The Story of Saalih as explained by Mujahid and Qatadah

In addition to co-authoring Tafsir al-Jalalayn, sheikh Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti also has another book of tafsir to his name, entitled al-Durr al-Manthoor fee Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thoor. As one might suspect from the title, al-Durr al-Manthoor was dedicated to presenting the explanations of the Qur’an transmitted from the Prophet himself, his companions, and those who followed their way in the early generations.

What follows is an excerpt from his explanation of the story of the Prophet Saalih and his people as it comes in surah al-Nahl [27:45-53]. al-Suyooti collected a number of the statements from the two leading mufassiroon of the tabi’oon, Mujahid ibn Jabr and Qatadah ibn Di’amah, found in the previous books of narration-based tafsir and arranged them to present an explanation of the passage as a whole from each of these great figures.

As mentioned in a previous post, the early generations would often only explain those parts of an ayah which were not immediately clear to their audience. As such, the reader may find it helpful to have a mushaf and/or translation nearby to follow along with the entire passage:

قوله تعالى : ولقد أرسلنا إلى ثمود الآيات . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَىٰ ثَمُودَ

And We sent to Thamud … [27:45]

until the end of this passage [27:45-53].

أخرج الفريابي ، وابن أبي شيبة ، وعبد بن حميد ، وابن جرير ، وابن المنذر ، وابن أبي حاتم ، عن مجاهد في قوله : فإذا هم فريقان يختصمون قال : مؤمن وكافر؛ قولهم : صالح مرسل من ربه . وقولهم : ليس بمرسل . وفي قوله : لم تستعجلون بالسيئة قال : العذاب . قبل الحسنة قال : الرحمة . وفي قوله : قالوا اطيرنا بك قال : تشاءمنا . وفي قوله : وكان في المدينة تسعة رهط قال : من قوم صالح . وفي قوله : تقاسموا بالله قال : تحالفوا على هلاكه، فلم يصلوا إليه حتى هلكوا وقومهم أجمعين . ـ

al-Firyaabi, ibn Abi Shaybah, ‘Abd ibn Humayd, ibn Jarir [al-Tabari], ibn al-Mundhir, and ibn Abi Haatim reported the following from Mujahid:

فَإِذَا هُمْ فَرِيقَانِ يَخْتَصِمُونَ

… and at once they were two parties conflicting.[27:45]

meaning: believers and disbelievers. The first group said, “Saalih is sent from his Lord,” while the other group said, “He was not sent.” Continue reading

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Benefits of the Multiple Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

In his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti devoted a section to issues related to the qiraa’aat [modes of recitation] of the Qur’an. For an introduction to the qiraa’aat, please see here or here. What follows is one excerpt from that section discussing the benefits that come from the differences in the qiraa’aat:

وقال بعض المتأخرين : لاختلاف القراءات وتنوعها فوائد : ـ

One of the latter-day scholars said that there are a number of benefits that come from the differences and variations in the qiraa’aat:

منها التهوين والتسهيل والتخفيف على الأمة . ـ

○ One benefit is that this makes reciting the Qur’an easier, simpler, and less onerous for this ummah.

ـ [ ص: 275 ] ومنها إظهار فضلها وشرفها على سائر الأمم ، إذ لم ينزل كتاب غيرهم إلا على وجه واحد . ـ

○ Another benefit is clearly demonstrating the virtue and honor of this ummah above other nations, for the scriptures of those nations were only revealed in one way.

ومنها : إعظام أجرها ، من حيث إنهم يفرغون جهدهم في تحقيق ذلك وضبطه لفظة لفظة ، حتى مقادير المدات وتفاوت الإمالات ، ثم في تتبع معاني ذلك واستنباط الحكم والأحكام من دلالة كل لفظ ، وإمعانهم الكشف عن التوجيه والتعليل والترجيح . ـ

○ Another benefit is the increased reward, since one could devote their efforts to perfecting their recitation and getting each word exactly correct, and even going into the lengths of the mudood and difference in the imaalaat.

Furthermore, there is the opportunity to look into the meanings of these different recitations and to derive benefits and legal rulings from what each wording indicates. Delving into these differences and examining them reveals what the ayah actually indicates, the reasoning for a ruling, and assists in weighing the merits of different interpretations.
Continue reading

The Early History of the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

In his famous handbook to the Qur’anic sciences, al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included the following discussion in his chapter, “Knowing the Memorizers and Transmitters of the Qur’an”. In this excerpt, al-Suyooti gives a brief history of how the qiraa’aat that are widely-used today were meticulously passed down from teacher to student with chains of transmission going back to the Prophet until they became the list of the seven well-known qiraa’aat around the beginning of the fourth century after the Hijrah:

المشتهرون بإقراء القرآن من الصحابة سبعة : عثمان ، وعلي ، وأبي ، وزيد بن ثابت ، وابن مسعود ، وأبو الدرداء ، وأبو موسى الأشعري . كذا ذكرهم الذهبي في طبقات القراء . قال : وقد قرأ على أبي جماعة من الصحابة منهم أبو هريرة ، وابن عباس ، وعبد الله بن السائب وأخذ ابن عباس عن زيد أيضا وأخذ عنهم خلق من التابعين . ـ

The Sahabah most well-known for reciting the Qur’an were seven:

  • ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan
  • ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib
  • Ubay ibn Ka’b
  • Zayd ibn Thabit
  • ibn Mas’ood
  • Abu al-Dardaa’
  • Abu Moosaa al-Ash’ari

al-Dhahabi also mentioned these seven in his book, Tabaqaat al-Qurraa’.* He further said:

A number of the Sahabah also learned from Ubay, including Abu Hurayrah, ibn ‘Abbaas, and ‘Abdullah ibn al-Saa’ib. Ibn ‘Abbaas also learned from Zayd, and then a number of the Taabi’oon also learned from them.

فممن كان بالمدينة : ابن المسيب وعروة وسالم وعمر بن عبد العزيز وسليمان وعطاء بن يسار ، ومعاذ بن الحارث المعروف بمعاذ القارئ ، وعبد الرحمن بن هرمز الأعرج ، وابن شهاب الزهري ، ومسلم بن جندب ، وزيد بن أسلم . ـ

○ In al-Madinah, these Taabi’oon included: ibn al-Musayyib, ‘Urwah, Saalim, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, the brothers Sulayman and ‘Ataa’ ibn Yasaar, Mu’adh ibn al-Haarith – more commonly known as Mu’adh the reciter -, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Hurmuz al-A’raj, ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, Muslim ibn Jundub, and Zayd ibn Aslam.

وبمكة : عبيد بن عمير ، وعطاء بن أبي رباح ، وطاوس ، ومجاهد ، وعكرمة ، وابن أبي مليكة . ـ

○ In Mecca: ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr, ‘Ataa; ibn Abi Rabaah, Taawoos, Mujahid, ‘Ikrimah, and ibn Abi Mulaykah. Continue reading

Tafsir of the Qur’an and its Connection to the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

Sheikh Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti mentioned the following point in his famous manual of Qur’anic Sciences, al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an:

 من المهم معرفة التفاسير الواردة عن الصحابة بحسب قراءة مخصوصة ، وذلك أنه قد يرد عنهم تفسيران في الآية الواحدة مختلفان ، فيظن اختلافا وليس باختلاف ، وإنما كل تفسير على قراءة ، وقد تعرض السلف لذلك . ـ

An important issue is being aware that the explanations transmitted from the Sahaabah are according to specific qiraa’aat (variant recitations of the Qur’an). So because of that, perhaps there might be two different explanations of a single ayah and therefore one might think that these two explanations are in conflict when in fact there is no conflict – rather it is only that each one is an explanation of a particular recitation. And this is something which the salaf were aware of.

فأخرج ابن جرير في قوله تعالى : لقالوا إنما سكرت أبصارنا [ الحجر : 15 ] . من طرق عن ابن عباس وغيره أن سكرت بمعنى سدت ومن طرق أنها بمعنى أخذت . ـ

For in his explanation of Allah’s statement:

لَقَالُوا إِنَّمَا سُكِّرَتْ أَبْصَارُنَا

They would surely say, “our eyes have been sukkirat” [15:15]

ibn Jarir [al-Tabari] brought an explanation from ibn ‘Abbaas and others from more than one route of transmission that the word “sukkirat” carries the meaning of “sealed up”, while in other narrations also from ibn ‘Abbaas and also from multiple routes of transmission it comes that he held it to mean “enchanted”.

ثم أخرج عن قتادة قال : من قرأ سُكِّرَتْ مشددة ، فإنما يعني سدت ، ومن قرأ : سُكِرَتْ مخففة ، فإنه يعني سحرت ، وهذا الجمع من قتادة نفيس بديع . ـ

But then ibn Jarir brought an explanation from Qataadah who said: whoever recites it as “sukkirat” with a shaddah, this means “sealed up”, while whoever recites it as “sukirat” without a shaddah, this means “enchanted”. And this is a wonderful reconciliation of these two explanations by Qataadah. Continue reading

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

Qualities of the Successful Believers – Part 1/7: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah begins surah al-Mu’minoon with 11 ayaat describing the qualities of the successful believers and their ultimate reward. Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee broke his tafsir of these ayaat into seven sections, which we have translated and will publish as a series over the coming weeks. al-Shinqitee started his explanation of this passage by discussing the first two ayaat, as follows:

قوله تعالى : قد أفلح المؤمنون الذين هم في صلاتهم خاشعون ، ذكر – جل وعلا – في هذه الآيات التي ابتدأ بها أول هذه السورة علامات المؤمنين المفلحين فقال قد أفلح المؤمنون [ 23 \ 1 ] أي : فازوا وظفروا بخير الدنيا والآخرة . وفلاح المؤمنين مذكور ذكرا كثيرا في القرآن ; كقوله وبشر المؤمنين بأن لهم من الله فضلا كبيرا [ 33 \ 47 ]  ـ

Allah’s statement:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ * الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ

Indeed the believers have succeeded * Those who are characterized by khushoo’ in their salaah [23:1-2]

In these ayaat which begin this surah, Allah mentioned the signs of the successful believers, for He said:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ

Indeed the believers have succeeded

meaning: they have succeeded and achieved good in both this life and in the hereafter. And the success of the believers mentioned here is mentioned frequently throughout the Qur’an, such as Allah’s 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] Continue reading

“And who is more unjust than…”: Imam al-Shinqitee

Imam Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee authored a valuable work entitled Dafa’ Eehaam al-Idhtiraab ‘an Ayaat al-Kitaab to respond to and dispel supposed conflicts, mistakes or contradictions in the Qur’anic text. What follows is one excerpt taken from his section on surah al-Baqarah:

قوله تعالى: {وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنْ مَنَعَ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّهِ أَنْ يُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ} الآية. الِاسْتِفْهَامُ فِي هَذِهِ الْآيَةِ إِنْكَارِيٌّ وَمَعْنَاهُ النَّفْيُ، فَالْمَعْنَى: لَا أَحَدَ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنْ مَنَعَ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّهِ، وَقَدْ جَاءَتْ آيَاتٌ أُخَرُ يُفْهَمُ مِنْهَا خِلَافُ هَذَا، كَقَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى: فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَى عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا الْآيَةَ [6 \ 144] . وَقَوْلِهِ: فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنْ كَذَبَ عَلَى اللَّهِ [39] ، وَقَوْلِهِ: وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنْ ذُكِّرَ بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِ. . . . . . الْآيَةَ [18 \ 57] ، إِلَى غَيْرِ ذَلِكَ مِنَ الْآيَاتِ . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن مَّنَعَ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّـهِ أَن يُذْكَرَ‌ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ وَسَعَىٰ فِي خَرَ‌ابِهَا

And who are more unjust than those who prevent the name of Allah from being mentioned in His masaajid and strive toward their destruction [2:114]

What is implicitly understood from this ayah is a denial, meaning a negation. And its meaning is: there is no one more unjust than those who prevent others from the masaajid of Allah. But there are other ayaat from which something contrary to this is understood, such as Allah’s statement:

فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَ‌ىٰ عَلَى اللَّـهِ كَذِبًا لِّيُضِلَّ النَّاسَ بِغَيْرِ‌ عِلْمٍ

Then who is more unjust than one who invents a lie about Allah to mislead the people by [something] other than knowledge? [6:144]

And His statement:

فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن كَذَبَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ وَكَذَّبَ بِالصِّدْقِ إِذْ جَاءَهُ

So who is more unjust than one who lies about Allah and denies the truth when it has come to him? [39:32]

And His statement:

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن ذُكِّرَ‌ بِآيَاتِ رَ‌بِّهِ فَأَعْرَ‌ضَ عَنْهَا وَنَسِيَ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ

And who is more unjust than one who is reminded of the verses of his Lord but turns away from them and forgets what his hands have put forth? [18:57]

as well as other ayaat.

 وَلِلْجَمْعِ بَيْنَ هَذِهِ الْآيَاتِ أَوْجُهٌ: ـ

And there are several angles of reconciling between these ayaat: Continue reading

“They Became Two Parties Quarreling with One Another”: Tafsir

Allah, Exalted is He, informs us in surah al-Naml about the story of the Prophet Saalih (‘alaihis salaam) and his people when He says:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْ‌سَلْنَا إِلَىٰ ثَمُودَ أَخَاهُمْ صَالِحًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ فَإِذَا هُمْ فَرِ‌يقَانِ يَخْتَصِمُونَ

And We had certainly sent to Thamūd their brother Ṣāliḥ, saying, “Worship Allah alone,” and at once they became two parties quarreling with each other. [27:45]

Imam al-Suyooti writes in his tafsir:

عن قتادة في قوله: {فإذا هم فريقان يختصمون} قال: إن القوم بين مصدق ومكذب. مصدق بالحق ونازل عنده، ومكذب بالحق تاركه. في ذلك كانت خصومة القوم

Qataada said about His statement, “and at once they became two parties quarreling with each other” – the people were divided by either affirmation of denial (of Saalih’s call to tawheed). Affirmation of the truth and living according to it, or denial of the truth and abandoning it. That was the heart of the people’s quarreling.

[al-Durr al-Manthoor 11/386 – read more here]

Imam al-Sa’di said in his tafsir:

ولقد أرسلنا إلى ثمود أخاهم صالحًا‏:‏ أن وحِّدوا الله‏,‏ ولا تجعلوا معه إلهًا آخر‏,‏ فلما أتاهم صالحٌ داعيًا إلى توحيد الله وعبادته وحده صار قومه فريقين‏:‏ أحدهما مؤمن به‏,‏ والآخر كافر بدعوته‏,‏ وكل منهم يزعم أن الحق معه‏.‏

And We had certainly sent to Thamūd their brother Ṣāliḥ” to single out Allah for worship, and to not make any other gods along with him. And when Saalih came to them calling to the tawheed of Allah and His worship exclusively, then the people became two parties: one of them believing in it, and the other disbelieving in his call, and each of them asserted that the truth was with them.”

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman]

Imam al-Qurtubi, in his tafsir, writes:

{فَإِذا هُمْ فَرِيقانِ يَخْتَصِمُونَ} قال مجاهد: أي مؤمن وكافر، قال: والخصومة ما قصه الله تعالى في قوله: {أَتَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ صالِحاً مُرْسَلٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ} إلى قوله: {كافِرُونَ}.

and at once they became two parties quarreling with each other“. Mujaahid said, “meaning mu’min and kaafir.” And he said, “And the quarreling is what Allah, Exalted is He, narrated when He said:

The leaders who were arrogant among his people said to those who were oppressed – to those who believed among them, “Do you [actually] know that Saalih is sent from his Lord?” They said, “Indeed we, in that with which he was sent, are believers.” Those who were arrogant said, “Indeed we are disbelievers in that which you have believed.” So they hamstrung the she-camel and were insolent toward the command of their Lord and said, “O Saalih, bring us what you promise us, if you should be of the messengers.” [7:75-77]

وقيل: تخاصمهم أن كل فرقة قالت: نحن على الحق دونكم.

And it is said that “their quarrel was what every group says, ‘We are upon the truth to the exclusion of you.'”

[Jaami’ al-Ahkam al-Qur’an 13/198]

For more on the story of Saalih, see also: “We guided them, but they preferred blindness

over guidance”

See also: The Story of Saalih as explained by Mujahid and Qatadah