“Surely either we or you are upon right guidance, or in clear error”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah instructs His Messenger (ﷺ) to address the disbelievers when He says in surah Saba’:

قُلْ مَن يَرْ‌زُقُكُم مِّنَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ ۖ قُلِ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَإِنَّا أَوْ إِيَّاكُمْ لَعَلَىٰ هُدًى أَوْ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ

Say, “Who provides for you from the heavens and the earth?” Say, “Allah. And surely, either we or you are upon right guidance, or in clear error.” [34:24]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di writes about this ayah in his book of tafsir, saying:

يأمر تعالى‏,‏ نبيه محمدا ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ أن يقول لمن أشرك باللّه ويسأله عن حجة شركه‏:‏ ‏{‏مَنْ يَرْزُقُكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ‏}‏ فإنهم لا بد أن يقروا أنه اللّه، ولئن لم يقروا فـ ‏{‏قُلِ اللَّهُ‏}‏ فإنك لا تجد من يدفع هذا القول، فإذا تبين أن اللّه وحده الذي يرزقكم من السماوات والأرض‏,‏ وينزل ‏لكم‏‏ المطر‏,‏ وينبت لكم النبات‏,‏ ويفجر لكم الأنهار‏,‏ ويطلع لكم من ثمار الأشجار‏,‏ وجعل لكم الحيوانات جميعها‏,‏ لنفعكم ورزقكم‏,‏ فلم تعبدون معه من لا يرزقكم شيئا‏,‏ ولا يفيدكم نفعا‏؟‏‏.‏

He commands His prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) to say to those who commit shirk of Allah and to ask them for a proof of their skirk:

‏مَنْ يَرْزُقُكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ

Say, “Who provides for you from the heavens and the earth?” [34:24]

for they should surely admit that it is definitely Allah, and if they do not admit it, then

قُلِ اللَّـهُ

Say, “Allah”

for certainly you will not find anyone who can refute this statement. So when you clarify that Allah alone provides for you from the heavens and the earth, and sends rain down for you, and grows your plants for you, and causes you rivers to burst forth for you, and brings fruits from the trees for you, and made all of the animals for you, in order to benefit you and provide for you, and then you worship others alongside him who neither provide anything for you, nor benefit you in any way?!

وقوله‏:‏ ‏{‏وَإِنَّا أَوْ إِيَّاكُمْ لَعَلَى هُدًى أَوْ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ‏}‏ أي‏:‏ إحدى الطائفتين منا ومنكم‏,‏ على الهدى‏,‏ مستعلية عليه‏,‏ أو في ضلال مبين، منغمرة فيه، وهذا الكلام يقوله من تبين له الحق‏,‏ واتضح له الصواب‏,‏ وجزم بالحق الذي هو عليه‏,‏ وبطلان ما عليه خصمه‏.‏

And His statement:

‏وَإِنَّا أَوْ إِيَّاكُمْ لَعَلَى هُدًى أَوْ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ

Surely, either we or you are upon right guidance, or in clear error

meaning: one of the two parties, either us or you, is upon guidance and elevated by it, or otherwise in clear error and completely engulfed in it. This speech that you say to them is a clarification of the truth, and explanation of the right way, and an assertion of the truth which you are upon and the falsehood of those who dispute with you.

أي‏:‏ قد شرحنا من الأدلة الواضحة عندنا وعندكم‏,‏ ما به يعلم علما يقينا لا شك فيه‏,‏ من المحق منا‏,‏ ومن المبطل‏,‏ ومن المهتدي ومن الضال‏؟‏ حتى إنه يصير التعيين بعد ذلك‏,‏ لا فائدة فيه، فإنك إذا وازنت بين من يدعو إلى عبادة الخالق‏,‏ لسائر المخلوقات المتصرف فيها‏,‏ بجميع أنواع التصرفات‏,‏ المسدي جميع النعم‏,‏ الذي رزقهم وأوصل إليهم كل نعمة‏,‏ ودفع عنهم كل نقمة‏,‏ الذي له الحمد كله‏,‏ والملك كله‏,‏ وكل أحد من الملائكة فما دونهم‏,‏ خاضعون لهيبته‏,‏ متذللون لعظمته‏,‏ وكل الشفعاء تخافه‏,‏ لا يشفع أحد منهم عنده إلا بإذنه العلي الكبير‏,‏ في ذاته‏,‏ وأوصافه‏,‏ وأفعاله‏,‏ الذي له كل كمال‏,‏ وكل جلال‏,‏ وكل جمال‏,‏ وكل حمد وثناء ومجد، يدعو إلى التقرب لمن هذا شأنه‏,‏ وإخلاص العمل له‏,‏ وينهى عن عبادة من سواه‏,‏ وبين من يتقرب إلى أوثان‏,‏ وأصنام‏,‏ وقبور‏,‏ لا تخلق‏,‏ ولا ترزق‏,‏ ولا تملك لأنفسها‏,‏ ولا لمن عبدها‏,‏ نفعا ولا ضرا‏,‏ ولا موتا ولا حياة‏,‏ ولا نشورا، بل هي جمادات‏,‏ لا تعقل‏,‏ ولا تسمع دعاء عابديها‏,‏ ولو سمعته ما استجابت لهم، ويوم القيامة يكفرون بشركهم‏,‏ ويتبرأون منهم‏,‏ ويتلاعنون بينهم، ليس لهم قسط من الملك‏,‏ ولا شركة فيه‏,‏ ولا إعانة فيه، ولا لهم شفاعة يستقلون بها دون اللّه، فهو يدعو مَنْ هذا وصفه‏,‏ ويتقرب إليه مهما أمكنه‏,‏ ويعادي من أخلص الدين للّه‏,‏ ويحاربه‏,‏ ويكذب رسل اللّه‏,‏ الذين جاءوا بالإخلاص للّه وحده، تبين لك أي الفريقين‏,‏ المهتدي من الضال‏,‏ والشقي من السعيد‏؟‏ ولم يحتج إلى أن يعين لك ذلك‏,‏ لأن وصف الحال‏,‏ أوضح من لسان المقال‏.‏

Meaning: We have explained with clear evidences that both of us accept, with evidences which result in certain knowledge which leaves no room for doubt which one of us is correct, and which one of us is false, and which one of us is guided and which one is misguided. It is so clear that arguing any further becomes mere quibbling, which holds no benefit. For if you were to compare the one who calls to the worship of the Creator, the one who created all created beings and manages them, the conferrer of all blessing, Who provides for them and originates every blessing which they receive, and prevents every harm, and to Whom belongs all praise and all ownership. And every one of the angels and those below them are subject to His authority, and overcome by His greatness. And every intercessor is afraid of Him; none of them intercedes with Him without His permission. He is the Most High, the Great in terms of His essence and His attributes and His actions, all of which are perfect, all of which are magnificent and all of which are wonderful. And praise and exaltation and magnification belong to Him. He calls those whom He wishes to come close and those who are sincere in their deeds towards Him, and He forbids the worship of other than Him.

If you were to compare that sort of person to the one who seeks to draw near to idols, sacrificial altars, and graves – things which neither create nor sustain, nor do they have any power over themselves or those who worship them. They can neither benefit nor harm, nor can they give life, death or resurrection. Rather they are inanimate objects; they neither think nor do they hear the supplications of their worshipers. And if they heard, they would not respond to them, and on the Day of Resurrection they will deny the the shirk of those who worshiped them and declare themselves innocent of them, and they will curse one another. They have no share of power, nor will they have any partners or help on that day, nor is there anyone to seek intercession with other than Allah.

So this second type of person calls out to this kind of being and seeks nearness to it however he can. While doing that, he opposes singling out his devotion to Allah. Instead he wages war against Allah and denies His messengers – those messenger who came with the message of singling out Allah alone in worship.

Do you now understand these two parties – the guided and the misguided, those of ultimate sorrow or those of ultimate joy? There is no further argument you can make in this area, for Allah has described this situation and clarified it explicitly here.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman p. 679-680]

See also: Whoever abandons good will be tested with evil: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: “A Good Word is like a Good Tree”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Guidance elevates and misguidance debases: Tafsir al-Sa’di

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4 thoughts on ““Surely either we or you are upon right guidance, or in clear error”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: Imam al-Nawawi on Hope and Fear | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Whoever abandons good will be tested with evil: Imam al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: “A Good Word is like a Good Tree”: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: Guidance elevates and misguidance debases: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

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