A Reward Without Interruption: Tafsir al-Tabari

Allah says in surah al-Tin:

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ * ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ * إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

We have certainly created man in the best form * then we return him to the lowest of the low * Except for those who believe and do righteous good deeds – for them there is a reward without interruption [95:4-6]

The great mufassir Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari discussed these ayaat at length. What follows is one section of that discussion:

حدثنا ابن حميد ، قال : ثنا حكام ، عن سعيد بن سابق ، عن عاصم الأحول ، [ ص: 511 ] عن عكرمة ، قال : من قرأ القرآن لم يرد إلى أرذل العمر ، ثم قرأ : ( لقد خلقنا الإنسان في أحسن تقويم ثم رددناه أسفل سافلين إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ) قال : لا يكون حتى لا يعلم من بعد علم شيئا . ـ

… ‘Ikrimah said, “Whoever recites the Qur’an will not be sent reverted back into the lowliest age,” and then he recited:

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ * ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ * إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ

We have certainly created man in the best form * then we return him to the lowest of the low * Except for those who believe and do righteous good deeds

and he said, “It won’t happen that he is reverted back to not knowing anything that he had known before.”

فعلى هذا التأويل قوله : ( ثم رددناه أسفل سافلين ) لخاص من الناس غير داخل فيهم الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ؛ لأنه مستثنى منهم . ـ

So according to this interpretation, then the ayah:

ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ

then we return him to the lowest of the low

is referring to a specific section of mankind which does not include those who believe and do righteous good deeds, as they are excluded from this.

وقال آخرون : بل الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات قد يدخلون في الذين ردوا إلى أسفل سافلين ؛ لأن أرذل العمر قد يرد إليه المؤمن والكافر . قالوا : وإنما استثنى قوله : ( إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ) من معنى مضمر في قوله : ( ثم رددناه أسفل سافلين ) قالوا : ومعناه : ثم رددناه أسفل سافلين ، فذهبت عقولهم وخرفوا ، وانقطعت أعمالهم ، فلم تثبت لهم بعد ذلك حسنة ( إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ) فإن الذي كانوا يعملونه من الخير ، في حال صحة عقولهم ، وسلامة أبدانهم ، جار لهم بعد هرمهم وخرفهم . ـ

But others say: No, those who believe and do righteous good deeds could be included among those who are returned to being the lowest of the low, because both believer and disbeliever alike can be reverted to the decrepitude of old age.

So they said: the exclusion in Allah’s statement:

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ

Except for those who believe and do righteous good deeds

is in fact part of a subtle hidden meaning in Allah’s statement:

ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ

then We return him to the lowest of the low

These people say: The meaning of this ayah is: We return him to the lowest of the low, so he loses his faculties and becomes senile, and thus his deeds are cut off so there are no more good deeds recorded for him after that

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ

Except for those who believe and do righteous good deeds

for those who used to perform good deeds while they were in good mental and physical health will continue to receive their rewards even after becoming old-aged and senile.

وقد يحتمل أن يكون قوله : ( إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ) استثناء منقطعا ؛ لأنه يحسن أن يقال : ثم رددناه أسفل سافلين ، إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ، لهم أجر غير ممنون ، بعد أن يرد أسفل سافلين . ـ

And it is also possible to interpret the exclusion in this ayah as breaking from what preceded it rather than directly connected to it, i.e.:

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ

However, for those who believe and do righteous good deeds …

This is because it is possible for one to say: Then We returned man to the lowest of the low; however those who believe and do righteous good deeds will have a reward without interruption after being returned to the lowest of the low.

ذكر من قال معنى هذا القول : ـ

And some of those who explained it as such are:

حدثنا ابن المثنى ، قال : ثنا ابن أبي عدي ، عن داود ، عن عكرمة ، عن ابن عباس ( إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات فلهم أجر غير ممنون ) قال : فأيما رجل كان يعمل عملا صالحا وهو قوي شاب ، فعجز عنه ، جرى له أجر ذلك العمل حتى يموت . ـ

… ibn ‘Abbaas said:

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

 However those who believe and do righteous good deeds – for them there is a reward without interruption

So whenever a person had used to do righteous good deeds when he was young and strong but then became incapable of continuing them, he will be given the reward for those good deeds until he passes away.

حدثني محمد بن سعد ، قال : ثنى أبي ، قال : ثني عمي ، قال : ثني أبي ، عن أبيه ، عن ابن عباس : ( إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات فلهم أجر غير ممنون ) يقول : إذا كان يعمل بطاعة الله في شبيبته كلها ، ثم كبر حتى ذهب عقله ، كتب له مثل عمله الصالح الذي كان يعمل في شبيبته ، ولم يؤاخذ بشيء مما عمل في كبره ، وذهاب عقله من أجل أنه مؤمن ، وكان يطيع الله في شبيبته . ـ

… ibn ‘Abbaas said:

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

 However those who have believe and do righteous good deeds – for them there is a reward without interruption

If a person engaged in obedience to Allah throughout his entire youth but then grew old and lost his mental faculties, those same righteous deeds of his which he used to perform in his youth will be written for him but he will not be held to account for anything he does in his senile old age. This is because he is a believer who used to obey Allah throughout his youth.

حدثنا ابن بشار ، قال : ثنا مؤمل ، قال : ثنا سفيان ، عن حماد ، عن إبراهيم ، في قوله : ( ثم رددناه أسفل سافلين ) قال : إلى أرذل العمر ، فإذا بلغ المؤمن إلى أرذل العمر ، كتب له كأحسن ما كان يعمل في شبابه وصحته ، فهو قوله : [ ص: 512 ] ( فلهم أجر غير ممنون ) . ـ

… Regarding Allah’s statement:

ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ

then We return him to the lowest of the low

Ibrahim al-Nakha’i said: meaning – to the lowliest age. So if a believer reaches that lowliest age, then deeds similar to the best of what he used to perform while he was young and virile will be written for him. That is the meaning of Allah’s statement:

فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

  for them there is a reward without interruption

حدثنا ابن بشار ، قال : ثنا عبد الرحمن ، قال : ثنا سفيان ، عن حماد ، عن إبراهيم ( ثم رددناه أسفل سافلين إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ) فإنه يكتب له من الأجر مثل ما كان يعمل في الصحة . ـ

حدثنا ابن حميد ، قال : ثنا مهران ، عن سفيان ، عن حماد بن أبي سليمان ، عن إبراهيم ، مثله . ـ

… Ibrahim al-Nakha’i said:

ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ * إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ

then we return him to the lowest of the low * Except for those who have believe and do righteous good deeds

So rewards for deeds similar to what he used to do while he was in good health will continue to be written for him.

And this was also reported from Ibrahim al-Nakha’i via another route of transmission.

حدثنا أبو كريب ، قال : ثنا وكيع ، عن سفيان ، عن حماد ، عن إبراهيم ( إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ) قال : إذا بلغ من الكبر ما يعجز عن العمل ، كتب له ما كان يعمل . ـ

… And regarding Allah’s statement::

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ

 Except for those who have believe and do righteous good deeds

Ibrahim al-Nakha’i said: When a person reaches old age and can no longer do any deeds, what he used to do will be written for him.

[Tafsir al-Tabari 24/510-512]

And al-Tabari listed two other opinions in the same fashion, bringing the statements of those who voiced them, before weighing the different positions and favoring this one. He wrote:

وأولى الأقوال في ذلك عندنا بالصحة ، قول من قال : معناه : ثم رددناه إلى أرذل العمر ، إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات في حال صحتهم وشبابهم ، فلهم أجر غير ممنون بعد هرمهم ، كهيئة ما كان لهم من ذلك على أعمالهم ، في حال ما كانوا يعملون وهم أقوياء على العمل . ـ

Regarding this issue, the position closest to the truth in our opinion is that of those who say: the meaning is – Then we return man to the lowliest age; however those who believed and did righteous good deeds while they were young and healthy will receive a reward that does not end after becoming senile. Their reward will be like what they used to receive for their good deeds when they used to be able to do them.

[Tafsir al-Tabari 24/513]

See also: We preserved these limbs in our youth, so Allah preserved them for us in old age

See also: “Blessed is whoever is at the fire and whoever is around it” : Tafsir al-Baghawi

8 thoughts on “A Reward Without Interruption: Tafsir al-Tabari

  1. Pingback: We preserved these limbs in our youth, so Allah preserved them for us in old age | Tulayhah

  2. Reblogged this on brosaeed and commented:
    This should be an amazing encouragement to our youth to becoming habituated with obedience of Allaah while still young — O how I wish someone had told me this 25 years ago. May Allaah forgive us!

  3. Can you please share tafsir and gems found in surah an’amm verse 125.

    BarakaLlahu feekum

    • InshaAllaah we will look into some of the explanations of this ayah. However, we have a reserve of translated articles in line to be published, so if we do translate something it could be a while before it is published. Wa feekum baarakAllaah.

      • I would also add that we encourage all of our readers to strive to learn the Arabic language, so that they will not need to depend on translations. The Arabic language is a key that opens up the door to knowledge. Although it can be a steep learning curve at first, it gets easier over time and is an investment you will not regret, inshaAllaah.

  4. Pingback: Assorted Qur’an Benefits #21 | Tulayhah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.