65. This is the second in the chronological sequence of injunctions concerning
intoxicants. We came across the first injunction in
(Surah al-Baqarah 2: 219).
In that verse God merely indicated that drinking wine was a great sin, making
it clear that it was reprehensible in His sight. This was quite enough to make
some Muslims give up liquor altogether, though many others still took intoxicating
drinks: they sometimes stood up to pray while still under the influence of alcohol,
so that they even made mistakes in their recitations. This second injunction
was probably revealed at the beginning of 4 A.H., making it forbidden, thenceforth,
to pray in a state of intoxication. This led people to alter their drinking
times. They drank only at those hours when there was no fear of their remaining
under the influence of intoxicants when the time for Prayer came. The injunction
embodying unconditional prohibition of intoxicants was revealed not long afterwards.
See (Surah al-Ma'idah 5: 90-1.)
It should also be borne in mind that the word used in the verse is derived from sukr, which embraces not merely intoxicating liquors but everything which causes intoxication. The injunction contained in the verse is valid even now, for though the use of intoxicants as such has been completely prohibited, praying in a state of intoxication is a graver sin.
66. It is on this basis that the Prophet (peace be on him) directed anyone who is under the influence of sleep, and dozes off again and again during the Prayer, to stop praying and go to bed. (Ibn Kathir, vol. 4, p. 494-Ed.) Some people argue, on the basis of this verse, that the Prayer of one who does not understand the Arabic text of the Qur'an will not be accepted. Apart from taking things too far such a conclusion is not supported by the words in the text. The expression used by the Qur'an is neither ( ) nor even ( ). On the contrary, the expression is ( ) (i.e. until you know what you are saying, rather than 'until you understand' what you are saying). What is required is that while praying one should at least be conscious enough to know what one is uttering in the Prayer.
67. The term janabah denotes the state of major ritual impurity, and is derived from the root meaning: 'to ward off'. The word ajnabi, meaning foreigner or stranger, is also derived from the same root. In Islamic terminology, janabah denotes the state of ritual impurity (in both male and female) which results from the act of intercourse or from seminal emission (either from sexual stimulation or from a wet dream).
68. One group of jurists and Qur'anic commentators interpret this verse to mean that one should not enter a mosque in the state of major ritual impurity (janabah), unless out of necessity. This is the opinion of 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud, Anas b. Malik, Hasan al-Basri, Ibrahim al-Nakha'i and others. Another group thinks that the reference here is to travel. In the opinion of this group, if a traveller is in the state of major ritual impurity he may resort to tayammum (i.e. symbolic ablution attained through wiping the hands and face with clean earth). See (Surah al-Ma'idah 5: 6 and also n. 70 ) below - Ed.) This group considers it permissible to stay in the mosque in this state provided one has performed ablution. This is the view of 'Ali, Ibn 'Abbas, Sa'id b. Jubayr and some other authorities. The opinion that a traveller in the state of major impurity may perform ablution if he is unable to take a bath is supported by consensus, but while some authorities infer it from traditions others base it on the Qur'anic verse mentioned above. (See Jassas, vol. 2, pp. 201-6; and Ibn Kathir's commentary on this verse - Ed.)
69. There is disagreement as to what is meant here by the verb lamastum, which literally means 'you touched'. 'Ali, Ibn 'Abbas, Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, Ubayy b. Ka'b, Sa'id b. Jubayr, Hasan al-Basri and several other leading jurists are of the opinion that it signifies sexual intercourse. Abu Hanifah and his school, and Sufyan al-Thawri follow this view. But 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud and 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar hold that it signifies the act of touching, the mere placing of one's hand on a woman's body. This is the opinion adopted by Shafi'i. Other jurists take an intermediate position. Malik, for instance, is of the opinion that if a man and a woman touch each other with sexual desire, their ablution is nullified, and if they want to perform the Prayer they are obliged to renew their ablution. He sees nothing objectionable, however, in the mere fact of a man touching a woman's body, or vice versa, provided the act is not motivated by sexual desire. (See Ibn Kathir's commentary on this verse - Ed.-)
70. The detailed rules of tayammum are as follows: A man who either needs
to perform ablution or take a bath to attain the state of purity for ritual
Prayer may resort to tayammum provided water is not available to him. Only then
may he perform the Prayer. Permission to resort to tayammum, rather than make
ablution with water or take a bath, is also extended to invalids whose health
is likely to be harmed by the use of water. We have tried to convey both shades
of meaning in the translation of the verse by using the expression 'have had
contact with' instead of 'touched' - Ed.
Tayammum literally means 'to turn to, to aim at, to head for, to intend'. The relevance of the term in the Islamic religious context is that when water is either not available or when its use is likely to cause harm one should 'turn to' clean earth.
There is some disagreement among jurists about the manner of performing tayammum. According to some, one should strike one's palms on the clean earth, then gently wipe one's face, then strike one's hands again and gently wipe one's hands and arms up to the elbows. This is the view of Abu Hanifah, Shafi'i, Malik and the majority of jurists. Among the Companions and Successors, 'Ali, 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, Hasan al-Basri, Sha'bi, Salim b. 'Abd Allah and many others are of the same opinion. Other jurists are of the view that it is sufficient to strike one's palms once on the clean earth, then wipe one's face and one's hands up to the wrist; it is not necessary to wipe the arms between the wrist and the elbow. This is the opinion of 'Ata', Makhul, Awza'i, and Ahmad b. Hanbal, and is generally followed by the Ahl al-Hadith. (Cf. Qurtubi, Ahkam al-Qur'an, vol. 5, pp. 239-41.)
Tayammum is not necessarily performed by striking one's palms on earth proper. It is sufficient to strike the palms on anything which either has dust over it or anything consisting of the dry elements of the earth. It may be asked how one attains purity by striking one's palms on the earth and then wiping one's hands and face with them. In fact tayammum is a useful psychological device to keep the sense of ritual purity and the sanctity of Prayer alive in man's mind even when water - the principal agent of purification - is not available. The value of tayammum is that even if a man is unable to use water - and no one knows how long this situation may persist - his sensitivity to cleanliness and purity will endure. He will continue to observe the regulation laid down by the Law in respect of cleanliness and purity, and the distinction between the states in which one may and may not perform the Prayer will not be erased.
71. The Qur'an often characterizes the scholars of the People of the Book as those who 'were given a portion of the Book'. The reason for the use of this expression, in the first place, is that they caused a part of the divine revelation to be lost. Moreover, they had detached themselves from the spirit and purpose of the divine revelation which was available to them. Their concern with the Scripture was confined to verbal discussions, arguments about legal minutiae, and speculation about subtle and involved philosophical and theological questions. This had so alienated even their religious leaders and scholars from the true concept of religion that they lost true religious devotion and piety.
72. It is to be noted that this expression means 'they became Jews', rather than 'they were Jews'. For, originally, they were nothing but Muslims, just as the followers of every Prophet are Muslims. Only later on did they become merely 'Jews'.
73. This signifies three things. First, that they tampered with the text of the Scripture. Second, that they misinterpreted the Scripture and thereby distorted the meanings of the verses of the Book. Third, that they came and stayed in the company of the Prophet (peace be on him) and his Companions and listened to the conversations which took place there, then went among other people and misreported what they had heard. They did this with the malicious intent of bringing the Muslims into disrepute and thereby preventing people from embracing Islam.
74. When the ordinances of God are announced to them, they loudly proclaim: 'Yes, we have heard', (sami'na), but then they whisper: 'And we disobeyed' ('asayna). Or else they pronounce ata'na ('we obey') with such a twist of the tongue that it becomes indistinguishable from 'asayna.
75. Whenever they wanted to say something to the Prophet (peace be on him) they would say, 'isma" (listen), but added to this the expression, 'ghayr musma" which had several meanings. It could either be a polite expression, meaning that he was worthy of such deep respect that one should say nothing to his dislike or it could have a malicious implication, meaning that he did not deserve to be addressed by anybody. It also meant the imprecation: 'May God turn you deaf.'
76. For an explanation of this see Towards Understanding the Qur'an, vol. I, (Surah 2, n. 108).
77. See ibid., (Surah 3, n. 2).
78. See ibid., (Surah 2, nn. 82 and 83).
79. Although the People of the Book claimed to follow the Prophets and the Divine Books they had, in fact, fallen a prey to polytheism.
80. The purpose of this verse is not to tell man that he may commit any sin as long as he does not associate others with God in His divinity. The object is rather to impress upon those who had begun to regard polytheism as a trivial matter that it constitutes the most serious offence in God's sight, an offence so serious that while other sins may be pardoned this will not. Jewish religious scholars were meticulous about questions of subsidiary importance, and devoted all their time to pondering over legal subtleties which their jurists had painstakingly elaborated by far-fetched deductions. Yet they treated polytheism so lightly that they neither abstained from it themselves nor tried to prevent their people from falling a prey to polytheistic ideas and practices nor found anything objectionable in establishing cordial relations with the polytheists nor in supporting them.