Four Central Themes of the Makki Surahs

The following Q&A took place with via Twitter with Sheikh ‘Abdullah al-‘Awaaji, a professor of Tafsir at the Islamic University of al-Madinah:

س – جزاكم الله خيرًا وأحسن إليكم . قوله تعالى في سورة الإسراء آية ٥٥ (ولقد فضلنا بعض النبيين على بعض وآتينا داود زبورا) . ما علاقة ذكر تفضيل الأنبياء على بعض والآيات السابقة عن المكذبين للبعث؟ هل من مناسبة؟ ـ

Question: May Allah reward and be good to you. There is Allah’s statement in ayah 55 of surah al-Israa’:

وَلَقَدْ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَ النَّبِيِّينَ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۖ وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُورًا

And We have made some of the prophets exceed others, and to Dawud We gave the Zabur [17:55]

What is the connection between mentioning the different levels of merit among the Prophets and the previous ayaat about those who deny Allah’s ability to give life to the dead? Is there any link between them?

ج ـ واياكم والمتابعين . أربعة موضوعات تغلب في القرآن المكي : ١-ان يقيم سُبحانَه الحُجَجَ على التوحيد و إبطالِ الشِّركِ، ٢-ويذكَرَ الأدِلَّةَ على صِحَّةِ البَعثِ والجزاءِ،٣-وثبوت القرآن الكريم .٤-وصدق الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم .وهو هنا ذكرها كلها من اول السورة  ـ

Response: And you and all of our followers as well!

Four main topics predominate the Makki surahs of the Qur’an:

  1. Establishing the proofs for al-tawheed and the falsehood of al-shirk
  2. Mentioning the evidences which show that the resurrection and recompense of the dead is real
  3. Showing the veracity of the Qur’an
  4. Affirming the Messenger

And all four of these topics are mentioned in the beginning of this surah. Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 130-141: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the fourteenth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 130-141. This passage calls mankind to follow the religion of Ibrahim and to turn away from other paths. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

وَمَن يَرْغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِلَّا مَن سَفِهَ نَفْسَهُ ۚ وَلَقَدِ اصْطَفَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَإِنَّهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

And who would be averse to the religion of Ibrahim except one who makes a fool of himself? We have chosen him in the world, and in the hereafter he is one of the upright ones. [2:130]

ولا أحد يُعرض عن دين إبراهيم- وهو الإسلام- إلا سفيه جاهل، ولقد اخترنا إبراهيم في الدنيا نبيًّا ورسولا وإنه في الآخرة لمن الصالحين الذين لهم أعلى الدرجات.ـ

130. There is no one who turns away from the religion of Ibrahim, which is Islam, except for an ignorant fool. We have chosen Ibrahim as a prophet and messenger in this life, and in the hereafter he will be one of the upright ones who will be at the highest level.

إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ أَسْلِمْ ۖ قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

And when his Lord told him, “Submit,” he said, “I have submitted to the Lord of all creation.” [2:131]

وسبب هذا الاختيار مسارعته للإسلام دون تردد، حين قال له ربه: أخلص نفسك لله منقادًا له. فاستجاب إبراهيم وقال: أسلمت لرب العالمين إخلاصًا وتوحيدًا ومحبة وإنابة.ـ

131. The reason that Allah chose him is because of his eagerness to submit without any hesitation when Allah told him, “Make yourself purely for Allah, completely obedient to Him.” So Ibrahim responded by saying, “I have submitted myself entirely to the Lord of all creation, singling Him out for worship, love, and always turning back to Him.

Continue reading

“We Have Made Some of the Prophets Exceed Others”: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Israa’:

وَلَقَدْ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَ النَّبِيِّينَ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۖ وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُورًا

And We have made some of the prophets exceed others. And we gave Dawud the Zaboor. [17:55]

In part of his famous book of tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

ـ ( ولقد فضلنا بعض النبيين ) ، كما قال ( تلك الرسل فضلنا بعضهم على بعض منهم من كلم الله ورفع بعضهم درجات ) [ البقرة 253 . ـ

وَلَقَدْ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَ النَّبِيِّينَ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ

And We have made some of the prophets exceed others

This is like what He said:

تِلْكَ الرُّسُلُ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۘ مِّنْهُم مَّن كَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَهُمْ دَرَجَاتٍ

Those messengers – some of them We caused to exceed others. Among them were those to whom Allah spoke, and He raised some of them in degree. [2:253]

وهذا لا ينافي ما ثبت في الصحيحين عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال لا تفضلوا بين الأنبياء ؛ فإن المراد من ذلك هو التفضيل بمجرد التشهي والعصبية ، لا بمقتضى الدليل فإنه إذا دل الدليل على شيء وجب اتباعه ولا خلاف أن الرسل أفضل من بقية الأنبياء وأن أولي العزم منهم أفضلهم وهم الخمسة المذكورون نصا في آيتين من القرآن في سورة الأحزاب ( وإذ أخذنا من النبيين ميثاقهم ومنك ومن نوح وإبراهيم وموسى وعيسى ابن مريم ) [ الأحزاب 7 ] [ ص: 88 ] ، وفي الشورى في قوله : ( شرع لكم من الدين ما وصى به نوحا والذي أوحينا إليك وما وصينا به إبراهيم وموسى وعيسى أن أقيموا الدين ولا تتفرقوا فيه ) [ الشورى 13 . ولا خلاف أن محمدا صلى الله عليه وسلم أفضلهم ثم بعده إبراهيم ثم موسى على المشهور وقد بسطنا هذا بدلائله في غير هذا الموضع والله الموفق ـ

And this does not contradict what has been authentically transmitted from the Prophet in both al-Bukhari and Muslim that he said: Continue reading

Three Parables in Surah al-Tahreem: ibn al-Qayyim

The great scholar Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned the following in part of his discussion of the parables of the Qur’an:

ومنها قوله تعالى ضرب الله مثلا للذين كفروا امرأة نوح وامرأة لوط كانتا تحت عبدين من عبادنا صالحين فخانتاهما فلم يغنيا عنهما من الله شيئا وقيل ادخلا النار مع الداخلين وضرب الله مثلا للذين آمنوا امرأة فرعون إذا قالت رب ابن لي عندك بيتا في الجنة ونجني من فرعون وعمله ونجني من القوم الظالمين ومريم ابنة عمران التي أحصنت فرجها فنفخنا فيه من روحنا وصدقت بكلمات ربها وكتبه وكانت من القانتين

Another example is Allah’s statement:

‏ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا اِمْرَأَةَ نُوحٍ وَامْرَأَةَ لُوطٍ كَانَتَا تَحْتَ عَبْدَيْنِ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا صَالِحَيْنِ فَخَانَتَاهُمَا فَلَمْ يُغْنِيَا عَنْهُمَا مِنَ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا وَقِيلَ ادْخُلَا النَّارَ مَعَ الدَّاخِلِينَ

Allah presents an example of those who disbelieved: the wife of Nuh and the wife of Lut. They were under two of Our righteous servants but betrayed them, so those prophets did not avail them from Allah at all, and it was said, “Enter the Fire with those who enter.”

وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اِمْرَأَةَ فِرْعَوْنَ إِذْ قَالَتْ رَبِّ ابْنِ لِي عِنْدَكَ بَيْتًا فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَنَجِّنِي مِنْ فِرْعَوْنَ وَعَمَلِهِ وَنَجِّنِي مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ

And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Fir’awn, when she said, “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Fir’awn and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people.”

وَمَرْيَمَ ابْنَتَ عِمْرَانَ الَّتِي أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِنَا وَصَدَّقَتْ بِكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّهَا وَكُتُبِهِ وَكَانَتْ مِنَ الْقَانِتِينَ

And [the example of] Maryam, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her Our Ruh, and she testified to the truth of the Words of her Lord, and His Scriptures, and she was of the devoutly obedient. [66:10-12]

فاشتملت هذه الآيات على ثلاثة أمثال مثل للكفار ومثلين للمؤمنين فتضمن مثل الكفار أن الكافر يعاقب على كفره وعداوته لله ورسوله وأوليائه ولا ينفعه مع كفره ما كان بينه وبين المؤمنين من لحمة نسب أو صلة صهر أو سبب من أسباب الاتصال فإن الأسباب كلها تنقطع يوم القيامة إلا ما كان منها متصلا بالله وحده على أيدي رسله فلو نفعت وصلة القرابة والمصاهرة أو النكاح مع عدم الإيمان لنفعت الوصلة التي كانت بين لوط ونوح وامرأتيهما فلما لم يغنيا عنهما من الله شيئا قيل ادخلا النار مع الداخلين

These ayaat include three parables: one of the disbelievers and two of the believers.

The example of the disbelievers shows that a disbeliever will be punished for his disbelief and opposition to Allah, His Messenger and His allies, and that as long as this disbelief is present, no blood relations or family ties through marriage or any other kind of connection that one might have with the believers will have any benefit. All of these connections will be cut off on the Day of Resurrection, except for those which were connected to Allah alone by way of His Messengers. Continue reading

Take the Book with Determination: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah says in surah Mayam:

يَا يَحْيَىٰ خُذِ الْكِتَابَ بِقُوَّةٍ

“O Yahya, take the Scripture with determination!” [19:12]

Commenting on this, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote:

أي : وقلنا له يايحيى خذ الكتاب بقوة ، والكتاب : التوراة ، أي : خذ التوراة بقوة ، أي : بجد واجتهاد ، وذلك بتفهم المعنى أولا حتى يفهمه على الوجه الصحيح ، ثم يعمل به من جميع الجهات ، فيعتقد عقائده ، ويحل حلاله ، ويحرم حرامه ، ويتأدب بآدابه ، ويتعظ بمواعظه ، إلى غير ذلك من جهات العمل به

Meaning: We said to him, “O Yahya, take the Scripture with determination!”, and the Scripture is the Tawrah. So it means, ‘take the Tawrah with determination’ – meaning: with seriousness and striving.

This is done firstly by understanding the meanings such that one understands them in the correct way, then acting based on it from every angle; so one believes in its creed and considers halaal what it makes halaal and haraam what it makes haraam, and is molded by its etiquettes and moved by its admonitions, and so on and so forth with the various ways that one acts in accordance with the scripture. Continue reading

The Story of Yunus: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In his book of thematic tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di detailed a number of the stories of the Prophets along with mentioning various benefits derived from each of them. He would compile the details as they appeared in various places in the Qur’an to provide a straight-forward narrative of each story, and then list some extracted benefits from the story. What follows is his brief explanation of the story of the Prophet Yunus:

قصة يونس صلى الله عليه وسلم وهو من أنبياء بني إسرائيل العظام، بعثه الله إلى أهل نينوى – من أرض الموصل – فدعاهم إلى الله تعالى فأبوا عليه، ثم كرر عليهم الدعوة فأبوا، فوعدهم العذاب وخرج من بين أظهرهم، ولم يصبر الصبر الذي ينبغي، ولكنه أَبَقَ مغاضبا لهم، وهم لما ذهب نبيهم ألقي في قلوبهم التوبة إلى الله والإنابة بعدما شاهدوا مقدمات العذاب، فكشف الله عنهم العذاب. ـ

This is the story of Yunus (ﷺ), who was one of the great prophets of the Banu Israa’eel. Allah sent him to the people of Nineveh – in the area of Mosul [Iraq] – and he called them to Allah but they refused his call. He then repeated his call to them but they refused, so he promised them an impending punishment and left from their midst, and he did not exercise the steadfast patience which he ought to have exercised. On the contrary, he fled from them while in a state of anger. But after their prophet had left them, repentance and returning to Allah were placed in their hearts after witnessing an approaching punishment, and so Allah removed the punishment from them.

والظاهر أن يونس علم انكشاف العذاب عنهم، واستمر في ذهابه عنهم، ولهذا قال تعالى: {وَذَا النُّونِ إِذْ ذَهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا} [الأنبياء: 87] وقال تعالى: {إِذْ أَبَقَ إِلَى الْفُلْكِ الْمَشْحُونِ} [الصافات: 140] ـ

It appears that Yunus knew that the punishment would be lifted from them but still decided to leave them. This is according to Allah’s statement:

وَذَا النُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا

And mention Dhu’l-noon, when he went off in anger… [21:87]

as well as His statement: Continue reading

Gentle Speech in the Qur’an: ibn al-Qayyim

The great scholar ibn al-Qayyim wrote the following beautiful words regarding some qualities of the da’wah of the Prophets and the language found in the Qur’an:

كثير من الناس يطلب من صاحبه بعد نيله درجة الرياسة الأخلاق التي كان يعامله بها قبل الرياسة فلا يصادفها فينتقض ما بينهما من المودة وهذا من جهل الصاحب الطالب للعادة وهو بمنزلة من يطلب من صاحبه إذا سكر أخلاق الصاحي وذلك غلط فإن الرياسه سكرة كسكرة الخمر أو أشد ولو لم يكن للرياسة سكرة لما اختارها صاحبها على الآخرة الدائمة الباقية فسكرتها فوق سكرة القهوة بكثير ومحال أن يرى من السكران أخلاق الصاحي وطبعه

Many people would like it if a friend of theirs who has reached some level of leadership would treat them the same way that he used to before becoming a leader; however the friend will not agree and this leads to a break in the affection between them. But this is a result of the first person’s ignorance of reality. What he did is like if he were to ask a friend to behave the same way drunk as when he was sober. This is a mistake. Leadership is an intoxication, just like the intoxication of alcohol, or perhaps even stronger. For if leadership were not intoxicating, then no one would choose and prioritize it over the everlasting and eternal hereafter. Its intoxicating effect is much stronger than that of coffee. And it is impossible for a drunken person to exhibit the same behavior or character as a you would see from a sober person.

ولهذا أمر الله تعالى أكرم خلقه عليه بمخاطبة رئيس القبط بالخطاب اللين فمخاطبة الرؤساء بالقول اللين أمر مطلوب شرعا وعقلا وعرفا ولذلك تجد الناس كالمفطورين عليه وهكذا كان النبي رؤساء العشائر والقبائل وتأمل امتثال موسى لما أمر به كيف قال لفرعون هل لك إلى أن تزكى وأهديك إلى ربك فتخشى فأخرج الكلام معه مجرج السؤال والعرض لا مخرج الأمر وقال إلى أن تزكى ولم يقل إلى أن أزكيك فنسب الفعل إليه هو وذكر لفظ التزكي دون غيره لما فيه من البركة والخير والنماء ثم قال وأهديك إلى ربك أكون كالدليل بين يديك الذي يسير أمامك وقال الى ربك استدعاء لأيمانه بربه الذي خلقه ورزقه ورباه بنعمه صغيرا ويافعا وكبيرا ـ

It is for these reasons that Allah commanded one of his most honorable created beings to address the leader of the Egyptians with gentle speech. Addressing those in leadership positions with gentle speech is a positive thing according to the sharee’ah, according to reason, and according to custom. Because of that, you find that people are naturally inclined to do so. And that was how the Prophet behaved towards the leaders of the different tribes and clans. Consider the example of Moosaa when he received this command, look at how he addressed Fir’awn: Continue reading

A Warning to the Family of Fir’awn: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

The following points of benefit were taken from the social media pages of sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh:

قال تعالى:”ولقد جاء ءال فرعون النذر” والآل ترجع إلى من تبع الرجل في دينه، وآل فرعون من كان على ملة فرعون وعلى دينه.ـ

Allah said:

وَلَقَدْ جَاءَ آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ النُّذُرُ

And a warning certainly came to the Aal Fir’awn [54:41]

and word aal [literally “family/relatives”] refers to whoever follows a person in terms of his religion. So the Aal Fir’awn are whoever was upon the religion and way of life of Fir’awn.

قال تعالى:”ولقد جاء ءال فرعون النذر” لم يذكر البشارة لأنَّ القوم ما هم عليه من الشرك والكفر يستلزم الإنذار والتخويف.ـ

Allah said: Continue reading

Remarks on the Contents of Surah Taha: Ibn Taymiyah

In one of his many writings, Sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah mentioned the following:

سورة طه وقال شيخ الإسلام رحمه الله فصل ” سورة طه ” مضمونها تخفيف أمر القرآن وما أنزل الله تعالى من كتبه فهي ” سورة كتبه ” – كما أن مريم ” سورة عباده ورسله ” – افتتحها بقوله : { ما أنزلنا عليك القرآن لتشقى } . . إلى قوله : { تنزيلا ممن خلق الأرض والسماوات العلا } . ثم ذكر قصة موسى ونداء الله له ومناجاته إياه وتكليمه له وقصته من أبلغ أمر الرسل فلهذا ثنيت في القرآن ; لأنه حصل له الخطاب والكتاب وأرسل إلى فرعون الجاحد المرتاب المكذب للربوبية والرسالة وهذا أعظم الكافرين عنادا واستوفى القصة في هذه السورة إلى قوله : { رب زدني علما } ثم ذكر قصة آدم ; لأنها أول النبوات . ـ

The contents of Surah Taha include the ease of the Qur’an and what Allah has sent down in His Books, so it is “the Surah of His Books“, just as Surah Maryam was “the Surah of His servants and messengers”.

The surah opens with Allah’s statement:

مَا أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْقُرْآنَ لِتَشْقَىٰ * إِلَّا تَذْكِرَةً لِّمَن يَخْشَىٰ * تَنزِيلًا مِّمَّنْ خَلَقَ الْأَرْضَ وَالسَّمَاوَاتِ الْعُلَى

We have not sent the Qur’an down to you to cause you to be distressed * But only as a reminder to those who fear * It is a revelation from the One who created the earth and the high heavens [20:2-4]

Then He mentioned the story of Moosaa and Allah’s call to him, His private discussion with him, and His speaking to him.

The story of Moosaa is one of the most amazing things of any the messengers, which is why it is returned to so frequently throughout the Qur’an. For Moosaa was granted both direct speech from Allah as well as a scripture, and Allah sent him to Fir’awn, the incredulous disbelieving denier of both Allah’s lordship and of the fact that Allah sent messengers. He was the gravest of all the disbelievers in his obstinance. So this story occupies this surah until Allah’s statement: Continue reading

Ibn al-Qayyim’s Model for Contemplating the Qur’an

One of the many written works of ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah is his Risalah al-Tabookiyyah which centers Allah’s command at the beginning of surah al-Ma’idah for the believers to help one another in al-birr and al-taqwa [5:3]. After describing many aspects of this ayah and its implications, ibn al-Qayyim then wrote:

ورأس الأمر وعموده في ذلك إنما هو دوام التفكر وتدبر آيات الله حيث تستولي على الفكر وتشغل القلب فإذا صارت معاني القرآن مكان الخواطر من قلبه وجلس على كرسيه، وصار له التصرف، وصار هو الأمير المطاع أمره، فحينئذ يستقيم له سيره ويتضح له الطريق وتراه ساكنا وهو يباري الريح {وَتَرَى الْجِبَالَ تَحْسَبُهَا جَامِدَةً وَهِيَ تَمُرُّ مَرَّ السَّحَابِ صُنْعَ اللَّهِ الَّذِي أَتْقَنَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ إِنَّهُ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَفْعَلُونَ} . ـ

At the head of all of this and its very foundation is for one to always contemplate and reflect on the ayaat of the Qur’an, so much so that it overpowers one’s other thoughts and becomes the central concern of one’s heart. When the messages of the Qur’an take the place that mere passing thoughts previously held in his heart and begin to rule over it, being what turns his heart and the ruler that it obeys, then his journey becomes smooth and his course becomes clear. So even if it appeared that he was standing still he is in fact moving forward towards Allah fast as the wind.

وَتَرَى الْجِبَالَ تَحْسَبُهَا جَامِدَةً وَهِيَ تَمُرُّ مَرَّ السَّحَابِ صُنْعَ اللَّهِ الَّذِي أَتْقَنَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ إِنَّهُ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَفْعَلُونَ

And you see the mountains, thinking them rigid, while they will pass as the passing of clouds. It is the work of Allah, who perfected all things. Indeed, He is Acquainted with that which you do. [27:88]

فان قلت: إنك قد أشرت إلى مقام عظيم فافتح لي بابه، واكشف لي حجابه، وكيف تدبر القرآن وتفهمه والإشراف على عجائبه وكنوزه؟ وهذه تفاسير الأئمة بأيدينا، فهل في البيان غير ما ذكروه؟ ـ

Now if you were to say, “You have just described a great station, so open up its door for me and remove its veil for me – how does one contemplate and understand the the Qur’an grasp its amazements and great treasures? We have the explanations of the great scholars of tafsir with us, is there anything else to understand the Qur’an beyond what they have already done?”

[See also: Narration-based Tafsir before Opinion-based Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh]

قلت: سأضرب لك أمثالاً تحتذي عليها وتجعلها إماماً لك في هذا المقصد، قال الله تعالى: {هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ ضَيْفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْمُكْرَمِينَ إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا سَلاماً قَالَ سَلامٌ قَوْمٌ مُنْكَرُونَ فَرَاغَ إِلَى أَهْلِهِ فَجَاءَ بِعِجْلٍ سَمِينٍ، فَقَرَّبَهُ إِلَيْهِمْ قَالَ أَلا تَأْكُلُونَ فَأَوْجَسَ مِنْهُمْ خِيفَةً قَالُوا لا تَخَفْ وَبَشَّرُوهُ بِغُلامٍ عَلِيمٍ فَأَقْبَلَتِ امْرَأَتُهُ فِي صَرَّةٍ فَصَكَّتْ وَجْهَهَا وَقَالَتْ عَجُوزٌ عَقِيمٌ قَالُوا كَذَلِكِ قَالَ رَبُّكِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْحَكِيمُ الْعَلِيمُ} . ـ

My response would be: Let me give you some things that you can take as an example and a model to follow for this goal.

Allah says: Continue reading