Guidance for Interpreting the Qur’an in Surah Aal ‘Imran: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In the beginning of surah Aal ‘Imran, Allah says:

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ ۖ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ ۗ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ * رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ * رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ جَامِعُ النَّاسِ لِيَوْمٍ لَّا رَيْبَ فِيهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ

It is He who revealed the Scripture to you. In it there are muhkam verses which are the Umm al-Kitab and others which are ambiguous. As for those in whose hearts is deviation, they follow the ambiguous parts of it, seeking fitnah and seeking distortion. But none knows its interpretation except Allah and those whose are firmly-grounded in knowledge. They say, “We believe in it. All of it is from our Lord.” And none will be reminded except for those of understanding.

“O our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate after You have guided us! And grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.

Our Lord, surely You will gather the people for a Day about which there is no doubt. Indeed, Allah does not fail in His promise.” [3:7-9]

In his famous book of tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir dedicated considerable space to explaining these ayaat. For the sake of clarity and brevity, we have used sheikh Muhammad Moosaa Nasr’s abridgement of Tafsir ibn Kathir in order to present a more streamlined explanation:

يخبر تعالى أن في القرآن آيات محكمات هن أم الكتاب ، أي : بينات واضحات الدلالة ، لا التباس فيها على أحد من الناس ، ومنه آيات أخر فيها اشتباه في الدلالة على كثير من الناس أو بعضهم ، فمن رد ما اشتبه عليه إلى الواضح منه ، وحكم محكمه على متشابهه عنده ، فقد اهتدى . ومن عكس انعكس ، ولهذا قال تعالى : ( هو الذي أنزل عليك الكتاب منه آيات محكمات هن أم الكتاب ) أي : أصله [ ص: 7 ] الذي يرجع إليه عند الاشتباه ( وأخر متشابهات ) أي : تحتمل دلالتها موافقة المحكم ، وقد تحتمل شيئا آخر من حيث اللفظ والتركيب ، لا من حيث المراد . ـ

Allah is informing us that in this Qur’an there are:

  1. Muhkam verses which are the heart of the Book – i.e. verses whose message is plain and clear, such that no one would have any confusion about them
  2. Other verses whose message is somewhat ambiguous to some or many of the people

So whoever refers those confusing passages back to the clear ones and makes the clear parts a judge over the those he finds to be ambiguous will be rightly guided. And whoever does the opposite will have the opposite result. That is why Allah said: Continue reading

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What about the Qiraa’ah of ibn Mas’ood?: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

Makki ibn Abi Taalib, one of the great scholars of the Qur’anic sciences among the earlier generations, posed and responded to the following question in part of a larger work addressing a number of questions surrounding the multiple recitations of the Qur’an, or qiraa’aat:

فإن قيل: قد روي عن النبي “صلى الله عليه وسلم”، أنه قال: “من أراد أن يقرأ القرآن غضا، فليقرأه بقراءة ابن أم عبد”، يعني ابن مسعود. وعنه أنه قال: “من أراد أن يسمع كلام الله غضا، كما أنزل فليسمعه من في ابن أم عبد”. وقد تركت قراءة ابن مسعود اليوم، ومنع مالك وغيره أن يقرأ بالقراءة، التي تنسب إلى ابن مسعود. ـ

If one were to ask: It has been transmitted that the Prophet said:

Whoever wants to recite the Qur’an fresh, then let him recite with the recitation of ibn Umm ‘Abd

– meaning ibn Mas’ood. And he also said:

Whoever wants to hear Allah’s speech fresh just as it was sent down, then let him listen to ibn Umm ‘Abd.

But the qiraa’ah of ibn Mas’ood has been abandoned today, and imam Maalik and others forbade reciting with the qiraa’ah that has been attributed to ibn Mas’ood.

فالجواب: أن ما قاله الحسين بن علي الجعفي قال: إن معنى ذلك أن ابن مسعود كان يرتل القرآن، فحض النبي الناس على ترتيل القرآن بهذا القول. دليله قوله في الحديث الآخر: فليسمعه من في ابن مسعود، فحض على سماع ترتيل القرآن. وكذلك الجواب عن الحديث الذي روى عنه “صلى الله عليه وسلم”، أنه قال: “من أراد أن يقرا القرآن غضا كما أنزل، فليقرأه كما يقرأ ابن مسعود”. ـ

The response would be what al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali al-Ja’fi said: that the meaning of all that is that ibn Mas’ood used to recite the Qur’an at a slow and measured pace, so the Prophet was encouraging the people to also recite in a slow and measured pace with these statements.

The support for this comes in the latter of the two hadith, “…then let him listen to ibn Mas’ood.” So he was encouraging the people to listen to this slow and measured recitation of the Qur’an. And this would also be the response to another hadith that the Prophet said:

Whoever wants to recite the Qur’an fresh as it was sent down, then let him recite it as ibn Mas’ood recites it. Continue reading

The Different Frequencies of Completing the Qur’an

Sheikh Muhammad Moosaa Aal Nasr, one of the salafi scholars of recent times who specialized in the qiraa’aat and Qur’anic sciences, compiled the following beneficial discussion on how often one should complete a reading of the entire Qur’an. Sheikh Muhammad Moosaa was also a long-term student of sheikh al-Albani and limited himself to only using authentic hadith narrations throughout this chapter:

مراتب ختم القرآن
The Different Frequencies of Completing the Qur’an

قال الله تعالى : (فَاقْرَءُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنْهُ) [المزمل 20] .  ـ

Allah said:

فَاقْرَءُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنْهُ

So recite whatever of it is easy for you of the Qur’an [73:20]

عن ابن عمر رضي الله عنهما قال : قال رسول الله (إقرأ القرآن في أربعين) . ـ

Ibn ‘Umar said: Allah’s Messenger said, “Complete the Qur’an in 40 days.”

وعن سعد ابن المنذر أن رسول الله قال : (إقرأ القرآن في ثلاث إن استطعت) . ـ

Sa’d ibn al-Mundhir relayed that Allah’s Messenger said, “Complete the Qur’an in three days if you can.”

و عن عبد الله ابن عمر رضي الله عنهما : أن رسول الله قال : (لم يفقه من قرأ القرآن في أقل من ثلاث) .  ـ

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar relayed that Allah’s Messenger said, “Whoever completes the Qur’an in less than three days has not understood it.”

وله شاهد صحيح من حديث عبد الله ابن مسعود عند سعيد بن منصور: (اقرؤوا القرآن في السبع ، ولا تقرؤوه في أقل من ثلاث) . ـ

And in the hadith collection of Sa’eed ibn Mansoor there is an authentic support for this in the hadith of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood, “Complete the Qur’an in seven days, and do not complete it in less than three days.” Continue reading

How the Prophet Would Recite the Qur’an

Sheikh Muhammad Moosaa Aal Nasr, one of the salafi scholars of recent times who specialized in the qiraa’aat and Qur’anic sciences, compiled this beneficial discussion of how the Prophet would recite the Qur’an. Sheikh Muhammad Moosaa was also a long-term student of sheikh al-Albani and limited himself to only using authentic hadith narrations throughout this chapter:

صفة قراءة النبي للقرآن الكريم
How the Prophet Would Recite the Qur’an

قال ابن القيم في [ زاد المعاد (١/٣٣٧) ] : وكان صلى الله عليه وسلم يقطع قراءته ، ويقف عند كل آية فيقول : ( الحمد لله رب العالمين ، ويقف ، الرحمن الرحيم ، ويقف : مالك يوم الدين ) وذكر الزهري أن قراءة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كانت آية آية ، وهذا هو الأفضل ، الوقوف على رءوس الآيات وإن تعلقت بما بعدها .  ـ

وذهب بعض القراء إلى تتبع الأغراض والمقاصد ، والوقوف عند انتهائها ، واتباع هدي النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وسنته أولى . وممن ذكر ذلك البيهقي في “شعب الإيمان” وغيره ، ورجح الوقوف على رءوس الآي وإن تعلقت بما بعدها . أ.هـــ.

Ibn al-Qayyim wrote in Zaad al-Ma’aad (1/338):

The Prophet used to pause while reciting, stopping at every ayah. So he would say

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

and then pause

الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

and pause

مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ

al-Zuhri mentioned that the recitation of Allah’s Messenger went one ayah at a time, and this is what is best – pausing before the beginning of each new ayah, even if the meaning of the preceding ayah is linked to it. Continue reading

“Allah commanded me to recite to you”: Sharh al-Nawawi

It is reported in both al-Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Qatadah that Anas ibn Malik said:

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ لأُبَىٍّ ‏”‏ إِنَّ اللَّهَ أَمَرَنِي أَنْ أَقْرَأَ عَلَيْكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ آللَّهُ سَمَّانِي لَكَ قَالَ ‏”‏ اللَّهُ سَمَّاكَ لِي ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَجَعَلَ أُبَىٌّ يَبْكِي ‏.‏

The Prophet said to Ubay, “Allah has commanded me to recite to you.” Ubay said, “Did Allah mention me by name to you?” The Prophet replied, “Allah mentioned you by name to me.” Anas said: That caused Ubay to cry.

[Muslim #799]

And in the narration of al-Bukhari, there is an addition to the end of the hadith from one of the subnarrators:

قَالَ قَتَادَةُ فَأُنْبِئْتُ أَنَّهُ قَرَأَ عَلَيْهِ ‏{‏لَمْ يَكُنِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ‏}

Qatadah said: I was told that the Prophet recited surah al-Bayyinah (97) to him.

[al-Bukhari #4960]

In his commentary on Saheeh Muslim, Imam Abu Zakariyyah Yahya al-Nawawi mentioned the following commentary on this hadith:

وفي الحديث فوائد كثيرة . منها : استحباب قراءة القرآن على الحذاق فيه وأهل العلم به والفضل ، وإن كان القارئ أفضل من المقروء عليه ، ومنها : المنقبة الشريفة لأبي بقراءة النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – عليه ، ولا يعلم أحد من الناس شاركه في هذا ، ومنها : منقبة أخرى له بذكر الله تعالى له ، ونصه عليه في هذه المنزلة الرفيعة ، ومنها : البكاء للسرور والفرح مما يبشر الإنسان به ويعطاه من معالي الأمور . ـ

There are a number of benefits to be found in this hadith.

One benefit is the encouragement to recite the Qur’an to someone who is skilled in it, a person of knowledge and virtue. That is the case even if the one reciting is more virtuous than the one to whom he is reciting. Continue reading