Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVII.: ENTITLED SURAT AL BANI ISRAÍL (THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 3
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER XVII.: ENTITLED SURAT AL BANI ISRAÍL (THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL). Revealed at Makkah. - Mohammed, The Quran, vol. 3 
A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran: Comprising Sale’s Translation and preliminary Discourse, with Additional Notes and Emendations (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, and Co., 1896). 4 vols.
Part of: The Quran, 4 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
ENTITLED SURAT AL BANI ISRAÍL (THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL).
By some writers this chapter is entitled The Night-Journey on account of the reference to that event in vers. 1 and 62. But the contents of the chapter justify the ordinary title of The Children of Israel.
The burden of this chapter is the sin of the Quraish in rejecting their Prophet. The dreadful character of this sin is illustrated by the history of those who had rejected the messengers of God in past ages, and especially by reference to the destruction of the holy city of Jerusalem, in consequence of the unbelief of the children of Israel. The people of Makkah are therefore warned by the example of these rebellious unbelievers. They are told that no city ever was destroyed until its people had rejected the prophet sent to them. The inference to be drawn is, that the destruction of Makkah is near at hand, unless its people repent and believe on their Prophet.
The character of the unbelief of the Quraish is evident from their demanding of Muhammad that he would perform certain miracles, which he confesses himself unable to perform; from their hideous custom of killing their own daughters, while ascribing daughters to God; from their foolish idolatry; and from their rejection of the doctrine of the resurrection.
The tone of the whole chapter is moderate, yet showing earnest purpose on the part of the preacher of Makkah.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
The verses referring to the night-journey (vers. 1 and 62) must, of course, be placed subsequent to B.H. 1, though they cannot date later than the Hijra. As for the bulk of the chapter, the following data will enable us to fix an approximate date of composition: (1) The exhortation in ver. 55 points to a period when Muhammad still hoped for the conversion of some of his townsmen; (2) the faith of certain Jews and Christians at Makkah, alluded to in vers. 108 and 109, points to a period somewhat removed from the Hijra; and (3) with this agrees the spirit attributed to the unbelieving Quraish, whose opposition is decided, but not as yet of a violent character. From this we conclude that most of the chapter belongs to a period preceding the Ban of the Hashimites, or the final break between Muhammad and the Quraish, say about B.H. 6, or the sixth year of Muhammad’s mission. The passage from ver. 24 to ver. 41, however, must be referred to Madína, as the precepts concerning the duties of children to parents, of all to the poor and the orphan, &c., seem to point to a Muslim community with definite laws of its own, and not to a mixed company, as at Makkah previous to the Hijra. I would place this passage at about A.H. 3.
The conjectures of the commentators, which would place vers. 75-82 and 87 at Madína, seem to be mistaken. See notes on these verses below.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1)Praise be unto him who transported his servant by night from the sacred temple of Makkah to the farther temple of Jerusalem, the circuit of which we have blessed, that we might show some of our signs; for God is he who heareth and seeth. (2) And we gave unto Moses the book of the law, and appointed the same to be a direction unto the children of Israel, commanding them, saying, Beware that ye take not any other patron besides me. (3) O posterity of those whom we carried in the ark with Noah: verily he was a grateful servant. (4) And we expressly declared unto the children of Israel in the book of the law, saying, Ye will surely commit evil in the earth twice, and ye will be elated with great insolence. (5) And when the punishment threatened for the first of those transgressions came to be executed, we sent against you our servants, endued with exceeding strength in war, and they searched the inner apartments of your houses; and the prediction became accomplished. (6) Afterwards we gave you the victory over them, in your turn, and we granted you increase of wealth and children, and we made you a more numerous people, saying,(7) If ye do well, ye will do well to your own souls; and if ye do evil, ye will do it unto the same. And when the punishment threatened for your latter transgression came to be executed, we sent enemiesagainst you to afflict you, and to enter the temple, as they entered it the first time, and utterly to destroy that which they had conquered. (8) Peradventure your Lord will have mercy on you hereafter: but if ye return to transgress a third time, we also will return to chastise you; and we have appointed hell to be the prison of the unbelievers. (9) Verily this Qurán directeth unto the way which is most right, (10) and declareth unto the faithful, who do good works, that they shall receive a great reward; (11) and that for those who believe not in the life to come, we have prepared a grievous punishment.
∥ (12) Man prayeth for evil, as he prayeth for good; for man is hasty. (13) We have ordained the night and the day for two signs of our power; afterwards we blot out the sign of the night, and we cause the sign of the day to shine forth, that ye may endeavour to obtain plenty from your Lordby doing your business therein, and that ye may know the number of years, and the computation of time; and everything necessary have we explained by a perspicuous explication. (14) The fate of every man have we bound about his neck; and we will produce unto him, on the day of resurrection, a book wherein his actions shall be recorded: it shall be offered him open, (15)and the angels shall say unto him, Read thy book; thine own soul will be a sufficient accountant against thee, this day. (16) He who shall be rightly directed shall be directed to the advantage only of his own soul; and he who shall err shall err only against the same: neither shall any laden soul be charged with the burden of another. We did not punish any people, until we had first sent an apostle to warn them.(17) And when we resolved to destroy a city, we commanded the inhabitants thereof, who live in affluence, to obey our apostle; but they acted corruptly therein: wherefore the sentence was justly pronounced against that city; and we destroyed it with an utter destruction. (18) And how many generations have we consumed since Noah? for thy Lord sufficiently knoweth and seeth the sins of his servants. (19) Whosoever chooseth this transitory life, we will bestow on him therein beforehand that which we please; on him, namely, whom we please: afterwards will we appoint him hell for his abode; he shall be thrown into the same to be scorched, covered with ignominy, and utterly rejected from mercy. (20) But whosoever chooseth the life to come, and directeth his endeavour towards the same, being also a true believer; the endeavour of these shall be acceptable unto God. (21) On all will we bestow the blessings of this life, both on these and on those, of the gift of thy Lord; for the gift of thy Lord shall not be denied unto any. (22) Behold, how we have caused some of them to surpass others in wealth and dignity: but the next life shall be more considerable in degrees of honour, and greater in excellence. (23) Set not up another god with the trueGod, lest thou sit down in disgrace, and destitute.
∥ (24) Thy Lord hath commanded that ye worship none besides him; and that ye show kindness unto your parents, whether the one of them, or both of them attain to old age with thee. Wherefore, say not unto them, Fie on you! neither reproach them, (25) but speak respectfully unto them, and submit to behave humbly towards them, out of tender affection, and say, O Lord, have mercy on them both, as they nursed me when I was little. (26) Your Lord well knoweth that which is in your souls; whether ye be men of integrity: (27) and he will be gracious unto those who sincerely return unto him.(28) And give unto him who is of kin to you his due, and also unto the poor, and the traveller. And waste not thy substance profusely: (29) for the profuse are brethren of the devils: and the devil was ungrateful unto his Lord.(30) But if thou turn from them, in expectation of the mercy which thou hopest from thy Lord;at least, speak kindly unto them. (31) And let not thy hand be tied up to thy neck; neither open it with an unbounded expansion, lest thou become worthy of reprehension, and be reduced to poverty. (32) Verily thy Lord will enlarge the store of whom he pleaseth, and will be sparing unto whom he pleaseth; for he knoweth and regardeth his servants. (33) Kill not your children for fear of being brought to want; we will provide for them and for you; verily the killing them is a great sin.
∥ (34) Draw not near unto fornication; for it is wickedness and an evil way. (35) Neither slay the soul which God hath forbidden you to slay, unless for a just cause; and whosoever shall be slain unjustly, we have given his heir power to demand satisfaction; but let him not exceed the bounds of moderation in putting to death the murderer in too cruel a manner, or by revenging his friend’s blood on any other than the person who killed him; since he is assisted by this law.(36) And meddle not with the substance of the orphan, unless it be to improve it, until he attain his age of strength: and perform your covenant; for the performance of your covenant shall be inquired into hereafter. (37) And give full measure, when you measure aught; and weigh with a just balance. This will be better, and more easy for determining every man’s due.(38) And follow not that whereof thou hast no knowledge; for the hearing, and the sight, and the heart, every of these shall be examined at the last day. (39) Walk not proudly in the land, for thou canst not cleave the earth, neither shalt thou equal the mountains in stature. (40) All this is evil, and abominable in the sight of thy Lord. (41) These precepts are a part of the wisdom which thy Lord hath revealed unto thee. Set not up any other god as equal unto God, lest thou be cast into hell, reproved and rejected. (42) Hath your Lord preferably granted unto you sons, and taken for himself daughters from among the angels? Verily in asserting this ye utter a grievous saying.
∥ (43) And now have we used various arguments and repetitions in this Qurán, that they may be warned: yet it only rendereth them more disposed to fly from the truth.(44) Say unto the idolaters, If there were other gods with him, as ye say, they would surely seek an occasion of making some attempt against the possessor of the throne: (45) God forbid! and far, very far, be that from him which they utter! (46) The seven heavens praise him, and the earth, and all who are therein: neither is there anything which doth not celebrate his praise; but ye understand not their celebration thereof: he is gracious and merciful. (47) When thou readest the Qurán, we place between thee and those who believe not in the life to come a dark veil; (48) and we put coverings over their hearts, lest they should understand it, and in their ears thickness of hearing. (49) And when thou makest mention, in repeating the Qurán, of thy Lord only, they turn their backs, flying the doctrine of his unity.(50) We well know with what design they hearken, when they hearken unto thee, and when they privately discourse together: when the ungodly say, Ye follow no other than a madman. (51) Behold! what epithets they bestow on thee. But they are deceived; neither can they find any just occasion to reproach thee. (52) They also say, After we shall have become bones and dust, shall we surely be raised a new creature? (53) Answer, Be ye stones, or iron, or some creature more improbable in your opinions to be raised to life. But they will say, Who shall restore us to life? Answer, He who created you the first time: and they will wag their heads at thee, saying, When shall this be? Answer, Peradventure it is nigh. (54) On that day shall God call you forth from your sepulchres, and ye shall obey, with celebration of his praise, and ye shall think that ye tarried but a little while.
∥ (55) Speak unto my servants, that they speak mildly unto the unbelievers, lest ye exasperate them; for Satan soweth discord among them, and Satan is a declared enemy unto man. (56) Your Lord well knoweth you; if he pleaseth, he will have mercy on you, or, if he pleaseth, he will punish you: and we have not sent thee to be a steward over them. (57) Thy Lord well knoweth all persons in heaven and on earth. We have bestowed peculiar favours on some of the prophets, preferably to others; and we gave unto David the psalms. (58) Say, Call upon those whom ye imagine to be gods besides him; yet they will not be able to free you from harm, or to turn it on others.(59) Those whom ye invoke do themselves desire to be admitted to a near conjunction with their Lord,striving which of them shall approach nearest unto him: they also hope for his mercy, and dread his punishment; for the punishment of thy Lord is terrible. (60) There is no city but we will destroy the same before the day of resurrection, or we will punish it with a grievous punishment. This is written in the book of our eternal decrees.(61) Nothing hindered us from sending thee with miracles, except that the former nations have charged them with imposture. We gave unto the tribe of Thamúd, at their demand, the she-camel visible to their sight: yet they dealt unjustly with her: and we send not a prophet with miracles, but to strike terror. (62)Remember when we said unto thee, Verily thy Lord encompasseth men by his knowledge and power. We have appointed the vision which we showed thee, and also the tree cursed in the Qurán, only for an occasion of dispute unto men, and to strike them with terror; but it shall cause them to transgress only the more enormously.
∥ (63) And remember when we said unto the angels, Worship Adam; and they all worshipped him except Iblís, who said, Shall I worship him whom thou hast created of clay? (64)And he said, What thinkest thou as to this man whom thou hast honoured above me? verily, if thou grant me respite until the day of resurrection, I will extirpate his offspring, except a few. (65)God answered, Begone, I grant thee respite: but whosoever of them shall follow thee, hell shall surely be your reward; an ample reward for your demerits!(66) And entice to vanity such of them as thou canst, by thy voice; and assault them on all sides with thy horsemen and thy footmen; and partake with them in their riches, and their children; and make them promises; (but the devil shall make them no other than deceitful promises:) (67) as to my servants, thou shalt have no power over them; for thy Lord is a sufficient protector of those who trust in him. (68) It is your Lord who driveth forward the ships for you in the sea, that ye may seek to enrich yourselves of his abundance by commerce; for he is merciful towards you. (69) When a misfortune befalleth you at sea, the false deities whom ye invoke are forgotten by you, except him alone: yet when he bringeth you safe to dry land, ye retire afar off from him, and return to your idols; for man is ungrateful. (70) Are ye therefore secure that he will not cause the dry land to swallow you up, or that he will not send against you a whirlwind driving the sands to overwhelm you? Then shall ye find none to protect you. (71) Or are ye secure that he will not cause you again to commit yourselves to the sea another time, and send against you a tempestuous wind, and drown you; for that ye have been ungrateful? then shall ye find none to defend you against us in that distress. (72) And now have we honoured the children of Adam by sundry peculiar privileges and endowments; and we have given them conveniences of carriage by land and by sea, and have provided food for them of good things; and we have preferred them before many of our creatures which we have created, by granting them great prerogatives.
∥ (73) On a certain day we will call all men to judgment with their respective leader: and whosoever shall have his book given him into his right hand, they shall read their book with joy and satisfaction; and they shall not be wronged a hair. (74) And whoever hath been blind in this life shall be also blind in the next, and shall wander more widely from the path of salvation.(75) It wanted little but the unbelievers had tempted thee to swerve from the instructions which we had revealed unto thee, that thou shouldest devise concerning us a different thing; and then would they have taken thee for their friend: (76) and unless we had confirmed thee, thou hadst certainly been very near inclining unto them a little. (77) Then would we surely have caused thee to taste the punishment of life and the punishment of death; and thou shouldest not have found any to protect thee against us. (78) The unbelievers had likewise almost caused thee to depart the land, that they might have expelled thee thence: but then should they not have tarried therein after thee, except a little while. (79) This is the method of dealing which we have prescribed ourselves in respect to our apostles, whom we have already sent before thee: and thou shalt not find any change in our prescribed method.
∥ (80) Regularly perform thy prayer at the declension of the sun, at the first darkness of the night, and the prayer of daybreak; for the prayer of daybreak is borne witness unto by the angels.(81) And watch some part of the night in the same exercise, as a work of supererogation for thee: peradventure thy Lord will raise thee to an honourable station. (82) And say, O Lord, cause me to enter with a favourable entry, and cause me to come forth with a favourable coming forth; and grant me from thee an assisting power. (83) And say, Truth is come, and falsehood is vanished: for falsehood is of short continuance. (84) We send down of the Qurán that which is a medicine and mercy unto the true believers; but it shall only increase the perdition of the unjust. (85) When we bestow favours on man, he retireth and withdraweth himself ungratefully from us: but when evil toucheth him, he despaireth of our mercy.(86) Say, Every one acteth after his own manner: but your Lord best knoweth who is most truly directed in his way.
∥ (87) They will ask thee concerning the spirit: answer, The spirit was created at the command of my Lord: but ye have no knowledge given unto you, except a little. (88) If we pleased, we should certainly take away that which we have revealed unto thee: in such case thou couldst not find any to assist thee therein against us, (89) unless through mercy from thy Lord; for his favour towards thee hath been great. (90) Say, Verily if men and genii were purposely assembled, that they might produce a book like this Qurán, they could not produce one like unto it, although the one of them assisted the other. (91) And we have variously propounded unto men in this Qurán every kind of figurative argument; but the greater part of men refuse to receive it, merely out of infidelity. (92) And they say, We will by no means believe on thee until thou cause a spring of water to gush forth for us out of the earth; (93) or thou have a garden of palm-trees and vines, and thou cause rivers to spring forth from the midst thereof in abundance; (94) or thou cause the heaven to fall down upon us, as thou hast given out, in pieces; or thou bring down God and the angels to vouch for thee;(95)(95) or thou have a house of gold; or thou ascend by a ladder to heaven: neither will we believe thy ascending thither alone, until thou cause a book to descend unto us, bearing witness of thee, which we may read. Answer, My Lord be praised! Am I other than a man, sent as an apostle?
∥ (96) And nothing hindereth men from believing, when a direction is come unto them, except that they say, Hath God sent a man for his apostle? (97) Answer, If the angels had walked on earth as familiar inhabitants thereof, we had surely sent down unto them from heaven an angel for our apostle. (98) Say, God is a sufficient witness between me and you: for he knoweth and regardeth his servants. (99) Whom God shall direct, he shall be the rightly directed; and whom he shall cause to err, thou shalt find none to assist, besides him. And we will gather them together on the day of resurrection, creeping on their faces, blind, and dumb, and deaf: their abode shall be hell; so often as the fire thereof shall be extinguished, we will rekindle a burning flame to torment them. (100) This shall be their reward, because they disbelieve in our signs, and say, When we shall have been reduced to bones and dust, shall we surely be raised new creatures?
∥ (101) Do they not perceive that God, who created the heavens and the earth, is able to create other bodies, like their present? And he hath appointed them a limited term; there is no doubt thereof: but the ungodly reject the truth, merely out of unbelief. (102) Say, If ye possessed the treasures of the mercy of my Lord, ye would surely refrain from using them, for fear of spending them; for man is covetous.
∥ (103) We heretofore gave unto Moses the power of working nine evident signs. And do thou ask the children of Israel as to the story of Moses; when he came unto them, and Pharaoh said unto him, Verily, I esteemed thee, O Moses, to be deluded by sorcery. (104) Moses answered, Thou well knowest that none hath sent down these evident signs except the Lord of heaven and earth; and I surely esteem thee, O Pharaoh, a lost man. (105) Wherefore Pharaoh sought to drive them out of the land; but we drowned him and all those who were with him. (106) And we said unto the children of Israel, after his destruction, Dwell ye in the land: and when the promise of the next life shall come to be fulfilled, we will bring you both promiscuously to judgment. We have sent down the Qurán with truth, and it hath descended with truth: and we have not sent thee otherwise than to be a bearer of good tidings and a denouncer of threats.(107) And we have divided the Qurán, revealing it by parcels, that thou mightest read it unto men with deliberation: and we have sent it down, causing it to descend as occasion required.(108) Say, Whether ye believe therein, or do not believe, verily those who have been favoured with the knowledge of the scriptures which were revealed before it, when the same is rehearsed unto them, fall down on their faces, worshipping, and say, Our Lord be praised, for that the promise of our Lord is surely fulfilled! (109) and they fall down on their faces, weeping; and the hearing thereof increaseth their humility. (110) Say, call upon God, or call on the Merciful: by which-soever of the two names ye invoke him, it is equal; for he hath most excellent names. Pronounce not thy prayer aloud, neither pronounce it with too low a voice, but follow a middle way between these: (111) and say, Praise be unto God, who hath not begotten any child; who hath no partner in the kingdom, nor hath any to protect him from contempt: and magnify him by proclaiming his greatness.
[(1) ]Who transported his servant . . . to the farther temple. “From whence he was carried through the seven heavens to the presence of God, and brought back again to Makkah the same night.
[(2) ]Rodwell notes the incongruity of this verse with the preceding, and suggests a verse may have been lost, and that this ver. 1 has been placed at the head of the chapter because the night-journey is elsewhere alluded to in it. But such want of connection between the verses of the Qurán is too common to excite wonder here.
[(3) ]O posterity, &c. “The commentators are put to it to find out the connection of these words with the foregoing. Some think the accusative case is here put for the vocative, as I have translated it: and others interpret the words thus, ‘Take not for your patrons, besides me, the posterity of those,’ &c., meaning, mortal men.”—Sale.
[(4) ]Ye will surely commit evil . . . twice. “Their first transgression was their rejecting the decisions of the law, their putting Isaiah to death, and their imprisoning of Jeremiah: and the second was their slaying of Zachariah and John the Baptist, and their imagining the death of Jesus.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(5) ]Our servants. “These were Jálút, or Goliah, and his forces; or Sennacherib, the Assyrian; or else Nebuchadnezzar, whom the Eastern writers call Bakhtanasr (which was, however, only his surname, his true name being Gudarz, or Raham), the governor of Babylon under Lohorasp, king of Persia, who took Jerusalem, and destroyed the Temple.”—Sale, Zamakhshari, Yahya.
[(6) ]We gave you the victory. “By permitting David to kill Goliah; or by the miraculous defeat of Sennacherib’s army; or for that God put it into the heart of Bahman, the son of Isfandiyár, when he succeeded his grandfather, Lohorasp, to order Kiraish, or Cyrus, then governor of Babylon, to send home the Jews from their captivity, under the conduct of Daniel; which he accordingly did, and they prevailed against those whom Bakhtanasr had left in the land.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(7) ]We sent enemies, &c. “Some imagine the army meant in this place was that of Bakhtanasr; but others say the Persians conquered the Jews this second time by the arms of Gudarz (by whom they seem to intend Antiochus Epiphanes), one of the successors of Alexander at Babylon. It is related that the general in this expedition, entering the temple, saw blood bubbling up on the great altar, and asking the reason of it, the Jews told him it was the blood of a sacrifice which had not been accepted of God; to which he replied that they had not told him the truth, and ordered a thousand of them to be slain on the altar; but the blood not ceasing, he told them, that if they would not confess the truth, he would not spare one of them; whereupon, they acknowledged it was the blood of John; and the general said, ‘Thus hath your Lord taken vengeance on you;’ and then cried out, ‘O John, my Lord and thy Lord knoweth what hath befallen thy people for thy sake; wherefore, let thy blood stop, by God’s permission, lest I leave not one of them alive;’ upon which the blood immediately stopped.
[(8) ]We also will return to chastise you. “And this came accordingly to pass; for the Jews being again so wicked as to reject Muhammad and conspire against his life, God delivered them into his hands; and he exterminated the tribe of Quraidha, and slew the chiefs of al Nadír, and obliged the rest of the Jewish tribes to pay tribute.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(12) ]Man prayeth for evil. “Out of ignorance, mistaking evil for good; or making wicked imprecations on himself and others, out of passion and impatience.”—Sale.
[(14) ]The fate, &c. “Literally, the bird, which is here used to signify a man’s fortune or success; the Arabs, as well as the Greeks and Romans, taking omens from the flight of birds, which they supposed to portend good luck, if they flew from the left to the right, but if from the right to the left, the contrary; the like judgment they also made when certain beasts passed before them.”—Sale.
[(15) ]Read thy book. See Prelim. Disc., p. 144.
[(16-18) ]The effort of the Prophet here is to show that God would destroy the Arabs, and especially the Quraish of Makkah, just as he had destroyed the unbelievers in olden time.
[(24) ]Show kindness unto your parents, &c. This command is on the whole well observed by Muslims. The respect shown to the grey head among them is one of their most pronounced virtues.
[(25) ]Behave humbly, &c. “Literally, lower the wing of humility,” &c.—Sale.
[(27) ]Sincerely return, i.e., sincerely turn to him by repentance.
[(28) ]Give . . . his due. “That is, friendship and affection, and assistance in time of need.”—Sale.
[(29) ]The profuse are brethren of devils. “Prodigality and squandering away one’s substance in folly or luxury being a very great sin. The Arabs were particularly guilty of extravagance in killing camels, and distributing them by lot, merely out of vanity and ostentation, which they are forbidden by this passage, and commanded to bestow what they could spare on their poor relations and other indigent people.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(30) ]If thou turn from them, &c. “That is, if thy present circumstances will not permit thee to assist others, defer thy charity till God shall grant thee better ability.”—Sale.
[(31) ]I.e., “be neither niggardly nor profuse, but observe the mean between the two extremes, wherein consists true liberality.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(33) ]Kill not your children. See notes on chap. vi. 137 and 151; also on chap. lxxxi. 8.
[(35) ]Unless for a just cause. This verse is said (Hughes’ Notes on Muhammadanism, p. 140) to abrogate chap. ii. 178, though it is difficult to understand how a subsequent revelation can be abrogated by a former!
[(36) ]See notes on chap. iv. 2-5.
[(38) ]That whereof thou hast no knowledge, i.e., “vain and uncertain opinions, which thou hast not good reason to believe true, or at least probable. Some interpret the words, Accuse not another of a crime whereof thou hast no knowledge; supposing they forbid the bearing false witness, or the spreading or giving credit to idle reports of others.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Zamaḳhshari.
[(42) ]See notes on chap. xvi. 59-61.
[(44) ]They would surely seek, &c., i.e., “they would in all probability contend with God for superiority, and endeavour to dethrone him, in the same manner as princes act with one another on earth.”—Sale.
[(46) ]Seven heavens. These, according to the Jews, were, “the veil, the firmament, the clouds, the habitation, the abode, the fixed seat, and the arabath.” See Welstein on 2 Cor. xii. 2.
[(47, 48) ]Compare 2 Cor. iii. 13-16.
[(49) ]They turn their backs, &c. “Not allowing their gods to be his associates, nor praying their intercession with him.”—Sale.
[(50) ]With what design they hearken, viz., “to mock and jest. One Nadhar Ibn Hárith said, ‘I don’t know what Muhammad says.’ Abu Sufián said, ‘I believe some of his statements to be true.’ Abu Jahal replied, ‘He is a madman;’ and Abul Lahab said, ‘He is a juggler;’ while some one else said, ‘He is only a poet.’ ”—Tafsír-i-Raufi.
[(54) ]With celebration of his praise. “The dead, says Baidháwi, at his call shall immediately arise, and shaking the dust off their heads, shall say, ‘Praise be unto thee, O God.’ ”—Sale.
[(55) ]See chap. xvi. 126.
[(56) ]He will punish you. “These words are designed as a pattern for the Muslims to follow in discoursing with the idolaters, by which they are taught to use soft and dubious expressions, and not to tell them directly that they are doomed to hell-fire; which, besides the presumption in offering to determine the sentence of others, would only make them more irreconcilable enemies.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(57) ]Thy Lord well knoweth, &c. “And may choose whom he pleases for his ambassador. This is an answer to the objections of the Quraish that Muhammad was the orphan pupil of Abu Tálib, and followed by a parcel of naked and hungry fellows.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(59) ]Those whom ye invoke, &c., viz., “the angels and prophets, who are the servants of God, as well as yourselves.”—Sale. Rodwell thinks the passage alludes to Christian saint-worship, but this, like Sale’s reference to the prophets, is doubtful. The allusion is very probably limited to the angels, who are called in ver. 42, “the daughters of God.”
[(61) ]Nothing hindered us, &c. This is perhaps the most decisive passage in the Qurán to prove Muhammad did not possess the power of working miracles. He is said not to have received the power, and the reason is annexed—that former prophets had wrought miracles, but had nevertheless been charged with imposture! The only miracle of the Qurán is the Qurán, which, according to Muhammad, was not his miracle, but God’s miracle.
[(62) ]The vision. “Muhammad’s journey to heaven is generally agreed to be intended in this place, which occasioned great heats and debates among his followers, till they were quieted by Abu Baqr’s bearing testimony to the truth of it. The word vision, here used, is urged by those who take this journey to have been no more than a dream as a plain confirmation of their opinion. Some, however, suppose the vision meant in this passage was not the night-journey, but the dream Muhammad saw at al Hudaibiya, wherein he seemed to make his entrance into Makkah; or that at Badr; or else a vision he had relating to the family of Ummaya, whom he saw mount his pulpit, and jump about in it like monkeys; upon which he said, ‘This is their portion in this world, which they have gained by their profession of Islám.’ But if any of these latter expositions be true, the verse must have been revealed at Madína.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(63-65) ]Iblís. See notes on chap. ii. 34, vii. 11-19, and xv. 28-44.
[(66) ]Footmen, i.e., use every means in your power.
[(69) ]Man is ungrateful. See notes on chap. x. 23, 24.
[(73) ]Their . . . leader. “Some interpret this of the prophet sent to every people; others, of the heads of sects; others, of the various religions professed in the world; others, of the books which shall be given to every man at the resurrection, containing a register of their good and bad actions.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(74) ]Blind, i.e., in respect to the truth of Islám.
[(75) ]It wanted but little, &c. “These are generally supposed to have been the tribe of Thakíf, the inhabitants of al Tayif, who insisted on Muhammad’s granting them several very extraordinary privileges, as the terms of their submission to him; for they demanded that they might be made free from the legal contribution of alms, and from observing the appointed times of prayer; that they might be allowed to keep their idol al Lát for a certain time (Prelim. Disc., p. 39), and that their territory might be declared a place of security, and not be violated, like that of Makkah, &c. And they added, that if the other Arabs asked him the reason of these concessions, he should say that God had commanded him so to do. According to which explication it is plain this verse must have been revealed long after the Hijra.
[(77) ]The punishment of life and . . . death, viz., “both of this life and the next. Some interpret the first of the punishment in the next world, and the latter of the torture of the sepulchre.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(78) ]Had likewise almost caused thee to depart, &c. “The commentators differ as to the place where this passage was delivered and the occasion of it. Some think it was revealed at Makkah, and that it refers to the violent enmity which the Quraish bore Muhammad, and their restless endeavours to make him leave Makkah, as he was at length obliged to do. But as the persons here spoken of seem not to have prevailed in their project, others suppose that the verse was revealed at Madína, on the following occasion: The Jews, envious of Muhammad’s good reception and stay there, told him, by way of counsel, that Syria was the land of the prophets, and that if he was a prophet he ought to go thither. Muhammad, seriously reflecting on what they had said, began to think they had advised him well, and actually set out and proceeded a day’s journey on his way to Syria; whereupon God acquainted him with their design by the revelation of this verse, and he returned to Madína.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(80) ]The declension of the sun, i.e., “at the time of noon-prayer, when the sun declines from the meridian; or, as some choose to translate the words, at the setting of the sun, which is the time of the first evening prayer.”—Sale.
[(81) ]Watch some part of the night, &c. This suggests how the two hours of prayer added to the Jewish times of prayer had their rise. They were first supererogatory and afterwards were made necessary.
[(82) ]Cause me to enter, &c. “That is, grant that I may enter my grave with peace, and come forth from it at the resurrection with honour and satisfaction. In which sense this petition is the same with that of Balaam, ‘Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his’ (Numb. xxiii. 10).
[(83) ]“These words Muhammad repeated when he entered the temple of Makkah after the taking of that city, and cleansed it of the idols; a great number of which are said to have fallen down on his touching them with the end of the stick he held in his hand.”—Sale, Baidháwi, and Gagnier’s Life of Mahomet, vol. ii. p. 127.
[(86) ]Every one acteth after his own manner, i.e., “according to his judgment or opinion, be it true or false; or according to the bent of his mind and the natural constitution of his body.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(87) ]The spirit, “or the soul of man. Some interpret it of the Angel Gabriel or of the divine revelation.”—Sale.
[(88) ]That which we have revealed, viz., “the Qurán, by razing it both from the written copies and the memories of men.”—Sale.
[(90) ]See notes on chap. ii. 23, vi. 94, viii. 31, and x. 39.
[(92-95) ]These miracles were demanded of Muhammad by the Quraish of Makkah, and though Muhammad here denies his inability to perform the wonders demanded, saying, “My Lord be praised! Am I other than a man sent as an apostle?” and, notwithstanding the teaching of ver. 61 above, yet all orthodox Muslims believe on the testimony of tradition that he actually wrought all these wonders. See also notes on chap. xiii. 8 and 27.
[(95) ]Neither will we believe thy ascending, &c. The allusion is to Muhammad’s night-journey; see note on ver. 1 above. This passage proves beyond reasonable dispute that the night-journey was represented to the Quraish as a real journey and not as a vision. See note on ver. 1.
[(99) ]We will gather, &c. See Prelim. Disc., pp. 138-140.
[(101) ]A limited term. “Of life or resurrection.”—Sale.
[(102) ]For fear of spending them, i.e., “lest they should be exhausted.”—Sale.
[(103) ]Nine evident signs. “These were, the changing his rod into a serpent, the making his hand white and shining, the producing locusts, lice, frogs, and blood, the dividing of the Red Sea, the bringing water out of the rock, and the shaking of Mount Sinai over the children of Israel. In lieu of the three last some reckon the inundation of the Nile, the blasting of the corn, and scarcity of the fruits of the earth. These words, however, are interpreted by others, not of nine miracles, but of nine commandments, which Moses gave his people, and were thus numbered up by Mohammed himself to a Jew, who asked him the question, viz., that they should not be guilty of idolatry, nor steal, nor commit adultery or murder, nor practise sorcery or usury, nor accuse an innocent man to take away his life, or a modest woman of whoredom, nor desert the army; to which he added the observing of the sabbath, as a tenth commandment, but which peculiarly regarded the Jews; upon which answer, it is said, the Jew kissed the Prophet’s hands and feet.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(106) ]Dwell ye in the land. The impression is left on the mind here that the land referred to by Muhammad was the land of the Pharaohs. See note on chap. vii. 137.
[(107) ]We have divided the Qurán, &c. See Prelim. Disc., p. 108.
[(108) ]The persons aliuded to here were Jews or Jewish converts, who either believed or pretended to believe in Muhammad as the promised Messiah. See note on chap. vi. 20.
[(110) ]God or . . . the Merciful. “The infidels hearing Muhammed say, O God, and O Merciful, imagined the Merciful was the name of a deity different from God, and that he preached the worship of two, which occasioned this passage. See chap. vii. 181.”—Sale.
[(111) ]Compare chap. iii. 39, v. 19 and 79, and vi. 101.