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

A Central Theme of Surah al-An’aam: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

After discussing a number of statements from the salaf regarding the revelation and themes of surah al-An’aam, Imam al-Qurtubi then wrote:

تنبيه : قال العلماء : هذه السورة أصل في محاجة المشركين وغيرهم من المبتدعين ومن كذب بالبعث والنشور وهذا يقتضي إنزالها جملة واحدة لأنها في معنى واحد من الحجة وإن تصرف ذلك بوجوه كثيرة . ـ

A Note: the scholars have said that this surah is the foundation for arguing against the Mushrikoon, as well as others such as innovators and anyone who denies the resurrection and gathering of the dead. That is why this surah was revealed all at once, because it all centers around one message of making an argument, even if the surah pursues that goal in a number of different ways. Continue reading

A Point on Promises in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shawkaani, al-Qurtubi & al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah al-Baqarah:

الشَّيْطَانُ يَعِدُكُمُ الْفَقْرَ وَيَأْمُرُكُم بِالْفَحْشَاءِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ يَعِدُكُم مَّغْفِرَةً مِّنْهُ وَفَضْلًا ۗ وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

The shaytaan promises you poverty and commands you to commit immoralities, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is rich and all-knowing. [2:268]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, Imam al-Shawkaani wrote:

الوعد في كلام العرب إذا أطلق فهو في الخير ، وإذا قيد فقد يقيد تارة بالخير وتارة بالشر . ومنه قوله تعالى : النار وعدها الله الذين كفروا [ الحج : 72 ] ومنه أيضا ما في هذه الآية من تقييد وعد الشيطان بالفقروتقييد وعد الله سبحانه بالمغفرة ، والفضل . ـ

In the Arabic language, al-Wa’d – a promise – on its own is only used to refer to something good, but if what has been promised is specified in some way then the specification could sometimes be something good and other times be something bad.

An example of the this is Allah’s statement:

النَّارُ وَعَدَهَا اللَّـهُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا

It is the fire which Allah has promised for those who disbelieve [22:72]

This is also the case in this ayah [i.e. 2:268] as it has specified that the shaytaan’s promise is for poverty and it has specified that Allah’s promise is for forgiveness and bounty. 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

“Like a Donkey Carrying Books”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Jumu’ah:

مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا ۚ بِئْسَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ

The likeness of those who were made to carry the Tawrah and then did not carry it is like that of a donkey carrying volumes. How wretched is the likeness of a people who deny the signs of Allah. And Allah does not guide the wrong-doers. [62:5]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, Sheikh Muhammad al-Qurtubi wrote:

ضرب مثلا لليهود لما تركوا العمل بالتوراة ولم يؤمنوا بمحمد صلى الله عليه وسلم . حملوا التوراة أي كلفوا العمل بها ; عن ابن عباس . وقال الجرجاني : هو من الحمالة بمعنى الكفالة ; أي ضمنوا أحكام التوراة . ـ

Allah struck a parable of the Jews regarding how they stopped following the Tawrah and did not believe in Muhammad.

حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ

… made to carry the Tawrah …

that is, charged with acting in accordance with it, according to the explanation of ibn ‘Abbaas. al-Jarjani said: “carrying” here takes the meaning of “entrusted with”, i.e. charged with legal rulings of the Tawrah.

كمثل الحمار يحمل أسفارا هي جمع سفر ، وهو الكتاب الكبير ; لأنه يسفر عن المعنى إذا قرئ . قال ميمون بن مهران : الحمار لا يدري أسفر على ظهره أم زنبيل ; فهكذا اليهود . وفي هذا تنبيه من الله تعالى لمن حمل الكتاب أن يتعلم معانيه ويعلم ما فيه ; لئلا يلحقه من الذم ما لحق هؤلاء . ـ

كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا

… like that of a donkey carrying asfar.

Continue reading

Those Who Seek Forgiveness in the Last Part of the Night: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In part of surah Aal ‘Imraan, Allah describes His believing slaves with the following characteristics:

الصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْمُنفِقِينَ وَالْمُسْتَغْفِرِينَ بِالْأَسْحَارِ

The patient ones, the truthful ones, the devout ones, those who spend, and those who seek forgiveness in the last part of the night. [3:17]

Imam al-Qurtubi began his commentary on this ayah by writing:

الصابرين يعني عن المعاصي والشهوات ، وقيل : على الطاعات . والصادقين أي في الأفعال والأقوال والقانتين الطائعين . والمنفقين يعني في سبيل الله . وقد تقدم في البقرة هذه المعاني على الكمال . ففسر تعالى في هذه الآية أحوال المتقين الموعودين بالجنات .ـ

الصَّابِرِينَ

The patient ones …

i.e. those who steadfastly abstain from acts of disobedience and lusts. And some explained it as those who steadfastly perform acts of obedience.

وَالصَّادِقِينَ

… and the truthful ones …

i.e. those who are truthful in their actions and statements

وَالْقَانِتِينَ

… and the devout ones …

i.e. the obedient ones Continue reading

Assorted Qur’an Benefits #37

The following short quotes and excerpts were originally published on our social media channels during November 2019:

♦ Those Who Recite the Qur’an but Do Not Know its Tafsir

In part of the introduction to his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Qurtubi mentioned the following statement:
وقال إياس بن معاوية : مثل الذين يقرءون القرآن وهم لا يعلمون تفسيره كمثل قوم جاءهم كتاب من ملكهم ليلا وليس عندهم مصباح فتداخلتهم روعة ولا يدرون ما في الكتاب ومثل الذي يعرف التفسير كمثل رجل جاءهم بمصباح فقرءوا ما في الكتاب. ـ
Iyaas ibn Mu’awiyah said, “Those who recite the Qur’an but do not know its tafsir are like a people who received a letter from their king during the night but do not have any lamp with them, so alarm comes over them and they do not know what the letter contains. But one who knows its tafsir is like a man who brings them a lamp so that they can read what the letter contains.”
[Tafsir al-Qurtubi 1/41]

♦ A Light for the Munafiqoon

Allah describes the munafiqoon in surah al-Nisaa’ by saying:

إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ يُخَادِعُونَ اللَّـهَ وَهُوَ خَادِعُهُمْ

Indeed, the hypocrites [think to] deceive Allah, but He is deceiving them. [4:142]

In his explanation of this, Imam al-Qurtubi mentioned the following narration: Continue reading

Allah’s Comparison of the Dunya and Water: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In surah al-Kahf, Allah presents the following comparison:

وَاضْرِ‌بْ لَهُم مَّثَلَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْ‌ضِ فَأَصْبَحَ هَشِيمًا تَذْرُ‌وهُ الرِّ‌يَاحُ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُّقْتَدِرً‌ا

And strike an example of the life of this world for: It is like water which We send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth mingles with it. Then it becomes dry remnants, scattered by the winds. And Allah holds power over all things [18:45]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, Imam al-Qurtubi wrote:

وقالت الحكماء : إنما شبه – تعالى – الدنيا بالماء لأن الماء لا يستقر في موضع ، كذلك الدنيا لا تبقى على واحد ، ولأن الماء لا يستقيم على حالة واحدة كذلك الدنيا ، ولأن الماء لا يبقى ويذهب كذلك الدنيا تفنى ، ولأن الماء لا يقدر أحد أن يدخله ولا يبتل كذلك الدنيا لا يسلم أحد دخلها من فتنتها وآفتها ، ولأن الماء إذا كان بقدر كان نافعا منبتا ، وإذا جاوز المقدار كان ضارا مهلكا ، وكذلك الدنيا الكفاف منها ينفع وفضولها يضر . ـ

Some of the wise ones have said: Allah only likened the life of this worldly life to water because:

1) Water does not does remain stable in any place, just as this worldly life does not remain in one place Continue reading

The Length of Surah al-Ahzab: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Imam al-Qurtubi began his tafsir of surah al-Ahzab with the following:

سورة الأحزاب
Surah al-Ahzab

مدنية في قول جميعهم . نزلت في المنافقين وإيذائهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، وطعنهم فيه وفي مناكحته وغيرها . وهي ثلات وسبعون آية . وكانت هذه السورة تعدل سورة البقرة . وكانت فيها آية الرجم : ( الشيخ والشيخة إذا زنيا فارجموهما البتة نكالا من الله والله عزيز حكيم ) ; ذكره أبو بكر الأنباري عن أبي بن كعب . وهذا يحمله أهل العلم على أن الله تعالى رفع من الأحزاب إليه ما يزيد على ما في أيدينا ، وأن آية الرجم رفع لفظها . وقد حدثنا أحمد بن الهيثم بن خالد قال حدثنا أبو عبيد القاسم بن سلام قال حدثنا ابن أبي مريم عن ابن لهيعة عن أبي الأسود عن عروة عن عائشة قالت : كانت سورة الأحزاب تعدل على عهد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مائتي آية ، فلما كتب المصحف لم يقدر منها إلا على ما هي الآن . قال أبو بكر : فمعنى هذا من قول أم المؤمنين عائشة : أن الله تعالى رفع إليه من سورة الأحزاب ما يزيد على ما عندنا . ـ

It is a Madani surah according to consensus. It was revealed regarding the munafiqoon and their harm, abuse and insults, etc. towards Allah’s Messenger.

It is 73 ayaat long, but this surah used to be equal in length to surah al-Baqarah, and it used to contain the Ayah of Stoning. That is

الشيخ والشيخة إذا زنيا فارجموهما البتة نكالا من الله والله عزيز حكيم

And adult man and the adult woman – if they commit adultery, then stone them both completely. This is an edifying punishment from Allah, and Allah is Almighty, All Wise.

Abu Bakr al-Anbari mentioned this on the authority of Ubay ibn Ka’b.

The scholars have taken this to mean that Allah lifted whatever was beyond the amount of surah al-Ahzab that we have today back to Himself and that the wording of the Ayah of Stoning was lifted [i.e. it is no longer part of the Qur’an].

… A’ishah said: 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