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Researcher’s Companion to Ghamidi’s Surah al-Baqarah (30-39)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

I Meaning & Morphology (الصرف و اللغة)

1. ‘خَلِيفَة’ (Khalīfah)

The word ‘خَلِيفَة’ (Khalīfah) in the Arabic language has two meanings:

1. A person who is someone’s deputy or succeeds someone by assuming his position of power and authority.

2. A person vested with power and authority.

Commentators have almost unanimously preferred the first in the given verse (2:26). A little deliberation shows that it has been used in this verse in the second meaning ie. a person vested with power and authority. Linguistically, it is not appropriate to adopt the first meaning. Grammatical principles dictate that the word ‘خَلِيفَة’ (Khalīfah) which actually occurs as an indefinite noun in the verse, should have either been defined by the article alif lām or by a determining noun (mudāf ilayh) if the first meaning were to be attributed to it. Someone may question whether the word has ever been used in the second meaning ie. ‘a person vested with power and authority’ in the Arabic language. The following verses of the Qur’ān, the most authentic Arabic work, conclusively use the word in this meaning:

يَادَاوُودُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَاكَ خَلِيفَةً فِي الْأَرْضِ فَاحْكُمْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِالْحَقِّ (٢٦:٣٨)

O David! We have made you a khalīfah on the earth, so rule with justice among men. (38:26)

وَاذْكُرُوا إِذْ جَعَلَكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ مِنْ بَعْدِ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ (٦٩:٧)

And remember when He made you khulafā after Noah’s folks. (7:69)

The verb ‘اِسْتَخْلَفَ’ (istakhlafa) derived from khalīfah is also used in the same meaning:

وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُم فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ (٥٥:٢٤)

Allah has promised those among you who have accepted faith [in the actual sense] and have done righteous deeds, that He will make them khalīfah in this land as He had made their ancestors khalīfah before them. (24:55)

The people of ‘Ād have been addressed in the first of the above verses, as is evident from its context. It is a historically proven fact that there exists a time lapse of many centuries between the People of ‘Ād and the People of Noah (sws), during which many other nations arose to a position of political ascendancy. Moreover, the places where these two nations gained power were in totally different parts of the Arabian peninsula. So the People of ‘Ād could not have succeeded the People of Noah (sws). Hence the first meaning cannot be attributed to the word khulafā in this verse. In the second and third verses, similar contradictions result if the word is used in the conventional meaning. In the second verse, why is the Almighty singling out the Prophet David (sws) as His khalīfah when according to the doctrine every man on earth is God’s khalīfah? In the third verse, how come the believers are being promised khilāfah, a position they already have by birth? However, all these verses become meaningful if the word is understood to imply the second meaning.

It would be appropriate here to point out that the second meaning ie. ‘a person vested with power and authority’ is actually a developed form of the first ie. ‘a person who is someone’s deputy or succeeds someone by assuming his position of power and authority’. Such developments in the meaning of a word often occur in a language. The word ‘وَارِثْ’ (wārith) can be cited as an example. It originally means ‘an heir: ie. the owner of a legacy’. But it also means ‘an owner’ simply, as is evident from the following Qur’ānic verse:

وَإِنَّا لَنَحْنُ نُحْيِ وَنُمِيتُ وَنَحْنُ الْوَارِثُونَ (٢٣:١٥)

Indeed, We give life and death and We are the Wārith [Owners] of all. (15:23)

It would be quite ridiculous to interpret the verse in the light of the first meaning. Consequently, one can safely conclude that the word ‘خَلِيفَة’ (Khalīfah) is used in the Qur’ān to connote ‘a person invested with power and authority. While referring to this very aspect Farāhī writes:

لا شك أن في كلمة الخليفة معنى القيام بالأمور بعد من كان قبله يقوم بالأمر ، كما مر ذكره. ولكن الكلمة ربما تجرد عن بعض معانيه ، فإن لم نقل أن الإنسان صار خلفا لله تعالى ، فهلا يمكن أن نقول إنه صار ملكا على الأرض من عند الله تعالى متصرفا على الأرض كالحكام الصغار تحت ملك عظيم ، يرضى عنهم إن أحسنو و يسخط عليهم إن أساءوا. والقرآن لم يسم آدم و لا الإنسان و لا الأنبياء خليفة الله ، فلا ينبغي لنا أن نسمي أحدا خليفة الله

There is no doubt that the word Khalīfah means a person who succeeds someone by assuming his position of power and authority as has been pointed out earlier. But, sometimes a word is stripped of some shades of its meanings; so if we do not say that mankind are the Khulafā of the Almighty, is it not possible to say that man is the king of the earth and has the power to exercise his dominion on the earth like a small chief under a great ruler. A ruler is happy with him if he does good deeds and is unhappy with them if he does bad deeds. The Qur’ān at no place has called Adam, man or the prophets of Allah as the Khalīfah of Allah. So it is not proper for us to call anyone the Khalīfah of Allah.1

It is to this power and control that man exercises as a ‘خَلِيفَة’ which the Old Testament refers to in the following words:

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. (Genesis; 1:26-8)

2. ‘تَسْبِيْح’ and ‘تَقْدِيْس

Both words ascribe perfection to the Almighty with a subtle difference. While ‘تَسْبِيْح’ means to regard Him as devoid of all negative attributes, ‘تَقْدِيْس’ means to acknowledge all positive attributes in Him. Thus to say that Allah is not ‘ظَالِمْ’ (Oppressor) is ‘تَسْبِيْح’ and to say that Allah is ‘عَادِلْ’ (Just) is ‘تَقْدِيْس

3. ‘اهْبِطُوا

The verb ‘هَبَطَ’ means ‘to fall’, ‘to come down’. However, one usage of this word is ‘to come or to go’. Here, in verse 30, it is used thus. A similar usage occurs in verse 61 where the words are ‘مِصْرا اهْبِطُوا’. (‘Go you into some Misr’). While referring to this usage of the verb Ibn Manzūr writes2:


وهبَط السُّوقَ إذا أَتاها ؛ قال أَبو النجم يصف إِبلاَ:


يَخْبِطْنَ ملاَّحاً كذاوِي القَرْمَ

فَهَبَطَتْ ‘ والشمس لم تَرَجَّلِ


أَي أَتَتُه بالغَداةِ قبل ارتفاع الشمس

In this respect, the verb ‘هَبَطَ’ is similar to the verb ‘نَزَلَ’ which means ‘to disembark’, ‘to come down’. One of its usages is ‘to come’ stripping the word off the element ‘down’. Thus in Arabic ‘نَزَلْتُ مَنْزِلَةً’ would mean ‘I came to a place’.

4. سُبْحَانَكَ

This word has been used in the Qur’ān in various connotations:

i. To declare that the Almighty is free of all attributes which do not befit His majesty:

وَرَبُّكَ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ وَيَخْتَارُ مَا كَانَ لَهُمْ الْخِيَرَةُ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (٦٨:٢٨)

Your Lord does create and choose as He pleases: no choice have they [in the matter]: Glory to Allah! And far is He above the partners they ascribe [to Him]! (28:68)

ii. To invoke the Almighty:

دَعْوَاهُمْ فِيهَا سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّهُمَّ وَتَحِيَّتُهُمْ فِيهَا سَلَامٌ (١٠:١٠)

[This will be] their prayer therein: ‘Glory to You, O Allah!’ and ‘Peace’ will be their greeting therein! (10:10)

iii. To signify the directive of ‘تَسْبِيْح’:

فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ حِينَ تُمْسُونَ وَحِينَ تُصْبِحُونَ (١٧:٣٠)

So glory to Allah when you reach eventide and when you rise in the morning. (30:17)

iv. To negate something with bewilderment:

وَلَوْلَا إِذْ سَمِعْتُمُوهُ قُلْتُمْ مَا يَكُونُ لَنَا أَنْ نَتَكَلَّمَ بِهَذَا سُبْحَانَكَ هَذَا بُهْتَانٌ عَظِيمٌ (١٦:٢٤)

And why did you not, when you heard it, say? – ‘it is not right of us to speak of this: glory be to Allah! This is a most serious slander!’ (24:16)

Here, in 2:32, the word is used in the first connotation given above.

II Syntax & Declensions & (النحو و الاعراب)

1. The Co-ordination of ‘وَإِذْ’ in ‘وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ

As evident from the translation, Ghamidi is of the opinion that verse 30 which begins with the above words is related to verse 28. The nomen locus ‘إِذْ’ is in the accusative through a suppressed verb which connotes a declaration. The overall construction can thus be unfolded as:

كَيْفَ تَكْفُرُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَ [اِسْئَلهُم كَيْفَ يَكْفُرُونَ بِاللَّه وَ اُتْلُُْ عَلَيْهِمِْ ]إِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ

2. Parsing of ‘وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ

The translation of this expression is done keeping in view the construction ‘ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُكَ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ

III Style & Eloquence (الاساليب و البلاغة)

1. Parallelism in ‘فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

The connotation of this sentence can be unfolded through the one mentioned in contrast to it: ‘أُوْلَئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ’. It is evident that it connotes the life of Paradise since it is mentioned in contrast to Hell. In other words, what is said is that whoever obey the guidance of God would be in the blissful life of Paradise where there would be no fears of the future and no regrets of the past, and those who deny the revelations of the Almighty will dwell forever in Hell Fire.

Conversely, this parallelism also shows that the dwellers of Paradise would live in Paradise forever and the dwellers of Hell would remain devastated with regrets of the past and fears of the future.3

IV. Exegesis and Explanation (الشرح و التفسير)

1. The Connotation of ‘الْأَسْمَاءَ’ in ‘وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ

Various interpretations have been offered by the commentators for the word ‘الْأَسْمَاءَ’ (names). According to Tabarī4, Ibn ‘Abbās is of the view that ‘الْأَسْمَاءَ’ connotes the ‘names of everything’; Rabī‘ maintains that it is used for the ‘names of the angels’ and Ibn Zayd opines that it refers to the ‘names of Adam’s progeny’.

Farāhī and Islāhī5 for similar reasons hold the last of these opinions to be the most appropriate. Ghamidi ( ref. 6) too is of the same view.

The arguments proffered by all three in support of their view can be summed up in the following words:

Firstly, the pronouns used for the word ‘الْأَسْمَاءَ’ are the ones that refer to living and cognizant objects and not for inanimate ones; the pronouns and the expressions in which they are found are as follows:

ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلَائِكَةِأَنْبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ هَؤُلَاء  … ياَدَمُ أَنْبِئْهُمْ بِأَسْمائِهِمْفَلَمَّا أَنْبَاهُمْ بِأَسْمائِهِمْ

Second, as per the context, the purpose of this whole exercise was to answer the objection very respectfully raised by the angels that the progeny of Adam would create havoc and disorder on the earth. This could only have been done by introducing them to people of lofty character from among Adam’s descendents about whom mankind would feel proud of. Instead of misusing the authority granted to them by the Almighty and creating disorder and anarchy on earth, they would exercise this authority within the specified limits and set examples of high conduct.

Thus the ‘ال’ pre-fixed to the word ‘اَسْمَاء’ is for definition (لِلْعَهْد) and connotes specific names and not ‘all names’ – the names of specific individuals from among the progeny of Adam. These individuals were introduced to the angels to allay their fears. As far as the question of the occurrence of this incident is concerned, the Qur’ān itself says that such a huge assembly took place before the birth of Adam on this earth when the Almighty asked all the souls of mankind to acknowledge Him as their Lord. The Qur’ān says:

وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنْ بَنِي آدَمَ مِنْ ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَى شَهِدْنَا أَنْ تَقُولُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَذَا غَافِلِينَ(١٧٢:٧)

When your Lord drew forth from, the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants, and made them testify upon themselves, [saying]: ‘Am I not your Lord [who cherishes and sustains you]?’ – they said: ‘Yes! we do testify!’ Lest you should say on the Day of Judgment: ‘Of this we were never mindful’. (7:172)

3. Iblīs and Prostration

Though not mentioned in the section of verses under consideration, it is evident from the following verse that Iblīs too understood that he had been directed implicitly to prostrate himself before Adam though explicit words had not been used:

قَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلَّا تَسْجُدَ إِذْ أَمَرْتُكَ قَالَ أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِنْ نَارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِنْ طِينٍ (٧: ١٢)

[God] said: ‘What prevented you from bowing down when I commanded you’. He said: ‘I am better than he: You created me from fire, and him from clay’. (7:12)

As explained by Ghamidi (ref. 16), addressing a superior creation with a directive which in its nature is such that it automatically subsumes lesser forms does not require that the latter be mentioned separately.

4. Adam and Repentance

Though these verses do not given any details of the ‘كَلِمَات’ that Adam was taught by the Almighty, the following verse, states them: 

قَالَا رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنفُسَنَا وَإِنْ لَمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنْ الْخَاسِرِينَ (٢٣:٧)

They said: ‘Our Lord! we have wronged our own souls: if you forgive us not and bestow not upon us your Mercy, we shall certainly be lost’. (7:23)

5. The Connotation of ‘الشَّجَرَةَ

Commentators have interpreted the word ‘الشَّجَرَةَ’ variously. After enumerating their opinions, Ibn Jarīr is of the views that one should not go after determining which tree is implied here since one does not have any basis for it either in the Qur’ān or in any Hadīth.6

Ghamidi, is of the opinion that the word ‘الشَّجَرَةَ’ is symbolically and subtly used for the female reproductive organ. His opinion is based on the following arguments.

First, the word has been used at other places in the Qur’ān to connote the tree of eternity and an abiding kingdom:

فَوَسْوَسَ إِلَيْهِ الشَّيْطَانُ قَالَ يَاآدَمُ هَلْ أَدُلُّكَ عَلَى شَجَرَةِ الْخُلْدِ وَمُلْكٍ لَا يَبْلَى (١٢٠:٢٠)

But Satan whispered evil to him; he said: ‘O Adam! Shall I lead you to the tree of eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?’ (20:120)

Another verse says that eating the fruit of this tree would give them eternal life and in this way they would become similar to angels:

وَقَالَ مَا نَهَاكُمَا رَبُّكُمَا عَنْ هَذِهِ الشَّجَرَةِ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَا مَلَكَيْنِ أَوْ تَكُونَا مِنْ الْخَالِدِينَ (٢٠:٧)

He said: ‘Your Lord only forbade you this tree, lest you should become angels or such beings as live forever’. (7:20)

Ghamidi is of the opinion the expression ‘تَكُونَا مَلَكَيْنِ’ is actually ‘تَكُونَا كَمَلَكَيْنِ’ and implies no different to what the subsequent words viz ‘أَوْ تَكُونَا مِنْ الْخَالِدِينَ’ imply. In other words, what is implied is that it is the female reproductive organ which through procreation will give Adam eternal life in this world.

Second, the verses of Sūrah A‘rāf and Sūrah Tāhā which mention this incident portray what happened immediately after Adam and Eve ate the fruit of this tree in the following words:

فَلَمَّا ذَاقَا الشَّجَرَةَ بَدَتْ لَهُمَا سَوْآتُهُمَا وَطَفِقَا يَخْصِفَانِ عَلَيْهِمَا مِنْ وَرَقِ الْجَنَّةِ (٢١:٧)

When they tasted of the tree, their sexual organs became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. (7:21)

فَأَكَلَا مِنْهَا فَبَدَتْ لَهُمَا سَوْآتُهُمَا وَطَفِقَا يَخْصِفَانِ عَلَيْهِمَا مِنْ وَرَقِ الْجَنَّةِ (١٢١:٢٠)

So they both ate of the tree and their sexual organs became manifest to them: they began to sew together, for their covering, leaves from the garden. (20:121)

The relationship of ‘sexual organs becoming manifest to Adam and Eve’ with ‘tasting the fruit of the tree’ subtly alludes to the fact that it was after becoming sexually involved with one another that Adam and Eve became aware of their sexual instincts and started to cover their sexual organs with leaves.

The Bible portrays this part of the incident of creation in the following words:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Genesis; 3:6-7)

Consequently, as alluded by Ghamidi (ref. 25) the whole purpose of keeping Adam and Eve in a garden and putting them through a trial of sexual abstinence was to explain to Adam and, through him, to his progeny that man’s greatest trial on this earth would be through sex. While referring to this trial, the Qur’ān says:

يَابَنِي آدَمَ لَا يَفْتِنَنَّكُمْ الشَّيْطَانُ كَمَا أَخْرَجَ أَبَوَيْكُمْ مِنْ الْجَنَّةِ يَنزِعُ عَنْهُمَا لِبَاسَهُمَا لِيُرِيَهُمَا سَوْآتِهِمَا (٧: ٢٧)

O you Children of Adam! let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the garden, stripping them off their robes to expose their sexual organs. (7:27)

6. Meaningful Repetition of ‘اهْبِطُوا

The imperative verb ‘اهْبِطُوا’ (move [out]) is repeated very meaningfully in the following section of the verses:

فَأَزَلَّهُمَا الشَّيْطَانُ عَنْهَا فَأَخْرَجَهُمَا مِمَّا كَانَا فِيهِ وَقُلْنَا اهْبِطُوا بَعْضُكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ وَلَكُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ مُسْتَقَرٌّ وَمَتَاعٌ إِلَى حِينٍ فَتَلَقَّى آدَمُ مِنْ رَبِّهِ كَلِمَاتٍ فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ  قُلْنَا اهْبِطُوا مِنْهَا جَمِيعًا فَإِمَّا يَأْتِيَنَّكُمْ مِنِّي هُدًى فَمَنْ تَبِعَ هُدَايَ فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ  (٢: ٣٦ -٨)

Then did Satan make them slip from the garden, and had them turned out from the state they were in. And We said: ‘Move [out], all [you people] with enmity between yourselves and on earth will be your dwelling-place and a provision for livelihood for a specified time’. Then Adam learnt from his Lord some words of [repentance and then repented before his Lord through these words] and his Lord accepted his repentance. Indeed He is Most Forgiving, Ever Merciful. We said: ‘Move [out] from here; then if ever comes to you any guidance from Me, then [remember] whosoever [among you] follow My guidance, [their reward is Paradise where] they will have no fear, nor shall they grieve. (2:36-8)

The sentence depicting the second occurrence of the verb ‘اهْبِطُوا’ (move [out]) states a general principal regarding the scheme of the Almighty while dispelling the notion that Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden because of their sin: According to this scheme, Adam and his progeny are required to dwell on this earth for an appointed time so that they could undergo a trial that would either lead them to Paradise or to Hell. This trial was to take place regardless of their conduct in the garden. Had not this word been repeated, one would have erroneously concluded that Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden because of their sin. 







1. Farāhī, Hamīdu’l-Dīn, Tafsīr Nizāmu’l-Qur’ān/ Sūrah Baqarah, 1st ed. (Azam Garh: Dāi’rah Hamīdiyyah, 2000), pp. 206-7

2. Lisānu’l-‘Arab, 1st ed., vol. 7, (Beirut: Dār Sādir, 1400 AH), p. 422

3. See also Farāhī, Hamīdu’l-Dīn, Tafsīr Nizāmu’l-Qur’ān/ Sūrah Baqarah, 1st ed., (Azam Garh: Dāi’rah Hamīdiyyah, 2000), p. 211

4. Tabarī, Ibn Jarīr, 1st ed., vol. 1, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Ahyā al-Turāth al- ‘Arabi, 2001), pp. 246-8

5. See Farāhī, Hamīdu’l-Dīn, Tafsīr Nizāmu’l-Qur’ān/ Sūrah Baqarah, 1st ed., (Azam Garh: Dāi’rah Hamīdiyyah, 2000), p. 207 / Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), pp. 160-1

6. Tabarī, Ibn Jarīr, 1st ed., vol. 1, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Ahyā al-Turāth al- ‘Arabi, 2001), p. 267

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