Clarification on the Qiraa’aat and the Ahruf: al-Qurtubi

In the introduction to his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Qurtubi dedicated one section to discussing the meaning of the Prophet’s statement that the Qur’an was revealed in seven ahruf. He concluded that section and segued into the next by writing:

وقد قيل : إن المراد بقوله عليه السلام : أنزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف القراءات السبع التي قرأ بها القراء السبعة ; لأنها كلها صحت عن رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ، وهذا ليس بشيء لظهور بطلانه على ما يأتي . ـ

And some have said that the meaning of the Prophet’s statement, “The Qur’an was sent down in seven ahruf” is that it is referring to the seven qiraa’aat which were recited by the seven famous reciters because all of these can be authentically traced back to Allah’s Messenger. But this position is not worth consideration due to its clear falsity, as we will see.

فصل في القراءات ونسبتها
Regarding the Qiraa’aat and their Attribution

قال كثير من علمائنا كالداودي وابن أبي صفرة وغيرهما : هذه القراءات السبع التي تنسب لهؤلاء القراء السبعة ، ليست هي الأحرف السبعة التي اتسعت الصحابة في القراءة بها ، وإنما هي راجعة إلى حرف واحد من تلك السبعة ، وهو الذي جمع عليه عثمان المصحف ، ذكره ابن النحاس وغيره . وهذه القراءات المشهورة هي اختيارات أولئك الأئمة القراء ، وذلك أن كل واحد منهم اختار فيما روى وعلم وجهه من القراءات ما هو الأحسن عنده والأولى ، فالتزمه طريقة ورواه وأقرأ به واشتهر عنه ، وعرف به ونسب إليه ، فقيل : حرف نافع ، وحرف ابن كثير ; ولم يمنع واحد منهم اختيار الآخر ولا أنكره بل سوغه وجوزه وكل واحد من هؤلاء السبعة روي عنه اختياران أو أكثر ، وكل صحيح . وقد أجمع المسلمون في هذه الأعصار على الاعتماد على ما صح عن هؤلاء الأئمة مما رووه ورأوه من القراءات وكتبوا في ذلك مصنفات ، فاستمر الإجماع على الصواب ، وحصل ما وعد الله به من حفظ الكتاب ، وعلى هذه الأئمة المتقدمون والفضلاء المحققون كالقاضي أبي بكر بن الطيب والطبري وغيرهما . ـ

Many of our scholars, such as al-Dawudi and ibn Abi Sufrah have said that these seven qiraa’aat which are ascribed to these seven famous reciters are not the seven ahruf which the Sahabah were permitted to recite with, but that these seven qiraa’aat all go back to one single harf out of those seven, which is the one that ‘Uthman collected in the official ‘Uthmani mushaf. That was mentioned by ibn al-Nahaas and others.

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Reconciling Differing Reports About Whether a Surah is Makki or Madani

While most surahs of the Qur’an are unanimously categorized as either Makki or Madani, there have been differing reports and opinions about the proper classification of a small group of twelve surahs. Some of these differences stem from differences in terminology, instances of repeated revelation, Madani ayaat being included in an otherwise Makki surah, or other reasons. In the article below, sheikh Muhammad al-Tahir ibn ‘Aashoor discusses the differing classifications of surah al-Mutaffifeen (83) and demonstrates how to understand the differing reports and come to a conclusion. Being one of the famous mufassiroon of recent centuries, Ibn ‘Aashoor (d. 1393AH/1973CE) had the benefit of drawing on the wealth of tafsir literature before him, as is evident in this passage and his entire book:

وقد اختلف في كونها مكية أو مدنية أو بعضها مكي وبعضها مدني . فعن ابن مسعود والضحاك ومقاتل في رواية عنه : أنها مكية ، وعن ابن عباس في الأصح عنه وعكرمة والحسن والسدي ومقاتل في رواية أخرى عنه : أنها مدنية ، قال : وهي أول سورة نزلت بالمدينة ، وعن ابن عباس في رواية عنه وقتادة : هي مدنية إلا ثماني آيات من آخرها من قوله : إن الذين أجرموا إلى آخرها . ـ

The scholars have differed as to whether surah al-Mutaffifeen (83) is

a. Makki
b. Madani
c. Part Makki and part Madani

It has been relayed that ibn Mas’ood, al-Dhahhaak and in one narration Muqatil held it to be Makki, while it is transmitted from ibn ‘Abbaas according to the most authentic narration from him,’Ikrimah, al-Hasan, al-Suddi and Muqatil in a different narration that they held it to be Madani. And Muqatil said, “It was the first surah to be revealed in al-Madinah.” It has also been relayed in one narration from ibn ‘Abbaas as well as from Qatadah that it is a Madani surah except for the last eight ayaat beginning from Allah’s statement: Continue reading

The Prophet is Closer to the Believers than Their Own Selves: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah informs us of the following in the beginning of surah al-Ahzab:

النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَىٰ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ ۖ وَأَزْوَاجُهُ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ

The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers [33:6]

Imam al-Qurtubi opens his discussion of this ayah by writing:

قوله تعالى : النبي أولى بالمؤمنين من أنفسهم هذه الآية أزال الله تعالى بها أحكاما كانت في صدر الإسلام ; منها : أنه صلى الله عليه وسلم كان لا يصلي على ميت عليه دين ، فلما فتح الله عليه الفتوح قال : أنا أولى بالمؤمنين من أنفسهم ; فمن توفي وعليه دين فعلي قضاؤه ، ومن ترك مالا فلورثته أخرجه الصحيحان . وفيهما أيضا فأيكم ترك دينا أو ضياعا فأنا مولاه . قال ابن العربي : فانقلبت الآن الحال بالذنوب ، فإن تركوا مالا ضويق العصبة فيه ، وإن تركوا ضياعا أسلموا إليه ; فهذا تفسير الولاية المذكورة في هذه الآية بتفسير النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وتنبيهه ; ولا عطر بعد عروس . قال ابن عطية : وقال بعض العلماء العارفين : هو أولى بهم من أنفسهم ; لأن أنفسهم تدعوهم إلى الهلاك ، وهو يدعوهم إلى النجاة . قال ابن عطية : ويؤيد هذا قوله عليه الصلاة والسلام : أنا آخذ بحجزكم عن النار وأنتم تقتحمون فيها تقحم الفراش . ـ

Allah’s statement:

النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَىٰ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ

The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves …

Allah eliminated some rulings that had been in place at the beginning of Islam with this ayah. One of those earlier rulings was that the Prophet used to not offer the funeral prayer for someone who died while still owing a debt.

… But then when Allah gave the Prophet some victories on his expeditions he said, “I am closer to the believers than their own selves. So whoever dies while still owing a debt, then the debt is on me and I will pay it. And whoever leaves any wealth, then that is for his inheritors.”

al-Bukhari and Muslim both reported this hadith, as well as the hadith:

Any one of you who dies and leaves behind a debt or a needy dependent, then I am his close one.

Ibn al-‘Arabi said, “Due to sins, the situation today is the complete opposite. If someone leaves behind wealth, then his people come after it, but if he leaves a needy dependent behind they wash their hands of him.”

So the explanation of the “closeness” mentioned in this ayah is the explanation that the Prophet gave and alerted us to, and there is nothing that can come later to surpass this. That being said, ibn ‘Atiyyah mentioned the following: Continue reading

The Prohibition of Music in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Near the beginning of surah Luqman, Allah says what can be literally translated as:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَشْتَرِي لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ لِيُضِلَّ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ وَيَتَّخِذَهَا هُزُوًا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ

And among the people are those who purchase idle talk in order to mislead others from the path of Allah without knowledge and who take it as a mockery. For these ones, there is a humiliating punishment [31:6]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, the great mufassir imam Muhammad al-Qurtubi explained this ayah according to the understanding of the salaf by writing:

و ( لهو الحديث ) : الغناء ; في قول ابن مسعود وابن عباس وغيرهما . النحاس : وهو ممنوع بالكتاب والسنة ; والتقدير : من يشتري ذا لهو أو ذات لهو ; مثل : واسأل القرية . أو يكون التقدير : لما كان إنما اشتراها يشتريها ويبالغ في ثمنها كأنه اشتراها للهو . ـ

The phrase:

لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ

“idle talk”

means music. This is according to the statements of ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbaas, and others.

al-Nahhaas said: Music is prohibited according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

قلت : هذه إحدى الآيات الثلاث التي استدل بها العلماء على كراهة الغناء والمنع منه . والآية الثانية قوله تعالى : وأنتم سامدون . قال ابن عباس : هو الغناء بالحميرية ; اسمدي لنا ; أي غني لنا . ـ

I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say: This is one of three ayaat in the Qur’an which the scholars use as evidence for the position that music is something hated and prohibited. The second ayah is Allah’s statement: Continue reading

“Those messengers, We have given precedence to some over others”: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In the latter part of surah al-Baqarah, Allah informs us:

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

Those Messengers! We have given precedence to some over others. Among them were those to whom Allah spoke, and He raised some of them in degree [2:253]

Commenting on this ayah and its contents in his book of tafsir, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee first covered the issues of those to whom Allah spoke and then those whom He raised in degree, before proceeding to discuss the issue of some messenger being favored by Allah over others:

تنبيه . في هذه الآية الكريمة ، أعني قوله تعالى : تلك الرسل فضلنا بعضهم على بعض الآية ، إشكال قوي معروف . ووجهه : أنه ثبت في حديث أبي هريرة المتفق عليه أنه – صلى الله عليه وسلم – قال : ” لا تخيروني على موسى ; فإن الناس يصعقون يوم القيامة فأكون أول من يفيق ، فإذا موسى باطش بجانب العرش ، فلا أدري أفاق قبلي أم كان ممن استثنى الله ” ، وثبت أيضا في حديث أبي سعيد المتفق عليه : ” لا تخيروا بين الأنبياء ; فإن الناس يصعقون يوم القيامة ” الحديث ، وفي رواية : ” لا تفضلوا بين أنبياء الله ” ، وفي رواية : ” لا تخيروني من بين الأنبياء ” . ـ

An issue: In this noble ayah, i.e. Allah’s statement:

تِلْكَ الرُّ‌سُلُ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۘ مِّنْهُم

Those Messengers! We have given precedence to some over others… [2:253]

until the end of the ayah. This is a difficult and well-known issues, which is that it is confirmed in the authentic hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

Don’t assign me superiority over Moosaa, for the people will fall unconscious on the Day of Resurrection and I will be the first to gain consciousness, and behold! Moosaa will be there holding the side of Allah’s Throne. I will not know whether Moosaa has been among those people who have become unconscious and then has regained consciousness before me, or has been among those exempted by Allah from falling unconscious.

And it is also confirmed in the authentic hadeeth of Abu Sa’eed, “Do not give one prophet superiority over another, for on the Day of Resurrection all the people will fall unconscious” until the end of the hadeeth. And in another narration, “Do not give preference to one of the prophets of Allah over the others,” and in another narration, “Do not give me superiority over the prophets.”

وقال القرطبي في تفسير هذه الآية ما نصه : وهذه الآية مشكلة ، والأحاديث ثابتة بأن النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – قال : ” لا تخيروا بين الأنبياء ولا تفضلوا بين أنبياء الله ” ، رواها الأئمة الثقات ، أي : لا تقولوا فلان خير من فلان ، ولا فلان أفضل من فلان ، اهـ . ـ

And al-Qurtubi said under the tafsir of this ayah what is mentioned: Continue reading

Moosaa, Muhammad & Adam – the Messengers to whom Allah spoke: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In the latter part of surah al-Baqarah, Allah informs us:

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

Those Messengers! We preferred some to others. Among them were those to whom Allah spoke, and He raised some of them in degree [2:253]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee commented at length on the contents of this ayah in his book of tafsir. What follows is the first of three sections in which he discussed the messengers to whom He spoke:

قوله تعالى : تلك الرسل فضلنا بعضهم على بعض منهم من كلم الله ورفع بعضهم درجات ، لم يبين هنا هذا الذي كلمه الله منهم وقد بين أن منهم موسى عليه وعلى نبينا الصلاة والسلام بقوله : وكلم الله موسى تكليما [ 4 \ 164 ] ، وقوله : إني اصطفيتك على الناس برسالاتي وبكلامي [ 7 \ 144 ] . ـ

Allah’s statement:

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

Those Messengers! We preferred some to others. Among them were those to whom Allah spoke, and He raised some of them in degree [2:253]

Allah does not clarify here those of them to whom He spoke, but He did explain that among them was Moosaa (peace and blessings upon him and upon our prophet) by means of His statement:

وَكَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ مُوسَىٰ تَكْلِيمًا

And Allah spoke to Moses with [direct] speech. [4:164]

And His statement [to Moosaa]:

إِنِّي اصْطَفَيْتُكَ عَلَى النَّاسِ بِرِ‌سَالَاتِي وَبِكَلَامِي

I have chosen you over the people with My messages and My words [to you]. [7:144]

قال ابن كثير : منهم من كلم الله ، يعني موسى ومحمدا صلى الله عليهما وسلم ، وكذلك آدم كما ورد في الحديث المروي في ” صحيح ابن حبان ” عن أبي ذر رضي الله عنه . ـ

Ibn Kathir said: Continue reading

Ibn Taymiyah on the Books of Tafsir

In Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, Sheikh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyah was asked:

أي التفاسير أقرب إلى الكتاب والسنة ؟ الزمخشري ؟ أم القرطبي ؟ أم البغوي ؟ أو غير هؤلاء ؟

Which tafsir is nearest to the Qur’an and Sunnah: al-Zamakhshari, al-Qurtubi, al-Baghawi, or another one?

He responded by writing:

 وأما ” التفاسير ” التي في أيدي الناس فأصحها ” تفسير محمد بن جرير الطبري ” فإنه يذكر مقالات السلف بالأسانيد الثابتة وليس فيه بدعة ولا ينقل عن المتهمين كمقاتل بن بكير والكلبي والتفاسير غير المأثورة بالأسانيد كثيرة كتفسير عبد الرزاق وعبد بن حميد ووكيع وابن أبي قتيبة وأحمد بن حنبل وإسحاق بن راهويه . ـ

As for the the books of tafsir which are available to the people, then the most authentic of them is the tafsir of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari [Tafsir al-Tabari] (d. 310 H), for it mentions the statements of the salaf with the reliable chains of narrations, and there is neither bid’ah in it nor does he transmit from people who have been accussed of fabrication such as Muqaatil ibn Bakeer or al-Kalbi. And there are many books of tafsir which do not bring the narrations with chains such as the tafsir of ‘Abd al-Razzaaq [ibn Hammaam] (d. 211 H), ‘Abd ibn Humayd (d. 249 H), Wakee’ [ibn al-Jarraah] (d. 197 H), ibn Abi Qutaybah (d. 276 H), Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 H), and Ishaaq ibn Raahawayh (d. 238 H).

وأما ” التفاسير الثلاثة ” المسئول عنها فأسلمها من البدعة والأحاديث الضعيفة ” البغوي ” لكنه مختصر من ” تفسير الثعلبي ” وحذف منه الأحاديث الموضوعة والبدع التي فيه وحذف أشياء غير ذلك . ـ

As for the three tafseers which were inquired about, then the safest of them from bid’ah and weak ahaadeeth is al-Baghawi (d. 516 H), though it is abridged from Tafsir al-Tha’labi, and he [Imam al-Baghawi] removed the fabricated ahaadeeth and bid’ah therein from it, and omitted other things as well. Continue reading