The Contents of Surah Hud: Ibn Taymiyah

In one of his many writings, ibn Taymiyah briefly addressed the contents and themes of surah Hud by writing:

قد افتتح السورة فقال كتاب أحكمت آياته ثم فصلت من لدن حكيم خبير ألا تعبدوا إلا الله إنني لكم منه نذير وبشير فذكر أنه نذير وبشير نذير ينذر بالعذاب لأهل النار وبشير يبشر بالسعادة لأهل الحق

Allah began the surah by saying:

كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِن لَّدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ * أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّنِي لَكُم مِّنْهُ نَذِيرٌ وَبَشِيرٌ

A Book whose verses are perfected and then presented in detail from one who is Wise and All-Knowing. ‎‏* Do not worship any besides Allah. Indeed, I am a warner to you from Him and a bringer of good tidings [11:1-2]

So Allah mentions that the Prophet is a warner and a bringer of good tidings: a warner who warns of the punishment that the people of the Hellfire will receive and a bringer of good tidings who gives good tidings of ultimate joy for the people of the truth.

ثم ذكر حال الفريقين في السراء والضراء فقال ولئن أذقنا الإنسان منا رحمة ثم نزعناها منه إنه ليؤوس كفور ولئن أذقناه نعماء بعد ضراء مسته ليقولن ذهب السيئات عني إنه لفرح فخور إلا الذين صبروا وعملوا الصالحات أولئك لهم مغفرة وأجر كبير

He then mentioned the condition of both groups of people in times of prosperity and in times of adversity by saying:

وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِنَّا رَحْمَةً ثُمَّ نَزَعْنَاهَا مِنْهُ إِنَّهُ لَيَئُوسٌ كَفُورٌ * وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَاهُ نَعْمَاءَ بَعْدَ ضَرَّاءَ مَسَّتْهُ لَيَقُولَنَّ ذَهَبَ السَّيِّئَاتُ عَنِّي ۚ إِنَّهُ لَفَرِحٌ فَخُورٌ * إِلَّا الَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ كَبِيرٌ

And if We give man a taste of mercy from Us and then We withdraw it from him, he is certainly despairing and ungrateful. * But if We give him a taste of favor after hardship has touched him, he will surely say, “Bad times have left me.” He is exultant and boastful – * Except for those who are patient and do righteous deeds; those ones will have forgiveness and great reward. [11:9-11]

ثم ذكر بعد هذا قصص الأنبياء وحال من اتبعهم ومن كذبهم كيف سعد هؤلاء في الدنيا والآخرة وشقي هؤلاء في الدنيا والآخرة فذكر ما جرى لهم إلى قوله ذلك من أنباء القرى نقصه عليك إلى قوله وذلك يوم مشهود

After that, He mentioned stories of the Prophets, the conditions of their followers and the conditions of their deniers, and then how their followers achieved joy in both this life and the next and how their deniers experienced sorrow in both this life and the next. So He mentioned what happened to them until His statement:

Continue reading

Responding to Claims about the Origin of the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote the following in part of his tafsir of surah al-Nahl:

فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ * إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ لَهُ سُلْطَانٌ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَلَى رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ * إِنَّمَا سُلْطَانُهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ يَتَوَلَّوْنَهُ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ بِهِ مُشْرِكُونَ

So when you recite the Qur’an, seek refuge in Allah from the rejected shaytaan * he has no authority over those who believe and who place their trust in their Lord * his authority is only over those who turn to him and those who associate partners with Him [16:98-100]

أي: فإذا أردت القراءة لكتاب الله الذي هو أشرف الكتب وأجلها، وفيه صلاح القلوب والعلوم الكثيرة؛ فإن الشيطان أحرص ما يكون على العبد عند شروعه في الأمور الفاضلة، فيسعى في صرفه عن مقاصدها ومعانيها، فالطريق إلى السلامة من شره الالتجاء إلى الله، والاستعاذة به من شره، فيقول القارئ:” أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم” متدبرا لمعناها، معتمدا بقلبه على الله في صرفه عنه، مجتهدا في دفع وسواسه وأفكاره الرديئة، مجتهدا على السبب الأقوى في دفعه، وهو التحلي بحلية الإيمان والتوكل، فإن الشيطان ليس له سلطان أي: تسلط على الذين آمنوا وعلى ربهم وحده لا شريك له يتوكلون فيدفع الله عن المؤمنين المتوكلين عليه شر الشيطان ولا يبقى له عليهم سبيل. ـ

In other words, when you want to recite the Book of Allah – which is the most noble and honored book, and which contains the rectification of hearts and abundant knowledge -, then the Shaytaan is most eager to attack the worshiper as he embarks upon virtuous actions, and so he works hard to twist the person away from the objectives and messages of the Qur’an. The way to be saved from his harm is to take refuge with Allah and to seek protection in Him from the shaytaan‘s evil. So the reciter will say:

Continue reading

Which Comes First, Glad Tidings or Warnings?: Badr al-Deen ibn Jama’ah

Throughout the Qur’an, Allah has described the Prophet as both a bringer of glad tidings and a warner, such as in the following ayaat:

إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ بِالْحَقِّ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا

We have certainly sent you with the truth as a bringer of glad tidings and a warner [al-Baqarah 2:119]

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ شَاهِدًا وَمُبَشِّرًا وَنَذِيرًا

O Prophet, We have certainly sent you as a witness and a giver of glad tidings and a warner [al-Ahzab 33:45]

بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا فَأَعْرَضَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ فَهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُونَ

Giving glad tidings and warnings, but most of them will turn away so they will not listen [Ha Meem Sajdah 41:4]

In his book addressing small differences between otherwise similar ayaat, Badr al-Deen ibn Jama’ah (one of the teachers of al-haafidh ibn Kathir) posed and answered the following question:

مسألة: قوله تعالى: (إِنَّنِي لَكُمْ مِنْهُ نَذِيرٌ وَبَشِيرٌ (٢) قدّم النذارة هنا، وفى الأحزاب والبقرة وحم السجدة قدم البشارة؟ ـ

Question: Regarding Allah’s statement:

إِنَّنِي لَكُم مِّنْهُ نَذِيرٌ وَبَشِيرٌ

I am certainly a warner and giver of glad tidings from Him to you [11:2]

Here, Allah mentioned warnings first, while in surahal-Ahzab (33), al-Baqarah (02) and Ha Meem Sajdah (41), He mentioned glad tidings first – why is that? Continue reading

Allah Presents a Parable of a City: Tafsir al-Tabari

Allah struck the following parable in surah al-Nahl:

وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا قَرْيَةً كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُّطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِّن كُلِّ مَكَانٍ فَكَفَرَتْ بِأَنْعُمِ اللَّهِ فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

And Allah presents a parable: a city which was safe and secure, its provision coming to it in abundance from every location, but it denied the favors of Allah. So Allah made it taste the envelopment of hunger and fear for what they had been doing. [16:112]

In his explanation of this ayah, Imam Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari wrote:

يقول الله تعالى ذكره : ومثل الله مثلا لمكة التي سكنها أهل الشرك بالله هي القرية التي كانت آمنة مطمئنة ، وكان أمنها أن العرب كانت تتعادى ، ويقتل بعضها بعضا ، ويسبي بعضها بعضا ، وأهل مكة لا يغار عليهم ، ولا يحاربون في بلدهم ، فذلك كان أمنها . وقوله ( مطمئنة ) يعني قارة بأهلها ، لا يحتاج أهلها إلى النجع ، كما كان سكان البوادي يحتاجون إليها ( يأتيها رزقها رغدا ) يقول : يأتي أهلها معايشهم واسعة كثيرة . وقوله ( من كل مكان ) يعني : من كل فج من فجاج هذه القرية ، ومن كل ناحية فيها . ـ

Allah is saying: Allah has presented a parable of Mecca where the people who associate partners with Allah lived. Mecca was a city that was safe and secure. Its safety lay in the fact that the Arabs used to antagonize, fight, and insult one another, but they did not attack the people of Mecca or fight them in their homeland. As a result, the people of Mecca were safe. And the meaning of “secure” here is that its people were stable and not in search of a homeland, unlike the bedouins who were in need of a place to call home.

Continue reading

Pray As You Have Seen Me Pray: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In part of his discussion of surah Hud, Imam al-Qurtubi included the following discussion:

ذكر الله سبحانه في كتابه الصلاة بركوعها وسجودها وقيامها وقراءتها وأسمائها فقال : أقم الصلاة الآية . وقال : أقم الصلاة لدلوك الشمس الآية . وقال : فسبحان الله حين تمسون وحين تصبحون وله الحمد في السماوات والأرض وعشيا وحين تظهرون . وقال : وسبح بحمد ربك قبل طلوع الشمس وقبل غروبها . وقال : اركعوا واسجدوا . وقال : وقوموا لله قانتين . وقال : وإذا قرئ القرآن فاستمعوا له وأنصتوا على ما تقدم . وقال : ولا تجهر بصلاتك ولا تخافت بها أي بقراءتك ; ـ

Throughout His Book, Allah mentions the prayer by referring to its bowing, prostrating, standing, recitation and by their names.

He says:

وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ طَرَفَيِ النَّهَارِ وَزُلَفًا مِّنَ اللَّيْلِ

And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night … [11:114]

أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ إِلَىٰ غَسَقِ اللَّيْلِ وَقُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا

Establish prayer at the decline of the sun until the darkness of the night and the recitation of dawn. Indeed, the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed. [17:78]

فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ حِينَ تُمْسُونَ وَحِينَ تُصْبِحُونَ * وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَعَشِيًّا وَحِينَ تُظْهِرُونَ

So exalted is Allah when you reach the evening and when you reach the morning. * And to Him belongs praise throughout the heavens and the earth. And exalted is He at night and when you are at noon. [30:17-18] Continue reading

“Are They Equal?”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In the midst of surah al-Nahl, Allah strikes two parables in succession when He says:

ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا عَبْدًا مَّمْلُوكًا لَّا يَقْدِرُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَمَن رَّزَقْنَاهُ مِنَّا رِزْقًا حَسَنًا فَهُوَ يُنفِقُ مِنْهُ سِرًّا وَجَهْرًا ۖ هَلْ يَسْتَوُونَ ۚ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ * وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا رَّجُلَيْنِ أَحَدُهُمَا أَبْكَمُ لَا يَقْدِرُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ كَلٌّ عَلَىٰ مَوْلَاهُ أَيْنَمَا يُوَجِّههُّ لَا يَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ ۖ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي هُوَ وَمَن يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ ۙ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ

Allah strikes a parable of a slave who is owned and unable to do anything and one to whom We have given good provision and so he spends from it both secretly and openly. Are they equal? All praise is due to Allah. But most of them do not know. * And Allah strikes a parable of two men: one of them dumb and unable to do anything and he is a burden to his guardian. Wherever he directs him, he brings no good. Is he equal to one who enjoins justice while he is on the straight path? [16:75-76]

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

ضرب تعالى مثلين له ولمن يعبد من دونه: أحدهما: عبد مملوك أي: رقيق لا يملك نفسه ولا يملك من المال والدنيا شيئا، والثاني: حر غني قد رزقه الله منه رزقا حسنا من جميع أصناف المال وهو كريم محب للإحسان، فهو ينفق منه سرا وجهرا، هل يستوي هذا وذاك؟! لا يستويان مع أنهما مخلوقان، غير محال استواؤهما . ـ

Allah struck two parables of Him and those who are worshiped besides Him.

The first parable is one slave who is owned – someone who is the property of another person. He does not own himself nor does he own any wealth or any worldly goods. The other person in this parable is a free, wealthy person whom Allah has provided with good shares of all forms of wealth and he is generous and loves to do good to others. As a result, he spends out of his wealth both secretly and openly. Is this one equal to that one? Are the two equal? Even though they are both created beings, they are certainly not equal.

Continue reading

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

Becoming Deceived by This Life: Ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes the follow parable in surah Yunus:

إِنَّمَا مَثَلُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْضِ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ النَّاسُ وَالْأَنْعَامُ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَخَذَتِ الْأَرْضُ زُخْرُفَهَا وَازَّيَّنَتْ وَظَنَّ أَهْلُهَا أَنَّهُمْ قَادِرُونَ عَلَيْهَا أَتَاهَا أَمْرُنَا لَيْلًا أَوْ نَهَارًا فَجَعَلْنَاهَا حَصِيدًا كَأَن لَّمْ تَغْنَ بِالْأَمْسِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

The example of this worldly life is like water which We have sent down from the sky which then mixed with the earth’s vegetation, which people and beasts of burden then eat. Then, when the earth has taken on its adornment and become beautiful and its people think that they have control over it, Our command comes by night or by day and We make it barren, as if it had not been there yesterday. In this way do We explain the signs for people who reflect. [10:24]

Commenting on this in a longer discussion on the parables of the Qur’an, the great scholar ibn al-Qayyim wrote:

شبه سبحانه الحياة الدنيا في أنها تتزين في عين الناظر فتروقه بزينتها وتعجبه فيميل إليها ويهواها اغترارا منه بها حتى إذا ظن أنه مالك لها قادر عليها سلبها بغتة أحوج ما كان إليها وحيل بينه وبينها

Allah has made this comparison to the life of this world in that this worldly life appears beautiful to the eye of the beholder and he is pleased and impressed with its beauty and thus finds himself inclined to it and captivated by it, so much so that he becomes deceived by it. Then once he thinks that he has control and ownership over it, suddenly it is taken away from him just he needs it the most and he cannot get it back.

فشبهها بالأرض الذي ينزل الغيث عليها فتعشب ويحسن نباتها ويروق منظرها للناظر فيغتر به ويظن أنه قادر عليها مالك لها فيأتيها أمر الله فتدرك نباتها الآفة بغتة فتصبح كأن لم تكن قبل فيخيب ظنه وتصبح يداه صفرا منهما فهكذا حال الدنيا والواثق بها سواءوهذا من أبلغ التشبيه والقياس. ـ

So Allah compared this to the earth upon which the rain falls and then grows vegetation which becomes beautiful and pleasing to look at until the beholder becomes deceived into thinking that he has power and ownership over it. Then the command of Allah comes and the plants are suddenly struck with disease and it becomes as if they were never there. So his thinking had betrayed him and he winds up empty-handed.

Continue reading

“Thus Does Allah Strike a Parable of Truth and Falsehood”: al-Qurtubi, ibn Taymiyah, and ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes the following two parables in one ayah in surah al-Ra’d:

أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا ۚ وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَاءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِّثْلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ

Allah sends down rain from the sky and the valleys flow according to their capacity, and a torrent carries the rising foam. And out of that which they heat in the fire, seeking adornments and tools, is a similar foam. Thus does Allah strike a parable of the truth and falsehood. As for the foam, it vanishes, being cast off. But as for they which benefits people, then it remains on the earth. Thus does Allah strike parables. [13:17]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, al-Qurtubi wrote:

وهو أن المثلين ضربهما الله للحق في ثباته ، والباطل في اضمحلاله ، فالباطل وإن علا في بعض الأحوال فإنه يضمحل كاضمحلال الزبد والخبث . وقيل : المراد مثل ضربه الله للقرآن وما يدخل منه القلوب ; فشبه القرآن بالمطر لعموم خيره وبقاء نفعه ، وشبه القلوب بالأودية ، يدخل فيها من القرآن مثل ما يدخل في الأودية بحسب سعتها وضيقها . ـ

Allah struck these two parables about the truth and its firmness and falsehood and its transience. For even if falsehood may be ascendant at certain times and situations, it will pass away just as foam and filth pass away.

Some have said that the intended meaning of this parable is about the Qur’an and how it enters into the hearts. Allah likened the Qur’an to water due to how much good it brings and its enduring benefit, and He likened the hearts to river valleys. So the Qur’an enters the heart just as water enters the river valleys – that is, an amount matching with their width or narrowness. Continue reading

The Purpose of Parables in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

After explaining one of the parables in surah Ibrahim, Imam Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee brought the following discussion regarding the parables and comparisons that Allah uses in the Qur’an:

وبين في موضع آخر أن الحكمة في ضربه للأمثال أن يتفكر الناس فيها فيفهموا الشيء بنظرة ، وهو قوله : وتلك الأمثال نضربها للناس لعلهم يتفكرون [ 59 21 ] ، ونظيره قوله : ويضرب الله الأمثال للناس لعلهم يتذكرون [ 14 25 ] ، ـ

In another part of the Qur’an, Allah clarified that the wisdom in His striking parables is for the people to think over them so that they would understand something by considering the comparison. That comes in is His statement:

وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِ‌بُهَا لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُ‌ونَ

And We present these parables to the people that perhaps they will give thought. [59:21]

Another similar statement comes in in His saying:

وَيَضْرِ‌بُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُ‌ونَ

And Allah presents parables for the people so that perhaps they will be reminded. [14:25]

وبين في موضع آخر أن الأمثال لا يعقلها إلا أهل العلم ، وهو قوله تعالى : وتلك الأمثال نضربها للناس وما يعقلها إلا العالمون [ 29 43 ] ، ـ

And elsewhere He clarified that the parables are only understood by the people of knowledge. This is in His statement:

وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِ‌بُهَا لِلنَّاسِ ۖ وَمَا يَعْقِلُهَا إِلَّا الْعَالِمُونَ

And We present these parables to the people, but none will understand them except those of knowledge. [29:43] Continue reading