A Point on Promises in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shawkaani, al-Qurtubi & al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah al-Baqarah:

الشَّيْطَانُ يَعِدُكُمُ الْفَقْرَ وَيَأْمُرُكُم بِالْفَحْشَاءِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ يَعِدُكُم مَّغْفِرَةً مِّنْهُ وَفَضْلًا ۗ وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

The shaytaan promises you poverty and commands you to commit immoralities, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is rich and all-knowing. [2:268]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, Imam al-Shawkaani wrote:

الوعد في كلام العرب إذا أطلق فهو في الخير ، وإذا قيد فقد يقيد تارة بالخير وتارة بالشر . ومنه قوله تعالى : النار وعدها الله الذين كفروا [ الحج : 72 ] ومنه أيضا ما في هذه الآية من تقييد وعد الشيطان بالفقروتقييد وعد الله سبحانه بالمغفرة ، والفضل . ـ

In the Arabic language, al-Wa’d – a promise – on its own is only used to refer to something good, but if what has been promised is specified in some way then the specification could sometimes be something good and other times be something bad.

An example of the this is Allah’s statement:

النَّارُ وَعَدَهَا اللَّـهُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا

It is the fire which Allah has promised for those who disbelieve [22:72]

This is also the case in this ayah [i.e. 2:268] as it has specified that the shaytaan’s promise is for poverty and it has specified that Allah’s promise is for forgiveness and bounty. Continue reading

“Shall We Turn Back on Our Heels After Allah has Guided us?”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah strikes a parable in part of surah al-An’aam by saying:

قُلْ أَنَدْعُو مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُنَا وَلَا يَضُرُّنَا وَنُرَدُّ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ كَالَّذِي اسْتَهْوَتْهُ الشَّيَاطِينُ فِي الْأَرْضِ حَيْرَانَ لَهُ أَصْحَابٌ يَدْعُونَهُ إِلَى الْهُدَى ائْتِنَا ۗ قُلْ إِنَّ هُدَى اللَّهِ هُوَ الْهُدَىٰ ۖ وَأُمِرْنَا لِنُسْلِمَ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Say: Shall we call on others besides Allah who cannot help us or harm us and shall we turn back on our heels after Allah has guided us like one whom the shayaateen have made go astray in the earth in confusion while his friends call him to guidance – “come to us!”. Say: Surely, Allah’s guidance is the guidance, and we have been commanded to submit to our Lord of all creation. [6:71]

Commenting on this in his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Baghawi wrote:

ـ ( قل أندعو من دون الله ما لا ينفعنا ) إن عبدناه ، ( ولا يضرنا ) إن تركناه ، يعني : الأصنام ليس إليها نفع ولا ضر ، ( ونرد على أعقابنا ) إلى الشرك [ مرتدين ] ( بعد إذ هدانا الله كالذي استهوته الشياطين في الأرض ) ، أي : يكون مثلنا كمثل الذي استهوته الشياطين ، أي : أضلته ، ( حيران ) قال ابن عباس : كالذي استهوته الغيلان في المهامة فأضلوه فهو حائر بائر ، والحيران : المتردد في الأمر ، لا يهتدي إلى مخرج منه . ـ

قُلْ أَنَدْعُو مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُنَا

Say: Shall we call on others besides Allah who cannot help us …

if we were to worship them

وَلَا يَضُرُّنَا

… or harm us …

if we were to ignore them. This is in reference to idols, which neither bring about benefit nor harm.

وَنُرَدُّ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِنَا

… and shall we turn back on our heels …

back to shirk, apostatizing from Islam

بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ كَالَّذِي اسْتَهْوَتْهُ الشَّيَاطِينُ فِي الْأَرْضِ

… after Allah has guided us like one whom the shayaateen have made go astray in the earth …

i.e. if we were to do so, then we would be those one whom the shayaateen seduced – that is, led astray Continue reading

“Those Who Have Divided Their Religion and Become Sects”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah al-An’aam:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا لَّسْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ ۚ إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُمْ إِلَى اللَّـهِ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ

Those who have divided their religion and become sects – you have nothing to do with them. Their matter is up to Allah, then He will inform them of what they used to do. [6:159]

Imam al-Baghawi wrote the following commentary on this ayah in his book of tafsir:

قوله – عز وجل – : ( إن الذين فرقوا دينهم ) قرأ حمزة والكسائي : ” فارقوا ” ، بالألف هاهنا وفي سورة الروم ، أي : خرجوا من دينهم وتركوه وقرأ الآخرون : ” فرقوا ” مشددا ، أي : جعلوا دين الله وهو واحد – دين إبراهيم عليه السلام الحنيفية – أديانا مختلفة ، فتهود قوم وتنصر قوم ، يدل عليه قوله – عز وجل – : ( وكانوا شيعا ) أي : صاروا فرقا مختلفة وهم اليهود والنصارى في قول مجاهد وقتادة والسدي . ـ

Regarding Allah’s statement:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ

Those who have divided their religion …

Hamzah and al-Kisaa’i recited it as:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَارَقُوا دِينَهُمْ

Those who have departed from their religion …

with an alif, both here an in surah al-Room [c.f. 30:32], meaning: exiting from their religion and leaving it. But the rest of the reciters recited it as: Continue reading

The Meaning of “Beneath it Rivers Flow”: Tafsir ibn Kathir & al-Baghawi

One of the frequently repeated descriptions of Jannah in the Qur’an is Allah’s statement:

جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ

Which is often translated as “Gardens beneath which rivers will flow” or something similar.

In this first instance of this phrase in the mushaf, al-Haafidh ibn Kathir explains it by writing:

قال تعالى : ( وبشر الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات أن لهم جنات تجري من تحتها الأنهار ) فوصفها بأنها تجري من تحتها الأنهار ، كما وصف النار بأن وقودها الناس والحجارة ، ومعنى ( تجري من تحتها الأنهار ) أي : من تحت أشجارها وغرفها ، وقد جاء في الحديث : أن أنهارها تجري من غير أخدود ، وجاء في الكوثر أن حافتيه قباب اللؤلؤ المجوف ، ولا منافاة بينهما ، وطينها المسك الأذفر ، وحصباؤها اللؤلؤ والجوهر ، نسأل الله من فضله [ وكرمه ] إنه هو البر الرحيم . ـ

Allah says:

وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ

And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens beneath which rivers flow. [2:25]

So He has described Jannah as having rivers flowing underneath it, mirroring how He described the Hellfire as having men and stones for its fuel. And the meaning of

تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ

… beneath which rivers flow. Continue reading

The Death of the Scholars: Tafsir al-Baghawi & al-Qurtubi

Allah says in surah al-Ra’d:

أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّا نَأْتِي الْأَرْضَ نَنقُصُهَا مِنْ أَطْرَافِهَا ۚ وَاللَّـهُ يَحْكُمُ لَا مُعَقِّبَ لِحُكْمِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ

Have they not seen that We set upon the land, reducing it from its borders? And Allah decides; there is no adjuster of His decision. And He is swift in account. [13:41]

Commenting on this, Imam al-Baghawi wrote:

قوله تعالى ( أولم يروا ) يعني : أهل مكة ، الذين يسألون محمدا صلى الله عليه وسلم الآيات ( أنا نأتي الأرض ننقصها من أطرافها ) أكثر المفسرين على أن المراد منه فتح ديار الشرك ، فإن ما زاد في ديار الإسلام فقد نقص من ديار الشرك ، يقول : ( أولم يروا أنا نأتي الأرض ننقصها من أطرافها ) فنفتحها لمحمد أرضا بعد أرض حوالي أرضهم ، أفلا يعتبرون ؟ هذا قول ابن عباس ، وقتادة ، وجماعة . ـ

Allah’s statement:

أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا

Have they not seen …

i.e. Haven’t the people of Mecca, those who ask Muhammad for miracles, seen

أَنَّا نَأْتِي الْأَرْضَ نَنقُصُهَا مِنْ أَطْرَافِهَا

… that We set upon the land, reducing it from its borders?

Most of the mufassiroon held that the intended meaning here is Islamic conquests of the non-Muslim lands, for the increases of the Muslim lands took away from the non-Muslim lands. Continue reading

The Threat for Explaining the Qur’an Without Knowledge: Tafsir al-Baghawi

In the introduction to his famous book of tafsir, Imam ِAbu Muhammad al-Husayn al-Baghawi included the following chapter:

فصل في وعيد من قال في القرآن برأيه من غير علم
Chapter Regarding the Threat for Whoever Speaks About the Qur’an According to His Own Opinions Without Knowledge

أنا أبو بكر محمد بن عبد الصمد الترابي أنا أبو محمد عبد الله بن أحمد بن حمويه السرخسي أنا أبو إسحاق إبراهيم بن خزيم الشاشي ثنا أبو محمد عبد بن حميد ثنا عبد الرزاق أنا الثوري عن عبد الأعلى عن سعيد بن جبير عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : من قال في القرآن برأيه فليتبوأ مقعده من النار ” . ـ

… on the authority of ibn ‘Abbaas, Allah’s Messenger said, “Whoever speaks about the Qur’an according to his own opinions, let him take his seat in the hell-fire.” Continue reading

Those Who Do Evil Out of Ignorance and Then Repent Soon Afterwards: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah al-Nisaa’:

إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللَّـهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ يَتُوبُ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا * وَلَيْسَتِ التَّوْبَةُ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ إِنِّي تُبْتُ الْآنَ وَلَا الَّذِينَ يَمُوتُونَ وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ أَعْتَدْنَا لَهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا

The only repentance in Allah’s sight is for those who do evil out of ignorance and then repent soon afterwards; it is they to whom Allah will turn in forgiveness. And Allah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise. * And there is no repentance for those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says, “Now I repent;” nor for those who die while they are disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful torment. [4:17-18]

In his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Baghawi commented on this by writing:

قوله تعالى : ( إنما التوبة على الله ) قال الحسن : يعني التوبة التي يقبلها ، فيكون على بمعنى عند ، وقيل : من الله ، ( للذين يعملون السوء بجهالة ) قال قتادة : أجمع أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم على أن كل ما عصي به الله فهو جهالة عمدا كان أو لم يكن ، وكل من عصى الله فهو جاهل . وقال مجاهد : المراد من الآية : العمد ، قال الكلبي : لم يجهل أنه ذنب لكنه جهل عقوبته ، وقيل : معنى الجهالة : اختيارهم اللذة الفانية على اللذة الباقية . ـ

Allah’s statement:

إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللَّـهِ

The only repentance in Allah’s sight …

al-Hasan said, “i.e. the repentance that He accepts. So the word ‘alaa here is used with the meaning of ‘inda.” And others have said that the word ‘alaa is used with the meaning of min.

لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ

… is for those who do evil out of ignorance …

Qatadah said, “The Companions of Allah’s Messenger were all in agreement that anything done in disobedience to Allah is ignorance regardless of whether it is done intentionally or not, and that everyone who disobeys Allah is ignorant.” Continue reading

Iblees’ Promise to Misguide Mankind: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah recounts the story of Adam and Iblees in surah al-A’raaf, including in the following ayaat. This passage begins with Allah addressing Iblees by saying:

قَالَ فَاهْبِطْ مِنْهَا فَمَا يَكُونُ لَكَ أَن تَتَكَبَّرَ فِيهَا فَاخْرُجْ إِنَّكَ مِنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ * قَالَ أَنظِرْنِي إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ * قَالَ إِنَّكَ مِنَ الْمُنظَرِينَ * قَالَ فَبِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لَأَقْعُدَنَّ لَهُمْ صِرَاطَكَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ * ثُمَّ لَآتِيَنَّهُم مِّن بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ وَعَنْ أَيْمَانِهِمْ وَعَن شَمَائِلِهِمْ ۖ وَلَا تَجِدُ أَكْثَرَهُمْ شَاكِرِينَ

Allah said, “Descend from Paradise, for it is not for you to be arrogant therein. So get out; indeed, you are of the debased. * Iblees said, “Reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected.” * Allah said, “Indeed, you are of those who are reprieved.” * Iblees said, “Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. * Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful. [7:13-17]

In part of his commentary on these ayaat, the great mufassir Imam al-Baghawi wrote:

قوله تعالى : ( فما يكون لك أن تتكبر ) بمخالفة الأمر ، ( فيها ) أي : في الجنة ، فلا ينبغي أن يسكن في الجنة ولا السماء متكبر مخالف لأمر الله تعالى : ( فاخرج إنك من الصاغرين ) من الأذلاء ، والصغار : الذل والمهانة . ـ

Allah said:

فَمَا يَكُونُ لَكَ أَن تَتَكَبَّرَ

… for it is not for you to be arrogant …

in opposition to My command

فِيهَا

… therein.

meaning in Jannah, for it is not appropriate for a prideful opposer of Allah’s command to reside in Jannah or in the heavens Continue reading

The Forerunners in Faith: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Towards the end of surah al-Tawbah, Allah says:

وَالسَّابِقُونَ الْأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالْأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللَّـهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

And the first forerunners among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment. [9:100]

In his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Baghawi wrote the following commentary on this ayah:

واختلفوا في السابقين الأولين ، قال سعيد بن المسيب ، وقتادة ، وابن سيرين وجماعة : هم الذين صلوا إلى القبلتين . وقال عطاء بن أبي رباح : هم أهل بدر . وقال الشعبي : هم الذين شهدوا بيعة الرضوان ، وكانت بيعة الرضوان بالحديبية . ـ

The salaf differed as to who was intended by the “first forerunners”.

Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib, Qatadah, ibn Sireen and a group of others said: They were those who prayed toward both qiblahs.

‘Ataa’ ibn Abi Rabaah said: They were the people who fought at Badr.

al-Sha’bi said: They were those who were present for the pledge of al-Ridwan, which took place at al-Hudaybiyah. Continue reading

Asking for ‘Aafiyah: Tafsir al-Baghawi, al-Qurtubi, & al-Aloosi

In surah Yusuf, Allah informs us that when Yusuf was being tested by the wife of his master and the women of Egypt, he supplicated to his Lord by saying:

قَالَ رَ‌بِّ السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا يَدْعُونَنِي إِلَيْهِ ۖ وَإِلَّا تَصْرِ‌فْ عَنِّي كَيْدَهُنَّ أَصْبُ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَكُن مِّنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ

He said, “My Lord, prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. And if You do not avert from me their plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant.” [12:33]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Baghawi mentioned:

وقيل : لو لم يقل : السجن أحب إلي لم يبتل بالسجن ، والأولى بالمرء أن يسأل الله العافية .ـ

Some say: if only he had not said

السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ

prison is more to my liking

then he would not have been tested with prison. And the most appropriate thing for a person to ask Allah for is ‘aafiyah – the absence of any ailment or troubles.

[Tafsir al-Baghawi 4/240]

Imam Abu Muhammad al-Qurtubi also commented on this phrase by saying:

ـ ” أحب إلي ” أي أسهل علي وأهون من الوقوع في المعصية ; لا أن دخول السجن مما يحب على التحقيق . وحكي أن يوسف – عليه السلام – لما قال : السجن أحب إلي أوحى الله إليه ” يا يوسف ! أنت حبست نفسك حيث قلت السجن أحب إلي ، ولو قلت العافية أحب إلي لعوفيت ” . ـ

Allah’s statement

 أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ

… more to my liking …

i.e. that it easier and less weighty on me than to fall into sins, not that going to prison is something that he would want otherwise. Continue reading