Surah Al-Ma’idah Part 9 Ayat 96-105

{96. Lawful to you is water game and its use for food – for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel, but forbidden is (the pursuit of) land game as long as you are in a state of Ihram. And have Taqwa of Allah to Whom you shall be gathered back.

97. Allah has made the Kabah, the Sacred House, an asylum of security and benefits for mankind, and also the Sacred Month and the animals of offerings and the garlanded, that you may know that Allah has knowledge of all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and that Allah is the All- Knower of each and everything.

98. Know that Allah is severe in punishment and that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

99. The Messenger’s duty is but to convey. And Allah knows all that you reveal and all that you conceal.}

Water Game is Allowed for the Muhrim

Said bin Al-Musayyib, Said bin Jubayr and others commented on Allah’s statement; ”Lawful to you is (the pursuit of) water game…” that it means, what one eats fresh from it, while, ”And its use for food” what is eaten dry and salted. (At-Tabari 11:59) Ibn Abbas said that ‘water game’ refers to what is taken from water while still alive, while, ”and its use for food” refers to what the water throws ashore dead.

Allah’s statement,”for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel” as food and provision for you, ”and those who travel,” those who are in the sea and traveling along the sea, according to Ikrimah. (At-Tabari 11:71) Other scholars said that water game is allowed for those who fish it from the sea, as well as, when it is salted and used as food for travelers inland. A similar statement was reported from Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and As-Suddi and others. Imam Malik bin Anasr ecorded that Jabir bin Abdullah said, “Allah’s Messenger sent an army towards the east coast and appointed Abu Ubaydah bin Al-Jarrah as their commander, and the army consisted of three hundred men, including myself. We marched on until we reached a place where our food was about to finish. Abu Ubaydah ordered us to collect all the food for our journey, and it was collected in two bags of dates. Abu Ubaydah kept on giving us our daily ration in small amounts from it, until it was exhausted. The share of each of us used to be one date only.” I (one of the narrators from Jabir) said, “How could one date suffice for you’?’ Jabir replied, “We came to know its value when even that finished.” Jabir added, “When we reached the seashore, we saw a huge fish which was like a small mountain. The army ate from it for eighteen days. Then Abu Ubaydah ordered that two of its ribs be affixed in the ground. Then he ordered that a she- camel be ridden, and it passed under the two ribs (forming an arch) without touching them.” (Al-Muwatta 2:930) This Hadith was also collected in the Two Sahihs. (Fath Al-Bari 5:152)

Malik recorded that Abu Hurayrah said, “A man asked Allah’s Messenger, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! We go to sea and carry little water with us. If we use it for Wudu’, we get thirsty, so should we use seawater for Wudu” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

”Its water is pure and its dead are lawful.” (Al-Mauwatta 1:22)

The two Imams, Ash-Shafii and Ahmad bin Hanbal, recorded this Hadith, along with the Four Sunan compilers. Al-Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Hibban graded it Sahih. This Hadith was also recorded from the Prophet by several other Companions. (Musnad Ash-Shafi no.25)

Hunting Land Game is Prohibited During Ihram

Allah said, ”but forbidden is land game as long as you are in a state of Ihram.” Therefore, hunting land game during Ihram is not allowed, and if someone who is in the state of Ihram hunts, he will have to pay expiation, along with the sin he earns if he does it intentionally. If he hunts by mistake, he will have to pay the expiation and is not allowed to eat from it, because this type of game is just like dead animals, be he a Muhrim or a non-Muhrim. If someone who is not in the state of Ihram hunts and gives the food to a Muhrim, the Muhrim is not allowed to eat from its meat if it was killed for him in particular. As-Sab bin Jaththamah said that he gave a zebra as a gift to the Prophet in the area of Waddan or Abwa, the Prophet gave it back. When the Prophet saw the effect of his returning the gift on As-Sab’s face, he said,

”We only gave it back to you because we are in a state of Ihram.”

This Hadith was collected in the Two Sahihs. (Al-Buhkaru no.1825, Muslim 2:850) The Prophet thought that As-Sab hunted the zebra for him, and this is why he refused to take it. Otherwise, the Muhrim is allowed to eat from the game if one who is not in Ihram hunts it. For when Abu Qatadah hunted a zebra when he was not a Muhrim and offered it to those who were in the state of Ihram, they hesitated to eat from it. They asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and he said,

”Did any of you point at it or help kill it?”

They said, “No.” He said,

“Then eat” and he also ate from it.

This Hadith is also in the Two Sahihs with various wordings. (Fath Al-Bari 9:528, Muslim 2:362)

[Ibn Kathir only mentioned Ayat 96 to 99 here and explained the better part of Ayah number 96, but he did not mention the explanation of the rest of that Ayah or the other Ayat (97 to 99). This is the case in all of the copies of his Tafsir in existence, and he might have forgotten to do that, for it is less likely that all who copied this book forgot to copy only this part. So we used a summary of the Tafsir of these Ayat from the Imam of Tafsir, Ibn Jarir At-Tabari. We tried to summarize At-Tabari’s eloquent words to the best of our ability, by Allah’s help and leave.]

“And have Taqwa of Allah to Whom you shall be gathered back.” Allah says, fear Allah, O people, and beware of His might, by obeying what He commands you and avoiding what He prohibits for you in these Ayat revealed to your Prophet . These Ayat forbid Khamr, gambling, Al-Ansab and Al-Azlam, along with hunting land game and killing it while in the state of Ihram. To Allah will be your return and destination, and He will punish you for disobeying Him and will reward you for obeying Him. “Allah has made the Kabah, the Sacred House, an asylum of security and benefits for mankind,” 

Allah says, Allah made the Kabah, the Sacred House, an asylum of safety for the people who have no chief to prevent the strong from transgressing against the weak, the evil from the good-doers, and the oppressors from the oppressed.“And also the Sacred Month and the animals of offerings and the garlanded.”

Allah says that He made these symbols an asylum of safety for the people, just as He made the Kabah an asylum of safety for them, so that He distinguishes them from each other, for this is their asylum and symbol for their livelihood and religion. Allah made the Kabah, the Sacred Month, the Hady, the garlanded animals and people an asylum of safety for the Arabs who used to consider these symbols sacred. Thus, these symbols were just like the chief who is obeyed by his followers, and who upholds harmony and public safety. As for the Kabah, it includes the entire sacred boundary. Allah termed it “Haram” because He prohibited hunting its game and cutting its trees or grass. Similarly, the Kabah, the Sacred Month, the animals of offerings and the garlands were the landmarks of existing Arabs. These symbols were sacred during the time of Jahiliyyah and the people’s affairs were guided and protected by them. With Islam they became the symbols of their Hajj, their rituals, and the direction of the prayer. (i.e. the Kabah in Makkah.)

“that you may know that Allah has knowledge of all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and that Allah is the All-Knower of each and everything.” Allah says; O people, I made these symbols an asylum for you, so that you know that He Who made these symbols that benefit your life and provide you with security, also knows everything in the heavens and earth that brings about your immediate or eventual benefit. Know that He has perfect knowledge of everything and that none of your deeds or affairs ever escapes His observation; and He will count them for you so that He rewards those who do good with the same and those who do evil in kind.

“Know that Allah is severe in punishment and that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Allah says, know that your Lord, Who has perfect knowledge of whatever is in the heavens and earth, and Who is never unaware of your deeds – public or secret – is severe in punishment for those who disobey and defy Him. He also pardons the sins of those who obey and repent to Him, more Merciful than to punish them for the sins that they repented from.

“The Messenger’s duty is but to convey. And Allah knows all that you reveal and all that you conceal.” This is a warning from Allah for His servants in which He says: Our Messenger, whom We sent to you, has only to convey Our Message and then the reward for the obedience, and punishment for the disobedience is on Us. The obedience of those who accept Our Message never escapes Our knowledge, just as in the case of those who disobey and defy Our Message. We know what one of you does, demonstrates physically, announces, and utters with his tongue, and what you hide in your hearts, be it of faith, disbelief, certainty, doubt or hypocrisy. He Who is so capable, then nothing that the hearts conceal, nor any of the apparent acts of the souls in the heavens and earth could escape His knowledge. In His Hand, alone, is the reward and punishment, and He is worthy to be feared, obeyed and never disobeyed.

{100. Say: “Not equal are the bad things and the good things, even though the abundance of the bad may please you. ” So have Taqwa of Allah, O men of understanding in order that you may be successful.

101. O you who believe! Ask not about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. But if you ask about them while the Qur’an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you. Allah has forgiven that, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Forbearing.

102. Before you, a community asked such questions, then on that   account    they be came disbelievers.}

Allah says to His Messenger, “(Say,) O Muhammad, “Not equal are the bad things and the good things, even though they may please you” O human, “the abundance of bad.” This Ayah means, the little permissible is better than the abundant evil. “have Taqwa of Allah, O men of understanding…” who have sound minds, avoid and abandon the impermissible, and let the permissible be sufficient for you, “in order that you may be successful” in this life and the Hereafter.

Unnecessary Questioning is Disapproved of

Allah said next, ”O you who believe! Ask not about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble.” This Ayah refers to good conduct that Allah is teaching His believing servants, by forbidding them from asking about useless things. Since if they get the answers they sought, they might be troublesome for them and difficult on their ears. Al-Bukhari recorded that Anas bin Malik said, “The Messenger of Allah gave a speech unlike anything I heard before. In this speech, he said, If you but know what I know, you will laugh little and cry a lot.” The companions of Allah’s Messenger covered their faces and the sound of crying was coming out of their chests. A man asked, ‘Who is my father?’ The Prophet said, ‘So-and-so’. This Ayah was later revealed, ”Ask not about things…” (Fath Al-Bari 8:130) Muslim, Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i recorded this Hadith.

Ibn Jarir recorded that Qatadah said about Allah’s statement, ”O you who believe! Ask not about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble.” Anas bin Malik narrated that once, the people were questioning the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, until they made him angry. So he ascended the Minbar and said,

”You will not ask me about anything today but I will explain it to you.” 

So the Companions of the Messenger of Allah feared that it was the commencement of a momentous event, and I looked to my right and left and found only people who covered their faces, crying. An argumentative man who was said to be the son of someone other than his true father asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! Who is my father?’ The Prophet said, ‘Your father is Hudhafah.” Umar stood up ‘(when he saw anger on the Prophet’s face’) and said, “We accept Allah as our Lord, Islam as our religion and Muhammad as our Messenger, I seek refuge with Allah from the evil of the Fitan (trials in life and religion).” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

”I have never witnessed both goodness and evil like I have today. Paradise and the Fire were shown to me and I saw them before that wall.” (At-Tabari 11:100)

This Hadith was recorded in the Two Sahihs from Said. (Fath Al-Bari 13:47, Muslim 4:1834)

Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn Abbas said, “Some people used to question the Messenger of Allah to mock him. One of them would ask, ‘Who is my father?’ while another would ask, ‘Where is my camel?,’ when he lost his camel. Allah sent down this Ayah about them, O you who believe! Ask not about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble…” (Fath Al-Bari 8:130)

Imam Ahmad recorded that Ali said, “When this Ayah was revealed, ”And Hajj to the House is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can bear the journey.” (3:97), they asked, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Is it required every year?’ He did not answer them, and they asked again, ‘Is it every year?’ He still did not answer them, so they asked, ‘Is it every year?’ He said,

”No, and had I said ‘yes’, it would have become obligated, and had it become obligated, you would not be able to bear it.”

Allah sent down, ”O you who believe! Ask not about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble”.” At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah also recorded this Hadith. (Ahmad 1:113)

The apparent wording of this Ayah indicates that we are forbidden to ask about things that if one has knowledge of, he would be sorry he had asked. Consequently, it is better to avoid such questions.

Allah’s statement,

”But if you ask about them while the Qur’an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you.” means, if you ask about things that you are prohibited from asking about, then when the revelation about them comes to the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, they will be made plain for you, ”Verily! That is easy for Allah.” Allah said next, ”Allah has forgiven that” what you did before this, ”and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Forbearing.” Do not ask about things that do not have a ruling yet, for because of your questions, a difficult ruling may be ordained. A Hadith states,

”The worst criminal among the Muslims is he who asks if a matter is unlawful (or not), and it becomes unlawful because of his asking about it.” (Al-Bukhari no.7289)

It is recorded in the Sahih that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said

”Leave me as I have left you, those before you were destroyed because of many questions and disputing with their Prophets.” (Muslim 4:1831)

An authentic Hadith also states,

”Allah, the Most Honored, has ordained some obligations, so do not ignore them; has set some limits, so do not trespass them; has prohibited some things, so do not commit them; and has left some things without rulings, out of mercy for you, not that He forgot them, so do not ask about them.” (Al-Bukhari 4623 and Muslim 2856)

Allah said next, ”Before you, a community asked such questions, then on that account they  became disbelievers.” meaning, some people before your time asked such questions and they were given answers. They did not believe the answers, so they became disbelievers because of that. This occurred because these rulings were made plain to them, yet they did not benefit at all from that, for they asked about these things not to gain guidance, but only to mock and defy.

{103. Allah has not instituted things like Bahirah or a Sa’ibah or a Wasilah or a Ham. But those who disbelieve invent lies against Allah, and most of them have no understanding.

104. And when it is said to them: “Come to what Allah has revealed and unto the Messenger.” They say: “Enough for us is that which we found our fathers following,” even though their fathers had no knowledge whatsoever and no guidance.}

The Meaning of Bahirah, Sa’ibah, Wasilah and Ham

Al-Bukhari recorded that Said bin Al-Musayyib said, “The Bahirah is a female camel whose milk was spared for the idols and no one was allowed to milk it. The Sa’ibah is a female camel let loose for free pasture for the idols, and nothing was allowed to be carried on it. Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him,

”I saw Amr bin Amir Al-Khuzai pulling his intestines behind him in the Fire, and he was the first to start the practice of Sa’ibah.” (Al-Bayhaqi 10:12)

As for the Wasilah, it is a female camel set free for the idols, because it had given birth to a she-camel in its first delivery and then another she-camel at its second delivery. They used to set such camel free if she gave birth to two females without a male between them. As for the Ham, it is a male camel which would be freed from work for the idols, after it had finished a number of copulations assigned for it. The male camel freed from work in this case is called a Hami.” (Fath Al-Bari 8:133)

Imam Ahmad recorded that Abdullah bin Masud said that the Prophet said, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him,

”The first to start the practice of Sa’ibah and worshipping idols was Abu Khuzaah, Amr bin Amir. I saw him pulling his intestines behind him in the Fire.” (Ahmad 1:446)

The Amr mentioned in the above Hadith is the son of Luhay bin Qamah, one of the chiefs of the tribe of Khuzaah who were the caretakers of the House of Allah after the tribe of Jurhum, (and before the Prophet’s tribe, Quraysh). He was the first to change the religion of Ibrahim (Al-Khalil in Makkah) bringing idol worshipping to the area of Hijaz (Western Arabia). He also called the foolish people to worship idols and offer sacrifices to them and started these ignorant rituals concerning the animals as well as ot her rit uals of Jahiliyyah. Allah said in Surat Al-An’am, “And they assign to Allah a share of the tilth and cattle which He has created…” (3:136). As for the Bahirah, Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn ` Abbas said, “It is the female camel that has given delivery five times. After that, they looked at the fifth delivery, if it were a male, they would slaughter it and give it to the men only and not the women. If it were a female, they would cut off its ears and proclaim, ‘This is a Bahirah (no one is allowed to milk it).”’ (At-Tabari 11:129) As for the Sa’ibah, Mujahid said that it is for sheep, and mentioned a similar meaning as for Bahirah. He said that it delivers six females and then a male, female or two males, and that they then would slaughter it (the newly born sheep) and feed its meat to the men, but not to the woman. (At-Tabari 11:128)

Muhammad bin Ishaq said that the Sa’ibah is the female camel that delivers ten females, without giving birth to a single male between them. They would then set it free and no one was allowed to ride it, cut its wool or milk it, except for a guest. Abu Rawq said, “The Sa’ibah was made as such when one goes out for some of his affairs and succeeds in whatever he intended to do. So he would designate a Sa’ibah from his property, a female camel or another type, and would set it free for the idols (in appreciation for his success). Then, whatever this camel gave birth to was set free for the idols too.” As-Suddi said, “When one’s affair was successful, or if he was cured from an illness, or if his wealth increased, he would set some of his wealth free for the idols. Those who would try to acquire any of the Sa’ibah property were punished in this world.”

As for the Wasilah, Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn Abbas said, “It is the sheep that gives birth seven times, if she gives birth to a male or a female stillborn at its seventh delivery, the men, but not the women, would eat from it. If she gave birth to a female, or a female and a male, they would set them free, proclaiming (about the male in this case), His sister Wasalat (literally, ‘connected him to being forbidden on us’).” Ibn Abi Hatim recorded this statement. (Ibn Abi Hatim 4:1222) Abdur-Razzaq narrated that Mamar said that Az-Zuhri said that Said bin Al-Musayyib said that, ”Or a Wasilah” “It is the female camel that gives delivery to a female and then another female at its second delivery. They would call such a camel a Wasilah, proclaiming that she has Wasalat (connected) between two females without giving birth to a male between them. So they used to cut off the ears of the Wasilah and let it roam free to pasture for their idols.” (Abdur Razzaq 1:196) A similar explanation was reported from Imam Malik bin Anas. Muhammad bin Ishaq said, “The Wasilah sheep is the ewe that gives birth to ten females in five deliveries, giving birth to two females at each delivery. This sheep would be called Wasilah and would be set free. Whatever this sheep delivers afterwards, male or female, would be given to the men, but not the women, but if it delivers a stillborn, men and women would share it!”

As for the Ham, Al-Awfi said that Ibn Abbas said, “If a man’s camel performs ten copulations, they would call him a Ham, ‘So set him free.,”(At-Tabari 11:129)  Similar was reported from Abu Rawq and Qatadah. Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn Abbas said, “The Ham is the male camel whose offspring gave birth to their own offspring; they would then proclaim, ‘This camel has Hama (protected) its back.’ Therefore, they would not carry anything on this male camel, cut his wool, prevent him from grazing wherever he likes or drinking from any pool, even if the pool did not belong to its owner.” (Ibn Abi Hatim 4:1225) Ibn Wahb said, “I heard Malik saying, ‘As for the Ham, it is the male camel who is assigned a certain number of copulations, and when having finished what was assigned to him, would have peacock feathers placed on him and be set free.”’ Other opinions were also mentioned to explain this Ayah.

There is a Hadith on this subject that Ibn Abi Hatim collected from Abu Ishaq As-Subayi from Al-Ahwas Al-Jushami from his father Malik bin Nadlah who said, “I came to the Prophet wearing old clothes. So he said to me, ”Do you have any property?” I said, ‘Yes.’ He asked, ‘‘What type?” I said, ”All types; camels, sheep, horses and slaves.’ He said, ‘‘If Allah gives you wealth, then let it show on you.” He then asked, ”Do your camels deliver calves that have full ears?” I said, ‘Yes, and do camels give birth but to whole calves’ He said, ”Do you take the knife and cut off the ears of some of them saying, ‘This is a Bahirah,’ and tear the ears of some of them and proclaim, ‘This is Sacred” ?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, “Then do not do that, for all the wealth that Allah has given you is allowed for you.” Then he said;”Allah has not instituted things like Bahirah or a Sa’ibah or a Wasilah or a Ham.” 

As for the Bahirah, it is the animal whose ears were cut, one would not allow his wife, daughters, or any of his household to benefit from its wool, hair or milk. But, if it died, they would share it. As for the Sa’ibah, they used to set it free for their idols and announce this fact in the vicinity of the idols. As for the Wasilah, it is the sheep that gives birth to six offspring. When she delivered for the seventh time, they would cut its ears and horns, saying, ‘It has Wasalat (connected deliveries),’ and they would not slaughter it, hit it or prevent it from drinking from any pool.” (Ibn Abi Hatim 4:1220) This Hadith was narrated with the addition of the explanation of these words in it. In another narration for this Hadith from Abu Ishaq from Abu Al-Ahwas, Awf bin Malik used his own words (i.e., he explained these words not as a part of the Hadith itself) and this is more sound. Imam Ahmad recorded this Hadith from Sufyan bin Uyaynah, from Abu Az-Zara’ Amr bin Amr, from his uncle Abu Al-Ahwas Awf bin Malik bin Nadlah from his father, Malik bin Nadlah. (Ahmad 4:136) This narration also does not contain the explanation of Bahirah, Ham etc., that is added to the Hadith above, and Allah knows best.

Allah’s statement, “But those who disbelieve invent lies against Allah, and most of them have no understanding.” means, Allah did not legislate these invented rituals and He does not consider them acts of obedience. Rather, it is the idolators who made them into rituals and acts of worship that they used to draw near to Allah. But they did not and will not help them to draw near to Him, rather, these innovations will only harm them.

“And when it is said to them: “Come to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger.” They say: “Enough for us is that which we found our fathers following,” meaning, if they are called to Allah’s religion, Law and commandments and to avoiding what He prohibited, they say, ‘The ways and practices that we found our fathers and forefathers following are good enough for us’. Allah said, “even though their fathers had no knowledge whatsoever…” That is, even though their fathers did not understand or recognize the truth or find its way. Therefore, who would follow their forefathers, except those who are even more ignorant and misguided than they were

{105. O you who believe! Take care of yourselves. If you follow the right guidance, no hurt can come to you from those who are in error. The return of you all is to Allah, then He will inform you about (all) that you used to do.}

One is Required to Reform Himself First

Allah commands His believing servants to reform themselves and to do as many righteous deeds as possible. He also informs them that whoever reforms himself, he would not be affected by the wickedness of the wicked, whether they were his relatives or otherwise. Imam Ahmad recorded that Qays said, “Abu Bakr As-Siddiq stood up, thanked Allah and praised Him and then said, ‘O people! You read this Ayah, “O you who believe! Take care of yourselves. If you follow the right guidance, no hurt can come to you from those who are in error.” You explain it the wrong way. I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, say,

“If the people witness evil and do not change it , then Allah is about to send His punishment to encompass them.”

I (Qays) also heard Abu Bakr say, ‘O people! Beware of lying, for lying contradicts faith.” (Ahmad 1:5)

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