The examples and comparisons in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Imam Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee brought the following discussion regarding the examples and comparisons that Allah uses in the Qur’an during his tafsir of surah Ibrahim:

قوله تعالى : مثل الذين كفروا بربهم أعمالهم كرماد اشتدت به الريح في يوم عاصف الآية . ـ

Allah’s statement:

مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُ‌وا بِرَ‌بِّهِمْ ۖ أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَرَ‌مَادٍ اشْتَدَّتْ بِهِ الرِّ‌يحُ فِي يَوْمٍ عَاصِفٍ ۖ لَّا يَقْدِرُ‌ونَ مِمَّا كَسَبُوا عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الضَّلَالُ الْبَعِيدُ

The example of those who disbelieve in their Lord: their deeds are like ashes which the wind blows forcefully on a stormy day; they have no power over that which they have earned. That is what is extreme error. [14:18]

ضرب الله تعالى لأعمال الكفار مثلا في هذه الآية الكريمة برماد اشتدت به الرياح في يوم عاصف ، أي شديد الريح ، فإن تلك الريح الشديدة العاصفة تطير ذلك الرماد ولم تبق له أثرا ، فكذلك أعمال الكفار كصلات الأرحام ، وقرى الضيف ، والتنفيس عن المكروب ، وبر الوالدين ، ونحو ذلك يبطلها الكفر ويذهبها ، كما تطير تلك الريح ذلك الرماد . ـ

In this noble ayah Allah strikes a comparison between the deeds of the disbelievers and ashes which the wind blows forcefully on a stormy day, i.e. a severe wind. For indeed that severe stormy wind causes those ashes to fly and does not leave any trace of them. So likewise and the deeds of the disbelievers, such as maintaining the ties of kinship, hospitality towards guests, aiding the one in distress, being dutiful to one’s parents, and the likes of that are all invalidated and done away with by kufr (disbelief), just as that wind causes those ashes to fly away.

وضرب أمثالا أخر في آيات أخر لأعمال الكفار بهذا المعنى ، كقوله : والذين كفروا أعمالهم كسراب بقيعة يحسبه الظمآن ماء حتى إذا جاءه لم يجده شيئا [ 24 \ 39 ] ، وقوله : مثل ما ينفقون في هذه الحياة الدنيا كمثل ريح فيها صر أصابت حرث قوم ظلموا [ ص: 246 ] أنفسهم فأهلكته الآية [ 3 \ 117 ] ، وقوله : ياأيها الذين آمنوا لا تبطلوا صدقاتكم بالمن والأذى كالذي ينفق ماله رئاء الناس ولا يؤمن بالله واليوم الآخر فمثله كمثل صفوان عليه تراب فأصابه وابل فتركه صلدا لا يقدرون على شيء مما كسبوا والله لا يهدي القوم الكافرين [ 2 \ 264 ] ، وقوله : وقدمنا إلى ما عملوا من عمل فجعلناه هباء منثورا [ 25 \ 23 ] ، إلى غير ذلك من الآيات . ـ

And Allah struck other comparisons of this meaning for the deeds of the disbelievers in other ayaat, such as His statement:

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُ‌وا أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَسَرَ‌ابٍ بِقِيعَةٍ يَحْسَبُهُ الظَّمْآنُ مَاءً حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءَهُ لَمْ يَجِدْهُ شَيْئًا 

But those who disbelieved – their deeds are like a mirage in a lowland which a thirsty one thinks is water until, when he comes to it, he finds it is nothing [24:39]

And His statement:

مَثَلُ مَا يُنفِقُونَ فِي هَـٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَثَلِ رِ‌يحٍ فِيهَا صِرٌّ‌ أَصَابَتْ حَرْ‌ثَ قَوْمٍ ظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ فَأَهْلَكَتْهُ ۚ وَمَا ظَلَمَهُمُ اللَّـهُ وَلَـٰكِنْ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ

The example of what they spend in this worldly life is like that of a wind containing frost which strikes the harvest of a people who have wronged themselves and destroys it. And Allah has not wronged them, but they wrong themselves. [3:117]

And His statement:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُبْطِلُوا صَدَقَاتِكُم بِالْمَنِّ وَالْأَذَىٰ كَالَّذِي يُنفِقُ مَالَهُ رِ‌ئَاءَ النَّاسِ وَلَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ‌ ۖ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ صَفْوَانٍ عَلَيْهِ تُرَ‌ابٌ فَأَصَابَهُ وَابِلٌ فَتَرَ‌كَهُ صَلْدًا ۖ لَّا يَقْدِرُ‌ونَ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ مِّمَّا كَسَبُوا ۗ وَاللَّـهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِ‌ينَ

O you who have believed, do not invalidate your charities with reminders or injury as does one who spends his wealth [only] to be seen by the people and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. His example is like that of a [large] smooth stone upon which is dust and is hit by a downpour that leaves it bare. They are unable [to keep] anything of what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people. [2:264]

And His statement:

وَقَدِمْنَا إِلَىٰ مَا عَمِلُوا مِنْ عَمَلٍ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ هَبَاءً مَّنثُورً‌ا

And We will regard what they have done of deeds and make them as dust dispersed. [25:23]

And other than these from the ayaat.

وبين في موضع آخر أن الحكمة في ضربه للأمثال أن يتفكر الناس فيها فيفهموا الشيء بنظرة ، وهو قوله : وتلك الأمثال نضربها للناس لعلهم يتفكرون [ 59 \ 21 ] ، ونظيره قوله : ويضرب الله الأمثال للناس لعلهم يتذكرون [ 14 \ 25 ] ، ـ

And elsewhere Allah clarified that the wisdom in His striking comparisons is for the people to think over them so that they would understand something by considering the comparison. And that is Hiss statement:

وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِ‌بُهَا لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُ‌ونَ

And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought. [59:21]

And its counterpart in His statement:

وَيَضْرِ‌بُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُ‌ونَ

And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. [14:25]

وبين في موضع آخر أن الأمثال لا يعقلها إلا أهل العلم ، وهو قوله تعالى : وتلك الأمثال نضربها للناس وما يعقلها إلا العالمون [ 29 \ 43 ] ، ـ

And elsewhere He clarified that the comparisons are not understood except by the people of knowledge, which is His statement:

وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِ‌بُهَا لِلنَّاسِ ۖ وَمَا يَعْقِلُهَا إِلَّا الْعَالِمُونَ

And these examples We present to the people, but none will understand them except those of knowledge. [29:43]

وبين في موضع آخر أن المثل المضروب يجعله الله سبب هداية لقوم فهموه ، وسبب ضلال لقوم لم يفهموا حكمته ، وهو قوله : فأما الذين آمنوا فيعلمون أنه الحق من ربهم وأما الذين كفروا فيقولون ماذا أراد الله بهذا مثلا يضل به كثيرا ويهدي به كثيرا وما يضل به إلا الفاسقين [ 2 \ 26 ] ، ـ

And elsewhere Allah clarified that He has made the given examples to be a cause of guidance for the people who comprehend them and [also] a cause of misguidance for the people who do not comprehend their wisdom, such as His statement:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِ‌بَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا ۚ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّ‌بِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُ‌وا فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَ‌ادَ اللَّـهُ بِهَـٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرً‌ا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرً‌ا ۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ

Indeed, Allah is not shy to present an example – that of a mosquito or what is smaller than it. And those who have believed know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, they say, “What did Allah intend by this as an example?” He misleads many thereby and guides many thereby. And He misleads not except the defiantly disobedient [2:26]

وبين في موضع آخر أنه تعالى لا يستحيي أن يضرب مثلا ما ولو كان المثل المضروب بعوضة فما فوقها ، قيل : فما هو أصغر منها ; لأنه يفوقها في الصغر ، وقيل : فما فوقها أي فما هو أكبر منها ، وهو قوله : إن الله لا يستحيي أن يضرب مثلا ما بعوضة فما فوقها [ 2 \ 26 ] ، ولذلك ضرب المثل بالعنكبوت في قوله : مثل الذين اتخذوا من دون الله أولياء كمثل العنكبوت اتخذت بيتا وإن أوهن البيوت لبيت العنكبوت لو كانوا يعلمون [ 29 \ 41 ] ، وضربه بالحمار في قوله : كمثل الحمار يحمل أسفارا الآية [ 62 \ 5 ] ، وضربه بالكلب في قوله : ولو شئنا لرفعناه بها ولكنه أخلد إلى الأرض واتبع هواه فمثله كمثل الكلب إن تحمل عليه يلهث أو تتركه يلهث [ 7 \ 176 ] ، إلى غير ذلك ، والعلم عند الله تعالى . ـ

And elsewhere He clarified that He is not shy to present a comparison, not even if the presented example were of a mosquito nor even of something less than that. It is said, “Then what is smaller than that?”, because nothing surpasses that in terms of smallness. And it is said, “Then what about what surpasses that?”, meaning, then what about what is larger than that, such as His statement:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِ‌بَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا

Indeed, Allah is not shy to present an example – that of a mosquito or what is smaller than it.

So there He presented the example of the spider in His statement:

مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ كَمَثَلِ الْعَنكَبُوتِ اتَّخَذَتْ بَيْتًا ۖ وَإِنَّ أَوْهَنَ الْبُيُوتِ لَبَيْتُ الْعَنكَبُوتِ ۖ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ

The example of those who take allies other than Allah is like that of the spider who takes a home. And indeed, the weakest of homes is the home of the spider, if they only knew. [29:41]

And He presented the example of the donkey in His statement:

مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَ‌اةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ‌ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارً‌ا ۚ بِئْسَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ

The example of those who were entrusted with the Tawrah and then did not take it on is like that of a donkey who carries volumes [of books]. Wretched is the example of the people who deny the signs of Allah. And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people. [62:5]

And He presented the example of the dog in His statement:

وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَ‌فَعْنَاهُ بِهَا وَلَـٰكِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَى الْأَرْ‌ضِ وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ ۚ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ الْكَلْبِ إِن تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُ‌كْهُ يَلْهَث

And if We had willed, we could have elevated him thereby, but he adhered [instead] to the earth and followed his own desire. So his example is like that of the dog: if you chase him, he pants, or if you leave him, he [still] pants. [7:176]

And other ayaat. And the knowledge is with Allah.

[Adwaa’ al-Bayaan 2/246-247]

See also: Does the Qur’an use metaphorical language? – Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: “And who is more unjust than…”: Imam al-Shinqitee

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One thought on “The examples and comparisons in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

  1. Pingback: Does the Qur’an use metaphorical language? – Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

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