Preservation of the Wordings and Meanings of the Qur’an among the Salaf: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Nisaa’, Allah informs us of the following:

وَرُسُلًا قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَرُسُلًا لَّمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ ۚ وَكَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ مُوسَىٰ تَكْلِيمًا

And Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you, – and Allah spoke to Moosaa directly. [4:164]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following points:

وقوله : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) وهذا تشريف لموسى ، عليه السلام ، بهذه الصفة ; ولهذا يقال [ ص: 475 ] له : الكليم . وقد قال الحافظ أبو بكر بن مردويه : حدثنا أحمد بن محمد بن سليمان المالكي ، حدثنا مسيح بن حاتم ، حدثنا عبد الجبار بن عبد الله قال : جاء رجل إلى أبي بكر بن عياش فقال : سمعت رجلا يقرأ : ” وكلم الله موسى تكليما ” فقال أبو بكر : ما قرأ هذا إلا كافر ، قرأت على الأعمش ، وقرأ الأعمش على [ يحيى ] بن وثاب ، وقرأ يحيى بن وثاب على أبي عبد الرحمن السلمي ، وقرأ أبو عبد الرحمن ، على علي بن أبي طالب ، وقرأ علي بن أبي طالب على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَكَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ مُوسَىٰ تَكْلِيمًا

and Allah spoke to Moosaa directly

this is a form of honoring Moosaa (peace be upon him) by this description, and it is for this reason that he is called al-Kaleem.

al-Haafidh Abu Bakr ibn Mardaway recorded that … a man came to Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ayyaash[1] and said: I heard a man recite

وكلّم اللهَ موسى تكليما

and to Allah, Moosaa spoke directly

So Abu Bakr said: No one recites it like this except for a disbeliever! For I recited the Qur’an to al-A’mash, and al-A’mash recited to Yahya ibn Wathaab, and Yahya ibn Wathaab recited to Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, and Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman recited to ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib, and ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib recited to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as

وَكَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ مُوسَىٰ تَكْلِيمًا

and Allah spoke to Moosaa directly

[end quote].

وإنما اشتد غضب أبي بكر بن عياش ، رحمه الله ، على من قرأ كذلك ; لأنه حرف لفظ القرآن ومعناه ، وكان هذا من المعتزلة الذين ينكرون أن [ يكون ] الله كلم موسى ، عليه السلام ، أو يكلم أحدا من خلقه ، كما رويناه عن بعض المعتزلة أنه قرأ على بعض المشايخ : ” وكلم الله موسى تكليما ” فقال له : يا ابن اللخناء ، فكيف تصنع بقوله تعالى : ( ولما جاء موسى لميقاتنا وكلمه ربه ) [ الأعراف : 143 ] ، يعني : أن هذا لا يحتمل التحريف ولا التأويل . ـ

And the reason why Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ayyaash (may Allah have mercy on him) became so angry at the person who recited it that way is because that had distorted both the wording and the meaning of the Qur’an. And this change comes from the Mu’tazilah who refuse to accept that Allah spoke to Moosaa (peace be upon him), or that He spoke to any one of His created beings.

And it is also narrated that one of the Mu’tazilah recited

وكلّم اللهَ موسى تكليما

and to Allah, Moosaa spoke directly

to one of the scholars, so that scholar addressed him by saying, “You filthy person! If you recite that like that, then how do you deal with Allah’s statement:

وَلَمَّا جَاءَ مُوسَىٰ لِمِيقَاتِنَا وَكَلَّمَهُ رَبُّهُ

And when Moosaa came at the time and place appointed by Us, and his Lord spoke to him … [7:143]

meaning: here is an ayah that does not allow for any distortion or warped interpretations.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 2/475-476]

[1] Translator’s Note: Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ayyaash [d. 193 AH] is perhaps more famously known by the name Shu’bah. He was one of the two well-known transmitters of the Qiraa’ah (Qur’anic recitation) of ‘Aasim, i.e. Shu’bah ‘an ‘Aasim.

See also: “Indeed, We will be its Guardian”: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: A Brief History of the Preservation of the Qur’an: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-‘Abbaad

See also: The Preservation of the Qur’an and the Preservation of the Tawrah: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: Qiraa’aat and their Conditions for Acceptance: Sheikh Muqbil

See also: Moosaa, Muhammad & Adam – the Messengers to whom Allah spoke: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

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3 thoughts on “Preservation of the Wordings and Meanings of the Qur’an among the Salaf: Tafsir ibn Kathir

  1. Pingback: Moosaa, Muhammad & Adam – the Messengers to whom Allah spoke: Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Preservation of the Qur’an and the Preservation of the Tawrah: Imam al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: A Brief History of the Preservation of the Qur’an: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-‘Abbaad | Tulayhah

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