E. M. (Elwood Morris) Wherry.

A comprehensive commentary on the Qurán; comprising Sale's translation and preliminary discourse, with additional notes and emendations; together with a complete index to the text, preliminary discourse, and notes (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryE. M. (Elwood Morris) WherryA comprehensive commentary on the Qurán; comprising Sale's translation and preliminary discourse, with additional notes and emendations; together with a complete index to the text, preliminary discourse, and notes (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 42)
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marched out against them at the head of iooo men (some say lie had
1050 men, others but 900^, of whom 100 were armed with coats of
mail, but he had no more than one horse, besides his own, in his
whole army. With these forces he formed a camp in a village near
Ohod, which mountain he contrived to have on his back ; and the
better to secitre his men from being surrounded, he placed fifty
archers in the rear, with strict orders not to quit their post. When
they came to engage, Muhammad had the better at first, but after-
wards, by the fault of his archers, who left their ranks for the sake
of the plunder, and suffered the enemy's horse to encompass the
Muhammadans and attack them in the rear, he lost the day, and
was very near losing his life, being struck down by a shower of
stones, and wounded in the face with two arrows, on pulling out
of which his two foreteeth dropped out. Of the Muslims seventy
men were slain, and among them Hamza, the uncle of Muhammad,
and of the infidels twenty-two. To excuse the ill success of this
battle and to raise the drooping courage of his followers is Mu-
hammad's drift in the remaining part of this chapter." Sale.

Muir gives a wonderfully vivid description of the crisis through
which Muhammad was called to pass after the defeat at Ohod. " The
scotrs and taunts of infidels and Jews well-nigh overthrew the faith
of the Muslims. 'How can Mahomet pretend now,' they asked,
' to be anything more than an aspirant to the kingly office ? No true
claimant of the prophetic dignity hath ever been beaten in the
field, or suffered loss in his own person and -that of his followers, as
he hath.' Under these circumstances it required all the address of
Mahomet to avert the dangerous imputation, sustain the credit of
his cause, and reanimate his followers. This he did mainly by
means of that portion of the Quran which appears in the latter half
of the third Sura." Life of Mahomet, vol. iii. p. 189.

Students of the Quran will not fail to notice here that every
device of the Prophet to encourage his crestfallen people is clothed
in the garb of inspiration. Every exhortation to steadfastness in
the cause of Islam, every rebuke for unfaithfulness, every' plaudit
bestowed unon the brave, is presented as coming from the mouth of

(122) Two companies. "These were some of the families of Ban!
Sal ma of the tribe of al Khazraj, and Bani ul Harith of the tribe of
ai Aus, who composed the two wings of Muhammad's army. Some
ill impression had been made on them by Abdullah Ibn Ubai
Suliil, then an infidel, who having drawn off 300 men, told them
that they were going to certain death, and advised them to return
back with him ; but he could prevail on but a few, the others being
kept firm by the divine influence, as the following words intimate."
Sale, BaitUidwi.

Muir expresses the belief that "the two companies" were the


CHAP. III.] ( 40 ) [SIPARA IV.

but God was the supporter of them both; and in God

let the faithful trust.

-4 || (123) And God had already given you the victory at

Badr, when ye were inferior in number; therefore fear

God, that ye may be thankful. (124) When thou saidst

unto the faithful, Is it not enough for you that your Lord

should assist you with three thousand angels sent down

from heaven ? (125) Verily if ye persevere and fear God,

and your enemies come upon you suddenly, your Lord

will assist you with five thousand angels, distinguished by

their horses and attire.

ruba || (126) And this God designed only as good tidings for

refugees and citizens. The flight was caused by tbeir losing heart
in the midst of the battle (Life of Mahomet, vol. lii. p. 191, note).

(123) Victory at Badr. See note on ver. 1 1 3. The word translated
victory here means help. The angels, say the commentators, did not
do the lighting, but rendered miraculous assistance by warding off
the blows of the enemy and by appearing to them in human form,
thus working dismay in their ranks by multiplying the number of
Muslims in their sight

(124) Three thousand angels. Muhammadan tradition gives nume-
rous instances of similar interference of angels on behalf of the
Muslims. See references at p. lxiv., Muir's Life of Mahomet, vol. i.,

(125) Angels, distingui sited. The word musawwamina is the same
as that translated excellent horses in ver. 14. The primary reference
is to horses distinguished by white feet and a streak of white on the
face, a sign of special excellence in horses. The pasvage may there-
fore mean that the angels rode on horses distinguished by the marks
of excellence.

" The angels who assisted the Muhammadans at Badr rode, say
the commentators, on black and white horses, and had on their heads
white and yellow sashes, the ends of which hung down l>etween
their shoulders." Sale, Baid/tdici.

(126) Good tidings. Muhammad very adroitly argues that the
question <>f victory or defeat does not rest with the Muslims. It is
God's war against the infidels, and he cannot be defeated. If
Muslims suffer defeat, it is for their discipline, to teach them to
trust God and his prophet.

The commentators tell a story to the effect that when at the
battle of Badr seventy Quraish fell into the hands of the Muslims
as prisoners, Muhammad advised their summary execution, but the
Muslims preferred to let them go on condition of a ransom price
being paid. Muhammad yielded, but at the same time foretold that
seventy Muslims would lose their lives in lieu of the seventy ran-
somed infidels. This prophecy was fulfilled in the defeat of Ohod.


you, that your hearts might rest secure; for victory is
from God alone, the mighty, the wise. (127) That he
should cut off the uttermost part of the unbelievers, or
cast them down, or that they should be overthrown and
unsuccessful, is nothing to thee. (128) It is no business
of thine ; whether God be turned unto them, or whether
he punish them ; they are surely unjust doers. (129) To
God belongeth whatsoever is in heaven and on earth ; he
spareth whom he pleaseth, and he punisheth whom he
pleaseth ; for God is merciful.

|| (130) true believers, devour not usury, doubling it it 5
twofold , but fear God, that ye may prospe? : (131) and
fear the fire which is prepared for the unbelievers ; (132)
and obey God and his apostle, that ye may obtain mercy.
(133) And run with emulation to obtain remission from
your Lord, and paradise, whose breadth equalleth the

This story was invented in order to cover up the disgrace of the
ignominious defeat of the Muslims. This defeat was due to the dis-
obedience of the followers of Muhammad (see note on ver. 122).
This fact the prophet keeps in the background. The interests of
Islam require that the Muslims should rather be encouraged than
rebuked. They are therefore exhorted to trust God, and to look for
certain victory in the future.

(127) This verse should be connected with the one preceding, and
should depend upon the words "And this God designed." To con-
nect it with the following verse, as Sale does, destroys the main
point of the exhortation, which promises certain victory over the

(128) They are surely unjust doers. "This passage was revealed
when Muhammad received the wounds above mentioned at the
battle of Ohod, and cried out, ' How shall that people prosper who
have stained their prophet's face with blood, while he called them to
their Lord 1 ' The person who wounded him was Otha the son of
Abbu Wakkas." Sale, Baidhdwi.

(129) He spareth. In original he pardoneth. He is merciful. The
original would better be rendered He is forgiving, kind. Every ex-
hortation of the Prophet ends with a doxology of this sort, the senti-
ment being in accord with the character of the revelation preceding.

(130) Devour not usury. See note on chap. ii. 275. Abdul Qadir
conjectures that the subject of usury is here spoken of because of
the previous mention of cowardice, which is usually produced by
habits of extortion. The passage seems to be misplaced, the senti-
ment having no perceptible connection with that of ver. 129, which
is closely connected with ver. 139.

CHAP. III.] ( 42 ) [SI PARA IV.

heavens and the earth, which is prepared for ihe godly ;
(134) who give alms in prosperity and adversity; who
bridle their anger and forgive men ; for God loveth the
beneficent. (135) And who, after they have committed a
crime, or dealt unjustly with their own souls, remember
God, and ask pardon for their sins (for who forgiveth sins
except God ?), and persevere not in what they have done
knowingly; (136) their reward shall be pardon from their
Loud, and gardens wherein rivers flow; they shall remain
therein forever : and how excellent is the reward of those
who labour ! (137) There have already been before you
examples of punishment of infidels, therefore go through
the earth, and behold what hath been the end of those
who accuse God's apostles of imposture. (138) This book

(134) "It is related of Hasan the son of Ali, that a slave having
once thrown a dish on him boiling hot as he sat at table, ami fearing
his master's resentment, fell on his knees and repeated these words,
' Paradise is for those who bridle their anger : ' Hasan answered, ' I
am not angry.' The slave proceeded 'and for those who forgive
men.' ' I forgive you,' said Hasan. The slave, however, finished the
verse, adding, ' for Uod loveth the beneficent.' ' Since it is so,'
replied Hasan, 'I give you your liberty, and four hundred pieces of
silver.' A noble instance of moderation and generosity. Sale,
Tafsir-i- Ravfi.

Forgive men. "The best kind of forgiveness is to pardon those
who have injured you ." Tafsir-i- Raufi.

(135) liluU tliey have d'>ue knowingly, i.e., the pious do not sin
deliberately. The duty of repentance for known sin is here clearly
enjoined, and the test of true repentance is also given.

(136) Their reward. This statement contradicts the teaching of
the former Scriptures. However sincere repentance, its reward
cannot be pardon. Repentance can affect the conduct of the future,
but it has no power to atone for the crimes of the past (see note on
ver. 31).

(137 j Those who accuse of imposture. This passage gives another
illustration of the constant and strained effort of Muhammad to
refute the charge of imposture. In reply to his accusers, he says
others were accused of like imposture, and the end of their accusers
was dreadful. But the author of the notes on the Roman Urdu
Qur.in points out the fact that no true prophet ever shoice i the anrutij
of Muhammad to establish his claim to the prophetic office. We may
therefore fairly conclude that Muhammad's imposture was not, in
the first instance at least, unconscious.

(138) See note, chap, it 2.

SIPARA IV.] ( 43 ) [CHAP. III.

is a declaration unto men, and a direction and an admoni-
tion to the pious. (139) And be not dismayed, neither
be ye grieved ; for ye shall be superior to the unbelievers
if ye believe. (140) If a wound hath happened unto you
in war, a like wound hath already happened unto the
unbelieving people : and we cause these days of different
success interchangeably to succeed each other among men ;
that God may know those who believe, and may have
martyrs from among you : (God loveth not the workers
of iniquity ;) (141) and that God might prove those who
believe, and destroy the infidels. (142) Did ye imagine
that ye should enter paradise, when as yet God knew not
those among you who fought strenuously in his cause,
nor knew those who persevered with patience ? (143)
Moreover ye did sometimes wish for death before that ye

(139) The thread of discourse dropped at ver. 129 is here taken
up again. This verse reveals something of the demoralization of
Muhammad's followers after the defeat of Ohod, and he uses every
effort to inspire courage for a new conflict. Muhammad's high
moral courage, strong will, and capability as a leader are well
illustrated here.

(140) A like wound, ie., at Badr, where forty-nine of the Quraish
were killed and an equal number wounded. Muslim accounts say
seventy were killed and seventy wounded. Muir says, "The num-
ber seventy has originated in the supposition of a correspondence
between the fault of Mahomet in taking (and not slaying) the
prisoners of Badr and the retributive reverse at Ohod ; hence it is
assumed that seventy Meccans were taken prisoners at Badr."
Life of Mahomet, vol. iii. p. 107, note.

We cause these days. <fcc. The idea here is that God, by this
reverse, intended to sift the true from the false among the number
of those who professed themselves Muslims, and, so far as the slain
were concerned, he desired to have them be martyrs. Thus com-
fort is bestowed upon the faithful, both for the disgrace of defeat
and the loss of relatives in battle.

(142) God knew not. This is translated by Rod well, God had
taken knowledge. So also Abdul Qddir and others. This is certainly
the meaning of the original. Those who catch at the form of the
words (notes on Roman Urdu Quran) to raise an objection lay them-
selves open to a charge of cavilling. The same cavil could be raised
against Gen. xxii. 12.

(143) Ye did . . . wish for death. "Several of Muhammad's
followers who were not present at Badr wished for an opportunity
of obtaining, in another action, the like honour as those had gained

CHAP. III.] ( 44 ) [SIPARA IV.

met it ; but ye have now seen it, and ye looked on, but
retreated from it.
Iv -Q- || (144) Muhammad is no more than an apostle ; the

other apostles have already deceased before him : if he die,
therefore, or be slain, will ye turn back on your heels ? but
he who turneth back on his heels will not hurt God at all;
and God will surely reward the thankful. (145) No soul can

who fell martyrs in that battle, yet were discouraged on seeing the
superior numbers of the idolaters in the expedition of Ohod. On
which occasion this pas-age was revealed." Sale, Baidhdwi.

But retreated. The succeeding context justifies these words as
necessary to fill in the ellipsis.

(144) Muhammad is no more than an apostle. In this passage
Mohammad declares himself mortal, and these words were repeated
by Abu Baqr at the death of Muhammad to convince Omar and
other Muslims that their prophet was actually dead.

Arnold holds (on the authority of an ancient writer, Al Kindy) that
Muhammad had prophesied that he would rise from the dead within
three days. He thinks this prophecy carefully suppressed by
Muslim writers, however alone accounts for the conduct of Omar
at Muhammad's death, and that this alone explains why " Muham-
mad's body was buried unwashed, without the burial linen, hut
with the red scarf around his waist which he had worn during his
last illness" (Isldm and Christianity, p. 351, note). Were the state-
ment of Al Kindy well founded, we could still accept this verse as
genuine, for it does not deny the possibility of Muhammad's rising
from the dead, but only implies that he would die. But, granting
that Muhammad ever did prophesy his resurrection after three days.
and that, according to the story of Al Kindy, the Muslims had
waited three days for his resuscitation, how would the invention of
this verse or the repetition of it if genuine a verse which does not
give a shadow of a hope of a resurrection in three days account
for the sudden acquiescence of the Muslims in the view of Abu Baqr
that he was dead, and acquiesce at the same time in his conduct in
having during these very three days as-umed the authority of the
caliphate? The fact is, that Omar was not looking for the resur-
rection of Muhammad, but he could not believe him (had; and, as
Muir clearly points out, the power of these words to persuade the
people "was solely due to their being at once recognised as a part of
the Coran" (Life of Mahomet, vol. i. Introd., p. xx., and vol. iv. p.
284, notes).

Will not hurt God, i.e., the cause of Isldm will prosper in spite of
the defection of unhelievers. Sale says, "It was reported in the
battle of Oho(3 that Muhammad was slain : whereupon the idolaters
cried out to his followers, 'Since your prophet is slain, return to
your ancient religion, and to your friends ; if Muhammad had been
a prophet he had not been slain.'"

(145) fio soul can die, dr. " Muhammad, the more effectually to

sipara iv.] ( 45 ) [CHAP. III.

die unless by the permission of God, according to what is
written in the book containing the determinations of things.
And whoso chooseth the reward of this world, we will give
him thereof : but whoso chooseth the reward of the world
to come, we will give him thereof : and we will surely
reward the thankful. (146) How many prophets have
encountered those who had many myriads of troops: and
yet they desponded not in their mind for what had be-
fallen them in fighting for the religion of God ; and were
not weakened, neither behaved themselves in an abject
manner ? God loveth those who persevere patiently.

still the murmurs of his party on their defeat, represents to them
that the time of every man's death is decreed and predetermined by
God, and that those who fell in the battle could not have avoided
their fate had they stayed at home ; whereas they had now obtained
the glorious advantage of dying martyrs for the faith." Sale.

See also Prelim. Disc, p. 164.

Tlie book. Rodwell tells us that the Rabbins teach a similar
doctrine ; see his note in loco. The Tafsir-i-Raufi says that this
verse was revealed to incite the Muslims to acts of daring. Since
the hour of death is fixed for every man, every one is immortal until
that hour arrive.

Whoso chooseth. These words seem clearly to recognise the free
agency of men, and the statement is the more remarkable, coming
as it does immediately after another which clearly teaches the abso-
lute predestination of all things. The meaning of the whole pas-
sage is, I think, that the hour of death is fixed. Whether in the
battlefield or in the quiet of domestic surroundings, each man must
die at the appointed hour. Those, therefore, who choose ease and
freedom from danger in this life will be permitted to secure them,
though they will not thereby avert death for a moment beyond the
time written in the book, while those who choose martyrdom will
yet live out their appointed time, and receive the martyr's reward
beside. It would be very easy to raise an objection to the Quran
on the ground of contradiction between the doctrine of God's sove-
reignty and man's free will ; but we consider this difficult ground
for a Christian to take, for while there is a strong element of
fatalism permeating Isldm, it is no easy task to fasten that doctrine
vpon the Qurdn without laying Christianity open to a counter-
charge from the Muslim side.

(146) How many of the prophets. Muhammad again likens him-
self, even in his misfortune, to the former prophets ; many of them
had reverses in fighting for the religion of God. Why should he
then behave himself in an abject manner ? The plain inference from
this passage is that in Muhammad's mind many of the prophets
were warriors like himself, " fighting for the religion of God."

CHAP. III.] ( 46 ) [SIPARA ,v


(147) And their speech was no other than what they
said, Our Lord forgive us our offences, and our trans-
gressions in our business ; and confirm our feet, and help
us against the unbelieving people. (148) And God gave
them the reward of this world, and a glorious reward in
the life to come ; for God loveth the well-doers.
1{ ^j*' II (149) ye who believe, if you obey the infidels, they
will cause you to turn back on your heels, and ye will be
turned back and perish : (150) but God is your Lord ; and
he is the best helper. (151) We will surely cast a dread
into the hearts of the unbelievers, because they have asso-
ciated with God that concerning which he sent them down
no power: their dwelling shall be the fire of hell: and the
receptacle of the wicked shall be miserable. (152) God

(147) Forgive us our offences. This verse clearly disproves the
popular doctrine that the prophets were sinless.

(148) The reward of this world, i.e., victory over the infidel*
(Tafsir-i-Ravfi). The marked difference between the teaching of the
Quran and the Bible as to the condition of the people of the Lord in
this world is worthy of note. The 'Quran everywhere teaches that
though they had trials similar to those endured by Muhammad and
the Muslims of Makkah and Madina, yet in the end they were mani-
festly triumphant over the infidels in this world. The Christian
need not be told that this is very far from the teaching of the Bible.
Final triumph is certain, but it may be wrought out on the cross or
amidst the faggots and instruments of persecution and death.

(149) "This passage was occasioned by the endeavours of the
Quraish to seduce the Muhammadans to their old idolatry as they
fled in the battle of Ohod." Sale.

Turn back on your heels, i.e., to relapse into idolatry.

(151) We will surely cast a drea"/, &c. "To this Muhammad
attributed the sudden retreat of Abu Sufian and his troops, without
making any farther advantage of their success, only giving Muham-
mad a challenge to meet them next year at Badr, which he accepted.
Others say that as they were on their march home, they repented
that they had not utterly extirpated the Muhammadans, and began
to think of going back to Madina for that purpose, but were prevented
by a sudden consternation or panic fear, which fell on them from
God." Hale, Ifaidhdwi.

Associated with God. This formula, oft-repeated, expresses the
Muslim idea of idolatry. It correctly describes it as bestowing upon
the creature the worship belonging solely to the Creator.

No poiver should lie translated no author it;/.

(162) When ye destroyed them, <kc, i.e., in the beginning of the
battle at Ohod.

SIPARA IV.] ( 47 ) [CHAP. III.

had already made good unto you his promise, when ye
destroyed them by his permission, until ye became faint-
hearted, and disputed concerning the command of the
apostle, and were rebellious ; after God had shown you
what ye desired. (153) Some of you chose this present
world, and others of you chose the world to come. Then
he turned you to fiight from before them, that he might
make trial of you : (but he hath now pardoned you : for
God is endued with beneficence towards the faithful ;)
(154) when ye went up as ye fied, and looked not back
on any : while the apostle called you, in the uttermost

Were rebellious. "That is, till the bowmen, who were placed be-
hind to prevent their being surrounded, seeing the enemy fly, quitted
their post, contrary to Muhammad's express orders, and dispersed
themselves to seize the plunder ; whereupon Khalid Ihn al Walfd
perceiving their disorder, fell on their rear with the horse which he
commanded, and turned the fortune of the day. It is related that
though Abdullah Ibn Jubair, their captain, did all he could to make
them keep their ranks, he had not ten that stayed with him out of
the whole fifty." Sale, Baidhdwi.

]Vhat ye desired, i.e., victory and spoils. This is a very character-
istic confession, pointing to the motive that really inspired the courage
of the Muslims. And yet throughout this discourse the prophet
oilers the rewards of piety to all who fought in the way of God, and
declares that those who lost their lives received the crown of martyr-
dom. The purpose to plunder and destroy their enemies is sanctified
by executing it in " the way of the Lord," and in obedience to the
command of the prophet. How far this permission to plunder comes
short of confirming the former Scriptures may be seen by comparing
therewith the regulations made by Moses, Joshua, and Samuel to
check this disposition of all invaders (Num. xxxi., Josh. vi. and vii.,
and i Sam. xv.)

(153) Some . . . and others, i.e., some sought the spoil in dis-
obedience to the command of Muhammad, others stood firm at the
post of duty. See note on ver. 152.

Thefaithful= Muslims. Their conduct had been very unfaithful,
but they were now pardoned not because they had repented, for
they were murmuring, and almost ready to apostatise, but because
it was now politic to show clemency rather than severity. See ver.

(154) While ilxe apostle called, "Crying aloud, Come hitherto me,
servants of God! I am the apostle of God; he who returneth back
shall enter paradise. But notwithstanding all his endeavours to rally
his men, he could not get above thirty of them about him." Sale.

Rod well's translation is much more graphic : When ye came up the

Online LibraryE. M. (Elwood Morris) WherryA comprehensive commentary on the Qurán; comprising Sale's translation and preliminary discourse, with additional notes and emendations; together with a complete index to the text, preliminary discourse, and notes (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 42)