“Only those who hear will respond”: Tafsir al-Tabari and Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-An’aam:

إِنَّمَا يَسْتَجِيبُ الَّذِينَ يَسْمَعُونَ ۘ وَالْمَوْتَىٰ يَبْعَثُهُمُ اللَّـهُ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ يُرْجَعُونَ

Only those who hear will respond. But the dead – Allah will resurrect them; then to Him they will be returned. [6:36]

In his famous book of tafsir, Imam Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari commented on this ayah by writing:

 قال أبو جعفر : يقول – تعالى ذكره – لنبيه محمد – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : لا يكبرن عليك إعراض هؤلاء المعرضين عنك ، وعن الاستجابة لدعائك إذا دعوتهم إلى توحيد ربهم والإقرار بنبوتك ، فإنه لا يستجيب لدعائك – إلى ما تدعوه إليه من ذلك – إلا الذين فتح الله أسماعهم للإصغاء إلى الحق ، وسهل لهم اتباع الرشد ، دون من ختم الله على سمعه ، فلا يفقه من دعائك إياه إلى الله وإلى اتباع الحق إلا ما تفقه الأنعام من أصوات رعاتها ، فهم كما وصفهم به الله – تعالى ذكره – : صم بكم عمي فهم لا يعقلون [ سورة البقرة : 171 ] ـ

I, Abu Ja’far, say: Allah is addressing His Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) by saying: Do not be distressed by the rejection of these ones who turn away from you and from responding to your call when you call them to singling out their Lord in worship and affirming your prophet-hood. For none will respond to your call – that is, those things which you are calling to – except for those whom Allah has opened their hearing to listen to the truth and then made it easy for them to follow the correct guidance. This is to the exclusion of those whom Allah has placed a seal over their hearing, so they do not understand this call to worship Allah and to follow the truth, this call of yours which is directed to them. They do not understand it any more than cattle understand the voice of their herder. So they are like those whom Allah described in this way:

وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي يَنْعِقُ بِمَا لَا يَسْمَعُ إِلَّا دُعَاءً وَنِدَاءً ۚ صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ

And the example of those who disbelieve, is as that of him who shouts to those that that hear nothing but calls and cries. (They are) deaf, dumb and blind. So they do not understand. [2:171]

ـ” والموتى يبعثهم الله ” يقول : والكفار يبعثهم الله مع الموتى ، فجعلهم – تعالى ذكره – في عداد الموتى الذين لا يسمعون صوتا ، ولا يعقلون دعاء ، ولا يفقهون قولا إذ كانوا لا يتدبرون حجج الله ، ولا يعتبرون آياته ، ولا يتذكرون فينزجرون عما هم عليه من تكذيب رسل الله وخلافهم . ـ

وَالْمَوْتَىٰ يَبْعَثُهُمُ اللَّـهُ

But the dead – Allah will resurrect them Continue reading

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The Names and Revelation of Surah al-Fatihah: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Before proceeding to explain surah al-Fatihah verse-by-verse, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Husayn al-Baghawi included a short discussion of its well-known names and when it was revealed:

 ولها ثلاثة أسماء معروفة فاتحة الكتاب وأم القرآن والسبع المثاني . ـ

Surah al-Fatihah has three well-known names, which are:

سميت فاتحة الكتاب ؛ لأن الله بها افتتح القرآن . وسميت أم القرآن وأم الكتاب لأنها أصل القرآن منها بدئ القرآن وأم الشيء أصله ، ويقال لمكة : أم القرى؛ لأنها أصل البلاد دحيت الأرض من تحتها وقيل لأنها مقدمة وإمام لما يتلوها من السور يبدأ بكتابتها في المصحف وبقراءتها في الصلاة والسبع المثاني لأنها سبع آيات باتفاق العلماء . وسميت مثاني لأنها تثنى في الصلاة فتقرأ في كل ركعة وقال مجاهد سميت مثاني لأن الله تعالى استثناها لهذه الأمة فذخرها لهم . ـ

It is called Fatihah al-Kitaab because Allah opens the Qur’an with it.

And it is called Umm al-Qur’an or Umm al-Kitaab because it is the foundation of the Qur’an with which the Qur’an begins, and the umm of something is its foundation. Mecca is called Umm al-Quraa because it was the origin of the cities which spread out across the surrounding land. And it is also said that surah al-Fatihah is called Umm al-Qur’an because it is an introduction and a leader for the surahs which follow it. Its text begins the mushaf and its recitation begins the prayer. Continue reading

A Point on Numbering in the Qur’an: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

In surah al-Kahf, Allah mentions the following ayaat during his discussion of the People of the Cave:

سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَاثَةٌ رَّ‌ابِعُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمْسَةٌ سَادِسُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ رَ‌جْمًا بِالْغَيْبِ ۖ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ ۚ قُل رَّ‌بِّي أَعْلَمُ بِعِدَّتِهِم مَّا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ

They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen. And they will say there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog. Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few….” [18:22]

In his explanation of Sheikh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiya’s “Introduction to Tafsir”, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen took some time to expand on this ayah and some of the points related to it. Below is one of these points:

وهنا نكتة في مسألة العدد، قال: {سبعة وثامنهم كلبهم} ولم يقل ثمانية ثامنهم كلبهم؛ لأن الكلب من غير الجنس، وإذا كان من غير الجنس فإنه لا يدخل في العدد ولكنه يجعل بعده، ولهذا قال الله عز وجل: {ما يكون من نجوى ثلاثة إلا هو رابعهم} ولم يقل: من نجوى أربعة إلا هو رابعهم؛ لأنه خالق وهم مخلوقون. ـ

And here there is a point about quantities. Allah said:

سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ

there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog [18:22]

And He did not say, “there were eight, and eighth of them was their dog”, because the dog was not of the same category of being. So since it was not of the same category of being, it was not included in their count but instead was mentioned afterwards. Continue reading

The Enduring Good Deeds: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah says in surah al-Kahf:

الْمَالُ وَالْبَنُونَ زِينَةُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَالْبَاقِيَاتُ الصَّالِحَاتُ خَيْرٌ عِندَ رَبِّكَ ثَوَابًا وَخَيْرٌ أَمَلًا

Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world. But al-baaqiyaat al-saalihaat (the enduring good deeds) are better with your Lord for rewards and better in respect of hope. [18:46]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote:

ذكر جل وعلا في هذه الآية الكريمة أن المال والبنين زينة الحياة الدنيا ، وأن الباقيات الصالحات خير عند الله ثوابا وخير أملا . ـ

In this noble ayah, Allah mentions that wealth and children are the beautification of this worldly life, and that al-baaqiyaat al-saalihaat (the enduring good deeds) are better with Allah for rewards and better for one’s hopes.

والمراد من الآية الكريمة تنبيه الناس للعمل الصالح ; لئلا يشتغلوا بزينة الحياة الدنيا [ ص: 281 ] من المال والبنين عما ينفعهم في الآخرة عند الله من الأعمال الباقيات الصالحات ، وهذا المعنى الذي أشار له هنا جاء مبينا في آيات أخر ، كقوله تعالى : زين للناس حب الشهوات من النساء والبنين والقناطير المقنطرة من الذهب والفضة والخيل المسومة والأنعام والحرث ذلك متاع الحياة الدنيا والله عنده حسن المآب قل أؤنبئكم بخير من ذلكم للذين اتقوا عند ربهم جنات تجري من تحتها الأنهار خالدين فيها وأزواج مطهرة الآية [ 3 \ 14 – 15 ] ، وقولـه : ياأيها الذين آمنوا لا تلهكم أموالكم ولا أولادكم عن ذكر الله ومن يفعل ذلك فأولئك هم الخاسرون [ 63 \ 9 ] ، وقولـه : إنما أموالكم وأولادكم فتنة والله عنده أجر عظيم [ 64 \ 15 ] ، وقولـه : وما أموالكم ولا أولادكم بالتي تقربكم عندنا زلفى إلا من آمن وعمل صالحا الآية [ 34 \ 37 ] ، وقولـه : يوم لا ينفع مال ولا بنون إلا من أتى الله بقلب سليم [ 26 \ 88 ] ، إلى غير ذلك من الآيات الدالة على أن الإنسان لا ينبغي له الاشتغال بزينة الحياة الدنيا عما ينفعه في آخرته ، وأقوال العلماء في الباقيات الصالحات كلها راجعة إلى شيء واحد ، وهو الأعمال التي ترضي الله ، سواء قلنا : إنها الصلوات الخمس ، كما هو مروي عن جماعة من السلف : منهم ابن عباس ، وسعيد بن جبير ، وأبو ميسرة ، وعمرو بن شرحبيل ، أو أنها : سبحان الله والحمد لله ولا إله إلا الله والله أكبر ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله العلي العظيم ، وعلى هذا القول جمهور العلماء ، وجاءت دالة عليه أحاديث مرفوعة عن أبي سعيد الخدري ، وأبي الدرداء ، وأبي هريرة ، والنعمان بن بشير ، وعائشة رضي الله عنهم . ـ

The intended meaning of this noble ayah is to draw people’s attention to righteous deeds so that they are not busied with the adornments of the life of this world such as wealth and children, distracted and diverted away from the enduring good deeds which will benefit them in the hereafter with Allah.

This meaning which has been indicated here has also come clearly in a number of other ayaat, such as Allah’s statement: Continue reading

Overview of Surah al-Insaan: Ibn Taymiyah

Sheikh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah began a long discussion of the different parts of surah al-Insaan [76] by providing this general overview of the surah‘s contents:

اعلم أن سورة هل أتى على الإنسان سورة عجيبة الشأن من سور القرآن على اختصارها فإن الله سبحانه ابتدأها بذكر كيفية خلق الإنسان من النطفة ذات الأمشاج والأخلاط التي لم يزل بقدرته ولطفه وحكمته يصرفه عليها أطوارا وينقله من حال إلى حال إلى أن تمت خلقته وكملت صورته فأخرجه إنسانا سويا سميعا بصيرا . ـ

You should know that surah al-Insaan is one of the amazing surahs of the Qur’an despite its brevity. For Allah the Exalted begins this surah by mentioning how He creates the human being from a mixed sperm drop which, by His Might, Benevolence and Wisdom, He takes through a number of stages of development, moving from one condition to the next until its creation is finished and it is fully formed. Then He brings it forth as a well-formed, hearing, seeing, human being.

ثم لما تكامل تمييزه وإدراكه هداه طريقي الخير والشر والهدى والضلال وأنه بعد هذه الهداية إما أن يشكر ربه وإما أن يكفره . ـ

Then when man’s discernment and understanding have fully developed, Allah guides him to the two paths of either good or evil, guidance or misguidance. After this guidance, man is either grateful to his Lord or ungrateful towards Him. Continue reading

Precautionary Language in the Qur’an: ibn ‘Uthaymeen

Imam Muslim recorded the following hadeeth in his Saheeh, that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

الْمُؤْمِنُ الْقَوِيُّ خَيْرٌ وَأَحَبُّ إِلَى اللَّهِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِ الضَّعِيفِ وَفِي كُلٍّ خَيْرٌ

The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, but there is good in both of them. …

[Saheeh Muslim #2664]

In part of his commentary on this hadeeth in Riyaadh al-Saaliheen, sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen mentioned the following:

وقوله: (خير) يعني خير من المؤمن الضعيف، وأحب إلى الله من المؤمن الضعيف، ثم قال ـ عليه الصلاة والسلام ـ: (وفي كل خير) يعني المؤمن القوي والمؤمن الضعيف كل منهما فيه خير، وإنما قال: (وفي كل خير) لئلا يتوهم أحد من الناس أن المؤمن الضعيف لا خير فيه، بل المؤمن الضعيف فيه خير، فهو خير من الكافر لا شك. ـ

The Prophet’s statement “better” is referring to: better than the weak believer, and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer. But then he (ﷺ) said, “but there is good in both of them,” meaning: both the strong believer and the weak believer have good in them. He only said, “but there is good in both of them” lest one might wrongly suppose that there is no good in the weak believer. On the contrary, there is good in the weak believer, for there is no doubt that he is better than a disbeliever.

وهذا الأسلوب يسميه البلاغيون الاحتراز، وهو أن يتكلم الإنسان كلاماً يوهم معنى لا يقصده، فيأتي بجملة تبين أنه يقصد المعنى المعين، ومثال ذلك في القرآن قوله تبارك وتعالى: (لا يَسْتَوِي مِنْكُمْ مَنْ أَنْفَقَ مِنْ قَبْلِ الْفَتْحِ وَقَاتَلَ أُولَئِكَ أَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً مِنَ الَّذِينَ أَنْفَقُوا مِنْ بَعْدُ وَقَاتَلُوا وَكُلّاً وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَى) (الحديد: 10) ، لما كان قوله: (أُولَئِكَ أَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً مِنَ الَّذِينَ أَنْفَقُوا مِنْبَعْدُ وَقَاتَلُوا) يوهم أن الآخرين ليس لهم حظ من هذا، قال: (وَكُلّاً وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَى) . ـ

This type of language has been called “precautionary language” by the the experts of linguistic style. That is when a person says something that might mistakenly be taken in a way which he didn’t intend, and so he brings another sentence or clause to clarify the exact meaning that he intended.

There are a number of examples of this in the Qur’an. Take Allah’s statement: Continue reading

Meanings of the words Yahood, Nasaara and Saabi’oon: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Imam al-Baghawi offers some linguistic definitions and benefits in his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah [2:62] by writing:

 ـ ( إن الذين آمنوا والذين هادوا ) يعني اليهود سموا به لقولهم إنا هدنا إليك أي ملنا إليك وقيل لأنهم هادوا أي تابوا عن عبادة العجل وقيل لأنهم مالوا عن دين الإسلام وعن دين موسى عليه السلام وقال أبو عمرو بن العلاء : لأنهم يتهودون أي يتحركون عند قراءة التوراة ويقولون : إن السماوات والأرض تحركت حين آتى الله موسى التوراة . ـ

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا

Verily! Those who believe and those who haadoo … [2:62]

meaning, the Yahood (Jews). They were called by that due to their statement

إِنَّا هُدْنَا إِلَيْكَ

indeed, we have hudnaa to You. [7:156]

meaning, we have turned to You.

And some say that they are called that because they haadoo [reconciled] – i.e. repented – from their calf-worship.

Some others say they are called that because they turned away from the religion of Islam and from the religion of Moosaa (peace be upon him).

Abu ‘Amr ibn al-‘Alaa’ said they are called that because they yatahawwadoon – meaning they rock and sway when they are reciting the Tawrah and because they say that the heavens and the earth shook when Allah gave Moosaa the Tawrah. Continue reading

The Virtue of this Ummah over the Previous Nations: Imam al-Shinqitee

The following discussion is an excerpt from a class of the famous mufassir, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee. The class was delivered in his home to a group of his students. It was recorded, and subsequently transcribed and published in a collection of similar lessons and recorded events. This particular excerpt occurred during a lesson in which sheikh al-Shinqitee was explaining part of surah al-Baqarah, during his discussion of the ayah:

يَا بَنِي إِسْرَ‌ائِيلَ اذْكُرُ‌وا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

O Banu Israa’eel, remember My favor that I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over all creation [2:47]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee explained:

وقوله هنا {فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ} ؛ أي : على عالمي زمانكم الذي أنتم فيه ، فلا ينافي أن هذه الأمة التي هي أمة محمد ﷺ أفضل منهم ، كما نصّ الله على ذلك بقوله : {كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ} الآية [آل عمران 110] ، وفي حديث معاوية بن حيدة القشيري عن النبي ﷺ : أَنْتُمْ تُوفُونَ سَبْعِينَ أُمَّةً أَنْتُمْ خَيْرُهَا وَأَكْرَمُهَا عَلَى اللَّهِ . ـ

Allah’s statement here:

 فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

 I preferred you over all creation [2:47]

meaning: over all creation of the time in which they were living, so this does not conflict with the fact that this ummah – which is the ummah of Muhammad (ﷺ) – is the best of nations, as Allah informed us in His statement:

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ‌ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِ‌جَتْ لِلنَّاسِ

You are the best nation brought forth for mankind … [3:110]

…until the end of the ayah. And in the hadeeth of Mu’aawiyah ibn Haidah al-Qushairi that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “You succeeded seventy nations and you are the best of them and the most noble of them in the sight of Allah”. Continue reading

Six Categories of Wrong-Doings: Sheikh al-Raajihi

In surah al-A’raaf, Allah mentioned:

قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّيَ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَالْإِثْمَ وَالْبَغْيَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَأَن تُشْرِكُوا بِاللَّـهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَأَن تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

Say, “My Lord has only forbidden immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed – and sin, and oppression without right, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down authority, and that you say about Allah that which you do not know.” [7:33]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Raajihi mentioned the following points of benefit regarding this ayah by saying:

قال بعض العلماء على آية :   قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّيَ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَالْإِثْمَ وَالْبَغْيَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَأَنْ تُشْرِكُوا بِاللَّهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَأَنْ تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ . الآية عطف بعضها على بعض ، وإن كان المعطوف داخلا في المعطوف عليه ، فبعضها داخل في بعض ، إذ الإثم والبغي والشرك داخل في الفواحش وعمومها ؛ لأن مظالم العباد بعضهم مع بعض والاعتداء عليهم يكون في ستة أشياء في البدن وفي النسب وفي الدين وفي العرض وفي العقل وفي المال ، فالاعتداء على الإنسان يكون :  في البدن .  وفي النسب .  وفي الدين .  وفي العرض . – وفي العقل .  ـ

Regarding the ayah:

قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّيَ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَالْإِثْمَ وَالْبَغْيَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَأَن تُشْرِكُوا بِاللَّـهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَأَن تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

Say, “My Lord has only forbidden immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed – and sin, and oppression without right, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down authority, and that you say about Allah that which you do not know.” [7:33]

some of the scholars have said that this ayah has some overlap in its categories with some overlapping others and that some categories in this listing could fall under other categories, and so some of them are included in others. For sin, oppression, and al-shirk all fall under the category of immoralities and its general encompassing nature. This is all because the wrong-doings and transgressions which human beings perpetrate against one another occur in relation to six things: physical well-being, lineage, religion, honor, intellect, or wealth. So the transgressions against people can be distilled down to: Continue reading

The Arrangement of the Final Chapters of the Qur’an: Ibn Taymiyah

Sheikh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah mentioned the following benefits in one of his writings:

السور القصار في أواخر المصحف متناسبة . فسورة ( اقرأ هي أول ما نزل من القرآن ; ولهذا افتتحت بالأمر بالقراءة وختمت بالأمر بالسجود ووسطت بالصلاة التي أفضل أقوالها وأولها بعد التحريم هو القراءة وأفضل أفعالها وآخرها قبل التحليل هو السجود … ـ

The shorter surahs at the end of the mushaf have a certain logic and reasoning to their organization and arrangement. Surah Iqraa’ [96] was the first part of the Qur’an to be revealed, and so it opens with the command to recite and closes with the command to make sujood. And in its middle is the prayer, whose best spoken part and the first of them after the initial takbeer is the recitation of the Qur’an, and whose best physical parts and the last of them before its conclusion is the sujood. …

فلما أمر في هذه السورة بالقراءة ذكر في التي تليها نزول القرآن ليلة القدر وذكر فيها تنزل الملائكة والروح وفي ( المعارج عروج الملائكة والروح وفي ( النبأ قيام الملائكة والروح . فذكر الصعود والنزول والقيام ثم [ ص: 478 ] في التي تليها تلاوته على المنذرين حيث قال : { يتلو صحفا مطهرة } { فيها كتب قيمة } . فهذه السور الثلاث منتظمة للقرآن أمرا به وذكرا لنزوله ولتلاوة الرسول له على المنذرين . ـ

So after Allah commands the recitation of the Qur’an in this surah, in the following surah [97 – surah al-Qadr] He mentions the sending down of the Qur’an on Laylah al-Qadr. And in that surah He also mentioned the descending of the angels and the Rooh. Continue reading