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Friday, April 29, 2011

The meaning of al-mala’ al-a’laa

The meaning of al-mala’ al-a’laa
I am a non-Muslim who is currently enrolled in class studying Muslim
traditions. I am writing a paper on the interpretation of prophets by
commentators. One of the words being repeated is al-mala al-a'la. I do not
know what this means. I know that al-a'la means the most highest. Could
you please help me with this. I appreciate your time and your help.


Praise be to Allaah.

The phrase al-mala’ al-a’laa is mentioned in both the Qur’aan and the Sunnah.

In Soorat Saad, Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

"‘I had no knowledge of the chiefs (angels) on high when they were disputing and
discussing (about the creation of Adam). Only this has been inspired to me, that I am
a plain warner.’" [Saad 38:69-70]

In his commentary on this aayah, Shaykh al-Mufassireen Ibn Jareer al-Tabari (may
Allaah have mercy on him) said: " ‘I had no knowledge of the chiefs on high (al-mala’
al-a’laa) when they were disputing and discussing’: here Allaah is telling His Prophet
(Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him), ‘O Muhammad, say to the mushrikeen among your people: "I had no
knowledge of the chiefs (angels) on high when they were disputing and discussing"
about the creation of Adam before Allaah revealed this to me.’ What this means is: ‘My
telling you about this is clear proof that this Qur’aan is a Revelation from Allaah,
because you know that I had no knowledge of this before this Qur’aan was revealed; it
is not something I witnessed with my own two eyes – I know it only because Allaah
has informed me of it.’"

Other scholars of tafseer have said something similar.

The comments of other scholars:

Ibn ‘Abbaas said: "Allaah’s words (interpretation of the meaning) ‘I had no knowledge
of the chiefs on high when they were disputing and discussing’ refer to the angels,
when they were consulted about the creation of Adam, and they disputed it and said:
Do not place a khaleefah on earth."

Al-Saddi said: "‘… The chiefs on high when they were disputing and discussing’
means: ‘… when your Lord said to the angels: "Verily, I am going to place (mankind)
generations after generations on earth"…’ [al-Baqarah 2:30]"

Qutaadah said: "The words ‘I had no knowledge of the chiefs on high when they were
disputing and discussing’ refer to the angels, who disputed the creation of Adam
when Allaah said to them, (interpretation of the meaning) ‘Truly, I am going to create
man from clay’ [Saad 38:71]."

As regards what was reported in the Sunnah, Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with
him and his father) narrated that the Messenger of Allaah
(Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) said that Allaah spoke to
him in a dream and said, "O Muhammad, do you know what the chiefs on high are
disputing about?… about the things which expiate for sins. Things that expiate for sins
are: staying in the mosque after the prayers, walking to join congregational prayers and
performing wudoo’ properly when it is difficult to do so. Whoever does these things
will have a good life and die a good death, and he will be as free from sin as on the day
his mother bore him." (Al-Tirmidhi, 3157; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 59).

In his commentary on this hadeeth, al-Mubaarakpoori explained that … "the chiefs on
high" (al-mala’ al-a’laa) referred to the angels who are closest to Allaah. Al-mala’
refers to nobles who attend gatherings and sit at their head because of their high status.
They are described as al-a’laa either because they live on high, or because of their high
status in the sight of Allaah. Their "dispute" refers either to their competing or rushing
to record these deeds and take them up to heaven, or to their discussing the virtue and
blessing of these deeds, or to their feeling happy about people when they do these
good deeds. It may have been called a "dispute" because it came in the form of
questions and answers, which sounds like a dispute or a debate, hence it was
appropriate to use the word "dispute" in this context. And Allaah knows best.

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