59. That is, “When the former generations met with the evil consequences of turning away from the teachings of the Prophets, and they met the doom that was experienced by Pharaoh and his hosts, then Moses was granted the Book so as to usher in a new era for mankind.”
60. “Western side”: Mount Sinai, which lies to the west of the Hijaz and on which the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was given the Divine Law.
61. “The witnesses”: the seventy of the elders of Israel who had been summoned along with Moses for the covenant to follow the Law. See (Surah Al-Aaraf: Ayat 155).
62. That is, “You had no direct means of obtaining this information. All this is being revealed to you by Allah. That is how you have been enabled to relate these two thousand years old events, in a manner as if you were an eye witness.”
63. That is, “You did not exist at the time when the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) reached Midian, passed ten years of his life there, and then left for Egypt. You were not preaching in the habitations of Midian that which you are preaching in the streets of Makkah. You are not relating those events as an eye witness, but because you have been given the knowledge of these by Us through revelations.”
64. These things have been presented as a proof of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) prophethood. At the time when these were cued, all the chiefs of Makkah and the common disbelievers were bent upon somehow proving him as a non prophet, and, God forbid, a false claimant to prophethood. To help and assist them in their campaign, there were the Jewish scholars and the Christian monks also, who were living in the habitations of the Hijaz. Besides, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had not appeared all of a sudden from somewhere and started reciting the Quran to the people, but he was a resident of the same city of Makkah, and no aspect of his life was hidden from the people of his city and clan. That is why when these three things were presented like an open challenge as a proof of his prophethood, not a single person from Makkah and Hijaz and the entire land of Arabia could stand up to say the absurd thing which the modern orientalists say, although those people were no less efficient in fabricating falsehood than these so called scholars. But how could they utter an unprofitable lie that could not survive for a single moment? How could they say, “O Muhammad, you have attained this information from such and such a Jewish scholar and a Christian monk?” For, this purpose, they could not mention any name in the entire land. For whatever name they mentioned, it would become manifest there and then that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had not obtained any information from him. How could they say, “O Muhammad, you possess a full-fledged library containing all sorts of books on ancient history and sciences and literature, from which you take help to prepare all your discourses?” For not to speak of a library, no one could seize even a scrap of paper from his house containing such information. Everyone in Makkah knew that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was unlettered and no one could also say that he had had some translators at his disposal, who supplied him with translations from Hebrew and Assyrian and Greek books. Then, none of them could be so shameless as to dare claim that he had obtained this information during the trade journeys to Syria and Palestine, for he had not performed those journeys alone, but had traveled in company with trade caravans of Makkah. Had somebody made any such assertion, hundreds of living witnesses would have refuted this and testified that he had received no such instruction from anyone there. Then, within two years of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) death, war started between the Romans and the Muslims. If he had any sort of discussion anywhere in Syria and Palestine with any Christian monk or Jewish rabbi, the Roman Empire would not have hesitated to launch a propaganda campaign, saying, that Muhammad (peace be upon him), God forbid, had learned everything from them and gone back to Makkah and proclaimed himself a Prophet. In short, at that time when the challenge of the Quran was the knell of the disbelieving Quraish and the polytheists and the need of those people to refute it was far greater then of the modern orientalists, no one could discover any material by which he could prove that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had some other means than revelation for obtaining that information.
One should also know that the Quran has not given this challenge only here, but also at several other places in connection with different stories. After narrating the story of the Prophet Zacharias (peace be upon him) and Mary, it was said: “These are of the “unseen” things We are revealing to you: you were not present there when the priests of the Temple were casting lots by throwing their quills to decide which of them should be the guardian of Mary: nor were you there with them when they were arguing about it.” (Surah Aal-Imran: Ayat 44). At the end of the Prophet Joseph’s (peace be upon him) story it was said: “This story which We are revealing to you is of those things that were not known to you: for you were not with the brothers (of Joseph), when they had conspired together a plot against Joseph.” (Surah Yusuf: Ayat 102). Similarly, after relating the full story of the Prophet Noah (peace be upon him), it was said: “These are some of the tidings of the unseen which We are revealing to you. You did not know these before nor did your people.” (Surah Hud: Ayat 49). That, this thing has been reiterated several times, shows that this was one of the main arguments that the Quran gave to prove its being Allah’s Word and the Prophet (peace be upon him) being a Messenger of Allah. For there was no perceptible means of knowledge available to the Prophet (peace be upon him) who was an unlettered person, apart from revelation, through which he could narrate so accurately the events that had happened hundreds and thousands of years in the past. And this was one of the important reasons why the contemporaries of the prophet (peace be upon him) were coming to believe, in larger and still larger numbers, that he was really a Prophet of Allah and has received Allah’s revelations. Now one can easily imagine how important it must have been for the opponents of the Islamic movement at that time to meet this challenge, and what efforts they must have made to collect arguments and proofs against it. One can also see that if, God forbid, there was the slightest weakness in this challenge, it would not have been at all difficult for the contemporary people to provide evidence for its refutation.
65. No prophet had been born especially in Arabia after the Prophets Ishmael and Shuaib (peace be upon them), during the past two thousand years or so, though teachings of the Prophets like Moses and Solomon and Jesus (peace be upon them) had reached the people of that land.
66. This very thing has been presented at several places in the Quran as the reason for sending the messengers, but it will not be correct to conclude from this that a messenger should be sent on every occasion at every place for this purpose. As long as the message of a prophet remains intact in the world and the means of conveying it to others exist, there is no need for a new prophet, unless need arises to supplement the previous message, or to supplant it by a new message, Nevertheless, when the teachings of the prophets are forgotten, or become mixed up with errors and deviations and can no longer be relied upon as means of guidance, then the people do get a chance to make the excuse that there existed no arrangement whatsoever to make them aware of the distinction between the truth and the untruth and guide them to the right way: so they could not be guided aright. To meet such an excuse, Allah sends the prophets in such conditions so that any one who follows a wrong way after that may himself be held responsible for his going astray.
67. That is, “Why has not Muhammad (peace be upon him) been given all those miracles which had been given to the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him)? He also should have shown us the miracle of the staff; his hand also should have shone like the sun; his deniers also should have been struck with storms and plagues from the earth and heaven; and he also should have brought them commandments written on stone tablets.”
68. This is a reply to their objection, which implies: “The disbelievers of Makkah had not believed in Moses (peace be upon him) either, nor followed his teachings. Therefore they had no right to say: Why has the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) not been given the same miracles that were given to the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him)?” In (Surah Saba: Ayat 31), this saying of the disbelievers of Makkah has been related: “We shall never believe in this Quran, nor in any other Book which came before it.”
69. That is, the Quran and the Torah both.
70. That is, “I have to follow the guidance in any case, provided that it is not forged but is real guidance from God. If you possess a divine Book which gives better guidance than the Quran and the Torah, you should produce it: I shall follow it without any hesitation.”