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

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“O you who have believed, look after your own souls”: Tafsir al-Sa’di & al-Shinqitee

In surah al-Maa’idah, Allah commands the believers by saying:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ ۖ لَا يَضُرُّكُم مَّن ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ ۚ إِلَى اللَّـهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

O you who have believed, look after your own souls. Those who have gone astray will not harm you when you have been guided. To Allah is you return all together; then He will inform you of what you used to do. [5:105]

In his book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di commented on this ayah by writing:

يقول تعالى: { يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ } أي: اجتهدوا في إصلاحها وكمالها وإلزامها سلوك الصراط المستقيم، فإنكم إذا صلحتم لا يضركم من ضل عن الصراط المستقيم، ولم يهتد إلى الدين القويم، وإنما يضر نفسه. ـ

Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ

O you who have believed, look after your own souls.

meaning: exert yourselves in their rectification, their perfection, and making them steadfast in traversing the Straight Path. For once you have rectified yourselves, then those who have strayed from the Straight Path and are not guided to the upright religion will not harm you; it is only themselves that they harm.

ولا يدل هذا على أن الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر، لا يضر العبدَ تركُهما وإهمالُهما، فإنه لا يتم هداه, إلا بالإتيان بما يجب عليه من الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر. نعم، إذا كان عاجزا عن إنكار المنكر بيده ولسانه وأنكره بقلبه، فإنه لا يضره ضلال غيره. ـ

However this does not mean that slacking off in commanding the good and forbidding the evil or abandoning it completely is something that does not negatively affect a slave. For the fact of the matter is that being guided is not complete unless one follows through with the commanding of good and forbidding of evil which that guidance demands of him. Yes, even if he is not able to take action against wrongdoing by means of his hands or his tongue and is only able to disapprove of them in his heart, then still the misguidance of others will not harm him.

وقوله: { إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا } أي: مآلكم يوم القيامة، واجتماعكم بين يدي الله تعالى. { فَيُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ } من خير وشر. ـ

And Allah’s statement: Continue reading

Clarifying “Allah does not guide the wrong-doers”: Imam al-Sa’di

In a book of assorted benefits from the Qur’an which Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di authored over the course of one Ramadan, he mentioned the following point of clarification on a topic of great importance:

إن قلت : إن الله أخبر في غير موضع أنه لا يهدي القوم الظالمين ، ولا يهدي القوم الفاسقين والقوم الكافرين والمجرمين ء ونحوهم والواقع أنه هدى كثير من الظالمين والفاسقين والقوم الكافرين والمجرمين مع أن قوله صدق وحق، لا يخالفه الواقع أبداً ؟! ـ

If one were to say: Allah has informed us in more than one place that He does not guide the wrongdoing people, nor does he guide those people who cross all limits, nor the disbelieving people, nor the criminal wrongdoers and so on, while the reality is that He has in fact guided many of these wrongdoing people, ruler-breakers, disbelievers and criminals. However Allah’s Word is true and correct, and never is at odds with reality. [So what is the resolution to this issue?!]

فالجواب : أن الذي أخبر أنه لا يهديهم هم الذين حقت عليهم الشقوة وكلمة العذاب، فإنها إذا حقت وتحققت وثبتت ووجبت فإن هذا لا يتغير ولا يتبدل، قال تعالى: (وَكَذَٰلِكَ حَقَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ) [الغافر 6] ، (كَذَٰلِكَ حَقَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ فَسَقُوا أَنَّهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ ) [يونس 33] ، ( إِنَّ الَّذِينَ حَقَّتْ عَلَيْهِمْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ * وَلَوْ جَاءَتْهُمْ كُلُّ آيَةٍ حَتَّىٰ يَرَوُا الْعَذَابَ الْأَلِيمَ) [يونس 96-97]. الذين اقتضت حكمة الله تعالى أنه لا يهديهم لكونهم لا يصلحون للهداية ولا تليق بهم، ( وَلَوْ عَلِمَ اللَّـهُ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا لَّأَسْمَعَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ أَسْمَعَهُمْ لَتَوَلَّوا وَّهُم مُّعْرِضُونَ) [الأنفال 23] وهم الذين مردوا على أسباب الشقاء ورضوها واختاروها على الهدى . ـ

The response would be that what He has told us is that He does not guide those who are deserving of punishment and ultimate sorrow. So when this is deserved, its causes are enacted, set firmly in place and must take place. In that case there can be no change or alteration. Allah said:

وَكَذَٰلِكَ حَقَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ

And thus has the word of your Lord come into effect upon those who disbelieved, that they are eternal dwellers of the Fire. [40:6] Continue reading

“We Record What They Have Put Forth and Their Traces”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In the beginning of surah Yasin, Allah informs us:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نُحْيِي الْمَوْتَىٰ وَنَكْتُبُ مَا قَدَّمُوا وَآثَارَهُمْ ۚ وَكُلَّ شَيْءٍ أَحْصَيْنَاهُ فِي إِمَامٍ مُّبِينٍ

Indeed, it is We who bring the dead to life and We record what they have put forth and their traces, and We have enumerated all things in a clear register. [36:12]

In his explanation of the Qur’an, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote the following regarding this ayah:

إنا نحن نحيي الموتى أي: نبعثهم بعد موتهم لنجازيهم على الأعمال، ونكتب ما قدموا من الخير والشر، وهو أعمالهم التي عملوها وباشروها في حال حياتهم، وآثارهم وهي آثار الخير وآثار الشر، التي كانوا هم السبب في إيجادها في حال حياتهم وبعد وفاتهم، وتلك الأعمال التي نشأت من أقوالهم وأفعالهم وأحوالهم، فكل خير عمل به أحد من الناس، بسبب علم العبد وتعليمه أو نصحه، أو أمره بالمعروف، أو نهيه عن المنكر، أو علم أودعه عند المتعلمين، أو في كتب ينتفع بها في حياته وبعد موته، أو عمل خيرا، من صلاة أو زكاة أو صدقة أو إحسان، فاقتدى به غيره، أو عمل مسجدا، أو محلا من المحال التي يرتفق بها الناس، وما أشبه ذلك، فإنها من آثاره التي تكتب له، وكذلك عمل الشر، ولهذا: ( من سن سنة حسنة فله أجرها وأجر من عمل بها إلى يوم القيامة، ومن سن سنة سيئة فعليه وزرها ووزر من عمل بها إلى يوم القيامة ) . ـ

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نُحْيِي الْمَوْتَىٰ

Indeed, it is We who bring the dead to life …

meaning: We resurrect them after they have died in order to recompense them for their deeds.

وَنَكْتُبُ مَا قَدَّمُوا

… and We record what they have put forth …

of both good and evil, and that is referring to the deeds that they enacted and entered into during their lifetimes.

Continue reading

Three Levels of Responding to People’s Harms: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-Shooraa:

وَجَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا ۖ فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِينَ * وَلَمَنِ انتَصَرَ بَعْدَ ظُلْمِهِ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ مَا عَلَيْهِم مِّن سَبِيلٍ * إِنَّمَا السَّبِيلُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ يَظْلِمُونَ النَّاسَ وَيَبْغُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ * وَلَمَن صَبَرَ وَغَفَرَ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ لَمِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

The retribution of a harmful act is a harm like it. But whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, then his reward is due from Allah. Indeed, Allah does not love the unjust ones. * And whoever seeks revenge after having been treated unjustly, there is nothing against these ones. * The grounds for actions is only against those who wrong others and cause trouble in the earth without due right. For these ones there will be a painful punishment. * But whoever exercises patience and forgives; indeed, that is one of the ‘azm al-umoor. [42:40-43]

In his famous book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote:

ذكر الله في هذه الآية، مراتب العقوبات، وأنها على ثلاث مراتب: عدل وفضل وظلم. ـ

In this noble ayah, Allah mentions the different levels of retribution for harms, and that there are three different levels of responding to harms:

  • Justice
  • Goodness
  • Injustice

فمرتبة العدل، جزاء السيئة بسيئة مثلها، لا زيادة ولا نقص، فالنفس بالنفس، وكل جارحة بالجارحة المماثلة لها، والمال يضمن بمثله. ـ

The level of justice is that you repay a harmful action with a harm similar to the original harmful action without any increase or decrease. So a life for a life, or an equivalent piece of the body for piece of the body harmed, or wealth of an equal amount to that lost. Continue reading

I have been Commanded to Worship the Lord of this City: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah concludes surah al-Naml with the following ayaat:

إِنَّمَا أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَعْبُدَ رَبَّ هَـٰذِهِ الْبَلْدَةِ الَّذِي حَرَّمَهَا وَلَهُ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ ۖ وَأُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ * وَأَنْ أَتْلُوَ الْقُرْآنَ ۖ فَمَنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَقُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ * وَقُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ سَيُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ فَتَعْرِفُونَهَا ۚ وَمَا رَبُّكَ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ

I have only been commanded to worship the Lord of this city, who made it sacred, and to whom belongs all things. And I am commanded to be one of the Muslims. * And that I recite the Qur’an. Then whoever is guided is only guided for the good of his own self. And whoever goes astray, then say, “I am only one of warners.” * And say, “All praise is due to Allah. He will show you His signs and you will recognize them. And your Lord is not unaware of what you do.” [27:91-93]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di commented on these ayaat by writing:

أي: قل لهم يا محمد إنما أمرت أن أعبد رب هذه البلدة أي: مكة المكرمة، التي حرمها وأنعم على أهلها، فيجب أن يقابلوا ذلك بالشكر والقبول وله كل شيء من العلويات والسفليات أتى به لئلا يتوهم اختصاص ربوبيته بالبيت وحده، وأمرت لأن أكون من المسلمين أي: أبادر إلى الإسلام، وقد فعل صلى الله عليه وسلم، فإنه أول هذه الأمة إسلاما وأعظمها استسلاما. ـ

Meaning: O Muhammad, say to them:

إِنَّمَا أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَعْبُدَ رَبَّ هَـٰذِهِ الْبَلْدَةِ

I have only been commanded to worship the Lord of this city

i.e. Mecca, which Allah has sanctified, blessing it and its people. So one must respond to that with gratitude and acceptance. And Allah is the owner of all things, from the heights of His creation to its lowest parts. He mentioned this lest anyone wrongly assume that His lordship was restricted to only one place.

And I am commanded Continue reading

“For that He created them”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Near the end of surah Hud, Allah says

وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَ‌بُّكَ لَجَعَلَ النَّاسَ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً ۖ وَلَا يَزَالُونَ مُخْتَلِفِينَ * إِلَّا مَن رَّ‌حِمَ رَ‌بُّكَ ۚ وَلِذَٰلِكَ خَلَقَهُمْ ۗ وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَةُ رَ‌بِّكَ لَأَمْلَأَنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنَ الْجِنَّةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ

And if your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one community; but they will not cease to differ. * Except whom your Lord has given mercy, and for that He created them. But the word of your Lord is to be fulfilled that, “I will surely fill Hell with jinn and men all together.” [11:118-119]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di commented on these ayaat by writing:

يخبر تعالى أنه لو شاء لجعل الناس كلهم أمة واحدة على الدين الإسلامي، فإن مشيئته غير قاصرة، ولا يمتنع عليه شيء، ولكنه اقتضت حكمته، أن لا يزالوا مختلفين، مخالفين للصراط المستقيم‏,‏ متبعين للسبل الموصلة إلى النار، كل يرى الحق، فيما قاله، والضلال في قول غيره‏.‏

Allah informs us that had He wished, He could have made all mankind one nation upon the religion of Islam. For Allah’s will is in no way limited or prevented from doing anything. Rather, His wisdom necessitates that the people would remain differing and going contrary to the Straight Path, following other paths which lead them to the hell-fire, all the while believing the truth to be with them and misguidance to be with others.

‏{‏إِلَّا مَنْ رَحِمَ رَبُّكَ‏}‏ فهداهم إلى العلم بالحق والعمل به، والاتفاق عليه، فهؤلاء سبقت لهم، سابقة السعادة، وتداركتهم العناية الربانية والتوفيق الإلهي‏.‏

إِلَّا مَنْ رَحِمَ رَبُّكَ

Except whom your Lord has given mercy

thus guiding them to know the truth, to act according to it, and to be in agreement on it. For these people, Allah has already decreed that ultimate joy for them, and He gives them extra attention of protection and caring and grants them success. Continue reading

A Discussion of the People of Jannah: Tafsir al-Qurtubi & Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah al-Tur, Allah describes the situation of the believers in Jannah by saying:

وَأَقْبَلَ بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ * قَالُوا إِنَّا كُنَّا قَبْلُ فِي أَهْلِنَا مُشْفِقِينَ * فَمَنَّ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْنَا وَوَقَانَا عَذَابَ السَّمُومِ * إِنَّا كُنَّا مِن قَبْلُ نَدْعُوهُ ۖ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْبَرُّ الرَّحِيمُ

And they will approach one another, inquiring of each other. * They will say, “Indeed, we were previously among our people, fearful. * So Allah conferred favor upon us and protected us from the punishment of al-samoom. * Indeed, we used to supplicate Him before. Indeed, it is He who is al-Barr, al-Raheem.” [52:25-28]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, Imam al-Qurtubi wrote:

قوله تعالى : وأقبل بعضهم على بعض يتساءلون قال ابن عباس : إذا بعثوا من قبورهم سأل بعضهم بعضا . وقيل : في الجنة يتساءلون أي يتذاكرون ما كانوا فيه في الدنيا من التعب والخوف من العاقبة ، ويحمدون الله تعالى على زوال الخوف عنهم . وقيل : يقول بعضهم لبعض بم صرت في هذه المنزلة الرفيعة ؟ قالوا إنا كنا قبل في أهلنا مشفقين أي قال كل مسئول منهم لسائله : إنا كنا قبل أي في الدنيا خائفين وجلين من عذاب الله . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَأَقْبَلَ بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ

And they will approach one another, inquiring of each other

ibn ‘Abbaas said: when they are raised from their graves they will ask one another.

But others explained it to mean that they will ask one another in Jannah, meaning they will discuss the hard work and fear of the ultimate outcomes that they had during the worldly life and they will praise Allah for removing that fear from them.

Still others said: They will say to one another, “How did you get to this elevated station?” They will say, Continue reading

I did not Create the Jinn and Mankind Except to Worship Me: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Near the end of surah al-Dhaariyaat, Allah says:

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ * مَا أُرِيدُ مِنْهُم مِّن رِّزْقٍ وَمَا أُرِيدُ أَن يُطْعِمُونِ * إِنَّ اللَّـهَ هُوَ الرَّزَّاقُ ذُو الْقُوَّةِ الْمَتِينُ

And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me * I do not desire provision from them, nor do I want them to feed me * It is Allah who is the continual provider, the firm possessor of strength. [51:56-58]

Commenting on this in his well-known tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

هذه الغاية التي خلق الله الجن والإنس لها، وبعث جميع الرسل يدعون إليها، وهي عبادته، المتضمنة لمعرفته ومحبته، والإنابة إليه والإقبال عليه، والإعراض عما سواه ـ

This is the purpose for which Allah created the Jinn and mankind, and all of the Messengers were sent to call to this: that is, the worship of Allah. Worship of Allah involves knowing Him, loving Him, turning to Him in repentance, dedicating oneself to Him, and turning away from the worship of any others.

وذلك يتضمن معرفة الله تعالى، فإن تمام العبادة متوقف على المعرفة بالله، بل كلما ازداد العبد معرفة بربه، كانت عبادته أكمل، فهذا الذي خلق الله المكلفين لأجله، فما خلقهم لحاجة منه إليهم. ـ

This involves knowing Allah, as complete worship is dependent upon knowing Allah. In fact, the more that a person increases in knowing His Lord, the more complete his worship will be. So it is for this purpose that Allah created these two legally-responsible beings [i.e. Jinn and mankind]; He did not created them out of any need for them. Continue reading

Know that Allah is Severe in Punishment and that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-Maa’idah:

اعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ وَأَنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Know that Allah is severe in punishment and that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful [5:98]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di commented on this in his tafsir by writing:

أي: ليكن هذان العلمان موجودين في قلوبكم على وجه الجزم واليقين، تعلمون أنه شديد العقاب العاجل والآجل على من عصاه، وأنه غفور رحيم لمن تاب إليه وأطاعه. فيثمر لكم هذا العلمُ الخوفَ من عقابه، والرجاءَ لمغفرته وثوابه، وتعملون على ما يقتضيه الخوف والرجاء.ـ

meaning: Let these two pieces of information be present in your hearts with certainty and assurance – that you know that He is severe in punishment – whether it be immediate or delayed – towards those who disobey Him, and that He is forgiving and merciful towards whoever repents to Him and obeys Him.

So this knowledge should produce a fear of His punishment and a hope for His forgiveness and reward in you, and you should behave in a way that reflects that fear and that hope.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 271]

See also: Follow Allah’s Path, and Do Not Follow Other Paths: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan

See also: Imam al-Nawawi on Hope and Fear