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Sūrah Quraysh
Qur'anic Exegesis
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

Central Theme, Arrangement and Relation with the Previous Sūrah

This sūrah is the dual counterpart of the previous sūrah---Feel. A comprehensive treatment of the central theme of both these sūrahs has been given in the exegetical explanation of the preceding sūrah. Briefly, it can be restated as that the Quraysh have been asked to fulfil the natural right of their association with the Baitullaah, after a thorough indication is made to them about the nature of this association.

In the previous sūrah, it had been pointed out that the Quraysh had been living peacefully and securely in this land because of their affiliation with Baitullaah. In this sūrah, it has been asserted that it is this affiliation which also accounts for their provisions of livlihood and sustenance. Both these favours entail the worship of the Lord of this House, instead of associating others with Him without any rational basis.

It should be kept in mind, that a state which provides its citizens with peace and sustenance can be termed as close to an ideal one. In the holy land of Mecca, the Quraysh had been the beneficiaries of these blessings because of the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) through Baitullaah. As a natural right of these blessings the Quraysh should have been grateful to the Lord of this House, but they became involved in outrageous forms of polytheism, inducting within its precincts fictitious Gods and Godesses. With this background they are being admonished in this sūrah to remain deeply conscious of their relation with the Baitullaah---which the Almighty Himself had given in their trusteeship. It was because of the Baitullaah that the whole atmosphere had become peaceful and secure for them; this special status had also been instrumental in securing for them lavish resources of sustenance and livelihood. If they now show ingratitude to the Lord of the House they deserve to be deposed from this prestigious position and be divested from all the benefits, both spiritual and material, they possess on account of it.

A cursory analysis of the meanings of the sūrah shows that, first of all, an indication is made to the special affiliation of the Quraysh with the Baitullaah and the holy Land of Mecca. Next, a reference is made to the trade excursions they regularly undertook in winters and summers, upon which depended their financial prosperity. Their economical well-being heavily relied on these tours and being the custodians of Baitullaah, success in these tours was guaranteed. Once ousted from this position they could never achieve the privilege of being guided through these routes unscathed, in which danger openly lurked for all other tribes.

Meaning of the Sūrah

On account of the association the Quraysh have---the association they have with the winter and summer journeyings. Hence, they should worship the Lord of this House who feeds them because of hunger and provides them with peace in fear.

Explanation of the Sūrah

Li eeelafi quraish

(On account of the association the Quraysh have.) (1)

Aalifal makaana wa aalafahu eeelaafan means ta'wwadahu wasta'nasa bihi ie `he is used to and familiar with this place.'

Aalaftuhu makaana kazaa eeelaafan means ja'altuhu ya'lafahu ie `I made him familiar with this place.'

Aalafahu muaalafatan wa eelaafan means aanasahu wa `aasharahu ie `he became accustomed to him, he resided with him.

This explanation clearly shows that there is no essential difference between Eelaaf and Eeelaaf. Both mean attachment, association, and affiliation. Although it is not clear from this first verse that with whom the association is being implied, yet the subsequent verses qualify the association as the one the Quraysh had with the Baitullaah as its custodians and overseers, as a result of which they had been reaping many benefits.

In other words, the Quraysh are being reminded that the honour and prestige they had attained in Mecca in particular and Arabia in general, because of which they had gained extraordinary material benefits, were not because of their own ability and planning, but they were the result of their association with the House of their Lord. They must always remain aware about the nature of this relationship not only with this sacred House but also with its Lord. They should not become inebriated with these worldly successes and thereby forget the rights and obligations imposed on them about this House and its Lord.

Eelaafihim rihlatashshi taai was saif.

(---the association they have with the winter and summer journeyings.) (2)

Eelaaf is the permutative (badal) of Eeelaf of the first verse. Initially, the subject had just been raised and left incomplete to raise a question among the people addressed about the nature of the association of the Quraish. This style has also been adopted elsewhere in the Qur’ān. The style is useful, first of all, to direct the attention of those addressed, and secondly it serves to firmly establish something in their minds by repeating it in two different ways.

The verse explains that the association under discussion is the one the Quraysh had with their trade journeyings of summers and winters. It should be kept in mind, that during the winter season the Quraysh used to travel to Yemen, while their summers were spent journeying towards Syria and Palestine. With these caravans travelled the wealth of the whole nation. The reason being that there were many traders and businessmen who acted as agents of those who could invest money, and hence people who did not go along with these caravans were also able to benefit from this profitable business. It were these tours which were the real source of wealth for the Meccan people. By this means merchandise reached other markets and at the same time their own consumers were able to buy goods from other markets. Thus, these trade routes were the real source of sustenance for the Quraish. Although these were international trade routes, yet they were safe in the true sense of the word for the Quraysh only. The extent of protection provided to them was not provided to anyother tribe. Other tribes were robbed in broad daylight, and had to seek permission by paying huge amounts to the tribe whose territory they had to pass, but the Quraysh enjoyed unlimited freedom and liberty. They were even provided with people who acted as guides and no one could even think of tampering with them, for they were given a special respect as the custodians of Baitullaah and caretakers of the pilgrims. It is with all this background that the Qur’ān admonishes them not to become inebriated with these worldly successes and forget the Lord of this House. All these successes are due to the Baitullaah and they shall only remain their beneficiaries if they remain sincere with the causes of the exalted House.

It should be borne in mind, that it was no stroke of luck that the Quraysh had become the custodians of the Baitullaah. It was not just by chance that they had come from somewhere and settled in its whereabouts, and later became its custodians; in fact it was the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) who had purposefully established the abode of his children in the vicinity of Baitullaah to achieve a certain mission associated with it. He had made a special invocation to the Almighty to bless them with peace and sustenance, whose mention is coming up. In other words, the Quraysh are being reminded of their past that they had been settled here for a special purpose. They must fulfil this covenant with all sincerity, otherwise they would be doomed not only in this world but in the Hereafter as well. We quote from the Qur’ān:

"And remember when Abraham prayed: O Lord! make this land one of peace and security. Preserve me and my sons from worshipping idols. Lord, they have led many men astray. Those then who follow my [ways] are of me but for those who disobey me, You are surely forgiving and merciful. O our Lord! I have settled some of my offspring in a barren valley near Your sacred House that they may establish regular prayers, so incline some people's hearts towards them and provide them with fruits in order that they may be thankful." (14:13-37)

It is evident from these verses, as mentioned earlier, that Abraham had settled his children near Baitullaah with a special purpose for which it itself was built. He had prayed to the Almighty to bless them with peace and sustenance and make them a people towards whom everyone would turn in all the affairs of life. The Almighty accepted this prayer and the Quraysh remained the beneficiaries of these favours in every period. The Quraysh are being reminded of this very association with the Baitullaah. It would be gross ingratitude on their part to relish all the material benefits from this association but become indifferent to its rights and obligations. The House was built to worship the One and Alone God and prevent people from worshipping idols, and it was preicsely for this reason Abraham had established the abode if his children in a barren stretch of land. Instead of fulfilling this purpose they have stuffed it with all kinds of idols who reign supreme in it, in place of the Creator of the heavens and the earth.

Falya`bu doo rabba haazal bait. Allazee at`amahum min joo`. Wa 'aamanahum min khauf.

(Hence, they should worship the Lord of this House who feeds them because of hunger and provides them with peace in fear.) (3-4)

The verse states the rights of the blessings of peace and sustenance bestowed on the Quraysh by the Almighty. They should be grateful to Him and worship Him with all sincerity. It should be kept in mind, that inspite of being implicated in horrible forms of polytheism, they had never disassociated themselves with the concept of a God in their religious beliefs. Not for a moment did they consider any of the idols placed in the Baitullaah as its real Lord. Even a cursory glance at Abdul Mutalib's prayer1 at the time Abraha attacked the Baitullaah shows the essence of Tauheed overflowing in it; there is not the slightest indication of invoking help from any other deity, save the real Lord of the House. In fact, the Quraysh only regarded the idols a means to procure the nearness of God---whom they always considered their real Creator and Sustainer, and there never ever came a change in this stance.

Allazee at`amahum min joo`. Wa 'Aamanahum min khauf:

In this verse min is that of causation (sababiah) and the words joo` and khauf have special connotations. By joo` is meant the specific condition of an area which arises due to a scarcity of edibles, and by khauf is meant the state of an area which arises due to a lack of security and a constant danger to life and wealth. Both these words have been used in these meanings in other places of the Qur’ān as well:

"We shall test you with something of fear and famine, with loss of life, wealth and crops." [2:155]

Haram, (the land around the Baitullaah) before the advent of Abraham had always remained scarce in food resources and was also in a constant state of strife and unrest. It was because of the Baitullaah that the Almighty blessed the area with peace and ample sources of sustenance. At many instances these favours have been recounted in the Qur’ān:

"Have We not established for them a secure sanctuary towards which all kinds of produce are being drawn." [ 28:57]

"Have they not seen that We have made a sanctuary secure while people are being snatched away from all around them." [29:67]

This sūrah is another instance where the same subject has been brought up. Both peace and sustenance are special blessings of the Almighty. Instead of showing conceit and vanity upon their bestowal, the Quraysh are being admonished to be grateful to the Almighty and remain aware that this gratitude entails His worship, not revolt and disobedience.

[Translated from Islahi's "Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān"]





1. O Lord! a man protects his family, so You protect your people. Their Cross and their strength should never overpower You. If you want to leave our qiblah [Baitullaah] at their mercy, then do as you please.

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