Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And when Abraham) also (said: My Lord! Show me how Thou givest life to the dead) how you gather the bones of the dead again, (He said: Dost thou not believe?) are you not convinced? (Abraham said: Yea) I am convinced, (but (I ask) in order that my heart may be at ease) in order that the heat of my heart abates and so that I know that I am your friend and that my prayers are answered. ((His Lord) said: Take four of the birds) of different kinds: a cockerel, a raven, a duck and a peacock (and cause them to incline unto you) cut them into pieces, (then place a part of them on each hill) four different hills, (then call them) by their names, (they will come to thee) walking (in haste). (And know) O Abraham! (that Allah is Mighty) for He is vengeful against those who do not believe in bringing the dead back to life, (Wise) He gathers the bones of the dead and bring them back to life, just as He gathered these birds and brought them back to life.
When Abraham said to his Lord, “Show me how Thou givest life to the dead.” He said, “Dost thou not have faith?” He said, “Yes indeed, but that my heart may be serene.”... And know that God is exalted, wise.
In the language of unveiling and in keeping with the tasting of the lords of the realities, this verse has another intimation and explanation. They say that Abraham was yearning for the Real's speech and burning for His address. His burning had reached the limit, the army of his patience had been put to flight, and the fire of his love was shooting up flames. He said, “O Lord, show me how you bring the dead to life.”
He said, “O Abraham, dost thou not have faith? Do you not have faith that I bring the dead to life?”
He said, “I do, but my heart has been thrown into turmoil by the wish to hear Your speech and by burning passion for Your address. I want You to talk.”
Dost thou not have faith? “The goal was exactly that You would talk and ease would enter my heart.”
My ease is Your message
and my feet are in Your snare.
The story is told that a man had fallen for a young woman and wanted to speak with her, but she would not talk and was unwilling to do so. The afflicted man became helplessly captivated by her, hoping to speak with her. He knew that she had a liking for jewels. He went and gave everything he had for one precious gem. He went and placed a stone in front of her in order to break the gem. The object of his passion did not have the capacity to put up with breaking. She said, “Poor man, what are you doing?”
He said, “I am doing it so that you will say, 'What are you doing?'”
No rest or ease remains in my heart-
call me names if you have no message.
It has been said that with these words Abraham was asking for the life of the heart and the serenity of the secret core. He knew that as long as a heart is not alive, serenity will not come down into it, and as long as serenity has not come down into it, he would not have reached the final goal of the recognizers.
The final goal of the recognizers is the repose of intimacy, the witnessing of the heart, and the constancy of love; the tongue in remembering, the heart in secret whispering, the spirit in joy; the tongue in remembrance, the heart in reflection, the spirit with love; the tongue as spokesman, the heart with explication, and the spirit in face-to-face vision. It was said, “O Abraham, life is found in death and subsistence in annihilation, so go and kill four birds outwardly as We command in order to show reverence for Our command and to make manifest your servanthood.”
Inwardly He is telling him to obey these commands: “Hang the peacock of finery on the gallows: Take no ease in the blessings of this world or the finery of this world.
“Don't be held back by nightingale and peacockwith this you have only calls, with that only color.
“Kill the crow of avarice: Be not avaricious for that which does not remain and quickly comes to an end.
“Why are you passionate for the companion who took Alexander's life?
Why are you in love with the loveless by whom Darius lost his kingdom? [DS 53] “Break the rooster of appetite: Let no appetite enter your heart lest you be held back from Me.
“If you come from the field of appetite to the portico of intellect, you'll see yourself like Saturn in the seventh sphere. [DS 705]
“Kill the vulture of wishes: Do not stretch out wishes and do not fix your heart on this life of play and diversion. Then you may reach the goodly life [16:97]. O Abraham, the goodly life is what you want: the heart's life and the secret core's serenity!”
It has been said that by asking this question, Abraham was seeking vision, just as Moses did. Abraham asked for vision by intimation, not explicitly. Hence the answer was also by intimation, that is, His words, “God is exalted: O Abraham, I heard your asking and I know what you desire, but know that in reality God is exalted. Finding Him is exalted and seeing Him is exalted.” Moses asked explicitly, not through intimation, so he heard the answer explicitly: “Thou shalt not see Me” [7:143]. It has also been said that when Abraham said, “O Lord, show me how You bring the dead to life,” a call came to his secret core: “You also, show Me how you bring the living Ishmael to death.
A demand for a demand. If you are loyal, I will be loyal.” So Abraham was loyal, and God praised him in that loyalty and said, “And Abraham who was loyal” [53:37]. God was also loyal and gave
him his desire.
It has also been said that in his asking Abraham wanted the furthest limit of certainty. Certainty has three levels: First is the knowledge of certainty, then the eye of certainty, then the truth of certainty. The knowledge of certainty is what reaches God's servants from the tongue of the prophets. The eye of certainty is what reaches them from the light of guidance. The truth of certainty is what comes through both the light of guidance and the traces of revelation and the Sunnah. Abraham wanted all three levels brought together for himself so that no ambiguity would ever again come to his mind.
Then He says, “And know that God is exalted, wise.” He is the Lord of exaltedness and the owner of exaltedness, the exalted in Himself through the exaltation of His brightness and the description of His majesty, the exalter of others through His generosity and bounteousness. Know that God has exaltedness, power, majesty, and strength. He is exalted such that no one reaches His exaltation, no understanding grasps His limit, no knower knows His measure. He Himself is exalted and exalts those who have been made lowly, shows forth those who have been little, and lifts up the thrown down. His exalting of the servants is both in this world and in that world-in this world through wealth and state, and in that world through vision and union, always and forever.
And, mention, when Abraham said, ‘My Lord show me how You give life to the dead,’ He, God, exalted be He, said, to him, ‘Why, do you not believe?’, in My power to revive; God asks him this even though He knows of his belief in this [power], as a response to his request, and so that the ones listening will know the purpose [of the request]; ‘Yes,’, I do believe, he said, ‘but, I ask You, so that my heart may be re-assured’, [so that it may be] at peace, through direct vision, in addition to that [certainty] which is sought through logical reasoning. Said He, ‘Take four birds, and twist them to you (sirhunna, or surhunna), turn them towards you, cut them up and mix together their flesh and feathers, then set a part of them on every hill, in the land around you, then summon them, to you, and they will come to you in haste. And know that God is Mighty, that nothing is beyond Him, Wise’, in His actions. Abraham took a peacock, an eagle, a raven and a cock and did with them as has been mentioned, but kept their heads with him. He called them, and all the parts began to fly back together, combining until they were whole and returning to their heads.
And when Abraham said, 'My Lord show me how You give life to the dead', in other words, make me attain the station of eyewitnessing at the station of certain knowledge, which is why his faith was affirmed with the [use of the] affirmative interrogative hamza [a-] in He said, 'Why [a-wa-lam] do you not believeḍ', that is, do you not know that for certain, to which Abraham, peace be upon him, responded by saying: 'Yes, but so that my heart may be re-assured', that is, so that it may be at peace and its reassurance may be actualised as a result of the eyewitnessing, for the eye of certainty brings about reassurance but not [certain] knowledge. Said He, 'Take four birds: that is, the four faculties that prevented him from the station of the eyewitnessing and the witnessing of the true life. They say that these [four birds] were a peacock, a cock, a raven and a dove or, according to another version, a duck. The peacock represents wonder, the cock passion, the raven ravenousness, the dove love of this world as it consists of its home and its nest; it would appear that [the fourth bird] was a duck, which would then constitute an allusion to the covetousness that is its predominant characteristic; and twist them to you, that is, tilt them and draw them towards you by restraining them and preventing them from going forth in pursuit of pleasures and inclining to their habits. It is said that he was commanded to slaughter them, pluck out their feathers and mix their flesh and blood by pounding them together, but to keep their heads with him, in other words, to prevent them from their acts and remove their configurations from the soul, to suppress their motivations, natures and habits through spiritual discipline, retaining in them [only] their fundaments; then set a part of them on every mountain, that is, from among the mountains that are in your presence, namely the four elements which are the pillars of his body. In other words, suppress them and make them die so that nothing remains but the fundaments centred in your existence and the substances thereof that are deposited in the very natures of the elements that are within you. There seven mountains which accordingly allude to the seven limbs that constitute the parts of the body; then summon them: in other words, if you become alive through their life, then they are disobedient and dominate you, wild, reluctant to accept your command and so if you kill them you will then be alive with the true life that is bestowed [by God] after annihilation and effacement, whereupon they become alive through your life, and not through their own life, the life of the soul that is obedient to you, compliant with your command such that if you [now] summon them, they will come to you in haste.
And know that God is Mighty, victorious in vanquishing [disobedient] souls, Wise', vanquishing them only through wisdom. It [the verse] can also be understood as referring to the gathering of beasts and birds, in which case the [act of] setting the parts of these [birds] on the mountains represents the nourishment of the body through these [attributes] and his [Abraham's] summoning them and their coming to him in haste represents their orientation towards man after the resurrection.
(We are more liable to be in doubt than Ibrahim when he said, "My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead.'' Allah said, "Don't you believe'' Ibrahim said, "Yes (I believe), but (I ask) in order to be stronger in faith.'')
The Prophet's statement in the Hadith means, "We are more liable to seek certainty.''
(He said: "Take four birds, then cause them to incline towards you.'')
Scholars of Tafsir disagreed over the type of birds mentioned here, although this matter in not relevant due to the fact that the Qur'an did not mention it. Allah's statement,
(cause them to incline towards you) means, cut them to pieces. This is the explanation of Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Abu Malik, Abu Al-Aswad Ad-Dili, Wahb bin Munabbih, Al-Hasan and As-Suddi. Therefore, Ibrahim caught four birds, slaughtered them, removed the feathers, tore the birds to pieces and mixed the pieces together. He then placed parts of these mixed pieces on four or seven hills. Ibn `Abbas said, "Ibrahim kept the heads of these birds in his hand. Next, Allah commanded Ibrahim to call the birds to him, and he did as Allah commanded him. Ibrahim witnessed the feathers, blood and flesh of these birds fly to each other, and the parts flew each to their bodies, until every bird came back to life and came walking at a fast pace towards Ibrahim, so that the example that Ibrahim was witnessing would become more impressive. Each bird came to collect its head from Ibrahim's hand, and if he gave the bird another head the bird refused to accept it. When Ibrahim gave each bird its own head, the head was placed on its body by Allah's leave and power. '' This is why Allah said,
وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
(And know that Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise) and no one can overwhelm or resist Him. Whatever Allah wills, occurs without hindrance, because He is the All-Mighty, Supreme above all things, and He is Wise in His statements, actions, legislation and decrees.
`Abdur-Razzaq recorded that Ma`mar said that Ayyub said that Ibn `Abbas commented on what Ibrahim said,
وَلَـكِن لِّيَطْمَئِنَّ قَلْبِى
(but to be stronger in Faith), "To me, there is no Ayah in the Qur'an that brings more hope than this Ayah.'' Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Muhammad bin Al-Munkadir said that `Abdullah bin `Abbas met `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As and said to him, "Which Ayah in the Qur'an carries more hope for you'' Ibn `Amr said,
(And (remember) when Ibrahim said, "My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead.'' He (Allah) said: "Do you not believe'' He (Ibrahim) said: "Yes (I believe)...)
Allah accepted Ibrahim's affirmation when he merely said, `Yes.' This Ayah refers to the doubts that attack the heart and the thoughts that Shaytan inspires.'' Al-Hakim also recorded this in Al-Mustadrak and said; "Its chain is Sahih but they did not record it.''
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
That is, "I want that peace of mind which is gained by actual experience. "
Some people have offered strange interpretations for the two abovementioned extraordinary events. But there is no need to make far-fetched interpretations, for Allah is able to do everything He wills, as the person referred to in the first event declared. Moreover, Allah's dealings with His Prophets are of an extraordinary nature; for an ordinary believer does not need to see actually the Reality with his own eyes for the performance of his duties but it is essential for the mission of a Prophet that he should see with, his own eyes those realities towards which he has to invite the people. The Prophets have to tell the people with full and firm conviction: "We have seen with our own eyes those realities about which your knowledge is based on mere guess-work. You are ignorant; but We possess knowledge; you are blind, but We possess sight." That is why the angels came to them in person so that they should see them with their own eyes. They were also shown the actual working of the system of the heavens and the earth, and Paradise and Hell and Resurrection after death. Though the Prophets believed in all these things even before their appointment as Messengers, they were made witnesses of the realities after their appointment as a special favour and distinction of prophethood. (For further reference, please see E.N.'s 17, 18, 19, 34 of Surah Hud, Xl).
And when Abraham said “My Lord show me how You give life to the dead.” He said “Why do you not believeḍ” “Yes” he said “but so that my heart may be re-assured.” Said He “Take four birds and twist them to you then set a part of them on every hill then summon them and they will come to you in haste. And know that God is Mighty Wise.” It is said that he was looking for increased certainty and wanted to compare the truth of certainty ḥaqq al-yaqīn with what he had already obtained from the eye of certainty ʿayn al-yaqīn. It is said that what [Abraham] said here was meant to elicit His words سبحانه Why do you not believeḍ [Abraham] said “Yes I believe but I longed to have You say to me 'Why do you not believeḍ' and Your saying this to me is a reassurance to my heart.” The lover is forever striving to find a way to address his beloved in any way that he can. It is said that [Abraham] was seeking a vision of the Real سبحانه by hint or allusion for he was held back by the allusion in His words “And know that God is Mighty Wise.” When Moses عليه السلام asked for the vision directly saying “My Lord! Show me that I may behold You!” [7:143] [God] replied directly and clearly and it was said to him “You shall not see Me” [7:143]. It is said that he only sought the life of his heart and this was shown to him by the sacrifice of these birds. Among the four birds there was a peacock and the allusion in its sacrifice relates to the ornament and beauty of the present world. There was also a crow because of his greed a rooster because of his [strutting] walk and a duck because of his seeking provision. When Abraham عليه السلام said “Show me how You give life to the dead” it was said to him “Will you show Me how you sacrifice lifeḍ” which meant Ishmael-one demand [was made] for another. When [Abraham] fulfilled what was asked of him the Real fulfilled what he had requested. It is said that part of the promise from the Real سبحانه was that He took [Abraham] as a friend khalīl and the sign of that was [God's] reviving the dead through his hand.
Then what came to pass came to pass. [God] made a connection between the story of al-Khalīl عليه السلام and what He showed him and made manifest through his hand in reviving the dead and Ezra when He showed him [what He showed him] in himself because al-Khalīl was given preference over Ezra in his questioning and in his state. Abraham عليه السلام did not try to refute [God] in any way but rather was subtle in his request. Ezra spoke to Him with words resembling someone who deems a thing far-fetched. The Real wanted to reveal the most powerful miracle and the most perfect corroboration to [Abraham] inasmuch as He made the revival of the dead appear by his hand. When Abraham's عليه السلام words “My Lord is He who gives life and makes to die” [2:258] seemed doubtful to Nimrod [Nimrod] said “I give life and cause death” [2:258]. Abraham wanted God سبحانه to show him the revival of the dead so that he would know he should not make undue claims. In these two verses is permission for one who seeks increased certainty from God سبحانه وتعالى in the state of reflective thought naẓar. It is said that Abraham wanted to bring life to the heart by the light of communion in accordance with perfection. It was said to him “Why do you not believeḍ” which means “Do you not remember the state of your seeking Us when you were saying to everything you saw “This is my lordḍ” [6:76-78]. You were not yet aware of how We would cause you to reach the utmost point [in understanding Our Lordship]. In this case as well We will bring you to that to which you aspire.” This alludes to the life of the heart that it can only [happen with] the sacrifice of these things meaning the lower self. The heart of one who does not sacrifice his lower self through struggle will not be given life by God. There is also an allusion in His saying “Cut these birds with your hands and separate their parts. Then summon them and they will come to you in haste.” What was sacrificed by the hand of the one who possesses friendship [Abraham] and [what was] cut and dismembered by his hand-every separate part answered him when he called it. Similarly when the Real calls the one whom He has separated and scattered he answers: Even if I was covered with dirt and You called me the bones decayed I would answer your voice.
And when Abraham said, ‘My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead’…[Sahl] was asked whether or not Abraham was in doubt concerning his faith, and was therefore asking his Lord to show him a sign or miracle in order to restore his faith. He replied:His question was not out of doubt; he was merely asking for an increase in certainty (ziyādat al-yaqīn) to the faith he already had. Thus he asked for an unveiling of the cover of visual beholding with his physical eyes, so that by the light of certainty, his own certainty regarding God’s omnipotence might be increased, and [his certainty] regarding His creative [power] mightth be consolidated. Do you not notice how when He asked [him], ‘Why, do you not believe?’ he replied ‘Yes.’ If he had been in doubt he would not have said ‘Yes’. Furthermore, if God was aware of any doubt in him and had he given Him the answer ‘Yes’, [attempting to] conceal his doubt, God would definitely have disclosed that, Exalted is He, as such things cannot be concealed from Him. Therefore, this confirms that the request for [his heart’s] reassurance (ṭumaʾnīna) signified a request for an increase in his certainty. Then it was asked, ‘Surely the people of the “Table Spread” sought profound peace of mind, through the sending down of the feast, and their [request] was out of doubt. So how does this correspond?’ He replied:Abraham made it known that he was a believer, and he only asked for profound peace of mind in addition to faith in order to receive greater [certainty]. The people of the Table Spread, on the other hand, made it known that they would believe only after they had found calm reassurance in their hearts. As He said: and that our hearts may be reassured, and that we may know that you have spoken to us truthfully [5:113]. Thus they made it known that their knowledge of his [Jesus’] truthfulness, after they had been reassured by witnessing the feast, was to be the starting point of their faith.Abū Bakr [al-Sijzī] said: I heard him say on another occasion:…But so that my heart may be reassured… [2:260] — that is, ‘I do not feel secure against one of Your enemies challenging me if I should say, My Lord is He who gives life and death [2:258], and then [one of them] should ask, “Did you see Him give life and death?” In this way my heart would be at ease in being able to answer “Yes” to him, once I had witnessed that.
’This is why the Prophet said: ‘Hearing about something is not the same as seeing it.’Sahl also said:[Abraham’s request] might also have another meaning: he might have asked God to show him the reviving of the dead so that he could feel sure that he had [truly] been chosen as the friend (al-Khalīl). Sahl then said:Another aspect [of meaning] is the following: ‘What I have requested of You, I have no right to, save [for] that which You will realise for me’ — and this is the position of the elect of His creation — ‘So my request for You to show me the reviving of the dead was in order to put my own heart at rest.’ This was because he was called the ‘intimate friend’ (al-Khalīl) even in the ‘Time of Ignorance’ (Jāhiliyya). And as we said, his words ‘that my heart may be reassured’ mean ‘[that it may be reassured] of my friendship [with You]. This, because I know that You give life and death’.Sahl was asked: ‘If the servant reaches the face-to-face encounter of direct vision (kifāḥ al-ʿiyān), what signs of this will be manifest?’ He replied:He [the servant] triumphs by repelling Satan, and this is because the lower self is extremely weak; there is no way for him, when it comes to [dealing with] the lower self and Satan, andcutting them both off, save the protection of the All-Merciful.He [Sahl] then recited a poem [in wāfir metre]:The abundant sufficiency of direct encounter [with God] [attained] through my good opinion of Him Is like the spider’s web covering the cave’s entrance Good opinion has traversed every veil,Good opinion has traversed beyond the fire’s light, The signs of the one brought near are clear,Near or far it is the same to the night voyager, For the one who has beheld God directly,There is no sleep to settle him until day.Three times did God ask of them:‘Is there anyone to ask for the kindness of the Maker?’When did the lapping [of a dog] defile an ocean of love?So ignore the barking of that wretched creature at my porchO ego along with Satan! Be off!And likewise the falsity of incitement and trouble.
In his saying, ‘The abundant sufficiency of direct encounter (kifāḥ) [with God] [attained] through my good opinion of Him’, it is as if he is alluding to His words: Is it not sufficient that your Lord is witness to all things? [41:53], to which the Messenger of God replied, ‘Yes it is, O Lord.’ So it was, when the following verse was sent down: Is not God the fairest of all judges? [95:8], to which the Messenger of God also replied, ‘Yes, O Lord.’ And from the way they understand the Qurʾān [this means]: Is it not sufficient that your Lord, O Muḥammad, has supported you in this world against your enemies through killing and defeating [them], and in the next life, by granting you the Praiseworthy Station (maqām maḥmūd) and the right to intercession, and in Paradise by granting you the encounter and the visitation (ziyāra)? His saying, ‘Like the spider’s web covering the entrance of a cave’, [is an allusion to] the cave of mystics (ʿārifūn) [which is] the[ir] innermost secret (sirr), and the[ir] beholding (iṭṭilāʿ) of the Lord of the Worlds, when they reach the station of face-to-face encounter (maqām al-kifāḥ), that is, the immediate vision of direct witnessing (ʿiyān al-ʿiyān) beyond what has been [verbally]elucidated (bayān). Then there is nothing between the servant and God except the veil of servanthood, due to his contemplation (naẓar) of the attributes of lordliness (rubūbiyya), ipseity (huwiyya), divinity (ilāhiyya), and [God’s being] Self-Sufficing and Besought of all, to eternity (ṣamadiyya ilā’l-sarmadiyya), without any obstacle or veil. One similitude among many might be that of a spider’s web when it encompasses his heart (qalb), his innermost secret (sirr) ⸢and⸣ his heart’s core (fuʾād), through the grace of lordship (luṭf al-rubūbiyya) and complete compassion(kamāl al-shafaqa), such that there is no veil between him and God, Exalted is He. Just as through the spider’s web, which covered the entrance to the cave of the Messenger of God.
God turned away all the enemies among the leaders of the Quraysh who were being directed by Iblīs against him, so in the case of the people of gnosis, when they reach the stationof direct witnessing (ʿiyān) beyond elucidation (bayān), the provocations of Satan and the sultan of the lower self are cut off and repelled, and their scheming becomes ineffectual, as is expounded in His words, Surely the plotting of Satan is ever feeble [4:76], meaning, that it had become ineffectual against them, just as He also said, Truly over My servants you [Satan] shall have no warrant… [15:42]. This is because, if the servant traverses all veils through his good opinion [of God], such that there remains no veil between him and God, thereafter the lower self, Satan and the world can have no access to his heart and mind by means of provocation. Thus did the Prophet say, ‘Yesterday I saw an amazing thing; a servant between whom and God there was a veil, but then when his good opinion of God appeared, He drew him in from behind the veil’.Regarding his saying [in the poem], ‘Good opinion has traversed beyond the light of fire’, it is as if this is alluding to the honour of following the Messenger, due to his being given preference [by God] over the Friend of God [Abraham] and the Interlocutor of God [Moses], for in the station of perceiving fire and light prophets and saints are [accorded] different ranks (maqāmāt). The Friend [of God] saw the fire and it became for him a source of coolness and safety [21:69]. The Interlocutor [of God] saw the fire as light as is expounded in His words, Wait, I see a fire in the distance’ [20:10; 28:29]. However, this [fire] was in origin light, as [is indicated] by His words, Blessed is he who is in the fire [27:8], which refer to Moses surrounded by [lit. in the midst of] light. But then [Moses] became preoccupied with the light, so God reprimanded him saying, ‘Do not preoccupy yourself with the light, for truly I am the Illuminator of light’, as expounded in His words, Indeed, I am your Lord.
So take off your sandals [20:12]. However, when it cameto the Beloved [of God] [Muḥammad ], God showed him the fire and the light, and took him beyond the veil of fire and light. Then He brought him near without fire or light until he saw in the closest proximity the Illuminator of lights, as is expounded in His words, The heart did not deny what he saw [53:11]. Thus did He elevate [His] Beloved [Muḥammad] above the station of [His] Friend [Abraham] and [His] Interlocutor [Moses], and the stations of all of the prophets who were brought nigh, until he was addressed by God without the means of any revelation (waḥy) or interpreter (tarjumān), as is expounded in His words, Whereat, He revealed to His servant what He revealed [53:10], meaning, ‘The Beloved communicated with the beloved in secret, and taught him and honoured him by granting him the Opening of the Book (al-Fātiḥa) and the closing verses of Sūrat al-Baqara. When he says [in the poem], ‘The signs of the one brought near are clear’, he means that all the prophets and angels have proximity [with God], but Muḥammad is the closest in proximity (aqrab), following the form of afʿal — one says qarīb meaning close and aqrab meaning closer or closest. Now the one who is close (qarīb) [to God] has access to understanding (fahm), conjecture (wahm) and interpretation (tafsīr). But the one who is closest (aqrab) is beyond understanding, conjecture and interpretation, and what is beyond that cannot be contained by expression (ʿibāra) or allusion (ishāra). Thus it was that Moses, when he heard the call of unicity (waḥdāniyya) from God, on the night of the fire, said, ‘O God! Are You near that I may whisper to You, or far away that I should call out to You?’ Then He [God] called out to Kalīm from a place that was both near and far, telling him that He was near. This, however, was not how the Messenger was described when [God] brought him near, such that He greeted him saying, ‘Peace be upon you!’ Furthermore, God, Exalted is He, praised his nation when He said, And the foremost, the foremost:! they are the ones brought near [to God]’ [56:10, 11].
He did not say ‘they were near’ (qarībūn) [but they were ‘brought near’ (muqarrabūn)]. Thus the words [of the poem,] ‘The signs of the one brought near are clear’ refers to this nation. The one who is near experiences bounty and honour from God, but the one who is far away experiences torment and punishment from Him. The one who is far away experiences from God veiling and severance [from Him], but the one who is brought near experiences from God the encounter [with Him] and [His] visitation (ziyāra).As to his saying [in the poem], ‘For the one who has beheld God directly [there is no sleep to settle him until the day]’, [he is referring to] a sign of the people of longing (mushtāqūn), for they can enjoy neither sleep nor rest, by day or at night. Among those who were characterised by this trait are Ṣuhayb and Bilāl. Bilāl was one of the people of longing, and so was Ṣuhayb, forneither of them could sleep or find rest. Indeed it was narrated that a woman who had bought Ṣuhayb [as a slave] saw him in this condition and said, ‘I will not be satisfied until you sleep at night, for you are becoming so weak that you are not in a condition to perform the tasks you do for me.’ Thereupon Ṣuhayb wept and said, ‘Whenever Ṣuhayb thinks of the Fire, sleep flees from him, and when he thinks of Paradise, he is seized with longing, and when he remembers God his longing (shawq) is perpetuated’.[When] he says [in the poem], ‘Three times did God ask them “Is there (hal)…?”, [the word] hal is an interrogative particle. Verily God, Mighty and Majestic is He, lifts the veil every night and says, ‘Is there (hal) anyone asking, so that I may grant him his request? Is there (hal) anyone seeking forgiveness, so that I may forgive him? Is there (hal) anyone supplicating, so that I may respond to his supplication?’ However, if it is the Night of Great Merit (Laylat al-Qadr), God lifts the first condition and says, ‘I have forgiven you even though you didn’t seek forgiveness. I have granted [it] to you even though you didn’t ask [it] of Me, and I have responded to you before you even supplicated to Me.
’This is the height of generosity (karam).His saying [in the poem], ‘When did the lapping [of a dog] ever defile an ocean of love?’ is an allusion to the lapping of a dog in a vessel which [according to the divine law (sharīʿa)] then requires cleaning seven, or three, times [with water], depending on which of the different wordingsof the sayings transmitted from the Prophet are followed. However what if a thousand thousand [i.e. a million] dogs lapped [up water] from an ocean? There is no dispute within the community that in such a case the sea would not be defiled. So [it is] with the whisperings of Satan and his lapping in the hearts of the mystics and the lovers, for how can this cause defilement in the ocean of love (baḥr al-widād), when each time he laps there, a wave comes and washes over it.Regarding his saying, ‘So ignore the barking of a wretched creature at my porch’, he means: ‘Leave Iblīs in his wretchedness, yelling at the door of this world with all his different kinds of incitement (wasāwis), for he does not harm me.’ As [God] says, when a visitation from Satan touches them they remember… [7:201] His oneness in accordance with His words, And when you mention your Lord alone in the Qurʾān, they turn their backs in aversion [17:46]. His saying: ‘Be off!’ means, ‘Get far away from me!’ ‘Be off!’ is said to dogs and signifies total expulsion and banishment. In this way did He punish them [the inhabitants of Hell] in the final punishment that He gave them. Thus He said, Begone into it! And do not speak to me!’ [23:108]. His words, Exalted is He:
(And when Abraham said (unto his Lord): My Lord! Show me how Thou givest life to the dead…) [2:260]. The commentators of the Qur’an have mentioned the reason why Ibrahim asked his Lord to show him how He brings the dead back to life. Sa‘id ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ja‘far informed us> Shu‘bah ibn Muhammad> Makki ibn ‘Abdan> Abu’l-Azhar> Ruh> Sa‘id > Qatadah who said: “It was mentioned to us that Ibrahim passed by a corpse of a beast which was surrounded by beasts of the sea and of the land, and so he said: ‘O Allah! Show me how you bring the dead back to life!’ ” Also, al-Hasan, ‘Ata’ al-Khurasani, al-Dahhak and Ibn Jurayj said: “Ibrahim, Allah’s intimate friend, passed by a dead donkey lying on seashore (‘Ata’ said this was rather Tiberias lake). He saw the carrion surrounded by beasts of the water and of the land. When the water rose up, the fish and the beasts of the sea came forward and ate of it, and whatever fell of the carrion was swept away by water; and when the sea ebbed away, wild animals went forward and ate of it, and whatever fell of the carrion became dust. When the wild animals went away, birds came forward and ate of the carrion, and whatever fell from them, the wind scattered it away in the air. Ibrahim was amazed when he saw this. He said: ‘O Lord! I know very well that you will gather its parts, please show me how you bring it to life, so that I can see it with my own eyes’ ”. Said Ibn Zayd: “Ibrahim passed by a dead whale, half of which was in the sea and half in the land. The part which was in the sea was eaten up by the beasts of the sea while the part which was in the land was eaten up by the beasts of the land. Satan the evil one whispered to him: ‘How is Allah going to gather the different parts of this from the bellies of all these beasts?’ Ibrahim said: (My Lord! Show me how Thou givest life to the dead, He said: Dost thou not believe? Abraham said: Yea, but (I ask) in order that my heart may be at ease) by dispelling Satan’s whispering”. Abu Nu‘aym al-Asfahani informed me, among that which he authorized me to narrate from him> ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Ja‘far> Muhammad ibn Sahl> Salamah ibn Shabib> Ibrahim ibn al-Hakam ibn Aban> his father who said: “I was sitting with ‘Ikrimah at a seashore when he said: ‘those who drown in the seas, the fish share their meat such that nothing remains of them except bones. These bones are then washed out by the sea. These bones then become transformed and hollow. Camels then pass by them and eat them. Then they become dung. People will then come and use this dung to lit fire. When the fire is put out, the wind comes and scatters the ashes all over. When the Trumpet is blown, these people and the inhabitants of the graves will emerge together. This is what is meant by Allah’s saying (… and behold them standing waiting!) [al-Zumar, 39:68]’ ”. Said Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Yasar: “When Ibrahim argued with Nimrod, he said: ‘My Lord is He who gives life and death. Nimrod said: ‘I also give life and death’. He killed a man and set another free and then said: ‘I have killed this one and given life to this one’. Ibrahim said to him: ‘Well, Allah gives life by restoring the spirit to this dead body’. Nimrod said: ‘And did you see that which you now say with your own eyes?’ He could not say: yes, I saw it! And so he moved on to another argument. Then he requested his Lord to show him how He brought the dead back to life so that he may set his heart at ease upon argumentation, such that his argument would be based upon direct seeing and witnessing’ ”. Ibn ‘Abbas, Sa‘id ibn Jubayr and al-Suddi also said: “When Allah took Ibrahim as his intimate friend, the angel of death took permission from his Lord to go and give Ibrahim this glad tiding. He went to Ibrahim and said: ‘I came to give you the glad tiding that Allah, exalted is He, has taken you as an intimate friend’. Ibrahim praised Allah, glorious and majestic is He, and then said: ‘What is the sign of this intimate friendship?’ The angel said: ‘Its sign is that Allah answers your supplication and brings the dead back to life by your request’. The angel then left. Ibrahim said: ‘My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead’. Allah said: ‘Do you not believe?’ Ibrahim said: ‘I do, but I ask in order that my heart may be at ease, knowing that you answer my request when I request You and give me when I ask You, and that you have indeed taken me as an intimate friend’ ”.