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Towards Understanding the Quran
With kind permission: Islamic Foundation UK
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 Surah An-Nisaa 4:163-171 [23/24]
  
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۞ إِنَّآIndeed, We
أَوْحَيْنَآhave revealed
إِلَيْكَto you
كَمَآas
أَوْحَيْنَآWe revealed
إِلَىٰto
نُوحٍNuh
وَٱلنَّبِيِّــۧنَand the Prophets
مِنۢ بَعْدِهِۦ‌ۚafter him,
وَأَوْحَيْنَآand We revealed
إِلَىٰٓto
إِبْرَٲهِيمَIbrahim
وَإِسْمَـٰعِيلَand Ismail,
وَإِسْحَـٰقَand Ishaq
وَيَعْقُوبَand Yaqub,
وَٱلْأَسْبَاطِand the tribes,
وَعِيسَىٰand Isa
وَأَيُّوبَand Ayub,
وَيُونُسَand Yunus,
وَهَـٰرُونَand Harun
وَسُلَيْمَـٰنَ‌ۚand Sulaiman
وَءَاتَيْنَاand We gave
دَاوُۥدَDawood
زَبُورًاthe Zaboor.
﴿١٦٣﴾
وَرُسُلاًAnd Messengers
قَدْsurely
قَصَصْنَـٰهُمْWe (have) mentioned them
عَلَيْكَto you
مِن قَبْلُbefore
وَرُسُلاًand Messengers
لَّمْnot
نَقْصُصْهُمْWe (have) mentioned them
عَلَيْكَ‌ۚto you.
وَكَلَّمَ ٱللَّهُAnd Allah spoke
مُوسَىٰ(to) Musa
تَكْلِيمًا(in a) conversation.
﴿١٦٤﴾
رُّسُلاًMessengers,
مُّبَشِّرِينَbearers of glad tidings
وَمُنذِرِينَand warners,
لِئَلَّاso that not
يَكُونَthere is
لِلنَّاسِfor the mankind
عَلَىagainst
ٱللَّهِAllah
حُجَّةُۢany argument
بَعْدَafter
ٱلرُّسُلِ‌ۚthe Messengers.
وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُAnd Allah is
عَزِيزًاAll-Mighty,
حَكِيمًاAll-Wise.
﴿١٦٥﴾
لَّـٰكِنِBut
ٱللَّهُAllah
يَشْهَدُbears witness
بِمَآto what
أَنزَلَHe (has) revealed
إِلَيْكَ‌ۖto you.
أَنزَلَهُۥHe has sent it down
بِعِلْمِهِۦ‌ۖwith His Knowledge
وَٱلْمَلَـٰٓئِكَةُand the Angels
يَشْهَدُونَ‌ۚbear witness.
وَكَفَىٰ بِٱللَّهِAnd Allah is sufficient
شَهِيدًا(as) a Witness.
﴿١٦٦﴾
إِنَّIndeed,
ٱلَّذِينَthose who
كَفَرُواْdisbelieve
وَصَدُّواْand hinder
عَنfrom
سَبِيلِ(the) way
ٱللَّهِ(of) Allah,
قَدْsurely
ضَلُّواْthey have strayed,
ضَلَـٰلاَۢstraying
بَعِيدًاfar away.
﴿١٦٧﴾
إِنَّIndeed,
ٱلَّذِينَthose who
كَفَرُواْdisbelieved
وَظَلَمُواْand did wrong,
لَمْ يَكُنِ ٱللَّهُAllah will not
لِيَغْفِرَ[to] forgive
لَهُمْthem
وَلَاand not
لِيَهْدِيَهُمْHe will guide them
طَرِيقًا(to) a way,
﴿١٦٨﴾
إِلَّاExcept
طَرِيقَ(the) way
جَهَنَّمَ(to) Hell,
خَـٰلِدِينَabiding
فِيهَآin it
أَبَدًا‌ۚforever.
وَكَانَ ذَٲلِكَAnd that is
عَلَىfor
ٱللَّهِAllah
يَسِيرًاeasy.
﴿١٦٩﴾
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَاO
ٱلنَّاسُmankind!
قَدْSurely
جَآءَكُمُhas come to you
ٱلرَّسُولُthe Messenger
بِٱلْحَقِّwith the truth
مِنfrom
رَّبِّكُمْyour Lord
فَـَٔـامِنُواْso believe,
خَيْرًا(it is) better
لَّكُمْ‌ۚfor you.
وَإِنBut if
تَكْفُرُواْyou disbelieve,
فَإِنَّthen indeed,
لِلَّهِto Allah (belongs)
مَاwhatever
فِى(is) in
ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِthe heavens
وَٱلْأَرْضِ‌ۚand the earth.
وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُAnd Allah is
عَلِيمًاAll-Knowing,
حَكِيمًاAll-Wise.
﴿١٧٠﴾
يَـٰٓأَهْلَO People
ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ(of) the Book!
لَا(Do) not
تَغْلُواْcommit excess
فِىin
دِينِكُمْyour religion
وَلَاand (do) not
تَقُولُواْsay
عَلَىabout
ٱللَّهِAllah
إِلَّاexcept
ٱلْحَقَّ‌ۚthe truth.
إِنَّمَاOnly
ٱلْمَسِيحُthe Messiah,
عِيسَىIsa,
ٱبْنُson
مَرْيَمَ(of) Maryam,
رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ(was) a Messenger of Allah
وَكَلِمَتُهُۥٓand His word
أَلْقَـٰهَآwhich He conveyed
إِلَىٰto
مَرْيَمَMaryam
وَرُوحٌand a spirit
مِّنْهُ‌ۖfrom Him.
فَـَٔـامِنُواْSo believe
بِٱللَّهِin Allah
وَرُسُلِهِۦ‌ۖand His Messengers.
وَلَاAnd (do) not
تَقُولُواْsay,
ثَلَـٰثَةٌ‌ۚ`Three;`
ٱنتَهُواْdesist
خَيْرًا(it is) better
لَّكُمْ‌ۚfor you.
إِنَّمَاOnly
ٱللَّهُAllah
إِلَـٰهٌ(is) God
وَٲحِدٌ‌ۖOne.
سُبْحَـٰنَهُۥٓGlory be to Him!
أَنThat
يَكُونَHe (should) have
لَهُۥfor Him
وَلَدٌ‌ۘa son.
لَّهُۥTo Him (belongs)
مَاwhatever
فِى(is) in
ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِthe heavens
وَمَاand whatever
فِى(is) in
ٱلْأَرْضِ‌ۗthe earth.
وَكَفَىٰ بِٱللَّهِAnd Allah (is) sufficient
وَكِيلاً(as) a Disposer of affairs.
﴿١٧١﴾


اِنَّاۤ اَوۡحَيۡنَاۤ اِلَيۡكَ كَمَاۤ اَوۡحَيۡنَاۤ اِلٰى نُوۡحٍ وَّالنَّبِيّٖنَ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِهٖ​ ۚ وَاَوۡحَيۡنَاۤ اِلٰٓى اِبۡرٰهِيۡمَ وَاِسۡمٰعِيۡلَ وَاِسۡحٰقَ وَيَعۡقُوۡبَ وَالۡاَسۡبَاطِ وَعِيۡسٰى وَاَيُّوۡبَ وَيُوۡنُسَ وَهٰرُوۡنَ وَسُلَيۡمٰنَ​ ۚ وَاٰتَيۡنَا دَاوٗدَ زَبُوۡرًا​ ۚ‏  وَرُسُلًا قَدۡ قَصَصۡنٰهُمۡ عَلَيۡكَ مِنۡ قَبۡلُ وَرُسُلًا لَّمۡ نَقۡصُصۡهُمۡ عَلَيۡكَ​ ؕ وَكَلَّمَ اللّٰهُ مُوۡسٰى تَكۡلِيۡمًا ​ۚ‏  رُسُلًا مُّبَشِّرِيۡنَ وَمُنۡذِرِيۡنَ لِئَلَّا يَكُوۡنَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَى اللّٰهِ حُجَّةٌ ۢ بَعۡدَ الرُّسُلِ​ ؕ وَكَانَ اللّٰهُ عَزِيۡزًا حَكِيۡمًا‏  لٰـكِنِ اللّٰهُ يَشۡهَدُ بِمَاۤ اَنۡزَلَ اِلَيۡكَ​ اَنۡزَلَهٗ بِعِلۡمِهٖ​ ۚ وَالۡمَلٰٓٮِٕكَةُ يَشۡهَدُوۡنَ​ ؕ وَكَفٰى بِاللّٰهِ شَهِيۡدًا ؕ‏  اِنَّ الَّذِيۡنَ كَفَرُوۡا وَ صَدُّوۡا عَنۡ سَبِيۡلِ اللّٰهِ قَدۡ ضَلُّوۡا ضَلٰلًاۢ بَعِيۡدًا‏  اِنَّ الَّذِيۡنَ كَفَرُوۡا وَظَلَمُوۡا لَمۡ يَكُنِ اللّٰهُ لِيَـغۡفِرَ لَهُمۡ وَلَا لِيَـهۡدِيَهُمۡ طَرِيۡقًا ۙ‏  اِلَّا طَرِيۡقَ جَهَـنَّمَ خٰلِدِيۡنَ فِيۡهَاۤ اَبَدًا​ ؕ وَكَانَ ذٰ لِكَ عَلَى اللّٰهِ يَسِيۡرًا‏  يٰۤـاَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدۡ جَآءَكُمُ الرَّسُوۡلُ بِالۡحَـقِّ مِنۡ رَّبِّكُمۡ فَاٰمِنُوۡا خَيۡرًا لَّـكُمۡ​ ؕ وَاِنۡ تَكۡفُرُوۡا فَاِنَّ لِلّٰهِ مَا فِى السَّمٰوٰتِ وَالۡاَرۡضِ​ ؕ وَكَانَ اللّٰهُ عَلِيۡمًا حَكِيۡمًا‏  يٰۤـاَهۡلَ الۡكِتٰبِ لَا تَغۡلُوۡا فِىۡ دِيۡـنِكُمۡوَلَا تَقُوۡلُوۡا عَلَى اللّٰهِ اِلَّا الۡحَـقَّ​ ؕ اِنَّمَا الۡمَسِيۡحُ عِيۡسَى ابۡنُ مَرۡيَمَ رَسُوۡلُ اللّٰهِ وَكَلِمَتُهٗ​ ۚ اَ لۡقٰٮهَاۤ اِلٰى مَرۡيَمَ وَرُوۡحٌ مِّنۡهُ​ فَاٰمِنُوۡا بِاللّٰهِ وَرُسُلِهٖ​ ​ۚ وَلَا تَقُوۡلُوۡا ثَلٰثَةٌ​ ؕ اِنْتَهُوۡا خَيۡرًا لَّـكُمۡ​ ؕ اِنَّمَا اللّٰهُ اِلٰـهٌ وَّاحِدٌ​ ؕ سُبۡحٰنَهٗۤ اَنۡ يَّكُوۡنَ لَهٗ وَلَدٌ​ ۘ لَهٗ مَا فِى السَّمٰوٰتِ وَمَا فِى الۡاَرۡضِ​ؕ وَكَفٰى بِاللّٰهِ وَكِيۡلًا‏ 
(4:163) (O Muhammad!) We have revealed to you as We revealed to Noah and the Prophets after him,204 and We revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the offspring of Jacob, and Jesus and Job, and Jonah, and Aaron and Solomon, and We gave to David Psalms.205 (4:164) We revealed to the Messengers We have already told you of, and to the Messengers We have not told you of; and to Moses Allah spoke directly.206 (4:165) These Messengers were sent as bearers of glad tidings and as warners207 so that after sending the Messengers people may have no plea against Allah.208 Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. (4:166) (Whether people believe or not) Allah bears witness that whatever He has revealed to you, He has revealed with His knowledge, and the angels bear witness to it too, though the witness of Allah is sufficient. (4:167) Those who denied this truth and barred others from the way of Allah have indeed strayed far. (4:168) Likewise, Allah will neither forgive those who denied the truth and took to wrong-doing nor will He show them any other way. (4:169) save that of Hell wherein they will abide. And that is easy for Allah. (4:170) O men! Now that the Messenger has come to you bearing the Truth from your Lord, believe in him; it will be good for you. If you reject, know well that to Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth.209 Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.210 (4:171) People of the Book! Do not exceed the limits in your religion,211 and attribute to Allah nothing except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of Allah, and His command212 that He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him (which led to Mary's conception).213 So believe in Allah and in His Messengers,214 and do not say: (Allah is a) trinity215. Give up this assertion; it would be better for you. Allah is indeed just one God. Far be it from His glory that He should have a son.216 To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth.217 Allah is sufficient for a guardian.218

204. This emphasizes that Muhammad (peace be on him) did not introduce any innovations, and that his essential message was no different from the earlier revelations. What Muhammad (peace be on him) expounded was the same truth which had previously been expounded by the earlier Prophets in various parts of the world and at different periods of time. Wahy means 'to suggest; to put something into someone's heart; to communicate something in secrecy; to send a message'.

205. The 'Psalms' embodied in the Bible are not the Psalms of David. The Biblical version contains many 'psalms' by others and they are ascribed to their actual authors. The 'psalms' which the Bible does ascribe to David do indeed contain the characteristic lustre of truth. The book called 'Proverbs', attributed to Solomon, contains a good deal of accretion, and the last two chapters, in particular, are undoubtedly spurious. A great many of these proverbs, however, do have a ring of truth and authenticity. Another book of the Bible is ascribed to Job. Even though it contains many gems of wisdom, it is difficult to believe that the book attributed to Job could in fact be his. For the portrayal of Job's character in that book is quite contrary to the wonderful patience for which he is applauded in the Qur'an and for which he is praised in the beginning of the Book of Job itself. The Book of Job, quite contrary to the Qur'anic portrayal of him, presents him as one who was so full of grievance and annoyance" with God throughout the entire period of his tribulation that his companions had to try hard to persuade him that God was not unjust. In fact Job is shown in the Bible as one whom even his companions failed to convince that God was just.

In addition to these, the Bible contains seventeen other books of the Israelite Prophets. The greater part of these seem to be authentic. In Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos and certain other books, in particular, one often encounters whole sections which stir and move one's soul. These sections without doubt have the lustre of Divine revelation. While going through them one is struck by the vehemence of moral admonition, the powerful opposition to polytheism, the forceful exposition of monotheism, and the strong denunciation of the moral corruption of the Israelites which characterize them. One inevitably senses that these books, the orations of Jesus embodied in the Gospels, and the glorious Qur'an are like springs which have arisen from one and the same Divine source.

206. Revelation in the case of other Prophets meant either that they heard a voice or received a message from an angel. The privileged treatment accorded to Moses was that God communicated with him directly. This communication was similar to one that takes place between two persons, as is fully illustrated by the conversation reported in (Surah Ta Ha 20: 11 ff). This unique privilege of Moses is mentioned in the Bible as well, and in much the same manner. It mentions that the Lord used to speak to Moses 'face to face, as a man speaks to his friend' (Exodus 33: 11).

207. It is emphasized that the essential function of all the Prophets was the same: to announce good tidings of salvation and felicity to those who believe in the teachings revealed by God and mend their conduct accordingly, and to warn those who persist in false beliefs and evil ways that they will have to face dire consequences.

208. God's purpose in sending the Prophets was to establish His plea against mankind. God did not want criminals to have any basis on which to plead that their actions were done in ignorance. Prophets were therefore sent to all parts of the world, and many Scriptures were revealed. These Prophets communicated knowledge of the Truth to large sections of people, and left behind Scriptures which have guided human beings in all ages. If anyone falls a prey to error, in spite of all this, the blame does not lie with God or the Prophets. The blame lies rather with those who have spurned God's message even after having received it, and with those who knew the Truth but failed to enlighten others.

209. By disobeying one cannot hurt the Lord of the heavens and the earth. One can only hurt one's own self.

210. They are being told that their Lord was not at all unaware of the wickedness in which they indulged, nor did He lack the capacity to deal severely with those who only violated His commands.

211. The expression 'People of the Book' refers here to the Christians and the word ghuluw denotes the tendency to exceed the limits of propriety in support of something. The fault of the Jews was that they had exceeded the limits of propriety in rejecting and opposing Jesus, whereas the crime of the Christians was that they had gone beyond the proper limits in their love for and devotion to Jesus.

212. What is meant by sending the 'command' to Mary is that God ordered Mary's womb to become impregnated without coming into contact with sperm. In the beginning the Christians were told that this was the secret of the fatherless birth of Jesus. Later on, under the misleading influence of Greek philosophy, they equated this with the 'Logos', which was subsequently interpreted as the Divine attribute of speech. The next step in this connection was the development of the notion that this Divine attribute entered into the womb of Mary and assumed the physical form of Jesus. Thus there developed among the Christians the false doctrine of the godhead of Jesus, and the false notion that out of His attributes God caused that of speech to appear in the form of Jesus.

213. Here Jesus himself is called 'a spirit from God'. The same idea is also expressed elsewhere in the Qur'an: 'And We supported him with the spirit of holiness' (Surah al-Baqarah 2: 87).The import of both verses is that God endowed Jesus with a pure, impeccable soul. He was therefore an embodiment of truth, veracity, righteousness, and excellence. This is what the Christians had been told about Christ. But they exceeded the proper limits of veneration for Jesus. The 'spirit from God' became the 'spirit of God', and the 'spirit of holiness' was interpreted to mean God's own Spirit which became incarnate in Jesus. Thus, along with God and Jesus, there developed the third person of God - the Holy Ghost. It was this unjustified exaggeration which led the Christians to even greater error. Ironically, however, Matthew contains the statement that: 'But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.' (The Bible, Authorized version, p. 771.)

214. The followers of Christ are urged to acknowledge God as the only God and to believe in the prophethood of all the Prophets, and that Jesus was one of them. This was the teaching of Christ and a basic truth which his followers ought to recognize.

215. They are urged to abandon the trinitarian doctrine, regardless of the form in which it was found. The fact is that the Christians subscribe simultaneously to the unity and the trinity of God. The statements of Jesus on this question in the Gospels, however, are so categorical that no Christian can easily justify anything but the clear, straightforward doctrine that God is One and that there is no god but He. The Christians, therefore, find it impossible to deny that monotheism is the very core of true religion. But the original confusion that in Jesus the Word of God became flesh, that the Spirit of God was incarnate in him, led them to believe in the godhead of Jesus and of the Holy Ghost along with that of God. This gratuitous commitment gave rise to an insoluble riddle: how to combine monotheism with the notion of trinity. For over eighteen centuries Christian theologians have grappled with this self-created riddle. The concept of the trinity is capable of such a myriad of interpretations that literally dozens of sects have arisen as a result of its ambiguity. And it has been largely responsible for the various Christian churches indulging in mutual excommunication. Moreover, it is logically impossible to maintain belief in trinity without impairing belief in One God. This problem has arisen because of the extravagance in which the Christians have indulged. The easiest course to get out of the morass is to give up the innovated belief in the godhead of Jesus and of the Holy Ghost, acknowledge God as the Only God, and accept Jesus as His Messenger rather than as God's partner in godhead.

216. This is the refutation of the fourth extravagance in which the Christians have indulged. Even if the reports embodied in the New Testament are considered authentic, the most that can be inferred from them (particularly those embodied in the first three Gospels) is that Jesus likened the relationship between God and His servants to that between a father and his children, and that he used to employ the term 'father' as a metaphor for God. But in this respect Jesus was not unique. From very ancient times the Israelites had employed the term 'father' for God. The Old Testament is full of examples of this usage. Jesus obviously employed this expression in conformity with the literary usage of his people. Moreover, he characterized God not merely as his own father but as the father of all men. Nevertheless, the Christians exceeded all reasonable limits when they declared Jesus to be the only begotten son of God. Their strange doctrine on this question is that since Jesus is an incarnation, an embodiment of the Word and Spirit of God, he is therefore the only son of God, who was sent to the earth in order to expiate the sins of humanity through his crucifixion. The Christians hold this to be their basic doctrine even though they cannot produce one shred of evidence from the statements of Jesus himself. This doctrine was a later product of their fancies, an outcome of the extravagance in which they indulged as a result of their impression of the awe-inspiring personality of their Prophet.

God does not repudiate here the doctrine of expiation, for this is not an independent doctrine but a corollary of recognizing Jesus as the son of God, and is a mystical and philosophical answer to the query as to why the only begotten son of God died an accursed death on the cross. The doctrine of expiation automatically falls apart by repudiating the dogma that Jesus was the son of God and by dispelling the misapprehension that he was crucified.

217. This strongly emphasizes that the true relationship between God and His creatures is one between the Lord and His slave. This repudiates the idea that the relationship which exists is one between a father and his offspring.

218. God is Himself sufficiently powerful to govern His dominion and has no need of a son to assist Him.