Surah al-Anbiyaa’ is the Surah of Dhikr: Ibn Taymiyah

Sheikh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah once wrote:

سورة الأنبياء  سورة الذكر وسورة الأنبياء الذين عليهم نزل الذكر افتتحها بقوله : { ما يأتيهم من ذكر من ربهم محدث } الآية وقوله : { فاسألوا أهل الذكر إن كنتم لا تعلمون } وقوله : { لقد أنزلنا إليكم كتابا فيه ذكركم } وقوله : { هذا ذكر من معي وذكر من قبلي } وقوله : { وذكرا للمتقين } وقوله : { وهذا ذكر مبارك } وقوله : { ولقد كتبنا في الزبور من بعد الذكر } ـ

Surah al-Anbiyaa’ is the surah of dhikr – remembrance of Allah – and the surah of the Prophets to whom that dhikr was revealed. Allah begins the surah by saying:

مَا يَأْتِيهِم مِّن ذِكْرٍ مِّن رَّبِّهِم مُّحْدَثٍ إِلَّا اسْتَمَعُوهُ وَهُمْ يَلْعَبُونَ

Whenever a new reminder comes to them from their Lord, they only listen to it while they are at play [21:2]

and He said:

فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

So ask the people of remembrance if you do not know [21:7]

and He said:

لَقَدْ أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكُمْ كِتَابًا فِيهِ ذِكْرُكُمْ

We have certainly sent down a Book to you which contains your reminder [21:10]

and He said:

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Deeds Like a Mirage: Tafsir al-Qurtubi & al-Sa’di

Allah strikes a parable in surah al-Noor when He says:

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَسَرَابٍ بِقِيعَةٍ يَحْسَبُهُ الظَّمْآنُ مَاءً حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءَهُ لَمْ يَجِدْهُ شَيْئًا وَوَجَدَ اللَّهَ عِندَهُ فَوَفَّاهُ حِسَابَهُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ

And those who disbelieve, their deeds are like a mirage on a flat expanse of land. A thirsty person thinks it is water until, when he reaches it, he finds that it is nothing. But he finds Allah in front of Him, and He will then pay him his due. And Allah is quick in reckoning. [24:39]

Commenting on this, al-Qurtubi wrote:

وهذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى للكفار ، يعولون على ثواب أعمالهم فإذا قدموا على الله تعالى وجدوا ثواب أعمالهم محبطة بالكفر ؛ أي لم يجدوا شيئا كما لم يجد صاحب السراب إلا أرضا لا ماء فيها ؛ فهو يهلك أو يموت

Allah struck this parable regarding the disbelievers; they are confident that they will be rewarded for their actions, but then when they come before Allah, they find that the rewards of their actions were nullified by disbelief. In other words, they do not find anything there, just as the person chasing a mirage only finds land with no water and will therefore perish or die.

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The Story and Context of the So-Called Satanic Verses: Tafsir al-Baghawi

A source of great interest and speculation among non-Muslims and Muslims alike is Qissah al-Gharaaneeq or “Event of the Cranes”. In English, this is popularly referred to as the so-called “satanic verses” though that title is a recently coined term with no equivalent in Islamic sources. In the books of Qur’anic commentary, this incident and its validity or lack or validity is typically discussed in part of surah al-Hajj. We have translated Imam al-Husayn ibn Mas’ood al-Baghawi‘s discussion of this from his famous book of tafsir below:

ـ ( قل يا أيها الناس إنما أنا لكم نذير مبين ) . ( فالذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات لهم مغفرة ورزق كريم ) الرزق الكريم الذي لا ينقطع أبدا . وقيل : هو الجنة . ( والذين سعوا في آياتنا ) أي عملوا في إبطال آياتنا ، ( معاجزين ) قرأ ابن كثير وأبو عمرو : ” معجزين ” بالتشديد هاهنا وفي سورة سبإ أي : مثبطين الناس عن الإيمان ، وقرأ الآخرون : ” معاجزين ” بالألف أي : معاندين مشاقين . وقال قتادة : معناه ظانين ومقدرين أنهم يعجزوننا بزعمهم أن لا بعث ولا نشور ولا جنة ولا نار ، ومعنى يعجزوننا ، أي : يفوتوننا فلا نقدر عليهم . وهذا كقوله تعالى : ( أم حسب الذين يعملون السيئات أن يسبقونا ) ( العنكبوت : 4 ) ، ( أولئك أصحاب الجحيم ) وقيل : ” معاجزين ” مغالبين ، يريد كل واحد أن يظهر عجز صاحبه . ـ

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّمَا أَنَا لَكُمْ نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ * فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَرِزْقٌ كَرِيمٌ

Say: O mankind, I am only a clear warner to you. * So those who believe and do good deeds will have forgiveness and a generous provision. [22:49-50]

This “generous provision” is one that will never be cut off, and some said that it is referring to Jannah.

وَالَّذِينَ سَعَوْا فِي آيَاتِنَا

But those who strive against our ayaat

i.e. those who work to discredit our ayaat

مُعَاجِزِينَ

mu’aajizeen …

Ibn Kathir and Abu ‘Amr recited this as

مُعَجِّزَيْنِ

mu’ajjizeen

with a shaddah both where the word occurs here and where it occurs in surah Saba [see 34:5 and 34:38], the meaning being: seeking to deter people from believing.

The other reciters recited it as:

مُعَاجِزِينَ

mu’aajizeen …

with an alif, the meaning being: out of obstinance and at great effort.

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The Parable of the Fly: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Hajj:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ ضُرِبَ مَثَلٌ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ لَن يَخْلُقُوا ذُبَابًا وَلَوِ اجْتَمَعُوا لَهُ ۖ وَإِن يَسْلُبْهُمُ الذُّبَابُ شَيْئًا لَّا يَسْتَنقِذُوهُ مِنْهُ ۚ ضَعُفَ الطَّالِبُ وَالْمَطْلُوبُ

O mankind, a parable has been struck for you, so listen carefully to it! Those who you call on besides Allah could never make a fly, even if they joined forces to do so! And if a fly took something from them, they could not recover it from him. Both the seeker and the sought are weak! [22:73]

Commenting on this in his well-known book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

هذا مثل ضربه الله لقبح عبادة الأوثان، وبيان نقصان عقول من عبدها، وضعف الجميع، فقال: { يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ } هذا خطاب للمؤمنين والكفار، المؤمنون يزدادون علما وبصيرة، والكافرون تقوم عليهم الحجة، { ضُرِبَ مَثَلٌ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ } أي: ألقوا إليه أسماعكم، وتفهموا ما احتوى عليه، ولا يصادف منكم قلوبا لاهية، وأسماعا معرضة، بل ألقوا إليه القلوب والأسماع، وهو هذا: { إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ } شمل كل ما يدعى من دون الله، { لَنْ يَخْلُقُوا ذُبَابًا } الذي هو من أحقر المخلوقات وأخسها، فليس في قدرتهم خلق هذا المخلوق الضعيف، فما فوقه من باب أولى، { وَلَوِ اجْتَمَعُوا لَهُ } بل أبلغ من ذلك لو { يَسْلُبْهُمُ الذُّبَابُ شَيْئًا لَا يَسْتَنْقِذُوهُ مِنْهُ } وهذا غاية ما يصير من العجز.{ ضَعُفَ الطَّالِبُ } الذي هو المعبود من دون الله { وَالْمَطْلُوبُ } الذي هو الذباب، فكل منهما ضعيف، وأضعف منهما، من يتعلق بهذا الضعيف، وينزله منزلة رب العالمين. ـ

Allah struck this parable regarding the repugnance of worshiping idols and to clearly show how deficient the thinking of those who worship them is, and to show how both parties are weak.

He said:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ

O mankind …

this is directed at both the believers and disbelievers. The believers will find their knowledge and clear thinking increased by it, while the disbelievers will have a proof established against them.

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“As If He Had Fallen From the Sky”: Tafsir al-Baghawi, Ibn Kathir & al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the follow parable in surah al-Hajj:

وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَكَأَنَّمَا خَرَّ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَتَخْطَفُهُ الطَّيْرُ أَوْ تَهْوِي بِهِ الرِّيحُ فِي مَكَانٍ سَحِيقٍ

And whoever associates partners with Allah, it is as if he had fallen from the sky and was snatched by the birds or the wind carried him to a remote place. [22:31]

In his explanation of this parable, al-haafidh ibn Kathir began by writing:

ضرب للمشرك مثلا في ضلاله وهلاكه وبعده عن الهدى

Allah has struck a parable of the mushrik‘s misguidance, peril, and distance from guidance.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 5/320]

After explaining some of the terms used in this parable, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Baghawi then explained the overall meaning by writing:

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The Parable of the Man with Two Gardens: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah includes a long parable in surah al-Kahf that begins with:

وَاضْرِبْ لَهُم مَّثَلًا رَّجُلَيْنِ جَعَلْنَا لِأَحَدِهِمَا جَنَّتَيْنِ مِنْ أَعْنَابٍ وَحَفَفْنَاهُمَا بِنَخْلٍ وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمَا زَرْعًا

And present to them an example of two men: We granted to one of them two gardens of grapes, and We bordered them with palm trees and placed crops between them. [18:32]

and continues until the end of ayah 44.

In his well-known book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote a commentary on the entire parable, but summarized its main theme and message at the beginning and end of his explanation by writing:

يقول تعالى لنبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم: اضرب للناس مثل هذين الرجلين: الشاكر لنعمة الله، والكافر لها، وما صدر من كل منهما من الأقوال والأفعال، وما حصل بسبب ذلك من العقاب العاجل والآجل والثواب؛ ليعتبروا بحالهما، ويتعظوا بما حصل عليهما ـ

Allah is telling His prophet to strike this parable for the people: a parable of

  • these two men; one of them is grateful for Allah’s blessings and the other is ungrateful for them
  • the statements and actions of each one
  • and the outcomes of those things – punishment both in the short-term and long-term on the one hand and reward on the others

so that the people could take a lesson from their circumstances and be admonished by what happened to them.

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Major Nifaq and Minor Nifaq in the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In his explanation of the beginning of surah al-Baqarah, the great expert in hadith, history and tafsir al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir transitioned from the ayaat describing the disbelievers to the ayaat describing the munafiqoon by writing:

لما تقدم وصف المؤمنين في صدر السورة بأربع آيات ، ثم عرف حال الكافرين بهاتين الآيتين ، شرع تعالى في بيان حال المنافقين الذين يظهرون الإيمان ويبطنون الكفر ، ولما كان أمرهم يشتبه على كثير من الناس أطنب في ذكرهم بصفات متعددة ، كل منها نفاق ، كما أنزل سورة ” براءة ” فيهم ، وسورة ” المنافقين ” فيهم ، وذكرهم في سورة ” النور ” وغيرها من السور ، تعريفا لأحوالهم لتجتنب ، ويجتنب من تلبس بها. ـ

After beginning with four ayaat describing the believers at the opening of this surah [2:2-5] and then acquainting us with the disbelievers’ condition in these two ayaat [2:6-7], Allah then moves on to explaining the situation of the munafiqoon – those who outwardly display eemaan while inwardly harboring disbelief [2:8-20]. Because of the difficulty that many people have in identifying their condition, Allah goes into detail by mentioning a number of their characteristics, all of which are nifaq. He also sent down surah al-Baraa’ah [09] and surah al-Munafiqoon [63] regarding them, as well as mentioning them in surah al-Nur [24] and elsewhere in order to acquaint us with their ways so that we could avoid their qualities and those who are characterized by them.

النفاق : هو إظهار الخير وإسرار الشر ، وهو أنواع : اعتقادي ، وهو الذي يخلد صاحبه في النار ، وعملي وهو من أكبر الذنوب ، كما سيأتي تفصيله في موضعه ، إن شاء الله تعالى ، وهذا كما قال ابن جريج : المنافق يخالف قوله فعله ، وسره علانيته ، ومدخله مخرجه ، ومشهده مغيبه . ـ

al-Nifaq is: outwardly displaying good while secretly harboring evil. And there are different varieties of nifaq:

there is Nifaq of Creed, which is the type which causes its perpetrator to spend eternity in the Hellfire,

and there is Nifaq of Deed which is one of the gravest sins.

And we shall discuss this in detail in the appropriate place, inshaAllaah.

All of this is just as ibn Jurayj said, “The munafiq‘s words and actions are at odds, his secrets and public face are at odds, his entering and exiting are at odds, and his public life and private life are at odds.” Continue reading

An Encouragement to Those Who Rush Towards Good: Tafsir al-Shawkani

In the middle of surah al-Mu’minoon, Allah describes those who rush towards good with a series of excellent qualities:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ هُم مِّنْ خَشْيَةِ رَبِّهِم مُّشْفِقُونَ * وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ يُؤْمِنُونَ * وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِرَبِّهِمْ لَا يُشْرِكُونَ * وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْتُونَ مَا آتَوا وَّقُلُوبُهُمْ وَجِلَةٌ أَنَّهُمْ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ رَاجِعُونَ * أُولَـٰئِكَ يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَهُمْ لَهَا سَابِقُونَ

Those who are apprehensive from fear of their Lord * And who believe in the signs of their Lord * And who do not associate anything with their Lord * And who give what they give while their hearts are fearful because they will be returning to their Lord – * These are the ones who hasten to good deeds, and they are the forerunners to them. [23:57-61]

Allah then follows up these descriptions by saying:

وَلَا نُكَلِّفُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا

And We do not tax any person except according to his capacity … [23:62]

Imam Muhammad al-Shawkaani commented on relationship between the first section of ayaat and the latter one by writing: Continue reading

A Command to Be Patient and the Means to Do So: Tafsir al-Sa’di

At the end of surah Taha, Allah says:

وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّبِّكَ لَكَانَ لِزَامًا وَأَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّى * فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ غُرُوبِهَا ۖ وَمِنْ آنَاءِ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْ وَأَطْرَافَ النَّهَارِ لَعَلَّكَ تَرْضَىٰ * وَلَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِّنْهُمْ زَهْرَةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا لِنَفْتِنَهُمْ فِيهِ ۚ وَرِزْقُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ * وَأْمُرْ أَهْلَكَ بِالصَّلَاةِ وَاصْطَبِرْ عَلَيْهَا ۖ لَا نَسْأَلُكَ رِزْقًا ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُكَ ۗ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ

And were it not for a command that has previously come from your Lord and a decreed term, then punishment would be incumbent. * So be patient with what they say and exalt the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting. And also during period of the night give praise, and at the ends of the day, that you may be pleased. * And do not extend your eyes to what He has given to some others, the beauty of this worldly life, in order to test them through it. And the provision of your Lord is better and more lasting. * And enjoin your family to pray and be steadfast in it. We do not ask you for provision; We provide for you. And the good end is a result of al-taqwa. [20:129-132]

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

ـ [وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّبِّكَ لَكَانَ لِزَامًا وَأَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّى * فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ غُرُوبِهَا ۖ وَمِنْ آنَاءِ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْ وَأَطْرَافَ النَّهَارِ لَعَلَّكَ تَرْضَىٰ] هذا تسلية للرسول، وتصبير له عن المبادرة إلى إهلاك المكذبين المعرضين، وأن كفرهم وتكذيبهم سبب صالح لحلول العذاب بهم، ولزومه لهم، لأن الله جعل العقوبات سببا وناشئا عن الذنوب، ملازما لها، وهؤلاء قد أتوا بالسبب، ولكن الذي أخره عنهم كلمة ربك، المتضمنة لإمهالهم وتأخيرهم، وضرب الأجل المسمى، فالأجل المسمى ونفوذ كلمة الله، هو الذي أخر عنهم العقوبة إلى إبان وقتها، ولعلهم يراجعون أمر الله، فيتوب عليهم، ويرفع عنهم العقوبة، إذا لم تحق عليهم الكلمة. ـ

وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّبِّكَ لَكَانَ لِزَامًا وَأَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّى * فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ غُرُوبِهَا ۖ وَمِنْ آنَاءِ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْ وَأَطْرَافَ النَّهَارِ لَعَلَّكَ تَرْضَىٰ

And were it not for a command that has previously come from your Lord and a decreed term, then punishment would be incumbent. * So be patient with what they say and exalt the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting. And also during period of the night give praise, and at the ends of the day, that you may be pleased.

This is a consolation to the Messenger and something to encourage him to be patient despite how those who deny and turn away throw themselves into peril. It also makes clear that their denial and disbelief are a valid reason for punishment to be unleashed on them and to stay with them. For Allah has created factors which lead to punishment, and these factors arise out of sins and then stay attached to the one who committed them, and these people certainly have put those factors in place for themselves. However the thing which is holding the punishment back from them is the command of your Lord which involves leaving them without punishment for a time. But Allah has already set a fixed time, so it is just that fixed time and the authority of Allah’s command which holds back the punishment from them until its time comes. And perhaps they will return to Allah’s religion, in which case Allah would turn to them in forgiveness and lift the punishment from them, in which case His command would not be actualized.

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Allah’s Comparison of the Dunya and Water: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In surah al-Kahf, Allah presents the following comparison:

وَاضْرِ‌بْ لَهُم مَّثَلَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْ‌ضِ فَأَصْبَحَ هَشِيمًا تَذْرُ‌وهُ الرِّ‌يَاحُ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُّقْتَدِرً‌ا

And strike an example of the life of this world for: It is like water which We send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth mingles with it. Then it becomes dry remnants, scattered by the winds. And Allah holds power over all things [18:45]

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

وقالت الحكماء : إنما شبه – تعالى – الدنيا بالماء لأن الماء لا يستقر في موضع ، كذلك الدنيا لا تبقى على واحد ، ولأن الماء لا يستقيم على حالة واحدة كذلك الدنيا ، ولأن الماء لا يبقى ويذهب كذلك الدنيا تفنى ، ولأن الماء لا يقدر أحد أن يدخله ولا يبتل كذلك الدنيا لا يسلم أحد دخلها من فتنتها وآفتها ، ولأن الماء إذا كان بقدر كان نافعا منبتا ، وإذا جاوز المقدار كان ضارا مهلكا ، وكذلك الدنيا الكفاف منها ينفع وفضولها يضر . ـ

Some of the wise ones have said: Allah only likened the life of this worldly life to water because:

1) Water does not does remain stable in any place, just as this worldly life does not remain in one place Continue reading