The Prophet Muhammad was Sent to All Mankind: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah Aal ‘Imran:

فَإِنْ حَاجُّوكَ فَقُلْ أَسْلَمْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّـهِ وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِ ۗ وَقُل لِّلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ وَالْأُمِّيِّينَ أَأَسْلَمْتُمْ ۚ فَإِنْ أَسْلَمُوا فَقَدِ اهْتَدَوا ۖ وَّإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْكَ الْبَلَاغُ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ بَصِيرٌ بِالْعِبَادِ

So if they argue with you, say, “I have submitted myself to Allah, and so have those who follow me.” And say to those who were given the Scripture and to the unlearned, “Have you submitted yourselves?” And if they submit, they are rightly guided; but if they turn away – then only notification is required of you. And Allah is Seeing of His servants. [3:20]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, al-haafidh ibn Kathir wrote:

قال تعالى : ( فإن حاجوك ) أي : جادلوك في التوحيد ( فقل أسلمت وجهي لله ومن اتبعن ) أي : فقل أخلصت عبادتي لله وحده ، لا شريك له ولا ند [ له ] ولا ولد ولا صاحبة له ( ومن اتبعن ) على ديني ، يقول كمقالتي ، كما قال تعالى : ( قل هذه سبيلي أدعو إلى الله على بصيرة أنا ومن اتبعني [ وسبحان الله وما أنا من المشركين ] ) [ يوسف : 108 ] . ـ

Allah said:

فَإِنْ حَاجُّوكَ

So if they argue with you …

i.e. if they argue with you regarding Allah’s sole right to be worshiped

فَقُلْ أَسْلَمْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّـهِ وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِ

… then say, “I have submitted myself to Allah, and so have those who follow me.”

i.e. then say, “I have made my worship exclusively for Allah alone, without making any partner, counterpart, offspring, or spouse for Him

وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِ

“… and so have those who follow me.”

i.e. follow me in my religion – they will also say the same thing. Continue reading

Those Who Seek Forgiveness in the Last Part of the Night: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

In part of surah Aal ‘Imraan, Allah describes His believing slaves with the following characteristics:

الصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْمُنفِقِينَ وَالْمُسْتَغْفِرِينَ بِالْأَسْحَارِ

The patient ones, the truthful ones, the devout ones, those who spend, and those who seek forgiveness in the last part of the night. [3:17]

Imam al-Qurtubi began his commentary on this ayah by writing:

الصابرين يعني عن المعاصي والشهوات ، وقيل : على الطاعات . والصادقين أي في الأفعال والأقوال والقانتين الطائعين . والمنفقين يعني في سبيل الله . وقد تقدم في البقرة هذه المعاني على الكمال . ففسر تعالى في هذه الآية أحوال المتقين الموعودين بالجنات .ـ

الصَّابِرِينَ

The patient ones …

i.e. those who steadfastly abstain from acts of disobedience and lusts. And some explained it as those who steadfastly perform acts of obedience.

وَالصَّادِقِينَ

… and the truthful ones …

i.e. those who are truthful in their actions and statements

وَالْقَانِتِينَ

… and the devout ones …

i.e. the obedient ones Continue reading

The Muttaqoon do not Persist in Sin: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In part of surah Aal ‘Imraan, Allah describes the muttaqoon with the following characteristic:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا فَعَلُوا فَاحِشَةً أَوْ ظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ ذَكَرُوا اللَّـهَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا لِذُنُوبِهِمْ وَمَن يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ وَلَمْ يُصِرُّوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلُوا وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ

And they are those who, when they commit an immoral act or wrong themselves, they remember Allah and so ask for forgiveness of their sins. And who forgives sins except Allah? And they do not persist in what they were doing while they know. [3:135]

The famous mufassir al-haafidh ibn Kathir explained the final phrase of this ayah by writing:

وقوله : ( وهم يعلمون ) قال مجاهد وعبد الله بن عبيد بن عمير : ( وهم يعلمون ) أن من تاب تاب الله عليه . وهذا كقوله تعالى : ( ألم يعلموا أن الله هو يقبل التوبة عن عباده ) [ التوبة : 104 ] وكقوله ( ومن يعمل سوءا أو يظلم نفسه ثم يستغفر الله يجد الله غفورا رحيما ) [ النساء : 110 ] ونظائر هذا كثيرة جدا

Regarding Allah’s statement

وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ

… while they know

Mujaahid and ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr explained this by saying, “While they know that whoever turns in repentance, Allah will turn to him in forgiveness.”

And this is like Allah’s statements: Continue reading

A Parable of What the Disbelievers Spend in This Life: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah presents the following parable in surah Aal ‘Imran:

مَثَلُ مَا يُنفِقُونَ فِي هَـٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَثَلِ رِيحٍ فِيهَا صِرٌّ أَصَابَتْ حَرْثَ قَوْمٍ ظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ فَأَهْلَكَتْهُ ۚ وَمَا ظَلَمَهُمُ اللَّـهُ وَلَـٰكِنْ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ

The example of what they spend in this worldly life is like that of a wind containing frost which strikes the harvest of a people who have wronged themselves and destroys it. And Allah has not wronged them, but they wrong themselves. [3:117]

Ibn al-Qayyim remarked on this ayah by writing:

هذا مثل ضربه الله تعالى لمن أتفق ماله في غير طاعته ومرضاته . ـ

Allah struck this parable about those who spend their wealth in other things besides obedience to Allah and seeking His pleasure.

[A’laam al-Mawqi’een 1/173]

Imam al-Qurtubi wrote:

ومعنى الآية : مثل نفقة الكافرين في بطلانها وذهابها وعدم منفعتها كمثل زرع أصابه ريح باردة أو نار فأحرقته وأهلكته ، فلم ينتفع أصحابه بشيء بعدما كانوا يرجون فائدته ونفعه . وما ظلمهم الله بذلك ولكن أنفسهم يظلمون بالكفر والمعصية ومنع حق الله تعالى . ـ

The message of this ayah is that the futility, waste and lack of benefit of the disbelievers’ spending is like a cultivated field which is struck with a frigid wind – or a fire – which scorches and destroys it, leaving its owners unable to benefit from it in any way after they had hoped to receive some fruits and benefit from it. And they did not wrong Allah with their spending; rather it was themselves that they wronged with the disbelief, sins and refusing to give Allah His due rights.

[Tafsir al-Qurtubi 4/169] Continue reading

Taking Ayaat out of Context: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr

Towards 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

It is He who revealed the Scripture to you. In it there are muhkam (clear) verses which are the foundation of the Book and others which are mutashabih (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. [3:7]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr, one of the contemporary scholars of al-Madinahdelivered the following important words while discussing this ayah in the midst of his explanation of the book Kashf al-Shubuhat:

ـ [وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ ] أي الراسخون في العلم يعلمون معناه. وطريقة الراسخين في العلم تجاه المتشابه أنهم يؤمنون به أنه من عند لله، ويردونه إلى المحكَم، على خلاف طريقة أهل الزيغ. ـ

وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ

… and those firmly grounded in knowledge [3:7]

meaning: those who are firmly grounded in knowledge also know its meaning. And the approach that those who are firmly grounded in knowledge take with respect to the mutashabih (ambiguous) verses is that they believe in them as being from Allah and they refer these verses back to the muhkam (clear and unambiguous) verses. This is in contrast to how the deviated people approach these verses.

قال : [وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا] [كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا] كله حق، وكله من لله، وليس في القرآن تناقض ولا اضطراب، [وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللَّـهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا ] ولا يستقيم الأمر للإنسان في هذا الباب إلا إذا كان على هذا النهج ؛ يرَُد المتشابه من آيِّ القرآن إلى المحكَم. أما إذا كان بمعزل عن آيات القرآم ودلالاته ، ويجتزئ من النصوص أشياء يشبه بها على الناس فهذه طريقة أهل الزيغ، مثل طريقة الجهمية الذين يقولون لله في كل مكان، يقرأون مستدلين على قولهم “إن لله في كل مكان”، بقوله تعالى: وهو معكم أين ما كنتم [الحديد: ٤]. وابن القيم رحمه لله يقول: ـ
يا قومنا ولله إنا لقولنا ألفاً تدلُّ عليه ؛ بل ألفان

Allah said:

وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا

And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say, “We believe in it. All of it is from our Lord.” [3:7]

All of it is from our Lord” – all of it is the truth and all of it is from Allah. There is no contradiction or disorder in the Qur’an.

وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللَّـهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا

Had it been from anyone other than Allah they would have found much contradiction within it. [4:82] Continue reading

The Arrangement of the First Five Surahs of the Qur’an: al-Suyooti

In part of his discussion the munasabat – the connections between ayaat and surahs – in his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, Imam Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included the following passage. It mentions the links between the first five surahs of the Qur’an as well as some of the main themes found in each:

ـ [ ص: 226 ] قال بعض الأئمة : وسورة الفاتحة تضمنت الإقرار بالربوبية والالتجاء إليه في دين الإسلام ، والصيانة عن دين اليهودية والنصرانية . ـ

○ Some scholars have said: Surah al-Fatihah is comprised of 1) affirming Allah’s lordship, 2) seeking refuge with Him in the religion of Islam, and 3) protection against the Jewish and Christian religions.*

وسورة البقرة : تضمنت قواعد الدين . ـ

Surah al-Baqarah is comprised of the foundations of this religion.

وآل عمران : مكملة لمقصودها ، فالبقرة بمنزلة إقامة الدليل على الحكم وآل عمران بمنزلة الجواب عن شبهات الخصوم ، ولهذا ورد فيها ذكر المتشابه لما تمسك به النصارى ، وأوجب الحج في آل عمران ، وأما في البقرة فذكر أنه مشروع وأمر بإتمامه بعد الشروع فيه . ـ

○ Aal ‘Imran is the completion of al-Baqarah‘s aim. al-Baqarah was like the a presentation of the evidence for a ruling while Aal ‘Imran is like a response to the doubts brought up by a contentious listener. It is for this reason that Aal ‘Imran mentioned many doubtful matters that the Christians cling to. Also, the Hajj was made mandatory in Aal ‘Imran [c.f. 3:97] while in al-Baqarah it was only mentioned as being legislated. So He commanded them to perform it in a complete way after they had embarked upon it. Continue reading

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

An “Amazing Connection” in the Story of Zakariyyah: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah Aali ‘Imran, Allah tells us the story of Zakariyyah, including his du’a to have a son, his amazement at the promise of the fulfillment of this du’a despite his old age and his wife being barren, and his request to have a sign confirming this amazing promise. Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote in his commentary of ayah 3:41:

ـ{ رب اجعل لي آية } أي: علامة على وجود الولد قال { آيتك ألا تكلم الناس ثلاثة أيام إلا رمزًا } أي: ينحبس لسانك عن كلامهم من غير آفة ولا سوء، فلا تقدر إلا على الإشارة والرمز

رَبِّ اجْعَل لِّي آيَةً

[Zakariyyah said] “Lord, make a sign for me”

meaning: a sign of the presence of a son. He replied

آيَتُكَ أَلَّا تُكَلِّمَ النَّاسَ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ إِلَّا رَمْزًا

“your sign is that you will not speak to the people for three days, except by gestures”

meaning: your tongue will be restrained from speaking to them but not due to any disease or malady. So you will not be able to communicate except by way of pointing and gesturing. Continue reading

The First Innovation: Tafsir ibn Kathir

The famous scholar al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir was especially well-known for his skills in the fields of hadeeth, tafsir, and history, with his honorific title of “al-haafidh” indicating his high status in the first of these fields and his two most famous works being in the latter areas. In the following brief excerpt from his tafsir of surah Aal ‘Imran, ibn Kathir combines all three of these knowledge areas:

وقال الإمام أحمد : حدثنا أبو كامل ، حدثنا حماد ، عن أبي غالب قال : سمعت أبا أمامة يحدث ، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم في قوله : ( فأما الذين في قلوبهم زيغ فيتبعون ما تشابه منه ) قال : ” هم الخوارج ” ، وفي قوله : ( يوم تبيض وجوه وتسود وجوه ) . [ آل عمران : 106 ] قال : ” هم الخوارج ” . وقد رواه ابن مردويه من غير وجه ، عن أبي غالب ، عن أبي أمامة مرفوعا ، فذكره . ـ

Imam Ahmad said: Abu Kaamil told me that Hammaad told him that Abu Ghaalib said: I heard Abu ‘Umamah say that the Prophet (ﷺ) spoke about Allah’s statement:

فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ

But as for those in whose hearts is deviation, then they follow those parts of the Qur’an which are ambiguous [3:7]

by saying, “They are the Khawaarij.” And also regarding Allah’s statement:

يَوْمَ تَبْيَضُّ وُجُوهٌ وَتَسْوَدُّ وُجُوهٌ

On the Day when some faces will become white and some faces will become black [3:106]

he said, “they [i.e. the latter group] are the Khawaarij“.

And ibn Mardawayh also transmitted this from more than one route from Abu Umamah by way of Abu Ghaalib as a narration attributed to the Prophet (ﷺ). Continue reading

“You will never attain al-Birr until…” : Tafsir al-Sa’di

At the end of the third juz’ of the Qur’an, Allah informs the believers:

لَن تَنَالُوا الْبِرَّ‌ حَتَّىٰ تُنفِقُوا مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَ ۚ وَمَا تُنفِقُوا مِن شَيْءٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ

By no means shall you attain Al-Birr until you spend of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well. [3:92]

Commenting on this ayah, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote:

هذا حث من الله لعباده على الإنفاق في طرق الخيرات، فقال { لن تنالوا } أي: تدركوا وتبلغوا البر الذي هو كل خير من أنواع الطاعات وأنواع المثوبات الموصل لصاحبه إلى الجنة، { حتى تنفقوا مما تحبون } أي: من أموالكم النفيسة التي تحبها نفوسكم، فإنكم إذا قدمتم محبة الله على محبة الأموال فبذلتموها في مرضاته، دل ذلك على إيمانكم الصادق وبر قلوبكم ويقين تقواكم، فيدخل في ذلك إنفاق نفائس الأموال، والإنفاق في حال حاجة المنفق إلى ما أنفقه، والإنفاق في حال الصحة، ـ

This is an incitement from Allah to His slaves to spend in the paths of goodness, for He said:

لَن تَنَالُوا

By no means shall you attain …

meaning: to reach or achieve

الْبِرَّ‌

al-birr

which is every form of goodness from the various acts of obedience and the various rewards which conduct their doer unto al-Jannah. Continue reading