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

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An “Amazing Connection” in the Story of Zakariyyah: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah Aali ‘Imran, Allah tells us the story of Zakariyyah, including his du’a to have a son, his amazement at the promise of the fulfillment of this du’a despite his old age and his wife being barren, and his request to have a sign confirming this amazing promise. Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote in his commentary of ayah 3:41:

ـ{ رب اجعل لي آية } أي: علامة على وجود الولد قال { آيتك ألا تكلم الناس ثلاثة أيام إلا رمزًا } أي: ينحبس لسانك عن كلامهم من غير آفة ولا سوء، فلا تقدر إلا على الإشارة والرمز

رَبِّ اجْعَل لِّي آيَةً

[Zakariyyah said] “Lord, make a sign for me”

meaning: a sign of the presence of a son. He replied

آيَتُكَ أَلَّا تُكَلِّمَ النَّاسَ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ إِلَّا رَمْزًا

“your sign is that you will not speak to the people for three days, except by gestures”

meaning: your tongue will be restrained from speaking to them but not due to any disease or malady. So you will not be able to communicate except by way of pointing and gesturing. Continue reading

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

The Stories of the Messengers Fortify the Heart: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah mentions the following ayah at the end of surah Hud:

وَكُلًّا نَّقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنبَاءِ الرُّ‌سُلِ مَا نُثَبِّتُ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ ۚ وَجَاءَكَ فِي هَـٰذِهِ الْحَقُّ وَمَوْعِظَةٌ وَذِكْرَ‌ىٰ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

And each story We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We fortify your heart. And there has come to you, in this, the truth and an instruction and a reminder for the believers. [11:120]

Imam al-Baghawi wrote in his book of tafsir:

  وكلا نقص عليك من أنباء الرسل ما نثبت به فؤادك   معناه : وكل الذي تحتاج إليه من أنباء الرسل ، أي : من أخبارهم وأخبار أممهم نقصها عليك لنثبت به فؤادك ، لنزيدك يقينا ونقوي قلبك ، وذلك أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا سمعها كان في ذلك تقوية لقلبه على الصبر على أذى قومه

وَكُلًّا نَّقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنبَاءِ الرُّ‌سُلِ مَا نُثَبِّتُ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ

And each story We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We fortify your heart

meaning: Everything which you need is in the stories of the prophets. i.e., in the information about them and about their nations. Continue reading

The Virtue of this Ummah over the Previous Nations: Imam al-Shinqitee

The following discussion is an excerpt from a class of the famous mufassir, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee. The class was delivered in his home to a group of his students. It was recorded, and subsequently transcribed and published in a collection of similar lessons and recorded events. This particular excerpt occurred during a lesson in which sheikh al-Shinqitee was explaining part of surah al-Baqarah, during his discussion of the ayah:

يَا بَنِي إِسْرَ‌ائِيلَ اذْكُرُ‌وا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

O Banu Israa’eel, remember My favor that I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over all creation [2:47]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee explained:

وقوله هنا {فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ} ؛ أي : على عالمي زمانكم الذي أنتم فيه ، فلا ينافي أن هذه الأمة التي هي أمة محمد ﷺ أفضل منهم ، كما نصّ الله على ذلك بقوله : {كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ} الآية [آل عمران 110] ، وفي حديث معاوية بن حيدة القشيري عن النبي ﷺ : أَنْتُمْ تُوفُونَ سَبْعِينَ أُمَّةً أَنْتُمْ خَيْرُهَا وَأَكْرَمُهَا عَلَى اللَّهِ . ـ

Allah’s statement here:

 فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

 I preferred you over all creation [2:47]

meaning: over all creation of the time in which they were living, so this does not conflict with the fact that this ummah – which is the ummah of Muhammad (ﷺ) – is the best of nations, as Allah informed us in His statement:

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ‌ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِ‌جَتْ لِلنَّاسِ

You are the best nation brought forth for mankind … [3:110]

…until the end of the ayah. And in the hadeeth of Mu’aawiyah ibn Haidah al-Qushairi that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “You succeeded seventy nations and you are the best of them and the most noble of them in the sight of Allah”. Continue reading

Whoever Denies One Messenger has Denied Them All: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee mentioned the following point of great benefit in part of his tafsir of surah al-Qamar:

من كذب رسولا واحدا فقد كذب جميع المرسلين ، ومن كذب نذيرا واحدا فقد كذب جميع النذر ، لأن أصل دعوة جميع الرسل واحدة ، وهي مضمون لا إله إلا الله كما أوضحه تعالى بقوله : ولقد بعثنا في كل أمة رسولا أن اعبدوا الله واجتنبوا الطاغوت [ 16 \ 36 ] ، وقوله تعالى : وما أرسلنا من قبلك من رسول إلا نوحي إليه أنه لا إله إلا أنا فاعبدون [ 21 \ 25 ] ، وقوله تعالى : وما أرسلنا من قبلك من رسول إلا نوحي إليه أنه لا إله إلا أنا فاعبدون [ 43 \ 45 ] . ـ

Whoever denies one single messenger has denied all of the messengers, and whoever denies one warner has denied all of the warners. This is because the basis of all the messengers’ call was one and the same, which was the substance of Laa ilaaha illAllaah – there is no deity worthy of worship in truth except Allah. This is as Allah has made clear in His statement:

وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّ‌سُولًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ

And We certainly sent into every nation a messenger, (saying), “Worship Allah and avoid all that is worshiped besides Allah [16:36]

And His statement:

وَمَا أَرْ‌سَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّ‌سُولٍ إِلَّا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدُونِ

And We sent not before you any messenger except that We revealed to him that, “There is no deity except Me, so worship Me.” [21:25]

And His statement: Continue reading

Ashaab al-Aykah and the People of Shu’aib: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah begins recounts the story of His prophet Shu’aib in surah al-Shu’araa’ by saying:

كَذَّبَ أَصْحَابُ الْأَيْكَةِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ * إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ شُعَيْبٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

The Ashaab al-Aykah denied the messengers * when Shu’aib said to them, “Won’t you have taqwaa?” [26:176-177]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following point in his discussion of these verses:

 هؤلاء – أعني أصحاب الأيكة – هم أهل مدين على الصحيح . وكان نبي الله شعيب من أنفسهم ، وإنما لم يقل هنا أخوهم شعيب ; لأنهم نسبوا إلى عبادة الأيكة ، وهي شجرة . وقيل : شجر ملتف كالغيضة ، كانوا يعبدونها ; فلهذا لما قال : كذب أصحاب الأيكة المرسلين ، لم يقل : ” إذ قال لهم أخوهم شعيب ” ، وإنما قال : ( إذ قال لهم شعيب ) ، فقطع نسبة الأخوة بينهم ; للمعنى الذي نسبوا إليه ، وإن كان أخاهم نسبا . ومن الناس من لم يتفطن لهذه النكتة ، فظن أن أصحاب الأيكة غير أهل مدين ، فزعم أن شعيبا عليه السلام ، بعثه الله إلى أمتين ، ومنهم من قال : ثلاث أمم . … والصحيح أنهم أمة واحدة ، وصفوا في كل مقام بشيء ; ولهذا وعظ هؤلاء وأمرهم بوفاء المكيال والميزان ، كما في قصة مدين سواء بسواء ، فدل ذلك على أنهم أمة واحدة . ـ

These people – meaning the Ashaab al-Aykah [the People of the Thicket] – are the people of the city of Madyan according to the correct opinion. The prophet of Allah Shu’aib was one of them, and the only reason why he is not referred to here as “their brother Shu’aib” is because here they are being described in relation to their worship of the aykah, which is a sort of tree – and some say it is a twisted sort of tree like a thicket -, which they used to worship.

So it is because of this that when Allah said, “The Ashaab al-Aykah denied the messengers“, He did not then say, “when their brother Shu’aib said to them…”, but instead said, “when Shu’aib said to them…“. So He cut off the relationship of brotherhood between Shu’aib and his people in the sense of them being referred to as “his people” even though he was in fact related to them as their brother. Continue reading

Belief in the Messengers in brief: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In part of his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah (2:253), sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di listed a summary of some of the salient points regarding the prophets and messengers:

فائدة: كما يجب على المكلف معرفته بربه، فيجب عليه معرفته برسله، ما يجب لهم ويمتنع عليهم ويجوز في حقهم، ويؤخذ جميع ذلك مما وصفهم الله به في آيات متعددة. ـ

A point of benefit: Just as knowledge of one’s Lord is obligatory upon every legally-responsible adult, likewise knowledge of His messengers is also obligatory upon him – what is obligated towards them, what is prohibited regarding them and what is permitted concerning them. And all of that is taken from what Allah has described them with in numerous ayaat.

منها: أنهم رجال لا نساء، من أهل القرى لا من أهل البوادي، وأنهم مصطفون مختارون، جمع الله لهم من الصفات الحميدة ما به الاصطفاء والاختيار، وأنهم سالمون من كل ما يقدح في رسالتهم من كذب وخيانة وكتمان وعيوب مزرية، وأنهم لا يقرون على خطأ فيما يتعلق بالرسالة والتكليف، وأن الله تعالى خصهم بوحيه . ـ

And among these descriptions are:

-They there are men and not women[1], from the inhabitants of townships and not from the people of the wilderness[2].

– And they were chosen[3] and selected[4]; Allah combined in them praiseworthy traits which He chose and selected[5]. Continue reading

The Story of Ayyub: Imam al-Sa’di

In his book of thematic tafsir, Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di devoted a sizable portion to compiling the various ayaat around different prophets into summarized narratives, as well as mentioning select benefits derived from these ayaat. What follows in his brief treatment of the story of the prophet Ayyub (Job):

قصة أيوب عليه الصلاة السلام

The Story of Ayyub (peace and blessing be upon him)

قصة أيوب عليه الصلاة السلام كان أيوب من أنبياء بني إسرائيل، ومن الأصفياء الكرام، وقد ذكره الله في كتابه، وأثنى عليه بالخصال الحميدة عموما، وبالصبر على البلاء خصوصا؛ فإن الله تعالى ابتلاه بولده وأهله وماله، ثم بجسده، فأصابه من البلاء ما لم يصب أحدا من الخلق، فصبر لأمر الله ولم يزل منيبا لله. ـ

The Story of Ayyub (peace and blessing be upon him): Ayyub was one of the prophets of Banu Israa’eel, and he was one of their most exceptional and honorable ones. Allah mentioned him in His Book and commended him for his praiseworthy characteristics in general, and for his steadfast patience in the face of trials in particular. For Allah subjected him to trials dealing with his children and his family and his wealth, and then with his own body. So Allah afflicted him with trials the likes of which none amongst the creation had previously been afflicted with. But he exercised steadfast patience upon the command of Allah and he did not cease turning back to Allah.

ولما تطاول به المرض العظيم، ونسيه الصاحب والحميم نادى ربه: {أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنْتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ} [الأنبياء: 83] فقيل له: {ارْكُضْ بِرِجْلِكَ} [ص: 42] فركض، فنبعت بركضته عين ماء بارد، فقيل له: اشرب منها واغتسل، ففعل ذلك، فأذهب الله ما في باطنه وظاهره من البلاء، ثم أعاد الله له أهله وماله، وأعطاه من النعم والخيرات شيئا كثيرا، وصار بهذا الصبر قدوة للصابرين، وسلوة للمبتلين، وعبرة للمعتبرين . ـ

And when his grave illness continued on at length and his companions and close friends forgot him, he called out to his Lord:

 أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ‌ وَأَنتَ أَرْ‌حَمُ الرَّ‌احِمِينَ

Indeed, adversity has touched me, and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful ones! [21:83]

So it was said to him: Continue reading

What is the wisdom of abrogating a command before it can be acted on?: Imam al-Shinqitee

In a session of tafsir delivered at his home which was recorded by his son and subsequently transribed, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee discussed the following question:

هل يجوز النسخ قبل التمكن من الفعل أو لا يجوز ؟ والجماهير من العلماء على أنه جائز وواقع ، ومن أمثلته نسخ خمس وأربعين صلاة ليلية الإسراء بعد أن فرضت خسمسين ، ونُسخ منها خمس وأربعين بينما أُقرت خمساً ، ومن أمثلته قوله جل وعلا في قصة ذبح إبراهيم لولده : <  وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ > [الصفات 108] ؛ لأنه أمره أن يذبح ولده ، ونسخ هذا الأمر قبل التمكن من الفعل ، والتحقيق أن هذا جائز وواقع ، ولا شك أن فيه سؤالاً معروفاً وهو أن يقول طالب العلم : إذا كان الحكم يشرع ويُنسخ قبل العمل فما الحكمة في تشريعه الأول إذا كان ينسخ قبل العمل به ؟  ـ

Is the abrogation of a command before it is able to be carried out possible or impossible? The majority of the scholars hold the position that it is possible and that it actually happens, and one of the examples of this is the abrogation of forty-five prayers on the night of the Night Journey after fifty had been made obligatory and forty-five of them were abrogated, leaving only five remaining. And another example of this is Allah’s statement regarding the story of Ibrahim’s sacrificing his son:

وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ

And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice [37:107]

For Allah commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, but He abrogated this command before Ibrahim was able to enact it. So the conclusion is that this is both possible and it occurs. And undoubtedly there is a well-known question regarding this, which is that the student of knowledge asks, “If a ruling is legislated and then abrogated before being acted upon, then what is the reasoning in its being legislated in the first place if it is abrogated prior to being carried out?” Continue reading