Extract from the Introduction of Dhiya ul Qur’an (in-depth commentary/tafsir on the Qur’an)
By Pir Mohammad Karam Shah al-Azhari
I commence in the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Ever Merciful.
The Holy Qur’an is the Divine Book revealed by Allah to Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, the last of His Prophets, for the guidance and welfare of His servants. Books there are many, innumerable in fact, and of all kinds and on all subjects: we have voluminous books, we have fascinating books, and we have obscure books. This Book however, is a Book with a difference, a Book in a class of its own. It is, in truth, the only Book of its kind, a Book which combines the warmth of life and the light of guidance, a Book and a dazzling sun of knowledge and gnosis that illuminates this world and the Hereafter. Its incomparable beauty and splendour fascinate both the mind and heart. The Qur’an satisfies the demands of the intellect and the longings of the soul, and satiates the thirst of him who seeks after truth according to the intensity of his desire. Its teachings help man to understand himself and recognise his creator, Allah.
This Sacred Book is a miracle in every aspect, and it fascinates every reader. Since its revelation, its innate grace and sublimity has attracted earnest and intelligent people from all classes in every age. We can say without exaggeration that the literature on the Qur’an is decidedly greater than what has ever been written on any other book or subject. Those who have written about the Qur’an include scholars, mystics, philosophers, researchers, and literary writers from all races, Arabic and non-Arabic, and all faiths, Muslim and non-Muslim. The majority of them have studied the Qur’an with respect in order to understand it, and to learn from it; some have approached it with deep-rooted prejudice, but even they cannot deny its appeal and significance.
Countless people have, during the last fifteen centuries, explored the immeasurable depths of this deep and boundless ocean of guidance, and collected precious gems of wisdom according to their effort and capacity, but its treasury is still as full as ever. No one, even he who has devoted his entire life to the study of the Qur’an, has ever claimed that he has understood all the shades and layers of its meanings or appreciated all facets of its beauty or done justice to all aspects of its sublimity. Everyone who has done work on the Qur’an must admit the impossibility of exhausting this treasure of Divine Guidance.
It never crossed my mind that someday I would undertake to write an exegesis of the Qur’an, or that I had the necessary ability and knowledge to do so, or that I could make a worthwhile contribution to the understanding of the Qur’an. How could I think that I would be able to do justice to the subject which great traditionalists and historians of the stature of Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir, gifted and discerning men of letters of the eminence of Zamakhshari and Ibn Hayan al Andalusi, eminent philosophers of the rank of Razi and Baydhawi, and learned doctors of the stature of Abu Bakr Jisas and Abu Abdullah al Qurtubi who devoted their lives and still admitted their inability to do full justice to it? But it was the will of Allah to give me the honour of contributing my bit to the exposition of the Qur’an, and I began this work in humility with the full knowledge of my limitations and shortcomings. Allah gave me the inspiration and the strength to take on this work, and He provided the resources; and He in His infinite mercy, enabled me to pursue this labour of love till the completion of the task. To Allah I give gratitude, and to Him I pray in humility:
“You give the particles of dust the radiance of the sun. You endow the drops of water with the vastness of the sea. You make beggars the masters of enormous empires. You illuminate the darkened recesses of hearts with the light of the consciousness of Your Majesty. I am a lowly particle of dust, a humble drop of water, a poor beggar, an ignorant sinner; I beg You, I implore You, I entreat You in the name of Your beloved Messenger, to always show mercy to me, and shower on me Your generous blessings and magnificent favours. ‘O my Lord! Inspire me that I may keep offering thanks for this favour You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and I may do good deeds, deeds that please you; and make my offspring righteous. Truly I turn to You in repentance and surely I am of those who submit to Your Command in all humility.’ [Qur’an 46:15]”
The blessed and bounteous fountain of the Qur’an, gushing forth from the valleys of Mt.Faran, fed numerous streams of arts and sciences that irrigated the barren deserts of the Arabian Peninsula and transformed them into splendid centres of knowledge and wisdom. The Noble Qur’an inspired the Arabs not only to give a new life to the earlier branches of knowledge, but also to lay the foundations of numerous new disciplines like the sciences of exegesis, lexicography, linguistics, rhetoric, grammar, phonetics, and .jurisprudence. Many other arts and sciences, not strictly related to religion, were inspired by the study of the Qur’an. Thus the illiterate and ignorant Arabs became the owners of great treasures of knowledge and wisdom.
In every age the brilliant and enlightened scholars of Muslim ummah, each according to his talent and the demands of his times, devoted themselves to one or more of the branches of knowledge directly connected with the study and understanding of the Qur’an, and produced great treasures of literature on every aspect of the Scripture revealed to the Last Apostle of Allah. The light of their brilliant books still shines bright in the libraries and universities of the world.
In my humble opinion, the most significant fact about the Qur’an is that it is a Book of Guidance, as Allah says in Surah al-i-‘Imran: “This (Qur’an) is a discourse for instructing people and is a guidance and admonition to the God-fearing.” [3:318] Allah draws our attention, again and again, to this fundamental characteristic of the Qur’an. Today we need to recognise and emphasise this aspect of the Divine Book, but unfortunately, this is the aspect we neglect most.
The first and foremost important purpose of the Qur’an is to reform men, to liberate him from the lusts of his baser self, to cleanse his heart of evil, to free him of ego and arrogance, to make him a true and obedient servant of his real Creator and Master, and illuminate his heart with the Divine Light. This kind of total transformation of man is not an easy task, but history is witness to the fact that the Qur’an did succeed in bringing about a fundamental, meaningful and enduring change in human behaviour, organising a model community, and creating a new world.
This is not an empty claim, but a living and indisputable fact of history that the teachings of the Qur’an reformed a whole society and made it the instrument of a revolution that created a better world. Allah, in His infinite wisdom, chose to reveal the Qur’an to the people of Arabia, who were human beings, no doubt, but only in form: they were, in fact, devoid of all human values. These poor, poverty-stricken people had fallen into all kinds of depravity: idol-worship, injustice, obscenity, debauchery, brutality, wickedness, ignorance. It is, indeed, difficult to fully describe the extent of their degeneration. Then a miracle happened. The Qur’an was revealed to them, and as soon as they accepted it as the Word of Allah and recognised the truth of Muhammad’s Prophethood, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, their circumstances began to change, and within a few years, they had risen from the abyss of decadence to the zenith of righteousness.
If the Qur’an can persuade the worshippers of three hundred and sixty idols to proclaim the unity of Allah, inspire one of the most depraved nations to become the pride of humanity, motivate illiterate nomadic tribes to found a great universal civilisation, and make an ignorant nation the originator of new arts and sciences, why can it not liberate us from our superstitions and lift the darkness that besieges us today? By Allah I swear, this is possible, certainly possible provided that we are willing, really willing, to accept the guidance of the Qur’an and follow the Straight Path it shows to us. It can inspire us to regain our past glory. I earnestly appeal to the Muslim youth, who mourn the severe fate that has overtaken us, to rise, to follow the guidance of the Qur’an in its totality, without hesitation, without reservation, and reclaim their lost heritage, the leadership of the world.
Division of labour ensures the prosperity of a community. Some people engage in trade and industry, some work on land to unearth its treasures, some proclaim the truth from the pulpit, some take the responsibility of educating the young generations, and some follow a life of meditation and retirement. The collective success and prosperity of the community demands that all its members, irrespective of their positions and professions, share the same ideal and adhere to the fundamental vision. The Muslim ummah can achieve success only if all of its sections hold fast to its faith, follow the guidance of the Qur’an, and recognise that this guidance is relevant in all fields of life. If one section of the Muslim community is misled into believing that the Divine Guidance is not relevant to its field of activity and follows its own desires, its deviation from the Straight Path will have its evil effects on other sections of the community. The Qur’an addresses all classes of the society, lays down codes of ethics for all professions, and warns each class of its fate if it transgresses the prescribed limits.
The Qur’an tells us, again and again, of the terrible fate that visited the errant, rebellious nations. We read the account of these nations, but we do not pause to ponder the causes of their fall. We seldom take the trouble of comparing our deeds with those of the immoral nations of the past. We never realise that by we following in their footsteps, we invite upon us the same doom that wiped them off the face of the earth. The law of retribution is not changeable. The Qur’an reminds us again and again that Allah’s custom does not change: “Thus (it is): no change will you ever find in Allah’s way, nor will you ever find any deviation in Allah’s way.” [Qur’an 35:43]
I have tried, in my comments on the verses dealing with the circumstances of earlier nations, to persuade the reader to take stock of his deeds and attitudes with reference to the injunctions of the Qur’an, to see whether he is on the right path or not, and mend his ways if he finds himself waning.
The Qur’an has prescribed a complete and unambiguous code, the Shari’ah, for its followers. This code is comprehensive – as comprehensive, in fact, as the human life. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the law promulgated in this Divine Book covers the facets of human life even beyond our stay on this earth. It spells out: what should be the nature of relations between man and his Creator on the one hand, and between man and his fellow beings on the other? What are the obligations of a rile? What are the rights and duties of the subjects? How should the rich behave towards the less fortunate sections of the community, and how should the poor maintain their self-respect? Thus the Islamic Shari’ah encompasses the entire spectrum of human life, and gives guidance on all subjects including worship, ethics, politics and economics. I have tried, in the commentary, to explain the Qur’anic injunctions on these issues in a clear, straightforward manner so that the man of this age may understand them and see their relevance in the contemporary world.
It is indeed a painful reality that with the passage of time, the Muslim ummah, which was commanded to hold fast to the “rope of Allah”, fell victim to intellectual confusion and disintegration. The intrigues of certain selfish and malicious people have succeeded in fragmenting the ummah into opposing factions which are drifting further apart every day. The only way of eliminating factional conflicts and restoring the unity of the ummah is to go back to the Qur’an. What is needed is to present and explain the teachings of the Qur’an in a polite and pleasant manner, and invite all Muslims to ponder over the Divine Message. It is the duty of our scholars to do so, and they should perform this duty honestly and sincerely, and then leave the matter in the Hands of Allah. If He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting, the Omnipotent, wills to give us the strength to come out of the swamp of chaos and confusion, He has the power to do so.
The most unfortunate aspect of this fragmentation of the ummah is the conflict within the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, which has divided them into two factions. The fact is that both the factions agree on the principles of Islam. They believe in the personal and attributive unity of Allah, in the Prophet of Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in the finality of his Prophethood, in the Qur’an, in the Day of Judgement, and in all other fundamental principles. There should, then, be no case for any quarrel between them. However, more often than not, the use of careless and injudicious phraseology in speech and writing gives rise to misunderstandings between the two factions, and their mutual suspicion exaggerates the misunderstandings to dangerous proportions. If we exercise care in our choice of words and phrases, most of the differences will disappear. Even if some differences remain, they will not be of a serious nature, and will not instigate us to ignore the demands of the time, roll up our sleeves, and expel one another from the community of Islam.
The Muslim ummah is under attack from all sides, and the enemies of Islam are every day inflicting new wounds upon us. It is time we turned our full attention to defending ourselves from these vicious attacks, dressing our wounds, bringing unity in our ranks, and reviving our strength. If we continue blowing our little differences out of all proportion and flying at one another’s throats, we will not do any service to Islam or the Muslims.
I have sincerely tried to present, without exaggeration, my creed which is based on the clear, explicit verses of the Qur’an, the sound and authentic Traditions of the Messenger of Allah, and/or the opinions of the learned scholars of the ummah. My objective is to remove the misunderstandings of imprudent friends and refute the malicious allegations of the self-seeking critics. I wish to lift the veils that obscure the truth, and show the falsehood of the impression, created by certain people, that a part of the ummah is guilty of shirk, the sin of associating partners with Allah, in word or deed. May Allah, the Compassionate, have mercy on us, liberate our hearts from envy and hate, and give us the strength to love one another. Indeed, Allah has power over all matters.
The Noble Qur’an was, as everyone knows, revealed in Arabic. Arabic is a rich language with syntax that has nothing in common with other languages. It has a vast literature, and abounds in unique similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech. Its system of derivation of words from a root gives it a vocabulary much vaster than those of other modern languages.
For a full understanding of the Holy Qur’an, extensive knowledge of Arabic, its idiom, its grammar and its literature is essential. I have tried to explain, wherever necessary, difficult grammatical and lexical points in the light of the authoritative views of learned scholars and grammarians.
An introduction precedes every Surah. It gives the reader necessary information about the time of the revelation of the Surah, a brief summary of its themes, and the historical background of the events mentioned in it.
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