Introduction to chapters of the Holy Quran: Surah Yusuf, al-Ra‘d, Ibrahim, al-Hijr, al-Nahl and Bani Isra‘il

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    Last Updated on 17th December 2021

    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 12: Surah Yusuf

    This is a Meccan surah and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 112 verses. 

    This surah also starts with the abbreviated letters الر (alif laam raa) and denotes the same meaning as mentioned earlier.

    Immediately thereafter is mentioned the best of the accounts (qasas), which was to serve as a pleasure for the heart of the Holy Prophetsa. This serves as the best compensation for the grief caused by the accounts mentioned in Surah Hud. 

    It is important to explain qasas at this point. Qasas does not stand for a tale or story; rather, it stands for the past incidents, which on enquiry, are proven to be exactly true.

    This surah starts with the mention of a dream of Hazrat Yusufas [Joseph], which relates all future incidents that were to happen to him. It was interpreted by Hazrat Jacobas that Hazrat Josephas would suffer a risk of danger at the hands of his brothers. That is why he advised him not to relate this dream of his before his brothers.

    The whole of this surah pertains to the knowledge of interpretation of dreams given to Hazrat Josephas. For instance, the dreams of the two prisoners that accompanied him were interpreted by him in a way that both of the dreams were fulfilled exactly as were interpreted. That is why the prisoner who was given the news of his safety became a means for the king to procure the interpretation of his dream from Hazrat Josephas, which was interpreted by the courtier scholars merely out of their fancy. 

    As a result of the interpretation of Hazrat Josephas, the poor people of Egypt and its suburbs, who definitely were to die of starvation, were saved from the torment of starvation and were provided food for seven consecutive years. All this was conducted under the supervision of Hazrat Josephas. For this very reason, ultimately, his parents and brothers felt compelled to come under his protection and they fell in prostration before Allah the Almighty for him.

    These are the accounts of history which could never have come into the knowledge of the Holy Prophetsa in his personal capacity. That is why it was said that he was not present among them when all this was taking place. It was none other than the All-Knowing God Who gave him the true facts of these accounts.

    This surah concludes on the noble verse that says the accounts of these incidents was not like mere tales and stories; rather, for wise people, there were many warnings implied in these accounts. And verily, Surah Yusuf draws one’s attention to all those innumerable warnings. 

    Chapter 13: Surah al-Ra‘d

    This is a Meccan surah and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 44 verses. In this surah, “raa” has been added to “alif laam meem”. And المر (alif laam meem raa( denotes‭ ‬اَنَا‭ ‬اللّٰهُ‭ ‬اَعْلَمُ‭ ‬وَ‭ ‬اَرَي, that is, “I am Allah, the All-Knowing, the All-Seeing”.

    In this surah, such secrets of the universe are unveiled about which the Holy Prophetsa, in his personal capacity, had no knowledge at all. It also points to the fact that the information related to him earlier was given to him by the All-Knowing God, there being no room for doubt in them.

    The most principal of secrets of the universe unveiled in this surah is the reality of gravity. It says that heaven and earth are not held in their orbit on their own, by chance; rather, there is a concealed power between all the heavenly bodies, which cannot be seen by eyes. As a result of this energy, all the heavenly bodies, orbiting in their respective orbits, seem to be held up on pillars. This is how space scientists explain gravity. Its detail cannot be elaborated at this point.

    Another important subject related in this surah is as to how Allah the Almighty gave life to every earthly being from clear and pure water. Seawater is so salty that instead of getting any life from that water, terrestrial animals and plants die of it. This surah talks of the water cycle as to how seawater is evaporated and transported to high mountains and falls (as rain or snow) flowing back to the sea while giving life all around. This cycle is closely linked to lightning which is caused as a result of the evaporation of seawater. And the water cannot fall as raindrops without lightning in the clouds. The thunder of the lightning is so horrendous sometimes that for some, instead of being life-giving, it proves to be fatal. That is why it is said that on such occasions, the angels tremble before God. 

    Earlier, Allah the Almighty has also stated that at the front and back of every single human being, secret guards are appointed for their protection who, by divine decree and command, safeguard them. This is a very profound scientific subject that cannot be elaborated at this point. But whoso is able enough can dive deep into the sea of its meaning and extract pearls of wisdom.

    This surah also states that everything has been created in couples. The Arabs knew this fact about date palms that they came in couples, but about other trees and fruits it was beyond their imagination that they too had couples. It was a new subject, which modern scientists have fathomed so deeply that according to their statements, couples are found not only in living plants; rather, they are found even in molecules and atoms. Matter is paired with anti-matter. If the whole universe is rolled up, the positive matter will couple with the negative matter and thus become a non-entity. And the philosophy of existence out of non-existence is solved from the implied meaning in these verses.

    Thereafter, to clinch the argument against the opponents of the Holy Prophetsa, a remarkable argument has been presented that how could this great Prophetsa and his Companionsra be overpowered while their territory was on the increase and that of their opponents was on the decline. Then, the Holy Prophetsa is consoled that finally, whether he might be able to see the great victory of Islam or not with his own eyes, Allah definitely would cause his faith to prevail the world over.

    Chapter 14: Surah Ibrahim

    This is a Meccan surah and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 53 verses.

    This surah also starts with abbreviated letters and the same meaning of الر (alif laam raa) given in Surah Yunus applies here as well.

    The preceding surah concluded at the following verse: “And those who disbelieve say, ‘Thou art not a Messenger.’ Say, ‘Sufficient is Allah as a Witness between me and you and so [also is] he (a witness) who possesses knowledge of the Book.”

    The current surah also starts with the mention of the Book. And the wisdom behind the revelation of the Book was that it was being revealed so as to bring forth people from darkness into light. It has also been mentioned that Hazrat Mosesas was also given a book for the same end. Next, a warning of Hazrat Mosesas is mentioned wherein he warned his people saying, “If you and all those who are on the earth all together disbelieve, you can do no harm to Allah by your disbelief; and if you fail to praise him, He is Praiseworthy in His own capacity.”

    Thereafter are mentioned various other prophets and why their people disbelieved. The reason behind their disbelief was that they took the Prophets to be no better than themselves and were not able enough to receive the noble revelation of God.

    Another new subject found in this surah is the question of the dogma of the death penalty for apostasy. It says that the belief in death for apostasy was a unanimous belief of the disbelievers of the Prophets. They assumed every prophet to be an apostate and warned them of the consequences that every apostate had to be punished with exile unless he reverted to their faith. Therefore, Allah the Almighty sent a revelation to the Prophets that those who claimed to kill them would themselves be destroyed, so much so that the territories they had a claim to would be given to them. 

    In this surah, a profound explanation of the word “kalimah” has been provided; similarly, the word “shajarah” [tree] has also been expounded upon with great detail. The similitude of “shajarah tayyibah” [pure tree] has been given with the holy men, i.e., the Prophets. Apparently, they have their roots fixed in the earth, but they receive their spiritual provision from Heaven. In all circumstances, whether it be spring or autumn, they are provided with such provision. And “shajarah khabithah” [evil tree] stands for the opponents of the Prophets, who would be uprooted from the earth like strong winds uproot plants, and the winds continue throwing them from one place to the other. Thus would be the treatment meted out to the opponents of the Prophets. Time and again they would change their stance and finally they would be destroyed.

    Next, the prayer of Hazrat Abrahamas is mentioned about the House of Allah. And it has been beseeched to Allah in the prayer that the people living around the Ka‘bah may be provided with all types of fruit from far off places. This took place exactly as was prayed. They were provided with physical as well as spiritual fruit, which is briefly mentioned in Surah Quraish. Among the spiritual fruit, the greatest of them was found in the person of the Holy Prophetsa. That is to say, he rose as the “kalimah tayyibah”[pure word] who provided the spiritual fruit to mankind.  

    This is said to be Prophet Abraham’sas house in the city of Ur, southern Iraq

    At the end of the surah, it was stated that whatever evil schemes the disbelievers hatched against Islam or the Holy Prophetsa, even if mountains were uprooted as a result of their schemes, they would not be able to frustrate the Messengers of Allah. 

    At this point, the similitude of mountains has been furnished because the Holy Prophetsa has been presented as a prophet who resembles the greatest mountain. Thus, this surah concludes on the words that the earth and heavens of the disbelievers of the Holy Prophetsa would be changed, and new heavens and earth would be produced, as a result of which they would appear in large numbers before Allah, the Most Supreme.

    Chapter 15: Surah al-Hijr

    This is a Meccan surah and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 100 verses. 

    This surah starts with الر (alif laam raa) and these abbreviated letters have not been repeated after this surah.

    As a result of the majestic (jalali) and beautiful (jamali) signs mentioned in the preceding surah, the disbelievers too were awed thereby sometimes. It is stated at this point that sometimes, they wished in their hearts that if only they were among those who submitted; but soon after, they reverted to their earlier state. They could not whatsoever deny the dominance of the Prophets, and they but levelled accusations that their eyes had probably been bewitched.  

    In addition, Allah the Almighty asserts very firmly that the enemies say whatever they might, as surely it is He Who revealed this Book and He would continue to guard it in the future as well.

    In the following verses, “buruj” has been mentioned which reminds us of Surah al-Buruj. And the subject of “Surely it is We Who are going to guard this Book” is uncovered, that is, being subservient to the Holy Prophetsa, such people would be commissioned by God who would relentlessly guard the Holy Quran in all ages. The word buruj also refers to the fact that the Mujaddids [Reformers] commissioned after the Holy Prophetsa who appeared in the capacity of twelve buruj were commissioned for this very task.

    As the subject matters of the Holy Quran are endless, similarly, from time to time, Allah the Almighty provides such never-ending treasures to fulfil all human needs. A great example of it is the supply of fuel. At one point in time, man was worried as to what to do if wood for fuel fell short. Then they were concerned as to what would happen if coal fell short. Then they showed concerns that fossil fuel might also fall short. But before fossil fuel fell short, Allah the Almighty drew man’s attention to an unending source of energy, i.e. nuclear energy. If man becomes capable of fully benefiting from this energy, and plan to overcome its negative effects, this is a source of energy that is not going to fall short until the end of days. The material treasures for the survival of man, like the spiritual treasures of the Holy Quran, are never-ending. 

    It has also been mentioned that as a result of both types of these treasures, which would continually be sent for man until the last day, Satan would also continue evil whisperings, and these evil whisperings would continue incessantly until the last day. 

    Thereafter, Hazrat Abrahamas, as well as some other Prophets and their peoples, are mentioned. In this connection, the examples of “Ashaabul-Aikah” and “Ashaabul-Hijr” have been cited to emphasise the point that in succeeding times as well, Allah the Almighty would continue to bring the enemies of the Prophets to an end.

    Similarly, the glad tidings of the birth of a son to Hazrat Abrahamas has also been given in this surah. Though Hazrat Isaacas and Hazrat Jacobas have also been referred to in this prophecy, primarily this prophecy applies to Hazrat Ishmaelas, from whose biological and spiritual progeny the Holy Prophetsa was to be born.

    Thus, the Holy Prophetsa has been assured to neglect those who mock him as God Himself would see to them, and to show forbearance whenever his feelings are hurt by their statements and continue glorifying his Lord.

    Chapter 16: Surah al-Nahl

    This is a Meccan surah and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 129 verses.

    One meaning of the word “yaqeen, mentioned in the last  verse of the preceding surah, is “death”, but the foremost meaning of the word is “faith”. The current surah starts with the statement that the certain promise made to the Prophetsa was about to come true. Thus, the disbelievers ought not to be hasty in demanding it and they should be sure that Allah the Almighty sends his angels to whomsoever He may please.

    Next, having talked about all kinds of creation of animals, a great prophecy has been made that Allah the Almighty would create some more means of transport of which the Prophetsa had no knowledge hitherto. Thus, the prophecy of the invention of newer and modern means of transport in this age has been made in this verse.

    Similarly, as regards the survival of all living beings, it is said that it is achieved through the water sent from clouds, which causes foliage to grow on earth and all types of trees and fruit to grow. Another facet of heavenly water is that the cattle which feed on foliage etc. are unaware of it, and it is beyond their ken. 

    Thus, the revival that the Prophets of Allah receive from the heavenly water and spread this munificence further is beyond the ken of those who have been resembled with cattle by the Noble Quran; rather, they have been declared even worse than animals because animals have no capability to fathom it; but these people, despite having to understand religion ostensibly, remain deprived of its blessings.   

    Next, in the course of mentioning immeasurable bounties of Allah the Almighty, [the current surah] mentions bounties found in the sea and the fish that live their lives in, and feed on, seawater. Yet their flesh has no sign of alkaline salts at all. Attention was also drawn to the fact that this system of survival through water is dependent on the mountains that are firmly grounded in the earth. Had there been no mountains, the water cycle of evaporation of clear water from the sea and subsequent rainfall would not have been possible.  

    The Holy Quran talks about shadows spread on the earth in a way as if they are prostrating. But “daabbah” [beasts] and the angels also keep prostrating before the grandeur of Allah the Almighty. The daabbah, as a result of getting their means of sustenance from the land, self-evidently remain prostrating before Allah all the time. And the angels, due to the cognisance attained by the water that descends from the heavens, remain in prostration.

    Verse 62 elaborates on a wonderful subject matter, that if Allah was to punish men for all their wrongdoings immediately, all living beings on the earth would be brought to an end. In fact, man’s attention has been drawn to deliberation that man would not have survived if there were no daabbah. For this very reason, immediately thereafter, it is said that surely in the cattle, there is a great lesson for us.

    Next, the greatness of “wahy” [inspiration and revelation] is explained through the example of the honeybee. No other animal is reported to receive wahy. Ostensibly the honeybee is no different than the common housefly that feeds on filth. The only difference is that through His revelation, God purified it from all filth. They make their houses on mountains, tall trees and climbing plants that can climb tall objects. Then it was revealed to it that it should suck nectar from all manner of flowers. Though the word used here is thamar [fruit] [as opposed to flower], the twofold wisdom in it is that the fruit borne is caused by no other factor than its sucking its flower. And the honeybee sucks every fruit’s nectar and essence from its flower. As a result, the honey that she makes has wonderful healing properties for mankind.

    Here in the phrase:

    يَخْرُجُ‭ ‬مِنْ‭ ‬بُطُوْنِهَا

    [“it comes forth from their bellies”], reference has been made to the fact that the honey is made not only with the nectar of flowers; rather, the bee mixes the nectar of flowers with the saliva that comes out of its belly, and repeatedly it brings out its tongue in the air to make it thick and thus having turned it into honey stores it in the hives.

    Next, the parable of two slaves is set forth, one of whom is foolish and has no goodness in his doings, while Allah the Almighty provides the second with a fair provision and he then spends thereof for the welfare of mankind. This parable too has a close link with the honeybee. The common housefly is like a slave that can do no good to others, whereas the honeybee is like a slave who is provided with a fair provision and spends it further for the welfare of mankind. 

    Next, the similitude of various types of slaves has been applied to mankind. That slave [is mentioned first] who himself is not blessed with divine revelation and inspiration and takes Allah to be unable to speak, he himself is “abkam”, i.e. dumb. He is just like the one who, whatever he involves himself in, causes loss:

    خَسِرَ‭ ‬الدُّنْيَا‭ ‬وَ‭ ‬الْآخِرَة

    [“a loser in this world and in the next”). 

    The second type of servants are the Prophets of God, who exhort justice to mankind and always keep on the straight path. One should remember that the honeybee was directed to tread on the paths of its Lord. So, from this aspect, the Prophets in this regard excel in far greater a degree and tread on the only straight path which definitely leads to Allah.

    Next, in this very surah, with regard to the flight of birds in the air, it is said not to believe that they got their wings by chance and thus got the ability for flight. Only the development of wings could not have made them able enough for flight as long as their hollow bones, the specific shape of their chest and very strong muscles on both sides of their chest were not made capable of soaring with very heavy weight. This is such a wonderful phenomenon that even extremely heavy swans can fly uninterruptedly for several thousand miles. Their internal order during flight is such that as the front part of a jet plane disperses air, similarly, because of this order, the air pressure affects them in the least. The swan that takes the most pressure at the forefront is replaced sometime later by another swan from behind. 

    Then these very birds play as marine birds as well and do not drown; because of their heavy body weight, they should drown, but the reason behind their not being drowned is that the small feathers on their body contain air and this air in their feathers keeps them from drowning. All of this can never take place on its own because it is essential for the feathers to have some oily substance on them to keep water from soaking the feathers. You may have noticed that the birds run their beaks on all their wings. It is very strange to note that at that time, Allah the Almighty produces a type of grease in their body that is essential to be rubbed on the wings. How did that greasy substance produce on its own? How did it reach their mouths? And from where did these birds get the understanding that it was essential to keep water from soaking their flesh, or else they would drown? 

    Next, a wonderful miracle of the Holy Quran is mentioned, i.e. the Holy Quran is the Book that explains everything. From this facet, the excellence the Noble Quran has over other Books is similar to what the Holy Prophetsa has over other Prophets. That is why, as they were a witness over their own people, the Holy Prophetsa has been appointed a witness over the Prophets themselves.

    The Quranic teaching comprehends everything. Its example can be given from verse number 91, which covers all moral and spiritual teachings and comprehends them. Foremost of all “adl” [justice] is mentioned, without which no reformation is possible in the world. Next, “ihsan” [doing good to others] is mentioned, which bestows a higher stage than “adl” to man. Finally, “ita‘i dhil-qurbaa” [giving like kindred] is mentioned, which takes this subject to its pinnacle. That is to say, they spend out of compassion for mankind like a mother does for her children. And in return, she does not even think of any service or reward from them. This highest stage was granted to the Holy Prophetsa as he served and blessed mankind without even the reflection of any reward from them.

    In the concluding ruku of this surah, Hazrat Abrahamas, who was an individual, has been presented as the whole ummah [people] because numerous ummahs were to originate from him and with the advent of the Holy Prophetsa, this subject reached its pinnacle. Thus, the Holy Prophetsa was sent a revelation to follow the way of Abrahamas. To say it in a nutshell, he was exhorted to call unto the way of his Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation. But for that, it is essential for man to be extremely forbearing. The exhortation of لَا‭ ‬تَسْتَعْجِلْ [haste not] also refers to this subject matter. Great spiritual revolutions do not occur abruptly; rather, they require a great deal of patience. And this patience can never be attained without taqwa [true awareness and fear of God]; rather, it is granted in greater measure to those who continuously do “ihsan”.

    Here, one connotation of “ihsan” has been given in يَاْمُرُ‭ ‬بِالْعَدْلِ‭ ‬وَالْاِحْسَانِ [“He enjoins justice, and doing good to others”]. And the second explanation is that which has been given by the Holy Prophetsa himself, i.e. “ihsan” means when you stand up for worship, you must stand up as if you are seeing Allah; and the minimum requirement of “ihsan” is to stand up so respectfully as if He is watching you.

    Chapter 17: Surah Bani Isra‘il

    This is a Meccan surah and including “Bismillah …”, it consists of 112 verses. This is also called as “Surah al-Isra”.

    The subject of the spiritual exaltation of the Holy Prophetsa discussed in the preceding surah is continued in this surah as well. The Holy Prophetsa was shown in this surah that his journey did not end at Palestine where other prophethoods came to an end; rather, it started from there to further heights. The ministry of Hazrat Mosesas was mentioned too, that though he reached very high ranks, the spiritual elevation of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa was even more exalted than that.

    This surah now discusses the Jews that as a result of their crimes, they were ousted from their homeland Palestine and God Almighty subjected them under the supervision of very harsh and strict supervisors, who advanced at a very fast speed and penetrating their streets, annihilated the whole city. But God Almighty would, once again, have mercy on them and give them another chance to occupy Palestine, as has taken place in this age. But He also said that if they did not repent and failed to be kind to the men of God, then Allah Himself would oust them from Palestine, and that would not be as a result of war with Muslims. And in lieu of them, Allah would allow His pious men to rule Palestine. It is evident that the Muslims cannot occupy Palestine until and unless they fulfil the condition of becoming pious men of God.

    Next are mentioned the evils that had taken root in the Jews at the time of their hard-heartedness. That is, niggardliness, extravagance, fornication, bloodshed, consumption of the property of orphans, breach of promise, arrogance etc. and the Muslims had been warned to keep away from such evils.

    Next, it is stated in the surah that they failed to understand the Noble Quran when the Quran is recited to them. Idolatry has been so much instilled in them that when the unity of God is only mentioned, they turn their backs in aversion and leave. They do not take any interest in the “kalima tawhid” [expression of the unity of God]. Since atheism has firmly been rooted in their hearts, therefore they do not at all believe in Judgement Day. And those who do not believe in Judgement Day and their accountability, invariably, without any hindrance, they keep on increasing in their crimes and sins.

    Next, a reference has been made to the divine vision of the Holy Prophetsa wherein he was shown the state of Palestine and he was exalted to further spiritual ranks.

    Next, the accursed tree refers to the Jews who have been mentioned in the last verse of Surah al-Fatihah. That is, they will always be incurring the displeasure of Allah and His men. The similitude of those who are given to fury and revenge is like a fire that burns growth to ashes. And naturally, humble people are characterised with “teen” [soft soil]. All types of growth is due to them only. 

    Thus, this mention at this point would mean that the Jews will always try to bring an end to the productive measures of the Holy Prophetsa. They will think, “How dare these people, characterised with ‘teen, confront them.” The foliage all over the world is proof that fire has never been able to burn to ashes the foliage grown by divine providence. All the blooming orchards and greenery are a proof thereof.

    Next come the verses that start with:

    ‭ ‬اَقِمِ‭ ‬الصَّلَاةَ‭ ‬

    [“observe Prayer …”] and mention the high rank of the Holy Prophetsa being on Maqam-e-Mahmud [the exalted station]. Thus, whatever nefarious struggle the opponents of the Holy Prophetsa seek to make, they may, but as a result of it, Allah the Almighty will always continue elevating him to further higher ranks. In other words, his spiritual status has been raised in this way as long as he reaches Maqam-e-Mahmud, which no one else has access to. But this status does not come for free. God Almighty said, “For this, you will have toفَتَهَجَّدْ‭ ‬بِهِ‭ ‬نَافِلَةً‭ ‬لَكَ‭ ‬”, that is, during the night, you must regularly wake up for supererogatory prayers. 

    The claim that he would definitely reach the stage of Maqam-e-Mahmud has practically been witnessed by the opponents in the very lifetime of the Holy Prophetsa. When, apparently, he fled from Mecca as a fugitive, in this very surah, a prayer in the form of a prophecy was taught that he would again enter the city and make this proclamation:

    جَاءَالْحَقُّ‭ ‬وَ‭ ‬زَهَقَ‭ ‬الْبَاطِلُ‭ ‬اِنَّ‭ ‬الْبَاطِلَ‭ ‬كَانَ‭ ‬زَهُوْقًا

    “Truth has come and falsehood has vanished. Verily, falsehood is bound to vanish.” It is just like darkness vanishes with the coming of light.

    Verse 86 is about the soul. When people asked the Holy Prophetsa as to what the soul was; Allah the Almighty replied in the following term: “Say to them that the soul is nothing except the command of my Lord.”

    The Christians believe Jesusas to be Ruhullah [the soul of Allah] and the very title is given to him by the Muslims as well. But Hazrat Jesusas has no distinction in it; he too was created by the command of Allah in the same way as life, in the beginning, originated with the command of Allah.

    At the end of the surah, the subject that to declare Jesusas a son of God merely because he was born without the agency of a father is a great injustice, has been further elaborated. Thus, all praise belongs to Allah alone, Who does not need any son at all; and Who has no partner in His Kingdom; nor has He ever been in need of anyone to help Him as if He required it in a state of weakness.

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

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