Territorial Significance of “Alladhi Barakna Hawlahu”
According to Muslim Commentaries of the Holy Quran
by Taysir Nashif*
Allah the Most Exalted says in the first ayah (verse) of Surat Al-Isra’ (Night Journey) or Bani Isra'il (Children of Israel):"Glory to [Allah] who did take His Servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth [all things]."(1)
Relying on various medieval and contemporary Muslim commentators on the Holy Qur’an, it will be shown in the following pages that by “Alladhi Barakna Hawlahu” (“the precincts whereof We have blessed” or “the neighborhood whereof We have blessed”), it is meant not only the immediate environ of Al-Msjid Al-Aqsa (the Farthest Mosque), but also the lands that stretch far beyond its immediate environ.
Both Al-Mawardi Al-Basri (d. 450 a.h.) and Al-Ansari Al-Qurtubi (d. 671 a.h.) interpret “Alladhi Barakna Hawlahu” to mean lands which stretch far beyond its immediate environ.(2) Both of these commentators stated that in that part of the verse, the blessing is with the fruits and rivercourses and with prophets and rigtheous people who have been buried around Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa.(3)
Ibn Kathir (d. 774 a.h.) wrote in his commentary on the Holy Qur’an that Allah’s blessing is with the existence of “plantations and fruits.”(4)
Hijazi, after stating that Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa is located in Ash-Sham, stated that the mosque’s neighborhood has been blessed with being a dwelling place for the prophets, and with the water, greenery, agriculture ans stock farming.(5)
Al-Alusi Al-Baghdadi (1802-54) wrote that the blessing of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa’s neighborhood is “with … its being a worshipping place for the prophets, peace be upon them, their direction to which they turn, and the abundance of rivers and trees around it.”(6) He added that it is blessed with Allah’s “having all the waters of the earth burst from beneath its Rock.”(7)
There have been dwelling and burial places for the prophets and righteous people, fruit-bearing lands, water, greenery, agriculture and stock farming both in the immediate and non-immediate territorial environs of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa. Of course, there is no reason to understand that part of the verse as relating only to those places, fruit-bearing lands, water, stock farming, etc., situated in the immediate environ of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa.
As there have been no rivers in the immediate neighborhood of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, then “the neighborhood whereof We have blessed,” where rivercourses do exist, according to the Muslim commentaries on the Holy Qur’an, must be located not in the immediate neighborhood of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa.
Al-Mawardi Al-Basri and Al-Ansari Al-Qurtubi stated also that Ma’adh Bin Jabal narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that “Allah the Most Exalted says: O Sham, of My land you are the choicest part, and to you I am dispatching the choicest part of My Servants.”(8)
The term Sham has included, throughout the Muslim history, Al-Quds Ash-Sharif. Sham means northern region, the north, Syria.(9) According to Al-Mu’jam Al-Wasit, Ash-Sham is the territory lying to the north-west of the Arabian peninsula.(10) There is an Arabic expression which reads “shaman wayamanan,” which means northward and southward. To a person in Al-Hijaz, Syria, including Palestine, which is lying to the north and north-west of Al-Hijaz, is Ash-Sham.
Al-Mawardi Al-Basri and Al-Ansari Al-Qurtubi mentioned this Prophetic Tradition in the context of the interpretation of the part of the Qur’anic verse, namely, “Alladhi Barakna Hawlahu.” The fact of mentioning this Tradition (Hadith) in this context suggests that Ash-Sham in their understanding is the land which is a part of the blessed neighborhood of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa.
Al-Alusi Al-Baghdadi stated that in the Prophetic Tradition, Allah the Most Exalted “Has blessed between Al-‘Arish and Euphrates and has endowed Palestine with holiness.”(11) Again, the fact that this Tradition was mentioned in the context of the interpretation of the part of the verse under consideration suggests that Al-Alusi Al-Baghdadi has understood the divinely blessed neighborhood of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa as stretching over all of Palestine, and further than that, namely, to the area lying between Egypt and Iraq.
It is very clear to Al-Hafidh Al-Suhayli, as cited in a footnote in Ibn Kathir’s interpretation of the Holy Qur’an, what is meant by “the neighborhood whereof We have blessed.” Al-Hafidh Al-Suhayli interpreted this part of the verse in a more explicit territorial terms, encompassing the lands of Syria. Al-Suhayli said that the meaning of what is lying around Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, which Allah the Most Exalted has blessed, is Ash-Sham, that Ash-Sham in Syriac means goodness, and that Ash-Sham was called with that name for its goodness and fertility.(12)
*This paper was presented at the Twentieth Annual Conference of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), October 1991, at Royce Hotel, Detroit, MI.
(1)The Holy Qur’an; Text, Translation and Commentary, by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (US: McGregor & Werner, 1946).
(2)Abu Al-Hasan ‘Ali Bin Habib Al-Mawardi Al-Basri, An-Nukat Wa-Al-‘Uyun (State of Kuwait: Ministry of Waqfs and Islamic Affairs, 1982), part II, p. 421; Abu ‘Abd-Allah Muhammad Bin Ahmad Al-Ansari Al-Qurtubi, Al-Jami’ Li-Ahkam Al-Qur’an, part x, p. 212.
(3)Al-Mawardi Al-Ansari, op. cit.; Al-Ansari Al-Qurtubi, op cit.
(4)Al-Hafidh ‘Imad Ad-Din Abu Al-Fida’ Isma’il Bin Kathir Ad-Dimashqi, Mukhtasar Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Beirut: Dar Al-Qur’an Al-Karim, 1402 a.h., 1981), 2nd vol., rev. 7th print., p. 354.
(5)Muhammad Mahmud Hijazi, At-Tafsir Al-Wadih (Cairo: Matba’at Al-Istiqlal Al-Kubra, 1392 a.h., 1972), part xv, 5th print., p. 4.
(6)Abu Al-Fadl Shihab Ad-Din Mahmud Al-Alusi Al-Baghdadi, Ruh Al-Ma’ani Fi Tafsir Al-Qur’an Al-‘Adhim Wa-Al-Sab’ Al-Mathani (Beirut: Dar ‘Ihya’ At-Turath Al-‘Arabi), part xv, p. 11.
(8)Al-Mawardi Al-Basri, op. cit.; Al-Ansari Al-Qurtubi, op cit.
(9)See, for example, Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966), p. 449.
(10)Majma’ Al-Lughah Al-‘Arabiyya, Al-Mu’jam Al-Wasit (Cairo: Dar Al-Ma’arif, 1972), part I, p. 469, 2nd print.
(11)Al-Alusi Al-Baghdadi, op. cit., p. 11.
(12)See footnote in Ibn Kathir, op. cit., p. 354.
(13)Muhammad ‘Ali As-Sabuni, Safwat At-Tafasir (Beirut: Dar Al-Qur’an Al-Karim, 1402 a.h., 1981), rev., 4th print., vol. II, p. 151.
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