The Quran

Commentaries for 16.90

An Nahl (The bee) - النحل

16.90 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Lo! Allah enjoineth justice) Allah's divine Oneness (and kindness) through fulfilling the obligations; it is also said that this means: kindness to people, (and giving to kinsfolk) i.e. keeping ties with one's kinsfolk, (and forbideth lewdness) all transgressions (and abomination) that which is not known in the Shari'ah or Sunnah (and wickedness) overbearing and oppression. (He exhorteth you) He forbids you from engaging in lewdness, abomination and wickedness (in order that ye may take heed) in order that you take admonition from the parable of the Qur'an.
16.90 Asrar - Kashf Al-Asrar
Surely God commands justice and beautiful doing and giving to kinsmen, and He prohibits indecency, the improper, and rebelliousness. And He admonishes you, that perhaps you may remember.
In this verse the Creator of the world and the world's folk, the lovingly kind Lord, brings together in succession the foundations of service and the guideposts of interaction. He makes the faithful aware of the pleasing character traits and He honors them by letting them recognize the causes of His approval. He instructs them in beautiful worship of Him and in living with His creatures.
We have already explained some of this in the tongue of unveiling according to the Shariah. In terms of the Haqiqah and the tongue of allusion, it is that God commands the servant to have justice in interaction with the Real, in interaction with people, and in interaction with the soul. Interaction with the Real is through acknowledgment, interaction with people through justice, and interaction with the soul through opposition. One must have conformity with the Real, sincerity with the people, and opposition to the soul.
The meaning of conformity is for the servant to welcome the Real's decree before it appears and to leave aside free choice, such that he recognizes all of it without having perceived it and loves it not having seen it.
The meaning of sincerity is that he walk straight with the people in word, deed, aspiration, and resoluteness. He is fair to them, he does not place his burden on them, he conceals their faults, he does not take back his tenderness no matter what states he sees, he does not hold back his good from them, he lives with character, he respects elders, and he is tender toward young people and merciful toward children. This is the meaning of justice in interaction with people.
As for the reality of justice in interaction with the soul, it is to hold back the soul from that in which its destruction lies. God says, “As for him who fears the standing place before his Lord and prohibits the soul its caprice, surely the Garden shall be the shelter” [79:40-41].
Ibrāhīm Adham said, “In my whole life in this world, my heart was happy three times, and in those three times I was happy because I acted with severity toward my own soul.
I was walking in Antioch, barefoot and bare-headed, and various people were insulting me. In the end one of them said, 'He's a runaway slave.' Those words were pleasing to me, for in reality that is what I was. I said to myself, 'O you who have escaped and fled, when will you come back to the path of peace?' “The second happiness was when I was sitting in a ship. There was a buffoon among the passengers who would come by every hour and slap the back of my head, for he saw that I was the lowliest of all the people.
“Third was in the city of Malatya. I was in a mosque, my head placed on the knees of remorse, and I had fallen into the valley of my own insignificance. A shameless man came, undid the belt of his pants, and said, 'Old man, take this rose water!' My soul ceased to be in that lowliness, and my heart became happy at that. I found that happiness to be a gift of felicity for me from the Exalted Threshold.”
The great ones of the religion were like this-always acting with severity toward their own souls and striving in the abasement of their own persons. They concealed the faults of the people and saw their own faulty attributes. The people were always at ease and in comfort from them, but their souls were always in suffering and tribulation.
Surely God commands justice and beautiful doing. It has been said that justice is the heart's equilibrium with the Real and beautiful doing is interacting with things while seeing the Real. MuṣṬafā said, “Beautiful doing is that you worship God as if you see Him.” This hadith alludes to the heart's encounter with the Real, the secret core's convergence with the Unseen, and the spirit's contemplation and everlasting happiness while the servant is drowned in the light of contemplation and the call of gentleness flows in his spirit.
The Pir of the Tariqah said, “When an eye has seen Him, how can it busy itself with seeing other than Him? When a spirit has found companionship with Him, how long will it make do with water and dust? When someone has become accustomed to the Presence of Union, how long will he put up with the abasement of the veil? How will the ruler of his own city spend his life in exile?”
When You are the soul's food, then You leave it, the soul whose food You are does not linger.
It remains like a lizard thrown into water or a fish living in the open desert.
How can a lizard live in water or a fish in the desert? Do not take away our spirit's food, O God!
Surely God commands justice and beautiful doing. In this verse God commands the servant to three things that save, and He prohibits him from three things that destroy. When he keeps back from the three things that destroy, he will escape from hell, and when he carries out the three that save, he will reach paradise and have listening, drinking, and seeing with the Real.
Then, after listing the commands and prohibitions, He says at the end of the verse, And He admonishes you, that perhaps you may remember. God gives you advice so that perhaps you will fear and accept the advice. He calls and offers His generosity so that perhaps you will respond. He shows His gentleness so that perhaps you will place your love in Him. He conceals faults so that perhaps you will incline toward Him. From the clouds of the gentleness of His artisanries He rains down kindness so that perhaps you will stay at His threshold. He brightens hearts so that you may see His gentleness. He shakes with the marks of rebuke so that you will keep on remembering Him. He reduces burdens and increases the fruit so that you may perceive His good Godhood.
16.90 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
Indeed God enjoins justice — [that is] affirmation of [His] Oneness, or [actually] being fair, and virtue, performance of the [religious] obligations, or that you should worship God as if you were able to see Him, as [reported] in the hadīth; and giving to kinsfolk — He has singled it [kinship] out for mention by way of [highlighting] its importance — and He forbids lewdness, fornication, and abomination, with regard to the [stipulations of the] Law, [abomination] such as disbelief and acts of disobedience, and aggression, wrongdoing against people — He also singles this out for mention by way of [showing] its importance; just as He began with [the mention of] ‘lewdness’, in this way, He admonishes you, through commands and prohibitions, so that you might remember, [that you might] be admonished (tadhakkarūna, ‘you [might] remember’, the original tā’ [of tatadhakkarūna] has been assimilated with the dhāl). In the Mustadrak [of al-Hākim al-Naysābūrī] it is reported from Ibn Mas‘ūd that [he said]: ‘This [verse] is the most comprehensive verse in the Qur’ān in terms of [what is] good and [what is] evil’.
16.90 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Command to be Fair and Kind
Allah tells us that He commands His servant to be just, i.e., fair and moderate, and that He encourages kindness and good treatment. As He says:
وَإِنْ عَاقَبْتُمْ فَعَاقِبُواْ بِمِثْلِ مَا عُوقِبْتُمْ بِهِ وَلَئِن صَبَرْتُمْ لَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لِّلصَّـبِرينَ
(And if you punish them, then punish them with the like of that with which you were afflicted. But if you have patience with them, then it is better for those who are patient.) (16:126)
وَجَزَآءُ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّهِ
(The recompense for an offense is an offense the like thereof; but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is with Allah.) 42:40
وَالْجُرُوحَ قِصَاصٌ فَمَن تَصَدَّقَ بِهِ فَهُوَ كَفَّارَةٌ لَّهُ
(and wounds equal for equal. But if anyone remits the retaliation by way of charity, it shall count as atonement for him.) 5:45 And there are other Ayat which support the institution of justice in Islam, as well as encouraging a fair and generous attitude.
The Command to maintain the Ties of Kinship and the prohibition of Immoral Sins, Evil and Tyranny
وَإِيتَآءِ ذِى الْقُرْبَى
(and giving (help) to relatives,) meaning that Allah is commanding us to uphold the ties of kinship, as He says:
وَءَاتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَى حَقَّهُ وَالْمِسْكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَلاَ تُبَذِّرْ تَبْذِيرًا
(And give the relative his due and to the poor and to the wayfarer. But do not spend wastefully in the manner of a spendthrift.) (17:26)
وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ
(and He forbids immoral sins, and evil) Fahsha' refers to all things that are forbidden, and Munkar refers to those forbidden deeds that are committed openly by the one who does them. Hence Allah says elsewhere:
قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّيَ الْفَوَحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ
(Say (O Muhammad): "(But) the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are the indecencies, whether committed openly or secretly) (7:33) Baghy refers to aggression towards people. In a Hadith, the Prophet said:
«مَا مِنْ ذَنْبٍ أَجْدَرَ أَنْ يُعَجِّلَ اللهُ عُقُوبَتَهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعَ مَا يَدَّخِرُ لِصَاحِبِهِ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْبَغْيِ وَقَطِيعَةِ الرَّحِم»
(There is no sin more deserving of having its punishment hastened in this world, as well as what is reserved in the Hereafter for the one who does it, than tyrannical aggression and cutting the ties of kinship.)
يَعِظُكُمُ
(He admonishes you,) meaning, He commands what He commands you of good and He forbids what He forbids you of evil;
لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
(so that perhaps you may take heed) Ash-Sha`bi reported that Shatiyr bin Shakl said: "I heard Ibn Mas`ud say: `The most comprehensive Ayah in the Qur'an is in Surat An-Nahl:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإْحْسَانِ
(Verily, Allah enjoins justice and kindness...)''' It was reported by Ibn Jarir.
The Eyewitness Account of `Uthman
Concerning the revelation of this Ayah, Imam Ahmad reported a Hasan Hadith from `Abdullah bin `Abbas who said: "While the Messenger of Allah was sitting in the courtyard of his house, `Uthman bin Maz`un passed by and smiled at the Messenger of Allah. The Messenger of Allah said to him,
«أَلَا تَجْلِسُ؟»
(Won't you sit down) He said, `Certainly.' So the Messenger of Allah sat facing him, and while they were talking, the Messenger of Allah began looking up at the sky, looking at it for a while, then he brought his gaze down until he was looking at the ground to his right. Then the Messenger of Allah turned slightly away from his companion `Uthman to where he was looking. Then he began to tilt his head as if trying to understand something, and Ibn Maz`un was looking on. When the matter was finished and he had understood what had been said to him, the Messenger of Allah stared at the sky again as he had the first time, looking at whatever he could see until it disappeared. Then he turned back to face `Uthman again. `Uthman said, `O Muhammad, I have never seen you do anything like you did today while I was sitting with you.' The Messenger of Allah said:
«وَمَا رَأَيْتَنِي فَعَلْتُ؟»
(What did you see me do) `Uthman said: `I saw you staring at the sky, then you lowered your gaze until you were looking to your right, then you turned to him and left me. Then you tilted your head as if you were trying to understand something that was being said to you.' The Messenger of Allah said,
«وَفَطِنْتَ لِذَلِكَ؟»
(Did you notice that) `Uthman said, `Yes'. The Messenger of Allah said:
«أَتَانِي رَسُولُ اللهِ آنِفًا وَأَنْتَ جَالِس»
(A messenger from Allah came to me just now, when you were sitting here.) `Uthman said, `A messenger from Allah' The Messenger of Allah said,
«نَعَم»
(Yes.) `Uthman said, `And what did he say to you' The Messenger of Allah said:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإْحْسَانِ
(Verily, Allah orders justice and kindness...) `Uthman said: `That was when faith was established in my heart and I began to love Muhammad.'' It is a Hasan Hadith having a good connected chain of narrators in which their hearing it from each other is clear.
16.90-93 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
In this brief sentence Allah has enjoined three most important things on which alone depends the establishment of a sound and healthy society:
The first of these is justice which has two aspects.
To make such arrangements as may enable everyone to get one's due rights without stint. Justice does not, however, mean equal distribution of rights, for that would be absolutely unnatural. In fact, justice means equitable dispensation of rights which in certain cases may mean equality. For example, all citizens should have equal rights of citizenship but in other cases equality in rights would be injustice. For instance, equality in social status and rights between parents and their children will obviously be wrong. Likewise those who render services of superior and inferior types cannot be equal in regard to wages and salaries. What Allah enjoins is that the full rights of everyone should be honestly rendered whether those be moral, social, economic legal or political in accordance with what one justly deserves.
The second thing enjoined is "ihsan" which has no equivalent in English. This means to be good, generous, sympathetic, tolerant, forgiving, polite, cooperative, selfless, etc. In collective life this is even more important than justice; for justice is the foundation of a sound society but ihsan is its perfection. On the one hand, justice protects society from bitterness and violation of rights: on the other, ihsan makes it sweet and joyful and worth living. It is obvious that no society can flourish if every individual insists on exacting his pound of flesh. At best such a society might be free from conflict but there cannot be love, gratitude, generosity, sacrifice, sincerity, sympathy and such humane qualities as produce sweetness in life and develop high values.
The third thing which has been enjoined is good treatment towards one's relatives which in fact is a specific form of ihsan. It means that one should not only treat one's relatives well, share their sorrows and pleasures and help them within lawful limits but should also share one's wealth with them according to one's means and the need of each relative. This enjoins on everyone who possesses ample means to acknowledge the share of one's deserving relatives along with the rights of one's own person and family. The Divine Law holds every well-to-do person in a family to be responsible for fulfilling the needs of all his needy kith and kin. The Law considers it a great evil that one person should enjoy the pleasures of life while his own kith and kin are starving. As it considers the family to be an important part of society, it lays down that the first right of needy individuals is on its well-to-do members and then on the others. Likewise it is the first duty of the well-to-do members of the family to fulfill the needs of their own near relatives and then those of others. The Holy Prophet has emphasized this fact in many Traditions, according to which a person owes rights to his parents, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, other relatives, etc., in accordance with the nearness of their relationships. On the basis of this fundamental principle, Caliph Umar made it obligatory on the first cousins of an orphan to support him. In the case of another orphan he declared that if he had no first cousins he would have made it obligatory on distant cousins to support him. Just imagine the happy condition of the society every unit of which supports its every needy individual in this way-most surely that society will become high and pure economically, socially, and morally.
In contrast to the above-mentioned three virtues, Allah prohibits three vices which ruin individuals and the society as a whole:
(1) The Arabic word fahsha applies to all those things that are immodest, immoral or obscene or nasty or dirty or vulgar, not fit to be seen or heard, because they offend against recognized standards of propriety or good taste, e.g., adultery, fornication, homo-sexuality, nakedness, nudity, theft, robbery, drinking, gambling, begging, abusive language and the like. Likewise it is indecent to indulge in giving publicity to any of these evils and to spread them, e.g., false propaganda, calumny, publicity of crimes, indecent stories, dramas, films, naked pictures, public appearance of womenfolk with indecent make-ups, free mixing of sexes, dancing and the like.
(2) Munkar applies to all those evils which have always been universally regarded as evils and have been forbidden by all divine systems of law.
(3) Baghy applies to those vices that transgress the proper limits of decency and violate the rights of others, whether those of the Creator or His Creation.
In this verse, Allah has enjoined three kinds of Covenants which have been mentioned in the order of their importance. The first of these Covenants is the one between man and his Allah which is the most important of all. The second in importance is the Covenant between one man or one group of men and another man or another group of men, which is taken with Allah as a witness or in which the name of God has been used. The third Covenant is that which has been made without using Allah's name. Though this is third in importance, its fulfillment is as important as that of the first two and the violation of any of these has been prohibited.
In this connection it should be noted that Allah has rebuked the people for the worst form of violation of treaties which has been creating the greatest disorder in the world. It is a pity that even "big" people consider it to be a virtue to violate treaties in order to gain advantages for their people in political, economic and religious conflicts. At one time the leader of one nation enters into a treaty with another nation for the interest of his own people but at another time the same leader publicly breaks the very same treaty for the interest of his people, or secretly violates it. It is an irony that such violations are made even by those people who are honest in their private lives. Moreover, it is regrettable that their own people do not protest against them; nay, they eulogize them for such shameful feats of diplomacy. Therefore, Allah warns that every such treaty is a test of the character of those who enter into it, and of their nations. They might gain some apparent advantage for their people in this way, but they will not escape their consequences on the Day of Judgment.
This is to warn that decision about differences and disputes that lead to conflict, will be made on the Day of Judgment. Therefore, these should not be made an excuse to break agreements and treaties. Even if one is wholly in the right and the opponent is wholly in the wrong, it is not right for the former to break treaties or make false propaganda or employ other deceitful methods to defeat the other. If one does so, it will go against him on that Day because righteousness demands that one should not only be right in one's theories and aims but should also use right methods and employ right means. This warning has especially been given to those religious groups and sects who always suffer from this misunderstanding that they have a right to defeat their opponents because they are on the side of God and their opponents are rebels against Allah: therefore, there is no obligation on them to stick to their treaties with their opponents. This was what the Arab Jews practiced, declaring, "There is no moral obligation on us in regard to the pagan Arabs, and we are rightly entitled to practice dishonesty and deceit that might be of advantage to us and harmful to the disbelievers."
This further supports the previous warning. It means that it would be wrong for any champion of Allah's religion to arrogate to himself the use of every sort of method and means irrespective of whether they are right or wrong to propagate his own religion (considering it to be Allah's Religion) and try to destroy opposite religions. For this would be utterly against the will of Allah: if Allah had willed that there should be no religious differences, He could have deprived mankind of the freedom of choice. In that case, there would have been no need for Allah to get help of any such up-holder of His Religion, who uses disgraceful means for this purpose. Allah could have created all mankind to be inherent believers and obedient servants by depriving them of the power and option of disbelief and sin. Then there would have been none who could have dared to deviate from belief and obedience.
This is to show that Allah Himself has given man the power and freedom to follow any out of the many ways. That is why Allah makes arrangements for the guidance of the one who intends to follow the right way, and lets go astray the one who desires to deviate.
16.90 Tustari - Al-Tustari
Indeed, God enjoins justice (ʿadl) and benevolence (iḥsān) and giving to kinsfolk, (and He forbids you indecency (faḥshāʾ), abomination (munkar) and aggression. He admonishes you so that you may take heed).He said:Justice is professing ‘There is no god but God and Muḥammad is the Messenger of God’, and adhering to the Sunna of His Prophet ; and benevolence is that you do good to each other; and giving to kinsfolk means that whoever God has provided for in abundance should give to those among his relatives for whom God has made him responsible; indecency (faḥshāʾ), refers to calumny (kadhb), backbiting (ghayba), slander (buhtān) and all other offences of the tongue; and abomination (munkar), refers to the committing of transgressions in the form of actions. He admonishes you, means He instructs you in the finest conduct (adab), and draws your attention to the highest awareness (intibāḥ), so that you make take heed, that is, receive admonishment and refrain [from sins].Sahl [also] said:People are asleep and when they die they awaken. His words:
16.90 Wahidi - Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi
(Lo! Allah enjoineth justice and kindness…) [16:90]. Abu Ishaq Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim informed us> Shu'ayb ibn Muhammad al-Bayhaqi> Makki ibn 'Abdan> Abu'l-Azhar> Rawh ibn 'Ubadah> 'Abd al-Hamid ibn Buhram> Shahr ibn Hawshab> 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abbas who said: “While the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was sitting in his House's courtyard in Mecca, 'Uthman ibn Maz'un passed by and smiled at him. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: 'Will you not sit down?' He sat down facing toward him. As the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace was talking to 'Uthman, his eyes turned toward heaven, he looked upward for a while and then brought his gaze down and looked down at the ground on his right hand side. Then, he looked away from his companion 'Uthman toward where he gazed, moving his head as if trying to understand what he was being told. He then looked up again toward heaven, as he did the first time, and kept looking up until his gaze was completely focused on heaven. Then he was back with 'Uthman as he was initially. 'Uthman said: 'O Muhammad, I used to come to see you and sit with you and I have never seen you do what you did this morning'. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: 'And what did you see me do?' He said: 'I saw you raising your eyes toward heaven, you looked down on your right, and then you moved away from me and moved your head as if trying to understand something which was being said to you'. The Prophet said: 'Did you catch all that?' when 'Uthman said he did, the Prophet said: 'Gabriel came to me earlier on while you were sitting'. 'Uthman asked: 'And what did he tell you?' He said: 'He told me (Lo! Allah enjoineth justice and kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbiddeth lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorteth you in order that ye may take heed)'. 'Uthman said: 'It was at that point that faith became firm in my heart and I loved Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace' ”.