“… And Seek What Allah Has Decreed For You”: Tafsir al-Tabari

In part of the ayaat of fasting in surah al-Baqarah, Allah permits the believers to engage in sexual relations with their spouses during nights of fasting days by saying:

أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَائِكُمْ ۚ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ ۗ عَلِمَ اللَّـهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ ۖ فَالْآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ

It has been made permissible for you to go to your wives on the nights of fasting. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you. [2:187]

The phrase “and seek what Allah has decreed for you” has been interpreted in multiple ways by the salaf. Ibn al-Jawzi summarized the different explanations in his book of tafsir by writing:

وابتغوا ما كتب الله لكم فيه أربعة أقوال . أحدها: أنه الولد ، قاله ابن عباس ، والحسن ، ومجاهد في آخرين . قال بعض أهل العلم: لما كانت المباشرة قد تقع على ما دون الجماع ، أباحهم الجماع الذي يكون من مثله الولد ، فقال: وابتغوا ما كتب الله لكم يريد: الولد . والثاني: أن الذي كتب لهم الرخصة ، وهو قول قتادة ، وابن زيد . والثالث: أنه ليلة القدر . رواه أبو الجوزاء عن ابن عباس . والرابع: أنه القرآن ، فمعنى الكلام: اتبعوا القرآن ، فما أبيح لكم وأمرتم به فهو المبتغى ، وهذا اختيار الزجاج . ـ

وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ

… and seek what Allah has decreed for you.

There are four opinions regarding this phrase:

1) That it refers to offspring. This was the opinion of ibn ‘Abbaas, al-Hasan al-Basri, and the position that Mujahid settled on.

Some of the scholars have said: This is stated because “relations” could involve things that do not reach the level of full sexual intercourse, so Allah permitted them to engage in the sexual relations which result in offspring by saying, “seek what Allah decreed for you”, meaning “children”.

2) That it refers to the allowances that Allah has permitted for you. This was the position of Qatadah and ibn Zayd.

3) That it refers to Laylah al-Qadr. al-Jawzaa’ transmitted this from ibn ‘Abbaas.

4) That it refers to the Qur’an. In this case, the meaning of the statement is: follow the Qur’an, for whatever I have permitted for you or commanded you to do is what should be sought. This was the preferred explanation of al-Zujaaj.

[Zad al-Maseer 1/193]

After discussing each of these different explanations in his book of tafsir, the great scholar Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari then offered the following discussion of them as a whole:

وإنما يريد الله تعالى ذكره : اطلبوا الذي كتبت لكم في اللوح المحفوظ أنه يباح فيطلق لكم ، وطلب الولد إن طلبه الرجل بجماعه المرأة ، مما كتب الله له [ ص: 509 ] في اللوح المحفوظ ، وكذلك إن طلب ليلة القدر ، فهو مما كتب الله له ، وكذلك إن طلب ما أحل الله وأباحه ، فهو مما كتبه له في اللوح المحفوظ . ـ

What Allah means here is: seek what I have written in the Preserved Tablet to be permitted and allowed for you. If a man seeks offspring by seeking intercourse with his wife, then that is part of what Allah has written for him in the Preserved Tablet. Likewise if he seeks Laylah al-Qadr, that is part of what Allah has written for him. Likewise if he seeks what Allah has permitted and allowed for him, that is also part of what Allah has written for him in the Preserved Tablet.

وقد يدخل في قوله : ” وابتغوا ما كتب الله لكم ” جميع معاني الخير المطلوبة ، غير أن أشبه المعاني بظاهر الآية قول من قال : معناه وابتغوا ما كتب الله لكم من الولد ، لأنه عقيب قوله : ” فالآن باشروهن ” بمعنى : جامعوهن ، فلأن يكون قوله : ” وابتغوا ما كتب الله لكم ” بمعنى : وابتغوا ما كتب الله في مباشرتكم إياهن من الولد والنسل ، أشبه بالآية من غيره من التأويلات التي ليس على صحتها دلالة من ظاهر التنزيل ، ولا خبر عن الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم . ـ

So the phrase

وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ

… and seek what Allah has decreed for you.

could include all forms of goodness which one might seek, even though the thing most fitting with the apparent meaning of this ayah is the explanation of those who said that it means “and seek what Allah has decreed for you in terms of children.” That is because this phrase comes immediately after Allah’s statement:

فَالْآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ

So now have sexual relations with them …

i.e. to have intercourse with them. So therefore Allah’s statement:

وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ

… and seek what Allah has decreed for you.

takes on the meaning of “and seek what Allah has decreed for you from your intercourse in terms of children and descendants. This is more fitting with the ayah than the other explanations, none of which have any clear revelation or narrations from the Messenger  to substantiate them.

[Tafsir al-Tabari 3/509-510]

See also: Chapter on Fasting in the Qur’an – part 3: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 183-188: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

2 thoughts on ““… And Seek What Allah Has Decreed For You”: Tafsir al-Tabari

  1. Pingback: Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 183-188: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Chapter on Fasting in the Qur’an – part 3: Imam al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

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