How the Prophet Explained the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, wrote the following short discussion on how the Prophet (ﷺ) used to explain the Qur’an:

تعلم معني القرآن العظيم ومعاني السنة النبوية للعمل بذلك في عبادة الله وطاعته، هو الغاية التي يسعى إليها كل مسلم! والعمل بهذه المعاني هو حاصل من كل مسلم بالفعل وبالقوة. ـ

Learning the meanings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah in order to act in accordance with them in worship and obedience to Allah is the goal that every Muslim should work towards! Acting upon these meanings is what is required of every Muslim in his actions and efforts.

ولم يوكل الله بيان معاني القرآن العظيم إلا للرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم؛ قال تعالى: ({وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ } [النحل: 44]. فالرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم مامات إلا وقد بلغ الرسالة وأدى الأمانة، ومن ذلك بيان معاني القرآن الكريم؛ فالرسول فسر القرآن العظيم ، وبين معانيه؛ وذلك على وجوه ؛ ـ

Allah did not entrust anyone except for the Messenger (ﷺ) with explaining the meanings of the Qur’an. He said:

وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

And We revealed the dhikr to you in order that you may make what was sent down to the people clear to them and that they might give thought. [16:44]

And the Messenger (ﷺ) did not pass away until after he had conveyed the message and fulfilled his duty, and one part of that duty was clarifying the meanings of the Qur’an.

So the Messenger explained the Qur’an and clarified its meanings, and this was done in a number of ways:

منها بيانه المباشر للآية كما فسر صلى الله عليه وسلم: (المغضوب عليهم) باليهود، وأن (الضالين) النصارى. ـ

○ One of those ways was to explain an ayah directly. For example, he (ﷺ) explained:

الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ

those who have merited Allah’s wrath [1:7]

as the Jews, and that:

 الضَّالِّينَ

the misguided ones [1:7]

are the Christians

ومنها بيانه بالتطبيق العملي، كما بين لنا صفة إقامة الصلاة، وقال: (صلوا كما رأيتموني اصلي). وبين لنا الصوم والزكاة والحج، وقال: (خذوا عني مناسككم)، وبين لنا الحدود : حد السرقة وحد الزنى وحد القذف، ونحو ذلك. ـ

○ Another way was by making it clear through his actions. For example, as he made the way to establish the prayer clear to us, and said, “Pray as you have seen me pray.” And he explained fasting, and zakah, and Hajj to us, and said, “take your Hajj rituals from me.” And he clarified the Hudood punishments to us – the punishments of stealing, illicit sexual intercourse, slander, etc.

ومنها بيانه عند سؤاله لإشكال وقع للصحابة، كما حصل لما نزل قوله تعالى: ({الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يَلْبِسُوا إِيمَانَهُمْ بِظُلْمٍ أُولَئِكَ لَهُمُ الْأَمْنُ وَهُمْ مُهْتَدُونَ} [الأنعام: 82]، فزع الصحابة إلى الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم: “أينا لم يلبس إيمانه بظلم؟ فقال الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” لَيْسَ كَمَا تَقُولُونَ {لَمْ يَلْبِسُوا إِيمَانَهُمْ بِظُلْمٍ} [الأنعام: 82] بِشِرْكٍ، أَوَلَمْ تَسْمَعُوا إِلَى قَوْلِ لُقْمَانَ لِابْنِهِ يَا بُنَيَّ لاَ تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ “. ـ

○ Another way is that he would explain it by responding to a question of the Sahabah when they were confused. As happened, for example, when Allah revealed:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يَلْبِسُوا إِيمَانَهُمْ بِظُلْمٍ أُولَئِكَ لَهُمُ الْأَمْنُ وَهُمْ مُهْتَدُونَ

Those who believe and do not mix their belief with injustice – those will have security, and they are rightly guided. [6:82]

So the Sahabah sought the Messenger’s help (ﷺ), saying, “Who among us has not mixed their belief with injustice?” So the Messenger (ﷺ) said, “It is not like that. ‘those who do not mix their belief with the injustice‘ of al-shirk. Haven’t you heard what Luqman said to his son:

يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ ۖ إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ

O my son, do not commit shirk with Allah. Indeed, shirk is the grave injustice [31:13]

ومنها بيانه بخلقه فقد كان صلى الله عليه وسلم خلقه القرآن. فهدي الرسول العام مما يفسر به معاني القرآن الكريم. وعلى هذا الأساس ، إذا جاءنا تفسير عن الصحابي لآية من القرآن العظيم فإنه لا يخلو من أحد أمرين؛ فإما أن يكون تفسيره هو مجرد نقل لما سمعه من الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم في تفسيره للآية. وإما أن يكون تفسيره من اجتهاده بناه على ما فهمه عن الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم. وفي الحالتين لا يكون تفسيره مجرد رأي واجتهاد، ولذلك حكم أهل الحديث بأن كلام الصحابي في تفسير القرآن العظيم، له حكم المرفوع. ـ

○ Another way that the Prophet explained the Qur’an was through his character, for his character (ﷺ) was the Qur’an. The guidance of the Messenger is broader than just the meanings of the Qur’an which he explained explicitly .

So based on all of this, if an explanation of an ayah comes to us from one of the Sahabah, it will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Either this explanation of his will simply be him transmitting what he heard from the Messenger (ﷺ) about the explanation of that ayah.
  2. Or, this explanation of his may come from his own efforts which themselves are based on what he understood from the Messenger (ﷺ).

So in neither of these cases is his tafsir merely his own opinions and views. Because of this, the experts of the hadeeth sciences hold that a Companion’s statement concerning the tafsir of the Qur’an takes the same ruling as a statement of the Prophet.

فإن قيل: بم نفسر وقوع الاختلاف فيما ورد عن الصحابة في التفسير؟ فالجواب : الاختلاف الذي يقع بين الصحابة هو من اختلاف التنوع الذي يرجع إلى أحد أمرين في غالبه: الأمر الأول: من باب الاختلاف في اللفظ عن التعبير عن المعنى الواحد! الأمر الثاني: من باب الاختلاف في المثال عن المعنى، فكل واحد يثل عن المعنى بمثال يختلف عن مثال الآخر، لكنها كلها متفقة في المعنى العام. ـ

But one might say, “How do we explain the presence of different opinions in the explanations of the Qur’an that have been transmitted from the Sahabah?” We can respond by saying that the different positions among the Sahabah are examples of variations on a theme which in most cases go back to one of two things:

  1. Different wordings used to express the same meaning, or
  2. Different examples used to illustrate the same meaning. So each person points to the same meaning with his own unique example, however they are all in agreement regarding the general meaning.

ووقوع الاختلاف الذي من باب التناقض بين كلامهم نادر جداً، وقد يكون مشعرا بعدم الثبوت في نفس الأمر، والله الموفق. ـ

But the presence of different opinions which actually conflict and contradict one another among the Sahabah is something extremely rare to find, and it may be a sign that the differing report might not actually be authentic. And Allah is the granter of success.

[Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool’s social media page here]

See also: Understanding the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: The Difference Between Narration-based Tafsir and Opinion-Based Tafsir: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: The Best Methods of Explaining the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: The Need for Teaching Tafsir: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

See also: The Conditions for Making Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: Different Categories of Tafsir from the Companions: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: Is the Qur’an Sufficient on its Own?: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: The Best Method of Tafsir: al-Zarkashi

11 thoughts on “How the Prophet Explained the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

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