The First Innovation: Tafsir ibn Kathir

The famous scholar al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir was especially well-known for his skills in the fields of hadeeth, tafsir, and history, with his honorific title of “al-haafidh” indicating his high status in the first of these fields and his two most famous works being in the latter areas. In the following brief excerpt from his tafsir of surah Aal ‘Imran, ibn Kathir combines all three of these knowledge areas:

وقال الإمام أحمد : حدثنا أبو كامل ، حدثنا حماد ، عن أبي غالب قال : سمعت أبا أمامة يحدث ، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم في قوله : ( فأما الذين في قلوبهم زيغ فيتبعون ما تشابه منه ) قال : ” هم الخوارج ” ، وفي قوله : ( يوم تبيض وجوه وتسود وجوه ) . [ آل عمران : 106 ] قال : ” هم الخوارج ” . وقد رواه ابن مردويه من غير وجه ، عن أبي غالب ، عن أبي أمامة مرفوعا ، فذكره . ـ

Imam Ahmad said: Abu Kaamil told me that Hammaad told him that Abu Ghaalib said: I heard Abu ‘Umamah say that the Prophet (ﷺ) spoke about Allah’s statement:

فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ

But as for those in whose hearts is deviation, then they follow those parts of the Qur’an which are ambiguous [3:7]

by saying, “They are the Khawaarij.” And also regarding Allah’s statement:

يَوْمَ تَبْيَضُّ وُجُوهٌ وَتَسْوَدُّ وُجُوهٌ

On the Day when some faces will become white and some faces will become black [3:106]

he said, “they [i.e. the latter group] are the Khawaarij“.

And ibn Mardawayh also transmitted this from more than one route from Abu Umamah by way of Abu Ghaalib as a narration attributed to the Prophet (ﷺ).

ـ [ ص: 10 ] وهذا الحديث أقل أقسامه أن يكون موقوفا من كلام الصحابي ، ومعناه صحيح ، فإن أول بدعة وقعت في الإسلام فتنة الخوارج ، وكان مبدؤهم بسبب الدنيا حين قسم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم غنائم حنين ، فكأنهم رأوا في عقولهم الفاسدة أنه لم يعدل في القسمة ، ففاجئوه بهذه المقالة ، فقال قائلهم – وهو ذو الخويصرة – بقر الله خاصرته – اعدل فإنك لم تعدل ، فقال له رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” لقد خبت وخسرت إن لم أكن أعدل ، أيأمنني على أهل الأرض ولا تأمنوني ” . فلما قفا الرجل استأذن عمر بن الخطاب – وفي رواية : خالد بن الوليد – [ ولا بعد في الجمع ] – رسول الله في قتله ، فقال : ” دعه فإنه يخرج من ضئضئ هذا – أي : من جنسه – قوم يحقر أحدكم صلاته مع صلاتهم ، وصيامه مع صيامهم ، وقراءته مع قراءتهم ، يمرقون من الدين كما يمرق السهم من الرمية ، فأينما لقيتموهم فاقتلوهم ، فإن في قتلهم أجرا لمن قتلهم . ـ

But the best classification this hadeeth can be given is that it stops at the level of the Companions and is a statement of theirs. However the meaning is correct, for the very first innovation to occur in Islam was the fitnah of the Khawaarij. That began due to worldly issues when Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was distributing the war booty from the Battle of Hunayn and it happened that these people with their corrupted intellects considered the Prophet’s way of distributing the goods to be unjust. So they took him off guard with this statement of theirs, for their spokesperson – who was Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah, may Allah destroy him – said, “Be just! For you are certainly not being just!” So Allah’s Messenger responded to him by saying, “You would surely be in loss and regret were I not just! Hasn’t Allah entrusted me with all the people of the earth, and yet you do not trust me?!” Then when that man shrunk back, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab – or in another narration, Khaalid ibn al-Waleed – asked the Allah’s Messenger for permission to kill him. But the Prophet answered him by saying, “Leave him, for out of his progeny will come a people that one of their prayers or fasts or recitation will make you think little of your own prayers and fasts and recitation. They will pass through the religion just as an arrow passes through its target. So whenever you encounter them, kill them, for in killing them there is a reward for the one who kills them.”

ثم كان ظهورهم أيام علي بن أبي طالب ، وقتلهم بالنهروان ، ثم تشعبت منهم شعوب وقبائل وآراء وأهواء ومقالات ونحل كثيرة منتشرة ، ثم نبعت القدرية ، ثم المعتزلة ، ثم الجهمية ، وغير ذلك من البدع التي أخبر عنها الصادق المصدوق في قوله : ” وستفترق هذه الأمة على ثلاث وسبعين فرقة ، كلها في النار إلا واحدة ” قالوا : [ من ] هم يا رسول الله ؟ قال : ” من كان على ما أنا عليه وأصحابي ” أخرجه الحاكم في مستدركه بهذه الزيادة . ـ

Then they manifested themselves in the time of ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib, and he fought them at al-Naharaan. Then they splintered off into many groups and tribes with various views, lowly aims, and beliefs, and they withered away significantly in this splitting. Later the Qadariyyah emerged, and then the Mu’tazilah, and then the Jahmiyyah, and so on with other such innovations which the Prophet – the truthful one – foretold to us in his statement, “This Ummah will split into 73 sects, all of them in the Hell-fire except for one.” So the Companions asked, “Who are they, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Those who are upon what I and my Companions are upon.” This narration with this additional wording was reported by al-Haakim in his Mustadrak.

وقال الحافظ أبو يعلى : حدثنا أبو موسى ، حدثنا عمرو بن عاصم ، حدثنا المعتمر ، عن أبيه ، عن قتادة ، عن الحسن عن جندب بن عبد الله أنه بلغه ، عن حذيفة – أو سمعه منه – يحدث عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه ذكر : ” إن في أمتي قوما يقرءون القرآن ينثرونه نثر الدقل ، يتأولونه على غير تأويله ” . [ لم ] يخرجوه . ـ

And Abu Ya’laa recored … that Hudhayfah reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) mentioned, “There will be a people in my ummah who will recite the Qur’an while babbling out of hastiness, and they will interpret in a way contrary to its actual meanings.”

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 3/10-11]

Read the surrounding context of this excerpt here: Guidance for Interpreting the Qur’an in Surah Aal ‘Imran: Tafsir ibn Kathir

See also: A Comprehensive Statement regarding Bid’ah: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Speaking About Allah Without Knowledge is the Foundation of All Shrik, Kufr, & Innovation: Ibn al-Qayyim

See also: Remaining eternally in the Hell-fire and its causes: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Turning Away from the Sources of Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah

Learn more about ibn Kathir and his famous tafsir here: Ibn Kathir Mufassir Profile

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2 thoughts on “The First Innovation: Tafsir ibn Kathir

  1. Pingback: A Comprehensive Statement regarding Bid’ah: Imam al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Guidance for Interpreting the Qur’an in Surah Aal ‘Imran: Tafsir ibn Kathir | Tulayhah

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