A Point on Numbering in the Qur’an: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

In surah al-Kahf, Allah mentions the following ayaat during his discussion of the People of the Cave:

سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَاثَةٌ رَّ‌ابِعُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمْسَةٌ سَادِسُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ رَ‌جْمًا بِالْغَيْبِ ۖ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ ۚ قُل رَّ‌بِّي أَعْلَمُ بِعِدَّتِهِم مَّا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ

They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen. And they will say there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog. Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few….” [18:22]

In his explanation of Sheikh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiya’s “Introduction to Tafsir”, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen took some time to expand on this ayah and some of the points related to it. Below is one of these points:

وهنا نكتة في مسألة العدد، قال: {سبعة وثامنهم كلبهم} ولم يقل ثمانية ثامنهم كلبهم؛ لأن الكلب من غير الجنس، وإذا كان من غير الجنس فإنه لا يدخل في العدد ولكنه يجعل بعده، ولهذا قال الله عز وجل: {ما يكون من نجوى ثلاثة إلا هو رابعهم} ولم يقل: من نجوى أربعة إلا هو رابعهم؛ لأنه خالق وهم مخلوقون. ـ

And here there is a point about quantities. Allah said:

سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ

there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog [18:22]

And He did not say, “there were eight, and eighth of them was their dog”, because the dog was not of the same category of being. So since it was not of the same category of being, it was not included in their count but instead was mentioned afterwards.

And it was because of this that Allah said:

مَا يَكُونُ مِنْ نَجْوَىٰ ثَلَاثَةٍ إِلَّا هُوَ رَابِعُهُمْ

There is in no private conversation of three except that He is the fourth of them… [58:7]

And He did not say, “no private conversation of four except that He is the fourth of them”, because He is the Creator and they are the created ones.

[Sharh Muqaddimah al-Tafsir li-Jam’a min al-‘Ulamaa’ pg 272]

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

See also: A Note on Differing Reports in Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah

One thought on “A Point on Numbering in the Qur’an: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

  1. Pingback: A Note on Differing Reports in Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

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