Conditions for the Acceptance of Deeds: Tafsir ibn Kathir

The famous mufassir al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following point in the midst of his explanation of surah al-Furqaan:

وقوله تعالى : ( وقدمنا إلى ما عملوا من عمل فجعلناه هباء منثورا ) ، وهذا يوم القيامة ، حين يحاسب الله العباد على ما عملوه من خير وشر ، فأخبر أنه لا يتحصل لهؤلاء المشركين من الأعمال – التي ظنوا أنها منجاة لهم – شيء; وذلك لأنها فقدت الشرط الشرعي ، إما الإخلاص فيها ، وإما المتابعة لشرع الله . فكل عمل لا يكون خالصا وعلى الشريعة المرضية ، فهو باطل . فأعمال الكفار لا تخلو من واحد من هذين ، وقد تجمعهما معا ، فتكون أبعد من القبول حينئذ; ولهذا قال تعالى : ( وقدمنا إلى ما عملوا من عمل فجعلناه هباء منثورا ) . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَقَدِمْنَا إِلَىٰ مَا عَمِلُوا مِنْ عَمَلٍ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ هَبَاءً مَّنثُورًا

And when We come to the deeds they have done, then We shall make them into dust particles, scattered. [25:23]

This is on the Day of Judgement when Allah will take His slaves to account for the good and the bad which they used to do. So here He is informing us that these mushrikoon will not obtain any benefit at all from these deeds of theirs which they thought were going to be a source of good and protection for them. Continue reading

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The Sahabah on Obeying the Muslim Ruler: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In part of his tafsir of surah al-Nur, al-Haafidh Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following statements of the great mufassir from among the Taabi’oon, Qataadah:

وقال قتادة في هذه الآية : ( أن يقولوا سمعنا وأطعنا ) ذكر لنا أن عبادة بن الصامت – وكان عقبيا بدريا ، أحد نقباء الأنصار – أنه لما حضره الموت قال لابن أخيه جنادة بن أبي أمية : ألا أنبئك بماذا عليك وماذا لك؟ قال : بلى . قال : فإن عليك السمع والطاعة ، في عسرك ويسرك ، ومنشطك ومكرهك ، وأثرة عليك . وعليك أن تقيم لسانك بالعدل ، وألا تنازع الأمر أهله ، إلا أن يأمروك بمعصية الله بواحا ، فما أمرت به من شيء يخالف كتاب الله ، فاتبع كتاب الله . ـ

Regarding the ayah:

إِنَّمَا كَانَ قَوْلَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذَا دُعُوا إِلَى اللَّـهِ وَرَ‌سُولِهِ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَهُمْ أَن يَقُولُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا ۚ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allah and His Messenger, to judge between them, is that they say: “We hear and we obey.” And such are the successful ones. [24:51]

Qataadah said:

It was mentioned to us that when ‘Ubaadah ibn al-Saamit – and he was one of the Sahabah who was present for the Pledge of al-‘Aqabah and at the Battle of Badr, and was one of the leaders of the Ansar – was on his deathbed, he said to his nephew Junaadah ibn Abi Umayyah, “Shall I not inform you of what is incumbent upon you?” “Of course!”, his nephew replied.

He said, “Indeed, listening and obeying is mandatory upon you, whether it is regarding something easy for you or difficult, whether in good times or bad, even if the leader were to show favoritism towards certain people over others. And it is incumbent upon you limit your tongue to speaking with justice, and that you do not dispute with those in authority regarding their commands – unless they command you to perform a clear act of disobedience to Allah. Then, if they command you to do anything which conflicts with the Book of Allah, follow the Book of Allah.” Continue reading

Eemaan is Belief, Statements, and Actions: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah begins surah al-Baqarah with the following words:

الم * ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ * الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ … ـ

Alif Lam Meem * This is the Book about which there is no doubt. A guidance for the muttaqoon * those who believe in the Unseen … [2:1-3]

In many of the books of tafsir, explanation of terms or important topics will usually be placed at the first mention of that thing in the mushaf unless there is some motivating reason to delay it. Here, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir took the first instance of a derivative of the word al-eemaan to define and discuss it:

قال أبو جعفر الرازي ، عن العلاء بن المسيب بن رافع ، عن أبي إسحاق ، عن أبي الأحوص ، عن عبد الله ، قال : الإيمان التصديق . وقال علي بن أبي طلحة وغيره ، عن ابن عباس ، ( يؤمنون ) يصدقون . وقال معمر عن الزهري : الإيمان العمل . وقال أبو جعفر الرازي ، عن الربيع بن أنس : ( يؤمنون ) يخشون . ـ

Abu Ja’far al-Razi reported that … ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood said, “al-Eemaan is belief”.

And ‘Ali ibn Abi Talhah and others transmitted that ibn ‘Abbaas said, “yu’minoon means: they believed”.

Mu’mar said that al-Zuhri said, “al-Eemaan is action.”

And Abu Ja’far al-Razi recorded that al-Rabee’ ibn Anas said, “yu’minoon means: they feared”.

قال ابن جرير وغيره : والأولى أن يكونوا موصوفين بالإيمان بالغيب قولا واعتقادا وعملا قال : وقد تدخل الخشية لله في معنى الإيمان ، الذي هو تصديق القول بالعمل ، والإيمان كلمة جامعة للإقرار بالله وكتبه ورسله ، وتصديق الإقرار بالفعل . قلت : أما الإيمان في اللغة فيطلق على التصديق المحض ، وقد يستعمل في القرآن ، والمراد به ذلك ، كما قال تعالى : ( يؤمن بالله ويؤمن للمؤمنين ) [ التوبة : 61 ] ، وكما قال إخوة يوسف لأبيهم : ( وما أنت بمؤمن لنا ولو كنا صادقين ) [ يوسف : 17 ] ، وكذلك إذا استعمل مقرونا مع الأعمال ؛ كقوله : ( إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ) [ الانشقاق : 25 ، والتين : 6 ] ، فأما إذا استعمل مطلقا فالإيمان الشرعي المطلوب لا يكون إلا اعتقادا وقولا وعملا . ـ

Ibn Jarir [al-Tabari] and others said, “The most proper understanding is that these people are characterized by having eemaan in the Unseen, manifested in their statements, their beliefs, and their actions.” And he also said, “Fear of Allah could also be included in the meaning of al-eemaan, as it is an affirmation of one’s statement through his actions. al-Eemaan is a comprehensive term for an affirmative belief in Allah, His Books, and His Messengers, as well as actualizing that affirmation through one’s actions.” Continue reading

Preservation of the Wordings and Meanings of the Qur’an among the Salaf: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Nisaa’, Allah informs us of the following:

وَرُسُلًا قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَرُسُلًا لَّمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ ۚ وَكَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ مُوسَىٰ تَكْلِيمًا

And Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you, – and Allah spoke to Moosaa directly. [4:164]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following points:

وقوله : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) وهذا تشريف لموسى ، عليه السلام ، بهذه الصفة ; ولهذا يقال [ ص: 475 ] له : الكليم . وقد قال الحافظ أبو بكر بن مردويه : حدثنا أحمد بن محمد بن سليمان المالكي ، حدثنا مسيح بن حاتم ، حدثنا عبد الجبار بن عبد الله قال : جاء رجل إلى أبي بكر بن عياش فقال : سمعت رجلا يقرأ : ” وكلم الله موسى تكليما ” فقال أبو بكر : ما قرأ هذا إلا كافر ، قرأت على الأعمش ، وقرأ الأعمش على [ يحيى ] بن وثاب ، وقرأ يحيى بن وثاب على أبي عبد الرحمن السلمي ، وقرأ أبو عبد الرحمن ، على علي بن أبي طالب ، وقرأ علي بن أبي طالب على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) . ـ

Allah’s statement: Continue reading

Merits of Surah al-Nisaa’: Tafsir ibn Kathir

A number of the books of tafsir begin their explanations of each surah with a section on the virtues of that particular surah. However, most of these sections are largely made up of fabricated or weak narrations. The famous mufassir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir, strove to avoid much inauthentic material in his tafsir or to follow up such material with notes as to its status and veracity. So when he did begin his explanation of surah al-Nisaa’ by mentioning some of its merits, he approached things in a different manner by bringing statements from some of the scholars of the Sahabah about this surah:

 وقال الحاكم في مستدركه : حدثنا أبو العباس محمد بن يعقوب ، حدثنا أبو البختري عبد الله بن محمد بن شاكر ، حدثنا محمد بن بشر العبدي ، حدثنا مسعر بن كدام ، عن معن بن عبد الرحمن بن عبد الله بن مسعود عن أبيه ، عن عبد الله بن مسعود ، رضي الله عنه ، قال : إن في سورة النساء لخمس آيات ما يسرني أن لي بها الدنيا وما فيها : ( إن الله لا يظلم مثقال ذرة ) الآية ، و ( إن تجتنبوا كبائر ما تنهون عنه ) الآية ، و ( إن الله لا يغفر أن يشرك به ويغفر ما دون ذلك لمن يشاء ) و ( ولو أنهم إذ ظلموا أنفسهم جاءوك ) الآية ، و ( ومن يعمل سوءا أو يظلم نفسه ثم يستغفر الله يجد الله غفورا رحيما ) ثم قال : هذا إسناد صحيح إن كان عبد الرحمن سمع من أبيه ، فقد اختلف في ذلك . ـ

○ al-Haakim said in his book al-Mustadrak: … that the grandson of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood narrated from his father who narrated from his father, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him), that he said: In surah al-Nisaa’ there are five ayaat which are more pleasing to me than the entire world and all that is in it.

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَظْلِمُ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ ۖ وَإِن تَكُ حَسَنَةً يُضَاعِفْهَا وَيُؤْتِ مِن لَّدُنْهُ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

Surely, Allah does not do an atom’s worth of injustice. But if you have some good, He multiplies it and give a great reward from Himself [4:40]

إِن تَجْتَنِبُوا كَبَائِرَ مَا تُنْهَوْنَ عَنْهُ نُكَفِّرْ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَنُدْخِلْكُم مُّدْخَلًا كَرِيمًا

If you avoid the major sins from which you are forbidden, We will expiate your minor sins from you and enter you into a noble entrance. [4:31]

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا

Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray. [4:116]

وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّـهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّـهَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِيمًا

And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful. [4:64]

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّـهَ يَجِدِ اللَّـهَ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allah will find Allah Forgiving and Merciful. [4:110]

And then al-Haakim said: This chain of narration is sound, so long as the grandson heard it from his father, and there is some differing as to whether he did or not. Continue reading

“If it had been good, they would not have preceded us to it”: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Ahqaaf:

وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَوْ كَانَ خَيْرًا مَّا سَبَقُونَا إِلَيْهِ ۚ وَإِذْ لَمْ يَهْتَدُوا بِهِ فَسَيَقُولُونَ هَـٰذَا إِفْكٌ قَدِيمٌ

And those who disbelieve say of those who believe, “If it had been good, they would not have preceded us to it.” And when they are not guided by it, they will say, “This is an ancient falsehood.” [46:11]

In his famous commentary on the Qur’an, Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following words regarding this ayah:

وقوله تعالى : ( وقال الذين كفروا للذين آمنوا لو كان خيرا ما سبقونا إليه ) أي : قالوا عن المؤمنين بالقرآن : لو كان القرآن خيرا ما سبقنا هؤلاء إليه . يعنون بلالا وعمارا وصهيبا وخبابا وأشباههم وأقرانهم من المستضعفين والعبيد والإماء ، وما ذاك إلا لأنهم عند أنفسهم يعتقدون أن لهم عند الله وجاهة وله بهم عناية . وقد غلطوا في ذلك غلطا فاحشا ، وأخطئوا خطأ بينا ، كما قال تعالى : ( وكذلك فتنا بعضهم ببعض ليقولوا أهؤلاء من الله عليهم من بيننا ) [ الأنعام : 53 ] أي : يتعجبون : كيف اهتدى هؤلاء دوننا ; ولهذا قالوا : ( لو كان خيرا ما سبقونا إليه ) وأما أهل السنة والجماعة فيقولون في كل فعل وقول لم يثبت عن الصحابة : هو بدعة ; لأنه لو كان خيرا لسبقونا إليه ؛ لأنهم [ ص: 279 ] لم يتركوا خصلة من خصال الخير إلا وقد بادروا إليها . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَوْ كَانَ خَيْرًا مَّا سَبَقُونَا إِلَيْهِ

And those who disbelieve say of those who believe, “If it had been good, they would not have preceded us to it.”

meaning: they remark regarding those who are believers in the Qur’an, “if the Qur’an were any good, then these people would not have beaten us to it.” And they were referring to Bilal, ‘Ammaar, Suhaib, Khubaab and other such weak ones and slaves. And they only did this because they held themselves to have a certain standing and importance with Allah, however they were severely mistaken and in clear error regarding this assessment. This is like what Allah said: Continue reading

The Relationship between Supplication and Fasting: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah devotes a series of ayaat in surah al-Baqarah [2:183-187] to the rulings of fasting. However, in the middle of these ayaat, He mentions the well-known ayah:

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ

And when My servants ask you (O Muhammad) about Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the call of the supplicant when he calls Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they may be rightly guided. [2:186]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir shed some light on the relationship of this ayah to the surrounding ayaat of fasting by writing:

وفي ذكره تعالى هذه الآية الباعثة على الدعاء ، متخللة بين أحكام الصيام ، إرشاد إلى الاجتهاد في الدعاء عند إكمال العدة ، بل وعند كل فطر . ـ

So Allah’s mention of this ayah encouraging supplication in midst of the rulings of fasting contains a directive to exert oneself in supplication when the entire period of fasting is completed – as well as of course at the breaking of every fast.

 كما رواه الإمام أبو داود الطيالسي في مسنده : حدثنا أبو محمد المليكي ، عن عمرو هو ابن شعيب بن محمد بن عبد الله بن عمرو ، عن أبيه ، عن جده عبد الله بن عمرو ، قال : سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول : ” للصائم عند إفطاره دعوة مستجابة ” . فكان عبد الله بن عمرو إذ أفطر دعا أهله ، وولده ودعا . ـ

This is just as Imam Abu Dawud al-Tayaalisi recorded in his musnad … that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr said: I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) say, “At the time of breaking the fast, the fasting person has a supplication which is accepted.” And so when ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr used to break his fast, he would call the members of his household and supplicate. Continue reading

The Blessed Night is Laylah al-Qadr, not the Middle of Sha’baan

Allah opens surah al-Dukkhaan (44) by mentioning “a blessed night” during which He sent down the Qur’an. The majority of the salaf and prominent interpreters of the Qur’an have indicated that this blessed night is Laylah al-Qadr, while a minority have claimed that it is referring to the night of the middle of the month of Sha’baan. What follows are three detailed clarifications of why the first position is correct and the second opinion is not supported by the textual evidences.

○ Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote the following clarification at the beginning of his tafsir of surah al-Dhukhaan. al-Shinqitee’s tafsir was focused on the theme of explaining the Qur’an first and foremost by means of the Qur’an itself, and he follows this approach in this explanation as well:

قوله – تعالى – : إنا أنزلناه في ليلة مباركة . ـ

Allah’s statement:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ

Indeed, We sent it [the Qur’an] down during a blessed night [44:3]

أبهم – تعالى – هذه الليلة المباركة هنا ، ولكنه بين أنها هي ليلة القدر في قوله – تعالى – : إنا أنزلناه في ليلة القدر [ 97 \ 1 ] وبين كونها ( مباركة ) المذكورة هنا في قوله – تعالى – : ليلة القدر خير من ألف شهر [ 97 \ 3 ] إلى آخر السورة . ـ

Allah left this blessed night ambiguous here, however He made it clear that it refers to Laylah al-Qadr elsewhere in His statement:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ

Indeed, We sent it down during Laylah al-Qadr [97:1]

And He clarified its aforementioned quality of “blessedness” in His statement: Continue reading

Ashaab al-Aykah and the People of Shu’aib: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah begins recounts the story of His prophet Shu’aib in surah al-Shu’araa’ by saying:

كَذَّبَ أَصْحَابُ الْأَيْكَةِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ * إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ شُعَيْبٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

The Ashaab al-Aykah denied the messengers * when Shu’aib said to them, “Won’t you have taqwaa?” [26:176-177]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following point in his discussion of these verses:

 هؤلاء – أعني أصحاب الأيكة – هم أهل مدين على الصحيح . وكان نبي الله شعيب من أنفسهم ، وإنما لم يقل هنا أخوهم شعيب ; لأنهم نسبوا إلى عبادة الأيكة ، وهي شجرة . وقيل : شجر ملتف كالغيضة ، كانوا يعبدونها ; فلهذا لما قال : كذب أصحاب الأيكة المرسلين ، لم يقل : ” إذ قال لهم أخوهم شعيب ” ، وإنما قال : ( إذ قال لهم شعيب ) ، فقطع نسبة الأخوة بينهم ; للمعنى الذي نسبوا إليه ، وإن كان أخاهم نسبا . ومن الناس من لم يتفطن لهذه النكتة ، فظن أن أصحاب الأيكة غير أهل مدين ، فزعم أن شعيبا عليه السلام ، بعثه الله إلى أمتين ، ومنهم من قال : ثلاث أمم . … والصحيح أنهم أمة واحدة ، وصفوا في كل مقام بشيء ; ولهذا وعظ هؤلاء وأمرهم بوفاء المكيال والميزان ، كما في قصة مدين سواء بسواء ، فدل ذلك على أنهم أمة واحدة . ـ

These people – meaning the Ashaab al-Aykah [the People of the Thicket] – are the people of the city of Madyan according to the correct opinion. The prophet of Allah Shu’aib was one of them, and the only reason why he is not referred to here as “their brother Shu’aib” is because here they are being described in relation to their worship of the aykah, which is a sort of tree – and some say it is a twisted sort of tree like a thicket -, which they used to worship.

So it is because of this that when Allah said, “The Ashaab al-Aykah denied the messengers“, He did not then say, “when their brother Shu’aib said to them…”, but instead said, “when Shu’aib said to them…“. So He cut off the relationship of brotherhood between Shu’aib and his people in the sense of them being referred to as “his people” even though he was in fact related to them as their brother. Continue reading

Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari

In surah al-Furqaan, Allah devotes a number of ayaat to describing the characteristics of the ‘ibaad al-Rahman (the slaves of the Most Merciful). Among these descriptions is His statement:

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

And they are those who do not witness al-zoor, and if they pass by some ill talk, they pass by it with dignity. [25:72]

al-Haafidh ibn Kathir clarified the meaning of “those who do not witness” briefly in his tafsir by writing:

 والأظهر من السياق أن المراد : لا يشهدون الزور ، أي : لا يحضرونه; ولهذا قال : ( وإذا مروا باللغو مروا كراما ) أي : لا يحضرون الزور ، وإذا اتفق مرورهم به مروا ، ولم يتدنسوا منه بشيء ; ولهذا قال : ( مروا كراما ) . ـ

From the context, it appears that the intended meaning of “they do not witness al-zoor” is that they are not present for it or in attendance when it is happening. In line with this, Allah said:

وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

and if they pass by some ill talk, they pass by it with dignity.

meaning: they are not in attendance when al-zoor occurs, and if they do happen to pass by it, then they do not let it sully them in the least. In this vein, Allah said:

مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

they pass by it with dignity.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 6/132]

There were a number of different interpretations of the meaning of al-zoor among the salaf. Sheikh ibn al-Jawzi summarizes these different opinions as follows: Continue reading