Major Nifaq and Minor Nifaq in the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In his explanation of the beginning of surah al-Baqarah, the great expert in hadith, history and tafsir al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir transitioned from the ayaat describing the disbelievers to the ayaat describing the munafiqoon by writing:

لما تقدم وصف المؤمنين في صدر السورة بأربع آيات ، ثم عرف حال الكافرين بهاتين الآيتين ، شرع تعالى في بيان حال المنافقين الذين يظهرون الإيمان ويبطنون الكفر ، ولما كان أمرهم يشتبه على كثير من الناس أطنب في ذكرهم بصفات متعددة ، كل منها نفاق ، كما أنزل سورة ” براءة ” فيهم ، وسورة ” المنافقين ” فيهم ، وذكرهم في سورة ” النور ” وغيرها من السور ، تعريفا لأحوالهم لتجتنب ، ويجتنب من تلبس بها. ـ

After beginning with four ayaat describing the believers at the opening of this surah [2:2-5] and then acquainting us with the disbelievers’ condition in these two ayaat [2:6-7], Allah then moves on to explaining the situation of the munafiqoon – those who outwardly display eemaan while inwardly harboring disbelief [2:8-20]. Because of the difficulty that many people have in identifying their condition, Allah goes into detail by mentioning a number of their characteristics, all of which are nifaq. He also sent down surah al-Baraa’ah [09] and surah al-Munafiqoon [63] regarding them, as well as mentioning them in surah al-Nur [24] and elsewhere in order to acquaint us with their ways so that we could avoid their qualities and those who are characterized by them.

النفاق : هو إظهار الخير وإسرار الشر ، وهو أنواع : اعتقادي ، وهو الذي يخلد صاحبه في النار ، وعملي وهو من أكبر الذنوب ، كما سيأتي تفصيله في موضعه ، إن شاء الله تعالى ، وهذا كما قال ابن جريج : المنافق يخالف قوله فعله ، وسره علانيته ، ومدخله مخرجه ، ومشهده مغيبه . ـ

al-Nifaq is: outwardly displaying good while secretly harboring evil. And there are different varieties of nifaq:

there is Nifaq of Creed, which is the type which causes its perpetrator to spend eternity in the Hellfire,

and there is Nifaq of Deed which is one of the gravest sins.

And we shall discuss this in detail in the appropriate place, inshaAllaah.

All of this is just as ibn Jurayj said, “The munafiq‘s words and actions are at odds, his secrets and public face are at odds, his entering and exiting are at odds, and his public life and private life are at odds.” Continue reading

A Central Theme of Surah al-Baqarah: Sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah

In the midst of discussing the differences between the contents of a surah and the theme of a surah, Sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah, a professor of the Qur’an and its sciences at Qassim University, mentioned the following points:

قال شيخ الإسلام ابن تيمية رحمه الله: ” وقد ذكرت في مواضع ما اشتملت عليه سورة البقرة من تقرير ألصول العلم وقواعد الدين . ” ـ

Sheikh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah said:

I have mentioned in more than one place how surah al-Baqarah is comprised of establishing the foundations of religious knowledge and the cornerstones of the religion.

وبالتأمل الثاقب للسورة كلها ومقاطعها نجدها تعرضت لغير الأحكام التشريعية ومن ذلك القسم الأول من السورة حيث عرض فيه قصة آدم وقصة بني إسرائيل وقصة إبراهيم وبناء البيت، وقصة تحويل القبلة، وقصة طالوت، وآية الكرسي وما تبعها من قصص، وهذا يمثل أكثر من نصف السورة. وبالتأمل فإنه يمكن أن نربط بين هذه الموضعات من الأحكام والقصص بالغرض الذي يجمعها كلها وهو ما يمكن أن نعبر عنه بأنه (( إعداد الأمة لتلقي الشريعة وامتثالها وتبليغها)). فالسورة تركز على تربية الأمة وإعدادها لتلقي شريعة الله تعالى وامتثالها، ولذلك جاءت قصة بني إسرائيل وفيها قصة البقرة تحذير للمؤمنين من مشابهتهم، وإشعار بنقل الخلافة من بني إسرائيل إلى هذه الأمة وإليها إشارت قصة إبراهيم وقصة تحويل القبلة. ـ

By some perceptive contemplation of this surah as a whole and its different sections, we find that it presents more than just legal rulings. For instance, there is its first section where it presents the story of Adam and that of Banu Israa’eel and that of Ibrahim constructing the Ka’bah, as well as the changing of the qiblah, story of Talut, ayah al-Kursi and the stories that come shortly after it. All of this comprises more than half of the surah. Continue reading

How the Qur’an Addresses Potential Doubts: Tafsir al-Sa’di

After a long series of ayaat in surah al-Baqarah critical of Banu Israa’eel for their repeated betrayals of the covenant that Allah had taken from them, Allah then says:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالنَّصَارَىٰ وَالصَّابِئِينَ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

Those who believe and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabi’oon who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteous good deeds – they will have their reward with Allah, and they will not have any fear nor will they grieve. [2:62]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following explanation and beneficial point of Qur’anic style in his commentary on this ayah:

ثم قال تعالى حاكما بين الفرق الكتابية: { إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالنَّصَارَى وَالصَّابِئِينَ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ } وهذا الحكم على أهل الكتاب خاصة, لأن الصابئين, الصحيح أنهم من جملة فرق النصارى، فأخبر الله أن المؤمنين من هذه الأمة, واليهود والنصارى, والصابئين من آمن بالله واليوم الآخر, وصدقوا رسلهم, فإن لهم الأجر العظيم والأمن, ولا خوف عليهم ولا هم يحزنون، وأما من كفر منهم بالله ورسله واليوم الآخر, فهو بضد هذه الحال, فعليه الخوف والحزن. ـ

This status is only applicable to the Ahl al-Kitab, for the correct opinion regarding the Sabi’oon is that they are one of the Christian sects.

In this ayah, Allah is informing the believers that the Jews, Christians, and Sabi’oon who believe in Allah and the Last Day and affirm His messengers will have a great reward as well as safety. They will not fear nor will they grieve.

But as for those of those of them that disbelieve in Allah and His messengers and the Last Day, then they will experience the opposite situation: they will fear and they will grieve. Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 130-141: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the fourteenth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 130-141. This passage calls mankind to follow the religion of Ibrahim and to turn away from other paths. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

وَمَن يَرْغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِلَّا مَن سَفِهَ نَفْسَهُ ۚ وَلَقَدِ اصْطَفَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَإِنَّهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

And who would be averse to the religion of Ibrahim except one who makes a fool of himself? We have chosen him in the world, and in the hereafter he is one of the upright ones. [2:130]

ولا أحد يُعرض عن دين إبراهيم- وهو الإسلام- إلا سفيه جاهل، ولقد اخترنا إبراهيم في الدنيا نبيًّا ورسولا وإنه في الآخرة لمن الصالحين الذين لهم أعلى الدرجات.ـ

130. There is no one who turns away from the religion of Ibrahim, which is Islam, except for an ignorant fool. We have chosen Ibrahim as a prophet and messenger in this life, and in the hereafter he will be one of the upright ones who will be at the highest level.

إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ أَسْلِمْ ۖ قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

And when his Lord told him, “Submit,” he said, “I have submitted to the Lord of all creation.” [2:131]

وسبب هذا الاختيار مسارعته للإسلام دون تردد، حين قال له ربه: أخلص نفسك لله منقادًا له. فاستجاب إبراهيم وقال: أسلمت لرب العالمين إخلاصًا وتوحيدًا ومحبة وإنابة.ـ

131. The reason that Allah chose him is because of his eagerness to submit without any hesitation when Allah told him, “Make yourself purely for Allah, completely obedient to Him.” So Ibrahim responded by saying, “I have submitted myself entirely to the Lord of all creation, singling Him out for worship, love, and always turning back to Him.

Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 124-129: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the thirteenth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 124-129. This passage recounts some events from the life of Ibrahim. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

وَإِذِ ابْتَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا ۖ قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي ۖ قَالَ لَا يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ

And when Ibrahim was tested by his Lord with some word and he fulfilled them. He said, “I have certainly made you a leader for mankind.” He said, “And those of my offspring?” He said, “My covenant does not extend to the wrongdoers.” [2:124]

واذكر- أيها النبي- حين اختبر الله إبراهيم بما شرع له من تكاليف، فأدَّاها وقام بها خير قيام. قال الله له: إني جاعلك قدوة للناس. قال إبراهيم: ربِّ اجعل بعض نسلي أئمة فضلا منك، فأجابه الله سبحانه أنه لا تحصل للظالمين الإمامةُ في الدين.ـ

124. And remember – O Prophet – when Allah tested Ibrahim with the legal responsibilities that He had legislated for him. So Ibrahim fulfilled and discharged those responsibilities in the best way. Allah said to him, “I have certainly made you an example for mankind.” Ibrahim said, “Lord, make some of my descendants leaders, out of Your graciousness.” Allah responded to him by saying that the wrongdoers do not attain leadership in the religion.

وَإِذْ جَعَلْنَا الْبَيْتَ مَثَابَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَمْنًا وَاتَّخِذُوا مِن مَّقَامِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ مُصَلًّى ۖ وَعَهِدْنَا إِلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ

And when We made the House a place of return for mankind and a sanctuary. And take the station of Ibrahim as a place of prayer. And We charged Ibrahim and Ismaa’eel to purify My House for those who make tawaf and i’tikaaf and bow in prostration. [2:125]

Continue reading

The Meaning of “Beneath it Rivers Flow”: Tafsir ibn Kathir & al-Baghawi

One of the frequently repeated descriptions of Jannah in the Qur’an is Allah’s statement:

جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ

Which is often translated as “Gardens beneath which rivers will flow” or something similar.

In this first instance of this phrase in the mushaf, al-Haafidh ibn Kathir explains it by writing:

قال تعالى : ( وبشر الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات أن لهم جنات تجري من تحتها الأنهار ) فوصفها بأنها تجري من تحتها الأنهار ، كما وصف النار بأن وقودها الناس والحجارة ، ومعنى ( تجري من تحتها الأنهار ) أي : من تحت أشجارها وغرفها ، وقد جاء في الحديث : أن أنهارها تجري من غير أخدود ، وجاء في الكوثر أن حافتيه قباب اللؤلؤ المجوف ، ولا منافاة بينهما ، وطينها المسك الأذفر ، وحصباؤها اللؤلؤ والجوهر ، نسأل الله من فضله [ وكرمه ] إنه هو البر الرحيم . ـ

Allah says:

وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ

And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens beneath which rivers flow. [2:25]

So He has described Jannah as having rivers flowing underneath it, mirroring how He described the Hellfire as having men and stones for its fuel. And the meaning of

تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ

… beneath which rivers flow. Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 114-123: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the twelfth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 114-123. This passage addresses some of the claims and actions of the Jews. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن مَّنَعَ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّـهِ أَن يُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ وَسَعَىٰ فِي خَرَابِهَا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ مَا كَانَ لَهُمْ أَن يَدْخُلُوهَا إِلَّا خَائِفِينَ ۚ لَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا خِزْيٌ وَلَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

And who is more unjust than those who prevent the name of Allah from being mentioned in His mosques and strive to destroy them. Those ones should only enter them in fear. In this life, they will have disgrace, and in the hereafter they will have a tremendous punishment. [2:114]

لا أحد أظلم من الذين منعوا ذِكْرَ الله في المساجد من إقام الصلاة، وتلاوة القرآن، ونحو ذلك، وجدُّوا في تخريبها بالهدم أو الإغلاق، أو بمنع المؤمنين منها. أولئك الظالمون ما كان ينبغي لهم أن يدخلوا المساجد إلا على خوف ووجل من العقوبة، لهم بذلك صَغار وفضيحة في الدنيا، ولهم في الآخرة عذاب شديد.ـ

114. No one is more unjust than those who prevent the remembrance of Allah – such as establishing the prayer, reciting the Qur’an, etc. – in the mosques and who strive to destroy them by demolishing them or closing them or by prevent the believers from coming to them. Those wrong-doers should not enter the mosques except in a state of fear and dread of the punishment. Because of this, they will face humiliation and disgrace in this world, and in the hereafter they will face a severe punishment.

وَلِلَّـهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ ۚ فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّوا فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

The east and west belong to Allah. So wherever you turn, there is Allah’s face. Allah is certainly expansive, all-knowing. [1:115]

Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 104-113: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the eleventh installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 104-113. This passage focuses on provides a series of instructions and clarifications regarding Muslim conduct and certain statements of the disbelievers. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَقُولُوا رَاعِنَا وَقُولُوا انظُرْنَا وَاسْمَعُوا ۗ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

O you who believe, do not say, “Pay attention to us!” but say, “Look after us” and listen. And the disbelievers will have a painful punishment. [2:104]

يا أيها الذين آمنوا لا تقولوا للرسول محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم: راعنا، أي: راعنا سمعك، فافهم عنا وأفهمنا؛ لأن اليهود كانوا يقولونها للنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يلوون ألسنتهم بها، يقصدون سبَّه ونسبته إلى الرعونة، وقولوا- أيها المؤمنون- بدلا منها: انظرنا، أي انظر إلينا وتعهَّدْنا، وهي تؤدي المعنى المطلوب نفسه واسمعوا ما يتلى عليكم من كتاب ربكم وافهموه. وللجاحدين عذاب موجع.ـ

104. O you who believe, do not say, “Pay attention to us!” to the Messenger, which means, “turn your hearing towards us, so that you understand and comprehend us.” That is because the Jews used to say that to the Prophet while twisting it with their tongues, intending to insult him and imply that he was dim-witted. Instead, O believers, say, “Look after us,” which means, “Watch over us and take care of us,” which conveys the intended message. And listen to what he recites to us from your Lord’s Book and understand it. And there is an agonizing punishment for those who refuse.

مَّا يَوَدُّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَلَا الْمُشْرِكِينَ أَن يُنَزَّلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ يَخْتَصُّ بِرَحْمَتِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ

Neither the People of the Book who disbelieve nor the pagans would like for any good to be sent down to you from your Lord. But Allah selects whomever He wishes for His mercy. And Allah is the owner of great bounty. [2:105] Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 97-103: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the tenth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 97-103. This passage focuses on the pattern of the Children of Israa’eel breaking their covenants and refusing to believe. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

قُلْ مَن كَانَ عَدُوًّا لِّجِبْرِيلَ فَإِنَّهُ نَزَّلَهُ عَلَىٰ قَلْبِكَ بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَهُدًى وَبُشْرَىٰ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

Say, “Whoever is an enemy to Jibril, it is he who brought down the Qur’an to your heart by Allah’s permission, affirming what you had with you, and as a guidance and glad tiding to the believers.” [2:97]

قل- أيها الرسول- لليهود حين قالوا: إن جبريل هو عدونا من الملائكة: من كان عدوًا لجبريل فإنه نزَّل القرآن على قلبك بإذن الله تعالى مصدِّقًا لما سبقه من كتب الله، وهاديًا إلى الحق، ومبشرًا للمصدِّقين به بكل خير في الدنيا والآخرة.ـ

97. O Messenger, when the Jews say, “Jibril is our enemy angel,” tell them, “Whoever is an enemy to Jibril, he brought down the Qur’an to your heart by Allah’s permission, affirming the previous scriptures from Allah and serving as a guidance to the truth and offering the promise of every good in this life and the next life for those who believe in it.” Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 87-96: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the ninth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 87-96. This passage focuses on Banu Israa’eel‘s refusal to believe in what Allah has sent to them. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ وَقَفَّيْنَا مِن بَعْدِهِ بِالرُّسُلِ ۖ وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ ۗ أَفَكُلَّمَا جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ بِمَا لَا تَهْوَىٰ أَنفُسُكُمُ اسْتَكْبَرْتُمْ فَفَرِيقًا كَذَّبْتُمْ وَفَرِيقًا تَقْتُلُونَ

And We gave the Scripture to Moosaa and followed him up with other messengers. And We gave ‘Eesaa the son of Maryam clear signs and supported him with the Ruh al-Qudus. Isn’t it that whenever a messenger came to you with something your souls did not like you became arrogant, so you denied some and killed others. [2:87]

ولقد أعطينا موسى التوراة، وأتبعناه برسل من بني إسرائيل، وأعطينا عيسى ابن مريم المعجزات الواضحات، وقوَّيناه بجبريل عليه السلام. أفكلما جاءكم رسول بوحي من عند الله لا يوافق أهواءكم، استعليتم عليه، فكذَّبتم فريقًا وتقتلون فريقًا؟ـ

87. And We granted Moosaa the Tawrah and followed him up with other messengers from Banu Israa’eel. And We granted ‘Eesaa the son of Maryam clear miracles and strengthened him with Jibreel (peace by upon him). Isn’t it the case that every time a messenger came to you with revelation from Allah that didn’t match with your desires, you rose up against him, and so you denied some and killed others.

وَقَالُوا قُلُوبُنَا غُلْفٌ ۚ بَل لَّعَنَهُمُ اللَّـهُ بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَقَلِيلًا مَّا يُؤْمِنُونَ

And they said, “Our hearts are wrapped.” No, rather Allah has cursed them for their disbelief, for how little do they believe! [2:88]

وقال بنو إسرائيل لنبي الله ورسوله محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم: قلوبنا مغطاة، لا يَنْفُذ إليها قولك. وليس الأمر كما ادَّعَوْا، بل قلوبهم ملعونة، مطبوع عليها، وهم مطرودون من رحمة الله بسبب جحودهم، فلا يؤمنون إلا إيمانًا قليلا لا ينفعهم.ـ

88. Banu Israa’eel told Allah’s prophet and messenger Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) that, “Our hearts are covered; your speech cannot reach them.” But things are not as they claim. Rather, their hearts are cursed and sealed over and they have been thrown out of Allah’s mercy due to their rejection of faith. So they will not believe, except for a small amount of faith which will not benefit them. Continue reading