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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 3 (Al-‘Imran - The Family of Amran) > Section 1 (Verses 1 to 9)


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Chapter Introduction and
Section/Ruku 1 [Verses 1 to 9]: Rule of interpretation:
Chapter 3: (Al-‘Imran: The Family of Amran)
(Revealed at Madinah: 20 sections; 200 verses)

1. Introduction:

The name of this chapter is taken from the mention of ‘Imran in v. 33. ‘Imran is the same as Amran, the father of Moses and Aaron. It is an appropriate title as the chapter deals with the departure of prophethood from the Mosaic dispensation.

The chapter opens with a statement relating to the Divine origin of the Holy Qur’an as well as the Torah and the Gospel. It then gives a rule of interpretation, neglect of which has led to numerous errors in religious beliefs. This rule of interpretation, which must be borne in mind in interpreting all Divine books, is that every allegorical statement must be interpreted in such a manner that it may not contradict any of the clear principles laid down by Divine revelation. As the Christian religion is based really on the wrong interpretation of certain allegorical statements, the rule is appropriately laid down as a preliminary to a discussion of the Christian religion.

The preliminary remarks of the first section are followed in the second by an assertion of the Unity of Allah, which is laid down as the clear basis of all religions, and its ultimate triumph is predicted. The third section refers to the departure from the house of Israel of the spiritual kingdom which was now being granted to another people; and the last chosen members of the Israelite race are mentioned in the fourth. Among these is Jesus, various misconceptions regarding whom necessitate rather a lengthy discussion in the two sections that follow. The seventh section continues the controversy with the Jews and the Christians, while the eighth deals with their machinations to discredit Islam. The ninth speaks of the testimony of previous Books and prophets to the truth of Islam, while the tenth mentions the overwhelming testimony afforded by the Ka‘bah, the new spiritual centre of the world. This is followed by an exhortation in the following section to the Muslims to remain united if they would achieve triumph, and in view of the coming conflicts they are told in the next to have guarded relations with the Jews, who, while outwardly friendly, were inwardly hostile to the Muslims. The incidents of the battle of Uhud, the causes of the misfortune experienced in it, and how triumph can be obtained are the points discussed from section thirteen to the eighteenth. The nineteenth speaks of the carpings of the People of the Book, while the twentieth deals with the ultimate triumph of the faithful.

The importance of the connection of this with the preceding chapter may be judged from the fact that, taken together, they are termed zahrawan (meaning the two bright and shining ones). The two, in fact, may be treated as a single chapter, as each supplements and explains the other. The 2nd chapter opens with a controversy with the Jews, and deals at length with their contentions, referring only briefly to the Christians. The 3rd chapter opens with a controversy with the Christians, and deals at length with their contentions, referring only briefly to the Jews. Again, the second chapter deals particularly with the necessity of fighting against an enemy who was bent upon the extirpation of Islam, while the third deals with the events of one of the battles which the enemy waged with a view to wipe out Islam by destroying its stronghold in Madinah.

The whole of this chapter was revealed at Madinah and it is generally supposed to be the second or the third in order in the Madinah revelation (Itq). The latter portion, from sec. 13 almost to the end, distinctly relates the incidents of the battle of Uhud, and therefore the third year of the Hijrah may be fixed as the date of its revelation. The first portion, especially that dealing with the birth and ministry of Jesus, is said by some to have been revealed on the occasion of the visit of a deputation of the Najran Christians which took place in the tenth year of the Hijrah, but there is no evidence for it. The whole chapter belongs to the third year of the Hijrah, with the possible exception of v. 61 which speaks of Mubahalah, and may have been revealed on the occasion of the visit of the Najran deputation.

2. Translation:

[PART / Paaraa I]

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

1 I, Allah, am the best Knower,a

2 Allah, (there is) no god but He, the Ever-living, the Self-subsisting, by Whom all subsist.a

3 He has revealed to thee the Book with truth,a verifying that which is before it, and He revealed the Torah and the Gospel b

4 Aforetime, a guidance for the people,a and He sent the Discrimination. b Those who disbelieve in the messages of Allah — for them is a severe chastisement. And Allah is Mighty, the Lord of retribution.c

5 Surely nothing in the earth or in the heaven is hidden from Allah.

6 He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases. There is no god but He, the Mighty, the Wise.

7 He it is Who has revealed the Book to thee; some of its verses are decisive — they are the basis of the Book — and others are allegorical.a Then those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead, and seeking to give it (their own) interpretation.b And none knows its interpretation save Allah, and those firmly rooted in knowledge. They say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord.c And none mind except men of understanding.

8 Our Lord, make not our hearts to deviate after Thou hast guided us and grant us mercy from Thee; surely Thou art the most liberal Giver.

9 Our Lord, surely Thou art the Gatherer of men on a day about which there is no doubt. Surely Allah will not fail in (His) promise.a

3. Commentary:

1a. For explanation, see 2:1a. [Back to verse 1]

2a. In consonance with its character as controverting Christian doctrines, this controversy being carried on to the 84th verse, the chapter fitly opens with two attributes of the Divine Being, the Ever-living and the Self-subsisting, which deal a death-blow to the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ. The statement that there is no god but He contains an ideal expression of the religion of Islam in four words. [Back to verse 2]

3a. For the sake of simplicity I render haqq as meaning truth, but haqq primarily signifies suitableness to the requirements of wisdom, justice, right, truth, or fact; or to the exigencies of the case (R, LL). Hence the true sense of the phrase is that the Qur’an was revealed suitably to the requirements of wisdom and justice, and to the exigencies of the case; in other words, it was revealed at a time when revelation was sorely needed by humanity. This argument of its truth is one which even the most hostile critic is unable to refute. To say nothing of earlier religions, Christianity, which was then the latest phase of monotheism, was corrupt to the core. “The Christianity of the seventh century,” says Muir, “was itself decrepit and corrupt. It was disabled by contending schisms, and had substituted the puerilities of superstition for the pure expansive faith of early ages” (“Life of Mohamet,” intr., p. lxxxiii).

The commentators explain bi-l-haqq as signifying the pointing out of the right way in the differences which existed before it, or as giving a correct account of the past histories of the prophets, or as being true with respect to the promises and threats relating to the future, and thus making believers stick to the right path (Rz). Some commentators explain it as meaning with arguments and proof (AH). [Back to verse 3]

3b. In the whole of the previous chapter the Taurat and the Injil are not mentioned by name, though frequently referred to, specially the former, as that which is with you. Taurat is the name given to the books of Moses, or the Pentateuch, and hence its correct rendering is the Hebrew word Torah. The Taurat does not signify the Old Testament, because the latter is the name of the whole collection of the books of the Israelite prophets. Torah in Hebrew literature signifies the revealed will of God. The word Kitab, Book, conveys, however, a wider significance and means sometimes the Old Testament and sometimes the Bible.

The word Injil does not signify, as supposed by Muir and others, the New Testament. According to the Holy Qur’an no prophet, to whom any book was revealed, appeared after Jesus Christ, who, being the last of the Israelite Prophets, was granted a revelation called the Injil, which stands for the Evangel or the Gospel, and signifies literally good tidings. The reason why Jesus’ revelation was called Gospel or good tidings is that it gave the glad news of the advent of the Last of the Prophets, which is variously described in Jesus’ metaphorical language as the advent of the kingdom of God (Mark. 1:15), the coming of the Lord (Matt. 21:40), the appearance of the Comforter (John 14:16), or the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), etc. Not only are the Acts, the Epistles, and the Book of Revelation not recognized by the Qur’an as parts of the Injil, or the Gospel, but it does not even recognize the Gospels according to Matthew, etc., as the Injil which was revealed to Jesus Christ, though the current Gospels might contain fragments of the original teaching. This view of the Gospel as taken by the Qur’an is now admitted to be the correct one, as all criticism points to some original of the synoptics which is now entirely lost. The Qur’an nowhere suggests that the original Injil, the revelation to Jesus Christ, existed at the time of the Holy Prophet. [Back to verse 3]

4a. The Torah and the Gospel were undoubtedly a guidance before the Qur’an; but even as they now exist, they afford guidance in many respects with a mixture of error, and contain numerous prophecies fulfilled in the advent of Prophet Muhammad. [Back to verse 4]

4b. For an explanation of the word Furqan, see 2:53a. The Holy Qur’an is here mentioned by the name Furqan, or that which distinguishes between truth and falsehood, in reference to the fact that the Qur’an was sent to separate the truth which was to be met with in previous revelation from the falsehood which had found its way into it. As the Furqan or the Discrimination in the case of the Holy Prophet was also afforded by the battle of Badr, this event is referred to in verse 13 as a prelude to the actual controversy. [Back to verse 4]

4c. Intiqam is derived from niqmah, which means the retribution of one who is guilty (R, T). It conveys the idea of avenging but not of revenge; intaqamtu minhu signifies I inflicted penal retribution on him for that which he had done, or I punished him (LL). Dhu-ntiqam, as an attribute of the Divine Being, means the Inflicter of retribution or the Lord of retribution. [Back to verse 4]

7a. The verses of the Holy Book are here stated to be partly muhkam (decisive) and partly mutashabih (allegorical). In 11:1 the whole Qur’an is spoken of as a Book whose verses are made plain, and in 39:23 it is called kitab-an mutashabih-an, a book, consistent in its injunctions. A little consideration will show that there is no discrepancy in the three statements; they actually explain each other. Literally, muhkam (from hakama, meaning he prevented, whence ahkama, i.e., he made a thing firm or stable) is that of which the meaning is secured from change and alteration. Mutashabih (from shibh, meaning likeness or resemblance) is that which is consimilar or conformable in its various parts, and mutashabihat are therefore things like or resembling one another, hence susceptible to different interpretations (LL). Therefore when it is stated that the whole of the Book is muãkam, the meaning is that all its verses are decisive, and when the Qur’an is called mutashabih (39:23), the meaning is that the whole of it is conformable in its various parts. In the verse under discussion is laid down the important principle how verses susceptible of different interpretations may be interpreted so that a decisive significance may be attached to them. The Qur’an, we are here told, establishes certain principles in clear words which are to be taken as the basis, while there are statements made in allegorical words or susceptible to different meanings, the interpretation of which must be in consonance with the other parts and the spirit of the Book. In fact, this is true of every writing. When a certain law is laid down in a book in unmistakable words, any statement carrying a doubtful significance or one which is apparently opposed to the law so laid down must be interpreted subject to the principle enunciated. The subject is very appropriately dealt with here as a prelude to a controversy with the Christians, who attribute divinity to Jesus and uphold the doctrine of atonement by blood on the basis of certain ambiguous words or allegorical statements, without heeding the fundamental principles established by the earlier prophets. [Back to verse 7]

7b. The fitnah is the misleading of the people (T, LL), or the sowing of dissension, or difference of opinion (Q, LL), by giving to one part an interpretation which is falsified by another. Ta‘wil (from aul, to return) is the final sequel or the end of a thing, or the interpretation of what is ambiguous or allegorical, such as the interpretation of dreams, etc. Kf explains ta‘wila-hu here as meaning the interpretation which they desire, and this, according to AH, is the significance; hence the addition in the translation of the words their own within brackets. They do not care to seek the real interpretation, which can only be found by referring to the principles laid down elsewhere. But the words may also signify their giving an interpretation to an ambiguous verse alone, i.e. without considering it in conjunction with other consimilar verses or the principles laid down elsewhere. [Back to verse 7]

7c. These words afford a clue to the right mode of interpretation. The words it is all from our Lord signify that there is no disagreement between the various portions of the Holy Book. Hence the rule of interpretation which they follow is that they refer passages which are susceptible to various interpretations to those whose meaning is obvious or to consimilar passages, and subject particular statements to general principles. Thus reading various passages in the light of each other, they discover the true significance of ambiguous passages. Hence such people are spoken of as knowing the true interpretation of allegorical verses (B. 65: iii, 2). [Back to verse 7]

9a. There seems to be a reference here to the gathering of the hostile forces in the battles and to Allah’s promise to grant victory to the faithful. The verses that follow leave no doubt; see particularly v. 12. [Back to verse 9]

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Chapter 2: Al-Baqarah (The Cow)

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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 3 (Al-‘Imran - The Family of Amran) > Section 1 (Verses 1 to 9)


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