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Researcher’s Companion to Ghamidi’s Surah al-Baqarah (204-214)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

The Researcher’s Companion

I Meaning & Morphology (الصرف و اللغة)

i. Al-‘Izzah (الْعِزَّةُ)

The word ‘al-‘izzah (الْعِزَّةُ) literally means ‘prestige’. It is used in the Qur’ān in this meaning in many verses. See for example 4:139, 10:65 and 35:10.

Here the word is used in another shade: it is used to connote a person’s over blown consciousness to prestige. This consciousness if confined to limits is indeed a quality. However, if it exceeds all bounds, it manifests itself in the form of pride and arrogance. Ibn Manzūr refers to this very shade of meaning by citing ‘الرفعة و الامتناع’ as one of the entries under ‘izzah (عِزَّةُ).1

In the following verse, the word is explicitly used in this shade:

بَلْ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فِي عِزَّةٍ وَشِقَاقٍ (٢:٣٨)

In fact, the disbelievers are imbued with arrogance and dissension. (38:2)

ii Idhn (اذن)

The Qur’ān has introduced a new shade in the original meaning of this word. Originally, it means ‘permission’. However, when the permission of God is granted to believers to do good, then this opportunity is actually a reward from Him to the believers and as such, mere permission now encompasses His backing and support. The Arabic word ‘توفيق’ (Tawfīq) is perhaps the best equivalent to it when used such.

The Qur’ān has used the word in this sense in the following verse as well2:

وَاللَّهُ يَدْعُو إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ وَالْمَغْفِرَةِ بِإِذْنِهِ وَيُبَيِّنُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ (٢: ٢٢١)

And Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden [of Bliss] and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind that they may receive admonition. (2:221)

Consequently, Zamakhsharī, while referring to this usage writes:


<بِإِذنِهِ> بتيسير الله وتوفيقه للعمل الذي تستحق به الجنة والمغفرة

بِإِذنِهِ’ means: with the facility and backing of the Almighty for deeds that make a person worthy of Paradise and [of His] forgiveness.3

iii. The Particle ‘ب’ in ‘الْعِزَّةُ بِالْإِثْمِ أَخَذَتْهُ

The particle ‘ب’ in ‘بِالْإِثْمِ’ has been interpreted as ‘مصاحبة’ (musāhabah: companionship) by the author and accordingly the expression has been translated as: ‘with an inclination towards sin, their arrogance prevents them [from fearing Allah]’. This, of course, means that primarily the expression is ‘أَخَذَتْهُ الْعِزَّةُ’.
اخذه الشئ’  means: ‘ذالك  اعتراه’.

Most commentators regard the particle ‘ب’ in this expression as ‘تعديه’ (ta‘diyyah: transitivity) for the verb ‘اخذ’. In this case, the meaning of the expression ‘الْعِزَّةُ بِالْإِثْمِ أَخَذَتْهُ’ would be: ‘arrogance impels him towards sin’. This latter interpretation, has not been preferred here for the following reasons:

a. The real thing that prevents a person from fearing Allah is arrogance. This is fully bought out if this interpretation is adopted.

b. The verb ‘اخذ’ is already a transitive verb. Although transitive verbs can be made doubly transitive by a particle of transitivity (as the other interpretation suggests), yet in the presence of a better interpretation this seems needless.


II Declensions & Syntax (النحو و الاعراب)


i. Alladu’l-Khisām (‘أَلَدُّ الْخِصَامِ’)

The word ‘خِصَامِ’ is both a plural noun (singular: خَصْم) and a verbal noun (مصدر). Since generally the annexure of the superlative form is towards a plural noun rather than towards a verbal noun, its former status is preferred here.


ii. Kāfah (‘كَافَّةً’)

كَافَّةً’ (Kāfah) is in the accusative form of ‘حال’ from the antecedent in ‘ادْخُلُوا’. Some exegetes have taken it to be an accusative form of ‘حال’ from the abstract noun ‘السِّلْمِ’. Although the latter is not incorrect, yet conventionally like ‘جَميعا’ and ‘قَاطِبَة’, it expresses the ‘حال’ of plural entities. Hence the preference.



III Eloquence & Style (الاساليب و البلاغة)


i. Hal yanzurūna illā an ya’tiyahumullāhu (هَلْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَّا أَنْ يَأْتِيَهُمْ’ ‘اللَّهُ …)

Just as the particle of exception ‘إِلَّا’ (illā) comes after particles of negation to encompass as well as to confine what is implied, it also comes after variuos particles of interrogation like ‘هَلْ’ (hal) for similar reasons. Thus if the expression ‘وَ مَا تُنْفِقُونَ ِالاّ ِابْتِغَاءَ وَجْهِ الله’ means: ‘You spend only to obtain the pleasure of Allah’4, the expression ‘هَلْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَّا أَنْ يَأْتِيَهُمْ اللَّهُ …’ means: ‘Are they only waiting for Allah to appear…’.

Consequently, there is no need to say (as grammarians generally do5) that the particle ‘هَلْ’ (hal) in such cases denotes negation6. It denotes its own ma‘rūf (conventional) meaning of interrogation.


ii. Ellipses (حذف) after ‘كَانَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً

The word ‘فَاخْتَلَفُوا’ (fakhtalafū: then they differed) is suppressed after the words ‘كَانَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً’ (kāna al-nāsu ummatan wāhidatan: mankind was once one community ). The subsequent words ‘لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ فِيمَا اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ’ (li yahkuma bayn al-nāsi fīmā ikhtalafū fīh: so that it [—the Book—] may settle these differences of men) bear evidence to this suppression.

In the following verse, which is very similar to this one, this very word appears:

وَمَا كَانَ النَّاسُ إِلَّا أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَاخْتَلَفُوا (١٠ :١٩)

Mankind was once one community. Then they differed. (10:19)

Here, obviously, it could not have been suppressed because it is not understood to be present.


IV Names and Loci (الاعلام و الاماكن)

i. Banī Isrā’īl

The descendants the Prophet Abraham’s son, the Prophet Isaac (sws) are called the Banī Isrā’īl (literally: the Children of Israel)7. They have been named after the Isaac’s son, Prophet Jacob (sws), who was called ‘Israel’. While commenting upon their origins, Daryābādī writes:

‘Children of Israel’ is the national designation of the Jews. Israel was the name borne by their ancestor, Jacob, the father of ‘the twelve tribes,’ a son of Isaac, and a grandson of Abraham (on all of whom be peace!). This nation of priests, patriarchs and prophets, perhaps the most remarkable people in ancient history, blessed of their Lord, always great in the realm of religion and faith, and mighty and glorious for long periods in the affairs of the world, had migrated in their thousands, after the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans under Titus, into Arabia, and had settled in and around Madīnah long before the advent of the holy Prophet (sws). The whole of the north-eastern Arabia was dotted over by their colonies, and many of the Arab pagans, in the course of time, had come to adopt their ways and their faith. In the third century of the Christian era an Arabian tribe, even so remote as in the south of the Peninsula, was led to adopt the Jewish faith. As proud possessors of the book and the Divine Law, and even more as adepts in crude occult sciences and magical crafts, these Arab Jews were in the early days of Islam, in effect, intellectually the dominating masters of the country. In matters religious and divine, they were the trusted advisers of the unlettered pagans and their acknowledged superiors. Jewish legends, Jewish tenets and Jewish feats of exorcism were by now popular knowledge throughout Arabia. The ‘idolatry of Arabia’, to use the words of Muir, had formed a compromise with Judaism, and had imbibed many of its legends and perhaps many of its tenets. It was the Jews, again, who had been long predicting a new redeemer, and had been keenly looking for him. This helps to explain the extent of attention they receive in the Qur’ān, and the long series of admonitions, warning and exhortations addressed to them. In the domain of religion, they were always the foremost; in Arabia, contemporaneous with Islam, their importance stood specially high.8








1. Ibn Manzūr, Lisānu’l-‘Arab, 1st ed., vol. 5, (Beirut: Dār Sādir, 1400 AH), p. 374

2. For more examples of this usage see: 5:16 & 14:1

3. Kashshāf, Zamakhsharī, 1st ed., vol. 1, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Ahyā al-Turāth al‘Arabī, 1997), p. 292

4. 2:272

5. Grammarians and exegetes in such cases would generally say: هل’ ‘بمعنى ما For more details, see: Ibn Hishām, Mughnī al-Labīb, 5th ed., vol. 1, (Beirut: 1979), p. 459/ Abū Hayyān, al-Bahr al-Muhīt, vol. 2, (Makkah: al-Maktabah al-Tijāriyyah), p. 342

6. Thus they would translate the expression هَلْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَّا أَنْ يَأْتِيَهُمْ اللَّهُ …’ as ‘They are not waiting but for Allah to appear …’.

7. In contrast, the progeny of Abraham’s eldest son, the Prophet Ismā’īl (sws), are called the Banī Ismā’īl.

8. Daryābādī, ‘Abdu’l-Mājid, Tafsīru’l-Qur’ān, 1st ed., vol. 1, (Karachi: Dāru’l-Ishā‘at, 1991), pp. 26-7

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