3. Wujūh and Naz.ā’ir in the Qur’ān (cont.)
In the previous issue, the significance of the wujūh (homonyms) and the naz.ā’ir (synonyms) in studying the Qur’ān has been mentioned. In this issue we shall treat the wujūh or simply the meanings of the term d.alāl (which basically means “straying”) according to the understandings of scholars.
The term d.alāl and its derivatives are mentioned 191 times in the Qur’ān according to Muhammad Fu’ād ‘Abd al-Bāqī in his Qur’ānic concordance, al-Mu’jam al-Mufahras li-Alfāz. al-Qur’ān al-Karīm. The homonyms or meanings of this term are as follows:
( الضَّلاَل, straying)
Among the meanings of d.alāl in the Qur’ān are as follows:
a. Al-Istizlāl fi al-H…ukm
(الإسْتِزْلاَلُ فِي الْحُكْم, giving a wrong judgement),
as in the verse:
وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكَ وَرَحْمَتُهُ لَهَمَّتْ طَائِفَةٌ مِنْهُمْ أَنْ يُضِلُّوكَ وَمَا يُضِلُّونَ إِلَّا أَنْفُسَهُمْ
(النِّسَاء ٤ :١١٣)
“… But for the grace of Allah upon thee
(Muhammad), and His mercy, a party of them had
resolved to mislead thee [ أَنْ يُضِلُّوْكَ, namely, to
lead you making a wrong judgement], but
they will mislead only themselves.”
The verses 105 and 113 and probably also 111 and 112 were revealed in the case of T.u‘mah ibn Ubayriq among the ans.ār who stole a coat-of-arms from his neighbour called Qatādah ibn al-Nu‘mān, and hid it with a Jew called Zayd ibn al-Samīn. The coat-of-arms was in a bag containing flour which dropped on the way when the coat-of-arms was stolen. Its owner traced the flour which led him to T.u‘mah’s house. Since T.u‘mah denied his stealing of it, its owner kept tracing the flour until it led him to the house of the Jew. The Jew, supported by some of his Jewish colleagues, told him that it was given to him by T.u‘mah.
Some people among T.u‘mah’s clan came to the Prophet to save him and unjustly threw the blame on the Jew, so that the Prophet would give a judgement which would not only be wrong but also disgraceful. By the grace of Allah this did not happen, as Allah revealed their scheme to the Prophet1.
b. Al-Nisyān (النِّسْيَان, forgetfulness), as in the verse:
فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّنْ تَرْضَوْنَ
مِنَ الشُّهَدَاءِ أَنْ تَضِلَّ إِحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الْأُخْرَى
(الْبَقَرَة ٢ :٢٨٢)
“And if two men be not (at hand) then a man and
two women, of such as ye approve as witnesses, so that if
the one erreth (an tad.illa ih.dāhumā) (through
forgetfulness) the other will remember.”
In other words, the verse means that if one of the two women forgets, the other will remind her. This is not a humiliation to women; on the contrary, it is a relief and protection for them.
Women, as mothers, are so highly esteemed that the Prophet said:
“Heaven lies under the feet of mothers.”
They do not have to become witnesses if they are alone, unless supported by another woman. There is harassment in going back and forth to court, risk and even a danger in being a witness, especially where crimes are involved. Even a man sometimes refuse to be a witness in this kind of situation and pretends not to have seen or heard what has happened. It is, then, for the protection of women, according to Islamic law, a woman can be a witness only if at least another woman is available to be a witness, so that they can support and remind each other.
Women in general are not interested and too sensitive witnessing to horrible incidents, cruel behaviours or brutality, and it is easy for them to forget something they are sensitive about and not interested in, let alone the details of it.
c. Al-Halakah (الْهَلَكَة, annihilation),
as in the expression يَضِلُّ الْمَاءُ فِي اللَّبَن (yad.illu al-mā’u fī ’l-laban), meaning,
“the water perishes (namely, permeates) in the milk.”
It reminds us of the practice of cheating in the past where milk was mixed with water to increase its quantity. This example does not say that milk permeates in water. However, when we drink tea with milk, it is the milk which we pour into the tea that permeates.
The example in the Qur’ān is as follows:
وَقَالُوا أَئِذَا ضَلَلْنَا فِي الْأَرْضِ أَئِنَّا لَفِي خَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ
(السَّجْدَة ٣٢ :١٠)
“And they say: when we are lost (a’idhā d.alalnā)
in the earth, how can we then be re-created?”
Instead of “when we are lost in the earth” as translated by Pickthall, the verse means, “when we became annihilated and became united with the earth”.
d. Al-Khat.a’ (الْخَطَأ, error),
as in the verse:
فَلَمَّا رَأَوْهَا قَالُوا إِنَّا لَضَالُّونَ
(الْقَلَم ٦٨ :٢٦)
“But when they saw it, they said: Lo! we are in error .”
This verse says about people who did not want to give charity to the poor. They wanted to harvest their crops early in the morning and return home before the poor came for charity. They were wrong in their intention, and Allah wanted to teach them a lesson. When they came to their fields, their crops had been destroyed. They regretted their bad intention.
e. Al-Jahl ( الْجَهْل, ignorance),
as in the following statement of Prophet Moses (a.s.) to the Pharaoh:
قَالَ فَعَلْتُهَا إِذًا وَأَنَا مِنَ الضَّالِّينَ
“I committed it while I was still ignorant”
This is the interpretation of Mujāhid, one of the great commentators among the tābi’īn. Here Prophet Moses (a.s.) was referring to what he had committed before he became a prophet, such as the killing of the Egyptian.
f. Al-Khusrān (الْخُسْرَان, loss),
إِنِّي إِذًا لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ
(يس ٣٦ :٢٤)
“And so, behold, I would have indeed, most obviously, been a loser!”
This verse is referring to a former idol worshipper who said that if he were still to worship idols which would not be able to help or save him from any disaster, he would certainly become a loser. Some commentators (Ibn ‘Abbās, Mujāhid and Muqātil) said that this person was a carpenter, and his name was H.abīb bin Israel. He was killed by his people for believing in messengers sent by Allah. The names of these messengers were unknown.
قُلْ هَلْ نُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِالْأَخْسَرِينَ أَعْمَالًا. الَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ
الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْع
(الْكَهْف ١٨: ١٠٣-١٠٤)
“Say: Shall We inform you who will be
the greatest losers by their works? Those whose effort
goeth astray (namely, void) in the life of the world, and
yet they reckon that they do good work.”
The verse is referring to disbelievers among the Meccans who made a jest of Allah’s revelations and messengers. However, those who commit similar mistakes would fall into the same category of people with the same consequence:
the greatest fruitlessnes and voiding of their good works from merit.
We have seen here some examples of the various meanings of d.alāl in the Qur’ān. However, the examples of the basic meaning of d.alāl which is the opposite of hudan (guidance) in the Qur’ān are not given here as they are easily recognised.
Ref: 1. Al-Wāh.idī, Asbāb al-Nuzūl, Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, n d., p. 103.