A Parable of What the Disbelievers Spend in This Life: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah presents the following parable in surah Aal ‘Imran:

مَثَلُ مَا يُنفِقُونَ فِي هَـٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَثَلِ رِيحٍ فِيهَا صِرٌّ أَصَابَتْ حَرْثَ قَوْمٍ ظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ فَأَهْلَكَتْهُ ۚ وَمَا ظَلَمَهُمُ اللَّـهُ وَلَـٰكِنْ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ

The example of what they spend in this worldly life is like that of a wind containing frost which strikes the harvest of a people who have wronged themselves and destroys it. And Allah has not wronged them, but they wrong themselves. [3:117]

Ibn al-Qayyim remarked on this ayah by writing:

هذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى لمن أتفق ماله في غير طاعته ومرضاته . ـ

Allah struck this parable about those who spend their wealth in other things besides obedience to Allah and seeking His pleasure.

[A’laam al-Mawqi’een 1/173]

Imam al-Qurtubi wrote:

ومعنى الآية : مثل نفقة الكافرين في بطلانها وذهابها وعدم منفعتها كمثل زرع أصابه ريح باردة أو نار فأحرقته وأهلكته ، فلم ينتفع أصحابه بشيء بعدما كانوا يرجون فائدته ونفعه . وما ظلمهم الله بذلك ولكن أنفسهم يظلمون بالكفر والمعصية ومنع حق الله تعالى . ـ

The message of this ayah is that the futility, waste and lack of benefit of the disbelievers’ spending is like a cultivated field which is struck with a frigid wind – or a fire – which scorches and destroys it, leaving its owners unable to benefit from it in any way after they had hoped to receive some fruits and benefit from it. And they did not wrong Allah with their spending; rather it was themselves that they wronged with the disbelief, sins and refusing to give Allah His due rights.

[Tafsir al-Qurtubi 4/169] Continue reading

The Punishment of al-Rahman

Badr al-Deen ibn Jamaa’ah, one of the teachers of ibn Kathir, wrote the following in his book dedicated to explaining slight differences in the wordings of otherwise similar ayaat in the Qur’an:

مسألة: قوله تعالى: (أَنْ يَمَسَّكَ عَذَابٌ مِنَ الرَّحْمَنِ) ومناسبة مس العذاب: الجبار المنتقم؟ . وما فائدة تكرار ذكر ” الرحمن ” في هذه السورة أكثر من غيرها؟ . ـ

Question: Regarding Allah’s statement:

إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَن يَمَسَّكَ عَذَابٌ مِّنَ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ

[Ibrahim said to his father] “I certainly fear that a punishment from al-Rahman will touch you” [19:45]

Wouldn’t it be more fitting to use names like al-Jabbaar [the Mighty] or al-Muntaqim [the Vengeful] when discussing punishment afflicting someone?

Also, what should we understand from the repetition of the name al-Rahman [the Most Merciful] throughout this surah [surah Maryam] more than any other names? Continue reading

Reflecting on the Wonders of Allah’s Creation: Sheikh Faisal Aal Mubarak

In his brief explanation of al-Nawawi’s Riyadh al-Saliheen, Sheikh Faisal Aal Mubarak provided the following valuable comments about a recurring theme in the Qur’an:

باب التفكير في عظيم مخلوقات الله تَعَالَى وفناء الدنيا وأهوال الآخرة وسائر أمورهما وتقصيرنفس وتهذيبها وحملها عَلَى الاستقامة
Chapter: Reflecting on the Wonders of Allah’s Creation, the Passing Nature of this Worldly Life, the Terrors of the Hereafter and other related matters. Also, Recognizing One’s Own Deficiencies, Removing Them and Motivating Oneself to Be Upright

التفكر في المخلوقات: كالعرش، والكرسي، والسماء والأرض يدل على كمال الخالق وعظمته. ـ

Reflecting on the Wonders of Allah’s Creation – such as the ‘Arsh – the Throne, the Kursi – the Footstool, the sky and the earth. All of these things point to the grandeur and complete perfection of the Creator.

وفي الحديث: «ما السماء والأرض، وما بينهما في العرش إلا كحلقة أُلْقيتْ في فلاة من الأرض» ، وقد قال الله تعالى: {وَمَا قَدَرُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ وَالأَرْضُ جَمِيعاً قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَالسَّماوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ} [الزمر (67) ] .” ـ

There is a hadith:

The heavens and the earth in comparison to the kursi are like a plate of armor in the midst of a desert, and the kursi in comparison to the Throne is itself like a plate of armor in the midst of a desert.

And Allah said:

وَمَا قَدَرُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ وَالأَرْضُ جَمِيعاً قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَالسَّماوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ

They have not appraised Allah with true appraisal, while He will take the entire earth within His grip on the Day of Resurrection and the heavens will be folded in His right hand. Exalted is He and high above what they associate with Him. [39:67]

والتفكُّر في فناء الدنيا: يبعثه على الزهد فيها، والإِقبال على الآخرة. ـ

Reflecting on the Passing Nature of this Worldly Life – this promotes more self-restraint when it comes to pursuing the pleasures of this worldly life, instead turning one’s attention to the hereafter.

Continue reading

Links Between the Beginnings and Ends of Surahs: al-Suyooti

In part of his chapter on the munasabat [connections and links between ayaat and surahs] in his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, Imam al-Suyooti mentioned the following:

من هذا النوع مناسبة فواتح السور وخواتمها ، وقد أفردت فيه جزءا لطيفا سميته مراصد المطالع في تناسب المقاطع والمطالع . ـ

Another type of munasabat are those between the beginning of a surah and its conclusion. I have written a work specifically focused on this category of munasabat entitled Maraasid al-Mataali’ fee Tanaasub al-Maqaati’ w’al-Mataali’.

وانظر إلى سورة القصص كيف بدئت بأمر موسى ونصرته ، وقوله فلن أكون ظهيرا للمجرمين [ القصص : 17 ] . وخروجه من وطنه ، وختمت بأمر النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بأن لا يكون ظهيرا للكافرين ، وتسليته عن إخراجه من مكة ، ووعده بالعود إليها لقوله في أول السورة إنا رادوه [ القصص : 7 ] . ـ

Consider how surah al-Qasas begins with with the story of Moosaa, his helping the man in the market, his statement:

فَلَنْ أَكُونَ ظَهِيرًا لِّلْمُجْرِمِينَ

So I will never again be a helper to the criminal wrong-doers [28:17]

and his leaving his homeland. Then it ends with commanding the Prophet to not be a helper to the disbelievers and giving him some consolation for his leaving Mecca. And Allah also gives him a promise that he will return to Mecca in His statement:

إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ

… Indeed, We shall bring him back … [28:7]

قال الزمخشري : وقد جعل الله فاتحة سورة قد أفلح المؤمنون وأورد في خاتمتها إنه لا يفلح الكافرون [ المؤمنون : 117 ] . فشتان ما بين الفاتحة والخاتمة . ـ

al-Zamakhshari said: Allah placed Continue reading

Points of Contrast Between Surah al-Falaq and Surah al-Nas

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. In his discussion of surah al-Nas, ibn Jamaa’ah included the following notes:

مسألة: قوله تعالى: (بِرَبِّ النَّاسِ * مَلِكِ النَّاسِ * إِلَهِ النَّاسِ ) إلى آخر السورة. المستعان به في هذه ثلاث صفات، والمستعاذ منه شر واحد وهو: الوسوسة. وفى سورة الفلق: المستعاذ به بصفة واحدة، والمستعاذ منه أربعة أشياء؟ . ـ

Question: Allah’s statement:

بِرَبِّ النَّاسِ * مَلِكِ النَّاسِ * إِلَـٰهِ النَّاسِ

… in the Lord of mankind * the Master of mankind * the God of mankind [114:1-3]

until the end of the surah.

Here, there are three characteristics through which aid is sought and one evil against which protection is sought, which is the whispering of the shaytaan. But in surah al-Falaq, it is only one characteristic through which protection is sought but four things against which protection is sought. What is the significance of this? Continue reading

Six Basic Guidelines for Understanding the Qur’an: Imam al-Sa’di

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di authored books in a number of fields, with his book of tafsir, Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman, becoming especially widespread and well-known. In addition to that work, he once mentioned that a number of people had asked him to write an even more condensed and abridged book of tafsir. Although he began this work, it appears that he did not complete it and it was left in manuscript form until only the first few pages of it were published for the first time in a 35 volume collection of the sheikh’s works. The sections published were limited to a short author’s introduction, two pages on important principles for understanding the Qur’an and the first half of surah al-Fatihah. This amounts to less than 5 pages in total, though perhaps further sections of this work will be found in the future. Below you can read Imam al-Sa’di’s brief words of advice for those who desire to correctly understand the Qur’an, advice that he wrote to go accompany that incomplete condensed tafsir.

مقدمة في ضوابط النافعة
Introduction to Some Beneficial Principles

ـ • ينبغي لمن أراد فهم كلام الله فهما صحيحا أن يتدبرا صادقا ويتفهم ما دل عليه من المعاني ويطبقها على الواقع فلا يراعى خصوص الاسباب التي نزلت الايات بسببها أو قيل : إنها نزلت بسببها ، بل يراعى عموم معنى الكلام ويعلم أن السبب إذا ثبت فإنه جزء وفرد من أفراد ذلك المعنى الذي دل عليه الكلام ، وكذلك الأقوال التي يقولها المفسرين إذا تعددت فإن البصير بإمكانه أن يجعل جميعها داخلة في المعنى ومراده منه حيث احتملها اللفظ ولا ينبغي له أن يحملها على التباين والتخالف فكم ذكر في كثير من الآيات أقوال متعددة ومرجعها في الحقيقة كلها إلى المعني العام . ـ

• Whoever wants to understand the Qur’an correctly should earnestly contemplate it, work to comprehend the messages it presents and implement them in his life. He should not become consumed with the specific circumstances under which or because of which the ayaat were revealed or say, “It was revealed due to such-and-such reason”. Rather, he should focus his attention on the general meaning of the ayah and know that the reason for revelation – even if authentic – is just one piece and one portion of the meaning which this ayah conveys.

Continue reading

More Astray Than Cattle: Ibn al-Qayyim

Allah presents the following description of the disbelievers by way of comparison in surah al-Furqan:

أَمْ تَحْسَبُ أَنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ أَوْ يَعْقِلُونَ ۚ إِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا كَالْأَنْعَامِ ۖ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ سَبِيلًا

Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are nothing more than like cattle. In fact, they are even more astray from the path. [25:44]

Commenting on this ayah, the great scholar ibn al-Qayyim wrote:

فشبه أكثر الناس بالأنعام والجامع بين النوعين التساوي في عدم قبول الهدى والانقياد له

Allah has compared most of mankind to cattle here, and the characteristic that both groups have in common is their lack of accepting the truth and conforming to it.

وجعل الأكثرين أضل سبيلا من الأنعام لأن البهيمة يهديها سائقها فتهتدي وتتبع الطريق فلا تحيد عنها يمينا ولا شمالا والأكثرون يدعوهم الرسل ويهدونهم السبيل فلا يستجيبون ولا يهتدون ولا يفرقون بين ما يضرهم وبين ما ينفعهم والأنعام تفرق بين ما يضرها من النبات والطريق فتتجنبه وما ينفعها فتؤثره

And He stated that most people are even more astray from the path than cattle. That is because a herder drives the livestock, resulting in them being guided and following the path without deviating to the right or left. However, for most people, despite the messengers calling them and guiding them, they do not respond to the call nor do they adopt their guidance, nor do they even distinguish between what is harmful or beneficial to them. Meanwhile cattle do distinguish between what harms them, such as certain plants and paths which they thus avoid, and what benefits them, which they then take an interest in. Continue reading

Allah Addressing the Prophet vs Allah Addressing the Believers

Badr al-Deen ibn Jamaa’ah, one of the teachers of al-haafidh ibn Kathir, wrote the following point of benefit in his book discussing the slight differences of wordings between otherwise similar ayaat:

مسألة: قوله تعالى: (قُولُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْنَا). وفى آل عمران: (قُلْ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْنَا). ـ

Question: Allah says:

قُولُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّـهِ وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا

Say (O believers), “We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us …” [2:136]

but in surah Aal ‘Imran He says:

قُلْ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْنَا

Say (O Prophet), “We believe in Allah and what has been revealed on us …” [3:84]

جوابه: لما صدر آية البقرة بقوله: (قُولُوا) وهو خطاب المسلمين ردا على قول أهل الكتاب: (كُونُوا هُودًا أَوْ نَصَارَى) قال: (إلينا) . ولما صدر آية آل عمران بقوله: قل قال: (علينا) . والفرق بينهما: أن (إلى) ينتهي بها من كل جهة، و (على) لا ينتهى بها إلا من جهة واحدة وهي: العلو. والقرآن يأتي المسلمين من كل جهة يأتي مبلغه إياهم منها، وإنما أتى النبى ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ من جهة العلو خاصة، فحسن وناسب قوله: (علينا) لقوله: قل مع فضل تنويع الخطاب. وكذلك أكثرها جاء في جهة النبى ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ب (على) ، وأكثر ما جاء ق جهة الأمة ب (إلى) . ـ

Response: That is because the ayah in surah al-Baqarah begins with Allah’s statement:

قُولُوا

Say (O believers) … [2:136]

which is addressing the believers in response to what the Ahl al-Kitab said, which was: Continue reading

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

Levels of Explanation Needed for the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

In his famous handbook to the Qur’anic sciences, al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, sheikh Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi dedicated one chapter to discussing the different levels of explanation needed for different parts of the Qur’an. We have added a numbering system to this translation in an effort to facilitate navigating the the sections and many examples it includes:

ينقسم القرآن العظيم إلى : ما هو بين بنفسه ، بلفظ لا يحتاج إلى بيان منه ، ولا من غيره ، وهو كثير . ومنه قوله – تعالى – : التائبون العابدون ( التوبة : 112 ) الآية ، وقوله : إن المسلمين والمسلمات ( الأحزاب : 35 ) الآية ، وقوله : قد أفلح المؤمنون ( المؤمنون : 1 ) ، وقوله : واضرب لهم مثلا أصحاب القرية ( يس : 13 ) ، وقوله : ياأيها الذين أوتوا الكتاب آمنوا بما نزلنا مصدقا ( النساء : 47 ) . ـ

The Qur’an can be divided into the following categories:1. Those parts which are clear in and of themselves, with wordings that do not require any further clarification, and these are very common.

Some examples include:

Ex 1. Allah’s statement:

التَّائِبُونَ الْعَابِدُونَ الْحَامِدُونَ السَّائِحُونَ الرَّاكِعُونَ السَّاجِدُونَ الْآمِرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَالنَّاهُونَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَالْحَافِظُونَ لِحُدُودِ اللَّـهِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

They are those who repent, worship, praise, fast, bow, prostrate, command the good, forbid evil, and observe the regulations of Allah. And give glad tidings to the believers [9:112]

Ex 2. and His statement: Continue reading