Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Maryam: 19:41-50

19:41 And call to mind, through this divine writ, Abraham. Behold, he was a man of truth, [already] a prophet. 

Explanation

The majority of the classical commentators identify the Prophet Idris – who is mentioned in the Qur’an once again, namely in 21:85 – with the Biblical Enoch (Genesis v. 18-19 and 21-24), without, however, being able to adduce any authority for this purely conjectural identification. Some modern Qur’an – commentators suggest that the name Idris may be the Arabicized form of Osiris (which, in its turn, was the ancient Greek version of the Egyptian name As-ar or Us-ar), said to have been a wise king and/or prophet whom the Egyptians subsequently deified (cf. Maraghi XVI, 64, and Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal al-Qur’an, Cairo, n.d., vol. XVI, 44); but this assumption is too far-fetched to deserve any serious consideration. Finally, some of the earliest Qur’an-commentators (‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud, Qatadah, ‘Ikrimah and Ad-Dahhak) assert – with, to my mind, great plausibility – that “Idris” is but another name for Ilyas, the Biblical Elijah (regarding whom see note 48 on 37:123).

19:42 When he spoke [thus] unto his father: “O my father! Why dost thou worship something that neither hears nor sees and can be of no avail whatever to thee?

Explanation

As regards my rendering of rafa’nahu as “whom We exalted”, see 3:55 and 4:158, where the same expression is used with reference to Jesus, as well as note 172 on the last-named verse.

19:43 “O my father! Behold, there has indeed come to me [a ray] of knowledge such as has never yet come unto thee: follow me, then; I shall guide thee onto a perfect way.

Explanation

Whereas the Hebrew prophets. whose line ended with Jesus, descended from Abraham through Isaac and Israel (Jacob), Muhammad traced his descent from the same patriarch through the latter’s first-born son, Ishmael.

19:44 “O my father! Do not worship Satan – for, verily, Satan is a rebel against the Most Gracious!”

Explanation

i.e., all of the prophets were conscious of being no more than mortal, humble servants of God. (See also 32:15)

19:45 O my father! I dread lest a chastisement from the Most Gracious befalls thee, and then thou wilt become [aware of having been] close unto Satan!”

Explanation

i.e., they will realize in the hereafter the full extent of the self-deception which has led to their spiritual ruin.

19:46 He answered: “Dost thou dislike my gods, O Abraham? Indeed, if thou desist not, I shall most certainly cause thee to be stoned to death! Now begone from me for good!”

Explanation

i.e., they will not only not be deprived of reward for the least of their good deeds but will be granted blessings far beyond their actual deserts (cf.4:40).

19:47 [Abraham] replied “Peace be upon thee! I shall ask my Sustainer to forgive thee: for, behold, He has always been kind unto me.

Explanation

This lengthy paraphrase of the expression bi’l-ghayb gives, I think, the closest possible interpretation of the idea underlying it: namely, the prospect of a reality which is inconceivable by man in terms of his worldly experiences, and which can, therefore, only be hinted at by means of allegorical allusions. (See also the first clause of 2:3 and the corresponding note 3).

19:48 But I shall withdraw from you all and from whatever you invoke instead of God, and shall invoke my Sustainer [alone]: it may well be that my prayer [for thee] will not remain unanswered by my Sustainer.”

Explanation

The term salam comprises the concepts of spiritual soundness and peace, freedom from faults and evils of any kind, and inner contentment. As I have pointed out in note 29 on 5:16 (where this term has been rendered, in a different context. as “salvation”), its closest – though by no means perfect – in the abstract sense of that word or the German Heil.

19:49 And after he had withdrawn from them and from all that they were worshipping instead of God, We bestowed upon him Isaac and Jacob, and made each of them a prophet.

Explanation

i.e., always. It is to be noted that the term rizq (“sustenance”) applies to all that might be of benefit to a living being, spiritually as well as physically.

19:50 and We bestowed upon them [manifold] gifts out of Our Grace, and granted them a lofty power to convey the truth [unto others].

Explanation

i.e., that which even the angels can only glimpse but not fully understand. Literally, the above phrase reads, “that which is between our hands and that which is behind us and that which is between these”. Regarding this idiomatic expression, see 2:255 – “He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them” – and the corresponding note 247. The reference to the angels connects with the preceding mention of some of the earlier prophets who, like Muhammad, were recipients of divine revelation.

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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