Introduction to chapters of the Holy Quran: Surah al-Nur, al-Furqan, al-Shu‘ara, al-Naml, al-Qasas and al-Ankabut

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The English translation of the introduction to chapters of the Holy Quran as given by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IVrh is being presented for the benefit of our readers. Insha-Allah, in the coming issues, we will endeavour to publish the introduction to all chapters of the Holy Quran:

Chapter 24: Surah al-Nur

This is a Medinite surah, and it was revealed in the fifth year of emigration. Including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 65 verses.

In the beginning of the preceding surah – Al-Mu‘minun – a sign of the true believers has been specifically mentioned, i.e. the safeguarding of one’s private parts. And the subject matter of Surah al-Nur relates to this very subject. 

Surah al-Nur talks about the punishment of an adulterer and an adulteress; and that wicked and immoral people have their relationships with that very type of people. And the true believers are very particular about the selection of their companions. In this connection, it has also been emphasised that those wicked people who calumniate the chaste women would be punished very severely for it. The account of a calumny against Hazrat Aisha Siddiqara, who was a very chaste lady, by some wicked people and their punishment is also found in this very surah.

Next are found the directives for those who seek to lead a pious life whereby Allah would enhance their righteousness further. One of the directives is to “extend greetings of peace to the inmates of a house before entering it, lest you find them unaware in such a state as may lead your thoughts astray.”

The second precautionary measure mentioned is that both the believing men and women should restrain their looks and should not allow their eyes to wander around aimlessly. 

After all this discussion, the Holy Prophetsa has been presented as a great manifestation of divine light, whose basic traits are that he neither belonged to the east nor west; rather, he would illuminate the east and west equally with his light. He was like such a lamp that would kindle many more lamps. 

Next are mentioned the houses of the noble Companionsra as to how the Holy Prophetsa kindled lamps in those houses as well.

Next, the similitude of the disbelievers is mentioned in two ways. Firstly, their strife in order to satiate their thirst in the pursuit of worldly pleasures is ultimately turned into regrets. A thirsty person in the desert takes a mirage to be water, but once he approaches the mirage he finds no other result save he is punished for his deception. 

Secondly, as compared to light, they are engulfed in layers upon layers of darkness; like a person drowning in the deep sea with dense clouds above in the sky; they drown in layer upon layer of darkness and it is so dark in there that they fail to see even their own hands. 

Verse 52 gives the definition of the true believers that when they are called to Allah and His Messenger, without any reservation they say, “We submit”. Here, the word Falaah (success) has been used in:

قَدۡ‭ ‬اَفۡلَحَ‭ ‬الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ

[“Surely, success does come to the believers”] that, “It is these who are successful.”

This very surah also contains Ayat Istikhlaaf [verse about Khilafat], which elaborates that as Allah the Almighty appointed khulafa [successors] after the past prophets, in the same way, khulafa would be appointed after the Holy Prophetsa by the command of Allah, though they may be elected by the agency of human hand. One sign of theirs would be that amidst dangers and disorder, while people would think that they would be overpowered by opponents, “We will give them in exchange security and peace after their fear.”

One sign of the unconditional obedience, which has been discussed repeatedly, is that they not only obeyed the Holy Prophetsa; rather, they also gave him great respect, so much so that when they assembled for deliberation on a particular issue, on no account did they leave without the permission of the Holy Prophetsa. And in order to teach etiquette to the ignorant, it was directed not to summon the Holy Prophetsa by calling out to him as they called out to each other.

In the concluding verse of the surah, Allah the Almighty says, “Any assertion one makes can either be sincere or hypocritical; Allah knows best in what condition they are.”

Chapter 25: Surah al-Furqan

This surah was revealed towards the end of the Meccan period, and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 78 verses.

It was asserted in the beginning of the surah that Allah the Almighty bestowed on the Holy Prophetsa that furqan, i.e., the great touchstone which clearly distinguishes between truth and falsehood. This is the same touchstone which has repeatedly been discussed in Surah al-Nur. Some more examples of it are furnished in the current surah.

One such example is that the Holy Prophetsa was endowed with the ability to distinguish not only the people around him; rather, he was bestowed upon the great furqan, in the form of the Holy Quran, to distinguish between the true and untrue in the entire world.

In reply to the wonderful miracles of the Holy Prophetsa, the opponents presented a fabricated criterion of a true prophet: “What sort of a messenger is this that he eats food and walks in the streets. Why has not an angel been sent down to him that he might be a warner with him?” 

Similarly they had fabricated another criterion that a material treasure should be sent down to a prophet from the heavens, whereas a prophet is bestowed upon an endless treasure of teachings and not material treasure.

Similarly, according to them, a messenger should have huge gardens so as to eat from without any toil. In reply, Allah the Almighty says, “The gardens of heavens which We have assigned for him are beyond the imagination of these ignorant ones. Spiritual palaces made exclusively for him will also be available in these gardens.”

Similarly, in refutation of the claim of the disbelievers, it was also asserted (and asked of them) if they could show any one of the past messengers who did not walk in the streets. If they failed to provide this, then it was an absolute denial of prophethood, meaning that God could not send anyone as a messenger. And as for the descent of angels to the disbelievers, they definitely would descend, but with the message of their destruction and with the news of such chastisement from which they must not be saved. 

Another objection raised is why the Quran was not revealed all at once. The truth is that there are numerous points of wisdom in not revealing the Quran all at once. One of them is that the circumstances of that age demanded that as the shortcomings of that age became manifest, the relevant verses of the Quran should be revealed accordingly. 

Secondly, to strengthen the heart of the Holy Prophetsa with new signs every moment, all throughout the period of the revelation of the Quran, he should witness an endless series of signs. Also, if the Holy Prophetsa had authored the Quran on his own, spanned over a period of 23 years, it would have lacked the manner of recitation and order (found in it). How could an unlettered person have foresight over a period of 23 years?

The Promised Messiahas drew attention to this point as well that throughout the period of 23 years, the Holy Prophetsa faced extremely serious circumstances. Leading the Companionsra from the front in extremely precarious situations, he encountered the opponent right in the middle of dangers. An attempt was also made to poison and kill him. But as long as the entire law was not revealed, he was not taken to Allah the Almighty. Thus, the piecemeal revelation of the Quran is a very great miracle.

Talking about the signs of the true servants of Allah, it is said towards the end of the surah that as in the heavens there are 12 mansions (of stars), similarly, after the Holy Prophetsa, 12 reformers [mujaddids] would be raised to defend his faith. And the full moon of the 14th night, perfectly illumined from his light, would also be raised. 

In this very ruku, the signs of the servants of Allah – including their moderation, humility, spending time in prostration and standing before God – are also discussed. All excellences are granted merely as a result of this. 

The final verse of the surah relates as to why they spend their time in prostration and standing before God supplicating; namely, because there is no other way to attain divine life without supplications. Those who deny it and sever their ties with Allah are afflicted with countless fatal ailments which are to remain attached to them.

Chapter 26: Surah al-Shu‘ara

This is a Meccan surah, and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 228 verses.

This surah also starts with some abbreviated letters, and the letter س [seen], as an abbreviated letter, has been revealed for the first time in this surah. It may have; rather, it has different meanings. but some scholars explain these abbreviated letters as thus: ط [ta] signifies Tayyib [the Pure], س [seen] stands for Samee‘ [the All-Hearing], and م [meem] stands for Aleem [the All-Knowing]. 

Towards the end of the preceding surah, it was explained that once man severed his ties with Allah the Almighty by disbelieving in supplication, then as a result of it, he is caught by all sorts of spiritual ailments. This surah, as an example, mentions those peoples who were treated by Allah the Almighty in the same way as a result of their disbelief in supplication. The repetition of الْعَزِيزُ‭ ‬الرَّحِيمُ [“the Mighty, the Merciful”] after the mention of all these disbelieving peoples shows that being Merciful, Allah the Almighty gave them another chance that they may return, but despite getting chances after chances, they would ultimately refuse to accept the truth. And then Allah the Almighty descended on them with a new manifestation of mercy.

The repetition of الْعَزِيزُ [the Mighty] here shows that the enemies of Allah did endeavour to humiliate and abase the Prophets, but their Mighty Lord granted them perpetual honour. 

Next, the Holy Prophetsa has been directed to warn his nearest kinsmen about their evil end and to lower his wings of mercy to the spiritual kinsmen granted to him. “If the disbelievers insist on their disbelief, then announce that ‘I repudiate with your disbelief; and I put all my trust only in Allah, Who is the Mighty, the Wise, the Merciful, the All-Hearing, and the All-Knowing.’”

Next, an argument has been furnished which absolutely proves that the evil ones can, in no case, descend on the Prophets because the Prophets are neither أَفَّاك [liars], nor أَثِيمٍ [sinners]. That is to say, neither are they liars, nor are they sinners. And all those who spend their time with them are witnesses to their truthfulness. 

The greatness of the Word [Quran] revealed to the Holy Prophetsa is also manifested from the fact that it is full of a grand poetic style. And being influenced by the poetic eloquence of the Holy Quran, many of the poets had stopped producing their poetry. But as a result, the assumption that the Holy Prophetsa himself was a great poet is wrong because a poet wanders aimlessly in every valley, and the Quran is not a book that should wander aimlessly in every valley.

Immediately after this, the Muslim poets, as an exemption, have been absolved, who believe and do righteous deeds, and remember Allah much, and defend themselves after they are wronged. Here, reference is made to those Muslim poets who sought revenge through their poetry when evil-mouthed poets of the disbelievers maligned the Holy Prophetsa.

Chapter 27: Surah al-Naml

This is a Meccan surah and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 94 verses.

This surah starts with the abbreviated letters of طس [Ta Seen]. Like Allah the Almighty, the Holy Prophetsa was tayyib [pure] and evil ones do not descend on the tayyib. Therefore, certainly, this is the Word of such a Pure God, Who is All-Wise; Who revealed a pure revelation, full of wisdom, to His pure servant.

Next, the case of Hazrat Mosesas has been repeated, that Allah the Almighty, through divine revelation, calls his pure servants to His choicest blessings as well. Thus, verse 9 states that Allah the Almighty shows a manifestation of His light to those righteous servants of His who keep on the lookout for divine light and He invites them to blessings. 

Next comes the mention of Hazrat Davidas and Hazrat Solomonas, which is comprised of many such issues which unveil the Quranic idiom and direct man from darkness to light. But in this context, many mutashabih [susceptible of different interpretations] verses are found which may lead the crooked hearts further astray and they fail to reach the crux of the matter. 

The issue that requires the most attention is مَنطِقَ‭ ‬الطَّيْرِ [the language of birds]. According to the Holy Quran, مَنطِقَ‭ ‬الطَّيْرِ is the language of those people who soar in the sky like birds, i.e. they communicate in a heavenly tongue. It is a misconception that Hazrat Solomonas was granted the language in which birds communicate with each other. Many of the verses of this surah remove this misconception. For instance, it says that the people of Naml were talking to each other and Hazrat Solomonas understood it. If Naml is taken to be ants instead of the people of Naml, as some commentators take it to be, then the ants were not birds. And why is it that Hazrat Solomonas, who was granted مَنطِقَ‭ ‬الطَّيْرِ, understood the language of ants. 

It is also said that the army of Hazrat Solomonas included a contingent of birds as well whose commander had reached the court of the Queen of Sheba in her quest. On his return, he gave the reason for his absence and related the discussion in the Queen’s court as if he understood it; whereas the language of the Queen and her courtiers was different from that of birds. When he presented Hazrat Solomon’sas letter to the Queen, at that time also that bird understood all the discussion between the Queen and her courtiers, which was being made in human tongue. In short, rejecting the hypothetical stories with regard to مَنطِقَ‭ ‬الطَّيْرِ in this surah, its only interpretation presented is that the servants of Allah communicate in the heavenly tongue.

Thereafter, to make the Queen – who had accepted the political superiority of Hazrat Solomonas but hitherto, in truth, had not renounced her faith and did not join the faith of the unity of God of Hazrat Solomonas – realise (her mistake), the artisans of Hazrat Solomonas made a floor in his palace that shined like a glass, and it looked to be water and not the floor. At this, in order to avoid water, the queen tugged her clothes up from her ankles. At this, Hazrat Solomonas explained to her that it was like the example of the sun which itself seemed to be the source of light, but in reality, it took its light from Allah the Almighty. And those who take the sun to be the source of light are deceived as Queen Sheba became a victim of optical illusion. Having understood this point, the queen also realised the reality that the manifestation of Allah the Almighty was everywhere, and all other manifestations were optical illusions.

Next, those Prophets find their mention successively who, when they raised the banner of the unity of God, were faced with rejection from the polytheistic peoples repeatedly just as the people of Sheba were polytheistic. Although Allah the Almighty forgave the people of Sheba on account of their guidance, other peoples were destroyed on account of their successive treading on the way of polytheism.

Next, it has been stated that the subject of the unity of God descends on Prophets like rain, which is a fountainhead of life. The material life originates from this heavenly water, and the spiritual life too is granted to Prophets due to this very heavenly water. 

Next, a question has been raised as to whether it was possible for any hypothetical deity, besides Allah, to create a system of raining clean water on earth. This subject is concluded on the point that Allah the Almighty has created a barrier between the seas. This is the point which, like heavenly water, was revealed to the Holy Prophetsa from Allah the Almighty. Otherwise, there was absolutely no such scientific or geographical information available at that time. 

The point of a barrier between two seas mentioned in the Holy Quran conceals a prophecy in fact, which, once disclosed, should have proven to be very faith-inspiring for the people of knowledge. That is, Allah the Almighty would join the seas between whom an impassable barrier had been created. A clear prophecy of this subject is found in another two verses. 

The same subject of prayer, continued in the previous few surahs, has been discussed again that Allah the Almighty answers the prayers of a distressed person. And surprisingly, this subject is also connected with the seas. As mentioned in other verses, when some people are faced with storms at sea and are distressed, and in extreme restlessness and anxiety, they call unto Allah the Almighty, as a result of which He rescues them from the fatal storms and transports them to land. But despite this salvation, when some of them revert to polytheism, Allah the Almighty has all the power to destroy them even on land. This subject has been elaborated in some other verses. 

The account of the ones who have been buried alive in the ground is also found in the Holy Quran. We can also see nowadays that as a result of earthquakes, sometimes, the land opens up and large communities of people are buried alive into it.

Continuing this subject, Allah says that man should ponder as to who liberates them from all sorts of hazards in the darkness of land and sea. Is there a god besides Allah? Similarly, He says, “Who originates creation, and then continues repeating it? Is there a god besides Allah?” 

The lesson in this is that they know it is none other than Allah the Almighty Who originates the creation (otherwise there is no other solution to the enigma of the origination of creation), and daily He continues repeating it in that all the time, the world over, with the blessing of water, He creates all forms of organisms from soil; how then can He be frustrated to resurrect man after death as He wishes. But as they have no knowledge with regard to the Hereafter, they are always in doubt about their resurrection. 

Addressing the Holy Prophetsa in this backdrop, Allah the Almighty says, “The disbelievers and polytheists are like the dead and you are not audible to the dead. Therefore, those who are deaf of understanding fail to listen to you when you invite them to guidance. Similarly, the blind as well fail to benefit from your light because to follow the light, the eyes too need the ability to see.”

Next, in verse 83 is a serious warning for those who lead their lives on earth like animals, that an animal from the very earth would be assigned to punish them. Both meanings of تُكَلِّمُهُمْ apply here. One meaning of the word is that it would talk to them; that is, it would communicate to them in a self-evident state of affairs. The second meaning is that it would bite them, as a result of which they would be afflicted with a deadly disease. Thus, in this noble verse, دَابَّةُ الأَرْضِ signifies the mice which are دَابَّةٌ as well as that which brings the plague to spread on earth. On their backs, they carry the insects which cause the plague.

Mount Sinai

At the advent of the Holy Prophetsa, people believed the mountains to be firmly fixed. But verse 89 of this surah states that the mountains pass away like the clouds pass away, whereas they are also firmly fixed in the ground. The only interpretation that can be made from this point is that they are moving like clouds along with the earth. 

The last part of the verse conclusively proves how the manufacturing of Allah the Almighty, which has firmly fixed these mountains in the ground, can be criticised. At this point, the misconception that this will take place on the Day of Judgement has been removed. No eye will see these mountains flying on the Day of Judgement. It will go against the claim of أَتْقَنَ‭ ‬كُلَّ‭ ‬شَيْءٍ [“He has made everything perfect”] if they passed away in any case. Therefore, there is no other way save to believe that the mountains move with the earth just as clouds pass in the sky. These things have been stated so that the people of knowledge firmly believe that Allah the Almighty, their Lord, is a great creator. 

A promise has been given in the last verse of the surah that the aforementioned signs would certainly be shown to mankind, which included the terrestrial as well as heavenly signs. And the people of knowledge of the future generations would testify to it that it took place exactly as the Holy Quran had stated. 

Chapter 28: Surah al-Qasas

This is a Meccan surah and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 89 verses.

This surah also starts with the abbreviated letters of طسم [Ta, seen, meem], which is proof that the subject matter of Tayyib [the Pure], Samee‘ [the All-Hearing] and Aleem [the All-Knowing] is continued, which has already been explained in detail.

In the preceding surah, as the great signs that are to be fulfilled in the future have been discussed, similarly, the current surah explains that Allah the Almighty has the knowledge of the past in the same way as He has the knowledge of the future. In this context, the Holy Prophetsa was granted knowledge with regard to Hazrat Mosesas, which consists of numerous miracles. In short, the water that failed to drown an innocent infant, Hazrat Mosesas, the same water drowned Pharaoh and his armies. 

Next, it mentions that disbelieving in the Holy Prophetsa, the Jews of that age said that they would not disbelieve in him if he showed signs similar to that of Mosesas. But they forgot that the Jews also rejected the signs manifested in the time of Mosesas. Otherwise, having witnessed those signs, they would not have inclined to idol-worship. All the disbelievers, whether they belonged to the past or the time of the Holy Prophetsa, have very a similar crooked nature in that they apparently believe in the signs of the past people and when they witness similar signs being descended before their eyes, they deny them.

Next, those people of the book are mentioned who, earlier as well, earnestly believed in Hazrat Mosesas, and when they witnessed the miracles descended on the Holy Prophetsa, on account of their pure nature, they believed in them too. In other words, they deserved twofold reward. They would be rewarded for their belief in Hazrat Mosesas as well as for their belief in the Holy Prophetsa

The conclusion of the whole argumentation is that man cannot attain guidance at the point of his strength; rather, Allah the Almighty Himself guides the people who possess a blessed nature. And this has also been mentioned that the discussion of numerous peoples that were destroyed earlier is not due to the fact that Allah the Almighty wronged them; rather, they became a victim of their own oppressions they inflicted on their own selves as well as on the Prophets of their time. 

Next, the Holy Quran states that darkness is not set over humans for good as on earth as well, night and day appear alternatively. It has been warned in a highly eloquent language that “if night had been set over you for good, in such a case, you wouldn’t have been able to see in darkness, but if you had ears to hear, then you could definitely have heard.” Thus they are being warned of the dangers of darkness. And if a day had been set over them for good, in such a case, the deaf should have been able to see the way in daylight. “Then why do they not see?”

Next comes the mention of Qarun [Korah] who was given an abundance of wealth and people watched him with longing – if only they as well could get such wealth. But his end was such that he was buried in the ground along with his treasures. A warning has been issued at the beginning of this very surah that Allah the Almighty has the power not only to drown a person at seas; rather, if Allah wills, some of the arrogant, along with their riches, can be buried in ground perpetually. We find in this age as well that as a result of earthquakes, the ground opens up and a number of settlements and huge inventions of this age are buried in the ground with no trace to be found.

After these verses comes a verse (86) which suffices to conclusively prove to the enemies that this was the Word of Allah and it had to be fulfilled in any case; the verse being, “We will most surely bring you back to Ma‘ad [returning place]”, i.e. Mecca. Thus, they witnessed the fulfilment of this very miracle right before their eyes. Does it leave any chance of doubt with regard to the past or future prophecies? 

Thus, it concludes that nothing is established except the unity of God. The accounts of destruction establish that everything is to come to an end, whether it is due to the wrath of Allah, or being subjected to the law of nature. The manifestation of the One Allah is to stay perpetually.

Chapter 29: Surah al-Ankabut

This is a Meccan surah and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 70 verses.

This surah has been started once again with الم (Alif, laam, meem), which may have an implied reference to the fact that once again, Allah the Almighty is going to repeat the subject matters of Surah al-Baqarah in a new style. As the Jews were mentioned in Surah al-Baqarah that their faith was not accepted by Allah the Almighty as long as they had fulfilled the trials, now, the current surah as well repeats the same subject matter. 

In the current age, i.e. the age of the Holy Prophetsa, a mere declaration of faith like that of the past peoples would not be enough; rather, they would definitely have to endure all trials through which earlier peoples were made to go through. 

Next, Allah the Almighty states that in some cases, people had to face severe trials from their parents who themselves were polytheists and invited their children to polytheism. But man must remember that Allah is much more kind to His servants than the parents in whose favour Allah has directed a person to be kind. Therefore, at no cost should they embrace polytheism for the sake of their parents.

As the mention of hypocrites is found at the beginning of Surah al-Baqarah and their internal ailments uncovered, similarly, the current surah as well discusses hypocrites and their various types of spiritual diseases are evaluated.

The claimants of belief have to go through another trial in that their elders demand them to follow them, and that even if their belief happened to be wrong, they carry their burdens. Such claimants are going to bear not only their own burdens, but the burden of misguiding their followers as well. As for the issue of their various fabrications against Allah the Almighty, this will be decided only on the Day of Resurrection.

Next, the people of Hazrat Noahas, Hazrat Abrahamas, Hazrat Lotas and many more such peoples of the past Prophets who were destroyed for going against the Prophets of their time have been mentioned. And their ruins can still be found on earth to date. Archaeologists have discovered a number of such past peoples and many are yet to be discovered, so much so that they claim that the archaeologists are not unmindful of Noah’s Ark, and they are sure to discover it one day.

The pivotal verse (42) of the surah, which has its connection with the title of the surah, Al-Ankabut, states that the similitude of those who associate partners with Allah is like that of a spider which spins a very intricate web. Similarly, the argumentation of such people is extremely intricate, but in actuality, they are utterly ridiculous. And the similitude of those who are entangled in them is like thoughtless flies who are entangled in webs and become a victim of the spider; they are unaware that the spider web is the weakest of snares. 

The spider web has an inconsistency; the thread produced from the saliva of the spider is stronger than the iron thread of similar weight and thickness, yet despite this fact, it proves to be the weakest snare. Thus, this is a challenge to the enemies that they may produce stronger snares if they will; however, the fate of their snares will be no better than that of the spider web snare, which is stronger ostensibly but in reality, proves to be extremely weak.

In the final verse of the surah, Allah the Almighty gives glad tidings to those who are His earnest seekers that whatever belief they may adhere to, if Allah wills, He will ultimately guide them to the straight path. The guidance to the truth of Islam and the straight path is possible, if Allah wills, through the perusal of the verities that are found in every religion of the world.

(Translated from the original introduction of chapters as presented in the Urdu translation of the Holy Quran by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IVrh. Translated by Shahid Mahmood Ahmad, missionary in Ghana)

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