“If We had decreed upon them, ‘kill yourselves’…”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah al-Nisaa’, Allah addresses the believers by saying:

وَلَوْ أَنَّا كَتَبْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ أَنِ اقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ أَوِ اخْرُ‌جُوا مِن دِيَارِ‌كُم مَّا فَعَلُوهُ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ مِّنْهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ فَعَلُوا مَا يُوعَظُونَ بِهِ لَكَانَ خَيْرً‌ا لَّهُمْ وَأَشَدَّ تَثْبِيتًا * وَإِذًا لَّآتَيْنَاهُم مِّن لَّدُنَّا أَجْرً‌ا عَظِيمًا * وَلَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ صِرَ‌اطًا مُّسْتَقِيمًا

And if We had decreed upon them, “Kill yourselves” or “Leave your homes,” they would not have done it, except for a few of them. But if they had done what they were instructed, it would have been good for them and a firm position. * And then We would have given them a great reward from Us. * And We would have guided them to a Straight Path. [4:66-68]

In his famous book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following commentary on these ayaat:

يخبر تعالى أنه لو كتب على عباده الأوامر الشاقة على النفوس من قتل النفوس والخروج من الديار لم يفعله إلا القليل منهم والنادر، فليحمدوا ربهم وليشكروه على تيسير ما أمرهم به من الأوامر التي تسهل على كل أحد، ولا يشق فعلها . ـ

Allah informs them that had He decreed commands for His slaves which were difficult for their souls, such as killing themselves or leaving their homes, then none of them would not have done that except for a few rare individuals. So they should praise their Lord and be grateful to Him for making those things which He has commanded them to do easy for every single individual to carry out and which do not bring about difficulty in their performance.

وفي هذا إشارة إلى أنه ينبغي أن يلحظ العبد ضد ما هو فيه من المكروهات، لتخف عليه العبادات، ويزداد حمدًا وشكرًا لربه. ـ

This indicates that the slave should think about the bad circumstances that he could be in, for this would lighten the acts of worship for him and increase him in praise and gratitude to his Lord. Continue reading

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“Whatever I have forbidden for you, avoid it…”: Ibn Rajab

In part of his famous collection of comprehensive statements of the Prophet (ﷺ), Imam al-Nawawi mentioned the hadeeth:

مَا نَهَيْتُكُمْ عَنْهُ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ، وَمَا أَمَرْتُكُمْ بِهِ فَأْتُوا مِنْهُ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ، فَإِنَّمَا أَهْلَكَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ كَثْرَةُ مَسَائِلِهِمْ وَاخْتِلَافُهُمْ عَلَى أَنْبِيَائِهِمْ

Whatever I have forbidden for you, avoid it. And whatever I have commanded you, do as much of it as you can. For verily, it was only their excessive questioning and disagreeing with their Prophets that destroyed [the nations] who were before you.”

[Arba’een al-Nawawi #9. Recorded by both al-Bukhari (#7288) and Muslim (#1337), with the wording of Muslim here.]

In one section of his commentary on this hadeeth, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali wrote:

وقوله صلى الله عليه وسلم ” إذا نهيتكم عن شيء ، فاجتنبوه ، وإذا أمرتكم بأمر ، فأتوا منه ما استطعتم ” قال بعض العلماء : هذا يؤخذ منه أن النهي أشد من الأمر ، لأن النهي لم يرخص في ارتكاب شيء منه ، والأمر قيد بحسب الاستطاعة ، وروي هذا عن الإمام أحمد . ويشبه هذا قول بعضهم : أعمال البر يعملها البر والفاجر ، وأما المعاصي ، فلا يتركها إلا صديق . ـ

The statement of the Prophet (ﷺ), “Whatever I have forbidden for you, avoid it. And whatever I have commanded you, do as much of it as you can”.

Some of the scholars have said: It is derived from this that prohibitions are more severe than commands, because the prohibitions offer no concessions for committing them at all while the commands are specified according to one’s ability. And this is narrated from Imam Ahmad, and it resembles the statement of some that, “The deeds of righteousness are done by both the righteous and wicked, but as for the acts of disobedience, then no one abandons them except for a siddeeq (truthful one).” Continue reading

An incitement towards steadfastness: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

In his book, Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali gives a succinct and powerful reminder on the importance of steadfastness. He writes:

علامة قبول الطاعة أن تُوصل بطاعة بعدها, وعلامة ردِّها أن تُوصل بمعصية. ما أحسن الحسنة بعد الحسنة, وأقبح السيئة بعد الحسنة!! ذنب بعد التوبة أقبح من سيعين قبلها. النكسة أصعب من المرض الأوّل. ما أوحش ذلَ المعصية بعد عزّ الطاعة! ارحموا عزيز قومٍ بالمعصية ذلَ, وغني قومٍ بالذنب افنقر. سلوا الله ثبات إلى الممات, وتعوّذوا من  الحَوْرِ بعد الكَوْرِ. كان إمام أحماد يدعو يقول : اللهم أعِزَّنِي بطاعتك ولا تذلَّني بمعصيتك.

A sign of the acceptance of obedience is following it with obedience after that, and a sign of its rejection is following it with disobedience. What is better than a good deed after a good deed, and what is more disgraceful than a sin after a good deed?! One sin after repentance is more shameful than 70 sins before it. A relapse is more difficult than the initial illness. What is more distressing than the humiliation of disobedience after the honor of obedience? … We ask Allah for steadfastness until death, and we seek refuge from loss after plenty*. This was the supplication of Imam Ahmad when he said, “O Allah! Honor me with obedience [to you] and do not disgrace me with disobedience [to you]!”

      و كان من عامة دعاء إبراهيم بن أدهم رحمه الله :  ” اللهم انقلني من ذل المعصية إلى عز الطاعة “. وفي بعض الآثار إلهية : يقول الله تبارك وتعالى : أنا العزيز, فمن أراد العزّ فليُطِع العزيز.

And from the common supplications of Ibrahim ibn Adhham (rahimahullaah) was “O Allah! Take me from the disgrace of disobedience to the honor of obedience!” And in part of the divine narration: Allah tabaarak wa ta’aala said, “I am al-‘Azeez, so whoever desires honor (al-‘izz) then let him obey al-‘Azeez.”

ألا إنَّمـا التَّقـوَى هي العـزُّ و الكَـرَمْ          وحبُّــكَ الدُّنيـــا هـــو الــذُّلُّ والسَّـقَمْ
ولــيسَ على عَـبْــدٍ تـقـيٍّ نَـقِـيـصَــةٌ          إذا حقَّقَ التَّقْــوَى وإنْ حاكَ أو حَجَمْ

Verily taqwa is only an honor and nobility
and one’s love of the dunya is a humiliation and illness

And there is no defect for the pious slave
when he has attained taqwa, even if he has a lowly profession.**

[Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif pg. 128-129]

*The editor makes a note here saying:

في الحديث : (نعوذ بالله من الحَوْرِ بعد الكَوْرِ) , أي الرجوع بعد الاستقامة

In the hadeeth: (We seek refuge in Allah from loss after plenty) – meaning turning back after uprightness

**literally: even if he weaves or performs hijaamah