The Quran

Commentaries for 2.259

Al Baqara (The cow) - البقرة

2.259 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Or (bethink thee) the like of him who, passing by a township) He says: do you not know about 'Uzayr Ibn Shurahya who passed by the township of Dayr Hiraql (which had fallen into utter ruin, exclaimed: How shall Allah give this township life after its death) How can Allah bring the people of this township back to life after their death? (So Allah made him die) right on the spot (a hundred years, then brought him back to life) at the end of the day. (He) Allah (said: How long hast thou tarried) O 'Uzayr? (He said: I have tarried for a day) and then looked at the sun still in the horizon and said (or part of a day. He) Allah (said: Nay, but thou hast tarried) you were dead (for a hundred years. Just look at thy food) figs and grapes (and drink) juice (which have not rotted! Look at thine ass!) look at the bones of your ass how white they look! (And, that We may make thee a token) a sign (to mankind) regarding the matter of bringing the dead to life, that they will be resurrected in the same state they died in, because 'Uzayr died young and was brought back to life as a young person. It is said that Allah made him a lesson for people, for he died when he was 40 years old and was brought back to life when his son was 120 years old, (look at the bones) the bones of your ass, (how We adjust them and then cover them with flesh!) after this. He then said: We will make grow on it nerves and veins, flesh, skin and hair and put the spirit in it. (And when (the matter) became clear unto him) how Allah gathers the bones, (he said: I know) I had known (that Allah is Able to do all things) of life and death.
2.259 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
Or, did you see, such as he, Ezra (‘Uzayr), who (the kāf of ka’lladhī, ‘such as he who’, is extra) passed by a city, namely, the Holy House [sc. Jerusalem], riding on an ass and carrying with him a basket of figs and a cup of juice, [a city] that was fallen down, collapsed, upon its turrets, its roof tops: after Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed it; he said, ‘How (annā means kayfa, ‘how’) shall God give life to this now that it is dead?’, challenging the power of the exalted One, so God made him die, and remain dead for, a hundred years, then he raised him up, brought him back to life to show him how this could be done; He, God, said, ‘How long have you tarried?’, been here?; he said, ‘I have tarried a day, or part of a day’, because he fell asleep before noon, and was made dead and then brought back to life again at sunset, and thus he thought it was a day’s sleep; He said, ‘Nay; you have tarried a hundred years. Look at your food, the figs, and drink, the cup of juice, it has not spoiled, despite the length of time (the final hā’ of yatasannah, ‘to spoil’, is said to belong to the original root, s-n-h; but it is also said to be silent, in which case the root would be s-n-y; a variant reading omits the final hā’); and look at your ass, how it is, and he saw that it had died, and all that remained were its withered white bones. We did this so that you would know and, so that We would make you a sign, of [the truth of] the Resurrection, for the people. And look at the bones, of the ass, how We shall set them up, how We shall raise them back to life (nunshiruhā, or nanshiruhā, derived from the two expressions, nashara and anshara; a variant reading has nunshizuhā, meaning ‘How We shall move it and make it stand’); and then clothe them with flesh’, and when he looked at it, he saw that [the bones] had been reconstituted and clothed with flesh, and that the Spirit had been breathed into it, making it bray. So, when it was made clear to him, as a result of witnessing it, he said, ‘I know (a variant reading for a‘lam, ‘I know’, has [the imperative] i‘lam, ‘know!’, thus making it a command from God), with the knowledge of direct vision, that God has power over all things’.
2.259 Kashani - Kashani
Or such as he who passed by a town: in other words, have you considered the example of he who passed by a town whose inhabitants had perished under its fallen roofs and collapsed walls, and who then marvelled that it could be brought back to life, being as he was a wayfaring seeker who had not yet attained the station of certainty and had not been prepared to receive the light of the self-disclosure of the Life-giver. The most widespread opinion is that this [man] was Ezra. So God made him die, that is, He made him subsist upon a death of ignorance, just as He said our Lord You have caused us to die twice [Q. 40:11], according to [the interpretation of] one opinion, and He also said when you were dead and He gave you life [Q. 2:28], a hundred years: it is possible that in their time a single year was based on the lunar cycle, making it 8 [proper] years and 4 months; or it could have been based on the seasons of the year, making it 25 years, and [it is also possible] that at that time their spans of life were [considerably] longer; then He raised him up, with true life and asked him to consider the period he had tarried; he did not think that it had been longer than a day or part of a day, deeming insignificant the duration of time he had tarried in that death of ignorance which is finite in relation to everlasting life and also because he did not sense the passing of this period, as with one who is asleep and oblivious to the passage of time. Then after he had reflected, God pointed out to him how long the period of ignorance and the death of obliviousnessn had been by [informing him] that it had been a hundred years. Or [it could be understood] that He made him die through voluntary death during one of the periods mentioned so that the period then represents the time spent in spiritual discipline, wayfaring and struggling in the way of God. Or [still] that He made him die a natural death such that his spirit became attached to the body of another of his own genus in order to acquire perfection either after a certain period or immediately until one of the three mentioned periods had passed without him looking into his state, unaware of his origination and his [ultimate] return: in this way he had been dead throughout his actual life.
He then looked into his state through the light of knowledge and came to know his origination and his return. As for his words: 'I have tarried a day, or part of a day', these are similar to God's statement [elsewhere] And on the day when We shall gather them as if they had not tarried but an hour of the day [Q. 10:45], and His statement The day they see it, it will be as if they had only tarried for an evening or the morning thereof [Q. 79:46], and His statement And on the Day when the Hour comes the guilty shall swear that they had not tarried more than an hour [Q. 30:55]: all of that is because of their obliviousness to the passage of time. Similar is the case of one who after having parted with a brother or a companion or some such thing is reunited after a lengthy period of separation: it will be as if that period had never been, for he no longer senses it after it has passed [and he has been reunited], even though he may have suffered its hardship before the reunion. Look at your food and drink, it has not spoiled: they say that his food was figs and grapes, his drink wine and milk. Figs are an allusion to the universal objects of perception since they are made up totally of kernels and since the particulars that are in them are there potentially, just like the seeds that are in the figs. Grapes are an allusion to the particulars because material appendages remain with them upon perception, such as the dregs of the juice and its seeds. Milk is an allusion to beneficial knowledge, such as the prescriptions of the divine law. Wine is an allusion to the fervent love [of the divine], will, the gnostic sciences and the realities. 'It has not spoiled': in other words it has not changed from what has been since pre-eternity in accordance with the primordial nature, deposited as it is within you. Indeed these various aspects of knowledge are stored within every soul in accordance with its preparedness, as he [the Prophet], peace be upon him, has said: 'Mankind are minerals like gold and silver minerals.
Even if they are veiled by [other] materials and are hidden for periods of time as they endure fluctuation in the shadows of barzakhs, they are not spoiled and do not change their state, such that when the veil is removed through the purity of the heart, they manifest themselves as they had once been. That is why he [the Prophet], peace be upon him, said: 'Wisdom is a believer's ultimate goal'. And look at your ass, that is, [at] your body in its present state, according to the first and second interpretation; according to a third it means [look at your ass] how its bones have crumbled and wasted; so that We might make you a sign for people, that is, and so that We might make you a proof of [the truth of] the resurrection for people, We resurrected you. And look at the bones, how We shall set them up, how We shall make them become upright, and then clothe them with flesh': in both aspects the meaning is obvious [enough], for when he is resurrected and comes to know his state and his disengagement from his body, he will know that his body is composite by [the act of] the bones being raised, gathered and clothed with flesh. So, when it, the gathering forth and the resurrection, was made clear to him, he said, 'I know that God has power over all things'.
2.259 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Story of `Uzayr
Allah's statement,
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِى حَآجَّ إِبْرَهِيمَ فِى رِبِّهِ
(Have you not looked at him who disputed with Ibrahim about his Lord) means, "Have you seen anyone like the person who disputed with Ibrahim about his Lord'' Then, Allah connected the Ayah,
أَوْ كَالَّذِى مَرَّ عَلَى قَرْيَةٍ وَهِىَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَى عُرُوشِهَا
(Or like the one who passed by a town in ruin up to its roofs) to the Ayah above by using `or'.
Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that `Ali bin Abi Talib said that the Ayah 2:259 meant `Uzayr. Ibn Jarir also reported it, and this explanation was also reported by Ibn Jarir and Ibn Abi Hatim from Ibn `Abbas, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, As-Suddi and Sulayman bin Buraydah.
Mujahid bin Jabr said that the Ayah refers to a man from the Children of Israel, and the village was Jerusalem, after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it and killed its people.
وَهِىَ خَاوِيَةٌ
(in ruin) means, it became empty of people. Allah's statement,
عَلَى عُرُوشِهَا
(up to its roofs) indicates that the roofs and walls (of the village) fell to the ground. `Uzayr stood contemplating about what had happened to that city, after a great civilization used to inhabit it. He said,
أَنَّى يُحْىِ هَـذِهِ اللَّهُ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا
(Oh! How will Allah ever bring it to life after its death) because of the utter destruction he saw and the implausibility of its returning to what it used to be. Allah said,
فَأَمَاتَهُ اللَّهُ مِاْئَةَ عَامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَهُ
(So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again).)
The city was rebuilt seventy years after the man (`Uzayr) died, and its inhabitants increased and the Children of Israel moved back to it. When Allah resurrected `Uzayr after he died, the first organ that He resurrected were his eyes, so that he could witness what Allah does with him, how He brings life back to his body. When his resurrection was complete, Allah said to him, meaning through the angel,
كَمْ لَبِثْتَ قَالَ لَبِثْتُ يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ
("How long did you remain (dead)'' He (the man) said: "(Perhaps) I remained (dead) a day or part of a day.'')
The scholars said that since the man died in the early part of the day and Allah resurrected him in the latter part of the day, when he saw that the sun was still apparent, he thought that it was the sun of that very day. He said,
أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ قَالَ بَل لَّبِثْتَ مِاْئَةَ عَامٍ فَانظُرْ إِلَى طَعَامِكَ وَشَرَابِكَ لَمْ يَتَسَنَّهْ
("Or part of a day. '' He said: "Nay, you have remained (dead) for a hundred years, look at your food and your drink, they show no change.'')
He had grapes, figs and juice, and he found them as he left them; neither did the juice spoil nor the figs become bitter nor the grapes rot.
وَانظُرْ إِلَى حِمَارِكَ
(And look at your donkey!), "How Allah brings it back to life while you are watching.''
وَلِنَجْعَلَكَ ءَايَةً لِلنَّاسِ
(And thus We have made of you a sign for the people) that Resurrection occurs.
وَانظُرْ إِلَى العِظَامِ كَيْفَ نُنشِزُهَا
(Look at the bones, how We Nunshizuha) meaning, collect them and put them back together. In his Mustadrak, Al-Hakim, recorded that Kharijah bin Zayd bin Thabit said that his father said that the Messenger of Allah read this Ayah,
كَيْفَ نُنشِزُهَا
(how We Nunshizuha.) Al-Hakim said; "Its chain is Sahih and they (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) did not record it.'' The Ayah was also read,
"Nunshiruha'' meaning, bring them back to life, as Mujahid stated.
ثُمَّ نَكْسُوهَا لَحْمًا
(And clothe them with flesh. )
As-Suddi said, " `Uzayr observed the bones of his donkey, which were scattered all around him to his right and left, and Allah sent a wind that collected the bones from all over the area. Allah then brought every bone to its place, until they formed a full donkey made of fleshless bones. Allah then covered these bones with flesh, nerves, veins and skin. Allah sent an angel who blew life in the donkeys' nostrils, and the donkey started to bray by Allah's leave.'' All this occurred while `Uzayr was watching, and this is when he proclaimed,
قَالَ أَعْلَمُ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
(He said, "I know (now) that Allah is able to do all things,'') meaning, "I know that, and I did witness it with my own eyes. Therefore, I am the most knowledgeable in this matter among the people of my time.''
2.259 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
It is useless to form conjectures as to 'who the person and which the township was, for it is not only irrelevant but also impossible to know this. There is no mention of these things in the Quran or the authentic Traditions either, and we have no other reliable source. The purpose for which the incident has been related here is that "Allah brings into light those who make Him their patron." It is, however, clear from his subsequent words that he must have been a Prophet.
This question did not mean that he disbelieved in Resurrection or he had any doubt about it. It simply meant that he, like other Prophets, wanted to see the Reality with his own eyes.
The resurrection of a person who had been dead for a hundred years was itself a living Sign for the people of his age.
2.259 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
Or such as he who passed by a city that was all in ruins to its roofs he said “How shall God give life to this now that it is deadḍ” So God made him die for a hundred years then he raised him up; He said “How long have you tarriedḍ”; he said “I have tarried a day or part of a day”; He said “Nay you have tarried a hundred years. Look at your food and drink it has not spoiled; and look at your donkey so that We would make you a sign for the people. And look at the bones how We shall set them up and then clothe them with flesh.” So when it was made clear to him he said “I know that God has power over all things.” This was not a question of denial a matter of ignorance or an indication of doubt in divine power for this report is about Ezra ʿUzayr the prophet عليه السلام and it is not possible for the prophets [عليه السلام] to doubt or be ignorant. Rather it was a question of wondering about something extraordinary. In this conversation [Ezra] wanted to be more certain so God showed him that within his [own body] by making him die and then bringing him to life and then reviving his donkey while he watched and he became more and more certain. Asking for certainty from God and using the tactic of posing difficulties are practices of those who are curious to know. Because of that God excused Ezra in this conversation and the increased certainty he sought was made possible for him. Then he said “I know that God has power over all things” in giving life and causing death that is “My knowledge has been increased by what I saw. He showed me weighty signs which increased my certainty.” His food and drink did not change in this long period even as his donkey died and his bones decayed.