Links Between Surah Yunus and Surah Hud: Sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah

Sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah, a professor in the College of Shree’ah at al-Qasim University, devoted one of his books to the study of themes of surahs. In one section on the link between a surah‘s name and its theme, the sheikh gave the following example:

وفي سورة يونس تركيز على الموعظة والدعوة بالترغيب ولذلك افتتحت بالتذكير بآيات الله تعالى وحال المكذبين بها، وتخلل ذلك عرض للطف الله تعالى بأوليائه، وعباده المؤمنين والتائبين، وتضمنت الموعظة بالقرآن كما قال تعالى (يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُم مَّوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَشِفَاءٌ لِّمَا فِي الصُّدُورِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ) ]يونس: 57 [، ولذلك تضمنت قصة قوم يونس الذين آمنوا بعد ما دعاهم يونس وهددهم بالعذاب فكشف الله عنهم العذاب، فهذه القصة هي النموذج الإيجابي للغرض الذي تركز عليه السورة. ـ

Surah Yunus contains a focus on exhortations and calling the people to Islam through glad tidings and inspiring hope. That is why it begins with a reminder of Allah’s signs and how those who deny them respond to them. This is interspersed with mentions of Allah’s kindness towards His close ones and repentant believing slaves. And exhortations are a part of the Qur’an, as Allah said:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُم مَّوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَشِفَاءٌ لِّمَا فِي الصُّدُورِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

O mankind, an exhortation has come to you from your Lord, and a healing for what it is the chests, and a guidance and a mercy for the believers. [10:57]

That is why this surah includes the story of the people of Yunus who believed after Yunus had supplicated for their punishment and informed them of it, and then Allah lifted the punishment from them. So this story is a positive example of the central theme of this surah. Continue reading

A Central Theme of Surah al-An’aam: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

After discussing a number of statements from the salaf regarding the revelation and themes of surah al-An’aam, Imam al-Qurtubi then wrote:

تنبيه : قال العلماء : هذه السورة أصل في محاجة المشركين وغيرهم من المبتدعين ومن كذب بالبعث والنشور وهذا يقتضي إنزالها جملة واحدة لأنها في معنى واحد من الحجة وإن تصرف ذلك بوجوه كثيرة . ـ

A Note: the scholars have said that this surah is the foundation for arguing against the Mushrikoon, as well as others such as innovators and anyone who denies the resurrection and gathering of the dead. That is why this surah was revealed all at once, because it all centers around one message of making an argument, even if the surah pursues that goal in a number of different ways. Continue reading

“Shall We Turn Back on Our Heels After Allah has Guided us?”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah strikes a parable in part of surah al-An’aam by saying:

قُلْ أَنَدْعُو مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُنَا وَلَا يَضُرُّنَا وَنُرَدُّ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ كَالَّذِي اسْتَهْوَتْهُ الشَّيَاطِينُ فِي الْأَرْضِ حَيْرَانَ لَهُ أَصْحَابٌ يَدْعُونَهُ إِلَى الْهُدَى ائْتِنَا ۗ قُلْ إِنَّ هُدَى اللَّهِ هُوَ الْهُدَىٰ ۖ وَأُمِرْنَا لِنُسْلِمَ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Say: Shall we call on others besides Allah who cannot help us or harm us and shall we turn back on our heels after Allah has guided us like one whom the shayaateen have made go astray in the earth in confusion while his friends call him to guidance – “come to us!”. Say: Surely, Allah’s guidance is the guidance, and we have been commanded to submit to our Lord of all creation. [6:71]

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

ـ ( قل أندعو من دون الله ما لا ينفعنا ) إن عبدناه ، ( ولا يضرنا ) إن تركناه ، يعني : الأصنام ليس إليها نفع ولا ضر ، ( ونرد على أعقابنا ) إلى الشرك [ مرتدين ] ( بعد إذ هدانا الله كالذي استهوته الشياطين في الأرض ) ، أي : يكون مثلنا كمثل الذي استهوته الشياطين ، أي : أضلته ، ( حيران ) قال ابن عباس : كالذي استهوته الغيلان في المهامة فأضلوه فهو حائر بائر ، والحيران : المتردد في الأمر ، لا يهتدي إلى مخرج منه . ـ

قُلْ أَنَدْعُو مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُنَا

Say: Shall we call on others besides Allah who cannot help us …

if we were to worship them

وَلَا يَضُرُّنَا

… or harm us …

if we were to ignore them. This is in reference to idols, which neither bring about benefit nor harm.

وَنُرَدُّ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِنَا

… and shall we turn back on our heels …

back to shirk, apostatizing from Islam

بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ كَالَّذِي اسْتَهْوَتْهُ الشَّيَاطِينُ فِي الْأَرْضِ

… after Allah has guided us like one whom the shayaateen have made go astray in the earth …

i.e. if we were to do so, then we would be those one whom the shayaateen seduced – that is, led astray Continue reading

Linguistic Ambiguity and Multiple Meanings of a Qur’anic Ayah: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah begins surah al-An’aam by describing Himself in several ayaat, including:

وَهُوَ اللَّـهُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَفِي الْأَرْضِ يَعْلَمُ سِرَّكُمْ وَجَهْرَكُمْ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تَكْسِبُونَ

And He is Allah in the heavens and in the earth He knows your secrets and your statements and He knows what you earn. [6:3]

As one can see from the Arabic and may also be able to see from this approximate translation of the meaning, there is some linguistic ambiguity (what linguists would call syntactic or structural ambiguity) to this ayah resulting in multiple plausible interpretations. Specifically, the question relates to where one should pause while reciting this ayah, a field known as al-Waqf w’al-Ibtidaa’ in the Qur’anic sciences. In his well-known book of tafsir, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee addresses this issue in his explanation of this ayah as follows:

في هذه الآية الكريمة ثلاثة أوجه للعلماء من التفسير وكل واحد منها له مصداق في كتاب الله تعالى : ـ

There are three ways that the scholars have explained this ayah, and each one of these explanations has something to support and substantiate it from within the Qur’an.

الأول : أن المعنى ، وهو الله في السماوات وفي الأرض ، أي وهو الإله المعبود في السماوات والأرض ، لأنه جل وعلا هو المعبود وحده بحق في الأرض والسماء ، وعلى هذا فجملة «يعلم » حال ، أو خبر

1) That the meaning is “And He is Allah in the heavens and the earth”, i.e.: and He is the deity who is worshiped in the heavens and the earth because He is the only one truly deserving of worship in the earth and the sky. Continue reading

“Whoever Allah Wants to Guide, He Opens his Chest to Islam”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-An’aam:

فَمَن يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَن يَهْدِيَهُ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ ۖ وَمَن يُرِدْ أَن يُضِلَّهُ يَجْعَلْ صَدْرَهُ ضَيِّقًا حَرَجًا كَأَنَّمَا يَصَّعَّدُ فِي السَّمَاءِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَجْعَلُ اللَّهُ الرِّجْسَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

So whoever Allah wants to guide, He opens his chest to Islam. And whoever He wants to misguide, He makes his chest tight and constricted as though he were climbing up the sky. Thus does Allah place wrath upon those who do not believe. [6:125]

In his commentary on this parable, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote the following beautiful words:

يقول تعالى -مبينا لعباده علامة سعادة العبد وهدايته، وعلامة شقاوته وضلاله-: إن من انشرح صدره للإسلام، أي: اتسع وانفسح، فاستنار بنور الإيمان، وحيي بضوء اليقين، فاطمأنت بذلك نفسه، وأحب الخير، وطوعت له نفسه فعله، متلذذا به غير مستثقل، فإن هذا علامة على أن الله قد هداه، ومن عليه بالتوفيق، وسلوك أقوم الطريق. ـ

Here, Allah is making it clear to His servants what are the signs of a slave’s ultimate joy and guidance and what are the signs of a slave’s ultimate misery and misguidance. So He says that whoever’s chest has been opened up to Islam – that is, it has been made wide and spacious – then it becomes enlightened with the light of faith and enlivened with the light of certainty. So his heart becomes at peace with that, loves good, and becomes compliant in doing it – taking enjoyment from it, nor at all feeling burdened. So this is a sign that Allah has guided such a person and blessed him to be rightly guided and traversing the most upright path.

Continue reading

“Those Who Have Divided Their Religion and Become Sects”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah al-An’aam:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا لَّسْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ ۚ إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُمْ إِلَى اللَّـهِ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ

Those who have divided their religion and become sects – you have nothing to do with them. Their matter is up to Allah, then He will inform them of what they used to do. [6:159]

Imam al-Baghawi wrote the following commentary on this ayah in his book of tafsir:

قوله – عز وجل – : ( إن الذين فرقوا دينهم ) قرأ حمزة والكسائي : ” فارقوا ” ، بالألف هاهنا وفي سورة الروم ، أي : خرجوا من دينهم وتركوه وقرأ الآخرون : ” فرقوا ” مشددا ، أي : جعلوا دين الله وهو واحد – دين إبراهيم عليه السلام الحنيفية – أديانا مختلفة ، فتهود قوم وتنصر قوم ، يدل عليه قوله – عز وجل – : ( وكانوا شيعا ) أي : صاروا فرقا مختلفة وهم اليهود والنصارى في قول مجاهد وقتادة والسدي . ـ

Regarding Allah’s statement:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ

Those who have divided their religion …

Hamzah and al-Kisaa’i recited it as:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَارَقُوا دِينَهُمْ

Those who have departed from their religion …

with an alif, both here an in surah al-Room [c.f. 30:32], meaning: exiting from their religion and leaving it. But the rest of the reciters recited it as: Continue reading

Encouragement and Intimidation in the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah concludes surah al-An’aam by saying:

إِنَّ رَبَّكَ سَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Your Lord is certainly swift in punishment, and He is certainly forgiving and merciful. [6:165]

After commenting on the immediate meaning of this ayah, al-haafidh ibn Kathir took this opportunity to highlight a larger stylistic feature of the Qur’an:

وقوله : ( إن ربك سريع العقاب وإنه لغفور رحيم ) ترهيب وترغيب ، أن حسابه وعقابه سريع ممن عصاه وخالف رسله ( وإنه لغفور رحيم ) لمن والاه واتبع رسله فيما جاءوا به من خير وطلب . ـ

This statement contains both incitement through intimidation and incitement through encouragement: that Allah’s reckoning and punishment is swift for those who disobey Him and oppose His messengers

وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

and He is certainly forgiving and merciful

to those who align themselves with Him and follow His Messenger in the goodness and  that they have brought and what they command.

وكثيرا ما يقرن تعالى في القرآن بين هاتين الصفتين ، كما قال تعالى : وقوله : ( نبئ عبادي أني أنا الغفور الرحيم وأن عذابي هو العذاب الأليم ) [ الحجر : 49 ، 50 ] ، وقوله : ( وإن ربك لذو مغفرة للناس على ظلمهم وإن ربك لشديد العقاب ) [ الرعد : 6 ] وغير ذلك من الآيات المشتملة على الترغيب والترهيب ، فتارة يدعو عباده إليه بالرغبة وصفة الجنة والترغيب فيما لديه ، وتارة يدعوهم إليه بالرهبة وذكر النار وأنكالها وعذابها والقيامة وأهوالها ، وتارة بهذا وبهذا لينجع في كل بحسبه . جعلنا الله ممن أطاعه فيما أمر ، وترك ما عنه نهى وزجر ، وصدقه فيما أخبر ، إنه قريب مجيب سميع الدعاء ، جواد كريم وهاب . ـ

Allah frequently pairs these two qualities and mentions them in conjunction throughout the Qur’an. Take for instance His statement: Continue reading

Two Kinds of People and How to Deal with Them: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah issues the following command in surah al-A’raaf:

خُذِ الْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْعُرْفِ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْجَاهِلِينَ

Take what is given freely, command the good, and turn away from the ignorant. [7:199]

In part of his tafsir of this ayah, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned:

وقال بعض العلماء : الناس رجلان : فرجل محسن ، فخذ ما عفا لك من إحسانه ، ولا تكلفه فوق طاقته ولا ما يحرجه . وإما مسيء ، فمره بالمعروف ، فإن تمادى على ضلاله ، واستعصى عليك ، واستمر في جهله ، فأعرض عنه ، فلعل ذلك أن يرد كيده ، كما قال تعالى : ( ادفع بالتي هي أحسن السيئة نحن أعلم بما يصفون وقل رب أعوذ بك من همزات الشياطين وأعوذ بك رب أن يحضرون ) [ المؤمنون : 96 – 98 ]ـ

One of the scholars said:

There are two kinds of people: 1) The first is a good person. Accept the good behavior that he freely shows to you and don’t charge him with anything above his ability or make things difficult for him.

As for 2) the bad person, then enjoin him to do good, but if he continues in his misguided ways and is unresponsive to your attempts, instead persisting in his ignorant behavior, then turn away from him. Perhaps that will foil his schemes, as Allah said: Continue reading

Those Who Threw Off the Guidance that Allah Gave Them: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-A’raaf:

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا فَانسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ * وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَاهُ بِهَا وَلَـٰكِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ ۚ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ الْكَلْبِ إِن تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُكْهُ يَلْهَث ۚ ذَّٰلِكَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا ۚ فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ * سَاءَ مَثَلًا الْقَوْمُ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَأَنفُسَهُمْ كَانُوا يَظْلِمُونَ * مَن يَهْدِ اللَّـهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِي ۖ وَمَن يُضْلِلْ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ

Recite to them the news of the one to whom We gave Our signs, but he threw that off and so the shaytaan followed him up, so he was one of those who went astray. * And if We had wished, We could have raised him up by them, but he clung to the earth and followed his desire. The likes of this one is the likes of a dog: if you drive it away it pants and if you leave it alone it pants. Those are the likes of the people who deny Our signs. So relate this story so that they might reflect. * What an evil likeness – the people who denied Our signs and used to wrong themselves. * Whoever Allah guides, then he is the guided one, and whoever Allah leads astray, then they are the losers. [7:175-178]

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

يقول تعالى لنبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم: وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا أي: علمناه كتاب اللّه، فصار العالم الكبير والحبر النحرير. فَانْسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ أي: انسلخ من الاتصاف الحقيقي بالعلم بآيات اللّه، فإن العلم بذلك، يصير صاحبه متصفا بمكارم الأخلاق ومحاسن الأعمال، ويرقى إلى أعلى الدرجات وأرفع المقامات، فترك هذا كتاب اللّه وراء ظهره، ونبذ الأخلاق التي يأمر بها الكتاب، وخلعها كما يخلع اللباس. فلما انسلخ منها أتبعه الشيطان، أي: تسلط عليه حين خرج من الحصن الحصين، وصار إلى أسفل سافلين، فأزه إلى المعاصي أزا. فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ بعد أن كان من الراشدين المرشدين. ـ

Allah is telling His Prophet:

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا

Recite to them the news of the one to whom We gave Our signs

i.e. We taught this person the Book of Allah and so he became a major scholar and learned religious leader

فَانْسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ

but he threw that off and so the shaytaan followed him up

Continue reading

O You Who Have Believed, Look After Your Own Souls: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Maa’idah:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ ۖ لَا يَضُرُّكُم مَّن ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ ۚ إِلَى اللَّـهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

O you who have believed, look after your own souls. Those who have gone astray will not harm you when you have been guided. To Allah is you return all together; then He will inform you of what you used to do. [5:105]

In his famous book of tafsir, al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following:

يقول تعالى آمرا عباده المؤمنين أن يصلحوا أنفسهم ويفعلوا الخير بجهدهم وطاقتهم ، ومخبرا لهم أنه من أصلح أمره لا يضره فساد من فسد من الناس ، سواء كان قريبا منه أو بعيدا . ـ

Allah is commanding His believing slaves to rectify themselves and do the good that is within their ability and capacity, and He is also informing them that whoever rectifies his own matters will not be harmed by the corruption of the corrupted people regardless of whether they are near or far from him. Continue reading