Best seen in context.

seencontext.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Many people who have set about to memorise the Qur’an, or portions of the Qur’an, will at some point have become confused when they come to a verse they have learnt elsewhere in the Qur’an, but with a slight change in wording or order. The key to overcoming this confusion, more often than not, lies in understanding two things: 1) the meaning of the words, 2) the context. So important is context that some linguists say that words only come to have a meaning once they are put in a context, otherwise what is to say that the meaning of ‘ayn عين is ‘eye’ and not ‘spring’?

To give an example, Allah says in Surah al-Baqarah, verse 86,

أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُاْ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا بِالآَخِرَةِ فَلاَ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ
Those are the ones who have bought the life of this world [in exchange] for the Hereafter, so the punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be aided. (yunsaroon).

He later says in the same chapter (verse 162),

خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا لاَ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنظَرُونَ
Abiding eternally therein. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be reprieved. (yundharoon).

Just as He says in Surah Aal-‘Imraan, verse 88,

خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا لاَ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنظَرُونَ
Abiding eternally therein. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be reprieved. (yundharoon).

Thus He has used the word ‘yunsaroon’ in one context, but ‘yundharoon’ in two others.

If we look at the context of verse 86 in al-Baqarah,

وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ لاَ تَسْفِكُونَ دِمَاءكُمْ وَلاَ تُخْرِجُونَ أَنفُسَكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ ثُمَّ أَقْرَرْتُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ
And [recall] when We took your covenant, [saying], “Do not shed each other’s blood or evict one another from your homes.” Then you acknowledged [this] while you were witnessing.

ثُمَّ أَنتُمْ هَـؤُلاء تَقْتُلُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَتُخْرِجُونَ فَرِيقاً مِّنكُم مِّن دِيَارِهِمْ تَظَاهَرُونَ عَلَيْهِم بِالإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَإِن يَأتُوكُمْ أُسَارَى تُفَادُوهُمْ وَهُوَ مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَيْكُمْ إِخْرَاجُهُمْ أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتَابِ وَتَكْفُرُونَ بِبَعْضٍ فَمَا جَزَاء مَن يَفْعَلُ ذَلِكَ مِنكُمْ إِلاَّ خِزْيٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَى أَشَدِّ الْعَذَابِ وَمَا اللّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
Then, you are those [same ones who are] killing one another and evicting a party of your people from their homes, cooperating against them in sin and aggression. And if they come to you as captives, you ransom them, although their eviction was forbidden to you. So do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part? Then what is the recompense for those who do that among you except disgrace in worldly life; and on the Day of Resurrection they will be sent back to the severest of punishment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.

أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُاْ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا بِالآَخِرَةِ فَلاَ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ
Those are the ones who have bought the life of this world [in exchange] for the Hereafter, so the punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be aided.

we would see that it is mentioned in the context of war and fighting; a context in which one is in need of support and assistance. Thus, it was more befitting to conclude the verse with yunsaroon.

However, in the other two verses, the same curse was mentioned, a curse of being distanced and driven away from the Mercy of Allah. How is such a person to be viewed and looked at? The word yundharoon connotes two meanings: firstly, they will not be granted respite at that time, and secondly, Allaah will not look at them with mercy, for if a person has been distanced from his Lord and expelled from his Lord’s Mercy, how would he be looked at?

14 responses to “Best seen in context.

  1. This may not be directly related to the topic of this post but, still, no harm in asking.
    I will give an example from Quran where the use of words has left me thinking. Here goes:
    Yasin – 20 : And from the remote part of the city there came a man running. He said, ‘O my people, follow the sent ones.’
    In this verse why say that the man came ‘running’? What is the significance of this word yas-aa here? Or does it mean entirely something else? I believe that every word of the Quran has some significance;what is it in this case?

    Thankx in advance…

  2. A thoughtful question, may Allah reward you. As believers, we know that everything in the Qur’an and the Sunnah are placed exactly where they should be. Moreover, we believe there’s wisdom behind the the words used and where they’re placed in the sentence. As for the signifcance of the word yas-aa or loosely translated ‘running’, this might help answer your question.

    After he’d heard that his people/community had denied the Messengers of God (peace and blessings upon our Prophet and the rest of the Prophets), he ran/hurried/hastened to speak to them about correcting their denial of the ‘sent ones’ (ie Messengers of God). In order words, he rushed to restore in them the correct belief or aqidah.

    And God knows best.

    Wassalam.

  3. Qushayri,
    Many thanks for the reply; and I agree somewhat to the explanation. It will be good to see some more ideas coming through. Another one to think over is Surah Ta-Ha and the dialogue between Allah (SWT) and Musa (PBUH).When asked about what is in his hand, Musa(PBUH) gives some uses of the stick he is holding; he could simply have said “This is my stick”, rather he gives details of its uses.

    Just got me thinking, again!

  4. al-Salaamu ‘alaykum,

    Jazaakum Allaahu khayran al-Qushayri. In addition to what was said, the significance can be better understood when looking at the verse as a whole, rather than focusing on that specific word. Thus, if you compare verse 20 from Surah Yaseen which you mentioned,

    وَجَاء مِنْ أَقْصَى الْمَدِينَةِ رَجُلٌ يَسْعَى قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اتَّبِعُوا الْمُرْسَلِينَ
    And there came from the farthest end of the city a man, running. He said, “O my people, follow the messengers.

    with verse 20 from Surah al-Qasas in which Allah says,

    وَجَاء رَجُلٌ مِّنْ أَقْصَى الْمَدِينَةِ يَسْعَى قَالَ يَا مُوسَى إِنَّ الْمَلَأَ يَأْتَمِرُونَ بِكَ لِيَقْتُلُوكَ فَاخْرُجْ إِنِّي لَكَ مِنَ النَّاصِحِينَ
    And a man came from the farthest end of the city, running. He said, “O Moses, indeed the eminent ones are conferring over you [intending] to kill you, so leave [the city]; indeed, I am to you of the sincere advisors.”

    In the first verse, Allah said, “wa jaa’a min aqsa al-madeenati rajulun yas’aa” while in the second verse, Allah said, “wa jaa’a rajulun min aqsa al-madeenati yas’aa” where rajul was mentioned much earlier on in the verse.

    This is related to the semantic significance of the word “jaa’a” in each construction;
    1- If you say “jaa’a min al-madeenati rajul” (“there came from the city a man”) it means that the man definitely came from the city, and nowhere else. The meaning is absolute.
    2- If you say “jaa’a rajulun min al-madeenati” (“there came a man from the city”) it is not absolute; it can mean he came at that instant from the city, or it could mean that the man was a city-dweller, but may not have come from the city at that moment. The meaning is relative.

    Thus, in the verse in Surah Yaseen, Allah mentioned the the verse as in construction (1) above, to show that the man came right from the farthest parts of the city, meaning that the dawah had reached everyone, even someone so far away. As to why he came running, it is due to what was mentioned by al-Qushayri. And Allah knows best.

  5. Brilliant!

    Jazaak’Allaahu ‘annaa khayral jazaa’

  6. Arabicgems,I am amazed at the depth of your knowledge of Arabic. May Allah grant you more of what is best in this world and the hereafter!

  7. Pingback: SubhanAllah « Notes of a Student

  8. assalaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullaah,

    Another valuable post, maashaa’allaah.
    I recently purchased the book (دليل الآيات متشابهة الألفاظ في كتاب الله العزيز) by د/ سراج صالح ملائكة – the author discusses the ‘confusing’ verses by presenting them in the order in which they appear, and then citing the similar verses. Both the similarities and differences are mentioned, and by means of a colour-coded system, the reader is guided through the Qur’aan. A little explanation is also provided to account for the slight differences in wording, and inshaa’allaah a thorough read of the book should help approach the ‘confusing’ verses better.

    You can read a little more about the book here… http://pr.sv.net/aw/2005/julay/arabic/news4.htm

    Given that each individual will have their particular method of study and revision, I found that repeating the verses often and looking to appreciate the reason behind the similarities/differences, helps me to retain the order correctly.

  9. JazakAllah

    Beautiful.

  10. fajr, wa iyyaaki khayr al-jazaa’. Ameen.

    sheepo, Ameen. Please do not believe, however, that I make all the posts and answer all questions without having to research anything. I am a student much the same as any of you.

    Taalibul-‘Ilm, wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam wa rahmat Allaah, and jazaakum Allaahu khayran for the book review. It seems to be very beneficial, and as they say in the Arab world, ‘Ask someone who has experience rather than asking a doctor!’ (اسأل مجرّب ولا تسأل طبيب)

    ibnZiad, wa iyyaakum.

  11. I though this was a really neat analysis too:

    _____________
    The difference between “because of poverty” and “for fear of poverty?”

    Question:
    What is the difference between the two verses:
    “kill not your children because of poverty[min imlaaqin] — We provide sustenance for you and for them”
    [al-An’aam 6:151]
    and
    “And kill not your children for fear of poverty [khashyata imlaaqin]. We shall provide for them as well as for you. Surely, the killing of them is a great sin”
    [al-Isra’ 17:31]?.

    Answer:
    Praise be to Allaah.

    Imlaaq means poverty. It was the custom of the people of the Jaahiliyyah to bury their daughters alive, either because of poverty, or for fear that they may fall into poverty in the future. Allaah forbade it in either case. The first verse (interpretation of the meaning):

    “kill not your children because of poverty”

    [al-An’aam 6:151]

    refers to the first reason, i.e., do not kill your children because you are poor, because Allaah has guaranteed to provide for you and for them.

    And the second verse (interpretation of the meaning):

    “And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We shall provide for them as well as for you”

    [al-Isra’ 17:31]

    refers to the second reason, i.e., do not kill your children for fear that you may become poor or that they may become poor after you are gone, for Allaah will provide for them and for you.

    Ibn Katheer (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: With regard to the phrase “because of poverty [min imlaaqin]”, Ibn ‘Abbaas said: this means poverty, i.e., do not kill them because you are poor. It says in Soorat al-Isra’: “And kill not your children for fear of poverty”, i.e., do not kill them for fear of poverty in the future. Hence Allaah says here, “We shall provide for them as well as for you”. Here Allaah mentions their provision first, because of the concern for them, i.e., do not fear becoming poor because of providing for them, for that is what Allaah will do. But in the first verse, because poverty is already a factor, Allaah says, “We provide sustenance for you and for them”, because that is more important in that case.

    And Allaah knows best.
    ___________
    taken from islamqa.com

  12. Excellent Abu Saeed, Jazakum Allaahu khayran.

  13. Excellent work…

    May allah reward you for this

  14. Excellent Abu Saeed, Jazakum Allaahu khayran.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s