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Lesson 52

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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 matters?

Allah, (there is) no god (ilaha) but He

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 follows i.e.,

"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 Ever-living

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, 27).

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 Quran

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 falsehood

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.

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