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Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 98 (Al-Bayyinah - The Clear Evidence)

Commentary of Chapter 98 (Al-Bayyinah -- The Clear Evidence) of the Holy Quran:
by Dr. Basharat Ahmad
Translated by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed


In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

1. Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Book and the idolaters could not have been freed till clear evidence came to them --
2. A Messenger from Allah, reciting pure pages,
3. Wherein are (all) right books.
4. Nor did those to whom the Book was given become divided till clear evidence came to them.
5. And they are enjoined naught but to serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience, upright and to keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and that is the right religion.
6. Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Book and the idolaters will be in the Fire of Hell, abiding therein. They are the worst of creatures
.
7. Those who believe and do good, they are the best of creatures.
8. Their reward is with their Lord: Gardens of perpetuity wherein flow rivers, abiding therein forever. Allah is well-pleased with them and they are well-pleased with Him. That is for him who fears his Lord.

This chapter, Al-Bayinah (The Clear Evidence), was revealed at Makkah. In the last chapter, Al-Qadr (The Majesty), it was mentioned that the Holy Quran was revealed as a message of peace to the whole world. In this chapter, the point is made that mankind at the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was so far away removed from guidance that unless clear testimony had come from Allah and unless the Holy Quran had been revealed, the world would never have received guidance from any other source.

1. Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Book and the idolaters could not have been freed till clear evidence came to them --

Here, by those who disbelieved from among the People of the Book, the kind of unbelief meant is unbelief by way of evil deeds and also by attributing parties to the one God, Allah. That is, the People of the Book (the Jews and Christians) earned the title of unbelievers because of their sinful actions and because of their joining others in the worship of Allah and this, despite being followers of revealed books.

Mushrikin (idolaters) refer to the unbelievers who were not Jews or Christians but were worshippers of idols.

By al bayyinah (the clear evidence) is meant Allah's messenger as is plainly stated in the next verse of this chapter. He is called the clear evidence because the purity of his life, his exalted teachings and the heavenly signs shown in his favour all provide indisputable proof of the existence of Allah. With his advent, faith became implanted in the hearts of men who could now find deliverance from the burden of their sins.

This verse tells us that as a result of unbelief and polytheism, vice and immorality, the condition of people had become so depraved that those who were idol-worshippers had already fallen into such a deep pit of misguidance that there was no hope of self-regeneration for them. But even more reprehensible was the condition of the People of the Book. They were inheritors of revealed scriptures, yet so buried were they in unbelief and polytheism that they had become deserving of being called unbelievers. So how could those who were in error themselves, guide others to the true path?

Therefore, there was no way available to liberate man from such a condition of slavery to sinfulness except one - that an apostle of Allah should come and recite pure pages to the people for so far had they fallen in the abyss of sin and iniquity that it was beyond the power of an ordinary preacher to reclaim them.

It is a proven historical fact that two well-known groups of the People of the Book, the Jews and the Christians, had tried for centuries to woo the Arabs away from polytheism, but all their efforts to effect a change in the morals and beliefs of the people of Arabia had amounted to no more than the ripple of a gentle breeze on the vast ocean. Sir William Muir provides eloquent testimony of this when he writes: 

"From time beyond memory, Mecca and the whole Peninsula had been steeped in spiritual torpor. The slight and transient influences of Judaism, Christianity, or philosophical inquiry upon the Arab mind had been but as the ruffling here and there of the surface of a quiet lake; all remained still and motionless below. The people were sunk in superstition, cruelty and vice&. Their religion was a gross idolatry; and their faith the dark superstitious dread of unseen things&. Thirteen years before the Hejira, Mecca lay lifeless in this debased state. What a change had these thirteen years now produced!& Jewish truth had long sounded in the ears of the men of Medina; but it was not until they heard the spirit-stirring strains of the Arabian Prophet that they, too, awoke from their slumber, and sprang suddenly into a new and earnest  life" (Muir's Life of Mahomet, ch. vii). 

But retrogression from religion was not the lot of the People of the Book alone. In fact, in every part of the world people with scriptures had all become corrupted and debased as this verse of the Holy Quran attests: Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea on account of that which men's hands have wrought, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, so that they may return (30:41).

So when people with divinely-inspired books were themselves engaged in all kinds of debauchery, how could they purify others of their vices? Those in need of a deliverer cannot liberate others from the bondage of sin.

The world was crying out desperately for a reformer, that is, mankind was in dire need of a messenger who, through his holy personality, his spiritual powers and heavenly signs would revive faith in Allah in the heart of people, rescue them from sins, provide them with the principles of true guidance and establish purity and righteousness on earth.

2. A Messenger from Allah, reciting pure pages,
3. Wherein are (all) right books.

In the verse, Wherein are (all) right books, instead of bayyinah (evidence) the word rasul (messenger) is used. In other words, by bayyinah (evidence) is meant the Messenger of Allah because his presence is indisputable evidence of the existence of Allah and so overwhelming a proof is he, that, through him, faith in Allah is renewed and so man can achieve salvation from a sinful life. Here the word rasul (messenger) refers specifically to the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

This verse discloses to us that so degenerate had people become because of polytheism and profligacy that the time had come when that extraordinary Prophet, who had been prophesied by all the preceding prophets, should make his appearance for the sake of reforming the world. His life, which was replete with miracles and heavenly signs, together with the manifestation of Divine help which was never absent from him, was sufficient in itself for resuscitating faith in Allah. However, in addition to that, the Messenger taught a holy scripture to the people. This Book was called "holy" because it was free from all impure doctrines and interpolations which self-serving and unscrupulous people had themselves inserted in the earlier scriptures.

Thus, that prophet came and brought with him a Divine scripture that was filled with pure, holy, exemplary and unadulterated guidance. And this is why its teachings can purify people of sins and fill them with piety and purity.

The verse, In which there are (all) right books, tells us that in this Book, that is, the Holy Quran, all those teachings which are of permanent value to mankind have been collected together because they enjoy the status of eternal verities. In other words, on the one hand, the message of this prophet is exempt of all kinds of human admixture or interpolation. On the other hand, the book he brought is a compendium of all permanent truths and perfect guidance that are indispensable for mankind whether these truths existed in previous Divine scriptures or elsewhere, or whether they were not yet revealed until his advent.

4. Nor did those to whom the Book was given become divided till clear evidence came to them.

In this verse, al bayyinah (the clear evidence) refers to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who brought explicit proofs and heavenly signs in support of the truth of his message.

By ta-far-ra-qa (became divided) are meant those who differed in their attitude to the faith. Some believed and others rejected, while another group comprised those who were believers in the former revealed books but rejected the Book of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) in spite of the fact that it brought incontrovertible evidence from the Almighty. In this way, they made a differentiation in their belief in the prophets of Allah. In truth, their refusal to accept the Holy Quran was really a rejection of the pure teachings which were preserved in their own scriptures. They also made a division in the universal concept of prophethood, for before the Holy Prophet's advent, they used to believe in all their prophets, but now they rejected him in spite of the fact that he had come with such incontestable arguments and clear signs that he earned the title of al bayyinah (the clear evidence).

5. And they are enjoined naught but to serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience, upright, and to keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and that is the right religion.

In this verse, the rejecters are told that they have no grounds for disbelieving because there was no difference in the essential message of the Holy Prophet and the teachings of the previous prophets. In fact, it is through the Holy Quran that the teachings of the former prophets have been revived and perfected. And what did they teach? It is the same belief in the Oneness of the Almighty and obedience to Him. Further, all of us are commanded to be sincere to Allah and to worship Him and do deeds solely for His pleasure. We are further directed to be upright, that is, to avoid extremes as we walk along the straight path. We are also reminded that all these virtues cannot become possible except through a strong connection with Allah. To achieve this, we must establish regular prayer so that respect for the commands of Allah can be embedded in our hearts; we should also pay the zakah (poor-rate) to develop love for our fellow-human beings and to win the approval of Allah thereby. That is the authentic religion which all the prophets came to this world to preach and this is the same message that the Holy Prophet is expounding. Furthermore, in the verse, In it are all right books, we are told that all the teachings of all the prophets of the world are contained in a perfect form in the Holy Quran. So there is no basis for showing indifference and hostility to this Book.

6. Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Book and the idolaters will be in the Fire of Hell, abiding therein. They are the worst of creatures.

The people meant here are those People of the Book and the idolaters who did not believe in the clear evidence, that is, the Holy Prophet (pbuh), and so rejected him. In other words, in the beginning of the chapter, the verse, Those who disbelieved from among the People of the Book and the idolaters could not be freed& refers to those People of the Book and the idolaters who were unbelievers by virtue of their evil deeds and polytheistic beliefs. However, when the Holy Prophet (pbuh) came, those who believed in him were freed from unbelief and polytheism and were included in the fold of Islam.

However, the later verse, Nor did those to whom the Book was given become divided till clear evidence came to them, pertains to those People of the Book who did not believe and showed indifference to the Holy Prophet (pbuh). So in this verse under discussion, (Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Book and the idolaters will be in the Fire of Hell, abiding therein. They are the worst of creatures.), mention is made of those People of the Book who stood aloof from the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and refused to believe in him. Also included in the punishment mentioned here are those idol-worshippers who rejected him.

In other words, in the beginning of the chapter, the words, Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Book, speak of those false beliefs and evil deeds that had already taken root in these people before the advent of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). To liberate them from this state of unbelief, Allah sent His apostle, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

But here, in this verse the reference to those who disbelieve from among the People of the Book is to those later ones who rejected the clear evidence, that is, the messengership of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) when it came to them. Therefore, as they rejected the complete and perfect message that had come to them, they made themselves deserving of punishment, and for this reason they were called the worst of creation because they deliberately refused to benefit from the Messenger of Allah and the clear evidence he brought. Instead they increased in unbelief and polytheism. So who can doubt that they truly earned the description of the worst of creatures? Without doubt, by their own evil deeds they made themselves asfala safilin (the lowest of the low).

7. Those who believe and do good, they are the best of creatures.

In chapter 95, At-Tin (The Fig), we were told that man was created fi ahsani taqwim (in the best make) but if he does not believe in Allah and does not do good deeds then he becomes asfala safilin (the lowest of the low). On the other hand, if he has faith in Allah and follows it up with righteous actions, then he rises to the rank of the best of creation. This latter point is repeated in this verse, Those who believe and do good, they are the best of creatures, that is, those who believe and do good are the noblest of Allah's creatures.

At this juncture, there is a subtle point worthy of notice: One can observe that there is a resemblance between the preceding verse, Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Book and the idolaters will be in the Fire of Hell, abiding therein. They are the worst of creatures, and this one, Those who believe and do good, they are the best of creatures. In the former verse, the deniers of the clear evidence are mentioned as the worst of creatures and in the latter verse, those who accepted the clear evidence are called the best of creatures. But what is important here is that before naming the rejecters as the worst of creatures, the verse describes the punishment they will receive as a result of their denial, whilst in the next verse, the acceptors of the truth are referred to as the best of creatures, but their reward is not spoken of in this verse. In fact, their recompense is described in the verses that follow and we may very well ask why this is so.

The difference is this: when the punishment of an unbeliever becomes public, only then do people realise that he is one of the worst of creatures. Before this exposure, most times people do not have the slightest intimation of the character of the wrong-doer. For example, many officers of high rank and standing in the society happen to be dishonest, but no one knows. However, when their dishonesty is disclosed and punishment is meted out to them, then they lose their erstwhile honour and prestige, and their true station of the worst of creatures comes into full view.

Therefore, to establish the fact that the unbelievers are the worst of creatures, it is important to make known the result of their actions. That is why the punishment for their wrong-doing is mentioned first and then their position of the worst of creatures is expressed.

However, in contrast to them, the believers and doers of good, that is, the truly righteous ones, begin to be noticed by all as the best of people by reason of their good deeds, and there is no need to wait for the consequences of their actions to confirm their high standing. That is why only their belief and good works are mentioned and straightaway they are named as the best of creatures. In other words, a believer who is a doer of good deeds is quintessentially one of the best of Allah's creatures regardless of whether the results of his belief and actions are known to people or not. That is because faith and good deeds are so intrinsically pure qualities that those who choose that path in life are sure to become the most illustrious of Allah's creation. This, in itself, is a glorious thing, but that is not the end of the matter, for their Lord has in store for them a more honourable reward.

8. Their reward is with their Lord: Gardens of perpetuity wherein flow rivers, abiding therein forever. Allah is well-pleased with them and they are well-pleased with Him. That is for him who fears his Lord.

Faith is compared with a garden whilst good deeds are likened to rivers. Just as rivers give life to gardens and cause them to flourish, so, too, good deeds keep faith perpetually alive. In addition, the promise is given that this gift will be perfect and everlasting. This is contrary to the Arya Samaj concept of salvation from which, after a period of time, Parmeshwar will expel them for a sin that was committed earlier but had remained hidden and will send them back to earth. Peace and happiness that are ephemeral are really a form of deceit and unkindness. If something is not lasting you cannot enjoy true contentment from it. No happiness can be genuine unless it is permanent. So, in this verse, in addition to the promise of perfect happiness, the good news is also given that it will last forever.

As regards Hell, the words used are: They will abide in it. No mention of eternity is made there because after sinners have undergone a period of punishment in Hell they will eventually be taken out of it. But when Heaven is spoken of, the word abadan (forever) is added to They will abide in it. And to underscore the long period of time, or, in other words, the perpetuity of Heaven, the words everlasting gardens are also added, thus making clear that the sojourn in Heaven will be everlasting.

This is indeed a great favour from the Lord, Most High, to a servant who is absorbed all through his life in the thought of pleasing his Master through his good conduct, whether it is a matter of obeying the Shari'ah (Law) or accepting the taqdir (decrees of Allah).

Firstly, as regards the Law, he obeys all the commands of his Lord solely for the sake of pleasing Him.

Secondly, as regards the decrees of Allah, that is, whatever his Lord ordains for him, whether happiness or sadness, he accepts from Him and submits willingly and cheerfully to Him and yet continues to seek His pleasure. Therefore, for a person like this, it is the essence of justice that his Lord should be pleased with him, and even more, that He should be so happy as to give him never-ending blessings. And this actually happens in two ways.

Firstly, if a servant tries his best to please his Lord in this life by obeying all the commands of the Law, then in return, his Lord will be pleased with Him and it is an evident truth that there can be no greater happiness or success for a servant than to win the pleasure of his Master.

Secondly, if a servant is not only pleased with the decrees of his Lord and cheerfully accepts whatever conditions his Lord imposes on him, but also willingly sacrifices his own pleasures and ambitions to please his Lord, then as a reward, his Lord will be pleased with him and what greater recompense can man conceive of than this?

When the Lord of all the worlds, the Supreme Master, the Best of all Judges, is pleased with a servant, and not only pleased, but makes provisions for the happiness of that servant, then what greater manifestation of honour, love and favour can there be?  Likewise, if an individual or a community should attain this station as the companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) did, then there can be no good fortune to equal this.

That is for him who fears his Lord.

Faith engenders fear, and fear generates good deeds, and good deeds win the pleasure of Allah. Fearing Allah does not mean the same thing as fearing that a wild beast will tear us to pieces and eat us; nor is it akin to the fear we have for the punishment of a tyrant if we dare to disobey his commands. But in using the expression khashiya Rabba-hu (he fears his Lord), what is meant is that there is an apprehension in the heart of man lest Allah's providence be cut off. In other words, man is afraid that the source of his support, advancement and perfection may be curtailed. In short, the fear of Allah is similar to the trepidation one may have at the thought that the sustenance and favours from a very kind and loving benefactor may be interrupted.

Every human being yearns for blessings, progress and perfection and so everyone is always careful to keep the person who provides these things, happy. Similarly, people are always fearful lest the patron becomes angry and so those favours and privileges that they were enjoying and hoped to enjoy in the future may be discontinued. This, then, is the meaning of fear and this is the kind of fear that motivates man to try to keep his Lord always pleased. That is why the Holy Quran tells us that a person who fears his Lord will always be concerned about pleasing Him with the result that his Lord will be pleased with the efforts of His servant and in return He will make him happy.

Note:

In the beginning of this chapter, the people of the world were divided into two classes: the People of the Book and the polytheists. The People of the Book were those who claimed to possess a revealed scripture whilst the polytheists were those who did not have any divine scripture with them even though according to the Quranic verse, Every nation received a messenger (10:47), they, too, had each been given a book before (but it was lost).

However, many nations claimed to be followers of a divine scripture even though the text of their book had suffered interpolations and alterations. These people were called People of the Book. The other group, among whom neither trace nor remnant of a holy book existed, and who followed all kinds of national customs, false superstitions and polytheistic beliefs, were called idolaters. These are the two technical terms used for them in the Holy Quran.

Thus, in the beginning of this chapter, the very first statement made was an explanation of the necessity for the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The verse states that both the People of the Book and the idolaters of that era were so steeped in polytheistic and atheistic doctrines and customs that there was no hope of salvation for them except one - that Allah should send an outstandingly extraordinary messenger whose coming was foretold by all the previous prophets, and who would bring a perfect and comprehensive Book, that is, the Holy Quran. That was the state of the world at the time of the Holy Prophet's appearance. However, the same state of affairs obtains in today's world. If we consider the present religions of the world, we can find none that can truly teach the Unity of Godhead or lead anyone along the straight path. That is because their original teachings have been corrupted over the passage of time and they have lost their authenticity.

Today, the only religion upon which the redemption of all the nations of the world depends is Islam. There exist today many religions whose present form has become so disfigured that they bear no resemblance to their original likeness. For example, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Magism and Sikhism are not true religions as such but are really cradles of polytheism. Their adherents have tried to refashion and reinterpret them from time to time but the more they do so, the more they mutilate them. Similarly, Brahmo Samaj and Dev Samaj are not the names of any religions. In fact, they are different forms of atheism.

Only Judaism now remains to be considered. This poor religion is so confined to a special nation and so limited to a particular place and time that its followers are unable to practise it in its original form, so now, not only Jews but all other nations are incorporating the principles of Islam in their lives. This is because whenever national, economic, cultural or social problems confront them, they are forced to alter their principles, and whatever values they consider necessary to solve their difficulties are, in fact, tenets borrowed from Islam. So after much worldly tribulations and through trial and error, the world is slowly beginning to accept those teachings which have been mentioned in this chapter, and without which there can be no deliverance, and for which purpose the clear evidence, that is, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Holy Quran were sent.

Just as fourteen hundred years ago there was a crying need for this clear evidence, so, too, today, the demand for this message still exists in order to extricate the world from the clutches of error and misguidance and rid it once again of polytheism and all kinds of corrupt practices for no other religion can effect this transformation. So, whoever rejects this message, in fact repudiates the collective teachings and guidance of all the prophets of the world, for today, the only beacon of the true, original and universal teachings of all the prophets is the religion of Islam. The remaining religions do not contain the authentic teachings of their prophets. Therefore, in this age, no other religion except Islam can bring about the regeneration of mankind.


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