Tafsīr Sūrah al-Kahf – part 2
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا ۜ ﴿١﴾ قَيِّمًا لِّيُنذِرَ بَأْسًا شَدِيدًا مِّن لَّدُنْهُ وَيُبَشِّرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ أَجْرًا حَسَنًا ﴿٢﴾ مَّاكِثِينَ فِيهِ أَبَدًا ﴿٣﴾
All praise (and thanks) are due to Allāh who revealed the Book to His servant and did not make it crooked in any way, (instead making it) unerringly straight, that he might give warning of severe punishment from Him and give good news to the believers who work righteous deeds that they shall have an excellent reward, staying in it for ever.
We begin our journey through this amazing Sūrah with the first piece of information Allāh reveals about Himself in the Qur’ān: praise.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ
All praise (and thanks) are due to Allāh who revealed the Book to His servant
There are a number of words in Arabic that can signify praise:
– Madḥ: praise, but can be flattery and it could be true or false;
– Shukr: praise and thanks, in exchange for something good done to you;
– Ḥamd: which has a very specific meaning; praising because the one praised deserves it, because of who he is, and the qualities and attributes that he has. It is also carries the sense of love and contentment.
This is the word employed in this āyah, but it is preceded by ‘Al’ which signifies complete, perfect, absolute praise. This is only for Allāh.
A very important question in spirituality or sulūk is: why do we praise Allāh? Primarily it is because He is Allāh. Imagine that He never gave us any blessings at all—He would still deserve praise.
This is one of 5 Sūrahs beginning with ḥamd
These are, al-Fātiḥah, al-Anʿām, al-Kahf, Sabaʾ and Fāṭir. Every Sūrah that starts this way highlights one of the most fundamental blessings of Allāh
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿٢﴾
All praise is for Allāh, Lord of the worlds.
Highlights His providence, His lordship, His sustaining.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَجَعَلَ الظُّلُمَاتِ وَالنُّورَ
Praise belongs to Allāh who created the heavens and the earth and made darkness and light.
Highlights his creating of the heavens and earth, provider of light and dark; all essential to our survival.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا
All praise (and thanks) are due to Allāh who revealed the Book to His servant and did not make it crooked in any way.
Highlights the Qurʾān and perfect Guidance.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ
Praise be to Allāh to whom belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth, and praise be to Him in the life to come.
Highlights that ownership, authority and power belongs to Him as does praise.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ فَاطِرِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ جَاعِلِ الْمَلَائِكَةِ رُسُلًا أُولِي أَجْنِحَةٍ مَّثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ ۚ يَزِيدُ فِي الْخَلْقِ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
Praise be to Allāh, Originator of the heavens and the earth, who made the angels messengers with two, three or four wings. He adds to His creation as He wills: Allāh has power over everything.
Highlights His originating of creation, with armies of angels, magnificent creations.
What are some of the other reasons He is worthy of praise besides being Allāh? This Sūrah mentions the revelation of the Qurʾān, which Allāh is praised for revealing and teaching. It is such a miracle, such a blessing that Allāh deserves to be praised for it.
تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ الْفُرْقَانَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ لِيَكُونَ لِلْعَالَمِينَ نَذِيرًا
Blessed is He who sent down the Criterion to His servant so that he may give warning to all people.
The Qurʾān is the means to success and joy in both worlds. And a great blessing on the Prophet (SAW) specifically since He appointed him to be the one who conveys this great news and warning to mankind.
The mawṣūl in the āyah (alladhī) indicates ʿilliyyah (the cause or reason) and highlights and emphasises the quality mentioned. This āyah is a Jumlah khabariyyah where Allāh is telling us that He deserves this praise for this reason and thereby implying that we must praise Him. It is teaching us, therefore, how to praise Him and some of the reasons to praise him.
Who is the ʿabd (slave/servant) being mentioned? Muḥammad (SAW). The term is adjoined to the ḍamīr (personal pronoun) His. This highlights the great status of Allāh’s Messenger (SAW). He (SAW) reached the pinnacle of servitude and Allāh recognised him as truly being His servant. This is amongst the best ways of praising and honouring the Prophet (SAW). ʿUmar (RA) said that the Messenger of Allāh (SAW) said,
“Do not excessively or falsely praise me like the Christians excessively praised the son of Maryam. I am only a servant so say: servant of Allāh and His Messenger.”
This also shows his (SAW) essential humanity. In fact the last verse of this Sūrah highlights this fact further:
قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَـٰهُكُمْ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ
Say: I am only a human being, like you, to whom it has been revealed that your god is One.
And the penultimate verse further consolidates the miracle of the Qurʾān:
قُل لَّوْ كَانَ الْبَحْرُ مِدَادًا لِّكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّي لَنَفِدَ الْبَحْرُ قَبْلَ أَن تَنفَدَ كَلِمَاتُ رَبِّي وَلَوْ جِئْنَا بِمِثْلِهِ مَدَدًا
Say: if the whole ocean were ink for writing the words of my Lord, it would run dry before those words were exhausted.
So we have parallels between the beginning and end of this Sūrah. Internal consistency of the Qurʾān is an interesting and important topic – it is a coherent Book.
Al-Kitāb, the (perfect) Book – as signified by the usage of the definite article, al. The reference is to the Qurʾān. The kitāb and the ʿabd are intricately linked together, both are huge blessings, the Kitāb is the credentials of the Messenger (SAW).
Now books can be deficient, they can have mistakes, flaws and shortcomings; but a Book from Allāh cannot have these failings, so Allāh emphasises this by saying:
وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا
and did not make it crooked in any way
ʿiwaj: is used to describe a body that is distorted and disfigured – not what it should look like. Metaphorically it is used to describe something that is deviating away from correctness and being sound of meaning.
This is a parenthetical clause (also possible that it is ḥāl (state) and can start a jumlah ḥāliyya with a waw), qayyiman… is ḥāl. The negation of crookedness has been emphasised in two ways:
a) ʿiwaj is an indefinite noun. An indefinite noun in a negatory context is understood in a general or absolute sense: there is no crookedness whatsoever.
b) Allāh said lahu ʿiwajan (make it crooked), not fīhi ʿiwajan (it contains crookedness): because lahū gives a more generic and all-encompassing meaning.
This stresses that it is a perfect Book in all aspects. Therefore the clear implication is that if there is any Book that you can derive benefit from, gain good from, gain guidance from, it is this Book. As such, this verse is similar in import to the beginning of al-Baqarah:
ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ
That is the Book which contains no doubt, a guidance for those who ward off evil.
So, this verse at the beginning of the Qurʾān, finds a parallel here in the middle of the Qurʾān—another aspect of coherence. There is nothing incorrect, no mistake, no contradiction, no meaning or command or recommendation that is not sound in this Book.
أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ ۚ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللَّـهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا
Will they not think about the Qurʾān? If it had been from anyone other than Allāh, they would have found much inconsistency in it.
By stating that this is the quality of the Qurʾān, it is cleared of the accusations that it is stories of the ancients, concoctions, words of a poet or madman or soothsayers, because all of these will by necessity have some sort of ʿiwaj in them. Ibn ʿAbbās explained this verse to mean: the Qurʾān is not confusing and incomprehensible, i.e. its meaning is understood.
(instead making it) unerringly straight
Qayyiman: ṣifāh mubālagha from qiyām. It is straight and makes others straight, both meanings are meant here. The meaning of Qayyiman in the words of the Salaf: Ibn ʿAbbās said ‘balanced and straight’; Ibn Isḥāq said ‘balanced and internally consistent’.
Therefore there is no extremism on either end of the spectrum – no falling short of the mark, nor going too far in something. It is moderation and balance from beginning to end. It does not ignore anything that is needed, nor does it go to the point of being a burden on us. Moderation is what our Messenger (SAW) has taught us:
“Beware of extremism for it was extremism that destroyed the nations before you.”
Muslim records on the authority of ibn Masʿūd that the Messenger of Allāh (SAW) said three times, “The extremists are destroyed.”
Muṭarraf b. ʿAbdullāh b. Shikhkhīr had a son who would perform a great deal of worship, expending great effort in doing so. He counselled him,
“The best of affairs is the middlemost. A good deed lies between two evil deeds and the worst journey is one where a person tries so hard that he kills his mount and is left stranded.”
Abū ʿUbaydah said: He means that excessiveness in worship is evil, deficiency is evil, and moderation is praiseworthy.
This meaning is supported by the ḥadīth reported on the authority of ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAmr (RA) that Allāh’s Messenger (SAW) said,
“This religion is powerful so walk in it with gentleness. Do not let the worship of Allāh overburden you because a person who falters and is unable to continue has neither shortened the journey nor preserved his mount.”
A third meaning of qayyiman is: a guardian over other scriptures.
وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ
We sent you the Book with the truth, confirming the scriptures that came before it and with final authority over them.
In this sense it is similar in meaning to the term muhaymin. This meaning is also linked to its being unerringly straight.
A fourth meaning of qayyiman is: completing and perfecting all the good. Qayyiman in guiding the ummah and rectifying it, the Qurʾān’s perfection is complemented by its effectuating good in this world. Therefore this phrase finds a parallel to hudan lil muttaqīn in the beginning of the Qurʾān:
ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ
So this part of the verse continues to reflect the opening of Baqarah. These meanings of ‘not being crooked’ and ‘straight’ complement each other and emphasise that fact. Or, one description enhances the other: the previous description shows that the Qurʾān is perfect in itself, and this description shows that it perfects others (scriptures and people).
This Qurʾān is the greatest and clearest proof about his (SAW) veracity and sincerity, it his credentials. You have no need to go to Jews and Christians to find out about him, look to the Book and analyse that.
لِّيُنذِرَ بَأْسًا شَدِيدًا مِّن لَّدُنْهُ
that he might give warning of severe punishment from Him
Li yundhira follows on from anzala. This is one purpose of revelation.
Who exactly is being warned has been left unmentioned to make it general and to draw our attention to what the warning actually is. Moreover, context shows that it is obvious that the warning refers to those who do not believe in the Book.
Baʾs is punishment or pain. Ṭabarī argues that the word baʾs in the Qurʾān is used to refer to worldly punishment. So, this āyah would be warning the polytheists of a punishment that will befall them in this world before the next. However, the majority said that it refers to the next life, or to both as stated by Qurṭubī.
This is not any old punishment: it is from Him
فَيَوْمَئِذٍ لَّا يُعَذِّبُ عَذَابَهُ أَحَدٌ ﴿٢٥﴾ وَلَا يُوثِقُ وَثَاقَهُ أَحَدٌ
On that Day, no one will punish as He punishes, and no one will bind as He binds.
This āyah at the beginning of the Sūrah also has a parallel at the end of the Sūrah:
وَعَرَضْنَا جَهَنَّمَ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِّلْكَافِرِينَ عَرْضًا ﴿١٠٠﴾ الَّذِينَ كَانَتْ أَعْيُنُهُمْ فِي غِطَاءٍ عَن ذِكْرِي وَكَانُوا لَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ سَمْعًا
We shall show Hell to the disbelievers, those whose eyes were blind to My signs, those who were unable to hear.
وَيُبَشِّرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ أَجْرًا حَسَنًا
and give good news to the believers who work righteous deeds that they shall have an excellent reward
This is another reason for the revelation. These glad tidings are for those who combine īmān with good deeds; they must follow up īmān with good works. Not only that, but the present tense verb for doing good deeds to show that we should persist and keep doing as many different types as we can, always renewing – tajaddud and istimrār.
The reward referred to is Janna and Allāh’s good pleasure. This portion of the āyah also finds a parallel at the end of the Sūrah:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ كَانَتْ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتُ الْفِرْدَوْسِ نُزُلًا ﴿١٠٧﴾
Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – they will have the Gardens of Paradise as a lodging…
مَّاكِثِينَ فِيهِ أَبَدًا
staying in it for ever;
Mukth is to remain in a place; mākithīna fīhi – in it. Here the word is used metaphorically to show that this good reward is encompassing them all the time, never leaving them, just as a place you are in surrounds you. Mukth does not really include a time frame, so abadan is added. Therefore, it will never leave them and they will never leave it. This portion of the āyah also finds a parallel at the end of the Sūrah
خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا لَا يَبْغُونَ عَنْهَا حِوَلًا ﴿١٠٨﴾
Wherein they abide eternally. They will not desire from it any transfer.
In these first three verses so far we have discussed: tawḥīd, risālah (Messengership) and ākhira (Hereafter) – three fundamentals of our belief without which it cannot be valid. They also contain the pillars of our belief in Allāh and worship: love, hope and fear. All covered so succinctly in just three verses. Additionally, threat and reward (inculcating hope and fear) are mentioned hand in hand to show us that both are needed for balance, the carrot and stick are required, this is a style seen throughout the Qurʾān.
In the next article, God willing, we shall discuss the fourth verse onwards.
 Al-Qur’ān 1:2
 Al-Qur’ān 6:1
 Al-Qur’ān 18:1
 Al-Qur’ān 34:1
 Al-Qur’ān 35:1
 Al-Qur’ān 25: 1
 Bukhari & Muslim
 Al-Qur’ān 18:110
 Al-Qur’an 18:109
 Al-Qur’ān 4:82
 Bayhaqī #3888
 This sentence was also recorded by Aḥmad #13052 on the authority of Anas ibn Mālik. It was declared ṣaḥīḥ by Suyūṭī #2508 and ḥasan by Albānī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ #2246
 This amount is recorded by Bazzār and Suyūṭī #2509 ruled it ḍaʿīf as did Haythamī, vol. 1, p. 62.
 Al-Qur’ān 5:48
 Al-Qur’ān 89:25-26
 Al-Qur’ān 18:100-101
 Al-Qur’an 18:107
 Al-Qur’an 18:108
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