The Different Meanings of al-Thann in the Qur’an

The following question was posed to sheikh ‘Abdullah al-‘Awaaji, a professor of Tafsir at the Islamic University of al-Madinah:

روى ابن جرير وابن كثير عن مجاهد أنه قال : كل ظن في القرآن يقين . ماذا نفهم من هذا القول مع أن كلمة الظن وردت في القرآن بمعان أخر؟

Both ibn Jarir and ibn Kathir relate a narration from Mujahid in which he said, “Every instance of the word al-Thann [literally: thought, doubt, assumption, conjecture] in the Qur’an means Yaqeen [certainty].”*

How should we understand this statement in light of the fact that the word al-thann is used elsewhere in the Qur’an with other meanings?

The sheikh responded by writing:

عن الضحاك:كل ظن في القرآن من المؤمن فهو يقين،ومن الكافر فهو شك. وعن مجاهد:كل ظن في القرآن فهو يقين. وقول الضحاك أقرب وقد يحمل قول مجاهد على أن الذي يفيد اليقين:ما كان متعلقاً بأمور الآخرة،أما ما كان متعلقاً بأمور الدنيا فيفيد الشك وقد رويت رواية ثانية عن مجاهد تدل على هذا المعنى،وفيها:ظن الآخرة يقين، وظن الدنيا شك؛ ونحو هذا قول قتادة :ما كان من ظن الآخرة فهو علم . ـ

al-Dhahhaak said: Every time the word thann is used in the Qur’an in relation to the believers, it means yaqeen, and every time it is used for the disbelievers, it means “doubt”.

Mujahid said: Every time the word thann is used in the Qur’an, it means yaqeen.

However al-Dhahhaak’s statement is more accurate.

And Mujahid’s statement could also be interpreted to mean that thann takes the meaning of yaqeen when it is connected to matters of the Hereafter, but when it is related to matters of this worldly life it takes the meaning of “doubt”. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Best Method of Tafsir: al-Zarkashi

Sheikh Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi included the following brief but comprehensive words in part of his discussion of the sources of tafsir in his famous handbook to the Qur’anic sciences, al-Burhan:

قيل : أحسن طريق التفسير أن يفسر القرآن بالقرآن ، فما أجمل في مكان فقد فصل في موضع آخر ، وما اختصر في مكان فإنه قد بسط في آخر . فإن أعياك ذلك فعليك بالسنة ، فإنها شارحة للقرآن ، وموضحة له ، قال الله – تعالى – : وما أنزلنا عليك الكتاب إلا لتبين لهم الذي اختلفوا فيه وهدى ورحمة لقوم يؤمنون ( النحل : 64 ) ولهذا قال – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : ألا إني أوتيت القرآن ومثله معه . يعني السنة ؛ فإن لم يوجد في السنة [ ص: 316 ] يرجع إلى أقوال الصحابة ، فإنهم أدرى بذلك ، لما شاهدوه من القرائن ، ولما أعطاهم الله من الفهم العجيب ، فإن لم يوجد ذلك يرجع إلى النظر والاستنباط بالشرط السابق . ـ

Some have said that the best method of tafsir is to explain the Qur’an by means of the Qur’an itself because whatever has been mentioned in general terms in one place has been explained in more detail in another place and whatever has been summarized in one spot has been discussed at length elsewhere.

And if you are not able to do that, then you must turn to the Sunnah for it is an explanation of the Qur’an and serves to make it clear. Allah said:

وَمَا أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا لِتُبَيِّنَ لَهُمُ الَّذِي اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ ۙ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ

And We have not revealed the Book to you except for you to make those things which they have differed about clear to them and as guidance and mercy for a people who believe [16:64]

It was in this same vein that the Prophet said, “Indeed, I have been given the Qur’an and the likes of it along with it”, meaning the Sunnah. Continue reading

A Primer on Abrogation: al-Zarkashi

In his landmark manual of the Qur’anic sciences, sheikh Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi mentioned the following important discussion in his chapter on naasikh and mansookh – abrogated and abrogating – verses:

قسم بعضهم النسخ من وجه آخر إلى ثلاثة أضرب

Some scholars have taken another approach to categorizing abrogation, resulting in three categories:

الأول : نسخ المأمور به قبل امتثاله ، وهذا الضرب هو النسخ على الحقيقة ، كأمر الخليل بذبح ولده ، وكقوله تعالى : إذا ناجيتم الرسول فقدموا بين يدي نجواكم صدقة ( المجادلة : 12 ) ثم نسخه سبحانه بقوله : أأشفقتم ( المجادلة : 13 ) الآية . ـ

One: Abrogation of a command before it could be carried out, which is indeed abrogation. An example of this would be the command for Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, or Allah’s statement:

إِذَا نَاجَيْتُمُ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدِّمُوا بَيْنَ يَدَيْ نَجْوَاكُمْ صَدَقَةً

When you [wish to] privately consult the Messenger, present before your consultation a charity. [58:12]

which Allah then abrogated by saying:

أَأَشْفَقْتُمْ

Have you feared … [58:13]

until the end of the ayah.

الثاني : ويسمى نسخا تجوزا ، وهو ما أوجبه الله على من قبلنا كحتم القصاص ولذلك قال عقب تشريع الدية : ذلك تخفيف من ربكم ورحمة ( البقرة : 178 ) وكذلك ما أمرنا الله به أمرا إجماليا ثم نسخ ، كنسخه التوجه إلى بيت الله المقدس بالكعبة ، فإن ذلك كان واجبا علينا من قضية أمره باتباع الأنبياء قبله ، وكنسخ صوم يوم عاشوراء برمضان . ـ

Two – which can only be loosely called “abrogation” – is what Allah had mandated on those before us, such as the decree of legal retribution. It was in this vein that immediately after the legislation of blood-money Allah said:

ذَٰلِكَ تَخْفِيفٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ

This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. [2:178]

And likewise what Allah commanded in general terms and then abrogated, such as His abrogation of facing towards Allah’s Sacred House in Jerusalem by facing instead towards the Ka’bah, for that had been something binding on us under His commandment to follow the previous prophets. Another example of this is the abrogation of fasting the Day of ‘Aashooraa’ by fasting Ramadan. Continue reading

Some Background on the Field of ‘Uloom al-Qur’an: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Kareem al-Khudayr

In the introduction to his explanation of Manthoomah al-Zamzami – an introduction to the Qur’anic sciences in poem form -, sheikh ‘Abd al-Kareem al-Khudayr included the following remarks which include important background information regarding the field of ‘Uloom al-Qur’an:

التأليف في علوم القرآن يندر أن تجد متنا يناسب شرحه في دورة مثلا كما يوجد في العلوم الأخرى، العلوم الأخرى ألف فيها للمبتدئين، كتب كثيرة للمبتدئين؛ في الفقه، في العقائد، في الحديث، في كذا..، كتب كثيرة تناسب المبتدئين، كتب ألفت للمتوسطين، كتب ألفت للمنتهين. ـ

When it comes to the field of the Qur’anic sciences it is rare to find a primer suitable to be explained in a conference setting like the primers that you can find for other fields. In other sciences there are works that have been written for the beginning level, many books suitable for beginners. This is the case in fiqh, in ‘aqeedah, in hadeeth, and so on. There are plenty of books suitable for beginners, books written for intermediate students, and books written for advanced students.

تعال يا أخي إلى علوم القرآن، ما الذي يناسب المبتدئين من هذه العلوم؟ نجد في الدورات عناية بمقدمة شيخ الإسلام ابن تيمية مقدمة التفسير ، شيخ الإسلام رحمه الله إمام من أئمة المسلمين، يكفي أن هذا الكتاب لشيخ الإسلام، لكن هل هو على طريقة المتون التي تعنى بالحدود والأمثلة والتعاريف وضبط الفن وضبط أنواع الفن كالعلوم الأخرى؟ يعني: هل نجد متنا في علوم القرآن مثل ما نجد النخبة مثلا ، أو الكتب التي ألفت للتدرج في تلقي العقيدة الصحيحة؟ ما نجد، يعني على سبيل الاستقلال للعلماء الذين يؤلفون على الجادة لطلاب العلم ما تجد إلا ما ندر. ـ

Let’s look, my brother, at the Qur’anic sciences – what would be a suitable work in this field for the beginning student? We find conferences generally giving attention to the Muqaddimah al-Tafsir of Sheikh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah, the sheikh of Islam (may Allah have mercy on him) and one of the leading figures of the Muslims. It is enough to know that this book was written by this Sheikh al-Islam, but is this work written in the typical mold of a primer that focuses on delimiting the subject, providing examples, giving definitions, precisely defining the field and the various sub-fields within it as we find in the primers of other sciences? In other words, do we find source texts for the Qur’anic sciences like al-Nukhbah al-Fikr, for example or like the books written to help the student gradually progress in acquiring the correct ‘aqeedah? We do not find these, meaning not as their own independent works written by the scholars as part of a progression of knowledge for students of knowledge. Except for the rare exception, we do not find such works. Continue reading

Makki and Madani Series Part 3 – Characteristics: al-Suyooti

In his famous handbook of the Qur’anic Sciences, al-Itqan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, Imam Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti dedicated his first main chapter to the subject of Makki and Madani revelation, which we have made into the this Makki and Madani Series of articles. What follows is the third of four sections of that chapter as abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool. This particular section focuses on how to identify whether a surah is makki or madani and some of the distinguishing characteristics of each:

[العمدة في معرفة المكي والمدني]

[The Main Source of Knowledge for Determining Makki and Madani]

قال القاضي أبو بكر في ” الانتصار ” : إنما يرجع في معرفة المكي والمدني إلى حفظ الصحابة والتابعين ، ولم يرد عن النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – في ذلك قول ، لأنه لم يؤمر به ، ولم يجعل الله علم ذلك من فرائض الأمة ، وإن وجب في بعضه على أهل العلم معرفة تاريخ الناسخ والمنسوخ ، فقد يعرف ذلك بغير نص الرسول . انتهى . ـ

In his book al-Intisar, al-Qadhi Abu Bakr wrote:

When it comes to knowing what is Makki and Madani, then our only point of reference is the recordings of the Sahabah and Tabi’oon as there is nothing on this subject transmitted directly from the Prophet. That is because he was not commanded to speak on that subject, and Allah did not make this field of knowledge something obligatory for every member of this ummah, although some knowledge of it is necessary for the scholars in order to know the timeline of abrogating and abrogated verses, as that is something that can be known without an explicit text from the Messenger.

وقد أخرج البخاري ، عن ابن مسعود أنه قال : والذي لا إله غيره ما نزلت آية من كتاب الله – تعالى – إلا وأنا أعلم فيمن نزلت ، وأين نزلت . وقال أيوب : سأل رجل عكرمة عن آية في القرآن ، فقال : نزلت في سفح ذلك الجبل ، وأشار إلى سلع . أخرجه أبو نعيم في الحلية . وقد ورد عن ابن عباس وغيره عد المكي والمدني . ـ

al-Bukhari reported that ibn Mas’ood said:

I swear by the One besides whom there is none worthy of worship, there is not a single ayah in Allah’s Book except that I know who is was revealed about and where it was revealed. Continue reading

Surah Yusuf and the People of al-Madinah

In part of his famous manual of the Qur’anic sciences, al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi wrote:

ما حمل من مكة إلى المدينة
Those Parts of the Qur’an which were Transmitted from Mecca to al-Madinah

أول سورة حملت من مكة إلى المدينة سورة ” يوسف ” ، انطلق بها عوف بن عفراء في [ ص: 291 ] الثمانية الذين قدموا على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مكة ، فعرض عليهم الإسلام فأسلموا ، وهو أول من أسلم من الأنصار ، قرأها على أهل المدينة في بني زريق ، فأسلم يومئذ بيوت من الأنصار ، روى ذلك يزيد بن رومان ، عن عطاء بن يسار ، عن ابن عباس ، ثم حمل بعدها : ( قل هو الله أحد ) ( سورة الإخلاص ) إلى آخرها ، ثم حمل بعدها الآية التي في ” الأعراف ” : ( قل ياأيها الناس إني رسول الله إليكم جميعا ) إلى قوله : ( تهتدون ) ( الآية : 158 ) ، فأسلم عليها طوائف من أهل المدينة ، وله قصة

The first surah to be taken from Mecca to al-Madinah was surah Yusuf. ‘Awf ibn ‘Afraa’ was the one who brought it there, and he was one of eighty men who came to Allah’s Messenger in Mecca where he presented Islam to them and they accepted and became Muslims, and he was the first one of the Ansaar to enter Islam. He recited this surah to the people of Banu Zurayq in al-Madinah and as a result a number of households of the Ansaar accepted Islam on that day.

This was narrated by Yazeed ibn Ruman, on the authority of ‘Ataa’ ibn Yasar, on the authority of ibn ‘Abbaas.

After that, surah al-Ikhlaas was the next surah taken from Mecca to al-Madinah. Next after that was an ayah from surah al-A’raaf:

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّـهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ ۖ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِيِّ الْأُمِّيِّ الَّذِي يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّـهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

Say: O mankind, I am certainly Allah’s messenger to all of you, the messenger of the One who possesses the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no deity worthy of worship except Him; He gives life and He causes death. So believe in Allah and His messenger, the illiterate prophet who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him so that you would be guided. [7:158]

And so a number of segments of the people of al-Madinah accepted Islam, and there is a larger story around this.

[al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an 1/290-291]

In the beginning of his explanation of surah Yusuf, al-haafidh ibn Kathir – who was a teacher of al-Zarkashi – mentioned the following report: Continue reading

Transmitted Explanations of the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

In part of his well-known work of Usool al-Tafsiral-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, sheikh Badr al-Deen Muhammad al-Zarkashi wrote:

واعلم أن القرآن قسمان : أحدهما ورد تفسيره بالنقل عمن يعتبر تفسيره ، وقسم لم يرد . والأول ثلاثة أنواع : إما أن يرد التفسير عن النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – أو عن الصحابة أو عن رؤوس التابعين ـ

You should know that the Qur’an can be divided into two categories:

1. That for which an explanation has been transmitted regarding what it means.
2. That for which nothing has been transmitted.

The first category has three sub-groups:

1a. Either an explanation has been transmitted from the Prophet himself (ﷺ)
1b. Or from the Sahabah
1c. Or from the leading scholars of the Taabi’oon

فالأول يبحث فيه عن صحة السند ، والثاني ينظر في تفسير الصحابي ، فإن فسره من حيث اللغة فهم أهل اللسان فلا شك في اعتمادهم ، وإن فسره بما شاهده من الأسباب [ ص: 313 ] والقرائن فلا شك فيه ؛ وحينئذ إن تعارضت أقوال جماعة من الصحابة ، فإن أمكن الجمع فذاك ، وإن تعذر قدم ابن عباس ؛ لأن النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – بشره بذلك حيث قال : اللهم علمه التأويل ، وقد رجح الشافعي قول زيد في الفرائض ، لقوله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : أفرضكم زيد . فإن تعذر الجمع جاز للمقلد أن يأخذ بأيها شاء ، وأما الثالث وهم رؤوس التابعين إذا لم يرفعوه إلى النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ولا إلى أحد من الصحابة – رضي الله عنهم – فحيث جاز التقليد فيما سبق ، فكذا هنا ، وإلا وجب الاجتهاد . ـ

In the first of these three sub-groups, one should look for the soundness of the chain of transmission. Continue reading

Non-Canonical Recitations Can Help Explain the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

It is well-known to those familiar with the Qur’an that there are multiple canonical recitations (qiraa’aat) which are all authentic based upon meeting certain conditions and which add to the meaning of the Qur’an while not contradicting one another. Following from this, there are also non-canonical (shadh) recitations which do not meet these conditions for acceptance but can still be found within the books of tafsir and the sciences of the Qur’an. Some orientalists and missionaries attempt to use the mere existence of these non-canonical recitations to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Qur’an as a whole. This translated excerpt from the great scholar Imam al-Zarkashi explains one source of these non-canonical recitations and their value in understanding the Qur’an.

Badr al-Deen Muhammad al-Zarkashi, a student of the great mufassir Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir, is most well-known for authoring an extensive handbook for the Qur’anic sciences, al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an. What follows is one section from his chapter dealing with the Qiraa’aat [variant Qur’anic recitations]:

الأمر الثامن : قال أبو عبيد في كتاب ” فضائل القرآن ” : إن القصد من القراءة الشاذة تفسير القراءة المشهورة وتبيين معانيها ; وذلك كقراءة عائشة وحفصة : ( حافظوا على الصلوات والصلاة الوسطى صلاة العصر ) ( البقرة : 238 ) . ـ

The eighth issue: In his book Fadhaa’il al-Qur’an, Abu ‘Ubayd wrote:

One point behind a non-canonical recitation of the Qur’an is to act as an explanation of a well-known canonical recitation and to clarify its meaning. That is like the recitation transmitted from ‘A’ishah and Hafsah:

حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَىٰ صلاة العصر

Strictly guard the prayers, especially the middle prayer – the ‘asr prayer [compare to 2:238]

وكقراءة ابن مسعود ( والسارق والسارقة فاقطعوا أيمانهما ) ( المائدة : 38 ) . ـ

Or like ibn Mas’ood’s recitation:

وَالسَّارِقُ وَالسَّارِقَةُ فَاقْطَعُوا أيمانهما

and the male and female thief – cut off their right hands [compare to 5:38] Continue reading

A Recurring Sequence in the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

Muhammad al-Zarkashi, the author of a famous work on ‘uloom al-Qur’an, mentioned the following point of benefit therein:

وَعَادَةُ الْقُرْآنِ الْعَظِيمِ إِذَا ذَكَرَ أَحْكَامًا ذَكَرَ بَعْدَهَا وَعْدًا وَوَعِيدًا لِيَكُونَ ذَلِكَ بَاعِثًا عَلَى الْعَمَلِ بما سبق ثم يذكر آيات التوحيد والتنزيه لِيُعْلَمَ عِظَمُ الْآمِرِ وَالنَّاهِي . وَتَأَمَّلْ سُورَةَ الْبَقَرَةِ وَالنِّسَاءِ وَالْمَائِدَةِ وَغَيْرَهَا تَجِدْهُ كَذَلِكَ . ـ

A recurring feature of the Qur’an is that when it mentions some legislative rulings, it will then follow that up with a promise and/or a threat so that this could be an incentive to act on what was just mentioned. It will then mention verses on the subject of Allah’s sole right to be worshiped and His freedom from any faults or defects in order that the greatness of the One sending these commands and prohibitions might be known.

Consider surah al-Baqarah, al-Nisaa’, al-Maa’idah and others as well and you will find this pattern.

[al-Burhan fee al-‘Uloom al-Qur’an pg. 40]

See also: Connections and Links between Surahs: al-Zarkashi

See also: ‘Ilm al-Munasabat and its Proper Place: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: How to Contemplate the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Read more posts about al-munaasabaat, or the connections and relationships among ayaat and surahs, here.

Connections and Links between Surahs: al-Zarkashi

In his well-known manual of the Qur’anic sciences, Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, sheikh Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi dedicated an early chapter to the discussing the munasabat, or relationships and connections between different verses and surahs of the Qur’an. After defining the topic, discussing some of its history and mentioning some of the different opinions regarding this field of study, he wrote the following:

قال : والذي ينبغي في كل آية أن يبحث أول كل شيء عن كونها مكملة لما قبلها أو مستقلة ، ثم المستقلة ما وجه مناسبتها لما قبلها ؟ ففي ذلك علم جم ، وهكذا في السور يطلب وجه اتصالها بما قبلها وما سيقت له ” . ـ

He [Wali al-Deen al-Malwi] said:

What one ought to do with every ayah is first to look at whether this functions as a completion of what came before it of as an independent ayah on its own. Then, if it is an independent ayah on its own, how does it relate to the ayah before it? There is considerable knowledge to be found in this. And it is like this for the surahs too; one should look for how each is linked to what preceded it and how it supports it. Continue reading