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

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Zakah al-Fitr in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Baghawi

In the midst of surah al-‘Aalaa, Allah informs us:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ * وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّىٰ

He has certainly succeeded – he who tazakkaa * and mentions the name of his Lord and prays [87:14-15]

The word tazakkaa refers to purification, either purification of one’s self (such as in the related term tazkiyyah al-nafs) or purification of one’s wealth (such as in the related term zakah). In his commentary on these ayaat, the famous mufassir Abu Muhammad al-Husayn al-Baghawi wrote:

ـ ( قد أفلح من تزكى ) تطهر من الشرك وقال : لا إله إلا الله . هذا قول عطاء وعكرمة ، ورواية الوالبي وسعيد بن جبير عن ابن عباس وقال الحسن : من كان عمله زاكيا . ـ

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ

He has certainly succeeded – he who tazakkaa

who purifies himself from al-shirk and says laa ilaaha illallaah – there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah. This was the explanation of ‘Ataa’ and ‘Ikrimah, as well as being relayed from ibn ‘Abbaas by way of al-Waalibi and Sa’eed ibn Jubayr.

al-Hasan al-Basri explained it by saying, “Whoever’s actions are pure.”

وقال آخرون : هو صدقة الفطر ، روي عن أبي سعيد الخدري في قوله : ” قد أفلح من تزكى ” قال : أعطى صدقة الفطر . ـ

Meanwhile others say that this is referring to the zakah al-fitr. It is relayed from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri regarding this ayah that he explained it by saying, “[He has certainly succeeded – he who] gives the zakah al-fitr.” Continue reading

Better than One Thousand Months: Tafsir al-Baghawi

In surah al-Qadr, Allah describes Laylah al-Qadr by saying:

لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ

Laylah al-Qadr is better than one thousand months [97:3]

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

قوله – عز وجل – : ( ليلة القدر خير من ألف شهر ) قال عطاء عن ابن عباس : ذكر لرسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – رجل من بني إسرائيل حمل السلاح على عاتقه في سبيل الله ألف شهر ، فعجب رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – لذلك وتمنى ذلك لأمته ، فقال : يا رب جعلت أمتي أقصر الأمم أعمارا وأقلها أعمالا ؟ فأعطاه الله ليلة القدر ، فقال : ( ليلة القدر خير من ألف شهر ) التي حمل فيها الإسرائيلي السلاح في سبيل الله ، لك ولأمتك إلى يوم القيامة . [ ص: 491 ] . ـ

Relaying from ibn ‘Abbaas, ‘Ataa’ said: The Messenger of Allah was told about a man from Banu Israa’eel who carried a sword on his shoulder in the path of Allah for one thousand months. So Allah’s Messenger was amazed by this and wished this for his ummah, saying, “O Lord, You made my ummah the shortest of nations in terms of lifespan and the least of them in terms of deeds?” So then Allah gave him Laylah al-Qadr and said,

لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ

Laylah al-Qadr is better than one thousand months

in which that man from Banu Israa’eel carried a sword in the path of Allah. It is for you and your ummah until the Day of Resurrection.” Continue reading

The Stories of the Messengers Fortify the Heart: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah mentions the following ayah at the end of surah Hud:

وَكُلًّا نَّقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنبَاءِ الرُّ‌سُلِ مَا نُثَبِّتُ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ ۚ وَجَاءَكَ فِي هَـٰذِهِ الْحَقُّ وَمَوْعِظَةٌ وَذِكْرَ‌ىٰ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

And each story We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We fortify your heart. And there has come to you, in this, the truth and an instruction and a reminder for the believers. [11:120]

Imam al-Baghawi wrote in his book of tafsir:

  وكلا نقص عليك من أنباء الرسل ما نثبت به فؤادك   معناه : وكل الذي تحتاج إليه من أنباء الرسل ، أي : من أخبارهم وأخبار أممهم نقصها عليك لنثبت به فؤادك ، لنزيدك يقينا ونقوي قلبك ، وذلك أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا سمعها كان في ذلك تقوية لقلبه على الصبر على أذى قومه

وَكُلًّا نَّقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنبَاءِ الرُّ‌سُلِ مَا نُثَبِّتُ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ

And each story We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We fortify your heart

meaning: Everything which you need is in the stories of the prophets. i.e., in the information about them and about their nations. Continue reading

Those who say “our Lord is Allah” and then have al-Istiqaamah: Tafsir al-Baghawi

In part of surah Fussilat, Allah praises:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا بِالْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي كُنْتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ

Those who say “our Lord is Allah” and then have al-Istiqaamah, then the angels will descend on them: “Do not fear and do not grieve! And have glad tidings of al-Jannah which you have been promised!” [41:30]

In his tafsir of this ayah, Imam Husayn al-Baghawi mentioned the following narrations:

 قوله عز وجل : ( إن الذين قالوا ربنا الله ثم استقاموا ) سئل أبو بكر الصديق – رضي الله تعالى عنه – عن الاستقامة فقال : أن لا تشرك بالله شيئا . وقال عمر بن الخطاب – رضي الله عنه – : ” الاستقامة ” أن تستقيم على الأمر والنهي ، ولا تروغ روغان الثعلب . وقال عثمان بن عفان – رضي الله عنه – : أخلصوا العمل لله . وقال علي – رضي الله عنه – : أدوا الفرائض . وقال ابن عباس : استقاموا على أداء الفرائض . ـ وقال الحسن : استقاموا على أمر الله تعالى فعملوا بطاعته ، واجتنبوا معصيته . ـ وقال مجاهد وعكرمة : استقاموا على شهادة أن لا إله إلا الله حتى لحقوا بالله . ـ وقال مقاتل : استقاموا على المعرفة ولم يرتدوا . وقال قتادة : كان الحسن إذا تلا هذه الآية قال : اللهم أنت ربنا فارزقنا الاستقامة . ـ

Allah’s statement:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّـهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا

Those who say “our Lord is Allah” and then have al-Istiqaamah

Abu Bakr al-Siddiq was asked about al-Istiqaamah and he replied by saying, “It is that you do not associate any partners with Allah at all.”

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “al-Istiqaamah is that you steadfastly observe the commands and prohibitions, and that you do not swerve off into falsehood and deceit.”

‘Uthman ibn ‘Affaan said, “They make their deeds sincerely for the sake of Allah.”

‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib said, “They perform the obligatory duties.” Continue reading

Fear the Fire Whose Fuel is Men and Stones: Tafsir al-Baghawi & Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In the beginning of surah al-Baqarah, Allah challenges the disbelievers that if they doubt the authenticity of the Qur’an to produce a single surah like it. He then follows this up by saying:

فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا وَلَن تَفْعَلُوا فَاتَّقُوا النَّارَ الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ ۖ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْكَافِرِينَ

But if you do not – and you will never be able to – then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers. [2:24]

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

ـ ( التي وقودها الناس والحجارة ) قال ابن عباس وأكثر المفسرين يعني حجارة الكبريت لأنها أكثر التهابا وقيل جميع الحجارة وهو دليل على عظمة تلك النار وقيل أراد بها الأصنام لأن أكثر أصنامهم كانت منحوتة من الحجارة كما قال ” إنكم وما تعبدون من دون الله حصب جهنم ” ( 98 – الأنبياء ) . ـ

 الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ

… whose fuel is men and stones

ibn ‘Abbaas and the majority of the mufassiroon have said that ‘stones‘ here means sulfur because sulfur is very prone to igniting and burning.

It is also said that it is referring to all kinds of stones and that this demonstrates the severity and intensity of this fire.

And it is also said that what is intended by ‘stones‘ here are idols because most of their idols used to be statues made of stone. This is like what Allah said: Continue reading

The Names and Revelation of Surah al-Fatihah: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Before proceeding to explain surah al-Fatihah verse-by-verse, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Husayn al-Baghawi included a short discussion of its well-known names and when it was revealed:

 ولها ثلاثة أسماء معروفة فاتحة الكتاب وأم القرآن والسبع المثاني . ـ

Surah al-Fatihah has three well-known names, which are:

سميت فاتحة الكتاب ؛ لأن الله بها افتتح القرآن . وسميت أم القرآن وأم الكتاب لأنها أصل القرآن منها بدئ القرآن وأم الشيء أصله ، ويقال لمكة : أم القرى؛ لأنها أصل البلاد دحيت الأرض من تحتها وقيل لأنها مقدمة وإمام لما يتلوها من السور يبدأ بكتابتها في المصحف وبقراءتها في الصلاة والسبع المثاني لأنها سبع آيات باتفاق العلماء . وسميت مثاني لأنها تثنى في الصلاة فتقرأ في كل ركعة وقال مجاهد سميت مثاني لأن الله تعالى استثناها لهذه الأمة فذخرها لهم . ـ

It is called Fatihah al-Kitaab because Allah opens the Qur’an with it.

And it is called Umm al-Qur’an or Umm al-Kitaab because it is the foundation of the Qur’an with which the Qur’an begins, and the umm of something is its foundation. Mecca is called Umm al-Quraa because it was the origin of the cities which spread out across the surrounding land. And it is also said that surah al-Fatihah is called Umm al-Qur’an because it is an introduction and a leader for the surahs which follow it. Its text begins the mushaf and its recitation begins the prayer. Continue reading

Meanings of the words Yahood, Nasaara and Saabi’oon: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Imam al-Baghawi offers some linguistic definitions and benefits in his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah [2:62] by writing:

 ـ ( إن الذين آمنوا والذين هادوا ) يعني اليهود سموا به لقولهم إنا هدنا إليك أي ملنا إليك وقيل لأنهم هادوا أي تابوا عن عبادة العجل وقيل لأنهم مالوا عن دين الإسلام وعن دين موسى عليه السلام وقال أبو عمرو بن العلاء : لأنهم يتهودون أي يتحركون عند قراءة التوراة ويقولون : إن السماوات والأرض تحركت حين آتى الله موسى التوراة . ـ

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا

Verily! Those who believe and those who haadoo … [2:62]

meaning, the Yahood (Jews). They were called by that due to their statement

إِنَّا هُدْنَا إِلَيْكَ

indeed, we have hudnaa to You. [7:156]

meaning, we have turned to You.

And some say that they are called that because they haadoo [reconciled] – i.e. repented – from their calf-worship.

Some others say they are called that because they turned away from the religion of Islam and from the religion of Moosaa (peace be upon him).

Abu ‘Amr ibn al-‘Alaa’ said they are called that because they yatahawwadoon – meaning they rock and sway when they are reciting the Tawrah and because they say that the heavens and the earth shook when Allah gave Moosaa the Tawrah. Continue reading

Why Allah began listing the prophets with Nuh: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah said in surah al-Nisaa’:

إِنَّا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ كَمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ نُوحٍ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ مِن بَعْدِهِ ۚ وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ إِبْرَ‌اهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالْأَسْبَاطِ وَعِيسَىٰ وَأَيُّوبَ وَيُونُسَ وَهَارُ‌ونَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ ۚ وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُورً‌ا

Indeed, We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], as We revealed to Nuh and the prophets after him. And we revealed to Ibrahim, Ismaa’eel, Ishaaq, Ya’qub, al-Asbaat, ‘Eesaa, Ayyub, Yunus, Haaroon, and Sulaiman, and to Dawud We gave the Zabur. [4:163]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, Imam al-Baghawi made the following point:

وأنزل : ( إنا أوحينا إليك كما أوحينا إلى نوح والنبيين من بعده ) فذكر عدة من الرسل الذين أوحى إليهم ، وبدأ بذكر نوح عليه السلام لأنه كان أبا البشر مثل آدم عليه السلام ، قال الله تعالى : ” وجعلنا ذريته هم الباقين ” ( الصافات – 77 ) ولأنه أول نبي من أنبياء الشريعة ، وأول نذير على الشرك ، وأول من عذبت أمته لردهم دعوته ، وأهلك أهل الأرض بدعائه وكان أطول الأنبياء [ ص: 311 ] عمرا وجعلت معجزته في نفسه ، لأنه عمر ألف سنة فلم تسقط له سن ولم تشب له شعرة ولم تنتقص له قوة ، ولم يصبر نبي على أذى قومه ما صبر هو على طول عمره . ـ

Allah revealed:

إِنَّا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ كَمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ نُوحٍ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ مِن بَعْدِهِ

Indeed, We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], as We revealed to Nuh and the prophets after him… [4:163]

So He mentioned a number of the messenger to whom He gave divine revelation and He began by mentioning Nuh (‘alaih al-salaam) because he was a father to mankind, similar to Adam (‘alaih al-salaam). Allah said [regarding Nuh]: Continue reading

The Meaning of the Title “al-Maseeh”

In his book of tafsir, Imam al-Shawkaani brought the following discussion about the meaning of the term al-Maseeh (the Messiah). Imam al-Shawkaani generally borrowed heavily – even word for word – from Imam al-Qurtubi’s linguistic discussions, often summarizing and simplifying them into a list format. Some supplementary notes from al-Qurtubi will be mentioned here in brackets [] for the sake of clarity:

[والمسيح لقب لعيسى ومعناه الصديق ; قاله إبراهيم النخعي . ـ]

[al-Maseeh is a title for ‘Eesaa (Jesus) and its meaning is al-Siddeeq (“the truthful one”) – this is what Ibrahim al-Nakha’ee said.]

والمسيح اختلف فيه مماذا أخذ ؟ فقيل : من المسح ; لأنه مسح الأرض ; أي : ذهب فيها فلم يستكن بكن ، وقيل : إنه كان لا يمسح ذا عاهة إلا برئ ، فسمي مسيحا ، فهو على هذين فعيل بمعنى فاعل ، ـ

al-Maseeh – there is differing as to where it was derived. So it is said: (it was derived) from al-mash (wiping), for he swept over the earth, meaning he traversed over it and did not take residence in any dwelling place.

And it is said: It was the case that he would not touch someone with an infirmity except that they would be cured, so he was called Maseeh.

So according to these two meaning, it takes the form of an adjective with the meaning of an active participle. Continue reading