Forbidding the permissible to prevent the forbidden: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah al-Baqarah, Allah instructs the believers with the following command:

‏‏يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَقُولُوا رَاعِنَا وَقُولُوا انْظُرْنَا وَاسْمَعُوا وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“O you who believe! Do not say, ‘attend to us,’ but say, ‘bear with us,’ and listen. And the unbelievers will have a painful punishment.” [2:104]

In his book of tafsir, Imam al-Sa’di has mentioned the following points of benefit concerning this ayah:

كان المسلمون يقولون حين خطابهم للرسول عند تعلمهم أمر الدين‏:‏ ‏{‏رَاعِنَا‏}‏ أي‏:‏ راع أحوالنا‏,‏ فيقصدون بها معنى صحيحا، وكان اليهود يريدون بها معنى فاسدا‏,‏ فانتهزوا الفرصة‏,‏ فصاروا يخاطبون الرسول بذلك‏,‏ ويقصدون المعنى الفاسد، فنهى الله المؤمنين عن هذه الكلمة‏,‏ سدا لهذا الباب، ففيه النهي عن الجائز‏,‏ إذا كان وسيلة إلى محرم، وفيه الأدب‏,‏ واستعمال الألفاظ‏,‏ التي لا تحتمل إلا الحسن‏,‏ وعدم الفحش‏,‏ وترك الألفاظ القبيحة‏,‏ أو التي فيها نوع تشويش أو احتمال لأمر غير لائق، فأمرهم بلفظة لا تحتمل إلا الحسن فقال‏:‏ ‏{‏وَقُولُوا انْظُرْنَا‏}‏ فإنها كافية يحصل بها المقصود من غير محذور،

During their addresses to the Messenger while he was teaching them the matters of the deen, the Muslims used to say, “attend to us”, meaning take care and bear in mind our situation, so they intended a good and honest meaning by this. But the Jews intended a wicked meaning by this*, so they seized the opportunity and they began to address the Messenger with that, intending thereby a wicked meaning. So Allah prohibited the believers from this phrase, thereby closing off this avenue. So in this is the prohibition of something permissible when it is a gateway to what is forbidden. And in this is a point of etiquette, in using wordings which only convey good (meanings) and the opposite of vulgar (meanings), and abandoning despicable wordings or those which have some kind of muddled or deranged meaning, or those which convey something inappropriate. So He commanded them with wordings which only convey good (meanings), so He said, “but say ‘bear with us’“, for verily that is sufficient in conveying the intended meaning without any problem.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 54]

Translator’s note: This is further explained elsewhere by Allah’s statement in surah al-Nisaa’:

مِّنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُوا يُحَرِّ‌فُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ وَيَقُولُونَ سَمِعْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا وَاسْمَعْ غَيْرَ‌ مُسْمَعٍ وَرَ‌اعِنَا لَيًّا بِأَلْسِنَتِهِمْ وَطَعْنًا فِي الدِّينِ ۚ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا وَاسْمَعْ وَانظُرْ‌نَا لَكَانَ خَيْرً‌ا لَّهُمْ وَأَقْوَمَ وَلَـٰكِن لَّعَنَهُمُ اللَّـهُ بِكُفْرِ‌هِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

“Among the Jews are those who distort words from their [proper] usages and say, ‘We hear and disobey’ and ‘Hear but be not heard’ and ‘Raa’ina,’ twisting their tongues and defaming the religion. And if they had said [instead], ‘We hear and obey’ and ‘Wait for us [to understand],’ it would have been better for them and more suitable. But Allah has cursed them for their disbelief, so they believe not, except for a few.” [4:46]

For more on how the Prophet dealt with the distortions of the Jews, see also: Overlooking the foolishness of those upon falsehood: Sharh al-Nawawi

See also: “Do not insult those they invoke other than Allah”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: The Preservation of the Qur’an and the Preservation of the Tawrah: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: Notes on Allah’s Might and Wisdom: Tafsir al-Sa’di

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5 thoughts on “Forbidding the permissible to prevent the forbidden: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: Overlooking the foolishness of those upon falsehood: Sharh al-Nawawi | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Preservation of the Qur’an and the Preservation of the Tawrah: Imam al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: Notes on Allah’s Might and Wisdom: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: Beware of Opposing the Prophet’s Command: Tafsir ibn Kathir | Tulayhah

  5. Pingback: “Do not insult those they invoke other than Allah”: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

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