Cutting Off Shirk at its Very Roots: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah Saba’:

قُلِ ادْعُوا الَّذِينَ زَعَمْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّـهِ ۖ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا لَهُمْ فِيهِمَا مِن شِرْكٍ وَمَا لَهُ مِنْهُم مِّن ظَهِيرٍ * وَلَا تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ عِندَهُ إِلَّا لِمَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ ۚ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا فُزِّعَ عَن قُلُوبِهِمْ قَالُوا مَاذَا قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا الْحَقَّ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ

Say, “Invoke those you claim as deities besides Allah.” They do not possess an ant’s weight in the heavens or on the earth, nor do they have any share in ownership of either realm, nor are any of them an assistant to Him. * And intercession does not hold any avail with Him except from those whom He permits. When terror is removed from their hearts, they will say, “What has your Lord said?” They will say, “The truth.” And He is the Most High, the Grand. [34:22-23]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di explained these ayaat by saying:

أي: قل يا أيها الرسول للمشركين بالله غيره من المخلوقات، التي لا تنفع ولا تضر، ملزما لهم بعجزها، ومبينا بطلان عبادتها: ادعوا الذين زعمتم من دون الله أي: زعمتموهم شركاء لله، إن كان دعاؤكم ينفع، فإنهم قد توفرت فيهم أسباب العجز، وعدم إجابة الدعاء من كل وجه، فإنهم ليس لهم أدنى ملك فلا يملكون مثقال ذرة في السماوات والأرض على وجه الاستقلال، ولا على [ ص: 1415 ] وجه الاشتراك، ولهذا قال: وما لهم أي: لتلك الآلهة الذين زعمتم فيهما أي: في السماوات والأرض، من شرك أي: لا شرك قليل ولا كثير، فليس لهم ملك، ولا شركة ملك. ـ

Meaning:

قُلِ

Say …

O Messenger, address those who hold that some of the created beings who can neither bring about benefit nor harm are partners with Allah. Tell them this message which clearly and plainly demonstrates the complete lack of power of these things and the futility of worshiping them.

ادْعُوا الَّذِينَ زَعَمْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّـهِ

… “Invoke those you claim as deities besides Allah.”

meaning: those who you claim to be partners with Allah, if your supplications to them will bring about any benefit. For these “partners” are completely devoid of any power and cannot respond to your supplications in any way. That is because they do not possess even the smallest portion of control over anything, for they do not have ownership of even a speck of dust in the heavens or the earth that they could say is exclusively theirs nor that they could claim to even share ownership over. That is why Allah said:

وَمَا لَهُمْ

… and they do not have …

meaning: these “deities” which you make claims about

فِيهِمَا

… in either realm …

meaning: neither in the heavens nor on the earth

مِن شِرْكٍ

… any share of ownership …

meaning: they do not have any partnership, neither big nor small, for they do not have any outright ownership over anything, nor do they have any share of ownership in anything.

بقي أن يقال: ومع ذلك فقد يكونون أعوانا للمالك، ووزراء له، فدعاؤهم يكون نافعا، لأنهم – بسبب حاجة الملك إليهم – يقضون حوائج من تعلق بهم، فنفى تعالى هذه المرتبة فقال: وما له أي: لله تعالى الواحد القهار منهم أي: من هؤلاء المعبودين من ظهير أي: معاون ووزير يساعده على الملك والتدبير. ـ

However one might still argue: Even if that is the case, they could still be aids or advisors to the owner, in which case supplicating to them would still carry some benefit. For in that case they could fulfill some needs of those who are devoted to them since the Owner does have some need of their help. But Allah negates this level as well by saying:

وَمَا لَهُ

… Nor does He have …

“He” meaning Allah, the Exalted, the One, the Irresistibly Powerful

مِنْهُم

… any of them …

meaning: any of these things that are taken as objects of worship

مِّن ظَهِيرٍ

… as an assistant.

meaning: as an aid or advisor who assists Him with the ownership and management of His dominion.

فلم يبق إلا الشفاعة، فنفاها بقوله: ولا تنفع الشفاعة عنده إلا لمن أذن له فهذه أنواع التعلقات، التي يتعلق بها المشركون بأندادهم، وأوثانهم، من البشر والشجر والحجر وغيرهم، قطعها الله وبين بطلانها، تبيينا حاسما لمواد الشرك قاطعا لأصوله، لأن المشرك إنما يدعو ويعبد غير الله، لما يرجو منه من النفع، فهذا الرجاء، هو الذي أوجب له الشرك، فإذا كان من يدعوه غير الله ، لا مالكا للنفع والضر، ولا شريكا للمالك، ولا عونا وظهيرا للمالك، ولا يقدر أن يشفع بدون إذن المالك، كان هذا الدعاء، وهذه العبادة ضلالا في العقل، باطلة في الشرع،بل ينعكس على المشرك مطلوبه ومقصوده، فإنه يريد منها النفع، فبين الله بطلانه وعدمه، وبين في آيات أخر، ضررها على عابديها وأنه يوم القيامة يكفر بعضهم ببعض، ويلعن بعضهم بعضا، ومأواهم النار وإذا حشر الناس كانوا لهم أعداء وكانوا بعبادتهم كافرين ،

So then there is nothing left but intercession, which Allah also negates by saying:

وَلَا تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ عِندَهُ إِلَّا لِمَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ

And intercession does not hold any avail with Him except from those whom He permits.

These are all of the various types of connections which the mushrikoon have to their false deities and idols – whether they be humans, trees, stones, or anything else. Allah has cut off all these connections and made their falseness and futility clear with this decisive illustration of the error of shirk that cuts it down at its very roots. For the mushrik only supplicates and worships others besides Allah because of some benefit that he hopes to get from them. So it is this hope that prompts him to commit this shirk.

So then, if the one that he supplicates to besides Allah does not have any power to bring about benefit or cause harm, nor is it a partner with the One who does hold that power, nor is it an aid or assistant to that One, nor is it able to intercede with that One without His permission, then this supplication and worship is completely misguided from an intellectual standpoint and completely invalid from the position of the Sharee’ah. Worse yet, it actually produces the opposite effect of what that mushrik wanted and intended. For he wanted to benefit from this false deity but in this ayah Allah clearly shows the futility and lack of benefit that comes from this, and in other ayaat He also showed the actual harm that comes to the worshiper and that on the Day of Judgement the worshiper and the false deity will disavow and curse one another, and their final resting places will be the hellfire.

وَإِذَا حُشِرَ النَّاسُ كَانُوا لَهُمْ أَعْدَاءً وَكَانُوا بِعِبَادَتِهِمْ كَافِرِينَ

And when the people are gathered, those who were invoked will be enemies to them, and they will be deniers of their worship. [46:6]

والعجب أن المشرك استكبر عن الانقياد للرسل، بزعمهم أنهم بشر، ورضي أن يعبد ويدعو الشجر، والحجر، استكبر عن الإخلاص للملك الرحمن الديان، ورضي بعبادة من ضره أقرب من نفعه، طاعة لأعدى عدو له وهو الشيطان

It is truly astounding that the mushrik would hold himself above obeying the messengers based on his claim that the messenger are nothing more than humans while this same mushrik is perfectly happy to worship and supplicate to trees and stones! He holds himself above directing his worship exclusively to the Master, the Most Merciful, the Recompenser of Deeds, yet he is perfectly happy to worship another who is more able to harm him than help him, falling into obedience to the greatest of enemies to him, the Shaytaan.

وقوله: حتى إذا فزع عن قلوبهم قالوا ماذا قال ربكم قالوا الحق وهو العلي الكبير يحتمل أن الضمير في هذا الموضع يعود إلى المشركين، لأنهم مذكورون في اللفظ، والقاعدة في الضمائر أن تعود إلى أقرب مذكور، ويكون المعنى: إذا كان يوم القيامة، وفزع عن قلوب المشركين، أي: زال الفزع، وسئلوا حين رجعت إليهم عقولهم، عن حالهم في الدنيا، وتكذيبهم للحق الذي جاءت به الرسل، أنهم [ ص: 1416 ] يقرون أن ما هم عليه من الكفر والشرك باطل، وأن ما قال الله، وأخبرت به عنه رسله هو الحق فبدا لهم ما كانوا يخفون من قبل، وعلموا أن الحق لله، واعترفوا بذنوبهم. ـ

Allah’s statement:

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا فُزِّعَ عَن قُلُوبِهِمْ قَالُوا مَاذَا قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا الْحَقَّ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ

When terror is removed from their hearts, they will say, “What has your Lord said?” They will say, “The truth.” And He is the Most High, the Grand.

This can be interpreted in one of two ways. It could be interpreted with the pronouns in this instance referring back the mushrikoon with them being the ones under discussion in this wording. It is a general principle that a pronoun will refer back to the most recently mentioned noun. In that case, the meaning would be: when it is the Day of Judgement and the terror is removed from the hearts of the mushrikoon and they are questioned once their intellects return to them about how they were in the worldly life and their denial of the truth which the messengers came with, then they will affirm that the kufr and shirk that they had based their lives on was false while what Allah said and the information conveyed from Him by the messengers is the truth. So what had been obscured to them before will become plain and they will know that the truth is from Allah and they will recognize their sins.

وهو العلي بذاته فوق جميع مخلوقاته، وقهره لهم، وعلو قدره، بما له من الصفات العظيمة، جليلة المقدار الكبير في ذاته وصفاته. ـ

وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ

And He is al-‘Alee [the Most High] …

in His very essence, above all of His created beings, having irresistible power over them, and having high and great value due to the tremendous qualities that He possesses

الْكَبِيرُ

al-Kabir [the Great].

in both His essence and His attributes.

ومن علوه أن حكمه تعالى يعلو، وتذعن له النفوس، حتى نفوس المتكبرين والمشركين. ـ

And one aspect of His Loftiness is that His rule will overcome all else and every soul will submit, even the souls of the prideful ones and the mushrikoon.

وهذا المعنى أظهر، وهو الذي يدل عليه السياق، ويحتمل أن الضمير يعود إلى الملائكة، وذلك أن الله تعالى إذا تكلم بالوحي سمعته الملائكة، فصعقوا وخروا لله سجدا، فيكون أول من يرفع رأسه جبريل، فيكلمه الله من وحيه بما أراد، وإذا زال الصعق عن قلوب الملائكة، وزال الفزع، فيسأل بعضهم بعضا عن ذلك الكلام الذي صعقوا منه: ماذا قال ربكم؟ فيقول بعضهم لبعض: قال الحق، إما إجمالا لعلمهم أنه لا يقول إلا حقا، وإما أن يقولوا: قال كذا وكذا، للكلام الذي سمعوه منه، وذلك من الحق. فيكون المعنى على هذا: أن المشركين الذين عبدوا مع الله تلك الآلهة، التي وصفنا لكم عجزها ونقصها، وعدم نفعها بوجه من الوجوه، كيف صدفوا وصرفوا عن إخلاص العبادة للرب العظيم، العلي الكبير، الذي – من عظمته وجلاله – أن الملائكة الكرام، والمقربين من الخلق، يبلغ بهم الخضوع والصعق، عند سماع كلامه هذا المبلغ، ويقرون كلهم لله، أنه لا يقول إلا الحق. ـ

That is the more apparent meaning, and it is what the context supports. However it could also be interpreted that the pronouns are referring to the angels. The meaning in that case is that when Allah speaks the revelation, the angels hear it and are overtaken by it and fall down in prostration to Allah. Then the first one to raise his head is Jibril and Allah speaks to him with whatever part of His revelation He wishes. So when this awestruck state and terror leaves the hearts of the angels they ask one another about the speech which had overwhelmed them, “what did your Lord say?” And then they respond to one another with, “He said the truth,” either as a general affirmation that they know that He does not say anything except the truth, or that they say, “He said such-and-such thing” regarding speech that they actually heard from Him which was part of that truth. So according to this, the meaning would be that the mushrikoon who worship these false deities alongside Allah whose weakness and deficiencies and complete lack of benefit we have already described for you: how is it that they abstain and turn away from the exclusive worship of the Lord, the Great, the Most-High? How can they turn away when He is the One who – out of His grandeur and majesty – even the noble angels, those creatures nearest to Him, experience such levels of humility and awestruckness upon hearing His speech. So they all affirm that Allah does not say anything but the truth.

فما بال هؤلاء المشركين، استكبروا عن عبادة من هذا شأنه، وعظمة ملكه وسلطانه. فتعالى العلي الكبير، عن شرك المشركين، وإفكهم، وكذبهم. ـ

So then, what is wrong with these mushrikoon who hold themselves above worshiping One whose grandeur, power, and authority is like that? Exalted is He, al-‘Alee al-Kabir, above the shirk, slander and lies of the mushrikoon

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 796-797]

See also: “Surely either we or you are upon right guidance, or in clear error”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

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