“And remember when We took a convenant from the Children of Israa’eel”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah mentions in surah al-Baqarah:

‏وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ لَا تَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَقُولُوا لِلنَّاسِ حُسْنًا وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِنْكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ مُعْرِضُونَ‏‏

And (remember) when We took a covenant from the Children of Israa’eel, [enjoining upon them], “Do not worship except Allah, and behave well towards parents, and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak good to mankind and establish the salaah and give zakah.” Then you turned away, except a few of you, and you were refusing. [2:83]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di, in his well-known book of tafsir, wrote the following commentary on this ayah:

وهذه الشرائع من أصول الدين‏,‏ التي أمر الله بها في كل شريعة‏,‏ لاشتمالها على المصالح العامة‏,‏ في كل زمان ومكان‏,‏ فلا يدخلها نسخ‏,‏ كأصل الدين، ولهذا أمرنا بها في قوله‏:‏ ‏{‏وَاعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شيئًا‏}‏ إلى آخر الآية‏.‏

And these are the Divine Laws from the foundation of the deen which Allah has ordained in every Divine Legislation (i.e. these commandments were unwaveringly present in the teachings of all of Allah’s prophets and messengers), due to their encompassing of widespread benefits in every time and place. So like the fundamentals of the religion, none of them are subject to abrogation, and so we have also been commanded with them in His statement:

وَاعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا ۖ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَبِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْجَارِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْجَارِ الْجُنُبِ وَالصَّاحِبِ بِالْجَنبِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ مُخْتَالًا فَخُورًا

Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful. [4:36]

فقوله‏:‏ ‏{‏وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ‏}‏ هذا من قسوتهم أن كل أمر أمروا به‏,‏ استعصوا؛ فلا يقبلونه إلا بالأيمان الغليظة‏,‏ والعهود الموثقة ‏{‏لَا تَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ‏}‏ هذا أمر بعبادة الله وحده‏,‏ ونهى عن الشرك به، وهذا أصل الدين‏,‏ فلا تقبل الأعمال كلها إن لم يكن هذا أساسها‏,‏ فهذا حق الله تعالى على عباده‏,‏ ثم قال‏:‏ ‏{‏وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا‏}‏ أي‏:‏ أحسنوا بالوالدين إحسانا، وهذا يعم كل إحسان قولي وفعلي مما هو إحسان إليهم، وفيه النهي عن الإساءة إلى الوالدين‏,‏ أو عدم الإحسان والإساءة، لأن الواجب الإحسان‏,‏ والأمر بالشيء نهي عن ضده‏.‏

As for His statement:

وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ

And (remember) when We took a covenant from the Children of Israa’eel

it is from their hardheartedness that they refused to obey every single command with which they were commanded. So they do not acquiesce to this covenant except with binding oaths and solemn vows.

‏لَا تَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ

Do not worship except Allah

This is a command to worship Allah alone, and a prohibition against associating partners in worship with Him, and this is the foundation of the religion, for no deeds are accepted if they are not built upon that foundation, for that is the right of Allah over His slaves.

He then said:

‏وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا

and behave well towards parents

meaning: Behave excellently towards the parents with ihsaan, and this is inclusive of every sort of ihsaan – both in speech and deedswith what is best towards them. And this entails a prohibition of mistreatment towards parents, or the lack of ihsaan coupled with mistreatment. This is because ihsaan is compulsory, and the command to do one thing is a prohibition of its opposite.

وللإحسان ضدان‏:‏ الإساءة‏,‏ وهي أعظم جرما، وترك الإحسان بدون إساءة‏,‏ وهذا محرم‏,‏ لكن لا يجب أن يلحق بالأول، وكذا يقال في صلة الأقارب واليتامى‏,‏ والمساكين، وتفاصيل الإحسان لا تنحصر بالعد‏,‏ بل تكون بالحد‏,‏ كما تقدم‏.‏

And there are two opposites to ihsaan:

(1) mistreatment, which is greatest of crimes, and

(2) abandoning ihsaan but not reaching to the level of mistreatment. That is something prohibited, however it is not necessarily connected to the first category.

And Allah likewise spoke about maintaining the connection with the near relatives [i.e. those outside the nuclear family] and the orphans, and the needy. …

ثم أمر بالإحسان إلى الناس عمومًا فقال‏:‏ ‏{‏وَقُولُوا لِلنَّاسِ حُسْنًا‏}‏ ومن القول الحسن أمرهم بالمعروف‏,‏ ونهيهم عن المنكر‏,‏ وتعليمهم العلم‏,‏ وبذل السلام‏,‏ والبشاشة وغير ذلك من كل كلام طيب‏.‏

Then He commanded behaving with ihsaan towards mankind generally, so He said:

وَقُولُوا لِلنَّاسِ حُسْنًا‏

and speak good to mankind

and good speech includes enjoining what is right and forbidding evil, teaching knowledge, spreading the salaams, a smiling face, and so on with all other forms of good speech.

ولما كان الإنسان لا يسع الناس بماله‏,‏ أمر بأمر يقدر به على الإحسان إلى كل مخلوق‏,‏ وهو الإحسان بالقول‏,‏ فيكون في ضمن ذلك النهي عن الكلام القبيح للناس حتى للكفار‏,‏ ولهذا قال تعالى‏:‏ ‏{‏وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ‏}‏

And as for those who cannot afford to help others with his money, then Allah commanded them with a command which would allow them to behave with ihsaan towards all of creation, and that is ihsaan with speech. So included in this the prohibition against reprehensible speech towards people, up to and even including the kaafir, and concerning this He said:

‏وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ

And do not argue with the Ahl al-Kitaab except in a way that is best [29:46].

ومن أدب الإنسان الذي أدب الله به عباده‏,‏ أن يكون الإنسان نزيها في أقواله وأفعاله‏,‏ غير فاحش ولا بذيء‏,‏ ولا شاتم‏,‏ ولا مخاصم، بل يكون حسن الخلق‏,‏ واسع الحلم‏,‏ مجاملا لكل أحد‏,‏ صبورا على ما يناله من أذى الخلق‏,‏ امتثالا لأمر الله‏,‏ ورجاء لثوابه‏.‏

And from the etiquettes of mankind which Allah has inculcated in His slaves is that man would be honorable in his statements and actions, not indecent or vile, nor cursing, nor quarrelsome, rather that they would behave with husn al-khuluq (good character), and generous forbearance, and courteousness towards everyone, exercising sabr in the face of the harms incurred on him by the creation, compliance with the commands of Allah, and hoping for His reward.

ثم أمرهم بإقامة الصلاة‏,‏ وإيتاء الزكاة‏,‏ لما تقدم أن الصلاة متضمنة للإخلاص للمعبود‏,‏ والزكاة متضمنة للإحسان إلى العبيد‏.‏

Allah then commanded the establishment of the salaah, and the giving of the zakah, and it has already been mentioned that the salaah is comprised of ikhlaas to the Worshiped One, and the zakah is comprised of ihsaan to the slaves.

‏{‏ثُمَّ‏}‏ بعد هذا الأمر لكم بهذه الأوامر الحسنة التي إذا نظر إليها البصير العاقل‏,‏ عرف أن من إحسان الله على عباده أن أمرهم بها‏,‏‏,‏ وتفضل بها عليهم وأخذ المواثيق عليكم ‏{‏تَوَلَّيْتُمْ‏}‏ على وجه الإعراض، لأن المتولي قد يتولى‏,‏ وله نية رجوع إلى ما تولى عنه، وهؤلاء ليس لهم رغبة ولا رجوع في هذه الأوامر، فنعوذ بالله من الخذلان‏.‏

‏ثُمَّ

Then

after this command to them with these beautiful commands which, if a competent intellect were to examine them, it would realize that it is from the ihsaan (excellent treatment) of Allah towards His slave that He commanded them with these commandments, and that He favored them with them and with taking them covenant with them –

تَوَلَّيْتُمْ‏

  you turned away

in the manner of rejection – for one who had been entrusted might turn away while his intention is to (ultimately) return to what he turned away from – but they did not have any interest in these commands nor in returning back to them. So we seek refuge with Allah from this kind of forsaking and falling short [of our covenants].

وقوله‏:‏ ‏{‏إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِنْكُمْ‏}‏ هذا استثناء‏,‏ لئلا يوهم أنهم تولوا كلهم، فأخبر أن قليلا منهم‏,‏ عصمهم الله وثبتهم‏.‏

And His statement:

إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِنْكُمْ

except a few of you

and this is an exception, so that you would incorrectly suppose that all of them turned away, so we are informed that there were a few of them whom Allah protected and fortified.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 49]

See also: The command to treat parents with ihsaan: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: Dealing with the human shayaateen and the jinn shayaateen: Imam al-Shinqitee

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3 thoughts on ““And remember when We took a convenant from the Children of Israa’eel”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: Qualities of the Successful Believers – Part 5/7: Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

  2. (2) abandoning ihsaan with something less than mistreatment, and this is prohibited, however it is necessarily attached to the first

    Is this supposed to be not necessarily?

    • Yes, jazaakAllaahu khairan for pointing out this mistake of ours. This is one reason why we make an effort to always include the original Arabic text alongside our translations for reference and transparency. We have fixed this typo and made some other small changes to the article. If you or anyone else finds mistakes in our translations, please alert us so that we can make the appropriate changes, baarakAllaahu feekum.

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