The Names and Revelation of Surah al-Fatihah: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Before proceeding to explain surah al-Fatihah verse-by-verse, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Husayn al-Baghawi included a short discussion of its well-known names and when it was revealed:

 ولها ثلاثة أسماء معروفة فاتحة الكتاب وأم القرآن والسبع المثاني . ـ

Surah al-Fatihah has three well-known names, which are:

سميت فاتحة الكتاب ؛ لأن الله بها افتتح القرآن . وسميت أم القرآن وأم الكتاب لأنها أصل القرآن منها بدئ القرآن وأم الشيء أصله ، ويقال لمكة : أم القرى؛ لأنها أصل البلاد دحيت الأرض من تحتها وقيل لأنها مقدمة وإمام لما يتلوها من السور يبدأ بكتابتها في المصحف وبقراءتها في الصلاة والسبع المثاني لأنها سبع آيات باتفاق العلماء . وسميت مثاني لأنها تثنى في الصلاة فتقرأ في كل ركعة وقال مجاهد سميت مثاني لأن الله تعالى استثناها لهذه الأمة فذخرها لهم . ـ

It is called Fatihah al-Kitaab because Allah opens the Qur’an with it.

And it is called Umm al-Qur’an or Umm al-Kitaab because it is the foundation of the Qur’an with which the Qur’an begins, and the umm of something is its foundation. Mecca is called Umm al-Quraa because it was the origin of the cities which spread out across the surrounding land. And it is also said that surah al-Fatihah is called Umm al-Qur’an because it is an introduction and a leader for the surahs which follow it. Its text begins the mushaf and its recitation begins the prayer. Continue reading

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“If We had decreed upon them, ‘kill yourselves’…”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah al-Nisaa’, Allah addresses the believers by saying:

وَلَوْ أَنَّا كَتَبْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ أَنِ اقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ أَوِ اخْرُ‌جُوا مِن دِيَارِ‌كُم مَّا فَعَلُوهُ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ مِّنْهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ فَعَلُوا مَا يُوعَظُونَ بِهِ لَكَانَ خَيْرً‌ا لَّهُمْ وَأَشَدَّ تَثْبِيتًا * وَإِذًا لَّآتَيْنَاهُم مِّن لَّدُنَّا أَجْرً‌ا عَظِيمًا * وَلَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ صِرَ‌اطًا مُّسْتَقِيمًا

And if We had decreed upon them, “Kill yourselves” or “Leave your homes,” they would not have done it, except for a few of them. But if they had done what they were instructed, it would have been good for them and a firm position. * And then We would have given them a great reward from Us. * And We would have guided them to a Straight Path. [4:66-68]

In his famous book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following commentary on these ayaat:

يخبر تعالى أنه لو كتب على عباده الأوامر الشاقة على النفوس من قتل النفوس والخروج من الديار لم يفعله إلا القليل منهم والنادر، فليحمدوا ربهم وليشكروه على تيسير ما أمرهم به من الأوامر التي تسهل على كل أحد، ولا يشق فعلها . ـ

Allah informs them that had He decreed commands for His slaves which were difficult for their souls, such as killing themselves or leaving their homes, then none of them would not have done that except for a few rare individuals. So they should praise their Lord and be grateful to Him for making those things which He has commanded them to do easy for every single individual to carry out and which do not bring about difficulty in their performance.

وفي هذا إشارة إلى أنه ينبغي أن يلحظ العبد ضد ما هو فيه من المكروهات، لتخف عليه العبادات، ويزداد حمدًا وشكرًا لربه. ـ

This indicates that the slave should think about the bad circumstances that he could be in, for this would lighten the acts of worship for him and increase him in praise and gratitude to his Lord. Continue reading

“You will never attain al-Birr until…” : Tafsir al-Sa’di

At the end of the third juz’ of the Qur’an, Allah informs the believers:

لَن تَنَالُوا الْبِرَّ‌ حَتَّىٰ تُنفِقُوا مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَ ۚ وَمَا تُنفِقُوا مِن شَيْءٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ

By no means shall you attain Al-Birr until you spend of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well. [3:92]

Commenting on this ayah, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote:

هذا حث من الله لعباده على الإنفاق في طرق الخيرات، فقال { لن تنالوا } أي: تدركوا وتبلغوا البر الذي هو كل خير من أنواع الطاعات وأنواع المثوبات الموصل لصاحبه إلى الجنة، { حتى تنفقوا مما تحبون } أي: من أموالكم النفيسة التي تحبها نفوسكم، فإنكم إذا قدمتم محبة الله على محبة الأموال فبذلتموها في مرضاته، دل ذلك على إيمانكم الصادق وبر قلوبكم ويقين تقواكم، فيدخل في ذلك إنفاق نفائس الأموال، والإنفاق في حال حاجة المنفق إلى ما أنفقه، والإنفاق في حال الصحة، ـ

This is an incitement from Allah to His slaves to spend in the paths of goodness, for He said:

لَن تَنَالُوا

By no means shall you attain …

meaning: to reach or achieve

الْبِرَّ‌

al-birr

which is every form of goodness from the various acts of obedience and the various rewards which conduct their doer unto al-Jannah. Continue reading

Eemaan is Belief, Statements, and Actions: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah begins surah al-Baqarah with the following words:

الم * ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ * الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ … ـ

Alif Lam Meem * This is the Book about which there is no doubt. A guidance for the muttaqoon * those who believe in the Unseen … [2:1-3]

In many of the books of tafsir, explanation of terms or important topics will usually be placed at the first mention of that thing in the mushaf unless there is some motivating reason to delay it. Here, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir took the first instance of a derivative of the word al-eemaan to define and discuss it:

قال أبو جعفر الرازي ، عن العلاء بن المسيب بن رافع ، عن أبي إسحاق ، عن أبي الأحوص ، عن عبد الله ، قال : الإيمان التصديق . وقال علي بن أبي طلحة وغيره ، عن ابن عباس ، ( يؤمنون ) يصدقون . وقال معمر عن الزهري : الإيمان العمل . وقال أبو جعفر الرازي ، عن الربيع بن أنس : ( يؤمنون ) يخشون . ـ

Abu Ja’far al-Razi reported that … ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood said, “al-Eemaan is belief”.

And ‘Ali ibn Abi Talhah and others transmitted that ibn ‘Abbaas said, “yu’minoon means: they believed”.

Mu’mar said that al-Zuhri said, “al-Eemaan is action.”

And Abu Ja’far al-Razi recorded that al-Rabee’ ibn Anas said, “yu’minoon means: they feared”.

قال ابن جرير وغيره : والأولى أن يكونوا موصوفين بالإيمان بالغيب قولا واعتقادا وعملا قال : وقد تدخل الخشية لله في معنى الإيمان ، الذي هو تصديق القول بالعمل ، والإيمان كلمة جامعة للإقرار بالله وكتبه ورسله ، وتصديق الإقرار بالفعل . قلت : أما الإيمان في اللغة فيطلق على التصديق المحض ، وقد يستعمل في القرآن ، والمراد به ذلك ، كما قال تعالى : ( يؤمن بالله ويؤمن للمؤمنين ) [ التوبة : 61 ] ، وكما قال إخوة يوسف لأبيهم : ( وما أنت بمؤمن لنا ولو كنا صادقين ) [ يوسف : 17 ] ، وكذلك إذا استعمل مقرونا مع الأعمال ؛ كقوله : ( إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ) [ الانشقاق : 25 ، والتين : 6 ] ، فأما إذا استعمل مطلقا فالإيمان الشرعي المطلوب لا يكون إلا اعتقادا وقولا وعملا . ـ

Ibn Jarir [al-Tabari] and others said, “The most proper understanding is that these people are characterized by having eemaan in the Unseen, manifested in their statements, their beliefs, and their actions.” And he also said, “Fear of Allah could also be included in the meaning of al-eemaan, as it is an affirmation of one’s statement through his actions. al-Eemaan is a comprehensive term for an affirmative belief in Allah, His Books, and His Messengers, as well as actualizing that affirmation through one’s actions.” Continue reading

Meanings of the words Yahood, Nasaara and Saabi’oon: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Imam al-Baghawi offers some linguistic definitions and benefits in his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah [2:62] by writing:

 ـ ( إن الذين آمنوا والذين هادوا ) يعني اليهود سموا به لقولهم إنا هدنا إليك أي ملنا إليك وقيل لأنهم هادوا أي تابوا عن عبادة العجل وقيل لأنهم مالوا عن دين الإسلام وعن دين موسى عليه السلام وقال أبو عمرو بن العلاء : لأنهم يتهودون أي يتحركون عند قراءة التوراة ويقولون : إن السماوات والأرض تحركت حين آتى الله موسى التوراة . ـ

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا

Verily! Those who believe and those who haadoo … [2:62]

meaning, the Yahood (Jews). They were called by that due to their statement

إِنَّا هُدْنَا إِلَيْكَ

indeed, we have hudnaa to You. [7:156]

meaning, we have turned to You.

And some say that they are called that because they haadoo [reconciled] – i.e. repented – from their calf-worship.

Some others say they are called that because they turned away from the religion of Islam and from the religion of Moosaa (peace be upon him).

Abu ‘Amr ibn al-‘Alaa’ said they are called that because they yatahawwadoon – meaning they rock and sway when they are reciting the Tawrah and because they say that the heavens and the earth shook when Allah gave Moosaa the Tawrah. Continue reading

Preservation of the Wordings and Meanings of the Qur’an among the Salaf: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Nisaa’, Allah informs us of the following:

وَرُسُلًا قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَرُسُلًا لَّمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ ۚ وَكَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ مُوسَىٰ تَكْلِيمًا

And Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you, – and Allah spoke to Moosaa directly. [4:164]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following points:

وقوله : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) وهذا تشريف لموسى ، عليه السلام ، بهذه الصفة ; ولهذا يقال [ ص: 475 ] له : الكليم . وقد قال الحافظ أبو بكر بن مردويه : حدثنا أحمد بن محمد بن سليمان المالكي ، حدثنا مسيح بن حاتم ، حدثنا عبد الجبار بن عبد الله قال : جاء رجل إلى أبي بكر بن عياش فقال : سمعت رجلا يقرأ : ” وكلم الله موسى تكليما ” فقال أبو بكر : ما قرأ هذا إلا كافر ، قرأت على الأعمش ، وقرأ الأعمش على [ يحيى ] بن وثاب ، وقرأ يحيى بن وثاب على أبي عبد الرحمن السلمي ، وقرأ أبو عبد الرحمن ، على علي بن أبي طالب ، وقرأ علي بن أبي طالب على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) . ـ

Allah’s statement: Continue reading

The Virtue of this Ummah over the Previous Nations: Imam al-Shinqitee

The following discussion is an excerpt from a class of the famous mufassir, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee. The class was delivered in his home to a group of his students. It was recorded, and subsequently transcribed and published in a collection of similar lessons and recorded events. This particular excerpt occurred during a lesson in which sheikh al-Shinqitee was explaining part of surah al-Baqarah, during his discussion of the ayah:

يَا بَنِي إِسْرَ‌ائِيلَ اذْكُرُ‌وا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

O Banu Israa’eel, remember My favor that I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over all creation [2:47]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee explained:

وقوله هنا {فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ} ؛ أي : على عالمي زمانكم الذي أنتم فيه ، فلا ينافي أن هذه الأمة التي هي أمة محمد ﷺ أفضل منهم ، كما نصّ الله على ذلك بقوله : {كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ} الآية [آل عمران 110] ، وفي حديث معاوية بن حيدة القشيري عن النبي ﷺ : أَنْتُمْ تُوفُونَ سَبْعِينَ أُمَّةً أَنْتُمْ خَيْرُهَا وَأَكْرَمُهَا عَلَى اللَّهِ . ـ

Allah’s statement here:

 فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

 I preferred you over all creation [2:47]

meaning: over all creation of the time in which they were living, so this does not conflict with the fact that this ummah – which is the ummah of Muhammad (ﷺ) – is the best of nations, as Allah informed us in His statement:

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ‌ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِ‌جَتْ لِلنَّاسِ

You are the best nation brought forth for mankind … [3:110]

…until the end of the ayah. And in the hadeeth of Mu’aawiyah ibn Haidah al-Qushairi that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “You succeeded seventy nations and you are the best of them and the most noble of them in the sight of Allah”. Continue reading

Merits of Surah al-Nisaa’: Tafsir ibn Kathir

A number of the books of tafsir begin their explanations of each surah with a section on the virtues of that particular surah. However, most of these sections are largely made up of fabricated or weak narrations. The famous mufassir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir, strove to avoid much inauthentic material in his tafsir or to follow up such material with notes as to its status and veracity. So when he did begin his explanation of surah al-Nisaa’ by mentioning some of its merits, he approached things in a different manner by bringing statements from some of the scholars of the Sahabah about this surah:

 وقال الحاكم في مستدركه : حدثنا أبو العباس محمد بن يعقوب ، حدثنا أبو البختري عبد الله بن محمد بن شاكر ، حدثنا محمد بن بشر العبدي ، حدثنا مسعر بن كدام ، عن معن بن عبد الرحمن بن عبد الله بن مسعود عن أبيه ، عن عبد الله بن مسعود ، رضي الله عنه ، قال : إن في سورة النساء لخمس آيات ما يسرني أن لي بها الدنيا وما فيها : ( إن الله لا يظلم مثقال ذرة ) الآية ، و ( إن تجتنبوا كبائر ما تنهون عنه ) الآية ، و ( إن الله لا يغفر أن يشرك به ويغفر ما دون ذلك لمن يشاء ) و ( ولو أنهم إذ ظلموا أنفسهم جاءوك ) الآية ، و ( ومن يعمل سوءا أو يظلم نفسه ثم يستغفر الله يجد الله غفورا رحيما ) ثم قال : هذا إسناد صحيح إن كان عبد الرحمن سمع من أبيه ، فقد اختلف في ذلك . ـ

○ al-Haakim said in his book al-Mustadrak: … that the grandson of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood narrated from his father who narrated from his father, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him), that he said: In surah al-Nisaa’ there are five ayaat which are more pleasing to me than the entire world and all that is in it.

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَظْلِمُ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ ۖ وَإِن تَكُ حَسَنَةً يُضَاعِفْهَا وَيُؤْتِ مِن لَّدُنْهُ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

Surely, Allah does not do an atom’s worth of injustice. But if you have some good, He multiplies it and give a great reward from Himself [4:40]

إِن تَجْتَنِبُوا كَبَائِرَ مَا تُنْهَوْنَ عَنْهُ نُكَفِّرْ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَنُدْخِلْكُم مُّدْخَلًا كَرِيمًا

If you avoid the major sins from which you are forbidden, We will expiate your minor sins from you and enter you into a noble entrance. [4:31]

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا

Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray. [4:116]

وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّـهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّـهَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِيمًا

And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful. [4:64]

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّـهَ يَجِدِ اللَّـهَ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allah will find Allah Forgiving and Merciful. [4:110]

And then al-Haakim said: This chain of narration is sound, so long as the grandson heard it from his father, and there is some differing as to whether he did or not. Continue reading

The Relationship between Supplication and Fasting: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah devotes a series of ayaat in surah al-Baqarah [2:183-187] to the rulings of fasting. However, in the middle of these ayaat, He mentions the well-known ayah:

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ

And when My servants ask you (O Muhammad) about Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the call of the supplicant when he calls Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they may be rightly guided. [2:186]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir shed some light on the relationship of this ayah to the surrounding ayaat of fasting by writing:

وفي ذكره تعالى هذه الآية الباعثة على الدعاء ، متخللة بين أحكام الصيام ، إرشاد إلى الاجتهاد في الدعاء عند إكمال العدة ، بل وعند كل فطر . ـ

So Allah’s mention of this ayah encouraging supplication in midst of the rulings of fasting contains a directive to exert oneself in supplication when the entire period of fasting is completed – as well as of course at the breaking of every fast.

 كما رواه الإمام أبو داود الطيالسي في مسنده : حدثنا أبو محمد المليكي ، عن عمرو هو ابن شعيب بن محمد بن عبد الله بن عمرو ، عن أبيه ، عن جده عبد الله بن عمرو ، قال : سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول : ” للصائم عند إفطاره دعوة مستجابة ” . فكان عبد الله بن عمرو إذ أفطر دعا أهله ، وولده ودعا . ـ

This is just as Imam Abu Dawud al-Tayaalisi recorded in his musnad … that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr said: I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) say, “At the time of breaking the fast, the fasting person has a supplication which is accepted.” And so when ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr used to break his fast, he would call the members of his household and supplicate. Continue reading

Taking the Means to Allah’s Forgiveness: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah al-Nisaa’, Allah informs us of the following:

 إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللَّهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُولَٰئِكَ يَتُوبُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا * وَلَيْسَتِ التَّوْبَةُ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ إِنِّي تُبْتُ الْآنَ وَلَا الَّذِينَ يَمُوتُونَ وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ أَعْتَدْنَا لَهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا

The forgiveness on Allah’s part is only for those who do wrong in ignorance and then repent soon after. It is those to whom Allah will turn in forgiveness, and Allah is ever Knowing and Wise. * But forgiveness is not for those who do evil deeds up until, when death comes to one of them, he says, “Indeed, I repent now,” or of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful punishment. [4:17-18]

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

توبة الله على عباده نوعان: توفيق منه للتوبة، وقبول لها بعد وجودها من العبد، فأخبر هنا -أن التوبة المستحقة على الله حق أحقه على نفسه، كرما منه وجودا، لمن عمل السوء أي: المعاصي { بِجَهَالَةٍ } أي: جهالة منه بعاقبتها وإيجابها لسخط الله وعقابه، وجهل منه بنظر الله ومراقبته له، وجهل منه بما تئول إليه من نقص الإيمان أو إعدامه، فكل عاص لله، فهو جاهل بهذا الاعتبار وإن كان عالما بالتحريم. بل العلم بالتحريم شرط لكونها معصية معاقبا عليها . ـ

Allah’s turning towards His slaves in forgiveness fall into two categories:

  1. Granting them the accord to make repentance, and
  2. Accepting their repentance from them after they have made it.

And here, Allah is informing us that the forgiveness which is incumbent upon Allah is a duty which He has enjoined upon Himself as a form of generosity and munificence from Him to whomever commits an evil deed – meaning an act of disobedience –

بِجَهَالَةٍ

in ignorance

meaning: while being ignorant of the displeasure and punishment of Allah that it entails and necessitates, and while being ignorant of Allah’s watchfulness over him, and while being ignorant of the decrease or obliteration of eemaan which it causes. Every one who disobeys Allah is ignorant of these considerations, even if he knows of the prohibition. In fact, knowledge of the prohibited nature of an act is a condition that must be in place for that act of disobedience to result in punishment.

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