Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Ar’af: 7:161-170

7:161 And [remember] when you were told: “Dwell in this land and eat of its food as you may desire; but say, ‘Remove Thou from us the burden of our sins,’ and enter the gate humbly – [whereupon] We shall forgive you your sins [and] shall amply reward the doers of good.”

Explanation

Lit., “though thou seest them looking at thee” – but since the pronoun, “them” in tarahum (“thou seest them”) refers to mental images no less than to physical representations, the verb must be understood in its abstract sense of “seeing with the mind”, i.e., “considering” or “imagining”. In contrast with the preceding passages, which are addressed to those who actually invoke false deities or images, the last sentence is addressed to man in general, sinner and believer alike: and this generalization is brought out by changing the form of address from “you” to “thou”.

7:162 But those among them who were bent on wrongdoing substituted another saying for that which they had been given: and so We let loose against them a plague from heaven in requital of all their evil doings.

Explanation

Lit., “accept what is easily forthcoming [from man’s nature]”. According to Zamakhshari, khudh al-afw means: “Accept what comes easily to thee [or “what is willingly accorded to thee”] of the doings and the nature of men, and make things easy [for them], without causing them undue hardship (kulfah); and do not demand of them efforts that may be too difficult for them.” This interpretation – which has been adopted by many other classical commentators as well – is based on the identical explanation of the phrase khudh al-afw by ‘Abd Allah ibn az-Zubayr and his brother ‘Urwah (Bukhari), as well as by ‘A’ishah and, in the next generation, by Hisham ibn ‘Urwah and Mujahid (see Tabari, Baghawi and Ibn Kathir). Thus, in accordance with the Qur’anic statements that “man has been created weak” (4:28) and that “God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear” (2:286. 6:152, 7:42, 23:62), the believer is admonished to make due allowance for human nature and not to be too harsh with those who err. This admonition is the more remarkable as it follows immediately upon a discourse on the most unforgivable of all sins – the ascribing of divine powers or qualities to anyone or anything but God.’

7:163 And ask them about that town which stood by the sea: how its people would profane the Sabbath whenever their fish came to them, breaking the water’s surface, on a day on which they ought to have kept Sabbath – because they would not come to them on other than Sabbath-days! Thus did We try them by means of their [own] iniquitous doings.

Explanation

Lit., “the ignorant ones” – i.e., those who willfully remain deaf to moral truths and not those who are simply unaware of them.

7:164 And whenever some people among them asked [those who tried to restrain the Sabbath-breakers], “Why do you preach to people whom God is about to destroy or [at least] to chastise with suffering severe?” – the pious ones would answer, “In order to be free from blame before your Sustainer, and that these [transgressors, too,] might become conscious of Him.”

Explanation

i.e., anger at the rejection of the truth by “those who choose to remain ignorant”. The words “to blind anger” interpolated between brackets are based on a Tradition according to which the Prophet, after the revelation of the preceding verse calling for forbearance, exclaimed, “And what about [justified] anger, O my Sustainer?” – whereupon the above verse was revealed to him (Tabari, Zamakhshari, Razi, Ibn Kathir).

7:165 And thereupon, when those [sinners] had forgotten all that they had been told to take to heart, We saved those who had tried to prevent the doing of evil, and overwhelmed those who had been bent on evildoing with dreadful suffering for all their iniquity.

Explanation

The noun ta’if (also forthcoming in the forms tayf and tayyif denotes any ungraspable phantom, image or suggestion, as in a dream, or “an imperceptible obsession which obscures the mind” (Taj al-‘Arus). Since, in the above context, it is described as coming from Satan, “a dark suggestion” seems to be an appropriate rendering.

7:166 And then, when they disdainfully persisted in doing what they had been forbidden to do, We said unto them: “Be as apes despicable!

Explanation

The noun ta’if (also forthcoming in the forms tayf and tayyif denotes any ungraspable phantom, image or suggestion, as in a dream, or “an imperceptible obsession which obscures the mind” (Taj al-‘Arus). Since, in the above context, it is described as coming from Satan, “a dark suggestion” seems to be an appropriate rendering.

7:167 And lo! Thy Sustainer made it known that most certainly He would rouse against them, unto Resurrection Day, people who would afflict them with cruel suffering: verily, thy Sustainer is swift in retribution – yet, verily, He is [also] much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

Explanation

Sc., “if thou art really His apostle” (cf. 6 :37 and 109, and the corresponding notes). Some of the commentators assume that the term ayah – translated by me as “miracle” – denotes here a verbal “message” that would answer the objections of those who did not believe in the Prophet. Since, however, the continuous revelation of the Qur’an was full of such messages, the demand of the unbelievers must have related to some particular manifestation or “proof” of his divinely-inspired mission: namely, to a concrete miracle which would establish the truth of his claim in a supposedly “objective” manner. In its wider implication, the above verse relates to the primitive mentality of all who regard miracles, and not the message itself, as the only valid “proof” of prophethood.

7:168 And We dispersed them as [separate] communities all over the earth; some of them were righteous, and some of them less than that: and the latter We tried with blessings as well as with afflictions so that they might mend their ways.

Explanation

Lit., “those who are with thy Sustainer”: a metaphorical description of utter God-consciousness.

7:169 And they have been succeeded by [new] generations who – [in spite of] having inherited the divine writ – clutch but at the fleeting good of this lower world and say, “We shall be forgiven,” the while they are ready, if another such fleeting good should come their way, to clutch at it [and sin again]. Have they not been solemnly pledged through the divine writ not to attribute unto God aught but what is true, and [have they not] read again and again all that is therein? Since the life in the hereafter is the better [of the two] for all who are conscious of God – will you not, then, use your reason?

7:170 For [We shall requite] all those who hold fast to the divine writ and are constant in prayer: verily, We shall not fail to requite those who enjoin the doing of what is right!

President

The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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