"Had Allah wished to take to Himself a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He doth create: but Glory be to Him! He is Allah, the One, the Irresistible." (az-Zumar, 39/4) How should this verse be understood?

Details of the Question

Allah states in the Quran that he is free from having a child. However, the following sentence exists in verse 4 of the chapter of az-Zumar: "Had Allah wished to take to Himself a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He doth create..." How should we understand both cases?

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(editor) on Thu, 11/01/2018 - 11:02

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"Is it not to Allah that sincere devotion is due? But those who take for protectors other than Allah (say): ‘We only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah.’ Truly Allah will judge between them in that wherein they differ. But Allah guides not such as are false and ungrateful."

"Had Allah wished to take to Himself a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He doth create: but Glory be to Him! (He is above such things.) He is Allah, the One, the Irresistible." (az-Zumar, 39/3-4)

In a statement Juwaybir reports from Ibn Abbas, Ibn Abbas says, "This verse was sent down about three tribes: Sons of Amir, Kinana and Salima. They worshipped idols and said, ‘Angels are Allah's daughters; we worship them so that they bring us nearer to Allah." (Suyuti, Lubabun-Nuqul, 11, 93; Bedreddin Çetiner, Esbab-ı Nüzul, Çağrı Publications: 2/758)

The issue will be understood better with the interpretation of verses 19-25 of the chapter of an-Najm. In those verses, the polytheists’ attributing daughters to Allah is narrated. By attributing children to Allah, not only do the polytheists commit the greatest oppression and but they also despise the God, whom they want to show respect in their conscience, by attributing daughters to Him though they regard having daughters a deficiency compared to having sons and do not want them. Allah states in verse 4 of the chapter of az-Zumar that he is free from having a child.

The Chapter of an-Najm, verses 19-25:

"19. Have ye seen Lat and ´Uzza,

20. And another, the third (goddess), Manat?

21. What! For you the male sex, and for Him, the female?

22. Behold, such would be indeed a division most unfair!

23. These are nothing but names which ye have devised,- ye and your fathers,- for which Allah has sent down no authority (whatever). They follow nothing but conjecture and what their own souls desire!- Even though there has already come to them Guidance from their Lord!

24. Nay, shall man have (just) anything he hankers after?

25. But it is to Allah that the End and the Beginning (of all things) belong.

EXPLANATION

19. “Have ye seen?” After prophethood is mentioned and after Allah’s power and strength, the greatness of His signs and oneness are indicated, the insults of the gods the polytheists worship and the wrongness of their belief are shown.

The addressee of the verse is the Qurayshi tribe.

That is, after listening to this speech, which is a divine revelation, and hearing what your friend (Muhammad) saw, say now if you have seen Lat and Uzza.

20. And another, the third (goddess), Manat. Lat, Uzza and Manat were the idols that they worshipped. Therefore, they used names given after those idols like Abdullat, Abdul Uzza and Abdul Manat. They even used the phrase "Bismillati wal- Uzza" in order to swear an oath. Some scholars like Abu Ubayda said they were idols made of stone and they were in the Kaaba, but there are some reports stating that they were in special idol houses established in other places. Since Hubal and other idols were in the Kaaba, the idols mentioned above were probably in special idol houses.

It is reported that there was a place for Lat in Taif for Uzza in Nahla and for Manat in Qudayd. According to what is stated in "Mu'jamul-Buldan", Lat was in Taif. The tribe of Thaqif built a house on white stone for it and appointed guards for it. All Arabs, primarily Quraysh, showed respect to it.

Its guards were from the tribe of Thaqif. Its place was near the left minaret of today’s Mosque of Taif. When the people of Thaqif embraced Islam, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sent Abu Sufyan b. Harb and Mughira b. Shu'ba and had it demolished. Uzza was an idol that was near a tree in Nahla. The tribe of Ghatafan worshipped it. The guards of that idol were from Sons of Sayrama b. Murra.

Zalim b. As'ad regarded Uzza as his idol. This idol was in a place called Hurad in the valley of Nahla ash-Shamiyya. It was on the right of Mus'ad, on the same line as Amir and above Dhatul-Irq on the way to Iraq from Makkah and nine miles away from Bustan. Ibn As'ad made a house on it in the place called Bass. They heard a sound coming from it. Arabs and Qurayshis showed respect to it.

Uzza was the greatest idol in the eye of Qurayshis. They visited it and gave it gifts, and sacrificed animals. Qurayshis built woods for it called Sukam in the valley of Hurad. They wanted it to resemble the Haram of the Kaaba. Its guards, who were from Sons of Shayban b. Jabir b. Murra, were the men of Banil-Harith b. Abdilmuttalib b. Hashim. Its last guard was Dubayya b Harmasalami.

As for Manat, the following information is given in "Mu'jamul- Buldan" about it:

"Manat is the name of an idol erected on the seashore in the vicinity of Mushallal in Qudayd between Madinah and Makkah. This idol was erected before all other idols. It is narrated that the first person to erect it was Amr b. Luhayyi Huzai and that he brought it from Damascus and erected it near the Kaaba. This idol was the idol of, Huzayl and Khuzaa but Quraysh and the other Arabs also worshipped it and gave it sacrificed animals and gifts. It is also reported that this idol was later erected in Qudayd and that Aws and Khazraj tribes did not believe that their hajj was complete if they did not visit it."

"In the eighth year of the Migration, after the Messenger of Allah left Madinah for four or five days, he sent Hz. Ali b. Abi Talib to demolish Manat. He demolished it took away all of the things that were near it. Among the things that he took were two swords called Mihzam and Rasub. The Messenger of Allah gave them to Hz. Ali. It is said that one of them was Dhul-Fiqar. The guard of that idol was Ghatarif, from the tribe of Azd."

All of the names given to the idols were feminine.

Tabari states the following regarding the issue: "Al-Lat was taken from the word Allah and the suffix of feminine “ta” was added to it. The feminine form of Amr is Amra and Abbas is Abbasa; similarly, the polytheists gave their idols the names of Allah and coined the name Allat from Allah and Aluzza from al-Aziz." (Tabari, the interpretation of the relevant verses)

The view of Razi is as follows: "Allat is the feminine form of Allawh." (Razi, Mafatih, the interpretation of the relevant verses) Its origin was Allahatu but when it was pronounced by stopping, it became Allahah. Then, one of the “ha”s was removed and two consonants and ta of femininity remained. Then, the ta of femininity was accepted as an original letter of the word.

Other views are also mentioned about the derivation of the word. It is said that it is derived from the verb lawa, which means, being gathered around, being circumambulated. It is also shown that Allata was derived from latta as the letter t is pronounced twice in Yaqub’s Ruways narration. Latta means to pound, crush and dredge. According to what is narrated, once, a man cooked qawut (a kind of halwa/dessert) with oil and fed people; those who ate it flourished. In the course of time, that person was regarded as a god; and an idol resembling him was made; it was given the name Lat. Razi says Lat is male according to this story but it should be female with the change of the form. For, it is understood from the style of expression of the verse that it is female. Uzza probably means aziza as the feminine form of “a’azz”. Manat is probably derived from “mana”, which means qadar, death or deity. Or, as it is pronounced as "Manaatun" in Ibn Kathir’s qira’ah, it is derived from “nawa’a”; this name was given with the thought of the blood of sacrificed animals being shed there or hoping rain based on their own belief.

The reason why the phrase "another, the third" is used after Manat is for mocking and contempt. Firstly, this statement includes a mocking as ,”he saw twice and you saw thrice, didn’t you?”. Secondly, with the word "al-ukhra", the backwardness of the idols is expressed in an insulting way. For, the word “ukhra” generally expresses the meaning “other” but in fact, it can be said that it is a metaphorical word meaning the one that is the farthest back because of “delaying”. When Manat is the one that is the farthest back, the backwardness of the other idols is understood easily. Besides, it can be a sign of Manat, which was the biggest erected idol, falling among the idols of the third degree after Lat and Uzza. Thus the following is meant: Have you seen the various idols that you worship and their backwardness after this statement? Tell me.

21. What! For you the male sex, and for Him, the female? So, you take the male names and give the female names to God. Is that right? In Arabic, names are masculine or feminine. However, the polytheists gave the idols feminine names. Especially the idols claimed to be erected on behalf of Allah had feminine names.

According to the thought of the polytheists, idols are the shapes of divine powers and angels. Angels are Allah's daughters. Therefore, the polytheists said, "We make their shapes, give them feminine names and worship them. Thus, we regard those idols as intercessors with Allah and expect help from them."

As a matter of fact, the following two verses mention their state:

"These are our intercessors with Allah." (Yunus, 10/18),

"We only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah..." (az-Zumar, 39/3)

Yaqut al-Hamawi includes the following incident in "Mu'jamul-Buldan" while giving information about Uzza:

"When Qurayshis circumambulated the Kaaba, they would say, "For the sake of Lat, Uzza and thirdly, the other idol Manat, because they are elevated swans; their intercession is expected." In addition, they accepted them as Allah's daughters and expected their intercession. When the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was given the duty of prophethood, the following verses were sent down: " Have ye seen Lat and ´Uzza, And another, the third (goddess), Manat? What! For you the male sex, and for Him, the female? Behold, such would be indeed a division most unfair! These are nothing but names which ye have devised,- ye and your fathers,- for which Allah has sent down no authority (whatever)."

Gharaniq is a plural word. Its singular form is ghurnuq. Ghurnuq is a white bird called swan; it is bigger than a goose with a long neck and beautiful posture. Young beautiful girls with white skins and full-figured bodies are also given the name swan. The soft hairs that move when a slight wind blows are called "gharaniqa" or "gharaniqiyya". Thus, the polytheists expected the intercession of their idols, which they made out of white stone, by likening them to swans that fly high with a poetic simile.

22. Therefore, the statement "What! For you the male sex, and for Him, the female?" is uttered in the form of condemnation first to show the baselessness and flimsiness of their belief; then, the following statement is uttered: "Such would be indeed a division most unfair."

The word "dayz" and "dawz" in the verse means to give less than necessary, to give a person less than his right and to wrong that person. "Diza" means, deficient, unjust and cruel. Asim Efendi, the translator of Qamus, reminds the following about this word in particular: "Shihab writes the following in the explanation of Durratul-Ghawwas: ‘The word is an adjective in the form of fu'la. It means incompleteness, deficiency.’"

According to the view of Sibawayh, that word means “the cruelest” in the form of superlative feminine like "Uzza" and "Ukhra", expressing superiority. For, by attributing children to Allah, not only do the polytheists commit the greatest oppression and but they also despise the God, whom they want to show respect in their conscience, by attributing daughters to Him though they regard having daughters a deficiency compared to having sons and do not want them.

23. After this condemnation, the following is stated for the explanation of the truth: They (those idols that are mentioned by feminine names and adjectives) are nothing. They do not have any honor to realize the meanings like divinity, majesty, association with Allah and intercession that are attributed to them. They consist of plain names only.

That is, they are useless names with no meanings. There is a famous rule: "Demonstrative nouns indicate both the person and his adjectives but pronouns indicate only the person." Therefore, the feminine pronoun here shows something to us in terms of its reference. For, with the address "Have you seen?", all of the known states and attributes of those idols are reminded; and with the demonstrative noun “tilka”, the irrelevance of the properties attributed to them is displayed. After that, with the phrase "in hiya", this pronoun is seen in the place of a demonstrative noun and seems as if it describes those idols with their abolished attributes; then, it isolates them from those attributes because it is a pronoun and shows that they are nothing but plain names.

You and your fathers gave them those names. That is, you and your fathers gave those idols those names though they did not have any meanings expressed by those names.

Allah did not send down an evidence about them. That is, He did not send down any evidences and an effective meaning that would justify naming them so. Therefore, they are really plain names with no meanings. As for how and why they give those names and worship them, in the explanation of this issue, He stops using second person plural to show that they are not worth of being addressed and moves on to third person plural:

"They follow nothing but conjecture and what their own souls desire. They do not seek the truth and the good in their belief and deeds. They think as if the religion consists of the desires of the soul and they pursue the meaningless dreams and plain wishes that their evil-commanding souls are inclined to."

In fact, a guide came to them from their Lord, showing them the true path. That is, they follow their own desires and thoughts and expect intercession from idols though the Prophet, who told them that it was not possible to attain what is desired and who showed them the way of the truth that was necessary to follow in order to attain what they desire, and the Quran were sent to them.

24. Nay, shall man have (just) anything he hankers after? That is, will everything that they wish and every dream that they have be realized? Will the desires of their souls be realized by wishing that idols will intercede? Or, can a person who wants to be a prophet be a prophet? No. Not all desires of man are realized. For, everything is dependent upon Allah's will.

25. But it is to Allah that the End and the Beginning (of all things) belong. The first coming to the world is dependent upon Allah’s decree and will, not on man himself; similarly, his end, that is the hereafter, will take place based on His decrees and laws.

In that case, it is necessary for man to act in accordance with the evidences and decrees that Allah sent down based on His decree and will in order to attain salvation, not in accordance with his own desires and feelings only. So, pursuing hopes and dreams that consist of only the wishes and desires of the soul, that is, sheer idealism, is not enough. It is necessary to walk based on a real principle. For, the property and decree belong to Allah finally, not to human soul. (see Elmalılı, Hak Dini, the interpretation of the relevant verses)

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