The Sibghah of Allah: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah mentions in surah al-Baqarah:

صِبْغَةَ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّـهِ صِبْغَةً ۖ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدُونَ

The Sibghah* of Allah, and which Sibghah can be better than Allah’s? And we are, to Him,  worshippers. [2:138]

*Translator’s note: the word sibghah linguistically means a dye or coloring, however the majority of the mufassiroon explain it here to refer to the deen of Allah. Imam al-Baghawi captures the intent of this dual meaning well when he reports:

قوله تعالى : ( صبغة الله ) قال ابن عباس في رواية الكلبي وقتادة والحسن : دين الله ، وإنما سماه صبغة لأنه يظهر أثر الدين على المتدين كما يظهر أثر الصبغ على الثوب

And His statement, “the sibghah of Allah” – Ibn ‘Abbaas said in the narration of al-Kalbi, as did Qataadah and al-Hasan: [it means] the deen of Allah, and it is only called sibghah [dye, coloring] because the effects of the deen manifestly appear on one who adheres to the deen just as the effects of the dyes manifestly appear on the clothing.

[Tafsir al-Baghawi 1/158]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di, in his book of tafsir, commented on this ayah by writing:

أي‏:‏ الزموا صبغة الله‏,‏ وهو دينه‏,‏ وقوموا به قيامًا تامًا‏,‏ بجميع أعماله الظاهرة والباطنة‏,‏ وجميع عقائده في جميع الأوقات‏,‏ حتى يكون لكم صبغة‏,‏ وصفة من صفاتكم، فإذا كان صفة من صفاتكم‏,‏ أوجب ذلك لكم الانقياد لأوامره‏,‏ طوعا واختيارًا ومحبة‏,‏ وصار الدين طبيعة لكم بمنزلة الصبغ التام للثوب الذي صار له صفة‏,‏ فحصلت لكم السعادة الدنيوية والأخروية‏,‏ لحث الدين على مكارم الأخلاق‏,‏ ومحاسن الأعمال‏,‏ ومعالي الأمور، فلهذا قال ـ على سبيل التعجب المتقرر للعقول الزكية ـ ‏:‏ ‏{‏وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّهِ صِبْغَةً‏}‏ أي‏:‏ لا أحسن صبغة من صبغته‏.‏

Meaning: they have been prescribed the sibghah of Allah, and it is His deen, and to establish it in the correct way and in its totality, with all of the its acts – both outwardly and inwardly – and with all of its beliefs during all times, until it becomes like a sibghah [dye, coloring] for them and one of their attributes. So then when it is one of their attributes, that mandates that they would conform to its commands in obedience, by their own choice and loving to do so. The deen would become part of their very nature like a sibghah which has completely dyed an article of clothing such that it took on that attribute (of its color). And this would entail happiness in this life and in the hereafter for them, since the deen stimulates them towards noble manners, excellent actions, and lofty affairs. So because of this as a rhetorical means of affirming the point for those of pure minds He said, “and which Sibghah can be better than Allah’s?” – meaning: there is no better sibghah than His sibghah.

وإذا أردت أن تعرف نموذجا يبين لك الفرق بين صبغة الله وبين غيرها من الصبغ‏,‏ فقس الشيء بضده، فكيف ترى في عبد آمن بربه إيمانا صحيحا‏,‏ أثر معه خضوع القلب وانقياد الجوارح، فلم يزل يتحلى بكل وصف حسن‏,‏ وفعل جميل‏,‏ وخلق كامل‏,‏ ونعت جليل، ويتخلى من كل وصف قبيح‏,‏ ورذيلة وعيب، فوصفه‏:‏ الصدق في قوله وفعله‏,‏ والصبر والحلم‏,‏ والعفة‏,‏ والشجاعة‏,‏ والإحسان القولي والفعلي‏,‏ ومحبة الله وخشيته‏,‏ وخوفه‏,‏ ورجاؤه، فحاله الإخلاص للمعبود‏,‏ والإحسان لعبيده، فقسه بعبد كفر بربه‏,‏ وشرد عنه‏,‏ وأقبل على غيره من المخلوقين فاتصف بالصفات القبيحة‏,‏ من الكفر‏,‏ والشرك والكذب‏,‏ والخيانة‏,‏ والمكر‏,‏ والخداع‏,‏ وعدم العفة‏,‏ والإساءة إلى الخلق‏,‏ في أقواله‏,‏ وأفعاله، فلا إخلاص للمعبود‏,‏ ولا إحسان إلى عبيده‏.‏

And if you want to be acquainted with an example, He has clarified for you the difference between the sibghah of Allah and other sibghahs, for a thing is clarified by its opposite. So look at a slave who believes in his Lord with correct eemaan, the effects of which are a submissive hearts and subjugated limbs such that he remains infused with every good attribute, beautiful actions, perfect character, wonderful quality, and such that he is free of every abhorrent attribute, vice and flaw.

So that slave is described with al-sidq (truthfulness) in speech and action, al-sabr and forbearance, clemency, courage, excellence in speech and actions, loving Allah and reverence towards him, and fearing him, and hoping in Him – so this is the state of ikhlaas towards the One deserving of worship and ihsaan towards His slaves. And all this is put in contrast by the slave who disbelieves in his Lord, and flees from Him, and turns to others than Him from the created beings – and so is described with the abhorrent attributes, such as al-kufr, al-shirk, lying, betrayal, malicious plotting, deception, the opposite of clemency, and evil behavior towards the creation in his speech and actions. So there is no ikhlaas towards the One deserving of worship, nor is there ihsaan towards His slaves.

فإنه يظهر لك الفرق العظيم بينهما‏,‏ ويتبين لك أنه لا أحسن صبغة من صبغة الله‏,‏ وفي ضمنه أنه لا أقبح صبغة ممن انصبغ بغير دينه‏.‏

So this makes the great difference between these two apparent to you, and it clarifies for you that there is no better sibghah than the sibghah of Allah. And included in this is that there is no uglier sibghah than what is dyed with other than His deen.

وفي قوله‏:‏ ‏{‏وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدُونَ‏}‏ بيان لهذه الصبغة‏,‏ وهي القيام بهذين الأصلين‏:‏ الإخلاص والمتابعة‏,‏ لأن ‏”‏العبادة‏”‏ اسم جامع لكل ما يحبه الله ويرضاه من الأعمال‏,‏ والأقوال الظاهرة والباطنة، ولا تكون كذلك‏,‏ حتى يشرعها الله على لسان رسوله، والإخلاص‏:‏ أن يقصد العبد وجه الله وحده‏,‏ في تلك الأعمال، فتقديم المعمول‏,‏ يؤذن بالحصر‏.‏

And in His statement, “And we are, to Him,  worshippers” there is a clarification of this sibghah, and it is established on these two foundational principles: al-ikhlaas (sincere devotion to Allah) and al-mutaabi’ah (following the sunnah of the Prophet). Because al-‘ibaadah is a word which is comprehensive of everything which Allah loves and is pleased with of actions and statement – both openly and privately. And you will not be like that unless and until it is as Allah prescribed on the tongue of His Messenger. And al-ikhlaas is that the slave intends the face of Allah alone in his actions.

وقال‏:‏ ‏{‏وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدُونَ‏}‏ فوصفهم باسم الفاعل الدال على الثبوت والاستقرار‏,‏ ليدل على اتصافهم بذلك وكونه صار صبغة لهم ملازمًا‏.‏

And His statement, “And we are, to Him,  worshippers” – so they are described with the active participle which indicates firmness and constancy, and this is to demonstrate that they have taken on that attribute and it has become an inherent part of them.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 63-64]

To read Imam al-Sa’di’s tafsir of the ayah immediately following this one, click here: “Do you argue with us about Allah while He is our Lord and your Lord?”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Tafsir of Surah al-‘Asr: Imam al-Sa’di

One thought on “The Sibghah of Allah: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: “Do you argue with us about Allah while He is our Lord and your Lord?”: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

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