While the expression “a people, whose fathers had received no admonition” is used in verse 6 of the chapter of Yasin, different expressions are used in the chapters of an-Naml and al-Muminun. Can you explain it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The expression in the chapter of Yasin points out that no prophet had been sent recently to Quraysh, the first addressees of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and those around Quraysh. In verse 68 of the chapter of an-Naml and verse 83 of al-Muminun, a long time ago is indicated. The issue will be understood better in the explanations of the verses in question.

The Chapter of Yasin, Verses 5-6:

It is a Revelation sent down by (Him), the Exalted in Might, Most Merciful, In order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remain heedless (of the Signs of Allah).”

Explanation of the verse:

In general, tafsir scholars hold the view that the expression “whose fathers had received no admonition” indicates that Qurayshi people and those around them, who were the first addressees of Muhammad, had not been sent a prophet recently. (See also as-Sajda 32/3; Saba’ 34/44; Fatir 35/24)

The meaning, which is taken as a basis in the translation, is according to acceptance that the word “ma” used in the verse is a negation preposition. According to different opinions about the nature of this word and its role in the sentence, the same part of the verse can be translated as “whose ancestors had received admonition” or “with what their ancestors had been admonished”. In that case, all the people of the past are meant. (Tabari, XXII, 150; Ibn Atiyya. IV, 446)

According to the same approach, in terms of harmony with the continuation of the sentence, the translation should be as follows: “In order to admonish a society whose ancestors had been warned but they were heedless”. (Zamakhshari, III, 280) (See Diyanet Tefsiri, Kur’an Yolu: IV/425-426.)

Had a Prophet not been Sent to the Arabian Peninsula?

“In order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remain heedless.”

We understand this from the clear expression of the Quran: No warning prophet had been sent to Sons of Israel for many years before the Prophet Moses; similarly, no prophet had been sent to Makkans or the Arabs living in the Arabian Peninsula for nearly six centuries.

In a few places in the Quran, it is stated that a warner was sent to every nation. (see an-Nahl, 16/36; Fatir, 35/22)

Then, when the issue is examined thoroughly, it can be easily seen that there is no inconsistency or contradiction between those two expressions: The region where the Prophet Moses (pbuh) and the other prophets who followed him lived was close to the Arabian Peninsula, and there was a constant means of transportation and communication with commercial caravans. The geographical situation of the region where the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) lived was no different from that. Thus, it was not necessary to send special warning prophets to the Arabs for a long time. Before Moses (pbuh), the Prophet Ibrahim and the Prophet Ismail (peace be upon them both) had been in Makkah and the Prophet Ismail had the opportunity to establish extensive contact with the peninsula by marrying a woman from the Jurhum tribe, which came to and settled in Makkah.

However, the Arabs did not approach Judaism and Christianity very much. In fact, it was due to the fact that the Jews did not show a tendency to spread their religion, rather than the Arabs themselves because Judaism does not have a mission to spread the religion, and they do not need it. Christianity, on the other hand, could not go down to the peninsula and remained in a narrow frame; it could not go beyond Palestine and the regions surrounding it for many years. As a matter of fact, the period of interregnum started after the Prophet Jesus, and no prophet was sent to that region and the Arabian Peninsula for nearly six hundred years; therefore, ignorant Arabs moved away from the faith of one god and adopted a system with many gods, and they went so far as to make the holy Kaaba an idolatrous place.

While the Arabs, whose ancestors had not been warned for many years, were faltering in such dark ignorance, God Almighty sent the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a warning prophet to them and all tribes and nations. (See Celal Yıldırım, İlmin Işığında Asrın Kur’an Tefsiri, Anadolu Yayınları: 10/5028.)

“Such things have been promised to us and to our fathers before! They are nothing but tales of the ancients!” (al-Mu’minun, 23/83)

“It is true we were promised this,- we and our fathers before (us): these are nothing but tales of the ancients.” (an-Naml, 27/68)

We and our fathers were promised the same thing before. It is not something new. It is an issue that was always brought up in history. Adam said it, Nuh (Noah) said it, Salih (Saleh) said it and all the prophets said it. Since it has been mentioned for hundreds of years, for thousands of years, where is it then? Why does it not happen? Why does Doomsday not strike? No. no.

It is only the tale of the ancient people. It is a mythology that has been talked about for a long time but has never occurred. They think their own philosophies are not myths, but Allah’s verses are myths. They are foolish and poor people. Do they think that they can escape Allah’s law of death since they utter such pitiable words?

Yes, those who lived in the past said so and those who lived later said so; the current ones will say so. All unbelievers said and will say the same thing until the Day of Judgment. Otherwise, if they accepted the hereafter, it would not be possible for them to lead the life they lead now. As soon as they accept the hereafter, all their pleasures will be lost and their lives will be transformed into a prison. It is not possible for them to say that there is afterlife and there is resurrection and to lead a life in unbelief and cruelty as they wish. (see Basairul-Quran)

Question: The ancestors of that society were warned but their religion was not altered and distorted like Christianity. As a matter of fact, they continued certain deeds of worship like hajj and prayer (salah). Then what is the wisdom behind a warner being sent to them?

It is true that the polytheist Arabs practiced some rituals inherited from the Prophet Ibrahim’s religion. However, those rituals underwent many changes over time and included many mistakes. In particular, the existence of the Kaaba as a living symbol in Makkah and the Qurayshis’ performing their worship related to pilgrimage, though incorrectly, is also confirmed by the Quran.

This attitude of the Quraysh was not enough to make them have a certain religion, and idolatry spread.

The existence of some remnants of the Prophet Ibrahim’s Hanif religion neither gave them a true identity - in terms of religion - nor eliminated their ignorance.

Therefore, the Quran described them as heedless people. What is meant by “their fathers/ancestors’ not being warned” is that no warner had come to their nation since Adnan, their famous ancestor, (cf. Ibn Ashur, the interpretation of the verse in question). According to some other scholars, what is meant by the ancestors in the verse is their ancestors who lived only during the Interregnum (Jalalayn).

It is a Revelation sent down by (Him), the Exalted in Might, Most Merciful, in order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remain heedless (of the Signs of Allah).” (Yasin, 36/5-6)

However, scholars interpreted the verses above - as stated before - in two ways:

First: The preposition “ma” in the phrase “mu undhira” in the original Arabic text of the verse is a preposition that expresses negativity. The translation of the verse above is according to that meaning, and the majority of scholars have understood it like that.

“Or do they say, ‘He has forged it’? Nay, it is the Truth from thy Lord, that thou mayest admonish a people to whom no warner has come (ma atahum) before thee: in order that they may receive guidance.” (as-Sajda, 32/3) The obvious negative meaning of the verse above is an indication that the verse in question also expresses negativity.

Accordingly, what is meant by those who were not warned is only the ancestors of the Arabs living in in the period called the interregnum, the period between the Prophet Isa (Jesus) and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); they form an exception to the general rule.

As a matter of fact, as Alusi states, what is meant by unwarned fathers is their closest fathers. As for their distant fathers, the Prophet Ismail warned them, and the shari’ah of the Prophet Ibrahim was conveyed to them. (See Alusi, the interpretation of the verse in question).

Second: The prepositionma” in the phrase “mu undhira” is a relative preposition. In that case, the meaning of the sentence would be: “whose ancestors were warned...” (cf. Razi, the interpretation of verse 36/5-6 of the chapter of Yasin).

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