A Central Theme of Surah al-An’aam: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

After discussing a number of statements from the salaf regarding the revelation and themes of surah al-An’aam, Imam al-Qurtubi then wrote:

تنبيه : قال العلماء : هذه السورة أصل في محاجة المشركين وغيرهم من المبتدعين ومن كذب بالبعث والنشور وهذا يقتضي إنزالها جملة واحدة لأنها في معنى واحد من الحجة وإن تصرف ذلك بوجوه كثيرة . ـ

A Note: the scholars have said that this surah is the foundation for arguing against the Mushrikoon, as well as others such as innovators and anyone who denies the resurrection and gathering of the dead. That is why this surah was revealed all at once, because it all centers around one message of making an argument, even if the surah pursues that goal in a number of different ways. Continue reading

“Shall We Turn Back on Our Heels After Allah has Guided us?”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah strikes a parable in part of surah al-An’aam by saying:

قُلْ أَنَدْعُو مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُنَا وَلَا يَضُرُّنَا وَنُرَدُّ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ كَالَّذِي اسْتَهْوَتْهُ الشَّيَاطِينُ فِي الْأَرْضِ حَيْرَانَ لَهُ أَصْحَابٌ يَدْعُونَهُ إِلَى الْهُدَى ائْتِنَا ۗ قُلْ إِنَّ هُدَى اللَّهِ هُوَ الْهُدَىٰ ۖ وَأُمِرْنَا لِنُسْلِمَ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Say: Shall we call on others besides Allah who cannot help us or harm us and shall we turn back on our heels after Allah has guided us like one whom the shayaateen have made go astray in the earth in confusion while his friends call him to guidance – “come to us!”. Say: Surely, Allah’s guidance is the guidance, and we have been commanded to submit to our Lord of all creation. [6:71]

Commenting on this in his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Baghawi wrote:

ـ ( قل أندعو من دون الله ما لا ينفعنا ) إن عبدناه ، ( ولا يضرنا ) إن تركناه ، يعني : الأصنام ليس إليها نفع ولا ضر ، ( ونرد على أعقابنا ) إلى الشرك [ مرتدين ] ( بعد إذ هدانا الله كالذي استهوته الشياطين في الأرض ) ، أي : يكون مثلنا كمثل الذي استهوته الشياطين ، أي : أضلته ، ( حيران ) قال ابن عباس : كالذي استهوته الغيلان في المهامة فأضلوه فهو حائر بائر ، والحيران : المتردد في الأمر ، لا يهتدي إلى مخرج منه . ـ

قُلْ أَنَدْعُو مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُنَا

Say: Shall we call on others besides Allah who cannot help us …

if we were to worship them

وَلَا يَضُرُّنَا

… or harm us …

if we were to ignore them. This is in reference to idols, which neither bring about benefit nor harm.

وَنُرَدُّ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِنَا

… and shall we turn back on our heels …

back to shirk, apostatizing from Islam

بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ كَالَّذِي اسْتَهْوَتْهُ الشَّيَاطِينُ فِي الْأَرْضِ

… after Allah has guided us like one whom the shayaateen have made go astray in the earth …

i.e. if we were to do so, then we would be those one whom the shayaateen seduced – that is, led astray Continue reading

Linguistic Ambiguity and Multiple Meanings of a Qur’anic Ayah: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah begins surah al-An’aam by describing Himself in several ayaat, including:

وَهُوَ اللَّـهُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَفِي الْأَرْضِ يَعْلَمُ سِرَّكُمْ وَجَهْرَكُمْ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تَكْسِبُونَ

And He is Allah in the heavens and in the earth He knows your secrets and your statements and He knows what you earn. [6:3]

As one can see from the Arabic and may also be able to see from this approximate translation of the meaning, there is some linguistic ambiguity (what linguists would call syntactic or structural ambiguity) to this ayah resulting in multiple plausible interpretations. Specifically, the question relates to where one should pause while reciting this ayah, a field known as al-Waqf w’al-Ibtidaa’ in the Qur’anic sciences. In his well-known book of tafsir, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee addresses this issue in his explanation of this ayah as follows:

في هذه الآية الكريمة ثلاثة أوجه للعلماء من التفسير وكل واحد منها له مصداق في كتاب الله تعالى : ـ

There are three ways that the scholars have explained this ayah, and each one of these explanations has something to support and substantiate it from within the Qur’an.

الأول : أن المعنى ، وهو الله في السماوات وفي الأرض ، أي وهو الإله المعبود في السماوات والأرض ، لأنه جل وعلا هو المعبود وحده بحق في الأرض والسماء ، وعلى هذا فجملة «يعلم » حال ، أو خبر

1) That the meaning is “And He is Allah in the heavens and the earth”, i.e.: and He is the deity who is worshiped in the heavens and the earth because He is the only one truly deserving of worship in the earth and the sky. 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.

Continue reading

“Those Who Have Divided Their Religion and Become Sects”: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Allah says in surah al-An’aam:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا لَّسْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ ۚ إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُمْ إِلَى اللَّـهِ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ

Those who have divided their religion and become sects – you have nothing to do with them. Their matter is up to Allah, then He will inform them of what they used to do. [6:159]

Imam al-Baghawi wrote the following commentary on this ayah in his book of tafsir:

قوله – عز وجل – : ( إن الذين فرقوا دينهم ) قرأ حمزة والكسائي : ” فارقوا ” ، بالألف هاهنا وفي سورة الروم ، أي : خرجوا من دينهم وتركوه وقرأ الآخرون : ” فرقوا ” مشددا ، أي : جعلوا دين الله وهو واحد – دين إبراهيم عليه السلام الحنيفية – أديانا مختلفة ، فتهود قوم وتنصر قوم ، يدل عليه قوله – عز وجل – : ( وكانوا شيعا ) أي : صاروا فرقا مختلفة وهم اليهود والنصارى في قول مجاهد وقتادة والسدي . ـ

Regarding Allah’s statement:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ

Those who have divided their religion …

Hamzah and al-Kisaa’i recited it as:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَارَقُوا دِينَهُمْ

Those who have departed from their religion …

with an alif, both here an in surah al-Room [c.f. 30:32], meaning: exiting from their religion and leaving it. But the rest of the reciters recited it as: Continue reading

Encouragement and Intimidation in the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah concludes surah al-An’aam by saying:

إِنَّ رَبَّكَ سَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Your Lord is certainly swift in punishment, and He is certainly forgiving and merciful. [6:165]

After commenting on the immediate meaning of this ayah, al-haafidh ibn Kathir took this opportunity to highlight a larger stylistic feature of the Qur’an:

وقوله : ( إن ربك سريع العقاب وإنه لغفور رحيم ) ترهيب وترغيب ، أن حسابه وعقابه سريع ممن عصاه وخالف رسله ( وإنه لغفور رحيم ) لمن والاه واتبع رسله فيما جاءوا به من خير وطلب . ـ

This statement contains both incitement through intimidation and incitement through encouragement: that Allah’s reckoning and punishment is swift for those who disobey Him and oppose His messengers

وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

and He is certainly forgiving and merciful

to those who align themselves with Him and follow His Messenger in the goodness and  that they have brought and what they command.

وكثيرا ما يقرن تعالى في القرآن بين هاتين الصفتين ، كما قال تعالى : وقوله : ( نبئ عبادي أني أنا الغفور الرحيم وأن عذابي هو العذاب الأليم ) [ الحجر : 49 ، 50 ] ، وقوله : ( وإن ربك لذو مغفرة للناس على ظلمهم وإن ربك لشديد العقاب ) [ الرعد : 6 ] وغير ذلك من الآيات المشتملة على الترغيب والترهيب ، فتارة يدعو عباده إليه بالرغبة وصفة الجنة والترغيب فيما لديه ، وتارة يدعوهم إليه بالرهبة وذكر النار وأنكالها وعذابها والقيامة وأهوالها ، وتارة بهذا وبهذا لينجع في كل بحسبه . جعلنا الله ممن أطاعه فيما أمر ، وترك ما عنه نهى وزجر ، وصدقه فيما أخبر ، إنه قريب مجيب سميع الدعاء ، جواد كريم وهاب . ـ

Allah frequently pairs these two qualities and mentions them in conjunction throughout the Qur’an. Take for instance His statement: Continue reading

Which Surahs were Revealed in Installments or All at Once: al-Suyooti

In part of his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, al-Itqan, sheikh Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included a chapter on which parts of the Qur’an were revealed all at once and which parts were revealed in installments. What follows is the slightly abridged form of this chapter, as found in sheikh Muhammad Bazmool’s abridgement of al-Itqan:

النَّوْعُ عَشَرَ : مَا نَزَلَ مُفَرَّقًا وَمَا نَزَلَ جَمْعًا
Chapter 10: What was Revealed in Parts and What was Revealed All Together

الْأَوَّلُ – ما نزل مفرقا – غَالِبُ الْقُرْآنِ‏ . ‏ وَمِنْ أَمْثِلَتِهِ فِي السُّوَرِ الْقِصَارِ‏ : ‏ اقْرَأْ أَوَّلُ مَا نَزَلَ مِنْهَا ، إِلَى قَوْلِهِ : ‏ ‏مَا لَمْ يَعْلَم . ‏ وَالضُّحَى أَوَّلُ مَا نَزَلَ مِنْهَا ، إِلَى قَوْلِهِ : ‏ ‏فَتَرْضَى‏ ‏ كَمَا فِي حَدِيثِ الطَّبَرَانِيِّ . ـ

The first category – the surahs which were revealed in installments – accounts for most of the Qur’an. Some examples of this in the smaller surahs include:

اقْرَأْ

Recite … [96:1]

which went from that first part of it to be revealed until

مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ

… that which he did not know [96:5]

and surah al-Duhaa [93], which went from its beginning until 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

When One Plans to Sin but then Does Not: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-An’aam, Allah describes the Day of Judgement by saying:

مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا ۖ وَمَن جَاءَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَىٰ إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ

Whoever comes [on the Day of Judgement] with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof, and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged. [6:160]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir gave a thorough and beneficial explanation of this ayah in part of his famous book of tafsir. He began by linking it to another related ayah, and then proceeded to mention several slightly different and seemingly contradictory hadith narrations on the same subject before explaining how these differences could be reconciled and understood properly:

وهذه الآية الكريمة مفصلة لما أجمل في الآية الأخرى ، وهي قوله : ( من جاء بالحسنة فله خير منها ) [ النمل : 89 ] ، وقد وردت الأحاديث مطابقة لهذه الآية ، كما قال الإمام أحمد بن حنبل ، رحمه الله : حدثنا عفان ، حدثنا جعفر بن سليمان ، حدثنا الجعد أبو عثمان ، عن أبي رجاء العطاردي ، عن ابن عباس ، رضي الله عنهما ، عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فيما يروي عن ربه ، عز وجل قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” إن ربكم عز وجل رحيم ، من هم بحسنة فلم يعملها كتبت له حسنة ، فإن عملها كتبت له عشرا إلى سبعمائة ، إلى أضعاف كثيرة . ومن هم بسيئة فلم يعملها كتبت له حسنة ، فإن عملها كتبت له واحدة ، أو يمحوها الله ، عز وجل ، ولا يهلك على الله إلا هالك ” ورواه البخاري ، ومسلم ، والنسائي ، من حديث الجعد بن أبي عثمان ، به . ـ

This great ayah serves to clarify what was previously only mentioned in a general sense in another ayah, that ayah being Allah’s statement:

مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ خَيْرٌ مِّنْهَا

Whoever comes with a good deed with have something better than that … [27:89]

and a number of hadith narrations have been transmitted which fall in the same vein as this ayah, such as what Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said … that ibn ‘Abbaas relayed something of what Allah’s Messenger conveyed from his Lord. He said: Allah’s Messenger said:

Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, is merciful to the believers. Whoever intends to do a good deed but then does not actually do it will have one good deed recorded for him. But if he does do that good deed, he will have ten up to seven hundred or even higher multiples of good deeds recorded for him. And whoever intends to do a sin but then does not actually do it will have one good deed recorded for him. But if he does do that sin, it will be recorded as a single sin for him. Or Allah may even wipe that sin out. And Allah does not subject anyone to destruction except those who persist in sinfulness.

This was recorded by al-Bukari, Muslim, and al-Nasaa’i from the hadith of Ja’d ibn Abi ‘Uthman. Continue reading

Follow Allah’s Path, and Do Not Follow Other Paths: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan

Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan was asked the following question:

السؤال: ما تفسير قوله -تعالى-: (وَأَنَّ هَذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيماً فَاتَّبِعُوهُ وَلا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُمْ بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ)؟ ـ

Question: What is the explanation of Allah’s statement:

وَأَنَّ هَذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيماً فَاتَّبِعُوهُ وَلا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُمْ بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

And this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow other ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you in order that you may exercise al-taqwa. [6:153]

الجواب: بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، الحمدُ لله ربِّ العالمين، وصلَّى الله على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين. ـ

Response: In the name of Allah, al-Rahman al-Raheem. All praise belongs of Allah, Lord of all creation. May Allah’s salutations be upon our Prophet, Muhammad, and upon his family and all of his companions.

ذَكَرَ اللهُ -جلَّ وعلا- في هذه الآية الوصيةَ العاشرة مِنَ الوصايا العشر التي جاءت في سورة الأنعام؛ حينما قال – تعالى-: (قُلْ تَعَالَوْا أَتْلُ مَا حَرَّمَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ أَلاَّ تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئاً) هذه الأولى، وهي النهي عن الشرك، والعاشرة هذه الآية: (وَأَنَّ هَذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيماً). ـ

In this ayah, Allah mentions the tenth of ten commandments which come in surah al-An’aam, beginning with Him saying:

قُلْ تَعَالَوْا أَتْلُ مَا حَرَّمَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ أَلاَّ تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئاً

Say, “Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited to you. That you not associate anything in worship or divinity with Him … [6:151]

That is the first of them, which is a prohibition of al-shirk, and the tenth is this ayah: Continue reading