“If We had decreed upon them, ‘kill yourselves’…”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah al-Nisaa’, Allah addresses the believers by saying:

وَلَوْ أَنَّا كَتَبْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ أَنِ اقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ أَوِ اخْرُ‌جُوا مِن دِيَارِ‌كُم مَّا فَعَلُوهُ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ مِّنْهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ فَعَلُوا مَا يُوعَظُونَ بِهِ لَكَانَ خَيْرً‌ا لَّهُمْ وَأَشَدَّ تَثْبِيتًا * وَإِذًا لَّآتَيْنَاهُم مِّن لَّدُنَّا أَجْرً‌ا عَظِيمًا * وَلَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ صِرَ‌اطًا مُّسْتَقِيمًا

And if We had decreed upon them, “Kill yourselves” or “Leave your homes,” they would not have done it, except for a few of them. But if they had done what they were instructed, it would have been good for them and a firm position. * And then We would have given them a great reward from Us. * And We would have guided them to a Straight Path. [4:66-68]

In his famous book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following commentary on these ayaat:

يخبر تعالى أنه لو كتب على عباده الأوامر الشاقة على النفوس من قتل النفوس والخروج من الديار لم يفعله إلا القليل منهم والنادر، فليحمدوا ربهم وليشكروه على تيسير ما أمرهم به من الأوامر التي تسهل على كل أحد، ولا يشق فعلها . ـ

Allah informs them that had He decreed commands for His slaves which were difficult for their souls, such as killing themselves or leaving their homes, then none of them would not have done that except for a few rare individuals. So they should praise their Lord and be grateful to Him for making those things which He has commanded them to do easy for every single individual to carry out and which do not bring about difficulty in their performance.

وفي هذا إشارة إلى أنه ينبغي أن يلحظ العبد ضد ما هو فيه من المكروهات، لتخف عليه العبادات، ويزداد حمدًا وشكرًا لربه. ـ

This indicates that the slave should think about the bad circumstances that he could be in, for this would lighten the acts of worship for him and increase him in praise and gratitude to his Lord.

ثم أخبر أنهم لو فعلوا ما يوعظون به أي: ما وُظِّف عليهم في كل وقت بحسبه، فبذلوا هممهم، ووفروا نفوسهم للقيام به وتكميله، ولم تطمح نفوسهم لما لم يصلوا إليه، ولم يكونوا بصدده، وهذا هو الذي ينبغي للعبد، أن ينظر إلى الحالة التي يلزمه القيام بها فيكملها، ثم يتدرج شيئًا فشيئًا حتى يصل إلى ما قدر له من العلم والعمل في أمر الدين والدنيا . ـ

He then informed them that if only they were to do what they were instructed to do – meaning, that which was assigned for them at all times according to their ability to carry them out – then they should strive and exert themselves in enacting those commands and doing them in a complete and perfect manner, and not desiring that which they cannot attain or that which is not meant for them. This is what the slave ought to do, that he should look at the things which he has to do and then do them in a complete and perfect manner, and then he should move forward step by step until he reaches what he is able to reach in terms of knowledge and actions in both the religious and worldly matters.

وهذا بخلاف من طمحت نفسه إلى أمر لم يصل إليه ولم يؤمر به بعد، فإنه لا يكاد يصل إلى ذلك بسبب تفريق الهمة، وحصول الكسل وعدم النشاط . ـ

And this is in contrast to the one whose nafs desires something which he cannot attain and which he is not yet commanded to do, for it is impossible for him to reach that due to the disparity between his aspirations and his abilities, and due to his laziness and his lack of effect.

ثم رتب ما يحصل لهم على فعل ما يوعظون به، وهو أربعة أمور: . (أحدها) الخيرية في قوله: { لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ } أي: لكانوا من الأخيار المتصفين بأوصافهم من أفعال الخير التي أمروا بها، أي: وانتفى عنهم بذلك صفة الأشرار، لأن ثبوت الشيء يستلزم نفي ضده. ـ

Then Allah listed what they will get out of doing what they have been instructed to do, which are four things:

First: Goodness, as in His statement:

لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ

…it would have been good for them

meaning: if they had done that then they would have been among the best of people, being characterized by the good actions which they were commanded to do – meaning: this would have thereby negated evil attributes from them, because affirmation of one thing necessitates negation of its opposite.

ـ (الثاني) حصول التثبيت والثبات وزيادته، فإن الله يثبت الذين آمنوا بسبب ما قاموا به من الإيمان، الذي هو القيام بما وعظوا به، فيثبتهم في الحياة الدنيا عند ورود الفتن في الأوامر والنواهي والمصائب، فيحصل لهم ثبات يوفقون لفعل الأوامر وترك الزواجر التي تقتضي النفس فعلها، وعند حلول المصائب التي يكرهها العبد. فيوفق للتثبيت بالتوفيق للصبر أو للرضا أو للشكر . ـ

Second: The attainment of a firm position, steadfastness and an increase therein. For Allah fortifies those who believe due to that faith which they have already put into practice – which is the establishment of what they were instructed to do. So He makes them firm and steadfast in the life of this world when trials occur – which may come in the forms of commands, prohibitions, or afflictions. So they are granted steadfastness and are given the accord to perform the commands, to leave off prohibited things which the nafs desire to do, and to be firm at the onset of afflictions which the slave dislikes. So they are enable to hold a firm position through being granted to accord to patient, or content, or grateful.

فينزل عليه معونة من الله للقيام بذلك، ويحصل له الثبات على الدين، عند الموت وفي القبر. ـ

So Allah sends them aid to act on their faith, and through this the gain steadfastness in their religion both at the time of death and in the grave.

وأيضا فإن العبد القائم بما أمر به، لا يزال يتمرن على الأوامر الشرعية حتى يألفها ويشتاق إليها وإلى أمثالها، فيكون ذلك معونة له على الثبات على الطاعات. ـ

Also, the slave who establishes and enacts what he is commanded to do will certainly continue to practice these divinely legislated commands until they become second-nature to him and he longs for them and similar such practices. So this becomes an aid in being steadfast in one’s worship.

ـ (الثالث) قوله: { وَإِذًا لَآتَيْنَاهُمْ مِنْ لَدُنَّا أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا } أي: في العاجل والآجل الذي يكون للروح والقلب والبُدن، ومن النعيم المقيم مما لا عين رأت، ولا أذن سمعت، ولا خطر على قلب بشر. ـ

Third: His statement:

وَإِذًا لَآتَيْنَاهُمْ مِنْ لَدُنَّا أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

And then We would have given them a great reward from Us.

meaning: in both the short-term and the long-run – something for the soul and the heart and the body, and something of the everlasting joys which no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no human heart has ever imagined.

ـ (الرابع) الهداية إلى صراط مستقيم. وهذا عموم بعد خصوص، لشرف الهداية إلى الصراط المستقيم، من كونها متضمنة للعلم بالحق، ومحبته وإيثاره والعمل به، وتوقف السعادة والفلاح على ذلك، فمن هُدِيَ إلى صراط مستقيم، فقد وُفِّقَ لكل خير واندفع عنه كل شر وضير . ـ

Fourth: Guidance to the Straight Path. This is an example of Allah following up something specific with something more general due to the distinction of guidance to the Straight Path. This distinction comes from its complete encompassing of the truth, as well as love for the truth, giving it precedence, and acting in accordance with it. And this path ends in happiness and success because of that. For whoever is guided to the Straight Path, then every form of good has been facilitated for him and every form of evil and harm has been averted from him.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 200]

See also: Those who wish to hasten to affairs before their proper times: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Exerting Oneself and Galvanizing Others – the Best of Conditions: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: 4 of the rewards of al-Taqwa: Tafsir al-Sa’di

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One thought on ““If We had decreed upon them, ‘kill yourselves’…”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: Those who wish to hasten to affairs before their proper times: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

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