Tafsir of the Qur’an and its Connection to the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

Sheikh Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti mentioned the following point in his famous manual of Qur’anic Sciences, al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an:

 من المهم معرفة التفاسير الواردة عن الصحابة بحسب قراءة مخصوصة ، وذلك أنه قد يرد عنهم تفسيران في الآية الواحدة مختلفان ، فيظن اختلافا وليس باختلاف ، وإنما كل تفسير على قراءة ، وقد تعرض السلف لذلك . ـ

An important issue is being aware that the explanations transmitted from the Sahaabah are according to specific qiraa’aat (variant recitations of the Qur’an). So because of that, perhaps there might be two different explanations of a single ayah and therefore one might think that these two explanations are in conflict when in fact there is no conflict – rather it is only that each one is an explanation of a particular recitation. And this is something which the salaf were aware of.

فأخرج ابن جرير في قوله تعالى : لقالوا إنما سكرت أبصارنا [ الحجر : 15 ] . من طرق عن ابن عباس وغيره أن سكرت بمعنى سدت ومن طرق أنها بمعنى أخذت . ـ

For in his explanation of Allah’s statement:

لَقَالُوا إِنَّمَا سُكِّرَتْ أَبْصَارُنَا

They would surely say, “our eyes have been sukkirat” [15:15]

ibn Jarir [al-Tabari] brought an explanation from ibn ‘Abbaas and others from more than one route of transmission that the word “sukkirat” carries the meaning of “sealed up”, while in other narrations also from ibn ‘Abbaas and also from multiple routes of transmission it comes that he held it to mean “enchanted”.

ثم أخرج عن قتادة قال : من قرأ سُكِّرَتْ مشددة ، فإنما يعني سدت ، ومن قرأ : سُكِرَتْ مخففة ، فإنه يعني سحرت ، وهذا الجمع من قتادة نفيس بديع . ـ

But then ibn Jarir brought an explanation from Qataadah who said: whoever recites it as “sukkirat” with a shaddah, this means “sealed up”, while whoever recites it as “sukirat” without a shaddah, this means “enchanted”. And this is a wonderful reconciliation of these two explanations by Qataadah. Continue reading

Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari

In surah al-Furqaan, Allah devotes a number of ayaat to describing the characteristics of the ‘ibaad al-Rahman (the slaves of the Most Merciful). Among these descriptions is His statement:

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

And they are those who do not witness al-zoor, and if they pass by some ill talk, they pass by it with dignity. [25:72]

al-Haafidh ibn Kathir clarified the meaning of “those who do not witness” briefly in his tafsir by writing:

 والأظهر من السياق أن المراد : لا يشهدون الزور ، أي : لا يحضرونه; ولهذا قال : ( وإذا مروا باللغو مروا كراما ) أي : لا يحضرون الزور ، وإذا اتفق مرورهم به مروا ، ولم يتدنسوا منه بشيء ; ولهذا قال : ( مروا كراما ) . ـ

From the context, it appears that the intended meaning of “they do not witness al-zoor” is that they are not present for it or in attendance when it is happening. In line with this, Allah said:

وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

and if they pass by some ill talk, they pass by it with dignity.

meaning: they are not in attendance when al-zoor occurs, and if they do happen to pass by it, then they do not let it sully them in the least. In this vein, Allah said:

مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

they pass by it with dignity.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 6/132]

There were a number of different interpretations of the meaning of al-zoor among the salaf. Sheikh ibn al-Jawzi summarizes these different opinions as follows: Continue reading

The Quraish’s Demand for a Sign: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee mentioned the following in part of his tafsir of surah al-Ra’d:

قوله تعالى : ويقول الذين كفروا لولا أنزل عليه آية من ربه . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُ‌وا لَوْلَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِّن رَّ‌بِّهِ

And those who disbelieved say, “Why has a sign not been sent down to him from his Lord?” [13:7]

In this noble ayah, Allah explained that the disbelievers demand that the Prophet bring a sign sent to him from his Lord. And He made this meaning clear in numerous other places, such as His statement:

فَلْيَأْتِنَا بِآيَةٍ كَمَا أُرْ‌سِلَ الْأَوَّلُونَ

(The disbelievers said) “So let him bring us a sign just as those who were sent previously.” [21:5]

as well as other ayaat. And He also explained elsewhere that the Magnificent Qur’an contains that which precludes the need of any further signs, as He explained in His statement: Continue reading

“Do not Follow that of which you have no Knowledge”: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In surah al-Israa – also sometimes referred to as surah Bani Israa’eel -, Allah commands:

وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَـٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا

And do not follow that of which you have no knowledge. Certainly the hearing, and the sight, and the heart of each of those you will be questioned. [17:36]

The scholars of tafsir have differed regarding the meaning of this command. Ibn al-Jawzi summarized the different opinions in his book of tafsir by writing:

وللمفسرين في المراد به أربعة أقوال : ـ
أحدها: لا ترم أحدا بما ليس لك به علم، رواه العوفي عن ابن عباس .ـ
والثاني: لا تقل: رأيت، ولم تر، ولا سمعت، ولم تسمع، رواه عثمان بن عطاء، عن أبيه، عن ابن عباس، وبه قال قتادة .ـ
والثالث: لا تشرك بالله شيئا، رواه عطاء أيضا عن ابن عباس .ـ
والرابع: لا تشهد بالزور، قاله محمد بن الحنفية .ـ

There were four different opinions among the mufassiroon as to the intended meaning of this phrase:

1) Do not levy accusations of which you do not have knowledge against anyone. al-‘Awfi transmitted this from ibn ‘Abbaas.

2) Do not say, “I saw such-and-such” when you did not see it, nor say “I heard such-and-such” when you did not hear it. ‘Uthman ibn ‘Ataa’ transmitted this from his father from ibn ‘Abbaas, and Qataadah also mentioned this.

3) Do not associate any partners with Allah. ‘Ataa also narrated this from ibn ‘Abbaas.

4) Do not bear false witness. And this is what Muhammad ibn Haneefiyyah said.

[Zad al-Maseer 5/36]

Imam ibn Jarir al-Tabari also mentioned these different positions in his own tafsir along with their chains of narration. He then concluded with the following reconciliation of those opinions by writing: Continue reading

An Example of Added Meaning from the Different Qiraa’aat

The different qiraa’aat (recitations) of the Qur’an are an important part of tafsir and the sciences of the Qur’an, but a subject which does not receive much discussion in the English language. We have translated a brief introduction to this matter from sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez bin Baaz, which we would recommending reading as a primer before proceeding with this article.

What follows is a simple and – inshaAllaah – easy-to-understand example of how the differences in the transmitted recitations can add to the meaning of an ayah, as illustrated in these excerpts from the tafsirs of sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee and imam Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. Please note that some level of familiarity with Arabic will greatly facilitate understanding this example.

In part of his explanation of surah Maryam, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote the following:

قوله تعالى : واذكر في الكتاب موسى إنه كان مخلصا وكان رسولا نبيا ، اعلم أن في قوله ” مخلصا ” قراءتين سبعيتين : قرأه عاصم وحمزة والكسائي بفتح اللام بصيغة اسم المفعول ، والمعنى على هذه القراءة أن الله استخلصه واصطفاه : ويشهد لهذا المعنى قوله تعالى : قال ياموسى إني اصطفيتك على الناس برسالاتي وبكلامي الآية [ 7 \ 144 ] ، ومما يماثل هذه القراءة في القرآن قوله تعالى : إنا أخلصناهم بخالصة ذكرى الدار [ 38 \ 46 ] ، فالذين أخلصهم الله هم المخلصون بفتح اللام . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَاذْكُرْ‌ فِي الْكِتَابِ مُوسَىٰ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مُخْلَصًا وَكَانَ رَ‌سُولًا نَّبِيًّا

And mention in the Book, Moosaa. Indeed, he was mukhlasan, and he was a messenger and a prophet. [19:51]

You should know that there are two different readings of the word mukhlasan that are present in the seven well-known recitations. ‘Aasim, Hamzah, and al-Kasaa’ee recited it with a fathah on the letter laam, which makes it take the form of ism al-maf’ool (direct object). According to this recitation, the meaning is that Allah selected and chose him. And this meaning is attested to by Allah’s statement:

قَالَ يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنِّي اصْطَفَيْتُكَ عَلَى النَّاسِ بِرِ‌سَالَاتِي وَبِكَلَامِي

[Allah] said, “O Moosaa, I have chosen you over the people with My messages and My words…” [7:144]

And among the wordings in the Qur’an which resemble this reading is Allah’s statement:

إِنَّا أَخْلَصْنَاهُم بِخَالِصَةٍ ذِكْرَ‌ى الدَّارِ‌

Indeed, We chose them for an exclusive quality: remembrance of the home (of the Hereafter) [38:46]

For those whom Allah has chosen are the mukhlasoon, with a fathah on the letter laam. Continue reading

We Revealed the Qur’an as a Muhaymin over the previous scriptures: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Maa’idah:

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ

And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a muhaymin over it… [5:48]

Commenting on this ayah in his famous book of tafsir, Imam ibn Kathir wrote:

وقوله : ( ومهيمنا عليه ) قال سفيان الثوري وغيره ، عن أبي إسحاق عن التميمي عن ابن عباس أي : مؤتمنا عليه . وقال علي بن أبي طلحة عن ابن عباس : المهيمن : الأمين ، قال : القرآن أمين على كل كتاب قبله . [ ص: 128 ] ـ

His statement:

وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ

and as a muhaymin over it

Sufyan al-Thawri and others said, on the authority of Abu Ishaaq, on the authority of al-Tameemi on the authority of ibn ‘Abbaas, “it means, entrusted over it.” And ‘Ali ibn Abu Talhah said, on the authority of ibn ‘Abbaas, “al-Muhaymin – the trustworthy.” He said, “The Qur’an is trustworthy over every book prior to it.”

وروي عن عكرمة وسعيد بن جبير ومجاهد ومحمد بن كعب وعطية والحسن وقتادة وعطاء الخراساني والسدي وابن زيد نحو ذلك . ـ

And that is [also] narrated from ‘Ikrimah, Sa’eed ibn Jubayr, Mujaahid, Muhammad ibn Ka’b, ‘Atiyyah, al-Hassan, Qataadah, ‘Ataa’ al-Khuraasaani, al-Suddi, ibn Zayd and others.

وقال ابن جريج : القرآن أمين على الكتب المتقدمة ، فما وافقه منها فهو حق ، وما خالفه منها فهو باطل . ـ

And ibn Jurayj said, “The Qur’an is trustworthy over the previous scriptures, so whatever agrees with it from them, then that is true, and whatever opposes it from them, then that is false.” Continue reading

The Reckoning for the Believers will End in the Middle of the Day: Imam al-Shinqitee

In his book dedicated to responding to supposed contradictions or problematic passages of the Qur’an, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee brought the following section in his treatment of surah al-Furqaan:

قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى: أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ يَوْمَئِذٍ خَيْرٌ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَأَحْسَنُ مَقِيلًا. هَذِهِ الْآيَةُ الْكَرِيمَةُ تَدُلُّ عَلَى انْقِضَاءِ الْحِسَابِ فِي نِصْفِ نَهَارٍ، لِأَنَّ الْمَقِيلَ لِلْقَيْلُولَةِ أَوْ مَكَانِهَا، وَهِيَ الِاسْتِرَاحَةُ نِصْفَ النَّهَارِ فِي الْحَرِّ . ـ

Allah’s statement:

أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ يَوْمَئِذٍ خَيْرٌ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَأَحْسَنُ مَقِيلًا

The dwellers of Paradise will, on that Day, have the best abode, and have the fairest of resting-places [25:24]

This noble ayah shows that the conclusion of the reckoning [on the Day of Judgement] will be in the middle of the day, because al-maqeel (resting-place) refers to a qaylulah or the place where one takes a qaylulah. And a qaylulah is period of rest in the middle of the day during the hottest part of the day.

وَمِمَّنْ قَالَ بِانْقِضَاءِ الْحِسَابِ فِي نِصْفِ نَهَارٍ: ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ وَابْنُ مَسْعُودٍ وَعِكْرِمَةُ وَابْنُ جُبَيْرٍ لِدَلَالَةِ هَذِهِ الْآيَةِ عَلَى ذَلِكَ، كَمَا نَقَلَهُ عَنْهُمُ ابْنُ كَثِيرٍ وَغَيْرُهُ . ـ

And among those who said that the conclusion of the reckoning will be in the middle of the day were ibn ‘Abbaas, ibn Mas’ood, ‘Ikrimah, and ibn Jubayr based on the evidence of this ayah in support of that position. This is as ibn Kathir and others transmitted that from them[1].

وَفِي تَفْسِيرِ الْجَلَالَيْنَ مَا نَصُّهُ: وَأُخِذَ مِنْ ذَلِكَ انْقِضَاءُ الْحِسَابِ فِي نِصْفِ نَهَارٍ، كَمَا وَرَدَ فِي حَدِيثٍ، انْتَهَى مِنْهُ، مَعَ أَنَّهُ تَعَالَى ذَكَرَ أَنَّ مِقْدَارَ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ خَمْسُونَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ فِي قَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى: فِي يَوْمٍ كَانَ مِقْدَارُهُ خَمْسِينَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ [70 \ 4] . ـ

And in Tafsir al-Jalalayn is the text, “And it is derived from this that the conclusion of the reckoning will be in the middle of the day, as is mentioned in a hadeeth[2],” end quote. All of this while also bearing in mind that Allah mentioned that the length of the Day of Judgement will be fifty thousand years in His statement:

فِي يَوْمٍ كَانَ مِقْدَارُهُ خَمْسِينَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ

… during a Day the extent of which is fifty thousand years [70:4]

وَالظَّاهِرُ فِي الْجَوَابِ: أَنْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَطُولُ عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ وَيَقْصُرُ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ، وَيُشِيرُ لِهَذَا قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى بَعْدَ هَذَا بِقَلِيلٍ: الْمُلْكُ يَوْمَئِذٍ الْحَقُّ لِلرَّحْمَنِ وَكَانَ يَوْمًا عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ عَسِيرًا [25 \ 26] فَتَخْصِيصُهُ عُسْرَ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ بِالْكَافِرِينَ يَدُلُّ عَلَى أَنَّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ لَيْسُوا كَذَلِكَ، وَقَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى: فَذَلِكَ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَوْمٌ عَسِيرٌ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ غَيْرُ يَسِيرٍ [74 \ 9 – 10] ، يَدُلُّ بِمَفْهُومِهِ أَيْضًا عَلَى أَنَّهُ يَسِيرٌ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ غَيْرُ عَسِيرٍ. كَمَا دَلَّ عَلَيْهِ قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى: مُهْطِعِينَ إِلَى الدَّاع يَقُولُ الْكَافِرُونَ هَذَا يَوْمٌ عَسِرٌ [54 \ 8] ـ

And what is apparent in terms of a resolution is: that the Day of Judgement is lengthy for the disbelievers and shortened for the believers, and this is indicated by Allah’s statement which comes shortly after the initial one [in surah al-Furqaan]: 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