By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
11 June 2019
Scholars of Islam have strangely struggled with explaining the adjurations in the Quran when these offer them the opportunity to show their skills of interpretation and understanding of metaphors and of poetic allusions. Some have even wondered “what does Allah mean by swearing by something that is inferior to Him?”! Others are clearly embarrassed by Allah swearing so often because a man who swears often is looked down upon. The scholars have struggled with the following thoughts:
The Qur’ān says: “Do not yield to any mean oath-monger.” (Q 68:10) This verse implies that swearing an oath is condemnable. An oath therefore does not behove the Majesty of Allah.
People never take an oath except by something exalted and glorious. The Prophet (sws) has said: “Whoever swears an oath should swear it by God or keep silence.” (Bukhārī No: 3624) This clearly forbids taking an oath by anything other than God. How is it then becoming of Allah, the Lord of the worlds, to swear by His creatures and also by ordinary things like the fig and the olive?
Imām Rāzī tried to explain the oaths by saying that since the Qur’ān was revealed in the language of the Arabs, it follows the convention of swearing excessively in that society! The scholars have been baffled because they have failed to come to grips with Divine Speech and the distinct difference between the objective and quite often the irrelevance of the oaths of human beings and the adjurations of Allah in the Book which are very precise and apt and serve the purpose of explaining something less understood by what is openly recognized or easily understood. Quranic adjurations are in a very distinct and unique class incomparable with any work of human beings. Although the scholars have struggled and tied themselves in knots trying to explain these, we shall soon see that these are very simple to understand and serve a very useful purpose in driving home a point and making it clear.
Surah 36 YaSeen
(2) By the Qur´an, full of Wisdom,-
(3) Thou art indeed one of the messengers,
(4) On a Straight Way.
(5) It is a Revelation sent down by (Him), the Exalted in Might, Most Merciful.
(6) In order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remain heedless (of the Signs of Allah).
To the readers of the Quran who find the Book full of wisdom, invoking the property of the Quran as a Book full of wisdom, constitutes proof of Muhammad being indeed one of the messengers of Allah on a straight path. Would such a Book which is full of wisdom say anything false or foolish? Can Muhammad to whom such a Book is revealed be a false messenger?
The two Arabic letters Ya and Sin are explained by most scholars as addressing the Prophet since the next few verses are addressed to him. However, although the verses following “Ya Sin” address the Prophet, these are also meant for every reader who reads the Book. Ya Sin could therefore be a shorter form of “Yāayyuhā L-Nāsu” which means “O you people”. Since this combination of letters appears only once in the Quran, anything we say about it is only conjecture. However, when the letters are recited, the effect on the listener is to alert him or draw his attention to what follows and far more effective than “Yāayyuhā L-Nāsu”. Without doubt this Surah is addressed to all mankind and not only the believers.
Surah 79 An-Nazi'at / Those who drag forth
(1) By the (angels) who tear out (the souls of the wicked) with violence;
(2) By those who gently draw out (the souls of the blessed);
(3) And by those who glide along (on errands of mercy),
(4) Then press forward as in a race,
(5) Then arrange to do (the Commands of their Lord),
We are aware of the different ways in which people die - some with ease and others after great suffering when everyone is praying for their death so that they are relieved of their suffering. This is then followed by a brief description of the role of angels. The rest of the Surah is about the Hereafter about which we know very little. In the death and the manner in which different people die is a lesson as well as proof of Allah’s control over our lives in this world. This proof is offered as evidence of the truth of what Allah says will happen in the Hereafter. The purpose of the adjuration here is to draw our attention to what is known or can be known as proof of what we do not know but are being informed of.
Surah 91 As-Shams
(1) By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour;
(2) By the Moon as it shows up after the Sun;
(3) By the Day as it shows up (the Sun´s) glory;
(4) By the Night as it conceals it;
(5) By the Firmament and its (wonderful) structure;
(6) By the Earth and its (wide) expanse:
(7) By the conscious living human being, and the proportion and order given to it;
(8) And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;-
(9) Truly he succeeds that purifies it,
(10) And he fails that corrupts it!
(11) The Thamud (people) rejected (their prophet) through their inordinate wrong-doing...
The great order, beauty, purpose and unfailing precision and regularity of a few wondrous natural phenomena are cited as proof of what follows. The purpose is to say “As surely as the wondrous phenomena sworn by, the human consciousness enlightened by the Quran as to what is right and wrong, succeeds if it purifies self and fails if it corrupts it. This law of consequences of human behaviour is as certain, fixed, and unchanging, as the laws the heavenly bodies follow”.
Surah 93 and 94 Ad-Dhuha / The Morning Hours and Ash-Sharh / The Consolation
These Surahs are usually read together since the subject matter is common.
(93:1) By the Glorious Morning Light,
(2) And by the Night when it is still,-
(3) Thy Guardian-Lord hath not forsaken thee, nor is He displeased.
(4) And verily the Hereafter will be better for thee than the present.
(5) And soon will thy Guardian-Lord give thee (that wherewith) thou shalt be well-pleased.....
.... (94:5) So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief:
(6) Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.
The metaphor of the Glorious morning light following the Night when it is still is clear and made amply clear with the 94:5 and 94:6
Surah 100 Al-Adiyat / The Chargers
(1) By the (Steeds) that run, with panting (breath),
(2) And strike sparks of fire,
(3) And push home the charge in the morning,
(4) And raise the dust in clouds the while,
(5) And penetrate forthwith into the midst (of the foe) en masse;-
(6) Truly man is, to his Lord, ungrateful;
(7) And to that (fact) he bears witness (by his deeds);
(8) And violent is he in his love of wealth.
(9) Does he not know,- when that which is in the graves is scattered abroad
(10) And that which is (locked up) in (human) breasts is made manifest-
(11) That their Lord had been Well-acquainted with them, (even to) that Day?
The adjurations in this Surah provide evidence of man’s vanity, passions and vaingloriousness. This is contrasted with the unglorious end of such a vain man and the fact that he has very little to be proud about.
Surah 95 The Fig and Surah 103 Al-Asr
(95:1) By the Fig and the Olive,
(2) And the Mount of Sinai,
(3) And this City of security,-
(4) We have indeed created man in the best of moulds,
(5) Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low,-
(6) Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.
(7) Then what can, after this, contradict thee, as to the judgment (to come)?
(8) Is not Allah the wisest of judges?
(103; 1) By (the Token of) Time (through the ages),
(2) Verily Man is in loss,
(3) Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.
The subject matter in the two Surahs above covers the characteristics of those who are successful and is almost the same as shown below:
(95:6) (All our unsuccessful) Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing and (103:3) (All our unsuccessful)Except such as believe, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.
Surah 103 swears by Time to say that all through the ages, or as Time is a witness, the people who have been successful are as described in the Surah.
Surah 95 swears by City of security or Sanctuary which we know is Mecca and associated with Muhammad (pbuh), the last Prophet.
By the Mount of Sinai associated with Prophet Moses (pbuh)
By the Fig and the Olive. What does the Fig and the Olive refer to? To be consistent it must refer to two other messengers of Allah and not to the fruit. Olive refers to the Mount of Olives associated with Jesus (pbuh) and The Fig refers to the Fig tree under which Buddha (pbuh) received enlightenment.
Please notice that not only time is a witness to the essential requirement for success, but the message carried by all the messengers of Allah through time from Adam to the last Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the same is what Surah 95 is saying.
Muslims have a problem with naming Buddha as a prophet. The Quran is also very subtle in doing so and not sworn by the “The Mount of Olives” and “The Fig Tree” as it could have very well done if it wished to be more explicit. The subtlety could be because Buddhism has changed over the years into worship of Buddha and the Quran therefore refrains from explicitly endorsing it in its present state. There are certain things that the Quran merely hints at and is meant only for those who can understand and digest and not for everyone. Most Muslim scholars have waxed eloquent on the virtues of the Fig and Olive as a fruit and it does not bother them to mix the metaphors. Imam Razi is among them.
What is common between Buddhism and the three Abrahamic faiths is:
A very clear and explicit deontological moral code which is followed as a religious duty out of reverence for the code or reverence for the Law Giver or Allah. This fulfils the criteria of doing righteous deeds
A firm belief in the consequences of our deeds on this earth. This fulfils the criteria of belief
While the Abrahamic faiths believe in a personal God, the Buddhists are believed to be agnostic, but their agnosticism is not denial of God but on the other hand they recognize a Being or Intelligence higher than self which governs the Universe, ensures order and corrects things. They see their moral code given by Buddha to be in accordance with this higher Intelligence and submit to it out of reverence. This is a very refined concept of God and perhaps more accurate, whereas, ours is closer to building a mental image of God while the Quran says Allah is unlike anything we know. At the other extreme is building an idol of God which we avoid as this is explicitly prohibited. The Buddhist concept is extremely refined but difficult to follow, which is why in the later revelations perhaps, the concept is made a little more concrete, but less concrete than building and worshiping an idol. In essence, the Buddhist religion is very much Allah’s religion like the other explicitly named religions.
Surah 37 As-Saaffaat / Those drawn up in Ranks
(1) By those who range themselves in ranks,
(2) And so are strong in repelling (evil),
(3) And thus proclaim the Message (of Allah)!
(4) Verily, verily, your Allah is one!-
(5) Lord of the heavens and of the earth and all between them, and Lord of every point at the rising of the sun!
(6) We have indeed decked the lower heaven with beauty (in) the stars,-
(7) (For beauty) and for guard against all obstinate rebellious evil spirits,
(8) (So) they should not strain their ears in the direction of the Exalted Assembly but be cast away from every side,
(9) Repulsed, for they are under a perpetual penalty,
(10) Except such as snatch away something by stealth, and they are pursued by a flaming fire, of piercing brightness.
(11) Just ask their opinion: are they the more difficult to create, or the (other) beings We have created? Them have We created out of a sticky clay!
(12) Truly dost thou marvel, while they ridicule,
(13) And, when they are admonished, pay no heed,-
(14) And, when they see a Sign, turn it to mockery,
(15) And say, "This is nothing but evident sorcery!
(16) "What! when we die, and become dust and bones, shall we (then) be raised up (again)
(17) "And also our fathers of old?"
The adjuration “By those who range themselves in ranks”,is an endorsement of the strategy of standing united against evil and for proclaiming the Deen of Allah and compared with Allah ranging the lowers stars to beautify the Heavens and to guard “against all obstinate rebellious evil spirits”.
Surah 51 Adh-Dhaariyat / The Winnowing Winds
(1) By the (Winds) that scatter broadcast;
(2) And those that lift and bear away heavy weights;
(3) And those that flow with ease and gentleness;
(4) And those that distribute and apportion by Command;-
(5) Verily that which ye are promised is true;
(6) And verily Judgment and Justice must indeed come to pass.
(7) By the Sky with (its) numerous Paths,
(8) Truly ye are in a doctrine discordant,
(9) Through which are deluded (away from the Truth) such as would be deluded.
(10) Woe to the falsehood-mongers,-
(11) Those who (flounder) heedless in a flood of confusion:
The winds play an important role in dispersing seeds, pollen and spores. These carry the clouds that bring rain which revive vegetation and help grow crops and fruit in abundance. The ships sail with their help and wind power finds many other uses. The winds play a beneficial role without which life on this earth is not possible. This is a Sign of Allah and of his Mercy and distributive justice and power to do all things. Man however chooses the wrong path from the many paths available to him forgetting Allah and His Power to bring him to justice.
We have seen that the adjurations in the Quran are not like the oaths of us human beings, but among the most powerful and most easily understood Signs of Allah, through which Allah makes the most telling points. These draw our attention to what is both striking and obvious, to serve as evidence for the Message that needs to be understood. We have also seen that there is no mystery in the adjurations and neither does it require deep mystical knowledge to understand their meaning and purpose. It requires simplicity, humility and integrity to understand but not complex or esoteric scholarship. The scholars with their esoteric scholarship have made heavy weather of these simple to understand adjurations and confused themselves and others.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism