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

Surah Yusuf and the People of al-Madinah

In part of his famous manual of the Qur’anic sciences, al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi wrote:

ما حمل من مكة إلى المدينة
Those Parts of the Qur’an which were Transmitted from Mecca to al-Madinah

أول سورة حملت من مكة إلى المدينة سورة ” يوسف ” ، انطلق بها عوف بن عفراء في [ ص: 291 ] الثمانية الذين قدموا على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مكة ، فعرض عليهم الإسلام فأسلموا ، وهو أول من أسلم من الأنصار ، قرأها على أهل المدينة في بني زريق ، فأسلم يومئذ بيوت من الأنصار ، روى ذلك يزيد بن رومان ، عن عطاء بن يسار ، عن ابن عباس ، ثم حمل بعدها : ( قل هو الله أحد ) ( سورة الإخلاص ) إلى آخرها ، ثم حمل بعدها الآية التي في ” الأعراف ” : ( قل ياأيها الناس إني رسول الله إليكم جميعا ) إلى قوله : ( تهتدون ) ( الآية : 158 ) ، فأسلم عليها طوائف من أهل المدينة ، وله قصة

The first surah to be taken from Mecca to al-Madinah was surah Yusuf. ‘Awf ibn ‘Afraa’ was the one who brought it there, and he was one of eighty men who came to Allah’s Messenger in Mecca where he presented Islam to them and they accepted and became Muslims, and he was the first one of the Ansaar to enter Islam. He recited this surah to the people of Banu Zurayq in al-Madinah and as a result a number of households of the Ansaar accepted Islam on that day.

This was narrated by Yazeed ibn Ruman, on the authority of ‘Ataa’ ibn Yasar, on the authority of ibn ‘Abbaas.

After that, surah al-Ikhlaas was the next surah taken from Mecca to al-Madinah. Next after that was an ayah from surah al-A’raaf:

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّـهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ ۖ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِيِّ الْأُمِّيِّ الَّذِي يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّـهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

Say: O mankind, I am certainly Allah’s messenger to all of you, the messenger of the One who possesses the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no deity worthy of worship except Him; He gives life and He causes death. So believe in Allah and His messenger, the illiterate prophet who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him so that you would be guided. [7:158]

And so a number of segments of the people of al-Madinah accepted Islam, and there is a larger story around this.

[al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an 1/290-291]

In the beginning of his explanation of surah Yusuf, al-haafidh ibn Kathir – who was a teacher of al-Zarkashi – mentioned the following report: Continue reading

Shall We Force You to Believe?: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In surah Hud, Allah recounts the story of His prophet Nuh, beginning with his calling his people to tawheed, a list of their doubts as to why they disbelieved in him, and then Nuh’s responses to their doubts. Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee comments on the first part of Nuh’s response to his people by writing:

قوله تعالى : قال يا قوم أرأيتم إن كنت على بينة من ربي وآتاني رحمة من عنده فعميت عليكم أنلزمكموها وأنتم لها كارهون . ـ

Allah’s statement:

 قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِن كُنتُ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّي وَآتَانِي رَحْمَةً مِّنْ عِندِهِ فَعُمِّيَتْ عَلَيْكُمْ أَنُلْزِمُكُمُوهَا وَأَنتُمْ لَهَا كَارِهُونَ

Nuh said, “O my people, what do you think if I am on clarity from my Lord, and a Mercy has come to me from Him, but that has been obscured from your sight – shall we compel you to accept it while you have a strong hatred for it? [11:28]

ذكر تعالى في هذه الآية الكريمة عن نبيه نوح : أنه قال لقومه : أرأيتم [ 11 \ 28 ] ، أي : أخبروني إن كنت على بينة من ربي [ 11 \ 28 ] ، أي : على يقين ونبوة صادقة لا شك فيها ، وأعطاني رحمة منه مما أوحى إلي من التوحيد والهدى ، فخفي ذلك كله عليكم ، ولم تعتقدوا أنه حق ، أيمكنني أن ألزمكم به ، وأجبر قلوبكم على الانقياد والإذعان لتلك البينة التي تفضل الله علي بها ، ورحمني بإيتائها ، والحال أنكم كارهون لذلك ؟ يعني ليس بيدي توفيقكم إلى الهدى وإن كان واضحا جليا لا [ ص: 178 ] لبس فيه ، إن لم يهدكم الله جل وعلا إليه . ـ

In this noble ayah, Allah mentions that His prophet Nuh said to his people:

أَرَأَيْتُمْ

Do you think … Continue reading

We gave Ibrahim good in this life: Tafsir al-Shawkani

In the end of Surah al-Nahl, Allah describes Ibrahim with several attributes, including:

وَآتَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً

And We gave him good in this world [16:122]

The scholars of tafsir have brought a number of explanations for this phrase, and Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkani collected the majority of them in his tafsir where he wrote:

وآتيناه في الدنيا حسنة أي خصلة حسنة أو حالة حسنة ، وقيل هو الولد الصالح ، وقيل الثناء الحسن ، وقيل النبوة ، وقيل الصلاة منا عليه في التشهد ، وقيل هي أنه يتولاه جميع أهل الأديان ، ولا مانع أن يكون ما آتاه الله شاملا لذلك كله ولما عداه من خصال الخير

وَآتَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً

And We gave him good in this world

i.e. good qualities or a good condition.

  • Some have said that it refers to righteous offspring.
  • Some have said that it refers to good praise and commendation.
  • Some have said that it refers to the station of prophethood.
  • Some have said that it refers to our prayers upon him during the tashahud.
  • And still others have said that it refers to the people of all religions inclining towards him in affection.

And there is nothing to prevent that which Allah gave him from including all of these good qualities or even more.

[Fath al-Qadeer 1/808] Continue reading

Using the Past Tense to Refer to the Future: Tafsir ibn ‘Uthaymeen

In part of surah al-Saffaat, Allah describes the events of the Day of Recompense by saying:

وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ

This can be literally translated as:

And they said: Woe to us! This is the Day of Reckoning! (37:20)

In his explanation of this surah, sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen said:

وقوله تعالى (وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ ) قالوا أتى بفعل الماضى مع أنه القول المستقبل ، لتحقق وقوعه ، وهذا كثير في اللغة العربية ، والقرآن الكريم يعبر عن المستقبل بالماضي لتحقق وقوعه ومثاله قوله تعالى(أتى أمر الله)فإن أمر الله لم يأت بدليل قوله تعالى(فلا تستعجلوه)لكن أتى هنا بمعنى يأتي وعبر عن المستقبل بالماضي لتحقق وقوعه

Allah’s statement:

وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ

And they said: Woe to us! This is the Day of Reckoning!

the word “they said” comes as a past tense verb despite the fact that it is a future statement. This is done to affirm that this definitely will take place. This is a common practice in the Arabic language, and the Qur’an will refer to a future event by using the past tense in order to affirm that it certainly will come to pass. An example of this is Allah’s statement: Continue reading

Asking for ‘Aafiyah: Tafsir al-Baghawi, al-Qurtubi, & al-Aloosi

In surah Yusuf, Allah informs us that when Yusuf was being tested by the wife of his master and the women of Egypt, he supplicated to his Lord by saying:

قَالَ رَ‌بِّ السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا يَدْعُونَنِي إِلَيْهِ ۖ وَإِلَّا تَصْرِ‌فْ عَنِّي كَيْدَهُنَّ أَصْبُ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَكُن مِّنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ

He said, “My Lord, prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. And if You do not avert from me their plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant.” [12:33]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Baghawi mentioned:

وقيل : لو لم يقل : السجن أحب إلي لم يبتل بالسجن ، والأولى بالمرء أن يسأل الله العافية .ـ

Some say: if only he had not said

السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ

prison is more to my liking

then he would not have been tested with prison. And the most appropriate thing for a person to ask Allah for is ‘aafiyah – the absence of any ailment or troubles.

[Tafsir al-Baghawi 4/240]

Imam Abu Muhammad al-Qurtubi also commented on this phrase by saying:

ـ ” أحب إلي ” أي أسهل علي وأهون من الوقوع في المعصية ; لا أن دخول السجن مما يحب على التحقيق . وحكي أن يوسف – عليه السلام – لما قال : السجن أحب إلي أوحى الله إليه ” يا يوسف ! أنت حبست نفسك حيث قلت السجن أحب إلي ، ولو قلت العافية أحب إلي لعوفيت ” . ـ

Allah’s statement

 أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ

… more to my liking …

i.e. that it easier and less weighty on me than to fall into sins, not that going to prison is something that he would want otherwise. Continue reading