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Islamic Ideology (16 May 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Who All Are ‘Ahle Zikr’ In the Qur’an? – A Textual Analysis of Qur’anic Passage 16:43-44 to Get a Clear Answer

By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam

(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)

May 16, 2017

This article is prompted by a report appearing in the just published article [1] that some Muslim Ulema cite the verse 16:43 in the following rendition and claim themselves to be the Ahl e Zikr or people of knowledge in religious matters.

“We sent only men as Messengers towards whom We sent Our Revelations. So if you yourselves do not know (anything), then ask the Ahle Zikr—people of knowledge or remembrance” (16:43)

Like an earlier claim that the Qur’an endorses instant triple Talaq [2] this claim also grossly misrepresents the Qur’anic message. The claim rests on specious mistranslation of the quoted verse as spotted below:

i.       The opening part of the verse “We sent only men as Messengers” is rendered addressee-neutral to give the verse a universal character – though the verse is addressed to Prophet Muhammad.

ii.      The expression ‘Ahle Zikr’ is translated as “people of knowledge or remembrance” -

Though it denotes the Christians and Jews who were supposed to remember the revelations that were granted to their Prophets

The subtle points noted above can be established by the following textual analysis of the verse 16:43 and its literal translation, beginning with quotation of the original Arabic script that reads:


Transliteration with literal translation:

Wa ma[And not]arsalnaka [we have sent to thee]min Qablika [before thee]illa rijalan [except men] nuhiya ilaihim [we inspired in or revealed unto them] fas alu [so ask] ahl az Zikr [people of the ‘Remembrance’ (who remember past revelation) ] inkuntm la ta‘lamun [if you do not know]

The literal translation following English grammatical rules will read:

And we have not sent before you [O Muhammad], except men to whom we inspired; so ask people of the ‘Remembrance’ (who remember the divine message) if you do not know.

The above rendition is fully consistent with those of the renowned Qur’anic translators that one can readily verify – three standard translations furnished below.

“And before thee also the messengers We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: if ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message.” – Yusuf Ali

“And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired - Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not!”– Marmaduke Pickthall

“And We sent not (as Our Messengers) before you (O Muhammad SAW) any but men, whom We inspired, (to preach and invite mankind to believe in the Oneness of Allah). So ask of those who know the Scripture [learned men of the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)], if you know not.” – Mohsin Khan

It is clear from these translations that i) the verse was addressed to the Prophet Muhammad and ii) the expression Ahl e Zikr denoted the learned among the Christians and Jews of the  of the Prophet’s era who were supposed to have remembered their scriptures.

The above interpretation of Zikr as revelation is reinforced in the verse 16:44 that immediately succeeds 16:43, renditions given below:

“(We sent them) with Clear Signs and Books of dark prophecies; and We have sent down unto thee (also) the Message (Zikr); that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought” – Yusuf Ali

“With clear proofs and writings; and We have revealed unto thee the Remembrance (Zikr) that thou may explain to mankind that which hath been revealed for them, and that haply they may reflect.” – Marmaduke Pickthall

“With clear signs and Books (We sent the Messengers). And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad SAW) the reminder (Zikr) and the advice (the Quran), that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.” – Mohsin Khan.

Conclusion: The above textual analysis of the verse, individually, as well as in conjunction with its immediately succeeding and qualifying verse 16:44 leaves no doubt that the verse was addressed to the Prophet, the word Zikr denotes the previous revelations, and the expression Ahl e Zikr denotes the learned Christians and Jews of the Prophet’s era who were expected to remember the message of the earlier revelations. If some Muslim Ulema arrogate the pronouncement of 16:43 to themselves to support the deeply misogynistic custom of triple Talaq, this writer is compelled to say, God witnessing, that the  obsessive misogyny and unmitigated disregard of the misery of instantly divorced poor Muslim women has put a blinker on their mind’s eye against what is clearly written in the Qur’an (about time-framing of divorce as well as in the verse 16:43), or has turned their spiritual bearing upside down that they are telling lie upon lie about the Qur’an to defend the triple Talaq – God knows best.

As this article is the author’s fifth reminder to the Indian Muslim Ulema on the unlawfulness of triple Talaq, he is compelled to speculate on the reason for the concerned Muslim Ulema’s deafening silence on the issue. His previous articles on the subject are referenced below.

Triple Talaq Controversy: Male Chauvinist Indian Ulema Are Subverting Islam to Mislead the Supreme Court


2.       Supreme Court's Question Is Relevant: How Come A Pre-Islamic Arabian Custom Is Fundamental To Islam In India?


The Author’s Previous Articles On the Subject Dating From Jan. 2012:

-        Qur’anic Sharia (Laws) On Divorce: Triple Divorce, Temporary Marriage, Halala Stand Forbidden (Haram)


-        The Medieval-Era-Rooted, Qur’an-Conflicting Muslim Personal Law (Sharia Law) Must Be Reformed To Avoid Injustices to Muslim Women – An SOS to the Indian Ulema Fraternity


-        Indian Muslim Ulema Who Insist On Retaining the Anti-Qur’anic Triple Talaq (Instant Divorce) In Muslim Personal Law Are Sinners, Haters of Their Women-Folk and Criminals and Must Be Resisted


Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-ideology/muhammad-yunus,-new-age-islam/who-all-are-‘ahle-zikr’-in-the-qur’an?-–-a-textual-analysis-of-qur’anic-passage-16-43-44-to-get-a-clear-answer/d/111165

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  • So...Br Naseer. Can you identify Ahle Zikr among the Muslims of today? 

    Please don't present sectarian ulema as example as they were not those who were given scriptures before the Quran:

    16:43 We did not send any except men/walkers before you whom We inspired, so ask the people who received the Reminder if you do not know.

    16:44 With proof and the scriptures. We sent down to you the Reminder to proclaim to the people what was sent to them, and perhaps they would think

    By Mubashir - 5/20/2017 6:35:28 AM

  • The idea that there are no Ahle-Zikr among the Muslims but there are Ahle-Zikr among the people of the Book is preposterous.

    You may not like to use this expression for a particular person or body of persons, but to say that the Ahle-Zikr just do no exist among the Muslims is ridiculous.

    So who are the Ahle-Zikr who should represent the Muslims? And where are they hiding? Why don't they come forward and assume the position of leadership?

    By Naseer Ahmed - 5/17/2017 11:32:48 PM

  • Hope our Ulema take heed and…”

    Arabic words like A’lim, Ulema etc applied to ‘these people’ is a misnomer and a mockery of true scholar(s), knowledgeable and enlightened human beings who contribute to the wellbeing and advancement of society.

    Those in the know should desist from compounding the felony of applying such titles and should only refer to them as clergy and priests, thus strictly confining them to their religious profession, which is what it is.

    The illiterate simpletons in their ignorance are confused and misled to believe that the recipients of these Arabic titles are holy and therefore they place them—the A’lim and Ulema --on the pedestal!

    By Rashid Samnakay - 5/17/2017 3:57:30 AM

  • Why would the Quran speak of the Ahle Zikr among the followers of the last Prophet of Islam who should be consulted when the Prophet was still around to provide guidance? The question of consulting the Ahle-Zikr arises only in the absence of the Prophet.

    It does however speak of the Ahle-Zikr among the people of the Book because their prophet(s) were not around.

    Who are the ahle-zikr among the Muslims today? The question needs to be answered as otherwise we face a situation of anarchy. The best solution therefore, is to leave the people the choice of who they wish to follow but provide options to choose from rather than thrust any single solution on them.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 5/16/2017 11:39:20 PM

  • A very necessary correction, Yunus Saheb. Thank you. Hope our Ulema take heed and do not arrogate to themselves the position thay was not given to them.  The institution of Ulema was encouraged by un-Islamic rulers who  created a dynastical monarchy in the name of Khilafat following the massacre of Prophet's  beloved family members. They had to rule a Muslim people who could recite and understand the Arabic Quran. So they created and encouraged institutions like Hadith and Ulema to distance Muslims from Quran. It's Muslims understood this background and put ulema in their rightful place. 
    Thanks again Yunus Saheb for exposing another lie. 

    By Sultan Shahin - 5/16/2017 10:01:52 PM

  • Temptation to mis-translate can  be easily corrected by the simple application of common sense. Why do our ulema fail to do so?

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/16/2017 2:00:51 PM

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