Interpretation of Sura 'Abasa - Verses 1-10
In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
1. He frowned and turned away,
2. Because there came to him the blind man.
3. And what would make you know that he might (spiritually) purify himself,
4. Or become reminded so that the reminder might profit him?
5. As to one who regards himself as self-sufficient,
6. To him do you address yourself
7. Though it is no blame on you if he would not (spiritually) purify himself.
8. But as to him who comes to you striving hard.
9. And he fears (Allah in his heart) ,
10. Of him wast thou unmindful.
The Occasion of Revelation:
These words show that Allah has blamed someone for an action which gave superiority to a man or men of wealth rather than to a blind man who was seeking the truth. But who was the admonished one? There are a variety of ideas on this subject, but, the most famous commentary among the scholars is the following:
Once the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was deeply engaged in trying to explain the Holy Qur'an to some pagan Quraish leaders such as 'Atabat ibn-i-Rabi'ah, Abu-Jahl, 'Abbas-ibn-'Abdul-Mutallib and Some others. He was hopeful that it would attract them to Islam, and in St) doing. surely a lot of others would come to Islam, too. and therefore. put an end to their sabotage. But, suddenly, he was interrupted by a blind man,
'Abdullah-ibn-Ummi-Maktuum, who was apparently poor, so that no one took notice of him. He wanted to learn the Qur'an and asked the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) to teach him. He repeated his statement again and again, because he did not know exactly whom he was talking to.
The Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) naturally did not like the frequent interruptions and this was seen on his face.These Arab leaders, he said to himself may think of Mohammad as a Prophet of the poor and the blind. Then he turned away from 'Abdullah and continued the work at preaching Allah's Message to them.
At that moment he received the new verses stated above, which admonished the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) for this action. Afterwards, he always held 'Abdullah in high honor, and whenever he saw him he used to tell him Hail to the one for whom Allah admonished me.
And, then, he questioned the man: Is there anything that I can do for you ?
The blind man became a true and sincere Muslim and as a direct appointment by the Prophet, himself, become a governor of Medina on two occasions when the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) went to battle.
A second opinion about this revelation is given for these verses, which is that a man from the Umayyads was sitting with the Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) when 'Abdullah-ibn Ummi-Maktum arrived. when this man saw 'Abdullah, he frowned and turned his back to him, as if he might become infected by him.
The aforementioned verses were about the man sitting with the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and the admonishment was for him. It has been narrated that Imam Sadiq (p.b.u.h.) agreed with this opinion when he was asked about this occasion of revelation. The late Sayyed Murtaza, the great scholar of Islam, approved with this occasion of revelation, as well.
There is nothing, of course, in the verse, itself, to show clearly that the one who is addressed is Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) . The only sign may be found in verses 8 to 10 where they say: But as to him who comes to you striving hard, And he fear's (Allah in his heart) . Of him wast thou unmindful.
This is the matter that can be true about the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) more than anyone else. But, according to what 'Sayyed Murtaza' has said, there are some signs in the verses showing that 'the one' is not the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) . Some of them are as follows:
'To be frowning' was not one of the Prophets' character traits, especially for the Prophet of Islam. He spoke gently and with a kind face even to his own enemies and was even more kind to the truth-seeking believers.
Moreover, paying attention to the wealthy people and neglecting the poor is not agreeable, at all, with what is said about him in Sura Qalam, No. 65, verse 4 which says: And thou (standst) on an exalted standard of character, (with the particular note that Sura Qalam had been revealed before the revelation of Sura 'Abasa) .
But, supposing the first occasion of revelation is true, this act is not more than 'leaving to the better' /tark-i-ula/ and there is nothing in it that contrasts with the state of spinelessness.
Since, first, the purpose of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was definitely to absorb the Quraish leaders in order to spread Islam and to stop their sabotage.
Secondly, it does not matter so much to frown at a blind man, because he cannot see. Moreover, 'Abdullah-ibn-Ummi-Maktum did not keep the rules of etiquette, since, he should not have interrupted the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) when he was busy talking to the people who were gathered there.
On the one hand, since Allah's emphasis is on love and affection for the poor and the afflicted, among the believers, it does not approve of the little amount of heedlessness from His prophet to that believing servant, so He admonishes him.
On the other hand, if we consider the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) as a true, great prophet, from these verses we see that they are almost a miracle, because the great leader of Islam mentions such important resposibilities in the heavenly Holy Book, about himself, that he finds the slightest 'leaving to the better' an option: i.e. the little amount of heedlessness to a blind truth-seeking believer, which Allah admonishes him for. This is an evidence for the fact that this Book is from Allah and he is a true prophet, because if the Book were not from Allah surely it would not have such content.
A more astonishing matter is that according to the above mentioned narration, whenever the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) saw 'Abdullah-ibn-Ummi-Maktum, he remembered the occasion and onored him very much.
The other aspect, which the verses contain, is that of the Islamic culture in relation to the behavior shown to the oppressed and to the arrogant: as to how it considers the blind, poor believer in comparison to those rich, powerful pagan Arab leaders. This clearly shows that Islam is a support for the oppressed and is against the arrogant.
In conclusion, we repeat that though the first thought about the occasion of this revelation is well-known among the commentators, it should be confessed that there is nothing vivid, in the verse, to prove the idea that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is the clear target of the admonition.
Harsh Admonition for Heedlessness Shown to a Truth-seeking Blind Man.
Keeping in mind what was said about the first idea regarding the occasion of revelation of the verses, we will now discuss the given commentary.
He frowned and turned away.
Because there came to him the blind man".
And what would make you know that he might (spiritually) purify himself".
Or become reminded so that the reminder might profit him?
The reminder can be, at least, an advice to him. If it does not affect him to be really virtuous, it may make him aware and this awareness would change him a little.
As to one who regards himself as self-sufficient To him do you address yourself.
And 'you' insist on guiding him, but he is entangled with pride due to his wealth and selfishness. It is the pride from which rebellion and disobedience originate, as Sura 'Alaq, No.96, verses 6-7 say:Nay, most surely man does transgress (all bounds) , For he thinks himself self-sufficient.
Though it is no blame on you if he would not (spiritually) purify himself'.
It is for 'you' only to deliver His message; they may take its advice or merely become annoyed. Therefore, you should not neglect the truth-seeking blind man or annoy him for the sake of the rich leaders, although you mean to guide them.
But as to him who comes to you striving hard,
And he fears (Allah in his heart)
The very motive, fear of Allah, has forced him to come to you in order to hear some truth and, thereafter, employ them in order to purify himself and grow in understanding.
Of him wast thou unmindful.
Indeed, the term /anta/ 'you, thee' is used to say that a person, such as the Prophet, should not divert himself, even for a moment, from such a truth-seeking man and should not pay attention to others although he definitely wanted to guide them, because the priority is given to that of the pure-hearted oppressed.
In any case, this reproachful speech, whether to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) or to anyone else, clearly states the fact that Islam and the Qur'an give a special high regard to the servants of Allah, particularly to those of the oppressed.
Also, Islam takes a severe position against those who are intoxicated and become proud from the abundance of Allah's blessings, so much so that Allah is not content if the least annoyance is caused to the truth-seeking oppressed, because of giving attention to the affluent.
The reason is clear: such a message works first amongst the simple and lowly, the poor and despised folk, and the mighty ones, of the earth, only come around when the masses stream in like an irresistible force.
The oppressed always support Islam, sincerely, helping the great leaders of the religion in their affairs, and are the candidates of the battle fields for martyrdom. As Imam Ali (p.b.u.h.) said in his famous order to Malik-i-Ashtar:... While the common men, the poor and apparently the less imporlant section of your subjects are the pillars of Islam; they are the real assemblage of Muslims and the power and defensive force against the enemies of Islam. Keep an open mind for them, be more friendly with them and secure their confidence and sympathy.
Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Holy Qur'an; Interpretation of Sura Nazi'at and Abasa and Takwir" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"
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