Sorcery: Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:102-103, Part-I) By: Mohammad Sobhanie

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Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:102-103, Part-I)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Sorcery
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَاتَّبَعُوا مَا تَتْلُو الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَىٰ مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ ۖ وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ كَفَرُوا يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ ۚ وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلَا تَكْفُرْ ۖ فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ ۚ وَمَا هُم بِضَارِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنفَعُهُمْ ۚ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُوا لَمَنِ اشْتَرَاهُ مَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلَاقٍ ۚ وَلَبِئْسَ مَا شَرَوْا بِهِ أَنفُسَهُمْ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٠٢﴾ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا وَاتَّقَوْا لَمَثُوبَةٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ خَيْرٌ ۖ لَّوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٠٣﴾

Translation:

2:104: And they followed what the devils taught during the reign of Salomon. It was not Solomon who disbelieved, but it was the devils who disbelieved. They taught the people witchcraft and what was revealed in Babylon to the two angels Harut and Marut. They did not teach anybody until they had said, “We are a test, so do not lose faith.” But they learned from them the means to cause separation between man and his wife. But they cannot harm anyone except with God’s permission. And they learned what would harm them and not benefit them. Yet they knew that whoever deals in it will have no share in the Hereafter. Miserable is what they sold their souls for, if they only knew.
2:103 Had they believed and been righteous, the reward from God would have been better, if they only knew.

Commentary: Sorcery was a prevalent practice amongst the Israelites. In their opinion sorcery was justified, since they alleged that Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon) built his breathtaking kingdom, and subjugated the jinn, animals, birds, and winds to himself with the help of witchcraft. The verse asserts that sorcery is sin and Prophet Sulaiman never immersed in the evil of witchcraft [(وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ)].

The Arabic verb “kafara” [Arabic: (كَفَرَ)] means “to disbelieve”. One may disbelieve in either the principle belief, resulting in the denial of God and His prophet, or disbelieve in divine commands, which results in sin. Here, the phrase [(وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ)] means that Prophet Sulaiman (AS) was a sincere and obedient servant of Allah (SWT) and he never reneged the divine command. On the contrary, the Shaitans were the ones who rebelled against their Lord by practicing and teaching sorcery to humankind:
……وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ كَفَرُوا يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ …..﴿١٠٢﴾
2:102,…. and Sulaiman was not an unbeliever, but the Shaitans disbelieved, they taught men sorcery ….

The Origin of Sorcery amongst Israelites: The Israelites followed the witchcraft that Shaitans (jinn) practiced in the reign of Sulaiman; furthermore, they followed the knowledge of sorcery that was revealed in Babylon through two angels named Harut and Marut.
وَاتَّبَعُوا مَا تَتْلُو الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَىٰ مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ ۖ ……. وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ ۚ …… ﴿١٠٢﴾
2:102 And they (the Israelites) followed what the Shaitans chanted of sorcery in/during the reign of Sulaiman, ….and that was sent down to the two angels at Babel, Harut and Marut,

The Shaitans, according to Al-Mizan (Vol. 1, P.355, L.1), were a group amongst the jinn who were subjugated to Prophet Sulaiman. This view is deduced from interpretation of the verse 21:82 (Al-Anbiya) with help of the verses 34:14 (Saba).
The verse 21:82 (Al-Anbiya) states that a group of Shaitans was subjugated to Prophet Sulaiman; they dived into the sea and extracted jewelry, pearls, and performed other works as well; these works are outlined in the verse 34:14 (Saba). They were restrained from rebellion and insubordination against Prophet Sulaiman’s commands.
وَمِنَ الشَّيَاطِينِ مَن يَغُوصُونَ لَهُ وَيَعْمَلُونَ عَمَلًا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ ۖ وَكُنَّا لَهُمْ حَافِظِينَ ﴿٨٢﴾
21:82 And of the Shaitans there were those who dived for him and did other work besides that, and We kept guard over them;
The verse Saba 34:12-14 (Saba) delineates that the Shaitans were a group of the jinn, which made whatever Prophet Sulaiman wished: such as synagogues, statues, large basins like reservoirs, and huge immovable cooking pots. They continued doing the laborious tasks for a while even after Prophet Sulaiman death.
Prophet Sulaiman died while leaning on his cane. Nevertheless, he did not fall on the ground until a creature chewed his staff and his body lost its balance and fell on the ground. Then, the jinn become aware of his death. This made the jinn to realize that had they known about the death of Sulaiman beforehand, they would not have to remain in humiliating torment after his death.

فَلَمَّا قَضَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ الْمَوْتَ مَا دَلَّهُمْ عَلَىٰ مَوْتِهِ إِلَّا دَابَّةُ الْأَرْضِ تَأْكُلُ مِنسَأَتَهُ ۖ فَلَمَّا خَرَّ تَبَيَّنَتِ الْجِنُّ أَن لَّوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ الْغَيْبَ مَا لَبِثُوا فِي الْعَذَابِ الْمُهِينِ ﴿١٤﴾
34:14 But when We decreed death for him, nothing showed them his death but a creature of the earth that ate away his staff; and when it fell down, the jinn came to know plainly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have tarried in abasing torment.

Commentators have offered four interpretations for the phrase [مَا تَتْلُو الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَىٰ مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ], depending on the meaning of the proposition [عَلَىٰ], which are 1) to, 2) during and 3) against. These possible meanings are [P.649 Tasneem, Vol.5]:
what the Shaitans chanted to the people of the kingdom of Sulaiman [ما تتلوا الشیاطین علی اهل مملکة سلیمان]
what the Shaitans chanted during the kingdom of Sulaiman [فی ملک سلیمان]
what the Shaitans chanted to the people against the kingdom of Sulaiman [ما تتلوا الشیاطین علی الناس علي ملک سلیمان]
Al-Mizan [Vol.1, P. 354, L. 26] holds the opinion that the proposition [عَلَىٰ] would make the verb [تَتْلُو] a transitive verb; as a result, [تَتْلُو عَلَىٰ] means “fabricated, falsely attributed”. Thus, the phrase [مَا تَتْلُو الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَىٰ مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ] interpreted “what the Shaitans falsely attributed to the kingdom of Sulaiman”.

Word-for-Word Translation:

2:102 [وَاتَّبَعُوا] and they follow [مَا] what [تَتْلُو] recited [الشَّيَاطِينُ] the Shaitans [عَلَىٰ] in [مُلْكِ] kingdom [سُلَيْمَانَ] of Sulaiman. [وَمَا] and not [كَفَرَ] disbelieved [سُلَيْمَانُ] Sulaiman [وَلَـٰكِنَّ] and but [الشَّيَاطِينَ] the Shaitans [كَفَرُوا] disbelieved [يُعَلِّمُونَ] teaching [النَّاسَ] men [السِّحْرَ] magic [وَمَا] and what [أُنزِلَ] came down [عَلَى] to [الْمَلَكَيْنِ] the two angels [بِبَابِلَ] at Babylon [هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ] Harut and Marut.
[وَمَا] and what [يُعَلِّمَانِ] came down [مِنْ أَحَدٍ] anyone [حَتَّىٰ] till [يَقُولَا] they had said [إِنَّمَا] only [نَحْنُ] we are [فِتْنَةٌ] for trial [فَلَا] so do not [تَكْفُرْ] disbelieve.
[فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ] but they did learn [مِنْهُمَا] from these two angels [مَا] what [يُفَرِّقُونَ] they might separate [بِهِ] with it [بَيْنَ] between [الْمَرْءِ] man [وَزَوْجِهِ] and his wife [وَمَا] but do not [هُم] they [بِضَارِّينَ] harm [بِهِ] with it [مِنْ أَحَدٍ] anyone [إِلَّا] except [بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ] by permission of Allah (SWT).
[وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ] And they learned [مَا] what [يَضُرُّهُمْ] harms them [وَلَا] and not [يَنفَعُهُمْ] profits them.
[وَلَقَدْ] and indeed [عَلِمُوا] they knew [لَمَنِ] that whosever [اشْتَرَاهُ] buys it [مَا] not [لَهُ] is for him [فِي] in [الْآخِرَةِ] the Hereafter [مِنْ] any [خَلَاقٍ] share [وَلَبِئْسَ] and how bad indeed was [مَا] what [شَرَوْا] they sold [بِهِ] for it [أَنفُسَهُمْ] themselves [لَوْ كَانُوا] would that [يَعْلَمُونَ] they knew.
2:103 [وَلَوْ] and if [أَنَّهُمْ] they [آمَنُوا] believed [وَاتَّقَوْا] and became pious [لَمَثُوبَةٌ] indeed for them was reward [مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ] from Allah (SWT) [خَيْرٌ] better [لَّوْ] if/would that [كَانُوا] the did [يَعْلَمُونَ] know.

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