Surah Yusuf and the People of al-Madinah

In part of his famous manual of the Qur’anic sciences, al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi wrote:

ما حمل من مكة إلى المدينة
Those Parts of the Qur’an which were Transmitted from Mecca to al-Madinah

أول سورة حملت من مكة إلى المدينة سورة ” يوسف ” ، انطلق بها عوف بن عفراء في [ ص: 291 ] الثمانية الذين قدموا على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مكة ، فعرض عليهم الإسلام فأسلموا ، وهو أول من أسلم من الأنصار ، قرأها على أهل المدينة في بني زريق ، فأسلم يومئذ بيوت من الأنصار ، روى ذلك يزيد بن رومان ، عن عطاء بن يسار ، عن ابن عباس ، ثم حمل بعدها : ( قل هو الله أحد ) ( سورة الإخلاص ) إلى آخرها ، ثم حمل بعدها الآية التي في ” الأعراف ” : ( قل ياأيها الناس إني رسول الله إليكم جميعا ) إلى قوله : ( تهتدون ) ( الآية : 158 ) ، فأسلم عليها طوائف من أهل المدينة ، وله قصة

The first surah to be taken from Mecca to al-Madinah was surah Yusuf. ‘Awf ibn ‘Afraa’ was the one who brought it there, and he was one of eighty men who came to Allah’s Messenger in Mecca where he presented Islam to them and they accepted and became Muslims, and he was the first one of the Ansaar to enter Islam. He recited this surah to the people of Banu Zurayq in al-Madinah and as a result a number of households of the Ansaar accepted Islam on that day.

This was narrated by Yazeed ibn Ruman, on the authority of ‘Ataa’ ibn Yasar, on the authority of ibn ‘Abbaas.

After that, surah al-Ikhlaas was the next surah taken from Mecca to al-Madinah. Next after that was an ayah from surah al-A’raaf:

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّـهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ ۖ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِيِّ الْأُمِّيِّ الَّذِي يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّـهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

Say: O mankind, I am certainly Allah’s messenger to all of you, the messenger of the One who possesses the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no deity worthy of worship except Him; He gives life and He causes death. So believe in Allah and His messenger, the illiterate prophet who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him so that you would be guided. [7:158]

And so a number of segments of the people of al-Madinah accepted Islam, and there is a larger story around this.

[al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an 1/290-291]

In the beginning of his explanation of surah Yusuf, al-haafidh ibn Kathir – who was a teacher of al-Zarkashi – mentioned the following report: Continue reading

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We gave Ibrahim good in this life: Tafsir al-Shawkani

In the end of Surah al-Nahl, Allah describes Ibrahim with several attributes, including:

وَآتَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً

And We gave him good in this world [16:122]

The scholars of tafsir have brought a number of explanations for this phrase, and Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkani collected the majority of them in his tafsir where he wrote:

وآتيناه في الدنيا حسنة أي خصلة حسنة أو حالة حسنة ، وقيل هو الولد الصالح ، وقيل الثناء الحسن ، وقيل النبوة ، وقيل الصلاة منا عليه في التشهد ، وقيل هي أنه يتولاه جميع أهل الأديان ، ولا مانع أن يكون ما آتاه الله شاملا لذلك كله ولما عداه من خصال الخير

وَآتَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً

And We gave him good in this world

i.e. good qualities or a good condition.

  • Some have said that it refers to righteous offspring.
  • Some have said that it refers to good praise and commendation.
  • Some have said that it refers to the station of prophethood.
  • Some have said that it refers to our prayers upon him during the tashahud.
  • And still others have said that it refers to the people of all religions inclining towards him in affection.

And there is nothing to prevent that which Allah gave him from including all of these good qualities or even more.

[Fath al-Qadeer 1/808] Continue reading

A Warning Against Innovating and Giving Rulings Without Knowledge: ibn Kathir & al-Shawkaani

In surah al-Nahl, Allah lists a number of foods which He has forbidden, and then follows that up by saying:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَـٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَـٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُونَ

And do not say that which your tongues falsely put forth, that this is halaal and this is haraam. Then you would falsely attribute untruth to Allah. Those who attribute untruth to Allah will not succeed. [16:116]

Commenting on this in part of his tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

ثم نهى تعالى عن سلوك سبيل المشركين ، الذين حللوا وحرموا بمجرد ما وضعوه واصطلحوا عليه من الأسماء بآرائهم ، من البحيرة والسائبة والوصيلة والحام ، وغير ذلك مما كان شرعا لهم ابتدعوه في جاهليتهم ، فقال : ( ولا تقولوا لما تصف ألسنتكم الكذب هذا حلال وهذا حرام لتفتروا على الله الكذب ) ويدخل في هذا كل من ابتدع بدعة ليس [ له ] فيها مستند شرعي ، أو حلل شيئا مما حرم الله ، أو حرم شيئا مما أباح الله بمجرد رأيه وتشهيه . ـ

Then Allah prohibits following the way of the Mushrikoon who used to declare things to be permissible or impermissible based on nothing more than some specialized terms to name and classify different types of creatures – specialized terms that they contrived based on their own whims. For example, they had various names they came up with for camels and other things according to their religious beliefs in the period of Pre-Islamic Ignorance. So Allah said:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَـٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَـٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ

And do not say that which your tongues falsely put forth, that this is halaal and this is haraam. Then you would falsely attribute untruth to Allah. Continue reading

Allah has subjected everything in the creation to mankind: Tafsir al-Shawkaani

Allah says in the middle of surah Luqman:

أَلَمْ تَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ سَخَّرَ لَكُم مَّا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَأَسْبَغَ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعَمَهُ ظَاهِرَةً وَبَاطِنَةً

Don’t you see that Allah has subjected whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth to you and has amply bestowed His favors both apparent and hidden, upon you? … [31:20]

In part of his explanation of this ayah, sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani wrote:

 لما فرغ – سبحانه – من قصة لقمان رجع إلى توبيخ المشركين وتبكيتهم وإقامة الحجج عليهم فقال : ألم تروا أن الله سخر لكم ما في السماوات وما في الأرض قال الزجاج : معنى تسخيرها للآدميين الانتفاع بها . انتهى ، فمن مخلوقات السماوات المسخرة لبني آدم أي : التي ينتفعون بها الشمس والقمر والنجوم ونحو ذلك . ـ

After completing the story of Luqman, Allah returned back reprimanding and criticizing the mushrikoon and establishing proofs against them. So He said:

أَلَمْ تَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ سَخَّرَ لَكُم مَّا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ

Don’t you see that Allah has subjected whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth to you?

al-Zujaaj said, “The meaning of ‘subjecting them to mankind’ is that they can benefit from them.”

Included in the created things of the heavens which have been subjected to mankind are all the things which they take benefit from, such as the Sun, the Moon, the stars, and so on. Continue reading

Did Fir’awn claim divinity, or worship other gods?: al-Shawkaani, al-Qurtubi, & al-Baghawi

In surah al-A’raaf, Allah says:

وَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ أَتَذَرُ مُوسَىٰ وَقَوْمَهُ لِيُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَيَذَرَكَ وَآلِهَتَكَ ۚ قَالَ سَنُقَتِّلُ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَنَسْتَحْيِي نِسَاءَهُمْ وَإِنَّا فَوْقَهُمْ قَاهِرُونَ

The chiefs of Fir’awn’s people said: “Will you leave Moosaa and his people to spread mischief in the land, and to abandon you and your gods?” He said: “We will kill their sons, and let live their women, and we have indeed irresistible power over them.” [7:127]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani briefly mentioned a question that arises from a careful reading of this ayah in his tafsir where he wrote:

واختلف المفسرون في معنى وآلهتك لكون فرعون كان يدعي الربوبية كما في قوله: ما علمت لكم من إله غيري، وقوله: أنا ربكم فقيل: معنى وآلهتك: وطاعتك، وقيل: معناه: وعبادتك، ويؤيده قراءة علي وابن عباس، والضحاك “وإلهتك” وفي حرف أبي “أتذر موسى وقومه ليفسدوا في الأرض وقد تركوك أن يعبدوك” وقيل: إنه كان يعبد بقرة، وقيل: كان يعبد النجوم، وقيل: كان له أصنام يعبدها قومه تقربا إليه فنسبت إليه ولهذا قال: أنا ربكم الأعلى. قاله الزجاج، وقيل: كان يعبد الشمس . ـ

The scholars of tafsir have differed regarding the meaning of “your gods” due to the fact that Fir’awn used to claim lordship for himself, such as in his statement:

مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيْرِي

I know of no other god for you besides me [28:38]

as well as his saying:

أَنَا رَبُّكُمُ

I am your lord… [79:24]

Some said the meaning of “aalihatak” [lit. “your gods”] is: obedience to you. And others said its meaning is: worship of you. This understanding is supported by a variant recitation (qiraa’ah) transmitted from ‘Ali, ibn ‘Abbaas and al-Dhahhaak:

وَإِلَهَتَكَ

wa ilaahatak

… and your divinity …

as well as what comes in the variant dialect (harf) recitation of Ubay:

 أَتَذَرُ مُوسَى وَقَوْمَهُ لِيُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَقَدْ تَرَكُوكَ أَنْ يَعْبُدُوكَ

… Will you leave Moosaa and his people to spread mischief in the land while they have abandoned you and worshiping you? … Continue reading

Those who neglect the prayers and pursue desires: Tafsir al-Shawkaani

In surah Maryam, Allah mentions a series of Prophets, and then describes some of their descendants by saying:

فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ أَضَاعُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَاتَّبَعُوا الشَّهَوَاتِ ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَلْقَوْنَ غَيًّا * إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَأُولَـٰئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا

But there came after them successors who neglected prayer and pursued desires; so they are going to meet evil * Except those who repent, believe and do righteousness; for those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged at all. [19:59-60]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani commented on this in his book of tafsir by writing:

ولما مدح هؤلاء الأنبياء بهذه الأوصاف ترغيبا لغيرهم في الاقتداء بهم وسلوك طريقتهم ذكر أضدادهم تنفيرا للناس عن طريقتهم فقال : فخلف من بعدهم خلف أي : عقب سوء . قال أهل اللغة : يقال لعقب الخير خلف بفتح اللام ، ولعقب الشر خلف بسكون اللام ، وقد قدمنا الكلام على هذا في آخر الأعراف أضاعوا الصلاة قال الأكثر : معنى ذلك أنهم أخروها عن وقتها ، وقيل : أضاعوا الوقت وقيل : كفروا بها وجحدوا وجوبها ، وقيل : لم يأتوا بها على الوجه المشروع . ـ

So after Allah had praised these prophets by mentioning these qualities as a means to encourage others to emulate them and follow in their footsteps, He then mentioned their opposites as a means to discourage people from their ways. So He said:

فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ

But there came after them successors

meaning: evil ones came after them. And experts in the language say: If you want to say that good followed something, then you say khalafun with a fathah on the letter laam, while if you want to say evil followed something, then you say khalfun with a sukoon on the letter laam. And we have already spoken about this in the end of surah al-Aa’raaf.  Continue reading

“O our Lord, do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people”: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah recounts part of the story of Moosaa in surah Yunus in which Moosaa addresses his people by saying:

وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ يَا قَوْمِ إِن كُنتُمْ آمَنتُم بِاللَّـهِ فَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلُوا إِن كُنتُم مُّسْلِمِينَ * فَقَالُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِّلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ * وَنَجِّنَا بِرَحْمَتِكَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ

And Moosaa said, “O my people, if you have believed in Allah, then place your trust in Him, if you are Muslims.” * So they said, “In Allah do we place our trust. O our Lord, do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people * And save us by Your mercy from the disbelieving people.” [10:84-86]

There have been a number of different interpretations of the supplication, “do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people.” Ibn al-Jawzi summarized the different opinions transmitted from the salaf regarding the meaning of this supplication as follows:

وفي قوله : ” لا تجعلنا فتنة ” ثلاثة أقوال : ـ

There are three different opinions regarding Allah’s statement:

لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً

do not make us a trial

أحدها : لا تهلكنا بعذاب على أيدي قوم فرعون ، ولا بعذاب من قبلك ، فيقول قوم فرعون : لو كانوا على حق ما عذبوا ولا سلطنا عليهم . ـ

○ First: Do not destroy us with afflictions at the hands of the people of Fir’awn, nor by a punishment coming from You. For the people of Fir’awn said, “If they were upon the truth, then they would not have been subjected to suffering nor would we have been given power over them.”

والثاني : لا تسلطهم علينا فيفتنونا والقولان مرويان عن مجاهد . ـ

○ Second: Do not place them in power over us, in which case they would subject us to a trial. And both the first and second opinions have been relayed from Mujaahid. Continue reading

Qiraa’aat and their Conditions for Acceptance: Sheikh Muqbil

Sheikh Muqbil ibn Haadee al-Waad’iee was asked the following question regarding the different qiraa’aat, or recitations of the Qur’an:

نص السؤال: هل القراءات السبع أو العشر متواترة ؟

Question: Have the seven qiraa’aat or the ten qiraa’aat come to us through mutawaatir transmission (i.e. through a large number of independent routes of transmission)?

نص الإجابة: القرآن متواتر ، وأغلب القراءات متواترة ، أما بعض الأحرف فقد ذكر الشوكاني رحمه الله تعالى عند تفسير قول الله عز وجل : ” وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامِ ۚ” [ النساء : 1 ] هي بالمصحف ” وَالْأَرْحَامَ ” ذكر أن هذا الحرف لا ينبغي أن يقال أنه متواتر لكن يقال : هو ثابت عن النبي – صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم – . ـ

Response: The Qur’an has reached us through mutawaatir transmission, and most of the qiraa’aat have reached us through mutawaatir transmission.

As for some of the individual letters, al-Shakwaani mentioned a variant reading in his explanation of the first ayah of surah al-Nisaa’:

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامِ ۚ ـ

And have taqwa of Allah, through whom and through the ties of kinship you ask one another for your mutual rights

with the word “ties of kinship” there taking the genitive case, while in the mushaf it comes as:

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامَ ۚ ـ

And have taqwa of Allah, through whom you ask one another for your mutual rights, and have taqwa of the ties of kinship (i.e. do not break them)

where the word “ties of kinship” takes the accusative case.

So al-Shawkaani mentioned that is is not proper to refer to this particular variant letter change as having reached us through mutawaatir transmission, although one may say that it is authentically attributed to the Prophet (ﷺ). Continue reading

The Meaning of the Title “al-Maseeh”

In his book of tafsir, Imam al-Shawkaani brought the following discussion about the meaning of the term al-Maseeh (the Messiah). Imam al-Shawkaani generally borrowed heavily – even word for word – from Imam al-Qurtubi’s linguistic discussions, often summarizing and simplifying them into a list format. Some supplementary notes from al-Qurtubi will be mentioned here in brackets [] for the sake of clarity:

[والمسيح لقب لعيسى ومعناه الصديق ; قاله إبراهيم النخعي . ـ]

[al-Maseeh is a title for ‘Eesaa (Jesus) and its meaning is al-Siddeeq (“the truthful one”) – this is what Ibrahim al-Nakha’ee said.]

والمسيح اختلف فيه مماذا أخذ ؟ فقيل : من المسح ; لأنه مسح الأرض ; أي : ذهب فيها فلم يستكن بكن ، وقيل : إنه كان لا يمسح ذا عاهة إلا برئ ، فسمي مسيحا ، فهو على هذين فعيل بمعنى فاعل ، ـ

al-Maseeh – there is differing as to where it was derived. So it is said: (it was derived) from al-mash (wiping), for he swept over the earth, meaning he traversed over it and did not take residence in any dwelling place.

And it is said: It was the case that he would not touch someone with an infirmity except that they would be cured, so he was called Maseeh.

So according to these two meaning, it takes the form of an adjective with the meaning of an active participle. Continue reading

Four categories of parentage and four categories of offspring: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah mentions in surah al-Shooraa:

لِّلَّـهِ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ ۚ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ يَهَبُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ إِنَاثًا وَيَهَبُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ الذُّكُورَ‌ * أَوْ يُزَوِّجُهُمْ ذُكْرَ‌انًا وَإِنَاثًا ۖ وَيَجْعَلُ مَن يَشَاءُ عَقِيمًا ۚ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ قَدِيرٌ

To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth; He creates what he wills. He gives to whom He wills female [children], and He gives to whom He wills males.  Or He pairs them with males and females, and He renders whom He wills barren. Indeed, He is Knowing and Powerful.  [42:49-50]‌

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, Imam Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following:

 يخبر تعالى أنه خالق السموات والأرض ومالكهما والمتصرف فيهما ، وأنه ما شاء كان ، وما لم يشأ لم يكن ، وأنه يعطي من يشاء ، ويمنع من يشاء ، ولا مانع لما أعطى ، ولا معطي لما منع ، وأنه يخلق ما يشاء ، و ( يهب لمن يشاء إناثا ) أي : يرزقه البنات فقط – قال البغوي : ومنهم لوط ، عليه السلام ( ويهب لمن يشاء الذكور ) أي : يرزقه البنين فقط . قال البغوي : كإبراهيم الخليل ، عليه السلام – لم يولد له أنثى ، . ( أو يزوجهم ذكرانا وإناثا ) أي : ويعطي من يشاء من الناس الزوجين الذكر والأنثى ، أي : من هذا وهذا . قال البغوي : كمحمد ، عليه الصلاة والسلام ( ويجعل من يشاء عقيما ) أي : لا يولد له . قال البغوي : كيحيى وعيسى ، عليهما السلام  ـ

 Allah informs us that He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and the owner of them both, and the controller of what is in them. And He informs us that whatever He wills is, and whatever He does not will is not, and that He grants what He wills and prevents what He wills, and there is none who can prevent what He grants nor is there anyone who can grant what He prevents. And He informs us that He creates what He wills, and: 

يَهَبُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ إِنَاثًا

He gives to whom He wills female [children]

– meaning, He provides one with only daughters . Al-Baghawi said, “Included in this category is Loot (‘alaihi al-salaam).”

وَيَهَبُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ الذُّكُورَ‌

and He gives to whom He wills males

– meaning, He provides one with only sons. Al-Baghawi said, “Such as Ibrahim al-Khaleel (‘alaihi al-salaam) – no females were born to him. Continue reading