Three Transgressions which Turn Back on their Perpetrators: Tafsir ibn Kathir

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel Ibn Kathir mentioned in his famous book of tafsir:

وقد قال محمد بن كعب القرظي : ثلاث من فعلهن لم ينج حتى ينزل به من مكر أو بغي أو نكث ، وتصديقها في كتاب الله : ( وَلَا يَحِيقُ الْمَكْرُ السَّيِّئُ إِلَّا بِأَهْلِهِ ) [ فاطر : 43 ] . ( إِنَّمَا بَغْيُكُمْ عَلَى أَنْفُسِكُمْ ) [ يونس : 23 ] ، ( فَمَنْ نَكَثَ فَإِنَّمَا يَنْكُثُ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ ) [ الفتح : 10 ] . ـ

Muhammad ibn Ka’b al-Qurathi said:

There are three things which, if you do them, will come down on you and you will not be able to escape them: 1) plotting, 2) injustice to others, and 3) breaking your word.

All of these are affirmed in Allah’s Book

وَلَا يَحِيقُ الْمَكْرُ السَّيِّئُ إِلَّا بِأَهْلِهِ

But the evil plot only encompasses its own people [35:43] Continue reading

Allah Presents a Parable From Your Own Selves: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah presents the following parable in surah al-Rum:

ضَرَبَ لَكُم مَّثَلًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ ۖ هَل لَّكُم مِّن مَّا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُم مِّن شُرَكَاءَ فِي مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ فَأَنتُمْ فِيهِ سَوَاءٌ تَخَافُونَهُمْ كَخِيفَتِكُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ

He sets forth a parable for you from your own selves: Do you have any of your slaves as partners with you to share as equals in the wealth We have bestowed on you, fearing them as you fear one another? Thus do We explain the signs in detail to people who have sense. [30:28]

al-Haafidh ibn Kathir began his commentary on this ayah by writing:

هذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى للمشركين به ، العابدين معه غيره ، الجاعلين له شركاء وهم مع ذلك معترفون أن شركاءه من الأصنام والأنداد عبيد له ، ملك له ، كما كانوا في تلبيتهم يقولون : لبيك لا شريك لك ، إلا شريكا هو لك ، تملكه وما ملك . فقال تعالى : ( ضرب لكم مثلا من أنفسكم ) أي : تشهدونه وتفهمونه من أنفسكم ، ( هل لكم من ما ملكت أيمانكم من شركاء في ما رزقناكم فأنتم فيه سواء ) أي : لا يرتضي أحد منكم أن يكون عبده شريكا له في ماله ، فهو وهو فيه على السواء ( تخافونهم كخيفتكم أنفسكم ) أي : تخافون أن يقاسموكم الأموال . والمعنى : أن أحدكم يأنف من ذلك ، فكيف تجعلون لله الأنداد من خلقه ؟! تعالى الله عن ذلك علوا كبيرا . ـ

This is a parable which Allah strikes regarding those who take others as equals with Him, worship them alongside Him, and assign partners to Him. They do all this despite knowing full-well that these idols and peers that they consider as partners with Him are in fact His slaves whom He owns. Take for instance the talbiyah that they used to say:

At your service, and there is no partner for You
Except for the partner that You do have
You own him and whatever he owns

So Allah said: Continue reading

Using a Non-Canonical Recitation as Evidence: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Ma’idah, Allah describes the expiation of a broken oath as follows:

 فَكَفَّارَتُهُ إِطْعَامُ عَشَرَةِ مَسَاكِينَ مِنْ أَوْسَطِ مَا تُطْعِمُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ أَوْ كِسْوَتُهُمْ أَوْ تَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ ۖ فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ ثَلَاثَةِ أَيَّامٍ

… So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave. But whoever does not find the means – then a fast of three days. … [5:89]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir addressed the ayah at length in his tafsir. In the midst of his discussion, he turns to a question regarding the fast:

واختلف العلماء : هل يجب فيها التتابع أو يستحب ولا يجب ويجزئ التفريق؟ على قولين : أحدهما أنه لا يجب التتابع ، هذا منصوص الشافعي في كتاب ” الأيمان ” ، وهو قول مالك لإطلاق قوله : ( فصيام ثلاثة أيام ) وهو صادق على المجموعة والمفرقة ، كما في قضاء رمضان ; لقوله : ( فعدة من أيام أخر ) [ البقرة : 184 ] . ـ

The scholars have differed as to whether the days of fasting for this expiation must be done consecutively or if that is only recommended without reaching the level of obligation, thus making it permissible to fast them non-consecutively. They fall into two camps:

The first position holds that it is not required to fast them consecutively. This the opinion of Imam al-Shafi’ee as is mentioned in the book al-Ayman, as well as being the position of Imam Malik. This was based off the general nature of Allah’s statement:

فَصِيَامُ ثَلَاثَةِ أَيَّامٍ

then a fast of three days

which could apply to both fasting them consecutively or non-consecutively, just as is the case when making up any missed days of Ramadan according to Allah’s statement: Continue reading

The Arrangement of the Stories in the Qur’an: Ibn Kathir

In his epic book of history, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel Ibn Kathir arranges some of his early chapters in an unexpected way, mentioning the story of Ibrahim with his people, then Lut, then Shu’ayb, and then returning to discuss the offspring of Ibrahim. He explains this arrangement in the book by writing:

قَدْ قَدَّمْنَا قِصَّتَهُ مَعَ قَوْمِهِ، وَمَا كَانَ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ، وَمَا آلَ إِلَيْهِ أَمْرُهُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ وَالتَّحِيَّةُ وَالْإِكْرَامُ، وَذَكَرْنَا مَا وَقَعَ فِي زَمَانِهِ مِنْ قِصَّةِ قَوْمِ لُوطٍ، وَأَتْبَعْنَا ذَلِكَ بِقِصَّةِ مَدْيَنَ قَوْمِ شُعَيْبٍ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ؛ لِأَنَّهَا قَرِينَتُهَا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فِي مَوَاضِعَ مُتَعَدِّدَةٍ يَذْكُرُ تَعَالَى بَعْدَ قِصَّةِ قَوْمِ لُوطٍ قِصَّةَ مَدْيَنَ، وَهُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْأَيْكَةِ عَلَى الصَّحِيحِ، كَمَا قَدَّمْنَا فَذَكَرْنَاهَا تَبَعًا لَهَا اقْتِدَاءً بِالْقُرْآنِ الْعَظِيمِ، ثُمَّ نَشْرَعُ الْآنَ فِي الْكَلَامِ عَلَى تَفْصِيلِ ذُرِّيَّةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ؛ لِأَنَّ اللَّهَ جَعَلَ فِي ذُرِّيَّتِهِ النُّبُوَّةَ وَالْكِتَابَ، فَكُلُّ نَبِيٍّ أُرْسِلَ بَعْدَهُ فَمِنْ وَلَدِهِ

We have already mentioned the story of Ibrahim and his people, how they were, and what happened to him. We have also mentioned the story of the people of Lut which took place during Ibrahim’s time. We then followed that up with the story of Madyan, the people of Shu’ayb. We did that because these stories are often mentioned together in Allah’s Book. In a number of places throughout the Qur’an, after finishing the story of the people of Lut Allah will then mention the story of Madyan, who are the Ashaab al-Aykah according to the correct opinion. So we also decided to mention the story of Madyan after the story of the people of Lut in order to follow the way of the Qur’an. Now we will proceed to speak in detail about the offspring of Ibrahim, as Allah placed prophethood and scripture with some of his offspring and every prophet who was sent after Ibrahim came from his lineage. Continue reading

“His Character was the Qur’an”: Ibn Kathir

In part of his work dedicated to the seerah of the Prophet (ﷺ), the famous historian, mufassir, and muhaddith al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir included the following at the beginning of one chapter:

فصل ـ أخلاقه الطاهرة

Chapter: His Purified Character

وأما أخلاقه الطاهرة، فقد قال الله سبحانه: {ن والقلم وما يسطرون * ما أنت بنعمة ربك بمجنون * وإن لك لأجرا غير ممنون * وإنك لعلى خلق عظيم} ، وفي الصحيح عن عائشة رضي الله عنها أنها قالت: كان خلق رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم القرآن. ـ

As for his purified character, Allah said:

ن ۚ وَالْقَلَمِ وَمَا يَسْطُرُونَ * مَا أَنتَ بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ بِمَجْنُونٍ * وَإِنَّ لَكَ لَأَجْرًا غَيْرَ مَمْنُونٍ * وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ

Noon. By the pen and what they write * By the favor of your Lord you are not a madman * and indeed there will be an uninterrupted reward for you * and you are indeed of great moral character [68:1-4]

And in an authentic hadith, ‘A’ishah said:

The character of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was the Qur’an. Continue reading

Fulfilling the Rights of Allah and His Creation: Tafsir ibn Kathir

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following in part of his explanation of surah al-Haqqah:

وقوله : ( إنه كان لا يؤمن بالله العظيم ولا يحض على طعام المسكين ) أي : لا يقوم بحق الله عليه من طاعته وعبادته ، ولا ينفع خلقه ويؤدي حقهم ; فإن لله على العباد أن يوحدوه ولا يشركوا به شيئا ، وللعباد بعضهم على بعض حق الإحسان والمعاونة على البر والتقوى ; ولهذا أمر الله بإقام الصلاة وإيتاء الزكاة ، وقبض النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وهو يقول : ” الصلاة ، وما ملكت أيمانكم ” .ـ

Allah’s statement:

إِنَّهُ كَانَ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّـهِ الْعَظِيمِ * وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

Indeed, he did not use to have eemaan in Allah, the Magnificent * Nor did he encourage others to feed the poor. [69:33-34]

meaning: He neither fulfilled the rights of obedience and worship that Allah had over him nor did he bring any benefit to Allah’s creation or fulfill their rights. For Allah’s right over His slaves is that they would single Him out in worship and not associate anyone in worship alongside Him, and the rights of that the slaves have over one another is to show good treatment and aid one another in righteousness and piety. It is in the same vein that Allah commanded us to both establish the prayer and give the zakah. And the Prophet’s soul was taken while he was repeating, “The prayer, and those whom your right hand possesses!”

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 8/216]

Responding to Allah’s Blessings with Indifference: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says the following in part of surah Luqman:

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ الْفُلْكَ تَجْرِي فِي الْبَحْرِ بِنِعْمَتِ اللَّـهِ لِيُرِيَكُم مِّنْ آيَاتِهِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ * وَإِذَا غَشِيَهُم مَّوْجٌ كَالظُّلَلِ دَعَوُا اللَّـهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ فَلَمَّا نَجَّاهُمْ إِلَى الْبَرِّ فَمِنْهُم مُّقْتَصِدٌ ۚ وَمَا يَجْحَدُ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَّا كُلُّ خَتَّارٍ كَفُورٍ

Do you not see that ships sail through the sea by the favor of Allah that He may show you of His signs? Indeed in that are signs for everyone patient and grateful. * And when waves come over them like canopies, they supplicate to Allah, sincere to Him in religion. But when He delivers them to the land, then some of them are muqtasid. And none reject Our signs except every treacherous and ungrateful one. [31-31-32]

The salaf and the scholars differed over how to interpret the word muqtasid in this context. al-Haafidh ibn Kathir offered the following discussion of this issue:

قال : ( فلما نجاهم إلى البر فمنهم مقتصد ) قال مجاهد : أي كافر . كأنه فسر المقتصد هاهنا بالجاحد ، كما قال تعالى : ( فلما نجاهم إلى البر إذا هم يشركون ) [ العنكبوت : 65 ] . ـ

Allah says:

فَلَمَّا نَجَّاهُمْ إِلَى الْبَرِّ فَمِنْهُم مُّقْتَصِدٌ

But when He delivers them to the land, then some of them are muqtasid

Mujahid said, “meaning disbelievers”.

It is as if he was interpreting the word al-muqtasid in this instance in the sense of one who denies Allah’s sole right to be worshipped, as Allah said:

فَلَمَّا نَجَّاهُمْ إِلَى الْبَرِّ إِذَا هُمْ يُشْرِكُونَ

But when He delivers them to the land, then they associate others with Him in worship [29:65] Continue reading

Loving or Hating Abu Bakr: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Tawbah:

وَالسَّابِقُونَ الْأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالْأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللَّـهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

And the first forerunners among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them in goodness – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment. [9:100]

The great mufassir al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir concluded his commentary on this ayah by writing:

فقد أخبر الله العظيم أنه قد رضي عن السابقين الأولين من المهاجرين والأنصار والذين اتبعوهم بإحسان : فيا ويل من أبغضهم أو سبهم أو أبغض أو سب بعضهم ، ولا سيما سيد الصحابة بعد الرسول وخيرهم وأفضلهم ، أعني الصديق الأكبر والخليفة الأعظم أبا بكر بن أبي قحافة ، رضي الله عنه ، فإن الطائفة المخذولة من الرافضة يعادون أفضل الصحابة ويبغضونهم ويسبونهم ، عياذا بالله من ذلك . وهذا يدل على أن عقولهم معكوسة ، وقلوبهم منكوسة ، فأين هؤلاء من الإيمان بالقرآن ، إذ يسبون من رضي الله عنهم ؟ وأما أهل السنة فإنهم يترضون عمن رضي الله عنه ، ويسبون من سبه الله ورسوله ، ويوالون من يوالي الله ، ويعادون من يعادي الله ، وهم متبعون لا مبتدعون ، ويقتدون ولا يبتدون ولهذا هم حزب الله المفلحون وعباده المؤمنون . ـ

Allah the Magnificent has informed us that He is well-pleased with those forerunners in faith among the Muhajiroon and the Ansar and those who followed them in goodness. So then woe to anyone who hates them or insults them, and to anyone who hates or insults any one of them, especially if it is regarding the leader of the Sahabah after the Messenger, the best of them and the most virtuous of them. I am of course referring to the most truthful one and the greatest Khalifah:Abu Bakr ibn Abi Quhaafah – may Allah be pleased with him. Continue reading

The Meaning and Goal of Beautifying the Qur’an with Your Voice: Ibn Kathir

In addition to his valuable explanation of the Qur’an itself, the Tafsir of al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir also offers up a significant introduction that discusses many important areas of ‘Uloom al-Qur’an. One of those discussions is presented below – Ibn Kathir’s discussion of the hadith narrations which encourage us to beatify our voices when reciting the Qur’an. Some mistranslate or misconstrue these narrations to encourage “singing” the Qur’an, but ibn Kathir’s explanation provides clarity about how to understand and implement these Prophetic instructions in the desired way:

 وقال أبو داود : حدثنا عبد الأعلى بن حماد ، حدثنا عبد الجبار بن الورد ، سمعت ابن أبي مليكة ، يقول : قال عبيد الله بن أبي يزيد : مر بنا أبو لبابة فاتبعناه حتى دخل بيته فدخلنا عليه ، فإذا رجل رث البيت ، رث الهيئة ، فانتسبنا له ، فقال : تجار كسبة ، فسمعته يقول : سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول : ليس منا من لم يتغن بالقرآن . قال : فقلت لابن أبي مليكة : يا أبا محمد ، أرأيت إذا لم يكن حسن الصوت قال : يحسنه ما استطاع . تفرد به أبو داود . ـ

Abu Dawud said …’Abd al-Jabbar ibn al-Ward said: I heard ibn Abi Mulaykah saying: ‘Ubaydullah ibn Abi Yazeed said: Abu Lubabah passed by us so we followed him until he went into his home and so we went in to visit him. He was a man with run-down house and with an unkempt appearance. We spent some time with him and learned that he was a fruit merchant. I heard him say,

“I heard Allah’s Messenger say, ‘Whoever does not recite the Qur’an in a melodious voice is not one of us.” I [‘Abd al-Jabbar] said to ibn Abi Mulaykah, “O Abu Muhammad, what if someone doesn’t have a nice voice?” He replied, “He should make it as pleasant as he can.”

Abu Dawud was alone in reporting this narration.

فقد فهم من هذا أن السلف ، رضي الله عنهم ، إنما فهموا من التغني بالقرآن : إنما هو تحسين الصوت به ، وتحزينه ، كما قاله الأئمة – رحمهم الله – ويدل على ذلك – أيضا – ما رواه أبو داود حيث قال : حدثنا عثمان بن أبي شيبة ، حدثنا جرير ، عن الأعمش ، عن طلحة ، عن عبد الرحمن بن عوسجة ، عن البراء بن عازب قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : زينوا القرآن بأصواتكم . وأخرجه النسائي وابن ماجه من حديث شعبة ، عن طلحة وهو ابن مصرف به . وأخرجه النسائي من طرق أخر عن طلحة وهذا إسناد جيد . وقد وثق النسائي ، وابن حبان عبد الرحمن بن عوسجة هذا ، ونقل الأزدي عن يحيى بن سعيد القطان أنه قال : سألت عنه بالمدينة ، فلم أرهم يحمدونه . [ ص: 63 ] ـ

So it is understood from this narration that what the Salaf (may Allah be pleased with them) understood from “reciting the Qur’an in a melodic voice” was only to beautify one’s voice while reciting it and to recite it in a melancholy way. This is as the leading scholars (may Allah have mercy on them) said, and also as is indicated by what Abu Dawud relayed when he said … that al-Baraa’ ibn ‘Aazib said:

Allah’s Messenger said, “Beautify the Qur’an with your voices.”

al-Nasaa’i and ibn Majah also reported this from one route … and al-Nasaa’i also reported it via another route with a good chain of transmission. Continue reading

When One Plans to Sin but then Does Not: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-An’aam, Allah describes the Day of Judgement by saying:

مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا ۖ وَمَن جَاءَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَىٰ إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ

Whoever comes [on the Day of Judgement] with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof, and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged. [6:160]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir gave a thorough and beneficial explanation of this ayah in part of his famous book of tafsir. He began by linking it to another related ayah, and then proceeded to mention several slightly different and seemingly contradictory hadith narrations on the same subject before explaining how these differences could be reconciled and understood properly:

وهذه الآية الكريمة مفصلة لما أجمل في الآية الأخرى ، وهي قوله : ( من جاء بالحسنة فله خير منها ) [ النمل : 89 ] ، وقد وردت الأحاديث مطابقة لهذه الآية ، كما قال الإمام أحمد بن حنبل ، رحمه الله : حدثنا عفان ، حدثنا جعفر بن سليمان ، حدثنا الجعد أبو عثمان ، عن أبي رجاء العطاردي ، عن ابن عباس ، رضي الله عنهما ، عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فيما يروي عن ربه ، عز وجل قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” إن ربكم عز وجل رحيم ، من هم بحسنة فلم يعملها كتبت له حسنة ، فإن عملها كتبت له عشرا إلى سبعمائة ، إلى أضعاف كثيرة . ومن هم بسيئة فلم يعملها كتبت له حسنة ، فإن عملها كتبت له واحدة ، أو يمحوها الله ، عز وجل ، ولا يهلك على الله إلا هالك ” ورواه البخاري ، ومسلم ، والنسائي ، من حديث الجعد بن أبي عثمان ، به . ـ

This great ayah serves to clarify what was previously only mentioned in a general sense in another ayah, that ayah being Allah’s statement:

مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ خَيْرٌ مِّنْهَا

Whoever comes with a good deed with have something better than that … [27:89]

and a number of hadith narrations have been transmitted which fall in the same vein as this ayah, such as what Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said … that ibn ‘Abbaas relayed something of what Allah’s Messenger conveyed from his Lord. He said: Allah’s Messenger said:

Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, is merciful to the believers. Whoever intends to do a good deed but then does not actually do it will have one good deed recorded for him. But if he does do that good deed, he will have ten up to seven hundred or even higher multiples of good deeds recorded for him. And whoever intends to do a sin but then does not actually do it will have one good deed recorded for him. But if he does do that sin, it will be recorded as a single sin for him. Or Allah may even wipe that sin out. And Allah does not subject anyone to destruction except those who persist in sinfulness.

This was recorded by al-Bukari, Muslim, and al-Nasaa’i from the hadith of Ja’d ibn Abi ‘Uthman. Continue reading