How the Believers Respond to the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah 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, through which He guides whom He wills. And whomever Allah leads astray, then there is no one to guide him. [39:23]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

وقوله : { تقشعر منه جلود الذين يخشون ربهم ثم تلين جلودهم وقلوبهم إلى ذكر الله } أي هذه صفة الأبرار ، عند سماع كلام الجبار ، المهيمن العزيز الغفار ، لما يفهمون منه من الوعد والوعيد . والتخويف والتهديد ، تقشعر منه جلودهم من الخشية والخوف ، { ثم تلين جلودهم وقلوبهم إلى ذكر الله } لما يرجون ويؤملون من رحمته ولطفه ، فهم مخالفون لغيرهم من الكفار من وجوه : ـ

Allah’s statement:

تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ

The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it, then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah.

this is a characteristic of the righteous ones upon hearing the words of the Almighty, the Preserver, the All-Powerful, Oft-Forgiving. As a result of the promises, threats, and intimidation that they find in the Qur’an, their skins shiver over out reverence and fear.

ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ

then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah

due to the mercy and kindness of Allah that they hope and wish for. So they are distinct from from the disbelievers in a number of ways:

أحدها : أن سماع هؤلاء هو تلاوة الآيات ، وسماع أولئك نغمات لأبيات ، من أصوات القينات . ـ

Firstly: The believers listen to the recitation of these ayaat, while those disbelievers listen to the tunes of poetry by female singers.

الثاني : أنهم إذا تليت عليهم آيات الرحمن خروا سجدا وبكيا ، بأدب وخشية ، ورجاء ومحبة ، وفهم وعلم ، كما قال : { إنما المؤمنون الذين إذا ذكر الله وجلت قلوبهم وإذا تليت عليهم آياته زادتهم إيمانا وعلى ربهم يتوكلون الذين يقيمون الصلاة ومما رزقناهم ينفقون أولئك هم المؤمنون حقا لهم درجات عند ربهم ومغفرة ورزق كريم } [ الأنفال : 2 – 4 ] وقال تعالى : { والذين إذا ذكروا بآيات ربهم لم يخروا عليها صما وعميانا } [ الفرقان : 73 ] أي : لم يكونوا عند سماعها متشاغلين لاهين عنها ، بل مصغين إليها ، فاهمين بصيرين بمعانيها ؛ فلهذا إنما يعملون بها ، ويسجدون عندها عن بصيرة لا عن جهل ومتابعة لغيرهم أي : يرون غيرهم قد سجد فيسجدون تبعا له . ـ

Secondly: When the ayaat of al-Rahman are recited to them, they fall prostrate and weep due to their finely-tuned manners and reverence, their hope and love, and their understanding and knowledge. This is as Allah said:

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّـهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ * الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ * أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ حَقًّا ۚ لَّهُمْ دَرَجَاتٌ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ وَرِزْقٌ كَرِيمٌ

The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely – * The ones who establish prayer, and from what We have provided them, they spend. * Those are the believers, truly. For them are degrees of high position with their Lord and forgiveness and noble provision. [8:2-4]

And He also said:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ لَمْ يَخِرُّوا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَعُمْيَانًا

And those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind. [25:73]

that is: when they hear it, they are not distracted by other things or heedless towards it. On the contrary, they listen to it attentively with understanding and insight into its meanings. As a result, they act according to it, and they prostrate while reciting it. That is because of their understanding of it; not as a result of ignorance or simply following others like those who see others going to prostration and so follow their lead and also make prostration.

الثالث : أنهم يلزمون الأدب عند سماعها ، كما كان الصحابة ، رضي الله عنهم عند سماعهم كلام الله من تلاوة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم تقشعر جلودهم ، ثم تلين مع قلوبهم إلى ذكر الله . لم يكونوا يتصارخون ولا يتكلفون ما ليس فيهم ، بل عندهم من الثبات والسكون والأدب والخشية ما لا يلحقهم أحد في ذلك ؛ ولهذا فازوا بالقدح المعلى في الدنيا والآخرة . ـ

Thirdly: They adhere to proper etiquette and decorum while listening to the Qur’an just as the Sahabah used to do upon hearing the words of Allah being recited by the Messenger of Allah and their skins would shiver and then their hearts would soften to the remembrance of Allah. They did not used to wail or force themselves to project emotions that they did not feel. Rather, they were staid and composed, with proper etiquette and reverence the likes of which none can match. That is why they have gained such amazing rewards in this life and the next.

قال عبد الرزاق : حدثنا معمر قال : تلا قتادة ، رحمه الله : { تقشعر منه جلود الذين يخشون ربهم ثم تلين جلودهم وقلوبهم إلى ذكر الله } قال : هذا نعت أولياء الله ، نعتهم الله بأن تقشعر جلودهم ، وتبكي أعينهم ، وتطمئن قلوبهم إلى ذكر الله ، ولم ينعتهم بذهاب عقولهم والغشيان عليهم ، إنما هذا في أهل البدع ، وهذا من الشيطان . ـ

‘Abd al-Razzaq said that Mu’mar told him that Qatadah recited the ayah

تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ

The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it, then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah.

and then said:

This is a description of Allah’s close ones. Allah has described them as having their skins shiver, their eyes weep, and their hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allah. He did not describe them as losing their wits and having fainting spells. That is what the people of innovation do, and it is something from the shaytaan.

وقال السدي : { ثم تلين جلودهم وقلوبهم إلى ذكر الله } أي : إلى وعد الله . وقوله : { ذلك هدى الله يهدي به من يشاء من عباده } أي : هذه صفة من هداه الله ، ومن كان على خلاف ذلك فهو ممن أضله الله ، { ومن يضلل الله فما له من هاد } [ الرعد : 33 ] . ـ

al-Suddi said:

ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ

then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah.

that is, their hearts soften to the promises of Allah.

Allah’s statement:

ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّـهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ

That is the guidance of Allah by which He guides whomever He wills of His servants. [6:88]

i.e. this is a characteristic of those whom Allah has guided, while those who have something contrary to this are ones whom Allah has lead astray.

وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّـهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ

And whomever Allah leaves astray – there will be for him no guide. [13:33]

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 7/95-96]

To read more about the first part of this ayah, see also:

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

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

See also: How to Approach Reciting the Qur’an: Ibn Qudamah

See also: Etiquette of Reciting and Listening to the Qur’an: ibn ‘Uthaymeen

See also: I Read The Qur’an But It Does Not Move My Heart: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Kareem al-Khudayr

2 thoughts on “How the Believers Respond to the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

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

  2. Pingback: How The Qur’an Describes Itself: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

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