Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 243-252: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the twenty-sixth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 243-252. This section recounts some stories of previous nations related to obeying Allah’s commands, fighting in Allah’s cause, and Allah’s great power and support for the believers. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ خَرَجُوا مِن دِيَارِهِمْ وَهُمْ أُلُوفٌ حَذَرَ الْمَوْتِ فَقَالَ لَهُمُ اللَّهُ مُوتُوا ثُمَّ أَحْيَاهُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ

Haven’t you seen those who left their homes in the thousands fearing death? Allah said to them, “Die,” and then he brought them back to life. Allah is certainly full of bounty to mankind, however most people are not grateful.  [2:243]

ألم تعلم- أيها الرسول- قصة الذين فرُّوا من أرضهم ومنازلهم، وهم ألوف كثيرة؛ خشية الموت من الطاعون أو القتال، فقال لهم الله: موتوا، فماتوا دفعة واحدة عقوبة على فرارهم من قدر الله، ثم أحياهم الله تعالى بعد مدة؛ ليستوفوا آجالهم، وليتعظوا ويتوبوا؟ إن الله لذو فضل عظيم على الناس بنعمه الكثيرة، ولكن أكثر الناس لا يشكرون فضل الله عليهم.ـ

243. Do you – O Messenger – know the story of those who fled their homeland and their houses, numbering in the many thousands? They fled out of fear of a plague or war. Allah said to them, “Die”, so they all died at once as a punishment for fleeing from Allah’s decree. Then, after some period of time, Allah brought them back to life so they could complete the terms of their lives and so they could learn a lesson and repent. Allah is certainly full of tremendous bounty to mankind with the abundant blessings He gives, however many people are not grateful for the bounties that Allah gives them.

وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

And fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah is hearing and knowing. [2:244]

وقاتلوا- أيها المسلمون- الكفار لنصرة دين الله، واعلموا أن الله سميع لأقوالكم، عليم بنيَّاتكم وأعمالكم. ـ

244. And fight – O Muslims – the disbelievers in order to support Allah’s religion, and know that Allah hears your statements and knows your intentions and your actions.

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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.

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A Subtle Point in Surah al-Nisaa’: Tafsir al-Shawkani

In the middle of surah al-Nisaa’, Allah describes a number of the deeds meriting punishment, the qualities of those who call to and partake in these deeds and their ultimate destination [4:115-121] before describing the people of al-Jannah and their qualities and then mentioning:

وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ دِينًا مِّمَّنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ لِلَّـهِ وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ وَاتَّبَعَ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا ۗ وَاتَّخَذَ اللَّـهُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ خَلِيلًا

And who is better in religion than one who submits himself to Allah while being a doer of good and follows the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth? And Allah took Abraham as an intimate friend. [4:125]

Allah then follows that ayah up immediately by seeming to turn to a new subject:

وَلِلَّـهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُّحِيطًا

And to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And ever is Allah, of all things, encompassing. [4:126]

Before then turning to yet another subject in the very next ayah, beginning with:

وَيَسْتَفْتُونَكَ فِي النِّسَاءِ

And they ask you [O Muhammad] for a legal verdict regarding the women … [4:127]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani points out a subtle connection between ayahs 125 and 126 in his tafsir where he wrote:

ولله ما في السماوات وما في الأرض فيه إشارة إلى أنه سبحانه اتخذ إبراهيم خليلا لطاعته لا لحاجته ولا للتكثر به والاعتضاد بمخاللته وكان الله بكل شيء محيطا هذه الجملة مقررة لمعنى الجملة التي قبلها ؛ أي : أحاط علمه بكل شيء لا يغادر صغيرة ولا كبيرة إلا أحصاها [ الكهف : 49 ] ـ

وَلِلَّـهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ

And to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth.

This indicates that Allah took Ibrahim as a close friend due to his obedience, not due to any need of him or to increase His ranks or gain any support from his friendship. 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

Principles and Examples of Analyzing the Themes of a Surah: al-Shatibi

In part of a longer discussion of understanding the context of the Qur’an and its intended meaning, Imam ِAbu Ishaq Ibrahim al-Shatibi provided some beneficial words regarding how to analyze the theme of a surah and an enlightening example of this process in action regarding surah al-Mu’minoon (23):

فالذي يكون على بال من المستمع والمتفهم والالتفات إلى أول الكلام وآخره بحسب القضية وما اقتضاه الحال فيها لا ينظر في أولها دون آخرها ولا في آخرها دون أولها فإن القضية وإن اشتملت على جمل فبعضها متعلق بالبعض لأنها قضية واحدة نازلة فى شيء واحد فلا محيص للمتفهم عن رد آخر الكلام على أوله وأوله على آخره وإذ ذاك يحصل مقصود الشارع فى فهم المكلف

The through-line of an address from its beginning to its end through all of its different topics is a central concern of anyone listening and trying to understand. One does not look at the beginning of a text while ignoring the end or at the end while ignoring the beginning, for even if the topic includes many different sections, each section is connected to the others since there is one central topic throughout. So anyone trying to understand a text cannot avoid referring the end of a text back to the beginning and connecting the beginning to the end. If one follows the through-line, he will grasp the meaning that Allah intended for the recipients to understand.

فإن فرق النظر فى أجزائه فلا يتوصل به إلى مراده فلا يصح الاقتصار في النظر على بعض أجزاء الكلام دون بعض إلا في موطن واحد وهو النظر في فهم الظاهر بحسب اللسان العربي وما يقتضيه لا بحسب مقصود المتكلم

If one analyzes the different sections in isolation, he will not be able to grasp the overall meaning. That is why it is not a sound approach to limit one’s analysis to one part of a text to the exclusion of the rest. There is only one exception to that rule, which is when analyzing the surface-level meaning from a linguistic perspective and what that conveys, not when one is searching for the overarching meaning intended by the speaker.

وقد يعينه على هذا المقصد النظر فى أسباب التنزيل فإنها تبين كثيرا من المواضع التي يختلف مغزاها على الناظر

Also, considering the circumstances surrounding the revelation may help one to understand the through-line, for that will clarify many instances in which the intended meaning is confusing to the reader. Continue reading

The Attention that the Salaf Gave to the Context of an Ayah

In the midst of discussing some of the narrations that show the attention that the salaf gave to understanding the themes of surahs, sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah (a professor at Umm al-Qura University, formerly at Qassim University) arranged the following points together:

ـ (الثالث) ما ورد عنهم من الأمر بمراعاة المقصود من كلام الله بالنظر لموضع الآية وسياقها. ـ
Third: The reports which indicate the importance that the salaf gave to the placement and context of an ayah in relation to understanding its meaning

ورد عن بعض السلف تأكيد على مراعاة الغرض المقصود من كلام الله تعالى بالنظر إلى الموضع الذي وردت فيه الآية وسياقها . ـ

It has been reported from some of the salaf that they emphasized paying attention to the intended purpose and meaning of Allah’s speech by considering the placement and context in which an ayah is located.

قال عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه: “إن هذا القرآن كلام الله عز وجل، فضعوه على مواضعه، ولا تتبعوا فيه أهواءكم” ))) . ـ

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “This Qur’an is the speech of Allah, so put things in their proper places and don’t follow your own whims regarding it.”

وقال ابن مسعود رضي الله عنه: “إذا سأل أحدكم صاحبه كيف يقرأ آية كذا وكذا، فليسله عما قبلها ” ))) . ـ

Ibn Mas’ood said, “If one of you asks his companion how he recites such-and-such ayah, he should ask him about what comes before it.”

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The Difference Between Humiliating Punishment and Great Punishment in the Qur’an: ibn Taymiyah

In one of his writings, ibn Taymiyah discusses a subtle difference between the use of the phrase “a humiliating punishment” [عَذَابُ مُهِين] and “a great punishment” [عَذَابُ عَظِيم] throughout the Qur’an, illustrating that “a humiliating punishment” is reserved for the disbelievers” while “a great punishment” could be applied to the disbelievers or believers:

قال إن الذين يؤذون الله ورسوله لعنهم الله في الدنيا والآخرة وأعد لهم عذابا مهينا ولم يجيء إعداد العذاب المهين في القرآن إلا في حق الكفار كقوله الذين يبخلون ويأمرون الناس بالبخل ويكتمون ما آتاهم الله من فضله وأعتدنا للكافرين عذابا مهينا وقوله وخذوا حذركم إن الله أعد للكافرين عذابا مهينا ـ

Allah said:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ عَذَابًا مُّهِينًا

Verily, those who affront Allah and His Messenger, Allah has cursed them in this world, and in the Hereafter, and has prepared a humiliating punishment for them. [33:57]

and preparing a humiliating punishment is only mentioned in the Qur’an in relation to the disbelievers. Take, for example, Allah’s statement:

الَّذِينَ يَبْخَلُونَ وَيَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبُخْلِ وَيَكْتُمُونَ مَا آتَاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ ۗ وَأَعْتَدْنَا لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابًا مُّهِينًا

Those who are miserly and enjoin miserliness on other men and hide what Allah has bestowed upon them of His Bounties. And We have prepared a humiliating punishment for the disbelievers. [4:37]

and His statement:

وَخُذُوا حِذْرَكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ أَعَدَّ لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابًا مُّهِينًا ‎

but take every precaution for yourselves. Verily, Allah has prepared a humiliating punishment for the disbelievers. [4:102]

وقوله فباؤوا بغضب على غضب وللكافرين عذاب مهين إنما نملي لهم ليزدادوا إثما ولهم عذاب مهين والذين كفروا وكذبوا بآياتنا فأولئك لهم عذاب مهين وإذا علم من آياتنا شيئا اتخذها هزوا أولئك لهم عذاب مهين وقد أنزلنا آيات بينات وللكافرين عذاب مهين اتخذا أيمانهم جنة فصدوا عن سبيل الله فلهم عذاب مهين ـ

And His statements:

فَبَاءُوا بِغَضَبٍ عَلَىٰ غَضَبٍ ۚ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ

So they have drawn on themselves wrath upon wrath. And for the disbelievers, there is a humiliating punishment. [2:90] Continue reading

Assorted Qur’an Benefits #43

The following are points of benefit originally posted on our social media channels during the month of April 2020:

♦ Qur’an Kareem

Allah swears in surah al-Waaqi’ah that:

إِنَّهُ لَقُرْآنٌ كَرِيمٌ

This is certainly a Qur’an kareem [56:77]

Imam al-Baghawi commented on this by writing:

ـ ( لقرآن كريم ) عزيز مكرم لأنه كلام الله . قال بعض أهل المعاني : الكريم الذي من شأنه أن يعطي الخير الكثير

A Qur’an kareem” – i.e. revered and honored, for it is the speech of Allah.

And some of the linguistic experts said that a person who is al-Kareem is one who, as a part of who he is, gives out great amounts of good.

[Tafsir al-Baghawi 8/22]

♦ The Meaning of Kanood

Allah says in surah al-‘Adiyat:

إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لِرَبِّهِ لَكَنُودٌ

Man is certainly kanood towards his Lord [100:06]

This word Kanood is usually translated as “ungrateful”. In part of his commentary on this ayah, Imam al-Baghawi mentioned the following explanations of this word from some of the salaf:

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“Niyyah” in the Qur’an: ibn Rajab

In part of his celebrated and exhaustive commentary on al-Arba’een al-Nawawi, al-haafidh ibn Rajab al-Hanbali mentioned the following important points regarding the one’s intention for worship and how this is discussed in the Qur’an:

واعلم أن النية في اللغة نوع من القصد والإرادة وإن كان قد فرق بين هذه الألفاظ بما ليس هذا موضع ذكره. ـ

You should know that the word “niyyah” linguistically refers to a type of intention or desire even if one could further delineate these terms, but now is not the time to go into that.

والنية في كلام العلماء تقع بمعنيين: ـ

When the scholars talk about niyyah it can have one of two meanings:

أحدهما: تمييز العبادات بعضها عن بعض كتمييز صلاة الظهر من صلاة العصر مثلًا وتمييز رمضان من صيام غيره أو تمييز العبادات من العادات كتمييز الغسل من الجنابة من غسل التبرد والتنظيف ونحو ذلك وهذه النية هي التي توجد كثيرًا في كلام الفقهاء في كتبهم. ـ

First: Distinguishing different acts of worship from one another, such as differentiating between the Thuhr prayer and the ‘Asr prayer or between fasting during Ramadan and fasting outside of it, or distinguishing an act of worship from an act of habit such as differentiating between a ghusl one takes to remove ritual impurity verses a bath one takes to cool off or wash up or the likes. It is this usage of the word “niyyah” that you will find most commonly in the speech and writings of the scholars of fiqh.

والمعنى الثاني: بمعنى تمييز المقصود بالعمل وهل هو لله وحده لا شريك له أم غيره أم لله وغيره وهذه هي النية التي يتكلم فيها العارفون في كتبهم في كلامهم على الإخلاص وتوابعه وهي التي توجد كثيرًا في كلام السلف المتقدمين . ـ

Second: That it comes with the meaning of distinguishing the intention behind one’s action: is it for Allah alone with not partners, or is it someone other than Allah, or for Allah and someone else simultaneously? This is the niyyah that those devoted to worship speak about in their writings and speeches, referring to ikhlaas and what accompanies that, and this is the usage of the word that you will find most commonly in the speech of the early generations of the salaf.

وقد صنف أبو بكر بن أبي الدنيا مصنفًا سماه كتاب الإخلاص والنية وإنما أراد هذه النية وهي النية التي يتكرر ذكرها في كلام النبي ﷺ تارة بلفظ النية وتارة بلفظ الإرادة وتارة بلفظ مقارب لذلك. ـ

Abu Bakr ibn Abi’l-Dunya wrote a book entitled Kitaab al-Ikhlaas wa’l-Niyyah which is strictly dealing with this second meaning of the word “niyyah“. This is the niyyah that is frequently referred to in the sayings of the Prophet, sometimes being referred to by the word “niyyah” itself, other times being referred to by the word “al-iraadah” – “want/desire” – and other times with other words of close meaning.

وقد جاء ذكرها كثيرًا في كتاب الله عز وجل بغير لفظ النية أيضًا من الألفاظ المقاربة لها… ـ

And this second meaning is also frequently mentioned in the Qur’an but without using the word “niyyah” itself and instead using other closely-related words …

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Memorizing the Qur’an and Applying it to Your Life: al-Sa’di

In the beginning of his book on the principles of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di included the following list of considerations for anyone seeking to memorize and understand the Qur’an:

فعلى الناس أن يتلقوا معني كلام الله كما تلقاه الصحابة رضي الله عنهم فإنهم كانوا إذا قرءوا عشر آيات، أو أقل أو أكثر، لم يتجاوزوها حتى يعرفوا ويحققوا ما دلت عليه من الإيمان والعلم والعمل، فينزلونها على الأحوال الواقعة يؤمنون بما احتوت عليه من العقائد والأخبار، وينقادون لأوامرها ونواهيها، ويطبقونها على جميع ما يشهدون من الحوادث والوقائع الموجودة بهم وبغيرهم، ويحاسبون أنفسهم: هل هم قائمون بها أو مخلون بحقوقها ومطلوبها؟ وكيف الطريق إلى الثبات على الأمور النافعة، وتدارك ما نقص منها؟ وكيف التخلص من الأمور الضارة؟ فيهتدون بعلومه، ويتخلقون بأخلاقه وآدابه، ويعلمون أنه خطاب من عالم الغيب والشهادة موجه إليهم، ومطالبون بمعرفة معانيه، والعمل بما يقتضيه. ـ

People should learn the meanings of Allah’s speech in the same way that the Sahabah learned them. Their way was that if they recited 10 ayaat – give or take -, they would not move past that amount until they understood and actualized the eemaan, knowledge and actions that those ayaat involved.

So they would apply those ayaat to their lives, believing in the beliefs and information they contained, complying with their commands and prohibitions, and put them into practice in any situations or events that happen to them or others.

And they would take themselves to task, asking: Am I living by these ayaat or have I fallen short in realizing and actualizing them? How can I become consistent in beneficial things and avoid falling short in that? How can I free myself from harmful matters? Continue reading