Technical wordings for Asbaab al-Nuzool: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

In his book Muqaddimah al-Tafsir (“A Introduction to Qur’anic Exegesis”), Sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah discussed the various issues that one would do well to comprehend for a fuller understanding of the field of tafsir. In his commentary of this book, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen further clarified many of the original points. Below, the text in blue will indicate the words of ibn Taymiyah from the above excerpt, and the black text will indicate the commentary on this from Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen.

وقولهم : ((نزلت هذه الآية في كذا)) ويراد به تارة أنه سبب النزول ، ويراد به تارة أن هذا داخل في الآية وإن لم يكن السبب كما تقول: عني بهذه الآية كذا

And the statement of the mufassiroon, “this ayah was revealed regarding such-and-such” – sometimes what is intended by this is that that thing was the reason for revelation, and sometimes what is intended by this is that that thing is included under the [ruling of the] ayah even if it is not the reason for it; for example, when you say, “what is meant by this ayah is such-and-such”

وقد تنازع العلماء في قول الصاحب: ((نزلت هذه الآية في كذا)) هل يجري مجرى المسند كما لو ذكر السبب الذي أنزلت لأجله، أو يجرى مجرى التفسير منه الذي ليس بمسند، فالبخاري يدخله في المسند، وغيره لا يدخله في المسند، وأكثر المسانيد على هذا الاصطلاح، كمسند أحمد وغيره، بخلاف ما إذا ذكر سبباً نزلت عقبه فإنهم يدخلون مثل هذا في المسند. ـ

And the scholars have disputed regarding the the statement, “this ayah was revealed regarding such-and-such” – does it come in the vein of a chain of narration connected back to the Prophet such as if one were to mention the reason for which it was revealed, or did it come in the vein of exegesis from that person for which there is no chain of narration? For al-Bukhari considered this phrasing to indicate a chain of narration connected back to the Prophet, but others did not consider it to indicate a chain of narration connected back to the Prophet, and most of the collections of narrations followed this terminology [i.e. not using this phrasing] such as the Musnad of Ahmad and others. This was in contrast to if it would mention the cause for which it had been revealed immediately afterwards, for they would consider something like that to indicate a chain of narration connected back to the Prophet.

المؤلف رحمه الله دائماً يستطرد في مؤلفاته، فهنا استطرد للتعبير عن سبب النزول، وهو ثلاثة أنواع: [ص 47] فتارة يقول: ((حصل كذا وكذا، فأنزل الله كذا)) ، وتارة يقول: ((سبب نزول الآية الفلانية كذا وكذا)) وتارة يقول: ((نزلت هذه الآية في كذا وكذا)) فهذه ثلاث صيغ. ـ

The author (may Allah have mercy on him) regularly digresses in his written works, so here he digresses to the subject of the formulaic expressions for the reasons for revelation, and they are of three types. So sometimes one says (1):

حصل كذا وكذا، فأنزل الله كذا

“such-and-such happened, so Allah revealed such-and-such”

and sometimes one says (2):

سبب نزول الآية الفلانية كذا وكذا

“the reason for the revelation of such-and-such ayah was such-and-such”

and sometimes one says (3):

نزلت هذه الآية في كذا وكذا

“this ayah was revealed regarding such-and-such”

So these are the three forms.

أما قوله: ((سبب نزول الآية كذا)) فهي صريحة في أن هذا سبب النزول. ـ

As for his statement (2), “the reason for the revelation of the ayah was such-and-such”, then this is explicit in regards to the fact the this was the reason for the revelation.

وأما قوله: ((كان كذا وكذا فأنزل الله)) فهي ظاهرة أيضاً- وليست بصريحة، ظاهرة في أن هذا سبب النزول؛ لأن حمل الفاء في مثل هذا التعبير على السببية أولي من حمله على العطف المجرد والترتيب، فيكون ظاهرها أن هذه الحادثة سبب النزول. ـ

And as for his statement (1), “such-and-such happened so Allah revealed this”, then this is clear and apparent also but it is not explicit. It is clear and apparent in regards to the fact that this was a reason for the revelation because the word “fee” in this type of phrasing carries a meaning of causality first and foremost before carrying a meaning of mere adjoining or sequential ordering. So it is from the clear and apparent nature of this phrasing that this such-and-such event was a reason for the revelation.

الثالث أن يقول ((نزلت هذه الآية في كذا)) فهذه فيها احتمال متساوي الطرفين، بين أن يكون المراد أن هذه الآية معناها كذا وكذا فيكون تفسيراً للمعنى، وبين أن يكون ذلك ذكرا لسبب النزول، فعلى الاحتمال الأول تكون ((في)) للظرفية، والظرف هنا معنوي، وعلى الاحتمال الثاني تكون ((في)) للسببية، أي بسبب كذا وكذا، و ((في)) معروف أنها تكون للسببية، ومثال ذلك: ((دخلت امرأة النار في هرة حبستها)) (1) ، ((في)) بمعنى بسبب، وليس المعني أنها دخلت في جوفها. ـ

And the third is that one says (3), “this ayah was revealed regarding such-and-such”, then regarding this there are two opposite and equally possible scenarios; either (3a) the intended understanding could be that the meaning of this ayah is such-and-such, so that would be an exegesis of the meaning, or (3b) it could be that this phrasing was mentioning the reason for the revelation. So according to the first scenario, the “fee” here takes a meaning of the such-and-such event being included under the ruling of the ayah in terms of the ayah‘s meaning. And according to the second scenario, the “fee” here is causal in nature – meaning, ‘because of such-and-such’. And it is well-known that “fee” can be causal in nature, and a similar case to that is “a woman entered the Hell-fire due to (fee) a cat which she had confined.” Fee here takes the mean of “due to (something)”, and the meaning there is not that she entered into (fee) the cat’s stomach.

والحاصل أن العبارات التي يعبر بها عن أسباب النزول تنقسم ثلاثة أقسام: صريحة، وظاهرة، ومحتملة، فالصيغة الصريحة أن يقول: ((سبب نزول الآية كذا وكذا)) والظاهرة ((كان كذا فنزلت)) والمحتملة: ((نزلت في كذا)) . ـ

And the sum of all this is that the wordings which are employed regarding the reasons for revelation are divided into three categories: I) explicit, II) clear and apparent, III) and potentially. So the explicit form is that one says, “the reason for the revelation of the ayah is such-and-such” (2), and the clear and apparent form is “such-and-such happened so it was revealed” (1), and the potential form is “it was revealed regarding such-and-such” (3).

ولهذا يقول المؤلف رحمه الله: وقولهم نزلت هذه الآية في كذا [ص ٤٨] يراد به تارة أنه سبب النزول، ويراد به تارة أن هذا داخل في الآية وإن لم يكن السبب. ـ

For this reason, the author (may Allah have mercy on him) said: And the statement of the mufassiroon, “this ayah was revealed about such-and-such” (3) – sometimes what is intended by this is that that thing was the reason for revelation, and sometimes what is intended by this is that that thing is included under the the meaning and ruling of the ayah even if it is not the reason for it.

قوله : ((نزلت هذه الآية في كذا)) ـ

[Explanation of] His statement, “This ayah was revealed regarding such-and-such” (3) onward.

قول الصاحب: ((نزلت في كذا)) إذا أجريناه مجرى المسند صار معناه أن الأمر حدث في عهد الرسول عليه الصلاة والسلام، فنزلت الآية تفسيراً له، أو بياناً لحكمه، وأما إذا جعلناه ليس جارياً مجري المسند، صار ذلك تفسيراً منه للآية، وقد يكون صواباً وقد يخالفه غيره. ـ [ص 49] ـ

The statement, “it was revealed regarding such-and-such” (3) –  if it comes in the vein of a chain of narration, then its meaning becomes that the such-and-such thing occurred during the time of the Messenger (ﷺ), so the ayah was revealed as an explanation for it or as a clarification of its underlying wisdom. And as for if we take it as not coming in the vein of a chain of narration, then it becomes an exegesis of the ayah from that person and it could be correct or it could be that something else conflicts with that.

فإذا عرف هذا فقول أحدهم: ((نزلت في كذا)) لا ينافي قول الآخر: ((نزلت قي كذا)) إذا كان اللفظ يتناولهما كما ذكرناه في التفسير بالمثال. وإذا ذكر أحدهم لها سبباً نزلت لأجله، وذكر الآخر سبباً، فقد يمكن صدقهما بأن تكون نزلت عقب تلك الأسباب، أو تكون نزلت مرتين مرة لهذا السبب، ومرة لهذا السبب.ـ

[Ibn Taymiyah wrote] So if this is understood, then one person saying, “it was revealed regarding such-and-such” does not negate another person saying, “it was revealed regarding such-and-such” so long as this same wording is applied to both of them, for example just as what we had mentioned regarding the tafsir of comparisons. And if one person mentions that such-and-such ayah was revealed due to one reason and another person mentions another reason, then it is possible that they are both speaking the truth because it could be that the ayah was revealed as a result of both these reasons, or it could be that the ayah was sent down twice – once for this reason and once for this other reason.

قوله : ((وإذا عرف هذا … )) . ـ

[Explanation of] His statement, “So if this is understood…” onward.

ولكن الأول أقرب، إذا ذكر كل واحد منهما سبباً لنزول الآية بلفظ صريح أو بلفظ ظاهر على حسب ما شرحناه، فهل نقول: إن السبب متعدد والمسبب واحد؟ أو نقول: إن السبب متعدد والمسبب متعدد وأن الآية صار لنزولها سببان؟ والأقرب الأول؛ لأن تكرر نزول الآية خلاف الأصل، فالأصل أن الآية إذا نزلت، نزلت مرة واحدة، فتكون الأسباب سابقة على نزول الآية، يعني معناه وجد سبب وسبب وسبب، ثم أنزل الله الآية مبينة لحكم هذه الأمور. مع أنه نادر أن تنزل الآية مرتين وهذا إن صح. ـ

However, the first scenario [in ibn Taymiyah’s writing] is closer to being correct if two people each mention a reason for the revelation of an ayah with an explicit wording (2) or with a clear and apparent wording (1) according to how we have explained it. So can we say, “The reasons leading up to it were multiple but the final event which prompted the revelation is one?” Or do we say, “The reasons leading up to it were multiple and there were also multiple events which prompted the revelation and that there are now two reasons for the revelation of the ayah“? And the position closest to the truth is the first case, because to repeat the revelation of an ayah is contrary to the norm, since the norm is that when an ayah is revealed, it is revealed one time. So it could be that there were previous reasons for the revelation of an ayah – i.e. meaning that one finds one reason for it and another reason and another reason and then Allah revealed the clear ayah in order to make a ruling for all these issues. This notwithstanding that it is rare that an ayah would be revealed twice if that actually happened in the first place.

وقد ذكر أن سورة الفاتحة نزلت مرة في مكة، ومرة في المدينة، والله أعلم. لكن الكلام على أنه إذا تعدد ذكر الأسباب الصريحة في نزول الآية فإنها تحمل عل أحد أمرين: إما أن الأسباب متعددة والنزول واحد، وإما أن الأسباب متعددة والنزول متعدد. هذا إذا كان كل من الصيغتين صريحا في النزول، أما لو قال أحدهم: ((نزلت في كذا)) وقال الآخر: ((كان كذا فنزلت الآية)) فمعلوم أننا نقدم الثاني؛ لأنه ظاهر، وكذلك لو قال أحدهم: ((سبب نزولها كذا)) والآخر قال: ((نزلت في كذا)) فإننا نقدم الذي قال: ((سبب نزول الآية)) لأنه صريح. ـ

And it has been mentioned that surah al-Faatihah had been revealed once in Mecca and once in al-Madinah – and Allah knows best. However this present discussion is that if the mention of explicit reasons for the revelation of an ayah are numerous, then this means one of two things: either that a) the reasons are multiple  and the revelation is singular, or b) that the reasons are multiple and the instances of revelation are also multiple. This is the case when both of the formulaic phrases are explicit regarding the instance of revelation. As for if one person were to say, “it was revealed regarding such-and-such” (3) and another person said, “such-and-such occurred so the ayah was revealed” (1), then it is known that we will give precedence to the second statement of the two statements (1) because it is clear and apparent. And likewise if one person were to say, “the reason for its revelation was such-and-such” (2), and another said, “it was revealed regarding such-and-such” (3), then were would give precedence to the one who said, “the reason for its revelation was such-and-such” (2) because it is explicit.

وتجدر الإشارة هنا إلى أن الأول الذي ذكر صريحاً فهو قطعاً سبب النزول، وأما الثاني فنقول: هذا ذكر للمعنى يعني أن هذا الشيء داخل في معناه، مثل لو قيل إن قوله تعالي: (فَوَيْلٌ [ص ٥٠] لِلْمُصَلِّينَ (4) الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنْ صَلاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ) (الماعون: 4، 5) ، نزلت هذه الآية في الذين يؤخرون الصلاة عن وقتها، فليس معناها أنه كان تأخير الصلاة عن وقتها سبباً لنزولها؛ بل معناها الظاهر المتبادر أن هذا هو المراد من الآية، فيكون مثل هذا القول تفسيراً وليس ذكراً لسب النزول. ـ

And it should be noted here that the first case which was mentioned is explicit so it is definitely the reason for the revelation. And as for the second case, then we say: this is a mention of the meaning – i.e. that this thing is included in its meaning, such as if it were that Allah’s statement:

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ * الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ

So woe to those who pray * [But] who are heedless of their prayer [107:4-5]

If it were said that these ayaat were revealed regarding those who delay the prayer from its proper time (3), then the meaning of this statement is not that delaying the prayer from its proper time is the reason for its revelation; rather, the clear understanding which first comes to mind from this statement is that that is the intended meaning of the ayah. So statements like this are statements of exegesis and not statements of mentioning the reasons for revelation.

[Sharh Muqaddimah al-Tafsir li-ibn ‘Uthaymeen pg. 47-51]

See also: Sabab al-Nuzool – its Definition and Wordings: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: The Proper Place of Asbaab al-Nuzool in Understanding the Qur’an: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: A Note on the Different Qiraa’aat: Sheikh bin Baaz

See also: Describing specific events with general wordings: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: The Disconnected Letters: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan

See also: A Note on Differing Reports in Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah

For more statements from Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen and other contemporary scholars regarding the books of tafsir, see About the Books of Tafsir

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Technical wordings for Asbaab al-Nuzool: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

  1. Pingback: Describing specific events with general wordings: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Disconnected Letters: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: A Note on Differing Reports in Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: A Benefit of General Language in Surah al-Duhaa: Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen | Tulayhah

  5. Pingback: Sabab al-Nuzool – its Definition and Wordings: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool | Tulayhah

  6. Pingback: The Proper Place of Asbaab al-Nuzool in Understanding the Qur’an: Imam al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s