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

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Those who neglect the prayers and pursue desires: Tafsir al-Shawkaani

In surah Maryam, Allah mentions a series of Prophets, and then describes some of their descendants by saying:

فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ أَضَاعُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَاتَّبَعُوا الشَّهَوَاتِ ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَلْقَوْنَ غَيًّا * إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَأُولَـٰئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا

But there came after them successors who neglected prayer and pursued desires; so they are going to meet evil * Except those who repent, believe and do righteousness; for those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged at all. [19:59-60]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani commented on this in his book of tafsir by writing:

ولما مدح هؤلاء الأنبياء بهذه الأوصاف ترغيبا لغيرهم في الاقتداء بهم وسلوك طريقتهم ذكر أضدادهم تنفيرا للناس عن طريقتهم فقال : فخلف من بعدهم خلف أي : عقب سوء . قال أهل اللغة : يقال لعقب الخير خلف بفتح اللام ، ولعقب الشر خلف بسكون اللام ، وقد قدمنا الكلام على هذا في آخر الأعراف أضاعوا الصلاة قال الأكثر : معنى ذلك أنهم أخروها عن وقتها ، وقيل : أضاعوا الوقت وقيل : كفروا بها وجحدوا وجوبها ، وقيل : لم يأتوا بها على الوجه المشروع . ـ

So after Allah had praised these prophets by mentioning these qualities as a means to encourage others to emulate them and follow in their footsteps, He then mentioned their opposites as a means to discourage people from their ways. So He said:

فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ

But there came after them successors

meaning: evil ones came after them. And experts in the language say: If you want to say that good followed something, then you say khalafun with a fathah on the letter laam, while if you want to say evil followed something, then you say khalfun with a sukoon on the letter laam. And we have already spoken about this in the end of surah al-Aa’raaf.  Continue reading

“O our Lord, do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people”: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah recounts part of the story of Moosaa in surah Yunus in which Moosaa addresses his people by saying:

وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ يَا قَوْمِ إِن كُنتُمْ آمَنتُم بِاللَّـهِ فَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلُوا إِن كُنتُم مُّسْلِمِينَ * فَقَالُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِّلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ * وَنَجِّنَا بِرَحْمَتِكَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ

And Moosaa said, “O my people, if you have believed in Allah, then place your trust in Him, if you are Muslims.” * So they said, “In Allah do we place our trust. O our Lord, do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people * And save us by Your mercy from the disbelieving people.” [10:84-86]

There have been a number of different interpretations of the supplication, “do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people.” Ibn al-Jawzi summarized the different opinions transmitted from the salaf regarding the meaning of this supplication as follows:

وفي قوله : ” لا تجعلنا فتنة ” ثلاثة أقوال : ـ

There are three different opinions regarding Allah’s statement:

لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً

do not make us a trial

أحدها : لا تهلكنا بعذاب على أيدي قوم فرعون ، ولا بعذاب من قبلك ، فيقول قوم فرعون : لو كانوا على حق ما عذبوا ولا سلطنا عليهم . ـ

○ First: Do not destroy us with afflictions at the hands of the people of Fir’awn, nor by a punishment coming from You. For the people of Fir’awn said, “If they were upon the truth, then they would not have been subjected to suffering nor would we have been given power over them.”

والثاني : لا تسلطهم علينا فيفتنونا والقولان مرويان عن مجاهد . ـ

○ Second: Do not place them in power over us, in which case they would subject us to a trial. And both the first and second opinions have been relayed from Mujaahid. 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

Four categories of parentage and four categories of offspring: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah mentions in surah al-Shooraa:

لِّلَّـهِ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ ۚ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ يَهَبُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ إِنَاثًا وَيَهَبُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ الذُّكُورَ‌ * أَوْ يُزَوِّجُهُمْ ذُكْرَ‌انًا وَإِنَاثًا ۖ وَيَجْعَلُ مَن يَشَاءُ عَقِيمًا ۚ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ قَدِيرٌ

To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth; He creates what he wills. He gives to whom He wills female [children], and He gives to whom He wills males.  Or He pairs them with males and females, and He renders whom He wills barren. Indeed, He is Knowing and Powerful.  [42:49-50]‌

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, Imam Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following:

 يخبر تعالى أنه خالق السموات والأرض ومالكهما والمتصرف فيهما ، وأنه ما شاء كان ، وما لم يشأ لم يكن ، وأنه يعطي من يشاء ، ويمنع من يشاء ، ولا مانع لما أعطى ، ولا معطي لما منع ، وأنه يخلق ما يشاء ، و ( يهب لمن يشاء إناثا ) أي : يرزقه البنات فقط – قال البغوي : ومنهم لوط ، عليه السلام ( ويهب لمن يشاء الذكور ) أي : يرزقه البنين فقط . قال البغوي : كإبراهيم الخليل ، عليه السلام – لم يولد له أنثى ، . ( أو يزوجهم ذكرانا وإناثا ) أي : ويعطي من يشاء من الناس الزوجين الذكر والأنثى ، أي : من هذا وهذا . قال البغوي : كمحمد ، عليه الصلاة والسلام ( ويجعل من يشاء عقيما ) أي : لا يولد له . قال البغوي : كيحيى وعيسى ، عليهما السلام  ـ

 Allah informs us that He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and the owner of them both, and the controller of what is in them. And He informs us that whatever He wills is, and whatever He does not will is not, and that He grants what He wills and prevents what He wills, and there is none who can prevent what He grants nor is there anyone who can grant what He prevents. And He informs us that He creates what He wills, and: 

يَهَبُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ إِنَاثًا

He gives to whom He wills female [children]

– meaning, He provides one with only daughters . Al-Baghawi said, “Included in this category is Loot (‘alaihi al-salaam).”

وَيَهَبُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ الذُّكُورَ‌

and He gives to whom He wills males

– meaning, He provides one with only sons. Al-Baghawi said, “Such as Ibrahim al-Khaleel (‘alaihi al-salaam) – no females were born to him. Continue reading

“Remind them of the Days of Allah”: Tafsir al-Shawkaani

Allah says in surah Ibrahim:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْ‌سَلْنَا مُوسَىٰ بِآيَاتِنَا أَنْ أَخْرِ‌جْ قَوْمَكَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ‌ وَذَكِّرْ‌هُم بِأَيَّامِ اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ‌ شَكُورٍ

And We certainly sent Moosaa with Our signs, [saying], “Bring out your people from darknesses into the light and remind them of the days of Allah.” Indeed in that are signs for everyone patient and grateful. [14:5]
Commenting on this, Imam al-Shawkaani wrote:
وذكرهم بأيام الله أي بوقائعه . ـ
‘And remind them of the days of Allah’ – meaning His events.
 –
قال ابن السكيت : العرب تقول الأيام في معنى الوقائع ، يقال فلان عالم بأيام العرب ، أي : بوقائعها . ـ
ibn al-Sakeet said:The Arabs says ‘days’ with the meaning of ‘events/happenings’.  One might say, ‘So-and-so is very knowledgeable of the days of the Arabs’ – meaning: of their happenings.
 –
وقال الزجاج ، أي : ذكرهم بنعم الله عليهم وبنقم أيام الله التي انتقم فيها من قوم نوح وعاد وثمود . ـ
And al-Zujaaj said: it means ‘remind them of the blessings of Allah upon them and of the punishment of the days of Allah which He inflicted upon the people of Nuh, ‘Aad and Thamood. Continue reading

Referring issues back to their experts – Imam al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-Nisaa’:

وَإِذَا جَاءَهُمْ أَمْرٌ‌ مِّنَ الْأَمْنِ أَوِ الْخَوْفِ أَذَاعُوا بِهِ ۖ وَلَوْ رَ‌دُّوهُ إِلَى الرَّ‌سُولِ وَإِلَىٰ أُولِي الْأَمْرِ‌ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَنبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ ۗ وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّـهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَ‌حْمَتُهُ لَاتَّبَعْتُمُ الشَّيْطَانَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

And when there comes to them information about [public] security or fear, they spread it around. But if they had referred it back to the Messenger or to those of authority among them, in order that the ones who [can] draw correct conclusions from it would have known about it. And were it not for the favor of Allah upon you and His mercy, you would have followed Shaytaan, except for a few. [4:83]

Commenting on this in his famous book of tafsir, Imam ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

هذا تأديب من الله لعباده عن فعلهم هذا غير اللائق. وأنه ينبغي لهم إذا جاءهم أمر من الأمور المهمة والمصالح العامة ما يتعلق بالأمن وسرور المؤمنين، أو بالخوف الذي فيه مصيبة عليهم أن يتثبتوا ولا يستعجلوا بإشاعة ذلك الخبر، بل يردونه إلى الرسول وإلى أولي الأمر منهم، أهلِ الرأي: والعلم والنصح والعقل والرزانة، الذين يعرفون الأمور ويعرفون المصالح وضدها. ـ

This is a chastisement from Allah to His slaves for their committing an act which was inappropriate.[1] And when an issue comes to them from among the issues of importance and public well-being related to (public) safety and the secrets of the believers or concerning fear of a crisis for them, in order that they may be fortified and not take part in spreading that news it is befitting for them that they should refer it back to the Messenger and to those in authority among them – the experts: those of ‘ilm, sincerity, intelligence and poise, those who know the issues and know the pros and cons. Continue reading

A Runaway Slave

Allah mentions some aspects of the story of His slave and prophet Yunus in surah al-Saffaat when He says:

وَإِنَّ يُونُسَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْ‌سَلِينَ * إِذْ أَبَقَ إِلَى الْفُلْكِ الْمَشْحُونِ

And indeed, Yunus was among the messengers.[Mention] when he ran away [ar. abaqa] to the laden ship. [37:139-140]

Imam al-Shawkaani, in his book of tafsir mentions the following point on benefit concerning the choice of words employed here:

 قال المفسرون: وكان يونس قد وعد قومه العذاب، فلما تأخر عنهم العذاب خرج عنهم، وقصد البحر، وركب السفينة، فكان بذهابه إلى البحر كالفار من مولاه، فوصف بالإباق، وهو معنى قوله: {إِذْ أَبَقَ إِلَى الفلك المشحون} وأصل الإباق: الهرب من السيد، لكن لما كان هربه من قومه بغير إذن ربه وصف به.

The mufassiroon say: Yunus has promised his people of a punishment, then when the punishment was delayed, he left them, and he arrived at the ocean and boarded a ship. So by going to the ocean he was like a fugitive fleeing from his master, so he was described as a runaway slave [ar. al-ibaaq, taken from the same root as the verb abaqa under discussion here]. And that is the meaning of His statement, “when he ran away [abaqa] to the laden ship“. And the origin of al-ibaaq is to escape or flee from one’s master, however here he was fleeing from his people without the permission of his Lord, so he was described with this.

وقال المبرد: تأويل أبق بباعد، أي: ذهب إليه، ومن ذلك قولهم: عبد آبق.

And al-Mubarrid said, abaqa (to flee) is interpreted as creating a separation between two things – meaning to go away. And thus the phrase, ‘a runaway slave’ (‘abdun aabiqoon)

[Fath al-Qadeer pg. 1250]

Imam al-Qurtubi also mentions this point briefly in his tafsir when he wrote:

قوله تعالى: { إذ أبق} قال المبرد : أصل أبق تباعد؛ ومنه غلام آبق. وقال غيره : إنما قيل ليونس أبق؛ لأنه خرج بغير أمر الله عز وجل مستترا من الناس.

Allah’s statement, “when he ran away“. al-Mubarrid said, the root meaning of ‘abaqa‘ (to run away) is to separate or to go away, and from this is the phrase runaway servant boy (ghulaamun aabiqoon). And others said: the word abaqa is only said of Yunus (i.e. this word does not occur anywhere else in the Qur’an), because he took leave (of his people) without the command of Allah – the Mighty and Majestic -, while he was hiding from the people.

[Jaami’ li-Ahkaam al-Qur’an 15/110]

See also: “Remind them of the Days of Allah”: Tafsir al-Shawkaani

See also: “I entrust my affair to Allah”: Tafsir al-Shawkaani

“I entrust my affair to Allah”: Tafsir al-Shawkaani

In surah Ghaafir, Allah recounts the story of a believing man from the family of Fir’awn who was calling his people to the worship of Allah alone, beginning with the 28th ayah and continuing until the 45th. In the conclusion of this man’s da’wah to his people, he uses a word which only occurs in this place in the Qur’an when he says:

فَسَتَذْكُرُ‌ونَ مَا أَقُولُ لَكُمْ ۚ وَأُفَوِّضُ أَمْرِ‌ي إِلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ بَصِيرٌ‌ بِالْعِبَادِ

“And you will remember what I am telling you, and I entrust my affair to Allah. Verily, Allah is the All-Seer of (His) slaves.” [40:44]

Commenting on this ayah in his work of tafsir, imam al-Shawkaani writes:

وَأُفَوّضُ أَمْرِى إِلَى الله أي: أتوكل عليه، وأسلم أمري إليه. قيل: إنه قال هذا لما أرادوا الإيقاع به. قال مقاتل: هرب هذا المؤمن إلى الجبل، فلم يقدروا عليه. وقيل: القائل هو: موسى، والأوّل أولى

And I entrust my affair to Allah” – meaning: I place my tawakkal (reliance, full trust) on Him, and I surrender my affair to Him. It is said that he said this when they wanted to punish him. Muqaatil said, “this believing man fled to the mountain, so they did not have any power over him.” And it is said that the speaker was Moosaa, but the first opinion (that it was the believing man from the family of Fir’awn) is preferred.

[Fath al-Qadeer 4/704]

See also: A cure for 99 problems

See also: “Remind them of the Days of Allah”: Tafsir al-Shawkaani

See also: A Runaway Slave

See also: The Tawakkal and Understaning of Ya’qub (‘alaihis salaam)

See also: “And whoever places their reliance upon Allah, then He is sufficient for him”:Ibn Hajr

See also: The Qur’anic Ayaat on Love – Part 2: Those whom Allah Loves

“We guided them, but they preferred blindness over guidance”

In surah Fussilaat, Allah briefly mentions some details of the story of the people of Thamud when He says:

وَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ فَاسْتَحَبُّوا الْعَمَىٰ عَلَى الْهُدَىٰ فَأَخَذَتْهُمْ صَاعِقَةُ الْعَذَابِ الْهُونِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ * وَنَجَّيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ

And as for Thamud, We guided them, but they preferred blindness over guidance, so the thunderbolt of humiliating punishment seized them for what they used to earn. And We saved those who believed and used to fear Allah. [41:17-18]

Commenting of this, Imam al-Sa’di writes:

وأما ثمود وهم القبيلة المعروفة الذين سكنوا الحجر وحواليه، الذين أرسل اللّه إليهم صالحًا عليه السلام، يدعوهم إلى توحيد ربهم، وينهاهم عن الشرك وآتاهم اللّه الناقة، آية عظيمة، لها شرب ولهم شرب يوم معلوم، يشربون لبنها يومًا ويشربون من الماء يومًا، وليسوا ينفقون عليها، بل تأكل من أرض اللّه،

And as for the Thamud, they were a well-known tribe which resided in al-ijr and thereabouts, to whom Allah sent aalih (‘alaihis salaam). He called them to taweed of their Lord and forbade them from shirk. And Allah gave them the camel as an amazing ayah (sign, miracle). For it was drinking and for them was drinking on known days (i.e. alternating days of access to the water sources for the camel and the people of Thamud). They drank from its milk one day and they drank from the water another day, and they did not spend on it (i.e. its provision). Rather it ate from the land of Allah. Continue reading