteors fell in unusually large numbers (Bihar). With regard to the second advent of the Messiah the Gospels say: And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon, and in the stars (Luke 21:25; Matt. 24:29). And this actually happened in 1885 in the time of Ahmad, the Promised Messiah. Thus both history and traditions bear testimony to the fact that the falling of meteors in unusual numbers has been fixed by God as a sign of the advent of a Prophet. One reason why this phenomenon has been fixed as a sign is that it is beyond a Prophet’s power to cause such a phenomenon and its occurrence therefore leaves no doubt that it has been brought about solely by God. There may also be other unknown reasons for the occurrence of such a phenomenon on the advent of a Prophet. For instance, there may be some hidden influences accompanying the phenomenon which, unknown to man, may be helpful in counteracting the wicked designs of the opponents of the Prophets.
There is also a saying of the Holy Prophet to the effect that sometimes satans succeed in carrying their words to the people before they are overtaken by the shooting stars, and sometimes the latter overtake them before they carry their message to the people. This hadith means that whereas some enemies of the Prophets are overtaken by the sudden and immediate wrath of God, others are granted some respite until the cup of their iniquities is full and then they too are consumed by Divine punishment.
In short, these verses speak of the protection of the Word of God. The Quran says that none can know the Word of God until it is revealed to a Prophet. But when it has actually been revealed, the devils among men (i.e. common folk) and jinn (i.e. high-placed men or those who work clandestinely) try to get access to it by various means and propagate it among men by mixing much falsehood with it, and thus strive to incite the people against the Prophet. They seek to do it by quoting a passage from the teaching of the Prophet and then putting upon it a wrong interpretation. Or they tear a passage from its context and try to mislead the people by quoting it to them. This has been the invariable practice of the enemies of the Prophets of God in all ages.
It is only such "stealing" by the satans which God in His infinite wisdom has deemed fit to permit and against which He has not protected the mission of a Prophet. In fact, God Himself sometimes affords such opportunities to the opponents of the Prophets (6:113). In short, while on the one hand God has so protected His word that no enemy, external or internal, can make any change in it; on the other He, in His infallible wisdom, has permitted satanic people to disseminate wrong interpretations of His word among men and incite them by uttering lies about the revelation vouchsafed to His Prophets. When, however, they have finished doing so, a flame from the heavens pursues and strikes them, with the result that their deception is exposed by the Prophet. This peculiar treatment of the enemies of the Prophets by God casts no reflection on His power, nor does it do any real harm to His religion. The false notions spread among the enemies of the Prophet afford them only a temporary joy of which they soon become deprived.
It also appears from the Quran that satans who carry on wicked campaigns against the Word of God, are of two classes: (a) internal enemies or hypocrites; (b) external enemies or disbelievers. Proof of this division is to be found in the fact that in verse 18 and in 67:6 opposition to the Prophet has been ascribed to شیطان رجیم (Satan, the rejected), while in 37:8 it has been ascribed to شیطان مارد (Satan, the rebellious). Now the word رجیم literally means, "driven away" while مارد means, "rebellious"; hence in the present Surah as well as in Surah 67 the enemies of the truth spoken of are disbelievers who are described by the words شیطان رجیم (Satan, the rejected) for they always keep away from Islam, it being thus hinted that God will protect His word from the attacks of disbelievers; while in Surah 37 we are told that some men, though professing to be Muslims, will try to distort the sense of the Quran intentionally or unintentionally. Such people are called شیطان مارد (Satan, the rebellious). They outwardly pass as Muslims but in their heart of hearts they are rebels against Islam, though they themselves may not be conscious of the fact. God has held out the promise that He will protect His word even from the mischief of this latter class. This was really a prophecy about the future, and it was declared that whenever the so-called followers of Islam became incapable of understanding the true significance of the Quran and began to distort its true meaning, God would protect His word from such mischief by raising a Messenger who would interpret it rightly.
A word about astrologers and so-called spiritualists will not be out of place here. The Prophets of God succeed in extirpating the false notions and make-beliefs of these people as well. The science of the stars and the idea that they influence the actions of man so far as they deal with realities are not opposed to the teachings of Islam. The Quran, on the contrary, repeatedly exhorts its followers to study the laws of nature. It is therefore inconceivable that on the one hand God should have exhorted Muslims to study nature, which includes the study of heavenly bodies, and on the other hand should Himself have sent شھب (flames) upon those who desire to gain a knowledge of the heavenly bodies. Islam is only opposed to superstition and idolatry, and not to true knowledge and rightly-conducted research. Hence so far as these sciences tend to cause and create superstition or mere supposition, they are condemned by Islam. Similarly, these sciences are denounced when they are given the status of, and are treated as religion because then they lead to idolatry (shirk). The physical movements of stars certainly exercise influence upon man, but their influencing the actions of men falls within the purview of the laws of nature. There are thousands of things which are exercising similar influences at one and the same time, but no result can be definitely ascribed to one influence only. It is God alone Who exercises His influence independently of all others. So to think that anything happens in the world as a result of the influence of any single material object, whether a star or anything else, is virtually an act of shirk, which Islam condemns in the strongest terms. This is why the Holy Prophet is reported to have said: "Whoever says, 'We have been favoured with rain through the influence of such and such a star,' is a disbeliever in God and a believer in that star" (Bukhari, Kitabul-Istisqa).
If the word "satans" be taken to refer to astrologers, then the pelting of the satans will mean that during the time when there is no Prophet in the world, astrologers succeed to a certain extent in their trade in hoodwinking simple-minded people but, with the appearance of a Prophet, their falsehood becomes exposed and people can easily distinguish between true prophecies made by heavenly Messengers and the mere conjectures of astrologers.
Some commentators have explained these verses as meaning that satans or jinn ascend to heaven and try to listen to what is decided there and then communicate what they hear to their friends—soothsayers and diviners—mixing with it much falsehood. They further say that God has appointed sentinels to guard His decrees and when it comes to the knowledge of these sentinels that satans are listening to what is being decreed in heaven, they hurl shooting stars at them. This interpretation, however, is open to many objections. Firstly, it is inconsistent with the previous verse wherein we are told that the heavens are guarded by God against satans. It is inconceivable that satans should succeed in violating the guardianship of God and should be able to hear anything that God does not want them to hear. Secondly, if it be supposed that satans are able to steal something out of that which has been guarded by God, they may also be regarded as being able to steal something out of the revelation which is sent down to the Prophets of God, and thus the very sanctity and inviolability of the Word of God will become subject to serious doubts. Thirdly, if it be supposed that satans can have access even to such things as are under the special protection of God, then they can also succeed in tempting the Prophets of God whom He has promised to protect (v. 18). Moreover in v. 43 we are clearly told that Satan has no power over the righteous servants of God. Fourthly, if it be conceded that satans can steal things which are under the protection of God, then even the prophethood of heavenly Messengers will become doubtful, for if satans can manage to steal a little, they can also steal a considerable portion; nay, in that case they can steal even the prophethood of a Prophet. Fifthly, we know that astrologers and diviners are always trying to predict future events. If it is satans who convey and communicate to them secret things, and if they are pelted with shooting stars whenever they try to steal heavenly secrets, then whenever astrologers seek to predict the future and satans try to pry into the secrets of heaven, there should always appear in the heavens a shooting star to drive away a Satan. But such is not the case. Sixthly, the Quran says: Say, none in the heavens and the earth knows the unseen save Allah (27:66). How then is it possible that Satan should be able to know the unseen? The unseen is known only to God and His Chosen Ones. In 72:27, 28 we read: He is the Knower of the unseen; and He reveals not His secrets, to anyone, except him whom He chooses, namely, a Messenger of His. And then He causes an escort of guardian angels to go before him and behind him. This shows that the secrets of the unknown are revealed only to chosen Messengers of God. If these hidden secrets can be stolen by satans on the way, they cannot be said to reach the heavenly Messengers intact. Seventhly, satans cannot steal anything from the decrees of God because, according to the Quran, it is mere falsehood that they communicate to their friends. In 6:113, we read: And in like manner have We made for every Prophet an enemy, evil ones from among men and jinn. They suggest one to another gilded speech in order to deceive. The expression "gilded speech" according to Arabic idiom means, "lies." Eighthly, the Quran says: The satans have not brought it down, nor is it meet for them, nor are they able to do so, for they are debarred from hearing (26:211-213).
From the above it is clear that the secrets of the heavens are God’s guarded treasure to which satans have no access and which are made known only to God’s chosen ones. (close)