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

“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

Which are More Virtuous, the First Ten of Dhu’l-Hijjah or the Last Ten of Ramadan?

A question was posed to Sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah: Which are more virtuous, the first ten of Dh’ul-Hijjah or the last ten of Ramadan? So he replied:

أيام عشر ذي الحجة أفضل من أيام العشر من رمضان، والليالي العشر الأواخر من رمضان أفضل من ليالي عشر ذي الحجة

The days of the first ten of Dhu’l-Hijjah are more virtuous than the days of the last ten of Ramadan while the nights of the last ten of Ramadan are more virtuous than the nights of the first ten of Dhu’l-Hijjah.

[Majmoo’ al-Fataawa 25/154]

Ibn Taymiyah’s student Ibn al-Qayyim commented and elaborated upon his teacher’s response in one of his own works by writing:

وإذا تأمل الفاضل اللبيب هذا الجواب وجده شافيا كافيا، فإنه ليس من أيام العمل فيها أحب إلى الله من أيام عشر ذي الحجة. وفيها يوم عرفة ويوم النحر ويوم التروية. وأما ليالي عشر رمضان فهي ليالي الأحياء التي كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يحييها كلها، وفيها ليلة خير من ألف شهر. فمن أجاب بغير هذا التفصيل، لم يمكنه أن يدلي بحجة صحيحة

If one were to consider the honor and sensibleness of this answer, he would find it to be comprehensive and sufficient. Indeed, there are no days in which deeds are more beloved to Allah than the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah – and they contain the Day of ‘Arafah, the Day of the Sacrifice, and the Day of Tarwiyah [the 9th, 10th, and 8th days, respectively]. Continue reading

Beware of Opposing the Prophet’s Command: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Near the end of surah al-Nur, Allah says:

لَّا تَجْعَلُوا دُعَاءَ الرَّ‌سُولِ بَيْنَكُمْ كَدُعَاءِ بَعْضِكُم بَعْضًا ۚ قَدْ يَعْلَمُ اللَّـهُ الَّذِينَ يَتَسَلَّلُونَ مِنكُمْ لِوَاذًا ۚ فَلْيَحْذَرِ‌ الَّذِينَ يُخَالِفُونَ عَنْ أَمْرِ‌هِ أَن تُصِيبَهُمْ فِتْنَةٌ أَوْ يُصِيبَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

Do not make the calling of the Messenger among yourselves like the call of one of you to another. Already Allah knows those of you who slip away, concealed by others. So let those who oppose the Prophet’s command beware, lest fitnah strike them or a painful punishment. [24:63]

In his famous book of tafsir, Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following regarding this ayah:

قال الضحاك ، عن ابن عباس : كانوا يقولون : يا محمد ، يا أبا القاسم ، فنهاهم الله عز وجل ، عن ذلك ، إعظاما لنبيه ، صلوات الله وسلامه عليه قال : فقالوا : يا رسول الله ، يا نبي الله . وهكذا قال مجاهد ، وسعيد بن جبير . ـ

al-Dhahhaak reported from ibn ‘Abbas: People used to say, “O Muhammad! O Abu’l-Qaasim!”, so Allah forbade them from doing that out of reverence for His prophet (ﷺ). He told them to instead say, “O Messenger of Allah! O Prophet of Allah!”.

Mujaahid and Sa’eed ibn Jubayr reported something similar.

وقال قتادة : أمر الله أن يهاب نبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم ، وأن يبجل وأن يعظم وأن يسود . [ ص: 89 ] ـ

Qataadah said: Allah commanded the people to have respect for His prophet (ﷺ), and that they should honor, revere and hold him as a leader.

وقال مقاتل [ بن حيان ] في قوله : ( لا تجعلوا دعاء الرسول بينكم كدعاء بعضكم بعضا ) يقول : لا تسموه إذا دعوتموه : يا محمد ، ولا تقولوا : يا بن عبد الله ، ولكن شرفوه فقولوا : يا نبي الله ، يا رسول الله . ـ

Regarding Allah’s statement:

لَّا تَجْعَلُوا دُعَاءَ الرَّ‌سُولِ بَيْنَكُمْ كَدُعَاءِ بَعْضِكُم بَعْضًا

Do not make the calling of the Messenger among yourselves like the call of one of you to another

Muqaatil ibn Hayyaan said: Do not address him by name when you call him, such as saying, “O Muhammad!”, and do not say, “O ibn ‘Abdullah!”; rather, hold him in high regard and say, “O Prophet of Allah! O Messenger of Allah!” Continue reading

The date of Laylatu’l-Qadr being unknown – “Perhaps that is better for you”: Ibn Kathir

Imam al-Bukhari records in his Saheeh:

أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم خَرَجَ يُخْبِرُ بِلَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ، فَتَلاَحَى رَجُلاَنِ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ فَقَالَ ‏ “‏ إِنِّي خَرَجْتُ لأُخْبِرَكُمْ بِلَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ، وَإِنَّهُ تَلاَحَى فُلاَنٌ وَفُلاَنٌ فَرُفِعَتْ وَعَسَى أَنْ يَكُونَ خَيْرًا لَكُمُ الْتَمِسُوهَا فِي السَّبْعِ وَالتِّسْعِ وَالْخَمْسِ ‏

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) went out to inform the people about the (date of the) Laylatu’l-Qadr, but a quarrel took place between two of the Muslim men. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “I came out to inform you about (the date of) Laylatu’l-Qadr, but so-and-so and so-and-so quarreled, so its knowledge was taken away. And perhaps that is better for you. Search for it in the 7th, the 9th and the 5th (of the last 10 nights of Ramadan).”

[al-Bukhari #49]

In his famous book of tafsir, al-haafidh Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir comments on the phrase, ‘perhaps it was better for you‘ by writing:

 وقوله : ” وعسى أن يكون خيرا لكم ” يعني : عدم تعيينها لكم ، فإنها إذا كانت مبهمة اجتهد طلابها في ابتغائها في جميع محال رجائها ، فكان أكثر للعبادة ، بخلاف ما إذا علموا عينها فإنها كانت الهمم تتقاصر على قيامها فقط . وإنما اقتضت الحكمة إبهامها لتعم العبادة جميع الشهر في ابتغائها ، ويكون الاجتهاد في العشر الأواخر أكثر . ـ

And his statement, ‘perhaps it is better for you‘ – i.e., the lack of it being specified for you. For since it was left uncertain, those who seek it exert themselves, aspiring for it in all places of the month, hopeful of finding it. So there is an increase in worship, in contrast to if its specific time were known, for then its significance would certainly lead to restricting the night prayers to it exclusively. And the wisdom of its being left uncertain results in worship being spread throughout the entire month in pursuit of it, and that effort is increased even more so during the last ten nights. Continue reading

Ibn Kathir’s brief remarks on the contents of Surah al-Fatihah

After completing his individual explanations of each of the verses of surah al-Fatihah, al-Hafidh Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir made the following brief remarks about the contents of the surah as a whole:

اشتملت هذه السورة الكريمة وهي سبع آيات فضلها ، على حمد الله وتمجيده والثناء عليه ، بذكر أسمائه الحسنى المستلزمة لصفاته العليا ، وعلى ذكر المعاد وهو يوم الدين ، وعلى إرشاده عبيده إلى سؤاله والتضرع إليه ، والتبرؤ من حولهم وقوتهم ، وإلى إخلاص العبادة له وتوحيده بالألوهية تبارك وتعالى ، وتنزيهه أن يكون له شريك أو نظير أو مماثل ، وإلى سؤالهم إياه الهداية إلى الصراط المستقيم ، وهو الدين القويم ، وتثبيتهم عليه حتى يفضي بهم ذلك إلى جواز الصراط الحسي يوم القيامة ، المفضي بهم إلى جنات النعيم في جوار النبيين ، والصديقين ، والشهداء ، والصالحين . واشتملت على الترغيب في الأعمال الصالحة ، ليكونوا مع أهلها يوم القيامة ، والتحذير من مسالك الباطل ؛ لئلا يحشروا مع سالكيها يوم القيامة ، وهم المغضوب عليهم والضالون . ـ

This noble surah – while being only seven ayaat – contains many virtues. These include containing praise, glorification and extolling of Allah by mentioning His beautiful names which necessarily entail His lofty attributes.

And it contains mention of the ultimate destination, which is the Day of Recompense.

And it contains Allah’s guidance to His slaves to ask Him and supplicate to Him, and to disassociate themselves from any claim of possessing might or power.

It contains Allah’s guidance to have sincerity in worshiping Him and singling Him out in deity – exalted is He – , and declaring Him free from having any partners, equals or peers. Continue reading

“If you have taqwa of Allah, He will grant you a Furqan”: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In surah al-Anfal, Allah addresses His believing servants by saying:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن تَتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ يَجْعَل لَّكُمْ فُرْ‌قَانًا وَيُكَفِّرْ‌ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ‌ لَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ

O you who have believed, if you have taqwa of Allah, He will grant you a furqan [criterion] and will remove from you your misdeeds and forgive you. And Allah is the possessor of great bounty. [8:29]

Commenting on this ayah in his well-known book of tafsir, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote the following:

قال ابن عباس ، والسدي ، ومجاهد ، وعكرمة ، والضحاك ، وقتادة ، ومقاتل بن حيان ، وغير واحد : فرقانا : مخرجا ، زاد مجاهد : في الدنيا والآخرة ، وفي رواية عن ابن عباس : فرقانا : نجاة ، وفي رواية عنه : نصرا . وقال محمد بن إسحاق : فرقانا أي : فصلا بين الحق والباطل ، قاله ابن كثير . ـ

Ibn ‘Abbaas, al-Suddi, Mujaahid, ‘Ikrimah, al-Dhahhaak, Qataadah, Muqaatil ibn Hayyaan, and others all said: Furqan means, “a way out”. And Mujaahid added to this “in this worldly life and in the hereafter.”

And in what was narrated from ibn ‘Abbaas: Furqan means, “salvation”. And in another narration from him, “aid”.

And Muhammad ibn Ishaaq said: Furqan, meaning a means of distinguishing between the truth and falsehood.

All of the above is what ibn Kathir said [see Tafsir ibn Kathir 4/43-44].

قال مقيده عفا الله عنه : قول الجماعة المذكورة : إن المراد بالفرقان : المخرج يشهد له قوله تعالى : ومن يتق الله يجعل له مخرجا الآية [ 65 \ 2 ] ، والقول بأنه النجاة أو النصر ، راجع في المعنى إلى هذا ; لأن من جعل الله له مخرجا أنجاه ونصره ، لكن الذي يدل القرآن واللغة على صحته في تفسير الآية المذكورة هو قول ابن إسحاق ; لأن الفرقان مصدر زيدت فيه الألف والنون ، وأريد به الوصف أي الفارق بين الحق والباطل ، وذلك هو معناه في قوله : تبارك الذي نزل الفرقان [ 25 \ 1 ] ، أي الكتاب الفارق بين الحق والباطل ، وقوله : وأنزل الفرقان [ 3 \ 4 ] ، وقوله : وإذ آتينا موسى الكتاب والفرقان [ 2 \ 53 ] ، وقوله : ولقد آتينا موسى وهارون الفرقان [ 21 \ 48 ] ، ويدل على أن المراد بالفرقان هنا : العلم الفارق بين الحق والباطل ، قوله تعالى في الحديد : ياأيها الذين آمنوا اتقوا الله وآمنوا برسوله يؤتكم كفلين من رحمته ويجعل لكم نورا تمشون به ويغفر لكم الآية [ 57 \ 28 ] . ـ

And the following is my speech: Continue reading