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.

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Major Nifaq and Minor Nifaq in the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In his explanation of the beginning of surah al-Baqarah, the great expert in hadith, history and tafsir al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir transitioned from the ayaat describing the disbelievers to the ayaat describing the munafiqoon by writing:

لما تقدم وصف المؤمنين في صدر السورة بأربع آيات ، ثم عرف حال الكافرين بهاتين الآيتين ، شرع تعالى في بيان حال المنافقين الذين يظهرون الإيمان ويبطنون الكفر ، ولما كان أمرهم يشتبه على كثير من الناس أطنب في ذكرهم بصفات متعددة ، كل منها نفاق ، كما أنزل سورة ” براءة ” فيهم ، وسورة ” المنافقين ” فيهم ، وذكرهم في سورة ” النور ” وغيرها من السور ، تعريفا لأحوالهم لتجتنب ، ويجتنب من تلبس بها. ـ

After beginning with four ayaat describing the believers at the opening of this surah [2:2-5] and then acquainting us with the disbelievers’ condition in these two ayaat [2:6-7], Allah then moves on to explaining the situation of the munafiqoon – those who outwardly display eemaan while inwardly harboring disbelief [2:8-20]. Because of the difficulty that many people have in identifying their condition, Allah goes into detail by mentioning a number of their characteristics, all of which are nifaq. He also sent down surah al-Baraa’ah [09] and surah al-Munafiqoon [63] regarding them, as well as mentioning them in surah al-Nur [24] and elsewhere in order to acquaint us with their ways so that we could avoid their qualities and those who are characterized by them.

النفاق : هو إظهار الخير وإسرار الشر ، وهو أنواع : اعتقادي ، وهو الذي يخلد صاحبه في النار ، وعملي وهو من أكبر الذنوب ، كما سيأتي تفصيله في موضعه ، إن شاء الله تعالى ، وهذا كما قال ابن جريج : المنافق يخالف قوله فعله ، وسره علانيته ، ومدخله مخرجه ، ومشهده مغيبه . ـ

al-Nifaq is: outwardly displaying good while secretly harboring evil. And there are different varieties of nifaq:

there is Nifaq of Creed, which is the type which causes its perpetrator to spend eternity in the Hellfire,

and there is Nifaq of Deed which is one of the gravest sins.

And we shall discuss this in detail in the appropriate place, inshaAllaah.

All of this is just as ibn Jurayj said, “The munafiq‘s words and actions are at odds, his secrets and public face are at odds, his entering and exiting are at odds, and his public life and private life are at odds.” 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.

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“Thus Does Allah Strike a Parable of Truth and Falsehood”: al-Qurtubi, ibn Taymiyah, and ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes the following two parables in one ayah in surah al-Ra’d:

أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا ۚ وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَاءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِّثْلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ

Allah sends down rain from the sky and the valleys flow according to their capacity, and a torrent carries the rising foam. And out of that which they heat in the fire, seeking adornments and tools, is a similar foam. Thus does Allah strike a parable of the truth and falsehood. As for the foam, it vanishes, being cast off. But as for they which benefits people, then it remains on the earth. Thus does Allah strike parables. [13:17]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, al-Qurtubi wrote:

وهو أن المثلين ضربهما الله للحق في ثباته ، والباطل في اضمحلاله ، فالباطل وإن علا في بعض الأحوال فإنه يضمحل كاضمحلال الزبد والخبث . وقيل : المراد مثل ضربه الله للقرآن وما يدخل منه القلوب ; فشبه القرآن بالمطر لعموم خيره وبقاء نفعه ، وشبه القلوب بالأودية ، يدخل فيها من القرآن مثل ما يدخل في الأودية بحسب سعتها وضيقها . ـ

Allah struck these two parables about the truth and its firmness and falsehood and its transience. For even if falsehood may be ascendant at certain times and situations, it will pass away just as foam and filth pass away.

Some have said that the intended meaning of this parable is about the Qur’an and how it enters into the hearts. Allah likened the Qur’an to water due to how much good it brings and its enduring benefit, and He likened the hearts to river valleys. So the Qur’an enters the heart just as water enters the river valleys – that is, an amount matching with their width or narrowness. Continue reading

“Like a Donkey Carrying Books”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Jumu’ah:

مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا ۚ بِئْسَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ

The likeness of those who were made to carry the Tawrah and then did not carry it is like that of a donkey carrying volumes. How wretched is the likeness of a people who deny the signs of Allah. And Allah does not guide the wrong-doers. [62:5]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, Sheikh Muhammad al-Qurtubi wrote:

ضرب مثلا لليهود لما تركوا العمل بالتوراة ولم يؤمنوا بمحمد صلى الله عليه وسلم . حملوا التوراة أي كلفوا العمل بها ; عن ابن عباس . وقال الجرجاني : هو من الحمالة بمعنى الكفالة ; أي ضمنوا أحكام التوراة . ـ

Allah struck a parable of the Jews regarding how they stopped following the Tawrah and did not believe in Muhammad.

حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ

… made to carry the Tawrah …

that is, charged with acting in accordance with it, according to the explanation of ibn ‘Abbaas. al-Jarjani said: “carrying” here takes the meaning of “entrusted with”, i.e. charged with legal rulings of the Tawrah.

كمثل الحمار يحمل أسفارا هي جمع سفر ، وهو الكتاب الكبير ; لأنه يسفر عن المعنى إذا قرئ . قال ميمون بن مهران : الحمار لا يدري أسفر على ظهره أم زنبيل ; فهكذا اليهود . وفي هذا تنبيه من الله تعالى لمن حمل الكتاب أن يتعلم معانيه ويعلم ما فيه ; لئلا يلحقه من الذم ما لحق هؤلاء . ـ

كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا

… like that of a donkey carrying asfar.

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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

Allah’s Comparison of the Dunya and Water: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In surah al-Kahf, Allah presents the following comparison:

وَاضْرِ‌بْ لَهُم مَّثَلَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْ‌ضِ فَأَصْبَحَ هَشِيمًا تَذْرُ‌وهُ الرِّ‌يَاحُ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُّقْتَدِرً‌ا

And strike an example of the life of this world for: It is like water which We send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth mingles with it. Then it becomes dry remnants, scattered by the winds. And Allah holds power over all things [18:45]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, Imam al-Qurtubi wrote:

وقالت الحكماء : إنما شبه – تعالى – الدنيا بالماء لأن الماء لا يستقر في موضع ، كذلك الدنيا لا تبقى على واحد ، ولأن الماء لا يستقيم على حالة واحدة كذلك الدنيا ، ولأن الماء لا يبقى ويذهب كذلك الدنيا تفنى ، ولأن الماء لا يقدر أحد أن يدخله ولا يبتل كذلك الدنيا لا يسلم أحد دخلها من فتنتها وآفتها ، ولأن الماء إذا كان بقدر كان نافعا منبتا ، وإذا جاوز المقدار كان ضارا مهلكا ، وكذلك الدنيا الكفاف منها ينفع وفضولها يضر . ـ

Some of the wise ones have said: Allah only likened the life of this worldly life to water because:

1) Water does not does remain stable in any place, just as this worldly life does not remain in one place Continue reading

Those Who Hear Nothing But Calls and Cries: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Baqarah:

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

And the likeness of those who disbelieve is like that of one who shouts at what hears nothing but calls and cries. Deaf, dumb, and blind, so they do not understand. [2:171]

Commenting on this ayah, Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

لما بين تعالى عدم انقيادهم لما جاءت به الرسل, وردهم لذلك بالتقليد, علم من ذلك أنهم غير قابلين للحق, ولا مستجيبين له, بل كان معلوما لكل أحد أنهم لن يزولوا عن عنادهم، أخبر تعالى, أن مثلهم عند دعاء الداعي لهم إلى الإيمان كمثل البهائم التي ينعق لها راعيها, وليس لها علم بما يقول راعيها ومناديها، فهم يسمعون مجرد الصوت, الذي تقوم به عليهم الحجة, ولكنهم لا يفقهونه فقها ينفعهم

After clearly showing their lack of compliance with what the messengers brought and their rejection of the messengers on the basis of blind following, it has become clear that they are not receptive or responsive to the truth. On the contrary, it has become plain to everyone that they will persist in their obstinance. Continue reading

Introduction to the Parables of the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah says in surah al-Kahf:

وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَذَا الْقُرْءَانِ لِلنَّاسِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ وَكَانَ الإِنْسَانُ أَكْثَرَ شَيْءٍ جَدَلا

In this Qur’an, We have certainly put forward every kind of parable for mankind, but man is above all else prone to dispute. [18:54]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee included the following words in his commentary on this ayah:

قوله تعالى : ولقد صرفنا في هذا القرآن للناس من كل مثل وكان الإنسان أكثر شيء جدلا ، قوله : ولقد صرفنا [ 18 \ 54 ] ، أي : رددنا وكثرنا تصريف الأمثال بعبارات مختلفة ، وأساليب متنوعة في هذا القرآن للناس . ليهتدوا إلى الحق ، ويتعظوا . فعارضوا بالجدل والخصومة ، ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَذَا الْقُرْءَانِ لِلنَّاسِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ وَكَانَ الإِنْسَانُ أَكْثَرَ شَيْءٍ جَدَلا

In this Qur’an, We have certainly put forward every kind of parable for mankind, but man is above all else prone to dispute. [18:54]

Regarding His statement:

وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا

We have certainly put forward …

i.e. We have repeatedly and frequently presented these parables to the people throughout the Qur’an with a number of different wordings and in various styles. This is done so that they might be guided to the truth and be admonished, but instead they turn away in argumentation and contention. 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