Fear a trial which will not only afflict the wrongdoers: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah says in surah al-Anfaal:

وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَّا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنكُمْ خَاصَّةً ۖ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ

And exercise fear and caution of a trial which will not only afflict those of you who have done wrong, and know that Allah is severe in penalty. (8:25)

In his book of tafsir, Imam ِAbu ‘Abdullah Muhammad al-Qurtubi mentioned the following points:

قال ابن عباس : أمر الله المؤمنين ألا يقروا المنكر بين أظهرهم فيعمهم العذاب . وكذلك تأول فيها الزبير بن العوام فإنه قال يوم الجمل ، وكان سنة ست وثلاثين : ما علمت أنا أردنا بهذه الآية إلا اليوم ، وما كنت أظنها إلا فيمن خوطب ذلك الوقت . وكذلك تأول الحسن البصري والسدي وغيرهما . قال السدي : نزلت الآية في أهل بدر خاصة ; فأصابتهم الفتنة يوم الجمل فاقتتلوا . وقال ابن عباس رضي الله عنه : نزلت هذه الآية في أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : وقال : أمر الله المؤمنين ألا يقروا المنكر فيما بينهم فيعمهم الله بالعذاب . وعن حذيفة بن اليمان قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : يكون بين ناس من أصحابي فتنة يغفرها الله لهم بصحبتهم إياي يستن بهم فيها ناس بعدهم يدخلهم الله بها النار . ـ

Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “Allah commanded the believers not to accept for wrongdoing to become widespread among them, for then He would encompass them all with punishment.”

Al-Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwaam interpreted this ayah in a similar manner, for on the day of the Battle of al-Jamal – which was in the 36th year after the Hijrah – he said, “I never knew that I was the subject of this ayah until today. I thought it was only referring to those who were being addressed at the time of its initial revelation [i.e. the Battle of Badr].” al-Hasan al-Basri, al-Suddi, and others also interpreted it this way. al-Suddi said, “This ayah was revealed specifically regarding the people of the Battle of Badr, then they were afflicted with that fitnah on the Day of al-Jamal and they fell into fighting one another.”

Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “This ayah was revealed regarding the Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ)”, and he also said, “Allah commanded the believers not to allow wrongdoing to become accepted among them, for then Allah would subsume them all in punishment.” Continue reading

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Did Fir’awn claim divinity, or worship other gods?: al-Shawkaani, al-Qurtubi, & al-Baghawi

In surah al-A’raaf, Allah says:

وَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ أَتَذَرُ مُوسَىٰ وَقَوْمَهُ لِيُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَيَذَرَكَ وَآلِهَتَكَ ۚ قَالَ سَنُقَتِّلُ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَنَسْتَحْيِي نِسَاءَهُمْ وَإِنَّا فَوْقَهُمْ قَاهِرُونَ

The chiefs of Fir’awn’s people said: “Will you leave Moosaa and his people to spread mischief in the land, and to abandon you and your gods?” He said: “We will kill their sons, and let live their women, and we have indeed irresistible power over them.” [7:127]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani briefly mentioned a question that arises from a careful reading of this ayah in his tafsir where he wrote:

واختلف المفسرون في معنى وآلهتك لكون فرعون كان يدعي الربوبية كما في قوله: ما علمت لكم من إله غيري، وقوله: أنا ربكم فقيل: معنى وآلهتك: وطاعتك، وقيل: معناه: وعبادتك، ويؤيده قراءة علي وابن عباس، والضحاك “وإلهتك” وفي حرف أبي “أتذر موسى وقومه ليفسدوا في الأرض وقد تركوك أن يعبدوك” وقيل: إنه كان يعبد بقرة، وقيل: كان يعبد النجوم، وقيل: كان له أصنام يعبدها قومه تقربا إليه فنسبت إليه ولهذا قال: أنا ربكم الأعلى. قاله الزجاج، وقيل: كان يعبد الشمس . ـ

The scholars of tafsir have differed regarding the meaning of “your gods” due to the fact that Fir’awn used to claim lordship for himself, such as in his statement:

مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيْرِي

I know of no other god for you besides me [28:38]

as well as his saying:

أَنَا رَبُّكُمُ

I am your lord… [79:24]

Some said the meaning of “aalihatak” [lit. “your gods”] is: obedience to you. And others said its meaning is: worship of you. This understanding is supported by a variant recitation (qiraa’ah) transmitted from ‘Ali, ibn ‘Abbaas and al-Dhahhaak:

وَإِلَهَتَكَ

wa ilaahatak

… and your divinity …

as well as what comes in the variant dialect (harf) recitation of Ubay:

 أَتَذَرُ مُوسَى وَقَوْمَهُ لِيُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَقَدْ تَرَكُوكَ أَنْ يَعْبُدُوكَ

… Will you leave Moosaa and his people to spread mischief in the land while they have abandoned you and worshiping you? … Continue reading

The Most Hope-Inspiring Ayah in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In surah al-Noor, in the midst of the ayaat revealed regarding the slander of the Mother of the Believers, ‘Aa’ishah bint Abi Bakr, Allah said:

وَلَا يَأْتَلِ أُولُو الْفَضْلِ مِنكُمْ وَالسَّعَةِ أَن يُؤْتُوا أُولِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَالْمُهَاجِرِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَلْيَعْفُوا وَلْيَصْفَحُوا ۗ أَلَا تُحِبُّونَ أَن يَغْفِرَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

And let not those of virtue and wealth among you and swear not to give [aid] to their relatives and the needy and the emigrants for the cause of Allah. Let them pardon and overlook. Wouldn’t you like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. [24:22]

In part of his commentary of the ayaat regarding the slander, Imam al-Qurtubi mentioned the following beneficial discussion related to this ayah:

 السادسة والعشرون : قال بعض العلماء : هذه أرجى آية في كتاب الله تعالى ، من حيث لطف الله بالقذفة العصاة بهذا اللفظ . وقيل . أرجى آية في كتاب الله – عز وجل – قوله تعالى : وبشر المؤمنين بأن لهم من الله فضلا كبيرا . وقد قال تعالى في آية أخرى : والذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات في روضات الجنات لهم ما يشاءون عند ربهم ذلك هو الفضل الكبير ؛ فشرح الفضل الكبير في هذه الآية ، وبشر به المؤمنين في تلك . ومن آيات الرجاء قوله تعالى : قل يا عبادي الذين أسرفوا على أنفسهم . وقوله تعالى : الله لطيف بعباده . وقال بعضهم : أرجى آية في كتاب الله – عز وجل – : ولسوف يعطيك ربك فترضى ؛ وذلك أن رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – لا يرضى ببقاء أحد من أمته في النار . ـ

Point #16: Some of the scholars have said: This is the most hope-inspiring ayah in the entire Qur’an, from the angle of Allah’s kindness towards disobedient slanderous ones found in this phrase.

Others have said: The most hope-inspiring in the Qur’an is His statement:

وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ بِأَنَّ لَهُم مِّنَ اللَّـهِ فَضْلًا كَبِيرًا

And give good tidings to the believers that they will have a great bounty from Allah. [33:47]

And in another ayah, Allah said: Continue reading

“And do not be like those who say, ‘We have heard,’ while they do not hear”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In surah al-Anfal, Allah commands the believers by saying:

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُونَ

And do not be like those who say, “We have heard,” while they do not hear. [8:21]

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

قوله تعالى : ولا تكونوا كالذين قالوا سمعنا أي كاليهود أو المنافقين أو المشركين . وهو من سماع الأذن . وهم لا يسمعون أي لا يتدبرون ما سمعوا ، ولا يفكرون فيه ، فهم بمنزلة من لم يسمع وأعرض عن الحق . نهى المؤمنين أن يكونوا مثلهم . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا

And do not be like those who say, “We have heard…” [8:21]

such as the Jews, the Munaafiqoon [hypocrites], and the Mushrikoon [polytheists]. And this is referring to the literal hearing of one’s ears. They are those who do not hear – meaning: they do not consider or reflect on what they have heard. So these ones are just like those who did not hear (at all) and who turn away from the truth. Allah prohibited the believer from being like them.

Continue reading

Those who come to Allah with a Pure Heart: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In surah al-Shu’araa’, the prophet Ibrahim made a du’aa in which he described the Day of Judgement by saying:

يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ * إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّـهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

The Day wherein neither wealth nor sons will avail, * Except him who brings to Allah a qalb saleem [pure heart] (26:88-89)

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, Imam al-Qurtubi wrote the following:

قوله تعالى : يوم لا ينفع مال ولا بنون ( يوم ) بدل من ( يوم ) الأول . أي يوم لا ينفع مال ولا بنون أحدا . والمراد بقوله : ” ولا بنون ” الأعوان ; لأن الابن إذا لم ينفع فغيره متى ينفع ؟ وقيل : ذكر البنين لأنه جرى ذكر والد إبراهيم ، أي لم ينفعه إبراهيم . ـ

Allah’s statement:

يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ

The Day wherein neither wealth nor sons will avail

– meaning, a day on which neither wealth nor sons will benefit anyone. And the intended meaning of his statement, “nor sons” is helpers, because if sons do not help you, then who else will? And some say, “he mentioned sons here because it comes along with mentioning Ibrahim’s father” – i.e. Ibrahim will not benefit him.

 إلا من أتى الله بقلب سليم هو استثناء من الكافرين ; أي لا ينفعه ماله ولا بنوه . وقيل : هو استثناء من غير الجنس ، أي لكن من أتى الله بقلب سليم ينفعه لسلامة قلبه . ـ

إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّـهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

Except him who brings to Allah a qalb saleem [pure heart]

This is an exclusion of the disbelievers, i.e. their wealth and sons will not benefit them. But others say it is an exclusion without any exception, i.e. (on that day neither wealth nor sons will benefit) however whoever comes to Allah with a qalb saleem [pure heart] will benefit from the purity of his heart.

وخص القلب بالذكر ; لأنه الذي إذا سلم سلمت الجوارح ، وإذا فسد فسدت سائر الجوارح . وقد تقدم في أول ( البقرة ) . ـ

And the heart is mentioned specifically here because it is that which, if it is pure then one’s limbs are pure, but if it is corrupted then the rest of one’s limbs are corrupted. And this has already been mentioned in the beginning of surah al-Baqarah. 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

Prophets with multiple names and the meaning of “Israa’eel”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Imam al-Qurtubi wrote the following under his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah (2:40):

وإسرائيل هو يعقوب بن إسحاق بن إبراهيم عليهم السلام قال أبو الفرج الجوزي ، وليس في الأنبياء من له اسمان غيره إلا نبينا محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم فإن له أسماء كثيرة ذكره في كتاب ” فهوم الآثار ” له . ـ

“Israa’eel” is Ya’qub ibn Ishaaq ibn Ibrahim (‘alaihim al-salaam), as Abu’l-Faraj al-Jawzi said. [And he also said:] “And other than him, there are no prophets which have two names other than our prophet, Muhammad (ﷺ)”, for indeed he had many names which he mentioned in the book “Fuhoom al-Aathaar“.

قلت : وقد قيل في المسيح إنه اسم علم لعيسى عليه السلام غير مشتق وقد سماه الله روحا وكلمة ، وكانوا يسمونه أبيل الأبيلين ذكره الجوهري في الصحاح . ـ

I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say: It has been said that al-Maseeh (the Messiah) is a proper name for ‘Eesaa (Jesus) (‘alaihi al-salaam) which is not derived. And Allah has named him as “Rooh” and “Kalimah“. And al-Jawhari mentioned in “al-Sihhaah” that Abeel (Abel) was named “Abeeleen”.

وذكر البيهقي في ” دلائل النبوة ” عن الخليل بن أحمد : خمسة من الأنبياء ذوو اسمين محمد وأحمد نبينا صلى الله عليه وسلم وعيسى والمسيح وإسرائيل ويعقوب ويونس وذو النون وإلياس وذو الكفل صلى الله عليهم وسلم . ـ

And al-Bayhaqi mention in “Dalaa’il al-Nubuwwah” on the authority of al-Khaleel ibn Ahmad, “Out of the Prophets, there are five who possess two names: Muhammad and Ahmad – our prophet (ﷺ); ‘Eesaa and al-Maseeh; Israa’eel and Ya’qub; Yunus and Dhu’l-Noon; and Ilyaas and Dhu’l-Kifl.” Continue reading

“When he reached the setting place of the sun…” : Tafsir ibn Kathir, al-Shinqitee & al-Qurtubi

Allah mentions the story of Dhu’l-Qarnain in surah al-Kahf and brings the following ayah therein:

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغْرِ‌بَ الشَّمْسِ وَجَدَهَا تَغْرُ‌بُ فِي عَيْنٍ حَمِئَةٍ

Until, when he reached the setting place of the sun, he found it setting in a murky spring. [18:86]

al-Haafidh Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel Ibn Kathir (d. 774 AH) commented on this ayah by writing:

وقوله : ( وجدها تغرب في عين حمئة ) أي : رأى الشمس في منظره تغرب في البحر المحيط ، وهذا شأن كل من انتهى إلى ساحله ، يراها كأنها تغرب فيه ، وهي لا تفارق الفلك الرابع الذي هي مثبتة فيه لا تفارقه

His statement “and he found it setting in a murky spring” meaning, he saw the sun from his viewpoint setting in the expansive ocean. This is something which everyone who goes to the coast can see; it looks as if the sun is setting into it [the ocean] but it never leaves its path in which it is fixed.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 5/192]

Imam Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee (d. 1393 AH) quoted this statement from ibn Kathir in his own tafsir on this ayah and then went on to explain: Continue reading

Ibn Taymiyah on the Books of Tafsir

In Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, Sheikh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyah was asked:

أي التفاسير أقرب إلى الكتاب والسنة ؟ الزمخشري ؟ أم القرطبي ؟ أم البغوي ؟ أو غير هؤلاء ؟

Which tafsir is nearest to the Qur’an and Sunnah: al-Zamakhshari, al-Qurtubi, al-Baghawi, or another one?

He responded by writing:

 وأما ” التفاسير ” التي في أيدي الناس فأصحها ” تفسير محمد بن جرير الطبري ” فإنه يذكر مقالات السلف بالأسانيد الثابتة وليس فيه بدعة ولا ينقل عن المتهمين كمقاتل بن بكير والكلبي والتفاسير غير المأثورة بالأسانيد كثيرة كتفسير عبد الرزاق وعبد بن حميد ووكيع وابن أبي قتيبة وأحمد بن حنبل وإسحاق بن راهويه . ـ

As for the the books of tafsir which are available to the people, then the most authentic of them is the tafsir of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari [Tafsir al-Tabari] (d. 310 H), for it mentions the statements of the salaf with the reliable chains of narrations, and there is neither bid’ah in it nor does he transmit from people who have been accussed of fabrication such as Muqaatil ibn Bakeer or al-Kalbi. And there are many books of tafsir which do not bring the narrations with chains such as the tafsir of ‘Abd al-Razzaaq [ibn Hammaam] (d. 211 H), ‘Abd ibn Humayd (d. 249 H), Wakee’ [ibn al-Jarraah] (d. 197 H), ibn Abi Qutaybah (d. 276 H), Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 H), and Ishaaq ibn Raahawayh (d. 238 H).

وأما ” التفاسير الثلاثة ” المسئول عنها فأسلمها من البدعة والأحاديث الضعيفة ” البغوي ” لكنه مختصر من ” تفسير الثعلبي ” وحذف منه الأحاديث الموضوعة والبدع التي فيه وحذف أشياء غير ذلك . ـ

As for the three tafseers which were inquired about, then the safest of them from bid’ah and weak ahaadeeth is al-Baghawi (d. 516 H), though it is abridged from Tafsir al-Tha’labi, and he [Imam al-Baghawi] removed the fabricated ahaadeeth and bid’ah therein from it, and omitted other things as well. Continue reading

“And for that He created them…”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah says in His Book in surah Hud:

وَمَا كَانَ رَ‌بُّكَ لِيُهْلِكَ الْقُرَ‌ىٰ بِظُلْمٍ وَأَهْلُهَا مُصْلِحُونَ * وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَ‌بُّكَ لَجَعَلَ النَّاسَ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً ۖ وَلَا يَزَالُونَ مُخْتَلِفِينَ * إِلَّا مَن رَّ‌حِمَ رَ‌بُّكَ ۚ وَلِذَٰلِكَ خَلَقَهُمْ ۗ وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَةُ رَ‌بِّكَ لَأَمْلَأَنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنَ الْجِنَّةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ

And your Lord would not have destroyed the cities unjustly while their people were reformers. And if your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one community; but they will not cease to differ. Except whom your Lord has given mercy, and for that He created them. But the word of your Lord is to be fulfilled that, “I will surely fill Hell with jinn and men all together.” [11:117-119]

Imam al-Qurtubi, in his book of tafsir, wrote about these ayaat:

قوله تعالى‏{‏وما كان ربك ليهلك القرى‏}‏ أي أهل القرى‏.‏ ‏}‏بظلم‏}‏ أي بشرك وكفر‏.‏ ‏}‏وأهلها مصلحون‏}‏ أي فيما بينهم في تعاطي الحقوق؛ أي لم يكن ليهلكهم بالكفر وحده حتى ينضاف إليه الفساد، كما أهلك قوم شعيب ببخس المكيال والميزان، وقوم لوط باللواط؛ ودل هذا على أن المعاصي أقرب إلى عذاب الاستئصال في الدنيا من الشرك، وإن كان عذاب الشرك في الآخرة أصعب‏.‏

And Allah’s statement, “And your Lord would not have destroyed the cities” – meaning the people of the cities – “unjustly” – meaning for their shirk and kufr – “while their people were reformers” – meaning that amongst them were those gave each other their rights. Meaning that He would did not destroy them for kufr alone until they add corruption to that, such as the people of Shu’aib when they undervalued the weight and measure [in their financial transactions], or the people of Lut for their sodomy. And this shows that disobedience is more conducive to an eradicating punishment in the dunya than al-shirk, even though the punishment of al-shirk is more severe in the aakhirah Continue reading