In (the comments on) Surat Al-Baqarah, we discussed the letters which appear at the beginning of some Surahs.
(These are the Ayat of the Qur'an, and (it is) a Book (that is) clear.) It is plain and evident.
(A guide and glad tidings for the believers.) meaning, guidance and good news may be attained from the Qur'an for those who believe in it, follow it and put it into practice. They establish obligatory prayers, pay Zakah and believe with certain faith in the Hereafter, the resurrection after death, reward and punishment for all deeds, good and bad, and Paradise and Hell. This is like the Ayat:
(Say: "It is for those who believe, a guide and a healing. And as for those who disbelieve, there is heaviness (deafness) in their ears...'') (41:44).
(that you may give glad tidings to those who have Taqwa, and warn with it the Ludd (most quarrelsome) people) (19: 97). Allah says here:
(Verily, those who believe not in the Hereafter,) meaning, those who deny it and think that it will never happen,
(We have made their deeds fair seeming to them, so that they wander about blindly.) means, `We have made what they are doing seem good to them, and We have left them to continue in their misguidance, so they are lost and confused.' This is their recompense for their disbelief in the Hereafter, as Allah says:
(And We shall turn their hearts and their eyes away, as they refused to believe therein for the first time) (6:110).
(They are those for whom there will be an evil torment.) in this world and the Hereafter.
(And in the Hereafter they will be the greatest losers.) means, no one but they, among all the people who will be gathered, will lose their souls and their wealth.
(And verily, you are being taught the Qur'an from One, All-Wise, All-Knowing.)
(And verily, you) O Muhammad. Qatadah said:
(are being taught) "Are receiving.''
(the Qur'an from One, All-Wise, All-Knowing.) from One Who is Wise in His commands and prohibitions, and Who knows all things, major and minor. Whatever He says is absolute Truth, and His rulings are entirely fair and just, as Allah says:
(And the Word of your Lord has been fulfilled in truth and in justice) (6:115).
(7. (Remember) when Musa said to his household: "Verily, I have seen a fire; I will bring you from there some information, or I will bring you a burning ember, that you may warm yourselves.'') (8. But when he came to it, he was called: "Blessed is whosoever is in the fire, and whosoever is round about it! And glorified be Allah, the Lord of all that exists.'') (9. "O Musa! Verily, it is I, Allah, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.'') (10. "And throw down your stick!'' But when he saw it moving as if it were a snake, he turned in flight, and did not look back. (It was said:) "O Musa! Fear not: verily, the Messengers fear not in front of Me.'') (11. "Except him who has done wrong and afterwards has changed evil for good; then surely, I am Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.'') (12. "And put your hand into opening of your garment, it will come forth white without hurt. (These are) among the nine signs (you will take) to Fir`awn and his people. Verily, they are a people who are rebellious.'') (13. But when Our Ayat came to them, clear to see, they said: "This is a manifest magic.'') (14. And they belied them wrongfully and arrogantly, though they themselves were convinced thereof. So, see what was the end of the mischief-makers.)
Here Allah tells His Messenger Muhammad about what happened to Musa (peace be upon him) how Allah chose him, spoke with him and gave him mighty, dazzling signs and overwhelming proof, and sent him to Fir`awn and his people, but they denied the proof, disbelieved in him and arrogantly refused to follow him. Allah says:
(when Musa said to his household), meaning, remember when Musa was traveling with his family and lost his way. This was at night, in the dark. Musa had seen a fire beside the mountain, i.e., he had noticed a fire burning brightly, and said,
(to his household: "Verily, I have seen a fire; I will bring you from there some information...'') meaning, `about the way we should take.'
(or I will bring you a burning ember, that you may warm yourselves.) meaning, so that they could keep warm. And it was as he said: "He came back with great news, and a great light.'' Allah says:
(But when he came to it, he was called: "Blessed is whosoever is in the fire, and whosoever is round about it!'') meaning, when he came to it, he saw a great and terrifying sight: the fire was burning in a green bush, and the fire was burning ever brighter while the bush was growing ever more green and beautiful. Then he raised his head, and saw that its light was connected to the clouds of the sky. Ibn `Abbas and others said, "It was not a fire, rather it was shining light.'' According to one report narrated from Ibn `Abbas, it was the Light of the Lord of the worlds. Musa stood amazed by what he was seeing, and
(he was called: "Blessed is whosoever is in the fire...'') Ibn `Abbas said, "This means, Holy is (whosoever is in the fire).''
(and whosoever is round about it) means, of the angels. This was the view of Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan and Qatadah.
(And glorified be Allah, the Lord of all that exists), Who does whatever He wills and there is nothing like Him among His creation. Nothing He has made can encompass Him, and He is the Exalted, the Almighty, Who is utterly unlike all that He has created. Heaven and earth cannot contain Him, but He is the One, the Self-Sufficient Master, Who is far above any comparison with His creation.
(O Musa! Verily, it is I, Allah, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.) Allah told him that the One Who was addressing him was his Lord Allah, the All-Mighty, Who has subjugated and subdued all things, the One Who is Wise in all His words and deeds. Then He commanded him to throw down the stick that was in his hand, so that He might show him clear proof that He is the One Who is able to do all things, whatever He wills. When Musa threw that stick down, it changed into the form of a huge and terrifying snake, moving quickly despite its size. Allah says:
(But when he saw it moving as if it were a Jann (snake).) Jann refers to a type of snake that is the fastest-moving and most agile. When Musa saw that with his own eyes,
(he turned in flight, and did not look back.) meaning, he did not turn around, because he was so afraid. Allah's saying:
(O Musa! Fear not: verily, the Messengers fear not in front of Me.) means, `do not be afraid of what you see, for I want to choose you as a Messenger and make you a great Prophet.'
(Except him who has done wrong and afterwards has changed evil for good; then surely, I am Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) This is an exception of the exclusionary type. This is good news for mankind, for whoever does an evil deed then gives it up and repents and turns to Allah, Allah will accept his repentance, as He says:
(And verily, I am indeed forgiving to him who repents, believes and does righteous good deeds, and then Ahtada.) (20:82)
(And whoever does evil or wrongs himself...) (4:110). And there are many other Ayat which say the same.
(And put your hand into the opening of your garment, it will come forth white without hurt.) This is another sign, further brilliant proof of the ability of Allah to do whatever He wills. It is also confirmation of the truth of the one to whom the miracle was given. Allah commanded him to put his hand into the opening of his garment, and when he put his hand in and took it out again, it came out white and shining as if it were a piece of the moon or a flash of dazzling lightning.
(among the nine signs) means, `these are two of the nine signs which you will be supported with and which will serve as proof for you. '
(to Fir`awn and his people. Verily, they are a people who are rebellious.) These were the nine signs of which Allah said:
(And indeed We gave Musa nine clear signs) (17:101) -- as we have stated there.
(But when Our Ayat came to them, clear to see,), i.e., clear and obvious,
(they said: "This is a manifest magic''.) They wanted to oppose it with their own magic, but they were defeated and were returned disgraced.
(And they belied them) means, verbally,
(though they themselves were convinced thereof.) means, they knew deep down that this was truth from Allah, but they denied it and were stubborn and arrogant.
(wrongfully and arrogantly) means, wronging themselves because this was the despicable manner to which they were accustomed, and they were arrogant because they were too proud to follow the truth. Allah said:
(So, see what was the end of the mischief-makers.) meaning, `see, O Muhammad, what were the consequences of their actions when Allah destroyed them and drowned every last one of them in a single morning.' The point of this story is: beware, `O you who disbelieve in Muhammad and deny the Message that he has brought from his Lord, lest the same thing that befell them befall you also.' But what is worse, is that Muhammad is nobler and greater than Musa, and his proof is stronger than that of Musa, for the signs that Allah has given him are combined with his presence and his character, in addition to the fact that previous Prophets foretold his coming and took a covenant from the people that they would follow him if they should see him, may the best of blessings and peace from his Lord be upon him.
(15. And indeed We gave knowledge to Dawud and Sulayman, and they both said: "All praise be to Allah, Who has preferred us above many of His believing servants!'') (16. And Sulayman inherited from Dawud. He said: "O mankind! We have been taught the language of birds, and we have been given from everything. This, verily, is an evident grace.'') (17. And there were gathered before Sulayman his hosts of Jinn and men, and birds, and they all were set in battle order (marching forward).) (18. Till, when they came to the valley of the ants, one of the ants said: "O ants! Enter your dwellings, lest Sulayman and his armies should crush you, while they perceive not.'') (19. So he (Sulayman) smiled, amused at her speech and said: "My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your favors which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds that will please You, and admit me by Your mercy among Your righteous servants.'')
Here Allah tells us about the great blessings and favors which He bestowed upon two of His servants and Prophets, Dawud (David) and his son Sulayman (Solomon), peace be upon them both, and how they enjoyed happiness in this world and the Hereafter, power and authority in this world, and the position of being Prophets and Messengers. Allah says:
(And indeed We gave knowledge to Dawud and Sulayman, and they both said: "All the praises and thanks be to Allah, Who has preferred us above many of His believing servants!'')
(And Sulayman inherited from Dawud.) means, in kingship and prophethood. What is meant here is not wealth, because if that were the case, Sulayman would not have been singled out from among the sons of Dawud, as Dawud had one hundred wives. Rather what is meant is the inheritance of kingship and prophethood, for the wealth of the Prophets cannot be inherited, as the Messenger of Allah said:
(We Prophets cannot be inherited from; whatever we leave behind is charity.) And Sulayman said:
(O mankind! We have been taught the language of birds, and we have been given from everything.) Here Sulayman was speaking of the blessings that Allah bestowed upon him, by giving him complete authority and power, whereby mankind, the Jinn and the birds were subjugated to him. He also knew the language of the birds and animals, which is something that had never been given to any other human being -- as far as we know from what Allah and His Messenger told us. Allah enabled Sulayman to understand what the birds said to one another as they flew through the air, and what the different kinds of animals said. Sulayman said:
(We have been taught the language of birds, and we have been given from everything.) i.e., all things that a king needs.
(This, verily, is an evident grace.) means, `this is clearly the blessings of Allah upon us.'
(And there were gathered before Sulayman his hosts of Jinn and men, and birds, and they all were set in battle order.) means, all of Sulayman's troops of Jinn, men and birds were gathered together, and he rode with them in a display of might and glory, with people marching behind him, followed by the Jinn, and the birds flying above his head. When it was hot, they would shade him with their wings.
(and they all were set in battle order.) The first and the last of them were brought together, so that none of them would step out of place. Mujahid said: "Officials were appointed to keep each group in order, and to keep the first and the last together so that no one would step out of line -- just as kings do nowadays.''
(Till, when they came to the valley of the ants,) meaning, when Sulayman, the soldiers and the army with him crossed the valley of the ants,
(one of the ants said: "O ants! Enter your dwellings, lest Sulayman and his armies should crush you, while they perceive not.'') Sulayman (peace be upon him) understood what the ant said,
(So he smiled, amused at her speech and said: "My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your favors which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds that will please You,) meaning: `inspire me to give thanks for the blessings that You have bestowed upon me by teaching me to understand what the birds and animals say, and the blessings that You have bestowed upon my parents by making them Muslims who believe in You.'
(and that I may do righteous good deeds that will please You,) means, `deeds that You love which will earn Your pleasure.'
(and admit me by Your mercy among Your righteous servants.) means, `when You cause me to die, then join me with the righteous among Your servants, and the Higher Companion among Your close friends.'
(20. He inspected the birds, and said: "What is the matter that I see not the hoopoe Or is he among the absentees'') (21. "I will surely punish him with a severe torment or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason.'')
Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr and others narrated from Ibn `Abbas and others that the hoopoe was an expert who used to show Sulayman where water was if he was out in open land and needed water. The hoopoe would look for water for him in the various strata of the earth, just as a man looks at things on the surface of the earth, and he would know just how far below the surface the water was. When the hoopoe showed him where the water was, Sulayman would command the Jinn to dig in that place until they brought water from the depths of the earth. One day Sulayman went to some open land and checked on the birds, but he could not see the hoopoe.
(and (Sulayman) said: "What is the matter that I see not the hoopoe Or is he among the absentees'') One day `Abdullah bin `Abbas told a similar story, and among the people was a man from the Khawarij whose name was Nafi` bin Al-Azraq, who often used to raise objections to Ibn `Abbas. He said to him, "Stop, O Ibn `Abbas; you will be defeated (in argument) today!'' Ibn `Abbas said: "Why'' Nafi` said: "You are telling us that the hoopoe can see water beneath the ground, but any boy can put seed in a trap and cover the trap with dirt, and the hoopoe will come and take the seed, so the boy can catch him in the trap.'' Ibn `Abbas said, "If it was not for the fact that this man would go and tell others that he had defeated Ibn `Abbas in argument, I would not even answer.'' Then he said to Nafi`: "Woe to you! When the decree strikes a person, his eyes become blind and he loses all caution.'' Nafi` said: "By Allah I will never dispute with you concerning anything in the Qur'an. ''
(I will surely punish him with a severe torment) Al-A`mash said, narrating from Al-Minhal bin `Amr from Sa`id that Ibn `Abbas said: "He meant, by plucking his feathers.'' `Abdullah bin Shaddad said: "By plucking his feathers and exposing him to the sun.'' This was also the view of more than one of the Salaf, that it means plucking his feathers and leaving him exposed to be eaten by ants.
(or slaughter him,) means, killing him.
(unless he brings me a clear reason.) i.e., a valid excuse. Sufyan bin `Uyaynah and `Abdullah bin Shaddad said: "When the hoopoe came back, the other birds said to him: "What kept you Sulayman has vowed to shed your blood.'' The hoopoe said: "Did he make any exception (did he say `unless')'' They said, "Yes, he said:
(I will surely punish him with a severe torment or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason.) The hoopoe said, "Then I am saved.''
(22. But (the hoopoe) stayed not long, he said: "I have grasped which you have not grasped and I have come to you from Saba' with true news.'') (23. "I found a woman ruling over them, she has been given all things, and she has a great throne.'') (24. "I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah, and Shaytan has made their deeds fair seeming to them to prevent them from the way, so they have no guidance.'') (25. So they do not prostrate themselves before Allah, Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knows what you conceal and what you reveal.) (26. Allah, La ilaha illa Huwa, the Lord of the Supreme Throne!'')