Note 137 (Quran Ref: 5:112 )

The relevant words. in the generally accepted reading of the Qur'an, are hal yastati` rabbuka, meaning "can thy Sustainer", or "could thy Sustainer", or "is thy Sustainer able". Inasmuch as, on the face of it, this reading would imply a fundamental doubt in God's power to do anything that He wills (an imputation which does not agree with the characterization, in the Qur'an, of Jesus' disciples as firm believers), most of the commentators see in the query of the disciples something similar to one person's asking another, "Could you go with me?" - that is to say, not implying a doubt as to the other's ability to go but, rather, an uncertainty as to his willingness to do it (cf. in this respect, tabari, Baghawi, Razi, Raghib; also Manar VII, 250 ff.). We have, however, positive evidence of the fact that several of the most outstanding Companions of the Prophet -'Ali, Ibn `Abbas, `A'ishah and Mu'adh ibn Jabal-read the words in question in the spelling hal tastati ` rabbaka, which might be rendered as "Couldst thou prevail upon thy Sustainer?" (tabari, Zamakhshari, Baghawi, Razi, Ibn Kathir): a reading which implies the disciples' uncertainty as to Jesus' ability (in the spiritual sense of this word) to make the above request of God. Thus, `A'ishah, refusing to accept the more common reading hat yastati` rabbuka ("can" or "could thy Sustainer"), is reported to have said: "The disciples of Jesus knew better than to ask whether God is able to do anything: they merely asked [of Jesus], 'Art thou able to request thy Sustainer?' - (Razi). Moreover, according to an authentic Tradition quoted in the Mustadrak. Mu'adh ibn Jabal stated unequivocally that the Prophet himself had imparted to him the reading hal tastati ` rabbaka ("Couldst thou prevail upon thy Sustainer?"). To my mind, the weight of evidence points to this second alternative; but in view of the more general reading, I have rendered the phrase as above. As regards the disciples' request-and Jesus' subsequent prayer-for a heavenly "repast" (ma'idah, the word which gave the title to this surah), it might possibly be an echo of the request for daily bread contained in the Lord's Prayer (cf. Matthew vi, 11), since, in religious terminology, every benefit that accrues to man is "sent down from heaven"-that is, by God-even if it comes into being through man's own efforts. But, on the other hand, the manner in which the disciples are said to have asked for the "repast"-and particularly their explanation given in the next verse-rather seems to point to a request for a miracle which would assure them of God's "acceptance" of their faith. (See also next note.)(Quran Ref: 5:112 )