*1 The meaning of taking an oath by "the lucid Book" has been explained in E.N. 1 of Surah Zukhruf. Here also what has been sworn by is that Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace) is not the author of this Book but "We", and this Book by itself is enough to provide a proof of this. Furthermore, it has been said chat the night in which it was sent down was full of blessings. That is, the foolish and ignorant people, who have no idea of their own well-being or otherwise, regard the revelation of this Book as a disaster for themselves and are deeply anxious as how to get rid of it. But, as a matter of fact, the Hour when "We" decided to send down this Book to arouse the heedless, was highly blessed for them and _for aII mankind Some commentators have expressed the opinion that the meaning of sending down the Qur'an in that night is that its revelation began during that night, and some others think that the whole of the Qur'an was transferred from Umm alKitab and entrusted to the bearers of Revelation (angels), and then revealed to the Holy Prophet as and when required and demanded by the occasion and circumstances during 23 years. As to what actully happened Allah alone has the best knowledge. The night implies the same night which has been called lailat-ul-qadr in Surah Al-Qadr (97), There it has been said: `We sent it down in a Night of Glory," and here: `We sent it down in a blessed Night." Then the Qur'an itself has told that it was a night of the month of Ramadan (Al-Baqarah).(44:4) (We revealed it on the Night) wherein every matter is wisely determined2
*2 The word amr-in-,hakim as used in the Text has two meanings: (1) That the Command is wholly based on wisdom: there is no likelihood of any error or weakness in it; and (2) that it is a firm and stable decision: it lies in no one's power to change it.(44:5) by Our command.3 Verily, We were set to send a Messenger
*3 In Surah AI-Qadr, this same thing has been expressed thus: `The angels and the Spirit (Angel Gabriel) descend in it with every decree, by the leave of their Lord." This shows that it is such a Night in the Divine administration of Allah in which He decides the destinies of the individuals and nations and countries and entrusts His decisions to His angels, who then implement them accordingly. Some commentators among whom Hadrat `Ikrimah is most prominent, have been involved in the misunderstanding that this is the 15th night of Sha'ban, for in some traditions it has been said that the destinies of people are decided during that night. But Ibn 'Abbas, Ibn `Umar, Mujahid, Qatadah, Hasan Basri, Sa' id bin Jubair, Ibn Zaid, Abu Malik, Dahhak and many other commentators are agreed that this is the same night of Ramadan, which has been called lailat-ul-qadr, for the Qur'an itself has stated this, and where any Qur'anic statement exists, no other view can be formed on the basis of random reports. Ibn Kathir says, "The traditions that Imam Zuhri has related from 'Uthman bin Muhammad that destinies are decided from one Sha`ban to the next Sha`ban is an indirect tradition and such traditions cannot be cited as against the clear texts of the Qur'an. " Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-`Arabi says: "No Hadith in respect of the 15th of Sha'ban is reliable, either in respect of its merit, or about this that decisions with regard to the destinies are taken in it; therefore, they do not merit attention, (Ahkam ul-Qur'an).(44:6) as a Mercy from your Lord.4 Surely He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing,5
*4 That is, "It was not only a demand of wisdom to send a Messenger with. this Book but also of Allah's mercy, for He is the Providence, and Providence requires that not only should arrangements be made for nourishing the servants' bodies but they should also be afforded right guidance by knowledge, that they should be made aware of the distinction between right and wrong and that they should not be left wandering in darkness."
*5 The object of mentioning these two attributes of AIlah in this context is to warn the people of the truth that He alone can give correct knowledge for He alone knows aII the realities. Not to speak of one ntan, even if aII men join to determine a way of lift for themselves, there can be no guaranty of its being the right way, for even the whole of mankind together cannot become all-hearing and all-knowing. It does not lie in its power to comprehend aII those realities whose knowledge is essential for determining a correct way of life. This knowledge is only with AIlah: He alone is All-Hearing and AII-Knowing. Therefore, He alone can tell what is guidance for Tnan and what is falsehood, what is the Truth and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil.(44:7) the Lord of the heavens and the earth and of all that is between them: if you would only have sure faith.6
*6 The Arabs themselves admitted that Allah alone is the Lord (Master and Providencc) of the Universe and of everything in it. Therefore, it has been said to them: "If you arc not admitting only verbally but are really conscious of His being the Providence and are convinced of His being the Master, you should admit that: (I) It is the very demand of His Mercifulness and Providence that He should send a Hook and a Messenger for the guidance of man; and (2) it is His right as the Master and your duty as His servants that you should obey every Guidance and submit to every Command that comes from Him. "(44:8) There is no god but He:7 He gives life and causes death.8 He is your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers of yore.9
*7 The real God Who alone has the right that He should be worshipped and served.
*8 That is, "There is no god other than Allah, nor can there be. Therefore, it is against reason that you should disdain the worship of Him Who breathed life into dead matter and made you a living man, and Who possesses full powers to keep you alive as long as He likes and bring your life to an end whenever He likes, or you serve any other than Him, or start worshipping others besides Hint."
*9 There is a subtle allusion in it to this: "He was also Lord of those of your ancestors who took other gods besides Allah; they had not done the right thing by giving up their real Lord and serving others that you should be justified in imitating them and regard their conduct as an argument for the soundness of your creed. They ought to have served only Him, because He alone was their Lord.(44:9) (But the fact is, they lack certainty) and frolic about in doubt.10
*10 In this brief sentence an allusion has been made to an important truth. Even atheists or polytheists do come across occasions when their bean from within says; There is somewhere some weakness in the creed that you have adopted. The atheist may apparently be very firm in his denial of God, his heart at one or the other time does bear the testimony that this wonderful and wise system which extends from the particle of dust to the galaxies and from a blade of grass to the creation of man, could not come into existence without an All-Wise Designer. Likewise, a polytheist may be deeply submerged in his polytheism, his heart also sometimes cries out: Those whom you have adopted as deities cannot be God. But this testimony of the heart neither leads the atheist and the polytheist to the conviction about, the existence and Oneness of God, nor to conviction and satisfaction about their creed of atheism and polytheism itself. Instead, their religion, in fact, is based on doubt, no matter how convinced they might appear to be of its truth. As for the question: Why doesn't this doubt make them restless, and why don't, they seek the truth seriously so as to obtain a satisfactory ground for their convictions? the answer is: they lack seriousness in religious matters. W hat they really regard as important are the worldly earnings and acquisitions and their enjoyment, in search of which they expend aII their powers and abilities of the heart and mind and body. As for the religious matters, they are in fact no more than fun, a mere pastime, amusement, or a mental diversion for them, for which they cannot spare even a few moments of serious study. Religious rites are being performed as an entertainment; discussions about denial and atheism are being engaged in as an amusement; no one can spare a few moments from his worldly pursuits to consider whether he has turned away from the Truth, and if so, what would be its consequences.(44:10) So watch for the Day when the sky will come down with a pall of smoke,
*11 Rasul-i-mubin has two meanings: (1) His being a Messenger is quite evident from his character, his morals and his works; and (2) he has made every effort to make the truth plain and clear.(44:14) yet they turned away from him and said: “This is a well-tutored madman.”12
*12 What they meant was: "This was a simple man, some others have incited and deceived him: they secretly forge and teach him verses of the Qur'an, and he comes and recites them before the people: they sit back in peace and leave him alone to receive the abuses and be pelted with stones." They would make a mockery of aII the arguments, the admonitions and the serious teachings which the Holy Prophet had been presenting since several years and was growing weary. Neither they paid any attention to the rational things being expressed in the Qur'an .nor recognized the extraordinary character of the man who was presenting them, nor took any trouble to think what nonsense they were uttering when they imputed such things to the Holy prophet. Obviously, if there had been another person who gave .secret instruction to the Holy Prophet, he could not have remained hidden from Hadrat Khadijah and Abu Bakr, 'Ali and Zaid bin Harithah and other early Muslims, who were the closest and constant Companions of the Holy Prophet. Then, how it is that these very people only became his most devoted and dedicated followers, whereas if the business of prophethood had depended on the secret instruction of sonic other person, these very people would have been in the forefront to oppose him (For further explanation, see An-Nahl: 103, AI-Furqan: 4-6 and the corresponding E.N.'s).(44:15) Yet We will hold the scourge back for a while, (but no sooner than We will do so) you will revert to your old ways.
The commentators have seriously disputed the meaning of these verses, and the difference of opinion existed even in the time of the Companions. Masruq, the well-known pupil of Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud, states: One day when we entered the mosque of Kufah, we saw a preacher addressing the people. He recited the verse: Yauma ta'tis-sama-u bidukhan-im-mubin, then asked: "Do you know what kind of smoke it is ? This smoke will appear on the Day of Resurrection and will make the disbelievers and the hypocrites blind and deaf, but the believers will be affected only to the extent as if they had caught cold.' Hearing this commentary we went to Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud and reported to him what the preacher had said. Hadrat 'Abdullah at that time was lying down. On hearing this commentary he sat up startled and said: "When a person does not have the knowledge he should ask those who have it. The fact is that when the people of the Quraish went on refusing to accept Islam and continued to oppose the Holy Prophet, the Holy Prophet prayed: O God, help me with a famine like the famine of Joseph (peace be upon him); consequently, a very severe famine overtook Makkah and the people were forced to eat bones, skins and carrion. The conditions became so bad that whoever looked up to the sky would see nothing but smoke due to intensity of hunger. At last, Abu Sufyan came to the Holy Prophet and said: "You tell the people to treat their kindred kindly: your own people are starving: kindly pray to God to remove this calamity." This was the time when the people of the Quraish had started saying: "O God, if You remove this torment from us, we will believe." This same event has been referred to in these verses; and the severest blow implies the calamity that was inflicted on the Quraish in the Battle of Badr. " This tradition has been related by Imam Ahmad, Bukhari Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, Ibn Jarir and Ibn Abi Hatim from Masruq with several chains of authorities. Besides Masruq, Ibrahim Nakha'i Qatadah. `Asim and 'Amir also have related that Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud had given the same commentary of this verse. Therefore there cannot be any doubt that Ibn Mas'ud actually held this same opinion. Among the immediate followers of the Companions, Mujahid, Qatadah. Abul 'Aliyah, Muqatil, Ibrahim Nakha'i, Dahhak and 'Atiyyah al-'Aufi and others havc also concurred with Ibn Mas'ud in this commentary.
On the contrary, scholars like Hadrat 'Ali, Ibn 'Umar, Ibn 'Abbas, Abu Said Khudri, Zaid bin 'AIi, and Hasan Basri say that in these verses mention has been made of the time just before Resurrection, and the smoke that has been foretold will envelop the earth at that time. This commentary is further strengthened by the Traditions that havc been reported from the Holy Prophet. Hudhaifah bin Asid al-Ghifari says: One day when we were talking about Resurrection, the Holy Prophet came out to us and said: "Resurrection will not be established till ten Signs have appeared one after the other: Rising of the sun in the west, smoke, the beast, emergence of God and Magog, descent of Jesus son of Mary, sinking of the earth in the East, in the West and in the Arabian Peninsula, and the appearance of a fire from Yaman, which will drive the people away." (Muslim) This is confirmed by Abu Malik Ash`ari's tradition which has been related by Ibn Jarir and Tabarani, and Abu Said Khudri's tradition which has been related by Ibn Abi Hatim. Both these traditions show that the Holy Prophet regarded the smoke as one of the Signs of Resurrection and also said that when that smoke will spread, it will affect the believer only like a cold, but will infuse every nerve of the disbeliever and come out from every part of his body.
A study of the verses under consideration can remove the disparity between the two commentaries. As for the commentary of Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud, it is a fact that a severe famine had hit Makkah resulting from the Holy Prophet's prayer and it had unnerved the disbelievers considerably and they had requested the Holy Prophet to pray for its removal, as referred to at several places in the Qur'an. (See AI-An'am: 43, AI-A'raf: 94-95, Yunus: 21, AI-Mu'minun: 75-77 and the corresponding E.N.'s). In these verses also there is a clear pointer to the same conditions. The disbelievers' saying: "Our Lord, remove this torment from us: we will believe," Allah's saying: "How can they rid themselves of their heedlessness? Even when a manifest Messenger came to them, they paid no heed to hira, and said: He is a madman taught by others,"- then saying: "Were We to remove the torment a little, you would revert to the same that you were doing before." aII this can be relevant only if it refers to the conditions of the Holy Prophet's time. To apply them to what will happen near the time of Resurrection, is not correct. Therefore, in view of this, Hadrat `Abdullah bin Mas'ud's commentary seems to be correct, but its this part that "the smoke" also had appeared in that very time, in that when the people in their extreme state of hunger looked up to the sky, they could see nothing but smoke, dces not seem to be correct. It also dces not conform to the apparent words of the Qur'an and is against the Traditions as well. The Qur'an does not say: the sky brought forth the smoke and it spread over the people; but it says: "Wait for the Day when the sky will appear with a visible smoke, and it will envelop mankind. " A study of the subsequent verses clearly points to this meaning: "When you do not believe even after the Messenger's admonition, nor take heed from the warning given in the shape of the famine, then you should wait for Resurrection. At that time when you sec your doom confronting you, you will fully realize what was the truth and what was falsehood." Therefore, as for the smoke, the correct view is that it has nothing to do with the time of the famine, but it is a Sign of Resurrection and the same is also confirmed by the Hadith. It is surprising that those commentators who confirmed what Hadrat Ibn Mas`ud said confirmed him wholly and those who refined what he said refined him wholly, whereas a study of the verses and the Hadith clearly shows how far he was correct and how far he was wrong.
*14 The words rasul-un karim in the original imply a man who is characterised with most noble traits of character and highly praiseworthy qualities.(44:18) (and said):15 “Deliver to me Allah's servants.16 I am a trustworthy Messenger to you,17
*15 One should note that the sayings of the Prophet Moses being cited here, are not parts of a continuous address delivered by him at any one time, but they are a summary in a few sentences of what he said to Pharaoh and his courtiers on different occasions during many years. For the details, sec AI-A'raf: 103-136, Yunus: 75-92, Ta Ha : 45-76, Ash-Shua'ra: 10-68, An-Naml: 7-14, AlQasas: 32-42, AI-Mu'min: 23-46, Az-Zukhruf: 46-56 and the corresponding E.N.'s.
*16 That is. "Leave the children of Israel to go with me." This demand is synonymous with the demand made in Al-A`raf: 105, Ta Ha: 47 and Ash-Shur'ra: 17. Another translation that has been reported from Hadrat 'Abdullah bin `Abbas is: "Servants of Allah, fulfil my right," i.e.. "Accept what I say : believe in me: follow my guidance. This is my right on you from Allah. " The following sentence: `I am a trustworthy Messenger to you," is more in keeping with the second meaning.
*17 That is, "I am a reliable Messenger: I do not forge anything from myself, nor am I the one who would present something based on personal interest or desire, or forge a command or law, in the name of Allah. Rest assured that I shall convey to you intact only that which my Sender has commanded. " (It should be noted that these two sentences belong to the time when the Prophet Moses first started preaching His Message).(44:19) and do not exalt yourselves in defiance of Allah. I have come to you with a clear authority18 (as a Messenger).
*18 In other words, it means: "Your rebellion against me is in fact rebellion against Allah, for what annoys you is not what I say but what Allah says, and I only present those things as His Messenger. If you doubt whether I have really ban sent by Hun or not, I present before you a clear authority of my appointment from Allah. " This authority does not imply any one miracle but a long series of the miracles which the Prophet Moses continued to show to Pharaoh and his people for years since the time he $roved in the court of Pharaoh till his last days in Egypt. Whatever Sign they denied, was followed up by a greater Sign of authority by him. (For explanation, see E.N.'s 42, 43 of Az-Zukhruf).(44:20) I have taken refuge with my Lord and your Lord lest you should attack me with stones.
*19 This was said at the time when, as against alI the Signs presented by the Prophet Moses, Pharaoh was still showing stubbornness, but was feeling upset and confounded at the realization that all classes of the Egyptian society were rapidly being influenced by those Signs. In that period first of all he made the speech before his full packed court as mentioned in vv. 51-53 of Surah Zukhruf above (see E,N.'s 45 to 49). Then, when he felt the ground slipping from under his feet, he made up his mind to kill Allah's Messenger. At that time the Prophet said the words as mentioned in Surah AI-Mu'min: 27 ; to the effect: "I have taken refuge in my Lord and your Lord against every arrogant person who does not believe in the Day of Reckoning." Here, the Prophet Moses is referring to that same thing and telling Pharaoh and his chiefs: "Look, I have sought Allah's refuge against aII sorts of violence from you : now you cannot harm me: but if you wish yourselves well, do not harm me. If you do not want to believe what I say, you may not, but you should never lay your hands on me, otherwise you will meet with catastrophic consequences" .(44:22) Then he called upon his Lord: “These are a criminal people.”20
*20 This is the final report that the Prophet Moses presented before his Lord, saying: "These are criminals." That is, their being the criminals has been confirmed finally and absolutely. They have exhausted every chance of concession and respite for reformation. It is time that the final fatal decision be passed against them.(44:23) (He was told): “Set out with My servants by night21 for you will certainly be pursued.22
*21 "With my servants": with aII those people who have believed, including both the Israelites and the Egyptian Copts who had become Muslims since the time of the Prophet Joseph till that of the Prophet Moses, and those also who had been influenced by the Signs shown by Moses and His preaching and accepted Islam from among the Egyptians. (For explanation, see Surah Yusuf: E.N. 68).
*22 This was the initial command given to the prophet Moses for the migration. (For explanation, see Ta-Hit: 77, Ash-Shu'ara': 52-68 arid the corresponding E.N.'s).(44:24) And leave the sea behind you as calm as ever. Surely they are an army that is doomed to be drowned.”23
*23 This command was given when the Prophet Moses had crossed the sea along with his caravan and wanted that he should restore the sea to its former state by smiting it with the staff so that Pharaoh and his hosts should not pursue them on the dry path created by the miracle. At that times it was said: "Leave the sea divided as it is, so that Pharaoh and his armies should descend into it; then the sea will be restored and they will be drowned all together."(44:25) How many gardens did they leave behind, and how many fountains
*24 Hadrat Hasan Basri says that "others" here implies the children of Israel, whom Allah made heirs of the land of Egypt after Pharaoh's people, and Qatadah says it implies the other people who inherited Egypt after the people of Pharaoh, for the Histories do not make any mention that the Israelites ever returned to Egypt after the exodus and inherited it. This same point has been disputed by the later commentators also. (For a detailed discussion, see AshShua'ra: 57-59 and the E.N.'s on it).(44:29) Then neither the sky shed tears over them nor the earth.25 They were granted no respite.
*25 That is, "When they were the rulers, they werc known for their glory and grandeur: hymns were sung of their praise, flatterers flatterted them to such an extent as if the whole world was devoted to them for their excellences and indebted to them for their favours and there was none more popular in the world than they. But when they fell there was none to shed a tear on their fall; rather the world felt relieved that a cause of distress had been removed. Obviously, they had neither done any good to the people that the dwellers of the earth might weep on them, nor anything for the sake of Allah's pleasure that the dwellers of the heavens might grieve over their ruin. As long as AIlah continued to give them rope by His will, they enjoyed life as they pleased; but when they transgressed aII limits in their crimes, they were cast aside like so much rubbish.