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January 16, 2022

Every Revelation was Dictated and Scribed!

The pen and what they write are witnesses that by the bountiful favour of your Lord, you are not insane or possessed.  (Al-Qalam 68:1-2)

I have been explaining repeatedly in my Tafseer that oaths are used in the Qur-aan to present the evidence for the statement that follows the oaths. In these verses, Allaah SWT has presented the Qur-aan as evidence that the Prophet is neither insane nor possessed. 

These verses revealed in the early Makkan period indicate that the revelations were scribed as they were revealed. The details are as follows:

When the Prophet ŜA‘WS told the Makkans about the Hereafter and invited them to believe in it, they rejected the idea as an impossibility. When he persisted, they ridiculed him for promoting such an unbelievable idea. Because of his perseverance, they thought he had become insane or an evil-spirit had possessed him. Soorah Al-Qalam (68) was revealed in that early period of his mission when the Makkan chiefs had started calling him insane or a possessed-man. The first few verses of the soorah falsify this characterization, using “pen” and “what was being written” as evidence against it. The following is the translation and excerpts from my Tafseer for those verses: (1)

1  http://www.teachingsofthequraan.com/soorah/68

Exegetes have interpreted “pen” and “what they write” in different ways, but the interpretation that is most sensible and most fitting with the context of the soorah and the verses that follow the oath is the one given by a famous exegete, Mujahid, who says that the “pen” refers to any pen that was used by the scribes to write the revelations of the Qur-aan, and “what they write” refers to the text of the Qur-aan. Tabari has quoted him as follows:

حدثني محمد بن عمرو، قال: ثنا أبو عاصم، قال: ثنا عيسى، عن ابن أبي نجيح، عن مجاهد، في قوله: { ن وَالقَلَمِ } قال: الذي كُتِبَ به الذكر.حدثني الحارث، قال: ثنا الحسن، قال: ثنا ورقاء، عن ابن أبي نجيح، أخبره عن إبراهيم بن أبي بكر، عن مجاهد، في قوله: { ن والقَلَمِ } قال: الذي كتب به الذكر.وقوله: { ومَا يَسْطُرُون } يقول:۔۔۔ وهو أن يكون معناه: وسطرهم ما يسطرون، فتكون «ما» بمعنى المصدر. وإذا وُجه التأويل إلى هذا الوجه، كان القسم بالكتاب، كأنه قيل: ن والقلم والكتاب. 

For his statement about “Noon; by the pen”, Mujahid said: By which the Reminder (the Qur-aan) is written. And about “wa maa yasturoon” … its meaning will be “by their writing of what they write”… So, when we interpret it in this manner, then it is the “oath by the Book” as if saying, “Noon; by the pen and the Book”.

Syed Abul A‘la Maududi and Syed Amin Ahsan Islahi have also adopted the same Tafseer.

Accordingly, the “pen” in the oath refers to a pen, in general, as an instrument of writing that was being used by the Prophet’s scribes to write the revelations of the Qur-aan; “they” refers to the scribes who were commissioned to write; and “what they write” refers to the text of the Qur-aan that was being dictated to them by the Prophet. These oaths, thus, present the exquisitely eloquent, rational, wise, concise and superb text of the Qur-aan as witness and evidence to the statements that follow in verses 2-4 that “by the bountiful favour of your Lord, you are not an insane or possessed man; there definitely is a never-ending reward for you; and you do maintain a tremendous character.”

In this way, Allaah SWT has presented the very Dzikr (the Qur-aan) for the recitation of which the opponents were calling him majnoon (insane, possessed) as the evidence of the falsity of their claim. Similarly, the last two verses of the soorah reinforce this connection and close with the same matter with which the first two verses started:

And those who disbelieve would almost smite you with their glares whenever they hear the Reminder (Adz-Dzikr, the Qur-aan) and they say, “He certainly is insane or possessed.” Yet it is simply a reminder for all peoples.  (Al Qalam 68:51-52)

To reflect upon other linkages between different parts of the soorah, pondering on the message of the following verses will also be helpful:

What! Shall We then treat those who are obedient like those who are guilty? What is wrong with you? How do you pass such judgments? Do you have a book wherein you read that in the Hereafter, you will have whatever you choose?  (Al Qalam 68:35-38)

The opponents of the Prophet ŜA‘WS are being questioned that the Qur-aanic revelations that are being written declare that only Muslims will be rewarded in the Hereafter, while those who commit evils will be punished. Do you have any book that says otherwise, or that says you will get what you choose?

Then, addressing the Prophet, it raises a similar question about his opponents: what is the basis of their refusal to believe in the Prophet ŜA‘WS; are they, like him, receiving any knowledge of the unseen and putting it in writing?

Or do they have knowledge of the unknown, which they are writing down?  (Al Qalam 68:47)

This interpretation of the pen and what they write is further supported by the way the Qur-aan has responded to the opponents’ calling him majnoon in Soorah At-Toor 52:29-41. 

Therefore, there is a consistent theme throughout the soorah challenging the disbelievers on the basis of the text of the Qur-aan and it being put in writing.

Posted in Qur'aan on January 16, 2022 by Ayub Hamid

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