Are there Different Standards of Acceptance for Narrations in Tafsir?

The following question was posed to sheikh ‘Abdullah al-‘Awaaji, a former professor of Tafsir at the Islamic University of al-Madinah, via the Qur’an Consultations account on Twitter on November 8th, 2019:

السلام عليكم. هل الرواية عن الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم في الحديث تختلف عن الرواية في التفسير، من حيث صحة السند وعدالة الرواة… في قبولها والاستدلال بها؟! ـ

[Question] al-Salaam ‘alaikum. Is there is a difference between the field of Hadeeth and the field of Tafsir in which Prophetic narrations are accepted as authentic or as suitable for deriving rulings when it comes to the veracity of the chain of narration and the uprightness of the transmitters?

وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته
يطبق منهج نقد السنة النبوية على روايات التفسير في مجالات منها:ـ
١-الأحاديث المرفوعة إلى النبي صراحة ؛ لأنها أحاديث نبوية .ـ
٢-ما له حكم الرفع من تفسير الصحابة : كأسباب النزول الصريحة ؛ وأخبار المغيبات.ـ
٣-ما كان له حكم الرفع من آثار التابعين ؛ لأنه إذا ثبت عنه فقد يتقوى بعواضد المرسل لأنه إذا تعددت وجوه روايته واختلفت وجوه مخرجه قد يتقوى
٤-التفسير الشاذ عن قول جماعتهم لئلا يعتمد إذا لم يثبت وليثبت بتضعيفه صحة الإجماع
٥-في الترجيح بين روايتي تفسير عن أحدهم متضادتين ليتبين الصحيح عنه

[Response] wa ‘alaikum as-salaam wa rahmatullaah wa barakaatuh

The same method of critical evaluation used for the Prophetic Sunnah is also applied to transmitted statements explaining the Qur’an in many cases; for instance:

1. Narrations explicitly attributed to the Prophet, as these are Prophetic hadeeth narrations.

2. The tafsir statements of the Sahabah which take the same ruling as Prophetic hadeeth narrations, such as reports explicitly stating the Asbab al-Nuzool – circumstances surrounding the revelation – or reports of the Sahabah containing some information about matters of the Unseen.

3. The statements of the Tabi’oon which take the same ruling as Prophetic hadeeth narrations. If a report [about something the Prophet said or did] is authentically attributed to one of the tabi’oon, it could be strengthened by other supporting mursal reports. That could happen when there are a number of different paths and different routes through which the report is transmitted, which would add weight to the veracity of its contents. Continue reading

Whoever Does an Ant’s Weight of Good Will See It: Tafsir ibn Kathir

While describing the events of the Day of Judgement in surah al-Zalzalah, Allah completes the surah by informing us:

فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ * وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ

So whoever does an ant’s weight of good will see it * and whoever does an ant’s weight of evil will see it [99:7-8]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir included the following explanations from Sa’eed ibn Jubayr, one of the tabi’oon and a student of ibn ‘Abbaas, in his commentary on this ayah:

وقال ابن أبي حاتم : حدثنا أبو زرعة ، حدثنا يحيى بن عبد الله بن بكير ، حدثني ابن لهيعة ، حدثني عطاء بن دينار ، عن سعيد بن جبير في قوله تعالى : ( فمن يعمل مثقال ذرة خيرا يره ومن يعمل مثقال ذرة شرا يره ) وذلك لما نزلت هذه الآية : ( ويطعمون الطعام على حبه مسكينا ويتيما وأسيرا ) [ الإنسان : 8 ] ، كان المسلمون يرون أنهم لا يؤجرون على الشيء القليل الذي أعطوه ، فيجيء المسكين إلى أبوابهم فيستقلون أن يعطوه التمرة والكسرة والجوزة ونحو ذلك ، فيردونه ويقولون : ما هذا بشيء . إنما نؤجر على ما نعطي ونحن نحبه . وكان آخرون يرون أنهم لا يلامون على الذنب اليسير : الكذبة والنظرة والغيبة وأشباه ذلك ، يقولون : إنما وعد الله النار على الكبائر . فرغبهم في القليل من الخير أن يعملوه ، فإنه يوشك أن يكثر ، وحذرهم اليسير من الشر ، فإنه يوشك أن يكثر ، فنزلت : ( فمن يعمل مثقال ذرة ) يعني : وزن أصغر النمل ( خيرا يره ) يعني : في كتابه ، ويسره ذلك . قال : يكتب لكل بر وفاجر بكل سيئة سيئة واحدة . وبكل حسنة عشر حسنات ، فإذا كان يوم القيامة ضاعف الله حسنات المؤمنين أيضا ، بكل واحدة عشر ، ويمحو عنه بكل حسنة عشر سيئات ، فمن زادت حسناته على سيئاته مثقال ذرة دخل الجنة . ـ

Ibn Abi Haatim reported that … Sa’eed ibn Jubayr commented on the ayah

فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ * وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ

So whoever does an ant’s weight of good will see it * and whoever does an ant’s weight of evil will see it [99:7-8]

by saying:

It happened that when the ayah

وَيُطْعِمُونَ الطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا

And they give food despite their love for it to the poor, the orphans and the prisoners of war [76:8]

was revealed, the Muslims thought that they would not be rewarded for small amounts of charity. So a poor person would come to their doors and they felt that to give him a date or a scrap of food or a nut or the likes was something insignificant so they would send him away, saying, “That is nothing, we will only be rewarded if we give away something that we love.” Continue reading

How the Qur’an Addresses Potential Doubts: Tafsir al-Sa’di

After a long series of ayaat in surah al-Baqarah critical of Banu Israa’eel for their repeated betrayals of the covenant that Allah had taken from them, Allah then says:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالنَّصَارَىٰ وَالصَّابِئِينَ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

Those who believe and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabi’oon who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteous good deeds – they will have their reward with Allah, and they will not have any fear nor will they grieve. [2:62]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following explanation and beneficial point of Qur’anic style in his commentary on this ayah:

ثم قال تعالى حاكما بين الفرق الكتابية: { إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالنَّصَارَى وَالصَّابِئِينَ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ } وهذا الحكم على أهل الكتاب خاصة, لأن الصابئين, الصحيح أنهم من جملة فرق النصارى، فأخبر الله أن المؤمنين من هذه الأمة, واليهود والنصارى, والصابئين من آمن بالله واليوم الآخر, وصدقوا رسلهم, فإن لهم الأجر العظيم والأمن, ولا خوف عليهم ولا هم يحزنون، وأما من كفر منهم بالله ورسله واليوم الآخر, فهو بضد هذه الحال, فعليه الخوف والحزن. ـ

This status is only applicable to the Ahl al-Kitab, for the correct opinion regarding the Sabi’oon is that they are one of the Christian sects.

In this ayah, Allah is informing the believers that the Jews, Christians, and Sabi’oon who believe in Allah and the Last Day and affirm His messengers will have a great reward as well as safety. They will not fear nor will they grieve.

But as for those of those of them that disbelieve in Allah and His messengers and the Last Day, then they will experience the opposite situation: they will fear and they will grieve. Continue reading

Why do the Transmitters of a Single Qiraa’ah Differ?: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

In one of his writings, Makki ibn Abi Taalib, a great scholar of the qiraa’aat from the earlier generations, took up the question of why two transmitters of a single qiraa’ah would differ if they both learned from the same reciter. In his answer, he used the example of the most common recitations from his home of North Africa and al-Andalus as his primary examples:

باب: “العلة في كثرة اختلاف المروي عن الأئمة القراء” ـ
The Reason Why There are Many Differences Transmitted from the Leading Reciters

فإن سأل سائل، فقال: ما العلة التي من أجلها كثر الاختلاف عن هذه الأئمة، وكل واحد منهم قد انفرد بقراءة اختارها مما قرأ به على أئمته؟ ـ

If someone were to ask, “Why is it that there are many differences relayed from these leading reciters when each one of them has just one recitation which he chose and which he recited to his teachers?”

فالجواب: أن كل واحد من الأئمة قرأ على جماعة بقراءات مختلفة، فنقل ذلك على ما قرأ، فكانوا في برهة من أعمارهم يقرئون الناس بما قرءوا، فمن قرأ عليهم بأي حرف كان لم يرده عنه، إذا كان ذلك مما قرءوا به على أئمتهم. ـ

We could respond by saying that each one of the leading reciters used to recite a number of different qiraa’aat, and so they transmitted these different qiraa’aat to their students. At any particular moment in their lives, people were reciting to them with the recitation that was most familiar to them. So whoever recited in any of the acceptable ways, they would not reject that so long as it was something which they themselves had recited to their teachers.

ألا ترى أن نافعا قال: قرأت على سبعين من التابعين، فما اتفق عليه اثنان أخذته، وما شذ فيه واحد تركته؟. يريد، والله أعلم، مما خالف المصحف. فكان مما قرأ عليه بما اتفق فيه اثنان من أئمته لم ينكر عليه ذلك. ـ

Haven’t you seen what Naafi’ said? “I recited to seventy of the taabi’oon, so I took whatever two of them agreed on, and I left whatever was particular to just one.” Here, and Allah knows best, he was referring to the things which differed from the text of the official ‘Uthmani mushaf. So then, whoever recited to him with anything that two of his teachers had both held, he would not disapprove of that. Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 130-141: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the fourteenth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 130-141. This passage calls mankind to follow the religion of Ibrahim and to turn away from other paths. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

وَمَن يَرْغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِلَّا مَن سَفِهَ نَفْسَهُ ۚ وَلَقَدِ اصْطَفَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَإِنَّهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

And who would be averse to the religion of Ibrahim except one who makes a fool of himself? We have chosen him in the world, and in the hereafter he is one of the upright ones. [2:130]

ولا أحد يُعرض عن دين إبراهيم- وهو الإسلام- إلا سفيه جاهل، ولقد اخترنا إبراهيم في الدنيا نبيًّا ورسولا وإنه في الآخرة لمن الصالحين الذين لهم أعلى الدرجات.ـ

130. There is no one who turns away from the religion of Ibrahim, which is Islam, except for an ignorant fool. We have chosen Ibrahim as a prophet and messenger in this life, and in the hereafter he will be one of the upright ones who will be at the highest level.

إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ أَسْلِمْ ۖ قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

And when his Lord told him, “Submit,” he said, “I have submitted to the Lord of all creation.” [2:131]

وسبب هذا الاختيار مسارعته للإسلام دون تردد، حين قال له ربه: أخلص نفسك لله منقادًا له. فاستجاب إبراهيم وقال: أسلمت لرب العالمين إخلاصًا وتوحيدًا ومحبة وإنابة.ـ

131. The reason that Allah chose him is because of his eagerness to submit without any hesitation when Allah told him, “Make yourself purely for Allah, completely obedient to Him.” So Ibrahim responded by saying, “I have submitted myself entirely to the Lord of all creation, singling Him out for worship, love, and always turning back to Him.

Continue reading

Is Tajweed Mandatory? And is it Part of the Religion?: Muhammad Bazmool

In part of his explanation of the book al-Itmam al-Dirayah li-Qurra’ al-Niqayah, sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Umar Bazmool addressed the question of whether tajweed in reciting the Qur’an is an obligation and whether the science of tajweed has any basis or not, as some assert.

ـ▪من أجل هذا قيل بوجوب ضبط القرآن في حروفه، فيُعطىٰ كل حرف حقّه ومُستحقّه، بما يخرج بقراءته عن اللّحن الجليّ. ـ

… Due to this, some say that it is mandatory to be precise in one’s pronunciation of the Qur’an and that one must give each letter its due rights, so as to avoid falling into obvious major errors when reciting.

أما تجنب اللحن الخفيّ، وهو ما يتعلّق بمخارج الحروف بالضّبط، ومقدار المدود وما يشبه ذلك مما لا يؤثّر في بُنية الكلمة ومعناها؛ فهذا يُستحبّ. وهذا وجه تقرير طلب علم التّجويد؛ فإن القراءة باللّحن الجليِّ لم ينزل القرآن بها، وليست بقرآن. ـ

As for avoiding subtle minor errors – i.e. those related to the exact makharij al-huroof (places of articulation), the length of the mudood (elongated vowels), and other such things which do not have any effect on the form or meaning of a word – then this is virtuous but not obligatory. So this is what the student of tajweed should remember, for reciting the Qur’an with obvious major errors is not how the Qur’an was revealed and is not, in fact, the Qur’an.

فإن قيل: ما الدّليل على أن تجنّب اللّحن الخفي ليس بواجب؟ فالجواب: جاء في الحديث عن عائِشَةَ رضي اللّه عنها، عن النبيِّ ﷺ قال: (مثل الذي يقرأُ القرآنَ وهو حافظٌ له مع السَّفَرَة الكرامِ البررةِ، ومثل الذي يقرأُ، وهو يتعاهَدُهُ، وهو عليه شديدٌ، فلَهُ أجرَانِ)، وفي رواية: (الماهر بالقرآن مع السّفرةِ الكرام البررَةِ، والَّذي يَقْرَاُ القُرآنَ ويَتَعْتَعُ فِيهِ، وَهُوَ عَليهِ شاقٌّ؛ لَهُ أجْرَانِ) أخرجه البخاري في كتاب التفسير. ـ

Now, what if one were to say, “What is the evidence that avoiding subtle minor errors isn’t mandatory?”

One could reply by mentioning what has come in the hadith of A’ishah that they Prophet said:

Whoever recites the Qur’an, having memorized it, is with the righteous and noble messenger angels. And whoever recites the Qur’an, struggling to do so and experiencing difficulty, then he will have two rewards.

And in another narration: Continue reading

Assorted Qur’an Benefits #33

What follows is a collection of benefits originally shared on the Tulayhah social media during June of 2019.

♦ The Blessing of a Righteous Family

At the end of surah al-Furqan, Allah lists a number of traits of His believing slaves, including:

وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا

And they are those who say, “Our Lord, grant us among our wives and offspring a comfort to our eyes, and make us a good example for the righteous.” [25:74]

Imam al-Baghawi brought the following statement from one of the tabi’oon in his explanation of this ayah:

قال القرظي : ليس شيء أقر لعين المؤمن من أن يرى زوجته وأولاده مطيعين لله – عز وجل – .ـ

Muhammad ibn Ka’b al-Qurathi said, “There is nothing more pleasing to the eye of the believer than to see that his wife and his children are obedient to Allah, the Mighty and Majestic.”

[Tafsir al-Baghawi 6/100]


♦ “What would you say if I were to give you a date tree in Jannah in exchange for that date tree?”

Allah says in surah al-A’laa:

Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 124-129: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the thirteenth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 124-129. This passage recounts some events from the life of Ibrahim. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

وَإِذِ ابْتَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا ۖ قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي ۖ قَالَ لَا يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ

And when Ibrahim was tested by his Lord with some word and he fulfilled them. He said, “I have certainly made you a leader for mankind.” He said, “And those of my offspring?” He said, “My covenant does not extend to the wrongdoers.” [2:124]

واذكر- أيها النبي- حين اختبر الله إبراهيم بما شرع له من تكاليف، فأدَّاها وقام بها خير قيام. قال الله له: إني جاعلك قدوة للناس. قال إبراهيم: ربِّ اجعل بعض نسلي أئمة فضلا منك، فأجابه الله سبحانه أنه لا تحصل للظالمين الإمامةُ في الدين.ـ

124. And remember – O Prophet – when Allah tested Ibrahim with the legal responsibilities that He had legislated for him. So Ibrahim fulfilled and discharged those responsibilities in the best way. Allah said to him, “I have certainly made you an example for mankind.” Ibrahim said, “Lord, make some of my descendants leaders, out of Your graciousness.” Allah responded to him by saying that the wrongdoers do not attain leadership in the religion.

وَإِذْ جَعَلْنَا الْبَيْتَ مَثَابَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَمْنًا وَاتَّخِذُوا مِن مَّقَامِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ مُصَلًّى ۖ وَعَهِدْنَا إِلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ

And when We made the House a place of return for mankind and a sanctuary. And take the station of Ibrahim as a place of prayer. And We charged Ibrahim and Ismaa’eel to purify My House for those who make tawaf and i’tikaaf and bow in prostration. [2:125]

Continue reading

You Will See Them Looking Like One Overcome by Death: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah says in surah Muhammad:

وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَتْ سُورَةٌ ۖ فَإِذَا أُنزِلَتْ سُورَةٌ مُّحْكَمَةٌ وَذُكِرَ فِيهَا الْقِتَالُ ۙ رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَيْكَ نَظَرَ الْمَغْشِيِّ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الْمَوْتِ

Those who believe say, “Why hasn’t a surah been sent down? But when a precise surah is revealed and fighting is mentioned therein, you see those in whose hearts is an illness looking at you with a look of one overcome by death. [47:20]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote the following in his commentary on this ayah:

ذكر – جل وعلا – في هذه الآية الكريمة أنه إذا أنزل سورة محكمة ، أي متقنة الألفاظ والمعاني ، واضحة الدلالة ، لا نسخ فيها وذكر فيها وجوب قتال الكفار ، تسبب عن ذلك ، كون الذين في قلوبهم مرض أي شك ونفاق ، ينظرون كنظر الإنسان الذي يغشى عليه ; لأنه في سياق الموت ، لأن نظر من كان كذلك تدور فيه عينه ويزيغ بصره . ـ

In this ayah, Allah mentioned that when He sent down a muhkamah surah – that is, one whose wordings and meanings are perfected, with clear instructions and no instances of abrogation – which includes the obligation to fight against the disbelievers. Then, as a result of that, those people with a disease in their hearts – i.e. doubt and nifaaq – will stare with a look of one who is overcome because he is in the midst of dying, because a person in that situation will have his eyes rolling and his vision distorted.

وهذا إنما وقع لهم من شدة الخوف من بأس الكفار المأمور بقتالهم . ـ

And this only happened to them because of their great fear of how the disbelievers that they have been commanded to fight will harm them.

وقد صرح – جل وعلا – بأن ذلك من الخوف المذكور في قوله : فإذا جاء الخوف رأيتهم ينظرون إليك تدور أعينهم كالذي يغشى عليه من الموت [ 33 \ 19 ] . ـ

And Allah has explicitly stated that this condition is a result of this fear when He said: Continue reading