What’s the meaning of al-Mann wa al-Salwa that is stated in Surah al-Baqarah?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day in the hereafter.
Allah states in the Quran:
وَأَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَنَّ وَالسَّلْوَىٰ
“And We sent down on you ‘Mann’ and ‘Salwa’,”
Surah al-Baqarah (57)
There are two types of food which are mentioned in this verse, and Islamic scholars has discussed about what they are in depth. Here we present the discussion of the scholars:
- Imam al-Qurtubi states, al-mann is known as ‘al-Toronjabin’ with the letter (ط) and this is what has been used by most mufassir. Al-mann is also known as sweet gum or honey. (Refer: Tafsir al-Qurtubi, 1/405-407)
- Imam al-Baidhawi said, al-mann is ‘al-Taranjabin’ and is sent down to them like snow from dawn to dusk. (Refer: Anwar Al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Takwil, 1/94)
- Imam Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi wrote others’ opinions as follows:
- Ibn Abbas and al-Sya’bi: Something that is sent down from trees, sweeter than honey and whiter than snow
- Mujahid: Sweet and good gum
- Rabi’ bin Anas Abi al-‘Aliyyah: A type of beverage that is sent down to them and they drink it after mixing it with water.
- Ibn Zaid: Honey that is sent down to them
- Wahab: A bread that is made from corn
- Al-Sa’di: Ginger
- Most Mufassirin: al-mann is ‘al-Taranjabin’
- Amru bin Isa: Sour honey
- Imam al-Alusi said al-mann or commonly known as ‘al-Taranjabin’ is something that resembles sweet gum but a little sour. (Refer: Ruh al-Maani, 1/418)
- Syeikh Rasyid Redha said: Al-Mann is something that flows down like dew, it’s a sticky and sweet liquid like honey. It can be found on rocks and moist leaves then it will harden and dried so that people can collect them. An example of something that falls in this category is Al-Taranjabin and this is what is meant by some of the mufassir. (See: Tafsir al-Manar, 1/268)
- Syeikh Mutawalli Sya’rawi said, al-mann is small droplets that appear on leaves of trees at dawn. And it still exists to this day in an area in Iraq. Early dawn, people would go there with large white cloths that they spread under the trees. They would shake the trees vigorously until all the droplets fall on the big white cloth. They would collect them and make the most delicious desserts. It tastes like cream and honey. It is one of the most delicious desserts that can be digested easily. (Refer: Tafsir al-Sya’rawi, 1/193)
- Syeikh Muhammad al-Thahir Ibn ‘Asyur said: Al-Mann is a gum-like substance that is present on trees in deserts. It has a sweet and sour taste, yellowish in colour and can be widely found in valleys of Turkistan. In Torah, it is described as a small substance like husk and flows like dew to earth in a hard-dried form. The Israelis named it al-Mann. (See: Tafsir al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir,1/509-510)
- Imam as-Syaukani narrated a few opinions in his commentary regarding the meaning of al-Mann, some of them are:
- Its meaning is At-Taranjabin, At-Tharanjabin (with the letter Tho)
- It is said that it can also meant as honey, sweet drinks and slices of bread.
- It is a general term for anything that Allah has given his slaves without the process of planting or any effort. This opinion is in accordance with the prophet PBUH’s narration:
أَنَّ الْكَمْأَةَ مِنَ الْمَنِّ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَ عَلَى مُوسَى
“The fungus is a gift that’s sent down to Moses,”
Narrated by Muslim (2049)
- Prof M Quraisy Shihab said: “Al-mann is the reddish droplets that appear on the leaves, usually at dawn,”. To this day, according to Syeikh Mutawalli Sya’rawi, al-mann can still be found in Iraq. Its taste is sweet and sour, and yellowish in colour. In the old testament, al-mann is something that comes with morning dew around the camping site of the Israelis. It is frozen and smooth like scales. It is like coriander with the appearance of rubber. The Israelis collect them and grind them with mortar and pestle. They cook it in pots and made it into bread; it tastes like a something that’s fried. (See: Tafsir al-Misbah, 1/203)
Regarding the meaning of al-Salwa, there are also a few opinions on this matter:
- Ibn Kathir commented on the verse and he said: Ali bin Abi Talhah said narrated from Ibn Abbas: Al-Salwa is a type of bird that’s similar to al-summani, and that they eat from it. It is recorded from Ikrimah: al-Salwa is a bird like the birds that are described in heaven. It is bigger than al-‘usfur or similar to it. Wahab bin Munabbih said, al-Salwa is a bird that has a lot of meat just like a dove. The bird came to them and they would take the bird once a week every Saturday. Ibnu ‘Athiyyah said, according to mufassir (commenters of the Quran), salwa is a bird. While al-Hudzali has made a mistake in saying that it is honey. (See: Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 1/414)
- Imam al-Syaukani wrote a few opinions and some of them states that it refers to quail. Ibn ‘Athiyyah claimed that the mufassir concluded that Al-Salwa means bird, but it is refuted by Imam al-Qurthubi. He referred to Al-Mu’arrij, a scholar of Arabic language said that it actually means honey according to a poem Al-Huzali and Lahjah Kinanah. (See: Tafsir Fath al-Qadir, 1/103-105)
- Syeikh Rasyid Redha said: Al-Salwa is a quail السُّمَّانِيِّ and it is a well-known bird, the term used in the verse is the same as the characteristic of the quail itself. (See: Tafsir al-Manar, 1/268)
- Syeikh Muhammad al-Thahir Ibn ‘Asyur said: Al-Salwa is a type of wild land bird that is tasty to be eaten and easy to hunt. It is also named السُّمَّانِيِّ. (See: Tafsir al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir, 1/509-510)
- Syeikh Muhammad Amin al-Syanqiti said: al-Salwa is a bird similar to quail. And it can be said that it is quail. This is the opinion of mot scholars on the matter. (Refer: Adhwa’ al-Bayan Fi Idhah al-Quran bi al-Quran, 4/74)
- Syeikh al-Maraghi said that it refers to quail. (Refer: Tafsir al-Maraghi , 1/70)
- Syeikhh al-Sobuni when commenting about this verse said al-salwa refers to a bird that is similar to quail and is delicious to eat. (Refer: Sofwah al-Tafasir, 1/59)
- Syeikh Dr Wahbah al-Zuhaili said: “al-Salwa is a bird that is known as al-sumaani (quail) that can be found in a region in Syria with the name al-farri.” He said when commenting the verse: “Then We gifted you with varieties of food and drinks like al-mann that is similar to honey (they mix it with water and drink it) and al-salwa a bird similar to quail and delicious to eat. Al-mann is sent down to them like the falling of mist at dawn, while the quail would come themselves to every one of them so that they can eat until the day after,” (See: Tafsir al-Munir, 1/126)
- Syeikh Mutawalli Sya’rawi said, al-Salwa is a type of bird from the heavens and are said to be quail. The birds came in flocks and their origin are unknown. This bird remains on earth until they are captured, slaughtered and eaten. Allah SWT give great sustenance to them just as Allah SWT give the shade from the hot burning sun. And ‘al-mann’ gives them strength and energy to move, and al-salwa is a dish for them. Both these gifts are from the heavens and they do not need to work hard for it. (Refer: Tafsir al-Sya’rawi, 1/193)
- Syed Qutb said: “There are a lot of narrations that state that Allah give sustenance to them in the form of “من” that can be found on trees. Its taste is like honey, and Allah gifted them with flocks of birds salwa that they could easily find,” (See: Tafsir Fi Zilal al-Quran, 1/150)
- Dr Hamka said: “Then they were given food named mann and salwa at that time. Analyzing the literal meaning of the name itself, mann is a gift and salwa is heart’s solace. However, their meaning contextually is gifts of delicious dishes from their god to them. According to a narration by Ibnul Mundzir and Ibnu Abi Hatim from Ibnu Abbas, he said that manna is every type of food that is sweet, white in colour that they can find on rocks, logs and leaves. The taste is sweet and delicious; just like honey, that some Quranic commentators said that it is honey. They will be full by just eating them. They can collect them in baskets every morning. Meanwhile, salwa means a white bird the size of a quail. They fly in flocks and easy to catch. Their meat is delicious and tender. At the time, the birds fly in flocks to them that there was never a low supply of them.” (See: Tafsir al-Azhar, 1/205-206)
- M. Quraisy said: “Al-Salwa is a type of bird. Some narrations state that it is similar to a quail and fly in flocks. They migrated from an unknown place and is easy to catch, slaughtered and eaten.” (See: Tafsir al-Misbah, 1/203)
We concluded the opinions of Islamic scholars about al-mann and al-salwa.
- Al-Taranjabin and some of the opinion that it is known as al-Toronjabin with the letter (ط) and this is the opinion of most mufassir.
- Something that falls from trees, sweeter than honey and whiter than snow.
- Sweet and good gum.
- A type of beverage that is sent down to them and they would drink it after mixing it with water.
- Honey that is sent down to them.
- Bread that is made from corn.
- Sour honey.
- Something like snow, whiter than milk and sweeter than honey.
- A type of liquid that is sticky and sweet like honey. It can be found on rocks and moist leaves of trees, then it hardened and dried and then collected.
- A gum-like substance found in trees in the desert. It has a sweet and sour taste, yellowish in colour and can be found in the valleys of Turkistan.
- A bird with a lot of meat like a dove.
- Wild land bird that is delicious to eat and easy to hunt.
This bird is also known as السُّمَّانِيِّ
- Honey (according to a singular opinion)
These are the scholars’ opinion that commented on the meaning of al-mann wa al-salwa. Hopefully it will help to better our understanding about al-Quran al-Karim that is the book of guidance to us all.