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Inquiry in Paradise
Moiz Amjad


Mr. Katz, in one of his writings1, has pointed out a contradiction in the Qur’ān, on the basis of three separate verses of its Qur’ān.

These verses of the Qur’ān are as follows: 23:101, 37: 27, 52:25.

For when the trumpet is blown, that day there shall be no kinship any more between them, neither will they question one another. (23:101)

And they will turn to each other, questioning. (37:27), (52:25)

For a person who does not know the Arabic language, the two kinds of verses are so obviously contradictory that Mr. Katz has, rightly, just stated the translation of these verses and has allowed the reader to make his own deductions from these verses. But for a person who has some knowledge of the Arabic language, the two kinds of verses imply two different kinds of meanings.

The Arabic verb yatasā’alūn means: ‘they [will] mutually question one another’, ‘they [will] mutually inquire from one another’ or ‘they [will] mutually ask one another’ etc. But the noun su’āl normally implying ‘question’, ‘inquiry’ etc. is used in a number of connotations. For instance, it is used to connote ‘to demand’ or ‘to beg’ or ‘to ask for help’ etc. Now, The Arabic verb yatasā’alūn may be used in all these connotations. Thus, it may mean: ‘ They mutually demand from one another’, or ‘They mutually beg each other’ or ‘ They mutually ask one another’ etc. In this sense, the word is quite close to the English word ‘ask’. We know that the English word ‘ask’ is not just used to imply ‘asking a question’. It is used to request information about something or somebody (as in: ‘Ask him about your dog’), it is used to request that somebody gives or does something (as in: ‘Ask him to solve your problem’), it is used to request permission to do something (as in: ‘He asked me for my car’), it is used to invite somebody (as in: ‘He asked me out’), it is used to request something as a price (as in: ‘They are asking too much for this piece of cloth’).1

Now suppose if someone says: ‘Don’t ask him for anything’ and then immediately following this sentence he says: ‘Ask him: Why did he not return our calls’. The two statements may seem contradictory to a person who is not well versed with the English language due to the obvious reason that one says ‘Don’t ask him’ and the other says: ‘Ask him’. But anyone who is familiar with the different connotations of the word ‘ask’ will easily understand that the two statements imply two different meanings and are, therefore, not contradictory. The first statement actually means: ‘Don’t request him to give you anything’, while the second statement means: ‘Inquire from him: Why did he not return our calls’.

In more or less the same way, the Arabic word yatasā’alūn has been used in the Qur’ān in more than one connotation. For instance, in 4:1, it is used to imply ‘pleading with one another’ or ‘mutually asking one another for help’. The verse reads as:

O mankind, fear your Lord, Who created you all from a single being, and created from like nature his mate and from these two, He scattered innumerable men and women. Fear God, in whose name you plead with one another and [respect] the wombs [that bore you]. (4:1)

With this explanation in mind, let us now once again consider the two kinds of verses that Mr. Katz has referred to. The first among these verses is once again reproduced below:

For when the trumpet is blown, that day there shall be no kinship any more between them, neither will they ask of one another’s help. (23:101)

The verse simply states that when the Day of Reckoning comes, and the trumpet is blown, the rejectors -- who considered themselves to be very strong -- shall find themselves all alone. The relationship that exists between them, which makes them strong and the mutual help that they extend to each other in fighting against the Prophet of God shall all cease to exist. All relations between them shall be severed and they shall not even be able to ask one anothers’ help.

The word yatasā’alūn in this context is clearly used to negate the possibility of asking or getting each others’ help on the Day of Judgement. This connotation is so obvious that even N. J. Dawood has also translated this verse as:

And when the trumpet is sounded, on that day, their ties of kindred shall be broken nor shall they ask help of one another.

In contrast to this verse, 37:27 clearly uses the word yatasā’alūn to imply ‘mutual conversation’. The verse with its following verses reads as:

And they shall turn toward each other mutually conversing. They shall say: [So] you were the ones who would come to us from the right... They shall reply: No! it was you yourselves who would not believe. We had no power over you, you yourselves were a transgressing people.

Obviously, the word yatasā’alūn in this verse refers to the dialogue that follows it. Thus, in this verse it implies ‘mutual conversation’ or ‘mutual inquiry’. It is exactly the same case in 52:25. The verse, with three of its following verses reads as:

And they shall turn toward each other, mutually conversing. They will say: We used to be fearful, when among our family. But God has bestowed upon us [His mercy] and has saved us from the fiery scourge. Indeed, we used to call Him [asking for His mercy]. He is indeed faithful to His promises, Ever merciful. (53:25-7)

In the light of the explanation given above, we can say that the contradiction pointed out by Mr. Katz is actually based on an incorrect understanding of the Arabic word in question. Because the connotation of the word is different in the two kinds of verses, therefore there does not arise the question of any contradiction(s).


(Courtesy: ‘Understanding Islam’.



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