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

The Death of the Scholars: Tafsir al-Baghawi & al-Qurtubi

Allah says in surah al-Ra’d:

أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّا نَأْتِي الْأَرْضَ نَنقُصُهَا مِنْ أَطْرَافِهَا ۚ وَاللَّـهُ يَحْكُمُ لَا مُعَقِّبَ لِحُكْمِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ

Have they not seen that We set upon the land, reducing it from its borders? And Allah decides; there is no adjuster of His decision. And He is swift in account. [13:41]

Commenting on this, Imam al-Baghawi wrote:

قوله تعالى ( أولم يروا ) يعني : أهل مكة ، الذين يسألون محمدا صلى الله عليه وسلم الآيات ( أنا نأتي الأرض ننقصها من أطرافها ) أكثر المفسرين على أن المراد منه فتح ديار الشرك ، فإن ما زاد في ديار الإسلام فقد نقص من ديار الشرك ، يقول : ( أولم يروا أنا نأتي الأرض ننقصها من أطرافها ) فنفتحها لمحمد أرضا بعد أرض حوالي أرضهم ، أفلا يعتبرون ؟ هذا قول ابن عباس ، وقتادة ، وجماعة . ـ

Allah’s statement:

أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا

Have they not seen …

i.e. Haven’t the people of Mecca, those who ask Muhammad for miracles, seen

أَنَّا نَأْتِي الْأَرْضَ نَنقُصُهَا مِنْ أَطْرَافِهَا

… that We set upon the land, reducing it from its borders?

Most of the mufassiroon held that the intended meaning here is Islamic conquests of the non-Muslim lands, for the increases of the Muslim lands took away from the non-Muslim lands. Continue reading

Exhortations in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah says in surah al-Nahl:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and He forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He exhorts you that perhaps you will be reminded. [16:90]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee went into some detail on each element of this ayah in his tafsir. What follows is one section of that explanation related to the mention of “exhortation” in the final part of the ayah:

وقوله ، يعظكم لعلكم تذكرون [ 16 \ 90 ] ، الوعظ : : الكلام الذي تلين له القلوب . ـ

Allah’s statement:

يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

He exhorts you that perhaps you will be reminded

Exhortation – al-wa’th – is speech which serves to soften the heart.

تنبيه : فإن قيل : يكثر في القرآن إطلاق الوعظ على الأوامر والنواهي ; كقوله هنا : يعظكم لعلكم تذكرون [ 16 \ 90 ] ، مع أنه ما ذكر إلا الأمر والنهي في قوله : إن الله يأمر بالعدل ، إلى قوله : وينهى عن الفحشاء . . . الآية [ 16 \ 90 ] ، وكقوله في ( سورة البقرة ) بعد أن ذكر أحكام الطلاق والرجعة : ذلك يوعظ به من كان منكم يؤمن بالله واليوم الآخر [ 2 \ 232 ] ، وقوله ( في الطلاق ) في نحو ذلك أيضا : ذلكم يوعظ به من كان يؤمن بالله واليوم الآخر ، وقوله في النهي عن مثل قذف عائشة : يعظكم الله أن تعودوا لمثله أبدا . . . الآية [ 24 \ 17 ] ، مع أن المعروف عند الناس : أن الوعظ يكون بالترغيب والترهيب ونحو ذلك ، لا بالأمر والنهي . ـ

A Point Deserving of Attention:

[Question] One might point out that there are a number of places throughout the Qur’an where the term al-wa’th – exhortation – is applied to commands and prohibitions, such as Allah’s statement: Continue reading

A Parable of the Disbelievers and the Believers: Tafsir al-Tabari

Allah strikes the following parable in surah Hud:

مَثَلُ الْفَرِيقَيْنِ كَالْأَعْمَىٰ وَالْأَصَمِّ وَالْبَصِيرِ وَالسَّمِيعِ ۚ هَلْ يَسْتَوِيَانِ مَثَلًا ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ

The example of the two parties is like the blind and the deaf, and the seeing and the hearing. Are these two equal in comparison? Will you not then remember? [11:24]

Imam Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari wrote the following in his tafsir of this ayah:

قَالَ أَبُو جَعْفَرٍ : يَقُولُ ، تَعَالَى ذِكْرُهُ : مَثَلُ فَرِيقَيِ الْكُفْرِ وَالْإِيمَانِ كَمَثَلِ الْأَعْمَى الَّذِي لَا يَرَى بِعَيْنِهِ شَيْئًا ، وَالْأَصَمِّ الَّذِي لَا يَسْمَعُ شَيْئًا ، فَكَذَلِكَ فَرِيقُ الْكُفْرِ لَا يُبَصِّرُ الْحَقَّ فَيَتَّبِعُهُ وَيَعْمَلُ بِهِ ، لِشَغْلِهِ بِكُفْرِهِ بِاللَّهِ ، وَغَلَبَةِ خِذْلَانِ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ ، لَا يَسْمَعُ دَاعِيَ اللَّهِ إِلَى الرَّشَادِ ، فَيُجِيبُهُ إِلَى الْهُدَى فَيَهْتَدِي بِهِ ، فَهُوَ مُقِيمٌ فِي ضَلَالَتِهِ ، يَتَرَدَّدُ فِي حَيْرَتِهِ . وَالسَّمِيعُ وَالْبَصِيرُ فَذَلِكَ فَرِيقُ الْإِيمَانِ ، أَبْصَرَ حُجَجَ اللَّهِ ، وَأَقَرَّ بِمَا دَلَّتْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ تَوْحِيدِ اللَّهِ ، وَالْبَرَاءَةِ مِنَ الْآلِهَةِ وَالْأَنْدَادِ ، وَنُبُوَّةَ الْأَنْبِيَاءِ عَلَيْهِمُ السَّلَامُ ، وَسَمِعَ دَاعِيَ اللَّهِ فَأَجَابَهُ وَعَمِلَ بِطَاعَةِ اللَّهِ ، كَمَا : ـ

I, Abu Ja’far, say: Allah is saying: The comparison of these two parties – that of disbelief and that of belief – is like the comparison of a blind person whose eyes cannot see anything at all and a deaf person who cannot hear anything, for similarly, those in the party of disbelief cannot see the truth that they might follow and act according to it due to how distracted they are with their disbelief in Allah and because their act of forsaking Allah has come back against them. They do not hear Allah’s callers calling them to upright guidance so that they might accept that guidance and become rightly guided by it. Instead they remain in their misguided state, stuck in a perpetual state of confusion.

But the seeing and hearing one is the party of belief. They see Allah’s signs and proofs and therefore affirm that these signs demonstrate Allah’s sole right to be worshiped, His freedom from having any partners or associates, and His having sent prophets. They hear Allah’s callers and respond to the call and obey Allah.

This explanation is similar to the explanations of the salaf, such as: Continue reading

Being Patient During and After Trials: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah Hud:

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 أُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ كَبِيرٌ

And if We give man a taste of mercy from Us and then We withdraw it from him, indeed, he is 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.” Indeed, he is exultant and boastful – * Except for those who are patient and do righteous deeds; those will have forgiveness and great reward. [11:9-11]

In his famous book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di commented on these ayaat by writing:

يخبر تعالى عن طبيعة الإنسان، أنه جاهل ظالم بأن الله إذا أذاقه منه رحمة كالصحة والرزق، والأولاد، ونحو ذلك، ثم نزعها منه، فإنه يستسلم لليأس، وينقاد للقنوط، فلا يرجو ثواب الله، ولا يخطر بباله أن الله سيردها أو مثلها، أو خيرا منها عليه. ـ

Allah is informing us of the nature of man, that he is ignorant and unjust because when Allah causes him to experience some of His mercy, such as health, provision, offspring, etc., and then later removes it from him, man gives in to hopelessness and lets himself be ruled by despair. He does not feel any hope for Allah’s reward, nor does it cross his mind that Allah might return that blessing to him, or might give him another similar blessing, or might even give him something better that what he had had. Continue reading

He Gave You Hearing, Sight, and Hearts That You Might Give Thanks: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Nahl:

وَاللَّـهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۙ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks. [16:78]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following under his commentary of this ayah:

ذكر تعالى منته على عباده ، في إخراجه إياهم من بطون أمهاتهم لا يعلمون شيئا ، ثم بعد هذا يرزقهم تعالى السمع الذي به يدركون الأصوات ، والأبصار اللاتي بها يحسون المرئيات ، والأفئدة – وهي العقول – التي مركزها القلب على الصحيح ، وقيل : الدماغ ، والعقل به يميز بين الأشياء ضارها ونافعها . وهذه القوى والحواس تحصل للإنسان على التدريج قليلا قليلا ، كلما كبر زيد في سمعه وبصره وعقله حتى يبلغ أشده .ـ

Allah mentions how He has blessed His slaves by bringing them out of their mothers’ stomachs when they did not know anything and then after that providing them with the hearing with which they can grasp sounds and the vision with which they can perceive things and the minds (al-af’idah) – i.e. the intellects, which are housed in the heart according to the most correct position, though some say that they are housed in the brain – and intellects by which one can distinguish between harmful and beneficial things. These abilities and senses come to a person in stages bit by bit. As he gets older and older his hearing, vision and intellect continue to improve until he reaches maturity. Continue reading

“Ask the Ahl al-Dhikr if You Don’t Know”: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

The following question was posed to sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca:

سؤال: ما التقسيم والمفهوم الصحيح في قول الله تعالى:{فسئلوا أهل الذكر إن كنتم لا تعلمون} النحل ؟ ـ

Question: What is the division of people and correct understanding regarding Allah’s statement:

فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

So ask the ahl al-dhikr if you do not know [16:43]

جواب : الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين سيدنا محمد وعلى اله وصحبه وسلم. أما بعد: فإن قوله تعالى: {فسئلوا أهل الذكر إن كنتم لاتعلمون}النحل[7] يدل على أمور: ـ

Answer: All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation. May peace and blessings be upon the most noble of the prophets and messengers, our leader Muhammad, as well as upon his family and companions.

To proceed: Allah’s statement:

فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

So ask the ahl al-dhikr if you do not know [16:43]

points to a number of things:

الأمر الأول : أن المسلمين ينقسموا إلى قسمين قسم هم أهل العلم ،وقسم هم ليس من أهل العلم وهم الذين يسمون بالعوام. ـ

Point #1: That Muslims can be divided into two categories. One category is the people of knowledge, and the other category are those who are not the people of knowledge, those who are referred to as the laypeople. Continue reading