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Lesson - 52
Aal Imran (Family of Imran)
"I, Allah, am the best Knower (Alif-lam-meem)
Allah, (there is) no god (Ilaha ) but He, the Ever-living
(Al-Hayy), the Self-subsisting, by Whom all subsist (Al-Qayyum).
He has revealed to thee the Book with truth, verifying that
which is before it, and He revealed the Torah and the Gospel aforetime,
a guidance for the people, and He sent the Discrimination. Those
who disbelieve (kafaru) in the messages of Allah
for them is severe chastisement. And Allah is Mighty, the Lord
of retribution." (Ch. 3:1-3)
Significance of the name Aal-Imran
These are the first four verses of the chapter Aal-Imran.
Imran is same as Amran the father of prophet Moses and Aaron. Aal-Imran
means the Family of Amran. The history of the descendants of these
two prophets is spread over thousands of years. The Holy Quran has
very elegantly given expression to this, by calling them Aal-Imran,
The Family of Amran thus illustrating the usage of a single word
in a brief and most comprehensive manner. This is real eloquence,
i.e., the expression of a very broad meaning in a few simple words.
It is quite in contrast to the common misconception about eloquence
as being the usage of difficult and rhyming words, delivered in
a speedy manner. By doing so the speaker usually intends to create
a false impression upon the audience about the extent of his knowledge.
The chapter preceding this discusses the Israelites and the causes
of their decadence. This chapter discusses the sequential chain
of prophethood within the house of Israel, beginning with Prophets
Moses and Aaron and ending with Jesus. It also sheds light on the
reasons for its termination amongst the Israelites and its subsequent
bestowal upon their brethren the Ishmaelites. From the descendants
of prophet Ishmael arose the last of the Prophets, Muhammad peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him. It also discusses events relating
to Jesus, the last prophet of the Family of Amran, and shows how
these events were exaggerated to lay down the foundation of his
divinity and the creed of Christianity.
Those who professed belief in Jesus exaggerated his teachings.
The Jews who rejected him, in particular the Jewish religious leaders,
were in a state of obvious moral decadence. Fourteen hundred years
had passed between the advent of Prophet Moses and Jesus. In this
lengthy span of time despite the advent of hundreds of prophets
(thousands, according to the Torah), all attempts towards the reformation
of Jews had failed. Because they attempted to crucify Prophet Jesus,
the Jews became:
"those upon whom wrath is bestowed" (Holy Quran 1:7).
Time had therefore arrived that a prophet like Moses should be "raised
" from amongst their brethren the Ishmaelites, as Prophet Moses
had prophesied. It was also time to give prophethood to those who
would bear its fruit in a timely manner as foretold by Jesus, the
last of the Israelite Prophets.
The usage of abbreviations in the Holy Quran
The Arabic letters Alif-lam-meem are abbreviations (huruf
muqatta`at). These letters are to be read separately and each
letter stands for a word. This is a form of expression common to
all languages. Such expressions were used in the Arabic language
even prior to their use by the Holy Quran and their usage is in
fact quite common in the modern languages. For example we find in
the English language the use of the abbreviations, B.A , M.A., Ph.d.
O.K., etc. Most commentators usually avoid interpreting the abbreviations
found in the Holy Quran. The reason given for this by some is that
only Allah knows their meaning. If this was in fact so and Allah
did not intend to tell man the meaning of these letters, then one
may question (may Allah protect us from doing so), the usefulness
of Allah's intent in revealing these letters. The real reason for
the commentators confusion was that in the early period different
meanings were ascribed to these abbreviations. There is, however,
nothing wrong with this practice for as the Holy Prophet has stated,
"the difference of opinion amongst my followers is a blessing."
It is quite appropriate to choose different meanings of these letters
by following the same rules by which other words of the Holy Quran
are subject to different interpretations. In the books of lexicon
we find that a single word of the Holy Quran will have several different
meanings and one frequently finds a difference of opinion amongst
the commentators. One may therefore question why different meanings
cannot be ascribed to these abbreviations and why such practice
is a source of confusion?
Another interpretation of these letters that I have come across
in a commentary is that these letters stand for the initials of
the earlier scribes of the Holy Quran. The person giving this interpretation
did not perceive how such a notion could undermine the veracity
of the Holy Quran itself. If the names of the scribes could become
a part of the Holy text (may Allah protect us from this) , then
there is no guarantee to the Divine promise of protecting the text
of the Holy Quran, and its freedom from extraneous materials. In
fact the meaning of these abbreviations has been conveyed to us
by the companions of the Holy prophet and from the very beginning
not only have they been a part of the Quranic text, but have also
been a part of the prayers in which the Quranic text containing
these abbreviations was recited. If one presumes that the scribes
had (may Allah protect us from this ) tagged there names on to the
Quranic text, then one also has to question the judgment of those
who memorized the Quranic text for they kept on reciting these letters.
This presumption is therefore totally erroneous.
The meaning of Alif-lam-meem, as stated by the renowned
commentator of the Holy Quran, Hazrat Ibn Abbas, is that these letters
are abbreviations for, ana Allah a`lam (I, Allah, am the
best Knower). This is an excellent rendering of the meaning. The
first letter alif of the word Ana has been taken,
while the middle letter of Allah the word in the middle is
taken and the ending letter meem of the last word a`lam
is used thus comprising the abbreviation Alif-lam-meem. This
abbreviation Alif-lam-meem is also used in the beginning
of the chapter Al-Baqarah.
I have explained the meaning of, "I, Allah, am the best Knower,"
while discussing the opening passage of Al-Baqarah, in an
earlier lesson, but I will repeat the gist of it over here as well.
It forms an excellent link with the Quranic words that follow immediately
after i.e., "This Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guide to those
who keep their duty," for guidance is always asked from the one
who possesses more knowledge. For example a patient seeks guidance
from a doctor because he possesses more knowledge than the patient,
and when a doctor himself is in need of further guidance , he seeks
the assistance of a specialist in that disease. No one possesses
knowledge more perfect than Allah, regarding the purpose of man's
creation and the spiritual direction in which he should proceed
in order to achieve this objective.
In this chapter Al-Imran, the meaning of Alif-lam-meem
is the same, "I, Allah, am the best Knower," but carries a slightly
different connotation, which is excellently suited to the present
text. This chapter discusses matters dealing with the external physical
existence and the internal spiritual life of man. Knowledge of understanding
the Holy Quran and of events dealing with the past present and the
future is given. Who can have a better knowledge of all of this
then Allah the Most High? By stating, "I, Allah, am the best Knower,"
The Holy Quran therefore succinctly draws our attention to the fact
that in worldly matters such as a doctors prescribed treatment (in
taking a potentially harmful pill or undergoing a risky operation)
you readily follow the advise of one who possesses more knowledge
then you although he is not even a claimant to perfection in knowledge.
Why is it then, that you deny the guidance of Allah, Who is the
only Being in possession of complete and perfect knowledge in all
Allah, (there is) no god (ilaha) but
In the verse, "Allah, (there is) no god (ilaha) but He,"
the Arabic word ilaha is ordinarily taken to mean the One
Who is worshipped with obedience. This word, however, also implies,
the One Who deserves our love and the One Who is the purpose or
Objective of our existence. The Holy Quran states that everything
in the universe is bound within the laws laid down by Allah the
Most High (this fact made known to the world through the revelation
of the unlettered Prophet peace and blessings of Allah be upon him
was unknown to the scientific minds of the day). Mankind has been
given unique intellectual ability and freedom of will. He is, however,
directed to use his intellect to recognize the unity Of Allah the
Most High and to obey Him, like the rest of creation, which by doing
so benefits from Divine nurturing unto perfection. By willingly
doing so, man can benefit from the Creators nurturing unto perfection
(rabubiyat), and be rewarded for it not only in this world
but also in the Hereafter. Goodness and higher moral values can
develop only when man is given the freedom of will. This is not
the case in animals who cannot act with free will and are thus unable
to develop morally and spiritually.
Besides obedience to Allah, His goodness (husn), i.e. His
attributes, and beneficence (ihsan), i.e. His eternal dispensation
of those attributes, should inspire love in the heart of the believer.
Obedience with love is most beneficial, unlike submission that is
devoid of it and is considered only a burden. The third meaning
of the Arabic word Ilaha is the one Who is the aim and aspiration
of our life, establishing a relationship with Allah thus being the
purpose of mans creation. We are directed to obey Allah with love
and humility, thus creating the ideal conditions to mold our spirits
in accordance with His attributes and getting closer to Him as we
advance spiritually. It is quite obvious that only those of us will
obtain nearness to Him, who have colored their self with the coloring
of His attributes and goodness.
The verse, "Allah, (there is) no god (ilaha) but He," also
encompasses the subject that since He is the only One in His Being,
He has always given mankind the lesson of His unity through His
prophets and revealed scriptures. All other false deities are the
creation of mans own mind and those who waste their lives in seeking
and following them will do so to their own disadvantage. This verse
is followed by mention of the Divine attributes of:
"the Ever-living, the Self-subsisting, by Whom all subsist."
I will very shortly comment on these attributes, but the Beholder
of these attributes is described further in the Quranic text that
"He has revealed to thee the Book with truth."
This shows that He will always keep alive the principle of the unity
of His Being, which is the truth, through the revelation and complete
preservation of this Book, the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran is the
only revealed scripture whose main subject is the unity of the Divine
Being, which has remained unaltered in its original text, and it
lays claim to protection by the Divine hand.
The Arabic word Al-Hayy means, "the Ever-living." By the
addition of the Arabic letters alif and laam (Al)
to the word Hayy, this attribute has been made specific for
Allah, Who is its only Possessor in the most complete and comprehensive
meaning of the word. The Ever-living also indicates that all life
is from Him, i.e., He is The Creator. Development of Scientific
thought has not been able to identify the Creator of life itself.
It now, however, recognizes that the universe and every thing within
it was once inert matter, and will ultimately come to an end. The
Holy Quran expresses this idea in the verse:
"Every one on it passes away. And there endures forever
the person of thy Lord, the Lord of glory and honor" (55: 26,
The Self-subsisting, by Whom all subsist
The Arabic word Al-Qayyum means, "the Self-subsisting,
by Whom all subsist." God is Great! Today even the scientists say
that this universe exists because it exists in a universal mind.
The Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet informed the world of this fourteen
hundred years ago, thus providing irrefutable evidence that the
source of this knowledge is Allah, Who is unique not only in His
Being, but also His attributes. Another profound piece of knowledge
is also conveyed to us in the words:
"the Ever-living (Al-Hayy), the Self-subsisting,
by Whom all subsist (Al-Qayyum)".
The greatest desire of mankind is to live forever. That is why those
who worship wealth and power are ready to part with all their possessions
at the time of their death in return for a lease on life. One also
desires that he should be in a state of good health, with all the
means of subsistence at his disposal. This meaning is conveyed by
the Arabic word qiyam, (verb form of the word Qayyum).
This worldly life is, however, neither everlasting, nor does one
remain in good health all the time, or has all the means of subsistence
at his disposal. In any case all of man's possessions are lost at
the time of his death. The Holy Quran thus directs us that if you
want everlasting life and sustenance then turn towards Allah Who
is, "the Ever-living (Al-Hayy), the Self-subsisting, by Whom
all subsist (Al-Qayyum)".
Unfortunately, however, man has always made this worldly life and
its fineries the object of his love, aspiration and purpose in life.
None of these elements can give him everlasting life, eternal well
being, or contentment. The gods he created were either stone idols,
animal deities like the cow or helpless human beings like himself
whose eternal needs were similar to his own. This includes venerable
and righteous beings like Jesus, Buddha, Ramachandra and Krishna,
all of whom were raised to the status of divinity by man. The teaching
of the unity of the Divine Being given by all revealed scriptures
and prophets of God was thus adulterated by human hand in order
to justify his polytheistic beliefs. The Holy Quran states:
"He has revealed to thee the Book with truth,"
because by revealing the Holy Quran Allah has restored this truth,
which had been lost to mankind, thus fulfilling his greatest need.
Verification of previous scriptures by the Holy
The Quranic words that follow:
"verifying that which is before it"
have a general application, i.e., the Holy Quran verifies all of
the scriptures revealed before it. In the very beginning of the
Holy Quran it is stated:
"And who believe in that which has been revealed to
thee and that which was revealed before thee", (2:4).
A Muslim believes not only in the Book revealed to the Holy Prophet,
but all the Divine scriptures revealed before the Holy Quran. What
a marvelous Book of wisdom is the Holy Quran! It mentions belief
in the other scriptures after the Holy Quran, though they were revealed
before it. This is because the condition of these scriptures today
is such that they contain material which is accepted as erroneous,
either from a historical or knowledge based perspective. Their teachings
today are so defective that those who profess belief in them seek
guidance elsewhere. Thus it would have been very difficult for any
intelligent person to accept these scriptures to be from God, had
not the Holy Quran confirmed this as it also states in this verse
"verifying that which is before it".
Once again the profound wisdom of the Holy Quran shows! By confirming
the source of these scriptures to be the revealed word of Allah,
it provides a cogent proof to affirm the unity of the Divine Being,
for no one actually says, or can say that the source of these revelations
was other then the One Divine Being. From amongst the previously
revealed scriptures the Torah and the Gospel are particularly mentioned
over here. This is not only because these scriptures, in comparison
with others, mention the unity of the Divine Being more often, but
they are also the first and the last scriptures of the Mosaic dispensation,
which was now being discontinued. Thus the mention of the first
and last scriptures includes all of the scriptures revealed to this
order. The Holy Quran, however, states that not only the books of
the Mosaic dispensation, but all the previously revealed scriptures
were, "a guidance for the people," when they were revealed. They
no longer remain so because their texts have either been completely
lost, or as is generally accepted, the truth in them has been adulterated
abundantly with falsehood.
The Holy Quran discriminates between truth and
The words of the Holy Quran which follow:
"and He sent the Discrimination"
inspire great admiration in the mind of the reader. The Holy Quran
has been called the Discrimination because it clearly discriminates
between the truth and falsehood. It not only identifies the truth
that remains behind in the previous scriptures, but is also capable
of making this distinction between truth and falsehood in the future,
and is therefore the only scripture capable of guiding mankind.
The closing words of this section are:
"Those who disbelieve (kafaru) in the messages
of Allah, for them is severe chastisement. And Allah is Mighty,
the Lord of retribution."
This verse indicates, now that Allah has sent the word which clearly
distinguishes between truth and falsehood, if man continues to be
ungrateful and disbelieves (the Arabic word kafaru carries
both these connotations) and remains astray, his reformation will
be brought about through remedial punishment. This situation is
analogous to the remedial course of action taken by parents who
wish their children well, and want to bring about their reform.
Allah the Most High is Mighty in His authority, and if man does
not submit to His command through love and affection, He brings
about his correction through remedial chastisement. If correction
does not occur by remedial castigation in this life, such reproof
nevertheless, serves as proof for the therapeutic chastisement of
the life Hereafter, where reform will be accomplished with certainty.