Deeds Like a Mirage: Tafsir al-Qurtubi & al-Sa’di

Allah strikes a parable in surah al-Noor when He says:

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَسَرَابٍ بِقِيعَةٍ يَحْسَبُهُ الظَّمْآنُ مَاءً حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءَهُ لَمْ يَجِدْهُ شَيْئًا وَوَجَدَ اللَّهَ عِندَهُ فَوَفَّاهُ حِسَابَهُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ

And those who disbelieve, their deeds are like a mirage on a flat expanse of land. A thirsty person thinks it is water until, when he reaches it, he finds that it is nothing. But he finds Allah in front of Him, and He will then pay him his due. And Allah is quick in reckoning. [24:39]

Commenting on this, al-Qurtubi wrote:

وهذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى للكفار ، يعولون على ثواب أعمالهم فإذا قدموا على الله تعالى وجدوا ثواب أعمالهم محبطة بالكفر ؛ أي لم يجدوا شيئا كما لم يجد صاحب السراب إلا أرضا لا ماء فيها ؛ فهو يهلك أو يموت

Allah struck this parable regarding the disbelievers; they are confident that they will be rewarded for their actions, but then when they come before Allah, they find that the rewards of their actions were nullified by disbelief. In other words, they do not find anything there, just as the person chasing a mirage only finds land with no water and will therefore perish or die.

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“As If He Had Fallen From the Sky”: Tafsir al-Baghawi, Ibn Kathir & al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the follow parable in surah al-Hajj:

وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَكَأَنَّمَا خَرَّ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَتَخْطَفُهُ الطَّيْرُ أَوْ تَهْوِي بِهِ الرِّيحُ فِي مَكَانٍ سَحِيقٍ

And whoever associates partners with Allah, it is as if he had fallen from the sky and was snatched by the birds or the wind carried him to a remote place. [22:31]

In his explanation of this parable, al-haafidh ibn Kathir began by writing:

ضرب للمشرك مثلا في ضلاله وهلاكه وبعده عن الهدى

Allah has struck a parable of the mushrik‘s misguidance, peril, and distance from guidance.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 5/320]

After explaining some of the terms used in this parable, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Baghawi then explained the overall meaning by writing:

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The Parable of the Man with Two Gardens: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah includes a long parable in surah al-Kahf that begins with:

وَاضْرِبْ لَهُم مَّثَلًا رَّجُلَيْنِ جَعَلْنَا لِأَحَدِهِمَا جَنَّتَيْنِ مِنْ أَعْنَابٍ وَحَفَفْنَاهُمَا بِنَخْلٍ وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمَا زَرْعًا

And present to them an example of two men: We granted to one of them two gardens of grapes, and We bordered them with palm trees and placed crops between them. [18:32]

and continues until the end of ayah 44.

In his well-known book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote a commentary on the entire parable, but summarized its main theme and message at the beginning and end of his explanation by writing:

يقول تعالى لنبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم: اضرب للناس مثل هذين الرجلين: الشاكر لنعمة الله، والكافر لها، وما صدر من كل منهما من الأقوال والأفعال، وما حصل بسبب ذلك من العقاب العاجل والآجل والثواب؛ ليعتبروا بحالهما، ويتعظوا بما حصل عليهما ـ

Allah is telling His prophet to strike this parable for the people: a parable of

  • these two men; one of them is grateful for Allah’s blessings and the other is ungrateful for them
  • the statements and actions of each one
  • and the outcomes of those things – punishment both in the short-term and long-term on the one hand and reward on the others

so that the people could take a lesson from their circumstances and be admonished by what happened to them.

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Allah Presents a Parable of a City: Tafsir al-Tabari

Allah struck the following parable in surah al-Nahl:

وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا قَرْيَةً كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُّطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِّن كُلِّ مَكَانٍ فَكَفَرَتْ بِأَنْعُمِ اللَّهِ فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

And Allah presents a parable: a city which was safe and secure, its provision coming to it in abundance from every location, but it denied the favors of Allah. So Allah made it taste the envelopment of hunger and fear for what they had been doing. [16:112]

In his explanation of this ayah, Imam Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari wrote:

يقول الله تعالى ذكره : ومثل الله مثلا لمكة التي سكنها أهل الشرك بالله هي القرية التي كانت آمنة مطمئنة ، وكان أمنها أن العرب كانت تتعادى ، ويقتل بعضها بعضا ، ويسبي بعضها بعضا ، وأهل مكة لا يغار عليهم ، ولا يحاربون في بلدهم ، فذلك كان أمنها . وقوله ( مطمئنة ) يعني قارة بأهلها ، لا يحتاج أهلها إلى النجع ، كما كان سكان البوادي يحتاجون إليها ( يأتيها رزقها رغدا ) يقول : يأتي أهلها معايشهم واسعة كثيرة . وقوله ( من كل مكان ) يعني : من كل فج من فجاج هذه القرية ، ومن كل ناحية فيها . ـ

Allah is saying: Allah has presented a parable of Mecca where the people who associate partners with Allah lived. Mecca was a city that was safe and secure. Its safety lay in the fact that the Arabs used to antagonize, fight, and insult one another, but they did not attack the people of Mecca or fight them in their homeland. As a result, the people of Mecca were safe. And the meaning of “secure” here is that its people were stable and not in search of a homeland, unlike the bedouins who were in need of a place to call home.

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“For You is Your Religion and for Me is My Religion”: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan

In a series of lessons on the Mufassal surahs conducted in one of the mosques in Riyadh, sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan concluded his explanation of surah al-Kafiroon [109] with the following words:

وهذه السورة فيها : البراءة التامة من دين المشركين ، وفيها : الإعلان لهذه البراءة ، فينبغي على المسلم أن يعلن أنه بريء من دين المشركين ، كما أن المشركين بريئون من دين الله ، وليس كما يفهم بعض الجهلة ، أو أهل الضلال الذين ينادون بعدم الإنكار على المشركين ، مستشهدين بقوله : [لكم دينكم ولي دين] فلا تنكروا على المشركين ، وينادون بحرية الأديان . ـ

This surah contains a complete disavowal of the religion of the mushrikoon. It also contains an open declaration of this disavowal, so Muslims ought to openly declare that they are free of the religion of the mushirkoon, just as the mushrikoon are not connected to Allah’s religion.

And it is not as some ignorant or misguided people think, those who advocate that we should not criticize or voice disapproval of the mushrikoon, using Allah’s statement:

لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ

For you is your religion and for me is my religion [109:6]

as evidence. So they say that you should not criticize the mushrikoon and they call for religious freedom.

فهذا من باب البراءة ، وليس من باب التراضي بيننا وبين الكفار والمشركين ، وليس من باب التسوية ، وإنما هذه الآية براءة من دين المشركين وإن كانوا يعبدون الله ببعض أنواع العبادات ، فهذه العبادات لا تنفع ، ولا تزيدهم شيئا ، لأن العبادة إذا خالطها الشرك بطلت ، كما أن الحدث والنجاسة إذا خالطت الطهارة بطلت . ـ

But this ayah is a statement of disavowal, not a statement of mutual acceptance between the Muslims and the disbelievers and mushrukoon, nor is it a statement of equality between them. This ayah is plainly a disavowal of the religion of the mushrikoon, even if they do direct some acts of worship towards Allah. But these acts of worship do not benefit them, nor do they bring them any good. That is because if worship is mixed with shirk it becomes invalid, just as if filth and uncleanliness is mixed with ritual purity then the purity is spoiled. Continue reading

The Purpose of Parables in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

After explaining one of the parables in surah Ibrahim, Imam Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee brought the following discussion regarding the parables and comparisons that Allah uses in the Qur’an:

وبين في موضع آخر أن الحكمة في ضربه للأمثال أن يتفكر الناس فيها فيفهموا الشيء بنظرة ، وهو قوله : وتلك الأمثال نضربها للناس لعلهم يتفكرون [ 59 21 ] ، ونظيره قوله : ويضرب الله الأمثال للناس لعلهم يتذكرون [ 14 25 ] ، ـ

In another part of the Qur’an, Allah clarified that the wisdom in His striking parables is for the people to think over them so that they would understand something by considering the comparison. That comes in is His statement:

وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِ‌بُهَا لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُ‌ونَ

And We present these parables to the people that perhaps they will give thought. [59:21]

Another similar statement comes in in His saying:

وَيَضْرِ‌بُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُ‌ونَ

And Allah presents parables for the people so that perhaps they will be reminded. [14:25]

وبين في موضع آخر أن الأمثال لا يعقلها إلا أهل العلم ، وهو قوله تعالى : وتلك الأمثال نضربها للناس وما يعقلها إلا العالمون [ 29 43 ] ، ـ

And elsewhere He clarified that the parables are only understood by the people of knowledge. This is in His statement:

وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِ‌بُهَا لِلنَّاسِ ۖ وَمَا يَعْقِلُهَا إِلَّا الْعَالِمُونَ

And We present these parables to the people, but none will understand them except those of knowledge. [29:43] Continue reading

Understanding Texts which Promise Hellfire for Sins Less than Shirk: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

In his thirtieth lesson on Kitab al-Tawheed, sheikh ‘Abd a-Razzaq al-Badr mentioned the following important topic for understanding the Qur’an and the Sunnah:

وختم رحمه لله تعالى هذه الترجمة بهذا الحديث حديث أبي موسى الأشعري رضي لله عنه قال : قال رسول لله صلى لله عليه وسلم : ((ثلاثة لا يدخلون الجنة : مدمن الخمر، وقاطع الرحم، ومصدق لسحر)) رواه أحمد وابن حبان في صحيحه . وهذا الحديث معاشر الإخوة الكرام من أحاديث الوعيد والتهديد في مثل هذه الكبائرالعظيمة وعظائم الأمور المرتكَبة . ـ

The author – may Allah have mercy on him – concluded the chapter with this hadith of Abu Moosaa al-Ash’ari (may Allah be pleased with him) who said that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:

Three people will not enter al-Jannah: the drunkard, the one who cuts off family ties, and the one who believes in magic.

This was reported by Ahmad and by ibn Hibban in his Saheeh. This hadith is one of a number of hadith narrations entailing threats and warnings for these sorts of grave major sins and terrible acts.

قال عليه الصلاة والسلام ((ثلاثة لا يدخلون الجنة)) أي الجنة عليهم حرام ، ((ثلاثة لا يدخلون الجنة)) فهوالمذكورة في هذا الحديث ؛ لأن وعيد بعدم خول الجنة مما يدل على عظم هذا الأمر وفداحته وكبر هذه الخطا فاعلها تُوعد بعدم خول الجنة . ـ

The Prophet said, “Three people shall not enter al-Jannah” – meaning that Jannah is forbidden for them. “Three people shall not enter al-Jannah” and they are the ones mentioned in this hadith. The threat of not entering al-Jannah indicates the weightiness and grave nature of this thing and the gravity of the error of anyone who commits it, so much so that he is threatened with not being able to enter al-Jannah. Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 158-167: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the sixteenth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 158-167. This passage centers around proofs of Allah’s sole right to be worshiped, and the punishment for concealing or rejecting these proofs. See the series guide here for more information about this series and other installments.

إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِن شَعَائِرِ اللَّـهِ ۖ فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَن يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا ۚ وَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ شَاكِرٌ عَلِيمٌ

al-Safa and al-Marwa are some of Allah’s signs. So whoever makes Hajj to the House or makes ‘umrah, then there is no blame on him if he goes back and forth between them. Whoever does good voluntarily, then Allah is Appreciative and All-Knowing. [2:158]

إن الصفا والمروة- وهما جبلان صغيران قرب الكعبة من جهة الشرق- من معالم دين الله الظاهرة التي تعبَّد الله عباده بالسعي بينهما. فمَن قصد الكعبة حاجًّا أو معتمرًا، فلا إثم عليه ولا حرج في أن يسعى بينهما، بل يجب عليه ذلك، ومن فعل الطاعات طواعية من نفسه مخلصًا بها لله تعالى، فإن الله تعالى شاكر يثيب على القليل بالكثير، عليم بأعمال عباده فلا بضيعها، ولا يبخس أحدًا مثقال ذرة.ـ

158. al-Safa and al-Marwa, two small mountains near the Ka’bah on its east side, are some of the visible symbols of Allah’s religion which Allah’s slaves rush between as a form of worship. So whoever sets out for the Ka’bah to make Hajj or ‘umrah, there is no sin or blame on him for rushing back and forth between them. In fact, he is required to do that. And whoever does any acts of obedience of his own choice, purely for Allah, then Allah is Appreciative and will reward him a great deal even for a small act, and He is All-Knowing of the deeds of His slaves, so the deeds will not be lost nor will anyone be deprived of even a mustard seed’s worth of reward.

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالْهُدَىٰ مِن بَعْدِ مَا بَيَّنَّاهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِي الْكِتَابِ ۙ أُولَـٰئِكَ يَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّـهُ وَيَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّاعِنُونَ

Those who conceal any of the clarity and guidance which We have revealed after We have made it clear for the people in the Book – those people are cursed by Allah and cursed by those who curse [2:159] 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

Allah is Not Shy to Strike a Parable of a Mosquito: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In the early part of surah al-Baqarah, Allah says:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا ۚ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّـهُ بِهَـٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا ۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ * الَّذِينَ يَنقُضُونَ عَهْدَ اللَّـهِ مِن بَعْدِ مِيثَاقِهِ وَيَقْطَعُونَ مَا أَمَرَ اللَّـهُ بِهِ أَن يُوصَلَ وَيُفْسِدُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ

Allah is not shy to strike a parable of a mosquito or something even less than that. As for those who have eemaan, they know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, then they say, “What does Allah intend by this parable?” He misguides many with it and guides many with it. And He does not misguide any except for the faasiqoon. * Those who break the covenant of Allah after having taken it, and who sever what Allah has commanded to be connected, and who bring about corruption on the earth. It is they who are the losers. [2:26-27]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following commentary on these ayaat:

يقول تعالى: إن الله لا يستحيي أن يضرب مثلا ما أي: أي مثل كان بعوضة فما فوقها لاشتمال الأمثال على الحكمة، وإيضاح الحق، والله لا يستحيي من الحق، وكأن في هذا، جوابا لمن أنكر ضرب الأمثال في الأشياء الحقيرة ، واعترض على الله في ذلك. فليس في ذلك محل اعتراض. بل هو من تعليم الله لعباده ورحمته بهم. فيجب أن تتلقى بالقبول والشكر. ولهذا قال: فأما الذين آمنوا فيعلمون أنه الحق من ربهم فيتفهمونها، ويتفكرون فيها. ـ

Allah says:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا

Allah is not shy to strike a parable …

meaning: of any sort, whether

بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا

… of a mosquito or something even less than that

because these parables contain wisdom and provide clarification of the truth, and Allah is not shy of the truth. And it is as if this is a response to whose who disapproved of Allah striking parables of lowly things and objected to Allah having done that. However they had no place to object to that. On the contrary, this is an example of Allah teaching His slaves and showing mercy to them, so it must be received with acceptance and gratitude. That is why Allah said: Continue reading