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18. THE MEANINGS OF LAHW )‫ (لَهْو‬IN THE QUR’ĀN The term lahw has many meanings, such as: amusement, entertainment, diversion, distraction, pastime, pleasure, sport, fun, and play. Ibn al-Jawzī (d. 597/1201) mentions six meanings of this term in the Qur’ān in his Nuzhatu ’l-A‘yun, as well as alDāmaghānī (d. 478/1085-6) in his Qāmūs al-Qur’ān, as follows: 1. ‫( اإلسْ ِته َْزاء‬mockery, ridicule, derision, scorn), such as: )70:‫ِين ا َّت َخ ُذوا دِي َن ُه ْم لَ ِعبًا َو َله ًْوا َو َغرَّ ْت ُه ُم ْال َح َياةُ ال ُّد ْن َيا (األنعام‬ َ ‫َو َذ ِرالَّذ‬ And leave alone those who take their religion as play and amusement [namely, as mockery], and whom the life of this world has deceived (Q. 6:70). The term “their religion” here means “Islam.” According to al-Qurṭubī, the expression “take their religion as play and amusement” means, “They mocked those who follow Islam, mocked its followers, and went into it as a play and mockering the truth." Muhammad Asad translates the above verse as follows: And leave to themselves all those who, beguiled by the life of this world, have made play and passing delights their religion (Q. 6:670) Then he says that it could be understood in two ways: (1) they have made their religion [an object of] play and fun, or (2) they have made play and fun [or “passing delights”] their religion, namely, the main goal of their lives. He prefers the latter, and says, “many of those who are ‘beguiled by the life of the world’ devote themselves to the pursuit of what the Qur’ān describes as ‘passing delights’—including the pleasures which money and power can provide—with something akin the religious fervour: an attitude of mind which causes them to lose sight of all spiritual and moral values.” 2. ‫( ْال َولَد‬son), as in the following verse: )17:‫ِين (األنبياء‬ َ ‫لَ ْو أَ َر ْد َنا أَنْ َن َّت ِخ َذ لَه ًْوا ََل َّت َخ ْذ َناهُ مِنْ لَ ُد َّنا إِنْ ُك َّنا َفاعِ ل‬ Had We intended to take a pastime (i.e. a son),


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We would surely have taken in from Us, if We were going to do (that) (Q. 21:17). This is the interpretation of ‘Ikrimah and al-Suddī, that the term laḥn the above verse means walad (son).According to al-Ḥasan and Qatādah, the term lahn here means, “a wife.” According to Qatādah, al-Suddī, Ibrāhīm al-Nakhā‘ī, and al-Mughīrah ibn Miqsam the verse ‫ِين‬ َ ‫ إِنْ ُك َّنا َفاعِ ل‬means, “We will not do that,” instead of “if We were going to do that,” as Mujāhid says that every ْ‫“( إِن‬if”) used in the Qur’ān is negation. ُ ‫( ال‬occupancy, prevention, distraction), such as: 3. ‫ش ْغل‬ )3:‫ُون (الحجر‬ َ ‫ف َيعْ لَم‬ َ ‫َذرْ ُه ْم َيأْ ُكلُوا َو َي َت َم َّتعُوا َوي ُْل ِه ِه ُم ْاألَ َم ُل َف َس ْو‬ Leave them to eat and enjoy, and let them be preoccupied [namely, distracted] with (false) hope. They will come to know [the truth]. (Q. 15:3) This is a definite threat for disbelievers. )1:‫أَ ْل َها ُك ُم ال َّت َك ُاث ُر (التكاثر‬ The mutual rivalry (for piling up worldly things) diverts you (Q. 102:1) You are obsessed by greed for more and more … (Asad’s translation) There are various interpretations of this verse: According to Ibn ‘Abbās and al-Ḥasan: mutual rivalry (greed for more) in wealth and children; according to Qatādah: mutual rivalry (greed for more) in boasting of tribes and clans; according to al-Ḍaḥḥāk: distraction with livelihood and merchandise. There are many ḥadīths dealing with man’s covetousness of worldly things, such as: ‫صلى ّللا‬- ‫ّللا‬ ِ َّ ‫ُول‬ ِ ‫ْن َمالِك َعنْ َرس‬ ِ ‫سب‬ ِ ‫َعنْ أَ َن‬ ‫ْن آ َد َم َواد مِنْ َذ َهب‬ َ ‫لَ ْو َك‬: ‫ أَ َّن ُه َقا َل‬-‫عليه وسلم‬ ِ ‫ان‬ ِ ‫َلب‬ َ ‫أَ َحبَّ أَنَّ لَ ُه َوا ِديًا‬ )‫ (رواه مسلم‬...‫آخر‬ Anas ibn Mālik narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “If the Son of Adam had a valley of gold, he would desire another ...” (Reported by Muslim)


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-‫صلى ّللا عليه وسلم‬- ‫ّللا‬ ِ َّ ‫َعنْ أَ ِبى ه َُري َْر َة أَنَّ َرسُو َل‬ ‫ َيقُو ُل ْال َع ْب ُد َمالِى َمالِى إِ َّن َما لَ ُه مِنْ َمالِ ِه َثالَث َما‬: ‫َقا َل‬ ‫ك‬ َ ِ‫س َفأ َ ْبلَى أَ ْو أَعْ َطى َفا ْق َت َنى َو َما سِ َوى َذل‬ َ ‫أَ َك َل َفأ َ ْف َنى أَ ْو لَ ِب‬ )‫ (رواه مسلم‬.‫اس‬ ِ ‫ار ُك ُه لِل َّن‬ ِ ‫َفه َُو َذاهِب َو َت‬ Abū Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “The servant says ‘My wealth, my wealth. ’Yet he only gets three (benefits) from his wealth: that which he eats and finishes, that which he wears until it is worn out, or that which he gives in charity and it is spent. Everything else other than that will go away and leave him for the people (Reported by Muslim) ‫ِين آ َم ُنوا ََل ُت ْل ِه ُك ْم أَم َْوال ُ ُك ْم َو ََل أَ ْو ََل ُد ُك ْم َعنْ ِذ ْك ِر‬ َ ‫َيا أَ ُّي َها الَّذ‬ )9:‫ُون (المنافقون‬ ِ َّ َ ‫ك ُه ُم ْال َخاسِ ر‬ َ ‫ك َفأُولَ ِئ‬ َ ِ‫ّللا َو َمنْ َي ْف َع ْل َذل‬ O you who believe! Let not your properties or your children divert [namely, distract] you from the remembrance of Allah. And whoever does that, then they are the losers. (Q. 63:9) There are various interpretations of the term ‫ّللا‬ ِ َّ ‫ِذ ْك ِر‬ (“the remembrance of Allah”) in the above verse: ḥajj (pilgrimage) and zakāt; reading the Qur’ān; continuation of remembering Allah; five-daily payers (according to alḌaḥḥāk); all religious obligation (according to al-Ḥasan); and that it is directed to the hypocrites who believed with their tongues, and now they were asked to believe with their hearts. 4. ‫( ْال ِغ َناء‬singing, song), such as: ‫ّللا ِب َغي ِْر‬ ِ ‫اس َمنْ َي ْش َت ِري َله َْو ا ْل َحدِي‬ ِ َّ ‫يل‬ ِ ‫ث لِيُضِ َّل َعنْ َس ِب‬ ِ ‫َوم َِن ال َّن‬ )6:‫ك لَ ُه ْم َع َذاب م ُِهين (لقمان‬ َ ‫عِ ْلم َو َي َّت ِخ َذ َها ُه ُز ًوا أُولَ ِئ‬ And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks [namely, singing] to mislead (men) from the path of Allah without knowledge, and takes it (the path of Allah, or the Verses of the Qur’ān) by way of mockery. For such there will be a humiliating torment (in the Hell-fire) (Q. 31:6)


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This is the interpretation of the term ‫ث‬ ِ ‫( َله َْو ْال َحدِي‬idle talk) according to Ibn ‘Abbās, Ibn Mas‘ūd, Ibn ‘Umar ‘Ikrimah, Maymūn ibn Mihrān, Mujāhid, and Makḥūl, namely, ‫ْال ِغ َناء‬ (singing, song). According to Qatādah, “purchases idle talks” is “buying singing servant girls.” In a ḥadīth narrated by Abū Umāmah, the Prophet (‫ )ﷺ‬said: ، َّ‫ِيهن‬ ِ ‫َل َي ِح ُّل َب ْي ُع ْال ُم َغ ِّن َيا‬ َ ‫ َوَل ت َِج‬، َّ‫ت َوَل شِ َراؤُ هُن‬ ِ ‫ارة ف‬ )‫َوأَ ْك ُل أَ ْث َمان ِِهنَّ َح َرام (رواه الطبراني‬ It is not permitted to sell singing servant girls, neither buying them, nor doing business in them, and taking their prices is prohibited (Reported by al-Ṭabrānī) Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī gives general interpretation of the idle talks and says, “it means all speech that hinders people from seeing the signs of Allah and following His path.” The definition of ‫ث‬ ِ ‫( لَه َْو ْال َحدِي‬idle talk) is as follows: ً‫ت َو َلَ ي ُْث ِم ُر خيْرا‬ َ ‫ب َو َيأ ُك ُل ْال َو ْق‬ َ ‫ُك ُّل َكألم ي ْل ِهى ْال َق ْل‬ It is every statement which amuses the heart, consumes time, and does not give benefit. Muhammad Asad said that the above verse “describes a type of mentality and has, therefore, a general import.” (M. Asad, The Message of the Qur’ān, p. 627, n. 4). َّ 5. ‫الطبْل‬ ُ‫ضرْ ب‬ (beating of drum); Ibn al-Jawzī added with ‫َو‬ َ ْ‫( ْال َمالهِي‬and entertainment), such as: ‫ّللا‬ ِ َّ ‫ك َقا ِئمًا قُ ْل َما عِ ْن َد‬ َ ‫ار ًة أَ ْو لَه ًْوا ا ْن َفضُّوا إِلَ ْي َها َو َت َر ُكو‬ َ ‫َوإِ َذا َرأَ ْوا ت َِج‬ َّ ‫ار ِة َو‬ )11:‫ِين (الجمعة‬ َ ‫ازق‬ َ ‫َخيْر م َِن اللَّه ِْو َوم َِن ال ِّت َج‬ ِ َّ‫ّللا ُ َخ ْي ُر الر‬ And when they see some merchandise or some amusement [namely, beating of drum] they disperse headlong to it, and leave you (Muhammad) standing [while delivering Jumu‘ah religious talk (Khutbah). Say: “That which Allah has is better than any amusement or merchandise! And Allah is the Best f providers.” (Q. 62:11) What really happened was that, like ‘Īd prayers where the khuṭbah/sermon was delivered after performing


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the prayer, Jumu‘ah prayer was performed before the khuṭbah. While the Prophet (‫ )ﷺ‬was delivering his Friday sermon, the long expected trade caravan carrying food and others belonging to Dīḥyah ibn Khalīfah before he became a Muslim, had arrived from Syria where he was welcomed with rums and tambourines. A man came forward to tell the congregation of his arrival. It was the time where food was scarce. Thinking that it was alright to leave the khuṭbah many people among the congregation rushed out of the mosque, leaving the Prophet (‫ )ﷺ‬standing on the pulpit. Only about twelve or fourteen of them stayed. They were: Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthmān, ‘Ali, Ṭalḥah, al-Zubayr, Sa‘d ibn Abī Waqqāṣ, ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn ‘Awf, Abū ‘Ubaydah ibn alJarrāḥ, Sa‘īd ibn Zayd, Bilāl, ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mas‘ūd, ‘Ammār ibn Yāsir, and Jābir ibn ‘Abd Allāh. Then the above verse was revealed, and the Prophet (‫ )ﷺ‬delivered the khuṭbah first then followed by the prayer like what we are doing now. Since then, nobody was allowed to leave the congregation unless he was permitted by the Prophet (‫)ﷺ‬. When he was about to leave the hypocrite who could not stay long for the khuṭbah and the prayer stood up behind him hiding himself then together they came out, expecting to be unnoticed by the Prophet. But the hypocrite’s sneaking out was made known, as Allah revealed: َّ ‫ َق ْد َيعْ لَ ُم‬... )63:‫ (النور‬... ‫ون ِم ْن ُك ْم ل َِو ًاذ‬ َ ُ ‫ِين َي َت َسلَّل‬ َ ‫ّللا ُ الَّذ‬ Allah knows those who slip away under shelter (of some excuse without taking the permission to leave, from the Messenger)…(Q. 24:63) Based on this episode it is incorrect to assume that the majority of the ṣaḥābah had turned into apostasy or had been lack in faith. 6. ‫( ْالبَاطِ ل‬futile, false, baseless, void, deception) according to alḌāmaghānī, and according to Ibn al-Jawzī it is ‫ْال ُسرُو ُر ْال َفا ِني‬


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(perishable joy). The example given by al-Ḍāmaghānī is as follows: ‫إِ َّن َما ْال َح َياةُ ال ُّد ْن َيا لَعِب َو َلهْو َوإِنْ ُت ْؤ ِم ُنوا َو َت َّتقُوا ي ُْؤ ِت ُك ْم‬ )36:‫ُور ُك ْم َو ََل َيسْ أ َ ْل ُك ْم أَمْ َوالَ ُك ْم (محمد‬ َ ‫أُج‬ The life of this world is but play and pastime [namely, deception]; but if you believe (in Oneness of Allah— Islamic Monotheism), and fear Allah, and avoid evil, He will grant you your wages, and will not ask you your wealth (Q. 47:36) The example given by Ibn al-Jawzī is as follows: ‫اعْ لَمُوا أَ َّن َما ْال َح َياةُ ال ُّد ْن َيا لَعِب َولَهْو َو ِزي َنة َو َت َفا ُخر‬ )20:‫ (الحديد‬...‫ال َو ْاألَ ْو ََل ِد‬ ِ ‫َب ْي َن ُك ْم َو َت َك ُاثر فِي ْاألَمْ َو‬ Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement [namely, perishable joy], pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children… (Q. 57:20) There are various interpretations on the term ‫لَعِب َولَهْو‬ (play and amusement( in the above verse, among which are: eating and drinking (Qatādah’s view); what we desire for in this world, and what distracts us from the Hereafter; and acquisition and women. These two verses above tell us how insignificant and transient life in this world is, that it is only play and amusement, and that the Hereafter is the real and the eternal life. (CIVIC, 13 January, 2017) :‫المراجع‬ (‫ هـ‬310 .‫تفسير الطبري (ت‬ (‫ هـ‬671 .‫تفسير القرطبى(ت‬ )‫ هـ‬774 .‫تفسير ابن كثير(ت‬ ‫ قاموس القرآن أو إصالح الوجوه والنظائر‬.)‫ هـ‬478 .‫محمد الدامغاني (ت‬ ‫ نزهة األعين النواظر‬. )‫ هـ‬597 .‫عبد الرحمن ابن الجوزي (ت‬ Muhammad Asad. The Message of the Qur’ān http://library.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php =?idfrom=101&idto

18. THE MEANINGS OF LAHW (لهو) IN THE QUR'AN  

A Friday khutbah/sermon delivered at CIVIC, Canberra on 13 January, 2017

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