We made the way easy for him: Tafsir al-Tabari & Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah ‘Abasa, Allah mentions the following passage:

قُتِلَ الْإِنسَانُ مَا أَكْفَرَهُ * مِنْ أَيِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقَهُ * مِن نُّطْفَةٍ خَلَقَهُ فَقَدَّرَهُ * ثُمَّ السَّبِيلَ يَسَّرَهُ * ثُمَّ أَمَاتَهُ فَأَقْبَرَهُ * ثُمَّ إِذَا شَاءَ أَنشَرَهُ * كَلَّا لَمَّا يَقْضِ مَا أَمَرَهُ

Cursed is man, how he disbelieves! * What did Allah create him from? He created him from a sperm-drop, and then apportioned him * Then He made the way easy for him * then He causes him to die and makes a grave for him * then, when He wills, He will raise him up * No! Man has not yet accomplished what Allah has command of him [80:17-23]

The salaf and the mufassiroon differed as to the meaning of the ayah:

ثُمَّ السَّبِيلَ يَسَّرَهُ

Then He made the way easy for him

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir summarized the two opinions of the salaf and later scholars by writing:

ـ ( ثم السبيل يسره ) قال العوفي عن ابن عباس ثم يسر عليه خروجه من بطن أمه وكذا قال عكرمة والضحاك وأبو صالح وقتادة والسدي واختاره ابن جرير . ـ

ثُمَّ السَّبِيلَ يَسَّرَهُ

Then He made the way easy for him

al-‘Awfi relayed that ibn ‘Abbaas explained it as: then Allah made man’s exit from his mother’s womb easy for him.

This is just as ‘Ikrimah, al-Dhahhaak, Abu Saalih, Qataadah, and al-Suddi said. And this was the preferred position of ibn Jariri [al-Tabari]. Continue reading

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An Example of Reconciling Different Explanations from the Salaf: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, wrote:

مثال لتفسير الصحابي: ابن عمر رضي الله عنه، وتفسير لرجل من أتباع أتباع التابعين الفضيل بن عياض رحمه الله في قوله تعال: (لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا)؛ ـ

Here is an example of the tafsir of a Companion is that of ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), as well as the tafsir from someone of the generation of the Atbaa’ al-Taabi’een, al-Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyyaadh (may Allah have mercy on him), regarding Allah’s statement:

لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا

that He may test you, which of you is best in deed [67:2]

روي عن ابن عمر وجاء مرفوعا و لا يصح، أنه قال: “(وأحسن عَمَلًا): أَحْسَنُ عَقْلًا، وَأَوْرَعُ عَنْ مَحَارِمِ اللَّهِ، وَأَسْرَعُ فِي طَاعَةِ الله”. وقال الفضيل بْنُ عِيَاضٍ: أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا أَخْلَصُهُ وَأَصْوَبُهُ. ـ

It is transmitted from ibn ‘Umar – and it has also been attributed to the Prophet, though not authentically – that he explained:

 أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا

… best in deed

to mean, “best in intellect, most detached from that which Allah has forbade, and quickest to obey Allah.” While al-Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyyaadh explained it as, “Best in deed – that is, the most sincere and correct of deeds.” Continue reading

The Great Merits of Reciting the Qur’an with Contemplation: ibn al-Qayyim

The great scholar ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah once wrote:

فَلَو علم النَّاس مَا فِي قِرَاءَة الْقُرْآن بالتدبر لاشتغلوا بهَا عَن كل مَا سواهَا فَإِذا قَرَأَهُ بتفكر حَتَّى مر بِآيَة وَهُوَ مُحْتَاجا إِلَيْهَا فِي شِفَاء قلبه كررها وَلَو مائَة مرّة وَلَو لَيْلَة فقراءة آيَة بتفكر وتفهم خير من قِرَاءَة ختمة بِغَيْر تدبر وتفهم وأنفع للقلب وأدعى الى حُصُول الايمان وذوق حلاوة الْقُرْآن وَهَذِه كَانَت عَادَة السّلف يردد احدهم الاية الى الصَّباح وَقد ثَبت عَن النَّبِي انه قَامَ بِآيَة يُرَدِّدهَا حَتَّى الصَّباح وَهِي قَوْله {إِن تُعَذبهُمْ فَإِنَّهُم عِبَادك وَإِن تغْفر لَهُم فَإنَّك أَنْت الْعَزِيز الْحَكِيم} فقراءة الْقُرْآن بالتفكر هِيَ اصل صَلَاح الْقلب . ـ

If people only knew the great value of reciting the Qur’an with reflection, then they would devote themselves to it above anything else. For when one recites with contemplation, when he comes across an ayah which contains something needed to rectify his heart, he would repeat that ayah, perhaps as many as one hundred times or even for the entire night! For reciting a single ayah with contemplation and understanding is better, more beneficial for one’s heart, and more likely to bring about an increase in eemaan and tasting the sweetness of the Qur’an than reciting the entire Qur’an without reflection or understanding.

This used to be the practice of the Salaf, that one of them might repeat a single ayah until the morning came. It has also been authentically attributed to the Prophet that he stood in the night prayer until the morning came repeating a single ayah, which was:

إِن تُعَذبهُمْ فَإِنَّهُم عِبَادك وَإِن تغْفر لَهُم فَإنَّك أَنْت الْعَزِيز الْحَكِيم

If You punish them, then they are Your slaves. And if You forgive them, then You are the Mighty, the Wise. [5:118]

For reciting the Qur’an with contemplation is the very basis of the heart’s rectification. Continue reading

Rulings Related to the Mosques in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-Nur:

فِي بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّـهُ أَن تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ فِيهَا بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ * رِجَالٌ لَّا تُلْهِيهِمْ تِجَارَةٌ وَلَا بَيْعٌ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ ۙ يَخَافُونَ يَوْمًا تَتَقَلَّبُ فِيهِ الْقُلُوبُ وَالْأَبْصَارُ * لِيَجْزِيَهُمُ اللَّـهُ أَحْسَنَ مَا عَمِلُوا وَيَزِيدَهُم مِّن فَضْلِهِ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

In houses which Allah has allowed to be raised and that His name be mentioned therein; exalting Him in them in the morning and the evenings * Men whom neither commerce nor sale distracts from the remembrance of Allah and performance of prayer and giving of zakah. They fear a Day in which the hearts and eyes will turn about – * That Allah may reward them according to the best of what they did and increase them from His bounty. And Allah gives provision to whom He wills without account. [24:36-38]

Commenting on this in his well-known tafsir of the Qur’an, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote:

أي: يتعبد لله في بيوت عظيمة فاضلة، هي أحب البقاع إليه، وهي المساجد. أذن الله أي: أمر ووصى أن ترفع ويذكر فيها اسمه هذان مجموع أحكام المساجد، فيدخل في رفعها: بناؤها وكنسها وتنظيفها من النجاسة والأذى، وصونها من المجانين والصبيان الذين لا يتحرزون عن النجاسة، وعن الكافر، وأن تصان عن اللغو فيها، ورفع الأصوات بغير ذكر الله . ـ

Meaning: to draw near to Allah in these great, virtuous houses which are the most beloved places to Him, i.e. the mosques.

أَذِنَ اللَّـهُ

Allah has allowed …

meaning: He has commanded and enjoined that

أَن تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ

… to be raised and that His name be mentioned therein

These two things encompass all the rulings related to the mosques. For raising the mosques includes: building them, sweeping them and cleaning out any forms of impurity or harm, protecting them against young children and the mentally ill who are not attentive against physical impurities, and against the disbelievers. And it involves preventing certain things from occurring in them such as idle speech and raising one’s voices for some other purpose than the remembrance of Allah.

Continue reading

The Difference Between Narration-based Tafsir and Opinion-Based Tafsir: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, posed and answered the following question:

ما الفرق بين التفسيربالمأثور والتفسير بالرأي ؟ التفسير بالمأثور هو الذي يقتصر فيه دور المفسر على مجرد النقل؛ فيفسر الآية بالآية = تفسير القرآن بالقرآن. ويفسر الآية بالسنة . = تفسير القرآن بالسنة. ويفسر الآية بقول الصحابي . = ويفسر الآية بما أجمع عليه التابعون. فقط ينقل ماورد من ذلك في تفسير الآية، كما تراه في تفسير عبدالرزاق وابن أبي حاتم، وابن المنذر. ـ

What is the difference between Narration-based Tafsir [Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thoor] and Opinion-based Tafsir [Tafsir bi’l-Ra’yi]?

Narration-based tafsir can be defined as that in which the role of the mufassir is limited to mere transmission. So he would:

  • explain one ayah with another, which is explaining the Qur’an by means of the Qur’an itself.
  • explain an ayah through the Sunnah, which is explaining the Qur’an by means of the Sunnah.
  • explain an ayah with the statement of a Companion.
  • explain an ayah according to a position that all the Taabi’oon agreed on.

So he only transmits what has been relayed through those routes regarding the explanation of an ayah, as you can see in the books of tafsir by ‘Abd al-Razzaaq, ibn Abi Haatim, and ibn al-Mundhir. Continue reading

Thematic Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

In the introduction to a speech entitled, “Security and Fear in the Noble Qur’an“, Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh mentioned:

والتفسير له عدة علوم مختلفة يعلمها أهل الاختصاص، ومنها: التفسير الموضوعي للقرآن. ـ

The field of Tafsir – explaining the Qur’an – is comprised of a number of different sub-disciplines which are known by those who specialize in this area. One of these sub-fields is: Thematic Tafsir of the Qur’an.

والتفسير الموضوعي على قسمين: ـ

Thematic Tafsir can be divided into two main categories:

القسم الأول: التفسير الموضوعي باعتبار موضوع ما، كهذا الموضوع، وكما نقول مثلاً التوحيد في القرآن، الرسالة في القرآن، الإيمان باليوم الآخر في القرآن، القدر في القرآن، الصلاة في القرآن، الفتنة في القرآن، الرجال في القرآن، النساء في القرآن، وحتى إن بعض أهل العلم كتب: الجبال في القرآن. ـ

○ The first category is: thematic tafsir that is oriented around a particular theme, such as the subject of this lecture, or if we were to say, for example, “al-Tawheed in the Qur’an”, “Divine Revelation in the Qur’an”, “Belief in the Last Day in the Qur’an”, “al-Qadr in the Qur’an”, “Prayer in the Qur’an”, “Fitnah in the Qur’an”, “Men in the Qur’an”, “Women in the Qur’an”, and so on. And one of the scholars even wrote a book called, “Mountains in the Qur’an.” Continue reading

How the Sahabah Used to Divide the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir began his tafsir of surah Qaaf (50) with the following discussion of how many of the Sahabah used to divide their nightly recitation of the Qur’an:

وهذه السورة هي أول الحزب المفصل على الصحيح ، وقيل : من الحجرات . وأما ما يقوله العامة : إنه من ( عم ) فلا أصل له ، ولم يقله أحد من العلماء المعتبرين فيما نعلم . والدليل على أن هذه السورة هي أول المفصل ما رواه أبو داود في سننه ، باب ” تحزيب القرآن ” ثم قال : حدثنا مسدد ، حدثنا قران بن تمام ، ( ح ) وحدثنا عبد الله بن سعيد أبو سعيد الأشج ، حدثنا أبو خالد سليمان بن حبان – وهذا لفظه – عن عبد الله بن عبد الرحمن بن يعلى ، عن عثمان بن عبد الله بن أوس ، عن جده – قال عبد الله بن سعيد : حدثنيه أوس بن حذيفة – ثم اتفقا . قال : قدمنا على رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – في وفد ثقيف ، قال : فنزلت الأحلاف على المغيرة بن شعبة ، وأنزل رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – بني مالك في قبة له – قال مسدد : وكان في الوفد الذين قدموا على رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – من ثقيف ، قال : كان رسول الله [ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ] كل ليلة يأتينا بعد العشاء يحدثنا – قال أبو سعيد : قائما على رجليه حتى يراوح بين رجليه من طول القيام – فأكثر ما يحدثنا ما لقي من قومه قريش ، ثم يقول : لا سواء وكنا مستضعفين مستذلين – قال مسدد : بمكة – فلما خرجنا إلى المدينة كانت سجال الحرب بيننا وبينهم ، ندال عليهم ويدالون علينا . فلما كانت ليلة أبطأ عن الوقت الذي كان يأتينا فيه ، فقلنا : لقد أبطأت عنا الليلة ! قال : ” إنه طرأ علي حزبي من القرآن ، فكرهت أن أجيء حتى أتمه ” . قال أوس : سألت أصحاب رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : كيف تحزبون القرآن ؟ فقالوا : ثلاث ، وخمس ، وسبع ، وتسع ، وإحدى عشرة ، وثلاث عشرة ، وحزب المفصل وحده . ـ

This surah [surah Qaaf] is the first surah of the mufassal section of the Qur’an according to the correct opinion, though some say surah al-Hujurat is.

As for what some of the common folk say, that the mufassal section begins from Juz’ ‘Amma’, there is no basis for this and not a single scholar of repute has voiced this position as far as I know.

The proof that surah Qaaf is the beginning of the mufassal section is what Abu Dawud transmitted in his Sunnah collection, under the chapter of “The Division of the Qur’an”. He said:

… Aws ibn Hudhaifah said: We came upon the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) in a delegation of Thaqif. The signatories of the pact came to al-Mughirah ibn Shu’bah as his guests. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) made Banu-Malik stay in a tent of his.

Musaddad – who was in the delegation of Thaqif which came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) – said: The Prophet used to visit and talk with us every day after the night prayer. Continue reading

The Prohibition of Music in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Near the beginning of surah Luqman, Allah says what can be literally translated as:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَشْتَرِي لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ لِيُضِلَّ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ وَيَتَّخِذَهَا هُزُوًا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ

And among the people are those who purchase idle talk in order to mislead others from the path of Allah without knowledge and who take it as a mockery. For these ones, there is a humiliating punishment [31:6]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, the great mufassir imam Muhammad al-Qurtubi explained this ayah according to the understanding of the salaf by writing:

و ( لهو الحديث ) : الغناء ; في قول ابن مسعود وابن عباس وغيرهما . النحاس : وهو ممنوع بالكتاب والسنة ; والتقدير : من يشتري ذا لهو أو ذات لهو ; مثل : واسأل القرية . أو يكون التقدير : لما كان إنما اشتراها يشتريها ويبالغ في ثمنها كأنه اشتراها للهو . ـ

The phrase:

لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ

“idle talk”

means music. This is according to the statements of ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbaas, and others.

al-Nahhaas said: Music is prohibited according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

قلت : هذه إحدى الآيات الثلاث التي استدل بها العلماء على كراهة الغناء والمنع منه . والآية الثانية قوله تعالى : وأنتم سامدون . قال ابن عباس : هو الغناء بالحميرية ; اسمدي لنا ; أي غني لنا . ـ

I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say: This is one of three ayaat in the Qur’an which the scholars use as evidence for the position that music is something hated and prohibited. The second ayah is Allah’s statement: Continue reading

How the Prophet Explained the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, wrote the following short discussion on how the Prophet (ﷺ) used to explain the Qur’an:

تعلم معني القرآن العظيم ومعاني السنة النبوية للعمل بذلك في عبادة الله وطاعته، هو الغاية التي يسعى إليها كل مسلم! والعمل بهذه المعاني هو حاصل من كل مسلم بالفعل وبالقوة. ـ

Learning the meanings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah in order to act in accordance with them in worship and obedience to Allah is the goal that every Muslim should work towards! Acting upon these meanings is what is required of every Muslim in his actions and efforts.

ولم يوكل الله بيان معاني القرآن العظيم إلا للرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم؛ قال تعالى: ({وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ } [النحل: 44]. فالرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم مامات إلا وقد بلغ الرسالة وأدى الأمانة، ومن ذلك بيان معاني القرآن الكريم؛ فالرسول فسر القرآن العظيم ، وبين معانيه؛ وذلك على وجوه ؛ ـ

Allah did not entrust anyone except for the Messenger (ﷺ) with explaining the meanings of the Qur’an. He said:

وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

And We revealed the dhikr to you in order that you may make what was sent down to the people clear to them and that they might give thought. [16:44]

And the Messenger (ﷺ) did not pass away until after he had conveyed the message and fulfilled his duty, and one part of that duty was clarifying the meanings of the Qur’an.

So the Messenger explained the Qur’an and clarified its meanings, and this was done in a number of ways: Continue reading

“Only those who hear will respond”: Tafsir al-Tabari and Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-An’aam:

إِنَّمَا يَسْتَجِيبُ الَّذِينَ يَسْمَعُونَ ۘ وَالْمَوْتَىٰ يَبْعَثُهُمُ اللَّـهُ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ يُرْجَعُونَ

Only those who hear will respond. But the dead – Allah will resurrect them; then to Him they will be returned. [6:36]

In his famous book of tafsir, Imam Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari commented on this ayah by writing:

 قال أبو جعفر : يقول – تعالى ذكره – لنبيه محمد – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : لا يكبرن عليك إعراض هؤلاء المعرضين عنك ، وعن الاستجابة لدعائك إذا دعوتهم إلى توحيد ربهم والإقرار بنبوتك ، فإنه لا يستجيب لدعائك – إلى ما تدعوه إليه من ذلك – إلا الذين فتح الله أسماعهم للإصغاء إلى الحق ، وسهل لهم اتباع الرشد ، دون من ختم الله على سمعه ، فلا يفقه من دعائك إياه إلى الله وإلى اتباع الحق إلا ما تفقه الأنعام من أصوات رعاتها ، فهم كما وصفهم به الله – تعالى ذكره – : صم بكم عمي فهم لا يعقلون [ سورة البقرة : 171 ] ـ

I, Abu Ja’far, say: Allah is addressing His Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) by saying: Do not be distressed by the rejection of these ones who turn away from you and from responding to your call when you call them to singling out their Lord in worship and affirming your prophet-hood. For none will respond to your call – that is, those things which you are calling to – except for those whom Allah has opened their hearing to listen to the truth and then made it easy for them to follow the correct guidance. This is to the exclusion of those whom Allah has placed a seal over their hearing, so they do not understand this call to worship Allah and to follow the truth, this call of yours which is directed to them. They do not understand it any more than cattle understand the voice of their herder. So they are like those whom Allah described in this way:

وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي يَنْعِقُ بِمَا لَا يَسْمَعُ إِلَّا دُعَاءً وَنِدَاءً ۚ صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ

And the example of those who disbelieve, is as that of him who shouts to those that that hear nothing but calls and cries. (They are) deaf, dumb and blind. So they do not understand. [2:171]

ـ” والموتى يبعثهم الله ” يقول : والكفار يبعثهم الله مع الموتى ، فجعلهم – تعالى ذكره – في عداد الموتى الذين لا يسمعون صوتا ، ولا يعقلون دعاء ، ولا يفقهون قولا إذ كانوا لا يتدبرون حجج الله ، ولا يعتبرون آياته ، ولا يتذكرون فينزجرون عما هم عليه من تكذيب رسل الله وخلافهم . ـ

وَالْمَوْتَىٰ يَبْعَثُهُمُ اللَّـهُ

But the dead – Allah will resurrect them Continue reading