Allah Has Sent Down the Best Speech: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says al-Zumar:

اللَّـهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّـهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّـهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ

Allah has sent down the best speech: a consistent and reiterating Book. The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it, then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah. That is Allah’s guidance; He guides by it whom He wills. And whomever Allah leads astray, then there is no one to guide him. [39:23]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote the following commentary on this ayah:

يخبر تعالى عن كتابه الذي نزله أنه { أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ } على الإطلاق، فأحسن الحديث كلام اللّه، وأحسن الكتب المنزلة من كلام اللّه هذا القرآن، وإذا كان هو الأحسن، علم أن ألفاظه أفصح الألفاظ وأوضحها، وأن معانيه، أجل المعاني، لأنه أحسن الحديث في لفظه ومعناه، متشابها في الحسن والائتلاف وعدم الاختلاف، بوجه من الوجوه. حتى إنه كلما تدبره المتدبر، وتفكر فيه المتفكر، رأى من اتفاقه، حتى في معانيه الغامضة، ما يبهر الناظرين، ويجزم بأنه لا يصدر إلا من حكيم عليم، هذا المراد بالتشابه في هذا الموضع. ـ

Allah informs us that His Book which He sent down is

أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ

the best speech

bar none, for the best speech is the speech of Allah, and the best revealed scripture made of Allah’s speech is the Qur’an. So since it is the best, then it is clear that its wordings are most eloquent and clearest wordings and that its meanings are the most sublime meanings, for it is the best of speech in terms of its wordings and meanings. It is

مُّتَشَابِهًا

mutashabih

consistent

in its beauty and unified nature and lack of contradiction. This is one of the meanings of the term mutashabih. The Qur’an’s unified nature and lack of contradiction is such that whenever a person contemplates and ponders it, he sees that it is consistent. This is even the case with its ambiguous messages which puzzle readers. So one will become certain that this could only come from the All-Wise, All-Knowing. That is the meaning of al-mutashabih in this context.

وأما في قوله تعالى: { هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ } فالمراد بها، التي تشتبه على فهوم كثير من الناس، ولا يزول هذا الاشتباه إلا بردها إلى المحكم، ولهذا قال: { مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ } فجعل التشابه لبعضه، وهنا جعله كله متشابها، أي: في حسنه، لأنه قال: { أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ } وهو سور وآيات، والجميع يشبه بعضه بعضا كما ذكرنا. ـ

However, when that term comes in Allah’s statement:

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ

He is the One who sent the Book down to you – it contains muhkam ayaat which are the foundation of the Book and others which are mutashabih [3:7]

then the intended meaning here is what is ambiguous to the minds of most people, and this ambiguity can only be dealt with by referring those parts back to the muhkam – clear – parts. That is why He said:

 مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ

it contains muhkam ayaat which are the foundation of the Book and others which are mutashabih [3:7]

So in this ayah He described some of the ayaat as mutashabih, while in the ayah of surah al-Zumar He described the entire book as mutashabih – i.e. in its beauty, for He said:

أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ

the best speech

which refers to both the surahs and the ayaat, all of them in agreement with one another, as we mentioned.

ـ { مَثَانِيَ } أي: تثنى فيه القصص والأحكام، والوعد والوعيد، وصفات أهل الخير، وصفات أهل الشر، وتثنى فيه أسماء اللّه وصفاته، وهذا من جلالته، وحسنه، فإنه تعالى، لما علم احتياج الخلق إلى معانيه المزكية للقلوب، المكملة للأخلاق، وأن تلك المعاني للقلوب، بمنزلة الماء لسقي الأشجار، فكما أن الأشجار كلما بعد عهدها بسقي الماء نقصت، بل ربما تلفت، وكلما تكرر سقيها حسنت وأثمرت أنواع الثمار النافعة، فكذلك القلب يحتاج دائما إلى تكرر معاني كلام اللّه تعالى عليه، وأنه لو تكرر عليه المعنى مرة واحدة في جميع القرآن، لم يقع منه موقعا، ولم تحصل النتيجة منه، ولهذا سلكت في هذا التفسير هذا المسلك الكريم، اقتداء بما هو تفسير له، فلا تجد فيه الحوالة على موضع من المواضع، بل كل موضع تجد تفسيره كامل المعنى، غير مراع لما مضى مما يشبهه، وإن كان بعض المواضع يكون أبسط من بعض وأكثر فائدة، وهكذا ينبغي للقارئ للقرآن، المتدبر لمعانيه، أن لا يدع التدبر في جميع المواضع منه، فإنه يحصل له بسبب ذلك خير كثير، ونفع غزير. ـ

مَثَانِيَ

reiterating

i.e. pairing the stories and rulings throughout, and promises and threats, and descriptions of the good people and descriptions of evil people, and pairing names and attributes of Allah throughout. This is out of Allah’s magnificence and excellence. For He knows how much mankind needs messages that purify the hearts and refine their character, and that these messages are like the water that a tree needs to be given. For just as if a tree were to go a long time without any water it would decline or perhaps perish, but if it were to be given water regularly is would thrive and produce all kinds of beneficial fruits, likewise the hearts are always in need of regularly having the messages of Allah’s speech repeated to it. If a message were just to be repeated once in the whole Qur’an, its would not take hold or be fully realized in the heart.

That is why I have taken this wonderful approach in this tafsir of mine, following that same method that I am currently explaining. So you won’t find me sending you from one passage to another to find an explanation; rather, you will find that the meaning of each passage is explained in full without concern for whether a similar passage has already been explained. After all, some passages may be shorter than others but nonetheless contain more points of benefit. Therefore, when reading the Qur’an a person ought to think deeply about its messages and meanings, and not leave off pondering any of its passages. If he does that, he will attain abundant good and amazing benefits.

ولما كان القرآن العظيم بهذه الجلالة والعظمة، أثَّر في قلوب أولي الألباب المهتدين، فلهذا قال تعالى: { تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ } لما فيه من التخويف والترهيب المزعج، { ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَى ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ } أي: عند ذكر الرجاء والترغيب، فهو تارة يرغبهم لعمل الخير، وتارة يرهبهم من عمل الشر. ـ

So due to these tremendous and magnificent qualities which the Qur’an has, it therefore has an effect on the hearts of those people of sound thinking who have been guided. That is why Allah then says:

تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ

The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it

because of the things within it that case fear, intimidation and worry

ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَى ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ

then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah

i.e. at the mention of hope and encouraging passages. For sometimes Allah inspires them to perform good, and at other times He causes them to cower from performing sins.

ـ { ذَلِكَ } الذي ذكره اللّه من تأثير القرآن فيهم { هُدَى اللَّهِ } أي: هداية منه لعباده، وهو من جملة فضله وإحسانه عليهم، { يَهْدِي بِهِ } أي: بسبب ذلك { مَنْ يَشَاءُ } من عباده. ويحتمل أن المراد بقوله: { ذَلِكَ } أي: القرآن الذي وصفناه لكم. ـ

ذَلِكَ

That …

those effects of Qur’an on the believers that Allah has just mentioned

هُدَى اللَّهِ

… is Allah’s guidance …

i.e. guidance from Him for His slaves. And it is out of His graciousness and goodness towards them that

يَهْدِي بِهِ

He guides by it …

i.e. as a result of it

مَنْ يَشَاءُ

… whom He wills.

any of His slaves that He wishes.

And it is also possible that the word

ذَلِكَ

That …

here is referring to the Qur’an which He has been describing to them.

ـ { هُدَى اللَّهِ } الذي لا طريق يوصل إلى اللّه إلا منه { يَهْدِي بِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ } ممن حسن قصده، كما قال تعالى { يَهْدِي بِهِ اللَّهُ مَنِ اتَّبَعَ رِضْوَانَهُ سُبُلَ السَّلَامِ } ـ

هُدَى اللَّهِ

… is Allah’s guidance

without which there is no way to reach Allah

 يَهْدِي بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ

through which He guides any of His slaves that He wishes. [6:88]

any of them who have good intention, as He says elsewhere:

يَهْدِي بِهِ اللَّـهُ مَنِ اتَّبَعَ رِضْوَانَهُ سُبُلَ السَّلَامِ

Through it Allah guides whoever pursues His pleasure to the pathways of peace [5:16]

ـ { وَمَنْ يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ } لأنه لا طريق يوصل إليه إلا توفيقه والتوفيق للإقبال على كتابه، فإذا لم يحصل هذا، فلا سبيل إلى الهدى، وما هو إلا الضلال المبين والشقاء. ـ

وَمَنْ يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ

And whomever Allah leads astray, then there is no one to guide him.

for there is no way to reach Allah except if He facilitates that, and that facilitation comes through accepting His Book. But if that doesn’t happen, then there is no way to find guidance, and there is nothing left but plain misguidance and misery.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg 849-850]

See also: How the Qur’an Uses Contrasting Pairs and Repetition: Tafsir ibn Kathir

See also: How The Qur’an Describes Itself: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: The Wisdom of Dividing the Qur’an into Muhkam and Mutashaabih Verses: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

See also: The Believers’ Response to the Mention of Allah: Imam al-Shinqitee

2 thoughts on “Allah Has Sent Down the Best Speech: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: How the Qur’an Uses Contrasting Pairs and Repetition: Tafsir ibn Kathir | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Believers’ Response to the Mention of Allah: Imam al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

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