“The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it”: ibn Kathir

The great mufassir and haafidh Ismaa’eel Ibn Kathir devoted one section of the introduction to his famous and invaluable book of tafsir to the famous hadeeth narrated by ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan that the Prophet said (ﷺ):

 خَيْرُكُمْ مَنْ تَعَلَّمَ الْقُرْآنَ وَعَلَّمَهُ

The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.

[al-Bukhari and Muslim]

After mentioning and discussing the various chains of narration of wordings of this hadeeth, Imam ibn Kathir then wrote the following words:

 والغرض أنه – عليه الصلاة والسلام – قال : خيركم من تعلم القرآن وعلمه وهذه من صفات المؤمنين المتبعين للرسل ، وهم الكمل في أنفسهم ، المكملون لغيرهم ، وذلك جمع بين النفع القاصر والمتعدي ، وهذا بخلاف صفة الكفار الجبارين الذين لا ينفعون ، ولا يتركون أحدا ممن أمكنهم أن ينتفع ، كما قال تعالى : ( الذين كفروا وصدوا عن سبيل الله زدناهم عذابا فوق العذاب ) [ النحل : 88 ] ، وكما قال تعالى : ( وهم ينهون عنه وينأون عنه ) [ الأنعام : 26 ] ، .

And the purpose that he (ﷺ) said, “The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it” is that this is from the characteristics of the believers who followed the messengers, and they perfected it in themselves, and perfect it in others, so this combines between benefit that is limited to themselves and benefit that extends and reaches others.

This is in contrast to the characteristics of oppressive disbelievers who do not benefit others, nor do they allow anyone who could benefit others to do so, This is as Allah said,

الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ زِدْنَاهُمْ عَذَابًا فَوْقَ الْعَذَابِ

Those who disbelieved and averted others from the way of Allah – We will increase them in punishment upon punishment [16:88]

and as He said,

وَهُمْ يَنْهَوْنَ عَنْهُ وَيَنْأَوْنَ عَنْهُ ۖ وَإِن يُهْلِكُونَ إِلَّا أَنفُسَهُمْ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ

They prevent others from it and they themselves keep away from it [6:26]

في أصح قولي المفسرين في هذا ، وهو أنهم ينهون الناس عن اتباع القرآن مع نأيهم وبعدهم عنه ، فجمعوا بين التكذيب والصد ، كما قال تعالى : ( فمن أظلم ممن كذب بآيات الله وصدف عنها ) [ الأنعام : 157 ] ،

And in the most accurate statement of the mufassiroon regarding this ayah is that they prevent the people from following the Qur’an while they themselves are prevented and distanced from it. So they combine both denial (within themselves) and averting others, as Allah said,

فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن كَذَّبَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ وَصَدَفَ عَنْهَا

Then who is more unjust than one who denies the verses of Allah and turns away from them? [6:157]

فهذا شأن الكفار ، كما أن شأن خيار الأبرار أن يكمل في نفسه وأن يسعى في تكميل غيره كما قال عليه السلام : خيركم من تعلم القرآن وعلمه ، وكما قال [ الله ] تعالى : ( ومن أحسن قولا ممن دعا إلى الله وعمل صالحا وقال إنني من المسلمين ) [ فصلت : 33 ] ،  فجمع بين الدعوة إلى الله سواء كان بالأذان أو بغيره من أنواع الدعوة من تعليم القرآن والحديث والفقه وغير ذلك ، مما يبتغى به وجه الله ، وعمل هو في نفسه صالحا ، وقال قولا صالحا ، فلا أحد أحسن حالا من هذا .

So that the affair of the disbelievers, while it is the affair of the most excellent righteous ones to perfect what is in themselves and to seek for the perfection of other as well, just as the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it,” and as Allah said,

وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ قَوْلًا مِّمَّن دَعَا إِلَى اللَّـهِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ

And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, ‘Indeed, I am of the Muslims.’ [41:33]

So this combines calling to Allah – whether with the adhaan or other than that from the various categories of da’wah from teaching the Qur’an, hadeethfiqh and other than that, for which the the purpose is seeking the Face of Allah – with doing righteous deeds and saying righteous words, for there is no better condition than this.

وقد كان أبو عبد الرحمن السلمي الكوفي – أحد أئمة الإسلام ومشايخهم – ممن رغب في هذا المقام ، فقعد يعلم الناس في إمارة عثمان إلى أيام الحجاج قالوا : وكان مقدار ذلك الذي مكث فيه يعلم القرآن سبعين سنة ، رحمه الله ، وآتاه الله ما طلبه ودامه . آمين

And there was one of the imams and sheikhs of Islam named Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulamee al-Koofee who ardently desired this status (of being the best of people). So he sat, teaching the people, from the time of the rule of ‘Uthman until the days of al-Hajjaaj. It is said about him that he stayed in that state, teaching the Qur’an, for 70 years – may Allah have mercy on him and may Allah give him what he sought and persisted in. Ameen.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 1/67-68]

For more on the same hadith, see: “The Best of You are Those Who Learn the Qur’an and Teach it”: Sheikh al-Albani

See also: The Two Types of those who Believe in the Qur’an: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Tafsir al-Sa’di on the objective of revealing the Qur’an and its benefits

See also: Recite the Book with its true recitation

See also: The Virtue of Memorizing the Qur’an: Sheikh Muqbil

See also: How to benefit from reading the Qur’an during Ramadan: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: Which is more virtuous – memorizing the Qur’an or seeking ‘ilm?: Ibn Taymiyyah

See also: Which is more virtuous: reading a small amount of the Qur’an with tarteel and contemplation, or a large amount quickly? – Ibn al-Qayyim

See also: The Need for Teaching Tafsir: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

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20 thoughts on ““The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it”: ibn Kathir

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