Leave Both Open and Concealed Sins: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah commands the believers in surah al-An’aam by saying:

وَذَرُوا ظَاهِرَ الْإِثْمِ وَبَاطِنَهُ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْسِبُونَ الْإِثْمَ سَيُجْزَوْنَ بِمَا كَانُوا يَقْتَرِفُونَ

And leave open sins and concealed sins. Those who commit sins will certainly be paid back for what they used to commit. [6:120]

Commenting on this in his famous book of tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

قال مجاهد : ( وذروا ظاهر الإثم وباطنه ) معصيته في السر والعلانية – وفي رواية عنه قال هو ما ينوي مما هو عامل . وقال : قتادة : ( وذروا ظاهر الإثم وباطنه ) أي : قليله وكثيره ، سره وعلانيته . وقال السدي : ظاهره : الزنا مع البغايا ذوات الرايات ، وباطنه : الزنا مع الخليلة والصدائق والأخدان . وقال عكرمة : ظاهره : نكاح ذوات المحارم . ـ

Mujahid said: “And leave open sins and concealed sins” means acts of disobedience committed secretly and publicly.

And in another narration from Mujahid, he explained it as: what one wishes to do and what one actually does.

Qatadah explained it as: whether few or many, secret or public.

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How to Receive Allah’s Mercy: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Near the end of surah al-An’aam, Allah describes His Book by saying:

وَهَٰذَا كِتَابٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مُبَارَكٌ فَاتَّبِعُوهُ وَاتَّقُوا لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

And this is a blessed Book which We have sent down, so follow it and have taqwa so that you may receive mercy. [6:155]

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

فيه الخير الكثير والعلم الغزير، وهو الذي تستمد منه سائر العلوم، وتستخرج منه البركات، فما من خير إلا وقد دعا إليه ورغب فيه، وذكر الحكم والمصالح التي تحث عليه، وما من شر إلا وقد نهى عنه وحذر منه، وذكر الأسباب المنفرة عن فعله وعواقبها الوخيمة { فَاتَّبِعُوهُ } فيما يأمر به وينهى، وابنوا أصول دينكم وفروعه عليه { وَاتَّقُوا } الله تعالى أن تخالفوا له أمرا { لَعَلَّكُمْ } إن اتبعتموه { تُرْحَمُونَ } فأكبر سبب لنيل رحمة الله اتباع هذا الكتاب، علما وعملا.

The Qur’an contains abundant good and is rich in knowledge, for all other knowledge is derived from it and blessings come from it. There is no good that it does not call to and promote, and it mentions the underlying wisdoms and benefits that it encourages. There is no evil that is does not prohibit and warn against, and it mentions the factors which would discourage committing those deeds and their terrible outcomes.

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Etiquette of Supplication in Surah al-A’raaf: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah commands the believers at the end  of surah al-A’raaf by saying:

وَاذْكُر رَّبَّكَ فِي نَفْسِكَ تَضَرُّعًا وَخِيفَةً وَدُونَ الْجَهْرِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ وَلَا تَكُن مِّنَ الْغَافِلِينَ

And remember your Lord within yourself humbly and fearfully, without loudness in your speech, in the mornings and the evenings, and do not be one of the heedless ones. [7:205]

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

الذكر لله تعالى يكون بالقلب، ويكون باللسان، ويكون بهما، وهو أكمل أنواع الذكر وأحواله، فأمر الله عبده ورسوله محمدا أصلا وغيره تبعا، بذكر ربه في نفسه، أي: مخلصا خاليا. ـ

Remembering Allah can be done in one’s heart, on one’s tongue, or both – and doing both together is the best form and method of remembering Allah. Allah instructed His servant and messenger Muhammad – him as the standard and others following in his model – to remember his Lord within himself, that is: purely and devotedly.

تضرعا أي: متضرعا بلسانك، مكررا لأنواع الذكر، وخيفة في قلبك بأن تكون خائفا من الله، وجل القلب منه، خوفا أن يكون عملك غير مقبول، وعلامة الخوف أن يسعى ويجتهد في تكميل العمل وإصلاحه، والنصح به. ـ

تَضَرُّعًا

… humbly …

i.e. fervently with one’s tongue, repeating all forms of remembrance

وَخِيفَةً

… and fearfully …

in one’s heart, such that you would be fearful of Allah, one’s heart apprehensive of Him, afraid that your deeds would not be accepted. And one sign of this fear is that one would rush and strive to make his deeds complete, upright and sincerely for Allah.

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“If You Forgive Them, Then You are Certainly Almighty, All-Wise”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

In surah al-Ma’idah, ‘Eesaa addresses Allah by saying:

إِن تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ ۖ وَإِن تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

If You punish them, then they are Your servants. And if You forgive them, then You are certainly Almighty, All-Wise. [5:118]

Imam al-Baghawi brought the following beneficial discussion of this ayah in his tafsir where he wrote:

قوله تعالى : ( إن تعذبهم فإنهم عبادك وإن تغفر لهم فإنك أنت العزيز الحكيم ) فإن قيل كيف طلب المغفرة لهم وهم كفار ، وكيف قال : وإن تغفر لهم فإنك أنت العزيز الحكيم ، وهذا لا يليق بسؤال المغفرة ، قيل : أما الأول فمعناه إن تعذبهم بإقامتهم على كفرهم وإن تغفر لهم بعد الإيمان وهذا يستقيم على قول السدي : إن هذا السؤال قبل يوم القيامة لأن الإيمان لا ينفع في القيامة . ـ

One might ask:

1) How could he ask forgiveness for them when they are disbelievers?

2) Why did he say, “And if You forgive them, then You are certainly Almighty, All-Wise” when this does not fit with a request for forgiveness?

One could respond:

As for the first question, one could say that he meant “if You punish them” for persisting in their disbelief and “if You forgive them” after they have believed. This explanation is based on al-Suddi’s statement that, “This question occurs before the Day of Resurrection, since coming to believe on that day will not be of any benefit.”

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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.

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“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