“O Mankind, a Proof Has Come to You From Your Lord”: Tafsir al-Tabari

In the last part of surah al-Nisaa’, Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَكُم بُرْهَانٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكُمْ نُورًا مُّبِينًا

O mankind, a proof has come to you from your Lord and We have sent down a clear light to you. [4:174]

Imam Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari began his tafsir of this ayah by summarizing the meaning as follows:

قال أبو جعفر : يعني جل ثناؤه بقوله : ” يا أيها الناس قد جاءكم برهان من ربكم ” ، يا أيها الناس من جميع أصناف الملل ، يهودها ونصاراها ومشركيها ، الذين قص الله جل ثناؤه قصصهم في هذه السورة” قد جاءكم برهان من ربكم ” ، يقول : قد جاءتكم حجة من الله تبرهن لكم بطول ما أنتم عليه مقيمون من أديانكم ومللكم ، وهو محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم ، الذي جعله الله عليكم حجة قطع بها [ ص: 428 ] عذركم ، وأبلغ إليكم في المعذرة بإرساله إليكم ، مع تعريفه إياكم صحة نبوته ، وتحقيق رسالته” وأنزلنا إليكم نورا مبينا ” ، يقول : وأنزلنا إليكم معه”نورا مبينا” ، يعني : يبين لكم المحجة الواضحة ، والسبل الهادية إلى ما فيه لكم النجاة من عذاب الله وأليم عقابه ، إن سلكتموها واستنرتم بضوئه . وذلك”النور المبين” ، هو القرآن الذي أنزله الله على محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم .ـ

I, Abu Ja’far, say: What Allah means by:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَكُم بُرْهَانٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ

O mankind, a proof has come to you from your Lord

is: O people of every different kind of religion – Jewish, Christian, polytheist – whose stories Allah has mentioned in this surah

قَدْ جَاءَكُم بُرْهَانٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ

… a proof has come to you from your Lord … Continue reading

The Duty of the Scholars to Prohibit and Warn Against Evil: al-Shawkaani & al-Sa’di

In part of surah al-Maa’idah Allah criticizes a number of characteristics of the Jews, and then says:

لَوْلَا يَنْهَاهُمُ الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ عَن قَوْلِهِمُ الْإِثْمَ وَأَكْلِهِمُ السُّحْتَ ۚ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

Why don’t the rabbis and religious scholars forbid them from saying what is sinful and devouring what is unlawful? How wretched is what they have been making. [5:63]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani comments on this in his tafsir by writing:

 ثم وبخ علماءهم في تركهم لنهيهم فقال : لبئس ما كانوا يصنعون وهذا فيه زيادة على قوله : ( لبئس ما كانوا يعملون ) ؛ لأن العمل لا يبلغ درجة الصنع حتى يتدرب فيه صاحبه ، ولهذا تقول العرب : سيف صنيع إذا جود عامله عمله ، فالصنع هو العمل الجيد لا مطلق العمل  ـ

So Allah rebukes their scholars for neglecting their duty to forbid their people from sins.

Then Allah says:

لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

How wretched is what they have been yasna’oon [making]

and this is something more emphatic than if He had said

لبئس ما كان يعملون

How wretched is what they have been y’amaloon [doing]

because mere “doing” does not reach the level of “making” until the person involved has received a sufficient level of training and expertise. This is why in the Arabic language, one says

سيف صنيع

sanee’ [finely-crafted] sword

when its maker has embellished his work. So the word sana’ [making] is well-done work; it cannot be used to describe just any work.

فوبخ سبحانه الخاصة ، وهم العلماء التاركون للأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر بما هو أغلظ وأشد من توبيخ فاعل المعاصي

So Allah is reprimanding one group in particular – that is, the scholars who have abandoned their duty to command the good and forbid evil. And here Allah is reprimanding them in a harsher and more severe manner than the reprimand given to one who commits acts of disobedience himself. Continue reading

The Qur’an Addresses Multiple Christian Creeds: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in part of surah al-Nisaa’:

يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ وَلَا تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ إِلَّا الْحَقَّ ۚ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّـهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ ۖ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرُسُلِهِ ۖ وَلَا تَقُولُوا ثَلَاثَةٌ ۚ انتَهُوا خَيْرًا لَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا اللَّـهُ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ سُبْحَانَهُ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ ۘ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّـهِ وَكِيلًا

O People of the Book, do not go to extremes in your religion! And do not say anything about Allah other than the truth! The Messiah, ‘Eesaa the son of Maryam is nothing other than a Messenger of Allah, and a word of His which He sent to Maryam, and a soul from Him. So believe in Allah and in His Messengers. And do not say “three”. Stop! That is better for you! Allah is only one god; exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. And Allah is sufficient as a disposer of affairs [4:171]

In his famous book of commentary on the Qur’an, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following words in the midst of his explanation of this ayah. These words should serve to rebut the notion spread by some Christians that the Qur’an is confused about Christian beliefs. On the contrary, this passage demonstrates that the Qur’an addresses different beliefs of different Christian sects in different places:

وقوله : ( فآمنوا بالله ورسله ) أي : فصدقوا بأن الله واحد أحد ، لا صاحبة له ولا ولد ، واعلموا وتيقنوا بأن عيسى عبد الله ورسوله ; ولهذا قال : ( ولا تقولوا ثلاثة ) أي : لا تجعلوا عيسى وأمه مع الله شريكين ، تعالى الله عن ذلك علوا كبيرا . ـ

Allah’s statement:

فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرُسُلِهِ

So have eemaan in Allah and His messengers

meaning: believe that Allah is One, singular with neither partner nor offspring, and know and have certainty that ‘Eesaa is a slave of Allah and His messenger. And so Allah says:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا ثَلَاثَةٌ

And do not say “three”

meaning: Do not make ‘Eesaa and his mother as two partners alongside Allah – high and exalted is Allah above such a thing. Continue reading

The Meanings of Kufr, Thulm, and Fisq: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In surah al-Maa’idah, Allah repeats a similar phrase three times:

وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ

And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, then they are the kaafiroon (disbelievers) [5:44]

وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, then they are the thaalimoon (wrong-doers) [5:45]

وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, then they are the faasiqoon (rebellious, disobedient ones) [5:47]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee devoted extensive space in his book of tafsir to discussing these and the surrounding ayaat in detail. In the last part of his discussion he condensed some of his main points, which we have translated below:

قوله تعالى : ومن لم يحكم بما أنزل الله فأولئك هم الفاسقون قد قدمنا أن هذه الآية في النصارى ، والتي قبلها في اليهود ، والتي قبل تلك في المسلمين ، كما يقتضيه ظاهر القرآن . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, then they are the faasiqoon (rebellious, disobedient ones) [5:47]

we have already mentioned that this ayah is referring to the Christians, the one before it is referring to the Jews, and the one before that is referring to the Muslims, as follows from the outward meanings of the ayaat. Continue reading

A Frightening Ayah for the Leaders and Scholars: Tafsir al-Tabari

In part of surah al-Maa’idah Allah criticizes a number of characteristics of the Jews, and then says:

لَوْلَا يَنْهَاهُمُ الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ عَن قَوْلِهِمُ الْإِثْمَ وَأَكْلِهِمُ السُّحْتَ ۚ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

Why don’t the rabbaaniyoon and ahbar forbid them from saying ithm and devouring suht? How wretched is what they have done! [5:63]

In his explanation of this ayah, the great mufassir Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari wrote:

قال أبو جعفر : يقول تعالى ذكره : هلا ينهى هؤلاء الذين يسارعون في الإثم والعدوان وأكل الرشى في الحكم ، من اليهود من بني إسرائيل ، ربانيوهم وهم أئمتهم المؤمنون ، وساستهم العلماء بسياستهم ، وأحبارهم وهم علماؤهم وقوادهم “عن قولهم الإثم ” يعني : عن قول الكذب والزور ، وذلك أنهم كانوا يحكمون فيهم بغير حكم الله ، ويكتبون كتبا بأيديهم ثم يقولون : “هذا من حكم الله ، وهذا من كتبه” . يقول الله : ( فويل لهم مما كتبت أيديهم وويل لهم مما يكسبون ) [ سورة البقرة : 79 ] . ـ

I, Abu Ja’far, say: Allah is saying: Why don’t they prohibit these people who rush to commit sin and oppression and those in authority who take bribes? Why those Jews from the Children of Israa’eel do this? The rabbaaniyoon are their commanders, their political leaders and those experts in political matters, and the ahbar are their religious scholars and moral role models. Why don’t they prevent those from saying ‘ithm, meaning: saying lies and deceptive things. That is because the rulings that these leaders made for their people were not according to Allah’s rulings; they wrote scriptures with their own hands and then said, “This is a ruling from Allah, this is part of His Book.” Allah says:

فَوَيْلٌ لَّهُم مِّمَّا كَتَبَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَوَيْلٌ لَّهُم مِّمَّا يَكْسِبُونَ

Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for that they earn thereby. [2:79]

وأما قوله : ” وأكلهم السحت ” ، فإنه يعني به الرشوة التي كانوا يأخذونها على حكمهم بغير كتاب الله لمن حكموا له به . ـ

As for Allah’s statement:

وَأَكْلِهِمُ السُّحْتَ

and eating suht

Then this is referring to bribes which these rulers used to take for issuing judgements and rulings contrary to Allah’s Book. Continue reading

Preservation of the Wordings and Meanings of the Qur’an among the Salaf: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Nisaa’, Allah informs us of the following:

وَرُسُلًا قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَرُسُلًا لَّمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ ۚ وَكَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ مُوسَىٰ تَكْلِيمًا

And Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you, – and Allah spoke to Moosaa directly. [4:164]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following points:

وقوله : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) وهذا تشريف لموسى ، عليه السلام ، بهذه الصفة ; ولهذا يقال [ ص: 475 ] له : الكليم . وقد قال الحافظ أبو بكر بن مردويه : حدثنا أحمد بن محمد بن سليمان المالكي ، حدثنا مسيح بن حاتم ، حدثنا عبد الجبار بن عبد الله قال : جاء رجل إلى أبي بكر بن عياش فقال : سمعت رجلا يقرأ : ” وكلم الله موسى تكليما ” فقال أبو بكر : ما قرأ هذا إلا كافر ، قرأت على الأعمش ، وقرأ الأعمش على [ يحيى ] بن وثاب ، وقرأ يحيى بن وثاب على أبي عبد الرحمن السلمي ، وقرأ أبو عبد الرحمن ، على علي بن أبي طالب ، وقرأ علي بن أبي طالب على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) . ـ

Allah’s statement: Continue reading

Allah Knows what the Chests Contain: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In the beginning of surah al-Maa’idah, Allah addresses the believers by saying:

وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّـهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَمِيثَاقَهُ الَّذِي وَاثَقَكُم بِهِ إِذْ قُلْتُمْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ

And remember the favor of Allah upon you and His covenant with which He bound you when you said, “We hear and we obey”; and have taqwa of Allah. Indeed, Allah is the All-Knower of what is within the chests. [5:7]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following in his commentary of this ayah:

يأمر تعالى عباده بذكر نعمه الدينية والدنيوية، بقلوبهم وألسنتهم. فإن في استدامة ذكرها داعيا لشكر الله تعالى ومحبته، وامتلاء القلب من إحسانه. ـ

Allah commands His slaves to remember His blessings – both those related to the deen and those related to this worldly life – with their hearts and with their tongues, for being continuously in remembrance of them leads one to be grateful to Allah and to love Him and to have a heart filled with His goodness.

وفيه زوال للعجب من النفس بالنعم الدينية، وزيادة لفضل الله وإحسانه. و { مِيثَاقَهُْ} أي: واذكروا ميثاقه { الَّذِي وَاثَقَكُمْ بِهِ ْ} أي: عهده الذي أخذه عليكم. ـ

This would also lead to a removal of self-amazement at the blessings of this worldly life, and an increase of the bounties of goodness of Allah.

And Continue reading

“O Messenger, Convey what has been Revealed to you”: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In his tafsir of surah al-Maa’idah, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee mentioned the following brief point:

قوله تعالى : يا أيها الرسول بلغ ما أنزل إليك من ربك الآية . أمر تعالى في هذه الآية نبيه – صلى الله عليه وسلم – بتبليغ ما أنزل إليه ، وشهد له بالامتثال في آيات متعددة ، كقوله : اليوم أكملت لكم دينكم [ 5 \ 3 ] ، وقوله : وما على الرسول إلا البلاغ [ 24 \ 54 ] ، وقوله : فتول عنهم فما أنت بملوم [ 51 \ 54 ] ،  ـ

Allah’s statement:

يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّ‌سُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّ‌بِّكَ ۖ وَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِ‌سَالَتَهُ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِ‌ينَ

O Messenger, convey that which has been revealed to you from your Lord, and if you do not, then you have not conveyed His message. And Allah will protect you from the people. Indeed, Allah does not guide the disbelieving people. [5:67]

In this noble ayah Allah commanded His prophet (ﷺ) to convey what was revealed to him. And He affirmed his compliance concerning this matter in numerous ayaat, such as His statement:

الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ

This day I have perfected for you your religion [5:3]

And His statement:

Continue reading

The Consequences of Not Forbidding Wrongdoing: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah describes those among the Jews who disbelieved and received Allah’s curse in surah al-Maa’idah by saying:

كَانُوا لَا يَتَنَاهَوْنَ عَن مُّنكَرٍ فَعَلُوهُ ۚ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ

They used not to forbid one another from wrongdoing that they did. How wretched was that which they were doing. [5:79]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di mentioned the following points of benefit related to this ayah in the midst of his tafsir of the surrounding passage:

ـ { كَانُوا لَا يَتَنَاهَوْنَ عَنْ مُنْكَرٍ فَعَلُوهُ } أي: كانوا يفعلون المنكر، ولا ينهى بعضهم بعضا، فيشترك بذلك المباشر، وغيره الذي سكت عن النهي عن المنكر مع قدرته على ذلك. ـ

كَانُوا لَا يَتَنَاهَوْنَ عَنْ مُنْكَرٍ فَعَلُوهُ

They used not to forbid one another from wrongdoing that they did

meaning: They used to commit wrongdoing but they did not forbid one another from doing that, and thus they were partnered in doing that – both the one who actually did the wrongdoing and the others who remained silent and withheld from forbidding the wrongdoing despite having the ability to do so.

وذلك يدل على تهاونهم بأمر الله، وأن معصيته خفيفة عليهم، فلو كان لديهم تعظيم لربهم لغاروا لمحارمه، ولغضبوا لغضبه، وإنما كان السكوت عن المنكر -مع القدرة- موجبا للعقوبة، لما فيه من المفاسد العظيمة: ـ

This indicates their indifference towards Allah’s commandments and that disobeying Allah was something that they took lightly. For if they had a sense of the greatness of their Lord, they would have been protective of His forbidden limits and they would have been angered by what angers Him. But remaining silent about wrongdoing – despite having the ability – necessitates punishment due to what it entails of serious negative consequences: 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