Non-Canonical Recitations Can Help Explain the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

It is well-known to those familiar with the Qur’an that there are multiple canonical recitations (qiraa’aat) which are all authentic based upon meeting certain conditions and which add to the meaning of the Qur’an while not contradicting one another. Following from this, there are also non-canonical (shadh) recitations which do not meet these conditions for acceptance but can still be found within the books of tafsir and the sciences of the Qur’an. Some orientalists and missionaries attempt to use the mere existence of these non-canonical recitations to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Qur’an as a whole. This translated excerpt from the great scholar Imam al-Zarkashi explains one source of these non-canonical recitations and their value in understanding the Qur’an.

Badr al-Deen Muhammad al-Zarkashi, a student of the great mufassir Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir, is most well-known for authoring an extensive handbook for the Qur’anic sciences, al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an. What follows is one section from his chapter dealing with the Qiraa’aat [variant Qur’anic recitations]:

الأمر الثامن : قال أبو عبيد في كتاب ” فضائل القرآن ” : إن القصد من القراءة الشاذة تفسير القراءة المشهورة وتبيين معانيها ; وذلك كقراءة عائشة وحفصة : ( حافظوا على الصلوات والصلاة الوسطى صلاة العصر ) ( البقرة : 238 ) . ـ

The eighth issue: In his book Fadhaa’il al-Qur’an, Abu ‘Ubayd wrote:

One point behind a non-canonical recitation of the Qur’an is to act as an explanation of a well-known canonical recitation and to clarify its meaning. That is like the recitation transmitted from ‘A’ishah and Hafsah:

حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَىٰ صلاة العصر

Strictly guard the prayers, especially the middle prayer – the ‘asr prayer [compare to 2:238]

وكقراءة ابن مسعود ( والسارق والسارقة فاقطعوا أيمانهما ) ( المائدة : 38 ) . ـ

Or like ibn Mas’ood’s recitation:

وَالسَّارِقُ وَالسَّارِقَةُ فَاقْطَعُوا أيمانهما

and the male and female thief – cut off their right hands [compare to 5:38] Continue reading

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Clarification on the Ahruf and Qiraa’aat of the Qur’an: ibn Hajr

In his Saheeh, under the book of the Virtues of the Qur’an, Imam al-Bukhari included a long hadith of the dispute between ‘Umar and Hisham which ended with the Prophet saying:

إِنَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ أُنْزِلَ عَلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ فَاقْرَءُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنْهُ

This Qur’an was sent down in seven ahruf [dialects], so recite whatever of it is easy for you.

[Saheeh al-Bukhari #4992]

In one part of his celebrated explanation of Saheeh al-Bukhari, al-haafidh ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalaani included the following valuable content regarding the ahruf [dialects] and qiraa’aat [modes of recitation] of the Qur’an, as well as important information about the number, canonization, and conditions for acceptance of the qiraa’aat, in his explanation of that hadith:

قال أبو شامة : وقد اختلف السلف في الأحرف السبعة التي نزل بها القرآن هل هي مجموعة في المصحف الذي بأيدي الناس اليوم أو ليس فيه إلا حرف واحد منها ، مال ابن الباقلاني إلى الأول ، وصرح الطبري وجماعة بالثاني وهو المعتمد . وقد أخرج ابن أبي داود في ” المصاحف ” عن أبي الطاهر بن أبي السرح قال : سألت ابن عيينة عن اختلاف قراءة المدنيين والعراقيين هل هي الأحرف السبعة ؟ قال : لا ، وإنما الأحرف السبعة مثل هلم وتعال وأقبل ، أي ذلك قلت أجزأك . قال : وقال لي ابن وهب مثله . ـ

Abu Shamah said:

The salaf differed regarding the seven ahruf in which the Qur’an was revealed: are all of the seven ahruf present in the mushaf that is in people’s hands today, or is it only one harf that we have? al-Baaqilaani leaned towards the first position, while al-Tabari and the majority of scholars explicitly stated the second, which is the generally-accepted position.

In Kitaab al-Musaahif, ibn Abi Dawud brings a report from Abu’l-Taahir ibn Abi’l-Sarh wherein he said,

“I asked ibn ‘Uyaynah about the differences between the reciters of al-Madinah and Iraq – are these the seven ahruf?” “No,” he replied, “the seven ahurf are only things like ‘approach’, ‘come here’ or ‘come on’.” Whichever one of those you say would suffice.”

And he also said:

ibn Wahb also told me something similar.

والحق أن الذي جمع في المصحف هو المتفق على إنزاله المقطوع به المكتوب بأمر النبي [ ص: 647 ] – صلى الله عليه وسلم – وفيه بعض ما اختلف فيه الأحرف السبعة لا جميعها ، كما وقع في المصحف المكي ” تجري من تحتها الأنهار ” في آخر ” براءة ” وفي غيره بحذف ” من ” وكذا ما وقع من اختلاف مصاحف الأمصار من عدة واوات ثابتة بعضها دون بعض ، وعدة هاءات وعدة لامات ونحو ذلك ، وهو محمول على أنه نزل بالأمرين معا ، وأمر النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – بكتابته لشخصين أو أعلم بذلك شخصا واحدا وأمره بإثباتهما على الوجهين ، وما عدا ذلك من القراءات مما لا يوافق الرسم فهو مما كانت القراءة جوزت به توسعة على الناس وتسهيلا ؛ فلما آل الحال إلى ما وقع من الاختلاف في زمن عثمان وكفر بعضهم بعضا اختاروا الاقتصار على اللفظ المأذون في كتابته وتركوا الباقي . قال الطبري : وصار ما اتفق عليه الصحابة من الاقتصار كمن اقتصر مما خير فيه على خصلة واحدة ، لأن أمرهم بالقراءة على الأوجه المذكورة لم يكن على سبيل الإيجاب بل على سبيل الرخصة . ـ

And the correct understanding is that everything in the mushaf is agreed to have been revealed by Allah – without any room for doubt about this – and written by the command of the Prophet, and that it contains some of the differences found between the seven ahruf but not all of them. For example, there is what comes at the end of surah al-Baraa’ [i.e. surah al-Tawbah] in the mushaf of Mecca:

تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ

… beneath which rivers flow [compare to 9:100] Continue reading

The Dispute Between ‘Umar and Hisham: Ibn Hajr

Imam al-Bukhari mentioned the following narration in his Saheeh, in the section on the merits of the Qur’an:

حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدُ بْنُ عُفَيْرٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي اللَّيْثُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عُقَيْلٌ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عُرْوَةُ بْنُ الزُّبَيْرِ، أَنَّ الْمِسْوَرَ بْنَ مَخْرَمَةَ، وَعَبْدَ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنَ عَبْدٍ الْقَارِيَّ، حَدَّثَاهُ أَنَّهُمَا، سَمِعَا عُمَرَ بْنَ الْخَطَّابِ، يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ هِشَامَ بْنَ حَكِيمٍ، يَقْرَأُ سُورَةَ الْفُرْقَانِ فِي حَيَاةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَاسْتَمَعْتُ لِقِرَاءَتِهِ فَإِذَا هُوَ يَقْرَأُ عَلَى حُرُوفٍ كَثِيرَةٍ لَمْ يُقْرِئْنِيهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَكِدْتُ أُسَاوِرُهُ فِي الصَّلاَةِ فَتَصَبَّرْتُ حَتَّى سَلَّمَ فَلَبَّبْتُهُ بِرِدَائِهِ فَقُلْتُ مَنْ أَقْرَأَكَ هَذِهِ السُّورَةَ الَّتِي سَمِعْتُكَ تَقْرَأُ‏.‏ قَالَ أَقْرَأَنِيهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏.‏ فَقُلْتُ كَذَبْتَ فَإِنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَدْ أَقْرَأَنِيهَا عَلَى غَيْرِ مَا قَرَأْتَ، فَانْطَلَقْتُ بِهِ أَقُودُهُ إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقُلْتُ إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ هَذَا يَقْرَأُ بِسُورَةِ الْفُرْقَانِ عَلَى حُرُوفٍ لَمْ تُقْرِئْنِيهَا‏.‏ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ أَرْسِلْهُ اقْرَأْ يَا هِشَامُ ‏”‏‏.‏ فَقَرَأَ عَلَيْهِ الْقِرَاءَةَ الَّتِي سَمِعْتُهُ يَقْرَأُ‏.‏ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ كَذَلِكَ أُنْزِلَتْ ‏”‏‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏”‏ اقْرَأْ يَا عُمَرُ ‏”‏‏.‏ فَقَرَأْتُ الْقِرَاءَةَ الَّتِي أَقْرَأَنِي، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ كَذَلِكَ أُنْزِلَتْ، إِنَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ أُنْزِلَ عَلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ فَاقْرَءُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنْهُ ‏”‏‏.‏

… al-Miswar ibn Makhramah and ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd al-Qari told us that they both heard ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab say:

I heard Hisham ibn Hakeem reciting surah al-Furqan while the Prophet was still alive, so I listened to his recitation and I noticed that he recited it differently in several ways from how Allah’s Messenger had recited it to me. I nearly struck him while he was still praying, but I held myself back until he completed the prayer and then I grabbed him by his shawl and said, “Who taught you this surah that I just heard you recite?” He said, “Allah’s Messenger recited it to me.” I said, “You have misspoken, for Allah’s Messenger recited it to me in a different way than how you recited it.”

So I immediately set off to see Allah’s Messenger, taking him along with me. I said to the Prophet, “I heard this person recite surah al-Furqan in some ways other than how you taught it to me.”

Allah’s Messenger said, “Let him go. Recite it, Hisham.” So he recited it in the way I had heard him recite it before. Then Allah’s Messenger, “That is how it was sent down,” and then said, “Recite it, ‘Umar.” So I recited it in the way I had been taught, and Allah’s Messenger said, “That is how it was sent down. This Qur’an was sent down in seven ahruf [dialects], so recite whatever of it is easy for you.”

[Saheeh al-Bukhari #4992]

While there has been much differing among the scholars as to the meaning of the seven ahruf, the correct meaning – inshaAllaah – is that they are different dialects of the Arabic language in which the Qur’an was revealed. However, as scholars have pointed out, ‘Umar and Hisham were both from the tribe of Quraysh and thus shared the same dialect. This raises the question: if they shared the same dialect, why would they differ in which harf they recited the Qur’an in?

The great scholar of hadith ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalaani addressed this point in his explanation of Saheeh al-Bukhari by writing:

قوله : ( فإن رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – قد أقرأنيها ) هذا قاله عمر استدلالا على ما ذهب إليه من تخطئة هشام ، وإنما ساغ له ذلك لرسوخ قدمه في الإسلام وسابقته ، بخلاف هشام فإنه كان قريب العهد بالإسلام فخشي عمر من ذلك أن لا يكون أتقن القراءة ، بخلاف نفسه فإنه كان قد أتقن ما سمع .ـ

Regarding ‘Umar’s statement, “For Allah’s Messenger recited it to me…” Continue reading

Benefits of the Multiple Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

In his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti devoted a section to issues related to the qiraa’aat [modes of recitation] of the Qur’an. For an introduction to the qiraa’aat, please see here or here. What follows is one excerpt from that section discussing the benefits that come from the differences in the qiraa’aat:

وقال بعض المتأخرين : لاختلاف القراءات وتنوعها فوائد : ـ

One of the latter-day scholars said that there are a number of benefits that come from the differences and variations in the qiraa’aat:

منها التهوين والتسهيل والتخفيف على الأمة . ـ

○ One benefit is that this makes reciting the Qur’an easier, simpler, and less onerous for this ummah.

ـ [ ص: 275 ] ومنها إظهار فضلها وشرفها على سائر الأمم ، إذ لم ينزل كتاب غيرهم إلا على وجه واحد . ـ

○ Another benefit is clearly demonstrating the virtue and honor of this ummah above other nations, for the scriptures of those nations were only revealed in one way.

ومنها : إعظام أجرها ، من حيث إنهم يفرغون جهدهم في تحقيق ذلك وضبطه لفظة لفظة ، حتى مقادير المدات وتفاوت الإمالات ، ثم في تتبع معاني ذلك واستنباط الحكم والأحكام من دلالة كل لفظ ، وإمعانهم الكشف عن التوجيه والتعليل والترجيح . ـ

○ Another benefit is the increased reward, since one could devote their efforts to perfecting their recitation and getting each word exactly correct, and even going into the lengths of the mudood and difference in the imaalaat.

Furthermore, there is the opportunity to look into the meanings of these different recitations and to derive benefits and legal rulings from what each wording indicates. Delving into these differences and examining them reveals what the ayah actually indicates, the reasoning for a ruling, and assists in weighing the merits of different interpretations.
Continue reading

The Early History of the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

In his famous handbook to the Qur’anic sciences, al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included the following discussion in his chapter, “Knowing the Memorizers and Transmitters of the Qur’an”. In this excerpt, al-Suyooti gives a brief history of how the qiraa’aat that are widely-used today were meticulously passed down from teacher to student with chains of transmission going back to the Prophet until they became the list of the seven well-known qiraa’aat around the beginning of the fourth century after the Hijrah:

المشتهرون بإقراء القرآن من الصحابة سبعة : عثمان ، وعلي ، وأبي ، وزيد بن ثابت ، وابن مسعود ، وأبو الدرداء ، وأبو موسى الأشعري . كذا ذكرهم الذهبي في طبقات القراء . قال : وقد قرأ على أبي جماعة من الصحابة منهم أبو هريرة ، وابن عباس ، وعبد الله بن السائب وأخذ ابن عباس عن زيد أيضا وأخذ عنهم خلق من التابعين . ـ

The Sahabah most well-known for reciting the Qur’an were seven:

  • ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan
  • ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib
  • Ubay ibn Ka’b
  • Zayd ibn Thabit
  • ibn Mas’ood
  • Abu al-Dardaa’
  • Abu Moosaa al-Ash’ari

al-Dhahabi also mentioned these seven in his book, Tabaqaat al-Qurraa’.* He further said:

A number of the Sahabah also learned from Ubay, including Abu Hurayrah, ibn ‘Abbaas, and ‘Abdullah ibn al-Saa’ib. Ibn ‘Abbaas also learned from Zayd, and then a number of the Taabi’oon also learned from them.

فممن كان بالمدينة : ابن المسيب وعروة وسالم وعمر بن عبد العزيز وسليمان وعطاء بن يسار ، ومعاذ بن الحارث المعروف بمعاذ القارئ ، وعبد الرحمن بن هرمز الأعرج ، وابن شهاب الزهري ، ومسلم بن جندب ، وزيد بن أسلم . ـ

○ In al-Madinah, these Taabi’oon included: ibn al-Musayyib, ‘Urwah, Saalim, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, the brothers Sulayman and ‘Ataa’ ibn Yasaar, Mu’adh ibn al-Haarith – more commonly known as Mu’adh the reciter -, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Hurmuz al-A’raj, ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, Muslim ibn Jundub, and Zayd ibn Aslam.

وبمكة : عبيد بن عمير ، وعطاء بن أبي رباح ، وطاوس ، ومجاهد ، وعكرمة ، وابن أبي مليكة . ـ

○ In Mecca: ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr, ‘Ataa; ibn Abi Rabaah, Taawoos, Mujahid, ‘Ikrimah, and ibn Abi Mulaykah. Continue reading

Clarifying some Misconceptions about the Seven Qiraa’aat: Ibn Taymiyah

Sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah once received a letter with a series of questions regarding the different huroof/ahruf (dialects) and various qiraa’aat (modes of recitation) of the Qur’an. One part of this question read:

وسئل عن قول النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ” { أنزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف } ” ما المراد بهذه السبعة ؟ وهل هذه القراءات المنسوبة إلى نافع وعاصم وغيرهما هي الأحرف السبعة أو واحد منها ؟ ـ

The sheikh was asked about the statement of the Prophet (ﷺ), “The Qur’an was revealed in seven ahruf” – what is meant by these seven? And are the qiraa’aat which are attributed to Naafi’, ‘Aasim and others these seven ahruf, or only one of them?

So the sheikh responded to this question by writing:

فنقول : لا نزاع بين العلماء المعتبرين أن ” الأحرف السبعة ” التي ذكر النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أن القرآن أنزل عليها ليست هي ” قراءات القراء السبعة المشهورة ” بل أول من جمع قراءات هؤلاء هو الإمام أبو بكر بن مجاهد وكان على رأس المائة الثالثة ببغداد فإنه أحب أن يجمع المشهور من قراءات الحرمين والعراقين والشام ; إذ هذه الأمصار الخمسة هي التي خرج منها علم النبوة من القرآن وتفسيره والحديث والفقه من الأعمال الباطنة والظاهرة وسائر العلوم الدينية فلما أراد ذلك جمع قراءات سبعة مشاهير من أئمة قراء هذه الأمصار ; ليكون ذلك موافقا لعدد الحروف التي أنزل عليها القرآن لا لاعتقاده أو اعتقاد غيره من العلماء أن القراءات السبعة هي الحروف السبعة أو أن هؤلاء السبعة المعينين هم الذين لا يجوز أن يقرأ بغير قراءتهم . ـ

I say: Among the scholars whose views are given weight, there is no disagreement that the seven ahruf which the Prophet (ﷺ) said the Qur’an was sent down in are not the same thing as the qiraa’aat of the seven well-known reciters.

To the contrary, the first person who grouped these qiraa’aat together was Imam Abu Bakr ibn Mujahid, who lived in Baghdad at the beginning of the third century. He did this because he wanted to compile the well-known qiraa’aat of Mecca, Madinah, Kufah, Basrah, and Syria, as these were the five cities from which the Prophetic knowledge of the Qur’an, its tafsir, hadeeth, fiqh of both the outward and internal actions, and all other religious sciences spread. Continue reading

Preservation of the Wordings and Meanings of the Qur’an among the Salaf: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Nisaa’, Allah informs us of the following:

وَرُسُلًا قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَرُسُلًا لَّمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ ۚ وَكَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ مُوسَىٰ تَكْلِيمًا

And Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you, – and Allah spoke to Moosaa directly. [4:164]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following points:

وقوله : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) وهذا تشريف لموسى ، عليه السلام ، بهذه الصفة ; ولهذا يقال [ ص: 475 ] له : الكليم . وقد قال الحافظ أبو بكر بن مردويه : حدثنا أحمد بن محمد بن سليمان المالكي ، حدثنا مسيح بن حاتم ، حدثنا عبد الجبار بن عبد الله قال : جاء رجل إلى أبي بكر بن عياش فقال : سمعت رجلا يقرأ : ” وكلم الله موسى تكليما ” فقال أبو بكر : ما قرأ هذا إلا كافر ، قرأت على الأعمش ، وقرأ الأعمش على [ يحيى ] بن وثاب ، وقرأ يحيى بن وثاب على أبي عبد الرحمن السلمي ، وقرأ أبو عبد الرحمن ، على علي بن أبي طالب ، وقرأ علي بن أبي طالب على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) . ـ

Allah’s statement: Continue reading

The Types of Tafsir: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Umar Bazmool wrote and posted the following on his personal blog:

أنواع التفسير
The Types of Tafsir

ـ 1 – التفسير نوعان : ـ
ـ = تفسير بالرواية ، ويقال له تفسير بالمنقول، تفسير بالمأثور. ـ
ـ = تفسير بالدراية، ويقال له تفسير بالمعقول، تفسير بالرأي. ـ
والمراد بالتفسير بالمأثور: أن يقتصر المفسر على نقل معنى الآية إما من آية أخرى، أو من حديث، أو من قول صحابي، أو من قول أجمع عليه التابعون. ففي التفسير بالمأثور لا يأتي المفسر بشيء بمعنى من عنده أصلاً. ـ
والمراد بالتفسير بالرأي ، أن يأتي المفسر بمعنى الآية من جهة اللغة والعقل. يعني من عنده باجتهاده. ـ

Tafsir falls into two broad categories:

Tafsir bi’l-Riwayah [Narration-Based Tafsir], which is also known as Tafsir bi’l-Manqool and Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thoor.

Tafsir bi’l-Dirayah [Opinion-Based Tafsir], which is also known as Tafsir bi’l-Ma’qool and Tafsir bi’l-Ra’yi.

What is meant by Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thoor is that the mufassir restricts himself to transmitting the meaning of the ayah either by means of another ayah, or a hadith, or a statement of a Sahabi, or a statement which the Tabi’oon agreed upon. So in Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thoor, the mufassir does not bring anything which originates from himself regarding the meaning of an ayah.

And what is meant by Tafsir bi’l-Ra’yi is that the mufassir brings the meaning of an ayah from the angle of linguistics and intellectual reasoning, i.e. from his own efforts of independent reasoning.

 ـ 2 – طرق التفسير بالمأثور
للتفسير بالمأثور أربعة طرق وهي التالية: ـ
الأولى : تفسير القرآن بالقرآن. ـ
الثاني : تفسير القرآن بالسنة. ـ
الثالث : تفسير القرآن بقول الصحابي. ـ
الرابع : تفسير القرآن بقول التابعين إذا اتفقوا واجمعوا!. ـ

The ways of making Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thoor [Narration-based Tafsir]:

There are four ways to make Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thoor, which come as follows:

First: Explaining the Qur’an by means of the Qur’an itself.

Second: Explaining the Qur’an by means of the Sunnah.

Third: Explaining the Qur’an through the statement of a Sahabi.

Fourth: Explaining the Qur’an by a statement from the Tabi’oon, if they agreed on that and had consensus.

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Did Fir’awn claim divinity, or worship other gods?: al-Shawkaani, al-Qurtubi, & al-Baghawi

In surah al-A’raaf, Allah says:

وَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ أَتَذَرُ مُوسَىٰ وَقَوْمَهُ لِيُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَيَذَرَكَ وَآلِهَتَكَ ۚ قَالَ سَنُقَتِّلُ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَنَسْتَحْيِي نِسَاءَهُمْ وَإِنَّا فَوْقَهُمْ قَاهِرُونَ

The chiefs of Fir’awn’s people said: “Will you leave Moosaa and his people to spread mischief in the land, and to abandon you and your gods?” He said: “We will kill their sons, and let live their women, and we have indeed irresistible power over them.” [7:127]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani briefly mentioned a question that arises from a careful reading of this ayah in his tafsir where he wrote:

واختلف المفسرون في معنى وآلهتك لكون فرعون كان يدعي الربوبية كما في قوله: ما علمت لكم من إله غيري، وقوله: أنا ربكم فقيل: معنى وآلهتك: وطاعتك، وقيل: معناه: وعبادتك، ويؤيده قراءة علي وابن عباس، والضحاك “وإلهتك” وفي حرف أبي “أتذر موسى وقومه ليفسدوا في الأرض وقد تركوك أن يعبدوك” وقيل: إنه كان يعبد بقرة، وقيل: كان يعبد النجوم، وقيل: كان له أصنام يعبدها قومه تقربا إليه فنسبت إليه ولهذا قال: أنا ربكم الأعلى. قاله الزجاج، وقيل: كان يعبد الشمس . ـ

The scholars of tafsir have differed regarding the meaning of “your gods” due to the fact that Fir’awn used to claim lordship for himself, such as in his statement:

مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيْرِي

I know of no other god for you besides me [28:38]

as well as his saying:

أَنَا رَبُّكُمُ

I am your lord… [79:24]

Some said the meaning of “aalihatak” [lit. “your gods”] is: obedience to you. And others said its meaning is: worship of you. This understanding is supported by a variant recitation (qiraa’ah) transmitted from ‘Ali, ibn ‘Abbaas and al-Dhahhaak:

وَإِلَهَتَكَ

wa ilaahatak

… and your divinity …

as well as what comes in the variant dialect (harf) recitation of Ubay:

 أَتَذَرُ مُوسَى وَقَوْمَهُ لِيُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَقَدْ تَرَكُوكَ أَنْ يَعْبُدُوكَ

… Will you leave Moosaa and his people to spread mischief in the land while they have abandoned you and worshiping you? … Continue reading

Tafsir of the Qur’an and its Connection to the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

Sheikh Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti mentioned the following point in his famous manual of Qur’anic Sciences, al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an:

 من المهم معرفة التفاسير الواردة عن الصحابة بحسب قراءة مخصوصة ، وذلك أنه قد يرد عنهم تفسيران في الآية الواحدة مختلفان ، فيظن اختلافا وليس باختلاف ، وإنما كل تفسير على قراءة ، وقد تعرض السلف لذلك . ـ

An important issue is being aware that the explanations transmitted from the Sahaabah are according to specific qiraa’aat (variant recitations of the Qur’an). So because of that, perhaps there might be two different explanations of a single ayah and therefore one might think that these two explanations are in conflict when in fact there is no conflict – rather it is only that each one is an explanation of a particular recitation. And this is something which the salaf were aware of.

فأخرج ابن جرير في قوله تعالى : لقالوا إنما سكرت أبصارنا [ الحجر : 15 ] . من طرق عن ابن عباس وغيره أن سكرت بمعنى سدت ومن طرق أنها بمعنى أخذت . ـ

For in his explanation of Allah’s statement:

لَقَالُوا إِنَّمَا سُكِّرَتْ أَبْصَارُنَا

They would surely say, “our eyes have been sukkirat” [15:15]

ibn Jarir [al-Tabari] brought an explanation from ibn ‘Abbaas and others from more than one route of transmission that the word “sukkirat” carries the meaning of “sealed up”, while in other narrations also from ibn ‘Abbaas and also from multiple routes of transmission it comes that he held it to mean “enchanted”.

ثم أخرج عن قتادة قال : من قرأ سُكِّرَتْ مشددة ، فإنما يعني سدت ، ومن قرأ : سُكِرَتْ مخففة ، فإنه يعني سحرت ، وهذا الجمع من قتادة نفيس بديع . ـ

But then ibn Jarir brought an explanation from Qataadah who said: whoever recites it as “sukkirat” with a shaddah, this means “sealed up”, while whoever recites it as “sukirat” without a shaddah, this means “enchanted”. And this is a wonderful reconciliation of these two explanations by Qataadah. Continue reading