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

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

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

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

The Threat for Explaining the Qur’an Without Knowledge: Tafsir al-Baghawi

In the introduction to his famous book of tafsir, Imam ِAbu Muhammad al-Husayn al-Baghawi included the following chapter:

فصل في وعيد من قال في القرآن برأيه من غير علم
Chapter Regarding the Threat for Whoever Speaks About the Qur’an According to His Own Opinions Without Knowledge

أنا أبو بكر محمد بن عبد الصمد الترابي أنا أبو محمد عبد الله بن أحمد بن حمويه السرخسي أنا أبو إسحاق إبراهيم بن خزيم الشاشي ثنا أبو محمد عبد بن حميد ثنا عبد الرزاق أنا الثوري عن عبد الأعلى عن سعيد بن جبير عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : من قال في القرآن برأيه فليتبوأ مقعده من النار ” . ـ

… on the authority of ibn ‘Abbaas, Allah’s Messenger said, “Whoever speaks about the Qur’an according to his own opinions, let him take his seat in the hell-fire.” Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 30-39: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the third installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 30-39, which focuses on the story of Adam. See the series guide here for more information.

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً ۖ قَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

And when your Lord said to the angels, “I am going to make an authority on the earth.” They said, “Will you place someone who corrupts it and spills blood in it while we exalt Your praises and sanctify You?” He said, “I certainly know what you do not know.” [2:30]

واذكر- أيها الرسول- للناس حين قال ربك للملائكة: إني جاعل في الأرض قومًا يخلف بعضهم بعضًا لعمارتها. قالت: يا ربَّنا علِّمْنا وأَرْشِدْنا ما الحكمة في خلق هؤلاء، مع أنَّ من شأنهم الإفساد في الأرض وإراقة الدماء ظلما وعدوانًا ونحن طوع أمرك، ننزِّهك التنزيه اللائق بحمدك وجلالك، ونمجِّدك بكل صفات الكمال والجلال؟ قال الله لهم: إني أعلم ما لا تعلمون من الحكمة البالغة في خلقهم.ـ

30. And mention to the people, O Messenger, when your Lord said to the angels, “I am going to place a people on the earth who will follow one after the other in maintaining it.” They said, “O our Lord! Teach and guide us to the wisdom behind creating these people when part of their lot is to corrupt the earth and shed blood out of oppression and enmity. Meanwhile we obey Your command and exalt You above having any shortcomings, as fits with Your praiseworthiness and majesty. And we praise You for every perfect and majestic attribute of Yours. Allah said to them, “I certainly know a profound wisdom for creating them that you do not know.”

وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلَائِكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

And He taught Adam the names, all of them. Then He presented them to the angels and said, “Tell me the names of these things if you are truthful.” [2:31] Continue reading

Allah is Not Shy to Strike a Parable of a Mosquito: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In the early part of surah al-Baqarah, Allah says:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا ۚ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّـهُ بِهَـٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا ۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ * الَّذِينَ يَنقُضُونَ عَهْدَ اللَّـهِ مِن بَعْدِ مِيثَاقِهِ وَيَقْطَعُونَ مَا أَمَرَ اللَّـهُ بِهِ أَن يُوصَلَ وَيُفْسِدُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ

Allah is not shy to strike a parable of a mosquito or something even less than that. As for those who have eemaan, they know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, then they say, “What does Allah intend by this parable?” He misguides many with it and guides many with it. And He does not misguide any except for the faasiqoon. * Those who break the covenant of Allah after having taken it, and who sever what Allah has commanded to be connected, and who bring about corruption on the earth. It is they who are the losers. [2:26-27]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following commentary on these ayaat:

يقول تعالى: إن الله لا يستحيي أن يضرب مثلا ما أي: أي مثل كان بعوضة فما فوقها لاشتمال الأمثال على الحكمة، وإيضاح الحق، والله لا يستحيي من الحق، وكأن في هذا، جوابا لمن أنكر ضرب الأمثال في الأشياء الحقيرة ، واعترض على الله في ذلك. فليس في ذلك محل اعتراض. بل هو من تعليم الله لعباده ورحمته بهم. فيجب أن تتلقى بالقبول والشكر. ولهذا قال: فأما الذين آمنوا فيعلمون أنه الحق من ربهم فيتفهمونها، ويتفكرون فيها. ـ

Allah says:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا

Allah is not shy to strike a parable …

meaning: of any sort, whether

بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا

… of a mosquito or something even less than that

because these parables contain wisdom and provide clarification of the truth, and Allah is not shy of the truth. And it is as if this is a response to whose who disapproved of Allah striking parables of lowly things and objected to Allah having done that. However they had no place to object to that. On the contrary, this is an example of Allah teaching His slaves and showing mercy to them, so it must be received with acceptance and gratitude. That is why Allah said: Continue reading

Reasons Why the Tafsir of the Sahabah Differed: Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, wrote a brief post accounting for the differences found among the Qur’anic explanations of the Sahabah. We have translated it below:

الاختلاف الواقع بين الصحابة في التفسير هو من اختلاف التنوُّع، ولا يقع بينهم اختلاف من باب التضادِّ، إلا فيما لا يصحُّ عنهم. ـ

The differing that did occur among the Sahabah in the field of tafsir is simply variations on a theme. There was not any differing among them that was actual in opposition or conflict, except for things that cannot actually be authentically attributed to them.

ووجه ما يجيء عنهم من اختلاف في التفسير يعود إلى أمرين: ـ

The reasons why there were some differences among their explanations of the Qur’an all go back to two issues:

الأمر الأوَّل: أن تتعدَّد أسماء الشيء وأوصافُه، وشروطه وأركانه، فتارةً يذكره أحدُهم باسمٍ غير ما يذكره به الآخر، وتارةً يذكره بركن فيه غير ما يذكره الآخر، ولا اختلاف تضاد بينهما، كمن يقول: اركع ركعتين، والآخر يقول: اسجد سجدتين، فالسجود والركوع من أركان الصلاة، ويعبَّر بهما عن الركعة من القيام والقراءة والركوع والرفع منه والسجود والجلوس بين السجدتين والسجود الثاني. ـ

1. A single thing can have multiple names, or multiple characteristics, conditions or key parts. So sometimes one of the Sahabah would call something a certain name while another mentioned it by a different name. In other instances, perhaps one of them would refer to the entire thing by one of its essential components while another mentioned it by a different key part. So there is no conflict or contradiction between the two. This is just like if one person said, “Pray two raka’aat” and another person said, “Pray to sajdahs”, because the sujood and the rukoo’ are both essential pillars of the salaah. So the term rukoo’ can be used to refer to the entire salaah without the need to mention the standing, recitation, bowing, coming back up from bowing, prostrating, sitting between the two prostrations or the second prostration. 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

He Gave You Hearing, Sight, and Hearts That You Might Give Thanks: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Nahl:

وَاللَّـهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۙ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks. [16:78]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following under his commentary of this ayah:

ذكر تعالى منته على عباده ، في إخراجه إياهم من بطون أمهاتهم لا يعلمون شيئا ، ثم بعد هذا يرزقهم تعالى السمع الذي به يدركون الأصوات ، والأبصار اللاتي بها يحسون المرئيات ، والأفئدة – وهي العقول – التي مركزها القلب على الصحيح ، وقيل : الدماغ ، والعقل به يميز بين الأشياء ضارها ونافعها . وهذه القوى والحواس تحصل للإنسان على التدريج قليلا قليلا ، كلما كبر زيد في سمعه وبصره وعقله حتى يبلغ أشده .ـ

Allah mentions how He has blessed His slaves by bringing them out of their mothers’ stomachs when they did not know anything and then after that providing them with the hearing with which they can grasp sounds and the vision with which they can perceive things and the minds (al-af’idah) – i.e. the intellects, which are housed in the heart according to the most correct position, though some say that they are housed in the brain – and intellects by which one can distinguish between harmful and beneficial things. These abilities and senses come to a person in stages bit by bit. As he gets older and older his hearing, vision and intellect continue to improve until he reaches maturity. Continue reading