Who is the addressee of the expression “he frowned and turned away” in the chapter of Abasa?

The Details of the Question

- There are those who state that the addressee in the first verses of the chapter of Abasa cannot be our Prophet..
- They state that what is meant by those two expressions cannot be a prophet and that the addressee of these deeds was one of the leading polytheists of Quraysh who persisted in their denial out of arrogance and conceit.

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Different opinions have been put forward by scholars about this verse. There are scholars who state that what is meant by the person who frowned is our Prophet (pbuh) but there are also scholars who state that he is one of the polytheists were there.

At first glance, the chapter of Abasa seems to warn and reprimand the Prophet (pbuh). Without going into the analysis of the issue, let us narrate the incident that caused the revelation of this surah (chapter) with its well-known aspect. Then, drawing attention to the meanings expressed by the verses, we will try to show that the Prophet’s innocence is clear in an issue in which his innocence is desired to be overshadowed.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh), was sitting with the notables of Quraysh, like Utba and Abu Jahl, conveying the religion to them. He was fully concentrated on the subject and was telling them something; meanwhile, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum (ra), who was blind, came in and said to the Messenger of Allah: “O Messenger of Allah! Guide me.” When he repeated this statement a few times, the Messenger of Allah frowned and turned his back on him... He turned and continued the subject he had been talking about a little while ago... That is the summary of the reason for the revelation of the verse that is generally narrated regarding the issue.

Let us deal with the issue based on this understanding; if the Companion who came to the Prophet (pbuh) had been a sighted person rather than a blind person, the behavior of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would never have received divine warning. Since the person who came was blind, the Prophet should have welcomed him with tolerance. Therefore, his frowning and turning away from him led to divine warning. That is the judgment reached with a superficial view. If it is examined a little deeper, it will be possible to see the other side of the coin and it will be understood how hasty the previous judgment was given.

First of all, every place has its own rules. In this respect, one cannot enter into the presence of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in the same way as the presence of any other person; and one cannot stand in his presence as one stands in the presence of any other person. As a matter of fact, the manners of entering into his presence are taught to Muslims in many verses of the Quran. When to enter into the presence of the Prophet, how long to sit with him (see al-Ahzab, 33/53; an-Nur, 24/58) and how to adjust the tone of one’s voice (see al-Hujurat, 49/2-3) were all taught to the believers by Allah Almighty Himself.

The same thing holds true for Allah Almighty after entering into His presence. Not passing in front of a person performing a prayer is a good example of it. When a believer stands to pray in the presence of Allah Almighty, if someone else violates his presence and tries to pass in front of him, that person is warned according to Hanafi madhhab; as for Maliki madhhab, the praying person can struggle with him. If the man insists on passing, even a fist can be struck in his chest.

The one who performs a prayer is in the presence of the Sultan of Sultans and is talking to him. Since it is considered an indecent deed to pass between even two ordinary people who are talking to each other, imagine how indecent it is to pass in front of a praying person. That is why the Prophet (pbuh) says,

“If the person passing in front of somebody performing a prayer was conscious of the crime he committed, he would wait for forty years and would not pass in front of that person.” (Bukhari, Salah 101; Muslim, Salah 261)

There are rules to be observed while being in the presence of God Almighty, the Sultan of Sultans; similarly, there are rules to be observed while being in the presence of His representative.

What was the Prophet (pbuh) doing at that time? He was trying to convey the inspirations of his heart to the conscience of two hard-hearted people. He was very ambitious related to the guidance of people. While the Quran describes him regarding the issue, it uses the phrase “... fretting himself to death.” (see al-Kahf, 18/6; ash-Shuara, 26/3). Yes, when he saw a person who did not believe, he would become so sad and distressed as to destroy himself. Just as he was talking in this atmosphere, someone came and interfered with the conversation, distracted the issue and disturbing peace. In fact, the one who came to him had a legitimate excuse because he was blind. However, if the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) frowned and turned away (I express it conditionally), he had at least ten legitimate excuses. So, regarding such behavior of him as a mistake on such a legitimate ground - by this we mean those who want to blame the Prophet - is the very mistake.

If the incident took place like this, that is the solution and answer. However, in no reliable hadith source such as Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai, Ahmad b. Hanbal’s Musnad and Hakim’s Mustadrak in the past and present was this incident narrated in the form of a scenario described in tafsir books. In the scenario described in tafsir books, one of the heroes is the Prophet (pbuh) and the other is Ibn Umm Maktum. There are also two extras: Abu Jahl and Utba. However, investigative tafsir scholars put forward various names about the identity of the person who came to the Prophet. In fact, it is not even certain whether the person who came was really blind or it was a metaphor? In that case, it is necessary to leave room for different considerations.

On the occasion of this event, seven more people are mentioned along with Ibn Umm Maktum (ra), which makes it totally eight people; and there is no reason that makes Ibn Umm Maktum preferable to others and forces us to accept it. In fact, our Prophet (pbuh) left this glorious Companion - who was one of the first to embrace Islam - in Madinah twice as his deputy. Afterwards, he was probably martyred in Qadisiyya. Besides, he had a close relationship with the Messenger of Allah through our mother Khadijah (ra). Yes, Ibn Umm Maktum was the son of our mother Khadijah’s maternal uncle. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, 4/600-601) In this respect, there was nothing that would be regarded as strange for him in this assembly he entered. Although he was blind, he was a person with good manners of speaking since he was the deputy of the Messenger of Allah. Therefore, he is the last person to be considered among the aforementioned names.

Who knows, maybe the blind person who came was one of the hypocrites and the Messenger of Allah knew about his hypocrisy. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) frowned and turned away from him because he was not sincere in his request for guidance and was preventing an ongoing guidance, which was a perfectly normal act. However, when we say this, we do not regard it as certain that the incident took place like that; we do not make such a claim. However, the views of those who showed Ibn Umm Maktum as the doer of the incident are not more definite than our thought in terms of hadith narration. Therefore, it is necessary to regard both thoughts as equal - in terms of manners of thought.

Another thing to note here is this:

Some tafsir scholars accept Walid b. Mughira, not the Prophet (pbuh), as the doer (subject) of the verbs “abase (frowned)” and “tawalla (turned away)”. The verb “abasa” is used in two places in the Quran. One is the verb form in this chapter. The other is the verb mentioned in the chapter al-Muddaththir. Now consider this: The Quran uses this word for an unbeliever in the chapter of al-Muddaththir, whether that unbeliever is Walid Ibn Mughira or someone else... (Aqqad states that this person, who is also meant in the chapter of al-Muddaththir, cannot be Walid) because he is described as “Zanim”, which means baseborn, in the verse. Although Khalid’s father was an unbeliever, he was a noble person. There is no basis in “sunnah sahiha” to present the person meant there as Walid.

The Quran uses the expression “he frowned” for an unbeliever in a verse (al-Muddaththir, 74/22); how can it use that expression for the Messenger of Allah in another place? He is the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), who always smiles and never ceases smiling.

The same thing holds true for the verb “tawalla”. The Quran uses this verb for Pharaoh and says: “So, Pharaoh withdrew…” (Taha, 20/60). Although this verb was not used only for Pharaoh, the Quran’s approach with this style has always been for Pharaohs. (See al-Baqara, 2/205; Taha, 20/48; an-Najm, 53/33, al-Maarij, 70/17; al-Ghashiya, 88/23; al-Layl, 92/16; al-Alaq, 96/13).

How can the Quran describe the Messenger of Allah with two such deeds, one after the other, and attribute those deeds to him? How can it tar the Prophet with the same brush as an unbeliever?

It is necessary to regard the views of those who put forward this last point of view as probable. According to this view, the doer (subject) of those deeds is not the Prophet (pbuh), but an unbeliever who is blind to spirituality. He came like a blind person, frowned at the Prophet, and then left; this view can be called “probable” considering the preference of the innocence of the great prophets. And in fact, I do not remember any narration that will contradict this idea in terms of hadith narration. Since the meaning is appropriate in terms of context, there is no reason why this meaning should be regarded as probable...

Our purpose in conveying these things, which we describe as “definite” and “probable”, is to declare and proclaim the holiness of that source once more against those who try to show the prophetic credit as baseless, weak and having alternative in the eyes of those who believe by using superficially the verses that were revealed about the Prophet (pbuh) to reprimand and warn him by making inappropriate statements about an important source of the religion and by ignoring the divine reference. Otherwise, believers know the Prophet (pbuh) very well with his true value in the sight of Allah.

Yes, he was an exceptional person. Allah had a dialogue and conversation with Him in an exceptional medium. Allah revealed to him and he received this divine message and conveyed it. God Almighty always protected this characteristic of his, his reliability and his innocence. We should also protect it as a responsibility, a right, a liability and at least a duty of loyalty. That is the main reason for the excitement and enthusiasm we show. Today, there are a lot of, external and internal, secret and open unknown people who want to evaluate that high personality like any other human being and criticize him. We believe that we should defend his innocence and honor by regarding his honor as superior to ours.

However, we also know that our power is limited. Yes, we do not have enough means to fight at every level with every enemy of religion and belief who have been trying to make a fuss about him and with those who deliberately or unknowingly serve as a tool to them. We do not have enough means because they destroy and we repair; they use the terrible media power of the world; we, on the other hand, use these mini means of publication... However, on the plane of knowledge and reason, they will continue to undergo the same fate as they have been defeated at all times and ages because what they do is no different than covering the sun with mud. We cannot respond to each of their questions one by one... In fact, it is not necessary.  Our elders aptly summed up such situations and said: “If I threw a stone at every barking dog, there would be no stone left on the earth.” We repeat the same thing once again.

I cannot help reminding one more important point here. In fact, the subject I am going to present is again shows him by shaking like an “indicating” lamp and a needle.

The Prophet (pbuh) virtually saw the present day and spoke like that in the news he gave about the future and the things he said about the future. He stated the following:

“A smoke will appear in the End Times. This smoke will kill the unbelievers, and make the believers catch cold.” (Tabari, Jamiul-Bayan, 5/114; Ibn Kathir, Tafsirul- Qur’anil-Azim, 4/140)

The materialist philosophy, which does not accept the truth, killed the people of the world of denial and unbelief in terms of spirituality. It also brought doubt and hesitation among Muslims. Today, that is the situation and nature of those who wipe their noses with handkerchiefs.

Would it be possible to portray the situation of today’s people who do not know Arabic and do not have knowledge of the subtleties of the language and hence try to cover their ignorance with a garment by uttering nonsense such as, “The translation of the Quran is enough for us; there is no need for hadiths” in a way better than that? The issue is not as simple as it is seen. This scenario of unbelief, which started with people like Abu Jahl, Utba, Shayba, was tried to be continued with Western orientalists, which was supposedly scientized by Goldziher, etc. and was dramatized by Voltaire, etc. is prepared in non-Muslim countries and displayed in Muslim countries, with some of us being used as extras. They tell our people to play this role and act as extras in this ugly scenario and they fulfill this order either out of ignorance or with the idea of fame, or to earn some money. “The Quran is enough for us. Everything is solved through translation. There is no need to know Arabic. A person can become a mujtahid just by reading the translation of the Quran.” These statements and similar ones are a few scenes of a larger scenario that were put on the stage and words that were made to be spoken by a few extras in this scene. A whole world of unbelief is definitely behind it, sending up a trial balloon. When they find suitable ground - I hope they cannot find it - what they will say will not be limited to what they say today.

In this respect, we need to revive the respect shown by the Companions towards the Prophet (pbuh) more than ever. In order to make this issue, which we need, part of our consciousness and an inseparable character of us, we must know very well the innocence and reliability of the Messenger of Allah, and we must accept it to such an extent that we will not think the opposite is possible.

The Companions say:

“When we listened to the Messenger of Allah, we would listen very carefully as if each of us had a bird on our heads and we did not want to make it escape.” (Bukhari, Jihad 37; Abu Dawud, Tibb 1)

The times when Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra) talked in the presence of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) were very limited because they were conscious of the fact that they were in the presence of a prophet who was supported by revelation. Listening to him (pbuh) was like listening to the Pre-Eternal Speaker. The revelation that came was conveyed from the pure conscience and clear heart of the Messenger of Allah exactly as it came. In this respect, those who knew him would simply remain silent in front of him and listen to him. Words uttered in the presence of the Sultan of Words would be harmful no matter who said them. When we reach the understanding of the Companions, we will do the same things and will only listen to him and his precious words and try to find solutions to our age-old problems with them.

Disrespecting the Prophet’s (pbuh) words and denial of his sunnah is a bridge extended towards unbelief. Those who make it a habit to walk on that bridge and walk around there will sooner or later deviate from the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) way and line, and join Abu Jahl.

This way of thinking is very dangerous, and the way to eliminate this danger is to know the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in all aspects; and one of his most important aspects is undoubtedly his innocence. The religion seems to be completely integrated with his innocence. Making a breach there means attempting the greatest destruction in religion. Therefore, we felt the need to focus on this issue sensitively.

We show respect to the explanations in tafsir and other books but we regard this evaluation as more appropriate.

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