The word ma‘ruf in the Qur’an has two
1. The good and the equitable.
2. The norms and customs of a society.
For example, it is said in the Qur’an that
Muslims enjoin the ma‘ruf and forbid munkar:
بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَآءُ بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُوْنَ بِالْمَعْرُوْفِ
وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ.
And believing men and women are friends to
each other. They enjoin what is ma‘ruf and forbid what is
Since the word munkar means “evil”, one can
easily conclude that here the word ma‘ruf is used in the first
meaning (the good and equitable) given above.
In the following verse, it is said that if
a Muslim has murdered a Muslim and if the family of the slain
person forgives him, then he should pay diyat (fine) to them
according to the ma‘ruf:
فَمَنْ عُفِيَ لَهُ مِنْ أَخِيْهِ شَيْءٌ
فَاتِّبَاعٌ بِالْمَعْرُوْفِ وَأَدَاءٌ إِلَيْهِ بِإِحْسَانٍ
Then for whom there has been some pardon
from his brother, this should be followed according to the
ma‘ruf and [whatever is the diyat] should be paid with
Here the word ma‘ruf is used in the second
meaning (norms and customs of a society) because first, the
imperative verb used is ittiba‘ (to follow) which collocates
with this meaning and second, the latter part of verse 2:178
(pay it [– the diyat –] with grace) becomes redundant if the
first meaning is thought to be implied.
Similar usage of the word ma‘ruf can be
seen in the following verses:
وَالْوَالِدَاتُ يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلَادَهُنَّ
حَوْلَيْنِ كَامِلَيْنِ لِمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُتِمَّ الرَّضَاعَةَ
وَعلَى الْمَوْلُوْدِ لَهُ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ
And [after divorce also] mothers shall
suckle their offspring for two whole years, for those who
desire to complete the term. And the child’s father [in such a
case] shall have to bear the cost of their food and clothing
according to the custom. (2:233)
وَالَّذِيْنَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ
وَيَذَرُوْنَ أَزْوَاجًا يَّتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ
أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَّعَشْرًا فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ
فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيْمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ
بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُوْنَ خَبِيْرٌ.
And those of you who die and leave widows
behind, they should keep themselves in waiting for four months
and ten days; then when they have fulfilled their term, there
is no blame on you about what they do with themselves in
accordance with the custom [of the society]. (2:234)
The word فتنه
literally means “trial and test”.
One form of this trial is that people are subjected to torture
for following a particular ideology and thereby forced to give
it up. Since at the time of revelation of the Qur’an this
practice was rampant in the Arab society, the Qur’an used this
word in the above sense. When used in this sense it becomes
equivalent to the English word “persecution”. The following
verses bear witness to this usage:
فَمَا آمَنَ لِمُوْسَى إِلَّا ذُرِّيَّةٌ
مِّنْ قَوْمِهِ عَلَى خَوْفٍ مِّنْ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِمْ أَنْ
يَفْتِنَهُمْ وَإِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ لَعَالٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ
وَإِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الْمُسْرِفِيْنَ.
But none believed in Moses except some
children of his People; because of the fear of Pharaoh and his
chiefs, lest they should persecute them; and certainly Pharaoh
was mighty on the earth and one who transgressed all bounds.
ثُمَّ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لِلَّذِيْنَ هَاجَرُوْا
مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا فُتِنُوْا ثُمَّ جَاهَدُوْا وَصَبَرُوْا إِنَّ
رَبَّكَ مِنْ بَعْدِهَا لَغَفُوْرٌ رَّحِيْمٌ.
But surely your Lord – to those who leave
their homes after they are subjected to persecution – and who
thereafter strive and patiently persevere – your Lord, after
all this, is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (16:110)
إِنَّ الَّذِيْنَ فَتَنُوا الْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ
وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَتُوبُوْا فَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ
جَهَنَّمَ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ الْحَرِيْقِ.
Those who persecute the believers, men and
women, and do not turn in repentance, will face the torment of
Hell and they will have [to endure] the torment of the Burning
The word خَيْر
is also used in the Qur’an to connote “wealth”. Some verses of
the Qur’an in which this word is used in this connotation are:
يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنْفِقُونَ قُلْ مَا
أَنفَقْتُمْ مِّنْ خَيْرٍ فَلِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِيْنَ
وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِيْنِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيْلِ.
They ask you
about what they should spend. Tell them: “Whatever wealth you
spend is for your parents and kinsfolk and for the orphan and
the destitute and the wayfarer.” (2:215)
وَمَا تُنفِقُوْا مِنْ خَيْرٍ
فَلِاَنْفُسِكُمْ وَمَا تُنْفِقُوْنَ إِلَّا ابْتِغَآءَ وَجْهِ
اللّهِ وَمَا تُنْفِقُوْا مِنْ خَيْرٍ يُّوَفَّ إِلَيْكُمْ
وَأَنتُمْ لَا تُظْلَمُوْنَ .
And whatever wealth you give shall be for
your own benefit and do not spend except to please God. And
whatever wealth you spend shall be repaid to you in full: you
shall not be wronged. (2:272)
While tracing the meaning of this word,
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
The words صوم
are verbal nouns and literally mean “to abstain from
something” and “to leave something”. The expression
صام الفرس صوما
would mean “the horse did not eat its fodder.” Nabighah says:
خيل صيامه و خيل غير صائمة
تحت العجاج واخري تعلك اللجما
(Many hungry horses and many satisfied ones
were standing in the dust of the battlefield and others who
were chewing their reins.)
Imam Hamid al-Din Farahi while presenting
his research on the word صوم
in his book Usul al-shara‘i writes:
The people of Arabia formally trained their
horses in order to make tthem used to hunger and thirst so
that they would be able to bear great hardships in difficult
circumstances. Similarly they would train and instruct their
horses to combat strong winds. This training would be of great
utility in times of war and travel when they would have to
face strong gusts of wind… Jarir says:
ظللنا بمستن الحرور كاننا
لدي فرس مستقبل الريح صائم
(We stood our ground against the gusts of
warm wind as if we were standing beside a horse which was
fighting against a strong wind and was fasting)
In this couplet, the poet has compared
himself and his companions with a man who is standing beside
his horse and training him to combat hunger and strong winds.
It should be kept in consideration that the Arabs made
comparisons with things which are in common observation; they
did not go after rarities for comparisons … in short, there
are many couplets which depict the
صوم of horses.
In the عرف
(‘urf: conventional usage) of the Qur’an, the word al-mushrikun
is specifically used for the polytheists of Arabia. These
polytheists subscribed to the creed of polytheism and
worshipped other deities besides the Almighty and insisted
that polytheism is the very religion revealed by the Almighty.
Accordingly, they were called al-mushrikun (المشركون)
because of their declared adherence to polytheism.
In contrast to them, the People of the Book
of Arabia (the Jews and Christians) were basically monotheists
though they had become incriminated with certain blatant forms
of polytheism. The Qur’an points out their polytheistic
practices in the following words:
وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ عُزَيْرٌ ابْنُ اللّهِ
وَقَالَتْ النَّصَارَى الْمَسِيْحُ ابْنُ اللّهِ ذَلِكَ
قَوْلُهُمْ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ يُضَاهِؤُونَ قَوْلَ الَّذِيْنَ
كَفَرُوْا مِنْ قَبْلُ قَاتَلَهُمُ اللّهُ أَنَّى يُؤْفَكُوْنَ.
اتَّخَذُوْا أَحْبَارَهُمْ وَرُهْبَانَهُمْ أَرْبَابًا مِّنْ
دُونِ اللّهِ وَالْمَسِيْحَ ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَمَا أُمِرُوْا
إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوْا إِلَهًا وَاحِدًا لَآ إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ
سُبْحَانَهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُوْنَ.
The Jews [of Arabia] call ‘Uzayr son of
God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is a
saying from their mouth; [in this] they but imitate what the
disbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how
they are deluded away from the Truth! They take their priests
and their anchorites to be their lords besides Allah, and
[they take as their Lord] Christ, the son of Mary; yet they
were commanded to worship but One God: there is no god but He.
Praise and glory to Him: [far is He] from having the partners
they associate with Him. (9:30-31)
However, the Qur’an nowhere in its entire
text calls them polytheists. A person becomes a polytheist
when he openly admits that he is a polytheist. A person who
claims to be a monotheist in spite of being involved in
polytheistic practices, cannot be regarded as a polytheist.
The reason is that such a person might be doing something
wrong without realizing what he is doing.
Moreover, the distinction the Qur’an makes
between declared adherents to polytheism (the Idolaters of
Arabia) and those who were adverse to polytheism yet had
become involved in it (the People of the Book of Arabia), can
be appreciated in its subtle choice of words for both these
religious denominations. While referring to the polytheistic
practices of the People of the Book, it always employs a verb;
never are they referred to in the form of an adjective. The
reason for this distinction is that an adjective qualifies
states of permanence and perpetuity while a verb qualifies a
temporary or transient state.
In other words, the mention of the polytheistic practices of
the People of the Book in the form of verbs shows that they at
times indulged in polytheism (that too without realizing it)
and were not its positive advocates.
The word قَرْءٌ
is among those words of the Arabic language which are classed
(antithetical words). They are words which have two meanings
entirely opposite to one another. It is the context which
determines the shade of meaning in which they are used.
Example of such words are بَيْع
which means both “sale” and “purchase”, and
means both “to reveal” and “to conceal”.
While presenting his research on this word,
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
After much deliberation on the root of the
word and its derived forms, I have come to the conclusion that
its real meaning is that of “menstruation”. However, since
every menstrual period is followed by a period of purity (طُهْر),
the word is also used in this meaning. This is similar to the
usage of words “day” for “night” and vice versa. Every
language has such words.
It is used in the latter meaning in A ‘sha’s
و فی كل عام انت جاشم غزوة
تشد لاقصاها عزيم عزائمك
مُوَرِّثَةٍ مَالاً وَفي الحَمْدِ رِفْعَةَ
مؤصلة مالا و فی الحي رفعة
لما ضاع فيها من قروء نسائكا
(Will you set out every year to bear the
hardship of a war traveling to its peak areas with strong
determination; such that you gain wealth and earn fame in
return for the missed periods of purity of your wives.)
In the following verses of the Qur’an, it
is used in the first meaning:
بِأَنْفُسِهِنَّ ثَلَاثَةَ قُرُوَءٍ .
women must keep themselves waiting for three menstrual
This is because, as pointed out by Ghamidi,
the real issue in this verse is to ascertain whether a lady is
pregnant or not. It is the ‘period of menstruation’ which
actually ascertains this and not the ‘period of purity’.
Moreover, women are asked to wait in this period and this
waiting period can only be ascertained through the menstrual
cycle because its beginning can be known with certainty.
In the Arabic language, the word
أمر is not always
used to connote a command or a directive. It also means “to
suggest and to tempt someone about something”. Thus, in the
الشَّيْطَانُ يَعِدُكُمُ الْفَقْرَ
وَيَأْمُرُكُمْ بِالْفَحْشَآءِ it is
used in this sense.
An example of this usage can be seen in the
following couplet of Ibn Durayd:
أمرتهم أمرى بمنعرج اللوى
فلم يستبينوا الرشد إلا ضحی الغد
(I had informed them of my suggestion at
Mun‘araj al-Liwa; however, it was only by morning of the next
day that they came to understand.)
A Jahili poet says:
أطعت لآمريك بصرم حبلي
مريهم في أحبتهم بذاك
(You ultimately acceded to those who
suggested you to break your ties with me; tell them to act on
this suggestion regarding the ones they love.)