وَ قَالَ الَّذِیۡنَ لَا یَعۡلَمُوۡنَ لَوۡ لَا یُکَلِّمُنَا اللّٰہُ اَوۡ تَاۡتِیۡنَاۤ اٰیَۃٌ ؕ کَذٰلِکَ قَالَ الَّذِیۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِہِمۡ مِّثۡلَ قَوۡلِہِمۡ ؕ تَشَابَہَتۡ قُلُوۡبُہُمۡ ؕ قَدۡ بَیَّنَّا الۡاٰیٰتِ لِقَوۡمٍ یُّوۡقِنُوۡنَ ﴿۱۱۹﴾
وَقَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ لَا يَعۡلَمُونَ لَوۡلَا يُكَلِّمُنَا ٱللَّهُ أَوۡ تَأۡتِينَآ ءَايَةٞۗ كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِهِم مِّثۡلَ قَوۡلِهِمۡۘ تَشَٰبَهَتۡ قُلُوبُهُمۡۗ قَدۡ بَيَّنَّا ٱلۡأٓيَٰتِ لِقَوۡمٖ يُوقِنُونَ
d. 6:38; 20:135; 21:6; 43:54. (close)
141. It may be noted that whenever disbelievers are spoken of as demanding a Sign, the word "Sign" means either a Sign of their own devising or a Sign of punishment (6:38; 13:28; 20:134, 135; 21:6; 29:51). (close)
c. 6:38; 20:134; 21:6; 43:54. (close)
125. This verse refers to two very unreasonable demands of the People of the Book—Jews and Christians: (1) That God should speak to them directly and tell them that the Holy Prophet was His true Messenger; (2) That they should be shown Signs of their own devising.
In reply to the first demand, the Quran says that only ignorant people, unacquainted with the ways of God, make such a demand. This demand was made in the time of all the previous Prophets and was rejected as foolish. So it was unreasonable on their part to demand from the Holy Prophet something which their own Prophets had not complied with.
In reply to their demand for a Sign, they are told that signs are sufficient for the guidance of right-minded people have already been shown and they could, if they so desired, profit by them, but nothing could avail an obstinate and perverse person. The fact that a demand for a Sign was made from the Holy Prophet does not show that no Signs had been shown by him. Indeed, if such a demand be considered as proof of the absence of Signs, no Prophet could be proved to have shown any Sign; for a similar demand was made from every Prophet of God, notably Jesus (Matt. 12:38, 39).
It may be also noted here that whenever disbelievers are spoken of as demanding an آیة or Sign, the word means either a Sign of their own devising or a Sign in the form of divine punishment (see 21:6, 7; 6:38-51; 13:28-33; 20:134, 135; 29:51). (close)
اِنَّاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنٰکَ بِالۡحَقِّ بَشِیۡرًا وَّ نَذِیۡرًا ۙ وَّ لَا تُسۡئَلُ عَنۡ اَصۡحٰبِ الۡجَحِیۡمِ ﴿۱۲۰﴾
إِنَّآ أَرۡسَلۡنَٰكَ بِٱلۡحَقِّ بَشِيرٗا وَنَذِيرٗاۖ وَلَا تُسۡـَٔلُ عَنۡ أَصۡحَٰبِ ٱلۡجَحِيمِ
e. 5:20; 6:49; 17:106; 33:46. (close)
a. 5:20; 6:49; 17:106; 33:46. (close)
As to the disbelievers’ demand for a Sign of punishment, the Quran says that punishment is bound to visit those who refuse to believe in the Holy Prophet, because, like all other Prophets, he was the bearer of glad tidings for believers, and a warner for his opponents. Every student of history knows how clearly this prophecy was fulfilled. The world witnessed the ruin of the Holy Prophet’s adversaries in a manner which has no parallel in history, although worldly conditions and circumstances were all in favour of the disbelievers and against the Holy Prophet.
The last-mentioned words of the verse, i.e. thou wilt not be questioned about the inmates of Hell, are a sort of consolation for the Holy Prophet who, owing to his great solicitude for the people who disbelieved in him, was ever anxious about their fate. Elsewhere the Quran says, It may be thou wilt grieve thyself to death, because they believe not (26:4). (close)
وَ لَنۡ تَرۡضٰی عَنۡکَ الۡیَہُوۡدُ وَ لَا النَّصٰرٰی حَتّٰی تَتَّبِعَ مِلَّتَہُمۡ ؕ قُلۡ اِنَّ ہُدَی اللّٰہِ ہُوَ الۡہُدٰی ؕ وَ لَئِنِ اتَّبَعۡتَ اَہۡوَآءَہُمۡ بَعۡدَ الَّذِیۡ جَآءَکَ مِنَ الۡعِلۡمِ ۙ مَا لَکَ مِنَ اللّٰہِ مِنۡ وَّلِیٍّ وَّ لَا نَصِیۡرٍ ﴿۱۲۱﴾ؔ
وَلَن تَرۡضَىٰ عَنكَ ٱلۡيَهُودُ وَلَا ٱلنَّصَٰرَىٰ حَتَّىٰ تَتَّبِعَ مِلَّتَهُمۡۗ قُلۡ إِنَّ هُدَى ٱللَّهِ هُوَ ٱلۡهُدَىٰۗ وَلَئِنِ ٱتَّبَعۡتَ أَهۡوَآءَهُم بَعۡدَ ٱلَّذِي جَآءَكَ مِنَ ٱلۡعِلۡمِ مَا لَكَ مِنَ ٱللَّهِ مِن وَلِيّٖ وَلَا نَصِيرٍ
a. 2:146; 13:38. (close)
a. 2:112. (close)
b. 2:146; 13:38. (close)
127. Important Words:
ملة (creed) is derived from مل and means, among other things, religion; law of Shari‘ah; the right way (Lane).
اھواء (evil desires) is the plural of ھوی (an evil desire). The verb ھوی means, he or it fell or descended or came down from a higher position to a lower one. It also means, it rose or ascended. الھوی means, a desire; an evil or low desire; an evil inclination; love and attachment اتبع ھواہ means, he followed his evil inclination, i.e. swerved from the way of rectitude (Aqrab & Lane).
The words, if thou follow their evil desires, though apparently addressed to the Holy Prophet, are really general in their application, being meant for his followers. The Holy Prophet has been described in the Quran as a model for mankind and a paragon of perfection (3:32; 33:22) and therefore he was infinitely above the possibility of complying with the evil wishes of the Jews and the Christians concerning the guidance he had directly received from God. At several other places in the Quran, the same form of address has been used. This is done to emphasize the importance of the commandment which is seemingly addressed to the Holy Prophet but is really meant for his followers (see 17:24). This mode of address is not peculiar to the Quran. In the Bible we come across similar instances (e.g. Deut. 16:21, 22). (close)
اَلَّذِیۡنَ اٰتَیۡنٰہُمُ الۡکِتٰبَ یَتۡلُوۡنَہٗ حَقَّ تِلَاوَتِہٖ ؕ اُولٰٓئِکَ یُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِہٖ ؕ وَ مَنۡ یَّکۡفُرۡ بِہٖ فَاُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الۡخٰسِرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۲۲﴾٪
ٱلَّذِينَ ءَاتَيۡنَٰهُمُ ٱلۡكِتَٰبَ يَتۡلُونَهُۥ حَقَّ تِلَاوَتِهِۦٓ أُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ يُؤۡمِنُونَ بِهِۦۗ وَمَن يَكۡفُرۡ بِهِۦ فَأُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلۡخَٰسِرُونَ
b. 3:114. (close)
142. The words refer to Muslims and not to Jews and Christians, because it is the Muslims who are the true and sincere followers of the Qur’an and not the Jews or the Christians who refused to believe in it and rejected it as a piece of fabrication (Qatadah). This meaning of Yatluna is supported by Ibn-e- ‘Abbas, ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud, ‘Ata, and ‘Ikrimah. (close)
a. 3:114. (close)
The words, they to whom We have given the Book, clearly refer here to Muslims and not to Jews and Christians, because it is the Muslims that were the true and sincere followers of the Quran and not Jews and Christians who refused to believe in the Quran and rejected it as a piece of fabrication. Jews and Christians have been referred to in the concluding portion of the verse where, owing to their rejection of the Quran, they are spoken of as the losers. The verse provides very high and well-merited praise for the Companions of the Holy Prophet who have been described as true followers of God’s guidance. (close)
یٰبَنِیۡۤ اِسۡرَآءِیۡلَ اذۡکُرُوۡا نِعۡمَتِیَ الَّتِیۡۤ اَنۡعَمۡتُ عَلَیۡکُمۡ وَ اَنِّیۡ فَضَّلۡتُکُمۡ عَلَی الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ﴿۱۲۳﴾
يَٰبَنِيٓ إِسۡرَـٰٓءِيلَ ٱذۡكُرُواْ نِعۡمَتِيَ ٱلَّتِيٓ أَنۡعَمۡتُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلۡتُكُمۡ عَلَى ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ
c. See 2:41. (close)
d. See 2:48. (close)
b. See 2:41. (close)
c. See 2:48. (close)
Before proceeding to deal with the point that when the cup of the iniquities of the Jews became full to the brim, prophethood was transferred from the House of Israel to that of Ishmael, God in this verse again reminds the Jews of the manifold favours He had conferred upon them, and by inference also reminds them of their crimes and wickednesses.
The favours which God showered upon the Israelites from the time of Moses to that of Jesus are briefly recounted in the preceding verses along with a tale of their misdeeds and iniquities. Particular reference has been made to the reprehensible treatment they meted out to the Holy Prophet of Islam and the Muslims, and finally the whole subject has been briefly recapitulated in the above verse, forming an introduction to the new theme, i.e. the transfer of prophethood from the House of Isaac to that of Ishmael. With the advent of the Holy Prophet a new era had been ushered and those who rejected him could no longer bask in the sunshine of God’s favours. (close)
وَ اتَّقُوۡا یَوۡمًا لَّا تَجۡزِیۡ نَفۡسٌ عَنۡ نَّفۡسٍ شَیۡئًا وَّ لَا یُقۡبَلُ مِنۡہَا عَدۡلٌ وَّ لَا تَنۡفَعُہَا شَفَاعَۃٌ وَّ لَا ہُمۡ یُنۡصَرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۲۴﴾
وَٱتَّقُواْ يَوۡمٗا لَّا تَجۡزِي نَفۡسٌ عَن نَّفۡسٖ شَيۡـٔٗا وَلَا يُقۡبَلُ مِنۡهَا عَدۡلٞ وَلَا تَنفَعُهَا شَفَٰعَةٞ وَلَا هُمۡ يُنصَرُونَ
e. See 2:49. (close)
f. See 2:49. (close)
a. See 2:49. (close)
b. See 2:49. (close)
This verse appears to deal with the same subject which has already been dealt with in 2:49; but on comparing the two, an interesting point of difference emerges. In the former verse the word شفاعة (intercession) is put before the word عدل (ransom), whereas in the present one the order has been reversed. The reason for this change is that, in his endeavour to save himself, it is natural for man to adopt a course which is least expensive and entails minimum amount of hardship. Failing this, he tries to adopt other measures. In other words, man has recourse to offer a ransom only when he finds that he cannot gain his release without offering it. In verse 2:49 this natural order is maintained and intercession is put before ransom. But after that verse, many transgressions of the Israelites have been brought to light, especially their opposition to the Prophets, so now they could not rely much on intercession, and naturally felt constrained to think of offering a ransom first. Hence, the order observed in the former verse has been reversed in the latter. For a discussion of the subject of شفاعة etc. see note on 2:49 above. (close)
وَ اِذِ ابۡتَلٰۤی اِبۡرٰہٖمَ رَبُّہٗ بِکَلِمٰتٍ فَاَتَمَّہُنَّ ؕ قَالَ اِنِّیۡ جَاعِلُکَ لِلنَّاسِ اِمَامًا ؕ قَالَ وَ مِنۡ ذُرِّیَّتِیۡ ؕ قَالَ لَا یَنَالُ عَہۡدِی الظّٰلِمِیۡنَ ﴿۱۲۵﴾
۞وَإِذِ ٱبۡتَلَىٰٓ إِبۡرَٰهِـۧمَ رَبُّهُۥ بِكَلِمَٰتٖ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّۖ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامٗاۖ قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِيۖ قَالَ لَا يَنَالُ عَهۡدِي ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ
142A. Ibtila’ implies two things, (a) the learning of the state or the condition of the object, and becoming acquainted with what was unknown of the case thereof; (b) the manifesting of the goodness or badness of the object (Lane). (close)
142B. Kalimat is the plural of Kalimah which means, a commandment (Mufradat). (close)
a. 2:131; 16:121-122; 60:5. (close)
143. Imam means, any object that is followed, whether a man or a book (Mufradat). (close)
c. 2:131; 16:121, 122; 60:5. (close)
131. Important Words:
ابتلی (tried) is derived from بلی which means, it became old and worn out. بلاه and ابتلاه both mean, he tried or tested him or it, and this is so because a trial or a test makes one, as it were, old and worn out. بلاء means, a trial or test whether resulting in praise or disgrace (Aqrab).
اماما (Leader of men) is derived from ام. They say ام القوم or ام بالقوم i.e. he led the people; he was or became Imam or leader of the people. The verb ام also means, he sought or aimed at a thing. The امام is a person whose example is followed, i.e. a leader or a model (Lane).
کلمات (commands) is the plural of کلمة and has a variety of meanings, e.g., a word; a clause or sentence; a command or order. Here it means, a command (Mufradat). See also 2:38.
It is pointed out in this verse that when God tried Abraham with certain commands and found him perfect in obedience, He expressed His wish to make him a Leader of men. Thereupon Abraham, ever solicitous to make others also share God’s blessings, begged Him to extend the same to his progeny as well. In reply, he was told that this covenant would not apply to transgressors, which implied that Leaders and Reformers would be raised from his posterity, but that transgressors would not share this blessing.
The Quran refers to this covenant in order to remind the Jews that their deprivation of prophethood was quite in conformity with the promise given to Abraham which contained a clear condition that such of his descendants as defied God’s commandments would be deprived of the promised favour. The Jews are therefore told that being transgressors, they have been deprived of the blessing of prophethood. A brief reference to this covenant is also found in Gen. 17:9-14, but the Quran has mentioned it in a better and more definite form. (close)
وَ اِذۡ جَعَلۡنَا الۡبَیۡتَ مَثَابَۃً لِّلنَّاسِ وَ اَمۡنًا ؕ وَ اتَّخِذُوۡا مِنۡ مَّقَامِ اِبۡرٰہٖمَ مُصَلًّی ؕ وَ عَہِدۡنَاۤ اِلٰۤی اِبۡرٰہٖمَ وَ اِسۡمٰعِیۡلَ اَنۡ طَہِّرَا بَیۡتِیَ لِلطَّآئِفِیۡنَ وَ الۡعٰکِفِیۡنَ وَ الرُّکَّعِ السُّجُوۡدِ ﴿۱۲۶﴾
وَإِذۡ جَعَلۡنَا ٱلۡبَيۡتَ مَثَابَةٗ لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَمۡنٗا وَٱتَّخِذُواْ مِن مَّقَامِ إِبۡرَٰهِـۧمَ مُصَلّٗىۖ وَعَهِدۡنَآ إِلَىٰٓ إِبۡرَٰهِـۧمَ وَإِسۡمَٰعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا بَيۡتِيَ لِلطَّآئِفِينَ وَٱلۡعَٰكِفِينَ وَٱلرُّكَّعِ ٱلسُّجُودِ
144. Mathabah signifies, a place paying a visit to which entitles one to reward; or resort of men (Mufradat). The Ka‘bah, as some traditions say and as hinted by the Qur’an itself, was originally built by Adam (3:97) and was, for sometime, the centre of worship for his progeny. Then in the course of time people became separated into different communities and adopted different centres for worship. Abraham then rebuilt it and it continued to remain a centre of worship for his progeny through his son Ishmael. But with the lapse of time it became virtually converted into a house of idols which numbered as many as 360—almost the same as the number of days in a year. At the advent of the Holy Prophet, however, it was again made the centre of worship for all nations, the Holy Prophet having been sent as a Messenger to all mankind, to unite those, who had become separated after Adam, into one common human brotherhood. (close)
145. The Ka‘bah, and, for that matter, the town of Mecca, is declared to be a place of peace and security. Mighty empires have crumbled and large tracts of land laid waste since the dawn of history, but the peace of Mecca has never been materially disturbed. The religious centres of other Faiths have never claimed, and have, in fact, never enjoyed, such peace and immunity from danger. Mecca has, however, ever remained a place of security and safety. No alien conqueror has ever entered it. It has always remained in the hands of those who have held it in reverence. (close)
a. 3:98; 22:27. (close)
a. 3:98; 22:27. (close)
132. Important Words:
مثابة (a resort) is derived from ثاب which means, he returned. ثاب الناس means, the people gathered together. ثاب المریض means, the patient returned to state of health. المثاب means, a place where people assemble; a place of resort; a place to which a visit entitles one to ثواب or reward (Mufradat & Aqrab). See also 2:104.
طائفین (who perform the circuit) is the plural of طائف which is derived from طاف meaning, he performed a circuit, he went round (Aqrab).
عھدنا (We commanded) is derived from عھد which means, he promised. عھد الی فلان means, he enjoined upon or commanded him and made it a condition for him (Aqrab).
عاکفین (who remain for devotion) is the plural of عاکف which is derived from عکف. They say عکف فی المکان i.e. he remained confined to a place, sticking to it. الاعتکاف and العکوف are words denoting a specified form of religious service in which the worshipper stays within the precincts of a mosque for a number of days which he passes in prayer and devotion (Aqrab & Mufradat).
مقام (station) is derived from قام i.e. he stood. مقام means, a place where one stands (Aqrab). Here it means the Ka‘bah, where Abraham stood worshipping God. مقام ابراھیم is also the name of a place near the Ka‘bah where, after making circuits around it, the pilgrims perform two rak‘ats of Prayer. It appears that after completing the construction of the Ka‘bah, Abraham said a prayer there in token of his gratitude to God; and it is to commemorate this prayer of Abraham that Muslims are required to perform two rak‘ats of Prayer there whenever they make circuits round the Ka‘bah.
The verse means that a promise was made to Abraham that the Ka‘bah would be made a مثابة or a place of reward and a centre where people would come together for worship. The truth of the first-mentioned part of the covenant, i.e. that the Ka‘bah is a place of reward, can only be recognized by believers who irresistibly feel the ennobling influence of a visit to the Holy Shrine. But the truth of the latter part of the prophecy, i.e. that it would become a resort for men, has been established by the facts of history during the past fourteen hundred years, being testified to even by the enemies of Islam. The Ka‘bah, as some traditions say and as hinted by the Quran itself, was originally built by Adam, and was, for sometime, the centre of worship for his progeny. Then in the course of time people became separated into different communities and adopted different centres for worship. Abraham then rebuilt the Ka‘bah and it continued to remain a centre of worship for his progeny through his son Ishmael. But with the lapse of time it was virtually converted into a house of idols which numbered as many as 360—almost the same as the number of days in a year. At the advent of the Holy Prophet, however, the Ka‘bah was again appointed the centre of worship for all nations, the Holy Prophet having been sent as a Messenger for all mankind. Thus, the nations which diverged after Adam were again brought together at the Ka‘bah which was made the spiritual centre for all humanity and for all time.
Again, the Ka‘bah, and, for that matter, the town of Mecca, is declared to be a place of peace and security. The truth of this prophecy is also beyond doubt. Mighty empires have crumbled and large tracts of land laid waste since the dawn of history, but the peace of Mecca has never been disturbed. The religious centres of other faiths have never claimed, and have in fact never enjoyed, such peace and immunity from danger. Jerusalem, Hardwar, Benares, etc., have all been conquered by alien conquerors and have been the scenes of much bloodshed and violence. But Mecca has ever remained a place of peace. No alien conqueror has ever entered it. The Sacred Town has always remained in the hands of those who have held it in reverence.
The commandment to purify the House of God refers not only to the outward cleaning of the House, but also to its purification from the abomination of idol-worship. The commandment was originally addressed to Abraham and Ishmael but it was finally and fully carried out by the Holy Prophet who, after the conquest of Mecca, cleared the Ka‘bah of all the 360 idols that had been placed there by the idolatrous Quraish. (close)
وَ اِذۡ قَالَ اِبۡرٰہٖمُ رَبِّ اجۡعَلۡ ہٰذَا بَلَدًا اٰمِنًا وَّ ارۡزُقۡ اَہۡلَہٗ مِنَ الثَّمَرٰتِ مَنۡ اٰمَنَ مِنۡہُمۡ بِاللّٰہِ وَ الۡیَوۡمِ الۡاٰخِرِ ؕ قَالَ وَ مَنۡ کَفَرَ فَاُمَتِّعُہٗ قَلِیۡلًا ثُمَّ اَضۡطَرُّہٗۤ اِلٰی عَذَابِ النَّارِ ؕ وَ بِئۡسَ الۡمَصِیۡرُ ﴿۱۲۷﴾
وَإِذۡ قَالَ إِبۡرَٰهِـۧمُ رَبِّ ٱجۡعَلۡ هَٰذَا بَلَدًا ءَامِنٗا وَٱرۡزُقۡ أَهۡلَهُۥ مِنَ ٱلثَّمَرَٰتِ مَنۡ ءَامَنَ مِنۡهُم بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلۡيَوۡمِ ٱلۡأٓخِرِۚ قَالَ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَأُمَتِّعُهُۥ قَلِيلٗا ثُمَّ أَضۡطَرُّهُۥٓ إِلَىٰ عَذَابِ ٱلنَّارِۖ وَبِئۡسَ ٱلۡمَصِيرُ
b. 3:98; 14:36; 27:92; 28:58. (close)
a. 3:98; 14:36; 27:92: 28:58; 29:68; 106:5. (close)
133. Important Words:
مصیر (destination) is derived from صار meaning, he returned, or he became. مصیر is thus a place or condition to which a person or thing comes or returns; a destination (Aqrab).
When Abraham offered the prayer, there was no town existing near the Ka‘bah. There existed only the House of God. So Abraham prayed that in that wildest of wildernesses there might grow up a town, and that that town might become a place of security, affording peace to mankind. In fulfilment of this prayer, there grew up the town of Mecca which has remained a place of peace and security for thousands of years. The prayer also implied that the Baitullah, would be the means of bringing peace and security to mankind. This was destined to come about in two ways: Firstly, those who accepted and followed Islam were to become secure from all evils and to become recipients of God’s blessings. Secondly, Islam was to be the means of bringing about peace and concord among the different nations of the world.
While praying to God to grant sustenance to the dwellers of Mecca, Abraham restricted his prayer only to its good and righteous dwellers. The reason for this was that when Abraham had previously prayed to God to raise Reformers and Religious Leaders from his progeny, God had replied that such men would be raised from among the righteous only (2:125). So when he prayed a second time to God to grant sustenance to the people of Mecca, he was more careful and confined his prayer to the righteous only. This shows how submissive and careful God’s Prophets are. But Abraham had now evidently become overly cautious, for this time God answered, saying, that He would grant sustenance to all men, irrespective of whether they were righteous or not, because He was the Provider for the whole universe, not for the righteous only. The wicked, however, shall be duly punished for their crimes.
Another reason why Abraham restricted his prayer to the righteous was that he wished Mecca to be the abode of the righteous alone; but God knew that even that sacred town was not going to remain untarnished throughout the long centuries of history. (close)
وَ اِذۡ یَرۡفَعُ اِبۡرٰہٖمُ الۡقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الۡبَیۡتِ وَ اِسۡمٰعِیۡلُ ؕ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلۡ مِنَّا ؕ اِنَّکَ اَنۡتَ السَّمِیۡعُ الۡعَلِیۡمُ ﴿۱۲۸﴾
وَإِذۡ يَرۡفَعُ إِبۡرَٰهِـۧمُ ٱلۡقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ ٱلۡبَيۡتِ وَإِسۡمَٰعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلۡ مِنَّآۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلۡعَلِيمُ
146. Was Abraham the founder or only the rebuilder of the Ka‘bah is a question that has given rise to much discussion. Some hold that Abraham was the first builder of the place, others trace its origin to Adam. The Qur’an (3:97) and authentic Traditions favour the view that even prior to the erection of a building on this site by Abraham some sort of structure did exist, but it had fallen into ruins and only a trace of it had remained. The word al-Qawa‘id in the verse shows that the foundations of the House were there which Abraham and Ishmael had raised. Moreover, Abraham’s prayer at the time he had separated from the child Ishmael and his mother at Mecca, viz. Our Lord, I have settled some of my children in an uncultivable valley near Thy Sacred House (14:38), shows that the Ka‘bah had existed even before Abraham had settled his wife and son in the Valley of Mecca. The Hadith also supports this view (Bukhari). Historical records too lend support to the view that the Ka‘bah is of antique origin. Historians of established authority and even some hostile critics of Islam, have admitted that the Ka‘bah is an ancient place and has been held sacred from time immemorial. "Diodorus Siculus, Sicily (60 B.C.), speaking of the region now known as Hijaz, says that it was 'specially honoured by the natives' and adds, 'an altar is there built of hard stone and very old in years, ... to which the neighbouring peoples thronged from all sides" (Translation by C. M. Oldfather, London, 1935, Book III, ch. 42 vol. ii. pp. 211-213)... 'These words must refer to the holy house of Mecca, for we know of no other which ever commanded the universal homage of Arabia ... Tradition represents the Ka‘bah as from time immemorial the scene of pilgrimage from all quarters of Arabia.' See 'The Larger Edition of the Commentary,' pp. 180-182. (close)
a. 14:41. (close)
When the unfitness of the Israelites for prophethood had been proved, the question naturally arose: What nation would then be the rightful heir to this favour of God? To answer this, reference is here made to the history of the building of the Ka‘bah by Abraham and Ishmael, and it is added (vv. 128-130) that while constructing the Ka‘bah, Abraham and Ishmael had offered certain prayers which were to bear fruit. These prayers were to the effect that the children of Abraham through Ishmael might multiply and prosper and there might be raised among them a great Prophet. Whether Abraham was the founder or only the rebuilder of the Ka‘bah is a point that has given rise to much discussion. Some hold that Abraham was the first builder of the place, others trace the origin of the House to the days of Adam and hold that Abraham only rebuilt it on its old ruins. The Quran and authentic traditions favour the view that even prior to the erection of a building on this site by Abraham, some sort of structure did exist. Even in the verse under comment the words القواعد من البیت which may mean "the foundations that were left of the house," hint at the fact that a previous structure did exist but it had fallen into ruins and only a trace of the foundations remained. Elsewhere the Quran speaks of the Ka‘bah, as the first House founded (or built) for (the good of) mankind (3:97). Now as people lived even before Abraham and some Prophets had also been raised before him, it stands to reason that some place of worship did exist for them and as the Ka‘bah is the first house of that nature, it must be taken to have priority over all others.
Moreover, the Quran represents Abraham offering the following prayer at the time of his separation from Ishmael and his mother at Mecca: Our Lord, I have settled some of my children in an uncultivable valley near Thy Sacred House(14:38). From this verse it is clear that the Ka‘bah existed even before Abraham.
The sayings of the Holy Prophet also support this view. Describing the retreat of Abraham after leaving Hagar and Ishmael at the place where Mecca now stands, the Holy Prophet is reported to have said: "Hagar inquired of Abraham why he was leaving them in a valley without any friend or sympathizer and without any food to eat. She asked the same question several times, but Abraham (probably overpowered by feelings) kept silent and made no reply. At last, she asked whether he was doing this under the order of God, and this time Abraham replied in the affirmative. Thereupon, Hagar said that in that case God would never let them perish. Then Abraham returned, and standing on a hillock, where he could not be seen by Hagar, he turned his face to the Ka‘bah, and raising both of his hands, offered the prayer: Our Lord, I have settled some of my children in an uncultivable valley near Thy Sacred House (Bukhari).
The above narrative related by the Holy Prophet shows that even before Abraham’s going to the place where Mecca now stands, it was held sacred, or else how could he have turned his face to it while offering the prayer and how could he have used the words "near Thy Sacred House". Nor does history say anything contrary to this view, because whatever information can be gleaned from it points to the fact that the Ka‘bah is a very old place. Historians of established authority and even some hostile critics of Islam, have admitted that the Ka‘bah has been held sacred from time immemorial. In this connection the following quotation may also be of interest. "Diodorus Siculus, Sicily (60 B.C.), speaking of the region now known as Hejaz, says that it was 'specially honoured by the natives' and adds, 'an altar is there built of hard stone and very old in years,...to which the neighbouring peoples thronged from all sides' (Translation by C. M. Oldfather, London, 1935, Book III, ch. 42 vol. ii. pp. 211-213). "These words", says William Muir, "must refer to the holy house of Mecca, for we know of no other which ever commanded the universal homage of Arabia…Tradition represents the Ka‘bah as from time immemorial the scene of pilgrimage from all quarters of Arabia…So extensive an homage must have had its beginnings in an extremely remote age" (Muir, p. ciii).
Some Christian critics question the truth of the claim that Abraham came to the site of Mecca and built the Ka‘bah on the flimsy ground that the Bible is silent about it. It is not difficult to see the absurdity of this objection. There is no denying that the story of Abraham’s leaving his wife Hagar and his son Ishmael in a desert, the want of water, the extreme thirst of the boy and the providential appearance of a well are all mentioned in the Bible (Gen. 21:14-19). As, however, the Bible gives an extremely brief account of Ishmael’s life, owing to the antipathy of the Jews towards him, it is not safe to decide the matter solely on the authority of the Bible. It is an open secret that the sons of Israel looked upon the sons of Ishmael as their enemies. Therefore, far from preserving any record of the life of Ishmael, the Israelites were more likely to delete even such mention of him as might already have been contained in the Bible. At any rate, the Christians have no historical ground to reject the narrative of the Quran, especially when the well-known national traditions of Arabia all go to confirm it. Even some Christian writers have felt constrained to admit that the story of the Quran and the Traditions is true, or, at least, highly probable. "Freytag (Einl. p. 339) says that there is no good reason for doubting that the Caaba was founded as stated in this passage" (Rodwell under 2:128). Lieut. Burton in his Pilgrimage (iii. 336) refers to the Arab tradition which he says "speaks clearly and consistently as to the fact of Abraham having visited Mecca to build the Caaba", and considers it not to be without foundation. The Jerusalem Targum also speaks "of the visits of the 'very old man' Abraham to the tent of his nomad son, far away in the Arabian desert" (Jewish Foundation of Islam, p. 84). The Talmud supports the view that Abraham went twice to see Ishmael after the latter had grown up to be a young man and had married (Selections translated by H. Polano, London, Tamuz 5636, p. 51). (close)