Mecca – A Plantless Valley

The following verse informs us that Mecca since the time of it’s founding by Abraham has been a plantless valley.

[14:37] “Our Lord, I have settled part of my family in this plantless valley, at Your Sacred House. Our Lord, they are to observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), so let throngs of people converge upon them, and provide for them all kinds of fruits, that they may be appreciative.

 رَبَّنَا إِنِّي أَسْكَنْتُ مِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِنْدَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ فَاجْعَلْ أَفْئِدَةً مِنَ النَّاسِ تَهْوِي إِلَيْهِمْ وَارْزُقْهُمْ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْكُرُونَ

Some people claim that the expression غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ just means that Mecca was without cultivation, but not that it was plantless or non-cultivatable. But does this claim have any standing?

If we look at the word by word breakdown we see the following:

رَبَّنَا“Our Lord!rabbanā
إِنِّيIndeed, Iinnī
أَسْكَنْتُ[I] have settledaskantu
مِنْfrommin
ذُرِّيَّتِيmy children / progeny (family)dhurriyyatī
بِوَادٍin a valleybiwādin
غَيْرِnot*ghayri
ذِيpossessing*dhī
زَرْعٍcrops / plants (*plantless / non-cultivable)zarʿin
عِنْدَatʿinda
بَيْتِكَYour Housebaytika
الْمُحَرَّمِthe Sacredl-muḥarami

What we see is that the word cultivation is not even in the verse. Instead the word by word analysis shows us that the expression is “not possessing crops/plants”. The word that is used for plants is زَرْعٍ this word comes from the root ز ر ع and means crops and plants, but a deeper look gives more insight into this word.

This root occurs fourteen times in the Quran (6:141, 12:47, 13:4, 14:37, 16:11, 18:32, 26:148, 32:27, 39:27, 39:21, 44:26, twice in 48:29, and twice in 56:64). Analyzing the verses that this root is used we come to understand that this word is typically used in the early stages of a plant as a seedling, and never in the terms of harvest. 12:47, 48:29.

Secondly we see that this verse is used for both crops that are planted intentionally by men, and also when they grow organically on their own without human intervention. See: 6:141, 12:47, 13:4, 16:11, 18:32, 32:27, 39:21.

In contrast when the Arabic word حَرْثَ is used it is used exclusively for crops harvested intentionally by men. See 2:71, 2:205, 3:14, 3:117, 6:136, 6:138, 56:63, 68:22. This is the reason I believe 42:20 uses this same root in context to the rewards of the Hereafter, as this is based on the efforts we do in this world.

Because of this 14:37 is informing us that Mecca did not posses plants/crops either planted by men or done organically without human intervention. Therefore it was a plantless valley, and one that could not be cultivated.

Salat – Word by Word

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Bismillaahi Rahmaani Raheem
In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
Alhamdu lillaahi Rabbil ‘aalameen
Praise be to GOD, Lord of the universe.
الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Ar-Rahmaani-Raheem
Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
Maaliki Yawmid-Deen
Master of the Day of Judgment.
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
Iyyaaka na’budu wa lyyaaka nasta’een
You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help.
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
Ihdinas-Siraatal-Mustaqeem
Guide us in the right path;
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ
Siraatal-ladheena an’amta ‘alaihim
the path of those whom You blessed;
غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ
Ghayril-maghdoobi ‘alaihim wa lad-daaalleen
not of those who have deserved wrath, nor of the strayers.

[95:4] We created man in the best design.

There is no question that everything God does is perfect, including everything that God physically designs. In the following verse we see that God created the human being in the best design, but is this verse in reference to the physical design or the spiritual design?

[95:4] We created man in the best design.

If we investigate the Arabic of 95:4 it states:

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ

If we break this down word by word it would translate as the following:

لَقَدْ = Indeed
خَلَقْنَا = we created
الْإِنْسَانَ = the human being
فِي = in 
أَحْسَنِ = best
تَقْوِيمٍ = ??

The word تَقْوِيمٍ comes from the root ق و م which means to be upright both physically or spiritually. It is also used as a term to address a community of people “الْقَوْمَ”, like the people of Lot, or to observe “أَقِيمُوا” Salat, or as in the straight “الْمُسْتَقِيمَ” path. 

From this context, I believe that 95:6 is indicating that God created the human being in the best design, as in our spiritual design, much like an upright citizen. The word  تَقْوِيمٍ could be understood to mean that God created the human being in the best model as in a model employee as opposed to a physical model. This would correspond better with the understanding of the word تَقْوِيمٍ.

When we read the following verses it provides a little more clarity to the meaning of this verse, and specifically this word. 

[95:5] Then turned him into the lowliest of the lowly. [95:6] Except those who believe and lead a righteous life; they receive a reward that is well deserved.

If 95:4 was in regards to the physical form of the human being then it would not appear to corroborate with the following verses, as it would not make sense that God created the human being in the best physical design but then turned him into the lowliest of the lowly, except for those who are righteous. If this was the understanding then the design of the physical human being would be completely exclusive from turning int the lowliest of the lowly. But instead if we understand to mean our spiritual design it makes more sense.

The 95:5-6 are informing us that we were created as a model citizen in the heavenly society, but when we fell by disobeying God, we became among the lowest of the low, except for those who redeem themselves by leading a righteous life. 

We see this exact occurrence in the history of Adam. First, God created Adam with certain qualities that even the angels did not possess.  

[2:31] He taught Adam all the names then presented them to the angels, saying, “Give Me the names of these, if you are right.” [2:32] They said, “Be You glorified, we have no knowledge, except that which You have taught us. You are the Omniscient, Most Wise.” [2:33] He said, “O Adam, tell them their names.” When he told them their names, He said, “Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of the heavens and the earth? I know what you declare, and what you conceal.” [2:34] When we said to the angels, “Fall prostrate before Adam,” they fell prostrate, except Satan; he refused, was too arrogant, and a disbeliever. [2:35] We said, “O Adam, live with your wife in Paradise, and eat therefrom generously, as you please, but do not approach this tree, lest you sin.”

But then, despite these qualities, Adam was duped by the devil and fell from paradise to this world. Interesting to note, that the word for “world” in Arabic “الدُّنْيَا” also means “the lowest” see 37:6

[2:36] But the devil duped them, and caused their eviction therefrom. We said, “Go down as enemies of one another. On Earth shall be your habitation and provision for awhile. 

Finally, Adam received words from his Lord whereby he was redeemed back to God’s kingdom. 

[2:37] Then, Adam received from his Lord words, whereby He redeemed him. He is the Redeemer, Most Merciful.

From this analysis, if we now look at 95:4-6 under the context of a spiritual design the verses tie together much better, than if we understood this as a physical design.

[95:4] We created man in the best design. [95:5] Then turned him into the lowliest of the lowly. [95:6] Except those who believe and lead a righteous life; they receive a reward that is well deserved.

Is 91:15 addressing God or the human being?

When we look at most translations of 91:15, most all translations address the verse towards God.

Clear Quran:
[91:15] And He does not fear its sequel.

Yusuf Ali:
[91:15] And for Him is no fear of its consequences.

Pickthal:
[91:15] He dreadeth not the sequel (of events).

Shakir:
[91:15] And He fears not its consequence.

Sher Ali:
[91:15] And HE cared not for the consequences thereof.

But when we look a the translation from Rashad Khalifa we see the following:

Khalifa:
[91:15] Yet, those who came after them remain heedless.

So why is it that Rashad’s translation is so different from the others?

To understand this let’s look at the Arabic. The Arabic for 91:15 is:

وَلَا يَخَافُ عُقْبَاهَا

To break this down word by word would be the following:

وَلَا = and not
يَخَافُ = he/He fears
عُقْبَاهَا = its consequences

So is the “he” in reference to God or to the people? If we interpret that the “He” is in reference to God, then it is indicating that God does not fear the consequences. This appears to be kind of a strange statement if that was the case. Why would the Almighty, All-Powerful fear anything, let alone have fear of consequences?

Additionally, consequences typically have a bad connotation as if it is the outcome of doing something potentially wrong. None of this should ever apply to God. Nevertheless, it could be loosely interpreted that this verse just means that God does what He wants. Fair enough.

But does that interpretation have better standing than the alternative? If we associate the “he” as in the human being, the statement makes much more sense. This is particularly true based on the context of the previous verses.

When we look at the previous verses it is discussing the people of Thamud who slaughtered the camel and therefore were annihilated. Yet despite this warning, most people do not fear the consequences of their own actions. Instead most people continue to go down the path of destruction despite the examples from previous generations laid out for us by God in the Quran.

[86:7] From between the spine and the viscera

Many adversaries of the Quran criticize the scientific merit of the following verses.

[86:5] Let the human reflect on his creation. [86:6] He was created from ejected liquid. [86:7] From between the spine and the viscera.

Their argument against these verses is that the semen does not originate between the spine and the viscera, therefore this verse is scientifically false. But the error is not in the verse, but in their understanding. 

The word that the Quran uses for semen is نُطْفَةٍ. This word is typically translated as “semen” or “tiny drop”. See 18:37, 22:5, 23:13, 35:11, 36:77, 40:67, 53:46, 80:19.

[16:4] He created the human from a tiny drop, then he turns into an ardent opponent.

خَلَقَ الْإِنْسَانَ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ فَإِذَا هُوَ خَصِيمٌ مُبِينٌ

The other word that is used for semen is مَنِيٍّ

[75:37] Was he not a drop of ejected semen?

أَلَمْ يَكُ نُطْفَةً مِنْ مَنِيٍّ يُمْنَىٰ

But 86:6 does not use either the word نُطْفَةٍ or مَنِيٍّ. Instead, it uses the word مَاءٍ which means water or liquid. You will see this word used in the context of reproduction in the following verse as well:

[32:8] Then He continued his reproduction through a certain lowly liquid.

ثُمَّ جَعَلَ نَسْلَهُ مِنْ سُلَالَةٍ مِنْ مَاءٍ مَهِينٍ

But there is one other word that is used that will help clarify this matter for us, that can be found in 76:2.

[76:2] We created the human from a liquid mixture, from two parents, in order to test him. Thus, we made him a hearer and a seer.

إِنَّا خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ أَمْشَاجٍ نَبْتَلِيهِ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرًا

The Arabic uses the term نُطْفَةٍ which means tiny drop or semen, followed by the word أَمْشَاجٍ which means mixture. This makes sense as obviously a human is not created from just semen alone, but the mixture of semen plus the contents inside a women. This is further reinforced when it clarifies that the mixture is “from two parents.”

Therefore, when the term مَاءٍ (liquid / water) is used in the Quran, in the context of reproduction, it is understood to be from inside a women. This makes sense as the amniotic fluid that holds the developing child is also commonly called water, even in English. This expression is used when the amniotic sac bursts before delivery and we say that “her water broke.”

Additionally, if we read the Arabic of 86:6 it states:

خُلِقَ مِنْ مَاءٍ دَافِقٍ

The term دَافِقٍ means to pour forth or to pour out and is typically used for water or contents.

Therefore 86:6-7 is not in reference to semen, but it is identifying that a human is created between the spine and the viscera of a woman during pregnancy. And the human comes to this world through liquid poured out from the amniotic fluid. Now that this is clarified, I think a person would be hard-pressed to object to such a fact, even if that person is a disbeliever.

Two Male Witnesses

The Quran provides several verses detailing the proper procedure for executing a contract. These occurrences emphasize the importance of having the contract written down and for it to be witnessed. In only one single example, in Sura 2 verse 282, does the Quran set a requirement for the sex of the witnesses. This verse indicates that in the case of a loan there needs to be two men who serve as witnesses, and if not two men, then a man and two women.

[2:282] O you who believe, when you transact a loan for any period, you shall write it down. An impartial scribe shall do the writing. No scribe shall refuse to perform this service, according to GOD‘s teachings. He shall write, while the debtor dictates the terms. He shall observe GOD his Lord and never cheat. If the debtor is mentally incapable, or helpless, or cannot dictate, his guardian shall dictate equitably. Two men shall serve as witnesses; if not two men, then a man and two women whose testimony is acceptable to all.* Thus, if one woman becomes biased, the other will remind her. It is the obligation of the witnesses to testify when called upon to do so. Do not tire of writing the details, no matter how long, including the time of repayment. This is equitable in the sight of GOD, assures better witnessing, and eliminates any doubts you may have. Business transactions that you execute on the spot, need not be recorded, but have them witnessed. No scribe or witness shall be harmed on account of his services. If you harm them, it would be wickedness on your part. You shall observe GOD, and GOD will teach you. GOD is Omniscient.

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنْتُمْ بِدَيْنٍ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ وَلْيَكْتُبْ بَيْنَكُمْ كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ وَلَا يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَنْ يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللَّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ وَلْيُمْلِلِ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللَّهَ رَبَّهُ وَلَا يَبْخَسْ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا فَإِنْ كَانَ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ سَفِيهًا أَوْ ضَعِيفًا أَوْ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُ أَنْ يُمِلَّ هُوَ فَلْيُمْلِلْ وَلِيُّهُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَاسْتَشْهِدُوا شَهِيدَيْنِ مِنْ رِجَالِكُمْ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّنْ تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَاءِ أَنْ تَضِلَّ إِحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الْأُخْرَىٰ وَلَا يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَاءُ إِذَا مَا دُعُوا وَلَا تَسْأَمُوا أَنْ تَكْتُبُوهُ صَغِيرًا أَوْ كَبِيرًا إِلَى أَجَلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَأَقْوَمُ لِلشَّهَادَةِ وَأَدْنَى أَلَّا تَرْتَابُوا إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً حَاضِرَةً تُدِيرُونَهَا بَيْنَكُمْ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَلَّا تَكْتُبُوهَا وَأَشْهِدُوا إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ وَلَا يُضَارَّ كَاتِبٌ وَلَا شَهِيدٌ وَإِنْ تَفْعَلُوا فَإِنَّهُ فُسُوقٌ بِكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّهُ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

In the footnote by the translation of the Quran by Rashad Khalifa, we read the following footnote about this criteria:

*2:282 Financial transactions are the ONLY situations where two women may substitute for one man as witness. This is to guard against the real possibility that one witness may marry the other witness, and thus cause her to be biased. It is a recognized fact that women are more emotionally vulnerable than men.

When we look at the Arabic we see that the verse clearly states the sex of the witnesses accordingly. You will not see this occur for any other verse in the context of witnesses.

Yet, when we look at other translations we see that they translate other scenarios where witnessing is required to be exclusively for men. For example in Sura 65 verse 2 we see that according to the Sahih International translation it specifies the sex of the witnesses for the divorce process.

Interestingly, when we look at the Arabic we see that the word “men” doesn’t even occur in the verse:

فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَأَمْسِكُوهُنَّ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ فَارِقُوهُنَّ بِمَعْرُوفٍ وَأَشْهِدُوا ذَوَيْ عَدْلٍ مِنْكُمْ وَأَقِيمُوا الشَّهَادَةَ لِلَّهِ ذَٰلِكُمْ يُوعَظُ بِهِ مَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مَخْرَجًا

So how are they coming up with this interpretation? When we look at Corpus Quran word by word translation they translate the ذَوَيْ as “two men.”

Another example can be seen in the Sahih International translation of Sura 5 verse 95, where again they specify that the sex of the witnesses for determining the payment for killing game animals during Hajj should be men.

And here is the word by word translation from Quran Corpus for 5:95.

Or if we look at Sura 5 verse 106 we see the following translation from Sahih International for witnessing a will, and again we see that they specify that the witnesses should be men.

And once again, if we look at the word by word translation from Quran Corpus for 5:106 we see the following:

So how do we reconcile this?

Translating ذَوَيْ or ذَوَا as “two men” as used in 65:2, 5:95, and 5:106 is a complete distortion of the translation. The word ذَوَيْ does not mean men. The word for men in Arabic is رِجَالِ as we see used in 2:282. The word men ” رِجَالِ” doesn’t even occur in any of these specified verses.

The word ذَا or ذُو is most commonly used in the Quran to mean “of” or “possessor of”. ذَوَيْ or ذَوَا is the dual form of this word. Therefore, the proper translation of ذَوَيْ or ذَوَا would be as either “two possessors” or just plain “of two”.

While the word ذَوَيْ is in the dual masculine, we see that throughout the Quran the masculine form of words is used as typically to apply to both for the men and as the neutral, while the feminine form is used exclusively for women. Therefore, If the witnesses in 5:95, 5:106 or 65:2 were required to be exclusively men, then the sex of the witnesses would be stated in the verse as is done in 2:282. Instead what these translations attempt to do is insinuate that because it uses the masculine form for the word “of” that the witnesses must be men. Doing this forms an incorrect translation.