The Deeds of the Munafiq: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Baqarah:

أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن تَكُونَ لَهُ جَنَّةٌ مِّن نَّخِيلٍ وَأَعْنَابٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ لَهُ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَأَصَابَهُ الْكِبَرُ وَلَهُ ذُرِّيَّةٌ ضُعَفَاءُ فَأَصَابَهَا إِعْصَارٌ فِيهِ نَارٌ فَاحْتَرَقَتْ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ

Would one of you like to have a garden of palm trees and grapevines underneath which rivers flow in which he has every kind of fruit? But then he is afflicted with old age and has weak offspring, and it is hit by a whirlwind containing fire and is burned. Thus does Allah make the signs clear to you so that you might give thought. [2:266]

In his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Baghawi wrote:

ـ ( له فيها من كل الثمرات وأصابه الكبر وله ذرية ضعفاء ) أولاد صغار ضعاف عجزة ( فأصابها إعصار ) الريح العاصف التي ترتفع إلى السماء كأنها عمود وجمعه أعاصير ( فيه نار فاحترقت ) ـ

لَهُ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَأَصَابَهُ الْكِبَرُ وَلَهُ ذُرِّيَّةٌ ضُعَفَاءُ

… in which he has from every fruit? But he is afflicted with old age and has weak offspring …

young children who are weak and unable to take care of things

فَأَصَابَهَا إِعْصَارٌ

… and it is hit by a whirlwind …

a strong wind which rises up to the sky as if it were a pillar

فِيهِ نَارٌ فَاحْتَرَقَتْ

…. containing fire and is burned.

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“Whoever Earns Evil and His Sin Has Encompassed Him”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah al-Baqarah:

بَلَىٰ مَن كَسَبَ سَيِّئَةً وَأَحَاطَتْ بِهِ خَطِيئَتُهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ

But whoever earns evil and his sin has encompassed him – those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally. [2:81]

Commenting on this, Imam al-Baghawi wrote:

ـ ( من كسب سيئة ) يعني الشرك ( وأحاطت به خطيئته ) والإحاطة الإحداق بالشيء من جميع نواحيه ، قال ابن عباس وعطاء والضحاك وأبو العالية والربيع وجماعة : هي الشرك يموت عليه ، وقيل : السيئة الكبيرة . والإحاطة به أن يصر عليها فيموت غير تائب ، قاله عكرمة والربيع بن خثيم . ـ

مَن كَسَبَ سَيِّئَةً

whoever earns evil …

i.e. commits al-shirk

وَأَحَاطَتْ بِهِ خَطِيئَتُهُ

… and his sin has encompassed him …

the word “encompassed” means: surrounding something from every side.

Ibn ‘Abbaas, ‘Ataa’, al-Dhahhaak, Abu’l-‘Aliyah, al-Rabee’ and a number of others all said: this is referring to al-shirk that one dies while still committing.

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The Story and Context of the So-Called Satanic Verses: Tafsir al-Baghawi

A source of great interest and speculation among non-Muslims and Muslims alike is Qissah al-Gharaaneeq or “Event of the Cranes”. In English, this is popularly referred to as the so-called “satanic verses” though that title is a recently coined term with no equivalent in Islamic sources. In the books of Qur’anic commentary, this incident and its validity or lack or validity is typically discussed in part of surah al-Hajj. We have translated Imam al-Husayn ibn Mas’ood al-Baghawi‘s discussion of this from his famous book of tafsir below:

ـ ( قل يا أيها الناس إنما أنا لكم نذير مبين ) . ( فالذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات لهم مغفرة ورزق كريم ) الرزق الكريم الذي لا ينقطع أبدا . وقيل : هو الجنة . ( والذين سعوا في آياتنا ) أي عملوا في إبطال آياتنا ، ( معاجزين ) قرأ ابن كثير وأبو عمرو : ” معجزين ” بالتشديد هاهنا وفي سورة سبإ أي : مثبطين الناس عن الإيمان ، وقرأ الآخرون : ” معاجزين ” بالألف أي : معاندين مشاقين . وقال قتادة : معناه ظانين ومقدرين أنهم يعجزوننا بزعمهم أن لا بعث ولا نشور ولا جنة ولا نار ، ومعنى يعجزوننا ، أي : يفوتوننا فلا نقدر عليهم . وهذا كقوله تعالى : ( أم حسب الذين يعملون السيئات أن يسبقونا ) ( العنكبوت : 4 ) ، ( أولئك أصحاب الجحيم ) وقيل : ” معاجزين ” مغالبين ، يريد كل واحد أن يظهر عجز صاحبه . ـ

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّمَا أَنَا لَكُمْ نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ * فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَرِزْقٌ كَرِيمٌ

Say: O mankind, I am only a clear warner to you. * So those who believe and do good deeds will have forgiveness and a generous provision. [22:49-50]

This “generous provision” is one that will never be cut off, and some said that it is referring to Jannah.

وَالَّذِينَ سَعَوْا فِي آيَاتِنَا

But those who strive against our ayaat

i.e. those who work to discredit our ayaat

مُعَاجِزِينَ

mu’aajizeen …

Ibn Kathir and Abu ‘Amr recited this as

مُعَجِّزَيْنِ

mu’ajjizeen

with a shaddah both where the word occurs here and where it occurs in surah Saba [see 34:5 and 34:38], the meaning being: seeking to deter people from believing.

The other reciters recited it as:

مُعَاجِزِينَ

mu’aajizeen …

with an alif, the meaning being: out of obstinance and at great effort.

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An Example of Multiple Linguistic Explanations of an Ayah: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah Aal ‘Imraan:

وَقَالَت طَّائِفَةٌ مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ آمِنُوا بِالَّذِي أُنزِلَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَجْهَ النَّهَارِ وَاكْفُرُوا آخِرَهُلَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ * وَلَا تُؤْمِنُوا إِلَّا لِمَن تَبِعَ دِينَكُمْ  قُلْ إِنَّ الْهُدَىٰ هُدَى اللَّهِ أَن يُؤْتَىٰ أَحَدٌ مِّثْلَ مَا أُوتِيتُمْ أَوْ يُحَاجُّوكُمْ عِندَ رَبِّكُمْ ۗ قُلْ إِنَّ الْفَضْلَ بِيَدِ اللَّهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

which could be translated in a number of different ways, including

And a group of the People of the Book said: Believe in what was revealed to those who believe in the morning and disbelieve in the evening so that they might recant.

And do not believe anyone besides those who follow your religion. Say: The true guidance is Allah’s guidance. If someone is given the likes of what you have been given or argues with you about your Lord, say: Bounty is in Allah’s Hand; He gives it to whom He wishes. And Allah is Rich, All-Knowing. [3:72-73]

Commenting on the second of those two ayahs in his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Husayn ibn Mas’ood al-Baghawi discussed a number of different transmitted explanations of it, with the differences primarily arising from different understandings of who was speaking or being addressed in each part of the ayah:

قوله تعالى ( ولا تؤمنوا إلا لمن تبع دينكم ) هذا متصل بالأول من قول اليهود بعضهم لبعض ( ولا تؤمنوا ) أي لا تصدقوا ( إلا لمن تبع دينكم ) وافق ملتكم واللام في ” لمن ” صلة ، أي لا تصدقوا إلا من تبع دينكم اليهودية كقوله تعالى : ” قل عسى أن يكون ردف لكم ” ( 72 – النحل ) أي : ردفكم ( قل إن الهدى هدى الله ) هذا خبر من الله عز وجل أن البيان بيانه ثم اختلفوا : فمنهم من قال : كلام معترض بين كلامين ، وما بعده متصل بالكلام الأول ، إخبار عن قول اليهود بعضهم لبعض ، ومعناه : ولا تؤمنوا إلا لمن تبع دينكم ، ولا تؤمنوا أن يؤتى أحد مثل ما أوتيتم من العلم والكتاب والحكمة والآيات من المن والسلوى وفلق البحر وغيرها من الكرامات ولا تؤمنوا أن يحاجوكم عند ربكم لأنكم أصح دينا منهم وهذا معنى قول مجاهد . ـ

Regarding Allah’s statement

وَلَا تُؤْمِنُوا إِلَّا لِمَن تَبِعَ دِينَكُمْ

And do not believe anyone besides those who follow your religion …

this is a continuation of the previous ayah which mentioned what the Jews said to one another.

وَلَا تُؤْمِنُوا

And do not believe …

i.e. do not affirm what they say

إِلَّا لِمَن تَبِعَ دِينَكُمْ

… anyone besides those who follow your religion …

i.e. whose religion is the same as yours. In other words: Only trust and affirm those who follow your Jewish religion.

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“Do Not Ruin Your Charity”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Baqarah:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُبْطِلُوا صَدَقَاتِكُم بِالْمَنِّ وَالْأَذَىٰ كَالَّذِي يُنفِقُ مَالَهُ رِئَاءَ النَّاسِ وَلَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ۖ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ صَفْوَانٍ عَلَيْهِ تُرَابٌ فَأَصَابَهُ وَابِلٌ فَتَرَكَهُ صَلْدًا ۖ لَّا يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ مِّمَّا كَسَبُوا ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ

O you who have believed, do not ruin your charity with reminders or injury as does one who spends his wealth to be seen by the people and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. His example is like that of a smooth stone upon which is dust and is hit by a downpour that leaves it bare. They are unable to keep anything of what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people. [2:264]

After explaining some of the terms used in this ayah, Imam al-Baghawi then summarized the overall meaning by writing:

فهذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى لنفقة المنافق والمرائي والمؤمن الذي يمن بصدقته ويؤذي ويري الناس في الظاهر أن لهؤلاء أعمالا كما يرى التراب على هذا الصفوان فإذا كان يوم القيامة بطل كله واضمحل لأنه لم يكن لله عز وجل كما أذهب الوابل ما على الصفوان من التراب فتركه صلدا ( لا يقدرون على شيء مما كسبوا ) أي على ثواب شيء مما كسبوا وعملوا في الدنيا ( والله لا يهدي القوم الكافرين ) . ـ

Allah struck this parable for the charity of the munafiq, one who gives only to be seen and praised by others, and a believer who follows up his charity with reminders and harm.

On the face of things, it appears that all three of these people have good deeds to their credit, just as they see the dirt covering this large smooth stone. However, on the Day of Resurrection, all of those deeds will be fruitless and done away with. That is because those deeds were not done for the sake of Allah.

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Spending Like the Rain: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Baqarah:

وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمُ ابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللَّهِ وَتَثْبِيتًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ كَمَثَلِ جَنَّةٍ بِرَبْوَةٍ أَصَابَهَا وَابِلٌ فَآتَتْ أُكُلَهَا ضِعْفَيْنِ فَإِن لَّمْ يُصِبْهَا وَابِلٌ فَطَلٌّ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ

The comparison of those who spend their wealth seeking Allah’s pleasure and out of their own inner certainty is like a garden on a high ground. A heavy rain hits it, so it doubles its yield. And even if a heavy rain does not hit it, a drizzle. And Allah is all-seeing of what you do. [2:265]

Commenting on this, Imam al-Husayn al-Baghawi wrote:

وهذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى لعمل المؤمن المخلص فيقول : كما أن هذه الجنة تريع في كل حال ولا تخلف سواء قل المطر أو كثر كذلك يضعف الله صدقة المؤمن المخلص الذي لا يمن ولا يؤذي سواء قلت نفقته أو كثرت وذلك أن الطل إذا كان يدوم يعمل عمل الوابل الشديد

Allah struck this parable about the deeds of a sincere believer.

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“As If He Had Fallen From the Sky”: Tafsir al-Baghawi, Ibn Kathir & al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the follow parable in surah al-Hajj:

وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَكَأَنَّمَا خَرَّ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَتَخْطَفُهُ الطَّيْرُ أَوْ تَهْوِي بِهِ الرِّيحُ فِي مَكَانٍ سَحِيقٍ

And whoever associates partners with Allah, it is as if he had fallen from the sky and was snatched by the birds or the wind carried him to a remote place. [22:31]

In his explanation of this parable, al-haafidh ibn Kathir began by writing:

ضرب للمشرك مثلا في ضلاله وهلاكه وبعده عن الهدى

Allah has struck a parable of the mushrik‘s misguidance, peril, and distance from guidance.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 5/320]

After explaining some of the terms used in this parable, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Baghawi then explained the overall meaning by writing:

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“If You Forgive Them, Then You are Certainly Almighty, All-Wise”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

In surah al-Ma’idah, ‘Eesaa addresses Allah by saying:

إِن تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ ۖ وَإِن تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

If You punish them, then they are Your servants. And if You forgive them, then You are certainly Almighty, All-Wise. [5:118]

Imam al-Baghawi brought the following beneficial discussion of this ayah in his tafsir where he wrote:

قوله تعالى : ( إن تعذبهم فإنهم عبادك وإن تغفر لهم فإنك أنت العزيز الحكيم ) فإن قيل كيف طلب المغفرة لهم وهم كفار ، وكيف قال : وإن تغفر لهم فإنك أنت العزيز الحكيم ، وهذا لا يليق بسؤال المغفرة ، قيل : أما الأول فمعناه إن تعذبهم بإقامتهم على كفرهم وإن تغفر لهم بعد الإيمان وهذا يستقيم على قول السدي : إن هذا السؤال قبل يوم القيامة لأن الإيمان لا ينفع في القيامة . ـ

One might ask:

1) How could he ask forgiveness for them when they are disbelievers?

2) Why did he say, “And if You forgive them, then You are certainly Almighty, All-Wise” when this does not fit with a request for forgiveness?

One could respond:

As for the first question, one could say that he meant “if You punish them” for persisting in their disbelief and “if You forgive them” after they have believed. This explanation is based on al-Suddi’s statement that, “This question occurs before the Day of Resurrection, since coming to believe on that day will not be of any benefit.”

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The Merits of the Mu’adhin: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah Fussilat:

وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ قَوْلًا مِّمَّن دَعَا إِلَى اللَّـهِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ

And who is better in speech than those who call to Allah, do righteous deeds and say, “I am one of the Muslims”? [41:33]

Imam al-Baghawi mentioned the following beautiful points in his explanation of this ayah:

قوله عز وجل : ( ومن أحسن قولا ممن دعا إلى الله ) إلى طاعته ، ( وعمل صالحا وقال إنني من المسلمين ) قال ابن سيرين [ والسدي وابن عباس : هو رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – دعا إلى شهادة أن لا إله إلا الله . وقال الحسن : هو المؤمن الذي أجاب الله في دعوته ، ودعا الناس إلى ما أجاب إليه ، وعمل صالحا في إجابته ، وقال : إنني من المسلمين . وقالت عائشة : أرى هذه الآية نزلت في المؤذنين .وقال عكرمة : هو المؤذن . أبو أمامة الباهلي : ” وعمل صالحا ” صلى ركعتين بين الأذان والإقامة . وقال قيس بن أبي حازم : هو الصلاة بين الأذان والإقامة . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ قَوْلًا مِّمَّن دَعَا إِلَى اللَّـهِ 

And who is better in speech than those who call to Allah …

to obeying Him

وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ

… and do righteous deeds and say, “I am one of the Muslims”?

Ibn Sireen, al-Suddi and ibn ‘Abbaas all said: This is referring to Allah’s Messenger; he called the people to bear witness of laa ilaaha illaAllaah – there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.

al-Hasan said: This is referring to the believer who has responded to Allah calling him, calls the people to also respond to that call, and does righteous deeds in his responding to Allah’s call, and he says, “I am one of the Muslims.”

‘A’ishah said: I believe this ayah is referring to the mu’adhins [those who make the adhan, or call to prayer].

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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