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.

Continue reading

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

Four Central Themes of the Makki Surahs

The following Q&A took place with via Twitter with Sheikh ‘Abdullah al-‘Awaaji, a professor of Tafsir at the Islamic University of al-Madinah:

س – جزاكم الله خيرًا وأحسن إليكم . قوله تعالى في سورة الإسراء آية ٥٥ (ولقد فضلنا بعض النبيين على بعض وآتينا داود زبورا) . ما علاقة ذكر تفضيل الأنبياء على بعض والآيات السابقة عن المكذبين للبعث؟ هل من مناسبة؟ ـ

Question: May Allah reward and be good to you. There is Allah’s statement in ayah 55 of surah al-Israa’:

وَلَقَدْ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَ النَّبِيِّينَ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۖ وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُورًا

And We have made some of the prophets exceed others, and to Dawud We gave the Zabur [17:55]

What is the connection between mentioning the different levels of merit among the Prophets and the previous ayaat about those who deny Allah’s ability to give life to the dead? Is there any link between them?

ج ـ واياكم والمتابعين . أربعة موضوعات تغلب في القرآن المكي : ١-ان يقيم سُبحانَه الحُجَجَ على التوحيد و إبطالِ الشِّركِ، ٢-ويذكَرَ الأدِلَّةَ على صِحَّةِ البَعثِ والجزاءِ،٣-وثبوت القرآن الكريم .٤-وصدق الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم .وهو هنا ذكرها كلها من اول السورة  ـ

Response: And you and all of our followers as well!

Four main topics predominate the Makki surahs of the Qur’an:

  1. Establishing the proofs for al-tawheed and the falsehood of al-shirk
  2. Mentioning the evidences which show that the resurrection and recompense of the dead is real
  3. Showing the veracity of the Qur’an
  4. Affirming the Messenger

And all four of these topics are mentioned in the beginning of this surah. Continue reading

Introduction to the Parables of the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah says in surah al-Kahf:

وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَذَا الْقُرْءَانِ لِلنَّاسِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ وَكَانَ الإِنْسَانُ أَكْثَرَ شَيْءٍ جَدَلا

In this Qur’an, We have certainly put forward every kind of parable for mankind, but man is above all else prone to dispute. [18:54]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee included the following words in his commentary on this ayah:

قوله تعالى : ولقد صرفنا في هذا القرآن للناس من كل مثل وكان الإنسان أكثر شيء جدلا ، قوله : ولقد صرفنا [ 18 \ 54 ] ، أي : رددنا وكثرنا تصريف الأمثال بعبارات مختلفة ، وأساليب متنوعة في هذا القرآن للناس . ليهتدوا إلى الحق ، ويتعظوا . فعارضوا بالجدل والخصومة ، ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَذَا الْقُرْءَانِ لِلنَّاسِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ وَكَانَ الإِنْسَانُ أَكْثَرَ شَيْءٍ جَدَلا

In this Qur’an, We have certainly put forward every kind of parable for mankind, but man is above all else prone to dispute. [18:54]

Regarding His statement:

وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا

We have certainly put forward …

i.e. We have repeatedly and frequently presented these parables to the people throughout the Qur’an with a number of different wordings and in various styles. This is done so that they might be guided to the truth and be admonished, but instead they turn away in argumentation and contention. Continue reading

A Subtle Point Regarding Adam’s Repentance

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 focuses on providing explanations for the slight differences in otherwise similar ayaat. He raises and then answers the following question regarding a difference of wordings between the story of Adam as told in surah al-Baqarah and the story as told in surah Taha:

مسألة: قوله تعالى: فَمَنْ تَبِعَ هُدَايَ ، وفى طه: (فَمَنْ اتبِعَ هُدَايَ) ؟ . ـ

Question: In surah al-Baqarah, Allah says:

فَمَن تَبِعَ هُدَايَ

So whoever tabi’a (follows) My guidance … [2:38]

but in surah Taha He says:

فَمَنِ اتَّبَعَ هُدَايَ

So whoever ittaba’a (follows) My guidance … [20:123]

Why is that?

جوابه: يحتمل والله أعلم أن: (فَعِلَ) التي جاء على وزنها: (تبع) لا يلزم منه مخالفة الفعل قبله (وافتَعَلَ) التي جاء على وزنها: (اتبع) يشعر بتجديد الفعل. وبيان قصة آدم هنا لفعله، فجئ بـ (تَبِعَ هُدَايَ) وفى طه جاء بعد قوله: (وَلَمْ نَجِدْ لَهُ عَزْمًا) (وَعَصَى آدَمُ رَبَّهُ فَغَوَى) فناسب من اتبع، أي: جدد قصد الاتباع. ـ

Response: Allah knows best, but one explanation is that the form I verb which is used in

تَبِعَ

tabi’a (follows) [2:38]

does not imply any change in behavior between this “following” and his previous actions, while the form VIII verb which is used in Continue reading

Do not extend your eyes towards the enjoyment of this world: Imam al-Sa’di

In his book of assorted miscellaneous benefits from the Qur’an, Imam ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote:

قوله تعالى : [ وَلَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِّنْهُمْ زَهْرَ‌ةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا لِنَفْتِنَهُمْ فِيهِ ۚ وَرِ‌زْقُ رَ‌بِّكَ خَيْرٌ‌ وَأَبْقَىٰ ] <طه 131> تضمنت التزهيد في الدنيا ، وأن غضارتها وحسنها الذي متع به المترفين ليس لكرامتهم عليه ، وإنما ذلك للابتلاء والاختبار ؛ لينظر أيهم أحسن عملا ، وأيهم أكمل عقلا ، فإن العاقل هو الذي يؤثر النفيس الباقي على الدني الفاني ، ولهذا قال : [ وَرِ‌زْقُ رَ‌بِّكَ ] أي الذي أعده للطائعين الذين لم يذهبوا مع أهل الإتراف في إترافهم ، ولم يغرهم رونق الدنيا وبهجتها الزائلة ، بل نظروا إلى باطن ذلك ، حين نظر الجهال إلى ظاهرها ، وعرفوا المقصود ، ومقدار التفاوت ، ودرجات الأمور فرزق الله لهؤلاء خير وأبقى ، أي أكمل في صنف من أصناف الكمال ، وهو مع ذلك باق لا يزول . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَلَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِّنْهُمْ زَهْرَ‌ةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا لِنَفْتِنَهُمْ فِيهِ ۚ وَرِ‌زْقُ رَ‌بِّكَ خَيْرٌ‌ وَأَبْقَىٰ

And do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given as enjoyment to some categories of them, it being the splendor this worldly life by which We test them. And the provision of your Lord is better and more enduring. [20:131]

This ayah highlights being detached regarding this worldly life, and that the luxuries and beautiful things which the affluent ones have been endowed with are not actually a form of honor for them; it is only a trial and a test in order that Allah may see which of them is  best in deeds and which of them is most complete in intellect. For the intelligent one is he who gives priority to the precious things which will last over the lesser things which will pass. That is why He said:

وَرِ‌زْقُ رَ‌بِّكَ

And the provision of your Lord …

– i.e. the provision which He has promised to the obedient ones; those who do no partake in self-indulgence with the indulgent people and who are not deceived by the glamour of this worldly life and its passing pleasures. Rather, they look at the deeper essence of things – while the ignorant ones look at its outward appearances – and they recognize purposes and value of things and how to arrange their priorities. So Allah provides such people with what is Continue reading

A Parable of What the Disbelievers Spend in This Life: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah presents the following parable in surah Aal ‘Imran:

مَثَلُ مَا يُنفِقُونَ فِي هَـٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَثَلِ رِيحٍ فِيهَا صِرٌّ أَصَابَتْ حَرْثَ قَوْمٍ ظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ فَأَهْلَكَتْهُ ۚ وَمَا ظَلَمَهُمُ اللَّـهُ وَلَـٰكِنْ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ

The example of what they spend in this worldly life is like that of a wind containing frost which strikes the harvest of a people who have wronged themselves and destroys it. And Allah has not wronged them, but they wrong themselves. [3:117]

Ibn al-Qayyim remarked on this ayah by writing:

هذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى لمن أتفق ماله في غير طاعته ومرضاته . ـ

Allah struck this parable about those who spend their wealth in other things besides obedience to Allah and seeking His pleasure.

[A’laam al-Mawqi’een 1/173]

Imam al-Qurtubi wrote:

ومعنى الآية : مثل نفقة الكافرين في بطلانها وذهابها وعدم منفعتها كمثل زرع أصابه ريح باردة أو نار فأحرقته وأهلكته ، فلم ينتفع أصحابه بشيء بعدما كانوا يرجون فائدته ونفعه . وما ظلمهم الله بذلك ولكن أنفسهم يظلمون بالكفر والمعصية ومنع حق الله تعالى . ـ

The message of this ayah is that the futility, waste and lack of benefit of the disbelievers’ spending is like a cultivated field which is struck with a frigid wind – or a fire – which scorches and destroys it, leaving its owners unable to benefit from it in any way after they had hoped to receive some fruits and benefit from it. And they did not wrong Allah with their spending; rather it was themselves that they wronged with the disbelief, sins and refusing to give Allah His due rights.

[Tafsir al-Qurtubi 4/169] Continue reading

“We Have Made Some of the Prophets Exceed Others”: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Israa’:

وَلَقَدْ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَ النَّبِيِّينَ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۖ وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُورًا

And We have made some of the prophets exceed others. And we gave Dawud the Zaboor. [17:55]

In part of his famous book of tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

ـ ( ولقد فضلنا بعض النبيين ) ، كما قال ( تلك الرسل فضلنا بعضهم على بعض منهم من كلم الله ورفع بعضهم درجات ) [ البقرة 253 . ـ

وَلَقَدْ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَ النَّبِيِّينَ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ

And We have made some of the prophets exceed others

This is like what He said:

تِلْكَ الرُّسُلُ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۘ مِّنْهُم مَّن كَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَهُمْ دَرَجَاتٍ

Those messengers – some of them We caused to exceed others. Among them were those to whom Allah spoke, and He raised some of them in degree. [2:253]

وهذا لا ينافي ما ثبت في الصحيحين عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال لا تفضلوا بين الأنبياء ؛ فإن المراد من ذلك هو التفضيل بمجرد التشهي والعصبية ، لا بمقتضى الدليل فإنه إذا دل الدليل على شيء وجب اتباعه ولا خلاف أن الرسل أفضل من بقية الأنبياء وأن أولي العزم منهم أفضلهم وهم الخمسة المذكورون نصا في آيتين من القرآن في سورة الأحزاب ( وإذ أخذنا من النبيين ميثاقهم ومنك ومن نوح وإبراهيم وموسى وعيسى ابن مريم ) [ الأحزاب 7 ] [ ص: 88 ] ، وفي الشورى في قوله : ( شرع لكم من الدين ما وصى به نوحا والذي أوحينا إليك وما وصينا به إبراهيم وموسى وعيسى أن أقيموا الدين ولا تتفرقوا فيه ) [ الشورى 13 . ولا خلاف أن محمدا صلى الله عليه وسلم أفضلهم ثم بعده إبراهيم ثم موسى على المشهور وقد بسطنا هذا بدلائله في غير هذا الموضع والله الموفق ـ

And this does not contradict what has been authentically transmitted from the Prophet in both al-Bukhari and Muslim that he said: Continue reading