Analysis of Anwar al ‘Awlaqī: “To Make it Known and Clear to Mankind, and Not to Hide it”

The video was first previewed a few weeks ago on the forums and was covered by IntelWire’s J.M. Berger. The above title is in reference to the Qur’ānic verse 3:187 (HT Online Jihad):

“And remember Allah took a covenant from the People of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it; but they threw it away behind their backs, and purchased with it some miserable gain! And vile was the bargain they made!”

Unfortunately, the asbāb al-nuzūl (occasions of revelation) for this verse is not explained by al-Wāḥidī. That said, I thought it would be worthwhile to provide some tafāsīr (Qur’ānic exegesis) from some leading Muslim mufassirūn (those who conduct Qur’ānic exegesis) in Islamic history with regard to the above verse, which might provide added layer to our understanding of why al ‘Awlaqī decided to use it as his title:

al-Tustarī:

That is, they [The Jews and Christians] did not act by the Book, and purchased with it some miserable gain, that is, they bought in exchange for the everlasting Hereafter, the goods of this transitory world.

Jalālayn:

And, mention, when God made covenant with those who had been given the Scripture, that is, the pledge [taken] from them in the Torah, ‘You shall expound it (read tubayyinunnahu, or yubayyinunnahu, ‘they shall expound it’) the Book, to people, and not conceal it’ (read taktumūnahu, ‘you shall not conceal it’, or yaktumūnahu, ‘they shall not conceal it’). But they rejected it, they discarded the covenant, behind their backs, and so they did not act in accordance with it, and bought with it, they took in its place, a small price, of this world from the debased among them, enjoying supremacy over them in knowledge, and they concealed it, lest it [the supremacy] escape them; how evil is what they have bought, [how evil is] this purchase of theirs!

Ibn ‘Abbās:

Then Allah mentioned His covenant with the people of the Book in the Scripture, which required them to exposit the traits and description of His Prophet, saying: (And (remember) when Allah laid a charge on those who had received the Scripture) i.e. the Torah and the Gospel ((He said): Ye are to expound it) the trait and description of Muhammad (to mankind and not to hide it) not to hide these traits and description of Muhammad in their Scripture. (But they flung it behind their backs) and did not act upon it (and bought thereby a little gain) a paltry acquisition in their means of living by hiding the traits and description of Muhammad in their Scripture. (Verily evil is that which they have gained thereby) evil is that which they have chosen for themselves: Judaism and the concealment of the traits and description of Muhammad.

Ibn Kathīr:

(And remember) when Allah took a covenant from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) to make it (the truth) known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it, but they threw it away behind their backs, and purchased with it some miserable gain! And indeed worst is that which they bought.)

On the less esoteric front, one would be remiss not to mention that al ‘Awlaqī’s new video is not produced by al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) media outlet al-Malāḥim. Does this prove my point that he is not all that important to AQAP? I am always up for eating humble pie and though I still believe my argument is valid my colleague who goes under the pseudonym Mr. Orange’s War Tracker makes what I think is a valid counter-argument: “I’d say it’s the other way round. al ‘Awlaqī doesn’t need AQAP. And it’s still possible that he doesn’t even belong to their lot.” If his argument ends up being correct, as I responded to him, it could suggest that al ‘Awlaqī is trying to set himself up as a figure similar to Abū Muḥmmad al-Maqdisī. Interestingly, his speech is in Arabic and not English. Much of al ‘Awlaqī’s material in the past has been in English, as such, it could be argued that al ‘Awlaqī is trying to become more available to an Arab audience as well as gain more legitimacy. At the same time, al ‘Awlaqī calls for his video to be translated into English, therefore, he is trying to satiate his cult-like followers in the English-speaking world as well.

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