Did the Prophet make Tafsir of the Qur’an as it was Being Revealed?: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

At the end of a lecture entitled, “The Themes of the Different Surahs and the Effects of that on Understanding Tafsir“, sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh was asked the following question:

هل نزل القرآن وفسّره الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم. ـ

Question: Did the Messenger (ﷺ) explain the Qur’an as it was being revealed?

النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لم يفسر القرآن كله، وإنما فسر آيات قليلة، لما؟ لأنّ التفسير يتبع الحاجة، يُفسر بمعنى يبين المعاني، لمن لا يفهم المعاني، والقرآن نزل بلسان عربي مبين، فقهته العرب فهمت الآي، فهمته الصحابة، إلا في بعض الآيات لم تفهم ففسرها النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فالمنقول من تفسيره عليه الصلاة والسلام قليل، تفسير الصحابة أكثر من تفسير النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، لما؟ لأنّ الصحابة نقلوا للتابعين، والتابعون أقلّ علما بالقرآن من الصحابة لا من جهة اللغة، ولا من جهة أسباب النزول، ولا من جهة معرفة علوم القرآن، والعلوم المختلفة التي دار عليها القرآن، ولا من جهة السيرة، والتاريخ وأحوال العرب والجاهلية، إلى آخره، ففسروا القرآن أكثر، تفسيرهم أكثر، التابعون تفسيرهم لمن بعدهم أكثر من تفسير الصحابة لشدة الحاجة، هكذا إلى زمن التأليف والتصنيف كثرت التفاسير رغبة في أن يفهم الناس القرآن ويقبلوا عليه. ـ

Response: The Prophet (ﷺ) did not explain the entire Qur’an; he only explained a limited number of ayaat. Why? That is because making tafsir arises from a need to explain the meanings to those who do not understand them. But the Qur’an was revealed in the clear Arabic language, so the Arabs understood it, they understood its ayaat. The Sahabah understood it except in the cases of some ayaat which they did not understand, and so then the Prophet (ﷺ) would explain it.

So the transmitted reports of the Prophet’s tafsir are few, while the tafsir of the Sahabah is more numerous than the tafsir of the Prophet (ﷺ). Why is this? Because the Sahabah were transmitting to the Tabi’oon, and the Tabi’oon had less knowledge of the Qur’an than the Sahabah. The Tabi’oon has less knowledge when it came to language, when it came to Asbaab al-Nuzool, when it came to knowing the sciences of the Qur’an – that is, the various bodies of knowledge which the Qur’an is centered around -, as well as when it came to the Prophet’s biography, history, and the conditions of the Arabs and the period of pre-Islamic Ignorance, and so on. So they provided more explanation of the Qur’an, and so there is more of their tafsir (than that of the Prophet).

As for the Tabi’oon, the tafsir that they made and transmitted to those who came after them was even greater in quantity than the tafsir of the Sahabah because of the great need for it. And so it continued in this way until the era when many written works of tafsir were produced out of a great desire for the people to understand the Qur’an and to turn their attention towards it.

فإذن عدم تفسير النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم للقرآن لوضوحه، وعدم الحاجة إلى تفسيره، ولأن الصحابة رضوان الله عليهم كانوا يعلمون التفسير، وربما لم يعلموا ففسر بعضهم لبعض أوفسر لهم النبي عليه الصلاة والسلام. نعم ـ

So then, the relative lack of tafsir from the Prophet (ﷺ) was due to the clarity of the Qur’an and the lack of need for it to be explained, and because the Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them) knew the tafsir. And perhaps some of them did not know, so others would explain it to them or the Prophet (ﷺ) would explain it to them.

[Maqaasid al-Suwar wa Athar Dhalik fee Fahm al-Tafseer. Retrieved from the sheikh’s website here.]

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

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

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

See also: The Sahabah and Tabi’oon known for their Tafsir: al-Suyooti

See also: The Proper Place of Asbaab al-Nuzool in Understanding the Qur’an: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: The Importance of Tafsir and its Sources: Sheikh al-Fawzan

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2 thoughts on “Did the Prophet make Tafsir of the Qur’an as it was Being Revealed?: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

  1. Pingback: Five Distinguishing Features of the Tafsir of the Companions: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Story of Saalih as explained by Mujahid and Qatadah | Tulayhah

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