Tafsīr Sūrah al-Kahf – part 3
وَيُنذِرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّـهُ وَلَدًا مَّا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ وَلَا لِآبَائِهِمْ ۚ كَبُرَتْ كَلِمَةً تَخْرُجُ مِنْ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ ۚ إِن يَقُولُونَ إِلَّا كَذِبًا ﴿٥﴾ فَلَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَّفْسَكَ عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمْ إِن لَّمْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَـٰذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَسَفًا ﴿٦﴾ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا مَا عَلَى الْأَرْضِ زِينَةً لَّهَا لِنَبْلُوَهُمْ أَيُّهُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ﴿٧﴾ وَإِنَّا لَجَاعِلُونَ مَا عَلَيْهَا صَعِيدًا جُرُزًا ﴿٨﴾
And that he may warn those who say, “Allāh has taken a son.” They have no knowledge of this, nor had their fathers; a monstrous assertion it is, issuing out of their mouths; they say nothing but a lie. Then maybe you will worry yourself to death, sorrowing after them, if they do not believe in this message. Surely We have made whatever is on the earth an adornment for it, so that We may try them as to which of them is best in deeds, and most surely We will make what is on it barren ground, without herbage.
وَيُنذِرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّـهُ وَلَدًا
and that he may warn those who say, “Allāh has taken a son.”
This points to yet another reason for the revelation of the Qurʾān. Walad means a child, male or female, and can be used to refer to the singular as well the plural. The āyah thus warns those who assign any child to Allāh. Now interestingly, this group of people are already included in the general warning seen in the earlier verse, but they are specifically singled out for mention here to emphasise and highlight the evil of this particular belief.
Who are the people being talked about in this āyah? The answer is not Trinitarian Christians, but also some Jews and pagans who believed that Allāh had daughters. Even though this āyah is Meccan, which means that the immediate reference would be the pagans as Meccan, Sūrahs generally do not concentrate on repudiating Jewish and Christian beliefs, the generality of the āyah covers the others.
وَجَعَلُواْ للَّهِ شُرَكَآءَ ٱلْجِنَّ وَخَلَقَهُمْ وَخَرَقُواْ لَهُ بَنِينَ وَبَنَاتٍ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ بَدِيعُ ٱلسَّمَاوَاتِ وَٱلأَرْضِ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ تَكُنْ لَّهُ صَاحِبَةٌ وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ وهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
Yet they make the jinn partners with Allāh, though He created them, and without any true knowledge they attribute sons and daughters to Him. Glory be to Him! He is far above what they ascribe to Him. The originator of the heavens and the earth! How could He have children when He has no spouse, when He created all things and has full knowledge of all things.
The first warning in verse 2 mentions what is being warned against but not whom. This verse mentions who is being warned but does not mention what is being warned against. What joins the two together and gives complete meaning is the verse in between, “wa yubasshirul…” When you contrast the first warning to this verse, the “who” is made clear: the opposite to the believers. When you contrast this second warning to this verse, the “what” is made clear: the opposite of a good reward. An amazing example of the pithiness and eloquence of the Qurʾān
Moreover, contrast this āyah with yubashshirul muʾminīn…; where the quality of belief and the believers themselves are openly and explicitly mentioned (the believers), whereas here alladhina is mentioned, i.e. the word disbeliever is not explicitly mentioned but rather abstracted to show a subtle linguistic aversion to such people, as though they are not worthy of direct mention. It can also be to show that the belief mentioned is enough in itself to prove that they are kuffār because it is so obviously wrong; it is so obvious that one does not even need to say this or do that, whoever believes this disbelieves in Islām (kāfir).
مَّا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ وَلَا لِآبَائِهِمْ
They have no knowledge of this, nor had their fathers;
Min is used here for emphasis, tawkīd. This kufr of theirs is not based on knowledge – just doubt, speculation or mere concoction:
وَمَن يَدْعُ مَعَ اللَّـهِ إِلَـٰهًا آخَرَ لَا بُرْهَانَ لَهُ بِهِ فَإِنَّمَا حِسَابُهُ عِندَ رَبِّهِ
Whoever prays to another god alongside Him – a god for which he has no evidence – will face his reckoning with his Lord.
When knowledge is negated in this way, it is either because they are ignorant of something that is actually there, or because it is just not possible that that thing have any basis whatsoever. It is the second option that is meant in these sorts of verses. In other words, lack of knowledge or proof is either because it exists and you do not know, or it has no existence whatsoever and you do not know. Lack of knowledge or proof of what? The majority interpreted bihī as “of their claim” and a minority interpretation is “of Allāh”. So they have no knowledge of their claim, or they have no true knowledge of Allāh. Not just those themselves but also: wa lā li abāʾihim. Likewise their forefathers. This is one their common justifications: “our predecessors, our forefathers did this.”
بَلْ قَالُوا إِنَّا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا عَلَىٰ أُمَّةٍ وَإِنَّا عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِم مُّهْتَدُونَ
No indeed! They say: We saw our fathers following this tradition; we are guided by their footsteps.
The logic is simple: if your forefathers had no proofs for this, no evidence, then they are not worthy of being followed in this. A great benefit from this verse is that our knowledge of Allāh is received. We do not make things up, if we do not have knowledge about Allāh, we ca not claim something. One of the greatest sins is to lie about Allāh and speak about him without knowledge:
قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّيَ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَالْإِثْمَ وَالْبَغْيَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَأَن تُشْرِكُوا بِاللَّـهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَأَن تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
Say: My Lord only forbids disgraceful deeds – whether they be open or hidden – and sin and unjustified aggression, and that you, without His sanction, associate things with Him, and that you say things about Him without knowledge.
Ibn al-Qayyim argues that each item mentioned here is more severe in sin that the previous, so speaking about Him without knowledge is the worst of them.
كَبُرَتْ كَلِمَةً تَخْرُجُ مِنْ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ ۚ إِن يَقُولُونَ إِلَّا كَذِبًا
a monstrous assertion it is, issuing out of their mouths; they say nothing but a lie.
Kabura is used to describe an object when it is physically large. It is used metaphorically to show that something is great either in a praiseworthy or blameworthy magnitude. Here it is used to show amazement at the level of depravity of what the aforementioned are saying. Kalimatan: kalām or speech. Takhruju: present tense verb highlighting the quality of repetition; i.e. they do not just say it once, but it is something they repeat over and over, part of their belief.
Takhruju also stresses that the belief is evil enough by itself – but they have the audacity to articulate it and call to it as well. Most people if they were thinking or believing or doing something evil, it is normal to keep it secret, but these are doing a great evil and openly proclaiming it. Also some have noted that it is “coming from their mouths” and not their intellects; as such a belief like this won’t really be the result of a well thought-out rational, evidence-based process. In Sūrah Maryam, Allāh says:
وَقَالُواْ ٱتَّخَذَ ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنُ وَلَداً لَّقَدْ جِئْتُمْ شَيْئاً إِدّاً تَكَادُ ٱلسَّمَاوَاتُ يَتَفَطَّرْنَ مِنْهُ وَتَنشَقُّ ٱلأَرْضُ وَتَخِرُّ ٱلْجِبَالُ هَدّاً أَن دَعَوْا لِلرَّحْمَـٰنِ وَلَداً وَمَا يَنبَغِي لِلرَّحْمَـٰنِ أَن يَتَّخِذَ وَلَداً
And they say, “The Most Merciful has taken [for Himself] a son.” You have done an atrocious thing. The heavens almost rupture therefrom and the earth splits open and the mountains collapse in devastation. That they attribute to the Most Merciful a son. And it is not appropriate for the Most Merciful that He should take a son.
إِن يَقُولُونَ إِلَّا كَذِبًا
they say nothing but a lie.
In yaqūlūna: tawkīd of previous sentence. Kadhib: a lie is where what you say or do does not conform to reality or truth. Thus far there have been three levels of warning here against this belief:
1) First Allāh tells them they have no knowledge of this, and asks “where is your reasoning, where is your logic, where is your evidence?”
2) Then He tells them that these are vile words that you are just blurting out.
3) Then He emphasises the reality: this is a total lie.
So He takes them step by step to the conclusion. Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam) said,
“None is more patient than Allah against the harmful and annoying words He hears (from the people): They ascribe children to Him, yet He bestows upon them health and provision.”
فَلَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَّفْسَكَ عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمْ إِن لَّمْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَـٰذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَسَفًا
Then maybe you will worry yourself to death, sorrowing after them, if they do not believe in this message.
Bākhiʿ is to die from depression. Ibn ʿAbbās said it is killing yourself. Abū ʿUbaydah, Bukhārī said it is worrying yourself to death.
Āthār are the footprints left in the sand after someone has walked away, or the items left behind by someone as he moves on. Ḥadīth is discourse, lengthy discussion which contains information and stories, but here it refers to the Qurʾān. Asafa is sorrow and upset, but extremely upset – mubālagha. Grammatically this is mafʿūl lahu of bākhiʿun nafsak; i.e. the depression is happening because of this extreme upset.ʿAlā āthārihim thus is after them as they turn away from you and īmān.
Thus a similitude (istiʿāra tamthīliyyah) is employed here, comparing his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam) feelings towards the pagans as they reject his call with the feelings one feels when beloved people leave their homes and move on. You see what they have left behind and the traces of their footsteps and it grieves you. Or they have turned around and he is following their footsteps in concern, because they rejected NOT him, but Allāh’s call – the ḥadīth. This shows us the sincerity of Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam), as we see throughout his life: he was calling to Allāh, not to himself—since his concern was that they did not believe in the Qurʾān. It also highlights his concern for his people.
لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
A Messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering distresses him: he is deeply concerned for you and full of kindness and mercy towards the believers.
لَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَّفْسَكَ أَلَّا يَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ
Are you going to worry yourself to death because they will not believe?
وَاصْبِرْ وَمَا صَبْرُكَ إِلَّا بِاللَّـهِ ۚ وَلَا تَحْزَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا تَكُ فِي ضَيْقٍ مِّمَّا يَمْكُرُونَ
So be patient, your patience only comes from Allāh. Do not grieve over them; do not be distressed by their scheming…
The point here is to prohibit him (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam) from this by saying that if you continue down this path of grief you could end up dying of depression, or cause harm to yourself, or that grief will consume you. It is natural to be aggrieved if you are a merciful and compassionate person—but do not go to such lengths.
Therefore this verse is effectively teaching us that our duty is just to convey—try our best as he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam) did—but know that guidance, ultimately, is in Allāh’s hands. Do not get angry or upset at rejection, this will only depress and weaken you. Also about their mocking words, do not get extremely upset.
Another subtle point is, look at whom Allāh is addressing here. He is not addressing the Quraysh for their disbelief, He is addressing the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam) for his sorrow and care. Allāh is more concerned about the grief of His beloved Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam) than He is for the rejection of the disbelievers! We see this again and again through the Qurʾān, and it shows us status of the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam). The one who is on Allāh’s path, Allāh is concerned with him.
إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا مَا عَلَى الْأَرْضِ زِينَةً لَّهَا لِنَبْلُوَهُمْ أَيُّهُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا
Surely We have made whatever is on the earth an adornment for it, so that We may try them as to which of them is best in deeds
Balwa is test, examination or experience.
تَبَارَكَ ٱلَّذِي بِيَدِهِ ٱلْمُلْكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ٱلَّذِي خَلَقَ ٱلْمَوْتَ وَٱلْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلاً
Blessed/Exalted is He in whose hand is dominion, and He is over all things competent— [He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving.
This world is a test, and it is transient and temporary, just as our lives on it. We are just moments. Allāh acts as the examiner and we are the examined. Will we pass the test?
This verse actually comforts the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam). Allāh has granted them the zīna of this world, to test them and see if they are grateful. But they rejected the blessings, and refused to see what they were there for, and Allāh will take this blessing away from them. Not just in the Hereafter but in this world as well, and as such it is linked to the baʾsan shadīdan mentioned in the earlier āyah. Therefore, do not be fooled into thinking that just because some have the luxuries of this world that they are better and more privileged.
Those deceived will be those who look at the world outwardly and superficially, failing to see its reality and its purpose and instead live a life hankering after lusts and desires. Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam) said,
إِنَّ الدُّنْيَا حُلْوَةٌ خَضِرَةٌ، وَإِنَّ اللهَ مُسْتَخْلِفُكُمْ فِيهَا، فَيَنْظُرُ كَيْفَ تَعْمَلُونَ، فَاتَّقُوا الدُّنْيَا وَاتَّقُوا النِّسَاءَ، فَإِنَّ أَوَّلَ فِتْنَةِ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ كَانَتْ فِي النِّسَاءِ
This world is sweet and green and Allāh has put you as vicegerents in it to see what you do. Beware of this world and beware of women because the first trial the Banū Isrāʾīl faced was over women.
There is an interesting point in the āyah. Zīna is not necessarily bad, it is a blessing from Allāh. This zīna should lead us to think about how it got there. Calling it zīna stresses to us that it will disappear. Clothes, jewellery, and so on are all types of zīna and they all wear away.
لِنَبْلُوَهُمْ أَيُّهُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلً
so that We may try them as to which of them is best in deeds
This is an important āyah that deserves careful consideration. Aḥsan is the best. Sufyān al-Thawri said it means those with most zuhd. Sahl al-Tustorī said it is those with most tawakkul. Among the best deeds is that deed done which contains zuhd of this world and not being deceived by it.
Another important thing to note here is the quality of deed—not necessarily quantity—is highlighted. He did not say most deeds but He said best in deeds. The quality is determined by two factors: sincerity and correctness (i.e. being done in conformity to the Sunnah).
Allāh elsewhere gives the example of a person deceived by the zīna of this world:
وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا فَانسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ ﴿١٧٥﴾ وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَاهُ بِهَا وَلَـٰكِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ ۚ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ الْكَلْبِ إِن تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُكْهُ يَلْهَث ۚ ذَّٰلِكَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا ۚ فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
Tell them the story of the man to whom We gave Our messages: he sloughed them off, so Satan took him as his follower and he went astray – if it had been Our will, we could have used these signs to raise him high, but instead he clung to the earth and followed his own desires – he was like a dog that pants with a lolling tongue whether you drive it away or leave it alone. Such is the image of those who reject Our signs.
This āyah in the beginning of Sūrah al-Kahf has a parallel in the end:
قُلْ هَلْ نُنَبِّئُكُم بِالْأَخْسَرِينَ أَعْمَالًا ﴿١٠٣﴾ الَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْعًا ﴿١٠٤﴾ أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ وَلِقَائِهِ فَحَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ فَلَا نُقِيمُ لَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَزْنًا ﴿١٠٥﴾ ذَٰلِكَ جَزَاؤُهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ بِمَا كَفَرُوا وَاتَّخَذُوا آيَاتِي وَرُسُلِي هُزُوًا
Say: shall we tell you who has the most to lose by their actions? Those whose efforts in this world are misguided, even when they think they are doing good work. It is those who disbelieve in their Lord’s Signs and deny that they will meet Him. Their deeds come to nothing: on the Day of Rising We shall give them no weight. Their recompense for having disbelieved and made fun of My Messengers will be Hell.
We start the Sūrah with an introduction of sorts highlighting the things we will discuss. We end the Sūrah with topics that we want to walk away from, and the correlate to what is found at the beginning.
وَإِنَّا لَجَاعِلُونَ مَا عَلَيْهَا صَعِيدًا جُرُزًا
and most surely We will make what is on it barren ground, without herbage
The āyah has three forms of emphasis: inna, la and it being a jumlah ismiyyah – noun sentence rather than a verb.
Ṣaʿīd is earth that has no vegetation, whilst juruz is barren. Ibn ʿAbbās said it means “everything on it will be destroyed”. This world will go away, it is transient.
فَيَذَرُهَا قَاعًا صَفْصَفًا ﴿١٠٦﴾ لَّا تَرَىٰ فِيهَا عِوَجًا وَلَا أَمْتًا
And He will leave it as a flat plain, in it you will see no valley or hill.
This is further consolation for the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam): do not grieve, We will return them to ourselves. It highlights Allāh’s power: He grants and He takes away. There is a lesson in this for us: the cycle of life and death of the earth reminds us of our own life and death:
وَفِي الْأَرْضِ آيَاتٌ لِّلْمُوقِنِينَ ﴿٢٠﴾ وَفِي أَنفُسِكُمْ ۚ أَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ
On the earth there are Signs for those with sure faith – and in yourselves too, do you not see?
Points of Benefit
The greatest blessing is the revelation of the Qurʾān, and sending of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhī wa sallam). It contains the solution to our problems. It is consistent, perfect and balanced. It both warns and gives glad-tidings. We learn that īmān and good deeds have to go hand-in-hand for success.
We are also reminded of the depravity of claiming Allāh has children and that there is no possible base of knowledge for this. Allāh emphasises the severity of lying against Allāh, and speaking without knowledge or evidence about Allāh is a great sin.
The Daʿī is concerned about his people; the one who is on Allāh’s path, Allāh is concerned with him.
Do not to be deceived by this world, it is just a test. Do not let this world and its problems overcome you, it is just temporary—concentrate on the permanent and eternal.
Do not let your anger or stress at things in this world distract you from its reality. This does not mean ignore this world but to put it in its place.
Tawḥid, risālah and ākhira are a means of protecting against fitan. Īmān is built on love, hope and fear. Two of the greatest aspect of the fitna of the Dajjāl are to do with this world and with misguiding people away from the truth.
The solution and protection is to stick to istiqāmah; keep your connection to the Qurʾān and to the truth, and live by it.
 Al-Qur’ān 6:100
 Al-Qur’ān 23:117
 Al-Qur’ān 43:22
 Al-Qur’ān 7:33
 Al-Qur’ān 19:88-92
 Al-Qur’ān 9:128
 Al-Qur’ān 26:3
 Al-Qur’ān 16:127
 Al-Qur’ān 67:1-2
 Al-Qur’ān 7:175-176
 Al-Qur’ān 18:103-106
 Al-Qur’ān 20:106-107
 Al-Qur’ān 51:20-21