He Gave You Hearing, Sight, and Hearts That You Might Give Thanks: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Nahl:

وَاللَّـهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۙ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks. [16:78]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following under his commentary of this ayah:

ذكر تعالى منته على عباده ، في إخراجه إياهم من بطون أمهاتهم لا يعلمون شيئا ، ثم بعد هذا يرزقهم تعالى السمع الذي به يدركون الأصوات ، والأبصار اللاتي بها يحسون المرئيات ، والأفئدة – وهي العقول – التي مركزها القلب على الصحيح ، وقيل : الدماغ ، والعقل به يميز بين الأشياء ضارها ونافعها . وهذه القوى والحواس تحصل للإنسان على التدريج قليلا قليلا ، كلما كبر زيد في سمعه وبصره وعقله حتى يبلغ أشده .ـ

Allah mentions how He has blessed His slaves by bringing them out of their mothers’ stomachs when they did not know anything and then after that providing them with the hearing with which they can grasp sounds and the vision with which they can perceive things and the minds (al-af’idah) – i.e. the intellects, which are housed in the heart according to the most correct position, though some say that they are housed in the brain – and intellects by which one can distinguish between harmful and beneficial things. These abilities and senses come to a person in stages bit by bit. As he gets older and older his hearing, vision and intellect continue to improve until he reaches maturity. Continue reading

“Ask the Ahl al-Dhikr if You Don’t Know”: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

The following question was posed to sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca:

سؤال: ما التقسيم والمفهوم الصحيح في قول الله تعالى:{فسئلوا أهل الذكر إن كنتم لا تعلمون} النحل ؟ ـ

Question: What is the division of people and correct understanding regarding Allah’s statement:

فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

So ask the ahl al-dhikr if you do not know [16:43]

جواب : الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين سيدنا محمد وعلى اله وصحبه وسلم. أما بعد: فإن قوله تعالى: {فسئلوا أهل الذكر إن كنتم لاتعلمون}النحل[7] يدل على أمور: ـ

Answer: All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation. May peace and blessings be upon the most noble of the prophets and messengers, our leader Muhammad, as well as upon his family and companions.

To proceed: Allah’s statement:

فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

So ask the ahl al-dhikr if you do not know [16:43]

points to a number of things:

الأمر الأول : أن المسلمين ينقسموا إلى قسمين قسم هم أهل العلم ،وقسم هم ليس من أهل العلم وهم الذين يسمون بالعوام. ـ

Point #1: That Muslims can be divided into two categories. One category is the people of knowledge, and the other category are those who are not the people of knowledge, those who are referred to as the laypeople. Continue reading

We gave Ibrahim good in this life: Tafsir al-Shawkani

In the end of Surah al-Nahl, Allah describes Ibrahim with several attributes, including:

وَآتَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً

And We gave him good in this world [16:122]

The scholars of tafsir have brought a number of explanations for this phrase, and Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkani collected the majority of them in his tafsir where he wrote:

وآتيناه في الدنيا حسنة أي خصلة حسنة أو حالة حسنة ، وقيل هو الولد الصالح ، وقيل الثناء الحسن ، وقيل النبوة ، وقيل الصلاة منا عليه في التشهد ، وقيل هي أنه يتولاه جميع أهل الأديان ، ولا مانع أن يكون ما آتاه الله شاملا لذلك كله ولما عداه من خصال الخير

وَآتَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً

And We gave him good in this world

i.e. good qualities or a good condition.

  • Some have said that it refers to righteous offspring.
  • Some have said that it refers to good praise and commendation.
  • Some have said that it refers to the station of prophethood.
  • Some have said that it refers to our prayers upon him during the tashahud.
  • And still others have said that it refers to the people of all religions inclining towards him in affection.

And there is nothing to prevent that which Allah gave him from including all of these good qualities or even more.

[Fath al-Qadeer 1/808] Continue reading

Using the Past Tense to Refer to the Future: Tafsir ibn ‘Uthaymeen

In part of surah al-Saffaat, Allah describes the events of the Day of Recompense by saying:

وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ

This can be literally translated as:

And they said: Woe to us! This is the Day of Reckoning! (37:20)

In his explanation of this surah, sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen said:

وقوله تعالى (وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ ) قالوا أتى بفعل الماضى مع أنه القول المستقبل ، لتحقق وقوعه ، وهذا كثير في اللغة العربية ، والقرآن الكريم يعبر عن المستقبل بالماضي لتحقق وقوعه ومثاله قوله تعالى(أتى أمر الله)فإن أمر الله لم يأت بدليل قوله تعالى(فلا تستعجلوه)لكن أتى هنا بمعنى يأتي وعبر عن المستقبل بالماضي لتحقق وقوعه

Allah’s statement:

وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ

And they said: Woe to us! This is the Day of Reckoning!

the word “they said” comes as a past tense verb despite the fact that it is a future statement. This is done to affirm that this definitely will take place. This is a common practice in the Arabic language, and the Qur’an will refer to a future event by using the past tense in order to affirm that it certainly will come to pass. An example of this is Allah’s statement: Continue reading

A Warning Against Innovating and Giving Rulings Without Knowledge: ibn Kathir & al-Shawkaani

In surah al-Nahl, Allah lists a number of foods which He has forbidden, and then follows that up by saying:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَـٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَـٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُونَ

And do not say that which your tongues falsely put forth, that this is halaal and this is haraam. Then you would falsely attribute untruth to Allah. Those who attribute untruth to Allah will not succeed. [16:116]

Commenting on this in part of his tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

ثم نهى تعالى عن سلوك سبيل المشركين ، الذين حللوا وحرموا بمجرد ما وضعوه واصطلحوا عليه من الأسماء بآرائهم ، من البحيرة والسائبة والوصيلة والحام ، وغير ذلك مما كان شرعا لهم ابتدعوه في جاهليتهم ، فقال : ( ولا تقولوا لما تصف ألسنتكم الكذب هذا حلال وهذا حرام لتفتروا على الله الكذب ) ويدخل في هذا كل من ابتدع بدعة ليس [ له ] فيها مستند شرعي ، أو حلل شيئا مما حرم الله ، أو حرم شيئا مما أباح الله بمجرد رأيه وتشهيه . ـ

Then Allah prohibits following the way of the Mushrikoon who used to declare things to be permissible or impermissible based on nothing more than some specialized terms to name and classify different types of creatures – specialized terms that they contrived based on their own whims. For example, they had various names they came up with for camels and other things according to their religious beliefs in the period of Pre-Islamic Ignorance. So Allah said:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَـٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَـٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ

And do not say that which your tongues falsely put forth, that this is halaal and this is haraam. Then you would falsely attribute untruth to Allah. Continue reading

The Straight Path Leads to Allah: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In the beginning of surah al-Nahl (16), Allah devotes several ayaat to the blessings which He has created for mankind, and in particular He mentions certain livestock and riding animals, before saying:

وَالْخَيْلَ وَالْبِغَالَ وَالْحَمِيرَ لِتَرْكَبُوهَا وَزِينَةً ۚ وَيَخْلُقُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ * وَعَلَى اللَّـهِ قَصْدُ السَّبِيلِ وَمِنْهَا جَائِرٌ ۚ وَلَوْ شَاءَ لَهَدَاكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ

And [He created] the horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride and as adornment. And He creates that which you do not know. * The straight path leads to Allah, but among the various paths are those which deviate. And if He willed, He could have guided you all. [16:8-9]

Commenting on this second ayah and the switch in content between the two, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following in his tafsir:

لما ذكر تعالى من الحيوانات ما يسار عليه في السبل الحسية ، نبه على الطرق المعنوية الدينية ، وكثيرا ما يقع في القرآن العبور من الأمور الحسية إلى الأمور المعنوية النافعة الدينية ، كما قال تعالى : ( وتزودوا فإن خير الزاد التقوى ) [ البقرة : 197 ] وقال : ( يا بني آدم قد أنزلنا عليكم لباسا يواري سوآتكم وريشا ولباس التقوى ذلك خير ) [ الأعراف : 26 ] . ـ

After making mention of the riding animals which are used to traverse the physical paths, Allah draws our attention to the figurative religious pathways. And this type of shifting from concrete matters to abstract religiously beneficial matters occurs frequently in the Qur’an. For instance, see Allah’s statement:

وَتَزَوَّدُوا فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَىٰ

And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is al-taqwa [2:197]

or His statement: Continue reading

The Forbidden Foods in Surah al-Nahl: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says towards the end of surah al-Nahl:

فَكُلُوا مِمَّا رَ‌زَقَكُمُ اللَّـهُ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَاشْكُرُ‌وا نِعْمَتَ اللَّـهِ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ * إِنَّمَا حَرَّ‌مَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنزِيرِ‌ وَمَا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ‌ اللَّـهِ بِهِ ۖ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ‌ غَيْرَ‌ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ‌ رَّ‌حِيمٌ * وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَـٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَـٰذَا حَرَ‌امٌ لِّتَفْتَرُ‌وا عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُ‌ونَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُونَ * مَتَاعٌ قَلِيلٌ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ * وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ هَادُوا حَرَّ‌مْنَا مَا قَصَصْنَا عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ ۖ وَمَا ظَلَمْنَاهُمْ وَلَـٰكِن كَانُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ

So eat of the lawful and good food which Allah has provided for you. And be grateful for the Graces of Allah, if it is He Whom you worship. * He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced, without desire nor trangression – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. * And do not say about what your tongues assert of untruth, “This is lawful and this is unlawful,” to invent falsehood about Allah. Indeed, those who invent falsehood about Allah will not succeed. * A brief enjoyment, and they will have a painful punishment. * And to those who are Jews We have prohibited that which We related to you before. And We did not wrong them [thereby], but they were wronging themselves. [16:114-118]

Commenting on these ayaat in his book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote:

يأمر تعالى عباده بأكل ما رزقهم الله من الحيوانات والحبوب والثمار وغيرها. { حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا } أي: حالة كونها متصفة بهذين الوصفين بحيث لا تكون مما حرم الله أو أثرا عن غصب ونحوه. فتمتعوا بما خلق الله لكم من غير إسراف ولا تَعَدٍّ. { وَاشْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ } بالاعتراف بها بالقلب والثناء على الله بها وصرفها في طاعة الله. { إِنْ كُنْتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ } أي إن كنتم مخلصين له العبادة، فلا تشكروا إلا إياه، ولا تنسوا المنعم. ـ

Allah is commanding His slaves to eat of the animals, produce, and other things which He has provided for them.

حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا

Lawful and good

meaning: in a state characterized by these two attributes, such that they do not fall under what Allah has forbidden nor were obtained by forced coercion or other similar methods. So they enjoy what Allah has created for them without wastefulness or infringing on the rights of others.

وَاشْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ

And be grateful for the blessings of Allah

by recognizing them with one’s heart, praising Allah for them, and using them for obedience to Allah.

إِنْ كُنْتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ

If it is He Whom you worship.

meaning: if you are really sincerely devoted to Him in worship, then do not thank anyone other than Him and do not forget the Granter of blessings.

 ـ { إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ } الأشياء المضرة تنزيها لكم، وذلك: كـ { الْمَيْتَةَ } ويدخل في ذلك كل ما كان موته على غير ذكاة مشروعة، ويستثنى من ذلك ميتة الجراد والسمك. ـ

إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ

He has only forbidden to you

the things which are harmful, in order to keep you safe from them, and these are the likes of

Continue reading

Sabr is only from Allah: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah says towards the end of surah al-Nahl:

وَاصْبِرْ‌ وَمَا صَبْرُ‌كَ إِلَّا بِاللَّـهِ ۚ وَلَا تَحْزَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا تَكُ فِي ضَيْقٍ مِّمَّا يَمْكُرُ‌ونَ

And exercise sabr, [O Muhammad], and your sabr is not but through Allah. And do not grieve over them and do not be in distress over what they conspire. [16:127]

Briefly commenting on this ayah in his book of tafsir, Imam Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote:

قوله تعالى : واصبر وما صبرك إلا بالله الآية [ 16 \ 127 ] . ذكر – جل وعلا – في هذه الآية الكريمة : أنه – صلى الله عليه وسلم – مأمور بالصبر ، وأنه لا يمتثل ذلك الأمر بالصبر إلا بإعانة الله وتوفيقه ; لقوله : وما صبرك إلا بالله الآية [ 16 \ 127 ] ،  ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَاصْبِرْ‌ وَمَا صَبْرُ‌كَ إِلَّا بِاللَّـهِ

And exercise sabr, [O Muhammad], and your sabr is not but through Allah

In this noble ayah Allah mentioned that the Prophet (ﷺ) was commanded to have al-sabr [steadfast patience], and that he could not comply with the command to exercise sabr without Allah’s aid and granting of success. This is according to His statement: Continue reading

And We gave Ibrahim good in this life: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In the end of surah al-Nahl, Allah describes Ibrahim with a number of attributes, including:

وَآتَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً

And We gave him good in this worldly life [16:122]

The scholars of tafsir have offered a number of different opinions to as what this is referring to. Ibn al-Jawzi summarized these opinions in his tafsir by writing:

قوله تعالى : ” وآتيناه في الدنيا حسنة ” فيها ستة أقوال : أحدها : أنها الذكر الحسن ، قاله ابن عباس . والثاني : النبوة ، قاله الحسن . والثالث : لسان صدق ، قاله مجاهد . والرابع : اجتماع الملل على ولايته ، فكلهم يتولونه ويرضونه ، قاله قتادة . والخامس : أنها الصلاة عليه مقرونة بالصلاة على محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم ، قاله مقاتل بن حيان . والسادس : الأولاد الأبرار على الكبر ، حكاه الثعلبي . ـ

There are six different opinions regarding Allah’s statement, “And We gave him good in this worldly life“.

1) That this means a good mention, and this was the opinion of ibn ‘Abbaas.

2) Prophethood, which was the opinion of al-Hasan.

3) Truthful speech, which was the opinion of Mujaahid. Continue reading

Two of the Wisdoms for Revealing the Qur’an to the Prophet: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Imam Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote in his tafsir of surah al-Nahl:

قوله تعالى : وأنزلنا إليك الذكر لتبين للناس ما نزل إليهم ولعلهم يتفكرون ، المراد بالذكر في هذه الآية : القرآن ; كقوله : إنا نحن نزلنا الذكر وإنا له لحافظون [ 15 \ 9 ] . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ‌ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُ‌ونَ

And We revealed to you (O Muhammad) the dhikr that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them and that they might give thought. [16:44]

The intended meaning of al-dhikr in this ayah is the Qur’an, just as in His statement:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ‌ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian. [9:15]

وقد ذكر – جل وعلا – في هذه الآية حكمتين من حكم إنزال القرآن على النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : ـ

And in this ayah Allah mentioned two wisdoms from among the wisdoms of revealing the Qur’an to His prophet (ﷺ): Continue reading