The Deeds of the Munafiq: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Baqarah:

أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن تَكُونَ لَهُ جَنَّةٌ مِّن نَّخِيلٍ وَأَعْنَابٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ لَهُ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَأَصَابَهُ الْكِبَرُ وَلَهُ ذُرِّيَّةٌ ضُعَفَاءُ فَأَصَابَهَا إِعْصَارٌ فِيهِ نَارٌ فَاحْتَرَقَتْ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ

Would one of you like to have a garden of palm trees and grapevines underneath which rivers flow in which he has every kind of fruit? But then he is afflicted with old age and has weak offspring, and it is hit by a whirlwind containing fire and is burned. Thus does Allah make the signs clear to you so that you might give thought. [2:266]

In his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Baghawi wrote:

ـ ( له فيها من كل الثمرات وأصابه الكبر وله ذرية ضعفاء ) أولاد صغار ضعاف عجزة ( فأصابها إعصار ) الريح العاصف التي ترتفع إلى السماء كأنها عمود وجمعه أعاصير ( فيه نار فاحترقت ) ـ

لَهُ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَأَصَابَهُ الْكِبَرُ وَلَهُ ذُرِّيَّةٌ ضُعَفَاءُ

… in which he has from every fruit? But he is afflicted with old age and has weak offspring …

young children who are weak and unable to take care of things

فَأَصَابَهَا إِعْصَارٌ

… and it is hit by a whirlwind …

a strong wind which rises up to the sky as if it were a pillar

فِيهِ نَارٌ فَاحْتَرَقَتْ

…. containing fire and is burned.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

A Parable of Spending to Be Seen: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-Baqarah:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُبْطِلُوا صَدَقَاتِكُم بِالْمَنِّ وَالْأَذَىٰ كَالَّذِي يُنفِقُ مَالَهُ رِئَاءَ النَّاسِ وَلَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ۖ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ صَفْوَانٍ عَلَيْهِ تُرَابٌ فَأَصَابَهُ وَابِلٌ فَتَرَكَهُ صَلْدًا ۖ لَّا يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ مِّمَّا كَسَبُوا ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ

O you who have believed, do not ruin your charity with reminders or injury as does one who spends his wealth to be seen by the people and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. His example is like that of a smooth stone upon which is dirt. It is then hit by a downpour that leaves it bare. They are unable to keep anything of what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people. [2:264]

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

ـ { فتركه صلدا } أي: ليس عليه شيء من التراب، فكذلك حال هذا المرائي، قلبه غليظ قاس بمنزلة الصفوان، وصدقته ونحوها من أعماله بمنزلة التراب الذي على الصفوان، إذا رآه الجاهل بحاله ظن أنه أرض زكية قابلة للنبات، فإذا انكشفت حقيقة حاله زال ذلك التراب وتبين أن عمله بمنزلة السراب، وأن قلبه غير صالح لنبات الزرع وزكائه عليه، بل الرياء الذي فيه والإرادات الخبيثة تمنع من انتفاعه بشيء من عمله، فلهذا { لا يقدرون على شيء } من أعمالهم التي اكتسبوها، لأنهم وضعوها في غير موضعها وجعلوها لمخلوق مثلهم، لا يملك لهم ضررا ولا نفعا وانصرفوا عن عبادة من تنفعهم عبادته، فصرف الله قلوبهم عن الهداية، فلهذا قال: { والله لا يهدي القوم الكافرين }ـ

فَتَرَكَهُ صَلْدًا

… that leaves it bare …

meaning: it does not retain any dirt at all. This is the same situation as one who only does deeds to be seen and praised by others: his heart is coarse and hard like a large stone, and his charity and other deeds are like the dirt resting on this stone. When someone who doesn’t know its reality sees it, he would think that it is solid earth ripe for planting and growing. But when its reality is made clear, that dirt will be washed away. This parable clearly shows that his deeds are like a mirage and that his heart is not suitable for growing anything. In fact, the desire to be seen by others in this heart and these corrupt intentions prevent him from deriving any benefit from his deeds. That is why

Continue reading

Spending Like the Rain: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Baqarah:

وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمُ ابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللَّهِ وَتَثْبِيتًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ كَمَثَلِ جَنَّةٍ بِرَبْوَةٍ أَصَابَهَا وَابِلٌ فَآتَتْ أُكُلَهَا ضِعْفَيْنِ فَإِن لَّمْ يُصِبْهَا وَابِلٌ فَطَلٌّ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ

The comparison of those who spend their wealth seeking Allah’s pleasure and out of their own inner certainty is like a garden on a high ground. A heavy rain hits it, so it doubles its yield. And even if a heavy rain does not hit it, a drizzle. And Allah is all-seeing of what you do. [2:265]

Commenting on this, Imam al-Husayn al-Baghawi wrote:

وهذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى لعمل المؤمن المخلص فيقول : كما أن هذه الجنة تريع في كل حال ولا تخلف سواء قل المطر أو كثر كذلك يضعف الله صدقة المؤمن المخلص الذي لا يمن ولا يؤذي سواء قلت نفقته أو كثرت وذلك أن الطل إذا كان يدوم يعمل عمل الوابل الشديد

Allah struck this parable about the deeds of a sincere believer.

Continue reading

The Parable of the Fly: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Hajj:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ ضُرِبَ مَثَلٌ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ لَن يَخْلُقُوا ذُبَابًا وَلَوِ اجْتَمَعُوا لَهُ ۖ وَإِن يَسْلُبْهُمُ الذُّبَابُ شَيْئًا لَّا يَسْتَنقِذُوهُ مِنْهُ ۚ ضَعُفَ الطَّالِبُ وَالْمَطْلُوبُ

O mankind, a parable has been struck for you, so listen carefully to it! Those who you call on besides Allah could never make a fly, even if they joined forces to do so! And if a fly took something from them, they could not recover it from him. Both the seeker and the sought are weak! [22:73]

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

هذا مثل ضربه الله لقبح عبادة الأوثان، وبيان نقصان عقول من عبدها، وضعف الجميع، فقال: { يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ } هذا خطاب للمؤمنين والكفار، المؤمنون يزدادون علما وبصيرة، والكافرون تقوم عليهم الحجة، { ضُرِبَ مَثَلٌ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ } أي: ألقوا إليه أسماعكم، وتفهموا ما احتوى عليه، ولا يصادف منكم قلوبا لاهية، وأسماعا معرضة، بل ألقوا إليه القلوب والأسماع، وهو هذا: { إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ } شمل كل ما يدعى من دون الله، { لَنْ يَخْلُقُوا ذُبَابًا } الذي هو من أحقر المخلوقات وأخسها، فليس في قدرتهم خلق هذا المخلوق الضعيف، فما فوقه من باب أولى، { وَلَوِ اجْتَمَعُوا لَهُ } بل أبلغ من ذلك لو { يَسْلُبْهُمُ الذُّبَابُ شَيْئًا لَا يَسْتَنْقِذُوهُ مِنْهُ } وهذا غاية ما يصير من العجز.{ ضَعُفَ الطَّالِبُ } الذي هو المعبود من دون الله { وَالْمَطْلُوبُ } الذي هو الذباب، فكل منهما ضعيف، وأضعف منهما، من يتعلق بهذا الضعيف، وينزله منزلة رب العالمين. ـ

Allah struck this parable regarding the repugnance of worshiping idols and to clearly show how deficient the thinking of those who worship them is, and to show how both parties are weak.

He said:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ

O mankind …

this is directed at both the believers and disbelievers. The believers will find their knowledge and clear thinking increased by it, while the disbelievers will have a proof established against them.

Continue reading

“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:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

“Are They Equal?”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In the midst of surah al-Nahl, Allah strikes two parables in succession when He says:

ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا عَبْدًا مَّمْلُوكًا لَّا يَقْدِرُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَمَن رَّزَقْنَاهُ مِنَّا رِزْقًا حَسَنًا فَهُوَ يُنفِقُ مِنْهُ سِرًّا وَجَهْرًا ۖ هَلْ يَسْتَوُونَ ۚ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ * وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا رَّجُلَيْنِ أَحَدُهُمَا أَبْكَمُ لَا يَقْدِرُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ كَلٌّ عَلَىٰ مَوْلَاهُ أَيْنَمَا يُوَجِّههُّ لَا يَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ ۖ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي هُوَ وَمَن يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ ۙ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ

Allah strikes a parable of a slave who is owned and unable to do anything and one to whom We have given good provision and so he spends from it both secretly and openly. Are they equal? All praise is due to Allah. But most of them do not know. * And Allah strikes a parable of two men: one of them dumb and unable to do anything and he is a burden to his guardian. Wherever he directs him, he brings no good. Is he equal to one who enjoins justice while he is on the straight path? [16:75-76]

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

ضرب تعالى مثلين له ولمن يعبد من دونه: أحدهما: عبد مملوك أي: رقيق لا يملك نفسه ولا يملك من المال والدنيا شيئا، والثاني: حر غني قد رزقه الله منه رزقا حسنا من جميع أصناف المال وهو كريم محب للإحسان، فهو ينفق منه سرا وجهرا، هل يستوي هذا وذاك؟! لا يستويان مع أنهما مخلوقان، غير محال استواؤهما . ـ

Allah struck two parables of Him and those who are worshiped besides Him.

The first parable is one slave who is owned – someone who is the property of another person. He does not own himself nor does he own any wealth or any worldly goods. The other person in this parable is a free, wealthy person whom Allah has provided with good shares of all forms of wealth and he is generous and loves to do good to others. As a result, he spends out of his wealth both secretly and openly. Is this one equal to that one? Are the two equal? Even though they are both created beings, they are certainly not equal.

Continue reading

Becoming Deceived by This Life: Ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes the follow parable in surah Yunus:

إِنَّمَا مَثَلُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْضِ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ النَّاسُ وَالْأَنْعَامُ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَخَذَتِ الْأَرْضُ زُخْرُفَهَا وَازَّيَّنَتْ وَظَنَّ أَهْلُهَا أَنَّهُمْ قَادِرُونَ عَلَيْهَا أَتَاهَا أَمْرُنَا لَيْلًا أَوْ نَهَارًا فَجَعَلْنَاهَا حَصِيدًا كَأَن لَّمْ تَغْنَ بِالْأَمْسِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

The example of this worldly life is like water which We have sent down from the sky which then mixed with the earth’s vegetation, which people and beasts of burden then eat. Then, when the earth has taken on its adornment and become beautiful and its people think that they have control over it, Our command comes by night or by day and We make it barren, as if it had not been there yesterday. In this way do We explain the signs for people who reflect. [10:24]

Commenting on this in a longer discussion on the parables of the Qur’an, the great scholar ibn al-Qayyim wrote:

شبه سبحانه الحياة الدنيا في أنها تتزين في عين الناظر فتروقه بزينتها وتعجبه فيميل إليها ويهواها اغترارا منه بها حتى إذا ظن أنه مالك لها قادر عليها سلبها بغتة أحوج ما كان إليها وحيل بينه وبينها

Allah has made this comparison to the life of this world in that this worldly life appears beautiful to the eye of the beholder and he is pleased and impressed with its beauty and thus finds himself inclined to it and captivated by it, so much so that he becomes deceived by it. Then once he thinks that he has control and ownership over it, suddenly it is taken away from him just he needs it the most and he cannot get it back.

فشبهها بالأرض الذي ينزل الغيث عليها فتعشب ويحسن نباتها ويروق منظرها للناظر فيغتر به ويظن أنه قادر عليها مالك لها فيأتيها أمر الله فتدرك نباتها الآفة بغتة فتصبح كأن لم تكن قبل فيخيب ظنه وتصبح يداه صفرا منهما فهكذا حال الدنيا والواثق بها سواءوهذا من أبلغ التشبيه والقياس. ـ

So Allah compared this to the earth upon which the rain falls and then grows vegetation which becomes beautiful and pleasing to look at until the beholder becomes deceived into thinking that he has power and ownership over it. Then the command of Allah comes and the plants are suddenly struck with disease and it becomes as if they were never there. So his thinking had betrayed him and he winds up empty-handed.

Continue reading