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Who All Are ‘Ahle Zikr’ In the Qur’an? – A Textual Analysis of Qur’anic Passage 16:43-44 to Get a Clear Answer

By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam

(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)

May 16, 2017

This article is prompted by a report appearing in the just published article [1] that some Muslim Ulema cite the verse 16:43 in the following rendition and claim themselves to be the Ahl e Zikr or people of knowledge in religious matters.

“We sent only men as Messengers towards whom We sent Our Revelations. So if you yourselves do not know (anything), then ask the Ahle Zikr—people of knowledge or remembrance” (16:43)

Like an earlier claim that the Qur’an endorses instant triple Talaq [2] this claim also grossly misrepresents the Qur’anic message. The claim rests on specious mistranslation of the quoted verse as spotted below:

i.       The opening part of the verse “We sent only men as Messengers” is rendered addressee-neutral to give the verse a universal character – though the verse is addressed to Prophet Muhammad.

ii.      The expression ‘Ahle Zikr’ is translated as “people of knowledge or remembrance” -

Though it denotes the Christians and Jews who were supposed to remember the revelations that were granted to their Prophets

The subtle points noted above can be established by the following textual analysis of the verse 16:43 and its literal translation, beginning with quotation of the original Arabic script that reads:

Transliteration with literal translation:

Wa ma[And not]arsalnaka [we have sent to thee]min Qablika [before thee]illa rijalan [except men] nuhiya ilaihim [we inspired in or revealed unto them] fas alu [so ask] ahl az Zikr [people of the ‘Remembrance’ (who remember past revelation) ] inkuntm la ta‘lamun [if you do not know]

The literal translation following English grammatical rules will read:

And we have not sent before you [O Muhammad], except men to whom we inspired; so ask people of the ‘Remembrance’ (who remember the divine message) if you do not know.

The above rendition is fully consistent with those of the renowned Qur’anic translators that one can readily verify – three standard translations furnished below.

“And before thee also the messengers We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: if ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message.” – Yusuf Ali

“And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired - Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not!”– Marmaduke Pickthall

“And We sent not (as Our Messengers) before you (O Muhammad SAW) any but men, whom We inspired, (to preach and invite mankind to believe in the Oneness of Allah). So ask of those who know the Scripture [learned men of the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)], if you know not.” – Mohsin Khan

It is clear from these translations that i) the verse was addressed to the Prophet Muhammad and ii) the expression Ahl e Zikr denoted the learned among the Christians and Jews of the  of the Prophet’s era who were supposed to have remembered their scriptures.

The above interpretation of Zikr as revelation is reinforced in the verse 16:44 that immediately succeeds 16:43, renditions given below:

“(We sent them) with Clear Signs and Books of dark prophecies; and We have sent down unto thee (also) the Message (Zikr); that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought” – Yusuf Ali

“With clear proofs and writings; and We have revealed unto thee the Remembrance (Zikr) that thou may explain to mankind that which hath been revealed for them, and that haply they may reflect.” – Marmaduke Pickthall

“With clear signs and Books (We sent the Messengers). And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad SAW) the reminder (Zikr) and the advice (the Quran), that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.” – Mohsin Khan.

Conclusion: The above textual analysis of the verse, individually, as well as in conjunction with its immediately succeeding and qualifying verse 16:44 leaves no doubt that the verse was addressed to the Prophet, the word Zikr denotes the previous revelations, and the expression Ahl e Zikr denotes the learned Christians and Jews of the Prophet’s era who were expected to remember the message of the earlier revelations. If some Muslim Ulema arrogate the pronouncement of 16:43 to themselves to support the deeply misogynistic custom of triple Talaq, this writer is compelled to say, God witnessing, that the  obsessive misogyny and unmitigated disregard of the misery of instantly divorced poor Muslim women has put a blinker on their mind’s eye against what is clearly written in the Qur’an (about time-framing of divorce as well as in the verse 16:43), or has turned their spiritual bearing upside down that they are telling lie upon lie about the Qur’an to defend the triple Talaq – God knows best.

As this article is the author’s fifth reminder to the Indian Muslim Ulema on the unlawfulness of triple Talaq, he is compelled to speculate on the reason for the concerned Muslim Ulema’s deafening silence on the issue. His previous articles on the subject are referenced below.

  1. Triple Talaq Controversy: Male Chauvinist Indian Ulema Are Subverting Islam to Mislead the Supreme Court,-women-and-feminism/sultan-shahin,-founding-editor,-new-age-islam/triple-talaq-controversy--male-chauvinist-indian-ulema-are-subverting-islam-to-mislead-the-supreme-court/d/110784

2.       Supreme Court's Question Is Relevant: How Come A Pre-Islamic Arabian Custom Is Fundamental To Islam In India?,-women-and-feminism/ghulam-rasool-dehlvi,-new-age-islam/supreme-court-s-question-is-relevant--how-come-a-pre-islamic-arabian-custom-is-fundamental-to-islam-in-india?/d/111152

The Author’s Previous Articles On the Subject Dating From Jan. 2012:

-        Qur’anic Sharia (Laws) On Divorce: Triple Divorce, Temporary Marriage, Halala Stand Forbidden (Haram)’anic-sharia-(laws)-on-divorce.--triple-divorce,-temporary-marriage,-halala-stand-forbidden-(haram)/d/6391

-        The Medieval-Era-Rooted, Qur’an-Conflicting Muslim Personal Law (Sharia Law) Must Be Reformed To Avoid Injustices to Muslim Women – An SOS to the Indian Ulema Fraternity,-new-age-islam/the-medieval-era-rooted,-qur’an-conflicting-muslim-personal-law-(sharia-law)-must-be-reformed-to-avoid-injustices-to-muslim-women-–-an-sos-to-the-indian-ulema-fraternity/d/97692

-        Indian Muslim Ulema Who Insist On Retaining the Anti-Qur’anic Triple Talaq (Instant Divorce) In Muslim Personal Law Are Sinners, Haters of Their Women-Folk and Criminals and Must Be Resisted,-new-age-islam/indian-muslim-ulama-who-insist-on-retaining-the-anti-qur’anic-triple-talaq-(instant-divorce)-in-muslim-personal-law-are-sinners,-haters-of-their-women-folk-and-criminals-and-must-be-resisted/d/104483----

Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.


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