A Central Theme of Surah al-An’aam: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

After discussing a number of statements from the salaf regarding the revelation and themes of surah al-An’aam, Imam al-Qurtubi then wrote:

تنبيه : قال العلماء : هذه السورة أصل في محاجة المشركين وغيرهم من المبتدعين ومن كذب بالبعث والنشور وهذا يقتضي إنزالها جملة واحدة لأنها في معنى واحد من الحجة وإن تصرف ذلك بوجوه كثيرة . ـ

A Note: the scholars have said that this surah is the foundation for arguing against the Mushrikoon, as well as others such as innovators and anyone who denies the resurrection and gathering of the dead. That is why this surah was revealed all at once, because it all centers around one message of making an argument, even if the surah pursues that goal in a number of different ways. Continue reading

“Shall We Turn Back on Our Heels After Allah has Guided us?”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah strikes a parable in part of surah al-An’aam by saying:

قُلْ أَنَدْعُو مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُنَا وَلَا يَضُرُّنَا وَنُرَدُّ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ كَالَّذِي اسْتَهْوَتْهُ الشَّيَاطِينُ فِي الْأَرْضِ حَيْرَانَ لَهُ أَصْحَابٌ يَدْعُونَهُ إِلَى الْهُدَى ائْتِنَا ۗ قُلْ إِنَّ هُدَى اللَّهِ هُوَ الْهُدَىٰ ۖ وَأُمِرْنَا لِنُسْلِمَ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Say: Shall we call on others besides Allah who cannot help us or harm us and shall we turn back on our heels after Allah has guided us like one whom the shayaateen have made go astray in the earth in confusion while his friends call him to guidance – “come to us!”. Say: Surely, Allah’s guidance is the guidance, and we have been commanded to submit to our Lord of all creation. [6:71]

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

ـ ( قل أندعو من دون الله ما لا ينفعنا ) إن عبدناه ، ( ولا يضرنا ) إن تركناه ، يعني : الأصنام ليس إليها نفع ولا ضر ، ( ونرد على أعقابنا ) إلى الشرك [ مرتدين ] ( بعد إذ هدانا الله كالذي استهوته الشياطين في الأرض ) ، أي : يكون مثلنا كمثل الذي استهوته الشياطين ، أي : أضلته ، ( حيران ) قال ابن عباس : كالذي استهوته الغيلان في المهامة فأضلوه فهو حائر بائر ، والحيران : المتردد في الأمر ، لا يهتدي إلى مخرج منه . ـ

قُلْ أَنَدْعُو مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُنَا

Say: Shall we call on others besides Allah who cannot help us …

if we were to worship them

وَلَا يَضُرُّنَا

… or harm us …

if we were to ignore them. This is in reference to idols, which neither bring about benefit nor harm.

وَنُرَدُّ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِنَا

… and shall we turn back on our heels …

back to shirk, apostatizing from Islam

بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ كَالَّذِي اسْتَهْوَتْهُ الشَّيَاطِينُ فِي الْأَرْضِ

… after Allah has guided us like one whom the shayaateen have made go astray in the earth …

i.e. if we were to do so, then we would be those one whom the shayaateen seduced – that is, led astray Continue reading

Linguistic Ambiguity and Multiple Meanings of a Qur’anic Ayah: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah begins surah al-An’aam by describing Himself in several ayaat, including:

وَهُوَ اللَّـهُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَفِي الْأَرْضِ يَعْلَمُ سِرَّكُمْ وَجَهْرَكُمْ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تَكْسِبُونَ

And He is Allah in the heavens and in the earth He knows your secrets and your statements and He knows what you earn. [6:3]

As one can see from the Arabic and may also be able to see from this approximate translation of the meaning, there is some linguistic ambiguity (what linguists would call syntactic or structural ambiguity) to this ayah resulting in multiple plausible interpretations. Specifically, the question relates to where one should pause while reciting this ayah, a field known as al-Waqf w’al-Ibtidaa’ in the Qur’anic sciences. In his well-known book of tafsir, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee addresses this issue in his explanation of this ayah as follows:

في هذه الآية الكريمة ثلاثة أوجه للعلماء من التفسير وكل واحد منها له مصداق في كتاب الله تعالى : ـ

There are three ways that the scholars have explained this ayah, and each one of these explanations has something to support and substantiate it from within the Qur’an.

الأول : أن المعنى ، وهو الله في السماوات وفي الأرض ، أي وهو الإله المعبود في السماوات والأرض ، لأنه جل وعلا هو المعبود وحده بحق في الأرض والسماء ، وعلى هذا فجملة «يعلم » حال ، أو خبر

1) That the meaning is “And He is Allah in the heavens and the earth”, i.e.: and He is the deity who is worshiped in the heavens and the earth because He is the only one truly deserving of worship in the earth and the sky. Continue reading

O You Who Have Believed, Look After Your Own Souls: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Maa’idah:

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 famous book of tafsir, al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following:

يقول تعالى آمرا عباده المؤمنين أن يصلحوا أنفسهم ويفعلوا الخير بجهدهم وطاقتهم ، ومخبرا لهم أنه من أصلح أمره لا يضره فساد من فسد من الناس ، سواء كان قريبا منه أو بعيدا . ـ

Allah is commanding His believing slaves to rectify themselves and do the good that is within their ability and capacity, and He is also informing them that whoever rectifies his own matters will not be harmed by the corruption of the corrupted people regardless of whether they are near or far from him. Continue reading

Using a Non-Canonical Recitation as Evidence: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Ma’idah, Allah describes the expiation of a broken oath as follows:

 فَكَفَّارَتُهُ إِطْعَامُ عَشَرَةِ مَسَاكِينَ مِنْ أَوْسَطِ مَا تُطْعِمُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ أَوْ كِسْوَتُهُمْ أَوْ تَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ ۖ فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ ثَلَاثَةِ أَيَّامٍ

… So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave. But whoever does not find the means – then a fast of three days. … [5:89]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir addressed the ayah at length in his tafsir. In the midst of his discussion, he turns to a question regarding the fast:

واختلف العلماء : هل يجب فيها التتابع أو يستحب ولا يجب ويجزئ التفريق؟ على قولين : أحدهما أنه لا يجب التتابع ، هذا منصوص الشافعي في كتاب ” الأيمان ” ، وهو قول مالك لإطلاق قوله : ( فصيام ثلاثة أيام ) وهو صادق على المجموعة والمفرقة ، كما في قضاء رمضان ; لقوله : ( فعدة من أيام أخر ) [ البقرة : 184 ] . ـ

The scholars have differed as to whether the days of fasting for this expiation must be done consecutively or if that is only recommended without reaching the level of obligation, thus making it permissible to fast them non-consecutively. They fall into two camps:

The first position holds that it is not required to fast them consecutively. This the opinion of Imam al-Shafi’ee as is mentioned in the book al-Ayman, as well as being the position of Imam Malik. This was based off the general nature of Allah’s statement:

فَصِيَامُ ثَلَاثَةِ أَيَّامٍ

then a fast of three days

which could apply to both fasting them consecutively or non-consecutively, just as is the case when making up any missed days of Ramadan according to Allah’s statement: Continue reading

“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

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

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

“Only those who hear will respond”: Tafsir al-Tabari and Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-An’aam:

إِنَّمَا يَسْتَجِيبُ الَّذِينَ يَسْمَعُونَ ۘ وَالْمَوْتَىٰ يَبْعَثُهُمُ اللَّـهُ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ يُرْجَعُونَ

Only those who hear will respond. But the dead – Allah will resurrect them; then to Him they will be returned. [6:36]

In his famous book of tafsir, Imam Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari commented on this ayah by writing:

 قال أبو جعفر : يقول – تعالى ذكره – لنبيه محمد – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : لا يكبرن عليك إعراض هؤلاء المعرضين عنك ، وعن الاستجابة لدعائك إذا دعوتهم إلى توحيد ربهم والإقرار بنبوتك ، فإنه لا يستجيب لدعائك – إلى ما تدعوه إليه من ذلك – إلا الذين فتح الله أسماعهم للإصغاء إلى الحق ، وسهل لهم اتباع الرشد ، دون من ختم الله على سمعه ، فلا يفقه من دعائك إياه إلى الله وإلى اتباع الحق إلا ما تفقه الأنعام من أصوات رعاتها ، فهم كما وصفهم به الله – تعالى ذكره – : صم بكم عمي فهم لا يعقلون [ سورة البقرة : 171 ] ـ

I, Abu Ja’far, say: Allah is addressing His Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) by saying: Do not be distressed by the rejection of these ones who turn away from you and from responding to your call when you call them to singling out their Lord in worship and affirming your prophet-hood. For none will respond to your call – that is, those things which you are calling to – except for those whom Allah has opened their hearing to listen to the truth and then made it easy for them to follow the correct guidance. This is to the exclusion of those whom Allah has placed a seal over their hearing, so they do not understand this call to worship Allah and to follow the truth, this call of yours which is directed to them. They do not understand it any more than cattle understand the voice of their herder. So they are like those whom Allah described in this way:

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

And the example of those who disbelieve, is as that of him who shouts to those that that hear nothing but calls and cries. (They are) deaf, dumb and blind. So they do not understand. [2:171]

ـ” والموتى يبعثهم الله ” يقول : والكفار يبعثهم الله مع الموتى ، فجعلهم – تعالى ذكره – في عداد الموتى الذين لا يسمعون صوتا ، ولا يعقلون دعاء ، ولا يفقهون قولا إذ كانوا لا يتدبرون حجج الله ، ولا يعتبرون آياته ، ولا يتذكرون فينزجرون عما هم عليه من تكذيب رسل الله وخلافهم . ـ

وَالْمَوْتَىٰ يَبْعَثُهُمُ اللَّـهُ

But the dead – Allah will resurrect them Continue reading

“Do not insult those they invoke other than Allah”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-An’aam:

وَلَا تَسُبُّوا الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ فَيَسُبُّوا اللَّـهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ‌ عِلْمٍ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَ‌بِّهِم مَّرْ‌جِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge. Thus We have made pleasing to every community their deeds. Then to their Lord is their return, and He will inform them about what they used to do. [6:108]

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

ينهى الله المؤمنين عن أمر كان جائزا، بل مشروعا في الأصل، وهو سب آلهة المشركين، التي اتخذت أوثانا وآلهة مع الله، التي يتقرب إلى الله بإهانتها وسبها. ـ

Here, Allah is prohibiting the believers from something which is permissible – in fact, at its basis it is legislated – and that thing is insulting the polytheists’ objects of worship; those which are taken as idols and objects of worship alongside Allah, and those which the believers insult and hold in contempt thereby seeking nearness to Allah. Continue reading