Surah An-Nahl Ayat 120-128 (end)

{120. Verily, Ibrahim was (himself) an Ummah, obedient to Allah, a Hanif (monotheist), and he was not one of the idolators. 

121. (He was) thankful for His favours. He (Allah) chose him and guided him to a straight path. 

122. And We gave him good in this world, and in the Hereafter he shall be of the righteous. 

123. Then, We have sent the revelation to you: “Follow the religion of Ibrahim (he was a) Hanif, and he was not one of the idolators.”}

The Khalil (Close Friend) of Allah

Allah praises His servant, messenger and close friend Ibrahim, the Imam of the hands the father of the Prophets, and Allah declares Ibrahim’s innocence of the idolaters, Jews or Christians. Allah says, “Verily, Ibrahim was (himself) an Ummah, obedient to Allah, a hand (monotheist)”. Ummah here means the leader who is followed. Qanit (obedient to Allah) means humble and obedient. Hanif means one who deliberately steers clear of Shirk in favour of Tawhid. Hence Allah says: “and he was not one of the idolaters.” Mujahid said: “Ummah [here] means that he was a nation on his won.” “(He was) thankful for His favours,” means, he gave thanks for the blessings that Allah gave him. As Allah says: “And of Ibrahim the one who fulfilled everything” (53:37) which means that he did everything that Allah commanded him to do. “He (Allah) chose him” means,  He selected him, as Allah says: “And before, We indeed gave him Ibrahim his integrity, and We were indeed most knowledgable about him” (21:51)

Then Allah says: “and guided him to a straight path.” which means to worship Allah alone, without partners or associate, in the manner that He prescribed and which pleases Him. “And We gave him good in this world,” meaning, ‘We granted him all that a believer may require for a good and complete life in this world.’ “and in the Hereafter he shall be of the righteousness.” Concerning the Ayah: “And We gave him good in this world,” Mujahid said: “This means a truthful tongue.” “Then, We have sent the revelation to you: “Follow the religion of Ibrahim (he was a) Hanif…” meaning, ‘because of his perfection, greatness, and the sounds of his Tawhid and his way, We revealed to you, O Seal of the Messengers and Leader of the Prophets, may Allah’s peace and  blessings of Allah be upon them all, “Follow the religion of Ibrahim (he was a) Hanif and he was not of the idolators.” This is like the Ayah in Surat Al-Anam: “Say: “Truly my Lord has guided me to a straight path, a right religion of Ibrahim, (he was a) Hanif and he was not of the idolators.” (6:161)

Then Allah rebukes the Jews,

{124. The Sabbath was only prescribed for those who differed concerning it, and verily, your Lord will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection about what they differed over.}

The Prescription of the Sabbath for the Jews

There is no doubt that for every nation, Allah prescribed one day of the week for people to gather to worship Him. For this Ummah He prescribed Friday, because it is the sixth day, on which Allah completed and perfected His creation. On this day He gathered and completed His blessings for His servants. It was said that Allah prescribed this day for the Children of Israel through His Prophet Musa, but they changed it and chose Saturday because it was the day on which the Creator did not create anything, as He had completed His creation on Friday. Allah made observance of the Sabbath obligatory for them in the laws of the Tawrah (Torah), telling them to keep the Sabbath. At the same time, He told them to follow Muhammad when he was sent, and took their promises and covenant to that effect. Hence Allah says: “The Sabbath was only prescribed for those who differed concerning it” Mujahid said: “They observed the Sabbath (Saturday) and ignored Friday.” (At-Tabari 17:320) Then they continued to observe Saturday until Allah sent Isa bin Maryam. It was said that he told them to change it to Sunday, and it was also said that he did not forsake the laws of the Tawrah except for a few rulings which were abrogated, and he continued to observe the Sabbath until he was taken up (into heaven). Afterwards, the Christians at the time of Constantine were the ones who changed it to Sunday in order to be different from the Jews, and they started to pray towards the east instead of facing the Dome (i.e., Jerusalem). And Allah knows best.

It was reported in the Two Sahihs that Abu Hurayrah heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, say:

“We are the last, but we will be the first on the Day of Resurrection, even though they were given the Book before us. This is the day that Allah obligated upon them, but they differed concerning it. Allah guided us to this day, and the people observe their days after us, the Jews on the following day and the Christians on the day after that.” (Fath Al-Bari 11:526, Muslim 2:586)

This version was recorded by Al-Bukhari.

It was reported that Abu Hurayrah and Hudhayfah said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Allah let the people who came before us stray from Friday, so the Jews had Saturday and the Christians had Sunday. Then Allah brought us and guided us to Friday. So now there are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, thus they will follow us on the Day of Resurrection. We are the last of the people of this world, but will be the first on the Day of Resurrection, and will be the first to be judged, before all of creation.” (Muslim 2:586)

It was reported by Muslim.

{125. Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them with that which is best. Truly, your Lord best knows who has strayed from His path, and He best knows those who are guided.}

The Command to invite people to Allah with Wisdom and Good Preaching

Allah commands His Messenger Muhammad to invite the people to Allah with Hikmah (wisdom). Ibn Jarir said: “That is what was revealed to him from the Book and the Sunnah.” “and fair preaching” meaning, with exhortation and stories of the events that happened to people that are mentioned in the Qur’an, (At-Tabari 17:321) which he is to tell them about in order to warn them of the punishment of Allah. “and argue with them with that which is best.” meaning, if any of them want to debate and argue, then let that be in the best manner, with kindness, gentleness and good speech, as Allah says elsewhere: “And do not argue with the People of the Book, unless it be with that which is best, except for those who purposefully do wrong.” (29:46) Allah commanded him to speak gently, as He commanded Musa and Harun to do when he sent them to Pharaoh, as He said: “And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear (Allah)” (20: 44). “Truly, your Lord best knows who has strayed from His path” meaning, Allah already knows who is doomed (destined for Hell) and who is blessed (destined for Paradise). This has already been written with Him and the matter is finished, so call them to Allah, but do not exhaust yourself with regret over those who go astray, for it is not your task to guide them. You are just a warner, and all you have to do is convey the Message, and it is He Who will bring them to account. “You cannot guide whom you love” (28:56) “It is not up to you to guide them, but Allah guides whom He wills.” (2:72)

{126. And if you punish them, then punish them with the like of that with which you were afflicted. But if you have patience with them, then it is better for those who are patient. 

127. And be patient, and your patience will not be, but by the help of Allah. And do not grieve over them, and do not be distressed by their plots. 

128. Truly, Allah is with those who have Taqwa, and the doers of good.*} 

[*See the Tafsir of Surah At-Tawbah 9:120]

The Command for Equality in Punishment

Allah commands justice in punishment and equity in settling the cases of rights. Abdur-Razzaq recorded that, concerning the Ayah, “then punish them with the like of that with which you were afflicted.” Ibn Sirin said, “If a man among you takes something from you, then you should take something similar from him.” (Abdur-Razzaq 2:361) This was also the opinion of Mujahid, Ibrahim, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, and others. (At-Tabari 17:524, 525) Ibn Jarir also favored this opinion. Ibn Zayd said: “They had been commanded to forgive the idolators, then some men became Muslim who were strong and powerful. They said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, if only Allah would give us permission, we would sort out these dogs!’ Then this Ayah was revealed, then it was latter abrogated by the command to engage in Jihad.” (At-Tabari 17:324) “And be patient, and your patience will not be but by the help of Allah.” This emphasizes the command to be patient and tells us that patience cannot be acquired except by the will, help, decree and power of Allah. Then Allah says: “And do not grieve over them,” meaning, those who oppose you, for Allah has decreed that this should happen. “and do not be distressed” means do not be worried or upset. “by their plots.” meaning; because of the efforts they are putting into opposing you and causing you harm, for Allah is protecting, helping, and supporting you, and He will cause you to prevail and defeat them. “Truly, Allah is with those who have Taqwa, and the doers of good.” meaning; He is with them in the sense of supporting them, helping them and guiding them. This is a special kind of “being with”, as Allah says elsewhere: “(Remember) when your Lord revealed to the angels, “Verily, I am with you, so support those who believe.” (8:12)

And Allah said to Musa and Harun: “Fear not, verily I am with you both, hearing and seeing.” (20:46) The Prophet said to (Abu Bakr) As-Siddiq when they were in the cave: “Do not worry, Allah is with us.” (Fath Al-Bari 7:11) The general kind of “being with” some one, or something is by means of seeing, hearing and knowing, as Allah says: “And He is with you wherever you may be. And Allah sees whatever you do.” (57:4) “Have you not seen that Allah knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth? There is no secret counsel of three but He is their fourth, – nor of five but He is their sixth, – nor of less than that or more, but He is with them wherever they may be.” (58:7) “You will not be in any circumstance, nor recite any portion of the Qur’an, nor having done any deeds, but We are witnessing you.” (10:61) “those who have Taqwa” means, they keep away from that which is forbidden. “and the doers of good.” meaning they do deeds of obedience to Allah. These are the ones whom Allah takes care of, He gives them support, and helps them to prevail over their enemies and opponents.

This is end of the Tafsir of Surat An-Nahl. To Allah be praise and blessings, and peace and blessings be upon Muhammad and his family and Companions.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Vol 5 Pages 541-549

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