Volume 7: Surah Ale-Imran, Verses 181-189
Allah has certainly heard the saying of those who said: "Surely Allah is poor and we are rich." We shall certainly write what they say, and their killing the prophets unjustly, and We shall say: "Taste the chastisement of burning (181). This is for what your (own) hands have sent before and because Allah is not in the least unjust to the servants." (182). (Those are they) who said: "Surely Allah has enjoined us that we should not believe in any messenger until he brings us an offering, which the fire consumes." Say: "Indeed, there came to you messengers before me with clear evidences and with that which you said; why did you kill them if you are truthful?" (183). But if they reject you, so indeed were rejected before you messengers who came with clear evidences and scriptures and the illuminating Book (184). Every soul shall taste of death, and you shall only be paid fully your reward on the Resurrection Day; then whoever is removed far away from the Fire and is made to enter the Garden, he indeed has attained the object; and the life of this world is nothing but a provision of vanities (185). You shall certainly be tried respecting your wealth and your souls, and you shall certainly hear from those who have been given the Book before you and from those who are polytheists much annoying (talk); and if you are patient and guard (against evil), surely this is one of the matters of (great) resolve (186). And when Allah made a covenant with those who were given the Book: "You shall certainly make it known to men and you shall not hide it"; but they cast it behind their backs and took a small price for it; so evil is that which they buy (187). Do not think those who rejoice for what they have brought about and love that they should be praised for what they have not done — so by no means think them to be safe from the chastisement, and they shall have a painful chastisement (188). And Allah's is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and Allah has power above all things (189).
The verses are connected with the preceding ones. The general import of the preceding verses was to invigorate the believers and inspire them to fight in the way of Allah with their properties and their lives, as well as to warn them against weak-heartedness, cowardice and niggardliness. This connects it to the Jews' talk that "Allah is poor and we are rich", together with their upsetting the Muslims' affairs, rejecting the evidence of messenger-ship and hiding what they had been enjoined to make known. These are the very topics, which these verses deal with. In addition, they strengthen the believers' hearts to remain firm and steadfast; urge them to be patient and courageous; and exhort them to spend in the way of Allah.
QUR'AN: Allah has certainly heard the saying of those who said: "Surely Allah is poor and we are rich":
The saying was of the Jews, as may be understood from the next clause which mentions their slaying of the prophets, apart from other indications.
They said it after they had heard such divine words as, Who is it that will lend to Allah a goodly loan . . . (2:245). This view is somewhat strengthened when it is noted that this verse comes immediately after the one, which condemns niggardly person: "And let not those deem, who are niggardly in giving away. . . ". Or may be they said it when they saw the poverty and starvation of most of the believers. They taunted them saying that had their Lord been rich, He would have taken care of them and made them rich; therefore He is but poor while we are rich.
QUR'AN: We shall certainly write . . . the chastisement of burning:
Writing here means preservation and recording; or it may refer to the writing in the scroll of their deeds - the net result is the same in both cases. Their killing the prophets unjustly means that they had killed them knowingly and intentionally - not by mistake, ignorance or misunderstanding. Allah has joined this utterance of theirs to their slaying of the prophets because this was a very grievous word; "al-hariq" (translated here as burning) refers to the Hell-fire; or flame; it has been said that it has a transitive sense, that is, that which burns something.
QUR'AN: "This is for what your (own) hands . . . to the servants":
This clause, "what your (own) hands have sent before", means 'whatever deeds you have sent before'; hands have been mentioned because usually they are instrumental in sending a thing somewhere. The clause, "and because Allah is not in the least unjust to the servants", is in conjunction with the words, "what your (own) hands have sent", and they explain the reason for writing and punishment. If Allah had not recorded their deeds and not rewarded or punished them accordingly, it would have been tantamount to neglecting the system of the deeds; and this in its turn would have been a gross and enormous injustice because huge number of deeds would be involved - in this way Allah would become most unjust to the servants; far above is He from such things.
QUR'AN: (Those are they) who said: "Surely Allah has enjoined us. . . if you are truthful":
It is related to the preceding, "those who said". "al-Ahd" (enjoining; order); al-qurban (that which is offered, is sacrificed like sheep, etc.); "fire consumes" means the fire burns it. The clause, "indeed, there came to you messengers before me", refers to such prophets as Zakariyya and Yahya - those Israelite prophets who were slain by the Jews.
QUR'AN: But if they reject you, so indeed were rejected before you messengers. . .:
It aims at consoling the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) when they belied him. "az-Zubur" is plural of az-zabur (a book of wisdom and sermons). The phrase, "scriptures and the illuminating book", refers to such revelations as the book of Nuh, scriptures of Ibrahim, the Torah and the Injil.
QUR'AN: Every soul shall taste of death . . . a provision of vanities:
The verse contains a good promise for the believer and a threat to the rejecter. It begins with a general rule that encompasses every living being.
"at-Tawfiyah" (full payment). Someone has proved the existence of al-Barzakh from this verse, because it implies some partial recompense before the Resurrection Day, when the full payment will be made. It is a good argument.
"az-Zahzahah" (to remove far), it in fact implies repeated pulling with haste; al-fawz (to attain the desired object); al-ghurur is either infinitive of gharra (he deceived; he deluded), or plural of al-gharr (deceiver).
QUR'AN: You shall certainly be tried respecting your wealth and your souls. . .:
"al-lbla' " (to test; to try). Allah first described the tests and trials that had afflicted the believers; then He mentioned the utterances of the Jews, which could weaken the believers' will. Now He informs them that such divine tests and such annoying talks of the People of the Book and the polytheists will repeatedly affect the believers; that they will have to face such things and bear such talks. They should remain patient and pious, should guard themselves against evil, in order that Allah may protect them from mistakes and weak-heartedness; so that they should emerge as people of strong and firm determination.
This prophecy gives them advance news of what they would have to suffer in future; it aims at preparing them mentally for it before hand, so that they may reconcile themselves to it. "Adhan kathiran" (much annoyance) has been used for "annoying talk"; it is a metaphorical use of effect in place of cause.
QUR'AN: And when Allah made a covenant. . . evil is that which they buy:
"an-Nabdh" (to cast away; to throw away); "they cast it behind their backs" is an idiom meaning 'they left it', 'they neglected it'. Its opposite idiom, 'he put it before his eyes', means 'he directed his attention to it'.
QUR'AN: Do not think those who rejoice . . . Allah has power over all things:
The phrase, "for what they have brought about ", means the wealth that Allah has bestowed upon them*, which is accompanied by love of riches and niggardliness. "al-Mafazah" (deliverance; safety). These people were destroyed because their hearts were attached to the falsehood, and consequently they removed themselves from the protection of the truth.
At the end Allah mentions His Kingdom of the heavens and the earth and His power over every thing. These two attributes may explain the reason of all things described in the preceding verses.
Ibn Jarir and Ibn al-Mundhir have narrated from Qatadah about the verse, Allah has certainly heard the saying of those .... that he said: "It has been reported to us that it was revealed about Huyayy ibn Akhtab; when the verse (2:245) was revealed that: Who is it that will lend to Allah, a goodly loan, so He will multiply it for him manifold, he said: 'Our Lord asks loan from us! Surely a poor (man) asks loan from a rich one.' " (ad-Durru 'I-manthur )
as-Sadiq (a.s.) said regarding this verse: "By Allah, they had not seen Allah so that they could know He was poor. But they saw the friends of Allah (who were) poor. So they said: 'Had He (Allah) been rich He would have made His friends rich. Thus, they boasted against Allah of (their) riches." (at-Tafsir, al-'Ayyashi )
al-Baqir (a.s.) said: "They are those who think that the Imam is in need of what they bring to him." (al-Manaqib)
The author says: As described in the Commentary, the first two meanings correspond to the verse. The third tradition is based on the "flow" of the Qur'an.
as-Sadiq (a.s.) said: "There was, between those who uttered (this word) and those who killed (the prophets), a gap of five hundred years; but Allah attached to them the (crime of) murder because they were pleased with what they (i.e., their ancestors) had done. " (al-Kafi)
The author says: The gap mentioned in it does not agree with the current Christian Era. See the historical discourse given earlier.
It is reported in ad-Durru 'l-manthour under the verse: Every soul shall taste of death: "Bin Abu Haiti has narrated from 'Ali bins Abu Tali (as.) that he said: 'When the Prophet died and the condolence began, there came to them a comer - they heard his voice but did not see his person - and he said: "Peace be upon you, O People of the House! and mercy of Allah and His blessings. Every soul is to taste of the death, and you shall only be paid fully your reward on the Resurrection Day. Indeed, there is in Allah consolation for every misfortune, and successor of everyone who dies, and overtaking everything that is lost. Therefore, in Allah put your trust, and to Him attach your hope; because afflicted is he who is deprived of reward." ' Then 'Ali (a.s.) said: 'He was al-Khidr.' "
Ibn Marduway has narrated from Sahl ibn Sa'd that he said: "The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) said: 'Verily, a place in the Garden (just sufficient) to put a whip of one of you in, is better than the world and all that is in it.' Then he recited this verse: then whoever is removed far away from the fire and is made to enter the Garden, he indeed has attained the object. " (ad-Durru 'I-manthur)
The author says: (as-Suyuti) has narrated this meaning in that book through other chains from other Companions. It should be noted here that there are numerous traditions purporting to give the reason of revelation of these verses; but we have left them out because evidently they are merely people's attempts to apply the verses to various events; they are not real reasons of revelation.
* Evidently it is a slip of pen. The meaning given by the author could be in place if the verb had been in passive voice, that is, utu (they were given; they were brought). But it is in active voice, that is, ataw (they brought; they gave). (tr.)