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Islam Is Repackaged Polytheism: Documentation

The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed.

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The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed.


His translation of the Qur'an into English, is the current preferred version in the civilized world.

  1. "After the Pilgrimage, in Pagan times, the pilgrims used to gather in assemblies in which the praises of ancestors were sung. As the whole of the Pilgrimage rites were spiritualized in Islam, so this aftermath of the Pilgrimage was also spiritualized. It was recommended for pilgrims to stay on two or three days after the Pilgrimage, but they must use them in prayer and praise to God. See ii. 203 below." (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed. p. 80, footnote 223, commenting on 2:200, "So when ye have accomplished your holy rites, celebrate the praises of God, as ye used to celebrate the praises of your fathers,- yea, with far more Heart and soul.")
  2. "When this was revealed, the city of Mecca was in the hands of the enemies of Islam and the regulations about the fighting and the Pilgrimage came together and were interconnected. But the revelation provides, as always, for the particular occasion, and also for normal conditions. Mecca soon passed out of the hands of the enemies of Islam. People sometimes came long distances to Mecca before the Pilgrimage season began. Having performed the 'Umra, they stayed on for the formal Hajj. In case the pilgrim had spent his money, he is shown what he can do, rich or poor, and yet hold his head high among his fellows, as having performed all rites as prescribed. (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed. p. 78, footnote 214, commenting on 2:196, on the little pilgrimage: the "Umar")
  3. "An oath in human speech calls in evidence something sacred in the heart of man. In God's Message, also, when delivered in human language, solemn emphasis is indicated by an appeal to something striking among the Signs of God, which will go straight to the human heart which is addressed. In each case the symbol of the appeal has reference to the particular point enforced in the argument. Here we are asked to contemplate three wonderful phenomena, and they lead up to the conclusion in verse 38. (1) The moon, next after the sun, is the most striking luminary to our sight. Its reflected light has for us even a greater mystery than the direct light of the sun, which looks to us like pure fire. The moon was worshipped as a deity in times of darkness. But in reality, though she rules the night, her rays are only reflections, and are wanting in warmth and vitality. So every soul which looks up to a mere creature of God for a sort of vicarious salvation is in spiritual darkness or error; for the true source of spiritual light and life is God, and God alone. For (2) the Night and (3) the Dawn, see the following note. (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed. p. 1644, footnote 5798, commenting on 74:32 where Ali explains why the Qur'an swears by the moon.)
  4. "From the heights of divine Glory, we come back again to this sorry earth, with its base idolatries. We are asked to "look at this picture, and at that "' The three principal idols of Pagan Arab idolatry were the goddesses Lat, 'Uzza, and Manat. Opinions differ as to their exact forms : one version is that Lat was in human shape, 'Uzza had its origin in a sacred tree, and Manat in a white stone. They all represented God in female form." (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed., p. 1445, footnote 5095, commenting on 53:19)
  5. "To show God in human shape, or imagine sons or daughters of God, as if God were flesh, was in any case a derogation from the supreme glory of God, high above all creatures, even if the human shape were invested with great beauty and majesty as in the Greek Pantheon. But when we consider in what low opinion Pagan Arabia held the female sex, it was particularly degrading to show God, or so-called daughters of God, in female shapes. Cf. xvi 57-59, and n. 2082 ; also Iii. 39, and n. 5073." (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed., p. 1445, footnote 5096, commenting on 53:21)
  6. "Moses prayed for his people, and God forgave them. This is the language of the Qur-an. The Old Testament version is rougher: "The Lord repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people" : Exod. xxxii. 14. The Muslim position has always been that the Jewish (and Christian) scriptures as they stand cannot be traced direct to Moses and Jesus, but are later compilations. Modern scholarship and Higher Criticism has left no doubt on the subject. But the stories in these traditional books may be used in an appeal to those who use them : only they should be spiritualised, as they are here, especially in v. 54 below." (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed., p. 29, footnote 67, commenting on 2:52)
  7. "The virtue of patient perseverance in faith leads to the mention of two symbolic monuments of that virtue. These are two little hills of Safa and Marwa, now absorbed in the city of Mecca and close to the well of Zam-zam. Here, according to tradition, the lady Hajar, the mother of the infant Isma'il, prayed for water in the parched desert, and in her eager quest round these hills, she found here prayer answered and saw the Zam-zam spring. Unfortunately, the Pagan Arabs had placed a male and female idol here, and their gross superstitious rites caused offense to the early Muslims. They felt some hesitation in going round these places during the Pilgrimage. As a matter of fact they should have known that the Ka'ba (the House of God) had been itself defiled with idols, and was sanctified again by the purity of Muhammad's life and teaching. The lesson is that the most sacred things may be turned to the basest uses; that we are not therefore necessarily to ban a thing misused; that if our intentions and life are pure, God will recognize them even if the world cast stones at us because of some evil associations which they join with what we do, or with the people we associate with, or with the places which claim our reverence." (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed. p. 62, footnote 160, commenting on 2:158)
  8. "Jesus disclaims here any knowledge of the sort of things that are attributed to him by those who take his name. The worship of Mary, though repudiated by the Protestants, was widely spread in the earlier Churches, both in the East and the West." (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed., p. 280, footnote 829, commenting on 5:116)
  9. "The end of the life of Jesus on earth is as much involved in mystery as his birth, and indeed the greater part of his private life, except the three main years of his ministry. It is not profitable to discuss the many doubts and conjectures among the early Christian sects and among Muslim theologians. The Orthodox Christian Churches make it a cardinal point of their doctrine that his life was taken on the Cross, that he died and was buried, that on the third day he rose in the body with his wound intact, and walked about and conversed, and ate with his disciples, and was afterwards taken up bodily to heaven. This is necessary for the theological doctrine of blood sacrifice and vicarious atonement for sins, which is rejected by Islam. But some of the early Christian sects did not believe that Christ was killed on the Cross. The Basilidans [Basilides] believed that someone else was substituted for him. The Docetae held that Christ never had a real physical or natural body, but only an apparent or phantom body, and that his Crucifixion was only apparent, not real. The Marcionite Gospel (about A.D. 138) denied that Jesus was born, and merely said that he appeared in human form. The Gospel of St. Barnabas supported the theory of substitution on the Cross. The Quranic teaching is that Christ was not crucified nor killed by the Jews, notwithstanding certain apparent circumstances which produced that illusion in the minds of some of his enemies ; that disputations, doubts, and conjectures on such matters are vain ; and that he was taken up to God (see next verse and note)." (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed., p. 230, footnote 663, commenting on 4:157)
  10. "Those who hold that Jesus did not die say that Jesus is still living in the body and that he will appear just before the Final Day, when the world will be purified of sin and unbelief. There will be a final death before the final Resurrection, but all will have believed before that final death." (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed., commenting on 4:157 "But must believe in him (Jesus) Before his death")




The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed. Appendix 13, Ancient Forms of Pagan Worship: p 1619-1623

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Ancient Forms of Pagan Worship (see lxxi. 23, n. 5721).

From prehistoric times man has sought to worship powers of nature, or symbols representing those powers; or idols representing those symbols. In vulgar minds they become debased superstitions, and seem to come into competition with the worship of the one True God.

2. The five names mentioned in lxxi. 23 represent some of the oldest Pagan cults, before the Flood as well as after the Flood, though the names themselves are in the form in which they were worshipped by local Arab tribes. The names of the tribes have been preserved to us by the Commentators, but they are of no more than archaeological interest to us now. But the names of the false gods are interesting, to us from the point of view of comparative religion, as, under one form or another, such cults still exist in countries which have not accepted the Gospel of Unity, as they have always existed since man turned from his 1Iaker and Sustainer to the worship of created things or invented fancies.

3. The names of the five false gods and the symbols under which they were represented were as follows :--

Pagan god


Quality represented

1. Wadd


Manly Power.

2. Suwa'


Mutability, Beauty.

3. Yaguth

Lion (or Bull)

Brute Strength

4. Ya'uq



5. Nasr

Eagle, or Vulture, or Falcon.

Sharp Sight, Insight

It is not clear whether these names are to be connected with true Arabic verbal roots or are merely Arabicised forms of names derived from foreign cults, such as those of Babylonia or Assyria, the region of Noah's Flood. The latter supposition is probable. Even in the case of 11'add (Affection, Love) and Nasr (Eagle), which are good Arabic words, it is doubtful whether they are not, in this connection, translations or corruptions of words denoting foreign cults.

4. In studying ancient comparative mythologies we must never forget the following facts. (1) Men',, ideas of God always tend to be anthropomorphic. The qualities which they admire they transfer to their godhead. (2) But fear in primitive man also leads to the transfer of anything mysterious or imagined to be injurious, to the Pantheon. Such things have to be placated in order that they may not injure man. Thus in popular Hinduism the goddess of smallpox, which causes terror over an ignorant countryside, has to be worshipped, placated, or appeased with sacrifice. (3) This leads to the worship of animals noxious to man; such as serpent-worship which has prevailed and still prevails in many primitive areas. In ancient Egyptian mythology the Crocodile (so common in the Nile), the Dog, the hull, algid the Ibis were worshipped both literally and symbolically-. See Appendix 1", p. 40'). (4) But as men's knowledge grows, and they observe the wonderful heavenly bodies and their motions, they begin to feel their sublimity, beauty and mystery, and they transfer their worship to the heavenly bodies. The first great astronomers in the ancient world were the Babylonians and Chaldeans. Among them was Abraham's homeland: The allegory of Abraham (vi, 74-82 and notes) points to the importance of the cult of the worship of heavenly bodies and the fallacy in them. ''It is those who believe, and confuse not their beliefs with wrong that are truly in security, for they are on right guidance" (,, . 82). The Sabaean worship of heavenly bodies in Arabia had probably its source in Chaldea (see last paragraph of n. 76 to ii. 62). (5) A further refined step in Paganism is to worship abstractions, to treat concrete things as symbols of abstract qualities which they, represent. For example, the planet Saturn with its slow motion was treated as phlegmatic and evil. The planet Mars with its fiery red light was treated as betokening war and havoc and evil, and so on. Jupiter, with its magnificent golden light, was treated as lucky and benignant to any who came under its influence. Venus became the symbol and the goddess of carnal love. The Pagan Arabs erected Time (Dahr) into a deity, existing; from eternity to eternity, and dispensing good and ill fortune to men. The ancient Aegean religion treated the vital principle in the same way, as spontaneous and eternal, and traces of this are found in many religions, ancient and modern. (6) Thr next step was to reincarnate as it were these qualities in beings of flesh and blood, with lives, feelings, and passions like those of ordinary men and women, and to fill up a confused Pantheon with gods and goddesses that quarrelled, hated, loved, were jealous, and suffered or enjoyed life like human beings. In such a Pantheon there was room for demi-gods and real human heroes that were worshipped as gods. 'Flit, Greek poets and artists were past masters in carrying out this process, under cover of which they discussed profound human problems with great power. They made religion dramatic. While they gained in humanism, they lost the purer spiritual conceptions which lift the divine world far above the (utilities and crimes of this life. Hierarchical Christianity has suffered from this inheritance of the Greek tradition. (7) Where there was a commingling of peoples and cultures, several of these ideas and processes got mixed up together. Gods and goddesses of different origins were identified one with another, e.g., Artemis, the chaste virgin huntress-goddess of the Greek Pantheon was identified with Diana of the Romans, Diana of the Ephesians (representing the teeming life of nature), and Selene the cold moon-goddess. Similarly Diana was identified with the Egyptian Isis, Diana's twin-brother Apollo (the son) with the Egyptian Osiris. Forces of nature, animals, trees, qualities, astronomical bodies, and various other factors got mixed up together, and formed a shapeless medley of superstitions, which, are all condemned by Islam.

5. To revert to the worship of the heavenly bodies. The countless fixed stars in the firmament occupied always the same relative positions in the heavens, and did not impress the imagination of the ancients like the objects which stood out vividly with mysterious laws of relative motion. A few individual stars did attract the worshippers' attention ; e.g., Sirius the Dog-star, the brightest fixed star in the heavens, with a bluish tinge in its light, and Algol the variable star, being Beta of the constellation Perseus, whose variations can be perceived by the naked eye in two or three nights, became connected with many legends, myths, and superstitions. It is probably Sirius that is referred to as the fixed star in the Parable of Abraham (vi. 76). With regard to the fixed stars in their myriads the astronomers turned their fancy to devising Groups or Constellations. But the moving "stars," or planets, each with its own individual laws of motion, stood out to them personified, each with a motion and therefore will or influence of its own. As they knew and understood them, they were seven in number, viz.: (1) and (2) the moon and the sun, the two objects which most closely and indubitably influence the tides, the temperatures and the life on our planet; (3) and (4) the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, which are morning and evening stars, and never travel far from the sun; and (5), (6) and (7), Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, the outer planets, whose elongations the sun on the ecliptic, can he as wide as possible. The number seven became itself a mystic number, as explained in n. 5526 to lxv. 12.

6. It will be noticed that the sun and the moon and the five planets got identified each with a living deity, god or goddess;, with characteristics and qualities of its own. The solar myth was a myth of very faithful vitality, and got mixed up with many other myths and ideas. In late Roman religion it appears in the story of Apollo, the sun-god of light and learning and of manly beauty, twin brother to Diana the moon-goddess. In ancient Egypt it appears in the myth of Horns, the falcon-eyed, or of Ra or Re, the Eye, which sees all things. Further, the eagle, or falcon, or hawk, became itself identified with the sun, with its piercing light. The sun-myth mixed itself up with the myth of the Nile and with the cycle of legends connected with Isis and Osiris, who were subsequently identified with the moon and the sun divinities. In Babylon the name Shamash (Arabic, Sliaucs) proclaims the glory of the sun-god corresponding to the old Sumerian Utu or Babbar, while the hymns to Surya (the sun) in the Rig Veda and the cult of Mithra in Persia proclaim the dominance of sun-worship.

7. Moon-worship was equally popular in various forms. I have already referred to the classical legends of Apollo and Diana, twin brother and sister, representing the sun and the moon. The Egyptian Khonsu, traversing the sky in a boat, referred to the moon, and the moon legends also mixed up with those about the god of magic, truth, and the Ibis. In the. Vedic religion of India the moon-god was Soma, the lord of the planets, and the name was also applied to the juice which was the drink of the gods. It may be noted that the moon was a male divinity in ancient India; it was also a male divinity in ancient Semitic religion, and the Arabic word for the moon (gantar) is of the masculine gender. On the other hand, the Arabic word for the sun (shams) is of the feminine gender. The Pagan Arabs evidently looked upon the sun as a goddess and the moon as a god.

8. Of the five planets, perhaps Venus as the evening star and the morning star alternately impressed itself most on the imagination of astro-mythology. This planet was in different places considered both male and female. In the Bible (Isaiah, xiv. 12). the words "How art thou fallen, O Lucifer, son of the morning" are understood to refer to the morning Star in the first instance, and by analogy to the King of Babylon. The Fathers of the Christian Church, on the other hand, transferred the name Lucifer to Satan, the power of evil. Mercury is a less conspicuous planet, and was looked upon as a child in the family, the father and mother being the moon and the sun, or the sun and the moon (according to the sex attributed to these divinities), or else either the sun or the moon was the father and Venus the mother (the sexes being inter-changeable in the myths). On the three outer planets, Jupiter is the most conspicuous: indeed, after the sun and the moon, it is the most conspicuous object in the heavens, and was reputed to be beneficent and to bestow good fortune. The sun and the moon being considered in a class apart, Jupiter was considered the father of the planets and possibly his worship got occasionally mixed up with that of the sun. Mars and Saturn, as has already been stated, were considered malevolent planets, to be feared for the mischief that they might do; for the Pagan Pantheons worshipped powers both of good and evil.

9. It is remarkable that the days of the week are named after the seven planets of geocentric astronomy, and if we take them in alternate sequence they indicate the order in which their heavens were arranged with reference to proximity to the earth. The following table represents this grouping :-


Presiding god or goddess

Day of the week in alternate sequence










The Sun













This alternate sequence is carried into a circle, as the total number is seven, itself a mystic number.

10. These cross-currents and mixtures of nature-worship, astral-worship, hero-worship, worship of abstract qualities, etc., resulted in a medley of debasing superstitions which are summed up in the five names, Wadd, Suwa', Yaguth, Ya'dq, and Nasr, as noted in paragraph 3 above. The time of Noah is taken to be the peak of superstition and false worship, and the most ancient cults may thus be symbolically brought under these heads. If Wadd and Suwa' represented Man and Woman, they might well represent the astral-worship of the moon and the sun, or the sun and the moon, or they might represent human self-glorification, the worship of Self as against God, or they might represent the worship of Manly Power and Female Beauty, or other abstract qualities of that kind. On the other hand, it is possible that the worship of Jupiter and Venus itself got mixed up with the worship of sun-moon pair. One pair being identified with another pair in a Septet, the number seven was reduced to five, and the five (itself a mystic number) might itself represent the seven planets as then worshipped. Further, it may be that Nasr (the vulture, falcon, hawk, or eagle, the Egyptian Horus) also represents a solar myth, mixed up with the cult of the planets. These cross-currents of astro-mythological mixtures of cults are well known to students of ancient popular religions. If the five names, from an other angle of vision, represent qualities, the Wadd-Suwa' pair (Sun-Moon, Jupiter-Venus) would represent manly power and womanly beauty or mutability respectively, and the three remaining ones (paragraph 3) might represent Brute Strength, like that of a Bull or Lion; Swiftness like that of a Horse or Sharpness (of sight or intelligence) like that of a vulture, hawk, or eagle.

11. It may be noted that the five names of deities mentioned here to represent very ancient religious cults are well chosen. They are not the names of the deities best known in Mecca, but rather those which survived as fragments of very ancient cults an3ong the outlying tribes of Arabia, which were influenced by the cults of Mesopotamia (Noah's country). The Pagan deities best known in the Iia'ba and round about Mecca were Lat, Uzza and Manat. (Dlanat was also known round 1'athrib, which afterwards became Medina.) See liii. 19-20. They were all female goddesses. Lat almost certainly represents another wave of sun-worship: the sun being feminine in Arabic and in Semitic languages generally. "Eat" may be the original of the Greek "Leto" the mother of Apollo the sun-god (Encyclopedia of Islam, I, p. 380). If so, the name was brought in prehistoric times from South Arabia by the great Incense Route (n. 3816 to xxxiv. 18) to the Mediterranean. 'Uzza probably represents the planet Venus. The origin of Manat is not quite clear, but it would not be surprising if it also turned out to be astral. The 360 idols established by the Pagans in the Ka'ba probably represented the 360 days of an inaccurate solar year. This was the actual "modern" Pagan worship as known to the Quraish contemporary with our Prophet. In sharp contrast to this is mentioned the ancient antediluvian worship under five heads, of which fragments persisted in outlying places, as they still persist in different forms and under different names in all parts of the world where the pure worship of God in unity and truth is not firmly established in the minds and hearts of men.

References : The classical work on Arabian idol-worship is Ibu al-Kalbi's Kitab al-a,sndln, of the ate second century of the Hijra The book is not easily accessible. Jur doctors of religion have evinced no interest in the study of ancient cults, or in comparative religion, and most of their had not before them the results of modern archaeology. But a modern school of Egyptian archeologists is arising, which takes a great deal of interest in the antiquities of their own country. For astral worship consult Hastings, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, articles on "Sun, Moon, and Stars," as worshipped in different countries. Consult also Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, Gods of the Egyptians, London, 1904; A. H. Sayce, Religion of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia, Gifford Lectures, Edinburgh, 1902 ; M. Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, Boston, 1898 ; E. \V. Hopkins, Religions of India, London, 1896 ; G. A. Barton, Sketches of Semitic Origins, New York, 1902. Any Classical Dictionary would give details of Greek and Roman Mythology. It is curious that the Indus Civilisation, which resembles the Second Prediluvian Culture of Elam and Mesopotamia, does not clearly disclose any signs of astral worship. But this study is still in its tentative stage. There is tree and animal worship, phallic worship, and the worship of the great Mother-goddess. Animal worship regards strength, courage, virility, or swiftness, as in the Pagan Arabian deities we havebeen considering. Sae Sir John'Marshall, hlohenjo Daro and the Indus Civilisation, 3 vols., London, 1931. Sir J. G. Frazer, in his Adonis, Allis and Osiris (4th ed., London, 1914, Vol. I, pp. 8-9), refers to Allatu or Eresh-Kigal as "the stern queen of the infernal regions" in Babylonian religion: she was the goddess of the nether regions, of darkness and desolation, as her counterpart Ishtar was the chief goddess of the upper regions, of reproduction and fertility, associated with the planet Venus." (The holy Qur'an, text, translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 1872-1952, First published in 1938, 1973 ed. Appendix 13, Ancient Forms of Pagan Worship: p 1619-1623)

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379. Mary grew under God's special protection. Her sustenance, under which we may include both her physical needs and her spiritual food, came from God, and her growth was indeed a "goodly growth," which I have tried to express in the Text by the words "purity and beauty". Some apocryphal Christian writings say that she was brought up in the Temple to the age of twelve like a dove, and that she was fed by angels.



1133 \\'e now come to some incidents in Jewish history, which have been referred to in ii. 57-60. Here they have special reference to their bearing on the times when early Islam was preached. The Twelve Tribes and the parable drawn from them Bare been explained in n. 73 to ii. 60.



1136. Cf. ii, 58-59, and n. 72. The story is here told by way of parable for the times of Islam. Hence we have a few verbal changes: e.g., "dwell in this town" instead of "enter this town." etc.



70. We have hitherto had instances from the Jewish traditional Taurat (or Pentateuch). -Nor;, we have some instances from Jewish traditions in the Talmud, or body of exposition in the Jewish theological schools They are based on the Jewish scriptures, but add many marvellous details and homilies. As to seeing God, we have in Exod. xxxiii. 20 : "And He said, 'Thou canst not see Alv face ; for there shall no man see Me and live.' " The punishment for insisting on seeing God was therefore death : but those who rejected faith were forgiven and yet they were ungrateful,



73. Here we have a reference to the tribal organisation of the Jews which played a great part in their forty years' march through the Arabian deserts (Num. i. and ii.) and their subsequent settle- ment in the land of Canaan (Josh. xiii. and xiv.). The twelve tribes were derived from the sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (soldier of God) after he had wrestled, says Jewish tradition, with God (Genesis xxxii. 2Q). Israel had twelve. sons (Gen. xxxv. 22-26) including Levi and Joseph. The descendants of these twelve sons were the "Children of Israel". Levi's familj- got the priesthood and the care of the Tabernacle : they were exempted from military duties, for which the census was taken (Num. i. 47-53), and therefore from the distribution of land in Canaan (Josh. xiv. 3' : they were distributed among all the Tribes, and were really a privileged caste and not n,ambered among the Tribes ;'Moses and Aaron belonged to the house of Levi. On the other hand Joseph, on account of the high position to which he rose in Egypt as the Pharaoh's minister, was tire progenitor of two tribes, one in the name of each of his t~s-o sons Ephraim and Manasseh. Thus there were twelve Tribes in all, as Levi was cut out and Joseph represented two tribes. Their having fixed stations and watering places in camp and fixed territorial areas later in the Promised Land prevented confusion and mutual jealousies and is pointed to as an evidence of the Providence of God acting through His prophet Moses. Cf. also vii. 160. The gushing of twelve springs from a rock evidently refers to a local tradition well known to Jews and Arabs in -lustafa's time. Near Horeb close to Mount Sinai, where the Law was given to -loses, is a huge mass of red granite, twelve feet high and about fifty feet in circumference, where European travellers (e.g., Breydenbach in the fifteenth century after Christ) saw abundant springs of water twelve in number (see Sale's notes on this passage). It existed in Mustafa's time and may still exist to the present day, for anything we know to the contrary. The Jewish tradition would be based on Exod. %vii. 6 : "Thou shalt smite the rock, and them shall come water out of it that the people may drink." The story is used as a parable, as is clear from the latter part of the verse. In the desolation and among the rocks of this life people grumble. But they will not be starving or thirsty of spiritual life. God's -Messenger can provide abundant spiritual sustenance even from such unpromising things as the hard rocks of life. And all the nations can be grouped round it, each different, yet each in perfect order and discipline. We are to use with gratitude all spiritual food and drink provided by God and He sometimes provides from unexpected places. We must restrain ourselves from mischief, pride, and every kind of evil for our higher life is based on our probation on this very earth.




104. This verse has been interpreted variously. Who are Harfit and Mariit ? What did they teach ? Why did they teach it? The view which commands itself to me is that of the Talsir Hagqkni following Baidhawi and the Tafsir Kabir. The word "angels" as applied to Harfit and Nlarut is figurative. It means "good" men of knowledge, science (or wisdom), and power. In modern languages the word "angel" is applied to good and beautiful women. The earlier traditions made angels masculine, and applied to them the attributes which I have mentioned, along with the attribue of beauty, which was implied in goodness, knowledge, wisdom, and power. Harfit and Marut lived in Babylon, a very ancient seat of science, especially the science of astronomy. The period may be supposed to be anywhere about the time when the ancient Eastern Monarchies were strong and enlightened : probably even earlier, as Ma-ru-tu or blarduk was a deified hero afterwards worshipped as a god of magic in Babylon. Being good men, Harfit and Harfit of course dabbled in nothing evil, and their hands were certainly clean of fraud. But knowledge and the arts, if learned by evil men, can be applied to evll uses. The evil ones, besides their fraudulent magic, also learnt a little of this true science and applied it to evil uses. Harfit and Marut did not withhold knowledge, yet never taught anyone without plainly warning them of the trial and temptation of knowledge in the hands of evil men. Being men of insight, they also saw the blasphemy that might rise to the lips of the evil ones puffed up with science and warned them against it. Knowlege is indeed a trial or temptation ; if we are warned, we know its dangers ; if God has endowed us with free-will, we must be free to choose between the benefit and the danger. Among the Jewish traditions in the Midrash (Jewish Tafsirs) was a story of two angels who asked God's permission to come down to earth but succumbed to temptation, and were hung up by their feet at Babylon for punishment Such stories about sinning angels who were cast d.)wn to punishment were believed in by the early Christians also. (See the Second Epistle of Peter, ii. 4, and the Epistle of Jude, verse 6). There may be an allusion to such legends here, but much spiritualised, and we are expressly warned against dabbling in magic or believing that anything can hurt us except God's will, and God is just and righteous. 105. What the evil ones learnt from Harfit and \Iardt (see last note) they turned to evil. When mixed with fraud and deception, it appeared as charms and spells and love potions. They did nothing but cause discord between the sexes. But of course their power was limited to the extent to which God permitted the evil to work, for His Grace protected all who sought His guidance and repented and returned to Him. But apart from the harm that these false pretenders might do to others, the chief harm which they did was to their own souls. They sold themselves into slavery to the Evil One, as is shown in the allegory of Goethe's Faust. That allegory dealt with the individual soul. Here the tragedy is shown to occur not only to individuals but to whole groups of people ; for example, "the People of the Book. Indeed the story might be extended indefinitely.








304. This incident is referred variously : (1) to Ezekiel's vision of dry bones (Ezekiel, xxxvii. 1-10) ; (2) Nehemiah's visit to Jerusalem in ruins after the Captivity, and to its rebuilding (_vehe-miah, i. 12-20) ; and (3) to 'Uzair or Ezra or Esdras, the scribe, priest, and reformer, who was sent by the Persian King after the Captivity to Jerusalem, and about whom there are many Jewish legends. As to (t), there are only four words in this verse about bones. As to (2) and (3), there is nothing specific to connect this verse with either. The wording is perfectly general, and we must understand it as general. I think it does refer not only to individual, but to national, death and resurrection.



390. This miracle of the clay birds is found in some of the apocryphal Gospels ; those of curing the blind and the lepers and raising the dead are in the canonical Gospels. The original Gospel (see iii. 48) was not the various stories written afterwards by disciples, but the real Message taught direct by Jesus.




1040. The 'Ad people with their Prophet Hud, are mentioned in many places. See especially xxvi. 123-140, and xlvi. 21-26. Their story belongs to Arabian tradition. Their eponymous ancestor '.1d was fourth in generation from Noah, having been a son of 'Aus. the son of Aram, the son of Sam, the son of Noah. They occupied a large tract of country in Southern Arabia, extending from 'Umman at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to Hadhramaut and Yemen at the southern end of the Red Sea. The people were tall in stature and were great builders. Probably the long, winding tract of sands (ahgaf) in their dominions (xivi. 21) were irrigated with canals. They forsook the true God, and oppressed their people. A three years' famine visited them, but yet they took no warning. At length a terrible blast of wind destroyed them and their land, but a remnant known as the second 'ad or Thamud (see below) were saved, and afterwards suffered a similar fate for their sins.



1043. The Thamud people were the successors to the culture and civilisation of the '.1d people for whom see n. 1040 and vii. 63 above. They were cousins to the `Ad, apparently a younger branch of the same race. Their story also belongs to the Arabian tradition, according to which their eponymous ancestor Thamud was a son of 'Abir (a brother of Aram), the son of Sarn, the son of -Noah. Their seat was in the north-west corner of Arabia (Arabia Petraea), between Medina and Syria. It included both rocky country (hijv, xv. 80), and the spacious fertile valley (Wadi) and plains country of Qura, which begins just north of the City of Medina and is traversed by the Hijaz Railway. When the holy Apostle in the 9th year of the Hijra led his expedition to Tabuk (about 400 miles north of Medina) against the Roman forces, on a reported Roman invasion from Syria, he and his name came across the archaeological remains of the Thamad. The recently excavated rock city of Petra, near Ma'an, may go back to the Thamad, though its architecture has many features connecting it with Egyptian and Graeco-Roman culture overlaying what is called by European writers Nabataean culture. Who were the Nabataeans? They were an old Arab tribe which played a considerable part in history after they came into conflict with Antigonus I in 312 B.C. Their capital was Petra, but they extended their territory right up to the Euphrates. In 83 B.C. they were lords of Damascus under their king Haritha (Aretas of Roman history). For some time they were allies of the Roman Empire and held the Red Sea littoral. The Emperor Trajan reduced them and annexed their territory in A.D. 105. 'Thc Nabataeans succeeded the Thamad of Arabian tradition. The. Thamud are mentioned by name in an inscription of the Assyrian King Sargon, dated 715 B.C., as a people of Eastern and Central Arabia (Encyclopaedia of Islam). Sec also Appendix IX. to S. xxvi. With the advance of material civilisation, the Thamad people became godless and arrogant, and were destroyed by an earthquake. Their prophet and warner was Salih, and the crisis in their history is connected with the story of a wonderful she-camel; see next note.



1044. The story of this wonderful she-camel, that was a Sign to the Thamud, is variously told in tradition. We need not follow the various versions in the traditional story. What we are told in the Qur-an is: that (1) she was a Sign or Symbol, which the prophet Salih used for a warning to the haughty oppressors of the poor; (2) there was scarcity of water, and the arrogant or privileged classes tried to prevent the access of the poor or their cattle to the springs, while Salih intervened on their b:half (xxvi. 155, liv. 28) ; (3) like water, pasture was considered a free gift of nature, in this spacious earth of God (vii. 73), but the arrogant ones tried to monopolise the pasture also : (4) this particular she-camel was made a test case (liv. 27) to see if the arrogant ones would come to reason ; (5) the arrogant ones, instead of yielding to the reasonable rights of the people, ham-strung the poor she-camel and slew her, probably secretly (xci. 14, liv. 29) ; the cup of their iniquities was full, and the Thamud people were destroyed by a dreadful earthquake, which threw them prone on the ground and buried them with their houses and their fine buildings.



1054. Shu'aib belongs to Arab rather than to Jewish tradition, to which he is unknown. His identification with Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, has no warrant, and I reject it. There is no similarity either in names or incidents and there are chronological difficulties (see n. 1064 below). If, as they Commentators tell us, Shu'aib was in the fourth generation from Abraham, being a great-grandson of Madyan (a son of Abraham), he would be only about a century from the time of Abraham, whereas the Hebrew Bible would give us a period of four to six centuries between Abraham and Moses. The mere fact that Jethro was a Midianite and that another name, Hobab, is mentioned for a father-in-law of Moses in Num., x. 29, is slender ground for identification. As the Midianites were mainly a nomad tribe, we need not be supprised that their destruction in one or two settlements did not affect their life in wandering sections of the tribe in other geographical regions. Shu'aib's mission was apparently in one of the settled towns of the Midianites, which was completely destroyed by an earthquake (vii. 91). If this happened in the century after Abraham, there is no difficulty in supposing that they were again a numerous tribe three or five centuries later, in the time of Moses (see last note). As they were a mixed wandering tribe, both their resilience and their eventual absorption can be easily understood. But the destruction of the settlement or settlements (if the wood or Aika was a separate settlement, see n. 2000 to xv. 78) to which Shu'aib was sent to preach was complete, and no traces of it now remain. The name of the highest mountain of Yemen, Nab! Shu'aib (11,000ft.) has probably no connection with the geographical territory of the nomad 3fidianites, unless we suppose that their wanderings extended, so tar south from the territories mentioned in the last note.



2335. The unbelieving Quraish were in the habit of putting posers to the holy Prophet-questions which they got from Christians and Jews, which they thought the Prophet would be unable to answer. In this way they hoped to discredit him. One of these questions was about the floating Christian legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. The Prophet not only told them the main story but pointed out the variations that were current, and rebuked men for disputing about such details (xviii. 22). Most important of all, he treated the story (under inspiration) as a parable, pointing to spiritual lessons of the highest value. This is Revelation in the highest sense of the term. The story is recapitulated in n. 2337 below.



2337. The bare Christian story (without the spiritual lessons taught in the Qur-an) is told in Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (end of chapter 33). In the reign of a Roman Emperor who persecuted the Christians, seven Christian youths of Ephesus left the town and hid themselves in a cave in a mountain near by. They fell asleep, and remained asleep for some generations or centuries. When the wall which sealed up the cave was being demolished, the youths awoke. They still thought of the world in which they had previously lived. They had no idea of the duration of time. But when one of them went to the town to purchase provisions, he found that the whole world had changed. The Christian religion, instead of being persecuted, was fashionable : in fact it was now the State religion. His dress and speech, and the money which he brought, seemed to belong to another world. This attracted attention. The great ones of the land visited the Cave, and verified the tale by questioning the man's Companions.

When the story became very popular and circulated throughout the Roman Empire, we may well suppose that an Inscription was put up at the mouth of the Cave. See verse 9 and n. 2336. This inscription was probably to be seen for many years afterwards, as Ephesus was a famous city on the west coast of Asia Minor, about forty to fifty miles south of Smyrna. Later on, the Khalifa Wathiq (842-846 A D.) sent an expedition to examine and identify the locality, as he did about the Zul-garnain barrier in Central Asia (Appendix VII. at the end of this Sura).

A popular story circulating from mouth to mouth would necessarily be vague as to dates and vary very much in details. Somewhere about the 6th century A.D. a Syriac writer reduced it to writing. He suggested that the youths were seven in number; that they went to sleep in the reign of the Emperor Decius (who reigned from 249 to 251 A.D., and who was a violent persecutor of Christianity) ; and that they awoke in the reign of Theodosius II, who reigned from 408 to 450 A.D. In our literatu e Decius is known as Dagyanas (from the adjectival Latin from Decianus), and the name stands as a symbol of injustice and oppression, and also of things old-fashioned and out-of-date, as res Deciana must have been two or three centuries after Decius.



6094. No Book of Abraham has come down to us. But the Old Testament recognises that Abraham was a prophet (Gen., xx. 7). There is a book in Greek, which has been translated by Mr. G. H Box, called the Testament of Abraham (published by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, London, 1927). It seems to be a Greek translation of a Hebrew original. The Greek Text was probably written in the second Christian century, in Egypt but in its present form it probably goes back only to the 9th or 10th century. It was popular among the Christians. Perhaps the Jewish Midrash also refers to a Testament of Abraham.



5128 Three explanations are given in the Mufradat, and perhaps all three apply here : (1) that the moon once appeared cleft asunder in the valley of Mecca within sight of the Prophet, his 5133. Th Companions, and some Unbelievers ; (2) that the prophetic past tense indicates the future, the cleaving asunder of the moon being a Sign of the judgment approaching ; and (3) that the phrase 5134. At is metaphorical, meaning that the matter has become clear as the moon. That the first was abroad all over noticed by contemporaries, including Unbelievers, is clear from verse 2. The second is an incident hundreds by pa: of the disruption of the solar system at the New Creation : cf. lxxv. 8-9. And the third might well their graves and be implied as in Eastern allegory, based on the other two.




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