“Are They Equal?”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In the midst of surah al-Nahl, Allah strikes two parables in succession when He says:

ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا عَبْدًا مَّمْلُوكًا لَّا يَقْدِرُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَمَن رَّزَقْنَاهُ مِنَّا رِزْقًا حَسَنًا فَهُوَ يُنفِقُ مِنْهُ سِرًّا وَجَهْرًا ۖ هَلْ يَسْتَوُونَ ۚ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ * وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا رَّجُلَيْنِ أَحَدُهُمَا أَبْكَمُ لَا يَقْدِرُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ كَلٌّ عَلَىٰ مَوْلَاهُ أَيْنَمَا يُوَجِّههُّ لَا يَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ ۖ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي هُوَ وَمَن يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ ۙ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ

Allah strikes a parable of a slave who is owned and unable to do anything and one to whom We have given good provision and so he spends from it both secretly and openly. Are they equal? All praise is due to Allah. But most of them do not know. * And Allah strikes a parable of two men: one of them dumb and unable to do anything and he is a burden to his guardian. Wherever he directs him, he brings no good. Is he equal to one who enjoins justice while he is on the straight path? [16:75-76]

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

ضرب تعالى مثلين له ولمن يعبد من دونه: أحدهما: عبد مملوك أي: رقيق لا يملك نفسه ولا يملك من المال والدنيا شيئا، والثاني: حر غني قد رزقه الله منه رزقا حسنا من جميع أصناف المال وهو كريم محب للإحسان، فهو ينفق منه سرا وجهرا، هل يستوي هذا وذاك؟! لا يستويان مع أنهما مخلوقان، غير محال استواؤهما . ـ

Allah struck two parables of Him and those who are worshiped besides Him.

The first parable is one slave who is owned – someone who is the property of another person. He does not own himself nor does he own any wealth or any worldly goods. The other person in this parable is a free, wealthy person whom Allah has provided with good shares of all forms of wealth and he is generous and loves to do good to others. As a result, he spends out of his wealth both secretly and openly. Is this one equal to that one? Are the two equal? Even though they are both created beings, they are certainly not equal.

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Memorizing the Qur’an and Applying it to Your Life: al-Sa’di

In the beginning of his book on the principles of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di included the following list of considerations for anyone seeking to memorize and understand the Qur’an:

فعلى الناس أن يتلقوا معني كلام الله كما تلقاه الصحابة رضي الله عنهم فإنهم كانوا إذا قرءوا عشر آيات، أو أقل أو أكثر، لم يتجاوزوها حتى يعرفوا ويحققوا ما دلت عليه من الإيمان والعلم والعمل، فينزلونها على الأحوال الواقعة يؤمنون بما احتوت عليه من العقائد والأخبار، وينقادون لأوامرها ونواهيها، ويطبقونها على جميع ما يشهدون من الحوادث والوقائع الموجودة بهم وبغيرهم، ويحاسبون أنفسهم: هل هم قائمون بها أو مخلون بحقوقها ومطلوبها؟ وكيف الطريق إلى الثبات على الأمور النافعة، وتدارك ما نقص منها؟ وكيف التخلص من الأمور الضارة؟ فيهتدون بعلومه، ويتخلقون بأخلاقه وآدابه، ويعلمون أنه خطاب من عالم الغيب والشهادة موجه إليهم، ومطالبون بمعرفة معانيه، والعمل بما يقتضيه. ـ

People should learn the meanings of Allah’s speech in the same way that the Sahabah learned them. Their way was that if they recited 10 ayaat – give or take -, they would not move past that amount until they understood and actualized the eemaan, knowledge and actions that those ayaat involved.

So they would apply those ayaat to their lives, believing in the beliefs and information they contained, complying with their commands and prohibitions, and put them into practice in any situations or events that happen to them or others.

And they would take themselves to task, asking: Am I living by these ayaat or have I fallen short in realizing and actualizing them? How can I become consistent in beneficial things and avoid falling short in that? How can I free myself from harmful matters? Continue reading

“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.

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“So Flee to Allah”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says in surah al-Dhaariyat:

 فَفِرُّ‌وا إِلَى اللَّـهِ

So flee to Allah [51:50]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di said in his tafsir:

 وهو الفرار إليه أي: الفرار مما يكرهه الله ظاهرًا وباطنًا، إلى ما يحبه، ظاهرًا وباطنًا، فرار من الجهل إلى العلم، ومن الكفر إلى الإيمان، ومن المعصية إلى الطاعة، و من الغفلة إلى ذكر الله فمن استكمل هذه الأمور، فقد استكمل الدين كله وقد زال عنه المرهوب، وحصل له، نهاية المراد والمطلوب.ـ

Fleeing to Allah means: fleeing from what Allah dislikes in terms of both open deeds and hidden deeds to what is beloved to Him in terms of both open deeds and hidden deeds – fleeing from ignorance to knowledge, from al-kufr to al-eemaan, from disobedience to obedience, and from heedlessness to remembrance of Allah.

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The Foundation of Self-Reckoning in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah addresses the believers in surah al-Hashr by saying:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَلْتَنظُرْ نَفْسٌ مَّا قَدَّمَتْ لِغَدٍ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ * وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنسَاهُمْ أَنفُسَهُمْ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ * لَا يَسْتَوِي أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ وَأَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ ۚ أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ هُمُ الْفَائِزُونَ

O you who believe, have taqwa of Allah and let every soul look at what it has sent forth for tomorrow. And have taqwa of Allah. Allah is entirely aware of what you do. * And do not be like those who forgot Allah so He made them forget themselves. Those are the losers. * The people of the Hellfire and the people of Jannah are not equal. The people of Jannah are are the successful ones. [59:18-20]

In his famous commentary on the Qur’an, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di explained this passage by writing:

يأمر تعالى عباده المؤمنين بما يوجبه الإيمان ويقتضيه من لزوم تقواه، سرا وعلانية، في جميع الأحوال، وأن يراعوا ما أمرهم الله به من أوامره وشرائعه وحدوده، وينظروا ما لهم وما عليهم، وماذا حصلوا عليه من الأعمال التي تنفعهم أو تضرهم في يوم القيامة، فإنهم إذا جعلوا الآخرة نصب أعينهم وقبلة قلوبهم، واهتموا بالمقام بها، اجتهدوا في كثرة الأعمال الموصلة إليها، وتصفيتها من القواطع والعوائق التي توقفهم عن السير أو تعوقهم أو تصرفهم، وإذا علموا أيضا، أن الله خبير بما يعملون، لا تخفى عليه أعمالهم، ولا تضيع لديه ولا يهملها، أوجب لهم الجد والاجتهاد. ـ

Allah is commanding His believing slaves to be consistent in their taqwa of Him, just as their eemaan requires and mandates of them. This is true whether in private or in public: in all of their situations. And He is commanding them to mind the commands, legislation and limits that Allah has instructed them with, and to consider what is in their favor and what is against them and to consider how their deeds will end up helping or hurting them on the Day of Resurrection. Continue reading

Allah Has Sent Down the Best Speech: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says 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; He guides by it whom He wills. And whomever Allah leads astray, then there is no one to guide him. [39:23]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote the following commentary on this ayah:

يخبر تعالى عن كتابه الذي نزله أنه { أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ } على الإطلاق، فأحسن الحديث كلام اللّه، وأحسن الكتب المنزلة من كلام اللّه هذا القرآن، وإذا كان هو الأحسن، علم أن ألفاظه أفصح الألفاظ وأوضحها، وأن معانيه، أجل المعاني، لأنه أحسن الحديث في لفظه ومعناه، متشابها في الحسن والائتلاف وعدم الاختلاف، بوجه من الوجوه. حتى إنه كلما تدبره المتدبر، وتفكر فيه المتفكر، رأى من اتفاقه، حتى في معانيه الغامضة، ما يبهر الناظرين، ويجزم بأنه لا يصدر إلا من حكيم عليم، هذا المراد بالتشابه في هذا الموضع. ـ

Allah informs us that His Book which He sent down is

أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ

the best speech

bar none, for the best speech is the speech of Allah, and the best revealed scripture made of Allah’s speech is the Qur’an. So since it is the best, then it is clear that its wordings are most eloquent and clearest wordings and that its meanings are the most sublime meanings, for it is the best of speech in terms of its wordings and meanings. It is

مُّتَشَابِهًا

mutashabih

consistent

in its beauty and unified nature and lack of contradiction. This is one of the meanings of the term mutashabih. The Qur’an’s unified nature and lack of contradiction is such that whenever a person contemplates and ponders it, he sees that it is consistent. This is even the case with its ambiguous messages which puzzle readers. So one will become certain that this could only come from the All-Wise, All-Knowing. That is the meaning of al-mutashabih in this context.

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A Command to Be Patient and the Means to Do So: Tafsir al-Sa’di

At the end of surah Taha, Allah says:

وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّبِّكَ لَكَانَ لِزَامًا وَأَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّى * فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ غُرُوبِهَا ۖ وَمِنْ آنَاءِ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْ وَأَطْرَافَ النَّهَارِ لَعَلَّكَ تَرْضَىٰ * وَلَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِّنْهُمْ زَهْرَةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا لِنَفْتِنَهُمْ فِيهِ ۚ وَرِزْقُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ * وَأْمُرْ أَهْلَكَ بِالصَّلَاةِ وَاصْطَبِرْ عَلَيْهَا ۖ لَا نَسْأَلُكَ رِزْقًا ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُكَ ۗ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ

And were it not for a command that has previously come from your Lord and a decreed term, then punishment would be incumbent. * So be patient with what they say and exalt the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting. And also during period of the night give praise, and at the ends of the day, that you may be pleased. * And do not extend your eyes to what He has given to some others, the beauty of this worldly life, in order to test them through it. And the provision of your Lord is better and more lasting. * And enjoin your family to pray and be steadfast in it. We do not ask you for provision; We provide for you. And the good end is a result of al-taqwa. [20:129-132]

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

ـ [وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّبِّكَ لَكَانَ لِزَامًا وَأَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّى * فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ غُرُوبِهَا ۖ وَمِنْ آنَاءِ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْ وَأَطْرَافَ النَّهَارِ لَعَلَّكَ تَرْضَىٰ] هذا تسلية للرسول، وتصبير له عن المبادرة إلى إهلاك المكذبين المعرضين، وأن كفرهم وتكذيبهم سبب صالح لحلول العذاب بهم، ولزومه لهم، لأن الله جعل العقوبات سببا وناشئا عن الذنوب، ملازما لها، وهؤلاء قد أتوا بالسبب، ولكن الذي أخره عنهم كلمة ربك، المتضمنة لإمهالهم وتأخيرهم، وضرب الأجل المسمى، فالأجل المسمى ونفوذ كلمة الله، هو الذي أخر عنهم العقوبة إلى إبان وقتها، ولعلهم يراجعون أمر الله، فيتوب عليهم، ويرفع عنهم العقوبة، إذا لم تحق عليهم الكلمة. ـ

وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّبِّكَ لَكَانَ لِزَامًا وَأَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّى * فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ غُرُوبِهَا ۖ وَمِنْ آنَاءِ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْ وَأَطْرَافَ النَّهَارِ لَعَلَّكَ تَرْضَىٰ

And were it not for a command that has previously come from your Lord and a decreed term, then punishment would be incumbent. * So be patient with what they say and exalt the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting. And also during period of the night give praise, and at the ends of the day, that you may be pleased.

This is a consolation to the Messenger and something to encourage him to be patient despite how those who deny and turn away throw themselves into peril. It also makes clear that their denial and disbelief are a valid reason for punishment to be unleashed on them and to stay with them. For Allah has created factors which lead to punishment, and these factors arise out of sins and then stay attached to the one who committed them, and these people certainly have put those factors in place for themselves. However the thing which is holding the punishment back from them is the command of your Lord which involves leaving them without punishment for a time. But Allah has already set a fixed time, so it is just that fixed time and the authority of Allah’s command which holds back the punishment from them until its time comes. And perhaps they will return to Allah’s religion, in which case Allah would turn to them in forgiveness and lift the punishment from them, in which case His command would not be actualized.

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Taking up Partners: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah describes the disbelievers in surah al-Baqarah by saying:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ أَندَادًا

And there are some people who take up partners besides Allah… [2:165]

Commenting on this phrase, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote:

وفي قوله: { اتخذوا } دليل على أنه ليس لله ند وإنما المشركون جعلوا بعض المخلوقات أندادا له, تسمية مجردة, ولفظا فارغا من المعنى، كما قال تعالى: { وَجَعَلُوا لِلَّهِ شُرَكَاءَ قُلْ سَمُّوهُمْ أَمْ تُنَبِّئُونَهُ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَمْ بِظَاهِرٍ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ } { إِنْ هِيَ إِلَّا أَسْمَاءٌ سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنْتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُمْ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ إِنْ يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ } ـ

Allah’s referring to them as “taking up partners” is proof that Allah does not actually have any equals and that the mushrikoon merely treat some of created beings like equals to Him, but those are nothing more than titles and words devoid of any real substance. That is like how they say:

وَجَعَلُوا لِلَّهِ شُرَكَاءَ قُلْ سَمُّوهُمْ أَمْ تُنَبِّئُونَهُ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَمْ بِظَاهِرٍ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ

Yet they ascribe partners to Allah. Say: “Name them! Is it that you will inform Him of something in the earth that He does not know, or is it just a show of false words?” [13:33] Continue reading

Those Who Hear Nothing But Calls and Cries: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Baqarah:

وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي يَنْعِقُ بِمَا لَا يَسْمَعُ إِلَّا دُعَاءً وَنِدَاءً ۚ صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ

And the likeness of those who disbelieve is like that of one who shouts at what hears nothing but calls and cries. Deaf, dumb, and blind, so they do not understand. [2:171]

Commenting on this ayah, Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

لما بين تعالى عدم انقيادهم لما جاءت به الرسل, وردهم لذلك بالتقليد, علم من ذلك أنهم غير قابلين للحق, ولا مستجيبين له, بل كان معلوما لكل أحد أنهم لن يزولوا عن عنادهم، أخبر تعالى, أن مثلهم عند دعاء الداعي لهم إلى الإيمان كمثل البهائم التي ينعق لها راعيها, وليس لها علم بما يقول راعيها ومناديها، فهم يسمعون مجرد الصوت, الذي تقوم به عليهم الحجة, ولكنهم لا يفقهونه فقها ينفعهم

After clearly showing their lack of compliance with what the messengers brought and their rejection of the messengers on the basis of blind following, it has become clear that they are not receptive or responsive to the truth. On the contrary, it has become plain to everyone that they will persist in their obstinance. Continue reading

Two Factors Which Lead to Jannah: Tafsir al-Sa’di

After describing the some of the punishments of the people of the hellfire in surah al-Haqqah, Allah then mentions the following two reasons for their punishment:

إِنَّهُ كَانَ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّـهِ الْعَظِيمِ * وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

Indeed, he did not used to believe in Allah, the Most Great, * Nor did he encourage the feeding of the poor. [69:33-34]

Commenting on this, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

فإن السبب الذي أوصله إلى هذا المحل: { إِنَّهُ كَانَ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ الْعَظِيمِ } بأن كان كافرا بربه معاندا لرسله رادا ما جاءوا به من الحق. { وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ } أي: ليس في قلبه رحمة يرحم بها الفقراء والمساكين فلا يطعمهم [من ماله] ولا يحض غيره على إطعامهم، لعدم الوازع في قلبه، وذلك لأن مدار السعادة ومادتها أمران: الإخلاص لله، الذي أصله الإيمان بالله، والإحسان إلى الخلق بوجوه الإحسان، الذي من أعظمها، دفع ضرورة المحتاجين بإطعامهم ما يتقوتون به، وهؤلاء لا إخلاص ولا إحسان، فلذلك استحقوا ما استحقوا.ـ

The cause which brought this person to this place is that

إِنَّهُ كَانَ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ الْعَظِيمِ

Indeed, he did not used to believe in Allah, the Most Great

for he used to disbelieve in his Lord, obstinately oppose His messengers, and reject the truth that the messengers brought to him.

وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

Nor did he encourage the feeding of the poor

i.e. he did not have any mercy in his heart to take pity of the poor and the needy, so he didn’t use his money to feed them nor did he encourage others to feed them, for he had no sense of propriety left in his heart.

These two factors are mentioned because attaining everlasting joy revolves around two things: Continue reading