Books of Tafsir which are Advised Against

Books of tafsir which are advised against – specifically those available in the English language

بسم الله ، والحمد لله ، والصلاة والسلام على المصطفى

Note: While there are many many books of tafsir, this list makes no attempt to be exhaustive and here limits itself to some of those works which have been translated into English or those which are well-known even if they have not been translated.

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-‘Abbaad said:

 كتاب “ظلال القرآن” أو “في ظلال القرآن” للشيخ سيد قطب – رحمه الله – هو من التفاسير الحديثة التي هي مبنية على الرأي، وليست على النقل، وليست على الأثر. ـ

The book, “[In] The Shade of the Qur’an” or Fee Thilaal al-Qur’an by sheikh Sayyid Qutb is one of the modern tafsirs which is based on opinions, and it is not based on texts nor is it based on narrations.

ومن المعلوم أن أصحاب الرأي والذين يتكلمون بآرائهم ويتحدثون بأساليبهم يحصل فيهم الخطأ والصواب، ويصيبون ويخطئون، والإنسان الذي غير فاهم وغير متمكن من الأصلح له أن لا يرجع إليه وإنما يرجع إلى كتب العلماء المعتبرين مثل: تفسير ابن كثير وتفسير ابن جرير، ومثل تفسير الشيخ عبدالرحمن السعدي في المتأخرين فإن هذه تفسيرات العلماء. ـ

And it is well-known that the people of opinions and those who speak according to their opinions and speak with their methods – it is known that they achieve both mistakes and correct statements in doing so, they are (sometimes) correct and (sometimes) they err. The person who does not have understanding and who is not well-rooted, then it is more befitting for him not refer to that book and to refer only to the books of the well-regarded scholars, such as Tafsir ibn Kathir and Tafsir ibn Jarir, and such as the tafsir of sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di from among the latter-day scholars, for indeed these are the tafsirs of the scholars.

[Taken from a question posed after a lesson on Sunan al-Nasaa’i in Masjid al-Nabawi – 7/11/1414 AH (corresponding to 12/25/1993 CE)]

Sheikh Saalih Aali Sheikh wrote:

وكتاب أيسر التفاسير للجزائري هو كتاب مختصر وعليه بعض الملاحظات؛ لكن في الجملة لا بأس به، في الجملة لا بأس به وعليه بعض الملاحظات لاحظها عليه العلماء، ما يحتاج نمثل بأمثلة، موجودة الملاحظات، وهو في الجملة كتاب نافع سليم من البدع؛ لكن ربما نقل أشياء أو ظن أشياء من الحق وهي من أقوال البدع أو من أقوال أهل العصر في المحدثات وتشبيه ما في القرآن من أخبار بما في العصر من مستجدات ووسائل ونحو ذلك. ـ

The book Aysir al-Tafaasir by al-Jazaa’iri is an abridged book and it does has some issues, however, on the whole there is no problem with it. On the whole there is no problem with it but it does have some issues which the scholars have noted which do not require us to give any examples – the remarks are able to be found. But on the whole it is a beneficial book which is free of bid’ah, however perhaps he mentions some things or thinks that some things are from the truth while [in fact] it is from the statements of the people of bid’ah or from the statements of the people of modern times in terms of new ideas and likening the information that is in the Qur’an to recent discoveries and means and the likes.

أما كتاب في ظلال القرآن فهو كتاب دعوي، ولا يصح أن يُنسب إلى كتب التفاسير وإنما هو كما ذكر صاحبه في مقدمة كتابه أنه مشاعر له وتدبُّر في الآيات، فليس من كتب التفاسير؛ لأنه لم يفسر الآية على وفق تفاسير الذين اعتنوا بالتفسير، وإن كان يسمى تفسيرا في هذا العصر؛ لأنه كثرت كتب التفاسير التي على منواله. ـ

As for the book Fi Thilal al-Qur’an, then it is a book of propagation; it is not correct that it be attributed to the books of tafsir. That is merely as its author mentioned in the introduction to his book that he is an intense thinker over it and he pondered over the ayaat, so it is not from the books of tafsir. For it does not make exegesis of an ayah in a way the coincides with the books of tafsir which gave due diligence to exegesis. And if it is called a tafsir in this era, that is only because of the proliferation of books of tafsir which are in its mold.

[Sharh Muqaddimah al-Tafsir pg. 26]

Sheikh Muqbil ibn Haadee al-Waadi’ee was asked:

نص السؤال: ماهو رأيكم في تفسير الظلال لسيد قطب وبعض الناس يقدمونه على نفسير ابن كثير والبغوي وابن جرير فما هو رأيكم في ذلك ؟ ـ

Question: What are your views on tafsir al-Thilaal (“In the Shade of the Qur’an”) by Sayyid Qutb? And some of the people give it precedence over Tafsir ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Baghawi and Tafsir ibn Jarir, so what are your views regarding this?

نص الإجابة: أرى أنه يستفاد منه ، والحمد لله أخونا ( عبدالله بن محمد الدويش ) رحمه الله قد بين في كتاب ( المورد العذب الزلال في بيان أخطاء الظلال ) كثيراً من الأخطاء الموجودة في ( الظِلال ) فهو يستفاد منه . أما أن بقدم على تفسير ابن كثير وغيره من تفاسير المتقدمين كالبغوي ، فلا ، لا ، لا ، فتفسير ( الظِلال ) عبارة عن إنشاء أديب ، فسيد قطب رحمه الله أديب ولم يكن متضلعاً في علم الكتاب والسنة ،فهو يستفاد منه في فنه ، أما أن يقدم على تفسير ابن كثير فلا . وأنا أعتقد أنه لا يقوله إلا حزبي غال ، أو جاهل ضال ، الذي يقول إنه أحسن من تفسير ابن كثير ، فالحزبية قد تغلغلت في قلبه ، أو جاهل ضال أضل من حمار أهله . ـ

Answer: I consider it to be something that can be benefited from, and alhamdulillah our brother ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Duwaysh – may Allah have mercy on him – has clarified many many of the mistakes found in al-Thilaal in his book al-Mawrid al-Zilaal fee al-Tanbeeh ‘alaa Akhtaa’ al-Thilaal*, so it is something which can be benefited from.

As for giving it precedence above Tafsir ibn Kathir or other premier works of tafsir such as Tafsir al-Baghawi, then no, no, no. For Tafisral-Thilaal is essentially just the composition of a writer, for Sayyid Qutb – may Allah have mercy on him – was an author and he was not an expert when it came to knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. So it can be benefited from in respects to its specific area of specialty, but as for giving it precedence over Tafsir ibn Kathir, then no.

And I believe that no one would say this except for a fanatic hizbi (partisan) or a misguided ignorant one. Only such a person would say that it is better than Tafsir ibn Kathir, for partisanship could have spread throughout his heart, or a misguided ignorant one who is more astray than his family’s donkey.

[Qam’a al-Ma’aanid 2/405. *Translator’s note: Sheikh Muqbil mixed the title of sheikh al-Duwaysh’s book with a similar title from sheikh Ahmad al-Najmi. The title al-Duwaysh’s book is [المورد الزلال في أخطاء الظلال], and this is the title which has been transliterated into English in the text of the answer.]

Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzaan was asked:

 نص السؤال : ما رأيكم في ‏”‏ تفسير الجلالين ‏”‏‏؟‏

The text of the question: What are your views on Tafsir al-Jalaalayn?

نص الإجابة : “‏تفسير الجلالين‏”‏ تفسير مختصر ألفه الحافظان‏‏ الحافظ المحلي والحافظ السيوطي ، وكل منهما يلقب بجلال الدين لذلك سمي بالجلالين أي‏‏ تفسير جلال الدين المحلي وتفسير جلال الدين السيوطي ؛ لأن جلال الدين المحلي توفي قبل إكماله فأكمله السيوطي‏‏ وهو تفسير مختصر جدًّا يسهل على طالب العلم أو المبتدئ قراءته أو حفظه لكن من المعلوم أن كلا المُفسّرين على عقيدة الأشاعرة وهما يؤولان آيات الصفات كما هو مذهب الأشاعرة ومن هذه الناحية يجب الحذر في الاعتماد على تفسيرهما في آيات الصفات . ‏‏

The text of the response: Tafsir al-Jalaalayn is a summarized tafsir written by the two haafidhs, al-Haafidh al-Mahalli and al-Haafidh al-Suyooti, and both of them were given the title “Jalaal al-Deen“. So for that reason it is called “al-Jalaalayn” – meaning the tafsir of Jalaal al-Mahalli and the tafsir of Jalaal al-Deen al-Suyooti. This is because Jalaal al-Deen al-Mahalli passed away before he completed it, so al-Suyooti completed it and it is a very cursory tafsir whose reading is easy for the student of knowledge or for the beginner, or to memorize it. However, it is well-known that both of these mufassiroon were upon the Ash’ari ‘aqeedah and they misconstrued the ayaat of the attributes of Allah, as is the way of the Ash’aris. So for this reason, it is necessary to warn against relying upon their tafsir in regards to the ayaat of the attributes of Allah.

[Retrieved from the sheikh‘s website here]

Sheikh Bakr Abu Zayd wrote the following regarding the book Safwah al-Tafaaseer by Muhammad ‘Ali al-Saaboni:

ـ ” صفوة التفاسير ” اسم فيه تغرير وتلبيس ، فأنَّى له الصفاء وهو مبني على الخلط بين التبر والتبن ، إذ مزج بين تفسيري ابن جرير وابن كثير السلفييْن ، وتفسير الزمخشري المعتزلي ، والرضي الرافضي ، والطبرسي الرافضي ، والرازي الأشعري ، والصاوي الأشعري القبوري المتعصب ، وغيرهم ، ولا سيما وهذا المزج على يد من لا يعرف الصنعة ولا يتقنها كهذا الذي تسوَّر هذا الصرح بلا سلَّم ، وإلا فإن أهل العلم يستفيدون من المفسرين المتميزين بما لا يخرج عن الجادة : مسلك السلف ، وضوابط التفسير ، وسَنن لسان العرب . ـ

The title “Safwah al-Tafaaseer” (“The Best of the Tafsirs”) contains deception and fraud, for how can it be the best when it is built upon a mixing of gold and hay [i.e. contents both excellent and worthless], since he mixes the Salafi tafsirs of Ibn Jareer and ibn Kathir with the Mu’tazili tafsir of al-Zamakhshari, the Raafidhi (Shi’a) tafsir of al-Ridhaa, the Raafidhi tafsir of al-Tabirsi, and the Ash’ari tafsir of al-Raazi, and the Ash’ari tafsir of the fanatical grave-worshipper al-Saawi, and others. This is especially the case when this mixing is done by one who neither knows the field nor has mastered it – it is like someone who attempts to scale a wall without a ladder. Otherwise, the people of knowledge may benefit from the distinguished mufassiroon in terms of what does not deviate from the (correct) path: the way of the salaf, the guidelines of the science of al-tafsir, and the norms of the Arabic language.

فيفيد وصفه بالجهل أنه : يصحح الضعاف ، ويضعِّف الصحاح ، ويعزو أحاديث كثيرة إلى الصحيحين ، أو السنن الأربعة أو غيرها وليس في الصحيحين – مثلاً – أو ليس في بعضها ، ويحتج بالإسرائيليات ، ويتناقض في الأحكام .ـ

So he is characterized as being ignorant because he declares weak ahaadeeth to be authentic and authentic ahaaadeeth to be weak; he attributes many ahaadeeth to the Saheehayn or to the four sunan books of elsewhere when they are not, for example, in the Saheehayn or even in one of them; he uses the Israa’eeliyyaat narrations as proofs; and he contradicts himself in terms of rulings.

ويفيد وصفه بالإخلال بالأمانة العلمية : بتر النقول ، وتقويل العالم ما لم يقله ، وتحريف جمع من النصوص والأقوال ، وتقريره مذهب الخلَف في كتب السلف . ـ

And he is characterized with breaching the trust of knowledge by quoting only parts of texts; attributing things to scholars which they did not say; distorting texts and statements; and (falsely) affirming the interpretations of latter-day scholars in the works of the salaf.

ويفيد خَلْفيته في الاعتقاد : مسخه لعقيدة السلف في مواضع من تفسير ابن جرير ، وتفسير ابن كثير ، وبأكثر في ” صفوة التفاسير ” ، وما تحريفه لعدد من النصوص إلا ليبرر هذه الغاية ـ

And because of his personal latter-day ‘aqeedah views he misrepresents the ‘aqeedah of the salaf in many places in his abridgements of Tafsir ibn Jareer and Tafsir ibn Kathir, and even more so in Safwah al-Tafaaseer. And his distortions of a number of places in the texts serve no other purpose than justifying his own views.

[al-Rudood pg. 311, 313-314]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez bin Baaz was asked:

كتاب صفوة التفاسير كثيراً ما أقرأ فيه، وهناك من يعاتبني على هذا ويحذرني منه، فأفيدوني ماذا أفعل؟

Question: The book Safwah al-Tafaasir is a book which I frequently read, but there are some who reproach me for doing do and warn me against it, so direct me as to what I should do.

كتاب صفوة التفاسير كتاب مفيد جمع فيه مؤلفه النقول الكثيرة من تفاسير العلماء, وفيه بعض الملاحظات والمؤاخذات التي نرجو أن يصححها المؤلف في المستقبل, فيه أشياء تلاحظ عليه من جهة بعض التأويل, وأشياء قد لاحظها بعض أهل العلم عليه, والعزيمة منه أنه سوف يصحح كل ما هناك من خطأ نسأل الله أن يعينه على ذلك. بارك الله فيكم

Answer: The book Safwah al-Tafaasir is a beneficial book whose author has gathered a great number of quotes from the books of tafsir of the scholars, but it contains some issues and problems which we hope that the author will correct in the future. It contains certain things which some have noted in terms of false interpretations of Allah’s names and attributes, as well as some other things which some of the people of knowledge have observed. And he has expressed an intention to correct all of these issues.* We ask Allah to aid him in that endeavor. May Allah bless you.

[Retrieved from the sheikh’s website here.]

*Translator’s note: While al-Saabooni may have expressed at intention to correct the mistakes identified by his colleagues and seniors among the scholars at some point in time, he has not followed through on that promise. In fact, he has generally rebuffed the corrections that have been presented, in one case authoring a work entitled Kashf al-Iftiraa’aat – “Unveiling the Fabrications” – in response to sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan’s detailed notes regarding Safwah al-Tafaasir. A number of detailed notes have been written identifying the errors found in his book, most notably from sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan, sheikh Muhammad ibn Jameel Zaino, and sheikh Bakr Abu Zayd, however al-Saabooni has not made significant changes or corrections in the subsequent printings and editions of his tafsir.

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-‘Abbaad was asked:

السائل:كذالك يقول هل تفسير الشيخ الشعراوي من تفسير أهل السنة و الجماعة؟

Questioner: …The questioner also says: Is the tafsir of sheikh [Muhammad Mutawalli] al-Sha’raawi [a.k.a. al-Khawaatir] from among the tafsirs of Ahl al-Sunnah w’al-Jamaa’ah?

الشيخ عبد المحسن العباد حفظه الله:الشعراوي؟

Sheikh: al-Sha’raawi?

السائل:نعم

Questioner: yes.

الشيخ:الشعراوي الموجود المتأخر؟

Sheikh: al-Sha’raawi, the current one in these later times?

السائل:نعم

Questioner: yes.

الشيخ: لا ليس من أهل السنة و الجماعة هو من أهل التأويل

Sheikh: No, he is not from Ahl al-Sunnah w’al-Jamaa’ah. He is from the people of al-Ta’weel.
[Cassette tape #319 from the Sheikh‘s explanation of Sunan al-Tirmidhi]

Back to About the Books of Tafsir

For more information and details on some of the well-known books of tafsir, see: Mufassir Profiles.

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