The Parable of the Fly: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Hajj:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ ضُرِبَ مَثَلٌ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ لَن يَخْلُقُوا ذُبَابًا وَلَوِ اجْتَمَعُوا لَهُ ۖ وَإِن يَسْلُبْهُمُ الذُّبَابُ شَيْئًا لَّا يَسْتَنقِذُوهُ مِنْهُ ۚ ضَعُفَ الطَّالِبُ وَالْمَطْلُوبُ

O mankind, a parable has been struck for you, so listen carefully to it! Those who you call on besides Allah could never make a fly, even if they joined forces to do so! And if a fly took something from them, they could not recover it from him. Both the seeker and the sought are weak! [22:73]

Commenting on this in his well-known book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

هذا مثل ضربه الله لقبح عبادة الأوثان، وبيان نقصان عقول من عبدها، وضعف الجميع، فقال: { يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ } هذا خطاب للمؤمنين والكفار، المؤمنون يزدادون علما وبصيرة، والكافرون تقوم عليهم الحجة، { ضُرِبَ مَثَلٌ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ } أي: ألقوا إليه أسماعكم، وتفهموا ما احتوى عليه، ولا يصادف منكم قلوبا لاهية، وأسماعا معرضة، بل ألقوا إليه القلوب والأسماع، وهو هذا: { إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ } شمل كل ما يدعى من دون الله، { لَنْ يَخْلُقُوا ذُبَابًا } الذي هو من أحقر المخلوقات وأخسها، فليس في قدرتهم خلق هذا المخلوق الضعيف، فما فوقه من باب أولى، { وَلَوِ اجْتَمَعُوا لَهُ } بل أبلغ من ذلك لو { يَسْلُبْهُمُ الذُّبَابُ شَيْئًا لَا يَسْتَنْقِذُوهُ مِنْهُ } وهذا غاية ما يصير من العجز.{ ضَعُفَ الطَّالِبُ } الذي هو المعبود من دون الله { وَالْمَطْلُوبُ } الذي هو الذباب، فكل منهما ضعيف، وأضعف منهما، من يتعلق بهذا الضعيف، وينزله منزلة رب العالمين. ـ

Allah struck this parable regarding the repugnance of worshiping idols and to clearly show how deficient the thinking of those who worship them is, and to show how both parties are weak.

He said:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ

O mankind …

this is directed at both the believers and disbelievers. The believers will find their knowledge and clear thinking increased by it, while the disbelievers will have a proof established against them.

Continue reading

Four Ayaat that Promise Rewards Both in This Life and the Next: Ibn al-Qayyim

In the midst of his long discussion on the benefits of dhikr in his famous work al-Wabil al-Sayyib, Imam ibn al-Qayyim mentioned the following point of benefit:

قال تعالى : { من عمل صالحا من ذكر أو أنثى وهو مؤمن فلنحيينه حياة طيبة } فهذا في الدنيا ثم قال : { ولنجزينهم أجرهم بأحسن ما كانوا يعملون } فهذا في البرزخ والآخرة وقال تعالى : { والذين هاجروا في الله من بعد ما ظلموا لنبوئنهم في الدنيا حسنة ولأجر الآخرة أكبر لو كانوا يعلمون } وقال تعالى : { وأن استغفروا ربكم ثم توبوا إليه يمتعكم متاعا } حسنا { إلى أجل مسمى ويؤت كل ذي فضل فضله } فهذا في الآخرة وقال تعالى : { قل يا عباد الذين آمنوا اتقوا ربكم للذين أحسنوا في هذه الدنيا حسنة وأرض الله واسعة إنما يوفى الصابرون أجرهم بغير حساب } فهذه أربعة مواضيع ذكر الله تعالى فيها أنه يجزي المحسن بإحسانه جزاءين : جزاء في الدنيا وجزاء في الآخرة فالاحسان له جزاء معجل ولا بد والإساءة لها جزاء معجل ولا بد

Allah said:

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً

And whoever does righteous deeds – whether male or female – while he is a believer, then We will give him a good life …

That is regarding the life of this world, and then He said:

وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

… and We will surely give them their reward according to the best of what they used to do. [16:97]

which is referring to the barzakh and the hereafter.

And He said:

Continue reading

The Entire Qur’an Revolves Around al-Tawheed – Ibn al-Qayyim

Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah wrote the following insightful words on the contents of the Qur’an:

فإن القرآن؛ إما خبر عن الله تعالى وأسمائه وصفاته وأفعاله وأقواله وهذا هو التوحيد العلمي الخبري والعقدي

The Qur’an – it is either some information concerning Allah and His Names and Attributes, His actions and His statements. This is the tawheed of knowledge, information and belief.

وأما دعوه إلى عبادته وحده لا شريك لها وخلع ما يعبد من دونه وهو التوحيد العملي الإرادي الطلبى العقدي

Or it is calling people to the worship of Allah alone with no partners and leaving off what is worshiped besides Him. This is the tawheed of action, intent, and belief.

وإما أمر أو نهى وإلزام بطاعته وأمره ونهيه فهــــذه حقوق التوحيد ومكملاته

Or it is commands and prohibitions and mandating obedience to Him and to His commands and prohibitions. This is the actualization of al-tawheed of its completeness.

Continue reading

Becoming Deceived by This Life: Ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes the follow parable in surah Yunus:

إِنَّمَا مَثَلُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْضِ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ النَّاسُ وَالْأَنْعَامُ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَخَذَتِ الْأَرْضُ زُخْرُفَهَا وَازَّيَّنَتْ وَظَنَّ أَهْلُهَا أَنَّهُمْ قَادِرُونَ عَلَيْهَا أَتَاهَا أَمْرُنَا لَيْلًا أَوْ نَهَارًا فَجَعَلْنَاهَا حَصِيدًا كَأَن لَّمْ تَغْنَ بِالْأَمْسِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

The example of this worldly life is like water which We have sent down from the sky which then mixed with the earth’s vegetation, which people and beasts of burden then eat. Then, when the earth has taken on its adornment and become beautiful and its people think that they have control over it, Our command comes by night or by day and We make it barren, as if it had not been there yesterday. In this way do We explain the signs for people who reflect. [10:24]

Commenting on this in a longer discussion on the parables of the Qur’an, the great scholar ibn al-Qayyim wrote:

شبه سبحانه الحياة الدنيا في أنها تتزين في عين الناظر فتروقه بزينتها وتعجبه فيميل إليها ويهواها اغترارا منه بها حتى إذا ظن أنه مالك لها قادر عليها سلبها بغتة أحوج ما كان إليها وحيل بينه وبينها

Allah has made this comparison to the life of this world in that this worldly life appears beautiful to the eye of the beholder and he is pleased and impressed with its beauty and thus finds himself inclined to it and captivated by it, so much so that he becomes deceived by it. Then once he thinks that he has control and ownership over it, suddenly it is taken away from him just he needs it the most and he cannot get it back.

فشبهها بالأرض الذي ينزل الغيث عليها فتعشب ويحسن نباتها ويروق منظرها للناظر فيغتر به ويظن أنه قادر عليها مالك لها فيأتيها أمر الله فتدرك نباتها الآفة بغتة فتصبح كأن لم تكن قبل فيخيب ظنه وتصبح يداه صفرا منهما فهكذا حال الدنيا والواثق بها سواءوهذا من أبلغ التشبيه والقياس. ـ

So Allah compared this to the earth upon which the rain falls and then grows vegetation which becomes beautiful and pleasing to look at until the beholder becomes deceived into thinking that he has power and ownership over it. Then the command of Allah comes and the plants are suddenly struck with disease and it becomes as if they were never there. So his thinking had betrayed him and he winds up empty-handed.

Continue reading

Dhikr is a Protection from Nifaq: Ibn al-Qayyim

In part of his enumeration of the benefits of dhikr in his book al-Wabil al-Sayyib, Ibn al-Qayyim wrote:

إن كثرة ذكر الله عز وجل أمان من النفاق؛ فإن المنافقين قليلوا الذكر لله عز وجل، قال الله عز وجل في المنافقين: { ولا يذكرون الله إلا قليلا} (النساء:142)، وقال كعب: من أكثر ذكر الله عز وجل برئ من النفاق. ولهذا ـ والله أعلم ـ ختم الله تعالى سورة المنافقين بقوله تعالى:{يا أيها الذين آمنوا لا تلهكم أموالكم ولا أولادكم عن ذكر الله ومن يفعل ذلك فأولئك هم الخاسرون} (المنافقون:9)، فإن في ذلك تحذيرا من فتنة المنافقين الذين غفلوا عن ذكر الله عز وجل فوقعوا في النفاق. وسئل بعض الصحابة رضي الله عنهم عن الخوارج: منافقون هم؟ قال: لا، المنافقون لا يذكرون الله إلا قليلا. فهذا من علامة النفاق ، والله عز وجل أكرم من أن يبتلي قلبا ذاكرا بالنفاق، وإنما ذلك لقلوب غفلت عن ذكر الله عز وجل ـ

Being prolific in remembering Allah is a form of protection from nifaq, for the munafiqoon are sparse in remembering Allah. Allah described the munafiqoon by saying:

وَلَا يَذْكُرُونَ اللَّـهَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

… and they only remember Allah a little [4:142]

Ka’b said, “Whoever does a lot of dhikr of Allah is free of nifaq.”

And that is why – and Allah knows best – Allah concluded surah al-Munafiqoon by saying

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُلْهِكُمْ أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَلَا أَوْلَادُكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ

O you who have believed, let not your wealth and your children divert you from remembrance of Allah. And whoever does that – then those are the losers. [63:9]

for that contains a warning against the trial of the munafiqoon who have chosen to neglect the remembrance of Allah and as a result have fallen into nifaq.

Continue reading

“Thus Does Allah Strike a Parable of Truth and Falsehood”: al-Qurtubi, ibn Taymiyah, and ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes the following two parables in one ayah in surah al-Ra’d:

أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا ۚ وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَاءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِّثْلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ

Allah sends down rain from the sky and the valleys flow according to their capacity, and a torrent carries the rising foam. And out of that which they heat in the fire, seeking adornments and tools, is a similar foam. Thus does Allah strike a parable of the truth and falsehood. As for the foam, it vanishes, being cast off. But as for they which benefits people, then it remains on the earth. Thus does Allah strike parables. [13:17]

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

وهو أن المثلين ضربهما الله للحق في ثباته ، والباطل في اضمحلاله ، فالباطل وإن علا في بعض الأحوال فإنه يضمحل كاضمحلال الزبد والخبث . وقيل : المراد مثل ضربه الله للقرآن وما يدخل منه القلوب ; فشبه القرآن بالمطر لعموم خيره وبقاء نفعه ، وشبه القلوب بالأودية ، يدخل فيها من القرآن مثل ما يدخل في الأودية بحسب سعتها وضيقها . ـ

Allah struck these two parables about the truth and its firmness and falsehood and its transience. For even if falsehood may be ascendant at certain times and situations, it will pass away just as foam and filth pass away.

Some have said that the intended meaning of this parable is about the Qur’an and how it enters into the hearts. Allah likened the Qur’an to water due to how much good it brings and its enduring benefit, and He likened the hearts to river valleys. So the Qur’an enters the heart just as water enters the river valleys – that is, an amount matching with their width or narrowness. Continue reading

Three Central Points of The Prophets’ Da’wah: Ibn al-Qayyim

In one of his valuable written works, the great scholar ibn al-Qayyim included the following:

أن دعوة الرسل تدور على ثلاثة أمور : تعريف الرب المدعو إليه بأسمائه وصفاته وأفعاله . ـ

The da’wah of the Messengers centers around three main topics:

1) Knowing the Lord that is being called to by His names, attributes, and actions.

الأصل الثاني معرفة الطريق الموصلة إليه وهي ذكره وشكره وعبادته التي تجمع كمال حبه وكمال الذل له . ـ

2) Knowing the path which leads to Him, and that path is: remembering Him, being grateful to Him, and worshiping Him. And that worship involves complete love of Him and complete humility before Him. Continue reading

How Allah Calls Us to Know Him: Ibn al-Qayyim

The great scholar Ibn al-Qayyim once wrote:

الرَّبُّ تعالى يَدعُو عِبادَه في القرآن إلى مَعرفتِه مِن طَريقينِ: أحدهما النَّظرُ في مَفعولاتِه، والثاني التَّفكُّر في آياتِه وتَدبُّرِها، فتلك آياتُه المَشهُودَة، وهذه آياتُه المَسمُوعَة المَعقُولَة، فالنوع الأول كقوله: {إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لَآيَاتٍ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ} وهو كثير في القرآن، والثاني كقوله: {أَفَلا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآن} وهو كثير أيضا. ـ

Throughout the Qur’an, the Lord has called His slaves to know Him through two ways:

1) Considering the things that He has done
2) Contemplating and reflecting on His verses

So the former type of are things that we see, while the latter type are things that we hear and comprehend.

An example of the first type is: Continue reading

Ibn al-Qayyim on Surah al-‘Asr

In his book detailing the oaths made in the Qur’an, ibn al-Qayyim wrote the following regarding surah al-‘Asr:

ومن ذلك اقسامه ( بالعصر ) على حال الإنسان في الآخرة هذه السورة على غاية اختصارها لها شأن عظيم حتى قال الشافعي رحمه الله : لو فكر الناس كلهم فيها لكفتهم

Another example of Allah’s oaths is that He swears by al-‘Asr about the condition of mankind in the hereafter. Despite its brevity, the contents of this surah hold something of tremendous value, so much so that al-Shafi’ee said, “If all of mankind were to reflect on this it would be sufficient for them.”

والعصر المقسم به قيل : هو الوقت الذي يلي المغرب من النهار وقيل : هو آخر ساعة من ساعاته وقيل : المراد صلاة العصر وأكثر المفسرين على أنه الدهر وهذا هو الراجح وتسمية الدهر عصرا أمر معروف في لغتهم قال : ( ولن يلبث العصران يوم وليلة إذا طلبا أن يدركا ما تيمما ) ويوم وليلة بدل من العصران

The ‘Asr that Allah is swearing by here has been said to mean several things:

  • that it is the time of day right before dusk
  • that it is the last part of the day
  • that it is referring to the ‘Asr prayer

But most of the mufassiroon hold that it is referring to time itself, and this is the strongest position. Using the word “‘Asr” to refer to time is something well-known in the Arabic language, as in this line of poetry:

ولن يلبث العصران يوم وليلة ***** إذا طلبا أن يدركا ما تيمما

The two ‘Asrs – day and night – will not persist
if they both seek to attain their goals

and here the words “day and night” are used in place of the two ‘Asrs.

 فأقسم سبحانه بالعصر لمكان العبرة والآية فيه فإن مرور الليل والنهار على تقدير قدرة العزيز العليم منتظم لمصالح العالم على اكمل ترتيب ونظام وتعاقبهما واعتدالهما تارة وأخذ أحدهما من صاحبه تارة واختلافهما في الضوء والظلام والحر والبرد وانتشار الحيوان وسكونه وانقسام العصر إلى القرون والسنين والأشهر والأيام والساعات وما دونها – آية من آيات الرب تعالى وبرهان من براهين قدرته وحكمته

Allah is swearing by al-‘Asr because of its admonishing effect and the amazing features it contains. The days and nights go by in the determined measurements that Allah – the All-Powerful, the All-Wise – has appointed for them, moving in the most perfectly regulated and organized way, for the benefit and well-being of the universe, with each perfectly following the other. Sometimes the day and the night are even in length, while sometime one of them takes from the other. The days and the nights differ in their light and darkness, in their heat and cold, and in the way that the living beings go about their activities or rest. And time can be divided into eras, years, months, days, hours, and so on – which is itself one of the miracles of our Lord and a proof of His might and wisdom. Continue reading

al-Tawheed in Surah al-Burooj: ibn al-Qayyim

In part of his work dedicated to discussing the oaths is the Qur’an, ibn al-Qayyim wrote the highlighted the following point in part of his treatment of surah al-Burooj:

وقد اشتملت هذه السورة على اختصارها من التوحيد

Despite its short size, this surah – surah a-Burooj (85)contains numerous proofs for al-Tawheed:

على وصفه سبحانه بالعزة المتضمنة للقدرة والقوة وعدم النظير

It characterizes Allah as Mighty, a term which encompasses complete ability, power and the absence of any peer. [see 85:8]

والحمد المتضمن لصفات الكمال والتنزيه عن أضدادها مع محبته وإلهيته

It describes Him as being Praiseworthy, which entails attributes of completion and negates any opposite deficient qualities. This also points to His qualities of love and His divine nature. [see 85:8]

وملكه السموات والأرض المتضمن لكمال غناه وسعة ملكه

It mentions His ownership of the heavens and the earth, which indicates a complete lack of need for anyone or anything else, as well as pointing to the expansiveness of His ownership. [see 85:9] Continue reading