Who knows the Ta’weel? : Imam al-Sa’di

The following questions and answer was found in a collection of sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di’s written works:

س – أي قولين أصح في قوله تعالى : [وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ] (آل عمران 7) ؟ ـ

Question: Which of the two opinions is more correct regarding Allah’s statement:

وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ

And no one knows its ta’weel except Allah. And those firm in knowledge say, “We believe in it.” [3:7]

جـ – التأويل يطلق بمعنى التفسير والعلم به ، ويطلق بمعنى بيان الحقيقة التي يئول إليها الأمر . ـ

Response: The word ta’weel can be used to mean tafsir – “explanation” – and knowledge of a thing’s explanation, and it can also be used to mean the clarification of the ultimate reality of an issue.

فإن كان الاول ، فيكون قوله : [وَالرَّاسِخُونَ ] معطوفا على قوله : [إِلَّا اللَّـهُ] وعلى هذا فإن معناه أن المتشابه هو ضد المحكم ، وهو الذي فيه احتمالات ، فالراسخون في العلم يفهمونه ويرجعونه إلى المحكم ، فالنص الصريح يقضي على النص الذي فيه عدة احتمالات . ـ

In the first scenario, Allah’s statement, “and those firm in knowledge” is connected to His statement, “except Allah“. So according to this, the meaning of the ayah is that the mutashaabih (ambiguous verses) are the opposite of the muhkam (clear verses), meanings that they carry more than one possible interpretation. So those who are firm in knowledge understand the mutashaabih verses and refer them back to the muhkam verses, for the explicit texts act as a judge presiding over those texts which offer a number of different interpretations. Continue reading

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Belief in the Messengers in brief: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In part of his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah (2:253), sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di listed a summary of some of the salient points regarding the prophets and messengers:

فائدة: كما يجب على المكلف معرفته بربه، فيجب عليه معرفته برسله، ما يجب لهم ويمتنع عليهم ويجوز في حقهم، ويؤخذ جميع ذلك مما وصفهم الله به في آيات متعددة. ـ

A point of benefit: Just as knowledge of one’s Lord is obligatory upon every legally-responsible adult, likewise knowledge of His messengers is also obligatory upon him – what is obligated towards them, what is prohibited regarding them and what is permitted concerning them. And all of that is taken from what Allah has described them with in numerous ayaat.

منها: أنهم رجال لا نساء، من أهل القرى لا من أهل البوادي، وأنهم مصطفون مختارون، جمع الله لهم من الصفات الحميدة ما به الاصطفاء والاختيار، وأنهم سالمون من كل ما يقدح في رسالتهم من كذب وخيانة وكتمان وعيوب مزرية، وأنهم لا يقرون على خطأ فيما يتعلق بالرسالة والتكليف، وأن الله تعالى خصهم بوحيه . ـ

And among these descriptions are:

-They there are men and not women[1], from the inhabitants of townships and not from the people of the wilderness[2].

– And they were chosen[3] and selected[4]; Allah combined in them praiseworthy traits which He chose and selected[5]. Continue reading

The Wisdom of Dividing the Qur’an into Muhkam and Mutashaabih Verses: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

In part of his primer on the sciences of tafsir, sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen closed his section discussing the issues of the Muhkam (clear) and Mutashaabih (ambiguous) verses by writing:

الحكمة في تنوع القرآن إلى محكم ومتشابه
The Wisdom of Dividing the Qur’an into Muhkam (clear) and Mutashaabih (ambiguous) Verses

لو كان القرآن كله محكما لفاتت الحكمة من الاختبار به تصديقا وعملا لظهور معناه، وعدم المجال لتحريفه، والتمسك بالمتشابه ابتغاء الفتنة وابتغاء تأويله، ولو كان كله متشابها لفات كونه بيانا، وهدى للناس، ولما أمكن العمل به، وبناء العقيدة السليمة عليه، ولكن الله تعالى بحكمته جعل منه آيات محكمات، يرجع إليهن عند التشابه، وآخر متشابهات امتحانا للعباد، ليتبين صادق الإيمان ممن في قلبه زيغ، فإن صادق الإيمان يعلم أن القرآن كله من عند الله تعالى، وما كان من عند الله فهو حق، ولا يمكن أن يكون فيه باطل، أو تناقض لقوله تعالى: (لا يَأْتِيهِ الْبَاطِلُ مِنْ بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَلا مِنْ خَلْفِهِ تَنْزِيلٌ مِنْ حَكِيمٍ حَمِيدٍ) (فصلت: 42) وقوله تعالى (لَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِنْدِ غَيْرِ اللَّهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلافاً كَثِيراً) (النساء: الآية 82) . ـ

If the entire Qur’an were to have been made up of Muhkam verses, then the purpose of it being a test in terms of affirming it and acting in according with it would not have been achieved due to the clarity of its meanings and the absence of any opportunity to distort them or to cling to the ambiguous passages, seeking trouble and distortion in doing so. But if the entire Qur’an were to have been made up of Mutashaabih verses, then its role as a clarification and a guidance to mankind would not have been fulfilled and it would not have been possible to act according to it or to build a sound basis of belief upon it.

Continue reading

“Do not Follow that of which you have no Knowledge”: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In surah al-Israa – also sometimes referred to as surah Bani Israa’eel -, Allah commands:

وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَـٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا

And do not follow that of which you have no knowledge. Certainly the hearing, and the sight, and the heart of each of those you will be questioned. [17:36]

The scholars of tafsir have differed regarding the meaning of this command. Ibn al-Jawzi summarized the different opinions in his book of tafsir by writing:

وللمفسرين في المراد به أربعة أقوال : ـ
أحدها: لا ترم أحدا بما ليس لك به علم، رواه العوفي عن ابن عباس .ـ
والثاني: لا تقل: رأيت، ولم تر، ولا سمعت، ولم تسمع، رواه عثمان بن عطاء، عن أبيه، عن ابن عباس، وبه قال قتادة .ـ
والثالث: لا تشرك بالله شيئا، رواه عطاء أيضا عن ابن عباس .ـ
والرابع: لا تشهد بالزور، قاله محمد بن الحنفية .ـ

There were four different opinions among the mufassiroon as to the intended meaning of this phrase:

1) Do not levy accusations of which you do not have knowledge against anyone. al-‘Awfi transmitted this from ibn ‘Abbaas.

2) Do not say, “I saw such-and-such” when you did not see it, nor say “I heard such-and-such” when you did not hear it. ‘Uthman ibn ‘Ataa’ transmitted this from his father from ibn ‘Abbaas, and Qataadah also mentioned this.

3) Do not associate any partners with Allah. ‘Ataa also narrated this from ibn ‘Abbaas.

4) Do not bear false witness. And this is what Muhammad ibn Haneefiyyah said.

[Zad al-Maseer 5/36]

Imam ibn Jarir al-Tabari also mentioned these different positions in his own tafsir along with their chains of narration. He then concluded with the following reconciliation of those opinions by writing: Continue reading

The Meanings of Muhkam, Mutashaabih, and Ta’weel: al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah

The Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Fataawaa of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia received the following question. In their collected statements, they placed this question and answer as the first entry in their section of tafsir-related questions:

س: ما هو المقصود بالمحكم والمتشابه في آيات القرآن الكريم؟ وكيف ندفع الإِشكال الذي يورده البعض من أنه إذا كان القرآن الكريم تبيانًا لكل شيء وهدى للعالمين؟ فما هو وجه التوفيق بين ذلك وبين قوله تعالى: وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلا اللَّهُ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ ؟ وما المقصود بالراسخين في العلم؟ وما الفرق بين تأويل القرآن وتفسيره؟ ـ

Question: What is the intended meaning of the terms Muhkam and Mutashaabih when they come in the Qur’anic verses? And how can we rebut the problem which some people raise that since the Qur’an is a clarification of everything and a guidance for mankind, then how do we reconcile that with Allah’s statement:

وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ

And no one knows its ta’weel except Allah, and those firm in knowledge [3:7]

And what is the intended meaning of those firm in knowledge? And what is the difference between the ta’weel of the Qur’an and the tafsir of the Qur’an?

ج: أولاً: يطلق الإِحكام بمعنى: الإِتقان، فإحكام الكلام: إتقانه ووضوح معناه فيتميز به الصدق من الكذب في الأخبار، والرشد من الغي في الأوامر، والقرآن كله محكم بهذا المعنى، واضح لا التباس فيه على أحد، قال الله تعالى: كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِنْ لَدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ ، وقال سبحانه: تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْحَكِيمِ . ـ

Answer:

○ First: the term muhkam is applied to the meaning of al-itqaan (excellent proficiency), so muhkam speech  would mean proficiency of speech and clarity of meaning such that it distinguishes the truth from falsehood in terms of information and guidance from misguidance in respect to commands. And according to this usage, the entire Qur’an is muhkam; it is clear without any confusion whatsoever. Allah said:

كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِن لَّدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ

a Book whose verses are perfected and then presented in detail from the Wise and Acquainted. [11:1]

and He said: Continue reading

Three Saving Matters and Three Destructive Matters: Khutbah of Imam al-Sa’di

The following khutbah is taken from a collection of the Friday sermons of sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di:

الحمد لله الواحد الأحد ، الفرد الصمد ، الذي لم يلد ولم يولد ، ولم يكن له كفوا أحد ، وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له في ملكه وسلطانه ، ولا مثل له في أسمائه وصفاته ، وبره وإحسانه ، وأشهد أن محمدا عبده ورسوله ، المؤيد ببرهانه ، اللهم صل وسلم على محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه وأتباعه وأعوانه . ـ

All praise belongs to Allah, the One, the First, the Singular, the Independent – He who neither begets nor is begotten, and there is none like unto Him.

I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah alone, with no partners in His ownership and rule. And there is none like Him in terms of His Names and Attributes or His benevolence and excellence.

And I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and messenger, who was aided by His miraculous proofs. O Allah, grant Your peace and blessings upon Muhammad and upon his family, companions, followers and supporters.

أما بعد : أيها الناس ، اتقوا الله تعالى ، واسلكوا سبيل السلامة والنجاة ، واحذروا سبل العطب والأمور المهلكات ، فقد قال صلى الله عليه وسلم : « ثلاث منجيات وثلاث مهلكات ، فأما المنجيات : فتقوى الله في السر والعلانية ، والقول بالحق في الرضا والسخط ، والقصد في الغنى والفقر ، وأما المهلكات : فهوى متبع ، وشح مطاع ، وإعجاب المرء بنفسه ، وهي أشدهن » . ـ

To proceed: O people, have taqwa of Allah, and travel the path of safety and salvation, and beware of the routes of loss and the destructive matters. For the Prophet said:

There are three saving matters, and three destructive matters. As for the saving matters, they are 1) having taqwa of Allah in both public and private, 2) speaking the truth whether being pleased or displeased, and 3) being moderate regardless of wealth or poverty. As for the destructive matters, they are 1) desires which are followed, 2) miserliness which is obeyed, and 3) a person’s amazement with himself, and that is the gravest of them.

[Reported by al-Bayhaqi in Shu’b al-Eemaan (#6865) from the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah]

 فيا له من كلام جامع لمسالك الخيرات ، محذر عن موانع الهلكات . أما تقوى الله في السر والعلانية ، فهي ملاك الأمور ، وبها حصول الخيرات واندفاع الشرور ، فهي مراقبة الله على الدوام ، والعلم بقرب الملك العلام ، فيستحي من ربه أن يراه حيث نهاه ، أو يفقده في كل ما يقرب إلى رضاه . ـ

Oh, how valuable is this comprehensive statement for traveling the path of goodness, cautioning against those destructive impediments! Continue reading

Understanding the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Umar Bazmool authored the following short article of great benefit:

فهم القرآن

Understanding the Qur’an

أنزل الله سبحانه وتعالى القرآن على رسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم، وبينه له، وأمره ببيانه. قال تعالى: ﴿إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ (17) فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ (18) ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ﴾ (القيامة: 17 – 19). وقال تعالى: ﴿وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ﴾ (النحل: 44). فكان هذا هو المصدر الأول لبيان معاني القرآن العظيم وفهمه. ـ

Allah revealed the Qur’an to the Prophet (ﷺ) and He made it clear to him, and He commanded him to clarify it [to others]. Allah said:

إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْ‌آنَهُ * فَإِذَا قَرَ‌أْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْ‌آنَهُ * ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ

Verily, upon Us is its collection and recitation * So when We recite it, follow its recitation * Then indeed upon Us is its elucidation [75:17-19]

And He said:

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ‌ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُ‌ونَ

And We revealed to you the message that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them and that they might give thought. [16:44]

So this [i.e. the Prophet (ﷺ)] is the first source for explanations of the Qur’an and understanding it.

وتلقى معاني القرآن عن رسول الله صحابته الكرام، الذين شاهدوا نزول الوحي، واحتفوا بقرائن النزول، ووقائعه وملابساته، مع كونه نزل بلغتهم التي بها يتكلمون، فصار الصحابة هم المصدر الثاني لبيان القرآن الكريم. ـ

And the meanings of the Qur’an were given from the Messenger of Allah to his noble Companions; those who witnessed the sending of the revelation and were taking part in the context, events and circumstances of the revelation. Not to mention that the Qur’an was sent down in their language with which they used to communicate. So therefore, the Companions are the second source for explaining the Qur’an. Continue reading

The Four Stages of Fasting ‘Aashooraa’: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

In his book detailing the different activities of the year, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali wrote the following discussion concerning the Day of ‘Aashooraa’ (the 10th day of the month of Muharram) and its fasting:

وكان للنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم في صيامه أربع حالات: ـ

The Prophet (ﷺ) went through four different stages regarding the fasting of ‘Aashooraa’:

الحالة الأولى: أنه كان يصومه بمكة ولا يأمر الناس بالصوم ففي الصحيحين عن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت: كان عاشوراء يوما تصومه قريش في الجاهلية وكان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يصومه فلما قدم المدينة صامه وأمر بصيامه فلما نزلت فريضة شهر رمضان كان رمضان هو الذي يصومه فترك يوم عاشوراء فمن شاء صامه ومن شاء أفطره وفي رواية للبخاري وقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: “من شاء فليصمه ومن شاء أفطر”. ـ

○The First Stage: That he used to fast it in Mecca but he did not command the people to fast. There is a narration in the Saheehayn on the authority of ‘Aa’ishah who said:

The Day of ‘Aashooraa’ was a day that the Quraish used to fast during the times of al-Jaahiliyyah and the Prophet (ﷺ) also used to fast it. Then when he came to al-Madinah he fasted it and he commanded its fasting. Then when the obligation of fasting the month of Ramadan was revealed, it was Ramadan that he fasted and thus he left off the Day of ‘Aashooraa’, so whoever wished could fast it and whoever wished did not have to fast it.

And in the narration of al-Bukhari, “And the Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Whoever wishes then let him fast and whoever wishes then do not fast.'”

الحالة الثانية: أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لما قدم المدينة ورأى صيام أهل الكتاب له وتعظيمهم له وكان يحب موافقتهم فيما لم يؤمر به صامه وأمر الناس بصيامه وأكد الأمر بصيامه والحث عليه حتى كانوا يصومونه أطفالهم ففي الصحيحين عن ابن عباس قال: قدم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم المدينة فوجد اليهود صياما يوم عاشوراء فقال لهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: ما هذا اليوم الذي تصومونه؟ قالوا: هذا يوم عظيم أنجى الله فيه موسى وقومه وأغرق فرعون وقومه فصامه موسى شكرا فنحن نصومه فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: “فنحن أحق وأولى بموسى منكم” فصامه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وأمر بصيامه. ـ

○The Second Stage: That the Prophet (ﷺ) came to al-Madinah and he saw the Ahl al-Kitaab fasting it and holding it in high regard, and he was pleased with his having been in accord with them in in the fast which he had not previously ordered the people to do. So he then commanded the people to fast that day and emphasized the command to fast it. He encouraged the people to do so to the extent that even the children would fast it. So there is a report in the Saheehayn on the authority of ibn ‘Abbaas who said: Continue reading

The Sahabah and Tabi’oon known for their Tafsir: al-Suyooti

In his famous work detailing the sciences of the Qur’an, sheikh Jalaal al-Deen al-Suyooti included a section on the different generations of mufassiroon (Qur’anic exegetes). What follows is a condensed and streamlined presentation of the first part of this chapter, as prepared by sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Umar Bazmool:

طبقة الصحابة
The Level of the Sahabah

اشتهر بالتفسير من الصحابة عشرة : الخلفاء الأربعة ، وابن مسعود ، وابن عباس ، وأبي بن كعب ، وزيد بن ثابت ، وأبو موسى الأشعري ، وعبد الله بن الزبير . ـ

Those who are well known among the sahabah for tafsir are ten: the four Khulafaa’ [Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, and ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib], ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbas, Ubay ibn Ka’b, Zayd ibn Thaabit, Abu Moosaa al-Ash’ari, and ‘Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr.

أما الخلفاء ؛ فأكثر من روي عنه منهم : على بن أبي طالب ، والرواية عن الثلاثة نزرة جداً ، وكان السبب في ذلك تقدم وفاتهم ، كما أن ذلك هو السبب في قلة رواية أبي بكر رضي الله عنه للحديث ، ولا أحفظ عن أبي بكر رضي الله عنه في التفسير إلا آثاراً قليلة جداً ، لا تكاد تجاوز العشرة ، وأما على ؛ فروي عنه الكثير . ـ

As for the Khulafaa’, then the one from whom the most is transmitted is ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib, while what is transmitted from the other three is very little. The reason for that is because those three died earlier, just as that is the reason why there is little in the way of hadeeth narrated from Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), nor was much preserved from Abu Bakr in the way tafsir except for a very few statements which hardly even amount to ten in total. But as for ‘Ali, then a great deal was transmitted from him. Continue reading