*1 For explanation, sec E. N. 1 of Surah Az-Zumar, E. N. 1 of AI-Jathiyah and also E. N. 1 of As-Sajdah for understanding the true spirit of this introduction.(46:2) The revelation of this Book is from Allah, the Most Mighty, the Most Wise.
*2 For explanation, ace Al-An'am: 73, Yunus: 5-6, Ibrahim: 19, Al-Hijr: 85, An-Nahl: 3, AI-Anbiya,: 16-18. Al-Mu'minun: 115, AI-`Ankabut: 44, ArRum: 8 and the corresponding E.N.'s.
That is, "The actual fact is that this universe is not a purposeless plaything but a purposeful, wise system in which the decisions regarding the good and the bad, the oppressor and the oppressed, will necessarily be based on justice; and the present system of the universe is not permanent and eternal, but it has a fixed term appointed for it on the expiry of which it will inevitably come to an end. For the Court of Allah also there is a settled time and it will certainly be established when the time for it reaches its term. But the people who have refused to believe in Allah's Prophet and His Book, have an aversion to these truths. They are least mindful of this that a time has to come when they will have to render an account of their deeds. They think that the Messenger of Allah has done them a great wrong by warning them of these truths, whereas he has done them a great good by fore-warning them not only of the time when they will be subjected to accountability but also of what they will be questioned at that time so that they may prepare themselves accordingly."
To understand the following discourse it should be borne in mind that man's basic error is the one that he commits with regard to determining his belief about God. In this regard, the adoption of a creed carelessly on the basis of mere hearsay, without any serious and deep thought and investigation, is a stupendous folly, which vitiates man's whole attitude to life in the world and ruins his destiny for ever afterwards. But the reason why man becomes involved in this dangerous kind of heedlessness is that he regards himself as irresponsible and un-answerable and develops the misunderstanding that whatever creed he may adopt about God, it would make no difference, because either there is no life after death in which he might have to face accountability, or if there is any such life and he is also called to account, the beings of whom he is a devotee, will save him from any evil fate. This same lack of the sense of responsibility renders him frivolous in the selection of a religious creed, and on the basis of the same he fabricates all sorts of absurd creeds, from atheism to every form of polytheism, or adopts the creeds fabricated by others.
As the addresses are a polytheistic people they are being told the reality of the irrational crced in which they persisted carelessly due to lack of the sense of responsibility. Along with acknowledging Allah as the Creator of the universe they had made many other beings their deities: they invoked them, regarded them as fulfillers of their needs and removers of hardships: prostrated themselves and made offerings before them, and thought they had the powers of making and unmaking of heir destinies. About the same beings, they are being asked: "On what basis have you made them your deities ?" Obviously, there can be only two bases for regarding someone as an associate in worship along with Allah: either man himself should know through some means of knowledge that his deity too has a share in making the earth and heavens, or Allah Himself may have stated that soand-so also is His associate in the functions of Godhead. Now, if a polytheist can neither make the claim that he possesses direct knowledge of his deity's being an associate of God, nor he can show in a Book sent by God that God Himself has appointed somebody as His associate, his creed would inevitably be baseless.
In this verse, "a Book revealed before this" implies a Book sent by Allah before the Qur'an, and "some remnant" of knowledge implies some part of the teachings of the Prophets and righteous men of the ancient times, which may have reached the later generations reliably. There is no tinge of shirk in whatever man has received through these two means. All the heavenly Books unanimously present the same Tauhid to which the Qur'an invites the people, and no existing remnant of the ancient lore bears evidence to this that some Prophet or saint or righteous man might have taught the people to serve and worship any other than God. Even if we do not take a Book to mean a Divine Book and remnant of knowledge the knowledge bequeathed by the Prophets and righteous men, no authentic book or the research made by a scholar of religious or secular lore has pointed out that such and such a thing in the earth or the heavens has been created by such and such a saint or god, or a certain blessing of the-blessings of life which man 'is benefiting from in the universe has been created by such and such a deity instead of God.
*5 "Cannot answer him": Cannot answer the supplications of any one. That is, these gods do not possess the powers by virtue of which they could give decisions on the prayers and petitions of their devotees. (For further explanation, see E.N. 33 of Az-Zumar). "Till the Day of Resurrection" means that as long as the world lasts they will get no answer to their supplications and prayers from their deities, but when Resurrection will have taken place, the deities will turn hostile to their worshippers themselves, as becomes explicit from the next verse.
That is, "they do not even hear the supplications of the supplicants, neither through their own ears nor through any other means. " This thing can be elaborated like this: The being whom the polytheists the world over have been invoking are divided into three categories: (1) Lifeless and inanimate creation; (2) the pious men who have passed away; and (3) the wicked men who had themselves gone astray, and who misled others and passed away. As for the first category of the deities they will naturally remain unaware of the supplications of their worshippers. As for the deities of the second kind, who were favourites with their God, there arc two reasons of their remaining unaware: (a) They are in the presence of AIIah in a state where human voices cannot reach them directly; and (b) even Allah and His angels do not inform them that the people whom they had been teaching to invoke Allah alone in the world, were invoking them instead, for no information could cause them a greater shock than this, and Allah does not at alI like to vex the souls of His righteous servants. Now if we consider the case of the third kind of the deities, we shall sec that there are two reasons also of their remaining unaware: (a) That they have been placed in confinement as the accused, and no voice from the world can reach them; and (b) that even Allah and His angels do not convey to them the news that their mission is flourishing in the world, and the people have set them up as deities, for this news would be a happy news for them, and Allah does not like to make the wicked people happy.
In this connection, one should also understand that Allah conveys to His righteous servants the greetings of peace and prayers of mercy from the people of the world, for these things arc a source of joy and pleasure for them; likewise, He informs the culprits of the curses, censures and condemnations of the people of the world, as the disbelievers killed in the Battle of Badr were made to hear the curse of the Holy Prophet according to a Hadith, for it is a cause of anguish for them. But anything which might cause distress to the righteous people and joy to the culprits is not conveyed to them. This explanation makes the truth about the,. question of hearing by the dead plain and easy to understand.
*7 That is, they will say: 'We had neither told the people to invoke us for help, nor arc we aware that they used to invoke us. They themselves had preumed that we could fulfil their needs and so had started invoking us."(46:7) When Our Clear Messages are rehearsed to them, the unbelievers exclaim about the Truth when it came to them: “This is plain sorcery.”8
*8 It means: When the Revelations of the Qur'an were recited before the disbelievers of Makkah, they realized that the Qur'an was far superior to human speech. The compositions of their greatest poets, orators and literary men were no match with the un-paralleled eloquence, enchanting oratory, sublime themes and heart-moving style of the Qur'an. Above all, even the Holy Prophet's own words and speech were not comparable with the discourses that were being sent down to him by God. Those who had known him since childhood knew full well the vast difference that was there between his language and words and the words of the Qur'an, and it was not possible for them to believe that a man who had been living day and night among them for forty years would suddenly one day forge a speech .whose diction and style would bear no resemblance with his familiar and known manner of speech and style. This thing trade the truth plain before them, but since they were bent upon denial, they would say: "This is plain magic," instead of acknowledging it as Divine Word after witnessing this manifest Sign. (They regarded the Qur'an as magic from another aspect also, which we have explained in our commentary of Al-Anbiya' :3 and E:.N. 5 of Surah Suad).(46:8) Do they claim that the Messenger himself has fabricated it?9 (If so), tell them: “If I have fabricated it, then you have no power to protect me from Allah's chastisement. He knows well the idle talk in which you indulge. He suffices as a witness between me and you.10 He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.”11
*9 This interrogative tone expresses great surprise and amazement. It means to say: "Are these people so shameless that they accuse Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace) of fabricating the Qur'an himself? Whereas they know that it cannot be his word; and their calling it magic is by itself an express proof that they regard it as an extraordinary word, which cannot be of human composition even according to themselves."
*10 As it was quite evident that their accusation was baseless and motivated by stubbornness, there was no need to present arguments to refute it. Therefore, only this much was regarded as a sufficient response: °If I have really fabricated something and committed a grave crime by imputing it to Allah, as you accuse me of, you will not be able to rescue me from Allah's punishment. But if it is really Allah's Word, and you are rejecting it by bringing false accusations, Allah Himself will deal with you. For the reality is not hidden from Allah, and He is sufficient to decide between the truth and falsehood. If the whole world calls some one a liar, although he is truthful in Allah's knowledge, the final decision will be in his favour. On the country: if the whole world regards some one as truthful though he is a liar in the knowledge of AIIah, he will be regarded as a liar in the final judgement. Therefore, do not confuse things but pay heed to your final end."
*11 Here, this sentence gives two meanings: (1) "It is in fact Allah's mercy and His forbearance that these people arc surviving in the world, although they have no hesitation in declaring Allah's Word as falsehood; otherwise if a merciless and cruel god had been the master of this universe, he would not have allowed such insolent people to live even for a moment in the world. " (2) "O unjust people, if you give up your stubbornness even now, the door of God's mercy is still open for you, and whatever misdeeds you may have committed heretofore can be forgiven."(46:9) Tell them: “I am not the first of the Messengers; and I do not know what shall be done with me or with you. I follow only what is revealed to me, and I am nothing but a plain warner.”12
Its background is this: When the Holy Prophet presented himself as Allah's Messenger, the people of Makkah raised different kinds of objections against it. They said: "what kind of a Messenger he is who has a family, who moves about in the streets, eats and drinks and lives a common man's life. There is nothing special about him, which might distinguish him above the other people and therefore we may know that Allah has specially made this man His Messenger. " Then they said: "Had he ban appointed a Messenger by God, He would have sent an angel as an attendant with him who would have announced that he was God's Messenger, and would have punished with a scourge every such person who had behaved insolently Towards him. How strange that God should appoint a person as His Messenger and then should leave him alone to roam the streets of Makkah and suffer every kind of humiliation. If nothing else Allah should at Ieast have created a magnificent palace and a blooming garden for His Messenger. He should not have been left to depend on his wife's resources so that 'when they exhausted the Messenger should be forced to go without food and should not even afford a conveyance to Ta'if." Besides, these people demanded different kinds of miracles from him and asked news of the unseen. They thought that a person's being God's Mcsscngcr meant that he should possess supernatural powers so that mountains should move at his bidding and deserts at once turn into green fields; he should have the knowledge of the past and the future events and of everything hidden from others.
An answer to the same has been given in these sentences, and each sentence contains a world of meaning.
First, it is said: 'Tell them: I am not a novel Messenger. " That is, "My being appointed as a Messenger is not a novel event of its kind in the world so that you may have some confusion about the characteristics of a Messenger. Many Messengers have come to the world before me, and I am not any different from them. Never has a Messenger come, who did not have a family, who did not eat and drink, or who did not live a common man's life. Never has an angel descended as an attendant with a Mcsscngcr, heralding his prophethood and carrying a whip before him. Never have gardens and palaces been created for a Messenger and never has a Messenger ban spared of the hardships which I am suffering. Never has a Messenger shown a miracle by his own power, or known everything by his own knowledge. Then, how is it that you are bringing forth these strange criteria only to judge my Prophethood?"
Then it is said: Tell them also : "I do not know what shall befall you tomorrow nor what shall befall me. I only follow that which is revealed to me." That is, "I am not a knower of the unseen so that everything of the past and present and future should be known to me, and I should have the knowledge of everything in the world. Not to speak of your future, I do not even know my own future. I only know that of which I am given knowledge by revelation. More than that I have never claimed to know, nor has there ever been a Messenger in the world, who made that claim. It is not a Messenger's job to tell the whereabouts of the lost articles, or tell whether a pregnant woman will deliver a boy or a girl, or whether a sick patient will live or die." In conclusion, it is said: "Say to them: I am no more than a plain warner." That is, "I do not possess Divine powers so that I may show you the wonderful miracles that you demand from me every next day. My only mission is that I should present the right way before the people, and should warn of an evil end those who do not accept it. "
*13 This same theme has been expressed in another way in Surah Ha-Mim As-Sajdah: 62 above. For explanation, see E.N. 69 of the said Surah.
A large number of the commentators have taken this "witness" to imply Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Salam, who was a famous Jewish scholar of Madinah, and who believed in the Holy Prophet after the migration. As this thing happened in Madinah, these commentators say that this verse was revealed at Madinah. This commentary is based on a statement of Hadrat Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas according to which this verse was sent down in respect of Hadrat `Abdullah bin Salam (Bukhari, Muslim, Nasa'i Ibn Jarir); and on the same basis have several major commentators like Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah, Dahhak, Ibn Sirin, Hasan Basri, Ibn Zaid and `Auf bin Malik al-Ashja`i accepted this commentary. But, on the other hand, 'Ikrimah and Sha`bi and Masruq say that this verse cannot be about `Abdullah bin Salam (may Allah be pleased with him) for this entire Surah was sent down at Makkah. Ibn Jarir Tabari also has preferred this view. He says: The whole previous discourse is an address directed to the pagans of Makkah and the following discourse also is directed to them. In this context it is not conceivable that a verse revealed at Madinah was inserted here. The later commentators who have accepted this second version, do not reject the tradition of Hadrat Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas, but have opined that as this verse also applies to Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Salam's affirmation of the faith, Hadrat Sa`d expressed the opinion, in the tradition of the ancients, that it was sent down with regard to him. This does not, however, mean that when he believed, it was revealed then about him only, but that this verse precisely applied to him and his acceptance of Islam.
Apparently, this second view seems to be more correct and reasonable. Now. the question that remains to be answered is: Who is implied by this witness?" Some of the commentators who have accepted the second view say that it implies the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), but the following sentence: 'He believed white you showed arrogance", bears no relevance to this explanation. What seems to be nearer the truth is that which the commentator Nisaburi and Ibn Kathir have stated. They say: Here, by "a witness" is not meant any particular person but a common Israelite.. The meaning is this; "The teachings that the Qur'an is presenting before you are not new so that you could deny them by offering the excuse that they were novel teachings which had never been presented before man in the past. Before this these very teachings have been similarly revealed and exist with the Israclites in the form of the Torah and other scriptures, and a common Israelite has already believed in them, and also admitted that Allah's Revelation is a means of the coming down of these teachings. Therefore, you cannot make the claim that Revelation and these teachings are incomprehensible. The only thing that hinders you from believing is your arrogance and baseless conceit. "