Fear the Fire Whose Fuel is Men and Stones: Tafsir al-Baghawi & Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In the beginning of surah al-Baqarah, Allah challenges the disbelievers that if they doubt the authenticity of the Qur’an to produce a single surah like it. He then follows this up by saying:

فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا وَلَن تَفْعَلُوا فَاتَّقُوا النَّارَ الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ ۖ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْكَافِرِينَ

But if you do not – and you will never be able to – then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers. [2:24]

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

ـ ( التي وقودها الناس والحجارة ) قال ابن عباس وأكثر المفسرين يعني حجارة الكبريت لأنها أكثر التهابا وقيل جميع الحجارة وهو دليل على عظمة تلك النار وقيل أراد بها الأصنام لأن أكثر أصنامهم كانت منحوتة من الحجارة كما قال ” إنكم وما تعبدون من دون الله حصب جهنم ” ( 98 – الأنبياء ) . ـ

 الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ

… whose fuel is men and stones

ibn ‘Abbaas and the majority of the mufassiroon have said that ‘stones‘ here means sulfur because sulfur is very prone to igniting and burning.

It is also said that it is referring to all kinds of stones and that this demonstrates the severity and intensity of this fire.

And it is also said that what is intended by ‘stones‘ here are idols because most of their idols used to be statues made of stone. This is like what Allah said: Continue reading

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The Prohibition of Music in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Near the beginning of surah Luqman, Allah says what can be literally translated as:

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 in order 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]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, the great mufassir imam Muhammad al-Qurtubi explained this ayah according to the understanding of the salaf by writing:

و ( لهو الحديث ) : الغناء ; في قول ابن مسعود وابن عباس وغيرهما . النحاس : وهو ممنوع بالكتاب والسنة ; والتقدير : من يشتري ذا لهو أو ذات لهو ; مثل : واسأل القرية . أو يكون التقدير : لما كان إنما اشتراها يشتريها ويبالغ في ثمنها كأنه اشتراها للهو . ـ

The phrase:

لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ

“idle talk”

means music. This is according to the statements of ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbaas, and others.

al-Nahhaas said: Music is prohibited according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

قلت : هذه إحدى الآيات الثلاث التي استدل بها العلماء على كراهة الغناء والمنع منه . والآية الثانية قوله تعالى : وأنتم سامدون . قال ابن عباس : هو الغناء بالحميرية ; اسمدي لنا ; أي غني لنا . ـ

I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say: This is one of three ayaat in the Qur’an which the scholars use as evidence for the position that music is something hated and prohibited. The second ayah is Allah’s statement: Continue reading

Fear a trial which will not only afflict the wrongdoers: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah says in surah al-Anfaal:

وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَّا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنكُمْ خَاصَّةً ۖ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ

And exercise fear and caution of a trial which will not only afflict those of you who have done wrong, and know that Allah is severe in penalty. (8:25)

In his book of tafsir, Imam ِAbu ‘Abdullah Muhammad al-Qurtubi mentioned the following points:

قال ابن عباس : أمر الله المؤمنين ألا يقروا المنكر بين أظهرهم فيعمهم العذاب . وكذلك تأول فيها الزبير بن العوام فإنه قال يوم الجمل ، وكان سنة ست وثلاثين : ما علمت أنا أردنا بهذه الآية إلا اليوم ، وما كنت أظنها إلا فيمن خوطب ذلك الوقت . وكذلك تأول الحسن البصري والسدي وغيرهما . قال السدي : نزلت الآية في أهل بدر خاصة ; فأصابتهم الفتنة يوم الجمل فاقتتلوا . وقال ابن عباس رضي الله عنه : نزلت هذه الآية في أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : وقال : أمر الله المؤمنين ألا يقروا المنكر فيما بينهم فيعمهم الله بالعذاب . وعن حذيفة بن اليمان قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : يكون بين ناس من أصحابي فتنة يغفرها الله لهم بصحبتهم إياي يستن بهم فيها ناس بعدهم يدخلهم الله بها النار . ـ

Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “Allah commanded the believers not to accept for wrongdoing to become widespread among them, for then He would encompass them all with punishment.”

Al-Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwaam interpreted this ayah in a similar manner, for on the day of the Battle of al-Jamal – which was in the 36th year after the Hijrah – he said, “I never knew that I was the subject of this ayah until today. I thought it was only referring to those who were being addressed at the time of its initial revelation [i.e. the Battle of Badr].” al-Hasan al-Basri, al-Suddi, and others also interpreted it this way. al-Suddi said, “This ayah was revealed specifically regarding the people of the Battle of Badr, then they were afflicted with that fitnah on the Day of al-Jamal and they fell into fighting one another.”

Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “This ayah was revealed regarding the Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ)”, and he also said, “Allah commanded the believers not to allow wrongdoing to become accepted among them, for then Allah would subsume them all in punishment.” Continue reading

The Most Hope-Inspiring Ayah in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In surah al-Noor, in the midst of the ayaat revealed regarding the slander of the Mother of the Believers, ‘Aa’ishah bint Abi Bakr, Allah said:

وَلَا يَأْتَلِ أُولُو الْفَضْلِ مِنكُمْ وَالسَّعَةِ أَن يُؤْتُوا أُولِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَالْمُهَاجِرِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَلْيَعْفُوا وَلْيَصْفَحُوا ۗ أَلَا تُحِبُّونَ أَن يَغْفِرَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

And let not those of virtue and wealth among you and swear not to give [aid] to their relatives and the needy and the emigrants for the cause of Allah. Let them pardon and overlook. Wouldn’t you like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. [24:22]

In part of his commentary of the ayaat regarding the slander, Imam al-Qurtubi mentioned the following beneficial discussion related to this ayah:

 السادسة والعشرون : قال بعض العلماء : هذه أرجى آية في كتاب الله تعالى ، من حيث لطف الله بالقذفة العصاة بهذا اللفظ . وقيل . أرجى آية في كتاب الله – عز وجل – قوله تعالى : وبشر المؤمنين بأن لهم من الله فضلا كبيرا . وقد قال تعالى في آية أخرى : والذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات في روضات الجنات لهم ما يشاءون عند ربهم ذلك هو الفضل الكبير ؛ فشرح الفضل الكبير في هذه الآية ، وبشر به المؤمنين في تلك . ومن آيات الرجاء قوله تعالى : قل يا عبادي الذين أسرفوا على أنفسهم . وقوله تعالى : الله لطيف بعباده . وقال بعضهم : أرجى آية في كتاب الله – عز وجل – : ولسوف يعطيك ربك فترضى ؛ وذلك أن رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – لا يرضى ببقاء أحد من أمته في النار . ـ

Point #16: Some of the scholars have said: This is the most hope-inspiring ayah in the entire Qur’an, from the angle of Allah’s kindness towards disobedient slanderous ones found in this phrase.

Others have said: The most hope-inspiring in the Qur’an is His statement:

وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ بِأَنَّ لَهُم مِّنَ اللَّـهِ فَضْلًا كَبِيرًا

And give good tidings to the believers that they will have a great bounty from Allah. [33:47]

And in another ayah, Allah said: Continue reading

The Meaning of the Title “al-Maseeh”

In his book of tafsir, Imam al-Shawkaani brought the following discussion about the meaning of the term al-Maseeh (the Messiah). Imam al-Shawkaani generally borrowed heavily – even word for word – from Imam al-Qurtubi’s linguistic discussions, often summarizing and simplifying them into a list format. Some supplementary notes from al-Qurtubi will be mentioned here in brackets [] for the sake of clarity:

[والمسيح لقب لعيسى ومعناه الصديق ; قاله إبراهيم النخعي . ـ]

[al-Maseeh is a title for ‘Eesaa (Jesus) and its meaning is al-Siddeeq (“the truthful one”) – this is what Ibrahim al-Nakha’ee said.]

والمسيح اختلف فيه مماذا أخذ ؟ فقيل : من المسح ; لأنه مسح الأرض ; أي : ذهب فيها فلم يستكن بكن ، وقيل : إنه كان لا يمسح ذا عاهة إلا برئ ، فسمي مسيحا ، فهو على هذين فعيل بمعنى فاعل ، ـ

al-Maseeh – there is differing as to where it was derived. So it is said: (it was derived) from al-mash (wiping), for he swept over the earth, meaning he traversed over it and did not take residence in any dwelling place.

And it is said: It was the case that he would not touch someone with an infirmity except that they would be cured, so he was called Maseeh.

So according to these two meaning, it takes the form of an adjective with the meaning of an active participle. Continue reading

Prophets with multiple names and the meaning of “Israa’eel”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Imam al-Qurtubi wrote the following under his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah (2:40):

وإسرائيل هو يعقوب بن إسحاق بن إبراهيم عليهم السلام قال أبو الفرج الجوزي ، وليس في الأنبياء من له اسمان غيره إلا نبينا محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم فإن له أسماء كثيرة ذكره في كتاب ” فهوم الآثار ” له . ـ

“Israa’eel” is Ya’qub ibn Ishaaq ibn Ibrahim (‘alaihim al-salaam), as Abu’l-Faraj al-Jawzi said. [And he also said:] “And other than him, there are no prophets which have two names other than our prophet, Muhammad (ﷺ)”, for indeed he had many names which he mentioned in the book “Fuhoom al-Aathaar“.

قلت : وقد قيل في المسيح إنه اسم علم لعيسى عليه السلام غير مشتق وقد سماه الله روحا وكلمة ، وكانوا يسمونه أبيل الأبيلين ذكره الجوهري في الصحاح . ـ

I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say: It has been said that al-Maseeh (the Messiah) is a proper name for ‘Eesaa (Jesus) (‘alaihi al-salaam) which is not derived. And Allah has named him as “Rooh” and “Kalimah“. And al-Jawhari mentioned in “al-Sihhaah” that Abeel (Abel) was named “Abeeleen”.

وذكر البيهقي في ” دلائل النبوة ” عن الخليل بن أحمد : خمسة من الأنبياء ذوو اسمين محمد وأحمد نبينا صلى الله عليه وسلم وعيسى والمسيح وإسرائيل ويعقوب ويونس وذو النون وإلياس وذو الكفل صلى الله عليهم وسلم . ـ

And al-Bayhaqi mention in “Dalaa’il al-Nubuwwah” on the authority of al-Khaleel ibn Ahmad, “Out of the Prophets, there are five who possess two names: Muhammad and Ahmad – our prophet (ﷺ); ‘Eesaa and al-Maseeh; Israa’eel and Ya’qub; Yunus and Dhu’l-Noon; and Ilyaas and Dhu’l-Kifl.” Continue reading

Four things for you and Three things against you

Imam al-Qurtubi mentioned the following statement of the taabi’ and scholar of al-Shaam Makḥool[1] (d. 112 or 133AH) in his tafsir of surah al-Nisaa’ (4:147):

وقال مكحول: أربع من كن فيه كن له، وثلاث من كن فيه كن عليه، فالأربع اللاتي له: فالشكر والايمان والدعاء والاستغفار، قال الله تعالى: {ما يَفْعَلُ اللَّهُ بِعَذابِكُمْ إِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ وَآمَنْتُمْ} وقال الله تعالى: {وَما كانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَأَنْتَ فِيهِمْ وَما كانَ اللَّهُ مُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَهُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ} وقال تعالى: {قُلْ ما يَعْبَؤُا بِكُمْ رَبِّي لَوْلا دُعاؤُكُمْ}. .ـ

There are four things that whoever has them has them in his favor, and there are three things that whoever has them has them against him.

The four things which are in his favor are: 1) gratitude, 2) eemaan, 3) supplication and 4) seeking forgiveness.

Allah said (1 & 2):

 مَا يَفْعَلُ اللَّهُ بِعَذَابِكُمْ إِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ وَآمَنْتُمْ

Why should Allah punish you if you have thanked (Him) and have believed in Him? [4:147].

And Allah said (4):

وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَأَنْتَ فِيهِمْ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ مُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَهُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ

and Allah would not punish them while they seek forgiveness [8:33].

And He said (3): Continue reading

“When he reached the setting place of the sun…” : Tafsir ibn Kathir, al-Shinqitee & al-Qurtubi

Allah mentions the story of Dhu’l-Qarnain in surah al-Kahf and brings the following ayah therein:

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغْرِ‌بَ الشَّمْسِ وَجَدَهَا تَغْرُ‌بُ فِي عَيْنٍ حَمِئَةٍ

Until, when he reached the setting place of the sun, he found it setting in a murky spring. [18:86]

al-Haafidh Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel Ibn Kathir (d. 774 AH) commented on this ayah by writing:

وقوله : ( وجدها تغرب في عين حمئة ) أي : رأى الشمس في منظره تغرب في البحر المحيط ، وهذا شأن كل من انتهى إلى ساحله ، يراها كأنها تغرب فيه ، وهي لا تفارق الفلك الرابع الذي هي مثبتة فيه لا تفارقه

His statement “and he found it setting in a murky spring” meaning, he saw the sun from his viewpoint setting in the expansive ocean. This is something which everyone who goes to the coast can see; it looks as if the sun is setting into it [the ocean] but it never leaves its path in which it is fixed.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 5/192]

Imam Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee (d. 1393 AH) quoted this statement from ibn Kathir in his own tafsir on this ayah and then went on to explain: Continue reading

“And for that He created them…”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah says in His Book in surah Hud:

وَمَا كَانَ رَ‌بُّكَ لِيُهْلِكَ الْقُرَ‌ىٰ بِظُلْمٍ وَأَهْلُهَا مُصْلِحُونَ * وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَ‌بُّكَ لَجَعَلَ النَّاسَ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً ۖ وَلَا يَزَالُونَ مُخْتَلِفِينَ * إِلَّا مَن رَّ‌حِمَ رَ‌بُّكَ ۚ وَلِذَٰلِكَ خَلَقَهُمْ ۗ وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَةُ رَ‌بِّكَ لَأَمْلَأَنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنَ الْجِنَّةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ

And your Lord would not have destroyed the cities unjustly while their people were reformers. And if your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one community; but they will not cease to differ. Except whom your Lord has given mercy, and for that He created them. But the word of your Lord is to be fulfilled that, “I will surely fill Hell with jinn and men all together.” [11:117-119]

Imam al-Qurtubi, in his book of tafsir, wrote about these ayaat:

قوله تعالى‏{‏وما كان ربك ليهلك القرى‏}‏ أي أهل القرى‏.‏ ‏}‏بظلم‏}‏ أي بشرك وكفر‏.‏ ‏}‏وأهلها مصلحون‏}‏ أي فيما بينهم في تعاطي الحقوق؛ أي لم يكن ليهلكهم بالكفر وحده حتى ينضاف إليه الفساد، كما أهلك قوم شعيب ببخس المكيال والميزان، وقوم لوط باللواط؛ ودل هذا على أن المعاصي أقرب إلى عذاب الاستئصال في الدنيا من الشرك، وإن كان عذاب الشرك في الآخرة أصعب‏.‏

And Allah’s statement, “And your Lord would not have destroyed the cities” – meaning the people of the cities – “unjustly” – meaning for their shirk and kufr – “while their people were reformers” – meaning that amongst them were those gave each other their rights. Meaning that He would did not destroy them for kufr alone until they add corruption to that, such as the people of Shu’aib when they undervalued the weight and measure [in their financial transactions], or the people of Lut for their sodomy. And this shows that disobedience is more conducive to an eradicating punishment in the dunya than al-shirk, even though the punishment of al-shirk is more severe in the aakhirah Continue reading

“Close friends, that Day, will be enemies to each other- except for the muttaqoon”

Allah informs us about one of the features of the Day of Recompense in surah al-Zukhruf when He says:

الْأَخِلَّاءُ يَوْمَئِذٍ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ إِلَّا الْمُتَّقِينَ

Close friends, that Day, will be enemies to each other – except for the muttaqoon

[al-Qur’an 43:67]

In his tafsir of this ayah, Imam al-Baghawi brings a statement from ‘Ali (raadiAllaahu ‘anhu) concerning this ayah where he said: Continue reading