There has Certainly Been an Excellent Example for You in Ibrahim

One of the valuable books of Badr al-Deen ibn Jamaa’ah (d. 733AH) was Kashf al-Ma’aani fee al-Mutashaabih min al-Mathaani, which focused on providing explanations for the slight differences in otherwise similar ayaat. What follows are his notes related to surah al-Mumtahinah [60]:

مسألة: قوله تعالى: (قَدْ كَانَتْ لَكُمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ فِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ) ثم قال تعالى: (لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِيهِمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ) كرر ذلك مرتين، فما فائدة تكراره؟ . ـ

Question: Allah says

قَدْ كَانَتْ لَكُمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ فِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ

There has certainly been an excellent example for you in Ibrahim and those with him … [60:4]

and then He says:

لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِيهِمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ

There has certainly been an excellent excellent for you in them … [60:6]

This has been repeated twice, so what is the benefit of it being repeated? Continue reading

He Gave You Hearing, Sight, and Hearts That You Might Give Thanks: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Nahl:

وَاللَّـهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۙ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks. [16:78]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following under his commentary of this ayah:

ذكر تعالى منته على عباده ، في إخراجه إياهم من بطون أمهاتهم لا يعلمون شيئا ، ثم بعد هذا يرزقهم تعالى السمع الذي به يدركون الأصوات ، والأبصار اللاتي بها يحسون المرئيات ، والأفئدة – وهي العقول – التي مركزها القلب على الصحيح ، وقيل : الدماغ ، والعقل به يميز بين الأشياء ضارها ونافعها . وهذه القوى والحواس تحصل للإنسان على التدريج قليلا قليلا ، كلما كبر زيد في سمعه وبصره وعقله حتى يبلغ أشده .ـ

Allah mentions how He has blessed His slaves by bringing them out of their mothers’ stomachs when they did not know anything and then after that providing them with the hearing with which they can grasp sounds and the vision with which they can perceive things and the minds (al-af’idah) – i.e. the intellects, which are housed in the heart according to the most correct position, though some say that they are housed in the brain – and intellects by which one can distinguish between harmful and beneficial things. These abilities and senses come to a person in stages bit by bit. As he gets older and older his hearing, vision and intellect continue to improve until he reaches maturity. Continue reading

A Question about the Length of the Makki Surahs

I posed the following question to sheikh ‘Abdullah al-‘Awaaji, a professor of Tafsir at the Islamic University of al-Madinah, via Twitter on the @ConsQuran channel on November 2, 2019:

احسن الله إليكم . ذكر السيوطي في الاتقان : “أخرج الطبراني ، عن ابن مسعود : نزل المفصل بمكة ، فمكثنا حججا نقرؤه ، لا ينزل غيره .” كيف نفهم هذا اثر وسور طويل نزلت قبل الهجرة كسورة الكهف و سورة يوسف وسورة الأعراف ونحوها . بارك الله فيك . ـ

[Question] May Allah be good to you. al-Suyooti mentions the following quote in al-Itqan:

al-Tabarani brought a report from ibn Mas’ood that:

The Mufassal surahs were revealed in Mecca, so we remained reciting these for years without anything else being revealed.

How should we understand this narration when long surahs such as surah al-Kahf, surah Yusuf, surah al-A’raf and others were revealed before the Hijrah?

May Allah bless you.

أولًا في ثبوت ذلك عن ابن مسعود رضي الله عنه نظر والراجح تضعيفه وقد مال محققو الاتقان ط المجمع الى تحسينه تساهلًا لانه يتعلق بالتفسير ،وممن ضعفه لعلتين مؤثرتين المحقق أد/ سعد الحميد في ج ١ من تخقيقه لسنن سعيد بن منصور وهذه صورة كلامه ـ

[Response] Firstly, there is some question as to whether this is actually an authentically transmitted statement of ibn Mas’ood. The predominant opinion is that it is weak, though the verifier of al-Itqan inclined towards grading it as acceptable due to his more relaxed standards with material related to tafsir. One of those who graded this report as weak due to two problems in its chain was the verifier Dr. Sa’d al-Humayd in the first volume of his critical edition of the Sunan of Sa’eed ibn Mansoor, and you can see the image of his comments below. Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 21-29: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the second installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 21-29. See the series guide here for more information and previous installments.

أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O mankind! Worship your Lord who created you and those before you in order that you might exercise taqwa (2:21)

نداء من الله للبشر جميعًا: أن اعبدوا الله الذي ربَّاكم بنعمه، وخافوه ولا تخالفوا دينه؛ فقد أوجدكم من العدم، وأوجد الذين من قبلكم؛ لتكونوا من المتقين الذين رضي الله عنهم ورضوا عنه. ـ

21) This is a call from Allah to mankind as a whole telling them to worship Allah who has nurtured and raised them up with His blessings and to fear Him and not go against His religion. For Allah brought you into existence out of nothing, and He brought those who were before into existence as well. This is so that you would be among those who exercise taqwa, those with whom Allah is pleased and who are pleased with Allah.

الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ فِرَاشًا وَالسَّمَاءَ بِنَاءً وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ رِزْقًا لَّكُمْ ۖ فَلَا تَجْعَلُوا لِلَّـهِ أَندَادًا وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

He who made the earth a bed for you and the sky a canopy, and He sent rain down from the sky. With it, He brought forth fruits as provision for you. So do not make any equals with Allah while you know. (2:22) Continue reading

A Parable of Two Slaves: Ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Zumar:

ضَرَبَ اللَّـهُ مَثَلًا رَّجُلًا فِيهِ شُرَكَاءُ مُتَشَاكِسُونَ وَرَجُلًا سَلَمًا لِّرَجُلٍ هَلْ يَسْتَوِيَانِ مَثَلًا ۚ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Allah presents an example of one man owned by quarreling partners and another man belonging exclusively to a single man – are they equal in comparison? Praise be to Allah! But most of them do not know. [39:29]

The great scholar Ibn al-Qayyim commented on this ayah by writing:

هذا مثل ضربه الله سبحانه للمشرك والموحد فالمشرك بمنزلة عبد يملكه جماعة متنازعون مختلفون متشاحون والرجل المتشاكس الضيق الخلق فالمشرك لما كان يعبد آلهة شتى شبه بعبد يملكه جماعة متنافسون في خدمته لا يمكنه أن يبلغ رضاهم أجمعين . ـ

Allah has made this parable about one person who associates others with Allah and another person who singles Him out for worship. The one who associates partners with Allah is like a slave owned by a group of clashing, conflicting, and quarreling people. The word mutashaakis used in this ayah means one who has stiff and inflexible character. Similarly, when a person tries to worship multiple deities, he is like a slave owned by a group of people all competing with one another for his service, thus preventing him from being able to please them.

والموحد لما كان يعبد الله وحده فمثله كمثل عبد لرجل واحد قد سلم له وعلم مقاصده وعرف الطريق إلى رضاه فهو في راحة من تشاحن الخلطاء فيه بل هو سالم لمالكه من غير تنازع فيه مع رأفة مالكه به ورحمته له وشفقته عليه وإحسانه إليه وتوليه لمصالحه فهل يستوي هذان العبدان . ـ

On the other hand, when a person worships Allah exclusively, then he is like a slave with a single master. Such a person is completely at the service of his master and knows what his master wants and how to please Him. He is free from any joint-owners quarreling over him and is instead entirely in the service of his owner without any others clashing over him. At the same time, he enjoys the care, mercy, kindness, and goodness that his owner has towards him, and the fact that his owner considers his best interests. Continue reading

Take the Book with Determination: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah says in surah Mayam:

يَا يَحْيَىٰ خُذِ الْكِتَابَ بِقُوَّةٍ

“O Yahya, take the Scripture with determination!” [19:12]

Commenting on this, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote:

أي : وقلنا له يايحيى خذ الكتاب بقوة ، والكتاب : التوراة ، أي : خذ التوراة بقوة ، أي : بجد واجتهاد ، وذلك بتفهم المعنى أولا حتى يفهمه على الوجه الصحيح ، ثم يعمل به من جميع الجهات ، فيعتقد عقائده ، ويحل حلاله ، ويحرم حرامه ، ويتأدب بآدابه ، ويتعظ بمواعظه ، إلى غير ذلك من جهات العمل به

Meaning: We said to him, “O Yahya, take the Scripture with determination!”, and the Scripture is the Tawrah. So it means, ‘take the Tawrah with determination’ – meaning: with seriousness and striving.

This is done firstly by understanding the meanings such that one understands them in the correct way, then acting based on it from every angle; so one believes in its creed and considers halaal what it makes halaal and haraam what it makes haraam, and is molded by its etiquettes and moved by its admonitions, and so on and so forth with the various ways that one acts in accordance with the scripture. Continue reading

Applying Hadith Criteria to Statements of Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh mentioned the following points in his explanation of ibn Taymiyah’s famous introduction to the principles of tafsir:

هاهنا تنبيه مهم وهو أنه ليست قواعد مصطلح الحديث منطبقة دائما على أسانيد المفسرين، لهذا يخطئ كثيرون من المعاصرين في نقدهم لأسانيد التفسير على طريقة نقدهم لأسانيد الحديث؛ بل تجد أحدهم يتعّجب من ابن جرير وابن كثير والبغوي بل ابن أبي حاتم ونحو ذلك من إيرادهم التفاسير عن الصحابة والتابعين بالأسانيد التي هي على طريقة مصطلح الحديث ربما كانت ضعيفة؛ لكنها على طريقة مصطلح الحديث الذي اعتمده المفسرون تكون صحيحة. ـ

Here we must bring your attention to an important point, which is that the principles of hadith classification are not also applied to the chains of narrations of those who explain the Qur’an. Many people in this age have made the mistake of applying the methods of criticism used for the chains of Prophetic hadith narrations to the chains of narration used in tafsir. In fact, you will find such people who are astonished that ibn Jarir and ibn Kathir and al-Baghawi and even ibn Abi Hatim and others of similar caliber would mention explanations of the Qur’an from the Sahabah and Tabi’oon which might be graded as “weak” according to the methods of classification in the hadith sciences. However, according to the methods of classification relied upon by the scholars of tafsir, these same reports would be graded as “authentic”.

مثال ذلك حديث السّدي، السدي صاحب تفسير، له تفسير يفسر باستنباطه ويفسر وينقل عن غيره، يروي التفسير عنه أسباط بن نصر يروي التفسير عنه أسباط بن نصر، السدي فيه ربما كلام، وأسباط بن نصر أيضا فيه كلام ربما ضُعِّف بل جعل ممن اُنتقد على مسلم إيراد حديثه، فيأتي فيقول هذا الإسناد حسن بل ربما يقول هذا ضعيف، وهذا عند العلماء بالتفسير هذا من أجود الأسانيد؛ بل هو أجود أسانيد تفسير السدي، وإن كان أسباط فيه كلام فذلك الكلام فيه في الحديث، أما في العناية بالتفسير فلو به خصوصية خاصة تفسير السدي، وقد نقله عن كتابه وحفظه، ولهذا لما ترجم له العلماء قال راوي تفسير السدي. ـ

One example of that is the narrations of al-Suddi, the one who authored a book of tafsir in which he explained the Qur’an and derived legal rulings and also transmitted explanations of others. Asbat ibn Nasr related some explanations of the Qur’an from al-Suddi. Regarding al-Suddi, perhaps there is some criticism, and perhaps there is also criticism regarding Asbat ibn Nasr; perhaps he is weak. In fact, perhaps a person would be criticized for bringing one of his narrations, such that one might relay it and consider it to be sound when it actually might be weak. But according to the scholars of Tafsir, narrations by this route are some of the best in terms of their chain of narration, or rather the best chain of narration for al-Suddi’s tafsir even though there is some criticism of Asbat. However that criticism is about his narrations of hadith reports, but when it comes to his attention to Tafsir, if Asbat were to have a specialty it would be in the tafsir of al-Suddi for he transmitted it both by a written copy and by memory. That is why when the scholars provide biographical information about him they refer to him as “the transmitter of Tafsir al-Suddi.” Continue reading

Clarification on the Qiraa’aat and the Ahruf: al-Qurtubi

In the introduction to his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Qurtubi dedicated one section to discussing the meaning of the Prophet’s statement that the Qur’an was revealed in seven ahruf. He concluded that section and segued into the next by writing:

وقد قيل : إن المراد بقوله عليه السلام : أنزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف القراءات السبع التي قرأ بها القراء السبعة ; لأنها كلها صحت عن رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ، وهذا ليس بشيء لظهور بطلانه على ما يأتي . ـ

And some have said that the meaning of the Prophet’s statement, “The Qur’an was sent down in seven ahruf” is that it is referring to the seven qiraa’aat which were recited by the seven famous reciters because all of these can be authentically traced back to Allah’s Messenger. But this position is not worth consideration due to its clear falsity, as we will see.

فصل في القراءات ونسبتها
Regarding the Qiraa’aat and their Attribution

قال كثير من علمائنا كالداودي وابن أبي صفرة وغيرهما : هذه القراءات السبع التي تنسب لهؤلاء القراء السبعة ، ليست هي الأحرف السبعة التي اتسعت الصحابة في القراءة بها ، وإنما هي راجعة إلى حرف واحد من تلك السبعة ، وهو الذي جمع عليه عثمان المصحف ، ذكره ابن النحاس وغيره . وهذه القراءات المشهورة هي اختيارات أولئك الأئمة القراء ، وذلك أن كل واحد منهم اختار فيما روى وعلم وجهه من القراءات ما هو الأحسن عنده والأولى ، فالتزمه طريقة ورواه وأقرأ به واشتهر عنه ، وعرف به ونسب إليه ، فقيل : حرف نافع ، وحرف ابن كثير ; ولم يمنع واحد منهم اختيار الآخر ولا أنكره بل سوغه وجوزه وكل واحد من هؤلاء السبعة روي عنه اختياران أو أكثر ، وكل صحيح . وقد أجمع المسلمون في هذه الأعصار على الاعتماد على ما صح عن هؤلاء الأئمة مما رووه ورأوه من القراءات وكتبوا في ذلك مصنفات ، فاستمر الإجماع على الصواب ، وحصل ما وعد الله به من حفظ الكتاب ، وعلى هذه الأئمة المتقدمون والفضلاء المحققون كالقاضي أبي بكر بن الطيب والطبري وغيرهما . ـ

Many of our scholars, such as al-Dawudi and ibn Abi Sufrah have said that these seven qiraa’aat which are ascribed to these seven famous reciters are not the seven ahruf which the Sahabah were permitted to recite with, but that these seven qiraa’aat all go back to one single harf out of those seven, which is the one that ‘Uthman collected in the official ‘Uthmani mushaf. That was mentioned by ibn al-Nahaas and others.

Continue reading

The Story of Yunus: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In his book of thematic tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di detailed a number of the stories of the Prophets along with mentioning various benefits derived from each of them. He would compile the details as they appeared in various places in the Qur’an to provide a straight-forward narrative of each story, and then list some extracted benefits from the story. What follows is his brief explanation of the story of the Prophet Yunus:

قصة يونس صلى الله عليه وسلم وهو من أنبياء بني إسرائيل العظام، بعثه الله إلى أهل نينوى – من أرض الموصل – فدعاهم إلى الله تعالى فأبوا عليه، ثم كرر عليهم الدعوة فأبوا، فوعدهم العذاب وخرج من بين أظهرهم، ولم يصبر الصبر الذي ينبغي، ولكنه أَبَقَ مغاضبا لهم، وهم لما ذهب نبيهم ألقي في قلوبهم التوبة إلى الله والإنابة بعدما شاهدوا مقدمات العذاب، فكشف الله عنهم العذاب. ـ

This is the story of Yunus (ﷺ), who was one of the great prophets of the Banu Israa’eel. Allah sent him to the people of Nineveh – in the area of Mosul [Iraq] – and he called them to Allah but they refused his call. He then repeated his call to them but they refused, so he promised them an impending punishment and left from their midst, and he did not exercise the steadfast patience which he ought to have exercised. On the contrary, he fled from them while in a state of anger. But after their prophet had left them, repentance and returning to Allah were placed in their hearts after witnessing an approaching punishment, and so Allah removed the punishment from them.

والظاهر أن يونس علم انكشاف العذاب عنهم، واستمر في ذهابه عنهم، ولهذا قال تعالى: {وَذَا النُّونِ إِذْ ذَهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا} [الأنبياء: 87] وقال تعالى: {إِذْ أَبَقَ إِلَى الْفُلْكِ الْمَشْحُونِ} [الصافات: 140] ـ

It appears that Yunus knew that the punishment would be lifted from them but still decided to leave them. This is according to Allah’s statement:

وَذَا النُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا

And mention Dhu’l-noon, when he went off in anger… [21:87]

as well as His statement: Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 1-20: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the first installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 1-20. See the series guide here for more information about the series, or click here for more information about the book itself.

أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

الم

Alif Lam Meem (2:1)

هذه الحروف وغيرها من الحروف المقطَّعة في أوائل السور فيها إشارة إلى إعجاز القرآن؛ فقد وقع به تحدي المشركين، فعجزوا عن معارضته، وهو مركَّب من هذه الحروف التي تتكون منها لغة العرب. فدَلَّ عجز العرب عن الإتيان بمثله- مع أنهم أفصح الناس- على أن القرآن وحي من الله.ـ

1) These letters and the other disconnected letters at the beginnings of surahs point to the miraculous inimitable nature of the Qur’an, for the Qur’an presented a challenge to the mushrikoon which they could not respond to, despite the fact that the Qur’an is built from the very same letters which make up the Arabic language. So the Arab’s inability to produce anything similar to the Qur’an, despite them being the most eloquent of people, shows that the Qur’an is revelation from Allah.

ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

That is the Book about which there is no doubt. It is a guidance for the muttaqoon (2:2) Continue reading