1. “Believers”, who have attained true success, are those who have accepted the message of Muhammad (peace be upon him), and have acknowledged him as their guide and followed the way of life taught by him.
This assertion cannot be fully appreciated unless one keeps in view the background in which it was made. On the one hand, there were the well-to-do and prosperous chiefs of Makkah, the opponents of Islam, whose business was thriving and who were enjoying every good thing of life, and on the other hand, there were the followers of Islam, majority of whom were either poor from the beginning, or had been reduced to poverty by ruthless antagonism to Islam. Therefore, the assertion: Most certainly the believers have attained true success, with which the discourse begins, was meant to tell the disbelievers that the criterion of success and failure that they had in mind was not correct. It was based on misconceptions besides being transitory and limited in nature: it led to failure and not true success. On the contrary, the followers of Muhammad (peace be upon him), whom they regarded as failures, were truly successful, because by accepting the invitation to the right guidance given by the Messenger of Allah, they had struck a bargain which would lead them to true success and everlasting bliss in this world as well as in the Hereafter, whereas by rejecting the message the opponents had incurred loss and would meet with the evil consequences both in this world and in the next.
This is the main theme of the Surah and the whole discourse, from the beginning to the end, is meant to impress the same.
2. The noble characteristics of the believers pointed out in (verses 2-9 )are the arguments to prove the above assertion. In other words, it has been stated that people with such and such traits and qualities only can attain true success in this world and in the Hereafter.
3. Khashiun in the text is from khushu (to bow down, to express humility) which is a condition of the heart as well as of the body. Khushu of the heart is to fear and stand in awe of a powerful person and khushu of the body is to bow his head and lower his gaze and voice in his presence. In Salat one is required to show khushu both of the heart and of the body, and this is the essence of the Prayer. It has been reported that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) once saw a person offering his Prayer as well as playing with his beard, he remarked: If he had khushu in his heart, his body would have manifested it.
Though khushu is actually a condition of the heart, as stated by the above tradition, it is manifested by the body as a matter of course. The Shariah has enjoined certain etiquette which, on the one hand, helps produce khushu in the heart, and on the other, helps sustain the physical act of the Prayer in spite of the fluctuating condition of the heart. According to this etiquette, one should neither turn to the right or left, nor raise his head to look up, One may, however, look around from the corner of the eye, but as far as possible, he must fix the gaze on the place where the forehead would rest in prostration. One is also forbidden to shift about, incline sideways, fold the garments or shake off dust from them. It is also forbidden that while going down for prostration, one should clean the place where he would sit or perform prostration. Similarly it is disrespectful that one should stand stuffy erect, recite the verses of the Quran in a loud resounding voice, or sing them, or belch or yawn repeatedly and noisily. It has also not been approved that one should offer the Prayer in a hurry. The injunction is that each article of the Prayer should be performed in perfect peace and tranquility, and unless one article has been completely performed, the next should not be begun. If one feels hurt by something during the Prayer, he may cast it aside by one hand, but moving the hand repeatedly or using both the hands for the purpose is prohibited. Along with this etiquette of the body, it is also important that one should avoid thinking irrelevant things during the Prayer. If thoughts come to the mind without one’s intention, it is a natural human weakness, but one should try his utmost that the mind and heart are wholly turned towards Allah, and the mind is in full harmony and tune with the tongue, and as soon as one becomes conscious of irrelevant thoughts, he should immediately turn the attention to the Prayer.
4. Literally, laghv is anything nonsensical, meaningless and vain, which is in no way conducive to achieving one’s goal and purpose in life. The believers pay no heed to such useless things and they show no inclination or interest for them. If by chance they see such things being indulged in, they keep away and avoid them scrupulously, or treat them with utmost indifference. This attitude has been described in (Surah Al-Furqan, Ayat 72), thus: If they have to pass by what is vain, they pass by like dignified people.
This is indeed one of the outstanding characteristics of the believer. He is a person who feels the burden of responsibility at all times. He regards the world as a place of test, and the life as the limited time allowed for the test. This feeling makes him behave seriously and responsibly throughout life just like the student who is taking an exam with his whole mind and body and soul absorbed in it. Just as the student knows and feels that each moment of the limited time at his disposal is important and decisive for his future life, and is not inclined to waste it, so the believer also spends each moment of his life on works which are useful and productive in their ultimate results. So much so that even in matters of recreation and sport, he makes a choice of only those things which prepare him for higher ends in life and do not result in mere wastage of time. For him time is not something to be killed but used profitably and productively.
Besides this, the believer is a person who possesses a right thinking mind, pure nature and fine taste. He has no inclination to indecent things. He can talk useful and healthy things but cannot indulge in idle talk. He has a fine taste of humor, but is not given to jesting, joking, ridicule, etc. nor can he endure dirty jokes and fun. For him a society in which the ears are never immune from abusive language, back-biting, slander; lying, dirty songs and indecent talk is a source of torture and agony. A characteristic of the promised Paradise is: Therein you will not hear anything vain or useless.
5. The word Zakat literally means purification and development, to help something grow up smoothly and develop without obstruction. As an Islamic term, it implies both the portion of wealth taken out for the purpose of purifying the rest of wealth and the act of purification itself. The words of the original text mean that the believer constantly practices purification. Thus the meaning is not confined to the paying off of Zakat dues only but it is extended to self purification which includes purification of morals as well as wealth, property and life in general. Then it does not mean purification of one’s own self, but includes the purification of the lives of other people as well. So the verse means: The believers are the people who purify themselves as well as others. This thing has also been stated at other places in the Quran, for instance: Successful is he who practiced purification and remembered his Lord and prayed. (Surah Al-Aala, Ayats 14-15). And: Successful is he who purified himself and failure is he who corrupted it. (Surah Ash-Shams, Ayats 9-10). But this verse is more comprehensive in meaning because it stresses the purification of both society and one’s own person.
6. They are modest in every sense of the word. They are free from sex abuse and sex perversion. They are so modest that they even conceal those parts of their bodies which the law forbids to expose before others. For explanation, see (E.Ns 30 and 32 of Surah An-Noor).
7. This is a parenthesis which is meant to remove the common misunderstanding that sex desire is an evil thing in itself and satisfying it even in lawful ways is not desirable, particularly for the righteous and godly people. This misunderstanding would have been strengthened, had it been only said that the believers guard their private parts scrupulously, because it would have implied that they live unmarried lives, away from the world, like monks and hermits. Therefore a parenthesis has been added to say that there is nothing wrong in satisfying the sex desire in lawful ways. What is evil is that one should transgress the prescribed limits for satisfying the sex desire.
Here are briefly a few injunctions which are based on this parenthetical clause.
(1) Two categories of women have been excluded from the general command of guarding the private parts: (a) wives, (b) women who are legally in one’s possession, i.e. slavegirls. Thus the verse clearly lays down the law that one is allowed to have sexual relations with his slave-girl as with his wife. The basis being possession and not marriage. If marriage had been the condition, the slave-girl also would have been included among the wives, and there was no need to mention them separately. Some modern commentators, who dispute the permissibility of having sexual relations with the slave-girl, argue from (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 25 )to prove that one can have sexual relations with a slave-girl only after entering wedlock with her, because that verse enjoins that if a person cannot afford to marry a free Muslim woman, he may marry a Muslim slave-girl. But these commentators have a strange characteristic. They accept a part of a verse if it suits them, but conveniently ignore another part of the same verse if it goes against their wish and whim. The law about marrying the slave-girls as enunciated in (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 25) reads: You may marry them with the permission of their guardians and give them their fair dowries. Obviously the person under reference here is not the master of the slave-girl himself but the person who cannot afford to marry a free Muslim woman, and therefore, wants to marry a slave-girl, who is in the possession of another person. For if the question had been of marrying his own slave-girl, who would then be the guardian whose permission would have to be sought? Then, the interpretation they give of this verse contradicts other verses dealing with the same subject in the Quran. A sincere person who wants to understand the Quranic law in this regard should study (Surah An-Nisa, Ayats 3, 25); (Surah Al-Ahzab, Ayats 50, 52), and (Surah Al-Maarij Ayat 30 )together with this verse of Al-Mominoon. (For further explanation, see (E.N. 44 of Surah An-Nisa)
(2) The law prescribed in the parenthesis is only applicable to men as is clear from the text. A woman in the time of Umar did not understand this fine point of the language and indulged in sexual gratification with her slave. When her case was brought before the consultative body of the companions, they gave the unanimous decision: She misinterpreted the Book of Allah. Nobody should entertain the doubt that if this exception is meant for the men only, how could then the husbands become lawful for the wives? This doubt is unjustified because when the husbands are exempted from the command of guarding their private parts in regard to their wives, the wives automatically stand exempted from the command with regard to their husbands, and there is no need to grant them exemption separately. Thus the command of exemption remains applicable and effective only in respect of the man and the woman legally in his possession, and the slave becomes unlawful for the woman possessing him. The wisdom of why the slave has been forbidden to the woman is that he can only satisfy her sexual desire but cannot become guardian and governor of herself and her household, which leaves a serious flaw in the family life.
(3) The sentence “Then whoever seeks beyond that, so it is they who are the transgressors” has made satisfaction of sex desire in other ways unlawful, whether it be through fornication, homosexuality, sex gratification with animals, or some other means. The jurists differ only with regard to masturbation. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal regards it as lawful, but Imams Malik and Shafai regard it as absolutely unlawful: and though the Hanafites also regard it as unlawful, they give the opinion that if a person indulges sometimes in masturbation under the fit of passion, it is expected that he will be forgiven the error.
(4) Some commentators have proved the prohibition of mutah (temporary marriage) from this verse. They argue that the woman with whom one has entered into wedlock temporarily, can neither be regarded as a wife nor a slavegirl. She is obviously not a slave-girl, and she is also not a wife, because the legal injunctions normally applicable to the wife are not applicable to her. She cannot inherit the wealth of the man. Likewise, the man cannot inherit her wealth. She is neither governed by the law pertaining to Iddah (waiting period after divorce or death of husband), divorce, subsistence, nor by that pertaining to the vow by man that he will not have conjugal relations with her, false accusation, etc. She is also excluded from the prescribed limit of four wives. Thus, when she is neither a wife nor a slave-girl in any sense, she will naturally be included among those “beyond this”, whose seeker has been declared as a “transgressor” by the Quran.
This is a strong argument but due to a weakness in it, it is difficult to say that this verse is decisive with regard to the prohibition of mutah. The fact is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) enjoined the final and absolute prohibition of mutah in the year of the conquest of Makkah, but before it mutah was allowed according to several authentic traditions. If mutah had been prohibited in this verse, which was admittedly revealed at Makkah, several years before the migration, how can it be imagined that the Prophet (peace be upon him) kept the prohibition in abeyance till the conquest of Makkah? The correct position therefore is that prohibition of mutah is not based on any express law of the Quran but is based on the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Had it not been prohibited by the Sunnah, it would have been difficult to declare it as prohibited only on the authority of this verse.
It would be worth-while to clarify two other points in connection with mutah:
(a) lts prohibition is based on the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and therefore it is wrong to say that it was prohibited by Umar. As a matter of fact, Umar only enforced it as a law of Islam and publicised it among the people. This had not been done earlier because the Prophet (peace be upon him) had forbidden mutah only during the latter part of his worldly life.
(b) The Shiite view that mutah is absolutely lawful and permissible has no sanction and support in the Quran or Sunnah. The fact is that a few of the companions, their followers and jurists who regarded it permissible in the early days of Islam, did so only in case of extreme necessity and need. None of them held the view that it was absolutely lawful like marriage and could be practised in normal circumstances. Abdullah bin Abbas, who is generally cited as a prominent supporter of the view of permissibility, has himself explained his position thus: It is just like carrion which is lawful for a person only in extreme necessity. Even Ibn Abbas had to revise his opinion when he saw that people were abusing permissibility and had started practising mutah freely regardless of genuine need and necessity. Again, even if the question, whether Ibn Abbas and the few likeminded jurists had revised their opinion or not, is ignored, the fact is that the supporters of mutah allow it only in case of extreme necessity. Holding mutah as absolutely permissible, practising it without any real necessity, or resorting to it even when one has a legally wedded wife or wives is a kind of licence which is abhorred by good taste, much less it be attributed to the Shariah of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and imputed to the learned jurists of his family. I think that among the Shiite Muslims themselves no respectable person would like that somebody should ask for the hand of his daughter or sister not in marriage but for the purpose of mutah. For, if mutah is held as absolutely permissible, it would imply that there should exist in society a low class of women, like the prostitutes, who should be available for the purpose as and when required, or if not that, mutah be restricted to the daughters and sisters of the poor stratum of society and the well-to-do be given the freedom and right to exploit them as and when they like. Can such an injustice and discrimination be expected of the divine law? And will Allah and His Messenger permit an act which every respectable woman would regard not only disgraceful for herself but shameful, too?
8. The believers fulfill the terms of the trusts which are placed in their charge. In this connection it should be noted that the Arabic word amanat is very comprehensive and includes all those trusts which are placed in their charge by Allah or society or individuals. Likewise aahd includes all those compacts, pledges, and promises which are made between Allah and man, and man and man. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself used to impress the importance of the fulfillment of pledges in his addresses: The one, who does not fulfil the terms of his trust, has no faith, and the one, who does not keep promises and pledges has no Islam. (Baihaqi). According to a tradition reported both by Bukhari and Muslim, he said: Four characteristics are such that if a person has all four in him, he is beyond any doubt a hypocrite, and the one who has one of these, is a hypocrite to that extent till he gives it up:
(a) When something is placed in his trust, he commits breach of the trust.
(b) When he speaks, he tells a lie.
(c) When he makes a promise, he breaks it.
(d) When he has a quarrel with somebody, he exceeds all limits (of decency and morality).
9. Salawat is plural of Salat. In( verse 2) the act of Salat itself was implied, but here the plural number implies the individual Prayers offered in their own times. They strictly guard their Prayers: they strictly adhere to the prescribed times of the Prayers: they perform them with due regard for their pre-requisites, conditions and articles with clean body and dress and necessary ablutions: they do not regard their Prayers as an unnecessary burden, which has to be cast off somehow: they do not recite mechanically but understand what they recite and are conscious that they are supplicating to their Lord like humble servants. 1
10. Firdaus (Paradise) is a common word found in almost all human languages in very nearly similar forms. It means a vast garden adjoining the dwelling of a person and enclosed by defence walls and containing all kinds of fruit trees, especially vines. In some languages, the word has the sense of containing pet birds and animals, too. Firdaus was in common use in pre-Islamic Arabic literature. The Quran, however, has used it for a plurality of gardens as in (Surah Al-Kahf, Ayat 107). This gives the idea that Firdaus is a vast place containing a great number of gardens, vineyards, etc. The inheritance of Paradise by believers has been explained in detail in (E.N. 83 of Surah TaHa) and (E.N. 99 of Surah Al- Anbiya).
11. The substance of this passage may be summed up in four parts for further understanding of the Surah:
(1) The above mentioned excellent qualities of the believers are not confined to any race, nation or country.
(2) These excellences can be attained only by sincere faith and excellent moral qualities, and by the observance of prescribed laws in all the aspects of life.
(3) True success is not confined to transitory worldly and material prosperity but it comprises both success in this life and in the life after death in the Hereafter, and is attained by sincere faith and righteous deeds. This is a fundamental principle which cannot be falsified either by the worldly success of the evil-doers or by the temporary failure of the righteous people.
(4) Let us reiterate that these excellent characteristics of the believers have been presented as a practical proof of the truth of the message of the Prophet (peace be upon him), for these were the result of its acceptance. This should be kept in mind in the study of the succeeding passages, wherein the same subject has been pursued from different angles. This will also help to show the connection between this and the succeeding passages.
13. Now let the disbelievers consider the message of the Prophet (peace be upon him) by observing their own creation, for this will convince them of its truth by proving its doctrine of Tauhid. The origin of man is from a mere inanimate sperm-drop, which undergoes several changes in the womb of the mother. But after this, when it sees the light of the day, it is quite a different creation from the embryo in the womb. Now it can hear, it can see, and in due course of time it can talk and think. Then, when he reaches adulthood and maturity, he is capable of performing wonderful deeds. It is obvious that Allah alone could create all these characteristics in an inanimate sperm-drop.
14. The various stages of the creation of man have been cited to prove that Allah is All-Blessed and there is no human language which can describe the praise of which He is worthy, as if to say: That Allah Who is able to develop an essence of clay into a perfect man, does not have any partner in His Godhead. Moreover, He has the power to raise him up again after his death, and is capable of working even greater wonders.
15. The original Arabic word taraiq has more than one meaning. It may refer to the paths of the seven planets, with which the man of the time of the revelation of the Quran was familiar, or to the seven heavens. It should be noted that this word has not been used as a modern scientific term, but as a common word according to the Arabic usage of the period in order to invite the people’s attention to the wonders of the heavens, whose creation is certainly a greater thing than the creation of men. (Surah Al-Hijr, Ayat 57).
16. This may also be translated as: We were not nor are heedless of Our creation. According to the first translation, it will mean that the whole of the creation has been brought about in a perfect manner with a definite design and purpose. For Allah, their Creator, is perfect in every respect. The creation itself a proof that it is not the work of a novice or an inexpert. All the physical laws of the entire system of the universe are so closely interconnected as to prove that it is the creation of the All-Wise Allah. If we take the second translation, it will mean that Allah has not been heedless in making provisions for every thing according to its nature from the most insignificant to the greatest of all.
17. The water may refer to the rainfall, which comes down every now and then. It may also refer to the great store of water which Allah sent down at the time of the creation of the earth to fulfill its various needs till the Last Day, and which still exists in the shape of seas, lakes, sub-soil water, etc. It is the same water which evaporates in summer and freezes in winter and is carried by winds from place to place and spread over the earth by rivers, springs and wells to cause the growth of multitudes of things, and then is again restored to the seas, lakes, etc. Neither has this store of water been decreased by a drop nor was there any need to increase it by a drop since its creation. Today it is too well known how water comes about by the combination of oxygen and hydrogen in a certain ratio. The question is why can’t more water be produced when oxygen and hydrogen still exist in abundance in the world? Who caused them to combine in the proper ratio in the beginning to produce oceans of water and who now stops them from coming together to produce an extra drop? Then when water evaporates, who causes oxygen and hydrogen to remain combined in water vapors even in the gaseous state. Do the atheists and polytheists, who believe in independent deities for water, air, summer and winter, have any answer to this question?
18. This is to warn that Allah is able to take away the water if He so wills, and deprive the world of its most important means of life. Thus, this verse is more comprehensive in meaning than (verse 30 of Surah Al-Mulk): Ask them, have you ever considered that if the water of your wells should sink down into the earth, who would then restore to you running springs of water?
19. That is, other kinds of fruits than dates and grapes.
20. That is, you sustain yourselves by the produce that you get from these gardens in the shape of fruit, corn, wood, etc.
21. That is, the olive-tree, which is the most important product of the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. The olive-tree can last for 2,000 years or so, so much so that some trees in Palestine are said to be existing since the time of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). It has been attributed to Mount Sinai probably for the reason that the area whose well known and prominent place is Mount Sinai is its original habitat.
22 That is, milk. Refer to( Surah An-Nahl, Ayat 66 and E.N. 54) thereof.
23. The benefits of cattle as means of conveyance have been mentioned here along with the ships, because in Arabia, camel was used mainly for this purpose, and has been called the ship of the desert for the same reason.