Fear a trial which will not only afflict the wrongdoers: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah says in surah al-Anfaal:

وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَّا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنكُمْ خَاصَّةً ۖ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ

And exercise fear and caution of a trial which will not only afflict those of you who have done wrong, and know that Allah is severe in penalty. (8:25)

In his book of tafsir, Imam ِAbu ‘Abdullah Muhammad al-Qurtubi mentioned the following points:

قال ابن عباس : أمر الله المؤمنين ألا يقروا المنكر بين أظهرهم فيعمهم العذاب . وكذلك تأول فيها الزبير بن العوام فإنه قال يوم الجمل ، وكان سنة ست وثلاثين : ما علمت أنا أردنا بهذه الآية إلا اليوم ، وما كنت أظنها إلا فيمن خوطب ذلك الوقت . وكذلك تأول الحسن البصري والسدي وغيرهما . قال السدي : نزلت الآية في أهل بدر خاصة ; فأصابتهم الفتنة يوم الجمل فاقتتلوا . وقال ابن عباس رضي الله عنه : نزلت هذه الآية في أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : وقال : أمر الله المؤمنين ألا يقروا المنكر فيما بينهم فيعمهم الله بالعذاب . وعن حذيفة بن اليمان قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : يكون بين ناس من أصحابي فتنة يغفرها الله لهم بصحبتهم إياي يستن بهم فيها ناس بعدهم يدخلهم الله بها النار . ـ

Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “Allah commanded the believers not to accept for wrongdoing to become widespread among them, for then He would encompass them all with punishment.”

Al-Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwaam interpreted this ayah in a similar manner, for on the day of the Battle of al-Jamal – which was in the 36th year after the Hijrah – he said, “I never knew that I was the subject of this ayah until today. I thought it was only referring to those who were being addressed at the time of its initial revelation [i.e. the Battle of Badr].” al-Hasan al-Basri, al-Suddi, and others also interpreted it this way. al-Suddi said, “This ayah was revealed specifically regarding the people of the Battle of Badr, then they were afflicted with that fitnah on the Day of al-Jamal and they fell into fighting one another.”

Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “This ayah was revealed regarding the Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ)”, and he also said, “Allah commanded the believers not to allow wrongdoing to become accepted among them, for then Allah would subsume them all in punishment.”

Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman relayed that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “A trial will take place between some of the my Companions for which Allah will forgive them due to their having been my companions. Then a people after them will follow their example in that trial and Allah will enter those people into the Hell-fire for that.”

قلت : وهذه التأويلات هي التي تعضدها الأحاديث الصحيحة ; ففي صحيح مسلم عن زينب بنت جحش أنها سألت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقالت له : يا رسول الله ، أنهلك وفينا الصالحون ؟ قال : نعم إذا كثر الخبث . وفي صحيح الترمذي : إن الناس إذا رأوا الظالم ولم يأخذوا على يديه أوشك أن يعمهم الله بعقاب من عنده وقد تقدمت هذه الأحاديث . وفي صحيح البخاري والترمذي عن النعمان بن بشير عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : مثل القائم على حدود الله والواقع فيها كمثل قوم استهموا على سفينة فأصاب بعضهم أعلاها وبعضهم أسفلها فكان الذين في أسفلها إذا استقوا من الماء مروا على من فوقهم فقالوا لو أنا خرقنا في نصيبنا خرقا ولم نؤذ من فوقنا فإن يتركوهم وما أرادوا هلكوا جميعا وإن أخذوا على أيديهم نجوا ونجوا جميعا . ففي هذا الحديث تعذيب العامة بذنوب الخاصة . وفيه [ ص: 351 ] استحقاق العقوبة بترك الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر . قال علماؤنا : فالفتنة إذا عمت هلك الكل . وذلك عند ظهور المعاصي وانتشار المنكر وعدم التغيير ، وإذا لم تغير وجب على المؤمنين المنكرين لها بقلوبهم هجران تلك البلدة والهرب منها . وهكذا كان الحكم فيمن كان قبلنا من الأمم ; كما في قصة السبت حين هجروا العاصين وقالوا لا نساكنكم . وبهذا قال السلف رضي الله عنهم . روى ابن وهب عن مالك أنه قال : تهجر الأرض التي يصنع فيها المنكر جهارا ولا يستقر فيها . واحتج بصنيع أبي الدرداء في خروجه عن أرض معاوية حين أعلن بالربا ، فأجاز بيع سقاية الذهب بأكثر من وزنها . خرجه الصحيح . وروى البخاري عن ابن عمر قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : إذا أنزل الله بقوم عذابا أصاب العذاب من كان فيهم ثم بعثوا على أعمالهم . فهذا يدل على أن الهلاك العام منه ما يكون طهرة للمؤمنين ومنه ما يكون نقمة للفاسقين . وروى مسلم عن عبد الله بن الزبير أن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت : عبث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في منامه ، فقلت : يا رسول الله ، صنعت شيئا في منامك لم تكن تفعله ؟ فقال : العجب أن ناسا من أمتي يؤمون هذا البيت برجل من قريش قد لجأ بالبيت حتى إذا كانوا بالبيداء خسف بهم . فقلنا : يا رسول الله ، إن الطريق قد يجمع الناس . قال : نعم ، فيهم المستبصر والمجبور وابن السبيل يهلكون مهلكا واحدا ويصدرون مصادر شتى يبعثهم الله تعالى على نياتهم . ـ

I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say: These explanations are supported by a number of authentic hadeeth narrations. For in Saheeh Muslim there is a narration from Zaynab bint Jahsh that she asked Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ), “Will we be destroyed while there are righteous ones among us?” to which he replied, “Yes, if wickedness becomes pervasive.”

And in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, there is a narration that, “When the people see a wrongdoer and do not stop him, Allah will soon encompass all of them with a punishment from Him,” and we have already mentioned this hadeeth previously.

In Saheeh al-Bukhari and al-Tirmidhi, there is a narration from al-Nu’man ibn Bashir that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

The parable of the man who observes the limits prescribed by Allah and the man who transgresses them is like a people who get on board a ship after casting lots. Some of them are in its lower deck and some of them in its upper deck. Those who are in its lower deck, when they require water, go to the occupants of the upper deck. So they said, “If we were to make a hole in the bottom of the ship, we would not have to bother you.” If those on the upper deck left them to carry out their design they all will be drowned. But if they do not let them go ahead, all of them will remain safe.

So this hadeeth demonstrates that a punishment of many can occur due to the sins of a specific group.

This hadeeth also indicates that punishment can be brought about due to abandoning the act of enjoining the good and forbidding evil. Our scholars have said, “When a fitnah becomes widespread, all are destroyed.” That is when acts of disobedience are done openly, wrongdoing becomes pervasive, and there is no effort made to change this. When such a situation persists, then it becomes an obligation for those believers who detest that in their hearts to abandon and desert that land. This was also the ruling for those nations who came before us, as comes in the story of the Sabbath where those people took leave of the disobedient people, saying, “we cannot live with you.”

This understanding had also been voiced by the salaf (may Allah be pleased with them). Ibn Wahb relayed that Maalik said, “Leave the land in which wickedness is done openly and do not reside there.” He supported this by the action of Abu’l-Dardaa’ when he emigrated from the land of Mu’aawiyah when usury became openly practiced there, for he allowed for a gold vase to be sold for more than the value of its weight. Imam Maalik recorded this in his hadeeth collection.

al-Bukhari reported from ibn ‘Umar that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “When Allah sends punishment down upon a people, He strikes all of those who are present there and then He will resurrect them according to their deeds.” This shows that the destruction which afflicts all the people acts as a purification for the believers and as a due punishment for the criminal wrongdoers.

Muslim relayed on the authority of ‘Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr that:

‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) moved with a start during his sleep, so I remarked to him, “O Messenger of Allah, you did something in your sleep which you’ve never done before.” He replied, “Strange it is that some people of my Ummah would come to attack the Ka’bah in pursuit of a man from the Quraysh who had sought refuge there. Then when they come to a large open area, the earth will swallow them up.” So we said, “But Messenger of Allah, all sorts of people would be on the path!” He replied, “Yes, there would be some intent on that purpose who came willingly, others who were compelled against their wills, and others who were merely caught in the midst of it all. They will all be destroyed together as one, though Allah will raise them on the Day of Judgement on various different levels according to their intentions.”

فإن قيل : فقد قال [ ص: 352 ] الله تعالى ولا تزر وازرة وزر أخرى . كل نفس بما كسبت رهينة . لها ما كسبت وعليها ما اكتسبت . وهذا يوجب ألا يؤخذ أحد بذنب أحد ، وإنما تتعلق العقوبة بصاحب الذنب . فالجواب أن الناس إذا تظاهروا بالمنكر فمن الفرض على كل من رآه أن يغيره ; فإذا سكت عليه فكلهم عاص : هذا بفعله وهذا برضاه . وقد جعل الله في حكمه وحكمته الراضي بمنزلة العامل ; فانتظم في العقوبة ; قاله ابن العربي . وهو مضمون الأحاديث كما ذكرنا . ومقصود الآية : واتقوا فتنة تتعدى الظالم ، فتصيب الصالح والطالح . ـ

Now what if one were to say: Surely Allah has said:

وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ

Allah does not burden any bearer of burdens with the burdens of another (6:164, 17:15, 35:18, 39:7)

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ

Every soul will be detained for what it has earned (74:38)

لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ

One will have the good which it earned and will bear the evil which is earned (2:286)

and therefore these texts entail that no one will be punished for the sins of any other – punishment is only attached to the one who did the sin.

The response to this would be that if a vice becomes prevalent and widespread, then one of the obligations upon every person who sees it is to seek to alter that state of things. But if they are silent regarding it, then all of them are sinful – one is sinful for having done the sin while the other is sinful for being fine with the sin happening. So in His rulings and out of His wisdom, Allah has placed the one who is fine with a sin on the same level as the one who actually carries out that sin, so they are both subject to the punishment. This was the explanation of ibn al-‘Arabi, and this meaning comes in a number of hadeeth narrations as we have already mentioned.

And the main thrust of this ayah is: exercise fear and caution of a trial which spills over from the wrongdoer and therefore afflicts both the righteous and the wicked alike.

[Tafsir al-Qurtubi 7/350-352]

See also: The Consequences of Not Forbidding Wrongdoing: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Fear a trial which will not only strike the wrongdoers: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: “O you who have believed, look after your own souls”: Tafsir al-Sa’di & al-Shinqitee

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5 thoughts on “Fear a trial which will not only afflict the wrongdoers: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

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