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Meaning of "at a distance of two bows' length or less Print E-mail
Written by Ibn Kathir   
Friday, 10 November 2006

Meaning of "at a distance of two bows' length or less

Allah's statement,

[فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى ]
(And was at a distance of two bows` length or less.) means, Jibril came closer to Muhammad when Jibril was descending to him on earth. At that time, the distance between them became only two bow lengths, when the bows are extended to full length, according to Mujahid and Qatadah. It was said that the meaning here is the distance between the bow's string and its wood center. Allah's statement,

[أَوْ أَدْنَى]
(or less) indicates that the distance was as only as far described, not more. This type of usage is found in several instances in the Qur'an, such as,

[ثُمَّ قَسَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ مِّن بَعْدِ ذلِكَ فَهِىَ كَالْحِجَارَةِ أَوْ أَشَدُّ قَسْوَةً]
(Then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness.)(2:74) The Ayah says that their hearts became not softer than rocks, but as hard and difficult as rocks, and more. There is a similar Ayah,

[يَخْشَوْنَ النَّاسَ كَخَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ أَوْ أَشَدَّ خَشْيَةً]
(fear men as they fear Allah or even more.)(4:77), and Allah's statement,

[وَأَرْسَلْنَـهُ إِلَى مِاْئَةِ أَلْفٍ أَوْ يَزِيدُونَ ]
(And We sent him to hundred thousand (people) or even more.)(37:147), indicating that they were not less than a hundred thousand, but that amount or more. Therefore, this verifies the facts mentioned, leaving no doubt or means of refute. Similarly, Allah said,

[فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى ]
(And was at a distance of two bow lengths or less.) We stated before that it was Jibril who came down near the Prophet , according to `A'ishah, the Mother of the faithful, `Abdullah bin Mas`ud, Abu Dharr and Abu Hurayrah. We will mention their statements about this soon afterwards, Allah willing. Ibn Jarir recorded that `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said about this Ayah,

[فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى ]
(And was at a distance of two bow lengths or less.) "Allah's Messenger said,

Meaning of "at a distance of two bows' length or less

Allah's statement,

[فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى ]
(And was at a distance of two bows` length or less.) means, Jibril came closer to Muhammad when Jibril was descending to him on earth. At that time, the distance between them became only two bow lengths, when the bows are extended to full length, according to Mujahid and Qatadah. It was said that the meaning here is the distance between the bow's string and its wood center. Allah's statement,

[أَوْ أَدْنَى]
(or less) indicates that the distance was as only as far described, not more. This type of usage is found in several instances in the Qur'an, such as,

[ثُمَّ قَسَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ مِّن بَعْدِ ذلِكَ فَهِىَ كَالْحِجَارَةِ أَوْ أَشَدُّ قَسْوَةً]
(Then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness.)(2:74) The Ayah says that their hearts became not softer than rocks, but as hard and difficult as rocks, and more. There is a similar Ayah,

[يَخْشَوْنَ النَّاسَ كَخَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ أَوْ أَشَدَّ خَشْيَةً]
(fear men as they fear Allah or even more.)(4:77), and Allah's statement,

[وَأَرْسَلْنَـهُ إِلَى مِاْئَةِ أَلْفٍ أَوْ يَزِيدُونَ ]
(And We sent him to hundred thousand (people) or even more.)(37:147), indicating that they were not less than a hundred thousand, but that amount or more. Therefore, this verifies the facts mentioned, leaving no doubt or means of refute. Similarly, Allah said,

[فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى ]
(And was at a distance of two bow lengths or less.) We stated before that it was Jibril who came down near the Prophet , according to `A'ishah, the Mother of the faithful, `Abdullah bin Mas`ud, Abu Dharr and Abu Hurayrah. We will mention their statements about this soon afterwards, Allah willing. Ibn Jarir recorded that `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said about this Ayah,

[فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى ]
(And was at a distance of two bow lengths or less.) "Allah's Messenger said,

 
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