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Surah Al-Jinn

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Maududi's Commentry (Tafseer) on Surah Al-Jinn

Mecca Mecca (40)
28Total Ayat: 28
2Total Ruku: 2


"Al-Jinn" is the name of this Surah as well as the title of its subjectmatter, for in it the event of the Jinn's hearing the Qur'an andreturning to their people to preach Islam to them, has been related indetail.

Period of Revelation

According to a tradition related in Bukhari and Muslim, on theauthority of Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas, once the Holy Prophet (uponwhom be peace) was going to Visit the Fair of Ukaz with some of hisCompanions, On the way be led the Fajr Prayer at Nakhlah. At that timea company of the jinn happened to pass that way. When they heard theQuran being recited, they tarried and listened to it attentively. Thisvery event has been described in this Surah.

Most of the commentators,on the basis of this tradition, believe that this relates to the HolyProphet's well known journey to Taif, which had taken place threeyears before the Hijrah in the 10th year of the Prophethood. But thisis not correct for several reasons. The jinn's hearing the Qur'anduring the journey to Taif has been related in Al-Ahqaf 29-32. Acursory reading of those verses shows that the jinn who had believedafter hearing the Qur'an on that occasion were already believers inthe Prophet Moses and the previous scriptures. On the contrary, vv. 2-7 of this surah clearly show that the jinn who heard the Qur'an on thisoccasion were polytheists and deniers of the Hereafter and Prophethood.Then, it is confirmed historically that in his journey to Taif noneaccompanied the Holy Prophet except Hadrat Zaid bin Harithah. On thecontrary, concerning this journey Ibn Abbas says that the Holy Prophet(upon whom be peace) was accompanied by some of his Companions.Furthermore, the traditions also agree that in that journey the jinnheard the Qur'an when the Holy Prophet had stopped at Nakhlah on hisreturn journey from Taif to Makkah, and in this journey, according tothe traditions of Ibn Abbas, the event of the jinn's hearing theQur'an occurred when the Holy Prophet was going to Ukaz from Makkah.Therefore, in view of these reasons what seems to be correct is thatin Surah Al-Ahqaf and Surah Al Jinn, one and the same event has not beennarrated, but these were two separate events, which took place duringtwo separate journeys.

As far as Surah Al-Ahqaf is concerned, it isagreed that the event mentioned in it occurred on the return journeyfrom Taif in the 10th year of Prophethood. As for the question, whenthis second event took place, its answer is not given by the traditionof Ibn Abbas, nor any other historical tradition shows as to when theHoly Prophet had gone to the Fair of Ukaz along with some of hisCompanions. However, a little consideration of vv 8-10 of this surahshows that this could only be an event of the earliest stage ofProphethood. In these verses it has been stated that before theappointment of the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) to Divine Missionthe jinn used to have one or another opportunity to eavesdrop in theheavens in order to hear news of the unseen, but after it theysuddenly found that angels had been set as guards and meteorites werebeing shot on every side so that they could find no place of safetyfrom where they could hear the secret news. Thereupon they had setabout searching for the unusual thing that had occurred on the earth,or was going to occur, because of which the security measures had beentightened up. Probably since then many companies of the jinn must havebeen moving about in search of the unusual occurrence and one of themafter having heard the Qur'an from the Holy Prophet (upon whom bepeace) must have formed the opinion that that was the very thing forthe sake of which all the gates of the heavens had been shut againstthe jinn.

Reality of Jinn

Before one starts the study of this Surah one must clearly know what isthe reality of the jinn so as to avoid any possible mental confusion.Many people of the modern times are involved in the misunderstandingthat the jinn are not real, but only a figment of the ancientsuperstition and myths. They have not formed this opinion on the basisthat they have known all the realities and truths about the universeand have thus discovered that the jinn do not exist. They cannot claimto possess any such knowledge either. But they have assumed withoutreason and proof that nothing exists in the universe except what theycan see, whereas the sphere of human perceptions as against thevastness of this great universe is not even comparable to a drop ofwater as against the ocean. Here, the person who thinks that what hedoes not perceive, does not exist, and what exists must necessarily beperceived, in fact, provides a proof of the narrowness of his own mind.With this mode of thought, not to speak of the jinn, man cannot evenaccept and acknowledge any reality, which he cannot directlyexperience and observe, and he cannot even admit the existence of God,to say nothing of admitting any other unseen reality.

Those of theMuslims who have been influenced by modernism, but cannot deny theQur'an either, have given strange interpretations of the clearstatements of the Qur'an about the jinn, Iblis and Satan. They saythat this does not refer to any hidden creation, which may have itsown independent existence, but it sometimes implies man's own animalforces, which have been called Satan, and sometimes it implies savageand wild mountain tribes, and sometimes the people who used to listento the Qur'an secretly. But the statements of the Qur'an in thisregard are so clear and explicit that these interpretations bear norelevance to them whatever.

The Qur'an frequently mentions the jinnand the men in a manner as to indicate that they are two separatecreations. For this, see Al Araf: 38, Hind : 119, Ha Mim As-Sajdah:25,29, Ahqaf: 18, Adh Dhariyat: 56, and the entire surah Ar-Rahman,which bears such clear evidence as to leave no room to regard the jinnas a human species.

In Surah Al-Araf: 12, Al Hijr : 26-27 and Ar-Rahman: 14-19, it has been expressly stated that man was created out of clayand jinn out of fire.

In Surah Al Hijr: 27, it has been said that thejinn had been created before man. The same thing is testified by thestory of Adam and Iblis, which has been told at seven different placesin the Qur'an, and at every place it confirms that Iblis was alreadythere at the creation of man. Moreover, in surah Al-Kahf: 50, it hasbeen stated that Iblis belonged to the jinn.

In surah Al-Araf: 27, ithas been stated in clear words that the jinn see the human beings butthe human beings do not see them.

In surah Al-Hijr: 16-l8, surah As-Saaffat: 6-10 and surah Al-Mulk: 5, it has been said that although thejinn can ascend to the heavens, they cannot exceed a certain limit; ifthey try to ascend beyond that limit and try to hear what goes on inthe heavens, they are not allowed to do so, and if they try toeavesdrop they are driven away by meteorites. By this the belief ofthe polytheistic Arabs that the jinn possess the knowledge of theunseen, or have access to Divine secrets, has been refuted. The sameerror has a]so been refuted in Saba: 14.

Al-Baqarah: 30-34 and Al-Kahf: 50 show that Allah has entrusted man with the vicegerency of theearth and the men are superior to the jinn. Although the jinn alsohave been given certain extraordinary powers and abilities an exampleof which is found in An-Naml 39, yet the animals likewise have beengiven some powers greater than man, but these are no argument that theanimals are superior to man.

The Qur'an also explains that the jinn,like men, are a creation possessed of power and authority, and they,just like them, can choose between obedience and disobedience, faithand disbelief. This is confirmed by the story of Satan and the eventof the jinn affirming the faith as found in Surahs Al-Ahqaf and Al-Jinn.

At scores of places in the Qur'an, it has also been stated that Iblisat the very creation of Adam had resolved to misguide mankind, andsince then the Satanic jinn have been persistently trying to misleadman, but they do not have the power to overwhelm him and make him dosomething forcibly. However, they inspire him with evil suggestions,beguile him and make evil seem good to him. For this, see An-Nisa 117-120, Al-Araf: 11-17, Ibrahim: 22, Al-Hijr: 30-42, An-Nahl 98-100, BaniIsrail 61-65.

The Qur'an also tells us that in the pre Islamicignorance the polytheistic Arabs regarded the jinn as associates ofGod, worshiped them and thought they were descended from God. Forthis, see A1-An'am: 100, Saba : 40-41, As Saffat: 158.

From thesedetails, it becomes abundantly clear that the jinn have their ownobjective existence and are a concealed creation of an entirelydifferent species from man. Because of their mysterious qualities,ignorant people have formed exaggerated notions and concepts aboutthem and their powers, and have even worshiped them, but the Qur'anhas explained the whole truth about them, which shows what they areand what they are not.

Theme and Topics

In this Surah in vv. 1-15, it has been told what was the impact of theQur'an on the company of the jinn when they heard it and what theysaid to their fellow jinn when they returned to them. Allah, in thisconnection, has not cited their whole conversation but only thoseparticular things which were worthy of mention. That is why the styleis not that of a continuous speech but sentences have been cited so asto indicate that they said this and this. If one studies thesesentences spoken by the jinn carefully, one can easily understand thereal object of the narration of this event of their affirming thefaith and or mentioning this conversation of theirs with their peoplein the Qur'an. The explanations that we have given of their statements in our Notes will be of further help in understanding this object.

After this, in vv 16-l8, the people have beenadmonished to the effect:"If you refrain from polytheism and followthe way of righteousness firmly, you will be blessed; otherwise if youturn away from the admonition sent down by Allah, you will meet with asevere punishment." Then, in vv. 19-23, the disbelievers of Makkahhave been reproached, as if to say: When the Messenger of Allah callsyou towards Allah, you surround and mob him from every side, whereasthe only duty of the Messenger is to convey the messages of Allah. Hedoes not claim to have any power to bring any gain or cause any harmto the people." Then, in vv. 24-25 the disbelievers have been warnedto the effect: "Today you are trying to overpower and suppress theMessenger seeing that he is helpless and friendless, but a time willcome when you will know who in actual fact is helpless and friendless.Whether that time is yet far off, or near at hand, the Messenger hasno knowledge thereof, but it will come to pass in any case." Inconclusion, the people have been told: The Knower of the unseen isAllah alone. The Messenger receives only that knowledge which Allah ispleased to give him. This knowledge pertains to matters connected withthe performance of the duties of Prophethood and it is delivered tohim in such security which does not admit of any external interferencewhatever.

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