Tafsir of Surah Al-Nahl

Q: A debate has been held on the explanation of the following Ayah (meanings of which are translated as): So ask the people of the Scripture, if you do not know. Some people believe that this Ayah is general and applicable to both religious and worldly affairs, while others believe that it only applies to religious affairs; the obligatory and supererogatory affairs of religion.Could you please explain this matter? May Allah reward you the best.

A: Dhikr can refer to the Qur’an, as in Allah’s saying: Verily, We, it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’ân) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption). Allah (Exalted be He) also says: And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم) the Dhikr [reminder and the advice (i.e. the Qur’ân)], that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them Dhikr also refers to Al-Lawh-ul-Mahfuzh (the Preserved Tablet) as in the following Ayah: And indeed We have written in Az-Zabûr [i.e. all the revealed Holy Books - the Taurât (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel), the Psalms, the Qur’ân,] after (We have already written in) Al-Lauh Al-Mahfûz (the Book that is in the heaven with Allâh), that My righteous slaves shall inherit the land (i.e. the land of Paradise). Al-Zabur refers to the Divine Books, while Dhikr refers to Al-Lawh-ul-Mahfuzh. Thus, in the Divinely Ordained Law and Destiny it is decreed that the righteous people will be victorious in this world and in the Hereafter. They will enjoy happiness in this worldly life and be admitted into Jannah (Paradise) in the Hereafter. (Part No. 4; Page No. 243) Furthermore, Dhikr can refer to honor and sublimity, people’s remembrance of their Lord and Allah’s remembrance of them, in addition to other meanings that become manifest to whoever recites the Ayahs of the Qur’an and studies the Arabic language. As for Allah’s saying: And We sent not (as Our Messengers) before you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم) any but men, whom We sent revelation, (to preach and invite mankind to believe in the Oneness of Allâh). So ask the people of the Reminder, if you do not know. With clear signs and Books (We sent the Messengers). And His Saying: And We sent not before you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) but men to whom We revealed. So ask the people of the Reminder, if you do not know. And We did not create them (the Messengers, with) bodies that ate not food, nor were they immortals. Then We fulfilled to them the promise. So We saved them and those whom We willed, but We destroyed Al-Musrifûn (i.e. disbelievers in Allah, in His Messengers, extravagants, transgressors of Allâh’s limits by committing crimes, oppressions, polytheism and sins). The Dhikr mentioned in both these Ayahs refers to the Sacred Books that were revealed to the Messengers preceding Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).Thus, those who know the Dhikr or the people of the Dhikr (the People of Scripture, Reminder) denote the people to whose messengers Sacred Books were revealed, such as the Jews and the Christians. Those who are ordered to ask them are the Mushriks (those who associate others with Allah in His Divinity or worship) from among the Ummah (nation) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who denied the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) merely because he was a human being, for they believed that the Messengers should be from among the angels only. The Jews and Christians who knew the Scriptures should clarify to them the fact that the messengers who preceded the Prophet (peace be upon him) were all human beings; not angels. Although these two Ayahs were revealed concerning the Mushriks who were ordered to ask the people of the earlier Divine Books about their messengers to know that they were also humans, the order is also addressed to any person who does not know something that maybe of benefit to them. (Part No. 4; Page No. 244) That person should ask the people who have knowledge about what they do not know. This will definitely benefit them and raise their status with regard to their religion and worldly life. Hence, one should ask about the religious affairs first, then their worldly needs, which are related to religion. Any Mukallaf (person meeting the conditions to be held legally accountable for their actions) is commanded to work for the benefit of their religion and worldly life.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.