“Whoever Allah Wants to Guide, He Opens his Chest to Islam”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-An’aam:

فَمَن يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَن يَهْدِيَهُ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ ۖ وَمَن يُرِدْ أَن يُضِلَّهُ يَجْعَلْ صَدْرَهُ ضَيِّقًا حَرَجًا كَأَنَّمَا يَصَّعَّدُ فِي السَّمَاءِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَجْعَلُ اللَّهُ الرِّجْسَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

So whoever Allah wants to guide, He opens his chest to Islam. And whoever He wants to misguide, He makes his chest tight and constricted as though he were climbing up the sky. Thus does Allah place wrath upon those who do not believe. [6:125]

In his commentary on this parable, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote the following beautiful words:

يقول تعالى -مبينا لعباده علامة سعادة العبد وهدايته، وعلامة شقاوته وضلاله-: إن من انشرح صدره للإسلام، أي: اتسع وانفسح، فاستنار بنور الإيمان، وحيي بضوء اليقين، فاطمأنت بذلك نفسه، وأحب الخير، وطوعت له نفسه فعله، متلذذا به غير مستثقل، فإن هذا علامة على أن الله قد هداه، ومن عليه بالتوفيق، وسلوك أقوم الطريق. ـ

Here, Allah is making it clear to His servants what are the signs of a slave’s ultimate joy and guidance and what are the signs of a slave’s ultimate misery and misguidance. So He says that whoever’s chest has been opened up to Islam – that is, it has been made wide and spacious – then it becomes enlightened with the light of faith and enlivened with the light of certainty. So his heart becomes at peace with that, loves good, and becomes compliant in doing it – taking enjoyment from it, nor at all feeling burdened. So this is a sign that Allah has guided such a person and blessed him to be rightly guided and traversing the most upright path.

Continue reading

How the Believers Respond to the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Zumar:

اللَّـهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّـهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّـهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ

Allah has sent down the best speech: a consistent and reiterating Book. The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it, then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah. That is Allah’s guidance, through which He guides whom He wills. And whomever Allah leads astray, then there is no one to guide him. [39:23]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

وقوله : { تقشعر منه جلود الذين يخشون ربهم ثم تلين جلودهم وقلوبهم إلى ذكر الله } أي هذه صفة الأبرار ، عند سماع كلام الجبار ، المهيمن العزيز الغفار ، لما يفهمون منه من الوعد والوعيد . والتخويف والتهديد ، تقشعر منه جلودهم من الخشية والخوف ، { ثم تلين جلودهم وقلوبهم إلى ذكر الله } لما يرجون ويؤملون من رحمته ولطفه ، فهم مخالفون لغيرهم من الكفار من وجوه : ـ

Allah’s statement:

تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ

The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it, then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah.

this is a characteristic of the righteous ones upon hearing the words of the Almighty, the Preserver, the All-Powerful, Oft-Forgiving. As a result of the promises, threats, and intimidation that they find in the Qur’an, their skins shiver over out reverence and fear.

ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ

then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah

due to the mercy and kindness of Allah that they hope and wish for. So they are distinct from from the disbelievers in a number of ways:

أحدها : أن سماع هؤلاء هو تلاوة الآيات ، وسماع أولئك نغمات لأبيات ، من أصوات القينات . ـ

Firstly: The believers listen to the recitation of these ayaat, while those disbelievers listen to the tunes of poetry by female singers. Continue reading

A Living Heart and a Light to Walk by: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah strikes the following parable in part of surah al-An’aam:

أَوَمَن كَانَ مَيْتًا فَأَحْيَيْنَاهُ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُ نُورًا يَمْشِي بِهِ فِي النَّاسِ كَمَن مَّثَلُهُ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ لَيْسَ بِخَارِجٍ مِّنْهَا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِلْكَافِرِينَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

And is one who was dead and We gave him life and made a light for him by which to walk among the people like one who is in darknesses, never to emerge from them? Thus what they have been doing has been made pleasing to the disbelievers. [6:122]

In part of his explanation of this ayah, al-haafidh ibn Kathir wrote:

هذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى للمؤمن الذي كان ميتا ، أي : في الضلالة ، هالكا حائرا ، فأحياه الله ، أي : أحيا قلبه بالإيمان ، وهداه له ووفقه لاتباع رسله . ( وجعلنا له نورا يمشي به في الناس ) أي : يهتدي به كيف يسلك ، وكيف يتصرف به . والنور هو : القرآن ، كما رواه العوفي وابن أبي طلحة ، عن ابن عباس . وقال السدي : الإسلام . والكل صحيح . ـ

This is a parable that Allah struck regarding a believer who had been dead – that is, in a state of misguidance, lost and confused – and then Allah gave him life – that is, gave life to his heart through eemaan and guided him and enabled him to follow His messengers.

وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُ نُورًا يَمْشِي بِهِ فِي النَّاسِ

… and made a light for him by which to walk among the people …

i.e. that he is guided by it in terms of how he should act and conduct himself.

The “light” here is the Qur’an, as has been transmitted from ibn ‘Abbaas by way of al-‘Awfi and ibn Abi Talhah, while al-Suddi says it refers to Islam. And both of these explanations are correct. Continue reading

How the Qur’an Addresses Potential Doubts: Tafsir al-Sa’di

After a long series of ayaat in surah al-Baqarah critical of Banu Israa’eel for their repeated betrayals of the covenant that Allah had taken from them, Allah then says:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالنَّصَارَىٰ وَالصَّابِئِينَ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

Those who believe and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabi’oon who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteous good deeds – they will have their reward with Allah, and they will not have any fear nor will they grieve. [2:62]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following explanation and beneficial point of Qur’anic style in his commentary on this ayah:

ثم قال تعالى حاكما بين الفرق الكتابية: { إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالنَّصَارَى وَالصَّابِئِينَ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ } وهذا الحكم على أهل الكتاب خاصة, لأن الصابئين, الصحيح أنهم من جملة فرق النصارى، فأخبر الله أن المؤمنين من هذه الأمة, واليهود والنصارى, والصابئين من آمن بالله واليوم الآخر, وصدقوا رسلهم, فإن لهم الأجر العظيم والأمن, ولا خوف عليهم ولا هم يحزنون، وأما من كفر منهم بالله ورسله واليوم الآخر, فهو بضد هذه الحال, فعليه الخوف والحزن. ـ

This status is only applicable to the Ahl al-Kitab, for the correct opinion regarding the Sabi’oon is that they are one of the Christian sects.

In this ayah, Allah is informing the believers that the Jews, Christians, and Sabi’oon who believe in Allah and the Last Day and affirm His messengers will have a great reward as well as safety. They will not fear nor will they grieve.

But as for those of those of them that disbelieve in Allah and His messengers and the Last Day, then they will experience the opposite situation: they will fear and they will grieve. 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

Treating Doubts in One’s Faith: Imam al-Sa’di

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di included the following hadith and explanation in his book of comprehensive hadith narrations:

عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «يَأْتِي الشَّيْطَانُ أَحَدَكُمْ فَيَقُولُ: مَنْ خَلَقَ كَذَا؟ مَنْ خَلَقَ كَذَا؟ حَتَّى يَقُولَ: مَنْ خَلَقَ الله؟ فإذا بلغه فليستعذ بالله، ولينته» . وفي لفظ «فليقل: آمنت بالله ورسله» متفق عليه. وَفِي لَفْظٍ «لَا يَزَالُ النَّاسُ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ حَتَّى يقولوا: من خلق الله؟» . ـ

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, who said that Allah’s Messenger said:

The Shaytaan comes to one of you and says, “who created that?” and “who created that?” until he says, “who created Allah?” When it comes to that, then the person should seek refuge in Allah and give up such thoughts.

and in another narration:

The person should say, “I believe in Allah and His Messenger.”

This was reported by both al-Bukhari and Muslim. And in another narration:

People will continue asking one another until they say, “Who created Allah?”

احتوى هذا الحديث على أنه لا بد أن يلقي الشيطان هذا الإيراد الباطل: إما وسوسة محضة، أو على لسان شياطين الإنس وملاحدتهم. وقد وقع كما أخبر، فإن الأمرين وقعا، لا يزال الشيطان يدفع إلى قلوب من ليست لهم بصيرة هذا السؤال الباطل، ولا يزال أهل الإلحاد يلقون هذه الشبهة التي هي أبطل الشبه، ويتكلمون عن العلل وعن مواد العالم بكلام سخيف معروف. ـ

This hadith indicates that the shaytaan will certainly employ this wicked scheme: either simply through whisperings, or through the speech of some of the human shayaateen and heretics. And it has happened exactly as he said it would, for both of these things do occur. The shaytaan continuously prods and pushes the hearts of those without clear vision with such futile questions, and the heretics continuously introduce these doubts, which are the most vile form of doubts, always talking about the causes of things and the make-up of the universe with patently absurd speech.

وقد أرشد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم في هذا الحديث العظيم إلى دفع هذا السؤال بأمور ثلاثة: بالانتهاء، والعوذ من الشيطان، وبالإيمان. ـ

In this wonderful hadith, the Prophet guides us to repel such question with three steps:

  1. Halting such questions
  2. Seeking refuge from the shaytaan
  3. Having eemaan Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 58-66: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the sixth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 58-66. In this passage, Allah reminds the Children of Israa’eel of His many blessing on them and of their responses to these blessings. See the series guide here for more information about this series.

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا ادْخُلُوا هَـٰذِهِ الْقَرْيَةَ فَكُلُوا مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ رَغَدًا وَادْخُلُوا الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا وَقُولُوا حِطَّةٌ نَّغْفِرْ لَكُمْ خَطَايَاكُمْ ۚ وَسَنَزِيدُ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

And when We said, “Enter this city and eat whatever you want of it in abundance. And enter the gate in prostration, saying, ‘relieve us.’ We will forgive you of your sins and We will increase the good doers.” [2:58]

واذكروا نعمتنا عليكم حين قلنا: ادخلوا مدينة بيت المقدس فكلوا من طيباتها في أي مكان منها أكلا هنيئًا، وكونوا في دخولكم خاضعين لله، ذليلين له، وقولوا: ربَّنا ضَعْ عنَّا ذنوبنا، نستجب لكم ونعف ونسترها عليكم، وسنزيد المحسنين بأعمالهم خيرًا وثوابًا. ـ

58. And remember our blessing upon you when We said, “Enter the city of Jerusalem and eat its wholesome food from any part of the city in enjoyment. And when you enter, be humble and submissive towards Allah, saying, ‘O our Lord, remove our sins from us!’ We will respond to you, pardon you, and cover your faults. And We will increase the good doers in goodness and rewards due to their good deeds.”

فَبَدَّلَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا قَوْلًا غَيْرَ الَّذِي قِيلَ لَهُمْ فَأَنزَلْنَا عَلَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا رِجْزًا مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ

But those who were unjust replaced that statement with something other than what had been said to them. So We then sent down a punishment from the sky on those who were unjust because of they crimes they used to commit. [2:59] Continue reading

Allah is Not Shy to Strike a Parable of a Mosquito: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In the early part of surah al-Baqarah, Allah says:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا ۚ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّـهُ بِهَـٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا ۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ * الَّذِينَ يَنقُضُونَ عَهْدَ اللَّـهِ مِن بَعْدِ مِيثَاقِهِ وَيَقْطَعُونَ مَا أَمَرَ اللَّـهُ بِهِ أَن يُوصَلَ وَيُفْسِدُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ

Allah is not shy to strike a parable of a mosquito or something even less than that. As for those who have eemaan, they know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, then they say, “What does Allah intend by this parable?” He misguides many with it and guides many with it. And He does not misguide any except for the faasiqoon. * Those who break the covenant of Allah after having taken it, and who sever what Allah has commanded to be connected, and who bring about corruption on the earth. It is they who are the losers. [2:26-27]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following commentary on these ayaat:

يقول تعالى: إن الله لا يستحيي أن يضرب مثلا ما أي: أي مثل كان بعوضة فما فوقها لاشتمال الأمثال على الحكمة، وإيضاح الحق، والله لا يستحيي من الحق، وكأن في هذا، جوابا لمن أنكر ضرب الأمثال في الأشياء الحقيرة ، واعترض على الله في ذلك. فليس في ذلك محل اعتراض. بل هو من تعليم الله لعباده ورحمته بهم. فيجب أن تتلقى بالقبول والشكر. ولهذا قال: فأما الذين آمنوا فيعلمون أنه الحق من ربهم فيتفهمونها، ويتفكرون فيها. ـ

Allah says:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا

Allah is not shy to strike a parable …

meaning: of any sort, whether

بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا

… of a mosquito or something even less than that

because these parables contain wisdom and provide clarification of the truth, and Allah is not shy of the truth. And it is as if this is a response to whose who disapproved of Allah striking parables of lowly things and objected to Allah having done that. However they had no place to object to that. On the contrary, this is an example of Allah teaching His slaves and showing mercy to them, so it must be received with acceptance and gratitude. That is why Allah said: 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

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 1-20: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the first installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 1-20. See the series guide here for more information about the series, or click here for more information about the book itself.

أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

الم

Alif Lam Meem (2:1)

هذه الحروف وغيرها من الحروف المقطَّعة في أوائل السور فيها إشارة إلى إعجاز القرآن؛ فقد وقع به تحدي المشركين، فعجزوا عن معارضته، وهو مركَّب من هذه الحروف التي تتكون منها لغة العرب. فدَلَّ عجز العرب عن الإتيان بمثله- مع أنهم أفصح الناس- على أن القرآن وحي من الله.ـ

1) These letters and the other disconnected letters at the beginnings of surahs point to the miraculous inimitable nature of the Qur’an, for the Qur’an presented a challenge to the mushrikoon which they could not respond to, despite the fact that the Qur’an is built from the very same letters which make up the Arabic language. So the Arab’s inability to produce anything similar to the Qur’an, despite them being the most eloquent of people, shows that the Qur’an is revelation from Allah.

ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

That is the Book about which there is no doubt. It is a guidance for the muttaqoon (2:2) Continue reading