The Example of Those who Spend Their Wealth in Allah’s Path …: Ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes a comparison in surah al-Baqarah when He says:

مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ فِي كُلِّ سُنبُلَةٍ مِّائَةُ حَبَّةٍ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ يُضَاعِفُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

The example of those who spend their wealth in the path of Allah is like a seed of grain which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies for whom He wills. And Allah is Expansive and All-Knowing. [2:261]

The great scholar ibn al-Qayyim commented on this ayah by writing:

وهذه الآية كأنها كالتفسير والبيان لمقدار الأضعاف التي يضاعفها للمقرض ومثل سبحانه بهذا المثل إحضارا لصورة التضعيف في الأذهان بهذه الحبة التي غيبت في الأرض فأنبتت سبع سنابل في كل سنبلة مائة حبة حتى كأن القلب ينظر إلى هذا التضعيف ببصيرته كما تنظر العين إلى هذه السنابل التي من الحبة الواحدة فينضاف الشاهد العياني إلى الشاهد الإيماني القرآني فيقوى إيمان المنفق وتسخو نفسه بالإنفاق

This ayah is like an explanation and clarification of the amount of multiplication which Allah gives for those who give Him a goodly loan.

Allah strikes this comparison to place a clear picture of the multiplication in your minds by using this seed of grain which has been hidden in the earth and then grows seven spikes with every spike having one hundred grains. Allah describes it as such until it is like your heart were looking at this multiplication just as if these spikes that grew from a single seed were right before your eyes. So then a visual picture of this will be added to your faith in the Qur’an. This will in turn strengthen the faith of one who spends his wealth in this way and encourage him to spend more.

وتأمل كيف جمع السنبلة في هذه الآية على سنابل وهي من جموع الكثرة إذ المقام مقام تكثير وتضعيف وجمعها على سنبلات في قوله تعالى وسبع سنبلات خضر وأخر يابسات فجاء بها على جمع القلة لأن السبعة قليلة ولا مقتضى للتكثير

Notice how Allah has made the word sunbulah – spike – plural in this ayah. He uses the plural form sanaabil which indicates a plural number of large quantity since the context is concerning large numbers and multiplication. Elsewhere, He uses the plural form of sunbulaat in His statement

وَسَبْعَ سُنبُلَاتٍ خُضْرٍ وَأُخَرَ يَابِسَاتٍ

… and seven green spikes of grain and others that were dry … [12:43]

In this instance, He used this different plural form which indicates a plural number of small quantity because seven is a small number which does not call for a large form.

وقوله تعالى والله يضاعف لمن يشاء قيل المعنى والله يضاعف هذه المضاعفة لمن يشاء لا لكل منفق بل يختص برحمته من يشاء وذلك لتفاوت أحوال الإنفاق في نفسه ولصفات المنفق وأحواله في شدة الحاجة وعظيم النفع وحسن الموقع وقيل والله يضاعف لمن يشاء فوق ذلك فلا يقتصر به على السبعمائة بل يجاوز في المضاعفة هذا المقدار إلى أضعاف كثيرة

Allah’s statement:

وَاللَّـهُ يُضَاعِفُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ

And Allah multiplies for whom He wills

Some say that the meaning here is that Allah makes this multiplication for those whom He wills, i.e. not for every single one who spends. Rather, He chooses those whom He wills for His Mercy, and this is due to differences in the type of spending, the qualities of the spender and his circumstances such as his own state of need, the tremendous effect of his spending or the good cause for which he spent.

Others say that it means that Allah will multiply above that for whomever He wills, so it is not limited to just seven hundred rewards but could go beyond that amount to even greater multiples.

   واختلف في تفسير الآية فقيل مثل نفقة الذين ينفقون في سبيل الله كمثل حبة وقيل مثل الذين ينفقون في سبيل الله كمثل باذر حبة ليطابق الممثل للممثل به فههنا أربعة أمور منفق ونفقة وباذر وبذر فذكر سبحانه من كل شق أهم قسميه فذكر من شق الممثل المنفق إذ المقصود ذكر حاله وشأنه وسكت عن ذكر النفقة لدلالة اللفظ عليها وذكر من شق الممثل به البذر إذ هو المحل الذي حصلت فيه المضاعفة وترك ذكر الباذر لأن القرض لا يتعلق بذكره فتأمل هذه البلاغة والفصاحة والإيجاز المتضمن لغاية البيان وهذا كثير في أمثال القرآن بل عامتها ترد على هذا النمط

And there is some differing regarding the explanation of this ayah. Some say that the likeness of the wealth that one spends in the way of Allah is like a seed while others say that the one who spends in the way of Allah is like one who sows a seed in order to make the metaphor and what it represents more in sync.

There are four things at play in this example: 1) the spender, 2) what is spent, 3) the sower, and 4) the seed and in each half of this example Allah mentions the most important item. In the first half

مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ 

The example of those who spend their wealth in the path of Allah …

He mentions the spender since the point is to highlight his condition and situation. Meanwhile, He does not mention precisely what is spent since it is already implied. Then in the second half

كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ فِي كُلِّ سُنبُلَةٍ مِّائَةُ حَبَّةٍ

… is like a seed of grain which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains.

Allah mentions the seed since that is the place of the multiplication without mentioning the sower because there is no link between him and the loan. Just consider this eloquence and linguistic beauty which achieves the apex of clarity. And this is what we find in many – nay, all – of the parables of the Qur’an, that they come with this level of beauty.

ثم ختم الآية باسمين من أسمائه الحسنى مطابقين لسياقها وهما الواسع والعليم فلا يستبعد العبد هذه المضاعفة ولا يضيق عنها عطاؤه فإن المضاعف واسع العطاء واسع الغنى واسع الفضل ومع ذلك فلا يظن أن سعة عطائه تقتضي حصولها لكل منفق فإنه عليم بمن تصلح له هذه المضاعفة وهو أهل لها ومن لا يستحقها ولا هو أهل لها فإن كرمه وفضله تعالى لا يناقض حكمته بل يضع فضله مواضعه لسعته ورحمته ويمنعه من ليس من أهله بحكمته وعلمه

Then Allah concludes the ayah with two of His beautiful names which fit perfectly with the context, and they are al-Waasi’ and al-‘Aleem – the Expansive and All-Knowing – so that no slave would think this multiplication to be far-fetched or that giving it would be difficult for Allah, for multiplication is such an expansive form of giving, richness and bounty.

Having said that, let no one think that the expansiveness of His giving means that every single person who gives will receive this level of reward, for He is also All-Knowing of who is deserving this multiplication and who is not deserving of it. For His generosity and bounty do not go against His wisdom. On the contrary, He places His bounties in their proper places out of His expansive generosity and mercy and withholds them from those who do not deserve them out of His wisdom and knowledge.

[al-Dhaw’ al-Muneer 1/466-467]

Read more explanations of Parables of the Qur’an here

See also: A Parable of What the Disbelievers Spend in This Life: Tafsir al-Sa’di

3 thoughts on “The Example of Those who Spend Their Wealth in Allah’s Path …: Ibn al-Qayyim

  1. Pingback: A Parable of What the Disbelievers Spend in This Life: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Assorted Qur’an Benefits #32 | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: Allah Promises You Forgiveness and Bounty: Tafsir al-Tabari & ibn Kathir | Tulayhah

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