A Veil Between the Disbelievers and the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah al-Israa’, Allah addresses the Prophet Muhammad by saying:

وَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ جَعَلْنَا بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ حِجَابًا مَّسْتُورًا * وَجَعَلْنَا عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ أَكِنَّةً أَن يَفْقَهُوهُ وَفِي آذَانِهِمْ وَقْرًا ۚ وَإِذَا ذَكَرْتَ رَبَّكَ فِي الْقُرْآنِ وَحْدَهُ وَلَّوْا عَلَىٰ أَدْبَارِهِمْ نُفُورًا * نَّحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَسْتَمِعُونَ بِهِ إِذْ يَسْتَمِعُونَ إِلَيْكَ وَإِذْ هُمْ نَجْوَىٰ إِذْ يَقُولُ الظَّالِمُونَ إِن تَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا رَجُلًا مَّسْحُورًا * انظُرْ كَيْفَ ضَرَبُوا لَكَ الْأَمْثَالَ فَضَلُّوا فَلَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ سَبِيلًا

And when you recite the Qur’an, We place a concealing barrier between you and those who do not believe in the hereafter. * And We have placed a covering over their hearts so that they do not understand it, and deafness in their ears. And when you mention your Lord alone in the Qur’an, they turn away in aversion. * We are most knowing of what they listen to when they listen to you, and We are most knowing that when they discuss privately, then the wrongdoers say, “You are only following a bewitched man.” * Look at the comparisons they strike of you. So they are misguided, and they are not able to find a way. [17:45-48]

In his valuable commentary on the Qur’an, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following on these ayaat:

ـ(45 ) يخبر تعالى عن عقوبته للمكذبين بالحق الذين ردوه وأعرضوا عنه أنه يحول بينهم وبين الإيمان، فقال:ـ وإذا قرأت القرآن الذي فيه الوعظ والتذكير والهدى والإيمان والخير والعلم الكثير؛ جعلنا بينك وبين الذين لا يؤمنون بالآخرة حجابا مستورا يسترهم عن فهمه حقيقة وعن التحقق بحقائقه والانقياد إلى ما يدعو إليه من الخير. ـ

Allah is informing us of His punishment for those who deny the truth, those who reject it and turn away from it. He is informing us that He will come between them and eemaan, for He said:

وَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ

And when you recite the Qur’an …

that Qur’an which contains abundant admonitions, reminders, guidance, eemaan, goodness, and knowledge

جَعَلْنَا بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ حِجَابًا مَّسْتُورًا 

… We place a concealing barrier between you and those who do not believe in the hereafter.

which shields them from understanding its truth, from grasping its true nature, and from complying with the good that it calls to. Continue reading

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Five Distinguishing Features of the Tafsir of the Companions: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

In one section of a lecture entitled, “Introduction to the Fundamentals of al-Tafsir“, sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh mentioned the following points:

ـ 8 – ما تميزت به تفاسير الصحابة ـ
8. What Distinguishes the Companions’ Explanations of the Qur’an?

تميزت تفاسير الصحابة بأمور منها : ـ

There are a number of things which set the Companions’ explanations of the Qur’an apart from that of others. These include:

ـ 1- أنها تفاسير من عَلِمُوا القرآن ، وعَلِمُوا السُّنَّة لأنهم شهدوا التنــزيل ، ويعلمون سنة النبي وهديه – عليه الصلاة والسلام -. ـ

1. Theirs were explanations from those who knew the Qur’an and knew the Sunnah, for they have been witness to the revelation and has learned the Sunnah and guidance of the Prophet (ﷺ).

ـ 2- الميزة الثانية : أنها تفاسير من شاهد التنــزيل وعلم أسباب النــزول ، وقد قال شيخ الإسلام ابن تيمية في معرض كلام له ، ” العلم بالسبب يورث العلم بالمسبَّب ” ([37]) يعني إذا عَلِمْتَ سبب الشيءِ عَرَفْتَ المعنى ، عرفت توجيه الكلام ، عرفت المراد منه ، فعلمهم بأسباب النــزول ومشاهدتهم لأسباب النــزول يحعل تفاسيرهم في الغاية ، لأنهم شاهدوا وعلموا فلن يفسروا القرآن بشيء يخالف أسباب النــزول ، أو يخالف سنة النبي – عليه الصلاة والسلام – . ـ

2. The second distinguishing feature is that their explanations were explanations coming from those who had witnessed the revelation and knew the circumstantial reasons for the revelation (asbaab al-nuzool). In the midst of discussing this topic, sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah said, “Knowledge of the circumstantial reason behind the revelation produces knowledge of the underlying reason for the revelation,” meaning that if you learn the causal factors behind something that you will realize the meanings, know who is being addressed, and understand what is meant behind it all. So knowledge of the circumstantial reasons for revelation and having been witnesses to these reasons places their explanations in a high station. For they witnessed the revelation and had knowledge of it, so they would never explain the any part of the Qur’an with something that contradicted the reasons for why it was revealed or with anything that contradicted the Prophet’s Sunnah (ﷺ). Continue reading

Assorted Qur’an Benefits #2

What follows are a collection of assorted benefits originally posted on our social media page in June, July and August of 2014:

♦ It is part of Allah’s kindness that He warns His slaves of Himself

Allah mentions in surah Aali ‘Imran:

 وَيُحَذِّرُكُمُ اللَّهُ نَفْسَهُ وَاللَّهُ رَءُوفٌ بِالْعِبَادِ

And Allah warns you about Himself. And Allah is kind to His slaves. [al-Qur’an 3:38]

Imam ibn Kathir writes about this ayah:

[قال الحسن البصري : من رأفته بهم حذرهم نفسه . وقال غيره : أي رحيم بخلقه ، يحب لهم أن يستقيموا على صراطه المستقيم ودينه القويم ، وأن يتبعوا رسوله الكريم .]

al-Hasan al-Basri said, “Part of His kindness to them is that He warns them of Himself.” And others said: it means that He is Merciful to His creation. He loves for them to be firmly established on the Straight Path and Upright Deen, and for them to follow His noble Messenger. “

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 2/32]


♦ The Meaning of al-Dhikr

Sa’eed ibn Jubayr said:

الذكر طاعة الله ، فمن لم يطعه لم يذكره وإن أكثر التسبيح والتهليل وقراءة القرآن

al-Dhikr is obeying Allah, so whoever does not obey Him has not made dhikr of Him, even if he engages in an abundance of tasbeeh*, tahleel* and recitation of the Qur’an.

[Jaam’i li-Ahkam al-Qur’an 2/161]

*Translator’s note: ‘Tasbeeh’ refers to saying, “subhanAllaah”, and ‘Tahleel’ refers to saying, “laa ilaaha illallah.”


♦ The Muttaqoon Continue reading

If They Incline Towards Peace, then Incline Towards it: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Anfaal, Allah provides the following instructions to the Believers regarding their interactions with the disbelievers:

وَإِن جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

But if they incline to peace, then incline to it as well. And place your trust in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower. [8:61]

Commenting on this in his famous books of tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

يقول تعالى : إذا خفت من قوم خيانة فانبذ إليهم عهدهم على سواء ، فإن استمروا على حربك ومنابذتك فقاتلهم ، ( وإن جنحوا ) أي : مالوا ( للسلم ) أي المسالمة والمصالحة والمهادنة ، ( فاجنح لها ) أي : فمل إليها ، واقبل منهم ذلك ؛ ولهذا لما طلب المشركون عام الحديبية الصلح ووضع الحرب بينهم وبين رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – تسع سنين ؛ أجابهم إلى ذلك مع ما اشترطوا من الشروط الأخر . ـ

Allah is saying: If you fear betrayal from a certain people, then break the peace treaty with them, so that you are both on equal terms [c.f. 8:58]. If they continue being hostile and opposing you, then fight then [c.f. 8:60].

وَإِن جَنَحُوا

but if they incline …

meaning: lean towards

لِلسَّلْمِ

towards peace

meaning: towards ceasing hostilities, forming a treaty, and making peace

فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا

then incline to it as well

meaning: lean towards it and accept that from them. It was in line with this that when the Mushrikoon sought a peace treaty and to pause hostilities between them and Allah’s Messenger for a period of nine years during the Year of al-Hudaybiyyah, the Prophet accepted that while also stipulating a few other conditions. Continue reading

The Early History of the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

In his famous handbook to the Qur’anic sciences, al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included the following discussion in his chapter, “Knowing the Memorizers and Transmitters of the Qur’an”. In this excerpt, al-Suyooti gives a brief history of how the qiraa’aat that are widely-used today were meticulously passed down from teacher to student with chains of transmission going back to the Prophet until they became the list of the seven well-known qiraa’aat around the beginning of the fourth century after the Hijrah:

المشتهرون بإقراء القرآن من الصحابة سبعة : عثمان ، وعلي ، وأبي ، وزيد بن ثابت ، وابن مسعود ، وأبو الدرداء ، وأبو موسى الأشعري . كذا ذكرهم الذهبي في طبقات القراء . قال : وقد قرأ على أبي جماعة من الصحابة منهم أبو هريرة ، وابن عباس ، وعبد الله بن السائب وأخذ ابن عباس عن زيد أيضا وأخذ عنهم خلق من التابعين . ـ

The Sahabah most well-known for reciting the Qur’an were seven:

  • ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan
  • ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib
  • Ubay ibn Ka’b
  • Zayd ibn Thabit
  • ibn Mas’ood
  • Abu al-Dardaa’
  • Abu Moosaa al-Ash’ari

al-Dhahabi also mentioned these seven in his book, Tabaqaat al-Qurraa’.* He further said:

A number of the Sahabah also learned from Ubay, including Abu Hurayrah, ibn ‘Abbaas, and ‘Abdullah ibn al-Saa’ib. Ibn ‘Abbaas also learned from Zayd, and then a number of the Taabi’oon also learned from them.

فممن كان بالمدينة : ابن المسيب وعروة وسالم وعمر بن عبد العزيز وسليمان وعطاء بن يسار ، ومعاذ بن الحارث المعروف بمعاذ القارئ ، وعبد الرحمن بن هرمز الأعرج ، وابن شهاب الزهري ، ومسلم بن جندب ، وزيد بن أسلم . ـ

○ In al-Madinah, these Taabi’oon included: ibn al-Musayyib, ‘Urwah, Saalim, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, the brothers Sulayman and ‘Ataa’ ibn Yasaar, Mu’adh ibn al-Haarith – more commonly known as Mu’adh the reciter -, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Hurmuz al-A’raj, ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, Muslim ibn Jundub, and Zayd ibn Aslam.

وبمكة : عبيد بن عمير ، وعطاء بن أبي رباح ، وطاوس ، ومجاهد ، وعكرمة ، وابن أبي مليكة . ـ

○ In Mecca: ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr, ‘Ataa’ ibn Abi Rabaah, Taawoos, Mujahid, ‘Ikrimah, and ibn Abi Mulaykah. Continue reading

Prayer is the Root of Every Good: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In surah al-Ma’aarij, Allah mentions a series of qualities of the believers wherein He begins with al-salaah [prayer] by saying:

 إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا * إِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعًا * وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعًا * إِلَّا الْمُصَلِّينَ * الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَاتِهِمْ دَائِمُونَ

Indeed, man was created haloo’a * when harm touches him, he is impatient * and when good touches him, he is withholding * Except for those who pray * who are constant in the performance of their prayer … [70:19-23]

and He concludes the list with al-salaah by saying:

وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ * أُولَـٰئِكَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ مُّكْرَ‌مُونَ

And those who are careful maintainers of their prayers – They will be in gardens, honored. [7:34-35]

In his commentary of this surah, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee addressed this by writing:

وصف الله تعالى من استثناهم من الإنسان الهلوع بتسع صفات : [ ص: 269 ] اثنتان منها تختص بالصلاة ، وهما الأولى والأخيرة ; مما يدل على أهمية الصلاة ، ووجوب شدة الاهتمام بها . وهذا من المسلمات في الدين ; لمكانتها من الإسلام ، وفي وصفهم هنا بأنهم : ( على صلاتهم دائمون ) ، وفي الأخير : ( على صلاتهم يحافظون ) [ 70 \ 34 ] . ـ

Allah describes those people who are excluded from being characterized as haloo’a [anxious for gains, impatient with losses] with nine qualities – two of which are connected to the salaah, those being the first and the last of them.

These are among the evidences which show the great importance of salaah and the requirement to give great attention to it. This is something well-known about the religion due to the place that prayer has in Islam. So here Allah describes them as:

عَلَىٰ صَلَاتِهِمْ دَائِمُونَ

those who are constant in their prayers

and at the end of the list as: Continue reading

The False Qiyaas of Iblis: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In the beginning of surah al-A’raaf, Allah mentions the well-known story of Iblis refusing to obey Allah’s command to bow towards Adam. After the initial refusal, Allah informs us of the following dialogue:

قَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلَّا تَسْجُدَ إِذْ أَمَرْتُكَ ۖ قَالَ أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِّنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِن نَّارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِن طِينٍ

Allah said, “What prevented you from prostrating after I had commanded you?” Iblis said, “I am better than him; You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.” (7:12)

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di mentioned the following points of benefit under his tafsir of this ayah:

فوبخه اللّه على ذلك وقال: { مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلَّا تَسْجُدَ } لما خلقت بيديَّ، أي: شرفته وفضلته بهذه الفضيلة، التي لم تكن لغيره، فعصيت أمري وتهاونت بي؟ ـ

Allah reprimanded Iblis for this behavior and said:

مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلَّا تَسْجُدَ

What prevented you from prostrating

to that which I created which My own hands? Meaning, I have honored and favored him with this honor which was not done for any other, but you disobey My command and treat it so flippantly?

ـ { قَالَ } إبليس معارضا لربه: { أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِنْهُ } ثم برهن على هذه الدعوى الباطلة بقوله: { خَلَقْتَنِي مِنْ نَارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِنْ طِينٍ } وموجب هذا أن المخلوق من نار أفضل من المخلوق من طين لعلو النار على الطين وصعودها، وهذا القياس من أفسد الأقيسة، فإنه باطل من عدة أوجه . ـ

قَالَ

Iblis said

in response to his Lord Continue reading

“We showed him the way, either he will be grateful or ungrateful”: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, wrote the following words regarding an ayah from the beginning of surah al-Insaan:

 قول الله تبارك وتعالى: ﴿إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِراً وَإِمَّا كَفُوراً﴾ (الإنسان:3). في هذه الآية الكريمة يعلمنا الله جل وعلا أنه هدى الإنسان إلى طريق الشكر وإلى طريق الكفر، فأرسل رسله صلوات الله عليهم وسلامه، يعلمون الناس السبيل، ويدعونهم إلى الصراط المستقيم، ويحذرونهم طريق الكفر والضلال طريق أصحاب الجحيم . وفي الآية وقفات : ـ

There is Allah’s statement:

إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِراً وَإِمَّا كَفُوراً

We showed him the way, either he will be grateful or ungrateful [76:3]

In this noble ayah, Allah is teaching us that He has guided mankind to the path of shukr (gratitude) and the path or kufr (ingratitude/disbelief), for He sent His messengers (may Allah’s peace and salutations be upon them) who taught mankind the way, called them to the Straight Path, and warned them against the path of kufr, misguidance and the way of the people of the Hell-fire.

And this ayah contains a number of points:

الأولى : الهداية المقصودة هنا هي هداية الدلالة والإرشاد ؛ وذلك ما جعله الله تعالى في بعثة الرسل الكرام عليهم الصلاة والسلام، يعلمون الخلق ويرشدونهم إلى طريق الحق: الصراط المستقيم. ومن هذه الدلالة ما أنعم به سبحانه على الإنسان من نعمة العقل، والفطرة التي جبله عليها ليقبل الخير والحسن. وليس المراد بالهداية في الآية هنا هداية التوفيق لقبول الحق، أو هداية التوفيق للعمل، أو الثبات على الحق، أو هداية السبيل لدخول الجنة. ـ

First: What is intended by “guidance” here is the guidance of directing and showing, and that is what Allah did in sending the Messengers. They taught the people and directed them to the path of the truth – the Straight Path. And another aspect of this type of direction is that He blessed man with the gift of intellect and the innate disposition towards the truth and goodness (the fitrah) which He instilled in him. So the intended meaning of “guidance” here in this ayah is not the guidance of granting one success in accepting the truth or granting success in acting according to the truth or being steadfast upon the truth, nor is it referring to the guiding one to path of entering al-Jannah. Continue reading

The Great Attention that the Salaf gave to the Qur’an: Ibn al-Jazari

The famous scholar of the Qiraa’aat Abu’l-Khair Muhammad ibn al-Jazari began his most famous work with some narrations on the virtues of reciting the Qur’an, including the following:

وروينا أيضا في الطبراني بإسناد جيد من حديث عبد الله بن مسعود – رضي الله عنه – قال : قال رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : خيركم من قرأ القرآن وأقرأه ورواه البخاري في صحيحه عن عثمان بن عفان – رضي الله عنه – ولفظه قال : قال رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : خيركم من تعلم القرآن وعلمه وكان الإمام أبو عبد الرحمن السلمي التابعي الجليل يقول لما يروي هذا الحديث عن عثمان : هذا الذي أقعدني مقعدي هذا ، يشير إلى كونه جالسا في المسجد الجامع بالكوفة يعلم القرآن ويقرئه مع جلالة قدره وكثرة علمه ، وحاجة الناس إلى علمه ، وبقي يقرئ الناس بجامع الكوفة أكثر من أربعين سنة ، وعليه قرأ الحسن والحسين – رضي الله عنهما – ، ولذلك كان السلف – رحمهم الله – لا يعدلون بإقراء القرآن شيئا فقد روينا عن شقيق أبي وائل قال : قيل لعبد الله بن مسعود – رضي الله عنه – : إنك تقل الصوم . قال : إني إذا صمت ضعفت عن القرآن ، وتلاوة القرآن أحب إلي . ـ

We find the hadith of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) transmitted to us in the collection of al-Tabaraani with a good chain of narration that he said: Allah’s Messenger said, “The best of you are those who recite the Qur’an [to others, teaching them] and have it recited to them [by students].”

And al-Bukhari also transmitted this in his Saheeh collection from ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affaan (may Allah be pleased with him) with the following wording, that Allah’s Messenger said, “The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.” Continue reading