Quran & the Meaning of Raf’a -2

In PART-1 we discussed the meaning of the word Raf’a in the light reputed works on Qur’anic lexicography and correct interpretation of the verses related to Eisa’ (A.S.) raf’a. Please refer back to part-1 and keeping in mind the original meanings of the word read the following.

The Qur’anic usage of Raf’a:

To chase the evil to its utter helplessness, let us briefly look into all the instances where the derivates of the root ‘RA-FA-AYN’ are used in the Qur’an. In total the words with the root ‘RA-FA-AYN’ are used in 29 verses and in the following lines each of these instances is tackled with.

1- In Qur’an 3:55 and 4:158 it is used with reference to Eisa (A.S.) as explained above.

2- In Qur’an 2:63, 2:93 and 4:154 it used regarding physical elevation of Mt. Tur (Mt. Sinai) like;

“And we raised (rafa’na) high above you the (Mount of) Tur.” (Qur’an 2:63)

It refers to a clear physical phenomenon as it is clear from Qur’an 7:171 and its exegesis in Tafasir of Ibn Kathir, Al-Raazi, Al-Zamakhshari, Aalusi and in Tafsir Jalalain to mention only a few.

3- In Qur’an  2:42, 6:83, 6:165, 12:76, 40:15, 43:32 and 58:11 it is used for exaltation and raising of ranks but in all these verses ‘ranks’ are explicitly given as the objects of Raf’a e.g..

“He hath raised you in ranks, some above others.” (Qur’an 6:165)

Here and in all such references Allah has used the word Raf’a (i.e. to raise) but then He clearly speaks of the دَرَجَاتٍ (ranks). If Raf’a by itself means ‘rise in ranks’ and ‘exaltation’ why would Allah then mention ‘ranks’ separately? Infact Raf’a only means ‘raising’ and ‘elevation’ and its object is determined by the context.

4- In Qur’an 2:127 it is used about Ibrahim (A.S.) raising the foundations of the Holy Ka’ba.

“And when Ibrahim was raising (yarf’a) up the foundations of the House.”

As it refers to corporeal thing we find a connotation of physical change in it.

5- In Qur’an 7:176 it refers to exaltation but the context (verse 175) shows it refers to exaltation through the revealed verses from Allah as stated by Al- Zamakhshari in his Tafsir. Thus the context clarifies that it relates to a non-physical phenomenon as revealed verses cannot make one ascend physically.

6- In Qur’an 12:100 it is used about the act of Yusuf (A.S.) making his parents to sit on a high seat.

“And he raised (raf’a) his parents up on the throne.”

This is clear from numerous narrations given in Tafsir Al-Tabari and Durr Manthur.

7- In Qur’an 13:2, 52:5, 55:7, 79:28 and 88:18 it is used for the physical elevation of the heavens e.g.

“Allah is the One who raised (raf’a) the heavens without pillars” (Qur’an 13:2)

8- In Qur’an 19:57 it is used about Idris (A.S.);

“We raised him (raf’anahu) to a high place.”

Scholars have differed about this nature of elevation in this verse. Some say it refers to his being lifted up alive into the heavens just like Eisa (A.S.) and some say it refers to being raised to a higher spiritual level. Al-Raazi who holds a prominent position among the greatest exponents of the Qur’an and has been recognized as a Mujaddid by Ahmadis also says;

فيه قولان : أحدهما : أنه من رفعة المنزلة … الثاني : أن المراد به الرفعة في المكان إلى موضع عال وهذا أولى ، لأن الرفعة المقرونة بالمكان تكون رفعة في المكان لا في الدرجة

“There are two opinions about it. First of them: that it refers to exaltation in rank … second: that rising refers to lifting to a lofty place and this is the stronger opinion for elevation is linked to place so it’s rise in place [of rest] and not rank.” (Tafsir Al-Kabir 10/322)

9- In Qur’an 24:36,

“(The guided people worship Allah) in the houses that Allah has permitted to be raised (turf’a), and where His name is recounted and His purity is pronounced, in the morning and in the evening.”

Scholars explain that either ‘houses’ refer to the mosques in which case Raf’a has the meaning same as in Qur’an 2:127 or it refers to the dwellings of the believers in which case it refers to their being exalted in honour. In this later case the context i.e. ‘where His name is recounted and His purity is pronounced’ determine Raf’a to be of a spiritual connotation.

10- In Qur’an 35:10,

“Whoever desires honor, then all honor lies with Allah alone. Towards Him ascends the pure word, and the righteous deed uplifts it (yarf’ahu).”

Here it simply means that righteous deeds lift the pure words to Allah so the object of Raf’a here is ‘pure word’ which is not a corporeal thing. This is clear from the narrations of Ibn Abbas (cf. Al-Tabari), Hassan and Qatada (cf. Durr Manthur).

11- In Qur’an 49:2;

“O you who believe, do not raise (la tarf’au) your voices above the voice of the Prophet.”

Clearly the object of Raf’a here is voice and no corporeal thing.

I2- In Quran 56:3 it is used with reference to the Doomsday;

“It will bring low (some); (and others) it will exalt (raafi’a);”

In the preceding verse (no. 2) it is said; “And there can be no denying of its befalling.” Thus the verse means owing to the fact that it cannot be denied so when it befalls it will bring low those who denied it stubbornly and will exalt those who believed in it in the light of the Divine Guidance. Thus it’s the context which determines its meaning of exaltation.

Let me also mention that some commentators have even said that this can refer to the system of the Heavens and the Earth going topsy-turvy on that Awful Day with heavens splitting asunder, stars falling down and mountains flying away like clouds. See the works of Shaukani, Al-Zamakhshari, Al-Baidhawi, Aalusi etc.

13- In Qur’an 56:34 it is used as an adjective;

“And on couches or thrones, raised high (marfu’a).”

The height of these thrones/couches is mentioned in physical terms in Hadīth.

Abu Sa’id (RA) reported from the Prophet (SAAW) about Allah’s Words: “And couches raised high” He said, “Their heights would be like the distance between Heaven and the Earth. And the distance between them is a journey of five hundred years.” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith 11659. Shaykh Hamzatul Zain classified it as Hasan)

Qur’an 88:13 refers to the same.

14- In Qur’an 80:14 it is used in reference to the Preserved Scripts of the Holy Qur’an;

“It is (recorded) in those scripts (of the Preserved Tablet) that are honoured, exalted (marfu’a), purified.” (Qur’an 80:13-14)

Al-Raazi says;

مرفوعة في السماء السابعة أو مرفوعة المقدار مطهر عن أيدي الشياطين

“Placed high in the seventh heaven or raised to a such height where they remain pure from the touch of devils.” (Tafsir Al-Kabir 16/361)

Al-Zamakhshari says;

{ مَّرْفُوعَةٍ { في السماء

marfu’a : [placed high] in the heaven,” (Tafsir Al-Kashshaf  7/234)

15- In Qur’an 94:4,

“And We raised (raf’ana) high your name.”

Clearly the object of Raf’a is the name (zikr) of the Holy Prophet (SAAW) and nothing of corporeal nature hence it does not mean physical elevation.

The purpose of this post is to strike at the root of all the possible Ahmadis arguments about the usage of the word elsewhere in Qur’an. Above details support our contention that Raf’a the way it used for Eisa (A.S.) can only be taken to mean physical ascension and no other usage of the word puts to doubt the basis of the Islamic Belief.

Coming up next is a discussion on Raf’a in the light of Ahadith.

Indeed Allah knows the best!