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)
رَبَّنَا وَ اجۡعَلۡنَا مُسۡلِمَیۡنِ لَکَ وَ مِنۡ ذُرِّیَّتِنَاۤ اُمَّۃً مُّسۡلِمَۃً لَّکَ ۪ وَ اَرِنَا مَنَاسِکَنَا وَ تُبۡ عَلَیۡنَا ۚ اِنَّکَ اَنۡتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِیۡمُ ﴿۱۲۹﴾
رَبَّنَا وَٱجۡعَلۡنَا مُسۡلِمَيۡنِ لَكَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِنَآ أُمَّةٗ مُّسۡلِمَةٗ لَّكَ وَأَرِنَا مَنَاسِكَنَا وَتُبۡ عَلَيۡنَآۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلتَّوَّابُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ
135. Important Words:
مناسکنا (our ways of worship). The word مناسك is the plural of منسك which is derived from نسك which means, he devoted himself to religious worship; he performed acts of worship for God; he slaughtered animals of sacrifice to win God’s pleasure. مناسك الحج means, the religious rites or ceremonies of Pilgrimage; and also the places where these ceremonies are performed (Aqrab & Lane).
Having built the House, Abraham and his son Ishmael turn towards God with the supplication that He may afford them the power to lead a life of devotion and submissiveness and show them the ways of such worship as may be performed in the Ka‘bah.
This prayer of Abraham and Ishmael also brings out the very important point that even such righteous persons who stand high in the estimation of God need constant prayer for the further purification of their souls and for the consecration of their good deeds by God, because, however noble and righteous the deeds of man may outwardly appear to be, they sometimes lack the true inner spirit and lead to evil consequences.
Abraham and Ishmael here use the words مسلم (Muslim) for themselves and also pray that from among their posterity too there may be bornمسلم (Muslim) people who may be submissive and resigned to the will of God. This helps to explain another verse of the Quran which says of Abraham that it was he who first gave the name "Muslim" to the believers in the Holy Prophet (22:79). It is not of course meant that Abraham used the word مسلم in the above quoted verse as a proper name, but his using that word in his prayer certainly suggests that from among his progeny would be born a people who would not only bear that name but would also possess the spirit of اسلام i.e. submission to the will of God. (close)
رَبَّنَا وَ ابۡعَثۡ فِیۡہِمۡ رَسُوۡلًا مِّنۡہُمۡ یَتۡلُوۡا عَلَیۡہِمۡ اٰیٰتِکَ وَ یُعَلِّمُہُمُ الۡکِتٰبَ وَ الۡحِکۡمَۃَ وَ یُزَکِّیۡہِمۡ ؕ اِنَّکَ اَنۡتَ الۡعَزِیۡزُ الۡحَکِیۡمُ ﴿۱۳۰﴾٪
رَبَّنَا وَٱبۡعَثۡ فِيهِمۡ رَسُولٗا مِّنۡهُمۡ يَتۡلُواْ عَلَيۡهِمۡ ءَايَٰتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ ٱلۡكِتَٰبَ وَٱلۡحِكۡمَةَ وَيُزَكِّيهِمۡۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡعَزِيزُ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ
b. 2:152; 3:165; 62:3. (close)
147. The verse serves as a summary of the subject-matter of the entire Surah which constitutes not only its enlargement but treats the various subjects in exactly the same order in which they have been mentioned in this verse, i.e. first come the Signs, then the Book, then the Wisdom of the Law, and last of all the Means of national progress (See Introduction to the Surah).
It may be of interest to note here that the Qur’an speaks of two separate prayers of Abraham—one about the progeny of Isaac and the other about that of Ishmael. The former prayer is mentioned in 2:125 and the latter in the verse under comment. In his prayer about the progeny of Isaac, Abraham asks that Imams or Reformers may be raised from among them, but he makes no mention of their special work or status—they are ordinary Divine Reformers who will follow one another for the reformation of the Israelites. In his prayer in the present verse, however, he prays to God to raise among his progeny a great Prophet with a specific mission. This difference indeed constitutes a marvellously true picture of the two branches of the House of Abraham. In making mention of the two prayers of Abraham in vv. 125-130 the Surah alludes to the fact that Abraham did not only pray for the prosperity of the children of Isaac but also for the posterity of Ishmael, his first-born. The offspring of Isaac lost the gift of Prophethood on account of their evil deeds. The Prophet promised and prayed for in the present verse must, therefore, belong to the other descendants of Abraham who were the children of Ishmael. In order to point out that the expected and promised Prophet was to be an Ishmaelite, the Qur’an has quite appropriately made mention of the construction of the Ka‘bah by Abraham and Ishmael and of the prayers offered by Abraham for the posterity of his eldest son. To this natural conclusion Christian critics generally bring forward two objections: (1) That the Bible makes no mention of any promise having been made by God to Abraham concerning Ishmael, and (2) that, admitting that God did make any such promise, there is no proof of the fact that the Prophet of Islam was descended from Ishmael.
As regards the first objection, even if the Bible be shown to contain no prophecy about Ishmael, it does not mean that such a prophecy was never made. Moreover, if the biblical evidence can be taken to establish the existence of a promise about Isaac and his sons, why should not the evidence of the Qur’an and, for that matter, of the children of Ishmael, be accepted to establish the fact that promises were held out by God to Ishmael and his sons also. But the Bible itself does contain references to the future prosperity of the sons of Ishmael similar to those it contains about the sons of Isaac (Gen. 16:10-12; 17:6-10; 17:18-20). As a matter of fact, the promise made to Ishmael does not materially differ from that made to Isaac—they were both to be blessed, both were to be made fruitful, the descendants of both were to multiply exceedingly and both were to be made great nations, and kingdom and dominion are promised to the progeny of both. So when the nature of the promise made to both the brothers does not substantially differ, the kind of reward granted to the children of Isaac will have also to be admitted for the children of Ishmael. This fact has been admitted by some very eminent Christian scholars (The Scofield Reference Bible, p. 25).
In reply to the second objection that even if the covenant be understood to include the sons of Ishmael, it has yet to be proved that the Holy Prophet belonged to the House of Ishmael, the following points may briefly be noted: (1) The Quraish, the tribe to which the Holy Prophet belonged, always believed and declared themselves to be the descendants of Ishmael and this claim was recognized by all the people of Arabia. (2) If the claim of the Quraish and, for that matter, that of other Ishmaelite tribes of Arabia, to Ishmaelite descent had been false, the real descendants of Ishmael would have protested against such a false claim; but no such objection is known to have ever been raised. (3) In Gen. 17:20 God had promised to bless Ishmael, to multiply his progeny, to make him a great nation and the father of twelve princes. If the people of Arabia are not his descendants, where is the promised nation? The Ishmaelite tribes of Arabia are indeed the only claimants in the field. (4) According to Gen. 21:8-14 Hagar had to leave her home in order to satisfy the vanity of Sarah. If she was not taken to Hijaz, where are her descendants found, and which is the place of her banishment? (5) The Arab geographers are all agreed that Paran is the name given to the hills of Hijaz (Mu‘jamul-Buldan). (6) According to the Bible the generations of Ishmael "dwelt from Havilah unto Shur" (Gen. 25:18), and the phrase "from Havilah unto Shur" designates the opposite extremes of Arabia (Bib. Cyc. by J. Eadie, London, 1862). (7) The Bible calls Ishmael 'a wild man' (Gen. 16:12) and the Word A‘rabi, i.e. 'a dweller of the desert' conveys almost the same sense. (8) Even Paul has admitted Hagar’s connection with Arabia (Gal. 4:25). (9) Kedar was a son of Ishmael and it is admitted that his descendants settled in the southern part of Arabia (Bib. Cyc. London, 1862). (10) Prof. C. C. Torrey says: "The Arabs were Ishmaelites according to the Hebrew tradition ... The 'twelve princes' (Gen. 17:20) subsequently named in Gen. 25:13ff, represent Arabian tribes or districts; notice especially Kedar, Duma (Dumat al-Jandal), Teima. The great nation is the people of Arabia" (Jewish Foundation of Islam, p. 83). 'The Arabs, from physical characteristics, language, the occurrence of native traditions ... and from the testimony of the Bible are mainly and essentially Ishmaelites' (Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, New York, p. 685). (II) 'Let us always blame the foul inclination of the sons of Hagar, and specially the people (the tribe) of Kuraish who are like animals' (Leaves from Three Ancient Qur’ans, edited by the Rev. Mingana, D. D., Intro. xiii). (close)
a. 2:152; 3:165; 62:3. (close)
136. Important Words:
آیات (Signs) is the plural of آیة which means, a sign, token, or mark by which a person or thing is known or recognized; it properly signifies any apparent thing inseparable from a thing not equally apparent, so that when one perceives the former, one knows that one also perceives the latter which one cannot perceive by itself; it also means a miracle, a wonder. The word is also used in the sense of a sentence; a part of speech; a verse (Lane & Aqrab).
کتاب (Book) means, anything written; a book; a prescribed law (Aqrab). See also 2:54.
حکمة (Wisdom) is derived from حکم (hakama). They say, حکمه i.e. he prevented or restrained him (from acting in an evil manner). حکم بالامر means, he judged and decreed in the matter. حکم (hakuma) means, he became wise (Aqrab). حکمةmeans, what prevents or restrains one from ignorant behaviour; knowledge or science; knowledge of the true nature of things; wisdom or wisdom underlying a commandment; an action according to the requirements thereof (Mufradat & Lane).
یزکیھم (purify them) is derived from زکی (zakka) which again is derived from زکا meaning, he or it grew and increased and developed; he or it became purified. زکی means, he purified; he caused to grow and increase. تزکیة means, the act of purifying and increasing (Aqrab).
العزیز (the Mighty) is derived from عز i.e. he was or became mighty, potent or powerful; or high, elevated or illustrious; or hard and resisting. عزیز means, mighty and powerful or high and elevated; or hard and resisting. It also sometimes means, distressing or grievous. العزیز used as the attributive name of God means, the Mighty Who overcomes everything; the Incomparable or Unparalleled (Lane). See also 2:207 and 5:55.
الحکیم (the Wise) is derived from the same root from which حکمة (for which see above) is derived. حکیم means, possessing knowledge or science or wisdom; wise; a sage; a philosopher; a physician; one who performs or executes affairs firmly, soundly, thoroughly, skilfully and well. الحکیم is one of the names of God meaning the All-Wise (Lane). Applied to the Quran the word would signify the book that is full of wisdom and is free from all defect and imperfection, having no incongruity or unsoundness; or the book which judiciously decides religious differences.
In this verse which is one of the most important, attention is drawn to the prayer of Abraham when he was leaving his wife Hagar and his son Ishmael to live in the arid valley of Mecca. The great prayer was to the effect that God might raise from among the Meccans a Prophet, who should (1) lay before the people Signs of God that may carry conviction to their minds; (2) teach them the Law of God; (3) initiate them into the philosophy of divine commandments, because until the wisdom underlying a commandment is brought home, one does not feel disposed to attend to it, but rather looks upon it as a burden, as was the case with the Christians who, unable to understand the underlying wisdom of the Mosaic Law, began to look upon it as a curse (Rom. 4:15; Gal. 3:13); and finally (4) purify the lives of men and open out to them the avenues of progress. See also 2:152.
This prayer of Abraham, offered from the very depth of his heart, was fulfilled in the person of the Holy Prophet. The wonderful way in which the Holy Prophet combined in his person the four characteristics mentioned in this prayer is a fact of history to which even his most hostile critics have testified. By universal consent the Prophet of Islam has been acclaimed as "the most successful Prophet".
The fact that Abraham did not here pray for many Prophets, but for one Prophet only shows that while offering this prayer, he had in view a very great Prophet, a Master-Prophet who was to transcend all. This prayer of Abraham has been applied by the Holy Prophet to himself. He is reported to have said انا دعوة ابراھیم i.e. "I am the prayer (personified) of Abraham" (Jarir & ‘Asakir).
As mentioned in the introductory remarks in the beginning of this chapter, the verse under comment serves as a summary of the entire chapter which is not only an enlargement of the subject matter of this verse but treats its various subjects in exactly the same order in which they have been mentioned in this verse, i.e. first come the Signs, then the Book, then the Wisdom of the Law, and last of all the means of national progress.
It may be of interest to note here that the Quran speaks of two separate prayers of Abraham—one about the progeny of Isaac and the other about that of Ishmael. The former prayer has been mentioned in 2:125 and the latter in the verse under comment. In his prayer about the progeny of Isaac, Abraham asks that Imams or Reformers may be raised from among them, but he makes no mention of their special work or status—they are ordinary Reformers who will follow one another for the reformation of the Israelites. On the other hand, when Abraham prays about the progeny of Ishmael, he begs his Lord to raise among them a special Prophet with a specific and lofty mission. Again, when God answers the first-mentioned prayer of Abraham, He does not make any mention of the Reformers to be raised but leaves their appearance to be inferred only by implication; but He does make a pointed reference to the fact that in spite of these Reformers, the Israelites will end as transgressors. On the contrary, God makes no such mention about the progeny of Ishmael, thereby hinting that after the Promised Prophet has been raised, their glorious days will continue till the end of the world. This is indeed a marvellously true portrait of the two branches of the House of Abraham.
In making mention of the prayers of Abraham in verses 127 to 130 the Quran makes an allusion to the fact that Abraham did not only pray for the prosperity of the children of Isaac but also for the posterity of Ishmael, his firstborn. When the offspring of Isaac lost the gift of prophethood on account of their evil deeds, the next descendants of Abraham were the children of Ishmael and thus the Promised Prophet must belong to the House of the latter. In order to point out that the expected Prophet was to be an Ishmaelite, the Quran makes mention of the construction of the Ka‘bah by Abraham and Ishmael and of the prayers offered by Abraham for the posterity of his eldest son.
To this natural conclusion Christian critics generally bring forward two objections (1) that the Bible makes no mention of any promise having been made by God to Abraham concerning Ishmael, and (2) that, admitting that God did make such a promise, there is no proof of the fact that the Prophet of Islam was descended from Ishmael.
As regards the first objection, it should be borne in mind that even if the Bible be shown to contain no prophecy about Ishmael, the absence of such a mention in it cannot be considered as conclusive testimony that such a prophecy was not actually made. It is no secret that Sarah, the mother of Isaac, hated Ishmael and his mother, Hagar. This hatred of their mother for the House of Ishmael was inherited by her sons, the Israelites (Gen. 16:12). In these circumstances it would be idle to search for any express prophecy in favour of Ishmael and his progeny in the Bible; particularly when it was for a long time subjected to all sorts of interference on the part of the Israelites. Moreover, if the Biblical evidence can be taken to establish the existence of a promise about Isaac and his sons, why should not the evidence of the Quran and, for that matter, of the children of Ishmael, be accepted to establish the fact that promises were held out by God to Ishmael and his sons also. But the undeniable fact is that the Bible does contain references to the future prosperity of the sons of Ishmael similar to those it contains about the sons of Isaac. The following are some of these references:
(1) "And God said unto Abraham, thou shalt keep my covenant, therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep between me and you and thy seed after thee; every man child among you shall be circumcised" (Gen. 17:9, 10). This covenant was made with Abraham before the birth of Isaac and after Ishmael had been born, which shows that it applied to Ishmael and his children.
(2) "And the angel of the Lord said unto her (Ishmael’s mother), I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man (it appears that here some expression like "Arab" or the dweller of a desert country, has been translated as "wild"); his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren"; i.e., although all will constantly oppose him and be jealous of him, yet he will succeed (Gen. 16:10-12).
(3) Further evidence of Ishmael and his posterity being included in the covenant which God established between Himself and Abraham and his seed after him is furnished by Gen. 17:6-8 which says, "And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee and to thy seed after thee the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." Now, has not the land of Canaan remained in the possession of the Ishmaelites for over 1,300 years? If the Arab Muslims are not the seed of Abraham, why has Canaan continued in their possession for so long?
(4) Again in Gen. 17:18-20, we read:
"And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! and God said,…And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee. Behold I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation." It will thus be seen that the promises made for Ishmael are similar to those made for Isaac; nay, they are even greater in number, for, with regard to Ishmael, God says, (a) "I have blessed him"; (b) "I will make him fruitful"; (c) "I will multiply him exceedingly"; (d) "twelve princes shall he beget"; and (e) "I will make him a great nation".
(5) Further evidence of the fact that Ishmael was included in God’s covenant is furnished by the fact that circumcision which was instituted by God as a token of His covenant with Abraham and his seed after him, has continued among the descendants of Ishmael. Though Islam also enjoined it, yet it was already in vogue among the Arabs, which shows that they were the seed of Abraham and were consequently included in the covenant of which circumcision was instituted as a symbol.
In order to exclude Ishmael from God’s covenant, Christian writers sometimes bring forward the plea that the offspring of a handmaid cannot be included in Abraham’s seed. But this is entirely baseless; for, even conceding, for the sake of argument, that Ishmael’s mother was a handmaid, it has been clearly said with reference to Ishmael: "And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation because he is thy seed" (Gen. 41:13).
The above-quoted verses of the Bible show (1) that Ishmael was born according to the promise of God given to Abraham before Ishmael’s birth; (2) that God blessed Ishmael and his mother, Hagar; (3) that He promised to make Ishmael and his mother fruitful and to multiply them exceedingly; (4) that God was with Ishmael; and (5) that the covenant of God with Abraham about the circumcision of every male child among his progeny applied to Ishmael and his children.
As a matter of fact, the promise made to Ishmael does not differ very much from that made to Isaac; they are both to be blessed, both to be made fruitful, the descendants of both to multiply exceedingly and both are to be made great nations, and kingdom and dominion is promised to the progeny of both. So when the nature of the promise made to both the brothers does not substantially differ, the kind of reward granted to the children of Isaac will have also to be admitted for the children of Ishmael. It would be wrong to think that as in Gen. 17:21 it is written that God will establish His covenant with Isaac, so Prophets were meant to be raised from among his children only, for a similar covenant was made with Abraham even before the birth of Isaac, and this clearly applied to Ishmael. This covenant is contained in Gen. 17:10, 11 according to which Ishmael was circumcised at the age of 13 and thenceforward circumcision became a religious rite with the posterity of Ishmael. It is therefore beyond any shadow of doubt that the covenant referred to above was intended for the children of Ishmael quite as much as for the children of Isaac. This fact has even been admitted by some eminent Christian writers of established authority (The Scofield Reference Bible, p. 25).
So far about verbal promises. Now let us see how God practically treated Ishmael. We read in Gen. 21:14-20, "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lifted up her voice, and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer."
This shows that God rendered miraculous help to Ishmael and brought into existence a well of water for his sake. It is now for the Christians to show what extraordinary thing God wrought for Isaac that may be compared with this. In the above passage it is also said that "God was with the lad", which means that Ishmael grew up under the special protection of the Lord.
Further evidence of the fact that Ishmael was looked upon as the seed of Abraham, on a par with Isaac, is furnished by the following circumstances:
In Gen. 25:6, we read that when Abraham grew old and was nearing his end, he sent away the sons of the concubines. And then the Bible goes on to say: "And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred three score and fifteen years, and Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man full of years; and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah." (Gen. 25:7-9). Now, if Ishmael was also treated as the offspring of a concubine, he ought to have been treated as the other children, who were the issue of concubines, were treated. But such was not the case; for when Abraham died, the children of the concubines were away and only Ishmael and Isaac were present, and both of them participated in the burial ceremony of their father. This shows that Ishmael was not treated as the offspring of a concubine, but was looked upon as the equal of Isaac and was treated accordingly.
In reply to the second objection that even if the covenant be understood to include the sons of Ishmael, it is yet to be proved that the Holy Prophet belonged to the House of Ishmael, the following points may briefly be noted:
(1) The best way to know the origin of a race is to refer to the traditions and the testimony of the race itself; and, as we all know, the Quraish, the tribe to which the Holy Prophet belonged, always believed and declared themselves to be the descendants of Ishmael and this claim was recognized by all the people of Arabia.
(2) If the claim of the Quraish and, for that matter, that of other Ishmaelite tribes of Arabia, to Ishmaelite descent had been false, the real descendants of Ishmael would have protested against such a false claim; but no such objection is known to have been ever raised.
(3) In Gen. 17:20 God had promised to bless Ishmael, to multiply his progeny, to make him a great nation and the father of twelve princes. If the people of Arabia are not his descendants, where is the promised nation? The Ishmaelite tribes of Arabia are indeed the only claimants in the field,
(4) According to Gen. 21:8-14 Hagar had to leave her home in order to satisfy the vanity of Sarah. If she was not taken to Hedjaz, where are her descendants found, and which is the place of her banishment?
(5) After her banishment Hagar dwelt in the wilderness of Paran (Gen. 21:21). Christian writers have tried to prove that Paran is Feiran near Jebel Serbal in the Sinai Peninsula. But the great English commentator of the Old Testament, who devoted his whole life to the study of the Bible, Dr. S. R. Driver, has had to confess after all that "the site of Paran, from which the wilderness derives its name, is, however, unknown" (Deut. p.4). On the contrary, the Arab geographers are all agreed that Paran is the name given to the hills of Hedjaz (Mu‘jamul-Buldan).
(6) We are told that the generations of Ishmael "dwelt from Havilah unto Shur" (Gen. 25:18) and the phrase "from Havilah unto Shur" designates the opposite extremes of Arabia (Bib. Cyc. by J. Eadie, London, 1862).
(7) The Bible calls Ishmael "a wild man" (Gen. 16:12) and the word اعرابی (A‘rabi) "a dweller of the desert" conveys almost the same sense.
(8) Even Paul has admitted Hagar’s connection with Arabia (Gal. 4:25).
(9) Kedar was a son of Ishmael and it is admitted that his descendants settled in the southern part of Arabia (Bib. Cyc. London, 1862).
(10) Prof. C. C. Torrey says: "The Arabs were Ishmaelites according to the Hebrew tradition…The 'twelve princes' (Gen. 17:20) subsequently named in Gen. 25:13ff, represent Arabian tribes or districts; notice especially Kedar, Duma (Dumatul-Jandal), Teima. The great nation is the people of Arabia." (Jewish Foundation of Islam, p.83).
(11) Similarly, the learned authors of the Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, New York, (1877, p. 685) admit that "the Arabs, from physical characteristics, language, the occurrence of native traditions…and the testimony of the Bible are mainly and essentially Ishmaelites."
(12) Lastly there is the opinion of Narsai, a Syrian writer who lived about a hundred years before the birth of the Holy Prophet. Mingana quotes Narsai as saying: "The raid of the sons of Hagar was more cruel even than famine, and the blow that they gave was more sore than disease; the wound of the sons of Abraham is like the venom of a serpent and perhaps there is a remedy for the poison of reptiles but not for theirs—let us always blame the foul inclination of the sons of Hagar, and specially the people (the tribe) of Kuraish who are like animals." (Leaves from Three Ancient Qurans, edited by the Rev. A. Mingana, D.D. Intro. xiii).
In the face of these conclusive proofs both the objections, that (1) Ishmael was not included in the covenant which God made with Abraham, and that (2) Ishmael did not settle in Arabia or that the Holy Prophet of Islam was not a descen-dant of Ishmael, fall to the ground.
Before passing on to the next verse a brief reference to Hagar, mother of Ishmael, will not be out of place here. C. J. Ellicott, Lord Bishop of Gloucester, says in his Commentary: "Hagar…was to be, not Abraham’s concubine, but his wife" (Vol. 1, p. 69). The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan ben Uzziel tell us that "Sarah…took Hagar…and set her free, and gave her to Abraham, her husband, to wife" (Translation by J. W. Etheridge, London, 1862, p. 205). This setting free of the "handmaid" or "bondwoman" does not imply that Hagar was a barbarian slave or that she was a slave from her very childhood. Sir Leonard Wooley says that she was a "civilised creature sprung from the second great centre of culture in the ancient world" (Abraham, London, 1936, p. 144).
"According to Midrash", says another authority, "Hagar had been given as a slave to Abraham by her father, the Pharaoh of Egypt, who said, "My daughter had better be a slave in the house of Abraham, than mistress in any other" (Translation of the Targums by J. W. Etheridge, note 8, on page 204). (close)
وَ مَنۡ یَّرۡغَبُ عَنۡ مِّلَّۃِ اِبۡرٰہٖمَ اِلَّا مَنۡ سَفِہَ نَفۡسَہٗ ؕ وَ لَقَدِ اصۡطَفَیۡنٰہُ فِی الدُّنۡیَا ۚ وَ اِنَّہٗ فِی الۡاٰخِرَۃِ لَمِنَ الصّٰلِحِیۡنَ ﴿۱۳۱﴾
وَمَن يَرۡغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبۡرَٰهِـۧمَ إِلَّا مَن سَفِهَ نَفۡسَهُۥۚ وَلَقَدِ ٱصۡطَفَيۡنَٰهُ فِي ٱلدُّنۡيَاۖ وَإِنَّهُۥ فِي ٱلۡأٓخِرَةِ لَمِنَ ٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَ
a. 3:96; 4:126; 6:162. (close)
148. The different forms of the word Safiha, Safaha and Safuha give different meanings, Safiha meaning, he was ignorant or foolish or light-witted. When the word is used with Nafsa-hu as its seeming object as in this verse, it does not actually become transitive but simply looks so (Lisan & Mufradat). The words also mean: "Who has ruined his soul." (close)
b. 2:125; 3:34; 16:121, 122; 60:5. (close)
137. Important Words:
یرغب (will turn away) is derived from رغب which is used either with the preposition فی or عن giving different meanings. رغب فیه means, he sought or desired it; and رغب عنه means, he turned away from it or he left or loathed it ( Aqrab).
سفه نفسه (is foolish of mind). The word سفه is used in three different forms: سفه (1) (safiha), (2) (safaha), and (3) (safuha). All these give different meanings. The Quran uses the first form, i.e. سفه (safiha) which means, he was ignorant or he behaved ignorantly; he was foolish or he acted foolishly; he was lightwitted or he behaved light-wittedly. When the word سفه is used with نفسه as its seeming object as in the verse under comment, it does not actually become transitive but simply looks so (as does the verb خسر which see under 2:28). In fact, as most lexicographers have explained, the expression سفه نفسهis really either سفه فی نفسه or سفه ھو نفسا or سفھت نفسه and means, either he is foolish of mind, or he is foolish himself, or his mind acts foolishly (Aqrab, Mufradat, Lisan & Lane).
اصطفیناه (him did We choose) is derived from صفا which means, it became pure and clean. اصفاه بکذا means, he chose him for that, or he honoured him with that. اصطفاه means, he chose or selected him from among others; he chose him in preference to others (Aqrab).
The attention of Jews and Christians is drawn to the point that when it has been proved that, in accordance with the prayer of Abraham, a Prophet was to appear from among the children of Ishmael and that Prophet has actually appeared, it is incumbent upon them to ponder over his claims and not to belie the prayer of Abraham and go against their own religion. The verse emphasizes the fact that anybody who departs from the way of the great patriarch of the People of the Book betrays his own folly. The religion of Abraham leads to salvation, whereas defection from it leads to ruin and deprivation. (close)
اِذۡ قَالَ لَہٗ رَبُّہٗۤ اَسۡلِمۡ ۙ قَالَ اَسۡلَمۡتُ لِرَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ﴿۱۳۲﴾
إِذۡ قَالَ لَهُۥ رَبُّهُۥٓ أَسۡلِمۡۖ قَالَ أَسۡلَمۡتُ لِرَبِّ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ
b. 3:68; 4:126. (close)
a. 3:68; 4:126. (close)
138. Important Words:
اسلم (submit), being in the imperative mood, means, submit or surrender or resign thyself; or become a Muslim, i.e. one resigned to God. For a fuller discussion of the word see 2:113.
The Jews are here told that the greatness of their ancestor Abraham lay in the fact that he was always ready to submit fully and resign himself completely to the will of God. Therefore, if they too wish to become great in the sight of God, they should also submit to Him and obey His commands and accept His Prophet.
The verse beautifully describes Abraham’s religion. When God asked him to submit, he immediately replied, I have submitted to the Lord of the worlds. This reply of Abraham points to two important inferences: (1) That Abraham does not use the words "I will submit" or even "I do submit" but I have submitted, which means that he was so eager to obey his Lord that he took no time in making his submission, as if the act were already a thing accomplished. (2) That Abraham does not merely say I have submitted, but adds the words to the Lord of the worlds, which signifies that his submission was not based on any ulterior motive but on the simple fact that the "Being" to Whom he was submitting was the Lord and Master of the world and hence entitled to obedience. (close)
وَ وَصّٰی بِہَاۤ اِبۡرٰہٖمُ بَنِیۡہِ وَ یَعۡقُوۡبُ ؕ یٰبَنِیَّ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ اصۡطَفٰی لَکُمُ الدِّیۡنَ فَلَا تَمُوۡتُنَّ اِلَّا وَ اَنۡتُمۡ مُّسۡلِمُوۡنَ ﴿۱۳۳﴾ؕ
وَوَصَّىٰ بِهَآ إِبۡرَٰهِـۧمُ بَنِيهِ وَيَعۡقُوبُ يَٰبَنِيَّ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱصۡطَفَىٰ لَكُمُ ٱلدِّينَ فَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسۡلِمُونَ
c. 3:103. (close)
149. As there is no time fixed for death, one should pass every moment of his life in complete submission to God. The verse may also mean that a true believer should always be so perfectly resigned to God’s will and should so completely win His pleasure that God may, out of His limitless bounty, so arrange that death may come to him at a time when he is completely resigned to His will. (close)
a. 3:103. (close)
139. Important Words:
وصی (did enjoin upon). وصی فلانا بکذا means, he enjoined this upon him, he ordered him to do this, he charged him with this. وصی علیه بالصلوة means, he exhorted him or enjoined him to observe Prayers. وصی له بماله means, he made a will in his favour, making him heir of his property after his death (Aqrab).
Abraham not only submitted himself to the will of God but also took special care that his children too should inculcate that spirit and lead lives of submission and resignation. The name of Jacob or Israel (grandson of Abraham) has been particularly added here to point to the fact that as Jacob also issued a similar injunction to his children, it becomes all the more binding on the Israelites to submit to the will of God and accept the Prophet who has come with the specific mission of اسلام i.e. submission to God’s will.
The words, so let not death overtake you except when you are in a state of submission, beautifully point to the fact that as nobody knows the time of his death, one should always lead a life of submission to God’s will so that whenever death comes, it may not find one in a state other than that of submission. The words may also mean that a true believer should be so perfectly resigned to God’s will and should so completely win His pleasure that He may, out of His limitless bounty, arrange that death may not come to him except at a time when he is resigned to His will.
This, as well as the preceding verse, forcefully brings out the important point that Islam really means absolute obedience and complete submission to the will of God. Only he who is completely resigned to the will of God is a true Muslim. Thus every true pre-Islamic religion that inculcated the spirit of submission will, within this meaning of the term, fall under the true definition of Islam, because previous to the religion preached by the Holy Prophet, to follow Islam was to obey the then expressed will of God, or, in other words, the revelation of the day. The point of difference between the religion brought by the Holy Prophet and the other true preceding faiths is—although they are Islamic in essence—those faiths were not called by the name of Islam, the reason for this being that they were not perfect and each of them was to be replaced by a succeeding one, and so, if all these had been given the name of Islam, there would have been great confusion. Hence, only the faith which was perfect in every way and was meant for all mankind and was to last forever was given that name so that its very name might be illustrative of its underlying purpose. The name Islam is "the new name" referred to in Isa. 62:2.
When the Quran calls the former Prophets Muslims, it obviously does not mean that they followed Quranic teachings. It simply means that, as explained above, they followed the true faith of their day and manifested in themselves, though partly of course, the spirit of اسلام i.e. submission to the will of God. (close)
اَمۡ کُنۡتُمۡ شُہَدَآءَ اِذۡ حَضَرَ یَعۡقُوۡبَ الۡمَوۡتُ ۙ اِذۡ قَالَ لِبَنِیۡہِ مَا تَعۡبُدُوۡنَ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِیۡ ؕ قَالُوۡا نَعۡبُدُ اِلٰہَکَ وَ اِلٰـہَ اٰبَآئِکَ اِبۡرٰہٖمَ وَ اِسۡمٰعِیۡلَ وَ اِسۡحٰقَ اِلٰـہًا وَّاحِدًا ۚۖ وَّ نَحۡنُ لَہٗ مُسۡلِمُوۡنَ ﴿۱۳۴﴾
أَمۡ كُنتُمۡ شُهَدَآءَ إِذۡ حَضَرَ يَعۡقُوبَ ٱلۡمَوۡتُ إِذۡ قَالَ لِبَنِيهِ مَا تَعۡبُدُونَ مِنۢ بَعۡدِيۖ قَالُواْ نَعۡبُدُ إِلَٰهَكَ وَإِلَٰهَ ءَابَآئِكَ إِبۡرَٰهِـۧمَ وَإِسۡمَٰعِيلَ وَإِسۡحَٰقَ إِلَٰهٗا وَٰحِدٗا وَنَحۡنُ لَهُۥ مُسۡلِمُونَ
150. Ishmael was the uncle of Jacob, and yet the children of Jacob here include Ishmael among their "fathers" which shows that the word Ab (father) also sometimes means uncle. Jacob’s sons, the Israelites, held Ishmael in great respect. (close)
151. In corroboration of what the Qur’an says about Jacob’s will to his sons, Rodwell quotes the following from Midrash Rabbah: "At the time when our father Jacob quitted this world, he summoned his twelve sons and said to them, 'Hearken to your father Israel' (Gen. 49:2). Have you any doubts in your hearts concerning the Holy One, blessed be He. They said, Hear, O Israel, our father, as there is no doubt in thy heart, so neither is there in ours. For the Lord is our God, and He is one" (Mider. Rabbah on Gen. par. 98, & on Deut. par. 2). Compare also Targ. Jer. on Deut. 6:4. (close)
140. Important Words:
اله (God) is derived from اله (alaha) which means, he worshipped. So اله means, a thing or person or being worshipped, whether true or false; a deity (Aqrab).
Jacob or Israel was the son of Isaac who was a son of Abraham. Thus Ishmael was the uncle of Jacob, and yet the children of Jacob here include Ishmael among their "fathers" which proves two things: firstly, that the word اب (father) is also used of uncle; and secondly, that up to the time of Jacob’s sons, Ishmael was held in due respect by the Israelites. Nay, the children of Israel mention the name of Ishmael even before that of their own grandfather, Isaac, and do not mention any other son of Abraham.
The words, were you present when death came to Jacob, signify that the principle of submission to the will of God is not an innovation introduced by Islam, but has been recognized by good and righteous people in all times and even Israel, the founder of the Jewish tribes, acted upon that principle, so much so, that the only thought that came to his mind when death approached him was to enjoin the same noble principle upon his children. Israel wished his sons to become pious Muslims; will not the Jews of the Holy Prophet’s day act upon that principle?
In corroboration of what the Quran says about Jacob’s will to his sons, Rodwell quotes the following from Midrash Rabbah: "At the time when our father Jacob quitted this world, he summoned his twelve sons and said to them, Hearken to your father Israel (Gen. 49:2). Have you any doubts in your hearts concerning the Holy One, blessed be He. They said, Hear, o Israel, our father, as there is no doubt in thy heart, so neither is there in ours. For the Lord is our God, and He is One" (Midr. Rabbah on Gen. par. 98, and on Deut. par. 2). Compare also Targ. Jer. on Deut. 6:4. (close)