Precautionary Language in the Qur’an: ibn ‘Uthaymeen

Imam Muslim recorded the following hadeeth in his Saheeh, that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

الْمُؤْمِنُ الْقَوِيُّ خَيْرٌ وَأَحَبُّ إِلَى اللَّهِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِ الضَّعِيفِ وَفِي كُلٍّ خَيْرٌ

The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, but there is good in both of them. …

[Saheeh Muslim #2664]

In part of his commentary on this hadeeth in Riyaadh al-Saaliheen, sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen mentioned the following:

وقوله: (خير) يعني خير من المؤمن الضعيف، وأحب إلى الله من المؤمن الضعيف، ثم قال ـ عليه الصلاة والسلام ـ: (وفي كل خير) يعني المؤمن القوي والمؤمن الضعيف كل منهما فيه خير، وإنما قال: (وفي كل خير) لئلا يتوهم أحد من الناس أن المؤمن الضعيف لا خير فيه، بل المؤمن الضعيف فيه خير، فهو خير من الكافر لا شك. ـ

The Prophet’s statement “better” is referring to: better than the weak believer, and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer. But then he (ﷺ) said, “but there is good in both of them,” meaning: both the strong believer and the weak believer have good in them. He only said, “but there is good in both of them” lest one might wrongly suppose that there is no good in the weak believer. On the contrary, there is good in the weak believer, for there is no doubt that he is better than a disbeliever.

وهذا الأسلوب يسميه البلاغيون الاحتراز، وهو أن يتكلم الإنسان كلاماً يوهم معنى لا يقصده، فيأتي بجملة تبين أنه يقصد المعنى المعين، ومثال ذلك في القرآن قوله تبارك وتعالى: (لا يَسْتَوِي مِنْكُمْ مَنْ أَنْفَقَ مِنْ قَبْلِ الْفَتْحِ وَقَاتَلَ أُولَئِكَ أَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً مِنَ الَّذِينَ أَنْفَقُوا مِنْ بَعْدُ وَقَاتَلُوا وَكُلّاً وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَى) (الحديد: 10) ، لما كان قوله: (أُولَئِكَ أَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً مِنَ الَّذِينَ أَنْفَقُوا مِنْبَعْدُ وَقَاتَلُوا) يوهم أن الآخرين ليس لهم حظ من هذا، قال: (وَكُلّاً وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَى) . ـ

This type of language has been called “precautionary language” by the the experts of linguistic style. That is when a person says something that might mistakenly be taken in a way which he didn’t intend, and so he brings another sentence or clause to clarify the exact meaning that he intended.

There are a number of examples of this in the Qur’an. Take Allah’s statement:

لَا يَسْتَوِي مِنكُم مَّنْ أَنفَقَ مِن قَبْلِ الْفَتْحِ وَقَاتَلَ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ أَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً مِّنَ الَّذِينَ أَنفَقُوا مِن بَعْدُ وَقَاتَلُوا ۚ وَكُلًّا وَعَدَ اللَّـهُ الْحُسْنَىٰ

Not equal among you are those who spent before the conquest and fought (and those who did so after it). Those are greater in degree than they who spent afterwards and fought. But to all Allah has promised good. [57:10]

Because in His statement:

أُولَـٰئِكَ أَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً مِّنَ الَّذِينَ أَنفَقُوا مِن بَعْدُ وَقَاتَلُوا

Those are greater in degree than they who spent afterwards and fought …

one might incorrectly assume that those who came to Islam later do not have any share in this great reward, so Allah said:

وَكُلًّا وَعَدَ اللَّـهُ الْحُسْنَىٰ

… But to all Allah has promised good

ومن ذلك قوله تعالى: (وَدَاوُدَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ إِذْ يَحْكُمَانِ فِي الْحَرْثِ إِذْ نَفَشَتْ فِيهِ غَنَمُ الْقَوْمِ وَكُنَّا لِحُكْمِهِمْ شَاهِدِينَ فَفَهَّمْنَاهَا سُلَيْمَانَ) (الأنبياء: 79) ، لما كان هذا يوهم أن داود عنده نقص، قال تعالى: (وَكُلّاً آتَيْنَا حُكْماً وَعِلْماً) . ـ

Another example of this is Allah’s statement:

وَدَاوُدَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ إِذْ يَحْكُمَانِ فِي الْحَرْثِ إِذْ نَفَشَتْ فِيهِ غَنَمُ الْقَوْمِ وَكُنَّا لِحُكْمِهِمْ شَاهِدِينَ فَفَهَّمْنَاهَا سُلَيْمَانَ

And Dawud and Sulaiman, when they judged concerning the field – when the sheep of a people overran it, and We were witness to their judgement.* And We gave understanding of the case to Solomon … [21:78-79]

so because of this, one might wrongly assume that Dawud was deficient in some way, so Allah said:

وَكُلّاً آتَيْنَا حُكْماً وَعِلْماً

… and to each of them We gave judgement and knowledge. [21:79]

ومن ذلك قوله تعالى: (لا يَسْتَوِي الْقَاعِدُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ غَيْرُ أُولِي الضَّرَرِ وَالْمُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنْفُسِهِمْ فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنْفُسِهِمْ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ دَرَجَةً وَكُلّاً وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَى) (النساء: 95) ، فهنا قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: (وفي كل خير) أي المؤمن القوي والمؤمن الضعيف، لكن القوي خير وأحب إلى الله. ـ

And another example of this is Allah’s statement:

لا يَسْتَوِي الْقَاعِدُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ غَيْرُ أُولِي الضَّرَرِ وَالْمُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنْفُسِهِمْ فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنْفُسِهِمْ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ دَرَجَةً وَكُلّاً وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَى

Not equal are those believers remaining at home – other than the disabled – and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred those who strive with their wealth and their lives over those who remain behind, by degrees. And to both Allah has promised good. [4:95]

So in this hadeeth, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “but there is good in both of them,” i.e. in both the strong believer and the weak believer, however the strong one is better and more beloved to Allah.

[Riyaadh al-Saaliheen 2/78-79]

See also: “You will never attain al-Birr until…” : Tafsir al-Sa’di

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

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

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

See also: Using the Past Tense to Refer to the Future: Tafsir ibn ‘Uthaymeen

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3 thoughts on “Precautionary Language in the Qur’an: ibn ‘Uthaymeen

  1. Pingback: “You will never attain al-Birr until…” : Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: A Benefit of General Language in Surah al-Duhaa: Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: Using the Past Tense to Refer to the Future: Tafsir ibn ‘Uthaymeen | Tulayhah

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