*1 "The time....near": the time of Resurrection. This is to warn the people that the time of Resurrection when they will have to appear before their Lord to render their accounts is not far. This was because the coming of the Holy Prophet was a sign and a clear evidence of the fact that mankind had entered the last stage of its history. The Holy Prophet himself explained it by holding out two of his adjoining fingers and said, "I have been sent at a time which joins to the time of Resurrection just as these two fingers adjoin" . By this he meant to say, "No other Prophet is coming between me and the Resurrection. Therefore mend your ways now, for after me no guide is coming with good news and warning" .
*2 That is, "They do not pay heed to any warning nor reflect on their end nor listen to the admonition of the Messenger."(21:2) Whenever any fresh admonition3 comes to them from their Lord they barely heed it and remain immersed in play,4
*3 "New Revelation": A new Surah of the Qur'an.
*4 The words of the original Text may also be interpreted as: "They do not take life seriously but treat it as a sport and a joke".(21:3) their hearts being set on other concerns. The wrong-doers whisper to one another: "This person is no more than a mortal like yourselves. Will you, then, be enchanted by sorcery while you see?"5
This may also be translated as: "What, are you then being ensnared by his magic?"
The disbelievers, who were the chiefs of Makkah, whispered to one another to this effect: "Anyhow this man cannot be a Prophet because he is a human being like us and eats and drinks and has wife and children like us. We see nothing unusual about him that might distinguish him from us and make him worthy of the office of Prophethood. We, however, admit that there is some magic in his talk and personality. That is why any one who listens to him or goes near Him is charmed. Therefore, the best thing for you is not to listen to him at all, nor go near him, for listening to him or going near him will only be involving yourselves intentionally in his snare."
The reason why they accused the Holy Prophet of practising magic was that even his antagonists were "charmed" by his personality. when they met him. Muhammad bin Ishaq (d. 152 A.H.) says, "Once `Utbah bin Rabi`ah, the father-in-law of Abu Sufyan, said to the chiefs that he wanted to see Muhammad and give him counsel. They said, `We have full confidence in you; you may go and have a talk with him.' Accordingly, he went to the Holy Prophet and said, `Dear nephew, you know that you were held in great honour here before this and you belong to a noble family. Why have you then brought this affliction to your people? You have caused discard among them: you consider your people to be fools: you speak ill of their religion and deities, and you declare their deceased forefathers to be disbelievers. My dear nephew, if your object is to become a rich man, we can give you so much wealth that you will become the richest man among us: if you are seeking a high rank, we will make you our chief, even our king, if you so like. But if you are suffering from a mental illness which makes you see illusions, we will have you treated by the best physicians.' He went on talking in this strain and the Holy Prophet remained silent. When he had a long talk, the Holy Prophet said, `Abul Walid, have you had your say or do you want to say anything more?' He replied that he had said what he had to say. Then the Holy Prophet said, `Now listen to me'. And he began to recite Surah Ha Mim Sajdah (Chapter XLI) after Bismillah and `Utbah listened to him as if he had been charmed. When the Holy Prophet came to v. 38, he fell down in prostration. Then raising his head, he said, 'O Abul Walid, I have said whatever I had to say, and you have heard it. Now I have nothing more to say'. After this `Utbah walked back towards the chiefs who perceived him to be a changed man, and remarked, `By God ! his face shows that he is not the same man that he was when he went from here.' When he came to them, they asked, `What has been the result of your mission'? He answered, `By God, today I have heard a thing the like of which I had never heard before. By Allah! It is not poetry nor sorcery nor divination. O people of Quraish, I advise you to leave him to himself. From what I have heard from him, I conclude that his Message is going to bring about a great revolution here. If the Arabs overcome him, you will stand absolved from the charge of murdering your own brother, and if he over-powers the Arabs, his sovereignty will be your own sovereignty and his honour your own honour.' The people answered, `By God! you, too, O Abul Walid, have been charmed by him'. To this he replied, `I have expressed my opinion. Now it is for you to accept or reject it'." (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 313-314). Baihaqi, in his narration of the above event, makes this addition: "When the Holy Prophet recited v. 13: `If they turn away from your Message, say to them, I have warned you of the coming of a thunderbolt like the thunderbolt that visited the `Ad and the Thamud', `Utbah placed his hand on the mouth of the Holy Prophet, saying, `For God's sake, have mercy on your own people'."
In this connection, ibn Ishaq has cited another event. Once a man from the clan of Arash came to Makkah with some camels and Abu Jahl bought them. When he demanded their price, he put him off by lame excuses. At last the man came to the Sanctuary of the Ka`bah and began to bewail publicly the dishonesty of Abu Jahl. The Holy Prophet was also sitting in a corner of the Sanctuary. The chiefs of the Quraish said to the man, "We cannot help you in any way in this matter; look, there is a man sitting: go to him and he will get you your money." Accordingly the Arashi went towards the Holy Prophet and the chiefs began to whisper jokingly, "Today there will be great fun!" When the man expressed his complaint before the Holy Prophet, he at once stood up and accompanied him to the house of Abu Jahl, followed by an informer of the chiefs. The Holy Prophet knocked at Abu Jahl's door, who asked from inside, "Who is there"? He answered, "Muhammad". Hearing this, he at once came out and the Holy Prophet said to him, "Pay this man his dues." Accordingly, Abu Jahl went in without uttering a word, brought the price of the camels and paid the man. At this the informer ran back to the Quraish and told them the whole story and said, "By God, today I have seen something which I had never seen before. When Abu Jahl came out, Muhammad asked him to pay the dues, and he obeyed him as if he were spell bound." (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 29-30).
It was this "charm" of the personality, character and words of the Holy Prophet which these people considered to be the effects of "charm" and warned the people not to go near him for fear of his "magic."
*6 This was the answer of the Prophet to their false propaganda and whispering campaign. Instead of giving a `tit for tat' answer, he said, "My Lord will deal with you for He hears everything and knows everything."(21:5) They say: "Nay, these are confused dreams; nay, he has forged it; nay, he is a poet.7 So let him bring us a sign, even as the Messengers of the past were sent with signs."
The background of this verse is this: "When the message of the Holy Prophet started gaining adherents, the chiefs of Makkah decided among themselves to start a propaganda campaign to counteract it. For this purpose they decided that every visitor to Makkah for pilgrimage should be approached and his mind so poisoned against the Holy Prophet that he dces not even go near and listen to him. Though this campaign continued throughout the year, in the pilgrimage season specially a large number of men were deputed to go to the tents of the pilgrims to warn them to beware of the Holy Prophet. Different sorts of things were said against the Holy Prophet during these talks. Sometimes it was said that he was a sorcerer, or that he had fabricated the Qur'an himself but attributed it to Allah. Some would say that his `Revelations' were the words of an insane person and a bundle of incoherent ideas. Others would say that these were ordinary poetic ideas which were being dubbed as the words of AIIah. All they wanted to do was to poison the minds of the visitors irrespective of the correctness of their own versions. They had no considered and definite opinion in the matter.
This false propaganda, however, had just the opposite effect. The name of the Holy Prophet became known throughout the length and breadth of the country through the nefarious activities of the chiefs of Makkah. A positive kind of approach from the Muslims would not have achieved the same publicity in years as was achieved so rapidly through this negative campaign of the Quraish. It set everybody thinking: "After all, who is this man against whom such a campaign of vilification has been started?" The serious type among them rather came to the conclusion that they must hear the Holy Prophet himself and said to themselves: "After all we are not children who can be easily enticed away".
For instance, Ibn Ishaq has related in detail the story of Tufail-bin-'Amr Dausi in his own words: "I was a poet of the clan of Daus. Once I went to Makkah and was, on my arrival there, surrounded by some people of the Quraish who told me all sorts of things against the Holy Prophet. So I grew suspicious and tried to avoid him as far as possible. The very next day, when I went to visit the Sanctuary, I saw him saying his prayer. By chance, I heard a few sentences and felt that what he was reciting were excellent words. I said to myself, `I am a poet and a sensible young man and no child who cannot discriminate between the right and the wrong. Why should I not therefore meet him and inquire what he is reciting?' Accordingly, 1 followed him to his house and said, `The people had so mch poisoned me against you that I had actually put cotton into my ears lest I should hear. your voice, but what I have heard today from you by chance was so appealing that I feel urged to inquire into your Message rather in detail. At this the Holy Prophet recited a passage of the Qur'an, as a result of which I embraced Islam there and then. On my return home I induced my father and wife to become Muslims, which they did, and then invited the people of my clan to embrace Islam with the result that till the Battle of the Trench as many as eighty families from my clan had entered the fold of Islam." (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 22-24).
According to another tradition cited by Ibn Ishaq, the chiefs of the Quraish confessed in their private meetings that all their charges against the Holy Prophet were false. According to him, addressing a meeting, Nadr bin Harith once said, "You cannot overcome Muhammad by the methods you are adopting against him. When he was a young man you regarded him as your best-mannered person and looked upon him as your most truthful and honest man. Now that he has attained advanced age, you say, He is a sorcerer: he is a sooth-sayer: he is a poet: he is insane.' By God, he is not a sorcerer, for we very well know what kind of people the sorcerers are and what kind of tricks they resort to. By God, he is not a soothsayer, for we are fully aware of the guess-works of the sooth-sayers. By God, he is not a poet for we know what poetry is and can judge that his words cannot be classified under poetry in any sense. By God, he is not insane, for we all know what nonsensical things the insane people utter. Therefore, O chiefs of the Quraish, let us think of some other plan to defeat him". After this, he himself proposed that stories from Persia like dose of Rustam and Asfandyar should be given publicity to divert the people's attention from the Qur'an. Accordingly, they put this scheme into practice and Nadr himself began to relate such stories before the people. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. l, pp. 320-321).
This contains a concise answer to the demand for a sign to the effect
(1) You ask for Signs like the ones which were shown by the former Messengers but you forget that those obdurate people did not believe in spite of the Signs shown to them.
(2) While demanding a Sign, you fail to realize that the people, who disbelieved even after seeing a Sign, were inevitably destroyed.
(3) It is indeed a favour of Allah that He is not showing the Sign as demanded by you. Therefore, the best course for you would be to believe without seeing a Sign. Otherwise, you will meet the same doom that the former communities met, when they did not believe even after seeing the Signs.
*9 This is the answer to their objection: "This man is no more than a human being like yourselves", and therefore, cannot be a Messenger of God. They have been told that the former Prophets, too, whom you also recognize as Prophets, were human beings and were blessed with Revelations from Allah.
*10 That is, "You may have it testified by the Jews, who are the enemies of Islam like you, and are teaching you the ways to oppose it, that all the Messengers including Prophet Moses were human beings."(21:8) We did not endow the Messengers with bodies that would need no food; nor were they immortals.
*11 History not only tells us that the former Messengers were human beings but it also contains a lesson that they all received Allah's succour as promised by Him and their enemies were completely destroyed. Therefore you should seriously consider the goal for which you are heading.(21:10) We have bestowed upon you a Book that mentions you. Do you not understand?12
*12 This is a comprehensive answer to the various objections which were being raised in desperation by the disbelievers of Makkah against the Qur'an and the Holy Prophet, as if to say:"What is there in this Book that you cannot understand? Why don't you consider it in the right spirit? There is nothing contradictory in it: it discusses you and your own problems and affairs of life; it describes your own nature, origtn and end; it discriminates between good and evil and presents high moral qualities which your own consciences endorse and confirm. Why don't you, then, use your minds to understand this simple and easy thing?"