“Except the people of Yunus”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah Yunus, Allah informs His slaves of the following point:

فَلَوْلَا كَانَتْ قَرْ‌يَةٌ آمَنَتْ فَنَفَعَهَا إِيمَانُهَا إِلَّا قَوْمَ يُونُسَ لَمَّا آمَنُوا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمْ عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ

“Then has there not been one city that believed so its faith benefited it except the people of Yunus? When they believed, We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in worldly life and gave them enjoyment for a time.” [10:98]

Imam al-Sa’di, in his book of tafsir, wrote the following on this ayah:

يقول تعالى‏:‏ ‏{‏فَلَوْلَا كَانَتْ قَرْيَةٌ‏}‏ من قرى المكذبين ‏{‏آمَنَتْ‏}‏ حين رأت العذاب ‏{‏فَنَفَعَهَا إِيمَانُهَا‏}‏ أي‏:‏ لم يكن منهم أحد انتفع بإيمانه، حين رأى العذاب، كما قال تعالى عن فرعون ما تقدم قريبًا، لما قال‏:‏ ‏{‏آمَنْتُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا الَّذِي آمَنَتْ بِهِ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ وَأَنَا مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ‏}‏ فقيل له ‏{‏آلْآنَ وَقَدْ عَصَيْتَ قَبْلُ وَكُنْتَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ‏}‏

Allah’s statement, “Then has there not been one city” from the cities of the deniers “that believed” when it saw the punishment “so its faith benefited it” – meaning: there was never even one of them that benefited from their eemaan (faith) when they saw the punishment, just as He said concerning Fir’awn when the punishment approached him and he said, “I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of the Muslims” [10:90], and then it was said to him, “What! now! and indeed you disobeyed before and you were of the mischief-makers” [10:91].

وكما قال تعالى‏:‏ ‏{‏فَلَمَّا رَأَوْا بَأْسَنَا قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَحْدَهُ وَكَفَرْنَا بِمَا كُنَّا بِهِ مُشْرِكِينَ فَلَمْ يَكُ يَنْفَعُهُمْ إِيمَانُهُمْ لَمَّا رَأَوْا بَأْسَنَا سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ فِي عِبَادِهِ‏}‏

And similarly He said, “And when they saw Our punishment, they said, ‘We believe in Allah alone and disbelieve in that which we used to associate with Him.But never did their faith benefit them once they saw Our punishment. [It is] the established way of Allah which has preceded among His servants.” [40:84-84]

وقال تعالى‏:‏ ‏{‏حَتَّى إِذَا جَاءَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ رَبِّ ارْجِعُونِ لَعَلِّي أَعْمَلُ صَالِحًا فِيمَا تَرَكْتُ كَلَّا‏}‏

And He said, “Until, when death comes to one of them (those who join partners with Allah), he says: ‘My Lord! Send me back, so that I may do good in that which I have left behind!‘”

والحكمة في هذا ظاهرة، فإن الإيمان الاضطراري، ليس بإيمان حقيقة، ولو صرف عنه العذاب والأمر الذي اضطره إلى الإيمان، لرجع إلى الكفران‏.‏

And the wisdom in this is apparent, for if eemaan is compelled, then it is not true eemaan. And if the punishment and the affair which compelled him to eemaan were to turn away from him, then he would return to disbelief.

وقوله‏:‏ ‏{‏إِلَّا قَوْمَ يُونُسَ لَمَّا آمَنُوا‏}‏ بعدما رأوا العذاب، ‏{‏كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمْ عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَى حِينٍ‏}‏ فهم مستثنون من العموم السابق‏.‏

Allah’s statement, “except the people of Yunus when they believed” after they saw the punishment, “We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in worldly life and gave them enjoyment for a time” so they were exempted from what generally previously had happened.

ولا بد لذلك من حكمة لعالم الغيب والشهادة، لم تصل إلينا، ولم تدركها أفهامنا‏.‏

And there must be a wisdom for this with the All-Knower of the hidden and the open, a wisdom which has not reached us and which our understandings will never grasp.

قال الله تعالى‏:‏ ‏{‏وَإِنَّ يُونُسَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ‏}‏ إلى قوله‏:‏ ‏{‏وَأَرْسَلْنَاهُ إِلَى مِائَةِ أَلْفٍ أَوْ يَزِيدُونَ فَآمَنُوا فَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَى حِينٍ‏}‏ ولعل الحكمة في ذلك أن غيرهم من المهلكين، لو ردوا لعادوا لما نهوا عنه‏ ، وأما قوم يونس، فإن الله علم أن إيمانهم سيستمر، ‏‏بل قد استمر فعلا وثبتوا عليه‏‏ والله أعلم‏.‏

Allah said, “And indeed, Yunus was one of the messengers,” until His statement, “And We sent him to a hundred thousand or more. And they believed, so We gave them enjoyment [of life] for a time” [37:139-148]. So perhaps the wisdom behind this is that had destruction been averted from the other peoples who were destroyed, then they would have just returned to that regarding which they had been forbidden. But as for the people of Yunus, then verily Allah knew that their eemaan was going to continue; and in fact it did continue and they were firm upon it – and Allah knows best.*

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 430]

*Translator’s Note: Imam al-Shinqitee addresses this point in his tafsir by writing:

قوله تعالى : إلا قوم يونس لما آمنوا كشفنا عنهم عذاب الخزي في الحياة الدنيا ومتعناهم إلى حين . ـ

Allah’s statement:

إِلَّا قَوْمَ يُونُسَ لَمَّا آمَنُوا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمْ عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ

…except the people of Yunus. When they believed, We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in the worldly life and gave them enjoyment for a time.[10:98]

ظاهر هذه الآية الكريمة أن إيمان قوم يونس ما نفعهم إلا في الدنيا دون الآخرة ، لقوله : كشفنا عنهم عذاب الخزي في الحياة الدنيا . ويفهم من مفهوم المخالفة في قوله : في الحياة الدنيا أن الآخرة ليست كذلك  ـ

What is apparent from this noble ayah is that the eemaan of the people of Yunus did not benefit them except for in this worldly life to the exclusion of it benefiting them in the Hereafter, according to His statement:

كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمْ عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا

We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in the worldly life

And it is understood by the inverse implication of His statement, “in the worldly life” that it is not like that for the Hereafter.

 ولكنه تعالى أطلق عليهم اسم الإيمان من غير قيد في سورة ” الصافات ” ، والإيمان منقذ من عذاب الدنيا وعذاب الآخرة ، كما أنه بين في ” الصافات ” أيضا كثرة عددهم ، وكل ذلك في قوله تعالى : وأرسلناه إلى مائة ألف أو يزيدون فآمنوا فمتعناهم إلى حين [ 147 ، 148 ] . ـ

However, in surah al-Saffaat Allah applied the term “al-eemaan” to them generally without any qualification, and al-eemaan is a liberating factor from the punishment of this worldly life and the punishment of the Hereafter. He also clarified their abundant number in surah al-Saffaat . And all of this occurs in His statement:

وَأَرْ‌سَلْنَاهُ إِلَىٰ مِائَةِ أَلْفٍ أَوْ يَزِيدُونَ * فَآمَنُوا فَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ

And We sent him to [his people of] a hundred thousand or more. * And they believed, so We gave them enjoyment [of life] for a time. [37:147-148]

[Adhwaa’ al-Bayaan 2/163, see also Tafsir ibn Kathir 4/298]

See also: Four Means of Attaining Allah’s Forgiveness: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Questions and Answers on Tawbah from ibn Taymiyah

See also: Consideration is given to the completeness of the conclusion, not the defects of the beginning

See also: A Clarification on Warnings in the Qur’an: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: Allah invites the disbelievers to repent: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: “Not for you is the decision…” : Tafsir al-Sa’di

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7 thoughts on ““Except the people of Yunus”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

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