A Central Theme of Surah al-An’aam: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

After discussing a number of statements from the salaf regarding the revelation and themes of surah al-An’aam, Imam al-Qurtubi then wrote:

تنبيه : قال العلماء : هذه السورة أصل في محاجة المشركين وغيرهم من المبتدعين ومن كذب بالبعث والنشور وهذا يقتضي إنزالها جملة واحدة لأنها في معنى واحد من الحجة وإن تصرف ذلك بوجوه كثيرة . ـ

A Note: the scholars have said that this surah is the foundation for arguing against the Mushrikoon, as well as others such as innovators and anyone who denies the resurrection and gathering of the dead. That is why this surah was revealed all at once, because it all centers around one message of making an argument, even if the surah pursues that goal in a number of different ways. Continue reading

A Point on Promises in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shawkaani, al-Qurtubi & al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah al-Baqarah:

الشَّيْطَانُ يَعِدُكُمُ الْفَقْرَ وَيَأْمُرُكُم بِالْفَحْشَاءِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ يَعِدُكُم مَّغْفِرَةً مِّنْهُ وَفَضْلًا ۗ وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

The shaytaan promises you poverty and commands you to commit immoralities, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is rich and all-knowing. [2:268]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, Imam al-Shawkaani wrote:

الوعد في كلام العرب إذا أطلق فهو في الخير ، وإذا قيد فقد يقيد تارة بالخير وتارة بالشر . ومنه قوله تعالى : النار وعدها الله الذين كفروا [ الحج : 72 ] ومنه أيضا ما في هذه الآية من تقييد وعد الشيطان بالفقروتقييد وعد الله سبحانه بالمغفرة ، والفضل . ـ

In the Arabic language, al-Wa’d – a promise – on its own is only used to refer to something good, but if what has been promised is specified in some way then the specification could sometimes be something good and other times be something bad.

An example of the this is Allah’s statement:

النَّارُ وَعَدَهَا اللَّـهُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا

It is the fire which Allah has promised for those who disbelieve [22:72]

This is also the case in this ayah [i.e. 2:268] as it has specified that the shaytaan’s promise is for poverty and it has specified that Allah’s promise is for forgiveness and bounty. Continue reading

“Thus Does Allah Strike a Parable of Truth and Falsehood”: al-Qurtubi, ibn Taymiyah, and ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes the following two parables in one ayah in surah al-Ra’d:

أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا ۚ وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَاءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِّثْلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ

Allah sends down rain from the sky and the valleys flow according to their capacity, and a torrent carries the rising foam. And out of that which they heat in the fire, seeking adornments and tools, is a similar foam. Thus does Allah strike a parable of the truth and falsehood. As for the foam, it vanishes, being cast off. But as for they which benefits people, then it remains on the earth. Thus does Allah strike parables. [13:17]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, al-Qurtubi wrote:

وهو أن المثلين ضربهما الله للحق في ثباته ، والباطل في اضمحلاله ، فالباطل وإن علا في بعض الأحوال فإنه يضمحل كاضمحلال الزبد والخبث . وقيل : المراد مثل ضربه الله للقرآن وما يدخل منه القلوب ; فشبه القرآن بالمطر لعموم خيره وبقاء نفعه ، وشبه القلوب بالأودية ، يدخل فيها من القرآن مثل ما يدخل في الأودية بحسب سعتها وضيقها . ـ

Allah struck these two parables about the truth and its firmness and falsehood and its transience. For even if falsehood may be ascendant at certain times and situations, it will pass away just as foam and filth pass away.

Some have said that the intended meaning of this parable is about the Qur’an and how it enters into the hearts. Allah likened the Qur’an to water due to how much good it brings and its enduring benefit, and He likened the hearts to river valleys. So the Qur’an enters the heart just as water enters the river valleys – that is, an amount matching with their width or narrowness. Continue reading

Those Who Seek Forgiveness in the Last Part of the Night: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In part of surah Aal ‘Imraan, Allah describes His believing slaves with the following characteristics:

الصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْمُنفِقِينَ وَالْمُسْتَغْفِرِينَ بِالْأَسْحَارِ

The patient ones, the truthful ones, the devout ones, those who spend, and those who seek forgiveness in the last part of the night. [3:17]

Imam al-Qurtubi began his commentary on this ayah by writing:

الصابرين يعني عن المعاصي والشهوات ، وقيل : على الطاعات . والصادقين أي في الأفعال والأقوال والقانتين الطائعين . والمنفقين يعني في سبيل الله . وقد تقدم في البقرة هذه المعاني على الكمال . ففسر تعالى في هذه الآية أحوال المتقين الموعودين بالجنات .ـ

الصَّابِرِينَ

The patient ones …

i.e. those who steadfastly abstain from acts of disobedience and lusts. And some explained it as those who steadfastly perform acts of obedience.

وَالصَّادِقِينَ

… and the truthful ones …

i.e. those who are truthful in their actions and statements

وَالْقَانِتِينَ

… and the devout ones …

i.e. the obedient ones Continue reading

The Length of Surah al-Ahzab: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Imam al-Qurtubi began his tafsir of surah al-Ahzab with the following:

سورة الأحزاب
Surah al-Ahzab

مدنية في قول جميعهم . نزلت في المنافقين وإيذائهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، وطعنهم فيه وفي مناكحته وغيرها . وهي ثلات وسبعون آية . وكانت هذه السورة تعدل سورة البقرة . وكانت فيها آية الرجم : ( الشيخ والشيخة إذا زنيا فارجموهما البتة نكالا من الله والله عزيز حكيم ) ; ذكره أبو بكر الأنباري عن أبي بن كعب . وهذا يحمله أهل العلم على أن الله تعالى رفع من الأحزاب إليه ما يزيد على ما في أيدينا ، وأن آية الرجم رفع لفظها . وقد حدثنا أحمد بن الهيثم بن خالد قال حدثنا أبو عبيد القاسم بن سلام قال حدثنا ابن أبي مريم عن ابن لهيعة عن أبي الأسود عن عروة عن عائشة قالت : كانت سورة الأحزاب تعدل على عهد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مائتي آية ، فلما كتب المصحف لم يقدر منها إلا على ما هي الآن . قال أبو بكر : فمعنى هذا من قول أم المؤمنين عائشة : أن الله تعالى رفع إليه من سورة الأحزاب ما يزيد على ما عندنا . ـ

It is a Madani surah according to consensus. It was revealed regarding the munafiqoon and their harm, abuse and insults, etc. towards Allah’s Messenger.

It is 73 ayaat long, but this surah used to be equal in length to surah al-Baqarah, and it used to contain the Ayah of Stoning. That is

الشيخ والشيخة إذا زنيا فارجموهما البتة نكالا من الله والله عزيز حكيم

And adult man and the adult woman – if they commit adultery, then stone them both completely. This is an edifying punishment from Allah, and Allah is Almighty, All Wise.

Abu Bakr al-Anbari mentioned this on the authority of Ubay ibn Ka’b.

The scholars have taken this to mean that Allah lifted whatever was beyond the amount of surah al-Ahzab that we have today back to Himself and that the wording of the Ayah of Stoning was lifted [i.e. it is no longer part of the Qur’an].

… A’ishah said: Continue reading

I Swear by the Installments of the Qur’an: Tafsir of ibn ‘Abbaas

Allah swears in surah al-Waaqi’ah by saying:

فَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِمَوَاقِعِ النُّجُومِ * وَإِنَّهُ لَقَسَمٌ لَّوْ تَعْلَمُونَ عَظِيمٌ * إِنَّهُ لَقُرْآنٌ كَرِيمٌ * فِي كِتَابٍ مَّكْنُونٍ

So I swear by the mawaqi’ah al-nujoom * and that is certainly a strong oath – if you only knew – * that this is certainly a noble recitation * in a well-guarded book. [56:75-78]

In his brief commentary, Ibn al-Jawzi summarizes the different explanations of the term mawaqi’ah al-nujoom as follows:

وفي “النجوم” قولان . أحدهما: نجوم السماء، قاله الأكثرون . فعلى هذا في مواقعها ثلاثة أقوال . أحدها: انكدارها وانتثارها يوم القيامة، قاله الحسن . والثاني: منازلها، قاله عطاء، وقتادة . والثالث: مغيبها في المغرب، قاله أبو عبيدة . والثاني: أنها نجوم القرآن، رواه ابن جبير عن ابن عباس . فعلى هذا سميت نجوما لنزولها متفرقة، ومواقعها: نزولها . ـ

There are two interpretations of the word nujoom:

1. The stars of the sky, which was the position of the majority of the salaf. If the stars are what is being referred to by nujoom, then there are three different interpretations of the word mawaqi’ah:

a. The extinguishing and dispersal of the stars of the Day of Resurrection. This was the opinion of al-Hasan al-Basr.

b. Their places in the sky, as ‘Ataa’ and Qatadah said.

c. The places where the stars set on the horizon, as Abu ‘Ubaydah said.

2. That nujoom is referring to the installments of the Qur’an, as ibn Jubayr transmitted from ibn ‘Abbaas. According to this explanation, the word nujoom is used because it was sent down in many different installments, and the word mawaqi’ah in this context refers to the act of sending it down.

[Zad al-Maseer 8/151]

Most if not all English translators of the Qur’an have translated ayah 56:75 as some variant of the first explanation that ibn al-Jawzi mentioned, such as “the falling of the stars”, “the positions of the stars”, or “the setting places of the stars”. However, some of the mufassiroon such as ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbaas, the most important mufassir of the salaf, favored the second opinion.

al-Qurtubi mentions some of the statements of ibn ‘Abbaas in his tafsir of this ayah: Continue reading

“O You Wrapped in Garments”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah begins surah al-Muzzammil by addressing the Prophet, saying:

يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُزَّمِّلُ * قُمِ  اللَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

O you wrapped in garments! * Stand to prayer for the night, except for a little. [73:1-2]

In part of his commentary on this, Imam al-Qurtubi mentioned the following:

وفي خطابه بهذا الاسم فائدتان

There are two points of benefit related to Allah addressing the Prophet with this name:

إحداهما الملاطفة ; فإن العرب إذا قصدت ملاطفة المخاطب وترك المعاتبة سموه باسم مشتق من حالته التي هو عليها ; كقول النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – لعلي حين غاضب فاطمة – رضي الله عنهما – ، فأتاه وهو نائم وقد لصق بجنبه التراب فقال له : ” قم يا أبا تراب ” إشعارا له أنه غير عاتب عليه ، وملاطفة له . وكذلك قوله – عليه السلام – لحذيفة : ” قم يا نومان ” وكان نائما ملاطفة له ، وإشعارا لترك العتب والتأنيب . فقول الله تعالى لمحمد – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : يا أيها المزمل قم فيه تأنيس وملاطفة ; ليستشعر أنه غير عاتب عليه . ـ

First: It is a form of kindness. When the Arabs want to express kindness towards the one they are addressing and to avoid any sign of admonishment, they call the person by a name related to whatever condition that person is currently in. Continue reading

Tawbah for the Various Categories of Sins: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Imam Abu ‘Abdullah al-Qurtubi mentioned the following issue in part of his well-known book of tafsir:

الخامسة : الذنوب التي يتاب منها إما كفر أو غيره ، فتوبة الكافر إيمانه مع ندمه على ما سلف من كفره ، وليس مجرد الإيمان نفس توبة ، وغير الكفر إما حق لله تعالى ، وإما حق لغيره ، [ ص: 203 ] فحق الله تعالى يكفي في التوبة منه الترك ; غير أن منها ما لم يكتف الشرع فيها بمجرد الترك بل أضاف إلى ذلك في بعضها قضاء كالصلاة والصوم ، ومنها ما أضاف إليها كفارة كالحنث في الأيمان والظهار وغير ذلك ، وأما حقوق الآدميين فلا بد من إيصالها إلى مستحقيها ، فإن لم يوجدوا تصدق عنهم ، ومن لم يجد السبيل لخروج ما عليه لإعسار فعفو الله مأمول ، وفضله مبذول ; فكم ضمن من التبعات وبدل من السيئات بالحسنات . وستأتي زيادة بيان لهذا المعنى . ـ

Point 5: Sins from which one can repent fall into the categories of outright kufr (disbelief) or lesser sins.

The repentance of a disbelieving person involves him having eemaan while regretting the disbelief that he had previously committed, as merely having eemaan is not the same as repenting.

As for those sins which are less than kufr, these are either related to the rights of Allah, or the rights of others. Continue reading

Asking for ‘Aafiyah: Tafsir al-Baghawi, al-Qurtubi, & al-Aloosi

In surah Yusuf, Allah informs us that when Yusuf was being tested by the wife of his master and the women of Egypt, he supplicated to his Lord by saying:

قَالَ رَ‌بِّ السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا يَدْعُونَنِي إِلَيْهِ ۖ وَإِلَّا تَصْرِ‌فْ عَنِّي كَيْدَهُنَّ أَصْبُ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَكُن مِّنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ

He said, “My Lord, prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. And if You do not avert from me their plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant.” [12:33]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Baghawi mentioned:

وقيل : لو لم يقل : السجن أحب إلي لم يبتل بالسجن ، والأولى بالمرء أن يسأل الله العافية .ـ

Some say: if only he had not said

السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ

prison is more to my liking

then he would not have been tested with prison. And the most appropriate thing for a person to ask Allah for is ‘aafiyah – the absence of any ailment or troubles.

[Tafsir al-Baghawi 4/240]

Imam Abu Muhammad al-Qurtubi also commented on this phrase by saying:

ـ ” أحب إلي ” أي أسهل علي وأهون من الوقوع في المعصية ; لا أن دخول السجن مما يحب على التحقيق . وحكي أن يوسف – عليه السلام – لما قال : السجن أحب إلي أوحى الله إليه ” يا يوسف ! أنت حبست نفسك حيث قلت السجن أحب إلي ، ولو قلت العافية أحب إلي لعوفيت ” . ـ

Allah’s statement

 أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ

… more to my liking …

i.e. that it easier and less weighty on me than to fall into sins, not that going to prison is something that he would want otherwise. Continue reading

Who Memorized the Qur’an During the Lifetime of the Prophet: Tafsir ibn Kathir

al-Haafidh ibn Kathir mentioned the following in the introduction to his tafsir as the first part of his section entitled “The Gathering of the Qur’an” which focused on the preservation and collection of the Qur’an:

 ثبت في الصحيحين عن أنس قال : جمع القرآن على عهد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أربعة ، كلهم من الأنصار ؛ أبي بن كعب ، ومعاذ بن جبل ، وزيد بن ثابت ، وأبو زيد . فقيل له : من أبو زيد ؟ قال : أحد عمومتي . وفي لفظ للبخاري عن أنس قال : مات النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ولم يجمع القرآن غير أربعة ؛ أبو الدرداء ، ومعاذ بن جبل ، وزيد بن ثابت ، وأبو زيد ، ونحن ورثناه . ـ

It is well-established in both al-Bukhari and Muslim that Anas said, “Those who memorized the Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet (ﷺ) were four, all of whom were Ansaar: Ubay ibn Ka’b, Mu’aadh ibn Jabal, Zayd ibn Thaabit, and Abu Zayd.” Someone asked, “Who is Abu Zayd?” Anas answered, “One of my uncles.”

And in the wording that comes in al-Bukhari, Anas said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) died and no one else had memorized the Qur’an except for these four: Abu al-Dardaa’, Mu’aadh ibn Jabal, Zayd ibn Thaabit, and Abu Zayd, and then we took it from them.”

قلت : أبو زيد هذا ليس بمشهور ؛ لأنه مات قديما ، وقد ذكروه في أهل بدر ، وقال بعضهم : سعيد بن عبيد . ومعنى قول أنس : ولم يجمع القرآن . يعني من الأنصار سوى هؤلاء ، وإلا فمن المهاجرين جماعة كانوا يجمعون القرآن كالصديق ، وابن مسعود ، وسالم مولى أبي حذيفة وغيرهم . ـ

I [ibn Kathir] say: This Abu Zayd was not someone well-known because he died early, and he has been mentioned among those who were present for the Battle of Badr. And some said that he was Sa’eed ibn ‘Ubayd.

And the meaning of Anas’ statement, “no one else had memorized the Qur’an” is that none of the Ansaar besides these four had memorized the Qur’an. Otherwise, there were a number of the Muhaajiroon who had memorized the Qur’an, such as Abu Bakr, ibn Mas’ood, Saalim Mawla Abi Hudhaifah and others. Continue reading