“If the Truth had followed their desires…”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah mentions the following ayah in surah al-Mu’minoon:

وَلَوِ اتَّبَعَ الْحَقُّ أَهْواءَهُمْ لَفَسَدَتِ السَّماواتُ وَالْأَرْضُ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ بَلْ أَتَيْناهُمْ بِذِكْرِهِمْ فَهُمْ عَنْ ذِكْرِهِمْ مُعْرِضُونَ

But if the Truth had followed their inclinations, the heavens and the earth and whoever is in them would have been ruined. Rather, We have brought them their dhikr, but they are turning away from the dhikr. [23:71]

Imam al-Qurtubi, in his book of tafsir, writes the following commentary on this ayah:

قوله تعالى: {وَلَوِ اتَّبَعَ الْحَقُّ} {الْحَقُّ} هنا هو الله سبحانه وتعالى، قاله الأكثرون، منهم مجاهد وابن جريج وأبو صالح وغيرهم. وتقديره في العربية: ولو اتبع صاحب الحق، قاله النحاس. وقد قيل: هو مجاز، أي لو وافق الحق أهواءهم، فجعل موافقته اتباعا مجازا، أي لو كانوا يكفرون بالرسل ويعصون الله عز وجل ثم لا يعاقبون ولا يجازون على ذلك إما عجزا وإما جهلا لفسدت السموات والأرض

Allah said, “But if the Truth had followed their inclinations“: “the Truth” here refers to Allah – High and Exalted is He. The majority [of the mufassiroon] said this; among them were Mujaahid, ibn Jurayj, Abu Saaleh and others. And its implication in the Arabic language is: and if the possessor of the truth had followed (their inclinations), according to al-Nahhaas. And it has been said that it is a figure of speech, meaning if the truth had been in accordance with their desires… – so its ‘accordance’ is figuratively made to be ‘following’, meaning: if (things were in accordance with their desires and) they were disbelieving in the messengers and disobeying Allah – the Mighty and Majestic -, then they would not have been punished nor recompensed for that, neither for their deficiencies nor on account of their ignorance such that the heavens and the earth would be corrupted.

وقيل: المعنى ولو كان الحق ما يقولون من اتخاذ آلهة مع الله تعالى لتنافت الآلهة، وأراد بعضهم ما لا يريده بعض، فاضطرب التدبير وفسدت السموات والأرض، وإذا فسدتا فسد من فيهما.

And it is said: it means ‘and if the truth were what you say it is about taking other deities (in worship) alongside Allah the Exalted in order to have many deities, and then some of them would desire what others of them would not desire, so they would plot against each others’ interests and would corrupt the heavens and the earth. And when these are corrupted, whoever is in these is corrupted.

وقيل: {لَوِ اتَّبَعَ الْحَقُّ أَهْواءَهُمْ} أي بما يهواه الناس ويشتهونه لبطل نظام العالم، لان شهوات الناس تختلف وتتضاد، وسبيل الحق أن يكون متبوعا، وسبيل الناس الانقياد للحق.

And it is said, “But if the Truth had followed their inclinations” – meaning, according to mankind desires and cravings, then the system of the world would be abolished, because the desires of mankind are in contradiction and  mutual opposition. But the path of Truth is to be followed, while the path of mankind is at odds with the Truth.

وقيل: {الْحَقُّ} القرآن، أي لو نزل القرآن بما يحبون لفسدت السموات والأرض. {وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ} إشارة إلى من يعقل من ملائكة السموات وإنس الأرض وجنها، الماوردي.

And it is said, “the Truth” is the Qur’an, meaning ‘if we had sent down the Qur’an in accordance with what they love, then it would have corrupted the heavens and the earth. “And whoever is in them“, this points to whoever has intellect among the angels of the heavens, the humans and of the earth and the jinn, according to al-Maawardi.

وقال الكلبي: يعني وما بينهما من خلق، وهى قراءة ابن مسعود {لفسدت السموات والأرض وما بينهما}. فيكون على تأويل الكلبي وقراءة ابن مسعود محمولا على فساد من يعقل وما لا يعقل من حيوان وجماد. وظاهر التنزيل في قراءة الجمهور يكون محمولا على فساد ما يعقل من الحيوان، لان ما لا يعقل تابع لما يعقل في الصلاح والفساد، فعلى هذا ما يكون من الفساد يعود على من في السموات من الملائكة بأن جعلت أربابا وهى مربوبة، وعبدت وهى مستعبدة.

And al-Kalbi said: it means whatever of the creation is between them (i.e. the heavens and the earth), and this is the recitation of ibn Mas’ood, “the heavens and the earth and whatever is inbetween them would have been ruined“. So according to the interpretation of al-Kalbi and the recitation of ibn Mas’ood, the fasaad (corruption) is borne by both who have intellect and by those without intellects, such as the animals and inanimate objects. And what is apparent from the revelation in the majority recitation is that the fasaad is borne by whatever has intellect among the animals, because whatever does not have intellect follows those who have intellect in terms of well-being or corruption, so according to this understanding, whatever exists of fasaad returns upon those of the angels in the heavens because they were taken as lords when in fact they are subservient to their Lord, and they were worshiped when in fact they are worshippers.

وفساد الانس يكون على وجهين: أحدهما- باتباع الهوى، وذلك مهلك. الثاني- بعبادة غير الله، وذلك كفر. وأما فساد ما عدا ذلك فيكون على وجه التبع، لأنهم مدبرون بذوي العقول فعاد فساد المدبرين عليهم.

And the fasaad of mankind is of two types: 1) Following their desires/inclinations, and that is destruction. 2) Worshipping other than Allah, and that is kufr. And as for the fasaad which is not included in either of those, then it follows from those, because (those involved) are being directed by possessors of intellect so the the fasaad of the master-minds returns to fall on them.

قوله تعالى: {بَلْ أَتَيْناهُمْ بِذِكْرِهِمْ} أي بما فيه شرفهم وعزهم، قاله السدى وسفيان. وقال قتادة: أي بما لهم فيه ذكر ثوابهم وعقابهم. ابن عباس: أي ببيان الحق وذكر ما لهم به حاجة من أمر الدين. فهم عن ذكرهم معرضون.

Allah’s statement, “Rather, We have brought them their dhikr” – meaning: that in which there is your honor and might, according to al-Saddi and Sufyaan. And Qataadah said: meaning that in which there is a reminder for you of your reward and punishment. Ibn ‘Abbaas said: meaning the clarification of the Truth and dhikr, which are a hujjah (strong proof) of the deen. “But they are turning away from their dhikr.

[Jaami’ al-Ahkam al-Qur’an 12/130-131]

See also: “And We have not created the heaven and the earth and all that is between them without purpose!” : Tafsir al-Sa’di

One thought on ““If the Truth had followed their desires…”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

  1. Pingback: “And We have not created the heaven and the earth and all that is between them without purpose!” : Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

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