Turning Away from the Sources of Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah

In the midst of a wider discussion within his book al-Eemaan, sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyyah included the following valuable aside regarding some of the causes for deviating while making tafsir, centering around turning away from the sources of tafsir. For any readers who are not already familiar with the sources of tafsir, we would recommend first reading this brief article from sheik Saalih al-Fawzan on the subject before continuing:

    وقد دلت النصوص على أنه يخرج من النار من في قلبه مثقال ذرة من الإيمان . وقد عدلت ” المرجئة ” في هذا الأصل عن بيان الكتاب والسنة وأقوال الصحابة والتابعين لهم بإحسان واعتمدوا على رأيهم وعلى ما تأولوه بفهمهم اللغة ، وهذه طريقة أهل البدع ; ولهذا كان الإمام أحمد يقول : أكثر ما يخطئ الناس من جهة التأويل والقياس . [ ص: 119 ]  ـ

The textual sources definitively prove that whoever has a mustard seed’s weight of eemaan in his heart will eventually be taken out of the Hell-fire. However, when it comes to this fundamental principle, the Murji’ah have turned away from the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the statements of the sahabah and those who followed them in goodness and instead they relied on their own opinions and their own interpretations and their own understandings of linguistic matters. This is the way of the people of religious innovation (ahl al-bid’ah), and it was in their vein that Imam Ahmad said, “The most common areas in which people err are interpreting words outside of their predominant meanings and analogical reasoning.”

     ولهذا تجد المعتزلة والمرجئة والرافضة وغيرهم من أهل البدع يفسرون القرآن برأيهم ومعقولهم وما تأولوه من اللغة ; ولهذا تجدهم لا يعتمدون على أحاديث النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم والصحابة والتابعين وأئمة المسلمين ; فلا يعتمدون لا على السنة ولا على إجماع السلف وآثارهم ; وإنما يعتمدون على العقل واللغة . ـ

And so you find the Mu’tazilah, the Murji’ah, the Raafidah, and other groups of the ahl al-bid’ah making tafsir of the Qur’an according to their own views, reasonings, and linguistic interpretations, and you find that they do not rely on the statements of the Prophet (ﷺ) or the sahabah or the tabi’oon or the scholars. So they do not rely on the Sunnah or on the consensus of the early generations or on the statements and positions relayed from them; they only rely on intellect and linguistics.

وتجدهم لا يعتمدون على كتب التفسير المأثورة والحديث ; وآثار السلف وإنما يعتمدون على كتب الأدب وكتب الكلام التي وضعتها رءوسهم وهذه طريقة الملاحدة أيضا ; إنما يأخذون ما في كتب الفلسفة وكتب الأدب واللغة وأما كتب القرآن والحديث والآثار ; فلا يلتفتون إليها . ـ

You find that they do not rely on the books of narration-based tafsir or the books of hadeeth, or the statements and positions relayed from the salaf; they only rely on the books of literature and the books of language which their figureheads have authored. This is also the methodology of the heretics; they only take from the books of philosophy and the books of literature and language, but as for the books of tafsir, prophetic hadeeth or statements of the early generations, they do not give these sources any consideration.

هؤلاء يعرضون عن نصوص الأنبياء إذ هي عندهم لا تفيد العلم وأولئك يتأولون القرآن برأيهم وفهمهم بلا آثار عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وأصحابه وقد ذكرنا كلام أحمد وغيره في إنكار هذا وجعله طريقة أهل البدع . وإذا تدبرت حججهم وجدت دعاوى لا يقوم عليها دليل . ـ

These people turn away from the sources of the religion conveyed by the Prophets – as in their minds these do not contain knowledge – and so they interpret the Qur’an according to their own opinions and understandings without any reference to the legacy left by the Prophet (ﷺ) or his companions. And we have already mentioned the statements of Imam Ahmad and others censuring this approach and considering this to be the way of ahl al-bid’ah. And if you consider their arguments, you will find that the calls of these groups do not have any foundation to stand on.

[Majmoo’a al-Fataawaa 7/119-120]

See also: The Importance of Tafsir and its Sources: Sheikh al-Fawzan

To learn more about the various books of tafsir and their approaches, see Mufassir Profiles.

See also: Why Speaking about Allah without Knowledge is more serious than Shrik: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

See also: Understanding the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: Understanding the Ayaat al-Sifaat: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: About the Books of Tafsir

See also: Ibn Taymiyah on the Books of Tafsir

See also: Notes on the Book “Safwah al-Tafaasir”: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan

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5 thoughts on “Turning Away from the Sources of Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah

  1. Pingback: The Importance of Tafsir and its Sources: Sheikh al-Fawzan | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Notes on the Book “Safwah al-Tafaasir”: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: Ibn Taymiyah on the Books of Tafsir | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: The Blessed Night is Laylah al-Qadr, not the Middle of Sha’baan | Tulayhah

  5. Pingback: A Note on Qur’anic Dictionaries: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool | Tulayhah

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