Surah Al-A’raf Part 1 Ayat 1-21

The Tafsir of Surat Al-Araf (The Heights) 

Chapter – 7

Which was revealed in Makkah

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

{1. Alif-Lam-Mim-Sad.

2. (This is the) Book (the Qur’an) sent down unto you, so let not your breast be narrow therefrom, that you warn thereby; and a reminder unto the believers.

3. Follow what has been sent down unto you from your Lord, and follow not any Awliya’ (protectors), besides Him (Allah). Little do you remember!}

We mentioned before the explanation of the letters – such as, Alif-Lam, that are in the beginning of some Surahs in the Qur’an. “(This is the) Book (the Qur’an) sent down unto you (O Muhammad)”, from your Lord, “so let not your breast be narrow therefrom,” meaning, having doubt about it according to Mujahid, Qatadah and As-Suddi. (At-Tabari 12:296) It was also said that the meaning here is: ‘do not hesitate to convey the Qur’an and warn with it,’ “Therefore be patient as did the Messengers of strong will” (46:35). Allah said here, “that you warn thereby” meaning, ‘We sent down the Qur’an so that you may warn the disbelievers with it, “and a reminder unto the believers”. Allah then said to the world, “Follow what has been sent down unto you from your Lord” meaning, follow and imitate the unlettered Prophet, who brought you a Book that was revealed for you, from the Lord and master of everything. “and follow not any Awliya’, besides Him (Allah)” meaning, do not disregard what the Messenger brought you and follow something else, for in this case, you will be deviating from Allah’s judgment to the decision of someone else. Allah’s statement, “And most of mankind will not believe even if you desire it eagerly” (12:103), and; “And if you obey most of those on the earth, they will mislead you far away from Allah’s path” (6:116), and, “And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners unto Him” (12:106). “Little do you remember!” is similar to,

 

{4. And a great number of towns We destroyed. Our torment came upon them by night or while they were taking their midday nap.

5. No cry did they utter when Our torment came upon them but this: “Verily, we were wrongdoers.”

6. Then surely, We shall question those (people) to whom it was sent and verily, We shall question the Messengers.

7. Then surely, We shall narrate unto them (their whole story) with knowledge, and indeed We have not been absent.}

 

Nations that were destroyed

Allah said, And a great number of towns We destroyed.” for defying Our Messengers and rejecting them. This behavior led them to earn disgrace in this life, which led them to disgrace in the Hereafter. Allah said in other Ayat, “And indeed (many) Messengers before you were mocked at, but their scoffers were surrounded by the very thing that they used to mock at” (6:10), and “And many a township did We destroy while they were given to wrongdoing, so that it lie in ruins (up to this day), and (many) a deserted well and lofty castle!” (22:45), and, “And how many a town have We destroyed, which was thankless for its means of livelihood? And those are their dwellings, which have not been inhabited after them except a little. And verily, We have been the heirs” (28:58). Allah’s saying, “Our torment came upon them by night or while they were taking their midday nap.” means, Allah’s command, torment and vengeance came over them at night or while taking a nap in the middle of the day. Both of these times are periods of rest and leisure or heedlessness and amusement.

Allah also said “Did the people of the towns then feel secure against the coming of Our punishment by night while they were asleep? Or, did the people of the towns then feel secure against the coming of Our punishment in the forenoon while they were playing” (7:97-98) and, “Do then those who devise evil plots feel secure that Allah will not sink them into the earth, or that the torment will not seize them from directions they perceive not Or that He may catch them in the midst of their going to and from, so that there be no escape for them? Or that He may catch them with gradual wastage. Truly, Your Lord is indeed full of kindness, Most Merciful” (16:45-47). Allah’s saying; “No cry did they utter when Our torment came upon them but this: “Verily, we were wrongdoers.” This means, when the torment came to them, their cry was that they admitted their sins and that they deserved to be punished. Allah said in a similar Ayah, “How many a town given to wrongdoing, have We destroyed?” (21:11), until, “Extinct” (21:15). Allah’s saying. “Then surely, We shall question those (people) to whom it (the Book) was sent” is similar to the Ayat, “And (remember) the Day (Allah) will call them, and say: “What answer gave you to the Messengers?” (28:65), and, “On the Day when Allah will gather the Messengers together and say to them: “What was the response you received?” They will say: “We have no knowledge, verily, only You are the Knower of all that is unseen.”  (5:109).

Allah will question the nations, on the Day of Resurrection, how they responded to His Messengers and the Messages He sent them with. He will also question the Messengers if they conveyed His Messages. So, Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn Abbas, who said commenting on the Ayah: “Then surely, We shall question those (people) to whom it (the Book) was sent and verily, We shall question the Messengers.” He said; “About what they conveyed.” (At-Tabari 12:306) Ibn Abbas commented on Allah’s statement, “Then surely, We shall narrate unto them (their whole story) with knowledge, and indeed We have not been absent.” “The Book [See Surat Al-Khaf 18:49] will be brought forth on the Day of Resurrection and it will speak, disclosing what they used to do.” (At-Tabari 12:308)  “and indeed We have not been absent” meaning, On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will inform His servants about what they said and did, whether substantial or minor. Certainly, He witnesses to everything, nothing escapes His observation, and He is never unaware of anything. Rather, He has perfect knowledge of what the eyes are deluded by and what the hearts conceal, “Not a leaf falls, but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record.” (6:59)

{8. And the weighing on that Day will be the true (weighing). So, as for those whose scale (of good deeds) will be heavy, they will be the successful (by entering Paradise).

9. And as for those whose scale will be light, they are those who will lose themselves for their wrongful behavior with Our Ayat.}

 

The Meaning of weighing the Deeds

Allah said, And the weighing”, of deeds on the Day of Resurrection, “will be the true (weighing)”, for Allah will not wrong anyone. Allah said in other Ayat, “And We shall set up the Balances of justice on the Day of Resurrection, then none will be dealt with unjustly in anything. And if there be the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it. And Sufficient are We to take account.” (21:47), “Surely, Allah wrongs not even the weight of a speck of dust, but if there is any good (done), He doubles it, and gives from Him a great reward.” (4:40), “Then as for him whose scale (of good deeds) will be heavy. He will live a pleasant life (in Paradise). But as for him whose scale (of good deeds) will be light. He will have his home in Hawiyah (pit, Hell). And what will make you know what it is? (It is) a fiercely blazing Fire!” (101:6-11) and, “Then, when the Trumpet is blown, there will be no kinship among them that Day, nor will they ask of one another. Then, those whose scales (of good deeds) are heavy, they are the successful. And those whose scales (of good deeds) are light, they are those who lose themselves, in Hell will they abide” (23:101-103).

As for what will be placed on the Balance on the Day of Resurrection, it has been said that the deeds will be placed on it, even though they are not material objects. Allah will give these deeds physical weight on the Day of Resurrection. Al-Baghawi said that this was reported from Ibn Abbas. (Al-Baghawi 2:149) It is recorded in the Sahih that Al-Baqarah            (chapter 2)  and Al Imran (chapter 3) will come on the Day of Resurrection in the shape of two clouds, or two objects that provide shade, or two lined groups of birds. (Muslim 1:553)  It is also recorded in the Sahih that the Qur’an will come to its companion “who used to recite and preserve it” in the shape of a pale-faced young man. He will ask “the young man”, “Who are you?” He will reply, “I am the Qur’an, who made you stay up sleeplessly at night and caused you thirst in the day. ” (Ibn Majah 2:1242) The Hadith that Al-Bara’ narrated about the questioning in the grave states,

“A young man with fair color and good scent will come to the believer, who will ask, ‘Who are you?’ He will reply, ‘I am your good deeds”. (Ahmad 4:287)

The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, mentioned the opposite in the case of the disbeliever and the hypocrite. It was also said that the Book of Records that contains the deeds will be weighed. A Hadith states that a man will be brought forth and ninety-nine scrolls containing errors and sins will be placed on one side of the balance each as long as the sight can reach. He will then be brought a card on which ‘La ilaha illallah’ will be written. He will say, “O Lord! What would this card weigh against these scrolls?” Allah will say, “You will not be wronged.” So the card will be placed on the other side of the Balance, and as the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said

“Behold! The (ninety-nine) scrolls will go up, as the card becomes heavier.” (Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi 7:395)

At-Tirmidhi recorded similar wording for this Hadith and said that it is authentic. It was also said that the person who performed the deed will be weighed. A Hadith states,

“On the Day of Resurrection, a fat man will be brought forth, but he will not weigh with Allah equal to the wing of a mosquito”.

He then recited the Ayah, “And on the Day of Resurrection, We shall assign no weight for them” (18:105). (Fath Al-Bari 8:279)

Also, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said about Abdullah bin Masud,

“Do you wonder at the thinness of his legs? By He in Whose Hand is my soul! They are heavier on the Balance than (Mount) Uhud.” (Ahmad 1:420)

It is also possible to combine the meanings of these Ayat and Hadiths by stating that all this will truly occur, for sometimes the deeds will be weighed, sometimes the scrolls where they are recorded will be weighed, and sometimes those who performed the deeds will be weighed. Allah knows best.

{10. And surely, We gave you authority on the earth and appointed for you therein livelihoods. Little thanks do you give.}

 

All Bounties in the Heavens and Earth are for the Benefit of Mankind

Allah reminds of His favor on His servants in that He made the earth a fixed place for dwelling, placed firm mountains and rivers on it and made homes and allowed them to utilize its benefits. Allah made the clouds work for them (bringing rain) so that they may produce their sustenance from them. He also created the ways and means of earnings, commercial activities and other professions. Yet, most of them give liltle thanks for this. Allah said in another Ayah, “And if you count the blessings of Allah,never will you be able to count them. Verily, man is indeed a wrongdoer, an ingrate.” (14:34)

 

{11. And surely, We created you and then gave you shape; then We told the angels, “Prostrate yourselves to Adam,” and they prostrated, except Iblis (Shaytan), he refused to be of those who prostrated.}

 

Prostration of the Angels to Adam and Shaytan’s Arrogance

Allah informs the Children of Adam about the honor of their father and the enmity of Shaytan, who still has envy for them and for their father Adam. So they should beware of him and not follow in his footsteps. Allah said, “And surely, We created you and then gave you shape; then We told the angels, “Prostrate yourselves to Adam,” and they prostrated” This is like His saying, “And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “I am going to create a man from dried (sounding) clay of altered mud. So, when I have fashioned him completely and breathed into him the soul (which I created for him), then fall (you) down prostrating yourselves unto him.” (15:28-29). After Allah created Adam with His Hands from dried clay of altered mud and made him in the shape of a human being, He blew life into him and ordered the angels to prostrate before him, honoring Allah’s glory and magnificence. The angels all heard, obeyed and prostrated, but Iblis did not prostrate. We explained this subject in the beginning of Surat Al-Baqarah. Therefore, the Ayah (7:11) refers to Adam, although Allah used the plural in this case, because Adam is the father of all mankind. Similarly, Allah said to the Children of Israel who lived during the time of the Prophet, “And We shaded you with clouds and sent down on you manna and the quail” (2:57) This refers to their forefathers who lived during the time of Moses. But, since that was a favor given to the forefathers, and they are their very source, then the offspring have also been favored by it. This is not the case in: And indeed We created man out of an extract of clay (water and earth.)” (23:12) For this merely means that Adam was created from clay. His children were created from Nutfah “mixed male and female sexual discharge”. This last Ayah is thus talking about the origin of mankind, not that they were all created from clay, and Allah knows best.

{12. (Allah) said: “What prevented you (O Iblis) that you did not prostrate, when I commanded you” Iblis said: “I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.”}

 

Allah said, ”What prevented you (O Iblis) that you did not prostrate?” (7: 12) meaning, what stopped and hindered you from prostrating after I ordered you to do so, according to Ibn Jarir. This meaning is sound, and Allah knows best. Iblis, may Allah curse him, said, “I am better than him (Adam)”, and this excuse is worse than the crime itself! Shaytan said that he did not obey Allah because he who is better cannot prostrate to he who is less. Shaytan, may Allah curse him, meant that he is better than Adam, “So how can You order me to prostrate before him?” Shaytan said that he is better than Adam because he was created from fire while, “You created him from clay, and fire is better.” The cursed one looked at the origin of creation not at the honor bestowed, that is, Allah creating Adam with His Hand and blowing life into him. Shaytan made a false comparison when confronted by Allah’s command, “Then you fall down prostrate to him” (38:72). Therefore, Shaytan alone contradicted the angels, because he refused to prostrate. He, thus, became Ablasa’ from the mercy, meaning, lost hope in acquiring Allah’s mercy. He committed this error, may Allah curse him, due to his false comparison. His claim that the fire is more honored than mud was also false, because mud has the qualities of wisdom, for – bearance, patience and assurance, mud is where plants grow, flourish, increase, and provide good. To the contrary, fire has the qualities of burning, recklessness and hastiness. Therefore, the origin of creation directed Shaytan to failure, while the origin of Adam led him to return to Allah with repentance, humbleness, obedience and submission to His command, admitting his error and seeking Allah’s forgiveness and pardon for it. Muslim recorded that Aishah said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“The angels were created from light, Shaytan from a smokeless flame of fire, while Adam was created from what was described to you.”(Muslim 4:2294)

Iblis was the First to use Qiyas (Analogical Comparison)

Ibn Jarir recorded that Al-Hasan commented on Shaytan’s statement, “You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.” “Iblis used Qiyas [analogy], and he was the first one to do so.” (At-Tabari 12:328) This statement has an authentic chain of narration. Ibn Jarir recorded that Ibn Sirin said, “The first to use Qiyas was Iblis, and would the sun and moon be worshipped if it was not for Qiyas?” (At-Tabari 12:328) This statement also has an authentic chain of narration.

{13. (Allah) said: “(O Iblis) get down from this (Paradise), it is not for you to be arrogant here. Get out, for you are of those humiliated and disgraced.”

14. (Iblis) said: “Allow me respite till the Day they are raised up (the Day of Resurrection).”

15. (Allah) said: “You are of those respited.”}

Allah ordered Iblis; “Get down from this” “because you defied My command and disobeyed Me. Get out, it is not for you to be arrogant here,” in Paradise, according to the scholars of Tafsir. It could also refer to particular status which he held in the utmost highs. Allah said to Iblis, “Get out, for you are of those humiliated and disgraced.” as just recompense for his ill intentions, by giving him the opposite of what he intended (arrogance). This is when the cursed one remembered and asked for respite until the Day of Judgment, “Then allow me respite till the Day they are raised up. (Allah) said: “Then you are of those respited.” (15: 36-37) Allah gave Shaytan what he asked for out of His wisdom, being His decision and decree, that is never prevented or resisted. Surely, none can avert His decision, and He is swift in reckoning.

 

{16. (Iblis) said: “Because You have Aghwaytni’, surely, I will sit in wait against them (human beings) on Your straight path.

17. “Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them to be thankful.’}

 

Allah said that after He gave respite to Shaytan, “till the Day they are raised up (resurrected)” and Iblis was sure that he got what he wanted, he went on in defiance and rebellion. He said, “Because You have ‘Aghwaytani’, surely, I will sit in wait against them (human beings) on Your straight path.” meaning, as You have sent me astray. Ibn Abbas said that Aghwaytani’ means, “Misguided me.” (At-Tabari 12:332) Others said, “As You caused my ruin, I will sit in wait for Your servants whom You will create from the offspring of the one you expelled me for.” He went on, “Your straight path”, the path of truth and the way of safety. I (Iblis) will misguide them from this path so that they do not worship You Alone, because You sent me astray. Mujahid said that the ‘straight path’, refers to the truth. Imam Ahmad recorded that Saburah bin Abi Al-Fakih said that he heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, saying,

“Shaytan sat in wait for the Son of Adam in all his paths. He sat in the path of Islam, saying, ‘Would you embrace Islam and abandon your religion and the religion of your forefathers?’ However, the Son of Adam disobeyed Shaytan and embraced Islam. So Shaytan sat in the path of Hijrah (migration in the cause of Allah), saying, ‘Would you migrate and leave your land and sky?’ But the parable of the Muhajir is that of a horse in his stamina. So, he disobeyed Shaytan and migrated. So Shaytan sat in the path of Jihad, against one’s self and with his wealth, saying, ‘If you fight, you will be killed, your wife will be married and your wealth divided.’ So he disobeyed him and performed Jihad. Therefore, whoever among them (Children of Adam) does this and dies, it will be a promise from Allah that He admits him into Paradise. If he is killed, it will be a promise from Allah that He admits him into Paradise. If he drowns, it will be a promise from Allah that He admits him into Paradise. If the animal breaks his neck, it will be a promise from Allah that He admits him into Paradise.” (Ahmad 3:483)

Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn Abbas commented on: “Then I will come to them from before them” Raising doubts in them concerning their Hereafter, “and (from) behind them”, making them more eager for this life, “from their right”, causing them confusion in the religion, “and from their left” luring them to commit sins.” (At-Tabari 12:338)

This is meant to cover all paths of good and evil. Shaytan discourages the people from the path of good and lures them to the path of evil. Al-Hakam bin Abban said that Ikrimah narrated from Ibn Abbas concerning the Ayah, “Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left” “He did not say that he will come from above them, because the mercy descends from above.” (At-Tabari 12:341) Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn Abbas said, “and You will not find most of them to be thankful.” “means, those who single Him out [in worship].” (At-Tabari 12:342) When Shaytan said this, it was a guess and an assumption on his part. Yet, the truth turned out to be the same, for Allah said, “And indeed Iblis (Shaytan) did prove true his thought about them, and they followed him, all except a group of true believers. And he had no authority over them, except that We might test him who believes in the Hereafter, from him who is in doubt about it. And your Lord is Watchful over everything.” (34:20-21). This is why there is a Hadith that encourages seeking refuge with Allah from the lures of Shaytan from all directions. Imam Ahmad narrated that Abdullah bin Umar said, “The Messenger of Allah used to often recite this supplication in the morning and when the night falls,

“O Allah! I ask You for well-being in this life and the Hereafter. O Allah! I ask You for pardon and well-being in my religion, life, family and wealth. O Allah! Cover my errors and reassure me in times of difficulty. O Allah! Protect me from before me, from behind me, from my right, from my left and from above me. I seek refuge with Your greatness from being killed from below me.” 

Waki commented (about being killed from below), “This refers to earthquakes.” (Ahmad 2:25)

 

{18. (Allah) said (to Iblis): “Get out from this (Paradise), Madh’uman Madhura. Whoever of them (mankind) will follow you, then surely, I will fill Hell with you all.}

Allah emphasized His cursing, expelling, banishing and turning Shaytan away from the uppermost heights, saying; Ibn Jarir said, “As for Madh’um, it is disgraced.” And he said, “Madhur is the distanced, that is, he is banished and expelled.” (At-Tabari 12:342)  Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said, “We do not know of any who is Madh’uh and Madhmum except for one.” (At-Tabari 12:344) Sufyan Ath-Thawri narrated from Abu Ishaq from At- Tamimi from Ibn Abbas, ”Get out from this (Paradise), Madh’uman Madhura” “despised.” (At-Tabari 12:344) Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn Abbas commented on, “Get out from this (Paradise), Madh’uman Madhura” (7:18) “Belittled and despised”, (At-Tabari 12:343) while As- Suddi commented, “Hateful and expelled.” (At-Tabari 12:343) Qatadah commented, “Cursed and despised”, (At-Tabari 12:343) while Mujahid said, “Expelled and banished.” (At-Tabari 12:343) Ar-Rabi bin Anas said that ‘Madh’um’ means banished, while, ‘Madhura’ means belittled. (At-Tabari 12:344) Allah said, “Whoever of them (mankind) will follow you, then surely, I will fill Hell with you all.” This is similar to “(Allah) said: “Go, and whosoever of them follows you, surely, Hell will be the recompense of you (all) an ample recompense. And gradually delude those whom you can among them with your voice, make assaults on them with your cavalry and your infantry, share with them wealth and children, and make promises to them.” But Shaytan promises them nothing but deceit. “Verily, My servants – you have no authority over them. And All-Sufficient is your Lord as a Guardian.” (17:63-65)

{19. “And O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in Paradise, and eat thereof as you both wish, but approach not this tree otherwise you both will be of the wrongdoers.

20. Then Shaytan whispered suggestions to them both in order to uncover that which was hidden from them of their private parts (before); he said: “Your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become angels or become of the immortals.”

21. And he Qasamahuma: “Verily, I am one of the sincere well-wishers for you both.”}

Shaytan’s Deceit with Adam and Hawwa’ and Their eating from the Forbidden Tree

Allah states that He allowed Adam and his wife to dwell in Paradise and to eat from all of its fruits, except one tree. We have already discussed this in Surat Al-Baqarah. Thus, Shaytan envied them and plotted deceitfully, whispering and suggesting treachery. He wished to rid them of the various favors and nice clothes that they were enjoying. “He (Shaytan) said) uttering lies and falsehood, ‘Your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become angels…” meaning, so that you do not become angels or dwell here for eternity. Surely, if you eat from this tree, you will attain both, he said. In another Ayah, “Shaytan whispered to him, saying: “O Adam! Shall I lead you to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that will never waste away” (20:120). Here, the wording is similar, so it means,  ‘so that you do not become angels’ as in; “(Thus) does Allah make clear to you (His Law) lest you go astray.” (4:176) meaning, so that you do not go astray, and, “And He has affixed into the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you” (16:15) that is, so that the earth does not shake with you. “Verily, I am one of the sincere well-wishers for you both.” for I was here before you and thus have better knowledge of this place. It is a fact that the believer in Allah might sometimes become the victim of deceit. Qatadah commented on this Ayah, “Shaytan swore by Allah, saying, ‘I was created before you, and I have better knowledge than you. Therefore, follow me and I will direct you.”’ “And he Qasamahuma”, swore to them both by Allah, saying, ‘Inwas created before you, , and I have better knowledge than you. Therefore, follow me and I will direct you.’”

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Vol 4 Pages 17-37

 

 

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