Merits of Surah al-Nisaa’: Tafsir ibn Kathir

A number of the books of tafsir begin their explanations of each surah with a section on the virtues of that particular surah. However, most of these sections are largely made up of fabricated or weak narrations. The famous mufassir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir, strove to avoid much inauthentic material in his tafsir or to follow up such material with notes as to its status and veracity. So when he did begin his explanation of surah al-Nisaa’ by mentioning some of its merits, he approached things in a different manner by bringing statements from some of the scholars of the Sahabah about this surah:

 وقال الحاكم في مستدركه : حدثنا أبو العباس محمد بن يعقوب ، حدثنا أبو البختري عبد الله بن محمد بن شاكر ، حدثنا محمد بن بشر العبدي ، حدثنا مسعر بن كدام ، عن معن بن عبد الرحمن بن عبد الله بن مسعود عن أبيه ، عن عبد الله بن مسعود ، رضي الله عنه ، قال : إن في سورة النساء لخمس آيات ما يسرني أن لي بها الدنيا وما فيها : ( إن الله لا يظلم مثقال ذرة ) الآية ، و ( إن تجتنبوا كبائر ما تنهون عنه ) الآية ، و ( إن الله لا يغفر أن يشرك به ويغفر ما دون ذلك لمن يشاء ) و ( ولو أنهم إذ ظلموا أنفسهم جاءوك ) الآية ، و ( ومن يعمل سوءا أو يظلم نفسه ثم يستغفر الله يجد الله غفورا رحيما ) ثم قال : هذا إسناد صحيح إن كان عبد الرحمن سمع من أبيه ، فقد اختلف في ذلك . ـ

○ al-Haakim said in his book al-Mustadrak: … that the grandson of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood narrated from his father who narrated from his father, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him), that he said: In surah al-Nisaa’ there are five ayaat which are more pleasing to me than the entire world and all that is in it.

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَظْلِمُ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ ۖ وَإِن تَكُ حَسَنَةً يُضَاعِفْهَا وَيُؤْتِ مِن لَّدُنْهُ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

Surely, Allah does not do an atom’s worth of injustice. But if you have some good, He multiplies it and give a great reward from Himself [4:40]

إِن تَجْتَنِبُوا كَبَائِرَ مَا تُنْهَوْنَ عَنْهُ نُكَفِّرْ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَنُدْخِلْكُم مُّدْخَلًا كَرِيمًا

If you avoid the major sins from which you are forbidden, We will expiate your minor sins from you and enter you into a noble entrance. [4:31]

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا

Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray. [4:116]

وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّـهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّـهَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِيمًا

And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful. [4:64]

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّـهَ يَجِدِ اللَّـهَ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allah will find Allah Forgiving and Merciful. [4:110]

And then al-Haakim said: This chain of narration is sound, so long as the grandson heard it from his father, and there is some differing as to whether he did or not. Continue reading

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The Sahabah and Tabi’oon known for their Tafsir: al-Suyooti

In his famous work detailing the sciences of the Qur’an, sheikh Jalaal al-Deen al-Suyooti included a section on the different generations of mufassiroon (Qur’anic exegetes). What follows is a condensed and streamlined presentation of the first part of this chapter, as prepared by sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Umar Bazmool:

طبقة الصحابة
The Level of the Sahabah

اشتهر بالتفسير من الصحابة عشرة : الخلفاء الأربعة ، وابن مسعود ، وابن عباس ، وأبي بن كعب ، وزيد بن ثابت ، وأبو موسى الأشعري ، وعبد الله بن الزبير . ـ

Those who are well known among the sahabah for tafsir are ten: the four Khulafaa’ [Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, and ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib], ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbas, Ubay ibn Ka’b, Zayd ibn Thaabit, Abu Moosaa al-Ash’ari, and ‘Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr.

أما الخلفاء ؛ فأكثر من روي عنه منهم : على بن أبي طالب ، والرواية عن الثلاثة نزرة جداً ، وكان السبب في ذلك تقدم وفاتهم ، كما أن ذلك هو السبب في قلة رواية أبي بكر رضي الله عنه للحديث ، ولا أحفظ عن أبي بكر رضي الله عنه في التفسير إلا آثاراً قليلة جداً ، لا تكاد تجاوز العشرة ، وأما على ؛ فروي عنه الكثير . ـ

As for the Khulafaa’, then the one from whom the most is transmitted is ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib, while what is transmitted from the other three is very little. The reason for that is because those three died earlier, just as that is the reason why there is little in the way of hadeeth narrated from Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), nor was much preserved from Abu Bakr in the way tafsir except for a very few statements which hardly even amount to ten in total. But as for ‘Ali, then a great deal was transmitted from him. Continue reading

“And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah commands His slaves in surah al-Hashr:

وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّ‌سُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا

“And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain.” [59:7]

Imam al-Qurtubi, in his book of tafsir, mentions this ayah and writes:

وقال ابن جريج‏:‏ ما آتاكم من طاعتي فافعلوه، وما نهاكم عنه من معصيتي فاجتنبوه‏.‏ الماوردي‏:‏ وقيل إنه محمول على العموم في جميع أوامره ونواهيه؛ لا يأمر إلا بصلاح ولا ينهى إلا عن فساد‏.‏ قلت‏:‏ هذا هو معنى القول الذي قبله‏.‏ فهي ثلاثة أقوال‏.‏

Ibn Juraij said, “Whatever he gives you of obedience, then do it, and whatever he forbids you of disobedience, then avoid it.” al-Maawardi said, “And it is said that this statement is applied generally to all of his [the Messenger’s] commands and prohibitions. He does not command anything except what brings good and he does not prohibit anything except for what is corrupt.” I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say, “What has preceded is the meaning of this statement, and there are three statements [about this which will follow].”

 قال المهدوي‏:‏ قوله تعالى‏{‏وما آتاكم الرسول فخذوة وما نهاكم عنه فانتهوا‏}‏ هذا يوجب أن كل ما أمر به النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أمر من الله تعالى‏.‏ والآية وإن كانت في الغنائم فجميع أوامره صلى الله عليه وسلم ونواهيه دخل فيها‏.‏ وقال الحكم بن عمير – وكانت له صحبة – قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم‏:‏ ‏(‏إن هذا القرآن صعب مستصعب عسير على من تركه يسير على من اتبعه وطلبه‏.‏ وحديثي صعب مستصعب وهو الحكم فمن استمسك بحديثي وحفظه نجا مع القرآن‏.‏ ومن تهاون بالقرآن وحديثي خسر الدنيا والآخرة‏.‏ وأمرتم أن تأخذوا بقولي وتكتنفوا أمري وتتبعوا سنتي فمن رضي بقولي فقد رضي بالقرآن ومن استهزأ بقولي فقد استهزأ بالقرآن قال الله تعالى‏{‏وما آتاكم الرسول فخذوة وما نهاكم عنه فانتهوا‏}‏‏)‏

Al-Mahdoui said, “Allah’s statement, ‘And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain,‘ this necessitates that everything that the Prophet (ﷺ) commanded is a command from Allah the Exalted. And the ayah, even though it is about the spoils of war, applies to all commands of the Prophet (ﷺ) and his prohibitions.”… Continue reading

“We are not able to perform qiyaam al-lail”: Responses from the salaf

While discussing qiyaam al-lail (the voluntary night prayers) in his book Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, Imam ibn Rajab al-Hanbali brings the following statements of the salaf concerning those who experience difficulty in performing this recommended act of ‘ibaadah:

قيل لابن مسعود رضي الله عنه : ما نستطيع قيام الليل, قال : أبعدتكم ذنوبكم. .

It was said to Ibn Mas’ood (raadiAllaahu ‘anhu), “We are not able to perform the qiyaam al-lail.” He replied, “Distance yourselves from your sins!”

وقيل للحسن : قد أعجزنا قيام الليل, قال : قيّدتكم خطاياكم.

And it was said to al-Hasan [al-Basri], “We have been made incapable of performing qiyaam al-lail.” He replied, “Restrict your sins!”

وقال فضيل بن عياض : إذا لم تقدر على قيام الليل وصيام النهار, فاعلم أنّك محرومٌ مُكَبَّلٌ, كبَّلَتْكَ خكيئتُكَ.

And Fudhail ibn ‘Iyaadh said, “If you are not able to pray during the night and fast during the day, then know that you have been deprived and detained, shackled by your own sins.”

وقال الحسن : إنّ العبد ليذنب الذنب فيُحرم به قيام الليل

And al-Hasan said, “If the slave committed a sin then he is prohibited from qiyaam al-lail because of it.”

[Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif pg. 98]

See also: Allah’s commendations for those who pray during the night

“Do not let yourselves be ‘wishy-washy’!”

Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman narrated that the Messenger of Allâh (ṣallallâhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

لَا تَكُونُوا إِمَّعَةً، تَقُولُونَ: إِنْ أَحْسَنَ النَّاسُ، أَحْسَنَّا، وَإِنْ ظَلَمُوا، ظَلَمْنَا، وَلَكِنْ وَطِّنُــوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ، إِنْ أَحْسَنَ النَّاسُ أَنْ تُحْسِنُوا، وَإِنْ أَسَاءُوا فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا

“Do not let yourselves be wishy-washy [1], saying, ‘If the people are good, then we will be good, but if they are unjust, then we will be unjust.’ Rather, make up your our minds; if the people are good then you are also good, but if they are evil, then you do not behave unjustly.”

[1] “Immaʿah” (إِمَّعَة), meaning: of weak character; ‘yes-men’; the one who has no opinion, so he follows everyone’s opinion.

[Al-Tirmidhi, #2007, who said the isnad was ‘Ḥasan Gharīb’. Others such as al-Mundhiri and al-Munaawi have also graded the isnad as saheeh, hasan or jayyid. Others have declared it to be a mawquf statement of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood, such as Ibn Abd al-Barr  in his book, Jāmiʾ Bayān Al-ʿIlm wa Faḍlihi, and Sheikh al-Albaani in his book Da’eef al-Tirmidhi. However there is no dispute that the meaning of the hadith is saheeh.]

Sheikh Mubarakfoori, in his commentary on Sunan al-Tirmidhi, writes:

قوله : ( لا تكونوا إمعة ) بكسر الهمزة وتشديد الميم والهاء للمبالغة وهمزته أصلية ولا يستعمل ذلك في النساء فلا يقال امرأة إمعة كذا في النهاية ، وقال صاحب الفائق : هو الذي يتابع كل ناعق ويقول لكل أحد أنا معك لأنه لا رأي له يرجع إليه ، ومعناه : المقلد الذي يجعل دينه تابعا لدين غيره بلا رؤية ولا تحصيل برهان انتهى كلامه ، قال القاري بعد نقل هذا الكلام عن الفائق ما لفظه : وفيه إشعار بالنهي عن التقليد المجرد حتى في الأخلاق فضلا عن الاعتقادات والعبادات ، وفي القاموس : الإمع كهلع وهلعة ويفتحان ؛ الرجل يتابع كل واحد على رأيه لا يثبت على شيء ، ومتبع الناس إلى الطعام من غير أن يدعى والمحقب الناس دينه والمتردد في غير صنعة ، ومن يقول أنا مع الناس ولا يقال امرأة إمعة ، أو قد يقال وتأمع واستأمع صار إمعة ، وقيل : هو الرجل الذي يكون لضعف رأيه مع كل واحد ، والمراد هنا من يكون مع ما يوافق هواه ويلائم إرب نفسه وما يتمناه ، وقيل المراد هنا الذي يقول أنا مع الناس كما يكونون معي إن خيرا فخير وإن شرا فشر .

The statement, “Don’t let yourselves be wishy-washy” – It is said, “(this means) he who follows every crowd and says to each one of them, ‘I am with you’, because he doesn’t have an opinion of his own.” And the meaning of that is: a blind follower who makes his deen to follow the deen of others without seeing or having proof. Al-Qaaree said, after he extended the explanation to encompass meanings beyond the wording of the hadeeth,and in this is a sign about the prohibition of mere taqleed (blind following), even concerning good manners, in addition to the issues of ‘aqeedah (creed) and ‘ibaadah (worship).

وفي القاموس : الإمع كهلع وهلعة ويفتحان ؛ الرجل يتابع كل واحد على رأيه لا يثبت على شيء ، … وقيل : هو الرجل الذي يكون لضعف رأيه مع كل واحد ، والمراد هنا من يكون مع ما يوافق هواه ويلائم إرب نفسه وما يتمناه ، وقيل المراد هنا الذي يقول أنا مع الناس كما يكونون معي إن خيرا فخير وإن شرا فشر

And linguistically, “imma’‘ (‘wishy-washy’) is impatience, restlessness and being indiscriminate; the one who follows everyone on mere opinion and is not firm upon anything…. And it is said that it is the man who is weak in his opinion with everyone, and the meaning here is the he is with what agrees with his desires and what suits his nafs and his wishes. And it is said that the meaning here refers to those who say, ‘I am with the people to the extent that they are with me; if they are good then I am good, and if they are evil then I am evil.’

قال القاري : وهذا المعنى هو المتعين كما يدل عليه قوله تقولون إن أحسن الناس أي إلينا أو إلى غيرنا أحسنا أي جزاء أو تبعا لهم ( وإن ظلموا ) أي ظلمونا أو ظلموا غيرنا فكذلك نحن ( ظلمنا ) على وفق أعمالهم

Al-Qaaree said, “And this refers to the two whims, as is demonstrated by his statement (ﷺ), ‘if the people are good‘ -meaning good to us or to others – ‘then we will be good‘ – meaning to repay or reciprocate to them. ‘But if they are unjust‘ – meaning they are unjust to us or to others, then like that- ‘we will be unjust’ – and match their actions.

قال الطيبي قوله تقولون إلخ بيان وتفسير للإمعة ; لأن معنى قوله إن أحسن الناس وإن ظلموا إنا نقلد الناس في إحسانهم وظلمهم ونقتفي أثرهم .

Al-Tayybi said, “His statement (ﷺ), ‘they say ‘If the people are good, then we will be good, but if they are unjust, then we will be unjust’’ is a clarification and explanation of al-imma’ah; because the meaning of his statement, ‘if the people are good‘ and ‘if they are unjust‘ is that we blindly follow the people in goodness and injustice and follow in their footsteps.”

( ولكن وطنوا أنفسكم إن أحسن الناس أن تحسنوا إلخ ) قال في القاموس : توطين النفس تمهيدها وتوطنها تمهدها انتهى 

Rather, make up your our minds ; if the people are good then you are also good, but if they are evil, then you do not behave unjustly“. Linguistically ‘to make make up one’s mind’ is the preparation of one’s self, and resolve, and conviction, from beginning to end.

قال الطيبي‏:‏ إن تحسنوا متعلق بقوله وطنوا، وجواب الشرط محذوف يدل عليه إن تحسنوا، والتقدير وطنوا أنفسكم على الإحسان إن أحسن الناس فأحسنوا وإن أساؤوا فلا تظلموا لأن عدم الظلم إحسان‏.‏

Al-Tayybi said, “The conditional clause ‘if you are good’ is omitted from the hadeeth, but it is related to his statement (ﷺ), ‘resolve (your own minds)’. And the implication is: make up your our minds upon ihsaan; if the people are good then you are also good, but if they are evil, then you do not behave unjustly – because the absence of injustice is ihsaan.

[Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi, #2015]