Ten Areas to Memorize for Excellence in Tafsir

The following Q&A was conducted with sheikh ‘Abdullah al-‘Awaaji, a professor of Tafsir at the Islamic University of al-Madinah, via the Qur’anic Consultations Twitter page:

س/ اشتركت في حلقة نقرأ فيها تفسير السعدي والحمد لله فهل نحفظ التفسير لنفهم معاني الآيات؟ ـ

Question: Alhamdulillaah, I participate in a class where we go through Tafsir al-Sa’di. Should we memorize the tafsir in order to understand the meanings of the ayaat?

ج/ لا أختار لكم حفظ التفسير كله ولكن الذي يحفظ لإتقان التفسير : ـ

Response: I would tell you not to memorize the entire tafsir but instead to memorize those things which bring about excellence in the field of tafsir.

١-علم مفردات القرءان لا سيما المتكررة (وهو مايسمى غريب القرآن) ومتوسطها للمبتدئ ألف كلمة وللمنتهي مائة كلمة تقريبا

1) Knowledge of Qur’anic vocabulary, especially those words which are used frequently, which is referred to as Ghareeb al-Qur’an. These would be about 1,000 words for the beginner, and then to finish off with roughly another [less frequently used] 100 words.

٢-وعلم التفسير النبوي الصحيح الصريح وهو مئة حديث تقريبا

2) Knowledge of the authentic explicit statements of tafsir from the Prophet, and this amounts to about 100 hadith narrations. Continue reading

O You Who Have Believed, Look After Your Own Souls: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Maa’idah:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ ۖ لَا يَضُرُّكُم مَّن ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ ۚ إِلَى اللَّـهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

O you who have believed, look after your own souls. Those who have gone astray will not harm you when you have been guided. To Allah is you return all together; then He will inform you of what you used to do. [5:105]

In his famous book of tafsir, al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following:

يقول تعالى آمرا عباده المؤمنين أن يصلحوا أنفسهم ويفعلوا الخير بجهدهم وطاقتهم ، ومخبرا لهم أنه من أصلح أمره لا يضره فساد من فسد من الناس ، سواء كان قريبا منه أو بعيدا . ـ

Allah is commanding His believing slaves to rectify themselves and do the good that is within their ability and capacity, and He is also informing them that whoever rectifies his own matters will not be harmed by the corruption of the corrupted people regardless of whether they are near or far from him. Continue reading

Guidance and Striving: ibn al-Qayyim

ibn al-Qayyim mentioned the following benefit in one of his many valuable written works:

قال تعالى: {والذين جاهدوا فينا لنهدينهم سبلنا} عَلَّقَ سبحانه الهِداية بالجِهاد، فأكمل الناس هِدايةً أَعظمهم جِهادًا، وأَفْرَضُ الجهاد: جهاد النَّفْس، وجهاد الهَوَى، وجهاد الشيطان، وجهاد الدنيا، فمن جاهد هذه الأربعة في الله هداه الله سُبُلَ رِضاهُ المُوصِلَة إلى جَنَّتِه، ومَن ترك الجهاد فاتَهُ مِن الهُدى بحسب ما عَطَّلَ من الجهاد. ـ

Allah said:

وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا

And whoever strives for Us, We will surely guide them to Our ways [29:69]

Allah has linked guidance to striving, so the people with the most complete guidance are those with the greatest striving. And the most necessary type of striving is

  1. Striving against oneself
  2. Striving against one’s lowly desires
  3. Striving against the shaytaan
  4. Striving against this worldly life

Whoever strives against these four things for the sake of Allah, Allah will guide him to the paths of His pleasure which lead to His Jannah. But whoever leaves off this striving has lost out on the guidance in a measure proportional how much he neglected striving.

[al-Fawa’id pg. 59] Continue reading

When Repentance Will No Longer Be Accepted: Sheikh Faisal Aal Mubarak

Since it was authored by Imam Abu Zakariyyah Yahya al-Nawawi (d. 676Ah/1277CE), the book Riyadh al-Saliheen has been a hadith collection in constant circulation among the Muslims due the great benefits that it contains. As a result, numerous explanations have been given and written for this book. One such explanation was that of sheikh Faisal Aal Mubarak (d. 1376Ah/1957CE). Like his explanations of many other essential works, sheikh Faisal’s commentary here is very direct and selective. We have marked the original text of Riyah al-Saliheen in blue, and sheikh Faisal’s commentary is in black:

ـ 17 – وعن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه قال : قال رسول الله ﷺ : ” من تاب قبل أن تطلع الشمس من مغربها تاب الله عليه” . ((رواه مسلم)) . ـ

17. On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, he said that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:

Whoever turns in repentance before the sun rises from the west, Allah will turn in to him in forgiveness.

Reported by Muslim.

قبول التوبة مستمر ما دام باب مفتوحا ، فإذ إغلق لم تقبل . قال الله تعالى : [يَوْمَ يَأْتِي بَعْضُ آيَاتِ رَبِّكَ لَا يَنفَعُ نَفْسًا إِيمَانُهَا لَمْ تَكُنْ آمَنَتْ مِن قَبْلُ أَوْ كَسَبَتْ فِي إِيمَانِهَا خَيْرًا] (الانعام 158) يعني إذا طلعت الشمس من مغربا لم ينفع الكافر إيمانه ولا العاصي توبته . ـ

The acceptance of repentance is ongoing as long as the door of repentance is open, but when that door is closed it will not be accepted.

Allah said: Continue reading

Encouragement to Contemplate the Qur’an: Sheikh bin Baaz

In part of a longer advice regarding the Qur’an, Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez bin Baaz said:

تدبر القرآن من أوله إلى آخره من الفاتحة وهي أعظم سورة في القرآن وأفضل سورة فيه إلى آخر ما في المصحف قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ والمعوذتين تدبر القرآن واقرأه بتدبر وتعقل، ورغبة في العمل والفائدة، لا تقرأه بقلب غافل، اقرأه بقلب حاضر بتفهم وبتعقل، واسأل عما أشكل عليك، اسأل أهل العلم عمَّا أشكل عليك مع أن أكثره بحمد الله واضح للعامة والخاصة ممن يعرف اللغة العربية

Contemplate the Qur’an from its beginning to its end, from al-Fatihah [01] – which is the greatest and most virtuous surah in the Qur’an – until the end of the mushaf – that is, surah al-Ikhlaas [112] and the mu’awadhatayn [113 & 114].

Ponder over the Qur’an; read it with reflection and deep thought, as well as with eagerness to act on it and benefit from it. Do not recite it with a heedless heart; recite it with an attentive heart so that you might understand it and think critically about it. Continue reading

‘Ibad al-Rahman Part 5 – Avoiding Major Sins: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr, one of the contemporary scholars of al-Madinah, wrote a small booklet on the qualities of the ‘Ibad al-Rahman – servants of the Most Merciful – mentioned in the end of Surah al-Furqan. We have translated this booklet in a series of posts. This section deals with the firth quality mentioned:

الصفة الخامسة : بعدهم عن كبائر الذنوب وعظائم الآثام
The Fifth Quality: Distancing Oneself from the Major Sins and Gross Misconduct

قال عز وجل : [وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَدْعُونَ مَعَ اللَّـهِ إِلَـٰهًا آخَرَ وَلَا يَقْتُلُونَ النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّـهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا يَزْنُونَ] ـ

Allah said:

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَدْعُونَ مَعَ اللَّـهِ إِلَـٰهًا آخَرَ وَلَا يَقْتُلُونَ النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّـهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا يَزْنُونَ

And those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. [25:68]

فمنْ أبرز صفات عباد الرحمن المتقين: اجتنابهم كبائر الذنوب والآثام، وقد خص الله عز وجل في هذا السياق ثلاث كبائر بالذِّكر؛ لأنها أعظم الكبائر وأشدها على الإطلاق، وهي: الشرك بالله عالى ؛ وقتل النفس المعصومة ؛ والزنى . ـ

One of the most important traits of the pious ‘Ibad al-Rahman – the slaves of the Most Merciful – is their avoidance of major sins and misdeeds. In this passage, Allah has selected three major sins to mention because they are the gravest and worst of all the major sins. They are:

  • al-Shirk – Associating partners with Allah, the Most High
  • Killing a person undeservedly
  • Fornication

فأم ا الشِّرْك فهو متعلِّقٌ بحقِّ الله على عباده، وهو الذنب الذي لا يغفره الله لمن مات عليه ، كما قال تعالى: [إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدِ افْتَرَىٰ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا] . ـ

As for al-Shirk, it is connected to Allah’s rights over His slaves and it is the sin which Allah will not forgive for whoever dies in that state. This is as Allah said:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدِ افْتَرَىٰ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا

Indeed, Allah does not forgive associating partners with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin. [4:48]

Continue reading

‘Ibad al-Rahman Part 4 – Moderation in Spending: ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr, one of the contemporary scholars of al-Madinah, wrote a small booklet on the qualities of the ‘Ibad al-Rahman – servants of the Most Merciful – mentioned in the end of Surah al-Furqan. We have translated this booklet in a series of posts. This section discusses the fourth quality listed:

الصفة الرابعة : توسطهم في النفقة بين الإسراف والتَّقتير
The Fourth Quality: Moderation in Spending Between Wastefulness and Stinginess

قال عز وجل : [وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَنفَقُوا لَمْ يُسْرِفُوا وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُوا وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ قَوَامًا] ـ

Allah said:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَنفَقُوا لَمْ يُسْرِفُوا وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُوا وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ قَوَامًا

And those who, when they spend, do so neither excessively nor sparingly but are ever, between that, moderate [25:67]

ومن أوصاف عباد الرحمن توسطهم في باب النفقة بين الإسراف والتقتير لأنهم علموا أن الله سيسْألهم يوم القيامة عن هذه النِّعمة التي أعطاهم إياها، كما صح عن الرسول الله أنه قال : لا تزول قدما عبد يوم القيامة حتى يسأل عن عمره فيما أفناه ، وعن علمه فيما فعل فيه، وعن ماله من أين اكتسبه، وفيما أنفقه، وعن جسمه فيم أبلاه . ـ

One of the qualities of the ‘Ibad al-Rahman – the slaves of the Most Merciful – is their moderation when it comes to spending, falling between wasteful extravagance on the one hand and miserliness on the other. That is because they know that on the Day of Judgement Allah will ask them ask the blessings He has given them, as has been authentically transmitted from Allah’s Messenger that he said: Continue reading

‘Ibad al-Rahman Part 3 – Fear of the Hellfire: ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr, one of the contemporary scholars of al-Madinah, wrote a small booklet on the qualities of the ‘Ibad al-Rahman – servants of the Most Merciful – mentioned in the end of Surah al-Furqan. We have translated this booklet in a series of posts. This section discusses the third quality listed:

الصفة الثالثة : خوفهم وإشفاقهم من عذاب النَّار
Third Quality: Their Great Fear of the Punishment of the Hellfire

قال عز وجل : [وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا اصْرِفْ عَنَّا عَذَابَ جَهَنَّمَ ۖ إِنَّ عَذَابَهَا كَانَ غَرَامًا * إِنَّهَا سَاءَتْ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَمُقَامًا ] ـ

Allah said:

وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا اصْرِفْ عَنَّا عَذَابَ جَهَنَّمَ ۖ إِنَّ عَذَابَهَا كَانَ غَرَامًا * إِنَّهَا سَاءَتْ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَمُقَامًا

And those who say, “Our Lord, avert the punishment of Hell away from us. Indeed, Its torment is an inseparable, permanent punishment. * How evil it is as an abode and as a place to dwell. [25:65-66]

فعباد الرحمن مع إحسانهم بالعمل والتعبد لله ، قد خافوا ووجلوا من عذاب الله وسخطه وهذه حال المؤمنين الكمل؛ كما قال الله : [ وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْتُونَ مَا آتَوا وَّقُلُوبُهُمْ وَجِلَةٌ أَنَّهُمْ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ رَاجِعُونَ ] أي: يقدِّمون ما يقدِّمونه من عباداتٍ وطاعاتٍ وقلوبهم خائفةٌ أن ترد عليهم أعمالهم، فيصيبهم بعد ذلك عذابٌ من الله . ـ

Despite the goodness that they have in their actions and seeking to draw closer to Allah, the ‘ibad al-Rahman – the slave of the Most Merciful – feel great fear and apprehension about Allah’s punishment and displeasure. This is the way of the complete believer. It is just as Allah has said: Continue reading

‘Ibad al-Rahman Part 1 – Composure: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr, one of the contemporary scholars of al-Madinah, wrote a small booklet on the qualities of the ‘Ibad al-Rahman – servants of the Most Merciful – mentioned in the end of Surah al-Furqan. We have translated this booklet in a series of posts. Following the introduction, this section discusses the first quality listed in the passage:

الصفة الاولى : السَّكينة والوقار والتواضع لله ولعباده

قال تعالى : [ وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا ] ـ

The First Quality: Composure, Dignity, and Humility towards Allah and His slaves

Allah said:

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا

And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth with composure, and when the ignorant address them, they say words of peace. [25:63]

من صفات عباد الرحمن وجميل نعوتهم : تواضعهم لله ولعباده، فيمشون بسكينةٍ وطمأنينة ووقار، وهذا التواضع الذي ظهر على مشيهم وهيئتهم إنما هو ثمرةٌ من ثمار الإيمان، وأثرٌ من آثاره. ـ

One of the characteristics and beautiful traits of the ‘Ibad al-Rahman – servants of the Most Merciful – is their humility towards Allah and His slaves, such that they go about with composure, calmness and dignity. But this the humility which is plain to see from the way they walk and outwardly appear is actually one of the fruits and effects of eemaan.

وقال ابن عباس في قوله تعالى : [ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا ] ، أي : بالطاعة والعفاف والتواضع . ـ

Ibn ‘Abbaas said about Allah’s statement:

الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا

… those who walk upon the earth with composure …

i.e. in obedience, exercising self-control and practicing humility towards others. Continue reading

‘Ibad al-Rahman – Introduction: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr, one of the well-known scholars of al-Madinah, wrote a small booklet discussing the closing of surah al-Furqan where Allah lists several honorable traits of His believing slaves. We have translated this booklet as a series of posts, and what follows is the sheikh’s introduction:

الحمد لله، والصلا ة والسلام على رسول الله، وعلى آله وصحبه ومن والاه، أما بعد: ـ

All praise is due to Allah. May peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, as well as his family, his companions and whoever aligns themselves with him. To proceed:

فإن مقام العبودية لله مقامٌ عظيم، بل هو أشرف المقامات التي امتدح الله بها أنبياءه وأولياءه ، وأضاف أهلها لنفْسه في آيات عديدة؛ تشريفًا لهم وتعليةً لمقامهم. ـ

The station of servitude to Allah is a tremendous station; in fact it is the most noble position with which Allah has praised His prophets and allies. In numerous ayaat Allah has mentioned those who fulfill this rank in conjunction with His name as a form of honoring them and showing the elevated nature of their rank.

وقد ذكر الله لأهل هذا المقام الشريف أوصافًا عديدة، وسماتٍ مباركة، في نصوصٍ كثيرة؛ ليجتهد المسلم في الاتِّصاف بها، والعمل بمقتضاها؛ لينال المقام الرفيع، والشرف الكبير عند رب العالمين. ـ

Allah has mentioned a number of characteristics and blessed titles for those people who hold this noble station. These are mentioned in numerous places in our texts so that the Muslims would strive to imbue themselves with these qualities and conduct themselves in the way that these characteristics entail. In doing so, they would achieve a lofty station and great honor with the Lord of all creation.

ومن أبرز المواضع التي ذكر الله فيها أوصاف عباده المؤمنين في سياقٍ واحدٍ ما جاء في خواتيم سورة الفرقان، حيث ذكر ثمانية أوصافٍ، بدأها بقوله عز وجل [ وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا … ] وفي هذا دلالة على عظيم اختصاصهم بما دل عليه هذا الاسم من معاني الرحمة، فبرحمته هداهم للإيمان، ورباهم على طاعة الرحمن، وحسْ التقرب إليه عز وجل . ـ

One of the most prominent places in which Allah mentions the qualities of His believing slaves is in a single passage found at the closing of surah al-Furqan. Here Allah mentions eight qualities, starting from His statement:

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا

And the servants of al-Rahman are those who walk upon the earth with composure … [25:63]

We get an indication of the great distinction of these people in this ayah due to what the meanings of this word “al-Rahman” entail. For it is out of His Rahmah – mercy, kindness – that He guided these people of have eemaan and raised them up to be obedient to al-Rahman and to draw close to Him through the proper ways means.

ثم عدد صفاتهم كل صفةٍ مبْدوءةٍ بقوله : [ الذين ] وختم الله هذا السِّياق الكريم بذكر ما أعده لهم منْ ثوابٍ عظيم، وأجرٍ جزيل. ـ

Allah then lists their characteristics, beginning each new characteristic by saying:

وَالَّذِينَ

and those who …

and then Allah concludes this noble passage by mentioning the tremendous rewards and great recompense He has prepared for them.

وجديرٌ بكلِّ مسلمٍ يسعى في نجاة نفسه وسعادتها أن يتأمل صفات عباد الرحمن التي وردت في هذا السِّياق المبارك؛ فيعْرفها معرفةً جيدة، ثم يسْعى بعد ذلك في تحقيقها على أكمل وجهٍ. ـ

So every Muslim working towards the salvation and eternal joy of his own soul ought to reflect on these descriptions of the ‘Ibad al-Rahman – the slaves of the Most Merciful – which have been mentioned in this noble passage. In this way he will become well acquainted with them, and thereafter he will be able to work towards actualizing and enacting them in the most complete way.

[Sifat ‘Ibad al-Rahman pg 5-6]

Continue reading: ‘Ibad al-Rahman Part 1 – Composure: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

For more information about this series, see our ‘Ibad al-Rahman Series Guide

See also: Qualities of the Successful Believers Series

See also: Qualities of the Successful Ones: Tafsir al-Sa’di