A Question about the Length of the Makki Surahs

I posed the following question to sheikh ‘Abdullah al-‘Awaaji, a professor of Tafsir at the Islamic University of al-Madinah, via Twitter on the @ConsQuran channel on November 2, 2019:

احسن الله إليكم . ذكر السيوطي في الاتقان : “أخرج الطبراني ، عن ابن مسعود : نزل المفصل بمكة ، فمكثنا حججا نقرؤه ، لا ينزل غيره .” كيف نفهم هذا اثر وسور طويل نزلت قبل الهجرة كسورة الكهف و سورة يوسف وسورة الأعراف ونحوها . بارك الله فيك . ـ

[Question] May Allah be good to you. al-Suyooti mentions the following quote in al-Itqan:

al-Tabarani brought a report from ibn Mas’ood that:

The Mufassal surahs were revealed in Mecca, so we remained reciting these for years without anything else being revealed.

How should we understand this narration when long surahs such as surah al-Kahf, surah Yusuf, surah al-A’raf and others were revealed before the Hijrah?

May Allah bless you.

أولًا في ثبوت ذلك عن ابن مسعود رضي الله عنه نظر والراجح تضعيفه وقد مال محققو الاتقان ط المجمع الى تحسينه تساهلًا لانه يتعلق بالتفسير ،وممن ضعفه لعلتين مؤثرتين المحقق أد/ سعد الحميد في ج ١ من تخقيقه لسنن سعيد بن منصور وهذه صورة كلامه ـ

[Response] Firstly, there is some question as to whether this is actually an authentically transmitted statement of ibn Mas’ood. The predominant opinion is that it is weak, though the verifier of al-Itqan inclined towards grading it as acceptable due to his more relaxed standards with material related to tafsir. One of those who graded this report as weak due to two problems in its chain was the verifier Dr. Sa’d al-Humayd in the first volume of his critical edition of the Sunan of Sa’eed ibn Mansoor, and you can see the image of his comments below. Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 21-29: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the second installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 21-29. See the series guide here for more information and previous installments.

أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O mankind! Worship your Lord who created you and those before you in order that you might exercise taqwa (2:21)

نداء من الله للبشر جميعًا: أن اعبدوا الله الذي ربَّاكم بنعمه، وخافوه ولا تخالفوا دينه؛ فقد أوجدكم من العدم، وأوجد الذين من قبلكم؛ لتكونوا من المتقين الذين رضي الله عنهم ورضوا عنه. ـ

21) This is a call from Allah to mankind as a whole telling them to worship Allah who has nurtured and raised them up with His blessings and to fear Him and not go against His religion. For Allah brought you into existence out of nothing, and He brought those who were before into existence as well. This is so that you would be among those who exercise taqwa, those with whom Allah is pleased and who are pleased with Allah.

الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ فِرَاشًا وَالسَّمَاءَ بِنَاءً وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ رِزْقًا لَّكُمْ ۖ فَلَا تَجْعَلُوا لِلَّـهِ أَندَادًا وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

He who made the earth a bed for you and the sky a canopy, and He sent rain down from the sky. With it, He brought forth fruits as provision for you. So do not make any equals with Allah while you know. (2:22) Continue reading

Applying Hadith Criteria to Statements of Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh mentioned the following points in his explanation of ibn Taymiyah’s famous introduction to the principles of tafsir:

هاهنا تنبيه مهم وهو أنه ليست قواعد مصطلح الحديث منطبقة دائما على أسانيد المفسرين، لهذا يخطئ كثيرون من المعاصرين في نقدهم لأسانيد التفسير على طريقة نقدهم لأسانيد الحديث؛ بل تجد أحدهم يتعّجب من ابن جرير وابن كثير والبغوي بل ابن أبي حاتم ونحو ذلك من إيرادهم التفاسير عن الصحابة والتابعين بالأسانيد التي هي على طريقة مصطلح الحديث ربما كانت ضعيفة؛ لكنها على طريقة مصطلح الحديث الذي اعتمده المفسرون تكون صحيحة. ـ

Here we must bring your attention to an important point, which is that the principles of hadith classification are not also applied to the chains of narrations of those who explain the Qur’an. Many people in this age have made the mistake of applying the methods of criticism used for the chains of Prophetic hadith narrations to the chains of narration used in tafsir. In fact, you will find such people who are astonished that ibn Jarir and ibn Kathir and al-Baghawi and even ibn Abi Hatim and others of similar caliber would mention explanations of the Qur’an from the Sahabah and Tabi’oon which might be graded as “weak” according to the methods of classification in the hadith sciences. However, according to the methods of classification relied upon by the scholars of tafsir, these same reports would be graded as “authentic”.

مثال ذلك حديث السّدي، السدي صاحب تفسير، له تفسير يفسر باستنباطه ويفسر وينقل عن غيره، يروي التفسير عنه أسباط بن نصر يروي التفسير عنه أسباط بن نصر، السدي فيه ربما كلام، وأسباط بن نصر أيضا فيه كلام ربما ضُعِّف بل جعل ممن اُنتقد على مسلم إيراد حديثه، فيأتي فيقول هذا الإسناد حسن بل ربما يقول هذا ضعيف، وهذا عند العلماء بالتفسير هذا من أجود الأسانيد؛ بل هو أجود أسانيد تفسير السدي، وإن كان أسباط فيه كلام فذلك الكلام فيه في الحديث، أما في العناية بالتفسير فلو به خصوصية خاصة تفسير السدي، وقد نقله عن كتابه وحفظه، ولهذا لما ترجم له العلماء قال راوي تفسير السدي. ـ

One example of that is the narrations of al-Suddi, the one who authored a book of tafsir in which he explained the Qur’an and derived legal rulings and also transmitted explanations of others. Asbat ibn Nasr related some explanations of the Qur’an from al-Suddi. Regarding al-Suddi, perhaps there is some criticism, and perhaps there is also criticism regarding Asbat ibn Nasr; perhaps he is weak. In fact, perhaps a person would be criticized for bringing one of his narrations, such that one might relay it and consider it to be sound when it actually might be weak. But according to the scholars of Tafsir, narrations by this route are some of the best in terms of their chain of narration, or rather the best chain of narration for al-Suddi’s tafsir even though there is some criticism of Asbat. However that criticism is about his narrations of hadith reports, but when it comes to his attention to Tafsir, if Asbat were to have a specialty it would be in the tafsir of al-Suddi for he transmitted it both by a written copy and by memory. That is why when the scholars provide biographical information about him they refer to him as “the transmitter of Tafsir al-Suddi.” Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 1-20: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the first installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 1-20. See the series guide here for more information about the series, or click here for more information about the book itself.

أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

الم

Alif Lam Meem (2:1)

هذه الحروف وغيرها من الحروف المقطَّعة في أوائل السور فيها إشارة إلى إعجاز القرآن؛ فقد وقع به تحدي المشركين، فعجزوا عن معارضته، وهو مركَّب من هذه الحروف التي تتكون منها لغة العرب. فدَلَّ عجز العرب عن الإتيان بمثله- مع أنهم أفصح الناس- على أن القرآن وحي من الله.ـ

1) These letters and the other disconnected letters at the beginnings of surahs point to the miraculous inimitable nature of the Qur’an, for the Qur’an presented a challenge to the mushrikoon which they could not respond to, despite the fact that the Qur’an is built from the very same letters which make up the Arabic language. So the Arab’s inability to produce anything similar to the Qur’an, despite them being the most eloquent of people, shows that the Qur’an is revelation from Allah.

ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

That is the Book about which there is no doubt. It is a guidance for the muttaqoon (2:2) Continue reading

Paying Attention to Who the Qur’an is Addressing: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, wrote:

تحت عبارة: اتباع كلام الله، وكلام الله أولى! ومثلها عبارة: أريد حديثاً أن الرسول فعله أو قاله؛ تحت هاتين العبارتين ترد شريعة الله ، ويخالف دينه! يصدق على هاتين العبارتين أنهما: كلمة حق يراد بها باطل! وتوضيح ذلك؛ ـ

Consider the phrase, “Follow the Speech of Allah, for the Speech of Allah comes first!” or the phrase, “Give me a hadith that the Prophet did that or said that!” Both of these phrases run counter to the sharee’ah that Allah legislated and go against His religion! It would be accurate to say that both of these phrases are true statements which are used to support falsehood.

Let me explain:

لا خلاف في أن الأصل هو اتباع كلام الله، وليس ذلك أولى بل هو الواجب على المسلم؛ ولكن ذلك محله فيما كان محكماً لا متشابهاً، وإلا كنا من الذين في قلوبهم زيغ، فيتبعون المتشابه منه. ـ

There is no disagreement that the very foundation of the religion is following Allah’s Speech. That is not just something good; it is something binding on every Muslim. However, the place for that is when it comes to the clear and definitive verses, not the ambiguous verses. If we were to do otherwise, then we be among those people who have deviation in their heart and follow the ambiguous parts of the Qur’an as a result.

ومن المتشابه أن تأت إلى الآية التي ليست في حق عموم المسلمين إنما خاصة بالحكام، أو خاصة بفئة من المسلمين في حال معين، فتأت وتجعلها عامة في حق كل المسلمين. ـ

An example of this ambiguity which some people follow is that they take an ayah that is not directed at the Muslims as a whole but is exclusively dealing with the rulers or specifically directed at military units of the Muslims in a particular circumstance and then treat it as if it applied generally to all Muslims. Continue reading

Some Benefits from the End of Surah al-Fatihah: ibn ‘Uthaymeen

Allah concludes surah al-Fatihah by saying:

 اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ * صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ

Guide us to the Straight Way * The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not of those who earned Your Anger, nor of those who went astray. [1:6-7]

Sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen mentioned a number of benefits derived from these ayaat, including:

 ومنها: أنه يقدم الأشد، فالأشد؛ لأنه تعالى قدم المغضوب عليهم على الضالين؛ لأنهم أشد مخالفة للحق من الضالين؛ فإن المخالف عن علم يصعب رجوعه . بخلاف المخالف عن جهل

One of the stylistic elements of the Qur’an is that it generally mentions negative things in decreasing order, moving from worst to less worse. Here, Allah mentioned those who have earned His anger before those who have gone astray. This is because their opposition to the truth was much more extreme than those who went astray, for it is very difficult for someone who opposes the truth despite knowing it to return to following the truth compared to someone who simply opposes the truth out of ignorance. Continue reading

Orientalists and the History of the Qur’an

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Shehri, one of the prominent contemporary scholars of the Qur’anic sciences and the founder of the Markaz al-Tafsir center, wrote the following on his personal website:

المستشرقون وتاريخ القرآن
Orientalists and the History of the Qur’an

اشتهرت عناية المستشرقين بنشر كتب التراث الإسلامي بشكلٍ عام، غير أن جانب تاريخ القرآن الكريم على وجه الخصوص وكتابته وجمعه قد لقي عناية خاصة، فأكثر من كتب في تاريخ القرآن -للأسف- من المستشرقين مثل: – ريتشارد بل في «مقدمة القرآن». – وليام مونتغمري واط. – ريجي بلاشير. – جون بيرتون. – آرثر جفري في «المفردات الأجنبية في القرآن»، ونشر كتاب «مقدمتان في علوم القرآن». – ثيودور نولدكه الألماني في كتابه «تاريخ القرآن»، ويعتبر كتابه من أشهر وأهم ما كتب في تاريخ القرآن. – جولد تسيهر. ـ

There is a well-known interest among the Orientalists in publishing the books of Islamic civilization in general, and in particular those books about the history, recording, and formalization of the Qur’an – subjects which they have devoted special attention to. In fact, many of the books regarding the history of the Qur’an are – unfortunately – products of the Orientalists. For example there is:

  • Richard Bell’s “Introduction to the Qur’an”
  • William Montgomery Watt
  • Régis Blachère
  • John Burton
  • Arthur Jeffery’s “The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’an”, and he also published “Materials For The History Of The Text Of The Qur’an: The Old Codices
  • The German Theodor Nöldeke’s “The History of the Qur’an”, which is considered to be one of the most well-known and most important books regarding the history of the Qur’an
  • Goldziher

وقد اعتنى هؤلاء المستشرقون بنشر الكثير من الكتب التي تبحث في القرآن الكريم وتاريخه، مثل: كتاب «التيسير» لأبي عمرو الداني، و«المقنع في رسم مصاحف الأمصار» مع كتاب «النقط» للداني، و«مختصر الشواذ» لابن خالويه، و«المحتسب» لابن جني، و«غاية النهاية» لابن الجزري في طبقات القراء، ولا تزال طبعته هذه هي المعتمدة! وكتاب «معاني القرآن» للفراء، وغير ذلك من الكتب التي تبحث في هذا الجانب من الدراسات القرآنية. ـ

These Orientalists have also given attention to publishing many of books which deal with the Qur’an and its history, such as: Continue reading

Responding to Doubts About the Prohibition of Music: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

One of the most commonly-cited evidences for the prohibition of music is the ayah from surah Luqman

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَشْتَرِي لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ لِيُضِلَّ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ وَيَتَّخِذَهَا هُزُوًا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ

And among the people are those who purchase idle talk to mislead others from the path of Allah without knowledge and who take it as a mockery. For these ones, there is a humiliating punishment. [31:6]

and the “idle talk” in this ayah was explained to refer to music, as was explained by ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbaas and others. Another commonly-cited evidence is the hadeeth of the Prophet

لَيَكُونَنَّ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أَقْوَامٌ يَسْتَحِلُّونَ الْحِرَ وَالْحَرِيرَ وَالْخَمْرَ وَالْمَعَازِفَ

There will be some people from my nation who will consider illicit sexual intercourse, silk, alcohol and musical instruments to be permissible.

which is reported in Saheeh al-Bukhari (#5590). We have previously translated an explanation of this ayah from surah Luqman which brings several more pieces of evidence for the prohibition of music. We would recommend reading that article before proceeding, as it serves as a foundation for this topic.

After understanding the evidences for the prohibition of music, it bears mentioning that there are some who cast doubt on the validity of these primary pieces of evidence listed above. While these doubts may appear to be academic, they are ultimately without a sound foundation, as Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool explains below:

قال : هذا التفسير اجتهاد من ابن مسعود رضي الله عنه. وحديث المعازف مختلف فيه . ـ

Some say: This explanation of ibn Mas’ood is simply his personal scholarly opinion, and there is some differing as to the hadith of musical instruments.

قلت : لاحظ ان تفسير ابن مسعود رضي الله عنه للآية ليس فيه ما يخالف لفظها بل هو يقرر معناها فهو يقول : من لهو الحديث في الآية الغناء لانه يحصل به اضلال للناس في باب الشهوات. فاللام ليست للتعليل بل للعاقبة، كاللام في قوله تعالى: ({فَالْتَقَطَهُ آلُ فِرْعَوْنَ لِيَكُونَ لَهُمْ عَدُوّاً وَحَزَناً إِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ وَجُنُودَهُمَا كَانُوا خَاطِئِينَ }) (القصص:8). ـ

I say: It must be noted that ibn Mas’ood’s explanation of this ayah does not contain anything that is at odds with the ayah itself. Rather, his explanation affirms the ayah‘s meaning, as he is saying that one example of the “idle talk” mentioned in this ayah is music because it leads to the misguidance of people by way of lowly desires. So the preposition laam in the ayah is not meant to imply causation but rather consequence, like the laam in Allah’s statement: Continue reading

A Warning to the Family of Fir’awn: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

The following points of benefit were taken from the social media pages of sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh:

قال تعالى:”ولقد جاء ءال فرعون النذر” والآل ترجع إلى من تبع الرجل في دينه، وآل فرعون من كان على ملة فرعون وعلى دينه.ـ

Allah said:

وَلَقَدْ جَاءَ آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ النُّذُرُ

And a warning certainly came to the Aal Fir’awn [54:41]

and word aal [literally “family/relatives”] refers to whoever follows a person in terms of his religion. So the Aal Fir’awn are whoever was upon the religion and way of life of Fir’awn.

قال تعالى:”ولقد جاء ءال فرعون النذر” لم يذكر البشارة لأنَّ القوم ما هم عليه من الشرك والكفر يستلزم الإنذار والتخويف.ـ

Allah said: Continue reading

Reconciling Differing Reports About Whether a Surah is Makki or Madani

While most surahs of the Qur’an are unanimously categorized as either Makki or Madani, there have been differing reports and opinions about the proper classification of a small group of twelve surahs. Some of these differences stem from differences in terminology, instances of repeated revelation, Madani ayaat being included in an otherwise Makki surah, or other reasons. In the article below, sheikh Muhammad al-Tahir ibn ‘Aashoor discusses the differing classifications of surah al-Mutaffifeen (83) and demonstrates how to understand the differing reports and come to a conclusion. Being one of the famous mufassiroon of recent centuries, Ibn ‘Aashoor (d. 1393AH/1973CE) had the benefit of drawing on the wealth of tafsir literature before him, as is evident in this passage and his entire book:

وقد اختلف في كونها مكية أو مدنية أو بعضها مكي وبعضها مدني . فعن ابن مسعود والضحاك ومقاتل في رواية عنه : أنها مكية ، وعن ابن عباس في الأصح عنه وعكرمة والحسن والسدي ومقاتل في رواية أخرى عنه : أنها مدنية ، قال : وهي أول سورة نزلت بالمدينة ، وعن ابن عباس في رواية عنه وقتادة : هي مدنية إلا ثماني آيات من آخرها من قوله : إن الذين أجرموا إلى آخرها . ـ

The scholars have differed as to whether surah al-Mutaffifeen (83) is

a. Makki
b. Madani
c. Part Makki and part Madani

It has been relayed that ibn Mas’ood, al-Dhahhaak and in one narration Muqatil held it to be Makki, while it is transmitted from ibn ‘Abbaas according to the most authentic narration from him,’Ikrimah, al-Hasan, al-Suddi and Muqatil in a different narration that they held it to be Madani. And Muqatil said, “It was the first surah to be revealed in al-Madinah.” It has also been relayed in one narration from ibn ‘Abbaas as well as from Qatadah that it is a Madani surah except for the last eight ayaat beginning from Allah’s statement: Continue reading