Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari

In surah al-Furqaan, Allah devotes a number of ayaat to describing the characteristics of the ‘ibaad al-Rahman (the slaves of the Most Merciful). Among these descriptions is His statement:

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

And they are those who do not witness al-zoor, and if they pass by some ill talk, they pass by it with dignity. [25:72]

al-Haafidh ibn Kathir clarified the meaning of “those who do not witness” briefly in his tafsir by writing:

 والأظهر من السياق أن المراد : لا يشهدون الزور ، أي : لا يحضرونه; ولهذا قال : ( وإذا مروا باللغو مروا كراما ) أي : لا يحضرون الزور ، وإذا اتفق مرورهم به مروا ، ولم يتدنسوا منه بشيء ; ولهذا قال : ( مروا كراما ) . ـ

From the context, it appears that the intended meaning of “they do not witness al-zoor” is that they are not present for it or in attendance when it is happening. In line with this, Allah said:

وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

and if they pass by some ill talk, they pass by it with dignity.

meaning: they are not in attendance when al-zoor occurs, and if they do happen to pass by it, then they do not let it sully them in the least. In this vein, Allah said:

مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

they pass by it with dignity.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 6/132]

There were a number of different interpretations of the meaning of al-zoor among the salaf. Sheikh ibn al-Jawzi summarizes these different opinions as follows:

قوله تعالى: والذين لا يشهدون الزور فيه ثمانية أقوال . أحدها : أنه الصنم ; روى الضحاك عن ابن عباس أن الزور صنم كان للمشركين . والثاني : أنه الغناء ، قاله محمد بن الحنفية ، ومكحول ; وروى ليث عن مجاهد قال : لا يسمعون الغناء . والثالث : الشرك ، قاله الضحاك ، وأبو مالك . والرابع : لعب كان لهم في الجاهلية ، قاله عكرمة . والخامس : الكذب ، قاله قتادة ، وابن جريج . والسادس : شهادة الزور ، قاله علي بن أبي طلحة . والسابع : أعياد المشركين ، قاله الربيع بن أنس . والثامن : مجالس الخنا ، قاله عمرو بن قيس . ـ

Regarding Allah’s statement:

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ

And they are those who do not witness al-zoor [25:72]

there are eight different opinions concerning the meaning of al-zoor.

  1. That is refers to idols. al-Dhahhaak relayed that ibn ‘Abbaas explained al-zoor to the be the idols that the mushrikoon used to have.
  2. That it is singing. This is the position of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, Makhool, and Layth relayed that Mujaahid explained it to mean, “they do not listen to singing”.
  3. It means al-shirk. al-Dhahhaak and Abu Maalik said this.
  4. That it refers to the games that people used to play in the era of pre-Islamic ignorance. This was the opinion of ‘Ikrimah.
  5. It is lying, as Qataadah and ibn Jurajy said.
  6. It refers to bearing false witness, which was the opinion of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talhah.
  7. It means the festivals and holidays of the mushrikoon. Rabee’ ibn Anas held this position.
  8. It refers to gatherings of sexual immorality, as was the opinion of ‘Amr ibn Qays.

[Zad al-Maseer 6/110]

The famous mufassir Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari also addressed this issue in his tafsir, where he wrote the following:

اختلف أهل التأويل في معنى الزور الذي وصف الله هؤلاء القوم بأنهم لا يشهدونه . ـ

The scholars of Tafsir have differed regarding the meaning of the zoor which Allah has described these people as avoiding and not witnessing.

فقال بعضهم : معناه الشرك بالله . ذكر من قال ذلك : حدثنا ابن بشار ، قال : ثنا أبو عامر ، قال : ثنا سفيان ، عن جويبر ، عن الضحاك ، في قوله : ( لا يشهدون الزور ) قال : الشرك . ـ

○ Some said that its meaning is al-shirk. Among those who said this was al-Dhahhaak. Regarding Allah’s statement, “and those who do not witness al-zoor“, he said, “meaning, al-shirk.

حدثني يونس ، قال : أخبرنا ابن وهب ، قال : قال ابن زيد ، في قوله : ( والذين لا يشهدون الزور ) قال : هؤلاء المهاجرون ، قال : والزور قولهم لآلهتهم ، وتعظيمهم إياها . ـ

And also ibn Zayd. Regarding Allah’s statement, “and those who do not witness al-zoor“, he said, “those ones are the muhaajiroon.” And he also said, “al-zoor refers to the statements they address to their gods and their magnification directed towards them.”

وقال آخرون : بل عني به الغناء . ذكر من قال ذلك : حدثني علي بن عبد الأعلى المحاربي قال : ثنا محمد بن مروان ، عن ليث ، عن مجاهد في قوله : ( والذين لا يشهدون الزور ) قال : لا يسمعون الغناء . ـ

○ Others said, “No, rather what is meant here is singing.” Among those who held this position was Mujaahid. Regarding Allah’s statement, “and those who do not witness al-zoor“, he said, “they do not listen to singing.”

وقال آخرون : هو قول الكذب . ذكر من قال ذلك : حدثنا القاسم ، قال : ثنا الحسين ، قال : ثني حجاج ، عن ابن جريج ، قوله : ( والذين لا يشهدون الزور ) قال : الكذب . ـ

○ Still others said that it is referring to lies. Among those who held this position was ibn Jurajy. Regarding Allah’s statement, “and those who do not witness al-zoor“, he said, “meaning: lies.”

قال أبو جعفر : وأصل الزور تحسين الشيء ، ووصفه بخلاف صفته ، حتى يخيل إلى من يسمعه أو يراه ، أنه خلاف ما هو به ، والشرك قد يدخل في ذلك ، لأنه محسن لأهله ، حتى قد ظنوا أنه حق ، وهو باطل ، ويدخل فيه الغناء ، لأنه أيضا مما يحسنه ترجيع الصوت ، حتى يستحلي سامعه سماعه ، والكذب أيضا قد يدخل فيه لتحسين صاحبه إياه ، حتى يظن صاحبه أنه حق ، فكل ذلك مما يدخل في معنى الزور . ـ

○ And I, Abu Ja’far, say: The root meaning of al-zoor is the embellishment of something and describing it in a manner contrary to its actual characteristics such that the one who heard of it or saw it would take it to be something other than what it really is. So, al-shirk could be included in this meaning, for it has been made appealing and attractive to the people who engage in it to the extent that the think it is correct despite its falsity. And singing could also be included in this meaning, for it is also something which has been made appealing, such that the listener becomes delighted at hearing it. And lying could also fall under this meaning due to it being something appealing to those who do it, even to the extent that they think it is something perfectly acceptable. So all of these things can be included under this root meaning of al-zoor.

فإذا كان ذلك كذلك ، فأولى الأقوال بالصواب في تأويله أن يقال : والذين لا يشهدون شيئا من الباطل لا شركا ، ولا غناء ، ولا كذبا ولا غيره ، وكل ما لزمه اسم الزور ، لأن الله عم في وصفه إياهم أنهم لا يشهدون الزور ، فلا ينبغي أن يخص من ذلك شيء إلا بحجة يجب التسليم لها ، من خبر أو عقل . ـ

So if this is the case, then the position that is closest to the correct of interpretation of this ayah is to say, “these people are those who do not witness any form of falsehood; neither shirk nor singing nor lying nor anything else. They do not witness anything which could be described as al-zoor.” For Allah employed general language when describing these people as those who do not witness al-zoor, so it is not appropriate to restrict that description to any particular thing without having some evidence – whether textual or intellectual – requiring us to do that.

[Tafsir al-Tabari 17/314-315]

Click these links to learn more about the tafsir works of ibn al-Jawzi, ibn Jarir al-Tabari, ibn Kathir, and others.

For more about this ayah, see: ‘Ibad al-Rahman Part 6 – Avoiding Bad Company: ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

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

See also: A Benefit of General Language in Surah al-Duhaa: Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen

See also: “O our Lord, do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people”: Tafsir ibn Kathir

See also: The Prohibition of Music in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

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

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12 thoughts on “Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari

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