"And when your Lord said to the angels, "I am going to create a deputy on the earth!" They said, 'Will You create there one who will spread disorder on the earth and cause bloodsheds while we, along with your praises, proclaim Your purity and sanctify Your name?" He said, "Certainly, I know what you do not know." And He taught Adam the names, all of them; then presented them before the angels, and said, 'Tell me their names, if you are right." They said, 'To You belongs all purity! We have no knowledge except what You have given us. Surely, You alone are the all-knowing, all-wise!' He said, "O Adam, tell them the names of all these!' When he told them their names, Allah said, "Did I not tell you' that I know the secrets of the skies and of the earth, and that I know what you disclose and what you have been concealing."[2: 30-33]
The preceding verses recounted the general and some of the particular blessings of Allah, and asked man to recognize them and not to be ungrateful and disobedient to his Benefactor. Now, ten verses, beginning with the 30th, tell the story of the father of mankind, Adam (عليه السلام), in continuation of this theme and also by way of illustration. For, blessings are of two kinds - tangible and intangible. Food, water, money, houses, or lands are some of the tangible blessings; while honour, happiness or knowledge are intangible ones. The earlier verses were concerned with blessings of the first kind; these verses speak of those of the second kind - that is to say, how Allah bestowed the gift of knowledge on Adam (عليه السلام), made the angels prostrate themselves before him to show their respect, and gave men the honour of being his sons.
The creation of Adam (عليه السلام)
The present three verses relate how Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), having decided to create Adam (عليه السلام) and to make him His deputy on the earth, spoke of it to the angels - seemingly by way of a trial, suggesting that they should
express their opinions in this matter. The angels submitted that they could not understand why men were being chosen to be'the deputies, for some of them would shed blood and spread disorder on this earth. They thought that they themselves were more suited to perform this function, as the nature of angels is wholly good, no evil deed can possibly come out of them, they are totally obedient to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), and should hence be more capable of managing the affairs of the world. In replying to them, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) first adopted the mode of authority, and told the angels that they knew nothing about the nature and the needs of deputation on the earth, and that Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) alone was the one to know it fully. The second answer was in the mode of wisdom - Adam (عليه السلام) had been given preference over the angels on account of his superiority in the station of knowledge, because in order to function properly as a deputy on the earth one must know the names, the properties and the characteristics of the things to be found there, and the angels had no aptitude for this kind of knowledge.
(1) A question arises here as to why Allah (سبحانه وتعالى)chose to speak of His decision to the angels. Was it merely to inform them? Was it to seek their advice? Or, was it to make them express their opinion on the subject?
Why Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) discussed Adam's (عليه السلام) creation with angels? As for seeking advice, it is obvious enough that one turns for advice to wise and trustworthy people only when one cannot see all the aspects of a problem clearly, and does not want to depend on one's own knowledge and understanding alone, or when the rights of others are equal to one's own, and they too have to be consulted, as happens in the counsels of the world. Evidently, neither of the two situations obtain in the present case. Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) is the creator of the universe, and knows everything about the smallest particle of dust; He sees and hears everything, apparent or hidden. How can He stand in need of anyone's advice? Similarly, He does not run the universe under the parliamentary system, in which all have equal rights and everyone has to be consulted directly or indirectly. He is the Lord and Master, and all His creatures, be they men or angels, are His slaves - no one has the right to question Him about His actions, and to ask Him why He did this or why He did not do that: "He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they are to be questioned." (21:23)
In fact, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) did not mean to seek the advice of the angels, nor was there any need for it, but He, in His wisdom, gave a mere statement the form of a consultation in order to teach men the advisability of mutual consultation. After all, the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) was a messenger of Allah, and all the information he needed in dealing with the affairs of the world could have been conveyed to him by means of revelation, and yet the Holy Qur'an asks him to seek the advice of his Companions (رضي الله معهم), so that the Islamic community should learn this lesson from him and the way of mutual consultation should be established through him. In short, this is the first raison d'etre of the mode of expression adopted by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى). (Ruh al-Bayan)
The other has been suggested by the Holy Qur'an itself. Before the appearance of man, the angels had taken it for granted that Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) would not create a being who should be superior to them and greater in knowledge - as has been reported in a narration coming down from the blessed Companion Ibn 'Abbas (رضي الله عنهما) and cited by Ibn Jarir (رحمه الله) his commentary. But Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) knew that He would create a being who would be superior to all other creatures and greater than them in knowledge, and who would receive the gift of divine viceregency. So, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) mentioned this in the assembly of the angels so that they may disclose what they had been thinking. Speaking according to their own lights, they very humbly submitted that a creature like man who carried within himself a tendency towards evil and disorder and who would not balk even at blood-shed, could not be expected to maintain peace and order on the earth, while they themselves, being free of all evil, and perfect in their obedience and devotion, could perform the function more satisfactorily.
They did not mean to raise an objection to the choice which Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) had made, for angels are innocent of such sentiments; they were only being curious, and wanted to know the raison d'etre of such a choice.
To begin with, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) gave them a very brief reply - "I know what you do not know", implying that they are not aware of the nature and the requirements of divine viceregency, which had led them to suppose that only pure and innocent beings could fulfil the conditions necessary for such a responsible position.
Then, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) demonstrated the truth to them in a vivid form. He gave to Adam (عليه السلام) a kind of knowledge for which he alone had been endowed with the proper aptitude, and not the angels. That is to say, He taught him the names, the properties and qualities of all the existents, animate or inanimate. Angelic nature is not capable of such awareness - for example, an angel cannot really experience the pain of hunger and thirst, the tumult of passions, the torment from the bite of a scorpion or a snake, or the exhilaration from an intoxicant. Only Adam (عليه السلام) had the capacity to learn such things, and he was taught to know them. Then, there is no indication in the Holy Qur'an to show that he was taught in privacy, apart from the angels. It may well be that the teaching in itself was open to the angels as well as to him; his nature allowed him to receive it, and he learnt the lesson, while, they were impeded by their own proper nature, and could not.
Or, it may be that the teaching did not take an external form at all, but that the Adamic nature was made to carry this particular kind of knowledge within itself without the need of a formal education, just as an infant does not have to be taught how to suck the mother's milk, or a duckling how to swim.
As to the question why Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), being omnipotent, did not change the nature of the angels and make them learn these things, we shall say that the question, in fact, boils down to this: Why did not Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) change the angels into men? For, if their nature had been altered, they would no longer have remained angels, but become men.
In short, through this demonstration Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) made the angels (عليهم السلام) realize how wrong they were in supposing that He would not create any being superior to them in any way, and that they themselves were more
suitable for being the viceregents of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) than Adam (عليه السلام). Since they failed to name the things which Adam (عليه السلام) could, they came to see that purity and innocence is not the criterion in choosing a deputy or viceregent but the knowledge of the things which are to be found on the earth, of the ways of using them, and of the consequences which would follow from such a use.
We can also infer a general principle from the episode - it is necessary for a ruler to know fully the nature, the temperament and the peculiarities of the people over whom he is to rule, without which he cannot enforce justice and order. If one does not know the pain of being hungry, how can one deal justice to the man who has unjustly been kept hungry?
We may also point out that in expressing their opinion, the angels were neither raising an objection, nor being vain and proud, nor asserting their right; it was, on their part, only a humble submission, and an offer of their services. When they found that there was another being who was, with his special kind of knowledge, more suitable for the function, they as humbly acknowledged the fact and withdrew their earlier opinion in saying: "To You belongs all purity! We have'no knowledge except what You have given us. Surely, You alone are the all-knowing, the all-wise." In the present context, the phrase, "To You belongs all purity" also has the implication that Allah is free from the charge of having withheld from the angels the knowledge which He gave to Adam (عليه السلام), for, being the all-knowing and the all-wise, He gives to each creature the kind and the degree of knowledge and understanding which He, and He alone, knows to be in consonance with the specific nature of that creature.
Another question which may arise out of this episode is: How did the angels come to know that man would shed blood? Did they possess the knowledge of hidden things and of divine secrets? Or, was it a mere conjecture on their part? Most of the authoritative scholars believe, on the basis of certain 'Athaar or reports available about the blessed Companions (رضي الله معهم), that it was Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) Himself who had informed the angels on this occasion as to how man would behave on the earth. (See Ruh al-Ma'ani)). It is only then that they became curious about the raison d'etre of man being chosen as the viceregent in spite of his propensity to evil.
Beside demonstrating the superiority of Adam (عليه السلام) in knowledge, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) dispelled the misgivings of the angels with regard to the evil propensities in man by the short and simple answer, "Certainly, I know what you do not know." There is a subtle suggestion here - what makes man fit for viceregency is just the peculiarity which, in the eyes of the angels, made him unfit for this function. For, a deputy or viceregent is needed on the earth just for the purpose of preventing blood-shed and disorder; if there is no possibility of disorder in a place, where is the need for sending there an administrator? Thus, it was the Divine Will and Wisdom that, just as Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) had created beings as innocent and sinless as the angels, or beings as totally evil as Satan and his progeny, or beings like the jinns in whom evil dominated over good, He would also create beings in whom good and evil should be equally mixed, who should try to conquer the evil in themselves and to grow in goodness so as to seek and attain the pleasure of their Creator.
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) is the creator of the language
(2) This episode, according to Imam al-Ash'ari (رحمه الله), shows that language as such has been created by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) Himself, and not invented by man - its use by different kinds of men has later on produced the many forms of language.
(3) One should note a subtle suggestion here in the use of twp words. In asking the angels for the names of things, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) said, "Tell Me"; but in commanding Adam (عليه السلام) to do so, He said, "Tell them." The difference in the mode of expression shows that Adam (عليه السلام) w as given the rank of a teacher, and the angels that of pupils. It is thus an indication of his superiority over them. Another thing the episode indicates is that an increase or decrease is possible in the degree of knowledge the angels possess, for they were given, through Adam (عليه السلام), at least a primary knowledge about a thing which they did not know before.
Man is the viceregent of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) on the earth (4) These verses tell us that a viceregent was appointed to keep order on the earth and to promulgate divine laws. From here we learn the basic principles for the governance of men on the earth. The ultimate sovereignty in the universe belongs to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) Himself, as is explicitly stated in many verses of the Holy Qur'an: "Judgment belongs to Allah alone" (6:57); "The sovereignty of the skies and the earth belongs to Him alone" (9:116); "Verily, His is the Creation and the Command." (7:54)
But He has, in His wisdom, chosen to send His viceregents to the earth for maintaining spiritual and temporal order. Their function is to announce and promulgate divine commandments, to teach men how to abide by these laws, and sometimes even to exercise temporal power as well as spiritual authority under divine guidance. The appointment is made directly by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) Himself, and is in no sense a reward for the good deeds or the spiritual effort of the individual concerned. There is a total consensus of all the authentic scholars of the Islamic Ummah on the doctrine that prophethood is not a thing which one can attain through one's personal effort or on the merit of one's good deeds, but that Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) Himself, in His supreme knowledge and wisdom, chooses certain individuals for acting as His messengers, prophets and viceregents.
The Holy Qur'an has explicitly declared it in several verses: "Allah chooses His messengers from among the angels and from among men; surely Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing" (22:75); "Allah knows best whom to entrust with His message" (16:124). These viceregents receive divine commandments directly from Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), and then promulgate them in the world. The chain of viceregents began with Adam (عليه السلام) and continued in the same way upto the Holy Prophet Muhammad (صلي الله عليه وسلم).
The Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) was the last Caliph of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) on earth
(5) The Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) came to the earth as the last viceregent (Khalifa), the last Messenger (Rasool) and the last prophet (Nabiyy) of Allah, endowed with certain special qualities peculiar to him which he does not share with any other prophet. We may mention some of these characteristics:
(a) Each of the earlier prophets (عليهم السلام) was sent for the guidance of a particular country or people, and his authority was limited to his jurisdiction alone, - for example, Moosa (عليه السلام) and 'Isa (عليه السلام) - (Moses and Jesus Christ) were sent to Bani Isra'eel (the Israelites). But the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) has been sent for the guidance of all the men and all the jinns, and his authority extends to all the members of the two species.
The Holy Qur'an has declared the universality of his prophethood in these words: "Say: O mankind, I am the messenger of Allaah to you all, of Him to whom belongs the sovereignty of the skies and of the earth" (7:158).
A hadeeth of the Saheeh of Muslim reports the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) as having said that he had been made superior to all other prophets (عليهم السلام) in six things. The first of these is, of course, the universality of his prophethood.
(b) Just as the viceregency and prophethood of all the earlier prophets (عليهم السلام) was limited to particular peoples and countries, in the same way it was also limited to specific periods; when the age of one prophet was over, another prophet would come to take his place as the new viceregent. On the contrary, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (صلي الله عليه وسلم) has been sent by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) as the last of all prophets; his prophethood is not circumscribed within a specific period, but shall last till the end of time.
(c) It has so happened that the teachings and the Shari'ah of each of the earlier prophets (عليهم السلام) would remain intact for a time, but then gradually people would start deviating from them and distorting them till they became unrecognizable; at this stage Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) would send a new prophet with a new Shari'ah. But the Shari'ah of the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) is to remain alive in its integral form upto the end of the universe. Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) has taken upto Himself the responsibility of protecting the words and the meanings of the Holy Qur'an: "It is We who have sent down the Remembrance (i.e. the Holy Qur'an) and We are its Protector."(15:9)
Similarly, He has made a special provision for the preservation of the Hadeeth which contains the teachings of the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) that is to say, in spite of all the vicissitudes of time there shall remain till the Doomsday a group of people who will preserve these teachings and transmit them accurately to others, and who will receive help and protection from Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) Himself. Since Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) has ordained the survival of the Holy Qur'an and the Hadeeth, there is obviously no need for a new prophet or messenger or viceregent and no room for a new Shari'ah.
(d) Contrary to the case of all the earlier prophets (عليهم السلام), the prophethood and viceregency of the last of them, Muhammad (صلي الله عليه وسلم), is not limited to a particular period, but is to continue upto the end of time, and those who succeed him for the preservation of spiritual and temporal order in the world, are to be, not the viceregents of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), but the viceregents of the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) and his deputies. A hadith reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim both says: "The Israelites were governed by their prophets. When a prophet died, another would come to take his place. And beware, no prophet is to come after me. Of course, there will be my deputies (Khulafaa') and there will be many of them."
The issue of Caliphate after the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم)
(e) Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) has ordained that after the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) his Ummah, or the Islamic community, shall as a body enjoy the privilege which has been that of the Prophets (عليهم السلام). That is to say, the Ummah as a collective body has been declared to be innocent and under the special protection of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) Himself, so that it will never unanimously agree upon a doctrinal error or a deviation, and hence any decision which has been arrived at in religious matters through the consensus of the Ummah is to be regarded as manifestation of Divine Commandment.
That is why the consensus of the Ummah has been accepted as the third source of the Shari'ah, the first two being the Holy Qur'an and the Hadith.
For the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) has himself said, "My Ummah shall never collectively agree upon error." And we have already referred to another hadeeth which tells us that no matter how much the world has changed or how indifferent people have grown to the Truth, there shall always remain in the Islamic Ummah a group of people who will defend and preserve the Truth, and who will finally win.
(6) Since it has been ordained that the Islamic Ummah as a body shall never go wrong, the responsibility of choosing a deputy to the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) has also been entrusted to it. Now, for the governance of the earth the legitimate way is that the Ummah should select a Khalifah who, once chosen, would solely be responsible for the maintenance of spiritual and temporal order. And it is also possible that there should be a single Khalifa for the whole world. The first to succeed the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) as his deputies were the First Four Great Khalifahs (رضي الله معهم), known as al-Khulafaa' ar-Rashidoon (or the rightly-guided ones, commonly translated as the 'Orthodox Caliphs'), and the Khilafaat order functioned according to the proper principles upto the end of their time. So, their decisions are not merely temporary judgments, but have a permanent legislative value, and carry an authority in their own degree, for the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) has said, 'Follow my way steadfastly, and the way of the rightly-guided Khalifahs.'
After the age of the rightly-guided Khalifahs (رضي الله معهم), different rulers appeared in different regions, but none of them can be described as a Khalifah of the whole Islamic community in the proper sense of the term, though they may be called the 'Ameers os of particular regions. When it became practically impossible for all the Muslims of the world to agree upon one man as their Khalifah, and it became customary to have a separate 'Ameer for each region, people accepted the principle that the man who had been chosen or acknowledged by the majority of the Muslims in a country, should be called the 'Ameer of that country.
The basis for this procedure has been provided by the Holy Qur'an itself: "And they conduct their affairs by mutual consultation." (42:38)
The modern legislative assemblies are a form of mutual consultation, with the difference that they are quite free to make whatever laws they like according to their own opinion, while an Islamic legislative assembly, its members and their 'Amir all shall be bound by the law which Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) has sent us through the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم). There are certain specific conditions for the membership of an Islamic assembly as well as for the choice of an 'Amir.
And, most important of all, laws must be made within the bounds of the basic principles laid down by the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah, the authority of
which the assembly cannot have the right to question. Let me give a brief summary of the whole discussion. The verses which tell us of how Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) informed the angels about his intention to send a viceregent to the earth, provide us with some of the fundamental principles of the governance of man:-
(a) The sovereignty of the skies and of the earth belongs to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) Himself.
(b) The function of promulgating the Commandments of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) on the earth is performed by a viceregent who is at the same time a Messenger of Allah and His Prophet.
(c) The chain of such viceregents ends with the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم), for he is the last Messenger and Prophet.
(d) Now the function of viceregency is performed by the deputies of the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم).
(e) Such a deputy (Khaleefah) is to be chosen by the Ummah or Islamic community.
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"And (remember) when We said to the angels: "Prostrate yourselves before Adam.". And they prostrated except Iblis (Satan), he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers (disobedient to Allah)."[2:34]
The episode recounted in the foregoing verses has shown how the angels came to learn that Adam (عليه السلام) was superior to them in so far as he possessed the forms of knowledge necessary for the function of divine viceregency, while they themselves did not, nor did the jinns.
Now, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) willed to manifest this superiority in a visible and concrete form So, He commanded the angels to prostrate themselves before Adam (عليه السلام) in his honour. They obeyed, except Iblis or Satan who, in his pride, refused to do so.
If we go by the words of the Holy Qur'an, the command was given to the angels alone, but, in excepting Iblis from those who obeyed, the text also suggests that the command was given to all the created beings that existed at that time and possessed understanding, including the jinns as well as the angels. But the Holy Qur'an mentions the angels alone, because when superior beings like the angels were required to show their respect for Adam (عليه السلام), inferior creatures like the jinns must, it goes without saying, have been
ordered to do the same.
Angels prostrate before Adam عليه السلام
(1) In this verse, the angels have been commanded to prostrate themselves before Adam (عليه السلام). Another verse of the Holy Qur'an tells us that the parents and the brothers of Yusuf (Joseph) (عليه السلام) on reaching Egypt, prostrated themselves before him (12:100). Evidently such a prostration cannot have been intended as an act of worship, for worshipping anyone other than Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) is an act of association (Shirk) and infidelity (Kufr), and hence cannot possibly be allowed by any Shari'ah.
So, it appears that in the days of the ancient prophets prostrating oneself before somebody must have been just an act of courtesy or a way of showing one's respect, and enjoyed the same value as we do in our own days things like a simple greeting, a hand-shake, the kissing of hand, or standing up in someone's honour. Imam Al-Jassas (رحمه الله) has said in his Ahkam al-Qur'an that it was permissible in the Shari'ah of the earlier prophets to prostrate oneself in honour of one's elders, but that the Shari'ah of the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) has forbidden gestures like prostrating oneself, or bowing down very low or standing with one hand placed on the other in the manner of the Salah (prayer) before someone, all of which may suggest an act of worship, and has allowed only greeting (Salam) and hand-shake as a gesture of courtesy or respect.
It is easy to understand the raison d'etre of such a prohibition. Association, infidelity and the worship of anyone other than Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) are things which in their nature go against the very principle of 'Iman (faith), and cannot therefore be tolerated by any Shar'ah. There are, however, certain acts and gestures which are not in themselves acts of 'association' or infidelity, but may, on account of the ignorance or indifference of people, become a prelude to 'association' and infidelity. So, the Shari'ahs of the earlier prophets did not forbid such acts in an absolute manner, but prevented them from being used as the instruments of 'association' and infidelity. For example, making pictures of living things is not in itself an act of 'association' or infidelity, and was hence permissible in the earlier Shari'ahs. In speaking of how the jinns used to serve Sulayman (عليه السلام) (Solomon) the Holy Qur'an itself says: ''They made for him whatever he liked - places of worship, and pictures." (34:13)
Similarly, prostrating oneself before somebody as a gesture of respect was permissible in the earlier Shari'ahs. But gradually the practice opened the way to 'association' and infidelity on account of people's ignorance and thoughtlessness, and even caused grave distortions in the Shari'ahs of different prophets, which had to be rectified by other prophets and other Shari'ahs.
Since the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) is the last of all the prophets and messengers (عليهم السلام) of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), and his Shari'ah is the last of all Shari'ahs and is to remain valid upto the end of time, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) has, in order to protect it against all distortion, stopped every chink through which 'association' or idolatry could possibly enter. That is why this Shari'ah has strictly forbidden all those practices which had at one time or another served as a means towards 'association' or idol-worship.
For example, making pictures of living things has been totally banned; prostrating oneself before somebody, even as a mark of respect, has been forbidden; it is not permissible to offer one's Salah (prayer) at those hours of the day which the infidels had reserved for worshipping their gods, for even this slight and external correspondence might lead to 'association'; and, according to a hadeeth reported by Muslim (رحمه الله), one is not allowed to call one's slave an "'abd", nor is a slave allowed to call his master a "rabb" - the words respectively signify "a slave" and 'one who gives nurture', and are as such harmless, but they can be misconstrued, and may mislead ignorant slaves or helpless and subjugated people into the worship of their masters: hence the prohibition.
With regard to ihe question of prostration, we may add that, according to some authentic scholars, Salah, the basic form of Islamic worship, comprises of four kinds of actions - standing upright, bowing, sitting down, and prostrating oneself; the first two of these, standing up and sitting down, are actions which one habitually does in the course of one's daily chores, and which one also performs as acts of worship in the course of a Salaah (prayer), but the other two, bowing down and prostrating oneself, are actions which one does not go through as a matter of habit, and which are characteristically associated with Salaah (prayer) and 'Ibaadah (worship); hence it is that the Islamic Shari'ah has identified them with acts of worship, and forbidden the Muslims to bow down or prostrate themselves before anyone other than Allah (سبحانه وتعالى).
Given that the Holy Qur'an itself speaks of prostration as a mark of respect, one would wish to know on what grounds it has been affirmed that the Islamic Shari'ah has forbidden this practice. As to this question, we may point out that several well-known narrations coming down to us from the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) through quite a large number of his blessed Companions (رضي الله عنهم أجمعين), are there to establish that prostrating oneself before somebody as a mark of respect is unlawful (haraam). To cite only one such narration, the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) has said that, if he could allow people to prostrate themselves before anyone other than Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) as a mark of respect, he would have commanded wives to prostrate themselves before their husbands. This clearly shows that prostration as a mark of respect is absolutely forbidden, and no allowance can, in this respect, be made in favour of any created being. We may add that the hadith we have just referred to has come down to us through twenty Companions (رضي الله عنهم أجمعين), while, according to Tadrib al-Rawi, the famous book on the fundamentals of the science of Hadith, a Tradition which has been reported by only ten Companions is called Mutawaatir, and enjoys the same authority in the matter of injunctions as the Holy Qur'aan.
(2) The Holy Qur'an describes Ibees or Satan as an infidel. His infidelity does not arise from disobedience in his action, for, according to the shari'ah, giving up an obligation in practice is only a sin and a transgression, and does not constitute infidelity. Iblees became an infidel, because he had defied and challenged a divine commandment, and had, in refusing to prostrate himself, virtually said that, in his opinion, Adam (عليه السلام) was not worthy of it.
(3) Iblis had attained such a high degree in science and knowledge that he was called Ta'us al-Mala'ikah: "The Peacock Among the Angels." How did he, then, come to commit such a suicidal error? Some scholars say that it was because of his pride and vanity that Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) took back from him the wealth of knowledge and understanding, and hence he came to act like an ignorant fool. Others have suggested that his error was due to self-love and ambition. The famous commentary, 'Ruh al-Bayan' resolves the question by quoting a line of verse in Arabic which shows that once the aid of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) has been withdrawn from a man, he can no longer save himself from sins, and all the effort he makes only serves to push him farther and farther into misguidance. May Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), in his mercy, save all of us from such a fate! The commentary draws from it the conclusion that one should not be vain about one's learning or one's deeds or even about one's 'Iman (faith), for 'Iman is valid only if it lasts till one's final breath and into the first stage of one's journey to the other world.
"And We said, "O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise, and eat at pleasure wherever you like, but do not go near this tree or you shall join the transgressors." Then, Satan caused them to slip from it, and brought them out of where they had been. And We said, "Go down, you all, some of you enemies of some; and on the earth there will be for you a dwelling place and enjoyment for a time." [2: 35-36]
This is a continuation of the story of Adam (عليه السلام). When his superiority over the angels and his fitness for the role of viceregent had been announced to the angels and been acknowledged by them, and Iblis had been condemned as an infidel and expelled from Paradise on account of his pride and his defiance of divine authority, Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwa (Eve) (عليها السلام), his wife, received a command from Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) to live in Paradise and enjoy its blessings. But they were also instructed not to eat the fruit of a particular tree. Now, having been disgraced because of Adam (عليه السلام), Iblees or Satan had an account to settle with him, and as soon as he got the opportunity, he tricked them into eating from this tree. Because of this error on their part, they too were ordered to leave Paradise, and to go down and live on the earth. They were at the same time warned that their existence on the earth would no longer be full of perpetual bliss as it had been in Paradise, but that there would be dissension and enmity among men, their progeny, which would spoil the joy of earthly life.
Since these events took place after Adam (عليه السلام) had been created and the angels had been commanded to prostrate themselves before him, some scholars have concluded from it that the creation of Adam (عليه السلام) and the prostration of the angels took place somewhere outside Paradise, and that he was sent there later on. But the words of the Holy Qur'an do not exclude the other interpretation that both the events took place in Paradise, but that he had not been told at that time where he was to live, which was done later.
When Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwa (عليها السلام) were sent to live in Paradise, they were allowed to eat whatever they liked 'at pleasure' - the Arabic word in the text being 'Raghadan', which signifies provision for which one does not have to work, and which is never exhausted nor falls short. Thus, their life was totally free from all care.
They were commanded not to go near a certain tree - which was an emphatic way of asking them not to eat its fruit. The tree has not been given a specific name either in the Holy Qur'an or in the Hadith. Some commentators say that it was wheat, others say that it was a fig-tree or a grape-vine. But it is not really necessary to make specific what the Holy Qur'an has left vague. (See Qurtubi)
[Note: Even the Bible does not name the tree. As to the apple being the fruit concerned, it is only a popular misunderstanding arising from the fact that the Latin word "Malum" means an "apple" as well as a "sin, or evil."]
According to the Holy Qur'an, it was Satan who 'caused them to slip' (azallahuma). It clearly shows that the error and disobedience of Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwa (عليها السلام) was not of the kind which technically constitutes a sin, but arose out of a misunderstanding produced by Satan. They ate the forbidden fruit, because Satan had cleverly deceived them.
[Note: We may note that in the previous episode the Holy Qur'an used the name Iblis - a word which comes from the root Balas, 'to be disappointed', and hence signifies "one who has lost all hope of receiving the grace of Allah." In the present episode he has been called Al-Shaytaan - a word which comes from the root Shatn, "to be far away", and hence sigflifies "one who has been removed far away from the mercy of Allah." Iblis is a proper name, while Shaytan is the name of a genus. When the Holy Qur'an speaks of Al-Shaytan, it always refers to Iblis. But the common noun Shaytan, or its plural Shayateen refers to the genus, which includes men and jinns both. It would be interesting to add that the root Shayt means 'the excess of anger and rage', and may possibly be the basis of the word Shaytaan.]
A question arises here as to how Satan got into Paradise for seducing Adam (عليها السلام) and Hawwa' (عليها السلام) when he had already been expelled from there for refusing to prostrate himself. There are many possible ways in which he can have played his trick. Possibly he never met them, but planted the suggestion in their minds from afar - a thing which Satan can always do, and of which we have a specimen in the work of the hypnotists. It is equally possible that Satan, being one of the jinns whom Allah has given certain unusual powers denied to man, assumed the shape of a snake or of something else, and thus succeeded in entering Paradise. Perhaps it was because of this disguise that Adam (عليه السلام) did not remember Allah's warning that Satan was his enemy. According to the Holy Qur'an, Satan assured them on oath that he was one of their well-wishers (7:21). It apparently suggests that he did actually meet them, and speak to them face to face.
The Holy Qur'an says that Satan "brought them out" of the state in which they had been living. In actual fact, they were 'brought out' under a divine command, but since Satan served as a means and as an intermediary, the action has been attributed to him.
[Note: The words of the Holy Qur'an do not in the least imply that Satan had any power whatsoever to act on his own. So, any Manichean dualism is totally out of the question.]
In commanding Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwaa' (عليها السلام) to go down from Paradise, Allah also said, 'Some of you (shall be the) enemies of some.' If Satan had not been turned out of the skies till then, he is included in this address, the implication being that the enmity between Satan on the one hand, and Adam 9عليه السلام) and Hawwa' (عليها السلام) and their progeny on the other, would continue on the earth too. But if Satan, as scme scholars maintain, had already been expelled, then the addressces are Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwa' (عليها السلام) and their progeny; the implication would now be that Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwa' (عليها السلام) would have to undergo a double punishment, firstly that of being banished from Paradise, secondly that of seeing enmity arise among their children which must make life unpleasant for parents. (Bayan al-Qur'an)
They were also told that the earth would be a temporary dwellingplace for them, and that they would have to leave it too, which also meant that they would not find real peace of mind there.
Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwa' (عليها السلام) in Paradise
(1) In allowing Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwa' (عليها السلام) to eat at pleasure, and in forbidding them to go near the tree, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) used, according to the text of the Holy Qur'an, the verbs for the dual number, thus including both in the address. But in asking them to live in Paradise Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) did not address both of them, but said: "You and your wife." This form of address yields two legal principles: (a) the husband is responsible for providing a dwelling-place for his wife (b) for the purpose of dwelling the wife is dependent on the husband, and she must live in the house in which her husband lives.
(2) In this context the Arabic word 'uskun (live) suggests that their stay in Paradise was to be temporary, not permanent which is a usual condition for the ownership of a house. Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) did not say that Paradise had been given to them, but only asked them to live there, for Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) knew that certain things were going to happen on account of which they would have to leave this dwelling-place. Moreover, the right to 'own' a dwelling-place in Paradise is earned through 'Iman (faith) and good deeds, which one can acquire only after the Day of Judgment. The Fuqahaa' (jurists) have derived from it the principle that, if a man asks someone to live in his house, the other man does not thereby acquire the ownership of the house nor the right to a permanent stay. (Qurtubi)
(3) In allowing Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwa' (عليها السلام) to eat at pleasure, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) used the verb for the dual number, and said: 'eat both of you.' This indicates that in the matter of food the wife is not subservient to her husband, but can eat whatever she needs or likes, as can the husband.
(4) Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) also allowed them to eat from wherever they liked. This shows that man has the right to move freely from one place to another according to his needs or wishes.
(5) Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) did not want them to eat the fruits of a certain tree, but as a precautionary measure He commanded them not to approach it even. It is from here that the Fuqaha' have derived one of the basic principles of Islamic law, which requires that the things or actions which are likely to serve as means to sin or as its instruments are equally forbidden. That is to say, there are certain things which are not forbidden in themselves, but when there is a danger that in making use of them a man would become involved in an unlawful activity, they too have to be forbidden.
The Prophets (عليهم السلام) are innocent of all sins (6) As we have seen here, Adam (عليه السلام) had been forbidden to eat the fruit of a certain tree, and had also been warned against the machinations of his enemy, Satan, and yet he had eaten the forbidden fruit. It is seemingly a sin, while the Holy Qur'an, the Hadith and rational arguments too establish the innocence and sinlessness of all the prophets (عليهم السلام).
There is an absolute consensus of the four great Imams of Islamic law and of all the authentic scholars on the doctrine that each and every prophet (عليهم السلام) is innocent of and protected against all sins, major or minor. Some people have suggested that prophets (عليهم السلام) are not protected against minor sins, but the majority of authentic scholars does not agree with this opinion. (Qurtubi) It is necessary for prophets (عليهم السلام) to be thus protected, because they are sent down to be the guides of men - if a guide can go against the commandments of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) and commit a sin, major or even minor, people would no longer be ready to trust his word or deed. If one cannot have trust and faith even in the prophets, how can the work of spiritual guidance be possible? Hence the necessity of prophets (عليهم السلام) being sinless.
The Holy Qur'an does, however, relate certain incidents which tend to suggest that a certain prophet committed a sin, and drew upon himself the displeasure of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى). The story about Adam (عليه السلام) eating the forbidden fruit is one such instance. According to the consensus of the authentic scholars, in all cases a prophet comes to commit an error through a misunderstanding or just forgetfulness, and it is never a deliberate and wilful transgression of divine commandment. As is wellknown, a Mujtahid is one who possesses the necessary qualifications for finding out through analogical deduction the rule for a case regarding which no specific commandment is present in the Holy Qur'an or the Hadith; he makes a mistake in determining the rule, he still receives a reward from Allah (عليه السلام) for having made the effort. The mistake made by a prophet is always of this nature, or is due to oversight andhence pardonable, and cannot be called a 'sin' in the technical sense. Moreover, a prophet, being under the protection of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), can never show oversight or forgetfulness in things which are directly concerned with his prophetic and legislative function, but only in personal matters. (see al-Bahr al-Muhit)
The station of the prophets (عليهم السلام), however, is so exalted, that even a little oversight on the part of a great man is considered to be a great error. That is why such slips on the parts of certain prophets (عليهم السلام) have been described in the Holy Quran as 'sins', and Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) has shown his displeasure too, although they are not 'sins' in their nature.
As for the error committed by Adam (عليه السلام) commentators have advanced several explanations:-
(a) A certain tree was pointed out to Adam (عليه السلام) as being forbidden. But it was not this particular tree alone that was intended, but all the trees of this kind. The hadeeth too relates a similar case. Holding a piece of silk and some gold in his hand, the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) said that those two things were forbidden to the men in his Ummah. Obviously the ban does not apply to these very pieces of silk and gold alone, but to silk and gold as such. But it is quite possible for someone to imagine that only the particular pieces which the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) held in his hand were forbidden. Similarly, Adam (عليه السلام) thought that the prohibition applied only to the particular tree which had been pointed out to him. Satan exploited this misunderstanding, and assured him on oath that, being a well-wisher, he could never advise him to do something which was wrong or harmful, and that the forbidden tree was quite different, and not the one from which he was asking him to pluck a fruit.
(b) Satan may have suggested to Adam (عليه السلام) that the prohibition was valid only upto a period after he had been created, just as infants are denied heavy food till they have grown up, and that since Adam (عليه السلام) had now grown stronger, the ban too had been lifted.
(c) It is equally possible that, when Satan told him that if he ate this fruit, the eternal bliss of Paradise would be guaranteed for him, Adam (عليه السلام) forgot the prohibition. This verse of the Holy Qur'an seems to give credence to such a possibility: "Adam forgot, and We did not find him steadfast." (20:115)
Anyhow, the essential point is that Adam (عليه السلام) did not deliberately and wilfully disobey Allah (سبحانه وتعالى); all that he did was an act of oversight or the kind of mistake which a Mujtahid can make. The error was not, properly speaking, a sin, but Adam (عليه السلام) being so close to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), and in view of his station of a prophet, even this lapse was regarded as very serious, and described as a 'sin' in the Holy Qur'an. But the Holy Qur'an tells us that when he repented and prayed for pardon, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) forgave him. [Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"Then Adam learnt certain words (to pray with) from his Lord; so, Allah accepted his repentance. No doubt He is the Most-Relenting, the Very-Merciful. We said, "Go down from here, all of you. Then, should some
guidance come to you from Me, those who follow My guidance shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve. As for those who disbelieve, and deny Our signs, they are the people of the Fire - they shall be there forever."[2: 37-39]
Adam's (عليه السلام) Prayer to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى)
The earlier verses have related how Adam +(عليه السلام ) came to commit an error through the seduction of Satan, and how he was commanded to leave Paradise and to go down to the earth. He had never experienced the displeasure of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) before, nor heard such words of reproach. He could not bear it, and in the tumult of remorse at once wanted to beg humbly for pardon. But he was also afraid that by being importunate he might draw on himself more displeasure. Then, being a prophet, he knew Divine Majesty as ordinary men cannot. So, the fear and the awe dumbfounded him, and he could not utter a word. But Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) knows what passes through men's hearts, and He is also the Most-Merciful and the Most-Generous. Seeing the agony of remorse in Adam (عليه السلام ), Allah accepted his repentance, and his grace taught him the words of a prayer so that he could beg for pardon. Thus pardon was granted to Adam (عليه السلام), but Divine wisdom had all the same its own plans in sending him down to the earth - for example, starting through his progeny a new species, man, to be placed between the angels and the jinns; submitting men to the injunctions of the Shari'ah by giving them the power of choice, however limited; instituting divine viceregency among them, and promulgating among them the prohibitions and the commandments of the Shari'ah, so that this new creature may be capable of making a spiritual progress and of attaining a station denied even to the angels. Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) had announced these purposes even before creating Adam (عليه السلام), when He said to the angels: ''I am going to create a deputy on the earth." (2:30)
Descension of Adam (عليه السلام) was not a punishment That is why the command for Adam (عليه السلام) to go down to the earth was not withdrawn even when he had been pardoned: only the mode was now altered. Earlier the command had been given in the mode of authority, and the sending down to the earth intended as a punishment: hence the reference to the enmity among men. Now, it was in the mode of wisdom, and the sending down to the earth, an honour - the honour of viceregency. -H ence the reference to things viceregency involves. In commanding Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwaa' (عليها السلام) and their progeny to live on the earth, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) told them that He would be sending down to men His guidance - that is, the injunctions of the Shari'ah - through revelation, and that those who follow it faithfully shall be free from sorrow and anxiety - in other words, they shall not have to grieve about any loss in the past, nor to worry about some misfortune in the future.
In speaking of how Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) taught Adam (عليه السلام) the words of a prayer so that he could offer his repentance properly, the Holy Qur'iin uses the word Talaqqa, which means 'accepting and welcoming a person or thing eagerly', and thus indicates his attitude in receiving the phrases. (See Kashshaf and Ruh al-Ma'ani)
As to what these phrases were, different things have been reported from different Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, but the generally accepted report is that of the blessed Companion Ibn 'Abbas (رضي الله عنهما), according to which these phrases are just the ones which the Holy Qur'an cites in a different place, "Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers." (7:23)
The Arabic word for repentance is tawbah which means 'a return'. So, tawbah is not merely an emotional attitude as the English word, 'repentance' seems to suggest. The word taubah is used with reference to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) as much to men. When the word taubah is employed in case of a man, it signifies a necessary combination of three things:
(a) Acknowledging one's sin as a sin, being ashamed of it and feeling remorseful.
(b) Giving up the sin altogether.
(c) Making up one's mind firmly never to indulge in it again.
If any one of these three elements is missing, the taubah is not genuine. Thus, it is not enough for one's salvation merely to utter the words of repentance, unless the words are supported by remorse for the sins committed in the past, abstinence from them in the present and determination of not giving way to them in the future. So much for the use of the word taubah with reference to man. In the present passage, the Holy Qur'an uses the word with reference to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), and the phrase concerned literally signifies 'Allah returned to Adam'. It means that Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) again turned to him with His mercy and grace, and accepted his taubah.
Injunctions and related considerations
(1) Asked as to what a man should do if he happens to have committed a sin, several great scholars and sufis have been saying that he should do exactly what his first parents, Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwaa' (عليها السلام) did - that is, he should be sincerely ashamed of his deed, make up his mind never to indulge in it again, and pray to Allah for His pardon as they had: "Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers." (7:23) The prayer of Musa (Moses) (عليه السلام) was of the same nature: "My Lord, I have wronged myself. Forgive me."(28:16) And when Yunus, (Jonah) (عليه السلام) made a mistake, he too prayed: "There is no God but You. Pure are you. I have certainly become one of the unjust." (21:87) (See Qurtubi)
(2) As we have seen in the previous verses, the Holy Qur'an attributes the error of judgment to Adam (عليه السلام) and Hawwa' (عليها السلام) both by using the verb azallahuma which indicates the dual number and thus means that Satan 'caused both of them to slip.' In recounting how Allah commanded them 'to go down' to the earth, the Holy Qur'an again uses the verb for the plural number, thus including Hawwa' (عليها السلام) in the command. On the contrary, in speaking of the taubah (repentance) of Adam (عليه السلام) and the acceptance of his taubah by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), verse 37 mentions him alone, and, employing the verb for the singular, leaves out Hawwa' (عليها السلام). Even in other places, the Holy Qur'an attributes the error to Adam (عليه السلام) alone - for example, 'Adam disobeyed his Lord.' (20:121)
A possible explanation for the omission of Hawwa' (عليها السلام) in such a context is that Allah wants woman to be kept hidden from prying eyes, and, in order to provide a cover for her, has not referred to her explicitly while speaking of sin and divine wrath. But when it comes to the question of taubah, the prayer which Allah taught to Adam (عليه السلام) employs a verb in the plural number - "Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves", and thus the Holy Qur'an leaves no room for the supposition that the error of Hawwa' (عليها السلام) was not pardoned, or that she did not offer repentance. Moreover, woman being inclusive to man in most situations, it was not necessary to mention her specifically every time the story was told. (Qurtubi)
(3) The Arabic word Taubah signifies much more than the English word 'repentance'; similarly, the words Ta'ib and Tawwab mean much more than simply 'one who repents.' Imam Al-Qurtubi (رحمه الله) says that the word Tawwab is used with reference to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) as well as to man.
For example, the Holy Qur'an applies the word to man in the phrase: "Surely Allah loves those who repent" (2:222) - and in al-tawwabin, 'those who return to Allah'; on the other hand, it speaks of Allah too as al-Tawwab: "He is the Most-Relenting, the Very-Merciful." (2:37)
So, with reference to man, the word signifies 'one who turns away from disobedience and sin, and returns to obedience', while with reference to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) it signifies 'one who accepts repentance, and turns to man with mercy and grace'. There is another word, Ta'ib which also means 'one who returns', but it is not permissible to use this word with reference to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى). For, in the case of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), only those nouns, adjectives and epithets are permissible which have been used in the Holy Qur'an and the hadith - all other words are disallowed, no matter what their lexical meanings are.
(4) Verse 37 shows that Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) alone has the authority to accept a man's repentance and to forgive his sins. By disregarding this principle, Jews and Christians fell into a great error, for they came to believe that if a priest or a saint forgave their sins,' Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) too did the same. Even some ignorant Muslims behave as if they too entertain such a belief. But all such notions are doctrinally false. No religious scholar or saint, 'Alim or murshid, has the authority to forgive sins; all he can do is to pray for the sinner, and seek Allah's (سبحانه وتعالى) pardon.
The Obedient Are Freed Of Worries (5) Verse 38 promises two great rewards to those who follow divine guidance - they will have no fear, and they will not grieve. Fear is the anxiety one feels in apprehending some trouble or pain in the future. Grief is the sorrow arising from the loss of something valuable or from one's failure in attaining a desired object. One can see that these two rewards comprehend all the possible forms of comfort and peace. Then, the text of the Holy Qur'an makes a subtle distinction between the two. In saying that those who follow divine guidance will have no fear, it speaks in general terms and uses a noun - the Arabic phras is to be translated literally as 'no fear upon them'.
But in the next phrase the Holy Qur'an employs a verb, placing before it a pronoun as the subject. The literal translation of the phrase is: 'they shall not grieve'. The implication here is that being totally free from all sense of loss is possible only to Men of Allah or the saints (*) who follow divine guidance in all its details; as for the others, no man whether an emperor or a billionaire, can help being grieved at the loss of a valued object or the frustration of a desire, all of which is but a necessary part of the scheme of things. The 'friends of Allah' do not have to grieve, because they annihilated their own desires and their very will in submitting themselves totally to the will of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى).
The Holy Qur'an also tells us that those who go to Paradise will thank Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) for having removed from them all regret and sorrow: "All praise belongs to Allah who has put away all sorrow from us." (35:34). It means that some degree of sorrow is inevitable for every human being except those who have perfected and made fast their relationship with Allah (سبحانه وتعالى).
Let us make it clear that the verse does negate all grief and sorrow in the case of the 'friends of Allah', but the negation applies only to the loss of worldly things and the frustration of worldly desires. As for the anxiety about the other world and the fear of Allah and the deep sense of awe before His Glory, the 'friends of Allah' are far ahead of other men in these. It has been reported that the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) often appeared to be worried and in deep thought - this was not for fear of any trouble or loss in the worldly sense, but on account of his anxiety for his Ummah, and of his awe before Divine Glory.
Nor does this verse imply that prophets and saints should not feel the instinctive and all too human fear when confronted by things which are generally known to inspire dread. The Holy Qur'an itself relates how the prophet Musa (Moses) (عليه السلام) was struck with fear when his stick turned into a dragon: "Musa felt a fear in himself." (20:67)
But it was only an instinctive and physical fear, and the incident anyhow belongs to the early days of his prophethood, for when Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) said: 'Do not be afraid', the fear disappeared altogether. We may explain the incident in another way also. His fear did not arise as it does in the case of ordinary men, from the apprehension of some harm or hurt from the dragon, but from the likelihood that the extraordinary event might lead the Israelites into misguidance. So, this fear was not worldly, but other-worldly.
* The word "Saints" is very weak and only an approximate translation of the Arabic phrase "Awliya-Allah", 'the friends of Allah' - a concept which has only a faint resemblance with the Christian idea of a 'saint'. Consequently, the term 'men of Allah' has been used most frequently throughout this commentary] [Ma'ariful Qur'an, Volume 1]
"O Children of 1sra9?1 (the Israelites), remember My blessing that I conferred upon you, and fulfil the covenant with Me, so I fulfil your covenant, and have awe of Me alone. And have faith in what I have revealed, confirming what is already with you, and do not be the first to deny it, nor take a paltry price for My signs. And fear Me alone. And do not confound truth with falsehood, and do not hide the truth when you know."[2: 40-42]
The Surah Al-Baqarah begins by speaking of the Holy Quran itself, and tells us that although it provides guidance to all men, yet only true Muslims will derive a full benefit from it. The Surah proceeds to warn the disbelievers against the grievous punishment which awaits them in the other world, and also to delineate the misdeeds of the two kinds of disbelievers - those who deny openly, and the hypocrites. Then, addressing all the three groups, it urges upon them to worship Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) alone, and, presenting the Holy Quran as a miracle which cannot be imitated by man, invites them to have faith in it. Next, the Surah recounts how Adam (عليه السلام) was created to be the viceregent of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), and thus shows the omnipotence and wisdom of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) so that men may realize why they must obey and worship Him and never be disobedient to Him.
Now, in the days of the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) there were two kinds of people among the disbelievers and the hypocrites. On the one hand were mushrikin, idolaters and associators who did not possess sny religious knowledge, were even otherwise mostly illiterate, and followed the customs of their forefathers - for example, the inhabitants of Makkah in general whom the Holy Qur'an calls the Ummiyyoon (the illiterate). On the other hand were those who believed in the earlier prophets, had a knowledge of the earlier Divine Books like the Torah and the Evangile, and were known as being well-educated. Some of them were the followers of Sayyidna Musa (Moses) (عليه السلام), but did not accept Sayyidna 'Isa (Jesus) (عليه السلام) as a prophet - these were the Yahood or the Jews. Others were the followers of Sayyidna 'Isa (عليه السلام), but did not believe that Sayyidna Musa (عليه السلام) was, being a prophet, divinely protected against all sin - these were the Nasara or the Christians. On account of their belief either in the Torah or the Evangile or in both, the Holy Qur'an calls these two groups Ahlul Kitab (the people of the Book). Being well-educated, they were respected and trusted by the people around them, and their opinion had a great deal of weight. If they came to the straight path, others too could be expected to follow their example.
The Jews predominated in Madinah and its environs. The Surah Al-Baqarah is also Madinite. So, after dealing with the idolaters and associators, it addresses the people of the Book in a special manner, from verse 40 to verse 123. Adopting a persuasive and friendly tone, the Surah refers to the noble family to which they belong and the honour which they receive from the people on account of such an affiliation; then, recounting the blessings which Allah has been showering on them, it asks them to be aware of their many misdeeds and their sins, and invites them to come to the Straight Path. All this has been said, to begin with, in a very brief manner - four verses inviting them to Islam, and three to good deeds. Then comes a long and detailed address to them, at the beginning of which, as also just before the end, occur the words, Yaa Bani Isra'il (O Children of Israel) - the repetition is, of course, the usual rhetorical device for making the speech persuasive.
Isra'il is a Hebrew word, signifying 'the servant of Allah'; it is also the second name of Sayyidng Ya'qoob (Jacob) (عليه السلام). Certain scholars have remarked that among the prophets (عليهم السلام) it is the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) alone who has several names, except for Sayyidna Ya'qoob (عليه السلام) has two names, Ya'qoob and Isra'il. The Holy Qur'an addresses the Jews here, not as the "Children of Ya'qoob", but as the "Children of Isra'il", so that the title may remind them that they are the children of the 'the servant of Allah', and hence they should follow the example of their father in worshipping Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) alone and in obeying Him.
In verse 40, Allah asks the Israelites to fulfil His covenant - that is to say, the one they had made with Allah (سبحانه وتعالى). According to Qatadah (رحمه الله) and Mujahid (رحمه الله), the following verse of the Holy Qur'an refers to this covenant which had been mentioned in Torah as well (For the Covenant, see Exodus XXXIV) (165):
"Allah made a covenant with the children of Isra'il, and We raised up from among them twelve chieftains. And Allah said, 'I am with you. Surely, if you perform the prayer, and pay the alms, and believe in My messengers and help them, and lend to Allah a good loan, I will forgive your evil deeds, and I will admit you to gardens underneath which rivers flow'." (5:12)
The covenant mentions acts like prayers and alms, but the most important clause is having faith in all the messengers of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) including the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم). Hence, according to the blessed Companion Ibn 'Abbas (رضي الله عنه), the covenant here signifies having faith in and obeying the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) (See Ibn Jarir)
As for Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) fulfilling their covenant, the verse we have just quoted (5:12) makes the meaning clear - Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) will forgive the sins of those who fulfil the terms of the covenant, and will admit them to Paradise.
Verse 41 makes it quite explicit that according to the covenant it is obligatory for the Israelites to have faith in the Holy Qur'an, for, after all, it has been sent down to confirm the essential teachings of the Torah. Now, the Israelite scholars were afraid that if they told the truth in this matter, they would be going against the public sentiment, and thus lose their adherents and income both. So, these three verses exhort them to speak the truth without fear, for Allah alone is worthy of being feared.*
[Note:* Let us add that what the Holy Qur'an confirms with regard to the Torah and the Evangile is the fact that they are the Books of Allah. As for the distortions which have from time to time been introduced into them, they are no part of the original texts, and hence the question of confirming such interpolated passages does not arise.]
Injunctions and related considerations
(1) Al-Qurtubi (رحمه الله) remarks in his Commentary that Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), in asking the Israelites to worship and obey Him, reminds them of the bounties and blessings He has showered on them, but in the case of the followers of the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم), He asks them to do so without mentioning His bounties: "Remember Me, I will remember you." (2:152)
This is a subtle suggestion which brings out the superiority of this Ummah over the others - the Islamic Ummah has a direct relationship with Allah, for it begins by recognizing the Benefactor, and through this knowledge recognizes His bounties; other peoples, on the contrary, begin by recognizing the bounties, and proceed through this medium to a knowledge of the Benefactor.
(2) Verse 40 shows that it is obligatory to fulfil the agreement one has entered into, and it is forbidden to break one's promise. The injunction has been stated explicitly in another verse: "Fulfil your agreements." (5:1)
According to a hadith reported by Muslim (رحمه الله), those who break their promises would, before being finally punished in the other world, be humiliated before the whole human race when it assembles together on the Day of Judgment, for a flag would be placed as a stigma beside everyone who has committed this sin, and the bigger the crime, the higher would the flag be.
(3) Verse 41 asks the Israelites not to be the first to deny the Holy Qur'an, although being a disbeliever is in itself the ultimate sin, whether one be the first or the last. The verse, in fact, suggests that the man who is the first to deny and disbelieve will not only incur the sin of his own denial but also bear the additional burden of the sin of misleading all those who follow his example; and will thus have to undergo a multiple punishment.
It follows from here that the man who is in any way responsible for others falling into any kind of sin will have to bear the burden of this sin along with the sinners; similarly, the man who in some way helps others to do a good deed will receive a reward for it along with them. Several verses of the Holy Qur'an and the ahadlth of the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) repeatedly stress this point.
(4) Verse 41 warns the Israelites against taking a paltry price for His signs or verses (the Arabic word, 'Ayaat has both the meanings). The context makes it clear that it is forbidden to take money from people by misinterpreting or concealing the verses of the Book of Allah in order to please them or to serve their worldly interests. There is an absolute consensus of the Ummah on this point.
(5) As for the question of taking a wage for teaching the verses of the Holy Qur'an or for reporting them correctly, verse 41 is not concerned with the matter. But it is an important question in itself whether it is permissible to accept wages for teaching the Holy Qur'an. There is a divergence of views among the Fuqahh' (jurists) in this matter.
Imam Malik (رحمه الله), Imam al-Shafi'ee (رحمه الله), and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (رحمه الله), consider such wages to be permissible, while the great Imam Abu Hanifa (رحمه الله) and some other jurists hold them to be impermissible, for the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) has forbidden the use of the Holy Qur'an as a means of livelihood. But there has been a radical change in the circumstances since then. Formerly, those who taught the Holy Qur'an used to receive a subsistence allowance from the Baytul-Mal, or the public exchequer of the Islamic state. But since Islamic society fell into a disorder*, they lost their financial support. The teaching of the Holy Qur'an to children being a full-time job, the teachers could not turn to difficult professions without interrupting this essential chain of transmitting the Word of Allah from generation to generation. In view of this situation, the jurists of the Hanafi school declared it permissible to accept wages for teaching the Holy Qur'an. According to Hidayah, the famous book of ~ a n a fcio de, this should be the rule (fatwa) these days. Later jurists have extended the permission to similar duties like leading Salah (Imamah), calling for prayers (Adhan), teaching the hadeeth and the Fiqh, etc., for they are related to the teaching of the Holy Qur'an, and the survival of Islam equally depends on them. (See al-Durr al-Mukhtar, al-Shami)
(6) The famous Hanafi scholar Shami (رحمه الله) has, in his commentary on "al-Durr al- Mukhtar" and in his own book "Shifal-'Alil", explained in great detail and with convincing arguments that the later jurists have allowed the acceptance of wages for the teaching of the Holy Qur'an etc. only in view of an essential religious need which must be fulfilled, or the whole Islamic order would be disturbed; hence the permission should be limited only to such essential needs. It logically follows from this principle that paying or receiving wages for the recitation of the Holy Qur'an for transmitting the reward to the dead or in the interest of some worldly purpose is forbidden, for it fulfils no essential religious need. Thus, the man who recites the Holy Qur'an for wages in this manner and the man who pays him for it both commit a sin. When there is no merit earned in such a recitation, how can it be transferred to the dead? Al-Shami (رحمه الله) refers to many authoritative works like "Taj al-Shari'ah", 'Ayni's commentary on Hidayah, the marginal notes by Khayr al-Din al-Ramali on Al-Buhr al-Ra'iq, etc., and specially cites Al-Ramali to the effect that practices like paying for the recitation of the Holy Qur'an beside the grave of a dead man or elsewhere in order to transmit the reward to him, have never been reported from the blessed Companions or their immediate successors or from other great scholars of the early centuries of Islam, and are hence an innovation (Bid'ah) in religion.
(7) Verse 42 explicitly shows that it is not permissible to mix truth and falsehood together in such a way that the addressee falls into a confusion as to what the truth is, and that it is forbidden to conceal the truth because of fear or greed.
Imam al-Qurtubi (رحمه الله) has, in his commentary, related a very illuminating story in this context - a story which has come down to us through a chain of reliable reporters, and has been taken from the "Musnad" of Darimi (رحمه الله).
During one of his visits to the Holy town of Madinah, the Ummayyid Caliph Sulayman ibn 'Abd al-Malik wanted to meet someone who had lived with a Companion of the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم), if such a man was still alive. On being informed that Abu Hazim was the only man of this kind left in the town, he sent for him . The Caliph said to him, "Abu Hazim, why have you shown such discourtesy and disloyalty?"
"How have I been discourteous or disloyal to you?"
"Everybody who is anybody in Madinah has come to see me, but you haven't", complained the Caliph.
"O chief of the Muslims, may Allah protect you against saying something which is not true to the fact", replied Abu Hazim "You have not been familiar with my name before today, nor have I ever seen you. Things being what they are, how could I come to meet you? Is it disloyaity or discourtesy?"
The Caliph looked around questioningly. Imam Zuhri spoke up: "Abu Hazim is right, and you are wrong."
Changing the subject, the Caliph asked: "Abu Hazim, how is it that I don't like to die?"
"The reason is simple," Abu Hazim said "You have made your world flourish, and turned your habitation in the other world into a desert. Naturally, you don't like to leave a flourishing city for a desert."
The Caliph admitted that it was true, and came out with another question: "What would it be like when we have to appear before Allah tomorrow?"
Said Abu Hazim, "The man who has been doing good deeds will present himself before Allah like the man who returns from a travel to his loved ones, while the man who has been doing evil deeds will appear like the slave who had run away and has now been brought back to his master."
The Caliph burst into tears, and said with a sigh, "I wish we could know how Allah would deal with us."
Abii Hazim replied, "Assess your deeds in the light of the Book of Allah, and you will know."
"Which verse of the Holy Qur'an can help us to do so?"
"Here is the verse: "Surely the righteous shall be in bliss, and the transgresgors shall be in a fiery furnace." (82:13-14)
The Caliph remarked: "Allah's mercy is great; it can cover even the wrong doers."
Abu Hazim recited another verse: "Surely the Mercy of Allah is close to those who do deeds." (7:56)
The Caliph advanced another question: "Tell me, Abu Hazim, who is the most honorable among the servants of Allah?"
"Those who are mindful of their fellow-human beings, and possess the right kind of understanding to know the truth."
"Which is best among good deeds?"
"Fulfilling the obligations laid down by Allah, and keeping away from what He has forbidden."
"Which is the prayer that is likely to be accepted by Allah?"
"The prayer of a man for him who has done him some good."
"Which is the best form of charity?"
"Giving as much as one can, in spite of one's own need, to a man in misery without trying to make him feel grateful and without causing him pain by trying to put him off."
"Which is the best form of speech?"
"Speaking the truth plainly and unresercedly before the man who can harm you in some way or from whom you expect a favour."
"What kind of man is the wisest among the Muslims?"
"He whose actions are governed by obedience to Allah, and who invites others as well to it."
"What kind of man is the most stupid?"
"He who helps another man in committing some injustice, which comes to mean that he has been selling off his faith for serving the worldly interests of that man."
The Caliph agreed with all this, and then asked him pointedly, "What do you think of me?" Abu Hazim wanted to be excused from replying to such a question, but the Caliph insisted that he should say a word of advice.
Abu Hazim said: "O chief of the Muslims, your forefathers established their rule over the people with the help of the sword and against their will, after killing hundreds of men. Having done all this, they departed from the world. I wish you could know what they themselves are saying after their death and what people are saying about them."
Fearing that the Caliph would be displeased by such plain talk, one of his courtiers rebuked Abu Hazim for having spoken so rudely. He replied: "No, you are wrong. I have not said anything rude but only what Allah has commanded us to say. For Allah has enjoined upon the 'ulama' to speak the truth before the people and not to conceal it."
And he recited this verse of the Holy Qur'an: "You shall make it clear to the people and not conceal it." (3:187)
The Caliph asked, "Alright how can we reform ourselves now?" Abu Hazim said, "Give up your pride, acquire a spirit of fellowfeeling for the people, and give them justly what is due to them."
"Abu Hazim, is it possible that you come to live with us?"
"May Allah protect me from it!"
"Because I am afraid that if I live with you, I might begin to like your wealth and your grandeur, and have to suffer a grievous punishment for it in the other world."
"Well, is there anything you need? What can we do for you?"
"Yes, I have a need. Please help me to save myself from Hell and to enter Paradise."
"This is not in my power."
"Then, there is nothing you can do for me."
The Caliph asked him to pray for him. Abu Hazim made this prayer: "O Allah, if you approve of Sulayman, make the well-being of this world and the next easily accessible to him; but if he is your enemy, drag him by the hair towards the deeds you approve of."
The Caliph then asked him for some special advice. Abi Hazim said: "I shall make it short. You should have the fear of your Lord and reverence for Him to the degree that He never finds you present at the place He has forbidden, and never finds you absent from the place where He has commanded you to be."
Later on, the Caliph sent one hundred gold dinars to him as a present. Abu Hazim sent the money back with a letter, saying: "If these dinars are the wages for my words, then blood and pork are, in my eyes, cleaner than this money. If you believe that this money is my due from the public exchequer, then there are hundreds of 'Ulamaa' and servants of Islam. If you have sent the same amount to each one of them, I can accept the money, otherwise I do not need it." Abu Hazim's refusal to accept the wages for giving advice clearly shows that taking wages for an act of worship or obedience to Allah is not permissible.
*[Note: Through the onslaught of Western imperialism and other factors]
"And be steadfast in Salah (prayer), and pay Zakah, and bow down with those who bow. Do you bid others to righteousness while you ignore your ownselves, although you keep reciting the Book? Have you then no sense? And seek help through patience and prayer. And it is indeed exacting, but not for the humble in heart who bear in mind that they are to meet their Lord, and that to Him they are to return." (2: 43-46)
In the last three verses and these four, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) reminds the Israelites of the blessings He has bestowed upon them, and invites them to Islam and to good deeds. The earlier three verses were concerned with the true faith and doctrines; the present verses speak of good deeds, mentioning only the most important of them. It was usually the love of money and power that made it difficult for the Jews, specially for their scholars, to accept Islam. The verses prescribe the remedy for the twin diseases - they should fortify themselves with Sabr (patience) and Salah (prayer).
"Patience" is a very weak translation of the Arabic word Sabr, which has three connotations: (a) bearing pain and misfortune patiently (b) restraining oneself from sin (c) being steadfast in obeying Allah (سبحانه وتعالى).
Now, patience, in this wide sense, is the perfect remedy for the love of money. For, money cannot be an end in itself, but is sought only as a means of satisfying one's appetites; when a man has made a firm resolve not to follow his appetites like a slave, he will no longer need much money, nor will the love of money blind him to the distinction between his gain and loss. Similarly, Salah is the remedy for ambition and the love of power. For, outwardly and inwardly both, Saliih involves the exercise of humility; naturally, the more one tries to perform it in the proper manner, the more it purifies him of the love of money and power, and of ambition and pride. These being the real substance of all spiritual disorder in man, once they are brought under control, it becomes easy for one to accept Islam and to be steadfast in one's faith.
Let us add that while patience (Sabr) requires only the restraining or giving up of excessive appetites and unnecessary desires, Salah (prayer), in addition to all this, further requires the performance of certain actions, and also a temporary renunciation of perfectly lawful desires and of many human needs which the Shari'ah allows one to fulfil, e.g., eating, drinking, speaking, walking etc. - and, at that, making such a renunciation five times during the day and the night regularly at fixed hours. Thus, Salah means performing certain prescribed actions and restraining oneself from all lawful or unlawful activities at fixed hours.
Once a man has decided to give up unnecessary desires, the instinctive urge itself loses its intensity in a few days. So, the exercise of patience is not, after all, so difficult. But offering Salah entails submitting oneself to the conditions laid down by the Shari'ah, observing the fixed hours, and giving up the basic human activities and desires, all of which is quite exacting for the instinctive disposition of man. So, one may very well raise an objection here: for the purpose of making it easy for a man to accept Islam and to be steadfast in his faith, the Holy Qur'an prescribes Sabr and Salah, but to use this remedy is in itself a difficult thing, specially the Salah and its restriction - now, how can this difficulty be overcome? The Holy Qur'an admits that performing Salah regularly and steadfastly is, no doubt, exacting, and proceeds to show the way out of this impasse - Salah is not a burden to the humble in heart.
To know the effectiveness of the remedy, we must know the disease, and find out why Salah should be so burdensome. The human heart loves to roam about freely in the vast spaces of thought and fancy; all the organs of the human body being subservient to the heart, it requires them to be equally free. On the other hand, Salah demands the renunciation of such freedom, - and prohibits eating, drinking, walking, talking etc. - a restriction which annoys the heart and is also painful for the human organs governed by it.
In short, Salah is burdenso~lleb ecause the heart enjoys to keep the faculties of thought and imagination in a continuous motion. Motion being the disease, it can only be remedied by its opposite - restfulness. Hence, the Holy Qur'an prescribes Khushoo' a word which we have rendered into English by the phrase "humbleness in heart", but which actually signifies "the restfulness of the heart."
Now, the question arises as to how one can acquire this "restfulness of the heart." Everyone knows through his own experience that, if one deliberately tries to empty one's heart of all kinds of thoughts and fancies, the effort rarely succeeds.
The only way to achieve it is that since the human mind cannot move in two directions simultaneously, one should make it absorb itself in one thought alone so that all other thoughts may disappear by themselves without any effort on one's part. So, having prescribed "the restfulness of the heart", the Holy Qur'in also prescribes a particular thought which will, if one absorbs oneself in it, drive away all other thoughts: once the movement of thought and fancy has been reduced to the restfulness of the heart, the performance of Salah becomes easy; regularity in offering the ordained prayers gradually cures the disease of pride and
ambition, and thus the way to the perfecting of one's faith grows smooth. Such is the well-ordered and beautifully integrated art of spiritual medicine that the Holy Qur'an has given us! *
[*Note: As against this stand the fanciful systems of thought - concentration, wearing a pseudo-mystical look and some-times an Eastern make-up but all spawned in the Angst-ridden West - things like Yoga and Transcendental Meditation, which serve only to derange an already disordered psyche.]
Now, the thought in which one should immerse oneself in order to acquire "the restfulness of the heart" has been explained by the Holy Qur'an in describing "the humble in heart" - they are the people who bear in mind that they are to meet their Lord, when they shall receive the reward for their obedience, and also bear in mind that they are to return to Him, when they shall be required to present an account of their deeds. These twin thoughts produce hope and fear in the heart,
and hope and fear are the best agents for inducing a man to devote himself to good deeds.
The prayer which the Holy Qur'an prescribes is not a mere contemplation or meditation. Al-Salah, in the terminology of Shari'ah, is a definite form of 'Ibadah or worship, the mode of which is divinely ordained. As often as the Holy Qur'an insists on the performance of the Salah, it employs the word Iqamah, except in one or two instances. Lexically, the word means "making a thing straight, or keeping it firmly in its place." A tree or a wall or anything which is vertical and straight, usually lasts long in its place; so, the word also signifies "establishing a thing or making it perpetual." Thus, the conjunction of the two words, Salah and Iqamah, in the Holy Qur'an and the hadith signifies, not merely offering the prayer, but performing the five ordained prayers steadfastly in the prescribed form at the prescribed hours and fulfilling all the necessary conditions. The Holy Quran and the Hadith speak of the great rewards and blessings one can hope to receive for offering Salah, and of other benefits which flow from it, but all of them are tied up with Iqamah in the sense which we have just explained.
For example, the Holy Qur'an says: "The Salah restrains one from indecency and evil." (29:46) The prescibed prayer will bear these fruits only when one has been performing it in the full sense of Iqiimah. It follows from it that if one finds people who are quite regular in offering their prayers indulging in immodest or even evil activities, one should not have misgivings about the veracity of this verse, for these people have, no doubt, been praying, but not been observing the conditions of Iqamah.
Verse 43 also speaks of paying Zakah, the prescribed alms. Now, lexically speaking, the Arabic word Zakah has two significations: (a) to purify (b) grow. Zakah is not a tax levied by the State or society, but, in the terminology of the Shari'ah, means that portion of one's belongings which is set apart and spent in total accord with the injunctions of the Shari'ah.
This verse is addressed to the Israelites, and does not by itself show that offering prayers and paying alms was obligatory for them before the days of Islam. But the following verse: "Allah made a covenant with the Israelites and raised among them twelve chieftains. And Allah said, 'I am with you. Surely, if you perform Salah and pay Zakah." (5:12) does show that the two things were obligatory for them, even if the external modes might have been different.
The verse proceeds to say: "Bow down with those who bow (in worship)." Lexically, the Arabic word Ruku' means "to bow down", and may hence be applied even to prostrating oneself (Sajdah), which is the ultimate form of bowing down. But in the terminology of the Shari'ah it pertains to the particular form of bowing down which has been prescribed for Salah.
One may well ask why this particular gesture has been chosen for a special mention from among the different gestures involved in the salah. We would reply that it is a metonymy for Salah, and a part has been made to stand for the whole - just as in verse 17:78: "the recitation of the Quran in the morning" refers to the morning prayers, and on several occasions in some Hadith narrations the use of the word Sajdah (prostration) covers one set of movements (Rak'ah) in Salah or even to the whole of it. Thus, the verse actually means: "Offer Salah along with those who offer Salah."
Salah with Jama'ah (Congregation)
Then, there is a more comprehensive explanation for the specific reference to "bowing down" (Ruku'). The form of the ritual prayers ordained for the Israelites and others included prostrating oneself (Sajdah), but not bowing down. This particular way of bowing down called Ruku' is peculiar to the Islamic SalGh alone. Hence, Raki'een or those who bow down (in worship) are, obviously enough, the members of the Islamic Ummah, and the verse, in effect, asks the Israelites to accept Islam, and to offer their prayers along with the Muslims. The command, "Be steadfast in Salah", shows that Salah is obligatory. The other command, "Bow down with those who bow (in worship)", establishes that Salah is to be offered in the company of other Muslims (Jama'ah).
A very important question arises here - what is the degree of the obligation intended in this injunction? There is a difference of views among the Fuqaha' (jurists) on this point. According to a large body of blessed Companions (رضي الله عنهم أجمعين), their successors and of the jurists of the ummah (rahmatullahu alaihim), it is necessary (Waajib) to offer Salah in a congregation, and it is a sin to give up the Jama'ah. Some of the blessed Companions (رضي الله عنهم أجمعين) have gone to the length of holding that it is not permissible to offer Salah all by oneself without a proper excuse allowed by the Shari'ah. Verse 43, in its literal connotation, provides an argument in favour of this view. Moreover, certain hadith narrations too seem to suggest that the Jama'ah is necessary (Wajib). For example, a hadith reported by Abu Dawud (رحمه الله) says that for a man living near a mosque Salah is permissible only in the mosque.
According to another hadith reported from the blessed Companion Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) by Imam Muslim (رحمه الله), a Companion who was blind asked the Holy Prophet &for the permission to offer Salah in his house, for there was no one to take him to the mosque and to bring him back. The Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) allowed him to do so, but, as he was leaving, asked him if he could hear the call for the prayers in his house. He said that he could. The Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) remarked: "In that case, you must come to the mosque." Another narration of the same hadith as reported by Abu Dawood (رحمه الله) adds that the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) said: "Then, I see no room for making a concession in your case." Similarly, al-Qurtubi (رحمه الله) cites a hadeeth from the blessed Companion Ibn 'Abbas (رضي الله عنهما) who reports that the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) once said: "The man who hears the call for the prayers but does not go to the mosque for the Jama'ah, has not offered his prayers at all, except that he should have some valid excuse." On the basis of such ahadith, Companions like 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ood and Abu Musa al-Ash'ari (رضي الله عنهما) have ruled that if a man lives close enough to a mosque to hear the call for prayers and yet does not attend the Jama'ah without a valid excuse, his offering of the Salah at home is not acceptable. (Let us explain that hearing the call refers to the call made by a man possessing an average voice, and not to that made by a man with an extraordinarily loud voice or broadcast by a loudspeaker). Presented this far were arguments advanced by our revered elders who consider that Salah with Jama'ah is wajib or necessary.
On the other hand, the majority of the blessed Companions (رضي الله عنهم أجمعين), their successors and later jurists (rahmatullahi alaihim) hold that the Jama'ah is a Sunnah which has been particularly emphasized (Mu'akkadah), and that among the Sunnah of this kind it is, like the Sunnah offered in Fajr Salah, the most emphasized so as to come very close to being necessary. On the basis of certain other verses and hadeeth narrations, they interpret the imperative in "bow down with those who bow" as intended for emphasis only. As for the ahadith which appear to be saying that it is just not permissible for those who live near a mosque to offer their salah at home, they say that these only mean that this is not the perfect way to offer the prayers.
The most comprehensive explanation of the matter has been provided by the blessed Companion 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud (رضي الله عنه), as reported by Imam Muslim (رحمه الله): "The man who wishes to meet Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) tomorrow (i.e. the Day of Judgment) as a true Muslim, should offer these (five) prayers regularly and steadfastly in a place where the call for the prayers is habitually made (i.e. a mosque), for Allah has laid down for your Prophet certain ways of good guidance (Sunnan al-Huda), and offering the five prescribed prayers with the Jama'ah is one of them. If you offer these prayers at home," he added pointing towards a man, "as he does, keeping away from the Jama'ah, you will have forsaken the Sunnah of your Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم), and if you forsake the Sunnah of your Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم), you will go astray. The man who (performs the wudu' or ablution and cleanses himself in the proper manner, and then) goes to a mosque, for every step that he takes, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) forgives one of his sins, adds one good deed to his account and promotes him one rank higher. Our company was such that there was not a single man, except for people known for their hypocrisy who would offer their prayers at home away from the Jama'ah, so much so that even when a man has ill or unable to walk, he was brought to the mosque with his hands resting on the shoulders of two men, and made to stand in the row of those who were praying."
This statement fully brings out the great importance of the Jama'ah, but at the same time defines its exact position by including it among the "ways of good guidance" (Sunan al-Huda) which are, in the terminology of the Fuqaha' (jurists), called Al-Sunan al-Mu'akkadah (the Sunnah on which the greatest emphasis has been placed). Thus, if a man does not go to the mosque for Jama'ah and offers Salah at home without having proper excuse like illness, his prayers will be valid, but he will have earned the displeasure of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) for having given up a Sunnah which comes under the category of Mu'akkadah. If neglecting the Jama'ah becomes habitual for him, he will be committing a grave sin. If all the people living in the vicinity of a mosque leave it deserted and offer their prayers at home, they become, in the eyes of the Shari'ah, liable to punishment. Qadi 'Iyad (رحمه الله) says that if persuasion fails to mend such people, they must be challenged by a show of force. (Qurtubi)
An Admonition To Preachers Without Practice
Verse 44 addresses the religious scholars of the Jews, and reprimands them for a strange contradiction in their behaviour - they used to advise their friends and relatives to follow the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) and to be steadfast in their Islamic faith, which shows that they regarded Islam as the true faith, but, being enslaved to their desires, were not prepared to accept this faith themselves, although they were regular readers of the Torah and knew how emphatically it denounces the scholar who does not act upon his knowledge. Though externally addressed to the Jewish scholars, the verse, in a larger sense, condemns all those who preach good deeds to others but do not act upon this principle, who ask others to have fear of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) but show no such fear in their own behaviour.
The Hadeeth speaks in detail of the dreadful punishments these men will have to bear in the other world. The blessed Companion Anas reports that on the Night of the Ascension the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) passed by some people whose lips and tongues were being cut with scissors made of fire; on being questioned as to who they were, the Archangel Jibra'eel (Gabriel) (عليه السلام) explained that they were certain avaricious preachers of the Holy Prophet's (صلي الله عليه وسلم) Ummah who bade others to good deeds but ignored themselves. (Ibn Kathir) According to a hadith reported by Ibn 'Asakir (رحمه الله), certain people living in Paradise will find some of their acquaintances in the fire of hell, and ask them, "How is it that you find yourselves in hell, while we have attained Paradise just on account of the good deeds we had learnt from you?"; those in hell will reply: "We used to say all that with our tongues, but never acted upon what we said." (Ibn Kathir)
All this should not be taken to mean that it is not permissible for a man who has himself been slack in good-deeds, or is in some way a transgressor, to give good counsel or preach to others, nor that a man who has been indulging in a certain sin may not try to dissuade others from committing that sin. For, doing a good deed is one form of virtue, and persuading others to do this good deed is another form of virtue in its own right. Obviously, if one has given up one form of virtue it does not necessarily follow that he should give up the other form as-well.
For example, if a man does not offer his prescribed Salah, it is not necessary for him to give up fasting too. Similarly, if a man does not offer his prayers, it does not argue that he should not be allowed to ask others to offer their prayers. In the same way, doing something prohibited by the Shari'ah is one kind of sin, and not to dissuade those whom he can influence from this misdeed is another kind, and committing one kind of sin does not necessarily entail committing the
other sin as well. (Ruh al-Ma'ani)
Imam Malik (رحمه الله) has cited Sa'id ibn Jubayr (رحمه الله) as saying that if everyone
decides to refrain from persuading others to good deeds and dissuading them from evil deeds on the assumption that he himself is a sinner and can have no right to preach to others until and unless he has purged himself of all sins, there would be no one left to give good counsel to people, for who can be totally free of sins? According to Hasan of Basra (رحمه الله), this is exactly what Satan wants that, obsessed by this false notion of purity, people should neglect their obligation to
provide religious instruction and good counsel to others. (Qurtubi) Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanavi (رحمه الله) used to say that when he became aware of a certain bad habit in himself, he would expressly denounce this particular tendency in his sermons so that the barakah (blessing) of the sermon should help him to get rid of it.
In short, verse 44 does not imply that the man who has been indifferent to good deeds in his own life is not allowed to preach or to give good counsel, but that the man who preaches should not neglect good deeds in his own life. Now, a new question arises here - it is not permissible for a preacher and non-preacher alike to neglect good deeds, then why should the preacher alone be specifically discussed in this context? We would reply that such negligence is, no doubt, impermissible for both, but the crime of the preacher is more serious and reprehensible than that of the non-preacher, for the former commits a crime knowing that it is crime, and cannot plead ignorance as an excuse. On the contrary, the non-preacher, specially if he is illiterate, may be committing the sin of not trying to acquire knowledge, but, as far as the transgression of the Shari'ah is concerned, he can, to a certain degree plead ignorance of the law as his excuse. Moreover, if a scholar or a preacher commits a sin, he is actually mocking at the Shari'ah. The blessed Companion Anas (رضي الله عنه) reports from the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) that on the Day of Judgment, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) will forgive illiterate and ignorant people much more readily than He will the scholars.
Khushoo': The Humbleness of Heart
Verse 45 speaks of the humble in heart. The "humbleness of heart" (Khushoo'), which the Holy Qur'an and the Hadith speak of, connotes a restfulness of heart and humility arising out of the awareness of Allah's (سبحانه وتعالى) majesty and of one's own insignificance in comparison to it.
This quality, once acquired, shows its spiritual fruitfulness in making the obedience to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) and submission to Him easy and pleasant for one; sometimes it reflects itself even in the bodily posture and appearance of the man who has acquired it, for such a man always behaves in a disciplined and polite manner, is modest and humble, and seems to be "broken-hearted", that is to say, one who has lost all vanity and self-love. If a man does not bear genuine humility and fear of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) in his heart, he does not, with all his external modesty and downcast looks, really possess the quality of Khushu' (humbleness of heart). In fact, it is not proper even to show the signs of Khushu' in one's behavior deliberately. On seeing a young man sitting with his head bowed down, the rightly-guided Khalifa Sayyidna 'Umar (رضي الله عنه) said: "Raise your head! Humbleness of heart is in the heart."
Ibraheem Nakha'i (رحمه الله) has said: "Humbleness of heart does not mean wearing rough clothes, eating coarse food and keeping the head bowed down. Humbleness of heart is to treat the high and the low alike in matters of truth, and to keep the heart free to devote itself entirely to Allah and to the performance of what Allah has made obligatory for you."
Similarly, Hasan of Basra (رحمه الله) has said: "The Caliph 'Umar would speak loudly enough to be heard, whenever he spoke, would walk swiftly, whenever he walked, and would strike forcefully, whenever he struck a man. All the same, he undoubtedly was a man with a real humbleness of heart." In short, wearing deliberately and by one's own choice, the looks of a man who possesses the humbleness of heart is a kind of self-delusion and a ruse of Satan, and hence reprehensible. But if a man happens to manifest such signs without knowing it, he can be excused. (Qurtubi)
Let us add that there is another word - Khudoo' - which is often used along with Khushoo', and which appears several times in the Holy Qur'an as well. The two words are almost synonymous. But the word Khushu', according to its lexical root, refers to the lcwering of the voice and of the glance when it is not artificial but arises out of a real modesty and fear of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) - for example, the Holy Qur'an says: "Voices have been hushed" (20:108). On the other hand, the word "Khudu'" refers to the bodily posture which shows modesty and humility - for example, the Holy Qur'an says: "So their necks will stay humbled to it." (26:4) We must also define as to what, in the eyes of the Shari'ah, the exact position and value of Khushu' is with regard to Salah (prayer). The Holy Qur'an and the Hadith repeatedly stress its importance as in: "And perform the prayer for the sake of My remembrance." (20:14) Obviously, forgetfulness is the opposite of remembrance, and hence the man who becomes unmindful of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) while offering Salah, is not fulfilling the obligation of remembering Allah (سبحانه وتعالى). Another verse says: "Do not be among the unmindful." (7:205)
Similarly, the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) has said: "The Salah simply means self-abasement and humility." Says another hadith: "If his prayers do not restrain a man from immodesty and evil, he goes farther and farther away from Allah." Salah offered unmindfully does not obviously restrain man from evil deeds, and consequently such a man goes farther and farther away from Allah (سبحانه وتعالى).
Having quoted these verses and ahadith in support of other arguments in his Ihya' al-'Uloom, Imam al-Ghazali (رحمه الله) suggests that Khushu' must then be a necessary condition for Salah, and that its acceptability must depend on it. He adds that, according to the blessed Companion, Mu'adh ibn Jabal (رضي الله عنه) and jurists as great as Sufyan al-Thawri (رحمه الله) and Hasan al-Basri (رحمه الله), Salah offered without Khushu' is not valid.
On the other hand, the four great Imams of Islamic jurisprudence and most of the jurists (rahmatullahi alaihim) do not hold Khushu' to be a necessary condition for Salah. In spite of considering it to be the very essence of Salah, they say that the only condition necessary in this respect is that while saying Allahu Akbar at the beginning of the prayers one should turn with all one's heart to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), and have the intention (niyyah) of offering the prayers only for the sake of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى); if one does not attain Khushu' in the rest of the prayer, one will not get any reward for that part of the prayers, but, from the point of view of Fiqh (jurisprudence), one will not be charged with having forsaken Salah, nor will one be liable to the punishment which is meted out to those who give up prescribed prayers without a valid excuse.
Imam al-Ghazali (رحمه الله) has provided an explanation for this divergence of view. The Fuqaha' (jurists), he points out, are not concerned with inner qualities and states of the heart (Ahwal), but only enunciate the exoteric regulations of the Shari'ah on the basis of the external actions of men's physical organs - it does not lie within the jurisdiction of Fiqh to decide whether one will get a reward for a certain deed in the other world or not. Khushu' being an inner state, they have not prescribed it as a necessary condition for the total duration of Salah, but have made the validity of the prayers depend on the lowest degree of Khushu' - turning, as one begins the prayers, with one's heart to Allah and having the intention of only worshipping Him.
There is another explanation for not making Khushu' a necessary condition for the total duration of the prayers. In certain other verses, the Holy Qur'an has clearly enunciated the principle which governs legislation in religious matters: nothing is made obligatory for men that should be beyond their endurance and power. Now, except for a few gifted individuals, men in general are incapable of maintaining Khushu' for the total duration of the prayers; so, in order to avoid compelling men to a task they cannot accomplish, the Fuqaha' have made Khushu' a necessary condition only for the beginning of the prayers, and not for the whole duration.
In concluding the discussion, Imam al-Ghazali (رحمه الله) remarks that in spite of the great importance of Khushu' one can depend on the infinite mercy of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), and hope that the man who offers his prayers unmindful will not be counted among those who give up the prayers altogether, for he has tried to fulfil the obligation, has turned his heart away from everything to concentrate his attention on Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) even for a few moments, and has been mindful of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) alone at least while forming his intention for the prayers. Offering one's prayers in this half-hearted manner has, to say the least, the merit of keeping one's name excluded from the list of those who habitually disobey Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) and forsake the prescribed prayers altogether.
In short, this is a matter in which hope and fear both are involved - there is the fear of having incurred punishment as well as the hope of being ultimately forgiven. So, one should try one's best to get rid of one's laziness and indifference. But it is the mercy of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) alone which can help one to succeed in this effort. [Ma'ariful Qur'an, Volume 1]
"O Children of Isra'il (the Israelites), remember My blessing that I conferred upon you, and that I gave you excellence over the worlds. And guard yourselves against a day when no one shall stand for anyone for anything, nor shall intercession be accepted on one's behalf, nor shall ransom be taken from one and neither shall they be given support."(2: 47-48)
Verse 47 asks the Israelites to call to their minds the blessing of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), so that the recognition of the benefits they have received may induce them to be thankful to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) and thus to obey Him. The verse is addressed to the Jews contemporaneous with the Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم), while the blessing had been received by their forefathers. The point is that when a man receives a special favour, his children and grand children too usually partake of the benefits flowing from it; in this sense, the Jews who are being addressed may be said to have received the blessing themselves.
As for Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) giving preference to the Israelites "over the worlds", the phrase means that they were given preference only in certain matters, or only over a large part of men - for example, over the contemporaries of the earlier Israelites.
The day referred to in verse 48 is the Day of Judgment. As for no one being able to suffice another on that day, the phrase should be understood in the sense of one man paying the dues on behalf of another man. Let us, for example, suppose that a man is found wanting in the performance of obligatory acts of worship like Salah (prayer) and Sawm (fasting), and another man should suggest that his own prayers and fasts may be transferred to the account of the former in order to make up the deficiency. Such a transaction shall not be possible on that day. Ransom, of course, means the money paid for securing the release of a criminal - this too shall be out of the question.
As for intercession (shafa'ah) not being accepted, the phrase does not totally deny the possibility of intercession on the Day of Judgment; it only means that if a man does not have 'Iman (faith), no intercession in his favour shall be accepted. For the Holy Qur'an makes it clear in certain other verses that Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) will allow intercession to be made on behalf of some people (53:26, 34:23, 2:55 etc.), and will disallow it in the case of those who do not possess 'Iman (faith) (21:28, 20:109). Since there would be no intercession on behalf of the latter, the question of its being accepted does not simply arise. 'Receiving support', in usual terms, means getting oneself released from a difficult situation with the help of a strong and powerful friend or patron. In short, none of the ways of receiving help possible in this world will be effective in the other world unless one possesses 'Iman.
A Doctrinal Point
On the basis of verse 48, the Mu'tazilah and some other groups of a more recent origin have denied the possibility of all intercession in favour of Muslims. But, as we have shown above, the negation of intercession applies only to disbelievers and infidels. (Bayan al-Qur'an; Ma'ariful Qur'an)
"And when We delivered you from the people of the Pharaoh! They had been inflicting on you grievous torment, slaughtering your sons and leaving your women alive. And in all that there was a great trial from your Lord."(2:49)
Verse 47 had spoken of the special favours shown to the Israelites by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى). Now, with Verse 49 begins the account of these favours. Someone had made a prediction to the Pharaoh (فِرْعَوْنَ) that a child was going to be born among the Israelites who would destroy his kingship. So, he began slaughtering all the male infants as soon as they were born. But he would spare the females, as there was nothing to fear from them, and, moreover, they could, on growing up, serve as maid-servants. So, even this leniency was motivated by self-interest. What the verse refers to as "a great trial" is either the slaughter of the sons - which was a calamity, and it is the quality of patience that is tested in a calamity - or the deliverance from the people of the Pharaoh - which was a blessing, and it is the quality of thankfulness which is tested when one receives a blessing. The next verse gives us the details about this deliverance. [Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"And when We parted the sea for you; then We rescued you, and drowned the Pharaoh's people as you were looking on! And when We appointed forty nights for Musa, then you took to yourselves the calf thereafter, and you were unjust!"(2: 50-51)
Verse 50 refers to certain things which had happened in the days of Sayyidna Musa (Moses) (عليه السلام). He, in his capacity as a messenger of Allah, continued efforts for a long time to make the Pharaoh and his people see Truth, but when they persisted in their denial, Allah commanded him to take the Israelites along with him and leave Egypt surreptitiously. On their way, they came across a sea while the Pharaoh was behind him with his army in hot pursuit. Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) commanded the sea to split, and make way for Sayyidna Musa (عليه السلام); and his people. So, they went over smoothly. But when the Pharaoh and his army followed them into the sea, it gathered the water back so that the Pharaoh and his men were drowned then and there.
Verse 51 refers to other incidents in the same story. When the Pharaoh had been drowned, the Israelites, according to one report, went back to Egypt, or, according to another, began to live somewhere else.
Having at last found a peaceful existence, they now wished they could receive a Shari'ah, or a religious code of laws, from Allah which they should follow. Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) answered the prayer of Sayyidna Musa (عليه السلام), and promised that if he came to the Mount Toor (Sinai) and devoted himself to worship for a month, he would receive a Divine Book. He gladly obeyed the Commandment, and was granted the Torah. But he was ordered to continue to worship for ten days more, because he had broken his fast after a month and thus lost the special odour which rises from the mouth of a fasting person and which is very pleasant to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى); so Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) commanded him to fast for ten additional days and regain that odour. Thus, Sayyidna Moosa (عليه السلام) completed forty days of total fasting and devotion. While he was on Mt. Sinai, something very odious happened to the Israelites. Among them there was a man called Samiriyy. He fashioned the figure of a calf out of gold or silver, and put into it some of the dust which he had picked up from under the hooves of the horse of Jibra'il (the Archangel Gabriel عليه السلام), at the time when the Pharaoh and his army had been drowned by the Archangel. The golden calf immediately acquired life. The ignorant among the Israelites were so impressed that they started worshipping it.
Verse 51 calls them "unjust" for having committed this sin, for 'injustice' lies in putting things in the improper places, and idolatory is essentially just that.
A Doctrinal Point
Verse 50 speaks of the splitting of the sea, and clearly proves that miracles do occur at the hands of prophets, which some Westernized Muslims have been trying to deny. (Bayan al-Quran; Ma'ariful Qur'an)
"Then We pardoned you, even after that, so that you be grateful."(2:52)
The Israelites were forgiven only when they had offered Taubah (repentance), as recounted in Verse 54. In saying that they were pardoned so that they might learn gratefulness, the present verse employs the Arabic word La'lla which indicates expectation. In the present context it does not mean that Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) had or could have any doubt or misgiving about this or any other matter; what the word implies here is just that when a man receives a pardon, the onlookers may expect him to feel grateful. (Ma'ariful Qur'an)
"Then We gave Musa the Book and the Criterion (of right and wrong) so that you find the right path."(2:53)
Torah is the book which was given to Sayyidna Musa (Moses - عليه السلام). In the language of the Holy Qur'an, al-Furqan is a term signifying something which separates truth from falsehood or distinguishes the one from the other. In the present verse, it refers either to (a) the injunctions of the Shari'ah which are to be found in the Torah, for the Shari'ah solves all the differences that may arise with regard to the doctrines or the practice of good deeds; or to (b) miracles which decide between a true or a false claim in a palpable manner; or even to (c) the Torah itself which has the twin qualities of being a Book of Allah and of being an instrument for separating truth from falsehood. (Ma'ariful Qur'an)
"And when Musa said to his people: 'My people, you have wronged yourselves by your taking the calf (as God). So, turn in repentance to your Creator and slay yourselves. That will be better for you in the sight of your Creator" Then, He accepted your repentance Indeed He is the Most-Relenting, the Very-Merciful."(2:54)
This verse describes the special mode of offering their Taubuh (repentance) which was prescribed for the Israelites in this situation, -- that is to say, those who had not indulged in the worship of the golden calf should execute those who had. Similarly, in the Islamic Shari'ah too, certain major sins necessarily entail capital punishment even when the sinner has offered this Taubah -- for example, life in return for a life in the case of intentional homicide, or death by stoning in the case of adultery established through proper evidence. Then the Israelites acted upon this divine commandments, they became worthy of receiving the mercy and favour of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) in the other world. (Ma'ariful Qur'an)
"And when you said, 'Musa, we will never believe you till we see Allah openly!" So, the thunderbolt took you while you were looking on."(2:55)
Then Sayyidna Musa (Moses - عليه السلام) brought the Torah from Mount Tur (Sinai) and presented it to the Israelites as the book of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), some of them were insolent enough to say that they could not believe it until and unless Allah Himself told them in so many words. With the permission of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), Sayyidna Musa (عليه السلام) replied that even this condition would be fulfilled, if they went with him to Mount Tur. The Israelites chose seventy men for this purpose. Arriving there, they heard the words of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) with their own ears. Now, in their perversity, they invented a new ruse. It was not enough, they said, to hear the speech, for they could not be sure whether it was Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) Himself who had spoken to them or someone else. But they promised that they would be finally convinced if they could see Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) with their own eyes. Since it is beyond the power of a living being to be able to see Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) in the physical world, they had to pay for their impertinence, and were killed by a thunderbolt -- the next verse reports their death.(Ma'ariful Qur'an)
"Then, We raised you up after your death, so that you be grateful." (2:56)
This verse refers to death, which suggests that the thunderbolt had killed them. Since the Israelites had always been mistrusting Sayyidna Musa (عليه السلام), he feared that they would suspect him of having taken the men to a solitary place and got them slaughtered. So, he prayed to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) to save him from such a vile accusation. Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) granted his prayer, and gave those a new life.(Ma'ariful Qur'an)
"And We made the cloud give you shade, and sent down to you Mann and Salwa: 'Eat of the good things We have provided you'. And they (by their ingratitude) did Us no harm, but were harming only themselves."(2:57)
These two incidents took place in the wilderness of Tih. The Israelites belonged to Syria, but had gone to Egypt in the time of Sayyidna Yusuf (Joseph - عليه السلا), and settled there, while Syria itself had come under the domination of a people called the 'Amaliqah (Amaleks). When the Pharaoh had been drowned and the Israelites could live in peace, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) commanded them to go to war against the 'Amaliqah, and to free their homeland. The Israelites started on the expedition, but, on approaching Syria, when they came to learn about the military strength of the foe, their courage failed them, and they refused to engage themselves in the Jihad. Allah punished them for their disobedience, so that for full forty years they kept wandering about in a wilderness, and could not even go back to Egypt. The wilderness was not very vast, but only a stretch of some ten miles, lying between Egypt and Syria. They would make a day-long march in the direction of Egypt, and stop somewhere for the night. But, on getting up the next morning, they would always find themselves just where they had started from. Thus, they spent forty years wandering about in the wilderness in futile rage and exasperation. That is why the wilderness is called Tih, which signifies 'having lost one's way'.
The wilderness was just a barren space without a tree or a building which could offer protection against heat or cold. There was no food to eat, and no clothes to wear. But in answer to the prayer of Sayyidna Musa (Moses - عليه السلا), Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) made a miraculous provision for all their needs.
When they could not bear the scorching sun, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) sent them the shade of a thin, white cloud. When they began to starve, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) blessed them with Mann (manna) and Salwa. That is to say, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) produced honeydew in abundance which they could easily gather. Hence it has been designated as mann which signifies "a gift or favour". Then, quails would not flee but come around them, so that they could catch the birds with little effort. The two things being unusual, the Holy Qur'an says that Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) made them "descend" for the benefit of the Israelites. Similarly, when they were thirsty, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) commanded Sayyidna Musa (عليه السلا) to strike a rock with his staff, which made twelve streams gush forth, as the Holy Qur'an narrates in another place. When they complained of the thick darkness of the night, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) produced for them a constant pillar of light. When their clothes began to wear out, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) showed another miracle - their clothes would neither go dirty nor wear out, while the clothes of the children grew with their growth. (Qurtubi)
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) had commanded the Israelites to take as much of the miraculous food as they really needed, and not to store it for future use. But when they disobeyed this commandment, the meat began to rot. This is how they harmed, not Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), but themselves.(Ma'ariful Qur'an)