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Quranic Terminology: Near


Quranic Terminology: Near

Published in January 14, 2018

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy


Firstly: the belief in God as Near to His servants who never need mediators between themselves and God:

1- Real, monotheistic believers must believe that God is Near them and that He answers their prayers: "And when My servants ask you about Me, I Am near; I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me..." (2:186). We notice here the direct address; i.e., God has not told Muhammad to say something, as He talks directly to human beings in the verse 2:186. 

2- The prophets Saleh and Muhammad asserted the fact that God is Near and answers prayers of the believers: "...My Lord is Near and Responsive." (11:61); "...He is Hearing and Near." (34:50). God tells us here how to supplicate to Him and to know that His Mercy is near: "...and pray to Him with fear and hope. God's Mercy is near to the doers of good." (7:56).  

3- God tells us in a figurative sense how Near He is regarding each one of the human beings: "We created the human being, and We know what his soul whispers to him. We are nearer to him than his jugular vein." (50:16); this applies to the moment of one's death: "We are nearer to it than you are, but you do not see." (56:85).

4- Hence, real believers never need any mediators/clergymen; in contrast, polytheists worship, deify, and sanctify allies/saints supposedly to get nearer to the Lord God: "...As for those who take allies besides Him, "We only worship them that they may bring us nearer to God."..." (39:3).

5- What will draw one nearer to the Lord God are one's good deeds and monotheistic faith, and NOT one's children or money/possessions. God says in the Quran: "It is neither your wealth nor your children that bring you closer to Us, but it is he who believes and does good deeds. These will have a double reward for what they did; and they will reside in the Chambers, in peace and security." (34:37).

6- Getting nearer to the Lord God means to do and say what will please Him, as this is what the pious ones do as they obey Quranic commands: "Those they call upon are themselves seeking means of access to their Lord, vying to be nearer..." (17:57). We read this about pious Desert-Arabs: "Yet among the Desert-Arabs are those who believe in God and the Last Day, and consider their contribution to be a means to get nearer towards God, and the prayers of the messenger. Surely it will draw them nearer..." (9:99). God has commanded Muhammad to say the following: "...and say, "Perhaps my Lord will guide me to nearer than this in guidance."" (18:24).


Secondly: the term (nearer):

1- One gets nearer to piety by forgoing and pardoning: "...But to forego is nearer to piety..." (2:237).

2- One gets nearer to piety by being just and fair towards one's foes and enemies: "O you who believe! Be upright to God, witnessing with justice; and let not the hatred of a certain people prevent you from acting justly. Adhere to justice, for that is nearer to piety..." (5:8).

3- The hypocrites of the Yathreb city-state were sick at heart, as they fluctuated/oscillated between belief and disbelief, especially in difficult situations and hardships such as being reluctant to participate in the military self-defense endeavors, and this made them nearer to disbelief: "And that He may know the hypocrites. And it was said to them, "Come, fight in the cause of God, or contribute." They said, "If we knew how to fight, we would have followed you." On that day they were nearer to disbelief than they were to belief..." (3:167). 

4- Another comparison is drawing nearer to harm or to benefit; for instance, those who invoke and supplicate to deities/idols, assumed to bring benefit, are in fact drawing their souls nearer to harm: "He invokes one whose harm is nearer than his benefit..." (22:13). The term (nearer) is mentioned also by the prophet that accompanied Moses in the story of the Quranic Chapter 18: "So we wanted their Lord to replace him with someone better in purity, and nearer to mercy." (18:81). It is mentioned about one's relatives: "...Your parents and your children - you do not know which are nearer to you in benefit..." (4:11). It is mentioned as well about peaceful ones among the People of the Book who are nearer toward believers in contrast to those aggressive ones among them: "You will find that the people most hostile towards the believers are the Jews and the polytheists. And you will find that the nearer in affection towards the believers are those who say, "We are Christians."..." (5:82).


Thirdly: those nearer to God on the Last Day are those who readily perform many good deeds:

1- Real believers who seek to draw nearer to God prostrate/kneel in piety and awe before their Lord God; God has said the following to Muhammad: "No, do not obey him; but kneel down, and come near." (96:19).

2- Upon dying, people are divided into three categories as per their faith/belief and their deeds: the Forerunners and those on the Right (who will enter into Paradise) and those on the Left (who will enter into Hell). "But if he is one of those brought near. Then mercy, and flowers, and Garden of Bliss. And if he is one of those on the Right. Then, "Peace upon you," from those on the Right. But if he is one of the deniers, the misguided. Then a welcome of inferno. And burning in Hell. This is the Absolute Truth. So glorify the Name of your Lord, the Magnificent." (56:88-96).

3- Again in the Quranic Chapter 56, we read more about the same three categories: "And you become three classes. Those on the Right-what of those on the Right? And those on the Left-what of those on the Left? And the Forerunners, the Forerunners. Those are the nearest. In the Gardens of Bliss." (56:7-12); "And those on the Right-what of those on the Right? In lush orchards. And sweet-smelling plants. And extended shade. And outpouring water. And abundant fruit." (56:27-32); "And those on the Left-what of those on the Left? Amid searing wind and boiling water. And a shadow of thick smoke." (56:41-43).

4- During their lifetimes, some messengers/prophets were nearer to God and He mentions this fact in the Quran about Jesus: "The Angels said, "O Mary, God gives you good news of a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, well-esteemed in this world and the next, and one of the nearest." (3:45), and about Moses: "And We called him from the right side of the Mount, and brought him near in contact." (19:52).

5- There are archangels who are nearer to God: "The Messiah does not disdain to be a servant of God, nor do the nearer angels..." (4:172).

6- Those Forerunners are the nearest to God in their highest ranks.

6/1: Disbelievers will never have mercy from the Lord God and will enter into Hell: "...On that Day, they will be screened from their Lord. Then they will roast in Hell." (83:15-16). Paradise-dwellers will be in the highest ranks of Paradise, nearer to God: "...the book of the righteous is in highest ranks. But how can you know what highest ranks are? A numerical book. Witnessed by those brought near. Indeed, the righteous will be in Bliss." (83:18-22).

6/2: The archangels are the nearest ones to God in the upper realms/levels of heavens; among them was Satan/Iblis before his refusal to obey God's command to prostrate to Adam; God has expelled him as an outcast and turned him into a Jinn/Devil. God has commanded Muhammad to say the following: "I have no knowledge of the Highest Level as they dispute. It is only revealed to me that I am a clear warner. Your Lord said to the angels, "I am creating a human being from clay. When I have formed him, and breathed into him of My spirit, fall prostrate before him. So the angels fell prostrate, all of them. Except for Satan. He was too proud, and one of the faithless." (38:69-74). Thus, Satan has become a Jinn, a Devil who tries to eavesdrop on the archangels of the Highest Level: "They cannot eavesdrop on the Highest Level, for they get bombarded from every side." (37:8).

6/3: Real believers get nearer to God within their piety and good deeds, whereas the misguided ones vie for drawing nearer to the unjust ones and tyrants; e.g., the sorcerers before their turning into believers tried to get nearer to Moses' Pharaoh: "He said, "Yes, and you will be among my nearest retinue members."" (7:114 & 26:42).

7- Getting nearer by presenting offerings and oblations.

7/1: This is done to get nearer to God, as by the offerings presented by both sons of Adam: "And relate to them the true story of Adam's two sons: when they offered an offering..." (5:27).

7/2: Those polytheists who present offerings and oblations to 'holy' mausoleums will be thoroughly shocked on the Last Day: "Why then did the allies, whom they worshiped as means of nearness to God, not help them?..." (46:28).

7/3: Some polytheists present offerings as if to God but they lie as they present them to man-made deities; for instance: "Those who said, "God has made a covenant with us, that we shall not believe in any messenger unless he brings us an offering to be consumed by fire."..." (3:183).


Fourthly: nearness within Quranic legislations linked to one's relatives and nearest kin:

Being charitable and kind to one's relatives and nearest kin:

1- This is mentioned to the Israelites in their covenant and in the Quran to real believers. "We made a covenant with the Children of Israel: "Worship none but God; and be good to parents, and relatives, and orphans, and the needy..." (2:83); "Worship God, and ascribe no partners to Him, and be good to the parents, and the relatives, and the orphans, and the poor..." (4:36).

2- God has told Muhammad to advise believers to be kind and charitable to their own relatives: "...Say, "I ask of you no wage for it, except affection among the near of kin"..." (42:23).

3- Part of being charitable and kind to one's kinsmen is to preach the Quranic Truth to them: "And warn your close relatives." (26:214)

4- One should be kind and charitable to all relatives of one's parents: "To everyone We have assigned beneficiaries in what is left by parents and relatives..." (4:33).

Financial rights of one's nearest relatives:

1- They have the right to receive zakat money if they are poor and needy, and this is part of kindness and charity to them: "They ask you what they should give. Say, "Whatever charity you give is for the parents, and the relatives, and the orphans, and the poor, and the wayfarer..." (2:215); "God commands justice, and goodness, and generosity towards relatives..." (16:90); "And give the relative his rights, and the poor, and the wayfarer..." (17:26); "So give the relative his rights, and the destitute, and the wayfarer..." (30:38); "An orphan near of kin." (90:15).

2- In this verse, God combines all descriptions of the pious ones, including donating money though one needs it: "Righteousness does not consist of turning your faces towards the East and the West. But righteous is he who believes in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and the Scripture, and the prophets. Who gives money, though dear, to near relatives, and orphans, and the needy, and the homeless, and the beggars, and for the freeing of slaves..." (2:177).

3- If our relatives or near kinsmen insult us, we must not deprive them of their rights so that we obtain God's mercy: "Those of you who have affluence and means should not refuse to give to the relatives, and the needy..." (24:22).

4- Those near of kin have shares in money of the Treasury of a given State: "Whatever God granted to His messenger from the inhabitants of the villages belongs to God, and to the messenger, and to the relatives, and to the orphans, and to the poor, and to the wayfarer..." (59:7).

5- Those near of kin have shares in money of the spoils of self-defense wars: "And know that whatever spoils you gain, to God belongs its fifth, and to the messenger, and the relatives, and the orphans, and the poor, and to the wayfarer..." (8:41).

Inheritance and written will and testament:

 The nearest of kin have inheritance shares, and the other relatives and the needy can have shares if they attend distribution of inheritance money: "Men receive a share of what their parents and relatives leave, and women receive a share of what their parents and relatives leave; be it little or much-a legal share. If the distribution is attended by the relatives, and the orphans, and the needy, give them something out of it, and speak to them kindly." (4:7-8); as for the written will and testament , it is confined to the nearest of kin: "It is decreed for you: when death approaches one of you, and he leaves wealth, to make a testament in favor of the parents and the relatives, fairly and correctly-a duty upon the righteous." (2:180).

Never to ask for God's pardon for the sake of polytheistic relatives and near kin:

 God says in the Quran: "It is not for the Prophet and those who believe to ask forgiveness for the polytheists, even if they are near relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are people of Hellfire." (9:113).

Nearest kin and relatives in relation to justice:

 God entails that justice and fairness are applied when dealing with one's relatives; God says in the Quran: "O you who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives..." (4:135); "...And when you speak, be fair, even if it concerns a near relative..." (6:152); "O you who believe! When death approaches one of you, let two reliable persons from among you act as witnesses to the making of a written will and testament...if you are travelling in the land...We will not sell our testimony for any price, even if he was a near relative..." (5:106).

Nearest of kin and relatives are of no use on the Last Day:

 God says in the Quran: "No burdened soul can carry the burden of another. Even if one weighted down calls for help with its burden, nothing can be lifted from it, even if they were near kin..." (35:18); "O people! Be conscious of your Lord in piety, and dread a Day when no parent can avail his child, nor can a child avail his parent, in anything. The promise of God is true. Therefore, do not let this life deceive you, nor let illusions deceive you regarding God." (31:33); "When the Horn is blown, no relations between them will exist on that Day, and they will not ask after one another." (23:101); "But when the Deafening Noise comes to pass. The Day when a person will flee from his brother. And his mother and his father. And his consort and his children. Every one of them, on that Day, will have enough to preoccupy him." (80:33-37).


Fifthly: getting near the permissible items and the prohibited ones:

 The Quranic command not to get near something means absolute prohibition. Examples are provided in the points below.

1- Never to violate God's laws/limits: "...These are the limits of God, so do not come near them..." (2:187).

2- Never to get near immorality and sins related to it: "And do not come near adultery. It is immoral, and an evil way." (17:32); "...that you do not come near immoral behaviors, whether outward or inward..." (6:151).

3- Never to steal money of orphans: "And do not come near the property of the orphan, except with the best intentions, until he reaches maturity..." (17:34 and 6:152).

4- Never to have sex with one's wife during menstruation: "And they ask you about menstruation: say, "It is harmful, so keep away from women during menstruation. And do not come near them until they have become pure..." (2:222).

5- Never to pray without concentration and piety: "O you who believe! Do not come near prayers while you are drunk, so that you know what you say..." (4:43).

6- Never to allow polytheistic aggressors to come near the sacred Kaaba Mosque in Mecca: "O you who believe! The polytheists are polluted, so let them not come near the Sacred Mosque after this year of theirs..." (9:28).


Sixthly: temporal nearness (i.e., in relation to time):

1- Near victory is granted by God to real believers: "...Indeed, God's victory is near." (2:214); "...and rewarded them with an imminent victory." (48:18); "...He knew what you did not know, and has granted besides that an imminent victory." (48:27); "And something else you love: support from God, and imminent victory. So give good news to the believers." (61:13).

2- One should preferably repent as soon as possible in the nearest time before one reaches one's old-age: "Repentance is available from God for those who commit evil out of ignorance, and then repent nearer in time..." (4:17).

3- Those who were reluctant to engage into  self-defense fighting desired to postpone it to another nearer time: "...Our Lord, why did You ordain fighting for us? If only You would postpone it for us to a near date..." (4:77).

Near torment in this world:

1- Within the Quranic story of Saleh: ""O my people, this is the she-camel of God, a sign for you. Let her graze on God's land, and do not harm her, lest a near torment overtakes you."" (11:64).

2- Within the Quranic story of Lot: "They said, "O Lot, we are the envoys of your Lord; they will not reach you. So set out with your family during the cover of the night, and let none of you look back, except for your wife. She will be struck by what will strike them. Their appointed time is the morning. Is not the morning near?"" (11:81); within the Quranic story of other prophets: " Like those who were nearer to their eras; they experienced the consequences of their decisions. For them is a painful torment." (59:15).

The nearness of the Hour:

 God says in the Quran: "The people ask you about the Hour. Say, "The knowledge thereof rests with God. But what do you know? Perhaps the hour is near."" (33:63); "It is God who revealed the Book with the truth, and the Balance. And what will make you realize that perhaps the Hour is near?" (42:17); "But We see it near." (70:7); "We have warned you of a near torment..." (78:40); "The humankind's judgment has drawn near, but they turn away heedlessly." (21:1); "The Hour has drawn near..." (54:1); "To God belongs the unseen of the heavens and the earth. The coming of the Hour is only as the twinkling of the eye, or even nearer. God has power over everything." (16:77); "The promise of truth has drawn near..." (21:97).

 Muhammad never knew when the Hour will take place; God says in the Quran: "Say, "I do not know whether what you are promised is near, or whether my Lord will extend it for a period."" (72:25); "...I do not know whether what you are promised is near or far." (21:109); "...Then they will nod their heads at you, and say, "When will it be?" Say, "Perhaps it will be soon."" (17:51).

 Warning about nearness of death: "Have they not observed the government of the heavens and the earth, and all the things that God created, and that their time may have drawn near? Which discourse, besides this, will they believe in?" (7:185).

 Requesting to postpone death: "And give from what We have provided for you, before death approaches one of you, and he says, "My Lord, if only You would delay me for a nearer while, so that I may be charitable, and be one of the righteous."" (63:10).

 Requesting to postpone torment on the Last Day: "And warn the humankind of the Day when the torment will come upon them, and the wicked will say, "Our Lord, defer us for a nearer while, and we will answer Your call and follow the messengers." Did you not swear before that there will be no passing away for you?" (14:44).


Seventhly: locational nearness:

In this transient world:

1- About lame excuses of hypocrites for not participating in self-defense fighting, we read the following: "Had the gain been nearer, and the journey shorter, they would have followed you; but the distance seemed too long for them...." (9:42).

2- About near torment in this life, we read the following: "...Disasters will continue to strike those who disbelieve, because of their deeds, or they fall near their homes..." (13:31).

In the Hereafter:

 God says in the Quran: "Say, "If I err, I err only to my own loss; but if I am guided, it is by what my Lord inspires me. He is Hearing and Near." If you could only see when they are terrified, and there is no escape, and they are seized from a near place." (34:50-51); "And listen for the Day when the caller calls from a near place." (50:41).

Within Quranic stories:

1- Within the story of Adam: "We said, "O Adam, inhabit the Garden, you and your spouse, and eat from it freely as you please, but do not come near this tree, lest you become unjust ones."" (2:35 & 7:19).

2- Within the story of Abraham before he destroyed pagan idols as he brought food near the idols to see if they eat or not: "He set it near them. He said, "Will you not eat?!"" (51:27).

3- Within the story of Joseph as he talked to his brothers, without their knowing his identity, about bringing their youngest brother to him: "But if you do not bring him to me, you will have no measure from me, and you will not come near me."" (12:60).

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