Fear the Fire Whose Fuel is Men and Stones: Tafsir al-Baghawi & Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In the beginning of surah al-Baqarah, Allah challenges the disbelievers that if they doubt the authenticity of the Qur’an to produce a single surah like it. He then follows this up by saying:

فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا وَلَن تَفْعَلُوا فَاتَّقُوا النَّارَ الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ ۖ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْكَافِرِينَ

But if you do not – and you will never be able to – then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers. [2:24]

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

ـ ( التي وقودها الناس والحجارة ) قال ابن عباس وأكثر المفسرين يعني حجارة الكبريت لأنها أكثر التهابا وقيل جميع الحجارة وهو دليل على عظمة تلك النار وقيل أراد بها الأصنام لأن أكثر أصنامهم كانت منحوتة من الحجارة كما قال ” إنكم وما تعبدون من دون الله حصب جهنم ” ( 98 – الأنبياء ) . ـ

 الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ

… whose fuel is men and stones

ibn ‘Abbaas and the majority of the mufassiroon have said that ‘stones‘ here means sulfur because sulfur is very prone to igniting and burning.

It is also said that it is referring to all kinds of stones and that this demonstrates the severity and intensity of this fire.

And it is also said that what is intended by ‘stones‘ here are idols because most of their idols used to be statues made of stone. This is like what Allah said: Continue reading


The Prohibition of Music in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Near the beginning of surah Luqman, Allah says what can be literally translated as:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَشْتَرِي لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ لِيُضِلَّ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ وَيَتَّخِذَهَا هُزُوًا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ

And among the people are those who purchase idle talk in order to mislead others from the path of Allah without knowledge and who take it as a mockery. For these ones, there is a humiliating punishment [31:6]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, the great mufassir imam Muhammad al-Qurtubi explained this ayah according to the understanding of the salaf by writing:

و ( لهو الحديث ) : الغناء ; في قول ابن مسعود وابن عباس وغيرهما . النحاس : وهو ممنوع بالكتاب والسنة ; والتقدير : من يشتري ذا لهو أو ذات لهو ; مثل : واسأل القرية . أو يكون التقدير : لما كان إنما اشتراها يشتريها ويبالغ في ثمنها كأنه اشتراها للهو . ـ

The phrase:

لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ

“idle talk”

means music. This is according to the statements of ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbaas, and others.

al-Nahhaas said: Music is prohibited according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

قلت : هذه إحدى الآيات الثلاث التي استدل بها العلماء على كراهة الغناء والمنع منه . والآية الثانية قوله تعالى : وأنتم سامدون . قال ابن عباس : هو الغناء بالحميرية ; اسمدي لنا ; أي غني لنا . ـ

I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say: This is one of three ayaat in the Qur’an which the scholars use as evidence for the position that music is something hated and prohibited. The second ayah is Allah’s statement: Continue reading

Fear a trial which will not only afflict the wrongdoers: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah says in surah al-Anfaal:

وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَّا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنكُمْ خَاصَّةً ۖ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ

And exercise fear and caution of a trial which will not only afflict those of you who have done wrong, and know that Allah is severe in penalty. (8:25)

In his book of tafsir, Imam ِAbu ‘Abdullah Muhammad al-Qurtubi mentioned the following points:

قال ابن عباس : أمر الله المؤمنين ألا يقروا المنكر بين أظهرهم فيعمهم العذاب . وكذلك تأول فيها الزبير بن العوام فإنه قال يوم الجمل ، وكان سنة ست وثلاثين : ما علمت أنا أردنا بهذه الآية إلا اليوم ، وما كنت أظنها إلا فيمن خوطب ذلك الوقت . وكذلك تأول الحسن البصري والسدي وغيرهما . قال السدي : نزلت الآية في أهل بدر خاصة ; فأصابتهم الفتنة يوم الجمل فاقتتلوا . وقال ابن عباس رضي الله عنه : نزلت هذه الآية في أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : وقال : أمر الله المؤمنين ألا يقروا المنكر فيما بينهم فيعمهم الله بالعذاب . وعن حذيفة بن اليمان قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : يكون بين ناس من أصحابي فتنة يغفرها الله لهم بصحبتهم إياي يستن بهم فيها ناس بعدهم يدخلهم الله بها النار . ـ

Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “Allah commanded the believers not to accept for wrongdoing to become widespread among them, for then He would encompass them all with punishment.”

Al-Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwaam interpreted this ayah in a similar manner, for on the day of the Battle of al-Jamal – which was in the 36th year after the Hijrah – he said, “I never knew that I was the subject of this ayah until today. I thought it was only referring to those who were being addressed at the time of its initial revelation [i.e. the Battle of Badr].” al-Hasan al-Basri, al-Suddi, and others also interpreted it this way. al-Suddi said, “This ayah was revealed specifically regarding the people of the Battle of Badr, then they were afflicted with that fitnah on the Day of al-Jamal and they fell into fighting one another.”

Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “This ayah was revealed regarding the Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ)”, and he also said, “Allah commanded the believers not to allow wrongdoing to become accepted among them, for then Allah would subsume them all in punishment.” Continue reading

Did Fir’awn claim divinity, or worship other gods?: al-Shawkaani, al-Qurtubi, & al-Baghawi

In surah al-A’raaf, Allah says:

وَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ أَتَذَرُ مُوسَىٰ وَقَوْمَهُ لِيُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَيَذَرَكَ وَآلِهَتَكَ ۚ قَالَ سَنُقَتِّلُ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَنَسْتَحْيِي نِسَاءَهُمْ وَإِنَّا فَوْقَهُمْ قَاهِرُونَ

The chiefs of Fir’awn’s people said: “Will you leave Moosaa and his people to spread mischief in the land, and to abandon you and your gods?” He said: “We will kill their sons, and let live their women, and we have indeed irresistible power over them.” [7:127]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani briefly mentioned a question that arises from a careful reading of this ayah in his tafsir where he wrote:

واختلف المفسرون في معنى وآلهتك لكون فرعون كان يدعي الربوبية كما في قوله: ما علمت لكم من إله غيري، وقوله: أنا ربكم فقيل: معنى وآلهتك: وطاعتك، وقيل: معناه: وعبادتك، ويؤيده قراءة علي وابن عباس، والضحاك “وإلهتك” وفي حرف أبي “أتذر موسى وقومه ليفسدوا في الأرض وقد تركوك أن يعبدوك” وقيل: إنه كان يعبد بقرة، وقيل: كان يعبد النجوم، وقيل: كان له أصنام يعبدها قومه تقربا إليه فنسبت إليه ولهذا قال: أنا ربكم الأعلى. قاله الزجاج، وقيل: كان يعبد الشمس . ـ

The scholars of tafsir have differed regarding the meaning of “your gods” due to the fact that Fir’awn used to claim lordship for himself, such as in his statement:

مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيْرِي

I know of no other god for you besides me [28:38]

as well as his saying:

أَنَا رَبُّكُمُ

I am your lord… [79:24]

Some said the meaning of “aalihatak” [lit. “your gods”] is: obedience to you. And others said its meaning is: worship of you. This understanding is supported by a variant recitation (qiraa’ah) transmitted from ‘Ali, ibn ‘Abbaas and al-Dhahhaak:


wa ilaahatak

… and your divinity …

as well as what comes in the variant dialect (harf) recitation of Ubay:

 أَتَذَرُ مُوسَى وَقَوْمَهُ لِيُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَقَدْ تَرَكُوكَ أَنْ يَعْبُدُوكَ

… Will you leave Moosaa and his people to spread mischief in the land while they have abandoned you and worshiping you? … Continue reading

The Most Hope-Inspiring Ayah in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In surah al-Noor, in the midst of the ayaat revealed regarding the slander of the Mother of the Believers, ‘Aa’ishah bint Abi Bakr, Allah said:

وَلَا يَأْتَلِ أُولُو الْفَضْلِ مِنكُمْ وَالسَّعَةِ أَن يُؤْتُوا أُولِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَالْمُهَاجِرِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَلْيَعْفُوا وَلْيَصْفَحُوا ۗ أَلَا تُحِبُّونَ أَن يَغْفِرَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

And let not those of virtue and wealth among you and swear not to give [aid] to their relatives and the needy and the emigrants for the cause of Allah. Let them pardon and overlook. Wouldn’t you like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. [24:22]

In part of his commentary of the ayaat regarding the slander, Imam al-Qurtubi mentioned the following beneficial discussion related to this ayah:

 السادسة والعشرون : قال بعض العلماء : هذه أرجى آية في كتاب الله تعالى ، من حيث لطف الله بالقذفة العصاة بهذا اللفظ . وقيل . أرجى آية في كتاب الله – عز وجل – قوله تعالى : وبشر المؤمنين بأن لهم من الله فضلا كبيرا . وقد قال تعالى في آية أخرى : والذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات في روضات الجنات لهم ما يشاءون عند ربهم ذلك هو الفضل الكبير ؛ فشرح الفضل الكبير في هذه الآية ، وبشر به المؤمنين في تلك . ومن آيات الرجاء قوله تعالى : قل يا عبادي الذين أسرفوا على أنفسهم . وقوله تعالى : الله لطيف بعباده . وقال بعضهم : أرجى آية في كتاب الله – عز وجل – : ولسوف يعطيك ربك فترضى ؛ وذلك أن رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – لا يرضى ببقاء أحد من أمته في النار . ـ

Point #16: Some of the scholars have said: This is the most hope-inspiring ayah in the entire Qur’an, from the angle of Allah’s kindness towards disobedient slanderous ones found in this phrase.

Others have said: The most hope-inspiring in the Qur’an is His statement:

وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ بِأَنَّ لَهُم مِّنَ اللَّـهِ فَضْلًا كَبِيرًا

And give good tidings to the believers that they will have a great bounty from Allah. [33:47]

And in another ayah, Allah said: Continue reading

“And do not be like those who say, ‘We have heard,’ while they do not hear”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In surah al-Anfal, Allah commands the believers by saying:

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُونَ

And do not be like those who say, “We have heard,” while they do not hear. [8:21]

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

قوله تعالى : ولا تكونوا كالذين قالوا سمعنا أي كاليهود أو المنافقين أو المشركين . وهو من سماع الأذن . وهم لا يسمعون أي لا يتدبرون ما سمعوا ، ولا يفكرون فيه ، فهم بمنزلة من لم يسمع وأعرض عن الحق . نهى المؤمنين أن يكونوا مثلهم . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا

And do not be like those who say, “We have heard…” [8:21]

such as the Jews, the Munaafiqoon [hypocrites], and the Mushrikoon [polytheists]. And this is referring to the literal hearing of one’s ears. They are those who do not hear – meaning: they do not consider or reflect on what they have heard. So these ones are just like those who did not hear (at all) and who turn away from the truth. Allah prohibited the believer from being like them.

Continue reading

Those who come to Allah with a Pure Heart: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In surah al-Shu’araa’, the prophet Ibrahim made a du’aa in which he described the Day of Judgement by saying:

يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ * إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّـهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

The Day wherein neither wealth nor sons will avail, * Except him who brings to Allah a qalb saleem [pure heart] (26:88-89)

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

قوله تعالى : يوم لا ينفع مال ولا بنون ( يوم ) بدل من ( يوم ) الأول . أي يوم لا ينفع مال ولا بنون أحدا . والمراد بقوله : ” ولا بنون ” الأعوان ; لأن الابن إذا لم ينفع فغيره متى ينفع ؟ وقيل : ذكر البنين لأنه جرى ذكر والد إبراهيم ، أي لم ينفعه إبراهيم . ـ

Allah’s statement:

يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ

The Day wherein neither wealth nor sons will avail

– meaning, a day on which neither wealth nor sons will benefit anyone. And the intended meaning of his statement, “nor sons” is helpers, because if sons do not help you, then who else will? And some say, “he mentioned sons here because it comes along with mentioning Ibrahim’s father” – i.e. Ibrahim will not benefit him.

 إلا من أتى الله بقلب سليم هو استثناء من الكافرين ; أي لا ينفعه ماله ولا بنوه . وقيل : هو استثناء من غير الجنس ، أي لكن من أتى الله بقلب سليم ينفعه لسلامة قلبه . ـ

إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّـهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

Except him who brings to Allah a qalb saleem [pure heart]

This is an exclusion of the disbelievers, i.e. their wealth and sons will not benefit them. But others say it is an exclusion without any exception, i.e. (on that day neither wealth nor sons will benefit) however whoever comes to Allah with a qalb saleem [pure heart] will benefit from the purity of his heart.

وخص القلب بالذكر ; لأنه الذي إذا سلم سلمت الجوارح ، وإذا فسد فسدت سائر الجوارح . وقد تقدم في أول ( البقرة ) . ـ

And the heart is mentioned specifically here because it is that which, if it is pure then one’s limbs are pure, but if it is corrupted then the rest of one’s limbs are corrupted. And this has already been mentioned in the beginning of surah al-Baqarah. Continue reading

The Reckoning for the Believers will End in the Middle of the Day: Imam al-Shinqitee

In his book dedicated to responding to supposed contradictions or problematic passages of the Qur’an, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee brought the following section in his treatment of surah al-Furqaan:

قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى: أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ يَوْمَئِذٍ خَيْرٌ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَأَحْسَنُ مَقِيلًا. هَذِهِ الْآيَةُ الْكَرِيمَةُ تَدُلُّ عَلَى انْقِضَاءِ الْحِسَابِ فِي نِصْفِ نَهَارٍ، لِأَنَّ الْمَقِيلَ لِلْقَيْلُولَةِ أَوْ مَكَانِهَا، وَهِيَ الِاسْتِرَاحَةُ نِصْفَ النَّهَارِ فِي الْحَرِّ . ـ

Allah’s statement:

أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ يَوْمَئِذٍ خَيْرٌ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَأَحْسَنُ مَقِيلًا

The dwellers of Paradise will, on that Day, have the best abode, and have the fairest of resting-places [25:24]

This noble ayah shows that the conclusion of the reckoning [on the Day of Judgement] will be in the middle of the day, because al-maqeel (resting-place) refers to a qaylulah or the place where one takes a qaylulah. And a qaylulah is period of rest in the middle of the day during the hottest part of the day.

وَمِمَّنْ قَالَ بِانْقِضَاءِ الْحِسَابِ فِي نِصْفِ نَهَارٍ: ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ وَابْنُ مَسْعُودٍ وَعِكْرِمَةُ وَابْنُ جُبَيْرٍ لِدَلَالَةِ هَذِهِ الْآيَةِ عَلَى ذَلِكَ، كَمَا نَقَلَهُ عَنْهُمُ ابْنُ كَثِيرٍ وَغَيْرُهُ . ـ

And among those who said that the conclusion of the reckoning will be in the middle of the day were ibn ‘Abbaas, ibn Mas’ood, ‘Ikrimah, and ibn Jubayr based on the evidence of this ayah in support of that position. This is as ibn Kathir and others transmitted that from them[1].

وَفِي تَفْسِيرِ الْجَلَالَيْنَ مَا نَصُّهُ: وَأُخِذَ مِنْ ذَلِكَ انْقِضَاءُ الْحِسَابِ فِي نِصْفِ نَهَارٍ، كَمَا وَرَدَ فِي حَدِيثٍ، انْتَهَى مِنْهُ، مَعَ أَنَّهُ تَعَالَى ذَكَرَ أَنَّ مِقْدَارَ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ خَمْسُونَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ فِي قَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى: فِي يَوْمٍ كَانَ مِقْدَارُهُ خَمْسِينَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ [70 \ 4] . ـ

And in Tafsir al-Jalalayn is the text, “And it is derived from this that the conclusion of the reckoning will be in the middle of the day, as is mentioned in a hadeeth[2],” end quote. All of this while also bearing in mind that Allah mentioned that the length of the Day of Judgement will be fifty thousand years in His statement:

فِي يَوْمٍ كَانَ مِقْدَارُهُ خَمْسِينَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ

… during a Day the extent of which is fifty thousand years [70:4]

وَالظَّاهِرُ فِي الْجَوَابِ: أَنْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَطُولُ عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ وَيَقْصُرُ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ، وَيُشِيرُ لِهَذَا قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى بَعْدَ هَذَا بِقَلِيلٍ: الْمُلْكُ يَوْمَئِذٍ الْحَقُّ لِلرَّحْمَنِ وَكَانَ يَوْمًا عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ عَسِيرًا [25 \ 26] فَتَخْصِيصُهُ عُسْرَ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ بِالْكَافِرِينَ يَدُلُّ عَلَى أَنَّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ لَيْسُوا كَذَلِكَ، وَقَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى: فَذَلِكَ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَوْمٌ عَسِيرٌ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ غَيْرُ يَسِيرٍ [74 \ 9 – 10] ، يَدُلُّ بِمَفْهُومِهِ أَيْضًا عَلَى أَنَّهُ يَسِيرٌ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ غَيْرُ عَسِيرٍ. كَمَا دَلَّ عَلَيْهِ قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى: مُهْطِعِينَ إِلَى الدَّاع يَقُولُ الْكَافِرُونَ هَذَا يَوْمٌ عَسِرٌ [54 \ 8] ـ

And what is apparent in terms of a resolution is: that the Day of Judgement is lengthy for the disbelievers and shortened for the believers, and this is indicated by Allah’s statement which comes shortly after the initial one [in surah al-Furqaan]: Continue reading

The Meaning of the Title “al-Maseeh”

In his book of tafsir, Imam al-Shawkaani brought the following discussion about the meaning of the term al-Maseeh (the Messiah). Imam al-Shawkaani generally borrowed heavily – even word for word – from Imam al-Qurtubi’s linguistic discussions, often summarizing and simplifying them into a list format. Some supplementary notes from al-Qurtubi will be mentioned here in brackets [] for the sake of clarity:

[والمسيح لقب لعيسى ومعناه الصديق ; قاله إبراهيم النخعي . ـ]

[al-Maseeh is a title for ‘Eesaa (Jesus) and its meaning is al-Siddeeq (“the truthful one”) – this is what Ibrahim al-Nakha’ee said.]

والمسيح اختلف فيه مماذا أخذ ؟ فقيل : من المسح ; لأنه مسح الأرض ; أي : ذهب فيها فلم يستكن بكن ، وقيل : إنه كان لا يمسح ذا عاهة إلا برئ ، فسمي مسيحا ، فهو على هذين فعيل بمعنى فاعل ، ـ

al-Maseeh – there is differing as to where it was derived. So it is said: (it was derived) from al-mash (wiping), for he swept over the earth, meaning he traversed over it and did not take residence in any dwelling place.

And it is said: It was the case that he would not touch someone with an infirmity except that they would be cured, so he was called Maseeh.

So according to these two meaning, it takes the form of an adjective with the meaning of an active participle. Continue reading

Prophets with multiple names and the meaning of “Israa’eel”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Imam al-Qurtubi wrote the following under his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah (2:40):

وإسرائيل هو يعقوب بن إسحاق بن إبراهيم عليهم السلام قال أبو الفرج الجوزي ، وليس في الأنبياء من له اسمان غيره إلا نبينا محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم فإن له أسماء كثيرة ذكره في كتاب ” فهوم الآثار ” له . ـ

“Israa’eel” is Ya’qub ibn Ishaaq ibn Ibrahim (‘alaihim al-salaam), as Abu’l-Faraj al-Jawzi said. [And he also said:] “And other than him, there are no prophets which have two names other than our prophet, Muhammad (ﷺ)”, for indeed he had many names which he mentioned in the book “Fuhoom al-Aathaar“.

قلت : وقد قيل في المسيح إنه اسم علم لعيسى عليه السلام غير مشتق وقد سماه الله روحا وكلمة ، وكانوا يسمونه أبيل الأبيلين ذكره الجوهري في الصحاح . ـ

I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say: It has been said that al-Maseeh (the Messiah) is a proper name for ‘Eesaa (Jesus) (‘alaihi al-salaam) which is not derived. And Allah has named him as “Rooh” and “Kalimah“. And al-Jawhari mentioned in “al-Sihhaah” that Abeel (Abel) was named “Abeeleen”.

وذكر البيهقي في ” دلائل النبوة ” عن الخليل بن أحمد : خمسة من الأنبياء ذوو اسمين محمد وأحمد نبينا صلى الله عليه وسلم وعيسى والمسيح وإسرائيل ويعقوب ويونس وذو النون وإلياس وذو الكفل صلى الله عليهم وسلم . ـ

And al-Bayhaqi mention in “Dalaa’il al-Nubuwwah” on the authority of al-Khaleel ibn Ahmad, “Out of the Prophets, there are five who possess two names: Muhammad and Ahmad – our prophet (ﷺ); ‘Eesaa and al-Maseeh; Israa’eel and Ya’qub; Yunus and Dhu’l-Noon; and Ilyaas and Dhu’l-Kifl.” Continue reading