Z They were not commanded but to worship God, devoting religion entirely to Him, as ḥanīfs, and to perform the prayer, and to give the alms—that is the upright religion.
5 The first phrase is understood to mean that those who came before were only ordered to do that which was enjoined upon them in order to worship God (Sh, Z), and is taken to imply that they sought other objectives and mixed other practices and beliefs into the pure religion that God had sent them (Ṭ). Devoting . . . entirely translates mukhliṣ, which implies making something pure and doing something with complete sincerity. It can be taken to mean both that they purify the religion for God, meaning their practice and understanding of the religion, and that they purify themselves (Sh). Ḥanīf (pl. ḥunafāʾ) derives from the verb ḥanifa, meaning “to incline.” It is employed in the Quran to indicate one who inclines away from idolatry and toward belief in the Oneness of God (tawḥīd). Abraham is thus described as a ḥanīf in several verses (2:135; 3:67, 95; 4:125; 6:79, 161; 16:120, 123). And in 10:105, the Prophet is enjoined, Set thy face toward the religion as a ḥanīf, and be thou not among the idolaters; see also 22:31; 30:30. For the meaning of ḥanīf, see 2:135c. Alms translates zakāh, which is the technical term for the Muslim mandatory alms (see 2:277c), but is also used to indicate the alms mandated for previous religious communities (see 2:43, 83, 177, 277; 4:77, 162; 7:156; 19:31, 55; 21:73; 22:41; 24:37), and at other times for all forms of charitable giving. The root meaning of zakāh is purification, implying that giving wealth purifies both the giver and the wealth. In this context, zakāh can be more broadly conceived as all acts of kindness toward the poor and needy (IK), especially if this is a
Makkan sūrah revealed before the formal institutionalization of the alms.
The upright religion is seen by some as a reference to the religion of Abraham and his followers, the religion that was taught in the scriptures purified (v. 2). For the meaning of the upright religion, see 30:30c. In this context some understand it as a direct reference to the religion with which the Prophet Muhammad was sent (Ṭ), while others see it as a more general reference to all those who follow what has been revealed to them through a prophet.