The Arrangement of the First Five Surahs of the Qur’an: al-Suyooti

In part of his discussion the munasabat – the connections between ayaat and surahs – in his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, Imam Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included the following passage. It mentions the links between the first five surahs of the Qur’an as well as some of the main themes found in each:

ـ [ ص: 226 ] قال بعض الأئمة : وسورة الفاتحة تضمنت الإقرار بالربوبية والالتجاء إليه في دين الإسلام ، والصيانة عن دين اليهودية والنصرانية . ـ

○ Some scholars have said: Surah al-Fatihah is comprised of 1) affirming Allah’s lordship, 2) seeking refuge with Him in the religion of Islam, and 3) protection against the Jewish and Christian religions.*

وسورة البقرة : تضمنت قواعد الدين . ـ

Surah al-Baqarah is comprised of the foundations of this religion.

وآل عمران : مكملة لمقصودها ، فالبقرة بمنزلة إقامة الدليل على الحكم وآل عمران بمنزلة الجواب عن شبهات الخصوم ، ولهذا ورد فيها ذكر المتشابه لما تمسك به النصارى ، وأوجب الحج في آل عمران ، وأما في البقرة فذكر أنه مشروع وأمر بإتمامه بعد الشروع فيه . ـ

○ Aal ‘Imran is the completion of al-Baqarah‘s aim. al-Baqarah was like the a presentation of the evidence for a ruling while Aal ‘Imran is like a response to the doubts brought up by a contentious listener. It is for this reason that Aal ‘Imran mentioned many doubtful matters that the Christians cling to. Also, the Hajj was made mandatory in Aal ‘Imran [c.f. 3:97] while in al-Baqarah it was only mentioned as being legislated. So He commanded them to perform it in a complete way after they had embarked upon it. Continue reading

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The Jews Say the Christians Have Nothing to Stand on …: Tafsir ibn Kathir

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following in his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah:

وقوله تعالى : ( وقالت اليهود ليست النصارى على شيء وقالت النصارى ليست اليهود على شيء وهم يتلون الكتاب ) يبين به تعالى تناقضهم وتباغضهم وتعاديهم وتعاندهم . كما قال محمد بن إسحاق : حدثني محمد بن أبي محمد ، عن عكرمة أو سعيد بن جبير ، عن ابن عباس ، قال : لما قدم أهل نجران من النصارى على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، أتتهم أحبار يهود ، فتنازعوا عند رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فقال رافع بن حريملة ما أنتم على شيء ، وكفر بعيسى وبالإنجيل . وقال رجل من أهل نجران من النصارى لليهود : ما أنتم على شيء . وجحد نبوة موسى وكفر بالتوراة . فأنزل الله في ذلك من قولهما ( وقالت اليهود ليست النصارى على شيء وقالت النصارى ليست اليهود على شيء وهم يتلون الكتاب ) قال : إن كلا يتلو في كتابه تصديق من كفر به ، أي : يكفر اليهود بعيسى وعندهم التوراة ، فيها ما أخذ الله عليهم على لسان موسى بالتصديق بعيسى ، وفي الإنجيل ما جاء به عيسى بتصديق موسى ، وما جاء من التوراة من عند الله ، وكل يكفر بما في يد صاحبه . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ لَيْسَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ لَيْسَتِ الْيَهُودُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَهُمْ يَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ مِثْلَ قَوْلِهِمْ ۚ فَاللَّـهُ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فِيمَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ

The Jews say “The Christians have nothing to stand on,” and the Christians say, “The Jews have nothing to stand on,” although they both recite the Scripture. Likewise is what those who do not know said. So Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that over which they used to differ. [2:113]

Allah is clearly putting their contradictions, their mutual enmity and hatred, and their opposition to one another on display. This is just as Muhammad ibn Ishaaq said: that Muhammad ibn Abi Muhammad told me on the authority of ‘Ikrimah or Sa’eed ibn Jubayr, that ibn ‘Abbas said:

When the Christians of Najran came to see Allah’s Messenger, the Jewish Rabbis [of al-Madinah] came to them and the two groups argued in front of Allah’s Messenger. Raafi’ ibn Huraymilah said, “You all have nothing to stand on!” and he expressed his disbelief in ‘Eesaa and the Injeel. A man from the Christians of Najran said to the Jews, “You all have nothing to stand on!” and rejected the Prophethood of Moosaa and expressed his disbelief in the Tawrah. So then Allah revealed the following about these statements of theirs:

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ لَيْسَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ لَيْسَتِ الْيَهُودُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَهُمْ يَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ

The Jews say “The Christians have nothing to stand on,” and the Christians say, “The Jews have nothing to stand on,” although they both recite the Scripture.

Ibn ‘Abbaas went on to say: Continue reading

The Qur’an is Free of Contradictions: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Nisaa’:

أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ ۚ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللَّـهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا

Do they not then consider the Quran carefully? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found many contradictions therein. [4:82]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir began his tafsir of this ayah by writing:

يقول تعالى آمرا عباده بتدبر القرآن ، وناهيا لهم عن الإعراض عنه ، وعن تفهم معانيه المحكمة وألفاظه البليغة ، ومخبرا لهم أنه لا اختلاف فيه ولا اضطراب ، ولا تضاد ولا تعارض ; لأنه تنزيل من حكيم حميد ، فهو حق من حق ; ولهذا قال تعالى : ( أفلا يتدبرون القرآن [ أم على قلوب أقفالها ] ) [ محمد : 24 ] ثم قال : ( ولو كان من عند غير الله ) أي : لو كان مفتعلا مختلقا ، كما يقوله من يقوله من جهلة المشركين والمنافقين في بواطنهم ( لوجدوا فيه اختلافا كثيرا ) أي : اضطرابا وتضادا كثيرا . أي : وهذا سالم من الاختلاف ، فهو من عند الله . ـ

Allah is commanding His slaves to contemplate the Qur’an and forbidding them from turning away from it or from turning away from understanding its clear meanings and eloquent wordings. He is also informing them that it does not contain any contradictions or disagreements within it; it neither opposes nor contradictions itself. That is because it is a revelation from the Wise and Praise-worthy One, so it is truth from the True One. That is why Allah said:

أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا

Do they not then think deeply in the Quran, or are their hearts locked up? [47:24]

So He said: Continue reading

‘Ibad al-Rahman Part 4 – Moderation in Spending: ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr, one of the contemporary scholars of al-Madinah, wrote a small booklet on the qualities of the ‘Ibad al-Rahman – servants of the Most Merciful – mentioned in the end of Surah al-Furqan. We have translated this booklet in a series of posts. This section discusses the fourth quality listed:

الصفة الرابعة : توسطهم في النفقة بين الإسراف والتَّقتير
The Fourth Quality: Moderation in Spending Between Wastefulness and Stinginess

قال عز وجل : [وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَنفَقُوا لَمْ يُسْرِفُوا وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُوا وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ قَوَامًا] ـ

Allah said:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَنفَقُوا لَمْ يُسْرِفُوا وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُوا وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ قَوَامًا

And those who, when they spend, do so neither excessively nor sparingly but are ever, between that, moderate [25:67]

ومن أوصاف عباد الرحمن توسطهم في باب النفقة بين الإسراف والتقتير لأنهم علموا أن الله سيسْألهم يوم القيامة عن هذه النِّعمة التي أعطاهم إياها، كما صح عن الرسول الله أنه قال : لا تزول قدما عبد يوم القيامة حتى يسأل عن عمره فيما أفناه ، وعن علمه فيما فعل فيه، وعن ماله من أين اكتسبه، وفيما أنفقه، وعن جسمه فيم أبلاه . ـ

One of the qualities of the ‘Ibad al-Rahman – the slaves of the Most Merciful – is their moderation when it comes to spending, falling between wasteful extravagance on the one hand and miserliness on the other. That is because they know that on the Day of Judgement Allah will ask them ask the blessings He has given them, as has been authentically transmitted from Allah’s Messenger that he said: Continue reading

Guidance for Interpreting the Qur’an in Surah Aal ‘Imran: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In the beginning of surah Aal ‘Imran, Allah says:

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ ۖ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ ۗ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ * رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ * رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ جَامِعُ النَّاسِ لِيَوْمٍ لَّا رَيْبَ فِيهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ

It is He who revealed the Scripture to you. In it there are muhkam verses which are the Umm al-Kitab and others which are ambiguous. As for those in whose hearts is deviation, they follow the ambiguous parts of it, seeking fitnah and seeking distortion. But none knows its interpretation except Allah and those whose are firmly-grounded in knowledge. They say, “We believe in it. All of it is from our Lord.” And none will be reminded except for those of understanding.

“O our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate after You have guided us! And grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.

Our Lord, surely You will gather the people for a Day about which there is no doubt. Indeed, Allah does not fail in His promise.” [3:7-9]

In his famous book of tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir dedicated considerable space to explaining these ayaat. For the sake of clarity and brevity, we have used sheikh Muhammad Moosaa Nasr’s abridgement of Tafsir ibn Kathir in order to present a more streamlined explanation:

يخبر تعالى أن في القرآن آيات محكمات هن أم الكتاب ، أي : بينات واضحات الدلالة ، لا التباس فيها على أحد من الناس ، ومنه آيات أخر فيها اشتباه في الدلالة على كثير من الناس أو بعضهم ، فمن رد ما اشتبه عليه إلى الواضح منه ، وحكم محكمه على متشابهه عنده ، فقد اهتدى . ومن عكس انعكس ، ولهذا قال تعالى : ( هو الذي أنزل عليك الكتاب منه آيات محكمات هن أم الكتاب ) أي : أصله [ ص: 7 ] الذي يرجع إليه عند الاشتباه ( وأخر متشابهات ) أي : تحتمل دلالتها موافقة المحكم ، وقد تحتمل شيئا آخر من حيث اللفظ والتركيب ، لا من حيث المراد . ـ

Allah is informing us that in this Qur’an there are:

  1. Muhkam verses which are the heart of the Book – i.e. verses whose message is plain and clear, such that no one would have any confusion about them
  2. Other verses whose message is somewhat ambiguous to some or many of the people

So whoever refers those confusing passages back to the clear ones and makes the clear parts a judge over the those he finds to be ambiguous will be rightly guided. And whoever does the opposite will have the opposite result. That is why Allah said: Continue reading

‘Ibad al-Rahman Part 3 – Fear of the Hellfire: ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr, one of the contemporary scholars of al-Madinah, wrote a small booklet on the qualities of the ‘Ibad al-Rahman – servants of the Most Merciful – mentioned in the end of Surah al-Furqan. We have translated this booklet in a series of posts. This section discusses the third quality listed:

الصفة الثالثة : خوفهم وإشفاقهم من عذاب النَّار
Third Quality: Their Great Fear of the Punishment of the Hellfire

قال عز وجل : [وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا اصْرِفْ عَنَّا عَذَابَ جَهَنَّمَ ۖ إِنَّ عَذَابَهَا كَانَ غَرَامًا * إِنَّهَا سَاءَتْ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَمُقَامًا ] ـ

Allah said:

وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا اصْرِفْ عَنَّا عَذَابَ جَهَنَّمَ ۖ إِنَّ عَذَابَهَا كَانَ غَرَامًا * إِنَّهَا سَاءَتْ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَمُقَامًا

And those who say, “Our Lord, avert the punishment of Hell away from us. Indeed, Its torment is an inseparable, permanent punishment. * How evil it is as an abode and as a place to dwell. [25:65-66]

فعباد الرحمن مع إحسانهم بالعمل والتعبد لله ، قد خافوا ووجلوا من عذاب الله وسخطه وهذه حال المؤمنين الكمل؛ كما قال الله : [ وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْتُونَ مَا آتَوا وَّقُلُوبُهُمْ وَجِلَةٌ أَنَّهُمْ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ رَاجِعُونَ ] أي: يقدِّمون ما يقدِّمونه من عباداتٍ وطاعاتٍ وقلوبهم خائفةٌ أن ترد عليهم أعمالهم، فيصيبهم بعد ذلك عذابٌ من الله . ـ

Despite the goodness that they have in their actions and seeking to draw closer to Allah, the ‘ibad al-Rahman – the slave of the Most Merciful – feel great fear and apprehension about Allah’s punishment and displeasure. This is the way of the complete believer. It is just as Allah has said: Continue reading

An “Amazing Connection” in the Story of Zakariyyah: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah Aali ‘Imran, Allah tells us the story of Zakariyyah, including his du’a to have a son, his amazement at the promise of the fulfillment of this du’a despite his old age and his wife being barren, and his request to have a sign confirming this amazing promise. Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote in his commentary of ayah 3:41:

ـ{ رب اجعل لي آية } أي: علامة على وجود الولد قال { آيتك ألا تكلم الناس ثلاثة أيام إلا رمزًا } أي: ينحبس لسانك عن كلامهم من غير آفة ولا سوء، فلا تقدر إلا على الإشارة والرمز

رَبِّ اجْعَل لِّي آيَةً

[Zakariyyah said] “Lord, make a sign for me”

meaning: a sign of the presence of a son. He replied

آيَتُكَ أَلَّا تُكَلِّمَ النَّاسَ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ إِلَّا رَمْزًا

“your sign is that you will not speak to the people for three days, except by gestures”

meaning: your tongue will be restrained from speaking to them but not due to any disease or malady. So you will not be able to communicate except by way of pointing and gesturing. Continue reading

The Qur’an Addresses Multiple Christian Creeds: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in part of surah al-Nisaa’:

يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ وَلَا تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ إِلَّا الْحَقَّ ۚ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّـهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ ۖ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرُسُلِهِ ۖ وَلَا تَقُولُوا ثَلَاثَةٌ ۚ انتَهُوا خَيْرًا لَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا اللَّـهُ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ سُبْحَانَهُ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ ۘ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّـهِ وَكِيلًا

O People of the Book, do not go to extremes in your religion! And do not say anything about Allah other than the truth! The Messiah, ‘Eesaa the son of Maryam is nothing other than a Messenger of Allah, and a word of His which He sent to Maryam, and a soul from Him. So believe in Allah and in His Messengers. And do not say “three”. Stop! That is better for you! Allah is only one god; exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. And Allah is sufficient as a disposer of affairs [4:171]

In his famous book of commentary on the Qur’an, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following words in the midst of his explanation of this ayah. These words should serve to rebut the notion spread by some Christians that the Qur’an is confused about Christian beliefs. On the contrary, this passage demonstrates that the Qur’an addresses different beliefs of different Christian sects in different places:

وقوله : ( فآمنوا بالله ورسله ) أي : فصدقوا بأن الله واحد أحد ، لا صاحبة له ولا ولد ، واعلموا وتيقنوا بأن عيسى عبد الله ورسوله ; ولهذا قال : ( ولا تقولوا ثلاثة ) أي : لا تجعلوا عيسى وأمه مع الله شريكين ، تعالى الله عن ذلك علوا كبيرا . ـ

Allah’s statement:

فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرُسُلِهِ

So have eemaan in Allah and His messengers

meaning: believe that Allah is One, singular with neither partner nor offspring, and know and have certainty that ‘Eesaa is a slave of Allah and His messenger. And so Allah says:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا ثَلَاثَةٌ

And do not say “three”

meaning: Do not make ‘Eesaa and his mother as two partners alongside Allah – high and exalted is Allah above such a thing. Continue reading

Hajj is ‘Arafah: Tafsir ibn Kathir

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kaathir mentioned the following points regarding the Day of ‘Arafah in his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah:

وعرفة : موضع الموقف في الحج ، وهي عمدة أفعال الحج ; ولهذا روى الإمام أحمد ، وأهل السنن ، بإسناد صحيح ، عن الثوري ، عن بكير بن عطاء ، عن عبد الرحمن بن يعمر الديلي ، [ ص: 552 ] قال : سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول : ” الحج عرفات – ثلاثا – فمن أدرك عرفة قبل أن يطلع الفجر ، فقد أدرك . وأيام منى ثلاثة ، فمن تعجل في يومين فلا إثم عليه ، ومن تأخر فلا إثم عليه ” . ـ

‘Arafah is a place of standing during the Hajj, and it is one of the pillars of the rituals of the Hajj. In support of this is the hadeeth with a sound chain of narration that was conveyed by Imam Ahmad and authors of the Sunan collections on the authority of al-Thawri, on the authority on Bukayr ibn ‘Ataa’, on the authority of ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Y’amar al-Dayli who said:

I heard Allah’s Messenger say, “Hajj is ‘Arafah” – three times – “so whoever catches ‘Arafah before the rising of dawn, then he has caught the Hajj. And the days of Mina are three, but whoever hastens to leave after two days, then there is no sin upon, and whoever waits, then there is no sin upon him.” Continue reading

The First Innovation: Tafsir ibn Kathir

The famous scholar al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir was especially well-known for his skills in the fields of hadeeth, tafsir, and history, with his honorific title of “al-haafidh” indicating his high status in the first of these fields and his two most famous works being in the latter areas. In the following brief excerpt from his tafsir of surah Aal ‘Imran, ibn Kathir combines all three of these knowledge areas:

وقال الإمام أحمد : حدثنا أبو كامل ، حدثنا حماد ، عن أبي غالب قال : سمعت أبا أمامة يحدث ، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم في قوله : ( فأما الذين في قلوبهم زيغ فيتبعون ما تشابه منه ) قال : ” هم الخوارج ” ، وفي قوله : ( يوم تبيض وجوه وتسود وجوه ) . [ آل عمران : 106 ] قال : ” هم الخوارج ” . وقد رواه ابن مردويه من غير وجه ، عن أبي غالب ، عن أبي أمامة مرفوعا ، فذكره . ـ

Imam Ahmad said: Abu Kaamil told me that Hammaad told him that Abu Ghaalib said: I heard Abu ‘Umamah say that the Prophet (ﷺ) spoke about Allah’s statement:

فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ

But as for those in whose hearts is deviation, then they follow those parts of the Qur’an which are ambiguous [3:7]

by saying, “They are the Khawaarij.” And also regarding Allah’s statement:

يَوْمَ تَبْيَضُّ وُجُوهٌ وَتَسْوَدُّ وُجُوهٌ

On the Day when some faces will become white and some faces will become black [3:106]

he said, “they [i.e. the latter group] are the Khawaarij“.

And ibn Mardawayh also transmitted this from more than one route from Abu Umamah by way of Abu Ghaalib as a narration attributed to the Prophet (ﷺ). Continue reading