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

“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.

Continue reading

“Those Who Have Divided Their Religion and Become Sects”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah al-An’aam:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا لَّسْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ ۚ إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُمْ إِلَى اللَّـهِ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ

Those who have divided their religion and become sects – you have nothing to do with them. Their matter is up to Allah, then He will inform them of what they used to do. [6:159]

Imam al-Baghawi wrote the following commentary on this ayah in his book of tafsir:

قوله – عز وجل – : ( إن الذين فرقوا دينهم ) قرأ حمزة والكسائي : ” فارقوا ” ، بالألف هاهنا وفي سورة الروم ، أي : خرجوا من دينهم وتركوه وقرأ الآخرون : ” فرقوا ” مشددا ، أي : جعلوا دين الله وهو واحد – دين إبراهيم عليه السلام الحنيفية – أديانا مختلفة ، فتهود قوم وتنصر قوم ، يدل عليه قوله – عز وجل – : ( وكانوا شيعا ) أي : صاروا فرقا مختلفة وهم اليهود والنصارى في قول مجاهد وقتادة والسدي . ـ

Regarding Allah’s statement:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ

Those who have divided their religion …

Hamzah and al-Kisaa’i recited it as:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَارَقُوا دِينَهُمْ

Those who have departed from their religion …

with an alif, both here an in surah al-Room [c.f. 30:32], meaning: exiting from their religion and leaving it. But the rest of the reciters recited it as: Continue reading

Encouragement and Intimidation in the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah concludes surah al-An’aam by saying:

إِنَّ رَبَّكَ سَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Your Lord is certainly swift in punishment, and He is certainly forgiving and merciful. [6:165]

After commenting on the immediate meaning of this ayah, al-haafidh ibn Kathir took this opportunity to highlight a larger stylistic feature of the Qur’an:

وقوله : ( إن ربك سريع العقاب وإنه لغفور رحيم ) ترهيب وترغيب ، أن حسابه وعقابه سريع ممن عصاه وخالف رسله ( وإنه لغفور رحيم ) لمن والاه واتبع رسله فيما جاءوا به من خير وطلب . ـ

This statement contains both incitement through intimidation and incitement through encouragement: that Allah’s reckoning and punishment is swift for those who disobey Him and oppose His messengers

وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

and He is certainly forgiving and merciful

to those who align themselves with Him and follow His Messenger in the goodness and  that they have brought and what they command.

وكثيرا ما يقرن تعالى في القرآن بين هاتين الصفتين ، كما قال تعالى : وقوله : ( نبئ عبادي أني أنا الغفور الرحيم وأن عذابي هو العذاب الأليم ) [ الحجر : 49 ، 50 ] ، وقوله : ( وإن ربك لذو مغفرة للناس على ظلمهم وإن ربك لشديد العقاب ) [ الرعد : 6 ] وغير ذلك من الآيات المشتملة على الترغيب والترهيب ، فتارة يدعو عباده إليه بالرغبة وصفة الجنة والترغيب فيما لديه ، وتارة يدعوهم إليه بالرهبة وذكر النار وأنكالها وعذابها والقيامة وأهوالها ، وتارة بهذا وبهذا لينجع في كل بحسبه . جعلنا الله ممن أطاعه فيما أمر ، وترك ما عنه نهى وزجر ، وصدقه فيما أخبر ، إنه قريب مجيب سميع الدعاء ، جواد كريم وهاب . ـ

Allah frequently pairs these two qualities and mentions them in conjunction throughout the Qur’an. Take for instance His statement: Continue reading

A Living Heart and a Light to Walk by: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah strikes the following parable in part of surah al-An’aam:

أَوَمَن كَانَ مَيْتًا فَأَحْيَيْنَاهُ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُ نُورًا يَمْشِي بِهِ فِي النَّاسِ كَمَن مَّثَلُهُ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ لَيْسَ بِخَارِجٍ مِّنْهَا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِلْكَافِرِينَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

And is one who was dead and We gave him life and made a light for him by which to walk among the people like one who is in darknesses, never to emerge from them? Thus what they have been doing has been made pleasing to the disbelievers. [6:122]

In part of his explanation of this ayah, al-haafidh ibn Kathir wrote:

هذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى للمؤمن الذي كان ميتا ، أي : في الضلالة ، هالكا حائرا ، فأحياه الله ، أي : أحيا قلبه بالإيمان ، وهداه له ووفقه لاتباع رسله . ( وجعلنا له نورا يمشي به في الناس ) أي : يهتدي به كيف يسلك ، وكيف يتصرف به . والنور هو : القرآن ، كما رواه العوفي وابن أبي طلحة ، عن ابن عباس . وقال السدي : الإسلام . والكل صحيح . ـ

This is a parable that Allah struck regarding a believer who had been dead – that is, in a state of misguidance, lost and confused – and then Allah gave him life – that is, gave life to his heart through eemaan and guided him and enabled him to follow His messengers.

وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُ نُورًا يَمْشِي بِهِ فِي النَّاسِ

… and made a light for him by which to walk among the people …

i.e. that he is guided by it in terms of how he should act and conduct himself.

The “light” here is the Qur’an, as has been transmitted from ibn ‘Abbaas by way of al-‘Awfi and ibn Abi Talhah, while al-Suddi says it refers to Islam. And both of these explanations are correct. Continue reading

Those Who Threw Off the Guidance that Allah Gave Them: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-A’raaf:

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا فَانسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ * وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَاهُ بِهَا وَلَـٰكِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ ۚ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ الْكَلْبِ إِن تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُكْهُ يَلْهَث ۚ ذَّٰلِكَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا ۚ فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ * سَاءَ مَثَلًا الْقَوْمُ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَأَنفُسَهُمْ كَانُوا يَظْلِمُونَ * مَن يَهْدِ اللَّـهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِي ۖ وَمَن يُضْلِلْ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ

Recite to them the news of the one to whom We gave Our signs, but he threw that off and so the shaytaan followed him up, so he was one of those who went astray. * And if We had wished, We could have raised him up by them, but he clung to the earth and followed his desire. The likes of this one is the likes of a dog: if you drive it away it pants and if you leave it alone it pants. Those are the likes of the people who deny Our signs. So relate this story so that they might reflect. * What an evil likeness – the people who denied Our signs and used to wrong themselves. * Whoever Allah guides, then he is the guided one, and whoever Allah leads astray, then they are the losers. [7:175-178]

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

يقول تعالى لنبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم: وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا أي: علمناه كتاب اللّه، فصار العالم الكبير والحبر النحرير. فَانْسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ أي: انسلخ من الاتصاف الحقيقي بالعلم بآيات اللّه، فإن العلم بذلك، يصير صاحبه متصفا بمكارم الأخلاق ومحاسن الأعمال، ويرقى إلى أعلى الدرجات وأرفع المقامات، فترك هذا كتاب اللّه وراء ظهره، ونبذ الأخلاق التي يأمر بها الكتاب، وخلعها كما يخلع اللباس. فلما انسلخ منها أتبعه الشيطان، أي: تسلط عليه حين خرج من الحصن الحصين، وصار إلى أسفل سافلين، فأزه إلى المعاصي أزا. فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ بعد أن كان من الراشدين المرشدين. ـ

Allah is telling His Prophet:

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا

Recite to them the news of the one to whom We gave Our signs

i.e. We taught this person the Book of Allah and so he became a major scholar and learned religious leader

فَانْسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ

but he threw that off and so the shaytaan followed him up

Continue reading

Iblees’ Promise to Misguide Mankind: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah recounts the story of Adam and Iblees in surah al-A’raaf, including in the following ayaat. This passage begins with Allah addressing Iblees by saying:

قَالَ فَاهْبِطْ مِنْهَا فَمَا يَكُونُ لَكَ أَن تَتَكَبَّرَ فِيهَا فَاخْرُجْ إِنَّكَ مِنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ * قَالَ أَنظِرْنِي إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ * قَالَ إِنَّكَ مِنَ الْمُنظَرِينَ * قَالَ فَبِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لَأَقْعُدَنَّ لَهُمْ صِرَاطَكَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ * ثُمَّ لَآتِيَنَّهُم مِّن بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ وَعَنْ أَيْمَانِهِمْ وَعَن شَمَائِلِهِمْ ۖ وَلَا تَجِدُ أَكْثَرَهُمْ شَاكِرِينَ

Allah said, “Descend from Paradise, for it is not for you to be arrogant therein. So get out; indeed, you are of the debased. * Iblees said, “Reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected.” * Allah said, “Indeed, you are of those who are reprieved.” * Iblees said, “Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. * Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful. [7:13-17]

In part of his commentary on these ayaat, the great mufassir Imam al-Baghawi wrote:

قوله تعالى : ( فما يكون لك أن تتكبر ) بمخالفة الأمر ، ( فيها ) أي : في الجنة ، فلا ينبغي أن يسكن في الجنة ولا السماء متكبر مخالف لأمر الله تعالى : ( فاخرج إنك من الصاغرين ) من الأذلاء ، والصغار : الذل والمهانة . ـ

Allah said:

فَمَا يَكُونُ لَكَ أَن تَتَكَبَّرَ

… for it is not for you to be arrogant …

in opposition to My command

فِيهَا

… therein.

meaning in Jannah, for it is not appropriate for a prideful opposer of Allah’s command to reside in Jannah or in the heavens Continue reading

When One Plans to Sin but then Does Not: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-An’aam, Allah describes the Day of Judgement by saying:

مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا ۖ وَمَن جَاءَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَىٰ إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ

Whoever comes [on the Day of Judgement] with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof, and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged. [6:160]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir gave a thorough and beneficial explanation of this ayah in part of his famous book of tafsir. He began by linking it to another related ayah, and then proceeded to mention several slightly different and seemingly contradictory hadith narrations on the same subject before explaining how these differences could be reconciled and understood properly:

وهذه الآية الكريمة مفصلة لما أجمل في الآية الأخرى ، وهي قوله : ( من جاء بالحسنة فله خير منها ) [ النمل : 89 ] ، وقد وردت الأحاديث مطابقة لهذه الآية ، كما قال الإمام أحمد بن حنبل ، رحمه الله : حدثنا عفان ، حدثنا جعفر بن سليمان ، حدثنا الجعد أبو عثمان ، عن أبي رجاء العطاردي ، عن ابن عباس ، رضي الله عنهما ، عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فيما يروي عن ربه ، عز وجل قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” إن ربكم عز وجل رحيم ، من هم بحسنة فلم يعملها كتبت له حسنة ، فإن عملها كتبت له عشرا إلى سبعمائة ، إلى أضعاف كثيرة . ومن هم بسيئة فلم يعملها كتبت له حسنة ، فإن عملها كتبت له واحدة ، أو يمحوها الله ، عز وجل ، ولا يهلك على الله إلا هالك ” ورواه البخاري ، ومسلم ، والنسائي ، من حديث الجعد بن أبي عثمان ، به . ـ

This great ayah serves to clarify what was previously only mentioned in a general sense in another ayah, that ayah being Allah’s statement:

مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ خَيْرٌ مِّنْهَا

Whoever comes with a good deed with have something better than that … [27:89]

and a number of hadith narrations have been transmitted which fall in the same vein as this ayah, such as what Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said … that ibn ‘Abbaas relayed something of what Allah’s Messenger conveyed from his Lord. He said: Allah’s Messenger said:

Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, is merciful to the believers. Whoever intends to do a good deed but then does not actually do it will have one good deed recorded for him. But if he does do that good deed, he will have ten up to seven hundred or even higher multiples of good deeds recorded for him. And whoever intends to do a sin but then does not actually do it will have one good deed recorded for him. But if he does do that sin, it will be recorded as a single sin for him. Or Allah may even wipe that sin out. And Allah does not subject anyone to destruction except those who persist in sinfulness.

This was recorded by al-Bukari, Muslim, and al-Nasaa’i from the hadith of Ja’d ibn Abi ‘Uthman. Continue reading

The False Qiyaas of Iblis: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In the beginning of surah al-A’raaf, Allah mentions the well-known story of Iblis refusing to obey Allah’s command to bow towards Adam. After the initial refusal, Allah informs us of the following dialogue:

قَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلَّا تَسْجُدَ إِذْ أَمَرْتُكَ ۖ قَالَ أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِّنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِن نَّارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِن طِينٍ

Allah said, “What prevented you from prostrating after I had commanded you?” Iblis said, “I am better than him; You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.” (7:12)

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di mentioned the following points of benefit under his tafsir of this ayah:

فوبخه اللّه على ذلك وقال: { مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلَّا تَسْجُدَ } لما خلقت بيديَّ، أي: شرفته وفضلته بهذه الفضيلة، التي لم تكن لغيره، فعصيت أمري وتهاونت بي؟ ـ

Allah reprimanded Iblis for this behavior and said:

مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلَّا تَسْجُدَ

What prevented you from prostrating

to that which I created which My own hands? Meaning, I have honored and favored him with this honor which was not done for any other, but you disobey My command and treat it so flippantly?

ـ { قَالَ } إبليس معارضا لربه: { أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِنْهُ } ثم برهن على هذه الدعوى الباطلة بقوله: { خَلَقْتَنِي مِنْ نَارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِنْ طِينٍ } وموجب هذا أن المخلوق من نار أفضل من المخلوق من طين لعلو النار على الطين وصعودها، وهذا القياس من أفسد الأقيسة، فإنه باطل من عدة أوجه . ـ

قَالَ

Iblis said

in response to his Lord Continue reading

Follow Allah’s Path, and Do Not Follow Other Paths: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan

Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan was asked the following question:

السؤال: ما تفسير قوله -تعالى-: (وَأَنَّ هَذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيماً فَاتَّبِعُوهُ وَلا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُمْ بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ)؟ ـ

Question: What is the explanation of Allah’s statement:

وَأَنَّ هَذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيماً فَاتَّبِعُوهُ وَلا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُمْ بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

And this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow other ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you in order that you may exercise al-taqwa. [6:153]

الجواب: بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، الحمدُ لله ربِّ العالمين، وصلَّى الله على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين. ـ

Response: In the name of Allah, al-Rahman al-Raheem. All praise belongs of Allah, Lord of all creation. May Allah’s salutations be upon our Prophet, Muhammad, and upon his family and all of his companions.

ذَكَرَ اللهُ -جلَّ وعلا- في هذه الآية الوصيةَ العاشرة مِنَ الوصايا العشر التي جاءت في سورة الأنعام؛ حينما قال – تعالى-: (قُلْ تَعَالَوْا أَتْلُ مَا حَرَّمَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ أَلاَّ تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئاً) هذه الأولى، وهي النهي عن الشرك، والعاشرة هذه الآية: (وَأَنَّ هَذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيماً). ـ

In this ayah, Allah mentions the tenth of ten commandments which come in surah al-An’aam, beginning with Him saying:

قُلْ تَعَالَوْا أَتْلُ مَا حَرَّمَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ أَلاَّ تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئاً

Say, “Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited to you. That you not associate anything in worship or divinity with Him … [6:151]

That is the first of them, which is a prohibition of al-shirk, and the tenth is this ayah: Continue reading